I pulled off the road and lit a cigarette.
It was a warm summer evening and I'd taken a drive to escape the house. Not that I missed Sarah, I was better off without the slut, but her presence still contaminated the rooms. Memories of her cheap scent seemed to linger, the smell exuding from the walls like rising damp. I couldn't look at the dressing table without remembering the bottles of her highly coloured nail varnish and lipstick, all neatly set out within easy reach. Even the bedroom carpet was defiled with the memory of her face, her mouth open wide and full of another man's cock.
I'll never forget her words that afternoon. It was as if I was to blame for coming home unexpectedly early.
"What are you doing here?"
His cock was still wet from pre-cum and her saliva. It was bobbing hard and erect in the air next to her face, reflecting in her deep brown eyes. I didn't look at the man's face, not at first. I was frozen, staring at the grotesque tableau in revulsion. He was sitting in a chair, leant back with his legs wide apart, with Sarah crouched supplicant before his naked body.
I dragged her upright by her hair, clasping her blonde curls tightly around my fingers, and threw her out. She was screaming, alternating between begging for forgiveness and shouting abuse as I pushed her out of the door. Her lover was struggling to dress, trying to pull on his trousers and grab his shirt as he ran down the stairs. I slammed the front door behind them and turned the key, leaving it in the lock so she couldn't use her key to open it from outside.
I didn't see her again. She came back to the house the following day when I was at work and took her clothes and a few personal possessions, and about a week later telephoned me to say she was staying at her mother's. She didn't contest the divorce. I owned the house before our marriage, and we had always maintained separate bank accounts, so the formalities were quickly dispensed. As far as I know she may have moved in with her lover after that, but I didn't care. She was the past.
Maybe I should have sold up and moved somewhere else, but that would have been like giving her some sort of moral victory, and continuing to live there became a matter of principle for me. I redecorated, got a new bed, and changed the curtains. I burned the chair on a bonfire in the garden, adding a few photograph albums to the blazing pyre on the lawn. I would have burned the carpet too, but it had come from my parent's house after they'd died, and it reminded me of them. I needed to cling to something in those dark, post-marriage days.
And that's when I started walking in the woods. My ex-wife was a townie, preferring to relax in the city cafes rather than savouring the trees and rolling fields of the outlying countryside. The only walk I took during our marriage was from the front door to the car. After the divorce, I started to visit the countryside, walking for hours through the local woods and seeking consolation in the gnarled trunks of the ancient beech and oaks that characterised the Chiltern Hills. The scenery was lovely, even on dark and wet November afternoons when the city seemed vacuously drab.
Slowly the days lengthened and the weather improved. Sometimes I drove to the woods direct from work, spending the evening listening to the birds singing in the canopy above my head. It became my recluse, away from the dirt and memories of ten years of matrimony. But I think now, looking back, I was trying to escape from something more than the dissolution of my marriage.
I was seeking to suppress the temptation to get revenge on womankind.
The anger I felt towards my wife grew with the passing seasons, spreading out to encompass every woman I encountered. I watched them in the streets, flaunting their bodies in the sunshine, teasing me with their pert breasts and long, tanned legs. I couldn't even escape at work, both disgusted and aroused by the young secretaries in their smart mini-skirted business suits and short summer dresses. It was only by walking in the woods, smelling the new foliage after rain, that I could relax and forget my growing desire for sexual revenge.
And, in the end, the woods did provide me with catharsis. Although I doubt Maria saw it that way.
Everybody in the office knew Maria. She was Mexican and, although only Malcolm’s secretary, newcomers thought she was in charge of the building. She strode around, normally carrying a bundle of important looking files, giving orders on behalf of her boss in an uncompromising, dictatorial manner. She drove an expensive car and dressed in designer clothes way beyond her meager salary, paid for by virtue of having married an extremely powerful and influential City banker. Maybe mixing with his colleagues had helped hone that superior air that made her so despised by everybody in the department, but whatever the reason she presided over her colleagues with an effortless superiority that was legendary. Nobody, but nobody, ever tried to contradict or coerce Maria.
She seemed to gain particular pleasure from treating men, and me in particular, with contempt. She always wore intimidating, well-cut suits, usually with short skirts that accentuated her slender hips and long, shapely legs. She was attractive and she knew it, wearing clothes that flattered her lithe body. She knew how to use her sultry physique to assert her power, sitting back in her chair and putting her hands on her knees in a pose of assured, aggressive femininity. Whenever I dared venture to the third floor she was on guard, seldom permitting me entry to Malcolm’s inner office except by express invitation. She sat behind her desk, looking at me with her accustomed supercilious expression, fully aware that I was no match for her withering look.
"Malcolm’s very busy and can’t see you today. I’ll try and speak to him. He may be able to fit you in tomorrow, or maybe the day after."
Then she would turn away, resolutely tapping her computer keyboard and making it clear our conversation was concluded. I retreated accordingly, sneaking a glance at her legs before closing the door on my way out.
That fateful morning our paths had crossed in the office canteen. She was talking in a loud voice to one of the secretaries.
"Of course, I won't be here for the next two weeks. My husband and I are jetting off home. We're spending a few days with my brother in Guadalajara before spending the rest of the time on the coast. My husband's booked the best hotel in the area, we'll be staying there."
The other woman looked suitably impressed.
"I haven't been home in such a long time. We've been everywhere else; the Far East, safari in Africa, we've done all those things, but it'll be nice to go home and see how the place has changed."
Maria cast a disparaging glance around the room.
"I don’t know how Malcolm will cope while I'm away, but he'll just have to manage. I suppose everything will be a complete mess when I get back. That's the only trouble with holidays, having to come back to such a tangle. Still, I suppose people do their best."
Several people in the canteen exchanged glances. As I say, everybody knew Maria.
I collected my food and sat quietly at a corner table. I listened to Maria relating stories of a recent safari to her colleague, casting glances over towards her table with ill-concealed hatred. She typified everything I’d come to hate about women. That false authoritarianism, using physical attributes to intimidate and control men like me. How I dreamed of using that same sexuality against her! She was nothing but a cheap whore, extorting power, not money, from the men around her. I was convinced the only reason Malcolm had appointed her was because she’d slept with him.
At one point, her fork poised at her lips, she glanced in my direction. Maybe she could see the growing anger in my face because she looked quickly away before continuing her reminiscences in an even louder voice. I couldn’t stand it any more and I walked out in disgust, throwing my cutlery in the dirty bin with a clatter.
I spent that afternoon unsuccessfully trying to balance the departmental accounts, and left early and frustrated. It was hot in the car and I drove with the passenger window wide open, trying to extract every bit of the barely discernible breeze. When I reached the woods I took the longest path, feeling calmer in the cool shadows of the trees. I sat down on a rotting stump to swig from a can of fizzy drink and contemplate the sky through the canopy, putting my face back to catch the dappled sunlight shimmering through the canopy.
It's a beautiful part of the country, I mused contentedly, my eyes closed and listening to a pigeon gently cooing on a far branch. Home, work, the city - they all seemed so far away.
I walked for hours that evening, climbing over styles and following unfamiliar dirt tracks through the trees. I was truly at peace with myself and with nature. Life, I decided, didn't get any better than this, and it was late when I eventually turned back towards the road.
The path back through the woods took me alongside some fields, and as I looked towards the city in the distance something caught my attention. On the edge of the wood the orange sun was glinting on something shiny, and as I looked closer I could see a car parked at the end of a gated track. The path back to the road circled close to the stationary vehicle, and as I approached I stopped short and gaped at the number plate, recognising it immediately.
In that moment, all the hours of relaxation were lost and I felt my revulsion return as I stared at the car.
Not her. Oh God, not her. How dare the slag come here, to my special place?
Instinctively I jumped back behind a bush and tried to think what to do. If she was in the car she would be sure to see me pass, on the other hand it was a long walk back around the other way of the field to where I was parked. I hesitated, trying to see through the branches of the bush if the car was occupied.
Why her? Why tonight, when I’d only just assuaged my growing anger against her? And why did she want to stop here? I couldn't imagine Maria being interested in the flora and fauna of the Buckinghamshire woodlands?
I must have cowered behind the bush for half an hour before I spotted movement. Then, silently, the back door of the car clicked open and Maria swung her legs out. From my angle I could clearly see her bare thighs as she emerged from the back seat, hastily pulling down her skirt. She looked around nervously, then turned and smiled at another figure crawling out of the car.
It was a young man who definitely wasn't her husband. He was casually dressed and had a flushed, slightly rugged face, and as he emerged into the twilight he grinned as he zipped up his trousers and adjusted his belt. Maria laughed.
I'd never heard her laugh before, nor even seen her smile, and the unfamiliar sound of her giggles seemed totally incongruous with my hitherto image of her. Without thinking, perhaps almost as a reflex action, I pulled out my mobile phone and held it up through the branches. Neither her nor her lover were looking in my direction, both blissfully unaware their every move was now being video recorded on my phone.
Maria helped the man tuck in his shirt, then with a guilty smile she pushed his body back against the car and inclined her head to kiss him. His strong hands felt for the top of her leg, and I watched with growing excitement as he slipped his hand up over her thigh.
"No more," I heard her say softly. "I've got to go. He'll be getting suspicious."
The man looked sad.
"But I won't see you for two weeks," he moaned. "How will I cope?"
"We'll cope," she replied gently. "We always have before."
I stayed behind the bush until they'd driven off, her car lunging over the uneven track. I watched the tail lights disappear into the distance towards to the road, still digesting my observations. Then I clicked my phone to stop recording and played back the video. Maria was immediately recognisable, and as an added bonus I'd managed to film the registration number of her car as she'd driven off.
I put the phone back in my pocket, waiting for a few minutes until I was definitely sure they’d gone. I'd filmed the scene as a whim, with no clear idea what I was going to do with the footage. It was certainly damning, easily enough evidence for her husband to file for divorce. And that was my dilemma. Part of me wanted to mail it to him straight away, ruining her life in the same way women had ruined mine. But the video was dynamite. It had brought me exactly what I’d craved. It gave me power over Maria, and I wanted that more than anything else in the world.
While Maria was away on holiday I copied the video to disk and to my cloud server. I wanted it backed up in several places just in case she got hold of my phone. Then I started planning. I sat in the woods, evening after evening, thinking how I could use the power I'd so accidentally obtained. I could get her to persuade Malcolm to give me a rise. I could ask for money. I could even be altruistic, forcing her to be polite to her colleagues. Or I could do all three. And more.
Most people were dreading Maria returning to work, the atmosphere was so much better when she was away. But for once I wanted her back. I couldn't wait to see her face when she saw the video.
She'd been back several days before I managed to get her alone. We were in the car park at the end of the working day and she was boring a chap from personnel with her holiday stories.
"It was just awesome," she droned. "Fabulous. We've got to go back there soon. The hotel was just unbelievable. But then, I suppose you expect that when you go to the best hotel in the country."
The man smiled and made some excuse about being late for an appointment. As he drove off she turned to me and said something about seeing me in the morning.
I deliberately let her walk back to her car before I said anything. She was too busy looking through her handbag for her car keys to notice me follow her, and she jumped slightly when she saw me.
"By the way," I said casually, trying not to look like my heart was beating at twice the normal speed. "I've got something to show you."
I took out my phone and turned the screen so she could see it.
"I thought you'd like this video."
As she watched the screen with increasing horror I fixed my eyes on her face. The feeling of satisfaction I gained from her shattered expression was immense. How many years I’d waited to see that look of fear in her eyes. When the video finished she momentarily met my gaze before looking away.
"How did you get that?" she stammered, her voice distant and broken.
"Never mind that. I think we need to talk."
"What do you want?"
She was hissing like a caged snake, but I could see that it was fear, not anger, making her quiver.
"Follow my car. And if you don't, or you try some funny business, I've got plenty of copies. It won't take me long to find your husband's e-mail address. Perhaps I could send it to his bank, I'm sure his staff will enjoy it."
"You wouldn't," she growled in a hoarse whisper.
"Oh yes I would."
I drove out of the car park, checking in my rear view mirror to see if she was following. I could see her face behind the steering wheel. She looked stunned and apprehensive, and I smiled as I drove out towards the woods.
I pulled into a lay-by and she obediently parked up behind. I got out and went round to the offside of her car, bending down to talk through the passenger window.
"Get out," I ordered authoritatively. "Let's go for a walk."
"My shoes," she complained, looking down at the high stiletto heels. "I can't walk through the woods in these. They'll be ruined."
It was a small act of defiance, and she knew she had little choice but to follow me.
"Hold on," she pleaded. "I've got some flats in the boot."
I waited while she changed her shoes, then led her along one of the woodland paths until we reached a clearing.
Neither of us spoke, her eyes constantly darting back to my face, trying to read my expression.
I stopped and took out my cigarettes. I offered her one but she shook her head. I lit up, looking at her shivering body through the wispy white tobacco smoke.
"Now I've been thinking," I said slowly. "I have three basic courses of action open to me. First, I can keep the video and do nothing, but I don't like that idea. Second I could just mail it to your husband."
"Please," she said suddenly. "No, please."
"Your husband's pretty good to you," I went on, ignoring the interruption. "He buys you nice clothes and a nice car and he takes you away on exotic holidays and you live in a big house. Your lover must be very good, making you risk all that. Where did you meet him?"
She didn't reply.
"Okay," I shrugged, "please yourself. You don't have to tell me. Anyway," I took an extra deep drag on the cigarette, "so that's two options. But there's a third. And do you know what that third option is?"
Maria shook her head.
"Oh come on Maria, you're a sensible girl! You must be able to think of a third option. A more palatable option, perhaps? More palatable, more mutually beneficial, for us both?"
"What do you want? Promotion? Wage increase? I can get Malcolm to do that, no problem at all."
"I'm sure you could," I agreed with a sneer. "Suck him off too, do you? Give him a blow job on the desk to keep him sweet?"
"Don't give me that! I bet this chap isn't the only affair you've had? I bet you've had dozens of blokes. Nice big car like yours? Plenty of room in the back."
"It's not like that."
"I bet it is."
There was a pause. A magpie flew low overhead then soared back upward over the trees.
"Take off your knickers."
My penis was rock hard. Her vulnerability was giving me the most incredibly erotic feeling I’d ever experienced.
"Duncan," she said imploringly, "please don’t do this. You're not a bad man; you've been through a lot, your divorce and everything. I know why you want to punish me. I understand. You want revenge. But please, don’t make me do this.
"Look," she went on, trying to calm herself, "I know, perhaps it’s my fault. Maybe I’ve treated you badly. It is, I know it is, it’s my fault. I totally understand. I’ve driven you to this, I see that now. But listen, maybe, maybe we can do a deal."
I threw my cigarette on the ground and looked at her enquiringly.
"You don’t really want my body, do you? Maybe you just want to see me beg? Yes? Is that it? You just want me to beg? You wouldn’t really hurt me, would you."
"I want your body."
"You need to ask me that?" I exploded. "You go round the office, teasing all the men, teasing me, with your short skirts and your tight jackets? You sit in the canteen, crossing your legs, knowing the men are watching you? You love it! You're like all the rest. You're a slag using your sex to get places. Look but don't you dare touch! It gives you satisfaction, seeing how men look at you, frustrating them. Well, now I'm going to make you pay for all that. You've used your sex against me once too often. Now I’ve got something I can use against you."
My anger was out of control, and I was frightening myself. But I couldn’t stop. I was a tiger waiting to pounce on the wounded gazelle. She put her hand out, imploring me to wait.
"Okay, okay," she said breathlessly. "Ok, please. Okay. Look. Will you at least promise me one thing? If I don't struggle, if I don't try and resist, will you give me the video? All the copies?"
I stared at her. This slag, this worthless whore, was offering her body in exchange for the footage. I didn't know whether to smile in satisfaction at my victory or punch her to the floor. In the event I did neither. I just looked at her.
"Maybe I want you to struggle?" I suggested at last, slowly unzipping my trousers.
"I just want the video," she cried, the tears starting to run her mascara in black lines down her cheeks.
"We'll see," I said slowly. "We'll see."
To my surprise she seemed to do everything she could to please me, even gripping her hands around my back to keep me balanced on her writhing body. Even when I rammed my cock hard between her legs, deliberately being as rough as I could, she didn't say a word. I bit viciously into her nipples, pleased at the way it made her rock back her head, but she didn't even murmur for me to stop, or cry out for clemency. When I shot my load deep into her pussy I felt her body monetarily tense every sinew before relaxing back, lying back limply on the grass of the woodland floor.
It was all over very quickly. I sat up, satisfied and contemplating her naked and sweating body. Her eyes were open, staring.
"You're a good fuck," I commented dispassionately. "You know how to please a man."
"You enjoyed it?" she asked slowly.
"It feels good, having power over me?"
She was still fixing me with a stare. I wanted to look away, but her eyes were imprisoning and paralysing my gaze.
Then, slowly, she stood up and brushed away some grass that had stuck to the sweat on her naked back.
Without warning she suddenly reached out and touched my flaccid, spent penis. I automatically flinched, but her touch was gentle, her fingertips running slowly up and down my cock.
"How ironic," she murmured tonelessly under her breath, "how funny."
"Funny? What? My dick?"
"Have you ever enjoyed such a good fuck as that?"
I stared at her.
Somewhere in the distance a dog was barking, and I could hear the traffic on the main road floating on the still air. I looked at her naked body silhouetted against the setting sun, still recovering from the frantic exertion.
"Well?" she questioned again.
"It was good," I admitted. "It was bloody good. But I still don’t understand what’s funny?"
Slowly, like the sea receding over a sandy beach, her face broke into a huge and radiant smile.
"You enjoyed the power. I enjoyed the submission."
"What do you mean?"
She hesitated. She brought her hand up to feel the stubble on my cheek then ran her fingers slowly down over my naked chest.
"Why are you looking like that?" she asked, her smile now a broad grin, amused by my bewilderment. "You secretly want to dominate me, why shouldn’t I secretly have wanted to be controlled?"
She gently tucked my penis back inside my trousers and carefully pulled up the zipper.
"My husband loves to be dominated," she continued slowly. "He’s a powerful man and yet all he really wants me to do is tie him up and fuck him up his arse with a dildo. How kinky is that? He likes me to strap him to the bed and whip him so hard that he has to go to work with the scars still sore against his shirt. It turns him on. And he’s rich, so I put on an act to please him. But you know what? Underneath I don’t get my kicks from giving my husband the strap. Quite the reverse."
I started to button my shirt. The evening was cooling fast and the sweat was drying cold on my body.
"Is that why you’re having an affair? Because your husband doesn’t satisfy you?
Maria threw her head back and laughed.
"I guess you could say I take lovers because of my husband," she smiled, "but not in the way you mean. He likes it. No, that’s wrong. He loves it. It gives him a hard on, thinking of me fucking other men. I used to bring them back to the house so he could listen in the next room, but it freaked some of them out. Now he’s content to clean out my pussy when I get home. He likes going down on his hands and knees, running his tongue up my cunt knowing another man’s been somewhere he never gets."
"What?" I exclaimed with surprise, "he never gets to fuck you?"
"Never. He likes it that way. Even when I wank him he likes me to ruin it, he loves me stopping halfway through."
I shook my head. I didn’t understand his psychology but I guessed some men got their kicks like that.
"So you’ll make him clean you out tonight?"
"I don’t know," she pondered. "Maybe not. Tonight was kind of special. You think I’ve been teasing you? Driving you to distraction? Well, you’re right. But only because I hoped, or maybe fantasised, that one day you’d snap. And finally you did."
"You wanted me to take you?"
The sun was just starting to fade over the distant hills. She turned around and picked up her clothes, brushing them free of leaves and little clods of earth.
"But, if that’s true, why were you so keen to get hold of the video?" I asked, still confused.
"That was pure luck. I couldn’t believe it when you played me that video! It was perfect! You thought you had power over me at last! It was wonderful! I suppose I hoped something like that would happen. I knew you walked in these woods, so I thought if I brought a lover here you might catch me. I never thought you’d get a video though. That was a bonus."
She picked up her jacket and slowly eased it over her shoulders.
"Does it spoil it for you?" she asked, suddenly concerned. "Knowing that I wanted it that way, does it ruin it?"
It didn’t. I felt purged of all the aggression that had been bubbling in my psyche ever since my divorce. I kissed her gently on the neck.
"No," I said softly.
Then, her voice returning to a false quiver, she turned and asked:
"I suppose you won’t be giving me that video then?"
"Do you want me to?"
She pulled away from me and took a few steps back.
"No. I think you should keep it. After all, you’ve got power over me now. Or, at least, we can pretend you have. I think you should use that power regularly. Force me to submit to you over and over again."
We stood in the clearing, facing each other like two prize-fighters that have just discovered they share a common interest in fixing the fight.
"So," she purred in mock apprehension, "what do you want from me?"
I picked up my discarded jacket and took out my diary.
"I'm free Thursday," I said nonchalantly. "How's Thursday for you?"
"Same time, same place? Or would you prefer it in your car? Which do you fancy? Here or on the back seat?"
"You're never going to give me that video, are you?"
"I don’t know," I replied, pretending to think. "Maybe I will at some point. When you pleased me. When you've really pleased me. Over and over again."
She acted the part of slave well, her face crumpling in mock despair.
"Now," I added with a smile. "Just one more thing for today."
She waited, like a prisoner in the dock, for her sentence to be passed.
"Beg me," I commanded in a quiet, controlled voice.
"For the video?"
"No, not for the video. Beg me for sex."
And, meekly at first, then louder, imploringly, she did.
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