The limo had barely rolled to a stop when the door opened and a hand appeared in front of me.
I bit back a curse and reached out, accepting the gentlemanly gesture as graciously as I could. Damn Lee and his instincts! I’d made a point of arriving at the Crossway Club half an hour early, just so I could be there before him, yet here he was in his crisp black tux, looking so stern you’d think he’d been waiting for me for an hour.
“Where’s your mask?” he asked, peering into the car behind me.
I froze in the act of wrapping my red velvet pouch bag around my wrist. I’d thought he was providing the masks! Oh hell, I was at a masquerade banquet with no bloody mask!
Lee shook his head and huffed out a quiet laugh. “Look at your face,” he said. He clicked his fingers and the Crossway’s doorman jogged down the half a dozen steps behind us, holding out a black box.
“You can be so gullible, Beth. I told you I was bringing the masks.”
Smoothing the numerous folds of my ridiculously poufy, red velvet dress, I offered him a dry smile. “It had slipped my mind. Sorry, Master.”
Lee frowned. He motioned to the doorman, who pulled the lid off the black box with a flourish. Inside, on a bed of black satin, sat his and hers masks. Mine was black and decorated with iridescent glitter swirls and heart shaped red crystals, and his was black with black glitter. Two red crystal teardrops glinted just beneath the eyes, and I had to work to swallow the lump in my throat. He’d made a comment earlier in the year about crying tears of blood every time we were apart, so the significance of those crystals wasn’t lost on me.
Lee took the masks, twirling the red ribbons in his long fingers as we followed the doorman up the stairs and passed through the club’s doors. Once they’d closed and we were alone he said, “Did I not instruct you to refer to me by name tonight?”
I nodded sheepishly. He had told me not to call him Master, and I’d done it purely because he’d guessed my plan to beat him to an event for once and had thwarted me.
“These people are my staff and my business partners, Beth. They’re my family and friends, I can’t have them knowing about my… appetites when it comes to our relationship. My family won’t understand, and my partners, well… one or two of them must have similar tastes to mine, but most of them would run a mile if they knew the kinds of things I like to do to my lover.”
He was right. Gladys Doyle – the woman who ran the tech division at Lee’s security company – definitely had similar tastes to his, but I had about as much insight on the desires of the rest of his partners as he did, investigative journalist though I may be.
I lowered my head, chastened. “I’m sorry, Lee. I won’t disobey you again, I promise.”
He stepped closer and a wave of scent hit me. There was the usual grassy, earthy scent of his shower gel, but layered over the top was the deep spice of his cologne, a tang of bourbon, and a subtle hint of cigar smoke. He’d even managed to sneak in a drink inside while he was waiting for me to arrive.
I was instantly turned on, and by the time he’d tilted my head so he could see my eyes they’d narrowed to cat-like slits. “Beautiful,” he whispered. “And your apology is accepted. I like hearing you say sorry, Beth. It’s very sexy.”
My eyes popped wide, and I held my breath. He was behind me, lowering the zip on the back of my dress. His hand was warm on my ass, the sharp little slap he gave me an order to part my thighs. I obeyed, staring at the back of the doorman’s head through the glass door panels, praying he didn’t turn around.
Lee stretched his hand beneath me and his fingers stroked over my quickly dampening pussy. I started to count. Breathe in… one… two… three… four, breathe out… one… two… three… four… Slow and steady breaths, narrowing my entire focus to feeling nothing but what my Master was doing to me. Nothing else mattered. I’d been dreaming of his touch for weeks, and now I was finally getting it, and much sooner than I’d anticipated too.
Lee wasn’t an exhibitionist as a rule, so he must have really missed me to be carrying on this way. “So silent,” he whispered. He bit my ear and jammed two fingers into my pussy at the same time. I half moaned, half yelped, and I’m quite sure my eyes rolled back into my head when he started to thrust.
“That’s better,” he groaned. “Moan for me, Beth.”
I don’t think I could have stopped myself even if he wanted me too. I was racing toward a long awaited orgasm, and all of the weeks of warring with hatred of his no masturbation without his express permission rule meant nothing. I was thanking him for it now, because anticipation fuelled by denial made it all the better in the end.
“Oh, God, Lee, I’m gonna come,” I blustered.
No sooner had I said it did he pull his hand from between my legs, letting that tight ball of tension sit right there in my groin. He zipped up my dress, patted my skirts, then stepped around me, wearing that small smile that said he’d wound me up on purpose. “Do you like your mask?” he asked. His tone almost made him sound innocent. Almost.
But I didn’t want to show him that he’d set fire to my blood, so I took a deep breath and smiled, pretending my pussy wasn’t throbbing for him. I traced the little row of sparkly gems that would frame my eyes, and raising one brow I said, “Hearts?”
“It is a Valentine’s banquet,” he shrugged. “Don’t tell me you’re not feeling the occasion, Beth. You never, ever wear red in public.”
“Only because you’ve told me not to.”
Turning me around so he could position my mask, he chuckled softly. “Precisely. That means you’re ignoring me right now, which tells me you’re either getting into the festive spirit or you’re fishing for punishment.”
My smile was one I only dared when he couldn’t see my face. “One of those things is right, but I think I’ll leave it to you to figure out which.”
His arm wrapped around my waist and he pulled me against him. His breath was warm on my neck, and desire blurred my vision. His thumb stroked my bottom lip, making me open for him, and we both made soft sounds when his fingers pressed against my tongue and I started to suck. I could taste myself, and bourbon. He’d had his pussy dampened fingers in his mouth too.
“You do realise that the more you play with me now, the more I’ll make it hurt later, right?”
Of course I did. That’s why I was doing it. I hadn’t seen him in almost a month due to the overlap of his business trip to London and my trip to France to follow a lead on a story. Tonight was our first night together in twenty six days, and I was going to make sure he stayed in the right frame of mind to give us what neither of us had gotten from our video calls.
But what I said was, “I’ll behave, Lee. I promise.”
Was that a disappointed sigh? It might have been, but I couldn’t be sure, not when my own soft pants were drowning out every quiet sound around me.
Once his mask was in place, Lee took my hand and led me down a lushly carpeted passage, heading for the deeply carved double doors of the banquet hall. I was in the middle of a thought about how quiet the place was, when the door on the right opened wide, releasing a torrent of uproarious laughter.
I peered up at Lee, who grinned down at me. “I’m not early at all, am I?” I sighed.
“No,” he said. “You were ten minutes late, because I gave you the wrong time. I know you still have that thing where you want to beat me to a party, and that’s one of a handful of circumstances where I won’t have you coming before me.”
Oh, that word! Every time it slipped from between his plump lips it conjured all sorts of images in my head, each one as indecent as the next.
Lee laughed and led me toward a group of women who seemed to be dressed in varying shades of Marie Antoinette. I’d thought my own dress was imposing, but I looked like a pre-fairy godmother Cinderella in comparison to these women.
“Lee! Beth!” a woman cried.
It took me a few seconds to locate which of them had spoken. It was the one wearing a golden mask. Siobhan, she was called. I could tell it was her from a mile off, even if she hadn’t been the only woman there other than me who had a real beauty spot above her top lip.
“It’s me, Siobhan!” she added, and I disguised a snigger with a polite cough. I’d never understood the idea behind masquerade, it was impossible not to know who each and every person was just by the sound of their voices.
But Lee had told me it was impolite to imply you knew who was lurking behind the masks, so I feigned surprise for his benefit. “Oh my gosh, I would never have guessed you were you, Siobhan!” I exclaimed. It sounded fake to me, and to Lee too, if the sharpness he squeezed my hand with was anything to go by.
Siobhan took my hand and I gave Lee a pleading look, but he just shrugged and let her drawn me into the gaggle of chattering women. My eyes were on his back, watching his shoulders shake with laughter as he left me there. He stalked across the hall to join a bunch of men in penguin suits similar to his own who were all drinking from matching glasses and disappearing in wreaths of their own smoke.
“Look at that stride,” Siobhan muttered.
I was looking, but I forced myself to turn away just so I could step in front of her to block her view. He may have moulded me into his perfect, obedient pet, but I was as possessive of Lee as he was of me. I didn’t want anyone looking at him, but especially not Siobhan. Gladys had told me she’d been Lee’s girlfriend and his potential pet in training immediately before we’d met, but the fact that he’d chosen to leave her the day he met me didn’t make me any less jealous.
The chatter around us carried on, but Siobhan and I didn’t speak. We just regarded one another carefully. Lee hadn’t ever revealed his proclivities to her while they were together, but she knew him, and she always tried to get to the bottom of what she called his ‘intensity’ when it came to me every time we crossed paths.
The thought made me smile. If only she knew!
Another of the overdressed women stepped up and, hands on her pink velvet padded hips, she considered us with distaste. “Are you two doing this again?” she said. She was the event organiser from Lee’s company, and her name was Fleur. She thought it was her civil duty to diffuse any tension that arose between Siobhan and me, but I could never tell which of us she was annoyed with.
I smiled wider and shook my head. “Whatever do you mean? I was just admiring Siobhan’s dress, I’ve never seen such a vibrant shade of green before.” Okay, so it was a taunt, but only a little one. I’d promised I would behave, which had been an outright lie, but I wouldn’t make jealousy the evening’s defining crime.
Fleur gave me a sidelong glance. “Riiight. Well, dinner will be served soon enough, so maybe we should find our places.”
My belly flipped. This was the part I hated. Fleur thought it was in the company’s interests to not sit couples or family members next to one another, and the last two times I’d accompanied Lee to events I’d been placed between nightmarish people. The first time it was the bloated husband of one of the executives, and the accountant wife of another, and the second time I found myself between a self-imposed mute… and Siobhan.
My only solace was that Fleur never sat us beside the same person twice in a row, so I would be blessedly Siobhan free for the best part of the evening.
As predicted, Siobhan kept walking after I found my place. I picked up the little pale pink card that had my initials printed on it in glittery red curlicue, eyeing the ones either side to see if I could figure out what I was in for. EL and JA. Well that wasn’t helpful at all, I couldn’t think of anyone with those initials.
Holding on to the back of my chair, I peered around the table, looking for Lee. When I found him at the far end on the opposite side to me, I let out an audible hiss. “You have got to be fucking kidding me.” He was grinning from ear to ear, but not at me. Siobhan was making a meal out of brushing up against him as she settled into the seat he held out for her, and he looked delighted.
The place card crumpled in my hand and I stared at the table, trying to gauge the distance between me and the door. Would I be fast enough to reach it and escape before Lee spotted me? I sniggered at myself, dropping my mangled card. The better question was, would he even notice?
Someone coughed beside me and I jumped. Standing behind the chair on my right – the JA side – there was a man. He was wearing a silver phantom of the opera style mask that covered just one side of his face, and his smile was brimming over with curiosity.
“Would you like to sit?” he asked. He had a nice voice, deep and melodious, and openly friendly.
This made a nice change! I’d expected to be sat next to horrors, so having an attractive man pull out my chair greatly improved my mood. Podgy mouth-breathers were no good to me, but this guy I could use.
Siobhan’s laugh reached my ears and I straightened my back, pushing out my chest and smiling as broadly as I could. “I would love to, thank you.”
He pulled out my chair, and I slipped into it, nodding at the woman sitting down to my left. EL turned out to be Erica Lamb, the receptionist who had retired from the company five years previously because she was as old as dirt and could barely see or hear. I would get no conversation there, so I turned to JA and waited for him to sit.
“I’m Jon,” he said, holding out his hand. “Jon Allison.”
I smiled again and took it, not stopping him when he lifted my hand to his lips so he could kiss it. “That’s not very sporting of you,” I teased. “I thought we were all supposed to be incognito.”
“That would be great if none of us actually knew anyone. A mask doesn’t change stature, voices, eye or hair colour…”
“No, it doesn’t. I’m Elizabeth Carson. You can call me Beth.”
Jon pursed his lips and peered down the table. “The boss’ Beth?”
Damn, he knew who I was. Would this mean he’d be on his best behaviour? I hoped not. If I had to sit and listen to Siobhan hooting all night I’d lose my mind. I nodded, taking a sip of red wine.
“That must be fun for you. By the time Swampy hit twenty he was middle aged, I can’t understand what a young girl like you sees in him.”
My responding laugh was uncharacteristically loud. I’d heard Lee called lots of things over the two years we’d been together, but Swampy was new. I dabbed my lips with a napkin, meeting Jon’s eyes. “Swampy?” I queried.
“Yes, Swampy. I’ve called him that since we were kids.”
Hmmm, a friend and not a business associate. This was getting more promising by the second. Leaning a little closer, I lowered my voice as though I was asking him to reveal state secrets. “Care to tell me why?” I hoped Lee was watching, because flirting with him while he couldn’t see me do it was no fun.
“When we were about twelve, we snuck into my older brother’s bedroom while he was out with his girl, and we watched Psycho. After that, Lee refused to go near a shower, or even a bath, for almost a month. I told him he was starting to smell swampy and the name stuck.”
Oh, poor Lee! I was laughing again, even though I shouldn’t have been. Lee was fastidious when it came to personal hygiene, he would be mortified to know Jon had told me this story.
Jon downed his wine just as the first course arrived, and after popping a shrimp in his mouth he said, “So tell me about you, Beth…”
** ** **
The evening wore on, and Jon and I talked through the fish, the chicken, and the spiced pear dessert. We drank and laughed, him sharing tales of what it was like growing up with Lee Barnhart as a best friend, and me telling him what it was like living with the man now.
I’d been annoyed with Lee since I’d heard his deep laugh ricochet around the hall, but I couldn’t keep my love and adoration for him out of my voice. Jon was happy for his old buddy, but I could tell he was envious. I’d established that singledom suited him as much as it had suited me, and I expressed that I hoped he’d find someone soon.
Meal over, the time for dancing arrived. This was the part I’d been looking forward too. I could throw off my jealousy and petty flirting now, because Lee would be coming to sweep me off my feet.
Or so I thought.
I was just pointing out Fleur – who was single also – to Jon when a strong grip dug into the socket of my elbow. I yelped in surprise, looking up at Lee in alarm. He was staring back, and the brightness of his blue eyes had been taken over by anger.
“Swampy!” Jon said.
I cringed when Lee squeezed.
“Speedy,” he replied almost coldly.
I saw a chance and took it. “Speedy?” I said, laughing just a bit too hysterically. “Where did that nickname come from?”
Jon blushed, and Lee answered. “He loves to fuck but he always comes a little bit too fast. Get your bag, Elizabeth. We’re leaving.”
The car ride home was made in silence. Lee usually sat in the back with me, but not tonight. Tonight he was up front with Openshaw, and the privacy screen was closed. I’d thought I had the entire hour long drive to the big house outside of town to put together a reasonable explanation for my behaviour, so when the limo rolled to a stop outside of Lee’s townhouse I began to panic.
The door opened and Openshaw offered me his hand. Lee usually insisted on being the gentleman, but right now he was already stomping up the steps. I followed silently, passing through into the dark hall. A light flickered on overhead, and Lee pointed at the stairs.
As I walked by, he unzipped the back of my dress in one fast move, and I cringed at the sound of it tearing. So much for getting the deposit back.
I took the stairs, heading straight for my room. We had reached the bed sharing stage long ago, but whenever I was in the doghouse, I knew not to dare approach our shared space. The room that was kept for me was white and clinical, the only things distinguishing it from a room in a hospital being the metal rack that ran along one wall, and the bed. No medical suite I’d ever seen boasted of a canopied four poster, though some of the things hanging from the metal hooks on the rack would definitely be at home in one.
I stepped out of my dress and regarded my reflection in the window. My lingerie was on point, but Lee wasn’t likely to notice. I was going to get what I wanted, but not for the reasons I wanted it. I’d wanted to awaken his possessiveness, not his anger.
The door behind me opened and Lee stalked in. I didn’t look up. I dropped to my knees and lowered my chin almost to my chest, resting my palms on my heels, just like I was supposed to.
“Do you know what you did?” he asked quietly.
I’d done a lot of things while I’d sat at that table beside Jon, so I didn’t know how to answer. I just shook my head once, keeping my eyes on the floor.
“Well the most obvious transgression was the flirting, though that was intentional so I’ll let it slide. It wasn’t the first time you’ve felt the need to secure my attention, and it won’t be the last, so that’s not what bothers me. Would you like me to tell you what does?”
“Please, Master,” I whispered.
His bare feet were in my direct line of sight now, and I stared at his twitching toes. He was struggling to stay in one spot, and that meant my punishment was almost here.
“You kept leaning in to smell him,” he said quietly. “Every time I looked at you – which was often – you were breathing him in. Did you like my old friend’s scent?”
Ah shit, how did I answer? I hadn’t even realised I was doing that. I knew I’d leaned in to whisper a few times, but the smelling had been unintentional.
“Answer me!” Lee yelled.
I whimpered, squeezing my arms against my sides. “I must have. I didn’t know I was doing that, I’m sorry, Master.”
Lee’s feet vanished, and I could hear him pacing by the bed. “Oh, I know you didn’t, and that makes it worse. If it had been part of your silly ploy to make me jealous I would have laughed it off, but it wasn’t, yet it was the only fucking thing you did tonight that actually worked.”
A draft of air blew my hair into my face, and I listened to Lee mumble as he pulled the bedsheets down. I would be sleeping in here tonight, and I would be sleeping alone. He walked around the room, everywhere I couldn’t see him. But I could hear him. He was breathing heavily, and every few minutes he cursed.
I knelt on the floor, and every second that passed stoked my nerves. The wait played on my fears, built up the anticipation and dread until my breaths became ragged. And something else was happening too. In the silent lulls, I could feel the slight trickling of fluid seeping between my legs. I was soaking wet already, and my crotchless knickers were doing nothing to hold back the flow.
Lee reappeared, this time beside me, and he stroked my hair from my face, tickling my nose with a clump of it because he knew I hated that. “You belong to me, Beth,” he murmured, wrapping my hair around his hand and tightening. “All of you belongs to me, including your sense of fucking smell.”
I couldn’t help it, he was dragging me backwards up the bed by my hair. He flipped me over, tearing the flimsy lace knickers, and the first slap to hit my bare ass was hard enough to redden my skin. I writhed, arching my back, giving him a more prominent target.
The second slap was harder still, and I moaned and whimpered, crying for him to stop even as I offered myself up to him. It went on and on, respite coming in the form of sucking wet kisses whenever his hand needed a rest.
Lee grabbed my hips and stars exploded in my eyes when his cock sank into me. I hadn’t been expecting this at all! My usual ‘real’ punishments rarely involved sex, so I made the most of a good thing. I fucked back, digging my nails into his hands, rasping his name in encouragement.
My hair was yanked again, and then I was upright, crying out as cruel fingers clamped onto my nipples and squeezed. “You’re a fucking bitch sometimes, Elizabeth,” Lee panted. He bit my ear so hard I wondered if it was bleeding. “The only man in this world I want your senses to crave is me. Because they, like you, are mine.”
I stared at the canopy above me in confusion. I hadn’t even felt myself being pushed down, never mind flipped over again. Lee lay on top of me and I frowned. He hated missionary, the only time it ever happened was if we were fucking in a strange bed, and even then I ended up on top at some stage.
“I’m going to teach you a new kind of control, treasure,” he murmured. “Do you consent?”
“Do you remember your safe signal?”
I nodded again, and tweaked the tip of his nose to show him I wasn’t delirious just yet.
The flash in his eyes was disturbing, his smile almost evil, but I trusted him completely. Still, nothing had prepared me for what I was about to experience.
Lee’s fingers flexed in front of my face, stretching wide before slowly wrapping around my throat. The first squeeze was light, a tease almost, but then it tightened. I felt the pressure on my skin, felt his fingers digging in, and I managed to draw in a hit of his intoxicating, grassy fresh scent before my ability to smell him was suddenly cut off.
Lee held my eyes, sinking his cock back into my pussy, much deeper than he had before. He held it there for a second, watching my mouth open and close, rocking his pelvis against my clit. My hands wrapped around his wrist and my lashes fluttered, and then he started to really move.
We’d fucked in so many different ways I’d lost count, but this was the first time he’d taken me like this. I could hear nothing but my own blood pounding in my ears, feel nothing but the savage rhythm of his cock, and the ache of my lungs screaming for relief.
My eyes were closed now. I couldn’t keep them open. If he didn’t let me breathe I was going to pass out, and he knew it too. That’s why his fingers flexed again, letting me drag in one desperate rush of air before tightening again, making me hold it. His scent seemed much stronger than it had before, and I couldn’t wait for the next hit.
I was so close to exploding, but I hadn’t been given permission. Lee had taught me to be good at refusing orgasm long ago, but it was so hard right now. I’d given every shred of control to him, and he’d taken it. Each thrust of his cock was making me want to cry out, but he’d taken possession of my ability to breathe just as surely as he’d claimed my body.
His free hand flattened on my cheek with a stinging crack, over and over until I forced my eyes open. He slowed and adjusted his position above me, shifting his choking grasp to my jaw and squeezing, watching my lips pucker.
“Tell me your heart beats for me,” he whispered, stroking my chest. “Tell me you breathe for me.”
“I breathe for you.” My words were a bluster of raw need, made scratchy by my Master’s hand. “My heart beats for you, Master. Only you.”
“Good girl. Now you’re going to come for me. Loudly.”
His hand took my throat again and he squeezed his hardest yet, compressing my windpipe until it hurt. He pounded into me, each thrust inching me further up the bed. I drew my knees toward my chest so he could go deeper, and just as oxygen deprivation began to turn the edges of my vision black, I came.
Lee freed my throat and I could hear him laughing breathlessly at my ragged cries. I didn’t care that I could hardly get my breath, I would always be able to call his name, even if I lost my voice.
I cupped my throat, feeling the heat that would probably be a bruise tomorrow. It wasn’t scarf weather yet, but I would wear one to lunch with his mother and I’d delight at the thrill of knowing the secret concealed beneath it.
“Did I hurt you, treasure?” Lee asked, kissing my forehead.
I nodded my confession, but I did it with a lazy smile.
“Oh, poor thing. Here, let me make it better for you.” He rose to his knees and dragged me back down the bed, tugging on my chin to hold my jaw open. I watched him stroke his cock inches from my face, and stuck out my tongue when he traced the silky wet tip over my lips. The sounds he made as he approached orgasm had become as precious as diamonds to me, and I whimpered softly, desperate for a taste of what was to come.
“Fuck,” he whispered. That one word was all he said, but it made my heart race. He only ever said it in that tone when his climax was imminent.
The first threads splattered my tongue and I lifted my head, wrapping my mouth around his cock and drawing every ounce of pleasure from him. He held my face, thrusting in and out of my mouth, shuddering every time my lips touched the ridge and I sucked hard to pull him back in.
Lee backed off and dipped his head, licking the thin beads of cum he’d left on my chin. He pushed my hair off my face and frowned. “Why does someone as lovely as you love someone as cruel as me?” he asked.
“Loving you is easy,” I smiled. “You’re the only man in the world who can take my breath away.”