The BDSM story A Choker of Lace is an exquisite exploration of awakening desires and whispered needs that delves into the heady world of submission and restraint. The full-length novel will soon be available for purchase. Meanwhile, you can read the prequel to this story, Initiation, in chaptered form here on my website.
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The following morning, Drake took his car to the wash station and spent an hour cleaning it, working so much leather cleaner and polish into his passenger seat that, when it was dry again, it was two shades lighter than the rest of the interior. He had a habit of getting up early, so Brightwater was still in its early morning drowse when he reached his office. He ignored the blinking answering machine and went straight for the coffee machine. The gleaming, speck-less chrome had something oddly soothing, and he inhaled deeply as it brewed his coffee. Black and strong enough to resurrect a body after a decade of rest in peace. Drake drank exactly one cup of this devil’s brew a day. Any more would probably give him palpitations.
Today, he had them even before his first sip of coffee. His hands still smelled of leather polish, so he went to the bathroom after emptying his cup and scrubbed his skin until it was red and stung. He took comfort in his actions, for they were almost meditative and calmed his agitated mind. Not enough though to make getting to work easy, and so he stared at the paperwork on his desk longer than he had any right to do, adding the same two rows of numbers again and again.
He wondered how June was doing.
He shouldn’t even think of her, and he should damn well take care that he never saw her again. He didn’t want to see her again. No matter how he looked at it, he had no business lurking around a girl of her age. Though, he conceded, in the own privacy of his mind he was allowed to admit that she was beautiful. Drake appreciated beauty.
She probably wouldn’t want to see him again either, considering what had passed in his car. He still remembered as clear as if it had been the day before when he’d ripped his pants in elementary school and his teacher had sent him home, not without a note to his father to make sure he would be dressed more appropriately in the future. She even had included a list of thrift stores and goodwill so his father wasn’t without resources. Drake had been so humiliated, and his stomach still heaved when he revisited the memory. He hadn’t wanted to go back to school, not ever, and he certainly never wanted to see Mrs. Miller again.
He hadn’t had a choice about it, but June was free to avoid him till the end of days. He would make it easy for her.
Drake hardly participated in Brightwater’s social life, apart from the occasions that Felicia dragged him into it, and even then, he understood it well to keep everyone at a safe distance. It was easy enough. They all saw nothing but a ruthless shark in him, someone born without mercy, sitting in his office at the center of town like a giant spider in a sticky web, waiting for his victims to fall into his trap so he could take their homes and savings.
June would know better than to come too close to Brightwater’s best-hated villain.
Or so he thought.
His office was located in one of the old industrial buildings at the center of town. He had it turned into a two-storied loft, with his office at ground-level and a light-flooded, mostly empty apartment above, where he sometimes spent the night. Which only happened when he had a whiskey or two too much late at night, after working long hours. It was rather pretentious of him to occupy the building all for himself (and it didn’t help with his greedy image), especially since he didn’t even keep a secretary. He trusted no one with his paperwork, and his clients (debtors, the most of them) learned quickly that he communicated in writing. He supposed that they preferred it that way, too. Once in awhile, when someone had an urgent need, they came to his office and waited in the reception room until the door opened and he admitted them to the gleaming mahogany den of his office, where he sat behind his colonial desk and watched them fidget and fumble for words. A good show was half the deal, you see. He had a small monitor above the door where he saw when someone entered, and could watch them and wait for exactly the right moment to make his appearance, when they were so unnerved from waiting that they jumped when he made his entrance.
It was in the afternoon when the first person that day entered his office. The sun hung already so deep that it shone horizontally into his room and illuminated every shining surface in glistening white and gold. The monitor above the door was reflecting the light, and Drake saw hardly more than a shadow moving on it, but even in that formless shadow, there was a familiarity that sent him into shock.
Juniper Reed, walking to the center of his reception room, and looking up at the camera, as if she could see him through it, and could see how he almost fell out of his chair. For a split second, he considered pretending to be out. But that was nonsense, of course, for the door had been open, and his car was parked in front.
He rubbed his palms against his pants, getting rid of their sudden stickiness, and tapped the floor with his heels as his legs jiggled. He had to get up, had to go to the door, open it, and face her. What was she even doing here? Why would she not allow them both to forget? He shoved his chair back and got up, eyes firmly on the monitor, despite seeing almost nothing on it, and with each step he took towards the door, he hoped she would think better of it and rush out, go away.
He opened the door, and she was still there, in the middle of the room, watching him with her chin raised and her hands folded in front of her crotch – he quickly drew his eyes up – and as their eyes met, there was only the faintest hint of a blush on her porcelain skin.
“June,” he stammered, like a fool, only to correct himself immediately. “Miss Reed. I didn’t expect you here.”
At his words, she bit her lip and crinkled her forehead as if she was in pain. Drake wished he had just resorted to saying nothing. Of course, she wouldn’t want to be here. Which made him wonder all the more why she was.
“I… your car…” She trailed off helplessly.
He wished she had forgotten about it. Not necessarily to spare her the humiliation of it, but to spare him from having to revisit his shameful reaction. He wanted to bury last night’s episode deep inside the Do-Not-Look-Corner of his mind. Yet here she was, demanding to be seen and looked at. “Forget about the car,” he said, hoarsely, but it didn’t result in the relief he’d hoped for. June grimaced, a picture of pure misery, but she didn’t take his graceful offer.
“Look, I’m sorry that this happened, so please let me at least clean the car for you…”
He interrupted her. “It’s already done. There’s nothing for you to do, really.”
“You had it cleaned?” There was a tremor in her voice. He wondered if she feared he would expose her mishap, like a tattler. If she was afraid of that, she might not know his reputation. No one talked to him.
“I did it myself.”
If anything, that only seemed to make it worse. Her face drained of the last glow of a blush, and her eyes went wide in horror. “You cleaned away my pee?”
Drake winced. “I could hardly drive around with my car reeking of urine, now could I?”
“Of course not. But you could have at least imagined that I would want to make good on it. I don’t take pleasure in peeing in other people’s cars and leaving the mess to them.” She raised her chin, and Drake felt like he was shrinking with every minute under her challenging gaze.
“I hoped you wouldn’t remember.”
That took some of the fight out of her, and her shoulders sagged. “Why?”
Drake’s heart beat like a drum, yet it seemed to crumple in on itself. He stepped closer and reached for June’s arm, pausing before touching her. “What happened to you last night was terrible. Not only that you lost control over your body, but also the reason for it. I hoped you wouldn’t remember any of it, for it can do peculiar things to you, to remember such trauma.”
June looked down at his hand, so short of her arm, and chewed on her bottom lip. She wore a fluttery chiffon dress today, with tiny flowers printed all over it. It made her look so young. The contrast between the two of them, him in his expensive suit and her in her thrift shop style, couldn’t be bigger. Drake clenched his hand into a fist and pulled it back. “Just… forget about it, Miss Reed.”
It didn’t make her leave like he had hoped.
“I appreciate this, Mr. Drake, I really do. It’s just… I talked, didn’t I? I’m not sure what I said, but…”
“Don’t worry. I won’t hold any of it against you.”
“Did I insult you?” Worry made her voice tense, and Drake almost groaned.
“No, of course not. Nothing you said could have hurt me in any way.”
She didn’t let it go. She didn’t believe him – which wasn’t a surprise in itself. Her next question was, though. Drake had not expected her to have enough courage to ask it. “Did I… Did I talk filth?”
A nice shade of pink rose back into her cheeks, and Drake gave in to the shameful urge bubbling up from the pit of his stomach to tickle his ribs from inside. She was so pretty in her embarrassment. “Filth, Miss Reed? What do you mean by that?”
“Did I talk about sex?” Her eyes darkened in anger. It sobered him, like the rain rushing down in sheets from black clouds.
“You did. Now, if you please, I have work to do…”
“What exactly did I say?”
Drake huffed and rolled his eyes. “Why are you so intent on reliving this? It will do nothing but give you more to cringe over!”
“You’re probably right. But I need to know, don’t you see? I hate not knowing what I said and did. My control was taken from me, and not telling me what happened is denying me to take it back. Don’t you understand that?” She’d raised her voice and clenched her fists at her side, the rigid set of her shoulders radiating tension, and her eyes were gleaming in misery. Drake’s resistance crumbled.
“Alright. Why don’t you come into my office, sit down, and we talk over a cup of tea?”
Her shoulders sagged, the tension washing off of her. “Thank you,” she murmured.
He was going to regret this, he supposed, but despite the feeling of impending doom, he stepped aside and gestured for her to proceed into his office.
Amidst his gleaming furniture, the pompous desk, and the shining leather couch, she looked even shabbier. And smaller. A child in an adult’s world, lost and out of place. She took a few hesitating steps towards the couch, glancing quickly over to him before she sank down. Drake fetched them both a teacup and filled a teapot with boiling water from the coffee machine, adding loose black tea before he joined her, choosing to sit in the leather armchair on the right of the couch.
June stared at the empty teacup before her. She didn’t meet his eyes.
Drake watched the water in the clear teapot slowly darken. The color rose up from the leaves in swirls, like smoke rising to a pale sky. He wished he knew how to start the conversation, but his mind was blank. It was June who broke the silence first.
“You don’t need to spare me. No matter how embarrassing, I really need to know what I said.”
“Of course. But it’s hard. It’s not usually something I talk about with young girls.”
“I don’t need saving.”
“Saving is exactly what you needed yesterday.” It was out before he could think about it, and Drake wanted to slap himself for it. Way to go, reminding her of what had almost happened to her. He could just as well take a bucket of ice water and dunk her head in it.
“And I’m grateful for that. What I meant was, I don’t need saving from myself. I can handle whatever embarrassing thing I said or did.”
Drake’s lips curled despite himself, but she was right, and he wouldn’t argue. Instead, he poured tea for them and took up his steaming cup to hide behind it. Recounting what filth had spilled over her lips was hard enough without looking at her. “You talked about… spanking,” he started, and screwed his eyes shut. He’d been the one to make her talk about it, and it felt even more despicable now than it had then. Drake glanced at her over the rim of his teacup, gauging her reaction.
June had fixed her eyes on her own teacup.
“You talked about your desire to submit, but not just to anyone…” It didn’t sound that bad, wrapped up in nice and clean words.
“What exactly did I say?” Oh, she was a masochist, no doubt about that. Drake had to tell himself to unclench his jaws.
“That you want to be a slut for the right person. That they wouldn’t spank you to punish you for any real life offense, but to sate your craving.” There, now it was all out. His relief lasted only shortly.
June was glowing. Her eyes shone bright, her hands were clenched around her cup and her knuckles white like bone. “I’ve never talked about this before,” she whispered. Sounding defeated.
He expected her to pack up and leave like the hounds of hell were after her. Instead, she lifted her chin and met his gaze fair and square. She had quite the backbone for such a small person.
“Are you thinking about spanking me for peeing into your car?”
“What?” Drake was gaping at her like an idiot. He’d expected anything but that. Threats, accusations, pleading to keep it all a secret – but this?
“Well, are you?”
“No, of course not. It’s not like I’m in any position to do such a thing. Nor do I want to.” Liar, some ugly voice at the back of his head hissed, but he ignored it.
“Oh.” June seemed to falter, and he wondered, for one brief moment, if she had hoped for a different answer. If she was playing a game too big for her.
“I think you should leave now.”
Her face drained of color, but only for a moment. Then the blood came rushing back, and her eyes started gleaming. “I didn’t mean it like that. I don’t want you to spank me! It’s not like I need to feel better about what happened, or need to feel like I made up for it.”
He wished he could believe her, but the way she stared at the cup in her hands, her bottom lip quivering and her eyebrows knitted tightly, told a different story. “Alright. If you say so.”
She pressed her lips into a thin line and turned away, ready to get up and leave. “Maybe I do, but that would be crazy, wouldn’t it?”
The sound of her voice, so utterly defeated, was like a fist pounding against his diaphragm, and he almost groaned. Why was he so unable to see her hurt like that? He didn’t have any problems of that nature with anyone else in this town. He looked up at the ceiling, silently cursing himself for what he was about to say. “Maybe there is something you could do for me…”
He had no idea what he was doing, and he fully deserved the suspicion with which she regarded him. Yet, she didn’t resist when he reached over and took the teacup from her hands, placing it on the couch table. How easily she let him take control of her! Almost as if she was only waiting for him to guide her, to steer her with soft touches and whispered words. As if she turned to clay under his fingertips… Drake ground his teeth and shut down the part of his brain that rejoiced at her doe-eyed, quivering anticipation and her bated breath as he clasped her arm just above her elbow and moved her to rise with gentle pressure.
He started for the door, but June stood rooted to the spot.
“Scared?” he asked, and that got her moving.
“Of course not.” She followed his lead with square shoulders and her chin raised once more.
“Well, that’s a grave mistake, Miss Reed.”
As he led her out of his office, he could feel the tension in her muscles grow, and he lightened his grip until he was barely touching her anymore. She didn’t pull away, not even when they reached the metal staircase leading up to the loft and he paused for a split second. He watched her face closely, quirking his eyebrow. It was a challenge, in a way, and he was almost terrified of her accepting it. Telling himself that he just wanted to help her, he nodded at the stairs. “Go on.”
June swallowed, bit her lip, and grabbed the banister. When she started climbing, Drake smiled.
She was brave.
He, on the other hand, was completely stupid, and as he followed her slowly upstairs and watched the hem of her dress sway around her knees, he wondered what he was doing.
Drake nearly bumped into her when she reached the top of the stairs and stopped, and a soft “wow” escaped her lips.
“Do you live here?” she asked, turning around. Drake huffed and rounded her, acutely aware that she followed him like a puppy into the bright room.
“No. I only sleep here sometimes and keep a few necessities around. Here, take a seat.” He pointed to the industrial table bathed in light from the atrium. June strolled over and looked out before she sat down, and not even the trepidation at what was awaiting her could dampen her wonder. Drake’s heart throbbed and his throat tightened when the light surrounded her like an aura. He never received visitors here, not even his few friends, and seeing her there bathed in light returned the reason for it to his mind. This was his place alone, its beauty and peace belonging only to him. And now he’d let June wander into a place where she didn’t belong.
He waited for her to sit down before he picked up a wooden box from one of the shelves along a brick wall. He needed a moment to collect himself from the shock of his realization, so he moved slow and measured as he placed the box in front of her. She just stared at it, crinkling her forehead.
“What is it?”
“Your tools. Open it.”
She did so as careful as if she expected a Jack-in-the-box. Drake had to bite back an acid remark about her being not as brave as she wanted him to think, but that would probably draw tears to her eyes. It would be a lie anyway.
Drake sighed when she placed the lid of the box at her side and stared into it with relief in her eyes.
“What did you expect, some torture-equipment?” he growled, pulling out a chair opposite her and sitting down with a huff. Taking off his shoes under her eyes was somewhat awkward and embarrassing, even more so when he had to walk around the table in striped socks afterward. He could have just shoved his shoes across the table, but that would mean meeting her on eye-level, and he felt safer standing behind her back and out of sight.
“Make sure to use the black polish,” he said, placing his shoes before her. June raised her eyebrows.
“You know that this would all be so much less creepy if you’d talk to me, and told me what you’re about to do?”
“Of course.” He sounded gruff, but she was right. “I will remember. Now, if you want to make up for my soiled car, buff them up nicely, and shine them twice.”
June just stared at his shoes, and at the contents of the box, a little helpless and lost.
“You have done it before, haven’t you?”
“Not… really, no.”
Rolling his eyes, Drake leaned in. When he bent over her shoulder, he could see the hair on the nape of her neck stand on end, and for a moment, he had to close his eyes and collect himself. His sleeve brushed her shoulder when he reached for the rolled cloth pad in the box to spread it out on the table. He noticed her shiver, and the way her spine tensed, her shoulders drawing up, the way she sucked in her stomach and held her breath – he was tingling all over when he placed his shoes on the mat and reached for the cleaning cloth.
“First, cleaner and conditioner,” he explained, his voice hoarse, a mere hum, for he was so close to her that any loud noise would break the spell. June swallowed thickly, her eyes fixated on the shoes before her. Or maybe on his hands. “Apply it with the cloth and let it dry afterward for ten minutes. Then comes the polish with the brush – take care to use the right brush, they’re labeled by color – and buff them up nicely. Polish with the cloth and buff them up once more to give them a second shine.”
Her chest was moving heavily with every breath she took, and this time, it was Drake who swallowed. There was too much saliva in his mouth. He forced himself to move slowly as he drew back, forced himself not to inhale her scent, and forced himself to step back as if he was completely unaffected. Even though he wasn’t, and hated himself for it.
“Now, get going.” He was so eager to bring distance between himself and June that he forgot that he was still in socks as he walked to the open kitchen front and set up another kettle for tea. For a moment, he stood behind the counter and watched dust motes swirl in the streaks of light coming in. He had to force himself not to look over to where June was sitting and polishing his shoes. An image of her flashed before his eyes, kneeling on the floor as she shone his shoes, and even though she was fully clothed in this fantasy, and doing something as mundane as cleaning shoes, there was a lurid obscenity to the image of her on her knees. Something that settled between his pelvic bones and sparked waves of blistering heat, like a torch.
Drake shook himself. How pathetic he was, lusting after a girl almost half his age. He decided that the quietude of the loft was too oppressive. He could hear her buff up his shoes even when he wasn’t looking at her, and hearing it was enough to fuel the images his mind generated. Not even the growing hiss of the kettle on the stove could drown out the sounds of her work. He wriggled his toes, curling them in his socks. Tapped his fingertips to the counter, looking around the loft, desperate to find anything to take his mind of the girl sitting right there, polishing his shoes. It had been the first thing his mind came up with, but now that he thought about it, the task he’d given her seemed crass. Cleaning his shoes, polishing them… it was a humbling service, yet one that demanded heedfulness, and concentration to detail. Devotion. His throat dried up, and he cleared it to get rid of the scratch. The skin on the nape of his neck prickled, and he fought the urge to see how she was doing.
Instead, he went over to the stereo and put on music. Chopin’s Nocturnes to fill the loft with piano music instead of the whispering of cloth and the hushing of the polishing brush. The kettle whistled, and he returned to the kitchen unit to brew tea, all the while keeping his back to June. He didn’t want to appear exploiting her – even though he undoubtedly was.
When his feet had gone cold for lack of footwear and the tea was ready, he took it over to the table, where June sat motionlessly, her palms pressed to the tabletop at either side of his shoes.
“Already finished?” he asked, despite the fact that his shoes, with their spotless shine, made it needless to ask. She made a good job of it. Still, she looked as if she wasn’t sure if he would be satisfied, her fingers tensing shortly, as if she was fighting a nervous twitch.
“I can polish them again…” she offered, but trailed off when Drake lifted his hand to stop her.
“No, there’s no need… you did wonderfully.”
His praise brought a smile to her face that made her entire frame light up and landed a hefty punch to his guts, robbing him of his breath. To cover up his reaction, he took his shoes, pretending to check for leftover polish before he sank down on the chair to put them on again. Just when he lifted the first foot tough, June sprang up from her chair and rushed around the table and at his side, crouching down before him.
“Let me help you,” she murmured, grasping the first shoe without looking at him. Drake wanted to refuse, wanted to tell her not to be so damn devout, but her closeness dazed him, tied his tongue into a useless knot, and so he just watched her, focusing on her thick lashes and the soft glow on her cheekbones while she guided his foot into his shoe and tied the laces. He swallowed heavily when she did the same with his second foot, her touch tickling him and sending sparks up his leg. She took her time with tying the second shoelace, as if she didn’t want it to be over too soon. Drake curled his hands to fists at his side, breathing hard. It would be so easy to rake through her hair now, to fist her curls and tilt her head back, forcing her to meet his gaze before he would pull her closer…
June sat back on her heels, biting her lip before she reached up and placed her hand on his knee to steady herself. The touch was as shocking as her gaze when she looked up, her face so open and guileless that he despised himself even more for the filthy images crossing his mind.
She should get up – after all, she had lingered at his feet for far too long now – but she showed no inclination to leave her place. It had to be straining to crouch like that, and he reached for her arm to help her up. June didn’t move.
“If I had screwed up the shoe polish, using the wrong color or something… would you have spanked me?”
Drake let his hand fall away from her arm and straightened. His first instinct was to reject the notion, but the way she hung on his lips – as if she waited to drink in his words – told him that that probably wasn’t what she wanted to hear. He had to tread carefully now, no matter how tempting it was to revel in her attention. She looked at him like he was the anchor of her world, and wouldn’t it be easy to drown in her adoration? His fingertips itched to touch her, to brush her cheek, and maybe even follow the curve of her lip with his thumb. He pressed his hand against his thigh and reined himself in. “Only if you’d asked for it.” The words felt lewd in his mouth. He should stop this before it went too far. Before he forgot that the longing in her eyes wasn’t directed at him, but at the experience he offered, at the things she craved to feel. He tore his eyes from her lips. He wondered if her lips had ever kissed a cock before. Sucked someone… He clenched his jaw.
“But you shouldn’t,” he said. “I’m the wrong person to take care of your… cravings.”
Her face fell. Rejection is cruel, and it stings so much more when you’re still young and every emotion cuts sharply and to the bone. Drake detested himself for it, but he had no other choice. The task he’d given her had been a terrible idea. His worst to date, probably. Something had happened when she had carried it out and polished his shoes. Somehow it had warped her perception of him, had given her the impression that it was safe to offer herself, like the virginal sacrifice. How young she was, how naive. And how wolfish he was for toying with the temptation to give her what she wanted, if only for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured, clasping her arm and pulling her to her feet. June swayed. Her dress brushed against his knee, and she was standing too close as that he could get up.
She should step back.
He should let go of her arm.
His hand seemed alien, like a wooden limb that didn’t belong to him and didn’t obey him – yet he was aware of every prickling cell where his skin touched hers.
June looked down at his hand. A shiver ran up her arm, brimming against his palm. He let go with a start, making a fist.
She bit her bottom lip. “No. You’re right. I thought – because you’ve been nice… but you were only being decent… I’m an idiot…”
All of a sudden, everything happened too quick for him to process. June wheeled around and darted for the stairs, and Drake’s throat was too tight for him to call her back. And what would be the purpose of holding her back, anyway? She sprinted down the stairs, and he could hear the front door bang shut when she rushed out.
So much for that. He inhaled deeply, trying to control the urge to smash something. It would be so easy to pick up one of the bone china teacups and throw it against the wall, watching it shatter into a thousand tiny blue and white shards. Closing his eyes, he breathed it away.
Another thing was much harder to dismiss than the impulse to take out his ire on the porcelain: Drake wanted to find Greg Stupid the would-be-rapist and beat him to bloody pulp. Shoulders rigid and jaw clenched, Drake got up and headed downstairs.
On the table, the tea turned cold.