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Phoenix Running
Nicole Stewart

Phoenix reached over Cee-Cee’s quaking body and wrapped his hand around Ashley’s erection. He brought his loosely squeezing fingers to the tip and rubbed his palm over him. Ashley moaned and tossed his head. “Don’t tease me,” he whispered. “I need it.”

Phoenix felt desire coil within him. It occurred to him that this couldn’t last forever. The very nature of their friendship demanded that nights like this could only be few and far between and eventually not at all. He shook his head at the bleak thought and caressed Ashley’s engorged cock with methodical, rhythmic strokes.

Ashley pressed into his hand with a moan. He closed his fingers over Phoenix’s and guided him: faster, harder. Cee-Cee shifted onto her side to kiss his chest while Phoenix continued to milk him. She added her hands to theirs, fondling, touching, stroking. Ashley gritted his teeth.

Chapter 1

ora-Lynn “Cee
-Cee” Carson exploded out of Julia Hall where her last class of the day met. Her black briefcase flew behind her like a kite as she eyed the time and raced to the parking lot, late for her paid internship at PR-ISM Public Relations.

“Late, late! Jeez, how did I get caught up in another project?—I’m sorry!” she shouted, spinning past a professor and almost knocking him down in her hurry. She skidded to a halt at her car and fumbled for her keys.

There was a big meeting today with the mayor, as his council was looking to hire the public relations firm ahead of the next election, and there was a slight chance Cee-Cee would get to talk about an app she had developed. As she sped to the firm, she mentally assessed whether she had everything she’d need for the presentation.

Her uncle, Bryan Friedman, was in charge at PR-ISM, and he had recommended putting the NowIn app to use during the mayor’s campaign. Cee-Cee was desperate not to blow this, but not even her powerful uncle would be able to recover the opportunity for her if she didn’t make it there on time.

She had only to convince Mayor Phoenix Briton he needed her app to win his second mayoral run. No problem. She could do that.

Her professors, her family, her friends—everyone told her NowIn was the next big thing. As added confirmation, she had received a jaw-dropping email from the Mark Zuckerberg himself, expressing interest in her app, if she could prove it really worked and that people really wanted to use it. This campaign was her best shot.

Cee-Cee burst into PR-ISM like a whirlwind and flashed a winsome smile at Uncle Bryan, who peeped past his doorframe and glowered at her. “I’m sorry. I got here as fast as I could.”

“You realize Briton and his advisors will be here within minutes.”

“I know, I know.” Cee-Cee grimaced. Her uncle looked pissed. Bryan threw his hands up and shook his head at her. “I’m sorry?” she tried again.

“Get in here.” He hiked a thumb in the direction of his office, and she squeezed past him. The team Bryan had assembled was waiting for Little Miss Cee-Cee, and she scrunched down in her chair and tried not to draw attention to herself as Bryan launched into a spiel about how they were going to handle public relations for Phoenix Briton.

“Alright, he’s the youngest mayor this city has ever had, in his late twenties, which is a strike against him, but he won the last election, so it ain’t
much of a strike,” said Bryan. “His competition is older. They’re not as progressive, but they’re going to bill themselves as more experienced. But more importantly, they’ll trot out whatever skeletons Briton has in his closet. You know politics. Mudslinging is what they do. Our job is to keep our boy clean and looking good.”

As he talked, Cee-Cee peered through the folder in front of her. It was full of stats and facts about the illustrious mayor. He was cute. His photograph was clipped to the first page, and perusing his information felt a lot like going through a dating app. She smiled to herself at the analogy. With all this information on hand, she felt like she practically knew the guy already.


Cee-Cee let the file folder slap shut. “Yeah?”

“Here’s what I’m thinking.” Bryan crossed his arms and stared at her with a challenging glint in his eyes. Cee-Cee swallowed. “You get your feet wet with this one and be Briton’s right-hand girl. You get to talk about your app with him, too. Main thing is, we want this kid to know we’re hip and modern. We’re down with the Twitter fingers. Is that how you say it?”

“Are you sure about that, Bryan,” another senior agent, Gina, protested. “I mean, yeah, she’s social media, but she’s an intern. She doesn’t have experience with public relations.”

Cee-Cee blew a raspberry in dismissal of the comment, which got a few laughs and another glower from her uncle. Gina Lafitte had had it in for her ever since she had gotten hired. In fact, many at the firm felt Cee-Cee had gotten the job because of her kinship to Bryan, which couldn’t have been further from the truth.

He had hired her after Cee-Cee presented him with a resume none of the other applicants could beat. She was ambitious, and he was simply nurturing that ambition. She was determined to show them she was going places on her own merit, not family favors. “I accept the challenge, Mr. Friedman,” Cee-Cee said demurely.

“Wonderful, Cora-Lynn. Just remember to arrive on time to meetings with the mayor, alright?” he lightly replied.

She blushed, nodding. Shouldn’t be too hard. She worked full time, attended grad school part-time and created apps in her free time. Adding more shit to her to-do list was what she did best.

Gina rolled her eyes and shoved her pen across the table. “I just think you should put someone who knows the business close to him.”

Bryan shrugged. “There’s room for all of us on this job. PR-ISM is a small company, and Briton chose us because we are the new face of public relations. Small equals personal, but it also equals a crap-ton of work for each of us to do. So, you’ll get your spotlight, Gina. Now, next thing…”

Cee-Cee ducked out of the meeting once it was adjourned and headed to the restroom where she did her ritual stare-in-the-mirror-and-attempt-to-make-herself-look-bigger routine. She was five-five with a petite frame. She had to project a self-confidence that she didn’t always feel. It was practiced.

But she could only practice behind closed, locked doors. In the mirror, she stretched her smile and widened her eyes, pushing her shoulders back and putting her hands on her hips. She mouthed power words to her reflection in order to motivate herself.

“You got this, Cee-Cee!” she whispered, pointing two fingers like guns. “Pow-pow.” She snorted. She knew it was her personality she would have to sell. She had been a ham all her life, so that was easy enough to do.

She had never had so much pressure on her, though. She had to wow Briton. PR-ISM would garner more business if they knocked this contract out of the park, but more importantly her app would get some much needed exposure just by putting it in Phoenix Briton’s hands.

If she could make this thing work, she knew the offers to buy the program would roll in. That was the game plan. She was careful not to get ahead of herself because she really did lack experience, as Gina had pointed out. She wasn’t the best person for this job.

Cee-Cee let the air out of her lungs in a whoosh that deflated her. The recessed lights in the ceiling shined down on her narrow face. She stared back into her over-large, child-like eyes, wondering when the hell she’d grow into her features. She brushed on some mascara. Her short black hair framed her face in a funky asymmetric haircut, which she loved. She patted her hair and sighed.

“You really can do this,” she reminded herself.

She stepped out of the restroom and spied Gina watching near the watercoolers. The woman shot daggers at Cee-Cee, but the intern strutted past her with a look of unconcern. Cee-Cee headed to her desk as the front door to PR-ISM opened, and Phoenix’s crew strolled into the building, dressed in that official black of politician personnel that wasn’t the least bit covert. Gina was closer to the door, the first to meet them.

“Glory hound,” Cee-Cee muttered.

Bryan hurriedly stepped out of his office with his hand outstretched. “Mr. Briton!”

A gentleman in black stepped forward and shook his hand. “Mr. Friedman. Pleasure to meet with you again.” Cee-Cee’s eyebrows came together in surprise. He was the mayor?

Cee-Cee eased away from her desk and channeled poise as she sauntered closer to get a better look at Phoenix Briton. He was hardly recognizable as a Very Important Person. He had an unassuming haircut, modest beard growth, dark piercing eyes, wide shoulders, muscles that went on for days—more like a bodyguard than a politician. Her eyebrow lifted in appreciation of the eye candy. Perks of the job.

“Have you met our prodigy, Mayor Briton? This is Ms. Cora-Lynn Carson.” Bryan beckoned her forward, and Cee-Cee smiled brighter as Phoenix’s hand touched hers. A zing of electricity zipped through her at the skin-to-skin contact, and when their eyes met, the only way to describe his chocolate orbs was “sweet.” Cee-Cee blushed.

“She’ll be working closely with you while we handle public relations. Ms. Carson is the developer of that trendy new app I was telling you about over the phone. We are going to revolutionize how politicians interact with their constituents.”

“Eh, I don’t like to think of myself as a politician, but I look forward to learning more about it. My core platform is accessibility. It sounds promising.” His voice was mellow. She liked that. Cee-Cee lifted her head a little higher at the interest, and Gina bumped past her to steal the floor.

“Hi, I’m Gina. Ms. Carson may be all things social media, but when it comes to dealing with the real media, I’m your woman. I’ve been in this game over a decade. You’re in good hands.” Cee-Cee stepped back hesitantly as Gina took center stage. Phoenix Briton grinned and shook the other woman’s hand, sizing her up. Next to the plucky, auburn-haired thirty-year-old with great skin and killer business-wear, Cee-Cee self-consciously tugged on the hem of her borrowed skirt.

Bryan chuckled nervously. “We’ll get to all that in our meeting.”

he meeting with Phoenix Briton
, his advisors and PR-ISM spanned over an hour, during which she sat quietly and took notes. Slideshows dominated. Bryan expertly won them over. Contracts were signed, and her app wasn’t even mentioned. Cee-Cee lowered her expectations a little further, realizing she wouldn’t get her shot today.

When the lights came up and the projector stopped whirring as it powered down, she grabbed her tablet and stylus and prepared to get back to her cubicle where she belonged. She took one last peek at Phoenix Briton and noticed he was staring. At her. Cee-Cee swallowed and looked down. Phoenix and Bryan conferred in hushed tones as other conversations buzzed at the large round table in the multimedia room.

She glanced at Gina, who smirked. She’d had plenty of chance to expound on how PR-ISM had a healthy relationship with all the local papers and networks. She had shined. Cee-Cee looked away again. Sweat slid down the middle of her back and she clenched her fists, hesitant to just walk out, although there was no reason for her to stay since the meeting had wrapped. She knew she was expected to wait until it was her time to show off NowIn, and she imagined that’s what her uncle had pulled Phoenix aside to arrange. However, she also knew no one was as invested in that app as she was.

Cee-Cee pushed to her feet. “Mayor Briton,” she squeaked. She cleared her throat. Sliding her hands together, she pushed back her shoulders and stared at him from wide, anxious eyes. “Before you go, I’d love to show you what NowIn can do. I know you’re a busy man, but it will only take a second.”

With a subtle shake of his head, Uncle Bryan leaned back in his chair, his lips set in a firm line, displeased. Briton’s advisors gave Cee-Cee a bemused look, but she was used to that. She looked like a precocious teenager, although she was twenty-two. She tried to make herself look bigger (and hoped it was working).

“Now isn’t a good time, but I look forward to learning more about it in the future.” Phoenix Briton smoothly rose and moved to the door, his entourage following. She dashed to meet them at the exit. He looked at her in surprise. So much for not appearing overeager.

“It’ll only take a second,” Cee-Cee reiterated.

Briton smiled. “Tell you what. How about we discuss it over dinner tonight?”

She blinked and pulled back slightly as Uncle Bryan stepped up behind her and dropped a firm hand on her shoulder. He spoke through his teeth. “Sounds like a very gracious offer, Mr. Briton. Have your people call us and finalize the arrangements, and she’ll be there.”

Briton tipped his fingers to his forehead and left the multimedia room, and Cee-Cee’s bravado threatened to leap out of her chest and scurry out with him. She had done it. She had scored a one-on-one meeting with the mayor. Gina crossed her arms and filed out of the room last with a pointed look at the young intern that screamed ‘gauntlet thrown.’ Cee-Cee squinted. Bring it on.

Once the room was clear of all but her and Uncle Bryan, she bit her knuckle to hold in a jubilant shout and turned away, sucking in a breath of shock. The situation could’ve gone terribly wrong, but it hadn’t. It was worth the dressing down she knew was coming.

“Jesus, Cora-Lynn! I give you the lead on this, and you repay me by pulling a stunt like that? That was very unprofessional of you! We’re not here to push products on our clients like car salesmen. We provide a service. Get your shit together or you will not be a member of the team working with Briton, you understand me?”

“Yeah,” she mumbled. Cee-Cee looked at her feet. “It won’t happen again.”

“Of course it won’t. Because if you can’t sell him on NowIn tonight at dinner, you can hang it up. I don’t want it mentioned again. If I didn't have a lot of faith in your program, I never would have discussed it with anyone, but your job at PR-ISM is social media liaison. Meaning, your app is something you handle on your time.”

“Right.” She put her hands behind her back and nodded agreeably.

Bryan cast a look at his brazen niece and chuckled. “But that was gutsy.” Both of them smiled.

When Cee-Cee passed Gina on her way back to her desk, the other woman sneered and said softly, “You really put yourself out there.”

“I did what I had to do. I didn’t see you holding back,” Cee-Cee muttered. She kept walking, but Gina got up from her desk and followed her, and the hairs on the back of Cee-Cee’s neck stood up at the chance of this turning into an altercation. She crossed her arms—more like hugged herself—as she faced Gina. “Is there a problem?”

“I know what you’re trying to do.” Gina’s eyes narrowed. “You can play the innocent college girl, but we’re both women, honey. Sleeping your way to the top is so old fashioned.”

“You’d know better than me. You’ve been in this game, what, ten years? Or is it twenty?” Cee-Cee cocked her head to the side, smirking. Gina tossed her hair in disgust and ambled back to her desk as Cee-Cee pushed down her fear and headed back to hers. There would be no sleeping her way to the top. She intended to get there by showing off what she could really do. Which, incidentally, wasn’t fucking.

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