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Asking for it, p.1
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       Asking for It, p.1

          part  #1 of  Asking for It Series  by  Lilah Pace / Romance & Love
Asking for It
Page 1

Prologue

My fantasies always begin . . . normally. Whatever normal is.

The movie or TV show I’m watching features a sexy scene: a man and woman in a clinch, their lips silhouettes that almost touch. A ballad by Dinah Washington comes up on shuffle, raw and yearning. Hugh Jackman shows up shirtless on the cover of a supermarket magazine. The usual things get me started, I guess.

So then I’m in my boyfriend’s bed (when I have a boyfriend) or alone between the sheets, or in the shower (when I don’t). I close my eyes. I try to forget everything except the pulsing between my legs, the pressure and rhythm that’s making my pulse race. The images in my mind jumble together, without narrative or emotion or sense—like a pornographic kaleidoscope of tongues and lips, cock and cunt, the heat of skin on skin. Usually I start to moan; I’m not one of the quiet ones. So far, so good.

But no matter how explicit and erotic the kaleidoscope gets, no matter how talented the guy’s tongue is, or how constant my hand’s pressure might be—it never, ever gets me off.

Only one fantasy does that.

I try not to think about it. I tell myself it’s sick, it’s wrong. A lot of times, when I’m with a guy, I just don’t come. It’s embarrassing to be this good at faking it.

When I’m alone—or when I’m with a lover and I want to get off so bad that I can’t take it anymore—I have to go there.

In my mind, ropes wind around my wrists, my ankles. Or I’m rolled onto my stomach, hands pinned behind my back. Sometimes I’m blindfolded. Sometimes he makes me look at him. If I’m going down on a guy, I ask him to pull my hair, and the whole time I’m pretending that he’s making me do this. Forcing me. In reality he says, Baby or You’re beautiful; I imagine him saying, Whore. Suck it, you cunt.

I don’t get off unless I’m imagining being raped.

Sometimes it’s “softer”—a guy backing me against a wall at a party, or taking advantage when I’m sloppy drunk. Other times it’s brutal. Tied down spread-eagled. Or in a ditch on my hands and knees.

At least I don’t fantasize about weapons at my throat, or pointed at my head. Not yet, anyway.

I hate this about myself. I hate it. I’ve tried to change so many times; I’ve always failed. While I wish I could say I don’t know why I’m wired this way . . . I do.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Lots of people have sexual fantasies they’d never act on, whether they’re violent or perverse, silly or flat-out biologically impossible. If it’s all in my head, and it makes me come, what’s the harm?

(It makes me come hard. )

The harm is when the lines between reality and fantasy get blurred.

Like they did last night.

One

Highway 71 stretched in front of my car, black asphalt scrolling beneath my wheels. Seven hours into my drive back to Austin, I was wondering why I hadn’t just flown Southwest.

Sometimes I like taking a long road trip by myself—listening to my music, relishing the freedom of knowing I absolutely, positively can’t work on my thesis for a while. I’d enjoyed most of this drive back from New Orleans, but now that the sun had gone down and I still had an hour to go, I felt restless.

Maybe if you hadn’t left your car charger at home, where it can do you exactly no good—

I groaned, thinking of my cell phone in my purse, dead for more than an hour now. Instead of putting on my favorite high-energy playlist for the final leg of my journey, I was at the mercy of the radio. Every station seemed dedicated to putting me to sleep.

Then again, it was late. After ten P. M. Most people were winding down, taking it easy as they listened to mellower music, maybe snuggling up to someone they loved.

A sultry Latin number began, soft guitar and thumping drums suggesting sensuality with every beat—and reminding me how long I’d been alone.

My last breakup had taken place four months before. Sometimes I missed Geordie, even though I knew splitting had been the right choice. At age thirty, he’s still in party-hearty mode, while at twenty-five I already feel more grown-up than he probably ever will. We’d always been more friends than red-hot lovers anyway. Our sex life—well, I couldn’t blame Geordie there. Probably most women would have been more than happy with what he had to offer. I was the one who had longed for something Geordie couldn’t provide.

At least you told him what you really wanted. You finally trusted someone else enough to tell, and that alone counts for something, doesn’t it? He just couldn’t go there with you.

But I’d felt so shamed. So exposed. I’d confessed my deepest fantasies to Geordie, hoping he’d play along, and instead he’d freaked out. Oh, he tried to be sympathetic, all “But why do you think you feel this way?” That’s what I pay my therapist for. What I needed from him was something a whole lot dirtier. A whole lot scarier. And gentle, funny Geordie couldn’t give it to me. Page 2

Maybe I was being the rigid one. I figured I shouldn’t condemn a guy for not getting off on the idea of forcing a woman. So I reminded myself, Geordie gets to have limits too—

The steering wheel jerked in my hands. I managed to keep my Civic from spinning out, but barely. It wobbled violently, pulling hard to one side as I guided it onto the shoulder. The hum of tires against highway gave way to jagged pops of gravel under my car. Once I’d cleared the road, I put the car in park, turned the key, and sat there for a moment, one hand held over my wildly thumping heart.

Shit. I’ve blown a tire.

I stepped out of my car, my sandals crunching in the roadside grit, as I inspected the damage. As I’d thought, the passenger-side front tire was completely blown out; strips of blackened rubber had peeled away, and it was already completely deflated against the ground.

Biting my lower lip, I glanced up and down the highway. I hadn’t quite made it as far as Giddings, which was the closest thing to a real town in this part of Texas. The next outpost of civilization was probably at least half an hour’s walk from here . . . in the dark, without even a streetlamp to guide me. Why hadn’t I brought the stupid car charger? I’d have given a lot to have my cell phone with me so I could call for help. I could’ve bought another one in any gas station along the way; it wasn’t like they were expensive. But I hadn’t. So I was alone, in the dark, totally on my own.

Of course, as a modern, independent woman, I’d learned how to change a flat tire. I’d practiced so I’d be able to do it in a crisis. Except that the last time I practiced was eight years earlier, when I was a junior in high school.

I squared my shoulders. Okay, Vivienne. You can do this. Let’s make it happen.

As I took the jack from the trunk, I decided to ditch the little cardigan I wore over my red sundress. In Texas in August, the weather was too warm to work hard while wearing extra layers, even this late at night. Besides, I didn’t want to get grease all over my entire outfit if I could help it.

A truck’s headlights appeared on the horizon, heading toward me. I was torn. Wave for help or duck behind the car, so the driver doesn’t see that I’m a woman out here alone?

My fantasies were one thing. Reality was another. I wanted help really badly, but I walked behind the car.

Not that it mattered—the eighteen-wheeler barreled past me so fast my compact car rocked in its wake. The breeze blew my hair in my face and whipped the skirt of my sundress. Once the truck was well ahead of me, I took off my cardigan and tossed it into the front seat, then got down to business.

Okay. Obviously the first step was jacking up the car. I knelt beside the flat tire, angled the jack—and heard another car driving toward me.

Slowing down.

And stopping.

Headlights bathed me in their brilliance. I held up one hand, unable to see for the glare. Fear prickled along my skin. I took the lug wrench firmly in my fist as I stood, still holding my other hand against the light, and tried to keep my voice steady as I called, “Hello?”

“Looks like you’ve got trouble. ”

The driver stepped forward, the headlights silhouetting his tall, masculine form. As my eyes adjusted to the brightness, I could finally see his face.

Oh, my God.

All the adrenaline in my bloodstream changed. The fear was still there, sharper as I saw how broad his shoulders were, and the muscles in his arms—but now that fear was matched by excitement, raw and primal. This man . . .

He was tall, a couple inches over six feet. His jeans were slung beneath his almost impossibly tapered waist, which only exaggerated how muscular his thighs were. His black T-shirt clung to him tightly. Stubble shadowed his angular jaw, and his dark hair was cut almost military-short in a way that emphasized the strong lines of his face. His gray eyes raked over me, as I remembered why I’d worn the cardigan to begin with—my sundress was low-cut, and his gaze made it clear he’d noticed.

My hand tightened around the wrench.

“What seems to be the problem?” He took a step closer.

“It’s just a flat tire. I’ve got a spare. ” I sounded breathless. Afraid. Would that encourage him to help me, or make it clear just how much power he had over me at this moment?

One of his eyebrows lifted. Clearly he’d picked up on the fact that I was nervous. It seemed to amuse him. “Can you change a flat?”

“Of course. ” That was possibly not the entire truth, but I figured I could manage if I had to.

“Do you have any help on the way? Triple A?” His gray eyes met mine again, but it was difficult for me to make out his expression with his headlights shining in my eyes. “A boyfriend?”
Page 3

Is he trying to find out if I’m single, or trying to find out if anybody would know if something happened to me?

No one would.

I tried to smile; I probably failed. “Yeah. Triple A said they’d be here in—oh, another fifteen minutes or so. ” My voice sounded sharp, borderline rude, but I couldn’t worry about that. All I could think was, Why did I say that? Fifteen minutes was too long. Fifteen minutes is more than enough time for him to . . .

His smile was a quick flash in the darkness, as hard-edged as a straight razor. “I can change that flat in five. That is—if you’re not too proud to ask for help. ”

“Proud?” This guy had pulled over next to me in the dead of night, started interrogating me, and wanted to lecture me on my attitude? Fuck being afraid; I got mad. “Listen, if you think it’s funny that I’d be worried about a stranger in this situation, I’m afraid you don’t understand some very basic, sad facts of life. ”

He drew back, his gray eyes narrowing, almost like I’d slapped him. Had he taken my fear as an insult? Maybe it was one; I’d as good as said I thought he couldn’t be trusted. However, when he spoke again, his deep voice was gentler. Meant to soothe. “I wasn’t thinking. Here. Let me take care of this for you and get you on your way. ”

He held out his hand for the wrench. Obviously he’d need it to change my flat. But it was also the only potential weapon I had.

Do I trust this guy?

I took one step closer to him, squinting to see. Now his body blocked the headlights a little more, and I could examine his face more carefully. Strong brow. Firm, straight nose like a slash through his perfectly symmetrical face. A surprisingly full lower lip. He looked powerfully, almost aggressively masculine. Like someone who took what he wanted. And yet his eyes never glanced away from mine, as though he had nothing to hide—

Even though I wanted to trust those eyes, I couldn’t. This man was a total stranger. What it boiled down to was this: If he was a good guy, then I could rely on him. If he was a bad guy, he could probably get the lug wrench away from me any time he wanted.

I hesitated one instant longer, then handed him the wrench.

He took it and stepped past me to get to work.

During the next few minutes, while he worked in silence except for the clanking of metal, I stood awkwardly in front of his dark sedan. Even now I found it difficult to relax around this guy. What if he was just toying with me? Trying to get me off my guard?

Oh, come on, I told myself. Like any rapist on earth would go to the trouble of changing a flat tire first.

But those fears weren’t the main reason I found it hard to relax. What got to me was that I found my rescuer sexy as hell. And he’d been sexy to me even when I’d been scared of him.

Just what did you think he was going to do to you?

What did you want him to do to you?

As I watched him—his strong arms wrestling with the wheel, the headlights shining on the muscular expanse of his back or his stern profile—my mind filled with visions I didn’t want to want. Visions of him bending me over the back of my car, pushing up the skirt of my sundress. Of him pulling me into the backseat, putting my hand on his cock, whispering, Time to thank me. His hands fisting in my hair as he towed me down on my knees—

Stop it.

I shook my head, pushing the loose strands of my hair back from my face. My cheeks felt hot. My pulse still raced, thumping in my chest, throbbing between my legs. I was turned on and confused and angry with myself. I wanted him to finish changing my flat so I could get back into my car and drive the rest of the way home, pretending I’d never had a bigger problem than crappy music on the radio.

Then I could also pretend he hadn’t made me feel so hungry. So ashamed.

“Okay,” he said. A few clicks of the jack, and my car settled back onto the ground. When he stood up, he had a smudge of dark grease along one cheekbone. “That should get you home. But it’s just a spare. You need to buy a new tire right away instead of driving around on this one for too long. ”

“I know that,” I retorted, stung.

“Sorry. ” His smile was knowing, almost disdainful. “I forgot I was talking to an expert. ”

Okay, so he’s a smug son of a bitch, but he’s the son of a bitch who just saved your ass. I swallowed my irritation. “Listen—thanks. Seriously. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you. I owe you one. ”

His smile faded. “Then do me a favor. Don’t try to be superwoman next time. Join Triple A, stay in the car and keep it locked, whatever you have to do to keep yourself safe. ” He handed me back the wrench. “You should be more careful who you trust. ”
Page 4

His eyes searched mine again, and I hoped my face was in shadow—enough that he couldn’t see how flushed I was. Then he turned and walked back to his sedan.

As his door slammed, I went to the driver’s side of my Civic, legs trembling beneath me. I got back in and hit the locks. His car pulled back onto the highway, passed me, and kept on going. I sat still, watching the taillights shrink and pass out of sight as he drove away.

I needed to keep driving. But for a few moments I just sat there, one hand to my lips, and tried to stop shaking.

That’s not what I wanted. It’s not.

If only I could believe that.

Two

Monday mornings mean Dr. Ward or, as she insists I call her, Doreen.

I’ve tried therapy before, but Doreen is the first psychologist who’s made me feel like I might actually get somewhere. Everything about her and her office is comforting. Instead of a sternly neutral face and a crisp suit, she always wears a gentle expression and flowing, colorful knits. Instead of a cold, clinical office, she meets with clients in a room of her own bright, sunny house, filled with potted plants and the African sculpture she collects. Most importantly, instead of lecturing, she listens.

“I didn’t know whether I was safe. ” I sit on the cream-colored sofa, my bare feet tucked under me. Doreen asks patients to leave our shoes at the door; supposedly it’s to preserve her rugs, but really I think it gets us to let our guard down. “I could’ve been in danger, for all I knew. I didn’t know that he wasn’t going to hurt me. And I still fantasized about him . . . forcing me. ”

“He didn’t hurt you,” Doreen says calmly. “He helped you, and then he went on his way. ”

And he had an attitude about it. But that isn’t the point. “We were still out there alone in the dark. The danger was real, and I wanted him anyway. It’s like—like I wanted to get hurt. ”

Doreen raises an eyebrow. “Ever consider that you wanted him just because he was hot?”

I laugh despite myself.

She leans forward. “Let me tell you what I’m hearing here. You were in trouble. You were scared. A very attractive man helped you out. While he was doing that, you let yourself fantasize about him. That’s not abnormal. In fact, I’d say it’s the most normal thing in the world. ”

“What I fantasize about isn’t normal. ”

“Rape fantasies are among the most common sexual fantasies women have,” Doreen says, not for the first time. As ever, shame lashes me when she says the actual word. Rape. “Some men fantasize about being forced, too. That’s not the same as actually wanting to get raped. Not all fantasies are things we want in reality. ”

“I should know. ”

That’s my attempt at a joke. Doreen doesn’t crack a smile; she’s not so easily distracted. “One of the reasons you came to me was that you wanted to stop having this fantasy. I understand your reasons. But I don’t think the fantasy itself is your most significant problem. I think your main problem is the way you beat yourself up about it. ” Doreen sighs. “That, and the reason you’re fixated on the fantasy in the first place. ”

I can’t talk about my reasons—not again, not now. My mystery man looms too large in my mind. His shadow falls across everything I say and do today. “If I’m having that fantasy at times when I might really be in danger—about men who really could—who might—”

“We’ve talked about this. Sometimes you tie yourself up in knots about what could have happened, instead of just dealing with the facts. For a little while, let’s stick to the facts about last night. ” Doreen’s tone is kind but firm. “This guy changed your tire, and then he went on his way. That’s all. ”
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LILAH PACE SERIES:

  • Asking for It
  • His Royal Secret
  •  

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