I take the lid off the rice and stir again. I hope she’s not late. Rey said they’d call if they’d be late. Kit and her escort. Yeah, escort. This whole thing is…unreal. I’m a fucking idiot for pretending otherwise. The idea that this is some elaborate hoax seems way more likely than a woman actually showing up at my door and handing herself over to me for days.
Who does that?
But I’ve been assured time and again that no, she really is going to be here. And I have a bunch of downright bizarre documents that would seem to agree. A contract, safety protocols, instructions on what to do in case of an emergency. If this is a joke, it’s a freakishly thorough one. I’d asked about allergies, dietary restrictions, medical conditions, and Rey had ready answers for all of it. After he’d gotten my recs of course. Until then, his lips had been sealed.
I’ve been reading and re-reading the contract, thinking if I read the words enough times, they’ll make more sense. I’ve had contracts before, did with Miranda, but not with all the women I’ve been with. Sometimes a checklist, or just a conversation if it was a one-off. But Kit… She’d been very exacting. A few of her requirements had made me cringe. It was like reading a very specific warning label: you know it’s there because of a lawsuit.
After the initial shock, the idea had started to make me uneasy. What kind of woman would make this kind of arrangement? What was I getting myself into? And when Rey’d tried to pass off the contract as something we’d sign before she got here… Fuck, no. I’ve seen it on both sides: the minute you know you’re going to play, you put the act on. Well, act is the wrong word. It’s not always pretend. But you let that part of yourself take over.
Hells if I’m going to let some glassy-eyed woman halfway to subspace show up at my door and take advantage of her. No fucking way. I want to talk to her. The real her. Or as real as I’ll get. There’s no way Kit’s her actual name. Everything about this is smoke screens and mirrors and I should call it off.
But I haven’t. And I won’t. This is the first thing I’ve been genuinely excited about in months. Not only that. If it weren’t me, it’d be someone else. At least this way I know she’s going someplace safe. So no, I won’t call it off. Not before I meet her anyway. Black hair, hazel eyes, petite, pretty. Or, as Mr. St. James had said when I’d asked him, “quite beautiful, actually.” That’s what’s showing up on my doorstep in…two minutes. And then we’ll see. If this is real. If she’s for real. This splinter of intrigue that’s worked its way into my quiet, solid life.
When I open the oven to check on the vegetables, I hear it. The sound of tires crunching on the gravel drive. Mr. St. James must’ve heeded my warning about needing a vehicle with four wheel drive, otherwise they’d never be on time.
The searing pain on my fingers tells me I forgot to use a pot holder to pull out the pan. Damn it. I slam the oven door shut and run my fingers under cold water before toweling off. It’s time.
There she is. A mass of black, wavy hair. It’s hard to tell how tall she is, but she’s significantly smaller than the slim man in the driver’s seat. I walk down the stairs, trying to keep cool while a voice in the back of my head jeers. What the fuck were you thinking? This is the worst idea you’ve ever had, Ardmore. And I’ve had some bad ideas. But not usually where kink is concerned. With that, I’m careful. Always. This is the most reckless thing I’ve done for a long time and it feels really…good.
Approaching their 4×4, I get snippets of her. Not just the first impression of the glossy black hair, but pale skin, pink cheeks and—
Fuck. The woman is a fucking knock out. And she’s staring right at me. I start to rethink my clothes. Which is stupid. It’s not like there’s a dress code for what to wear when some stranger gets dropped off at your house for you to tie up and fuck. But still. I open the car door to offer her a hand down and I can’t stop looking at her.
The description Rey had given me was a pale imitation of what’s perched in front of me. Blood rushes to a place it really shouldn’t be just from the idea of my hand clenching in her hair. And yeah hazel…but maybe green eyes? Don’t be creepy, asshat. Stop staring. But I can’t. Her mouth is full and pink, and my eyes are drawn down her throat to the neckline of her dress. Not low enough to be showy, like she’s confident enough that she doesn’t have to display everything she’s got to get what she wants. Her arms and legs are left uncovered by her sleeveless dress, and her limbs are slim but strong.
For a woman this attractive to be playing this messed up game, she must be absolutely lolo. Grade A whack job, for sure. I’ve got a conversation to find out.
“Ms. Bailey-Isles, I presume?”
Her eyebrows go up slightly. “Were you expecting anyone else?”
I kind of expected her to flush and stammer, but her voice is clear and there’s an echo of Rey’s wry tone. It takes me aback, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it. Ms. Bailey-Isles is not to be trifled with. The knowledge eases my mind a bit. This is no terrified, coerced waif. “I believe that would be contrary to the letter of our agreement.”
Yes. One of the many, many letters. The contract comes back to my mind: The Dominant may address the submissive as he sees fit, but will at no time refer to her as “baby” or “sweetheart;” The Dominant may only contact the submissive at any point in time outside of this contract through the Broker.
What the hell happened to her to put that stuff in there? To make her think fucking strangers is her best option? Or, there’s always the other option: complete and utter psycho.
“Touché, Mr. Ardmore. And Ms. Isles will do.”
She puts her hand in mine, and regardless of whether she’s crazy or not, I like the way it feels. She’s small, though not delicate and her hand is cool but not clammy. I help her down from the 4×4 and the way her waist curves under my touch… It’s clearly been too long. Almost two months. No wonder I said yes to this bizarre proposal. I’m starting to get hard from touching a woman with all of her clothes on in a completely innocent way. I clearly need to get laid.
I need to stop touching her before she notices. Jesus, Ardmore, you’re thirty-nine, not nineteen. Get your shit together. So as much as I don’t want to, I let Kit go and greet her escort. I think that’s a nice word for “the guy who will kill you if you fuck with her.” He looks pleasant enough while he shakes my hand, exchanging a greeting, but there’s a fierce glint to his eyes that makes me believe even though I’ve got a couple inches and probably thirty pounds on the guy, he’d have me face down in the dirt and begging for mercy if I return her with so much as a scratch she didn’t say was okay.
I’ve fallen in with the BDSM mob. The kink mafia. I am in so far over my head.
Kit speaks up as Mr. St. James releases the overly firm grip he had on my hand.
“Mr. St. James will wait here while we talk.”
Her inflection makes it sound as if the talking is the most ridiculous part of this whole enterprise. And maybe it is, for her. Rey told me when I asked that this isn’t her first time doing this, but he wouldn’t say how many times. Is it possible her other hook-ups have all signed the contracts before she showed up? Did they even talk to her when she arrived? The thought makes me a little sick but maybe that’s part of the thrill for her. Maybe she gets off on how fucking dangerous this is. I mean, sure, there’s a whole sheaf of safety protocols to follow, but it wouldn’t take much for this to go sideways.
Part of me wants to sit her down and lecture her on how stupid this is, but I doubt that would be welcome. Not to mention hypocritical. At any rate, I’m glad she’s taken the reins for now. I don’t know how this is supposed to work.
“Sure. Ms. Isles, shall we?”
My fingers find the small of her back without my brain’s permission, seeking her out because I want so badly to touch her. Back it up. Don’t scare her. But I also can’t dig myself into a hole so deep I won’t be able to send her away if this really does seem like some unsavory exercise. But from what I’ve seen so far, Ms. Isles is no one’s pawn.
And if she’s a sub, as I’ve been told, she won’t mind the light guidance. Probably like it. She doesn’t stiffen under my touch, so I leave my hand where it’s resting and urge her back toward the house where the food should be just about done. Is she going to want to eat? You’d think the veritable instruction manual I’ve been given would be more help, but nothing about this is simple. She seems so cool, but just in case, I should ask.
“There’s lunch in the house if you’d like. Or if food isn’t…appealing, right now…”
The corner of her mouth strains and her lips purse. Is she trying not to laugh?
“Do you think I’m squeamish, Mr. Ardmore?” She looks up at me and I’m reminded of exactly how small she is. If I held her to me, her head would fit right under my chin. Even though she’s only said a few words, I can’t help thinking of her as a bigger presence, taking up more space. Maybe because of that hint of mocking in her tone. Brat. I’ll have to be careful to not be too rough when we play. If you play.
Right, yes, if. She’s still talking and I drag my attention back to her words. “That I have a weak stomach? That you’re going to offend my delicate sensibilities?”
The way her mouth wraps around those words, separating each one, her precise enunciation… Women have said a lot of filthy things to me, but this woman in particular, intimating that she’s been game for all those filthy things in the past, and if I don’t fuck this up, would be game to do them with me, has got me stuttering and blushing like an adolescent imbecile. “No, I…”
Maybe we should’ve signed the damn contracts before she got here like she’d wanted to. Then I’d have my head on straight instead of faffing around like some fucking idiot. Jesus. You’re the Dom here, fucking act like it. But she doesn’t seem turned off. Amused, maybe, but not disappointed or repulsed.
“If it helps, Mr. Walter and I discussed the contract over ceviche.”
Ceviche? What the hell does ceviche have to do with this? Though the thought of her sitting at some swank restaurant, spooning the citrus-cured seafood into her mouth while talking about floggers and fisting—I couldn’t believe she left the fisting in there—I have to laugh. Because of course. Why wouldn’t you discuss bondage and anal sex over not-quite-cooked seafood? I am in such deep shit.
“You know, that does help. Ceviche, huh?”
“Sea bass. It was delicious.”
God damn. Although now I’m feeling a little self-conscious about the lunch I made. It’ll be good, but I might have to up my game if ceviche is more her speed. “Okay, Ms. Isles, lunch it is. It’s no ceviche, but I hope it’ll meet with your approval.”
I lead her up the steps and into the house and when she gets inside, she stops. I forget sometimes what the house must look like to someone who’s never been here before. To me it’s just home. Her eyes have gone wide and she’s studying every inch of the room, a slight smile brightening her face when her gaze wanders over the bookshelves. They’re overflowing and I should cull them but I can’t bring myself to give any away. And tossing books seems like sacrilege. Maybe Kit Bailey-Isles likes books, too?
I want to know. I want to know everything about her. Finally she drags her attention back to me.
“I’m sorry, I’m being rude. You have a lovely home.”
To say or not to say? What the hell. “It’s my parents’ house.”
And there’s the look, like she thinks my mom’s going to walk out of the kitchen and offer her cookies and lemonade. The idea absolutely horrifies her.
“They don’t live here. It’s just me. They built this place a long time ago, thinking they’d retire here, but my father’s health isn’t good. They live in Kona, much closer to civilization. I’ve lived here since I finished school. Added a couple things, redone the place. I’ve thought about leaving, having them sell—”
Well that was emphatic. Why does she—
“You shouldn’t. It’s a beautiful spot, and…”
Ah. Her backpedaling is charming. Ms. Isles has feelings. And doesn’t particularly want to. “You haven’t seen the best part. I’ll show you after lunch.”
Until the words were out of my mouth, I hadn’t realized I’d made my decision. But who am I kidding? She had me with her deadpan sass. Even so, I suspect her slightly bewildered expression is a mirror of my own. My voice is a little gruffer than I intend when I tell her, “Come, eat. You must be hungry.”
I take her hand and show her to the table where I pull out her chair, waiting until she’s seated before checking on the food. Thankfully, the timing was perfect. Everything’s done and still warm, so I plate the food and bring it over. She puts the napkin in her lap, and starts to eat. It gives me a very real sense of satisfaction to watch her eat the food I’ve made. Especially when she looks impressed and takes a few more bites. Kit has an appetite.
I take a few bites of my own before she speaks.
“So, Mr. Ardmore, you wanted to speak with me?”
A single raised eyebrow. This woman is going to be the death of me. That gentle mocking tone is back and I want to kiss her until she can’t breathe, never mind tease me. Like I’m the crazy one because I want to have a conversation before she hands herself over to me. “I did.”
“And what did you want to speak with me about?”
“I don’t know.” No, that’s not true. Everything. Who are you really? Why are you doing this? But the most important thing to establish right now is that this is really something she wants. “I guess I wanted to make sure…”
“I wasn’t some sort of sex slave? I’m not being coerced? That’s very gallant, but entirely unnecessary, I assure you.”
She takes another bite of her lunch, like this is a conversation she has all the time. Getting beaten and fucked by strangers is just my hobby. No worries. Her matter-of-factness is disarming. I love her confidence, the way she’s unapologetic about what she wants, but that doesn’t stop me from being concerned about how she goes about getting it.
Why doesn’t she go to play parties? Or a club? A munch? Log onto FetLife? She’s clearly got connections with the community if she knows Rey Walter. Maybe she does all of the above Monday through Thursdays and this is how she kills her weekends. How the hell do I know? But yeah, at this point I’m pretty certain this is a choice she’s made and regardless of her reasons, I need to respect that. No matter how off-kilter she’s got me.
“I can see that. You’ll have to forgive me. This isn’t the way I usually do things.”
“It’s not the way most people do things. But, it’s the only way I do things.”
Huh. So it isn’t just one dish on the how-Kit-Bailey-Isles-sexes buffet. This is really it. I don’t want her to mistake my surprise for disapproval, because it’s not. I mean, I worry about her safety, but she should play and fuck whomever and however she chooses. So I make a joke, a tactic she’ll understand. “So you’re the world’s foremost expert on this type of arrangement?”
“Possibly. You’re starting out with the best. I’ll ruin you for anyone else.”
Before I can stop them, the words fall out of my mouth. “I think you might.”
I’m not totally sure what to make of her yet, but that’s part of the appeal. Whatever she is, she’s not boring. She makes me feel like I’ve been living in a world of blues and browns and greens, and here she is: a burst of bright red. Flashy and brilliant. But I still wonder if she’s not hiding something under that polished shell. She interrupts my musings with her impatience. “Is there anything else you wanted to ask me?”
“Lots of things, but I don’t think I’m allowed.”
She eats a few more bites, but if I’m not mistaken, she’s squirming a little in her chair. I want to make her squirm a lot more than that. Though I haven’t shown it up to now, one thing I can be is patient so I let her wait. And wait. The way she takes up her food on her fork is getting increasingly violent, and I wonder if I left her to it if she’d eventually break the plate.
I can play at cool, too, Ms. Isles. I pick up my water to delay another agonizing second.
“This… This is, by far, the strangest date I’ve ever been on.”
“Is that what this is? A date?”
Surely she’s been on a date before, though I guess this doesn’t quite fit the mold. “What did you think it was?”
I take a sip of water, waiting for her to squirm a little more, but instead, she says in that slightly aggressive way of hers, “Well, I don’t know about you, but I was under the impression that I had signed up for a weekend full of very hot, very kinky sex.”
And I lose it. I barely get my hand over my mouth so I don’t spray the water I was about to swallow all over her. It gets caught in my throat and I choke. Jesus. She’s sitting there, pleased as punch and I can’t decide what I want to do more—take her over my knee or laugh with her.
“I’m sorry. I told you I’m not shy.”
I guess I had fair warning. “Ceviche?”
“Indeed, Mr. Ardmore.”
And with those three words, I suddenly want her on her knees very, very badly. Will she be bratty when we start to play, too? Though it’s not my favorite, at this point, I don’t care. I want her under my hand, under my control. I want to possess her, own her, and I don’t want to dance around it anymore. I’ve fulfilled my duty to be a responsible adult and I don’t feel like pretending I don’t want her. “I think if we’re going to fuck, you can call me Cris.”
She doesn’t blink at my crude language. Not that I thought she would. No, she looks distinctly pleased. She wants me too.
“All right then, Cris.” The way she says my name, like it’s a secret I’ve let her in on, makes my blood heat. I hope she’ll let me in on a secret too. But she doesn’t, not yet. “You can call me Kit. For now.”
Part of me wants to demand it from her—tell me who you really are—but I’m guessing that would backfire, big time. Maybe result in her tossing her napkin on the table and climbing into the Jeep outside to be driven away by the enigmatic Mr. St. James. So I won’t push. Yet.