“Great show tonight, Dane.”
“Yep, you too, Jeannie. See you tomorrow.” My first step outside the theater door lands me smack dab into the arms of Master. “Well, hello there. I was just about to check my phone.”
“Yes, I know.”
Master has been branching out and experimenting with meeting me in places other than the stage door. There’s a different thrill that comes from finding him in a crowded bar or searching for him among the restaurant tables. We’ve both enjoyed the chase. Lately, he’s been texting my instructions to me after the show, so seeing him here is a bit of a surprise.
“Is everything okay, Master?”
“Everything is fine. Let’s walk and talk; I’m sure you’re starved.”
“I could eat a horse.”
“Choose your poison, Dane, but we need a bit of privacy.”
Privacy. Code word for “You’re gonna spew.” Wonderful.
“O’Dooley’s shouldn’t be too crowded on a Wednesday. Is that okay?”
“Sure.” We join hands and head toward 49th Street. “Not to make you anxious, but Eleazar answered our earlier email, and I felt it would be better if I was with you when you read it.”
I stop dead in my tracks. “Everyone’s okay, right?”
“Yes, yes. Nothing to worry about. We just have an interesting conversation ahead of us.”
“Master, you have me most curious.”
“Curious is good, Dane. It’s alllll good.” He seems to be trying to convince himself more than me.
Luckily, we have no trouble finding a quiet booth at the pub. Master waits relatively patiently while I order, but that’s the end of his rope.
“Okay, I want you to read Eleazar’s email.”
“Yes . . . well, after I preface it by reminding you we don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right to both of us.”
It sounds to me as if whatever Eleazar has proposed, Master is leaning toward yes. This is about helping that boy, but that isn’t the source of the tickle rising from deep inside my groin. Something new and potentially dangerous is brewing here.
Keep your eye on the ball, Dane. I know better than to say anything before I know all the facts. I pull out my phone and lay it on the table between us. “May I?”
“Yes, of course.”
My pulse races as I find and open the message from Eleazar. I try to fix my expression, but Master can read me no matter how hard I try. It won’t matter anyway; I’d never hide my feelings from him.
From: Eleazar Wheeler
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2013 8:44 PM
To: Marcus Andrews; Dane Carmichael
Subject: Re: Workshop Follow-up
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2013 8:44 PM
To: Marcus Andrews; Dane Carmichael
Subject: Re: Workshop Follow-up
Excellent news about the workshops. We might even attract some men who were not comfortable doing the joint session. We can discuss content and dates in a separate email.
As for your offer regarding Tyler, yes, you are correct in your assumption, and yes, I gratefully accept your help. He’s been a very difficult case, and I believe the two of you could provide exactly what he needs right now. I’m not comfortable sharing more until I speak directly with him, so please allow me to talk with him at our upcoming appointment at 9 a.m. on Friday to see what I can broker.
In the meantime, I’d be most appreciative if the two of you would consider what may be an outlandish suggestion, especially on the heels of the highly inappropriate comments Cal made yesterday, which you handled with admirable grace, by the way. As I’ve qualified my comments with you before, Marcus, please forgive me if this oversteps in any way, but I can’t bring this up as a possibility to Tyler if there’s no chance you’ll agree, so I need to clear it with the two of you first.
I believe Tyler could greatly benefit by being included in one or more of your scenes, even if he’s just there as an observer. I know Marcus has done this kind of work in the past, and I understand this is no longer the case. As always, Dane’s emotional health is at the forefront of my thoughts, so please know I absolutely respect your decision either way. If you need more time with the question, that can certainly be arranged as well.
If this kind of solution is not what you were proposing, I am happy to discuss other less intrusive methods—i.e., coffee with Dane, connecting online, etc.
Please advise and know that my request comes only in response to your offer and only because I hold you both in the very highest regard.
Eleazar Wheeler, LMSW
Sexual Health Specialist
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center
208 W 13 St
New York, NY 10011
Oh, God. I lift my fingers off the screen as if touching hot coals.
Master reaches across and grabs my hands. “Hey, look at me. Breathe. Good.”
This is exactly what I asked for in a roundabout way. Maybe I hadn’t expected everything to change so quickly.
“Dane, you’ve leapt tall buildings in a single bound. Come back to me, please.”
I meet Master’s eyes across the booth. Warm, loving, protective, safe. He reminds me of the ground rules. “Let’s start with this: absolutely nothing has to happen.”
“Yeah.” I push out a deep breath. I know for a fact this conversation will end at my say-so. That helps. “Just give me a second, okay?”
“Of course. Dane, we don’t even have to talk now if you’re not ready. I just didn’t want you to be alone when you opened the message.”
“I appreciate that.” And I’m trying really fucking hard not to need to breathe into a paper bag right now, reminding myself that this isn’t my Master’s needing someone else because I’m not enough. This really isn’t about us at all; it’s about how we can help someone in dire need.
I squeeze Master’s hands. “I want to help that boy. Tyler.” Putting a name to the face makes the impulse to help even stronger.
“I know, Dane. I do, too.”
The waitress picks that moment to arrive with my swordfish, and we both do our best to shoo her away as quickly as we can. I’m reluctant to let go of Master's hands, but I'm starved.
“Since you’ve already had a little time to think about this, would you be willing to share your thoughts while I eat?”
“Of course, Dane.” He releases my hands. “I want you to know that my mind is wide open, as I told that boy Cal yesterday. What works for you works for me, and the converse is true.”
The waitress returns to check on my dinner. “You know what? I’d like to have a glass of pinot noir. Would you like to join me?” I ask my master.
“I’ll be right back with those,” the waitress says before scurrying off.
Slow down. The swordfish melts on my tongue. “I’m still listening.”
Master folds his arms on the table and smiles at me. “Dane, I love you more than . . . well, screw the search for the original hyperbole. I love you more than my feeble mind ever could have imagined. I am deliriously happy with you. I’m not looking for anyone or anything else to fulfill me. You do that in spades. If we were stranded on a desert island for the next forty years, I would never be bored or want for anything. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Yes. I feel the same way.”
“Good. Since the day I committed to stop taking on other submissives, I have never once regretted my decision. You are the extent of every fantasy I have. I’m not even attracted to other men anymore. I do not yearn for something new or different. You are everything I need and want, and frankly, you’re more than I can handle.”
We share a chuckle. “Likewise, I’m sure, Master.”
The wine arrives, and eyeing each other, we both drink more than a standard sip. I set down my glass and tuck into the mashed potatoes while Master resumes his monologue.
“You and I have talked about inviting other people into our scenes. It’s been a hard limit for both of us. What we’re talking about here is a radical departure from our current agreement—an agreement I think it’s fair to say suits both of us pretty damn perfectly.”
He pauses, and I answer his unvoiced question with a nod. Yes, perfect is the exact word I would use.
“So I asked myself, Why do this? Why risk everything for a total stranger?”
I find myself wishing for a satisfactory answer to the question. I’m rooting for this, I realize. “And how did you respond?”
“Two points. First, I don’t see it as a great risk. We’d have to be extremely vigilant with the boy, of course, but if what we try isn’t working, we modify. If that means a minor tweak, fine. If it means shifting gears, we’ll do it. I trust myself to know what you need and keep you safe, even if you can’t articulate it. I’ve managed multiple subs in scene, and I’m not concerned about caring for both of you at once.”
Yes, he’s always at least two steps ahead of me—case in point, this morning. “And the second point?”
“Well, Dane, here’s where it gets heavy.” Master sets his gaze on me in that way he has of measuring what he thinks I can hear.
“Give it to me.”
He smiles, flipping his hands open on the table. “We can help that boy, Dane. With your bond already initiated and my expertise from the dominant side, we can help him heal in a way no one else can right now.”
And just like that, my decision is made.
“We have to do this.”
Master acknowledges my comment with a nod. “Do you remember that night at Two Boots when you learned I had another submissive to work in my dungeon?”
“Yes, of course.” I’d felt betrayed, cheated on, deceived . . . devastated.
“We have to make sure you won’t end up there again.”
“Dane, that’s a knee-jerk reaction. Bravado isn’t a safeguard for your feelings.”
I drink some wine; he drinks some wine. “You’re right. So we need to figure that out.”
“Yes.” Master takes another long drag on his wine goblet. “And we need to make sure that I don’t get jealous of you and Tyler.”
Holy shit! “Umm, what?”
Master shakes his head and laughs. “Wow. That really hadn’t occurred to you?”
“I can’t say it did.”
“Aside from the obvious fact that you’re both young and gorgeous whereas I am . . .”—I give him my don’t-give-me-the-old-guy-routine stink eye—“experienced, there’s another powerful force at work here.”
I stab at one of the Brussels sprouts. “And what might that be?”
“Well, Dane, you might find yourself in the heady role of both being submissive and having your own submissive in the same scene.”
“Ohhhh, Master, I don’t think I—”
“Sweetheart,” he says, reaching across the table to cover my hand, “you’re going to have to trust me on this one. If we do this properly, Tyler is likely to form a much more powerful bond with you; in fact, I believe that’s already begun. And what we set into motion, we are going to need to very carefully see through to its logical conclusion.”
“Master, are you saying this is going to be a permanent arrangement?” I didn’t sign up for this. I set down my fork and reach for the wine.
“No, I don’t see that happening at all, especially if that’s not what either of us wants. I don’t know if this is one scene or three or thirty. A lot will depend on him and you, and frankly, how quickly I can identify another dom to step in and take him on.”
This is all moving way too quickly. I switch to water, guzzling nearly the entire glass before setting it down again.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
“Honestly, I’m not sure.”
Master takes my hand again, weaving his fingers between mine as we both let the wine do its work. A smile slowly spreads across his face.
“What’s that for?”
He shrugs. “I think I might’ve been a little put out if you jumped at this without any reservations.”
“Oh, I have plenty of reservations, don’t worry.”
“Dane, I love you with all my heart.”
“This is a tough one, but I’m not scared.”
“Master . . . what if everything goes really well? What if we decide we want to keep him?”
“That’s not really the worry, is it, Dane?”
I suppose we better be good and honest with each other. “I guess not.”
He wiggles our joined hands to get my attention. “I’ve had hundreds of men—and dozens of women—in my dungeon, Dane. Would you like to venture a guess how many I’ve fallen deeply and madly in love with?”
There’s a certain elephant in the room, one we usually choose to ignore, but this deliberation has no space for unspoken concerns. “Two?”
Master falls back, his forehead a trail map of surprise until my meaning clicks in. “You’re counting Edward?”
“Actually, no, I wouldn’t. I didn’t. Hell, Dane, I didn’t even know who you were talking about at first.”
“Are you angry with me?”
“No, of course not.” He gives his head a rather miserable shake. “I’m angry with myself. And I’m deeply sorry if I led you to believe that my feelings for him ever came close to the way I feel about you. That’s my bad.”
I don’t think Master’s finished his archaeological dig. I hold my tongue and wait while his gaze drifts. He seems to be looking for something he doesn’t really want to find, a man who suspects his lover of murder and goes looking for the bloody knife. He turns guileless eyes back to me and shrugs.
“Just you, Dane.”
“Yeah, phew. I’m more worried about you.”
“Me? Why would I fall in love with another sub?”
He rolls his eyes at me something fierce. “Oh, I don’t know, Dane. Did your heart fill out a checklist this week?”
“It didn’t have to. I already know all the answers. Master, Master, Master, Master.”
“Okay, okay,” he chuffs. “This is complicated.”
“Let’s marinate for a day and see how we feel tomorrow night. We can let Eleazar know then.”
“In the meantime, your Master is going to remind you exactly how much you love serving him.”
“That sounds pretty excellent right now.”
Well? What do you think? Should we worry?