Rumbling thunder and pealing lightning killed hope of sleep for Prisca. She’d been awake, tossing in bed for the past two hours. It wasn’t raining outside. The lightning and thunder was the start of Peter White’s Stormfront. The entire track was composed to last only four minutes and nine seconds. A reworked version stretched for fifteen—a quarter hour of easy listening, as Jonathan had once called it.
The opening sequence lasted less than twenty seconds. Prisca got out of bed just as the rumble segued into a blend of piano, saxophone, drums and guitar. No lyrics at all, no voice to be expected, just an endless symphony of instruments and nature sounds meant to soothe blaring from surround speakers. She craved to be soothed. Peter White failed to deliver. She crawled out of bed and went into the kitchen.
Jonathan, seated on a chrome stool next to the countertop, still wore the boxers and tee-shirt he’d slept in. Slices of bread lay in front of him, along with an open jar of mayonnaise. Slices were smeared quickly, folded between firm fingers and wolfed down.
He noticed her at the door, asked whether she slept well, offered her breakfast.
She shook her head no.
Prisca was used to seeing him in the house since he entered her mother’s life. He spent the night sometimes, but he always made sure he left early.
She noticed the knife held in strong fingers, the crumbs filtering to the countertop. She wasn’t about to clean up after him. What a mess! Mummy wasn’t going to like it.
Where is Mummy? she asked.
Jogging, he replied.
Jogging? Mummy doesn’t jog!
It’s a new fad. I wouldn’t have gone with her, but I can’t until the weekend.
He munched in mindless hurry, the faster to take his bath and get to his bank work well before eight. Half the night without his mate had taken its toll. He looked tousled and rough.
Prisca leaned artfully against the door post.
He was earthy and virile.
She shifted her pose slightly and drew his gaze. She moved toward him like a tigress stalking a scent. Satin rustled against skin. He watched her.
Why are you looking at me like that?
Like you want to eat me up.
He bellowed her name as a warning, then looked away.
Manoeuvring onto the countertop, she crossed her thighs in plain sight, giving him a view of skin in satin. She dipped her right index finger in the jar of mayonnaise and dragged it into her mouth, taunting him.
Jonathan watched finger slide across lips.
He asked gruffly, Are you trying to seduce me?
Not if you don’t want to be seduced.
She planted a foot on his thigh. The hair felt rough under her sole.
You must wonder what it’d be like to have both mother and daughter.
She wiggled her toes, moved them along his thigh, higher and higher up.
You think about it don’t you?
Her foot hit a firm junction. His breath caught.
I know you do.
He stood fluidly. His chest had expanded and his breathing was heavy. He looked half hungry, half enraged, all male.
You must be out of your mind.
He pushed the stool backward and stormed out.
In the bedroom—their bedroom, the bedroom he shared with Cecilia until they decided their union would require permanence—he whipped off the boxers and tee shirt in angry movements. He was uncoordinated.
It had never happened to him, this mad intoxication. Who the hell did the little wench think she was? He was man enough to take her mother, for heaven’s sake, and he’d bedded women much more important than Prisca—countless sexier women who made the chase exhilarating and the conquest fulfilling. And he’d never minded scruples when it came to flirting, never needed to. It was a win-win affair in which no one got hurt and there was no looking back once it was over.
That life just didn’t cut it with Cecilia. He wanted more, and that meant placing her daughter out of his reach. But the daughter was throwing herself in his path. Yes, he’d thought about mother and daughter, but there had been no need to act on it. It was crazy, dirty. If Prisca hadn’t been Cecilia’s girl…
He looked down. The crazy, dirty reaction of his naked body was in plain sight. He groaned loud. He felt dirty already. He grabbed a towel, whipped it around his waist and stalked into the bathroom. And began a rushed bath.
Stormfront should have dropped in volume when he shut the door. It didn’t. Even as he spread lather over himself, strains of sax, guitars and keyboard continued to swell into the bathroom. A pair of arms snaked around him from behind. He stiffened.
There are some things you can’t hide forever, Prisca groaned.
His body was slippery with lather. Her hand swam in the suds, effortlessly reaching around his trunk and lower down his chest. She was pressed up against him. A stamp couldn’t fit between them. Sharp pebbles pricked his back.
What the hell!
He turned and swiftly pushed her away. In a flash he regretted it as he saw her slamming inexorably against the tiles behind her. The impact was minimal. Once her body made contact with the wall, Prisca rested against it.
Jonathan turned the shower full blast to wash lather off his face. He should have remained blinded by the suds, but it was too late once he saw Cecilia’s baby girl.
The shower had soaked her nightgown, plastered it to her body like a second skin. Every line and curve was traced in careful detail. She writhed against the tiles like a snake. One hand was pressed against her body this time, moved lower to her belly, dipped into her navel through the wet satin.
Jonathan watched, hypnotised.
Prisca continued the tour to her hips.
He didn’t protest when the hand sank between her thighs. He panted, waited. She flung herself at him. He staggered backward, then steadied himself. With her left hand, she poked his chest, pushed him back a little more. Her right hand fell on his chest, moved to his shoulder, reached beyond his back and slammed the bathroom door behind him.
Stormfront dropped to the background.
She pressed her body against him. The contact wasn’t abrasive. Craving the touch of wet skin, she jumped on him, wrapping both legs around his waist.
Smooth satin demanded his branding. He offered it, planting his hands on her thighs and moving so that her ankles locked behind his back.
What was he to do?
His hand roamed. Thighs, back, waist, hips, thighs again. He couldn’t tell what was skin and what was satin.
She arched into his chest. He muttered curses.
God help me, he groaned.
God wasn’t listening.
The volume of Stormfront rose suddenly, then began fading. The decibels were dying: the piano dropped off first, then the sax, and the guitar followed. The drums went last. The end of Stormfront was evident because the bathroom door was open. Cecilia was standing there.
* * *
The bell shattered my reverie, but the details remained etched onto my mind—the words, the images, Prisca’s moans, Jonathan’s curses. Now I understood the cause of Cecilia’s tightly controlled agitation the morning she’d knocked on my door. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the unimaginable thoughts in her head as she opened that bathroom door upon her daughter and her lover.
The poor woman knew agony firsthand.
I had to tear my gaze from the sheets on which I’d written up notes from my last session with Prisca. The notes were scanty, giving only the few anecdotes she had deemed important to divulge. My mind filled in the details with abandon and branded the torrid images onto my retina. They were hot to handle, impossible to imagine, a fantasy to die for. Going through them two days later, their impact still held me enthralled and anxious. Potent as hell, it made me break out in sweat. I needed a cold shower.
Ding-dong, ding-dong! The doorbell again.
I placed the sheets into the blue folder from which I’d drawn them and snapped the folder shut. It wasn’t even clear to me what I was doing reading those notes. They held nothing more than Prisca had already told me. They supplied no further details in themselves. But they made my imagination rage with high-octane intensity. I simply had to read them once more, then again, and again.
Ding-dong, ding-dong, dinngg-doonngg!
As I approached the door, I wiped sweat of anxiety from my upper lip before pulling the door open on the last ding.
One shopping bag in each hand, Jemima sailed through like she owned my apartment. In a way she did. It was weekend and that gave her the run of the apartment for two whole days and nights until Sunday night or Monday morning, whichever was convenient.
“I would have sworn you weren’t in if I had not seen you car parked outside.” She made her way to the kitchen. The bags were absent when she returned and examined me. “Are you all right, darling?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” I found my voice. Gosh, I must look like a robot. With the images in my head, I was sorely tempted to grab Jemima and recreate those fantasies. Stolen fantasies. They weren’t hers, weren’t mine, and the source of the fantasies was far away doing heaven only knew what. I was losing my mind. Time for that cold shower. “I just need a bath.”
After good five minutes, the cold shower cooled me down only marginally. I came out without towelling off, donned jeans and tee shirt to muffle the vibrations of my own body.
When I returned, Jemima had the blue folder in hand.
“What are you doing with that?”
“This is the Prisca?” she asked. “The Prisca Braithwaite?”
“That’s my work and its confidential.” I reached over and took the folder from her. She didn’t resist. “You know you are not supposed to be looking into it.”
“I didn’t have to. She is in my faculty, though undergraduate. And believe me—everybody knows Prisca Braithwaite the slut.” Jemima had this bit between her teeth and wasn’t letting go easily. “I am thinking what challenges she might possibly have with courses when she can just sleep her way through as many lecturers as are interested and come out at the top of the class.”
“That was uncalled-for. Prisca isn’t the first girl I have worked with on campus. Why are you getting personal about her.”
“You sound like you just caught her with your boyfriend.”
She bridled. “Ha-ha, that’s not even funny.”
“You sound jealous,” I accused.
“I am not.”
“It’s written all over you.”
She shrugged. “Any man having anything to do with Prisca must be biologically dead not to notice the way she throws herself at men. She can tempt a monk to fornicate.”
“And that worries you.”
“Tell me you don’t have anything to do with her,” she pleaded. Anxiety filled her face even though she tried to hide it.
“Plenty, as it turns out.”
She groaned a wordless complaint, then sighed in her typical loud way. Her nostrils flared. Anger was raging inside her. Now she couldn’t hide it.
“Jemima, stop it,” I admonished weakly. “Prisca is a case, nothing more. Not the first I have worked with. Definitely won’t be the last. She has a problem, that’s all. Like every other student I have come across.”
What problem? Career choice? You wish!
“She can’t really have that sort of problem, does she? As far as she’s concerned, her only challenge is seeing the colour of every guy’s boxers.”
If only you knew, I thought.
Out loud, I said, “I can’t discuss Prisca Braithwaite or any other case with you, Jemima, and you know it. So drop it.”