Authors: Sherri Hayes
I used to like those types of girly movies.
Now, I didn’t know if I could stand seeing the quirky girl and the gorgeous guy fall madly in love and live happily ever after. That girl wasn’t me. Could never be me. Not anymore.
So moving on, I concentrated on the more masculine titles. That was when I found it,
No Country for Old Men.
It was based on a book I’d wanted to read, before, but hadn’t gotten a chance. The movie had won an Oscar for Best Picture so it had to be good, right?
Deciding it didn’t matter whether it was good or not, at least it wouldn’t be all mushy and romantic, I took it down from the shelf and turned, coming face to face with my Master’s chest.
Not sure if I should look up or not, I decided to keep my head down. Better to be safe than sorry. “Did you make a selection?” he asked.
He took the movie from my hands. “
No Country for Old Men
,” he said, stepping around me and inserting it into the DVD player. I remained where I was. “I’ve been meaning to watch this but haven’t had the time.”
My Master was talking to me. Really talking to me. Again, I was left feeling utterly confused.
Confusion seemed to be a constant for me for the rest of the night. He’d asked me to join him on the couch, which in and of itself wasn’t overly odd, but then he really did sit there and watch the movie with me while we ate the food that arrived about twenty minutes into the film.
My Master didn’t try to touch me at all.
And when the movie ended, things got even weirder. He’d asked me what I thought about the movie. My mind immediately screamed
, but then I calmed myself down and remembered this was my new Master, not my old one, and I answered him.
He sat and listened while I told him it hadn’t been what I expected, but that I’d liked the twists and turns in the storyline. To my amazement, he’d agreed with me about the twists and turns and said it was very much like the book. And at the mention of the book, my mouth opened before I could stop it. “You’ve read the book?”
As soon as I’d realized what I’d done, my hand flew to cover my mouth in horror. How stupid could I be? It wasn’t my place to ask questions!
But instead of yelling or backhanding me for my slip, he was silent. When he did speak he answered my question and then added one of his own. “Yes. I own it. Would you like to read it?”
What do I say? How do I answer him? The truth
, a little voice said. And so I told him the truth. “Yes, Master.”
He got up and walked into his bedroom, leaving me where I was. When he returned, he was holding a book that looked as if it had been read and handed it to me.
Flipping it over, I could see the faces of some of the actors staring back at me.
Apparently, this was printed after the movie was released. Without thinking, I opened the book and began skimming the first few pages. For the first time in so long, I felt that growing excitement I always felt when starting a new book. I was so lost in the sensation flowing through my body that I almost missed his words. “You like to read, Brianna?”
My head came up before I knew what I was doing. But as soon as my eyes met his, I remembered my place and lowered them again. “Yes, Master.”
“What do you like to read?”
He was asking me questions again. Why? Ian had never asked me anything he really wanted my opinion on; all he wanted from me was
and even the latter was rare. My new Master . . . he . . .
? I wasn’t sure that was the right word.
Still. “I . . . I like anything really. But . . . I used to love the classics. Mostly. Master.”
Then I felt his hand on my chin forcing my head up to look at him. “First, Brianna, you do not need to end all of your sentences with
. As long as you speak to me with respect, I am fine with you just answering my questions.”
I was . . . speechless. Ian had required . . .
I shook that thought aside. Stephan was not Ian. I had to remember that. What Ian wanted, required, or demanded no longer mattered. I belonged to someone else now.
“Second, would you like to see my library?”
Was he serious? “Yes,” I answered, barely able to contain my excitement.
And then I saw something I’d never seen from Ian. A smile. A real, genuine, happy smile.
Releasing his hold on my chin, he stood. “Come with me.”
He walked past the kitchen into a hallway I’d never noticed before. It was small and led to a flight of stairs. We went up one level to a small landing, and before we even cleared the stairs, I saw them. Books. Hundreds and hundreds of books.
As soon as we reached the landing, he stepped to the side and motioned for me to go ahead. I didn’t hesitate for once. I hadn’t seen this many books in nearly a year, and I was in heaven.
It was like before with the DVDs only better. These were books, beautiful, glorious books. My hands reached out to touch the spines of a few of my favorites, my hand stopping on a hardcover of
. I moved to pull it down and then stopped myself. He’d not given me permission for that.
“You may remove the book if you’d like.”
The book felt wonderful in my hands. It was heavier than my copy had been due to its hard cover, and this one didn’t look like it had ever been read.
“Would you like to take it with you to your room?” he asked.
We went back downstairs. He picked up his dishes, carrying them into the kitchen, and I did the same. I followed his lead, and he seemed satisfied as I put my things in the dishwasher with his.
After adding detergent, he closed the door and turned the machine on, filling the space with a quiet hum. I didn’t move. My head was down, and there was this weird feeling in the air. He took a step toward me, raising his hand, and then stopped, dropping it once again.
“You may go to bed, Brianna.” His voice was clipped again, harsh.
I didn’t pause before hurrying to my room. It was only after I’d closed the door, that I remembered I’d forgotten my books.
I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever experience a full night’s sleep again. It was now six in the morning on a Saturday, and I found myself upstairs in my gym. Before Brianna or even the thought of her entered my existence, my life had been easy, predictable. Now I found myself in situations where I was unsure of my own responses.
Last night was a perfect example.
After we put our plates and silverware into the dishwasher, I still wasn’t sure what had happened, or why. It was almost as if an electrical charge was floating through the air, like the area was magnetized. As I watched her stand there, her head down, completely submitting herself to me, I felt more drawn to her than any other woman I’d ever encountered. Without thinking, I had reached out, eager to touch her.
Frustrated, I let the weights I’d been lifting fall back into place. I had no idea where this weird compulsion had come from, but thankfully, I’d caught myself in time to stop it. She needed to feel safe with me, to trust me. Somehow, I didn’t think crushing my mouth to hers and branding the memory of her lips to mine was going to accomplish that.
And I was making some progress. She was beginning to trust me. At least I thought she was.
Bringing her up here to my library was eye-opening. Her pure happiness when she saw the books warmed my heart. I’d always enjoyed making my submissives happy but with her, it was just . . . different. Better.
For the next hour, I continued with my workout and tried my best to clear my mind, to push back the feelings she was invoking. I needed to concentrate on
needs, not mine.
Doing some final stretches, I thought back to the paperwork she filled out for Richard. Her birthday was June 18th, and she was still seventeen when she came to be with Ian Pierce, which increased my belief that she’d been forced into this.
The more I thought about it, the more I was certain she’d not graduated high school, if she’d gone at all. It was just one more thing we needed to discuss.
Grabbing a towel and giving a quick swipe across my face and neck, I went back downstairs to shower.
When I rounded the corner into the kitchen, I nearly tripped over Brianna. Taking in the scene before me, I tried to make sense of it. She was once again kneeling on the hard marble floor of my kitchen only a foot away from the soft cushioning of the carpet. The sentiment was not lost on me. I’d snapped at her last night. Brianna thought I was upset with her, and she was providing penance.
“Stand.” She rushed to comply but kept her head lowered.
I looked her over, taking in each angle and curve. There was no denying I wanted this woman. The memory of how she’d woken me yesterday was still fresh in my mind.
But those thoughts were of little use to me now. Instead, I held my ground. “How are you this morning?”
“I am well,” she answered in a very timid voice.
“Good,” I said. “I’m going to my room to shower.” Moving to go around her, I noticed her pressing her lips together. I paused. “Did you have something you wished to ask, Brianna?”
She nodded but didn’t speak. I was not going to play this game, so I just waited for her to spit it out. It didn’t take nearly as long as I’d thought it would before she asked, “May I make breakfast for you this morning, Master?”
Shock crossed my face, although with her eyes still on the floor she didn’t see it. But then it also struck me that this was the first real thing she had asked for without prompting. She wanted to serve me. I knew it was her way of apologizing for whatever wrong she thought she did last night to upset me, but this was an improvement over her last attempt at
. “Yes, that sounds lovely.” I was about to walk away again when I saw her lips clamp together a second time. “Was there something else?”
“Do you have a waffle iron?”
I glanced up at my cabinets. Diane had been the one to stock my kitchen with what she saw as the essentials. Racking my brain, I tried to recall if a waffle iron had been included. There really was no telling. I hadn’t used half of what she’d installed or shelved. “I don’t know, but you are more than welcome to check. My kitchen is at your disposal.”
“Thank-you, Master,” she whispered.
Watching her for only a moment longer to see if there was anything else, I was surprised to see a hint of a smile. She was happy she’d pleased me.
Since I was no longer needed in the kitchen, I made my way to my bedroom. Today would be a casual day. I had some e-mails to catch up on since I’d taken yesterday off, but nothing that would take me more than an hour. Grabbing a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, I lay them neatly on the bed.
The shower was my refuge, my sanctuary. I let the water fall over me and wash the tension from my body. In here, there was no Brianna, no broken woman whose life and well-being were solely in my hands. Just me.
After drying off and getting dressed, I stepped out into the main room. As soon as I opened my door, the most wonderful smell hit my senses. Waffles.
Looking into the kitchen, I was struck by the sight of Brianna standing with her back to me pouring batter into a waffle iron. Apparently, I owned one. Her moves were flawless, almost like a dance as she reached for the things she desired. She was obviously at home in the kitchen, and from the smell of things, could cook wonderfully.
I walked toward her and managed to make it over halfway before she noticed me. Her reaction was such that she almost dropped the plate full of waffles she held. She met my eyes only briefly before her gaze lowered to the floor.
Continuing to close the distance between us, I walked to the refrigerator. She remained where she was, holding the food. I figured instead of telling her to take the food over to the table I’d go with a less direct approach. Opening the refrigerator door, I reached inside for the milk. “Would you prefer milk or juice?”
There was only the slightest pause before she answered. “Milk, please.”
Closing the door and tucking the milk under one arm, I went around her to grab some glasses. By the time I turned back around, she was at the table sitting with her hands in her lap. I smiled.
Breakfast was absolutely divine. The waffles were perfect, and she’d even made syrup from scratch. Saying she could cook was an understatement.
After four waffles, I laid my fork down. I just couldn’t eat any more. “Those were delicious, Brianna. Thank-you.”
I saw her eyes widen in surprise at my praise, then a soft, “You’re welcome, Master.”
Watching her as she continued to eat, I asked, “Do you enjoy cooking?” She nodded. “Would you like to be in charge of our evening meals, then?”
Her eyes widened further, but she pressed her lips together again and nodded. She was keeping something from me. “What is it?”
She remained silent.
“Brianna,” I said with a hint of my impatience.
Brianna began to raise her head and then stopped. “Does that mean . . . you’re going to keep me?”
Keep her? What was she . . . ?
She thought I was going to give her back. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t get it right away. It wasn’t the first time she’d thought I would send her back. At that moment, I noticed her hand cupping her neck as though she was missing something. Her collar. That was the reason she kept thinking I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep her; I hadn’t collared her.
I had no doubt Ian had put that symbol of possession on her within the first hour, probably the first five minutes she was given to him. Here I had been agonizing over how to handle her emotional well-being, how to make her feel safe, when the one thing I could give her, I had not.
Pushing back from the table, I moved to stand behind her. Leaning down, I put my mouth to her ear. She held herself rigid. Waiting. “Yes,” I whispered.
A shiver ran through her body but for once, I wasn’t sure it was out of pure fear.
Reaching over her shoulder, I picked up my plate and stood once again to my full height. “I’m going out for a while,” I said as I walked into the kitchen. “Don’t worry about lunch, I’ll bring something back.”
She was still at the table when I walked out the door. I still had a few qualms about what I was about to do, but if this would give her security, I would do it.
I took my car and drove across town, still pondering what lie ahead. Brianna was nothing like the two submissives I’d collared previously, but she needed me like neither of them ever had. This was a huge step, one that meant more, at least to me, than the act of buying her. Before, I had felt an obligation to care for her because of her situation. Once she wore my collar, it wouldn’t be a mere obligation any more. I would willingly and completely be responsible for her.
My family had used the same jeweler for the last fifty years. There was no doubt in my mind that Beth and Roger would have exactly what I wanted.
As I walked through the door, a bell sounded announcing my entrance. A minute later Beth’s head peeked through a black curtain. The instant she saw me her face lit up. “Stephan! Roger, Stephan’s here,” she said, all the while walking toward me.
Her arms wrapped around me for a hug. “Beth. How are you?”
She pulled back a little to look at me. “Oh, how formal we are,” she said, slapping me playful on the shoulder. I laughed.
Then her husband, Roger, made his appearance. The only difference between his greeting and his wife’s was that his combined a handshake and a hug at the same time.
When he pulled back, he gave my shoulder a firm pat. “How have you been, Stephan?”
“I’ve been good. Keeping busy, you know. Are you both coming to the fundraiser this year?”
Beth waved her hand nonchalantly in front of her face. “You know we wouldn’t miss it.” And then she stepped back behind the counter. “I am assuming this isn’t a purely social visit?” she asked.
I shook my head in awe. She knew me too well. “No, it’s not. I need a choker necklace. I would prefer it to be white gold or platinum and it needs to be simple, nothing over the top.”
“Hmm,” she said, tapping her finger to her chin. “Let me see . . .” Moving to the necklace trays, her eyes scanned their contents. “Any charms?”
I shook my head. “No. Not right now anyway. But I want that to be an option.”
She glanced up at me and then smiled. I’d come in here once before to buy a choker for a submissive. Any submissive of mine had to have a versatile collar to wear out in public. Since removing it was not an option, it needed to be able to adapt to both casual and elegant settings.
Beth reached under the counter and retracted a simple circle. There was nothing fancy about it but a charm or jewel could easily be slipped onto it to dangle from Brianna’s neck.
“Is this what you wanted?” she asked with a smirk, already knowing my answer.
“Yes, I do believe it is,” I answered, running my fingers along the metal, imagining it on Brianna. It would look perfect around her beautiful neck.
After saying my goodbyes to Beth and Roger, I made my way to the locksmith. Brianna would need a key to my condo. She was not my prisoner, and if I was going to go so far as to collar her this early, the least I could do was make sure she knew she was allowed to come and go.
With key in hand, I had one more stop to make before picking us up a light lunch and heading back to my place. The University of Minnesota had some great programs, although being an alumnus myself, I was a little biased.
Pulling into the admissions office, I went inside to find Karen. Luckily, she was free and more than happy to see me. I knew she had a bit of a crush on me. Unfortunately, for her, it wasn’t mutual. I, however, was not above exploiting that fact in order to get what I needed.
It took almost an hour and the dodging of at least two dozen indecent proposals, but I got what I was looking for. I wanted Brianna to finish school, and UM had a program that could get her there. So many doors were closed to her right now, and I wanted to correct that. She needed to be able to stand on her own two feet and feel confident again. Getting her high school diploma would help.
The next block of classes didn’t start until fall, so we had some time. Karen provided all the registration papers Brianna would need. I’d just have to get her transcripts from her previous school, but I didn’t see that as too big a problem. We’d figure it out. She deserved this.