“WHAT are you going to do?”
The question hit Josh so much like a physical blow that he actually flinched. He felt cold each time he thought about his conversation with Master Avery that morning. The need to serve that permeated Josh’s soul made his heart pound at the revelation that Master considered their six-month “trial” contract a failure. Josh wasn’t even sure what Master Avery had meant when he said they had different goals. As a submissive, his goal was to serve and to please, while his Master’s goal was to command and to dominate. Swallowing the burning lump in his throat, Josh attempted to stave off tears. The idea of finding another Master and starting all over again was disheartening. He was starting to believe he would never find anyone who would keep him around after that first test drive. In his heart, Josh longed for the connection that a submissive could have with a Master he loved.
He wanted to be cherished and needed, not merely desired.
“I don’t know,” Josh told Alex as he reached up to take off the leather collar that Master Avery had given him, as part of their agreement. He’d been dreading the moment and the finality of it since hanging up the phone three and a half hours earlier, but he couldn’t put it off any longer. He didn’t want to do it alone, and Alex couldn’t stay forever. Being forced to remove it himself made Josh feel useless. Apparently, he wasn’t even worth the drive across town for Avery to terminate their contract and retrieve the collar in person. The disrespect made Josh feel like he had been nothing but an actor on a stage.
The spotlight dimmed, and the curtain had fallen, but no one remained for the encore.
Josh left Alex on the couch and walked over to the small table next to his front door. The table, which had been a gift from the Master who trained him just two years ago, reminded Josh of at least one failure he had managed to overcome: his disorganization. It had irked Master Nicholas, and the third time Josh had been late for a session, his Master sat him down and talked to him about his commitment to their training. Josh had explained that he’d misplaced his wallet. Of course, the time before that he’d misplaced his keys. Master Nicholas had given the table to Josh, commanding him to leave his keys and wallet on it as he came in the door.
Josh had never misplaced his keys or his wallet again.
Pulling out the right side drawer, a drawer he had no use for, he dropped the collar inside and slammed the drawer with such force that the picture frame on the wall above it trembled.
“Josh,” Alex said quietly as he moved to where Josh stood. He felt Alex’s arms wrap tenderly around him, cradling him against his friend’s lean body. “I’m sure Master Simon would take you on until you found someone else. Just think—then we could play together.”
Josh felt Alex’s chuckle against his neck as he rested his head on Josh’s shoulder. Alex and Master Simon were almost at the end of their fifth year together, and it was obvious that Master Simon loved and cherished Alex as far more than his submissive. The evidence showed in the way they gravitated toward each other when in the same room, and in the small kisses and touches, the sidelong glances. For three years, since Josh had met Alex at a book signing for Josh’s latest novel, he had marveled at how easy the relations between Simon and Alex seemed. The desire to find that kind of relationship for himself had prompted him to talk to Simon about becoming a submissive.
After all the work and the training, he was still alone.
Josh supposed it didn’t take much to see why Alex had a steady relationship and he didn’t. Alex was stunning with his tight blond curls and baby-blue doe eyes. One look at the slight build and boyish features, and Doms would be lining up for a chance to spank and fuck his shapely ass. On the other hand, Josh was dark skinned and wiry with a tiny, almost nonexistent ass. His soft, brown eyes weren’t enough to get someone’s attention and were always half covered by his straight, black hair. If he had to give just one word to describe himself, it would be “ordinary.” The weight on his chest suddenly felt heavier.
“That would include either not having sex, or forcing you to watch me having sex with the man you’re in love with,” Josh said frankly, pulling back to see Alex frown in thought. No, he would not be a pity fuck or even a pity sub. He would just have to work it out on his own.
Alex didn’t stay much longer after the suggestion of Josh having sex with his Master Simon, and Josh felt relieved. He loved Alex, who understood him probably better than anyone else Josh knew, but he didn’t want the constant reminder of Alex’s relationship with Simon. There were only three things he wanted to do that night: drink, feel sorry for himself, and jack off. Before the termination of their agreement, Master Avery put Josh on lockdown. The last time he had been able to come was a week ago. Josh figured a nice, long orgasm would be a great way to give his former Master a nice, big “fuck you.”
Finding a bottle of vodka left over from his last party, Josh ignored the shot glasses in favor of a juice tumbler and got to work. After the third glass, the tight ache in Josh’s chest began to loosen.
Since his teenage years, Josh had had a recurring fantasy that he called upon when he really wanted to take pleasure in masturbation. Of course, that didn’t happen often, usually because one Dom or another had forbidden him from touching himself. He didn’t use it for moments like the shower or those late nights when he couldn’t sleep, but only when he had the time to take pleasure in the act. As he fought the emptiness, he noticed that the strong voice that spoke to him was low, deep, and no less commanding through the haze of the booze. Josh could almost feel the accompanying breath on his neck, as if the voice were heard rather than imagined. As a teenager, he couldn’t define that voice, but over the last few years, he had begun to recognize it as belonging to his perfect Master.
Strip for me.
His arousal, which had been only simmering in the background behind his drunken disappointment, ignited. Josh could feel the heat in his groin as he jerked the sweatshirt over his head, falling back against the couch before dropping it on the floor.
Have you no grace? Stand up, boy; give me a show.
With his eyes still closed, Josh imagined the luster of his Master’s unseen leather boots and stood on shaky legs. Nearly ripping his tank top from inside the waistband of his jeans, he thought of his Master’s hand on him as a gentle touch explored his toned abdomen. As he pulled the shirt higher, the cool air hardened his nipples, and he sucked in a breath. His Master wanted a show, he told himself, letting his hand drift higher to stroke one of the pert nipples. In his mind, he looked directly into his Master’s cool, green eyes.
Starting to get impatient, Josh pulled the shirt off and pinched both his nipples simultaneously. His head dropped back as the tingling, electric excitement shot down his torso, and trapped in the confines of his jeans, his cock responded. He wasn’t hard yet, but his body was certainly willing to please his unseen Master.
Turn around and show me the sweet little ass I’m going to fuck.
Turning slowly so he didn’t lose his balance, Josh faced away from the couch and ran his hands over his denim-covered ass. With a wicked smirk, he pulled one of them back and spanked his ass, hard. It hurt his hand more than his ass, but his legs spread farther almost unconsciously. The fly on his jeans started to strain as his cock hardened hopefully. The warmth spread through his groin and through his thighs as he opened the row of buttons and pulled his jeans halfway down.
As he bent over, pulling down his boxers and making himself open and vulnerable to his unseen Master, Josh thought that being half-dressed was so much more erotic than being naked. That hint of vulnerability, of shame, that he felt with his pants around his knees made him so hard he ached. While he bent at the waist, Josh spanked his bare ass, counting the numbers off in his head.
Such a hot little slut—are you going to jack your worthless cock for me?
The moan escaped his slightly parted lips before he could stop it. He lightly rubbed his stinging skin as he stood back up, ignoring the dizziness. The alcohol was starting to make his stomach roll precariously as beads of cold sweat formed on his forehead. The sharp voice had turned softer, and Josh had the ridiculous image of roughened velvet as he listened to how beautiful his Master believed him to be. Finally, his unseen Master whispered to him.
On your knees, facing me. I want to see how much you like it.
Slowly, Josh complied, kicking off the jeans and boxers, the rough, industrial carpet of his tiny studio apartment scratching his knees as he sank before his Master.
Spread your legs… wider….
Josh shifted his weight from one knee to the other; he widened his stance and felt the rug grate across his skin. He balanced himself with his palms on the couch, something he never would have needed to do while sober. The muscles in his thighs burned with tension, but the pain just added to the thrill. Steadying himself, he reached down with both hands and began with soft, brief touches. Stroking his shaft with his right hand, he let his left brush lightly on the top of his thigh. With his eyes closed, he could almost imagine that the hands belonged to his Master.
Not bothering to censor his needy whimper, Josh tightened the grip on his cock and rolled his balls gently in his fingers. He felt wanton and exposed in that position, everything accessible to his Master. It excited him to imagine the look of hunger upon the unseen man’s face as he watched his boy perform for him.
Sneaking his fingers a little farther back, he rubbed the small patch of skin just behind his tender, pink sac. In reaction, his other hand moved a little faster. Naked and spread in the middle of his small living room, Josh worked his body, making it beg for release. Spitting into his hand, he no longer cared about modesty or shame as his hips began to move against the rhythm of his strokes. With slow, teasing thrusts of his pelvis, he fucked his tight, slick fist.
That’s it, my little whore. Pump those sweet hips for me. Fuck your hand. Show me how badly you want to come for me.
The words exploded in his head, sending cascading ripples of white-hot need down his spine. Josh’s hands shook as he pulled down on his balls, trying to keep himself from coming without permission. Twisting his other hand around the head of his cock on every stroke, he fought the blinding force of the orgasm that was threatening to envelop him.
For what felt like hours, he begged that small part of his subconscious mind where his imagined Master dwelled. He begged for permission to come. Even though he was only really begging himself, Josh savored the torment. Edging was one of his favorite things, because it made the orgasm that much more intense. The rare times he controlled his own pleasure, he always held out as long as he could. Just as his balls drew up close to his body and his cock became impossibly hard, he heard the voice again.
I want you to shoot on my hand, boy. Come all over my fingers, and I’ll let you lick them clean.
The arbitrary thought, something he’d never consciously considered, triggered the eruption in his groin. With a low grunt, Josh pumped semen onto the center cushion of his worn leather couch, and splotches of pearly come dotted the contrasting brown surface. His vision swam in front of his eyes as the alcohol and the orgasm fought his consciousness.
Falling forward onto the couch, he was just able to pull his legs up and rest his head on one of the throw pillows before he was asleep.
THE pain of the blinding light coming in through the living room shades woke Josh the next morning. Briefly, he wondered when someone had lined the inside of his eyelids with crushed glass and reached in through his ear to squeeze his brain until it throbbed. The cotton balls that filled his mouth made it hard to swallow. Opening his eyes briefly, he moaned and rolled over, which turned out to be a mistake.
The bathroom seemed so far away when the contents of a stomach needed to be emptied.
After an hour, two bathroom trips, and a large mug of black coffee, Josh started to feel human again. At some point since the drinking binge the night before, he had decided that Master Avery terminating their contract had been a good thing. Pleasing the man took a herculean effort, and even then, the talk afterward always centered on the things that Josh had screwed up. On more than one occasion, Josh had considered buying the man a dictionary so he could look up the word “praise.” Having such constant negativity had made Josh’s already precarious self-esteem plummet.
A long and intensive internal debate, pertaining to whether he could stomach some toast, nearly made him ignore the sound of his cell phone ringing. With a deep sigh, hoping it wasn’t Avery, he picked the phone up and looked at the display, nearly dropping it in surprise.
“Good morning, Master Nicholas,” Josh said reverently, greeting his former Master. Alex, Simon, or Avery must have called to inform him about the contract. Since he enjoyed hearing from Nicholas, he didn’t really mind being the topic of their gossip.
“Good morning, Josh. How are you?” Josh knew Master Nicholas didn’t mean to sound condescending, but the question made him feel like he was being an overly emotional child.
“I’m fine, Master Nicholas. I trust you’re well?” he answered in a formal tone, rotating the coffee mug on the table absently as his mind worked furiously to find a way around the coming conversation. Master Nicholas, however, got straight to the point.
“I am well, boy,” Nicholas said with a soft sigh. “I saw Avery last night at the club, and he told me about releasing you from your contract.” Josh didn’t reply. He didn’t want to confirm that Avery had tossed him aside like a used newspaper.
When Josh didn’t answer, Nicholas went on. “I just called to see if you wanted to talk about it.”
“No, actually, I don’t,” Josh said, wincing at the slight impertinence in his tone. In his head, he could actually see Nicholas raising one eyebrow at him in that “I know you didn’t just say that” sort of way. The thought made him smile, just a little.
“Well, I do, and you will listen,” he said, adopting that no-nonsense tone Josh associated with discipline. “You are a beautiful submissive, attentive, compassionate, and selfless. Avery isn’t looking for any of those things in a sub. Where you anticipate your Master’s needs as part of your desire to serve, Master Avery only wants his exact commands followed. He wants them followed perfectly, with no embellishments and no failures. I know that you’re sitting there trying to figure out what you did wrong, but the fact is you didn’t do anything wrong. The two of you just didn’t click.”
“Master, I know that you’re just trying to help, but…,” Josh said, not sure exactly what should follow the “but” in that sentence.
“But what, boy?” The sigh that accompanied the question came out slowly and mildly exasperated.
“What if I don’t find anyone that I click with?” Josh whispered, finally voicing his fear. “What if I’m destined for meaningless relationships, going from one Dom to the next?” His heart hammered at the thought.
“Actually, that’s why I’m calling. Besides wanting to check up on you, I think I may know someone that you would be very compatible with.” The silence hung in the air while Josh waited for Nicholas to tell him more. When he didn’t, Josh started to get impatient.
“Is it someone I know?” he finally asked Nicholas, trying not to let the excitement build in his chest, excitement that would only lead to heartache later. Adrenaline already started to flow in his blood, and Josh gripped the mug tighter in his hands.
“No, this isn’t someone you would have met,” his old Master replied, being deliberately vague. Josh wondered if he was going to have to draw the information out of Nicholas, word by word.
“Is he from the suburbs or something?” Josh asked, wondering why he could be so certain they hadn’t met. “Have I officially run out of Doms in Chicago that can stand me?”
“He’s not from the suburbs. Wade is a business partner of mine, and I happen to know that he’s looking for a new sub. He runs several of our joint business ventures in Montana. They are ranches that people go to in order to relax.”
“I’m sorry, did you say Montana?” Josh asked, sure that he’d misheard, but Nicholas just chuckled.
“Yes, Montana. He’s a real, live, modern-day cowboy, Josh. I think it would do you some good to get out of the city, maybe get a little perspective.”
“Tell me about him?” Josh asked, trying hard not to sound like he was begging. Nicholas had told him before he’d taken the contract with Avery that it wouldn’t work out. He always knew what the best thing for Josh was without Josh ever having to say a word. If Nicholas believed things would work out between him and the Montana Dom, he had to at least meet the man, or he would never forgive himself.
“How about I just send you his profile, and you can call me if you have any questions,” Nicholas responded, and Josh could hear concern battling with the humor in his voice. “You’re a good boy, Josh. You deserve someone who appreciates that. I’ve known Wade for a long time, and I think you could be exactly what the other needs. Your needs are surprisingly symbiotic.”
“I will look over the file, sir. Please send it when you have a minute. I’ll be online getting my latest changes from my editor, so I’ll see it right away.” Josh closed his eyes, trying not to hope that Nicholas was right. He didn’t want to hope, only to be discarded again. That would be worse than being alone.
“I sent it before I ever picked up the phone,” Nicholas informed him, and promised to follow up with Josh the next day, before hanging up. Josh rolled his eyes at Master Nicholas’s omniscience. It seemed that everyone knew what was best for Josh except Josh. Putting off checking his e-mail, he decided that maybe his stomach would tolerate some kind of food.
It didn’t take long to put together the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup he thought might stay down. The soup filled his stomach, replacing the sick, empty feeling that had been there since he woke up, stuck to the couch by his own semen. The fantasy the night before ranked in the top ten he’d ever had. As he finished the last few bites of his grilled cheese, his mind dwelled on the voice that had dominated him so completely. Of course he knew it was only his imagination, but he longed for it to be real. He wanted to kneel in supplication, only to look up into those clear, vibrant eyes that haunted his dreams.
Knowing he could no longer put it off, Josh rinsed his dishes and put them in the machine before grabbing his laptop from the shelf where it had charged overnight. He carried it to the couch, which he had wiped down after his shower, and sat cross-legged on the comfortable leather. The couch was the culmination of a dream, because the money used to purchase it had come from the royalty checks he earned with his first novel. When he worked on it, it reminded him of the successes in his life. He may not have a lover, and he may live in a tiny studio apartment, but even without a college degree, he had made a living for himself and had avoided being tied to a nine-to-five office job.
There were about three dozen e-mails in his inbox, waiting for his attention. Scanning them quickly, he found the one from Nicholas near the top. Almost forgetting to breathe, Josh opened the e-mail and read the quick note before downloading the compressed attachment. Generally in the BDSM community where Nicholas, Alex, Simon, Josh, and even Avery were active members, a profile for both Doms and subs consisted of video, still images, limits, expectations, and a short biography. It wasn’t unusual for the attachments to be rather large, so it took nearly ten minutes for it to download. Saving the file to a special download folder that swept onto his encrypted backup drive each night, he decompressed the file and saw that it was a standard profile, like he’d seen dozens of times before. Clicking on the first image in the folder, he figured he might as well see what the man looked like.
The sharp gasp was loud in the silence of his apartment when Josh saw cool, vibrant green eyes staring back at him.