The walls of the glass enclosure are high and thick, sealing me in. Beyond them Lark stands, holding a wide, black leather paddle her elegant fingers. She’s wearing only a white, button-down shirt, and, under it, a tiny pair of designer lace undergarments, but other than that, she is utterly, decadently naked. I strain, but I realize I am shackled to the wall, manacles around my wrists and ankles, holding me locked in place.

Through the glass cage which encloses me, I can see Lark’s smile of supreme triumph. With a touch, she turns on unseen showerheads, and hot water begins to pummel my body.

I gasp. Water-play, I remind myself. I’ve done this before.

Beyond the glass, Lark strikes the paddle gently against her open palm, so I can hear the sound it makes.

My eyes widen in fear and, yes, excitement. Already I’m so hard I ache.

“Tell me what you want,” she commands me silkily.

“You,” I beg. “Please.”

“Do you want me to discipline you?”


Another soft thwack of the paddle against her hand.

I groan out loud, pulling, straining against the manacles that keep me helpless before her in the glass compartment. Let me out, let me out!

She slides open the door of my glass cage, joining me in the shower-spray, just like in her bathroom shower the other morning, but darker, more dangerous.

Water beads on her perfect skin.

Slow, with deliberate, unhurried motions, she holds the paddle up, stroking the leather of it down one side of my face, then the other.

Then she does the same with the palm of her hand, those long, elegant fingers stroking my face. Then her palm meets my cheek in a quick, sharp slap before stroking my cheek again.

“Be a good boy,” she admonishes me.

I whimper, thrashing.

Across my shoulders, down my chest, she moves the flat, cool surface of the paddle against my skin, her eyes never leaving mine, burning, alive, alive, alive.

“Tell me you want it,” she demands again, eyes and voice sharp.

I can’t, I don’t even know what I want anymore at this point other than her.

“Sebastian….” Now she’s moving the paddle’s surface down one side of my thigh, then up the inside of it, closer and closer to my eager hardness.

I groan again as she moves it over the tip of my arousal, circling it, slow… slow… until then, with a sudden flick of the wrist, she smacks the head of my hardness, and with a cry of surprise, I come over and over, calling “Oh, Lark, Lark!” as I do.

I jerk awake, my body still throbbing and hot, my bedsheets a mess.

Oh, fuck. I’ve never had a dream like this before, and certainly it’s been many years since those weird adolescent ones at the onset of puberty.

Never, ever have I dreamed actual sexual activity with a woman I know. A woman I’ve had sex with. I didn’t know this was possible this way. I’m baffled.

Squirming in shame, I remember how I acted in my dream, eager for Lark’s every touch, even with a paddle, and bury my face in my pillow to hide my moan of agony.

My alarm starts going off, and automatically, I snake one arm out to click it off. It’s time to get up. It’s my last shift at the bookstore, and I’m not even going to see Lark today, much less be chained up for her in a glass cage. Not that I really want to, but….

Fuck and shit, this is so confusing! What am I supposed to do, to think, now?!

I shake my head, despondent, and get dressed to go to work.


My last day at the bookstore is bittersweet. The crew has a cake for me in the breakroom, and my boss even gives me a store gift certificate worth several hundred dollars as a going-away bonus. Brielle, one of the girls on the morning shift, gives me an extra-long hug goodbye before she leaves. “You’ve got my number, Bash,” she tells me with a overly-friendly smile. “Call or text me and we can get together sometime! Let’s stay in touch!”

But it’s not Brielle I want to stay in touch with. Instead, every five minutes, I’m checking my phone, text, email, everything, for a word from someone else, someone a million times more captivating and compelling than any other girl I’ve ever known, at the bookstore or otherwise.

My phone, however, tortures me with its lack of any message.

I haven’t heard from Lark since we said goodbye last night at her house, after dinner and our first round of contract negotiations.


It’s become a battle of wills. I refuse to be the one to text or call her first. It’s a meager but important show of independence before I spend this weekend doing god-knows-what with her.

Unless she’s with him. Primary Man. I cover my face with my hands. No, no, no, I promised myself I wouldn’t think about that, about her with him. I have to accept that part of her life, if she and I can have anything-

I force myself to block out the agonizing pictures. The pain, the anguish, is like a piercing headache, but in the very depths of my soul.*

Or, what she’s already changed her mind about me…? Fuck!

What if she has? She already said I was too difficult, fighting every step, overthinking. She could have a nice, compliant, obedient new Boy Toy in a matter of hours. One who loves the idea of being chained to a wall or in a cage. One who understands all that she was saying about needing pain to feel alive.

I close my eyes, anguish washing over me anew at the thought. I can’t handle this pain, pain at the thought of losing her.  It’s like someone is hacking open my insides with an ancient double-headed labrys axe, ripping up my heart, leaving me empty, drained of all life and livelihood. Without Lark, I would be a hollow shell of a human. Nothing. No reason for living, no light or color or music at all.

Any physical pain she might inflict on me with a whip or paddle, frankly, is going to be minor at the soul-cleaving anguish of losing her, of never being with her again, ever. I have to remember that. Mind over matter or something like that, right?

But what if she’s already given up-

I groan aloud and close my eyes. A few of the customers look at me weird, and one young woman, kind of chubby and nowhere near as beautiful as Lark, actually asks me, “Are you okay?”

“Fine,” I mumble, not making eye contact with the dumpy girl, but, rather, keeping my eyes on the books on my cart. “I’m just fine.” It’s a lie I’ll have to live with, if Lark’s-

Sighing, I concentrate on my last tasks at the bookstore. I shelve a bunch of new graphic novels. I put markdown tags on some series of books labeled “erotic thriller,” and then reshelve a bunch of things in the gardening section that a couple customers messed up. Even as I’m ringing up sales and trying to make conversation, though, all I can think about is Lark. My bizarre and baffling dream. Our dinner yesterday. What might happen this weekend. Every few minutes, I can’t help glancing at my phone, even though I’m not supposed to while I’m on the clock, to see if there are any updated notifications that she’s sent me a text, an email, called me, anything!

One of my co-workers, Marco, catches me more than once, and gives me a friendly shoulder-punch. “Can’t stay away from your phone, huh? What’re you so obsessed with?”

I respond with a weak smile. What would Marco know about this kind of obsession, anyway? He’s never had a woman like Lark sweep through his humdrum life, setting it all on fire with passion and excitement!

Why’d she pick you, then? my Id sneers, doing a kick-flip ollie on his skateboard. I shake away the unpleasant reminder.

“Just… my dad,” I lie. “He… had a doctor’s appointment, and was going to let me know how it went.” I shrug. “You know how it is.”

“Nothing wrong, I hope?” Marco asks me, concerned.

“No, no, just routine check up stuff. I’m sure it’s fine, it’s just, uh-”

And, miraculously, as I’m standing there holding my phone and talking about waiting for a message, it buzzes, and I can see the notification flash on the screen.

I have a new email from L.E. Blackwood.

My jaw drops, and my heart starts pounding. My ears ring. I completely forget how to breathe.

“Hey. Bash? You okay?” Marco asks again.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, fine,” I babble. “I better, um… check this really quick and….”

“Yeah, dude, go ahead. Besides, this is your last day anyway, so what’re they gonna do, fire you?” He laughs loudly at the joke, but I’m already scurrying away to a quiet corner of the store, opening the email program as I do.


To: Sebastian Liam Stone

From: L.E. Blackwood

I do hope that you are still carefully considering my offer to you, and that we can come to a satisfying deal together. I am already impressed with all you have to offer, and I also deeply hope that I have addressed your concerns. I want very much to make this arrangement work. Trust me. We will take things slow this weekend. I hope it will be as much of an opportunity for you as it has been for me.

With utmost sincerity,

L.E. Blackwood, CEO, Ellery-Blackwood Enterprises


I don’t even know how to process this. I mean, I’m overjoyed she’s emailed me instead of dropping me completely, but I have no idea how to respond to what she’s written. It might as well be something she’s written about some big business venture or conglomerate corporate acquisitions and mergers.

I’m not sure how I feel about being yet another deal she’s trying to close.

To be fair, this probably is how she’s used to dealing with everything. I shouldn’t take it personally.  Should I?

My Superego only raises one bushy eyebrow before returning to his first edition copy of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams.

For the last couple hours of my shift, my mind is scrambled, trying to think of the right way to respond to her email. I don’t dare take a break to send anything back to her now, although… well, what would they do? Fire me, like Marco joked? Still, the thought of pissing off my bosses and co-workers, even on my last day, is hardly one I relish, so I manage, just barely, to not open my email program and hit “reply.” Still, even as I count change and alphabetize history books, my mind is writing and rewriting answers to her.

Dear Miss Blackwood, CEO, Ellery-Blackwood Enterprises, etc., etc., yes, I am carefully considering your offer, but perhaps we ought to schedule a business meeting to-

God, no.

Dear Lark, I want to make this work, too, more than I can tell you, but I’m still scared that no matter how slow we take things, you’ll still hurt me-

No, no, no, no way.

I am impressed with you as well. After our upcoming weekend retreat, if you will, I’m certain the opportunities of this arrangement will be clear, and I can-



I jump, dropping the book I’m shelving, and whirl around.

No, it wasn’t my over-active and desperate imagination.



*I would like to thank poster Pre-Successful Indie (now with less misquoting) for the Eel Jamesian masterpiece that is I have a headache, but, like, in my soul,” which I shamelessly begged to incorporate. 

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