Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Backlist Feature: Relearning the Ropes


When his good friend Julius dies unexpectedly, Marcus finds himself saddled with a new submissive—Charlie. But Charlie comes with a history, and more pain and need than Marcus has ever encountered. Marcus knows he loves Charlie, and Charlie loves him, but Marcus must set aside his old theories about BDSM and relearn the ropes if he wants to be the Dom—and the lover—they both need.

“And this guy right here!” A sleazy-looking, slender man with thinning hair who reminded Marcus of Wormtongue from The Lord of the Rings slid an arm around Charlie’s shoulders. “Is the best damn record keeper this firm has ever had!” He gave Charlie a shake, his giant hand squeezing Charlie’s upper arm.

Marcus flinched, anger boiling his blood. This was why he’d never wanted a full-time sub of his own—because he’d be forced to accompany them in public eventually, and seeing anyone touch what was his made him want to kill someone.

Charlie watched him with wide eyes and an expression of apology, apparently quite aware of his coworker’s effect on his Dom. “I’m just an ordinary secretary. Nothing special.”

“Nonsense!” The man pounded Charlie on the back. “C’mon, there’s someone I want you to meet.” He grabbed Charlie’s arm and hauled him away.

Marcus frowned. What the fuck should he do about this? He didn’t dare risk exposing Charlie as gay—whatever Charlie’s reasons for wanting to stay in the closet, he had to respect them. But he didn’t care for the idea of Charlie being paraded about like calf at auction, especially after Charlie had already been sold twice in his lifetime. And he damned sure didn’t like having to hide his status—he was a Dom, goddamn it. Add to that, he could likely tear limb from limb every man in this building, or at the very least have them pissing their pants in less than five minutes. Marcus didn’t do passive. He was more predator than anything when it came to these situations, so swallowing down his natural instincts was painful.

He supposed this was a lesson every Dom should learn, though. What was that line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? “Only the penitent man will pass.” Just a random quote from a random movie he’d seen only once, but he found the words cropping up in his mind often. Especially now.

Marcus moved through the crowd, keeping himself a few paces behind Charlie and the insufferable interloper. The man reeked of cheap cologne, even at a distance, and his suit—though he’d probably argue otherwise—was a bottom-basement forgery of the real thing. Marcus sneered and adjusted his own tie. His two-hundred-dollar tie, thank you very much, which just happened to be the least expensive thing he had on, right down to his Maurizio Amadei-designed cashmere briefs. God, he hated men who flaunted what they couldn’t back up. His quarry stopped in front of a group of people, the man making boisterous introductions and Charlie looking back over his shoulder, eyes scanning the room quickly.

Marcus raised his glass and nodded, recognizing that deer-in-headlights look. What would Julius have done? What had Julius done? Marcus gave silent praise to his friend, who had apparently been a much better diplomat than he.

“Fuck,” Marcus growled under his breath. The man had two wineglasses in his hand and was trying to push one off on Charlie. Charlie didn’t drink—was just as afraid of alcohol as he was nearly everything else. Charlie took a half step back, gesturing with his hands and shaking his head. Marcus stood still, torn. On the one hand, he wanted to save Charlie. Rescue him, take him home, tie him up, and show him that his love and loyalty were well placed. On the other, Charlie needed to lean to deal with these situations, in case he was ever truly on his own. A prospect no one had even considered before Julius’s accident.

Across from him, Charlie held one of the wineglasses in his hand, staring at it as if it would come to life and attack him. God, he was bad at this, wasn’t he? Marcus frowned. Julius had never mentioned just exactly how socially inept Charlie really was, and Marcus felt like an idiot—and a failure as a Dom—for not realizing. Charlie was so very submissive in all things, but he still hadn’t grasped how to decide who deserved his submission and who didn’t.

Marcus strode forward, aware of the appreciative glances he attracted from women and men both. “Ah, Charles, there you are.” He took the glass from Charlie’s hand and deposited it in on a nearby table. “Do pardon me,” he said to the onlookers. “I’ve a friend who wants to pick his brain.”

Marcus took a firm hold of Charlie’s elbow and led him away. The muscles beneath his fingers trembled, as did the rest of Charlie’s body.

“Thank you, Marcus.” 

Marcus nodded curtly, not ready to speak. 

“I’ve angered you.” Charlie’s trembling turned into all-out shaking. 

“No,” Marcus answered, voice gruffer than he wanted it to be.

“I’m sorry.” Charlie’s eyes were sad, his lips curled into a pout. A door opened nearby, letting in a rush of night air, and Charlie’s head snapped around, nose sniffing like a wild animal. Which was exactly what he was, Marcus realized. Feral, untamed. Untrained. Had Julius been unable to acclimate Charlie to the real world, or simply unwilling? Admittedly, helping anyone overcome five years of mental, physical, and sexual torture, of being treated like a piece of meat—passed around from abuser to abuser—was a daunting task. Let alone trying to do so with someone as naturally submissive and timid as Charlie.

Marcus sighed. “Let’s mingle for a while.” But later, when they returned home, they definitely needed to talk.

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