Sedgwick’s is a short taxi ride from the hotel. I don’t even pull my gloves on, which makes hand-holding so much more fun. I’m jealous that Edward gets to wear his watch, but I’m made to leave my bracelet behind. He says he wants me “unfettered” for our conversation. As if. I haven’t been unfettered since he showed up to fix Alice’s computer a month ago.
“8:30 reservation for Cullen, party of two” he says to the hostess, drawing shivers up my spine. Cullen, party of two.
“Yes, sir. Right this way.” Sir, Sir, Sir.
She leads us to what appears to be the most romantic table in the place, a window seat with a beautiful view of the beach, festively lit for the season with a double strand of white lights strung along a line of tiki torches.
“I’ve got that,” Edward says, politely ushering aside the hostess so he can push my chair in himself. He brushes his hands gently from my bare shoulders down to my elbows, dropping a kiss at my neck before rounding the table to his own seat.
“I did it again,” he says, shaking his head.
“I forgot to mention how beautiful you look.”
“Ten demerits for you,” I tease, wondering if he ever tried to be a boy scout. Somehow I cannot picture this guy falling into line.
“Where did you go, Isabella?” he asks, lips quirking up into a smile.
“Not exactly where you think,” I answer evasively. So let him think I opened the doors to the kink factory early. I’ll get double overtime pay today. “Anyway, I owe you a compliment as well, so we’re even.”
“Hardly,” he snorts.
Um, okay. It would be better if your shoulders and arms were bare, too, but you’re rocking the charcoal jacket, black button-down and amethyst tie. “Is that a Riley creation?” I circle my finger vaguely to include the whole ensemble.
He chuckles. “Everything I own is a Riley creation, except for my tee shirts. He loves to shop. Sometimes, he even buys things without me.”
“You know he’d garner a fortune as a personal shopper. How do you compensate him for his time?”
“Are you kidding? He gets to see me in all these clothes.” He smirks devilishly, and I feel sorry for Riley.
“You are such a relentless tease. How does he put up with you?”
He shrugs and reaches for his ice water. “He loves me.”
The only appropriate response to that is a smile, and I take my own drink in hand, dazzled by the way his eyes dance with the reflection of the flickering votive between us.
“I’m so happy you love caviar. It’s really no fun as a solo act,” I admit.
“I always feel guilty ordering it because it’s so ridiculously expensive, but since I’m paying for dinner tonight, we’re all good.”
She smiles around her champagne flute as she hurries it to her mouth. You little devil, you.
“If I’d known that, I would’ve gone for the Beluga.” Might as well be a good loser.
“Don’t worry; you averaged up with the Cristal.”
“So…” I begin, “you’re quite the figure skater.” I’m hedging. It’s not like me, but after the weirdness of our afternoon, I’m not eager to be the one to bring the discussion to the table. I should’ve known she’d call me out.
Adding a quirk of her brow, she says, “Are you going to keep vamping all night, or are we going to have this conversation after all?”
“Let’s do it,” I answer confidently, sliding my phone from the interior pocket of my jacket.
Isabella pulls a blini from the elegant tray between us, slathers crème fraiche across the surface, and tips a tiny spoonful of Osetra on top. Her eyes roll closed momentarily as the briny sensation meets her taste buds, and she caps the performance off with a throaty moan that leaves me reaching for my water glass.
A broad grin sweeps across her face, and she has the audacity to lick her fingers one at a time. Temptation, thy name is Isabella Marie Swan.
I ignore the stirring behind my zipper and pull up her checklist. Scrolling to the summary page, I’m pleased to report, “Your prediction of half hard limits certainly didn’t hold true.”
Still grinning, she responds, “That’s okay. I made up for it in question marks.”
“Indeed, you did,” I chuckle. “Still, I’m really pleased that you took some chances here and kept an open mind.”
“A nonjudgmentally open mind,” she adds, with an index finger pointed in my direction.
I shake my head and click to the beginning. “Make me one of those, would you please?”
“Yessss, Siiir,” she singsongs playfully, reaching for the ingredients.
“Okay. Let’s talk about your reticence on all things anal.”
She snorts. “Ease right into it, why don’t you?”
I raise a brow. “More champagne, darling?”
“I’m good for now, thanks.”
“So…bad experience? No experience? Rough tumble in the roller rink in eighth grade? What am I dealing with here?”
She continues assembling. “Onions? Egg white? Yolk?”
I nod yes to all. She balances each successive item atop the growing round pile, then crooks her come-hither finger. I lean forward and open my mouth, and she pops the little circle directly onto my tongue.
“Mmmm. You make a mean blini. Maybe we should’ve just gotten two ounces and called it a night.”
She laughs out loud. “As if that would’ve held you till tomorrow!”
“There’s always the mini-bar.” On second thought, I’ll take my Porterhouse, thank you very much. “How about answering my question now?”
She sits back and squirms a bit in her seat. “I suppose it just never really seemed like a very enticing idea. You know how I feel about pain, and that’s got to be…” Her voice trails off with a shudder.
“So you’ve never had any penetration?” I keep my voice low, but her eyes dart nervously around the vicinity just the same.
She leans in and answers, “Just the doctor.”
“Well, that’s no fun. You do understand that I can make it pleasurable for you, right?”
“I believe you, but the concept still wigs me out pretty bad.”
“Because of the pain or because of the social construct?”
“Just the pain.”
“What about last night?” And now my penis won’t take no for an answer. He’s standing at full attention to hear her answer. Good thing, because it’s virtually a whisper.
“Last night didn’t hurt.” She pairs her words with a lovely blush and folds her hands into her lap.
“Would you be willing to let me work with that?”
All you have to do is say no. Nobody’s forcing you here. Two little letters. How is it then that I hear myself answer, “Okay”?
Okay? Why, you little turncoat!
Well, what do you expect me to say? He’s offering me a new kind of pleasure, and I happen to know that this man delivers on his promises. And maybe, just maybe, in the farthest, most remote, hidden away corner of my psyche…maybe I want him to make me.
Edward has the good graces not to be smug. In fact, he looks downright grateful, just like he did last night when he was…
“…question mark for same gender?”
He mini-snorts, “I sure hope you’re paying attention here. I wouldn’t want you agreeing to being branded when you thought we were talking about phone sex!”
“Get to work,” he chuckles, pointing to the caviar. “You have no experience with other women?”
“No, not since sleepaway camp.”
His eyebrows shoot straight up, but then he shakes it off. “Stop sidetracking me or we’ll never finish!”
I giggle and slide the caviar through his lips. He swipes my fingers with his tongue before I can escape.
“Does the idea of being with another woman excite you, Isabella?”
“I wouldn’t say I’m neutral, exactly; I’m sure it depends on the scene. And…your involvement.”
He takes up his champagne flute and drinks down the amber liquid, his intense green eyes never wavering from mine.
“Edward, I don’t think I could bear to watch you touch another woman.”
“Done. We’re at hard limit. Even watching is problematic at best. Moving on…ahhh, bathroom control.”
He breaks into a shit-eating grin, no pun intended. I snort out loud at that one, and he cocks his head like he’s watching a person go insane right before his eyes. Fuck my life. No, fuck my stupid pussy for this one.
Before he gets the wrong idea, I shake my finger threateningly and warn, “No diapers. No UTI’s. And absofuckinglutely no litter boxes.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he smiles.
“And I believe I hard limited in three different spots, but no”—I lean forward so as not to shout this through the elegant restaurant—“no poopy play!”
He bursts out laughing. “Got it. Oh, wait…how do you feel about peeing outside?”
I give him a look that could slice his balls off, but just to be crystal clear, or in the spirit of the holiday, Cristal clear, I say in no uncertain terms, “No.”
“Okay then,” he smiles, noting all that somehow on his tiny screen.
He focuses intently as he continues scrolling. “I’m not a fan of the c-word either. Moving on…”
“Tell me why you wrote ‘anxious’ for medical scenes.”
“I would’ve gone hard limit on that, I mean, going to the doctor is like the anti-sex for me. But then you had to go and mention stethoscopes and…grrrr, you made me think…”
“Thinking’s good,” I praise. “Listen, I understand that going to the doctor for real is an anxiety-provoking situation for most of us, for all kinds of reasons, and definitely not arousing. But this is a role play. May I make a suggestion? Unless you’re really feeling anxious about it, keep one appointment with the good doctor. I promise I’ll keep a close eye on you, since I know it’s not necessarily on your desirable list.”
Not yet anyway.
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll keep a close eye on me,” she grins, conceding.
“So is that neutral for the medical fetish and doctor scene?”
“Sure, Lucifer. Why not?” she smiles wryly.
“I resemble that remark.”
“Yes, you certainly do.” She shakes her head.
I notice the waiter heading our way to clear the course, and I wave him away. We don’t need company right now, pal. Not for this last topic.
“Aaaaand, I’ve saved the best for last. Humiliation, in public. Including, but not limited to, exhibitionism. Talk to me, Isabella.”
Or let your body do the talking, because it’s screaming loud and clear. Her eyes glaze over, becoming two round shiny brown marbles surrounded by a sea of red heat. Her nipples practically leap through her shirt and across the table. I’m quite sure a below-the-table spelunking expedition would reveal large pools of moisture in her cavernous regions.
She hides behind her champagne before downing the rest for courage. “I don’t know how to talk to you about this,” she offers shyly.
“Fair enough. You watch the Public Disgrace videos.” Her blush tells me everything. “They get you going, right?”
“Sure, but that doesn’t mean I’d want to star in one.”
“Understood. So the trick for me is to figure out how to work in the concepts without placing you at risk.”
“Especially at work,” she reminds me.
“And when we’re with family members or friends,” she adds.
“Not so fast with that one,” I caution. “There are ways of making it work that can be incredibly effective, and the other person in the room doesn’t necessarily have to know anything out of the ordinary is going on.”
I smirk, “You want me to spill my secrets, eh? Okay, here’s a quick example. We are entertaining your friend Angela and her boyfriend…?”
“Right. Every time I say ‘hungry’ you have to excuse yourself and drink a whole glass of water in the kitchen.”
“How is that sexy?”
“Isabella, this isn’t all about sexy. It’s about control. You do what I say, even if it makes no sense. Besides, couple that with bathroom control, and I’ve got myself a pretty spectacular night.”
“So you’re not going to make me follow you down Madison Avenue on my hands and knees?”
“No, but I might just make you walk a foot behind me.”
“And what about having sex in public places?”
“If you don’t hard limit this activity, you’re just going to have to trust me to make the right decisions.”
Wow. I see the glimmer of the wolf in his eyes and the flash of his canine teeth. There’s definitely no pampering here.
“Do you want to tell me anything else?” he asks.
Speak now or forever hold your peace. “I don’t want to be sold at a slave auction and I don’t want you to give me to anyone else.”
“Honey, if you haven’t already figured this out, I am a possessive son-of-a-bitch. I’m not giving you or selling you to anyone. Okay?”
“Okay,” I say brightly, having voiced the last of my fears. “I’m actually getting pretty hungry.”
He chuckles and waves the waiter over. “Me, too.”
My appetite is fully restored, now that all things checklist are behind me. I have to hand it to Edward; bringing me here, away from everything, was inspired. Despite our drama earlier, I’m feeling completely relaxed and comfortable. Of course, the champagne doesn’t hurt. But this isn’t the alcohol marathon of New Years past. He cuts us off after the Cristal’s gone, explaining he wants both of us to go into the collaring with clear focus.
“How’s the rainbow trout?” he asks.
“It’s perfect. Just grilled, no fanfare, no creamy sauces to weigh me down. Yours?”
He cuts the last of the meat from the bone and his eyes dart around to the neighboring tables.
“Just pick it up. You know you want to.”
His eyes twinkle as he gives in to his urge to devour the bone. The man does enjoy his food. After gnawing every visible morsel of meat, he sets it back down and mops his greasy jowls with the napkin.
“Awesome. I hope you’re still hungry. I ordered the chocolate soufflé.”
“When? I didn’t hear that!”
“When I made the reservation. It’s kind of why I wanted to come back here.”
“This restaurant is lovely, the inn is perfect. Edward, thank you so much for bringing me here with you. Working through all this was so much easier away from real life.”
The server clears away our dishes and comes back with the little crumb pan and brush. “May I offer you coffee, cappuccino, an after-dinner drink?”
“What time is it, Edward?”
He smiles broadly and pulls his wrist between us. “10:15.”
“I’ll have a skim milk latte, please.”
“Black coffee for me,” he adds, smiling devilishly in my direction. We’re going to be up for a while.
“There’s one more puzzle piece we need to talk about,” I say, watching Isabella pull her spoon through the molten chocolate.
“Just one?” she grins, drawing the spoon between her lips. For a moment, she’s helpless, lost to the sweet, warm treat in her tongue. “Mmm. This is ridiculously delicious! Aren’t you going to have some?”
“I am. I’m just enjoying watching you right now.” She shakes her head and reaches back to the center for another spoonful.
“Better hurry up!”
I chuckle and send in my spoon. The instant the combination of chocolate cake and cool vanilla bean ice cream hit my lips, I’m sunk. Where I am ruled by self-discipline in so many aspects of my life, I surrender willingly to this sweet decadence. Riley’s observations about my metabolism are all true; I could easily be a 350-pound ball of blubber.
She catches me off guard with her next comment. “Was there something I hard limited that you’re disappointed about?”
“No,” I answer quickly. “That’s not at all where I was going.”
“So, nothing….you wished I’d…been braver about?”
I swallow down my second bite and reconsider her answers. “Isabella, you have to know I was expecting dozens more hard limits. I am completely delighted by your courage. And I want you to know how much it means to me that you trust me with some of these scarier categories.”
Her lips close around the spoon as she slides it out of her mouth. “But…?”
Shoot. It’s not my style to reveal my own checklist to a sub. But clearly, this woman across from me is not just any sub. Moreover, I don’t want her to feel that she’s let me down in any way. That is absolutely not how I feel.
“Okay. If you were to really push me to give you one activity…”
She smiles. “Not so easy, is it?”
I chuckle softly. “No.”
She dabs away the chocolate at her mouth and folds her napkin neatly to the side of her plate. Regarding her open, accepting expression, I remind myself she’s given me everything today. I have to work on my fear of scaring her away, though today’s miscue still stings.
“Okay. Here it is. I’d really like the chance to videotape you.”
She attempts to mask her initial reaction, but anxiety creases her forehead before she contains it.
I hasten to add, “Eventually.” I add two hands, palms-out, in a gesture of surrender. Easy, girl. “Your submission is …exquisite. Every part of your body is fully engaged in carrying out my wishes. That’s the primary reason. Even with the novelty of all this, your flashes of doubt just make the ultimate surrender that much more precious. If I could capture that…” I wouldn’t have to rely on my memory to replay those moments over and over.
“Beyond that, you’re simply gorgeous to look at. And I might just want to watch the way you move, so I can enjoy as an observer and not a participant. Does that creep you out?”
I acknowledge her doubt with a nod. “I’d like you to be able to see yourself as well. I have a strong feeling that you’d be quite surprised. You may not even recognize yourself.”
“Maybe that’s what scares me,” she answers.
I decide the discussion about posting said videos to the internet is something best saved for another day. Naturally, I’d never show her face; still, this is neither the time nor the place. I reach around china and candles and coffee accoutrements to grasp her hand. “I’m not pushing. I only told you because you asked me. Believe me, I’m not feeling deprived in any way by all you’ve given me to work with. Okay?”
Her shoulders relax as she nods, and the trusting smile finds its way back to her lips. “Okay.”
“Great, now can you hurry up and pay for dinner please? I’d really like to get you back to the room.”
I settle the bill and use the bathroom while Edward arranges for a taxi back.
I’m thankful for my heavy, long coat on my cold, bare legs and even more grateful for Edward’s welcome embrace when I step outside. I shiver and shake and exhale white puffs of air. He holds me close and chuckles at my failed attempts to keep warm, his deep laughter rumbling through the chambers of his chest.
The cold back seat of the taxi is hardly an improvement. By the time the heat kicks in, we’re almost back to the hotel, and that’s when my brain clicks back to a conversation Edward started over dessert. Something about a puzzle piece.
“Was there something else you wanted to bring up back there?”
“What? Oh, shoot, yeah. Thanks for reminding me. How’s the frequency working for you?”
My eyes shift to the taxi driver, but even if he could hear us on the other side of the plexiglass divider, he’d have no understanding of our deeper meaning. So… how is the frequency working for me?
“Well,” I begin, regarding my super sexy boyfriend/Master, “if I didn’t get my fix of Edward on our nights off, I suppose I’d need to see more of the Dark Prince.”
“I knew it.” He shakes his head in mock disdain. “I’m spoiling you.”
“Totally,” I agree readily. “I wouldn’t mind…a little more?”
He doesn’t contain his sexy grin. “More play time?”
His warm hand cups my cheek as he draws his lips to mine. “Damn, Isabella,”…kiss… “you say the”…kiss… “sweetest things.”
A shiver passes through me, whether from his kisses or my admission, I will never be sure.
Thank heavens we’re alone in the elevator. Something tells me Edward wouldn’t give a rat’s ass, but I don’t need an audience when he backs me up against the upholstered wall and pins me there with his hips. He barely touches my lips with his before owning every part of my mouth with his tongue. Edward is an intoxicating combination of Porterhouse and chocolate, with a bouquet of highly aroused Dom swirled into the mix for added pleasure.
The loud ding of the elevator announces our arrival. Edward pulls back slightly and growls. Taking my hand in his, he drags me down the hall. He is a man on a mission. I swear if he had a big club, he’d hit me over the head with it right now. It’s not as if I’m putting up any kind of resistance, other than the fact that my slightly inconvenient heels make it impossible for me to match his pace.
He thankfully pushes the door open one second before towing me inside and kicking it closed behind him.
“Déjà vu,” I giggle, wondering if he’ll take me against the window again.
“Jesus, sorry!” he exclaims, shaking his head as he tosses his coat across the couch. “I think I’m a touch overstimulated. Give me a minute, would you?”
“Why?” I laugh, folding my own coat atop his.
“Trust me,” he warns. “You do not want me to start the scene right now.”
I kind of do, but I respect his restraint. He spins around and paces and pulls at the hair at the back of his head. Wow. Suddenly, he comes to some kind of decision and yanks loose the knot of his tie. He takes three steps toward me and we’re toe to toe. In a low, overly controlled voice, he asks, “Isabella, are you ready?”
I’ve been ready since the last time he pulled out of me, back before lunch. Before checklists, before all the drama, before champagne and caviar, and before spending the last two hours in solid conversation about all manner of deviant desires and how this luscious man in front me can satisfy every single one. But he just wants a simple answer.