Authors: Emily Ryan-Davis
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Romance, #Contemporary
“Not to absolve you of responsibility—you did choose of your own free will, cocktails aside—but he’s half doing this to himself. You’re not helping matters by withdrawing and lying, but he’s not helping by letting you get away with it. If you were my submissive, I’d beat your ass.” Somewhere in the restaurant, wine glasses clinked together as punctuation. As an afterthought, she added, “If you stop being a coward and talk to him, you might still get the whipping you deserve.”
Amy Corcoran, spaghetti noodles twirled around her fork and poised on the brink of a bite, gaped at her dinner companion.
The tall, polished woman sitting opposite her arched her eyebrows. “What? Dishonesty by omission is still dishonesty. You lied. You’re still lying, and you’re both miserable because of it. The role of a dominant lover might be easy for some men but the role of a dominant
isn’t something most men are encouraged to assume anymore. Mac was raised in the twentieth century. It’s not going to naturally occur to him that you want to submit. If you want him to take control, you have to tell him. And tell him the
. Give him a seed to nurture and grow.”
A slender red candle stood between them. Its flame danced a slow waltz, each dip marking off the seconds that slipped away while Amy scrambled for a response. Neither her brain nor her lungs cooperated--one failed to think, the other to process oxygen. She lowered her fork to the plate to buy time. A slow count to ten helped her fight off a panic attack.
“He doesn’t believe in submission,” she finally said, sucking breath through her nostrils, slowly and deliberately. She despised the wimpy, weak quality of her voice.
Elizabeth Very, Amy’s closest friend and an unashamed dominatrix, pointed a stick of soft, warm bread at her. “Don’t get that look on your face.”
“The one you get when you’ve made up your mind about something and you’re determined not to be influenced.”
“I can’t tell him.” Stomach tight, Amy pushed her plate away. Anxiety and tomato acid met together in battle and she couldn’t eat anymore. She and her husband were already estranged. Their marriage wouldn’t survive the addition of moral and religious convictions to their existing problems. Elizabeth didn’t understand -- her lovers were casual events, impromptu birthday parties, whereas Mac was Amy’s debutante ball -- planned for and once-in-a-lifetime.
“Amy. Hiding yourself is what brought you to this point. If you’d said something to Mac—even if you’d said something to me—that scene wouldn’t have gone as far as it did. You would’ve known how to protect yourself. He would have known how to protect you.”
“I can’t,” she repeated. Her throat shrank and she focused on breathing, made more difficult by Elizabeth’s reminder of her mistake. She hadn’t brought her asthma inhaler.
Elizabeth’s gaze burned into her forehead. Amy couldn’t meet her friend’s eyes. She stared at the wound-up noodles, glistening with tomato and olive oil, and imagined her life like that, all wrapped up around Mac, at risk of coming undone if tilted at the wrong angle.
“Do you love him?” Elizabeth pressed. “Do you want to be with him?”
“Want him to stop sleeping on the couch?”
Failure threatened to suffocate her. Elizabeth emptied their shared bottle of cabernet into Amy’s glass.
“Drink that,” she instructed. “You look like you’re going to pass out. The
is giving us concerned glances.”
The first gulp of wine stung her throat, raw from fighting sobs. She slowed to steady sips and set a rhythm -- sip, breathe,
. Gradually the glass emptied. Alcohol warmed her ears. Elizabeth motioned for another bottle of wine.
“He loves you,” she said. “From what you’ve told me, he probably feels like you’re shutting him out. You know him—he doesn’t force himself anywhere. He’s giving you the space he thinks you want.”
“I don’t feel well.” Amy lowered the empty glass to the table. Her hand shook. “I just have to get over this.”
“That feeling is awareness that you’re being a coward. It’s self-shame. It’s not going to win you a ‘go home sick’ note. And we both know you’ve been trying to ‘get over’ it for three years. Don’t you think you would’ve worked through your submissive urges by now if they were something you could ‘get over’?”
of yearning--fantasizing about Mac accepting her surrender, wanting all of her.
She stared at her plate. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Tell him you want to give him control. You need his strength to support you.” The waiter arrived with a new bottle of wine. Elizabeth paused, waiting for him to clear away the empty bottle. “Tell him the same thing you’ve told me.”
! We almost didn’t get married because of this. He asked our
to change the ceremony, getting rid of submission and obedience. The reverend refused. He
called off the wedding
until his mother promised him a civil ceremony wouldn’t disgrace him.” Amy poured another glass of cabernet, downed it in two swallows, and said, “He didn’t even want me to give myself to him in the ceremonial sense. He certainly won’t put a collar on me and let me call him ‘sir.’”
Elizabeth snorted. “You know the submissive/dominant relationship is more than that.”
do, but Mac doesn’t. He is equality through and through. Equal obligations, equal responsibilities—even equal turns for being on top.” She’d asked her husband, once, if he’d tie her up while they made love and he’d withdrawn completely. They hadn’t been intimate for three weeks afterward. “I just need to learn to deal with it on my own,” she said, dejected.
“Or you could be honest with him.”
“I’ve already explained about the
demonstration at your party.”
“I don’t think he cares about the physical aspect of that, Amy. You were fully clothed and had a chaperone of fifty people. He doesn’t think you slept with some other man. It’s not the external that matters, it’s what happened inside. He’s not stupid. He knows I didn’t call him to take you home because you’d had too much to drink. You have to tell him what’s going on in your head.”
“He’ll leave,” she said miserably.
“He’s on the verge of leaving now.” Impatience sharpened Elizabeth’s tone.
Amy winced. “There must be a way to let him know without confronting him. Writing a letter seems weak.”
“In this situation, it is weak.”
“I don’t want to trick him.” Trickery and deceit—more deceit--would sever the fragile bond they still shared.
Elizabeth’s smile caught Amy’s attention. She narrowed her eyes. “What are you thinking?”
“Seduction isn’t trickery. Figure out a way to introduce him to what you’d like, using your physical relationship as a doorway to your emotional relationship.”
“I don’t want ‘kinky sex,’” Amy whispered, glancing to her left to make sure the nearest dining couple wasn’t listening. She hesitated, and added, “Not just that. Besides, we don’t even have a physical relationship right now.”
“I know. My point is that some people are more comfortable with physical stimulus than verbal, emotional, or mental stimulus. Maybe Mac isn’t thrilled with the idea of discussing your submission. That doesn’t mean he can’t be excited by it. Introduce him to it by touch, and investigate the possibilities later, if he’s more agreeable.”
“Should I use some sort of toy?” Amy ventured, uncertain. “I don’t even have a vibrator.”
Elizabeth eyed her askance. “You’re thirty-two years old. You’ve been having sex with the same man far too long.”
She blushed. Sixteen years had passed since the first time she and Mac were together, on her parents’ living room couch while they were away for a wedding. They’d both been teenagers. Sex had been the same ever since—intense, hot, and fantastic—but not adventurous at all.
Adventurous didn’t matter -- until Amy took a last-minute modeling job for an erotic art photographer three years earlier. She didn’t blame the photographer for changing her. He didn’t come on to her or do anything besides give instructions and praise. Somehow, during the session, however, she’d transposed Mac over the stranger and it became
she posed for, him who complimented her ease with taking orders and knowing exactly what he wanted.
Mac continued to feature in her fantasies. Even though she cast herself in the submissive role, she didn’t supplant Mac with another man.
was the only one she wanted. It killed her to know he didn’t want her in return.
* * * *
Mac worked the nightshift and hadn’t come home by the time Amy left their apartment the next morning. She’d hoped to see him on his way in, but work called her out too early. It also presented her with an idea that wouldn’t leave her be. Probably a bad idea but lately she had difficulty distinguishing between bright and stupid. The rift with Mac affected everything about her, including her ability to confidently make decisions.
As she sat in her car, waiting for it to warm up, she dialed her husband’s dispatcher. Mac worked for a corporate systems support firm that ensured round-the-clock tech support, and she had to reach him through the office if she wanted to maintain the anonymity necessary to carry off her plan.
A woman’s cheerful voice came on the line and asked her to hold. Amy pushed her glasses up into her hair, lifting the newly dyed magenta strands from her face. She angled the rearview mirror to examine herself critically. She’d been working as a catalogue ad model for a decade. Eleven hours a week at the gym meant she wasn’t limited to hand cream ads like some of the other women represented by her agency but didn’t mean she had first pick of the choice assignments. Earlier life decisions, like the ”tramp stamp” at the base of her spine and the ink of Mac’s name on her ankle, surrounded by hearts and flower doodles, limited her desirability. She wasn’t a suitable model for the sort of respectable lingerie catalogue her grandmother might buy from but she matched up well with the fetish wear spreads.
She bit her lip, rolling the plan over in her mind. Mac wouldn’t be happy to stand by and watch her work but if she didn’t tell him, she risked a repeat of the party that had brought things to a head. Maybe she shouldn’t take the job. How could she expect to maintain any sort of professionalism now? All it’d taken to drop her into sub space at Elizabeth’s party was a watchful crowd and a stranger with a length of rope. She hadn’t even been barefoot, let alone nude. Sick at the idea she was on the verge of making another bad decision, Amy sighed and redirected her train of thought. The temporary dye hadn’t stained her scalp pink, fortunately. The morning’s photo shoot requirements included magenta hair, not magenta skin, but she hadn’t had time to visit a salon. She’d barely had enough time to race to the pharmacy, still in pajamas, to buy the hair color kit after her agent’s four a.m. phone call. Not that she’d been asleep when the call came through. She didn’t sleep well at all anymore since Mac had moved to the sofa.
Satisfied her skin was the right
she dumped the contents of her cosmetics bag on the passenger seat and started the car. Mellow music played in her ear, thankfully unobtrusive, and she applied her makeup while her car warmed up.
The receptionist returned to the phone, chiming a cheerful, “Hello, thanks for holding! What’s your account number?”
Amy almost stabbed herself in the eye with an eyeliner pencil; a navy blue streak jogged down the side of her nose. Her stomach knotted up at the question. Her plan could be dead in the water. She grimaced at her reflection and tossed the pencil aside. “I don’t have it on me,” she bluffed. “I’m not in the office yet. I’ve worked with Mac before. Is he available?”