In the Rough

by Rachel Woe (2017, All Rights Reserved)

Vashti strummed her French-manicured fingernails on the glass countertop, staring vacantly at the array of gemstones glinting in the showcase below. If time were indeed more precious than money, she could’ve considered herself rich. As it was, she spent most of her time these days making money for someone else.

“You’re slouching, Vashti.” Edmund Gorski, proprietor of Gorski Fine Jewelers, appraised her from the back-office doorway.

She squared her shoulders and manufactured a smile. “Only for a moment, sir.”

“See that these are added to the collection.” He handed her a velvet-lined case dotted with engagement rings. “I’ll be in the storeroom. Do you think you can keep yourself upright until the end of your shift?”

“Certainly, sir.”

Gorski slinked back through the doorway as silently as he’d emerged. Vashti dropped her shoulders along with her smile and surveyed the empty storefront. Why Gorski insisted on staying open past seven o’clock on weeknights was beyond her. She unlocked the showcase and arranged the new rings alongside the old.

The bell on the entrance door jangled. Vashti swallowed a yawn.

“Welcome to Gorski Jewelers. How may I—” She stood up straighter; no need to fake a smile for this fine customer. “—help you?”

The well-dressed man cast an eye around the shop. “I’m in the market for an engagement ring.”

A disappointing request. “We have some new arrivals, if you’d care to have a look.”

“That’d be great.” He approached the counter, his gait smooth and unhurried. Vashti pegged him to be a few years older than herself, perhaps mid-thirties. He tucked his hands into his pockets and scanned the assortment.

She jutted her hip. “See anything you like?”

“Perhaps. I’m having trouble deciding on the cut.”

“Why don’t you tell me a bit about your girlfriend?”

“Well, she’s supremely confident, and beautiful, with long, blond hair, much like your own.”

“Does she wear a lot of jewelry?” Vashti stroked her collar bone. He may have been shopping for a ring, but as far as she was concerned, the man was still on the market.

“She seems to favor quality over quantity.”

“In that case, perhaps a classic round diamond? Unless you think she’d prefer the sentimentality of a heart-shaped stone.” She pointed to each cut as she named it.

“I assume these come with a certificate of authenticity.”

“Absolutely.”

The man laid his hands on the glass. He had wide palms and long fingers—perfect for pulling hair. “Which one would you pick?”

“Me?” She loved this part. “I couldn’t possibly—”

“Don’t pretend you haven’t thought about it. How long have you worked here?”

“Five years,” she said.

“That’s a long time to stay in one place. You must love your job.”

“It has its moments.”

“What could possibly be more riveting than hawking overpriced jewelry?”

Vashti laughed, keeping an eye on the office door. “I suppose I’ve always wanted to travel.”

“What’s stopping you? Can’t be finances. Gorski seems to do quite well for himself.”

“He does,” she said. The operative word being himself.

The man snickered knowingly. “Where would you go if money were no object?”

“Paris maybe, or Berlin.” Vashti fingered one of the rings, recalling a time when she’d relished her proximity to such extravagance. In five years of employment, she had only managed to obtain a single piece of jewelry. “Enough about my wanderlust. What do you do?”

“I’m an entrepreneur. I specialize in acquisitions.” He blinked, slow and feline. “You still haven’t answered my question.”

Vashti barely glanced at the display before pointing out her favorite. “This one. Platinum band, a full carat. The radiant cut increases the surface area, which makes it appear larger.”

“Would you mind trying it on?”

She smiled. “If you insist.”

“I do.”

Vashti slid the dazzling piece onto her finger.

“It looks good on you,” he said. She heartily agreed. “How much?”

“Nine thousand.”

He nodded. “Well, I’ll think about it. Thank you for your time, Miss—”

“Vashti.”

She offered her hand. Rather than shake it, he kissed the knuckle just above her ring finger.

“Your assistance has been invaluable, Vashti.”

“The pleasure was all mine.” Normally, she spurned the men who hit on her while shopping for engagement rings, but this one seemed to have stolen her mirth. She watched him go, wishing more than anything that she could follow.

As the street lamps flickered to life, Vashti performed the requisite nightly duties, closed out the register, and then collected her purse from the office.

“Vashti,” Gorski called from the storeroom. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

She paused in the doorway. “Sorry?”

“Tonight’s inventory.”

“I assumed you were already doing it.”

“I’m afraid I have a prior engagement.”

Vashti’s lower back seized at the thought of standing for one more minute, let alone one more hour, in three-inch heels. “But I just pulled a double.”

Gorski frowned. She challenged his stare, but ultimately conceded, sliding her purse from her shoulder. She needed this job more than she hated it.

“Don’t forget to unpack the cufflinks that came in this morning,” he called on his way out the door.

Vashti sank onto the chair beside Gorski’s desk. Everything hurt: her feet, her calves, her shoulders, even her chest. She kicked her heels off and fanned her toes on the cold tile. If she was going to spend the next two hours stooping and straining, she resolved to make herself as comfortable as possible.

In the bathroom, Vashti shrugged out of her silk blouse and unclasped her bra. She sighed with relief at its absence, tracing the deep, red groove left by the underwire. Glowering at her reflection, she let her gaze drop to the glint of metal and precious stone dangling from her left nipple.

Acquisition of the quarter-carat diamond was not premeditated. She’d had the piercing for almost a year before the pendant caught her eye. While performing inventory one night last summer, she’d snatched the ugly trinket and tucked it into the crotch of her panties; the cool metal pressed against her skin had sent a rousing shiver up her spine. At home, Vashti broke out her pliers and replaced the stone with a cheap crystal, then attached the diamond in its white gold setting to the small hoop dangling from her nipple. The next morning, she’d slipped the pendant back on the shelf where it remained.

Vashti re-buttoned her top, noting a hint of sparkle through the delicate fabric. She pinched the tips of her breasts and gasped at the twinge of pain-laced pleasure that rippled through her. It’d been too long since she’d been handled by hands unafraid of getting a little rough. She considered treating herself to an orgasm, but no; better to work hard now so she could play harder later.

She sat on the storeroom floor with a clipboard and the box of cufflinks, pausing every few moments to give her eyes a rest. After thirty minutes, her hand ached so badly she had to lay the pen down.

Two hours later, she awoke on the scratchy carpet with a dry mouth and sore neck.

“Goddamn you, Gorski, and your overpriced jewelry.” At this rate, she’d be lucky if she made it home by one.

Vashti smoothed her skirt, tramped out to the storefront, and switched on the overhead light. A dark figure loomed over the register.

The clipboard clattered against the tile. The intruder spun around, his face hidden behind a black mask. Vashti stepped back through the doorway. The man moved toward her, pausing to switch off the lights. Her heart thundered in her ears. She ran for the phone, but the man caught up to her, pinning her arms to her sides.

“You are not supposed to be here,” he growled, anchoring her to the desk with his weight.

Pens, jeweler’s loupes, and diamond scopes dug into her abdomen. She scanned the desk and spotted an empty coffee mug. She flailed her legs, and managed to loosen one arm as he moved to evade her kicks. Seizing the cup, she pivoted at the waist and pitched it at his temple.

“Fuck,” he spat.

The mug dropped to the carpet with a thunk. Vashti shifted onto her back. Grasping the top of his mask, she tore it from his head and slapped him hard across the face—

A familiar face.

The well-dressed patron from earlier that evening scowled. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

He hauled her to the chair and withdrew a handful of cable ties from his pocket. She tried to shove him off, but he was too nimble. He secured her wrist to the arm of the chair. In a matter of seconds, he’d tied her other wrist and both ankles, though she’d manage to knock him back twice in the process.

The man raked a gloved hand through his hair. “What the hell are you still doing here?”

“Inventory.”

“At midnight?”

“I fell asleep. And my boss is kind of a dick.” Under different circumstances, Vashti might’ve found this scenario arousing. Now, it was all she could do to keep from dry heaving. “Are you going to kill me?”

“Maybe.”

She flinched. “Is that absolutely necessary?”

“You’ve seen my face. You’re a liability.”

He paced the room like a caged animal.

“Have you ever killed anyone before?”

“Yeah.” The man avoided eye contact like a window shopper who’d only stopped in to try on something extravagant.

Vashti squinted. “How’d you do it?”

“What does that matter?”

“I’d like to know what’s in store for me. Stabbing? Strangulation? Gunshot to the head?”

“I don’t have a gun.”

“Of course you don’t. You’ve never killed anyone.”

He brought his face close to hers. “You really want to test that theory?”

“Look, you can relax. I swear I’m not going to scream, I’m not going to try and stop you, and I’m not going to call the police.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because I couldn’t care less about Gorski’s bottom line. You want to clean the place out? Fine by me. You want assurance that I’m not going to rat you out? Untie me and I’ll help you ransack the place. We can split everything 50/50.”

He cocked the eyebrow that wasn’t glowing from where she’d struck him.

“The security cameras run on an analog system,” she continued. “Once we’re finished, I’ll give you the tape, stow my half, you tie me up and we make it look like a routine burglary.”

“Now, why on Earth would I go for that?”

“Well, it would give you leverage. Turning you in would mean incriminating myself. Plus, you’re a thief. Your M.O. is to get in and get out without leaving a trace. And trust me, I wouldn’t go cleanly. Or quietly.”

He reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a switchblade knife. Her throat closed. Perhaps she’d misjudged this one.

“80/20,” he said.

“70/30.”

She held her breath.

He slid the knife under her wrist and severed the tie.

Vashti turned on the display lights and unlocked the showcases, while the thief unzipped a black duffle bag and commenced relieving Gorski of his inventory. Using a gift bag, she began to collect her own bounty, arbitrarily at first, then as her heartrate slowed, with discernment. She had the advantage of knowing the wholesale price of every item and wasn’t about to waste precious space on rose gold just because it was shiny.

Vashti cleared her throat. “So, how long have you been burgling?”

“A while.”

“How long’s a while?”

He didn’t answer right away. “Twelve years.”

“And you’ve never been caught?”

“Not till tonight.”

The thief moved swiftly from one display to the next. Vashti liked that he was lithe like a cat, while his arms had no trouble filling the sleeves of his jacket.

“What’s your name?”

He turned to her. “You’re serious?”

“I gave you mine.”

“What makes you think I remember it?”

“You’re a thief. Attention to detail is your bread and butter.”

He didn’t answer.

“Come on,” she prodded. “What should I call you?”

“Nothing. You shouldn’t call me anything.”

She crossed her arms. “What’s my name?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Then I stand corrected.”

“About what?”

“Believing you were good at this.”

Finally, he met her gaze. “Vashti.”

She smiled. “I just want a name. It doesn’t have to be yours.”

The thief nabbed a sapphire necklace with a white gold chain—a piece she’d been coveting for months.

He sighed. “Call me Casper.”

They pilfered from opposite ends of the counter, working their way toward the center. Vashti caught Casper staring as she hooked a row of bracelets onto one finger and then bagged them.

“You’re remarkably good at this for someone who’s never stolen before,” he said.

“Who says I haven’t?”

He paused to study her. “You know, I think you have. Nothing major. Just enough to whet your appetite.”

“I guess it takes one to know one.” Vashti liked the way his eyes thinned when he smiled. She bent at the hip, offering a view of her curves as she reached for a platinum broach.

“Maybe you should consider a new line of work.”

“From shopgirl to cat burglar?”

“At least you’d get to wear the jewels.”

An entire case of emerald earrings found a new home in Vashti’s bag. Casper didn’t even bother removing the plastic cylinder from a collection of designer watches before shoving them into his duffle.

“What do you do with all of this stuff?” she asked.

“I have a fence, plus some unscrupulous collectors in my back pocket.”

“What’s a fence?”

“Someone who pays cash for stolen goods. Not around here, of course. Only an idiot would try and sell jewelry close to where he stole it.”

They approached the engagement ring showcase. Casper ran a gloved hand over the glittering assembly and teased one from its slit. Vashti recognized it as the ring she’d selected earlier at his behest. He slid it onto her finger.

“Is this a proposal?” She smirked. His gaze bore into her, seeking and finding something familiar. Her nipples hardened, and judging from the intensity in his stare, she was willing to bet he’d noticed. She eyed one of the security cameras. “There’s more in the storeroom.”

The claustrophobic room felt even more cramped with Casper beside her. They ransacked entire shipments of bracelets, earrings, cufflinks, and canary diamonds.

“Exquisite.” He raised a yellow gem to the light.

Vashti’s pulse fluttered. It was now or never. “Casper.”

She touched his face. His brow arched, along with his bruise. She stood on her toes and tilted her head. He took the bait, his hand sliding onto her backside. She hummed at the heat of his mouth against hers, thinking of the cable ties in his pocket, the way he’d tossed her around the office.

“Put your hands in my hair,” she said. He weaved his gloved fingers through her dark locks. “Now pull.”

He tugged, and she moaned.

“Harder.”

Casper forced her head back and kissed her throat. “That’s how you want it?”

“Yes,” she breathed.

He pinned her to the metal shelves and crushed her lips with his own. He slid his tongue into her mouth and reached for the top button on her blouse.

“Rip it,” she growled.

He tore through the buttons, his eyes widening. “So that’s what you stole.”

Vashti’s heart pounded. She wrapped her arms around him and sank her teeth into the flesh of his neck. He pressed his thigh between her legs and pinched her nipples. The smooth leather felt wonderful against Vashti’s bare skin, as did the way he pawed at her, possessively, like she was something to be coveted.

“You’re a rare gem, Vashti.” He thrust a hand beneath her skirt to slap her mound and then squeezed. She was already throbbing. She needed more—more skin, more sin, more Casper. She tugged his jacket off and he did her one better by removing his shirt.

He kept the gloves on.

Reaching under her skirt again, he yanked her panties to her knees. Vashti whimpered as he slid a finger inside her, then glided the moisture over her clitoris. He purred as she palmed his erection through his jeans.

Casper licked his glove, tasting her. He dropped to his knees with a groan and wedged his mouth between her folds. He licked and sucked with fervor, like he wanted to get drunk on her. Vashti laced her fingers though his hair and rocked her pelvis, humping his face. His tongue fluttered and rolled while his hands ground into the flesh of her thighs.

Her legs quaked. Lights flickered behind her eyelids as she came, pinned between Casper’s mouth and the shelves at her back.

He kissed her folds, making her shiver. “Come with me, Vashti. We’ll fly to Paris, Berlin. Anywhere you want. You’ll be my sidekick, and I’ll teach you how to run scams and pick pockets.”

Her chest clenched like a fist around her heart. Casper’s world of danger and intrigue was the sort of life she’d always wanted, and here he was, offering it to her on a platter with a side of mind-shattering orgasms. Could she be more fortunate?

Vashti slid her panties off and dropped to her knees. Though she’d relished being manhandled, it was time to turn the tables. She shoved him onto his back and fished around in his pocket for two cable ties.

“What’re you planning to do with those?” he asked.

“Tie you up,” she said. Casper may have had her beat when it came to brute strength, but he was still a man with a needy cock and a sensitive underbelly. She unfastened his jeans and tugged them partway down his legs. His erection jutted toward her, thick and gorgeous.

This man was going to take her places. She was sure of it.

“I don’t know about that,” he said.

“Don’t you trust me, Casper?”

Vashti grasped his cock and stroked. His gaze trailed her thumb as she collected a bead of precome from the tip and then licked it clean. She bunched her skirt above her waist and took him deep inside her.

Casper moaned and raised his arms. “Fine. Do whatever you want. Just keep riding me.”

His mouth closed over her piercing as she reached up to secure his wrists to the shelving unit. She scraped her nails down his chest, leaving red streaks. Grasping his jaw, she turned his head to expose his neck to the whims of her lips and teeth.

Her inner muscles hugged him. Casper gasped as she rocked backward, taking him deeper. She’d never felt so exhilarated, so close to being free. She fucked him hard, then soft, fast, and then slow, until the pressure inside built so high that it burst—and when it did, she knew what she needed to do.

“Tell me, Casper.” Vashti slowed her movements. “You were planning on claiming all of the loot for yourself, weren’t you?”

“No—I mean, yeah, at first. But that was before I realized what you are.”

“What am I?”

“A natural. Like me.”

“Yes.” Vashti grinned and quickened her pace. “Just like you.”

She dug her nails into his shoulders as she bucked and fucked and gave and took. She rode him until his whole body shuddered, clenching her muscles, taking all he had to give and more than he could know.

Vashti ran her hands over his strong arms. “Thank you, Casper.”

“For what?”

“For introducing me to myself.” She rose to her feet, letting him drip down her legs.

“My pleasure. Now untie me so we can get the hell out of here.”

“About that.” Vashti used Casper’s shirt to clean herself up. “I think it would be better if I made this trip solo.”

She knotted the front of her blouse. His eyes rounded as she zipped her gift bag inside the duffle.

“You’re not serious,” he said.

“I assure you, I am.”

“But…why?”

Vashti heaved the bag onto her shoulder. “Because I want it all. Every ring, every bracelet, every broach. And no offense, Casper, but after five years slaving away as Gorski’s obedient employee, becoming your dutiful sidekick hardly sounds like a promotion. I want my freedom, and I can’t thank you enough for granting it to me.”

“I’ve gotta say, it feels more like you’re stealing it from me.”

She shrugged. “Semantics.”

“Aren’t you forgetting something?”

“The cameras? Lucky for us, Gorski’s a cheap bastard. They’ve been down for weeks.”

Casper sighed. “You know I’ll be gone by morning.”

“I certainly hope so, for your sake.”

“And no matter how far you run, Vashti, I will come for you.”

“You already have, Casper.” She smiled. He looked so good with his hands tied and his pants down and her scratches decorating his chest. “I look forward to us coming together again someday.”

With that, Vashti fetched her heels from the office, blew Casper a kiss, and slipped out the back door.