Chapter Eight

Audrey

Are you still awake?

My pulse picked up at the message from Dylan when it arrived. It was half past midnight, and I’d texted him hours ago during the intermission of Waitress. I’d been antsy waiting for a response, afraid he was bailing on me, so, obviously, I was relieved to see his name, to say the least. 

Now was a better time to talk to him anyway. Sabrina was already asleep, and I wasn’t as into my reading of A Curator’s Handbook as I should have been.

But I was into Dylan Locke. More than I should have been.

I was beginning to think you’d gotten cold feet, I replied.

Ha ha. No. Not particularly. It was a lot of rigamarole to get the apartment ready for habitation, even though it came furnished. Then Aaron and I had to battle through Latin homework. After that, we ordered pizza and played a rousing game of Risk.

I giggled. He was so formal and long winded in his messages. No one spoke like that in text. No one used proper grammar. But he did. He texted like he talked. I’d probably make fun of him about it someday--I was known to tease--but secretly I loved it.

I curled my feet underneath me in Sabrina’s guest room arm chair and typed out a response. Risk, huh. He let you win, didn’t he?

Now that you mention it...I really think he did.

I could picture it--a baby teenage boy, awkward and gangly after a recent growth spurt, chocolate eyes like his father, a dry but still underdeveloped sense of humor. The two would crack witty wisecracks while forming armies and taking over the world, and Dylan would be so enamored with the idea of connecting with his son, he wouldn’t see that the same son was throwing the game. 

It was a sweet image, and, even if it was inaccurate, I liked imagining it that way. It made me miss my dad who’d died ten years ago this holiday season. I had fond memories of nights when it was just the two of us. Years after my mother had died when Sabrina had gone off to school at Harvard. Nights playing Rummikub past midnight. After I’d win a handful of games, I’d start losing on purpose so my father would stay interested in playing. 

Those were good times.

These were good times Dylan was creating, too. Did he know that? He had to assume they had some meaning.  Why else be so engaged? Why else buy an apartment he only planned on using a handful of times a year? He was a very wealthy businessman, a man I suspected that could afford staff and “people” to look after all his needs. He probably lived quite a different life when he was back home in London, but here, where his son was concerned, he seemed very ordinary. He was just like most dads. He cared about his kid, and it showed. 

It made me want to care too. It made me want to ask too many questions and get involved.

But that was always my problem--I cared easily. And this wasn’t a situation where caring helped me.

I blew the air from my lungs and shook my head free from sentimental thoughts. Yes, Dylan was a good dad. But I needed to focus on the kind of “daddy” he could be to me. 

This was a conversation I decided would be best voice-to-voice.

I hit the phone icon next to his name and put the receiver up to my ear. 

And then I waited. 

And waited. 

He made me wait four flipping rings before answering. Four, long rings where I pictured him staring at my name on his screen and panicking, trying to decide what to do.

Answer it, you nincompoop! You were just texting me! I know you’re there!

“Audrey,” he said in a stern bass when he finally picked up. It made my stomach buzz deep and low, as though trying to match his pitch and resonance.

“Dylan,” I said, in kind.

Then neither of us said anything and silence stretched out between us.

It wasn’t awkward silence, really, but it was noticeable. Noticeable enough that my lips went dry, and my hands began to sweat. It seemed to me it was his turn to say something since I’d just spoken, whatever it was that I’d said. I’d already forgotten. I was too consumed with replaying the way he’d said my name. How beautiful it sounded when he said it in his very British dialect. It made me feel regal and classic and adored, which was crazy since we were practically strangers. 

But I felt that way all the same. 

And I sat there without speaking as I soaked it in. I didn’t know what his reason was for not talking, but that was mine. 

You called me,” he said eventually. “I believe you have the obligation to do the talking here. Audrey.”

That answered that question. And he’d said my name again, and I felt heady.

But I got my act together, somehow. “Yes. Right! I wanted to tell you that I can be there in half an hour. Sooner if you don’t mind getting me in my pajamas. What I wear shouldn’t really matter since the clothes won’t be on long anyway. Unless that’s not how you do things. Do you keep your clothes on and just uncover the necessary part? That does sound hot, in a way. Maybe the secret to all my bad sex was getting naked?”

“Bad sex from getting naked? No. I don’t think that’s it. I’ve done both with the same results. I expect we’ll see what...hold on. Hold on. What am I even saying? ” He sounded flustered, like he always was when I threw myself at him. “Audrey, it’s nearly one in the morning. And Aaron is still here. He’s sleeping right now, but I don’t think it would be appropriate to have a late night visitor of the female persuasion.”

Yeah, probably not. 

“Or any persuasion, for that matter. Ellen would have my hide, and the whole purpose of getting this apartment was to make things easier between all of us, not more strained.”

“Fine,” I said, laying as much disappointment as possible into the single syllable. 

He let out a slow breath, and I pictured him running a hand through his hair as he did. I’d seen him do it on more than one occasion, and now it had become A Very Dylan gesture in my mind. 

“What’s your day look like tomorrow?” he asked.

It was my turn to sigh. “Tomorrow’s terrible. Well, not terrible, really. Terrible for the two of us getting together, though. Sabrina took the day off to take me around the city. And then we’re seeing the Rockettes Christmas show. It’s going to be jam-packed with holiday fun. Woot! Oh, hey! Maybe you could come up with some project she needs to take care of at the office, and make her have to cancel her plans so she can come in and work.”

“I can’t possibly do that. I’m not in her direct chain of command. I don’t even work in the same office. Not to mention the questionable judgement of ethics required to use my authority over her simply to arrange a booty call. And you can’t tell me you don’t want to spend time with your sister. You came here for Thanksgiving break to be with her, not with…” He paused and seemed to come to his sense. “I see now. You were winding me up.”

I bit my lip to stifle a laugh. “I was totally ‘winding you up’.” I was also keeping that phrase and using it forever and ever. “But I’m thoroughly impressed with your moral code. You’re a good man, Dylan Locke.”

“Or, at least, I’m a gullible one.” He laughed softly. “Then if the daytime is off the table, that leaves the night. I’m meeting with some old friends for dinner so I won’t have Aaron. I don’t imagine we’ll go too late, and I can cut it short if need be. Will you be too tired to make a trip over here after your show?”

“Uh, I’m a college student. All-nighters are kind of my gig. The question is--will it be a problem for you, old man?” 

“You like to remind me of our age difference, I think.” I could practically hear his scowl through the line.

“Only because it makes you so hot and bothered. 

“Does it make you hot and bothered?” His voice had dropped and the words that came out were ragged.

“Yes, Professor Locke.” My answer sounded just as raw as the question, and the buzz in my belly had spread out through my limbs.

“Let me ask you then--as your professor, I should know what sort of prior education you’ve acquired.”

Oh, geez. He was always incredibly sexy, but he was even hotter when he played the teacher part. Especially when he was also enthusiastic.

“Um.” I stood up to pace the room, hoping to release some of the restlessness he stirred in me. “Let’s see.”

“If you’re uncomfortable discussing this--”

“I’m not,” I cut him off. “At all. I just know our time is limited, and I have a lot to learn.”

“I find it hard to believe that you are truly that inexperienced. Why don’t you just lay it all out, and I can decide what would be most useful for us to focus on?”

I got the sense that he wasn’t so much feeling me out as he was feeling himself out. Trying to decide if he was really up for what I wanted of him.

It was probably a cue for me to proceed cautiously.

But cautious wasn’t my nature. “Okay, then. I’m pretty sure I’m good on blowjobs. I can deep throat at swallow and I know the tricks about humming and using a peppermint lifesaver at the same time. And I’ve never had any complaints in that area, but if you think you might have something to teach me… I’m terrible receiving oral sex, on the other hand. I can’t ever decide if it feels good or just weird, and that makes me tense, and I never come. And positions. I’ve done missionary practically every time. Oh, and cowgirl--or whatever it’s called when the girl is on top. But I don’t think I know how to do that right because I’ve heard that it should be easier to orgasm that way, and I never have. I’ve never orgasmed at all, actually. Not from a guy, anyway. I mean, I’ve come on my own, but isn’t sex supposed to be better with someone else? I’d really like to figure out how to make it better with someone else.”

I bit my bottom lip and waited, sure that what I’d said would wind him up.

That was part of the fun of Dylan, after all.

“That’s. Hm.” He cleared his throat. “That’s quite a list of concerns.”

“Told you.” I flopped down on the bed and put my feet flat on the headboard. “Am I unhelpable? Is it humiliating that my education is so sparse that I can’t even orgasm with a guy?”

“That’s not a problem with your education--that’s a problem with the men you’ve been with. They should be humiliated. Truly.” 

Maybe it was flattery, but he didn’t have to try to get in my pants. And Dylan was generally earnest. He meant what he said, and his show of support made my insides feel warm and twisted. 

Kind as it was, it also didn’t fix my situation. “Thank you for that. I appreciate it, I do. But it’s still a problem for me, even if it isn’t my fault. So I’ll teach the next guy. No big deal. Just...how can I teach a guy what to do if I don’t know what I like myself?”

“Then we have to figure out what you like. And teach you how to ask for it.”

Yes. That. “Mr. Locke, I think we’re on the same page. Does this help you with your lesson plan?”

“I believe it does.”

He was so solemn that I couldn’t help poking at him. “You know, I’m grateful you’re taking this project seriously, for my sake. But it’s okay if you enjoy it, too.”

He let out a gruff laugh that made goosebumps scatter down my arms. “I’ll have you know that I’m enjoying this very much. Now, you might not need much sleep, but I’d better get some if I’m to be expected to be at my best for you. I’ll see you tomorrow night, sweet girl.”

“Good night, Professor.” I clicked the button to end the call and stretched my hands over my head in giddy victory.

Humming to myself, I set the phone on the nightstand, turned off the lamp, and climbed under the covers. I was all talk about all-nighters. In truth, I liked my sleep. 

But I sat awake for a long time, smiling in the dark, as I thought about all the possible ways Dylan would enjoy me.

***

I got trapped.

After a full day of sightseeing and holiday activities, I’d figured that Sabrina would want to call it a night as soon as the Rockettes show was over. Especially since she was also exhausted from the emotional turbulence of her relationship with Donovan Kincaid. 

Unfortunately, she’d gotten a second wind right as the curtains closed, and, instead of going straight back to her apartment like I’d hoped, we ended up at a Don’t Tell Mama’s until almost two in the morning.

I might have tried to persuade her that I was tired, but she knew me better than that. And she needed to have a good time, a night where she could unload all her worry on me. I rarely got to be the comforter between the two of us. She was my sister, but in many ways she was also my mother. Even when I wanted to be there for her, she rarely allowed it.

This time it was Dylan who texted to check in on me. Not wanting to divert my attention away from Sabrina, I hadn’t gotten a chance to reply until Sabrina and I were in our separate rooms back at her place.

I just got home! I’m so sorry! Is it too late to come over?

I wasn’t even sure he’d answer at this time of night, and if he did, I was certain he’d want to reschedule.

But I was wrong.

No worries. I got a nap in this afternoon. But I don’t want you taking an Uber at this time of night. I’ll send my car for you. Text me when you’re in my lobby so I know you’ve arrived safely. 

He “got a nap”. I chuckled out loud. Either he was taking this project ultra seriously, or he was winding me up for a change. I had a feeling both were likely.

And he was sending me his car--that was...nice. Really nice. Make my heart flip in my chest kind of nice. He was practically a stranger and still he cared about my safety. I’d practically been engaged to my last boyfriend, Mateo, and he’d never been the slightest bit concerned about me walking around late at night after study sessions. Certainly a university campus was at least as dangerous as a sidewalk in Midtown for a girl like me.

Grateful and glad that our plans were still on, I threw Dylan a quick text back before slipping out of Sabrina’s apartment. Thanks for looking out for me. Daddy. ;)

His reply came when I was in the elevator. I sense teasing in your last message.

And another followed right after. Be careful. Daddy only rewards girls who show him respect.

Oh, boy. Dylan was good.

When I got to the lobby of Sabrina’s building, I realized exactly how good he was--the car was already waiting for me. He must have had it on standby, ready for whenever I finally got back to him.

The ride to Dylan’s apartment was quick with the late night quiet--eh, quieter-- streets. I hummed Christmas songs from the show as we drove, and, even though I still had the key Jeff Jones had given me, I texted Dylan as soon as I got there to let him know I’d arrived like he’d asked. The key got me in the front door without trouble and into the elevator, so I was bouncing down the hallway toward his unit in a matter of minutes.

All of it had happened so fast, in fact, that it wasn’t until I was outside his door with the key in my hand, lifted toward the lock, that I thought to step back and take a moment. It wasn’t that I had doubts about my plan--I didn’t. Not a one. And I didn’t have doubts about Dylan either. He was everything I wanted in a teacher. He was kind and protective and level-headed. Most importantly, he was out-of-this-world attractive. The apex of my thighs felt slippery just from the thought of being with him.

But there was me to think about. Who I was and what kind of reactions I usually had to men I was into. I fell for them, was what I did. Over and over. I’d only had two serious boyfriends in my life, but the number of guys I’d fallen for was countless. I easily swooned over kind gestures. Butterflies resided in my stomach at all times. If a man looked too long in my eyes, laughed at my stupid jokes, or listened attentively to my rants about art, he was sure to win my heart.

The only reason I’d survived as long as I had in the world--if twenty-three was considered having survived long at all--was because I also had a level-head. Because I knew not to run blindly into the arms of every guy who gave me goosebumps. Because I’d learned to tuck my feelings deep inside. I’d perfected the art of not being vulnerable, partly by making sure I didn’t jump into bed with anyone until I was sure he loved me too.

Everything about this situation with Dylan was against the Audrey Lind Code of Conduct.

So how on earth did I expect to get through this without getting burned?

The same way you always do. That was how.

I’d remind myself of the facts--that Dylan wasn’t emotionally available. That he lived across an ocean. That he wasn’t interested in any relationship with me or anyone, for that matter. I’d repeat those facts over and over until they were seared into my brain, and when I started to feel--which was highly likely considering my past--I’d bury those feelings and never mention them out loud. Then, after a while, a new guy would cross my path, and I’d fall again and the cycle would continue until eventually I found the right guy. And finally I wouldn’t have to hide anymore.

It would happen. I believed it with all of me. And this thing with Dylan was preparing me for being ready for that guy, and it was important. And logical. And I would survive this way until that future arrived.

With my pep talk completed, I threw my shoulders back, inserted the key in the lock, and swung open the door.

Before I even had time to cross the threshold, I was grabbed by the wrist. pulled into the foyer, and pushed against the wall. 

“You hesitated in the hall,” Dylan said, his mouth at my ear, his voice husky. He’d shut the door with his foot, and now the length of his body was crushed against mine. “Are you having second thoughts?”

The light was off in the foyer, and, except for the moonlight that shone in from the front room, it was dark. But I didn’t need to see to be able to tell how much Dylan hoped that I wasn’t reconsidering our arrangement. His eagerness was evident from the thick ridge pressing against my lower belly.

“No second thoughts.” I assured him. “I was just pulling myself together.” 

His lips hovered along the curve of my jaw. “You can still back out of this. At any time. You just say the word, and everything stops.”

The only word I wanted to say at this moment was “Don’t.” Don’t stop. Don’t back out of this. Don’t make me wait a second longer.

But I was speechless. My heart was in my throat, hammering away at my vocal cords. A shiver ran through my body, despite the heavy coat I was wearing. I licked my lips, inviting his mouth to cover mine. I willed it with all my being. Kiss me. Kiss me!

“Tell me you understand,” he insisted. 

I dropped the key and my purse to the floor and swept the palms of my hands up his torso, over his shirt. “I get it. Please, don’t stop. Please--”

He cut me off with a kiss, immediately deep and frantic. Without breaking his mouth from mine, he undid the buttons of my coat and pushed it off my shoulders, letting it join my other belongings on the ground. Then he shoved closer against me, inhabiting the space the bulky coat had previously owned. 

My chest rose and fell rapidly, the bullet points of my nipples brushing against him with each breath. I threw my arms around his neck and silently begged for more--more contact, more kissing, more of all of this.

It was happening. Really happening, and already it was so thrilling and charged that I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t retain anything that I learned. What’s more, I didn’t even care. Screw the lessons. I just wanted him to screw me.

Thankfully, Dylan still had his head about him. “Without speaking, tell me what you want.”

“But I...I don’t know, remember? I…”

He amended. “Show me where you need to be touched. I know you need it, you saucy girl. Show me where your body aches for my hands.”

I couldn’t think. I didn’t know. But I closed my eyes, and I could feel the heaviness of my breasts and the aching of my nipples and the buzzing from below, between my thighs. I arched my back, pushing my chest toward him.

“You need my hands on your tits, don’t you, sweet girl?” 

He was already undoing the top buttons of my shirt dress, but I nodded anyway. “I do. I do!” 

“Shh. I know.” He kissed me quickly, then pulled back to watch as his hands drew my dress open. He hadn’t removed my belt or undone any of the buttons below that, so the top only fell down to my elbows, trapping my arms from excessive movement and revealing my bra and the globes trapped beneath the white lace.

He stared hungrily as he brushed his knuckles across my decolletage, so close--but not close enough--to where he’d correctly identified I needed him. I arched my back again, reminding him, and he chuckled. Then, with one swift movement, he tugged both bra cups down, exposing my breasts and my embarrassingly erect nipples.

And finally--finally--he touched them, scissoring my nipples with his fingers as he filled his palms with the fatty flesh. I let out a whimper, but leaned into him, asking for more. His pinch tightened, bringing me to the balls of my feet with a full moan. 

Dylan kissed me and whispered praises. Praises that I couldn’t quite make out over the increasing buzz between my legs. It was loud and urgent, demanding attention. I wriggled, rubbing my thighs together, seeking relief.

“Show me.” Dylan’s harsh command cut through the haze, prompting me once again to tell him where I needed to be touched.

I stepped a foot on either side of one of his and bucked my hips forward. He bent his knee, and now I could ride him the way I wanted, rubbing my pussy against him, showing him where I ached.

“Good girl,” his voice rumbled, gathering my dress around my waist. “Good girl for showing me where you need me.” 

Instead of touching me there, though, he slid his hands down inside my leggings to palm my behind. It was torture, feeling the burn of his skin against mine while elsewhere I was on fire from the absence of his caress. 

But then his hands were inching lower, down into the crease between my cheeks. “No, knickers,” he said on a hiss. “You are as much of a bad girl as you are a good one, aren’t you, Audrey?” 

Really, it had been about pantylines. Tight leggings show everything, and I wasn’t fond of thongs.

But before I could respond, he dug his fingers into my flesh and pulled me forward, bringing his knee up tight against my pussy at the same time. The increase in friction took the buzz from mono to stereo. I put my hands flat against the wall behind me for support as my mouth parted in a desperate sigh. 

There were more murmurs from Dylan, more sighs from me, and then he was pulling my leggings down to my thighs, exposing the recently trimmed (thank heavens) patch of hair above my naughty bits, to borrow the British term. I spread my legs further, unabashedly. Showing him. Begging him.

And somehow he knew.

Because his fingers found his way between my pussy lips, and with expertise, he strummed my skin, he stoked the fire, until fireworks were going off in front of my eyes and my head was spinning in circles, and I was clutching onto him while the most beautiful, most tremulous climax wracked through my body.

Oh, my. Oh, wow. That was…it was everything. It was ecstasy and paradise and yes, oh, yes, sex was definitely better with another person. Dizzying and delicious and divine.

Slowly, I came to my senses again, and I realized Dylan was kissing my jaw and stroking the delicate skin above my clit, easing me back to reality.

I moved my hands up his arms and braced them on his shoulders, steadying me as I looked into his eyes. I had to tell him how good it had been, how perfect. How monumental. 

But all that came out was, “I liked that.”

He laughed lightly. “Which part?”

“All of it. Every single bit.” I couldn’t narrow it down if I’d tried. I’d been too captivated by feeling to even know what had happened? 

Which was entirely beyond the point of this exercise. I needed to be able to recall every detail. “What did you do?”

He leaned back to study my face. “Can you stand through another one?” 

“I think so.” My legs were wobbly, but I had the wall at my back, and Dylan to help keep me up. 

“Then this time I’ll tell you. Try to pay attention.” He moved his hands back to my breasts, plumping them. “I watched how your body leaned into me. I watched where. Those were the parts of you begging for attention.” 

He pinched my nipples now, light at first, then, when I moaned, harder. 

He waited for me to quiet before going on, his voice so low it was almost a whisper. “I listened to your whimpers. If you’d backed away, I would have known it was too much. But you arched your back toward me. So I gave you more.”

He continued this way, easing through each of the same movements as before, showing me how he decided he'd touch me based on my reactions. Teaching me that I was the one who ran the show. All he had to do, he said, was observe. Observe how my breaths grew shallow the closer I got to orgasm. Observe how my grip got tighter on his shirt. Observe how my eyelids fluttered and my head fell back.

I heard him talking. I heard what he was saying, but also I didn’t. I was whirling again in a second, more powerful climax. I exploded like a bomb, shaking and crying out with volatile pleasure. It was agony. It was rapture. It was fire and ice and everything in between. 

And I knew--absolutely without a doubt knew--that I was in trouble. 

Not only because I was bound to become very fond of this man--more likely, it had already happened, and I just hadn’t admitted it--but also because I was one thousand percent certain that whatever it was that he’d done to me--twice now!--couldn’t be taught to someone else. It was a skill. It was a talent. Something a person was born with or wasn’t. Maybe it could be honed, but only if there was already a natural inclination and a desire to please, and I’d never dated a man like that before. Never dated a man with those gifts.

I couldn’t teach this to a lover.

Dylan Locke was meant to make things better. Instead, he’d ruined me forever.


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Sweet Liar will be published in full in ebook, paperback and audio in February of 2019.  It will end without a cliffhanger, but there WILL be a part two, Sweet Fate, released in March of 2019 for those who want to continue with the story.