Afternoons of a Woman of Leisure (9781101623565) (12 page)

Chapter Twenty-seven

“Tell me about your wife,” she asks him the following week. “Did you do what I commanded you to do?”

“Yes,” Curtis says. “Yes, Mistress.”

She has him face-down on the table, his wrists bound behind his back, his legs braced apart on the floor, stretched open to her from behind.

Joanna knows he is lying. At home, Curtis has behaved entirely as he has always behaved towards her: tender, admiring, chaste.

“Tell me,” she says, standing over him, letting the end of her riding crop brush the backs of his thighs.

“I . . .” He begins, awkwardly. “She was on the bed.”

“Oh, good,” Joanna croons. Then, cruelly, “Where else would she be?”

“I kissed her. I . . . touched her breast.”

“Tell me about her breasts.”

Curtis sighs. Joanna notices the gradual softening of his cock. So that is what he thinks of me, she sighs. That's how much I excite him.

“Firm,” he is stammering, “and . . . um . . . not very large.”

“Her nipples.” Joanna moans, gliding the crop over his scrotum.

“Tight,” Curtis whispers. “Hard and tight. Pink. Wet.”

“And you sucked them,” she prompts, wetting her finger and drawing it through the crack of his ass.

“Yes,” he says, breathless.

Joanna kneels by the table, near his head. Reaching into her bustier, she pulls the leather from her breast. The nipple is hard. She pushes it into the hole where his mouth is visible. “Show me,” she tells him. “Show me how you suck your wife.”

He sucks, his mouth hungry. If only you had, she thinks, holding his head against her. If only you were telling the truth. She pushes him away.

“What else? Tell me about her cunt.”

“Wet,” he says. “Warm, sweet. I licked her.”

“Oh!” Joanna says, delighted with this new information and its attendant possibilities. Walking to Curtis' head, she straddles the narrow table and pushes her crotch against the top of his leather hood. “Show me,” she says. “Lick my cunt.”

He lifts his head and begins to lick her, letting his tongue glide deep inside, lapping at the edges of her crotch, moaning with pleasure.

Joanna, despite herself, moans too, thrusting slightly against him, wishing more of his mouth were accessible through the leather hood. Almost, she lets herself come, but bitterness overwhelms her arousal and she pulls away from him. Taking a phallus from the bureau drawer, she smears it with lubricant and steps behind him.

“Then you fucked her,” Joanna says. “Didn't you?”

“Yes,” Curtis says. Joanna reaches between his legs and starts to massage him.

“First you got hard for her, so hard you thought you were bursting. Didn't you?” Her fingers run over the slippery tip and he groans.

“Yes, I was hard.”

Joanna presses the rubber phallus against his sphincter. “And you entered her. Didn't you?”

“Yes,” Curtis says, and as he does, Joanna nudges the phallus inside. He groans loudly.

“Then you pushed,” she croons, pushing steadily. “Didn't you?”

“Yes,” he cries. “Oh yes, I did.”

“And when it was all the way inside, then what did you do?”

“I pulled it out.” Curtis gasps. Joanna withdraws the phallus. “Then I pushed it again.” She obliges him and he sighs deeply.

“How did you fuck her?” Joanna asks, caressing him. “Fast and rhythmic? Or slow and deep?”

“Slow,” he manages, breathless. “Deep.”

Accordingly, Joanna fucks him, watching his cock throb with pleasure, the gathering and build of his climax, his thrusts, backwards against the fullness in his rectum. “Oh,” he moans, about to come, “Oh, yes . . .”

Quietly, Joanna's hand drops from his cock. The phallus is still inside him. She gets softly to her feet.

Curtis, aware of what is happening, whimpers in frustration. Joanna takes a long whip from the wall.

“You know,” she says thoughtfully, swishing it through the air, “there's something about your story I don't quite believe.”

“Mistress . . .” Curtis groans.

“I can't quite put my finger on it,” she continues, ignoring him. “Something about your description of your wife doesn't quite ring true. I think,” she says, decisively, “I think you may be lying to me.”

“Oh no,” he cries. “Oh God, no, I'm not lying.”

“But I think you are,” Joanna says fiercely. “You're lying to me. You didn't fuck your wife at all.”

“I did!” Like a child, Joanna thinks, smirking. A child saying, ‘I did too!'

“No!” She snaps the whip in the air over his head and he shudders. “You're lying, you worthless piece of shit. And now you're going to pay. Aren't you?”

“Yes,” he moans, resigned. “Yes, Mistress.”

She steps behind him, letting the whip tap his buttocks around the protruding stump of the phallus. “And you deserve to be punished, don't you?”

“Yes. I deserve it, Mistress.”

She starts to beat him, loving his pain. “I agree,” she tells him, meaning it.

Chapter Twenty-eight

“How are the art lessons coming?” he asks that night over dinner. “You've a few by now, haven't you?”

“Yes.” Joanna nods, letting him scoop a second helping of steamed vegetables onto her plate. “I'm enjoying them. I find that I'm even better at it than I thought I might be.”

“Good.” He nods, fondly. “Tell me about it.”

Joanna smiles. “The teacher is a woman, really beautiful but sort of hard, you know? She has black hair, about to her shoulders, and she always wears these leather pants. Really kind of butch,” she laughs. “But she says I'm good. We've been doing this still life, with a whole bunch of things on the table.”

“Like what?” asks Curtis, a little absently.

“Oh,” Joanna considers. “Fruit, of course. I mean, I guess you sort of have to have fruit, right? And there's a rubber ball, and a tube of paint and a coffee can. And there's a whip.”

Curtis puts down his fork. “A whip?” he asks, puzzled.

“Yes,” Joanna says, shrugging. “Don't ask me.”

“What kind of whip?” he presses.

“Oh, I don't know.” She smiles. “I mean, I'm not too familiar with whips, you know. It's sort of long and black.” She pauses. “I guess it's maybe the kind you would use on a horse.”

“A riding crop,” he nods authoritatively. Joanna suppresses a smile.

“I guess.”

He eats silently for a moment. “I'd love to see some of what you've been doing,” he tells her, and she blushes.

“Oh, not yet! I don't have anything good enough yet. I want you to be proud of me.”

“Honey,” Curtis says gently. “I am. I am proud of you. I love you.” He lifts her hand and kisses it tenderly. Joanna's lips purse in distaste.

Rising, Curtis opens the refrigerator to put away the wine. Joanna senses the stiffness of his gait beneath his trousers. Remembering the beating she gave him only hours before, she isn't surprised.

“Sweetheart,” she says, concerned, “are you limping?”

He turns to her. “Maybe a bit,” Curtis says carefully. “Stupid of me, I tripped today in the hall. Right outside my office. Very embarrassing. I'm fine, though.”

“But darling!” she cries. “How awful! You'll have to get into a bath right away. You poor thing.” Joanna rises and walks around the table to him, laying a hand on his thigh. He winces slightly. “Where does it hurt?” Sshe asks, feeling. “Would you like me to give you a massage? I can make it feel better.”

“Oh no,” he says smoothly, backing away. “It isn't bad. But perhaps you're right about the bath. In fact, I think I'll just go and start running it now.”

“All right,” Joanna says, looking disappointed. “Are you sure about the massage? I'm happy to do it. I hate to see you in pain.”

Curtis smiles and reaches for her, taking her gently in his arms and nuzzling her hair. “You're an angel,” he murmurs. “A sweet angel. I love you for worrying about me, but you needn't. See you later.”

“All right, sweetheart,” she whispers, watching him turn and leave the kitchen. She loathes him.

Chapter Twenty-nine

“Ah, Joanna,” Pauline says when Joanna telephones a few days later, “I've been wanting to speak with you.”

“Is everything all right?” Joanna asks.

“Of course!” Pauline laughs. “You're doing beautifully, if that's what you mean. Two of the clients you saw before Mr. Banks are desperate to see you again.”

“Which ones?” Joanna says, mildly curious, but Pauline only chuckles.

“Does it matter? No, I want to speak with you about something else. In fact, I'd like to talk in person, if it's all right with you. Why don't you come to tea. Tomorrow? Are you free tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Joanna says. She is not due to see Curtis again until the following day.

“About two o'clock, then,” Pauline tells her happily. “See you then.”

Joanna is surprised to find that this conversation leaves her with no pleasure, no satisfaction. Instead, she is vaguely disturbed by it, and troubled with a strange sense of foreboding. Indeed, by the following afternoon when she presents herself to Pauline's uniformed doorman, Joanna has convinced herself that she is about to be offered another Curtis, perhaps a series of Curtises, as a subspecialty of some sort. Probably, she thinks, he has raved to his first wife about Joanna's ferocity, the murderous intensity of the pain and pleasure she causes him, and now Pauline has been inspired to service other clients with similar needs.

She will just say no, Joanna decides. After all, that is her right as an employee of “O,” to say no.

Pauline is all smiles as she opens the door to her penthouse, answering Joanna's knock. She ushers Joanna inside saying “Welcome, welcome,” and “You look lovely this afternoon, Joanna.”

Joanna thanks her and walks behind Pauline into a large, beautifully furnished living room. There is a stunning Persian rug before the hearth and a large Impressionist oil over the mantelpiece, which Joanna vaguely recognizes. Beneath a wall of high windows, the park stretches, lush and green.

“Now,” Pauline says when they are settled on a pair of luxurious matching sofas, “how do you take your tea?”

She is pouring into delicate china from an elaborate silver teapot. Joanna asks for sugar and lemon. She accepts a small sandwich from the plate Pauline passes to her.

“Tell me Joanna,” Pauline says, sipping her tea, “how are you getting on with our friend on the west side?”

“Well enough,” she answers carefully. “He's a strange sort of man. I pity him, actually.”

Pauline nods. “So do I, to be frank. But he is, as I told you, an old friend. I try to give him what he needs.”

“Yes,” says Joanna, “but how did he get that way?”

“Who knows?” She shrugs. “How does anyone get the way they are? Why should any of us be pleased by one thing and disgusted by the next? In this business,” Pauline smiles, “I've learned not to judge.”

“I hope you're not thinking of sending me to another client like that,” Joanna says warily. “I mean, with similar needs.”

Pauline laughs. “Oh no, Joanna. Absolutely not. There's only one Curtis. I think we both realize that, don't we?”

Slowly, Joanna lets the awareness sink in. Pauline has used Curtis' real name, kindly, intimately. A quick glance at her face reveals that she knows everything, and Joanna gasps and covers her mouth with her hand. Pauline reaches across to kindly pat Joanna's knee. “Don't worry,” she says.

Joanna sinks back into the cushions. “I asked Mr. Stephens not to tell,” Joanna says, feeling on the point of tears.

“You asked him not to tell Curtis,” Pauline says. “And he didn't. He told me. But perhaps,” she says softly, “I already knew.”

Joanna sits up abruptly. “Did you?”

“Perhaps,” she says. “Does it matter? I know now.”

“Yes.” Joanna sighs, resigned. “Well, I suppose that's it. I'll quit, of course. I mean,” she adds formally, “I'm willing to terminate my employment, if you'll just promise not to tell him.”

“But why?” Pauline cries. “Why would I ever ask you to do such a thing? I wouldn't dream of denying my clients the pleasure of your company. Not to mention your own pleasure, Joanna.” She laughs softly. “Not to mention Curtis'. I think he would be devastated to lose such an enthusiastic mistress.”

“Then what?” Joanna says flatly. “Why did you ask me here?”

“It's very simple,” she says. “There's someone here I want you to meet. Someone who wants very much to meet you.”

“A client?” Joanna asks, her voice dull. Pauline shakes her head.

“Not a client. It's my son. Mine and Curtis'. Would you like to meet him?”

Joanna looks around the room. Dimly, beyond it, she becomes aware of sounds in another part of the apartment. Someone else is here.

“No,” she says, alarmed. Joanna gets to her feet and reaches down for her bag. “I don't want to meet him. I want to leave.”

“But it's criminal!” Pauline laughs, rising. “Your own stepson and you've never met. Please,” she reaches for Joanna's hand and squeezes it. “He'd be so disappointed. Please wait here for a minute.”

Crossing the room, Pauline opens a doorway and leans through it. Beyond her, Joanna can make out a narrow, carpeted hallway. “Christopher,” she calls. “Christopher?”

“Coming,” a voice answers.

Joanna stands stiffly, listening to footsteps approaching. When the door finally opens, Joanna hears her own gasp. The bag in her hand drops unceremoniously to the floor. Pauline is leading him towards her by the hand, saying her name, smiling. Christopher, Joanna thinks. Christopher, Christopher. The tall man grins, his white hair catching the light. “Robert,” she begins to say, but the word lodges in her throat.

“This is my son,” Pauline is saying somewhere far away. “Joanna?”

“Yes,” Joanna says, staring at him. “Christopher.”

“Christopher,” Robert confirms, smiling. He leans forward and kisses her fondly, familiarly, on her cheek. “I can't tell you how pleased I am to see you again.”

She shakes her head. “I don't understand,” Joanna manages.

Christopher takes her hands in his own, his face tender, almost, Joanna thinks, paternal. “You should share my faith in fate,” he says kindly. “Fate and destiny, remember?”

“Yes,” Joanna says, slowly beginning to smile.

“Well,” she hears Pauline sit and pour herself another cup of tea, “now that we've all been properly introduced, we have some things to discuss.”

“We do?” Joanna says. Christopher, still holding her hands, pulls her down to sit beside him on the other couch.

“Some important things,” Pauline continues, as if she hasn't heard. “I think, Joanna, it's time for us all to consider our respective positions. Now let's just see,” she smiles, “if there isn't a way for us to help each other. More tea, my dear?”

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