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* * * Maddie and Marcus * * *
So it’s true what they say; being single brings you closer to your friends.
It’s a Tuesday lunchtime in May, two months after Matt and Lucy’s wedding. I’m queueing in a sandwich bar on Clerkenwell Road, feeling at a low ebb. My phone rings. It’s my friend Olivia:
“So I heard you split up with Don. How are you doing?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Not too bad, I guess.”
“I’ve got to be honest with you Soph, I thought he was a total prick.”
I laugh. I haven’t seen Olivia for nearly eighteen months, but she can always be relied upon for an honest opinion.
“So I think it’s time we got you back in the game,” she continues. “My old school friend Maddie is getting married next weekend and I’m going to the reception. It will be full of eligible men, and I’d be delighted if you’d join me as my plus-one.”
“What about James,” I ask, referring to her fiancé.
“Oh, he’s away. Which gives us the perfect opportunity to catch up. So how about it?”
“Oh I don’t know, Liv. I’m really strapped for cash. You know the flat was Don’s so I’ve had to move into Emma’s spare room. And I’m saving for a deposit, so-“
“Don’t worry about a thing. I’m driving, it’s a free bar, and I’ve already booked a room so we can double up. It will be just like uni. And there will be plenty of rich men there too, so your financial problems could be solved at the drop of a hat. So what do you say?”
I’m at the front of the sandwich queue now, and the boy behind the counter is trying to take my order, while several disgruntled office workers tut behind me.
“Okay, Liv,” I sigh, “I’ll come.”
Later I’m soaking in the bath, sipping a glass of red wine. My friend Emma is out, so I’ve got the bathroom door open and I’m listening to the stereo playing in the lounge: Beth Orton’s Central Reservation. It’s the sound of my university days – another age – somehow both comforting and sad.
My thoughts turn to Kit, as they so often do when I’m alone. I wonder at how such a brief encounter moved me so, and set such enormous events in motion – set my life on a different course, even. My thoughts turn to the feel of his arms around me, his rough face pressed against me, his cock likewise.
I take a sip of wine, then my hand slides down my body. My breasts and belly are slick with bath oil, and my hand slips over them and beyond. In my mind, Kit’s cock protrudes through his cheap suit trousers. My slippery fingers find my clit, and begin to circle, as I imagine taking him between my lips. In my mind I hear his sighs, as I sink back into the warm bathwater, sighing myself. Then my thoughts turn to Toby, as they must. Then my phone rings: “Fuck it.”
I splash water over the floor as I fumble for the thing. The screen reads: “Olivia”. I sigh again. Then, for some reason, I answer.
“Sophie. Hi! Listen, I am so glad you are coming to this reception.”
“We are going to have such an amazing time.”
“Yes! There are going to be so many eligible men there, my God, I almost wish I was single myself.”
“This will be the best night of your life Sophie, I swear to God. So you’re staying with Emma, yes? I’ll pop round and pick you up at two o’clock on Saturday. Be ready!”
I hang up, then sink back into reverie as my hand slips back down my oily body.
Four days later, we’re hammering down the M4 in Liv’s red Mazda convertible. The roof is up, and the rain drums steadily against it. Liv is wearing a short black and white striped dress, white high heels, and too much make-up. Her messy black hair is sticking up in all directions. INXS is playing on the stereo: “Some silken moment goes on forever, and we’re leaving broken hearts behind. Mystify. Mystify me.”
Liv leans over to turn down the music:
“So what happened with you and Don?”
So I tell her. I tell her everything. I recount how I met Don through my work friends. I tell her about the deep animal attraction that was there to begin with. I tell her how we moved in together. How we decorated the flat. How we created a life together. How whole weekends of fucking became intermittent nights, which became special occasions. How he didn’t want children, and I thought I did. How I dabbled in cocaine, and he overindulged. How the arrogance that attracted me to him began to grate. How he started to spend more nights with his work friends. How some nights he didn’t come home at all. I tell her about Matt and Lucy’s wedding. I tell her about Kit – all about Kit.
“Fuck’s sake, Soph!”
By the time we pull over for coffee, I feel lighter.
Olivia drinks two flat whites, chain smokes three cigarettes outside the service station, then we’re back in the car. She drives at about ninety. It’s still raining, and the motorway is shrouded in spray.
“So have you been in touch with Kit?” she asks.
“Only on facebook. He’s in Thailand. He says I should go out there and see him.” I laugh.
“Oh casino oyna Liv, you must be joking. He must be ten years younger than me. Every time he’s tagged on facebook he’s surrounded by 18-year old girls in swimsuits.”
She shrugs. “Go see him. Have some fun. You’ve got nothing to lose.”
The wedding reception is in a country house hotel in the Cotswolds. It looks like a big affair. We drive twice round the vast gravel car park, but it’s totally full. Eventually we park the Mazda in the narrow lane outside, where several other cars have been left half in the undergrowth. Liv pops the boot, and we take our luggage. Liv has a chic leather weekend bag. I have my flower-printed pilot case. The rain has thinned to a drizzle.
I saunter in the wood-panelled lobby while Liv collects the keys. There are several other wedding guests in the lobby, and I can see dozens more people gathering in the bar. The sound of chatter and laughter makes me feel uneasy. Liv returns with two keys, and presses one into my hand. “Let’s go upstairs and drop the bags,” she suggests.
It’s room 204, on the second floor. We drop the bags and Liv goes into the bathroom to touch up her make-up, leaving me sitting alone on the edge of the big double bed. The window overlooks a small lake backed by trees. I watch a flock of geese flying in a perfect V formation against the steely grey sky. The weather is closing in again.
“Come on, Soph. Let’s get drunk.”
“I’m sorry, Liv. I just need five minutes.”
Suddenly I’m in tears again: “It’s just a bit too soon for all of this.”
She sits down next to me, touches me gently on the arm. “Come on Soph.”
“Five fucking years,” I blurt. “I tried to make it work, I fucking tried.”
She moves closer, puts an arm around my shoulders as I hunch over and sob: “We talked about marriage, Don and I. To start with. Then we stopped talking about it. Oh God, Liv, it’s too soon for all this.”
“Too soon for what. Soph? Too soon to cry on an old friend’s shoulder? Too soon to get stupid drunk and dance like loons?”
I’m laughing now through the tears: “But look at the fucking state of me, I can’t possibly go downstairs like this.”
“Everybody cries at a wedding Soph, and nobody cares. You might as well be crying out there in the rain for all anybody will notice. Look, we’ll put away as much free booze as possible, dance to Abba, and we can both kill the pain.”
“Both of us?”
She hesitates. “Touch up your mascara, Soph. Come on, it’s time to go.”
We head down to the bar. I’m feeling self conscious. I’m wearing the same blue dress I wore to Matt and Lucy’s wedding. The bar is three deep. Liv queues for drinks while I hang back. She returns with two glasses of gin and tonic. “Doubles,” she informs me. “Now. See anything you like?” she casts an eye around the crowded room. There are several attractive men who appear to be unaccompanied, but I still feel empty.
“So where’s James?” I ask her.
“Oh, you know he couldn’t make it. He’s at a hockey tournament.”
“A hockey tournament?”
“Oh it’s fine, really. You know, they arrange these tournaments months in advance, it would have been really hard for him to get out of it.”
“And the wedding plans?”
“We’re thinking next year now, most likely. Neither of us feels any need to rush into it, we’re perfectly happy as we are. It’s just the icing on the cake really. Anyway, let me introduce you to some people.”
The next two hours are a whirl of drinks and conversations. For a while I’m taken out of myself. As promised, I am introduced to several “eligible” men: Richard, a solicitor, Max, a journalist, and Ben, a GP. Ben is strong-jawed, grey-eyed, and has a wicked sense of humour. Before I know it I’m laughing with him, throwing my head back. He touches me on the arm, offering to get us more drinks: “A magnanimous gesture at a free bar, eh?”
I sink back against the wood-panelled wall, and Liv catches my arm.
“It’s going well with Ben, then,” she comments, with a wink.
“He seems like a nice guy,” I reply, slurring my words just slightly, and realising that I’m tipsy.
I regard Ben’s wide back in his grey woollen suit, and feel a flush of attraction. Then it’s gone, and replaced by another feeling, one I can’t name, but that’s ten times as strong, like an electric shock. I’ve seen another face in the crowd. A face from the past. Toby.
I grab Liv’s arm; “Is that Toby Cahill?”
She follows my gaze, screws her face up thoughtfully. “Yes, you know I think it is.”
“What the fuck is he doing here?”
“He must know Maddie or Marcus I suppose. Why don’t we go and ask him?”
“You fucking ask him.” My head spinning, I rush to the toilets, leaving Ben looking puzzled holding two more gin and tonics.
I eye myself in the mirror. I’m red faced and my shoulder-length blonde hair looks ruffled. My dress is crumpled and my mascara is smeared around my right eye. No, my left eye. Fuck I’m drunk. And what canlı casino the fuck is Toby doing here? Well I’m going to go out there and face him. I straighten my hair, open my hand bag, start to touch up my make-up.
“Well whatever he’s doing here, I don’t care. I’m going to go out there and talk to him. I’m going to make nice fucking wedding day small talk. So how do you know the happy fucking couple, Toby? Doesn’t the bride look fucking lovely, Toby? They’ve put on a lovely fucking spread, haven’t they, Toby?”
Liv is standing behind me. I turn on her:
“Did you know he was going to be here?”
“He’s a friend of Maddie’s brother, Soph, through-“
“You did, and you didn’t say anything you bitch!”
I slap her hard across the face. She doesn’t wince. She waits a beat, then slaps me back, harder.
“You need to get over that fuck, Sophie, even more than the last one.”
She leaves the toilet.
I stand there for a minute or two, maybe more. My face is pale now, my breathing shallow. Inside I’m in turmoil. I still don’t know what I feel. I venture outside. The bar is still heaving, but I can’t see Liv. Ben approaches me, but I push past him, taking a glass of gin and tonic as I pass. I push through into the next room. Music is playing. It’s Abba. Liv is dancing, surrounded by a crowd of friends. My hand tightens around the cold metal of the room key. I head upstairs to bed.
In the room, I strip to my underwear. I feel completely drunk. I check my phone. No messages. I brush my teeth, then take another swig of bitter gin and tonic. I put the glass on the bedside table, pull the covers over me, and try to go to sleep. After what seems like just a few minutes, the bedroom door opens. The lights are still on. Liv enters, clutching a half-empty bottle of champagne.
I close my eyes and pretend to be asleep.
“You just don’t see it, do you?” she slurs. “You’ve just come out of a five year relationship, you’re finally free, and you’re falling back into your old self-destructive obsession. Listen to me. Stop pretending to be asleep!”
She’s pacing the room, and I hear her stagger slightly, drunk. I keep my eyes screwed closed as she continues.
“The problem with you is, you can’t face the truth; that you only ever got into a relationship with Don because you couldn’t have the man you really wanted, the man you’ve obsessed about for years: Toby Cahill.”
I explode out of bed then, and across the room. I grab her, push her back against the wall. My face close to hers, I catch a flash of apprehension in her dark eyes, before I kiss her hard. Her body stiffens in shock and she tries to pull away. I put a hand on her face and kiss her again.
For a moment, I wonder what I’m doing, but something drives me on. Perhaps it’s the booze. Perhaps it’s the turmoil inside. Perhaps I’ve lost control completely. Roughly I turn her round and push her back onto the bed. She sprawls amongst the pillows, drunk and agape.
I climb astride her and put my hands on her bare shoulders, pinning her down. Dipping closer, I kiss her so hard our teeth clink together. I can smell her heavy perfume, and the alcohol on her breath.
“What are you doing?” she pants as I pull away.
I roll her over onto her belly, staying firmly astride her. I can feel the shapely curve of her backside between my legs, beneath the growing heat inside my knickers.
My fingers find the cold metal of her zip, and undo her black and white striped dress, exposing a long strip of bare flesh. I run my hand right down that strip, between her shoulder blades, across her bra strap, over the small of her back, and under her open dress. She isn’t wearing any knickers. She gasps as my fingers slide over her arse and onto her cunt. To my surprise I find her hot and wet. My fingers linger for a few moments, circling around her clit until she groans and squirms beneath me.
Withdrawing, I reach up to unfasten her bra strap. Frustratingly it takes several seconds to release it, as my fingers are slick with her juices. With her bra open, I take her by her bare shoulders and roll her onto her back. Her face is flushed now, her pupils dilated, a look in her eyes I’ve never seen before. I tug down her dress, and she wriggles out of it. Then I slip away her bra, revealing small, pert, milky white breasts.
“Please,” she murmurs, all anger gone now from her voice, and replaced by something else, something somewhere between fear and desire.
I unfasten my own bra and let it fall away, exposing my own much fuller breasts.
I dip and kiss her again, letting our stiffening nipples brush together. Liv’s body softens. Our tongues touch, and we both give an involuntary sigh. We spend several long minutes kissing like that, tongues slipping in and out of each other’s mouths.
As we go on kissing, I feel myself growing hotter and wetter until I need much more. Gently I turn, and lower my crotch towards Liv’s face. I feel one of her hands slip up kaçak casino and around my full backside, guiding me down towards her mouth. There are a few moments of desperate anticipation and I mutter: “Please, Liv. Please.”
Then I feel her lips brushing my clit through my sopping knickers. My body shudders, and I groan aloud. Her fingers find my knickers and slip them aside. Then I feel her tongue run the whole length of me. I moan as deep waves of pleasure move through me.
I sit there astride Liv and go on shuddering and groaning as she kisses and licks and sucks my cunt. The waves of pleasure build and build, until I lose everything – the room, the bed, myself – everything except Liv’s mouth and my cunt.
“Oh please, oh please, oh please,” I cry, as I soar into the most powerful orgasm of my life.
Afterwards, Liv sighs beneath me as I gently stroke her breasts. I’m trembling, still catching my breath, trying not to think about what we’ve just done. As my fingers circle Liv’s nipples, her sighs become quicker, more urgent. I maintain my languid pace.
“Oh please, Sophie, please,” she murmurs.
I slow down even more, stroking her nipples as softly as I can bear. She gives a long, low moan of anticipation; of need.
“Fuck me, Sophie. Fuck me now.”
I lean forward and gently stroke her inner thigh: “We’ve got all the time in the world, Liv.”
As I touch her thigh, her body tenses and bucks. I know she needs my touch on her clit more than anything else in the world now. I go back to stroking her nipples, which are achingly erect. She moans again, and I can feel her hot breath against my cunt.
“Sophie, please. Please, make me come.”
I make her wait a good long time, the memory of that slap still fresh in my mind. First I stroke her beautiful belly, then I kiss it delicately, placing each kiss just a little closer to her need. She writhes beneath me, her cunt questing closer to my mouth. Tantalising her like this is making my own desire stronger, and when I can take no more, I kiss her lightly on the clit. As I do so, I feel my nipples brushing against her belly.
“Yes,” she moans. “Sophie. Yes. Please.”
I kiss her cunt again, this time with my tongue. She tastes delicious; musky, almost spicy. I loop my tongue over and over and over her. She starts to lick me again too, and I cry out. The room is filled with our moans and the sounds of our mouths on each other’s bodies.
As I go on kissing and tonguing Liv, I feel her body stiffen and her breathing grow shallow. I continue in the same rhythm for just a moment longer, until I sense she’s right on the edge of orgasm. Then I stop.
“No. Please. Bitch.”
I stroke her with my hand, but slowly – too slowly to make her come. My gentle touch makes her whole body tremble.
“Please, Sophie, please.”
I slip a finger inside her, then another, then another. I start to fuck her with three fingers. She’s very wet, but tight. I can feel need pulsing through her. As I finger her I go back to stroking her clit with my other hand, slowly but steadily, always keeping her just a touch or two away from coming. As I do so, she slips three fingers round my soaking knickers, and into my own cunt.
We fuck each other slow and deep for a few long minutes, until Liv’s need becomes overwhelming. I feel her fingers slide out of me, and slip up round the curve of my derrière. Her index finger is slick with my juices, and slips easily into my arsehole. She pushes it in as far as the second knuckle. I gasp in surprise.
“Make me come, Sophie. Please,” she implores.
I start to stroke her more quickly, then more quickly still, letting her pleasure build without breaking my rhythm. Very quickly her whole body tenses, and for a few moments she stops breathing altogether. Then she cries out, and I feel her coming against me in a long, hard shudder, her finger still deep inside my arsehole.
Afterwards, her body seems to melt beneath me. I slip off her for the first time, and lie beside her. She wraps an arm around me, her breathing still fast, her body still pulsing.
“Sophie,” she says. “What are we doing?”
I press a finger to her lips, and hold her.
We make each other come twice more that night, until the bed sheets are soaked and we’re both exhausted. We fall asleep together then, wrapped up in each other’s arms.
I wake around dawn. I have a headache and a dry mouth. The room smells of cigarette smoke. Liv is sitting on the edge of the bed, her head down. I touch her lightly on the shoulder. She shrinks away.
“What have we done, Sophie? What have we done?”
“I don’t know,” I confess.
Liv gets up and goes into the bathroom. I hear her pissing, then splashing water onto her face. Emerging in a hotel dressing gown, she paces the room, sipping a glass of water, checking her phone.
“Come back to bed,” I say.
“I don’t think I can.”
“I want to hold you.”
She sighs heavily, hesitates, then lies down on top of the bedclothes, with one arm around me. Spooning, we fall back asleep.
We’re woken by a sharp knock on the door, and a voice calling: “Olivia! Olivia’s friend! Wake up! We’re meeting downstairs for breakfast! We’re sending off the bride and groom!”
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