Topping from Below

Topping from Below

by Laura Reese


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250027535
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 07/17/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 635,864
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

LAURA REESE is the author of the critically acclaimed Panic Snap. She lives in Davis, California.

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Topping from Below




On the last day of October, while riding her bicycle across the UCD campus, Frances Tibbs realized that she, for the very first time, was in love.

Or rather, she thought she was in love. She hadn't said it out loud yet, hadn't tested the words on her tongue, but it felt like love: everything seemed fresh and new and exciting.

Then a man stepped in front of Franny and scared the living daylights out of her. She slammed on the brakes of her bicycle and swerved, barely missing him. He was wearing a nylon stocking, one half of a panty hose, over his head. In his right hand he carried a huge gun, or perhaps it was a rifle or a shotgun. Franny did not know the difference, but, staring at it, she could see that it didn't look quite real. It was smaller than she imagined a rifle would be, and it seemed to be made of plastic.


A toy gun. It was Halloween, she remembered. The man—she could now see he was only a college student—leered, pleased with the effect he had scared out of her, and plodded on by, toting his rifle.

Feeling foolish, she got back on her bicycle and pedaled down the path along the north fork of Putah Creek. Thewater here, in the dammed-up northern end of the creek, was low and stagnant and a sickly green, giving off a stale, rotten smell that she was glad to leave behind. Once she got past the uppermost end of the creek, the path was pleasant, lined with trees and dense dark green vegetation, the air scented with the earthy, woody smells of a forest. She was riding out here in the hopes of running into her new friend, Michael. She couldn't explain, exactly, why she was drawn to him. She only knew that she thought of him constantly, and that her life, somehow, seemed a little brighter, more full of possibilities, since she'd met him. In a way, he reminded her of her father, a patient man whom she had known would protect her. It had been such a long time since her mother and father died and, even though she had a sister, she felt alone in the world. But Michael had an empathic way of looking at her, as if he could take in her whole history in a glance. It was a nice feeling.

She hit a downward slope and picked up speed. Bicycling was part of her new regimen to lose weight. She had several favorite routes: through the solar homes in west Davis; the Howard Reese bike path along Russell Boulevard out to Cactus Corners; and the route she was on today, the one she took most frequently, the path following Putah Creek on the southern edge of the university campus. The path was narrow and wound through the campus's Arboretum, a woodsy enclave of shrubs and trees, redwoods and conifers and eucalyptus. Franny loved it here; there were picnic tables hidden beneath the trees, wood chips on the ground, fallen leaves decomposing in the dirt, and the smell in the air was an ancient one, reminding her of earlier times. It was the dank, humus-heavy smell of places long forgotten, of ancient civilizations buried beneath layers of detritus and decay.

She rode across an arched wooden bridge to get to an open, grassy mound on the other side of the creek. Here, the water expanded into a wide, murky pool, a good spot for duck watching. At this time of day, late afternoon, the campus was quiet, and she had the area much to herself. She got off her bike and sat on the grass and daydreamed, hoping Michael would pass by. The air was cool—not ascold as it would be in several weeks, when the tule fog settled and crept into your bones—and the sky a sort of dingy dishwater color, flat and gray. Lightly, the breeze rippled the surface of the water and rustled through the treetops. Reddish-brown leaves flitted about, carried by the sudden gusts of wind.

Franny wrapped her arms around her knees to keep warm. The lawn had been mown recently, and it had that fresh, moist green smell of newly cut grass. Years before, her father had brought her and Billy, her brother, here when they were children. Nora, her older sister, had been a teenager then, and couldn't be persuaded to accompany them. But Franny and Billy loved the Arboretum, and sometimes they'd just sit, trancelike, eyes closed, and absorb the sounds around them. They would listen as their father, an environmental scientist, told them of man's connection with nature. There's an evolutionary bond, he'd explained to them more than once, developed over millions of years that tie people, inextricably, to their surroundings, the earth, the sun, the sky. And here, outside, with little noise but the wind breezing through the trees, the sporadic squawks of the ducks, the squishy sound of rubber every now and then as a bicyclist rode by—here she felt somehow calm, rooted. Whether it was the pull of nature that calmed her, or the protective pull of her father's sweet memory, she did not know. By now, the two had become inseparable.

Two college students, a boy and girl, arms linked, walked across the bridge and stopped halfway, looking at the water beneath them. Wistfully, Franny watched them, their dreamy smiles and untroubled faces. They were obviously in love, and this made her smile. She could hear them talking, but couldn't make out the words; sounds of their laughter lifted up into the treetops.

Farther on, toward the campus, she looked for Michael. She'd met him here three weeks ago. She had brought a bag of stale bread and was feeding it to the ducks when someone behind her had said, "You're not a student."

Startled, she'd turned around. It was the first time she'd seen Michael. He was tall and olive-skinned, with dark hair graying at the temples. She'd guessed, by the lines inhis face, that he was in his late forties. There was a knowing look about him, almost cynical, as if he'd seen and done it all. Both his hands were in his pants pockets, and he stared at her without blinking, his face inscrutable. Franny lowered her head. When she looked up again he was still watching her, his eyes cold and unfeeling, she'd thought, but then a slow smile emerged from his lips. She was uncomfortable being the cynosure of all his attention, and felt as though he was sizing her up for something, coming to some sort of decision about her.

"No," she had said, "I'm not a student," and she blushed, as if she had been caught doing something wrong, even though she knew she hadn't. She turned away. She tore off a piece of bread and threw it to a duck. There were five of them in front of her, all glossy green-headed mallards, and they scrambled for the bread. She threw the rest of it and reached in her bag for more. The man hadn't moved and she felt him watching her, making her feel self-conscious.

"You don't look like a student," he finally said, and Franny wondered why she didn't. She hadn't been out of school herself that long.

"I've seen you out here, lying on the grass, feeding the ducks. You always come around this time, always by yourself."

Franny gave him a quick, oblique glance, but didn't say anything. It was a bit unnerving, discovering someone had been watching her the past few weeks. She glanced at him again. All his features were sharp and definite: a square jaw, a straight, precise nose, a lean but sturdy body. He wasn't what you would call a handsome man, she thought, but he was impressive. Too impressive. She wished there was something amorphous about him, something to make him a little less intimidating, a thickening waistline, maybe, or sagging jowls.

"May I?" he said, and without waiting for an answer he lifted her arm by the wrist, took the slice of bread from her hand. Franny, taken aback by the intimacy of his gesture, said nothing. She watched as he fed the ducks with her bread.

He said, "I've begun looking out here around this time of day, expecting to find you here. When you're not, I feel as though my day is somehow incomplete, that something ismissing." He turned his face slightly and looked at her, a sparkle of amusement in his eyes. "It seems I've come to rely on you, like my morning cup of coffee."

Franny had smiled at this; she'd never been compared to caffeine before. Then he'd introduced himself, and for three weeks now she'd been meeting him here. He didn't always come. Sometimes he'd miss several days, and she'd get an anxious knot in her stomach, wondering if she'd ever see him again. But then he'd appear and just start talking, without any explanation for his absence. He had a smooth, relaxed manner that made it easy to talk to him although, in truth, she let him do most of the talking. He didn't seem to mind, though, as some people did, and he didn't put her on the spot, trying to get her to open up. He seemed to know, intuitively, that she would come around when she was ready. She was grateful for this—most people gave up on her before she felt at ease around them—and it wasn't long before she found herself riding to Putah Creek not for the exercise but for the express purpose of meeting him, always being disappointed when he didn't show.

Michael was a professor in the music department; he was sophisticated and intelligent, not the type whom she thought would ever be interested in her. Not that she had a type. She'd dated a few men, but nothing ever seemed to work out. Just last month, Nora dragged her to an office party at the Bee, and she'd met a man there. He was a reporter, like Nora, and had blond hair and such a frank, wholesome look about him, such a boyish innocence, that she trusted him instinctively. He seemed sincere, but the next morning—after she'd slept with him—he sheepishly told her he'd had too much to drink the night before. Franny could blame no one but herself. She'd never acted so impulsively before, sleeping with a man she'd just met. She'd been too eager, too desperate, hoping the sex—which wasn't very good—would lead to further intimacy. It didn't. He took her out to breakfast at the Food for Thought Cafe on K Street, but his discomfort was evident all during the meal. He was too polite, too solicitous: he'd made a mistake and was trying graciously to extricate himself. She could see the misgivings in his eyes, the pity, the uneasiness. If she hadn't felt so bad herself, she would've felt sorry for him. After that,she waited several days for him to call, and when he didn't she phoned him. It was awkward and humiliating. Maybe they could be friends, he said kindly. She'd hung up, declining his well-intentioned but spurious offer.

Michael would never behave like that, she thought now. Michael. He was twice her age, forty-eight, she'd learned—only six years younger than her father would have been—but she felt comfortable around him as she never had with anyone else. Sometimes, at home, she'd fantasize about Michael, putting him in her life, making him her boyfriend. She had no idea what he thought of her, or if he even thought of her at all. Even though he was friendly and appeared to genuinely like her, he seemed out of reach.

She heard rustling footsteps in the grass behind her and she smiled, knowing it was Michael.

"Hello, Franny."

She turned around at the sound of his voice. He always seemed to appear out of nowhere, catching her while she was daydreaming. She smiled at his appearance. There was a sensuality about him that she didn't understand, something powerful, pulling her along like an undertow, yet something remote—in his dark, cool eyes, in the controlled tone of his voice—that made her want to reach out and draw him near, although she knew she never would.

He sat down on the grass beside her, then leaned back on his elbows, unaware of the chill in the air. He was dressed casually, brown slacks, a jacket with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows, but there was always something formal about him no matter what he wore. He seemed so well put together, always comfortable with himself, while Franny, feeling frumpy and cold, was a shapeless bundle of bulky clothes: oversized coat, black jeans, cable-knit sweater, wool scarf and mittens.

Silently, he watched the young couple on the bridge. They turned and walked, hand in hand, off into the distance.

"Young love," he said, with just a trace of sarcasm. Franny looked at him, waiting for something more. But he said nothing.

"I think it's kind of sweet," she said finally, softly.

Michael looked at her, considering. His gaze was penetrating,as if he could read her mind. Discomfited, she bowed her head. A sudden gust of wind tossed her hair. Then, ever so lightly, she felt him brush her cheek with the back of his hand—the first time he'd touched her.

"You're right, Franny," he said. "It can be sweet." He added, "It's never been like that for you, has it?"

Was she that transparent? she wondered, and she felt her cheeks redden, embarrassed that he knew, that at the age of twenty-four, she'd never before been in love, had never even come close to being in love. She started to say no, that love had never been sweet for her, but just then a woman, a petite lady with wavy black hair, smiled and called out to Michael as she walked by, flirting with him. Obviously, they were friends. She was very pretty, with arched plucked eyebrows and painted lips, and wore a snug, wine-colored linen suit that only a small woman could attractively wear.

Franny played with the grass. She pulled a weed out by its root. "She's pretty," she finally said. Then added, "I think she likes you."

Michael gave her a half smile and she blushed, knowing he had guessed she was jealous.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "I'm not interested in her. Would you like to know the kind of woman who does interest me?"

"Oh," Franny said. "Well ..." And her voice trailed off. She didn't know if she wanted to hear him talk about other women.

Michael laughed, deep and kind. He said, "Let's go to my house. I think it's time I made love to you."

Franny blinked. In her fantasies, it didn't happen like this. Never once did he say, "I think it's time I made love to you." She was expecting something different, something a little more romantic.

When she didn't reply, he stood up. "Come on," he said. "Take a chance."

Franny felt she had never done anything really daring in her life, nothing adventuresome, never taken a chance is what it came down to. Nora, her older sister, was always taking chances. She went to Nicaragua during all the fighting down there. She went backpacking by herself. And for onevacation, she went white-water rafting down the Urubamba River in Peru. Franny could not imagine herself trekking around the world, putting her life at risk for sheer amusement. Perhaps, she thought, it was her time to take a chance, and so she looked up at him and said the only thing she could think of: "Okay."


Michael put Franny's bike in the trunk of his car and they drove out to his home in Willowbank in south Davis. All the homes were large and old, most of them well kept, with ivy-covered entrances and sweeping lawns and mature trees everywhere. Michael's home was set far back from the road, a sprawling ranch-style house, the front shrouded in wisteria. Inside, the house looked newly remodeled: polished solid oak hardwood floors, skylights in the kitchen and foyer, ceramic-tiled counters, a floor-to-ceiling wall of windows in the living room. It looked precise yet comfortable, Franny thought, much as Michael looked.

Nervously, she walked around his house. Most of the colors were warm and rich, earthy brown tones. It should have put her at ease, but it didn't. She felt strangely out of place, awkward, like a duck in a dress shop: she didn't belong here.

Michael watched her as she surveyed his house. One by one, he took off her coat, then scarf, then mittens. Franny had the feeling he was peeling her away, layer by layer. He fixed her a drink without asking if she wanted one, and handed it to her, saying, "Drink this. I think you need to relax a little."

Normally, she didn't drink liquor—she didn't like the taste—but, like a child, she did as she was told. He led her to the couch and they sat down. He talked to her as he had on campus, soothingly, quietly, caressing her with his words. She thought of her father's words, also soothing, and finally she relaxed, not sure if it was Michael's voice that calmed her, her father's silent words, or the liquor she was drinking. And finally, when Michael did kiss her, it was tender, not boozy and sloppy like the kisses of the last man she'd been with, the reporter from the Bee. Gentle and warm and utterly erotic, it was all she had hoped for.

He took her into his bedroom and hung his jacket over a chair. The high, arched-ceiling room was spacious and had a light, airy feel to it, the walls papered in pale shades of blue and gray, the furniture blond and modern and comfortable, with a king-sized, four-poster bed. The drapes were open, and through the bay window she could see his backyard, in the middle of which was a huge black dog lumbering across the lawn.

Michael watched Franny, who was standing stiffly by the doorway. "Don't look so grim," he said. "You're going to like this."

"Sorry," Franny said, and she essayed a brief smile. She turned off the light. It wasn't yet dark outside, and everything in the room, even with the light off, was visible. She wondered how she could get in the bed, under the covers, without him seeing her. She wasn't fat, exactly—she was what some people called pleasingly plump. Rubenesque. Whatever you called it, she didn't want to expose it. Michael was broad-shouldered and of average build. No fat on him. She eyed the bed again, trying to figure out how she could negotiate it, biting her lower lip.

Michael came up and put his arms around her. "Franny, you look positively morbid. Tell me what's the matter."

"I haven't had much experience at this sort of thing," she said.

He smiled at her. "I realize that."

He lifted her sweater over her head, and she felt she ought to apologize. "I guess I need to lose a few pounds," she said.

Michael laughed softly. He kissed her on the neck, then whispered, "I'm going to give you what you want, Franny," and she wondered what that was. What did she want, anyway? And then he was taking off the rest of her clothes, rubbing her ample body with his hands, kneading it like bread dough, soft and warm. This embarrassed her at first—he wouldn't let her hide under the covers—but then she got lost in the feel of his capable hands. He seemed, truly, not to mind her plumpness at all. He turned her this way and that, rearranged her limbs as if she were a mannequin, sucking and pulling on her heavy breasts, inserting fingers in every orifice, probing, massaging,until she felt a deep stirring inside her, like the pull to nature she'd felt earlier at Putah Creek, only this was stronger, more urgent, and he forced her to open up to him, dipped his tongue into the very core of her, fed on her until she surrendered, for the very first time, to the primeval stirrings inside her, a wondrous release that was both awesome and grand. And at some point, on some inexpressible level, she came to understand what it was that she really wanted: a parent, a boyfriend; a father, a lover.

TOPPING FROM BELOW. Copyright © 1995 by Laura Reese. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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Topping From Below 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't read this if you're looking for a Fifty Shades follow up! Well written, great suspense, but went too far with S&M details. Got too grossed out to fully enjoy the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
By mid book, I was in love with this author, and wanted more. However, somewhere in the last 3rd of the book, it went down hill, and after entering into the equation beastiality...I was OUT. The ending, also was disappointing. The character 'M' was phenomenal, though!! Loved him! That I have to give her. She has great potential, though, as an author. I found also some of her discriptive scenes of her surroundings a distracting from the story and unnecessary. I would find myself skimming through those passages to get back to the STORY. That happened too often.
Guest More than 1 year ago
TFB is a real find; an excellent combo of mystery and erotica. one thing thats interesting is that Nora, a woman who is normally in control of her life, has to let herself BE controlled by M if she wants to learn about the relationship between him and her sister and find out if he killed her. She feels she failed Fran in life and doesn't want to do so in death. M is an intersting person as well because although he denied having anything to do with Fran's death, it's still a game between him and Nora; he practically dares her to prove he did it. And in Frans character, this is an example of a person who is so lonely and so desperate for love that she allows M to do some very perverse things to her, things she does not like and/or feels uncomfortable with. There's plenty of strong, perverse sex as well as S&M and D/s, but there is more, such as the love between two sisters and how losing a loved one can make you realize some of the mistakes one person can make in life,mistakes that you didn't see when that person was alive. And the 'games' between Nora and M are great as well; an interesting battle of wills between the two. Some novels are advertised as 'erotic' but don't deliver. This one does.
VivalaErin on LibraryThing 5 days ago
One of the more terrible BDSM books I have ever read. I expected much more out of it, and only finished it in the hopes that it would improve. It did not; if anything, it actually got worse toward the ending. This novel had an excellent premise, but the execution and character development were abysmal. None of the characters resembled anything recognizable as life, and the dom/sub relationship felt forced and trite.
fantasmogirl on LibraryThing 4 months ago
If you can handle delving deeply into the world of S&M, this is great read. Mystery coupled with eroticism topped with deep seated character analysis that brings you to a twisted, yet oddly triumphant and justifiable ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was out way before 50 shades.. Just an FYI to those which think its riding on the tail of shades.  I loved this book and have read it twice. Sure some parts take the S&M details a bit far but I think it was needed to so the reader knows how far M will take things and how far Nora will go to get answers about her sister. I couldn't put it down the 1st time I read it. TFB is a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But that is exactly how I like my reads.. And this one did not disappoint. It was beyond my comfort zone but damn it was so good... Just when you think you have things figured out you dont... Its a pure erotica with a splash of thriller in there to keep you glued to the pages...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the ending...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book with the exception of parts of it. It really draws you in and you want to know exactly what is going to happen. It was really hard for me to put this book down and still days later it plagues my mind. There were scenes in the book that I was not enjoying, I am not into the bestiality and the one reference to child pornography I could have lived without. It does keep you guessing well into the book and it was very well written. I would like to read Laura Reese's other book Panic Snap. I would have a hard time recommending this book to friends for fear of how they would judge my morals, but it really was a good read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can enjoy kinky sex, even dark sex, but I do not find enjoyment in reading sadistic violence In addition, the writing style was too focused on internal dialogue and glossed over the action moments resulting in a tedious reading experience--not a keeper for me--the one star rating allowed me to post this review, otherwise no stars
Zamora More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Laura’s writing style and the suspense! Definitely well written and better written than Fifty Shades (I loved the trilogy and in the same breath I have to give Laura Reese props). It is dark erotica in every sense that it’s not for the faint of heart. There are disturbing experiences Nora and Franny shared with M. that made me squirm and almost put the book down, but I couldn’t because I was drawn to how real the pain, guilt, and experience of loss can be that it kept me turning page after page just to see what came of Nora's journey for the truth and what lead Franny down hers which resulted in her being murdered.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
liaison More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up at a yard sale and was intrigued by the synopsis. I never expected the high level of eroticism and arousal that TFB forces the reader to face...head on! A great read,and one that will leave lasting and unforgettable memories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harry Richburg More than 1 year ago
Not only suspenseful but a look into the world of lust and love from a womens view . This book in all twist and turns will show how far some women will go when they are blinded by LUST.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In addition to all the other plaudits reviewers have given this book, I think it has an absolutely perfect ending - true to the story and a perfect punishment for M.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The protagonist, Nora Tibbs is out to avenge her sister's death. She believes her sister Franny's sadistic lover, Michael is the murderer. Intending to apprehend the alleged murderer, Nora pretends to be into the lifestyle of bondage and discipline. The story has a twist when Nora discovers she likes being treated badly. This novel is graphic but very well written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book done. It was the first erotic book I have ever read and it was not a disappointment. I definitely recommend this to other readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best books I have ever read. Someone recommended it to me and I am so glad I listened and gave it a shot. If someone would have told me before hand what was in it I would have sworn not to like it, but just like Nora you get sucked in to the world of M. This book was amazing in its story telling about a woman that failed her sister in live and does not want to do the same in death. By doing so she gets very close to the man she thinks killed her sister and slowly he takes her over to the dark side of BDSM, however unlike her sister Nora likes it. Even if you have never read a book containing this sort of stuff (like myself) please give it a try this is one of the best books you will ever read.