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Professional Rivals: Part 4
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Note to readers: this story is part of Tagg After Dark, an erotica collection exclusively for readers 18+.


The best part of this literary conference was always going to be the four days immediately after it, where I got to move to a slightly nicer hotel and attend an event I was actually looking forward to. So if you had told me I would actually end up stuck in a room with Red Morris and Nika Choudhry, I might never have registered at all. 

All three of us are competing for a precious tenure-track spot at the state university, so the tensions between us are even higher than usual. Red focuses on Romanticism and queer theory, which is a way of saying “they’re insufferable” that takes up too many syllables. Meanwhile, Nika’s areas of interest are modern poetry and rhetoric, which means that I regularly learn new names for logical fallacies in our many, many spats. I’m a medievalist. What that actually means is that I have a 45-minute lecture on cat-themed marginalia ready to go at any given moment. However, if you ask Red, my entire area of study is actively holding the field back. And if you ask Nika, both medievalism and I are so irrelevant I cannot possibly be a threat in the great tenure rat race. 

Unfortunately, thanks to a colossal screwup courtesy of this Marriott, I’m now stuck rooming with my two closest academic and professional rivals for the next 72 hours.

I claim one of the two twin beds in the room as soon as we enter, plopping ungracefully onto the foot of the bed and setting to work removing my forearm crutches. Red glowers at me with their too-big green eyes over the tops of their horn-rimmed tortoiseshell glasses. Nika wrinkles her nose, crinkling the smattering of dark brown freckles coasting over the lighter brown bridge of her nose and the apples of her cheeks. 

Neither object; both eye my crutches, leaning against the wall. I wonder sometimes if either of them even knows what myasthenia gravis is or does, but hey, if they want to make assumptions that end in me sleeping on a real mattress rather than the pullout couch, I’ll cope. 

Red begrudgingly offers Nika the other bed. I take the opportunity to needle them as I dig through my duffle bag for my phone charger. 

“Don’t be too impressed—did you read their GLQ article? They’re only doing that because they’re wracked with guilt over their own masculinity,” I inform Nika. Red blushes red with fury and swears at me. 

Nika asks wanly, “You read their GLQ article?” Red swears at her.

It all goes downhill from there. As the room dissolves into tense three-way bickering, I heave myself off my perch on the bed I’ve claimed. At least I can sequester myself in the bathroom and think soothing thoughts about my weekend plans in a steaming-hot bath.

I’m not coordinated at the best of times, though, and when I rise, leaning on the opposite wall to help my weak leg muscles take the strain of my body weight, I hip-check the bag off the bed. I swear, knowing what’s in there, and brace against the wall to recover my contraband. Red is already moving.

“No, Morris, it’s fine. Stop—” I insist, frantic to deter them, but they move so much quicker than me. They’re already picking my things up by the time the words are out of my mouth.

Red retrieves the upside-down bag first. Three books, my emergency medication, a power bank, and something leather and strappy tumble out from the very bottom of my leather duffle bag. The rest of the bag’s contents are already spilled across the floor.

My heart seizes for a moment, and my guts turn to ice. It’s my turn to blush.


Want to know what’s in that bag? Return here on Sunday, April 14, for part 2! Sign up for our weekly newsletter to be reminded when the next installment drops, OR become a Tagg Supporter to access the entire story today.




Devon Illman
Devon Illman
Devon Illman (she/hyr) writes lesbian erotica that celebrates consent, kink, and the infinite possibilities of erotic expression. Hyr work often explores butch4butch and butch4femme dynamics, disability in sex and kink, and the many ways survivors navigate desire.