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We had never even had to touch and he had dominated me on that flight. I had thought I’d never see him again after that, but still I hadn’t been able to get him off my mind.

James closed out the window of the crude porn, rising and walking to me. He hugged me to him, pushing my face into his chest. He kissed the top of my head almost sweetly.

The rest of the evening went smoothly and I was marveling at our drama-free, sex-free day when my phone dinged a text at me during dinner. It was in my room. It had gone off a few times during the day, but when I checked it and saw that none of the texts were from Stephan I had ignored them.

“Excuse me,” I said to James, who was eating leftover chicken as though he did so everyday. I would have bet it was the first leftover dinner he’d had in awhile, if ever.

I grabbed my phone, heading back to the table. The text was from Stephan. I hummed as I read it.

It had been such a perfect day. James hadn’t even asked me about my nightmare of the night before.

If this was what it was like to be in a relationship, I could get used to it. I shocked myself with the thought.

“Who’s texting you? What does it say?” James asked. He was nosy and had no shame about it. I wondered how he would take it if I was so nosy with him.

“Stephan. I have to work tomorrow. Just a turn, so we’ll be back the same night, though late.”

James brooded after that. I knew he had assumed I would keep all of my days off this week. He couldn’t seem to understand that I needed to work overtime to pay my bills.

“I can’t imagine you eat leftover chicken for dinner very often,” I said, smiling at him, trying to draw him out of his sudden dark mood.

He had never even put a shirt on, just wore his boxers around like the shameless hedonist he was. Though he had stayed strong in his resolve not to have sex with me. I wasn’t particularly pleased with his success.

His eyes were cold as he raked me with a glance. “Are you done eating?” he asked in a bland voice.

I nodded.

“Go get on your bed,” he ordered.

I did, thinking that he was an unpredictable tyrant with every step.

“Lay on your back,” he ordered.

I did, and he yanked my hips to the edge of the bed, shoving my nightgown up to study me. He parted my legs, then put my feet up on the edge of the bed with his hands gripping my ankles. He removed one of his hands almost instantly and touched the petals of my sex with light fingers, examining every inch of me. It made me squirm.

“Stop that,” he told me in a hard voice. I did.

He slid a finger inside of me ever so slowly. It smarted a little, but not too much to bear. It was a delicious kind of soreness.

“Are you sore?” he asked, still pushing.

I moaned, not answering, hoping that was answer enough. He cursed, pulling his finger out in one motion.

“Another day, at least, before we can fuck.”

He began to work on me with his mouth, making me pant and beg in scant seconds. After coaxing a quick, intense orgasm out of me, he rose.

His face was still hard and cold, even wet with my passion. He went into the bathroom and closed the door. I heard the shower running.

I began to get my things ready for the next day, packing up my flight bag and setting my alarm.

He came out with a towel around his waist and I could tell with one look on his face that he was still in a dark mood.

“Is there something I can do for you? I feel bad being the only one to get pleasure out of an exchange.”

He just stared at me for a long minute. “No, I’m fine. When do you have to go to bed?”

“I should probably get to bed as soon as possible. Are you taking off?” I asked, assuming from his demeanor that he was planning to.

His face darkened even more. “Are you kicking me out?”

The idea startled me. “No, of course not. You can stay, if you like, but-”

“Yes, I like. Let’s go to bed,” he said, going into the closet to slip into a new pair of boxer-briefs.

He sprawled on the bed, closing his eyes without another word.

I got ready for bed, lying beside him awkwardly. It took me a long time to fall asleep beside him. It wasn’t like any of the other times we’d slept together. No parts of our bodies were touching.


Mr. Withdrawn

My alarm went off. I turned it off quickly, trying not to disturb the sleeping man wrapped around me tightly. One of his hands was cupping my breast, even in deep slumber. He had apparently thawed out a bit in his sleep.

I pulled free of him slowly and with effort, padding softly into the bathroom to shower.

He was sitting up on my side of the bed when I re-emerged. He ran a hand through his hair when he saw me.

“Will you call me when you get home?” he asked.

I nodded, and went back to getting ready. He got dressed as well, though he didn’t pack his things. I suspected he was going to leave them there without asking me if it was okay. I decided not to make an issue of it. I didn’t want to rile him just then.

“I’m off for most of thursday. You know we don’t fly out until late in the evening,” I told him, trying to draw him out of his mood.

He just nodded, and I worried that I’d been too presumptuous, assuming he’d want to spend another day with me.

“I’ll come here again after you get off of work, unless you object to my company,” he said.

It was the closest he would get to asking, I thought.

“Sounds great.” I smiled at him, but he remained expressionless.

He was ready before me, but waited patiently, dressed in a pale gray suit, with a dark gray shirt and a crimson tie. It was beyond stunning to see him fully dressed after spending so much time with him nearly naked in my house.

“That’s a lovely suit,” I told him.

He thanked me for the compliment, but stayed withdrawn.

I realized that his withdrawal made me want to cling to him. I squelched the unhealthy urge.

He walked me out. He didn’t say goodbye until Stephan approached my open garage. James gripped the back of my head, giving me a hard kiss on the mouth.

“Call or text me the second you get back in town,” he told me gruffly, moving out of my way.

He didn’t get into his own car until we started to drive away.

Stephan gave me a careful look. “That man is intense,” he said quietly.

I heard the implied question there, but I just nodded. He was worried about me, but I still didn’t know James well enough to confidently reassure him that everything was fine.

Both of the flights we worked were agonizingly slow.

The only interesting thing about the day was that the Agents were back, following exactly the same routine that they had on the previous turn. Stephan reassured me that he would fill out another report on the strange behavior, just to cover bases, but we decided, after some debate, that the two men must be investigating the airline.

I didn’t call or text James during our short time on the ground. I wasn’t sure he wanted me to, so I decided to err on the side of caution. I had no missed calls or texts, so I figured that was the safest bet. Though my ear had picked up a strange line of conversation from one of the Agents as he was exiting the aircraft. “Yes, Sir, she is well. There were no problems. No one bothered her at all.”

I began to get an inkling of a paranoid idea, but I immediately brushed it off as batshit crazy.

Even eccentric, filthy rich people aren’t that insane, I told myself.

Agent #2, whose name on the manifest showed James Cook, gave me a warm smile when I handed him his fifth bottle of water.

“Here you go, Mr. Cook,” I said, smiling back. As strange as this pattern was, he was really a very pleasant passenger.

“Thank you, Ms. Karlsson,” he responded, and I froze. He would know my given name, but there was no reason in the world why he should know my surname. It wasn’t on my name tag.

I looked at him squarely. “How do you know my last name?” I asked him frankly.

He looked a little sheepish, as though it had been a slip. “It’s my job, Ma’am.”

I told Stephan of the exchange. He looked baffled. “Do you suppose we are being investigated?”

“I think it might be James…” I said quietly, revealing my paranoid theory.

Stephan grimaced. “I’d like to say that was impossible, but I can actually picture James doing something like this. Are you going to ask him?”

I sighed. “At some point. I’m not sure I want to deal with the answer. I’m not ready to break things off just yet.”

Stephan gripped my shoulder. “Breaking things off isn’t the only solution, Bianca.”

We stared at each other for a long moment, but I didn’t agree or disagree with him.

I texted James almost immediately when we landed in Vegas, turning on my phone while we taxied in.

Bianca: We’re back in Vegas. Taxiing in right now.

He responded almost instantly.

James: Good. I’ll be at your house when you get there.

And he was, not startling me this time when he stepped out of the dark SUV, since I recognized it now.

I waved goodnight to Stephan. James met me at my walkway, his hand going possessively to my nape. He was uncannily silent.

I let us in, kicking my shoes off at the door and putting my flight bag back in it’s spot on a small table by my bedroom door.

James was still a silent presence behind me. I felt a shiver of fear stroke down my spine. In this mood, would he really hurt me? What had I gotten myself into, becoming so intimate with such a stranger? Furthermore, becoming intimately violent. I had gone too far to go back. Hadn’t I?

I felt disgust with myself for even considering it. I would regret it if I never discovered what lay down this path, a path that had always secretly fascinated me. But the fear was strangely persistent with such a silent, cold man at my back.

My father had always done the most damage when he was done screaming and became the cold monster that haunted my nightmares. A picture of his expressionless face, covered in blood, flashed into my mind, making me shiver. His cold blue eyes flicking to me with an almost absent-minded warning. And how sick was I, that James, in his cold, dominant persona, was the most irresistible to me?

I made a note to get back in touch with my neglected therapist. But even with all of my dark musings and spine-chilling fears, I never even considered asking James to leave.

I wanted to face this, to feel brave when so often my bravery had fled me, and I had simply run in terror, leaving someone else to take the damage.

“Get on the bed. On your back.” James’s voice was hoarse when he finally spoke.

We had been standing in the dark for long minutes in total silence. I did it, and just the act of submitting made me relax a fraction in relief. It was all in his hands now.

“Lift up your skirt,” he told me. “More. All the way to your waist. Good.”

He turned on the light and approached me, dragging my hips to the edge of the mattress and positioning my heels there in what seemed to be his examination routine.

He knelt, his still, stony face lowering between my legs.

I shivered.

He made a little tsking noise when he saw the moisture there. He touched me, holding up two wet fingers.