I’m delighted to have not one but two stories in Maxim Jakubowski’s recently released anthology, The Mammoth Book of Erotic Romance and Domination.
Last week I gave you the opening of How to Get Sex When You’re Dead. This week, I’m posting the opening to my second story, Seven Stripes of Colour.
Seven is a story about kinksters who meet via online dating; kinksters who are old enough to have some serious baggage. This is one of those stories that made me moist-eyed as I was writing it. It’s rare that short stories do that to me. Novels, yes. Shorts, not so much.
Seven Stripes of Colour
Under a pale apricot sky, city buses looped in front of the railway station, their slow headlights weaving patterns in the dusk. Louise strode from cab to pub, her heart beating a little too fast. She loved doing this, meeting men in places where no one belonged, in stations, airports and motorway cafes. She imagined her grey, digitalised self on CCTV monitors as she made her way to another date.
The anonymity of these places appealed to the pessimist in her. She expected, at best, a short-lived affair. At worst, the two of them would part in relief after a sour coffee or non-descript wine. Then he and she would merge with the travellers around them, en route to elsewhere, confused and anxious, caught in the limbo of to-ing and fro-ing. Warp and weft. Yes and no.
Jason was different to the others, that much was obvious at once. His kindness and warmth were evident in his greeting: a broad grin and a kiss on the cheek. All too often, the dominants she met after ‘meeting’ online were, if young, guarded and cocky or, if older, charmingly chivalric.
“I’ll get this,” he said when she’d selected her wine at the bar.
“OK, I’ll get the next round,” she replied, indicating that already she liked him enough to stay and wasn’t expecting him to foot the bill. Establishing the importance of equality was, she felt, crucial if powerplay negotiations were to be fair and mutual.
Fifteen minutes into their conversation she wondered what the catch was. Married? Impotent? Deranged? Three hours later she knew, but by then it was too late.
“How’s your hotel?” he asked, quickly filling a silence.
“Five minutes away.”
He laughed but didn’t take the bait. Well, it was still early in the game so fair enough. The photographs he’d emailed didn’t do him justice. You wouldn’t call him handsome but he was definitely striking. His face had a skew-whiff, battered quality and his dark eyes glittered, really glittered. They held the mad energy of a man whose zest for life has resulted in him seeing too much. He wore faded jeans, trainers, T-shirt and a suit jacket which he hung over the back of his chair. His shoulders were wide, his arms muscular and darkly-haired. Rogue strands of silver glinted in his short brown curls and flecked his neat sideburns.
As they talked, buses crawled beyond the long, low window behind him. Occasionally, headlights swept into the dark wooden bar, bathing the two of them in a shuddering glow or framing him in momentary halos.
“I haven’t done this for over four years,” he said after Louise returned from buying the next round. Wine for her, beer for him.
Uh-oh, she thought. Here’s where it all goes pear-shaped. He’s going to tell me he’s just split up with someone and I’ve got a rebound on my hands. Or his ailing mother’s about to die, or he’s fresh out of jail.
“So how am I doing?” he added.
She laughed. “You’re doing great. Nine out of ten. Clearly a natural.”
“Damn, I dropped a point. How come?”
“Hey, no one gets ten. Ten would be perfection and a perfect person would automatically lose a point for being perfect, ergo insufferable.”
Jason nodded thoughtfully then smiled. “Well, I got top marks. Go me!”
After a pause, she asked, “So tell me, what’s the story? Why’ve you been away from the joys of dating?” Nervous, she ran her thumb and fingers up and down the stem of her wine glass, desisting when she recalled a claim the gesture was indicative of a subconscious gesture to jerk a guy off. So much wishful thinking in pop psychology.
“Ah, this and that,” he said. “Got out of the habit. Found myself continually disappointed. I was in a straight, you know, a vanilla relationship for around 18 months but…” He trailed off with a shrug. “It’s not for me. I tried but the older I get, the more I… Anyway, that ended over a year ago. And since then, before then too, I’ve been trying… No, wondering how to realise my desires without, how shall I phrase it?” He inclined his head at a philosophical angle. “Without causing harm.”
Her heart pumped harder. She found him simultaneously exciting and terrifying. She started to work the stem of her glass again, this time not stopping when she realised what she was doing.
“Should I be worried?” she asked. “I mean, if we decide we want to play together, would I be in danger? Because if so, I’m probably going to pass. Sorry.” She took a large sip of wine as if to support her decisive words.
Jason shook his head. “I’m ninety-nine per cent certain you’d be safe with me.”
He reached across the table, allowing his fingertips to drift over her hand. She returned the gesture, their contact tentative and fumbling like that of long-standing, melancholy lovers. The beam of headlights from outside crept across their table, casting glossy patches on the wood and rippling over their knuckles. When she looked up, his eyes were downcast, his curls briefly backlit. In that instant, she was irrationally afraid; not of him but for the two of them together. She felt as if they’d been caught in the arc of a searchlight and had nowhere left to run.
“And the missing one per cent?” she asked as the bar’s shadows settled around them again.
His smile was strained. Behind him, the buses kept huffing and purring, their passengers silhouetted in halogen-white windows. She thought of Blanch DuBois at the start of her journey trilling, “Why, they told me to take a streetcar named Desire!”
At length, he gave her a stern, serious look. “You,” he said, “are fucking beautiful. And you’re driving my cock insane. What’s our safeword?”
The confident delivery of his sudden, dirty seduction was more than enough to arouse her. She loved knowing this new man was sitting opposite her in a pub, his cock secretly swelling as they talked. Adrenaline made her fingers tremble, and a beat throbbed between her thighs. For a moment, the world burned, the lights outside gleaming in tones of white-gold, dark amber and bright cherry-red. She experienced the slippage, the shift of the mundane into a spectrum of yellow-hued, fiery magic, the start of a rainbow. She recalled the schoolgirl mnemonic for remembering the order of colours in the spectrum. Richard of York gave battle in vain. Red orange yellow, and so on.
“Red,” she replied, amusing herself by thinking, A bus called Lust.
“We should drink up.”
She grinned and touched her glass against his. “We should.”
The Mammoth Book of Erotic Romance and Domination, released a couple of months ago and edited by Maxim Jakubowski, features two, brand new stories of mine, both of which involve sex and death, but in very different ways.
This super-hot anthology offers original fic from a host of new and well-established writers, including bestselling Eighty-Days author, Vina Jackson, and KD Grace, Justine Elyot, Remittance Girl and more!
My two stories are How to Get Sex When You’re Dead and Seven Stripes of Colour. Below is the opening of How to.
I’ll aim to post an excerpt from Seven Stripes soonish.
How to Get Sex When You’re Dead
I never considered myself a voyeur but there’s not much else to do when you’re dead. We hang out at cloud-level, shooting the breeze and watching what’s going on down below. I wish I could talk to Gabe. He might sleep better if he knew I hadn’t cashed in my chips and there was still some residue hanging around, or “soul” if you want to be romantic. Then again, if Gabe knew how frustrating it was to be incorporeal and horny, he’d be desperately sad for me, so it’s probably best I keep schtum.
Oh, but I have heaps to tell him, like: Dying really hurts! But trust me, Gabe, the pain’s gone in a flash. Your pain-memory gets wiped and nothing lingers. Losing your body is the weirdest sensation. Oh Gabe, I hope you get to keep yours till you’re old and grey. Look after it, won’t you? Mine’s gone for good and like I say, the transition’s so weird. One moment I’m being ripped apart from the inside, my mouth filling with blood, the next I’m totally spaced out, seeping into the ether and rising on a high no drugs could match.
As I slipped away, I gazed down at the Honda, upright but crushed, and at the mess I’d made of my face. Behind the shattered glass, I was as still as a mannequin, looking so peaceful despite the violence done to my body. Bizarrely, at the moment of impact I had a flashback of standing before the bathroom mirror that morning, choosing a lipstick I didn’t often wear. I’d tipped the tube to check the shade: Fast Ride. Later, I wondered if I’d chosen the lipstick thanks to my sassy mood or if reading the name had subliminally affected me, causing me to keep my foot on the pedal as I rounded the bend. This might sound shallow but, either way, I’m pleased I went toes up with a plum-dark pout.
I didn’t think this at the time, oh no! I wasn’t pleased about anything. My main thought before bliss engulfed me, was: Shit, shit, shit! Why so fast, Emily?
I begged to have those last few seconds back, promising whoever was up there I’d get it right this time. But no fucker was listening. You don’t get it back. Life’s not a rehearsal, as they say.
I also want to tell Gabe I’m sorry about that night in Antigua when I said things I shouldn’t after my seventh caipirinha. Plus, I have — I have? I had? Grammar’s so hard when you’re a ghost — I had a secret bank account with £18, 000 in. The statements go to my sister’s but I’d like Gabe and the kids to have the money. That was my running-away fund. I had no plans to run away, I swear, but my mother used to say every woman should have a running-away fund. Oh, and there’s another thing. I’d like to apologize to my mum for dying before her. That’s not the correct order of events, I know. I fucked up. Fast Ride.
But I can’t do any of this. I’m voiceless and I’m bodiless. I can see them but they can’t see me. I’m not omniscient but it’s close. I can see everyone I ever knew, and by Christ, but there’s a lot of you, too many to keep up with. I follow those who meant the most to me, or (and this is my guilty pleasure) those who are pure entertainment. It’s like Twitter but for dead people. No one follows me.
And that’s the awful part because I’m following a guy I dated in my twenties, Ash Akbari. I doubt he remembers me but I never forgot him. Hey, Ash! I was the annoying brunette who liked to make a drama out of a crisis out of nothing much at all. I was a tad screwy back then, and I’m sorry. Then again, you weren’t exactly Mr Sane, were you? Oh, but wow, haven’t you grown? If I had the ability to be moist, I’d be soaked and swollen, my body opening in readiness for your cock. However, as things stand, I have desire and it swirls most intensely somewhere below my seat of consciousness. Damned if I can relieve the itch though. I have no hands, see?
Oh, let me tell you about Ash. (I’m sorry, Gabe! I love you madly but I don’t think this counts as cheating, and I’m sure you’d understand.) Ash was stunning. He was Anglo-Iranian, and had inky, collar length curls he would tuck behind his ears. His cheekbones hung on a perfect slant, and his intense, Persian eyes were teal-green ringed with black. He looked as if he could read minds with those eyes. Maybe he could. I used to imagine he was someone who could get under my skin. But I was young. I didn’t want him under my skin. Or rather I did, but didn’t want to admit that. I was trying to be cool and invulnerable. Besides, if I’d let him under my skin, he most likely would have stayed awhile and tried to destroy me. Ash liked to cause suffering; that was part of the attraction. I was needy and attention-seeking. I liked to suffer. I liked to blame. I liked to fight.
He ran me a bath. We’d been arguing and fucking all afternoon at his place and in the evening, I said I fancied a soak. The water was too hot. I dipped my toe in and yelped. I reached for the cold tap but he stopped me by grabbing hold of my hair. His fist was by the nape of my neck and he tilted my head back. His voice was by my ear. “I don’t care if it’s too fucking hot,” he said. His words were so close I might have been making them up myself, hearing voices inside my head. “Get in.”
I was knocked by a rush of arousal so acute my legs nearly buckled. The threatening tone in his voice, not to mention the nastiness of his order, got me right where it shouldn’t. My lust confused the hell out of me. I didn’t like that I liked it, and I don’t think Ash liked that he liked it either.
“You serious?” I said.
He released me. “Nah, just messing.” He ran the cold tap then waggled his fingers in the water. “It’s fine now.”
I was disappointed. I’d wanted him to respond to my reticence by continuing with his bossiness. I’d wanted him to force me to take pain for his pleasure. Maybe not a hot bath but you know, a sexy thing. We had another row later that night, something and nothing. I do know it was my fault though. I pushed it, baiting him to get angry because I wanted to be subjected to his aggression again. I was an emotional masochist, re-routing an unexplored taste for pain into a more acceptable outlet, that of being a pain-in-the-butt girlfriend. But as I say, Ash wasn’t comfortable with his dark side either. We were young, too scared of revealing ourselves in case we got rejected.
But hey, not anymore! I’m dead, I’m twisted and I’m horny! What have I got to lose?
How about this for guidelines for authors? Exciting, no?
The erotica-buying public are practically unshockable these days … I’d like [authors] to think about working against convention in terms of women’s erotic fiction. I want to dust off the traces of romantic writing and aim for streamlined, economical prose … Out go masked balls, ripped bodices and pulsing nubbins to make way for more down-to-earth, no-messing stories which take their lead from somewhere other than romance … I would like to see some stories which explore fetishistic practices or where the central female character is driven by desires which are less wholesome than ‘finding a perfect lover’.
The above was sent to Black Lace authors in 1998, sixteen years ago, when the imprint had been going for five years. The guidelines were wonderfully refreshing at the time (and would be now!), and inspired me to write my second novel, Asking for Trouble. The words poured out of me in a way they hadn’t done before and haven’t since. The book has sold more than all of my other books combined, and then some. I was possessed! Asking for Trouble has a sleazy, noirish feel, and a suspense-thriller element to it, something I’ve continued to explore in my writing to this day.
I’d love to write more erotic, psychological thrillers, with a dark sprinkling of the gothic, but that’s a hard sell when the field is dominated by kink-lite erotic romance, and when the pressure to give readers a happy ending is so strong. I’m convinced there’s a market for erotic thrillers, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Undone, out in September in the UK, has something in common with the newly popular and dubiously-named ‘chick noir‘, psychological suspense thrillers aimed at women, exploring how well we know the people we’re close to. I wasn’t aware these books were being hailed as the Next Big Thing in publishing until recently but it’s nice to think that I might, for a change, be almost in step with the world! Obviously, Undone has a lot more depraved, kinky sex than ‘chick noir. I’d call it ‘clit noir’ if that tag wasn’t nearly as awful.
Asking for Trouble, my first foray into erotic-not-romance is fifteen years old next week. So I was deliriously thrilled to see this tweet from bestselling crime author, Elizabeth Haynes.
@kristina_lloyd Just finished Asking for Trouble – was AWESOME. Which one next? xx
— Elizabeth Haynes (@Elizjhaynes) July 6, 2014
It’s so rare for someone outside of erotica to comment positively on our books, and getting the thumbs up from someone who’s massively successful in a genre I’m flirting with is wonderfully validating. If you haven’t yet read Elizabeth’s debut, Into the Darkest Corner, go buy it now! Or check out some of the 1,500 reviews on Amazon, and see if you can *not* buy it!
And if you’re in the South East next week, join me on Tuesday for the inaugural Dirty Sexy Words gig in Croydon, South London. It’s on the 15th July, the eve of Asking for Trouble‘s 15th birthday. I’m not yet sure if I’ll be reading from AFT or Undone or something else entirely. But there will be cake!
Sallyanne, the brains behind this new venture, recently began blogging about erotica classics and gave Asking for Trouble a fabulous write up at the start of her series. She says:
“A part of the book’s appeal is the brilliant evocation of Brighton in the late 90s; the town is almost a character in its own right. Kristina Lloyd also captures the irrational, compulsive momentum of unwise lust. I think the most memorable thing about it, finally, is that it depicts a woman who is both sexually submissive – massively sexually submissive – but also a rounded character who is, ultimately, in charge of her own life.”
It looks like a lot of fun, and it would be fab to see some of you there!
Isn’t it so very beautiful? And how much do I want that dress?
Undone will be published on September 11th, 2014. I’m really hoping people will read it shortly after it’s released, and before the inevitable spoilers start appearing in reviews! Here’s the blurb.
After her divorce, Lana Greenwood buys a cocktail bar, a vintage handcuff collection and, at a friend’s birthday party in a manor house, fulfils a long-held fantasy of having a kinky threesome with two men. On the morning after the party, one of the men, Misha Morozov, a Russian pharmacologist and a regular at Lana’s bar, is discovered dead in the swimming pool. Everything points to Misha’s death being an accident apart from evidence in the bedroom where the threesome took place.
Lana begins to write a diary, unpacking her troubled emotions and detailing her increasingly obsessive relationship with the second guy, Sol Miller, a charismatic but cagey ex-New Yorker, and a compelling dom. Soon, Lana suspects Sol may be implicated in Misha’s death. Can Lana trust him? Or should Sol be asking if he can trust Lana?
And add to your Goodreads list
Um, Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody! I’m late.
Happily Ever Anal is the fourth in our series of booty books, and in this year’s anthology our stories have a romantic twist. My contribution, ‘Dr Facility and the Loving Butt Plug’, tells of a woman who’s longing to lose her anal virginity within a committed, loving relationship. So she seeks the advice of the mysterious and slightly monstrous Dr Facility.
My story isn’t trad romance, as you can probably tell! I had heaps of fun playing with the conventions of romantic love and the tropes of romance fiction when I wrote this story.
Here’s the beginning of the piece.
Dr Facility lived on the wrong side of town, tucked away among the warehouses of the old docks. At the entrance to his practice, an engraved silver plaque read: Dr Facility makes dreams come true.
It neglected to say whose dreams.
I pressed the bell. Immediately, the voices came tumbling into my head, a cacophony of lines I’d been rehearsing since embarking on my journey (my emotional, sexual journey, that is, not the one that had brought me there that night). What to choose?
“Dr Facility, I want to lose my anal virginity to a man who’ll truly love me.”
“Good doctor, I’ve heard buttsex used to be meaningful and you might think me old-fashioned but I yearn for those days.”
Or “Please help. I want to get romantically fucked up the ass. Is that even possible in the 21st century?”
When the buzzer sounded, I heaved open the thick, steel door. My hands shook. I’d heard so much about this man, always in whispers and rumors, in bars late at night when tongues grew loose, and in furtive conversations, the sort where a friend tells you about a friend of a friend who could recommend a man down by the docks.
He wasn’t what I was expecting. He was shorter, for one thing, and dramatically handsome — his eyes smoldering, his brow grim and brooding, his starched white coat at variance with the carelessness suggested by his unshaven jaw and unkempt hair. Too caught up in intellectual pursuits to remember daily grooming, no doubt. In the center of a vast room stood his desk, a deeply polished oak number topped in green leather, an Anglepoise lamp casting a pool of light onto the surface. Dr Facility sat behind the desk in the half-shadows.
“Tell me what you want, ” he said as I took my seat opposite him.
I spoke, nervous and halting, and he studied me, turning a pen in one hand. When I’d finished, I awaited his response, my heart thumping, my plea for help hanging awkwardly in the silence. I had to remind myself he was a professional, he’d heard it all before.
Finally, he said, “This is the first time anyone’s come to me with a problem like this.”
I looked down, embarrassed. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be, please. I enjoy a challenge. It could even make a credible research paper. Your identity would be protected, of course.”
“Now if you could raise your skirt and lean over my desk.”
“But …” I struggled for words. “You mean this desk? Here?”
Dr Facility gestured around his dingy, oversized consulting room. A low bookshelf lined with leather-bound texts ran along one wall, next to it a winged armchair and a small table, big enough to hold a book but little else. Opposite, pinned to an empty wall, was an eye chart of letters diminishing in size. Standing forlornly in a far corner, just about visible in the gloom, was a tall, balance-beam weighing scale made of wood and brass. Below a square window whose blinds were drawn, a drinks cabinet offered a multiplicity of liquor bottles, short and fat, tall and slim, their colorful contents reminiscent of an apothecary’s wares.
Once my eyes had adjusted to the dimness, I could see the details of a framed picture hanging several yards away from the eye chart, a black and white photograph of a wild-haired woman in a straitjacket, the image flecked with dirt and scratches. The woman looked to the camera with deranged glee, and yet it also seemed as if she were looking at us, her avaricious eyes fixed on Dr Facility’s desk.
It was hard to say what sort of doctor this man was.
“Do you see any other desks here?” he asked.
“No, I’m sorry. It’s just that …”
I trailed off helplessly. Dr Facility, at ease in his big, swivel chair, observed me as if waiting for me to expand. He resumed toying with his pen, his spotlit hands flexing and twisting as he slow-twirled his little, ink-filled baton. His shirt cuffs peeked below the sleeves of his white coat, cufflinks glinting in the light. Boldly, I met his gaze, thinking if the madwoman could face her tormentors, then so could I. Immediately, I checked myself, thinking, But I’m not paying him to torment me. I’m here for his help.
My boldness shrank the more I looked at him, fear creeping in as its replacement. I saw fathomless depths in Facility’s eyes and an intensity in his manner, a suggestion he’d seen darkness and had survived. I saw, too, that he wanted more. Here was a man who could carry other people’s burdens without being dragged down. I suspected he rather liked the weight of us in our flawed, fumbling glory. It made him feel superior, not quite human.
I shrugged. “There’s nothing else. I’m nervous, that’s all. I’d rather know what’s in store for me before I … obey.”
“The first step,” said Dr Facility, “is recognizing that surrender to the unknown is crucial to the process of falling in love.”
“I know plenty about falling in love, thanks,” I said crisply. “And no one ever asked me to bend over a table and bare my butt. At least, not until we were going steady.”
Oh, yes I do! I was in the final stages of writing my next novel, Undone, and I’m very much a mono-tasker. Anyway, Undone has since been delivered to my editor at Black Lace, and will be published on September 11th.
I’m very excited by this book but more on that another time.
Right is a pic of the manuscript, printed twice, and made messy with edits.
And now I can remove that HEA note from my ‘To do’ list!