Authors: M.Q. Barber
Tags: #Romance, #Erotic, #978-1-61650-533-2, #BDSM, #Menage
“No, I’ll clear today. If you’ve finished eating, I’d like you to come here and give me a kiss before you go and reassure Jay of the value of his labor.”
She was up in an instant. “That I can do.”
Henry kissed her, tender but brief. “Go on and make him work for it, then. The more instructions you give him—”
“The more I can praise him for following them to the letter.”
“You see? No need for terror. You’ve thoroughly grasped the concept.”
“Time to implement it.” She preferred implementation over theory anyway. Moving in with her lovers. Practicing a larger submissive role with one and learning to take a dominant role with the other. What grander experiment could there be?
* * * *
Alice’s studio apartment almost matched the pristine whiteness of the day she’d moved in. Not much left. Not much to start with.
Fresh from hauling the vanity across the hall, Jay zipped through the door and thrust his arms out in front of her. “Load me up.”
She hefted one of the waiting drawers. “You want ’em all now?”
“Do I ever.” He rocked and sprang like a sweet, demented jack-in-the-box. “Gimme everything you got.”
She laid the first drawer across his arms. Every one of Henry’s handwritten notes to her snuggled beneath her PJs. “No peeking, stud.”
Bras in the second drawer. “A girl’s gotta keep some secrets.”
Panties in the third, stacked beneath his chin. God, he’d get great mileage out of that.
“I’m trusting your discretion, here.” As if he hadn’t seen her in—and out of—more than half the dainty delicates safe in his arms. She flashed him her best winning smile and waited for the joke.
Blank-faced and blinking, he stumbled half a step back, caught himself, and zoomed toward the door. He nearly took out Henry coming the other way before he danced sideways and disappeared.
“Hey.” She waved at Henry.
At least he smiled back. No unexpected dodging there.
A scant two boxes of dishes and cookware had gone downstairs with one of towels and bed linens and another of assorted odds and ends. Clutter. The sort of thing Henry wouldn’t appreciate in his apartment. Their apartment.
Her new home.
She’d spent almost two years in this apartment. Despite the thrill of having her own place, she’d never made the space hers the way Henry’s apartment breathed beauty and elegance. Offered warmth and comfort.
Mmm. She’d awakened this morning wrapped in the circle of his arm, opened one eye, and gazed across his chest at the mop of shaggy black hair burrowed against his other side. Comfort for sure.
“Second thoughts, my dear?” Henry stepped beside her and rested a hand on her back. “This is not an insignificant thing you’re doing.”
Not insignificant, no, but not unwelcome. If moving in turned out to be a mistake, she’d learn from it and plan accordingly next time. Except there wouldn’t be a next time, because she’d make this work. “Not second thoughts.”
She sagged into his side, and he shifted to cradle her. He understood how big a step she was taking today. A leap. A huge fucking leap. But she’d taken one last night telling him she loved him. And he’d caught her with a declaration of love in return.
“Excitement. Trepidation, a little.” She nudged his shoulder. “And a big pinch of ‘Wow, Jay works fast.’”
Henry chuckled and bestowed a light kiss on her hair. “He does at that. My eager boy.”
“Somebody call for me? Are we giving out hugs?” Jay swarmed them, darting in front and throwing his arms wide. “The more the merrier, right?”
“Absolutely.” She planted a loud kiss on his cheek. “We’re admiring your work ethic while we stand around and slack.”
Jay squeezed them hard and stepped back. “Gives me more chances to flex my muscles.” He posed weightlifter-style, which emphasized his lean cyclist’s body.
She tickled his ribs.
He yelped. “Flag on the play.”
“Do they have flags in weightlifting?” She pulled her hands back. “I think the rib tickle is a legal move.” They swung their heads toward Henry. “Ruling from the ref?”
Henry dragged his fingers up her ribs.
Senses alerted, muscles tensed, she slid a hand across his chest, fully prepared for a counter-tickling campaign.
But he flattened his hand and delivered a firm stroke. “Tickling, my dears, is enjoyable in small doses. Beneficial in some cases.”
The feathers. Somewhere in Henry’s special dresser lived the feathers he’d teased her with on the night she’d discovered the joys of flogging. An arousing night made more so by the faint tickle of the feathers between each new sensation.
The sound crashed in her head, and it wasn’t the paddle or the crop or the flogger. It was Henry’s hand landing on her ass last night. Whispers and laughter and that fucking bastard Cal shoving his dick in her face. She sidestepped. A tiny shift. Nothing suspicious. Nothing calling attention to the narrow sliver of space she’d put between herself and Henry.
“But perhaps now is not the best time for play. If you wish to shower before supper, you’ll need to finish up soon.” Henry inhaled with ostentatious exaggeration. “And I do suggest a shower when you’ve finished moving furniture and carrying boxes, delightful as your musk may be.”
“I always knew I was delightful.” Jay sniffed under his arms. “You think we can bottle me and make a fortune?” He crowded forward, arms up, ducking his head and catching her eyes. “What do you think, Alice? Am I delightful?”
She fended him off, laughter sluicing fear from her mind and tension from her muscles. “Right now? You reek like a sweaty forest. Henry’s right.” Not much left to go downstairs but the futon. The lumpy, banged-up bed belonged to another lifetime. “We can leave this stuff for another day and you can hop in the shower.”
Jay followed her gaze. “No, I can get it done. Today. Now.” He hustled over and hefted the floppy mattress.
Bare, the frame revealed the long scrape where she’d lost her grip and dragged the damn thing on the pavement hauling it into her first apartment with no Jay to lend a hand. Exposing the bones of the bed the way Henry exposed hers, only he’d used gentle care and she never managed more than rough bluntness.
“Won’t need this tonight.” Jay balanced the weight on his shoulder. “I’ll square it away downstairs. Come back for the frame.” He rushed past them out the door. “I’ll be done in time for dinner, Henry. Promise.”
Footsteps echoed from the stairwell.
His bouncing between moping and mania nagged at her. “Does he seem off to you?”
“It’s an exciting day.” Henry lifted her hand and kissed the back. “And some small cause for nerves.” He tilted his head toward the futon frame.
A lonely bed for a lonely woman who hadn’t recognized her loneliness until Henry and Jay poured love into the layers they’d scraped through to reach her. She tried to see the bed as Jay might. More than a job to finish to please Henry. “An escape clause,” she whispered. “He’s afraid I’ll back out.”
“He’ll settle down, sweet girl.” Henry rubbed his thumb over her knuckles. “His behavior is neither a reflection upon the reality of your emotions nor a lack of trust in your love for him.”
No fucking way would she let their love go. She’d rope herself to them and growl a warning at anything trying to send her back to that place without them. “I’m not backing out.”
Henry pulled her to face him. “This is not a race, Alice. It isn’t a test. It isn’t a competition of any sort. Do you remember what I told you the night of your anniversary dinner? If events move too quickly, we will stop and reassess.” He stood broad-shouldered and sturdy, his green-eyed gaze steady on her. “The words are as true now as they were then. You will never disappoint me by being honest with me.”
“It’s not too fast for me. The timing was a surprise, yeah, but I want this.” She’d hit the right note. He didn’t worry she’d back out. He’d have contingency plans for that. And everything else on the planet. Giddiness tickled her throat. “I want you. I want Jay.” She stepped into his embrace.
He hugged her close. “Shall we give our boy a hand? The sooner your belongings are settled, the sooner he will be as well.”
* * * *
Alice wiped down the table while Jay carried the last of the supper dishes to the dishwasher with the flair of a court jester. Clearing her apartment hadn’t slowed down her energetic lover. He’d start juggling plates in a minute if Henry didn’t stop him. No sign of Henry down the hall yet, but he’d been gone mere minutes.
“Jay. Think fast.” She tossed the dishcloth.
He snatched it out of the air left-handed.
“Hang that on the faucet for me, will you?”
He saluted and flashed a cheeky grin. “Day one and I’m already taking orders from my new roomie.”
Shit. She’d meant it in fun, a little bit of practice, but she’d been ordering him around all day. “Jay, you know you don’t have—”
“I’m not complaining. I swear I’m not.” He draped the washrag in the sink and hurried around the island. “I love having you here.” Close but not touching, he hovered beside her. “I’m happy to do whatever you want me to.”
“Excellent.” Brown accordion folders tucked under his arm, Henry strode into the room. “Then you’ll be quite pleased with what I have here. If you’ve both finished your tasks, would you join me in the living room, please?”
” Jay sprinted past her. “Contract time?”
“Contract time.” Henry sat on the couch and laid the folders on the coffee table. “Alice, come sit, please.”
She settled in next to him.
Grinning like a fool, Jay bunched up on the floor in a loose waiting pose and crossed his arms over Henry’s knees.
“Our contracts are in those?” They hadn’t made an appearance last month when they’d added exclusivity and nightly dinners to her contract. Even with the additions, hers couldn’t total more than a dozen pages. The thinner folder was half an inch thick.
“Among other things, yes.”
“Other things?” Notes? Sketches? His insights on their likes and dislikes? He’d stacked his attention so neatly. The full extent of the seriousness with which he treated their needs.
Henry kissed her temple. “Other things. Now, I’ve drafted an addendum concerning the second bedroom and the responsibilities the two of you will share in regards to it.”
And she’d thought Jay worked fast. Henry must’ve been busy while she and Jay had organized the bedroom.
Henry leaned forward, tousling Jay’s hair along the way, and retrieved two sheets of paper. “I’d like for you each to read it over, and then we will discuss what changes, if any, you’d care to propose.”
She accepted her copy of the proposal, and Jay took his. Silence descended as they read.
The morning’s nerves melted away, absorbed by a growing sense of security and confidence with each line. Henry hadn’t left her to muddle through on her own, to make a misstep and hurt Jay. Of course he hadn’t.
Her responsibilities included conducting weekly spot checks at a time of her choosing. Surprise inspections. Jay would immediately correct any minor imperfections she noted. If she observed none or he corrected them to her satisfaction, she was free to praise him with whatever combination of verbal and physical affirmation she found appropriate. Excepting, of course, she wasn’t to employ toys without consulting Henry.
Verbal and physical. A whistle echoed in her head. She and Jay had always been free to fool around, even without Henry, though they’d only done so once. Nothing comparable to her, in charge. A heady sort of power, but not unlimited.
Should Jay fail to meet expectations and require corrective action—discipline—she was to bring her concerns to Henry. The decision to determine and impose a suitable punishment would remain his alone. Likewise, he’d arbitrate any disputes. Otherwise, he’d allow their little game to proceed without interference.
Rights. Responsibilities. A clear chain of command.
“I don’t have any objections, Henry.” This challenge she could accept. Something Jay craved from her. Something Henry trusted her to accomplish. “The language is fine as-is for me.”
Jay heaved a vast sigh and sagged against Henry’s legs. “Me either. I was just waiting on Alice to say okay. She’s the one who has to make time to supervise me.”
How like Jay to think of the deal backward. He was the one promising to complete chores. To follow her directions. He’d keep their room clean, and all she had to do was praise him for it. Although the thicker folder had to be Jay’s, and it neared three inches high.
“Jay, if you’ll fetch a pen, please.”
Jay dashed off to root in the kitchen junk drawer.
“Nothing so exacting is required, my dear,” Henry said in an undertone. “It’s best to start simply. You won’t be required to make formal reports to me.” He stroked her back. “Merely enjoy yourselves.”
This experiment wasn’t a project for work. Detailed notes might be overkill. Still. Picking up a notebook wouldn’t hurt. She’d track what she’d asked Jay to do. How well he’d accomplished it. The rewards she’d bestowed and his general satisfaction level with them. “It’ll be fun.”
Henry chuckled. “An elaborate system is already taking shape in your mind, no doubt.”
She tipped her head onto his shoulder. “You know me too well.”
“Blasphemy.” He nuzzled her hair. “I could never know you too well. Though you may be assured I’m making the attempt.”
He thanked Jay for the pen, and the three of them signed. She resisted the urge to peek as Henry slipped the sheets into their folders.
Jay replaced the pen.
Henry left the room to put away the folders wherever folders went. The special dresser’s drawers did have locks.
She sat alone on the couch. Saturday night. Not even nine thirty. Henry might expect playtime when he returned. She lifted her feet and curled her legs to her chest.
Last night had been fun until it turned into a clusterfuck. Could’ve been worse, though. The spanking he’d given her had probably been the bare minimum. It had been bare, all right. The entire room had witnessed her bawling like a baby. For ten swats.
As if she hadn’t gotten three times that on her birthday. Although those had been for fun, with rubbing and touching between spanks and with her own arousal as the goal.