It’s strange knowing she’s not upstairs as I hang my coat on the hook behind my chair. The office somehow lacks its usual warmth and sense that anything is possible. I’m restless and unfocused and my head is all over the place, and I’m not going to be productive until I sort out a few personal matters, starting with the mentorship offer Marcus made.
“Take your time. Come find me in the den when you’re ready,” Marcus directed, closing the bathroom door on his way out. It struck me that this was a first. Privacy is simply incompatible with servitude. He’d relieved me of my collar; yet, I was still here.
I luxuriated in the shower, taking my time with the rugged-smelling body wash and shampoo, soaping my spent body. I was sore in places that had never been touched before, and while I never cared to repeat the experience, I was grateful for the insight. I was man enough to admit there was a fair amount of pleasure that would always be associated with this particular memory. Marcus saw to that.
I toweled myself dry, making that transition from submissive to regular-guy-slash-aspiring-dom for the very last time. I retrieved my folded clothes from the shelf where I’d left them 48 hours earlier. Before…everything.
The last lesson.
The final frontier, I snorted to myself. To boldly go where no man has gone before. And no man will ever go again.
The recent memory of the extended anal training session spurred me to quickly pull on my jeans, having honored Marcus’s No Underwear rule to the last. The rough denim fabric chafed but I gritted my teeth and pulled on my tee-shirt and sweater. I grabbed my socks and shoes and carried them out to the couch.
As I rounded the furniture, I was shocked by the sight of him; freshly showered as well, sporting a damp head of dark hair, an AC/DC concert shirt, and a pair of snug dark blue jeans.
“What’s wrong? Never seen a guy in well-fitting jeans before?” he quipped.
“Never seen you in anything but black. It never occurred to me you had anything else in your wardrobe.”
Marcus chuckled and invited me to sit, which turned out to be easier said than done. He did his best to stifle a smile and at least had the good graces to look sheepish about my discomfort. I managed my socks and shoes while he talked.
“Well, this is actually a fitting final lesson, if what you take away is the importance of thorough aftercare,” he said.
“Thanks for making this a teaching moment,” I said sarcastically.
He opened his arms and grinned. “It’s what I do. Seriously though, Edward, any lingering questions?”
“Marcus, we just talked for an hour during the aftercare session. Thanks but I think I’ve hit my max.”
He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, hands clasped between them. “Fair enough. You have my cell and my email. Use them if you need to.”
“Thanks, I will,” I reassured him.
“And Edward, when you’re ready for a tune-up, you come back to me. No charge.”
I looked up, surprised. “That’s very generous of you.” This was his livelihood, not just a hobby or a way to get his rocks off, though it certainly served that purpose as well, I recalled with a healthy dose of smug satisfaction.
Marcus reached across and tapped my thigh. “You never noticed I didn’t cash your checks after the first one?”
“What?” Like most people of my generation, I have a somewhat trusting—otherwise known as lazy—relationship with my bank account. And while I always made sure my deposits registered, I tended to be somewhat blasé about making sure my checks cleared. So no, I had no idea what he’d been doing all this time.
“I only cashed the first one to pay for your supplies. Here,” he said, offering me a large shopping bag. Taking a cursory glance inside, I recognized the paddle, crop, and whip he’d used on me, and I heard a bunch of smaller toys rattling around. No doubt the plugs and clamps and cuffs I’d grown somewhat accustomed to.
“Marcus,” I started, and had to stumble over a lump in my throat. “I don’t know what to say.”
Marcus spoke softly, but as usual, his words packed a huge punch. “Edward, from the first time I saw you, I knew I wouldn’t take a dime for training you. I’ve never had such a highly motivated student before, and frankly, it doesn’t hurt your cause that you’re beautiful...and exactly my type.”
This last bit, he added wistfully, and I had to look away while he continued.
“All I ask is that you treat your subs with the utmost care and call me when you have a problem. This isn’t always as easy as it looks, and you’re going to need support. I’m here for you.”
I nodded and thanked him once more.
“If you want to call me when you’re ready to dom for the first time, I would give anything to observe you. Seeing you in all your dominant glory would be remarkable.”
Tears pooled in my eyes, and after all I’d been through with Marcus, this talk felt as intimate as the rest of it. I stood and walked to where he was just rising from the couch. I spread my arms in invitation, and Marcus embraced me tightly. I felt his muscular chest against mine, the firmness of his grasp, the comfort of being in his skilled arms and compassionate presence.
He pulled back and commanded me one final time, “Make me proud, Edward.”
Overcome with emotion and gratitude, I leaned forward and kissed him gently on the lips. He went uncharacteristically slack against my mouth, and my tongue boldly breached the border, finding his tongue available on the other side. I took the lead on the kiss, impelled by curiosity and the desire to express my deep appreciation, and soon Marcus was returning my gesture, cautiously following my lead.
Just before I broke off our kiss, he cupped my cheek so tenderly with his hand, I actually felt dizzy for a moment. When I pulled back, I saw that his eyes were closed, and he wore a wide, contented smile.
“If you’re not smiling, I don’t want to open my eyes,” he said.
“Open your eyes, you lovesick fool,” I teased, knowing I was smiling, too.
His soft blue eyes blinked open. He took one look at me, I shook my head, and he said, “Okay, you can go now.”
“Is the bank open for business or can you talk?”
“I’m expecting someone in five minutes, but he’ll be at least ten minutes late.”
“No, just really bad manners and a flat learning curve. Anyway, enough about me. What are you thinking?”
I can hear the edge to Marcus’s voice. He wants this. “Honestly, Marcus, I can’t see trusting her to anyone other than you.”
There’s a bit of a pause while he gathers himself. “Tell me about her,” he says quietly.
“Bella, you know we’ve looked at this from every conceivable angle. If they don’t hire us to do their marketing, it’s just not a good fit.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” I suck in yet another deep breath, cursing my chronic performance anxiety. No matter how prepared, how competent my co-workers, how flashy our presentation, it hits me like a herd of wildebeests making their home in my intestines—every damn time. Looking around the round table into the faces of my hard-working team, I know I need to pull myself together. I’m the leader, and it won’t do for me to show weakness.
“One more for the road?” offers Roger.
“Thanks, but I think I’m going to head upstairs and make it an early night.” I mumble some excuse about jet lag and make a hasty retreat.
Back in the privacy of my room, I make my third and final obsessive pass around the electronic circuit, ensuring that green lights are on and chargers are behaving. I strip off Corporate Bella and make my way to the luxurious tub, remembering how Master wished for exactly such a fixture just yesterday. I drizzle a generous stream of lavender-scented bubble bath into the torrent of hot water and settle in for a long, relaxing soak. My head lolls back into the embrace of the terry cloth roll conveniently suctioned to the porcelain basin. The moment my eyes close, I’m transported back to the security of Master’s spa, where I was lovingly scrubbed, coiffed, and filled to the brim with his tenderness. If only I’d accepted his offer to hide in my carry-on bag!
The longer I soak, the more intense my longing for reconnection with Edward, until finally, the burning need to speak with him motivates me out of my bubble bath stupor. After a hasty swipe with my toothbrush, I pull on my cami and cheekies, feeling small in the too-big-for-one King bed, and check the alarm a fourth time. With my lifeline in hand in the pitch black, I speed dial Edward and enjoy the warm tingle of his familiar voice in my ear.
“Hey,” is all it takes for me to feel him wrapped around me like my own personal cocoon. “How was your evening?”
“Fine. How was Riley’s?”
“It was amusing.”
With my eyes closed, I can easily picture his wide smile. “What have you done to those boys now, Edward?”
“Give it up, Cullen.”
His rich laughter spills into my ear. “I promise you, I did nothing more than observe. But I’ve concluded that those two love an audience.”
“For what?” I squawk, all kinds of ideas popping to mind.
He chuckles again. “Foreplay, just foreplay.”
“You better start talking.” Without giving away the first detail, he already has me in a tailspin, imagining Riley and Sean touching each other while Edward watches. Or, be still my girly parts, while Edward joins the action.
Edward’s voice shifts to a lower register, and most of the playfulness seeps out of his tone. “You sure you can handle it?”
I hunker down with the same twinge of eager anticipation I feel queuing up a spicy porn clip. I’m sure he hears the lust in my voice when I answer, “Jesus, what went on there tonight?”
“Tell me what you’re wearing first.”
“Seriously?” I giggle. “Isn’t that kind of cheesy?”
“You want details… I want details.”
“Fine. Green cheekies and a matching top.”
“No shit. Lace?”
“Fuck me.” He takes a long pause. “What shade of green?”
“Sorry, sorry. You sidetracked me. Don’t you even want to ask what I’m wearing?”
“Pffffft. What’s the difference? I know where your hand is right now.”
“You would be correct. How about joining me?”
“I’d love to, honey, but I don’t really think I can reach your dick from here.”
“Ho ho ho. Come on, baby. One hand on your phone and the other down those panties.”
“We’re really doing this?”
“We’re really doing this. Tell me when you’re ready.”
His voice has slipped back into velvet mode, and I’m more than ready. I have no idea why I’m feeling embarrassed alone in my room, especially knowing he’s doing exactly the same back in our bed. “Ready,” I whisper.
As a highly sexualized hetero man, I’ll own up to harboring a passing curiosity or two about my good friend Riley over the years. Not that I’ve ever craved his attentions for myself, but I happen to be powerfully attracted to attraction itself.
To me, there’s almost nothing more arousing than that hungry look two people give each other that says, “If I don’t get on top of you/under you/inside you in the next five minutes, I will positively implode!” I couldn’t care less if the parties involved happen to own the same equipment—it’s the eyes and the mouth that tell the whole story. Of course, you can never discount the hands.
Don’t get me wrong, hard core porn works for me when I’m in the mood, and I rarely waste my time on faces, but that’s acting. I mean, it’s usually pretty awful acting, but give me two real people who can’t keep their eyeballs off each other and I’ve got all I need.
Though inhibition is hardly in Riley’s vocabulary, Sean has apparently been holding back in my presence thus far. Not so tonight.
“You know how I told you that Sean likes to cook?”
“Mmhmm?” Her voice sounds dreamy.
“Well, he doesn’t just cook. He owns that kitchen, and everyone in it.”
“Oh yeah? That’s a switch!”
“It was. He had Riley doing all his scut work, and let me tell you, Ri was loving it!”
“You’re kidding!” Isabella giggles.
“That may have had something to do with the fact that Sean was standing behind him, pressing himself into Riley’s ass and licking his neck while he was expected to be rolling pizza dough.”
“Really. They draw me over to the counter with a glass of wine, clearly to watch, and then Sean orders him to keep rolling while he clutches Riley’s package.”
“Right in front of you?” Her voice is breathy and disbelieving.
“Not two feet away. Are you touching yourself, Isabella?”
“Yes. Are you?”
“You bet I am.”
“Then what?” she asks.
“Sean surprises Riley by roughly grabbing a handful of his hair and then…” dramatic pause “…Sean takes over Riley’s mouth with this urgent kiss that leaves poor Riley panting like an overheated dog.”
“Yeah, wow. And of course, Riley’s not rolling the dough anymore at this point, so Sean whacks him on his ass and says, ‘Roll.’ And I’m watching my friend’s face, thinking maybe finally he’ll turn red, and damn, if he doesn’t sprout the biggest smirk I have ever seen. So I look behind him and Sean shoots me this sexy, knowing wink, and I’m thinking, There’s more to this guy than meets the eye.”
And here’s where things get tricky in the story telling department. I’ve already embellished what was merely a sweet kiss and a love tap, but I want to keep the fantasy going without making it so unbelievable that she becomes distracted.
Enter the alcohol.
“Sean slides the wine bottle over to me and says, ‘Here’s your job for the night, Edward. Make sure we’re all good and lubricated.’”
“Type casting,” Isabella interjects.
“You’re too kind, babe. Well, as you might imagine, I take my directions to heart, and as the wine bottle gets emptier, their hands get more and more adventuresome. They can’t pass each other without sliding a palm across the other’s crotch or ass, and I honestly feel like I’m the only thing stopping them from ripping each other’s clothes off and going at it right there on the kitchen floor.”
“Mmm, too bad.”
Time to shift gears. “You know what was really too bad? That you weren’t there with me, because I swear, Isabella, watching those two? I would’ve bent you right over that counter…”
“Yes?” her small voice begs me to continue.
“…and yanked down those green lace cheekies…”
“…and teased you till you begged for it.”
She moans again, and I increase the pressure with my wanking hand.
“You know how you love it when I tease you, Isabella. Tell me how you love it.”
“Mm, I do.” She’s a little shy, hesitant.
“Tell me what I’m doing to you, baby.”
“Don’t think. Just tell me what you see. What you feel.”
Exhale. Then, “You’re drawing through my…pussy…”
“Mmm, yes, your very, very wet pussy.”
“Yesss,” she hisses. “With just one finger.”
“Yes, I am,” I help. “Slow, torturous strokes, and you’re so, so naughty, you’re pushing into my finger, trying for more.”
“Not yet, Isabella. Not until you say what you want, in front of the boys.”
“Gahhhh. I want…more.”
Not good enough. “Tell me what you want, baby. I want to hear your words.”
“Please, I need you to touch me. Harder, more fingers, more touching.”
I can practically see her fingers gliding around inside those green cheekies now, almost hear her juices gurgle through the phone line if I concentrate with all my might. My own dry palm is grossly inadequate, and I happily remember the jar of massage oil parked on my nightstand. A few seconds later, I’m oiled up and right with her in Slosh City.
“Oh that was good begging, baby. Just for that, you can have a second finger, but keep it slow, just like you know I would. Up…and down. Just like you’re doing to me right now, you bad girl. You reached right back and now you’re stroking me so sweet, baby.”
“Please, Edward. Rub me harder? I need the heel…of your hand…please?”
“Do it, sweetheart. Work that clit! And don’t forget about me back here. We’re doing this together.”
“Never. I’d never forget you. Mmmm, so close.”
“Come on, baby. Let’s give them a show. Look at them watching your beautiful face while they stroke each other. Show them how I get you off, baby.”
“Ahhhhh, coming, coming, COMING!!!”
Her squeaks, squeals, and stutter breaths form the soundtrack for my own peak, and I let go in three long, gratifying spurts. She sighs into the phone just before breaking up into a fit of giggles.
“Well, that was fun.” Just in case he couldn’t tell by my shuddering orgasm and embarrassing torrent of giggles. I’ve flipped onto my back and I’m too lazy to even roll onto my side for sleep.
“So, Edward…have you done that a lot?”
“What? Phone sex?”
“I suppose I’ve had my fair share,” he answers lazily.
Somehow, I feel like Edward’s “fair share” is enough for twenty ordinary mortals. “So did any of that really happen tonight?”
I can hear and actually see his smile. “What do you think?”
“I was kind of buying into the groping…?”
“You turkey! You made the whole thing up?” I can’t muster the energy to really be mad at him.
“No, no, there was touching, and kissing, and a definite swat, I promise.”
“Oh brother. You know what? I couldn’t care less. That was really hot.”
He chuckles at my change of heart. “Exactly.”
I have to admit, this is the most relaxed I’ve felt all day. “Thanks, Edward. I needed that.”
“Hey, are you holding up okay?”
“Sure, now I am. If I could do the presentation right this minute, I’d be golden. Well, except for the being in my underwear part.”
“Are you kidding? That’d be the easiest sales job ever recorded!” he encourages.
“Good point, maybe I should consider that. I tend to let my nerves get the better of me. What starts out as a flutter of nerves turns into a churning tornado in my gut and I just can’t seem to quell the storm.”
I can already feel my calm slipping away and I sigh loudly into the phone. It’s not as if he can do anything to help from there.
“Listen to me,” he starts, his voice clear and focused. Masterful, even. Oh.
“You probably don’t realize this, but your submissive training has provided you with all kinds of skills to help you with this problem.”
“Hmm, so what you’re saying is, I should climb under the Board Room table tomorrow and suck off the CEO?”
Chuckle. “Uh…no. Please don’t do that.”
“Let’s see then,” I guess, pulling him into the game. “I should bend over the table and offer myself for a spanking?”
This time, he makes a long, threatening noise.
“Did you just growl at me?”
“Not at you. I growled at all the imaginary people I have to kill now.”
“Oh shoot. I hate it when that happens,” I giggle.
“If you’re finished torturing me…”
“Okay, okay. Sorry. Go ahead.”
“Hmmph! I was referring to the work we’ve been doing together on your focus. When we’re in scene, you have one job—pleasing your Master. When you stray from the ideal, you get yourself into trouble. That’s when doubts, distractions, and fear slip in. See where I’m going with this?”
“You want me to think about pleasing my Master while I’m delivering our Marketing pitch to the Warwick Board of Directors? I don’t really think that’s going to be productive,” I tease.
“Ha, ha, ha. Believe it or not, baby, this is one time I really do not want you concentrating on Master. But do find your clear focus there, because you know you can, and then swap out Master for the collective personnel of the prospective client. In all seriousness, Isabella, will you try it? For me?”
“Sure. It can’t hurt.”
“Exactly. And I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how far you’ve come. What time do you present?”
“First thing, 8 am.”
“All right, listen. I can’t call you in the morning because I’ll be in session with my first group, so please send me a message the second you’re through and let me know how it went?”
“Sure. I’m guessing we’ll be in there a couple hours, so around one, your time.”
“Okay, baby. Sleep tight.”
“You, too, Edward. And good luck with the big shot training.”
“I love you, Isabella,” he says warmly.
My Blackberry is set to vibrate, and even though I don’t have all the fancy iPhone apps, I can count on my phone to be “smart” enough to at least deliver the proper signal when Isabella contacts me. I’m doing a fairly good job of keeping my attention on Excel macros, even though it’s nearly time for Isabella’s presentation to begin.
I forge on. “So the next step is to list the keystrokes for—”
Bzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzz.
“Excuse me, I just need to check this,” I tell the faces around the table of propped open laptops as I slide my phone from my pocket and glance at the screen.
BOGGLE BOGGLE BOGGLE!!!!!
Holy shit! Isabella’s texted me her safe word? Not once but three times? And in bold caps?
“I’m very sorry, gentleman. I have an emergency I must attend to right away. Just…keep…whatever.”
I rush out of the conference room, my heart skipping an anxious beat. I quickly dial her number and she picks up on the first ring.
“Edward?” Her voice is a panicked cry.
“Isabella? What is it?” I ask as calmly as possible.
“My laptop crashed five minutes after the presentation started. I can’t get to our power point!”
“Nobody else on your team has the file?” It comes out more scolding than questioning and I remind myself to suspend the lectures for later. Right now is about damage control and a workable solution.
“No, Edward,” she says tightly. “Not with us.”
“Okay, I don’t suppose you have the power point on a memory stick?”
“Nope. Would I be panicking right now if I did?” Her hysteria is mounting. She needs my confidence.
“Isabella, I’m going to get you your file. Just stay calm, all right?” My mind is bouncing around like a pogo stick, a hierarchy of solutions presenting themselves to me in a practiced routine. “Your file’s on the Swan server, right?”
“Yes, of course. I’m not an idiot, Edward. I know about backups.”
“Okay, no worries, we’ll go for the workaround.” I take in my surroundings and quickly locate the nearest workstation. It’s the administrative assistant to Nichols, the old codger who pressed me last week, and her name plate identifies her as Debbie Waters.
“Excuse me, Debbie? I have an emergency on my hands. May I borrow your computer for a quick second?”
She looks up quizzically. “Who are you?”
“Sorry, Edward Cullen from IT.” Don’t worry, ma’am. I’m a trained professional.
She narrows her eyes and evaluates me carefully before sliding off her chair and standing next to me with crossed arms and a vigilant, suspicious stare.
“Thank you so much,” I say, taking over her computer like a policeman seizing a civilian car to give chase to a criminal.
Remembering the girl in my ear, I confirm, “Okay, I found it. Warwick Pres final, right?”
“Yes.” She sounds slightly relieved anyway.
“Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to set you up a drop box account and you’re going to retrieve the file using the prospective client’s own system.”
“Is that safe?”
Ordinarily, I would find her question laughable. She hasn’t taken any of the numerous appropriate precautions that would’ve prevented this situation, and now she’s worried I’m going to jeopardize security? Again, I bite my tongue and save the teachable moment for later, berating myself at the same time for failing to have quizzed her further before she left.
“Is there anything in the file beyond what you were planning to present?”
“Then there’s nothing to worry about. Give me three minutes to set this up and I’ll text you the password. In the meantime, borrow a laptop from someone, hook it up to your screen, get someone to log you onto the internet, and type in dropbox dot com.” While I walked her through, I uploaded the file to the cloud and set up the access codes.
“Okay, it’s all set up on my end. I’ll send the text. Keep your wits, Isabella. Remember, people show their true mettle when things go wrong.”
“Thanks, Edward. I really appreciate this.”
“I’m here to serve. Call me later.”
“Okay, thanks,” she says once again.
As soon as I hang up, I send the text:
Password = IOweEdwardBig!
My finger is poised over the letter “E”, and I’m bursting with my good news.
“See you in a few hours,” I mumble to the team as I step out onto my floor, key in one hand and phone in the other. I can’t even wait to get out of the crowded hallway before calling.
“So?” he answers, anticipation, if not anxiety, in his tone.
“Edward. Hey.” The electronic lock hums and clicks and I push open my door and collapse on the bed, heels and all. “You still putting the big wigs through their paces?”
“I am, but they’re working independently right now. Talk to me. How’d it go?”
“We were great. They loved us.”
I hear the rush of air fill his lungs, then dissipate, taking with it the knot inside his chest. “That’s fantastic, sweetheart.”
“Yeah. The presentation went really well, and now they’re reviewing all the numbers in closed session. We go back for Q & A tomorrow and final contract negotiations.”
“So…did you get a chance to try out anything new this morning?”
“Are you asking me if I was calm for the ten minutes before my world came crashing down around me?”
“Yes,” he laughs. “I guess I am.”
“Okay, try not to get a big head, but it actually did help.”
“Hey, that’s great to hear, Isabella. I’m really proud of you.”
I can hear that he means it, and that only makes me feel worse for my earlier eruption. “Edward, I feel awful. I was a real bitch.”
“Don’t give it another thought. I’m used to dealing with people in crisis situations. You think you’re the first person to snap at me over a dead computer? It’s upsetting. I get that.”
And now I feel worse. “I’m really embarrassed. And so, so sorry. You saved my ass, big time.”
“Well you know how much I love your ass.” Edward’s boyish grin fills my entire imaginary visual field.
“Lovely password, by the way.”
“Mmm. I thought you’d enjoy that.”
I kick off my shoes and close my eyes. “Any ideas how I might repay my knight in shining silicon?”
“I might just put my head together with Master’s and come up with something interesting for later.”
The butterflies are back, but it’s the good kind this time—the kind that flutter all over my insides, waking up my senses and electrifying every nerve ending. “Interesting, huh? That has an ominous sound to it.”
He laughs darkly. “Oh, Isabella. You know me too well.”