A high-pitched scream rent the unseasonably warm night air and Heidi sat bolt upright, heart pounding. Her eyes quickly scanned each corner of the still-unfamiliar bedroom for the source of the noise, but there was no movement save the soft billowing of the thin curtain in the breeze, and no sound but the soft snores of Princess, curled up at the end of the bed.
She fumbled beneath her pillow for her phone, cursing the fact that she’d yet to buy a single lamp for this place, let alone a nightstand to put it on. What moderately intelligent, thirty-year-old woman moved to a new apartment in a new city, without a lamp to turn on in the middle of the night… or to bash someone’s head with, in a pinch?
The display on the phone read 12:48. She quickly turned it to flashlight mode and swung the beam around the room. Nothing whatsoever but a tower of boxes, neatly stacked and untouched since the movers had placed them there two weeks ago. Okay. She took a deep breath as panic gave way to reason. Okay. Had it been one of the cats out in the back alley? There were plenty of them back there, though Princess strained her leash and valiantly tried to yap them out of her territory every time they went for a walk. Or maybe it had been a dream? Some weird, subconscious sign that she’d been working too hard, that the fifteen-hour days she’d been putting in, trying to get her consulting business off the ground, were catching up to her? That seemed more likely. After all, whatever it was hadn’t even woken Princess. My vicious guard dog, she thought wryly, glancing at the sleeping ball of fur.
Step one, she thought, as she settled herself back against the pillows and tried to close her eyes, buy new lamps. Immediately. Well, after work at least. Step two, start tackling those boxes and get settled. Maybe that would—
Another scream echoed through the night, louder this time. Definitely not her imagination. She pushed back the covers and hurried to the window. Had one of the cats fallen into the recycling area behind the building? Should she try to help? She bit her lip in indecision and pushed the curtain aside, straining her eyes against the darkness, to see if she could get a better view of the ground below. Something was definitely moving out there—slap-thump, slap-thump, like an animal trying to get out of a—
- Not a trapped animal, she thought in disgust, letting the curtain fall again. At least not in the traditional sense. Just her neighbor, the Christian Grey-wannabe in 6F, tying it on with his girl du jour.
She blew out a breath and turned, sinking back against the wall, annoyed with herself for panicking and aggravated that she had left the window open in the first place. After all, she’d heard this little concert before.
Last Friday, when she’d first heard loud slapping followed by a woman’s soft cries, she’d done what anyone would do and grabbed her phone to dial 9-1-1. And wouldn’t that have been a lovely way to meet her new neighbor? She snorted. Fortunately, before she could hit Call, she’d heard the soft voice counting in time to the slaps, and realized what she was hearing. A punishment scene, just like in one of the novels she’d read. A submissive being spanked, probably for breaking some trumped-up rule, and counting out the strokes. Totally not Heidi’s thing thankyouverymuch, but not exactly criminal. Heidi had shut the window firmly and tried to put it out of her mind.
But she hadn’t kept it out of her mind any more than she had kept the window shut. Nor had she called the maintenance guy to put in her air conditioner, or bought a white noise machine, or fallen asleep with her headphones in, all of which she had resolved to do, before dismissing each one in turn. She had reasons for those things, she reminded herself. It was too stuffy with the window closed, too soon to put in the air conditioner, too uncomfortable to sleep with headphones in.
And in the past week, it had happened twice more: different female voices responding to various murmured commands, faint slaps and cracks and curious thumps. And okay, yes, maybe she’d listened a little longer both times than was strictly polite, but only because she was trying to figure out what the heck was going on in there. For safety reasons.
And maybe she had strained her neck peering out of her living room window to watch each woman make her lonely walk of shame down the front walkway to the visitor’s parking area each morning, but that was only because she wanted to make sure they were okay! Not because she had been keeping track. And not because she’d been mentally comparing each one—a leggy blonde and a voluptuous redhead—to her own full-figured curves and long, mouse-brown hair.
She definitely hadn’t been trying to catch a glimpse of her mysterious neighbor, Mr. 6F.
She was definitely not getting vicarious thrills from his performances.
The woman across the alley let out another cry, a soprano C that left Heidi’s eardrums throbbing and made Princess raise her head and glance around drowsily before flopping back on the bed. Apparently Mr. 6F was putting in a special effort tonight.
“More! Yes! Oh God! Sir, yes!” the woman’s high-pitched voice squealed.
The rhythmic thumping ceased and a deep, cool male voice rolled through the window.
“Tammy, did I say you could speak?”
That voice, oh that voice. Dark as the night and rough as gravel, it dragged across Heidi’s chest like a physical caress, leaving a trail of goose bumps on her skin. As she felt her thighs clench instinctively, she realized that she’d never really heard it before, because it wasn’t the sort of voice she could ever forget. Then her mind caught up to her raging hormones and she processed the words he had spoken. Holy shit!
Did I say you could speak?
That was wrong. So, so wrong, she told herself, even as her stomach dove like a roller coaster in free-fall and her nipples hardened painfully. God, what was wrong with her?
The guy was bossing that girl around, threatening her. Maybe holding her down or even restraining her while he spanked her. Heidi should be disgusted. She was disgusted. Wasn’t she?
She closed her eyes and tried to picture the scene.
Helpfully, the voice came out of the darkness again.
“You don’t make a sound unless I command you to speak,” it repeated calmly, as the roller coaster in Heidi’s stomach made another loop.
“That’s right, honey, you nod when you need to answer me. Very good,” the voice soothed, and Heidi could actually feel the words hit her like a warm tingle, spreading down her spine from her scalp down to her back.
The sudden sharp crack made Heidi jump, her eyes flying open.
“But now, you answer me. Who sets the scene, Tammy?” the voice asked smoothly.
“You… you do, Sir!” Tammy gasped, a breathless sound of pure pleasure.
“Mmmm,” the voice approved. Another sharp crack made Heidi’s breath catch.
“Who decided that tonight you’d be spread out in front of me, on your knees with your ass in the air?”
Heidi grabbed the window sill for support.
“It was you, Sir!” Tammy wailed, pleading now.
“Who decides how and when I’m going to do you, Tammy?” the voice inquired calmly.
“Oh… oh, it’s you, it’s you, it’s you!” Tammy squealed.
“You’re damn right it is,” the voice agreed, and then the night fell silent but for the rhythmic thumping across the alley and Heidi’s hammering pulse.
Her skin felt tight and hot, and her camisole and shorts suddenly felt restrictive and chafing. Her head lolled back against the wall, her eyes tightly shut. It was so wrong, but that was the hottest thing she’d ever heard.
But even as she fought the wave of arousal, reality intruded. She pushed herself upright and pushed a trembling hand against her stomach.
The words were hot, the voice was incredibly sexy, but the tone he had used was so cold, so distant. She realized that Tammy had essentially gone through all of that by herself—the voice might as well have belonged to a vibrator for all the emotion it displayed. So calm. Too calm. What would it be like to lose control with someone, knowing that they were so rigidly in control themselves? To put yourself completely at their mercy, knowing that they weren’t getting off on the experience, on being with you, but on the power they felt from controlling you?
Heidi shuddered and, five minutes too late, shut the window. Her earlier curiosity (because it was definitely, definitely not arousal) had evaporated, leaving her feeling cold and disgusted. What had sounded exciting was actually demeaning and humiliating when it was said in such a detached, impersonal way. It confirmed what Heidi already knew: no matter how hot the fantasy might be, that kind of power imbalance only worked on the pages of a romance novel. Tomorrow, when she got her lamps at the home store, she’d check out the white noise machines. And with that comforting thought, she settled herself back into bed. Alone.