A screaming siren wakens me at four-thirty. The sound fades off into the distance, but my heart continues to pound against my ribs. Somebody else bleeding, maybe dying. Another victim.
I try to argue myself out of these dark thoughts and back to sleep, but it’s no use. The rectangle of gray that is my uncurtained window gradually brightens: first to charcoal, then to ash, finally to pearl. I turn my thoughts to Jimmy Ostermann, but they keep sliding away to Tony Pinelli.
Finally, around six, I give up and head downstairs for a cup of coffee. Throwing open the back door, I take a deep breath of the early morning. The air is cool and smells of earth and growth. It’s drizzling, the sticky warmth of the previous day only a memory.
My work means late nights. I don’t usually get out of bed before noon. I hardly know what to do with myself at this time of day. Munching on a piece of toast, I consider the question.
Rainy weather. Good for paperwork: paying bills, filing receipts and so on. Maybe I’ll spend some time looking through those Adriatic cruise brochures I got last week.
And Tony? Some other part of me interrupts my planning session. You need to figure out what’s going on with this situation, she says. If only to protect yourself. How did Tony’s widow know who you are, or how to find you? Why did she come by, and why did she seduce you? And why did you tell her that Mr. Clean—Andy—intended to shoot you in the hotel room? What’s going on, Stella? You’re a smart lady; figure it out.
This other voice is giving me a headache. Okay, I’ll spend some time on these questions. But bills first, and then a bit of a workout. After that, I’ll sit down and do some serious thinking.
Telephone, electric, gas, dry cleaning account. (My costumes need special care.) Department store charge. (They had a big sale last month, and I do like to dress well.) Maintenance fee for my dad’s cemetery plot. With a sigh, I update the balance and slide my checkbook back into the desk drawer. I can take care of myself, but it feels as though I have been doing it for an awfully long time.
Some stretching will pull me out of this funk. I change into leggings and a jog bra, then carefully unwrap my ankle. It’s still swollen, but a lot less discolored. Definitely better. When I put full weight on it, though, fiery pain shoots up my leg. Okay, so I’ll go easy for today and just do floor work and my weights.
A Supremes CD in my compact stereo, I begin with some leg lifts and sit ups. It doesn’t take long before I’m shimmying my shoulders in time with the beat, singing along with Diana. “Stop, in the name of love,” I moan as I alternate bicep curls with pec presses. “Before you break my heart, think it over.” Old as it is, this music never fails to cheer me up. Three quarters of an hour, and I feel like myself again: Stella Xanathakeos, queen of the strippers, one tough cookie.
~ From Exposure by Lisabet Sarai
Exercise has been part of my life ever since I was a kid. With my coke bottle glasses, clumsiness and flat feet, I was never athletic. However, for some reason my general klutziness didn't extend to dancing.
Growing up, I became used to seeing my mom put a record on the hifi (hey, this was a while ago!) and do stretches and dance exercises. Like me, she had dancing in her blood – she even worked as a professional belly dancer for a while. Sometimes I'd join her. I took dance lessons as a kid and belonged to the modern dance club in high school. I even performed in the school talent show, dancing the role of Bonnie in a number a friend and I choreographed to the theme from “Bonnie and Clyde”. (My eagerness to perform was another paradoxical contrast with my terrible shyness during this period.)
In college I swam laps as well as doing more modern dance. In grad school I swam, bicycled and belly danced. When I got my first job and moved to the west coast, one of the first things I did was to join the Y so I could use their pool. Later, I discovered Jazzercise. I was addicted to this lively, rowdy activity, doing two or three classes a week for more than two decades, even though I had to drive three quarters of an hour each way. (Now I guess it's a bit passé, superseded by Zumba, pole dancing, and the Vixen Workout - which I have to admit sounds like incredible fun.)
Anyway, I've always enjoyed (moderate) exercise, especially when it involves music. When I don't work out for a while, my stress level noticeably increases. Like my heroine Stella, I find that exercise cheers me up and gets my mind off whatever's bothering me.
Of course, for an erotica author, exercise, with its tendency toward minimal clothing and lots of sweat, can serve as an intro or an excuse for characters to get involved in other sorts of physical activity. Gym equipment presents all sorts of opportunities for novel positions and sensations. And given my penchant for writing BDSM, how can I ignore the fact that a gym makes a fantastic impromptu dungeon?
I want sex, I need release, but it doesn't seem that I'm going to get it tonight. I stand, stretch, realize that my muscles are stiff and sore. Perhaps from my awkward position this afternoon. Perhaps because I haven't worked out in several days. Then I remember the well-equipped gym Rick showed me during our tour of the house. Just the thing.
I change from my sweat- and sex-damp dress into a sports bra and shorts, pull my hair into a low ponytail, and wend my way down the dark corridor toward the back of the building, where it settles into the hillside. Everything's very quiet. There's no light under Rick's door, or under Margaret's.
It crosses my mind that Margaret was odd and unfamiliar tonight, less diffident, more assertive than usual. She seemed to radiate a happy confidence that overwhelmed her usual seriousness. I guess that she has gotten over her embarrassment about her interlude with our host. I'm pleased at her resiliency.
The gym is even darker than the corridor. Like Rick's office, it has only small windows set high in the wall. I grope for the light switch, turning on the track lights overhead. Experimenting, I find that I can dim them down to a more pleasant, less blinding level.
I start with some stretches at the barre, watching myself in the mirror opposite me. I don't normally spend much time gazing at myself. I know I'm beautiful. But the woman I see reflected back at me tonight seems a stranger. Her petite frame, her small breasts, her delicate ankles, make her seem fragile. With my hair pulled back loosely, I look young. Innocent. Vulnerable.
I have to laugh at this fancy. I know that I am strong and full of power. I shift to one of the stationary weight machines, working my triceps and biceps until they burn. I've stopped watching myself. Next I turn my attention to my quads and adductors, pushing the weights apart as I open my thighs, working against their force to pull my legs back together again.
I work hard, trying to burn my arousal away into exhaustion. Somehow, it's not happening. Every time I spread my thighs apart, I'm acutely aware of my throbbing, swollen clit, hidden in my soaked shorts. I increase the force and pace of my repetitions, determined to be the mistress of my body and my urges. It's almost as though I'm climbing the slope to orgasm. The harder and faster I work, the more excited I become.
Finally, I have to stop. I lie back in the apparatus, panting. The room smells of musk and sweat. With a pang, I recognize the odor not only of my perspiration, but of his. Rick's. Damn. I close my eyes wearily, willing my body to relax. Damn, damn, damn.
There's a sound. My eyes fly open. I am no longer alone. For the briefest instant, I think that it's Rick, and my heart accelerates as though I were still working the machine. Then, with an inner smile, I realize my error. Raoul.
"Ruby!" he says in that soft Latin voice. "Sorry, I didn't mean to intrude. I had no idea that there was anyone here."
He has obviously come for his own workout. He wears a loose pair of shorts, nothing else. My eyes trace the curlicues of hair on his muscled chest. I smile. He smiles, sniffs, strolls over to stand between my spread thighs.
"I was having trouble sleeping," I tell him, knowing that he's reading other messages in my body, in the air. "Exercise is usually a good way for me to get rid of tension."
"Maybe I can help," he says, almost whispering. His hands on the tops of my thighs, he leans over and kisses me full on the lips. It's a simple, uncalculated kiss, no hidden agendas, no power trips, just texture, wetness, warmth. It's an invitation.
I accept. As he bends over me, I raise my legs and clasp them around his waist. I can feel his delicious hardness, pressing against me through our clothing. He gives a soft laugh, pulls up my bra and takes my nipple in his mouth. Lovely, to feel that texture, warmth, wetness against that sensitive flesh.
He gives me long minutes of bliss. When he stops, my nipples are round and rigid as ceramic beads. "Let me go for a moment," he says, and I release the clutch of my legs.
He stands and with a grace I find in few men, removes his shorts. I can't help but marvel at his beauty. Muscles that swell rather than bulge, curves that flow under his bronzed skin and lush fur. His cock juts proudly from a jet tangle at his groin. I have a sudden, uncharacteristic impulse to kneel at his feet and take him reverently into my mouth.
Before I can evaluate or act on this impulse, though, he seats himself on a recumbent stationary bicycle and leans back against the seat, one bare foot in each stirrup. His cock stands straight up, swaying a bit as he moves. It's simultaneously silly and wonderfully lewd.
He grins up at me. "Care to come for a ride, Ruby?"
~ From Nasty Business by Lisabet Sarai
Later in this same novel, I set a long femdom scene in this same personal gym. Weight benches are great for bondage, I discovered. And the mirrors that line the walls of many gyms mean that both the dominant and the victim have an excellent view of discipline's effects.
Lately I haven't been working out as often as in the past. A hip replacement and a fractured knee have made me less flexible and a good deal more conservative in my routines. And I have such a long to-do list, I sometimes feel that I can't spare the time.
That's crazy. I know how delicious it will feel to get away from the computer, do some stretches, and shake my booty to some classic rock. If it's good for Stella and Ruby, I know it'll be good for me.