Prologue and first chapter of Charles and Susan: A Romance

CandS_cover_version6_3I’m delighted to announce that my debut novella Charles and Susan: A Romance has now been published as an ebook and is available to buy on Amazon and Smashwords. If you do buy it, please think of leaving a review!

The book emerged from a 9,500-word story that I originally posted on this blog; the novella is 37,500 words and has been significantly revised, edited and developed from its shorter version. I have now taken the original story down, but if anyone would like to read it please do contact me and I will send you a pdf version.

The story is a sensuous spanking romance—and I hope one that is moving, arousing, intelligent and well written! It consists of a Prologue, ten chapters and an Afterword; below are the Prologue and first chapter. I hope you enjoy them enough to want to read on…


Charles and Susan

A Romance

__________

‘Bittersweet Eros’

 

Prologue

A few weeks after Charles and Susan had shown initial, albeit cautious, interest in my idea of writing about their experiences, an incident occurred which convinced me that I had to tell their story. I was at their house, ostensibly to talk over the project and gather information, but primarily as a friend (and in Charles’s words, a ‘kindred spirit’). Having already drunk our way through a couple of bottles of wine, we had just uncorked the Bordeaux I had brought along. We were talking freely, and with increasing inebriation, on all manner of topics: politics, novels, films and, since we all shared a devotion to it and for Charles and Susan it was the world in which they operated, art. Susan had been bold, occasionally provocative, in her views all evening, and she became noticeably animated in an argument over portraits and the work of one artist in particular (Lucian Freud, I think, though I cannot now be sure). I remember her standing up to refill her glass, demonstrably annoyed.

“God, Charles, you can be such a dick!” she suddenly and loudly pronounced, directing an irate glare at him.

The atmosphere abruptly tensed for a few seconds. Charles seemed taken aback; Susan aggressively filled her glass almost to the brim; I nervously smiled and stared hard at my hands. Typical of the man, it was Charles, his reassuringly steady and confident demeanour quickly restored, who assumed control of the situation.

“I’m sorry, Susan, what did you just say?” he asked in a measured and calm tone, laced with a hint of amusement.

Oblivious to his calmness, Susan remained enveloped in agitation. “I mean, I know you’ve read loads of books and been to loads of shows, but sometimes you talk such shit. Jesus, just because other people wank off to what you say doesn’t mean I’m going to. It’s fucking boring, this whole ‘everybody else is wrong and I am right’ thing you do. It fucks me off big time.” She was gesticulating carelessly and I watched in horror as a miniature tide of wine climbed the side of her glass, looped over the brim and splashed onto the wooden floor. “Oh Christ!” she gasped in annoyance and shock. She set the glass down on a coaster and dashed out of the room.

“Well, that’s livened things up considerably,” Charles said, turning to me, his manner utterly relaxed.

“Would it be better if I left?” I suggested uncertainly, simultaneously unnerved and excited by these developments.

“God, no! Absolutely not! This sort of thing happens from time to time. It’s nothing. It happens and then it is dealt with. In fact, I think it’s interesting for you to observe it.”

Susan returned to the room carrying a damp cloth and a handful of kitchen towel. Averting her eyes from Charles, she spoke to me. “I do apologize, J___. You should never have had to see us behave like this.”

Before I could respond Charles leapt in. “Us? No, Susan, you. You’re the one who is behaving badly.”

“There you go again…” Susan began as she knelt down to clean up the spillage.

“That’s enough Susan,” Charles interrupted sternly. “Do you understand? We’ve had enough of your tantrum.” Susan made a childish face, sighed petulantly and turned her attention to wiping the floor while Charles concentrated on her watchfully. I gazed at my glass intently, but with mounting curiosity about what would happen. At last, after a protracted effort to mop up the wine, Susan stood up.

“Have you wiped it all up?” Charles inquired. Susan nodded sullenly. “Good,” he continued. “You’ve had far too much to drink, you’ve been ridiculous and your behaviour is embarrassingly bad.” He paused for a moment, weighing up what to say next. “You need to go to your room and calm down. I’ll be up shortly to deal with this.”

Susan looked genuinely surprised. “Oh come on, Charles, you can’t do that. Not now, not here. I mean…” She subtly gestured towards my presence.

“Yes I can. You know I can. Now go to your room.”

“Look, I’m sorry,” she pleaded. “I shouldn’t have said what I said, but it’s just that sometimes you can be…”

Charles authoritatively raised his hand to stop her. “I’ve already said that’s enough. I don’t want to have to tell you again. I’ve put up with you being tetchy all evening. But I’m not tolerating infantile and rude outbursts. Now do as you’re told.”

She became desperate. “But J___ is here,” she appealed, looking at me, hoping I might intervene on her side. But scarcely believing what I was witnessing, I wanted simply to observe matters taking their natural course. I flashed her a brief, sympathetic smile, before turning away to look at Charles.

“Yes, I am well aware that J___ is here,” he replied. “But J___ knows full well that I discipline you. You don’t mind that he’s even writing about it. I see no reason why he shouldn’t witness this. Indeed, I think it’s probably good that he has some first-hand evidence.” He paused briefly, and I marvelled at his unflustered, commanding composure. “This is the final time I’m going to tell you. Go to your room and reflect on your behaviour. I’ll be up in ten minutes. I expect to find you bent over the bed, dress up, panties down, with the leather paddle beside you. Now go!”

Blushing, Susan opened her mouth to say something, then immediately shut it again. She looked humiliated and for a moment I thought she might be about to cry. Then, in a rapid burst of defiant activity, she smacked the wine-stained cloth and paper towel onto the table, turned without looking at either Charles or me, and walked briskly towards the door. She stopped, half turned back towards us, and, her voice fractured and upset, angrily shouted “You’re being fucking unfair!” Then she marched out and I found myself craning slightly to hear her footsteps as they stomped up the stairs.

Charles turned to me with a smile. “I hope you’re not embarrassed.”

“Well…” I started, but without knowing what to say.

“It will be fine,” he reassured me. “You’re a kindred spirit. You know that, on some level, even if she’s not fully conscious of it, this is something she wants. That’s why she acted as she did. Really. So it’s all good. And I meant what I said, about this being good for the book. You know, we’re both very keen on the book. We loved the writing you sent us.” Then he laughed and gave me a conspiratorial look. “I probably shouldn’t say this—you  might use it as a quote for the blurb—but it turned us on reading about ourselves!” He got up to fetch the bottle of wine. “Anyway,” he said, as he refilled our glasses, “I think we’re all a bit pissed. Let’s have another glass, then you can watch me give her a spanking. Maybe, if you’d like,”—the conspiratorial expression returned—“you can even spank her yourself?”

* * * * *

What happened next is a story I will tell another time. But the scene I have just recounted, still vivid in my memory, not only amazed me at the time but also turned me on hugely—and still does. It persuaded me that what was then only a vague and half-formed idea to write about Charles and Susan was worth getting serious about. The book that follows is the result.

Before getting to the story itself, readers may well be interested in a few further points relevant to it.

Although they are real people, Charles and Susan are not their real names; and while this is a true story, I have consciously fictionalized it, for example by creatively reconstructing dialogue or by altering some details. For obvious reasons, it was important to disguise the true identity of Charles and Susan. Moreover, all three of us agreed that the story would be more interesting if presented in a novelistic form than in that of, say, reportage.

I have known Charles and Susan for eighteen months, during which time we have become good friends. (It was not, incidentally, via any spanking-related interests that we came to know one another; that I share their interest is a happy coincidence and there was an element of fortune in the discovery of this coincidence—another story I will relate elsewhere.) They knew I was interested in writing, and when I proposed, not entirely seriously I must admit, the idea of telling their story, they were immediately intrigued. By then I knew the main outlines of how they met, so I wrote up something based on that (this is the ‘writing’ that Charles refers to in the scene above). They told me they loved it; enthusiastically, they encouraged me to progress with the project. We agreed that I would conduct ‘interviews’ with them, and that I would fashion the story from these interviews.

It may seem odd that, despite the care taken to conceal their identities, Charles and Susan would so readily agree to this aspect of their lives being made public. But they have both told me how exciting they find it to read about themselves (“not that we’re self-obsessed!” Susan jokily commented) and equally arousing that their spanking life is in a sense now ‘in the open’ (“nor that we are exhibitionists!” Susan added, to which Charles replied with mock grandness, “no, we just love the idea of immortalizing something so important to us”). We agreed that everything I wrote would first be approved by them. The following story is, therefore, published with their full consent and approval.

Finally, what attracted me to their story is not only that I find it intrinsically interesting and worth telling, but also that I am curious about so-called Domestic Discipline (or Taken in Hand) relationships. Despite my own love of spanking and discipline, the idea of DD as a 24/7 lifestyle choice has never appealed to me. (In addition, I have enough of a ‘submissive’ side not to be interested in an exclusively dominant role.) Nor was I convinced that these relationships ever really worked as some DD couples claim. Although Charles and Susan are not part of any DD network or scene, they recognize, even if at times grudgingly, that their own relationship might be characterized as a DD one. So I was eager to discover more about it, and to gain greater insight and understanding from learning about their experience. The story told in this book does not trace their full journey (it is intended that this will be picked up in future books), but it does present the essential background of how Charles and Susan met.

Above all, of course, my hope (and one shared by Charles and Susan) is that the story both moves and excites you!

 

Chapter One: Charles

Susan first contacted me in the spring of 2010, a couple of months after I had seen Meredith for the last time. For nearly a decade, three or four times each year, Meredith had come to my house, removed her clothes, placed her stocky naked body over my lap for ten minutes of spanking and paddling, and then bent over for twelve strokes of the cane. On that final occasion, as she hurriedly put her panties back on, covering up the red stripes across her fleshy bottom that I would never see or feel again, she informed me plainly that “I’ve just been offered a new job up north.” She hooked the clasp of her bra and put on her blouse, habitually checking her watch, the one item she never removed. “I can be with my fiancé again. It’s been ridiculous that we’ve been so far apart for the last few months. And we’ve finally sorted out a date for the wedding next year. So this is probably the last time that I will visit you.” And that was that: no suggestion that I would be invited to the wedding, no mention that we would remain in touch however remotely, just a formal, polite thanks and goodbye from a woman whom I had been spanking and caning from her undergraduate days, through her years in law school, to her besuited life as a solicitor in a branch of law she never did reveal to me. Five minutes later she was briskly walking away from my house, checking her watch again, her mobile phone clamped to her ear. I watched her, wondering if she would turn her head, until she disappeared around the corner at the end of the street. Then I went to my living room, stood at the French window and stared vacantly at the scruffy flower beds and unkempt lawn of my small garden.

I felt miserable. Not so much because of Meredith, with whom there had never been any intimacy or connection, just an increasingly functional routine of undressing, spanking, caning and dressing. Nor because of any one of the others who had gone the same way—and at one point, during my ‘golden period’ as I sarcastically and sardonically thought of it, I had had six regular spankees. Barbara and Lisa had sent Christmas cards a couple of times, but the rest had simply dropped out of my life completely. They moved abroad, or got married, or had children, or felt guilty, or lost interest; sometimes they said goodbye, sometimes, without a word, they ceased contact. Meredith, Barbara, Lisa, Aysun, Katya, Jennifer—they were just names I had said, and arses that I had spanked, and, some of them, mouths and cunts that I had tongued and fucked. But what else? Just spanking and fucking, slippers, paddles, straps and canes, lips around my cock and the taste of pussy—and now not even these things.

I sat down at my desk, opened my laptop and checked my inbox. There was an email from Jessica requesting that I look at the attached proofs of the catalogue for a forthcoming auction. I replied that I would do so and return them by the end of the week. Nick had sent a couple of scanned images of an etching with a query whether it was a genuine Boucher print or a later copy. I began replying to arrange a time to come to his shop, but then decided I would phone him instead, to catch up with our lives and perhaps to arrange lunch too. I made a note on my pad. There were no more new emails. I stared for a moment at the nineteenth-century erotic print over my desk, then I got up, poured myself a whisky, and logged on to a spanking website I occasionally visited. I browsed a few images before clicking on the ‘Personals’ page and then on the ‘Submit new personal ad’ button. I quickly composed a few sentences describing myself, emphasizing my education and interest in culture, briefly outlining my experience and stating that I was seeking ‘to meet women of all ages interested in receiving traditional spanking, slippering, strapping and caning, over clothes, underwear or on the bare bottom’. It didn’t feel right. I pondered the text for a moment and then altered the first part to ‘I am looking for friendship and meetings with a woman of any age (but preferably 25-45)’. Finally I added: ‘Ideally I would like this friendship to grow and develop over the long term.’ Then I clicked ‘Submit’, opened up Jessica’s catalogue proofs, and immediately noticed a typographical mistake in the dating of the second item.

* * * * *

For a few weeks the only responses were from women who wanted to be paid to be spanked. Tempting though one or two of the attached photos of bare behinds were, I had no interest in this type of arrangement. But, at last, after the ad had been up for two months, I received the following email:

Dear Charles, I am very interested in your personal ad and I wonder whether you may be able to provide me with what I think I am looking for. I have never been spanked before, but it is something I have been curious about for a long time. I am extremely nervous about taking this step. I look forward to your reply and to discussing this further with you. Susan

Previous experience has taught me how many such replies are not genuine, and that even the genuine replies, after a promising start, often lead nowhere, either because the woman eventually reveals that she is a professional or more usually because she develops second thoughts. For all the intentions to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality, for many people interested in spanking it proves too daunting a challenge. So I remained no more than cautiously optimistic that anything would come from Susan’s email. I endeavoured to reassure her in my reply: I told her how common her interest in spanking was, how normal it was to feel nervous, how I had experience of dealing with spanking novices, and how I would be more than happy to discuss this further and to take matters at a pace with which she would be comfortable. Finally I wondered if she might elaborate on her interest.

For a few days I heard nothing and assumed that she had, like so many others, taken fright at her own initial boldness. But then another email arrived in my inbox:

Dear Charles, Many thanks for your email. I am sorry for the delay in replying to it, but I have been very busy at work. Also, I am still nervous and uncertain about this, so I hope this is something you are used to. Spanking is something that I have thought a lot about for many years, and often I think I would like to try it. But it also seems a bit… weird. (I know it probably isn’t, and that it’s quite common as you write, but I can’t help feeling this.) I suppose also that I think I need to be ‘punished’ occasionally. I’m not sure I know how to explain that idea, even to myself… Perhaps we could email for a while at first, and then see what happens. I hope that seems OK. Susan

It was hard to rein in the excited anticipation generated by an email like this, despite the high chance that the only outcome would be wasted time, but I resolved to be stoical. Over the following weeks we exchanged several emails. Early on we discovered that both of us worked in the art world, which led to a sprinkling of discussion about artists and galleries throughout our correspondence, something which noticeably helped to relax her. I told her more about my own fascination with spanking, how it went back as far as I could remember, how I was fortunate when younger in meeting an older and more experienced woman who helped remove my inhibitions, and about how erotic, although not necessarily sexual, I find it. She was curious about my experiences, and she seemed pleased not only that I had been spanking women for a long time but also that I was older than her by nearly twenty years. She admitted (although adding that ‘it was probably a bit of a cliché’) that she found confident, dominant men who took control to be attractive, and that most of her spanking fantasies involved significantly older men. I cautiously tried to tease more information from her, and, although she would occasionally go silent for a week or so, gradually she became more forthcoming about her curiosity. When I asked her how she imagined her first spanking, she replied:

I worry that it will hurt a lot, and I probably worry more that it will be hugely embarrassing. You ask me what type of spanking I have in mind. As a first spanking, I think I would only be interested in a hand spanking over the knee, over clothes and then maybe over knickers. I suspect that anything more than that would be far too embarrassing! (Although I do think about it…)

I sent her a photograph of myself, and in return she sent me a slightly blurry, indistinct head-and-shoulders portrait, enough to reveal a pretty young woman with pale skin and light brown, possibly reddish, hair. And finally, hesitantly, after much deliberation, she agreed to my suggestion that we meet for coffee with no other purpose than to talk and become better acquainted.

* * * * *

I arrived a few minutes early at the coffee shop, bought myself a large Americano and found a small, secluded table at the back of the shop. Foreseeing the possibility of having to wait, and even of being stood up completely, I’d brought along a copy of the New Yorker to read, but my nervous anticipation made it almost impossible to concentrate. Checking my watch, I noted that she was already ten minutes late. I made another attempt at reading, trying to dispel the fear that she had decided not to show up.

“Charles?”

I looked up and there she was: a petite, slim woman with shoulder-length ginger hair and a youthful complexion. She was casually dressed in jeans and a light green top. “Susan,” I smiled, standing up to offer her my hand. “How great to meet you at last!” Her handshake was nervously weak. “Let me get you a coffee. Please, I insist.”

I brought back the latte she had requested and sat opposite her. I tried to make small talk about her journey, about the disappointing May weather, about the dismaying proliferation of Starbucks and Costa, but she was clearly tense: avoiding eye contact, she sat leaning forward, either clasping her hands together or gripping her coffee, her conversation brief, clipped and guarded. Even when I mentioned a couple of major exhibitions that I had visited, hoping that the topic of art would ease her tension, she was hardly forthcoming. The stilted conversation was not helping me conceal my own nerves, so I decided to adopt a more direct approach.

“So Susan, you contacted me, you’ve remained in contact, and now you’re meeting me. Are you having any regrets?”

She glanced at me and then focused her eyes again on her coffee with an anxious and barely audible laugh. “No, but… I mean… it doesn’t really feel like a normal situation.”

“I’m not sure how one might define normal,” I replied. “I’d say that we are two people, with a shared interest, meeting for coffee in order to get to know one another. I think that probably counts as fairly normal. Maybe we should talk more about our interest. How would you feel about that?”

There was a long pause before her response: “A little embarrassed.”

“I understand that,” I said. “But perhaps embarrassment is the point. It’s something you want to avoid, because it is uncomfortable, but—if you don’t mind me trying to read you—it is also something that in some way you want. The feeling of embarrassment can sometimes be exquisite. But really it is about the sexiness of power and powerlessness. When someone is embarrassed they have lost power over a situation and over themselves, in such a way that they feel ashamed and exposed. Embarrassment feels like a threat. The psychologists and evolutionary biologists tell us that we respond to this with one of two options: fight or flight. But maybe there is a third option: to give in to the feeling, to explore how potentially exciting it is, and in doing that to embrace it and gain a kind of power over it.” I noticed her looking at me attentively as I spoke and how she smiled as if to signal that she understood completely. “You once wrote to me that sometimes you feel as if you need to be punished. What did you mean by that?”

“God, you see it’s embarrassing that I wrote that!” I drank some more coffee, not saying a word, letting her find her way to an answer. She looked upwards as if in deep thought for a minute, before continuing. “What you just said about embarrassment, I really like that. I need to think about it more, but I think I get it and that I agree with you. So I will try to give in to the embarrassment, so to speak.” She paused to take a sip of coffee. “Sometimes I feel so frustrated with my life, as if I have no control over it. I’ve got good qualifications, a job I find interesting, nice friends, but I don’t think I’m realizing my potential. I don’t see where my life and career are going. It’s as if I just drift at times. Like there’s no proper structure. And then other times I think that I make bad decisions, stupid choices. Really stupid choices that hurt people. And hurt myself too. There are things I’ve done which I shouldn’t have done, and I regret them.” She shook her head and suddenly looked sad. “But I don’t want to talk about that. Only that I feel I often do stupid, bad things, that everything is out of control, and that’s why I think that… why I wrote what I did. So I suppose I think this might be a way of dealing with it… I don’t know, perhaps it is really silly.”

With utter clarity I recognized that this was the moment to be decisive, assertive and confident—to seize the initiative and take control of the situation.

“It’s not silly, for the simple reason that you think this might be worth trying. I suggest you value your instinct that following this course—the one that has led you here, sitting and drinking coffee with me—may help you. Because I think I could help you. You say that you need some discipline in your life, and if that’s what you think then you’re almost certainly right, because you know yourself better than anybody else does, and you have a better idea than anyone else what it is you need. And I can give you that discipline, and I can do it in a way that I suspect you will find enjoyable and personally fulfilling as well as useful.”

Shyly she murmured: “Possibly, maybe.”

“What you need,” I continued, leaning my head towards her, lowering my voice and making as much eye contact as she would allow me, “and I have a feeling you know this, is for me to put you over my knee and soundly spank you.”

Susan blushed and nervously laughed. But something in her eyes, in her expression, told me that my words had pushed a button inside her. “Yes,” she said, “I think so… I’m not sure.” She smiled uncertainly: “I need to think about it.”

I kept my eyes locked on her and adopted a tone of calm, clear, authoritative detachment: “Of course, you should think about it. But you’ve been thinking about it for a long time, for many years in fact, so I think you need to ask yourself when you will begin taking control of your life by taking control of this desire, by understanding that this is something you need to do and then to do it. Trust me, this desire, these thoughts, these fantasies, they’re not going to go away. They’re an important part of who you are—you and lots of other people too. So ask yourself: are you ever going to act on something that important to you? Are you forever going to leave it as a fantasy, burning but buried away deep inside you? You could try to repress it. Or you could start acting on it, you could start exploring what is important in your life, and in doing so you may find that the structure you say is lacking may gradually appear. You seek discipline. Well, the first stage in that quest is the discipline of understanding who you are and acting in accordance with it. And your desires are at the heart of who you are.”

I sipped some more coffee and observed the way she carefully and attentively considered my words. “Not now, not this instant,” I resumed. “Now, we will finish our coffees and go our separate ways. But then you have a choice. You can choose never to write to me again. Or you can contact me again. But if you choose to contact me, then it will be to indicate that you accept the need to address practically this question of discipline and to arrange a meeting during which you will be spanked.”

She seemed to have fallen into a reverie. Then she nodded and, in little more than a whisper, said “Okay”. As we finished our coffees and left, I made some jokey small talk, and I mentioned a small exhibition that she ought to check out. I smiled at her, and she smiled back. She seemed relaxed now, even a little buoyant as she thanked me for meeting her and said goodbye. With how much finality, it was hard to tell—but my instinct was that she would be in touch again.

However, in the two weeks that followed I heard nothing from her, and had reached the point of supposing that my instinct had deceived me and that I was never likely to hear from her again. And then I received the following email:

Dear Charles, I really enjoyed meeting you. I have been thinking about it a lot, about everything you said. And so much of what you said was incredibly helpful and useful and… wise. I am still apprehensive (as you know, because I have emphasized it so much, this is all completely new to me and it feels like a HUGE step), but I am more convinced than ever that I need to be punished. I think you should punish me. (In the way that you suggested.) Please send me your address and suggest a day and time. Susan


If you’d like to read on…

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