Stevie was sitting at her office desk, struggling with a long and technical article about a diabetes drug when the email from Roger dropped into her inbox.
Her job as a journalist for a medical publishing company had its interesting moments, but there were plenty of days like today when she had trouble making a dry subject sound fresh and interesting.
The email from Roger changed all that in an instant.
"I'm in town tonight. I think it's time we had one of our special evenings," he wrote. "I've booked a table at L'Amore for seven thirty. Can you make it?"
Her favourite Italian restaurant, and her favourite man. The perfect way to wind down after an intense day's work.
Roger lived interstate and visited Sydney for business meetings every month or so. She always looked forward to his visits. Every evening they spent together was wonderful. But when he planned it in advance, Stevie knew it would really be a night to remember.
"I'd love to." She tapped back." Can I meet you there, only I have a six thirty appointment?"
"Great," he replied. "And Sweetie, I want you to do something special for me. Don't wear any panties. I have plans for you tonight."
Stevie always loved it when she knew he'd planned their evening's erotic activities in advance. She smiled, and wriggled in her seat, then quickly glanced around the busy office to make sure no one was looking at her screen.
Roger had often asked her to go without panties when they went out. He liked the thought of her bareness against the chair and the ease with which he could slip his hand under her skirt and caress her when no one was looking. He knew it made her feel vulnerable, especially when the wind threatened to lift her skirt.
She decided to give herself an early mark so she'd have time to relax and prepare. Her six thirty appointment was with the local beautician — to have her Brazilian and eyebrows done — and the restaurant was nearby, only a short walk.
She caught the ferry home, enjoying the cool, fresh air and the late afternoon sun dancing off the harbour. The ferry passed under the Harbour Bridge, its massive frame casting black shadows across the bright water. When she arrived home her flat was cold. She switched on the heating and ran herself a warm bath. By the time she'd finished her bath, the house would be pleasantly cosy.
The warm water swirled around her and the tensions of the day seeped out of her. She wondered what Roger had planned for the evening. It gave her a delicious thrill, anticipating the unknown and probably challenging events he was cooking up. He took a fiendish delight in pushing her just a bit further than she was comfortable going.
She felt so lucky to have found a man who took the trouble to make their relationship fun and interesting. And she was only too happy to respond by looking her best and dressing in clothes she knew he liked her to wear.
As the steam wafted up and frosted the mirror, and her fingertips started to wrinkle, she worked out in her head what she was going to wear.
The bedroom was warm when she returned, pink-skinned and wrapped in a towel, and, on a whim, she slipped quickly between the sheets. She loved the feeling of crisp cotton sheets on her bath-fresh skin. She only planned to lie down for a minute but the warm bath had made her drowsy and she drifted off to sleep.
She awoke with a start. The bedside clock read 6.20 pm. She shot up. Her appointment was in ten minutes! That gave her only five minutes to dress and five to walk there. Damn!
She pulled out the V-necked black silk jersey button-front dress, her dark red suede heels and her dark red overcoat. Feeling a bit flustered, she quickly hooked up a sheer black bra, stepped into matching panties and put on black onyx tear-drop earrings.
She ran into the bathroom but realised she'd run out of time to put on makeup and perfume. So she quickly straightened her hair, grabbed her lipstick, mascara and foundation and tipped them into her shoulder bag.
Her brisk walk to the beautician took her up the road that ran beside the northern approach to the Harbour Bridge.
She arrived only a minute late.
The beautician's receptionist met her with a broad smile.
"Sorry I'm late," she panted.
"You're fine Stevie," take a seat. "Pearl is doing your Brazilian and eyebrows this evening. She's just getting the room ready."
Stevie didn't know Pearl, but she knew that all the beauticians at the salon were very professional.
A petite black woman walked out of the treatment room.
"You must be Stevie," she said with a warm smile.
Stevie nodded and walked ahead of her into the treatment room.
"Gosh," said Pearl, "I couldn't help noticing your shoes. They are just gorgeous!"
While Pearl waited outside, Stevie undressed, put on the robe, and lay down on the treatment table. She always felt a bit anxious about having a Brazilian. At Roger's request she'd been having them regularly for the last 18 months. But the pain of having her pubic hair ripped out by the roots was often enough to bring tears to her eyes.
It was worth it though, to see the ecstatic look on Roger's face when, as he often did, he nonchalantly slid his hand under her panties and discovered the smooth softness of a newly done Brazilian.
Pearl knocked and came in. They discussed how Stevie liked her Brazilian done — everything off — and Pearl swung the lamp over the area, switched on some gentle classical music and went to work.
"Are you going somewhere special tonight?" Pearl asked, as she buttered Stevie with the hot wax.
"Oh, just out to dinner with my boyfriend." They chatted about the restaurant and what Stevie liked to eat there.
"You looked great in those shoes," said Pearl and ripped the first strip of wax off.
Stevie took a quick breath as Pearl pressed gently on the area to help ease the pain. She tried to focus on the music.
Pearl applied the next piece of wax and tapped it with a fingernail, testing its hardness. She pressed gently on one side of Stevie's labia and quickly tore off the wax, pressing down gently again, this time right over Stevie's clitoris.
The two women talked about shoes — a love they discovered they had in common — as Pearl worked. Stevie could just make out her beautiful dark face in the darkness beyond the brightness of the lamp.
Pearl was making this Brazilian easy with her skilful work, constant chatter and the way she pressed down gently afterwards, distracting Stevie from the pain.
Stevie began to relax and even looked forward to the contrast between the sharp pain followed by the gentle pressure, usually right over her sensitive spot.
As Pearl drew the light in closer and finished off plucking the stray pubic hairs with tweezers, her other hand rested casually across Stevie's clitoris.
Stevie realised with a little shock that Pearl's technique was doing more than distracting her from the pain — it was beginning to arouse her. She hoped that Pearl would finish up before this became embarrassingly evident.
Finally Pearl was happy with her work and she had Stevie hop off the table while she rearranged it to do her eyebrows.
The music switched to a smoky jazz tune which seemed to swirl around the little room.
Pearl applied the wax under Stevie's eyebrows and skilfully tore it off, pressing firmly on the area afterwards. Stevie looked up at Pearl's face, close enough now that she could catch the warmth of the beautician's breath and a faint waft of perfume — gardenia with a spicy undertone. She could see the woman's beautiful dark eyes shining beyond the lamp as she focussed intently on her work.
Out came the tweezers to complete the job. Again, Pearl's touch was gentle but skilful. Stevie noticed how small and light her hands were compared to a man's hands and she found herself wondering how different a woman's body would feel compared to a man's.
All too soon, it seemed, Pearl was handing her a mirror to check her eyebrow shape and Stevie was nodding thank you and sitting up.
Before finishing off, Pearl wiped some moisturiser over the eyebrow area.
"Wow! You do look good!" Pearl declared and smiled warmly. Then Stevie was taken by surprise as Pearl quickly leaned forward and placed a tiny, fleeting kiss right on her lips.
"Take your time getting dressed," she said, and left Stevie alone.
Stevie put on her dress, coat and shoes, and then used the mirror on the back of the door to apply her makeup. It gave her time to compose herself. "Did that really just happen?" She asked herself.
She'd had no time to apply perfume before she left home but she noticed a bottle on the shelf next to the wax pot. She gave it a sniff. She recognised it as the one Pearl wore, and helped herself to a couple of sprays.
She had every intention of leaving her panties off, as directed by Roger — but in her slightly bemused state, she totally forgot.
Pearl wasn't at the receptionist's desk when she emerged — unusual because the beauticians normally waited there for their tip. Stevie was surprised to feel a tinge of regret, but she paid the receptionist and walked out into the cool darkness of the evening.
She strolled towards the restaurant which was three blocks away, down near the water's edge, beside the Harbour Bridge.
Stevie had lived in Sydney, in a flat almost under the pylons of this giant bridge for all of her adult life.
Some people found the towering bridge to be an oppressive presence but because of her long familiarity with its shapes, sounds and smells it was actually comforting to her. Its permanence and solidity had framed her life.
It divided her world into sections. She woke up in her flat at one end of the bridge and went to work near the other. She lived close by one set of pylons and walked underneath them to buy coffee, pick up her dry cleaning — and to dine out with Roger at L'Amore.
The bridge roared with life at this time of night as the evening peak hour traffic thundered across it far above her head. But beneath her feet the grassy parkland was cool and deserted. The openness of the space meant crossing the park at night felt safe to Stevie, even when she was alone.
Walking under the bridge tonight on her way to see Roger again made her feel like she was almost weightless, practically gliding through the air. She wondered if the vast structure with its ten lanes of traffic and rumbling trains had its own gravitational force that might somehow counteract the earth's.
Or could it be the anticipation of meeting her lover, coupled with the lingering after-effects of her visit to the beautician?
As she glided across the grass, the wind licked at her long dark hair and played with the hem of her dress. She wrapped her coat around herself and smiled. So far it was an evening when everything seemed to be conspiring to make her feel like it was great to be alive.
After the still darkness of the park, the restaurant was bright and full of life. Stevie saw Roger watching her as she walked down the steps to the reception desk, her high heels clicking on the marble tiles.
Other diners turned to watch her descend. She felt confident that she looked attractive and so their glances made her feel accepted, comfortable.
As she took off her coat, Roger rose smiling to greet her. Her heart leapt to be with him again. He hugged her and leaned in to kiss her warmly — a demonstration of appreciation that included a casual stroke down her back and over her thighs. On its way down, his hand paused over the slight indent of her panty line.
She stiffened suddenly, realising her mistake.
"I-I'm sorry!" she stammered.
"Don't be sorry, My Sweet. Just go to the restroom and take them off. Here, let me take your coat and bag. And, while you're there," he added, "take off your bra as well."
"My bra too?"
"That's right. And carry them back to me in your hand." He smiled as he spoke, but she could tell by his tone that he expected her to comply without delay.
The restroom was back up the steps, near the door. Mortified, Stevie headed up there. Going without panties was one thing but she found the idea of going braless in public considerably more challenging.
Stevie's breasts were compact and well shaped, but she was conscious that without a bra they wobbled as she walked and she worried that on this cool night, her hard nipples would make her bralessness embarrassingly obvious.
In the cubicle she unbuttoned her dress and hung it on the back of the door. She unhooked her bra and ran her hands over her breasts.
Undressing reminded her of her recent experience at the beautician. She took off her panties and felt the soft, smooth, hairless skin beneath.
Then she put her black silk jersey dress back on and buttoned it up. The dress came down to just below her knees but it felt so strange without a bra. On the way out she checked her appearance in the restroom mirror.
God, it was so obvious she wasn't wearing a bra. And she was going to walk down those steps, in front of the whole restaurant with her bra and panties in her hand! She felt weak with fear.
She could refuse of course. But it was a challenge, and as fearful as it made her feel, she was secretly excited by the idea of being so nearly naked in a public place.
She took a deep breath, screwed the bra and panties up as small as she could and held them in one hand which she held behind her back as she pushed open the restroom door and turned to descend the stairs.
Five minutes ago, Stevie, a confident, well-dressed woman walked proudly down those steps to meet her lover. People had noticed her then. What would they think of her now?
It seemed to happen in slow motion. And with every step she could feel her breasts moving against the fabric of her dress. She went red in the face as she noticed people glancing up from their meals. God she felt like a sordid cabaret act! What must they think of her, arriving with a bra on, then reappearing a few minutes later carrying it?
She reached the bottom of the steps and wove her way between the tables. She was sure she heard a voice to one side mutter "nice ones'" but she kept on staring straight ahead at Roger who had turned in his seat and was grinning broadly, obviously completely delighted by the spectacle.
"Would you like a drink?" he asked when she was finally seated.
"Would I ever!" Stevie replied.
Roger poured her a glass of wine, then waited expectantly. "You have something for me I believe?"
Stevie reached out the hand holding her underwear under the table, hoping to give it to him discreetly. But at the moment it changed hands, the waiter stepped up to take their order, bumping Roger's arm.
Stevie cringed as the offending items tumbled out of his grip onto the floor in plain view.
The two men had a little chuckle about it before Roger quickly scooped them up and put them in his pocket.
Stevie hid behind the menu, turning several shades of red and wishing she could die.
Even Roger seemed embarrassed now.
"I'll come back in a minute." said the waiter.
After only a few minutes of calm and reassuringly normal conversation Roger had his next request ready.
"I think you should undo some of those buttons."
"Yes, that's the great advantage of a dress with buttons down the front, you can go from demure to hot just by undoing a few buttons."
"Don't I look hot enough without a bra?"
"You look incredible without a bra, but humour me, undo the two top buttons."
Stevie looked around to make sure no one was looking directly at her, then quickly unbuttoned as requested. The dress had a V-neck and the lack of buttons widened and deepened the V.
Roger could now enjoy a view of the inside edges of her breasts, a view which stopped only millimetres short of Stevie's nipples.
"Oh, that is just amazing." he said, "Just don't lean forward too far or the whole restaurant will enjoy an unexpected treat."
At that moment the waiter reappeared. He kept a straight face and tried not to look in Stevie's direction as he took their orders, but failed.
Roger ordered the osso bucco and Stevie chose seafood pasta.
"Now, just one more thing," Roger said after the waiter had gone.
"Roger! What else can I possibly do? This is so rude, and-and ..."
"...and what?" Asked Roger.
"...and I'm feeling so hot, I won't have any appetite for dinner."
"So, it turns you on does it, to sit here in a smart restaurant, with no underwear and flaunting your cleavage?"
"I can't help it," pleaded Stevie, "You're doing this to me on purpose!"
He leaned in close and whispered in her ear. "Yes I am. I must admit, it's all I can do not to pull you across the table and ravish you right now. But, there'll be time enough later."
"Yes," he whispered, "When we get back to your place I'm going to push your legs apart, wide apart and tease you with my tongue long and slow... until eventually you'll beg for me to stop pleasuring you and I'll cruelly ignore your pleas as you shudder and gasp with orgasm after orgasm."
Stevie felt her legs weaken and her breath become ragged. She squirmed in her seat. "You're going to do that?"
"Oh, that's just a taste of what I've got planned for you, but in the meantime I want you to take that napkin and put it on your lap. Good girl."
"Now, put one hand underneath it and undo the three bottom buttons of your dress."
"Three? But it will be open right up to my crotch!"
"Don't worry the napkin will hide it."
Stevie hesitated. If this went on, soon she'd be as good as naked.
Roger stared at her. He really meant it.
She looked straight at him, held the napkin steady on her lap and then reached under and undid one, two, three buttons. The dress parted, and now only the napkin was hiding her modesty.
"Good girl, that's just wonderful."
Their meals arrived and the waiter returned with cracked pepper.
"Thank you," replied Roger
"Now, before you start your meal, Stevie, the final coup de gras. Then I promise I'll leave you alone to enjoy your dinner."
"What more could I possibly do?"
"With those buttons undone you should be able to hitch up the back of your dress, the part you're sitting on...so that your bare bottom is in contact with the chair."
Stevie shook her head.
"It would give me great pleasure if you would oblige me in this," he said with unexpected formality.
Stevie shook her head once more, this time in resignation, then lifted herself slightly off the chair and pulled up the dress.
The timber of the chair felt cool and smooth against her skin.
She couldn't lean forward, stand up or even remove the napkin from her lap without incurring disaster. She was quivering with desire and the she could feel the chair seat starting to become slippery with her juices. And now she was supposed to enjoy her meal!
By the time they finished dinner, paid the bill and headed back to her place, Stevie was feeling so hot she was weak at the knees. Roger had allowed her to do up the buttons on her dress but insisted the bra and panties stayed off. With her dark red overcoat wrapped around her, she didn't feel quite so vulnerable and they set off to walk back under the bridge and then along a boardwalk by the harbour's edge.
The boardwalk rambled up and down hugging the cliff edge with wooden planks interspersed with metal staircases. On one side was the darkness of the harbour reflecting the lights of the city and harbour bridge. Little waves broke up the lights into a million brilliant mosaic patterns, a view that never failed to captivate Stevie.
She leaned in towards Roger as they walked, enjoying his warmth and strength and the beauty of the night.
Then, at the top of a small flight of steps Roger stopped.