Afternoons of a Woman of Leisure (9781101623565) (7 page)

The men sitting at the edges of the platform look down with interest at the body between them and begin to touch it, lifting Clarissa's breasts and pinching her darkened nipples, stroking her inner thighs. She writhes beneath their hands, twisting away from them, but they take little notice. The bull-necked man thoughtfully fingers the thick patch of red hair at her crotch, twisting and pulling. “She will need to be shaved,” he says finally, almost wistfully, Joanna thinks, as if it is a bother.

A razor is brought, and lubricant spread between Clarissa's legs. Carefully, intently, they begin to shave her, the four heads close together over her crotch. Joanna hears her whimper, her head rolling back and forth at the top of the platform, eyes tight. After every few strokes of the razor, hair is wiped away with a cloth, then the razor continues until they are finally spreading her thighs to shave their inner edges, along the cunt, wiping her clean. When they are finished with her she is almost childlike, Joanna thinks, her heavy breasts a poignant contrast to the bare innocence between her legs.

The men fall on her, covering her with their hands. One begins to spread oil over her belly and over her chest, then another takes the oil and spreads it farther down, slicking her legs with it. Another man rubs her arms and underarms, and reaches beneath her to coat Clarissa's back. Joanna seeps with envy, imagining so many hands on her own body, owning it and feeling it. She stares at the platform, entranced. Slowly, she becomes aware of another hand, reaching forward from behind her chair, softly stroking her breast.

The bull-necked man kneels at Clarissa's head, his crotch over her face. As she stares up at him, he slowly unzips himself and eases down his own trousers, taking his pulsing cock in his hand. He lowers himself then, straddling her face and rubbing against it, rolling his cock over her nose and cheeks. He reaches forward to pinch Clarissa's breasts, then surrenders them to the hands and mouths of the other men. The man rises again to his knees and stares between them, then, almost tenderly, unpeels the heavy tape over Clarissa's mouth. She gasps when it comes away. He reaches beneath her neck to lift it, her head tilting back, mouth open, then smoothly enters her. Joanna hears the rasp of breath at her own ear. Then her other breast is taken and rubbed, the fingers rough at her nipple, and she moans loudly.

Hands massage Clarissa's cunt, penetrating her deeply. One man lowers himself and begins to lick her, briefly, then gets to his knees and strips and thrusts into her only a few times before he comes, groaning. Someone else pulls him away and takes his place, then another. The man at her head continues fucking her mouth, moaning, lost in himself. Something is lifting Joanna, hands beneath her arms, bringing her to her feet then turning her and pushing her down again, bent over the lap she has been sitting on. Hands lift the short skirt and push it forward. Her ass is smacked by a flat palm, then lovingly stroked, then smacked again. A finger enters her and she moans, writhing. Behind her, Joanna's legs are forced apart. A body lowers itself between them.

She gasps when the tongue glides into her, pushing back against it, and then she is punished for that by the tongue's withdrawal. Hands slap her thighs, separating them further. A lap appears beneath her head, inches from her face. She watches a zipper sliding down, a throbbing cock emerging from it, then is told to lick and she does lick, wanting to swallow it whole. Behind her, a thrust and she is entered, deeply, and pounded. Hands cup her breasts. She feels the clamp of wrists at her ankles, holding them firmly, far apart. The cock in Joanna's mouth finds the back of her throat and explodes, stinging wetly down her throat. She is surrounded by moans, behind her, above her, across the room where the men take their turns with Clarissa, then the violent, growling climax which can only come from the bull-necked man, and finally her own, obliterating everything else with its suddenness and force, sharp and stunning and unexpected as a slender finger slips into her rectum, and beckons.

Chapter Fifteen

“Welcome to ‘O,'” Clarissa says dreamily in her bath. Her hands are folded behind her, supporting her head. Joanna, who has already bathed, sits wrapped in a robe on the toilet. All of the men are gone.

“Are you okay?” Joanna asks.

“Mm, good,” says Clarissa. “I came twice. Once at the wall and again, near the end. You?”

“Yes,” Joanna says, feeling herself blush.

Clarissa sighs, happily. “I love that man,” she says. “He knows all about me.”

Joanna begins to pin up her hair. “Do you know anything about him?”

“Not much,” Clarissa says, sitting up in the bath and pulling the plug. “He works with money, I know that. Joanna.” She laughs, shaking her head. “They all work with money.”

Later they go through the apartment, tidying, blowing out candles and gathering glasses. Someone will come at night to clean, Clarissa tells Joanna when she asks about it. In the living room, they help themselves to drinks and sit on one of the couches.

“How did you find out about ‘O'?” Joanna says to Clarissa, and Clarissa smiles.

“Mr. Stephens. You've met him?” Joanna nods. “An old boyfriend of mine was a client of his.

“Client?” Joanna asks, puzzled.

“Yeah. He's a lawyer, you know.” She hadn't known. “One day I went to see him. I wasn't sure why I was there, but I was just drawn to him. Mesmerized, I guess.” She shakes her head, smiling. “He did the most amazing things to me. I wanted to stay there forever. Then he took me to meet Pauline.”

Joanna, watching her, is suddenly struck by her beauty, the flaming hair against Clarissa's pale and creamy skin, the sparkling eyes. This woman is happy, she thinks abruptly. This woman is happy with her life.

“You like working for ‘O,'” Joanna says, a statement posed as a question.

“Oh, yes.” She laughs. “I think I was born to work for ‘O.' In two years there has only been one bad experience, otherwise it's all been good. Like today.”

What was the bad experience? Joanna wants to know. She shifts on the couch and faces Clarissa.

“There was this one man,” Clarissa says, shrugging. “He was getting a little heavy with the whip, using it on my breasts and against my crotch. He was really starting to hurt me.”

“What did you do?” Joanna asks, alarmed.

“I just said ‘This session is over. I want to go.' And he untied me and I left.”

“Just like that?”

“Of course!” Clarissa laughs, then, seriously, she turns to Joanna. “All of these men are in thrall to Pauline, Joanna. You're very safe. She could destroy them, you know. Anyway, I told her about it and she called him up and told him that if he ever contacted ‘O' again she would call the press.”

“The press?” Joanna says, and Clarissa grins.

“He was,” she says, sarcastically, “an elected official.”

“Oh,” Joanna says.

“I kept the money, though,” Clarissa continues. “I felt I'd earned it, my tits hurt for a week. Actually, Pauline gave me all of the money for that session, her share too. She felt so bad about it. Oh, that reminds me . . .” She reaches into her bag and hands Joanna a white envelope. “For you,” she says. Joanna takes it.

“Do you still see Mr. Stephens?” Joanna asks her.

“Yes.” Clarissa smiles. “Quite a lot, actually. He calls me up and orders me to come over to his house. I always go. He's a fascinating man.”

“Does he pay you?” Joanna asks, but Clarissa shakes her head.

“Why should he? He does it for me.” She laughs aloud. “Maybe I should pay him!” Joanna smiles.

Rising, they gather their things and lock the apartment door. Clarissa says good-bye outside, disappearing into a subway station. Joanna steps to the curb to find a taxi and begin making her way back through the steamy summer afternoon: back through the streets to the station, the train, and the long ride home to her other life in the suburbs.

Chapter Sixteen

Joanna waits beneath a restaurant awning. It is a warm summer day, clear and bright, nearly one o'clock. Dressed as she is in a sober blue dress and low, sensible heels, she looks like several of the serious businesswomen who brush past her into the restaurant, taking no notice. Joanna's black metal bracelet glitters at her wrist, catching the sunlight.

Her hand is warmly taken. “Joanna,” a voice says, and she turns. The man is broad but thin, dressed conservatively in a dark summer suit. Grey hair bristles over his scalp, cut close. Joanna notices his eyebrows, grey and bushy, nearly meeting in the middle.

“Hello,” she smiles. His name is Mr. Carpenter. At least, that is the name she has been given.

“It's so good to see you,” he says, his voice low and intimate. “I'm so pleased you could have lunch with me. And don't you look lovely!” He smiles, appraising her. “Shall we go in?”

He holds the heavy door for her and she steps inside. Joanna feels his warm hand at the small of her back, guiding her forward. Almost immediately the maitre d', a small balding man, looks up and smiles with recognition. Mr. Carpenter greets him by name and the two shake hands. “You're looking well, Jean Louis,” he says. “I hope our table is ready.”

“Of course.” The maitre d' nods. “A booth. As you asked.”

He beckons for them to follow and they walk behind him into the main room of the restaurant. It is crowded with tables of men in business suits, a few women scattered among them. Everyone seems deep in conference, and the room hums with the buzz of money and intrigue. Power lunches, Joanna thinks absently, remembering a phrase she has read somewhere. Several heads nod in greeting to Mr. Carpenter as they pass along a wall lined with booths. Near the middle of the wall, Jean Louis indicates their own table, and Joanna slips behind it onto the plush, slippery bench. Mr. Carpenter settles himself beside her, and they are each handed a menu.

“We have a lovely trout,” he informs them. “And quail today, grilled with berries.” Turning to Mr. Carpenter, he asks, “Your usual wine?”

“Please,” says Mr. Carpenter. The small man turns briskly and hurries away. Joanna feels Mr. Carpenter's eyes on her face and she turns, smiling, to him.

“I think you will enjoy your meal,” he says softly, after a moment.

“I'm sure I shall,” Joanna says. “It's so tedious, always discussing business in an office. Don't you agree?”

He nods, thoughtfully. “Yes. It would be so much nicer if we could make ourselves more comfortable.” He pauses, his gaze steady on her face. “For instance, this is a lovely dress you're wearing. You high-powered women dress so beautifully for the office. But,” he asks, concerned, “are you quite comfortable? Perhaps you'd like to find the ladies' room and freshen up. Your bra must be restrictive. Why don't you remove it?”

“What a wonderful idea,” Joanna says, rising. “That's very thoughtful of you.” She edges out of the booth and walks back through the restaurant to the lobby, where she finds the bathroom. Inside, a middle-aged woman in a suit applies lipstick in front of the mirror, pursing and blotting her mouth. Joanna goes into one of the stalls and unbuttons her dress, then slips it off her shoulders and takes off her bra, stuffing it into her purse. When she has readjusted her dress, she returns to the table.

“Here,” Joanna says, opening her purse and pressing the white lace into his hand beneath the table. “Why don't you keep this for me.”

He thanks her. Clicking open the briefcase beside him in the booth, he puts it inside.

Holding her menu in front of her, Joanna reaches up to unbutton the top button of her dress, pulling the material slightly away from her and angling it so that Mr. Carpenter will be able to just make out the curve of her breast, the shadow of her nipple. She hears his intake of breath, appreciative.

“I suggest the trout,” he tells her when the waiter arrives to take their order. Joanna looks up.

“Trout would be lovely,” she smiles, handing him her menu. Mr. Carpenter asks for his “usual veal.” The waiter retreats.

“I want you to know,” he says when they are alone, “that I've been watching you and I'm delighted with the job you're doing. You are a credit to the company, you know.”

“Thank you. I enjoy my work.”

“And you're very good at it.”

“May I say,” she tells him, “that I respect you very much. You are a model for me, in my career. In fact, you're one of the reasons I chose this kind of work.”

“I'm delighted,” he smiles. Joanna feels a brush of warmth beneath the tablecloth, his hand comfortably resting on her thigh. “It's nice to know that you career-minded women still look up to hardened businessmen like us.”

“But we have so much to learn from you,” Joanna exclaims. His hand brushes softly over her lap.

“And we from you,” he says.

Joanna folds her hands in front of her on the tabletop. She shifts slightly on the bench, turning her knees towards him, making herself more accessible. Immediately, she feels his hand coast down her lap to her knees, touching the bare skin, gently easing them apart. Above the table, his other hand casually fingers his wineglass.

“What do you think the market's doing?” Mr. Carpenter asks. Joanna takes a sip of her wine.

“Soft,” she says carefully, her lips wet with wine. “At least, it's been soft for a time. But now,” Joanna smiles, “I think it will get hard.” She leans slightly forward. “Very hard,” she confides, whispering.

“You may be right,” he tells her. The hand dips beneath her dress, sliding easily between her thighs. Joanna separates them slightly. She resists the urge to pull up her dress. “Why don't you tell me,” Mr. Carpenter smiles, “a little bit about yourself.”

Joanna smiles. “Would you like to know what I love most about our business?” she asks. “The issues of control. You see”—she reclines lightly against the back of the booth as his fingers brush the silk of her underpants—“we work so hard. We strain for something, some specific goal. Yes? But all the time there are these other pressures, other elements, making us behave in other ways. Making us do things we would never do of our own volition. So even as we're straining for something, yearning for it, these other pressures are manipulating us, taking control of us. That's what I love.” Joanna sighs. His hand is damp between her thighs. “I love the being out of control.”

“I quite agree,” Mr. Carpenter says, nodding.

The waiter brings their lunch, settling two steaming plates before them. Mr. Carpenter's hand returns to the tabletop and lifts his wineglass. “To this meeting.” He smiles at Joanna. They clink.

“Perhaps,” he says, “before we begin our lunch, you'd like to visit the ladies' room again. I'm very worried about your comfort,” he frowns. “I wouldn't want anything to stand in its way.”

“How kind,” Joanna says. Smoothing down her dress, she climbs out of the booth and walks through the restaurant again, feeling Mr. Carpenter's gaze at her back. In the bathroom, she removes her underpants.

“For you,” she says, returning. “A small gift, to show my appreciation. I want to thank you for everything you're doing on my behalf.”

“Not at all,” he tells her, accepting the damp silk under the tablecloth. He slips it into his briefcase. “It's a pleasure.”

Joanna takes a bite of her trout, which is flaky and light. “How fresh!” she says brightly. Mr. Carpenter's hand has returned to her thighs, easing up her dress. “One can almost imagine it swimming, undulating through the currents of a river, slippery and wriggling.”

“Do you enjoy imagining that?” he asks. His fingers part her thighs and run lightly over the crack of her cunt, making her catch her breath.

“Oh yes,” she sighs. “Sometimes I feel just like a fish myself, very wet and very slippery. Sometimes I feel like my whole body is swimming, even though I'm doing something else entirely. Working, for example. Or even having lunch in a beautiful restaurant, like this.”

“How curious,” he comments, intrigued.

“I love to swim,” Joanna continues, matter-of-factly. His fingers pull gently at her moist pubic hairs. “I love the feeling of being lost in the waves, and the water, sliding all around me.” She takes another bite of her fish. Mr. Carpenter eats deftly with one hand, cutting the tender veal with the side of his fork. “Do you like to swim?” she asks.

“Not much,” he says. “But I enjoy diving.”

Joanna moans, barely audibly, as his finger slips into her cunt, massaging her inside with small strokes.

“I know what you mean,” she says, regaining control of her face. “There's a beautiful moment when you pierce the surface of the water and glide down into it, deep into it, submerging yourself.”

“Are you a strong swimmer?” Mr. Carpenter asks. The heel of his hand finds the top of Joanna's cunt, lightly pressing it as his finger moves inside her. “What sort of stroke do you prefer? A slow crawl, perhaps?”

“Mmm,” she says, eyes closed, as if she is trying to remember. “I like the breast stroke very much, especially when the current is slow and the water is warm. It feels good to be on top of the water, carried by it, lifted up.” Joanna shifts slightly, letting him sink farther inside. She feels his finger quicken, the heel of his hand slick and hard against her, and knows she is about to come. “But when the waves get faster and stronger, I like the rhythm of the crawl, the way my thighs move in the currents, faster and faster, and I wish I could keep it going forever.”

“So do I,” Mr. Carpenter whispers. “You make it sound very beautiful.”

“Yes . . . beautiful.” Joanna gasps, wincing briefly as she comes, streaming over his hand. She reaches for her napkin and covers her face, holding it against her nose.

The hand between her thighs is still. Then, slowly, it glides out of her and down her legs, leaving a wet and sticky trail.

“God Bless,” says Mr. Carpenter, his face sympathetic.

“Such a nasty cold,” says Joanna. “But thank you.”

The waiter takes their plates. “Would you like dessert?” asks Mr. Carpenter. “They have some fine things here.”

She turns to smile at him. “Something sweet?” Joanna considers. “I don't think so. Perhaps I've had enough already. But what about you?” Silently, her own hand slips beneath the table and into his lap, gently squeezing him. He is, to Joanna's surprise, only moderately hard, and it crosses her mind that he has already come.

“No,” says Mr. Carpenter. “I'm grateful for the suggestion, but really I must be getting back to the office. These business lunches are lovely, but one mustn't forget where one's real work lies.”

“Of course, one mustn't,” Joanna agrees, nodding solemnly.

Outside, in front of the restaurant, he touches her face and kisses her tenderly on both cheeks, two business associates saying good-bye, their minds already elsewhere. She catches her own scent on his fingers. When he leaves, Joanna turns in the opposite direction and walks to a nearby department store where Curtis has given her an account. Her closets at home in the suburbs are full of beautiful clothes, but she has recently found herself in desperate need of more underwear.

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