Asking for it, p.4
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       Asking for It, p.4

         Part #1 of Asking for It series by Lilah Pace
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  Jonah must have left right after he kissed me. I can imagine him walking back into the house, then out the front door, without even saying good-bye. Apparently no one saw our clinch in the backyard. That’s a relief. The last thing I need is Carmen asking me if I think he’s cute.

  Cute. Jonah is—handsome. Attractive. Overpowering. Hot as hell.

  Not “cute. ”

  I go onto the UT website to look him up. Earth sciences, Shay said. A professor. That’s virtually the last profession I would have guessed for him. Maybe—SWAT team member. Navy SEAL. Hit man. Not a teacher.

  When I pull up his faculty page, the photo there isn’t reassuringly ordinary, with Jonah in glasses or a cardigan or whatever else the PhDs usually wear in their official pictures. Jonah is shown standing outside—someplace rocky, with a broad expanse of sky behind him. He wears khaki pants¸ a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, and a frown, like he wanted to punch the photographer. The frown doesn’t make him any less attractive. He doesn’t look like any professor I’ve ever seen, unless you count Indiana Jones.

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  Professor of Seismology and Volcanology, says the caption. That makes more sense. Now that I study his photo carefully, the rocks beneath his feet look like volcanic stone—that is, if I remember a damn thing from that geology class I took four years ago. I can picture him on the edge of danger, wearing gear that can only barely protect him from the forces nearby, walking straight toward lava flow or an eruption without hesitating.

  With a shiver I realize—Jonah is a man who doesn’t give a damn about danger.

  No more. If I want to get any sleep tonight, I need to stop this. I turn off my tablet and try to settle down. My skirt goes back in the closet; the camisole gets tossed in the hamper. A thin white sleeveless undershirt and panties are about all I can stand to sleep in during weather this hot. The cotton clings to me, so that I can pretend it’s a second skin. Sometimes I sleep naked, but tonight I feel like I want to be more covered up. Less vulnerable.

  My neighborhood is safe, but tonight I double-check the deadbolt on the door. I go to every window to make sure each one is locked. Instead of turning off all my lamps, I leave one burning—the one by the window that looks out onto the street. If anyone drives by, maybe he’ll think I’m still awake.

  By anyone, I mean Jonah.

  He wouldn’t come after me, I think. Mostly I believe this. Jonah swore that he would never force a woman against her will. When he said it, there was something about his voice—something raw, something real. I trust my instincts enough to know Jonah was telling the truth.

  But what if he thought he wasn’t forcing me? He knows I fantasize about rape. He said he wants to give me my fantasy. Would Jonah break in, thinking I was waiting for him? We talked about acting everything out. Breaking in could be part of that. I want to think he wouldn’t take it this far—but with something like this, the lines between fantasy and reality could get blurred much too easily. If I protested, even if I fought, Jonah might believe that was only part of the game.

  He said the ball was in my court. Surely that means the next move is up to me.

  Why am I thinking about the next move? I turn over in bed, restless beneath the thin sheet. This idea is insane. I told Jonah as much. When I said no, I meant it, and that’s the end.

  What I don’t know is whether Jonah accepts that this isn’t going any further. Whether a guy who gets off fantasizing about rape can even understand No. Whether I can trust him. This man asked me to be completely vulnerable to him, to put myself completely in his power.

  And he’s already proved he won’t misuse my powerlessness.

  Jonah’s had me vulnerable and at his mercy before—last Sunday night, when he pulled over to help me with my flat tire. We were out in the middle of nowhere. When I told him that I had help coming, he had to know it was a lie. He’s a big man, obviously strong. If he’d wanted to take me against my will, he could have done it. I’m not sure even that lug wrench would have saved me.

  Now I know his fantasies were just like mine. He saw me. He desired me. He envisioned pulling me into the back of his car, pinning me under his weight—

  But he didn’t. Jonah had me exactly where he wanted me, and all he did was help me out and send me on my way.

  Does that mean I could trust him after all?

  I don’t know. I couldn’t know unless we actually tried this.

  Which is crazy. Unhealthy. Possibly even dangerous. And it gets me hotter than anything else ever has.

  I glance over at the window nearest my bed. That’s one I don’t have to worry about locking; over the past eighty years or so, the window’s been painted shut so many times that it’s practically part of the wall. Nobody’s coming through there, not without slicing himself to shreds on broken glass.

  That’s what makes it safe to imagine Jonah just outside.

  In my mind, the window slides open for him easily. I’m lying here in my skimpy tank top, breathing hard, paralyzed by fear. I imagine Jonah sliding through as easily as a cat burglar, his feet barely making a sound as he makes contact with the floor and stands up, looming over me. He doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t have to. In this fantasy, I know that I have to do whatever he says. What he wants to do to me, I have to take.

  Don’t, whispers the rational part of my brain, the part that knows I shouldn’t go here even in my own mind. My rape fantasies about faceless strangers—those are one thing. Thinking about Jonah, the man who wants to tie me up and take me down for real: That’s a whole new level of fucked-up.

  But I seem to have reached that level at last.

  I wriggle out of my underwear, and my hand steals between my legs. As my fingers start circling, I close my eyes, the better to dream of Jonah standing over me.

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  He has a belt, a rope, something, and he winds it around my wrists. He ties the other end to one of the bedposts, then tugs my body down so that my arms are stretched above my head. I whimper in fear. It just makes him smile. He pulls off my panties, pushes my legs open so wide it almost hurts. I hear the purr of his zipper. It’s too dark for me to see his cock, but I feel the rigid head pushing against me—into me—

  In my mind I keep replaying that, the moment he plunges inside, the first shock of penetration, Jonah’s satisfied groan, my own desperate cry. Over and over again, the first time every time, as fast as he could actually thrust—and then I come so hard it makes me dizzy. Everything is blurred and humming, and I know nothing but the pulse of my cunt as it contracts, wanting the man who isn’t there.

  As soon as I can breathe again, I say, “Oh, shit. ”

  If just imagining Jonah Marks playing this role for me gets me off that hard, what would the reality be like? I don’t want to find out.

  Or maybe I do.

  Either way, I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about Jonah anytime soon. So much for sleep.

  •   •   •

  My entire weekend goes something like this:

  Get up, eat breakfast, exercise. Resolve not to think about Jonah so much today.

  Get some work done in the studio.

  Break for lunch; head home for sandwich. Start thinking about Jonah.

  Masturbate to the thought of him, right in the middle of the day, groaning and panting on my bed.

  Put my clothes back on. Run an errand, or see a friend. Pick out a funny card at the store to send to Libby, so she doesn’t completely forget her Aunt Vivi. Have trouble remembering what to buy at the store, or what to say next in a conversation, because my mind is still chained to the shadow of Jonah Marks.

  Go home. Get myself off again. Toss my wet panties in the hamper and put on a fresh pair.

  Try to think of something fun to do in the evening. Play video games with friends. Listen to music in a club. Spend the whole time imagining Jonah’s hands on my skin.

  Get into bed. Tell
myself there’s no way I can possibly need another orgasm.

  Think about Jonah. Give myself another orgasm. Fall asleep.

  At least I don’t remember any of my dreams over the weekend. Sleep is the only time I have away from Jonah. I go through six pairs of panties in two days.

  On Monday morning, I’m awakened by my iPhone, which offers up the day’s appointments along with the song that rouses me. Squinting, I scroll through the appointments on autopilot, until I get to my usual therapy time. Today it says, Remember: Doreen in Florida.

  My therapist told me a month ago that she would miss two weeks to visit her son in Tampa. I put it in my phone and otherwise forgot about her absence. It’s been a while since I was so fragile that even a two-week break from therapy seemed like a crisis. Now, though, I feel a small shiver of dismay. Doreen would have talked some sense into me. She would have reminded me that I’m trying to get further away from this fantasy, not to wrap myself up in it until it dominates my whole life. I would have walked out of her office refreshed, stable, and ready to get back to normal.

  Instead, Doreen is half a country away, and Jonah is very, very close.

  I throw on cropped pants and a simple white top, slide my feet into sandals, tug my hair into a ponytail, and drive to the university. As usual, merging into the thick campus traffic is a pain; we wind up with a Los Angeles–worthy traffic jam virtually every day. UT Austin is one of the biggest college campuses in the nation—more than fifty thousand students, nearly twenty-five thousand faculty and staff, with 150 buildings spread out across more than four hundred acres. All around me in traffic are undergrads driving to class. Even the lucky few who get to live on campus are sometimes so far from their classrooms that they take their cars instead of walking.

  That said, every college is really a few hundred smaller colleges all wrapped into one. Each building, each department, has its own personality and its own cast of characters. I don’t venture far from the School of Fine Art, as a general rule.

  No doubt this is why I walk up to the building to see Geordie sitting on the metal bench out front. He holds a piece of paper, which he’s crumpled slightly between tense fingers. When he sees me, his eyes widen. Even though he’s clearly been waiting for me, he dreads what I’m going to say.

  He should.

  As I walk up to him, Geordie gets to his feet. “Vivienne, I’m so, so bloody sorry about Friday night. ”

  “You ought to be. ” I cross my arms. “Do you even remember what happened? Or did Carmen have to tell you later?”

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  He scratches his head with his free hand. “I’m not denying it’s a bit blurry. But I remember. ”

  “That was personal, Geordie. As personal as it gets. No matter how drunk you were, you should never, ever have let those words come out of your mouth. ”

  “I know that. I do. ” He looks so earnest. Almost heartbroken, like what he said hurt him more than it did me. Geordie always wants to do the right thing; he just doesn’t always get there.

  This time, though, I’m not letting him off the hook. “I don’t discuss what our sex life was like. Not even with my best friends, and definitely not with strangers at a party. If we’re going to stay friends, you have to do better than this. Do you understand?”

  Slowly, Geordie nods. The two of us stand there in awkward silence for a few moments before he straightens out the piece of paper. “I felt so bad about this that I wrote you a poem. ”

  “. . . a poem?”

  “Yes. ” He stands almost at attention, like a politician about to give a speech. “The title is, ‘I Am a Complete and Total Shit. ’”

  I’m not going to laugh. I’m not.

  Geordie reads: “I am a complete and total shit / sometimes I act like a stupid git / when I become a blabbermouth / all my relationships go south / forgive this lowly wretched wanker / or I’ll be sad, nothing rhymes with wanker. ”

  I can’t help it anymore. Giggles bubble up inside me, and Geordie’s worried face gentles into a smile of relief. I never could stay mad at him for long. “Please tell me there are no more verses,” I say.

  “I felt I’d achieved poetic perfection in just six lines. Less is more, you know?”

  “Yeah. For instance, less intimate details about our relationship, more enjoyable parties. ”

  He puts one hand on my arm—not a romantic move, just a reassuring one. “I swear to you, I’ll never reveal anything that personal about us again. Never. There’s not enough gin in the world to get me that drunk. ”

  I sigh. “Okay. But you’re on probation. ”

  “My sentence is just and fair, Your Honor. ” Geordie squeezes my arm, then steps back. “So, I’ve got to get to class. ”

  The law school isn’t particularly close. “Will you have to run it?”

  “Possibly. But we’re all right?”

  “. . . sure. ”

  With a grin, Geordie turns away to lope across the green. He’s older than almost all the other students, but the way he moves—running, his longish brown hair flopping with every bound—he looks more like a kid than any of them. Shaking my head, I watch him go.

  The teaching assistants all share a space on the fourth floor. The elevators only go to three. I take the steps the whole way—it’s less irritating. Our designated office is as grand as you’d expect: a long narrow room that was probably originally designed as a closet, outfitted with the oldest, most beat-up desks that haven’t already been thrown out as scrap. I don’t really mind. Most of my work is done at home or in the studio anyway. Besides, even as low as I am on the totem pole, I still get to rely on the department secretary.

  “Well, hello there,” Kip says as I walk into the main office. “Not looking nearly as slinky as you did Friday night. ”

  “Oh, no! I meant to wear lingerie to impress my two P. M. class. ” I smack my forehead with the heel of my hand. “Do you have any pasties lying around? Or a G-string?”

  “Wouldn’t you like to know?” Kip gives me a sidelong glance; his quick fingers never stop typing for a second. “I thought you might want to look nice for Geordie. Don’t think I didn’t see him out there, so spare me the sarcasm. ”

  “Geordie and I are just friends now, remember?”

  “Mmmm-hmm,” Kip hums, making it clear he doesn’t believe me.

  When Kip Rucker joined our department last year, I wasn’t sure what to think. Our previous secretary was a grandmotherly lady who wore appliquéd sweatshirts themed for every holiday, including Arbor Day. Kip, on the other hand, wears skinny jeans, oversized designer T-shirts, and nail polish. It takes courage to be as out as Kip is, here in Austin; we might be the bluest city in the great red state of Texas, but this is still Texas. So I admired his guts from the start, but couldn’t imagine him fitting in. He has a big mouth and a bigger attitude and doesn’t give a damn what anyone in the world thinks of him. Usually this is not great secretary material.

  Within three weeks, Kip had restructured our entire office. Suddenly we’d become efficient. He turned around work faster and more effortlessly than any of us had dreamed possible. Even the old coffeemaker vanished, replaced by a newer model that produced actual coffee instead of blackish sludge.

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  When we asked him how he managed that, he said he knows people in food services. We soon learned that Kip knows people in every single department of the university. Somehow, all these people seem to owe him a favor. I think Kip could take over as dean if he set his mind to it. Possibly as dictator. I’m just glad he’s on our side.

  This morning, Kip’s nails are cherry red. I take his hand for a second. “Nice shade. ”

  “Thanks. You can borrow the bottle if you want. ”

  “Not today. Maybe sometime. ”

  I go through the side door into my skinny little suboffice. Neither of the other TAs has come in yet; Marvin’s got class right now, and Keiko never puts in office
time before noon. That means I have a little while to myself.

  The computer chimes on. Our home page is the university’s site, so it only takes a couple of keystrokes to get into faculty—and to bring up the page for Jonah Marks.

  Once again I look at his picture. I’ve spent all weekend imagining his face near mine—giving me orders, calling me names—but the sight of him hasn’t lost its power over me. If anything, he overwhelms me even more.

  Maybe that’s because he’s closer than ever.

  Before I can chicken out, I click the link for his university e-mail. A letter form pops out, Jonah’s address at the top, ready for me to type. I don’t bother putting anything in the body of the e-mail; everything I have to say to him fits in the subject line.

  I type, Let’s talk.

  And then I hit send.


  Here in Austin, most bars are raucous places meant to serve either the live-music scene, the crowds of college students with fake IDs, or both. This hotel bar, however, is more sophisticated, more low-key. Instead of the usual blaring alt-rock, R&B music plays softly from hidden speakers around the room. Pale leather couches and chairs cluster in various nooks to encourage conversation and create privacy. The other people here are mostly adults, and nearly as many people hold coffee cups as wineglasses.

  I hesitate before I order my own drink. It feels important to keep my head—but I’m already nervous. Caffeine would tip me over the brink. Pinot noir it is.

  The couch tucked in the farthest, most intimate area of the bar is available, so I claim it. I came here early on purpose, so I’d have a few moments to collect myself before Jonah arrives. Now I’m wishing I hadn’t. While I sit here, I have nothing to do but freak myself out.

  It’s not too late to walk out of here. E-mail Jonah, tell him you can’t make it, go out to your car and drive the hell away while you still can.

  I don’t move.

  By now I’m used to the second-guessing. I’ve been doing that ever since I sent that e-mail to Jonah two days ago. His reply was simply this address, this day, this time—and the line, “Just to talk. ” At first I found that maddening. He couldn’t express surprise, enthusiasm, doubt, anything? Not one question, not one detail, about what he’s thinking? Then I realized this conversation is one that has to happen in person. We have to be completely clear about this, in every detail. Otherwise everything could go terribly wrong.

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