Asking for it, p.20
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       Asking for It, p.20

         Part #1 of Asking for It series by Lilah Pace
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  Kip shakes his head, as if to clear it. “For this, darling? You get the full-on Dumbledore. ”

  •   •   •

  Unsurprisingly, everything falls into place just the way Kip said it would. Within the day, I’m able to e-mail Jonah: Hope you were serious about that invitation, because I’m coming.

  Which is how I wind up spending Saturday night thirty thousand feet in the air, suspended between the sea and the moon.

  Until now I’ve spent my aviation life in coach, so first class feels surreal—more like Inception than real life. Flight attendants and passengers alike speak in hushed tones as we recline in large, cream-colored seats that turn into perfectly flat beds. Free champagne arrives the moment anyone lifts a hand. We’re given blankets softer than the ones on my bed, face masks that feel like silk. Even though a transatlantic trip is already a long journey, this feels like even more daring—like traveling from one world to another.

  I am flinging myself into the unknown, and trusting Jonah to catch me.

  Jet lag means my arrival in Scotland is no more than a blur, just like the driver who brings me into the Highlands, onto the ferry, across the water to Skye. Somehow I manage to stay awake until we reach the bed-and-breakfast, where the kindly manager shows me to Jonah’s room, gives me the key Jonah left behind. Then I collapse into bed for a three-hour nap of the sweetest, most perfect slumber, like returning to the womb.

  When I open my eyes again, I feel as if I’ve awakened from hibernation, and I’m more vividly aware of my surroundings than I’ve been in a long time.

  Our room is small, and just barely on the right side of the line that separates “cozy” and “tacky. ” A blue-and-green quilt covers the bed; the paintings on the wall show Highland hills blooming violet with heather. Jonah’s square, hard-sided suitcase stands in the corner, next to my lilac duffel bag. I’ve seen his stuff before I see him. It feels strange to be in Jonah’s room without him, to have come to an entirely different country to be with him and still remain alone.

  Yet my solitude doesn’t feel lonely. It feels dreamlike. All my other responsibilities have fallen away. Every other source of tension is gone.

  I put on jeans and a heavy gray sweater that doesn’t get much wear in Texas or Louisiana. Then I walk out from the B&B to see a wild, rocky stretch of coastline in front of me—and behind, endless rolling hills. Only a few scrubby patches of heather linger this late in the year, but the purple is beautiful just the same. Aside from a small stone cottage near the dock, not another house can be seen for miles in any direction. Even the nearby road is too narrow for more than one vehicle at a time. The breeze off the water is cool; the air smells of salt. Splashing at the shoreline makes me look for fish, but to my delight, I instead see two otters scampering in the shallows.

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  Some artists believe in creating every single day—writing, painting, doing whatever it is you do—to stay productive. Others believe in a concept called “filling the well. ” This means stopping for a while to just take in something new, whether it’s a book you’ve never read, an activity you’ve never tried, or a place you’ve never been before. The new experiences sink deep into your consciousness and take your creativity in new directions.

  If I didn’t already believe in filling the well, the stark, wild beauty of this place would convince me.

  I packed a sketchpad, thinking only to fill the hours when Jonah was working. Now I can’t wait to spend every spare hour drawing. The rugged landscape—the rocky shoreline—even the way our B&B seems to snuggle against the nearest hill: I want to capture every detail, forever.

  From across the water I hear the sound of an engine and the choppy impact of waves against metal. Somehow I know, even before I turn to see the white boat coming nearer, that this is Jonah’s return. When I wave in greeting, I see him lean out—no more than an outline, at this distance—and raise his hand.

  I’d thought seeing him would shatter the dreamlike quality of this place. Instead it seems as though Jonah has entered my dream.

  •   •   •

  “What did you tell your friends?” Jonah asks that night over dinner.

  Unlike most B&Bs, the one we’re staying in serves food and drink throughout the night—mostly, I think, for the fishermen gathered at the other two tables. Jonah and I sit at a beat-up wooden table, near a crackling fire, with lamb stew and dark beer. The firelight illuminates the harsh planes of Jonah’s face; sometimes the flickering shadows make him look almost demonic, but at other moments, he looks as beautiful as I’ve ever seen him.

  This is one of those moments.

  “I told my friends the truth,” I say. “They were surprised, but Carmen and Arturo are excited for me. And Shay . . . she’s trying to wrap her head around the fact that you aren’t always as, um, reserved as you come across in the office. ”

  “She thinks I’m cold. ”

  “No, no! It’s not like that. ” Shay would never be that bluntly unkind. “One of the first things she ever said to me about you was that you were the best professor in the department to work for. ”

  Jonah thinks that over, then nods. As well as he’s concealing it, I can tell—Shay’s opinion means something to him. I doubt he ever goes out of his way to ingratiate himself with people. So if he cares about what Shay thinks, it’s because he realizes Shay is a person whose respect is worth having. This, in turn, makes me realize he’s a good judge of character.

  “What about you?” I say. “Did you tell your friends about bringing me along?”

  “Most of my close friends are from undergrad. We don’t communicate every day. But I told Rosalind. ”

  I remember the way she smiled at me when she realized I was “Jonah’s Vivienne. ” Her respect is worth having too. “What did she say?”

  “She said it was about time I ‘stepped up my game. ’” Jonah says this so seriously that I can’t help but laugh. Slowly, he smiles too—and yet he’s wary about something else. “You didn’t tell me how that ex of yours reacted. ”

  “Geordie? He said you were making him look bad, because he never took me anyplace fancier than Ruth’s Chris Steak House. ” I would giggle at the memory, but Jonah’s expression seems to forbid it. He’s become stony again, and I wonder if the emotion he’s holding back is anger, or jealousy. “You realize there’s nothing between me and Geordie any longer. ”

  “So you’ve said. But you spend a lot of time together. ”

  We do. I’ve been surprised how easily Geordie and I transitioned into a platonic relationship. Then again—“We were always closer to ‘friends with benefits’ than any red-hot love affair,” I say. “You know, we tried romance on, it didn’t fit for either of us, and so now we stick to what did work. Our friendship. ”

  “Does he understand that?”

  “Definitely. ” Truth be told, Geordie looked a little wistful when I told him about this trip, and the fact that I was seeing Jonah Marks—but no more than that. “You sound jealous. ”

  “I am,” Jonah says. He looks straight into my eyes and speaks with a calmness that belies every word he says. “I’m jealous of every man who ever touched you. ”

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  Just hearing him say that brings the heat to my face, to my solar plexus. Our eyes meet, and I know he wants to grab me, right now. To knock everything off this table, lay me down on it and take me . . .

  But that’s not a fantasy we can act out here and now, not without giving these fishermen the free porno show of their lives.

  Jonah keeps speaking as though he didn’t know I was already crazy hot for him. “You’re better at that than I am. Staying friends with exes. ”

  Lightly I say, “Why is that, do you think?”

  This is where most guys would give me a canned speech about how it’s better for the past to be the past. Or, worse, that talk about how their ex-girlfriends went crazy, which in context always means she d
ared to express anger at some point. Jonah, on the other hand, thinks for a few long moments before answering. “I tend to . . . compartmentalize. To keep the different aspects of my life separate from each other. So I don’t want to change my exes into the friends they never were. When it’s over, it’s over. ”

  Sounds sane enough. I’m pretty good at handling ex-lovers, but I also realize I’m unusual in that way. Some people need to lock the doors behind them. Clean breaks aren’t the worst idea.

  But then Jonah adds, more quietly, “I’m trying to do things differently with you. ”

  Wait? When we break up?

  No, of course not. Jonah invited me to join him here in Scotland. He brought me into another part of his life. I’m the one he wants to change for.

  He slides his hand across the table until our fingers touch. I take a deep breath and look into his eyes. The intensity of the desire I see there—the need to own me not just in bed, but in every possible way—it thrills me. And terrifies me. I can’t say which emotion is more powerful.

  This is the moment when I realize what tonight means. Jonah won’t want to play out a scenario tonight. The sex won’t be any fantasy rape. It will just be us, him and me, literally and emotionally naked.

  Either I’ll have to fake my way through it, or I’ll have to tell Jonah the truth.

  It shouldn’t be scarier than the dark fantasies Jonah and I have shared—but it is. It is.


  As soon as Jonah and I enter our room, he closes the door and reaches for me. Neither of us even turns on the light.

  I sink into Jonah’s embrace and feel his lips brush against mine. As he winds his arms around me, our kiss intensifies. This isn’t the hard, punishing kiss he first gave me, or the gentler one we’ve shared after sex or at my front door after our first date. This is desire without violence. Passion that comes not from any fantasy but from the emotions we’ve kindled in each other.

  Jonah’s hands slip beneath the hem of my sweater, and I feel his fingers brush along the small of my back. “I never get to tell you how beautiful you are,” he murmurs. “How much I love just looking at your body. Do you know how fucking gorgeous you are?”

  “You’re the gorgeous one. ” Which is true. I’m attractive, but no more so than any number of women the average person sees on the average day. Jonah? He’s a breed apart.

  Like no one else, I think as I unbutton his shirt—pausing only to let him lift my sweater over my head and toss it aside. The firmness of his abdominal muscles, the unreal disparity between the broadness of his shoulders and his taut, trim waist, even those storm gray eyes—Jonah is extraordinary. Anyone attracted to men would want him desperately.

  But they couldn’t share his fantasy. Couldn’t give him what he really needs in bed. That’s only me.

  Jonah’s fingers find the front clasp of my bra and click it, so that the lacy cups slide sideways, exposing more of my breasts. He pushes the straps over the curve of my shoulders. “Look at you,” he whispers as he starts caressing me. “I don’t get to do this enough. ”

  I kiss the line of his jaw, his throat. His stubble is rough against my lips. “Mmm. Do what, exactly?”

  “This. ”

  Jonah lifts me just enough to toss me on our bed, then impatiently pulls off his shirt and lets it fall. He crawls onto the bed, his arms and thighs caging me beneath him. His kisses are warm against my skin as he moves from my neck to my breasts.

  I whimper as the warmth of his mouth and tongue close over my nipple. Jonah sucks—he licks—he kisses—and he keeps going, drawing out the pleasure. Too many guys rush this; not Jonah. By the time he shifts to my other breast, I’m already writhing beneath him. Even as he sucks harder, his hand reaches for the button of my jeans.

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  “So—fucking—beautiful,” he murmurs as I help him get my jeans past my hips. Jonah sits up to tug them away, then sits there at the foot of the bed for a moment, gazing at me. I lie naked in front of him, my nipples hardened and glistening, my breaths coming fast. Slowly, so slowly, he slides my legs apart and stares at me even more intently. “I never get to do this either. ”

  Which is when he lowers his mouth to my clit.

  Oh, God, he’s good at this. He’s really, really good at this. Jonah’s tongue laps at me, circles me, and then he starts to suck in a rhythm that brings me to the brink almost instantly.

  But it’s not going to make me come.

  Only the fantasy does that.

  Pretend, I tell myself desperately. My entire body trembles. Pretend he’s forcing you to do this. That he told you to lie here and let him do whatever he wants or he’d make you sorry.

  Usually that works, but tonight I can’t convince myself. Jonah’s face is buried between my legs—and I can tell he’s lost to anything but the desire to taste me, to make me come. The broad muscles of his shoulders work beneath my knees, nearly as sexy as the slight bob and turn of his head. He’s giving everything to me. Serving me. And I love it, I do, but even as I hover at the dizzy edge of orgasm, I can’t let go.

  “I want you inside me,” I moan. “Please, Jonah, fuck me. ”

  He pulls back a bit, kisses my cunt one more time, then shoves himself off the bed to get rid of his jeans. I lie there, splayed out for him, panting hard. Jonah can’t move fast enough.

  Then he’s atop me again, the hardness of his erection pressing insistently against my belly as we kiss. I take his cock in my hand and guide it downward; Jonah closes his eyes in pleasure as he feels how wet I am.

  “Now,” I whisper, and Jonah pushes all the way inside me with one long, slow thrust.

  Yes. I arch my back, close my eyes. Now I can imagine anything I want.

  “You feel so good,” he murmurs. “So fucking tight. I love feeling you wrapped around me. ”

  I ought to enjoy hearing him say that. On some level I do. But his praise only cuts into the fantasy I need.

  As Jonah begins driving into me, I fill my mind with images of what we’ve done before. If—if maybe that first night at the hotel, when he threw me on the bed—if he hadn’t ended the scenario then. If he’d kept me there, calling me a whore and a slut, until he could fuck me again—

  —it might have felt like this—

  As I get close, my entire body tenses against his, and he feels it. Jonah starts thrusting harder. Answering me. I fill my mind with the memory of that hotel room, the savage way he took me, not so unlike the way he’s inside me now. I can’t think anymore, can’t see. I belong only to him, only ever to him.

  The world goes white-hot as I clench around him. My orgasm hits me so hard I think for a moment I’ll pass out. I manage to stifle my cry of ecstasy against Jonah’s shoulder, and I hear him sigh with satisfaction.

  “Vivienne,” he groans, and then he’s there with me. Pleasure shudders through Jonah’s body as he grips me closer, and there’s nothing better than this.

  Or there shouldn’t be.

  But I can’t forget that I still had to fantasize about rape to get myself all the way there.

  “At last,” he murmurs as we lie together in the aftermath. Jonah spoons behind me, drowsily kissing my neck and shoulders. “I got to take my time enjoying you. Now I get to sleep beside you. ”

  “I should warn you—sometimes I talk in my sleep. ”

  Jonah chuckles, the vibration of his laugh resonating against my back. “What do you say?”

  “Nothing intelligible, apparently. Just mumbling. ”

  “Doesn’t matter. I could sleep through a tornado. ”

  “My perfect guy,” I say. I mean it as a joke—thinking of how Geordie used to grumble about my waking him up in the middle of the night. But once I’ve said the words, I realize how true they might be.

  Some men would hear that and instantly panic. Jonah simply kisses the nape of my neck and holds me tighter.

  I should be so happy righ
t now. And I am—in so many ways—but the dark weight of doubt lingers deep inside. Whatever else my sexual relationship has been with Jonah, it has been completely, utterly, honest.

  Tonight, for the first time, I hid the truth from him. When I indulged in that fantasy without him—in a way, I lied.

  But the only thing worse than lying to Jonah would be telling him the truth.

  •   •   •

  Page 80

  The rest of our time in Scotland is as beautiful and unearthly as the beginning. Jonah spends most of his days out on the water, getting readings about the nearby ocean floor that I would need at least a master’s in seismology to understand. Meanwhile, I hike along the coastline, almost never seeing another human being save for the driver of the occasional truck that rumbles by on this lone, deserted road. Sometimes I run into sheep. Here, a flock is as close as you get to a crowd.

  This landscape is both beautiful and strange. Not a single tree grows as far as I can see. The ground only lies level right next to the water; otherwise, the land bows and buckles into countless rocky hills. Although low clouds cover most of the sky, it only rains on me once, and then when I’m close enough to the B&B to make a dash for it.

  Each day, I fill my sketchbook with more drawings. Sometimes I try to portray everything as far as my eye can see. Mostly, though, I concentrate on smaller details—the delicate, fading heather next to weather-worn stones, or the slim dark shapes of otters just beneath the water.

  Each evening, Jonah returns to me, and we eat and talk in the small, darkened dining room of the B&B. He never opens up about his childhood, or really about anything else truly intimate—but even the simpler conversations we have about books we like or places we’ve been carry their own weight. Jonah isn’t someone who reveals himself easily, I realize. These smaller confidences aren’t his version of small talk; this is how he builds a bridge. Slowly, gradually, stone by stone.

  Besides, I can’t be impatient with him for holding back when I’m doing it too.

  Every night, we make love. Jonah’s caresses only become more tender, more fervent. I treasure every kiss, revel in the way we learn to move together. Finally I get to see his entire perfect body and worship it with my hands and tongue.

  But there always comes a point where I have to imagine the rape.

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