The door opens softly, but this waiter enters quietly, and makes no small talk, gives no instructions as he brings in two small plates, and sets them in front of us, then hustles away.
“Good,” Lark murmurs, taking up her fork. “I wanted us to have a quiet, intimate meal here,” she tells me. “You and I.”
“Eat, Sebastian,” she instructs me, and I pick up my own fork.
There is a small, artful pile of raw, red meat on my plate, with some sort of sauce swirled around it.
Even though this is the first dinner together we’ve had without that Handbook present, or negotiations happening, bits from it seem to flash in front of my eyes as I stare at the raw beef.
… respond to Master’s demands without hesitation nor debate… obey, and behave with utmost decorum at all times… willingly eat all foods provided by the Master without argument, or expect punishment.
“Will you punish me if I don’t eat?” I murmur, peeking up at her.
“Sebastian,” she rebukes me, mouth turning down in a frown. “All I wanted to do tonight was take you out for a special, celebratory dinner after your last day at work, and before you start your new job tomorrow. Don’t be so suspicious. Tonight isn’t about negotiations,” she adds.
Oh. Good. Okay.
That makes it easier for me to lift a bite of the steak tartare to my mouth. Mmm. Not bad. It’s fresh, flavorful. I chew, swallow, and decide to take another bite.
But Lark is still gazing intently at me.
“I booked this private dining room,” she continues, “because I wanted to be alone with you, Sebastian.”
My startled eyes meet hers. She means-
Holy smokes, not- not that! Sex? Here?! With me?
I gulp. “You can’t mean…?”
She says nothing, but arches one eyebrow playfully.
I gasp, not sure if I’m thrilled or terrified. I settle on “terrified.” The thought of being thrown out of Seattle’s top restaurant, or arrested, even, after getting caught fucking with Lark Blackwood in public is not something I can even joke about. And I don’t think she’s joking, either.
“But this is a public restaurant!” I hear my own horrified voice.
“Mmm hmm. And do you think that would stop me?” She’s giving me the same supremely triumphant smile from my dream. Lark Blackwood, in total control.
“I hope it would.” My hands are shaking. My mind flashes with more phrases from that fucking, damned Handbook.
Master shall decide the nature of the boy’s training, guidance, and discipline… Master will stretch the boy’s limits… the boy shall make themselves available for use by Master in any way… respond to Master’s demands without hesitation nor debate….
I think about her kissing me in the helicopter, even though Carter was in the front seat, and I have to admit, nothing would stop Lark Ellery Blackwood when she wants something.
And right now, at least, that something is me!
“What if it didn’t stop me?” she murmurs, her husky voice going straight to my groin.
I shake my head, close my eyes. “No….” I whisper.
“What if,” she continues, one finger tracing over the rim of her glass, “I were to bend you back on this table, and straddle you. Undo the buttons on those jeans of yours. Take them off you. Have my wicked way with you. Right here. Right now.”
“I don’t think that is a good idea,” I whisper, faltering, even though my heart pounds in arousal. I responded to her in the helicopter without hesitation, just like I’m supposed to. Why am I hesitating now?
I am aching with my need for her, but I force myself to say, “No.” She did say I was allowed to say no to things, after all, didn’t she?!
“I haven’t signed anything yet,” I remind her in a shaky whisper. Again, I remember my dream, being chained up and loving it when she smacked me with a paddle, making me come in my dream and in reality.
My face is scorched earth by now, and I’m shaking.
“Oh, I know that, Mr. Stone.” She moves in her chair, and for a second, I think she’s about to get up, to come over to me and do just what she said: yank me to my feet, bend me back on this table, and have her wicked way with me.
I lick my lips nervously to keep from moaning aloud at the image.
But then the door opens, and one of the servers comes in, eyes lowered, with a plate of crostini, and two glasses of wine. “Chef thought this California Treana white would pair best with the tartare before we bring in the Puligny-Montrachet.”
As he hastily places the glasses before us, Lark meets my eyes with that naughty-girl grin. “Saved by the bell,” she whispers to me, and I actually find myself stifling a laugh.
She’s here with me, she wanted to be with me, instead of with Primary Man. For that, at least, I have to be content and grateful.
Trying a bit of the tartare with the crostini and concentrating on chewing it, I think about him. Primary Man. I know so little about someone who is a major part of her life, and who would, even indirectly, be a part of mine, too, if I agree to the edicts of her Handbook.
I take a drink of the crisp, cold wine. Funny how, just a week ago, the thought of wine — much less a meal like this — wasn’t something I entertained. Now, I’m relieved to see another server come in quietly with an unopened bottle, and unscrew the cork swiftly, leaving the new bottle to breathe as we finish the steak tartare.
One by one, small plates are brought in and taken away again. Even though we’re mostly left alone, I can’t make small talk with her, and Lark, too, eats quietly, calmly. I feel like this is yet another one of her elaborate tests. Will I pass? Have I ever passed? With the help of another glass of wine, I manage a few tiny bites of cod with salted radish nestled into cauliflower puree, and then watch as another quiet server, eyes downcast, mixes egg and lemon juice and various herbs and tosses the salad nimbly. After the salad, I lose track, nibbling crab, some pickled thing, something else with beets–or maybe they were the same dish?–until, finally, our first course of entrees are brought in. Along with the two silent waiters, the Master Sommelier comes in with a new bottle of wine.
“Madame, what a pleasure to have you here again. The Napa Valley Joseph Phelps Insignia,” he murmurs with utmost respect and decorum.
“Just leave it, Kalino,” she tells him as he pours and swirls.
“Yes, madam, let me know if it is not acceptable,” he bows again, hastening away.
She really does keep people on their toes, doesn’t she? I notice wryly. Including me.
Does she keep him, Primary Man, on his toes, too? comes the nasty thought.
I look down at the snapper, sitting on a bed of peculiar looking curled greens, and poke my fork at it.
So many new experiences in just the week or so we’ve known each other. Wine. Five star dining. Spas and luxury vehicles and, oh yeah, kinky-sex handbooks and contracts and a perverted Depravity Sanctuary.
But the most erotic sex, complete with earth-shaking, toe-curling orgasms. Passionate kisses. Sharing a bed, even though she says that’s not something she does.
I take a small bite of the fish and weird curled ferns. Hm.
It can’t be like that with Primary Man, can it? She already said they don’t share a bed, he’s not allowed in her house or her bedroom. And I was.
I force myself to chew another small mouthful, but my head is occupied with something more complicated than gourmet dishes.
Do they kiss, though, like how she kissed me? Do they share dinners sometimes, fancy romantic ones like this, at fine restaurants? Has he seen her drawings before? Have they played chess together? Walked to her pavilion in the moonlight? Shared morning coffee?
“How is the fish?”
“And the wine?”
“That’s fine, too.”
“Would you like more?”
I nod, and she pours more into my waiting glass.
I take a grateful swallow. Primary Man. She said I don’t have to meet him or see him, that she’d never have him there when I was. But she’ll still have her regular meet-ups with him.
Not meet-ups, my Id reminds me, smirking. Fuck-sessions. Where he tops her, like she said. Whips and chains and all that.
Where he does to her what she’s done, and wants to do, with me? I cringe. Primary Man, tying Lark’s wrists, chaining her to a wall, gagging her, whipping her? All while she moans and moves in the sexy ways she already has with me?
That thought is utterly depressing.
I’ve already had to deal with the fact that she’s done things to others, other boys, lads, like me. But thinking about someone specific, a long-term relationship partner, doing those things to her, and her liking it, well… it’s too much. Her boys are replaceable. Her Primary is not.
He is the most important man in her life, I realize, and with him around, I never will be. No matter how many dinners we share or weekends I promise to stay over so she can discipline me, I will never, ever be the primary man in her life. She said it wasn’t about ranking, but it is. My heart is a mass of anguish. If he is Primary, I’m always secondary. And as replaceable as any other boy she’s had.
“You’ve gone reticent again, Bash. And you’re not eating.” Lark frowns.
I realize I’ve put down my cutlery, so lost in thought about her and… him.
“I’m just thinking,” I mutter sullenly, jabbing my fork at the fish some more.
“Of what?” It’s not a curious question. It’s a firm demand.
“The weather,” I snap, “what else?”
She puts down her own fork, eyes narrowing.
I hang my head. That was a stupid thing to say, but I couldn’t seem to help myself.
“Sebastian….” The warning note in her voice is clear.
“I can’t help thinking about… your… relationship with him. You know. Primary Man.”
“I told you, we do not have a relationship. We have an arrangement.”
“Even so….” I’m desperate to know more about her, to understand the whys and wherefores of why she has to tie me up and whip me and make me obey her. I dare a question. “When do you see him? I mean, how often?”
“We regularly meet once a week. Usually Sundays or Fridays. It depends on our work schedules.”
“And he never stays the night there?”
“No. I’ve already told you that, too.”
“But… how did you meet him?”
“We knew each other since we were younger, and discovered this was a… common interest.”
“But you never wanted to, like, marry him or be with him seriousl-”
“Sebastian!” she snaps at me, flinging her fork and knife to the ground with a clatter. “I’ve already told you these things! You said you don’t want to interact with him, so why do you want to know this information? It’s nothing to do with you!” She’s glaring at me in a rage.
Oh fuck, she’s furious. Warning lights and sirens begin going off in my head. I’m not sure it’s the wisest thing to dare this woman to do her worst with me, in or out of the bedroom.
But I’m not exactly happy-go-lucky at the moment, myself. “It’s nothing to do with me? Really?” I say, thick with sarcasm.
She continues to stare at me, arms crossed, formidable.
The door opens yet again, and a server scurries over to pick up the cutlery from the ground, and another server replaces them with ones from a silver tray.
“Are you finished with your plates, madam?” one of them asks nervously.
“Take them,” Lark snaps. “I’m assuming you aren’t going to eat any more, Sebastian?”
I gulp, shake my head, and stare down at the tabletop as the waiter clears away my barely-touched plate.
“We will be back with a palate-cleanser before the second main course,” one of the waiters says to Lark.
“I thought I made clear I wanted a minimum of chit-chat!” Lark turns on him.
His face turns an unflattering shade of purple, and he scuttles away.
We are left alone again, and Lark regards me silently for several long minutes.
“Are you … jealous, Sebastian?” she finally murmurs, cocking her head to one side.
I scowl and don’t say anything.
“Are you?” She still sounds angry and… what else? Amused?
To my shock, she laughs, low and husky. “Oh, my poor, sweet lad. So young. So innocent.”
I hate when she thinks of me like that! “I’m not-”
“But you are,” she breaks in, still smiling.
“And you’re going to punish me for that, too?” I bite out.
“Do you think I ought to?” she ripostes, throwing me off guard yet again.
“I never know what you might think I need punishing for,” I point out.
“I thought you didn’t want to talk about the Handbook and negotiations tonight, Sebastian?”
Oh. Shit. I didn’t. I hide my face in my hands, like a small child who believes that if I can’t see her, she can’t see my. “I’m sorry,” I murmur my muffled apology.
She doesn’t respond, and, after agonizing silence, it takes all my courage to peep through my fingers at her.
MBO soundtrack: Gispy Kings, “Princessa”