I’m starting to hate this car ride. Somehow, in the course of the twenty minute ride, we’re uncoupled. The delicate balance we’ve somehow struck in my apartment and elsewhere in the world is knocked out of sync the closer we get to Swan Enterprises.
Truth be told, it starts long before we enter the sleek Town Car. The alarm rouses us, and our warm, comfortable bodies naturally fight the inevitable separation. Hands resting on chests make one final circuit. Feet entwined with ankles brush up and down before disentangling. Lips brush whatever skin is available before mumbling, “Good morning.” Eyes watch sadly as the bliss of our shared bed is shattered by real life and adult considerations.
And once Isabella steps out of her room dressed for battle, she’s not entirely my Isabella any more. Something we’ll need to fix, but not this week. Again, I promise myself that it will happen, and I need to exercise restraint. Well, at least while we’re at work.
“Want anything to eat? Do you even eat breakfast before work?”
“I usually grab a yogurt on my way out.”
“Maybe you should grab a few for yourself at the store today. And whatever else you want to have around. I’m happy to do a bigger shopping trip with you if you need help. I really want you to feel comfortable here.”
“I do, Edward. Thank you,” she reassures me, as we head into the elevator together.
“So, I made us both a 12:30 appointment at the clinic near the office so we can get those tests out of the way.” I brace myself for her objection. I never really asked…
“Thanks for taking care of that. Should we go to lunch after?”
“Yeah. That would be great.”
Domenic’s waiting at the curb and hops out to open the door for us when we emerge from the building.
“Good morning, Miss Swan, Mr. Cullen.”
“Morning, Domenic,” Bella says first.
I feel myself sinking away from him as the car pulls out into traffic, but at least today we have a plan to meet midday. Okay, so it’s around sexually transmitted diseases, but a date is a date. It seems like I should be able to manage five hours without him. And yet, when he exits the car before me, I feel inordinately lonely.
I let him get several steps ahead before following the strong set of his shoulders into the lobby. I long to press into his elevator car and pin him to the wall with my body, but besides the fact that he’s going the opposite direction, that kind of behavior just won’t do. I settle for giving him a wistful, silent goodbye with my eyes as I watch the door close on him.
Melodramatic much, Bella?
The up car arrives, and I forge ahead. There are a few other early birds pushing their buttons, but it’s fairly quiet at this hour. That is, until the little hand reaches through the almost closed doors and pries them apart. I’d know that hand anywhere.
“Alice. Good morning,” I say, once she’s safely inside.
“Oh, Miss Swan. Good morning,” she responds, reaching for her floor. Out of sheer habit, her finger hovers over 35 first, then with a small embarrassed giggle, she presses 37. “That’s going to take some getting used to.”
For all of us.
“You’re in bright and early,” I comment, hoping it didn’t come out snarky.
“Trying to make a good impression on the new boss.”
“I’m sure you had him at hello, Alice. He’s already heard so many wonderful things about you.” Damn, I feel a tear behind my eye and hope it has the good sense to stay put.
The doors open on 35, and I excuse my way out from the back of the elevator. At the last minute, I turn to Alice and say, “Good luck, Alice. I’ll miss you.” Thankfully the doors close before she sees my mini-meltdown. I guess it would be overstating to call Alice a friend, but only because I’ve always kept her at arm’s length, not because she wasn’t worthy of the title.
I’m shocked to see a bright-eyed youngish blonde woman waiting for me at my assistant’s station at this early hour. She hops out when she sees me coming and introduces herself.
“Miss Swan, hello, my name is Jessica Stanley. I’ll be your new administrative assistant. I’ve been working down on 22 for the Northwest Pod, and I’m so excited to be up here with you. I can’t wait—”
Oh boy. I hold up my hand, and mercifully, she stops talking. Before I say a word, I try to put myself in her shoes. It’s intimidating being sent upstairs, and I don’t know what she’s heard about me. She’s nervous, and she’s trying too hard already, but those aren’t insurmountable blunders. We just have to get used to each other. And I have to have coffee first.
“Jessica, it’s very nice to meet you. Why don’t you get yourself settled and familiarize yourself with the workstation. Let’s sit down at 9 and get to know each other a bit, okay?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” She takes a deep breath and heads back to her station.
“There are thirty new trouble calls about that virus already and it’s only 10:30. What do you think is going on?” Rosalie asks.
“Gotta be a breach,” Emmett answers. Emmett loves to talk about security breaches. Rose is waiting for my answer.
“I’ll check into the activity on the hard drives affected and see if I can find any kind of correlation.”
She nods. “Emmett, take Edward’s patch and get on those trouble calls.”
“Aw, Rosie, come on. I hate those—”
She gives him a look that could make a Great White Shark cower and retreat, and Emmett is far from a Great White. He’s more like a cockapoo. I dig out my disc with the patch and hand it to him. “Sorry, man.”
“Whatever. Just figure out that correlation so I’m not doing this into the New Year, huh?”
“I’ll do my best.”
My phone vibrates next to my keyboard, and I glance over to see who wants me.
E- How’s your day going so far? ~I
Busy but good. How’s the new ass’t?
That good, eh?
*rolls eyes* What are you in the mood for…lunchwise?
Depends what you’re making for dinner
Good point. Meet me outside at 12:15?
I set my phone back down, and I’m sure I have a big goofy grin across my face. Which isn’t a good thing to be wearing when Rose eyes me through the glass and shakes her head.
“Well, that certainly doesn’t seem fair. I’m the one who’s been eating at home for the last three years, and I have to suffer all kinds of indignities. You, on the other hand…”
“Me what?” he challenges, smirking at me from across the table.
“You’ve been getting take-out from anywhere you want in the 212 area code, and you get away with a pin prick and a swab.”
His mouth falls open and he leans in, dropping his menu onto the table in front of him.
“Ready to order?” our waiter asks at the most inopportune moment. Did he train with the bimbo from The Tavern?
"I'll have a burger, medium rare, sweet potato fries, and a Diet Coke."
Sir, Sir, Sir.
“I’ll have the same.”
The waiter shuffles off, and Edward pulls my hand across the table in his. He brushes his thumb across my knuckles, selecting his words carefully. “Do you want to go there? Because I am not afraid to have this conversation, Isabella.”
Do I? The mere fact that he’s open to talking about his past, coupled with his unflinching eagerness to get this testing out of the way speaks volumes.
“What do I need to know?” I press bravely.
A small smile works its way into the corners of his lips. “Well, first of all, I am extremely picky, and there aren’t many women who’ve met my exacting standards.”
I snort. “Shocking!”
Our hands break apart to allow the server to place our drinks on the table. Edward sips at his straw, never taking his eyes off mine, then continues, “When I’m seeing someone, I’m faithful. I am not a slut.”
“These girlfriends weren’t also subs?”
“No,” he says, relaxing back into his chair and gathering his thoughts. “I mean, once I started to really understand what I needed, I threw myself into research.”
I suspect ‘research’ is a euphemism for dominating a series of submissive women, but I stifle my inner snort. “What kind of research?”
All right. Here we go…
“Reading, mostly…at first. I started with blogs; the more I read, the more I was convinced I was on the right track. Have you ever perused any on-line submissive journals?”
She answers hesitantly, “Sure.” Well, of course she has.
“So, I started reading every dom journal I could get my eyeballs on. I studied their language and found a few that really spoke to me.”
“I wonder what set those apart,” she muses casually, as if commenting on the weather.
Our waiter has epically terrible timing. I’m forced into a trip down Kinky Master Lane while he delivers Isabella’s plate first, and then mine. “Can I get you anything else?” he asks, placing the ketchup between us.
No, dude. Get lost.
“We’re good,” I say tightly, and he scurries away to bother his other customers. “So, to answer your question…”
“Please,” she smiles.
“I guess the best way to describe it is the flip side of what you write. First and foremost, the dom had to sound as if he genuinely cared for his sub’s well-being, or I couldn’t even get interested in reading further. Then, I looked for the ones who were less about inflicting pain and more about the mental kinkery.”
Her eyes click to mine and her easy smile is replaced by a deep blush. Damn, she’s fun.
“I tried to absorb the subtle details. What does a great dom say and do to reduce his sub to a mess of eager, needy girl who aches to please only him? How does he build trust, creating an intimacy between the two? How does he balance his own physical needs with his desire to fully satisfy this person who’s offering her submission?”
She takes a sweet potato fry into her mouth and ponders a response. “So you built your repertoire from the writing that met your high standards?”
My burger’s getting cold, but I hardly care. “There’s obviously only so much a person can absorb simply by reading about it. It would be comparable to learning to drive a car by reading the owner’s manual. It doesn’t exactly make you road ready!”
She’s slicing her burger in half when she catches my eye. “Hence, the uncomfortable end of the crop for you?” she posits.
“Yeah, a necessary evil,” I admit, certain that I’m grimacing now. “I needed to experience the sub’s perspective during live scenes.”
“I don’t suppose you ever considered subbing for a female?” Her eyes are wide as she takes in a bite of her burger.
“I tried. I read a variety of female dommes with both male and female subs, but I couldn’t relate on any level, and I quickly realized I would have to submit to a man. I finally worked up the nerve to contact one of the doms whose writing I really respected, and he hooked me up with someone local, a guy he said he trusted.”
“Wow,” she interjects. “That must’ve been incredibly scary for you.”
I drag a few fries through the ketchup and chew on them before answering. “Considering I don’t have a submissive or a homosexual bone in my body, plus I had to take a leap of faith on the recommendation of a guy I didn’t even know…”
And grant him full access to my naked, restrained body. A chill runs through me at the memory of that first scene. It still amazes me how well things actually did work out.
“So, what was the most surprising thing you learned?”
Slow down. I lift my burger and take that first bite into the unbroken circle, the perfect marriage of beef, bun, ketchup, pickles, and chopped onions. Most surprising, she’s asked. I wasn’t surprised at all to confirm that I don’t like the feel of a whip across my bare ass, much less the open hand of another man. Nor was I surprised to learn that I would have a hard time committing to serving another; it’s simply not my nature. And I certainly wasn’t surprised that taking a man into my mouth would be difficult at best. No, what surprised me was where I ended up.
Swallowing down my first couple bites of burger, I wipe my hands and sip down my drink. She’s watching me and waiting patiently. Where to begin?
“Have you ever been blindfolded before?”
“No.” Her eyes give her away. It’s obviously something she’s thought about, something she wants. It’s Bondage 101, after all, and I haven’t gone there with her yet. With good reason.
“Feel like trying something?” I grin.
“Right now?” she asks, blinking around us furtively to see who might be watching.
“Feel like trying something?” I grin.
“Right now?” she asks, blinking around us furtively to see who might be watching.
I nod. “Right here.”
I guess I’m about to have some chocolate chips with my burger and fries. “Okay,” I say, letting him know that I trust him.
His response is a wide smile. I can’t think of much I wouldn’t do to produce that smile again. He smoothly slides his paper placemat and everything on it around to the spot adjacent to mine and slips across the divide to the corresponding chair. My heart rate picks up. What the hell is he going to do to me?
“Put your hands flat on the table and close your eyes.”
Oh my freaking hell. Before complying, I allow myself one final check. You are going to take care of me, right? The intensity with which he returns my gaze conveys his commitment. Sufficiently convinced, I drop my lids and work to relax myself.
Seconds later, I feel the tickle of a sweet potato fry at my lips, and I open them to grant entrance.
“Good girl,” he says directly into my ear, causing all kinds of naughty responses throughout my body. I chew, swallow, and wait. And wait. And wait some more.
“Open,” he commands, pressing my burger against my mouth. Again, he removes the food after I’ve bitten off a piece. He lets me chew and swallow and wait.
I feel his eyes on me and wonder what he’s doing. Is he eating? Just staring? Are people looking? Do I even care?
As time stretches on, I long for contact of any sort. Even his voice would be a comfort, but he’s withholding it. Several lonely minutes go by. I’m sure he wouldn’t leave me here alone like this, and yet, doubt takes hold and anxiety creeps in. I consider my options; clearly, the easiest is opening my eyes. Should I safe word? Should I call his name?
His hands touch down on my shoulders and I am reassured by the feel of his strong chest against the back of my head. Relief floods my system, washing away the waves of anxiety.
“I’m right here, sweetheart,” he whispers softly, his warm breath blowing across my ear. My body leans into him, soaking his nearness into every pore.
“You can open now, Isabella,” he instructs, giving my shoulders a light squeeze before taking his seat.
His adoring smile is waiting for me as my eyes blink open, adjusting to the light and their freedom. “If you had to describe how you felt just now with only one word, what would that word be?”
This one’s easy. “Vulnerable.”
Does she have a clue how perfect she is? I nod, pleased she came up with the precise answer I was hoping for. “Exactly. And until I experienced that for myself, I had no business tying a scarf around anyone else’s eyes.”
She clears her throat before answering, “So your reaction surprised you?”
“What I couldn’t have predicted was that I would welcome the kind of attention that I would’ve found, well…repugnant under normal circumstances.”
Blindfolded, naked, kneeling on the floor, wrists bound behind my back, I was teased within an inch of an orgasm four times before Marcus left me alone to stew. And he didn’t go easy on me. The heavy door of his dungeon closed behind him as he left me there without a clue as to when he might return or what he had planned for me when he did. I knew he had a video camera on me and that my safe word would resolve my situation instantly; he’d taught me that on the first day of my captivity.
There comes a time when every sub questions his or her sanity in offering complete submission to another human being, and I was just about to have my moment. I’d been in this position long enough to be extremely uncomfortable, yet somehow I’d nodded off several times. When I finally heard the door pulled open behind me, I was ripe with anticipation. I sat up taller, sharpened my focus so I could take in any clue the slightest noise might offer me. I followed the sound of his footsteps around the room, and each step that brought him closer to me filled me with both relief and dread.
If he’d offered me even one word of comfort, I believe the force of his gesture would have been diminished. Instead, he hinged open my jaw with two fingers and pushed the tip of his cock inside my lips. His message was clear; be grateful that I’ve returned to bestow this gift upon you. I took in his offering with an enthusiasm that frankly shocked the hell out of me. When he tenderly ran his hand down my cheek and held me in place, wet tears met the inside of my blindfold.
“Wow,” she smiles. “I don’t suppose you’re willing to share?”
“Sorry, Sweetheart,” I say, “those records are sealed. But I did learn what I set out to learn.”
She holds her burger mid-air and shares, “You do realize, all I can do now is picture you bent over a whipping bench while some guy works you over.”
I shake my head and dig into my own burger, “Bon appétit, baby.”
Okay, he’s not sharing and I need to leave it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t return to this particular fantasy whenever the mood strikes.
“So with this new information you were ready to venture out and find your first girl?”
The juices from his burger seep out the sides of his mouth and I’d dive right in and slurp those up if he wasn’t so darn quick with his napkin. “Cautiously, yes.” He pauses, then, “My first chat was really nerve-wracking. Marcus had really put the fear of God into me about mistreating my sub or making a stupid error. I was so nervous, I sent him the whole transcript of my first on-line conversation.”
I cough a little but recover quickly. The idea of an insecure Edward is so incongruous with the confident man I’ve come to know that it’s impossible to reconcile. “What did he think about your maiden voyage?” I ask, trying not to tease.
A cocky smile comes across his face. “He asked me if I minded if he used some of my lines.”
I roll my eyes and swallow my mouthful of food. “Jesus. You’re like a kinky savant.”
It’s Edward’s turn to choke. “Did you just call me an idiot?” he asks, incredulous.
“I believe I just called you gifted,” I clarify. “Are we almost done with this journey into your sordid past?”
He smiles. “Yes. Since then, I’ve had subs on a somewhat rotating schedule. These weren’t committed relationships; they were more like progressive scenes. And sprinkled in with those, a series of phone subs—girls I met on line or who were referred to me because I have a knack for training newbies.”
“And none of them ever lived with you?”
“No, Isabella. I haven’t had a roommate for …I don’t know, seven years?”
I’ve heard enough. “What’s the plan for tonight?”
He grins, relieved that I’ve pushed on, and clearly thinking about his scenario for later.
“You’re sure you don’t want my help at the grocery store?”
“Okay, then I have an assignment for you while you’re shopping.”
I set down what’s left of that half of my burger so I don’t kill myself. “Okay?”
He shakes his head no, and prompts, “What else can I do to please you while I’m out shopping for your dinner?”
Seriously? Less than a half-hour post-pelvic exam, I’m moistening my panties for this man? The word “shameless” lodges in my brain, though it rightfully belongs to my pussy.
I do a quick reconnaissance mission to make sure our waiter’s not about to burst onto the scene. Finding the coast clear, I lean in and repeat, word for word, “What else can I do to please you while I’m out shopping for your dinner?” My recitation of his request is far from rote. He’s just forever converted grocery shopping into a sexual odyssey for me.
His eyes glint with want, and I am gratified to note that he is no less affected by this exchange than I am. “I want you to pick out a suitable collar at the grocery store for tonight’s scene. Something appropriate for a dinner servant.”
The whimper that escapes me is louder and more desperate than I’d like, and Edward smirks at me, proud to have struck a nerve.
“How early can you be back home with the supplies?” he asks.
Considering I won’t get a shred of work done this afternoon…realistically, for appearance’s sake, I work until 5:30, shop till 6:15, Domenic can have me home by 6:30, allowing for traffic…
He nods once. “Don’t be late, Isabella.”