Page 26

Author: Tara Sue Me


He sighed—a warrior’s defeat at the end of a long-fought battle. Then he framed my face with both hands and kissed me again. Even longer. His tongue lightly traced my lips, and when I opened my mouth, he entered slowly, as if memorizing the feel, the very taste of me. I could have wept with the sweetness of it all.


I ran my fingers through his hair, pulling him to me, not ever wanting to let go. He groaned and our tongues swept over each other’s as the kiss deepened.


He broke away and stood to step out of his pants, looking deep in my eyes the entire time.


“Love me, Nathaniel,” I said, holding my arms open to him.


“I always have, Abby,” he said as he gently gathered me to him. “I always have.”


Then he lowered me to the bed and his lips were on mine again for another long, slow, open-mouthed kiss. And kissing Nathaniel was so much better than fantasizing about it. His lips were smooth and strong, and his tongue stroked mine with a passion and yearning that curled my toes.


And we weren’t dom and sub, we weren’t master and servant, we weren’t even man and woman. We were lovers, and when he finally entered me, it was sweet and slow and tender.


And I’m not sure, but I think, somehow, in the seconds before he released into me, I felt a tear fall from his eyes.


CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE


That was the first night I slept in Nathaniel’s arms. Because the bed was small, he kept me on top of him with his arms around me, my head on his chest. We could have slept anywhere and I wouldn’t have cared. His arms were the heaven I never wanted to leave.


I woke alone the next day, but wasn’t too surprised. Nathaniel never slept much, from what I’d seen. Still, it was a bit disappointing. The perfect ending to the night would have been waking up in his arms in the morning.


I jumped out of bed and threw some clothes on. Today we’d discuss how this would change our relationship. How to weave together the Dom Nathaniel and the Weekday Nathaniel. I was certain we could make it work.


I peeked into his bedroom, but it was empty. No one in the library, not even a fire. No sounds from the gym. I walked into the kitchen. The coffee was on, but no Nathaniel. At least he had been in there recently.


Whose turn was it to cook breakfast? I’d had dinner duty last night, but we never made it back downstairs for dinner. My mind wandered back to Nathaniel…the way his mouth fit mine…


Focus, Rational Abby shouted at me.


Right. Breakfast.


I decided it would only be fair if I cooked breakfast. After all, I had skipped my turn. Maybe after breakfast, we could go outside. Have a snowball fight. Quote more Shakespeare.


Kiss.


Where was he?


I stuck my head into the dining room and my jaw dropped.


There he was—reading a newspaper, for crying out loud.


What should I call him? ‘Nathaniel’ seemed too casual for the dining room.


“Hello,” I said, instead.


That was better. Don’t call him anything.


“There you are,” he said, looking up. He wasn’t smiling. Why wasn’t he smiling? “I was just thinking that you should be able to make it home today.”


“What?”


He sat his paper down. “The roads are clear. You shouldn’t have any trouble getting to your apartment.”


I was confused. I didn’t know how to properly address him. How to talk with him. Everything was so upside down. And why was he talking about going home? How could he think such things after the night before?


“But why would I go home? I’ll just be back tomorrow night.”


“About that,” he said, looking at me with veiled eyes, “I’ll be at the office most of the weekend, digging out from this storm. It would probably be best if you didn’t come over this weekend.”


Not come over? What?


“You have to come home at some point,” I said.


“Not for any length of time…Abigail.”


Abigail.


My heart sank. Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong.


“Why did you call me that?” I whispered.


“I always call you Abigail.” He sat completely still. I wasn’t sure he was moving. Maybe he wasn’t breathing.


“Last night you called me Abby.”


He blinked. That was the only move he made. “It was the scene.”


What the hell was he talking about? The scene? “What do you mean?”


“We switched. You wanted me to call you Abby.”


“We didn’t switch,” I said as realization sank in. He was pretending it didn’t mean anything. That last night was some sort of scene where he was the submissive.


“We did. It was what you wanted when you came into the library with the candy.”


Damn, I couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t figure out what he was doing.


“That was my original intention,” I said. “But then you kissed me. You called me Abby.” I looked deep into his eyes, desperately searching for the man I loved. “You slept in my bed. All night.”


His hands slipped off the table and he took a deep breath. “And I have never invited you to sleep in mine.”


Oh, no.


Oh, please God, no.


Tears prickled my eyes. This couldn’t be happening. I shook my head. “Fuck it. Don’t do this.”


“Watch your language.”


“Don’t f**king tell me to watch my language when you’re sitting there trying to pretend last night didn’t mean anything.” I clenched my fist. “Just because the dynamic changed doesn’t make what happened bad. So we admitted a few things, so what? We move on. It’ll make us better together.”


“Have I ever lied to you, Abigail?”


There he went with the Abigail again. Damn it. I wiped my nose. “No.”


“Then what makes you think I’m lying now?”


“Because you’re scared. You love me and it’s scaring you. But you know what? It’s okay. I’m a little scared too.”


“I’m not scared. I’m a cold-hearted bastard.” His head tilted. “I thought you knew that.”


He wasn’t going to back down. The wall was up. With reinforcements. We were right back to square one.


He sat, stiff as a board, with his hands in his lap and a discarded newspaper by his side. Watching me with eyes that offered no hope.


I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.


You had to have limits.


I’d told myself that once before. You had to know what your limits were. When to say, enough or I’m finished.


I thought through my options. If he was lying, he was doing an excellent job. If he was telling the truth, I couldn’t bear it. So I thought through my options again and for the first time ever, everyone was in agreement: Bad Abby and Good Abby, Rational Abby and Crazy Abby.


You had to have limits.


I’d hit mine.


I opened my eyes. Nathaniel waited.


I reached behind my neck, unlatched my collar, and placed it on the table.


“Turpentine.”


CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO


Nathaniel stared at the collar, but I noticed he didn’t look at all surprised.


“Very well, Abigail. If that’s what you want.” He could have been reciting numbers from the phone book. That was how dead he sounded.


“Yes,” I said, my nails biting into my palms. “If you’re going to pretend last night was nothing but a damn scene, this is what I want.”


He nodded, a curt little movement of his head. “I know many dominants in the New York area. I would be more than happy to give you some names.” He looked at me with blank eyes. “Or I could give them yours.”


How dare he? I had noted on the application I sent that I was only interested in being Nathaniel’s sub. Nathaniel knew that. He knew that and he was bringing up other doms to hurt me.


In that moment, I understood that love and hate were opposite sides of the same coin. For as much as I loved Nathaniel ten minutes ago, I hated him now.


“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said tersely.


He still didn’t move. It was as if he was carved from ice.


“I’ll go get my things.” I left the dining room and went up the stairs to my room, where, mere hours ago, Nathaniel and I had made love so sweet that he’d cried.


He cried.


Last night, I thought he cried because of the feelings he had for me. Or perhaps the overwhelming emotions of his walls coming down. But what if he had cried because he knew what he would do hours later?


“Oh, Nathaniel,” I whispered as the possibility washed over me. “Why?”


Why would he do that? What would have caused him to do such a thing?


Later, Rational Abby said. Think about it later.


Right. Later.


I changed into my own clothes and picked up my purse and iPod. I left the alarm clock. Maybe Nathaniel’s next submissive would find it useful.


Nathaniel’s next submissive…


He would find someone else. Move on. Explore pleasure and pain with someone else. Be gentle and patient and caring with someone else.


Oh, please, no.


But he would.


Later! Crazy Abby screamed.


I stifled a sob. Crazy Abby was right. I’d deal with it later.


I stood in the doorway of the room and bid goodbye to the place where I’d spent the most amazing night of my life.


Then I moved down the hall. Past the closed door of Nathaniel’s playroom, where we hadn’t spent near enough time. I stopped briefly at the door to his bedroom.


His words echoed in the still hallway while I stared at his perfectly made bed. And I have never invited you to sleep in mine.


Yes, Nathaniel had learned my body well. Very well. And my mind at the same time. For there were no other words that would have cut deeper.


Apollo met me in the foyer with his tail wagging. I dropped to my knees and put my arms around him.


“Oh, Apollo,” I said, holding back tears once again. “You be a good boy.” I dug my fingers into his fur as he licked my face. “I’m going to miss you.”


I pulled back and looked in his eyes. Who knew? Maybe he could understand. “I can’t stay here anymore, so I won’t see you again. But you be good and…promise me you’ll take care of Nathaniel, okay?”


He licked my face one more time. Maybe in agreement. Maybe in farewell.


I stood and left.


Well, I told myself as I drove back to my apartment, at least the day couldn’t get any worse. There was something to be said for getting the bad stuff out of the way early. You had the rest of the day to try and make yourself feel better. Eat a few pints of ice-cream. Down a few bottles of cheap wine.


Except I had to face Felicia.


Except Jackson might come over.


Except I would replay the morning over and over in my head.


And the night before.


Later, Good Abby reminded me. Think about it later.


Yes, I needed to keep my eyes on the road. How horrible would it be to crash now? To wind up at the hospital and have to explain to Linda why the kitchen staff wouldn’t need to worry about Nathaniel this time.


I focused in front of me. The roads were safe, the road crews had done an excellent job in clearing them quickly. Only a few icy patches remained.


There you go. Focus on the road, on the pretty snowdrifts, on the way the sunlight bounces off the snow, on that car following you.


My eyes shot to the rear-view mirror. I hadn’t hit the highway yet, so traffic was light. And it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to meet other cars on this road.


Still.


I had a funny feeling…


I slowed down. So did the car behind me.


I tried to get a good look at the driver, but he was too far away. I couldn’t even tell what kind of car it was.


I sped up. So did the car behind me.


I signaled to merge on the highway. So did the car behind me.


Idiot, Rational Abby said. You think it’s Nathaniel? You think he’s following you? Grow up.

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