“You should show more respect for me, Joshua,” Donna informs him. She’s sitting on top of him, endless legs straddling his hips, with no apparent plans to move.
“Donna, believe me, I have only the greatest respect for you.”
She crosses her arms. “You should never believe anybody who says ‘believe me.’”
“Would I lie to you?”
Donna cocks her head as she thinks it over. “No. But you’d distract, circumlocute, and obfuscate.”
“Oh my God. Say circumlocute again.”
“Do you think I’m a performing doll?”
“No,” he breathes. “But that was the hottest thing anybody’s ever said to me in bed.”
She tips forward to pin his wrists and outline the rim of his ear with her tongue. “Circumlocute,” she whispers. “Ontological. Transcendentalist.”
“How about antidisestablishment—”
She interrupts him with a kiss. He doesn’t interrupt her back.
“Do you trust me?”
Josh’s ASL is getting better, but Joey asks it out loud—for emphasis, he suspects. In spoken English, his first and primary language.
He answers in ASL, moving his right fist sharply up and down. YES.
Joey smiles, sudden and stunning. The muted lamplight makes her hair gleam like polished bronze.
She undresses him methodically, not hurried, not lingering. Even in heels, she’s too short to remove his V-neck all the way, but she slides her fingers under it and he does the rest. He starts to unbutton the oxford shirt beneath, but she catches his hands, lowers them to his sides, and does it herself. She pushes it from his shoulders and lets it fall to the floor, then tugs on his undershirt. Josh strips it off, and Joey sets her fingers to his skin, exploring familiar territory with a light touch. She doesn’t focus on or avoid the scar, just treats it like another part of his body; still, he tenses when her fingertips cross it. She wraps an arm around him and draws him closer, draws a gentle line down his back, and he begins to relax against the warmth of her body.
Joey pulls back to undo his belt and the buttons of his jeans. He’s not hard yet, but he could be—could be in just a few seconds—if she felt like taking one or both of those capable hands just a couple of inches farther down. She doesn’t—but she does rest them, soft but certain, on his hips, and when she looks up at him, he knows to bend down for a kiss.
She takes another step back, and he does the rest on his own: shoes, socks, jeans, boxers. It leaves him naked and her still fully clothed in her sleek, sleeveless violet dress and her high, high heels. She glances at the bed, and he sits down on it; she flicks her eyes to the pillow, and he lies back. She smiles at him again, and comes over to lay her palm on his cheek. Then she undresses, watching him watch her.
Everything Josh was wearing is now lying on the floor, but Joey is, unsurprisingly, fastidious about her clothes. She steps out of her shoes and lines them up neatly side by side, then rolls her hose down each leg and tucks them neatly into a dresser drawer. Without the heels, she must be at least three inches shorter than she was before, but it doesn’t really matter from Josh’s vantage point: He's still looking up at her. She reaches behind herself and unzips her dress, something Josh wants to object that he could have done for her, but she engages the zipper without fumbling, and with a decisive shimmy of her hips the dress comes off. Josh can’t help sighing with contentment as he looks at her bared skin, and Joey actually laughs at him, a loud, genuine, staccato burst.
Her bra and underwear are only a couple of shades darker than her skin, and elegantly lacy. Josh would like to press his mouth to the apex of the cup and tease her nipple through the fabric, but she takes off the bra and hangs it over the back of a chair, then—and Josh makes sure he has his eyes on her first this—tugs the panties down and off. The hair between her thighs is a true brown, darker than what’s on her head, and Josh’s mouth actually waters.
Joey’s smile curves up again—either she is psychic or he has less of a game face than he’s always believed—and she comes over to the side of the bed. She touches her thumb and index finger to his forehead and moves them down; he understands the wordless instruction, and closes his eyes.
He hears her move away, and there’s some quiet rustling; then he hears her return. She takes his wrists in her hands and raises his arms above his head; they bump lightly against one of the brass headboard posts, and Josh is pretty sure he knows where this is going. And, indeed, a moment later a soft piece of cloth is twining around them and tightening—not enough to constrict, but enough to restrict. He tugs, and the binding doesn’t give.
She kisses him, and he opens underneath her lips.
Lying on her stomach, her hair flung out to one side like a heap of tangled black silk, Quinn reveals little of herself except for the elaborate tattoo on her back and sides. It stretches on a diagonal from the top of her left shoulder to the right-side round of her ribcage, then back again to drape across her left hip. It’s a floral design, striking and highly stylized, with trumpet-shaped flowers and ornate curlicues. Its colors, browns, reds, black, and a deep yellow used sparingly for highlights, seem intended not to contrast with her skin but to suggest that they might have appeared there organically, a body decorating itself. It occurred to Josh the first time he saw the tattoo that Quinn wouldn’t be able to see it herself, at least not without a mirror, and even then it would be awkward. When he’d asked, though, she’d just shrugged and said, “I know it’s there.”
Josh would like nothing more than to trace it with his tongue, especially the blossoms on the point of her shoulder and the curve of her hip, but Quinn is funny about where and how she’ll let him, or anyone, touch her. She has, in the past, permitted him to outline portions of the art with his fingers, but no more, and that only on limited occasions.
She might look relaxed, but Josh knows she isn’t asleep—she never falls asleep first. He pulls on a clean pair of boxers to sleep in, and Quinn rolls to her side and pulls the covers back to let him get into bed. He sets the alarm—they’ve both got class tomorrow morning, Josh’s First Amendment seminar and her Secured Transactions lecture—and then he settles back into her arms.
It’s a little weird to be spooned by somebody six inches shorter than he is, but this is how Quinn does it. Her body is warm against his, soft in places and solid in others. If he turned over, and if the light was good enough, he’d be able to see the precisely placed lines of scars that dot her sternum and belly. Some are series of parallels; others are carefully crosshatched. She doesn’t talk about them, and he doesn’t ask. He sometimes wonders if they sleep like this because the position makes it difficult, if not impossible, for Josh to touch them.
C.J.’s leaning against the window, not quite sitting, not quite standing, when Josh comes into the hotel room and closes the door behind him. She’s wearing a long, loose-flowing skirt, a short jacket, and, in all probability, a pair of unearthly high heels. Josh can’t see them, but it’s a reasonable guess. No one is naturally that tall. Not even C.J.
For a moment she looks surprised, and he realizes that a part of her was probably second-guessing: Somewhere in her mind, she didn’t think he would show.
He doesn’t have the words—and Josh has generally has them, plentifully—for expressing the degree to which he wouldn’t miss this for anything.
Her unguarded moment is instantaneous and quickly masked, and C.J. arches an eyebrow like there was never a doubt in her mind. But Josh knows there was, even if it wasn’t a very serious doubt, or even if it was only there as briefly as its reflecting expression. (He himself doubts that.) And he uses that moment to close the space between the door and the window—between himself and her—and press her up against the Plexiglas, his hands on the lean muscles of her thighs.
Her hands stay on the ledge, and her other eyebrow rises to join the first, cool and unconcerned. “You got an agenda here, bucko?”
“‘Bucko’? Seriously? Is this 1965?”
He feels her move, and he knows exactly what she’s going to do: cross her arms and give him a thoroughly unimpressed stare. Everything but push him away, which C.J. doesn’t need physical force to do; a glare and a word or two will suffice. “Sorry, sorry,” he murmurs, and she snorts, but she also feels a little less tense under his hands. “Let me make it up to you.”
“And how do you propose—”
He gathers the front of her skirt and pulls it up to her hips; then he drops to his knees.
Most women would look ridiculous with a piece of clothing in disarray like this, but the fabric curtains either side of C.J.’s legs as though they’re a piece of artwork too fine for common viewing. Which is not a bad simile, Josh thinks, because what legs they are, long and sleek, and she’s wearing thigh-highs, which are obviously a gift to Josh from the universe.
He runs a finger around the top of the lace, and she jerks, audibly biting back a laugh—C.J. Cregg is ticklish there, who knew? But she gasps when he licks where he touched. One of her hands falls into his hair and goes tight as he presses his mouth to her underwear, exhaling against the outlines of clit and cunt. He teases them gently until she’s wet enough that the silk is slippery against his lips, until he can smell her arousal through it. He pushes it aside so that he can, finally, taste her, and she cries out, sharp and vulnerable, when his tongue slides over her clit, slowly because he’s enjoying this. She buries her other hand in his hair, and he cups her ass to pull her closer; the panties are still in the way, and he pushes them down. She kicks them off, and, God, they're both still dressed, utterly proper except for how he’s kneeling with his face between her legs and her underwear is now on the floor. It makes him harder, makes him lick her faster and harder until she’s holding his head where she wants it and coming against his mouth, hot as molten rock as he sucks her clit and makes her do it again.
She lets him go and slumps against the window, her eyelids dropping in satisfaction, though they don’t close all the way. Her neck and cheeks are flushed, and Josh bets her chest is, too, the tops of her breasts, and that’s another place he wants to get his mouth, and soon.
C.J. reaches down and wraps his tie around her hand, and he gets up agreeably because, hell, why argue? She unknots the tie, and that’s when it hits him: not only was he dressed, but he just went down on C.J. Cregg while wearing a full suit, complete with jacket and tie. He leans forward to lick the barely visible sweat from her collarbone, and he realizes that she, too, is still in her pearls and her earrings, the political woman’s battle armor.
He shrugs his jacket off, drops the tie on the chair, and undoes the first couple of buttons on his shirt. She glances at him for a moment, calm and evaluating even though he just made her come twice, and then she tilts her head to the side and unfastens her earrings, one and then the other.
Josh holds out his hand, and she looks him over again—and then she drops the set into his palm. He puts them on the desk and watches as she unclasps the strand, and she hands this to him, too. He lays it next to the earrings, then takes off his watch. He starts unbuttoning his shirt again, but she stops him. She takes off her own jacket, then moves his hands to her blouse.
The blouse is no doubt expensive, but that isn’t why he knows he needs to be careful.
He’s so tired, and her voice is like velvet.
Mandy lies stretched out on top of him, her fingers tangled with his as she kisses him. She moves from his mouth to his closed eyelids to his cheeks to his forehead to his temples, and she tells him, low but casual, “You’re naked in my bed, Josh, and you’re going to do what I want. And only what I want. Are we clear?”
“Yeah,” he says, almost a sigh.
“Who do you belong to?” she asks, stroking his hair.
“You,” he says, as she’s expecting, and she smiles at him, pleased.
“That’s right,” she tells him, and kisses his forehead. “To me. Not to anybody else. To me.”
Mandy swings her legs down and rises to walk across the room. She’s small and strong, and Josh enjoys watching her move, naked and assured, skin as luminous as the moon. She opens the wardrobe and rifles briefly through it, then removes something Josh can’t see and closes the doors. When she gets closer, he can see a dark length of cloth in her hands—probably the tie to a bathrobe. She transfers it to one hand and runs the other up his throat, brushing lightly over his larynx; he swallows and tips his head back, and she lays her palm along his jawbone.
He’s not stupid; he knows why she went and got that. The only other person he’s done that with was Quinn, a long time ago now, long enough that he’s figured out she mostly did it to keep him from touching her. It would sting if he didn’t suspect that Quinn probably did the same thing with her boyfriend before him, and with her boyfriend after him too—if he didn’t wonder (infrequently, but he does) whether she ever got over that. Whether she still does it that way.
“You have to be sure about this part, Josh,” Mandy says, bringing him back to the present. She’s not stupid, either: She can tell when he’s a million miles away.
“I am,” he says.
“I trust you to tell me these things.” She’s looking right at him; it can be hard to meet her eyes sometimes.
“Have you ever seen me say yes when I meant no?”
“I’ve seen you bluff,” Mandy replies, “and I’ve seen you talk a big game when you’re not sure you can follow through.” She arranges herself on top of him again, but this time she settles to one side, taking one of his hands and bringing it up to kiss the knuckles and the palm, then to draw her finger lightly over the veins on the back and the inside of his wrist.
She tosses the tie onto the mattress and leaves it there, then draws his head to the side to bite at his neck and shoulder. She circles his nipple with a fingertip and rocks back and forth against him until he’s completely erect—and then she bites his upper arm and smiles when he jerks beneath her. She licks the marks and says, “If you weren’t going to be wearing a shirt, Josh, everybody would see this—everybody would see this and know who owns you. And tell me again who that is?”
“You, Mandy,” he says, and his breath catches as she rubs her cunt, warm and welcoming, over his cock. He nods toward the abandoned tie a couple of feet away. “You’re not going to use that?”
“No,” she answers, and doesn’t explain beyond, “Plenty of other things to do.”
It’s one of the very few times he doesn’t argue with her.