On his 36th birthday, Sam Dunlevy decided that he was a bartender. He wasn't an actor, a writer, or a musician tending bar until he got his big break, like virtually everybody else behind the stick in Los Angeles; he wasn't "finding himself," or marking time until he decided what he wanted to be when he grew up. He was grown up, and he was a bartender. He liked being a bartender. He enjoyed the camaraderie. He liked the noise when things were busy and the quiet when they weren't. He liked bullshitting with the guys and flirting with the ladies. He liked being able to mix everything from a classic martini—which contains gin; if you want it with vodka, you have to ask for a "vodka" martini—to an Acapulco Zombie. He even liked pulling the 8 to 2 shift every other weekend. What he didn't like was his phone jerking him awake like some fucking air-raid siren at 7:45 AM on a Saturday morning. He didn't like the fact of it, and he positively hated the bloody minded son-of-a-bitch—whoever the fuck he was—on the other end of the damn thing. He considered not answering, but just before the machine was due to pick up, he decided he owed himself the pleasure of tearing the sadistic prick a new asshole. He groped for the receiver, lifted it to his ear, and snarled "What?"
"Sounds like somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed," teased a female voice. It sounded familiar, and Sam's inability to place the speaker was the only thing which kept him from hurling the phone against the wall. Before his sleep-addled brain could come up with something appropriately savage, the voice continued: "Sam, its Karen. I need a favor."
Uh-oh. "Karen, Jesus, its not even 8:00 and I've got back-to-back late shifts."
"I know, and I'm really sorry, but a guy bailed on me, and I need somebody, like, ten minutes ago. Somebody I can trust."
And that was Karen all over. Karen James: a stage name; once, when she had been mildly fucked up, she had told him her actual last name: something Russian or Polish. Yacobowski, maybe? Something like that. Karen James was a Hollywood cliché writ large, or most of one. She was young, blonde and gorgeous, with a flat stomach, long muscular legs, a heart-shaped ass, and a full—possibly even enhanced—chest. Her lips were red and full, her teeth were white and her eyes were large, generously lashed, and pale blue. She dressed to emphasize her charms: in the summer, tight shorts or capris, with low-cut shirts or halter tops, and strappy sandals, and in the winter—such as it was, in L.A.—tight jeans, v-necked blouses or sweaters, and a soft leather jacket. She came to the Southland straight from college, with dreams of becoming—what else?—an actress, and she'd had some success, although mostly as eye candy. She'd done a series of direct-to-video action films. She'd been a sexy nurse for a couple of lines on a network sitcom, a vixen for a couple of episodes on a low-end soap, and her hair, back and right shoulder had appeared in a shampoo commercial, for which she had been paid some obscene amount of money, a depressingly large portion of which she had sunk into a failed vanity production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
She was a regular at Sam's bar, the Broken Bottle, and she and Sam had been what she called bar-buddies for more than five years now. As he thought about that, Sam realized that Karen was probably something like 27 or 28: young, but not Hollywood young. She was smart, bucking the cliché a bit. She had a history degree from Northwestern. She had a sense of humor about most things. And Sam liked her a lot. He also wanted her so badly that his brain hurt, and she knew it.
If five years in Hollywood hadn't made Karen James a celebrity, it had taught her all she needed to know about the power of sex. She knew—had told him explicitly—that many, if not most, of the directors and producers who hired her wanted to fuck her. She had, in fact, hooked up with a few of them; had even brought one or two of them into the Bottle. Nice enough guys, Sam supposed: a little slick, a little inclined to talk too much, a little too aware of what Karen's company did to enhance their prestige with the other men in the joint. Big surprise: Sam hated them.
Karen almost certainly knew of Sam's interest before the night, a bit less than a year ago, when he'd thrown a gentle pass her way. Her refusal had been friendly and reasonable: she liked him a lot. She trusted him. She even found him attractive—Sam suspected she was being kind, but who knew?—but sex could fuck things up; her words. She didn't want to risk their friendship, and she didn't want to become persona non grata in her favorite neighborhood watering hole. Sam protested hotly at that last. No matter what happened between them she'd always be welcome... He would never... That's to say...
"Shut up, Sam." said Karen kindly. "I know you wouldn't. I would. I couldn't handle the atmosphere in here changing, even a little. And there's no way it wouldn't. Right?" and when Sam didn't immediately answer, "Right?"
"Yeah, I guess." he had muttered, and she'd patted his arm.
"So, status quo ante?" she'd asked.
"Whatever the fuck that means." grumbled Sam.
What it turned out to mean was that things went on much as they had before she'd cut his dick off. He tried to be charitable, but it could be difficult, and it could be particularly difficult on a Saturday morning on less than four hour's sleep. At the Bottle, they still chatted and flirted, and sometimes she teased. She could do that trick where you tie a maraschino cherry stem into a knot with just your tongue, and it never failed to kick his imagination into overdrive. One night, when she'd been looking particularly delicious, she'd leaned over the bar, stared directly into his eyes, done the cherry thing, and then formed her lips into an "o" and removed the knotted stem slowly, letting it drag across the tip of her tongue. Sam had all but begged for mercy.
"C'mon Karen, why do you fuck with me like that?"
"Sorry, Hon. It's just fun to turn your crank sometimes. I'll stop if you want me to."
"If I quit working here would I have a chance with you?
That sobered her up quickly. "Don't you fucking dare, Sam." she'd said, and there had been this weird little catch in her voice. He'd pressed, but she'd changed the subject. She'd stopped teasing for some time after that, and Sam found—to his surprise and annoyance—that he missed it. A few weeks later, he'd said:
"Remember the other week, when you did the cherry thing, and I asked if..." She looked quickly at him, and something that looked a little like fear jumped into her eyes. He went on quickly: "I'm not quitting. Don't get your panties in a bunch."
"Classy," she'd said, cocking an eyebrow at him.
"Anyway," he continued, "you asked me if I wanted you to stop—I don't know—messing with me..."
"Yeah?" The single word came slowly, almost carefully.
"I don't. Want you to stop, I mean. I don't know why. God knows it sometimes irritates the shit out of me, but, I don't know. It's like part of the way you are with me, and when you're not doing it at all, it doesn't feel like I'm talking to you. Does that make any sense, or does it sound totally fucked up?"
"No," said Karen. "Thanks. Um, it does make sense. I'm glad you said it. I kind of missed fucking with you."
"Could you not fucking put it that way?" He'd crabbed, and they both laughed.
"No promises." Karen had said.
Sam stared blearily at the digital alarm clock next to his bed. Christ, it hurt to blink! "Karen, it is 7:46. You have got five seconds to tell me what's so fucking important, and then, if it's not a bone-marrow transplant, I am going to hang up on you and go back to sleep. Go. Five...four..."
Karen giggled. "Sam, I need you to come to this place and rape me."
Sam choked on some spit, coughed hard, and slammed down the receiver.
The phone rang again not ten seconds later. Sam heard Karen say his name, and then he was shouting. "Fucking hell, Karen! I can't fucking count how many ways that is not fucking funny! I told you I didn't mind...but this shit is...I'm working on something like three hours fuckin'...you call and say...What the fuck does that even mean? What the..."
Karen interrupted, shouting herself. "Sam, shut up! Calm the fuck down, I'm sorry, ok? OK? Sorry, I'M SORRY!" Then, into the silence on the other end of the line: "But I really do need your help, and I kind of need it right now. And you're not gonna like it, but could you just get cleaned up and come down to this place? Please? Pretty please?"
Five or six seconds of silence, then Sam asked, "Where?" Karen gave him the address. "I can maybe make it in half an hour if there's no traffic. Does anybody care what I wear?"
Karen: "Thankyouthankyouthankyou, Sam, I love you. No, wear whatever you want, but take a shower. And could you shave?"
Sam: "Karen, you wanna tell me anything else here? Are we going to be...?"
Karen: "Not on the phone, ok? Just come over, and if you don't want to do it, I'll totally understand, and you can go home and go back to bed. Deal?"
No traffic to speak of. Los Angeles doesn't tend to wake up early on weekends. Almost exactly thirty minutes after hanging up the phone, Sam pulled his 10-year-old Civic into the circular driveway in front of a long, low, expensive house in the Pallisades. Karen's Jetta was the only other car on the circle, but a three-car garage presumably housed whatever the owner of this multi-million dollar hacienda tooled around town in. Feeling both self conscious and pissed about being made to feel self conscious, Sam rang the front door bell. A Big Ben style chime began its "Bong-bong-bong-bong..." somewhere in the back of the house, and Karen opened the door before the first phrase had ended. She was wrapped in an over-sized white terry-cloth robe, and her feet were bare. At the same time, her face was made up more heavily than usual, and the paint was expertly applied. Sam wouldn't have said he could tell the difference, but he could. Karen's face had been applied by a pro, which mean that all this weird shit was probably career-related. Something inside Sam unclenched just a little. Seeing her in just the robe, he'd had an instant's horrible thought that this might be the house of one of her producer-lovers. And maybe it still was, but even Karen wouldn't have been so—no other word for it—cruel to call him over just after her and Mr. Swan Shit Productions had tumbled out of bed.
She hugged him hard, and he noticed through the robe and his t-shirt the soft give of her breasts against his chest. Was she naked under that thing? The thought made his dick swell a little behind the zipper of his jeans. Karen was gushing: "Sam, thank you so much for coming. I'd kiss you but the make-up lady would kill me. C'mon in."
She led him through an entry way paneled in some light wood into an enormous recessed living room. Here was soft thick carpeting, expensive and severe modern furniture, expensive lithographs on the wall behind him, and directly in front of him, a wall of glass with French doors giving onto a back yard covered in a lush lawn with a swimming pool off to the left, and a large guest house off to the right. Sitting on a couch in front of a coffee table was a striking woman, probably in her mid to late 40's. It was hard to tell. She had that kind of heavy-lidded, large-eyed sexiness which reminded him of Elizabeth Hurley, or maybe more like a hazy image he had in his mind of Sophia Loren from some late night cable thing he'd seen. She wore a white blouse tucked into tan slacks, and even though the outfit wasn't sexy in itself, it did nothing to hide the voluptuous curves of her chest and ass. She smiled at him, rose and held out her hand. "Mr. Dunlevy, how do you do? My name is Anne Davis."
Her voice was as sexy as her body: low with a slight southern lilt to it. Sam shook hands, but before he could do more than return her greeting, Karen broke in to continue the introductions.
"Mrs. Davis, er...Anne is...that's to say she—I don't know—produces, or...she's got these..."
"I own and manage several websites which feature adult content, mostly fetish related." said the woman with a grin at Karen's obvious embarrassment. "Karen's here to do some work for me on a series of images for one of the sites. It's called Anika's Menaced Maidens. We were set to shoot a set of pictures for a Halloween update, but the other model—one of my regulars, damn his eyes—flaked on us. We were hoping we might persuade you to take his place."
Sam could find nothing more intelligent to say to this than "Come again?"
The woman continued smiling. "Karen, if you'll grab Sam—may I call you Sam?" Sam nodded. "Good, then get Sam a cup of coffee or orange juice or something. I'll grab my laptop, and then we can show him the site and give him the whole pitch."
Sam followed Karen into the kitchen. As soon as the other woman was out of ear shot, he grabbed Karen's arm, spun her around to face him and whispered "Karen, are you seriously gonna put yourself...?"
Karen shushed him. "Sam, just listen to the woman. Then before you agree to anything, you and I will talk in private, ok?"
When the came back into the living room, coffee in hand, Anne Davis had a large and expensive looking Macintosh laptop opened in front of her. She typed a few stokes, looked up, and folded her hands in her lap. "Alright now, Sam, I realize this is all a little abrupt, so let me give you a little context for what I do, what I'm asking of Karen, and what you're doing here. Fair enough?"
Sam nodded and sipped his coffee. Fuzzed and distracted as he was, he had time to notice how good it tasted.
"First, a little bit about me: I'm 47 year old, and happily married to a wealthy man whom I love very much indeed. I'm also—for lack of a better word—kinky, on several different levels. And so is my husband. So: I'm an exhibitionist, a costume fetishist, and I'm also what people on the S&M side of things refer to as a bottom. Now there are lots of different ways to define that term. For me, it means that I get turned on by being dominated by my sexual partner. I also enjoy what a psychologist would call rape fantasies."
She laughed as a look of alarm passed over Sam's face, which he had been keeping as neutral as possible up to this point in her explanation. "I'm going to clarify that, before you swallow your tongue. Rape fantasies—or at least my rape fantasies, have almost nothing to do with the crime of rape, which, at least in my understanding of the literature, has virtually nothing to do with sex. The felony rapist derives pleasure not from the sex act itself, but from the subjugation and humiliation of his victim. The psychological profile of such a person almost invariably involves developmental trauma resulting in a self-directed perception of powerlessness." Anne paused to check in with her audience, and noticed the look of slightly hostile bewilderment on Sam's face. "I'm talking like this for a couple of reasons. First of all, I'd like to impress upon you that I'm smart, that I've considered the consequences of what I like and what I do. I'd rather you not think of me as your garden-variety web pornographer. I know that rape is a scary word, and Karen told me the way you reacted to her little bombshell on the phone this morning. But you should know that my fantasies—and by extension the content of this website—do have this much in common with criminal rape: both cast the sex act in terms of a power relationship, in which one partner dominates through violence or the threat of violence, and the other partner submits or is subdued physically. Do you follow me?"
Sam nodded. He chanced a look over at Karen. She was looking slightly flushed, but otherwise perfectly comfortable.
I like the word 'ravishment' better. My fantasies don't involve violence and abuse—well, not much of it anyway—but they do involve a man taking me against my will, if you like. I'll give you an example if you'd...I'm sorry, Sam. Is this making you uncomfortable?"
Sam looked up, caught in the act of rearranging himself. The combination of Karen, naked beneath her robe, with her long legs tucked under her on the couch next to him, and this gorgeous older woman talking so frankly about her sexual fantasies had caused his cock to stiffen again. He slipped a hand out of his pocket, reached for his coffee cup, and cleared his throat.
"No, I'm fine," he said, when he could be certain his voice wouldn't crack. "Please go on."
"Perhaps I should show you some of our content. It might give you a better idea of what I'm talking about." She turned the computer to face Sam, and brought up an image: a pretty, busty redhead in a grey calf-length skirt and pink blouse sat reading a magazine on an over-stuffed white sofa. The background was non-descript, but some consideration had gone into it. Sam had seen his share of porn, and he had noticed—perhaps sub-consciously—that the rooms in which most of it was shot looked generic, like unrented furnished apartments. A couple might be screwing in what was supposed to be their marital bed, but there were neither pictures on the wall, nor bric-a-brac on the furniture.
This picture looked classier. There was what looked like a pretty good watercolor landscape on the wall behind the woman, a lamp and some small, painted animals on the end table next to the sofa; nothing a competent props person couldn't have come up with in an hour of thrift store-diving, but the composition worked. Sam could almost believe this was indeed a picture of an attractive woman relaxing at home.
Almost. A woman reading, taking some down time, would probably have scrapped the strappy little sandals with the 4-inch fuck-me heels before climbing onto her couch. She might not have spent quite so much time on eye-shadow, mascara, and coral pink lipstick. On the other hand, what did Sam know? Maybe such a lady would leave the top three buttons of her blouse open, displaying considerable cleavage between the pale tops of full, creamy breasts. It was possible.
"This is from one of our earliest photo-sets." said Anne, interrupting his thoughts. "The model's name—or perhaps I should say 'stage name'—is Angelique. She's a b-starlet turned fetish model. I met her at a convention. Now, what I'm going to show you is a photo-narrative, a series of images documenting a role-play. Users who subscribe to this site have access to more than 50 such narratives. Most are, like this one, a series of still photos, although we have been experimenting with video as well. Angelique is the maiden, and her then-boyfriend Cody is the villain."
Anne clicked on a link below the picture, and a slide show presentation began. The first few shots established the beauty of the sitter. Angelique was an indifferent actress—she didn't really appear to be reading—but she was a competent model, and she shifted position slightly to feature her long legs, her pretty face, and her generous bosom. Before long, the boyfriend appeared. He was a squat, muscular barrel of a guy, with a shaved head and a cop's mustache. He was dressed all in black: jeans, turtleneck and watch cap, and he wore a black eye-mask; a Halloween notion of 'burglar.'
Cody was, if possible, even less of an actor than Angelique. The slide show continued with several images of Cody "sneaking" around the apartment—on tip-toe, if you please—while the unsuspecting Angelique read on. Eventually, the burglar noticed the lovely on the couch, and a predatory smile appeared on his face. He drew an obviously fake knife and stood just behind his victim for a couple of images. Then his hand was over her mouth, and the rubber knife was at her throat, while her blue eyes opened wide in surprise and fear.