The flirtation, p.1
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       The Flirtation, p.1

         Part #10 of Submissive series by Tara Sue Me  
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  Acknowledgments

  As I’m writing this, it hits me that it’s been over eight years since I finished The Submissive, and all I can think is WOW. Eight years ago, I never thought I’d be in the position I’m in now. Writing full-time seemed like an unattainable dream. My deepest thanks to all of you for making it happen.

  Chapter One

  It was never a good thing when Nathaniel West showed up at your office unannounced. Simon Neal had been a Dom for more than ten years with his New York BDSM club, and he’d heard of Nathaniel showing up five times at a club member’s office. Not one of the members had ever returned.

  Simon tried to think reasonably. Nathaniel wasn’t very active in the club anymore, and since Simon ran a temp agency, maybe he needed a temp, or he might have just been in the neighborhood and decided to stop by. There was no reason to think he was stopping by on club business.

  As soon as Simon opened the door and saw Nathaniel’s expression, though, it was clear the man had not stopped by for a friendly chat.

  Wondering again what the hell was going on, Simon waved the other Dom inside. “Nathaniel, good to see you. Come in and have a seat.”

  “Thank you,” Nathaniel said, and proceeded to sit in a chair across from Simon’s desk.

  “Is Abby in town with you?” Simon asked, taking his seat.

  He hoped never to have to play poker with Nathaniel, as the man had the ability to wipe all trace of emotion off his face. It was a bit unnerving, especially when he turned that blank face toward you, like he was doing now.

  “She is,” Nathaniel said. “But we are both in town just for the day.”

  “I’m glad you stopped by. I haven’t seen you since Luke DeVaan’s party.”

  Luke, a mutual friend, had thrown a party at his BDSM club a few weeks ago for the launch of his book, The Muse. Nathaniel and Abby had been at the club that night. Simon’s gut clenched as he remembered who had been with them. Lynne Ryder.

  He tightened his fingers into a fist. He wouldn’t think about Lynne right now. He wouldn’t think about Lynne ever. That chapter in his life was closed, and he wasn’t going to reopen it.

  Nathaniel watched him with eyes that Simon knew missed nothing. He wondered what Nathaniel was watching him so intently for.

  “I’m not sure you’re aware, but Abby and I hired Lynne several months ago as our nanny,” Nathaniel said.

  Simon’s breath came out in a whoosh. “No, I didn’t know.” Holy shit, Lynne works for Nathaniel and Abby. “I’d heard she’d left the city, but I had no idea. She’s your nanny?” And why was Nathaniel here? He’d said she’d been with them for months, so obviously, he wasn’t stopping by to tell him they’d hired her. “Wait a minute. Is something wrong? Is she okay?”

  “I can assure you she’s fine. Or at least she was when I left her with Abby twenty minutes ago.”

  Relief flooded Simon’s body. “If I may be direct, what brings you by? I know you didn’t stop by to tell me you hired my ex as your nanny. But I get the distinct impression this isn’t a social call, either.”

  Nathaniel gave him a curt nod of his head. “You’re right. It’s not. You see, Lynne wants to go back to school to get her teaching certificate, and a summer program opened at Columbia that could get her closer to that goal. As it turns out, Abby’s blog at the news station is on hiatus for the summer, freeing up Lynne to attend the program.”

  Lynne was going to be back in Manhattan. Damn, but he was a bastard for how excited that made him.

  You’re to stay away from her. She’s not for you.

  No matter how truthful the voice of reason was, it still hurt like hell to hear it echo inside his head.

  Simon cleared his throat. “I assume she’ll be moving back to the city?”

  “She’ll be staying in our penthouse. It’s safe, near the campus, and will offer her the peace and quiet she needs to study.”

  Simon nodded—he was still trying to figure out why Nathaniel was telling him this. Surely, he could have accomplished the same thing via a phone call.

  “In the few months she’s been with us,” Nathaniel continued, “Lynne has become part of our family. The children and Abby adore her, and I view her as my little sister.”

  With those words, Simon knew immediately why Nathaniel had decided to stop by his office.

  “Nathaniel, I—”

  Nathaniel held up a hand. “Let me finish. In the last few weeks, Lynne has expressed a renewed interest in BDSM. She’s told us she’s going to take it slow. She doesn’t even want to pursue membership at the club.” Nathaniel’s voice dropped, and he leaned forward. “She’s under my protection, and you know what that means.”

  Yes, he did. He sure as hell knew.

  Nathaniel’s eyes flashed with warning. “You are to stay away from her. I don’t know what happened between the two of you, but if I find out you’ve disregarded my request or that you’ve hurt her in any way . . .”

  He didn’t have to say the rest. No one crossed Nathaniel West. Not if they were smart.

  “I understand,” Simon said. He didn’t need anyone to tell him that he wasn’t the right man, or Dom, for Lynne. Wasn’t it obvious that he’d figured that out ages ago? Why the hell did Nathaniel think he’d ended things with her in the first place?

  Nathaniel nodded. “I’m sure you do. I like you, Simon. More than that, I hold you in the highest regard. You are one of the few people I’ve allowed into my playroom and to observe my Abby. But let there be no doubt about it; I will have your balls on a silver platter if you harm Lynne. Mentally, physically, or emotionally.”

  Yes, he understood completely, and it pissed him off that Nathaniel felt the need to threaten him over something he had no intention of doing. But he liked and respected Nathaniel, too, so he kept his growing anger to himself and stood up.

  “I assure you my interest in Lynne ended some time ago. You have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, I have a meeting at the top of the hour, so I’m going to have to cut this short.”

  Simon walked to the door and waited for Nathaniel to stand. Nathaniel looked as though he was going to say something further as he walked out, but at the last minute he seemed to have changed his mind. Simon closed the door behind him, determined not to even think about Lynne.

  • • •

  “I think that’s everything.” Abby closed the closet door after hanging up the last of Lynne’s clothes. She looked at her watch. “Nathaniel should be back soon. We’re going to have a quick dinner after we leave here and then pick the kids up from his aunt Linda.”

  Lynne nodded, already missing Henry and Elizabeth. She’d been with the West kids almost every day for the last six months, so it had been hard to say good-bye to them earlier. Nathaniel and Abby had dropped them off at his aunt’s house so Abby could help Lynne get settled while Nathaniel left for a mysterious meeting.

  Abby had raised an eyebrow when he said he’d be back, but beyond that she hadn’t questioned him. But Lynne was certain he’d whispered, “Later,” to her when he’d hugged and kissed her before leaving.

  She had the strangest feeling the meeting had to do with her, but that was silly, wasn’t it? What could he possibly have a meeting about that concerned her?

  “It’s going to be so odd staying here without you guys,” Lynne said. Since she was their nanny, she had her own room at the penthouse, but they’d never spent a lot of time in it. Both Nathaniel and Abby preferred their Hamptons estate when visiting New York.

  Abby hugged her. “You’ll get used to it, and when the summer’s over, you’ll probably beg to come back here. Alone. For peace and quiet.”

  They walked into the living room, and Lynne looked around. The room was spacious with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooked the city. Everything about the space screamed wealth, and because of that, she felt hopelessly out of place. She didn’t tell Abby that she would never get used to it.

  Her new laptop was on the coffee table, and Abby had taken care of stocking the kitchen with her favorite foods. “So you don’t have to worry about shopping your first day.” Abby was like that, always thinking of others and how she could help.

  Lynne knew she was beyond fortunate to work for such a kind and generous family. They had done so much for her, and she loved their kids.

  “Are you okay?” Abby asked, her brow wrinkling as she looked at Lynne.

  “Just nerves at doing something different, you know?”

  Abby nodded, but Lynne knew she didn’t fully buy her excuse. Lynne was saved from any further questions by Nathaniel entering. Abby’s head shot up, a million questions in her eyes, but her husband only nodded.

  “Did you ladies get everything taken care of you needed to?” he asked.

  “Almost,” Abby said, sliding up to her husband and snaking an arm around him. “I haven’t given her the ‘no wild parties’ speech yet.”

  Lynne snorted and Nathaniel smiled. “I’m thinking we can skip that. Lynne would never throw a wild party.”

  “Of course not,” Lynne agreed. “Any party I throw will be completely civilized. We’d travel to the estate before going wild.”

  Nathaniel and Abby could both laugh because they knew she didn’t even know enough people to throw a proper wild party.

  “If you have everything settled, we’re going to head out for dinner,” Nathaniel said, slipping his arm around Abby. “We’ll get out of your hair so you can settle in.”

  “I think that’s everything.” Abby’s eyes grew teary as she looked around the penthouse. “Oh my God, I suddenly know what it’s going to be like when Henry and Elizabeth go to college.” She turned to her husband. “Promise me we’ll keep them at home forever. They can attend college online.”

  Nathaniel brushed one of her tears away with his thumb. “We have a long time left to worry about that, and you might change your mind during the teenage years.”

  They all three said their good-byes while Abby insisted that would never happen. Ever. Nathaniel finally steered her out the door, but before Lynne could fully get a sense of the quietness that would be her normal background for the summer, she heard Abby nearly yell, “You did what?” right before the elevator chimed its arrival.

  Lynne gave a little laugh, imagining the scene that was probably unfolding in the elevator. Whatever Nathaniel had done, Abby apparently didn’t like it and would give her husband an earful. Lynne loved watching the two of them, because even though they lived as Dominant and submissive a lot of the time, they somehow managed to dispel every preconceived idea she’d had about the D/s lifestyle.

  She appreciated how open they were and how, though they never did anything blatant in front of their children, they never felt the need to hide or keep anything from her. Of course, they never went so far as to have sex with her in the room, but there had been plenty of times when she observed how Abby would kneel at her husband’s feet while he stroked her hair. Not to mention the times Nathaniel would look at her with that look and say, “That’s one.”

  But most of all, she remembered the looks that would pass between husband and wife, the unspoken communication of a Dominant and his submissive. The look of a passion so fierce, anyone standing nearby could feel its heat. It stunned her how much a raised eyebrow or the simple touch of one fingertip to a collarbone could say, how much love was conveyed in a look. It shook her to know that Nathaniel and Abby had been married for as many years as they had and they still felt that way.

  She shivered, remembering. But it was more than remembering. It was also longing. Longing to look at someone that way. To have someone look at her that way. And it was despair. Because she feared she’d never have an intimacy that deep.

  The downside to Abby stocking her pantry and refrigerator, helping her unpack, and, for all intents and purposes, making sure she had nothing to do was that she had nothing to do. Lynne had thought moving into the penthouse on Saturday would give her plenty of time to adjust and settle, since classes didn’t start until Wednesday. Unfortunately, now that she had arrived, she feared all she’d done was give herself plenty of time to be bored.

  The penthouse was way too quiet for her taste. She was used to two young and energetic children. Normally her days were far from quiet. She debated turning the TV on, but she didn’t feel like watching anything. She could go for a walk, but the thought of being back in the push-and-shove crowd of Manhattan didn’t appeal to her either.

  Her eyes fell on the built-in bookcases on the other side of the living room. Before marrying Nathaniel, Abby had been a librarian, and though Nathaniel had tried several times to get her hooked on an e-reader, Abby continually told him she preferred print books.

  Lynne walked over to one set of the large and completely filled bookshelves. Knowing Abby the way she did, she had a fairly good idea of what she’d find, and she smiled when she saw that she was right. Abby had a fondness for romance novels. All types from the looks of it. Historical, contemporary, and everything in between, including what appeared to be an alien romance. Lynne decided to skip over that one, though, from the cover, it seemed as if the alien hero had quite the six-pack.

  Her fingers danced along the spine of what looked like a BDSM novel. Could she read it, or would the story hit too close to home? Would she be able to read it objectively, or would thoughts of Simon keep her from enjoying the characters?

  Simon.

  Dammit. Her hand dropped from the book. Her first and only attempt at the BDSM lifestyle had involved a relationship with Simon. Two years ago, she’d just been hired at a law firm and, after a conversation with another employee who’d caught her reading a BDSM romance during a break, joined an online lifestyle forum. Simon had reached out and taken her under his wing, so to speak. Now, of course, she knew he’d viewed it as his responsibility. At the time she’d been flattered and continued to chat online with him.

  They’d taken things super slow, and it was months before they’d met in person. She’d really been getting into the submissive role, and Simon had been such a kind and understanding guide. He’d never pushed her beyond what she could handle, and he’d been patient as she’d tentatively explored that side of her sexuality.

  Maybe that’s why he’d left her, three months after their first face-to-face meeting, because she’d been too tentative. Simon was an experienced Dominant, and naturally he’d want a submissive who didn’t have to be taught everything. Except . . .

  She told herself to stop this unhelpful train of thought. She’d had this exact conversation in her head every other day, it seemed. Every other day and it never did any good and she never came close to figuring out why Simon had broken up with her.

  The day it happened, he’d told her he was ending things with her because he didn’t think she was truly submissive. At the time, she’d been too caught off guard to question him. Completely floored, she’d nodded and hadn’t thought to protest, but now, if she could get that time back, she’d have asked him how he’d come to that conclusion.

  For a long time after that painful day, she had shoved the submissive part of her to the side, fearing he was right and then deciding he must be. He was very experienced, after all, and surely he knew a submissive when he saw one.

  But she’d eventually learned that shoving things to the side didn’t really get rid of them. They just stayed there, waiting for her to come back to them. Living with Nathaniel and Abby had helped her see she was submissive. Once she’d accepted that, it seemed only natural to tell them she was ready to get back in the lifestyle.

  So why, then, had she told Nathaniel she didn’t want him to recommend her for membership at his New York club when he’d asked her?

  Because she knew Simon was part of the club and she didn’t want to see him playing with a woman he had deemed submissive enough. Watch his strong hands, hands that had felt so good on her skin, touching another woman. She didn’t want to see him give someone else what he wouldn’t give her.

  She left the bookcase, knowing she didn’t want a made-up romance, and went to her laptop. On the other hand, the online world was perfect. And real.

  She logged on to a few sites she hadn’t been on in more than a year. The more she read, the more she wondered why she had stayed away for so long. Being back in that world, even online, felt peaceful. It was almost as if she’d found a part of herself she hadn’t realized had been missing.

  Later that night she’d ditched the laptop for the BDSM novel. Always a fast reader, she tore through it, only to find out it ended with a cliff-hanger and the second book in the series was nowhere to be found. She sent Abby a text, and Abby replied, saying the rest of the series was with her in Delaware. Abby promised to drop them in the mail the next day.

  With a sigh, she undressed and got ready to take a shower in the spalike bathroom. Her mind was filled with images from the book, but she put herself and Simon in place of the hero and heroine. As she undressed, she imagined him watching and, when she finished, ran her hands over her body, pretending they were his. But pretend hands were never as good as the real thing, and she gave up quickly.

 
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