After a day's worth of exertion, after an evening by the fire, he looks me in the eye. Come here
he says. Closer
And I do, I come. He draws me in and I smell his clean sweat. His neck flushed and hot against my lips. He smells of good bourbon and bad intentions. He smells familiar he smells dangerous.
Speak I whisper.
No need for that he says, and he is right.
You think too much he says. I know I say.
Just stop he says, and his eyes glisten and I stop. I kneel.
He cups my chin in his hand. Are you sure he says.
Are you kidding I say, and I take him into my mouth. He tastes briny like tears, like estuaries. Like beginnings.
I hear his noises and they are lovely, they are soft like rain and urgent like hunger. He presses into me.
Is this okay he says.
You think too much I say.
He smiles. He relaxes.
Some days later there is breakfast. Outside where it is very cold the world is white and almost innocent under a brave winter sun. Inside by the fire there are croissants, flaky and rich. Piece by piece he feeds me. Orange sections, sips of coffee, buttery hunks of pastry. Bit by bit.
What if I stopped feeding you he says, and he holds a morsel just beyond my reach, and his cruelty thrills me. Then I would die I say. His eyes darken.
I would never he says.
I know I say. Silly I say.
Later. Inside. He is inside. He is filling me and I am molten I am yielding I am pliant. He is inside me where my blood is, where my womb is, he is a welcome invader he is welcome he is welcome he is home.
Suddenly he is moving faster he is making sounds that might be words but that are deeper than words he is deep he is deeper he is yes he is right there, he is right he is there and it is right, it is just right.
And he is still inside but softer now and he reaches down into my own softness and he finds the secret hardness there and he touches and he touches and he knows where to touch and how and he understands. And suddenly it is prisms and soundless shattering and everything is breaking breaking and then there is a noise I can't quite (wait, what is it?) and then I know it is me, that's me, I am making that sound, how strange and then it is all liquid pouring down around (inside) me in a silent rush, and then he smiles.
And then we sleep and later, we wake.
You're I say.
What he says.
You're on my hair I say. He laughs.
You're trapped he says.
Yes I say.
You are so fucking hot when you're getting laid he says, and it is a growl of a purr, and that is enough, it is more than enough, and I am arching toward that voice, I am there before I know it is coming and then it is yes it is coming, it is here, and it is oceans of yes.
His whole hand pressed flat against the rise of my belly (which is fluttering which is rippling) and fingers sinking gently into pinkest flesh and I watch his face as he watches my body and his eyes are fixed, half-closed, fascinated. And then it is sudden, it is impossible, I cannot be (isn't this a myth? I didn't know I could)
but I am, I am I am it is not a myth and I struggle to keep my eyes open because I want I want I want to see his face. And he says yes and he says hush and he says love, my love and his face is fierce and tender. And he says beautiful.
It is a bloodless surrender.
It tickles I say. Stop squirming he says. I do.
It still tickles but I concentrate, I do not move. He stops. Now look he says. I look.
It is written there on my thigh in black ink. Letters big.
PRETTY it reads.
Do you believe me now he says.
I say I do. And I do.
I ignore him. I'm sleeping, goddammit.
He's persistent. Ashley. I feel his hand on the small of my back.
More insistent. Ashley.
Quietly. It's snowing really hard now.
Suddenly I remember what it is to be out here, out West, for the first time. It's such a big sky. And the snow is so silent, so vast.
I sit up. Look out the window, past the reflected firelight. Fat flakes are drifting through the darkness like a million million tiny ghosts. We're quiet for a while, both lost in the snow.
The fire crackles. He looks at me.
He pauses. I think he's not sure how to ask, but he does. This year. Were you lonely?
I don't stop looking at the snow. See how it covers everything? I say.
Yes he says. It covers everything.
Lonely like that, I say, and he squeezes my hand.
We arrive at the hotel late in the afternoon, too early for dinner but too late to visit the Oregon Trail Museum. We walk through the light snow to the front desk. The woman there is naïve or kind enough to call me his wife (Our dining room is open from seven until eleven PM; perhaps you and your wife would enjoy a leisurely dinner?) and he gives me a quick sharp look. I pretend not to notice.
We decide to take a nap, a shower. Tired from the drive, we carry our suitcases up the Grand Staircase and into our suite. When we open the door we stop breathing. The room has been perfectly restored to its Gold Rush splendor: ruby glass fixtures shimmering from the vaulted ceiling, intricate gingerbread moldings tracing the walls, too many details to absorb. We remember to breathe, remove our shoes, sink into the buttermilk carpeting. We grin like children.
And oh, the bed! It's not a bed meant for napping. It's a bed meant for sin: squeaky enough to alert the neighbors, soft enough to draw its inhabitants into its downy center. It's not a hotel bed at all, it's a bed meant for prima noctis, for taking and tasting and devouring.
Nap? he inquires, and I know he's lying.
Absolutely I say, and he knows I am too.
We undress. The curtains are velvet, an absurdly rich shade of plum. They filter and refine the late afternoon sunlight, bruise it, make it ripe. He's naked and under the covers before I've unzipped my jeans. I shed my heavy clothes layer by layer, slowly. I know he is watching me. I step into a puddle of blood-colored light and shake my foot free of my sensible cotton panties. I am naked, I am ready, I want him to see me. He does.
I stretch like a cat, feel his hunger all over me. He grabs my wrist, kisses it impatiently at its pulse. Come to bed, Lady he says.
I am in a teasing mood, and I pull away. What a room! I say airily. So fin de siècle! But he is done with teasing, he is tired of it, he stands up and grabs me around my waist, drags me into that lovely creaky bed.
He's inside me before I'm wet enough, and I gasp, and somehow the gasping makes me wet enough and then he's right where he needs to be. And it's insistent, harder than it was before, more urgent, and I relax into him and take him into me and his face is buried in my neck.
His fingers tangled in my hair. His lips on my breast. Insistent. Harder. Possessive. Tonight he murmurs. I wait.
Yes I ask. Tonight?
An outburst. Convulsive. Possessive. Tonight, you are my wife.
And tonight I am, and every ragged Yes I own belongs to him.
An airport, early morning. Cold but no snow, an arid cold.
I got you here early I say. Time for coffee. He nods, distracted. We stop at the bar just before the Ticketed Passenger line. I order coffee. He watches.
I sip. Did you notice my lipstick I ask. Red he says helpfully. I pretend to slap him. He pretends to be outraged. You know I like your lips naked he says.
Yes I say. Exactly. It's your job to kiss it off.
I wait for that slow grin and I am not disappointed. Beautiful boy.
I finish my coffee in silence, and his flight is called.
It's time, Ash he says, and I trust my voice enough to nod at him.
He gathers me to himself. I rest my head on his chest for a moment. Inhale. My scent is still on him and he smells like home. I savor his height, his strength. He cradles my face in his hands. Sees me. Lady, you're wearing too much lipstick he says.
So fix it I say.