Asking for it, p.18
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       Asking for It, p.18
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         Part #1 of Asking for It series by Lilah Pace
“Of course. Well. ” A silence falls. She wants to know about Thanksgiving, but she doesn’t want to ask.

  I’m so, so tired of jumping through hoops—but if I don’t visit Libby this Thanksgiving, how long will it be before I see her again? Chloe couldn’t keep me from her forever, but she could separate us for a long time. So I stifle a sigh. “I’m planning on coming home for the holidays. For Thanksgiving and Christmas. ” That last is only partly true. Christmas day with my family, I can endure. The entire break? No way in hell.

  “It’s good to know how many to plan for,” she says primly. But then, with what seems like genuine interest, she says, “I don’t suppose you’ll be bringing anyone? Are you still seeing that adorable Scotsman?”

  “Geordie and I decided we were better off as friends. But I’ll tell him you said he was adorable. It’ll make his day. ” The one time Geordie and Chloe met, they hit it off. Of course, Geordie hits it off with nearly everyone.

  “A pity you two broke up. He suited you, I thought. There’s no one else on the horizon?”

  I let the silence go on too long before I say, “I’m not bringing anyone to Thanksgiving. ” Jonah and I might be trying to find our way back to normal, but I doubt he’s the holiday-dinners type.

  “Sounds like there’s a story there,” Chloe says, but she doesn’t ask further. That would come too close to having a meaningful conversation. “Well, be sure to let us know what night you’ll come in from Austin. ”

  “Will do. And tell Libby hi. ”

  “Of course. ” In her voice, there’s not even a hint that she recently threatened to keep Libby away from me permanently. “Thanks for being so understanding about the armoire. ”

  “Don’t mention it,” I say, knowing she won’t.

  This makes for a solid three minutes I’ve spent thinking about something besides Jonah Marks. But I don’t make it to four, because as soon as I open my e-mail, there’s a note from Jonah.

  The subject reads, Complete Disclosure.

  My pulse quickens as I click, wondering if I’m about to read some confession—the truth about Jonah’s fantasy, whatever dark place it comes from, all his inner secrets. The answer proves to be more prosaic than that.

  We said we would exchange these. I feel strange sending them after our evening out together, but you need to know now more than ever.

  I can’t stop thinking about the way you kiss.

  My heart does a dizzy little flip when I read the last line, which softens the moment when I open the attachment to see a lab report—Jonah confirming that he’s free of any STD.

  Page 69

  Ah, modern love.

  Well, I asked. And I need to get my own records to send to him too. Then we can stop with the condoms. Our fantasies can be even freer—our scenes more spontaneous. More savage.

  I remember what I imagined he whispered to me the night of the charity benefit. Next time I’m going to come in your mouth.

  Next time can’t come fast enough.

  •   •   •

  It’s Doreen’s job to be a wet blanket sometimes. That doesn’t mean I enjoy it.

  “You’re being obstinate,” I say during our next session. “You were all, ooooh, be scared, this date is going to be the worst date in the history of dating—”

  “You know full well those words never came out of my mouth. ” But Doreen is laughing.

  “No, but I bet you were thinking them. Instead, Jonah and I went out and had a really good time! He’s smart, Doreen. He’s—insightful, and patient, and interesting. ” I hug my knees to my chest. “Plus he has great taste in art. ”

  “I believe you about the art,” she says. Doreen has another of my etchings, one I gave her as a Christmas gift last year. It hangs in her foyer; I walk by it every time I come to a session. “The rest, I’ll take your word for. I’m glad to hear that he’s a person you’re drawn to on levels beside the physical. ”

  Gloating is too much fun to stop so soon. “You’re glad to hear you were proven wrong?”

  “No, I’m glad to hear that you’re having the most honest sexual relationship of your life. ”

  That stops me short. I hadn’t thought of it that way—but she’s right. “Jonah knows what I want. What I need. It’s what he needs too. ”

  “Do you still feel guilty about the fantasy? Like it’s something bad you should be ashamed of?”

  I listen to her clock for a few moments, the slow tick-tock punctuating the silence. “Less. ”

  “Less means yes. ”

  “It also means less. ” I readjust myself on the sofa, so I’m sitting up like an adult instead of hugging myself like a girl on her best friend’s floor. “The fantasy feels different when—when it’s shared. ”

  “Then why do you think you continue to feel some shame?”

  We go over this, and over this. I’m so fucking tired of answering this question. “Because I’m getting my rocks off on something horrible. Something criminal. There are women who get raped—even men who get raped—who never want to have sex again after that. I don’t know why it wasn’t like that for me, or why it was the exact opposite. It just is, and now—now I get turned on by the same thing I hate Anthony for. ” I have to swallow hard. “If I hate Anthony for raping me, but I keep putting myself through all these fantasy rapes in my mind—and finding Jonah, going into this arrangement we have—maybe I should hate myself too. Because I do it to myself. ”

  That’s the first time I’ve uttered those words. The first time I’ve even allowed myself to think them. Doreen’s endless patient questions finally connected and broke me open.

  “There’s a world of difference between your fantasies and what Anthony did, because he raped you,” Doreen says. “You choose your partner in the fantasy—whether that’s a figment of your imagination or a willing lover like Jonah. You didn’t choose Anthony. He took that choice away from you. ”

  “I know. I know. ” Tears have started to well.

  That’s Doreen’s cue to tell me that I shouldn’t beat myself up over my fantasies, but today she goes in a different direction. “You still haven’t told Jonah about your rape?”

  “God, no. ”

  “Do you think keeping this secret from Jonah is different than keeping it secret from others?”

  “Jonah’s the last person I could tell. ”

  “And why is that?”

  The answer is obvious, but Doreen wants me to say it out loud. Fine, then. “I’m scared he’d get off on it. ”

  Doreen sits back in her chair. “Vivienne, I want you to think about what this says about the trust between you and Jonah. You’ve given him a great deal of power over you; so far he hasn’t abused that. But how much trust can there be when you’re afraid he would enjoy hearing about your real-life rape?”

  I have no answer for her. The clock ticks on, measuring the silence.

  •   •   •

  Those words of caution linger in my mind, but they don’t make me stop wanting Jonah.

  Page 70

  No, I’m even more turned on than before. That’s how fucked up I am.

  But Doreen reminded me that, on some level—one that goes deeper than a nice dinner out, or his admiration for my artwork—I’m still a little bit frightened of Jonah Marks.

  The fear is what makes it so good.

  I get home just at sunset. As soon as I’ve shut and locked the door behind me, I call Jonah.

  “Are you all right?” he says. Still no hello.

  “Yeah, I’m fine. ”

  “Is this about my e-mail earlier? Maybe that was—abrupt. ”

  “No, it’s good that you sent it. I’m glad, really. My records will be headed your way as soon as I can scan them. ” I run one hand through my hair, restless as I pace my floor. “Are you free tonight?”

  “. . . I can be. ”

  “Do you want to play?”

  He knows w
hat I mean. I can tell by the long silence that follows, and the huskiness of his voice as he finally answers, “Yes. ”

  Tonight, I’m going to test my limits.

  I’m going to prove how far I can trust Jonah Marks, and how far I can’t.

  Twenty-two

  Quarter ’til ten.

  Keiko’s pottery—put that away. Breakables have no place out in the open, not tonight. What about the lamp? If I move it to the center of the table, that’s probably okay.

  I took a shower just after a light dinner of toast and eggs, plus the last of the peaches I bought a few days ago. The juice was still sticky on my chin and fingers as I stood under the hot spray of water, rubbing in something that promises to be “ultra-moisturizing. ” My skin feels soft, anyway, and the faint lavender scent lingers.

  I wonder if Jonah will even notice. Probably not. If tonight goes according to plan, his mind should be on other things.

  “Unlock your door at ten P. M. No earlier. I don’t want you to do anything unsafe. ”

  Protecting me as he plans to terrorize me. This is the paradox of Jonah Marks.

  Nearly everything that could break during a struggle has been put away. Now what? Lights on or off? He’ll want to see me—and I want to see him—but the dark would sharpen the edge of my fear. Finally I turn down one of the floor lamps in the far corner of my living room, so only a faint shadow of amber-tinted light falls across my bedroom floor.

  “I should warn you,” I said. “When I said I’ll fight, I meant it. ”

  Jonah’s low voice made me shudder. “Struggle all you want. It won’t matter. ”

  My hair is down. Wearing makeup would be sort of ridiculous, but if I went to bed like it really was any other night, I might have acne cream on my chin. Let’s not. I settle for clean-scrubbed skin and cherry ChapStick. My shoes have all found their places in my closet, instead of their usual line near the side of my bed. This tank top is a soft shade of apricot—seemed like a good idea on the clearance rack, but it doesn’t really match anything else I own. It’s been sleepwear for a while now. My nipples are just visible through the thin ribbed cotton.

  Simple cotton panties. If they get torn, so be it.

  I should probably shop at the Salvation Army for more clothes I wouldn’t mind being destroyed.

  “If I haven’t come in by ten thirty, something’s held me up. Lock your door and wait for me to call. ”

  Five until ten. On the back of my bedroom door, I’ve hung a series of hooks, which gives me a handy place to keep belts, scarves, accessories like that. I run my hands through the scarves, feeling the various fabrics against my skin—then close my fingers around pale pink cotton. This scarf is sturdy enough to stand up to some abuse. Yet thin enough to serve as a makeshift rope—if that’s something Jonah wants.

  I’m about to find out.

  “You remember the rules I gave you, back when we began? About what I didn’t want the first time?” I put my hand to my chest, as if my touch could slow my fluttering heart. “You can consider those suspended. ”

  “Fewer limits. ”

  “Mmm-hmm. ”

  Jonah growled, “Good. ”

  Ten o’clock.

  I almost never go to bed this early, but tonight is about setting the stage. So I drape the pink scarf across the foot of my bed—a careless temptation—then walk into my kitchen. By now I can feel my pulse in my throat, in my cunt, in the soles of my feet.

  Slowly, I turn the lock, then slide back the deadbolt. Anyone could come in now.

  I walk into the bedroom and turn off the one lamp on the nightstand. Now there’s just the dim light from the living room slanting across the floor. Lots of people might leave that much light on so they could find their way around in the dark, if they wanted.

  Page 71

  Now Jonah will be able to find his way to me.

  Every second is exquisite torture. I lie on my side, covers tucked up around my ears, as if I could possibly pretend to be asleep. Really I’ve never been this awake in my life. Every sound seems unnaturally loud in this silence—the wind through the trees outside, the distant rumble of a truck on the road, the soft creaks in the walls natural to any old house. Surely I’ll hear Jonah’s car pull up . . .

  . . . but no. Jonah’s sedan was out front before ten o’clock; I know that as surely as if I’d seen it myself. He would be watching my door from the first moment I unlocked it, to make sure no one else tried to get inside.

  A creak from the kitchen first seems normal enough, until I hear another. Footsteps. My entire body tenses in the best possible way. He’s here, now.

  Should I get up to investigate? Surprise him in the front room? No. This time I want him to find me in bed.

  I close my eyes.

  The footsteps come closer. He’s wearing soft shoes, or none, because he walks so quietly that I think if this were real, I’d sleep right through it. By now adrenaline courses through me, setting every single nerve ending on fire.

  If I even put my hand between my legs—just that contact, not even a stroke—I swear I’d come this second.

  Now the footsteps are right next to me. I feel the foot of the bed sink down, the unmistakable sensation of someone sitting on the mattress. It’s so hard not to open my eyes, so hard to pretend—

  His hand closes over my mouth, hard.

  My eyes fly open to see Jonah leaning over me. He’s dressed in black, and his face is almost unrecognizable. This is hardly a human being I see. This is . . . a predator.

  He hisses, “Don’t scream. ”

  I don’t scream.

  I strike.

  My hands close around his wrist, yanking it away from my mouth, and I pull both knees up to my chest, then kick. My feet thud into Jonah’s chest, knocking him completely off the bed.

  Instantly I scramble across the mattress, as if I were trying to reach my cell phone (charging in its dock, a few feet away). But Jonah’s hand closes around my ankle and tows me back toward him.

  “You hurt me. ” His hand pulls at the strap of my tank top, yanking it down to expose one of my breasts. “You’re gonna pay for that. ”

  “No!” I shove my hands against his chest, hard, and then the battle is on.

  No broken bones. No visible wounds. Those are the rules we agreed on in the beginning—permanent rules, which neither of us will ever, ever break. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fight like hell.

  I shove him away again. Slap him hard across the face.

  Jonah slaps me right back. The force is enough to send me staggering against the wall. Hearing the thud, feeling the sting of my skin, shakes me—this is so real, so fucking real—and for the first time since our inaugural night at the hotel, the safe word comes to the tip of my tongue. Silver.

  I don’t say it.

  Instead I run at him for a full-on tackle. Jonah didn’t expect that; I can tell by the way he staggers backward. We both land on the bed. I use my momentum to roll me over him until I fall off the far side. Now I’m free, and—holy shit, will I actually get to the phone? Not sure what to do then—

  But Jonah’s up. He grabs my arm and throws me bodily onto the bed. Before I can scramble backward, he’s on top of me, his knees pressing down on my arms. I try to kick at him, but from this angle it’s almost impossible. So I writhe, twisting from side to side, until one of Jonah’s hands closes around my throat.

  Instantly I go still.

  “Now you’re going to behave. ” He laughs, a sound as sharp as any switchblade. “You’re not as dumb as you look. ”

  Would he like it if I begged? “Let me go. Please. ”

  “Why would I do that?”

  “You—you can take my phone, and my laptop. My purse, too, and I’ve got a lot of cash in my wallet. Just take it and go. I won’t be able to call the police, because you’ll have my phone. So you could get away. ”

  “I’m goi
ng to get away just fine. ” Jonah straddles me, his erection clearly straining at the fabric of his black sweatpants. I can feel his balls against my belly; they’re tight, ready. “You don’t get away. You do what I tell you. ”

  “Please don’t. Please. ”

  “Will you ask me politely?” Jonah’s hands find my breasts—both exposed now as he plays with them, squeezing hard, then soft, then hard again. He tugs at one nipple, forceful enough to make me whine.

  Page 72

  “What—what do you—”

  “We’ll make a deal. ” He leans over; I realize he’s seen the scarf I left out for him. “If you can suck me off, I won’t put it in your cunt. ”

  Next time, I’m going to come in your mouth. I want him to. But I want to get fucked too.

  “No,” I say. “I won’t do it, I won’t—”

  Jonah slams down on top of me, hard enough to make me cry out in genuine shock. “You don’t get to say what you will and won’t do. That’s not what this is about. ”

  I’m shaking so hard. My panties are soaked. I want to cross my legs, just cross them, because I think I could come by merely clenching my thighs.

  Yet I keep fighting. I thrash beneath him, frenzied enough to make him swear in what sounds like genuine frustration. Then Jonah grabs the scarf. I think he’ll tie my hands, but instead he winds the scarf around my throat. One hand closes around the fabric right in front of my windpipe as he tugs me off the bed with the other, until I tumble off the bed onto the floor.

  I use my feet to push myself away from him, but Jonah drags me back and slaps my face again. The very real pain brings tears to my eyes, but it only sharpens the desperate hunger inside me. His grip on the scarf around my neck strengthens.

  “You fight me, I’ll tie this tighter,” he says. “Are you done?”

  I nod, defeated. All I can do now is lie on the floor and wait for whatever Jonah has planned next.

  His cheek is flushed from where I struck him. My face must be too.

  As I pant for breath, my exposed breasts rising and falling with each gasp, Jonah starts going through my nightstand. To my astonishment—and embarrassment—he pulls out my dildo.

  My lone sex toy. It was a gift from Geordie. We tried using it a time or two, but mostly it made us crack up laughing. It’s been languishing at the back of the drawer for months.

  “You don’t get enough dick?” Jonah says as he inspects it. The thickness and length of the hot pink silicone would intimidate most men, but Jonah puts that toy to shame. “Well, you’re gonna get some tonight. You’re gonna take it all. ”

 
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