Laura was usually a diligent student. And she had been working particularly hard on her studies at Leeds University this semester. In fact, it would be fair to say that her conscientiousness since the beginning of term was exemplary; claiming as it did a flurry of distinctive, well researched essays which allowed a clear demonstration of literary enthusiasm and prolific reading. This knuckling down was of course largely due to the fact that 18th Century Literature truly fascinated her. It was the century that in many ways saw the emergence of the female voice after all. Still, it also had to be said that her eagerness to burn the midnight oil had another, less academic source.
This separate thread of interest had less to do with scholarly pride and more to do with the fact that a particular tutor, a certain Dr. Scott Nightingale, had the richest sea green eyes, the liveliest intelligence, and the most enticing dimples that Laura had ever seen. He had also seriously raised himself in her estimation when he had brought her a glass of silken red wine and the opportunity for conversation, when she had stood shy and awkward in the corner like the proverbial wallflower at that first, excruciating post grad mixer.
In the background to circles of animated group discussion, the two had—just for a little while—discussed their shared love of Emily Bronte’s poetry by the candle lit window of the Victorian English common room, delighting in a common interest in her poems of love and friendship. He had been so charming, asking her lots of questions about how she had first become interested in poetry, and telling her how much he had enjoyed her first essay. Afterwards, a dazzled and slightly tipsy Laura had fairy danced on air all the way home before flopping into bed in a pile of giddiness. While being quietly afraid that his attentions had been those of politeness only, for weeks afterwards she couldn’t help but remember the way he had stood just that little bit closer to her—or the way their eyes had locked in mutual appreciation—like kindred spirits in sudden recognition. Since that evening, she had occasionally allowed herself to daydream. And to say that Scott Nightingale had her attention would be an understatement.
Sadly, after that one shimmering evening his manner had returned to its usual charming reserve. Indeed, at times he had been almost cold with her. On one occasion, she had stayed behind after class to ask him if he had enjoyed a recent BBC drama based on the lives of the Bronte sisters. She had wanted to tell him how it had brought the Yorkshire village of Howarth, the place of the sisters’ birth, to life for her, capturing all of the village’s gloomy charms, and how Howarth was the place she loved most in the whole world. It was fairly close by. Had he been there himself? But although she began her effusions with girlish enthusiasm for what she had believed to be a shared topic of interest, he had seemed decidedly uninterested in her chatter, giving only the shortest of responses and casting his glances away from her in what she later interpreted as an expression of boredom, moving his eyes casually around the room and then back to his desk as if to suggest, rather pointedly, that he had far more important things to be doing than discussing the strong appeal or otherwise of gloomy Yorkshire poets and their tedious places of birth with her.
So, feeling increasingly foolish, her words had come out in a progressively garbled fashion until she finally excused herself from his presence abruptly mid-thought. At which point he had appeared extremely relieved. She also noted, rather sadly, that he appeared far more naturally flirtatious with the other female members of the group. He treated her far more formally in comparison.
With all of this evidence mounting before her, Laura concluded that she must have merely imagined a personal affection that night when the reality was far simpler. Scott Nightingale was a gentleman who didn’t like to see a shy female student standing alone and awkward at a social gathering where he, being a senior member of the department, was a host of sorts. That was why he had been so attentive to her that night – bringing her wine and flattering her with questions. He’d only asked her about work related topics for goodness sake—she’d be very foolish to find more in it than that. Since her realization, she had returned his coolness with an aloofness of her own. Laura still steadfastly sought his approval though—even if only in an academic sense, and crafted all her essays with the utmost care—wanting to prove to herself, as well as to him, that she was a woman of substance and someone worth noticing. When he praised her academic efforts with a flourish of his fountain pen along the bottom of her efforts, she felt proud and thrilled. Perhaps this was enough. She had never managed to sustain a relationship anyway, none of them ever feeling quite right.
So, why wasn’t Laura being diligent tonight when an important essay was due in for Scott Nightingale in the morning? Why was she drinking cheap French red wine and stolen sherry while listening to Billie Holiday records as she lolled in bed, and not sitting up at her cherry wood desk typing sensible well-argued points instead?
The book, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland was having an effect. A similar effect had occurred when Laura had, surreptitiously, read Fifty Shades of Grey on her e-reader, whizzing through the northern countryside on a Virgin train on her first trip to Leeds University four months ago. But that was nothing compared to hearing Dr. Nightingale speak the words of her most intimate fantasies aloud only yesterday, and seeing the way his green eyes had lighted on her blue ones in tutor the previous morning when he read that passage from Cleland’s scandalous novel. It was the first time that he had looked at her in such an intimate way in months. The passage in question contained a description of its heroine, the lascivious prostitute Fanny Hill, bending over to be spanked by one of her kinkier customers, and enjoying it. The simple way he had smiled and looked down after that shared moment, when she had undoubtedly flushed full pink, had sent an electric shock through her entire body, unlocking her deepest desires.
The moment was real, but he had recovered himself easily, engaging in thoughtful, distant academic discussion with the other clever, eager feminists of the group, as they applied post-feminist readings to this text written in the 1700s. In contrast, all the frozen Laura could do was to quietly wait for the heat to pass, and to wonder whether it was possible that he shared her fantasy. She also couldn’t help but wonder whether he had noticed the blush, and if he was eager to create another somewhere else.
The title of the essay that she was supposed to be writing while she mulled these thoughts over and over was ‘Explore the nature of feminine sexuality in Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. But tonight, Laura was far too busy exploring her own sexuality under her flowered cotton sheets, rubbing and sighing as Billie Holiday sang Romance in the Dark into the room, and out of the window, and off into the smoky frost sparkled November night.
And as the notes rang on, reaching further and further, a satisfied and rather tipsy Laura drifted off to sleep. Without setting her alarm clock.
Scott often took a fancy to his post graduate students. Indeed, he’d had a number of affairs over the last three years, generally favoring those self-assured, serious academic students in their late twenties and thirties. They had all been attractive, loquacious, and clever, and usually independent and career minded enough to look for little more than a whirlwind romance coupled with intellectual conversation.
He prided himself on carrying out the affairs honestly, always being clear about the fact that they were intense but decidedly temporary from the very first coupling. Scott always informed the women who shared his bed that once he finished writing his current book on the 18th century writer Mary Wollstonecraft, he planned on working in New York University for a year or two. He was very clear about the fact that he wanted no ties to accompany him on that particular transatlantic adventure. His old tutor, Giles Peterson, was in residence there and sporadically and enthusiastically assured him of the continued presence of a research opportunity in the Big Apple. Plus, Scott, at age thirty-seven, was already divorced and in no hurry to repeat the marriage experience.
His ex-wife Julia was a vivacious, bohemian, and intellectual woman who had dazzled him in the beginning with both her beauty and her intelligence. He had longed to possess and protect her and they had married quickly—before the realization that they were unsuitable hit them full force. Far from being able to tame, or indeed protect her, he soon learned that his insatiable bride had engaged in numerous extramarital affairs. And rather than being shamed by his anger and humbled by his accusations of betrayal, she had merely raised an eyebrow of disappointment at Scott’s inability to be open-minded about her leagues of lovers, or to see her indiscretions as part of her artistic outlet.
Scott had initially loved her deeply, and they had shared a certain kind of kinkiness, as well as a willingness to see sex as a ground for constant experimentation. She had even allowed him to spank her on occasion, his deepest desire. But he had always known it to be a passing interest rather than a deeply held need for her, and these brief episodes had actually left him feeling more unfulfilled, extremely frustrated and wanting something more. Julia was unwilling to submit to him as fully as he wished, and he would never have pushed the matter. He soon realized that he was actually quite conservative in his tastes when it came to relationships, and that what he really wanted was a woman who would submit willingly and with pleasure. As a result of her infidelity, and his rising frustrations, it wasn’t too long before the couple—not without regret and hurt on both sides—parted ways. The entire marriage lasted less than a year, and for Scott it represented something of a failure.
He didn’t shy away from courting other women once the divorce papers were official, but his frustration followed a similar story with the affairs he had enjoyed with his students while at Leeds. As well as blowing his mind with passionate sex, they occasionally bent over and presented their pretty globes for an occasional dose of slap and tickle. But they weren’t fully submitting to the spankings he longed to administer. It was playful and fun, but not meaningful. For him, this difference in desire was often a relief, an easy excuse to not pursue relationships further. It was safer to maintain his carefully crafted persona of roving bachelor when truly his natural temperament was far more conservative.
His last affair, with a luscious out spoken redhead named Lucy, had ended the previous June when she had asked him to go with her to a family wedding. He had declined having no wish to meet the parents. Lucy, with a reluctant sigh and a squeeze of his hand, had seemingly admitted graceful defeat and soon ceased romantic contact. It had been a great relief to Scott who saw all too clearly that the glamorous but spoilt red head had been beginning to view him as the ultimate conquest. His reputation for rakish ways was beginning to precede him. Lucy was still at the university, and they had made polite conversation when social situations made this necessary, but as far as he could tell she no longer carried a torch for him, and had understandably moved on.
Now five months had passed since the breakup, and Scott’s eyes were roving again, and just recently they had settled on a chestnut haired English rose called Laura who had joined the department of English as a post-graduate student three months ago. There were other beauties in the group, and no short of intellect which was always a turn on, but he was considering a change in style for this semester, and her blushes and sighs might be just what the doctor ordered. There was a certain quirkiness about her, which he had experienced both in her eloquent yet idiosyncratic essays which he often found himself rereading with close interest, and in her conversation. This he had recently enjoyed at a department social event.
In fact, he had considered seducing her that very night as they whispered their love of Emily Bronte’s poetry to each other by candlelight. The mood could hardly have been more perfect. Her blushes and startled breaths when he brushed against him had been as sharp an aphrodisiac as any of the experienced sultry maneuvers of women like Julia and Lucy. But then something about the encounter had stopped him, and rather than moving in for the kill, he had merely shaken her hand chastely goodbye, planting a disappointing platonic kiss on her right cheek.
It took him a couple of days to realize that it was her genuine sweetness—and the fact that she was so entirely unable to hide her innocent delight in him—that made him reconsider his plans for seduction. She appeared so utterly guileless, and he had the feeling that she would agree to a limited affair even if it was something that would cause her a great deal of pain later. In the end, Scott decided that perhaps this particular temptation, no matter how pretty and beguiling, was better left well alone.
Still, despite a number of valiant efforts on his part to remove her from the game, she kept pushing herself to the front of his mind with her energetically intelligent essays, combined with her own adorable acts of aloofness in the tutorial recently. Adding to the intrigue was that moment yesterday. Reading a particular passage from John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, she had blushed instantly when his eye caught hers. The other girls in the group had openly chuckled at the spanking scene, cheerily discussing its kinkiness through a post-feminist viewpoint, looking for the power in the canny prostitute. But Laura—this was a different reaction. She was undoubtedly embarrassed, looking out of the window and visibly jolting as he repeated the words spank and spanking. This was interesting. Of course, she could just be prudish. But something told him this wasn’t the case. And it was this feeling that kept his thoughts moving back to Laura, and away from other safer options. He was going to have to be careful.