Asking for it, p.12

Asking for It, page 12

 part  #1 of  Asking for It Series

 

Asking for It


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  I want all of them.

  I sink into my car and shut the door. Leaning forward, I brace my forehead against the steering wheel and try to catch my breath. I’m flushed and woozy. Next time I should bring a cold bottle of water with me, for after.

  But next time could be anywhere . . .

  The passenger-side door opens, and Jonah gets in. At first I think he’s going to role-play the end of it, telling me he’s fixed my car so I can go home. Instead he gently brushes a lock of hair from my sweaty face. “Are you all right?”

  I nod. “That was—amazing. ”

  “Yeah. It was. ”

  “It’s like—like you read my mind that night we met. You did everything I dreamed you might do to me. ”

  “And you gave in even more perfectly than I dared to imagine. ” Jonah’s hand slides down my bare shoulder, a lover’s caress. “God, you have no idea how good it feels. The way you trembled the first time I touched you—”

  He gets off on my fear, or my simulation of it. Shouldn’t that be enough to make me frightened of him for real? But I crave him just the same. Jonah pushes me past my limits, and I want him to.

  I tilt my head and smile at him. “Not going on any more trips to the South Pole?”

  Jonah laughs—the first natural, easy laugh I’ve heard from him. “No. I haven’t got anything scheduled. ”

  “So we don’t have to wait a month for the next time?”

  “I don’t intend to wait nearly that long. ” His pale gaze drifts to the loose bodice of my sundress, like he might peel it off me again this second. “What do you want, next time? Where? When?”

  There is no end to what I want from Jonah. We could fuck every night for a year and I still wouldn’t have run out of fantasies for him to fulfill.

  Yet the fantasy itself is about losing control. And Jonah knows me so well—or his desires match mine so closely—that I don’t have to give him instructions. All I have to do is turn myself over to him, completely.

  How can I best fulfill his fantasies? By giving him the most control. The most power.

  “Next time,” I whisper, “—surprise me. ”

  “You mean . . . just find you when you’re not expecting it. Take you wherever you are. ”

  Page 45

  “And however you want. ”

  Jonah doesn’t say yes. Instead he leans forward and kisses me, a deep, searching kiss that tells me I’ve turned him on all over again.

  Our mouths part. He whispers, “Good night, Vivienne. ”

  I would tell him good night too, but he’s already halfway out the door. It slams shut, sealing me back into my supposedly normal life.

  But I don’t feel lonely or rejected. I’m beginning to learn the rules. Besides, I can’t stop smiling from both satisfaction and anticipation.

  When he finds me next time, it’s going to be so fucking good.

  Fifteen

  Even though I slept no more than five hours, when I wake up I feel refreshed. Energized. Ready for anything. Faint bruises on my hips remind me of how Jonah held me down, but they don’t hurt. I run my hand over them and smile.

  As I walk to the car, I remember the deal Jonah and I made. He could come after me at any hour—any moment—

  But let’s get real. It won’t be this morning. Hopefully he’s still sound asleep with a smile on his face. Me, I’m going to use this energy to work.

  I indulge myself with a quick spin through Sorrento’s drive-through for a café au lait, then head straight to the nearby studio where I create most of my artwork. Even though I’m studying to be a curator and historian of art, that doesn’t mean I don’t love doing my own work. It’s been too long since I allowed myself to get lost in the flow of it. (Don’t ask me how art school gets in the way of actually creating art, but sometimes it does. )

  Normally I share this space with several other student artists, including my fellow TAs in the department. However, lots of creative types tend to prefer evenings to mornings, and today, at this hour, the studio is all mine. My faded thrift-shop chambray shirt hangs on a nearby hook; I slip it on over my clothes and get to work.

  I create etchings. Although there are several different techniques, and I’ve experimented with most of them, every method of etching has the same fundamental process. You always start with a metal plate; you coat that plate with a waxy, acid-resistant material; you carve the design or picture you want to make into the wax, all the way down to the metal; and then you pour the acid. The acid bites into the metal, cutting your lines into it permanently. Then, when you ink the plate, you reveal a pattern you can print over and over—each piece of art identical and yet genuine, never faded by repetition.

  Today, I’m making prints. Although I’ve done several etchings as part of my graduate work, this one in particular is special to me—that image of a man’s hands cradling a dove. Every line actually looks precisely the way I envisioned it while I carved the wax—which you’d hope for every time, but that result is rarer than you think. The image also captures a theme I like to explore in my work: the juxtaposition of strength and fragility.

  I remember Jonah gently brushing my hair back from my face before forcing me to deep-throat his cock. My fragility, his strength.

  And yet there’s that hunted, haunted quality to him too—and strength within me, which Jonah must sense. He wouldn’t trust me to handle this fantasy otherwise.

  His phone call last night tells me that my being okay with this is important to Jonah . . .

  I pause. Inking while you’re distracted is a bad idea.

  And Jonah Marks is one hell of a distraction.

  Since I don’t have a class to teach today, I don’t go into the office until afternoon, and I don’t bother changing into one of my professional outfits. Instead I just ditch the chambray work shirt and head to campus wearing dark jeans and an apple-green wrap top. When I walk through the door, Kip is deep in phone conversation with someone at FedEx about a professor’s package gone astray, but he raises his eyebrows at me. This is Kip-speak for We have to talk.

  I wonder what gossip he’s dug up this time? Maybe Keiko’s boyfriend finally proposed. He’s been hinting around about it long enough. Whatever it is, Kip will have all the juicy details.

  No memos are waiting for me in my department box, so I plop down in my rickety desk chair and check my work e-mail. Amid the flurry of essays turned in at the last minute by undergrads and the usual campus announcements, one line jumps out immediately—because this note is from Jonah. I sit upright and click.

  Vivienne—

  I loved your suggestion last night. For hours I couldn’t think of anything else. Picturing it in every detail kept me awake half the night.

  My toes curl inside my loafers, and I breathe out, hard. I think about Jonah lying in his bed, hand around his cock, already on fire to have me again, and the image makes me go warm all over.

  Page 46

  Don’t worry—I’m going to surprise you. But we need to lay some ground rules. You should know that I’m not going to approach you in any situation where you would normally be worried about your safety. Nor will I attempt to break into your house. You should always be ready to protect yourself, and you won’t be if you assume anyone watching or following you would have to be me.

  Jonah doesn’t know me well enough to know I’m always ready to protect myself. My guard is always up. Still, I like that he considers my safety even in the maddened heat of our mutual fever.

  On some level, Jonah is always in control.

  I promise the next time won’t be three whole weeks later. But that’s all you get to know—for now.

  Jonah

  P. S. —I don’t think anyone actually monitors campus e-mail but we might want to switch to our personal e-mail addresses. Just in case. Should’ve thought of this before.

  His e-mail is listed just after. The postscript makes me smile. I hit repl
y.

  Jonah—

  Don’t worry. I’ll be ready for anything.

  Vivienne

  And I toss in my real e-mail in parentheses, after my name. No sooner do I click send than a new boldface entry shows up at the top of my inbox—but this one is from Kip.

  V, my darling, duty calls. I’ll be in the bursar’s office the rest of the day—

  What in the world could he need to do in the bursar’s office? No telling, but I have a feeling that by the end of the business day, yet another university official will owe Kip a favor.

  —but we absolutely have to talk. Free after hours? If so, come to Sigmund’s around 5:30. First beer’s on me. See you there?

  K

  My first impulse is to refuse. Tonight I need to dig in to these essays; they promise to be excruciatingly bad, and the longer I put off grading them, the longer the task will hover over me like a gray, rain-fat cloud. More than that, though—I want to be alone with my thoughts. With my memories of Jonah, all of them, from the savage way he took me last night to the dark promises implied in today’s e-mail.

  But no. I’ve never been one of those women who cancels the rest of her life the first minute a guy comes onto the scene. This is no time to start. If Kip asked me to drop in at a bar we like on the average night, I’d probably go.

  So, after a couple hours’ worth of grading, I take myself off to Sigmund’s.

  Like pretty much everywhere else in Austin, the bar’s atmosphere is casual with a side of wacky. Various graffiti artists were invited inside to tag the walls in brilliant Technicolor, and the tabletops have campy old advertisements from the sixties and seventies under the glass. I slide onto a bar stool at a table where the Breck Girl grins up at me from between her shellacked waves of golden hair.

  Kip strides in only moments later, a brilliantly colored scarf around his neck. “You made it. And looking gorgeous too. ”

  “Thanks. ” I tilt my head so Kip can give me a kiss on the cheek. “You don’t look so bad yourself. ”

  He touches the scarf at his throat. “This old thing? Glad you like. Aren’t you glad the weather’s finally turning chilly? At last we can layer and accessorize our outfits, as God intended. ”

  In Austin, “chilly weather” means temperatures in the low sixties. Jackets and scarves emerge from the backs of closets to show up on the street once again. I smile at him and say, “I think you said something about buying the first drink?”

  “Name your poison. ”

  “Corona with lime. And thanks. ”

  I needed something like this, I think. Some time to kick back with a friend and think about something besides my extremely unconventional sex life. Which is why it’s so startling when Kip returns with our drinks, puts mine in front of me, and says, “Let’s talk Professor Jonah Marks. ”

  Although I don’t do an actual spit-take with my beer, I come close. “Excuse me?”

  “Sources report that you were apparently emotional and beside yourself in front of the campus Starbucks the other day—and Mr. Marks seemed to take pointed interest in this. As if, perhaps, he was the reason for your upset. ”

  “He wasn’t. ” Maybe Kip will let it lie there, but I doubt it. I try distraction. “What do you mean, sources? Do you own the baristas too?”

  “Nothing happens on this campus that I don’t hear about sooner or later. My eye sees all. ”

  I groan. “You’re like Sauron in Lord of the Rings. ”

  “Except with less powerful bling. Now, fess up, darling. ”

  Page 47

  “There’s nothing to confess,” I lie, then switch to the truth. “I’m not dating Jonah. ”

  “Still merely considering it?” Kip nods, as if he expected this answer. From his Lisa Frank messenger bag he pulls a manila folder. “Good thing I took the liberty of preparing this dossier. ”

  “A dossier? Kip, this is epic overkill. ”

  “You don’t get to be Sauron of UT Austin by half-assing it. ” He pushes the folder toward me, covering the Breck Girl’s vapid smiling face. “Behold the many secrets of Jonah Marks. ”

  Secrets? What does Kip mean?

  No. Jonah and I have to trust each other. He hasn’t broken his word or pried into my life. I won’t pry into his. “I don’t know how you dig up dirt, but I’m not interested in going through anybody’s private information. ”

  Kip scoffs, “This is hardly private. Almost all of this comes from CNN. A bit of Wikipedia too. ”

  “. . . why would Jonah be on CNN?” Did he appear as an expert on earthquakes, maybe? But Kip wouldn’t bother showing me anything like that.

  “It’s not so much the man himself as his family. I suppose you hadn’t realized Jonah Marks is of the Chicago Markses. ” When I look at Kip blankly, he adds, “The ones who own Redgrave House?”

  “I have no idea what you’re talking about. ”

  “Do you not even glance at tabloids when you’re in the supermarket line? Never mind. I’ll give you the swift overview. ” Kip rifles through the papers he printed out for me before presenting one that pictures a Victorian house nestled amid high-rises. Yet it doesn’t look out of place; the house possesses a kind of dark glamour and power evident even from this badly reproduced photo. Stone tile covers the outside, and the large door is flanked by enormous statues a story high, which have been carved as if they were struggling under the weight of the enormous arch between them.

  “National Registry of Historic Places,” Kip says. “Site of some of the juiciest stories in Chicago history, thanks to the wild and varied history of the Marks family. And our good professor’s childhood home. ”

  Now that I think about it, I have heard of Redgrave House—probably on some TV show about notable architecture. In that area of Chicago, so close to downtown, the lot alone must be worth tens of millions. Since Jonah’s family has never sold the house, they must be able to leave that cash on the table.

  It’s not like I hadn’t realized Jonah was well off; he drives a nice car, tips generously, and dresses better than any other straight man I ever met. Still, nothing about his possessions or demeanor ever suggested he had this kind of money. Was he one of those snot-nosed prep-school kids whose head is inflated by entitlement before age fifteen? Surely not. Somehow, despite being surrounded by riches and privilege, Jonah has maintained a sense of priorities. And he pursues a challenging field of study instead of just living off his trust fund, which shows character.

  “Okay,” I say, affecting even more nonchalance than I feel. “Jonah comes from money. What does that matter?”

  Kip pushes more papers toward me. “The money doesn’t matter unless you’re out to marry your fortune, in which case, you’re on the right track. But you’re not that sort. You want the classic good guy, don’t you?”

  It’s a rhetorical question. A few months ago, I would have said yes. But Jonah has taught me that I like a little badness too.

  “Of course our professor isn’t one of my intimates. No doubt you already know him much better than I do, so I don’t want to judge him. And perhaps he’s worked through all of his issues. Because the boy has issues, doesn’t he?”

  Oh, thank God it’s too dark in here for Kip to see me blush. “Uh, we all do. ”

  “Not like these. ” Kip points to the news story in front of me, and my eyes widen as I read the headline.

  HALE: MY WIFE IS A DANGER TO HERSELF AND OTHERS

  At first I don’t get it. “Isn’t this—that guy Carter Hale?” I know him from the cover of business magazines—he owns some chain of luxury hotels, I can’t remember which. And there’s been some kind of gossip about his family lately, but how is that relevant here?

  Kip answers my unasked question: “Carter Hale is Jonah Marks’s stepfather. ”

  Which means the woman in the headline is Jonah’s mother.

  This is Jonah’s life. This is none of my business—or Kip’s either. I gla
re at him. “Why are you digging all of this up?”

  Page 48

  “For one, clicking the link on CNN’s home page hardly counts as ‘digging. ’ For two, people have a right to know if they’re getting mixed up with serious Greek-tragedy shit. And for three . . . as far as gossip goes, this is good stuff. Better than anything Kim and Kanye have come up with in a while. ”

  “Kip—”

  “Will you just read the story already?”

  I’m tempted to push the paper back and tell him where he can file it. And yet this was on CNN. National news. Jonah might assume I know about it already.

  Don’t I need to know as much as possible about this man I’ve given so much trust?

  Lawyers speaking on behalf of hotel magnate Carter Maddox Hale today told a Cook County judge that Hale’s wife, heiress Lorena Marks Hale, should be forcibly committed because she represents a danger to herself and others.

  Testimony submitted to the court today reveals an incident in February of this year in which Mrs. Hale reportedly held a handgun on her husband for a period of nearly two hours, threatening to kill him and then herself. Mrs. Hale has previously been treated at inpatient mental health facilities for depression. He also alleges that she has made numerous threats to the lives and safety of those around her in the past several years.

  However, Mrs. Hale’s lawyers deny the February incident and point out that Mr. Hale made no police report then or at any other time during the marriage. Absent documentation of Mrs. Hale’s criminal acts, legal experts say, a judge is unlikely to commit her against her will.

  Even as the courtroom battle goes on, the couple continues to live together in the landmark Redgrave House near downtown Chicago—though reports indicate husband and wife now occupy separate floors.

  Both Mrs. Hale’s legal team and lawyers employed by her children from her first marriage to Alexander Marks argue that Mr. Hale is acting not out of concern for his wife’s health but in an effort to gain sole legal control over the family’s substantial financial holdings—which include Mr. Hale’s hotel chains, Mrs. Hale’s inherited wealth, and a substantive interest in Oceanic Airlines stock. Alexander Marks, Mrs. Hale’s first husband and the father of her two adult children, cofounded Oceanic Airlines in 1975; she inherited a controlling interest in the airline upon his death in 1988.

 
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