I have been the victim of creative suffering. I know what it feels like to put your faith in someone, only for them to let you down.
I felt, rather than saw, Julia’s hand brush at the hair closest to my temple.
“You’re giving yourself frown lines, dear.”
I waved her hands away in irritation and leaned forward on the couch.
I’d been here before with the same stupid optimism despite how many times I’d been hurt. I should have known better. Experience told me it would end like this, but I’d naively believed that this time would be different. I should have known it wouldn’t last.
Her steady, rational voice tried to reach me: “It’s only a game.”
“Tell that to my heart,” I bitterly replied.
The Minnesota Vikings had been coming up with new and creative ways to break my heart ever since I was a kid. The string of heartache had begun years before my birth. In 1988, running back Darrin Nelson bungled a pass on the goal line, which would have beat Washington. Gary Anderson in 1999 hadn’t missed a kick all year—a perfect 35 of 35. So, of course, he missed a 38-yard field goal. 2001 had been a total embarrassment of a game when we lost 41-0 to the Giants. A Brett Favre pass was intercepted in 2010 with 15 seconds left to play. And more recently, Blair Walsh had missed a 27-yard chip shot in the 2016 Wild Card game.
“You shouldn’t give up on them,” she told me.
I pressed my lips together, feeling empty and disappointed. We trailed, 23-24 with ten seconds remaining in the game. No time outs. The ball was placed on our own 39-yard line. We were 61 yards away from the end zone, and our quarterback didn’t have that kind of arm.
I rubbed my hands over my face. “I can guarantee they’re not going to win this one.”
I turned away from the television, briefly. “What’d you have in mind?”
Her features were impassive. “Vikings win, I get what I want. Saints win, you win.”
“And what do you want?” I asked.
She didn’t hesitate. “You in my bed. However I want you.”
I swallowed thickly. “And if the Saints win?”
She raised a perfect eyebrow. “What do you want, dear?”
I didn’t have to think on it. “Same.”
A ghost of a smile played on her lips. “Do you want to shake on it?”
There was no time for such formalities. The home crowd roared as the center hiked the football.
Case Keenum dropped back and then stepped up into the pocket. The ball released from his hand and traveled 25-yards down the field.
I leaned forward on the couch, my hands clasped together.
Stefon Diggs leapt into the air and came down with the ball. A white-shirted opponent lunged for his body to make the game-ending tackle.
There was no one between Diggs and the end zone.
“Oh my God,” I muttered in complete disbelief.
The television announcers began to yell as Diggs raced down the field. 30 yards. 20. 10. No one was going to catch him.
“Oh my God.”
Stefon Diggs stood in the purple end zone. Game over. The Vikings had won.
“Oh my God.” My brain had broken.
The couch cushions shifted beside me as Julia pulled herself to her feet. She took a few steps before finally addressing me. “Bedroom,” she commanded. “And bring your jersey.”
Julia’s bedroom was completely dark, with the exception of pale moonlight that slithered through the slats of the window blinds.
“On the bed,” she instructed with a curt nod. “And take off your clothes.”
I pulled my jersey over my head. My ponytail caught on the neckline and nearly tugged free from its rubber band. “Not wasting any time, eh?”
“I don’t believe I asked for any comments from you.” Her tone was cool and indifferent.
I dropped my jersey to the bedroom floor without another syllable. I wouldn’t be needing any of my clothes; the chill in her attitude had made me hot all over. I’d actually come to love losing these bets.
I struggled with the nylon knot that held up my old sweatpants. I probably should have donated or thrown them away. The elastic waistband had long ago given up and the screen-printed ‘Marines’ along the left leg was cracked and peeling.
“I don’t have all night, Miss Miller,” she snapped.
Her impatience belied what was to follow. I knew she was going to take her time with me. She was going to make me unravel. She was going to make me come undone, again and again, but deny my orgasm until I was a liquid pool of desperation.
I abandoned the challenge of untying my sweatpants and wiggled them past my hips instead. The waistband dropped to my knees, and I inelegantly pulled my feet and ankles free of the offending item. I knew Julia was carefully studying my every move, but she remained silent while I struggled with the elementary task of undressing.
Only a white tank top remained, which I wore as a barrier between my skin and the scratchy material of the football jersey. My erratic tug of the shirt over my head simultaneously freed my hair from the rubber band that had formerly contained its wavy chaos in a slightly less chaotic ponytail.
“Bed,” Julia sternly commanded, as if I’d forgotten the purpose of our being there.
Another bratty retort danced at the end of my tongue, but I suppressed the urge to further annoy my girlfriend. Her tongue could be far more pleasant than mine.
I crawled onto our shared mattress. I still thought of the apartment and its furniture as Julia’s, but it was beginning to feel more like ours instead of only hers. My hands and knees disturbed the tautness of the duvet cover as I traveled to the center of the bed. When I had lived on my own, I had never bothered to make my bed. It had probably been a micro-aggression against the rigidity of military life when I’d been inspected for the crispness of my hospital corners to the cleanliness of my fingernails. Cohabitating with Julia came with its own regulations—dirty dishes in the sink, cleaning my hair out of the shower drain, coasters under my beer bottles—but the rewards of picking up after myself far outweighed the inconvenience.
I tossed a look over my shoulder, even though I had no doubt that Julia continued to inspect me. Our eyes briefly locked before her gaze raked over my naked form like hot coals. Her voice may have exuded icy control, but her wild eyes were an inferno.
I knew what she saw. The fine muscles of my triceps as I held myself up. The length of slender calves. The swell of my backside. The gap between my thighs. The scars across my back from a dirty bomb. The streaming moonlight felt like a spotlight on my imperfections.
I shifted my position with the intention of getting off of my hands and knees, but a single-worded command had me freezing in place.
“Stay,” Julia demanded.
I remained in the vulnerable position, feeling a little like livestock on the auction block. Objectively, I knew my body was attractive and fit. I religiously worked out, but no amount of running or swimming could ever wipe clean the canvas. Because of those scars I doubted I would ever feel completely at ease in my skin, even in front of Julia.
Julia’s steps were silent on the bedroom carpeting; I could neither hear nor see her approach. I visibly shivered at the sensation of a single finger tracing the length of my spinal column. Her touch was fluid and light; she took her time from the base of my neck to just above my tailbone. She was the only non-medical personnel to have touched my back since Afghanistan.
Despite my discomfort, a quiet sigh escaped my lungs.
“On your back, Miss Miller.” Gone was the previous sharpness. In its place, Julia’s tone had softened, rounded, and warmed. The gentle command surrounded me like a blanket.
I maneuvered on the mattress until I was on my back with my head toward the headboard. Julia’s caramel gaze meandered from my face to my feet. She drank in every inch of my naked flesh, entirely on display for her. I watched the tip of her tongue travel from one corner of her mouth to the other. I should have withered under her pointed stare, but the open desire with which she looked at me only heightened my arousal.
“Can I trust you to keep your hands where I want them?” she asked.
“Probably not,” I retorted.
My tone probably held too much cheekiness for her liking. I watched her nostrils slightly flare and her eyes narrow in displeasure.
“That’s a pity,” she clucked. “We’ll have to do something about that, otherwise I’m afraid you might spoil my plans for you.”
Julia silently stalked to her clothing bureau and opened the top drawer. Her hands disappeared from my view before producing a number of colorful patterned neck scarves. I primarily associated them with Julia hiding bite marks. On those occasions she would chastise my over eagerness, claiming she was too old for hickies—or at least those that were publicly visible.
Julia floated two scarves in my direction. They landed beside me on the mattress. “Tie one around either wrist, and then tie yourself to the bed frame.”
I passed the woven silk through my hands before securing the material around my wrists. I had hoped that Julia would have restrained me herself, but there was also something exciting about doing it to myself. I knew she would be displeased if the knots came undone, so I focused on doing a good job. The silk scarves were slippery, but I managed a tight knot around each wrist. I was only able to tie my left hand to the bed frame, however. Julia would have to complete the job.
When I looked up for further instructions, my breath caught in my throat. In the time it had taken me to bind my wrists and semi-tie myself to the bed, Julia had slipped out of her t-shirt and yoga pants and into my football jersey. From the look of it, she was only wearing the jersey. Her arms swam in the abundant material, and the bottom hem stopped just above her upper thighs. The shirt was too large for her lithe frame, but it had never looked so good.
“You’re lucky I’m over here,” I throatily warned. I tugged at my constraints for added effect.
Julia’s lips twisted into a wry smile. “That would be a violation of the terms of our agreement,” she remarked.
“I don’t remember signing a contract, Counselor.”
Julia’s hard gaze put me in my place. Her hands rested on her hips, causing the jersey material to creep up her exposed thighs.
“Why do you insist on defying me, Miss Miller? I thought we had an agreement.”
“I’m sorry,” came my meek apology.
She dropped her hands to her sides. “No touching,” she told me. “Or I’ll really give you something to be sorry about.”
I nearly asked what I wasn’t supposed to touch until she joined me on the mattress. Her naked thighs brushed against my legs. She lightly perched across my bare abdomen, her thighs straddling my torso. I was tempted to reach out and touch her with my one free hand, but I instead remained still and permitted her to tie the scarf attached to my right hand to the bedframe.
I tested the strength of the knots by flexing my forearms and tugging at my bonds. I pulled at my ties until the bedframe groaned. Julia’s headboard was perfectly designed for these kinds of activities. The dark wood was of sturdy construction, so I didn’t worry about snapping the wooden slats.
“I’ll ask you not to ruin those scarves,” Julia interrupted my experiment. “They’re vintage and very expensive.”
“Then why use them?” I challenged.
Julia curled her lip. “Because I don’t do cheap, my dear.”
I had a self-depreciating comment at the ready, but I smartly left it alone.
She rested her weight more solidly on my abdomen. I hissed when I realized she wore no underwear beneath my purple and yellow jersey. Her naked skin came in contact with my stomach.
A needy whine ripped through my lips. “God, you’re such a tease.”
“And you’re always impatient,” she darkly returned. “I thought you might have learned some willpower by now.”
I bucked up against her, but with no real desire to break free. Losing had never felt so good.
She dragged her manicured nails down the valley of my naked breasts. “I’ll pay attention to you in time, my dear, but first I should be rewarded for winning this bet.”
An inquiry about the nature of her reward was on my lips, but she answered my unspoken question with her body. The mattress dipped on either side of me as she scooted up closer to the headboard. She held onto the top of the headboard and slowly lowered herself onto my waiting mouth.
I heard her quiet grunt when my tongue made first contact with her naked sex. She raised herself up again so she hovered just above my outstretched tongue. She lowered herself, only slightly, so I could barely get a taste.
I held my tongue rigid while she raised herself up and down. Up and down. My tongue slipped in and out of her clenching pussy. She ground her clit against my mouth in wide and loose circles.
If my hands had been free, I would have clamped tight to her twitching thighs and pulled her down to me. Instead, I had no choice but to grip the spindles of the headboard. I frantically moved my tongue and lips, but I was under no disillusionment; she was in complete control. She controlled the pace, the angle, the pressure.
The stiff mesh material of the football jersey scratched against my nose. I loved it when she wore my clothes, but at that moment, I needed the football jersey to be gone. I wanted to see her naked body floating above me. I wanted to watch the bounce of her naked breasts as she ground her clit into my mouth. Instead, I focused on her parted lips and upturned nose and dark, flashing eyes.
She gasped when I thrust my tongue up as far as I could reach. I moaned for more at the slight tang of her arousal.
Julia dropped the headboard and held onto my breasts for leverage. My aching nipples were starved for attention, but this wasn’t about me. I lapped hungrily at her seeping slit. My saliva combined with her arousal, and I could feel the wetness spreading across my face. There was nothing dainty or delicate about this. It was sloppy and messy—everything Julia was not beyond the bedroom doors.
Her breathing became erratic and her movements against my mouth were more deliberate. God, I wanted to rip through those damn vintage scarves that held me prisoner, flip her onto her back, and fuck her into the mattress until she screamed my name. I hated this useless, helpless feeling, but I also knew I didn’t have a choice. Julia had won our wager, and I would have to play by her rules.
“There,” she panted. “Right. There.”
I clenched the wooden spindles of the headboard and heard them creak from the pressure. The scarves bit into my wrists. I licked harder against her clit and hummed into her pussy.
She gripped my breasts tighter and ground her lower body more solidly against my mouth. I heard her quiet curse and felt her body shudder: “Fuck, Cassidy.”
Her movements gradually slowed as she rode out her orgasm. I could feel her body tense and twitch from sensitivity when I continued to lick against her.
“Enough, enough,” she begged off.
“What? That was too easy; I can do this all night,” I insisted. I opened my mouth wide and stretched out my jaw, which had started to become sore. But I would never admit that to her.
She patted her hand against my collarbone. “At ease, soldier,” she murmured. “Let me catch my breath.”
Julia dismounted me, one long leg at a time, and rolled onto her side to lie beside me on the bed. One hand rested in the now-sweaty valley between my breasts and the other tangled itself in my hair. She pressed the entire length of her body against mine, and I smiled when I heard her deeply contented sigh.
My eyes fluttered shut and I loudly exhaled, appreciating being able to take a full breath again now that my mouth wasn’t otherwise occupied.
I cracked one eye open. “Whoops?” I curiously repeated.
“I seem to have mangled your, uh, breasts,” she said, amusement in her tone.
Still tied to the bed, I lifted my head as best as I could to see to what she was referring. The normally pale skin of my breasts were flushed an angry red. Her grip on my breasts had been tight, but in the heat of the moment, I hadn’t realized how hard she’d been holding onto me. I could practically see her fingerprints inlaid into my skin.
“What did you do to me?” I squeaked. “I’m disfigured!”
“Oh, hush,” she chastised. “It’s not that bad.”
“But I bruise easily!” I complained.
She nuzzled her nose against the side of my face. “Yes, but just think of how pleasant those memories will be, dear, when you see those bruises.”
Her fingers began to work loose the knots at my wrists. All of my tensing and pulling had managed to tighten them even more, threatening to cut off my circulation. I was surprised my hands weren’t the same color as my Vikings jersey.
When Julia finally removed the scarves at my wrists, I rubbed at the tender skin.
“Loyalty, darling,” she purred into my ear. “Let that be a lesson.”
I’d never been a strong pupil in school, but it was one lesson I wasn’t going to forget anytime soon.