A few years after their unfortunate first meeting, June returns to Brightwater on a break from college and comes face to face with Drake again. How will Drake react to an older, more confident June?
At long last. I should learn not to give myself deadlines, for they seem to be a surefire way to give myself writer’s block. After some struggling, cursing, lying on the floor and crying, I finally managed to finish this chapter. You can find the book mentioned in the text here (in French). An English translation can be found in Robert Darnton’s The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre Revolutionary France (a very entertaining read that I enjoyed immensely; I will surely come back to this). The translations in this chapters are my own, and I take responsibility for every mistake I made. My French is… rusty, to say the least.
The BDSM story A Choker of Lace is an exquisite exploration of awakening desires and whispered needs that delves into the heady world of submission and restraint. The full-length novel will soon be available for purchase. Meanwhile, you can read the prequel to this story, Initiation, in chaptered form here on my website.[Chapter I] [Chapter II]
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Some time went by before he saw June again. Not that he counted the days. Or constantly looked out for her. At least he told himself not to do that. It would be saner, healthier, and one hundred percent less creepy if he did not feel something close to constant jitters, like a nervous urge to take his eyes off the boardwalk and search the streets for her face. He fought a nagging disappointment that even in a town as small as Brightwater, there could pass months without running into a certain person, while at the same time he breathed in relief every time he’d walked down Main Street without meeting her.
After some time, the jitters calmed, and his days went back to being normal, in a way. The closest he came to forgetting his principles, reaching for the phone and calling her was the day her mother was in the papers. She’d driven her car through the mayor’s white picket fence and into her koi pond, causing several thousand dollars worth of damage when the car – an old, rusty pickup truck – leaked oil into the water. It had to be hauled out with a crane (another factor adding to the cost of the whole misfortune). There was a picture of the truck being pulled out of the pond in the paper, water running from it, below it several koi fish floating belly up. Mrs. Reed had suffered a concussion, but the short article didn’t linger on her wellbeing that much. The death of Madame Mayor’s priceless carp was more of a tragedy than the damage to Mrs. Reed’s health and car. However, for the article’s length, it spent a rather long time heralding Felicia’s heroism in jumping into the pond, regardless of her designer costume, and saving Mrs. Reed from drowning. She probably added the price of her pantsuit to the total damage. Mrs. Reed later said that her brakes had stopped working.
Drake pictured June in the filthy kitchen of her parent’s house, trying to keep a family from breaking apart. She was too young to be forced into that role. She shouldn’t have to be so adult yet. It was this thought that kept him from seeking contact with her again. She was too young, and he was old enough to know better.
June was in the papers at the end of May. A small group of students that had graduated with honors beamed out from the page, radiating excitement. June smiled, too, but Drake imagined he could see sadness lingering behind that smile like fog. She had graduated at the top of her class and was destined to have a great future. She would go out into the world and leave an imprint, and wouldn’t that be better if she found happiness out there?
Drake sighed and folded the paper neatly before tossing it into the bin. Folding his hands, he stared at the empty cup of coffee beside him. The coffee had left rings on its inside, like the aging rings of a tree. Life was like that cup of coffee. It left stains and slowly dissolved, running through your fingers until it was reduced to nothing but dregs on the bottom of an empty cup. At the height of ignorance, the innocence of youth, you just didn’t know it yet.
“Sappy idiot,” he huffed, and pulled the paper out of the bin again, straightening it out before him. He cut out June’s picture and placed it in the drawer of his desk, telling himself that he wasn’t keeping it because it showed her face, with joy and sadness struggling in her eyes, but to remind himself of his own ignorance. And his mortality, probably, but there was no need to be quite that melodramatic.
It took a long time till he stopped cringing when he remembered how she had fled him after he rejected her so bluntly. Another thing he should have grown out of: at some point, you were supposed to be adult enough not to cringe anymore about past deeds. But he could have been more delicate, and his lack of sensitivity pained him. In the unlikely case he ever saw her again in the flesh, he didn’t know if he should run and hide or apologize for being an oaf.
Did it even matter?
As time went by, thoughts of her became less frequent, but they never fully disappeared. Not even after several months went by, nor when those months grew into a year, and then another year. June had probably gone to college, and once young people with bright futures left, they didn’t return. After all, there was nothing for them in Brightwater.
When he ran into her at the local library, after not seeing her for almost two years, he wasn’t prepared. Although, he didn’t really run into her. It was more like accidental lurking, or stealthy creeping. He saw her entering the library as he stared out of the window in his loft above the office, watching the streets of the town getting busy before the heat of summer could unfold properly and smother any activity.
From his vantage point, he had a good view down Main Street, with its shops and cafés. The public library was located across the street, between a diner and the Fishing and Shipping Museum, Brightwater’s most precious cultural gem.
It was Juniper Reed’s flowery dress that caught his eye. Its turquoise color contrasted so brightly with her red patent sandals that she looked as if she’d tumbled out of a pop art painting onto streets that hadn’t seen as much color in decades. Despite the distance, despite not having seen her for so long, it took hardly a second for him to recognize her. The moment he did, and her name rose inside him to settle on his tongue, it was like a punch to the guts, leaving him breathless.
Drake watched her as she was waiting at the library’s doors and time stood still. And yet the coffee in his hand grew cold.
June was early. Or maybe the librarian was just late. Now that Mrs. Walker was only a few years shy of her retirement, she wasn’t as enthusiastic as she used to be. Not that Drake blamed her for it. Thinking about it, it was admirable she kept the library open, but he supposed that her paycheck, however small, was enough motivation still.
He hadn’t been to the library in ages. His bookshelves were well stocked and neatly organized, and he had long given up on any attempts to find any of the obscure books he was interested in in the local library. There was no need to leave his office, cross the street, and enter the library, but there wasn’t a reason not to either. He could look up how to cook jam. The cherry tree in his garden hung full with fruit, and it was always better to be prepared.
With more spring in his step than the prospect of turning a tree load of cherries into jam warranted, he turned and took his cup to the sink. Impatience was no excuse for haste, and even less for disarray.
When he left his office and approached the library, his heart fluttered and bumped inside his ribcage like a bird of passage eager to fly south yet caught in a net. He measured his steps and schooled his expression so he wouldn’t let on how eager he was to go into the library.
June was no longer waiting in front of it. The double doors were propped open with two crates full of giveaway books, letting in fresh air before the day became too hot to allow circulation from outside to enter the old building. Inside, the air was still stifling and the light was dim, for Mrs. Walker hadn’t opened the blinds and windows yet. He heard her shuffling nearby, around a corner.
It would have been a good moment to turn around and leave again. No one had seen him yet, and really, there was no reason for him to be there in the first place. What did he even want? Talk to June? About what? It hadn’t gone well the last time, and even though that was already long in the past, it still cut like it had been yesterday. But really, it had been so long ago that there was no reason to break the silence now.
Just when he turned to leave, though, Mrs. Walker rounded the corner and spotted him.
“Mr. Drake! Do you seek people out at their workplace now to collect the rent?”
Drake supposed that rudeness came with age, so he gritted his teeth as he crooked his lips in a smile. “I don’t. I’m here to make jam.”
“You do know that this is a library and not a kitchen?”
Drake’s cheeks warmed as Mrs. Walker raised her eyebrows and crinkled her face into a grin.
“I am aware, yes, thank you. What I meant is, I need a book. About jam.”
“Of course. Cookbooks are over there. Second row to the left.” She pointed her thumb over her shoulder, and Drake hurried to get away from her before she got to lecturing him about family recipes and incompetent men. He was an excellent cook, thank you very much, and he knew how to make a basic homemade jam. Maybe he just wanted something a little more special and exquisite? Nothing wrong with that.
While wandering along the shelves of cookbooks, he glanced around, hoping to detect June. He didn’t even know what he would say if he found her – or why he wanted to meet her at all. He wanted to know if she was alright, if she had processed his rejection from their last encounter, if she understood why he’d had to reject her – if she forgave him. Not that it mattered. Not after so much time. For a moment, while staring blindly into a book about pickling and preserving that he’d pulled off of a shelf and opened at a random page, he wondered about his need to be absolved for doing the right thing. If it wasn’t a mistake to listen to that little voice of need that pushed him towards a young woman who was still hardly out of school.
Of course it was a mistake. He clapped the book in his hands shut and placed it back on the shelf, with a clunk so loud and definite that it made him flinch.
A flash of turquoise caught his eye when he turned for the exit. And despite knowing better and just having debated it with himself, he hesitated. He was there, she was there, so why shouldn’t he talk to her? Wasn’t that the adult thing to do? Why not inquire after her mother and her plans for the future, and how she was doing in life? Like a moth to a flame, he was drawn towards the reading nook at the back-end of the library.
Bathed in light from a window stood an old corduroy couch, walled in by bookshelves creating an illusion of privacy and seclusion. June had shucked off her red patent sandals and placed them side by side before the couch, so she could pull up her feet and sit with crossed legs.
Drake didn’t take that last step that would bring him into her sight and instead paused just behind a shelf, watching her from its shadow. Something about her kept him from intruding, even though it seemed even worse to remain hidden in the shadows and watch her, so enraptured with her book that she seemed to be the source of light filling the nook, not the window behind her.
She didn’t sit still. With every breath she took, she seemed to sway, to roll like waves hitting the beach and returning to the sea again, almost as if she was rolling up against something, building towards it as she swayed like a willow in the wind. Her eyes fluttered shut for a moment and she bit her lip, and Drake held his breath and swallowed. He shouldn’t be there, shouldn’t watch her, but he was unable to turn away, unable to tear his eyes from her. She was even more beautiful now than the last time he had seen her. More mature, with more edges and less softness, but still glowing with her youth. The book she was reading rested in her lap, between her crossed legs, and he was sure she pressed her naked heel against her crotch.
It was impossible to be sure, of course. Her flaring, knee-length dress covered her thighs, but if it wasn’t for the book in her lap and the fall of her dresses’ folds, he could have peeked beneath her skirts straight at her core. His cheeks were scorched by his own indiscretion, the shame over his weakness choked him, and yet! He couldn’t look away, and couldn’t stop hoping to get a glimpse of her panties.
How awful and ugly of him, to stand there in the shadows, paralyzed with lust and want and the absolute need to discover what color they were. Would they match her dress, or contrast its color? Would they be pink like her lips – either lips – or red like her shoes? Or maybe they were white, with a pattern of small hearts and flowers and drenched in innocence. And would they be soaked from her wetness, the dew that dripped from her as she pressed against her heel and pleasured herself out here in the open in a mixture of daring brazenness and abandoned absorption? Did she even realize that she was doing it?
She probably didn’t. She was so engrossed in her book that she didn’t even notice what her body was doing. Drake wondered what it was she was reading.
Before he knew that it was happening, he stepped around the shelf, out of the shadows and into the light, a long-practiced smile of nonchalance on his lips. It was one thing he was good at, appearing completely in control even if he was not.
“Juniper Reed. What a pleasant surprise.” The words were hardly out when he wished he could get them back, haul them in again, but it was just as impossible as changing their stilted, stupid tone. June looked up at him and frowned, and Drake wished for the ground to open and swallow him. What on earth was he doing?
“Mr. Drake.” She seemed lost for words, looking up at him with her cheeks slowly darkening, while he stared down at her, just as lost. The silence between them stretched, as clunky and uncomfortable as the handed-down shoes his father used to get him. They had been too large for his feet, and Drake had to stuff them with crumpled paper so they didn’t slip off when he was walking. He’d been aware of his too-large shoes and the poor impression he gave every second, every step of every day.
Drake saw his control slipping from him, unable to stop it. He cleared his throat.
“I, ah… what a coincidence. I haven’t seen you in a while… Are you on a break from college?”
June clapped her book shut. “Yes.” She watched him as if he was a wild boar breaking through the bushes and aiming its tusks at her.
He took a step back, still facing her, retreating back into the shadows. Just when he was about to turn and flee, June held him back.
“It is nice. Meeting you, I mean,” she said. And, quickly, as if she feared he was going to bolt, she added, “Are you looking for something? I could help you…”
He hesitated, letting the temptation roll through him and expand in his chest for a heartbeat, or the duration of a deep breath. Then, “No.” He softened the refusal with a smile, and spoke gentler than he had spoken to anyone in a long time. “I already found what I was looking for.”
June chewed on her bottom lip, measuring him, and Drake cursed himself for not bringing the book about pickling and preserving. No, he had to create a pickle for himself, fool that he was. Of course, she thought he was talking about her since he clearly didn’t have a book on him. Idiot, idiot, idiot.
“I… it’s a book. About making jam. Anyway, what are you reading?” His attempt at rescuing the situation muddied the waters only more. He swallowed a groan when a grin twitched on June’s lips and she pressed them into a line to keep it caught behind a stern face. Just like the colors of her dress, it was just too vibrant to be contained, though, and it shimmered in her eyes and on her cheekbones, where a soft flush bloomed.
“A book.” Their eyes met, and laughter bubbled up between them, breathless and hoarse and nervous in their attempt to keep it quiet. June clapped a hand over her cherry red lips and Drake grinned, so wide that he showed his sharp teeth like a hungry wolf.
After the moment passed, and their merriment faded to make room for another awkward silence, June smoothed out her dress, fiddling and pulling it to her knees, reminding him of her panties once more. Not his need to know their color, or the scorching image of licking along her crotch until he could taste her through the fabric, but just of the fact that they were there, in the shadows of her dress. He tore his eyes up to her face.
June must have thought that he’d stared at the book in her lap — something he was immensely grateful for. She lifted the book, a finger between the pages to mark her place, and showed him the cover. “It’s French. I’m practising by reading books in the original.”
Drake didn’t miss the pride behind her words. “Are you? Fascinating.” He stepped closer, pointing at the book in her hand. “May I?”
June hesitated, but before he could pull back, she shrugged and extended it towards him. It was a small volume, and it wasn’t its weight that made him almost drop it. He had to clear his throat. Still, his tie sat too tight, and his suit was as hot as a crock pot, stewing him slowly to death. “Fascinating,” he choked out, repeating himself like a parrot.
“Well, my reading comprehension is far better than my pronunciation. I should probably read out loud once in a while.”
His crock pot suit turned into a forge as he imagined her reading this particular story out lout. Reading it for him. To him. “Reading Thérèse philosophe out loud would be an invigorating exercise, I suppose… for the reader as well as the listener.” He gave back the book, and she all but ripped it out of his hands.
“You speak French?” She blushed furiously, and his heart pounded, clanging like a sledge-hammer in his chest.
“It could use some polishing up, but yes. I do.”
“And… you’ve read this book?” She met his eyes with iron determination, as if she was refusing to give in to shame and lower her gaze, as if she was challenging him, daring him to comment on the fact that she was reading 18th century’s erotica. He was much too occupied with fighting the images coming with the realization that she had in fact been pleasuring herself when he’d walked in on her to have any room left to judge her. Not that there was a reason to judge her for her choice of reading material.
“I have. Although I don’t remember much of it. It was quite some time ago.”
“You saying that as if you’re ancient.”
Compared to her, he was. “Not as old as that, but I’ve had enough time to forget the plot of more than one book.”
“In my opinion, people are like wine. They only get better with age.”
Drake laughed. “But store them wrong and they turn sour.”
June tilted her head and looked him up and down. “You look like an excellent wine to me, though.”
Drake opened his mouth but swallowed his response. “How can you tell without tasting me” wasn’t exactly an appropriate thing to say. He had to leave, and fast. “Well, enjoy your reading,” he mumbled, and all but ran, ignoring her confused and almost hurt expression when he turned away.
He had to accept that he was incapable of treating others like a decent person would. June deserved better, and she especially deserved not to be made the object of his dirty fantasies.
“No book, huh,” Mrs. Walker said as he passed the front desk. Drake growled under his breath, not even stopping in his haste to get out and away. He should have listened to reason and stayed at his window.
He went back to his office and immersed himself in work, hoping it would help take his mind off June and his own folly. And for a while, it did. Drake possessed a great deal of discipline. Enough to lock his longings away for a while, stuffing them into a corner of his mind where lewd images and monsters lurked and waited to break free. Monsters he didn’t allow out to play when it was still light outside, and images he only visited at the darkest hour of the night.
It would be so much easier to contain these desires, though, if Juniper Reed didn’t insist on dragging them out in the open again. But she knew no such delicacy, and he’d only left her at the library an hour previous when she marched into his office and planted herself in the middle of his waiting room, staring up at the camera there and challenging him to come out and face her.
“Not a shred of common sense, that girl,” he gritted through clenched teeth, set on ignoring her. But his eyes returned again and again to the monitor above his door. Each time, he quickly looked away again, as if she could see him through the screen and see his pathetic attempts at denying her presence. She allowed him to ignore her for all of five minutes before she walked out of sight of the camera. Drake hardly had enough time to determine if he was relieved that she had given up or disappointed that she showed so little determination when there was a knock at the door to his office. He stared at it, holding his breath.
Maybe she would just go if he pretended not to be here?
“I know you’re in there, Mr. Drake.” Her voice was muffled through the door, but it still shocked him, and for one stupid moment, he wondered if she could read his mind.
“But I’m not!” Now he was being childish, and he grimaced at himself.
Instead of going away, June pushed the door open and entered.
“Stop being petulant. You wouldn’t leave your office without locking the door.” She crossed the room and sat down on the chair reserved for clients, opposite him at his desk. He watched her in stunned silence. No one had ever called him petulant.
June lowered her gaze when she sat, placing her palms on his desk and pressing them to the shining surface as if she wanted to keep herself from trembling by seeking support from his sturdy furniture. Maybe she wasn’t quite as brave and nonchalant as she wanted to appear. Drake leaned back in his chair, watching her.
Her chest widened as she inhaled. “I’m sorry,” she murmured, without looking up.
“What?” Whatever he had expected, it wasn’t that. “For what?”
“Clearly, I did something that upset you, or you wouldn’t have run like the hounds of hell were after you.” Now she lifted her gaze, and the blue of her eyes hit him between his ribs with a pang that echoed with longing.
He had to clear his throat. “I’m sorry I gave you the impression I was upset. I wasn’t.”
“Then why did you leave so quickly?” she asked, tilting her head.
“Because I was on the verge of saying something inexcusable, and there are boundaries that mustn’t be crossed.” He leaned forward as if he could stress the importance of his words that way. June licked her lips.
“I’m not a child anymore. I’m almost 21 now. I can take an adult conversation.”
“I’m sure you can. Doesn’t change the fact that I don’t want to say inexcusable things to you. Now, if that’s all, I have work to do.”
June narrowed her eyes, but she didn’t budge an inch. “Okay,” she said. “I guess I was wrong.”
Drake hated himself for it, but he couldn’t endure the silence following her statement. He had to ask, fully aware that he was being baited. “Wrong about what?”
“About you. I thought you were lonely. So I brought the book, thinking I could read to you.” She leaned back, a tiny twitch in the crook of her mouth.
“The book,” he repeated, with little eloquence.
“Thérèse philosophe, yes. To practice my pronunciation. It’s so hard to find someone to study your French with.”
“You checked out Thérèse philosophe from the library? I cannot imagine the reaction of dear Mrs. Walker.” This provoked a blush on her cheeks, and finally she let go of his gaze and looked down at her hands, rubbing the backs of her fingers in turn.
“Well, you could say that checking out is a rather… generous description…”
“Please explain that.” She was fidgeting now, and Drake was more comfortable again.
June mumbled something, but she hardly opened her mouth and it was impossible to discern her words. “Would you repeat that, please?” he asked, unable to keep his voice from brimming with satisfaction.
“It’s possible that I sneaked the book out.”
“You did not check it out properly? You know that that’s wrong, don’t you?”
June glared up at him from under her lashes. Drake allowed his lips to split in a broad grin, more at ease now that he was in control again.
“Maybe you should show me the error of my ways.” And just like that, she took his control from him once more.
Drake sucked in his breath in a sharp hiss. “Miss Reed. You know that this is not one of your fantasies?”
“Of course I know that.” She pressed her hands flat to the table again and fixed her eyes on them. Her face was burning an even deeper shade of red now.
Drake had done something unforgivable after all, humiliating her carelessly with his question. The only thing worse would have been to mock her, or make demeaning comments, shattering her beyond repair for trusting him. Because there was no doubt that it had taken incredible bravery and trust to come to him and speak these words.
He was despicable.
“I’m sorry…” he started, but trailed off when her head jerked up and she met his eyes, hurt and misery clouding her gaze.
“Don’t. You’re right, this isn’t a game or a fantasy. I was hoping to find some… distraction. I was honestly happy to see you this morning, happy to talk to someone… normal for a change. My family is… in a bad place, I guess, and I just wanted to escape for a little while. But of course, hoping to find something here was just a… I don’t even know what I was hoping to find…”
Drake’s heart clenched at the sadness in her voice. He’d taken her need and stomped on her hope like a brute. “You’re right,” he said, his voice scratching in his throat. “You deserve a lesson for smuggling a book out of the library. There have to be consequences.”
Her eyes flew up to his face, her lips parted, but not a sound came out. Drake’s insides swirled in a vortex of panic and trepidation over his own words, and he was keenly aware of what a thin line he was walking. What he was doing was dangerous, and all too easily he could break her, ruining far more than just her doe-eyed trust in him.
“Yes,” she whispered at last, after the silence had almost become unnerving. “There should be consequences.”
Drake had to wet his lips. His mouth had gone as dry as if he’d licked sand off the boardwalk. His voice was rasping like paper sliding across the table when he spoke. “I’m sure you know that something like this requires consent from both parties.”
“I do.” June’s answer was barely a breath, a wisp of sound, yet it resounded in his chest like the clang of a bell.
“I will not touch you.”
Her eyebrows twitched in surprise, and she opened her lips as if to protest. But whatever she wanted to say, it was cut off when he lifted his hand to stop her. “It’s my last word.”
“Then how are you going to… discipline me?”
He swallowed, and closed his eyes for the length of a heartbeat. “Show me the book,” he said then, extending his hand across the desk.
June sprang into motion, diving into the shoulder bag she had brought and rummaging through it, until, at last, she produced the slim book from the bottom of it. She bit her lips as she dropped it into his hand, gingerly, as if she wanted to avoid even the slightest brush of their hands. It was his own fault, he knew that, because he had said he wouldn’t touch her, but it gave him a twinge nonetheless.
There was a slip of paper fairly close to the back of the book, and he opened it there.
“Did you finish reading before you came here?”
“Well, it’s always easier to read something out loud that you have already read once, isn’t it?”
“Of course.” He skimmed the text. His French wasn’t the best anymore, but it sufficed to get the gist of it. Thérèse was reading through the naughty library of her lover, the Count, trying to win a wager by abstaining from touching herself, but becoming so agitated that she forfeited, calling the Count with her hand between her legs. Drake appreciated the irony of it — after all, he’d walked in on June doing pretty much that, minus calling for him and telling him to take her — but he remembered that the book contained scenes more suited for what he had in mind. More explicit.
June watched him in silence while he leafed through the book. She sat upright and tense, her back not touching the back of the chair, apprehensive of his every move. It was enough to raise the sweat of fear on the nape of his neck. Having found the scene he had been searching for, he closed the book, a finger in place to mark the page. It was a strangely intimate thing, marking the same book in the same way June had done only hours earlier. It made his skin prickle, almost as if he was touching her by proxy. He got up and rounded the desk, aware that her eyes followed him as he stepped to the large bookcase opposite the couch. She didn’t turn her head, as if she wasn’t sure she was allowed to watch him.
He pulled his French dictionary from the shelf and blew the dust from it. There was quite a lot of it since he hadn’t used it for anything but showing off his broad learning in a long time. With the dictionary in hand, he returned to the desk and placed both in front of June, opening Thérèse philosophe at the passage he had chosen.
“You’re going to translate this scene, Miss Reed.”
June’s eyes widened as she looked down and read the first few sentences. “The whole scene? That’s… a lot.”
“It’s not meant to be fun, is it? It’s meant to be a lesson.”
“Well, that kind of lesson is meant to be fun, in a way… But apparently you have a different kind of lesson in mind.”
She sounded crestfallen, and Drake had to school his face so he didn’t smile at her disappointment. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I didn’t have an actual French lesson in mind…”
“You will translate, and make a list of French euphemisms and their English equivalents. When you’re done, I want you to recite your list, and read your translation to me.”
“Oh…” June wetted her lips, and Drake had to swallow. She seemed to glow from within, as if she was carrying a star inside her that permeated her skin with its light and made her shine.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect,” he murmured as he gave her pen and paper. “I know it’s a lot. Take all the time you need.”
June took the pen, staring at the blank paper before her for so long that he thought she would put the pen down again, get up, and leave, probably telling him to go fuck himself with a garden hoe. Instead, she pulled the book closer and started scribbling away.
Drake remained standing, half behind her back. Close enough to be a noticeable presence for her, giving her the impression he was looking over her shoulder and reading along with every word she put down. In reality, he was focused on the nape of her neck. June had brushed her hair aside, tucked it behind her ear, exposing her neck and the fine down hair covering her skin. He longed to touch her, to brush along her neck to find out if her skin felt as soft as that of a peach and see goose bumps bloom in the wake of his touch. Not touching her was a decision that was probably harder on him than it was on her. Standing there, so close yet not close enough, was torture.
Would she shiver if he followed the curve of her spine with his fingertips? Would she inhale sharply, arch, and would her nipples harden and peak through the thin fabric of her dress? Drake imagined pressing his lips against the nape of her neck, imagined peppering a row of kisses over the shell of her ear, imagined sucking on the sweet spot just beneath it, until she groaned and whimpered and grabbed the desk to steady herself.
He had to stop.
Returning to his chair, he sat down opposite her, pulling his own paperwork close again. It was a cover, really, for try as he might, it was not possible to concentrate on his work. Not when June sat opposite him, lower lip lodged between her teeth, a soft blush on her cheekbones, translating French erotica. Once in a while, she frowned, started chewing on his pen — something he would have scolded her for, except that the prospect of owning a pen that bore the marks of her teeth on it kept him from complaining. From time to time she flipped through the dictionary, browsing columns of words by following them with her fingers. Drake imagined her exploring his body like that, reading his skin with her fingertips, with as much care and concentration as she was searching out words suitable for her translation.
His suit grew unbearably tight. Constricting, like rope wrapped so tightly around him that he was aware of every fiber touching his skin. Every expanding of his ribcage creating friction, every shift of his body meant to alleviate the pressure only creating new heat, new tautness. Every time she turned a page, the whisper of paper sent shivers down his spine.
While he followed the tip of her pen across the page as she wrote sentence after sentence, he pictured her bent over his desk, pictured her lifting the hem of her dress, slowly, keenly aware of every inch of skin she exposed. Pictured her bunching the fabric into a tight knot that she pressed against the triangle between her legs as she bent over and presented him with her backside. He pictured her panties to be red. Lively, provokingly red. He would crouch down behind her, grasping her hips, and she would bite her lips and moan deep in her throat as he would press his face against her crotch. He wanted to inhale her scent, wanted to press his nose against her cunt, lick her slit through the fabric, from the nub of her clit to the hole of her ass, lick her until the crotch of her panties was thoroughly wetted and clinging to her flesh. He imagined her quivering beneath his hands, and his palms prickled.
He shouldn’t have given her quite such a long task. The air in the room became more and more stifling, too hot to breathe. Drake pulled at the knot of his tie. He needed something to drink. Ice cold water. Alternatively, Scotch.
The pen in June’s hand trembled, and she put it down, straightening. “Done.”
“Very good.” His voice cracked.
“Should I read… right away?”
“Please, go ahead.” He wished he hadn’t given her this task. He wished he wouldn’t have to listen to her reading filth.
June’s own voice was hoarse when she started reading, trembling, and her skin darkened under his eyes. “On your knees, my child! Bare those parts of flesh inspiring the wrath of the Lord; the pain you will suffer will bring your soul in profound relation to God. I remind you: Forget yourself and let it happen!”
As June read how Thérèse watched Father Dirrag trick Eradice into baring her behind, how the perverted priest flagellated his penitent first and then fucked her, her voice turned breathless and throaty, even breaking from time to time. Drake had a hard time concentrating on the words — even despite their importance — for June’s voice alone brought him to a near limbless state. When June read how the priest spread Eradice’s labia and entered her with his red, ugly cock, June’s face was aflame, and she sped up reading as if it was less shameful if she read it as fast as possible. When she gasped for air, Drake interrupted her reading.
“Read that again, and slowly. Take your time.”
June glared at him, yet she also leant closer, radiating pure sexual tension. Drake wondered if it was the situation that turned her on, or the text itself.
“In this pleasant position he paused a few moments; he examined the altar with fervent eyes, seemingly undecided in which way to make his sacrifice. Two orifices were offered to him; uncertain which to take, he devoured them both with his eyes…”
This time, she read slower, sitting so upright that Drake was sure he would hear her spine crack if he managed to tune out her voice. Not that he even wanted to ever stop listening to Juniper Reed reading filth to him. Yet she inevitably reached the end of it. “I saw the proud snake, now all humble again, crawl out again covered in froth…” she read, ending on a half note somewhere between defiance and apprehension.
Drake let the pause stretch on, until June lifted her gaze from the page and looked at him. “This isn’t really sexy,” she stated.
“You’re right. It’s not.”
“I mean, this —” she pointed at him, then to herself, including all the unsaid things between them, “— this is. But this… this isn’t.” She pointed at the page before her.
“Yes. Tell me why.”
“Father Dirrag tricks Eradice. She doesn’t even know what’s happening… what’s worse, she thinks something else entirely is happening. She thinks her priest is helping her on her quest to sainthood, believes that the flagellation, the mortification furthers her intimate relationship with God. He uses her naivety… and rapes her.” With every word, she sounded more upset.
“And she trusts him. She believes what he’s telling her. She believes the ecstasy she feels stems from her divine inspiration. He’s lying to her, and she believes it…”
“That’s true. Eradice trusts Father Dirrag, and he shamelessly abuses this trust. She’s young and naive and oh, so easy to manipulate.”
June clenched her jaw, lips pressed into a thin line, her eyes shimmering. She looked so fragile and breakable that it made his heart pound painfully in his chest.
“I think I don’t want to recite this list,” she whispered, shoving the sheets of paper with her translation across the table. “In fact, I think I’m going to leave.”
Drake watched without a word as she pushed back her chair and grabbed Thérèse philosophe, shoving it back into her bag. She sprang up like she had been pricked by a pin hidden in her chair. Her hands curled around the strap of her shoulder bag, she hesitated, looking at the door as if she couldn’t wait to be gone. “I’m sorry…”
“No need for that.”
“Okay…” She turned and started for the door, but paused again, one hand on the door handle, when he called her.
“Miss Reed? Return the book. Officially. Say you took it without checking it out properly. I’ll ask Mrs. Walker about it tomorrow.”
Her face fell, but she composed herself quickly. “Fine.”
She slipped out, and Drake watched her hurry out on the small monitor above the door. He waited till he was sure she was really gone before he reached for the papers with her translation, and the short list of words beneath it. Quels tétons charmants, the first one read, and beside it such nice tits.
Drake closed his eyes. Such nice tits. He imagined her forming the word: tits. Cunt. Cock. Those words weren’t in the text, but oh, if she would say them, with her throaty voice, and a smile lingering in the dimples kissing the corners of her lips!
He curled his hands into fists, bit the insides of his cheeks and cursed his own depravity, his straining cock. This wasn’t what he wanted, he told himself, even as he pictured her on her knees before him, the top of her dress unbuttoned and baring her tits, with his thick, wet cum splattered across them. Drake hated himself while he pictured circling her nipples, smearing his cum around them before he offered his fingertips to her. He pictured her opening her mouth, pictured her offering her tongue and licking the drops of his cum from his fingers like honey.
He needed a cold shower, and she probably needed a restraining order.
There was not even the hint of a doubt in his mind that it was for the best she would soon disappear to college again. Hopefully, she’d meet a nice young man of her own age and fall hopelessly in love with him, and forget that Drake even existed.
Just like Drake had to forget that she existed.