Part four: the scent of surrender
On Ice? How Nice
A good lawyer never asks a courtroom question to which she does not already know the answer; or that’s one of the important clichés, anyway.
Of course life, both personal and professional, is chock-a-block with all these little rules and regulations and strategies.
Usually: we know them.
Quite often: we ignore them.
Jason Flood was in my kitchen, rummaging around my cabinets, looking for glasses suitable for Champagne.
Jason “Nice Little Dungeon” Flood.
I had invited him in.
Well . . .
Sad when we lie to ourselves, but that’s usually where we start, right?
And, telling the truth . . .
Have to start with ourselves there, as well.
Of course we do.
I closed the door and walked slowly toward the kitchen, trying to assemble my thoughts; we nearly collided in the kitchen doorway, him with two Champagne flutes in one hand, the bottle in the other, smiling graciously and gesturing me into my own living room.
He sat on one end of the couch.
Feeling self-conscious, I sat on the other.
He put one of the Champagne flutes on the coffee table and nudged it toward me, holding his in readiness. Hesitantly, I reached for it, dipped my head in acknowledgment, raised the glass for a moment. He nodded at me and we both sipped.
We sat in silence for a while, sipping slowly, watching each other, I guess you’d have to say, with what felt to me like the patience of two cats: him being the drowsy cat; me being rather more alert and tentative — or call me jumpy . . . if you must.
“You know that I settled,” he said finally, landing his empty flute on the table, gesturing for mine, refilling both.
“Did you do — ” I wasn’t sure what to ask, or how exactly.
“ — All those things Caroline said I did to her?”
I blinked in acceptance of the question.
“I did,” he said calmly. “Caroline is a lot of things; she’s not a liar — she was never any good at it anyway.”
“She seemed . . . upset,” I offered.
He nodded at this, picked up his glass and took a long swallow, furrowed his brow just a little.
“Caroline got what she wanted — ” he began.
“And she wanted — ”
“She wanted money. That’s what she got. Nothing happened to her to which she had not consented; she was scarred neither physically nor — I would argue quite strenuously; you may, of course, have another point of view — emotionally.”
I took a long sip, chewed on what he had said for a few moments.
He scooted languidly down the couch a little, still leaving space between us, not intruding on me; he leaned toward me; the scent of cologne and cigars was strong.
“Listen,” he said gently, “and I apologize for saying this crudely, but: Caroline fucked me over; that’s — almost literally — the bottom line. She wants to play outraged vestal virgin, now? Fine. She’s a vestal virgin with ‘fuck you’ money, never have to work another day in her life. That’s what she wanted; that’s what she got. You know,” he gave a rueful smile, “in the end? It’s only money. It cost something to close that out? It’s only money.”
I nodded at this slowly.
“But, of course — ” he moved until he was right next to me, but still didn’t touch me.
I wanted him to.
I wanted him to bend me over the arm of the couch, peel down my sweat pants, lash me with his belt until I cried in gratitude.
I wanted him to thrust, long and hard, into —
“ — I’m not here to talk about Caroline.”
“No,” I cleared my throat, my voice feeling a little creaky and unsteady, “of course not.”
The Scent of Surrender
I’m a practical person.
I know what I want — or . . . need.
In the past?
I’ve even asked for it — with a high degree of specificity.
I felt something between tongue-tied and paralyzed, an insect trapped in the sweet ooze of a Venus Flytrap, as those eyelash-like spines inexorably close.
He touched me.
Same spot he had touched when I first let him in, brushing the backs of his fingers gently over the skin where shoulder met neck.
I shivered and he brought his face close to mine.
“I have not the slightest doubt,” he said softly, “that you know, in extravagant detail, exactly what you . . . need.”
I felt my head bob, just a little.
“And I have not the slightest doubt,” he continued, “that I could address these needs of yours with simply exquisite intensity.”
“How do you know that?” I managed, not so much looking to argue or challenge — although that might be a delicious incitement to punishment! — but because I wanted to do something to make this less monolog and more dialog.
He drew back, crooked an elbow and rested it on the back of the couch; he smiled at me, which was just a little chilling.
“We’re just pack animals,” he said genially. “Some are wolves and some are poodles, but we’re just pack animals. We rarely want to admit this, but our lives are just a tangle of intersecting and overlapping dominance hierarchies, power arrangements, deals. There is no such thing as freedom; there is only the choice between dominance and submission. There is no middle ground — no matter how hard people may try to ‘pretend it into existence.’”
His openness and his honesty were just horrifying — and entrancingly appealing.
I felt myself nod.
Sitting suddenly upright, he downed what remained of his Champagne, stood, cleared his throat, nodded, as if we had just concluded a good meeting.
“Not this weekend,” he said, “because I want you to have time to really think about this, but next weekend, I’d like to invite you out to Long Island for a few days. I think you’d find it very much worth the trip.”
He nodded again and strode from the room.
I heard my door open and close.
He was gone.
I took a breath.
I allowed one of my hands to wander under the waistband of my sweatpants, permitted those fingers to fumble and stir for a few moments, in that hot syrupy maelstrom, brought myself to two quick, jagged, whimpering orgasms, then curled up and went to sleep, right there on the couch, the lights still on, the bottle of Champagne, still half full, keeping lonely watch over my fitful dreams.
I’d slept almost until noon; I was late meeting Devya for brunch.
Usually it was the other way around — which usefully crimped her self-righteousness.
She was a Bloody Mary ahead of me; I opted for that over the mimosa, feeling suddenly a little skittish and guilty about Champagne.
“To your apartment, he came?” she said, seeming amused. “And you invited him in! Did I not tell you about — ”
Vampires are powerless unless you invite them in.
“You told me; you did; I remember — of course!”
“And yet — ?”
“And yet, and yet, and yet — I invited him in. Yes.”
Then I told her about where he had invited me.
Devya went quiet — which is a little like waves ceasing to lap at a beach, as though the moon had simply decided to suspend the requirement of tides.
The waiter refilled our coffee cups and retreated.
“I love you,” Devya began, speaking plainly. “And I am — for the most part — respectful,” she cleared her throat, “of your . . . choices.”
“But — ?”
“Well — yes, yes, yes, exactly — but, as your friend, I really do feel I have to — ”
“You don’t,” I said, as gently as I could.
She took this rejection with equanimity, nodded in acquiescence.
“Tell me,” she said softly.
“I need you to listen to me,” I said, suddenly feeling a little dizzy with emotion. “I don’t need to be warned or lectured; I need you to let me figure this out — be my sounding board . . . not my nanny.”
Wasn’t that autonomy and respect and Women’s Studies 101?
Wasn’t this the acid test, really?
Easy enough to respect people’s wishes and desires when you agree with them!
Devya nodded at this somberly, pursed her lips, nodded again, sighed.
“Indeed, my sister,” she said, in ponderous parody, “tell me your thoughts, your feelings, your,” she cleared her throat again, “. . . plans.”
I took a deep breath.
The limousine did a half arc of the crushed white marble circle, pulling up at the front door to Jason Flood’s Long Island mansion.
I stepped out into the warm briny breeze, feeling somewhat as if I had just stepped into The Great Gatsby.
A butler swung open the double front doors.
Devya’s “withholding of judgment” had been somewhat imperfect.
But she had genuinely listened.
She’d allowed me to walk myself through a thicket of “what if’s.”
She’d coaxed me toward honesty, even when she knew it was unlikely she would be happy with the answers I gave her.
She’d played Devil’s Advocate when asked and tethered her tongue when told to do that — how much this pained her writ large on her face.
“I will concede,” she’d said carefully, “that this does seem a reasonable bet to — is fit the bill the right phrase? — address your . . . stated desires of longstanding.”
“But — ?” I’d coaxed, “authorizing” more pointed intervention.
“Well, well, well,” Devya had said softly. “I know that you think my primary concern is your physical safety.” I nodded at this tentatively. “No, my dear sister, no,” she said slowly. “Always and only: My concern is for your heart — ” she held up a hand to forestall my interjection. “It is — I apologize abjectly; this is a painful cliché, I know — it is dangerous when we get what we think we want.”
“I understand,” I said.
I’d thought I did.
Jason Flood appeared in the entryway, feet bare on the cool marble of the front hall, wearing a pair of loose, black, drawstring pants, and a matching tee-shirt tight enough to reveal some of the impressive musculature of his upper body.
His smile was radiant and welcoming.
Hands light on my shoulders, he leaned in and kissed me gently on the cheek.
“I’m so glad you decided to come!” he said, his enthusiasm seeming utterly genuine. “Mr. Reilly and Mr. Soames will attend to your luggage.” He nodded orders with his chin; the butler and chauffeur went into smooth and efficient motion. “And, if you could just disrobe, my dear?” he added, voice still calm and genial.
I had expected a little more . . . prelude.
I felt frozen, uncertain, both instantly terrified and deeply turned on.
“I — ”
“Every household, after all, has its rules,” he said, still smiling. “And penalties, of course, for hesitance, recalcitrance, or outright disobedience.”
I blinked in confusion — though there was nothing he had said that was in the remotest way unclear — as I felt my body, as if of its own accord, obeying.
I clumsily kicked off my shoes, my trembling fingers fumbling with blouse buttons.
I looked over Jason Flood’s shoulder, at the chandelier that loomed over the foyer — twenty feet above, at least — sparkling in the sunlight, mesmerizing and distracting me.
I had dressed — entirely unintentionally — as his mirror image: matching blouse and slacks in loose, ivory, linen; lacy black panties and bra beneath; plain sandals, no socks or hose.
I’d had some dim feeling that I was outwardly clothing myself as innocent: cloaked as the Good Girl; the Naughty Girl beneath.
When I’d shed sandals, blouse, and trousers, it felt as if I had suddenly run out of inertia — a toy whose battery had run down. I stood for a moment in my black bra and panty set, blinking in confusion, little eddies and ripples of activity all around: servants on the driveway, in the yard, deeper in the house, appearing deaf, dumb, blind, and entirely indifferent to this spectacle.
As if I no longer existed.
Jason Flood stood in front of me, put his hands lightly on my shoulders, looked into my eyes.
“This is a choice,” he intoned, gently but solemnly. “You may stay; you may go. Should you stay: obedience is an iron requirement. Beginning now.”
I nodded at this — not feeling that motion was entirely under my control either.
There had been more than a week to consider this, had there not?
I had talked — and, at least minimally, listened — to Devya.
All of my decisions had been made by the time I entered the limousine, scant hours before.
Had they not?
And I was now down to panties and bra.
The very last point at which I might have turned back?
I popped the bra clasp between my breasts and shrugged it to the floor; I skinned down the panties and stepped out of them.
I was painfully aware that my thighs were wet, no doubt visibly so — they felt like they were streaming.
Jason Flood kissed me on the forehead.
“Thank you,” he said, quietly. “I am grateful for the gift.”
I felt like sobbing.
I felt like falling to my knees.
I felt like trying to simply choke myself, taking him into my mouth, into my throat, into my very soul, letting him — encouraging him to — cleave my body in two.
He caressed my face.
He ran his hands, symmetrically, down my arms, my flanks, to my hips, fingers just barely curling around to touch the tops of my buttocks — now matching my thighs, heavily pebbled with gooseflesh.
He knelt before me.
This was an odd — and touching — act of humility and grace for a man of his stature and inclinations.
His hands moved from my hips to my knees, cheek, at first, flush with my belly, nose almost in my navel.
Then he moved lower, just barely kissed my mons, drew back and inhaled, as if taking in the scent of a bouquet of roses, sighed deeply, and stood again.
Just the tips of his fingers on my shoulders, he encouraged me to do a slow twirl, briefly traced the ridges, from the nape of my neck to the top of the cleft of my buttocks, then, hand light on the small of my back, gently put me into motion.
“I have a very special room,” he said, voice hypnotically mellifluous and deep, “that I have very much wanted to show you for some time now.”
As if in a trance — mouth dry, heart hammering in my chest — I went where he wanted me to go, went where I suspected I might . . . belong.
Excerpted from Zoë Zelig’s:
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