I barely noticed when it started.

In fact, I would have forgotten immediately if it had been anyone other than Cassie. Her apartment was in the same building as mine, on the same floor. We didn’t speak much, but it’s hard to ignore anyone that beautiful. Especially when she lives down the hall.

That day, the elevator was packed and I was standing directly in front of her when it chimed. I was distracted, reading a work email on my phone. Or rather, trying to. I hate that thing, but unfortunately it’s standard issue for everyone at my firm. This time I was, once again, wrestling with how to tap the screen in just the right way to make it do what I wanted.

I hadn’t realized we had arrived at my floor until I heard her voice from behind me.

“May I?” She gestured at the open elevator in front of me.

Feeling rather sheepish for being in the way, I stepped out into the hallway, allowing her to exit.

Instead of walking off immediately, she gave me a brief, expectant look. There was an awkward moment as we stood staring at each other in the hallway.

Cassie appeared annoyed. I assumed she wanted an apology for my hesitation, so I offered one: “Sorry, I was distracted.”

She opened her mouth as if to say something further, then quickly changed her mind, turned around and walked off purposefully.

I really had a way with the ladies, didn’t I?

I went back to my one bedroom bachelor pad, ordered some Chinese food, and settled in with a good book for the rest of the evening. This is what I did most evenings, which probably explained why I was still single.

I’ve been informed by women that I never relax, and that this is a problem. Evidently I’m “too focused on whatever is in front of me to be open to all the world has to offer,” whatever that means.

In fact, I find a nice, quiet conversation over dinner to be quite relaxing. However, I do not appreciate the atmosphere of a crowded night-club with gaudy decor and music so loud I worry about the long-term effect on my eardrums. I’ve heard there are women out there who share my aversion to such places, but unfortunately I kept running into the other sort.

As a result, I wasn’t seeing anyone, and I wasn’t actively looking.

Three days after the incident on the elevator, at about nine in the evening, there was a knock on my door.

I could see Cassie through the peephole, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. She seemed agitated, nervous. Her dark, straight, chin-length hair was somewhat frazzled. A few strands hung down in front of her face.

What really caught my attention, however, was the short dress she was wearing. Cassie’s curves were substantial and therefore noticeable regardless of her attire. Nevertheless, her assets weren’t merely noticeable in that dress. They were arresting. In spite of the high neckline, it was obvious she wasn’t wearing a bra. Her nipples were erect and clearly visible beneath the thin, light gray material.

I opened the door quickly and glanced down the hallway in both directions to confirm there was no one with her. This was odd and I can be a bit wary when confronted with unusual situations. I wanted to rule out the possibility this was some sort of ambush.

The hallway was empty, except for my neighbor. Cassie was definitely alone.

She gestured towards the interior of my apartment. “May I?”

I opened the door further and waved my arm in a sweeping motion to indicate that she should come in.

She didn’t move. Instead, she sighed briefly, raised an eyebrow and repeated herself. “So, may I?”

This was the second, no the third time Cassie used those exact words. That’s what she’d asked on the elevator too. This was strange, and getting stranger.

“What is this? Let me guess,” I said sarcastically. “You’re a vampire, and need a more explicit invitation?”

Cassie rolled her eyes. She took one step forward across the threshold, then took another step back. Maybe she hadn’t caught the sarcasm. “Vampires aren’t real. So, now. May I?”

“Enter, then,” I said. “Make yourself at home. If you’re not a vampire here to suck my blood, what do you want?”

Cassie threw up her hands in frustration as she stormed in to my home. “Gahh! Why do you have to make this so hard?”

“What?” I was thoroughly confused.

“Enter? Who says enter, like a goddamn robot? Enter and I’m sorry? What am I supposed to do with that?”

“I’m not sure I even understand,” I trailed off, bewildered. I had no idea how to handle a gorgeous woman I hardly knew hurling incomprehensible criticism at me.

“You had plenty of options: Fine, sure, go ahead, or, even a good old fashioned yes! That’s it. Simple. Just say yes, then I’ll stop bothering you. I promise. So, when I ask: May I? You say. . .?”

She looked at me hopefully.

“Are you on drugs?” I asked. “If this is some sort of OD situation, I can take you to the hospital.”

“Aargh!” She groaned. “No, I’m not on drugs.”

“You’re acting like you’re on drugs.”

Cassie put her hands on her hips. “Do you want me to walk a straight line, or touch my nose or something?”

“I know the police do that when they think you’re drunk,” I said. “Does that test for other drugs too?”

“How should I know? I don’t do drugs, and I’m not a cop.”

“Right.” If she hadn’t been giving me a truly amazing view of her body, I probably would have kicked her out at that point.

As it was, I let my eyes wander, and waited for Cassie to start making sense. Her impressively large chest bounced in fascinating ways as she plopped herself down on my couch. Sitting down, her short dress crept up, showing off even more skin on those long, gorgeous legs.

After a pause and a few more long sighs, she started talking. “Look, you’ve heard of hypnosis, right?”

“Hypnosis.” I was, dubious. That sounded like bullshit. “Really?”

A sudden thought occurred to me. Maybe there was no ambush outside my door, but— “Wait, is this some setup for a reality TV show or something? Are you recording me?”

“What? No, I’m not recording you. We could do this the easy way, but no, you want an explanation. So, fine, you get an explanation.”

I was still suspicious. “Where’s your phone? Show me you don’t have a recording app running on your phone.”

I wouldn’t have the first clue how to check whether there was an app on my phone for that, let alone hers. Still, if she was recording something, calling her on it would probably make her think twice.

“Dayyyumm.” She drew the word out. “Paranoid much? What are you, a lawyer?”

I stared back, saying nothing. She probably intended that question to be rhetorical.

“Oh my god. I should have known. Of course you’re a lawyer. What else?” She let out an exasperated sigh, then continued.

“If you must know, my phone is sitting on top of my night stand in my bedroom. Right now, I have a video on Redtube loaded up to just the right spot so it will be all ready when I get back. I didn’t want to jostle it while I ran over here to get what I need, which was supposed to take all of thirty seconds. Yes, Redtube. I watch porn. Is that TMI? Too bad, you shouldn’t have asked. Actually, you know what?”

The mental image of Cassie enjoying herself, watching videos online, was eliciting a powerful response in my pants. However, given the irritation I heard in her voice, I had the impression she wouldn’t be staying long. That was probably just as well, given that I didn’t really want to let her see my substantial erection.

“Let me guess, you’re leaving?” I asked, as I walked behind a table to keep my lower half out of view. “Feel free to show yourself out.”

“Um. No?” The way she said it seemed to carry the unspoken subtext: don’t be ridiculous. “I was going to say, if you’re really that worried that I’m bugged, you should come over here and pat me down. I won’t bite. Promise.”

She stood up and raised her hands over her head. Her arms pulled her breasts up with them, the fabric of her dress hugging them tightly. Her nipples were even more prominent than before, and I was pretty sure I could now see her aureoles though the thin material as well.

I stood there stunned, like a deer in headlights. This was escalating quickly, and I didn’t even know what “this” was. My best theory was that she’d lost a bet, or was here on a dare. That would explain why she was trying to feed me some ridiculous story involving hypnosis.

When I didn’t immediately move, she reached down with one arm and used it to cradle her breasts, squeezing them together, emphasizing them. “Oh, get out from behind there. Fair’s, fair. You already got an eyeful of the twins. No need to be ashamed of that bulge.”

Well, she’d noticed. I stepped out from behind the table, and approached her slowly, unsure of what I wanted to do next.

On the one hand, she was acting really weird. On the other hand, there was clearly an opportunity here. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but the subject of my frequent late-night fantasies was now standing before me wearing a dress that could have been made out of tissue paper. I was reluctant to forcibly eject her from my apartment.

I had another thought. “Stay right there,” I told her.

“First it’s show yourself out, now it’s stay right there? Make up your mind.” In spite of her words, she didn’t move towards the door. Instead, Cassie merely raised her lowered arm back above her head, and spread her legs a bit further apart. She was clearly trying to communicate that her earlier invitation was still on the table.

What I wanted was in my briefcase, which I’d left in my bedroom. Cassie was still standing there half a minute later, when I returned.

“If you’re going to talk nonsense, I think I do, in fact, want to record this. Only I’ll keep the tape, to make sure it doesn’t end up on the internet.” I placed my cassette tape recorder on the bookshelf next to where she stood and hit the record button.

“Seriously?” She still hadn’t moved. “Has anyone ever told you that you need to relax?”

The metaphor my most recent ex preferred involved a stick, my ass, and the futility of extracting the former from the latter. It would be fair to say that Cassie’s observation did not come as a new and shocking revelation.

I tried not to let my annoyance show. “I get a little nervous when things seem too good to be true.”

She didn’t move, but she smiled. It was dazzling. “Too good to be true? Flattery will get you everywhere, handsome.”

“Will it?”

“Absolutely. If you’re not going to come over here and search me, why don’t I just take my dress off and you can see for yourself that I don’t have my phone with me. And since you’re recording this, I’ll ask you whether that might make you uncomfortable. Would you mind if I slip out of this dress?” Cassie reached for the back of her dress, ready to unzip it. “Do I have your permission?”

The gleam in her eyes suggested she was genuinely excited at the idea of stripping for me. I was also pretty sure her behavior had nothing to do with her phone.

Needless to say, this was highly unusual. Beautiful women had a tendency not to barge into my apartment and volunteer to get naked. No, not volunteer, but ask permission. Yes, I’d heard of affirmative consent, but this was ridiculous.

That’s when it clicked: asking permission. That’s what she’d been doing. The way she phrased it was important. Each time, she implied she was asking permission to walk off the elevator, to walk into my apartment and now to take off her clothes, but it was open ended. She hadn’t asked “May I come in?” or “Do I have permission to take off my clothes?” Instead, it was “May I?” and “Do I have your permission?”

She wasn’t really asking permission for any of those things. She was asking permission for. . . what? Well, something else.

It was obvious now that I considered what she’d been saying. Cassie had more or less explained when she first walked in, and I hadn’t picked up on it. In retrospect, that probably had something to do with all the blood rushing to my crotch rather than my brain.

“Well?” Cassie demanded, impatient. “May I?”

There it was again, the same open-ended question. That was probably the essence of the bet or dare that brought her here. She needed a clear, affirmative answer. Cassie was trying to distract me with her see-through dress and the strip tease, trying to put me in an agreeable mood.

Why me though? That, at least, was obvious enough. I was the guy with a stick up his butt.

When people describe me, they rarely refer to my height (average), my eyes (brown), or my hair (also brown). Even my name is average. Instead, they say I’m “intense.” You want Bob? Oh yeah, he’s the guy with the intense look over there, you can’t miss him. Whoever put Cassie up to this, probably assumed that getting my permission would be a challenge.

If I answered her with an unqualified ‘yes’, she wouldn’t take anything off. She would almost certainly leave immediately.

I chose my words carefully. “Take off your dress if you want. Beautiful, naked women are always welcome in my home. But, if you want permission for something else, you’re going to have to be more specific.”

I saw the calculation flash through those stunning gray-green eyes. I was onto her and she knew it. I had her in a corner, though. She couldn’t refuse without an awkward explanation and she needed something from me.

She must have reached the same conclusion. With a slow, deliberate motion, she unzipped her dress, shrugged off the straps and let it fall around her ankles. Not only wasn’t she wearing a bra, she wasn’t wearing any panties either. Cassie’s small, neatly trimmed landing strip and delicate lower lips were now on full display.

I got an even better view of her ass when she bent over to pick up her dress from the floor. She turned around as she did so, putting on a show for me.

Cassie stood again and tossed the thin piece of clothing in my direction. “Go on, search it.”

If she still wanted to maintain that pretense, I wasn’t going to argue. I took the garment and checked for lumps that could be a phone or recording device. To my complete lack of surprise, I found none. The only thing I did find was a set of keys in a side pocket.

I now had her dress and I had her keys, both things she would need in order to return to her apartment. I watched her as she stood calmly in my living room, entirely nude, entirely at my mercy. She said nothing, waiting. I really could do anything I wanted at this point, couldn’t I?

I slipped the keys back into the dress pocket, and tossed it back to Cassie. “Nope, nothing here. You can put it back on.”

She frowned. It was obvious she hadn’t expected that.

Cassie clearly wanted to get this thing over with tonight, to seduce me if necessary. Then, I could look back on tonight as that one weird time when my hot neighbor got frisky for some bizarre reason. It would feel like most of my romantic entanglements: a brief bout of pleasure at the ineffable and unpredictable whim of someone else.

No, thanks.

On the other hand, the situation had me very curious. I wanted a real explanation. My best chance of that was to draw this out and fully think things through.

I removed my glasses briefly and pinched the bridge of my nose before replacing them. “I just realized, it’s getting late,” I told her.

“Last I checked it’s before nine thirty.”

“I have to be work at seven tomorrow, which means I have to get up at five.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Cassie was still naked, and hadn’t moved to pick up her dress from where it had fallen beside her.

“I really don’t have time for whatever this is tonight. You want to explain? Fine. Tomorrow evening, six-thirty sharp. Knock on my door. We’ll walk down to La Campagna on the corner, and you can start making some sense. You like Italian?”

Uncertainty rippled across her features. “Yes.” Her voice was quieter than before.

“Good. Tomorrow, then.”

Cassie wordlessly began to put her dress back on. For the most part, she kept her eyes downcast but I caught her glance my way a few times. She seemed to be trying to work out what I was thinking.

As she walked towards the door to leave, I called after her. “Oh, and two more things.”

She turned back, wary but attentive.

“One. If you want my help, don’t lie to me. I’ll listen to what you have to say, but it better be the truth. You were trying to feed me some bullshit about hypnosis earlier. You might want to rethink that.”

“But—” She started to protest, before I cut her off.

“Save it for tomorrow. And, two. Try not to dress like a slut this time, huh?”

I heard her sharp intake of breath. She answered so quietly it was barely audible. “Yes.”

Then she left.

I wasn’t entirely sure why I chose to say that. It was a split-second decision. What was I thinking, throwing out an insult?

Mulling it over that night, as I headed to bed I decided it was because I wanted to send a message: I wouldn’t be bullied or bribed into doing whatever she wanted with an offer of sex. I probably could have been more tactful, but the insult would discourage that. She was the one who knocked on my door wearing a skimpy dress and no underwear. She involved me in her silly dare or whatever it was, not the other way around. I could say whatever I wanted.

Besides, La Campagna wasn’t the sort of place you went in jeans and a t-shirt. I could keep my suit on after work, but it wasn’t a bad idea to make sure my date would also be dressed appropriately.

If she even bothered to show up, that is. Women tended to react badly to being called sluts.



The following day, I was mildly surprised when there was a knock on my door at precisely six thirty.

She wore an ivory shirt with a dark gray jacket and matching skirt that ended well below her knees. Her outfit would have fit right in at my very conservative firm. Yet, on her, it was just as stunning as the skimpy dress she wore the night before.

“You’re looking lovely this evening,” I told her.

She gave me a shy smile. “Thank you.”

We walked to the restaurant in an awkward silence. I assumed she was gathering her thoughts, deciding on the best way to tell her story. I could have peppered her with questions, but thought better of it. There was no reason not to let her explain in her own time. I could be patient.

Cassie finally broke her silence after we were seated at the restaurant. “Get out your phone,” she said.

I was a bit taken aback. “I don’t have it with me. It’s for work, and I wanted to give you my full attention.” I gave her a smirk. “I’d return the favor from last night and let you search me, but I don’t think this is an appropriate place for that.”

“Oh. Here then,” She reached into her purse, pulled out a phone and slid it across the table. “Take mine.”

I tentatively took the black rectangular thing. It wasn’t an iPhone, like I had from work. Probably the other kind of phone. I knew there were two. At least two. Anyway, it was the kind I’d never used before.