"Lie flat," he instructs gently, pulling my ankles together and stretching me lengthwise. His magic hands run up the backs of my legs, kneading and massaging out the kinks in my calves and hamstrings. He's at my wrists next, releasing my arms.
We sink together into the mattress as he straddles my hips. The undeniable evidence that Edward has had some training in massage distracts me from the fact that he's sitting naked on my back right now.
"Mmmm," is about all I can muster, as he works my back, shoulders and arms. He gathers my hair in one hand and twists it off my neck. The bittersweet moment has come; he unties my collar, leans down to leave a kiss at the base of my neck, and says, "Scene's over, sweetheart."
I'm so happy he doesn't expect to debrief right now, because he's totally blissing me out with the neck massage of a lifetime. Combined with the floaty vocals of Portishead, the effect sends me drifting …
I'm floating over the concert hall, wearing only my black velvet collar. The orchestra is playing an electronic melody, and there's a statuesque blonde standing behind a microphone, performing the vocals. I drift over the copper-colored shock of hair that belongs to the conductor, who is easily identifiable for the manic waving of his baton. Upon closer inspection, I see that he's tapping out the beat with a shiny black riding crop. I draw closer, dropping into his field of vision. "Isabella," he murmurs. "Isabella." He keeps conducting, but he steps around his music stand and presses his lips to mine. His kiss wakes me from my trance, and I realize suddenly that I'm naked, on stage, in front of an audience of thousands. Panic sets in, and he tries to calm me, "Isabella, it's okay." I have to get out of here. My heart beats and I try to float again, but I'm stuck on the ground and I'm trapped. "No, no , no!" I thrash.
"Hey, hey. Shhh," Edward soothes, next to me. My eyes flick open, and Edward's face fills my field of vision. His deep emeralds shine back concern, and his beautiful lips smile faintly in a reassuring expression. "You're okay. You're right here, with me."
"Sorry," I whisper. "I must've nodded off."
His smile widens. "That would explain the snoring."
And now I pout, "I do not snore."
"Okay, princess," he says, not unkindly. And now that I'm conscious again, I feel him everywhere. One leg is thrown possessively over my back, his right hand continues to massage my neck, and his softened cock whispers against my leg. His lips are a fraction of an inch from mine.
"You haven't kissed me lately," I accuse, crumpling my face into a frown.
"I kissed you right after I tied you up. Remember?"
"That was like a year ago."
"I've been busy," he says with a smirk.
He snuggles closer and brings his left hand under my head, drawing me to his lips. He kisses me with a gentle affection I realize I've missed. We should kiss more. He is a seriously good kisser. And his repertoire is outrageous. I don't think we've had two kisses yet that were the same.
He pulls back reluctantly. I can tell, because he scrunches his eyes a little bit, like he's fighting himself. I like that it's hard for him to stop kissing me right now, because I know what's coming, and I'd rather be kissing.
He sort of talks to my chin, "I know you're probably tired, but we should process the scene."
"I know," I sigh. "Lunch with Dad tomorrow…better not be thinking about how you chained me to the bed."
"No shit. I really like my balls."
"They're kind of growing on me too," I agree.
"Can you tell me how it felt to be restrained?" I ask, my lips still within inches of hers, taking everything in.
"I'm too wiped to calculate fractions, but I'd say it was more of an alternating thing, depending on your eyes."
Interesting. "Did anything bother you?"
"Yes. When you made me think you were about to get me off and you jammed your cock down my throat instead," she says without hesitation, bringing up a little of her earlier resentment.
"Yeah, that blowjob wasn't your best work," I chuckle.
"Are you kidding? You're lucky I didn't bite you!" Oh, she's awake now.
"No, Isabella. You're lucky you didn't bite me," I warn, no humor in my voice. "I never promised you were going to like following all my orders. What would be the point if you did?"
"Aren't I supposed to ache to serve your needs or some such shit?"
"Yeah, sure, that makes for a lovely scene. But that's not where I was taking you tonight. I wanted you to experience that delicious tension of your bindings, to feel truly forced against your will, but well within what I knew would be manageable. You notice, I didn't go knocking at your back door while I had you all helpless."
"So, you weren't expecting me to take you lovingly into my mouth then?"
I chuckle, "I would have found it highly unnatural under the circumstances."
"And you don't care that I was really mad?"
"Nope. You were smart enough to keep your attitude in check and I didn't have to punish you for being a brat."
Her eyes narrow and her brow furrows. This is where the fantasy of being a submissive often clashes with the reality. And how the sub chooses to handle that disconnect is often very telling of her true affinity for the role, so I push just a bit further. "You have to do what I say. Period. Even if there's no pleasure in it for you. Hell, even if there's no pleasure in it for me, beyond the sheer delight of making you do whatever I tell you to."
"Wait…so you could tell me to go run laps around the apartment building, and I'd have to just go and do it?"
She pushes off her stomach onto her side and crosses her arms. This isn't what I bargained for, she's thinking. I know, it's not sexy at all. It's just the control thing. "That doesn't seem fair," she complains.
"Sorry, when did anyone say this was supposed to be fair?"
A brief smile flickers on her face. "I could just safe word," she responds, proud of laying her trump card.
"You could. The first time. And then we'd talk about what your problem is with doing what your dom has demanded. And if it's not a hard limit—and it wouldn't be, or I wouldn't have commanded you to do it in the first place—and you can't convince me why it's impossible for you to follow my orders, we'd have a big problem."
She takes her lower lip between her teeth, reconsidering. "So it's okay with you that I really didn't want to give you that blowjob?"
"Are you kidding? You don't know how much more fun that makes it for me?" I respond evilly. "Unless, of course, you carry that resentment away from the scene. Are you still feeling resentful?"
She thinks for a minute before answering, "No."
"Good. So, how are you feeling toward my crop?"
"Mmm, I might have a little crush," she says, eyes crinkling at the corners.
"And your friend, the blue feather?"
"On my shit list."
"Fickle, fickle, Isabella."
"I'll be right back," he says suddenly, popping off the bed. I flip over just in time to see his tight little ass walk through the doorway. I sigh a little happy sigh and hug my pillow to my chest. So, this is what utter bliss feels like.
Before he returns and I won't be able to tear myself away, I push out of bed and down the hallway to my room. I start to reach for a cozy tee, but think better of it. Edward loves me naked, and his part of the bargain is keeping me warm. It's a trade-off I'll take any day of the week. Hmm, maybe I should grab a pair of socks, I muse. But no, assaulting Edward with my “icicles” is a singular pleasure. Truth be told, I think he enjoys it as well.
Tonight's pre-bed prep is brief, and I find myself racing back to his room. Junkie much, Bella?
"Hungry?" he garbles through a mouth full of Udon, chopsticks poised over the black take-out carton. He's kicked the covers down to the foot of the bed, and he's perched casually on his pillows, legs sprawled lazily in front of him.
Fucking hell. Naked noodle nibbling. I giggle and shake my head, "I just brushed my teeth."
"So, brush 'em again." Mr. Logical.
"No thanks. The sushi filled me up." My face heats remembering my punishment. He misses nothing.
Sexy smirk firmly in place, he prods, "Which hurt worse, your tongue or your nipples?"
"My tongue," I answer, propping myself up next to him and wrapping my arms around my knees. "There was no pleasure to go with the pain."
He nods, taking in the information. "Water?" he offers me the bottle from which he's been drinking.
Wow. Is it weird that his casual offer to share germs feels more intimate to me than all the crazy shit we've done together?
"Thanks," I answer, taking the bottle and trying not to act anything other than nonchalant.
No surprise, Edward picks up on my strangeness and lifts a questioning brow.
"Toothpaste and water don't…never mind."
He accepts my explanation and tucks into the noodles again. "How was your day at work?" he asks, returning the chopsticks to the carton for more.
Oh, you mean the day you started off by teasing me and ended by collaring me on your desk?
"Challenging," I decide.
"Good," he says unapologetically, gleefully even. "So you thought about me then?"
I shift my body his direction. "Thought about you? Helllo?" He cannot be serious.
His eyes dance over the soft noodles entering his mouth. Cocky son of a…
"Wait," I say, realization dawning. "Did you think about me, too? Your little mouse thirty-six flights above you, running through the maze but unable to reach the cheese all day?"
He snorts and the noodle he had halfway ingested flies indelicately out of his mouth. "Oh, shit, sorry. That was nasty!" He's still chuckling at my comment and swiping at his chin with the back of his hand. He reaches for the water, and I pass it back. There. He's taken in my germs. Circle complete. Oh God, why am I so fixated on this? He plants the chopsticks in the carton and sets it down, along with the water bottle, on his nightstand. He lets out a loud belch and rubs his stomach.
"Mmm, what a great dinner. I love Japanese."
"Are you going to answer my question?" I prod, ignoring his lack of manners.
"Come on, Isabella. What do you think?" Suddenly, those eyes are upon me, and I don't have a doubt in the world that he thought about me as much as I thought about him.
And now, I just have to ask, "Did you get yourself off?"
His jaw drops open and his eyebrows shoot up in disbelief that I dared ask. "Are you asking me if I masturbated at work today?"
"Yep." My voice sounds as shaky as I feel.
"Hmmm. I suppose if I were simply your boyfriend, I might be able to report today's whereabouts and activities. But since you were under my command, that would make me your dom, and therefore, I have to answer that what I did with my day is none of your concern."
My words are rough, but I try to soften my tone so she sees that I'm not trying to be an asshole, but I am trying to make a point. I see that she's angry, but her overriding emotion appears to be hurt.
"Isabella," I soften my voice even more, "This is tricky, okay? Edward and Bella are equals in the boyfriend/girlfriend thing. Then we go to work and you're 'Miss Swan' and I have to be announced at your door."
She snorts softly, remembering Jessica's protective behavior.
"So that's…different." I smile, because I don't really know what that is yet. I'm fairly certain it's not equal, but I can live with whatever it is. "And then, we're Dom and sub, Sir and Isabella, the Dark Prince and the princess, and that is not at all equal. That's 100% me, minus whatever I choose to give away to you."
Her watery brown eyes blink up into mine, and she reaches for the sheet. She doesn't feel safe uncovered with me right now. I don't stop her from pulling the sheet up to her neck and sliding to her back.
"I understand you're upset right now, and I'm sorry that you're having a rough time. But don't sell yourself short in this, Isabella. If I'm correct about you, you're not in this for some cheap titillation. If you were, you'd certainly be in the wrong bed right now, because that's not what I'm prepared to give you, and I'm pretty confident you know that."
Her eyes are teary now and focused up at the ceiling, but she's still in my bed, albeit hidden beneath the cover of the thin white sheet.
"Where are you right now?" She hasn't spoken in a while, and she's looking an awful lot like a scared mouse right now. I'd like to pull her into my arms, but I resist, because I'm not sure the gesture would be welcomed.
She blinks up at the ceiling and tries to pretend the tears aren't leaking down the sides of her face. Watching her struggle with this is difficult, but I can't help until she lets me in. All the way. So I do the only thing I can right now: I wait. And I try to stay calm, because I know that if she leaves my bed right now, it will be a really long night for both of us. Then again, if she stays but won't talk, that will be even lonelier.
Finally, she speaks. A timid, soft voice asks, "I think I'd really like to speak with Black Velvet right now."
That's a good sign. She's speaking to me. Well, not me, me. But still, me. I understand what she's asking. She can't handle hearing from the Dark Prince right now, because he's being a harsh bastard and telling her like it is. And she also can't bear that her Edward isn't interceding on her behalf and smoothing everything over, like the knife you dip in hot water to smooth out the bumps in the frosting just before you decorate the cake. Edward can't fix it this time.
But Black Velvet, the worldly mentor, the objective voice of reason, the gentle teacher—is uniquely qualified to address her concerns. And Isabella is smart enough to recognize what she needs.
I give myself a moment to shrug off the Dark Prince. With him go the arrogance, the cocksure answers, the right to take whatever he wants from her.
And Edward, too, must take his leave for the time being. I send him packing along with his inclination to provide her with assurance beyond what is truly justified, to say anything to keep her from running, to let his heart do the talking where the truth she needs to hear might speak differently. It is far more difficult to ask Edward to step away than the Dark Prince, and I remind myself that Black Velvet will do the right thing, as he has in the past.
When I feel I've properly channeled BV and shucked the rest, I pull the sheet up to my waist and inform her, "Okay, Black Velvet's here."
"This is weird," I sniffle. "I've never heard your voice before."
"Would you be more comfortable typing? I'll go get your laptop for you, and I'll sit at my desk," he volunteers, lifting the corner of the sheet and preparing to do just that.
"No," I stop him with my hand on his wrist. "Let's try it like this…but thanks for offering."
He nods once and settles back in, waiting for me to start. "Maybe if we…" I begin, then turn onto my side away from him. He mirrors my movement so our backs face each other. It's a little hokey, but this is more appropriate to my relationship with Black Velvet.
All right, out with it, OMK. "I feel like… I don't understand the rules."
"That's a perfectly fair statement," he answers. "I'm guessing you're pretty clear about who's in charge during a scene, and you're more than okay with that?"
"Yes," I respond.
That's the easiest part of all of this. The Master controls everything. And though he may shove his dick down my throat when I was hoping for something else, that's his prerogative, and I'm not going to incubate hard feelings over it.
"Are you confused about your boyfriend?"
"Not when he's being my boyfriend. I mean, I understand he's got…an edginess to him, but that's part of the package."
"Does that edginess upset you?" His voice sounds worried for the first time during our talk.
"No, I wouldn't say it upsets me. It keeps me on my toes," I admit. "He's exciting and sweet and tender and controlling and cocky and protective and considerate."
"It sounds as if you're never exactly sure who's coming to the party," he suggests.
I consider Black Velvet's implication that Edward's unpredictability might be problematic for me. But the way I see it, he's been exactly who I need at every step along the way.
He was my friend first, offering me a safe haven for my uncomfortable desires. Then, he became my dark knight, setting the choice of a lifetime at my feet. He's been my tender lover as well as my not-quite-so-vanilla partner. He's offered me entry into his friendships, his interests, his home, for god's sake. He's stood by me at work, despite the awkwardness of our situation, office gossip, and the unwelcome ex.
"Edward always seems to manage to be exactly who I need him to be."
"Even when you need him to leave you alone and let you talk to me," he observes, and I detect a melancholy note.
"Yes, he's really good that way," I say, hoping to let him know exactly how much I appreciate what he's trying to do right now.
"Okay," he says patiently, "it sounds as if you're okay with your master and you're okay with your boyfriend. It seems to be when the two become muddled together that you have a rough time with things."
"Yes. I think that's exactly where I'm becoming confused. I get assignments sometimes, in between scenes."
"Assignments from your master. But you're not in a scene?"
"Hmm," Black Velvet ponders. "I can see exactly how that would become a big fat grey area. How do you handle that?"
"I guess I feel like me, but I know there's a piece of me that's submitting at the same time."
"Just a piece of you? How do you do that?"
"Not too well apparently," I chuckle lightly. "Just earlier tonight, I screwed up my assignment because I forgot what I was doing."
"You forgot if you were Isabella or the princess?"
"I guess you could put it that way."
"If it were me, I would certainly have a rough time submitting part of myself. I think it has to be all or nothing. Hmmm…"
"What?" I ask.
"I wonder if Edward has the same problem. Trying to be part dom, part IT Guy, part Edward…must get confusing."
"Well, he's done this before."
"Not like this, he hasn't," he shoots back, sounding suspiciously like Edward.
Oh. He's having a rough time too? Somehow that lightens my anxiety immediately. "Well, do you have any suggestions for us?"
"It seems that these assignments are important to both of you, and I think I know why. Do you?"
"I know they keep me on edge."
"Aroused?" he says hotly.
"And?" he urges.
"And they make me feel connected to my master when we're apart."
"You like that?"
"Yes. It's comforting," I realize.
"Even when you're asked to do uncomfortable things?"
"All right. So you want to continue to have these assignments. The challenge is, how do you put yourself into the assignment 100% just as you would if you were scening together?"
And all of a sudden, I've got it. "It occurs to me that you start your scenes with a symbol of ownership, a collar."
"I can't wear a collar to work," she responds sadly.
"No, I'm not suggesting that. But what if there were a different symbol to remind you when you're not scening, but you're submitting? Something you can easily see, like a bracelet?"
"A bracelet? Hmmm. Yes, I think that could work. I could even put it on and take it off myself."
"I like that idea. It would remind you that you're freely giving your acquiescence. Remember? The source of your true power in this relationship?"
"Right…but wait. What about my Master? What symbol will he have to remember he is in dom mode?"
I don't do jewelry as a general rule. "Maybe a watch, if he's not accustomed to it, would do the trick." I haven't worn a watch since cell phones were invented.
"Sure," she says happily.
"Feeling better?" I ask cautiously.
"Much. Thank you."
"Do you think I can have Edward back now?"
"Fuck yeah," I answer, rolling over to face her…tightly bundled back. You've got me back, now let me in. I stare at her, willing her to turn toward me and climb into my arms. That doesn't happen, but she does loosen the sheet and scoot back toward me. I push forward so she's mere inches away.
The silky curve of her ass makes contact with my thighs. My nose finds its favorite spot just under her ear. My right arm lifts the sheet between us as she flattens her back against my chest. My hand touches down around her left breast, and my thumb sweeps absently across her nipple. And just when I'm really getting comfortable and starting to relax again, her cold feet touch down on top of mine.
"Achhh!" My loud complaint is met by a gale of giggles. Okay, this is normal. No, not normal. Us.
"So…" she says. "Are you prepared for lunch with the chief?"
"Sure," I answer. "I'm excellent at eating lunch. You know this already. Where are we going?"
"I booked a table at Indigo for 1:30. I figured we'd be done by 3, and if I have a drink…or two…I won't have that much more work to do for the day."
"So you're planning on getting snockered? Are you worried about me making a bad impression on Dear Old Dad?"
"I just can't really see how this is all going to go and it makes me nervous."
"There's only room for one control freak in this relationship, and that post has already been filled, sweetheart."
She laughs, "I think there are going to be three control freaks at the table tomorrow!"
"Well, that should be interesting when the check comes!"
"Edward, no! You're not thinking of fighting my father for the check?"
"I'm just kidding. He invited us, remember?"
I feel her body relax again. "Edward, you're not going to…be sprinkling any chocolate chips around at lunch, are you?"
I pull her in tightly against my chest and drop a soft kiss on her neck. "I wouldn't think of it. You trust me, don't you?"
"Of course," she answers quickly.
"So…the rest of the weekend…"
"Yes?" she questions.
"Did you have any plans for New Year's?"
"Oh," she sounds surprised to realize the holiday has snuck up on us. "No. I kind of hate New Year's Eve in the city. It feels especially claustrophobic to me with all the added lunatics out and about."
"Hmmm." The delicious bud of an idea takes full bloom in my imagination. "What would you say to getting the hell out of Dodge together?"
She turns her head to peer over her shoulder at me. "Really?" she brightens.
"Sure. We have a lot to talk about before 2012, and I think a change of scenery would do us a world of good."
"Talk?" she squeaks, disappointment nipping at the edges of the word.
I give her nipple a light tweak, because we've already discussed this, and she's in denial. "Yes, talk. Remember, limits…checklists?"
"Oh…that talk." She twists in my arms so our mouths are conveniently aligned. "Okay. I'm game."
I can't even try to contain my happiness. Or my excitement. Well, it's kind of impossible when the evidence is knocking at her thighs. Isabella has no idea what fun we're about to have ringing in the Year of the Edward.