“I HAVE a ten-thirty appointment with Nando.”
Behind the counter the girl with the raven-black hair and studded dog collar didn’t even look at her appointment book. “Nando. He’s here!” she shouted indiscreetly, her wide-eyed gaze never leaving the stranger. Her smile was accommodating, though, as she continued in a slightly more subdued tone. “He’ll be right with you. Why don’t you have a seat over there and make yourself comfortable?”
Nando looked at the new arrival from the shaded doorway he was hiding in and liked what he saw. One of the perks of being the welcome wagon for newbies at the club was that Nando got first look. Some of them were duds, but this one had potential. As the guy hesitated for a moment, Nando had some time to check out the pert ass encased in very tight jeans, the simple white T-shirt which also aided in showing off the man’s lean physique, and veined arms that made Nando’s leather pants grow tight. He liked men who took care of their bodies without looking like they spent time at the gym.
Although this was a BDSM club, Nando didn’t look like your average Dom. He was too short and not impressive enough to dominate physically, but he more than made up for that in personality. He’d broken in his fair share of six-foot-two football players, but the physical type that did it for him personally was standing in the club lobby right now.
As the guy turned around, Nando saw the lines in the man’s face, betraying that he’d left his thirties behind a few years ago, but the longish straight dark hair made him look younger than he possibly was. For a moment Nando thought he recognized the man, but he couldn’t place him until he stepped out of the shadows to introduce himself.
“Hi, I’m Nando.”
As the man firmly shook his hand, Nando mentally replaced the jeans-and-a-T with a bland off-the-rack suit, and it suddenly dawned on him. “And you’re my health and safety inspector!”
“Didn’t expect you to be that Fernando,” the man answered in a soft, shy voice.
“I guess we’re even, then,” Nando replied. “Never in a million years would I expect to see you in a place like this.”
THAT morning Nando had needed to open his tattoo shop alone. The appointment book was full, but Paulina, his shop manager, had very apologetically called in sick, and since it was a weekday, he was the only artist there. On top of everything, his eye fell on a little post-it note telling him to expect a visit from a health and safety inspector today. They hadn’t been open that long, and he knew some paper-pusher would eventually come by and check on his little shop. Of all days, why did it have to be today?
Right after his first client came in, another guy followed, looking just like Nando expected: cheap suit, raincoat, and a bunch of papers in a small briefcase. He really didn’t have the time, but there was nothing he could do, so he apologized to his client and turned to the inspector.
“Cooper Miller,” the man introduced himself without shaking Nando’s hand or even seeking eye contact. “California Health and Safety,” he added superfluously while he took a clipboard out of his overstuffed briefcase. “I’d like to take a look at your electrical system, your emergency exits, and your autoclave, among other things.”
Nando sighed. The man had definitely left his sense of humor at home, and that was never a good thing. He’d been careful to keep to all the regulations, but he knew there were so many he’d never pass on the first go. He tried to be accommodating, showing the man the papers he got from the fire chief who’d inspected the property earlier, explaining their strict hygiene measures, and allowing him to inspect the still-pristine-looking workbenches. He knew how busy they’d been lately, so he silently thanked Paulina for doing a good job cleaning up the place the night before.
The inspector didn’t seem too pleased with anything, though. He simply nodded stiffly when Nando showed him all the things they’d already done to accommodate for the regulations and seemed to be overly occupied with minute details like the correct way to mark emergency exits or the fact that there was no notification that the front door needed to be kept unlocked during business hours. He even managed to find one loose electrical wire and didn’t like the fact that a garbage can was too close to the back exit. Although Nando had been over most of these things with the fire chief and had been given the all-clear, he was afraid this inspector had the power to make him close his shop and send his customers home.
“These are the improvements that will need to be made,” the inspector stated as they returned to the front desk and he handed Nando his written report. “I’ll give you a temporary license and six weeks to make the necessary adjustments. When all these are met, I’m sure you’ll receive a permanent one.”
Nando couldn’t hold back a deep sigh of relief. The man’s expression hadn’t changed the entire time he’d been inside the shop, and even as he curtly nodded his goodbye, he still looked like the most even-keeled person Nando had ever seen.
TEN hours later, the man sitting opposite Nando in the lounge of the club was just as soft spoken as the inspector, but clearly nervous. Nando had no problems reading him now.
“Why don’t we pretend this is the first time we’re meeting?” Nando suggested, trying to put the man at ease. “I’m Nando Arenas, and I’m the official welcome wagon here at the club.” He extended his hand toward Cooper again. “Can I call you Cooper?”
Cooper nodded nervously but didn’t take Nando’s hand, so he retracted it. One thing that hadn’t changed was the man’s reluctance to make eye contact. They were going to have to remedy that, Nando thought.
“Why don’t you tell me what brought you here?”
Cooper shrugged. “I was curious. And someone suggested that you could show me the ropes.”
“The ropes of what?” Nando asked, although he already knew the answer. He just hoped Cooper would give him some things to go on besides the obvious.
“I came in a couple of nights and just… observed.” Cooper’s voice was soft but not too hesitant, as if he knew what he wanted, but he just wasn’t entirely confident about telling anyone.
Nando tried to prevent himself from smiling. “Did you see anything you liked?”
Cooper nodded. “There was a guy who was tied up with rope.”
“Shibari,” Nando said. He knew what Cooper was talking about. Although he didn’t hang around the club every night, especially not now he had a business of his own to manage, he knew what was performed on the stage in the Pit, where most of the passive players spent their time watching. “I should probably introduce you to Hikari. She’s the Shibari master.”
“No,” Cooper replied. His voice was still soft, but he sounded determined. “I want something else she can’t give me.”
Nando waited, hoping Cooper would actually tell him what he wanted. Newbies got a choice when they signed up, so the fact that Cooper had requested a man told Nando he was probably gay and that he wanted more than simply being tied up. Although not all encounters he had with newcomers were sexual—some people, after all, just wanted to be paddled or spanked—Nando certainly didn’t mind when they were.
“Look at me,” Nando requested when Cooper stayed silent. “I can’t give you what you need when I don’t know what you want.” Nando chose his words carefully. Although they were basically in a public lobby, it was late, and most patrons were in the private rooms or in the Pit, so they were virtually alone. “I believe in getting your cards out in the open. That way nobody walks away disappointed.”
Cooper raised his head and looked Nando straight in the eye. “I want you to tie me up and then fuck me in the mouth.”
In any other circumstance, Nando would have wolf-whistled and adjusted his crotch, but now he just smiled slightly and bit his lip, trying hard to hide just how much Cooper’s confession turned him on. He didn’t want to scare the man by seeming too eager. “I’m no Shibari master, but I know my way around a rope, so if we set some boundaries, I’m sure we can do that.”
Cooper’s eyes drifted south again, so Nando moved closer and lifted Cooper’s chin with his hand. “I need to know your safeword, and I need to know how strong your gag reflex is.”
Cooper swallowed. Hard. “I’ve given blow jobs before.”
“This isn’t just going to be a blow job,” Nando teased. “You’re not going to have any range of movement left. I’m going to thrust my big cock in your mouth, and you won’t be able to pull away.” Nando let his eyes wander down—not to avert his eyes but to check out Cooper’s groin. Cooper’s jeans were tight so there was no mistaking his arousal. “So why don’t you give me your safeword on the way to the room?”
Cooper got up right after Nando did and followed him down the dimly lit corridor. “I have some questions.”
Nando turned around briefly but kept on walking. “Fire away, but I can tell you this. Our session will have a clear start and finish. Anything we agree upon will happen or not happen during the session. Outside of it, we just act normally. Afterward, we’ll review what you liked and disliked, and we’ll talk about what happened. This is for both our benefits. And all intimate contact will be safe. Even for the blow job, I’ll be wearing a condom.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Cooper was quick to say.
“Yes, it will,” Nando replied when he opened the door. He switched the door sign to “occupied” before going in. “What kind of health and safety officer are you?” He tried hard to make it sound like he as mocking rather than reprimanding Cooper. “We’re both gay, which means we’ve probably had a cock down our throat before, which also means we might carry a few unfriendly germs. I have a clean bill of health—you can check my records here if you like—but I take no risks with my clients. Why would I take one with you? For a Dom, the safety and well-being of his sub comes first.”
Cooper nodded, albeit reluctantly. “Crimson. My safeword.”
“Crimson it is,” Nando replied happily. “Now take off your clothes and kneel on the rug there.”
Nando walked to the small connected room. He knew it always worked best if he left the new guy to check out the room on his own, give him some time. Some guys hated the waiting and became more nervous. More than once, he’d returned to an empty room. When the potential sub was determined, though, Nando would return to the room and find the guy just as he’d requested: naked and willing. As he took off his shirt and briefly looked at his reflection in the mirror, he felt himself hardening. For a moment, Nando closed his eyes and inhaled. He had to stay in control, no matter how much the prospect of what was going to happen turned him on. Cooper came first tonight, in any way possible. Nando was going to have to make it good for him, turn his interest, his craving, into the idea that putting himself in the hands of an experienced Dom and completely letting go was the most amazing feeling in the world, and then Nando would find him that experienced Dom and turn him over. Assuming everything played out the way he imagined, he already had the right man in mind.
Nando took one more look in the mirror at his lean, well-balanced physique and elaborate body art and gave his tight leather pants with the zip-away crotch a short tug before rounding the corner to the room. Cooper was there, on his knees, naked and half aroused, his hands behind his back and his eyes downcast. Nando’s attention was momentarily drawn to Cooper’s left shoulder, which sported a rather large but sadly faded tattoo. It was an occupational hazard to see it wasn’t very skillfully applied, and even though it could easily be twenty years old, it hadn’t weathered the years well.
Nando shook his head to bring himself back to the business at hand. “Are you sure you’ve never done this before?” He strutted over to where Cooper was kneeling. He could see Cooper looking at him but at the same time trying to keep his head down.
“I haven’t, but I’ve done some… research.”
“Good,” Nando answered, lowering his voice a little. “Then you’ll know that as soon as we start, you will only speak when I specifically give you permission to do so. If I ask you anything, you will either nod as a ‘yes’ or shake your head as a ‘no’. Of course, you can always use your safeword, and then I’ll stop what I’m doing immediately, and the session will be over. If I cross any of your boundaries, don’t hesitate. I won’t think any less of you if you use it, no matter what happens. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Cooper answered; then he nodded to show he did.
“Now, before we start: do you have any more questions?”
Cooper shook his head.
“Then let’s begin.”