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I don’t know where Ceridwen came from. I think she’s a melange of the tired city girls you see every day on the London commute.

Our city is hard and jagged, and those of us lucky enough to have someone should be glad; too many people here are alone.

I was tired and cold.

The Victoria line platform at Vauxhall was busy and I clasped my violin case to me as I dodged around other people and made my way towards the train station. It was a windy evening, with drizzle and low clouds scudding over the small patches of blue sky. Commuters huddled into their coats as they walked, or crowded into areas of relative calm behind bus shelters or walls in order to smoke. I hurried to try to make my rehearsal on time.

It had been a long Tuesday. Work had been difficult; I was reporting in to a new manager and he’d been abrasive and condescending about both my prior boss and my work for her. I’d put up and shut up but it had taken energy that I didn’t have to spare, and I’d had an exhausted, frustrated cry in the ladies afterwards. I’d got sympathetic looks and a hug from Ally, but it didn’t take the sting away, and it hadn’t helped the sense of shame I felt about blubbing at work; I hated looking weak.

But I was so tired.

I cursed my new boss under my breath, and hoped he’d fall in front of a bus on his way home.

I touched my oyster to the reader; the gate beeped, and I turned sideways, stepping through the barrier. I glanced up at the departures board; my train was still on schedule and I had a few minutes to spare. I took a left turn and started the climb to platform three.

I missed Jason. He had left me a few short months ago – he’d come home, packed a bag, and left again without even a goodbye hug. In hindsight the signs had been there for a while, but hindsight is no comfort when your heart is a lump of stone in your chest. I’d spent the first week sobbing myself to sleep; my friends had been gentle and supportive but they had their own lives and, ultimately, I was alone.

I’d lost weight. People were commenting that I looked too thin; Sam from operations had brought me a tub of ice cream and had shared it with me.

She had shared her tissues too when I’d cried again.

The last thing I needed was a reputation as a crybaby. But Jason and I had been together for four years, and even though it had been cold and hard at the end it had still been an us, and now it was just me.

And it hurt. Some days it hurt more than others, but every day was a struggle, and yet in spite of it I had to get up, get dressed, go to work and be a productive team member in our small marketing consultancy. I had no safety net any more, and my job and my music were all I had left.

.:.

I’d climbed maybe a third of the way up the stairs when a suited man charged down past me. His backpack hung from one shoulder, and as he passed me it swung out and caught my violin case, and his momentum pulled me backwards. I screamed and tried to grab hold of something to stop my fall. But there was nothing but the empty space behind me, an empty space full of metal-edged stairs.

I think I hit each of them on the way down.

.:.

I lay, curled into a ball, cradling my left wrist and gasping for breath.

Vaguely I heard voices around me.

“Oh my god, are you alright?”

“Come on love, come on, you’re OK,”

“Did anyone get a look at him?”

“Cunt didn’t even stop. Wanker.”

A big black man in a London Underground uniform knelt down in front of me and spoke gently to me. “Love, you alright?”

“No,” I cried, “no I’m fucking sore.”

“Love, you stay where you are, alright? Don’t move, we’ll get the ambulance guys here for you. Alright?”

I sobbed out something affirmative as the pain ramped up. My wrist felt like it was on fire, and my head and shoulders ached. Somebody, I don’t know who, covered me with their jacket, and a dreadlocked girl held my hand. I lay there on my side, watching the feet go by me. Time seemed to pass slowly, but I guess it can’t have been that long before the St Johns Ambulance people were there.

A kind woman in green overalls shone a penlight into my eyes as her partner put a neck brace on me, and they talked gently to me as they rolled me onto a spine board for transport, their voices gentle and pitched to be reassuring. I tried to ignore the bystanders filming my bad luck with their cellphones, and I desperately caught the hand of the female paramedic as they wheeled me to the waiting ambulance.

“My handbag. My violin,” I begged.

“We’ve got them, lass,” said the woman. “Don’t fret. We’ll get you to St Thomas and get you checked out, OK? You’re going to be right as rain in a short while, lass. Don’t fret.”

I closed my eyes and tried to be brave.

.:.

X-rays and checkups, an eternity of them. I sat, aching, on a cot in A&E as the duty orderly strapped up my wrist.

“You have some really bad bruising,” she said, “but no broken bones and no fractures. You were lucky.”

“I don’t feel lucky.”

She snorted. “A fall like that can kill. Take it from me, you were lucky.”

I sighed. “How long do I need to keep my wrist bandaged?”

“Three days. You will have limited motion for a week or so, but after that you should be OK. Make sure you stop at Boots on the way out and get these painkillers,” she added, handing me a printed script. “You will need them for a day or two.”

“Ugh.”

“Can you stand?”

I slid slowly off the cot, and straightened. I took a painful breath and then exhaled. “Yes.”

“No dizziness? No weakness?”

“No. Just pain.”

She nodded, sympathetic. “Do you have a bath at home?”

“No, just a shower.”

“Take a long hot one tonight and try to dress up warmly in loose clothing. You are going to be purple by tomorrow.”

“It gets better and better,” I grumbled.

.:.

The queue was short, and I ordered and paid for my extra-strength Ibuprofen tablets. Then I limped slowly back into the entrance hall and ordered a latte in the small, dubious coffee shop there. I needed to sit and collect my thoughts before I tried to get home.

I was too late for rehearsal, there was no point in even trying to make it, and there was certainly no point in even trying to play were I somehow to get there – my wrist was agony; I would never be able to hold my violin, even were I to take off the bandages .

I laid my violin case down on the table and took a sip of my insipid latte. Then I undid the latches on the case and lifted the lid to check my baby.

My heart dropped through my stomach.

“Oh god, no…”

I reached into the case, and touched my broken instrument.

Then I closed it, slumped forward, and tried to fight back the tears.

My violin.

My mother had sold some of her silverware and had used the money to buy it for me when I was fourteen years old. It was a glorious instrument; old and mellow. I’d played it at Eisteddfod, at school, and at University. And now I played in a small string quartet to supplement my income. It was as much a part of me as my face. To see it lying there, neck broken, sound board cracked and bridge destroyed, hurt me far more than I ever could have imagined.

I scrubbed at my eyes, opened the case again, and lifted my instrument awkwardly out, trying not to lose any parts or do any more damage. I laid it in front of me, and just looked at it, gulping.

You can repair an instrument, but it never sounds the same. Something changes; a violin’s soul dies when you break it and the new one is always different. My first teacher told me that the time I dropped my case. So I’d always cared for my violin. Always kept it safe.

And now some cunt had destroyed the best part of me without even a backward glance…

“Hey. I’m sorry to intrude… but are you OK?”

I scrubbed at my face with my sleeve, angry at being caught in a moment of weakness. “No. No, I’m about as far from OK as it’s possible to be.”

I looked up, then away, ashamed at the state I was in. He was tall, and dressed in what under other circumstances would have counted as a really nice suit, but the effect was spoiled by the stubble and the mane of brown, disheveled hair.

“May I sit?”

“Why?”

“Because you look like you need a sympathetic ear.”

I scrubbed at my face again, wincing as pain lanced through my arm. “Are you going to try to sell me something?”

“No, but it’s a fair question I suppose. What happened?” he asked, gently, as he leaned back into the rickety chair.

“I fell down some stairs thanks to some bastard who was in a hurry.”

“Today?”

“Maybe an hour ago. Vauxhall station.”

He winced. “Christ. Those stairs are vicious.”

“No shit.” I sighed. “Sorry. Sorry, I’m really sore and really hurt and my violin…”

He glanced down at it and made a face. “Can it be fixed?”

“No. Mended, yes, but it will never be the same.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah.”

He was silent a moment. “I’m Connor.”

I eyed him. “Ceridwen,” I muttered. “And yes, I’m Welsh, and fuck you if the first thing that crossed your mind was a sheep.”

He laughed softly. “That wasn’t the first thing that crossed my mind, but again, I guess it’s a fair assumption. Are you part of an orchestra, or a Celtic band?”

“What?”

He nodded towards my violin. “Celtic woman, plays the violin. These are the two most obvious options.”

“Hah. No. String quartet; I’m not good enough for orchestra, and I don’t have the time.”

“That was going to be my next guess.”

“You know your music then, I take it.” I gently put the wreckage of my violin back into the case, and closed the lid on it.

“Some,” he murmured. “I sing. It goes with the territory.”

“Karaoke?” I asked, acidly.

He grinned. “Good guess, but no. Chamber choir, mainly.”

“Wow. Today just keeps getting weirder. Go to work, get crapped out by my new boss, fall down stairs, destroy part of my soul, and get chatted up by a baritone in a hospital coffee shop. Go me,” I added, bitter.

“Are you always this angry?”

“No,” I swallowed, shaking my head. “No… I just… No. I’m not. Today is just… probably one of my worst days.” I glanced up at him. “And you certainly don’t deserve the abuse. I’m sorry. I apologies.” I sat up straighter, wincing at the pain in my back. “Hi,” I added. “I’m Ceridwen.”

He smiled and gently took my offered hand. “Hi. Nice to meet you. And by the way, I’m a tenor.”

.:.

“You really don’t need to do this.”

“If you feel the way I imagine you do, you need the help.”

“Won’t whoever you were visiting in hospital be looking for you?”

He sighed. “No.”

I looked up at him and saw the sadness, but didn’t press him. Instead I simply focused on walking, trying to ignore the pain in my back, hips and thigh. We slowly made our way down the Albert Embankment; Connor carrying his bag and my violin case and reaching out occasionally to steady me or just help me balance. The wind was building and it was a miserable night; gusts of leaves from Lambeth’s tattered trees skittered past us, and at one point a particularly violent gust staggered me so badly that had it not been for him I would have fallen.

“Gotcha,” he’d said as he’d helped me catch my balance and my breath, and I’d given him a grateful smile. But the vast bulk of our slow walk had been silent, and it was beginning to worry me.

“Please don’t be a murderer,” I said, to break the silence.

He snorted back a laugh. “I confess that I sometimes wear odd socks and occasionally a clashing tie.”

“Oh god, I’m done for.”

“Yeah, sorry, should have had a card printed. Connor James Saumarez, Professional lunatic.”

“Are you?”

“What?”

“A professional lunatic.”

“Hah, no. Sometimes I feel like it’s my true calling though.” He kicked a can as it clattered past. “Sorry, childhood habit.”

I caught myself smiling, and shook my head at myself. He had a really lovely voice, and an easy way with words. And his arm was strong; he was strong. Strong but gentle. A gentle man.

We lurched our way further, turning into Kennington road, passing the Imperial War Museum to our left, and then, eventually, home. I climbed the three pitted concrete steps and stopped outside the battered blue door.

“Well, this is me,” I said.

He handed me my violin case. “Here. I hope you can get it repaired.”

I sighed. “So do I, but it won’t be the same.”

“Have a little faith, Ceridwen.”

“After today? Not likely.”

He shrugged one shoulder. “I will just have to be positive on your behalf then. Well, I guess I should get going. It was lovely to meet you, Ceridwen, though I’m sure you’d have preferred better circumstances.”

“Connor?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you for helping me home. It was very sweet of you, and I’m sure you had better things to do than help a dumb girl limp home after biting the dust.”

“You needed a helping hand; I needed something to get me out of St Thomas for a while. Lets call it a mutually advantageous encounter,” he added with a grin.

“Uh huh. Where are you going to go now?”

He glanced at his wristwatch. “I have half an hour before rehearsal, so I’m going to see if I can make my way to Trafalgar square in time.”

“Rehearsal?”

“Yep.”

“Don’t tease me.”

He laughed. “Sorry, it’s a bad habit. I sing in a small chamber choir; we’re slated to perform a lunchtime concert in St Martins in a few weeks, so we’re burning the candle on both ends a bit to polish it all.”

“St Martins in the Fields?”

“Yeah,”

“Wow. That’s an amazing venue. I’d love to play there sometime. I’m jealous, your choir must be good to be able to get a booking there.”

“Mm. I guess we do alright. Tell you what; come listen to us when you get a chance. Maybe not tonight,” he added, with a sympathetic wince. “But we’re practicing again on Friday evening before heading out for a pint or twenty; if you feel inclined and would like the company of a bunch of rowdy singers, why don’t you come with?”

“That sounds like it would be a lovely change of pace for me,” I murmured. “I’d like that. I haven’t got out much recently.”

He dug into his jacket pocket. “Do you have a pen?” He scrawled some digits on the back of a business card. “My number. In case you want it.”

“Smooth.”

“I was aiming for suave.”

“You’ll need a haircut for that,” I teased him.

“Touche. OK, I need to get moving.”

I put down my handbag and violin case.

“Connor?”

I descended the steps again, stepped in and wrapped my good arm around him, pressing my cheek to his chest. “Thank you. You’ve made a horrible day a lot better for me. I don’t know why you came to say hello but I’m glad you did.”

He smiled down at me. “Take care of that arm, Ceridwen. See you Friday, maybe.”

“Ceri,” I said, soft and low.

“Eh?”

“My friends call me Ceri.”

His grin was white against the darkness, and he gave me an insouciant wave as he loped off. I stood watching him until he turned the corner, then took a breath and let myself into the flat.

.:.

“You’re home early and oh my good fucking god what have you done to yourself?”

“Hi, Bron,” I winced.

“Ceri, what the fuck happened?”

I winced as gently put my violin case down. “Some cunt knocked me down the stairs at Vauxhall.”

“Oh my god. Your arm, Ceri?”

“Sprained, not broken.”

“Sit down, sit down. It’s an emergency. Wine is called for.”

Bronwyn flapped around me like a mother hen; dragging our TV lurk blankets out and arranging me on our shabby sofa. “You did a good job on yourself, Ceridwen,” she muttered. “You look like someone used you as a punching bag.”

“It gets worse.”

“How much worse could it get?”

“Open my case.”

Bronwyn paled when she saw the damage. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Ceri, it’s trashed.”

“I know,” I sighed. “My mum’s going to be so sad. She loved it almost as much as I did.”

“Can we get it repaired?”

“Doubt it. I’m going to have to shop for a new one and I don’t have the money for anything more than someone’s derelict bent warped reject.”

“Fuck sakes. Life is not fair.”

“You know what’s worse? I know this city is hard, but the fuckhead didn’t even stop to check whether I was OK.”

“I’ll trip the next banker I see down the stairs myself. Wankers, the lot of them. How’d you get home?”

“Walked.”

“Jesus, Ceri, in your state! You could have dropped dead somewhere! Don’t fuck around with head injuries; how many times do I have to tell you this?”

Bronwyn is an amateur thespian, though you’d never guess.

“It was OK, Bron. The A&E cleared me, and besides, I had a guardian angel to help.”

“Uh huh. Yeah, head injury, I should have known you’d start hallucinating. Fuck sakes, Ceri, you make me so angry sometimes! You don’t have the sense God gave sheep.”

“No, listen, you twit. There was a guy, a really sweet boy; he helped me home.”

“A nice boy? In London? Now I know it’s a head injury.”

I snorted and she grinned at me. “Calm down, babes, just teasing.”

“Stop, I don’t have the energy tonight, Bron. Really, really don’t.”

“OK, OK. So, tell me the damage.”

“Bruises everywhere on my back, head, wrist. Hip too I think. Bum. Cut on my thigh. Think I have torn skin on my shoulder blades. There was a satisfying amount of blood, anyway.”

“Do you need me to take a look for you?”

“Not right now, Bron. Thanks. But I’d really appreciate that glass of wine you promised me.”

“Coming right up, love. You sit right there.”

Bron poured me a glass of our reliable Montepulciano, and shook her head over my sling as I sipped it. “Whoever did this for you should be fired,” she muttered as she pinned me up again. “Shoddy work. I’ll find out who was on shift and leave my socks and dirty scrubs in their locker.”

“A&E was rammed, Bron. She did the best she could under time pressure.”

“Being busy is no excuse for shoddy work, Ceri. When I’m on duty I don’t care if the sky is on fire or some meth head is masturbating in the hallway, I make sure the patient I’m seeing gets my full attention.”

“Not everyone is as good as you are, Bron,” I said, softly.

“Of course not, I am Bronwyn, Nursing God,” she intoned. “But people should still try.” She sat back, reached for her own glass, and took a long, slow sip. “God I’m glad I’m off tonight though,” she sighed.

“You and me both. St Thomas looked mad tonight. Enjoy your evening of freedom.”

“So tell me about this white knight of yours.” Her eyes glittered.

“Tall. Thin-ish. Strong. Lovely smile. Looks like he doesn’t eat enough, or regularly enough. Long sandy brown hair, touselled. Brown eyes. Lots of laugh lines, but he looks tired and sad. Like he’s grinning in spite of everything life’s doing to him.”

“Mm. You like him?”

“He was sweet. Gentle. And he didn’t have to spare the time to walk me home.”

“What’s his name?”

“Connor. His surname is weird. Sanders or something.”

“American?”

“No, Brit.”

“What’s he do?”

“I didn’t think to ask. He’s a singer; sings in a choir. A tenor, he says. It must be a good choir, they’re singing a concert in St Martins soon.”

“Hah. A fellow musician.” Bron smirked. “Sounds like a nice chance for a pick-me-up, Ceri. Maybe he has the tongue of a fluter.”

“Flautist, you filth. Anyway, he’s not that kind of boy. He was attentive. And honestly just decent. Just… nice. He felt safe to be around…”

“Mm. Don’t you go and fall for him, Ceri. You need to get your head right first, love.”

“Not much chance of that,” I sighed dramatically. “My heart is a jagged chunk of solidified obsidian. I will never love again.” I sipped my wine. “Fuck today. Fuck it sideways. Christ, I’m sore, Bron.” I added.

“I can’t write you a script, Ceri. I don’t give family drugs. You know the rules.”

“I know,” I sighed. “Just whining.”

“Look on the bright side, at least you met someone interesting.”

I stared at my wine, and didn’t answer.

“Hello, Connor speaking, I can’t take your call right now, but leave a name and number after the beep and I’ll get back to you if you’re interesting.”

Beep.

“Uh… hi. It’s Ceri. Ceridwen. Um… I just wanted to… um… oh bollocks, this is ridiculous. Thanks for getting me home safe. I hope you made your rehearsal. Um… see ya.”

“Smooth,” I muttered to myself. “Great poise. Stellar achievement.”

Bronwyn stuck her head around the door. “You sounded like a randy spastic sixteen year old, just so you know.”

I stuck my tongue out at her. “Eavesdropper.”

“I’m bored and single, your love life is showing signs of getting amusing, I’m a nosy parker, quod erat demonstrandum.”

“What love life,” I snorted, tossing my phone aside. “I just wanted to thank him again.”

“Uh huh. Ceri Jones, I’ve seen that look on your face before. You want him.”

“Oh fuck off, Bron. It’s been a shitty day. I don’t need more abuse.”

“Mm.” She leaned in, planting a gentle kiss on my forehead. “Listen, Ceri, I’m heading out to meet some mates. Are you going to be OK here by yourself?”

“Yeah, I’m sore, not crippled. I’ll be OK.”

“Call me if you need me, OK?”

“Yeah, I will.”

I leaned back against the sofa and listened as Bron got ready. She blew me a kiss and pulled the door closed behind her; I doubted I’d see her again till the next morning; she was dressed in a skintight black dress and fuck me heels and looked like she was on the hunt.

“Good luck,” I murmured with a fond smile. Bronwyn didn’t get much time to let her hair down; when she did go out the end result was always a hangover on the order of a natural disaster for all involved. I momentarily wondered which of her collection of booty calls she’d leave with claw marks down his back the next day. Then I shook my head, winced as I levered myself up and made my way through to the bathroom.

The damage was worse than I’d expected, and I took a shuddering breath as I dropped my jersey and bloody vest to the floor and evaluated myself in our tarnished bathroom mirror.

Purple and red abrasions on my back and ribs; my left hip looked like it was going to be blue before morning. My wrist throbbed, but I struggled out of my sling and let it fall to the floor, then wriggled out of my jeans and nudged them out of the way. I stared at myself. Scrawny, pale-skinned, disheveled black hair and eyes that didn’t look as alive as they should.

I glanced down. My knee was were scraped and going blue as well, and the gash on my thigh had bled again into the adhesive dressing.

“You really did a number on me, you bastard,” I murmured, meeting my eyes again.

My phone rang, and I answered without looking. “Hello, Ceri speaking.”

“Hi, it’s me, Connor.”

I jerked, then swore as I nearly dropped the phone. “Jesus, sorry, you must think I’m spastic. Hi Connor. You caught me at a bad moment.”

“I guessed as much, from the reaction. Um… Thanks for the message; it made me smile.”

“Yeah, well, clearly I’m a retard over the phone,” I muttered. “Sorry, I’m just busy taking stock of my injuries.”

“They bad?”

I breathed out. “Yeah. Pretty bad. They bury better looking people every day.”

“They don’t bury people who are still breathing, except in certain extremely tragic cases… how’s the wrist and the head?” he added softly.

“Sore and more sore. How was rehearsal?”

“I could tell you but I’d end up swearing and likely not stop, so I shan’t tell you.”

“Hah, sounds like a lovely end to the day.”

“Oh, it was. However, on the plus side, I get to chat to you to chase it out of my mind.”

“Uh huh,” I drawled, turning to admire the abrasions on my shoulder blade. “Yeah, if chatting to a crippled Welsh crybaby who looks like she starves herself and is into self-harm is the highlight of your day then you’ve got issues of your own.”

“I don’t remember meeting a scrawny self-harming crybaby today; just a slender, hurt young woman who needed a friend.”

I took a breath. “Thank you for that, again. I mean it. You really didn’t have to.”

“You’d have never found a bus to get you home, and taxis are exorbitant. It was the least I could do.”

“The least you could have done was to do the London thing and not see me. You didn’t. You saw me, you helped me. You’re a very special type of person to give your time to a stranger like that.”

“My time is mine to give, and I gave it gladly.”

“White knight.”

“Guilty as charged. Ceri, listen… I can’t talk much longer. I’m at St Thomas and I have to go into the lifts. I’m probably going to lose reception pretty soon.”

“Why are you back there? Is something wrong? Are you OK, Connor?”

“No, I’m fine, it’s not me. I just need to say… goodbye to someone.”

“You sound so… sad… when you say that.”

“It’s a long story… listen, thanks for the call. It really made my evening. Are you going to be OK tonight? Is there someone to look after you?”

“No, my roommate is out, but I’ll be fine.”

“Sure?”

“Yeah. I’m going to lurk on the couch with my kindle. Chat later, I guess.”

“Sleep well then, Ceri. See you soon.”

I stared at the phone, wondering. Then I glanced up at my reflection. “Not your business,” I told myself. “You just met him.”

But still, I worried about him.

.:.

The shower water burned my skin, and I leaned my head against the cubicle wall, bracing myself with my good arm as I blinked back the burning in my eyes.

I ached, and the pain of my bruises combined with my loneliness and despair over my instrument.

I wished Bron hadn’t left. But I was a big girl, and I had to put on my big girl panties and deal with it. So I did the best job I could do at washing myself with my one hand, dealing with the pain in the best way I could – quiet, suppressed sobs. Once I’d calmed down I dried myself off as well as I could manage. I arranged some sort of tatty sling for my arm, and cooked a delicious meal of bread, more bread with a side of bread. I washed it and my sadness down with more wine, and curled up on the sofa. I phoned my mum, and cried again over being sore and alone and now without my music. As always, though, talking to her calmed me; and her promise to make a voodoo doll of the guy who’d knocked me over made me smile through my runny nose and tears. Afterwards, I felt calmer, and I tried to read while ITV ran as white noise in the background. But my mind kept returning to him.

I wondered what Connor was doing. I wondered who he was. I wondered what he did when he wasn’t playing hero for lost girls. He seemed gentle; I had met and dated my fair share of weirdos in my time and he didn’t seem to be one.

“Maybe he’s gay. That would be hilarious, wouldn’t it? Mad Welsh Bint Conceives Crush on Unattainable Man.” I shook my head at myself. “Get a grip, Ceridwen. Stop fixating on guys to fix you.”

Eventually I gave up any attempt to read and just lay back, thinking about him.

I wondered what impulse had driven him to sit with me. London breeds a hard kind of person; we drift past one another here; you may see the same person on your train every day for three years but never once will you say hello or reach out to ask them about themselves.

Something had made him reach out to me; some strange flight of fancy. Maybe he just had a personal need to help people, and I was his latest broken bird.

I snorted, amused at myself. “Drama queen,” I murmured. “Stop wallowing.”

My phone rang, and I reached for it without looking.

“Hello, Ceri speaking.”

“You have a lovely phone voice, has anyone ever told you that?”

“Connor,” I breathed. “Hullo, you’re a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting you to call again tonight.”

“I was planning to leave you in peace but something waved a paw in my conscience and I thought I’d better check on how you were, given that you’re home alone.”

“Hah, he has a conscience,” I said, unreasonably pleased.

His laughter made me grin. “Are you home?”

“Don’t tell me you’re standing outside in the cold.”

“Guilty as charged, I’m afraid. I’m hoping ice cream will win me entry.”

“I’m a cheap date,” I laughed. “Hang on, I need to hobble to the door.”

I tried to stop grinning, but I don’t think I was successful.

.:.

He brushed his hair back out of his face and smiled tiredly up at me as the hallway light lit him.

“Hi”, he said. “I come bearing gifts.”

“Somebody mentioned icecream,” I declared, as he climbed the three stairs to the door.

He lifted the Waitrose bag. “As promised.”

“Oh all right, I suppose you can come in.” I moved aside and let him squeeze past into the narrow hallway. “Follow the sound of the TV; I’ll get the door.”

“Where can I find bowls and spoons?” he asked as he loped into the flat.

“Spoons right of the sink, bowls right of the hob. If you don’t mind I’ll resume my position on the couch.”

“Knock yourself out; I’ll play waiter. How is the arm, Ceridwen?”

“Fucking sore if I move it or think about it, hence the excellent sling and red wine.”

“Mm. Well, this should hopefully help then.” Connor put a bowl containing healthy dose of vanilla icecream down in my lap, and handed me a spoon.

“How’d you know I liked vanilla?”

“Everybody likes vanilla,” he answered, as he watched me swear in frustration as the bowl continually shifted on my lap.

“Christ, I’m like an invalid.”

“You are the textbook definition of an invalid,” he murmured. “Come, I’ll help.”

“Um…”

“I know, I know, the weird guy you met today is now in your flat, feeding you. Yeah, lets take the strangeness of today as it comes and add some pragmatism on top of it to mask it, eh?”

I stared up at him.

“Time is a precious resource, trust me on this. You should spend as much of it as you can having fun.” He sighed. “And right now, fun means eating ice cream with me. So, do you want my help? Or would you rather watch me eat ice cream by myself.”

“You are never to tell anybody of this. I will kill you until you’re sorry if you do.”

“Cross my heart.”

The icecream was delicious, and Connor was the very definition of a gentleman. He even redid my awful sling, setting the length correctly so that my arm hung at a relaxed angle. And all the while he worked he talked of nothing of consequence, and I listened to it all, and watched him, and basked in his nearness and the strange lightness of breath it brought.

.:.

“And once again I find myself saying thank you,” I observed as I leaned against my front door.

Connor’s smile was white in the glow of the exterior light. “Again? For what?”

“For being such an extraordinarily kind man. For getting me home, and then for this, for now. I was on a first class express train straight into a night of loneliness and and self-pity, and you showed up like the Archangel Michael and dragged me out of it.”

“Kicking and screaming a bit, it should be noted, but still successfully, I guess,” he answered, eyes crinkling in amusement.

“This is a stupid question, and I feel a little bit like a schoolgirl for asking it… but am I going to see you again?” I stared down at him, strangely nervous, strangely cold, strangely hopeful.

“I would like that a lot,” he answered softly, after a short silence. “But I don’t want you to think I’m a serial white knight do-gooder, you know.”

“Uh huh. Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth.” I smiled, giddy.

“God’s own truth. I saw you there at St Thomas’, and something, I don’t know what, made me introduce myself. I don’t normally do that. Too wrapped up in my own head.”

“Aren’t we all. Well, whatever spirit of serendipity it was, thank you, Connor. You’ve taken the worst day of my life and made it one of my best.”

“I’ll take that,” he said, softly.

“Connor?”

“Ceri?”

“Come up here.”

He climbed up a step, then another.

“Close your eyes,” I whispered.

He complied, mouth curling into a small smile.

I leaned in to him, rested my cheek against his, wrapped my one good arm around him and held him to me. “You’re my guardian angel,” I breathed into his ear. Then I pulled back slightly, darted in, totally messed up the coquettish kiss I’d planned, gasped a flustered “Good night!” and closed the door, leaning back against it. I could feel myself blushing furiously and I cursed myself under my breath as I listened to his footsteps fading.

“You idiot,” I berated myself. “What a way to mess that up.”

My phone vibrated.

– You’re cute when you’re flustered. Goodnight Ceri –

“Arsehole,” I murmured, stupidly pleased.

.:.

“So did you shag him?”

“Bronwyn!” I protested, laughing. “I just met him.”

“That hasn’t stopped you in the past,” she observed around a mouthful of muesli.

“Ugh, for God’s sake, don’t talk with your mouth full,” I muttered.

She snorted, gesticulated with her spoon and waggled her head. Then she swallowed, theatrically.

“Are you done?” I asked.

“Almost,” she grinned. “So… are you going to see him again?”

“I hope so.”

“When?”

“He invited me out on Friday; some post-rehearsal social event.”

“You going to be well enough by then?”

“I’ll probably still be purple if that’s what you mean, but I feel a bit better today. Just sore and stiff.”

“Take it easy today, yeah?”

“No choice,” I muttered.

“You going to take your violin for repairs?”

“Nah, too sore. I’ll take it past Ballards on Friday and see what they say. Guess I’d better get the Vaseline ready.”

“I can get you a ward-size tub if you need,” Bron observed, deadpan.

“Thanks, I guess,” I answered, then stuck out my tongue at her.

Bron left before me, and I dallied away a minute or two before I picked up my handbag and slung it, wincing, over my shoulder. I’d chosen ski-pants and a mid-length skirt, with a soft jersey over a black cotton vest; all carefully selected so that I’d experience the minimum of discomfort from my bruises. It was a slightly warmer day, with no wind, and I was grateful for that.

The bus was quiet, for once. I sat, staring out the window, watching cyclists playing kamikaze chicken with pedestrians as we wound our way through the West End and from there into Barbican. I limped my way up to the office, and dealt with the horror and sympathy of the girls with what good grace I could muster. Ally and Sam made me tea and looked after me, and I flushed from the attention.

The morning seemed to pass by like glacial drift. But, like glaciers sometimes do, it suddenly jolted forward.

My phone beeped.

– How’s the wing? –

I snorted at Connor’s silliness, then, grinning slightly, replied.

– Somebody plucked my feathers out. –

I stared at my computer screen, internally counting the seconds as I waited. I had reached thirty one when my phone beeped again. I muted it, then snuck a glance.

– We’ll have to glue them back on then. –

– Have we got to tar and feathers already? –

– Witches are witches – came his response, and I smiled to myself. I liked his sense of humour; slightly dark like mine; quick like a trout in a stream. I let him stew a bit, then, unable to help myself, I picked up my phone again.

– I knew my warts gave me away –

– They are kind of a pretty big telltale 😉 – came his response, followed shortly by – Seriously, I hope that, despite being crippled, your day is shaping up alright –

– It is now 😉 –

I smiled to myself. “Much smoother,” I murmured. Then I tried to concentrate on work for a while while I waited for my lunch break.

.:.

“I thought I’d just phone you and save my fingers.”

He laughed. “That makes sense; you’re typing one handed after all.”

“Hardly in the usual sense of the phrase, but yes, I’m struggling through my day.”

“Now there’s an image.”

“Oh stop it, you filthy man.” I grinned to myself.

“Guilty as charged. So how are you feeling, Ceri?”

“Still really sore. Wrist is still fucked. My back and thighs, oh my god, you have no idea.”

He hissed in sympathy. “I hope the guy who tripped you has at least some twinge of conscience.”

“I hope he has haemorrhoids,” I cut in. “I hope his haemorrhoids have haemorrhoids and they marry and have incestuous haemorrhoid children.”

He laughed again, and despite myself I joined in.

“You’re a vengeful little thing,” he observed.

“Only when somebody crosses me. And I’m not that little,” I protested.

“Nah, you’re the perfect height.”

A spark; a little zing of electricity, and I shivered as the goosebumps crawled along my arms.

“How is your day going?” I asked by way of diversion.

“Shockingly, as do most Wednesdays here.”

“I never asked what you do.”

“Would you believe me if I told you I was a professional pirate, cruising the Thames looking for victims?”

“No.”

“Then I shan’t. I guess I’ll have to tell you my day job.”

“I thought your day job was picking up broken girls and fixing them, and selling them into slavery?”

“Nah, that’s just a hobby I have on the side,” he returned. “I’m collecting a set, and you were the last one I needed.”

“Uh huh.”

“Honestly, my work’s not that interesting. I’m a system administrator for a small clothing chain.”

“I can see why being a pirate would be more interesting.”

“Indeed,” he murmured.

“So, you’re a geek who sings in choirs. I guess I’ve heard of stranger things.”

“Guilty as charged.”

“Where are you based?” I asked.

“Near Old Street. You?”

“Near Barbican. So, not that far away from you.”

“Damn. If I’d known that I’d have abducted you for lunch.”

“Promises, promises,” I murmured. “I’m a terrible date.”

“I had a nice time last night, so that’s patently false.”

“You took advantage of me and fed me ice cream. The horror.”

“And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

I smiled. “Do you flirt with all your rescue cases like this, Connor?”

He was silent a moment. “Given that I have a sum total of one, that being you, I guess I have to say ‘yes’. Though I guess you have no call to believe me on that; London being what it is.”

“Mm. So why me?”

“Because you have the most heart-stoppingly beautiful smile of any woman I’ve ever met, when you choose to show it.”

It was my turn to pause.

“You have low standards,” I managed, eventually.

“Never. My standards are impeccable.” He sighed. “Ugh, damnit. Ceri, I’ve got to go. Stuff’s kicking off here and I can’t in good faith ignore it for any longer, as much as I want to keep talking to you.”

“Are you going to be anywhere in my neck of the woods later?”

“Town or South Bank?”

“The latter.”

“I can be.”

“I’ll be home.”

“Maybe I’ll see you there. Chat later, Ceri.”

“Have a good afternoon. Mwa. ” I mouthed, and hung up. Then I sat for a few breathless moments, feeling strangely warm, almost alive.

.:.

I struggled out of my work clothes and sling, and unclipped my severe grey bra, opting instead for a baby-blue floral-print Victoria’s Secret push-up. Then I struggled into on a tight cream cotton Lycra shirt and mid-lengh gym pants. My assets weren’t amazing but they were still solid B’s, and I knew I could augment their effectiveness in something tight that played to my petite build.

I snuck a glance at myself in the mirror and blessed my mum’s fast metabolism. I felt skinny but I had to admit that in tight clothes I still looked good, and that made me feel better about myself. I thought a moment, and raided Bron’s overly-dramatic home first aid kit for a wide crepe bandage which I wrapped tightly around my wrist, allowing me to leave my hated sling crumpled on the floor, out of the way.

I kicked my clothing and shoes under my bed to hide them, and stepped through to our small tv room come kitchenette and dimmed the lights. I was shamelessly slutting it up, and I knew it. It had been a long, long time since a man had touched me as gently as Connor had; it had been even longer since I had felt my own desire for a man so clearly, so unambiguously. Jason and our long, drawn out, bloody denouement had left me functionally asexual, not even noticing men except maybe in extreme cases. And as for self-pleasure… well, there were likely cobwebs down there by now.

Connor, now… oh god, he was something else. Unkempt and touselled but so, so delicious underneath the weather-beaten exterior. Something about him bypassed all my usual mental blocks and went straight to the core of me, flicking every switch and lighting every candle as it capered down.

I squeezed my legs together, bouncing one knee half in frustration, half out of nerves. “Careful, Ceri,” I cautioned myself. “Don’t go off the map. Dragons. Dragons and sea beasts out there.”

But it was no use. I pictured him; the dark stubble of several days softening his jaw, the ragged, un-ironed collar of the blue cotton shirt under his waxed cotton jacket; the glimmer of his smile in the dusk. And I hoped he’d not be long.

Time had other ideas though. ITV filled the background with white noise, and a Patrick O’Brien novel served as a moderate distraction against my urge to play with myself. As the evening turned into full night, though, I grew more and more nervous and more and more worried that Connor wouldn’t at least come to say hello and goodnight.

8:30pm came and went, and I ate some rye and cheddar and tried to take the edge off my nerves with a glass of nondescript red. 9:30pm followed, thumbing its nose at me in passing. Outside, groups of men and women passed, either going out or coming home.

I could almost feel the muscles of his arms around me if I closed my eyes.

I checked my phone, hoping for something, any contact. But silence was my sole companion.

I slumped back onto the couch, feeling deflated and morose, and pulled a fluffy blanket over myself to take the chill out of the air.

“He obviously had something important to do; that must be it.” I sighed, and picked up my kindle again, determined to at least not shame myself by moping over a missed connection.

.:.

My phone woke me, and I sat up, bleary eyed. I fumbled for it, and answered, my voice a sleepy croak. “Ceri, hello.”

“Hey. I wanted to apologise.”

“Connor?” I murmured. “Are you OK? I fell asleep waiting for you.”

“I’m so sorry, Ceri, I meant to come by earlier than this.”

“Earlier? Are you here?”

“Sitting on the wall across from your doorway; I wasn’t sure whether I should wake you or not.”

“No, I’m glad… I’m glad you did. Wait. Let me come let you in, it must be cold as a witch’s tit out there.”

“It’s not warm, no.”

“Hold on. I’m coming.” I stumbled to the front door, opened it, and watched him as he crossed the road and climbed the three worn steps up to me.

He looked drained. Almost without thinking I stood on tiptoes and wrapped my arm around his neck, pulling him against me. I felt the sigh he let out and felt the pressure of his arms around me, and melted in against him with my own sigh in return as he buried his face in my hair. Some uncountable time later I let go and stood aside, letting him in so that I could close the door on the chill air.

He hung his coat up, and hooked his scarf over it. His face was bleak.

“Connor? What’s wrong?” I reached out to touch his chest.

“Sorry, Ceri, I don’t mean to bring my own troubles to you, but it’s been a long night and I needed to end it with a friendly face and a tender voice.”

“You have that and more here,” I murmured as I took his hand and led him through to our couch. “Sit. Sit here. Can I get you something? Tea maybe?”

“Coffee would be great if you have?”

“Coming right up.” I watched him a moment as I limped to the kitchen counter. “Connor, talk to me?”

He ran his hands through his hair, sighing. “You have enough to deal with without the personal issues of a near-stranger, Ceri.”

“Hey.”

I waited till he met my eyes.

“You and I have a connection, mister,” I said, levelly. “You started it by being a gallant. That’s on you. So now you’re going to have to deal with it – now we’re joined by something. We’re not quite strangers any more. So don’t you dare try to turn down my sympathy or the offer of my time. God knows you’ve earned it from me with interest.”

I poured hot water into a mug, added some instant coffee and a little bit of milk and stirred it; when I turned back to face him he was still watching me. I flushed.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I said, softly.

“Sorry.” Followed by a quiet “Thanks,” as I set the coffee down in front of him.

“Hey. Talk to me. Tell me what it is. Girl trouble? Boy trouble?” I sat down next to him, not quite touching.

He took a deep, shuddering breath. I watched his hands shaking as he lifted the coffee cup.

“Connor? What’s wrong?”

“My sister is in St Thomas,” he breathed. “My baby sister. She was cycling to classes at UCL. A goods vehicle hit her.”

“Oh my god.”

He set the coffee down and leaned backwards, squinting up at the ceiling. “She’s comatose. Has been for several weeks. We’re not sure she’s going to wake up. And tonight they had to amputate her leg below the knee because of infection.”

“Oh Christ. Connor… I…”

“I needed to stay there until she was out of theater, and I knew she was going to live through the night at least.”

He turned his white face to me. “She was so quick. So nimble. She used to love running so much…”

I heard the break in his voice, and without thinking I leaned forward to wrap my arms around him, to hold him as he started, quietly, to cry. I held him as he shook and quaked; as he gasped, hoarsely, for breath, as he sobbed incoherently, soaking both of us with tears. I ached for him, hated the fact that I couldn’t help, that all I could do was hold him until, exhausted, he calmed, quietened, drained of the ability to cry any more.

I kissed the tears away from his cheeks, and hugged him as hard as I could with my one arm.

“Sorry,” he gulped. “Sorry.”

“Shh,” I breathed. “Shh, Connor. There’s no need.”

And then I stood, took his hand, led him to my room. Gently I helped him remove his shoes and shirt; gently I pulled the covers back so he could lie down. Gently I covered him. I quickly killed the lights and tv in the flat, returned to my room, closed my door, crawled in behind him and then just held him, never once speaking or intruding on his grief, just being there and letting the warmth of my body give him what comfort it could.

Somehow, sometime, both of us slept.

.:.

The lightest of touches woke me.

“Hey,” I murmured, sleepily.

“Hey.”

“Are you OK?”

“I am now.”

“Did you sleep enough?” I yawned.

“Better than I have in a while.”

“Mm. Good. I’m glad. What’s the time?”

“Quarter to six. I have to go home now if I’m going to have any hope of making work on time.”

“You can shower here. I can iron your shirt and pants while you do. Nobody will know you didn’t go home once I’m done.”

“Temptress.”

“Gives me a bit longer with you,” I murmured, sleepily.

He was silent a moment, and I felt myself flushing, embarrassed.

“You are a sweetheart.”

“Nah, I’m a harlot,” I squinted at him in the half-light. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had someone to fall asleep next to. I missed it and I don’t want it to end just yet.”

“It’s been a long time since someone was there to just hold me.”

“I will hold you any time you need me to,” I whispered. I made a small noise as he leaned in to place a kiss on my brow. His eyes were dark and unreadable, but he stroked my cheek gently and I turned my face into the palm of his hand.

“I think I’ll take you up on that shower.”

“Blue door next to this one,” I said softly. “Keep an eye out for my feral roommate, she may be home. There’s a clean towel hanging on the rail. Watch out, it goes from cold to hot in a very small change on tap. It’s a piece of shit shower.”

“It’s hot and it’s wet. That’s good enough for me ,” he said, as he rolled out of bed.

I watched him as he stretched; admiring the shape of his back in the half-glow from the streetlights outside. Then I felt a jolt of excitement take me as he undid his belt and dropped his pants, leaving only his tight cotton briefs to preserve his modesty. He turned to look down at me. “Where can I put my trousers?”

“Leave them,” I murmured. “I’ll pick them up and go iron them for you.”

“You’re an angel, Ceri.”

“Nope, that’s you, remember. Uh, Connor?” I added.

“Yeah?” he answered, from the doorway.

“Nice bum,” I leered.

“Hah.” He grinned and went to shower.

I took a breath, then another. Then I crawled out from under the duvet, shivering slightly as I slipped my feet into my slippers.

I listened to the sound of the shower as I broke out our iron and tatty ironing board. I quietly put a crease into the pants, then set them aside and went to work on sorting out his shirt. And as I ironed his clothes, I fought the urge to go watch him, to go climb into the shower with him.

Instead, I bit my lip, squeezed my thighs against each other, and carried on.

I thought about the water that would be running down over his shoulders.

I bit my lip harder.

I thought about the shape of his legs; the fine hair that I’d seen highlighted by the passage light. The lean, wiry muscles. The bulge; the suspicious bulge that looked almost like a partially erect cock.

I moaned softly. I could feel the ache in my belly, and I knew that I’d have to do something about it if I wanted any chance of being productive at work today. So I counted to fifty as I ironed his shirt, pressed my crotch against an angle of the ironing board, and somehow managed to not burn his clothes.

.:.

I tugged his collar straight and wrapped his scarf around his neck. It was bitterly cold outside, and I wished he had something warmer to wear. His eyes crinkled as he smiled down at me.

“Stop that,” I murmured. “You’re making me lose my concentration.”

“I knew there was a soft thing hiding under the spines.”

“Mm. You’ve seen through my defenses. Alas.”

“You’re lovely. Don’t be hard. At least, not to me. You are so, so much nicer soft.”

I squinted up at him. “I can’t make any promises.”

He reached out and touched my face gently, then stepped into me. I gave way, but was brought up short by the passage wall. Connor stepped into me again, and my heart hammered in my chest as I stared at him; as I felt the gentle pressure of his body against me. I reached up, crooked my arm behind his neck, and pulled against him, hard, letting him feel my body. Both of us made a sound; not English, not intelligible – that quiet moan of presence, of immediacy, of need. I could feel him against me, and I ached for him. His lips were warm and soft, and he left me weak at the knees as he released me.

“You are a wicked, wicked man,” I panted as I leaned my head against him.

“I do not apologies.”

“Don’t. Don’t ever.”

“Tell me if I go to far.”

“I will. You haven’t.” I paused, took a breath. “You need to go to work, now. Go, now.”

“I don’t want to,” he murmured, pressing himself to me.

I kissed him again, a quick one, and stepped to the side and then out of range, flushing furiously. “You have to. Get going. Be safe. Come visit tonight.”

“Or else?”

“Or else face the wrath of Ceridwen, before whom even the Gods tread lightly.”

.:.

His laughter warmed me for long after he had left, and the memory of the taste of his lips and the feel of him against me drove me back to my room. I closed my door, dug furiously into my dresser, way into the back of my underwear, and retrieved my dildo. I didn’t even bother to strip; I just slid my gym pants down my legs, pulled my panties aside and pushed my dildo into me, not even bothering to slick it with saliva or lube first. I needed to be filled in a way I hadn’t felt for months; the immediacy of my need overwhelmed me.

“Oh god,” I moaned as I penetrated myself. “Oh fuck… ungh… fuck…”

I knelt gingerly on my bed, then slumped forward, heedless now of my aching body, conscious only of the feeling of the toy in me and of the pressure on my breasts and face as I leaned on my bedspread. I drove the ridges of my toy in and out of my aching body, muffling my quiet moaning in my pillow. I could feel the craving in me, the need for him, for Connor, hard, thrusting between my legs, his flat stomach against mine, against my thighs, his cock in my pussy, in my mouth, in my pussy again… I felt a spasm and arched, groaning, forcing my dildo deep into myself, spreading my tight, aching vagina over it, distending over the base, feeling the cool silicone of the fake scrotum nestling against the hood of my clit.

I hunched down on it, then rose, then slid down again, impaling myself with a grunt. Again, and again, and again I lifted and pushed back. But I needed it deeper, and I rose to my knees and sat back, toy buried deep in my dripping pussy, and squirmed my hips back and forth over it, feeling myself building, feeling my climax bearing down on me like a tidal wave.

“Uh… uh… fucking… goddamn… uh… ” and from there, a wordless wail, my bandaged left hand clamped over my mouth in case our neighbors heard as my orgasm took me, dragged me by the scruff of my neck and flung me face-first into a crashing set of contractions. I collapsed forward, sobbing for breath, spasming against the solid rod in me, wishing that it was Connor, wishing he had just filled my pussy with his hot, sticky come.

Convulsion followed convulsion, and I fell onto my side, shivering uncontrollably as my body let me know in no uncertain terms that I had been neglecting it. Eventually, I was able to regain my breath, and slowly pulled the dildo out of me, moaning again as the wide, flared head popped out of me.

I lay, then, for a while, not willing to abandon the state of glorious lethargy that took me. I felt warm, and my immediate need faded slowly into the background. Eventually, however, I stirred, cleaned my toy with a hygiene wipe and packed it away.

I had to start my day, and I couldn’t delay any longer.

.:.

“Did you get to the office OK?” His voice, delicious, smooth like cream on velvet. I felt it deep in my chest.

“Yeah, eventually,” I breathed as I stirred my tea, phone clamped to my ear by my shoulder.

“You went back to bed, didn’t you?”

“It was warm. And…”

“And?”

“And it still smelled of you.”

“And that’s a good thing?”

“It’s the best thing.”

“You’re a decisive little thing.”

“I’m not little. You may be tall but I’m not tiny. Just scrawny.”

“Mm. You’re not scrawny, and I like your height. It’s a lovely height. A perfectly kissable height. And you’re delightful in Lycra…”

“Connor, stop flirting with me at work.”

“Why?”

“Because,” I whispered. “Because you’re very distracting. And I have to concentrate here.”

“Good,” he laughed. “I’m glad I distract you.”

“I suppose I’d be pushing my luck to ask whether I’ll see you tonight or not.”

“I need to go to St Thomas.” His voice changed, became softer, and I sighed, sorry I’d popped the bubble.

“I could come with you…” I left the sentence hanging, half statement, half question.

“I’d rather come see you after if that’s OK, Ceri? I don’t… I don’t want you to see me how I am there.”

“I could wait downstairs. I’d be there for you when you were done, and I wouldn’t intrude.”

“There’s not much to do there.”

“I’d be waiting for you. That would be more than enough for me.”

He was quiet a moment.

“Connor?”

“I’ll be there from about six thirty onwards, Ceri. Where shall I meet you?”

“The coffee shop.”

“Ceri?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you. You’re an angel. You have no idea how much it helps to know you’ll be there.”

“See you later. I won’t say I’m looking forward to it, Connor, but I’m looking forward to hugging you.”

“Likewise, Ceri.”

“Mwa. Go to work. Mwa.”

I hung up and took my tea back to my desk, hoping the day wouldn’t drag.

.:.

I sat, watching the people in the St Thomas entrance foyer. They were a disparate bunch; people from all walks of life – rich and poor, normal and touched, all united by this place, this gate of Tartarus. Many looked tired. Some sat, eyes vacant, or cried quietly either to themselves or with family. Others walked briskly through in the blue scrubs of nurses or green of ambulance staff. People passed in and out, carrying balloons, plastic packets of toys or food. Sometimes flowers, sometimes not.

I decided I didn’t like hospitals one little bit, and I almost regretted coming here.

Then I saw him and my regrets blew away like leaves. I stood, shouldered my handbag, and walked out to meet him. His hug was gentle, but he held me a long time, and I for one was content to listen to the gentle thump of his heart as I pressed my cheek to his chest.

“You OK?” I breathed after a while.

“Almost,” came his equally quiet response.

“Is your sister OK?”

“Gemma is still alive, for what that’s worth. The surgeon is cautiously optimistic. She’s responding to antibiotics now and the surgery was successful… I just wish it hadn’t cost her her leg is all.”

“Is there any sign she’s improving other than that?”

“No. She’s still not there. Limited neurological activity. No change.”

I squeezed him to me, ignoring the pain of my bruises, trying to give him what comfort I could.

“Come,” he said. “Lets get out of here. I hate this place. Too many open wounds.”

We made our way through the hospital grounds and from there to the Jubilee walkway,where we turned west towards Lambeth. I held Connor’s hand and tried to match stride with him, and after a brief moment he shortened his to a pace comfortable for me.

“Sorry,” he said. “I forget sometimes that I lope.”

“You’re quick,” I agreed. “I need to scurry to keep up.”

He smiled. “I see you more as a sprinter than a scurrier. You’re too lithe to scurry. You’re more… feline. Graceful. A panther, maybe, with your dark hair and those eyes of yours.”

“Jaguar. I love them.”

“Mm, beautiful cats. But not exactly native to Wales either.”

“They are in my head. They guard the dragons,” I added.

He shook his head, amused, and we walked slowly on, watching the lights of the piers and riverboats reflecting in the chop on the Thames.

“Do you ever get the feeling that things happen for a reason?” he asked, after a while.

“Sometimes.”

“I feel like I was meant to meet you.”

“I hope that whatever force set you on me didn’t arrange for my fall purely to give you an in.”

“Ditto. I’d never want you hurt on my behalf.”

I moved in, my hip against his as we walked. We watched another couple kissing, and he squeezed my hand.

“Do you feel rushed?” I asked, after more silence.

“Rushed?”

“By this. By me. I like you. I really, really, like you,” I added breathlessly.

He stopped, and I turned to face him.

“Not rushed, no,” he said after a while. “It’s weird… but… the first word that I can think of is safe. Like I’m home.” He pulled me to him and lifted my chin, staring down at me. “But that doesn’t mean I want to rush,” he added. “I know you but don’t know you at the same time. I want to learn who you are. In case it’s not obvious, I really, really like you too, you know.”

“That’s comforting to hear,” I murmured, giddy.

He let me go, and we walked on a short distance until we found a sheltered spot to lean on the rail and watch the tide flowing under Lambeth Bridge.

“Can you make up your mind about someone in two days?” I mused.

He frowned. “We make decisions about people in two seconds. Two days seems an eternity by comparison.”

“Yet you admit you hardly know me.”

He smiled, wistful. “You held me when I was crying, and I felt safe enough to cry in front of you.” He glanced away, watching a boat as it slipped downstream with the ebb. “That tells me a lot about you, and about me.”

“I’m a hotheaded, foulmouthed harridan.”

“Nonsense. You’re a healthy, opinionated woman. A beautiful, healthy, opinionated, sexy woman.”

“Sexy?”

“Incredibly. You make my head spin. You make it impossible for me to think. I’d love the chance to see you in last night’s outfit again,” he added. “I’m sorry I wasn’t more appreciative at the time.”

“Mm.” I leaned in against him, enjoying the warmth of him, the immediacy of him. “I’m glad.”

“I don’t do this, Ceri.”

“Do what?”

“Fling myself off the cliff into the unknown like this. Something about you makes me take that risk.”

“I got out of a bad relationship, Connor,” I whispered. “A really bad breakup. I was… I am, still, pretty fucked up about it. I…” I paused, swallowed, tucked my head back into his chest. “This… this is the first time I feel like I can breathe. These two days since I’ve met you. It’s the first time I feel like I can just take a breath, that there’s a chance that I’m going to come through this… that I’m going to be OK.”

“You’re crying.” He wrapped his arms around me and held me as I shuddered.

“As I said, still pretty fucked up. Sorry,” I sniffed. “Sorry, but I… I needed to warn you. That I’m damaged goods. Before I can’t…”

“You have nothing to be sorry about. You don’t have to apologise for feeling, and I never want you to hide anything from me. And the only damage you have is physical and that is going to heal and you’re going to be perfectly OK.”

“Promise?”

“Promise,” he said, firmly.

We stood there, listening to the gulls. Then I sighed.

“Connor?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m cold. And hungry. Please… lets go home.”

“Mine is not far. Come with me.”

.:.

We sat awkwardly on the leather couch and ate Waitrose butternut soup out of mismatched bowls balanced on our knees. I snuck glances at him between spoonfuls, but neither of us said anything, but when we were done I leaned back into a corner of the couch and after a moment he gently lifted my legs and rested them across his lap.

“Thank you,” I said. “For the food. And for getting me out of the cold. I like your flat.”

“It belongs to my parents; I rent it from them. But yeah, it’s nice. Convenient.”

“Very convenient, and I like that you’re close to me.”

He rested a hand on my knee. “Closer now,” he grinned.

“I noticed…” I observed, amused. “Luckily that’s probably the one part of me that’s not sore, so good guess on your part.”

“I saw you favoured the other one.”

“Mm. Cute, gorgeous and observant.”

“Penny for your thoughts?” I asked, after we’d stared at one another for a short while.

“Daydreams. Wondering what I did right to wind up managing to lure you home with me.”

“You’re sweet and genuine. Two rarities in this city. And you saved my life.”

“Hardly.”

“OK, well, you rescued me regardless. And you’re deliciously tall and deliciously tatty. I could stare at you all day… Connor, are you blushing?”

“Yes.” he admitted.

I laughed, and he joined in after a moment. “Sorry… but that’s really cute. You have a lovely blush. Don’t be embarrassed by it. And those dimples are to die for.”

“Stop it,” he murmured, shifting.

“No,” I grinned at him, and he laughed again.

“So,” I said, after a moment.

“So.”

I smiled at him, my head braced against the backrest. “You’re uncharacteristically quiet. Does having me here bug you?”

“Just… I guess I just don’t want to mess up by saying something ill-advised or doing something silly.”

“You’d have to do something spectacularly bad to do that, Connor.”

He turned slightly to face me.

“I never underestimate my ability to fuck things up,” he observed. “It’s my party trick.”

“Mm. Well. Take it from me, you’ve got a lot of credit to burn through, and I’d give you the benefit of the doubt any day of the year. So relax. Enjoy… well, whatever this is.”

“How is your wrist?” he murmured after a while.

“Sore. Throbbing. Like my back, shoulders, knee, ribs…”

“Ugh.”

I pulled up a sleeve of my jersey to display the bruising. “See what I mean?”

“Does the rest of you look like that?”

“Not all of me, but enough. I’ve got a gash in my thigh, cuts on this leg, torn skin on my right clavicle… I fell halfway down the staircase.”

“Christ on a bike. I’m surprised you’re still walking.”

“So was the orderly who patched me up.”

He reached out, gently touching a finger to my arm, tracing the curve of my muscle. I shivered.

“Does that hurt?” he asked, gently.

“Not… exactly.”

“How about now?” he asked, touching my shoulder.

“Nuh uh.”

He shifted closer, and trailed his fingers up along my shoulder blade.

“Connor,” I whimpered.

“Yeah?”

He twined his fingers into the soft hair on the nape of my neck.

“Don’t… don’t go somewhere you can’t go fully committed. Don’t go here blindly. I am broken, broken, broken. I can’t do light, I can’t do fleeting, and if you don’t stop now I am going to fall for you so hard I will never be able to come up for air again if you leave me.”

He leaned in to me, gathered me gently, pulled me to him so that my cheek nestled in the crook of his neck.

“I do nothing that could hurt people I care about on a whim… and at the top of that list of people I care about is you,” he said, low and gentle.

“That was a quick promotion up the list…”

“I make up my mind quickly on important things. Like whether I should let the prettiest girl I’ve ever met slip through my fingers without at least trying to catch her interest.”

“Oh, I could tell you a thing or two about that.”

“Tell me.”

“No. No, words… words aren’t good enough,” I whispered. “Words twist, their meaning changes. Words can be taken back.”

I felt him shift out from under me.

“Where are you going?” I complained.

“We’re going somewhere better than this.”

“What do you mean?”

Then I gasped as he picked me up seemingly effortlessly in his arms.

“Ceri. Promise me you’ll tell me if I make you uncomfortable in any way whatsoever.”

I stared into his eyes. “Where are we going?”

“Next door. To bed. So I can hold you properly.”

I reached up, hooked my arm behind his neck, and pulled myself closer. “Abduct me. Take me away to your pirate fortress. But I warn you, Ceridwen expects delicious snuggles.”

“Your wish is my command.”

.:.

His bed was a firm double, and the duvet gave us a warm nest to hide from the chill air. Soft music welled through the sound system next door, largely classical choral works for male voices that, though muffled, rang out clear as bells in a Gloria in Excelsis.

I lay against him, head pillowed on his arm, languid, simply breathing and enjoying the sensation of his fingertips along my spine. I could feel the gentle rise and fall of his chest as a slight increase and decrease in pressure against my right breast. I was somewhere between asleep and aroused, and the tension between the two states was delicious.

“I could get used to this,” he murmured.

“Mm?”

“Having you in my arms, against me.”

“You do unspeakably good things to me,” I sighed. “I love being with you like this. The world fades away. It’s nice to be able to escape from it.”

“It pays you back for holding me the way you did last night.”

“Mm. It’s better to give than to receive, but in this case, receiving is delectable.”

I felt more than heard his soft laughter, and I smiled to myself as he turned to kiss my forehead.

“I was right, you are soft under the barbs and spines.”

“Soft as putty in your fingers, and yours alone.”

“Mm. Malleable.”

“Maybe,” I breathed. “Certainly easily manipulated.” I squeezed my legs together, loving the warmth in my belly. “I never want to leave.”

“I don’t want tonight to end,” he agreed. “It is a bright shining ray of light in my otherwise sad, grey existence.”

“You are neither sad nor grey. Your hair is bronze, your soul is silver, and I bet your singing voice is golden.”

“I wish.”

I bit him gently. “Don’t demean yourself. Your speaking voice does all sorts of things to me, and something tells me you’re something special when you sing. I’d love to hear it,” I added softly. “A good man’s tenor voice is like the music that started the Universe. Girls are too shrill unless they’re a really smokey alto. Tenors… mm, that is all…”

“I almost forgot you were a musician. You were already too perfect for words.”

“You, Connor, are an inveterate flirt.”

“Pot, meet kettle,” he retorted.

“Nah. I don’t flirt. I devour. Rawr.”

“Oh, really?”

I wriggled slightly, then snorted. “I’d show you if I weren’t so goddamn sore.”

“Speaking of… I have some pretty good muscle and bruise salve. I play hockey,” he added defensively, as I gave him a dubious glance.

“You want to cream me up,” I said, deadpan.

“Uh…”

I laughed, throaty and deep. “God, Connor, that expression. I wish I could have photographed it. It was priceless.”

He grinned ruefully. “I didn’t really know how to respond. My instinct was to retort with some sort of double entendre… but I’m feeling my way here.”

“Connor.”

“Yeah?”

I took his hand, placed it gently between my breasts, over my heart, amused and touched by the quick breath he took. “Be yourself. Always, always be you. It’s you that I’m falling for. Changing that is the only way you’re going to mess this up. Be you. Just you.”

He swallowed, and nodded.

“You could have just asked me to take my top off, you know,” I added, grinning.

“And would you have?”

“For you… after tonight? God, yes. I’d flaunt myself for you shamelessly, like the hussy I am. In fact…” I rolled away from him, and reached for the hem of my jersey, wincing. My shoulder twinged, and I hissed for breath. “Can’t get this fucking thing off,” I moaned.

“Do you…”

“Yes. Please, but gently. I’m sore and it hurts to move my arms like this.”

He was gentle, slow, and so tender, and the little hiss of appreciation he let out as my jersey came free made the brief discomfort worthwhile.

“Nice bra,” he murmured, trying for nonchalance.

“Thanks. I like it. It fits nicely and gives me cleavage I don’t have.”

“Well, take it from me, it’s doing a fantastic job.”

“So, where’s this mythical muscle salve? Or was that just a bluff?”

He sighed theatrically, clambered out of bed, and dug around in his chest of drawers. Then he waved a tube of Reparil Gel at me.

“Let me see if I can make you feel a bit better. This stuff works a charm on my bruises, hopefully it will do the same for you.”

“Connor?” I said, rising to my knees.

“Yeah?”

I unclipped my bra, dropped it to one side, and, smiling, gave him a few seconds to appreciate my bared breasts. Then, wincing, I lay down on my stomach. “Be gentle,” I whispered, “and I’ll let you see me again.”

.:.

His hands brushed my back like the kisses of butterflies. He didn’t press, didn’t massage, just very gently spread the gel over my shoulder blades and rib cage. He behaved himself impeccably, not straying even when I arched slightly to try to tease his fingers closer to the sides of my breasts. Frustration and need ramped up in me as the minutes passed; I listened to his deep, regular breaths and fantasised shamelessly about him yanking up my skirt, pulling aside my pantihose and entering me, taking me as his own, forcing himself on me, into me.

I could feel the heat in me, and I knew that I was soaking wet – I was rapidly approaching the point where he could do anything he wanted to me and I would simply come and come again, most likely screaming.

“You are absolutely beautiful, you know,” he observed, matter of fact. “Slender, fair-skinned, green eyes, black hair. It’s like you’re one of the pagan goddesses brought to life.”

“You’re deranged,” I shifted my hips, enjoying the pressure on my belly as he gently rubbed down to the small of my back. “Three seconds of boobs and you’re consumed with desire.”

“Your breasts are spectacular. Three seconds of them is against the Geneva conventions.”

“Spectacular?”

“Unbelievable. I’d need to see them again to believe them. At the moment they’re like fairy gold. Things glimpsed once.”

I laughed, and gingerly reached up to brush a strand of hair away from my face. I’ve always wished they were bigger.”

“No. Definitely not, they’re marvelous just the way they are.”

“I’m admitting secrets I shouldn’t, but I’m really glad you like them.”

“How glad?” he breathed into my ear.

I whimpered and wriggled slightly. “Consumingly,” I managed.

“I’m glad too then,” he murmured, planting a soft kiss in the small of my back.

“Connor,” I moaned. “Connor, you’re killing me.”

“Don’t look to me for sympathy,” he answered softly. “I’ve been dying since this morning when I woke up next to you,”

“Were you… hard?”

“Very. Exceptionally. Those gym shorts of yours should be illegal. And I’ve been consumed by them… by you… all day. By the need to be close to you again, to touch you, hold you…”

“Taste me,” I moaned.

“Among other things,” he breathed into my ear again.

“I love this,” I whispered. “I love that I feel so natural, so open with you. I don’t have to be ashamed of being hot-blooded. I don’t have to be ashamed of saying that I’m aching for you. That you’ve got me wetter than I ever remember being.”

“Why should you ever feel ashamed for that? It’s a massive compliment.”

“Some men find it threatening.”

“Some men are idiots.”

“True. Connor?”

“Ceri?”

“Help me roll over. You’ve earned a reward.”

“Touching you like this is enough for me… for now.”

“But not for me. Help me roll over.”

“Are you sure?”

“Connor. Don’t argue with me now. Help.”

He gently supported my shoulder as I levered myself onto my side, and I grinned up at him as I heard the shuddering breath he took as he saw me again.

“God, Ceri, this is torture.”

I rolled slowly onto my back, baring my breasts to him. “Is it?” I breathed, as I trailed a fingertip over myself. “Torture? Or just temptation?”

“Rapture, maybe. With a healthy dose of fear.”

“Why fear?”

“Because I’m scared I’ll wake up from this dream.”

“Connor.”

“Uh huh.”

“Come here.”

He moved in, leaned over me, tried gallantly not to look at my breasts, but failed miserably.

I reached up, tangling the fingers of my right hand in his hair.

I pulled him down to me.

I kissed him.

.:.

How do you describe the best kiss of your life? The fire it lights in you? The way your heart kicks into overdrive, the way your senses seem to expand? The faintness and shortness of breath that follows? I can’t. All I can describe is the feelings.

I could taste the sweat on his lips. I could feel the stubble along his chin.

He was hard. Harder. I was grinding against him, making him mine while making myself so utterly his that I seemed to pass out from my body and go elsewhere for a heartbeat.

“Ceri,” he gasped, breaking for breath.

“Kiss my breasts,” I begged. “I’m burning for you. I have been for over a day. I need your lips on me, Connor, need it, please, I’m begging you…”

His teeth on my nipples. Oh my god. Oh my god. And the soft sounds that he made as he teased, licked, tongued me. The dance of his fingertips on and around my breasts; the heat of his breath on my skin. The spasm that locked my back in an arch, head thrown back as I moaned his name. The rough callouses on his palms as he gently pinched me between thumb and ring finger. The rigid bar of his penis, pushing into my hip. The hot, aching slickness of my pussy as I jammed a hand down under my skirt to touch myself. The spasm that took me again as I penetrated myself.

And the way he forced himself against me, groaning, as I slipped my slick finger between his lips so he could taste what he’d done to me.

Without words, without prompting, he gathered me to him. I could feel the hard rod of him against me, throbbing as he ground on me, and the last of my reserve burned away in the blowtorch of my need to come. I forced my hand down under my clothes again, and frantically, almost spastic, I pushed into myself and drove my fingers in and out of my wet, aching, ready slit. I was whimpering for breath, writhing spasmodically against him; and in a few short panting breaths I built, tensed, and came, crying, bucking hard, conscious even in my utterly deranged state of the hand he’d cupped over mine between my legs, the pressure he added, the feel of his skin against me.

.:.

“Fuck me,” I whimpered into his chest as he held me. “Fuck me, that was intense. Oh god, Connor, that was special.”

“You have no idea,” he breathed. “That was possibly the hottest, kinkiest thing I’ve ever experienced. My god, woman, you drive me wild.”

“Did you enjoy the show?” I panted.

“I loved it. Loved it. Especially the closing act. Ceri, your body is perfect. Oh my god, so perfect.”

“I loved having your hand on my lips, Connor. Loved it. And would love it now too. You can have me, have anything of me, right now. I’m yours. Yours to have.”

“No,” he breathed. “No, not yet. Not yet.”

“Why?” I protested. “Why not?”

“Because I’m so wired up right now I’ll last two seconds in you. I won’t even get in you. I’ll come all over you the moment I touch you.” I laughed. “You think I’ll last any longer? Connor, you could touch my lips once and I’d forget my own name.”

“I want to more than anything, Ceri. More than anything. But I want… I want to be in you for hours, not seconds.”

“You don’t have to use your cock…” I breathed.

“You want…”

“I don’t care what you do,” I whimpered. “I don’t care, I don’t care, a million times I don’t care. I need it, I need you, I need to come hard for you right now because I am dying, dying for you in me. Do me, I don’t care how. Make me come. Make me yours. Make me scream for you, Connor, make me…”

I felt him shifting, and then felt his fingers on the waistband of my skirt. I lifted my bum, and in one quick fluid movement he’d pulled skirt and pantihose down and off my body.

“God,” he breathed.

“Panties too,” I moaned. “I want to be naked for you.”

He obliged me, gently, and the awed “Fuck” he let out as he pulled them clear made me laugh.

“I’m glad you approve,” I whimpered. “Glad. So glad. Now put me out of my miseraaaaugh.”

His fingertip sent jolts through me as he slipped it into me, and the second made me cry out and claw at the bedsheets. Connor gently stroked them in and out, along my slit, parting my labia and teasing slickly around my engorged, aching clit. I wailed, belly spasming, legs aching as I lifted myself, ground myself against his digits.

“Connor… Connor… oh god, oh god,’ I panted. I spread my legs further, moaning at the pain that lanced through me but not caring, wanting him in me. “Please… in… in,” I begged, “Don’t… tease me… like…this…”

He took me at my word, and I arched backwards, mouth agape, as he slipped his two fingers into me. He crooked them over, pressing on the wall of my pussy, and I clawed at his hand as I cried out. I felt him shifting, I felt him move my hand, I drew breath to protest, and then I froze, locked in place, as I felt his tongue on me.

“Oh… god…” I wailed.

He was slow. He was languid. He concentrated on the nub of nerves at the base of my clit with the utter tip of his tongue, and the warmth of his breath flowing over my lips and crotch was exquisite. I whimpered, moaned as he stroked his fingers in and out of me in time with my own panting breaths. I vaguely heard the groan he gave as I tangled my fingers in his hair, holding him to me, grinding on him. I burned. I ached, my pussy cramping with need for more, dying a little bit in side as my orgasm built slower than a life age of the world. Every few breaths he teased a fingertip in and out of me, or spread his fingers in me to stretch my lips and entrance on him, and it made me buck, cry, almost out of control.

“Connor… please… please… fuck me…”

“No.”

“Please… put… your cock…”

“No.”

“I’m…begging…” I cried out, feeling myself spasm.

He ignored me, kept the slow rhythm of his tongue and the pressure of his fingers deep in me, heedless of my wailing entreaties.

I was close. I was so close. And he knew it. He knew he had me.

“Connor… oh god… oh god… oh fuck… Connor… don’t… stop… please… I’m gonna…I’m gonna…”

I felt him take my clit between his lips.

I felt him suck on me and press his digits hard into me. I felt his knuckles against my labia.

I felt the world flow away and the walls of the room close in on me as I came.

I’m pretty sure I screamed.

.:.

Aftershocks. Aftershocks, a fair amount of pain, and the sensation of his fingers in my still-spasming pussy as I slowly came back to myself.

Connor smiled down at me, looking insufferably pleased with himself.

“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up,” I panted. “Holy mother of god, what you just did to me must be illegal.”

“Are you OK?”

“No,” I whimpered. “No, I’ll likely never walk again. I’ve turned to putty.” I cried out as he slipped his fingers out of me, then rolled into him and clung to him as I shuddered.

“You are amazing,” he breathed.

I pulled him down to me and kissed him, loving the taste of me on his lips. I ground myself against him, wriggling, feeling the panting breaths we both drew. Then I released him, and let him gather me into his arms again.

“Oh my god,” I whispered into his neck. “Oh my god, I’ve never had it that good.”

“You’re amazing for my ego.”

“You’re great for my libido and my pussy loves you. Get your shirt off. I’m naked, you should be too.” I started undoing the buttons of his shirt, then got distracted by his chest. He shivered; took a quick breath as I slowly ran my fingers down his sternum.

“Shirt off,” I demanded, and he complied, wriggling out of it and letting it crumple onto the floor. I rolled into him, groaning as I felt his chest hair against my tingling nipples. I kissed him, and kissed him again. Then, grinning, I trailed my hand downwards. Connor’s own breath caught in his throat as I stroked my index finger along the hard bulge of his cock. He lifted a knee, I fumbled at his zipper, and he groaned as I managed to get my hands into his pants. I squeezed him gently, loving the hard heat of him, then withdrew my hand and stared up at him.

“Strip for me. I want you nude here beside me.”

“Are you sure?”

“Connor,” I murmured, nothing more, and with a small smile he undid his belt and, with my giggling help, slipped his pants and underwear down and off. The muffled clink as his belt hit the floor made me giggle again.

“Sorry,” I whispered. “I feel like a naughty catholic schoolgirl.”

“Mm. My darkest fantasies, answered,” he deadpanned. I laughed, then reached down to cup him, enjoying the way he hissed for breath as I squeezed and stroked his shaft. He felt amazing. Perfect. Hard. I needed him.

I lifted my leg and let it rest on him, his cock throbbing against my inner thigh.

“Ceri,” he breathed.

“Yeah?”

“I want you, more than anything.”

“Describe what you want to do,” I whimpered, grinding against him, pushing myself closer to him.

“I want…”

“Tell me.”

“I want to pull you onto me. I want to nestle myself against you. I want you so wet, so aching, that I can push into you and bottom out in one stroke. I want to make you come as I enter you, and I want you to come so hard you forget everything else but being here with me.”

“I already am that wet and aching, and I forgot everything else the firs time you touched me,” I moaned. “Connor… don’t you get it? I’ve leaped. I’ve fallen. I’m yours. Totally, utterly, irreversibly yours. You can do what you want to me. Whatever you want.”

“Will you let me make love to you?”

I didn’t bother to answer. I just leaned into him, bit his neck, and from there stretched upwards so I could kiss along his jaw to his mouth. He groaned, pulled me against him, and I levered myself up and onto him. Almost without thinking, I straddled him, his cock nestled between my lips, his heat hot against me and my aching, soaked lips on him.

I moaned as he shifted, sliding his rod along me.

“Ceri,” he groaned, “Ceri, you’re making it so hard to be good.”

“I don’t want good,” I cried out, frustrated. “Stop being a fucking white knight, Connor! I’m wet, I’m horny, I’m aching and I want your fucking cock in me!”

“Last… chance…” he gasped.

“I don’t want a last chance, I want you…” I whispered, as I took control.

I shifted forward, sliding along his hard shaft. His head nestled into the slick vee of my lips; I reached down, grabbed him, pushed his head into my slit and then arched my back in ecstasy, unintelligible, as he surrendered to the inevitability of being with me, lifted his hips, and, groaning, entered me.

.:.

I wish it was possible to record memories, or events, to replay later. I wish I could keep forever fresh the sensation of Connor’s penis slipping into me, parting me, filling me so perfectly that I slumped forward, moaning, thrashing as his balls pressed against me.

He held me, held me tight against him, piercing me, pressing against me, letting me whimper, squirm, and slowly catch breath on his chest. Then he kissed me, and as he kissed me he slipped back and thrust into me, holding me, muffling the incoherent sounds that I seemed to utter without any capacity to stop them. Every thrust he gave felt like it turned me inside out; I whimpered into his chest, eyes squeezed shut in delight at the feel of him in me; so hard, so deep, girth enough to stretch me without hurting me. His hands, squeezing the cheeks of my bum and rising from there to cup my hips as he forced me down onto him, burying himself as deeply into me as he possibly could.

The ridges of his cock slipped in and out of the tight ring of my entrance; the heat of his trunk first warmed then overheated me, and the way his sweat-slicked belly pressed and drove against my thighs and mons was sublime. I loved the way he clasped me to him, let me go, tucked my head into his neck and started to drive in and out of me like a raging beast, under me. My clit was on fire, my belly aching, and I moaned and clawed at him.

“Ceri,” he panted. “Ceri, gonna…”

“Come… Connor…come for… me” I hissed.

“Can’t… stop…”

“Don’t…you…dare…stop…”

I felt his pace increase, and I bit down on my lip. Then he arched under me, lifting me, crushing me to him – he gave one last incredible thrust, bottoming out in me, his balls tight against me, and as I felt him start to come in me I let out a shivery moan of need.

“Oh… oh… oh…” I moaned – he gave another thrust, and another. The head of his cock felt like it would burst out of my belly; it was incredible, he was incredible, his penis was perfect, he filled me totally, and as he tightened his grip on my waist to try to get deeper my clit ground against the base of his cock. I gasped, shuddered, pushed down hard, and, grinding against him, felt the precursor, the brief pause and the almost immediate arrival of yet another cataclysmic orgasm.

.:.

“Wow,” he panted, and I shivered as his stubble tickled my shoulder and neck. His still-firm penis throbbed in me and I took a shuddering breath.

“You liked that?”

“I loved it. It was… it was biblical.”

“My pussy certainly feels like the day of Judgement has arrived…”

“My cock is likely deceased.”

“It feels alive to me,” I teased him as I squeezed my pelvic floor muscles and by extension him.

“Oh… oh god, that’s amazing.”

I laughed, pushed myself up, ground down on him, and squeezed again. “Yeah, you like that, don’t you.”

“Oh… uh… ungh…”

I felt him throb… moaning, I squeezed again, and then, slowly, finger to my clit, I started to grind, to gyrate on him. The quiet grunts he let out were intoxicating; his eyes rolled back into his head, his mouth slack, open. I was in control, I owned him, I had the power, and I fucked and ground his penis in me and dropped my hand downwards so that I could fondle his shaft where he disappeared between my soaked, sticky lips.

“Connor,” I moaned. “Connor…”

“Cer…i…”

I rose up onto my haunches, and then let myself fall, impaling myself on him; and he arched, his thighs pressing hard against my bum, spreading me.

“Gonna… roger… you… silly…”

“Ceri… Jesus… fuck…”

I ground hard against him in circles, gasping, sweat beading my skin and dripping down off my breasts. Connor reached up, cupping my breasts, squeezing them, and then I felt his hands spasm and his body buck and I laughed, exultant, as I felt him throb and start to come again, filling me again with his hot seed.

I rode him until he was nearly crying from the overload, and then, panting, I slumped forward, into his arms, my body embracing him like he embraced me, my heart hammering, reveling in the feeling of his muscles twitching under me.

.:.

How long we lay like that I don’t know. Semen and my own fluids glued our bellies together, and the hot, sour scent of sweat mingled with the smell of sex that permeated the air around us. Connor’s cheek was pressed to mine, and every so often his cock, though part flaccid, would twitch in me, and each time it did I’d gasp softly.

“Are you OK?” I breathed, eventually.

“Dead.”

“I killed you?”

“Deader than a doornail. Deader than a one-legged weasel on the motorway.”

“I guess that makes me a necrophile,” I grinned into his neck.

“You’re a warped and deranged little thing.”

“You bring out the devil in me.”

“Devil? Succubus. God, Ceri,” he added. “God, that was fantastic.”

“Connor, no jokes, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to walk. I think I’m so soundly fucked I’m going to be bruised down there.”

“I have no intention of letting you walk anywhere,” he groaned. “I plan to sleep, then rise like Lazarus, then do this again. I want to come in you till you spill come everywhere.”

“Already have,” I breathed, and he laughed.

“I know, but I want to watch it. I’m a bit bent that way…”

“I love this side you’re showing.”

“I love that you let me show it; that you don’t run when I do.”

“Connor, I told you, you will have to do something bad to make me run. Turning me to jelly doesn’t count. It just makes me fall harder. For you.”

He said nothing, but the kiss he gave me was gentle.

“Connor?”

“Ceri,” he murmured.

“Are you going to leave me?”

He squeezed me to him.

“Ceridwen, you’re a goddess. You thin, slender, sexy, amazing in bed, loving, caring, coquettish, devilish and an enormously fun person to be around. And in,” he added, chuckling.

I took a breath to speak.

“No, shh. Connor talks, Ceri listens. I know you were hurt. I know you’re worried. Don’t be. I’m going nowhere.”

“Promise?” I whispered, closing my eyes, listening to the gentle thudding of his heart under me.

“Promise.”

“Don’t you dare leave me. Don’t you dare. My heart won’t take it, not now, not after I’ve been like this with you.”

“I’ll be closer than your own skin, as long as you want me.”

“Swear it?”

“Cross my heart, my love.”

.:.

His chest my pillow, and the soft lub-dub of his heart was my lullaby. I slept, curled up against him, feeling safe, feeling wanted, feeling home. When I woke at intervals, feeling him there beside me calmed me, and each time after a brief period he’d stir, squeeze me, kiss me gently, and hold me till I fell asleep again.

When the pink dawn broke he warmed up the shower for me, and gently, deftly helped me clean myself while laughingly fending off my attempts to ravish him. He made me breakfast, dressed me in one of his coats against the chill, walked me home hand in hand, and kissed me a long, hot, lingering goodbye at my door.

I leaned against it, weak-kneed, watching him until he turned the corner. I ached, but it was a good aching, deep in me, and the empty place in my heart was gone, filled with the sound and scent of him, filled with light, filled with the first hope I could remember in many a long day.

I stood up straight, took a deep breath, and smiled. The sun was rising over the roofs at the end of the street, and pink wispy clouds dotted the early morning sky.

It looked like it would be a gorgeous day.

And, even if it weren’t, at the end of it there’d be Connor.

And that was all I needed.

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