Authors: E.J. Swenson
Flash and Burn: Second
by E.J. Swenson
Copyright © 2014 by E.J. Swenson
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any
form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information
storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from
the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote
short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places, and incidents either are products of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely
1. First Date
It’s been two years since
her husband died, but it feels like yesterday. The widow looks down
at her finger, pulls off her wedding ring, and sets it on her
nightstand alongside a stack of cash for odds and ends. The white
stripe around her ring finger looks soft and vulnerable. She sighs
and pats her frizzy hair. He’s waiting for her in the car, her
first date since she met her husband fifteen years ago.
At the party, her friends
are alternately full of praise–
it’s so nice
to see you moving on
your date is so handsome.
The envy makes her heart clench. Her friends’
husbands are paunchy and careworn from providing for and chasing
after children, something it’s looking less and less likely she
will ever have. She’s pouring herself an oversized glass of wine
when Ashley, a soft, pastel blonde with a hard, sour filament
running through her, grabs her arm.
“OMG, your date is stunning.
He’s so different from your husband.” Her voice lowers from a sweet
soprano to an insinuating alto. “Where did you find
The widow flushes and
stammers, groping for words. Her date is tall, dark, and
well-built, a classic romantic hero straight out of central
casting, while her husband was a short, blond sparkplug with an
antic sense of humor. She doesn’t like what Ashley’s implying
different. Different is not
she thinks, when her date appears
as if conjured by dark magic.
“I’m so sorry,” he says,
taking the widow firmly by the arm and locking his gaze onto
Ashley. “I have to steal her away. We’re late for a show, and we’ve
already stayed too long.”
Arm-in-arm, they leave the
party. The widow relaxes into grateful relief. She even whispers
into the hero’s ear: “Good job, handsome.” The trip back to her
small, tidy house is filled with companionable silence. He parks
his car outside, and his dark eyes question her light ones.
Do you need something more from me?
She gives the barest of nods, and he’s on her, his
lips parting hers and his tongue exploring forcefully while she
clutches at his back.
They make their way,
touching and tasting, out of the car and through the front door. As
they fumble down the hallway to her bedroom, she wonders about the
state of her body, so long untouched. Yes, she exercises every day,
but she wonders if her pale, muscular legs have been marked by blue
veins or cellulite. Then he unzips her dress. She feels his
erection pushing into her back, and all her doubts evaporate. She
turns and sinks to her knees–
thank god I
chose the soft carpet
–and takes his cock in
her mouth, her tongue teasing its tender, bulbous end.
She can feel him swell and
pulse, when he pulls her hair gently and shakes his head. He pulls
her to her feet, and they sink onto the bed, a single organism of
desire. She’s wet and ready despite ghostly pangs of guilt–she
hasn’t been with a man since her husband–and guides him into her.
She comes with a grateful sigh and so does he. She finds herself
drifting off to sleep, her head resting on his hard, lightly furred
When she awakens from a
deep, blank sleep, the cash is gone from the table and so is her
date. She slides her wedding ring back onto her finger and
She opens the spare room and gazes
at the chains built into the wall. There’s also a small cot, a
toilet, a sink, a mini-fridge, and a small bookcase lined with
dog-eared paperbacks. She’s holding a small pack containing two
changes of clothes and travel-sized toiletries.
Honey, it’s getting late! Have
you secured yourself?” His voice is nervous. Weak. Like a
mosquito’s whine. She takes a step into the room. The chains will
be cold against her wrists. She will struggle against them for
hours as she fills with a terrible and euphoric energy. She will
exhaust herself and then read until she falls into a sweaty,
restless sleep. The next morning will be just another
Honey?” calls her husband, the
whine taking on the cadence of exasperated anger. “What’s going
There’s an open window down
the hall from the little room. A summer breeze breathes gently
through the mesh screen.
, she thinks. Her husband shakes
his fists as she drives away.
The bar is crowded, but she stalks
through the crowd like the graceful animal she is. It’s a Sunday
night, but most of the desperate characters who drink at Loki’s
Revenge–bikers, dealers, addicts, thieves–do not live according to
workday rhythms. She removes her hair clip and shakes her head
slightly, enjoying the sensation of thick, jasmine-scented hair
cascading down her back. She can feel the eyes on her, hungry and
She glides to the bar, other
patrons tumbling from her path. The bartender, a thickly muscled
man with a hooked nose and a black eye patch, grins broadly. “You
just can’t stay away, can you?”
She licks her lips and grins back.
“I’m fucking thirsty, you one-eyed bastard.”
He chuckles and lines up three
shots of tequila. She downs them, one after the other. A predatory
gleam shines in her yellow-green eyes that, on most days, are the
dull color of moss. “When does your shift end?” she asks
Right this fucking
The camper is unkempt and smells
like stale weed, but she doesn’t care. She opens the door and runs
naked in the moonlight. He sprints after her, following her into
the woods. She lets him catch her and spin her roughly into his
arms. He smells musky, like a wild animal, and his lips bruise
hers. His erection presses into her belly, and she leans into it.
He groans and pushes her against an ancient oak. The bark scores
her back, but she doesn’t care. In fact, she revels in
His hands rake against her heavy
breasts and belly, and find the damp cleft between her legs. His
touch is the opposite of gently and clearly unpracticed, but she
rocks her hips, rubbing her clit against his callused palm and
allowing two fingers to slide into her. With a gasp and a groan,
she wraps one strong leg and then the other around his waist. Their
selves fly away, melting into sensations that are hard and soft and
hot and cold, all at the same time.
Spent, they fall to the damp
ground in a tangled heap.
She awakens on a stained purple
couch in a tiny trailer. Her back is tender and covered in
abrasions. Her mouth tastes like cotton soaked in varnish. Worst of
all, an itchy rash burns down her thighs. She finds her backpack
and pads to the tiny, unclean shower, hoping to wash away even a
little of the self loathing that seems to coat every inch of her
It’s five a.m. on Monday
morning, and she’s herself again.
Her style has always been
understated: straight, blunt-cut brown hair, minimal makeup,
tailored pants and jackets in shades of charcoal and dusky pearl.
She even covers her phone in a demure black case, lest its bright,
gaudy screen attract the wrong sort of attention. As she leaves the
tiny cafe where she always has Saturday brunch in the company of a
Bloody Mary and a good book, she has the indefinable feeling she’s
She reaches her hand into
her black matte Coach bag and feels around. She has her keys, her
She left her phone at the cafe. She must have.
She hurries back, crossing two streets against the light and
earning angry glares from smug cyclists and heedless drivers alike.
She finds her usual table and exhales with relief. Her phone is
right where she left it, next to the sugar dispenser. She snatches
it up and heads home, where she will do laundry and perhaps catch
up on Netflix. Another sleepy Saturday, just the way she likes
Her clothes are tumbling in the
dryer and Tang, her orange tabby, is nestled by her feet. She’s
reading something fast-paced and forgettable, a palate cleanser for
the mind, when she hears a loud snippet of Beethoven’s Symphony 9.
It’s coming from her bag. She is puzzled; her ringtone is a series
of low soothing tones. She eases herself off the couch, trying not
to disturb her cat, and retrieves her bag from the kitchen
Several text messages are
blinking for attention, all variations of “Are you the woman who
stole my phone?”
, she thinks,
I must have some grabbed the wrong
She hurriedly composes an
I’m so sorry, must have
grabbed your phone from Rosa’s. It was a case of mistaken identity,
nothing more sinister. Can I meet you somewhere to return
A pause, then more
Young lady, you’ve caused me
to miss some very important messages. Very naughty. How will you
make it up to me?
She shakes her head
I guess I could buy you a
cup of coffee. Or maybe something stronger?
His reply is almost
I was thinking of
something more personal. Are your panties as dull as your clothing?
Or are you hiding your light under a bushel?
Horrified, frightened, and
just the slightest bit aroused, she stares at the phone as if it
has a perverse kind of life. Then she hears a knock at her door and
recalls that all kinds of apps exist specifically to locate lost
and stolen phones. She peers through her peephole, and there he is:
tall, Nordic, late thirties, unspeakably handsome. It has been more
than a year since she’s been with anyone, man or woman.
Do I call the police or let him
She rides him, wearing nothing but
a lacy red bra with transparent insets, and the sensation is
deliciously frictionless. Her juices flow, her clit swells into a
small, hard pebble, and she admires his sculpted face and gym-toned
abs. She is fucking a potentially dangerous stranger who now knows
where she lives. She smiles broadly. It’s the kind of stupid,
reckless thing she did in college, when she dyed her hair purple
and told everyone her life was performance art.
She’s glad she saved those
handcuffs from her last boyfriend, the one who fancied himself an
older, paunchier, and impecunious version of Christian Grey. They
look great holding this new man, whose expression is equal parts
delighted and bemused, securely to her headboard.
The college girl–now a
senior, practically a grown woman–keeps the envelope in her copy
Wings of a Dove.
It has been there for days. She doesn’t have the
will to tear it open and face its contents. She wills herself to
think of other things. Like her literature professor.
He’s certainly distracting,
it’s such a stupid cliché
. Still, she
can’t help admiring the intelligence and authority in his voice,
the dark curls kissing his chin, the trim lines that promise a
taut, well cared for body.
He’s saying something profound
about Henry James’ attitudes towards woman, she’s sure of it, but
his words are deflected by the fizzy, lusty feelings that are
pulling her mood towards a simple, animal happiness. She smiles and
pulls out her compact, checking her lipstick. It’s the only makeup
she wears, and she prefers a deep red, verging on