The master, p.4
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       The Master, p.4

         Part #8 of Submissive series by Tara Sue Me
 

  mentioned Daniel and Julie had been in the playroom. What happened?” Stay with me, little one, let me help.

  Her spine straightened in resolve, but he had a feeling it was all for show. “I’m sorry if I worried anyone. Sometimes I have these little episodes. I never know what’s going to bring one on.”

  “I remember you mentioning them when we talked about you rejoining the group,” Daniel said.

  Julie cocked her head. “But you said they were rare. I didn’t know you were still having them.”

  “Probably due to lack of sleep and everything that’s happened in the last twenty-four hours,” Sasha said.

  Silence filled the room. Cole Johnson, the stillness seemed to whisper. He’s what’s happened in the last twenty-four hours.

  “Maybe you need more time,” Daniel said. “We may have jumped into the retraining too quickly.”

  “It’s okay if you want to wait, right, Daniel? There’s no rush.” Julie looked expectantly at her Dom.

  What the fuck was she doing asking Daniel?

  Sasha seemed to sink further into the seat and in that moment, Cole knew he would have to change his approach. He cleared his throat.

  “Excuse me, Master Covington,” he said. “But I believe everything pertaining to Sasha and her retraining was placed under my oversight.”

  “Yes, but—” Daniel started.

  Cole held up his hand. “You’ve known me long enough to know I don’t take kindly to anyone second-guessing me. Now, I’m very aware everyone is concerned with Sasha’s well-being, but the group has entrusted me with her care. As such, unless Sasha says differently, I will be the one to decide how and when she is retrained.”

  “My apologies,” Daniel said. “You’re correct.”

  “Sasha, do you still wish for me to dictate the terms of your retraining?” Cole asked.

  Her reply was immediate. She looked . . . pleased with the way he stood up for what he wanted. “Yes, Sir.”

  “I would like for everyone in this room to acknowledge the meaning of Sasha’s acquiescence. There will be no more discussion of this.” He met Daniel’s eyes first, then Julie’s. At their nods, he turned to Sasha. “There’s been a change to your schedule. I’ll be in the guesthouse sitting room in ten minutes. You’ll be waiting for me there, fully clothed, and on your knees.”

  • • •

  Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Oh, shit.

  The two words repeated themselves in Sasha’s head, drowning out all other thoughts. Realistically, she knew there was nothing to be worried about. Cole had asked her to fill out a new checklist, and she had fully intended to note the rare panic attacks she experienced. And though he had told her to kneel and wait for him, she knew they weren’t going to do a scene.

  However, all that knowledge paled in comparison to Cole’s calmly spoken, but don’t-even-think-about-doing-differently command. Especially when it was delivered in that smooth-as-silk accent of his. She didn’t know if her body was closer to panic over kneeling for someone or melting into a puddle of goo over him issuing the command.

  She let herself into the guesthouse. Since Daniel’s place was a popular location for both group meetings and play parties, she’d been in the house numerous times before. She didn’t bother to look around to see what changes, if any, Cole had made, but went straight to the sitting room and knelt on the rug.

  She’d hoped that somehow her body would calm down once she made it to her knees. But it wasn’t to be. Her arms shook even after she placed her hands, palms facing up, on top of her knees. He had discussed positions earlier in the day at the coffee shop. She’d run through them in her head while driving with the hope that in doing so, she wouldn’t succumb to an episode.

  She was close, she felt it threatening to take over. The old terror and the new uncertainty were too much. Too much and she’d been wrong, wrong, wrong to come back.

  “Sasha.”

  His voice was calm and gentle. She wanted to cling to it and never let go.

  “Close your eyes and focus on my voice.”

  She squeezed her eyes shut and pictured his voice as a bright light in the darkness.

  “Inhale deeply. Then exhale and let all the fear go. No one will hurt you whilst I’m here.”

  She took a deep breath, concentrating on the rush of air in and out of her body. The terror’s grip lessened.

  “That’s it. Good job. Another one. Just the same.”

  She inhaled again. She was safe. Exhaled. Safe.

  “Again.”

  Safe.

  Her heart rate slowed. The terror disappeared.

  “Again.”

  Calm.

  “There we go, little one. If you think you’re able, stay in that position.”

  “I can stay here, Sir.”

  He gave a soft hum of acknowledgment. “Take as much time as you need, and walk me through what happened when you knocked on the door and I answered.”

  When she took another breath, she smelled his aftershave and knew he’d moved closer. He smelled the way she imagined midnight would: sexy and secret and sinful.

  One more deep breath and she was ready. “I came to talk to Julie. I knew I should probably go home and take a nap, but I didn’t feel tired. I needed to talk to Julie.”

  “What were you going to talk to Julie about?”

  Her hesitation lasted only a second. “You.”

  “I’m going to touch your shoulders and rub your back.” Two hands gently clasped her shoulders. His thumbs massaged the nape of her neck. The action was both soothing and sensual at the same time. His sure hands soon had her sighing in pleasure.

  “Do I scare you?” he asked.

  She thought for a minute. “No. I don’t think that’s it. It’s only that I haven’t figured you out yet. It keeps me off balance.”

  His thumbs stopped their massage. “Might I suggest you grow accustomed to being off balance when it comes to me?”

  She didn’t know how to reply to that, so she remained silent.

  His thumbs moved once more. “Is it correct, therefore, to assume I wasn’t the trigger today?”

  “I don’t think it was you, Sir.”

  “You said you came to speak with Julie, I let you in and mentioned she had just left the playroom with Daniel. It happened soon after that.”

  The whip cracked in the air and made contact with flesh. She was so cold. Her body shook.

  “Sasha.” His smooth voice banished the memory. “Stay here with me, little one. Tell me what happened.”

  Whenever he called her “little one” she felt warm and protected. “I remember.”

  “What do you remember?”

  “Daniel and the playroom. I think that was it.”

  He was silent for a moment, yet his hands never stopped moving. Somehow his touch grounded her, kept her steady and safe.

  “It was Daniel?”

  “No, Sir.” She paused, just for a second, and then continued. “I was thinking about being in a playroom with you, though.”

  “I see. So playrooms seem to be a potential trigger.”

  “I don’t know, Sir. Maybe. I’m not feeling panicked right now.”

  “I don’t know, either, but it’s something we’ll work on.” He continued rubbing her upper back and she allowed herself to sink into his touch, relaxing in a way she rarely permitted herself to.

  When he’d told her he wasn’t going to fuck her, she’d hoped to feel nothing when he touched her. It would be easier to keep the lines clear that way. But now that she had experienced how his hands felt on her body, she knew she’d want to feel them again.

  Stupid. He’s just being nice because you panicked. Don’t get used to it.

  “You’re tensing up again,” he chided. “Whatever you’re thinking, stop.”

  After a few deep breaths, she once more felt relaxed and loose—and mildly surprised it was so easy to obey him.

  “There we go,” he said softly, and his hands became gentler. “Ju
st so you’re aware, I think you’re an incredibly brave woman and I’m honored to be the one chosen to help you through this.”

  Her knees went a little weak. His voice was suddenly so soft, so smooth, and he was so different from how she’d pictured. It wasn’t at all how she’d imagined. And he thought she was brave. The thought made her stomach flip-flop. After what seemed forever of feeling so weak, so damaged, so damn afraid, someone saw her as brave. Maybe she could reclaim part of her former self again and he would be the one to guide her.

  “When was your last attack?”

  “Two months ago, I believe, Sir.”

  He extended the massage to cover her entire back, further soothing her with both words and touch. “Do you know what caused that one?”

  “Peter called me.”

  His hands stopped for a brief moment. “I didn’t know he had contacted you.”

  “I don’t like to talk about him,” she said. “He called to apologize. Said it was part of his mentorship.”

  He exhaled heavily. “Peter won’t be calling you again.”

  Her eyes grew teary. This protective side of him was an enduring surprise. “Thank you, Sir.”

  “Thank me when I show you mercy or when I allow you to climax. There’s no need to thank me for protecting or looking after your well-being. That’s just who I am.”

  Once again his words warmed her. She thought she had him figured out, but she was starting to see there was so much more to his character.

  “Are there any words, places, or actions aside from what we’ve talked about that have triggered an attack?”

  “Not within the last few months. After—” She swallowed. She could do this. “After it happened, they occurred frequently. I remember the first group meeting I went to . . .”

  “Take your time.” His voice was soft. Patient. Odd, she thought, since there really wasn’t anything soft about him.

  “Julie didn’t think I should go. We argued. I thought it would be okay since Dena was giving a talk about legal issues. I had a bad attack in the middle of her discussion. I didn’t tell anyone. I left after it was over and went to Julie’s.”

  She could picture the way everyone had looked at her, the sideways glances, eyes darting away once she caught them. Even when people approached her to talk, they’d only ask how the shop was doing and once she replied with “fine” the conversation died.

  “If you experience another one,” he said, his voice no longer soft, “you will contact me immediately. I don’t care if it’s the middle of the night or I’m out of town or you’re working. Understand?”

  Once again he made her feel protected. “Yes, Sir.”

  “How are you feeling now?”

  “Much better, Sir.” She found the words came naturally. It never crossed her mind to say “fine.” “I’m calm and relaxed. I don’t feel panicky at all.”

  “Stand up, little one. Be careful; you’ve been kneeling for quite some time.”

  She opened her eyes and moved gingerly to her feet, slightly disappointed he was no longer massaging her back. Even so, he kept a hand on her shoulder to steady her as she stood. The afternoon shadows were growing long in the room, and she wondered exactly how much time had passed. Though she didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before, she felt rested.

  Cole turned her to face him and then dropped his hands. “A very productive afternoon, I believe.”

  “I believe so, too, Sir.” She followed the path of his hand as he slipped it into his pocket and wondered when he’d touch her again.

  His lips curled up a bit at the corners. “Does it bother you when I touch you?”

  “I enjoyed you rubbing my back.”

  “Answer the question, Sasha.”

  He wasn’t going to allow her to get away with anything. Already his expression had changed, all the amusement had fled. “No, Sir, it doesn’t bother me when you touch me. I like it.”

  “There now, you see, that wasn’t hard at all.” His smile returned. “From here on out, you will always answer the questions I ask. If you don’t know the answer, you may reply with ‘I don’t know, Sir,’ and we’ll work from there. What you may not do is avoid the question or give me half answers. Are my expectations clear?”

  “Yes, Sir.”

  “Do you have any questions about them?”

  “No, Sir.”

  He studied her intently for long seconds. “I can help you. But I have to have your trust, and that includes your honesty.”

  Little by little, he was weaving his way into her mind, just like he’d said. It brought her a startling sense of security.

  “If you still want to talk to Julie, I’ll call the main house and tell them you’re on your way.”

  “Thank you, Sir. I would like that.”

  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

  “Yes, Sir. And I’ll have the assignment you gave me completed.”

  “I’m looking forward to it,” he said with a faint smile.

  • • •

  Julie waited for her at the side door of Daniel’s house. Sasha quickened her step. As Julie welcomed her inside, Sasha looked back over her shoulder toward the guesthouse. Cole was just leaving out the front door. He’d changed into shorts and a T-shirt and he raised his hand in a salute before he took off jogging toward the pond.

  Julie led her through the kitchen into the living room, and they sat down on one of the couches.

  “I’m not going to ask if you’re okay,” Julie started. “Daniel said we had to trust Cole, so I’m going to try really hard to do that. Besides”—she gave Sasha a grin—“you seem completely at ease and I haven’t seen you look like that in ages.”

  “Probably the back rub Cole just gave me.”

  “He took you to the guesthouse to give you a massage?”

  “No, we also talked.”

  Julie wrinkled her eyebrows and curled up so her legs were tucked under her. “Daniel also said Cole was moving to Wilmington.”

  Sasha picked a loose thread on the couch cushion she held in her lap. “He told me.”

  “How do you feel about that?”

  Sasha shrugged. “Does it matter? This is only a retraining. I don’t have any hold on him, and we’re not in a relationship.”

  “But he was the first Dom you showed interest in after Peter, and he is retraining you.”

  “No sex, though.”

  “You’re blushing.” Julie smiled. “Something’s up.”

  Sasha glanced around the living room. “Where’s Daniel?”

  “Are you asking because you want to know or are you changing the subject?”

  “A little of both.”

  “He went to check on something, but he said he’d be back in a few. He wants to talk to you.”

  “Do you know why?”

  “Hey, Sasha.”

  Sasha looked up as Daniel walked into the room and sat in a chair next to her. He had a concerned expression, but after what Julie had said about trusting Cole, she didn’t think he would question her about how she’d spent her time in the guesthouse.

  “I didn’t know Peter had called you,” Daniel said.

  “What?” Julie’s eyes widened. “You didn’t tell me.”

  “Just a minute, Julie.” He held up his hand and turned to Sasha. “Sasha, I wish you would have told me.”

 
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