Grabbing Dane by the hand, I lead us away from the “sack of shit” as fast as my shit kickers can carry us.
The door to the submissive room closes behind Dane with a mighty thud, echoing off the concrete floor and vaulted ceiling. With a firm tug on his hand, I pull Dane past my body and propel him toward the cot.
“Have a seat.”
He sits on the edge of the bed, hands by his sides, blinking up at my crotch with a bit of the devil in his eyes. “Is there something I can do for you, Master?”
Cupping his chin in my fist, I answer, “Don’t tempt me, boy. It wouldn’t be polite for the guest of honor to be late to his own party.”
Dane’s hand wraps around my thigh, and he nuzzles his face into my bare belly. “I’m sure they’d understand.” Soft kisses draw a line to my belt buckle.
This might not be such a bad idea after all.
Sensing that the lower half of my body is on his side, Dane tips his chin up to see if my head has given in yet. Hair and eyelashes and thick, luscious lips.
“Sweetheart, I want this too, so badly . . .” My fingers burrow into Dane’s hair.
“Let’s save it for later, okay? This place doesn’t exactly inspire me romantically.”
“Okay.” Dane places a goodbye kiss on my belly button and sinks back to his relatively innocent position on the bed.
“Before everyone else steals you away from me, I wanted to take a minute to tell you how proud I am of you.”
“Are you going to make me cry?” he asks.
I shrug. “I have no idea. That’s not my goal.”
He’s blushing and sweet and I’m still hard from his offer. It wouldn’t hurt to get a little closer. Straddling his legs, I lift one knee at a time onto the bed on either side of his thighs. Dane’s eyebrows rise in surprise as I sink into his lap and clasp the back of his neck with my joined hands. Maybe I am feeling a little romantic after all.
“Dane, I am really proud of you.”
“Thank you, Master.” His hands close around my back, and his forehead tips to meet mine.
“That was quite a little speech you made.”
He lets out a shy chuckle. “The spew to end all spews.”
“Hunh.” My nose brushes against his. Can’t get close enough. “Do you think it really might, Dane?”
“I’m not making any promises for the future, but right now, the reservoir is empty. I just don’t have anything left.”
“How are you feeling about everything that just happened?”
“Honestly?” He pauses for a moment, and I’m almost wondering if he needs confirmation. “I’m pretty embarrassed right now.”
He tries to turn his head away, but we’re too close, too locked together, and I really need him to stay here with me right now. “What are you embarrassed about, Dane? Can you say?”
“You are going to make me cry.” Poor Dane. His eyes are shiny with tears.
“Just get the rest out, Dane. Let’s just do this all the way, and then we won’t ever have to come back to this place.”
He nods before he can speak, but finally, my wait is rewarded. “I’m embarrassed I ever fell for that sorry excuse for a man out there.”
“Sweetheart, we can’t help who our heart and body fall for.”
“The man has no redeeming qualities. I can’t even think of one. I just don’t know what I ever saw in him.”
“I hate to say it, Dane, but I do.”
I shift in his lap, scooting back toward his knees so we can have a little space for a conversation. “You’re a giver; he’s a taker. He was a bottomless pit of need for your desire to please.”
“I wouldn’t exactly consider that a redeeming quality.”
“Neither would I, but I do think you were attracted to the challenge of pleasing him.”
He thinks about it for a few seconds, then shrugs. “You’re not a taker.”
I have to stifle my smile. “No.”
Dane’s devilish grin comes out to play. “So what do I see in you?”
“Ignoring all those glorious traits you mentioned out there about your true Master, I believe I satisfy your deep need to be genuinely appreciated for who you are and what you bring to the relationship. That’s why givers give so much.”
“Hmm, that’s probably why you’re with me too, then.”
“Ha! I’m a giver now?”
“Yes, Master. You’re a giver. Deal with it.”
“Oh, I will deal with it . . . and you . . . later. You can count on that, boy.”
His grin is a mile wide. I’d love to dive inside it and never resurface. Happy Dane is a very, very good thing.
“Come on. Let’s get out of here. You know Edward is gonna eat everything if he beats us there.”
We’re both chuckling as I pull away to stand up, but Dane yanks me down onto the cot with him, knocking us both onto our sides. “Since I’m already in trouble,” he starts with that twinkle, “can we just . . .”
Without naming it, he pulls my body against his chest and binds his arms in a tight circle around me.
I can’t take my eyes off the confident set of Dane’s shoulders as he bobs and weaves through the post-theater crowd at Good Times, following the overly peppy hostess to our private room.
“Right through here, gentlemen,” she says, pressing a button to open the frosted glass door.
Dane thanks her and pauses to run his palm down the length of his leather necklace—his only wardrobe change from the dungeon. Before stepping inside, he reaches back for my hand. I’m not sure either motion was conscious, which makes them both all the more touching.
Conversation dies out as awareness of our arrival ripples around the room. Edward leads the applause, and the rest soon follow. I have that urge again to throw my shoulder in front of Dane and protect him from the crowd—friendly though it is—but before my Papa Hawk instincts take over, Curtain Call Dane lifts our joined hands toward the ceiling and bends us both forward in a dramatic bow.
On the way up, I glance over at my boy. He’s already grinning at me, waiting for my astonished head shake, and he winks at me when I play right into his hands. This man deserves the cheers all to himself, so I jiggle my hand free and step out of the spotlight, clapping and whistling with the rest of the crowd until tears roll down Dane’s cheeks.
He brings his palms together and acknowledges each face in the crowd individually with the karate bow I taught him. Each of our friends graces him with the proper form in return—Aro, Edward, Bella, Riley, Sean, and Eleazar.
Respect, the very essence of Dane, his primary instinct and what makes him so very easy to respect in return.
He completes his circle by spinning around to face me. Taken by surprise yet again—we’ve already said our words in private—I snap into position and prepare to bow.
It’s the word that rolls off Dane’s lips just before he bows—“Sensei”—that draws the tears from my eyes. By the time we both straighten up, we’re a matched set of weepy messes.
Bella saves the day with a champagne flute in each hand. “Congratulations! I hear the evening was a complete success.”
Before my boy can get any bright ideas about making another damn tribute to me, I lift my glass and shout, “To Dane! You stole the show tonight, sweetheart. I’m so damn proud of you. Cheers!”
“Cheers!” the crowd repeats.
Dane gives me his you’re-too-good-to-me eyes as our glasses clink. We share a slow kiss as the champagne works itself down. Dane clears his throat as we pull apart.
“Just a baby spew,” he tells me, lifting his glass toward the center of the room again. “As I explained in excruciating detail earlier,” he starts, pausing for appreciative laughter, “I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have landed in the hands of this most gifted Master.” He lifts our joined hands. “But now that we’re among friends, I also want to say how lucky I am that this man—Marcus—has become both lover and trusted friend as well.”
My head slingshots toward Dane.
My knees go weak. A violent rush of heat smacks me in the face. My mouth goes bone dry. All I can do is stare at this courageous man, who has basically just “outed” us. Not that anyone in the room needed the announcement to see what was happening between us, but Dane’s made it clear that he truly believes in his worthiness as my equal partner.
Humbled to the core, I stare at the man while he finishes. “I also wanted to say thank you to each of you for being here for me. Not just tonight,” he says, turning directly toward Eleazar and Sean, “but throughout my recovery. To all of you!”
Sean is first to pull Dane into a hug, and I reluctantly allow Bella to coax me from his side.
“Marcus, you look like you could use a real drink.” With one wave of her hand, Bella has the waiter taking my order.
“Ah, beautiful Bella! You are a rose among thorns, my dear!”
Bella’s sweet laughter soothes my soul. “You call these beautiful men ‘thorns’?” We scan the room together, and Bella bursts into giggles when her gaze lands on Aro. “Okay, maybe that one!”
I roll my eyes and pop one of the tuna tartare cones into my mouth. “Please, don’t get me started on him. Mmm, this is delicious. Bella, thank you so much for taking care of the dinner arrangements.”
“My pleasure, and just so you know, Edward helped with the menu, so . . .”
“We’re having sweet potato fries?”
“Maybe.” We share one of our gotta-love-Edward grins.
“It’ll be a bit of a shock to the system. Dane’s been pushing the superfoods pretty hard.”
I take advantage of the excuse to seek him out with my gaze. Across the room, Dane is embroiled in some wildly animated conversation with Riley and Sean.
“It’s painful for you to take your eyes off him,” she says.
I illustrate her point by continuing to stare. Silly sap.
“Sir, your drink?”
In the nanosecond I looked away, Riley picked up the leather tags on Dane’s necklace. My heart rate spikes with a giant HELL NO!
“Excuse me, Bella—”
“Hey.” She catches my arm, but it’s her gentle voice that stills me in my tracks. “Wait. Give them a chance.”
Brave girl, this one. Anyone else might’ve pulled back a bloody stump after a stunt like that. I take a sip of my Macallan, letting the dry, smoky liquid temper the rough edges. Dane’s eyes dart to mine as they frequently do whenever we’re in the same room.
The boy has more than earned your trust. Show him that.
I lift my glass and tip my chin, and Dane shoots me back a relaxed smile. I watch from afar as he picks up the tags one at a time and explains their significance to Riley. Dane’s pride is evident even from afar, especially as he reverently smoothes his necklace back into place.
Covering Bella’s hand with my own, I say, “Thank you, Bella.”
She leans in and kisses me on the cheek. “You’re welcome, tough guy.”
“Whoa, whoa, whooooaaa, what the hell is happening here?”
Without waiting for the answer, Edward snakes his arm around Bella’s waist and tugs her back against his chest. “This one’s mine, old man!”
Bella giggles and rolls her eyes at her frisky husband. “I can see I have my hands full tonight,” she says, swooning as Edward nibbles on her ear. “I don’t know what happened in that club tonight, but whatever it was certainly got him all worked up!”
Edward pipes up from behind her, “No! It was horrible, Isabella! It wasn’t bad enough I had to take the asshole’s clothes off, but this one . . .” he flicks his hand toward me, “tries to make me touch the guy’s sweaty balls! I swear, I’m gonna have nightmares for a year!”
Bella reaches a hand to Edward’s cheek and gives him an exaggerated pout. “Poor baby.”
“All this talk of assholes and balls? Methinks the boy doth protest too much.” Aro sneaks up on our little group, offering a plate of pigs-in-the-blanket. “Weenies anyone?”
One of the few people I know who is unfazed by Aro, Edward lobs back, “Methinks the boy dothn’t protest nearly enough! If I had known I would be handling twigs and berries, I would have packed my rubber gloves!”
Bella turns beet red and slithers out of Edward’s arms. “I think that’s my cue to go check on the main course!”
As entertaining as it might be to watch Edward and Aro go at it, I am antsy for Dane. I give my empty glass a little shake before darting away. “Need a refill.”
Dane’s smile brightens when he sees me closing in. Next to him, Eleazar turns his head to follow Dane’s gaze.
“Ah, I should have known,” he says. “You two don’t tolerate separation too well, do you?”
“Not particularly,” I answer, meeting Dane’s shoulder with my own. The pride ship sailed long ago, and I can’t say I miss being in port.
The waiter pops in with a plate of mini pizzas. “Refresh that for you, sir?”
“That would be delightful. Gentlemen, what are you drinking?”
“Never got past the champagne,” Dane answers. “What would you suggest?”
“I would suggest you get snockered,” I tell him. “We are not getting out of bed tomorrow until you have to leave.”
“In that case,” he says to the waiter, “I’ll have a Ketel One with a cranberry splash.”
“Make that two,” Eleazar adds, popping one of the appetizers into his mouth.
He reaches for a pizza without pausing to question my authority or whether he’s even hungry, a point that is not lost on Eleazar.
“You two were pretty spectacular out there.”
Dane is beaming, still riding the post-show high, and I’m sure I’m doing the same.
Grinning at us both, Eleazar continues, “Dane, I was wondering . . . All those points you made about the difference between Marcus and Wayne, do you have those written down somewhere?”
I’d wondered the same thing myself.
Dane shrugs. “No. Why?”
“Well . . .” Eleazar shifts from Dane to me. “I was hoping you two might take your show on the road, so to speak.”
“Ah, this is the favor you mentioned last time we spoke.”
“Yes. As you know, I’m not a fan of beating around the bush.”
“One of your best qualities,” I tell him.
Eleazar smiles at me. “You’re thinking about me dancing again, aren’t you?”
“Whaaaat?” Dane asks, his voice deteriorating into a chuckle at the end. “Why would he be picturing you dancing?”
“I’m not!” All three of us are laughing when the waiter returns with our drinks. I pull the dark one off the tray and suck down a generous sip. “Okay, Eleazar, tell us more. What are you looking for?”
“If you’re both amenable,” and here his glance shifts back to Dane before continuing, “I’d like to bring you into the center to lead a workshop for some of our clientele who may be exploring the lifestyle.”
Dane tenses beside me, and I grasp his hand in mine. Relax.
“Eleazar,” I ask, “are you suggesting we do some kind of demonstrations at the center?”
“No!” He throws up his hands, sloshing the drink over the sides. “Oh, shit, sorry.” Dane and I hand off our cocktail napkins, and Eleazar dabs at his hand and arm. “What I meant was I’d like you two to talk to people about what a caring, responsible BDSM relationship looks like, answer some questions, and possibly—possibly—highlight a technique or two, with your clothes on, of course!”
“What do you think, Dane? This sounds like your chance to help other people.”
“I like it. But what about my work schedule? I’m on stage every night but Monday, and I . . .” He stops there because he’s far too unselfish to finish.
Luckily, I’m not.
“Monday is our day.” Dane gives me a relieved smile, and I turn back to Eleazar. “What if we do this during the day?”
“We can absolutely work around your schedules. We could even videotape a couple sessions, might even be easier that way for the participants too. I can add them to my self-help library.”
“I love the idea,” Dane answers, turning to me for confirmation.
“Sure, let’s make it work.”
“Marcus!” A slightly sloshed Riley hitches his arm around my neck. “Dude, you rocked the bondage!”
Eleazar smirks and excuses himself while Sean steps into our little circle next to Dane.
“I’m glad you enjoyed it, Riley.”
“Let me clarify: I really enjoyed looking at Dane. That other guy? Not so much.”
I cross my arms and give Riley as much of a glare as the Macallan allows. His backpedaling is instantaneous.
“Oh shit, I didn’t mean it that way. Okay, I guess I actually did mean it because Dane is all kinds of hot, but I didn’t mean I was having any inappropriate thoughts, except toward Sean, of course, which brings me to what I wanted to ask you—can you teach me how to do that?”
I’m about to chew a hole right through my cheek. Riley is a trip when he’s sober; this tipsy version is even more entertaining. That he would find Dane beautiful in bondage only proves the man has a working set of eyeballs. How could I fault him for that?
“If your partner is willing . . .” Dane and I both glance at Sean, who has turned a bright shade of pink but stays quiet, “you two could come out to the house one night, and we could truss him up together in my dungeon.”
“You hear that, baby?” Riley says, giving Sean a giant poke in the belly. “Marcus says we can come to the dungeon, and he’ll help me string you up!”
Sean covers his face with one hand and lets out a moan. Dane can’t help chuckling, but he wraps a supportive arm around his friend.
“Marcus,” Dane starts, then pauses to smile and shrug when all three of us gape at him in astonishment, “maybe you can teach Riley how to wrap Sean like you did to me last night.”
Sean doesn’t seem to know what to make of this idea, but Riley pulls out his best puppy dog eyes. “That sounds promising.”
“I don’t know, Dane. I’m not convinced Riley has the patience for shibari.”
Sean’s head pops up. “Patience? Um . . . that would be a no.”
“Not true, babe. Remember that night I licked every inch of you starting with your toes? That’s a lot of inches. Remember how long that took?”
Dane is full-on laughing now, and poor Sean is the color of Dane’s drink. “Could someone please shoot me now? Or shoot Riley? Or both of us?” Groan.
“Okay, gentlemen,” Bella calls out. “Dinner is served.”
Yes, we're winding down. I have a million more scenarios in my head for these two, but I suppose they'll have to live some of them out away from prying eyes and bloggers. As always, you're free to use your own imagination! XXX