Friday arrived quicker than Pepper wanted. Tony had finished up her new alarm system two days ago and she was happy to be back in her apartment. She took a half day of work to have a manicure and get her hair done. She was sitting in the nail salon and she couldn’t shake the terrible feeling that something was going to go terribly wrong. And the thought of Tony and Christian meeting gave her anxiety. She felt that Christian was already jealous and he had a problem with Tony and Tony was definitely going to be jealous. She switched her hand for her manicurist Denise who was talking incessantly about all of her Tinder dates. Pepper would nod politely every few minutes but she found herself daydreaming about how hot and soft Tony’s lips were. She imagined what his lips would feel like on her neck or enveloped around her nipple or her clit and then Denise was bringing her back to earth and she felt herself flushing.
“Are you ok Pepper? You’re all flushed” she said.
“Yeah I’m fine” she said trying desperately not to picture the look on Tony’s face and his gorgeous eyes when he leaned in to kiss her.
She knew how good he looked in a tux and she was going to have to find some self control. She couldn’t ogle him in front of Christian and everyone she worked with. She was going to have a boozy night for sure. It brought back the memory of that night that they danced and she almost kissed him. The night she humiliated herself. He didn’t lean in to meet her and she knew she had to stop herself and she said the first thing that came into her mind and that was “this is weird” and then he went to get her a drink and he never came back. And she felt deeply rejected and hurt and then Christian popped into her life at the right time. He gave her confidence back. He was a rocket in the bedroom and an all around nice guy. Pepper wasn’t kidding herself she knew her and Christian were not meant to last. He was twenty six years old and she was thirty six. He wasn’t going to want her forever as aging is always more forgiving to men than women and he was taking off in the tech world and with her already crazy schedule working for Tony she just decided to have fun and not get too attached.
“Is your boss going to be there? Last year when the pics came out of you two dancing you were so perfect together” Denise gushed as she began applying the topcoat to her nails.
“He is but we won’t be dancing. I’m bringing a date this year” she said.
“You are? Who is he? Details please” she said.
“Just a guy I’ve been seeing for a few months. He’s in the tech field. No one knows but after tonight it’ll be on the front page I’m sure” Pepper said.
“What’s he look like?”
“He’s gorgeous. Way out of my league. He’s tall and lean with green eyes and blonde hair. He’s got the California tan and a gorgeous smile” Pepper said picturing what he might look like in a tux.
“That’s the complete opposite of Tony” Denise pointed out.
“Denise you’ve been doing my nails for about six years and I know you think Tony and I should get together but he is my boss and that makes him completely off limits. People already think I got the job as his PA by sleeping my way to the top when in reality it’s all just harmless flirting. Tony respects me and knows the boundaries. Plus I’ve seen Tony naked a lot during the years and I’m completely desensitized by it” she added.
“Are you sure? I just think you and Tony are so good together” she said sadly.
“We work great together and were completely platonic and that’s what makes us great” Pepper said reassuring her.
“As much as I love to chat about your glamorous life you gotta go because my next client is here,” she said with a smile.
Pepper left her a generous tip and paid for her service. She looked at the clock and it was nearing five o’clock. She still had to get into her dress and get her makeup on.
Tony looked at himself in the bathroom mirror. He had his dress shirt tucked into his pants and he screwed his buttons all up and his hair was disheveled. He took a quick photo and sent it to Pepper.
I’m a mess without you he typed and hit send.
He was finished unbuttoning his shirt when he got a response back.
You’re a big boy Mr. Stark. I have faith that you can successfully pull yourself together. And even if you show up with messy buttons and disheveled hair the girls will still swarm you the minute you hit the door she typed back.
Tony was sad that Pepper still saw him as a playboy. Even his celibacy hasn’t changed her opinion of him.
What are you wearing? A backless dress? Send a pic he typed.
Tony grabbed a tie and started fussing with it when his phone pinged again.
Don’t eyebrow wiggle at me Tony I know you are. You will see my dress when I get there she typed.
Tease he typed back.
Pepper arrived at the charity ball separate from Christian. He had an important meeting before that was going to overlap the beginning of the event and he said he would meet her there.
She walked in and decided to mingle around with some co-workers. She caught Tony in the corner of her eye and she excused herself and headed to the bar. She needed a drink before talking to him.
“Vodka martini dry with extra olives,” she said.
She didn’t see that Tony was slowly approaching behind her. She grabbed her drink and downed it in one shot and slid the olives off the tooth pick and into her mouth quickly. And she turned around and Tony was standing right next to her with his jaw dropped.
“You look stunning Pepper. You stopped me in my tracks” he said admiring her dress.
It was long and pearl colored with tiny straps which reminded him of the night he kissed that skin from under her bra straps.
“You pulled yourself together quite nicely as well” she said trying to stop blushing.
“Shall we dance?”
“Won’t the women be jealous? ” Pepper said.
“All the more reason” he said as he pulled her to the dance floor.
Pepper felt her heart beating fast. She didn’t know what time it was but she needed Christian to get here before she started ogling Tony. Tony pulled her as close as the professional distance would allow.
Pepper could feel the heat coming off of Tony and she had to look away while they danced. She spotted a beautiful girl in the corner looking at Tony with a glint in her eye.
“See the girl dressed in red? She’s staring at you. You should maybe go and dance with her” Pepper suggested.
“I only have eyes for you” he said not even bothering to look at the girl in red.
“But I’m your PA and I’m off limits and you know that so why deny yourself a little fun,” she said.
“I think we’re more than employer and employee Pep. You don’t feel that heat and the chemistry between us?” he asked as he brushed a tendril behind her ear.
Christian Palmer walked into the ballroom at the absolute worst moment. He watched Tony Stark tuck a lock of his girlfriend’s hair behind her ear and he saw her blush immediately. He was angry and he started heading towards them. But he was going to try and keep his cool and not embarrass Pepper.
“Hi excuse me I’m cutting in” he said as he tried wedging his way in between Tony and Pepper.
Pepper was stunned and didn’t know what to say.
“Excuse me?” Tony said angrily trying to pry Pepper away.
Pepper knew she needed to speak up to stop this and the words formed in her head but they never came out of her mouth.
“No you get her every day. You monopolize all of her time and then when she’s off the clock you call her at ridiculous hours to run ridiculous errands for you and you put her in dangerous situations. Now you’re invading her personal space. She’s my girlfriend and tonight you’re not going to talk to her and you’re not going to touch her” Christian said firmly getting into Tony’s face.
Tony felt like someone punched him in the stomach. He felt like the air in his lungs was evaporating and leaving them to shrivel up. He didn’t know how he was going to get around this hurdle. Boyfriends and husbands were never a problem for him when he wanted a woman but this was Pepper and he couldn’t mess it up. He had questions for Pepper but he needed to say something to this twenty year old prick that got in his face for no reason.
Pepper looked at Tony and she could see his blood was boiling.
“Christian I was going to introduce you but you didn’t give me a chance,”she said, still avoiding Tony’s eyes as she forced herself between them before one of them started a fight.
“Come on Pepper let's go” Christian said extending his hand to her.
“I’d like to talk to Tony alone for a minute. Can you wait for me over by the bar?” she said still avoiding Tony’s eyes.
“Sure but that’s it. If I have to fight for your attention all night then I’m leaving” he said as he left them alone.
“How long Pepper?” Tony asked in a mixture of a sad and angry tone.
“Three months” she said quietly.
“How come you didn’t tell me?” Tony asked angrily.
Pepper finally looked up to meet his eyes and the pain in them devastated her to the core. She knew Tony would be jealous but she never anticipated hurting him like this.
“Because at first I didn’t think it was worth mentioning because it wasn’t anything serious. I was just having fun. I never thought it would last three months and you have jealous tendencies I thought it would be better if you didn’t know”
“How old is he like twenty?” Tony asked.
“He’s twenty six”
“He’s the food buddy guy isn’t he? He’s that jerk that they compared me to on television. That’s why you were being so weird that day” Tony said angrily.
“Tony I wanted to tell you”
“He’s the one you’ve been sneaking around with. That’s why you had two phones. He wanted you to sit on his face” Tony said angrily as he remembered that night.
Pepper blushed and looked away.
“So that must be why you’re with a twenty six year old guy. You’re in it for the sex. That explains the good moods and you showing up to work flushed”
“Well he seems like a great guy. He doesn’t seem possessive at all” Tony said sarcastically.
“Tony that’s not fair. He walked in at the wrong moment”
“Don’t worry I won’t tell him about how you kissed me three times”
“Tony he really is a nice person. I’d like you to give him a chance”
“I don’t want you to keep him waiting anymore. Have a good night ” Tony said as he disappeared into the crowd.
Pepper felt like her heart was breaking. She was trying to blink back inevitable tears but she was having no such luck. She took a deep breath and wiped them away. She made her way over to the bar and she found Christian. He kissed her cheek softly and she pulled away.
“Why didn’t you just let me introduce you? Tony is upset with me and I’m the one that has to work with him as if he isn’t already difficult enough” she said angrily.
“I’m sorry Pepper I saw him touching you and I lost it”
“He wasn’t hurting me or making me uncomfortable or anything” she said quietly.
“That’s the problem Pepper you guys are too comfortable with touches like that,” he said as he took a swig of his whiskey.
Pepper felt herself flush again.
“He just brushed my hair away. It was no big deal”
“Will you dance with me?” he asked leaning in close to her.
“Yes” Pepper said forcing a smile. She wanted to try and salvage the rest of the evening.
She looked around at her co-workers and put on the happy smile she had to keep the facade going. They continued to dance to the next three songs and he finally managed to get a real smile and laugh out of her.
Tony was on his third whiskey while he watched from the shadows.
I never had a chance. All this time I’ve been changing for someone who doesn’t even care. What for? he thought.
And then the girl in the red dress was approaching him. They said hello and had a quick conversation and then they were in the coat room and he was fucking her. He had her bent over and he was ramming into her. He was pulling her hair back and reaching and groping for her breasts and she was loving it.
This is what Pepper wanted. She has been trying to push me to another woman for months. That was her way of telling me she wasn’t interested. How could you have been so stupid Stark? he thought.
Pepper and Christian were dancing again and he pulled her close.
“I have something to tell you,” he said.
Pepper smiled. “What is it?”
“I’m in love with you” he said not removing his eyes from hers.
Pepper felt panicked. She didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t sure if she loved Christian and she didn’t want to say it if it wasn’t true.
“Christian I care for you a lot. I’m just-
“You don’t have to say it back. I just wanted you to know that I’m in love with you. You’re the only woman smart enough to understand me. All the girls my age are superficial and they just want my money. But you’re different. You’re special Pepper”
“Can we talk a walk in the courtyard and get some air?” she asked.
“Yeah come on” he said taking her hand by lacing his fingers in hers.
They walked outside to the courtyard and she kept having the feeling someone was watching her. She kept looking back but no one was there. And then it happened two men with black ski masks approached.
“Give me the girl and no one gets hurt” one of them said.
Pepper reached into her purse from behind Christian and dialed Tony’s number and left the phone on so it would at least record a voicemail.
“Look we can talk about this. I have money lots of it. Whatever you want” Christian said keeping Pepper behind him at all times.
Tony felt his phone vibrating in his pocket while he continued to hammer the girl in the red dress whose name he already forgot. No one called him this late at night. He looked at the screen and it was Pepper’s face. He was about to hit ignore and he heard her scream. It was Pepper’s scream and it made his blood go cold. He pulled himself out and put himself away and ran as fast as he could, following the screams.
“We don’t want your money. Now step aside and give us the girl” one of them warned.
“You will have to go through me,” Christian said.
One of the men attacked Christian and Pepper screamed. He got up and tried to throw a punch at him when they threw him against the bench. He got up a third time and this time he sent an electric shock much like a stun gun from his watch to get him to stay down.
Tony was running through the courtyard now just as the man in the ski mask stunned Christian and he watched as they grabbed Pepper and dragged her into their van.
“PEPPER” he yelled.
“TONY HELP ME” she yelled before they closed the door to the van and sped off.
“FUCK” Tony yelled.
He was pacing back and forth and panicking. He needed to get Pepper and he was too drunk to drive and he knew he should probably help her stupid boyfriend even though it would be wasting time but Pepper would never forgive him if she left him there.
Tony bent down to check on Christian and he had a pulse.
“Hey buddy can you get up?” Tony said shaking him.
He stirred for a moment.
“Where’s Pepper?” he said suddenly sitting up.
“They took her. Now are you going to help me get her back or what?” Tony asked.
“Can you drive? I’ve had too many drinks. We need to get back to my lab. I can patch you up and get my suit” Tony said helping him to his feet.
“We don’t really have a choice now do we” Christian said.
Pepper was fighting and kicking the whole time. She was blindfolded and her hands were tied. She tried to visualize where they might be going by the left and right turns they were making but she lost track after awhile.
“The boss will be very pleased,” one of them said.
“Just remember not a single mark on her. Those were his direct orders”
Tony will come for me. I know he will Pepper thought to herself.
It was the only hope she had.