The master, p.30
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       The Master, p.30

         Part #8 of Submissive series by Tara Sue Me
 

  dreaded her meeting with Cole, where only a handful of members would be present. He called her an hour before, but she once again kept it short. He no longer had a need to know everything she was thinking and feeling. She was allowed to keep some things to herself. But she soon discovered keeping things to herself only made her stomach hurt.

  Though she really didn’t fathom what a stomachache was until she found herself kneeling once again before Cole in front of the other senior group members.

  She bowed her head and tried not to think about how it would be the last time she’d do so. He stroked her hair, bringing his fingers down to lightly graze her cheek, and her heart hurt so much she almost couldn’t breathe.

  “You have done well, little one.” His thumb caressed her cheekbone. “I therefore release you from training.” The hand at her face dipped lower and undid the collar at her neck.

  She felt its loss immediately, and had to force herself not to throw her hands up to put it back on. She heard Dena say once that when Jeff took his collar back, it was as if he sent her to prison. She hadn’t understood at the time. Now she understood all too well.

  “Stand up for me.”

  She slowly rose to her feet, wondering if he could sense her inner turmoil. But when she met his gaze, she only saw his.

  “I hope I’ve served you as well as you’ve served me.” He slipped the red plastic band marking her as a submissive onto her wrist and then dropped his head to whisper, “You are strong and sweet and sexy as hell. My fervent hope is that you find the one you’re looking for and that he is worthy of you.”

  She swayed on her feet.

  “Easy now,” he said, holding out his hands to steady her.

  “Thank you, Sir.” She really didn’t want to go to the party. She thought about going back home, but she wanted to be there even less. At least at the party she wouldn’t be alone.

  “I’m DM tonight. If you need anything, come see me.”

  “Thank you, Sir.”

  At least as DM he wouldn’t be playing with anyone at the party. She wasn’t sure she could stand to watch that. Of course, it was only a matter of time until she saw him with someone else. Maybe it would be better to get it out of the way now. Sort of like ripping off a Band-Aid. Make the break complete.

  Cole looked over her shoulder and nodded. Seconds later, Daniel dismissed the meeting. And just like that, her time with Cole ended.

  He gave her one long, last look and then left to attend to his duties. Sasha hugged herself and secretly hoped no one asked her to play. Tonight it would just be enough that she was here. She glanced around the room and made her way to Julie.

  As she walked, she felt the weight of numerous stares, but she didn’t even care. Not one of them was from him.

  “You know,” Julie said when she’d made it to her side, “I don’t even have to ask how you’re doing. It’s written all over your face.”

  Sasha choked at hearing her words from the day before. “I meant for you to say that when I’m blissfully happy.”

  “There’s one thing that would make that happen, and you just let him go.”

  “I had to. I was becoming more and more dependent on him.”

  “Dependency is one of the best things about a committed relationship.”

  Sasha crossed her arms. “This from the woman who has said nothing positive about me and Cole?”

  Julie sucked in a breath like she’d been punched. “I deserved that. It’s only, you didn’t see him. It was written all over his face, too.”

  “What was?”

  “How much it cost him to let you go.”

  • • •

  Most of the time, Cole hated being DM at a party. Usually, he’d prefer to find a willing partner and spend a few hours indulging in hedonistic pleasure. Tonight, though, he didn’t want just any willing partner, he wanted Sasha. Short of that, he’d gladly be DM.

  The downside being, he found himself checking in on her every so often. And though he tried to tell himself he was only looking out for her best interest, he knew that wasn’t the truth.

  He walked back into the living room. Across the room, he saw Evan push back from the back wall and walk his way.

  “Master Johnson,” he said. “Can I talk with you for a minute?”

  Cole nodded.

  “Thought you’d be interested in knowing I asked Sasha to play.”

  Cole was unprepared for the possessive rage that shook his body. He actually had to hold on to the chair beside him so he didn’t punch Evan in the face.

  “Oh?” he managed to get out.

  “I invited her to go with me to the garage. I thought she might be more comfortable there, since we wouldn’t be alone.”

  Either it had been a short scene or she’d turned him down. Cole hoped for the latter. “What happened?”

  “She thanked me for the offer, but said she had to turn me down.” A mischievous grin covered his face. “She went on to say she couldn’t play with anyone who didn’t like hot tea. Said it was a hard limit.”

  Cole’s laughter drew the attention of several people. Evan chuckled. “Yeah, I thought you’d get a kick out of that.”

  “She’s a handful,” Cole admitted.

  Evan nodded toward Cole’s right side. “William drank tea. Maybe he’ll have a better chance.”

  Cole didn’t want to, but glanced over his shoulder to where Master Greene talked with Sasha. “I’ll go check it out,” he told Evan.

  The younger Dom slapped his back. “Have fun with that.”

  Cole crossed the room. William stood with his arms crossed, looking down at Sasha. She had a determined look on her face. Uh oh.

  “Master Greene, Sasha, everything okay?” he asked.

  “I came over to see if she’d be interested in playing,” William said. “I’ll let her tell you her reply.”

  Cole looked down at her and raised an eyebrow. “Sasha?”

  She sighed. “I told him he could give me his checklist, I’d take it into consideration, and get back in touch with him sometime later this week. But that I knew he had a long-distance relationship and I didn’t much feel like being number two on anyone’s list.”

  Cole swallowed his laugh. “Even for someone who drinks hot tea?”

  “Heard about that already, Sir?”

  “Word travels fast.”

  “Yes, even for someone who drinks hot tea.”

  He looked up to find William had left. “You’re chasing potential Doms away, Sasha.”

  “If they were worth my time, they wouldn’t run.”

  • • •

  Her words still rang in his ears over a week later as he drove to upstate New York, where he had a speaking engagement. He didn’t feel that he was in the proper mind-set to speak, much less to the group of women he’d be addressing—Kate’s hoity-toity women’s club. He’d agreed to speak to the club over a year ago, when he and Kate were still together, about fifteenth-century England. It didn’t seem right to cancel just because he wasn’t with her anymore. Damn, he wished he’d canceled.

  At least he could make the trip there and back in a day. If he left early enough and didn’t mind getting back home in the dark. Of course, the long drive gave him too much time to think.

  He second-guessed everything he had done with Sasha. Was he wrong to have given her a taste of a slave’s life? Had that been what made her feel like she couldn’t submit to anyone else?

  He wanted to hate that she didn’t feel comfortable being with someone else. He just couldn’t bring himself to do it. Deep inside, he was secretly pleased. He didn’t want to imagine her serving another Dom, much less witness it.

  He kept repeating her words at the party. She was usually very direct, but did she mean he shouldn’t have been chased away? Should he have insisted she stay?

  After driving over four hours thinking about little else, he pulled into the driveway of the historical house with no answers. Kate saw him pull up and opened the door to
meet him. It was just after ten and the meeting didn’t start until eleven thirty, so now he got to spend over an hour with his ex. Great, just great.

  “Kate,” he said, shutting the car door.

  “Hello, Cole, thanks for coming today.”

  She looked beautiful, as always. Perfectly put together, with nothing out of place. She would turn the head of any man with a heartbeat, but she did nothing for him. His fantasy involved a feisty brunette with short hair just the right length for his fingers to run through.

  “Think nothing of it,” he said.

  She glanced behind him. “You’re alone?”

  “Yes.”

  “I thought Sasha would be with you.”

  Bloody hell, even hearing her name hurt. “Sasha is no longer my trainee.”

  “I didn’t expect her to be here as your trainee.”

  It was bad enough he had to spend time alone with Kate, but he’d be damned if he was going to spend it talking to her about Sasha.

  “We aren’t going to have this conversation,” he said.

  In a move he recognized from seeing it for years, she tilted her head and studied him. Though they hadn’t been together for months, they had years of shared history. She probably only had to look at him to see the truth.

  “I have something I need to work on. Is there somewhere I can sit? Outside maybe?”

  She waved toward the house. “There’s a patio off the back with a table and chairs.”

  “Thanks,” he said. “I’ll be out there if you need me.”

  He carried his briefcase to the back patio and even took out some papers, but he didn’t get anything accomplished. He read the same paragraph four times before giving up and standing to his feet.

  The backyard of the house had been meticulously landscaped. He imagined the property booked for weddings and the like years in advance. Had it been a private residence, he could easily see the owners spending a lot of time outside. He took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of freshly cut grass. It brought to mind the afternoon she’d gotten him wet and he’d taken her against the tree.

  It seemed like eons ago when it’d been so easy to picture her with him. What had changed? Their relationship had done nothing but grow stronger as they spent more time together. Fuck. He had allowed her to chase him off. He’d run away when he should have stayed and fought.

  “Cole?” Kate’s voice broke through his thoughts.

  “Yes,” he said, ready to think and talk about something else.

  “I know you don’t want to talk about it, but I have to know.” Kate’s eyes were curious. “It was different with Sasha, wasn’t it?”

  “What do you mean?” Of course it was different. Everything about him and Sasha had been different. He just didn’t know it was that obvious to everyone else.

  “Let me ask you this, when we were together and you did something for me, was it out of obligation or devotion?”

  “What are you saying, Kate? Are you implying I wasn’t devoted to you?”

  “I’m saying I think you were more devoted to being a good Master than you were to me.” She held up a hand to stop his protest. “It’s not a bad thing, and it worked for us for a long time. But now looking back, I think I could have been anyone.”

  She stood up and walked to the edge of the patio. The light breeze ruffled her hair, blowing it away from her face, and he found no sadness in her expression. Even after the revelation she just made.

  “When I was serving you, did you ever look at me and want to know more? Long to learn everything about me, breathe me in as if I was the air you needed to survive, please me because it brought you joy? Or did you learn what you needed to know as my Master, but no more? Please me because it was your duty?” She turned to face him fully. “I was never your air, Cole. You wanted a slave and I wanted a Master, but in the end it wasn’t enough for me. The baby situation was the final nail.”

  He felt like he’d been punched in the gut because he knew, he knew she was right. “Kate, I’m sorry.”

  She waved her hand, dismissing his apology. “It’s okay. You weren’t my air, either. I wanted you to be, I tried to make you, but I finally realized you can’t force it. That’s the real reason I left. I want to need someone as much as they need me. And that’s why she was different for you.”

  She held his gaze for several beats of his heart, and when she started to speak, he knew exactly what she would say. Knew it because he felt the truth threatening to choke him.

  “Sasha’s your air, Cole.”

  • • •

  Sasha frowned at the ringing of the doorbell. It was Sunday, so the shop was closed. Julie would have called. She didn’t want to talk to anyone, she was working tomorrow and that would be soon enough. If she ignored it, maybe whoever it was would go away. Or maybe it was Cole? Her heart raced and with a trembling hand, she flung the door open.

  It was Abby.

  “Oh, Abby.” She couldn’t keep the disappointment out of her voice. “Come on in.”

  “I’m sorry. I know I’m not who you wanted to see. But since I wasn’t at the play party, I wanted to make sure we talked.”

  Sasha led her inside and they sat on her couch. She really didn’t feel like talking about Cole, because she knew once she did, it’d be expected for her to find another Dom to play with. And that wasn’t happening anytime soon. If ever.

  But Abby didn’t ask her anything. She leaned forward. “Nathaniel and I were together as Dominant and submissive when we first met. It was sex only. No feelings. Nothing.”

  Sasha’s eyes widened. She hadn’t heard of their courtship. They didn’t date first. That was surprising. Especially considering how crazy in love they were now.

  “I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. He was an ass. I won’t go into details about how, because that’s in the past. All you need to know is he was an ass. He hurt me emotionally, and I left him. Took his collar off in front of him, put it on the table, and walked out.”

  “Wow.”

  “We didn’t speak after that for months. In fact, I’m not sure we would have ever spoken again except my best friend married his cousin.” Abby shook her head, remembering. “But they got married and Nathaniel was best man and I was maid of honor.”

  “I’m guessing you two worked it out?”

  “We did. The thing I want you to know is men can be assholes. Even the best of men. Even the Dominant men. Maybe especially the Dominant ones. Because they think they’re protecting us or doing what’s best for us. And all they’re doing is breaking our hearts.”

  Sasha raised an eyebrow. “Has Cole spoken to Nathaniel?”

  “No.” Abby shook her head. “At least, not that I know of. I heard Cole had a speech to give at some women’s club, but that’s all. I just know how men are and I know Cole. If he thought it’d be in your best interest to be without him, he’d let you go even if it killed him.”

  “Even if it made him look like an ass?”

  “I’m not saying he’s acted like one. Just that men don’t always think clearly when emotions are involved.”

  “I don’t get it, though. He was with Kate for years.”

  “Don’t assume you know how that relationship went. Just because they were together for years, even in a twenty-four/seven relationship, doesn’t mean they were the loves of each other’s lives.”

  “But eight years.”

  Abby shook her head again. “Doesn’t mean anything. It might have been they thought it easier to stay together than to find someone new. Although in this case, I know children came into the picture.”

  “Cole has a child?” Hell, she didn’t know him at all.

  “No, that was the problem. He didn’t tell you? Kate wanted kids and he didn’t. Or doesn’t.”

  “Oh.” That was interesting. She wondered why it never came up that he didn’t want kids. Especially with her knitting on the floor by his feet. He’d never said anything.

  “I guess the fact that he didn’t tell me
speaks volumes.”

  Abby wrinkled her forehead. “What do you mean?”

  “If the kid thing meant so much to him and I meant so much to him, he would have told me. The fact that he didn’t tell me leads me to believe he didn’t care so much for me.”

 
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