Seduce Me Tonight

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Seduce Me Tonight


Seduce Me Tonight Kristina Wright

   

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   We made it to pearl. As I packed my half of the kitchen, I just kept thinking, we made it to pearl.

   I was keeping the china and the punch bowl, not because I was fond of gold leaf or crystal, but because they had been wedding gifts from my mother. My mother made it to gold. No – I shook my head at the chip in the plate I held, the gold leaf damaged – she made it to until death us do part.

   People will tell you that it’s smooth sailing if you make it past the seven-year itch. Those are the people who didn’t make it past the three-year breaking-in period. Other people will tell you that twenty is the tough year – when you’ve spent two decades with the same person and realise your best years are behind you. Those are the people who crapped out around ten years, only to get remarried and go another ten with someone else. As if a decade per spouse is somehow better than two decades with the same person bitching about your inability to remember to pay the electric bill or put your dirty clothes in the hamper.

   Our silver anniversary had come and gone and my co-worker Janine said, ‘Twenty-five years! Holy shit! You’ve been married for ever!’

   At the time, I’d laughed and agreed with her, but in the back of my mind I remember thinking, it doesn’t feel like for ever. It feels like we just started and then got tired before we reached for ever.

   Everyone knows twenty-five years is the silver anniversary, but no one knows what represents thirty years together. Traditionally, it’s pearl. The modern is diamond. I like diamonds better, but I have a jewellery box full of both from birthdays, Valentine’s Days. Anniversaries, too. He’d given me diamonds or pearls for many anniversaries. A strand of pearls for our eighth anniversary (traditional: bronze; modern: linen) and a gold watch inlaid with diamond for our fifteenth (traditional: crystal; modern: watches – so I guess he was paying attention). Other gifts in-between and after, gifts I admired and enjoyed and put away for some future special occasion.

   There were diamond earrings and pearl hair clasps and diamond-and-pearl baubles for the twenty-sixth through twenty-ninth anniversaries, the ones no one has bothered to put on the anniversary gift lists, as if those years between twenty-five and thirty don’t matter at all. As if what Janine said was true: being married twenty-five years was for ever and there was no need to acknowledge another anniversary for at least five more years, and every five years after. I guess we took that to heart. Those years between the twenty-fifth anniversary trip to the Greek Isles and the thirtieth anniversary trip to divorce court were a blur of pot roast dinners, political talk over waffles at our favourite brunch joint and mediocre sex a couple times a week or whenever we were both in the mood and awake at the same time.

   The traditional gift for every anniversary should be sex. It’s hard to complain about his snoring when he’s fucking you. Suddenly every noise he’s making is a turn-on. It’s impossible to complain about her lousy cooking when you’re going down on her and your mouth is full of the sweetest juice you’ve ever tasted. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe two people can fuck every day for thirty years and still end up where I was, packing away ugly thirty-year-old plates and a dusty punchbowl.

   ‘What are you smiling about?’

   Nathan and I were civilised people. We didn’t fight and scream, we didn’t throw things, we didn’t pull childish immature acts on each other. No, we were a couple who had been married for thirty years, raised three children and had mutually decided a divorce was in both our best interests. And now the years were gone, the kids were grown and had their own lives and we were a divorced couple packing up our mutual belongings at the same time in the same house we’d shared for over two decades.

   I shook my head as I used several sheets of newspaper to wrap a gravy boat I couldn’t remember using in a decade. ‘Just thinking that if people fucked every day of their marriage, maybe there wouldn’t be any need to get divorced.’

   Nathan had his hands full of some bubble-wrapped thingy from our shared home office. Probably that ugly snow globe I’d gotten him as a last-minute anniversary gift last year. I’d seen it in one of those mall stores you see everywhere and been stricken with a bout of bad taste, buying this hideous glass and wood creation depicting Chicago in winter. I’d even gotten the damned thing engraved with our names and wedding date.

   ‘So, if we’d had sex every day, we’d still be together?’ he asked slowly, the consummate professor repeating the information he’s been given, looking for a different interpretation.

   I shook my head. ‘Who knows? Maybe we’d be fucking right now instead of packing up all this – fucking stuff – and going our separate ways.’

   I don’t know why I said that. Hell, outside of when we were actually fucking, I never even used that word. OK, not even when we were fucking, unless I’d had a couple of drinks first. But something about signing my name – his last name – to a divorce decree seemed to have loosened a knot of tension inside me. There I was, standing in the kitchen, packing our wedding china, barefoot in a sundress on a warm summer evening, saying fucking, fucking, fucking.

   Go fucking figure, huh?

   I felt suddenly, inexplicably weary. I put the plate I was holding on top of the already wrapped stack of matching plates and leaned against the counter, studying my husband. My ex-husband, I mentally amended.

   The years had been kind to Nathan. He didn’t look much different than the kid I’d met at Berkeley as an undergrad. The dark hair was turning silver, the lines around his eyes and mouth were more defined, like water etches stone after a millennium; there were a few more pounds on his always lean frame, but he was otherwise exactly the same as when I met him thirty-five years previous. Still quick to smile and slow to anger. Still stubborn as a mule and gentle as a kitten. Still kind-hearted and thoughtful. Still sexy as hell in well-worn jeans and an old Yale T-shirt.

   There is a moment when every newly divorced person looks at his or her former spouse and doesn’t see their partner, lover, friend of X number of years, but a stranger. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience looking at Nathan standing in our kitchen. He was everything I had ever wanted. Still was. And yet … and yet, here we were, packing up our fucking stuff and going on our merry separate ways.

   ‘What do you see?’ he asked, that gentle tone of a teacher trying to coax the student to find the answer on her own.

   I shrugged and turned away, fingering the single strand of pearls I wore, one last birthday present before it all went to hell. ‘I see a life together that’s fallen apart. Time to start anew, I guess.’

   I sounded more carefree than I felt. Much as I’d wanted this – and I had been the one to file the divorce papers when it dawned on me that Nathan wouldn’t, no matter how much we fought or withdrew from each other – I really didn’t know what I was going to do now. The house had gone on the market once we started the paperwork for the divorce and we had gotten a more than generous offer just days after the realtor listed it. Our ‘separation’ involved Nathan moving into the guest room. It wasn’t that we couldn’t afford for one of us to move out, but it seemed silly when the house was more than big enough. Our paths rarely crossed except in the mornings for a few minutes before we both went to work. It made sense for us to live together as roommates until the house sold and we could each take our half and find something new. It was civilised this way. It was also bitterly depressing to realise that after thirty years together we could live in the same house for months without talking other than to pass on phone messages, without touching because we made such a wide berth around each other, without one of us caving in and climbing into bed with the other, one late night. Depressing as hell.

   I slammed the poorly wrapped plate down on top of the stack and heard an audible crack. I gasped. The tears started coming even before I unwrapped the plate and saw it had been cleaved in two. I felt Nathan’s hand on my shoulder, that gentle, familiar squeeze to comfort me. But it didn’t comfort me. It made me angry. For the first time in at least six months he was touching me and it was because he felt sorry for me.

   I shrugged him off. ‘Leave me alone!’

   ‘I was just trying to be kind, Rachel,’ he said. ‘It’s not as if you ever liked that old ugly china.’

   I whirled on him then. ‘It was my mother’s!’

   ‘Well, it’s not as if you liked her much, either,’ he said, evenly. ‘And she was old and ugly, too.’

   I knew he was joking. Sort of. Nathan was a lot of things, but he wasn’t cruel. He was trying to make me feel better. Trying to lighten the mood. He never could stand to see me cry. I knew all of that, but my first reaction wasn’t to laugh. Or even to stop crying. I sobbed – and slapped him hard. The diamond in my engagement ring glinted in the overhead light, as hard and cold as I felt.

   ‘Go to hell, Nathan Davis.’

   He recoiled, as much from the shock of it as the pain, I think, and stared at me. The look of utter horror on his face was comical. I’d never so much as raised my voice or slammed a door, much less slapped him before. I was the quiet, angry type, more likely to hide in the bedroom nursing my wounds than to vent my emotions and risk hurting someone else’s feelings. It was, I thought, a good quality. But standing there with my hand stinging and my entire body practically vibrating with anger while the tears dried on my cheeks, I felt pretty good. Furious and violent, clearly, but good. Alive.

   As quickly as the feeling came, it faded, shrivelling up inside me like it had been deprived of oxygen. I was ashamed of myself.

   ‘I’m sorry.’ I watched him rub the red mark on his cheek and felt small. And sad. ‘I don’t know where that came from.’

   ‘I do.’

   He picked up the sugar bowl from the counter, the one that went with my mother’s china, examined it for a minute, then dropped it. I gasped in horror as it hit the tile and fractured into several smaller pieces, scattering shards across the kitchen floor.

   I blinked at him, certain it had been an accident, but he proved me wrong by picking up a salad plate and doing the same thing. The sound of breaking porcelain seemed to echo even as he reached for a third piece. I was frozen in place, unable to move to stop him as another salad plate crashed to the floor.

   I finally found my voice when he picked up the serving platter. ‘What the hell are you doing?’

   ‘Breaking your mother’s china,’ he answered, as if that made all the sense in the world.

   I looked at the fragments of the seventy-five-year-old dishes littering our pristine kitchen floor – not even our kitchen floor any more, as the house was officially sold – and felt … nothing. I took a deep breath, waiting for the indignant anger to explode out of me again, and simply exhaled. There was no emotion there, no sense of loss. All I saw was a mess to clean up and a few less things to pack.

   Nathan seemed almost as shocked when I started laughing as he had when I slapped him. It started small, just a twitch of my lips as I mentally replayed his comment about my mother and her china, and built from there. First a giggle and a shake of my head at my own audacity – laughing at something that wasn’t funny in the least – then an open-mouthed guffaw at the idea that I should feel bad for giggling. I looked at Nathan, at his gaping ‘have you lost your mind?’ expression, and completely lost it. I was doubled over with laughter, clutching at the kitchen counter to keep me upright.

   ‘You’re right,’ I managed to say between fits of giggles. ‘I hate this china. It’s ugly and tacky and has to be hand washed. Good god, hand washed! Who has time for ugly hand-washed china? I don’t!’

   Nathan nodded sagely. ‘I know.’

   ‘Unbelievably fucking ugly.’ I was like a kid discovering the power of dirty words. ‘Right?’

   ‘Right.’

   It was contagious, Nathan’s baritone chuckles joined my own girlish-sounding squeals and soon we were holding onto each other, laughing like fools. And maybe we were. Fools, that is. The two biggest fools in the world – and we had to hold onto each other because no one else would.

   I kissed him then. It was an open-mouthed, awkward, laughing kiss, but it was the first kiss we’d shared in at least a year. His mouth felt both new and familiar. A couple of days’ growth of beard scraped against my cheek as I cupped the back of his head and held him to me, as if he might pull away otherwise. But he didn’t. He didn’t even hesitate before he was kissing me back. He fisted his hands in my hair, kept long even now because that’s the way he liked it and I had never thought to cut it, and held me as tightly as I held on to him.

   All traces of laughter gone, I tentatively nipped his bottom lip. I heard – and felt – his moan. It had been so long since we’d even kissed, I didn’t know how to proceed. I couldn’t think straight, didn’t want to think at all. I wanted to feel. His act of destruction had released something inside me, something tight and coiled, and now I was reaching for more, hungry for something more than anger and hurt. His tongue swept along mine and I whimpered softly at his teasing. This was all familiar too, distantly so, as a recurring dream feels familiar in the light of day.

   I don’t know how long we stood there, leaning against the counter, pressed together and making out like teenagers. The tick-tick of the kitchen clock counted out the seconds of our mad descent into wherever this was leading and the hardness of his erection pressed against my hip corresponded to the wetness between my thighs that he couldn’t feel. Yet.

   That thought, as much a memory as anything else we’d shared, made me whimper again. I could feel my long dormant arousal awakening within me, blossoming like the heat had blossomed in his cheek where I had slapped him. I cupped his face in my hand, remorseful and anxious to set things right. I kissed the spot where I’d hit him, feeling his skin warm and rough beneath my lips. I trailed kisses down the line of his jaw, along his neck, to his collarbone. I breathed in his scent, clean and masculine and all Nathan. All mine.

   Mine. Where had that come from?

   I didn’t have time to consider it because he was pulling me up against him, one hand still tangled in my hair, the other wrapped firmly around my hip. He nestled the bulge of his erection against the soft swell of my belly and we both groaned. I ached for him to fill me. To fill the emptiness between my thighs, yes, but also to fill the hollowness behind my breastbone.

   We stared into each other’s eyes, so close I could see his pupils dilate when I wiggled against him, pressing even closer. He pulled his hand from my hair, anchored it on my other hip and slowly scrunched my dress up in his hands. I shivered as he revealed me, so slowly I thought I would scream with the anticipation of it.

   ‘Are you wet?’ he asked when the hem of my dress was up to my hips.

   My breath caught in my throat as I nodded.

   ‘Take your panties off for me.’

   I did the best I could with him holding onto me. I hooked my thumbs in the sides of my panties and tugged them down over my hips. They slipped down my legs and I stepped out of them. Then I waited for what he would do next.

   He didn’t make me wait long. In one smooth move, he picked me up and sat me on the edge of the counter. He pulled my thighs apart, baring me to his gaze. He stared between my legs without speaking. The kitchen counter was cool against my ass, but that wasn’t what made me shiver. He looked angry.

   ‘What’s wrong? We don’t have to –’

   I moved as if to slide off the counter and he held me in place, his fingers digging into my upper thighs.

   ‘Don’t move,’ he all but growled at me. ‘I want you so much.’

   This was most certainly not familiar. What were we doing? We weren’t the types for sex in the kitchen, Nathan wasn’t ever demanding and I was never this passive and agreeable. But here we were, with him pushing my thighs even wider apart and me whimpering in expectation. He licked his lips as if in anticipation and then dipped his head between my legs. The first swipe of his tongue along my pussy made me squeal in a very unladylike manner. I had only a moment to contemplate the utter ridiculousness of the situation before he did it again.

   Then I stopped thinking.

   Nathan took his time licking me, using the broad flat of his tongue to take long, slow swipes along my pussy. I knew I was drenched, I could feel the wetness and smell my arousal. I braced my hands on the edge of the counter and jutted my hips forward to his mouth, suddenly shameless. If we were going to do this, I was going to enjoy it.

   Nathan made an appreciative grunt and used his thumbs to spread my lips. I trembled in anticipation, waiting. Wanting. Needing. He let me wait, simply staring at my pussy open before him, as if he had me right where he wanted me and was in no rush to let me get away.

   I didn’t examine that thought for too long. I didn’t want to think about what happened after this crazy little tryst. I didn’t want to think at all. I’d spent months, years, thinking and planning and wondering where it all went wrong. I was tired of thinking. I wanted to feel.

   ‘Do it,’ I urged. ‘Lick me. Please.’

   It was the ‘please’ that did it. I could see the way his expression softened and he became the Nathan who would do anything for me. He stopped teasing me then and lowered his head between my legs. There was no hesitation, no need for me to beg, there was only sensation – his tongue dipping inside of me, his fingers sliding into me. He wet my clit with my own moisture, then licked it away. I cried out, gripping the edge of the counter and draping my legs over his shoulders. I dug my heels into his back, urging him on, afraid he would stop. He didn’t.

   Whatever had happened between us in the past, Nathan still knew what I liked. What I needed. He held me open before him, like a feast for his pleasure alone, and then he ate me like a starving man. We both were starving. It had been so long, too long. I couldn’t even remember the last time, but there had never been a time quite like this. I clung to the counter and to him, feeling my orgasm building low in my belly. Muscles taut, body aching with the need for release, I didn’t think about anything but the feeling of Nathan’s tongue on my clit as I sat there bare-assed naked on the kitchen counter that didn’t even belong to me any more. And that thought – that wholly inappropriate, completely naughty thought – was what sent me careening over the edge.

   I screamed, open-mouthed, uninhibited, raw with the need to vocalise what I was feeling. Holding Nathan between my plump thighs, riding his mouth in an effort to prolong my pleasure, I spiralled down into that blissful state of utter sensation where nothing mattered at all. I cried out my passion, my need, my frustration. My sadness. I pushed my hips against Nathan’s open mouth as he devoured everything I had to give. I slid around on the counter, its surface slick with the proof of my arousal.

   I was still crying when he tugged me forward, over the edge of the counter and onto his cock. I was still coming, my pussy still contracting as he slid into me, knees bent, and pressed me against the counter, filling the emptiness inside me in a way that no finger or toy ever could. I hadn’t realised how badly I had missed him – or how much I wanted him – until he was buried inside me, staring into my eyes as he thrust into me, hard and fast. His jaw was clenched, a vein pulsing at his temple as he struggled to maintain control. I felt a surge of feminine power at knowing he was as needy as I was.

   I was standing on my toes, my calves quivering with the effort to hold steady under the onslaught of his thrusts. He hooked his hand under my thigh and draped it over his hip, and we both groaned as the angle made my pussy narrow around him and brought my clit up tight against his pubic bone. In the aftermath of my orgasm his cock felt huge and every thrust sent little aftershocks of desire pulsing through me. He still wore his jeans, had tugged them down just far enough to free his thick erection, and the open zipper scraped against my slick, sensitive skin while the sharp edge of the counter dug into my back. I didn’t care. Pleasure with a side of pain, I thought fuzzily. It was entirely worth it just to hear him grunt my name.

   I could feel his cock swell and twitch inside me and I clung to him, hands fisted in the fabric of his T-shirt, my leg wrapped high on his hip and holding him close. I nipped at the taut corded muscle in his neck, hard enough to hurt, which made him jerk against me. He went still and quiet, only his ragged breath and racing pulse letting me know how hard he was coming.

   We stood like that for an endless moment, holding tight to each other, unwilling to move away and lose contact. Finally, he pulled back just far enough to look at me. Crow’s feet framed his laughing blue eyes and silver strands sparkled in the tousled chocolate-brown of his hair. Had it really been thirty years?

   ‘Rachel. I love you, Rachel.’

   Staring into his eyes I had the sense that time had melted away. Suddenly, we were standing there the day we’d moved into the house, when we had a four-year-old and I was pregnant with our second, but didn’t know it yet. We’d scrimped and saved for a down payment on our dream house and finally it was ours. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

   I blinked and it all came rushing back, reality knocking the breath out of me. Tears stung my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. Nathan watched and held me, never saying a word. Then he bent and kissed a tear away as it followed the curve of my cheek.

   ‘Now what?’ I put a hand in the centre of his chest and gave him a firm push, my wedding rings flashing in the light. Mocking my moment of weakness. ‘Was that just one last time, for old time’s sake?’

   ‘Is that what you want it to be?’

   ‘Damn it, Nathan, could you for once in your life answer a question without asking a question?’

   I sounded angry and bitter. But what I was really feeling was overwhelming loss. The anger was familiar, comforting. I clung to it the way I’d clung to him moments ago, using it as a protective barrier against the words he was about to hurl at me. But there was no angry retort. He simply laughed.

   ‘I do that, don’t I?’

   ‘You just did it again!’ I said, smacking his shoulder in exasperation. ‘Just answer the question.’

   ‘I will if you stop hitting me, woman.’ He pulled me close, trapping my hands against his chest.

   ‘OK. Sorry.’

   He laughed again, shaking his head. Then his smile faded. ‘I don’t want it to be the last time, Rachel,’ he said, sounding all growly-voiced like he had earlier. ‘I don’t want it to be over.’

   ‘But we’re divorced! And we sold the house.’ I pointed out the truths, but I neglected the most important truth of all – I didn’t want it to be over, either.

   ‘So what? We don’t have to be married to give it another go,’ he said, making it sound completely reasonable. ‘Let’s start over. Somewhere else. Someplace new. Let’s be new together.’

   ‘Let’s fuck on kitchen counters, you mean?’

   ‘Yeah. Let’s figure out where the hell we went –’ he shook me gently for emphasis ‘– and where we want to go now.’

   I gazed at the kitchen floor, littered with remnants of my mother’s dishes while we stood half-naked in front of open kitchen windows that looked out on the street. My thighs were sticky with his desire and mine, too. It was crazy. Ridiculous.

   It felt right.

   ‘OK,’ I agreed. ‘But we have to clean up this mess.’

   ‘Why? We’re not done yet.’

   I wasn’t sure whether he was talking about the mess or the sex, and I didn’t care. I knew what had to be done.

   I twisted out of the circle of his arms and unwrapped one of the dinner plates I’d already packed. Turning it over in my hand, I examined the tacky gold trim and the faded scene of pheasants in a field, and shrieked with laughter. It really was hideous. Maybe if we got rid of all the bad, the only thing left would be the good. I made a sound most often heard in karate class and flung the plate against the wall.

   ‘Rachel!’ Nathan said, as if shocked. But he laughed with me as I unwrapped and smashed another plate. ‘If the neighbours didn’t already get an eyeful and think we’ve gone stark raving mad, they’re definitely going to call the police now.’

   ‘I don’t care!’ I said, giggling helplessly and swiping at tears between bouts of destruction. ‘Help me! This will take all night.’

   I froze in place as he cupped my breast through the bodice of my dress and ran a callused thumb over one bra-less nipple. ‘When we’re done, I’m going to fuck you good and proper in our bed.’

   It was a promise I believed and the only vow that mattered right now. We’d take it one day – or ugly plate – at a time and see where it went. Who knows? Maybe we’d cobble together something even better from the shattered pieces of our life together.

   ‘You’ve got a deal,’ I said, flinging a teacup to the floor and feeling something hard and brittle inside me give way. ‘And I love you, too.’

   We destroyed every dish long before the sun came up. And then he kept his promise.

   Some fairy tales don’t end happily ever after. And sometimes happily ever after is in the eye of the beholder.

   My boyfriend and I have what some people would call a volatile relationship. I used to call it dysfunctional and addictive. Late at night when I couldn’t sleep and I was replaying our most recent fight, I called it fucked up. I hated him for bringing out the worst in me – but I loved him for it, too. And he felt the same way about me. We were on a path to destruction and neither of us was in a hurry to put on the brakes because it felt too damned good.

   It’s not like Brian beat me or something. Nothing like that. The only bruises he ever left on me were during sex and I didn’t mind at all. But we fought a lot and we had broken up at least five times in as many years, maybe more if you counted the number of times I had thrown him out of my apartment and told him not to come back. But he always came back and I always let him. It is what it is, you know? It was just hard to say exactly what it was. It took me a long time to realise that the label was less important than the emotions.

   My friends who have overheard some of our fights, or heard about them in the aftermath, ask me why I don’t just dump his ass and find a nice guy who will treat me right. I could. I know I could. I’m attractive, if not gorgeous, and I have a lot going for me personally and professionally. I’m not lacking self-esteem over here, trust me. But those nice guys my friends talk about leave me cold. I’ve dated those guys. The ones who won’t raise their voices when they’re angry, the ones who will take a few days to ‘cool off’ and then act as if nothing happened. The ones who remain even-tempered and good-natured no matter how many of their buttons you push. I hate those guys. They are as dull in bed as they are to fight with. Brian, on the other hand, is anything but boring.

   What I don’t tell my friends, what I don’t even tell Brian because he’d say I was the one with the problem and I don’t need to give him ammunition, is that I like the fighting. It gets me hot. Yeah, I guess that is fucked up, isn’t it? But I think he likes it as much as I do and won’t admit it either. He pushes me and I push him and we fight. And after we fight, we make up. And the making up is hot and sexy and sweaty and rough. I fume for days after a fight, but the longer the wait, the hotter I get to make up with him.

   The other thing I don’t tell anyone is that sometimes I have to change my panties after one of my screaming, throwing, slamming fights with Brian. I’m just wired that way, I guess. He pushes my buttons to piss me off and that does something to my other button. My clit stands at attention when we’re going nine rounds over who was flirting with whom at the bar or whatever. I hear myself say things I never thought I would ever say to someone I love, with my hands balled into fists at my side, not sure whether I’d rather slap his face or stroke my clit. Maybe both. Yeah, there’s something wrong with me. Right?

   I’ve slapped him a few times, pushing him, taunting him. Waiting to see what he’ll do, hoping he’ll do what a nice guy would never do. When I started dating, while my friends were being told by their mothers that boys didn’t hit girls, my mother was practical and told me not to slap a boy unless I’m prepared to be slapped back. The threat of being hit by a boy scared me when I was thirteen but the thought of being slapped by Brian excites the hell out of me at thirty-three.

   I guess I could just ask him to slap me. But that seems a little twisted. Nice girls don’t ask to be hit and I’m a nice girl. Except with Brian. He brings out the bitch in me. With everyone else, I’m this super-controlled, calm, rational, together woman. The female counterpart to the guys I’ve dated who keep their voices modulated and never swear during an argument. People who know me wouldn’t recognise me when I’m fighting with Brian. The problem is, I think I’m my truest and most honest self with him – when I’m longing for him to call me a slut and slap my face. Why else would I stay with him and fight with him? He brings out the worst in me – and I love him for it.

   ‘You’re a stone-cold bitch, you know that?’ he asked me once during a particularly gruesome battle. I don’t even remember exactly what we were fighting about – I only remember the fight itself.

   Brian is a writer and works in advertising, so he’s always careful with how he uses language. He’ll say I’m being bitchy or I’m acting like a bitch, but that was the first time he’d called me a bitch outright. My head snapped back like he really had hit me. Hot tears pricked my eyes, but I furiously blinked them back. I didn’t want him to think he had gotten to me. If he thought he’d penetrated my ‘stone-cold’ exterior, he would stop taunting me. And I didn’t want him to stop. I wanted more. A lot more. So I just smiled. That’s something else my mother taught me. No matter what horrible insult someone hurls at you – smile. It makes them crazy. I knew for a fact that it made Brian crazy.

   ‘Only to you, baby,’ I purred. ‘Only to you.’

   The veiled meaning was that there was some other guy who I treated better. I could practically see Brian imagining me fucking another guy, or a string of other guys. Jealousy twisted Brian’s face into something ugly and unfamiliar. I should have been scared, but that primal female part of me that loved the fighting and wanted more thought it was hot as hell. He looked like a brute – and I wanted him to unleash that brutishness all over me. I ached for it in a way I couldn’t explain even to myself.

   ‘What are you saying?’ His voice was quiet. Almost sinister.

   I took a step forward, the threat of tears long gone, and smiled sweetly. ‘It means I know how to treat a real man.’

   Lightning fast, he was on me, one hand grabbing my arm to push me up against the wall, the other hand coming up in an arc. I thought he was going to slap me. I really did. Even though I wanted it, was ready for it, I flinched just a little.

   He blinked, as if touching me had shocked him and let me go so abruptly, I nearly fell. Damn. It was my own fault. This time, the tears came and I couldn’t stop them.

   ‘Go on, do it,’ I taunted him, though my voice sounded wobbly with emotion and had lost its previous heat. ‘You were going to hit me, you know you were. Go ahead and do it!’

   I was screaming the words, like a child throwing a tantrum because she hadn’t gotten what she wanted. It sounded like a plea rather than a taunt. Brian just stared at me as if seeing me for the first time.

   ‘You thought I was going to hit you,’ he said, something different in his voice. ‘I was going to hit you. Swear to God, I was.’

   It finally dawned on me why he sounded different. He sounded sad. I took a step towards him, tried to touch him. ‘Just do it,’ I begged. ‘Do it. You want to.’

   He shook his head. ‘I’d never hit a woman. I’d never, ever hit you, Jules.’

   I said what had been hanging in the air between us, the truth that I couldn’t hide from any longer, the reality that maybe was starting to dawn on him. ‘But I wanted you to.’

   He rocked back on his heels as if I’d punched him in the stomach. ‘What the hell is wrong with you? Seriously, Jules, who says that? Who wants that?’

   My first reaction was shame and embarrassment. I was messed up, something was wrong with me. He’d just said it. My shame was followed by white-hot anger. I said the other truth that was between us, the truth I’d always suspected and was now willing to put into words. ‘You want to. I know you do. It’s why we’re still together. It’s why you fight with me and push me and let me push you. You want to take it farther, you want to, but you can’t.’

   His hand came up to my face, but too slow to actually be a blow. Instead, he tucked a lock of my dark-brown hair behind my ear and gave me another sad puppy-dog smile. ‘Maybe. But I can’t do that. I’m done, Jules.’

   I thought he meant done fighting, but he fished his keys out of his pocket and took my apartment key off his ring. Then he laid it on the table by the front door and walked out. The door closed with a finality that echoed inside me. I didn’t start crying for another thirty minutes, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. Some time later, it started to rain.

   * * *

   Some time after 2 a.m., after tossing and turning for hours, I finally got up, threw a raincoat over my short nightgown and headed out into the night. I had only intended to go for a drive, but I found myself driving to Brian’s town house and parking on the street. I sat there, windshield wipers dashing away the heavy rain, staring up at his darkened windows and wondering if this was wise. I’d already gone this far, I decided, I might as well see it to its bitter conclusion.

   He’d given me his key back, but he hadn’t asked for mine. I let myself in the front door, shushed his friendly Labrador Charlie, and made for the stairs to go to his bedroom. Brian’s voice caught me up short.

   ‘I’m in here,’ he said, calling to me from the living room just off the front entrance. ‘I figured you might show up.’

   The room was dark, so it took my eyes a moment to adjust and see that he was lying on the couch, one arm tucked behind his head. He didn’t seem like he’d just woken up, nor was he surprised to see me. I took a hesitant step toward him, not at all sure how to read his relaxed body language or his quiet, neutral tone.

   ‘Brian, I –’ I stopped, not even sure what to say. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I finally said, though I wasn’t sure what I was apologising for. ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’

   ‘You want me to hit you.’

   It wasn’t a question, but I didn’t know what to say back to him. Did I? Maybe. Yes. In the right context. When I wanted it, but only then. But I didn’t want to have to ask for it, I wanted him to just do it. Shit. How could I explain it to him when I didn’t understand it myself?

   ‘Not hit,’ I whispered, my throat raw from screaming and sobbing. ‘Not like that.’

   ‘Like how, then?’ He sat up and clicked the switch on the lamp beside the couch. A warm glow illuminated his face. He looked exhausted, a five o’clock shadow on his high cheekbones, his black hair tousled like he’d been running his fingers through it in frustration. I knew this face, this man. I knew him and I trusted him. I owed him as honest an explanation as I could give him, even if it didn’t make any sense to either of us.

   I raised my shoulders in a shrug. ‘I don’t know. A slap, I guess.’

   ‘Like a spanking?’

   ‘Yeah, sorta.’ It felt surreal to be talking about this. ‘But more. More than a spanking, more than my ass.’

   ‘Your face?’

   I nodded. ‘Yeah.’

   ‘You want me to slap your face when we’re fighting – or when we’re fucking?’

   ‘Both,’ I whispered.

   ‘Do you push me to fight so I’ll do that, be that rough with you?’

   I nodded. ‘Yeah, I think so. I think I do. It’s messed up.’

   He moved to the edge of the couch and rested his arms on his splayed thighs. ‘Come here.’

   I went to him without hesitation. I wasn’t sure of his mood or what was happening between us, but I knew I trusted him. Despite the fights, the angry words, the years of feeling like we were never connecting, I still believed in him. In us. And I knew he would never do anything I didn’t want him to do.

   When I was standing in front of him, he looked up at me. ‘You’re not messed up,’ he said softly, pulling me down in front of him until I was kneeling on the carpet between his legs. ‘I think I wanted the same stuff – well, wanted to do it to you. But that’s even more fucked up.’

   I couldn’t help myself, I laughed. He was sitting on the couch, I was on my knees in front of him like I was going to go down on him, but instead we were talking about our mutual desire to do the one thing we couldn’t do. ‘Oh, baby, what the hell have we been doing all this time?’

   He shook his head. ‘Hell if I know. The fighting – it’s been off the chain, right? I mean, I have never, ever fought with anyone like I fight with you. Never. It’s weird.’

   ‘Dysfunctional,’ I agreed.

   ‘And I hate myself when I’m saying those things. Hate you when you’re screaming at me. But I can’t resist it.’ He stroked my hair absent-mindedly, as if he was petting Charlie. ‘I try to ignore you when you start pushing me, but I can’t fucking resist it.’

   ‘You crave it,’ I said, running my hands up and down his thighs to the same rhythm as his stroking of my hair. ‘You need it.’

   ‘Yeah,’ he said starkly, self-loathing in his expression. ‘What’s wrong with me?’

   ‘What’s wrong with us? I need it, too.’

   We sat there like that for awhile, touching each other as if we couldn’t help ourselves – and maybe we couldn’t. Maybe this was love, even if it was not what we thought love should be.

   He looked at me, searched my face as if seeking some elusive answer. ‘What now?’

   I took a deep breath and let it out in a long, ragged sigh. I felt as if a great tension had gone out of my shoulders. Something in me had opened up. For better or worse, he knew my darkest secret. And I knew his.

   ‘It’s on the table now. Let’s see where it goes.’

   ‘You’re going to have to take the lead here,’ he said, as he pushed my hair behind my ears again and cupped my face. ‘This is so outside the realm of my experience I don’t know what to do. It feels … wrong.’

   ‘But I want it,’ I reminded him. ‘I’m asking for this.’

   He just shook his head.

   ‘But I said I want it.’ I was louder, more forceful. ‘Slap me. Slap my face.’

   He went very still. ‘No.’

   I could feel the familiar anger beginning to rise. He was teasing me now, playing with my emotions. ‘Slap me, Brian. Stop messing with my fucking head. Slap me.’

   ‘Why should I?’

   ‘Because I want you to.’

   He laughed. ‘Not good enough. Why should I do what you want, when you’ve been such a bitch to me?’

   ‘And a slut,’ I said, putting that taboo word on the table, too. In for a penny, in for a pound.

   He blinked at me, his breath catching in his throat. ‘Yeah? A slut?’

   ‘Yeah.’

   ‘What else?’ he asked.

   It was my turn to taunt. ‘You tell me.’

   ‘A little whore,’ he said, the word sounding foreign on his tongue. ‘Whore.’

   I was wet. I could feel the wetness gathering between my thighs, soaking through the cotton crotch of my panties. ‘You want me to be a whore.’

   ‘Yeah, I do. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to slap you just because you want me to, you bitch.’ There was a note of anger in his voice, as if the resentment of the past five years of frustration and miscommunication was bubbling up in him, too.

   ‘Fine,’ I said. ‘Slap me because you want to. You’ve always wanted to. You want to slap the smile right off my face, don’t you? You want it so bad you can taste it like you can taste my pussy on your tongue.’

   His hand cracked across my face before I even had time to blink. It wasn’t hard, less sting than shock, but it shut me up. I gasped, or maybe he did, and we sat there blinking at each other. I instinctively raised my hand to cup my cheek, but he pulled it away and put it on his bulging crotch.

   ‘That’s what you want, isn’t it?

   I nodded, swallowing hard. ‘Yes.’

   ‘Want me to fuck you, little slut?’

   ‘Oh God, yeah,’ I groaned. I pulled off my raincoat, stifling under the weight of it. Still kneeling in front of him, I stripped my gown over my head. ‘Fuck me.’

   ‘I’m not done yet,’ he said.

   This time, I was prepared for the slap across my cheek. Same spot as before, so I really felt it this time. Felt the heat in my face, the throb of the sting corresponding with the throb between my thighs. I stared at him, naked except for my soaking wet panties, thinking I didn’t even know who he was. Thinking I loved him, wanted him, needed him. Thinking, if he stopped now I would die.

   He grabbed me by my hair and pulled me down to the floor with him. ‘Little bitch,’ he growled, dragging me across his lap by my hair and smacking my ass hard with his other hand. ‘You fucking little bitch, driving me crazy all this time.’

   I whimpered, my ass burning with every hard slap. ‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘I didn’t know how to tell you!’

   He flipped me over on my back and palmed my pussy through my panties. ‘Your pussy is so fucking wet. You love this.’

   ‘Yes,’ I gasped. ‘I do.’

   ‘Good,’ he said, roughly stripping me of my panties with one hand while he got his pants undone and his cock out with the other. ‘So do I.’

   He was in me with one quick thrust. I gasped at the onslaught, the sudden sensation of fullness. He sat up, taking me with him, so that he was on his knees and I was wrapped around him as he buried himself inside me. He caught my hair in one hand and pulled it back until my neck arched painfully. Then he slapped me again – not my face this time, my breasts. First one, then the other. I gasped at the sensation, my nipples tingling in pain and pleasure, my clit throbbing, his cock hitting just the right spot.

   I came, moaning, crying, as he slapped my face, then my breasts, then pinched my nipples hard, once, twice, all the while whispering filthy, nasty things to me. Telling me what a whore I was, what a fucking slut, what a nasty, dirty girl. I eagerly agreed to all of it as I came on his cock. I even gave him a few more words to use, which only made him fuck me harder.

   As my orgasm ebbed, he lowered me back to the floor gently – gently, after all he’d said and done to me – and covered my body with his. He fucked me with hard, steady thrusts to get him where he needed to go, to bring him to where I already was. His breath coming in fast pants, his cock swelling inside me, his balls slapping my ass. Brian. Solid, dependable Brian. My boyfriend, my love. I wrapped my arms and legs around him, holding him to me, clenching my pussy around him, surrounding him with my passion.

   ‘Fuck your slut, baby.’ I whispered the words like a love poem again and again. ‘Fuck your little whore. Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me. Fill me with your come.’

   He came with a bestial moan. Body tense as he arched up over me, he thrust into me one last time before putting his full weight on me, our hot, damp bodies pressed together in a way that was so familiar, after an experience unlike any we had ever shared.

   He whispered something in my ear, so soft I couldn’t hear him.

   ‘What, sweetheart?’

   ‘I said, I love you,’ he whispered again. ‘I love you, I’m in love with you, I’ve never loved anyone more than I love you. Whatever this is, however fucked up we are, I love you. You need to know that. You need to believe it.’

   I cradled his head against my shoulder, shifting my hips so that I could bear his weight for as long as he needed to lie there. ‘I do, Brian. I know it. I really do. And I don’t think we’re fucked up.’

   ‘No?’

   I pulled his head down and kissed him hard. ‘No. We were made for each other. I have never loved you more than I do right now.’

   And as I said the words, I realised how true it was. It didn’t matter if everyone else thought we were fucked up. I didn’t believe that any more and I would make sure he didn’t believe it either. He was mine, I was his and whatever ‘this’ was, it was our story and ours alone.

   And that was all that mattered.

   Leo started coming in my bar a couple times a week after he got out of the police academy. He was a baby-faced rookie with silver-rimmed glasses and a shiny utility belt not even broken in yet. He looked like a kid playing dress-up in his daddy’s uniform. He’d sit at the end of the bar and order a club soda. Thirty minutes later, he’d give me a nod, throw down a five and be gone.

   I know all the cops from the Third Precinct. They come in during their shifts to check on me and shoot the breeze while pretending not to notice the array of shifty characters sharing the bar with them. They come in after work dressed in their civilian clothes so they can throw back a few shots before heading home to their wives or girlfriends or Playstations. They’re good guys, most of them. They treat me with respect and keep an eye on the place when I’m not around.

   I’m no badge bunny, but I’ve taken a few of them home. Usually the single ones who’ve had a rough shift and would rather sit on a bar stool all night than go home to an empty apartment. I’ve done my part as marriage counsellor and sex therapist, too. Being a cop is tough on a relationship and wreaks havoc on the sex drive. Sometimes a man just needs a good no-strings fuck to remind him that he’s alive, that there’s something worth living for. Call it my pro bono contribution to society. Not that any of the wives or girlfriends would thank me.

   I never thought of Leo like that. He just looked too damned young for me to go dipping my fingers in that particular pie. He came in one night with a look I’ve seen on a hundred cops’ faces before. That bleak, empty-eyed stare of a man who has seen something he wishes he hadn’t. It’s a hazard of the job and it fades with time, but a little bit of their soul gets replaced by a hard edge of cynicism in the process.

   He claimed his usual seat at the bar and gave me a wobbly nod of acknowledgement. I sidled up in front of him, wiping down the already clean mahogany bar.

   ‘Bad night?’

   He nodded, studying his hands as if they contained the secrets of the universe.

   ‘What was it? Homicide?’

   He jerked his head up. ‘How’d you know?’

   I shrugged, almost embarrassed by my own nonchalance. Everything I knew about police work was second-hand information. I’d feel differently if I’d been the one standing over the body. ‘Seen that expression before. First one, huh?’

   ‘Yeah. Never seen a … dead person … before.’

   ‘That sucks,’ I said, filling a beer glass with seltzer. ‘What’s your name, kid?’

   ‘Williams,’ he said. ‘And I’m no kid.’

   ‘Yeah, I know. What’s your first name?’

   ‘Leo, ma’am.’

   ‘Well, Leo, I’m no ma’am. My name is Kayla,’ I told him. ‘This is my bar.’

   ‘Yeah, I know. The guys told me.’

   I wondered what else the guys had told him. Cops talk. They’re more gossipy than a bunch of housewives drinking the kitchen sherry. I knew more about their lives than their own families did.

   I fished a couple of maraschino cherries out of the container under the bar and dropped them into his glass, sending little tendrils of syrup spiralling down into the carbonated seltzer. I pushed the glass in front of him. ‘There you go.’

   He held the glass up to the light, studying it. ‘What’s with the cherries?’

   ‘For your first homicide. You broke your cherry, kiddo.’

   He rewarded me with the first smile I’d ever seen on his face, which served to reinforce how young he looked. ‘Thanks. You just made my night.’

   I felt something spread through my belly the way the cherry syrup spread through his glass. ‘Any time,’ I said, putting more meaning into the words than I intended.

   I left him alone to drink his cherry-flavoured soda, but there wasn’t quite so much tension in his shoulders as there had been when he walked in. That made me feel good. Bartending is about more than serving up drinks – it’s about understanding people and what they need. Or maybe I’m just trying to justify having the hots for a young cop.

   After that, we were on a first-name basis. Some nights, he’d walk in with that familiar dejected expression and say, ‘It’s cherry time, Kayla.’ Then, if the bar was slow, he’d tell me what he’d been through that night. Sometimes he’d wait for me if I was busy and that gave me a little thrill, even though a part of me believed he only saw me as his bartending therapist.

   I was there when Leo made his first suicide call and I listened without comment as he described the knife wounds on the woman’s wrist and how she looked almost happy in death. He told me about his love of animals and the first time he had to put a bullet in the head of an injured deer hit by a car. I dared to pat his hand when he told me about his first experience with a car full of drunk teenagers, half of them dead on the scene after a collision with a tree. That one brought tears to my eyes, thinking about my own two sons.

   They weren’t all traumatic events; some were good career firsts. His first search warrant, his first drug arrest, the first court case he won. Other firsts were just plain embarrassing and he’d relate them in hushed tones, looking over his shoulder to make sure none of the other guys overheard his shame. Some things he could laugh at, like the first time he caught a couple going at it in the backseat of a car. That one made him blush and his blushing turned me on.

   ‘They didn’t even care that they were sitting there naked,’ he said, naïve incredulity in his voice.

   ‘Lust makes people do crazy things.’ I thought back to some of my antics, not all of them in the distant past. ‘Lust is the devil.’

   He shrugged, as if he didn’t have a clue. ‘I guess.’

   We had an easy camaraderie that wasn’t quite like what I had with the other guys in the precinct. There was no swagger to Leo, no macho bullshit to peel away like layers of an onion. At night, after I locked up the bar and headed home alone, I thought about Leo in ways that would surely make him blush. Naked, sweaty, hard. Part of my heightened lust was the fact that I wasn’t taking anyone home any more. Not for a lack of trying on their part – I just wasn’t interested. I tried not to dwell on the reason I wasn’t interested.

   Then one night Leo came in looking like a man who’d lost his best friend. The lines etched into his exhausted, stricken face aged him by ten years. The bar was hopping more than usual that night, so it took me a good five minutes to make my way down to him.

   ‘Hey, what happened?’

   ‘Dead kid. Five years old,’ he said, as if giving a report. ‘Wandered off and drowned in the lake.’

   ‘Fuck. I’m sorry.’

   He bent his head. I thought he was crying, but then I saw that he cradled something on his lap. ‘It was his,’ he said, holding up a bedraggled orange and white kitten in his big hands. ‘Parents said he was in the yard playing with the cat, last they saw. Thought the father was going to strangle it, so I took it.’

   His words were punctuated by rough strokes of the cat’s fur. That little furball was all that was holding him together but a kitten wasn’t company enough to fight off his demons once the lights went out.

   ‘Let me get Quentin to close up shop for me and I’ll get you home.’

   ‘Oh, I’m fine,’ he said, a little too loudly.

   I ignored him and walked to the other end of the bar. I snagged Quentin as he went by on his way to serve a round of beer to a bunch of rough-looking bikers. ‘Can you close for me? I’ve got something I need to do.’

   Quentin looked from me to Leo. He’s been with me for seven years, as rough around the edges as some of our customers, but he’s a decent bartender and had become a good friend. ‘Got yourself another rescue?’

   ‘Something like that.’

   He winked, but there was no humour in his knowing expression. ‘Just watch yourself, girl. That one’s liable to break your heart.’

   I laughed. I knew about lust – lust could twist me six ways to Sunday. But love was for other people, and so was heartbreak. I hadn’t had enough time to fall in love before I’d fallen pregnant and love wasn’t a privilege I’d had as a young wife or a single mother. I hadn’t been heartbroken when my abusive ex-husband took off with one of my barmaids ten years ago and left me to finish raising two rambunctious boys. Love sure as hell wasn’t a luxury I could afford now. The idea of this sweet young kid breaking through my protective barrier, much less breaking my heart, was ludicrous.

   I shook my head and made my way back to Leo, who was trying to keep a hold on the mewling kitten. ‘C’mon, rookie. Let’s get you home.’

   ‘I haven’t had my cherry soda yet.’

   I knew he was in shock, so I humoured him. ‘I’ll make you one at home.’

   I guess that’s when it dawned on him that I wasn’t taking him to his house. ‘Oh,’ he said, long and slow, drawing it out like a deep, relieved sigh. ‘OK.’

   Out in the parking lot, I sized him up. ‘Are you OK to drive?’

   He nodded.

   I wasn’t convinced, but I let it go because I only live a couple miles from the bar. ‘Good. Just follow me.’

   My house is on a quiet dead-end road. It’s not much, just a little two-bedroom bungalow. The place had seemed cramped with two six-foot teenagers eating me out of house and home, but now with them gone – Ty off to the Army and Nate off to college – it felt huge and lonely.

   I waited to get out of my car until Leo’s truck pulled in on the gravel driveway behind me and he shut off his engine. He met me at the front door, the kitten tucked in the crook of his arm.

   ‘Hey,’ he said, as if we hadn’t just seen each other at the bar.

   He was nervous, I realised. That didn’t surprise me, really. The short drive had given him time to think and nervousness was cutting through the shock. What surprised me was that I was nervous, too.

   ‘Come on in.’

   I let us into the darkened house and turned on the lamp by the window, filling the room with a peaceful amber glow. I could feel Leo close behind me, his grief so large it felt like a third person in the room with us. The kitten let out a wail and that seemed to break the nervous tension between us.

   ‘Let’s get the little guy some food,’ I said. ‘I’ve got tuna and milk to hold him until you can get him some cat food.’

   ‘Thanks. That’s really nice of you,’ Leo said, his voice thick with a range of emotions. Fleetingly, I wondered if any of those emotions had my name on them.

   I took the kitten and gave Leo a little nudge toward the couch. ‘Sit. I’ll be right back.’

   The kitten was a cute little thing. I dumped tuna in a cereal bowl and sat the kitten in front of it while I found a box to line with newspaper for a makeshift litter box, and an old towel for a bed. Once I had everything set up by the radiator in the corner and the kitten was purring over his windfall, I returned to the living room.

   Leo didn’t look as forlorn as he had at the bar, but he sure as hell didn’t look happy. He looked lost. Sad. I sat down next to him, our knees bumping.

   ‘Are you going to be OK?’

   He nodded slowly. ‘Yeah. It was rough, but I think I’ll be OK.’

   I nodded along with him. I only knew of one way to get over this nagging feeling that I was robbing the cradle and going to hell for it. I put my hand on the back of his neck and pulled him down for a kiss. I half expected him to resist; I wasn’t entirely sure he knew my intentions or would even want what I had to offer. But his lips parted and he kissed me back, a quiet sigh whispering across my mouth.

   The funny thing about older men is they forget how to kiss properly. They’re all about the fucking. They may spend some time on the foreplay to get a woman ready, but kissing takes a back seat to all the rest. Leo kissed like he knew it was as far as he was ever going to get with me and he was determined to get his rocks off that way. His lips were velvety soft, softer than any man I’d ever been with. It was like kissing a woman except for that little hint of invisible stubble above his upper lip. I moaned when he nibbled my bottom lip, nipping it with his teeth before sweeping his tongue over it to soothe the pinch of pain.

   I slid my hands down to his broad shoulders, feeling the muscles bunch under my touch as if he was showing off his gym work. But no, he was just reaching for me, pulling me up against him so he could dip his tongue in my mouth. It was awkward, with him still dressed in his uniform and that damned utility belt getting in the way. I made an anxious little noise in my throat and he pulled back, searching my face.

   ‘Did I hurt you?’

   I laughed. ‘It’s going to take a lot more than kissing me to hurt me, but we need to get you out of that damned uniform.’

   I stood and took his hand. He followed me willingly to the bedroom. I didn’t turn on the light.

   He tried to pull me into his arms once we were standing by my bed, but I slipped away from him. ‘First things first.’

   I saw a flash of white teeth in the darkness. ‘You’re not teasing me, are you?’

   ‘Oh baby, I’m no tease,’ I said, my voice sounding a little breathless. ‘I just want you naked.’

   He had no response to that.

   I got his utility belt unfastened while he stripped off his shirt, then his vest, with a loud rip of Velcro, then his undershirt. I unfastened his pants and felt the bulge of his erection against my hand. I gave him a squeeze and smiled at his deep moan.

   I yanked his pants and underwear down in one swift motion as I slid to my knees. His cock hung heavy in front of me, a shadowy outline of his arousal. I inhaled deeply, revelling in that musky masculine scent. That’s all I did, just kneel in front of him and wait.

   ‘Please,’ he said, so softly I almost didn’t hear him.

   ‘Please, what?’

   I was teasing him now, trying to ratchet up his arousal – and mine. I like a man to tell me what to do. To make him quiver until he’s insistent and rough in his need. I didn’t know if Leo had it in him, but I was going to find out.

   ‘Don’t make me get the cuffs.’

   Despite the threat, the way he said it told me he had no idea how to use handcuffs in a sexual way. The boy might have had the accoutrements for kinky sex at his disposal, but I’d bet my bar that was one cherry he hadn’t busted yet. I hadn’t been thinking beyond that night, but the possibilities excited me.

   ‘Hmm, you just might have to do that,’ I said, knowing he wouldn’t.

   ‘You are teasing me.’

   ‘Yeah, baby, I am.’ I waited a beat. ‘This time.’

   I heard his sharp intake of breath at the promise of the future. ‘Suck it, Kayla,’ he said, his voice dropping an octave to become a demanding growl. ‘Now.’

   I murmured my appreciation of his new-found dominance before I took him in my mouth. Without using my hands, I sucked the head between my lips and listened to his corresponding groan of approval. His erection jerked in my mouth and I took another inch of that velvety warmth.

   He caught my long hair up in his hand and moved me gently along his length. Slowly, as if he had all the time in the world to fuck my mouth and intended to enjoy every second. I cupped his balls in one hand, feeling their heavy weight in my palm. He thrust harder into my mouth when I did that, giving my hair a little tug just the way I like it.

   I used both hands then, one on his balls and one on his shaft, feeding his erection into my hungry mouth. I had only intended for this to be an appetiser for things to come, but he jerked his hips forward and his dick slipped to the back of my throat. I wasn’t ready for it and I gagged, the sound turning me on in my submissive haze of desire. Then he was coming and I was swallowing as fast as I could to keep from gagging more.

   I nursed his dick as he came, my hands braced on his thighs to hold him still. I felt a flood of disappointment, my aching pussy still untouched and needing to be filled. But I held him in my mouth until he went soft, the bittersweet taste of him thick on my tongue.

   ‘Damn, baby.’ He still held my hair in his hand, moving my head slowly back and forth on his dick. ‘That was amazing.’

   What was amazing was that his dick was hardening, just moments after his orgasm. I pulled back to look up at him. ‘You’re getting hard again.’

   He just laughed, a full-bellied laugh of masculine pride.

   ‘Oh, hell,’ I said in wonder, stroking his rising erection. ‘Praise God for younger men.’

   Leo pulled me up from the floor and tugged my T-shirt over my head, then thumbed my hard nipples through the thin fabric of my bra. I moaned, feeling a corresponding zing of sensation in my clit. I worked the zipper of my jeans down with trembling fingers. Then it was a frenzy of four hands on my body, with him trying to unfasten my bra while I got my jeans off.

   He turned me towards the bed and stumbled, his pants and underwear wrapped around his ankles. He hadn’t even taken his work boots off yet.

   ‘Why don’t you get yourself undressed and I’ll take care of myself?’

   I was stretched out naked on the bed by the time he unlaced his boots and got the rest of his uniform off. He stood beside the bed, hesitating.

   ‘What?’ I said, afraid he’d changed his mind, even if his dick hadn’t.

   ‘Can we turn on a light?’ he asked. ‘I want to see you.’

   I flipped the bedside light on, the amber glow showing me his hard, muscular body. He had an expression of near awe on his face, the wire rims of his glasses winking in the faint light as he stared at me.

   ‘Damn, you’re beautiful,’ he said. ‘I want you so bad.’

   Then he did something that made me catch my breath: he slowly and deliberately took off his glasses and put them on my bedside table. Then he climbed on the bed and knelt between my spread thighs. I could feel the wetness pooling at the opening of my pussy, I was so ready for him. I reached for his hips to pull him into me, but he leaned back.

   ‘Who’s teasing who now?’

   ‘I’ve never –’ he started, then paused and looked up at the ceiling. ‘I mean, I haven’t been with a –’

   ‘Oh, fuck.’ My whole body tensed up. ‘You’re a virgin?’

   Damn. He really was as cherry as the drinks I made for him. It was one thing that he was a decade and a half younger than me, but I didn’t think I could deflower a virgin. Never mind that I’d just blown him, it didn’t seem right to do the deed just to scratch an itch, especially after the rough night he’d had. I was so wrapped up in my moral dilemma that it took me a minute to realise he was laughing at me.

   ‘God, I know I look innocent, but I’m no virgin,’ he said, shaking his head as he laughed. ‘I just meant, I’ve never been with an older woman before. All my girlfriends have been my age. I just don’t want to screw this up.’

   To punctuate his comment, he ran his hand up the inside of my thigh, so close to where I wanted him that I gasped. I didn’t feel older than him. I didn’t feel like the one with more experience. I didn’t feel in control of the situation at all. My body was humming with a need only Leo could satisfy.

   ‘It’s OK,’ I managed to say as I wrapped my hand around his wrist and brought it to my pussy. ‘I’ve never fucked a boy so much younger than me.’

   Taking his dick in his other hand, he ran it between my legs, wetting the tip with my juices before rubbing the head against my swollen clit. ‘I’m no boy,’ he growled. ‘I’m a fucking man.’

   And then this man was fucking me. He didn’t take his time like he had with my mouth; he pushed the full length of his dick into me in one swift stroke. I went from aching emptiness to almost painful fullness in an instant.

   He stayed like that for a minute, buried inside me so deep we were breathing in unison. This was round two for him and his control was better, but I was just as hot for him now as I had been when we left the bar. I pressed my feet to the bed and raised my hips, hoping he’d take the hint.

   His soft laugh was indulgent and knowing, with no trace of the tender young rookie I knew. Or thought I knew. ‘You want my dick?’ he asked, giving me another quick thrust.

   I whimpered, raising my hips again to meet the next thrust. ‘Oh, yes, baby.’

   He stretched out over me and I wrapped my legs around his muscular back and gripped his ass, pulling him deeper. He rocked his pelvis, bottoming out inside me, giving me another twinge of pain that fuelled the ache of desire.

   I’d expected hard fucking with no subtleties, but this was something else. Slow and wet, our bodies pressed together in anxious need, with all night to get there. He kissed and sucked my neck, trailed kisses down between my breasts before licking my nipples until I whimpered. He sucked my nipples in time to his thrusts, my pussy making wet slurping sounds as he slid in and out. The sheet beneath me felt damp and the room smelled of sex.

   My orgasm built slowly, spiralling out from low in my belly. I felt the first tremors and rocked against him. He sat back on his heels and pressed my knees to the bed, with just the head of his dick inside me. I was splayed open before him, on the verge of coming hard. I writhed on the bed while he watched me.

   ‘Fuck me, Leo,’ I gasped. ‘Please.’

   He thrust into me like he had that first time, the whole length of his dick pushing into me in one startling stroke. He pulled back to the tip and slammed it home again. His deep, unrelenting thrusts started slowly and built to a pace that made it difficult for me to catch my breath. I gasped and screamed as I came and kept coming, clutching at the pillow beneath my head.

   ‘That’s it,’ he coaxed in that gravel-rough voice. ‘Come on my dick.’

   He kept saying it, demanding it, his voice and his dick beating a rhythm into my body that was merciless and impossible to ignore. My orgasm seemed to go on for ever and he kept fucking me in long, slow strokes that rubbed against that sweet spot in my pussy. I arched up, taking him as far as I could, then pressed against the bed when it became too much to bear. He reached under me, gripped my ass and pulled me up so I couldn’t escape.

   ‘I’m so close, baby.’

   ‘Come for me,’ I said, as demanding as he was.

   He was quiet, his body going still and tense as his dick throbbed inside me like a separate entity. Then he let out a soulful groan. I rocked my hips to milk every last sensation from his sweat-slick body, my hands soothing the muscles in his back.

   We lay like that for a long time until he got too heavy for me and I nudged him off. He had that self-satisfied smile of a man who knows he’s done it right. I couldn’t argue with that.

   He rested his head on my shoulder, his eyelashes tickling my cheek. ‘That was so … nice.’

   I laughed. ‘I think “nice” is an understatement.’

   ‘Yeah, but my brain is scrambled and I can’t think of anything else.’

   ‘Well, if I’m your first older woman, I think maybe I need to make you another cherry soda, huh?’

   ‘Yeah, I guess so.’

   The kitten meowed plaintively just then from somewhere in the house. I’d forgotten what had brought us here tonight. Leo had too, judging by the way his body jerked against me at that lonesome cry. The wails grew louder until I heard the snag of claws in fabric and felt the soft press of fur in the small of my damp back.

   ‘He thinks you’re his mama,’ Leo said.

   ‘They all do. So, are you going to keep him?’ I didn’t know what else to say. What could I say to this young guy I had nothing in common with but a couple of mind-blowing orgasms?

   ‘I can’t have pets at my place. Maybe you could keep him?’

   ‘Sure.’ I yawned, feeling the tug of sleep. ‘I’m used to taking in strays.’

   ‘And maybe I could come back and visit him?’

   He hadn’t caught my double meaning, but I caught his. I sighed, but it was a sigh of acquiescence. I’d gone this far, I might as well go all the way, I told myself. I was in no hurry to get rid of him.

   ‘Maybe, but you’ve got to promise not to fall in love with me. That wouldn’t go well for either of us.’

   Curling a leg over my hip, he nuzzled my neck the way the kitten was nuzzling my naked back. ‘I won’t fall in love with you.’

   I turned my head and stared at Leo’s contented expression, a smile playing on those soft, full lips. He would fall in love with me and it would be messy and emotional and it wouldn’t be good for either of us. I closed my eyes and decided I would deal with it when it happened.

   Hell, maybe this time I’d fall in love. With a cherry on top.

   Bang. Bang. Bang.

   It had been going on all morning. Banging, often followed by cursing. I glared at the door to the garage. What the hell was he doing out there? Better question: why wasn’t he in here doing me?

   Bang! Bang! ‘Stupid fucking car!’ Bang!

   I couldn’t take it any more. My head was starting to throb in time to the banging he was doing – which was a far cry from the banging I wanted to be doing. I opened the door and tried to keep my voice even and serene. ‘You OK out here, sweetheart?’

   Mark glanced around the hood of his jet-black ’69 Mustang. Actually, glowered was a better word to describe what he was doing. ‘Does it sound like I’m doing OK? This piece of shit engine is giving me fits. It used to purr like a kitten and now it rattles like an old man on a respirator. I’m a shit mechanic if I can’t make this baby run.’

   I bit my tongue to keep from stating the obvious solution. It was a familiar argument. Every time I suggested buying a new car – even a new Mustang – Mark went postal. He was a mechanic by trade and would not hear of parting with his ‘baby’ no matter how many dollars – or hours – he ended up dedicating to the cause of keeping her running. Or how many hours it cost us in matrimonial togetherness, apparently.

   Not that I hadn’t known what I was getting into when I married him. Mark had been recommended to me by my friend Hannah when my Mini Cooper had needed some serious work. He’d been so sweet and charming, I hadn’t minded the grease under his nails or the fact that he always smelled faintly of gas, oil and that harsh cleaner all men keep in the garage. I had even enjoyed hanging out and watching him work – watching the easy way he moved around a car, admiring his ass when he had his head under a hood. Mark was a manly-man and that had an appeal a girly-girl like myself couldn’t resist, even if he did take his work home with him. Or, in this case, drive his work home. I was trying to be patient, I swear I was, but a girl can only take so much.

   The Mustang had belonged to his father and I knew there was no way he would part with it. And I wouldn’t ask him to. But we could afford another car so that the Mustang wasn’t his primary means of transportation. Mark wouldn’t hear of it. ‘A car is meant to be driven, not kept in a garage,’ he would say, repeating something his father had said back in the day when money was tight and there were five kids to feed. I tried to remind Mark that our financial situation was far better than his dad’s had been – and we didn’t even have kids yet to worry about – but my argument was as ridiculous to him as an automatic transmission in a sports car. It was enough to have me banging my head against a wall in frustration.

   ‘Well, why don’t you take a break and have lunch with me?’

   Mark’s head had disappeared under the hood again. ‘Maybe in a few minutes,’ he mumbled. ‘Thanks, babe.’

   Bang! Bang! ‘You stupid fucking –’

   ‘Right,’ I said, slamming the door on the cacophony of noise.

   An hour later, when Mark was still a no-show for lunch, I gave up and ate my soup and sandwich alone at the kitchen table. Every weekend, Mark promised he’d give the car repairs a rest and every weekend, there he was, greasy and sweaty and cursing until all hours while I waited for him to return to the land of the living. It hadn’t always been like this. He used to put in a couple of hours on the car on Saturday morning and be done with it so that the weekends were our own. But since his father died a couple of years ago Mark seemed to spend more and more time on the car. At first I thought it was just his way of staying close to his dad, some sort of testosterone-fuelled grief process, but it was starting to feel like he was avoiding me.

   Enough was enough. Either I needed an all-consuming hobby of my own or I needed to remind Mark that there was another kitten in his life in need of some attention. I didn’t want a hobby, though. I wanted my husband back. I decided it was time to bring out the big guns and stop waiting around for what I wanted.

   Twenty minutes later, after some primping and a wardrobe change, I carried a sandwich and glass of iced tea out to the garage. Mark didn’t notice, of course, because his head was where it always was – buried under the car hood. I smiled, watching his bent head, blond hair tousled and a streak of grease along the back of his neck. His head would be buried some place else momentarily if I had anything to say about it. My confidence wavered for a moment. It’s not as if we’d just met and I could lure him with my pussy. Marriage had the effect of softening the edges of our lust. On the other hand, it had been a long time since I’d put this kind of effort into enticing him.

   ‘I brought lunch to you,’ I said sweetly. ‘Since you’re so busy.’

   Bang! Bang! Bang! ‘Fuck!’

   ‘Honey?’

   ‘Thanks, babe,’ he said, not even looking up.

   Not easily deterred, I put the sandwich plate and glass on his workbench and leaned against the car. ‘You really should eat something. It’s after three and I’m not making dinner.’

   I didn’t know if it was the tone in my voice or the fact that I was in the garage for more than thirty seconds, but Mark finally looked up. Looked up and did a long, slow double take. Then he straightened to his full six-foot-two height and gave me a long, slow smile that made my toes curl in my four-inch shiny patent-leather fuck-me pumps. Even with the shoes, I was still several inches shorter than him. I felt a shiver of desire looking up at Mark, his broad shoulders straining the seams of his old white T-shirt. We’d been together since high school, but he still took my breath away.

   I returned his smile and crossed my arms under my breasts, accentuating the low, low cut of my wispy white blouse and the fact that I was not wearing a bra. While his gaze hovered at my cleavage, I spread my legs slightly and watched the marionette-like shift of his eyes downward, to the denim skirt cut so short I was practically flashing him and the red heels that were a remnant from an ill-fated pole-dancing class I’d taken three years ago.

   ‘Going somewhere?’ Mark asked, though it took him three tries to get the words out.

   ‘Coming, not going.’ I licked my bottom lip, glistening with a lipstick appropriately called Sexy Harlot, and smiled. ‘I hope.’

   I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have heard a 747 landing in the backyard at that moment. ‘Uh-huh.’

   ‘What’s the matter, sweetheart?’

   He was trying hard to focus on my face and failing miserably. ‘Did I miss a holiday or something?’

   I walked around him – enjoying the way he pivoted to watch me – and slammed the hood of the Mustang. I slid up on the car, feeling the cold metal against the back of my bare thighs. ‘Nope. No holiday that I know of.’

   To his credit, he didn’t comment on how hard I closed the hood or on the fact that I was sitting on his ‘baby’. Maybe there was hope for him after all. The good thing about being together so long was that I knew exactly which buttons to push – and how far to push them – to get what I wanted. I might have gotten a little complacent with familiarity and my skills might have been a little rusty, but it was all coming back to me now. And I intended to make the most of every trick I had up my sleeve – or up my skirt, as the case may be.

   Mark visibly swallowed when I braced my heels on the bumper of the Mustang. I wiggled on the hood, making a show of tugging at the frayed hem of my impossibly short skirt that I wouldn’t wear outside this garage. Normally, Mark would have gone nuts at the possibility of me scratching his precious paint job, but he didn’t so much as grunt a protest. I actually believe he might have forgotten about the car altogether. I bit my lip seductively and smiled. Chalk one up for feminine wiles and a neglected libido.

   ‘Do you think this skirt is too short?’

   Mark’s gaze was riveted between my legs. He stared as if all the answers of the universe were contained in that shadowy space. ‘Too short? Um, I guess it depends on what you’re looking for.’

   ‘I’m looking for a little attention,’ I said, running a finger along my bare thigh.

   At that, Mark puffed out his chest like a rooster, all gruff, masculine possessiveness. ‘From who?’

   I lowered my eyelashes. ‘Hmm. Well, not you. You’re too busy for me lately.’

   ‘I see,’ Mark said. ‘This is a ploy to get me away from the car.’

   ‘Do you think that’s even possible?’ I crossed my legs, rotated my ankle and swung my red pump back and forth in front of him. ‘Can I distract you from your precious Mustang for a little while?’

   ‘I think I can spare a few minutes.’

   Mark started toward me, his gaze fixed on the hem of my skirt and the sweetness it hid, but I wagged a discouraging finger at him. ‘Hold it one minute there, big boy. I don’t want a few minutes of your time.’

   ‘Huh?’

   I tried not to roll my eyes. ‘Focus, baby.’

   He finally glanced up at my face. ‘What’s up, Cat?’

   ‘You’ve been distant,’ I said, trying to keep the levity in my voice and still convey how concerned I was. ‘I miss you.’

   Despite my tone, his expression closed down. ‘Sorry, I just need to get this car running –’

   ‘It’s not going to bring him back,’ I said gently.

   He jerked like I’d slapped him. ‘That’s not why –’

   ‘Yeah, it is, honey. You miss him, I know you do. And you love this car almost as much as you loved him.’ I stretched out my hand to rub my thumb across the grease spot on his bicep. ‘I know that.’

   He sighed, covering my hand with his own. ‘I can’t get rid of the car, Cat.’

   ‘I never want you to. But maybe it’s time to consider getting another car, huh?’ I shifted on the hood, the skirt sliding up another inch. ‘Take a break from the constant maintenance so we can enjoy the weekends together?’

   He nodded. ‘Yeah, maybe it’s time.’

   ‘I miss you, baby,’ I said, putting all my longing and lust into the words. I was already wet, creaming at just the thought of him being inside me.

   ‘Your legs look a mile long in that skirt.’

   And just like that, we shifted from serious conversation to full-on seduction. I was more than ready for it, and for him. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t planning on making him work for it.

   I lay back on the hood of the car, braced myself on my elbows and placed my foot in the centre of his chest. ‘You’re not getting anywhere near me until you promise me some time.’

   ‘How much time do you want?’

   Tugging at my skirt – up rather than down – I revealed a tiny, lacy navy-blue thong. ‘How much time have you got?’

   I didn’t give him a chance to respond. He opened his mouth to say something and I hooked two fingers in my thong and pulled it aside. I watched his expression turn from amusement to lust. Bam. Just like that. Amazing what a glimpse of pussy will do to a man.

   ‘Damn. When did you do that?’ he asked, referring to my fresh Brazilian wax.

   I teased him by running my fingers over my bare skin. ‘Two days ago. You might have noticed if you’d come to bed last night instead of staying out here with your car until I was asleep.’

   I might as well have been speaking Latin. He could not take his eyes off my hand playing between my legs. Slowly, so he wouldn’t miss a thing, I slid one finger between the lips of my bare pussy. The purpose of this little exhibitionistic show was to get Mark hot and bothered, but I was so hot and wet I forgot about him for a moment and focused on pleasuring myself.

   Dragging some of my moisture up over my clit, I gasped. ‘I’ve been doing this three or four times every weekend because you’re too busy lately. See what you miss when you’re working on your car?’

   ‘I’m seeing that.’ Mark wrapped his hand around my ankle and moved my foot from his chest. ‘But I’m not working on my car now.’

   I kicked off my pumps and braced my heels against the hood of the car. ‘No, you’re not.

   It’s nice to have your undivided attention for a change.’

   ‘You definitely have my attention,’ he said roughly. ‘I just wish you’d said something a hell of a lot sooner if this was the end result.’

   ‘Me, too.’

   ‘Damn, Catherine, I’m about to burst through my pants, you’ve got me so worked up.’

   I smiled, noting his sizeable erection in his grease-stained jeans. ‘I see that. It’s about damn time.’

   ‘Yeah, it is, isn’t it?’

   Mark moved closer, running his hands up my shins to my knees as I masturbated. He gently pressed my legs apart, until I was splayed across the hood of the car. Fully exposed to his view, I paused in stroking my clit to hold my labia open with two fingers.

   ‘Like what you see?’

   Mark nodded, gaze riveted.

   ‘Want a lick?’

   Again, he nodded.

   ‘Lick it,’ I demanded in a voice that didn’t sound at all like me but was, suddenly and passionately, all me. ‘Now.’

   Mark wasted no time in leaning between my spread thighs and running his tongue slowly up the length of my pussy. He held my legs apart, pushing them up and back until my knees nearly touched the hood of the car. I was fully exposed to his gaze – and his questing mouth – but I needed more. I felt open, empty … and I wanted to be filled.

   ‘Push your tongue inside me,’ I whispered.

   I was never this demanding. I was the quiet type in bed, moving him where I wanted with a sigh or a moan or my hands. But we weren’t in bed – and the combination of my slutty outfit and being spread out on Mark’s car like some kind of porn star was making me bold. I felt as if I was waking up from a very long sleep, all these months of waiting for Mark to snap out of his grief, trying to be patient but just becoming more and more resentful.

   I knew we still had some work to do and that it wasn’t all better just because I’d concocted a silly plan to seduce him. But maybe this wake up call of what we had – what we’d always had in good times and bad – was a much-needed reminder for both of us. I hoped so. And, judging by the way Mark was staring at me, teasing me by making me wait, I think he was hoping for the same thing.

   I sighed as he finally fulfilled my command. His tongue was velvety soft between my juicy slit as he nudged the opening of my pussy before circling around my clit. He made figure eights along the thick lips of my labia, tormenting me mercilessly before dipping back into my wetness. I squirmed against his tongue, but had nowhere to go as he held me pinned to the hood. Not that I wanted to go anywhere. I was exactly where I wanted to be, even if it wasn’t the most comfortable place to be.

   My smell – the sweet and salty scent of my wet pussy and the hint of floral perfume I’d dabbed on my thighs – aroused my senses as it blended with the musky garage smells of oil, rubber and sweat. I was out of my element amongst all this testosterone and grease, but I suddenly felt like I was the one with the power. I reached down and gripped Mark’s head between my thighs, pressing him into me as I ground against his mouth. The combination of the hard metal car beneath me and Mark’s silky tongue on my pussy was driving me closer and closer to release. I moaned, on the brink of orgasm, and heard my voice echoing off the concrete walls and floor.

   Rocking my pelvis against Mark’s mouth, whimpering and gasping, so close to release, balancing on a razor’s edge between pleasure and tension. Then Mark slid two fingers into me as his tongue nursed my clit and I nearly levitated off the car as my orgasm spiralled through me. A gush of liquid heat trickled down my ass as Mark stroked my pussy, every nerve ending throbbing as I clamped my thighs around his head. I clung to him, hands and legs, until I thought I couldn’t take another second of contact. But he kept stroking me, licking me, drawing every last sensation from my sweat-slick body.

   ‘Enough, enough,’ I wailed, pulling his hair hard to get him to release me. ‘I can’t take any more. I’m too sensitive.’

   Mark pulled back, an amused grin on his glistening mouth. ‘Enough? Are you sure? I thought you wanted more than a few minutes?’

   Still trembling through the aftershocks, I pulled my knees together and put my hand low on my stomach. ‘I do. I do. I just need a minute.’

   I closed my eyes, my thighs quivering from the exertion of being held apart. I heard the rasp of Mark’s zipper and a soft moan escaped my lips. Eyes still closed, I felt him anchor my legs around his hips and pull the crotch of my panties aside again. I felt like I was falling, sliding, helpless. I reached out for him and my hands caught in his T-shirt. Then the head of his cock was nudging my pussy, opening me to him. He slid up and dragged his cock over my still-sensitive clit, my thighs quivering anew as I went rigid beneath his silky soft touch.

   ‘Oh, God,’ I moaned. ‘Oh, God. That’s – I don’t know if I can take it.’

   ‘Relax,’ he soothed. ‘You’re so wet. I want to be inside you. I need to be inside you.’

   And then he slowly pushed into me until he was buried inside me, filling me up in a way his tongue could only hint at. I moaned as I hooked my legs around him and pulled him down on top of me. I slid down the hood and was impaled further on his erection. Metal and flesh, hardness and softness, my body was ricocheting from one sensation to the next, need overruling everything. The need to be filled, to be fucked, to be held. I was so needy. And Mark was there to give me everything I asked for – and everything I didn’t.

   He took his sweet time with me, as if he wasn’t as needy as I was, sliding out to the tip of his cock before pushing back inside me. The squishy sounds of my pussy seemed incongruous in the garage – illicit, naughty. Dirty. I clung to him, not caring if he got grease on my skin or sweat all over my delicate white blouse, caring only about how it felt to have him inside of me like this. I raked my nails roughly down the back of his T-shirt, rending the thin fabric as I urged him on. I wanted everything he could give me, as hard as he could give it to me.

   ‘More, baby, please,’ I gasped. ‘More. Harder.’

   Mark thrust inside of me, again and again, the car’s shock absorbers setting me in motion as we bounced. I cried out again, not caring that my voice echoed off the walls and that the neighbours could likely hear. The thought turned me on even more. I was aroused again, as if I hadn’t just had a full-body orgasm. My pussy, swollen and wet, gripped Mark’s cock the way I held onto him with my body. Maybe it was because we were fucking in the garage or maybe it was the fact that I’d taken the initiative, but I couldn’t remember being this turned on in a long, long time. I could feel the promise of another orgasm building inside me and I rocked up to meet his thrusts, my clit rubbing roughly against his pelvic bone on every upstroke.

   He slid his hand under my ass, giving me something softer to push against than the car hood. He raised me up as he fucked me, pulling me on and off his cock so hard I whimpered. The barest hint of pain only fuelled my passion and drove me higher. I arched my back, every muscle quivering in anticipation as he drove into me. So ready, so hot and wet … I felt as if I was coming apart when another orgasm crashed over me. He kept fucking me hard and fast, not giving me a moment’s rest from the unrelenting sensation of fullness.

   Then he went still, buried inside me as far as he could go. I was still floating in a haze of orgasmic release, so it took me a moment to realise he was coming, too. But then I heard the telltale catch in his breath and felt the shift from need to release in the way he moved inside me. He pulled me up off the car then, his hands supporting me under my thighs, his cock so deep inside me I whimpered, both of us trembling as his cock pulsed inside my quivering cunt. I wrapped my arms around him for support and bit his neck hard, screaming against his salty skin. Rocking ever so slightly against him, I was rewarded with his guttural moan.

   Slowly, he lowered me back onto the car and I wrinkled my nose at the cold wetness that assaulted the backs of my thighs. I squirmed to the edge of the hood to avoid it, smearing my juices as I went. He noticed and I expected him to be horrified. Instead, he threw back his head and laughed, the deep, satisfied laugh of a man well loved and well fucked.

   ‘I’m sorry, baby,’ he said. ‘I’ve had my head someplace else and I didn’t realise how far away I’d gotten until you showed me.’

   ‘I think I showed us both.’ I shifted uncomfortably. ‘And this has been fun, but maybe we should take it inside?’

   He caught my wrist in his hand as I sat up. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘We haven’t even tried out the back seat yet.’

   I laughed, enjoying the look of possession in his eyes as he pulled me toward him. ‘Are you kidding? Really?’

   ‘Sure, why not?’

   I eyed the car with new appreciation. ‘And the front seat, maybe?’

   ‘Sure, why not?’ he echoed me. ‘If I can’t get her running right, I can think of a few other good uses for her. And they all involve you, naked.’

   That’s all it took. I scrambled off the hood and was indeed sprawled naked in the back seat before he could get his pants the rest of the way off. I opened my arms to him as he folded his big frame into the car and pressed his body on top of me.

   He sighed, sounding utterly content. ‘You know I’m never going to be able to look at this car again without getting a hard on, right? Maybe it’s better she doesn’t run any more – wouldn’t want to risk an accident because my dick is draining the blood from my brain.’

   ‘I’m sorry about the car, but you definitely know how to make me purr,’ I whispered, and nipped at his shoulder with renewed desire.

   ‘Good.’ He moved against me, rubbing against my wetness until I moaned against his shoulder, his cock slowly thickening against me. ‘Because that’s all that matters.’

   I had been in a few relationships, but never one like this. Never with someone who had broken down every wall that I attempted to build, who left me feeling raw and exposed and vulnerable. Vulnerable. Me. I was the one that had ended every relationship I had ever been in, but the idea of leaving Christopher was incomprehensible. It was love, I guess. Maybe I had never really been in love before. Maybe you can’t really know what it means to be in love until you meet someone who gets into your head and knows you better than yourself. It’s a scary thing, having no secrets, no way to protect yourself. You have to trust that the one you love also loves you back – and I wasn’t so sure Christopher did. That, more than the vulnerability, scared me. Not that he might not love me – I could live with that – but that he might be the one to leave me. I was the one who escaped from relationships first. I was the one to say enough was enough. But with Christopher there was no such thing as enough. I wanted more. And I wanted him to want to give it to me.

   The doorbell rang and I responded like Pavlov’s dog. My breath caught in my throat, my nipples tightened and I felt a spasm low in my belly. It annoyed me, and to give him so much power over me seemed dangerous, but I had no real control over it. I didn’t give him anything – my body simply responded to what I felt whether I wanted it to or not. I was in love, damn it all to hell, and there was nothing I could do about it. And now my thoughts scattered to the wind because Christopher was here.

   ‘Hello, Laura.’ He dropped a kiss on my upturned lips as I opened the door. ‘How are you?’

   ‘I’m good. It’s nice to see you.’

   We sounded like strangers at a cocktail party, but I knew I was only responding to his stiffness and formality. Despite the affectation that made him seem distant, it was almost too easy to imagine myself as his wife, welcoming home my tired spouse. That image gave way to a more likely one of the bewitching mistress, desired, yet disposable when the time came. Mistress wasn’t right, either, because it suggested a relationship we didn’t have. There was no wife waiting at home for Christopher. He was all mine. Except he wasn’t. The barriers he had broken down in me were always in place for him. He probed my vulnerabilities and urged me to let go, something he could never bring himself to do. At least not with me.

   ‘You look pretty this evening. I like your hair down like this. You look very different, relaxed.’ His voice dropped to a husky drawl as he pulled me close and tangled his fingers in my long brown hair. ‘I can see your breasts through your shirt, bad girl.’

   I didn’t bother telling him that I had chosen the sheer blouse and forgone a bra for just that reason. He already knew. ‘Thank you, Christopher,’ I murmured, pulling away and reaching for the glass of wine on the table. ‘Do you want some wine?’

   ‘Of course.’

   I felt like the exhausted prey at the end of a long cat-and-mouse chase. Except the evening had only begun. My hand trembled slightly and the wine sloshed up the side of the glass as I handed it to him.

   I watched him while he drank his wine. He wasn’t a handsome man, not in the conventional sense. He was tall enough that he attracted attention wherever we went, but his face was angular, his nose prominent, and his often serious expression rendered him harsh and hawk-like. But he had the lean body of a runner and everything about him suggested movement even when he sat still. Watching his long tapered fingers manipulate the stem of the wine glass made me shiver. He was energy and power in one tightly controlled package and I longed to be the one to snap his control and experience that energy and power in its purest form. Or so I fantasised.

   His gaze never left my face as he pressed the glass to my lips. ‘Have a sip, love.’

   I drank and his cool fingertips stroked my throat as I swallowed. It was an oddly intimate sensation and I fought to control my throat muscles. Then he poured too quickly and I couldn’t swallow it all. The wine trickled from the corner of my mouth and I reached for it, but he quickly caught the drop of crimson on his fingertip. He stared through me with his ice-blue gaze as he sucked the liquid from his finger. I shivered. I knew that look and what it promised.

   ‘Come,’ he said, taking my hand and leading me towards the bedroom. The word was more than a command, it was a prophecy of the evening ahead of us.

   I followed him down the short hall.

   Standing in front of me in the doorway, he sighed. ‘It’s ridiculous to become attached to a piece of furniture, but I really do love this bed.’

   The bed had belonged to my mother and my grandmother before her. It was too big for a cramped one-bedroom apartment, taking up most of the floor and giving me mere inches of space all the way around, but it was a small sacrifice to make and I made it willingly. I loved the bed and everything it represented – peaceful slumber, a respite from reality, uninhibited passion. It was adorned with white sheets and a white down comforter and a dozen pillows in white and beige, all on top of a ridiculously thick pillow-top mattress. All of that white offset the ornate bronze frame that gleamed in the light of the dozen or so candles I’d lit before he arrived. I felt like a princess in that bed, but there was nothing virginal and innocent about it. It was the essence of seduction and I was the wicked princess filled with carnal desires. And that made Christopher my handsome prince, right? Or was he the evil sorcerer, intent on enslaving me, body and soul? The latter seemed more accurate.

   He pulled me towards the bed and reached for the buttons of my gauzy blouse. He peeled the cloth away slowly, kissing my exposed skin here and there as he went. I felt like I was shedding the skin that the rest of the world saw and revealing my true self for him only.

   ‘I’ve missed you,’ he murmured.

   His confession left me breathless.

   I was his graduate assistant and saw him three days a week at the university, but I knew what he meant.

   ‘I missed you, too,’ I breathed against his mouth as his hard, warm lips slid against mine. I caught my breath as he moved down the hollow of my throat. ‘I – I love you.’

   He pressed his cool fingertips against my lips. ‘Shh. Get on the bed now.’

   He helped me climb onto the tall bed and I knelt before him, wearing only a pair of faded denim jeans, the knees torn out and worn spots on the insides of my thighs. He stood in front of me, stroking the swell of my breasts until my skin dimpled with gooseflesh.

   ‘I love your breasts, they’re so beautiful,’ he murmured, taking my small tight nipples between his fingers and tugging. ‘So responsive.’

   I moaned low in my throat at the slight hint of pain, my hands automatically coming up to cover his.

   ‘Put your hands behind your back,’ he said softly, but the words were very much a command.

   I eagerly complied, anticipating what my obedience would bring. ‘Yes, Christopher.’

   The barest hint of a smile came to his lips. ‘You must have missed me very much to be so agreeable.’

   I could only nod. I hated that I was so transparent in my need for him. That he seemed so cool and controlled in the face of my runaway heart. But as I knelt there, my taut nipples between his fingertips and wetness gathering between my thighs, I didn’t care. This was an addiction I had no interest in curing.

   My hips moved imperceptibly, or so I thought, as I rubbed my clit against the unyielding seam of my jeans. The relief was bittersweet – enough to take the edge off, but not nearly enough to give me the release I wanted. Only he could do that, and he was in no hurry to offer me anything but this slow, sweet torment.

   ‘I didn’t tell you to move.’ He slapped the side of my bare breast with the palm of his hand hard enough to make my breast sway. ‘Stay still.’

   It didn’t hurt, but the sharp sound made me gasp. I dropped my chin to my chest, properly chastised and loving every second of it.

   His slid his hand down my belly and over my jeans. I tried so hard not to arch my hips towards him, but I couldn’t help myself. I could never help myself with him. He brought out impulses that were impossible to control. Lust, I told myself, my brain fuzzy from the endorphin rush he was already raising in me. Just lust. But I knew it was more than that. I could walk away from lust. I couldn’t walk away from this.

   He cupped my denim-covered crotch in the palm of his large hand and squeezed hard. ‘You are so hot down here,’ he murmured, alternately squeezing and releasing. ‘So hot and needy.’

   ‘If you keep that up,’ I gasped as his middle finger rode the seam of my jeans, ‘I will come.’

   ‘We can’t have that, can we?’ He removed his hand and I bit back a groan. ‘Undress me, Laura.’

   I blinked, his words barely registering in my lust-addled brain. Then I realised what he had said and reached for his tie. In a haze that felt as if I was moving in slow motion through molasses, I removed the crisp burgundy tie, then his shirt, my fingers fumbling with the buttons. He helped me by slipping off his shoes and socks while I worked at his belt. It was an expensive piece of stiff dark leather that I had known intimately on other occasions. I shivered, wondering what he had in mind for me tonight. Whatever it was, I would spend many hours masturbating shamelessly to the memory of it, as I did with all of our erotic encounters. However fleeting the experiences, the memories lingered on and on, tormenting me with their sweetness and making me long for more – more pain, more pleasure, more Christopher.

   I unfastened his trousers and guided the zipper down over his semi-hard penis, my fingers brushing along his length. He was as large there as everywhere else and my cunt throbbed in remembrance. His trousers dropped to the ground and he stepped out of them. I reached for the waistband of his boxers then, but he caught both of my wrists in his hands, pressing his fingers into their boniness hard enough to leave marks.

   ‘No. I want you to use your mouth on me.’

   I whimpered in anticipation as I bent over, still on my knees, and pressed my lips to his cloth-covered cock. It twitched against my mouth, hardening, lengthening, as I traced the outline of his arousal with my tongue. Finally, I zeroed in on the swollen head, sucking the engorged tip between my lips. He stood there, hands at his sides, silently observing me. I sucked him until the cloth of his shorts was soaked through and I could see hard, dark pink flesh beneath the pale blue cotton.

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