“Put your hands between your legs and spread the lips of your pussy.”
When there was no reply, his next question came quietly, but with the increased authority that made her tingle. “Are you doing it?”
She swallowed nervously. “Yes.”
“Close your eyes,” he instructed. “Move the forefingers of your other hand over your clit, but softly. Barely graze it. Move them lower, over the inner folds.” He paused. “Are you wet?”
She’d been talking to him long enough to know his sighs as well as his words. This one indicated irritation.
“You aren’t doing it.” There was stern disappointment in his tone, and she wondered how he even knew, given there was an ocean between them.
She glanced over at the cell phone, her heart pounding as if the man behind the cool British accent might somehow jump out of the tiny speaker.
“No,” she admitted, hoping the speaker didn’t pick up her voice. But he’d heard her. Touching herself had never come easy for a woman who was raised to hate her own body. It had gotten easier, with him, and she loved it. But sometimes it was still difficult.
“When we are finally together next week, when we are more than just pictures to one another, I will punish you for this.” Another pause. “And for the other things on my list.”
She has no doubt that he meant it. Her pussy clenched with need, and she wondered if he’d give her permission to use the vibrator later. She glanced over at the computer on her desk, where his picture served as her background. It was a private picture—one he’d never made public on social media or used on the ‘About the Author’ section of his books. This was one he’d sent just to her. In it, he was standing against a stone wall, rolling hills of emerald green behind him. He wasn’t smiling, but he wasn’t frowning either. He looked thoughtful, intense. She liked this picture better than any other, not just because it was hers alone, but because whenever she looked at it, she was instantly drawn to the eyes. The gaze had always held her, and even now she fancied he was watching her as she obediently parted her labia with trembling fingers.
“Sir.” She breathed the word, then moaned a soft exhale of breath.
“Obeying now, are we? That’s my good girl.” Soft words of praise after the promise of discipline precipitated the shudder of her first small orgasm. She may not even need the vibrator; some nights she didn’t. Sometimes the memory of his words alone was enough to bring her off.
“I want you to spread those smooth lips of your pussy. Spread them wide. And I want you to shift your hips forward as you keep your legs apart. I want you to work your fingers up and down over your slick, wet inner labia. I want you to think of me as you do this. I want you to think of how I’ll have you seated just as you are, my hands underneath, cupping your smacked bottom, my tongue lapping away your sweetness as you open yourself to me like the good girl I know you can be.”
The wave was building again. Her eyes closed. Calling on her imagination was easy. She did it every day at her job, helping others visualize and bring messages to life. But this was so much better, imagining him—the man she’d longed for before she even knew him—possessing her, those elegant hands squeezing her buttocks as he tasted what was his.
“Don’t touch your clit.” She almost jumped in the chair, a chill running down her spine. She’d been about to, and moans of pleasure turned to little whimpers of frustration.
“Believe me, love. If I were between your legs, I’d be tasting everything but that. Your sweet, slick flesh would be the main course. Your delightful clit would be dessert. But only when I was ready.”
Her pussy pulsed at the description, her clit throbbing with the aching need to be touched. Her stocking-clad toes curled against the hardwood floor. He was touching her from a continent away, stroking her with his words.
“How wet is my sweet girl now?”
She threw her head back, her dark brunette curls spilling down the back of the chair. She could feel the arousal pulsing from her pussy. The chair seat beneath her was wet with it. She’d had six lovers in her life—actual physical lovers—and none of them had ever gotten her as hot as the man on the phone.
“So wet.” She moaned. “Please… can I come?”
“Now, now… you know better than that. Ask me properly. And correctly.”
He’s correcting my grammar? For some reason, this excited her even more. She was the naughty student to his professor, her favorite fantasy, and the first she’d confessed to him. She asked him properly.
“May I come… sir?”
“My Kitty may come. She may touch her clit. Her finger is my tongue. Flick it… Mmmm…”
She obeyed, imagining looking down to see the top of his dark head between her legs, to see his thick dark hair. And this time when she came, she cried out so loud she worried the neighbors might have heard. But she was past caring, her back arching so hard that her bottom left the chair, the waves of pleasure so strong that they nearly took her breath away.
She felt suspended on a cloud of pure sensual bliss, and when she floated back down to sitting, she placed a hand on either side of the seat to steady herself.
“Kitty? Kitty?” His voice drifted back to her, calm, purposeful. “Pick up the phone.”
She reached over, fumbling on the table, picked it up, switched it off speaker mode, and pressed it to her ear. She could smell the arousal still coating her fingers.
“Sir,” she said. “I’m here.”
“That’s better,” he said. “Speakerphones are convenient, but there’s something so intimate about having you talk directly into the phone. I can imagine you, sitting in my lap, your lips pressed to my ear. I can almost imagine your warm breath tickling my earlobe as you speak the words in that lovely, lilting voice of yours.”
“Oh, sir…” She curled her feet beneath her and leaned her head against the chair’s railing. She imagined herself in his lap, and swallowed the sob of regret already forming in her throat.
“Did you get your ticket, Kitty?”
A pang, painful, centered in her chest. She glanced at the computer screen, at those intense eyes. She looked away. “Yes,” she lied. “I used my frequent flier miles.”
“I’d have happily paid for it.”
“It’s okay.” She tried to sound casual. “It didn’t cost me anything.”
“I respect that you want to be independent, but after today, I pay for everything. Understand?”
She nodded, swallowing, her finger tracing the top of her stocking. “Yes, sir.”
“You have all the information?”
She hoped he’d attribute the quaver in her voice to excitement. “Brookside Inn, Room 212, Victoria, British Columbia. I’m to be there at six in the evening on Saturday.”
“Good girl.” She heard the clink of ice in his glass. It was cocktail hour in the U.K. She knew that because he had told her of his regimented routine. Breakfast at seven—usually eggs over easy and toast with jam, although on Wednesdays he enjoyed a traditional English breakfast with sausage, baked beans, mushrooms, and half a tomato. Afterwards a brisk walk around his duck pond. Since they started talking, he’d treated her to several pictures of his small estate through all four seasons. Her favorite part was the pond. There was a bench by it, under a willow. Her most enjoyable daydream involved his sitting on that bench, her at his feet as the fall leaves swirled around them.
She startled. “Yes?”
“I cannot wait to see you. I cannot wait to run my hands through those auburn tresses, to spank your sweet little bottom until you beg me to stop and fuck you.” He grew quiet for a moment. “Two days, love. That’s all that stands between us now. Two days.”
“Two days. Yes.” The truth rose in her like a bubble, the pressure of it pressing against her from the inside. Her idealistic side sparred with her rational one.
Just tell him! He’ll understand!
Don’t be an idiot. He’ll never understand. He’ll hate you.
“I’ll see you then,” she said quietly.
“Yes. Until then. Goodbye, my little one.”
The soft click as he hung up might as well be a gunshot killing everything she’d ever wanted. She drew her knees up, hugged them to her, and sobbed. She wanted to curl up there, in that chair, and just fade away. But she couldn’t. She had to move on. She was hardly the first woman to do something stupid, to get carried away by her emotions. A mistake like this could only destroy her life if it was repeated. She’d consider this a lesson.
She rose and walked over to the computer, looking at his image on the screen. Each morning since she’d made his photo her screensaver, she’d look at it and imagine him saying something new. Now she imagined him saying, “Shame on you.”
She hastily clicked on the Safari web browser icon, pulling up the Facebook page that mercifully blocked out the picture of the man she’d never met in person but desperately loved. And now, staring at her instead was Kitty Klein, the fake name of the woman she’d been pretending to be.
“You’re the one he wants,” she said, staring at the profile picture of the auburn-haired beauty smiling from under a floppy straw hat.
A sob rose in her throat, one of those painful ones she knew would break with ragged rawness if she let it. She willed herself to force it back down.
“No!” Her tone was one of a self-loathing scold. “You don’t deserve to cry. You did this to yourself. You did this to him, too.”
It was harder than she ever imagined, going to her settings, clicking on the security link, and then choosing ‘Deactivate Your Profile.’
Are you sure? Facebook wanted to know—a safety net, just in case she changed her mind. Facebook reminded of her options, suggesting she simply hide the profile instead.
But she was sure. She couldn’t allow the temptation. She couldn’t allow the deception the existence of the profile represented. With the click of a button, the auburn-haired beauty she’d been impersonating was gone, vanished from social media without a trace.
Next she clicked on her email folder marked ‘Sir’ and deleted everything—from the first email she’d sent him, to the reply she’d not expected, to the most recent note telling her what time to call, and what to be wearing when she did.
The final step involved going to the website for QuikPhone, where she deleted her account and disabled the phone she’d bought just to talk to him. There was a box at the foot of her bed. She opened it, willing herself not to pick up the books inside, not to caress the creased covers or peek at the dog-eared pages filled with the highlighted passages that had inspired her, words that had saved her life, words that had made a total stranger her hero.
She’d read once that if you suddenly severed a limb, you’d not feel it at first. And that’s how she felt now. Numb. She knew that when the feeling came rushing back, it would be excruciating.
But the break had to be made. Tomorrow she’d take the box with the books and the phone to Goodwill. She’d drop it off, the last traces of her Almost Perfect Life gone forever. Then she’d wait for the blood to rush back into her heart, and begin the daily struggle of trying not to think of what might have been.
King Zepherus hacked through the thick, twisting vines obscuring the doorway of the keep. The Wizard’s Keep had been abandoned for centuries, had been waiting for someone to arrive with the kind of magic needed to reawaken it. The thickest vines obscured the door itself, and he knew his sword would do no good here. He raised a finger, made a symbol in the air, and invoked the incantation. Then he stood back, waiting.
The vines unfurled and the door opened. His welcome, his sign. He was meant to be here. Here, he would fulfill his destiny. And hers.
From Kings of Autumn
“I could show you something more modern.”
“No. This is the one.”
The realtor was sitting at the table, staring at him, and he knew when she said ‘more modern,’ that what she meant was ‘more expensive.’ But he didn’t want to see any more houses. As soon as they’d turned into the driveway, he’d known this was the one he wanted.
“You’re sure?” She pressed him, but softly, the gel tips of her fingers—the same shade of pink as her suit—softly drumming on the stack of listings piled in front of her. A smile plastered to her face didn’t quite reach her eyes. The disappointment in her voice was palpable.
“Sure, the setting is lovely. But this place is old, and so much for a bachelor with no family to maintain.” She shook her head and made a tsking noise. “And then there’s that basement. It’s not even finished.” She began to rifle through the listings. “Before you make a final decision, let me at least show you this house in Creedmoor that would be perfect! Open floor plan, walking distance to a Whole Foods, and a basement that’s been turned into a multimedia room with a…”
He cut her off. “This is the house I want.” He was standing with his back against the cabinets in the gourmet kitchen—the only part of the old farmhouse that had been updated, and delivered the statement with an authoritative stare coupled with a tone of finality. “Can you make an offer, love?”
He studied people when he talked to them—when he had to talk to them—and noted the way the realtor shifted in her chair, dropped her eyes, the way her tongue darted out to wet her lips as her face flushed through layers of pancake makeup.
“Of course,” she said, and stood, gathering the listings and placing them in a folder she hugged to her chest as she moved toward him.
“Offer them six-hundred and thirty,” he said.
“The asking price is seven. I’m not sure if they’ll…”
“Cash.” He cut her off. “Today.”
“Oh!” Her eyes widened, but with effort, the brow above them smooth as glass. Botox. She was a handsome woman chasing youth, covering her age with an unconvincing veneer. It made him sad to look at her, so he looked away and out the window.
The long lane they’d traveled to reach the house was shrouded in mist. The farmhouse and twelve acres that went with it was nestled between gentle rolling hills and a patchwork of farm fields separated by hedgerows. It felt like home here. Good. Too much of a change would be distracting.
“It comes furnished at least, although if it’s not your style I can recommend a hauler to come pack everything up.” The realtor was trying to be helpful again.
“The furnishings are fine,” he said.
“You never said what brings you to Brooks Point? Do you have friends here? Family?”
“The need for solitude, Ms. Hunt,” he said. He turned to her now and smiled. “I’m a private man who likes his privacy. And I’m connected to other wealthy clients I can refer to you, but only if you’re discreet.”
She was smart enough to take the hint. “Of course. I’ll call the owners with your offer. I’ll be in touch as soon as I hear something. If you could just return the key to the lockbox on the front door when you leave.” She waited for a moment, then turned away.
He was relieved to hear the click of the front door, then more relieved to hear the rumble of her Mercedes SUV as it headed down the drive into the mist.
An English professor had been the last inhabitant of a home that had once seen life and love before becoming the inheritance of squabbling relatives. As the realtor had shown him around, she had been almost apologetic of the traditional decor. “It’s in dire need of an update. It could stand a few walls knocked out to open it up, some white paint. Ugh. This dark wood is so depressing.”
He’d not told her that the Introvert’s Lair style of decorating suited him entirely. He could already see his collection of books crowding the shelves, a cheery fire in the grate, a snifter of brandy on the study table by the overstuffed chair. He loved the cozy study, the steep staircase, the upstairs hall with its worn runner, the pastoral view from the windows.
But they’d barely spent any time at all in the part of the house that intrigued him the most. He headed there now.
Some basements were damp, but this one was solid and dry, the gray block walls cool. The ceilings in the main part of the house were high; down here they were low. The former owner’s tidiness had extended to even this space. The only thing that could pass for clutter was a shelf in the back, where several steel wool pads sat alongside rusted tins of linseed oil and furniture stripper. The obvious object of those attentions leaned against the wall.
He pulled a string attached to a light bulb and illuminated the corner of the basement for a better look. The bedframe was four-poster and heavy. There were pits and nicks on the wood that had yet to be sanded out, the restoration interrupted by hospitalization and death of the professor before he could complete the work. The professor had been a perfectionist; he could relate to that. He wondered if he had grieved this unfinished project, had longed to buff out those final imperfections, had felt a sense of loss at being denied the final step. He could relate to that, too.
He took another circuit around the room, this time with an eye for what modifications needed to be made for both comfort and functionality.
He reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and pulled out a Cross pen and a small, leather-bound book. He was a planner. The click of the pen sounded unusually loud in the surrounding quiet. He began jotting down what he needed, the growing list satisfying his sense of order, of perfection.
He’d be starting over, essentially replicating modifications he’d made at his other home. But this would be different, unique. It would be easier with this one, now that he’d mastered the hammer drill. The walls of the other basement had been solid masonry. The uneven surface of these walls would require a bit more art, but he was already anticipating the challenge, and the reward of the completed project, of seeing the perfectly recessed screws holding the iron rings fixed and solid.