Headmaster, p.3
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       Headmaster, p.3

         Part #2 of Lessons From the Rack series by Tara Sue Me
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  what she would think of his Friday night activities. No doubt she would not approve. He wished he was whole, that he could be with somebody like Marie.

  But the truth was, he never had been and never would be. Oh, he had thought Winnie was the answer to his dream. The bitter truth was, she turned out to be his nightmare instead. Even so, that did not excuse what happened to her, and he would spend the rest of his life trying to make up for that.

  Her death had led the way to the opening of the academy. It was ironic when he really considered it. How personal tragedy had turned into both his salvation and his punishment. For in running the academy, he hoped to ensure that the tragic ending of Winnie’s life would not be repeated on his watch.

  He’d put aside his real estate empire to build and run the school. He’d told himself it was yet another part of his penance. In time, he’d grown to enjoy his work. He felt as if he was doing his part at the RACK Academy to properly train those who enrolled, while at the same time he never had to actively participate.

  Though what he was thinking when he hired Winnie’s best friend, he wasn’t sure. He snorted. Yes, he did. He knew exactly why he hired Marie. Because he wanted her, but wouldn’t take her. So he did the next best thing; he kept her in his sights. Ensured he knew who she was playing with. Who she was in a relationship with. In short, he kept her close, so he could know all there was to know about her without the possibility of a relationship.

  He wondered sometimes if he was being unfair to Marie. She didn’t appear unhappy, at least most of the time. There were times, more times than he would like to admit if he was being honest, that he saw a sadness in her that matched his own. He wasn’t stupid or blind; he knew she wanted him. Hell, he wanted her. But he could not let that happen.

  He reached the mainland and collected his car from storage. He closed his mind off as to where he was going and just drove. If he thought about it too much, he would be ashamed. And yet even still, as he approached the familiar building, he grew hard. Damn traitorous cock. It was the only part of his body that would be happy tonight.

  He sat in his car for several long minutes after he arrived, wondering if he should alter his plans for the evening. Get a hotel room. Get himself off with his hand. Unfortunately, he knew from experience that wouldn’t be enough. In the end, he got out and walked inside, just like he knew he would.

  The door wasn’t locked; it never would be to him. Whoever was working inside tonight had both expected him and seen him as he approached. He stepped inside and found the owner of the club, Rachel, waiting on his arrival.

  It wasn’t that unusual of an occurrence. She typically greeted him every few months, to ensure his needs were being met and that he was satisfied.

  “Mr. MacLure,” she said. “So pleased to have you visit tonight. Come this way.”

  Rachel was a beautiful middle-aged woman who ran the operation of professional submissives. He insisted on being called Mr. MacLure as opposed to Master MacLure. At times he thought it was silly, but it helped everyone to remember who he was. And more importantly, who he was not.

  He followed her into her office, a sleek, modern number with contemporary furniture. It was a bit too cold and clinical for his taste, but he didn’t visit the place for its decor.

  She waved to the chair in the sitting area of her office. Once he was seated, she took her spot across from him.

  “We’ve been doing this for a long time,” she said, by way of introduction.

  He nodded, unable to see where she was headed. “Yes. And I would like to think our association has been mutually beneficial.”

  After all, he paid a near fortune for the entry fee into the club of her professional submissives. No one dared to call them prostitutes, at least not in Rachel’s presence. If you did, you only did it once. He’d gone to great lengths to check that the women who worked for Rachel did so of their own free will and that they were not coerced at all. In fact, he knew that most encounters didn’t end in sex at all.

  “That it has, Mr. MacLure, that it has.”

  “You need to tell me something?” he asked, sensing that was the case, and that whatever it was, she didn’t really want to deliver the information.

  “Yes.” She looked away from him and gazed out the window. In the distance, he saw the lights of Portland.

  “Whatever it is, surely it can’t be that bad.” He tried to keep his voice light. From what he could tell based on Rachel’s actions, she was loath to tell him.

  “I’ve recently become engaged,” she said, and he noticed the huge diamond solitaire on her left ring finger for the first time.

  “Congratulations.”

  “My fiancé . . . well, he’s an understanding man, but he’s not overly excited about . . .”

  “His wife running a group of professional submissives?” he guessed.

  “Yes.” Her cheeks colored slightly and he found that amusing. Not in all the years he’d known her had he ever witnessed her blush. “But it’s more than that. He’s been offered a job in New Orleans, so we’ll be moving before the wedding.”

  “I see,” he said, and he did. While he wouldn’t have a problem with his wife doing what Rachel did, he could understand that some men might. Of course, all that really didn’t matter in the end since she’d be moving to the other side of the country.

  “I thought it best to go ahead and let all my clients know now. I’ll still be here for the next few months. So if you need to make an appointment between now and then, I’ll be here for you. Well, not me, but you know.”

  “Yes, of course.” He knew exactly what she meant. And he also knew he wouldn’t return after tonight. This would be his last Friday night trip off the island.

  “You won’t come back, will you?” she asked, with a slight tilt of her head.

  He wasn’t surprised she picked up on his thoughts. After two years, they knew each other fairly well.

  “Probably not.”

  She nodded. “For what it’s worth, I’ll miss you, Lennox. You’ve always been a good man and a gentleman.”

  Her words stung even though he knew that wasn’t her intent. Stung because, of all the men in the world, he was the least gentlemanly of all. If she could see inside his head, she’d know how depraved he really was. If she could see into his past, she’d likely go running in the opposite direction.

  “Thank you,” he forced himself to say.

  Rachel smiled at him and he wondered why he had never noticed just how beautiful she was until now. Had he grown so isolated in his grief and penance that he didn’t even look at women any longer?

  No, that wasn’t the case. He looked at Marie. A lot.

  Damn it. He’d worked hard to never think of her when he was here. He wasn’t ashamed of what he did here, but he didn’t want any association of this place with her. He thought it would sully her somehow.

  He stood up. “I think I’ll leave early tonight.”

  Rachel frowned. “I should have told you after. I’m sorry. I ruined your evening.”

  “No, that’s not it. I’m just . . .” He groped for the right words. “Not in the right headspace.” That was as good of a reason as any.

  “Penny will be sad to hear that. She was looking forward to serving you tonight.”

  He chuckled. “I’m sure she’ll survive not having to blow a has-been Dom.”

  Rachel bit her lip as he turned to walk out the door. He’d just put his hand on the doorknob when she called out to him.

  “Yes.” He turned around.

  “It’s none of my business and I wouldn’t say anything except that I probably won’t see you again.”

  He waited. He had a fairly good idea about what she was going to say, so he braced himself for the well-meaning but totally useless advice so many people wanted to toss around.

  “I lost my first husband shortly after we were married,” she said, and he blinked. That was not what he’d expected her to say. “We were sightseeing in New York. It was
a random mugging gone horribly, horribly wrong. I used to think a part of me died that day, and for the longest time I was convinced they should have buried me the same time they buried him.”

  She stopped and wiped the tears that gathered in her eyes. He wished he had a handkerchief or something useful, but all he could do was wait for her to continue.

  “I don’t know your history,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why our arrangement has worked so well. But I see in you a grief that I know all too well. I’m not going to tell you to get over the loss and live your life, because I’m sure you’re sick of hearing that. I’ll just tell you that I know where you are. I’ve been there and I’ve made it through to the other side.” She reached into her desk, took out a card, and wrote something on it. “This is my cell phone. Call me if you need to talk or just need someone to listen.”

  He was so shocked that she hadn’t told him to get over it and to be thankful he was still alive that he walked back to her and took the card. He’d been in therapy for years, had talked to numerous people, listened and half listened to a dozen more, but never to anyone who had actually been through anything similar to what he had been through.

  “Thank you,” he said, and meant it. As he took the card, his gaze fell on her new engagement ring. He put the card in his pocket, and told himself he’d throw it away when he got back to the island. Because as much as he appreciated the gesture, Rachel wasn’t like him. Her situation, though similar, was nowhere near the same.

  By her own account, her first husband’s death had been a random mugging gone bad. She hadn’t caused it. The death of her husband didn’t stain her hands. And that was the difference. That was why he couldn’t get over Winnie’s death and go on with his life. Because every time he looked in the mirror, he was confronted with the truth.

  Winnie was dead because of him.

  WINNIE’S JOURNAL

  His voice . . . gah . . . I could seriously listen to that man read from a phone book. Everything about him is a walking advertisement for sex. Raw sex. Dirty sex. Keep-me-in-bed-all-day-and-all-night-too sex.

  But it wasn’t just his voice. I was mesmerized by his hands, especially his fingers. One look and I couldn’t stop thinking about how they would feel and what they could do to my body. And his eyes . . . When we were introduced, his eyes had this look, like they knew exactly what I was thinking, but more than that, like he approved.

  And, of course, I can’t forget his mouth. When he said my name, the corner of his mouth lifted in a sexy half smile. My knees just about gave out. I looked at Marie to see if she was affected the same way, too. What I saw shocked the hell out of me.

  I wanted to climb on top of his body and do wicked, wicked things, but Marie . . . she looked like she wanted to kneel before him and do his bidding.

  CHAPTER

  Three

  The first day of class for a new session of students always carried an air of excitement, and the newly arrived fall class was no different. Mariela actually thought the level of excitement felt higher than normal, but had to admit, part of that stemmed from Andie.

  “This is so fun,” her friend said, practically bouncing as she oversaw breakfast preparations. “I mean the weekend was fun, too, when they all arrived, but to know that class starts today?”

  Mariela let her chat. She’d arrived at the dining hall earlier than usual to see if Andie needed help, but so far she was doing fine on her own. Mariela peeked out the door as one of the waitstaff entered the dining hall. Lennox had enrolled eighteen students for the fall, slightly higher than last fall’s sixteen.

  They wouldn’t make it to her class until later in the week, but she had met several of them over the weekend since she acted as advisor to a number of the submissive students present.

  Speaking of submissives, she needed to prepare for her introductory demo. She’d made the mistake of asking Lennox to help her over the summer and had been shot down. It was not a mistake she was going to make twice. David Nader, a Dominant on staff and a fellow instructor, had always assisted her in the past. He could do so today, too.

  Right as she was getting ready to tell Andie that she’d see her later, the door opened and Fulton came in. Andie skipped over to him, rose up on her toes, and kissed him. He smiled and grabbed her by the waist, swinging her around.

  “Seriously, you two,” Mariela said with mock disgust.

  “Hey,” Fulton said to her, not releasing his hold on Andie. “I’m glad you’re here. I wanted to ask you something.”

  “Sure. What’s up?” Mariela knew Fulton didn’t have much time. He would be doing the new student introduction in a little over an hour. Which meant she had about an hour and a half before he’d need her for the demo.

  “I know this is last minute, but I was thinking Andie could do the class demo this morning.” Fulton glanced over at his submissive. From the look on her face, he hadn’t discussed the possibility with Andie.

  “What?” Andie asked.

  He shrugged. “I figured why not? You did demos with me over the summer when you were a student, so this won’t be a big deal. Besides, Mariela always does them. I thought maybe she’d like to take a break.”

  Andie’s gaze narrowed. “I think that’s something you should ask a person before you go around assuming things.”

  That was another thing Mariela liked about Andie—she was a spitfire who had no problem telling it like she saw it. She didn’t back down from anyone, and the only time she appeared even remotely submissive was when she was in a scene with Fulton.

  Fulton, for his part, looked crestfallen as he turned to Mariela. “I didn’t think you’d mind. You’ve seemed a bit distant lately. . . .”

  Mariela knew she had been. She wasn’t sure why, or at least why things had started bothering her so much now. Maybe it was because she’d been in Andie and Fulton’s company almost exclusively in the weeks leading up to the fall term. She didn’t like the thought that being around a happy couple would bring her down, like she was jealous, but that could very well be the case.

  Even now, with Andie’s mild rebuke, she could see the excitement in her friend’s eyes at the thought of doing the demo. When was the last time Mariela had been that excited about a scene? She honestly couldn’t remember.

  “It’s okay. I have been distant lately.” She took a deep breath. “And I would actually really like for Andie to do the demo. If she doesn’t mind.”

  “No. Not at all.” Andie took Fulton’s hand. “Do you need me to tell Master Nader?”

  “I can do it on the way to my office. You two go get ready.” Mariela turned to leave, but not before she saw Andie once more kiss her man.

  If she thought she might have been moody and distant before talking with Andie in the kitchen, once she made it back into her office after stopping by Master Nader’s, she was even more so. She gave the barre a long look, but for some reason it didn’t beckon her today like it normally did.

  Three months ago she’d have changed clothes and danced whether she felt like it or not. But today . . . today she gave in to the overwhelming urge to sit at her desk and mope.

  She rested her chin in her hands and looked over the paperwork she should tackle. There were people to call to set up the ball the academy hosted after every term. The fall term was always a little bit more special than either the spring or summer because the end-of-term ball fell near Christmas.

  Lennox wasn’t one to celebrate the holidays, but he didn’t mind if the rest of the staff did. Mariela had always loved Christmas and she usually adored overseeing the decorating of the academy. At the moment, though, she just couldn’t bring herself to get excited about twinkling lights and greenery.

  “Marie?”

  She didn’t have to look up to know it was Lennox who’d called her name.

  “Master MacLure,” she said in response.

  “Aren’t you doing the first-day demo?” He cocked an eyebrow at her, like he’d just caught her with her hands in the
cookie jar.

  “Why?” she asked. “Were you going to volunteer to do it with me?”

  “You know me better than that.”

  “Right. The Dom Who Isn’t. Forgive me, I forgot. So, let’s see. If you aren’t interested in running the demo with me, you must have stopped by because you want to watch.”

  He didn’t say anything, and his silence made her more upset than if he’d challenged her.

  “That’s it, isn’t it? You like to watch.” She was probably shooting Andie’s plan all to hell, but she found she didn’t care. “You can’t man up enough to actually participate, so you’ll get yourself off by watching.”

 
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