Erin really wished their evening hadn’t ended that way. It had been going so well, until she made love to him in a restroom! Their first time… romance had left the building for good now.
Not that it wasn’t the most intense thing she’d ever felt. It was thrilling and awful at the same time. Just thinking about it made the muscles between her legs twinge, as if her body remembered and was begging for more.
But it was a public restroom! Why couldn’t she hold out until they got back to her place? It would have been so much better to lie with him on her bed afterwards and float in that wonderful feeling of release, rather than getting all freaked out because people were watching them as they came out. And the way that old lady had winked at her as they walked up the dock, she must have been listening, too.
She knew from the start that she would get wild sex from Kai. She knew this wasn’t the start of a life together. And now she had proof. He could have waited fifteen minutes. If he wanted to make love to her like a real lover, he would have waited until they got to her place. But he didn’t.
And then he left.
Erin knew full well that she couldn’t handle casual sex with him. She needed to get out now, before her heart got crushed.
But she couldn’t stand the idea of not seeing him again. Not kissing him again. Never feeling his arms hold her so tightly…
She was suddenly crying and didn’t remember how she got started. It hurt so bad, but thinking about him felt so good…
One more time, she bargained with herself. I have to touch him one more time. It was bound to fall apart sooner rather than later. Look what happened tonight! They both weren’t happy in the end. If they’d been happy, he would be here right now, lying in bed with her, his arms around her.
She turned off the light. One more time, she promised herself. If she could get it.
Kai realized the next day at work that it was going to be hard to keep it cool with Erin while he was working with her. He kept admiring her curves as she leaned over the plans on the table, or the way she kicked off her heels when she sat down, sometimes dangling one to show her high arched instep. He hadn’t even explored her feet yet, or her legs, or even her pussy…
No, he had been too greedy, rushing to take her the first second he could, like a stupid teenager. And he was paying the price for it.
He found himself thinking about Erin rather than his project, and had to drag himself back over and over again. But he did it. He was determined to succeed. If he couldn’t control himself, he shouldn’t be allowed to control another person.
By the end of the day, his concentration had returned. He had closed the door on the Erin room in his mind, and focused on getting the last details in place for the demolition crew to start.
She also seemed to relax as the day went on, and they worked well together until it was past six. Then they ran into each other waiting at the elevator. There wasn’t anyone else around, and Emily had already left the reception desk.
Kai was determined to keep his promise to himself. He wouldn’t see her tonight. But he was tempted, very tempted. She was looking at him expectantly.
Suddenly he recognized this moment. He knew what would happen if he was friendly but didn’t say anything about getting together. She would feel snubbed, and she would be put off balance by his sudden lack of pursuit. It was the best way to get a woman to want him more. It was the first crack of the whip, the first call to heel.
He had done it before. Hell, he did it with Nikki like second nature. Their entire relationship was built around him pushing her away and her crawling back to give him more.
The only thing that made it okay for him was the fact that she was merrily polyamorous and was having sex with a number of other people, including her girlfriend who she lived with. If he ever thought Nikki was falling in love with him, he would end it immediately. He didn’t want to torture someone for real, he only wanted to “torture” them.
So he hesitated because it was a habit with him, and because he knew he needed to get control of himself. But her smile faltered as she realized he was pushing her away, and he knew there was a difference between getting control over himself and controlling her.
“How about dinner tomorrow?” he asked.
Erin face lit up and that made it worth it. “Sure.”
“We’ll meet at the deli then, after work.”
They took the elevator down together talking about what they needed to do for work the next day. But he split off from her outside, saying, “I’ve got a few things to do in the city. But I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He didn’t want to get on the subway with her for the ride home, and have those protective feelings surge up inside of him again. He didn’t think he would be able to resist walking home with her. Then she would invite him in, and there was no way he would be able to keep his cool, not when he had just barely recovered it.
That way lies madness…
She gave him a little wave good-bye. It felt strange as he turned around and walked away without even touching her hand, but there were BioEnd employees passing right by them. Allison must have her own network of spies, so he had to keep it absolutely professional at work or that would be the sure way to screw himself with her. He had to be careful—the ways he could screw himself were multiplying with every passing day.
It was tough to walk away from Erin, but he made himself do it. And after he got home, he forced himself to go over the plans for the demolition. He didn’t let himself think about Erin until he was lying in bed in the dark, and then he masturbated over how luscious her body was, and the heady feeling of being inside of her. He used her panties he had kept from the ferry taxi, wrapping them around his cock. He could smell her on them. She probably thought they had been left behind in the bathroom, but they were his guilty secret.
He came almost as quickly as he had on the ferry. It was kind of galling, like he was thirteen years old again.
But he fell asleep almost instantly, so it worked out okay.
The next day the crew came in to set up the plywood barricade around most of the plaza. They left the portico running along the inner curve of the building open with an entrance to the sidewalk on either side. The center of the plaza was encircled by plywood, so everyone had to walk along the curving front of the building to get to the doors to the building in the center. Typical of most construction fencing, there were a few strategically placed diamond-shaped holes in the blue-painted wood so that people could see inside.
It was good, hard work, and Kai helped out. He only spoke to Erin once and saw her another time after that as she left the building for lunch. She was smiling as usual, and both she and Francesca, the graphic designer, waved to him as they passed by.
He took a few minutes in the afternoon to make two phone calls to set up their romantic date. It was the same plans he had canceled on Monday after he got the call from the Conservancy Garden.
He was feeling like himself again by the time work was over. He went to the deli early so he could buy Erin a flower. A single perfect red rose.
It felt like he waited outside the deli for a long time, but was only a few minutes after six when she finally walked up. He met her and presented the rose to her with the appropriate flourish. She laughed in delight. But he still held back from touching her, afraid that a BioEnd employee would pass by.
He had never imagined that he would be the one in need of reassurance, but one look from her laughing eyes threw him off balance again. Two days of hard work getting himself under control, and all he wanted to do was kiss her and never stop.
“Here’s our car,” he told Erin, as a black limo car pulled up.
“For us?” she asked in surprise.
“Yes, tonight you can put your heels back on. But I do love how much of a walker you are. I’d usually rather walk or bike than anything else.”
“The outdoors is all we’ve got in Madison County. I grew up walking all over the hills, swimming in the lake, cross-country skiing in the winter.”
They got into the town car and Kai ordered, “The Beekman, please.”
Erin took off her sneakers and tucked them back in her bag in place of her high heels. She was wearing a form-fitting gray skirt and jacket with a tiny ruffled edge on the lapels. The jacket gathered at the back of her waist, with a pleated flare of silvery gray fabric pointing down to her butt. The skirt did things for her ass that he didn’t think were possible.
She curled up on the seat facing him. “What’s the Beekman?”
“It’s a surprise. I hope you like it.”
The car took them all the way up to midtown via 2nd Avenue, stopping at 46th Street. “The Beekman Hotel,” the driver announced as he pulled up.
Kai noticed that her brows drew together briefly, a fleeting frown. She didn’t like it that he was bringing her to a hotel. As they walked through the lobby, she was reserved, letting him guide her but not smiling into his eyes the way she did before.
He could have told her then that they were going to the restaurant on the 26th floor with the most amazing 360-degree view of the city. But she thought he was taking her to a hotel room. She was pre-judging him because he was kinky and she thought this was only about sex. He was going to let her keep on assuming things, just to show her that she didn’t know him at all.
It’s true that on Monday he had considered reserving a room for after dinner, but her comfort was his main concern. He had decided to wait to see if she liked the idea of a neutral space their first time together. But it turned out their first time together was in the bathroom of a ferry taxi! And she said she wasn’t kinky… little did she know herself.
Now, seeing her reaction to the posh hotel, he knew he wasn’t going to ask her if she wanted to take a room there later. That would have to come from her, if she wanted it.
“This way,” he said. He took her to the bank of elevators and pressed the button marked Top of the Tower. She noticed, and looked at him curiously again.
The doors opened and when they walked forward, the view opened up as the windows lined every wall.
“Oh…,” she breathed, turning one way and then the other. They were up in the midst of the towers of Midtown, some buildings taller, others lower than them. To the south was the dip of the skyline over Greenwich Village and Soho, with the BioEnd tower glinting at the edge. Then further down was another giant tower cluster in downtown, with the Freedom Tower taller than the rest.
The lowering sun gleamed against the windows, causing brilliant refractions here and there. As they sat down at their table, Erin pointed out the tiny figures and cars passing by down below.
“Have you ever been to a place like this before?” Kai had to ask.
“No! It’s exactly what I hoped the city would be like.” Erin was charged with excitement, eager and looking at everything outside instead of the huge menu the waiter gave to each of them. But as the waiter began to go through the specials, she turned to give him her entire focus. Kai loved that about her. Whatever she did, she did with all of her being.
“Yum,” she murmured after the waiter left. “That encrusted sea bass special sounds delicious.”
This was the point where he would usually take over, guiding her choice or better yet, choosing for her. But that wasn’t the game they were playing. This was a romantic date. So she picked out her own meal, including a glass of White Zinfandel. He did tell the waiter what she had decided on, since that was traditional date behavior.
“Have you been here before?” she asked.
“No, I usually prefer ethnic food.” He gestured to the windows. “This place is for the view. You have to dine at least once in your life looking at the skyline of the city.”
“Just once?” She looked around at the predominantly business crowd in the restaurant, with a few obvious tourists and dating couples sprinkled in. “I bet some of these people eat here all the time.”
He shrugged. “If you’re rich enough, you can eat out every night and not go to the same restaurant twice in the same year.”
Their soup arrived, and he asked her more questions about her childhood. She had lived in the same small college town in upstate NY since she was five, the complete opposite of his constant moving around. Her mother was a full professor at Jefferson College, a very expensive school that wealthy parents sent their kids to. So even though she was a townie, her mother’s association with the college gave her entry into that world.
“Before my mom got tenure, it was hard for us,” she said, “We were living in apartments in the area until I was nearly twelve. I wanted a real house so badly that I remember trying to bargain with my mom about what I would give up to get one. But my dad was mostly volunteering with the local art center at that time, and it took years to save enough. Then we finally got a nice brick house right in the village, just big enough for the three of us. My friends who lived in the sorority mansions called it ‘cute’. I lived at home all through college and while I freelanced and volunteered for some green groups for a couple of years, until I moved here to the city.”
He saw it all in a flash, her longing for a better life, surrounded by rich kids as she grew into an adult but feeling outside their world. It gave him hope that she would understand him.
“I know about wanting your own house,” he said. “We moved around too much. It made school tough because we’d relearn some things and never get to other things. It was also tough to have to make friends over and over again, especially for my brothers when they were young. The worst fights I got into were to protect them.”
“You got into fights?”
“All the time. There’s no getting around it when you and your two younger brothers are the new kids. They would gang up on us. So I figured out quick that you have to project an image of yourself that’s bigger and badder than anyone else. That’s the way they do it in prisons. The way you walk in can decide your fate.”
“That’s awful, comparing school to prison.”
“It’s a fact. I’ve seen it from the underside, believe me. There’s lots of bullying going on out there. It’s always been going on. Anyone who’s different is picked on. We were different because we dressed different and spoke different and didn’t know what all the other kids were into in whatever Podunk town we were in at that moment. I’m not going to run away, so stand and fight is my only option. Haven’t you ever gotten into a fight?”
“Not a physical fight. Arguments, sure.”
“That’s right, you don’t have brothers or sisters. It’s hard not to fight sometimes when you’re a kid. My brothers scuffled all the time, over the slightest thing. They still do it sometimes, more in a joking way now.”
“You sound close to them.”
“Yes, my younger brother David especially. I practically raised him. I had to put him in line a lot.” Kai tilted his head at her. “What about you? Did your parents ever punish you? Like spank you?”
“Never. Oh, my gosh, I can’t even imagine my mom doing that.”
“You do know a lot of kids are smacked, don’t you? Or worse.”
Erin shrugged, uncomfortable. “Sure, I had a friend once, when the middle school closed in the farm town down the road, and a bunch of them started coming to Jefferson. She was from a religious conservative family, so she always wore dresses. One day she said she was wearing her older sister’s dress because she said her own wouldn’t cover the marks her dad had left on her legs from hitting her with a belt. She pulled up her dress and she had two big welts on the back of her thighs.”
“How did that make you feel?”
“I was shocked. I still remember it like it was yesterday, what her shoes looked like and the dirt and grass playground. And those long reddened bruises on her skin.”
“And that’s what you thought BDSM was.” At her confused shrug, he added, “That’s child abuse, not kinky sex. Some people who play do like to get bruises and welts, but they do it on their own terms and only as much as they want.”
“But I remember the way she acted, almost like she was proud to show us. Like it was important.”
“She made her dad lose control enough to beat her. For some kids that’s the only power they have.”
Erin hesitated. “What about your mom and dad?”
“My mom depended on me. She treated me like an adult.” He grimaced. “My dad was more into neglect than abuse, but he wasn’t above taking a swing at me if he thought I was being cocky, especially when I was a teenager. But what kind of authority can a father have when he’s never home? I had to be the man of the house because he wasn’t there.”
She was nodding. “I was friends with my mom. She relied on me because we had to be sensible. My dad’s not sensible at all.”
They talked through the whole dinner, taking their time over everything, including a shared dessert that she picked out. This time it was a berry tart with whipped cream.
The only time Kai slipped out of romance-mode was at the end. He speared the last fat blueberry on his fork and with teasing eyes, held it out to her. She knew immediately what he was doing. She opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue slightly, urging him on. He popped the berry into her mouth and she bit into it.
“Yummy!” she said around the juice.
Maybe it was a romantic gesture, after all. But feeding her felt like control to him, like power. Like he wanted to do more.
He took her downstairs. As impatient as he was, he wasn’t going to risk that frown again by suggesting they get a room.
The doorman got a cab for them and opened the car door. She thanked him as she got inside, as sweet to him as she was to everyone. Kai thought she was like a crystal clear stream that hadn’t been muddied, growing up sheltered and secure, surrounded by wealth and education. Seeing only the possibilities instead of heartaches.
She was his tiny flower to pluck.