Authors: Riley Murphy
Lacy Pembrook, Prague, 2013
He recalled her mentioning that she’d been to Europe to study a new surgical technique for hip dysplasia in dogs. These images were step-by-step details, labeled and charted, outlining the OR procedure in a clear and concise manner.
When David flipped through about five pages he came across the renderings of the before and after surgery sketches of Troja, an eight-year-old German Shepherd. The transformation was amazing. No doubt about that, but Lacy’s drawings were poignant and so real the texture on the dog’s coat looked three dimensional. In fact, each and every drawing was so realistic and perfect that David was left wondering why she didn’t pursue a career in art. In his mind that type of career suited her far better than being a veterinarian. A nine to five clinic job with being on call 24/7 for emergencies didn’t seem to spell Lacy. Not the Lacy he knew.
“Now this,” he whispered when a colorful picture fell out of the back of the portfolio as he went to put it down, “has Lacy written all over it.”
He held up the comical painting and grinned. It was a caricature. A frog standing like a man and dressed in tux. The smooth James Bond-like reptile had a bright red ascot tied around his neck and sported shiny cufflinks on his shirt sleeves. He was in the process of doling out a spanking to a woman who was bent over a bar stool. On the bar top there was a plate with what looked like—
“Unfucking believable.” His head snapped up and he scowled at the bathroom door before he bent down to better examine the image again. Yes, they were. Kale chips. And the woman? She was human-like with exaggerated features, but there was no denying that her blonde hair and green eyes were all Colin Reneaux. Actually Colin Whiteleather now. Aquabond’s cufflinks sealed the deal. They were black with EW inscribed in gold. Why if Ethan ever saw this he’d—
That thought vanished when he came across another page. Only this picture had a slightly different Aquabond. He still wore a tux and cufflinks, but the similar black with gold inscribed initialed links, read TB instead. Even without the initials he would have known this represented Ted Basel, his other business partner, as the frog was holding Ted specialty. Homemade applesauce. A mason jar filled to the brim and the dark haired woman kneeling at his feet and dressed like Cat Woman had to be Jo Nehr. He’d heard about the infamous poker night where she’d worn the cat suit for Dom.
Spying a third picture angling out from under the stack of pages, he didn’t want to look but he had to.
And there it was.
Him as Aquabond this time. He didn’t know whether to be impressed or disappointed when he took in the sight. It was he and Lacy all right. She was crushed up against his back as he played piano. Funny, he didn’t recall telling her that he played. And as he examined the image something else came to him. In the first two a position of power was definitely detailed between the couples and yet in this one? The playing field looked to be even.
But dead wrong. Especially now.
Carefully he replaced the pictures, all the while thinking. Planning as he sat there listening to her move around the bathroom now that she was done her bath. Any moment she’d be out and he could launch his tweaked plans for her. Because now if she wanted a relationship with him she was going to have to earn it.
He was a patient man. At least until she opened the door and stepped out. Then his patience went out the window and a cold calm settled over him as he prepared himself for the trial ahead.
Lacy exited the bathroom feeling like a million bucks. With her thick, white terrycloth robe wrapped around her and her yearly escape plans in motion she was brimming with confidence. Yes, everything was turning up roses. Things with David were still on the upswing and Joe was finally manageable now that she was giving him what he wanted. Maybe she’d even get the carpeting she’d planned on for the spare bedroom. Excited at the prospect, she was going through a mental color pallet while at the same time rubbing a towel against her hair to dry it, when she walked forward and spotted a man’s black shoes on the floor in front of her. Joe wore steel-toed boots and besides, his timeout wasn’t finished, was it? She probably should have brought a watch into the bathroom with her.
“Oh. I didn’t know—” She looked up and then stumbled back a pace. David was seated on the side of her couch. Impeccably dressed as usual. His coal black suit, whiter than white shirt and orangey-red tie always set him apart from a regular guy. Combine that ensemble with killer hair—god she loved how that edgy mass of jags and shags reminded her of bedtime. Sex. Fucking—and her pulse sped. But it was just the right amount of stubbly shadow on his jaw and cheeks, topped by those brilliant hazel colored eyes, that pushed him right over the top of male perfection for her. “David. What are you doing here?”
A thousand things ran through her mind at once and not one of them were good.
Play dumb. That always works.
She tried not to look too distressed with that thought as she shot a glance to the porch. Empty, thank god.
He was so self-possessed. It was that, more than anything else, that made her heart race and butterflies take flight in her stomach. His sense of calm gave her the hope that by some miracle he hadn’t run into Joe. “Hi.” She felt like a silly school-girl ready to melt all over her crush as she repeated, “What are you doing here?”
“I brought you something.”
His tone was deep and even, but there was darkness in his eyes that made her shiver. She didn’t know why. “You did? For my trip?”
He held out his hand and she got instantly nervous. Forcing a smile she didn’t feel, she wondered if he had seen Joe.
Be cute. That worked too.
Tossing her head in a shake, she casually draped the towel over her shoulders and stepped forward. “I really wasn’t expecting you.”
“I know.” He pulled her in between his legs and returned her smile.
“You’re acting strange. Is everything all right?”
“I want you to close your eyes.”
When he grabbed the lapels of her robe and slowly pulled them apart, a surge of shyness skated through her. Which was really stupid considering what they’d done via texting and on a few of those dates, but that wasn’t the same as being naked in front of him, was it? Hadn’t she decided getting naked with him in person would wreck everything like it usually did? “David.”
“Come on, close your eyes and keep them closed for me.”
This is what attracted her to him. Right from the first night she’d met him he seemed quiet and in total control. When he spoke it was as if his words were more important than anyone else’s. Not that he was arrogant, it was just…yeah, she still couldn’t put a finger on it. Looking at him now, she had no idea why she had this intense need to be connected with him. Whether by phone or touch, she did and that worried her. A want was one thing and a need another. But that was her problem, not his.
With a sigh, she brushed the hair off her cheek and made her decision. She’d finally give in and physically sleep with him even though she knew that doing so was the first step to the end of whatever it was they had going on. Too bad. She had hoped to take her fantasies about him away with her. To savor and embellish until she returned in a couple of weeks and faced harsh reality. “Okay.”
She took a steadying breath and closed her eyes.
“Very good. Now”—he used a knee and forced her thighs apart—“spread your legs. Yes, like that. Keep your eyes closed and count from fifty to one.”
She silently got to forty-six and he interrupted her.
“Out loud. From fifty.”
“Fifty. Forty-nine.” Her robe slid off her and she hesitated.
“Forty-eight,” he spoke the hoarse reminder in her ear.
“Forty-eight,” she repeated and felt something cool and smooth slip between her legs. “Forty-seven. Forty-six.” Was it lingerie of some kind? No, it was hard as it pressed against her. She frowned. “Forty-five. Forty-four.” Was that a belt he was cinching to her waist? “Forty-three…” By the time she got to thirty she was convinced it was a leather thong-harness for a swing maybe? When she hit twenty and heard a couple of click-like snaps she felt the weight of whatever it was settle on her. She was thinking this was a bit of overkill for their first time together. But then David wasn’t a normal guy. He liked specific things. Different things that normally got her hot, wet and bothered so why was she worrying?
“Wait. Don’t open your eyes just yet.”
“But that’s not fair.” She gave him her best pout even though she wasn’t sure he’d see it. “I counted down.”
“You did and when you do what I want you to do you’ll always be rewarded.” He punctuated that promise with a caress that made her toes curl. Stroking the heat and hardness of his warm palms from her hips, over her stomach and rib cage until he cupped each one over her breasts in a gentle squeeze. She could barely breathe. “David…”
He shifted so her nipples were caught between his knuckles as he pulled on them and applied pressure. The action worked like a conduit between her breasts and core. Heat, god, the heated tingles spread from there outward. “Can I open—?”
“May. May I. Say it.”
Slightly bizarre and sort of OCDish, but whatever floated his boat. The sooner she took this party to her bedroom, the better. “May I open my eyes?”
He tugged on her almost irreverently before he let her go. “You may.”
Boy, that was easy. She could get used to—she looked down and panicked. “What the fuck—?”
That one word stopped her cold. He meant it. This wasn’t him being playful. And the contraption he’d locked on her wasn’t a prop. Why would he…? Her eyes widened and were drawn like steel to magnet toward the porch. He knew. She didn’t know how but she was sure he knew about Joe.
Her first thought was to do what she always did. Divert attention. Her second? If she did the first successfully, all was not lost.
She dropped down so fast she almost fell into the side of his thigh. Grabbing up her robe she fought to get it on as she stood and took two tripping steps backwards. “What is this?”
She knew exactly what it was when her hand felt through the terry cloth—a chastity belt—she was stalling for time.
The way he said this was so blasé maybe she’d jumped to the wrong conclusion. Maybe Joe had left before—
“I’m sorry to interrupt. I need my keys.” Think of the devil and there he was. All red faced and hesitant as he came in through the sliders and went to the table where he’d left his wallet and stuff. Why hadn’t she noticed his things there before? Wait.
Joe was here.
She shot a look at David and knew the word guilty was stamped all over her face. “David.”
His eyes never wavered. “Apologize.”
“Of course. I’m sorry. I—”
“Not to me. To Joe.”
She frowned and clutched at the lapels of her robe. “Wh-why?”
“You’re the reason I had to ask him to leave.”
She jumped even though he whispered that word. Maybe because he whispered it, she couldn’t be sure. All she knew was that she had to say something, so she gave Joe the apology she should have given David with a few much needed changes. After all, David was the one she’d wronged to some extent. Joe was only right now caught up in it. “I’m sorry, Joe. I should have told you about David. We had a—”
“Have,” David corrected.
She did a double take. Was he mad? He didn’t appear to be and that kind of nonchalance scared the crap out of her, because she knew he had every reason to be. She was completely baffled by his demeanor as well. So much so, that all she wanted at the moment was for Joe to leave so she could explain things to David.
You should have done that from the start.
Taking a deep breath she let it out in a rush and turned back to Joe. “We kind of have a-a thing.”
Joe ignored her, which was very irritating, but not unexpected. Hadn’t he been ignoring everything
wanted in favor of his desires until she finally got wise to this and used his desires to her consumer advantage?
“Mr. Hollan, I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”
Lacy’s jaw dropped and before she could stop herself she let go of the robe and twisted right and then left so fast as she dipped back in a
you got to be kidding me
fashion, that her robe gaped open. Before she caught the sides up, she did manage to mentally fume,
Not another one!
David continued to stare at her while he spoke to Joe, “I’m sure you didn’t. I’m also sure I’ll be in touch with you at a later date regarding things around here you
have an idea about and will apologize for, correct?”
The second Joe left she spun around ready to force an apology if need be. “David, I—”
His scathing look caught her off guard and after a moment of deafening silence, that felt more like an hour under hot interrogation lights, he prompted, “I’d what?”
He casually shifted back, hooking a knee over the curved bolster on the couch, as if he were making himself more comfortable. “For?”
He may have been comfortable but she had to fight the urge to shuffle her weight from one foot to the other. “The Joe thing.”
“What is it with you and the word
? What does
She gave in and transferred her weight from one leg to the other, hating that it made her look even more guilty. But seeing as how it was obvious he was going to make this as excruciating for her as possible, she wanted to be comfortable. “It’s an event.”
He smiled and the gesture didn’t reach his eyes. The longer he stared at her the more she felt compelled to act. Do. Say.
“I’m sorry. I should have told you.” She looked away as she hated being drilled by those eyes.