Excerpt 1: Wherein Sean meets Cary and literary discussion leads to more …
In the soft dreaming silence of my godson’s room, the sound of the doorknob rattling brought me upright so fast my head reeled. But I lurched forward and slammed my palm against the door just as it opened.
“Ooh,” said the tiny woman, her eyes huge with surprise up at me.
She was holding one of those fucking cocktails. In the dim glow from the night lamp, there were things like beads floating on the golden liquid surface. And to my astonishment, she ignored me, lifted the glass and took a sip with great concentration.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” I bit out.
“Oh I know that,” she said breezily, flipping her free hand. And only then seemed to notice the room. She peered around me and her mouth rounded, presumably at the sight of my godson asleep. A little distracted by the mouth, I forgot about my glare until she told me seriously: “Shhh.”
Drunk as a skunk.
“You need to leave,” I said slowly and distinctly.
She pursed her lips and frowned up at me. “Don’t be silly. It’s horribly crowded out there. I’ll be quiet, I promise.”
Somehow she got me out of the way and I watched, bewildered, as she tottered into the room. Ridiculously high heels, tiny flutter of a skirt, and a back that was totally bare and white aside from a handkerchief tie. I looked at the contour of her spine, the subtle shift of muscles under the smooth naked skin, and a quiet terror took up inside me.
Where the fuck did she come from?
Lucky for her she didn’t go right up to my godson’s bed. Instead she stayed in the middle of the room from where she looked at him quietly as he slept on and she sipped her drink. Then she swung around to make her way to the opposite side of the room. Between the desk and the cupboard, she carefully lowered herself to the wooden floorboards and sat against the wall. The scrap of skirt rucked up over bare legs stretched out long in front of her. And jesus, someone needed to introduce the woman to a bra. Because that wasn’t much of a top, one of those silky handkerchief things you could undo with one tug. And a fucking incredible rack. Lots of dark hair pulled over one shoulder, white skin, fat little mouth that she bent to the cocktail glittering now with red beads.
Definitely not my type. I liked my women regular‑sized, tall enough to look me in the eye, slim willowy creatures that didn’t make me feel like a looming monster. Not manic pixie types.
I closed the door without thinking. Took my tepid beer from the side of the bed and went to sit beside her. Still not thinking.
She lifted her eyes to me, dark in the dimness. “You’re Sean.”
I shot a look across at my godson but her voice was quiet enough that he didn’t stir.
“I’m Cary,” she said, slurring a little. “As in Grant, not Fisher. But said like Fisher, not Mariah.” She floundered a little, scowled briefly, then nodded. “I’m Cary. And you’re Sean.”
As I tried to hide my amusement, she gave me a broad happily twisted smile before taking a gulp of her cocktail. “You were awfully rude before, you know. Very shocking. Everybody was quite shocked.”
“Good,” I said, grinning.
She snorted a giggle, smothering it with a hand, her eyes flicking to the little bed. A silence fell between us, the dreaming not peaceful anymore. It was lethargy now, as she slumped against the wall, her breath in a sigh. We drank and said nothing, watching my godson sleep. Outside, the party was a distant hum. And gradually I became aware of her perfume, a prickly dark strangeness that didn’t have to reach very far to touch me.
“What’s the book?”
“Bertha And The Bobbleheads.”
“Oh. What’s that about, then?”
“Blue ducks. Their mother goes missing so they go out to look for her and they meet a girl — ”
“No, her name’s Marion. Bertha’s her cat. The cat doesn’t like the ducks, she chases them away and they keep coming back and Marion has to keep them away from Bertha — ”
“I don’t think I like this story,” she said fretfully.
“No, it’s a little disturbing. But there’s a happy ending.”
“Yeah?” She looked up at me, dark eyes hopeful.
“Marion makes up a duck doll — ”
The scowl returned. “A doll?”
“ — and persuades the little Bobbleheads that it’s their mum resting — ”
“They’re very gullible ducks.”
“ — and eventually it’s Bertha who finds the mother Bobblehead up a tree.”
“Yes, she got chased up there by a dog named Brutus. But Bertha chased Brutus off and all the Bobbleheads had a reunion and then Marion took them home and gave the duck doll to Bertha as a reward.”
Little Miss Drunk turned and stared at me with deep suspicion for several moments. “I don’t believe you,” she announced, “I think you made it all up. Ducks don’t fly up into trees. I saw it in a movie. You made it up, didn’t you?”
“Yep.” I hid my smile in the beer bottle.
She huffed, settling back with her half‑finished cocktail. Her hair was tumbling across her forehead, she looked about five years old with the sullen turn to her mouth.
“I don’t remember what I read when I was that young.” She glanced up at me. “Do you?”
“Noooo,” I reflected, “first book I ever remember reading was The Three Musketeers. An abridged version.”
She let out a long breath, tipping her head back against the wall. I watched her sideways as I drank, waiting for complete blithering ignorance to go with that silly little skirt.
“Milady de Winter …”
I choked on my beer.
“… Lana Turner in that gorgeous green cloak,” she said dreamily. As I struggled to get my game face back on, she focused on me with sudden penetrating curiosity. “Who was your favourite Musketeer? Wait, let me guess. Porthos, right? Oliver Reed slashing his rapier all the place?”
My turn to scowl. Talk about a bloody unfair stereotype. “Actually, he played Athos.”
She frowned. “Are you sure? Who played the drunken dude then? The Depardieu role.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yes. I don’t know. And yes, Athos is my favourite.”
“Really?” She gave me a long considering look. Vaguely uncomfortable, I checked the level of my beer, half unwilling to go get another. But her attention slid away and she sighed again, flexing her feet in the bizarre strappy heels.
“I always liked her tattoo …”
I blinked, replying automatically, “Wasn’t a tattoo. It was a brand. A traitor’s brand. She was tried and convicted in the province of Lis so they branded her with the fleur de lis.”
Silence. During which I considered what a monumental geek I was all over again. Some knowledge never went away.
She shifted her back against the wall and suddenly, vividly, I got an image of her under her skirt, long bare thighs sliding smooth and silkily against each other. My face went warm, blood rushing south. Maybe I should get that beer after all.
“My first classic was Jane Eyre,” she murmured. “The French bits frustrated me so much, I couldn’t understand why they was even in there. But god, I loved that book so much. I still do.” She turned her head to look at me, her expression earnest now. “I read it every year.”
I didn’t say anything, slightly impressed.
She jabbed her shoulder suddenly into mine. “You think it’s a girly book, don’t you? Don’t you?”
Well, yeah, duh. I didn’t need to say it, she read my face and snorted. “Have you ever read it?”
Too much damned talking. I didn’t come to this stupid party to be interrogated by some drunk desperate paralegal. Just get up and walk away, Sean.
“Have you?” she persisted.
“Fuck, no! I don’t read Austen, either,” I added snidely, getting ready to stand up.
“Ha! Yeah, me neither. I hate her.”
Astonished, I forgot about getting up, and stared.
“I mean, I don’t hate her. I love her stories, I just hate her style. She’s so fucking boring compared to Brontë, you know? I mean, Brontë’s sentences are gorgeous, her visuals are gorgeous. She has soul, she understands soul. Austen has no soul at all. Brontë’s all — ”
Little Miss Drunk flailed expressively and I pulled back to avoid being spilt on again.
“ — romantic and philosophical and angsty. God, she’s so angsty. I mean, she’s not as violent and vile as Emily. Emily’s just scary, man. I never understood how people could name their children after Heathcliff. What an awful thing to do to your child. Be like calling them Hitler. Who does that?”
She paused. “What was I talking about?”
“Angst,” I supplied, laughter bubbling up inside.
“Right, yes. God, you have beautiful eyes,” she said in this suddenly surprised way.
But no, Little Miss Daft was definitely regarding me with a whole new speculation. And suddenly that terror was roaring up again inside me.
“They really are an amazing shade of green,” she said with alarming lucidity. It’s possible I was drawing back against the wall at that point, stupid eyes widening with apprehension despite myself.
“It’s a lovely green.” She leaned in, peering. “Not pale, not muddy.” Her breath was on my mouth, little gusts of alcohol, and my shoulderblades were digging into the wall. “And really really deep. Even in this light.” Her breasts were against my arm. Christ.
This was ridiculous. I was being sexually terrorised by a munchkin. Distracted by the image, I totally missed her intent and damned near fell out of my skin when she lurched forward and pushed her mouth against mine.
What the fuck!
For a second, I froze — dear god, soft ripe woman heat — and then shoved her off, repulsed and bloody scared. “What the fuck are you doing?” I snarled, careful not to disturb the quiet.
I’d pushed too hard. She tumbled against the wall, hair falling into her face, mouth sulky. “Oh, for goodness’ sake …” She swiped her hair out of her eyes, straightening up. “What did you think I was doing?”
“Yeah, well, maybe I’m not interested. Did you think of that? Jesus …”
Shaken, I looked around for the bottle I’d dropped. And her leg, her bare leg, came sliding across my thighs. My head snapped around to find she was climbing into my lap, all soft warmth and that strange hostile scent.
“Oh come on …” She squirmed up against my chest, hands on my throat. “Don’t you want to?” I was looking up, disbelieving, into her shadowed face, glitter of her eyes in the dark. It was like I’d forgotten how to move. Her fingers crept along the shallow v neckline of Rob’s jumper, little scrapes of her nails against the skin over my collarbone, pulling on the start of my chest hair. It was the way she was touching me, it addled me completely and I didn’t know why. She squirmed closer, her thighs opening across mine. Suddenly I was aware of that luscious female flesh between them. Suddenly I was going hot all over. And she knew it, sensed the blood going to my groin.
The light in her eyes was almost demonic dark now, now as she looked at my unshaven chin and jaw, and her lashes lowered with speculation. Almost mesmerised, I watched as her hand came closer to my face, as she turned her wrist and drew it — slowly, deliberately — drew the inside of her wrist against the stubble along my jaw.
Pain. It flashed through her, from her to me like lightning. Her breath hissed in and she jerked her wrist away. My skin seemed to shrink, I knew something very wrong and very significant had just happened. But then she dipped her head and I saw the briefest glisten of her tongue before my eyes closed, the black prickly scent of her engulfing my mind. She licked along that stubble, her breath excited and greedy, the pressure of her tongue a slick too‑soft thing.
Pain. Not for me, for her.
“Come on,” she said softly, against the corner of my mouth. “You know you want to …”
Ah christ …
Why the fuck not? She’s offering, you may as well. Poke something, Sean.
“You’re drunk,” I managed. And then realised, yeah, that’s right. As she frowned down at me, I put my hands at her waist and set her firmly away. The air of the room rushed in between us, abruptly I realised I could breathe again and wanted to gulp in the sensation of space.
I stood up. “You’re drunk,” I told her severely.
From down on the floor, she rolled her eyes at me. “Well, yeah.”
I glared, my fury rising now. “With my luck, you’ll wake up tomorrow morning and cry rape. I don’t need that, all right?”
She let out an exasperated breath and got up in some dizzying feat of undulating spine and unfolding legs. And christ, the top of her head barely came up to my adam’s apple. Get out of here, Sean.
“Look here, mate.” A finger was actually poked into my chest. Her eyes were brilliant dark up at me, her voice sharp and very clear. “The only person in danger of being raped here is you. So quit being a big pussy and fuck me.”
I grabbed her arms and crowded her with my body. “I could break you, you stupid girl!” Tear her apart.
Her eyes flared delight. “Try me.”
My head swam. “Not here.”
I hustled her into Trudy and Rob’s bedroom. She giggled at my force which only made me want, for one moment, to slap her. The overhead light was still on but she flipped it off and reached for the bedside lamp, her white back gleaming with the movement. I was going hot and cold, unable to believe this was happening, this was about to happen.
Blindly, automatically, I went to kiss her mouth but she wouldn’t let me. Instead, she curled her fists into the front of Rob’s jumper, raised herself on tiptoe, and bit me gently on the throat. No, it wasn’t gentle. She got her teeth in, sharp and small, and my hands clenched with the urge to hurt her back. It frightened me all over again, she frightened me. But then she was pulling me onto the bed, her long silky legs angling open in this strangely fantastic way, and her mouth was hot and wet on my throat, sucking.
She was tiny under me but christ, the relentless force of her. I found my hands sliding up along her thighs and it made my mouth start to go dry. Her skin was just as smooth as I’d imagined, unimaginably sleek and addictive. I wanted to go under that skirt, head and all. But she said something on a murmur and took hold of my wrists. Dark eyes, luscious wet mouth I couldn’t kiss, but she let me pull the ties loose on that stupid little top.
And god, magnificent breasts. I was never so thankful for leaving a light on. Her naked hot breasts filled my hands, creamy and impossibly tender, and she moaned against my jaw, the sound vibrating into me, right down to my cock hardening fast. Her nipples were small and tight and startlingly brown. I lowered my mouth, intending to taste them, and saw they were pink in the very centre. I couldn’t believe this, had to have this, all of it before it ended.
She rocked up against my cockstand, shameless, and I heard myself groan before I bit her on the curve of her smooth shoulder, trying to quiet her down for just a moment. But it only made her cry out, outraged and frustrated, and her hands pushed between our bodies, pulled at the waistband of Rob’s trousers, her breath hot on my face. And fuck it, I helped her. We pulled the trousers open, her little hand grasped my cock and I nearly blacked out for a second.
“Oh god,” she said and put the head of my cock just inside her cunt.
Jesus, she’d been naked under there all this time. My brain felt like it was going to explode. I squeezed my eyes shut against the tightness of her cunt, against the vice grip I could sense beyond, the living heat of her insides.
“Come on,” she whined, her nails digging into the skin over my hips, the trousers barely hanging onto my arse.
“Steady on,” I managed. Her head wasn’t even on the pillow, we were somewhere in the middle of the bed. I had a sudden hysterical image of Trudy walking in. And that moment gave me some semblance of control back. I braced myself on my arms, my breath shuddering through me, her hair tickling at the inside of my wrists. When I opened my eyes and looked down, she was biting her lip, watching me with unconcealed impatience.
“Come on,” she insisted, “fuck me now.”
“Jesus,” I said and pushed my cock into her.
She was dry.
I froze, shocked. Her face contorted and she twisted away on a quick breath. I watched in utter humiliation when she put her fingers in her mouth and then reached down between her spread legs, smeared her own spit right up inside herself. My face was burning with horror but she reached once more without hesitation for my cock and I let her.
She was too small, I was too big. Maybe that’d be a huge fucking compliment to me in any other situation but right then I was completely mortified. And any other time maybe my stupid cock would have shrivelled with the embarrassment but it had been too long so I was hard and she wanted it. She was ruthless and I was powerless to say no. So I found myself reaching for the lube that had to be in the lowest drawer of the nightstand. And yeah, good ole always‑prepared Trudy who was going to laugh herself into an aneurysm when she was told about this.
I fucked her for a while, my mind weirdly detaching as I watched her writhe under me, working herself upon my cock. Her chin tilted up, her face back into shadow. I looked at the rich curve of her throat and wanted to put my face there. But I didn’t because I didn’t know her.
After a while, she pulled away, frustrated. It was all going wrong, I knew but couldn’t say anything, couldn’t think of anything to do except follow where she led. She got on her knees, her skirt a silky scrap around her waist, and reached her hand around for my flesh. More control for her, fine, so I fucked her faster, harder, mindless, anonymous. Her arse slammed against my crotch, a little too bony. I watched the flex of her bare back, wanted to wrap the long tail of her hair around my hand and yank her head back. I didn’t.
She was wet by then, naturally as well as the lube, so much so I was almost slipping out. My mind was being pulled into the act, into the hot and deep of her, chasing that nearly‑there orgasm. But the slam of her hips hurt so I pulled out and turned her over, sank back in before she could protest. Her breath was a warm exasperated gust against my collarbone but she let me hook my hands under her knees and spread her. I held her down, fucked her down. My shadow fell across her, again and again and again. I came and it was a rush of hot wet good, sent peace melting through my body.
“Uh.” She let out an irritated huff and slammed the heel of her hand against my shoulder. “Get off me,” she said peevishly, her voice too close, too intrusive, too coherent. I pulled out and flopped over onto my back, eyes closed, sinking against the pillows that smelt of flowers and Rob.
No chance of an afterglow here.
Beside me, she sat up immediately, pulling her clothes back into place. The silence was corrosive, like acid. I could feel the fury blasting off her, and it was making me very very tired. Putting my arm over my eyes, I tucked my cock back into Rob’s trousers, trying to hide the wince of contact.
If I lay there and stayed quiet, maybe she’d go away.
When the rustling stopped, she was still there. I could hear her breathing, could hear mine slowing. My heart felt bruised from the exertion, thudding sore against the bones of my chest. I never should have come to this stupid stupid party.
“When did your mother die?”
At first I thought I’d fallen asleep for a second and dreamed that. But no, the silence was waiting. I uncovered my eyes to look at her, to check if she had actually said what I thought she’d said.
I stared and she coloured a little, not looking at me. Her mouth was pursed and sulky again but she was waiting.
“Ten,” I stopped and corrected myself, “fifteen years ago.” I was still staring when she gave a jerky little nod and stood up, still not looking at me. But something shone out of the darkness of her eyes and when she spoke again, it was almost as if she didn’t mean to, as if she surprised herself by it.
“Mine died two weeks ago.”
The door closed behind her on a squall of rock music and laughter.