Truly helpless, p.18
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       Truly Helpless, p.18

         Part #10 of Nature of Desire series by Joey W. Hill
 

  "All right. I like my idea of you using your mouth better." She shot him a look. "But we'd probably scandalize the family diners."

  Her playfulness seemed to take him off guard. As she proceeded per his direction, she braced herself, since she didn't care for a lot of unfamiliar spices or textures. Instead her taste buds instantly approved the crispiness of the potato, and the mild blend of herbs flavoring it. Before long she was sampling from all the offerings and folding the shawarma into a piece of fresh pita from the basket on the table.

  "This is amazing. I love these little spiced potato things. What's the soup?"

  "Lentil." He spooned up some and started to offer it, then rethought that. Before he could return the spoon to the soup and push the bowl her way, she touched his wrist, telling him it was okay. She leaned over to let him put the spoon in her mouth. His hand was steady but the energy bouncing off him was not, his attention on her so intently. She sat back, touching her lips with her napkin.

  "Good stuff. I'll take some more of that."

  Pushing the bowl in between them, he picked up the second spoon, nudging the handle of the other to point toward her side of the table. "Lebanese food is better shared. Try the spinach puff."

  He hadn't answered her question about wanting the date to be over. She'd let that go, crisis averted. He seemed to like watching her share the soup. As she tried the spinach puff, licking the delicate flakes off her lips, she went the casual conversation route again. "Okay, your turn to spill. Tell me how you knew about the tickets. Seriously."

  He leaned back. His leg brushed hers under the table when he braced his foot against the bottom slats of the chair next to her at the four-chair table. She didn't move away. The incidental touch created heat, something she was sure he felt as much as she did.

  "One night at The Zone, you and some of the other Dommes were hanging out in the lounge. You, Mistress Violet, Marguerite, Lyda, Lisette... Violet jabbed you with a finger and said she wasn't taking any shit about Taylor Swift from someone who owned every Boys II Men song ever performed." His gaze lit with careful amusement. "You started singing one of their songs at the top of your lungs. She covered her ears and howled."

  Regina laughed. "I don't recall seeing you. You must have been lurking."

  "I was covering the bar. You all were caught up in the girl talk thing."

  "Girl talk." Regina snorted, but pulled the concert tickets from her back pocket and looked at them. They'd printed a photograph of the current band trio on the face of the stubs. "Originally they started out as four guys, with Michael McCary singing bass in his wonderful deep voice." She offered a half smile. "He'd already left the band when I discovered them in middle school, but I'd put on my head phones and go to sleep with his voice and the rest of them crooning their ballads. My music tastes are pretty eclectic now, but like most people, the songs you loved in your teens are your touchstone of good memory and nostalgia."

  She noticed his face went blank as an empty page. It was a look she wasn't sure how to interpret, but it sent an uneasy tingle through her stomach. Trying to defuse it, she offered the tickets back to him. He shook his head, the expression disappearing.

  "You're right, they're yours. If I piss you off before we get there, you can still go."

  "Are you anticipating or planning for it, to get out of going to a Boys II Men concert?"

  He chuckled. While it was reserved, it was the first true laugh she'd heard from him. She expected an unleashed one would be rolling and deep, and stroke a woman's nerves in the right direction. "Too obvious a strategy," he said. "I can handle one boy band concert if the company is worth it."

  "I don't know. You've already told me sex is the point of all this, and you're not getting sex tonight."

  "It's an investment in the future."

  Shaking her head at him, she put the tickets back into her pocket and took another bite of meat-filled pita. "So who was your favorite band in your teens?"

  He spooned up more soup, lifting a shoulder. "Don't really remember. Probably same as most guys."

  He kept his eyes on the food, the set of his body language saying it wasn't a topic he wanted to pursue. With a shock to her system, the meaning of the blank look clicked, along with why it had made her uneasy, as if her subconscious had understood it before the rest of her had.

  He had no frame of reference for teenage rites of passage like favorite rock bands. What kind of childhood wouldn't have included music?

  She thought of Marguerite's words. It's a place that holds no safety for him.

  Maybe there had been music, but darkness covered that and the rest of the memories. He clearly kept them locked away, inaccessible.

  She'd made a vow to keep this a normal date. But since D/s sessions had different goals, she filed the information away as a key that might get her further into his head during one of those. She gestured to their surroundings.

  "How long has this little place been here? It looks like a hole in the wall from the outside. But most good restaurants do."

  He nodded. "About fifteen years."

  She'd glanced at the menu and found the prices unexpectedly low. Which raised another thought. "There's no way you bought those two concert tickets plus my dinner here for fifty dollars."

  "Nope." He shook his head. "Got the tickets in trade. Did some work for a guy at the Amalie Arena and he owed me a favor. You never said I couldn't work it out in trade," he reminded her.

  She hadn't, but then she hadn't expected him to go the extra mile that way. His charm routine had never struck her as a long con. She was impressed, not just by him doing it, but by doing what most men wouldn't. Paying attention and giving her a gift she wasn't expecting but truly wanted. Another thing that interested her was how long ago that night with the other Dommes had been, and yet he'd remembered that one key detail.

  Men didn't remember such things about women who didn't interest them. They barely remembered those kinds of details even when they did. As Marius had pointed out, they often did have one-track minds, at least during the dating phase.

  "So have you ever taught regular school?" he asked. "With your teaching degree."

  "I did some substitute work and helped out in my mother's daycare. And I offered GED coursework in the prison system when I was working as a correctional officer. I did that for a few years while finishing up my engineering schooling."

  His gaze snapped up to her and she smiled. "In my current job, I teach people to think outside the box. Nobody thinks outside the box quite like a convict or a preschooler. There's always a way around things, which means you have to teach them to integrate morals and judgment into those decisions, without hampering the positive sides of creativity and survival skills. I'm sure you can figure out how the skills apply to a Dom/sub dynamic."

  He bit into a pita he'd stuffed with the shawarma and potato, chewed and swallowed. "A prison guard?"

  "We prefer correctional officer, though prison guard evokes more Dom/sub fantasies. So you can use either term." She smiled faintly. "Got a few images teasing your cock now, right?"

  She bumped her leg against his under the table and stayed there, knee pressed to his thigh. She liked the smile he gave her, a little sheepish and a lot of heat. Naughty boy and aroused man intertwined. If she sat next to him, she could put her hand beneath the cloth-covered table and stroke his cock through his jeans, feeling the evidence of those fantasies swelling its size.

  A normal date could be chock full of sexual innuendo, couldn't it? But she liked the sweet pleasures of anticipation, so she reined it back. He helped by teasing her, too.

  "Has it ever been difficult to keep it straight? Solitary for prisoners, time-out for kids, and full head mask on your sub?"

  She chuckled. "Fortunately, the subjects have significant differences. Though all of them could use a good paddling on occasion, I was only allowed that option on the subs. Here, have some more of this. Take it from my hand with your mouth."

  She gave him a w
arm look, proffering a spinach puff. He leaned in and bit, but clasped her wrist to steady the contact. He holding her as they brought their elbows down to rest on the table. She rocked inside the grip, turning her fingers around to trace his knuckles. He watched her touch him, his eyes shadowed.

  "You're interesting," he said gruffly. "Even if you are fucking with my head."

  "Hey." She touched his chin. "There's a difference between that and making it clear you're not going to fuck with mine. I want you to do one thing for me. Think you can?"

  "Depends on what it is." His lips had that rueful twist. "I can't stand on my head or buy you diamonds."

  "Well, damn, that was exactly what I was going to ask you to do." She waved her bare fingers and motioned to the sparkling bangles on her ears, costume jewelry. "Because obviously expensive baubles are my thing."

  She sobered. "I want you to stop worrying about screwing up this date. I'm not going to let you do it, okay? Whether you realize it or not, I know that would hurt you as much as it would disappoint me."

  "So you think you know what I want and need." He made it a flat statement.

  "No. Not everything. But some things, yes. Whether you accept that, or go in an opposite direction just to prove me wrong, is up to you. But I'm having a good time. I hope you'll decide to have one with me."

  He hadn't let go of her wrist, but his grip wasn't antagonistic. She wondered if he might need the connection, and so she left herself stay there. Myriad emotions brewed behind his eyes.

  He stroked her pulse, and then he let go. "Okay," he said.

  "Good." She let out the mental breath she'd been holding and gestured with her fork. "Now finish your meal, because you have to get me to my concert on time."

  Chapter Eight

  Nathan Morris had taken Michael McCary's place with Boys II Men, and he held his own, even if it wasn't the same voice as the one from her youthful fantasies. Regina noticed there were quite a few women her age here, as well as younger ones. Some had patient boyfriends or husbands in tow, though most had come in female packs to fully immerse themselves in the sensual crooning that wove its spell over the darkened arena. The notes vibrated in the heated air, increasing the sense of insulation from the outside world so the audience could cut themselves adrift in the experience.

  Their seats were ten rows from the front. Close enough for Nathan to amble right by her aisle seat when, just before his solo monologue in "On Bended Knee," he left the stage.

  A ring of security prevented him from being swallowed by a mob of enthusiastic women. But as he met her eyes through his tinted glasses and held out his hand, the guards adjusted into a cone formation to give him access to her. When she put her hand in his and he dropped to a knee, her own almost gave out. All the women started screaming.

  Regina laughed out loud, tears dotting her eyes for some crazy reason as he grinned up at her. She was as fluttery as the teen she'd once been. After he concluded his entreaty for her to come back to him, with the far-too-tempting words "I'm begging you," he rose to his feet, leaned in and brushed her cheek with warm lips, his trim goatee rasping against her jaw. Her heart pounded right up into her throat.

  He gave Marius a "what's up, man, all's cool" nod before he let her go and wandered back to the stage, the rest of the band kicking in as the monologue gave way to syncopated singing once more.

  She'd drifted back to her seat, only realizing after the fact she'd done it with the help of Marius's hands on her waist. Turning in his arms, she planted a hard, fierce kiss on his mouth. "Best date ever," she shouted, since it was the only way to be heard.

  She liked the smile on his face, the grip of his hands on her hips, the shape of his mouth and heat in his eyes that said he wanted her to keep kissing him. She wanted that, too.

  She also wanted to climb onto and take him in every conceivable way. She'd use every ounce of his considerable strength to satisfy her lust, which was boundless. In her ebullience, the desire came not just from her body, but from the crimson swirl of heat inside her heart and soul.

  Fortunately, she restrained herself so she could enjoy the rest of the concert rather than being arrested. She channeled her energy into clapping, whistling and seat dancing, until everyone stood up on the final song and danced in the aisles as much as security would allow. Marius didn't dance, but he stayed in his seat and watched the enthusiastic shaking of her ass with a man's unabashed appreciation, until she tugged him to his feet and made him at least do some hip bumping and swaying to the music next to her.

  She was still riding that high when he drove her to Tampa's Riverwalk. She gushed about the history of the band, everything she knew about the members, what she loved about their songs...and he simply listened. Not like he was tuned out and waiting for the topic to change to something he found more interesting. He was really listening, with a peculiar look on his face, like he was experiencing something unfamiliar and wasn't sure if it was good or bad. She didn't want to see it turn to the latter, so she slowed herself down and sat back, giving him a shrewd and droll look.

  "So the whole Nathan singing to me thing? Within budget or not, I said I didn't want any grand gestures. That surely broke that rule, if the tickets themselves didn't do it. The Amalie guy apparently owed you the mother of all favors."

  "Yeah." He parked the car. When he turned to look at her, his practiced smile had returned, which she expected he'd follow with some feigned modesty that would skirt the borders of that charm she kept discouraging. Then abruptly the smile disappeared, with no prompting or warning from her. Instead, he stared out the windshield.

  "I didn't do that," he said.

  "What?"

  He shook his head. "That was spontaneous. Well, in a way. When you're doing the Mistress thing, you realize what you do to a man's senses. Like to the waiter at KeBob's. But other times, you don't seem to realize it. There was no one else who shone the way you did in the first few rows. He saw you right off. You're impossible to miss."

  Without another word, he exited the car and circled around the front, leaving her startled by the candid observation. When he reached her door, his expression was back to being the same, that unreadable cocktail that could go in any direction. As he handed her out of the car, she held on, making it clear she didn't want him to drop the contact, unless that was his choice. He laced his fingers with hers, glancing at their link. But he didn't let her go.

  The Riverwalk was a good place to meander with a date, stretching along the Hillsborough River and following the bend to Garrison Channel. While it did have more crowded tourist spots, it was long enough that residents like the two of them knew some of the quieter areas, where the mix of tourists and local transplants enjoying the views of the water and passing boats weren't elbow to elbow.

  Regina liked all the lights at dark. The blue tinted glow of the bridge over to Harbour Island, the dotting of lights on the cylindrical Rivergate Tower--fondly known as the Tampa "beer can" building--and the warm yellow lights marking the railings along this section of the Riverwalk. There was a mix of hotels, restaurants, and clusters of shops. While the restaurants and bars were still open, she had no interest in any of those when Marius asked if she wanted a drink.

  "Let's just walk," she said.

  There were other couples on dates, walking hand-in-hand like them. More sat on benches or hung out in groups, laughing and chatting. After walking them a little farther down from the noisier ones, Marius drew her to the rail at the water's edge. "Ever stood on the other side of it, on that ledge?"

  "No. I'm a proper citizen who obeys all laws."

  "I don't think you're proper in any way, Mistress. One of the most likeable things about you." He nodded. "I bet way back when, they didn't have railings at all."

  "They also didn't have to protect themselves from lawsuits, because people took responsibility for their own stupidity," she added dryly.

  "I try to accept responsibility for my own stupidity, even if it's way past due. It's the one thi
ng that's all mine, after all." Flashing a smile at her, he put his hands on the rail, hoisted his hips onto the top piece and swung his legs over in one swift, athletic move that had her biting back a sound of alarm. He brought his feet down on the narrow concrete ledge on the other side.

  "It can't be okay to do that," she observed. As he leaned against the rail in a standing position, nothing was between him and the water below but a breeze ruffling his hair.

  "If a cop sees you, he just tells you to get back on the other side. They won't arrest you or anything." He looked over his shoulder at the other people strolling along the Riverwalk. "And everyone thinks you're a badass for doing what they'd like to do."

  "Or they think you're an idiot who's going to show up on tomorrow's news as a drowning, swept away by the current." But after a moment of pondering her sanity, she emulated him, though more carefully. She straddled the rail and sat down on it, swinging the other leg over from a sitting position before easing down to stand next to him. As she came down, he put his arms around her in a loose hold until she was settled. It was surprisingly respectful, a steadying gesture only. When he took it away, she was tempted to hold onto him, keep her hands curled around the arm that had been braced in front of her waist and then above her chest as she slid off the rail onto her feet. Maybe later. She didn't want the gesture to be construed as her being girly and needing support.

  The ledge was narrow, not more than a few inches, but she felt secure enough with the rail supporting her from behind. She braced her hands on either side, which allowed her to brush her knuckles against his back. Looking down, she studied the dark water, frothing up phosphorescent white foam where it lapped against the wall.

  "Be pretty easy to give your date a nudge and be done with her."

  "Yeah, but I don't have enough money to buy two scoops of Dreamy Time ice cream." He pointed to the cart, within a stone's throw from their position. "But to get the two-for-one scoop special, all you have to do is tell the ice cream guy I'm dreamy. If I push you into the water, I don't have anyone to do that."

  "What if the girl's buying the ice cream?"

  "Then her guy has to say it to her. They're equal opportunity at Dreamy Time."