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Authors: Cara Bristol

Tags: #Contemporary Domestic Discipline

Body Politics (2 page)

BOOK: Body Politics
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Pride rang out in her voice, but then she twisted her mouth. “The downside is I now report to a board of directors. They all have good community connections, but I think some of them see it not as service but as a stepping-stone to further their careers or political aspirations. When I butt heads with certain members, I remind myself it’s about the women, not my ego. Elizabeth—Liz is one of the good ones.”

Mark chuckled. “I know what you mean. The chief usually deals with the police commission, but I’ve faced off on a few occasions.”

She folded a corner of her napkin. “Sorry for the long dissertation about my job. I’m sure you’re not interested in a women’s organization.”

He studied her face, taking in the arch of her brows, clear blue eyes, and a blush in her cheeks that caused him to imagine spanking her ass to the same hue, then having her stand in the corner with her glowing butt on display for his enjoyment. He shifted in his chair to ease his ache. “Why, because I’m a guy? You don’t think a man can support women’s initiatives?”

Color flooded her face, but she jutted her chin, and her gaze collided with his. “Most don’t.”

Who hurt you, kitten?
Someone had taken a razor to her heart, and she’d been protecting herself behind a shield of militancy ever since. He did support women’s rights, would have no qualms about voting for a woman president. Men and women were equals. But they were different. No amount of posturing, no carefully worded rhetoric, no shouted slogans would change that.

“I’m not most men.”

“I’m sure you’re not,” she conceded politely, but her expression remained skeptical and cemented his hunch she’d been hurt. He wanted to hold her and soothe her fears. Then spank her to teach her submission didn’t mean losing control but gaining strength. She raised her glass for another sip, then set it down and traced the edge with her finger. Awkwardness circled like a faint breeze.

“Interesting glass,” she mused.

“Signature keepsake,” he parroted. Its somewhat narrow rim flared to a rounded base dimpled in the center, the bifurcation forming two halves.

She drew her eyebrows together. “It almost resembles a butt.”

“It
is
a butt.”

Her startled gaze flew to his. The moment of truth. The conversation would take a needed turn, but it was occurring sooner than he would have liked. He’d intended to get to her know better—let her trust him. When he said what he needed to say, would it be too much information too soon?

Chapter Two

Stephanie glanced from her glass to Mark. A lightbulb switched on. She thumped her forehead with her palm. “Bottom Burner. Okay. I get it.” She rolled her eyes. A butt joke. How juvenile.

She expected a chuckle, but Mark’s criminally sexy face wore a guarded expression instead of mirth. The drink did indeed pack a wallop, but much of the warmth infusing her came from arousal. This man ignited her libido in a way no one ever had. Elizabeth had hinted he was handsome—but a walking, talking sex god in black denim and a matching pullover shirt was how she should have described him. Should have warned her.

Elizabeth had omitted quite a bit. Beginning with chauvinist with a capital
C
. Sure, he’d
said
he supported women’s rights, but the way his aggressive gaze had staked a claim demonstrated he viewed women as objects, not equal partners. She’d caught his hostile, possessive expression when the men at the other table happened to glance in her direction.

Had she known what kind of man he was, she never would have gone out with him. She’d assumed she and Elizabeth shared similar values and that Elizabeth understood what she liked. She’d agreed to meet Mark because she’d trusted the other woman, and she was tired of her one-sided relationship with her vibrator. She wanted to talk, to laugh,
and
have sex. She sneaked a peek at Mark.
Support me. Hold me. Protect me.

Where the hell had
that
come from? Yes, she wanted support. These days she got little of it. Not from her ex-husband, whose sensitive, liberated philosophy hadn’t prevented him from cheating, nor from Bethany, her friend and colleague, who increasingly disagreed with her decisions, and certainly not from her board of directors, particularly its president. Stephanie had founded WAN to take on the world but hadn’t expected to do battle within the organization. And she yearned to be cuddled as much as the next woman. But she didn’t need any man’s
protection
. She was capable of fending for herself, thank you very much.

She stifled a sigh. She loved empowering other women, but romantically, this wasn’t the life she envisioned: sitting in a bar with a chauvinist, albeit a sexy one, drinking a hot and fruity cocktail from a butt glass. She supposed she should be grateful the drinkware didn’t have tits.

She eyed the shelves of liquor bottles and glasses over the bar. Nope. Just ordinary highballs, old-fashioneds, hurricanes, stemware, and butt glasses. No tits. There
was
a neon sculpture of a woman, but it depicted her naked backside, not her front. Her bikini panties winked on and off. Men! Did they ever progress beyond off-color jokes and dirty magazines? She stared at the sculpture of the woman and then scrutinized a bold sign bearing the bar’s name. Bottom’s Up was spelled out inside a scarlet shape of a paddle. Butt glass, naked woman’s backside, paddle. Bottom’s Up!

“What kind of bar is this?” She frowned.

“It’s a cocktail lounge that caters to a spankophile clientele.” His gaze bore no apology.

For a moment she could only gape. Then she jumped to her feet. “And you suggested this place? Do you seriously think this is appropriate for a date?”

“You seemed to be enjoying yourself until a moment ago.” He stood up and towered over her in a macho way that heaped fuel onto her anger.

Stephanie snatched her handbag and yanked out her wallet.

He closed his fingers around her wrist before she could pull out the bills to pay for her drink. With his thumb he drew a circle on the inside of her arm. A shock of warmth rippled outward. His woodsy, masculine scent invaded her nostrils, and it beckoned her to move closer, to relax into his touch.

“I’ve got the drinks.” His voice rumbled, far too close for comfort. He made no move to tighten his grip, but his brown eyes darkened, transmitting his message loud and clear: he would brook no disagreement.

Stephanie was trained in self-defense. In the early days of WAN, she’d taught it. He might appear formidable, but she could take him out with a blow to the eyes, the nose, the throat, the groin. But she suspected the police would fail to understand why she’d blinded a man for buying her a drink, and not any man—the deputy chief. That was why she’d tolerated his touch this long. The warm tingles shooting up her arm had nothing to do with it.

“Fine!” She wrenched her wrist out of his grasp. Conscious of the scrutiny of the other bar patrons, she pivoted and marched out.

* * * *

Stephanie slumped against her car’s fender and dragged in deep breaths of calming air. She rubbed her wrist where Mark had held her, his touch still as palpable as the humiliating way she’d fled the lounge. Her lack of self-control would appear to prove the opposite of what she tried to demonstrate every day: women weren’t flighty or fearful. They were as decisive, courageous, and as strong as men. Yet a little thing like a hangout for spankos had unraveled her.

No, Mark had. She’d been cautiously optimistic they could meet on common ground, respect each other as equals. But the instant she’d met him, she’d known it wasn’t going to happen. He was too overbearingly masculine, too tall, too muscular, his jaw chiseled, his voice gravelly. The man suffered from an overdose of testosterone. She preferred someone more androgynous.

She couldn’t deny that physically she had reacted to him, her nipples hardening, her pussy dampening, her stomach fluttering. But biology
wasn’t
destiny; it merely hadn’t caught up with modern reality. Just because her primitive genetic programming had zeroed in on the most virile male of the species as a potential mate didn’t mean she would permit the Neanderthal to club her over the head and drag her off to his cave. She controlled her choices, not her libido. After all, that was what feminism was all about: giving women choices.

In times of indecision, she sometimes asked herself what her idol, famous feminist Gloria Steinem, would do. In this case, she didn’t doubt Gloria would send the man packing with his tail tucked between his sturdy, muscular legs.

Stephanie glanced over her shoulder at the bar’s entrance. She’d half expected Mark to pursue her. It was the kind of thing a man like him would do. But he’d remained inside, probably trying to pick up another chick. Any port in a storm. Her heart lurched in relief at her escape. She should leave before he did come out.

She dug her cell from its pocket in her purse.

Elizabeth answered on the first ring. “How’d it go?”

“Do you know where he had me meet him? A bar for spankos! I thought you knew this guy!” She wanted to give Elizabeth the benefit of the doubt, but she was pissed.

“Bottom’s Up?”

“You’ve heard of it?” Stephanie gasped.

“What happened? What did he do?”

“He tried to…”
Manhandle me
. Okay, that was a little strong. He’d grabbed her arm, but she had freed herself easily, and he’d employed no further effort to detain her. But he’d insisted on paying for her drink, disrespecting her financial independence. Grudgingly she admitted he probably viewed his behavior as chivalrous. “It wasn’t what he
did
. It’s what he
is
.” She glanced over her shoulder at the bar’s entrance. No sign of Mark. She swallowed over the lump in her throat.
Good
. She’d be a fool to consider dating a man like him.

“What is he?”

“A sexist,” she hissed. The most dangerous kind. The type who could entice a woman to abandon her principles for a screaming
oh-baby
orgasm. But not her.

Elizabeth laughed.

“It’s not funny. I thought you and I were on the same wavelength.” Either Elizabeth had suffered from a lack of judgment, or she’d betrayed Stephanie for some nefarious purpose. The former wasn’t the friend she respected, and the latter hurt too much to even contemplate.

“He’s not a sexist. But he is dominant, a man of conviction.” Amusement had vanished from Elizabeth’s voice.

“I need a man who treats me as his equal.” How could Elizabeth, of all people, not get it?

“How would you describe yourself?”

Stephanie straightened and threw back her shoulders. “I’m independent, assertive, strong.”

“So what kind of man would you envision as
your
equal? Dependent, wishy-washy, and weak?”

Put like that, it kind of made sense. Hell, the wishy-washy weak part described her ex-husband to a
T
. Maybe that explained why she’d had such bad luck with the men she’d chosen. It wasn’t that she wasn’t their equal—they weren’t hers. But she’d downed half a Bottom Burner. Maybe it had muddled her reasoning. Shouldn’t she stick to her guns? She knew better than anyone what she desired.

“Stephanie.”

She jumped and squealed at the rough sound of her name. She clutched the cell to her ear and stared at Mark. How had such a big man moved so silently over the graveled parking lot? Her mouth dried, impeding speech. “I-I’ll…uh…call you back,” she said into the phone.

“Give him a chance,” Elizabeth said and disconnected.

 

“YOU FORGOT YOUR signature keepsake.” Mark held out the glass, relieved and pleased to find her in the parking lot. A primal instinct to chase and capture had ignited when she’d flounced out of the bar. He’d let her run to give her space, intending to track her down tomorrow. He’d had the cocktail waitress empty out her glass so he could give it to her, an excuse to see her again. But Stephanie had waited for him. A stupid, happy grin threatened to break out on his face.

Stephanie crossed her arms under her breasts and scowled, looking so much like a hissing cat, its back arched for battle, he didn’t know whether to laugh or spank her. Yes, she’d stuck around, but she had no intention of surrendering easily. Good. He relished a challenge.

“I don’t want it!”

I don’t want
you
was what she meant. But that wasn’t the truth.
She’d stayed
. She desired him but resented it. He read arousal in her dilated pupils, her heightened color, in the points of her nipples poking through the fabric of the man’s shirt. Didn’t she realize men’s clothes enhanced her feminine sexuality?

“You aren’t comfortable here, so why don’t we go someplace else and talk?” he suggested, and because he wasn’t ready to end the date. He wanted to spend every second he could getting to know her. In the bar he’d grabbed her wrist not so much to forestall her from paying for her drink but because he had to touch her once more before she left. That she hadn’t yanked away immediately gave him hope. But that she had pulled away proved he wasn’t home free.

Indecision danced on her expressive face. He could see the wheels turning. Should she do what she wanted or take a dogmatic stand? Stephanie was a fighter, but her biggest opponent was herself. She wet her lips, and heat curled in his belly. “Like where?” she asked.

“There’s an espresso place down the street.”

She shook her head. “No.” She dropped her phone into her purse.

“Are you afraid of me?” He faked nonchalance and leaned a hip against her car as if he had all evening. For her, he did.

Her eyes flashed. “Of course not!”

“Then talk to me.”

“Listen, Mark.” She adjusted her handbag on her shoulder and directed her comment to his throat. “You’re a nice guy and all, but I don’t think we’re suited for one another.” She flicked her gaze to his eyes, and the naked yearning he saw nearly unmanned him.
Oh, kitten. Sweetheart.

He held his tongue, letting silence do the work for him.

“All right,” she said, “but we’ll talk here.”

“In the parking lot?”

“Take it or leave it.”

“Why don’t we sit in one of our cars? Your pick. Mine is right there.” He pointed across the lot to a black sedan camouflaged by darkness. The overhead streetlamp had burned out.

BOOK: Body Politics
7.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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