Kate hovered by the reception desk and then strode towards me like a hologram split: once my best friend, now my arse nemesis.
She was wearing heels with ankle straps; patent black stilettos made for puncturing the egos of impudent males. These were the kind of shoes that most women wouldn’t wear to the office. These were the kind of shoes that scraped across Rory’s back for God knows how long before I walked in on them that night.
Her suit was a deep, damson purple, like the bites she’d left on his belly that one time. He told me they were injuries from his fencing class. (Ben told me this was my own fault for dating a guy who “pranced about with a sword like a French fry.”)
I still get an acidic lump in my throat when she walks past my open door; it’s like she’s coming to slap me all over again. The citrusy musk of Clinique Happy hits me first — the perfume we shared as room-mates; the one I’d never spot on Rory — and then I’m braced for the heat of her palm across my face. Don’t you call me a fucking whore. It’s not my fault that he wants me. Maybe if you paid more attention to him…
Joanna, my line manager, took pity on me after that grim Thursday. She moved me on to Ben’s team…and the rest, as they say, is history.
“So how’s your pitch going?” Kate hovered in the doorway. There were few things of mine she chose not to trespass on but fortunately, my office was one of them.
Not that it stopped her from striking behind enemy lines.
“Good.” I tried to look normal. Perky, even. “We’re done, actually.”
I was rewarded with a frosty nod and pursed, lined lips like a mockery of kissing.
“I’d wish you luck, but…you’ll probably need more than that.”
“Whereas you could stand to lose a few in the back.” Appearing from nowhere, Nathan craned his neck and made a pantomime of checking out Kate’s arse — pained wince and all. I’d never seen her plucked brows sail so fast towards her hairline.
“Cunt,” she hissed, shoving past him.
“No thanks, sweetie. But it’s a lovely offer!” He waved theatrically as she tottered away. “So what crawled up her arse and died?”
“She…um…” I was blushing so hard that my brain went vacant. “We don’t get on so well.”
“Oh, I know that. I’ve heard all about…stuff.” He closed the door behind him — gulp — and perched on the edge of my desk. “Why does she feel the need to rub it in? It’s not the first time I’ve seen her do it, either. Evil bitch.”
“I think your last two words pretty much answer the question,” I managed.
Oh, he smelled good today: fresh and delectable. Almost minty.
“You don’t have to put up with it, you know. You could speak to HR.”
The smile caught my lips, and the tug of war spread them in a delighted crescent.
“Or apparently, Mr Ironside will save me from her evil clutches by making disparaging comments about her bum.” I knew how much Kate would obsess over that, too — I wasted years telling her she wasn’t fat, her legs didn’t look short in that dress, her shoulders were definitely not manly…
“She was asking for a low blow.” He nudged my arm and I nearly dropped my coffee. “Speaking of which…”
Feign innocence! If it’s possible while staring at that mouth — the one that did those things to me –
I blinked at him.
Either it just got darker at half eight in the morning or Nathan was a bit flush in the cheeks.
“How many times?”
“How many…?” I put the coffee down before adrenaline shook a spillage.
“You know.” He threw the door a glance, as if he needed to be sure we were really alone. “How many times…after Saturday…have you…?”
“Thought about it?” The collar of my shirt felt stiff beneath my fingers. “Um…a couple of times.”
He chuckled, low and gravelly.
“I’m not talking about thoughts, Harper. I want to know how many times you…played…thinking about me.”
Oh Christ. Did he really just ask me that?
My blood bubbled a million magic eight-balls, and they all brought a wobbly yes to the surface.
Nathan brushed a thumb beneath my hot chin.
“No need to be embarrassed,” he said.
Unlikely, said the eight-balls.
“You can’t just go around asking people things like that. I mean –”
“Three times.” He folded his arms, eyes bright and playful. “The second time was probably the best, though.” Now he was suppressing an impish grin. “And the messiest.”
I think a part of me actually preferred sparring with Kate.
“What?” There were those teeth, white and immaculate, playing over his full bottom lip. “I thought you liked our games.”
“I do, but –” But! Erm. But…? “But it was just a kiss –”
“What it was isn’t the point though, is it? It’s what it wasn’t.”
“That’s true.” I leant back in my chair; the air was cooler there. Safer. “But I…three times?”
“It was deserving of more, but a man’s gotta eat.” He smiled. “Go on, Harp. I know you did.”
Sometimes, I want to stick a pencil through his hand just to punish the arrogance — but then that’s partly because I want his blood on my desk. Something that’s been inside him, on something that’s mine. The way he teases me, I’m never a hundred percent sure that his agenda is sex; there’s an edge to it, as if the chase is what fuels him. Borrowed time and borrowed desire.
Maybe that was why I found the courage to look him in the eye at that moment — I’d spent too long these past few months being scared.
“Yesterday afternoon,” I said softly.
His pupils swelled until there was barely a slither of green to suck round them. Outlook good, whispered the eight-balls.
“Once, but…I’m a girl, so…”
“Oh.” The pleasure softened his face but hardened everything else about him; squared shoulders, stiff elbows, skin pulled over his knuckles like it was stretched on a rack. Those fists rubbed together absently. “I have to get to work, but I want another little sparring match.”
I pressed a cheek — still warmed by the froth of bravery — into my palm.
“I’ll send you an email. Be sure to read it. All of it.” He got to his feet and scraped chestnut hair from his eyes. “I’ll catch you later, sensei. Behave yourself.”
Oh…reply hazy. Try again later.
Within an hour, I was sitting in a meeting with two turds from the FHM marketing department who only listened when Ben spoke.
“We’re concentrating quite heavily on fashion this quarter,” said Turd Number One. He had a wet, rubbery mouth and a neck that swelled from his collar like bad sausage. “If we’re going to place a spirit then it needs to be a young, sophisticated brand.”
“But something our audience has heard of.” Turd Number Two jabbed a finger at my cleavage (he meant my face, I’m sure, but then he’d been talking to my breasts for the past twenty minutes). “Nothing especially…foreign.”
Ben took a sip of water.
“Absolut has a multi-faceted image. It’s classic, but there’s an edge to it. Something just a little bit dark. If you’re doing a work-wear feature then it’d be a profitable pairing; it conjures images of smart bars after the office…”
My iPhone vibrated on my lap. I opened the email with a light tap of my finger and tried to glance down inconspicuously.
Sent by: Nathan.Ironside
Subject: The first time…
I want to tell you about the first time I got off yesterday, and how I thought about you for every stroke.
Christ. I was going to need new knickers by lunchtime. I glanced up; Ben was showing the turds some artwork. Thank God they weren’t interested in me in the first place…
I started not long after I got in, when I could still taste you after that kiss. Lying in my bed, naked, the way I thought you would be too…I haven’t been so hard in months. Since I’d just felt your mouth for the first time, you can imagine what I was thinking about.
“Is that spray-on latex?” said Turd Number Two, cocking an eyebrow.
“It is. Suits her, doesn’t it?” Ben passed them another storyboard.
I thought about you sucking me, Harper. How I’d peel that sheet away from those gorgeously stiff nipples and have you rub them all over my cock. You’d be on your knees, of course. You’re the perfect height…I worked that out the first day I saw you.
“I like the colours you’ve used there,” said Turd Number One. “Very this-season. Our readers are getting more adept at noticing things like that.”
Ben rolled his eyes at me — yeah, right — and I stifled a giggle.
I bet you’ve got a tight little throat. Made for fucking. Your tongue was so warm and smooth when I kissed you, like it’s just the right shape for lapping the underside of my cock. I won’t lie…when I started to pump my fist up and down, that was what got me even harder — you on your knees like a proper cock tease while I stroked those nipples. You moaning while you tried to swallow me, your hips bucking as I pulled on them.
I very nearly whimpered as I read that last line.
I bet you want to know what I’d be saying. That’s it, mmm, that’s the right spot. Suck me like that. Just like that. Good girl. I bet you’re getting so wet for me, I can’t wait to taste it…
Oh, he was right there. I’ve never had such an, erm, productive meeting.
I snapped up.
“What’s the name of that photographer? The woman who did these shots.” Ben passed me the case folder. The plastic cover was cool beneath my thumbs.
“Oh. Let me check.” Flick, flick. “Jess Appleby.”
Turd Number Two clicked his fingers and pointed at my chest again.
“Yes. Yes. She did the Highstreet Honeys calendar with us in ’09.”
I thought about fucking your mouth — getting in deep, making you choke just a little bit. Pulling back and stroking your cheeks when you moaned in complaint. Such a good little cocksucker, Harper, aren’t you? I know you will be. I know when I finally get you on your knees like this, you’ll please me any damn way I want.
Oh, will I, now…?
I came all over my stomach — buckets of it — and I thought about my cum dripping down your chin, splattering on those pretty nipples. Wanted to lay you on your back and lick them clean — really tease them with my tongue — and then give you a long, hard kiss. Mmm. Would you like that?
“I said, would you like that?”
“What?” I spoke too sharply — panic and arousal cracked my words.
Ben gave me a strange look.
“Would you like to have lunch with Mr Locker and Mr Fernandez? I’m busy, unfortunately — you could take them around the corner to Chervil?”
My nod was the slow lilt of relief.
“I’ll ring through and get a table booked.”
Lunch with the turds. Well. I suppose at this rate, I’d need the conversational equivalent of a cold shower…
Now it’s your turn, Nathan wrote. I sneaked off to the toilets as soon as the meeting ended and huddled in a stall to comply.
I’d never written anything like it before. There had been a few dirty texts here and there, love letters written inside my high school boyfriend’s maths book (sorry you had to read that, Mrs Hipkins)…but nothing so intimate.
Nothing to a guy I’d never been intimate with, let alone deemed worthy of the secrets.
Still, he did call the email first times.
I started playing in the shower. Soapy hands stroking the nipples you like so much, then down my belly, in between my legs. I’d been wet and ready there since you kissed me.
This is a bad idea on work email, my brain warned. I’ll delete it afterwards, I retorted.. The eight-balls said yes.
In my room, I towelled off and I was so sensitive — it felt rough on my skin. Then I got into bed and trailed my fingers down to my…
What word am I meant to use? Crap. What’s sexy? What doesn’t sound like a biology textbook or a bad vampire sex novel?
…pussy. And my clit. I made little circles over it and thought about what it would be like to have you there, stroking for me. I even thought about what your cock would look like, how big it would be, how hard it would be against my thigh. I felt little ripples inside at the idea of you on top, stretching me.
The more I confessed to, the easier it got. It was almost cathartic. With every fork-tongued truth, I got just a bit wetter; what would his response be? Would he like reading this? Where would we go from here…?
And I wanted to have you there so badly so you could lick me. It’s what I love most of all…a slow, massaging tongue on the insides of my thighs. Moving up to my clit. Having you suckle it and rub it and play with it until I yelp your name, over and over. When my orgasm started to build, I slowed down so it would take longer, still just toying with my clit…and then when it hit me, I thought about how I’d push a hand into your hair and pull, pull, pull. The same rhythm as my hips.
Do you like that?
I laid back against the stall, breathing deeply. The image of him between my legs had materialised as I typed, pixel by pixel; I was reluctant to let it disappear. It was just so…pretty. It was a moment or so before I pressed send.
A very dirty girl walked back to her office, her ankles wobbling on her sleek court heels.
In the corridor, I caught sight of Nathan through the glass walls of a board room; he sat broad-shouldered and smart-mannered at the end of a dark wood table as he nodded along with Joanna. I lingered for a moment — I couldn’t not — and realised that he was paying more attention to his lap. To my email.
Then, he looked up and saw me. Sweat beaded between my breasts and mimicked the damp lower down.
Nathan bit his lip. I was still breathing as if his hand was in my knickers, not spread on the table to remind me just how far his fingers spanned. The faintest flicker of a grin stretched my cheeks before I hurried back to my office and collapsed into the chair; I had articles to approve before my lunch date with the turds.
A few minutes later, Nathan’s reply landed in my inbox.
Fucking delicious, it said.
We’d been avoiding each other. It seemed appropriate; made the email notification tingle twice as hard along my spine. At the end of the first day, Nathan pointed out that I had an orgasm less than him to report on, and shouldn’t I even things out? It was only fair…
Just before five PM, a list of instructions arrived in my inbox. I’d spent the day in underwear made of candyfloss and barbed wire, and I was damned if I wasn’t following them as soon as I got chance.
It had to be in the bathroom; nowhere else had a lockable door to shield my indiscretion, or the soft bubble of a frothing tap to cover the breath spewing likewise. I waited until Ben went out to kick-boxing, ran a hot bath full of scented oils and with one leg hooked over the rim, came very, very hard for Nathan Ironside.
Then I sent him an email and told him all about it.
Tuesday was excruciating. He was stuck in a pitch with some awful IT company; I spent the day hiding in my office, awaiting the little bell-sound notification that made me quiver the day before. I’d had nothing by four o’clock and was contemplating an early escape for a bucket of wine.
“What do you think?” I said to Caroline. “Could we get away with it?”
She stroked her tweed dress absently.
“Possibly…when Felicity’s gone.” She peered through my window at the manager’s office door. “But she’s still here. I’d bet she will be until Nathan’s team are done with those phone app people…”
My face hit my hands with a dull thump.
“Something like that.” I rubbed my eyes.
“We could still go drinking,” she offered. “There’s a new cocktail bar behind Topshop that needs trying out.”
“You know what? No. I’m not sinking to alcohol. I’m better than…” I gestured to my computer screen. “This.”
“Work sucks, huh.”
I pressed my lips together.
“Yep, it does.”
It was cramped-in-the-tube o’clock when my iPhone went off and I knew it was him, knew it. I elbowed two disapproving businessmen on my attempt to fish it out of my bag.
Sorry for the wait, sensei. Fucking work. I’d like to thank you for the excruciating hard-on I’ve had since last night x
Reading his words public gave them a third dimension; the fizz of the private flashed in for all to see, just like the blood I’d longed to splatter on my desk. The way he wrote, I could hear him talking — no text speak, no abbreviations. He didn’t scrimp on a thing.
I’m surprised you can walk, I typed, grinning. His reply sounded a moment later:
Jesus, so am I! But you’ll be a good girl for me tonight, won’t you? Been thinking about it all day…ever had somebody listen while you played?
No, I hadn’t. The mere thought turned my skin to a playground for goose pimples, even on the clammy train. But Ben was going out again, I’d have the flat to myself…and God, I wanted to hear his breath rush down the receiver and muffle in the abyss of static.
There’s a first time for everything.
I pressed send.
T minus one hour until Nathan called, and Ben was still tarting himself up.
“Where the hell are you going, anyway?” I said.
He unbuttoned the third shirt he’d tried on that evening, snorting at himself in the mirror above the fireplace.
“And is this Nicole going to be at the party…?”
I’ve never seen him go so pale, so quickly.
“Fuck. I hope not.” He peeled the freshly ironed t-shirt off the hanger and wriggled into it. “Well…not exactly. But you know what I mean.”
“Sure do.” I’d been umming and ahhing over whether to confide in him about Nathan, but Ben was hardly in the mood to dish out advice. So I snuggled on the sofa with the laptop, flicked the TV on counted the minutes until his lift arrived.
“Fuck it. No.”
“Ben, you look fine –”
“I look like a student!” He stomped back to his bedroom. The door slammed and I heard him cursing as he rattled through the wardrobe.
There was a festival on the TV and I turned it up to drown out Ben’s ranting. The lead singer of some new rock band was kneeling on the stage, a mess of dark hair obscuring his double-handed grip of the microphone; his clothes clung in the places Ben wanted them to — bulky shoulders, narrow hips. If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for (besides spa treatments) then it’s a bit of metal man-candy. Tortured and brooding does it for me every time.
A sizzle of nerves seared through me as I logged on to Facebook: Kate and Rory were having one of their painfully public spats. I know, I know — I should have deleted them ages ago, but can you blame me for wanting to snoop? Ever since Rory swapped the picture of us from our hiking weekend in Wales to the smug one of him and Kate (in a seedy club somewhere, no doubt), I’ve checked his profile every day.
I was never that fussed when we were dating. Maybe I trusted him; maybe I just wasn’t that interested. But when we shared a bed at night, when I could still smell him on the pillows as I got up in the morning…it never felt like I could learn anything new from a silly computer page.
How times change, huh.
Kate and Rory’s bickering usually started with a snarky comment under a status update. Not having a gud day today L Kate’s would say. Her shallow new friends all swarmed like bees beneath: wat’s up hun? U ok sweetie? Bleugh. Thanks girls, she replied. Just had the mutha of rows. Men! Xx
And then Rory would chime in: maybe if u talked 2 me instead of bitching on here, we wouldn’t row.
So the mud-slinging began.
There was always a smirk of superiority threatening when I read this stuff. Was Rory an arse? He had his moments — none more so than when I caught him shagging my best friend, of course — but he was never this petty. Kate was, but I forgave her because we’d been close since we met on the first day of uni.
They rarely seemed happy together — it should have made me feel better, shouldn’t it? Should have oiled the spokes of progress, cauterised the wound. Oh, it gave me and Ben all sorts of laughs after a glass of wine or three on a quiet Thursday night, but I always ended up with a bitter taste in my mouth.
The song on TV changed, and I recognised it. Began singing along softly.
“She’s made of whispers and fire and ice…she can’t breath and she melts in the storm…she’s on the wind like the stench of a sin that’s been brewing since when she was born…”
I was tapping my feet now as I scrolled down Kate’s profile page.
“And it’s never enough that I’m sick with this love, that I’m burning right up every time that we touch — and she echoes, echoes, echoes, echoes…echoes like nobody’s home…”
More pictures of Kate with freshly dyed and chopped hair. Back 2 my usual colour, she’d written. Lying cow.
“Echoes, echoes, echoes, echoes…baby, don’t echo alone…well the world called my name and I fled from the pain, I went running….woooah…”
The front door rattled and the bell chimed.
“Get that for me, will you?” Ben shouted. “I’ll be out in five!”
What was he doing in there, trying to grow a new face?
I straightened my crumpled work shirt as I stumbled over to get the door.
A tall, sculpted shape of a boy stood with his arms thickly folded. The copper waves tucked behind his ears were as bright in the dark hallway as they were when he strode past me into the TV-lit lounge, and he smelled expensive. Clean. His clothes were casual, well cut — sophisticated — and yet he carried an air of buoyancy and enthusiasm. Like a children’s TV presenter, but…sexy?
“I’m Aidan, by the way.” He offered a large hand. “This is Ben’s place, right?”
I shook it slowly.
“Harper,” I said.
“Thought so. Is he still making himself pretty?”
“Yep, he is.”
“Posing tosser. Mind if I sit down?”
“No, carry on.” I gestured for him to follow and he flopped down beside me on the couch. “D’you want a drink?”
“I’m good. Cheers though.” He was glancing about the flat, absorbing the scenery; for somebody who’d invited himself in, he was hunched rather awkwardly on his elbows.
“How do you know Ben, then?”
“Oh. We go kick-boxing.” He paused. “And running.”
“You look like you…” I nodded to his torso feebly before realising how forward it was. “…work out a lot.” Nathan had done a competent job of corrupting me, it seemed.
Aidan grinned and his eyes were alight, devious.
There was a gape of silence as I hid my embarrassment behind the laptop, and Aidan stared at the band on television.
“See that one?” He pointed to the broody singer I’d been perving on. “I know him.”
I blinked at the screen.
“The guy from Dexter’s Noose…?”
“Yep. We’ve been mates for a while, actually.” He fished his phone out of a pocket started tapping on the touch-screen. “Here you go.”
He offered it to me and I leaned over; a photo blinked on the screen. Aidan and — what was his name again? Matt? — were beaming into the lens with their arms wrapped round each other in a drunken, manly hug.
“We hang out when he’s in London,” Aidan went on. “He’s a cool guy.”
“I bet he is.” I handed it back, quietly impressed. “Where are you and Ben off to, anyway? He was rather vague.”
“I’m hosting a party for a friend, and he’s playing wingman.”
“The Robin to your Batman?” I giggled.
“Something like that, yeah.”
“Sorry, sorry.” Ben rushed out of the bedroom, polished loafers in one hand and his wallet in the other. “I got a bit…distracted.”
Aidan cringed at him.
“What the fuck are you wearing, you prancing fairy?”
“It’s…it’s bad?” Ben glanced at me and I offered a helpless shrug.
“It’s a mint v-neck. You’ll have the fags all over you. Yikes.” Aidan sprang up like a spaniel and shoved Ben back towards his room. “You must have something better than this. Come on…”
“But…but aren’t you a fag?” Ben protested, incredulous.
“Stop being a cock-tease, Benji. Now strip!”
I rolled my eyes, tried not to laugh and checked the time again: half an hour before Nathan called. The laptop flipped closed, I switched broody Matt off the television and went to get comfy beneath my crisp, cool sheets.
Let the games begin…
I can’t believe I just spent forty five minutes picking the shirt on my back — especially since it was the first one I tried on. It was doubly mortifying that I had help from another bloke; Aidan span me about, prodded necklines, stroked his chin. I got the impression he did this quite regularly and I wasn’t about to ask why.
Now we watched inky evening London scroll by from the back of the cab; we were headed towards a town house in Belgravia. I definitely preferred this to the reeky tube.
“How come you’re hosting something that isn’t actually at your house?” I asked Aidan.
He glanced at his phone, tapping absent-mindedly.
“My flat’s like a box, Benji. But yeah…I’m doing it for a mate. Playing ringmaster.”
“I’m deeply honoured to be arriving with you, then.”
“Hey — think yourself lucky!” He poked me in the ribs. “We hardly invite any single men to these shindigs — and the ones we do, they have to pay for their tickets.”
“What?” I spluttered. God, I hope the cab driver didn’t just hear that. “Please tell me this isn’t a swinging party, Aid.”
He squared his shoulders.
“It’s a get-together for likeminded people. Who…like sex.”
“You can’t take me to a swingers’ party, you plonker! I’m –” I gestured to myself, groaning. “Me.”
“Relax, buddy. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to — it’s all in the name of fun. Besides.” A grin lit his pale skin. “You won’t be single. I’ve hooked you up.”
“How have you hooked me up, exactly?”
Please let her be hot. Please let her be hot. Although not too hot — not out-of-my-league sizzling –
“It’s her first time at one of these things and I’ve said that you’ll look after her. So that’s what you do.”
“What do you mean, look after her?” I said.
“I mean…look after her.” He patted my leg. “For God’s sake, Benji. Just be confident with her. With some women…it pays to be bossy.”
I eyed him with grating suspicion.
“She’s at least moderately attractive, right?”
“Dude. What do you take me for?”
Best not answer that.
The evening was warm and a bit sticky; I was sweating around the collar in a little noose of heat. The townhouse was already filling with guests as we arrived and Aidan took me through to a huge galley kitchen with glass-fronted wine fridges. A conservatory glistened at the far end, its transparent ceiling licked by vines and towering trees. Out on the terrace, candles lit the paving stones and flickered in the light air, and a group of willowy girls in short dresses congregated with their Champagne flutes and cigarettes.
I don’t know what I was expecting, really — leather sheeting? Wrinkly MILFs? An 80s glass bowl full of car keys and condom packets? Whatever had crossed my mind, it wasn’t…this.
“Ben — this is Elijah. He’s been coming here so long, he’s practically vintage.” Aidan nodded at a stocky twenty-something with a light shadow of blond stubble. “Elijah, I told you about Ben, yeah?”
“Right.” Aidan clapped me soundly on the back. “I’m off upstairs to sort the music out. The bathrooms are over by the potted ferns, Magdalena’s in charge of the drinks on the breakfast bar…I’ll be back when your lady arrives, ok?”
“Ok,” I managed.
Then he bounded off towards the staircase, apparently shouting at somebody on his phone.
“So,” said Elijah, “first time, eh?”
I nodded slowly.
He started laughing.
“I heard Aidan hooked you up, man.”
“Yeah, but who knows if she’ll like me?”
He looked me up and down, shrugging. Crap…just put me back in the pub where the men don’t check me out like rib-eye steak. That’s not normal, is it? I don’t care if I get laid (like that’s going to happen anyway), I just want to –
“Don’t look so terrified,” said Elijah. “Seriously — you’ll be fine. Relax, have a drink. Chat to a few of the girls.” He winked at the cute little group on the terrace. “They’re all on the prowl, y’know.”
“So…say you pick up a girl,” I began. “You don’t start going at it in the room, right? I mean…there are places for that sort of thing.” Because I’m not a fucking circus monkey, that’s for sure.
He laughed again, his eyebrows mashing together in amusement.
“You do what you want. Find a corner, go back to her place, throw some shapes on the couch — nobody will mind, ok? You might surprise yourself. Magdalena!”
A very petit brunette stalked over with a tray; she wore a black shift dress that hugged her breasts and hips, and high, nude heels. Just the kind of outfit I’d love to see Nicole in. Ahem.
And she had a French accent. Ooh la la; bonne soir, Magdalena. Je suis mange tout le grande tete du vache? (That’s the grand sum of the French I remember from high school, and I think it stand for I am peas a big cow head).
“Don’t mind if I do,” I croaked, folding my fingers around the skinny stem of a flute. She shot me a filthy smile — the kind that makes a woman’s eyes sparkle and her shoulders heave — before stalking off up the stairs.
Then the music began and the lights dimmed. I was at a swinging party.
Elijah’s awkward company was comforting as the room began to fill. It wasn’t a heaving crowd but then it wasn’t a massive space either, and Aidan seemed to bring mostly couples through for drinks. They were professionals, some younger than others, and they were dressed for a dinner party. Oh, there was a hint more cleavage than might have been appropriate, the odd tighter shirt on a guy — but really, from the smart chit-chat to the polite hair-tosses and smiles, they were shockingly normal.
I didn’t know whether to be relieved….or disappointed.
“Are you waiting for a girl?” I asked Elijah. We’d claimed a spot on the terrace opposite the group of leggy, willowy things, and he’d swiped beers from one of the glass fridges.
“Nope. I prefer couples, actually. Could find a girl in a club.”
I nodded as if I knew exactly what he was talking about. Oh yes — I book parties for all my threesome needs, ra ra.
“Is that your…thing?”
“Well.” He chuckled, swinging his bottle between his thumbs. “I’ve got a lot of things.”
Aidan was dragging a girl-shaped creature along by the hand, but I couldn’t see much of her between the oscillating party-goers and the shade of the darkening sky.
“I’ve got somebody I’d like you to meet,” he chirped gleefully, pressing her hand into mine. “This is Lei-Lei.”
She cleared her throat.
“You can call me Leila.” She smiled and raked her nails across my palm, just lightly. Oh fuck. Fuck.
I didn’t know where to look — her face alone made me feel indecent. She’d drawn her auburn waves up so they fell about her face in layers, and I got the impression she’d sorted it into handfuls for easy grabbing later on. Her lips and cheekbones were streaked with raspberry and her fitted little jersey dress hugged a pair of sloped, peeking breasts. And her legs…seriously. When does a woman wear stockings unless she’s trying to seduce some poor sod?
Oh, let me be the poor sod. I’ll change my name by deed-poll if I have to.
“Aid says you volunteered to look after me,” she said. “That’s really nice of you.”
“Yeah. Well.” I dropped her hand; if I kept hold of it much longer then I’d start sucking her fingers. “Can’t have you alone in a place like this, eh?”
“So what do you think, Lei-Lei?” Aidan patted me roughly on the shoulder. “Good choice? Do I bring home the goods, or what?”
“Ignore him.” She rolled her eyes as she took my arm. “He’s always this obnoxious.”
Elijah brushed her shoulder.
“Would the lady like a drink?” he asked.
“Oh, please. But just a small one.”
He gave me a thumbs up and a wide grin as he disappeared in the kitchen, eyeing up a blond in a suit on his way.
“Lei-Lei, do I read him the riot act, or will you?” Aidan narrowed his eyes at me. “She’s got a three-point code.”
I blinked. Panicked.
“Seriously, Aid — do one!” She broke away from me to tickle him and he wriggled away from her, grunting.
“Ok, ok,” he groaned. “I’m leaving. You two have fun now. Don’t do anything Marc Anthony wouldn’t do!”
I looked at Leila as she returned to my arm, and we both burst into giggles. Mine were manly giggles, of course — mainly because I was watching her breasts quiver. They were rubbing just slightly against my elbow, and nnnggh…I felt the firm grate of her nipple. Jesus.
“So.” I guided her back to the terrace wall I’d been sitting on and watched as she sank down, tucked her knees together. Stockinged legs. Dainty heels. Where was I, again? “What brings you here?”
She cocked her head.
“I could say the same to you.”
“Touché.” I swallowed. “I guess…I’m looking for something different. Some fun.”
“That makes two of us, then.” She edged closer towards me on the wall, our shoulders bumping. “How long have you known Aidan…?”
“Not long,” I confessed. “Why?”
“Because you’ve got that look on your face that says, what the fuck am I doing here? And that could only happen if you didn’t know him very well.” She was giggling again and it was aural porn. “He’s a bit of a naughty boy, hmm.”
“Ah, don’t worry. I promise not to abuse you. Well.” The giggle climbed an octave as her fingers played over my thigh. It was then that I noticed the chunk of an emerald on her third finger. Ah, fuck. It sniggered at me in the candle-light; like you had a chance, anyway.
“So…um. How long have you been engaged?”
“A month or so.” She drew her hand back and fiddled with the ring. “What about you, are you with someone?”
“Me? No. No. Single.” Another gulp. “So how come you’re, erm…” I gestured to the house weakly. “…Here?” And where was the idiot who’d let her come to this thing alone?
She knew what I was thinking. I saw it in her bemused smile.
“I’m allowed, Ben,” she murmured.
“Allowed to what?”
She pressed her hand back on my thigh, just tickling the inside — she might as well have scraped it with a razor because the whole hulking surface of me was alkaline desire.
“You know. Allowed to play.”
“Really?” I said it a lot louder than I meant to, and it was weighed down with a suspicion I didn’t know I had.
“Really.” She laughed. “You’ll find it’s quite normal at a party like this.”
“This isn’t your first one, is it?” I said dryly.
“Kind of. Aidan told me he had somebody I’d like, so…”
She was telling the truth. It softened the flush along her collarbone, caused the pout of her lips to swell. In that second, putting a hand on her knee felt the most natural thing in the world.
“That makes two of us,” I whispered. I loved the way her smile flashed me a hint of pale pink tongue.
“Yeah…where have our drinks got to, do you think?”
I glanced about the terrace, squinting in the candle light.
“Elijah’s — um.” Oh dear God. Elijah was sitting back in a deck chair — still fully clothed — but the woman in the suit was bobbing slowly in his lap. He had a fistful of hair as he grinned up at me.
“He’s being fellated on the patio,” she said. “Now there’s a man who doesn’t waste any time.”
“What the fuck? He’s barely been gone five minutes. Do they sprinkle everyone with magic shag dust at the door?”
“Something like that.” She patted my leg as she started up. “I’ll go and –”
I eased her back down gently.
“No, no. I’ll get the drinks; you stay put.”
A cinnamon eyebrow arched at me; playful, eager. Inviting.
“Is that an order?”
“Would you like it to be?” Oh fuck. I’m better at this than I thought.
The kitchen was full and raucous now, wine-tainted laughter rising above the music and the click click of heels dancing over the stone floor. Magdalena was refilling her tray of glasses as she fought off the swatting hands of two older men. I spotted Aidan near the doorway and hurried over, tugging him away from his clipboard.
“Aid,” I said through my teeth. “I want to know what you’ve drugged her with.”
The wide smirk almost split his face.
“Who, Lei-Lei? She doesn’t need drugging. She’s like that all the time.” He seemed to find my gape of horror vastly amusing. “A proper ten there, huh?”
“A proper ten? She’s like — like –”
“She’s like, left on her own at a party full of carnivores, you twit,” he cut in, leaning to whisper. “Now listen up: be courteous. Take her home, enjoy yourself.” A pause, just for effect — he wanted to hear me swallow. “She likes it when you tell her what to do.”
I should have asked how he knew that; frankly, I was past caring. I nodded dutifully, mouthed my thanks and hurtled back towards the bar, where I swiped two glasses from Magdalena’s fresh tray. The first one disappeared down my throat in a single mouthful; the second, I took back to Leila and proffered it like a badge of war.
“Ooh, Champagne.” She stood up to accept it. “Thank you, Ben.”
“A pleasure. So…um. What do you do?”
“I’m a lawyer. Tax, acquisitions, that kind of thing. How about you?”
“Advertising. I design — hey, what are you doing?”
She was teetering on tip-toes, gently fingering my earlobe.
“Sorry. Just checking for an earring.” She bit her lip. “Long story. You don’t mind, do you…?”
“No, no.” I lifted the glass from her hand, stretched forward to balance it on the wall, and that was when I felt it: her warm mouth and flat teeth grazing along my ear. “Oh…”
“You don’t mind?” she repeated. Her voice was muffled with breathy languor, and I found myself wrapping am arm around her waist. The scent of her hair rushed up into my nostrils — she was sugar and nutmeg and mellow heat and hairspray, and I just wanted…
…to kiss her.
But she got there first.
We played tongue games. She was the kitten; I was the ball of string. Then when I got over the initial rush of it — she’s kissing me, fuckin’ A! — I relaxed into it, crossed the border, took charge. The way she arched back as I leaned in, pressed up to me…it was electric. Sparks spewed indecently and I felt like we ought to stop and clean up our mess.
“Ben,” she said softly, “we don’t have to stay here.”
Oh, she knew what she wanted, all right. I prayed I didn’t have “this is my first pull for six months,” written on my forehead in black biro, because everything about this was too good to be true.
Well — aside from the emerald on her finger which made me nervous if I looked at it for too long.
In the slope of her neck, I mouthed the words before I said them. Needed to practise my very rusty charms.
“I could take you home with me, if you want.”
“We’ll go to my place — ahh…” She mewed as I sucked at the hollows of her throat. “It’s only ten minutes away.”
“Ok then. Good. Good.”
I lead her back through the simmering party with a firm grip on her hand. Defenses were broken and restraint had waned; there were bodies dressed with each other on the stairs and in the corners; they were dull. Boring. This girl at the end of my arm with her pulse shivering against mine — she was the big news.
“Sneaking off already? You whore.” Aidan grabbed Leila by the waist and she pretended to slap him.
“Hey — less of that, please.” I sounded like someone’s dad.
“Benji, we’re all whores here. It’s ok.” He released Leila, draped her jacket over my shoulder and then pushed the two of us together so that we bumped awkwardly. “Ah, look at you. All bashful and horny. My work here is done.” He gave a great, mocking sigh, a wink, and then bombed back off towards harassed Magdalena.
On the terrace, the air had been warm. Maybe it was Leila’s proximity or the great cloud of body heat emanating from the party. As we stepped out on to the pavement, the breeze caught me right in the face and my skin burned in the cool grip of it.
We were free.
“Do you always let him talk to you like that?” I found myself saying.
“Oh, don’t worry about Aidan, seriously. I’ve known him for ages; he’s like my brother.” She squeezed my arm. “It was very sweet of you to stand up for me though.”
“Just being a gentleman.”
“Ooh, I’m spoiled.” She giggled, and the high little octaves lunged to a crude chuckle. “I hope you’re not always this courteous. Not everywhere.”
Thank fuck for the belt that obscured my hard-on. I was dizzy with the loss of blood from my brain.
The flirting got worse from that point. I kept trying to steer away from innuendo — hell, I needed a break before we started proper — but she was leading in more ways than one and just a tiny inflection on a word made my heart thunder. She dragged on syllables, slid her gaze to me with deliberate slowness. When she bit her lip, when it grew plump under those teeth…I shoved her up against somebody’s fence and took her mouth until she tugged on my collar in complaint. Poor girl needed to breath.
We made it through the lobby of her building, into the dimly lit lift…and then the walls beckoned again. Close the space. I took her hair in fistfuls this time and rubbed my cock against her belly. Don’t get me wrong — I was still nervous. I ached with it in the pit of my stomach, but she tasted syrupy, like an antidote. If I could eat her all up, I’d be better. Mmmph.
The hall of her apartment smelled like candles and coffee. We kissed with grinning mouths as our jackets were peeled away, and then she lead me to a door in the dark. The lamp swallowed the room in a buttery glow; there was a massive bed, book cases, a carpet that winced with the weight of me. No picture frames, no dressing gown — this was for guests.
She shared this place with her lover. I stuck to the floor when I realised that and the nerves warred to nausea.
“Ben?” Leila slid off the edge of the bed and came to embrace me. “Is everything ok?”
“Yeah…um. Where is he?”
“He?” She gave an awkward little smile. “I’m allowed, remember? You won’t be suddenly punched in the face, I promise.”
My hands slipped to the tops of her buttocks; they curved right into my palms. A lovely fit. Argh.
“I’m not really used to all this,” I confessed. “Not that it isn’t good. You’re great. Gorgeous, in fact.” I squeezed her arse and she moaned softly. “Absolutely gorgeous…”
Another kiss, intrepid on my part. I was mashed so hard against her that I half thought I’d need my passport. All the while, she was melting and swaying, following each lead I dared to make.
“Just. One. Thing.” Peck, lick, kiss. “This three point code. Was Aid being serious?”
“Oh.” She pulled away; wanted to watch my reaction. The minx was on the hunt. “Well…let’s see.” She began unbuttoning my shirt. “No marking me — no bruises, lashes, bites. Carpet burns.”
I had never been harder than I was at that moment, and my cock twitched as she arched one eyebrow.
“No swallowing — in the interests of health and safety, of course.”
I feigned a pout at that one. The last button popped; she worked the shirt off my shoulders and stroked my muscles with wide eyes. (Kick-boxing, my friends — it’s good for more than a drunken game of Mortal Kombat).
“And the last one?” I managed.
She took my upper lip and sucked it, teasing my tongue with hers.
“No anal…unless he’s there to supervise.”
That was it. Fuck this. The gentleman has left the building.
I pawed her dress off and cursed at her bra strap while she laughed. Her knickers were soft and satiny, black, and I dropped on my knees to press my face into them. Oh…she smelled good. Hot, wet. I suckled at her lips through the fabric.
Somehow, we backed on to the bed and she was splayed beneath me, all pooled red ringlets and pearl-nippled peaks. I pinned her hands above her head — which went down well, judging by her whimpers — and did my best not to mark her lush breasts, but fuck me, it was hard.
I remember that after a while with Kate, that sex had become mechanical. Even in the early days, she was too self-conscious to submit like this and accept my attention freely. I had tried to warm her. Break the walls down. I never got to that place where you’re grinding each other into the debris, but now…Leila broke when I kissed her, I’m sure of it. Maybe even a little before. I was the one doing the seducing here…and I wasn’t sure when I’d gotten so confident, but woah. She likes it when you tell her what to do. I hadn’t even needed to say it out loud.
With her fingers in my hair, I eased her knickers down and dropped her heels on the carpet. She was naked except for the lace-topped hold-ups, and her thighs tapered towards a shaved, creamy mound.
“Ben…” She moaned, writhed on the bed. “Look what you’ve done to me.” Her thighs spread slowly.
Breathe, breathe. Don’t choke on the air. Breathe!
“I’m all swollen for you…”
Oh, she was. Her clit peeked plumply between her fingers and the mouth of her pussy was poppies and gloss.
“Gorgeous,” I mumbled. Her stocking caught on my nails but my hand joined hers eventually, thumbing her wet pink bud. “I think…I need to eat you all up now…”
I learned the rhythm of her hips quickly. Driving lessons. She bucked and squealed when I licked beneath her clit hood, her breathy yelps reserved for my thumb. When she begged me, I curved two fingers into the clutch of her pussy and slowly, slowly dragged. There was the pornographic giggle again; it was euphoric as it spilled from her, like a mockery of a prayer. The gospel of Leila.
Amen to that, fuckers.
Her thrusts slowed as she got close. I only noticed because she was suddenly sopping wet and it pooled inside at the bend of my knuckles. I flexed once, twice, three times…that set her off. Her clit mashed against my tongue and I barely avoided knocking my teeth out.
This was something else I’d been denied — not just in enforced celibacy, but with Kate. The moment where a woman stiffens, heaves as if the air is weighted down, wraps her thighs round your head and –
“Ben, ow…d-don’t stop, please…ow…”
She was feeding my confidence, I was feasting on hers. Yummy little madam. She tasted like the dirty cocktails that gave me the same kind of arrogance on a Friday night at uni, and as I moved up to kiss her, we savoured it together. She panted into my mouth.
“I want you on my lap.” I grinned.
“Oh…you do…?” She was smiling as well. Flushed and breathy.
“Uhuh.” I jumped back to undress and then tasted panic beneath her scrutiny. I’d forgotten about this bit, too: the part where you show a girl your cock for the first time and watch for scowls and winces. Then I had shoes to kick off, a condom to locate –
“In the drawer,” she said, gesturing. “Take your pick.”
“Oh. Cheers.” I snatched a packet without looking and rolled it on with a snap which should have hurt.
If it did, I didn’t notice.
Leila heaped pillows behind me and lowered herself between my crossed legs. She ringed her fingers round my cock, testing the girth of it. A tiny, focused furrow of the brow sounded her silent approval.
“Don’t tease me,” I mumbled. “Just…”
“Fuck you?” Her hands moved to my shoulders and she bumped her clit against my cock, whimpering as it bobbed heavily. “Is that what you want?”
“Yes.” Any time tonight is good, really.
She pressed herself down on me, swallowing just the head. God, it was hot in there. Sticky.
“How about you fuck me?” Now she took the rest, inch…by…in…ch…until I filled her. I know I did — the stretch was blissfully constricting.
And she was going to make me do all the work.
I shoved her hips down, grinned at the way her eyes shot open and began a measured, punishing fuck. She couldn’t stay still for long — I kept hitting her cervix and the discomfort made her suck the air in. Normally, I’d have slowed for that. Checked on her. But that was the thing; she liked it. Her longest whimpers and loudest moans came from the strokes that were harder than I meant them — every time I lost control, she was delighted. It wasn’t long before we were kissing again and she was rolling right into my thrusts.
If the driving lessons taught me anything, it was how to tease her pussy. How to listen for the tick-tock time elapse in her breath and know just when to ram it home. (I sound observant here. I wasn’t watching her like David cunting Attenborough — you pick this stuff up on a chemical level and translate to English afterwards). Truth be told, I’d put her in this position because it was the only way I’d last long enough to get her on to her back.
She moaned in surprise when I tossed her over. Her hair splattered the pillows like scarlet graffiti and then she was mine again, stockinged legs on my shoulders and her ambushed little pussy struggling to grip my cock.
“Ben, Ben –” The word pierced the air.
She liked saying my name. Hell, I liked the sound of it, coming from her — but we were on different wavelengths. Leila wanted to moan a name that was new and unfamiliar; I saw it start in her eyes, stutter from her lips and echo above her breasts in crimson mirages. I just loved her loving it — even if the reason was that.
When I was sure she was coming (again. Bow down to Benji, yuh-huh), I let go. Scissored into her like I owned her flesh, even just for a second. The orgasm started in my thighs and shot through the rest of me, spurting into her, and the relief of it made me cuss loudly. When I stuttered to the end and wobbled on my arms above her, she wore a lazy, smudgy smile.
Oh God, I’m singing the song in my head. Multiple voices are singing it. I just had sex, and I’ll never go baaa-ack! To the not having sex ways of the past…!
“Are you all right?” She was staring quizzically.
“Yes. Yeah. God, yeah.” I bent to catch her mouth. Mmmph. Post-orgasm kissing…I might have missed this most of all.
Reluctantly, I eased out of her and laid her legs back on the bed. She curled against my chest, her fingers swirling over my nipples.
Dear room: any time you’d like to stop spinning, it’d be useful. Ok?
“That was nice,” she murmured.
“It was awesome!” My words were so cracked that we both burst out laughing, and it didn’t slow until I filled my hands with her ass cheeks, scooping her drenched pussy on to my thigh.
“And you’re gorgeous.” I inhaled her; still cinnamon-sweet, faint undercurrent of sweat and cum. “Did I mention that?”
“Once or twice, but I’ll let you off.” The heel of her hand worked steadily against the muscles of my belly, easing the knots. “You’re not bad yourself, you know.”
“Why do I think I brought you back here?” She grinned.
“I did wonder if you’d been slipped a roofie or two,” I admitted.
“You’re gorgeous, Benjamin. There was something about you, I…” She pinched my hip in a soft little dance. “Something bubbling under the surface.”
“I suppose that’s one way of putting it.” I caught her hand, held it up to the light. Swivelled the heavy emerald back to its correct position.
“You don’t like that, do you?” she whispered.
“It’s nice enough. I’m not much for jewellery.”
“You know what I mean. It bothers you.”
I swallowed; this wasn’t really a subject I wanted to indulge her in, not in the afterglow of such an amazing session.
But she did ask.
“My girlfriend — ex girlfriend — cheated on me.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.” She came up on one elbow and brushed the hair from my eyes. “That must have been tough.”
“Well. I suppose — I suppose I don’t understand how anyone can be ok with…” I felt like a such hypocrite after the way I got off on her saying my name.
“Yeah.” I wound a ringlet around my finger; it was smooth and bouncy.
“See, there’s the thing…what I do, that’s sharing. What your girlfriend did…that was betrayal. You can’t share what you’ve promised elsewhere; it’s not in your hands to give.”
“You make it sound awfully simple.”
She pressed her lips together.
“Oh, learning was messy. Trust me there.”
“I like your mess.” I said the last word against her tongue as she kissed me. Giggled on me.
“I bet yours is just as yummy.”
“Plenty more where that came from, darling.” I really just said that, didn’t I? Buggery.
She started up and I pounced, tugging her back beneath the sheet.
“I’m just going to get drinks,” she protested. “I don’t know about you, but I need one.”
“I’ll get them,” I said, reaching for my trousers. “You stay here and keep the bed warm — you look too good in it to get up.”
“Well, I won’t argue with that.” She fell on the pillows in a mock starfish. “Second door on the left, ok? Just help yourself to the fridge.”
I zipped my fly up.
“What d’you want?”
“Ok.” I knelt for a kiss to punctuate my exit. “Back in two.”
A few seconds before I got the door open, I noticed that the light was on. The living space was huge — all lofty ceilings, polished units, modern sofas. The big fridge in the corner was one Harper and I had coveted before we settled on our uber-trendy Smeg. And –
He cleared his throat. He cleared his throat. There was a blonde, older man on the far sofa and he eyed me watchfully, his head cocked as he surveyed the stranger in his lair.
Because it did suddenly feel like a lair, and I was the one who’d stolen his lapful of pussy.
“Good night?” he said.
This can’t be happening. It’s nowhere near dawn yet and I didn’t bring a man-bag.
“Great,” I croaked.
“I should think so.”
The bastard was trying not to smile at me. I couldn’t fathom it — he should be taking me down right now with a swift right hook. Hell, I wanted to punch him. What do you say to a bloke when you’ve just fucked his fiancé with his blessing? Where was this bit on my sexeh party etiquette Google search?!
“You’re a lucky man,” I managed.
He gave a swift nod.
“So are you, by the sounds of it.”
“Ah.” Leila appeared behind me in a cloud of touselled hair. My shirt was buttoned hap-hazardly over her bare breasts and silky knickers. “I thought I heard two of you.” She padded over to greet the man with a kiss. “Ben, this is Joseph, my boyfriend. Joseph, Ben — he was my present from Aidan.”
They looked disgustingly good together. He had at least ten years on her, though it was only visible in the shadows; he was broader and taller, sharper. Their combined confidence was startling and I was nauseous again as he patted her ass. Mine, said little whomp of flesh.
“You can sit down, you know.” Leila smiled on her way to the fridge. “It’s ok.”
“Uh, I’m good.” I perched on the arm of a chair, still not knowing where it was safe to look. Definitely not at the Goblin King over there, that was for sure. I’d never been so grateful for a cold beer and I swallowed most of it in three long gulps.
“It was Ben’s first party tonight.” She stood beside me, her knees nudging mine.
Joseph gave a dry little laugh.
“You’re braver than me.”
“It was all right, actually,” I said. Leila was practically rubbing against me and I wrapped an arm round her waist with my pulse hammering in my ears. “I had some lovely company.”
She eased the bottle from my hand, dropped it to the floor and then straddled my thigh. Her knickers were still damp — even through my trousers, it was obvious — but I couldn’t quite get into the kiss, not with him watching. I’d gone from predator to prey in about ten minutes.
“Ben…do you want to…?”
She was shoving me gently, wanted us to fall back on the sofa together.
“I –” Oh fuck. Now she was stroking my semi-erect cock.
“We could…I mean, he’s here to supervise, so…” She brought my hand round to rest on her ass cheek and I nearly bit her tongue off.
Now you’re probably thinking: dude. This is your first (and possibly only) opportunity for anal — what are you doing? Swing her over the couch and get on in there. Even I was thinking this.
But I couldn’t do it.
She softened in my arms, cupped my chin.
“It’s ok.” She trailed down my neck and my eyes closed instinctively; if we couldn’t be alone, I was built to emulate it.
“I should go.” I stood against her, willing my cock to deflate. “I’ve got work in the morning.”
Leila nodded, handing the bottle back.
“If you’re sure.”
“Oh, I’m…just need to get dressed.” I cocked my head towards the bedroom and she tugged on the shirt she was wearing.
“You’ll be needing this, then. Sorry,” she giggled.
Joseph was suddenly behind her, his fingers working the few buttons she’d bothered to secure. Then he slid out of his fine-knit sweater as he passed me my shirt. My gaze darted to her full, naked breasts and then rolled to the toned chest behind her…and that was when I noticed the marks on their skin. It had been too dark to see in the bedroom but Leila had a J carved in pale pink, just above the line of her knickers. Joseph had an L in the same style that curved about his hip-bone. They weren’t tattoos — I was sure of that.
They were quite possibly brands.
Then Leila was huddled against Joseph in his sweater, and they were both studying me with curious expressions.
“So I’ll get dressed. Yeah.” If I’d have walked any faster, I’d have skidded into a pot plant and landed flat on my face.
I took my time getting dressed. Paused to call a cab to the lobby. The afterglow of the sex had faded but I was still jittering on the platform while I awaited the train home from la-la land. I’d been preparing myself mentally for tonight — mostly to get rejected — and while I’d gone through a hundred wank-worthy fantasies, none of them had been anything like this.
None so close to the bone (or the boner, for that matter).
Now to make my exit. To make it out alive.
Suited and booted, I strode out and offered a sitting Joseph my hand. He pumped it firmly — if he was surprised at my surge of confidence then he didn’t show it.
“It was good to meet you,” I said. “Thanks for…well.”
His eyes flashed in amusement.
“Thanks for keeping her occupied.”
Leila knotted her fingers in mine as she lead me out to the door. When I’d shuffled into my jacket, I gave her the parting kiss she deserved: slow, deep and affectionate. Her little gasps and sighs were jarring; they made me realise that she’d never felt borrowed. I kept wondering if Rory had felt the same way about Kate and had to shudder off the notion because it was greasy and grey.
“You,” Leila murmured, “made my Tuesday, Mr Benjamin.”
You made my last six months, you gorgeous creature. Not that I could say that out loud.
“I had a great time. Thank you.” One last kiss, then I released her. There should have been a beat of discomfort before one of us broke and asked for a phone number, an email address; it wasn’t what tonight had been about, and that was kind of refreshing. Not as cheap as I’d expected it to feel.