Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Benefits of Being Stacked


An interesting TED talk on the construction of beauty

"And I got these free things because of how I looked; not who I am. And there are people paying a cost for how they look and not who they are. {...} When I was writing this talk, I found it very difficult to strike an honest balance. Because on the one hand, I felt very uncomfortable to come out here and say, 'look, I've received all these benefits from a deck stacked in my favor.' And it also felt really uncomfortable to follow that up with 'and it doesn't always make me happy.' "

I think one of the hardest things women ever have to do is learn to be happy with ourselves, to be happy within our own skin. It's one of those things that I wonder if we ever really do. It's just so ingrained in us to hate our bodies that I often wonder if it's even possible not to.

I'm of the belief that there are three different ways of dealing with this.

The first is to change yourself. Many of us take this route. Not just once. But often. Most, everyday. We dye our hair. We wear certain clothes. We put on makeup. I'm as guilty of this as anyone. And I can honestly say that I do this mostly for myself. Because it makes me happy to do so. But, as a theater geek, I also know the value of a good costume. I understand that, when I put on that dress or that powder or those shoes, I am saying something very specific. I'm using visual means to communicate something about myself to the world. Be it the killer heels that make me half-a-foot taller, so I don't have to look up at people today. Or the concealer that hides the blemish that makes me feel too conspicuous for not the right reasons. Or, yes, the dress that reveals my assets, so for at least today I can mute down the voice that near-constantly points out all my flaws.


The second is to hate yourself. Again, not just once or sometimes. But. All. The. Time. To take that omnipresent voice in all our heads that assures us that if we just lost twenty pounds or had different hair or different skin and listen to it, let it color and sink its claws into everything we do. To define yourself more by what you're not than what you are. We all do it to an extent, but I've seen the damage it does to those who can't find ways to shut it out.

The third, which seems the best option, is to just stop caring so much. To give up the struggle. To realize that the world's definition of beauty is entirely unattainable and not worth aiming for. I can never decide if this is harder for ethnic minorities or not. On the one hand, we can't fit that definition of beauty. It is impossible for us. The standard definition of beauty is tall, thin, and, most applicably, white (don't believe me, watch the video). I grew up wanting to fit that definition, desperate to do so, while knowing I couldn't. 


Which, strangely, was helpful. I can't--not without drastic means far out of my financial and practical realm of reality--make myself white. I was born, will live, and will die forever outside the standard and accepted definition of beauty. After a while--usually about sixteen years, give or take your own awkward adolescence--you realize that it's not even worth trying. So you make peace with yourself. With your skin tone. With the shape of your eyes. With your height. And, yes, with your weight.

One thought that has always comforted me was the acceptance that, for all my assets and flaws, I'm actually fairly average. I can be pretty confident that, in any room I walk in, I will not be the most attractive person or the least attractive person in the room.

This shouldn't seem like a nice thought, but it is. I no longer have to shoot for that illustrious pretty rank because, no matter what I do, I'm unlikely to ever hold it. And I no longer have to worry about hitting that ultimate low because it's likely that I won't.

And, even if by some chance I do end up holding one of those titles, all it ever takes to change that is a room change.

Kinda makes the whole thing seem a little arbitrary and meaningless, doesn't it?


Yet we--and, yes, I am including me--spend so much time, effort, and money on it, sink so much stock in it. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I Know I'm Not a Big EL James Fan But...

...for God's sake, "'Fifty Shades Of Grey is not a manual: it's a work of fiction and this is a case which demonstrates that things can go wrong."

I believe in the lifestyle; I believe in the fun and love and health of it. But it isn't something that just anyone should do. And it isn't something that should be done without proper thought, research, experience, and precaution.

And those who portray it--particularly the overblown, extreme, rare examples of it--without that thought, research, experience, and caution do a disservice to those of us who actually do it. Who live it. At best, they portray us as something we're not.

At worst...
Jeweller found not guilty of 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' attack on partner after jury hears she signed a 'sex slave contract' 

Unknowingly, unwittingly, whatever, they're teaching the worst kind of behavior to the most vulnerable among us; those who don't know any better. Fantasy is great; I'm a big fan of it. But those who write it and publish it out to the wider world have an obligation to realize that under that fantasy exists someone else's reality. Take a little care with it.

THE BALANCING ACT OF BEING FEMALE; OR, WHY WE HAVE SO MANY CLOTHES


Perhaps a bit of an oversimplification of why I have such a fabulous closet, but an interesting take on it.

"Women’s closets are often mocked as a form of self-indulgence, shop-a-holicism, or narcissism.  But this isn’t fair. [...] It’s a difficult job that we impose on women and we’re all too often damned-if-we-do and damned-if-we-don’t."





Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Risk in No-Risk


Not that I agree with everything in it, but it's not all wrong either.

"Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of “asynchronous communication,” as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble."

It's not that I object to hookups or casual dating. I don't. They have their place and purpose. And, if they make those involved in them happy, by all means continue as you are.

I just think that effort and riskand therefore any real sense of reward and value—has too often been taken for granted or even eliminated altogether. We too often trade intimacy for ease, real relationships for ready-made conveniences. 

We fill up on emotionally empty-calorie filler and yet rarely feel full. Then we wonder why so many of us feel lonely and unsatisfied regardless of our relationship status.

Perhaps this may be one reason why BDSM and kink are rising in popularity. There is inherent risk and effort involved in the lifestyle. There are rules and roles and skills and steps that must be employed to do it well. 

There is sexiness in that kind of effort. Appeal in that type of commitment and competency. It's difficult to invest the trust and effort and time required for these types of relationships and not create worthwhile intimacy.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Million First Dates


Also really interesting.

“Each relationship is its own little education,” Jacob says. “You learn more about what works and what doesn’t, what you really need and what you can go without. That feels like a useful process. I’m not jumping into something with the wrong person, or committing to something too early, as I’ve done in the past.” But he does wonder: When does it end? At what point does this learning curve become an excuse for not putting in the effort to make a relationship last? “Maybe I have the confidence now to go after the person I really want,” he says. “But I’m worried that I’m making it so I can’t fall in love.”

Fill The Jar Challenge

I am a huge fan of this!


"There is an old saying that states that if you put a penny in a jar each time you make love during the first year of a long relationship, and then take a penny out each time you make love after the first year, that you will never empty the jar. I think this is a sad prediction, but from speaking with many friends and acquaintances, I realize that for many this is the reality."

Instead of resigning ourselves to this fate, I agree, the aim should be the Fill the Jar Challenge

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Papi's Little Girl Needs to Learn a Lesson - Part One



    * Press Play Here to Listen to an Audio Reading    

The End of The World - 
A New Year's Short Story - 
Part One

Ivy Ferris collapsed onto the bus’s badly upholstered seat, her feet aching in the high-arched heels she wore for her job as an administrative assistant at Saint’s Marketing, a small, niche ad agency. Laying her handbag next to her, she shrugged out of the fitted jacket before undoing the first few buttons on the sleeveless shirt beneath.

The day had been hell. They’d had five fussy clients in and out of the office all day and, to top it all off, Harlan St. James, president of the company was out sick so she’d been forced to play apologetic hostess all day.

She was bone-tired and her face hurt from smiling. All she wanted was to go home.

Home.

It was still such a strange idea to her.

Her mother had been a professor of evolutionary psychology, who—no matter how hard she tried—just couldn’t quite make tenure. So they’d constantly been moving about from college to college, trying to make her positions stick.

Growing up in temporary, month-to-month apartments—and then finally her own college dorm rooms followed by her own cheap efficiency apartment—Ivy had never really had a real home until she’d moved into Marcus Ramirez’s house.

But it’d felt like home since the first time she stepped foot in it. As if she and the space recognized the other’s soul. It looked like the sitcom houses she’d stared at with such fascinated longing when she was young. It was a tall, if narrow, brown Victorian, sandwiched between identical blue and brick-colored ones. Comfortable. Settled. With steepled towers and patterned clay tiled roofs. It even had a white picket fence encircling it. It was what she’d always dreamed of as a child, every time she’d had to pack and unpack her life into as many cardboard boxes as their small, fuel-efficient car could hold.

It was Marcus’s dream house too, she knew. Having been shuffled around the foster system his whole life, Marcus understood Ivy’s desire—her driving need—for a home. He had it too. He’d once told her that he’d bought this house almost before he’d been able to afford it, often choosing mortgage over food because while he could survive a day—even a week—off just scraps and leftovers, he just couldn’t survive losing this house. His home.

Maybe that was why—that strained, awkward night three months into their relationship—when she’d told him her most guarded, rarely spoken secret as they sat in front of the fireplace in his perfect house, he hadn’t looked at her like she were crazy. Hadn’t looked at her—like so many others had—as if she were damaged.

She remembered that thoughtful look on his face, the quiet strength of him filling the room, right before he’d smiled, sat her on his lap, and agreed to be her Daddy. Her Papi.

Ivy looked out the window of the bus at the passing scenery, seeing that her stop was quickly approaching. She sat up straighter. She needed to get ready.

Reaching up to her bound hair, she deftly unpinned the blond curls, letting the spiraled curls fall to brush her shoulders in springy ringlets. She tucked the pins inside her handbag before taking out her disposable makeup removers.

Carefully, she wiped the oil-soaked pads across her face, wiping away her foundation, powder, and blush. Her stress, her worries, and the toll of years. She could feel herself getting lighter, younger, as the weight of the world was wiped away.

Once clean-faced, she felt freer. Felt a smile creep across her face. Not the coy, reserved, proper one she’d been using all day to placate demanding clients. But the smile of a child. Unburdened by worries of crow’s feet or laugh lines. Not mentally measuring the proportion of lips to teeth to gums, aiming for that winning smile practiced to perfection in mirrors. Hers was a smile that spoke purely of joy.

It was magic, that smile. The way it spread through her, changing the way she held herself. The way she saw herself. The way she felt inside her skin. As an adult, she was always so aware of how others saw her. Was so aware of the fact that people were always watching her, judging her, making sure she toed that exacting line the adult world—the real world—set.

But when she stepped into her other role—her other self—none of that mattered anymore. Scooting back in her seat, Ivy marveled at the fact that her feet didn’t quite reach the bus’s floor. She kicked her legs, letting her heels—which now made her think of times long ago when she used to play dress-up in her mother’s shoes—swing and smack against the bus’s wall. She listened to the hum of the engine, to the weary sounds of the other riders, and tried to get her beating feet to match the world’s rhythm. To lose herself in those sounds.

She turned to press her hands and face against the bus window’s glass and watched the familiar neighborhood whoosh past her. She breathed a heavy puff of air against the air-conditioner-cooled pane, watching with delight as it fogged over the world. She took one finger and traced a big heart, taking exacting strokes to make it perfect. Quickly, before the heart disappeared into the clear nothingness of the glass, she scribbled the initials IF + MR in the heart’s center, sealing it—the wish of it, the promise of it—into the ether forever before pulling the bus’s cord to signal her stop.
———

Marcus heard his Ivy come in the door, heard her call out to him.

“I’m in the kitchen,” he called back, continuing to stir the stew simmering on the stove. As a freelance PI, Marcus had a relatively flexible schedule. Which was perfect for their arrangement; he liked to be here when his little Ivy came home.

He smiled as she bounded in, all smiles and excitement as she smelled one of her favorite meals. He could just imagine the appreciative look on her round, cherubic face as she took her seat on one of the tall stools at the small kitchen island.

“Are you still in your nice clothes?” he asked her without turning around, already knowing the answer.

There was a pause. He imagined her nibbling on her full, pouty lips as she let her pretty, bouncy, blond curls fall around her sweetheart face. “Uh-huh,” she murmured softly.

“Then you should change into your house clothes, shouldn’t you?” he asked, using the gentle but firm tone he reserved just for her. “And hurry up, please; dinner will be ready in ten.”

“Yes, Papi,” she dutifully said as he heard her stool slide back so she could jump off.

That was his girl.

He turned the stovetop on low as he turned around to watch her walk away, her heels still clicking on the kitchen tile, making her long legs look absolutely lickable, even covered in those professional pantyhose. With the scent of slow-cooking meat wafting around him, Marcus felt his stomach rumble and his mouth water as he watched the slow swish and sway of her hips as she sulked out of the room. Though he hadn’t been when he’d begun cooking dinner, he was suddenly ravenous.

But that was always the way with his little Mija. From the day he’d met her, she’d made him hungry for everything.

Even things he’d never thought he would be.

The whole Papi/Mija thing had been her idea. It’d been her fantasy. Her desire. And he’d never thought he would have liked it—never would have even thought of trying it; hell, even the Spanish was a little weird for him—but, if it was what she wanted, he would do it for her. He’d have done anything for her.

Ivy was everything he’d ever wanted in a woman. She was beautiful. Soft. Sweet. When he’d first seen her at a New Year’s Eve party a mutual friend had thrown two—no, almost three—years ago, all he could think when he’d seen her was how good she would feel in his arms. She’d been dressed in a pretty, baby blue cocktail dress, something shiny and sleek, and he remembered thinking she looked like a princess, like a walking watercolor from out of a fairytale picture book. She’d been laughing at some joke and the tinkling sound had sounded—felt—like magic.

She’d been so beautiful. Like a fairy. Or an angel. This perfect, mythical creature too good for the world the rest of them walked.

It had felt like love at first sight.

“Okay,” she announced, coming back into the kitchen, her bare feet smacking on the tile, “I’m ready.”

Every time he looked at her, even three years later, it still felt like love at first sight. His breath caught as he watched her prance proudly back to him, dressed in a comfy, worn-in Lucky Charms T-shirt and matching sleep shorts, her blond curls tied back into bouncy pigtails. Her pale legs were bared, naked now. His eyes travelled their long length, loving the lines of her thighs, the bend of her knees, the curve of her calves. He loved the exact fit of those limbs wrapped around his waist or shoulders.

“Should I set the table, Papi?” she asked with wide-eyed helpfulness, already headed to the cabinets.

“Thank you,” he said as he set the stew pot on the island they used as a table. He watched her set their table, carefully placing the setting, bending her supple frame over the smooth, slightly nicked wood. As he sat down across from her on his own stool, he said, “I have a surprise for you tonight.”

He smiled as her head popped up happily as he spooned some food into both their bowls. “Surprise?”

He chuckled as she blinked her long lashes at him eagerly, loving her enthusiasm. “Yes,” he told her, “I’ve laid something special for you on the bed.”

With eyes wide with excitement, his Ivy stood up from the table, ready to rush to the room they both shared upstairs.

“After dinner,” he scolded as he motioned for her to finish her dinner.

She sat back down with a pout. But, by the time she picked up her spoon to dig into the dinner in front of her, her smile was back. “Whatever you say, Papi.”

Even after three years, hearing her say that...it did strange things to him.

Marcus had never thought of being anyone’s father; he’d never had one of his own. He never figured himself the kind of man who would know what to do with a child—it wasn’t as if he’d had anyone to teach him.

“You’re not eating,” Ivy pointed out, her spoon in her fist and a frown curving her mouth. “Is everything all right?”

He looked at her. His Mija.

A part of him—the part that grew up in more foster homes than he wanted to remember, about as far from his heritage or anything resembling family as possible—cringed at the names. Papi. Mija. They spoke to a level of intimacy and connection that he’d never really felt qualified for. Like they were aping at something he didn’t really—and would never really—understand.

“Papi?” she asked, tugging at her pigtails worriedly.

He shook his head and pushed back from the table, pushing those thoughts from his head in favor of easier, happier ones. “I’m just too excited to eat,” he said. “I think you’re going to really like your surprise.” Taking her now empty bowl, he shooed her from the table. “Why don’t you head on up and see what I’ve laid out for you?”

And the smile she gave him—the one that pulled at the corners of her lips, that lit up her eyes, that made him feel like the center of her world—made his chest swell. That one look from her could make him feel like the most powerful man in the world.

He was just beginning to do the dishes when he heard her squeal. He imagined her opening the boxes he arranged to arrive today. With the package all prettily wrapped in sky blue paper, he knew that Ivy would recognize the outfit he’d ordered online from Bits ‘n’ Pieces.

The last time they’d visited the high-end boutique, Ivy hadn’t been able to pass the dress without touching it. She’d gazed at it with such open longing. But the dress had been specially ordered by another client and wasn’t for sale. He’d so hated to leave the shop without it, the disappointed waver in her pouting lips feeling like a personal failing. So he’d gone home that night and specially ordered one for her.

To arrive today.

“Papi!” She came running down the stairs, her feet a happy patter in the pretty patent leather shoes he’d laid out too. “Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love it!”

She rushed in and spun around in the kitchen archway, preening as the dress’s full skirt flared around her. It was blue, of course—the color he always imagined her in, her color. The material was soft but sturdy, cut in simple lines but adorned with such delicate embellishments. With ruffles and bows and buttons, it was too beautiful for everyday wear. It was a dress for only the most special of occasions. It seemed perfect for his Mija. A sewn embodiment of how he saw her.

“It’s for the party tonight,” he told her. Donovan’s held a special play party every three months just for couples and people like them. Littles. Daddies. Mommies. Babies. Boys and girls.

“Play Date?” she asked, anticipation making her blue eyes beam.

“Uh-huh,” he said, getting caught up in her infectious joy, as she clapped her hands. “I put your toy bag near the door,” he told her. “Why don’t you go take a look before we go to make sure everything’s in there.”

He watched her skip off, genuine glee in every bounding step. She would enjoy tonight.

His Mija struggled with her desires sometimes. Was always sure—for good reason—that people would look down at her for them, like so many had before. That they wouldn’t understand this need, this desire, and would see it as something it wasn’t. Would see him as a pedophile or her as emotionally stunted. When, in truth, what they were was in love. Just two people trying to make it work.

He got up and walked to the door, hanging back a bit to just watch her sift through the toys—stuffed animals and dolls and floaties—he’d packed for her. He marveled at the delight and care she took with each beloved toy, each holding a memory or a moment in their relationship. The teddy bear he’d won and given to her at that beachside carnival on their third date. The golden-haired doll he’d bought her the morning after she’d hesitantly confessed the whole of her, the hidden parts he could never have guessed at. The fairy figurine he’d bought her the day he’d told her he loved her.
He watched her gently repack the bag, putting each toy in just so, in its own perfect, precise place. He could practically feel her excitement filling the room, fueling his own. He loved to see her happy. Would willingly do whatever he had to to see her so.

So he would take her to Donovan’s Play Date Party, would do and be things he never thought he would. Because she needed this. And he needed to give this to her because she loved it and he loved her. So tonight they would go to a place where they could be with people who understood. Who wouldn’t look at them like they were odd because they were just like them. It was a place they could go to belong.

“Are you ready, Mija?” he asked, laying a gentle hand on her crown, smoothing back her downy hair as she looked up at him with such adoration.

Read Part Two Here

Papi's Little Girl Needs to Learn a Lesson - Part Two



 * Press Play Here to Listen to an Audio Reading 
The End of The World - 
A New Year's Short Story - 
Part Two
Read Part One Here

As always, Ivy was allowed one toy to carry with her while she rode upfront. Almost always, she liked to carry Fae, her fairy figurine. Not only because it was small—Fae fit neatly in one hand—and the pretty, porcelain collector’s item appeared fairly inconspicuous in a fully grown woman’s hand, but because Fae reminded her of Marcus’s love. Was a physical symbol of this intangible thing that always felt a little too good to be true. That a man like Marcus—intelligent, successful, stable, reliable, trustworthy, and gorgeous—would still love her…there had been times, before him, when such a thing had seemed as impossible as her figurine taking flight. So she took comfort in the tactile reality of that symbol, let it remind her that—as impossible as it may seem—it was real and hers.

She turned to look at him from the car’s passenger seat, feeling safely tucked in with her seatbelt. She loved his capability. He was the strongest force she knew. She watched his tanned, maple-colored hands grip the wheel, not hard, but with graceful control. He never had to use force. On anything. She always thought that was proof of his true power; that he could move the world without anyone ever noticing.


At the stoplight, he turned to look at her, his dark brown eyes steady with a surety and warmth that made her feel cherished. He swept a lock of dark hair off his forehead before casually commenting, “So New Year’s Eve is coming up.”


Ivy froze.


“It’ll be three years on the stroke of midnight,” he said, his voice gaining a raspy, low tone. “I was thinking we should do something really special this year; any ideas?”


She turned away to look out the window at the passing cityscape.


Three years.


Had it really been that long?

It’d felt like both forever and a moment since she’d met him.

God, three years.

When they’d met, she’d been just a girl. A bright-eyed, idealistic recent grad just striking out on her own. And then she’d met Marcus at Max Well’s party—a party she’d never even have been at if Harlan hadn’t needed some uncomplicated arm-candy for the event. She’d felt so grown up at twenty-three.

Now she was twenty-six.

“Maybe we could have a big party;” she distantly heard Marcus say, “invite all our friends.”

Closer to thirty than twenty.

“Then again,” he added next to her, “a more private affair has its benefits too.”

If she’d been grown up then, what did that make her now?

Ivy had made the decision a long time ago to stop celebrating her birthday. No parties. No gifts. No cake. The passing of years had long since ceased being a cause of merriment.

But even that didn’t halt the creeping crawl of age, the drag of years, the toll of time.

“Why don’t you think about it during your Play Date and we’ll talk about it later?” Marcus said as he parked in Donovan’s lot.

Ivy didn’t know what to say to that, so she just nodded and followed him inside.

At seven in the evening on the Wednesday between Christmas and New Year’s, Donovan’s was all but empty. A handful of workers were milling about, cleaning and stocking up for the rush—as much of one as there would be this time of year—that would come in a few more hours.

With a guiding hand on her back, Marcus led her to the back playspace. They passed Gabe, a regular Donovan’s bouncer, who stood at the back door. Unlike most parties, Play Dates were by specific invitation only, even among the already exclusive club clientele. Her Papi leaned in to whisper a pass-phrase into the larger man’s ear. The man nodded and waved them through without a word.

Ivy followed her Papi through the door. In silence, they walked through the hallways, following the brightly colored streamers now decorating the gray, stone walls, toward the center playspace where the party was held. Brightly colored, alphabet mats, the kind found on daycare and preschool floors, were laid out to protect the knees of the dozens of crawling kinksters and barefoot fetishists.

Ivy nodded and waved to several people. Even in the small kink community, those who did the kind of age play they did—who did so with the dedication and love that they did—were small in number. Often they could feel like the outcasts among the outcasts. So it helped to group together. To find one another, for kinship and support.

Ivy surveyed the familiar faces as they moved toward the food table. There was Tammi—a young, early twenty-something girl—playing on the floor with a pile of Legos while her Daddy, Roger, watched from the food table. Ivy saw Carlos and Bridget—a twenty-year-old Latino boy and a thirty-something Scandinavian girl who played twins—chase and squeal as they played tag about the room while Janice, their Mother, scolded them.

Ivy’s eyes narrowed on a group of new couples she didn’t recognize. Gathered in a corner by the plastic- and terrycloth-covered bath area, they were all giggling as the two girls in pigtails, cat ears, and Hello Kitty robes tickled each other. The Daddies—who looked to be several years younger than Ivy—elbowed each other and smirked as they watched the two girls writhe and riposte in earnest.

Ivy watched as the men ushered the girls toward the kiddie pools filled with sudsy water. She noticed as several eyes turned to witness the young, trim, college-aged girls disrobe, their firm, well-toned forms held unabashedly exposed as they posed—for just a moment as the room seemed to still and silence—before they flounced their way into the tub.

Ivy turned slightly—just enough to peek up at Marcus, who stood eyes narrowed on the scene as he watched the girls above the glass of punch he now sipped. She could see his eyes trace the lines and curves of the girls’ perfect, sculpted bodies as they blew bubbles and splashed water at each other.

Ivy looked down at herself and her pretty party dress. And felt miserable. When she’d put it on at home, she’d felt like a princess. Like the most beautiful creature in the world. Not just because of the dress—which was, undeniably, amazing—but because it had been given to her by him. By a man who had thought her beautiful.

A man who now watched every bounce and twist and lithe, limber movement of the nude, nubile, pigtailed girls.

Ivy turned away, feeling a hot, wet burn behind her eyes. She squeezed them shut, her fists closing painfully around the delicately shaped porcelain, feeling the sharp edges of Fae’s skirt and wings dig deep into her palm.

As she blinked back tears, she caught sight of Bethany and Lyle, the two oldest members of the group. Both well into their fifties, they’d been playing at Donovan’s almost since its start. Bethany was dressed as she normally was, in a primly pressed schoolgirl outfit. While still a very attractive fifty-four, there was something about Bethany that seemed off tonight.

Her hair, that she kept cut in very flattering, feathered wisps that framed her face, seemed a whiter shade of blond tonight. Her face, that had always seemed fresh before, showed deep, crinkling, age-telling lines as she smiled at Lyle. And her figure, while well-preserved and that had held up so well through the years, now seemed ill-fitted for the youthful uniform it wore. Everything about her seemed to be clinging to a time long past.

Ivy’s eyes strayed to the large, full-length mirrors that sat unforgiving in the dress-up area of the room. And the reflection of herself within it.

She was twenty-six, for God’s sake. Almost thirty years old.

What was she doing?

Who was she kidding?

A grown woman in a baby doll’s dress. An adult clutching at a child’s toy. Ivy shut her eyes, closed herself off from the image of herself in the mirror. Of the image of herself to the world. But she could feel her age. Could feel it like a pull on her body. Could feel it stretch and wear on her skin like claws that dug wrinkles into her flesh. She could feel her once youthful self trapped within this flabbier, droopier, infirm, and inflexible form. Even her blond curls—her best feature, she’d always thought—would fade one day, silvering into coarser, wiry springs that she could feel coiling beneath her scalp.

“Mija,” Marcus asked her, touching her shoulder, “are you okay?”

How would he look at her then? Would her Papi still look at his Mija the way he looked at those girls then?

Did he even look at her like that now?

Ivy shook her head, her blond curls whipping about her face as she sniffled. “I’m fine,” she said as she put the doll down on the table so she could dab at the corners of her eyes. “I’m fine.”
———

It’d been days since the party. And life—that unstoppable force—had gone on. Like nothing had changed.

But everything had.

Ivy stood outside their door for a long moment. She didn’t want to go inside. Not really. Not completely.

But she didn’t have anywhere else to go.

This was her home. Even if it didn’t feel like it right now.

She’d gone out—early this morning, while Marcus had still slept undisturbed on their bed. She’d known he’d wanted to spend the day with her, wanted to celebrate the holiday that marked a new year for both the world and for them together.

But she couldn’t.

Couldn’t face him.

Couldn’t look at him.

Couldn’t stand to be looked at by him.

On a day that noted new beginnings and bright, shiny starts, how could she face him when she felt so old? A dull shell of what she’d once been. Of what she longed to still be.

With a snuffled sigh, she opened the door.

And saw Marcus sitting on the bottom stair, a sullen look setting his features. His jaw was set in a frown as he glared at her from under scowling brows. “Welcome home,” he grumbled.

Ivy bit her lip as she closed the door directly behind her, pressing herself up against the wood.

“Where did you go?” he asked, his tone terse.

She shrugged. “Around the beach,” she said quietly. She’d wandered toward the shops too, but most every place was closed for the holiday. So she’d just walked the shoreline, taking off her shoes to let her toes sink into the sand as she tried to clear her mind.

“All day?” he asked.

She shrugged. And then nodded. She hadn’t had anywhere else to go.

“So, when I’d asked you what you wanted to do for our anniversary,” he said, his voice quiet but so very hard, “you decided you wanted to spend the entire day—by yourself—at the beach.”

Ivy’s shoulders slumped, crouched low in on herself as she swallowed hard. “It wasn’t that,” she insisted. “I just didn’t think—”

“No,” he cut her off harshly—more harshly than she’d ever heard him be, “you really weren’t thinking, were you?” He huffed as he pushed himself to his feet. “Certainly, not about me.” He stepped down onto the wood floor and began to pace. “Do you have any idea what it was like waking up to an empty bed? An empty house?” He shook his head and grunted. “I didn’t know where you’d gone or why you’d gone.” He stopped and slanted her a pained look that struck her hard. “How could you do that to me?”

Ivy closed her eyes, shame and self-recrimination making her cringe. She shuffled her feet, not knowing what to say. Knowing that there wasn’t anything to say.

“Do you even care that I worried all day?” he asked, exasperated. “Do you care that I—” He sighed gruffly as he began to pace as he ran his hand through his hair, his fingers tangling and pulling at the strands. “I love you,” he growled, “and I wanted to make this day special. For you.” He puffed out a sorry breath. “For us.” His face hardened into a sneer. “And, instead, I spent it alone.”

She’d ruined their plans.

Well, his plans.

Truth was, she hadn’t wanted to celebrate. Hadn’t wanted to even think about it. Still didn’t.

It’d been him who wanted this.

He’d wanted to do this for her, but he hadn’t even bothered to ask her if she’d wanted this. Hadn’t asked her what she thought. How she felt. Didn’t he care about that? “I just needed some time by myself,” she snapped, fisting her hands on her hips. “Aren’t I allowed that?”

He might be her Papi, but he wasn’t her goddamned father. She was almost thirty years old, she was more than old enough to do what she liked, when she liked, and without anyone telling her otherwise. And, if he didn’t like it…

She gave a hissing snit as she shook her head and reached for the doorknob again.

In an instant, he was there, slamming his hand against the door. “Where do you think you’re going?” he snarled.

“Out,” she said, her voice just as vicious.

“I don’t think so,” he bit out through gritted teeth as he shoved his face into hers, the heat of his anger burning between them.

“You can’t stop me,” she said, shoving her own face—her own anger—back at him. She could feel it like a billowing cloud building in the pit of her stomach until it filled the whole space. Could feel it meet and mix with his, making something...else. Some breathing, moving, stalking creature slithering between them, waiting to strike. Ivy felt it grip her heart and move her lips, “You’re not my Dad.”


The minute she said it, she regretted it. Wished it back. Willed it unsaid.

Because the look on his face broke her heart. The way his whole face fell, slackening in disbelief and pain. And his eyes. His beautiful, dark eyes that were always sure and strong dulled, shaken for the first time that she’d ever seen.

He stepped back. Stumbled away. Seeking safety in the distance he put between them.

Ivy swallowed hard as the taste of those words burned in her throat. “I,” she stuttered, “I’m sorry.” She tried to close the space between them, reached out to touch his shoulder.

He jerked away from her. “Don’t.”

She stopped, frightened by the shattered quality of his voice, the way his wide shoulders shook with uncertain control. “Marcus, I’m sorry,” she stammered. “I didn’t mean—” She pressed her lips together, trying to stop her own trembling. “I’m sorry. Tell me what I can do to—”

“Go,” he said simply. “Just go.”

She felt her heart stop. “Marcus.”

“I need you to go, Ivy.”

She shook her head, her hair whipping around. “But I love you,” she insisted.

“Now.”

Ivy watched him start to leave, to head into the kitchen. She couldn’t let him walk away. She couldn’t let him leave. She knew, if he did, he wouldn’t come back. “Papi!”

He paused at the archway, his hand gripping the curved wall hard in his fist. For a tense moment, they both just stood there, the sound of their heavy breathing so loud.

Marcus let his head drop. Without looking up at her, he sighed. “Go to your room, Ivy.” He shook his head as he pushed off the wall and stepped into the kitchen. “Just,” he said quietly, hesitatingly, “go to your room and wait for me there.”

———

Marcus leaned against the kitchen counter, letting the solid granite beneath his hands steady his uncertain world.

He needed space.

He needed air.

At Ivy’s words—the moment she’d said them—he’d felt like he couldn’t breathe.

And damned if he knew why.

This was her thing. Her desire. Her fantasy.

He wasn’t her Dad. Had never wanted to be anyone’s father. Didn’t have one of his own and would never be anyone else’s.

But those words…

From her lips. Her sweet, soft, perfect lips.

He shook his head as he gritted back pain.

This was her thing, her desire, her fantasy. But, if he were honest, it was his too. There was something in their games, in their roles, in their names, that called to him. That made him feel right. That touched and filled places inside him that he had thought would always be empty. She made him feel needed. Like there was someone out there who wanted him. Would miss him, if he were gone. Like there was someone in this world who loved him.

He couldn’t lose that. He just couldn’t. He couldn’t lose her.

Something was wrong. He’d known it for days. He hadn’t known what. And was—ashamedly—too afraid to ask. Was afraid that the thing that was wrong was him. That she was unhappy with him.

That—if he pushed—she would leave him.

And then she’d left anyway.

When he’d woken up this morning and seen her gone, he’d felt five-years-old again. Unloved. Unwanted. Without a family. Or a home. Where his world, as he knew it, had been taken from him.

And, in that moment, he’d hated her for making him feel that way. Hated that she could make him feel that way. Had fallen back on his youthful defense. To push back—to walk away—to be the one who left first.

So he would never be the one left behind.

But, when it came time to do it. To end it. To leave her behind. He couldn’t.

Like it or not—her thing or his—she was his Mija and he was her Papi. And he couldn’t—he wouldn’t—walk away from that.

So, after taking a deep, calming breath, he pushed away from the counter and headed toward their room.

He took yet another breath as he reached for the doorknob, not wanting to go inside. But knowing he didn’t have anywhere else to go.

He entered their bedroom.

Marcus felt his heart melt a little as he saw her—his Ivy, his Mija—lying face-down in the bed, her face buried in pillows, crying. Without thought, he made his way to her, sitting down on the mattress beside her and resting a soothing hand to her back. He felt each sob and hiccup as he smoothed small circles between her shaking shoulders.

He let her cry until her tears slowed and her body lay limp beneath his fingers before he moved to sit fully on the bed, his back against the headboard and his legs stretched out over the duvet as they pressed against her docile form. As he’d known she would, she curled into him, wrapping her arms and legs around his limbs. Fitting herself against him in a way no one ever had before. In a way no one ever would.

“We have to talk,” he told her.

She just nodded silently.

He sighed. “You’ve been unhappy,” he said, the truth bitter on his tongue. “With me?” he asked, wanting to hear her say it.

She shook her head.

Reaching down, he turned her face away from his thigh, tired of her silence. He looked into her watery, blue eyes, wanting to understand. Needing to. “Then with what?”

“Me,” she said, her voice a husky rasp.

“What do you mean?” he asked, his brow wrinkling in confusion.

She rolled away from him, turning her back on him as she rose to her knees. “It’s going to sound stupid,” she muttered.

“Okay.” Stupid he could handle. Stupid had to be better than all this silence.

She peeked over her shoulder at him, a pained expression on her face as she bit her lip. She tucked a strand of her blond curls behind her ear as she pivoted to sit parallel to him on the bed. Next to him—alongside him—while still keeping a foot of distance between them. Looking straight ahead, completely avoiding him, she said in a voice almost too quiet to hear, “I don’t feel like your Mija anymore.”

They shouldn’t have, but those words felt like knives digging into his soul. “Why not?” he asked.

She huffed and turned to glare at him. “I’m old,” she whined.

What?

“Older now,” she hissed with more vehemence than he would have thought his sweet, innocent Ivy capable of, “than I was when we met.”

He shook his head. Of all the things he’d thought she’d say, of all the things he’d prepared himself to hear, this was not it. “I don’t,” he said, bewildered, “understand.”

She rolled her eyes at him. “When we met, I was twenty-three,” she said with a pout. “I was still getting carded at the movies. I looked like I was freakin’ sixteen.” She turned to look at him. “Do you remember? When we met, at that party, you’d asked—only half-jokingly—if I was old enough to be drinking champagne.” She gave an acidic laugh. “And now.”

His eyes narrowed on the way she glared at herself in the dresser mirror as if seeing an enemy in her own reflection. Her face hardened into a scornful frown as she said, “Now, my boobs are starting to sag, my skin is dull, and my body is nothing like it used to be. I feel like a stranger inside myself.” She closed her eyes and turned away as she wrapped her arms around herself. She sounded so miserable as she groaned, “I don’t know how I let this happen.”

For a moment, Marcus was stunned.

Had no idea what to say.

His mind had gone blank at her words.

“You’re right,” he heard himself say before he could think better of it, “that is stupid.”

He almost laughed as that shook her out of her self-pity, directing some of that disgust his way—which, strangely enough, he preferred. He preferred her angry at him than at herself. It was an anger he could handle. A problem he could fix.

Reaching over, he scooped her up, ignoring her writhing resistance. Plopping her down on his lap, he held her close. He wrapped his arms around her, locking her in place. “Listen to me,” he said, allowing that gentle firmness to take hold of his voice, “and listen well, Mija.” Something in him settled—for the first time in days—as she stilled in his arms, sinking her small weight into his. “I love you,” he told her as he kissed the downy coils of her hair. “You,” he repeated, “not your age.”

She tried to turn in his hold, a thrilling impossibility as she wriggled against him. “But—”

“Hush,” he told her, subduing her easily. “Your age has nothing to do with us. With this.” With a shake of his head at her foolishness, he said, “I’m thirty-four; you’re twenty-six—in what world could I ever really be your father?”

He smiled against her hair as he leaned down to smell her familiar scent, like baby powder and roses from her soap. Like warmth and sunshine. Like a little girl and a full-grown woman.

He looked up to see them both reflected in the mirror, wrapped so tightly they had become one. They were an impossibility. She wasn’t his child, wasn’t his daughter, wasn’t his blood, but she was his. His Mija. His lovely, little girl. And he was her Papi. Her protector. Her guardian. Even—especially—from herself. From her fears and her doubts.

“We,” he told her, tipping her face up so she was forced to meet his gaze, “are not about age.” For all their play, they were more than the sum of some number. “And it was stupid for you to think we are.” They were about love. About two people, alone in this world, finding a life together. Never in his life had he ever felt like he belonged like he did with Ivy. She was his family. His home. His lips quirked up in a small smile as he hugged her closer. “My Mija was raised to know better.”

His world righted as he saw her beautiful, Cupid’s bow mouth curve into a smile. Even with her face blotchy—red splotches blooming at her eyes, cheeks, and nose—that smile made her beautiful.

He reached over to the nightstand, to the box he’d left by the lamp. Taking it in his hand, he held it, hesitating. “I got you something,” he said. And he hoped like hell she’d take it. When he’d ordered it online, chose it for her, he’d thought it perfect.

Now he didn’t know.

His hand tightened around the box before he gave it to her. She took the small, thin, rectangular box in her hands, turning it over and over. “What is it?” she asked.

“Open it,” he suggested with a shrug.

He watched as her hands opened the box. She sucked in a sharp breath as she saw the fine, silver chain necklace. With a hovering finger, she reached in to touch the four small silver beads. Blocks. Little alphabet blocks. That spelled out Mija.

“It’s beautiful,” she murmured, touching each letter reverently. She looked up at him. “It’s perfect.” Sitting up straighter on his lap, she reached behind her head to gather her hair in her hand. “Put it on me, please,” she said, her head bowed tenderly, trustingly, “Papi.”

Marcus took it out of the box and fumbled with the clasp, thinking that this—this precise moment—was exactly how he’d planned to celebrate their anniversary.

———

Marcus settled himself beside the tub where his Mija lay soaking beneath a blanket of rose-scented bubbles. He smiled as she scooped a handful in her hands and blew them across the tub at her feet, her painted toes peeking up out of the water.

He slipped a hand into the bath, checking again to make sure it was warm, but not too warm, before reaching for a sponge. “Lean in,” he instructed gruffly, something in him—pride, lust, love—swelling as he watched her do so at his word. He dunked the sponge in the water, letting it soak up with sweet-smelling warmth, before he ran it across her shoulders and down her spine. Her back arched like a kitten, the muscles shifting beneath his touch. Her contented sigh was an audible stroke to his senses, her pleasure a caress deeper than touch.

“Raise your arms.” He let the sponge trail over her arms and shoulders and neck. His eyes widened as she leaned back against the porcelain, baring her breasts. His nostrils flared as his heart raced and his breath became shallow. Pale, snowy white mounds crested with soft, peach nipples. Sure, her breasts were less firm now than they had been when they met, but they were also fuller. As if time had molded them to his hands. He shook his head. Silly girl; how could she ever find something so miraculous lacking?

Reverently, worshipfully, he let the sponge slide over that perfect flesh. Over and over and over as she bowed her back almost painfully, her eyes fluttering as she bent to his touch. His mouth watered as he watched that flesh—those pretty peaks—pucker, now slick and clean and tight.

“Stand up, please.” She did, facing away from him like she always did so her perfect, round ass faced him as he leaned in to run the sponge over it and along the length of her legs. He was just running it between the apex of her thighs, slipping the sponge between her folds, when he felt her shiver. Her arms, crossed over her chest, tightened over her breasts. She looked more angelic and vulnerable than she had any right to be. This ageless, timeless, perfect creature, his to touch.

God, he wanted her.

Grabbing a fluffy towel, he stood with it spread, waiting for her to step into his arms. “Come.” She did so, willingly, allowing him to wrap the towel and his arms around her. Allowing him to warm her again.

After knotting the towel around her, he led her to the adjoining bedroom. Taking the towel, he replaced it with a fluffy, plush blue robe with silvered starbursts shooting through it. She looked positively adorable, snuggled in the cloth that hid her curves from his gaze.

“Sit,” he told her as he pushed her around and down onto the mattress. He picked up the towel and began to gently dry her hair, dabbing and pressing at the finespun gold curls, before letting his fingers comb through the silken strands. She tilted her head back, moaning as his large hands caressed her scalp and his fingers sifted through her hair.

It shouldn’t have turned him on. Such a simple, chaste act. Yet there was something that felt indescribably—illogically, irrationally—right about all this. It was in the relaxed curve of her back. In the serene look on her face. It was in the way she blinked up at him as she turned to face him, her cheeks flushed and her lips parted slightly. With more trust and love than he’d ever thought he’d get. More—if he was honest—than he felt he deserved. But he wanted to deserve it. He wanted—would work hard to always be—worth it.

“Time for bed,” he said, his voice graveled even to his own ears.

It was the fact that she was his. In every way possible. That this was something they shared. That he would never have had without her and would never have with anyone else. It made every touch special. Made it somehow new. Every time.

Even as he went through the routine of tugging at the bedcovers, turning down the bed, life with Ivy never felt everyday. Theirs was a relationship that he wouldn’t take for granted. That would never be ordinary.

“Do you want a story before bed?” he asked, reaching for the book of fairytales on the bedside table.

“Nuh-uh,” she said, her voice suddenly coy.

His hand paused on the book’s spine. His Ivy always wanted a bedtime story. Always.

Unless, she wanted something else.

He turned to her as she shifted, letting her robe slip down her shoulder and twist around her now sprawled legs, revealing the shadowy space between her shapely thighs. He swallowed hard.

“Time for bed?” she asked, her voice low as her legs slipped even further apart, drawing his eyes deeper into the shadows.

“Uh-huh,” he choked out, his tongue feeling too large for his mouth. His hands clenched as he stared at her crawling beneath the covers, her lithe form moving with fluid temptation.

Once she settled, he tucked her in, pulling the covers up and over her to her chin as she practically purred. He got up.

“You won’t leave me?” she asked as she shot up, her face scrunched into guileless worry.

He recognized the action, the tone, the phrase. The frightened girl. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of being alone. Who needed her Papi beside her to keep the monsters at bay.

“No,” he told her as he walked to the other side of the bed, “I won’t leave you.” He would never leave her. Marcus lifted the covers and slid in beside her, wrapping his arms around her as she cuddled against him.

She’d unbelted the robe, so her naked body pressed against his still fully clothed one. Even through the cotton of his shirt and sweatpants, he could feel her. So giving. So exquisite. His. Her breasts and belly and hips sidled against his side and chest, a pillowed warmth that heated him to his core. Her legs bent to wind around him, pressing herself hot and ready against his hip.

“Thank you, Papi,” she whispered against him as she kissed the jutting bone of his clavicle. She began to stroke his chest, trailing her hands, her fingers and nails, along the heaving flesh. He bit back a groan as she began to toy with his nipple through his shirt.

“I’m warm,” she said as she pouted, wriggling out of her robe so she lay naked next to him. Practically on top of him. Her curves molding themselves to his harder build as she nuzzled him. Her tricky hand snuck past the hem of his shirt to tickle his skin as she blinked innocently up at him. “Aren’t you warm, Papi?”

With her hands on him, he was fucking burning up.

She smiled as her other hand reached up to cup his face. “You feel warm,” she said almost with a tsk as she touched his forehead.

He closed his eyes and fisted his hands as his cock began to rise at the touch of her hand that drifted lower and lower. She gripped his dick fully in her hand, wrapping her small hand around him through his pants’ interfering material. “Very warm.”

“Yes,” he hissed.

“Can I help?” she asked, tugging at his shirt.

“Yes.” Again, his voice was nothing but a grizzled grunt as he raised his arms to let her peel off his shirt before her greedy hands grasped at his pants, pulling those off as well.

Taking the covers with her, she climbed onto his lap, straddling his legs and spreading her hands against his chest. “You still feel warm,” she said, shaking her head with mock disappointment, a furrowing frown creasing her porcelain face. “I’m still warm too.”

His hips thrust up, pressing himself flush against her, warmth to warmth, heat to heat. “And getting hotter by the minute.” He let his hard cock glide along the folds of her parted pussy, sliding its entire length along her ready clit.

“What can we do?” she asked breathily as her hands gripped his shoulders, digging her fingers into his hard, steady frame for balance. “We have to do something,” she moaned as her own hips began to buck, slipping wetter and hotter against him. “Please, Papi,” she begged, her hands becoming insistent as they tensed against him, “please, do something.”

Yes, he had to do something. He couldn’t leave his Mija suffering like this. Couldn’t sit back and just listen to her frustrated whimpers. Couldn’t keep still under her needy body’s insistent sway.

With a growl, he grasped her shoulders, cupping them in his hands, before twisting swiftly until their positions switched and he hovered over her. He leaned down to nuzzle her neck, breathing in her scent—aroused and ready—hungrily. “I can make you feel better,” he told her, whispering into her ear. The hot, wet heat of his words caressed her ear, sending a shiver through her. “But you have to do exactly what I say.” He kissed her behind her ear before nipping at her lobe, making her squeal and writhe. He smiled as his cock thickened further. “Do you understand, Mija?”

“Yes,” she moaned as she struggled to get closer to him. “Yes, Papi.”

Good. He wanted to roar in triumph. Instead, he growled into her neck as she squirmed. “I need to examine you first,” he said. He felt her suck in her breath as she froze. “You have to lay very still, while I do,” he instructed. “You must only move when I tell you. Yes, Mija?”

“Yes,” she said as she stiffened, even as her back arched up enticingly.

He let her go, happy when she stayed as she was. That was his girl.

He reached out his hand to gently touch her face, brushing her furrowed brow with the back of his fingers, cupping her cheek in his palm. He pressed his finger against her lips, which slipped open before sucking the digit into her mouth. Putting in his mind hotter images of her lips wrapped around his dick instead of a simple finger.

“Mija,” he warned, knowing he wouldn’t last if she kept that up.

“Sorry, Papi,” she said, not sounding the least bit remorseful.

He almost chuckled as he let his hands drift low, over her neck and breastbone. He cupped her breasts, full and round, in his hands. God, she felt good. He couldn’t help but stare at his hands—dark and rough from the work he did—touching, holding, her cream-colored breasts. It seemed almost wrong that he was allowed to touch her. To have her. Like this. His ethereal, mythic Ivy.

He shouldn’t be allowed to touch something so precious.

He thanked God that he could.

His fingers flicked over the peach tips as she tensed, trying not to push into his touch. She succeeded. Barely.

He smiled with pride.

And challenge.

He bent low to close his lips around the swollen bud. She moaned as her chest heaved. “Marcus.” Her hands fisted in the blankets as her feet dug into the mattress. He sucked, her nipple hardening in his mouth. “Please,” she begged as she strained under the need to move. “Please.”

“Are you still warm?” he asked her as he trailed kisses from one breast to the other. He kissed her other nipple sweetly as her chest heaved. “Mija?”

“Yes,” she hissed just before he wrapped his lips around the taut tip. “Yes.” She moaned again, her head thrashing against the pillows. “So hot. So very, very hot.”

Good. “Where are you hot, little Mija?” he asked, his hands gripped her waist, feeling its supple give. “Show me.”

He loved it when she blushed, her cheeks warming with a wash of rose. She bit her lip and looked away embarrassed as her hand slid low along her hip before sliding over her thigh to touch the pink lips of her pussy. “Here,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.

God, she was beautiful. The picture of seductive innocence. She was lost to—trembled with—a lust she neither understood nor could ever hope to control.

He cupped her sex, feeling the her blond curls now wet with her arousal brush against his skin as he pressed her palm fully against her—trapping her hand between that heat and him. “Right here?” he asked as he ground his hand against hers, her hand against her wet center.

“Yes,” she moaned, the feel of her fingers teasing her sensitive flesh at his whim making her mind dizzy and her eyes flutter shut.

But Marcus, he kept his eyes open. He wanted to watch this. He stared as they stroked her together, as their combined touch drove her closer and closer to the edge. She was frantic, her hips rolling against the friction to find relief, certain that if she could just rub harder or faster or more that her end would come.

But Marcus knew his Mija. Knew her body better than anyone else in the world. She wouldn’t come from just this. Her passion would build and build and build until she throbbed with it, leaving her painfully frustrated on her own.

Not that he would ever allow that.

His Mija needed relief. And it was his job, as her Papi, to make sure she got it.

Stretching, he reached into the bedside drawer and pulled out her favorite vibrator. With a flick of his finger, he turned it on, the familiar whir filling the room.

Ivy’s eyes snapped open at the sound, rounding at the sight of the small, blue, curved device. “Papi?” she asked, her voice high with a slight tremor, as if she’d never seen the well-loved toy before.

“Hush,” he cooed. “This will make you feel much better,” he said as he placed it in her hand that cupped her aching cunt. He pressed on that hand, making her gasp as the vibrator lay flush against her clit. “Hold it there, Mija,” he told her sternly. “Just like that.”

“Papi,” she wailed, her voice raw, almost ugly with need. “I can’t. It feels...” She bit her lip as her head tossed and turned, as her legs and arms and abs tensed and quivered. “Papi, it feels too...”

Too good. Pleasure given to the point of pain. “Yes,” he told her, pulling her clenching knees apart—to see, to touch. “I know.”

He reached again in the drawer, pulling out a condom before tearing it open to roll it on his own painfully hard shaft. He’d waited too long, he knew—let himself get too lost in her game—as he fumbled with the rubber, his brain too hazed with heat for even a task as simple as this. He bit his cheek to clear his mind so he could slide the latex over himself.

He almost gave out a cry of relief as he finished. Instead, he gripped both her legs in his arms, pulling her knees wide as he entered her in a slick slide.

“Papi!”

She was tight, allowing him only half-way on that first thrust. He tilted her hips upward, giving him a better angle. He felt the shudder that went through her as he pushed insider her again, gaining another inch. Ivy sometimes panicked when he went deep, feeling exposed and so thoroughly dominated. She’d told him once that sometimes it felt as if, as he was taking her like that, that he were actually taking a piece of her. Stealing inside her. Breaching barriers she hadn’t known she had. Taking part of her inside him, even as he left bits of himself in her.

A part of Ivy was afraid of that, but his Mija loved it, crying out with ecstasy as she thrust up into the combined sensation of her toy and him.

Marcus thrust one more time, burying himself to the hilt in her warm, wet, welcoming flesh. It was the best feeling he could imagine, the moment her body let him in. For a moment, he didn’t want to ever move.

But she did.

His Ivy bucked beneath him, eager and hungry for more. What could he do but give it to her?

With a gritted growl, he pumped into her. Like a wicked crack, he felt his control snap as her inner muscles squeezed him so tight while she came. He let his hand fall hard on the mattress, using it for leverage as he pushed—pounded—into her even as she was wracked beneath him with her own climax.

“Papi,” she called out on a broken cry. “Papi!”

“Mija,” he groaned as he came inside her, his spine stiffening like a spike even as she shuddered weakly under him. Ivy. His Ivy. Pleasure washed over him, robbing him of his control. With a labored moan, he rolled a bit and collapsed on the mattress next to her. Wrapping her in his arms, he pulled to covers over them both. He held her for a moment, catching his breath again, before he turned to rid himself of the condom.

His eye caught on the digital clock as he tossed the used bit of latex away.

1:14am

His heart sank a bit.

They’d missed it.

Midnight.

He’d hoped to hold her as they watched the ball drop. He’d hoped to kiss her at that final stroke of the year, while strains of “Auld Lang Syne” played. He’d hoped that tonight—their anniversary—would be perfect.

He turned back to see Ivy’s face relaxed in sleep as she snuffled a bit under the covers to get comfortable. With a slightly smug, completely satisfied smile, he snuggled against her, loving the fact that only in his arms did she find her comfort. She lay her head against his shoulder, laying a small, delicate hand on his chest. Over his heart. Sighing contentedly, he held her tighter as he looked out their window into star-filled night and the new year that seemed to stretch endless into the black. “Happy New Year, Ivy,” he whispered as he kissed her head, his fingers finding the skin-warmed silver at her neck that named her his, before closing his eyes and letting sleep take him.


LEARNING A NEW WORlD
Please check out my novel The Taming School from Sizzler Editions that explores discovering kink!

THINK YOU OWN ME?
Please check out my novel Show Me, Sir from Sinful Press that celebrates feminist kink!


LOVE EROTICA? LOVE CONSENT?
Please check out my story in The New Smut Project's anthology and see how consent makes everything sexier!


GEEK SEX IS THE KINKIEST SEX!
Please check out my story in Riverdale Avenue Books' anthology that proves no one knows how to play better than nerds!


LET'S GET INTENSE FOR THE MEN!
Please check out my story in The Sexy Librarian's anthology that gives us a bold peek into lust and love from the male perspective!
At Audible

HAVE YOURSELF A KINKY, LITTLE XMAS!
Please check out my story in Coming Together's charity anthology that lets your feel-good do some real good!


MAKE-UP SEX MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER!
See what happens after Kat & Peter's happy ending in my story from Deep Desire Press!

FORGIVE ME, FATHER, FOR I HAVE SINNED!
Please check out my story in Sexy Little Pages' anthology that explores the taboo juxtaposition of holy and sensual!

REBEL WITH US!
Erotica is an expression of rebellion. Please check out my stories in Coming Together's defiant, charity anthology that celebrates diversity and equality in the face of our uncertain future!

YOU'RE INTO WHAT?!
If it exists, someone’s kinky for it! Check out my story in Sexy Little Pages' anthology that takes a walk on the weird side: you won’t regret it.

Also, find out how you can support me and collaborate with me on my Patreon Page!