Melissa looked in a mirror that was hanging in the salon’s vestibule as she walked out to the sidewalk with Erik. They were holding hands. The cut and style that Henri had given her were bolder and more sophisticated than anything she would have tried on her own. One of his assistants had taken her through how to duplicate the style on her own, twice, starting from a fresh shampoo. The repeated instruction had been a little tedious, but she was glad they had been careful to make sure she could repeat it.
The salon’s makeup stylist had also taught her daytime and evening makeup, and then loaded her up with supplies. Combined with the haircare products the styling assistant had given her, and the polishes and UV cure light that the manicurist had given her, she was carrying a bulging bag that they had given her.
Melissa was glad that Erik seemed very pleased with the result. She had to admit that she liked the result as well. At first, she had been worried that they were going to try to turn her into some ‘make-over’ fashion model wanna-be. But, to her surprise, the ending point wasn’t terribly different from where she had started, just somehow much more elegant.
The daytime make-up that she had on was actually more understated than what she had used at other times. Thinking about the last several days, Melissa realized it was ironic that she had hardly worn any make-up around Erik before now. There just hadn’t been any time, or she wasn’t in the mood. In her resentment about showing up at his house on Sunday, she’d waited until the last minute to pack and hadn’t had any time for make-up.
Thinking back to her confused feelings while she was packing, she was surprised how different she felt now. It seemed as though she had gone to a foreign country on vacation. The sense of foreignness reminded her of one winter break in college when she and some girlfriends had gone to a resort in the Caribbean. Their regular world had disappeared. Instead, there was this fun new place to explore. She didn’t have to worry about anything, and all these friendly people were taking care of her.
Melissa wished she could relax now and enjoy all these new experiences more, but the whole ‘sex slave’ role made her nervous. She wasn’t sure how she was expected to behave, or if she wanted to behave that way, whatever ‘that way’ was. Talking with Serena and Deborah had helped, but those conversations had also raised as many questions as they answered.
Even though Serena seemed quite content in her role, Melissa couldn’t quite get away from seeing Serena as a high-priced whore, at least in part. But if that was true, Melissa wasn’t sure what she was. It did seem clear that ‘sex slave’ wouldn’t look good on her résumé.
All through college, she had fought against her ‘bad girl’ desires and behavior. Even though she had given in far too many times – walking what she thought of as ‘the dark side’ – she’d never thought she would sign up to be somebody’s private whore.
Full of uncertainty, she glanced over at Erik as they walked to the car. He didn’t treat her as a whore. Of course, he didn’t treat Serena that way either. It was frustrating. Melissa didn’t know how to make sense of it all.
Erik looked over at her, feeling her attention on him. He observed, “You’re being quiet.”
“Yeah… it’s all so much at once… and so different. Sitting in the salon, I had a chance to think about… everything, but it still doesn’t really make sense. I’m not sure how I fit into this world of yours.”
He smiled reassuring, then tilted his head to the side, acknowledging his own uncertainty, “Truth is, I don’t know either. My plan is for us to just feel our way through, and find out what seems right. I know that may not be the most reassuring thing for me to say… and I can pretty much guarantee we’ll screw up a few times along the way… but, the thing is, it doesn’t worry me too much. It’s like what you pointed out this morning; you’re not made of porcelain. I know you’re right. I’m pretty sure we’ll survive the inevitable missteps. At the end of the day, I’ve got a sense that there’s something real here, something good, and I really want to see where it goes. So, I don’t worry too much. For now, I’m simply happy to be here, with you.”
Melissa felt her breath catch at his willingness to put such feelings right out there. She was also a little wary about his casual confidence about how to proceed. This whole adventure felt like such a monumental risk, and he was so nonchalant about it.
He saw she still seemed unsettled, so he said, “Here, let’s throw your stuff in the car and have a quiet lunch in the village.”
She nodded, suddenly finding herself unsure if she could speak without tears. She didn’t know where these feelings were coming from, but she was feeling assaulted by too many things at once. She felt simultaneously happy and fragile. She wondered if she had lied. Maybe she really was porcelain.
Erik had stopped, standing next to a deep blue sports car that she didn’t remember seeing in his garage. The car was bigger and lower than his Porsche. It looked like something that James Bond would drive. Erik beeped the key fob to open the trunk and she quietly put her bag into the car.
He watched her and asked, “Are you okay? Do you need a minute?”
She nodded ‘yes,’ closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. The expansion of her rib cage made her suddenly aware of her breasts straining against the fabric of her sundress. She burst out laughing, not entirely sure at first if it was hysteria or just a release of the tension. Finally settling down to a chuckle, she realized that she felt much calmer and decided that she’d simply needed to release all the tension that had accumulated.
He smiled, a little puzzled.
She explained, “I’m not used to going around without a bra. All of a sudden, it seemed… sort of silly, at a point where I desperately needed silly.”
He nodded, “Good. Silly is good. I don’t usually have enough silly in my life.”
“Well, you do sort of have a dry sense of humor.”
He smiled, “Guilty as charged.” Then he closed the trunk and offered her his arm, “Shall we?”
“Lead on, MacDuff.”
Erik said quietly, mostly to himself, “And damned be him who first cry, ‘hold, enough.’” Melissa was amused by his recognition of her Macbeth reference, although she wasn’t sure why it also left her vaguely unsettled.
The restaurant turned out to be a short walk away. The small town that Erik called a ‘village’ really did feel like a small country village, spread out along the bank of an old mill stream. On the drive to the hair salon, Serena had told her the village was indeed an old mill town, but one whose present day ‘industry’ was shops catering to the local well-to-do. Serena and Melissa had passed a saddlery on the way in, which Serena mentioned ran a thriving side business making custom leather goods for kinky rich customers.
When they walked into the restaurant, Melissa saw the back wall was mostly windows, overlooking the large stream flowing lazily by. There was a small deck outside, which seemed to overhang the water. Despite being a Monday, the restaurant was moderately crowded. An older woman bustled over, her energy at odds with her grey hair and stoutness. Erik called out, “Nina, I’d like you to meet Melissa.”
Nina gave them a broad smile, “It’s a pleasure! Welcome to the Haymarket Inn.” She turned to Erik, “It’s so nice to see you with such a lovely young woman.” Turning back to Melissa, she added, “He eats alone far too much.”
Erik laughed, “It’s because I enjoy your food too much to stay away, simply for the lack of a dinner companion. Besides, I like eating by myself. I always bring a good book.”
With a ‘humph,’ Nina picked up two menus and turned to lead them out to the deck, muttering as she walked, “I’d pick her over some book.”
Erik was shaking his head, protesting Nina’s comment, but his eyes twinkled in agreement.
They reached a table in the corner of the deck, near the railing. Nina said, “The day warmed up nicely. Let me know if it gets too hot for you in the sun, I can pull an umbrella over.” She paused a moment to look at Melissa’s fair skin, “On second thought, I’ll tell Claudia to bring an umbrella over when she comes out.” To Melissa, she said, “You look like you burn, rather than tan.”
Melissa grinned back, “It’s my Irish blood. I do eventually tan, but I have to be really careful about not burning first. Thank god, I don’t get freckles.”
“Well, let’s see if we can’t keep you from burning today.” With that, Nina turned and hurried away.
Melissa laughed, “Wow, she’s full of energy.”
Erik agreed, “That’s for sure. She puts it to good use, though. This is a great place. Her partner, Leslie, runs the kitchen. She’s an awesome chef.”
“Do you mean business partner or ‘partner’ partner?”
“Oh my God, they’re not part of your kink community too?”
He laughed, shaking his head, “No, no. I’m not sure whether they’re kinky or not in their own home, but they don’t have anything to do with my BDSM crowd.”
“Uh, that’s a relief. It’s nice that you know some straight folks.”
“Uh, well she’s not actually straight, but yeah, it’s definitely a vanilla world out there. I live in it too. The truth is, most of my time, I’m deeply imbedded in the vanilla world.”
She looked at him, a little puzzled, so he explained further, “Most of the year, I’m gone for months at a time to work with one company or another. Those assignments tend to be very intense, 24/7 sorts of engagements. I don’t have much time to go exploring a new town, certainly not to find the sort of community connections I’ve managed to build up around here.
“Plus, a lot of the companies I work with are in small towns where word travels fast. Even if I had a vanilla relationship, it could complicate my work. People in these towns tend to get pretty riled up over a guy who comes in, changes everything around, lays off and fires lots of folks. A bondage and discipline relationship… if it came out that I like beating women, that could lead to some seriously bad things.”
Melissa nodded, “I can see where ‘beating women’ could be misunderstood. Hell, I still have problems wrapping my head around it. A lot of the time, I’m seriously uncomfortable with the idea that I like being spanked and whipped.”
“Yeah, It’s a hard transition to make. I’ve always thought it’s a little bit like when gay people first discover they’re gay. It’s not a comfortable thing to face, but the persistent reality of the feelings… that reality eventually eats away at what had seemed like rock-solid beliefs… for most folks, at least. I guess some folks stay in denial. Others… not so good.”
He gave her a quick grin and continued, “I suspect for you, especially with all those old ‘good Catholic girl’ messages, there’s bound to be some guilt and shame to deal with in enjoying all this kink stuff. Of course, it’s not as though the Catholic church has a leg to stand on about sexual morality, not after all that priest pedophile crap. In the BDSM world – at least in everything I do – safe, sane, and consensual is an absolute requirement, and it’s always, always with adults.”
Melissa looked down at her napkin, hesitant to bring up the fear that the beginning of his conversation had reawakened for her, “Ah, talking about the gay thing… last night, ah, you and Michael, I guess, where do you…”
Seeing her struggle, he jumped in, “I suspect I’m in the same place that you were with Deborah or Serena.” He laughed easily, “For me, making out with a guy isn’t the first thing I’d want to do. On the other hand, I’m not dead set against it. There’s times when it simply feels right, or even fun. Michael’s definitely much more bisexual than me. He loves having a man go down on him. Last night… you and Deborah were sort of occupied. I could see Michael was horny as hell. He’s a good friend, so it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Melissa nodded thoughtfully. After a moment, Erik continued, “From what I see of most guys, our sexual orientation seems to generally be more narrowly drawn than it is for most girls. I’m not sure why. As best I can tell from what I’ve read, the mechanics for how sexual orientation gets set in utero seems to work a little differently for guys and girls… genes, hormones, whatever. Anyway, the result is that women generally have a softer boundary between hetero and homo.”
He laughed, “Or maybe that’s just what homophobic guys want to believe. One thing that did grab my interest, though, was some research showing a positive correlation between bisexual orientation and greater proclivity towards kinky sex, as well as having more sex in general. Of course, that research labelled ‘kinky sex’ as ‘deviant,’ and threw in stuff like pedophilia. Yuck.
“Anyway, I’d definitely be willing to believe that people who are into kink are also more likely to be open to polysexuality, and that they’d have a higher sex drive. It certainly matches my experience in the kink community.”
Melissa, sat back, looking at Erik with a puzzled expression. Then she asked, “So is that what you do for fun… read academic research on sex?”
Erik grinned, “Yep. Well, that and Archaeology. Hey, when I’m hanging out in a rental apartment in some remote town, trying to turn some stupid-assed company around, there’s not much else to do for relaxation. I exercise every day. I already explained why I don’t date. My problem is that at night, I’ve got to have a way of distracting my mind, so I can fall asleep. Reading academic studies is a great way of doing that.”
Melissa snorted in agreement, “Tell me about it. That shit will put me to sleep, every time.” She shook her head. “Still, it was really weird seeing you and Michael. I mean, in mainstream media, you see women making out together lots more than two guys.”
“True, but Michael was really horny, and I like knowing that I can get a friend off that way. Plus, it makes me feel like less of a hypocrite, I mean when I have a woman deep throat me.”
“About that deep throat thing…”
At that moment, a waitress came over, and they fell silent. The waitress pushed an umbrella over to shade them. She apologized, “I’m sorry it took me so long. I was held up in the kitchen.” She reached into her apron and pulled out a bottle of San Pellegrini water. “Here you go Mr. Greenwood.” She nodded to Melissa adding, “Mam.” As she opened the bottle and filled their water glasses, she asked, “Do you already know what you want?”
Erik said, “I do, but I suspect Miss Conlin may need a minute.”
Melissa quickly replied, “I’m starving.” She quickly scanned the menu that Nina had given her. “I’ll take the chicken salad croissant.”
Erik added, “I’ll have the venison ragout and wild rice.”
Claudia wrote their order and asked, “Do you want anything else to drink?”
Melissa said, “Do you have unsweetened ice tea?”
Erik said, “That sounds good, make it two.”
Claudia nodded, “I’ll get the food out as quickly as I can. Thank you, sir, miss.” Then she hurried away.
Erik and Melissa shared a smile over the waitress’ odd mixture of formality and abruptness.
Melissa then asked, “Does everyone call you mister, sir, master, or Mr. Greenwood?”
Erik sighed. Melissa thought he looked pensive and perhaps even sad. Embarrassed, she quickly added, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
Erik reassured her, “No, it’s okay. It’s true. It’s just something about the way I am. And yeah… it can be a little lonely.” He was quiet for a while longer, then said, “My friends call me Erik. My uncle used to call me Erikie. Sometimes, he still does.” He gave her a smile, “Times like this, when we’re not in some sort of scene, you should call me Erik. It doesn’t have to always be ‘Master.’”
Melissa reached across the table to take his hand, “Thanks Erik, I’d like that.”
Erik squeezed her hand in return, “I’d like it too.” He looked off at the river for a moment, clearing his throat. Melissa wasn’t sure if his eyes had watered up for a moment. Then he turned back, continuing in a much lighter tone, “So anyway, the deep throat thing. First off, some people simply can’t do it. They just can’t get past the gag reflex. Or they can’t stand the feel of something blocking their throat. Serena, I know, has tried really hard, but she just can’t get there, at least on her own. If she’s got a client who’s really into it and it’s worth it to her, she’ll use a numbing throat spray, but she hates it.”
He smiled, “I used a special soft dildo to practice. The big silicone jobs are just too hard.”
Melissa looked at him in amazement and motioned him to explain further. He smiled, “Well, it takes practice. I didn’t want to throw-up the first time I tried it for real. That definitely puts a dent in the mood. So, I sat in a comfortable chair, tilted my head back, and… practiced. Mostly it’s like what I was trying to talk you through last night. Hold the dildo right up to the point where your gag reflex starts, but no further. Let your body get used to it. For a lot of folks, playing with themselves, masturbating, provides a distraction from the need to gag.
“Anyway, once my gag reflex quietened down, I slid it a little further in, until that gag feeling came back. Then I’d stop and wait for that to die down. For me, it didn’t take too long until I could hit the back of my mouth.”
He shook his head, laughing at himself, “I’m sure I still have that training dildo around somewhere. I’ll dig it out and show you how. There’s a couple of tricks when it comes to actually letting it slip down into your throat.”
Melissa nodded uncertainly, “Okay… sure. I did kind of get you down some of my throat last night. Of course, I almost barfed too, I mean the second time.”
He nodded, “When I was practicing, on at least two occasions, I did the full, get down on my hands and knees, upchuck thing. I’d be sitting there, thinking I was doing fine, and then I’d push just a little bit too far or too fast, and pow!”
“Thanks for the warning,” she said wryly.
“Hey, like I said, I learned to deep throat because I figured if I was going to ask for it, I should be willing to do it.” He shrugged, then added, “All it takes is practice – twice a day until you’ve got it. Deborah’s the one who taught me that. She loves amazing people by being able to just lean over and take a guy all the way in. She makes it look completely casual, but she does lots of stuff to get ready that folks don’t see. For instance, she curls her tongue up and around to the back of her mouth to make sure her gag is under control, and she’s got a trick for repeatedly pressing her tongue down against her soft pallet, which acts like some sort of saliva pump. That way, she can get her mouth full of saliva to lubricate the guy as she takes him in.
“You’ll have to talk to her about all the details, but just casually taking a guy in like that, until her mouth slams up against his torso, I’ve got to tell you that never fails to really floor people.”
“Okay… I suppose that’s a good party trick,” Melissa said with sarcasm overlaying her words.
Erik stopped short, and looked at her quizzically. Melissa felt a little embarrassed and defensive about her sarcastic tone. She found herself growing uncomfortable with how he was staring at her.
After a moment, he asked, “Does talking about sex embarrass you?”
Her reply snapped out, “It’s not just sex, it’s pretty damn extreme stuff.”
He didn’t react to her angry tone. He quietly repeated, “Does talking about sex embarrass you?”
She gathered her breath, readying an even angrier blast. Then she paused, considering his question. She knew he was right. She blew out the breath she’d been holding and answered, “Yeah, it embarrasses me.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “Okay. The thing is, sex is a big part of your job description. You’re supposed to be learning about sex, exploring, practicing. So that means talking about sex is also simply part of the job.”
He waited a moment, and saw her nod slowly, accepting what he had said. Then he continued, “At a whole different level, though, even if you decide to go back to a vanilla lifestyle, I think that being able to talk about sex with someone you love is a hugely important skill. I can’t imagine having a meaningful relationship with someone, where communication about something as important as sex is completely forbidden. Does that seem right to you?”
Melissa shook her head, suddenly fighting back tears again. She didn’t know why her emotions were so raw. She didn’t usually lose it like this.
Erik smiled reassuringly, covering her hands with his. “I’m sorry, I know it’s a lot, and it’s happening sort of fast.”
She nodded in agreement, taking a ragged breath and recovering a little.
He looked off in the distance, as though he were pondering something, then continued, “Okay, so talking about sex, and having sex in front of other people, especially kinky sex – these are all hot-buttons, yes?”
She agreed, “Yes.”
A sly smile crept around his lips, “I guess I’ll call off the other guests for tonight and keep it to just you, Serena, and me.”
Melissa’s eyes grew large in horror, “There were more?”
“Hey, you seemed pretty comfortable last night, in public.” His tone was light, gently teasing her.
“Yeah, I know. We were in a quiet corner of a private kink club. It wasn’t actually all that public.” He grinned, “As for tonight, the truth is that I hadn’t invited anyone else over. Sorry, I was just jerking your chain. Hell, even having Serena join us was a spur of the moment thing.”
Melissa let herself relax, breathing more easily. Erik continued, “I have to warn you though, now that we know you’ve got an issue about being publicly on display, I’ll have to find ways to test it, play with it.” Melissa’s eyes narrowed in warning. He laughed softly, “Hey, anything that causes you to have such a strong reaction, that’s a thing that holds a lot of power for you, which means it’s something you want to take control of; you want to own it as yours.” She gave him an ironic smile in return. He laughed and added, “Plus, I’ll have all sorts of fun helping you get over these inhibitions.”
“Oh thank you ever so much, your heartless fucking bastard, sir.”
“Oh, you’re most certainly welcome.” At that moment, Erik spotted Claudia coming toward them with two plates. He said merrily, “Look, here’s lunch.”
Melissa growled under her breath.