At last, she pushes the Handbook and her pen away, along with the novel. “I think we should set these aside for the time being,” she murmurs. “You need more time to think about it. I won’t rush you into anything. Besides, this isn’t like any of the other arrangements I’ve made. You’re too special, too important.”
My throat constricts with emotion at this, and I swallow.
So are you, Lark Blackwood. So are you.
Still, I can’t help my next question. “Where does that leave things now?”
She glances at the table, the cheese and fruit I haven’t touched. “We could move on to something sweet? Dessert? ” she says, feigning innocence.
“No,” I say. “That’s not the kind of dessert I’m in the mood for,” I add, stunned at my own audacity.
“Oh?” One perfect eyebrow arches in surprise. “Well, well, well, Mr. Stone,” she murmurs, that fraction of a smile on her lips again. Have I pleased her with this admission? It’s difficult to tell for sure. “I think, however,” she asserts, “we should do something a little less… fraught. Perhaps a walk, some fresh air for a few minutes, would be advisable?”
After a moment, I nod. No sex makes me want to pout, but she’s probably right.
She holds out her hand to me. “Come along, Bash,” she murmurs, and my heart soars.
Bash. All is right with the world when she calls me by my nickname.
I place my hand in hers, and let her lead me from the smart garden to an electronic sliding door that whisks open and leads outside.
It’s a gorgeous night, and I’m enchanted to be strolling hand-in-hand with Lark Blackwood as we cross a tri-level patio, going down steps, to wander past a pool and hot tub that look like natural parts of the landscape. How breathtaking.
Would “water play” include that? Hmmm….
Maybe she’s right about me needing to be more open-minded.
“This is beautiful,” I admit at last.
“I thought we would walk over to the pavillion,” she says in a bland tone. Pavillion. Wow.
“Okay,” I say. For just a few minutes, I can pretend this is an ordinary date. A romantic walk through an outdoor garden under the stars, drenched in moonlight, holding hands, to a sleek, impressive high-tech looking structure with an amazing view of the city.
Lark leads me into it and gestures me to a low bench. Whoa, it’s even heated in here! It’s also extremely private, away from the house, away from servants.
We’re all alone here. Oh, good God! Is this a good thing … or a dangerous one? My heart picks up in tempo.
“How is this for a change of scenery?” she asks me.
“It’s… very nice,” I say weakly. Since I’m not sure exactly why she’s brought me here, though, it’s impossible to relax.
But she doesn’t sit. Instead, she moves slowly from one end of the pavillion to the other, with that sleek, seamless grace I’ve admired since I first saw her.
Nothing about me is this graceful, this seamless. Awkwardly, I shift on the heated teakwood bench, trying to lean casually against the plush cushions, but I just feel like I can’t settle down in any way comfortably. And I know it’s because of Lark. She is so sure, so knowledgeable, so confident and comfortable in every respect.
Even with this whole pet-boy-thing arrangement. She knows what she wants, and isn’t afraid to ask for it. I have to respect and admire her for that, at least.
As for me, I don’t know what I want… other than her. I sigh. My Id just shakes his head and picks up his video game controllers, clearly over my histrionics. My Superego has come back with a new stack of books, all dense psychology things about Mars v. Venus, defence mechanisms, and psychosexual disorders and dysfunctions.
Am I just overthinking, like Lark said?
I think about the contents of the Handbook and the erotic books she has, and how she accused me of kink-shaming by thinking it was weird.
“What are you thinking, Bash?” she asks me in a voice that’s like a caress itself. “I see shadows in those beautiful, beautiful brown eyes.”
She is one to talk, I can’t help thinking, catching my breath as she comes over to me, sitting next to me on the bench. Her own face is suffused in sadness, like a painting by a nineteenth-century master depicting tragedy. She cups my face in her hands, her eyes searching mine.
“I was so afraid of this,” she whispers, her voice trembling. “I’ve asked too much of you, demanded too much. Pushed you too far. You’re too sweet, too innocent, for the likes of me.”
Panic explodes inside me. Is she… sending me away? Oh, God, I haven’t even tried- She hasn’t given me a chance to- No!
I shake my head violently. “I’m not- it’s- I’m just-” I sound like a stammering fool. “I’m… I’m willing to try,” I finally confess. “At least… some of… some of those things. The… the collars and blindfolds and toys and things, I think. If it’s that important to you, I’m willing to try, but I’m just….”
“Afraid,” she finishes for me.
I flush with shame. I hate that. It makes me sound like a sissy. A child.
“Fear of the unknown is normal, but you can’t let it run your life to the point that you miss out on things.”
“I’m- it’s not just the unknown. It’s… the… well, the hitting and whipping. The pain. I don’t want you to… physically hurt me.” That’s the thing that seems so strange to me.
“Were you ever spanked as a child, Bash?”
“No? Hm. What about other physical altercations? Fights? Anything like that?”
“No. I’ve… never been hit or… or hit anyone.” I’ve certainly never wanted to, either. Hitting is for when you’re angry or trapped, or threatened, to make someone else feel hurt and pain, too. I just don’t understand why you would hit someone you aren’t mad at.
“And you’ve never done anything like biting or cutting yourself, even just to see how it felt? Feeling pain to feel alive? Or feeling one kind of pain to distract from other pains?”
“No.” I can’t even understand what she means by that. Pain is pain, isn’t it?
“Ah. I see. Then so much of your fears make sense. It’s not about pain,” she continues, lacing her fingers in mine. “It’s about fear. That’s all in your mind, Sebastian. Part of this is learning how to control that. Me teaching you control.”
“But why?” I burst out.
Her face hardens into that frozen, impassive, impenetrable expression again. “Because it’s the way I am, what I need. It’s all I know.”
“You’ve… always done… this?” I stutter.
“Yes, more or less.” She is still holding my hand, but she looks away from me. “My initiation into sex wasn’t exactly typical high school fumbling or anything.”
It wasn’t? I feel a chill that has nothing to do with the temperature. “How did you… start?”
She doesn’t answer for such a long time that I wonder if she didn’t hear me, or is ignoring me. But when she turns back, her face is firm, almost defiant. “My stepbrother seduced me when I was fifteen.”
My jaw drops.
“Your- your stepbrother?” I squeak.
Her mouth quirks. “It wasn’t like that,” she says. “It wasn’t anything incestuous at all. We weren’t raised together, didn’t know each other as children. We never lived together or anything. He was older.”
“How much older?”
To my surprise, she laughs sardonically. “Not that much, but certainly old enough to know better. Twenty-four.”
“But that’s- that’s so… wrong!” I gasp, knowing that I sound like just what she’s accused me of being: too sweet, too naive, too innocent.
She shakes her head. “It wasn’t like that at all, Sebastian. It’s actually a very common fantasy for women, fucking the stepbrother. Probably for some men, too.” She gives me a wry smile. “I got to live it. I wanted it. He didn’t rape me or force me.”
“But-” I’m not sure I want to know more, not sure I can handle it, but I can’t help asking. It’s more than curiosity, too. It’s a desperate desire to understand this woman with whom I am beautifully and irrevocably obsessed. “You were only fifteen,” I whisper.
“You’re focusing on the wrong things, Bash. I knew what I wanted, even then,” Lark says. “I had grown up fast. I was headstrong, angry, wild, getting into all sorts of trouble. Who knows what might have happened to me if I hadn’t had that relationship to channel all of my energies?” Her blue eyes sear into mine, and my own mind forms a picture of her back then, the poor, hurt, lonely child growing into an angry, wild teenaged girl.
“Do- do your parents, your father and stepmother, know about it?”
She looks at me like I’m an idiot or something. “Of course not.”
“What happened?” I ask in a quaver.
She leans on one elbow against the railing, her body tilting away from me. Is this a foreboding sign?
“My father and Tabitha got married when I was eight, but I didn’t meet my stepbrother until that summer when I was fifteen. It was one of those times where my father was trying to make all of us one big, happy family: me, Tabitha’s son from her first marriage, and their kids together. I prefered when they were all off in Spain or wherever, and I stayed here with my grandparents. But my grandmother passed away the year before, and Grandfather needed to travel himself, and so….” She shrugged. “I was just running wild then, and that summer, when he came to visit us, my stepbrother… helped me direct my out-of-control feelings by giving me new outlets, new contexts. He made me his sub, and taught me how to dominate others. He taught me… so many things. It was everything I needed and more. Suddenly everything had a purpose. I was centered. I found myself. The pain, the control, all of it… it freed me.”
I’m beyond speechless. This is almost impossible to process. I don’t know how to react: bury my face in my hands to hide from these new revelations, run back to the house and down the rest of that bottle of wine, call the police or a therapist or someone, or just go home where it’s safe and try to go back to the way things were a little over a week ago, before I’d ever met Lark Ellery Blackwood.
Fuck. I knew Lark had her secrets, but this — a completely fucked-up relationship with her stepbrother when she was just a fifteen — isn’t at all what I thought.
Another feeling is rising up, crowding out the fears: I want to take her in my arms, protect and comfort her. Poor Lark. My heart wrenches yet again at the thought of her as a lonely, sad, angry, confused young girl, no idea what to do or where to turn, until-
I swallow, and manage another curious question. “How- how long were you his- did you and he… do… that?”
“Until I dropped out of college my junior year to concentrate on the business.”
Oh. “Then what?”
“Then we came to an agreement and ended our relationship as we knew it, forged new ones. We’re good enough friends now, more or less. He’s involved in some of his own business dealings, so we sometimes discuss those sorts of matters. It’s a friendly-family thing. You don’t need to worry about it.”
I just stare, not knowing what to say. This is too much, especially when I’ve come over here to discuss signing up for… a relationship just like what she had with her stepbrother. Being her submissive sex-slave. What she was to him as an abused, hurt fifteen year old girl.
And he’s still in her life.
My Superego has dropped all books and studies, too horror-stricken to try to make logical sense of any of this. My Id is puking into a trash can, and it’s not because of too much Red Bull.
Lark. Teenaged submissive to her twenty-four-year-old stepbrother.
No matter how kinky she is now, no matter any of this other dom-and-sub stuff, that was wrong.
I pull my hand from hers. “Did you… ever go to… to therapy or anything for that?”
“Your stepbrother… doing that to you.”
She frowns. “How judgmental of you, Mr. Stone,” she informs me in her ice-cold voice.
But I can’t stop. “Lark, he- he was almost ten years older than you! You were just a teenager! That- what happened wasn’t- wasn’t right!”
“Aren’t I the one who gets to decide that?” she snaps at me, rising again, crossing her arms in front of her. “Or are you going to apply all sorts of vague, uneducated moral judgements on everything I do? And everything we do together, you and I? How can you and I possibly have any sort of trust between us if you do?”
“That’s not it,” I whisper, in agony at this turn of events.
Lark. Fifteen. Stepbrother. Eight years of being his submissive sex toy.
Maybe my instincts are correct. This is way too much for me. All of it.
I can’t do this. I have to get out of here. I have to get away from these thoughts and feelings, these fears, these temptations, everything.
Even Lark. She’s too dark and dangerous for me. I realize that fully now in ways I didn’t even when she first showed me the Depravity Sanctuary and told me about Primary Man and gave me the Handbook.
I care about her, feel for her, more than I ever have any other woman before, but this is like being lured between Scylla and Charybdis.
I gaze up at her, eyes wide, my heart a bruised mass of feeling for all she’s endured, all I feel for her.
“Lark…. Maybe… I should go for now. Not- not leave,” I hasten to clarify. “Just go home and… think all of this over.”
“Ah. I see.”
“It’s just a lot to process.”
“So it’s probably a good idea for me to give myself some space to, uh… make some decisions.”
“This- I don’t just mean your- your, uh, what happened with your stepbrother. It’s that, too, but all of this is….” I trail off, despondent beyond words. I don’t know what it is. Fucked-up? A cry for help?
“And your solution is to run away?”
Even in her icy-hot hauter, she is the most compelling, beguiling woman I’ve ever encountered.
“Lark, no, honest, it’s just-”
But before I can finish, she’s crossed the space between us to put her hands on my face and kiss me deeply.