At two o’clock, Master sends me to his shower with instructions for a close trim but nothing more. He lays out my clothing for me—a pair of dark but transparent, footless dance leggings with a white ribbed tank and my dog tags. Master’s general plan for today, as he’s shared it with me, involves Tyler mainly as an observer. Master will gauge our compatibility and “go from there,” a phrase that has me more than a little wound up.
At 2:25, I emerge from the bedroom to find Master in the living room, dressed in black from tight T-shirt to laced-up boots, unambiguously masterful, and if I had to guess, not planning to undress—though access is only a quick zip away. His attention is focused out the window while an open book sits abandoned in his lap.
“May I join you, Master?”
Master glances up and smiles. “Of course. You look perfect.”
My cock stirs to life at his compliment. “Thank you, Master.” With hands crossed behind my back, I step into the space between his legs, turn my back to Master, and sink to my knees.
He tosses the book aside and rakes his fingertips through my hair. I could sit like this for hours and be perfectly content. I was surely a cat in a former life.
“How do you feel, Dane?”
He chuckles. “Yes, I noticed that.” And so will Tyler.
“Have you . . . sorry, Master, never mind.”
Master’s fingers freeze. “Dane? You can ask.”
A blush heats my cheeks, and I’m relieved they’re pointed away from Master’s view. “I was wondering if you told Tyler to wear something specific.”
His hands move to my neck; he draws deep circles with his thumbs. Heaven. “I told him to wear whatever he wanted but to be prepared to take it off.”
I swallow the lump in my throat. I wonder if Tyler is shitting bricks, too. I’ll find out soon, I guess. In fact, it should be any minute now, and Master reveals he’s thinking the same with a subtle tip of his left wrist to check his watch. From the sigh that follows, I gather Tyler is running out of time. Shit. Tyler has to know better than to show up late.
“Is he driving himself here?”
“Yes. I offered a car but he refused.” Master’s voice has an edge.
We sit in silence for at least another ten minutes. Master’s massage is no longer relaxing either of us. He sighs—loudly. Minutes tick by.
At long last, a car turns into the driveway. Master’s hands still on my shoulders, and he gives them a squeeze. “Stay here while I greet him, please.”
“Of course.” My stomach twists as Master climbs out from behind me and walks briskly to the front door.
The bell rings, and I pull in and hold a deep breath. Master opens the door, steps outside, and closes the door behind him. Whatever he’s saying, he doesn’t want to say in front of me. The door opens again, and I fight not to crane my neck while Master ushers our guest into his office.
Master appears again in front of the coffee table. “Please, join us.” I follow Master across the foyer and get my second glimpse of Tyler. Standing across from Master’s desk with his gaze angled to the floor, he’d be taller than me if he stood up straight, but I have a feeling he rarely does.
Before I have a chance to greet him, Tyler speaks. “I apologize for my disrespect, Dane. Please forgive me for being late.”
I shoot Master a troubled look, and he returns my concern with a nod.
“Of course. No worries . . . and welcome,” I add.
Master places his hand at the small of my back and guides me around to a spot next to his chair. He sits and offers Tyler a seat. I stand like a sentry at Master’s side, hands clasped behind my back.
“Tyler and I have already reviewed his checklist, so at this point, I’d just like to go over a few formalities before we get started. Dane, you and I will operate under our standard protocol, except today we will use the stoplight system for safe words, as will Tyler. Red shuts down the scene; yellow is a warning you’re reaching a hard limit, and green is all systems go. Are we all clear?”
“Good. Dane and Tyler, you can refer to each other by first name. You both already know what to call me, I see.” Master smirks, and I admit it’s a bit of a relief. “I want to remind both of you this is meant to be fun and feel good. Does either of you have any questions?”
“No, sir,” Tyler answers.
Master turns to me. I have, oh, fifty questions or more, but he already knows that. “I’m good, Master.”
He studies me briefly, steely-blue eyes glinting with understanding. “That you are.” Master rises from his chair. “Dane, lead Tyler down to the sub room, please. You’re welcome to use the facilities, but there’s nothing I require. Remove your shirts and wait for me on your knees. Dane, I’ll collar you before we start.”
I lead Tyler into the anteroom I’ve never shared with anyone. He runs his hand along the bedspread before sitting down and testing the springs with a bounce. “Remember that awful cot Master Wayne had?”
“Yes.” And it’s the last thing I want to think about right now.
“This isn’t bad. Is this where you sleep?”
“No, I sleep with Master.”
“In his bedroom?”
The wistful quality in his voice makes my heart hurt. What I wouldn’t have given for Wayne to bring me into his bed or show any true affection for me.
“We should get ready.”
I remove my dog tags and hang the necklace reverently on the hook on the back of the door. Tyler mirrors my movements as I pull off my shirt, fold it neatly, and place it inside one of the cubbies. His chest is gaunt, almost to the point of being inverted, lending his body the silhouette of a vertically stretched question mark. His baggy gray sweatpants only exaggerate his skeletal appearance. Raised welts lick around from his back, marks that won’t ever fully disappear.
Tyler catches me staring, but he’s checking me out too. I want to ask if he’s scened with other subs, but that feels like a checklist question. Master didn’t send us down here for a tea party—we’re supposed to be preparing ourselves for him.
“Do you need the bathroom?”
“No,” he says, “but thanks for asking, Mom.” A tiny grin breaks some of the tension between us.
“C’mon, you don’t want to keep Master waiting again.” I kneel into my submissive pose and glance over at Tyler to make sure he’s doing it right. Is this how it’s supposed to be? Am I supposed to feel responsible for him?
Tyler shrugs. “He wasn’t as angry as I expected. Master Wayne would’ve beat the shit out of me on the spot.”
The skin prickles at the base of my neck. Was Tyler intentionally trying to provoke Master into a beating? “Master does what he needs to do.”
“I guess I’ll find out what that means soon enough.”
Ah, so that’s what they were talking about outside, then. “I’m sure Master will deal with you fairly.” I drop my gaze to the floor again, but I feel Tyler watching me.
“He doesn’t hit you, does he?” Tyler’s tone rankles me more than it should. Is that derision in his voice? He was the sub I couldn’t be for Wayne, the boy who could take his lash, maybe even desired it. Does he see me as less?
The old feelings of inadequacy creep into my bones and threaten my calm. Part of me wants to leave this conversation to Master, but then I get it. I am participating in this scene for a reason, and here it is. Today isn’t about my demons; this moment is about helping Tyler understand how a good dom operates.
“Master would never hit me out of anger.”
“What about when he needs to punish you?”
Oh, how much to share? Discipline is scarce and extremely subtle in our relationship, but I doubt Tyler could comprehend such a radical shift from his reality at this point. “Master finds more creative ways of making his point.”
Tyler chuffs. “Right, there’s always humiliation and rejection. I’ll take the whip, thank you very much.”
The human mind is a tricky machine. Memories I’d supposedly rewritten in the course of the last four months gasp to the surface like men buried alive—long hours stretched over Wayne’s cross without so much as a check-in; name-calling and body shaming; and worst of all, the threat, eventually realized, of being kicked to the curb for a sub “who could take it.” We don’t have time for this conversation now.
“Let’s finish this later, okay? Master will open that door any second now, and I have some work to do on my headspace.”
Tyler quiets, and I close my eyes to focus on my priority—serving my true Master. When Master opens the door to the dungeon, he will assume the responsibility for both Tyler and me, and my only job will be to follow his commands. Once again, I am awed by how much Master carries on his shoulders.The door swings open. I lift my eyes to the man in black. For a split second, I see Master without the kaleidoscope of our shared history as a lens. Viewing him through Tyler’s eyes, I see a man towering over us, a stranger with a giant reputation, someone we desperately want to trust—someone who could break us all over again.