Asking for it, p.7
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       Asking for It, p.7
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         Part #1 of Asking for It series by Lilah Pace

  The pressure and pleasure build inside me with every thrust. Every way Jonah’s hurting me, humiliating me, only makes it better. I push against his hands, not because I think I can get him to let me off the desk but because the fight turns me on even more.

  This. This is what I daydreamed about. What I’ve gotten myself off to for years. A man claiming me, using me like an animal, just like Jonah’s using me now. Pumping into me harder, and harder, and harder—

  A gasp, dizziness as everything else falls away, and then there’s nothing left of me but the orgasm that takes me over. I clench around him, arching up involuntarily into his thrusts, as the world goes black.

  It’s never been this good. Never. Jonah Marks just made me come harder than I ever have in my life.

  As I slump back onto the desk, reeling from pleasure, Jonah starts going even faster—so fast no man could hold back for long, and he doesn’t. In moments he’s shouting out, his eyes tightly shut, as his fingers dig into the soft flesh of my arms. His skin is as heated and sweaty as mine. He thrusts one more time, so deeply that he’s buried in me, then goes still.

  For a few seconds we stay like that, breathing hard and barely able to move. Finally Jonah pulls out of me, tugs me up from the desk, and tosses me onto the bed. Like I’m something he’s done with and throwing away. I hear him sit down heavily in the desk chair, but I don’t turn to face him. I just lie there sprawled across the covers, completely wrecked.

  Page 25

  Always, I believed that if I ever acted out my rape fantasy the way I wanted, this would be the moment where I started to regret it. My pride would return. I wouldn’t be able to believe I’d abased myself like this, that I’d let a man treat me like a possession he owned. No matter how good the sex had or hadn’t been, I thought, afterward I’d be so ashamed it wouldn’t be worth it.

  I don’t feel ashamed. Not at all. Even sore and bruised as I am, I’ve never felt better. Jonah is exactly what I always wanted.

  “Hey,” Jonah says. He’s himself again. Role-playing over. “Are you okay?”

  “Yeah. ” I manage to roll over to face him. The remnants of my dress don’t cover my body at all, and I feel strangely shy in front of the man who just fucked me senseless.

  I understand the impulse. In some ways, we’ve just seen each other for the first time.

  “You’re sure?” He leans forward, though he’s careful not to come too close. Jonah is as sensitive to me now as he was brutal a few minutes before. I nod, and he frowns. “But you’re shaking. ”

  “—I can’t help it. ”

  He gets up from the chair. Jonah’s still mostly dressed—his shirt flaps loose on either side of that perfectly defined chest, and once he’s ditched the condom he tucks himself back into his boxers, zips his jeans. I can only lie there, boneless and exhausted, as I hear water running in the bathroom. Then Jonah emerges with a glass in one hand and one of the hotel bathrobes in the other.

  “Come on,” he murmurs as he helps me sit up. He holds the tumbler for me as I take a drink of water, then sets it by my bedside. With gentle hands he pushes the rags of my dress off my shoulders and drapes me in the soft white robe.

  I never thought Jonah could be this caring.

  He brushes a stray lock of my hair from my cheek. “Was that what you wanted?”

  “Yeah. ” For the first time in my entire sex life, I don’t have to lie. “That was exactly what I needed. Like you read my mind. What about you?”

  “You were perfect. ”

  His gray eyes meet mine. He doesn’t smile, but his expression somehow gentles. Jonah leans forward. I tilt my head to meet his lips in a kiss.

  This is nothing like the searing, almost punishing kiss he gave me at the party. This is soft, even tender. He kisses me as though I were something fragile and precious, only moments after he treated me like a whore.

  I will never understand the contradictions of this man.

  Then he pulls back, and just like that, he’s cool again. He gets to his feet and begins buttoning up his shirt. It’s as if he has an appointment later.

  “Are you staying in the room tonight, or do I need to get you a cab home?” Jonah’s voice is businesslike. Crisp.

  I try to act casual. “I’m staying. ”

  “You had a few drinks at the bar. You should eat something. Feel free to charge dinner to room service. ”

  “I thought the guy usually bought dinner before the sex. ”

  If Jonah hears my joke, he doesn’t acknowledge it. He tucks in his shirt and glances in the mirror to check his hair. Some of my lipstick is smeared across his cheek. My torn panties lie crumpled on the desk; he uses the white fabric to wipe the lipstick away.

  I feel stung. But why? Jonah and I agreed—the less we knew about each other, the hotter the sex would be. So far it’s been scorching; that means we must have been on to something. He’s playing this cool, and I should as well.

  “Thanks,” I say as I fold the robe more closely around me and burrow back into the pillows. “I enjoyed this. ”

  Jonah looks back at me then, and he’s not quite as stiff as he was a moment before. “I did too. ”

  My body is still weak, but I have to ask, “Does this mean we’ll get together again?”

  “You can’t get enough, can you?” He pauses for only a moment. “I’ll be in touch. ”

  With that, he’s out the door. I’m alone with my torn dress, my sore body, and the aftermath of the most exhilarating rush I’ve ever known.

  •   •   •

  The weekend I thought would be filled with regrets is instead the best I’ve had in a long, long time. Room service delivers an excellent steak that night and an even better omelet the next morning. I drive home to my house singing along to the radio. After I’ve thrown away the ruined dress and underwear and deleted those “fail-safe” e-mails unsent, I meet Carmen at the farmer’s market. She notices nothing but a small bruise on my arm that I write off to an accident in my art studio. That afternoon and evening, I’m even able to get some work done on my thesis. The distracting fever dreams of Jonah’s hands on my body—for now, at least, they’re at low tide. I’m completely sated, totally satisfied.

  Page 26

  Sunday afternoon, Shay and I go to the movies. The comedy turns out to be fairly stupid, but I giggle helplessly at every dumb joke. “What’s gotten into you?” she teases as we toss our popcorn box away at the end.

  “Nothing. ” I shrug. My smile must look incredibly smug, but I can’t help myself. “Just in a good mood today, that’s all. ” Having the best sex of your life will do that.

  The intensity of the pleasure I had with Jonah buoys me up. Even more important, though—I faced down my demons. I claimed what I really wanted. All these years I thought that fantasy would burn me. Instead I walked through the fire unscathed.

  Take that, Anthony. You don’t own me anymore.

  But I try not to think too much about Anthony Whedon. He doesn’t get to ruin one more day of my life.

  On Monday morning, I’m still sore. I don’t even care. Already I want to know when Jonah and I can play out our roles again.

  “Look at you,” Kip says when I walk into the department office. “What’s got you so aglow?”

  How is he so perceptive? It’s like a superpower. I try to act nonchalant. “I went to the day spa. Had a facial. ”

  “Likely story. ” Kip’s phone rings, saving me from further questions.

  I dart into my office and quickly type an e-mail to Jonah.

  Subject line: Take Two.

  Body: Should we talk sometime soon? Work out another night?

  Only a split second after I hit send, my inbox chimes with a new e-mail. The bolded subject line is Out of Office Notification. Frowning, I click on it. The automatic reply text reads:

  Dr. Jonah Marks is currently away from the office and will not be checking e-mail. Any q
uestions should be directed to the earth sciences department.

  Luckily there’s a phone number for a secretary’s direct line. I wouldn’t want to call the office and get Shay. The less any of my friends know about my connection to Jonah, the better.

  I hesitate one moment before dialing. Jonah did say he’d get in touch with me—which might mean he wants to make the next move. At this point, though, what’s the point of being coy? Finally I decide I’ll just find out when he’s going to be back, whether it’s tomorrow or three days from now, whatever. That way I won’t drive myself crazy wondering if he’s about to contact me. He can take charge when he returns. I smile, thinking about how good he is at taking charge.

  Then my smile fades as the earth sciences secretary says, “Dr. Marks won’t be returning to the university for some time. Can another professor assist you?”

  “What do you mean, ‘some time’?”

  “Several weeks, I should think. ”

  Weeks? Before I can catch myself, I blurt out, “He didn’t say anything about being gone for weeks. ”

  “He only alerted the department this morning. ”

  So, a day or two after we acted out the most intimate sexual fantasy imaginable, Jonah got the hell out of town. He walked away from the university—away from his job—away from me.

  I thought I’d found the perfect arrangement. The perfect sex partner. Instead I’ve been blown off and left behind.

  Nine

  The first couple of days, I can’t fully believe it. I keep opening the e-mail with his out-of-office message, like I think it will say something different this time. It just seems impossible. How do you share something that intimate—demand that level of trust—and then walk off without even a word?

  I don’t let people in much. Seems like Jonah doesn’t either. So I would have thought that what we shared—a connection, no matter how fucked up it is—I would’ve thought it would matter more to him.

  Apparently not.

  By the end of the week, I’m moody. Angry. For long hours I sit in my cramped office, grading papers without mercy, bearing down so hard with the red pen that occasionally I scratch through the paper. Nobody says anything to me about it, but Marvin and Keiko seem to give me more space in there than usual, and one afternoon Kip brings me a macchiato, placing it on my desk without a word.

  Carmen calls, tempting me with a night of Tex-Mex and beer, but I tell her I don’t feel like going out. I give the same answer to Shay and Arturo when they ask me over for a movie night, and to Geordie when he tries to get me to accompany him to a wine tasting at Apothecary. For now I want the peace and quiet of my house. I want my walls around me, lined with books I can escape into, and no reminders whatsoever of Jonah Marks.

  The following Monday, Doreen has returned from Florida, and it’s time for me to face the music—in therapy terms. I don’t hide things from Doreen; what would be the point of going to a counselor if I did? Although I don’t describe the sex in detail, I go through everything else: Jonah’s audacious offer, our erotic negotiation, and the night itself. Doreen must be in shock, because she keeps saying, “I see,” over and over, which is how psychologists bunt. I have a feeling we’ll be unpacking this for a while.

  Page 27

  Two weeks after my night with Jonah, it all changes. The emotion I least wanted to feel creeps in, takes over.

  Shame.

  I let a near stranger pretend to rape me. I play-acted something so horrifying, so violent, that it ruins people’s lives; I ought to know. Jonah came to me with the most indecent proposal of all, yet within a week I was in a hotel room, at his mercy.

  A connection—is that what I thought we had? Now our encounter seems like nothing more than a sick joke. Maybe that’s Jonah’s game. He figures out what women want, whatever fantasy they’re into, and uses it to get some no-strings sex. Then he walks off, looking for his next target.

  (It’s hard for me to really believe that. Whatever else Jonah might be, I don’t think he’s a player. But I don’t trust my judgment these days. )

  Besides, as outrageous as Jonah’s behavior might be, as angry as I am with him. . . . I’m angrier with myself. For someone who’s spent a lot of her life being guarded, I folded pretty fast when the right temptation came along. And that temptation is repellent. Wrong. I should have kept fighting it instead of instantly surrendering.

  Every memory I have of that night with Jonah changes within my mind. At first it seemed so perfect. So liberating. So fucking hot.

  Now I can only think I made a fool of myself.

  About three weeks afterward, I finally decide to stop moping. Back to reality. I pick up an extra macchiato for Kip one morning, to return the favor. “I see your evil twin has finally left the premises,” he says between sips.

  “Yeah, she has a time-share in the Florida Keys. She tries to make the most of it. ”

  “Good riddance. ” He smiles. “Welcome back, darling. ”

  And maybe it’s just that simple. I walk on, and I hold my head high. Nobody except me, Jonah, and Doreen will ever know what happened that night, so I can pretend it was just a really disturbing wet dream. Things would be easier that way.

  Saturday night, I even go out.

  “Oh, come on. It’s almost sunset,” Geordie says as he glances out at the bridge. “When are they going to get started?”

  “Patience,” Carmen says between sips of her wine. We’re sitting on the grassy bank of the lake, a bottle of wine in the open ice chest at the center of our blanket—the perfect vantage point for the best free show in town. It always begins around the time darkness falls, but there’s no predicting the exact moment.

  My wineglass is cool against my palm; the sauvignon blanc gleams the color of candlelight. I’m wearing gray leggings, a long boho top, and more jewelry than I usually bother with. It feels like a special occasion, not that I can explain why to Carmen and Geordie. But I don’t have to explain. I can simply enjoy the moment.

  “So, how was your meeting with Dr. Ji?” I ask Carmen. The graduate program in mathematics is dramatically different from the art department—understandably—and I still don’t quite get how it works. All I know is, Dr. Ji has a lot of say over whether Carmen gets to go on for her PhD.

  She folds her arms in front of her, and her fingers tug at the sleeve of her peasant blouse. When Carmen fiddles with her clothes, it’s a sure sign she’s nervous. “Okay, I guess. He’s so hard to read. ”

  “But your paper is solid. ” Not that I’m a great judge of higher mathematics. Still, I know Carmen—how thorough she is, how bright. There’s no way she would ever turn in anything less than top-notch.

  “The work has to be more than solid,” Carmen says. “It has to be brilliant. ”

  “It’s not like you’ve got to win a Fields Medal to get your PhD,” Geordie says. When Carmen gives him a look, he laughs. “Yes, some of us math civilians know what the Fields Medal is. ”

  I have no idea what that is, but it doesn’t matter. “Come on,” I say to her. “You’ve got this. You always do. ”

  Carmen hesitates. In that moment, Geordie gulps down his wine and points to the bridge. “Here they go!”

  At first we only see a couple of black shapes fluttering upward. Then a few more. Then a dozen. And then an enormous wave, dark, chaotic, and swirling like a tornado rising from the river—a hundred feet high at least, and spiraling outward, wider every second.

  Geordie lifts his glass. “To the bats. ”

  “To the bats,” Carmen and I repeat, and we clink our plastic wineglasses together.

  Years ago, when the bridge across Lake Austin was built, nobody realized that something about it would really, really appeal to bats. Now we have one of the largest bat colonies in the world. Sometimes their nighttime rush from the bridge results in guano raining down on the unwary. (We’re sitting beneath a shady, broad-leafed tree for a reason. ) But everybody
loves the bats anyway. For one, they eat the mosquitoes that would otherwise bite all summer, which is definitely a public service. Mostly, though, they’re just an essential part of the overall bizarreness of this town—one more reason our unofficial slogan is “Keep Austin Weird. ”

  Page 28

  I always wish I could show Libby the bats. She would love that. But that would require a family visit to Austin, which means it’s probably never going to happen.

  The bats disperse for the evening’s hunt. Geordie tells us a funny story about some court case where a house was somehow declared haunted as a matter of law. By the time I’ve finished my glass of wine, this actually feels like a good night.

  “Thanks for the lift home. I know it’s a hassle. Tell me, does anyone remember why I decided to live across the lake?” Geordie says as we head out onto the sidewalk.

  “Oh, come on, it’s not that bad,” I say. My keys are in my palm, and I’m grateful that I’m the one driving. One glass of wine followed by dinner, and I’m okay to get behind the wheel. Geordie had three glasses, and he’s weaving on his feet. “This time of day, I can get you guys home in . . . ”

  I’m parked in front of the bank. As we walk toward my car, someone steps out after a night run to the ATM.

  And it’s Jonah Marks.

  “. . . half an hour,” I finish, without thinking. It’s like my voice has decided to operate independently of my brain.

  He’s wearing jeans that hug his ass, outline his powerful thighs. His white T-shirt is cut in a deep V down his chest. Every ridge of his muscles shows through, reminding me of how powerful he is. How I turned myself over to him, completely.

  I stop in my tracks. Geordie bumps into me from behind. He laughs and says something I don’t even hear. At the sound, Jonah turns his head and sees me too.

  He smiles. He smiles at me, like nothing ever happened. As if he’s glad to see me.

  But only for an instant.

  I don’t smile back. Jonah stiffens. His gray eyes turn stormy, and he turns away, stalking past us without a word.

  “Earth to Vivienne,” Geordie laughs. “Are you all right?”

 
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