And then I thought about me.
That I’d fantasized about him for years. That I followed him by way of the local paper. Was it any worse than if I had put myself in places where I knew he’d be? Would I have done the same thing if the situation were reversed?
Hell and Yes.
And if you really thought about it, I was the one who took the first step, because I contacted Mr. Godwin.
I called Nathaniel on Tuesday night.
“Hello,” he said.
“Nathaniel. It’s me.”
“Abby,” he said, and his voice held a note of restrained excitement.
“There’s a sushi bar down the street from the library,” I said. “Will you meet me there for lunch tomorrow?”
I made it a point to arrive first. I found a seat by quarter to twelve and waited for him.
My heart skipped a beat when he walked into the restaurant. His eyes scanned the tables and he smiled when he saw me. And then, all gloriously male, six feet one inches of him walked straight to my table, completely ignorant of the female eyes following him.
This man, I thought. This man wanted me. Watched me. This one.
His eyes sparkled and I knew in that moment I’d forgiven him.
“Abby,” he said, sitting down, and I wondered if he said my name so often because he liked calling me Abby.
“Nathaniel.” I delighted in the way his name slipped so easily from my lips now.
We ordered lunch and made small talk. The weather was getting warmer. I told him we had a poetry reading scheduled for the library. He asked about Felicia.
“Before we talk about anything else,” he said, growing serious, “I need to tell you something.”
I wondered what else he could possibly say that hadn’t already been said. “Okay.”
“I need you to understand that I am in therapy to work on my intimacy issues and my emotional wellbeing. Not my sexual needs.”
I had a good idea where he was going.
“I am a dominant,” he said. “And I will always be a dominant. I cannot and will not give that part of me up. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy other…flavors. On the contrary, other flavors make for good variety.” He raised an eyebrow. “Does that make sense?”
“Yes,” I said and hastened to add, “I would never expect you to give up that part of yourself. It would be like denying who you are.”
“Just like I can’t deny my submissive nature.”
The waiter delivered our drinks and I took a long sip of my tea.
“I’ve always wondered,” Nathaniel said, “and you don’t have to tell me, but how did you find out about me in the first place?”
“Oh, please,” I waved my hand. “Everyone knows about Nathaniel West.”
“Maybe,” he said, not missing a beat. “But not everyone knows he shackles women to his bed and works them over with a riding crop.”
I choked on my tea.
His eyes danced. “You asked for it.”
I dabbed my mouth with a napkin, thankful I hadn’t spilled any tea on my shirt. “I did. Completely.”
“Will you answer?”
“I first took real notice of you when you saved my mother’s house. Until then you were only a man I read about in the society pages. A celebrity. But then you became more real.”
Our sushi was delivered to the table. Spicy, crunchy tuna and unagi rolls for me. A nigirizushi variety for him.
I poured soy sauce into a bowl and mixed in wasabi. “Your picture was in the paper for something not long after that, I can’t remember what for now.” I frowned. “Anyway, my friend Samantha stopped by while I was reading the paper. I made some comment about how nice you looked, and wondered what you were really like. She got all edgy and shifty.”
“An old friend. I haven’t talked to her in years.” I popped a roll in my mouth, chewed and swallowed it. “She went with her boyfriend to a party or a gathering or something, I’m not sure of the proper name, for dominants and submissives. They were dabblers.”
“Ah,” he said. “And I was there.”
“Yes, and she told me you were a dominant. She said she shouldn’t tell me and swore me to absolute secrecy, and I haven’t told anyone—well, except for Felicia, when I had to. But Samantha didn’t want me to get some romantic Prince Charming fantasy going with me as your Cinderella.”
“No, but I did fantasize about being shackled to your bed while you worked me over with a riding crop.”
It was his turn to choke on tea.
“You asked for it,” I said.
He laughed, drawing the attention of several tables. “I did. Completely.”
I waited until everyone’s attention returned to their own tables. “I didn’t do anything but fantasize for a long time.” I looked at my plate, not wanting to look at him. “Then I asked around. Several of Samantha’s friends still live in the area, so it didn’t take long to find Mr. Godwin. I held on to his name for months before I did anything. I eventually knew I had to call him, though—anything was better than…”
“Unfulfilled sex,” he finished.
“Or just plain unfulfilled in my case,” I said, finally looking at him. “I couldn’t have a normal relationship with a guy. I just…couldn’t.”
He smiled a knowing smile, like he knew exactly what I was talking about. “I believe there are varying degrees of normal, Abby. Who really gets to define what normal looks like anyway?”
“Frankly, I’ve done what’s normal in the eyes of everyone else and it’s boring as hell,” I said.
“Different flavors,” he said, watching me carefully. “And they can all be delicious when tasted with the right person. But yes, one’s natural tendencies do have a way of defining what one sees as normal.”
“You tried a so-called normal relationship once,” I said. “With Melanie.”
“Yes.” He took a bite. I watched as his jaw worked and he swallowed. “With Melanie. It was a miserable failure. We failed for several reasons—Melanie is not a natural submissive and I couldn’t repress my dominant nature.” He sighed. “But she didn’t want to admit we couldn’t work. I never understood that.”
“For what it’s worth, she seems to be over you now.”
“Thank God.” He smiled. Then he grew serious again and lowered his voice. “Are you?”
“No,” I whispered.
He reached across the table, across our plates, to take my hand. “Nor I, you.”
We stayed like that for several seconds, holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to earn your trust back, Abby, for however long it takes.” His thumb ran across my knuckles. “Will you let me?”
I wanted scream and jump into his arms, but I held back. “Yes,” I answered simply.
He squeezed my hand before letting go. “Thank you.”
The waiter came by to refresh our tea.
“Have you ever made sushi?” I asked Nathaniel, wanting to bring the conversation down to something lighter.
“No, I never have, but I’ve always wanted to learn.”
“We have classes,” the waiter said. “Next Thursday night. Seven o’clock.”
I looked at Nathaniel. Should we try to have a date? To act like a “normal” couple? To see each other without expectation? To let him begin to earn my trust again?
Nathaniel raised an eyebrow—he wanted me to decide.
“Let’s do it,” I said.
As we were leaving the restaurant, he turned to me. “Kyle’s in his school play. Opening night is Saturday and he asked me to attend. Will you come with me?”
Another date? Was I ready for this?
Yes, I was.
“I can pick you up at five—we could have dinner before the show?”
To be in the car with Nathaniel and to have him come by my apartment? It was a step in the right direction.
“Five it is.”
I was nervous on Saturday. Felicia stopped by before leaving for Jackson’s and I had never been happier to see her go. Her sly little smiles, the absolute smugness of her expression, were more than I could take. She was very pleased with herself, as if she had orchestrated the entire thing.
Nathaniel arrived right at five o’clock and we were off. I didn’t invite him into the apartment—I wasn’t ready yet.
Dinner was all I’d hoped it would be. Nathaniel was a complete gentleman and conversation flowed easily. I invited him to the poetry reading at the library and he accepted. We talked about Felicia and Jackson, Elaina and Todd, even Linda’s non-profit.
I thoroughly enjoyed the play. Kyle didn’t have a large part—he was in the chorus—but he put his whole heart into it. Every time he appeared onstage, Nathaniel’s face lit up. I wondered how it would feel to save a life the way he had. How Nathaniel felt knowing Kyle was onstage only because of his gift.
Nathaniel kept his distance from me all night, making sure our elbows didn’t touch while we watched the play, and that our arms didn’t accidentally brush as we walked. I knew he was doing his best to ensure I didn’t feel rushed and I appreciated his courtesy.
If there was a subtle undercurrent of electricity that still flowed between us, we both did a good job of ignoring it.
After the play, Nathaniel introduced me to Kyle and his parents. I suppressed a giggle at the worshipful eyes Kyle had for Nathaniel.
The only uncomfortable part of the evening came when Nathaniel walked me to my door.
“Thank you for inviting me,” I said. “I had a really nice time.” I wondered if he would try to kiss me.
“I was glad to have you with me. The evening wouldn’t have been the same without you.” He reached for my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I’ll see you Thursday night.” He looked as if he wanted to say something, but instead he smiled and turned, started to walk away.
No, he wasn’t going to kiss me.
Because he was letting me take the lead.
And I didn’t want him to leave just yet.
“Nathaniel,” I said. He turned and waited while I walked to him, his eyes dark and smoldering. I lifted a hand to his face and traced his cheekbone. I slipped my hand into his hair and pulled him toward me. “Kiss me,” I whispered. “Kiss me and mean it.”
“Oh, Abby,” he said, his voice thick and husky. He placed his fingers under my chin, lifted my face, and lowered his lips to mine.
Softly and gently we kissed. His lips were smooth and strong, exactly as I remembered. I took a step closer to him and he wrapped his arms around me.
I teased the entrance of his mouth with my tongue. He sighed and pulled me tighter. Then he parted his lips and let me inside. And it was so sweet, so tender.
Then the kiss deepened, and he poured out his feelings for me.
It was all there in his kiss. His love. His remorse. His passion. His need.
It swept me right away. The feel of his arms around me, his fingers running lightly up my back. His mouth. His taste. His smell.
We went out several times in the weeks to follow. The poetry reading at the library, sushi classes, and a double date with Felicia and Jackson that was nowhere near as awkward as I thought it would be.
Nathaniel and I were slowly weaving our lives back together, but our relationship was built on honesty this time. Open communication from both sides. He was still hesitant about doing anything physical beyond kissing, though. Not that kissing Nathaniel was anything to take lightly. He could make my heart pound by simply looking at me. And when he actually touched my lips with his own…
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