“I’m not a sub,” Carol acknowledged. “But I’m also not a Domme. I mean—come on! Who wants to see a bunch of grown men crawling on all fours? Not me. Luckily the Fig is anti-label. We’re all just people there. And I’m a person who likes getting bent over some cushy object and tied down naked in a compromising pose by an extremely sexy man.” She shrugged as cutely as she could.
“Then what?” Becca now looked rapt. The rest of the salon was silent. A woman with a head like a tinfoil porcupine reluctantly allowed her stylist to lead her out of earshot of the conversation, whereas Angel’s client grabbed the armrest of her chair to show she wasn’t going to budge.
“Well, that’s really it,” Carol confided. “I mean, spankings are like perms; a bad one is a nightmare, so forget it. Also, I don’t need the extra stim. It’s enough for me to be tied up and left for dead. Especially since I know that when my host eventually comes back, he’ll make me come as often as I want. What’s Christmas without the excitement of anticipation? Am I right?”
The woman to her left had to be in her eighties, but she nodded agreement like it all went without saying.
“While I’m waiting for my hot guy to come back,” Carol went on, “I like listening to the whips and crops and paddles whizzing through the air around me.” Thwap.
She brought her hand down hard on Becca’s counter. Several people jumped and gasped around her. “When something hard makes contact with raw skin, it is the best sound in the world. The screaming is good too. Mostly I love that it’s varied. Lots of shrieks and grunts. Very masculin et féminin
if you know what I mean. Some people beg or curse or cry, and that’s good too, but what I love best…” She paused and raised one sculpted brow to ratchet up the tension. “What I love the best of all is when there’s silence. Just whack
and not a sound. Oh God.” Carol put her hand up to her heart and closed her eyes to savor her own image, rocking slightly in her chair. “An experience like that is hot enough to fuel my sex life well into the New Year.”
Smiling brightly at her nicely spiffed reflection, Carol dug a wad of bills out of her purse, handed it to Becca, and descended deftly from her chair. “Merry Christmas, everyone!”
There were eyes on her as she made her way to the door, so Carol kept the merry pretense up until she hit the street. From there, each block she covered to get home again deflated her synthetic mood until it drooped lower than ever.
God. If only that were true.
Sadly, Figgy’s rented out the club for private functions on the holidays. She knew because she’d checked. There was no merry sex club Christmas in her future.
Of course she shouldn’t fib, but the true answer to, “What are your plans for Christmas?” was just too humiliating to announce in a room full of strangers. Any more sad looks and she might have to go on a gin diet for the day.
A big red hand flashed at her from the traffic light on Amsterdam and Ninety-First. She waited while a row of cabs went by, feeling downright gloomy.
Why did people even ask the question? How about a little sensitivity for Manhattan’s many singletons? What exactly did people like Becca think a childless, husbandless, boyfriendless Type-A business owner would be doing for the holidays?
I plan to eat forbidden carbs while streaming Netflix in my bathrobe. Duh.
For the remaining eight blocks to her building, Carol frowned at the constant reminders of the season. The city had lights strung across the streets and wound around the trees. Shopkeepers added their own blinking images in red and green to the manic mix, and philanthropic associations had bell-ringing, Merry-Christmas people staked at every corner. They might as well be saying, “Carol, you are all alone. Enjoy your Christmas on the couch.”
Thanks a lot.
If there’d been any kind of work to do at her beloved personal assistant temping agency, Now Is Good
, she would have gone right back into the office. Unfortunately, after the amazing numbers they’d had since September and their feature article in New York Magazine
, she’d promised everyone time off. Which meant she had to go home too.
She turned her downstairs key and pushed into the lobby of her building, pausing for a quick peek at the mail before she started the four-story climb to her apartment. Carol took the stairs for the sake of her ass, but there was also the unparalleled excitement of walking past the second floor. Even in her current sour mood, it was a thrill to think she might run into…
BACK SPASM MAN.
Six steps below the landing, she slowed and watched his door appear. It was closed as always. No sounds. No sign of life. Where the hell was he? And what exactly would it take to run into the man again? Another medical emergency?
The day of the back spasms had been Wednesday afternoon, before Thanksgiving. Carol had reached for a pair of patent leather pumps from the top shelf of her closet, and sproing—
her back had turned into a source of crippling pain. Four ibuprofen and a Xanax later, she could just about hobble around. Clearly all the agony had left her in an addled state, because when her girlfriend Eddie had arrived she’d let herself be coaxed into a visit with one of her “alternative practitioners.” Dr. Czerzy, the man’s name was. “Don’t worry, please,” he’d said in his thick, movie-villain accent. “Come, and I am taking care of you.” Without further ado, he’d pulled her panties down and stuck a needle in her ass.
What the syringe contained, she still had no idea. Opiates, she’d have to guess, and maybe big-game tranquilizers. The rest had just been inhibition-blocking, libido-boosting, IQ-lowering disaster juice.
Although, to be fair, it had definitely helped her back.
Eddie had dropped her home in a cab and taken off to work. Carol had been working her way upstairs, teetering, increasingly confused and pausing every third step to re-ask the same three questions: “Wait. Where am I? What floor is this? Am I sure this is my building?
” Eventually she’d turned around, deciding it was best to start from the beginning. Coming up the stairs toward her was Back Spasm Man. She’d looked him over and decided on the spot that he was gorgeous and she loved him and she didn’t ever want to suck a cock that wasn’t his.
“Hi!” she said, examining her prize.
He was tall and broad and dark and nicely suited. If he was also a kind and gentle man, she would have to dock him major points for being such a huge cliché. Luckily, Back Spasm Man did not seem at all nice. In fact, he seemed extremely grumpy. The slight tick in his chiseled jaw said This again,
as though she were the sixth intoxicated woman he’d been forced to deal with on the stairs that day.
She tried inching past him, but her limbs were not cooperating. Carol fell and somehow wound up in his arms. Two pale blue eyes stared into hers and seemed to say, “You must be fucking kidding me.” The facial thought bubbles that followed weren’t much nicer. Why me?
and Now what do I do?
and How the hell did this broad get so drunk when it’s not even noon
For that last one Carol decided to explain. “Back spasms.”
“I’m not drunk,” she insisted, sounding absolutely hammered. “I had some vicious back spasms, and my buddy Eddie who lives there”—she pointed at something that might have been Edina’s door if she’d managed to climb a little higher—“took me to some mad Slav who shot me up with God knows what. LSD, I think, and maybe Ketamine sprinkled with angel dust. Who knows?”
She slid free of his grasp and sat down on the stairs.
Her neighbor towered over her with yet another of his stern and bossy looks. “What are you doing now?”
“It’s fine.” She waved him on. “I’m going to take a little break, because I’m bad with numbers. I can’t count right now.”
“Count,” he echoed. “What exactly are we counting to?”
“Four.” She held up a few fingers—maybe four but probably not. “I live on the fourth floor.”
“Okay. Come on.” He grabbed her by the armpits and hauled her back onto her feet.
She frowned and tried to dodge him, slapping at his hands. “Take it easy, buddy. There’s no touching me without permission.”
Back Spasm Man ignored her protests. Grabbing her around the waist, he frog-marched her to the fourth floor, bumping her back with his front in an extremely rude and sexy way.
“Is this it?”
Carol squinted at the door. It did look right. Too bad. She’d come to like his domineering, beefy vibe and those big hands all over her. She even liked his tiny grunts and his beleaguered sighs each time she made an effort at evasion that required countermeasures on his part.
“Open it.” He let her go and ticked his head toward the door.
Carol concentrated harder than she ever had on anything before, but somehow she just couldn’t work the lock. The second time she dropped her keys, he pushed her to one side and took her place.
In a million years, she never would have guessed how big a turn on terse and tense could be. She loved this snarly guy. He also smelled delicious. The fragrance he was wearing had a subtle and expensive balance of assorted manly spices with a healthy dose of bergamot. Heaven! And the rich and creamy fabric of his fuck-off suit was tasty too.
“What is that?” she said sniffing noisily under his collar.
He straightened. “What is what?”
“Cologne.” She dug her face into his neck and took a giant hit. “It’s yummy.”
He let her maul him without protest which was strange because he hadn’t shown himself to be particularly indulgent prior to that point. When it came to being felt up in a hallway, her Back Spasm Man appeared to be patience itself.
What happened when she’d finally had her fill of smelling him, she couldn’t say. The drug jungle inside her mind got denser. The machete she was using to hack through it got a little duller. The last thing she was clear on was that he’d opened her door, pushed her inside and come in after her.
She was almost positive he’d stood and watched her drink a glass of water and then put the bottle by her bed. It sounded right. It also sounded perfectly in keeping with his commandeering ways. But that would mean he’d watched her take her clothes off.
When Carol had resurfaced from her druggie daze, at the oh-so-convenient hour of 2:47 a.m., she’d found her skirt ditched in a perfect circle right beside her panties which were three feet from the door. Her blouse was on the kitchen table. Her bra was underneath her pillow.
She seemed to have a memory of unhooking it and beckoning to her Back Spasm Man, inviting him to get between the sheets with her. If she closed her eyes she almost heard the echo of her slurred voice saying coy seductive things like, “Oh, come on
. Just get your dick out. Let’s have sex. What’s the big deal?”
And she was pretty sure he’d said, “I’d love to, Bettie, but I try to keep potential jail time out of my sexual transactions. At the moment, you’re too lit to fuck. We’ll leave it till next time.”
. Carol gave his door a mighty frown and tried to call him out through ESP. When the hell was next time going to be? And who the hell is Bettie?
Carol heard a creak upstairs and turned to find her quirky friend Edina hovering half a flight above her.
“Just knock already,” Eddie whispered.
The woman’s whispers were actually louder than her normal speaking voice. Carol had tried explaining many times that the point of the whisper was speaking confidentially, but Eddie stuck to what was basically a breathy yell.
“There isn’t any point in knocking,” Carol moped. “The man isn’t here. You can still see the edge of that pizza flyer from last week under his door.”