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‘I love Jack.’

My voice comes out loud. A shockingly cruel slap. He stills. It is too dark to see the expression on his face. He eases out of me and flips onto his back beside me.

‘Are you thirsty?’ His voice is even. We could have been polite strangers on a train. Is this seat taken?

‘Yes.’

‘I’ll go and get some water,’ he says and makes a move to sit up.

‘Stay, I’ll go and get it.’

I pick the toweling robe from the floor, slip into it and pad out of the bedroom. I need to get away from him. I need time to assimilate what he has done to my body. The entire experience has startled me. I stand in the living room and gaze out of the glass wall into the night. There is a growing moon and no stars.

I’ll just be cool. It’s just sex. He is not important. I can do anything, say anything, and it won’t matter. I see now that I made a good decision. He is the perfect teacher. There is much I can learn from him.

I go past the dining table. His plate is still there, but the meat is gone. The cat has come and eaten it. I look at the mash. Cold, hard mash. I hesitate. Think of the butter, the calories. The cat has probably licked it. I walk away. I pause, then turn back. With my fingers I scoop up the uneaten mash and stuff it into my mouth. I don’t taste it. I just swallow the horrid lump.

I suck my fingers and look at the plate. Now he will know I ate his leftovers. I scrape the remaining food into the bin, rinse the plate and put it into the dishwasher. Then I fill a glass with water and leave the kitchen quickly. Away from the scene of my crime. The cat is sitting on its cushion watching me with eerily bright eyes.

‘Thank God you can’t talk,’ I tell it.

I feel the cold mash in my stomach and feel guilty. I’ll be good tomorrow.

Eighteen

When I get back he has lit one of the bedside lamps and is lying propped up against the pillows.

I sit on the bed and hold the glass of water out to him. Strangely there is no awkwardness.

‘Thanks.’

I watch him drink it. He seems beautiful in this soft light. I let my eyes slide away and look around the room. In front of the bed is a metal pole. Surprised, I turn back to him. ‘Is that a lap dancer’s pole?’

‘Yup. This apartment was rented out to a big gun in the City. And when he left, the pole was left behind.’

‘Surely tenants have to leave the place as they find it?’

He shrugs one bare shoulder carelessly.

I swing my legs up on the bed and lean back against the headrest. ‘City boys and their drugs and their sluts and prostitutes. What parties he must have had here.’

‘Pole dancers are not prostitutes. I’ve known a few with hearts of gold.’

‘Oh!’ A stab of jealousy. Where on earth did that come from?

‘Besides,’ he adds, ‘the best lap dancers are artistes who turn their bodies into canvasses, works of art. You should try it some time. It’s a great turn-on for a man.’

I gaze at him. ‘You think I should learn to pole dance?’

‘Why not? Jack might love it?’

‘And you think my body is good enough for it.’

‘The best pole dancers are voluptuous women, but you’ll do.’

‘Do you think Lana is beautiful?’

He frowns. ‘Lana? As in Blake’s wife?’

‘Mmnn.’

‘Yes, very, but a bit too thin for my taste.’

‘Is she thinner than me?’

‘No, you’re thinner.’

‘Really?’ I feel a warm glow in my stomach. ‘I am thinner than her?’

‘First time I saw you I wanted to feed you.’

I look at him curiously. ‘Why do you like big girls then?’

‘They seem more sensuous to me. Their spirit is often more generous.’

The next question seems obvious. ‘So why are you sleeping with me then?’ His answer is not so obvious.

‘Stand up and take your robe off,’ he says very softly and there is an underlying steel in his voice.

‘No.’ My answer is instant and very definite.

‘It is my wish that you are naked, whenever I wish it.’ He looks at me steadily. Again I am reminded of a hunter. Implacable. He is hunting me without moving a muscle. I want to say no, but that look in his eye. It tells me if I take my robe off there might be more pleasure to come. I have been awakened from a long sexless sleep and now I want more.

I stand and drop the robe, but I am unable to withstand his searing gaze. My hands instinctively go to my br**sts and the triangle of hair between my legs in a vain attempt to shield them. He crawls forward on the bed and, standing on his knees, takes away and holds my wrists at the sides of my body.

‘Never cover yourself like that again. You were born to be naked.’

He lets my wrists go and sits back on his heels, as proud and naked as the day he was born, and gazes at my body while I struggle not to cover myself.

‘Ah, that is lovely,’ he whispers finally, and, moving forward, takes a stiff nipple in his mouth.

I gasp.

He sucks.

I tremble. I moan.

He buries his face between my br**sts. His lashes sweep darkly against his cheek.

‘How can you give pleasure to anyone if you are unhappy in your own body?’ His voice is tender now.

I bite my lower lip. He has awakened a strong desire in me. The breast that has been sucked is tingling. As if he has heard my desire, he slips his finger between my legs, and I sigh and part my legs. He takes his hand away and retreats to his haunches.

‘Clasp your hands behind your head.’

I obey and find the position has arched my back, thrust my br**sts forward, made me feel vulnerable, and in some subtle way increased my nakedness. My whole body flames with desire and shame for my position. He does nothing, just continues staring at me while the slit between my legs begins to swell and feel so very hot. Very naked and helpless, I stand in his gaze.

‘You have the most beautiful br**sts imaginable. Firm and plump and pink-tipped and so perfectly round they look fake.’

This I know to be true. My br**sts are my best assets. They are exactly as he described: pink-tipped, plump and round and without any sag at all. He puts a hand out and curves it around one breast and massages it gently. I shudder helplessly.

‘I must have you again.’

He reaches into the dark blonde, damp curls and inserts two fingers into my aching folds. With those fingers impaled in me, he draws me towards him. I gasp. The hand inside me is exquisite, the thought of being pulled by my pu**y filthy and erotic. He licks the inside of my thigh. My knees shake.

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