Out now in the US is Alison Tyler’s second smutty anthology with Harlequin Spice, With This Ring, I Thee Bed. (Out in the UK very soon.) And as with AT’s Harlequin debut, Alison’s Wonderland, we have another stunning cover and a stellar line-up.
Authors taking it up the aisle in this erotic exploration of the highs and lows of married life include Janine Ashbless, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Portia Da Costa, Shanna Germain, Nikki Magennis, Sommer Marsden, Kate Pearce, Thomas S Roche, Saskia Walker and Kristina Wright.
My story, Seven Year Itch, is about a couple, Liss and Jim, celebrating seven years of marriage with a holiday in Paris. But all is not well. Theirs is a relationship in jeopardy, festering with resentments and dulled by familiarity, their once-kinky sex life now little more than a faintly embarrassing memory. However, Liss gets a renewal of energy when she narrowly escapes being hit by a bus when the two of them are out sightseeing.
The scene below takes place in their hotel room later that day. I tried to find a short, sexy excerpt to post here but the story is so full of conflict that I couldn’t find anything which worked as a stand-alone piece. So this is a longish (for me) short, getting-sexy excerpt.
Seven Year Itch
I don’t believe our failing is due merely to the ring on my finger or being shattered by parenthood (although exhaustion, admittedly, does tend to trample one’s libido). No, I believe love got in the way of us; plain, old love. Because once, when we cared less, our sex life resembled a crazed experiment with Jim eager to make me suffer and me hungering to surrender. We were gleefully abandoned, both thrilled to have found the yin to our yang. We invested in some odds and sods – cuffs, blindfolds and a rubber ball gag I’m now embarrassed to recall – but the real high was from the interplay between us, a connection so fluid and profound it was as if, in preparation for this moment in our lives, we’d been studying the shamed secrets in each other’s brains since the onset of adolescence. I felt I could show Jim everything and I did, and the compliment was returned a thousandfold.
But somewhere down the line, tenderness and affection smoothed away the rough edges of our dark delirium. The post-coital gentleness in Jim’s eyes was no longer merely post-coital. He loved me. I became more precious and therefore, to Jim, more fragile. Similarly, I lost the ability to cast him as a devilish bastard determined to have his way with me. He hurt me less often and with less intent until we were having what I can only describe as efficiently romantic sex where we frequently stroked and kissed, hoping to disguise the truth of what sex had begun to feel like: goal-oriented, mutual masturbation; happy and loving but lacking that head-spinning buzz. The arrival of the children served to bind us within the family unit, leading us to where we are now, so steeped in domesticity and familiarity that our marriage, with its sporadic fumbles under the duvet, is practically functional incest.
Seven years ago I’d said yes. Lying on that blank hotel bed in Paris, I ached to say no. I wanted to be someone’s whore, worthless and wanton, crying “No, don’t hit me,” “Stop fucking me, please,” and “I hate sucking cock, don’t make me, no”. And he would hold me down, snarling, “Whores can’t say no, it’s not their word, no such thing as no for a whore.”
A sense of abandonment flooded me as my mind span these nasty imaginings. My groin felt giddy and trifling, almost as if it were happy. Impossible, I know, but that’s how I perceived the sensation. We’d been in Paris for two days but, getting high on my desires, I felt we’d finally arrived. We were on holiday, normality suspended. I could taste freedom and it tasted precisely like that moment before the first sip of a cocktail at five in the afternoon.
“Jim,” I ventured. “Seven years ago today…”
“Christ, I know,” he muttered from behind his paper. “Young, weren’t we?”
I bit my tongue because even as I was thinking, well, what’s that meant to mean? I was agreeing with the sentiment. Marriage years feel like dog years, seven for every one (yet the kids grow so fast it’s as if they’re siphoning off our energy) and it seemed a lifetime ago we were united in joy. I knew I ought to count my blessings, be more grateful, but dissatisfaction had become my default, grumbling like a low-grade pain. Jim didn’t seem to care that the two of us simply ticked over but oh, I yearned for more. I wanted my happiness back and I knew something needed to change, either the situation or my perspective on it. The trouble was, which?
Well, I’d been grappling with perspective a while and it wasn’t damn well working. At home, I wouldn’t have dared do it but hotel rooms bring out the stranger in us all and that five o’clock cocktail was an inch from my lips. Summoning up my courage, I flung off my towel, rose from the bed and crossed to kneel naked at Jim’s feet. The curtains were open, our tall windows overlooking a narrow street whose shabby, folded shutters suggested permanent Parisian sleepiness. [...]
Jim tipped down a corner of his newspaper, eyeing me with puzzled curiosity.
“Hurt me,” I whispered.
“Liss,” he replied wearily as if being pestered by the kids.
He snapped his newspaper back. In truth, I think he was embarrassed. Well, so was I. Mortified, in fact. I knelt there, humiliated, alone, and seething with shame. I read a headline: ANGRY MPS HIT BACK. And another: SUNSHINE ADDS YEARS TO YOUR LIFE. My nipples were sharp, goosebumps prickling on my thighs, that anticipated cocktail thrown in my face and now dripping from my chin.
How can you know someone so well that rejection ceases to have meaning? Because wasn’t that it? My being turned down was on a par with Jim looking in the mirror and thinking, Hmm, hair could do with a trim, a rejection of his reflection who (what with them being so close) would fully understand. It appeared Jim and I were so enmeshed, he thought I was him; thought I was beyond being wounded by a snub.
Well, I wouldn’t stand for it. I snatched at his paper, the crash as it crumpled detonating in the silence, a bomb blast in the numbed contentment of our marriage.
“Hurt me!” I sobbed. “I nearly killed myself today. I could be dead right now. Dead! Or, oh God, maybe I am. Maybe… Hurt me! I want to know I’m alive! Fucking hurt…”
Jim stared. Perhaps he was contemplating how to hurt me but the delay of no more than two seconds infuriated me. So I knelt forward and slapped his face, another bomb. Stunned, Jim glared at me, the flush of my handprint rising in his cheek, a lick of displaced hair hanging over his freckled forehead.
For several seconds, the world was on hold. All the clocks stopped, traffic froze, birds hung in the air, poised midflight like picture-book birds, and the population of China didn’t increase. Then Jim drew breath, restarting the world with a jolt. His hand was flat and fast and he struck me hard across the face, knocking the room sideways and flinging my hair about the place. I heard someone laugh, a low, dirty, triumphant laugh, and realized it was me. The room righted itself and my cheek flamed, the buzz of disorientation percolating from my brain down to my groin.