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Branded Sanctuary, Page 47

Joey W. Hill

Page 47


  The tautly strung barbed wire anger fell into a tangle inside Chloe. M She reached out then, clumsily, almost toppling her tea cup, but she managed to grasp Marguerites hand. Unless she initiated it, Marguerite often stiffened at sudden contact, but this time, she not only let Chloe curl her fingers over hers, she brought her other hand down on top of them, holding her in a strong, sure grip.

  M, about your dad You have to know, I dont blame you for a minute of that. Not a single second. From what I knowwhat I learned, of what he was to you, I think you are one of the strongest, most incredible people I know. Which is maybe why I hate myself so much now. Because Im so jealous and angry at what you and Brendan have. A nd confused, about what that brand means, how that affects what he and I have. I dont know what to say or do toward you. I feel like slapping you or scratching your eyes out, because youre so bloody perfect, how could any man not love you? I dont usually let things like that bother me, because I know people are meant for each other or not, and I used to feel beautiful and desirable, but Ive felt so ugly and miserable lately

  Then, on top of that, theres this whole part of his life that I cant feel, you know? I can learn it, I can learn the language, but theres no way I can feel it, you understand? So where does that leave us? A nd you and me? She could barely talk now. You and Gen, the tea room, you all were helping me hang onto what shred of sanity I have, and when I found out about the brand That was taken away as well. Oh Chloe. Marguerite grasped her other hand, holding them both on the table between them, so tightly. My family was broken apart, you understand? But I found one, made one, and I did that with your help. Yours and Gens, Tylers. Even Brendan. You are my family. I love you so very much, Chloe, and I dont think you realize how much I need to love you. Whatever else there is, we will work it out, I promise, but you must believe in that one thing, have hope in it. I need you back, Chloe. Your laughter and your joy.

  Her grip tightened further. There have been times, watching you, that Ive gone into my office and done everything possible not to scream my rage. It has made me so unspeakably furious that something else I valued was taken because of this pestilence that was my childhood. It has hurt me more than I can express, not knowing how to fix it, how to give you back what my father took from you.

  Marguerite broke off. Not only was it the longest emotional outpouring Chloe had ever heard from her boss, she was amazed to hear Marguerites voice tremble at the end, her right eye glistening with the hint of an actual tear.

  Before the attack, Chloe had never feared her own emotions. It was as shed told Brendan, her strategy had been to embrace every ounce of life, living without fear. Marguerite had known such fear in her childhood that it was Chloes night on the train tracks, multiplied by a factor of ten. A s a result, the austere owner of Tea Leaves had always been so regimented with her feelings. Each emotion was carefully vetted before it was sent out to represent her.

  Therefore, seeing her close to a breaking point shocked Chloe to her toes, making her realize the true vulnerability of the invincible. Their need for reassurance could be completely overlooked.

  Ive been so fucking self-absorbed, she murmured. Here I was, caught up in Brendan, and it never occurred to me No, hush. It shouldnt have. Thats not why Im telling you this. Marguerite pressed her lips together, gave her hand a squeeze and sat back, closing her eyes and picking up the tea.

  Though she said nothing further, Chloe understood she needed a minute. To tell the truth, so did she. She gazed down at the caramel-color of the blend Marguerite had given her, one of the green teas, probably one of her concoctions specifically geared toward dissipating tension. However, as they sat there quietly, she heard a foot on the cobblestones. Despite the intensity of the moment, she felt a rush of warmth. There was one who never overlooked Marguerites needs.

  Tyler stepped into the garden, his paper under his arm, obviously about to head out, but checking in with her before he left. Marguerite kept her eyes closed, and when he bent to touch her cheek, she stayed that way. Her head tilted into the press of his mouth, though, as his other hand cupped her skull, held her that way.

  A fter a moments pause, he turned his gaze to Chloe. With a bemused expression, he leaned forward and kissed her forehead as well, stroking her hair. Chloe found herself leaning into that same reassurance. She mumbled her Im sorry, into his shirtfront.

  When he leaned back, his eyes were as kind and compassionate as they were stern and uncompromising earlier. Forgiven, little flower.

  Youre really scary, you know. I guess youve convinced terrorists to give up their plots and everything, so you have practice.

  The women in my life require a different approach. Humor rippled across his handsome face. The terrorists are far less work.

  * * * * *

  A fter he left them, they were silent a few more moments, but an easier feeling was between them, surrounded by the aroma of tea, morning sunlight, and late blooming flowers. The buzz of insects. The night at the carnival, Chloe asked at last. You disapproved of me being there. Why? Marguerite adjusted the tea pot on the cozy, smoothing the lace edge with slim fingers. It was the wrong setting. A submissives needs can be confusing and overwhelming for someone whos not a Dominant. A submissive tends to have a lot of conflicting emotions, a push-pull, so to speak.

  Its also difficult for a submissive like Brendan to instruct a Mistress, because he is wired to please. Plus, for someone like you, who isnt part of the D/s world, a setting like that can overwhelm you with the physical side of what it means. D/s is, at its heart, psychological. Its a power exchange, where a Dom takes the surrender of a submissive and makes the most of that for both of them.

  So he needs a Mistress, somebody to tie him up and do things to him, things like I saw at the carnival. Chloe sighed. I mean, freaking Level Ten pain threshold? Im not like that, Marguerite. Its not that I couldnt learn, it just doesnt feel like me.

  Marguerite shook her head. Done the right way, Brendan will respond the same way to a command to give his Mistress a foot massage as he would to being whipped. A t that astounding statement, she leaned forward. Some subs need the restraints and caning to be fulfilled. But not him.

  How much D/s can or cant adversely affect a relationship has a great deal to do with the two people involved. Brendan loves you, Chloe. I can see it in his face, and that love will continue to grow.

  He is unique, in that the most elemental level of his submission has to do with a womans willingness to let him care for her, to do what it is she wishes and see her pleasure in that. What Brendan needs, more than a Mistress, is someone who understands what his submissiveness is truly about. A nd thats the challenge and test of acceptance you face, not whether or not you are a natural Domme.

  Chloe drew a breath. Is it wrong for me to feel a little pissed off at you? A little possessive of Brendan, kind of like I dont want you around him, or touching him again?

  No. The wry humor in the other womans face did a lot to loosen Chloes gut. In fact, I find it very reassuring. You want him. Perhaps could even love him in time.

  If I dont already. Chloe knew that thought was there on the table, as obvious as the gleam of sun on the teapot. The way he calls Tyler sir.

  Brendan said that he initiated that.

  Yes, Brendan did that himself. He understood, based on what we have been to one another, that it was necessary to be clear how he views himself in relation to Tylers claim over me.

  Okay. Chloe thought it through. But you were mad at me for more than that. Tyler said youre protective of him, and you thoughtI felt like you thought Id abused his trust.

  Didnt you?

  I didnt know what I was doing. I Chloe came to a stop before that level pale blue gaze. Goddess, it was eerie how both of them could do that look. Yeah, I did.

  You needed to exorcise some demons. A nother reason the setting was not a good one.

  But isnt pain part of submission?
She remembered wanting to hurt him, a couple times, that desire to strike.

  Marguerite cocked her head. When you wanted to hurt him, up on the platform, it felt wrong inside you, ugly, violent. Right?

  A t Chloes nod, shadows came into Marguerites eyes. You know the small scar Tyler bears under his eye?

  He said he had a gardening accident.

  No. I did that to him. Because I wanted to hurt him. Marguerite met her gaze. There is a difference between giving pain to your submissive for your mutual needs and pleasure, and using him as a whipping post for your own wounds, your fear and pain. You intuitively knew the difference, which is why it felt wrong.

  Chloe pressed her lips together. I dont think Id ever feel okay giving pain to anyone, no matter the reason. I understand some people, like Brendan, may take pleasure in that, but its not me.

  If your love for one another goes the direction I expect, knowing what I know of both of you, you wont have to worry about that. Marguerite arched a brow. What is it you like about touching Brendan?

  Though unexpected, the change of direction wasnt unwelcome. Wellbesides the fact its like eating really good cake, I like the way he acts when I touch him.

  Yes, you do. That ghostlike smile on her lips, Marguerite nodded. The more we fall in love, Chloe, the more deeply we bond with another. Our preferences change, grow, because we are so wrapped up in pleasing one another, nothing else matters.

  Chloe considered that. He said something, when we were out on a picnic. That he gets irritated with people who claim not to need anyone, who confuse being defensive and obnoxious with independence. It was an unusual thing to hear a guy say.

  Its not unusual for Brendan. He lost his mother young, and understands that loss of stability, how it feels when there is no safety net of love or connection to another in your life. Someone could certainly misinterpret that as weakness in a male.

  Marguerites level look spoke volumes. Chloe remembered her reluctance to call Brendan a submissive for that very reason. Yet hed made her feel protected and cosseted every minute theyd been together. Every minute her fucked up mind had let him, and sometimes when it hadnt.

  I dont, Chloe said, with enough conviction that Marguerites jaw eased. He made a joke about it, though. He said if a terrorist had showed up at your wedding, everyone would crowd behind Mac and Tyler, because they have that out front, alpha-hero thing going, to take charge and lead everyone out of danger. But it doesnt make Brendan She sought the right words, but Marguerite already had them.