The master, p.2
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       The Master, p.2
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         Part #8 of Submissive series by Tara Sue Me

  such a cacophony of emotions—longing, regret, hope, trepidation, and anticipation—he wanted nothing more than to whisper encouragement until she believed him. In a way, he realized, this retraining was almost like an extended aftercare session.

  His typical preference for aftercare involved hugging his submissive close with her head on his chest. He hadn’t been dishonest when he told Sasha he expected much from his sexual partners. After such intense play, he’d found he needed that time as much as his sub did. Time to simply wrap his arms around the woman who’d trusted him with her submission. This, however, was the first time he felt the urge to hold someone before they did anything.

  He would have to be careful with Sasha. Slowly earn her trust. Keep his hands to himself and limit anything physical. For the moment, though, he needed to know if she was in the right frame of mind to talk more or if he needed to see her home. “How are you feeling?” he asked.

  She shrugged and turned her focus back down at her lap. “Fine, Sir.”

  Hell to the fucking no. He wasn’t going to put up with that. “Eyes on me until I tell you otherwise.” He leaned forward. Whether she was in the right frame of mind for a discussion or not, there were things she needed to understand about how their time would go. “The most important rule I have, the one that is not negotiable, the one that if you can’t agree to, we will end this now, is that there must always be complete honesty between us. I play too intensely for anything less. Think about my requirement and whether you can meet it. If you think you can, give me a verbal response and properly answer the question I asked.”

  Something flashed in her eyes. If he hadn’t been watching her so intently, he might have missed it. But it was there for the briefest of seconds. He wasn’t sure, but he thought it was longing.

  You’re going to have to watch yourself around this one.

  A needy submissive, longing to serve. A wounded soul, needing protection. She pushed damn near every button he had. After Kate’s rejection after all those years together, something deep inside had broken. And how much more did Sasha need healing after being physically injured in a scene? Perhaps in helping Sasha to heal, he could heal himself.

  “I agree with your requirement, Sir,” she said so softly he could barely hear.

  And that wouldn’t do. He wondered why sometimes she was forceful and others she was almost mousey. “Say it again with authority. Own the words you speak. Language is too important to waste with a murmur.”

  Her eyes flashed, and when she spoke again, there was no doubt she meant it. “I agree with your requirement, Sir.”

  “Much better, little one. You make me think there’s a hellcat buried under that mousey exterior after all.”

  “I am not mousey, Sir.”

  He cocked an eyebrow and hid his grin. “Good, because mousey submissives have no business kneeling before me. I only dominate women strong enough to know their own minds, those who respect their bodies enough to yield control to a Dominant willing to take it. And make no mistake; what I take, I take completely.”

  She trembled at his words.

  “I’m not feeling fine, Sir,” she said in a rush.

  He held her gaze for several seconds, making sure she knew how accurately he’d read her. “I didn’t think you were. As a result, the word ‘fine’ has been banished from your vocabulary. You’re not to say it, write it, or think it. Understood?”

  “Yes, Sir.”

  He nodded. “Let’s try again. How are you feeling?”

  She didn’t glance at her lap like the first time. Instead, she kept her eyes on him. “I’m tired, and that disappoints me because I know we need to discuss things.”

  “It would be more of a problem if we tried to discuss or negotiate anything whilst you were spent. There are enough problems in life without knowingly inviting more, wouldn’t you agree?”

  “Yes, Sir.”

  This time he let his grin show. “So compliant, little one. It makes me curious as to how you will act when you don’t agree with me.” Conflicting emotions crossed her face. “We’ll worry about it then. For now, we need to get you home. If you’re free tomorrow afternoon, we can meet at the coffee shop down from your place for a discussion.”

  “Thank you, Sir.” She moved to push back her chair, but he held out a hand to still her.

  “One more thing. Since I’ve agreed to retrain you, as of tonight you are under my protection. I hold that responsibility in the highest of regards.” He waited until her eyes glistened with understanding before adding, “Be it ever so temporary, until further notice, you are mine.”

  Chapter Two

  When the clock beside her bed read four o’clock in the morning, Sasha gave up all pretense of sleeping. She hated insomnia. She’d experienced it frequently following the incident with Peter, but until today it’d been months since she had been unable to sleep all night.

  Pulling on the robe she kept at the foot of her bed, she padded into the kitchen to make coffee. It didn’t take much thought to figure out why she couldn’t sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw Cole Johnson. Her mind wouldn’t stop spinning as she tried to make sense of the fact that he was going to be the one who would retrain her.

  Why? That was her first question. Why Cole when there were several other Dominants within the group who could do it? Why did Cole agree to the arrangement when he could have any submissive he wanted? Why decide to retrain a submissive so messed up he couldn’t even have sex with her?

  She hadn’t had sex in over nine months, not since Peter. Sometimes she wondered if she’d ever enjoy sex again. Her sexuality was so deeply entwined with her need to submit, it didn’t seem possible to have one without the other. She feared she’d never be at the place where she could completely give herself to a Dominant. Cole certainly had his work cut out for him.

  She leaned against the counter while the coffeepot gurgled and sputtered. She wished it were a weekday. If it were, Julie would be arriving at their floral shop downstairs in a few hours and they could talk. But it was Sunday and Julie lived with Daniel now. She was collared, bound to him. Sasha no longer felt comfortable dropping by unannounced like she’d done in the past.

  “Doesn’t really matter,” she said to the empty kitchen. “It’s not like you would call her at four in the morning anyway.”

  She poured a cup of coffee and walked over to a window overlooking the historic district. What were the odds Cole was up and looking out his window right now? Was he a light sleeper? Did he hog the covers?

  With a shake of her head, she forced herself to stop. He was the Dominant selected to retrain her, and they had no relationship beyond that. She would never know which side of the bed he preferred or if he was a grouch before he had coffee.

  Suddenly, she felt very alone.

  Everyone else in the group was pairing up lately. Julie had Daniel. Dena had Jeff. And Abby and Nathaniel had been married forever.

  As if hearing her thoughts, Pip, the stray kitten, meowed softly and butted her head against her ankles. Sasha reached down and picked her up.

  “Thank goodness I’m not totally alone. I have you.”

  Pip started to purr and Sasha buried her face in the soft white fur. Doing so reminded her of the day Cole and Nathaniel rescued her. Cole didn’t quite know how to handle the newly-freed-from-certain-death kitten, especially when the poor animal struggled to get away. But when Sasha had taken her from him, Cole had looked at her strangely. She wasn’t sure what it was, maybe surprise? But there was something else she couldn’t put her finger on.

  She took a long sip of coffee. Was Cole a dog person? No, probably not. He traveled too much. Jesus. She tried not to think about him, but the questions just kept coming. Would he be staying in Delaware long? How long would he need to retrain her?

  She knew he and his previous submissive, who’d also been his long-term girlfriend, had broken up months ago. She’d never heard exactly what had happened between the two of them. She’d
picked up bits and pieces about Cole and Kate from listening to other group members. She knew they had been together for eight years before they split and that Kate had left him.

  Maybe Julie would know more, since Daniel and Cole were such close friends. And Dena had been in the group for a long time. It wouldn’t hurt to ask her a few questions. But it would probably be best to talk to Abby. After all, Abby was the one Sasha had sat down with first to discuss coming back to the group, after she’d given Nathaniel her paperwork.

  Sasha liked Abby. She was easygoing and fun to be around. More so than her husband. Nathaniel was too quiet and intense for Sasha’s taste.

  But, she pondered, how much did she really want to know about Kate? What would a woman be like who dated a man such as Cole for so long? Not just date, but live with. She tried to imagine what it would be like to live with him: sharing a bathroom and fighting over the toothpaste, sitting on a couch watching a movie, and curling up in bed after a long day.

  It all seemed too domestic for how she pictured him.

  She set Pip down, poured herself another cup of coffee, and made her way to the living room couch, where she’d left her knitting. After the incident with Peter, she’d discovered knitting kept her mind calm. The meeting with Cole looming before her this afternoon, some time with her knitting needles was just what she needed.

  Currently, she was working on baby blankets for the local hospital. On her most recent trip to the craft store, she’d found the softest yarn. It’d been on sale and she’d bought every bit they had. Already she had two blankets completed. Putting her coffee aside, she got comfortable and started on the third.

  • • •

  She was almost late meeting him. He sent a text midmorning asking if two o’clock would be good for their coffee shop discussion. She’d replied back that would work and went to take a shower, only to discover she had no hot water. She found the problem and fixed it, then walked into the living room to be greeted by yarn pulled all over the floor. She cursed Pip under her breath, but knew she could only blame herself. She’d been so frazzled by Cole’s phone call, she hadn’t put her knitting away. By the time she cleaned the mess up, she was running short on time.

  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath as the coffee shop’s door closed behind her. Someone had just baked a fresh batch of croissants. The warm yeasty smell greeted her and her stomach rumbled. With everything going on with the water heater and the yarn mess, she hadn’t had time to eat lunch.

  Food would have to wait a little bit longer, though. She glanced around the shop and started slightly when she found Cole watching her intently from a secluded booth in the far corner. He lifted an eyebrow when their eyes met. She gave what she hoped was a convincing smile and made her way toward him.

  “Sasha,” he said, standing with a smile and waving her into the booth. “How are you today?”

  She slid into the booth across from him. “I’m fi—” she started, but then stopped, remembering his words from the previous night. “If you must know, Sir, I didn’t sleep well last night. My water heater went out and I had to fix it so I could take a shower. Then I walked into the living room and Pip had dragged my yarn all over the floor. I didn’t have a chance to eat lunch because I ran out of time. I’m tired and hungry, and more than a little apprehensive about the discussion we’re about to have.”

  He gave her an easy smile. “See? Look at everything I would have missed out on hearing about had I not stripped that horrid word from your vocabulary yesterday.”

  Because she pictured him as a stern Dominant, the jovial, easygoing side of his everyday personality caught her off guard. “I’ve never thought of it as a horrid word, but I do see your point, Sir.”

  He leaned forward. “Because of the discussion we’re having today, I’m going to ask that you call me ‘Cole.’ We’ll save ‘Sir’ for when we’re more formal.”

  She nodded. He wasn’t pleased she’d called him “Sir,” but something about the order he gave her started a fire deep in her belly. Something she hadn’t experienced in a very long time. God, she’d missed this so much.

  “Also,” he continued, “I’m normally not overly strict about diet, but you’re much too thin to be skipping meals. I’m going to get you a sandwich and, whilst I’m gone, I’d like for you to think about your goals in being retrained.”

  It wouldn’t take much time for her sandwich to be prepared. In fact, he was gone mere minutes before reappearing with the ham and cheese she requested. But even though he’d told her to be thinking about her goals, he didn’t question her about them right away.

  She took a bite of the sandwich and hummed in bliss. It was so good. She gulped down two more bites.

  “Slowly,” he said, and his voice dropped an octave, taking on a slow and seductive quality. “Take your time. People have a tendency to rush through meals. Enjoy it. Savor every bite. The croissant has just come from the oven and the cheese is a sharp cheddar. I’ve lived in enough remote areas that I’ve learned to appreciate the joy of fresh food. Allow yourself time to simply enjoy your sense of taste.”

  Lord help her, he was talking about a sandwich. But more than that, he was giving her orders about eating a sandwich. She would have thought that would turn her off, but instead it further stoked the fire in her belly.

  “Now,” he said, looking pleased with himself and amused once again. God, he was smug. “I’m not sure what you’ve heard about me, but judging by your expression last night, I’m guessing the rumor is I break submissives and eat them for breakfast?”

  “And pick your teeth with their bones,” she said after swallowing a bite, in as much of a deadpan voice as she could manage.

  “Right.” His left eyebrow quirked up. “But never more than two before lunch.”

  “Of course not. That would be uncouth.”

  He laughed. “Uncouth, hmm? I believe, Sasha, that you and I are going to get along famously.”

  For just a second she wanted to pretend he wasn’t just the Dom who was retraining her. That his words meant more than what he intended. But she knew she couldn’t, she needed to remember at all times this was not a permanent relationship or one that involved feelings.

  “Speaking of which, I thought we should start things out slowly.” He leaned back and she was struck by how his every movement seemed methodical, intentional. It wasn’t just his voice that drew her in, it was everything about him.

  She hadn’t expected someone with his reputation to do anything slow. It made her apprehension ease a bit. “Slow would be good.”

  “I think we should start out by meeting twice a week. And we’ll be in touch some way every day.” He watched her as if she was the most important thing in the world. He cataloged her reactions, studied her responses. With anyone else, she would have felt self-conscious, but under his scrutiny, she felt protected.

  “Isn’t that a lot?” she asked. “Every day?”

  “Not if I plan to get inside that mind of yours.” He said it with a smile, but his tone was serious.

  “Okay.” She nodded. “You’re still staying at Daniel’s?”

  “For now. I’m actually in the market for a new place.”

  “In Wilmington?”

  “Yes, I like this area and the people. It’s one of the perks of my job. I can work remotely from anywhere.”

  She could only nod, momentarily dazed by the news that he’d be staying in Wilmington for good. Knowing he’d be leaving after her retraining would have helped drive home the fact they weren’t in a relationship.

  “You wouldn’t happen to know any estate agents, Realtors, would you?” he asked.

  “I know people from all professions. One of the perks of my job.”

  He smiled.

  “Let me look over some names,” she said. “I’ll give you a few next time we talk.”

  “Thank you.”

  A waitress came to check on them. Cole assured her they had everything they needed. He looked so normal, so eve
ryday. So very far removed from how she heard he acted in the playroom.

  “Will we meet at Daniel’s guesthouse?” she asked when the woman walked away.

  “I think so. Would you have a problem with that?”

  “No, I’m over that way a lot anyway.” She waited to see if he would say anything about seeing her there. Since he lived at the guesthouse, it was possible he’d noticed her at Daniel’s before. But he just inclined his head slightly.

  She remembered the one time she’d run into him at Daniel’s. She’d been helping Julie with some planting and suddenly he was standing over them. Her heart had jumped to her chest until she took note of the beautiful woman at his side. The woman he later did a violet-wand demo on. She bet he was some kind of wonderful with that tool.

  “I’d like to leave our time together open-ended,” he said. “Until we get into it, I won’t have an idea of how long we’ll potentially need.”

  “That makes sense.”

  “We’ll discuss it along the way, agree on the timing together.”

  “Of course.”

  He reached to his side and picked something up. When he placed it on the table, she saw it was a journal.

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