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Jayne was terrified because she was new in town and did not have anybody to sleep with. New York was frightening; it seemed as if nobody ever slept here, either together or separately. The city itself was a watchful, tense, brightly lit insomniac.
The terror of being without sex was not an obvious, stalking terror. As she walked down Fifth Avenue she appeared to be a carefree, good-looking girl of twenty-two. There were thousands like her, and she seemed no different. Prettier, yes... definitely. Taller than average, blonder than average, a leggy career girl who would have been the envy— and despair—of countless housewives.
She wondered if it were true about New York men—that they were either queer or had bleeding ulcers. If so, she would have to go without a man. But she couldn't! Not since that first time.... She had liked it so much, loved it even. Usually girls didn't, the first time. It took some getting used to. But she was different. She was passionate.
Pride filled her as she thought of her sexual aptitude. Good in bed, that's what she was. And there were damn few women who were, if the men she had listened to could be trusted.
Jayne's lips twitched into a small, smug smile. When enough people told the same story, there had to be some truth in it. That many men couldn't have been lying.
How many men, Jayne?
The little voice, unbidden, suddenly seemed like a demon prodding the base of her brain with a sharp little pitchfork. Jayne ignored it as she concentrated on weaving in and out of the crowds swarming around her. There was a New York way of walking, she noticed, and she tried to adapt herself to it. It was a cross between Eliza hopping over the ice and a fullback charging a line. There were so many people on the street! How many people?
How many men?
She answered herself angrily. What difference did it make how many? A girl couldn't pine away, after all. She needed a lot of sex, and going without it was like... like going without sleep or food. It was the same thing—a basic need of a healthy body, and she would not deny herself sex anymore than she would deliberately starve to death. Either was unnatural.
She made her way to the West Side, into the twenties, where she had found an apartment. Not much of one, certainly. It was ratty-looking on the outside, and the lobby, if it could be called that, was a peeling horror. But they had painted the place, and she had rented what little bit of furniture it would hold. The only thing she had to buy was a set of dishes and a few knives and forks. The building's management even rented sheets and pillow cases, white ones, coarse muslin of the sort that hotels buy by the hundred. Jayne knew a surge of grim depression when she saw them, and sent them back. The bed was a very special place, and it called for special sheets. She had them now, exactly the kind she wanted. Black satin, glistening and slinky and expensive. Thirteen dollars for a sheet! She felt guilty at having spent so much money for bed linen, but what the hell! It wasn't linen at all. Satin was worth the price.
She opened the outside door with her key, wrinkling her nose at the smell that came up from the Spanish restaurant on the ground floor of the building. The lock turned and she threw her shoulder against the heavy door and stepped into the dank foyer.
God, it was hot! The walls seemed to be sweating. There were big blisters in the plaster that threatened to break under the heat. She glanced quickly at the battered row of mailboxes and saw her own name, neatly stamped with white on black from the label-maker at her office. The contrasting colors made her think of her own body, as it would look on her new sheets.
She had no mail, but she did not expect any. There was no one to write her now. Both her parents were dead, and her grandmother.... Jayne paused a minute, frowning, then shrugged. What was she supposed to do with the house her grandmother had left her? Live in it all by herself, in that stupid town in Idaho? It was too big and too old and too lonely. A young woman belonged in a city, with an interesting job. She had had to sell the house, even though her grandmother begged her not to.
As she was about to mount the stairs, the front door opened. She turned and saw a huge young man, tall and shaggy and wearing a pair of worn Levis. His eyes widened in surprise and pleasure as he looked at her. He was carrying two reams of typing paper, she saw, and a box of carbon sheets. His eyes under thick black brows were as dark as ripe cherries, and a stubborn forelock of hair hung over them. He pushed it back and grinned at her.
“Are you Jayne Travers?” he asked, nodding at the mailbox. “I know everybody else in the place so you must be.”
“Yes, I am,” she said slowly, starting to smile. It was hard to keep her eyes from sweeping over him in an appraising glance, but she managed to see what she wanted to see. He was well-built and lean, a little too lean, but she thrilled at the sinewy look of his long legs under the tight, almost threadbare cloth.
“I'm Mike Winston. Three-B,” he added.
“Oh, you're over me,” she said, then as he blushed she thought to herself: That's exactly where I'd like you to be. She knew she should have been the one to blush, if anybody did, but her face was cool. It gave her a sense of superiority and power as she saw the red flush spread over his face.
She gestured to the packages he held. “It looks as if you're writing a book.”
“I am,” he said sheepishly. He shuffled his feet a moment, looking down at them studiously. Then he cleared his throat.
“Oh, a writer! How fascinating!” she exclaimed. It came out so automatically that she seemed to hear a metallic echo of her own voice. The echo sounded flat and mechanical and she wondered if her words had sounded that way to him.
But he smiled. “I should be modest and shrug and tell you that it's only a living, except that it isn't. I work for the Post Office.”
“Oh? Are you a mailman?”
Again he blushed. Whether it was shame over a menial job or shyness over the similarity between mail and male she could not tell.
“Yes, I am.” He paused, then spoke again. There was an intense sincerity in his tone. “I know what it means, to watch for the mail every day. Writers are always doing that. I try to be careful with other people's mail. I know how important it is. It's... kind of nice to put mail in other people's boxes when I'm not getting any of my own. At least somebody's happy.”
Jayne sensed that he was trying to share some very personal observation with her, but it escaped her. All she thought was Thank God they hired one who can read.
“Say... uh, would you care to have a beer with me?” he asked, jabbing his thumb up to indicate his apartment. “I'd take you out, but I've already got some cold in the ice box, so....”
“Yes, thank you, I would,” she answered. “Let me put my packages away first. I'll come up.”
They went up one flight together. As she opened her door and went into her own apartment she heard his heavy tread as he continued on. Her eyes sparkled with excitement as she tossed the packages on a chair.
She was going to be in bed with him tonight. She knew it. He would be easy.... A writer. They lived like monks, they had to, to get anything accomplished. And he was probably saving every cent for a year in Paris or something, which meant that he didn't date much. And if he didn't.... He needed a woman, bad, she could tell. Some instinct in her told her. She smiled. She knew a lot about men by now, a lot more than most women ever learn. Yes, he would be easy.
As she ran a comb through her hair she suddenly looked at herself in the mirror. Easy? A man? What a funny way for a woman to think. Jayne felt confused. It was supposed to be men who wondered if women were easy, and here she was thinking that she could get him into bed. It was almost as if she were the man and he the woman... as if he were her prey and she the stalking hunter. It gave her an odd feeling of displacement. She remembered, as a child, how astounded she was when she saw rain fall on a sunny day. Something was wrong; it was supposed to be the other way around.
Her grandmother had said, “Stick a pin in the ground when it rains on a sunny day, and you'll hear the devil beating his wife.”
Jayne looked at the bobby pin in her fingers and wondered what would happen if she were to stick that in the ground. Would she hear the devil beating his wife now?
She pushed the thought from her mind and stuck the pin in her pale blond hair. There! She flipped the fishhook curls under her chin and surveyed herself. Her eyes were her best feature; pale golden eyes, the color of champagne, set deeply and wide apart, fringed with tawny, thick lashes that needed no mascara because they were perfect just as nature had made them.
In fact, everything was perfect. She was one of those blondes with a lot of redhead somewhere in her chromosome makeup. A pale, freckled blonde but pure blonde; no strawberry overtones.
Compulsively, she checked the medicine cabinet to make sure she had taken her pill. She knew she had, but she took out the little disc and checked the empty slot where today's pill had been.
Mike Winston's door was ajar when she climbed the stairs. She pushed it open and stepped in, looking around at the disorder. Immediately, she thought of her father and his famous white-glove inspections at the military school where he had been commandant. Fiendish glee rose in her as she imagined her father stepping into this room. It would kill him, the bastard! If he weren't already dead from a similar shock....
“Hi. Excuse the mess but I have to leave papers lying around,” Mike explained, his voice muffled as he leaned over to the tiny refrigerator and reached into it.
“Are these little piles different chapters?” she asked, sitting down gingerly on the one free chair.
“You might say so. To make a long story short, let's say yes, they are.”
“It looks like such a lot of work. I think it's marvelous that you can do it.”
Again, she heard the metallic echo. But I meant what I said! she argued silently. But as she looked again at the papers she found herself thinking only one thought: Where in the name of God would they have sex? Even the floor was littered.
It seemed so important to her that she framed a related question. “Where do you sleep, with the bed covered with literature?”
“Oh, I can move it if I have to, as long as I keep it in a certain order.”
He drew up a hassock and sat in front of her, his long legs rising up almost to his face. Jayne looked down quickly and saw the swell of his manhood in the tight crotch of his pants. When he looked away for a moment she stared hungrily at it, then shifted her eyes to his face as he looked back at her.
“What's your book about?”
He looked suddenly weary. “Oh... a love story.
It's about men and women in general. How they destroy each other and play games with each other. Exploitation is the theme, I guess.”
Jayne felt uncomfortable. “Do you have a literary agent?”
“No,” he said. “I haven't published anything. It's hard to get an agent unless you have. I don't know...”
He sighed sharply as he looked at the pile of manuscript. She saw the look on his face. It was the way he should have been looking at her! Intense, eager, obsessed. The typewriter squatted on a table like a black bug, ominous and threatening. It seemed to her that they were not alone, just the two of them. It was as if there were another woman in the room, a mistress who would not let him go.
Determination and a raw anger rose in her. “I work for a book publisher. Eubanks and Harris.”
He turned back to her now, his eyes alight with eagerness. She felt a triumphant thrill as she regained his full attention.
“What do you do there? Are you... an editor?”
“—to Mr. Eubanks,” she added softly.
He flushed slightly and she enjoyed his discomfiture. There, that would show him! Just a secretary, eh? But what a secretary, and to what a man.
“If you have it finished, maybe I could get him to read it,” she said.
His eyes were feverish. “I should be through with it in about a month. Less if I push.”
Jayne smiled at him, leaning forward as though to sink into his lap. He stared at her dumbly for a moment, then sat the beer on the floor and reached out to her.
He pulled her against him with a groan and gripped her with arms that were like bands of steel. She fell between his legs and she lay against him, sprawled in his lap, as his hands flipped back her skirt and crept up between her thighs.
He pressed the flat of his palm into her hose-covered female parts, cupping her oval mound. “You're so wet,” he murmured brokenly. “I can even feel it through these.”
They rolled onto the floor. Mike pulled at her dress, cursing as he tried to undo the false buttons. “Take it off!” he cried urgently, rising for a moment as he stripped off his own clothes. His eyes were gleaming hotly and he seemed possessed by a violent desire. For a moment she was frightened, then a triumphant lust took over. She had taken him away from that other mistress; he cared about one thing now—her body.
Her movements were slow and deliberate as she undressed under his bright stare. If he thought he was going to get a quick knock and then go back to work, he was mistaken. She liked it to last... a long, long time.
When she peeled off the stockings and tossed them aside, his eyes dropped to the blond hair between her legs. He blinked stupidly, smiling in a kind of awe.
“I've never seen one that light,” he said. “I didn't know they could be... that light.”
As he stumbled over the unimaginative compliment, Jayne's sense of victory was complete. A writer should be able to manage something a little more poetic than that. But she had stunned him into inarticulateness. She walked toward him, feeling something more heady than passion. It was better, it was a staggering sense of challenge, it was ... I'll show him!
He pressed her to him, his thick, rigid cock stabbing into the soft flesh of her stomach. She moved her body, guiding his maleness over herself, pressing it down toward her groin. But he was so tall, taller than any man she'd ever had. It stuck into her stomach, a hot pipe of flesh that burned against her.
But he pulled away from her suddenly and fumbled for his wallet.
“I don't want you to get pregnant,” he said urgently, taking out the rubber disc and ripping off the band.
“I won't, don't worry. You don't have to use—”
“Oh, no, I want to be sure.”
There was a panic in his voice, and she sensed that she had lost part of him once more. It came to her in a flash what the matter was. This tiny apartment, cluttered and littered with something he loved better than he would love anyone or anything. He feared the intrusion of a woman... a wife. A girl he had to marry because he had gotten her pregnant. It would interfere... there was no room in his life for a wife, no more than there was room in his apartment for one.
The contraceptive snapped like a doctor's rubber gloves as he affixed it. It had a bubble on the end... one of the self-lubricating ones, she thought angrily. She didn't need any help! Goddamn him....
He came toward her, his eyes glazed with wanting. Well, she thought, he was the first man she'd ever known who insisted on wearing a safe. Usually they were only too glad not to. She took his caution as reservation; she wasn't getting all of him and she hated him for it.
They lay down on a threadbare rag rug that caught under Jayne's body as they writhed against each other, straining in a fierce embrace. His fingers plucked at her nipples, pulling them up into long points. She shivered as the spiraling chills scurried down her ribs. The burning, pinching delight made her squeal and twist until she could stand it no longer. She needed more now, and twined her fingers in his hair, pulling his mouth down on her stiffened tips.
He suckled her noisily and vigorously but his mouth was gentle and knowing. He did not bite, the way so many men did, thinking that the hardest felt the best. His tongue licked the dark pink points with expertise, but his lips did not touch her.
Her hands trailed over his back, marveling at the powerful array of muscles. His body seemed endless, a long expanse of male power. How tall was he? Surely six-four, maybe a little more. A huge, shaggy pleasure-giver whose hair was trailing over her flesh and sending chills of delight everywhere.
She wanted that knowing tongue somewhere else. As she pushed on his head, he grunted in comprehension and shifted his body down, until the hair trailed across her stomach. Her legs opened to receive his eager mouth.
She held herself open for him but he pushed her hand away and separated her lips himself, holding her open and exposed as his tongue found the cluster of nerves. Jayne jerked and heaved as he licked her clitoris. It was like an electrical shock, she thought dizzily, as the waves spread through her back and stomach. She was going to come, but it didn't matter. It wouldn't ruin it for her... she could come again, and a third time, for that matter.
Because I'm good in bed... I'll show 'em! I'll show 'em how good I am!
She gasped hoarsely and pushed herself against his face as the tingling explosion hit. Now she needed the vise of his lips as completion rolled through her. Her legs rose and tightened about his neck as she pumped and strained, her breathless cries filling the small, hot room.
Abruptly, she relaxed, her feet falling over his shoulders as her body went limp. His tongue continued to lave her parts but she couldn't bear it any longer now. She gasped weakly and whispered, “No more... I can't.”
He rose over her, his face taut and wet from her. Just a few seconds, that was all she needed, then she could go another round... a real round this time. But she needed this brief interim for that awful, wonderful tingling to recede.
He was holding himself as though in pain. She touched him, hating the rubbery feel, closing her fist over the enormous endowment and savoring its rock-hardness. God, he was big! Big all over, the biggest man she had ever seen. The biggest prize she had ever had. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
“Ah right?” he whispered.
“Yes. Put it in me.”
It was like a fist going inside her. Jayne gasped in shock and surprise. For a moment she thought in panic: “I'm not going to be able to take it!” But that was impossible... she had to do it, she had to.
Her legs rose and wrapped around him, and her body flowered open in response. He plunged down into her with a swift, violent thrust that made her cry out as a sharp, tight pain hit her. Then there was no pain, only the fierce, rocking piston of him that felt as if it were plowing a deep furrow in her entrails.
She kept her legs up; she didn't have to work with him, he was doing it all, and doing it well. They were skidding across the floor on the little rug as though it had been a magic carpet. He moved violently, digging into her; the soft, tender part of him bobbed against her upturned buttocks in an enticing caress. What a thrill that was... she wondered how many women had nerve enough to admit how good that felt. The loose folds of skin tickled her bottom in just the right place and just the right way. Smug superiority covered her like a mantle. No, she couldn't imagine most women admitting how good that felt. It was too close to something forbidden and “nasty.”
“Jayne... oh, Jayne!” he groaned.
They were both soaked in sweat. As his chest came down on the valley between her breasts, they stuck together for a moment, then came loose with a suckling noise.
His face turned into a painful grimace as he started to tremble. Then she heard his long-drawn-out “Ahhh” of release.
When he rose a few moments later, she looked at the rubber he took off. Either he was awfully prolific, or he had not had sex for a long time, she decided, seeing the level of his fluid. When he returned from the bathroom and lay down beside her, he told her, “I haven't done that for so long I almost forgot what it felt like... how good it felt,” he added, caressing her lightly.
He got her a pillow from the bed and another beer for each of them. Laughing, he folded a newspaper and fanned her.
“It's even better in the winter,” he remarked.
“I have an air conditioner,” she offered.
He hesitated, and she stiffened as he glanced guiltily at the typewriter.
“Well, shall we go downstairs then?” He frowned, as if he were struggling with himself. “I... I'd like to spend the whole night with you.”
She smiled at him. “I want you to.”
They dressed hurriedly, took the rest of the beer from the refrigerator, and left. When he went across the street to buy a pizza, she put the black satin sheets on the bed, thinking of the black typewriter in the room above.
“Little black bug,” she whispered.
“God, you're so passionate. I can't get over it,” he sighed, lighting a cigarette in the darkness. She basked in his words, her pride soaring in a high arc just as did the cigarette he held as it traveled to and from the ash tray.
Jayne waited for him to go on but he smoked in silence for awhile, staring at the ceiling.
That always bothered her. They always seemed to lie on their backs and stare at the ceiling afterwards. She had never met a man who did not. It made her feel very alone; a man built a wall right down the middle of the bed when he did that.
She wanted him to go on talking about her, praising her adroitness in bed, but he seemed to float off somewhere. Sudden irritation filled her but she was at a loss for something to say to break into the private world he inhabited.
What was he thinking, she wondered? Probably something about his book. A leaden, helpless feeling came over her, followed by a grim determination to fight back.
At last she had to break the silence. “Is it so unusual?”
She longed to reach out and yank him back to her, even though their bodies were touching.
“That I'm passionate,” she said.
“Oh. Well, yes, it is. I mean, you're so... passionate. You do things.... You—” He broke off and chuckled. “You know, I can explain something just the way I mean it on paper, but I have a hard time in conversation. Crazy, huh?”
On paper.... He had gone from the subject of her to that of his work. Frustration filled her.
“What do I do?” she teased, putting a suggestion of a chuckle into her voice. She'd make him tell her; make him talk about it.