Truly helpless, p.26
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       Truly Helpless, p.26

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

  She was giving him that scrutiny that said she sensed something wasn't as it seemed. It wouldn't matter. Not in a million years would she guess this. He felt sick. It was stupid.

  In a day or so, when he had his head clear, he'd leave a note on her door, tell her not to come. Then he'd disappear. Maybe drive to the beach for a few days. It was warm enough to sleep in his car and hang out at the shore. It was quiet there. He might even pick up some work and stay awhile. Get hooked in to the Daytona Beach scene, though the BDSM community was close knit. Tyler would have already sent out word that he was bad news, nixing his reciprocal privileges that membership to The Zone had given him.

  "Duncan." She must have said his other name a few times, because she spoke his given name emphatically, snapping him out of his head. Her hand had fallen on his arm. "Are you okay?"

  "Yeah. Probably better if you don't come." He shook his head, stepped to the counter and ripped off the note, stuffing it in his pocket. "Definitely. We'll get together another time. Thanks for the food, Mistress. Thanks for everything. See you sometime."

  Brave asshole that he was, he grabbed the care package she'd put together for him and fled.

  Chapter Eleven

  After she heard his car start up and pull out of the driveway, Regina dropped into her kitchen chair. The shakes she'd locked down broke loose, making her fingertips resting on the table surface tremble. What the hell was...all of that?

  First, there'd been his transformation in the hallway. It had been so abrupt, the quiet sensuality in the kitchen suddenly replaced by a maelstrom. It was as if he'd viewed the door to her bedroom as the gateway to Hell.

  A different kind of shudder gripped her as she closed her eyes and remembered how he'd pinned her to the floor. Pure alpha animal. He'd told her he would take her body without her express consent. Yet, belying that, in the very next second, he'd shielded her from the falling vase and obeyed her commands to take them both to an incredible climax. All while the glass ground into his flesh as if he couldn't feel it.

  She'd navigated the dark maze in his mind, and brought them to a different place, but one neither of them had expected to be equally so intense. The man was exhausting, exhilarating...and a danger to himself.

  She didn't kid herself. Being a correctional officer had taught her that overconfidence was a sure way to getting in trouble, but when she'd told him he needed a friend, his shields had dropped enough to show her that quick view into his soul once more. It was there, a light inside all those thorns. He wouldn't appreciate the analogy, but she really was starting to feel like the prince in Sleeping Beauty, hacking through the briar wall to reach the sleeping princess.

  Her fingertips went to the bruises on her throat. At his core, he understood violence better than he understood tenderness, but he craved tenderness so much it was impossible to miss. Somewhere along the way, he'd learned to be charming and sexy, irresistible to women for his own purposes. But the reason it worked so well was, in his unguarded moments, he was that sexy and irresistible. How he'd touched her while she was shaving him, that questing caress, had conveyed that he wanted to give and receive pleasure, unselfishly. She could feel how much he enjoyed touching her, the feel of her skin, the press of her body. He desired her for himself, not just as a game or a competition.

  The feeling was mutual. But fuck, what a mess the boy was. Last night when she'd left him on the playroom floor, she'd done a serious reality check. After brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed, she'd taken out that scary moment and given it a close, hard look. How she'd handled it, how he'd reacted on the front and back end.

  She knew a lot of women would have ended it right there. Hell, if they'd understood half of what she had known last night, they wouldn't have risked bringing him home for a scene.

  She didn't consider herself stupid or reckless. But she did have a different well of experience from which to draw. She'd done extreme interrogation scenes where the sub had completely lost it, been a risk to himself or her. At the prison, she'd routinely handled violent offenders. Both those things were why she'd taken the incident in stride and not freaked out. She'd slept well, even though she'd woken with her fingertips stroking the marks on her throat, a subconscious way to soothe the early morning uneasy feelings chasing her out of dreams.

  Everyone, even someone who grew up in Sunshine Suburbs with Suzy Perfect Parents, could be goaded toward their animal nature, though it took extreme circumstances. Some people's triggers for uncivilized behavior were far closer to the surface. It didn't take a Domme with her intuition to know where Marius fell on that spectrum.

  Yes, she had experience with violent males. But she didn't have experience with violent males with whom she was sexually and emotionally involved. Since she was a smart woman, she knew she needed perspective, and she needed it badly. Regina needed a Dominant who'd dealt with a soul as damaged as Marius.

  Tyler? He'd react with typical male overprotectiveness. Much as she respected and admired the man, after the mine field she'd just navigated, she didn't feel like cutting a swathe through the testosterone. If he'd been dealing with what she had last night, he wouldn't have backed down or cut Marius loose, either. Alpha male thinking was to confront and overcome a problem, not retreat. But it was hard for an alpha male like Tyler to realize an alpha female saw a volatile problem the same way. A smile touched her lips. Though perhaps being married to Marguerite had adjusted his thinking on it.

  Still, she realized she'd prefer to talk to a woman, one more like herself. Ah. The obvious light dawned. Regina knew exactly the right woman, one who'd dealt with a damaged male and successfully brought him out of the darkness. And she had a ruthlessness akin to Regina's own. She picked up her cell and sent a text.

  Need the face-to-face opinion of a heartless bitch. Have some time?

  For you? Always. I'm at work. Stop by anytime this morning.

  The Growing Things Nursery was both residence and business. When Regina bumped up the gravel road, she paused at the fork between the company parking lot and the driveway to the house. Lyda's home was a 1920s clapboard farmhouse, her nursery contained on the acreage behind it and within several large greenhouses.

  Since she'd said she was at work, that meant the greenhouses, so Regina turned toward the parking lot. It was populated by several company vehicles, including a flatbed loader, a couple pickup trucks, a bobcat and a small dump truck painted M&M green with yellow daisies under the Growing Things logo. Everything that belonged to Lyda was well-tended, from plants to equipment. And submissives.

  Regina's attention went to the man currently loading bags of mulch into the back of a pickup truck. His long hair was tied in a tail that fell down his tattooed back. Stripped to nothing but a pair of faded jeans that hung low on his hips, he had a tanned muscularity and lean appeal sure to catch a woman's eye. Plus an ass that just screamed to be squeezed, strapped, marked...the list was endless.

  As she parked her car and propped her elbow on her open window, she indulged in a long, enjoyable look. It wasn't hard to imagine what he could do on his knees with his clever mouth, which Regina happened to know contained a tongue stud with versatile uses. While she was aware of approaching footsteps, she didn't stop her perusal.

  "Enjoying the view, bitch?"

  "Absolutely," Regina said. "You're interrupting a good fantasy. It'd be selfish of you to begrudge me that, since you have two of what I have none."

  "That's because I am so much Mistress, it takes two amazing people to satisfy all my needs."

  Regina chuckled and pulled her gaze away from Noah to give Lyda a friendly look. The nursery owner was in jeans, work shoes, and a baby doll T-shirt that showed off her fit body. Beneath her cap, the gold highlights of her dark red braided hair glinted from the sun. She had gray eyes like Marius, only Lyda's were gunmetal where his were that slate-to-silver color. Plus he had those dark, expressive brows and thick lashes. Lyda's lashes matched her hair and brows, the same golden-red color against h
er milk-white skin that refused to tan, despite her outdoor job.

  "So is this a flyby, or you want to go inside the greenhouse and talk to me while I work?" the Domme asked.

  "Let's do that." Regina emerged from the car. Since the day was warm, she'd worn a vee neck T-shirt over jeans herself. Lyda enjoyed both men and women--pretty obvious since her two subs were one of each gender--so Regina took it as a compliment when she gave her a frank appraisal. Back when she was in her twenties, Regina had competed in fitness competitions. Lyda's intense workout classes three times a week were a barometer for how well she was keeping herself in shape.

  She supposed she owed the woman a silent thanks for that, because physical strength had played a role in her handling of Marius, more than once now, though she had no illusions that she could do that indefinitely. She'd had the element of surprise, both times.

  Lyda stopped her with a hand on her arm, eyes suddenly far more serious. She touched the bruising on Regina's neck. "Is that what it looks like?"

  "Only if it looks like a sub tried to choke me with the chains I put on him."

  Lyda scowled. "Marius. I'd heard Tyler kicked his ass out. Apparently about fucking time."

  "This happened after that. That's what I'm here to talk about. He's become my project." Regina took a breath. If she wanted good information, she couldn't bullshit. "I came to you because I didn't want to deal with the testosterone display I'd have to handle with Tyler about it, some lecture about getting in over my head in a situation he would have handled in exactly the same damn way. Am I in the wrong place? Did you have an operation I don't know about?"

  Lyda's eyes narrowed. "You think only men can be protective?"

  Regina snorted. "No. But we don't transform into cavewomen over it and become entirely unreasonable. And this is about helping someone damaged figure out the best path to healing." Regina's attention shifted meaningfully to Noah. "Which sometimes means doing some things that look wrong from the outside but are the right course."

  Lyda snorted. "Using my own history against me?"

  "Nope. Just proving a point. You think I'd let a man abuse me? I'm far more likely to carve off his testicles with a grapefruit spoon. I keep one in a kitchen drawer, just in case. I don't even like grapefruit."

  Lyda's expression eased, her sensual lips curving ruefully. "Point taken."

  Noah had at last noticed their presence, and lifted a hand in greeting, but kept working as the women made their way to the greenhouse. Regina studied him. "He's pretty deep in his head for a guy not even listening to an iPod. I could have come up behind him and groped his fine ass before he saw me coming."

  "After which I would have shoved a planting stake up your fine ass," Lyda observed.

  Regina snorted. "Think you're so bad. Poor guy. Are you one of those strict employers who doesn't let their employees listen to music while doing tedious manual labor?"

  Lyda shook her head. "I'm strict, but that's not why. He doesn't handle electronic noise well. TV, music players, even radio in the truck. He gets twitchy and irritable. He's better with nature and quiet. So I forbid it, except when he's watching TV or a movie with me or Gen, in limited blocks."

  The interesting tidbit reinforced why Regina was here. Lyda had had her own challenges with Noah. The strong bonds and contentment that emanated between them like an ever-present energy field said they'd surmounted them.

  "Where's Gen today?" Regina asked.

  "She's running some errands and then I told her to take the afternoon off to do some girl shopping with Chloe. Not sure how I ran the administrative side of this place half as well without her help, but I have to make her take some time for herself now and again."

  "Says her workaholic boss and Mistress."

  "Yeah, but I'm different." Lyda winked. "Before you ask why, I'll tell you the same thing I tell her. Because I said so."

  "Ah. The universal response of parents, workaholics and Doms of either gender." Lyda had the greenhouse doors rolled open to allow in the breeze coming off the fields behind it. It reduced the normal humidity inside the enclosed space. At Lyda's gesture, Regina took a seat on a stool. When Lyda started digging into an open bag of soil and scooping the contents into flats, the motion sent a pleasant aroma of moist earth and green things her way.

  Regina needed a couple moments to gather her thoughts, and Lyda apparently picked up on that. The woman finished filling the flats and stripped off her work gloves to handle the fragile plants she was transplanting. It revealed her slim, elegant hands, which could wield a single tail whip with fascinating precision.

  Ironically, Noah was even more expert with it than his Mistress, so much so that Lyda sometimes loaned his skills to another Domme. Never with sex attached, however. Since Gen had come into their lives, Lyda and Noah's attentions usually were focused on her. Or Gen and Lyda's on Noah. Lyda was the head bitch in charge, but Noah was more than capable of topping Gen in very intriguing ways, under Lyda's direction. On other delightful occasions, she turned those tables and she and Gen topped Noah together.

  "It's not bad to have employees you can play with at the end of the day," Regina observed. "And wake up with in the morning."

  "It doesn't suck," Lyda agreed, a smile softening her sharply sculpted features. "Started the day by pushing my rabbit down between my legs and putting her to work first thing. Gen's got a lovely, lovely mouth. Made Noah fuck her while she was doing it, so I watched the two of them with the sunrise coming through the window. Came twice before I let them finally go over. Day can't start better than that."

  Regina thought of shaving Marius at her table. He'd been so still under her hand, his attention riveted on her. "Yeah. You got that right."

  "Hmm. No comment about me rubbing it in, so you must have started the day well yourself. Before things went to shit."

  "They didn't go to shit. We had some ups and downs this morning, but left it on a good note. Sort of." She frowned, thinking of his weird behavior about meeting his father. He'd ripped up the note, but she'd looked at the pad and found the impression of the address still on the sheet below it. She'd traced it in, so she could join him if she damn well wanted to do so.

  The address was Raiford, Florida, nearly three hours from Tampa. Maybe that was why he'd decided it was stupid. But during that blink of time between when he'd asked her to go then decided against it, she'd picked up a mix of desperation, resignation, and a longing that seemed like a desire not to leave her house at all.

  "Going to sit there and run over everything in your head, or use your words? I'm pretty good at reading subs' minds, but Dommes are a little harder," Lyda said. "Not impossible, but I'm working here and don't want to pull a muscle. Spill."

  Regina rolled her eyes but proceeded. She gave Lyda the full rundown on the situation, and the tactics she'd employed thus far, including the "normal date." She always liked talking shop with another experienced Domme. It cut out the need for a lot of explanation, since Lyda picked up on the nuances and strategies quickly.

  She was only halfway through transplanting the plants when Regina concluded. Despite her concise delivery, Regina had dredged up more emotions than she'd expected, especially when she offered full disclosure on both the chain incident and what had happened in the hallway. She realized her hands were a little shaky and moving too much, and placed them on her knees, gripping there until she finished.

  Lyda picked up a two-way radio and pressed a button. A second later it beeped and Regina heard Noah's voice. "Yes, Mistress?"

  "Come to the greenhouse."

  Lyda studied one plant critically and readjusted it. Apparently the slender stem hadn't been as straight as she'd wanted.

  "What will they be?" Regina ventured. She knew the other Mistress was thinking and would give her opinion once she'd chewed over Regina's words.

  "Tomatoes." Lyda stepped over to Regina, holding up her palm so she could sniff. The aroma of tomato plant leaves made Regina think of lazy summer days in her childhood b
ackyard. Her mother still gardened at her assisted living community in Florida. Regina visited her frequently.

  What would her mom think of Marius? Since hitting her thirties, Regina hadn't brought a man home, such that her mother had once asked her flat out if she was a lesbian. "If you are, honey, that's okay. You've always been so sure of yourself. Scares most men off, but if they can't handle a strong woman, that's their loss. I just want you to be happy. If you find yourself someone special, I want to meet them."

  She'd never brought one home because she didn't keep them. Not long enough to justify an introduction to the family. But she was starting to get in so deep with Marius, she wasn't sure if she was going to be able to climb out of that hole so easily this time.

  Sure, Mom. I'll bring him to meet you. Soon as I'm sure he's housetrained enough you don't have to lock up the breakables.

  "How can I help you ladies?" Noah took the two steps up into the greenhouse in one stride. Sadly, he'd put on his Growing Things Nursery T-shirt, but he was still a welcome sight.

  Lyda nodded toward Regina, her gaze still on her task. "She needs one of your hugs. The kind that Gen talks about."

  Regina sent her a surprised look. The woman's shrewd eyes glinted with amusement. "Trust me. It's a gift. Dommes need aftercare, too. You forgot that, and it shows."

  "I didn't forget," Regina grumbled. "Just had other priorities at the time."

  "Well, you have time now." Lyda turned her attention back to her plants, considering the matter settled.

  Noah was one of those remarkable submissives, so comfortable in the role he rarely broke out of it. He was Lyda's in every way, and watched over her and Gen with all the protectiveness that Tyler demonstrated on the Dom side of the fence. But there was a gentle beta quality to Noah, an energy to him that cocooned her as he drew closer. Even without touching her, he projected what Lyda was offering. And since the damn bitch was right, Regina gave him a nod, telling him it was okay. He closed the distance between them and slid strong arms around her.

  In a seamless blink, she was immersed in that energy, held with a mental and physical strength that felt tireless, endlessly patient. The embrace came with no expectations except to give her comfort and a sense of reassurance, safety, steadiness. He'd keep doing it, with the same total focus and care, concentrated in the peaceful strokes over her back and arms, until she or his Mistress said stop.