Twenty-nine minutes after being released from dinner—one minute before the appointed time—Dane appears in the doorway of my den exactly as ordered: naked, scrubbed clean inside and out, and neatly manscaped.
If I’m not careful, I’ll rub a hole clear through the leather I’ve been spinning and sliding between fingers concealed behind my back. My nerves are acting up, which kind of aggravates me. Dane’s here; I’m here; we’re both saying yes to this collaring. Thing is, this night is about more than the verdict. I’m confident by now that I’m good for Dane, though who could ever be worthy of such perfection? That’s not the issue either. It’s Dane’s damn comment about saying the wrong thing and disappointing that has my insides knotted like a ball of rubber bands. Judging from the anxious expression on Dane’s face, he’s feeling much the same—which does little to soothe me.
“Come on in, Dane.”
He takes five long strides across the carpeting and strikes his pose in front of me. “Master, may I set down my bag, please?” he asks.
“Sure.” I tip my head toward the package I left on the couch. Dane places his gift on the cushion, immediately resuming his pose.
I reach for his shoulder, gently pressing down with my palm. “On your knees, boy.”
Dane’s brown eyes catch mine before he sinks to the carpet. “Thank you, Master,” he says. His motion doesn’t stop when his knees hit the rug; Dane bends forward, pressing his palms to the rug on either side of my boots and touching his forehead to the floor. The elegant curve of his prostrated form brings tears to my eyes. I didn’t ask for this; it’s one of so many gifts Dane has seen fit to offer freely; most likely, this self-imposed dip into deeper submission is something he needs right now.
“Thank you for that beautiful gesture, Dane. You may kiss my boots and sit back on your heels when you’re ready.”
His “Thank you, Master,” is nearly a whisper, spoken more to himself than me. Dane’s back rises and falls with several measured breaths before he moves over my right foot and then the left. When he sits back onto his haunches, his eyes blink up at me, glassy and expectant.
My fingers find their way to Dane’s hair, pushing back the long beautiful locks that obscure his face, soothing us both with long strums along his scalp. He winces as my voice cracks on his name.
“Da-ane, mm-hem . . . Dane, I want to start off by thanking you for having the courage to let me into your life.” His gaze drops to the floor, and I wait until he lifts his face again. Eye contact is required.
I bring the collar around my body and present it to him on my outstretched palm. “Dane, are you ready to accept my collar?”
“Yes, Master.” His voice is steady and sure.
I give Dane a smile along with a brief nod as I step forward and clasp the leather band around his neck, gently jiggering the choker until the buckle rests in back and the D-ring is in front. “Not too tight, is it?”
“No, it’s perfect.” His voice rings with reverence.
“Yes, Dane, you certainly are.” Completely owned, completely mine.
“Master,” Dane whispers, dropping his eyes to the floor once more, “I’m humbled.”
“Would you like to share your vows now, Dane?”
“Yes, Master, of course.” He looks over my shoulder for a moment, gathering his thoughts. Clearly, he has nowhere to hide any notes. Once he begins, it’s obvious Dane has written and memorized this speech.
“Master, tonight, I sta—kneel before you, stripped bare of clothing and pride, offering you all that I have and all that I am. In your trusted hands, I give you my life to keep: my body, my heart, my mind, and my spirit. My greatest wish is to serve you well, to follow your direction, to bring you pleasure and pride through my words and deeds.” Dane’s eyes shine with the light of his sincerity. A thousand times more potent than the sliced onions, Dane’s truth is almost more than I can endure. “I promise to lay myself bare to you and face change with courage and an open mind and heart. I promise you my honesty, my absolute devotion, and my very best effort at all times. I promise to always strive to be the submissive you so richly deserve.”
When his words are spent, Dane’s head drops forward in a deeply subservient offering. The silver buckle peeks out beneath his hair, choking me with gratitude beyond anything I have ever experienced. Before I’m aware I’ve moved, I’m on one bent knee in front of him with my hands cupping his cheeks and lifting his tear-streaked face to my own.
Dane’s name is a whisper that leaves my lips just as they meet his. Dane. My sweet, selfless, talented, beautiful gift. What could I possibly have done to deserve this boy in my life? Our kiss ends in a slow retreat, two sets of lips not quite willing to uncouple, but there is more to be said before we’re through.
“Dane, thank you. That was simply gorgeous. I humbly accept each of your promises in exchange for my collar.”
I’m close enough to intercept his next tear with my tongue as it runs down his cheek, and I do exactly that. “Thank you, Master,” he says.
“You’re more than welcome, my sweet boy. It’s my turn now, and I want us both on our feet.”
With his customary grace, Dane rises to his feet without a bobble. I stand and place my hands on both his shoulders, brushing the soft leather of the collar with my thumbs as I recite the vows I memorized earlier. I might have wanted to impress my theater pro with that move, but honestly, it isn’t the least bit difficult to remember what is bursting from my heart.
“Dane, tonight I accept you as my collared submissive. You will belong to me from this day on, and I will do everything within my power to protect you, guide you, tend to your needs, and nurture you. I will love you with all my heart.”
Poor Dane loses it all over again, and he has nowhere to hide his emotions. Maybe it wasn’t fair to toss in the “L” word, but our relationship as Master and sub is painted by the brush of love. I wipe the tears off his cheeks with my thumbs and steady his quaking shoulders.
“Yes, Dane, your Master loves you, and that is always going to be a major element of who we are. Are you okay with that?”
Sucking his cheeks between his molars, Dane nods. It would be too cruel to require a verbal response.
“Good,” I respond. “Are you ready for me to continue?”
He nods again, turning moist eyes to mine with his full attention.
“No matter where your head space brings you, I will find you, meet you, and draw you toward wholeness. I acknowledge the trust you have placed in me, and I will strive to always be worthy of your tremendous courage and faith. I will respect your challenges and your limits and always place the highest value on your emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. I will be one hundred percent loyal to you, not only with my body but also with my thoughts and my affections. I will become the Master you need, even when it means I must learn to be someone new. I will cradle you through doubt and despair, and I will revel with you in your success. I am so incredibly humbled by the gift of your submission, and I am proud to call you mine.”
Dane is no longer making an effort to hold back his tears. His cheeks are soaked, and his eyes are still heavy with more. “Thank you, Master,” he chokes out between sniffles, helpless with his hands clasped behind his back.
I reach for the bottom of my black t-shirt, tugging it out of my pants and over my head. Standing there stark naked while I mop his face and chest, Dane lets loose one giggle after another. What starts out as an embarrassed, involuntary eruption soon becomes a full-blown, cathartic release that has me laughing along with him as I wipe the last of the tears off his chin and chest.
“Good thing I don’t have eyeliner on tonight,” he says, bursting into fresh peals of laughter.
“Good thing I bought you the water-resistant collar!”
He shakes his head as I toss away my drenched shirt. “I’m sorry, Master. I didn’t mean to spoil the moment.”
I wrap my hand around the back of his head, not disliking the feel of the collar in place of his bare neck as much as I’d feared. “You spoiled nothing, Dane.” I tip my head forward so our foreheads meet. “This is us, and we’re perfect. Who we are is exactly who we need to be.”
“Master, may I give you your gift now?”
“Yes, of course. Do your thing, Dane.” I step back, giving him space for handstands or flying leaps or whatever he might have cooked up. Apparently, he’s not feeling the ham bone tonight. A clipped stride carries him to the couch, where he picks up the gift and hands it to me.
“Master, when I mistrusted everyone and doubted every instinct, when I was so afraid I couldn’t speak, you reached out a hand in friendship and faith and waited for me to accept. Since then, your hands have brought me warmth and intimacy, joy and pleasure, sustenance and healing. Your hands are the hands of a loving Master and a masterful lover, and I hope you will accept this gift as a symbol of my gratitude and affection.”
My hands are shaking as I tug the end of the ribbon. Without the slightest notion what’s inside this box, I am certain it will be the most meaningful gift I have ever received. I almost pity the wrapping standing in the way of revelation. Dane chuckles as I bypass the tape and tear apart the paper.
Slow down. I force a breath before lifting the black, textured cardboard lid off the box. Inside, pillowed between two layers of white cotton, is a black leather bracelet roughly a half-inch wide, decorated with light gray stitching around the middle and linked together by a horseshoe-shaped metal clasp.
I thrust my arm in Dane’s face so fast, I nearly pop him in the nose. My, my, we are a bit eager, Marcus!
“Oops.” Nice recovery. Handing him the bracelet, I try something a little cooler. “Thank you.”
Dane’s face is far more interesting to watch than the bracelet fitting: pinked-up cheeks, anxious eyes, tentative smile, and the tiniest crinkle in his forehead as he concentrates on the clasp. Holding my left arm between us, he asks, “What do you think?”
If I’d have seen this bracelet in a display case, I would’ve thought it was appropriate for a much younger man. Somehow, the fact that Dane gave it to me cancels out the Am-I-too-old? factor. Besides, it happens to look great on me.
“I love it, and I love the thought you put into it. Thank you so much, sweetheart.”
As I lean in for a kiss, I savor the weight of his gift around my wrist, replaying his beautiful ode in my head. When I pull back, Dane catches me admiring my bracelet out of the corner of my eye. Busted.
“Do you like it on me, Dane?”
His smile radiates pride and pleasure. “I knew it would look sexy on you.”
I give him an eye roll I don’t really mean. “Yeah, I look pretty hot, don’t I?”
“Okay, my ridiculously adorable submissive. I have one more gift for you—not counting what I’m about to do to your body. How about closing your eyes and holding out your hands?”
“My pleasure, Master.”
I reach for his necklace with my bracelet-wearing hand; the brazen admiration of my wrist wasn’t the reason I had Dane close his eyes but turns out to be a nice perk. Slicing open the tissue so meticulously folded around the jewelry by Gingerbread Salesboy, I uncover the necklace. With a great sense of relief, I find I’m still quite pleased with my choice, especially as I arrange the dog tags in Dane’s palm. Since they’re both punched through the middle of the top edge, I’d had to choose which of our initials would rest beneath the other at the time of the embossing. I give Dane’s palm a playful tickle with my thumbnail and drape the double cord over the tips of his fingers.
“Before you open your eyes, I want you to understand what this is. You can consider this your ‘outside collar,’ something to wear when we scene outside my dungeon or any time you need to feel that sense of being owned by your Master. Obviously, you won’t wear it at work, and I won’t have you wear it when you have your other collar on. Okay, you can open your eyes.”
Dane’s eyes blink open and immediately rest on the two brown rectangles sitting in his open hand. He brushes his fingertip across the soft espresso leather and traces the lower case “d” and the upper case “M” below. He pulls the cords between his fingers, then turns his head my direction. “This is gorgeous, Master. Thank you so much.”
“You’re more than welcome, Dane.”
“May I ask why the ‘d’ is on top? I’m sure it was deliberate, but I don’t understand the significance.”
“Of course.” I step into Dane’s side, wrapping my arm around his waist and teasing at the cords with my other hand. “You’re wearing the two of us together—one cord for each, leather merged with copper, and as you noted, each of our initials. I am your dominant, but I will never suffocate you; you’re on the top so you are free to soar. I’ll never let you sink deeper than where I can lift you up; I’m on the bottom so I can keep you safe from falling.”
“Thank you so much. I can’t wait to feel it against my skin. I love everything about it.” He turns his head and kisses me . . . and kisses me.
“I might have to find a reason to let you out of my house tomorrow so we can try it out in public.”
“As you wish, Master.”
“I’ll tell you what I wish, boy. I wish to have you in my dungeon in three minutes or less!”
His playful smile falls by the wayside, but this time I don’t really miss it, because what takes its place on Dane’s face is pure arousal.
“Master, permission to run?”
“Master, permission to run?”
And while you're at it, tell ME what you think of their vows and their gifts and the "L" word. Sigh...