She’s already rung for the household servants with her wristwatch device, like a hot sexy spy from a futuristic novel, and, rising, gathers the leather folder, the old book, and her phone. “Nguyen, tell Carter to bring the car around immediately. The Phantom. I want a table for two for lunch in a private room at La Maison. Bring Mr. Stone’s jacket to him now,” she issues her commands.
Nguyen bows discreetly and hurries away, returning with Aiden’s leather jacket that I borrowed. It seems like a million things have happened since I relinquished it last night.
Automatically I slide my hand in the pocket, and pull out my cell phone. Oh, fuckola. I can see a dozen text messages and calls, from Aiden, from Chloe, even one call from my dad.
Even as I hold it, it starts buzzing with an incoming call.
Lark watches me, frowning tightly.
I don’t know what to do.
“Answer it,” she hisses, eyes narrowing.
Heart in my throat, I do. “Bash!” Aiden yelps through the phone. “Where the hell have you been? I haven’t heard from you, you didn’t answer any of my texts! I thought that maniac might’ve kidnapped you and-”
Oh, fuck, can she hear him?
“I’m fine,” I say coolly, calmly, cutting him off. “Everything’s just fine. We’re going to stop for a bite of lunch, and then I’ll be home to get ready for work.”
“Okay, okay. You’re all right, though?”
“Yes, I am, honest,” I say before he can start one of his rounds of Twenty Nosy Questions. “Don’t worry about me, Aiden. I’m fine. I’ll see you in a bit.” I hit the End Call button before he can say something else embarrassing.
Lark’s eyebrows are raised. “Now you understand my need for secrecy and privacy?” she says, arms folded.
“Yes,” I admit.
“Come along,” she instructs me, leading me from the living room through the foyer, and out the huge front doors that Nguyen holds open for us.
Carter, dressed in her black uniform, shades on, is waiting attentively in front of a stunning, sleek black Rolls Royce. Gee whiz. I’m kind of bummed we don’t take the Ducati, but this is impressive, I have to admit.
“Get in, Sebastian,” Lark directs me crisply as I hesitate, and quickly, I scramble inside. She gracefully joins me, swinging her long legs in effortlessly, and Carter closes the door behind us, then takes the wheel.
I can feel the sheer, raw, luxurious power of the vehicle as we vroom forward, around the half-circle drive, and through the arches of majestic pines out towards the front gates.
Seeing the grounds of her home by daylight, it really is magnificent, I think, trying not to gape out the window. There are high fences, and what looks like the top of a garden off to one side.
“All of this is yours?” I finally ask in a small voice.
“Forty nine point nine acres,” she confirms.
“Your fortress of solitude?”
She gives a small, secretive smile. “Something like that. I bought the estate four years ago, and when the adjacent land became available a few years later, I bought that, too. It’s all mine. My specifications. My designs. The house has eight bedrooms, ten bathrooms, two offices, a wine cellar.”
And your Depravity Sanctuary, I think, but I don’t dare say it with Carter right there. How much does she know about her employer’s proclivities?
Lark’s phone rings, and, with that distant and professional mask back on, she answers with a curt “Blackwood.” As she gives short, sharp directions about an urban renewal project, her voice authoritative, I can’t help flushing at the thought that I’ve seen other sides to her. Oh, still a bossy control freak, to be sure, but I’ve seen her flushed with sexual arousal. Curled sweetly in sleep. Wet and naked in a hot shower. Gazing at me, with a hot and sexy smile, over breakfast.
How many others can say the same?
At least seventeen others, my Superego reminds me from his oversized desk, an old-fashioned word processor and printer spitting out pages. Eighteen if you count her primary.
I almost groan aloud. No, my Id argues. She said she didn’t sleep in the same bed with them. But she did with you! That’s something!
“Fine…. No, not until I’ve seen the numbers, JD, I told you that before. …I don’t care, we do it my way or no way at all! If Hudson wants it built bad enough, they’ll agree to my parameters. End of story.” She clicks off. “Carter, be sure to have the specs for the Westchester project sent to Doyle & Embree today.”
She’s gone all cold and businesslike, and, between that and the thoughts of her personal-boy-band of seventeen others, I’ve never felt further away from her. Even though we are sitting side by side in the back of her elegant Rolls. It feels like the console between us is a mile-high barrier.
Not like last night or earlier this morning. Then, I felt like we were as close as possible. It was everything I dreamed of.
Her face remains rigid during the rest of the short drive, still beautiful, of course, but like she’s unreachable. After a few minutes, Carter turns the car into a small, gravel drive. A lovely little restaurant, like a cottage, hidden by the trees, is nestled there. The discreet sign says La Maison, and quite a few cars are already parked there in the front. It must be popular.
But Carter drives along one side of the restaurant, where a green awning hangs over a side door.
“Special private entrance for VIPs,” murmurs Lark as Carter opens her door. “Come along, Sebastian, you look pale. You need to eat something. You barely touched your breakfast,” she adds, scowling.
The maitre ‘d, a slick, slightly greasy European man with a swoop of dark hair that he probably gels and blow-dries, greets Lark effusively. He’s flirting with her, I realize indignantly, obviously taken by her beauty and poise. Euro-Greaser leads us to an intimate, private dining room with a lakeside view from floor-to-ceiling windows. The younger, blond waiter who seats us also blushes and stutters, staring at Lark, when he brings us menus and attempts to tell us about the specials.
Lark cuts the spluttering waiter off with a swift hand-motion. “Never mind all that,” she says decisively. “We’ll start with the Japanese bouillabaisse. Then we will have the poached chicken, mixed seasonal greens, and the grain bowl with probiotic yogurt dressing. Bring the food all at once, and then leave us undisturbed. What white Bordeaux do you have?”
“There’s, um, a l- lovely Chateau Carbonnieux blanc-” The blond waiter’s round face is bright puce, and he can’t stop staring at her.
“That will do. Bring us two glasses,” she finishes, dismissing him.
I guess that should be relieved that I’m not the only one reduced to such a state by Lark Blackwood, but I’m not.
My mouth is open for a number of reasons, and Lark all but glares at me. “What?” she bites out.
I try the most simple of my concerns. “I, uh… I should get a Coke or something instead of wine, since I’m going to work in an hour or two-”
“Soda is for children,” she informs me. “This will go better with our meal.”
“But I don’t really care for-”
“Sebastian,” she murmurs, shaking her head. “Defying me every step of the way, aren’t you?”
I flush, not knowing what to say.
“You’re blushing, and you keep licking your lips in a way that is very distracting indeed, my sweet young lad,” Lark whispers. “No wonder I’m breaking all of my usual rules where you’re concerned.”
“You are?” I peep.
“I am,” she confirms. “I’ve never had a boy in my own bed. Never taken one on a motorcycle ride. Never showered with him in my own shower. You’re… not like the others,” she says, almost wonderingly, like she can’t quite understand it herself.
“What about… him?”
“Him?” She tilts her head to one side, blinking.
She frowns, and I wonder if she’s going to scold me or freeze me out again.
But then she says, “No, he does not access my private quarters. Our arrangement is limited to specific locations.”
“Like the Depravity Sanctuary?”
Suddenly, to my bemusement, she laughs, bending double. “Oh, dear, Sebastian, that sharp tongue of yours! ‘Depravity Sanctuary.’ How dramatic!”
She is still laughing at me, and I’m beginning to feel seriously piqued. Between her egotistical control freakiness and her constant need to provoke me, it’s hard not to be annoyed. I purse my lips peevishly, scowling.
“Wait until I tell him that,” she chuckles. “He’ll love it!”
“No, don’t!” I protest, jealousy, hot and powerful, welling up inside me. “I don’t want you to talk about me with him!”
She’s still flushed and laughing, girlish, utterly enchanting. I find myself softening a little as her eyes sparkle at me.
“Bash,” she says quietly, reaching to touch my hand, “I have to talk about you with him, in an arrangement like this. But you are in control of those perimeters.” She squeezes my hand gently. Reassuringly? “You are the one in control, remember that.”
I am? How? It doesn’t feel like it.
“After you and I negotiate our terms,” she continues, “I will communicate with him about the conditions, when he is allowed to watch, when he is allowed to participate-”
“Participate!” I hear my own shocked yelp echo off the walls.
At that moment, though, the blond, dough-faced waiter comes in with a chilled bottle. “Your wine, Madame,” he mutters, and it’s like he’s too overwhelmed by her beauty to even look at Lark. He pours quickly, lets her swirl and sip, and, at her nod, fills both our glasses.
I’m still in complete shock. Participate? Him? With… me?
When the babyfaced waiter leaves, Lark takes a slow, calm drink of her wine, eyes never leaving mine.
She’s waiting for me to continue, I realize.
I have to take a swallow from my own glass before I can say anything more, gulping down the cold, crisp wine, its dry and fruity flavor lingering on my palette. Finally, I murmur, “I thought you said you didn’t- didn’t have, like, orgies or whatever….”
“Not orgies,” she says. “But if and when you are comfortable enough to consent, you and he can both fuck me together.”
My jaw drops open, and I have to put the wine glass down.
“It’s every woman’s fantasy,” she explains, her fingers tracing over mine. “Being served by two men at once.”
Holy smoking shitballs. I shake my head, unable to believe what I’m hearing.
“You don’t have to do anything to or with him,” she continues, gently reassuring. “I know you’re not gay, Sebastian. He’s just another partner in the activities. You can pretend he’s not even there, if you want. It’s not about you interacting with him. It’s about you and I giving and receiving pleasure. Testing limits. You pleasing me.”
I don’t even know what to say.
MBO Playlist, “Fallingforyou,” The 1975