Six ~ David
My cell buzzed at six sharp, just as Amber was getting into a cab after tossing one lost, lonely look back at the house. Even though the windows were tinted for privacy, I felt…no, I knew, he could see me standing here like spying. Lurking in the shadows.
“Fuck,” I spun from the thick glass, the vibrating phone working on nerves that were already frayed from sleep loss. I could smell him on my skin, on the air. The fresh scent of his orange shampoo and hot sex. Still, the lad was gone, back to his place wherever that was, to lick his wounds. I’d knew I’d hurt him. Yet, I’d gone against my better judgement, against what I knew would end up confusing Amber even more, simply because I couldn’t control myself. What kind of master could I ever be to a sweet pup like him if I couldn’t stop myself from—
Master. Pup. No, that was not happening. His kink and mine were…well, too far apart. Yes, and he was too tender to fall into any kind of scenario with me. The phone kept buzzing as I stood staring down at it, my mind spiraling as it had all night long. When the Android vibrated itself off the edge of the table, I finally bent to pick it up. I knew without looking who it was. Micah, or should I say James, calling at Micah’s insistence even though we weren’t exactly close.
Giving the incoming call a glance, I sighed wearily, flopped to the sofa, and rolled my head in the direction of my Alexa.
“Answer,” I said, letting my eyes drift closed.
“David,” Micah said, his voice as calm as a mountain stream. “Did I wake you?”
“Nope, I was just watching a mistake leaving my house.” Well now, don’t you sound smug and in control. Mistake, was it? Is that why you rolled and flipped all night, tearing up the bed as you replayed the moments with him?
“I’m glad to hear that you’ve come to your senses.” He sounded slightly winded, as if he’d just come back from a run, which knowing him, he had. “Although I can understand the lure. He is a stunning thing, just oozes innocence with an undercurrent of seduction. You didn’t play out anything with him, did you?”
“No, of course not,” I huffed, reaching up to rub at my dry eyes. “I simply got him off then we slept in separate beds.”
“You didn’t collar him, did you?” My oh-so pregnant pause checked that box for him. “David, good Lord, why would you do that? You know how symbolic that gesture is!”
Yes, David, why did you collar him, hmm?
“There was no symbolism. I told him others had worn it. I’d not purchased it for him. It was a toy, a prop, just like the mask he wore.”
“I honestly do not like this. I think you’re in a vulnerable place right now and you’re making poor decisions. You can say that the collar was a toy, but you know as well as I do that a young man with a pup kink is going to—”
“Micah, enough. Christ! Sometimes, I think you forget your place.”
“My place, David, is where I so deem it to be. Don’t get cocky with me. It was me who fished you out of that crack house. It was me who got you clean, helped you deal with the incidents. It was me who taught you how to be a good Dom, a kind, loving master who knew how to treat his subs.”
My head began to throb. I pinched the bridge of my nose. “I know, I’m…sorry. It’s been a bad few days. You know I value your help.”
“Would you like to set up an emergency session? I’d really rather we did that than have you call in a client and not be able to toe the line. Or worse, let a pup like that one last night wander into your backyard.”
That made me snort in amusement. “You think I’m some sort of rabid beast, don’t you? And only your hand on my leash will keep me from taking a bite out of Amber.”
“I think you’ve come a long way, David, and as your friend I don’t want to see you regress.” Someone, James I was sure, was speaking now in the background. Eyes shut, I let the two of them discuss me as if I were some sort of lab rat. “James concurs with me.”
“Well, of course he does. He’s so tightly wound around your pinkie finger I wonder at times who the Dom is and who’s the sub.”
“He’s my husband first, my Dom second, and friend above all else. Now, are you done being snarky? Shall I pencil you in to see him at noon?”
God above. Fucking hell. As if Friday afternoons at two weren’t bad enough, now we had to add another session? Eyes opening slowly, I lifted my left hand from my face, rolling it this way and that, watching the raven move as I wiggled my fingers.
“Is there a reason I can’t see you instead? You’re both therapists.”
“David, we’ve been over that a thousand times. We had a relationship. It wouldn’t be ethical. Besides, you and James work well together.”
As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. James was a damn good therapist. And we shared a commonality in our kink backgrounds, both being Doms, which had proved to be a huge plus in the past.
“Fine, noon. Alexa, hang up.” I hurried to end the call before Micah could say anything else. He’d really said enough. Legs sprawled out in front of me, hand moving back and forth, I stared at the black bird on my hand and repeated the mantra that James had given me. “Carry the hurt away,” I whispered over and over, waiting, as a new dawn arrived, for the memories to take wing.
Gems was hustling, as always, when I stepped through the door after my emergency session with James. Sometimes, I had to simply pause once inside the front door and drink it all in. The changes in this building were incredible. Gone were the old theater decorations and overstated glitz. Everything was clean, stark, modern. There was a gym where the old basement used to be, for Gems clients and employees only, a juice bar for after workout refreshments, and two large lounges where clients could sit and interact with the men of Gems. Shin and Butch had hired several new escorts, young flashy things who smiled a lot, flirted even more, and had no free nights for months on end. Zircon, Moonstone, and Jet, they’d named themselves.
Feeling a bit like an old plow horse stabled with sleek thoroughbred’s, I moved through the clients and escorts. It was like a social club now at Gems, instead of a slave market. Although, in all fairness, my bidders were merely playing a part; they knew it as well as I had. No one really purchased me, they purchased my skills. I rarely had sex with my clients. That was reserved for men who I cared about, and those were few and far between. Micah being the last one in so long, I’d lost track. Emotions made you weak. That was one thing I’d learned way back. If you cared people could hurt you. It was best to stay in control and remain faceless. James had probed into that way back time today, which was why I’d shown up here, looking for something. Someone who wanted what I could give them. All strongly against my therapists’ orders, of course.
The men here weren’t looking for my kind of night on the town. They were, for the most part, lonely men who were too busy or too emotionally distant to actually date. So, they rented pretty boys to take to social events or weddings or college reunions. Some, of course, were looking for after hour treats, but those were never discussed as money for sex exchanged for cash was illegal here in Illinois. Butch rode that law hard, reminding us all weekly that we were legit now. He knew we were all hooking on the side, Shin knew, Ian knew. As long as we kept immaculate records, all was good. Or had been. The heat had certainly been cranked up of late.
Passing through the silver and white lounge, I ignored the odd looks from the metrosexuals sipping guava juice while making small talk with their preferred Gem. Social club by day, escort service by night. Gems. Where the elite meet. Such a catchy tagline. Ian had a brain for business, and it showed. The profits on this place were high and growing with every whispered recommendation from one lonely gay man to another.
I climbed the stairs and took a left, passing the area where my old suite used to be. Fuck, but that room had been tacky. Kennedy had played up the BDSM angle to the point where it was a fucking farce. Red walls. I mean, honestly? Several of my coworkers were seated in the small game room, cheering on clients as they played video games. One of them was Amber. Our gazes touched briefly, then he moved closer to the older man with the controller in his hand. The couch was far too small by the looks, or Amber was draped over the fat bastard. I took a step toward them, then paused. Amber’s hand came to rest on the man’s thigh. I spun from the sight, irate with myself for caring, and slammed into Shin’s office looking for a fight.
Shin glanced up, his brown eyes wide. “There’s a thing called knocking…” he said, laying his pencil down beside his practice book.
“Sorry to interrupt your studying,” I said, easing myself down into a chair across from him. A new glass desk separated us. All traces of Kennedy Parks had been eradicated from Gems, right down to the gothic furnishings in this office. I kind of felt like that old wooden desk since thirty had come and gone. Everyone here looked at me as a relic, something to hide in the attic under a sheet.
“Nah, it’s fine. This math section is kicking my ass.” He sat back, rubbed at his face, then took a drink of apricot juice from the juice bar. “I only have a week to get this all absorbed.”
“You’ll do fine.” I began tapping my fingers on the arm of the chair. “You’re smart and young. That GED is already yours.”
“Yeah, well, you and everyone else have a lot more confidence than I do. I’ve been out of school for so long it’s hard to remember how to study.” His gaze narrowed a bit as he pushed his shoulder-length hair from his beautiful face. “What brings you in on a weekday with no spirit building meeting?”
“Do we really have do spirit building meetings? You do know we all think it’s asinine, right? We’re whores.”
“Escorts,” he quickly corrected. I rolled my eyes.
“You can slap red paint on a hog and call her a rose but she’s still a pig.”
His lips twitched. “I get it, I do, and when I was on the floor, I would have felt the same, but with the influx of new employees and a different type of clientele, we need to be a cohesive unit, and that wasn’t happening. The old Gems were being catty to the new guys. So, do you think you could be a bit more enthusiastic about the spirit meetings? The men all look up to you.”
“Do they? I’m not so sure about the new ones.”
“You don’t know the new ones. Try to make them feel welcome. If you lead, the rest of the guys will follow. You’re our Obi-Wan.”
That made me laugh out loud. “Then you’re all in deep fucking shit. If anything, I’m Darth Vader.”
Shin smiled and it lit up his face. That redheaded Scot was one lucky man. “He did have the gloves for fisting…” We both sniggered. “What brings you in?”
“Most of my usual clients are vacationing and I was wondering if you had the list of names that were refused previously.” The lie tasted bitter on my tongue, but I had to snap out of this place I was in and talking to James sure hadn’t helped. If anything, that hour on the couch had made me edgier.
“Oh, sure. I can pull that up.” He pushed his schoolwork away then tugged his keyboard closer. “You can access this kind of information anytime you want by simply logging into your account and searching through the client base page. I feed in anyone who calls or requests a date just in case.”
“When you start that business course, you’re going to be right at home.” He glanced up as he typed away. “Seriously, you’ve really taken to this.”
“Ian says like a duck to water,” he replied with loving humor. “I do kind of like it, though; running a business, coming up with new marketing ideas. Which, by the way, your page is still the same as it was the day the website went live. Can you update something? Maybe a new picture? A revamped bio? Maybe something flirty and light!”
“I don’t do flirty and light.”
His face crinkled. It was a cute look. “Fine, be all Super Dom, but at least send me a new picture and few facts about you. Do you like puppies?”
That question grabbed me. “Why would you ask that?”
“It’s something personal. I love puppies. I keep begging Ian to get us a dog but he’s always saying we’re not home enough during the day and— Hey, where are you going?”
“I just remembered something I have to do. Send me those names in a text or email or something. Good luck with the test.”
I was up and out before Shin could even say goodbye. Wetting my lips, I tried my best to shove my reaction to an innocent question down. Did I like puppies? Yes, certain ones with delicate hip bones and soft green eyes. I liked those kinds of puppies a lot. More than I should. Way, way more than I should. I truly needed to find a man to give me what I needed or this bubbling caldera inside was going to blow.
“Hi,” Amber said, easing around the corner as if thinking of him had summoned him.
“You look weird still. Is there anything that I can help you with?”
“I…no. You have a client to play video games with, don’t you?”
“He left, had to get back to work. I don’t care about him. I care about you.”
“Amber, please, now is not the time to—”
He moved closer. The citrus smell of his shampoo wrapped itself around me. My mind flashed back to last night, to the feel of him in my arms, the smell of sex and orange on the air, the sweet sounds he made when I’d helped him find his release. He touched my hand, one finger swept the black raven, and my world went off balance in a large way.
“You helped me. Let me help you,” he whispered, the world narrowed down to just us.
“You can’t help me.” I pushed around him, eager to get space between us.
“I can try. I can love you. Please…” God above the pup was persistent. I jogged down the stairs, ignoring the soft calls of greeting from the other Gems. Hitting the street was like walking into a wall. Hot, grimy air slapped me in the face. I sucked in a breath and there he was, Amber, right at my side, grabbing at my shirt like a tenacious terrier. “I can and I do. Take me home. Let me help you. Please, Diamond. David. Sir.”
A newspaper delivery truck rumbled by, coughing out smoke and fumes, the driver shouting at an old man trying to parallel park. I looked down at the eager young man at my side, his gaze pleading.
“You have no idea what you’re asking for, Pup.”
I closed my eyes, inhaled the stench of the southside into my lungs, then turned to face Amber.
“No, you just think you do, but if you’re so fucking determined, fine. We’ll play, but it’s my script and my rules.” I leaned down to whisper beside his ear. “Remember all those stories you’ve heard about men screaming from my suite? You’re this close to that being your howls.” The stories were highly exaggerated, and if anyone did cry out it was in pleasure for the most part, unless someone paid to be hurt, but maybe if he thought about this silly—
His grip on my shirt tightened, and his breath skittered unevenly across my cheek.
“Make me scream in pleasure, I want that,” he replied, then stepped back to look at me. His face had lit up, which was not at all the reaction that I’d been hoping for. Fuck. Just fuck me. Micah was going to rip me a new one and it would be justified. So damn justified. I took his hand, squeezed his fingers, and led him to the first cab I could hail with a firm but gentle touch. When I dared to look at him, his green eyes were glowing with adoration and unbridled heat. Oh, yes, Micah was going to use a chainsaw on my ass.