The trip had taken about an hour. Melissa was driving, dressed in what she thought was a surprisingly modest business suit for Erik’s tastes. He had given her unadorned pumps with only a four-inch heel. The continued absence of underwear, however, helped remind her that she was still his sex slave. As an even clearer reminder, Erik would occasionally take breaks from working on his computer in the passenger seat to reach over and caress her between her legs, bringing her to the edge of an orgasm. Then he would stop, resuming his work on the computer, absentmindedly licking off his fingers before typing.
After Saturday night, she was getting used to the frustration. Once Deborah had recovered from her deep submergence into subspace, she and Melissa had a long conversation about the powerful effect of being teased. Michael and Erik didn’t seem to have paid the women’s conversation much attention. The two men had been talking through some possible business deals.
Melissa realized afterward that she should never underestimate Erik’s ability to track other conversations around him. Much of Sunday had been spent with Erik lazily playing with her for what seemed like hours at a time, constantly bringing her to the desperate edge of an orgasm, only to deny her. When he had finally allowed her to cum at the end of each prolonged session, it had been an Earth-shattering experience – except for the one time that he had misjudged the timing, proving he was still human and fallible. Even that orgasm, Melissa would have once counted as the satisfying culmination of sex with a boyfriend. Now it felt disappointing.
As their exit from the highway neared, Erik’s body posture shifted subtly. He seemed more withdrawn and pensive. The effortless power she always sensed within him felt as though it were coiled tighter.
Her phone periodically announced upcoming turns as she drove to the address that Erik had given her. He was silent through the last part of the trip, looking out the window as they drove through a tired, old mill town. Her phone reported their arrival as she slowed in front of a rambling, interconnected set of brick industrial buildings. A large sign on the building nearest the road read, “Sunstone Instruments, Inc.” She started to pull into the parking lot in front, but Erik said, “Let’s go around back,” pointing to a road labeled, “Loading Dock.”
She turned to follow the path around the buildings to a large parking area in the rear, paved with crumbling asphalt. There were several dozen cars parked on one side, away from two loading docks. She pulled into an empty space. Looking around, she was amused to see that Erik’s Range Rover was as out of place here as her beat-up old Nissan was back in his garage, although for the opposite reason. The age and rust on the cars parked around them showed that Sunstone’s workers did not make much money.
Getting out of the car, she recalled that there had been an expensive-looking BMW parked next to a big black Mercedes in the front parking lot. She grimaced at how the contrast echoed her own very confused feelings about the lifestyle she had fallen into.
Erik stood waiting for her at the rear of the car. She shook herself from her reverie and hurried to join him. He gave her a questioning look, clearly having noticed her expression. She gestured to the other cars, then nodded to his. “Just noticing the difference.”
He nodded. “This town has been in decline for decades. These people work hard, but they only just get by.” They walked together toward a back door in silence. As they reached it, he paused, looking up at the weathered brick building. “I’ve been trying to turn this little remaining bit of the local industry around. It’s the only factory left in town. Employs about a hundred people in two shifts.”
He punched in a code on a scarred keypad next to the door. As soon as he finished, there was a loud buzz, and he pulled open the door. They stepped into the dim, warm interior. The air was heavy with the smell of wood, masonry, and machine oil. Behind them, the door swung shut, cutting off the spill of bright light from the summer day outside.
She cautiously followed Erik forward, waiting for her eyes to adjust. A man looked up from some boxes he was stacking on a pallet. He stood up straight, saying in a friendly voice, “Hello Mr. Greenwood. Good to see you back.”
“Hi, Mark, good to see you too.” Gesturing toward Melissa, he said, “This is my new assistant, Melissa Conlin.”
Mark nodded, “Mam.”
She immediately squelched her dislike for being called “mam” and responded with a friendly, “Hi.”
Erik said, “I was in the area and thought I’d stop by to see how things are going.”
“I’m busy back here. Returns are down, which is good.” He shrugged, “I guess the new machines make a difference.”
Erik nodded. “It’s the people too. Sunstone’s gotta mean something. Only way we’re going to compete is to make the Sunstone name stand for quality again.” Erik grinned at Mark. “That’s not just machines; it’s the people who run them.”
Mark nodded, standing a little taller.
Erik nodded back, “Thanks.” He gestured to the pallet, “I’ll get out of your way and let you get back to it.”
Melissa followed Erik to a door on the far side of the large room and into a long hallway. Once again, Erik seemed preoccupied. They walked together down the empty hallway. About halfway down, Erik noticed Melissa being quiet and asked, “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, but you seem kind of, I don’t know, tense?”
“Maybe. I haven’t been around for awhile. On purpose. I hired a new CEO, John Blakeslee. I wanted to give him some room to make this operation his own. This is my first ‘I was just in the neighborhood’ surprise drop-in visit.”
He asked, “Everything else okay? You seem quiet.”
“Uh, yeah. Well, I’m not sure of my role. You know, sex slave, assistant…”
Erik nodded, waiting for her to continue.
“And, well, it’s weird. Mark was all ‘sir,’ ‘mam,’ and ‘Mr. Greenwood.’ I grew up in a house that’s probably like what most of these people probably live in too. My dad was an HVAC repairman, who worked his way up to running his own business, but it’s only a couple of guys and two trucks. Everyone calls him Sean, not Mr. Conlin.”
Erik smiled, with a hint of sadness. “Yes, as you’ve already noted, I have a… formality… reserve, that makes people call me Mr. Greenwood. When I came in here, the company was circling the drain.
“Sunstone makes brass musical instruments: trumpets, saxophones, that sort of thing. The company’s been family-owned for four generations. About forty years ago, the founder died. His one son died about twenty years ago. Small family tree. Only three grandkids and five great grand kids. All of them are hopeless. They treated the company as their piggy bank, but it’s not big enough for that. In a good year, the company would throw off about two or three million after tax.
“Sunstone had a solid reputation for quality and value in the mid-market. Something you’d buy a promising high-schooler to replace the kid-sized instrument they learned on. Not concert quality, but good.
“Once the third generation took over, the quality started going downhill. Then the Chinese came into the market. Their quality was worse, but their prices were a small fraction of what Sunstone charged. Over the last few years, the Chinese quality has gotten better.
“Twenty years ago, over four hundred people worked here. Now it’s just under one hundred. But some of that was me. When I came in, I laid off nearly fifty people. I lined up financing for new machinery and much better automation, reorganized and retrained the production line, replaced most of the sales staff…
“When someone comes in and rips stuff apart like that, it doesn’t make everyone warm and fuzzy. People don’t call me ‘Erik.’ If I’m lucky, they call me ‘Mr. Greenwood,’ at least to my face.”
Melissa knew him well enough now to see the sadness and loneliness in his face. She reminded him, “But the company’s still here.”
He nodded. “In the last six months, sales are up 30%. Quality is way up. With the new production equipment and the smaller workforce, productivity is up, well over 100%. We’ve been able to cut prices to compete more directly with the Chinese, and our profit margins have actually increased. Even with the loan servicing costs for new equipment, we’re back in the black.”
Melissa took his hand in hers. “So maybe that’s why Mark called you ‘sir.’ It’s not fear; it’s respect.”
He chuckled, “Probably a bit of both, but at least I’m pretty sure the layoffs are over. Next year, Sunstone should be hiring again. Of course, I’ll be long gone by then.”
Melissa asked, “And this John Blakeslee guy will get all the credit?”
“That’s the way it’s supposed to work. We’re negotiating now with a couple of private equity firms for a buy-out. The family gets half the proceeds, and I get the other half. With Sunstone’s current performance, I should net a few million dollars. Not bad for a year’s worth of work.”
Melissa looked puzzled.
Erik asked, “What?”
“Ah, I don’t know. I guess I hadn’t thought about the actual dollar amounts.”
Erik looked at her with a more penetrating intensity, and she became embarrassed. He asked, “You thought I was a billionaire or something?”
“Well, I don’t know. From where I come from, rich is rich.”
He nodded, “Okay, there’s truth to that, but… no.”
After a moment, he explained further, “In my world, there’s ‘nicely well off,’ ‘rich,’ and ‘ultra-rich.’ In truth, I’m down at the lower end of that scale. My net worth is… somewhere in the low teens. Sure, I can afford a very nice house and fun cars, but just for argument’s sake, a top-of-the-line Gulfstream jet costs well over sixty million. That means I fly commercial, not in a private jet.”
“Oh. I didn’t mean to…”
He laughed. “No worries. I didn’t give you a detailed financial statement up front. I guess it all seemed pretty overwhelming. Just remember, though, I’m probably further away from the people who own their own high-end jet than your parents are from me.”
She nodded slowly, trying to take it all in. Then she smiled brightly, “But you own an adoring sex slave. That’s gotta count for something, right?”
He laughed, relaxing for the first time that morning. “Yes indeed. And such a cute one at that.”
A door opened about twenty feet further up the hallway. Erik and Melissa quickly dropped each other’s hands, resuming a business-like posture. Melissa was amused to see that Erik seemed as embarrassed as she was.
A young man carried a tray of cut brass sheets out into the hallway. His face lit up when he saw them, and he called out enthusiastically, “Hello Mr. Greenwood!”
“Hi, Jake. How are you doing?”
Melissa noticed that despite his youthful appearance and enthusiasm, Jake was older than she first thought. His high forehead, wide-set eyes, and child-like expression had fooled her. She suddenly realized that he had Down Syndrome.
Erik turned to introduce him to Melissa. “Jake, I’d like you to meet my new assistant. This is Melissa Conlin. Melissa, this is Jake Crumbs.”
Jake looked around, then said in an embarrassed tone, “I’m sorry. I can’t shake your hand.”
She assured him, “That’s okay.” Gesturing at his tray, she asked, “What do you have there?”
“These are blanks,” he said proudly.
Erik told her, “Jake is incredible at making the bells for trumpets and flugelhorns. We tried using a machine to draw brass over a mandril, but we couldn’t get a consistently good tone. Jake’s work is dead on, every time.”
Melissa smiled at Jake, who was beaming with pride. Inside, she felt her heart melting toward Erik in a whole new way. His voice brimmed with obvious warmth and respect as he told her about Jake’s skill, without any hint of the subtle condescension so many people had towards someone with Down Syndrome.
She told herself, “So much for the heartless brute who lays off people without batting an eyelash. You can’t fool me.”
Jake looked off to the right, suddenly. “I’m supposed to get back to my station. We’re really busy now.”
Erik gestured him on, “Okay. It was wonderful to see you again Jake. Give my best to Miss Margaret.”
“You bet Mr. Greenwood. I sure will.” Then Jake hurried away.
Melissa looked at Erik, her expression clearly showing her bemusement at seeing this softer side of him.
He snorted, although with a grin. “Jake lives in a group home. Margaret Chapman is the supervisor. She came to me six months ago about employing some of their residents. The state has a work-support fund that covers training and makes it attractive to hire the handicapped.”
She used his technique of simply waiting for the other person to continue, even though it was clear that he would have rather ended his explanation there. To her delight, it worked, and he continued.
“So I agreed. We have three of her residents working here, although the other two are only here for a couple hours a day. They’re a lot more compromised. Jake works a full shift, and he’s truly good at it.”
Sensing that there was more, she waited longer and was rewarded again.
“It was a little tough at first. Feelings were still pretty strong over the layoffs. People thought that I was hiring the handicapped just because they were cheaper. In truth, it took a lot longer to train Jake than an ordinary worker, although he doesn’t get bored the same way. He’s definitely slower than the other workers. On the other hand, his quality is consistently high.”
Erik looked down the hallway at the door Jake had disappeared into, his expression hardening. “We had some problems with teasing and bullying. I found Jake in the bathroom one day, crying.” He paused for a moment, before saying flatly, “That was not a good day for a few people.”
Melissa asked, “What happened?”
“After I took Jake home, we had an all-hands meeting. Two people wound up with unpaid two-week vacations, effective immediately… In truth, I think everyone felt bad, at least once they knew how much Jake had been hurt by the teasing. He’s such a good kid; it’s hard not to like him. Kid, hell, he’s older than I am. But, I guess he’ll always be a kid.”
Melissa said quietly, “When you become a dad, nobody had better pick on your kids.”
He shook his head in amusement, then said more seriously, “Seeing someone who’s weaker being abused has always really upset me.” He snorted derisively, “A little weird for someone who gets off on spanking and whipping women, huh?”
Melissa started to laugh, then became more serious. She reached out to rest her hand against his chest. “Unless I really liked it too, I couldn’t imagine you enjoying it.”
“No, I couldn’t imagine liking it either. Thank goodness I found you.”
“Uh, Master, I’m feeling so warm… and wet right now, but this is probably not the right place.”
“No,” he agreed. “Well, let’s go up to the front offices and get the visit with John over. Then we’ll see.”
Erik turned to walk up the hall with her. As they walked, she silently cursed how much her total lack of pubic hair and underwear made her aware of her soaking wet horniness. After Erik’s frustrating teasing of her on the trip up, she felt as though she was spring-loaded, desperate to cum on a moment’s notice.
Reaching the end of the hall, they entered a large, busy area where people and machines were in constant motion. A few people looked up as they passed and Erik waved at them. It was too noisy for ordinary conversation. Everyone was wearing orange plastic ear plugs, so no one tried talking to them.
Melissa felt a sense of relief as they stepped through a door at the far end of the room, entering a much quieter hallway. The floor was covered with old linoleum, which, although gouged and scarred, shined with a clean wax coating.
Erik walked with her down the hall. They passed a meeting room with worn carpet and paneled with faux wood wallboard from several decades past. An attractive woman in a silk blouse looked up at them as they passed. Erik stopped suddenly and went back to the doorway.
He said coldly, “Helen. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see you here.”
Melissa heard the woman answer him with transparent falseness, “Erik, what a pleasant surprise to see you here. Was that your new slut that just walked past?”
Erik stared for awhile into the room, appearing to weigh his response. Then he said, “You can stop typing that e-mail now.”
Nothing happened for a moment, and then Erik sprang forward into the room. Melissa heard the woman’s laptop slam closed and her angry scream, “What the fuck?”
Melissa stepped into the doorway to see Erik and Helen glaring at each other. Erik said, “Our agreement has a penalty clause if you or any of your family enters the premises. Thirty thousand dollars. I’ll send a formal notice of your violation. Now. Get. Out.”
Helen leaned forward with a sneer, “Fuck you.”
“Not in this life.” He picked up her laptop and she snatched it from him, jamming it into her bag and striding from the room. Melissa couldn’t help but noticing that Helen was wearing very high heels as she stepped out of the way to let her pass. Melissa asked herself, “What is it with Erik and women wearing these fucking stupid stiletto heels?”
As Helen reached what seemed to be the foyer in the front of the building, she paused for a moment to dig into her bag for her phone. She looked back down the hall at Melissa with a disdainful expression, then strode out of sight.
Erik moved quickly through the meeting room doorway, past Melissa, nearly running down the hallway to another open door, where he vanished inside. Melissa followed in time to see Erik stepping past an empty secretary’s desk and into an inner office.
Melissa noted a doorplate reading, “John Blakeslee, CEO,” as she cautiously followed Erik into the inner office. An overweight man in his fifties sat behind a large wood desk, looking up at Erik in consternation. On his desk, the man’s cell phone rang. He looked at it, uncertain, as Erik picked it up and turned on the speaker phone function. After a moment, Helen’s voice called out, “John?”
Erik held the phone toward John, who said uncertainly, “Yes?”
Helen barked out, “Erik Greenwood is in the building! Lock down your files.”
John sat paralyzed.
After a moment, Helen asked, “Do you have me on fucking speakerphone with him there?”
John’s mouth moved, but no words came out.
Helen’s scream of frustration was clear through the phone, followed by, “You fucking douchebag!” Then the connection was broken.
Erik looked down at the phone he was holding, then over to John. In a measured voice, Erik asked, “What’s your passcode?”
John hesitated, then protested, “That’s my phone.”
Erik leaned forward, putting his hands on the desk. “It’s company owned. I’m Chairman of the Board. You’re fired.” He paused for a moment, then added, “If you want to see any of the separation payment in your contract, give me your passcode and your computer admin code. Or else, you can hire a boatload of lawyers and sue for years, plus good fucking luck with getting another job after I put out the word about what you did here.”
John thought for a long moment; then his shoulders slumped as he said a dispirited, “Shit.” He picked up a pen and wrote out several lines on a pad of paper. Pushing it over to Erik, he explained, “It was going to be my big payday. The bitch was doing a deal with Chin Ho. The Chinese were going to bid five hundred K more than Crane Holdings, plus they were going to pay five million under the table to Helen. I was supposed to get one million of it.”
Erik asked, “Then what?”
“Chin Ho would shut this place down and use the Sunstone brand on their own crap.” John leaned back a little and spread his hands apart as though requesting forgiveness. “We’ve been cutting into their sales.”
Erik asked, “The payment under the table was just to Helen? She was cutting out the rest of the family?”
Erik stood up straight and folded his arms across his chest. “Typical.”
Then he leaned down again and turned John’s laptop so he and John could both see the screen. “Show me the files. Both the aboveboard offer from Chin Ho and the under-the-table agreement.”
John hesitated, “If I do this, you’ll pay my separation and won’t blackball me?”
Erik nodded grimly. John took a deep breath and started opening up files.
Twenty minutes later, John was walking out the front door, carrying a cardboard box with his personal possessions. Erik and Melissa watched him get in his black Mercedes. Melissa noted that the black BMW was no longer in the parking lot.
Then Erik called a meeting with all the employees. Standing on a chair in the middle of the production area, he began, “We’ve been coming back. Sales are up. Our pricing is finally competitive. Our build quality has never been better. We’ve got the Chinese on the run. Chin Ho, our biggest competitor, is losing market share. So what are they doing? Well, I’ll tell you. They want to buy us out and close us down.”
An undercurrent of anger spread through the gathering.
“To my great sadness, I just discovered that John Blakeslee was helping them.”
Shouts of rage exploded from the crowd.
“John’s gone. I fired him.”
The room suddenly grew quiet. Everyone looked around nervously, unsettled.
Erik’s voice boomed out in angry certainty, “I will not allow anyone to drive Sunstone under. Everyone in this room has sweated blood to bring this company back from the brink. Too many good people aren’t here today, laid off a year ago, so we’d have a chance to make this company strong again. All that sacrifice has got to mean something.
“And it has. Over this past year, we have made the Sunstone name stand for something – for a quality product. Something you can be proud of. I’m sure as hell proud of what you’ve done.
“Going forward, this business will grow. It will not shrink. And no back room deal will stop us! You have my promise.”
“For now, I’m putting Bob Greavy in charge of day-to-day operations. Let me go fix this Chinese crap. The rest of you… keep making great instruments.”
He turned to a group standing off to one side, “And you sales guys, keep selling them. Together – all of us – we will make this company strong for another eighty years.
“That’s it. Thank you.”
Erik walked back with Melissa toward the empty office where John had been. When they reached it, Erik closed the door and sighed deeply. He leaned back against a wall, arms folded across his chest, lost in silent thought for several minutes. Melissa stood quietly nearby. She felt shaken by the turn of events. It had been a whirlwind. Annoyingly, she also felt incredibly horny. She blamed it on being teased for so much of the past day or so. She also wondered if some of it was being turned on by seeing Erik in action. His strength and decisiveness were startlingly attractive. Now, seeing him in this quietly pensive moment, only made her even more attracted to him.
Erik finally roused himself and looked around the office. He asked Melissa, “You doing okay?”
She sighed, “Yeah. Busy day.”
He nodded, then looked at her more carefully. “You sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, ah, I know you’re really busy and this is a terrible time for it, Master, but, ah, I really, really need to cum. Will you let me?”
He smiled thoughtfully. “I want you to stand right there. Clasp your hands behind you. Stand straighter, arch back a little. That’s right. Now close your eyes.”
She stood as directed, her whole body humming furiously.
His quiet voice called out to her, “Standing still… just like that… you may now… cum.”
To her great shock, she did. Without anyone touching her or even touching herself, she immediately released herself into orgasm. Even though it was not an Earth-shattering orgasm, it continued for quite some time. She remained standing, eyes closed, amazed while she enjoyed a whole series of aftershocks.