Asking for it, p.22
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       Asking for It, p.22
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         Part #1 of Asking for It series by Lilah Pace

  “—and we’re leaving. ” Jonah gets to his feet.

  We’re almost to the door before I run into Kip, who has sprayed his hair into a pink faux-hawk for the occasion. He’s had even more to drink than Geordie, which is why he folds both Jonah and me in a sloppy embrace. “My darlings. My most surprising lovebirds. How are you?”

  “Great. ” Gingerly I try to extricate myself from Kip’s arm. “Not as good as you, though. ”

  “He’s sex on a stick, isn’t he?” Kip throws a coquettish glance over his shoulder at Ryan, who waves. “As are you, Professor Marks. Oh, no need to make that straight-boy terror face. I’m well aware I’m not your flavor. ”

  Jonah is clearly at a loss for what to say. I don’t blame him. Finally he comes up with, “Okay. ”

  “So glad it’s all working out! Scotland and the rest of it. ” As Kip lets us go, I breathe a sigh of relief. Too soon. Because the last thing Kip says to Jonah before he staggers off is, “Shouldn’t have even bothered playing spy. ”

  Instantly Jonah’s expression darkens. I take his hand. “Come on. Let’s go. ”

  But as we walk away from the house, Jonah demands, “What did he mean by that?”

  I want to say I don’t know—but that’s too direct a lie. “Kip looked up all this stuff about you when he realized you and I might have something going on. ”

  Jonah stops in his tracks. “How do you know about it? Did he tell you later?”

  Time to confess completely. “He printed out all these stories about your family and showed them to me. I read some. It wasn’t that big a deal. ”

  “If it wasn’t a big deal, why didn’t you tell me about it?” His eyes are blazing.

  I might submit to Jonah completely in the bedroom, but in real life? It’s a different story. “Because it’s awkward as hell! Because I thought you might overreact—no idea where I got that from. So you grew up in a big house! Who cares?”

  “That’s not all you read. ”

  “No. Do you really want to talk about the rest right now?”

  “I don’t want to talk about it at all. ”

  “Then why are you angry with me for not saying anything?”

  We glare at each other for a long moment. Then Jonah’s hand closes over my forearm, hard enough to bruise. “We’re going to my place,” he says, his voice low and rough. “And we’re going to play. ”

  My entire body responds. Arousal lances through me so sharply I gasp. “Yes. Let’s play. ”

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  •   •   •

  We say almost nothing on the drive. It helps preserve the angry mood.

  At one point, though, Jonah mutters, “You know you can say the safe word at any moment. ”

  Silver. “Of course I know. ”

  He’s going to give it to me rough. Right now I want him so badly I can taste it.

  Up until now, I’ve had no idea where Jonah lives. He drives us into the heart of downtown, to the edge of Lake Austin. A few high-rises here host luxury apartments, the kind of accommodations most students can’t afford—or most professors, either. I’ve never even walked inside one. Jonah grabs a bronze-colored card from his sun visor and buzzes us into the parking garage almost without slowing down.

  All the vehicles here are sports cars, status symbols; Jonah’s sedan looks modest compared to the Mercedeses and Jaguars parked in each spot. Yet one garage is very like another. Once we’re parked, we walk through the same dark, echoing concrete you’d see anywhere else.

  He grabs my arm again, pulling me along faster. “It’s quiet. This late, nobody would see. Should I fuck you here?”

  It’s Halloween. People will be out and about—which means they’ll be coming in at all hours. “No. We shouldn’t—”

  Jonah pushes me against the nearest pylon, hard enough that I have to steady myself to stay on my feet. “I’ll fuck you here if I want to. It’s not up to you, is it?”

  The game has intensified. We’re working out something through our fantasy, even though real anger should probably never play a role in what we do. But that edge of anger only makes me want him more. “No,” I whisper. “It’s up to you. ”

  Apparently satisfied, Jonah drags me with him into the building.

  He turns a key so we can ride the elevator to the penthouse floor. When the doors slide open, they reveal the large, shadowed space of his apartment; Jonah is the only one on the top level.

  So I can scream or struggle all I want. No one will hear.

  “Take your goddamned clothes off,” Jonah says. He starts stripping off his scrubs, right there in front of the elevator door.

  I obey. The space is too dark for me to see much, besides the city lights of Austin shining through the windows. I can tell his apartment is enormous, though, open-concept—so I’m standing in the middle of a vast, murky room I don’t know. Trembling, I ditch my shoes and socks, push my skirt down to the floor, then lift my peasant blouse over my head. Now I’m only in a strapless bra and panties.

  Before I can remove those too, Jonah steps close to me and grips both my arms, holding me fast. He’s stark naked, his erection jutting between us. The dim light from the city outside shows me little more than how big he is, how muscular—how futile it would be for me to fight him. That, and the anger in his eyes.

  Tonight, for the first time, Jonah’s fury is absolutely real.

  Surely this is when he’ll start calling me names. Slut. Whore. Bitch. In my mind I can hear his voice growling those words.

  But tonight I learn that when Jonah is truly angry, he falls completely silent.

  His silence is scarier than anything he could ever say.

  The hardwood floor slams against my knees when he shoves me down. He grabs my hair, hard, to hold me in place as he pushes his cock inside my mouth. If he would slow down, I’d try to suck him off, but nothing I do is enough for Jonah. He keeps thrusting, relentless, going deep enough that I cough and sputter for breath around his cock.

  Jonah could hurt me. He wants to hurt me. Say silver, or snap your fingers. Make him stop.

  I don’t.

  The sheer force Jonah uses on me stuns me. All I can do is kneel there, mouth open, letting myself be used. I whimper in both fear and desire. That’s when he pulls out and yanks me to my feet again.

  “Jonah—” But I can’t think of what to say, and he doesn’t give me a chance to say it. Instead he pushes me forward until I make contact with something low and leather. A bench or ottoman, maybe.

  He tugs me against his chest and whispers the first words he’s said since the garage. “On your knees. ”

  By now I’m shaking. But I do what Jonah demands. I climb onto the bench and kneel there, waiting. Everything around me is darkness.

  I feel something slide around my arms—a belt, I realize, as the leather tightens. Jonah has bound my wrists behind me. Never before has he bound me; the thrill of fear I feel only sharpens my desire. By now my fear and arousal are so overpowering that it’s as if I’m drunk. He yanks back on the belt, nearly knocking me off balance, and I cry out. His hand slides down the center of my back, a touch that I know means possession.

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  Jonah owns me now, and he knows it.

  He pushes between my shoulder blades, so that I nearly topple over. When I’m bent like that in front of him, one of his hands seizes my hip and he shoves his cock inside.

  Jonah takes me with a ferocity I’ve never experienced before. One of his hands closes around the belt, holding me in position by my arms; the other releases my hip to fist in my hair, and he pulls back hard. Jonah pumps me, so fast and so hard that my breasts shake and my entire body starts to sweat. My knees and wrists ache—my shoulders feel like they’re being pulled back too far—and yet there’s nothing I love more than the slap of his body against mine, the feel of his cock filling me up. Jonah vents his full fury on me, inside me.

  Yes,
I think, fuck me. Punish me. Make me take it.

  Desire sharpens inside me. Peaks. The darkness seems to be turning red, and my heart thumps so hard I think I can hear the rushing of blood in my ears. Ragged cries escape my lips; I couldn’t hold them back if I tried.

  And then, in a blinding rush of pleasure, I come. For the first time in my life, my orgasm makes me scream.

  Jonah doesn’t stop. Doesn’t even slow down. He just fucks me harder, so hard he must want to break me—but then he comes too, shouting out as he pumps deep inside me and stiffens. We spend a couple seconds locked together, too stunned to move.

  Then he slides out of me, hot and wet. The belt around my arms loosens and falls away. I try to get to my feet, but I can’t; I’m still shaking too hard for that. Instead I slump onto the nearby couch.

  Jonah stands above me, a black, featureless shadow. Everything I ever told myself about fearing this man comes back to me, and I wonder what happens after this. If he’s still angry, if what he just did to me isn’t enough—

  But my eyes are adjusting to the darkness, and I see an expanse of white on a nearby brick wall. A square, in a silver frame.

  The etching. The man’s hands cradling the dove. That’s what I’m looking at.

  And in that instant I remember that whatever twisted fantasies bind me to Jonah, our connection goes beyond that. Or it can, if we figure out how.

  I whisper, “Hold me?”

  Jonah pauses, but then he sits by my side and folds me in the warmth of his embrace. He is as gentle now as he was cruel a minute before.

  Slowly he lowers us to lie on the sofa, and I curl next to his chest. I say nothing else, and I don’t look at Jonah’s face. Instead I stare up at the etching, trying despite the darkness to make out the lines of the dove’s fragile wings, and the man’s strong hands.

  Twenty-six

  Few things could be more embarrassing than taking the Walk of Shame dressed like the St. Pauli Girl. So Jonah lends me a T-shirt and some workout shorts with a drawstring that allows me to cinch them around my waist.

  I almost don’t remember the moment when, half asleep, I let Jonah carry me into his bedroom. But this morning I woke up next to him in an enormous, king-sized bed, and since then he’s been considerate. Almost courtly. The total opposite of last night.

  As Jonah scrambles some eggs for us, I walk around, taking a look at his place in the daylight. His bedroom and bathroom are the only fully enclosed spaces, occupying a bricked-in area at the center of the enormous open space that forms the rest of his apartment. Stainless steel shines in the kitchen, yet the dining table nearby seems to be made of reclaimed woods, rustic and yet somehow perfect here. I circle around to see low bookshelves beneath the wide windows that look out on Lake Austin and the rest of the city—a space defined as the living room by low leather sofas, a Turkish carpet, and the ottoman I remember. Turns out it’s dark red. At the far end of his apartment—the part where I’ve nearly circled back to the kitchen—is a home office with books stacked around his computer, and a seismograph sitting on a small end table. All the lines move slowly and easily—no tremors today. I step around a treadmill to reappear in the kitchen, where Jonah is spooning our finished breakfast onto our plates.

  He’s wearing nothing but boxer briefs and a white tee so tight and thin that he might as well be shirtless. Even after weeks of screwing around, this man’s body takes my breath away.

  Jonah gives me a sidelong look. “Feeling okay?”

  “Yeah, sure. ” I take a sip of the OJ he’s poured into a sleek glass tumbler. “I only had one glass of wine last night. ”

  “That’s not what I meant. ” His hand finds mine, and I watch him examine my wrists, looking for burns from the leather he strapped around them last night. But there’s only one small bruise, no larger than a fingertip.

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  I meet his eyes evenly. “When you go too far for me, I’ll tell you. ” After a moment, he nods.

  I only wish I knew just how far “too far” would be.

  When we sit at the table, I have a good view of my etching, which hangs on the brick inner wall. Jonah catches me looking at it and smiles. “Is that the right place for it?”

  This is your apartment, I want to say, hang it wherever you want—but the truth is, as an artist, I kind of do care about where my work ends up. “That spot is perfect, actually. You get enough light to see it clearly, without so much sunshine that the inks could fade. ” It’s in a place of pride, too, which is always an enormous compliment.

  Jonah uses his fork to push his eggs around his plate. “I’d like to ask you a question. Feel free not to answer. ”

  “Um, okay. ”

  “What else did you read?” He can’t meet my eyes. “From the stuff Kip gave you. ”

  “I learned you ran track. That your house is supposed to be haunted. And—and I learned that your family’s having a tough time. ” That seems like the most tactful way to put it. He’ll have to realize how much I know; the guy can’t be blind to the way the press seizes on his family’s troubles.

  Jonah finally looks up at me. Once again, I see a sliver of that deep-buried vulnerability. “What the media reports—that’s not the whole story. ”

  “I never figured it was. ” I rest my hand on Jonah’s forearm. “You can tell me what you want, when you want. I’m not going to pry. I shouldn’t even have read the stuff Kip gave me. ”

  “No. If it’s in the papers, it’s fair game. ”

  “Well, I haven’t pried any further than that, and I won’t. ”

  He nods, but I can tell he doesn’t entirely believe me. At first I’m offended—but then I wonder whether anyone has ever respected Jonah’s privacy. He can’t believe anyone would willingly give him space and solitude, because he was denied it before. I remember the news stories about a mad mother—my own theories about his anger with her—and feel a pang deep inside as I realize how long Jonah’s been building these walls around his heart.

  Can those walls ever be torn down?

  Not by anyone hiding behind walls of her own.

  We eat breakfast in silence, lovers who have told each other everything and nothing.

  Jonah drives me back home, kisses me gently before I get out of the car. We’re all right—at least, as close to it as we ever were.

  Time to figure out what all this means later. Right now, I need rest.

  So I nap for a while longer, take a long, hot shower, and change into jeans and a sweater. A party as epic as Arturo and Shay’s would need a volunteer cleanup crew the next morning even if Shay could help. Since she can’t, the earlier I get over there, the better. Tidying up will take my mind off the tangle of emotions between Jonah and me.

  When I pull up in front of the town house, Carmen’s car is already parked out front. I expect to get teased about sleeping in—and then maybe about who I slept in with. So I brace myself to face the inquisition.

  I’m not prepared for what I find instead.

  Arturo opens the door without even looking at me. “What business is it of yours?”

  “If you get evicted, who else are you going to move in with?” Carmen’s voice is shrill and sharp—unlike her. “That makes it my business!”

  “We’re not going to get evicted!” Arturo’s face is flushed. This argument has been going on for a while.

  “You spent almost a hundred dollars on beer,” Carmen says as she stomps through the living room, grabbing cans and tossing them in a trash bag she has clenched in one fist. “With a baby on the way! That’s irresponsible!”

  It’s a measure of how close I am to Carmen and Arturo that they think nothing of letting me in while they’re having a bitter argument. Doesn’t make it any less awkward for me. “I’m going to check on Shay,” I say, before hurrying up the stairs. The sounds of their squabbling follow me the whole way.

  I find Shay propped up in bed, holding the ne
w crochet needles and soft white yarn I gave her at her bedside baby shower a couple days after I returned from Scotland. But she’s not working with the yarn, just sitting there teary-eyed. She tries to smile when she sees me, but it doesn’t really work. “They’ve been going on like this for at least half an hour. ” She wipes at her cheeks with the back of her hand. “I can’t stand it. ”

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  “Hey, hey. Every brother and sister fight sometimes. ” This is true, but I feel like a liar saying it. Neither Carmen nor Arturo is the type to shout, especially not at each other.

  Shay sniffles. “It was like Carmen was mad at me for getting pregnant to begin with, and then as soon as she got over that, she turned on Arturo. We saved up for one last party before the baby! Everything besides the beer, other people brought! We weren’t being stupid—were we?”

  I sit on the bed beside her. Despite the fact that she’s a married woman on the verge of motherhood, she looks so much younger than me right now. More like a girl than an adult. “You’ve got all the furniture for the nursery. You’ve started a savings account for college, and this kid is still a fetus!”

  “But there’s day care to pay for too—because I’ve got to finish my degree, or else I’ll just be a lead weight around Arturo’s neck—” By now Shay is breaking down completely.

  “It’s going to be fine,” I promise her. “Okay? You guys aren’t going to get derailed by one last party. ”

  “Did war break out downstairs?” Surprised by the voice behind me, I turn around to see Geordie standing in the doorway, shirtless but still clad in his kilt. He winces at the light coming in through Shay’s bedroom window. “Also, is it November first or have I been out for longer?”

  “You passed out around two A. M. ,” Shay says between sniffles. “Arturo put you on the nursery floor. ”

  “Kind of him. ” Geordie slumps against the doorjamb. His complexion has taken on a ghastly shade of green. “I’m afraid I may be on the verge of getting sick in your toilet. ”

  Shay waves her hand toward the bathroom. “Go ahead,” she says miserably. “I’ve vomited in it often enough the past couple months. Someone else ought to get a turn. ”

  As Geordie stumbles into their bathroom, I hear Carmen yell, “Yes, you do have to justify this! You’re going to be a father, Arturo! You have to justify everything you do that isn’t about taking care of that baby!”

 
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