She tells him what she wants him to buy for her: the size, the shade, the denier. She even specifies a make, and a particular product within the brand.
He considers departing from the script at that point. He wants to exhibit a degree of independence, of control. But in the end, he acquiesces. She has exquisite taste in lingerie, and a knowledge that goes far beyond the surface aesthetic.
Why fly in the face of expertise? he thinks, as he hands a twenty-pound note to the woman at the lingerie checkout. She’s attractive, too young for him by about two decades, and desirable to him on both counts. He smiles at her as she counts out his change, but keeping a check on the most lecherous of his thoughts is not as difficult as it might ordinarily have been.
His mind is already counting down the hours until his rendezvous.
They arrange to meet at a pub in Hammersmith, one right next to the Thames. It’s picturesque enough, and, above all, reasonably discreet for both of them.
He takes the District Line to Ravenscourt Park and walks the rest of the way. The late afternoon sun is more summer than spring. He loosens his tie and slips off his jacket, opting to carry it in his free hand, rather than slung over his shoulder like a poseur.
He arrives first. He orders himself a double gin and tonic and takes it outside. The view from the pub’s garden is across the Thames to the low sprawl of St Paul’s School. For a location with so marked a history in his country’s chronicles of education, he knows hardly anything about it, and cares even less. Bored, he switches his gaze to a passing boat.
“Hello,” she says, in that breathy low voice that always catches him off guard.
“Hello back.” He looks her up and down. Her sleeveless dress is black, stopping just above the knee, with a modest square neckline. The heels on her black leather shoes are so low that the top of her head barely reaches the middle of his face. Her long curls are luxurious, auburn glinting in the sun like embers. She looks willowy, elfin-like. Her legs are bare, just as she’d said they would be.
She arches an eyebrow at his inspection. “Do I take it that Sir approves?”
“He does. Very much.” He tilts his glass towards her. “What can I get you to drink?”
“What’s in that? Vodka? Gin?”
“Gin. And a little tonic.”
She takes the glass from his hand. Her fingertips brush his as she does so, and a low current skitters down his spine. Her eyes hold his across the rim of the glass as she sips his drink. The ice clinking against the inside of the glass breaks the silence.
“I’ll have the same.” She offers him the glass back.
“Keep it,” he says, and turns back to the pub.
He returns with two glasses. He’s only been gone a few minutes, but now there’s a man standing next to her, talking with her. He’s tall and well built, his looks rugged and masculine. His soiled clothes suggest that he does more of his work with his hands than his brain. The stranger gestures broadly with the half-full pint glass he holds in one oversized hand whilst pointing across the water towards St Paul’s. The stranger laughs, and after a moment, she laughs as well.
He comes up on the opposite side of her to the stranger and hands her one of the glasses. Most of the original drink he’d bought is gone. She tips what remains into the new glass and puts the first down on the ground. The stranger takes blatant advantage, staring down the front of her dress as she leans forward.
His rival smiles to himself, but says nothing.
The stranger looks back up and regards him with ill-disguised antipathy.
“I hate seeing a beautiful woman standing alone. So I thought I’d come over and … keep her company.” He says it as though he thinks an explanation was expected.
“I’m sure she was grateful.”
Her warm, faintly lascivious smile takes them both in. “She was. She is.”
The stranger’s expression is warm when he regards her, but his gaze narrows when he switches his focus to the other point in the triangle. “I guess you’d like me to leave now.”
“That’s for the lady to decide.”
The stranger turns on what he evidently believes is his most disarming smile. “Would you like me to stay?”
She places her hand softly over his powerful forearm. “On any other day, I’d love you to. Just not today.”
The stranger considers her answer for a moment, and then nods. He takes her hand, bows his head to place a chaste kiss against the back of her knuckles, and releases his hold on her.
“Until next time,” he says.
“I look forward to it,” she responds.
With a final glare at his rival, the stranger turns and retreats into the pub.
She watches his broad back until he’s gone from sight, and then lifts her glass. “Here’s to us.”
“I liked your friend,” he says, careful to keep his tone pleasantly neutral.
“You heard what the man said. He saw me looking lonely and came over to keep me company.”
“I wasn’t gone long enough for you to feel lonely, let alone to need company.”
She looks up at him from under her eyelashes. “But I’m a needy girl.”
“I should have remembered.”
She smiles. “I’m glad we’re agreed that it was your fault.” She raises her glass again. “Cheers.”
“Cheers,” he says.
They drink in silence. The sun is lower now, and the wind is picking up. The surface of the river is a billion glittering fire diamonds. He watches them until his eyes water. He doesn’t trust himself to look at her right now.
She steps close to his side. He still doesn’t look at her, just keeps his gaze fixed ahead. Staring at the river is vaguely hallucinogenic. She moves closer to him, pressing the outside of her left arm against his right. The contact makes him want to shiver, but he controls it, keeps looking straight in front of himself. He inhales, and breathes in her perfume, the juniper and quinine of her drink, and the underlying faint mint of toothpaste.
“So? Have you brought them for me?” she asks, in her low, breathy voice; the one that she knows makes his balls quiver and his cock unfurl.
“Can I see?”
He sets his glass down on the nearby table and opens the battered briefcase at his feet. He holds out the flat parcel, wrapped in dark blue tissue paper.
She laughs delightedly. “You had them gift wrapped!”
“I would have had to wrap them myself, otherwise.”
“That I would like to have seen.”
“Maybe next time.”
She regards the parcel in his hand. “Are you planning on letting me have them?”
“I suppose I should.”
“Hard for us to play, otherwise.”
He passes her the parcel, but when she tries to take it from him, he keeps his grip tight.
“Child,” she says facetiously.
“But in a man-sized body.”
Now it’s her turn to look him up and down. “You have that much in your favour.”
She snorts, wrests the parcel from him and walks inside the pub.
He’s about to finish his second drink when she reappears. She looks the same, except now her slender calves are sheathed in seven denier barely black nylon.
“Do you like them?” she asks, pirouetting neatly on the spot.
“Lovely. What did your new friend think of them?”
“How do you know I showed them to him?”
“I remembered that you’re a needy girl.”
She laughs. “As it happens, he liked them too. Enough to ask if I’d reconsider sending him away.”
“And did you?”
She smiles enigmatically. “No. Not yet, anyway.”
He laughs, but it sounds harsh to his own ears. “I admire your brutal honesty.”
“And my consistency?”
“Yes, let’s not forget that.” He finishes his drink. “Do you want another?”
“Will you be devastated if I suggest we go somewhere else?”
“A little. But only because I’m enjoying seeing your jealous side. Green brings out the hazel in your eyes.”
He puts down his glass, drapes his jacket over her shoulders because it’s getting chillier, and grabs his briefcase in one hand and her palm in the other. They saunter past the pub. He’s tempted to look through the sash windows, to try to spot his rival, but he resists the urge. A street brawl with a borderline Neanderthal will achieve nothing worthwhile.
But as they leave the pub behind them, he can feel the angry heat in his blood, the adrenalin of annoyance and resentment coursing through him.
She says, “You’re gritting your teeth, you know.”
“Am I? Sorry.”
“Is something wrong?”
He shakes his head.
“Was it him?” She regards him carefully. “Are you jealous?”
He forces himself to laugh. “Why should I be jealous? You’re not mine. I’ve no right to you. If you’d rather be with him, or any other man, that’s a choice you’re entitled to make. I understand that I wouldn’t be able to stop you, even if I wanted to. I accept our circumstances. Jealousy doesn’t come into it.”
“You’re right,” she says, her voice flat calm. But is it a flicker of disappointment that crosses her face as she looks away? It’s too fleeting a moment for him to be sure.
She decides that she wants to eat Greek. He hails a cab and takes her to a place he knows in Shepherd’s Bush. She orders the souvla; he has swordfish. They wash their meal down with retsina and a bottle of Nemea. Several times, she slips off her shoe and toys with the back of his calf. He politely ignores her advances and keeps his own limbs to himself.
They emerge from the restaurant into semi-darkness, onto a high street of ethnic convenience stores, supermarkets and eateries. The array of lit signs of all shapes and colours makes him think of the river’s fire diamonds. She pulls a thin woollen cardigan out of her shoulder bag and slips it on. She rubs the outside of her arms through the wool.
“Where to now?” he asks her.
“To be honest, I’m not sure. I came here hoping you were planning to fuck me. Now I’m not sure that either of us wants that.”
“It’s not too late to head back to the pub. Your new friend might still be there.”
“Yes. He might be.”
He looks at her, waiting for her to make her choice. She regards him silently. Suddenly, he feels tired, exhausted, no energy or inclination to deal with life’s bullshit.
She taps her heel against the slabbed pavement. “Well?”
The tiredness comes in rapid waves, one after another. He longs for her to make the decision for him. He’s not sure that he cares what it might be.
He turns and nods towards the east. “The tube station is five minutes that way.”
“The tube home?”
“Great,” she says, and starts walking.
He catches her and matches her pace. They don’t speak. They enter the station and climb the staircase up to the southbound track.
“Where are you heading?” he asks.
“Why do you care?”
She boards the first Hammersmith and City line train to arrive. He considers letting her go. It would be easier. Probably for her, certainly for him. But at the last moment, he steps through the closing doors. He remains standing, gripping the overhead rail. There’s an empty seat next to her, but he doesn’t even consider taking it. He watches her as the carriage bounces and clacks. She looks straight ahead. To anyone watching, they are complete strangers to one another.
Hammersmith is two stops south. End of the line. “Mind the gap, please,” an automated man’s voice intones. She walks quickly out of the old red brick station and around Broadway, headed for the District and Piccadilly Line terminus nestled at the base of a new office block. He follows ten feet or so behind her, feeling like a stalker. She doesn’t look back at him. He’s not even sure if she realises he’s still with her. She enters the station and descends to the platform for westbound District Line trains. He keeps a respectable distance. She glances once in his direction and then ignores him again. She gets on the first train that stops. This time, he doesn’t hesitate getting on behind her, but he still doesn’t try to sit beside her.
She gets off at the next stop.
Capricious bitch, he thinks.
He follows her off the train. There’s little light left in the sky, just a thin strip of cyan close to the western horizon. Overhead is inky blue, becoming black. They descend to street level and stroll out of the station. There are a few other people around, all of them heading left, towards the main thoroughfare. She makes to follow them, but he grabs her hand and pulls her in the opposite direction.
“What are you doing?” she asks. Her voice is calm. He’s never known her to panic. Not yet.
“Taking you somewhere.”
They cross beneath the bridge that carries the tube lines. There are houses on both sides of the tree-lined road stretching ahead of them, all fenced in with neat bars of black wrought iron. Tall streetlights edge the left hand side of the road.
Instead of walking on, he pulls her into the mouth of a brick-lined alleyway to the left.
“Where are we going now?” This time, there’s edginess to her question, a note of anxious insistence.
“The park,” he says, as though it’s the most natural thing in the world.
“What have you got in mind?”
He says nothing, just leads her further into the darkness, away from the light.
The park is still. With no moon, the only light is that cast from the surrounding streets. He can hardly see her. He leads her into the trees that border the southeastern edge of the closest tennis court, and backs her towards a broad trunk.
“I don’t like it here,” she says quietly.
“It’s empty. The place closes at dusk.”
“If we’re in here, others probably are too.”
“So let’s go.”
“Where? Back to your friend?”
She looks at him with genuine hostility. “I never thought you were the jealous type, let alone-”
He silences her with a kiss. Her mouth is cold to begin with, refusing to co-operate. She doesn’t try to turn away from him, though. He cups the nape of her neck in one hand, slipping his fingers under her cascading tresses until they discover her bare skin. He strokes her there, his thumb resting against her cheek. He draws the pad of his thumb lightly across her ear lobe and she shudders, and then she’s kissing him back, eagerly, hungrily, her clever, greedy tongue seeking his.
He slips his free hand onto her hip, runs it up her body and onto her right breast. She arches her flesh into his possession. The dress’s material is thin enough for him to feel that she’s braless beneath. The peak of her nipple nuzzles into his palm, making him want to tear the dress from her body so he can have her nakedness. He presses his swelling cock against her loins so that she can feel what she’s done to him. She writhes against his hardness, and her mouth slips away from his. She gasps against his ear.
“You’re a fucking pain. You do know that?”
“You’re not exactly painless.”
“I know,” she whispers, and she bites down on his earlobe until his nerve endings can’t take any more.
He pulls her mouth from his flesh. She touches two fingers to the tip of her tongue, and he knows it’s because she’s tasted blood.
“Bitch,” he says, and kisses her again.
The finesse is gone; it’s all about hunger now, about sating a never-ending greed, one that’s simmered for so long. Their tongues clash again and again, as their hands roam across each other’s bodies. She grasps his cock through his trousers and squeezes until the sensations straddle the line between pleasure and pain.
“I want this inside me,” she whispers.
“You’ll have it.”
He reaches down her dress and grasps the hem. He draws it upwards, baring her thighs to the night. His fingernails crackle against the nylon as he explores her. He slips one hand towards the waistband, planning to slide it inside her pantyhose, to plunge it into her moist sex.
“No,” she gasps. “Tear them. Tear them.”
He descends her body, his mouth rubbing her through her dress. He brings her hands onto the skirt, has her hold it up for him. He runs his palms over the slenderness of her nylon-sheathed thighs and feels her tremble. Even in the darkness, he can see that she’s not wearing panties, can see the narrow column of dark hair that points across her mons veneris to the beginnings of her sex. He rubs his face against her mound, his beard catching on the nylon, filling the air around them with static. She groans, grasps at his head with one hand, forcing him against her. He can smell her sex musk, can feel the heat of her lust through the gossamer weave. He wants it to burn him, to mark him forever.
He pulls at the front of her pantyhose, holding the sheer material taut, and then tears at it with his teeth until he’s ripped a hole large enough to get his fingers inside. He strains, grunting as the fabric tears. He holds the hole against her skin and touches her wetness through it, licks her through it. She gasps again, then grabs him by the collar and pulls his mouth back to hers.
“Fuck me,” she orders him between kisses. “Fuck me.”
She breaks away from his mouth, turns around, plants her hands against the trunk and pushes her buttocks out towards him. He lifts her dress and tucks the back of the hem into the waistband of her pantyhose. The convenience amuses him.
He draws his zip down slowly, straining it to one side so that the noise of it unfurling is exaggerated.
“Tease,” she says.
With some difficulty, he draws his fully erect cock out through his fly. Stepping up behind her, he licks his fingers and smears saliva across his glans.
“You won’t need that,” she tells him.
He takes her buttocks in his hands, moulding the softness to his grasp, relishing the firm muscle that lies beneath. His fingers stray inwards, following her curves, stroking the skin of her inner thighs through the sheath of nylon. He finds that the opening he’s rended doesn’t extend far enough back. Griping the sides of the hole, he wrenches it wider, creating the access that he craves, that he needs. Each tug makes her body flutter, makes her whimper.
He slips his hand inside the hole and finds her sex. He cups it, relishing its warmth, its wetness, its pulse against his palm. He draws his hand back and his fingers slip inside her as though they were warm steel and she was oil.
She cries out, and he clamps his free hand over her mouth to silence her. She bites at the flesh of his palm, hurting him again, but he leaves his hand in place as he fucks her with two fingers.
He delights in the way she writhes against the trunk.
“You like that, don’t you?” he whispers close to her ear. He thrusts his shaft back and forth against the back of her thigh. The friction of the nylon warms his skin, burning him gently. It’s appropriate: fire is the element he most closely associates with her.
“Tell me,” he urges her.
“I like it … but I want your cock. I want it inside me. I need it inside me.”
He draws his fingers from her, stroking himself so that the copiousness of her juices is transferred to his shaft. He moves so that he’s standing right behind her. She faces the tree, not looking for him, content to feel.
He feels her heat radiating before he nestles his cockhead into her succulent cleft.
“Yes,” she whispers. “Yes. Now.”
He presses forward, slowly, more slowly than he would have thought himself capable. He focuses on their growing union, fixated upon every millimetre of her flesh as it parts to accept him, as it grasps at him to pleasure him and take pleasure from him, to hold him in place deep inside her.
When he’s in her to the hilt, all that he’s capable of saying is, “Fuck.”
He begins to thrust. She’s so tight, and the sensation of her silken flesh sliding over his is intoxicating, utterly addictive. She’s been his drug for so long. He knows in that instant that he will never be free again.
He holds her about the waist, trying to keep her still so that all of the movement comes from him. She resists his efforts at constraining her, though, tries to force herself back to meet each of his thrusts. He sees her fingers grasping at the trunk, her nails digging into the bark.
Just as he drew her into the darkness, now he is propelling her towards a special kind of madness.
Now he begins to regret his choice of location. If he’d been patient, if they were in a hotel bedroom now, some anonymous place close by, they’d be able to take their time, draw out every moment until it was something…religious. But that’s not possible here. Lingering risks discovery, either by police or security, or by some other interloper who might not be nearly so pleasant. None of these possibilities is appealing.
He takes hold of her by one wrist, brings her fingers to her mouth.
“Make them wet,” he orders her.
She does as she’s told. He guides her hand down the front of her body and places it over her sex. He can feel the tips of her nails against the top of his shaft as he fucks her.
“Make yourself come for me,” he tells her. “I want you to come all over my cock.”
She doesn’t need to be told a second time. She strums her clitoris with little finesse, urging her body to respond to the stimulation.
“Fuck … yes … fuck. Oh yes, yes!”
The sound of her panting only increases his ardour.
Climax renders her incapable of being quiet. He clamps his palm across her mouth again as he buries himself in her spasming cunt again and again. His own orgasm is close now. He can feel it in his belly, in the flesh between his anus and his balls. He welcomes its familiar approach, precursor to the waves of pleasure that are so vital and yet so fleeting.
The ultimate irony.
As the first jet of his seed spurts inside her, he bites down on the side of her neck, just above the clavicle. Right where a vampire seeking sustenance would bury their incisors. Sex and death, indivisible from one another. Immortality through illusion.
She cries out and thrusts her arse against him.
No wonder ‘Twilight’ was such a hit with women.
The insanity passes quickly for both of them. He withdraws his now-wilting flesh from hers, steps back from her, passes the back of his hand across his fevered brow. He feels ridiculous with his slick, naked cock sticking out of his trousers.
“Fuck,” he says again.
“Fuck,” she says, half-smiling in the dark. She regards her ruined pantyhose. “I’m glad that you paid for them.”
“Worth every penny.”
She laughs softly. “I wish I’d left my panties on.”
He scans left and right. He detects nothing moving between the patches of coal blackness, hears nothing beyond the drone of traffic two hundred yards to the south.
“Do you want to put them on now?”
“No.” She fiddles with the waistband of the pantyhose until she has them arranged as she desires. “This will have to do.”
“Until we get to a hotel. You’re not planning on sending me home like this, are you?”
He shakes his head.
They leave the park by the same route that they entered. A tube train rumbles by above them, the carriage lights illuminating them intermittently as they negotiate the alleyway. It occurs to him that they’ve been lucky, that they’ve taken a hell of a risk and gotten away with it. It makes him feel sick and elated all at once. He wonders if that’s the reason for her half-smile, for her reticent laugh.
He relaxes a little when they finally reach the end of the alleyway.
Back in the light, they make their way down to King Street. Safe in the middle of civilisation, he turns to her, but before he can say anything, she speaks.
“You took me in there to fuck me because of that man, didn’t you? Because you thought that was where I was going – to try to find him. Because you were jealous and angry.”
He looks away.
She regards him for long, silent seconds. Her gaze is accusatory.
He tries to think of something conciliatory to say, but the words won’t come. Instead, he looks up and down the road for sight of a taxi.
“I think it would be best if I got you home.”
She shakes her head. “You don’t get off that lightly. Take me to a hotel and make love to me. Then I want to go to sleep, so you can wake me up in the middle of the night and make love to me again.”
He looks west. “There’s a hotel two minutes’ walk from here. It’s not-”
“I don’t care what it is or where it is. Just take me there.”
As they start to walk, she hooks her arm inside his and snuggles into him.
He looks down at her. “Were you on your way to look for him?”
She pulls herself tighter against his arm. She looks up at him, from under her eyelashes.
“I suppose we’ll never know, now.”