Part 28: 5th Day of Xmas
I lose track of the hours I spend waiting for her to come home. Norris is there, ready to see her safely to her flat. The last thing she needs is me showing up, not with all the reporters circling her office building like vultures waiting for her to drop. When a familiar Bentley drives past, relief floods through me. Soon. She’ll be here soon. And then we can sort out this mess.
A door opens in the distance, but I don’t move. Footsteps in the hall slowing slightly the closer they get to her room. Finally, she fills the doorframe, dressed in a simple blue dress that hugs her curves--curves that make me mental. I frown, wondering if she’s self-conscious about them. If she is, I’m going to have to fix that. She stands for a moment, mute, her hair cascading around her shoulders, before she moves to the bed. She still doesn’t speak as she plops onto it. Instead, she grabs a pillow.
I wait for her to open up.
Make her feel safe. That was Belle’s advice.
I only know one way to do that, but first I need to know if this is just another exaggeration of the so-called press. I won’t make the mistake of believing whatever they print.
It takes effort to go to her and keep my hands to myself. She blinks up at me, the evidence of tears smudged under her lower lashes. I want to reach out and wipe it away--wipe all of this away. But first.
“Is it true?”
Fear flits over her face and I tense. “Yes.”
Hearing her say it breaks me. It’s not enough that she’s had to live with it, the goddamn press believes they can drag it up to sell fucking tabloids. I turn away, afraid she’ll see my rage and feel anything but safe near me. But I can’t contain my anger. It bursts out of me, sending my fist slamming into the plaster wall.
So much for keeping control of myself. I pull my hand out, watching the plaster crumble. This sends Clara shooting to her feet.
“I’m sorry,” she screams. “I’m not perfect. I’m sorry you didn’t know. But you need to leave.”
I whip around to find tears streaming down her cheeks and realize I’ve made another mistake. “You think I’m angry with you?”
“I have no idea how they found out about it,” she continues like she didn’t even hear me. Her hands twist together. “I was in therapy before university, and I saw a private counselor my first year of college. There was a relapse a year ago, but that was all confidential.”
“You no longer have secrets, Clara.” I took that from you when I took you.
“I realize that now. I realize I owe you an explanation, but—”
“You owe me nothing,” I cut her off, doing my best to keep my voice soft. I want to soothe her, not add to her stress. I close the space between us and take her chin in my hands, directing her tear-filled eyes to mine. “Do you understand that? You owe me nothing.”
Her head shakes, and I understand her a little more. I know what it’s like to cling to whatever control life gives you. I want to carry her away, somewhere safe where no one will ever touch her. But the only way to truly protect her is to walk away, and looking at her now, seeing her rise as they try to tear her down, I realize that’s impossible. I’ll never give her up. I want her too much.
“I need you to understand,” she murmurs, still caught in her own thoughts.
Do I tell her it’s not important to me? That seems wrong. It’s important to her. Do I tell her everything will be okay. That’s a lie. We both know it. I can only tell her the truth I feel as certainly as the beating of my own heart. “If you need me to, I will listen. But you don’t owe me an explanation. Nothing you say will change anything between us.”
“Then go.” She yanks free from me, turning her face so I can’t see her pain.
“I don’t want to go.” I step closer. I want to take away the hurt she’s feeling. I want to show her that she’s the one I want--that her flaws only make her so much more beautiful to me. “What do you think I’m saying to you?”
“I understand.” Her eyes stay cast to the floor. “You don’t need more drama in your life. You don’t need a girlfriend who has to actively construct positive thoughts about her body and set alarms to remind herself to eat. I don’t blame you for that.”
Fuck, is that what she thinks? That I want some plastic doll hanging from my arm? I never wanted anyone by my side until she stumbled into my life. I tried like hell to stop myself from falling for her, but how could I not? Why can’t she see herself like I do?
“I’m not leaving you,” I tell her. “I never wanted perfection. I wanted you.”
She sways, and I catch her. If only I could always be near enough to do that, maybe we could make this crazy situation work. I guide her to the bed, holding her closely. Nothing will convince her that I want to stay--except staying.
“I still want you to understand.” She turns into me, nuzzling closer and for the first time all day, I relax.
I nod, determined to listen.
Clara begins her story slowly, her voice shaking slightly, and I tighten my arms around her.
“It started at school. My mother insisted that I attend an exclusive academy in California, and as usual, my father gave in. I didn’t want to go. I was fourteen and my friends were my life, but I had no say in the matter. I guess that made the transition worse, and I had a hard time meeting people.” She takes a deep breath before plunging forward. “Finally, an older girl took me under her wing. She taught me about makeup and boys. For some reason, I thought she was really popular. Probably because she seemed happy. And then one day, she went into the bathroom and threw up after lunch.”
I tense. I hadn’t bothered to read the lies the tabloids printed, so hearing the truth from her now is jarring.
“She pushed me to try it, and when I wouldn’t, she started dropping little hints. There was a roll around my bra strap. She slapped my thigh in the locker room and laughed as it jiggled. So one night, I went with her after dinner and threw up. It was hard for me and it took so long for me to do it while she stood there and teased me. When I finally did it, I decided I couldn’t do it again. I hated it, but she was my only friend.” She manages a sad smile. “After all these years, I still feel stupid when I tell this story.”
I force her to look up at me. “You are not stupid.”
She needs to hear it, even if she won’t believe it. I know because there’s been so many times I needed someone to tell me that my demons were real, but they didn’t define me.
“I wasn’t smart though. I believed her when she said my parents had sent me away because they were ashamed. I believed her when she said the thinner I got, the more popular I would become. By the time I went home for Spring Break, I weighed less than a hundred pounds. My mom—” she breaks for a moment, and I kiss her forehead, hoping it makes her feel safe enough to continue. “My mom started crying when she saw me. They pulled me out of school, and she drove me to therapy every single day, because she wouldn’t let them admit me. That summer we moved to England. Dad thought it would be a better environment for me. Maybe he was right.”
“He was right.” I want to send her a goddamn thank you card for removing the ocean that was once between us, for bringing her to London, for bringing her to me. “Because you’re here with me now, poppet.”
Her hand presses against my chest for just a moment like she’s checking to see if I’m real. “I’ve done really well with therapy. I learned my eating disorder was a coping mechanism that I used when I was stressed or lonely. I stayed in therapy until my second year at university and then I met Daniel.”
“The one who tried to break you?” She’d mentioned him before. I had the sense he didn’t want to run into me any time soon.
“I should have seen through him.” Her voice is full of regret.
“Don’t make excuses.” I hated men that did that to women. Men who manipulated and twisted. Men who were so fragile they used others like human shields.
“It was fine for a while, but then things changed. He changed. One minute he made me feel like the most important person in his life, and the next, I was the reason he was miserable. He criticized how much I ate, pointed out how little I exercised. He competed with me for grades. When my parents gave me access to my trust fund, we came home after my birthday party and I told him I was tired.”
I brace myself, afraid I know what comes next. I let her go, putting enough distance between us that if my rage takes over, she won’t be in its range.
“He didn’t like that,” she continues. “He accused me of being superior to him. He said I was being elitist and that I was too snobby to fuck him. Things escalated quickly and he almost—”
I jump up from the bed, needing more distance, certain I might actually detonate. Pacing the length of her room, I motion for her to continue.
She does, but there’s a nervous edge to her tone. “But he didn’t. Belle came home. She saw what was going on and threatened to call the police. That night should have been enough for me to see what he was doing to me, but still I thought I was in love with him. I refused to go to therapy even though Belle pushed. I was fine. Things were under control, and then I fainted during class. At the hospital, they asked me when my last period was and I couldn’t remember.”
I stop dead in my tracks. It’s bad enough that any other man has touched her. If he...
“I honestly thought I was pregnant, and the thought of having a baby with Daniel made me so scared that I got sick. They had to put me on oxygen and give me a feeding tube.” She forces herself to continue as she cries, “I realized that I wasn’t scared of having a baby, but I was terrified of being permanently bound to Daniel. When it occurred to me that my child would have him for a father, there was a sadness deeper than any I’ve ever known.”
Clara Bishop isn’t a mother. I’d have found that during my research. There’s no indication that she ever had a child. That only leaves one possibility. “So you ended it?”
“I didn’t have to,” she says with a hollow laugh. “The results came back negative. I wasn’t pregnant. I was malnourished. My liver was barely functioning. I was shutting down. I hadn’t purposefully stopped eating. I hadn’t even realized I was doing it. The doctors quizzed me and suggested I go back to therapy, especially a support group. It was there that I realized I’d been clinging to an idea of control that didn’t exist. Not eating was something I chose. Maybe because of the awful things he said about my body. Maybe because subconsciously I desperately needed to control something. My group helped me see that I’d given him control over me instead. So when I say he broke me—that’s what I mean. I loved him and he nearly killed me. At least, I thought I loved him.”
“And now?” I don’t know why it’s important. I shouldn’t want her to love me. I shouldn’t want to know her heart has never belonged to anyone else. But God, I want her to say no.
Her answering look is hard. A decision is being made, and her next words are carefully chosen. “Now…Let’s just say that distance has given me perspective. Although after today, I feel like I’ve been thrown back in time. I suppose no matter how far I’ve come, I can’t change what happened, and that means sometimes I have to face it.”
She can’t change it. She can only control it. She needs to control her body, and I...“That’s why you ran when I brought up submission.”
She nods reluctantly as though she’d hoped I wouldn’t put these two things together.
“I can’t believe I…” I’ve spent my life in a perpetual state of self-loathing. For the first time ever, though, I hate myself completely. I hate that I need what she can’t give me. I hate that I’m weak. I’m no better than men like Daniel, demanding more than is my right, taking more than I give.
“No, X,” she says swiftly. “It wasn’t just that. It was the idea of any relationship.”
“My predilections certainly won’t help you.” And now she’s trying to soothe me when I’m supposed to be taking care of her.
She shakes her head. “I thought that at first too. But you aren’t him, and I’m stronger now.”
“And your body?” Do the scars of what he said and did to her linger? “How do you feel about your body?”
She hesitates, which is an answer in and of itself. “Most days I don’t think about it. I eat. I get dressed. I walk or run. Other days, I catch myself wishing I had a body like Pepper’s.”
That’s what she thinks? That I want someone like Pepper when I have her? I’m in motion before I even realize what I’m doing. Lifting her into my arms, I carry her to the loo. I need to show her what I see. I need her to see that she is breathtaking. I need her to understand she is all any man could want--and everything I need.
Kicking open the door, I carry her to the mirror and lower her to her feet. She looks skeptically up at me, but she doesn’t fight my sudden actions. I spin her to face her own reflection and lean to kiss her neck as I draw the zipper of her dress down her back, revealing her smooth shoulders. “I’ve been remiss in telling you how I feel about your body. Your gorgeous cunt gets so much of my attention, but when I said your whole body was made for fucking, I meant it.”
I want to rip her clothes off. It takes restraint not to, but I’m not rushing this. I need her to understand me when I say she’s perfection. My lips cruise across her shoulder to the curve of her neck. “This—” I kiss the spot “—was made to kiss—so smooth and soft. When I’m burying my cock in your perfect cunt, I can’t help myself.”
I’ve fucked plenty of women, but none have drawn me to them like she does. I can’t stop myself from kissing her soft skin again, but I want more of her. I want to devour her. Before I realize, my teeth nip the spot and she moans. I smile as I realize she liked it, that bit of pain dashed into the pleasure.
This isn’t about you, I remind myself, moving back to undressing her as slowly as possible. My hands slides one strap of her dress down slowly, and I follow its path with hungry kisses.
“Long and slender. These freckles drive me crazy.” I prove it by pausing to kiss a few. “And the way they feel when they’re wrapped around me, clinging to me as I ride you—perfection.”
I clasp her hand, lifting our entwined hands to her shoulder so I can kiss each knuckle. “Such clever fingers. I hate when they aren’t intertwined with mine, unless they’re on my cock, of course.”
She nods absently, her eyes meeting mine in the reflection. I wonder if she sees how beautiful she is yet, how much I want her, how desperate I am to keep her. But she’s watching me, not the magnificent body I’ve put on display.
“Look at yourself, poppet.”
“I want to look at you,” she murmurs.
That’s only natural. “I don’t blame you, but right now, I need you to pay attention. Follow my lips with your eyes.”
I move between her and the sink, kneeling so that I don’t block her view of the mirror. Gripping her wrists, I force her arms behind her back until she arches close enough for me to catch her nipple in my mouth. I take my time, nibbling at it, sucking it. I want her to see what I do: how her body responds to my touch, her breasts swelling with arousal, her cunt plumping until a single touch could push her over the edge. “It’s almost cliché to tell you that your tits are perfect, but they are. Full and supple. I can ever decide if I want to suck them or fuck them.”
This earns me a whimper. Clara is full of surprises. She’d been so prim the day we met, so shocked when I kissed her. And then I’d taken her to bed and unleashed something that surprised both of us. Her little moan is giving me ideas. “Would you like that? Do you want me to shove my cock between your tits?”
How the fuck can I resist that? I have to remind myself that I can wait. This is about her body and showing her what it does to me, but I can’t quite keep a vision of her breasts dripping with climax from springing to mind--my cock springing along with it.
“Later, poppet.” I mean it. I want to do everything to her. I want to show her pleasure she never knew existed. I want to watch her come again and again. I kiss across the other breast, capture her nipple and continue my exploration. My hand strokes down her stomach, taunting her with what she really wants. I feel the tension building inside her, noting how her hips wiggle a little wider open in invitation. “Your body makes me so fucking hot, poppet. I think about it all the time, imagining how I’m going to fuck you. When we’re apart, all I can think of is getting my hands on you.”
I grab her roughly, already imagining how good it’s going to feel when I bury myself inside her. “I can’t take my eyes off you when you walk. Do you sway your hips like that on purpose, knowing that I’m watching?”
She shakes her head. Of course, she doesn’t see it. She’s been taught to see her flaws. I have to show her her strengths.
“All I can think about is grabbing these hips and putting you over my knee,” I mutter, ignoring a pang in my balls at the thought, “or holding onto them as my cock pounds you. They curve so precisely into my hands. I swear your body is fucking proof of evolution.”
Her eyes shudder closed. I know she’s imagining all my suggestions. I want her to see me do all the things to her. I want her to watch me fuck her. I want her to see what she looks like moments before she comes undone.
“Open your eyes, Clara,” I command her, spanking her lightly. Her eyes fly open, and I resist the urge to smack her ass harder. Would she cry out? Would she beg for more? “I’ll have to spend a whole day worshipping your ass. It’s a pity that you can’t see me do it, but I’ll be certain to describe every single thing I want to do to it. Everything I’m going to do to it.”
I press her thighs farther apart, and nuzzle my face against her sweet cunt. “I suppose it would be too much to ask to be buried here?”
She giggles and I kiss her lacy panties, earning another laugh. “I’m serious, poppet. I want my lips down here, breathing you in. Your scent intoxicates me, you know. I want them clamping against my ears as I taste you. But I need them spreading open for me, circling around me as I fuck you.”
It slips out again, unknown to her. I resist the urge to stand up and fuck her over the sink on the spot. She wants it all so badly, but she won’t let herself have it. I have to coax it out of her, give her permission, show her she should never feel shame in my arms.
“You know how I feel about this.” I brush across her again. “Your cunt was made for me. It’s so tight it just squeezes my cock when I’m inside of you, draining every drop from me. But you know that. You know you have a greedy cunt, don’t you? I want you to see. I’m going to fuck you with my tongue, so you can see how fucking beautiful you are when you come.”
I run my tongue roughly over her lace thong, tasting how she’s soaked through it. So wet. So ready. “Watch, poppet.”
I want her to see me claim her with my mouth. Pushing her legs as wide open as possible, I hook her panties and yank them to the side. My tongue thrusts her open to find her clit. I’m not watching her anymore, so I hope she’s behaving. A man can’t be held accountable when his mouth is on a perfect cunt.
“I want to see your cock inside me.” Her request is tentative. She wants me. She wants contact. She wants to give me what she imagines I need. But this isn’t about me. I ignore her and continue on.
Gripping her hips, I urge her against me, stroking until her clit is so swollen, I can catch it between my teeth. Once I do, I savor it. Her body tightens and then her climax floods my tongue.
“Had enough, poppet?”
She shakes her head, stumbling dizzily and catching herself on the vanity. My hands hover near her, in case she loses her balance entirely. When she doesn’t, I stand, unable to wait any longer. My dick is so hard that it’s trying to escape my jeans.
In the mirror, I see her tongue swipe over her lower lip.
Fuck me. I fist my shaft. “Do you want this?”
She hesitates, her answer surprisingly shy. “No. I want your body.”
I freeze, realizing what she’s asking. She’s felt the scars. Now she wants to see them. How have I let this happen? Touching is one thing. Facing them is entirely different. “You don’t want that, Clara.”
“There’s no part of my body you don’t want, right?” She pauses, looking at me expectantly. I can’t believe she’s playing this card. “There’s no part of your body that I don’t want.”
If she really knew. “Clara—”
“I felt the scars. I know,” she says softly. “And I want you. All of you, X. Your body—all of it—makes me so fucking hot.”
The little minx has me, and she knows it. How can I argue with my own words? If I want to prove that I want every bit of her, I can’t keep my own body from her. Still, she doesn’t have any idea what she’s asking. I take off my trousers as she watches in the mirror. I hesitate when I reach for my black t-shirt, and Clara smiles. Slowly, I draw it over my head, revealing myself to her inch by inch. Her eyes go distant. She’s guarding herself like a woman approaching a wild animal. She must have some clue that I have a reason to hide this.
“All of you, X,” she urges.
I whip the shirt over my head, searching for any of the arrogance I usually feel in abundance and finding none. She scans over me, her face unreadable. The scars from my accident are brutal, refusing to fade with time. As I’d gotten older, they’d become worse as I filled out after years of military training and service.
Clara still says nothing and I reach for her, grabbing her hips, needing some assurance that she can’t turn and flee from me. But when her eyes lift from my scars to my eyes, she whispers, “Take me, and don’t be gentle.”
I move my cock to her entrance and slowly breach her. She wants it rough, but I don’t trust myself. Not after she’s opened the cage that restrains me. I keep it locked for a reason. I rock into her, urging myself deeper until I’m fully inside her. Leaning down I catch the curve of her neck, intending to kiss it. Instead, my teeth bite into and she gasps. I’m losing control. I try to dial it back.
Clara isn’t having it. She pulls free from my hands and folds over the sink, allowing my cock to slam deeper inside her. She moans, moving her hips to encourage me, her hands gripping the counter.
She’s giving herself to me, showing me what she thinks I need to heal. But this isn’t enough to tame me. It’s dangerous for her to think so. I close my eyes, unwilling to pretend that I’m anything more than damaged and angry and dangerous.
“Open your eyes, X,” she says firmly. “I want you to see what you do to me. I want you to see what I see.”
I can’t deny her, but I can’t hide the truth. She can’t heal me, because some scars run deeper than the skin. She can see the ones on my flesh, but not the ones that twist my soul. I stare at her, wondering when she’ll realize how fucked up I am. She pushes her hips back into me. She might as well wave a red flag. Doesn’t she see how she’s provoking me. She thinks she wants it rough, but she has no idea what she’s asking of me--or herself. I have to show her before it’s too late. I grab a handful of her hair and jerk her up, so she’s forced to really look at me. She wants to see me. She needs to see the beast. She can’t look away, and I reveal my true self, pounding into her so hard I know it hurts. She gasps and grunts, her face wrenching with the sudden violence of my cock. But instead of begging me to spot, she tightens around me.
“Don’t stop,” she urges, breathless. “All of you. Give me all of you.”
I come with a violent surge that blasts from me so hard that she has to hold onto the counter.
She enjoyed it.
I have to make her see. I keep going, my cock remaining hard as it moves into her soaked cunt. I ignore how impossibly good it feels to fuck her when she’s full of me.
“Alexander,” she calls, discomfort running through her voice.
“Need…need…” But she needs to see--the real me, the real danger of freeing me. She still has time to put me back in my cage, because one I’m fully released, I’ll take her captive and never let her go. I’ll use her. I’ll control her. I’ll ruin her. Or my world will.
Clara manages to free herself and turns around, leaving my cock pulsing with unfinished business. As soon as she’s gone, I realize my mistake. I can’t punish her for my past. I have to protect her, and now I’ve pushed her too far. I need to show her that I can be gentle, that I can keep the dangerous part of me locked away.
“Brimstone,” she whispers.
No. Not now. I need her too much. “I need to be inside you.”
She shakes her head. Not like this. Not taking.
I wrap my arms around her and lift her to the counter. The pause gives me time to gather myself. I find my control. I find her. My cock is still hard, still desperate to be inside her. I tenderly move it her swollen sex and watch her, hoping she understands this is about something else. She stares for a moment before wiggling her hips to slide herself over my cock.
I let her take the lead. I can’t help feeling like I’m coming home as I join with her. This isn’t about fucking. This is connection. She clings to me, her eyes locked with mine, and I know neither of us can deny everything between us has changed again. There’s no longer a path without her--there’s no future that exists outside of her and me. I don’t know how to do this. She has to show me how.