“I’ll never be able to fall in love. I think I need to see a shrink,” Kari said. She and her best friend, Naomi, had just returned home from clubbing and were both a little tipsy, a lot exhausted, and after commiserating over drinks about their current single status, both feeling very alone.
Naomi kissed her. “I’ll always love you.”
“I’m being serious.”
“Is there something you’re not telling me?”
“What do you mean?” Kari asked. She watched Naomi tromp out of the room, only to return with two beers.
“In your childhood, did something happen to you?” Naomi handed one to Kari before flopping down beside her on the green sofa.
It wasn’t a regular, run-of-the-mill sofa. It was faux fur in a hideous shade of green that reminded everyone who saw it of Oscar the Grouch.
“No! I had a perfect childhood,” Kari lied. It wasn’t any of Naomi’s business, and she didn’t want her friend pointing fingers at her grandparents for problems in her sex life. That was just gross. “I just think a shrink would help me figure out what’s wrong with me. Tell me why I can’t form attachments. It doesn’t matter if the sex is horrible or over the moon, I don’t feel anything.”
Kari took a long swallow of beer, liking the way the cool liquid burned the back of her raw throat. They’d screamed every song the band had played all night, and now she was paying for it. She slid her fingers through the matted fabric of the old couch, remembering the day she saw it. Her father had bought it for her because she wouldn’t leave the store without it, throwing a temper tantrum worthy of an Emmy. She closed her eyes, trying to remember her father’s face, but only remembered him tossing her into the air so that she fell into the sofa’s overstuffed cushions.
“So, what? You don’t orgasm?”
“Yes, I orgasm,” Kari snapped, opening her eyes. She wasn’t going to admit she’d never orgasmed with a guy, not even to her best friend. “How else would I know if it was over the moon? I meant emotionally.”
“The only thing wrong with you is that you haven’t met the right man yet. I wish you’d let me introduce you to Julian.”
She rolled her eyes, trying to make her eyes look really dramatic as they rolled because sometimes you could miss the eye roll, and it was important for Naomi to know she just wasn’t feeling it.
“All your friends are into weird shit.”
“Hell yeah! And we have a lot of fun.” Naomi grabbed her hands, her black-polished nails biting into Kari’s skin to enforce her sincerity. “Just one date.”
“I don’t know; maybe.”
Using her cell, Naomi dialed Julian.
Kari knew Naomi well enough to guess her intent and tried to grab the phone away from her. “Wait. I didn’t mean now. Or anytime soon. I’m not ready for this. I have to think about it.”
“What’s to think about? Just talk to him.”
“No!” Kari stood, meaning to leave, but her legs got tangled around her six-inch platform boots. She sprawled on the floor, beer foaming over her hand and down her arm.
“You said you don’t feel anything, but you’re shaking like a leaf at the mere thought of meeting one of my kinky friends. That means your adrenaline is flowing.”
“Sure, fear! I want to feel love!”
Naomi switched her phone to speaker so they could listen to the ringing sound together, and then a man answered. “Allo?”
“Hey, Julian, it’s Naomi.”
“Love, how are you?”
Kari wondered how she was ever going to say no to a guy with a British accent. They wouldn’t have sex in the first hour or anything. She’d at least make him take her to dinner. She whispered, “He sounds gay.”
Naomi gestured W-E
with her fingers. Whatever
. “I want to introduce you to someone. She’s shy, not in the lifestyle, but I think you’d have a lot in common.”
“Meaning you think she’d enjoy BDSM if she gave it a try? Or meaning I ought to explore my vanilla side because I haven’t found love in kink circles?”
Kari felt herself blushing and was glad he couldn’t see her through the phone.
“Meaning, I think you’ll like her. I think she’ll like you. All I’m asking is for you to give her a call and see where it leads. Okay?”
“You have me on speakerphone. That means she’s there with you.”
Naomi clicked it off speaker. “Actually, I was on speaker because I just did my nails and I didn’t want to smear the paint. Will you call her?” A break in the conversation. “She’s really shy; I don’t know if she’ll do it.”
Naomi closed the connection and looked at Kari expectantly. Curiosity was killing Kari.
“He said for you to call him.”
* * * * *
The next morning she awoke to find Naomi had already left for work, but she’d sent Kari a text with Julian’s phone number and a photo attachment. The photo took her breath away. He was wearing spiked chrome cyber goggles and a white scarf over his nose and mouth. Very incognito. She laughed because she could very easily imagine herself -- wearing her black and silver corset, black taffeta skirt, and buckled leather platform boots -- beside him in the photo.
She called and liked the way he answered the phone. “Allo.”
“You don’t know me; I’m Naomi’s friend.”
“So Naomi’s friend. Tell me about yourself.”
She laughed nervously, realizing she hadn’t told him her name. “I’m Kari,” and then spent the better part of half an hour telling him everything she thought was most important about herself. When she was certain she’d said just enough but not too much, she asked him to tell her about himself.
“I’m sure Naomi already told you that I’m a sexual sadist. I won’t apologize for that.”
“Actually, she didn’t, but I assumed you were one of her kinky friends.”
“You’re completely vanilla.” It was a statement, not a question, and that ruffled Kari. He made it sound like she wouldn’t be any fun at all because she wasn’t into bedroom games. She considered hanging up on him for principle’s sake, but he asked, “Dinner tonight?” before she had a chance.
* * * * *
Julian was over a half hour late, though he had texted to explain he’d had a conference call run overtime. A conference call?
She was immediately turned off because if he was a businessman, he’d be stodgy...and old...neither of which were appealing, and for the hundredth time she wondered why she’d even considered Naomi’s matchup. Curiously she watched him approach from his car. His hair was dark and shoulder length. She decided it was too long for any businessman she’d ever met before. He was tall, lanky, and dressed all in black: long-sleeved black dress shirt, narrow black tie, and black slacks. She wondered if Naomi’d coached him.
“So sorry,” he said after she’d opened the heavy wood door. A screened door stood between them. “I came straight from the office, so I didn’t have a chance to change.”
Kari swallowed, speechless, having never been on a date with anyone as strikingly handsome by half. He had strong facial features and wide green eyes fringed in the longest, darkest lashes she’d ever seen on a man.
His eyes were outlined in black kohl.
Now she knew Naomi’d coached him. “Please come in.”
“I left the car running, for the air-conditioning.”
Kari frowned, trying to not pass judgment. Everyone in southern Florida treated central air as a necessity, not a privilege. “Oh. I never use air-conditioning.”
“It’s fairly miserable out here, and I didn’t want the car to heat up again. Black interior,” he said, as if that explained everything. “If you’re ready?”
She realized he wanted her to come out.
“Of course.” She bit back the acid comment that she’d been ready and waiting on him.
He got brownie points for taking her to a vegetarian cafe, which meant he really had been paying attention to what she’d chosen to tell him about herself. As they ate, she got thrown off balance because their dinner conversation didn’t turn out to be like any she’d ever had on a date before.
He asked, “Where were you raised?”
“Do your parents still live here? Do you live with them?”
She didn’t answer either question, not at first. She couldn’t remember ever telling a guy, not even after half a dozen dates, about her parents. “My parents died.”
God, did I really say that?
Now she felt sorry for him because he’d truly seemed sincere, and she felt bad for shocking him into an uncomfortable silence. She’d learned a long time ago that you just don’t tell people the truth all the time. “No, no, it’s okay. I hardly remember them. I was six when they died. I don’t ever even think about them.”
He leaned forward, pressing two fingers gently to her lips to get her to stop talking. It was a bad habit, rambling when she got nervous.
“Who raised you?”
“My grandparents, my mother’s parents,” she answered, surprised he hadn’t asked her how her parents had died. It seemed like everyone she had ever told immediately wanted all the gruesome details. He scored high for not making her tell him. “That’s how I ended up in sunny Florida, retirement capital of the world.”
“Tell me about them?”
“They were ancient as stones. Wrinkled, wise, they got a handful when they got me. Granddad always blamed grandmom for spoiling me rotten, and of course my grandmother said it was all his fault. I never heard the word ‘no.’”
Julian smiled, and it was a beauteous smile. He’d seemed so austere until that moment. “They sound like good people.”
She nodded, not knowing what to say. It was always hard to talk about her grandparents without sounding ungrateful. How could she say My grandmother was an alcoholic
or My grandfather slept most of the time and could never remember my name
without seeming ungracious? She pressed her lips together. This was why she never told anyone anything about her childhood. It was too weird for words. Kari tried to think of one good thing.
“She made the best sugar cookies ever. I loved coming home from school and finding the house scented with fresh-baked sugar cookies. My granddad always wore a cardigan, even in the summer, and his constant companion was his pipe.”
“What flavor tobacco?”
“When did they die?”
Kari looked at the desert on her plate, suddenly not interested. She hated admitting they were gone too. “Five years ago, granddad died from pneumonia. He’d always suffered dementia from Alzheimer’s and had a smoker’s cough, but I don’t think grandmom realized how desperately ill he was and blamed herself. She suffered a heart attack at his funeral...and died there...beside the casket. He was eighty-two and she was eighty-six. They were old. Really old.”
She didn’t know why she’d said so much. Maybe she was assuring herself they’d had a long, full life. Or maybe it was because Julian seemed so easy to talk to.
He patted her hand but didn’t say anything, which was a good thing in her mind. She hated when people said I’m sorry
or How horrible
. Thankfully that was the end of Julian’s twenty questions. He suggested they walk on the beach, and it was strangely romantic because he’d unlaced her army boots and rolled her acid green and royal purple striped thigh highs down her legs so that she could walk barefoot in the sand.
“I never come here during the daytime,” he admitted. “I’m not a big fan of the sun.”
“Me either. Do you miss the UK?”
“Not as much now as I did. When we first moved here, I threatened my parents with running away every day, but I couldn’t figure out how to get back across the ocean.”
“Yeah. I’ll move back home someday.” His voice held such longing, she thought she might be feeling the stirrings of love in her heart. Most likely it was only lust even though when he took her home, she was still unsure about whether she wanted to invite him into her house or not.
Julian stepped around an obvious drawing on the ground. “There are symbols drawn in chalk on your porch.”
, powerful voodoo.” She laughed. “The Goth Girl has some skills. This is the house I grew up in. Once upon a time it was a nice neighborhood. Lately it’s not quite as safe as it used to be. I think the thieves and the punks mostly leave me alone because they fear me.”
Kneeling, she pointed at the first symbol. “This is Aret...for protection of home and family.”
She touched the second symbol. “This one is also for protection; though it’s usually used in cemeteries, I wanted to use it here because it represents Maman Brigette.”
Julian knelt beside her, met her gaze, and placed his hand over hers so that they were both touching the heart. “I think it’s very appropriate. Many believe the power of Maman Brigette is also seen in the mythology of Brigid or Bride. Powerful women. Healers. Warriors. Passionate.
He was so near and the energy passing between them was thick with sexual anticipation. She bit her lip, expecting a kiss. She knew she’d base her decision on whether to invite him in or not on how well he kissed.
Except he didn’t kiss her.
Confused, she stood and unlocked her door, and turned to face him. This was his last chance to secure an invite inside. If he didn’t kiss her now --
Without warning, he sat down on one of the wooden chairs and pulled her facedown over his lap.
Kari struggled, but he held her in such a way that she couldn’t escape. He spanked her hard. She couldn’t believe what was happening, seeing white light, stars, feeling fear...
He released her, and she ran to the other side of the porch, bottom smarting, heart racing. “What the fuck?”
“Is your heart racing? Palms sweating? Head pounding?”
Yes, all of those.
She refused to say anything. She was so mad, she couldn’t think of anything to say. Then it dawned on her that they were in plain view of any neighbor who happened to pass by or look through their windows. The front porch offered absolutely no privacy. “Anyone could have seen!”
“And that embarrasses you?”
“No. I don’t know. I just think you should go.”
He stood and smiled. “You’re feeling something for me
right now. You can’t be sure what it is, but there is definitely emotion running through your veins.”
Kari gasped. “Naomi told you about our conversation? That was private!”
He chuckled as he headed toward his car, and she hurried inside, slammed the door, locked it, then raced around the room closing all the shutters. It was a long time before her heart stopped racing because every time she replayed the moment in her mind, it started racing all over again. And she couldn’t stop thinking about it. It disturbed her deeply.
She was hiding, but she wasn’t afraid...at least not of him.
If anything she wanted him -- she was turned on, wetter than she’d ever been -- and that she didn’t understand.
Later, lying in bed, she watched the clock’s time tick relentlessly by. Unable to distract her thoughts from her tingling ass another second, she climbed out of bed and went to the bathroom to look at her bare bottom in the mirror. There wasn’t a mark, not even any redness to prove what had happened actually had, and she found herself disappointed. She spread her hand out over her hip, remembering how it had felt for his hand to hit her.
She felt like she shouldn’t be thinking about it. These were the games of Naomi and her kinky friends. “I’m not kinky!”
She smacked her ass to prove it, leaving her handprint, pink and angry-looking, against her pale skin. She wished it was Julian’s handprint. She wanted to look and see it so she would know for a fact it wasn’t a dream, a hallucination.
She called him, knowing it would take him at least forty-five minutes to get home, and he didn’t seem the type of guy to go to bed straightaway. She guessed he would still be awake. He answered on the third ring. “I’m sorry to call so late; did I wake you?”
“No, not at all. I stopped by Jaegers on the way home.”
She knew Jaegers was a sports pub on the other side of town and wasn’t exactly surprised he hadn’t gone home. He certainly wasn’t the kind of guy who would toss and turn over a bad date.
“I shouldn’t have called. I’m sorry.”
“Kari?” The sound of music coming through the phone dropped considerably, and she realized he must have stepped outside because there was a rush of wind over the speaker. “I’m glad you called.”
“I-I...” Kari stumbled over her tongue. “I’m sorry I overreacted.”
He chuckled. “You reacted. I like honest reactions. Don’t apologize for that.”
She thought he might apologize for taking her by surprise, for spanking her, but he didn’t, and she wasn’t quite sure where to take the conversation from there, which left a monstrous silence she was forced to fill with a heavy sigh.
“Kari?” He said her name softly. “Why are you calling me?”
She thought about how she’d felt while he was spanking her -- the heart-pounding fear -- and how she wanted to feel it again. Could she admit that to him -- that she wanted to feel emotion again, even if it was fear? She stayed silent because she was so confused she couldn’t even begin to put it into words.
“Are you there?” he asked.
“Yes,” she whispered. “I’d like to see you again, and I feel like I blew it tonight.”
“I’ll call you in the morning, and if you’re still interested in a second date, we’ll set it up, okay?”
Hanging up, she knew that’s what she wanted. She wanted a second date. But she lay in bed, still tossing and turning, because the phone call hadn’t helped. She didn’t understand why she was so worked up over this guy. She never felt anything when she was with
someone. And why, as she slid her fingers through her damp slit, was she thinking about his hand coming down on her ass?
The next day she was exhausted from not sleeping and laid on the couch, flipping television channels randomly as she entertained the idea of not answering the phone when he called. No man was worth this much brain space. Honestly, when had she ever thought of any man so much? Never.
But when the phone rang, she jumped to answer it, knowing if she didn’t answer it, she’d never forgive herself. She had to see him again.
The phone call didn’t go anything like how she’d planned it in her head. She’d been going to take charge of the situation and let him know she would enjoy dancing or dinner and a movie, but she didn’t want him to think of her as kinky.
“You know I’m going to spank you again.”
“Yes,” she whispered; her pounding heart demanded it.
“I want our second date to be special, memorable. I want to be the guy you never forget.”
Kari swallowed hard, her pussy clenching at the dark promise of his words. She imagined his hand coming down on her bare bottom, his fingers sliding between her thighs to find her wet and ready. Oh God.
Holding the phone with her chin, she unzipped her pants and slid her fingers into her panties. She was wet, so wet, just from Julian’s words.
“Kari? Are you still there?”
“Yes. Yes, Julian, I’m here.”
“It’s important that you dress exactly as I tell you. Do you understand?”
She was confused. He wanted her to wear something special? “I understand.”
She teased her clit with her fingers, thinking it might be fun to come while she listened to his voice.
“I want you to wear white cotton panties and a white cotton bra, no frills. I want you to wear a pull-on knit shirt and a flared skirt that hits above your knee. Do you understand?”
She frowned. She’d never had anyone tell her how to dress before. She didn’t know that she liked that. She didn’t even own a flared skirt. She knew cotton skirts were popular right now, but they weren’t really her taste. She’d only ever seen them in bright floral or ethnic prints. This would require shopping.
She imagined bending over his lap and having him push up her skirt. Would he leave her panties over her bottom? Or would he pull them down, exposing her skin. Her pussy tightened with the thought, and she slid a finger inside to feel her muscles squeezing.
Heat flared against her fingers. Just the thought of being spanked again was making her so damn horny.
“I can’t wait to see you,” she told him, and it was the truth. She’d never been so excited about a second date in her life.