I GET HOME, RELIEVED that Ansel isn’t here yet. Dropping a bag of takeout on the kitchen counter, I move to the bedroom and pull the costume from the garment bag. When I hold it up in front of me, I feel the first pang of uncertainty. The saleswoman measured my bust, my waist, and my hips so she could calculate my size. But the tiny thing in my hands doesn’t look like it will fit.
In fact, it does fit, but it doesn’t look any bigger once it’s on. The bodice and skirt are pink satin, overlaid with delicate black lace. The top pushes my breasts together and up, giving me cleavage I don’t think I’ve ever had before. The skirt flares out, ending many inches above my knees. When I bend over, the black ruffle panties are supposed to show. I tie the tiny apron, fix the little cap on my head, and pull on the black thigh-highs, straightening the pink bows at my knees. Once I slip on the spiked heels and hold my feather duster, I feel both sexy and ridiculous, if the combination is even possible. My mind seesaws between the two. It’s not that I don’t look good in the costume, it’s that I can’t honestly imagine what Ansel will think when he comes home to this.
But it isn’t enough for me to just dress up. Costumes alone do not a show make. I need a plot, a story to tell. I sense that we need to get lost in another reality tonight, one where he doesn’t have the stress of his job looming over his daylight hours, and one where I don’t feel like he offered an adventure to a girl who left her spark back in the States.
I could be the good maid who has done her job perfectly and deserves reward. The idea of Ansel thanking me, rewarding me, makes my skin hum with a flush. The problem is Ansel’s flat is spotless. There’s nothing I can do to make it look better, and he won’t pick up on what role he’s supposed to play.
That means I need to get in trouble.
I look around, wondering what I can mess up, what he’ll immediately notice. I don’t want to leave food on the counter in case this plan is successful and we end up in bed all night. My eyes move across the apartment and stop at the wall of windows, pinned there.
Even with only the light of the streetlamps coming through the glass, I can see how it gleams, spotless.
I know he’ll be here any second. I hear the grind of the elevator, the metal clanking of the doors closing. I close my eyes and press both palms flat to the window, smearing. When I pull back, two long smudges stay behind.
His key fits into the lock, creaking as it turns. The door opens with the quiet skid of wood on wood, and I move to the entryway, back straight, hands clasped around the feather duster in front of me.
Ansel drops his keys on the table, places his helmet beneath it, and then looks up, eyes going wide.
“Wow. Hello.” He tightens his grip on two envelopes in his hand.
“Welcome home, Mr. Guillaume,” I say, voice breaking on his name. I’m giving myself five minutes. If he doesn’t seem to want to play, it won’t be the end of the world.
His eyes first move up to the tiny, frilled cap pinned in my hair and then down, tripping as they always do over my lips before sliding down my neck, to my breasts, my waist, my hips, my thighs. He eyes my shoes, lips parting.
“I thought you might want to look over the house before I leave for the night,” I say, stronger now. I’m bolstered by the flush in his cheeks, the heat in his green eyes when he looks back at my face.
“The house looks good,” he says, voice nearly inaudible from the rasp of it. He hasn’t even looked away from me to the room beyond, so at least I know so far he’s playing along.
I step aside, curling my hands into fists so my fingers don’t shake when the real game begins. “Feel free to check everything.”
My heart is beating so hard I swear I can feel my neck move. His gaze instinctively moves past me to the window just behind, his brow drawing together.
I move to his side, biting back my excited grin. “Yes, Mr. Guillaume?”
“Did you . . .” He looks at me, searching, and then points to the window, using the envelopes in his hand. He’s embarrassed I’ve discovered this compulsion. He’s trying to understand what’s going on, and the seconds tick by, painfully slow.
It’s a game. Play. Play.
“Did I miss a spot?” I ask.
His eyes narrow, head jerking back slightly when he understands, and the nervous tickle in my stomach turns into a lurching roll. I have no idea if I’ve made an enormous mistake by trying to do this. I must look like a lunatic.
But then I remember Ansel in the hall in his boxers, flirting. I remember his voice hot in my ear, sneaking up on me, and Finn sneaking up on him, nearly pulling his pants around his ankles. I remember what Finn told me about Bronies and serendipity. I know that at his core, beyond the stress of work, Ansel is game for some fun.
Shit. I just hope he’s game for this. I don’t want to be wrong. Wrong will send me back to the dark ages of awkward silence.
He turns slowly, wearing one of his easy smiles I haven’t seen in days. He looks me over again, from the top of my head to my tiny, dangerous heels. His gaze is tangible, a brush of heat across my skin. “Is this what you need?” he whispers.
After a beat, I nod. “I think so.”
A cacophony of horns blares up from the street below and Ansel waits until the flat is silent again before he speaks.
“Oh yes,” he says slowly. “You missed a spot.”
I pull my brows together in mock concern, my mouth forming a soft, round O.
With a dramatic scowl he turns, stomping to the kitchen and pulling out an unlabeled bottle. I can smell the vinegar, and wonder whether he has his own glass-cleaning recipe. His fingers brush mine when he hands me the bottle. “You may fix it before you leave.”
I feel my shoulders straighten confidently as he follows me to the window, watching as I spray a cloud over the handprints. There’s a heavy buzz in my veins, a sense of power I hadn’t expected. He’s doing what I want him to do, and though he’s handing me a cloth to wipe the window clean, it’s because I’ve orchestrated it. He’s just playing along.
“Go over it once again. Leave no streaks.”
When I’m finished, it gleams, spotless, and behind me he exhales slowly. “An apology seems appropriate, no?”
When I turn to face him, he looks so sincerely displeased that my pulse trips in my throat—hot and thrilled—and I blurt, “I’m sorry. I—”
He reaches up, eyes twinkling as his thumb strokes across my bottom lip to calm me. “Good.” Blinking toward the kitchen, he inhales slowly, smelling the roasted chicken, then asks, “Have you made dinner?”
“I ordered—” I pause, blinking. “Yes. I cooked you
“I’d like some now.” With a tiny smile, he turns and walks across the room to the dining table, sitting down and leaning back in the chair. I hear the rip of paper as he opens the mail he’d been holding and a long, quiet exhale as he places it on the table beside him. He doesn’t even turn around to look at me.
Holy shit is he good at this.
I move to the kitchen, pulling food from the takeout container and arranging it as neatly as I can on a plate for him between stolen glances in his direction. He’s still waiting and reading his mail, patiently, completely in character while he waits for me—his maid—to bring him his dinner. So far, so good. Spotting a bottle of wine on the counter, I pull out the cork and pour him a glass. The red shines decadently, climbing up the sides as it sways in my hand. I pick up the plate and carry his dinner out to him, setting it down with a quiet thunk.
“Thank you,” he says.
I hover for a beat, staring down at the letter I think he’s left for me to see. It sits, faceup, on the table and the first thing my gaze snags on is his name at the top, and then the long list of checkmarks beneath the Negatif column for every sexually transmitted disease we were tested for.
And then I see the unopened envelope beside his, addressed to me.
“Is this my paycheck?” I ask him. I wait until he nods before sliding it off the table. Opening it quickly, I scan the letter and smile. Good to go.
He doesn’t ask what mine says, and I don’t bother to tell him. Instead, I stand to the side and just behind him, my heart jackhammering in my chest as I watch him dig into his dinner. He doesn’t ask if I’ve eaten, doesn’t offer anything to me.
But there’s something about playing this game, a mild domination role for him, that makes my stomach flutter, my skin hum with warmth. I like to watch him eat. He curls over his plate and his shoulders flex, muscles in his back defined and visible through his light purple dress shirt.
What will we do when he’s done? Will we continue to play? Or will he drop the act, pull me to the bedroom, and touch me? I want both options—I especially want him now that I know I’ll feel every inch of his skin—but I want to keep playing even more.
He seems to drink his wine quickly, washing down every bite with long gulps. At first, I wonder if he’s nervous and just hiding it well. But when he puts his glass down on the table and gestures for me to refill it, it occurs to me that he’s simply wondering how far I’ll go serving him.
When I bring the bottle out and refill his glass, he says only a quiet “Merci,” and then returns to his food.
The silence is unnerving, and it has to be intentional. Ansel may be a workaholic, but when he’s home the flat is not ever quiet. He sings, he chatters, he makes everything into a drum with his fingers. I realize I’m right—it is intentional—when he swallows a bite and says, “Talk to me. Tell me something while I eat.”
He’s testing me again, but unlike refilling his wine, he knows this one is more of a challenge.
“I had a nice day on the job,” I tell him. He hums as he chews, looking over his shoulder at me. It’s the first time I catch a glimpse of hesitation in his eyes, as if he wants me to be able to tell him everything I did today, and truthfully, but can’t while we play.
“Cleaned for a while over near the Orsay . . . then near the Madeleine,” I answer with a smile, enjoying our code. He returns to his food, and his silence.
I sense that I’m meant to keep talking, but I have no idea what to say. Finally, I whisper, “The envelope . . . my paycheck looks good.”
He pauses for a moment, but it’s long enough for me to notice the way his breath catches. My pulse picks up in my throat when he carefully wipes his mouth and puts his napkin down beside his plate, and I can feel it along the length of my arms, deep down in my belly. He pushes back from the table, but doesn’t stand. “Good.”
I reach for his empty plate but he stops me with his hand on my arm. “If you’re to remain my maid, you should know I’ll never overlook the windows.”
I blink, trying to unscramble this code. He licks his lips, waiting for me to say something.
A tiny, playful smile teases at the corner of his mouth. “Do you?”
Closing my eyes, I admit, “No.”
I feel his fingertip run up the inside of my leg, from my knee to the middle of my thigh. Every sensation is as sharp as a knife.
“Then let me help you understand,” he whispers. “I like that you fixed your mistake. I like that you served me dinner. I like that you wore your uniform.”
I like that you wanted to play, he means, and he says it with his tongue wetting his lips and his eyes raking over my body. I’ll understand next time, he’s saying.
“Oh.” I exhale, opening my eyes. “I may not forget the window every night. Maybe some nights I’ll forget other things.”
His smile appears and is gone as soon as he can control it. “That’s okay. But uniforms, in general, are appreciated.”
Something inside my chest unknots, as if seeing this confirmation that he understands this about me. Ansel is comfortable in his skin, a portrait of ease. Unless dancing, I’ve never been that girl. But he makes me feel safe exploring all the ways I can wrestle my way out of my own head.
“Did serving me dinner make you wet?”
With this blunt question, my eyes fly to his and my heart takes off in a frantic sprint. “What?”
“Did serving. Me dinner. Make you wet.”
“I . . . think so.”
“I don’t believe you.” He smiles, but it has a deliciously sinister curve to it. “Show me.”
I reach down, pushing my shaking hand into my underwear. I am wet. Embarrassingly, wantonly so. Without thinking, I stroke myself while he watches, eyes growing darker.
“Feed it to me.”
The words burst something open inside me and I moan, pulling my hand free. He watches its path from between my legs to just in front of his mouth, the slickness visible in the dim light.
I paint his lips until he parts them and I press two fingers inside. His tongue is warm and curls around my fingers; it’s torture—I want to feel his mouth between my legs now—and he knows it. He holds me by the wrist so I can’t pull away as he sucks my fingertip, licking it like he would my clit, teasing me until my entire body aches. It’s the kind of ache that comes with pleasure on its heels, promising more.
I whimper a little, not wanting to feel the pressure of my hand there again without relief. I don’t remember the last time I’ve wanted sex so intensely. If possible, I’m even more soaked. He lets me glide my fingers back and forth longer this time, long enough that I can feel my orgasm in the distance, know how much my body wants to let go.
“Stop,” he says sharply, this time reaching for my arm and pulling my hand out. He sucks each finger in turn, eyes fixed to mine. “Climb on the table.”
I move around him, pushing his plate far out of the way and lifting my butt onto the dining table so I’m sitting in front of him, his thighs bracketing mine.
“Lie back,” he tells me.
I do as he says, exhaling a shaky breath when his hands run up my legs and back down again, before taking off my sleek, black, sky-high heels. He rests my feet on his thighs and leans forward, kissing the inside of my knee.
The fabric of his dress pants is soft against the soles of my feet, and his breath slides up my leg, over my knee, and along my thigh. His soft hair brushes against my skin, his hands curl around my calves, steadying my legs.
I feel everything and it’s as if I’m made of pure hunger. It’s hot and liquid, filling my limbs and tamping down my patience. Touch me, my body screams. I squirm on the table and Ansel stills me with a firm hand on my abdomen.
“Be still.” He exhales once, a long stream of air blown directly between my legs.
“Please . . .” I gasp. I love this side of him, I want more, want to provoke the sharp edge to his tone, but I want his satisfaction in me, too. I’m torn between trying on petulance and delving further and further into this easy, obedient place.
“‘Please’ what?” He kisses the delicate skin just beside the fabric of my frilly underwear. “Please reward you for being such a good maid?”
I open my mouth but only a low, pleading sound comes out as he noses at my pussy beneath the fabric, pressing, kissing, teeth bared and gliding over my lips, my pubic bone, over to my hip.
“Or ‘please’ punish you for being so very wicked, putting your hands on my windows?”
Both. Yes. Please.
I’m unbelievably wet, hips pushing up, tiny noises escaping from my throat every time I feel the hot press of his breath into my skin.
“Touch me,” I beg. “I want your mouth on me.”
Hooking a finger beneath the fabric, he pulls my soaked underwear aside, licking me directly in a long, firm drag of his tongue. I gasp, arching up beneath him.
He opens his mouth, sucking, urgent, and
licking me with a flattened tongue, fingers pressing into me and curling. He pulls back with a quiet grunt and tells me, “Watch me.” The next four words are spoken into the delicate skin of my clit: “Watch me kiss you.”
His demand is more a preemptive threat than an order because I couldn’t tear my eyes away from his ownership of my body even if I wanted to.
“You taste like the ocean,” he groans, sucking, pulling at me with his lips and tongue. The feeling is too intense to be called pleasure. It’s something bigger, pushing all of my inhibitions away, making me feel strong and bold enough to push onto my elbow, run my other hand into his hair to gently guide him as I roll my hips.
It seems impossible that I can feel more, but when he realizes I’m close, he begins to moan against me, encouraging with the vibration of his voice, the solid thrusting of two fingers and the wet slide of his tongue around and around and around . . .
I grow dizzy for a beat before I tumble, floating, shaking through the blissful spasms that feel so good it’s the razor-sharp line of pleasure edging pain. It’s an orgasm so intense my legs want to pull closed, my hips arch off the table.
But he holds me open, fingers pumping between my legs until I’m gasping, boneless, struggling to sit and pull him up to me.
He staggers to his feet, pulling his arm across his mouth. “That is what you sound like when you come.”
His hair is a mess from my hands, his lips swollen from sucking me so thoroughly. “I’m taking you to my bed,” he says, pushing his chair back and out of the way. He holds out a hand to me, helps me down from the table on shaky legs. As he walks, he loosens his tie, unbuttons his shirt, steps out of his shoes. By the time we’ve made it to his room, he’s pushing his pants down his legs and gesturing for me to sit at the edge of the bed.
In two steps, he’s in front of me, hand curled around the base of his cock as he holds it to me, saying only, “Suck.”
As he leans in, my teeth clench with how much I want to taste him. The pillow I sleep on every night has nothing on the reality of his scent. It’s clean sweat and grass and saltwater. The smell of him is edible, and hard doesn’t describe how he feels when I wrap my hand around his shaft. He’s like steel in my palm, his body wound so tight I don’t know how much longer he can wait.
I lick him, and then again, over and up and down his length until he’s slick and wet and slides easily into my mouth. I’m shaking; wild from the earth taste of him and the way he looms over me. Never before has he looked so strong, almost savage the way his hand slides into my hair, guiding me carefully at first and then holding so he can push deeply, once with a jagged, relieved groan. Otherwise he’s silent, fingertips pressed to my scalp as he lets me take over again, only occasionally pushing deep. In my mouth he feels as swollen as my abused lips do, fat and needing to be devoured. And I do devour him. I’ve never loved doing this as much as I do with him, his thick shaft and smooth skin stretched tight over the engorged tip. I curl my tongue around the ridge, sucking, wanting more.
He releases a husky feral sound before pulling back, wrapping a fist around his cock. “Undress.”
I stand on shaky legs, peeling the stockings off, removing the skirt, the bustier, and finally, the frilly underwear. He watches me, eyes dark and impatient, and growls, “Allonge-toi.” He lifts his chin, repeating quietly in English, “Lie back.”
I scoot farther up on the bed, eyes wide and pinned to him as I lie back and spread my legs. I want to feel him. Just him. Right now—I can see it in his eyes—he knows I’ll give him anything, give him everything. He lurches forward, bracing a hand on my spread inner thigh and entering me in a single, long push.
All the air leaves me and for a few overwhelmed seconds, I can’t get it back. I try to remember how to inhale then exhale, try to remind myself that his cock isn’t actually pushing all of the air out of me, it only feels that way. I’d forgotten what it feels like to have him inside me like this: confident, commanding. But the feel of his warmth, nothing between us . . . it steals my air, my thoughts, my clarity.
He doesn’t move for an eternity, just stares down, eyes moving over every inch of me he can see from his vantage. He’s so hard it has to be edging discomfort for him, and I can feel the shake of his hand gripping the sheet near my head.
“You need to be reminded?” he whispers.
I nod frantically, hands grasping his sides as my hips move off the bed, hungry. He pulls back so slowly I feel my nails digging into the skin of his sides before I even realize what I’m doing. He hisses, stabbing back into me with a low groan.
And then he snaps back again, and then forward, hard and tormenting, his pace nearly punishing. Punishing me for the handprint, punishing us both for the distance that got between us. Punishing me for forgetting sex with us is like this, and nothing is better. He leans over me, his skin rubbing mine where I need him, sweat dampening his brow and the smooth expanse of his chest. I curl into him, licking his collarbone, his neck, pulling his head to mine to feel the deep rumble of his pleasure against my teeth, my lips, my tongue.
My thighs shake at his sides, pleasure climbing, and I need harder and more of him, my fingers are desperately pulling at his hips, my words begging and unintelligible. I feel my release twisting in me, tighter and tighter until it snaps, bursting wide open in a jerking, clutching lash of sensation and I’m arching from the bed, crying his name over and over.
He pushes up on his hands, watching me come apart under him, and through the fog of my orgasm, I watch him climb. His strokes are long and hard, our skin slapping together in a crude sound that makes me wilder, makes me wonder if I really am on the verge of coming again so soon.
“Aah,” I cry out. “I’m . . .”
“Show me,” he growls, dropping a hand between us, petting my clit in tiny, perfect circles.
I bow off the bed, my entire body clenching in a second orgasm so sharp my vision blurs.
Ansel’s neck becomes corded and tense, teeth clench and eyes narrow and he hisses, “Fuck,” before his hips become brutal, loudly pounding against my thighs. He collapses on top of me and I can feel the way he twitches inside, the way he shudders under my hands.
I let out a shaky gasp, winding my legs around his hips when he begins to pull back. “No,” I say into the skin of his neck. “Stay.”
He bends, his mouth latching on to my breast, sucking, tongue roaming up my neck to my jaw as his hips rock slowly back and forth. He seems insatiable, and even though I know he’s already come, I don’t sense that we’re done. Once his mouth finds mine, I’m lost again, lost in the wet slide of his tongue, the slow press of him in and out of me. It feels like only a second that his body relaxes inside before I feel him stirring again, lengthening until he’s moving in earnest, long curling thrusts with his body pressed all along mine.
This time it’s slow, and he kisses me every second of it, deep and searching, letting me hear the agony and pleasure of our bodies so thoroughly that it makes me delirious.
HE ROLLS OFF me, groaning in relief. I curl to him in the dark, my heart racing still, skin damp with sweat.
“Ah,” he whispers, kissing the top of my head. “There she is.”
I kiss his throat, tongue sliding over the hollow where I taste the faint salt of his sweat and mine.
“Thank you for this,” he says. “I love that you did this tonight.”
My hand drifts up his stomach, across his chest, and I close my eyes as I ask, “Tell me about the window.”
Beside me he freezes for a beat, before exhaling a long, slow breath. “It is complicated, maybe.”
“I don’t have anywhere I need to be,” I say, smiling into the darkness.
His lips press to my temple before he says, “My mother, as I mentioned, is American.” I look up at his face from where I rest on his chest, but it’s hard to make out his features in the dark. “She moved to France when she was just out of high school, and worked as a maid.”
“Oh,” I say, laughing. “Maybe my costume choice was a little weird for you.”
He groans, tickling my side. “I assure you, you did not make me think of my mother tonight at all.” After I’ve stilled at his side, he says, “Her first job was working in the very regal house of a businessman named Charles Guillaume.”
“Your father,” I guess.
He nods. “My mother is a wonderful woman. Caring, fastidious. I imagine she was a perfect housekeeper. I suppose I get those tendencies from her, but also my father. He required the house to be spotless. He was obsessive about it. He required that I never leave a mark, anywhere. Not on mirrors, or windows. Not a crumb in the kitchen. Children were neither to be seen nor heard.” He pauses, and when he speaks again, his voice is lighter. “Perhaps our fathers are not very nice, but would get along well?”
I hold my breath, not wanting to move or blink or do anything to break this moment. Each word feels like a gift and I’m so hungry for every little piece of his history. “Tell me more about them?”
He shifts me closer, sliding his hands into the hair at the back of my head. “They began to have an affair when my mother was only twenty, and my father was forty-four. From what my mother has told me, it was very passionate. It consumed her. She never planned to stay in France for so long, but she fell in love with Charles and I don’t think she has ever recovered.”
“My father is an asshole,” he says, laughing a little dryly. “Controlling. Obsessive about the house, as I mentioned. As he’s aged, he’s only gotten worse. But I think he must have a charisma, a charm that drew her in.” I smile into the dark when he says this, knowing he may be a better man, but he certainly got charm from his father. “During this time that he and my mother were together, he was married to another woman. She lived in England, but my father refused to leave his home to live with her, and my mother didn’t know this wife existed. When Maman became pregnant with me, my father wanted her to remain in the servants’ quarters, and didn’t let her tell anyone it was his child.” He laughs a little. “Everyone knew anyway, and of course I turned three or four, and I looked exactly like him. Eventually, the wife found out. She divorced my father, but he did not choose to marry my mother.”
I feel my chest tighten. “Oh.”
“He loved her,” he says quietly, and I’m obsessed with the way he speaks. His English is perfect, but his accent lifts the words, tilts them so his h’s comes out nearly inaudible, his r’s always slightly guttural. He manages to sound both polished and crude. “He loved her in his strange way, and made sure to always provide for us, even insisting on paying when my mother wanted to attend culinary school. But he’s not a man who loves very generously; he’s selfish and didn’t want my mother to leave him, even though he had many other women in those years. They were at the house, or at his work. He was very unfaithful, even while he was possessive and crazy for my mother. He said he loved her like no other. He expected her to understand that his appetites for other women were not personal against her. But of course she was never to sleep with another man.”
“Wow,” I say quietly. In truth, I can’t imagine knowing so much about my parents’ marriage. Theirs feels like a bleached, sterile landscape compared to this.
“Exactly. So, when my grandmother became sick, my mother took the chance to leave France, to go home to Connecticut and tend to her until she died.”
“How old were you when she left?”
He swallows, saying, “Sixteen. I lived with my father until I began university.”
“Did your mother come back?”
I can feel him shake his head beside me. “No. I think leaving was very hard for her, but once she was gone she knew it was the right thing. She opened a bakery, bought a home. She wanted me to finish school here, with my friends, but I know being so far away ate at her. It’s why I came to the States for law school. Maybe she would have come back here if I asked her to, but I couldn’t, no?”
When I nod, he continues, “I went to Vanderbilt, which is not so very close to her, but much closer than France.” He turns his head, pulling back so he can look at me. “I do intend someday to live there. In the States. She doesn’t have anyone else.”
I nod, tucking my face into the crook of his neck and overcome with a relief so enormous I feel light-headed.
“Will you stay with me?” he asks quietly. “Until you need to be in Boston?”
“Yes. If it’s what you want, too.”
He answers with a kiss that deepens, and the sensation of his hands in my hair and his groan on my tongue fills my head with an emotion that feels a little like desperation. In a flash, I’m terrified of having true, intense feelings for him, of having to end this marriage game at some point, let real life back in and try to get over him. But I push it aside, because it feels too good to let the moment turn down at any corner. His kisses slow and tame until he’s just pressing his smile to mine.
“Good,” he says.
It’s enough for now. I can feel the heavy weight of sleep behind my eyes, in my thoughts. My body is sore and feels perfectly used. Within only seconds, I hear the slow, steady rhythm of his sleeping breath.