The lounge was crowded. It was Saturday night, and the barflies were out in swarms. We took the booth at the end of the room, hidden slightly from the crowd in a corner recess that hinted at false privacy. Exactly two drinks later he settled in next to her, drooling at my wife as he would a juicy steak.
"My God, you look delicious tonight, Linda."
My wife stared at him with wide, hungry eyes. She had finished her second of two drinks in the time it took me to finish one. Drinking was something she did on special occasions - our anniversary or New Year's Eve - and I could see she was unsteady from the two whiskey sours forced down over the past thirty minutes.
I flinched when he placed his hand on her thigh, and again when he spoke.
"My name is Stephan. You must be David. I hear you've been a naughty boy."
He looked across the table at me and grinned. His eyes glittered with the promise of trouble. Linda saw him watching me and followed with a small smile of her own.
He took her hand, brought it to his lips and kissed it lightly.
"Your wife is most appreciative. I like that in a woman."
He leered at her, suggesting much more than the words that dripped from his mouth.
Suddenly he was more businesslike. He looked at me, as if to assure he had my attention.
"Tonight you'll learn that hell really does 'hath no fury like a woman scorned'."
"What do you mean by that?" I stammered.
"Relax, David. Your wife has decided to forgive your little indiscretion - but only after having a go at your game herself. Look at it as punishment, or a lesson, but either way she's decided on her price. I'd suggest you pay it."
I shot her a questioning look, expecting her to explain. She didn't.
"So, what's this 'price' he's taking about?" I asked finally.
Her smile grew wider. She ran the tip of her finger around the rim of her glass, brought it slowly to her mouth, and gently sucked the moisture from it before answering. Her eyes were glassy, her pupils large, dark wells of mystery.
"You had your fun. Now it's my turn."
She turned toward him, pulled him close, and covered his mouth with hers. The kiss was long and deep. A minute passed, then two. She sucked at him hungrily, her tongue wrestling with his, her hands clutching him from behind his neck. I heard her moan softly as she melted away from him, then faced me again with the same smile.
Stephan composed himself, took a long drink of scotch, and sighed.
"It's been an interesting week, David - one I'll remember for a long time to come."
"An interesting week? What does he mean?" I hissed.
She eyed me coolly, then looked straight at me as she spoke in a voice I was afraid could be heard at the next table.
"I've given myself to Stephan. He owns me - or has, for the past week, until midnight tonight. Your affair lasted much longer, but I thought a week would be enough. Any longer and I might not have been able to stop. He's handsome, strong, and very sexy - it just seemed to make sense. I put myself in his hands - told him I'd do anything he wanted for one week. Anything."
She looked over at him and wet her lips. His hand had edged her dress up, and was now stroking her thigh.
"I have a request, Linda. Your husband is somewhat incredulous at this point. I can certainly understand why. You can move things along with a gesture of your willingness to cooperate. I'd like you to find the ladies room, then remove whatever you're wearing under this conservative little black dress - bra, panties, slip, nylons - everything. Put all of it in your purse, and return to us wearing nothing but your dress and shoes. While you're gone, David and I will get to know each other better. Run along now. We'll be counting the minutes..."
She left the table without a word. I had no trouble reading the mix of fear and excitement on her face.
We sat in silence for a long time before he spoke. The waiter returned with another round of drinks. The muzak changed from pop to classical. Growing beads of water trickled down the side of my glass, each droplet collapsing into the fresh paper napkin.
"If you could have only seen her the day she offered herself to me."
"She didn't offer herself to you. You'll never make me believe - "
"She went to her knees the first time I asked. I can still see her small fingers unzipping me, fumbling with my belt. And later, again, in the park, how her diamond sparkled in the afternoon sun."
"You lying son of a bitch."
He went on as if I hadn't said a word.
"She closed her lips around my cock, almost dutifully, as I might have expected from your wife. She sucked me until I gave her every drop, then swallowed all of it without complaining. I like that, too. I had her go braless during our stroll in the park. We found a secluded spot behind a hedge near a playground. She opened the front of her blouse just before she blew me again. We could hear the children's laughter as she milked me with her mouth. Her nipples hardened so quickly under my fingertips..."
He smiled and took another sip of his drink, taking in my reaction.
"Linda wouldn't do that. I don't believe any of it!"
"I can see why you'd think that at this point. But given time, I think you'll be surprised at what your wife is capable of. Most women are sluts at heart. Linda is certainly no exception. She's well on her way to proving it."
I didn't know what to think. Linda was someone I had known for ten years, my wife, my lover, and my friend. Her attitude toward sex wasn't puritanical, but she wasn't a woman who lowered her inhibitions easily. His story was preposterous, or at least exaggerated in the extreme. Yet, she was terribly hurt, full of the 'fury' he spoke of.
"Have another drink, David. Try to relax. It's not as if I'm not sympathetic to what you must be going through. Most men would rather kill than tolerate an unfaithful wife. Yet tolerate her submission to me is exactly what you must do. You could make it easier on yourself by considering an alternative to nursing your angst. A woman's sexual emancipation can be very arousing. Linda's a beautiful woman, a seething reservoir of untapped potential. Witnessing the results when the floodgates are pried open can be exhilarating, even life-changing, if you'll allow it.
"Just imagine, your own lovely wife satisfied again and again by another man - so quick to submit, then crave the taste of his cock, and finally, the fullness of it deep inside her. I'd bet your pulse jumps a little at the very idea. Tell me I'm wrong, if you honestly can."
Suddenly the heat became oppressive. I was sweating. One of the bulbs in the lamp suspended over our table flickered, then went out. The remaining light threw sinister shadows over the face across from me.
I jumped as he slid quickly to the end of the booth and stood up. Linda passed in front of him and settled into the bench seat again, the flimsy cotton of her dress yielding to the subtle sway of her breasts. Stephan took his place beside her, his shoulder pressed tightly against hers.
"Linda, show your husband what you've done."
She turned, giving him a puzzled look.
"Your purse, my dear. Show him what you're hiding in your purse."
She placed it on the table and opened it, tilting it in my direction to show me the contents.
"No, no, Linda. Take them out so we can see. Your husband needs proof - so, we must give him proof."
She pulled the ball of soft material through the opening, separating straps from lace. Bra, slip, nylons, and finally panties, all lay in a row beside my glass, placed there one by one as she pushed them across the table. I reached out and lifted her bra, turning it mindlessly in my hands. It was still warm, and smelled of her bath oil and perfume. I looked up to meet her eyes again. She stared into me as though she was searching for something.
"David, do you have any remaining doubts about how far your wife will go to please me? She's sitting here beside me, naked under her little black dress. You have the evidence in your hands. Admit it. She's completely mine."
A flush of color spread over her face. Her blue eyes told me nothing as I peered into them. They seemed to pierce the shadows, almost glowing in the dim light.
"You wouldn't do this to me. You couldn't," I said unbelievingly as I watched the curves of her body shift under the dress.
He smiled again at my response, then reached toward her, easily opening the top button of her dress. She didn't resist. His hand dropped to the second button, pressing it through the tiny slit as effortlessly as the first. Then the third, and fourth. I could see the white, soft skin of her collarbones and a hint of the valley between her breasts.
"Linda, will you do anything I ask?"
She answered in a whisper.
Her eyes were still locked on mine.
"Linda, expose your breasts for me."
She turned suddenly toward him. Her mouth opened as if she might have discovered the limit to which she would willingly continue their little game. She caught herself before uttering a sound, poised at the edge, calculating the distance before she jumped.
"Are you refusing?"
"I - no, I'll do it."
She undid two more buttons and pulled the front of the dress open, hoping the generous display of breast and nipples would satisfy him. He turned toward her, placed a hand on each of her shoulders, and slowly inched the dress over them, stopping halfway down her arms.
"Now, expose them, as I asked."
The bar was quieter now, but still echoed with the steady hum of voices and the clatter of empty glasses. She peered around the corner of our booth, then, with trembling fingers, coaxed each bare breast into the light. The V formed by the remaining buttons forced them up and outward, her small pink nipples thrust forward into the dim light.
"I know what you're thinking, David. Your wife is sitting in public, practically naked to the waist. Anyone who happens by would certainly get an eyeful. Will it be our handsome young waiter, or a drunken customer who's lost his way? I'm betting on the waiter. What do you think?"
Her face went crimson. She stared at the ice melting in her tall glass, her creamy breasts heaving with each breath.
"Well, I'm sure you're thinking many things. So many excuses for her behavior must be racing through your head. But before this night is over, you will have to face the truth, the real reason she's given herself to me for the past week. It's why she brought you here tonight."
I expected to pay, and pay dearly for the brief affair with Joanna. Linda had found the hand-written birthday card in the front pocket of my suit jacket. The suggestive wording was damning enough, but it was the picture of Joanna in the nude, sitting on my desk, cupping her breasts with both hands with a come-hither look that told the whole story. It was just sex - feral, spontaneous, animal sex; sex with no strings or emotional attachment. That hadn't been much consolation to Linda. She was devastated. She brooded for weeks, then seemed to recover. Now this.
"I'm sorry. I know I hurt you. I'm so sorry, Linda."
It was another of many apologies. I knew that. She had ignored the others, but this one brought an air of superiority to her. She sat up a little straighter with shoulders back, thrusting her bare breasts toward me.
"It hurts doesn't it? I spent weeks imagining the things you and Joanna did together. I tortured myself, trying to find some way to get over what you did, trying to figure out whether there would ever be a way to forgive you, to stay with you. When I met Stephan, I knew what I had to do. For me. For us."
I couldn't believe this was my wife sitting across from me. As she talked, she seemed taller, almost towering over me in her seat. She glared at me, her lips savoring the wicked satisfaction of each word.
"For us? You didn't do this for us!" I spat back at her.
Stephan casually fished an piece of ice from her glass.
"You're wrong, David. I did it for me first, but ultimately for us. I had to make sure you knew how I felt, how much it hurt. I wanted you to know that another man touched me in ways that made me dripping wet - a man so beautiful, so skillful at what a woman needs, that I'd do anything for him. So now, you 're the one who will have to imagine what we did together. He made me do things we never did. And I liked it - no, loved it - all of it. I couldn't get enough of him. And he was always there - big, and hard, and - "
She stopped in mid-sentence with a sudden gasp. Stephan touched the ice to her nipple, moving it in small circles over the rising bud of pink flesh, then continued outward over the white mound of her breast. Her eyes closed. Her breathing came in ragged, jerking pants.
Stephan watched her face with fascination as he turned his attention to the other breast and nipple. After the ice melted, he rolled the nipple softly between thumb and forefinger. The pink bud hardened quickly, pouting at me as though she had willed it.
"Isn't she magnificent, David? So deliciously hungry. Completely lost in her own desire. But please Linda, continue. This is your night, your chance to tell him what you feel."
She opened her eyes, studied me for a few seconds, then turned to Stephan. Her hand disappeared under the table, moving gently in his lap.
"I want you to touch me Stephan. I live for the feel of your tongue against me, wetting my belly until it's cool and slick, gliding over the insides of my thighs until I scream for relief."
Suddenly her eyes were on me. They were filled with fire and arousal. A droplet of water fell from her nipple, spreading into a small spot on her dress.
"Something happens to me when I take him in my hands. He's hard for me, well, constantly. Not just hard. Throbbing. I could play with his cock for hours. A large juicy drop forms so quickly at the tip right before he comes in my hands - God David, if you only knew how wet I am just thinking about it."
She hadn't taken her eyes off me. They were eyes I no longer knew.
We sat there in silence, both trembling, for very different reasons.
Finally, Stephan ventured into the uneasy distance between us.
"Beautifully done, Linda. I'd say David should have no reason to doubt your pain, or your sincerity. Why don't you button your dress. I think he's seen enough."
She continued to look at me defiantly, waiting a while before pulling the dress over her shoulders and buttoning the front.
The waiter arrived seconds later with another round of drinks. His eyes never left the front of her dress. I was sure he could see glimpses of soft skin between the spaces where the material opened between the buttons. Stephan called him back just as he turned away.
"Linda, I believe you have an admirer."
I guessed he was a college student, a sandy-haired kid of about 20. His fair skin turned bright red as he tried not gawk.
"It's ok," he assured the boy. "She's a beautiful, sexy woman. No one could blame you for staring."
Linda glanced from the boy to me, then back again. The dress was like wet tissue paper over her moist, distended nipples.
"I do have to keep a tight rein on her in public though, especially when she drinks. She really has no shame at all. Do you know that she's naked under this pretty black dress? Isn't that right, Linda?"
She smiled up at the boy, replying with a slow wink.
"He's very cute," she teased.
The waiter saw her bra and panties piled beside my glass. His expression changed from embarrassment to hopeful amusement.
"Do you think I'm beautiful -, " she squinted at his name tag, " - um, Chuck?"
"Yes I do. Very beautiful," he replied, smiling widely.
"Well, Chuckie, I'm not so sure my husband over there thinks so. He's fucking his accountant, Jo-an-na. The smaaart and sexxxy Jo-an-na."
She was slurring every other word, and I could hear anger creep into her playful banter.
"Mmmm - but Stephan thinks I'm beautiful, don't you Stephan?"
"Of course, my pet. Outstandingly, outrageously, irresistibly so."
He grinned at her, but she was still preoccupied with the waiter.
"So, Chuckie, he says he's not fuck-ing her anymore. He says it was just sexxxx. He says he's sorrrry. Think I should believe him, Chuckie? Whadya think?"
The kid squinted at me with a puzzled look. This was a complication he hadn't counted on.
"Well ma'am, I really wouldn't know."
She sighed in disgust, her eyes now lowered to his obvious erection. When she looked back up at him, the temptress had returned.
"Hmm - but don't you think that if he can fuck other women, I should be able to fuck other men? You do think I'm fuckkk-able, don't you, Chuckie?"
He decided a change in attitude was in order - from opportunist to diplomat.
"Well, all I can say is that if I had a lady like you, I'd spend all my spare time at home."
She whirled to face me, spilling her drink as her hand flashed in the air before me, her finger wagging in my face.
"See! HE wants to fuck me! Lots of men want to fuck me! I'll bet Chuckie could fuck me all night! And I'd love it! How do you like that? Want to watch me suck his big, hard cock? Want to watch Chuckie stick it in me and fuck me till I scream? Do you? Do you?"
I could hear the conversation in the next booth go suddenly silent as she raised her voice. She leaned toward me, red-faced and wild-eyed, as though she might actually come across the table after me. A button popped open where her breasts strained at the front of her dress. Crescents of firm white globes taunted me through the opening.
Stephan put a large hand on her shoulder as Chuckie made a hasty retreat. His touch calmed her; her body seemed to recognize it instantly. She leaned into him, eyes closed, a peaceful smile spreading across her lips. Stephan pushed the remains of her drink to my side of the table, then lifted her chin with two fingers.
She looked up at him with wanton eyes.
"Mmm - much. Kiss me, Stephan. Please, kiss me?"
Their lips touched, then locked together in a shameless display of lust. She worked her mouth fiercely against his, biting, licking, devouring him with her tongue. A second button had come undone as she pressed against him, allowing a small pillow of milky white flesh to push through the opening. An engorged nipple turned from pink to angry red as it rubbed back and forth across the tweed of his jacket.
It wasn't the Linda I knew in the seat across from me. She panted openly as she writhed against him, making little sucking noises when her mouth broke free from his. I had been ready to take my medicine; ready, I thought, to weather any form of revenge she might take. But this - watching her surrender so completely to a man she praised as "so skillful at what a woman needs" - straddled a line that might never be recrossed. Could I feel her slipping away?
Much later, when she finally broke away from him, she collapsed against the back of the booth, panting and wide-eyed. A third button had opened on the front of her dress, and I could see beads of sweat dotting the heaving inner curves of both breasts. She was staring at me again, staring with lusty daggers.
"You - did - this," she gasped.
"I - I know I hurt you. I'm sorry - so sorry, Linda."
"You - did - this!" she repeated, this time louder as her breathing slowed.
"OK, you win! Now I know what it feels like. It hurts - it hurts more than I could have known. But please don't take this any further."
"You - did - this! Say it! I want to hear you say it, God damn it!"
Stephan sat expressionless beside her. His hand moved gently along her thigh, stroking her with the tips of his broad fingers. Little by little, he pushed the hem of the dress as high as it would go, exposing a narrow expanse of bare thigh just visible beyond the edge of the table. She spread her legs an extra inch and waited for my answer. If it would put an end to this, I'd say what she wanted. I'd say anything.
"I did this," I answered, looking solemnly into her eyes.
It seemed to satisfy her. She smiled a smile I recognized, and her features softened.
"Yes, David, you did this. And now you have to pay."
She opened her legs as wide as the seat would allow. Stephan's hand wandered into the crevice between them. She watched me as he played with her, his hand hidden between tightly clenched thighs that twitched in rhythm to his every move. Her eyes left me only after she lost all control. She inhaled sharply as a brief shiver shook her body, then froze for a instant as though every muscle was preparing for what was to come. The tension melted from her as quickly as it had arrived. She slumped back in the seat, biting her lower lip to quiet the urgent whimpers that rose from her throat. Her hips bucked frantically against Stephan's hand until her muted little cries died and she lay quietly against the back of the seat.
When she opened her eyes they were drilling into me again. Yet, her voice was softer now - the rage, pain, vengeance, all of it gone.
"Now you know, David."
I was sweating again. The room narrowed and spun like a kaleidoscope.
"Now you know just a little of what I went through for the past three weeks - day after day of imagining you with her, how you kissed her - night after night of wondering whether she was a better lover, and what it was that she did for you that I couldn't - weeks of torturing myself with images of the two of you together in bed in some cheap motel, and what you said to her while you fucked her. Did you tell her you loved her, David?"
I gripped the edge of the table to steady myself. It was a question she must have wanted to ask weeks ago, a question from the heart. She caught me off-guard, still reeling from the intimacy she lavished on the man beside her.
"Linda, so help me, I didn't. I could never do that. Never! It was just - "
"I know, David. Just sex. You say it as though it was nothing more than a handshake. 'Just sex.'"
We stared at each other in silence. It was the same familiar impasse, one we had reached weeks ago. And I had walked right into it again.
Stephan cleared his throat. He had been quiet a long time, watching us with interest as he sipped the rest of his scotch. He spoke after a quick glance at his watch.
"Linda, might I suggest we -"
"No, Stephan. Let me do this."
He sat back and waited for her to go on, looking slightly amused by her evolving confidence. He might have owned her for a week, but now she was in control, and was determined to do this her way.
"I'm going upstairs with Stephan. He has a room here at the hotel. I want you to wait for me. All this will be over at midnight. I'll meet you back here, and we'll go home. Do this, and we'll be even. If you're not here when I get back, I'll leave you. It's the only way, David - the only way I can stay with you."
She was no longer angry, but the look she gave me guaranteed she was deadly serious. It was a final play I never could have imagined. I wanted to protest, to beg her not to go with him. I felt the contents of my stomach rise in my throat, and words refused to come.