Edward and Bella’s wedding
A tango—how perfect for their first dance as husband and wife. The passionate exchange, the intricate steps, the careful choreography of their duet; the bride and groom locked in tight embrace while the guests surrounding them are all but forgotten. They can’t be blamed for it; the love between man and woman, master and submissive, and now husband and wife is beyond the realm of reasonable.
Am I jealous of the girl? Hell yes, same as I’m jealous of the striking groom—jealous of the love and fulfillment they’ve found in each other and hoping to one day have someone look at me with that twinkle in his eye, that absolute knowledge that we’re perfect for each other. So while I—and every other guest witnessing their union—wish to have what they have, I’m happy as hell for them and privileged that both regard me as mentor. I wouldn’t mind a dance with the groom, but I know that ain’t happening. Not now, not ever.
Heavy sigh. You old fool.
Edward was a surprise. As a rule, straight men are my least favorite submissives. It’s not personal; I simply don’t need someone in my dungeon who can’t get as excited about me as I am about him. Edward was a favor for a friend, that’s all. Unlike other challenging subs I’ve had—men who like to push the limits or act obstinate for the sake of proving their manhood—Edward knew he wasn’t a submissive, but he was earnest in his quest. I respected that about the man, and I instantly liked him.
Every man is tested in the dungeon; Edward’s greatest trial was giving over control to me. But he worked hard, and in the end, he accepted discipline as well as pleasure from my hands, from my body. Somewhere along the way, between the whip and caress, we became friends.
Of course, I would have welcomed more, probably carried a torch for the guy beyond what was healthy for me, but it isn’t Edward’s fault—except for being who he is, which isn’t exactly something I can blame him for.
The happy couple are invited to grab their parents, after which some wedding party shifting results in Bella dancing with her husband’s father and Edward tucking Bella’s mom into his chest while the leftovers pair up. It’s all good, and as I say, I’m happy for them, but I need a fucking drink.
"How can I wet your whistle tonight?" asks the movie-star gorgeous and predictably flirty bartender. Honestly? I’m too old for this crap. Sex is my day job; I don’t go out prowling for it on my time off. Show me something real, and I’ll wake up and take notice.
"Just a Scotch, neat," but thanks anyway, my eyes add.
"Sure thing." He nods and sets his come-hither smile aside for the next lonely wedding-goer who might nibble at his bait.
I swirl the Scotch and take one last glance toward the dance floor before finding my table. I’m sure Mrs. Swan was kind with the seating arrangements, but what can she do with the odd man out? My table fills in quickly, and after playing duck, duck, goose around the circumference, I choose a seat next to a woman who looks as out of place as I feel. Clad in a floor-length caftan made of paint-splattered silk, with silver hair rolled into a tight bun and long, not-so-perfectly-matched stained glass earrings dangling from her exposed lobes, she doesn’t appear to hail from either side of the bridal aisle. Color me curious.
“Hello, I’m Marcus Andrews. Is this seat available?”
“Not anymore,” she replies, adding, “I’m Hope Leeds. Nice to meet you, Marcus.”
“Bride’s side or groom’s side?” I ask.
Arranging the napkin in her lap, she smiles and answers, “Technically, I met them at the same time.”
“Within the last year, then?”
“Yes, they took one of my painting classes.”
“Edward paints?” Somehow, the idea doesn’t mesh with my understanding of the man. “Doesn’t that require patience?”
Hope starts to giggle, and she instantly looks ten years younger. “Bella paints; Edward . . . encourages her.”
We both take up our forks, and I spear one of the yellow grape tomatoes. “So Bella’s got talent?”
“Yes, actually, she does, but even better than that, she interfaces beautifully with the troubled youth in my art therapy program. She has a way of taming the beast.”
“That she does,” I agree, tossing a glance toward the groom.
"So how do you know the bride and groom?" Hope asks.
I’ve got this. I've already used my cover story on Edward and Bella's parents in the receiving line, so it slips easily from my lips. "Edward and I worked together a while back."
"Oh," she brightens, "you're in IT?"
"Something like that."
Perceptive enough to quit while she’s ahead, Hope goes back to her salad just as the final seat at our table is filled.
The guy seems about as eager to sit down as I was. He's waited until the last possible second—I’ve done it myself—that awkward moment the xylophone player clangs the bells in your face, so you attempt to weave through too-narrow passages between chair backs while servers mow you down with bottles of middle-of-the-road wine.
Not that the Swans haven’t ordered the best of the best at the Four Seasons in Manhattan, but you know what I mean. There’s wine wine, and there’s the wine they pour at dinner. Call me a snob. Whatever. I’ve been around.
As he slips into his seat directly across the table from me, the man’s eyes make a cursory sweep around the circle of polite smiles. I recognize his move—What's the bare minimum of human contact I can engage in without appearing rude? The others seem perfectly satisfied to leave it at that, and he breathes a sigh of relief.
And then I catch his eye. Yup, I see you.
It’s not an aggressive move by me; it’s just my habit to hold a man’s gaze.
The five feet of table that separate us may as well be five inches. I’m micro-focused on this man trapped in my eyes, and he is tethered to me as surely as if he were wearing my collar and leash—a fleeting fantasy that stirs me.
The guy draws a breath, blinks a couple times in recognition, then drops his eyes to his plate.
It’s a toss-up which grows faster—my smile or my erection. Dinner just got a whole lot more interesting.
Note to my readers: Thank you all for your patience! We had a wonderful trip to Australia and New Zealand, and now I'm back and so excited to share my Marcus in all his glorious glory. If you're looking to review the Marcus references in KEA, he can be found in chapters 22, 23, 38, 80, 92, and 93. I hope you all remembered Hope from Edward and Isabella's foray into oil painting at the Y!
Big, fat, kinky shout-out to my amazing and diligent pre-reading squad: Jayme TyZane, Postapocalypticdepository, Meredith Cullen, and the irreplaceable Chayasara (Yeah, don't go anywhere, Chaya!). Each of you challenges me in a unique way and adds your own brand of special to the story. MWAH!
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