Women want to be courted, cherished, swept off their feet by someone who is crazy about them, obsessed with them. They would do anything for love. That’s what the romance novels say, at least, and for most of my life, I’ve been shaking my head or cracking jokes when the subject came up in our book club.
Lesbian relationships are not like that anyway, I used to argue. We defy the rules of patriarchy, well, as long as you don’t get involved with the occasional self-centered girl. That can happen, but a billionaire lady showering you in gifts and luxury in exchange for kinky games? I don’t think so. If there’s one who’ll pay my tuition until I have my degree, I’ll let her spank me, I used to say, sometimes, when after too many shifts at the café, the exam results didn’t live up to my expectations.
Even Haley and Lara, who eat up these books by the spoonful, saw the humor in that. There’s no guy like that either. They are smart capable women, each in their respective field. Fiction is an escape. I understand that, even if I don’t always agree on the same theme. The gleam in their eyes when talking about their favorite stories was disconcerting to me. It’s not what they, me, or any woman would want, right? It’s not real. It’s not right.
Then it happened to me.
She brushes her hand over my hair, her eyes never leaving mine, fingertips traveling down my shoulder. It’s odd that she touches me like this, tentative, cautious, as if asking for permission. I don’t think she went to all this trouble thinking she would have to ask. If she wants something, she takes it. I’m the living proof.
“What are you going to wear for the night? Or do you prefer to sleep naked? You can. None of my staff is going to walk in here without permission.”
“It’s not the staff I’m worried about,” I mumble, and she laughs. Damn my crazy kidnapper for having such a sexy laugh. Damn me for being so easy. Stockholm syndrome starts early, apparently.
The romance novels are wrong. This is not what I’ve dreamed of all my life—or is it? Crap. “Can’t you let me go? I swear I’ll forget about all this. I even give you my number…Wait, you have it. Did you clean out my apartment?” I step back and stare at her in disbelief—or maybe that disbelief is directed at myself, because her hand on my arm, moving to my back, felt so good.
“I’m afraid there wasn’t much of worth in it,” Carter says. “I had someone get your passport, and a few papers of course. A few clothes, so anyone who goes in there will buy the timeout for a year. I don’t want the police to come looking for you. As for your question,” she finishes calmly, “the answer is no. I can’t let you go.”
“Why?” I’m starting to feel like a four-year-old, asking all these questions. Underneath it all, there are too many emotions that are all but child-like. I’m not ready to face them.
She lays her hands on me again, on my sides, barely above my hips. There doesn’t seem to be enough air in the room for both of us to breathe.
“What if, after some time, you don’t want to leave?” she asks, her lips almost brushing my cheek. “What if you like it here so much you realize this is what you want?”
“Being your guest?” I find the sarcasm hard to muster for a reason, but…I had someone get your passport. That means we’re not even in the country anymore. No one is going to come looking for me, and she knows it. She arranged for it.
“Being mine,” she says. “Breathe.” Her arms come around me, and it’s a wild tug of war, body and mind. How can I trust her? My body turns out to be a traitor, overriding the instinctual fight/flight reaction. When you can do neither, I’ve learned in class, you play dead. The warmth traveling to various places of my body as she holds me against her tells me without a doubt that I’m very much alive.
“You said I could study.” The words come out in a series of gasps, and it’s not for panicking. If I am, it’s for a different reason. “Show me.”
With regret in her expression, she lets go. “You should put on some clothes then.”
“Why do you care?”
A wry smile curves her lips. “I don’t, but we might run into someone. I don’t want them to get the wrong impression.”
“What is the right impression? What do you want them to think—or me?”
Carter answers my question, this time leaving no doubt as she steps into my personal place again and kisses me, spiraling me even deeper into confusion. Her lips are warm and soft, mine opening to her instinctively, a split-second, before I tear myself away.