by Nicola Abnett
He didn’t drink very much champagne. She realised that she was drinking it more quickly than he was, and she slowed down. It was very good, and so was the steak, and, while they were eating and drinking and the food was so good and the champagne so delicious, words didn’t seem very important.
It crossed Kat’s mind, while she was biting into a generous chunk of buttery, bloody meat, that she had not read any J.J. Horner. She wondered whether she ought to, but decided that it was too late now; anything she read now would be read in his voice, with his intonation. She knew him, she had kissed him, he had seen her naked, and that would colour every word of his that she read.
She looked at him as she took another sip of the champagne, her mouth full of a pleasing pulp of steak and a foam of bubbles.
He stopped eating, swallowed, appeared to push his tongue into the gap between his incisor and premolar on the left hand side, pushing his top lip out, slightly, and then flicked the bulb of flesh at the centre of his top lip with the tip of his tongue.
Kat blinked, wondering when she had last seen anything quite as sexy. She put her glass down, and told herself that was the champagne talking. It had to be.
“I’m not entirely sure what I should do with you,” said Joel.
“Really?” asked Kat. “I should have thought that was obvious.”
“You should?” asked Joel.
Kat glanced around. The waiter was charming and discreet, and she had no desire to discomfort him. He was a few yards away to her left.
“What do you want to do with me?” asked Kat.
“There in lies the problem,” said Joel.
Kat glanced again at the waiter, who had turned, and was walking slowly away from them, towards the kitchen.
“You could just take me upstairs and fuck me,” she said.
“Yes,” said Joel, pulling the napkin from his lap and tossing it onto his dish.
“I didn’t mean right this minute,” she said. “I haven’t finished with my steak, and I was rather hoping for dessert.”
“There’ll be plenty of time for dessert later,” said Joel, “one course is plenty.”
Kat lifted her champagne glass and took a long sip from it. Then she put down her fork and lifted the last sliver of steak out of her dish between her thumb and forefinger. She swirled it around in the remains of the sauce until it clung to the rich, red meat, and then she lifted it to her mouth. When she was finished, she licked her fingers, before wiping them on her napkin, which she, too, tossed into her dish, and then she took one last, long sip from her glass of champagne.
Kat stood before Joel did, and took him by the hand to lead him to the lift.
Joel held her hand firmly, pulling her arm tightly against his side so that she had to stop right next to him, right next to the table. He leaned over, took her napkin carefully out of her dish and found a clean corner of it to wipe a spot of sauce away from just below her bottom lip.
“Control freak,” she said as he relaxed enough for her to lead him away from the table.
“Slattern,” he said.
They did not kiss in the lift.
They had not kissed since the time they’d last been in a room in this very hotel. It had started out being fun, exciting, exhilarating, but it had ended up being something more than that, something more than a promise.
Kat realised that she couldn’t quite catch her breath, that she didn’t quite know what to do with her face. A smile seemed stupid somehow.
She wanted it to be over. She wanted something to happen... anything. She just wasn’t sure what it would be. She breathed a little too deeply, and looked at the pattern on her boots.
Then she looked at Joel’s jeans. He had a hand in his pocket. That really was a great pocket with fabulous stitching and a beautifully proportioned rivet.
She found herself looking at the intricate pattern printed on his T-shirt. It was gorgeous, timeless. She loved her job.
the lift seemed to be taking forever. The last time they’d been in a lift together... This lift, surely? The last time they’d been in a lift together, she’d kissed him. She hadn’t even thought about it, she’d just done it, and the lift had arrived at their floor before she’d given the kiss a second thought, and before the kiss had been over.
This lift, propelling them to the very same floor, seemed to take forever. Why was it so slow? Why wasn’t Joel saying anything? Why was she thinking about the speed of the lift? Was any of this sexy? Why wasn’t any of this sexy?
The lift doors opened, and they stepped out into an empty corridor. There were no smiling Asian women.
When they reached the door to their room, Kat said, “Isn’t this the room you had the last time?”
“I believe it is,” said Joel, but there was no inflection in his voice.
He put his hand on Kat’s back to guide her into the room ahead of him, and it was the same, but he wasn’t. Perhaps it was because her back wasn’t naked, and she couldn’t feel the warmth in his hands or their muscular firmness. She couldn’t feel anything much through the cashmere, and his touch was too light, almost not there at all.
Then she thought about what she’d worn, and she felt like an idiot. Yes, she looked great. Of course she looked great. When did she ever not look great? She remembered the Vivien Westwood, and she wanted to blush and smile all at the same time, but even that would have been better than this. She’d worn the jumpsuit because it looked good, was on-trend, was chic and comfortable and was suitable for any time of the day, but was still dressy enough for supper at the Sofitel. She’d worn it for her. She’d worn it for her fashion friends. She hadn’t worn it for a man. She hadn’t worn it for a man like Joel. She hadn’t thought about fucking. She hadn’t thought about the indignity of undressing, of getting out of the bloody thing in front of a man, in front of this man.
“Shit!” she said.
“Problem?” asked Joel as he began to take off his jacket, opening the wardrobe door with his right hand as he freed it from the sleeve, and taking out a coat hanger.
“Kiss me,” said Kat.
Joel finished hanging up his jacket, closed the wardrobe door, and took a step towards Kat. He put one hand on her waist and then reached up the other for her face. He pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear, gently, cupped her cheek in his hand, and drew her face towards his. She was taller than him, again, but she dropped into her knees, ever-so slightly, as she relaxed, so that there noses were precisely level, and he kissed her, both of their heads tilting to the right.
The kiss was gentle, their lips slightly parted, without tension or urgency, but with a supple, relaxed softness, which allowed them to find the silky insides of their lips and feel the exchange of breath as they both sighed slightly.
“Better,” said Kat as they parted.
Joel let go of her head, and took half a step back as she walked around him to the bathroom.
“I’d like another glass of champagne,” she said, without turning around.
Once inside the bathroom, Kat realised that she really did feel better. She took a deep breath, and looked in the mirror. This was it. This was decision time. If it hadn’t been for that kiss she might have walked out of the suite instead of into the bathroom. At supper, she thought she’d decided, but then there’d been that interminable journey in the lift. Really? Was she honestly calling it a journey? Had it been that awful? The problem was he was impenetrable. He was unreadable.
How much did he want her? Why? How much was at stake? How much was she willing to put on the line for him? Was she prepared to give up her dignity? Was she prepared to be humiliated? Was she stronger than that?
Damned right she was!
She looked in the mirror again.
She was going into this with her eyes wide open. She was as strong as he was, and she knew it.
Still looking in the mirror, Kat began to unfasten the gold buttons down the front of her jumpsuit. She exposed first her milky white cleavage and then her bra, which was a soft, mink and apricot, silk and lace affair by Mimi Holiday. The plunge bra scooped her breasts into a pleasing, soft, but not too obvious cleavage, and the boy shorts exposed two-thirds of her backside, but appeared extremely modest at the front, and accentuated her narrow waist.
Her legs were long enough for her not to need shoes, so she kicked her boots into a corner by the bath and hung her jumpsuit and belt on the back of the bathroom door.
Joel didn’t hear her coming.
She walked right up to him and placed the flat of her hand on his shoulder blade, almost making him jump. She thought, for a second that he was going to spill the champagne that he was pouring into the second glass, the froth on the first beginning to subside so that he could top it up.
He turned, the bottle still in his hand, and his eyes widened, slightly.
“You look...” he said.
“I do, don’t I?” she asked.
“Always,” he said, half-turning to put the bottle down.
“That’s OK,” she said. “It is my job, to look good, after all.”
“No,” said Joel. “It really isn’t.”
“Shall I take that as a compliment?” asked Kat.
“I think you should,” said Joel, putting both of his hands on her face, and kissing her mouth.
Kat slid her hands around Joel’s waist, pushing firmly into the hard muscle of his sides, and following the curvature of his back as the muscles swung in towards the indentation that marked his spine. She rested the tips of her fingers, overlapping, in the groove, there.
She pulled the nub of his top lip between hers, sucked it and nibbled on it. She thought she felt him sigh, and she let him go.
Kat turned to the console table, topped up the glasses, which had both stopped frothing, and picked them up. When she turned back to Joel, she caught him gazing at her.
“You really are quite lovely,” he said.
“Drink?” she asked, handing him a glass.
“Is that a good idea?”
“That’s right,” she said, “I remember, you like to remain in control.”
Kat took a long sip from her glass, hiccoughed slightly, and giggled, placing a hand over her mouth.
Joel pulled her hand away, and kissed her again. Kat noticed that he hadn’t drunk with her.
There was no touching, other than their lightly clasped hands. They were both holding glasses. His was full, and hers was almost. Joel’s mouth was insistent, though. He pushed his face into hers, stretching her mouth, not with tension in his lips, but with the strength in his neck, so that the kiss was deep and urgent, but with soft, warm, relaxed lips, their tongues tumbling together in the single cavity that their mouths became in the limited space.
Joel swung their clasped hands away from their bodies, and they both instinctively moved their champagne glasses to the sides, Kat raising her’s slightly, so that they could each take another short step towards each other. It was no more than a few inches, but it was enough to make it possible for Kat to press her breasts into Joel’s chest, enough for Joel to push his weight forward in his abdomen so that his pelvis locked into the dish of Kat’s belly; his thickening cock found the convenient valley between her thighs and nestled their.
Kat squeezed Joel’s fingers as she wrapped her tongue around his and pulled it deeper into her throat. Then she let go of his hand.
Joel touched the outside of her left thigh. He liked thighs. He liked the outsides of thighs, she thought: the outsides of thighs and the undersides of breasts. His hand stroked her thigh, gently but firmly, all the way up to the lace of her panties, and then down again. Then he pushed himself even closer to her. She felt his cock, heavier still, twitch against the soft flesh of her inner thigh, and she was reminded of the sensation that her flesh, there, was the same as the flesh of her breast.
She imagined his cock between her breasts. Then she imagined it caught beneath her breast, pressed against her ribcage, where the skin was thin, and she imagined pushing her breast down onto it. She’d never done such a thing with a man, but she knew she’d do it now.
Kat felt the skin of her face warm slightly, and she realised that the blush wasn’t just in her face, but it was in her neck, too, and between her legs. Kat felt a sheen of sweat prickle through her, and she felt her body soften.
Joel ran his hand back down her thigh, and then reached around to her bottom. He ran his hand over the exposed part of her backside, up to the high-cut leg of her boy-shorts, where he pushed a finger under the lacy edge. Then he let his hand ride back over the swell of her behind and down into the cleft where it met her leg.
Kat was reminded of the heel of her own hand finding the soft join where her breast met her body through the silk of her dress, in this very room, only a week or so ago.
Joel ran a finger deep into the cleft, and Kat felt him chasing a runnel of sweat, as far as he could reach, as it edged its way inwards.
The kissing never abated. There was an ebb and flow to it; her mouth was more full or less, their breath flowed in one direction and then another, everything became more moist or less, warmer or cooler. The intensity varied a little, but not much, and their lips were locked, forming a perfect seal, so that they inhaled separately, but exhaled commingled breath.
Kat wanted to feed her fingers under the hem of Joel’s shirt. She wanted him naked. She wanted him more naked than he was now. She always seemed to be wearing fewer clothes than he was. He knew what she looked like naked. He knew the colour and texture of her skin... all of her skin. He knew what her nipples looked like, and her pubic hair.
Their bodies were pressed so tightly together that she couldn’t undress him, she could only pull at the neckline of his T-shirt, insinuate her hand under it, feel the hairs low on the back of his neck, and the musculature there as he pressed his face against hers.
She knew what his skin was like. She had held his hand. She had felt the hair on the back of it, and at the throat of his shirt. She had all the information she needed. Right now, she could feel the dimensions, the weight of his erection against the soft flesh of her inner thighs. She knew, already what he must be like. She knew more about what he must be like than he knew about her. He could not know the dimensions or the scent of her cunt. He could not know how symmetrical were her labia, how far her clitoris protruded when it was erect, how inflamed her tissues could become when she was fully aroused, how thick her secretions, how sweet.
A woman’s secrets were always... Well, somehow more secret, more subtle, simply more.
She knew, already, how long his cock was, how thick, how straight, she knew that it lay to the left, could guess how easily it would fit in her hand; knew that it would fit in two of her narrow, tapering hands, that she could wrap it in both of her palms at once. She didn’t know, yet, just how perfect the bell of his glans would be when she rolled her lip over it, but she knew already that he was circumcised. She liked that she knew that about him.
Finally, Kat tried to withdraw. Joel almost wouldn’t let her go. His hand was wedged high against her thigh, just as her hand had been wedged against the underside of her breast, and her fingers were still inside the neckline of his T-shirt, but she pushed the back of her hand holding her glass into his shoulder, and, when he didn’t immediately disengage from kissing her, his shirt was splashed with fizzing champagne.
The wine was in a thick, heavy glass, and was still cold, and he felt the double jolt of the temperature and the fizz of bubbles penetrating the lightweight fabric of his T-shirt.
He let go of her and stepped back.
He smiled at her, and lifted the cloth of the shirt away from his skin, exposing more of his throat and the hair there.
“My fault,” he said, smiling slightly at Kat.
“Yes,” she said, “it was.”
She sipped from her own glass, and put a hand on her hip, the hip just above where his finger had been in the join of her leg only inches below.
“You’d better take that off,” she said, gesturing at his T-shirt.
Joel hitched up his shirt with one hand, and Kat caught a glimpse of his well-groomed stomach, the hair, straight and neat and all one length, lying evenly, as if combed by a stylist to look its best. He didn’t have an athlete’s six-pack, but he had a firm, taut belly with sloping sides, and his jeans sat where they should, half way down the ‘V’ of his hips. His torso was wide and his chest flat and square and defined, like his shoulders and arms.
It was the hair, though. The hair was amazing.
Kat had never thought about hair on a man before. The modern preference had been for hairlessness for a long time. That was how most models and sportsmen presented themselves: waxed and tanned, not least so they could showcase their muscle definition.
Joel clearly groomed. His body hair wasn’t long or wiry, and it all sat in neat patterns on his body, but, as he turned to discard his shirt, and then bent to pull off his boots, which she didn’t recognise, but which she knew for sure were English and probably handmade, Kat caught sight of hair across his shoulders, the backs of his arms and his sides, again groomed and neat, all the hair growing in the same direction.
If she’d been asked, Kat probably would have gone along with the crowd, voicing the popular opinion that less hair on a man was preferable, although it seemed a little odd for men to wax their legs or under their arms, and maybe that treatment should be reserved for guys who relied on their bodies for their incomes.
She wanted to touch Joel, wanted to know what that hair felt like. She was suddenly fascinated by it, suddenly felt, instinctively, that this was what a man ought to look like, but when she reached out a hand he took hold of it, and then he reached out and tried to take her glass from her.
“I haven’t finished,” she said.
“Are you sure you want it?” he asked.
“Are you sure you don’t?”
“Perfectly sure,” he said.
He let go of her hands, and, before she could touch him, he walked over to the bed and pulled all the pillows and covers off it, so that there was only the mattress dressed in its sheet. The bed was like some sort of stage. It looked vast.
Joel sat on it in his jeans, one leg hooked up, so that his other foot trailed over the edge, and he waited for her. Kat walked towards him, still carrying her glass, sipping from it at intervals.
She began to wonder whether she did want to finish it, but she had said so, hadn’t she? And she felt that she couldn’t go back on her word. Why did this man make her feel so defiant, so much of the time?
Kat stood on the opposite side of the bed to where he sat, and continued to drink, wishing that she could drink faster, that the champagne wasn’t so very full of bubbles. She tilted her head back for the last, long sip, and then hiccoughed again, catching an errant drop or two of wine in her palm as she brought her hand up to her mouth and licked it.
She looked over her hand at Joel, and then she put the glass down, deliberately, on the nightstand.
Kat moved her hands up her back to find the clasp on her bra.
“Not yet,” he said.
She smiled slightly and tilted her head, but there was no sign of another rejection; he looked relaxed and content, so she slumped down on the bed, and reached out to touch his chest. He took hold of her hand again, and the movement took her by surprise, unbalancing her, so that she rocked onto her side, laughing.
Joel dropped onto one elbow, his face next to hers, and he kissed her again, upside down, his nose against her chin. Then he dropped his head further, and extended his hand to her navel, circling the depression in her belly with his forefinger.
Kat extended her hand above her head and rested it against the silky hair of his belly, which was softer than she expected. She could smell him now, too, not just his cologne, which was the same one he’d been wearing at the wedding and when they’d met at the V and A, and which she didn’t remember ever smelling on any other man, but his sweat and his musk as well. She could smell the faint tang of fresh cum... pre-cum, she supposed, and something else, an oily smell, like good, salty butter. It was sexy, and very masculine; Kat wondered if she’d ever smelled anything quite so masculine before.
She knew, then, that he wasn’t wearing anything under his jeans. She knew then that he was the sort of man who was confident enough not to need anything as prosaic as underpants... Had he even been wearing socks? Had she seen him take socks off with those beautiful boots?
Kat was a tall girl, her arms and legs were long, so she could easily reach, very easily.
He wore jeans well, and not too tight. Kat pushed two fingers under the waistband at the front, and popped the heavy, rivet button through its buttonhole. Joel flexed his abdomen slightly, but didn’t complain. He had turned her head, and was working a line of dry-lipped kisses along her neck muscle that led from under her ear to the hollow of her throat. His tongue flicked out as she took the top of his fly between her thumb and forefinger, making her hesitate for a moment, but he did not stop her.
She grasped the zip firmly and pushed it away from her. It was stiff, and would only move an inch, so she lifted her free hand above her head, took hold of the button and buttonhole, and tugged the waistband towards her.
“Hey,” said Joel, lifting his head for a moment. “Careful.”
“Don’t worry,” said Kat. “I won’t break you. I’ve got a vested interest here.”
She pushed the zip away, again, and this time the fly opened easily.
Kat reached her hand inside Joel’s jeans, the back of it brushing against more hair, still groomed, still short and soft, faintly moist with sweat and gathering in kinks. The smell of him rose out of his jeans, the musky, oily smell that she knew she could get used to very easily... too easily.
Kat moaned slightly as Joel sucked at the hollow of her throat, and she felt his fingers slide over the lace front of her panties. She let her legs fall slightly apart as she reached for his cock.
First, she felt the smooth, soft skin of his shaft with her fingertips. It was warm and firm, and she knew that it was at least partly filled with blood; she had done that, her touch, her kiss had aroused him. She wanted to take him in her hand, release him from his jeans, but, first, she wanted to trace his length, to run the tip of her thumb around the rim of his helmet.
Joel’s cock throbbed slightly under the light pressure of Kat’s touch, and suddenly she felt the heel of his hand resting on the flat plain of her pubic bone, his fingers curling under her, so that his middle finger found the place where her labia would part.
She’d found his helmet, and grasped it in her palm. He was erect enough for her to feel the pressure of the ridge of his glans standing proud, and she rolled her hand against it as she pulled his cock straight through the fly of his jeans.
Joel shifted his position, so that his face was buried in Kat’s cleavage, his lips and tongue working the flesh of her breasts, nuzzling, licking and then biting at the skin, as his hand kneaded her labia through her panties.
The pace was slow, very slow, but it was nice; there was time to think, time to consider, time to be reminded of what had gone before, and to wonder what might happen this time... when it was time for something to happen.
Kat liked it, even as she was looking for an opportunity to switch up a gear.
Joel’s hand was suddenly gone from her panties, just as she was beginning to feel the swell of her labia. It landed first on her belly, hovering around her navel, and then a finger eased under her bra strap, freeing it from her shoulder, and her left breast from the satin and lace cup of her bra. Then a thumb brushed over her nipple and then circled her areola until it began to bunch, and the nipple began to tighten and firm. Then he took her nipple between his thumb and forefinger, and began to squeeze. It felt fine, nice, even, but his approach wasn’t exactly original. It was what she might have expected from anyone.
Her hand wrapped around his cock, firmly, but not too tightly. Then she increased the tension in her grasp a little, and twisted and pulled. She wasn’t sure why she did it, and she wasn’t sure whether he would fill with blood, or whether her aggression would leave him cold, but she couldn’t help herself.
Joel’s cock throbbed, twice. She released her grip, slightly, and he pulsed again, so she tightened her grip and gave two more rhythmic tugs with the twist, as before, lending equal weight to the downstroke as the upstroke.
Joel let go of Kat’s nipple, and pushed his hand into the cup of her bra, scooping up her entire breast and squeezing so that her nipple was pushed out between his middle and ring fingers, distended and darker red than it had been. He reached for it with his teeth and bit it, making Kat yelp.
Then Joel took hold of the front of Kat’s bra where the cups met, and yanked it down, forcing her right breast out over the top of the cup. He clenched his fist around the wire of her bra and pulled it towards her throat, making her cleavage even more pronounced.
Kat didn’t care that her bra was cutting into her in all kinds of ways, making her tits bulge. She only cared that Joel’s teeth were teasing her nipples and that his hands were grasping at her breasts, leaving livid stripes where his fingers had been, first white and then pink across her flesh.
She grabbed at the waistband of Joel’s jeans, at his hips, and pushed them away, and he kicked at their legs, so that he was soon out of them, and entirely naked. Then Joel began to turn his body, taking Kat with him, so that she rolled onto her side.
They still lay crossways on the vast bed, but, now, they faced the same way. Their heads beside each other, their feet touching.
Kat reached behind her back and removed the bra that had left marks on her. She had pink lines on the tops of her arms from the shoulder straps, and around her ribcage from the underwires. She also had marks cutting across the flesh of the lower halves of her breasts, below her nipples, where the upper edges of the cups had cut into her flesh when Joel had pulled them tight, and she had the ghost impressions of lace. She didn’t care. Her nipples, usually soft and pink with their perfectly proportioned areolae, were dark and bunched and firm, and Kat was surprised that they were still rigid several seconds after being released from between Joel’s fingers and teeth.
“We should probably talk about protection,” said Kat.
“I wouldn’t have brought you this far,” said Joel, “if I wasn’t prepared to protect you, and me too.”
“Condoms?” asked Kat.
“Of course,” said Joel.
“Latex?” asked Kat.
“Latex, vegan, Kosher, whatever your heart desires,” said Joel. “I also like them because they’re branded as ‘French Letters’, and what could possibly be more romantic than that?” asked Joel.
“I thought you said you didn’t often sleep with women,” said Kat.
“I don’t,” said Joel, “but I like to be healthy, and, if and when I do sleep with a woman, I like to cover all my bases, so to speak, and treat her with a bit of respect.”
“Which is why you bite,” said Kat, “and slap, and rend her garments.”
“It’s a while since I’ve heard the word ‘rend’ used in bed,” said Joel, “or ‘garment’ for that matter.”
“Then, not only are you sleeping with too few women, you’re clearly not sleeping with the right women.”
Joel took hold of a large handful of Kat’s hair and kissed her long and lingeringly, all the time putting tension on her hair, easing her head back, working the muscles in her neck until their faces were locked together.
He took Kat’s other hand in his, and pushed it into his groin where it made contact with his cock, again, and she wrapped her palm around its base, easing her fingers around him until she held him in her firm grasp.
Joel eased his mouth away from Kat’s, but her head and neck were so far extended that she couldn’t close her mouth. Joel’s face was only millimetres away from hers, and Kat could feel his breath in her mouth when he said, “Oh, I think I’m sleeping with exactly the right woman.”
As he released her head, and kissed her again, Kat wrapped her other hand around his cock so that the ring made by her thumb and forefinger ran over the rim of his helmet. She tightened the grip and the twist around the base of his cock, and worked the ring of her forefinger in the opposite direction around the ridge of the perfect bell.
She wondered when it would be his turn to gasp.
As Kat lay on her side, her head back, Joel’s face fit in the curve of her throat, where he sucked at the soft flesh of the hollow, there, and nibbled at the thin skin of her clavicles, before burying his mouth in the muscular bend where her neck and shoulder met. At the same time, he thrust his hand up under the leg of her knickers, tearing at the lace, pulling at the flesh of her backside, searching the cleft with his fingertips, surprised not to find the downy hair that he had a very clear memory of seeing on their last visit to the Sofitel. His fingertips did, however, find the perfect pucker of her arsehole.
“Hey!” she said. “What the hell!”
“Relax,” said Joel. “Lose the exclamation marks.”
His head came out of her neck, and he shifted slightly so that he was facing her, looking at her. He probed a little more with his fingers in the cleft of her backside. First, he pushed the flat of his middle finger down the cleft. Then, when he reached her pucker, he bent the tip of his finger over, and rotated it slightly, putting pressure on her, not enough to open her, but enough to make her want to clench against him.
Kat looked into Joel’s eyes.
She stopped twisting and pumping her hands around his cock, and she started squeezing. She started squeezing hard. She meant to squeeze too hard.
Kat stared into Joel’s eyes. His lips parted slightly. His eyes, staring back into hers, looked as if they were beginning to moisten, and then he blinked. He blinked long, and slowly.
Kat let go of his cock, quickly, with both hands.
“You like that?” she said.
Joel ignored the question mark, ignored that it was an accusation.
“So do you,” he said.
Joel stopped his slow, contented blinking. The tips of his fingers were still in the cleft of her backside, but he had stopped moving them, stopped probing.
Joel and Kat looked at each other for several long moments. Kat clenched her pucker again, involuntarily, and Joel couldn’t help but smile. Kat took hold of Joel’s cock and squeezed once, hard, but not too hard, not as hard as he would have liked.
Kat smiled too.
“Why don’t you just fuck me?” she asked.
“OK,” said Joel, “just this once, but it’s time you understood, Miss Adler, that sex with me is a damned sight more complicated than that.”
“That’s Ms Adler,” said Kat. “When will you ever get my name right?”
Kat rolled onto her back, and Joel obliged by rolling on top of her, one knee pressing between hers, spreading her legs, slightly. He did the gentlemanly thing, and lifted himself onto his elbows, looking down at her, her hair spread around her face making her look like some pre-raphaelite ideal of womanhood. He pressed his cock against her abdomen and ground against her hip bone for a minute or two, in simulation, until she lifted her head and twisted slightly away from him. Her arse was teardrop shaped and full, and she loved the sensation of it being pushed and spread into the firm mattress beneath her, but her hip bones protruded, and Joel was pushing a lot of his weight down into them, so she had to find a more comfortable way to take him.
Joel put a hand under the hip that Kat lifted, and pulled her panties away, so that he could slide a finger or two between her legs. The soft warm flesh of her inner thigh and backside yielded under his fingers, and Kat sighed slightly as she anticipated the pleasure of his fingers inside her. Her labia, like the cleft of her arse, were hairless, the skin silky smooth, but warm to the touch.
Joel found the place where Kat’s labia met against her pubis, and divided them with his middle finger, hoping to find that she was wet. The flat of his finger wove a path over her hood, and then curved away between her outer and inner labia on one side. She smiled up at him, and bucked her hips slightly to the left, so that he rode the tip of two fingers over the ridge of her inner lip and found her warm, wet cavity. He gently inserted the tip of his middle finger to the middle knuckle just to make sure that she was content, ready, wet and warm, and that she wanted more.
Kat lifted her hips for him, spread her legs a little, and invited him in with a voluntary flick of her fuck muscle, just enough to let him know that she had some control, that she could give him a sign, that they’d be able to communicate.
Joel slid his middle finger out and then, his two fingers nestled together, slid both in as far as they would go, rotating them slowly as he entered her. He had lifted his body a little away from Kat in order to perform the manoeuvre, giving her the opportunity to reach her left hand down to his cock, inverted this time, so that the ring of her thumb and forefinger nestled around the base and she coiled as much of her little finger as she could around the groove of his bell; it would only reach halfway around, and she had to spread her fingers as far as they would reach to cover the generous length of his cock, but these were just the preliminaries... This was the promise and he would be inside her soon.
After two or three minutes of kissing and fondling, Joel rolled off her, and Kat helped him take off her knickers, which were moist and creased in the crotch, and which she knew she would stuff in her handbag rather than put back on when she left.
It took Joel a moment to find the condom in the pocket of his jeans, and his firm erection was subsiding slightly, so Kat took a moment to wrap her hands back around him, pumping and twisting, and kissing his neck while he bent to unwrap the condom.
Then she took it from him, and placed it over his cock, adding pressure as she rolled it down his shaft, especially at the base where she used both fingers and thumbs, and pressed firmly so that Joel’s cock pulsed and danced in her hands.
She laughed, not at him, but with him, and he smiled as he pushed her gently onto her back, and then lowered himself on top of her.
Like many new lovers, they adopted a conventional position, so that Joel had his elbows at her shoulders, his hands close to her head and face. Kat had one leg bent, one foot flat on the bed, and the other nestling in the small of his back.
He entered her gently, an inch at a time to begin with, feeling his way rather than thrusting and banging selfishly as some men might. He was a big man, aware of the impact his size could have on a woman. The rhythm was slow at first, and Kat was able to move under Joel, rotating her hips, slightly to accommodate his length and his girth, pushing the weight through her foot to get some leverage against him, and pushing the small of her back into the mattress to relax the muscles in her abdomen and allow even more of him to enter her.
When he was fully inside her, and she could feel the pressure building within, they found a pace that suited them, and Kat began to work the muscles in her abdomen, tensing and flexing as she rotated her hips and brought them up to meet Joel’s.
Joel upped the ante, forcing the rhythm and the intensity and power, and then slowing again, the force subsiding. Kat felt the warmth of the contact and the pleasing thickness of her cunt juice as her excitement grew. Her hands came under Joel’s arms as she found the flat, square muscles of his back, and the sheen of sweat that began to cling there, and she wanted to pull him down on top of her; she wanted to feel his weight.
Joel clutched at Kat’s hair a couple of times, and kissed her, pushing his soft tongue into her mouth and letting it unfold there as if it was somehow part of her now, and not his at all. He raised himself up on straight arms, pushing her shoulders down into the mattress, so that her chest opened and expanded, filling with air, and her breasts spread high and wide. She gathered them, wrapping her arms under them, and they moved and swung with Joel’s rhythm. Then, as he lowered himself back to his elbows, and his angle changed, she pulled on his shoulders to indicate that she wanted a slightly flatter approach from his hips. Then she brought both legs around his back and pushed the heels of her feet into his backside.
Joel grasped her wrists and held them above her head for a minute or two, as he looked down into her face.
Kat could see the faint growth of new hair on his head like a five o’clock shadow, and then she closed her eyes and concentrated on the feelings: his hands firmly clamped around her wrists, the hair of his chest and neck against her skin, the weight and density of his cock inside her, filling her and the sensation of his pubic bone doing a rhythmic dance with hers, mashing against her hood and stimulating her clitoris.
They did not speak, but when Kat lifted her hips, using one foot flat on the bed to balance on, Joel slowed his rhythm and rolled off her so that she could change positions.
Her hips growing tender from Joel’s constant movement against them, distracting her slightly from her rising pleasure, Kat rolled three-quarters onto her belly. One leg lay straight out, and the other lay bent at ninety degrees at the knee. Her torso was almost flat on the bed with only the side of her right breast showing.
She looked over her shoulder at Joel, who was positioning himself behind her, between her legs. He was not looking at her face, but at her cunt. Then his gaze seemed to shift to her thigh, to her right thigh, to the thigh he had slapped; it was there, in front of him, lying on the bed at right angles to her body.
Kat watched him take his cock in his hand, and pump it hard for several long strokes, while he reached across his body and grabbed the flesh of her inner right thigh in his left hand, squeezing it.
He let go of her thigh after a moment, and looked into her eyes. Kat looked from his face to his cock, which was still fucking his right hand, hard.
“Don’t waste it,” she said.
As he entered her, Joel ran his right hand down the right side of Kat’s body from her hair, down her neck and the side of her breast to her waist, and then on to her right thigh where he’d slapped her that first time. He rested his chest against her naked back, and, with a mouthful of her hair, he bit into her earlobe.
As his rhythm became more urgent, Joel raised himself on his left elbow and put his hand behind the underside of Kat’s right thigh, pushing it up towards her torso, opening her cunt just a little further, while tilting her backside up to meet his angle of penetration.
Kat’s right hand grasped at her breast, pulling her nipple as Joel watched, and then it disappeared under her thigh. Her pubic bone had been pushed into the mattress, until Joel had lifted it away by moving her thigh, so the pleasure she’d gained from the friction against the sheet was gone. She reached the flats of three fingers down between her labia and began to rub at her hood, the tips of her fingers pressing against the base of Joel’s cock as they rotated faster and faster, building a rhythm to match and then surpass his.
Kat clenched her fuck muscle and released it in time to Joel’s thrust, which increased with the encouragement. She had dropped her head onto the bed, and could no longer see him, but she knew that he was looking at her, knew that he was concentrating on that spot on her thigh, knew that he was thinking about that slap, because that’s what she was thinking about.
She knew he was about to cum. His rhythm had reached a fever pitch, and she could only maintain a tenuous contact with her own potential orgasm as with half-a-dozen long, hard thrusts, and an exhalation that wasn’t quite a groan, but was more than a deep breath, he sank a little.
He didn’t slump onto her, though, and he didn’t pull out, not all the way, at least. He rolled a little onto his left elbow, and continued to rock the last of his erection gently into her cunt, giving her just enough room for her fingers to dance over her clitoris as she rubbed out her own orgasm, cumming with a sigh only a minute after her did.
When she was done, she dropped onto her hand, and her right shoulder and straightened her right knee, and Joel rolled to her left so that he didn’t crush her, but kept his right arm and right leg wrapped around the left hand side of her body, intimate, somehow, without being too possessive.
“I’m sorry,” he said, after a minute or two. “You really are incredibly lovely.”
“What are you apologising for?” asked Kat.
“I didn’t make you cum,” said Joel.
“Not this time,” said Kat. “It’s too soon... Too soon for me.”
“Then let’s take our time,” said Joel. “We’ve got all night.”
“I’d love to,” said Kat, smiling, “but I really haven’t got time. I shouldn’t really have come out at all, but I couldn’t resist. This is my busiest couple of weeks of the year, and I’ve still got prep to do before tomorrow.”
“So much for breakfast,” said Joel.
“Next time,” said Kat. “We’ll do it next time.”
“Shit! Crap! Fuck!”
“No,” said Ally, “It’s a good thing.”
“How can it be a good thing?” asked Kat.
“Embarking on a brand new relationship with a new man... It’s an adventure,” said Ally. “How can it not be a good thing?”
“But it’s all champagne and steak and hotel rooms,” said Kat, “and didn’t you hear me say that I’m not sure what he wants?”
“Yes,” said Ally, “and what the hell is wrong with champagne and steak and hotel rooms; most of the girls I know would give their right arm for champagne and steak and hotel rooms! OK, maybe not the steak.”
“It was the fanciest thing on the menu, except for the lobster.”
“Listen to yourself Kat! You wonder what he wants, but can you tell me exactly what it is that you want...”
“That’s not fair,” said Kat. “I’ve tried... I’ve tried to do what you all want me to do... I’ve tried to find a nice boy with a nice job and a nice family and a nice life, and I’ve tried to settle down and have a nice home, and I just can’t.”
“So, do this instead,” said Ally.
“I don’t know what this is!” said Kat.
“So?” asked Ally.
“So,” said Kat, “it scares me.”
“But why?” asked Ally. “Does he scare you? Because if he does, Kat, you should stop it, right now. You should stop it and you should get out and never look back.”
“Oh Ally,” said Kat. “I don’t know... I honestly, truthfully don’t know why it scares me, but it’s not him; I promise you it’s not Joel. I think it’s because of me... I think it’s because I scare myself!”
“What about the sex?” asked Ally.
“I really wanted it to be amazing,” said Kat. “I really thought it was going to be amazing.”
“I hear a ‘but’ coming,” said Ally.
“I wish I could say there wasn’t a ‘but’ coming,” said Kat.
“I wish you could say that, too,” said Ally.
“What the hell is wrong with me?” asked Kat.
“Nothing,” said Ally. “There is nothing wrong with you.”
“Well they can’t all be wrong, and they can’t all just be bad at sex, either,” said Kat. “It doesn’t matter who I hook up with, who I date, how nice they are, how much you like them, even... It never seems to matter, does it? When push comes to shove and we get into bed, I just don’t seem to get all the bells and whistles that everyone else gets.”
“Maybe you’re kidding yourself about what everyone else is getting,” said Ally.
“That’s just it, though,” said Kat. “I don’t think I am kidding myself, and if I ever did think I was kidding myself... I don’t think so anymore... Not since Joel.”
“OK, Kat,” said Ally, “you’re going to have to explain that.”
“I do feel something with Joel,” said Kat. “I got somewhere with Joel, half-way somewhere. I felt something with Joel... I felt the promise of something that I haven’t felt before.”
“Well, there you are, then.”
“I thought it was hot,” said Kat. “I thought so the first time we were in that swanky hotel... you remember, when I texted you? And then it just didn’t go anywhere. We kissed, and the next thing I knew, we were having supper. Then, last night, it was all over the place.”
“I don’t get it, Kat,” said Ally. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know,” said Kat. “One minute it was hot, and then it wasn’t. Then it was again.”
“It can be like that,” said Ally, “especially when it’s all new, and urgent, and you’re finding out about each other. It can be a bit awkward and clumsy, and still be incredibly hot.”
“Yeah, I get that,” said Kat, “but it didn’t feel like that... I don’t know. I really don’t know. I thought it was going to be one thing... I thought it was going to be everything!”
“And it wasn’t?” asked Ally. “So what? Maybe it will be next time. Give it a chance, Kat.”
“Yeah,” said Kat, “you’re probably right, but to give it a chance, I’ve got to face him, again, and I’m not sure how easy that’s going to be.”
“Was it really that bad, Kat?”
“That’s just it, Ally, it wasn’t bad at all,” said Kat, “it was just... Well, I suppose it was good... It was just... It was just... I was expecting more.”
“You don’t always... you know... Not the first time,” said Ally. “Sometimes you have to show them how it works, or it takes them a while to get the hang of it. Every girl ought to have her own instruction manual, Kat, but you know that.”
“Know, I did. At least, I had to sort of do it for myself, but, no, that worked... Sorry, probably too much detail. That’s not it,” said Kat.
“What is it, then?” asked Ally.
“If it had been anyone else, I would’ve thought it was great,” said Kat. “Frankly, I don’t think a first time has ever been that good, but he was holding back... There was something he wasn’t sharing, and I really want him to share. I really want that something. I’ve got an itch, Ally. I’ve got a bloody itch.”
“Oh,” said Ally.
“I know,” said Kat.
“What are you going to do?” asked Ally.
“I don’t know,” said Kat.
“I thought you had a date,” said Ally.
“He’s invited me to the Paul Smith catwalk show,” said Kat.
“Bloody hell!” said Ally.
“I know,” said Kat.
“Well you can’t not go to that,” said Ally.
“I know,” said Kat.
“And you can’t pretend you haven’t slept with him,” said Ally.
“I know that, too,” said Kat.
“Shit!” said Ally.
“Yep,” said Kat.
“Crap!” said Ally.
“Yep,” said Kat.
“Fuck!” said Ally.
“My point exactly,” said Kat.
“It’ll work itself out,” said Ally. “These things always do...”
“If they’re meant to,” the girls said together.
“What if this isn’t meant to work itself out?” asked Kat.
“Well,” said Ally, “if it’s not... at least you got to see the Paul Smith catwalk show.”
“It’d better be worth it,” said Kat.
“Wow!” said Ally, “You are in trouble.”
“What makes you say that?” asked Kat.
“The old Kat would never have said that,” said Ally. “There wasn’t anything on Earth that wouldn’t have been worth a Paul Smith catwalk show to the old Kat.”
“Say goodnight, Kat,” said Kat.
“Goodnight, Kat,” said Ally.
“Goodnight, Ally,” said Kat.
Paul Smith at London Fashion Week
I’m not sure I dare mention Barista-Bob. You people have far too many opinions on him as it is, and they’re mostly wrong, and misguided, and none of it’s any of your collective business, but, here’s the thing: I do like to give credit where credit is due, and, if it weren’t for Barista-Bob several very nice things, at least half of which I’d like to talk about publicly, on this blog, would not have happened to me.
So, can I first say a big thank you to Barista-Bob for inviting me to Paul Smith’s catwalk show for London Fashion Week. It has been an amazing time, and I have spent twenty-hour days for the last five days covering any number of events. I have written endless blogs and several on-line and paper magazine articles, I have conducted a number of interviews, hosted a vox-pop or two, and generally got as much mileage as I can out of the greatest fashion show on Earth.
I’ve been in this game a while, and I love it; I even make a decent living out of it, as do lots of other people, but I cannot claim to be at the peak of the journalistic profession covering fashion. I am no Anna Wintour, and, frankly, I do not aspire to those dizzy heights. I reached my lowly rung on this rickety ladder two or three years ago, and was happy to perch on it more-or-less indefinitely, but it appears that time and tide, and Barista-Bob have given me a little boost, and my perch has jumped a rung or two, for which I am most grateful... and it all happened at the Paul Smith catwalk show.
I’m not going to go into details, except to say that a catwalk show can be a bit of a bunfight, and that dignity is something that most journalists leave at the door on the way into these sorts of events. The calming influence of Barista-Bob, the fact that I didn’t want to look like a total idiot, and the combination of a second row seat and breathing very tightly down the neck of Ms Victoria Beckham, in London for the event and sitting, pert and elegant as ever in the middle of the front row, led me to be in the, some would say, enviable position of being able to do La VB a favour, exchange a few words, smile at her gorgeous daughter, before she was whisked away by the help, and get an introduction to the fashion editor of Grazia Magazine, who just happened to be in attendance.
Then, in swept Barista-Bob. Who knew the man had a penchant for networking? No sooner was his mouth open than he was smiling over the happy coincidence that I was also a fashion journalist with a fine and growing reputation, and he even went so far as to suggest that said editor of Grazia should seek me out to work for her, since I could, in his words, ‘Add a uniquely lively and robust flavour of fashion journalism’ to her stable of contributors. Hands were shaken, cheeks were air-kissed, cards were exchanged and promises were made.
I am to send her five hundred words on the Paul Smith show, since it looks bad for the fashion editor to muddy her own hands with the task, and her regular freelancer, who has been less and less regular since her new girlfriend has become more and more regular, simply hadn’t turned up at the show.
So, that’s your lot for this post. I think I’ve been very generous giving you 600 words when all Grazia wants is 500, so toddle off and amuse yourselves while I craft something delicious on the subject of Mr Smith’s latest collection.
I’m not even going to tell you whether it was any good, except to say that it was Mr Paul Smith, for heaven’s sake so... you know... a-duh!
<Call me! Do it now!> Ally’s text said.
Kat’s phone beeped again.
<Why haven’t you called me? Texted at the very least! I saw your blog!>
“I’m going to have to answer that,” said Kat.
“Why?” asked Joel.
“It’s my sister,” said Kat. “She worries about me.”
“You’re a grown woman,” said Joel. “What’s to worry about?”
“Have you met you?” asked Kat.
“We’re sitting in a coffee shop,” said Joel, “surrounded by... Well I suppose we’re surrounded by coffee shop patrons.”
Kat looked around.
“There are two grumpy old men shoved into corners, and one of them’s asleep,” she said. She peered more closely at the man to her left, sitting alone in the corner of a booth that should have been able to seat at least eight people. He could have sat at any one of more than a dozen tables for two, but he had chosen one of the three large booths. “Or possibly dead,” she said. “Should we go and poke him?”
“Almost certainly not,” said Joel. “If he’s dead, it won’t make any difference, except to upset the poker, and, if he’s alive and grumpy, then it won’t make any difference, except to upset the poker... On the other hand, if you’d like to be the poker?”
“Oh, very clever,” said Kat, grimacing.
“It’s what I’m known for,” said Joel. “They say that I’m clever with words.”
“Why did you follow me in here?” asked Kat.
“I didn’t follow you,” said Joel. “We went to the show together, we left together. You wanted to walk. We walked. You wanted to blog. I bought coffee. You blogged.”
“I don’t need a running commentary,” said Kat, “and that was over an hour ago.”
“More like two,” said Joel, checking his watch, “which means it must be time for more coffee. Come to think about it, why don’t we eat?”
“I repeat,” said Kat. “Why did you follow me?”
“I repeat,” said Joel. “I didn’t follow you.”
“I get the impression this isn’t going quite as well for you as I would’ve liked,” said Joel. “But there are things you should know about me. There are things I should explain.”
“No,” said Kat, “there really aren’t.”
“You see,” said Joel. “That’s what I mean.”
“I don’t think you do see,” said Kat.
“I went too far,” said Joel. “It was inevitable, I suppose. I can’t say that I’m not disappointed. I thought it might be different.”
Joel stood, pushed in his chair, and clasped the back of it in both of his hands.
“I realise I can’t take any of it back,” said Joel, “but I hope you’ll forgive me, and I hope you’ll find it in your heart to understand, and I very much hope that you and I can remain friends, because, in the end, I really rather like you. You’re funny Kathryn Adler. You’re funny and sexy, and you’re unreasonably lovely. There... I’ve said it. Now, if you’ll shake my hand, or let me kiss you on the cheek, I’ll leave you to your blog and your sister, and your five hundred words for what’s-her-name. Good luck with that, by the way.”
“No,” said Kat.
“What do you mean, No?” asked Joel.
“I mean, No,” said Kat, “I won’t shake your hand or kiss your cheek, because I’m pretty sure that I already understand, and I’m pretty sure that you’re full of crap, Joel Gerber, and that, in actual fact, it’s you who don’t... you who doesn’t... no, don’t... it’s you who don’t understand.”
“What?” asked Joel.
“I don’t need to understand you, Joel, because I already do,” said Kat. “You need to understand me.”
“I do?” asked Joel.
“I think so,” said Kat.
“We’re going to do this again,” said Kat, “and we’re going to do it better.”
“What exactly are we going to do, again?” asked Joel.
“We’re going to have sex,” said Kat. “So brace yourself.”
Still grasping the back of the chair, Joel stepped back on his right foot, bent at the waist, and dropped his head, so that he was almost doubled over. He coughed out a laugh, and then straightened up.
“Oh we are, are we?”
“Yes we bloody well are,” said Kat, “and it isn’t bloody funny, and if you think it’s bloody funny, you’re a bigger bloody idiot than you bloody look.”
“That,” said Joel, “wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.”
“Good,” said Kat. “Now bugger off and let me text my sister.”
“Just one thing,” said Joel, finally letting go of the chair.
“What?” asked Kat.
“Where and when are we going to have this sex, again?” asked Joel.
“Well I don’t know,” said Kat. “You’d better sort it out and DM me, hadn’t you?”
“Yes Sir... Ma’am!” said Joel.
“And not so much with the exclamation marks,” said Kat. “They don’t suit you.”
“No,” said Joel. “I never could pull them off.”
As Kat watched Joel walk away, she picked up her phone, scrolled through her messages and hit reply on Ally’s last text.
She typed <Paul Smith was great> and hit send.
She smiled at herself, and, once she was sure that Joel was gone, she began a new text.
<Joel’s an idiot, but he’s still cute. I’ve told him he’s getting another crack of the whip, another bite of the cherry, and that he’d damned well better try harder. It’s all to play for. Wish me luck xxx>
She hit send.
<Phew!> came the reply.
And then, <Luck and love xxx>
Good old Ally.
DM from @JJ_Horner <Would the prospect of a weekend away be too frightening?>
DM from @AddledKat <No. Just so long as I’ve got a get out clause! And no more hotels!>
DM from @AddledKat <And I’ll use as many exclamation marks as I damned well please!>
DM from @JJ_Horner <I’ll pick you up wherever’s convenient, and I’ll buy you a single train ticket back to London, just in case>
DM from @AddledKat <Deal! When?>
DM from @JJ_Horner <27th>
DM from @AddledKat <Friday? This Friday?>
DM from @JJ_Horner <No time like the present>
DM from @AddledKat <I’m in Oxford St till 8>
DM from @JJ_Horner <No problem. I’ll meet you there>
DM from @AddledKat <Outside Oxford St TopShop 8pm. What to pack?>
DM from @JJ_Horner <Pack for private and comfortable, and, I’m told there’s going to be sex>
“Shit! Where the hell is this? I have no idea where this is,” said Kat as she exchanged her holdall for the single train ticket that Joel had promised her.
“You can still back out,” said Joel. “I was thinking of going away this weekend, anyway, so I can still go, and you can toddle off back to... Back to wherever it is you lay your head at nights.”
“Clapham,” said Kat.
“Nice,” said Joel.
“I like it,” said Kat.
“It’s in Warwickshire,” said Joel, only about an hour and a half on the train, and you can get a taxi from the place to the station. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of it.”
“I’ve heard of it, I just couldn’t point to it on a map,” said Kat. “You’ve taken me by surprise.”
“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” said Joel. “You really don’t have to come.”
“No,” said Kat. “Lead the way. Uncomfortable is good. Challenging is good. Adventure is good. Testing the boundaries is good.”
She looked right at Joel as she said it, and Joel raised an eyebrow. He hitched her holdall a little more comfortably in his hand. It was heavy and cumbersome.
“Well... Good then,” he said.
“So, the train?” asked Kat.
“I thought I’d drive you,” said Joel, “which should fit in nicely with your sense of adventure.”
“Let’s go then,” said Kat.
Joel hitched the holdall again.
“Can you manage that?” asked Kat.
“Terrible luggage,” Joel murmured.
“We can’t all afford Louis Vuitton,” said Kat.
“Mulberry,” said Joel. “I like Mulberry, and it has the virtue of being English.
“It does,” said Kat. “It most certainly does.”
When they arrived at the NCP, Kat was surprised by what Joel drove. She didn’t know where he lived, but she knew from their visit to the V and A that he drove. She thought of the debacle with the exits, and which door he’d had to use to get back to his car, and how she’d decided to go the other way to avoid walking out with him, and she was embarrassed. Of course, lots of people who lived in London didn’t keep cars there, but she didn’t even know that about him. If he stayed in hotels in London, regularly, it stood to reason that he lived somewhere outside the city.
She was also amazed by how much stuff he’d packed.
They were only going away for a couple of days, and it looked for all the world as if he’d packed for a month, or that he was a student leaving home for his first term at university.
Kat opened the passenger door of the car, and then closed it again.
“I think you’d better tell me where you’re taking me,” she said, “before my spirit of adventure runs off and hides.”
She peered into the back passenger window of the car at a cardboard box, which appeared to be full of groceries. There were bottles of wine, too, and what appeared to be a bag of kindling.
“We’d better not be camping.”
Joel laughed. He spread his arms, as if to say, ‘look at me!’. What he actually said was, “Do I look like the sort of man who’d think it was fun to live in a tent?”
“No,” said Kat, “but you don’t look like the sort of man who knows how to get a good cup of coffee out of an industrial gaggia machine, either, and look how that turned out.”
“Touché,” said Joel. “There’s an organisation that buys and maintains small historic buildings. It pays for them by letting them out to the public. I’ve rented one.”
“Oh!” said Kat. “In Warwickshire?”
“In Warwickshire,” said Joel. “Do you want details? I can give you details, if you want, but I thought you might like the surprise.”
“So, it’s not a hotel?”
“No,” said Joel. “It’s more... sort of a house, really. It’s big enough for you to get away from me. You can have your own bedroom and bathroom, if you like.”
“OK,” said Kat. “What about the food?”
“Self-catering, obviously,” said Joel.
“Obviously,” said Kat, “but which one of us is the ‘self‘ in this catering scenario?”
“That would be me,” said Joel. “I’ve kept it simple, though. I’ve bought stuff for breakfasts and suppers mostly, or we can go out, if you prefer, since we’ve got the car.”
“There’s booze,” said Kat.
“I did notice you like the odd glass of wine,” said Joel.
“But you like to be in control,” said Kat, “so how’s that going to work?”
“Do you suppose you’ll ever want to get in the car?” asked Joel. “I only ask because it could take a couple of hours to drive from here.”
“Are they torches?” asked Kat, still not actually getting in the car, but pointing at something on top of one of the boxes as she looked in through the rear passenger window again.
“They are,” said Joel.
“There are three of them,” said Kat.
“It’s just a precaution,” said Joel.
“What sort of precaution?” asked Kat.
“Some of the buildings, because they’re historic, aren’t terribly accessible,” said Joel. “They don’t all have roads up to them. Some only have tracks or footpaths, and sometimes they aren’t very well lit.”
“And we’re arriving after dark,” said Kat.
“We are,” said Joel.
“Have you done this before?” asked Kat.
“It’s a sort of hobby of mine,” said Joel.
Kat stared at him.
“No... Really,” said Joel. “I’ve visited quite a lot of them. Most of them are amazing. They don’t have tvs or wi-fi and sometimes the mobile signal’s patchy, so there aren’t a lot of distractions. It’s generally a chance to get a decent amount of work done in peace and quite.”
“Is that why you booked this one?” asked Kat, “to work?”
“No... No,” said Joel. “I booked it for you, for this, for us.”
“Can I ask why?” asked Kat.
“You said... I can’t quote exactly, but you said something like, ‘We’re going to have sex again, so you’d better sort it out.’ This was my idea of sorting it out.”
“You couldn’t just do the Hotwire thingy?” asked Kat.
“That was the other thing you said, if you remember,” said Joel. “You gave me express instructions in your direct messages that you didn’t want to stay in a hotel. Too late, as it happens, because I’d actually already booked this.”
“It’s short notice, though,” said Kat, “how do you book a historic building at short notice?”
“How does one person ask so many questions?” asked Joel.
Kat glared at him over the roof of the car.
“There’s a drop down menu on the website, and one of the items on it is ‘late availability’. This place was available, as it were, late.”
“About the sex,” said Kat, apparently satisfied with his answer.
“Let’s not talk about that,” said Joel. “Why don’t we just get in the car and do one thing at a time. Right now, all we have to do is take a drive.”
“I suppose so,” said Kat.
“And, after all, you do have a train ticket that will whisk you back into London at the drop of a hat,” said Joel.
“I do have one of those,” said Kat.
“OK?” asked Joel.
“Yes,” said Kat. “It sounds OK to me.”
“Good,” said Joel. “Let’s go, then.”
“Let’s,” said Kat.
<Shit! You’ll never guess where I am?> typed Kat, and then she hit send. She didn’t have the time or the patience to wait for a text back from Ally, so she sent another, knowing that it would cross on the airwaves with her sister’s reply.
<I’m in a motorway services on the M1 on the way to Warwickshire, going posh camping with Joel. I’ll explain later xxx> She hit send.
<It’s almost impossible to guess where you are, these days, but I’m betting that it’s not a swanky hotel and that it is with Mr Horner... I love that his name is so suggestive x>
As expected, Ally’s text was out of sync with Kat’s, but it didn’t matter, not least because it was funny. Kat didn’t want to confuse her sister, so she waited for a reply to her second text.
<I have no idea what that means. What is posh about camping? And how on Earth did he persuade you to do that, of all things? Do be careful!> texted Ally.
<Oh... That’s funny, especially as his name is actually Gerber... I might have to start calling him ‘the horny gerbil’... if things go well, obviously!> Kat was giggling when she hit send, and almost tripped over herself coming out of the ladies’ bathroom. At which point she almost tripped over Joel.
“Well something’s amused you,” he said. “Care to share.”
“No, sorry,” said Kat. “It’s a private text conversation with my sister, and I’m not sure she’d approve of me sharing it, especially not with you.”
Whatever Kat was capable of, she agreed with Joel on one fundamental thing: Kat didn’t lie. Like Joel, Kat didn’t lie, because it was much, much easier to remember the truth, and because she was the sort of person who found it difficult to hide what she was thinking. She’d tried to lie as a young woman and she’d failed, and so she’d stopped trying.
That was one of the reasons so many of her relationships had ended; she simply hadn’t been able to be enthusiastic enough for long enough to keep any man interested, because in the end, she hadn’t been terribly interested in any of them, and she just couldn’t fake it. She knew perfectly well that they were nice men with good prospects, the sort of men that her mother approved of, the sort of men she could, even ought to think about settling down with. The problem was, she couldn’t get excited about any of them, and even if she could have got excited about any of them, she was pretty sure that she wouldn’t stay excited for very long.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like them, because she’d liked some of them very much. One or two of them had made her laugh, she’d shared common interests with several, and more than one had been very attractive. In the end, though, it had all come down to that connection. She simply hadn’t felt what she needed to feel. She simply wanted more. She wanted her head to spin, she wanted to lose all sense of time and place, she wanted to float on a sea of sensation, she wanted the Earth to move, and she wanted to reach out and touch the face of God. And even when she said those things to herself, in her head, she knew they sounded ridiculous, but that didn’t stop her wanting them, that didn’t stop any of it being true.
She was twenty-nine years old, and Kathryn Adler had done none of those things.
Kat had always had good access to her orgasm, better access, in fact, than any of her boyfriends had ever managed, despite any amount of instruction. It wasn’t sexual satisfaction that eluded her; the mechanics were fine. It was something else, it was something to do with the sensuality of it, but even that wasn’t really the answer, even that wasn’t the whole story.
For Kat, something was missing, something had always been missing. For Kat there was a gap, there was something adrift in the emotional and intellectual component that might make a physical relationship, a sexual relationship, come alive for her.
She didn’t know why she suspected that Joel was it.
She didn’t know why she felt a connection to him, but she knew that she did. It wasn’t the way that he looked, although, sitting in the front passenger seat of his funny, old little sports car, she suddenly wanted to reach over and place her hand high on his thigh. Or, better still, she wanted to follow the curve of his cranium down onto the back of his neck with the warm flat of her palm, and squeeze the two strong, vertical bands of muscle, there, between the heel of her hand and her fingertips. It wasn’t his physicality, although, in her mind’s eye, she could trace the direction of every patch of hair on his body; she could visualise the flat square plains of his chest and back and backside, and the curves of his forearms and calves. It wasn’t his aesthetic sense, although she loved every choice he made, from his clothes, to his grooming, to the scent of his cologne and the make of his car, to the battered, ancient Mulberry holdall that seemed to nestle next to hers in the boot, to that room in the Sofitel.
Her attraction to him was all of those things, and none of those things.
Her attraction to him was inextricably bound up in her desire to walk away from him, to her reaction to his perceived lies, to the feeling of his eyes in the back of her head, to the mark his hand had made on her thigh, to the image of him on his knees in front of her.
Her attraction to him was as much tied up in the transgressive, the unspeakable, the unforgivable, the impossible as it was in a dance at their relations’ wedding or in the generosity of a stranger making her a cup of coffee. It was as much tied up in what might happen between them in a strange old house in Warwickshire as it was in the lie she thought she’d heard at the White Cube or what had happened in the hotel room afterwards.
Could one man be all things to one woman? Could she be all things to him? And did he even see things the same way that she did? Feel things the same way?
If Kat asked herself those things, rationally, then the answer must be no. No two people could feel the same way, surely?
Sitting next to him in the car, driving down the dark country lanes of Warwickshire on her way to a strange house with a man she hardly knew, but had all these odd, confusing feelings for, and thoughts about, Kat simply didn’t know, but she thought that it had to be worth finding out.
Kat was twenty-nine years old, and she’d put good money on the fact that she’d never been in love, never even thought that she might have fallen in love... not for a moment. She’d wondered whether she was even capable of it.
Recently, she’d stopped wondering, not so much about love, exactly, but she’d stopped wondering about something, she’d stopped wondering what it might feel like to have what Ally called ‘the itch’. She’d kidded herself that she’d felt the itch before, because someone had been just so ‘right’ for her, so appropriate, so tall and good-looking and intelligent, because her mother had approved and her sister had liked him.
Bobby had been like that. On paper, Bobby had been perfect, and look how that had ended. Look how hurt he’d been when she’d finally rejected him for the last time. How many times had he begged her to come back? How many times had she done just that? And for how many terrible reasons?
She’d gone back to Bobby because they had shared history, and because she was getting older, and because they had a great social life together, and because she didn’t really want to give up the cat, and because leaving him had upset her mother very badly, and because, and because and because, and in the end none of the agony had been hers.
Until now, though, until Joel, until she’d begun to feel rejected, until the wave in the hotel lobby at the wedding that was ignored, until he’d dumped her at the V and A, until that first night at the Sofitel: the night that wasn’t, but that should have been. Until Joel, until all of Joel, until every time that they met, any time that they met, until now, until right now, Kat had only ever thought she’d felt the itch.
She’d kidded herself, and, deep down, she’d known all along that she was kidding herself.
Kat wasn’t kidding anyone any more. For the first time in her life, Kat had an itch for a man, and every time she saw him, she had the itch all over again.
Kat had an itch for Joel. There was no denying it. She most definitely recognised that feeling.
“Really?” asked Joel.
“What am I looking at exactly?” asked Joel as the beams of their torches danced up and down, and over anything and everything in their paths.
“That jaggedy wall! Look at that!” said Kat.
“That would be the technical term, would it?” asked Joel
“What is that?” asked Kat.
“I think that’s what you might call a moat,” said Joel
“Well...” said Kat. “If it is... and I’m only saying ‘if’, but... If it is, then why aren’t you using exclamation marks? You do realise you just said this place has a MOAT!”
“Didn’t I mention that?” asked Joel, holding his torch vertically under his chin, so that the beam shone directly upwards, lighting up his grinning face in the most ghoulish fashion.
“Don’t do that,” said Kat. “You look all spooky, and I can’t concentrate on the moat. I want to concentrate on the fucking moat! There’s a FUCKING MOAT! For heaven’s sake!”
“Really, Kathryn... Exclamation mark alert,” said Joel.
“Like I give a fuck!” said Kat.
They approached an iron gate that appeared to have a sturdy, broad-link chain hanging from it, complete with a padlock like the one that Joel had negotiated to get them into the parking yard. Kat knew the drill. She pointed her torch at the lock while Joel, his torch under one arm, set the number rings on the padlock to the code that the housekeeper had given him when he’d booked the place, and, with a false start, and in a minute or two, they were through the gate, and had secured it, and Kat was swinging her torch wildly back and forth, and up and down, while Joel did the sensible thing and kept his on the cinder path in front of them.
“Shitting hell!” said Kat.
“Because that’s a wildly appropriate expletive for a nice Jewish girl,” said Joel.
“Look,” said Kat, “Whats-its-names... Wait... I know what they’re called... No... don’t tell me... I’ll get it... Just give me a minute... shit and bugger it all to hell...”
“Nice,” said Joel. “ladylike, even.”
“Stop complaining,” said Kat. “It’s on the tip of my brain... the word... I’ve almost got it, and I haven’t used a single exclamation mark... And it’s... It’s... This place has got bloody crenellations!”
“I thought you promised me no exclamation marks,” said Joel.
“Not none,” said Kat. “I was just saving it for best.”
“Crenellations counts as best?” asked Joel.
“You know what crenellations mean, though, don’t you?” asked Kat, handing Joel her torch and placing her hands on the ancient masonry wall that they had finally reached, with its empty windows, stone sills and muntins, decaying, but still in place.
“Basically,” said Kat. “I mean... You do realise that, basically, you’ve brought me to a fucking castle!”
“We can always drive back to London if you like,” said Joel, “but I thought staying in the former home of three Queens of England might amuse you.”
Kat’s torso joined her hands against the cool, ancient, virtually derelict masonry of the virtual ruin that she was confronted with, as she all but swooned against it.
“It’s unbelievably romantic,” said Kat, “but where the hell are we supposed to sleep? And aren’t we going to freeze our arses off? And where are the windows? And, for that matter, the bloody roof?”
“I thought we might sleep in there,” said Joel flashing both torches through the glassless windows of the medieval wall that Kat was draped against, through the courtyard that contained a massive slate table and a newly restored outdoor fireplace, and glorious paving. “What do you think?”
Kat saw rows and rows of tiny, precision set bricks, and acres and acres of glass, framed in green English oak. It was all gorgeous, modern architecture woven into the original fabric of a building that might have been a thousand years old as far as she could tell. The truth was, she couldn’t tell, but she could dream. She could dream the same as anyone else, of living in a castle, of being a princess for a weekend, of being whisked away by a prince.
Kat stopped short in the middle of her thought, and reached out her hand for one of the torches that Joel was playing over the building, making it look so beautiful, so mesmerisingly romantic.
“Are you trying to impress me?” she asked. “Because it won’t work, you know.”
Joel strode across the courtyard, opened the tall, glass door in the great expanse of glass that formed the entrance to the building, and started to throw switches, filling the vast lobby with its huge sofa and acres of modern, precision-cut oak, with its collection of old furniture and paintings, and its great, central, oak staircase with hundreds of watts of bright, white light.
Kat tripped in behind him.
“Why would I try to impress you?” asked Joel. “You already stated quite clearly that you intended to have sex with me.”
A quick tour of the downstairs of the modern house, beautifully, seamlessly dovetailed into the ancient building, revealed two generous double bedrooms, one with an en-suite bathroom, and two elegant twins, along with a shower bathroom and a full bath with a modern but very elegant tub, which Kat promised herself she would take a lengthy dip in at the earliest opportunity.
“You take the en-suite,” said Joel, and I’ll take the other double.”
“Honestly,” said Kat, “can I bagsy the full bathroom and take the little double, and you can have the en-suite.”
Joel looked at her.
“If you like,” he said. “I promise I won’t use the full bath. It’s not as if there aren’t enough loos to go around, but what if you need to get up in the middle of the night?”
“I think I can negotiate a lobby,” said Kat. “Besides, you’ve got everything you need in your suite, so, if you were a gentleman, once you retired, you needn’t leave it... need you?”
Joel took the hint and said, “I really needn’t, not at all, need I? In fact, I’ll make sure I take a glass of water to bed with me, and I won’t leave my room until the sun is well and truly up”
“Good then,” said Kat. “That’s decided. The little double is much prettier, anyway.”
“Those windows onto that tiny bit of garden, or whatever, are lovely, aren’t they?”
“Don’t kid yourself,” said Kat. “That isn’t garden, that’s the scrap of land between the shitting castle and the fucking moat!”
“You’re impressed then?” asked Joel.
“By the house,” said Kat. “Castle!”
“OK,” said Joel.
“Not by you,” said Kat. “I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m impressed by you.”
“Fair enough,” said Joel.
“Should I put a kettle on, or crack a beer, or open a bottle of wine or something?” asked Kat. “No, you probably need a hand unloading the car, don’t you?”
“Why don’t you explore upstairs while I unload the car?” asked Joel.
“But you brought so much, and it’s a bit of a walk back to the car, and then there’s the whole thing with the torches and the gate!” said Kat.
“And you brought more than your quota of exclamation marks, as usual,” said Joel, “but I have it on good authority that there’s a wheelbarrow to help out with luggage.”
“You’re kidding me!” said Kat.
“Not only am I not kidding you,” said Joel, “but I’m just going to escape from your exclamation marks for five minutes and fill me a wheelbarrow. Off you go upstairs and see if you can’t sort out one end of the kitchen from the other.”
“Excuse me,” said Kat, calling out after Joel as he retreated out of the door, “I thought you said you were in charge of the self in self-catering!”
He was gone, and Kat couldn’t wait another moment to see what was upstairs in the amazing building. If the downstairs, the bedrooms and bathrooms were that cool, what must the public rooms be like? Besides, the staircase was so elegant, she had to get up those stairs.
There were more than twenty of them... stairs, and Kat counted every one. The ceilings were high. This had been an impressive, high status building, and it had been so for a millennium.
She climbed the stairs, and, as she reached the first floor, she looked through the bannisters that stood out in the middle to the rear of the room. She could see wood and masonry, bricks and glass... lots and lots of glass.
Kat took the last half-a-dozen steps slowly. She had an inkling of what was on the first floor, but she wasn’t quite sure that she could believe it. She wasn’t quite sure that the architects could be so brave.
As she climbed up the last couple of steps, and her head came up over the level of the handrail, she realised that it was true, that the first floor of the building had been kept as one large room, the modern equivalent of a great hall, with a kitchen and dining area at one end, and a sitting room at the other, complete with a solid fuel stove.
She was shocked for a moment, and then she breathed deeply with relief as she noted that the original fireplace was intact even if it clearly hadn’t been possible for it to be brought back into every day use. Sad.
The old masonry had been cleaned up and repointed, obviously conserving and using original techniques, and the small, beautiful bricks had been laced into the masonry, clearly following the original lines of the walls, the original plan of the building that had stood on the site for centuries.
Kat walked across the room from one wall to another, touching the masonry, running her hands over the new brickwork, feeling the old and the new, and comparing their qualities.
It was so beautiful that she felt herself holding her breath.
There was nothing showy about the decor, either, nothing ostentatious, nothing vulgar about any of it. It was classy, tasteful, restrained, from the chelsea crockery to the le Creuset kitchenware to the plain linen tea-towels to the old, stripped furniture, probably auction finds, to the modern lighting and the functional, modern, but classic stove.
There was a place for everything and everything was in its place, but there were books, too, and rugs, a basket for logs to feed the stove and an attractive companion set for it, and there was a comprehensive, but unobtrusive visitors’ pack, complete with comments book.
Kat had wanted to be impressed. She had wanted to be impressed because she wanted to have sex with Joel, and she wanted it to be easy. She wanted to think about only the things that she wanted to think about, and nothing else. She wanted to think about fucking rather than the chambermaid; she wanted to think about fucking rather than whether the loo flushed and was discreet. She wanted to think about fucking rather than whether the lighting was flattering; she wanted to think about how they would fuck and where, and why, and whether it really could be magical, whether it really could be a transforming experience.
Maybe this was it. Maybe this was the place where it, whatever it was might... just might... actually happen.
Joel bloody Horner!
Kat didn’t know whether she wanted to curse him or kiss him.
From the vast expanse of glass in the end wall of the great, first floor room of the castle, Kat could see a light bobbing and weaving its way up the cinder path towards the house, towards her, and she knew that it was a torch. She knew that she would soon be in this amazing place, alone, with Joel.
Kissing him was fun, but cursing him might be fun too. Kat wondered, in the end, whether it mattered which she did. Maybe she’d do one or the other, and maybe... just maybe... she’d do a little of each. In the end, she had the distinct feeling that it wouldn’t matter very much.
Kat pressed her body against the glass of the vast windows, and she watched the light bobbing up the cinder path. She couldn’t actually see the wheelbarrow, and she couldn’t actually see that it was Joel pushing it, but that didn’t stop her getting the chills... It didn’t stop her feeling the thing she wanted and needed to feel... It didn’t stop her feeling the itch.