The wood was a mistake and they both knew it. Yet she could think of nowhere else when she called. Alison now lay cradled in the disfigured arms of an ancient chestnut stump, Justin still locked over her, moving gently, licking her neck, breathing warmly into her ear. It was a chill spring day and they had made love frantically, without questions, half-clothed in the mid-afternoon. And there were no regrets. For him, this was the true beginning, a genuine, mutual seduction, not the hurried, booze-fuelled frenzy of Yule. Alison was coming round, realising his importance in her life. She was the one who called. She had scarcely resisted when, without a word, he had removed her jacket, felt the bulge at her stomach, bent down on both knees, kissed it, first through the silk of her shirt, then, tearing away at the buttons, moved his tongue over the hardening flesh of her navel.
They coupled frantically in the chill spring air and listened to their sighs drift through the bare, upright arms of sweet chestnut.
Afterwards, silence, with nothing to say, no embarrassment there. She waited, relishing his enjoyment as he stirred within her, felt him stiffening again, and put a hand to his damp, spiky hair.
“Wait,” she said.
“I waited long enough.”
His body jerked. She felt the cold metal buttons of his jacket press against the breasts.
She locked her legs around his waist, held him to her, staring into his eyes. There was a wildness there she hadn’t seen before. Something dangerous hung in the air.
“I need something from you.”
He paused, still stiffening. “Ask,” he gasped. “Ask anything.”
She gripped his hair, felt down through his clothes, down to his groin, fired his arousal.
Beneath them, unseen, something rustled through the dead leaves. The zig-zag back curved across the earth, a single reptilian eye aware of the ritual occurring above it. The viper disappeared into the forest. In the wild wood they screamed.