Claudia appeared giddy, and after hugging Livvie, she tossed herself at me.
“Happy birthday!” She planted a kiss on each of my cheeks. I begrudgingly returned the embrace and the kisses. Claudia is a good friend, and though I hate to admit it, I’d do most anything for her and Rubio.
Rubio shook my hand and wished me a happy birthday. He was wearing a pink shirt with grey pinstripes beneath a dark grey sweater and black slacks. It wasn’t bad actually—for a moment he had me contemplating pink. Then I realized the shade matched the summer dress Claudia was wearing and I scrapped the idea. Livvie and I will never wear matching outfits. No!
“There is a fair in town. Claudia and I are going after dinner. You’re welcome to come with us if you don’t have other plans,” Rubio said on the way to our table.
I looked ahead at Livvie, who was busy gabbing with Claudia about beating me at go-kart racing. She conveniently didn’t supply the results of our shooting spree or mini-golf tournament. I smirked.
“We’ll probably head home after dinner. I have one last gift waiting for me and I’m eager to open it.”
“I… yeah, ok.” I nudged him with my shoulder and we laughed.
We ordered appetizers and salad since no one was particularly hungry. The restaurant was quaint and quiet. Most likely it was owned and operated by a single family. The food tasted homemade and was delicious. I almost wished I hadn’t eaten so much pizza earlier, but it was difficult to regret any part of the day I’d had.
“Is it time for gifts? I’m so excited!” Claudia clapped her hands.
“I had to buy her that dress earlier. She always wants a present when someone else is getting one.” Rubio laughed and kissed Claudia’s bare shoulder. She didn’t have the decency to look embarrassed and I found myself enjoying that aspect of her personality the best. With Claudia, what you saw was the truth. It’s more than I could say about most.
“Do you want to open presents?” Livvie asked. She wriggled her eyebrows at me.
“I suppose.” I feigned disinterest.
Claudia shoved her gift toward me first. It was a slender box and weighed practically nothing, but Claudia was nearly bursting with held laughter and excitement. I was instantly suspicious. Especially when she said to Livvie, “You have to make him wear it.”
I tore away the paper and lifted the lid off of the box. I stared and stared and stared some more.
“What the hell is this?” I laughed. I shook the box and two plastic eyes wiggled around.
“Take it out,” Livvie suggested. She had her hand over her mouth to hide her grin.
I obliged the group and regretted it. I had to smile though. It was funny and just the right touch of embarrassing. It was underwear.
“I assume I’m supposed to put my um… in the trunk of the elephant? Very clever. Rubio, do you also have a pair?” I tossed them onto his lap and he picked them up between thumb and forefinger. He slung them back at me.
“Sorry, friend. I don’t do animal prints.” We all laughed.
I received a new video game featuring the Mario Brothers from Rubio. I didn’t know much about the game at the time, but let me assure you that many a day has been spent acquainting myself with the famous plumbers since.
“I’ll be right back,” Livvie said as she stood. “Claudia has my present for you. Open it.” She kissed me and walked away before I could ask where she was going.
The box from Livvie was large and I ripped into it. I laughed hard when I saw the contents. Claudia was out of her seat and hovering over my shoulder. Rubio stayed in his seat but was trying to peer into the box. There was a piece of paper that read: Sexy’s Kung-fu Boo-Boo Kit. Inside were rolls of bandages, band-aids, butterfly stiches, a bottle of peroxide, bath salts, a hand-made massage coupon entitling me to a “full body rub down (with happy ending)”, and hand wraps “specifically designed for boxers.”
I still had a smile on that could crack my face when the singing started. I looked up from my box and Livvie was walking toward me. The restaurant staff was carrying an entire tray of cupcakes with candles in them. They sang:
Happy birthday to you.
Happy birthday to you.
Happy birthday dear, James.
Happy birthday to you.
I stood up and reached for Livvie. She kissed me and whispered in my ear.
“One cupcake for every birthday, my love, and one more for good luck.”
I couldn’t stop staring at her as she pulled away. I love you, I wanted to say, but my throat felt closed and I was afraid of what would come out. There were tears in her eyes, and if I’d been a weaker man, there would have been tears in mine.
“What are you waiting for, the building to burn down?” Claudia chided. “Blow them out!”
I smiled, though I felt on the verge of falling apart. I kissed Livvie on her forehead and let my lips linger long enough for her to feel the depth of my appreciation. Then, for the first time I could remember, I blew out my birthday candles.
“Tell me how you feel.” I ran the leather tongue of the riding crop along Livvie’s outstretched arm. I watched as she shivered. The tiny hairs on her arm stood on end.
Livvie opened her mouth to speak, stopped, swallowed, and then replied.
“Excited,” she said. She shivered again and the leather straps that held her in place on the cross creaked. There wouldn’t be any kicking or flailing to interrupt me this time.
“Was that your first thought? I don’t think it was.” I continued down her arm and over her shoulder. I knew she liked it when I kissed her down her spine. I let the crop caress her where my lips typically would.
We hadn’t done this before, not as lovers. I had my doubts about doing it at all, but she insisted. Her book was nearly finished. She’d been working on it more aggressively in the weeks leading up to her request. Between Livvie’s writing, work, and school schedule, I’d hardly spent any time with her since my birthday. She needed this, she said. She needed to remember how it felt. She needed to recreate it.
I didn’t want her to remember. I didn’t want to remember. Yet, there I was, crop in hand. It was a pull too compelling to resist. I wouldn’t use the belt. I wouldn’t leave the marks I’d left the first time. If Livvie could re-imagine the events of our past, I could too. I could give her pain and pleasure. I could finally let the fading ghost of our past die and rest in peace. It was time for us to go on living.
I tapped her gently on her flank. She jumped.
“I asked you a question. Was excited your first response?”
“No,” she whispered. “I’m… I’m afraid.”
Yes, she was afraid. I’d learned her fear very well. In fact, I consider myself a connoisseur of fear. I know there are as many varieties of fear as there are colors in a rainbow. Livvie was afraid, but it was a brand of fear I very much enjoyed.
“Fear is part of it.” I slapped at her inner thighs gently. I liked the sound it made. “You’re defenseless. You’re vulnerable. You’re completely at my mercy.” I stood behind her, unmoving, and I smelled her fear. True to her word, there was excitement as well. I leaned in and kissed the shell of her ear. “You. Are. Mine. Say it for me.”
She sagged in her bonds. Her head fell on my shoulder and she nuzzled against me.
“I’m yours, Caleb.” I was always Caleb while she was vulnerable. My name on her tongue reminded me of slipping into a worn pair of shoes. I’d been called Caleb most of my life, and were it not for Livvie, the name would be lost to me. Caleb had done horrible things—he’d been a monster—but he’d also allowed James to survive. Caleb deserved to live. I could be both men. I am both men.
I stepped back and took in the sight in front of me piece by piece. Her long mane of ebony hair cascaded down her slender back. I couldn’t wait to hold it as I fucked her. I’d put her in red satin. Every miniscule movement caused the red fabric to shift and offer a different tantalizing bit of skin. The panties were scant. The meaty flesh of her backside appeared plumper by way of the cut. With her legs spread open on the X-shaped cross, I could catch glimpses of her pussy when she tried to adjust. Thick black straps made of leather held her in place at wrists and ankles.
My heart raced at the thought of whipping her. There was the hum of guilt living within me, but my baser urges banged like a drum in my veins. She was mine. She’d given herself to me, and I would take possession of her as surely as she had taken possession of my battered soul. The void in me had been filled by her love and forgiveness. All that she asked was that I give her all I had in me to give: my heart, my soul, my love, my secrets, my loyalty, and my whip hand.
I took her quickly and unaware across the bottom of her ass. Livvie’s scream rent the air. James flinched at the sound, but Caleb’s blood sang. I am both men.
Livvie’s scream died just as suddenly as it had been born. Her lips were pressed together. Her hands were fisted above the leather straps holding her in place. A red stripe decorated her hindquarters.
“Tell me how you feel,” I grated. I ran a hand along her quivering backside. I could already feel the welt.
“I…”Livvie croaked. “I don’t know.”
“Do you want me to continue?” I already knew the answer. I wanted her to know it too.
“Yes, Caleb.” There was confidence in her voice.
“Anything for you, Pet.” I did show mercy. I caressed her behind with my hand until I felt her muscles relax into my touch. “Let’s start with more familiar ground.” I raised my hand and slammed it forward. I hit one cheek first and then the other in rapid succession. I wanted her nice and warm before I used the crop again.
If Livvie could have moved, she’d have been up on her toes. I’d spanked her harder and not encountered quite so much movement, but it was my belief that restraints often invited slaves to thrash to their hearts’ content. I had to remind myself Livvie had only ever played at the part of slave. She was mine of her own free will.
I stayed my hand from continuing to spank Livvie, but I did not keep it idle. Within seconds, my heated fingers wormed their way beneath the scrap of satin only just concealing her pussy. Her hips pushed back to meet me before she had a thought in her head. I liked that.
“Is that better, Pet? Did you like the spanking?”
She rocked her hips as much as she was able and tried to seat my fingers inside her.
“Yes, Caleb. Please, don’t stop.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” I pushed two fingers inside as far as they would go. I worked them back and forth quickly, delivering both jolts of pleasure and surprise. My dick jerked as Livvie’s unabashed and lascivious yelp met my ears. I watched her hips move back and forth as she found her own pleasure. My sadistic appetite was slowly fed as, little by little, I withdrew my fingers and Livvie’s hips gave chase to catch them. Back, back, back, she canted her hips as much as she was able. I hadn’t given her much slack. She wouldn’t have liked it if I had.
“More, Caleb. Please?” she whined. She treated me to the sight of her wiggling her bottom.
I spanked her once.
“Don’t try to entice me. I’m not near finished with you. You wanted a whipping and I’m determined to give you one.”
There was a sulky whimper preceding her murmured, “Yes, Caleb.” She huffed and rearranged herself in her restraints.
“Always with the saucy mouth, Kitten. Whether you’re using it to spout invective comments or simply petulant sounds, you’re always pushing me toward this—toward punishing you. I always wondered—before—if you craved me like this. Did you?” I lifted the crop and let it land on her ass again. Livvie lurched in her bonds, her lips pressed tightly together so that not even her surprise could break free.
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