Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Danielle: Genesis of a Submissive is my new website where I'll be promoting my novels. This blog will continue, of course, but the various announcements about my writing and publications will be on the regular site and not the blog. Y'all feel free to visit, and drop me an email if you like.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Caroline -- Part Thirty-Three

Caroline got back to the office at half past one and reopened the Fletcher files in the computer. Other than to run to the ladies’ room twice, she didn’t look up from her reading until sometime after six, when Allen came by her office and asked a number of penetrating questions about Fletcher’s ventures. Caroline was very pleased with herself that she not only knew the answers, but knew them in deep detail, and was rewarded with a satisfied smile from Allen, who even complimented her on learning all this material so quickly. “I figured you’d need two weeks to be all the way up to speed on that account, but you seem to have it down pat already,” he told her. “We need to get going to Fletcher’s place, though, Caroline. Follow me over to Rachel’s and we’ll all leave from there, okay?”

Caroline shut down her office and was on the road five minutes later, wondering if she’d have time to shower before changing clothes. Fletcher was a bit informal to be comfortable around office formal attire like suits and the like. Apparently that was exactly what Allen had in mind, because he was soon in jeans and a polo shirt after Caroline got there, and in moments all three of them were similarly attired, and were off and running to Cuervo Rojo in Allen’s BMW, this time with Caroline in the back seat.

“Once we’re home tonight, I want to debrief you both about the weekend,” Allen said. “But I don’t want to go into it now and have to interrupt it for this dinner. I really wonder if this is on the up and up or if there’s some ulterior motive involved, but I want to think I’m just an overly cynical and suspicious son of a bitch.”

“Probably,” Rachel snorted, and laughed. “They seemed to be genuine people, what I remember of them, Master.”

“Like I should take the word of you while you were off being a space cadet,” Allen chuckled. “What were your thoughts, Caroline?”

“Master, he whipped Danielle bloody out there,” Caroline said, trying not to shudder. “I can’t see how or why they’d fake it, so yes, I think they’re for real.”

“Okay, then,” Allen said, still sounding dubious. “We’ll proceed on that presumption.” They made the balance of the drive in silence, each lost in their own thoughts, still very much surprised about yesterday’s news, and highly curious as to the events to unfold over the next couple hours. There were several cars parked in front, some of which Caroline recognized, and several of which she didn’t, and she felt a little thread of nervousness, wondering who else she was about to meet.

Danielle answered the door again, smiling cheerily at them as they entered, and Bill approached from the living room and offered his hand to all three of them, welcoming them with a broad smile. It was much like the day before, with all the guests out back socializing, except tonight the supper was Mexican food, catered in from Tio Antonio’s, one of the better Mexican restaurants to be found in all of Texas, it was widely agreed by the locals.

Chance Donovan wasn’t there, but everyone else who had been there on Sunday was in attendance for this Monday evening dinner, and a few others were present as well. The one instantly recognizable was a drop-dead beautiful black woman named Karen Everson, a local celebrity on the area news station. There were another half-dozen there, and introductions were made all around. Caroline was surprised that she knew one of those half-dozen, a man named Colin Jones. He was built like an ox, well over six feet, burly, with sandy hair and a bushy beard. He owned a local auto shop where she had been taking her Honda for maintenance and what had recently become an all-too-routine series of repairs with spit and baling wire to keep it road worthy. She would never have guessed that he’d be into this. He’d always seemed such a gentle soul, that she couldn’t imagine him wielding a whip or cane on a woman.

“Miss Loring,” he said, smiling at her happily. “I’m glad to see you here. I need to make another house payment, so I really need that Honda of yours to puke its cookies sometime this week or next, okay?”

“Oh, I’m afraid you’re way out of luck,” Caroline said, and then giggled. “The Honda is due an honorable burial at whatever junk yard will accept it. I got a company car, and a promotion, so I think I’m going to get something a bit newer and better for personal use.”

“Well, I can surely change the oil in that company car too, honey,” he said, smiling. “It’s a shame we didn’t know this about each other a long time ago, isn’t it?”

Caroline blushed bright red. “I wouldn’t have had the guts, Colin,” she said. “I’m amazed I have the guts to be here tonight.”

“Oh, we’re all nice people,” he said as a woman approached him, shorter than he, an Hispanic woman. He smiled at her. “Caroline, I’d like you to meet my owner, Carmen Escontrias.”

“It’s good to meet you,” Carmen said, offering her hand to the shocked Caroline, amazed that Colin was a submissive just like she was. Carmen was very pretty, albeit short at perhaps just over five feet, with hair as black as jet reaching almost to her butt. She had sparkling dark eyes and a ready smile that charmed Caroline. “I hear that we missed a hell of a good time here yesterday. We would have been here, but had some family obligations to attend. We’ll also have business at the mall, or I will, anyway. I think Colin has decided to keep his shop right where it is for the time.”

“And what kind of business do you run, Ma’am,” Caroline asked.

“A jewelry store,” Carmen said with quiet pride. “I make all my pieces. Learned it from my grandfather and his father before him.”

“Really,” Caroline asked, impressed. She’d always envied that kind of artistry. “I’ll have to stop in and see what you have to offer, Ms. Escontrias.”

“Carmen, please,” the lady smiled. “If you wind up joining our club, you’ll find some more special pieces for sale there, by the way. Did you notice that ring George Bank wears?”

“I didn’t give it a lot of attention, I’m afraid,” Caroline said.

“I made it,” Carmen said, smiling. “It’s the BDSM emblem, that tri-spoked wheel. There’s other stuff like that which the club sells to earn a bit of money. I also made this pendant,” she finished, indicating a necklace of gold that looked to be 18-karat with the ever-famous (among lifestylers, anyway, Caroline though) tri-spoked wheel.

“That’s beautiful,” Caroline breathed, meaning it. “I’m going to have to get one of those somehow!”

“Yes, she does superb work,” Danielle said, approaching them and smiling warmly. “May I offer you a drink of some kind, Caroline?”

“A Coke, please,” Caroline asked. In truth, she was nervous enough that she would have killed for a blast of rum to go into the Coke, but didn’t think that a good idea.

“Of course,” Danielle said. Caroline only then noticed that Rachel was corralled in a talk with Fiona and that Allen was in a similar talk with Karen Everson. She smiled as it dawned on her what was happening. They were all being felt out, so to speak, privately interviewed by people who were probably on the membership committee, or otherwise in positions of authority with whatever this club was. Oddly enough, that was when Caroline stopped worrying. What was to happen would happen, and it was really entirely out of her hands.

“Okay, dinner is ready to rock if anyone’s hungry,” Bill called from the serving table, where he’d been busy setting up serving trays while his wife had been schlepping drinks hither and yon for everyone. Everyone lined up and loaded their plates, and Caroline went to the picnic benches, amazed to see that there were place cards for everyone, and no couple or triad was to be seated together, evidently. Caroline was seated with George Bank, Sharon Carter, Julieta Orozco and Danielle Fletcher. Rachel and Bill were at separate tables.

The meal was excellent, and casual chit-chat prevailed, just getting-to-know you stuff, none of it about their common lifestyle. George talked about his airplanes, a passion he’d long held. He owned a Gulfstream business jet, a twin-prop Cessna, and had recently came into two more purchases, one a retired fighter jet, an F-4 that he’d apparently had to pull a few strings to obtain, and a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, which he was slowly but surely learning to fly. Sharon talked some about the new store to open in the mall, and her passion for computers, which was impressive to Caroline, who couldn’t care less how they worked. Sharon apparently made a good side income from building and repairing computers, though, and loved it. Julieta enjoyed horses, it seemed, and had recently purchased a big enough spread that she could have some horses of her own and not be clobbered on renting a stable every month. Danielle blushed and could only really talk about being a geek and engineer, but Sharon finally coaxed out of her that she was enjoying authoring her own blog, and that she was just starting to learn and get into radio-controlled aircraft as a hobby. Caroline smirked some, knowing that Bill would have been far more at home with these people than she was. But once prompted, Caroline confessed that she enjoyed reading quite a deal, and had been toying long and long with the idea of trying to write. She’d started on perhaps two dozen stories, but never seemed to be able to do more than a few pages before hitting a writer’s block or in some other way running out of steam. Coaxed further, she even told them that she liked to write poetry, and finally even quoted a poem she’d written a year after her benighted ex-relationship came to its end, about a submissive being alone and having only herself for a scening partner.

A pale sliver of moon looking over the night
Lying in her bed, eyes closed so tight
Her master filling her spirit's inner sight
Mind slipping its moorings, preparing for flight

She feels his hands teasing her below
Although already filling her, passion starts to grow
Time becomes flexible, ebb and flow
What comes next she already knows

She climaxes hard, it fills her head
Then she's roughly flipped over on the bed
She's spanked with a paddle till her butt goes red
Resistance gone, like the wind it fled

Her ears hear his order, "up on all fours"
She eagerly obeys, his happy whore
Knowing all that waits in store
Knowing even so, she wants so much more

Finally spent, she collapses into her sheets
Her master's attentions at long last complete
He drifts cross her vision, light and fleet
As fantasy and vibrator go back to sleep

The poem was applauded roundly by her compatriots, and Caroline was surprised when Danielle slid her hand across the table and held her hand, smiling at her. The two women laced their fingers together, and their blue eyes met, and they both smiled faintly at one another.

“You and I lived the same life for a while,” Danielle said softly to her. “Or at least close enough, I suppose. Bill was my master online for three years and had no idea he’d known me for so long in a time before, and I never could quite manage the guts to tell him until I moved back here last year. I spent many a night playing do-it-yourself games with a flogger and a vibrator, like in your poem, with Master filling my mind and soul. I never even got the guts together to give him my phone number, for fear that he might recognize my voice.”

“Jesus, that must have been terrible for you,” Caroline said. “To have him so near and yet so far away must have been a constant heartache.”

“He wasn’t too happy when I came clean with him,” Danielle said, her voice soft as she remembered the events of a year ago, a lifetime ago. “But I earned my place with him, even if I do keep seeming to get myself in fresh trouble. I want to apologize again for yesterday, Caroline. I really should have zipped my lip.”

“It’s forgiven and forgotten,” Caroline smiled, squeezing Danielle’s hand. She realized that she genuinely liked this young woman of some twenty-three years, and knew there was nothing wrong with Danielle that some growing up wouldn’t fix in the fullness of time.

“Thank you,” Danielle said, sincerely.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Bill announced loudly, cutting off all the conversations. “If you’ll all come inside, we’ll get everyone’s drinks refreshed and then talk a bit more formally with our new guests. Danielle, clear the tables and trash out here, please. Karen, if I may press you into service, can you get fresh drinks for everyone?”

“Of course, Sir,” Karen said, and started working the crowd for their drink orders, just like a waitress in a club somewhere. Caroline was impressed by what appeared to be Karen’s automatic submission, and was impressed further that Karen took orders for drinks from everyone here without taking a single note.

A moment later, everyone was seated in Bill’s spacious living room, Caroline beside Allen and Rachel, and Bill gave the floor to Kate Norris while Karen started delivering drinks to everyone, as unobtrusively as possible. “Well,” Kate began. “This is a bit of a strange situation, since people usually don’t apply to the membership committee by flying into subspace at a vanilla-style party. On the other hand, it’s one hell of a good way of showing off your credentials, I must admit!” She paused for the expected round of chuckles, as Rachel and Caroline both blushed beet-red and grinned sheepishly. “But seriously, it’s always pleasing to meet more of our own kind in whatever ways we wind up meeting, however surprising those meetings may be. Allen, I know you are Rachel’s and Caroline’s master, and therefore I’m assuming the decision about applying for membership will rest with you and not with them.”

“I’ll get their feelings first,” Allen said. “But yes, the decision ultimately rests with me.”

“Well, I’d like to tell you some about the club, which we just innocuously call the Five Counties Social Club. I won’t belabor you with the legalities and details of how it’s run, since I think only George’s lawyer would really have a grasp on it,” Kate said, smiling. “I’ll just say that there’s a physical facility that the club runs, and that it’s open every weekend to its members’ unlimited use. You can come and go there, or stay the entire weekend, and there’s usually something for everybody insofar as play goes, and also plenty of support and conversation for people wanting advice or just to vent like we all need to do sometimes.”

“I’m the club’s president this year,” Carmen chimed in. “If you want in, I can take you out there tonight and give you the grand tour and you can come back when it opens come Friday.”

“I see,” Allen said in a neutral tone with a poker-face, while Caroline wondered how something this special had been under her nose all along and she’d never gotten wind of it. “Are we invited to join, then? Or is there some sort of process prior to an invitation?”

Kate didn’t answer for a moment, but looked about her compatriots, who one by one nodded silently. “The necessary people are all here, and yes, the invitation is extended.”

“Thank you,” Allen said. “May I have a few moments alone with my ladies?”
“Of course,” Bill said. “My study is down that hall. Take as much time as you three need.”

“Your thoughts,” Allen asked the ladies a moment later, as they all took chairs in Bill’s study, a nice room turned out with two computer set ups and an array of bookshelves laden with an eclectic mix of reading material.

“Master, I think it’s worth joining,” Rachel said. “The worst case scenario is that we decide it’s not for us, and we’re out whatever the membership dues were. But I don’t think I need to go chapter and verse on best-case scenarios, do I, Sir?”

“No, not really,” Allen remarked. “What about you, Caroline.”

“Master, I want in,” Caroline said simply. “I like these people, and with or without our three-way relationship, I think it would be personally beneficial to me to be among my own kind, so to speak. I’m hoping, obviously, that the three of us make a lifelong successful relationship, but I also know that I’m brand-new to you two, and that it’ll take time. To that end, I think the club can only help us to get over whatever hurdles face us.”

“I see,” Allen said. “Okay, that was easy enough. Let’s find out how much it’s going to cost and what comes next, ladies. Shall we?” He led them back to the living room, where they all retook their seats.

“So what did you decide,” Carmen asked once they were settled in.
“I think we all want in,” Allen said. “What are the dues to join, et cetera?”

“One hundred dollars yearly per member,” Carmen said. “Plus whatever you spend at the club, such as overnight rooms if you stay the night there, meals, and what-not.”
Allen merely nodded and reached for his back pocket to retrieve his billfold. He produced six fifty-dollar bills, and handed them over to Carmen. “I guess that means we’re members,” he said, smiling.

“That does,” Carmen grinned in return. “Would you like to go out there tonight and see the place?”

“Actually,” Allen said, “I’m exhausted tonight. Can we perhaps go out there Friday?”
“Of course,” Carmen said. “Why don’t you all meet us here after work Friday and we’ll make a motorcade?”

“Good deal,” Allen said. “We’ll all be here by seven.”

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Danielle -- Postscript

It just doesn't seem fair to some folks, I suppose, when good things happen to rotten people, but that's the way of the world, and this time it's finally worked to my benefit. I'm pleased beyond compare to report that Danielle: Genesis of a Submissive has been accepted by PublishAmerica, and is due to be published soon, hopefully by early summer of 2005. I'll surely keep you all posted on the progress! I got the word on 15th December of last year, and I've been sitting on the information ever since, not daring to let the cat out of the bag for fear that the deal would be derailed and that I'd look like a fool or a liar.

The novel, of course, has been removed from this blog. Now that I'm going to get paid for it, I'm not allowed to have it posted here for free. Sorry, guys, but if you wanna read it now, you gotta pay for the privilege. LOL

I hope you all still have enough interest to order a copy from the publisher, and I'll shamelessly point out to you that they make great stocking stuffers and presents for other occasions to give to other kinky friends and acquaintances. Hell, I'd appreciate you recommending the book even to people you don't like, and I'm also asking you all to recommend this title to your favorite brick-and-glass book stores, especially those specializing in adult fiction. I don't mind keeping y'all supplied with good smut, but I gots to eat, and if I can make my living at this, it'll only mean that I can provide y'all with more and more good smut. ROFL To that end, I'd seriously appreciate all the help you can give me in getting this book sold far and wide, 'round the world. I'm also on the verge of setting up my own website to push this book as well as the e-book version, to which I own all the rights. I'm likewise considering selling autographed copies of Danielle from my website, but I'm unsure if I'll follow through on this or not. What do y'all think? Is it worthwhile for me to explore this venture, to buy 100 copies in the hopes that I can sign and sell them online, or is it wiser just to let PublishAmerica do the dirty work and not wear myself out on a risky investment?

Seriously, I want to say thank you to all of you from the bottom of my heart for all the support and encouragement you so readily offered to me while I was writing Danielle, and in those dark hours when I thought the novel would never actually get published. You people know who you are, and you know how I feel about you. It's frightening in a way to submit my novel to people I don't know, and I'm sure you all remember how much that first rejection stung until I could get my mojo back and keep whacking away at it, and your encouragement helped me to do that, and so Danielle's success in print is due in large part to you, my loyal readers, who wouldn't hear of me giving up the fight in the darker hours.

I also want to offer a special thanks to Eric, who troubled himself to write me such a heartfelt letter about the impact Danielle's tale had on his relationship with his young lady Carla. That letter will always be special in my heart, and even more so, will Eric and Carla themselves, two beautiful souls madly in love, and two beautiful souls whom I flatter myself to claim as my friends.

God bless y'all, and keep in touch.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Caroline -- Part Thirty-Two

Chance was able easily to help Rachel into the BMW a few moments later, all the more so since Rachel was mostly out of her trance by then. The drive home was done in silence, each woman lost in her own thoughts about the events of the day, and whatever might be its consequences. They got back to Rachel’s house and went inside, Caroline ordering Rachel to bring her a Coke, and taking her seat on the sofa, her mind still racing down numerous pathways. Rachel returned with the Coke, and knelt before Caroline on a pillow absently tossed to the floor.

“It seems like we fucked up some, Mistress,” Rachel said. “But it sounds like there might be a golden opportunity in this too.”

“You have a remarkable talent for stating the obvious,” Caroline said in an irritable tone.

“I’m sorry, Mistress,” Rachel said, upset and near tears that she’d angered Caroline, but unsure and confused as to why Caroline, usually even-tempered, was this angry.

“No,” Caroline said. “I’m sorry. I just worry that Master’s going to tear my head off and shit down my neck when he learns what happened, and I’m being a bitch and taking it out on you, and you don’t deserve that.”

“Mistress, this is such a unique situation that I can’t even guess how he’ll react to it,” Rachel said. “And I’ve been in his service for a long damn time now. In truth, my best guess is that he’ll be fascinated that we might be getting into a local scene that we never guessed existed, but is equally likely to take us to task for being so irresponsible. Julieta gave me a little talk about what was probably happening to Danielle out in Bill’s barn, something about brine-soaked willows. We deserve it as much as she does, I’m afraid.”

“You’re right,” Caroline said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m exactly happy about it, you know. And yes, Danielle got a really horrid punishment out there. Bill laid two dozen lashes on her bare back with brine-soaked willows, and then everyone out there got to lay a reprimand on her for her indiscretion. I was embarrassed for her. I can only imagine how it must have been to have been her right then. God, what humiliation!”

“Bill is her master, and must have her trust to treat her as she requires,” Rachel said gently.

“I know that,” Caroline said. “And I think he’s a hell of a nice guy for the most part. But I’m glad he’s not my master. I couldn’t take it.”

“I can’t imagine those switches are worse than Allen’s horsewhip, Mistress,” Rachel remarked idly, reminding her that they were also under the stewardship of a hard master. Caroline knew that, but something about those brine-soaked willows horrified her, the thought of cut skin and a burning mixture ground into it. She shuddered as she nodded at Rachel.

“I don’t think it’s the switches that upset me, but the brine,” Caroline answered. “That just seems excessive to me.”

“But not to her, and not to her master, Ma’am,” Rachel pointed out with infuriating calmness.

“I know,” Caroline said, and told Rachel about George’s reproof in the barn. “Fuck it. Master is going to do what he’s going to do, and I’m not going to make myself sick worrying about what I cannot change. I’m going to go swimming again. You want to swim too?”

“If I may, Mistress,” Rachel said.

“Let’s go,” Caroline said, standing and shedding clothes along the way to the pool before diving in, Rachel right behind her. The women swam about for a while as the sun started its dip toward the horizon, and ended up in the hot tub after a while in one another’s arms for some intensive necking, very aroused by all that the last couple days had brought them. Caroline was even darkly aroused at the thought that Allen might put them on the whipping post together to be beaten in unison for their little stunts of this day out at Bill Fletcher’s place. The beating didn’t arouse her so much as returning to her place as a slave, and facing their master’s justice together. There was something about that emotional tableau that seemed right to her, somehow.

They came out of the hot tub after a while, feeling love and passion for one another, but both too tired for lovemaking from the events of the day, tacitly deciding to reopen this door at bedtime. Supper was light, just a salad. Both women were still pretty stuffed from the huge luncheon. Afterwards, Caroline went and sat on the sofa, and had another fun idea to do to Rachel, and told her to get on all fours, her ass to her mistress, facing the television. And then Caroline used Rachel’s rump for an ottoman, crossing her ankles on her submissive friend and leaning back easy as Rachel maintained her place, not at all happy with this, but taking it because she had zero choice. Rachel was gratified that Caroline apparently found this to be lame or boring, because Caroline soon removed her feet from Rachel’s lower back, and told her to go fetch another Coke, and then just kneel on her pillow.

In truth, both women were completely exhausted pretty early on. It had been an eventful weekend, and Caroline suddenly had the insight that Allen had to be a man of strong endurance to so easily master both of them seemingly on instincts. They went up to bed before ten, and in moments were naked and sound asleep in one another’s arms. Daybreak would rise on them again as equal slaves, since Allen was due to return.

Caroline woke early the next morning, and was showered and gone before Rachel got out of bed. Indeed, she was already in the office as Rachel stirred from her sleep, and deeply into the entire Fletcher file, furiously taking notes. She never looked up from her work, not even surprised at how intrigued she was by its challenges, until her phone rang shortly before noon, jarring her from her concentration. It was Allen on the other end.

“Come on down to my office,” he said. “Let’s all go do lunch.”

“Yes, Sir,” Caroline said, and shut down her computer as she felt a rush of butterflies in her belly. She’d known all along that she would have to face the music sooner or later, but wasn’t overjoyed that the hour had finally come around. But the thread of worry was doing her zero good, she knew, merely wondering if she’d be beaten soon, or if she’d be made to wait for the axe to fall. She went downstairs and found a nervous-looking Rachel waiting, with Allen standing beside her desk, not looking terribly happy.

“Let’s go,” he said evenly. “We’ll take your new BMW, Caroline.”

“Yes, Sir,” Caroline said and walked on quivery legs to the parking lot, with Allen and Rachel in tow. They got into the car, Allen riding shotgun and Rachel in the back seat, and started down the road, Caroline utterly in the dark as to where they were going.

“This is a nice choice,” Allen said, approvingly. “I like this shade of blue.”

“Thank you,” Caroline said, feeling slightly more relaxed. “Where are we going for lunch, Sir?”

“I ordered a pizza at the Domino’s up the highway there,” Allen said. “I figured we could stop at the park and eat at a picnic table. It seems to be a good day to eat outdoors, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, Sir,” Caroline said, keeping her eyes on the road as she piloted the car to Domino’s Pizza.

“And we obviously need to talk,” Allen said. “You’ve both apparently fucked up by the numbers somehow. I don’t know what you did just yet, but you’re both so high-strung right now that a kid with a firecracker could kill you both with a heart attack right now. I just hope it has nothing to do with the out-of-the-blue invitation to go deal with the Fletcher account tonight. He specifically asked that you both come with me this evening, and I had better not be blindsided by some whacko business shit that one or both of you cooked up that’s going to fuck up the whole deal there.”

“No, I don’t think we fucked up the deal,” Rachel said, and Caroline’s eyes darted to the rearview mirror to see her eyes sparkling, and then both women burst into laughter so hard that Caroline had to pull off the highway before she totaled this new Beamer. Allen looked at them in bemusement, unsure whether to laugh or snarl, but sure that he didn’t like being on the outside of an inside joke.

“Would you girls like to explain yourselves before I call in the guys with the butterfly nets,” Allen asked after a moment.

“Perhaps we can discuss it over lunch, Sir,” Caroline said, dabbing tears with the cuff of her blouse, she’d laughed so hard, knowing that it wasn’t nearly so funny as the laughter implied, but needing the release from the stress. She knew she was probably in worse trouble now than she’d been before this giggling fit, and that was a sobering thought, but in truth, she needed the emotional release and was happy to pay whatever price it cost her. She hoped.

“Drive on,” Allen said, simply. Caroline drove to Domino’s, and Allen went in for a moment and returned with two pizzas and a six-pack of Coke. They drove to David Foster Park, and found a bench in a shady spot, where they all sat, Rachel and Caroline on one side and Allen across from them. They all had a slice of pizza before Allen reopened the topic of Sunday at the Fletcher place. “So what happened that I’m suddenly called over there to deal with his account,” Allen asked.

“It’s not about the account, Master,” Caroline said. “I’m afraid I fucked up bigtime with Rachel yesterday morning and it spilled over into the thing over at Mr. Fletcher’s place.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Rachel whispered, and blushed, looking downward as her face burned cherry red.

“Oh, boy,” Allen said, his voice still even, and surprisingly bordering on amusement. “Lay it on me, Caroline.”

“Well, I flogged her yesterday morning, and sent her into space, apparently deeper than I’d realized,” Caroline said. “No, let’s be honest. She was far deeper than I’d realized. Anyway, she came out of space and we went to the luncheon over there, and things were going fine. This Fletcher guy seems savvy and like he’s a nice guy. I also met that billionaire guy, George Bank, and his wife and their PA, as well as Kate Norris and some woman named Sharon Carter, a doctor named Julieta Orozco, and Chance Donovan. But that’s aside from the point.

“After we ate, Mr. Fletcher wanted to show people an act he’s doing for the county fair,” Caroline continued. “It’s a bullwhip circus act, if you get the picture, something pretty well done and redone and overdone, but it’s small-town Texas stuff, and to be honest, he’s skilled with that whip. Maybe he’s too skilled with it. After the third crack of it, snapping sparklers out of his wife’s hands, Rachel here shot straight back into space and collapsed from her lawn chair.”

“Holy shit,” Allen muttered. “Well, there goes that contract!”

“Actually, there’s more,” Caroline said.

“Then keep talking,” Allen said, glaring at Caroline while contemplating firing her once and for all, even if he had found himself falling in love with her.

“Well, Mrs. Fletcher told everyone there that Rachel was in subspace,” Caroline reported. “She’s also her husband’s slave, and it turns out that everyone there was in the local BDSM scene. I didn’t even know there was a local scene, so it was something of a shocker to me. He even whipped the hell out of his wife in front of everyone there because of her indiscretions, and then gave everyone there the chance to read her the Riot Act for her mouth. The reason Mr. Fletcher wants to meet us tonight is to see if we’d be interested in joining up, and if they’d be interested in us.”

For the first time in a long time, Allen was caught utterly flat-footed, clueless as to what to say or how to feel. It was more than lightning from a clear blue sky. This was more like a space ship landing in his back yard, and seeing Elvis himself disembarking to tell the world that all the tabloids were telling the truth, and that he was now the deity of this planet and four others, can ya say hallelujah, amen. He sat there for perhaps two full minutes with his mouth agape, like something out of an old screwball comedy show from the Fifties.

“Master, are you still here,” Rachel asked, half torn between amusement and concern.

“How the hell you can fuck up by the numbers and come up smelling like a fresh-cut rose is a mystery, Caroline,” Allen finally managed to say. “But maybe you haven’t come up roses this time. I guess we’ll see if this indeed derails the contract when he takes a moment to reflect on your irresponsibility. Time will tell.”

Caroline’s expression was pensive, and Allen got annoyed with it as Rachel dug into the pizza, deciding to stay as far out of this little mess as she could get. “Sir, he indicated to the contrary,” she finally gathered the courage to say. “He said that he’d rather trust someone in the lifestyle than out, since we’d obviously be socially associated and not merely on a vendor-client basis in a relationship.”

“We’ll see,” Allen said. “Let’s finish lunch and get back to the office.”

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Caroline -- Part Thirty-One

Before Caroline could even get out of her chair, Dr. Orozco was hunkered down beside Rachel, checking her pulse as she tossed her keys to Sharon with orders to fetch her medical bag from her Expedition. Sharon hustled toward the doctor’s truck as the doctor asked Caroline the first obvious questions about Rachel, was she diabetic or on drugs? Caroline shook her head, visions of her career and this plum contract going up in smoke and ash. After all, Caroline had a very good guess as to why Rachel had just keeled over like this, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with drugs or diabetes or any other medical complication whatsoever.

Julieta returned her attention to Rachel, and was interrupted by Danielle, kneeling and whispering something in her ear. Julieta nodded, and asked Bill and George to help Rachel, who wasn’t quite unconscious, into the house, to the guest bedroom, where she could examine Rachel more privately. Danielle shepherded Caroline to the guest bedroom as well, and remained there as the men left. Sharon hurriedly came in with Julieta’s doctor bag, handed it off, and left. Danielle shut the door and smiled oddly at Caroline.

“Would you like to tell the good doctor what’s wrong with Rachel,” Danielle asked Caroline. “Or shall I?”

“Shit,” Caroline moaned, clenching her fists to drive her nails into her palms, wondering just how the jig was up. “She’s not on drugs, and she’s healthy as a horse. She and I … um … well, she’s in a bit of a euphoric condition, and I guess the bullwhip cracking was kind of another trigger.”

“Jesus H. Christ,” Julieta said, and chuckled with humor that somehow wasn’t to ridicule, Caroline sensed. “You mean she’s in subspace!”

“Well, yes,” Caroline said, blushing bright red, only very belatedly wondering how it was that Danielle and the doctor knew exactly what subspace was. “How did you … well …”

“How do we know what subspace is,” Danielle completed the question with an amused little smile. Caroline merely nodded, still blushing. “Rather than answering that question, why don’t I let you think about that, okay? I really hate overstating the obvious, Caroline, so I’ll just say I enjoy my own little visits to space when I get to go, and we’ll leave it there. I knew what was going on with her as soon as y’all got here, knew the look on her face. She confirmed it when she looked at you for permission to get a drink from me. My guts told me right then and there that she’s your submissive. You need not worry,” she continued in a softer tone, not one of amusement at all, seeing embarrassed horror on Caroline’s face. “You’re among friends and similar people, Caroline.”

“She’s right,” the doctor said, tenderly stroking Rachel’s hair while she drifted in that twilight between space and present. “You must’ve done one hell of a job on her if she could get sent back into space on the sound of a cracking whip. Is she injured at all, Caroline? Does she require treatment?”

“She’s just pink and welted, mostly,” Caroline said, deciding to face whatever music this was. “I only flogged her today.”

“I see,” the doctor said. “Let’s talk, Caroline. We need to decide what to do.”

“Okay,” Caroline said, uncertain, as she sat on a love seat along one wall of the spacious guest bedroom.

“Danielle, will you excuse us please,” Julieta said. “I think maybe it’s better if you retain some deniability. I’m unsure how happy Bill is going to be with your big mouth already, sweetheart.”

Danielle ground her teeth for a moment, her jaw bulging as her facial expression made it crystal clear that she in no way liked being talked to this way, but she nodded and left, quietly closing the door behind her. Caroline wondered what was going on, exactly, certain that nothing at all was quite what it seemed when she’d gotten here ninety minutes before, and looked at Julieta in quiet expectation.

“Do you know what ‘gaydar’ is, Caroline,” Julieta asked, after Danielle left them alone. Caroline mulled this over while she leaned forward and took Rachel’s hand in hers, and rewarded with Rachel’s sleepy smile.

“I don’t know the word, or I’ve never heard it before, but I can take a guess,” Caroline said. “Is it something like how gay people just know who’s gay and who’s not?”

“Exactly,” Julieta said, pleased. “Well, there are a number of local people involved pretty heavily in the BDSM lifestyle as well, Caroline, certainly to include myself. I guess Danielle kind of tipped her own hand too just now, and I have no idea what her master is going to do to her for that, but that’s his decision and not mine.”

“If she’s lucky, her master will do to her what Caroline did to me,” Rachel said dreamily. “Jesus, this is great!”

“Go back to space, Rachel,” Caroline said, laughing despite the embarrassment.

“Anyway,” Julieta said. “I’m involved heavily in the local scene, like I said, so I see all sorts of things that I don’t talk about to others. I don’t know if you ever watch Karen Everson’s show on the local news magazine program, but she’s done a couple very good stories about the local S&M scene.”

“I don’t watch much television, I’m afraid,” Caroline said.

“It raised a lot of eyebrows and she only scratched the surface with it all,” Julieta said. “There’s a really huge club here in the Five Counties, in fact.”

“Really,” Caroline said, astounded and unsure what else to say by way of reply. “You tend to only think of there being a ‘scene’ in big cities like New York or LA. I’d have never guessed there’s one here as well.”

“Where do we sign up,” Rachel asked, still with her eyes closed and smiling dreamily. “I want in!”

“Well, if you’d like, I can have someone from the membership committee contact you in the next few days and you can all do a little touchy and feel together and see what you think,” Julieta said, chuckling at Rachel.

“I’d like that,” Caroline said. “But our master would have to approve too.”

“Of course,” Julieta said, smoothly. “I’ll tell you what we’ll do. Give me your number, and I’ll have someone from the committee contact you, perhaps this evening. You can talk it out with your master and set up a time and place to meet and talk, and y’all can take it from there. Meanwhile, one thing more for you ladies and your master to consider here, if I may?”

“Please do,” Caroline said, hoping that Allen wasn’t about to skin her alive along with Rachel for the events of today. “Honestly, he’s probably going to kill us for this, and when our boss finds out that Rachel had a fainting spell here, we’re probably also about as fired as we can get and still live.”

“I don’t see any reason that he’ll ever find out,” Julieta said. “I’ll see to it that this never happened, but please don’t ask any questions.” Caroline nodded, doubting that anything was going to save her from Allen’s wrath, and then Julieta continued. “Anyway, physicians are required, of course, to report suspected abuse, but we’re on our own judgement as to what, exactly, constitutes abuse and what was just consensual play that might require medical attention to follow. Because of my own understanding and proclivities, I’m entirely willing to see you, either of you, for treatment of things you’d as soon your regular doctor didn’t put on your records.”

“Thank you,” Caroline said, meaning it very much. “Do you have a card I can use to get in touch with you, Doctor?”

“Sure,” Julieta said, and handed Caroline two business cards from her doctor bag. “Do you have a card in return that I can pass on to the membership people?”

“Yes,” Caroline said, reaching into her pocket for a small business-card wallet that Joel had advised her to get and always carry with her. She produced two cards of her own, and fetched a pen and wrote her home number on the back of one of them, explaining to Julieta that it was probably easiest to call on her cell phone most of the time. Julieta nodded and slipped the cards into her breast pocket as a gentle knocking came from the door.

“Come in,” Julieta announced, and Bill entered.

“I hope it wasn’t my poisoned barbecue,” he joked, winking at Julieta.

“If you talked to Danielle, you know it wasn’t,” Julieta shot back, smiling after a moment. “Bill, she’s a good girl, and mostly I like her, but I really wish you’d put her automatic mouth under control sometimes.”

“She’s had that addressed, and we’ll be discussing it a bit more … intensively … this evening,” Bill answered, then turned his attentions to Caroline. “Having said that, you obviously can figure out that I’m a bit more than merely Danielle’s husband, Caroline, yes?”

“Yes, I think I can do the math, Sir,” Caroline said, wincing as she remembered he’d already told her to not say sir to him.

“I spoke with the rest of the … guests ... and they’ve all agreed that I can tell you that they’ve all seen spacey girls before, and that as far as they’re concerned, this never happened,” Bill continued. “Your boss will never hear a word of this from anyone who was here. Guaranteed.”

“You mean everyone else here is … is …” Caroline stammered, shocked. She saw Bill and Julieta wink and grin at one another, and then nod at her with broad smiles.

“And you and your friend Rachel came as a very delightful surprise to us,” Bill remarked. “I’m guessing that she was feeling suggestive enough still after whatever you did to her earlier that the cracking whip just sent her deep again.”

“Did you know we were into this,” Caroline sputtered, still trying to assemble a line of thought here.

“No,” Bill said. “Everyone here today just happens to be in the local scene in one way or another, and has some business or other in my coming mall. That said, them knowing that you two are in the lifestyle makes them trust you just a bit more, and that nice little added bonus is likely to be handy for us all. After all, nobody would rather to business with an enemy than a friend who has common interests outside the business dealings, I think. There’s a certain implicit trust we have among one another when we’ve seen into one another’s deepest secrets. Everyone out there is very close to me, not because of business, but because of commonalities outside of business.”

“That makes sense,” Caroline said, amused with a sideward thought. There was certainly going to be some sort of trust among people who could be naked together and completely casual about it, now wasn’t there? Caroline had only been to one S&M event with her ex-master back when, and one thing she remembered most was people being stark naked and as casual as people hanging around the office water cooler in a JC Penney catalog. Not everyone, to be sure, but plenty enough people nonetheless, including one man, bald and in his sixties, walking around naked but for a new pair of white sneakers. And nowhere near all those naked people were perfect physical specimens. Indeed, Caroline had learned something interesting there that evening at the big play party, something that her master had pointed out to her privately. They’d watched two scenes, one involving a submissive woman perhaps fifty or so years old, far past her prime, overweight, and altogether not what one would expect to see in the centerfold of a girly magazine. Another scene perhaps twenty feet away involved a younger dom with a very beautiful submissive, a tall girl who looked to be Arab, with flawless olive skin, and a face and figure that would have looked marvelous in a centerfold. Both women were being flogged. The older woman was flying, making deep sounds of gratified pleasure as her dominant spurred her onward with the flogger, and before too very long, she had flipped into space, moaning and purring the whole while, utterly absorbed by her dom’s attentions. The other one, the beautiful one, was making sounds like she’d learned how to do S&M from a low-budget porn movie. She wasn’t into it for the scene, but only because she wanted to flaunt her beauty. The dom or top or boyfriend or whatever he was didn’t play her hard, had indeed barely flogged her hard enough to turn her even slightly pink. It was a total bore to Caroline to see it, and indeed, there really wasn’t much of a crowd surrounding this scene, not like one might expect.

Later, Caroline’s master had told her that the older woman’s scene, the one flying on her scene, completely absorbed in it and lost in a world that only included her and her master, was far and away the sexier of the two events. He’d agreed with Caroline that the other scene, while the submissive girl was indeed eye-candy, was an utter bore. For Caroline, it had been a good and enlightening moment in her life. She herself had far from a perfect face or figure, she’d always felt, although she knew she wasn’t entirely without appeal either. But his remarks that day made her feel far better about herself, because she’d seen with her own eyes that many others likewise agreed with him that it took more than a submissive’s looks to really work into a dom’s heart. Indeed, Caroline had long since learned that looks were secondary at best. That event had been a huge growth experience for her. She shook her head to clear her thoughts and return to the present.

“I told her I’d pass her information to the membership people,” Julieta said, smiling. “She says their master would need to approve, of course.”

“Yes, of course,” Bill said. “But we can at least get that ball to rolling, I suppose.”

“That was my thinking,” Julieta confirmed. “If nothing else, the ladies have something a bit more informative to bring to their master than that there’s just a BDSM club in the area and would he like them all to join up.” She winked at Caroline and then Rachel started to sit up, looking around with hollow eyes that finally were starting to get some snap back to them.

“Caroline, I think Master’s going to be okay with this,” Rachel said. “Fuck, you have his number. Call him, why don’t you? And why don’t you just admit that he’s Allen?”

“That’s enough, Rachel,” Caroline said mildly. “How about if you just shut up for a while before you dig this hole any deeper, okay?”

“That happens sometimes,” Julieta said. “I don’t think she’s being so much a loose cannon as that the endorphin rush for her is like a big rush of sodium pentothal. She’s too blasted right now to know what’s appropriate or inappropriate to say, and I’m certain Bill will keep this all between us. Besides, I’d pretty well done the math and figured out that your boss was the most logical choice for your master, anyway. If Rachel is his PA, it means she probably works a ninety-hour work week or so, and if you’re high enough up in his company that you’re managing an account this large, it means that you probably scarcely work less than Rachel, and so QED, it’s more likely that Allen Martin is your master than anyone else, since you work so closely with him all the time anyway.”

“Jesus H. Christ, he’s going to skin us alive when he gets a hold of us,” Caroline moaned. “Just like a couple of catfish.”

“Would it help if I talked to him about this before you did,” Bill asked. “To see if I could calm him down, dom to dom, so to speak?”

“I don’t know,” Caroline said, fretting and worrying. “He’s likely to be furious that I sent her to space and then blithely brought her along to a business function. I mean, we got lucky by the skin of our teeth here, Bill, that apparently we happened to be meeting with people in and around the BSDM scene, but let’s face facts, what I did was pretty Goddamned stupid.”

“How about we just call it ill-advised,” Bill said, smiling. “Here’s what I’m going to do, if you two please. I’ll call Allen and tell him you two impressed me very much – which is true, by the way – and ask him to come out here tomorrow evening with both of you, and we’ll tell him about the local scene and see where it goes from there.”

“But I still have to tell him what I did to Rachel,” Caroline said.

“Perhaps so,” Bill remarked. “But I’ll make it plain to him that it turned out to be perhaps an even better thing for all concerned.”

“I’d appreciate that,” Caroline said. “Maybe he’ll only peel off half my hide this way.” Her mind’s eye was filled with that whipping post in old Mexico, and Allen with his strap and his whip. That she’d be tied to that post sometime soon and pretty awfully punished for this stunt was not in question, but only deep dread and resignation.

“Well, maybe I can prevail upon him to leave your hide pretty much where it is now,” Bill smiled. “You wear it well and it would probably look disconcerting to see you just in your innards.”

“But if he does peel you,” Julieta said. “I only charge a dollar a staple to put your skin back on you, okay?” She laughed and Caroline returned an uneasy smile, and an even less sincere chuckle of her own.

“Rachel’s going to be okay though,” Bill asked Julieta, who merely nodded. “Good! I’m going to go call Allen right now and tell him I need him to come out here tomorrow night with you two, and I’ll have a couple other guests here, and we’ll talk to him about the BDSM stuff. For your part, let him know that tomorrow isn’t about the mall, but about personal stuff. That way he’s not caught utterly flat-footed. Okay?”

“Yes, thank you,” Caroline said, meaning it. Bill ducked out of the room and Caroline stroked Rachel’s hair for a moment.

“This was your first time to put her into space,” Julieta asked softly.

“Until Friday, I’d never laid a lash on another human being in my life,” Caroline confessed, deciding that if she was in for this penny, she was in for the entire pound. “Doctor, I’m a submissive, maybe even a full-out slave. But I got left in charge of Rachel while our master is out of town, and I’ve come to find that I enjoy that side of the fence too. I know how it is to submit, but I guess I’m a ways yet from learning the physical skills a dom or top needs, and maybe a ways from learning Rachel as fully as I should know her. But I doubt our master is likely to hand me this kind of trust again to see what new and amazing ways I can find next time to fuck up.”

“Don’t be too sure,” Julieta said idly. “Life’s about learning and changing, and sometimes shit happens, right?”

The door opened and Bill reappeared. “You’ll be here tomorrow evening at eight,” he announced. “Allen sounded happy for the invitation, which really means he’d rather have a gasoline enema and fart on a campfire, but that’s okay.”

“He’s been out of town and buried in busy,” Caroline said. “I’m guessing he wanted to just put his feet up after hours tomorrow, and debrief us about this weekend. It’s been something of an experiment, you see.” Caroline went on to explain, briefly, what she’d said to Julieta.

“That’s interesting,” Bill said. “Julieta, do you think you could tend to Rachel while I take Caroline with me for a few minutes? There’s something I think she should see.” Julieta eyed him for a moment, looking nearly angry, and then softened her expression and nodded.

Curious, Caroline followed Bill from the room, deeply surprised to find the whole house empty, and then she followed him on out to the barn out back, which he opened to reveal all the visitors standing around a support post, to which a fully naked Danielle was tied securely. Her long black hair, gleaming like volcanic glass, was bound up high, baring her back for whatever awaited her.. As Bill walked in, Fiona handed him a bundle of very thin switches, wet and dripping, and Caroline wondered what was going on here.

“Danielle, is there anything you’d like to say to Caroline about your conduct today,” Bill asked in a terrifyingly cold and calm voice.

“If I may, Master,” Danielle said, sounding not frightened or even dreading the events apparently soon to come, but instead merely sad and disappointed with herself.

“You may,” Bill said.

“Ms. Loring, while I was right about my guesswork, I was wrong to be so indiscreet, and I really am very sorry that I added to your embarrassment,” Danielle said. “It’s a lesson I should long since have learned as Bill’s slave, and one I have to learn also in the job I do for George and Fiona at the electronics plant. I hope this is the last time I need to learn this lesson, and I hope you forgive me. Thanks for letting me speak, Master. I’m ready now.”

“Bill, can I just forgive her and call it even,” Caroline asked, a bit annoyed with Danielle’s big mouth, but not so much that she wanted to see what gave the appearance of a pretty savage beating. She couldn’t imagine Danielle’s humiliation right now, and was glad she wasn’t in the younger woman’s place. “I don’t think she meant any harm, and I’d rather she didn’t remember the first time meeting me as a day when she was beaten in front of this many friends.”

“If I may, Master,” Danielle spoke.

“You may,” Bill said after a moment to consider her request.

“Ms. Loring, what I did to you and Rachel was wrong, but this isn’t about you getting justice, necessarily. It’s about me learning to rein in my mouth, which seems to get me into too much trouble sometimes. Master’s spoken to me about this a few other times, but I didn’t take a painless lesson to heart. In short, this is about me, about correcting me so I don’t do this and alienate more people than I seem to already do. Dr. Orozco can barely tolerate me half the time, and I can’t blame her. I can’t hate you or feel angry at you when I’m the one in the wrong.”

“Okay,” Caroline said, dubious.

“Caroline, Danielle has been running around with her mouth on automatic for a bit too long here lately, and today was just one more illustration of the problem, and perhaps of my failings as her owner,” Bill interjected. “This isn’t your doing. I think everyone here would agree that if it hadn’t been with y’all today, it would’ve been tomorrow or the day after about something else.”

“He’s right,” Fiona interjected, scowling at Danielle. “And one hell of a lot more than her submission is at stake if she doesn’t learn to control her mouth. She works for our company, and is a damned good engineer, but she’s never going to get my approval for a security clearance there if she doesn’t learn to curb her mouth until I’m comfortable that she won’t be released from Bill’s custody and into Leavenworth’s.”

“I see,” Caroline lied, wondering why Leavenworth would give a hooter’s damn about Danielle’s mouth, and then it dawned on her that Danielle was probably on some secret government project or another, or needed to be, but couldn’t be trusted to keep her mouth shut about the goings-on in her work. Obviously, if Danielle ran her mouth about something secret or top secret, it would indeed find her for an extended stay in the crossbar hotel at Club Fed. “Then I gather Danielle needs to learn this lesson soonest,” Caroline remarked after her ponderings. “I hope you do, Danielle.”

“Thank you,” Danielle whispered. Sharon approached Danielle with a bandanna in her hand, and slid it into Danielle’s mouth, and Bill took his position while Caroline found a place as out of the way as she could manage. He lightly touched her pale shoulders with the bundle of switches, and Caroline heard Danielle whimper a sound that communicated clearly her dread of what was soon to follow.

“Two dozen,” Bill announced in a calm voice. Danielle’s instant whimper and shivering didn’t seem at all calm, but she was hardly in a position to affect the outcome now, Caroline well knew by her own time on a whipping post. He drew back with the switches, and Caroline saw water dripping from them, curious as to why they’d be wetted. He laid the first stroke to her, and Caroline winced in empathy as she saw a broad cluster of welts rising diagonally across her shoulders, and trickles of the water running down her skin to her buttocks. Danielle whimpered and jerked some, but was bound too fast to the post to move even so much as an inch, Caroline saw. Bill lashed Danielle at a slow and measured pace, taking his sweet time to impart a hard lesson to his slave-bride. Before long, Danielle was screaming to the skies in agony.

“The switches are brine-soaked,” Caroline heard George whisper behind her. “They’re heavier and have more impact, and burn like hell if the skin opens. Danielle is accustomed to hard discipline from her owner when she rides off the range like she did today.”

“Jesus, no wonder she’s hurting,” Caroline breathed to George, barely audibly, as another lash fell and Danielle screeched, whipping her body back and forth as much as her tight bonds would allow. This lash broke the skin, Caroline saw, and she couldn’t imagine the exquisite agony Danielle must be undergoing. She remembered getting lemon juice in a small cut on her finger before, and had nearly fainted with the burning. Caroline knew Allen was a hard-ass in his own right, but was glad that Bill wasn’t her own master. Indeed, she was suddenly worried about what evil Allen might learn and emulate from an association with Bill, but it was far too late now, wasn’t it?

“Ms. Loring, every one of us in power chooses how we deal with our submissives and slaves,” George said, his voice so low that Caroline was convinced that only she could hear it. And as gently put as his tone was, she heard the reproof in it, and knew that he was disappointed that she was standing in negative judgement of Bill’s treatment of his slave-bride and her big mouth. He walked a few steps away while Caroline stood alone, feeling shamed. George was right, she knew, and she knew that if Danielle was on that post it was because she’d made a choice to serve Bill and suffer the consequences of her personal failings. She returned her attention to the whipping, seeing that it was nearly done, and glad for Danielle that such was the case, despite the presumption that Danielle deserved this entire beating. Finally, it was over, and Bill merely dropped the bundle of switches, which were looking frayed and worn by then.

He untied Danielle, from the bottom up, Caroline noted, and then he held her closely and gently as she cried her last onto his shirt. Nobody in the audience moved a muscle, and Caroline took her cue from her peers, if they could be termed so. Finally, Danielle was more or less back under control, and approached Caroline on unsteady legs, then fell to her knees in front of her, and took Caroline’s right hand in both of hers, looking up at her with a pleading expression.

“Am I forgiven, Ms. Loring,” Danielle asked, keeping her tone as neutral as the pain flaring from her harshly whipped back would allow.

“Well, yes,” Caroline said, taken aback. She honestly didn’t think Danielle had done that great a sin. Yes, she should have had a bit more discretion, but Caroline was honest enough with herself to know that Danielle had just been excited to meet more of her own kind so unexpectedly. And in truth, Caroline was also glad to meet more of her own kind out of the blue like this. “I don’t think there’s anything to forgive on my part, but if there is, it’s forgiven.”

“Thank you,” Danielle said, kissing Caroline’s hand and weeping. “I’m so sorry I embarrassed you, Ms. Loring.”

“If you don’t start calling me Caroline, I’m going to start thinking you don’t like me, and I’ll ask your master if he’ll redo this whipping because my feelings are hurt,” Caroline said, kneeling down to Danielle’s level and smiling kindly at her.

“Thank you, Caroline,” Danielle said, still sounding subdued.

“May I hug you, kiss you,” Caroline asked kindly, wanting to show Danielle that there were indeed no hard feelings on her part, and that if forgiveness was required of her, it was readily and fully given.

“It’s okay, Danielle,” Bill said softly, and Danielle nodded. Caroline knee-walked the last foot toward the whipped slave, and held her in her arms tenderly, hands low on Danielle’s back, kissing her cheek gently and then just holding her. Danielle started sobbing again, but the crying was of a different quality, not from pain but the catharsis of forgiving herself for so upsetting her master and letting herself down in the process.

Danielle cried long enough that Caroline was starting to regret her kindness as her knees ached on the floor of the barn, but there was no way she was going to let Danielle free until the tears were done. Caroline didn’t have that kind of selfishness in her. But the tears and shuddering finally ceased, and Danielle pulled away, this time able to look Caroline in the eye. “Thank you,” she said emotionally. “Thank you for your kindness.”

“No thanks required,” Caroline said, feeling a bit flustered that she was suddenly very aroused, having this naked and submissive woman in her arms. But she stifled the arousal, knowing that this wasn’t the time or the place. Sometimes it was better to have a desire than to push for a fruition that was unlikely to happen and far more likely to cause even more problems than she was facing. “Can I help you to your feet now?”

“Please,” Danielle said. Caroline stood and took Danielle’s hands in her own and helped her to her feet, and kissed her cheek again, then let her go to her master’s side, where she belonged.

“Every one of you was placed at risk by Danielle’s indiscretion,” Bill said to the assemblage. “Feel free, any of you, to speak your mind to her.”

“Danielle, I guess I’m the one here closest to your age,” Sharon said. “I know that we’re young and sometimes overly excitable, and that you honestly mean no harm. But BDSM is based on trust, and absolute discretion is a cornerstone of that trust. I hope this lesson doesn’t need to be taught to you again. You know I love you, but if I can’t trust you, I’m afraid all the love in the world won’t let me be close to you, and we both cherish that closeness, or I’d like to think that.”

“Well said, Sharon,” Fiona interjected. “I’ve already said my part, and that still stands, Danielle.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Danielle said, sounding shamed and scared.

“Fiona spoke for me as well,” George said. “I hope you don’t forget this lesson, Danielle.”

“I was about your age when I got into this lifestyle,” Kate spoke up. “And I remember how thrilling it was to be a part of something so fulfilling, and wishing people weren’t so Goddamned narrow-minded that we have to keep our proclivities under wraps, but we’re in the buckle of the Bible-belt here, Danielle, and that means people think anything out of the ordinary is evil, and that those participating in it are to be shunned. The wrong word at the wrong time could have wrecked everyone’s lives here today, save maybe George’s and Fiona’s, since they have more money than God, but even so, it would’ve made their lives here very difficult, and probably seen them having to leave the area. I’m a small businesswoman, and Sharon is a part of that business. Chance here runs his own business, and Bill certainly does. A wrong word at the wrong time could derail many good lives here. Keep that thought in the front of your mind when your tongue wants to go on automatic, okay?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Danielle said, eyeing the floor.

“For my part, I don’t think I’d be completely wrecked,” Chance interjected. “But I tend to be a very private person about my personal life, and I would’ve been very hurt by losing your trust, if for instance Caroline had left here to announce to God and the world that we’re all perverts. What if you’d been wrong? What if Rachel had just had heat-stroke or a diabetic episode or an overdose on something? Anyway, that’s my feelings.”

“Yes, Sir,” Danielle said.

“I guess that leaves me,” Christine said. “On my own, I’d be about as obscure in this area as the average prairie dog, but since I’m George and Fiona’s personal assistant, that makes me fairly visible in the area, and fairly well-known. Unfortunately, a part of my duties is that I coordinate a scholarship program for the local schools, and that means that you also risked one hell of a lot of deserving kids getting good college educations and a chance at a better future. I know that’s probably getting far-fetched, but there it is. Danielle, I’m close to your age too, and I remember like Kate does how exciting it is to first be among your own kind. Maybe someday, hopefully someday soon, we’ll find some acceptance in the mainstream. The gays did it, although it’s still a struggle for them, and perhaps our time is also at hand. But the time isn’t arrived yet, Danielle. You screwed up today. But you’re a bright girl, and as I understand it, Bill rarely has to give you the same punishment twice.”

“I’m sorry I let you all down today,” Danielle said in a subdued tone, still unable to look anyone in the eye. “I guess I should ask if you all feel I was punished enough or if it will take more for you to forgive me.”

“Well, I’d love to take you over my knee and spank the hell out of you,” Chance snarled, then grinned widely. “But more because you’re sexy as hell and it’d get my ancient rocks off!”

Despite her pain and shame, Danielle snorted and then laughed, and soon the rest of the group was chuckling too. It impressed something upon Caroline, and she wondered if this indeed wasn’t the objective of the round-robin ass-eating, that what was being said was perhaps as much or more for her benefit as Danielle’s. There were two issues that were plainly obvious to Caroline. First and foremost, her complete discretion would be required about the goings-on in this group. Secondly, but perhaps of equal importance was the plain fact that these people were intimately close, and shared a trust among one another that was absolute and unquestioning. What had happened here today wasn’t a kinky scene, but a slave being publicly beaten by her master, humiliated and abased before people she respected and held dear, to impart upon her a hard lesson in good behavior. Whatever this assemblage was, Caroline knew for sure that she wanted in, and hoped against hope that Allen and Rachel wanted the same. She felt something come alive deep in her soul with these thoughts, to live for a time among more like-minded people than just those in her own relationship sounded like a slice of heaven in many ways to her.

Christine announced then that the barn was too stiflingly hot and that she was going back to the house, and slowly but surely everyone filed out behind her, leaving Danielle the privacy and dignity now to dress herself before returning to their company, her place and esteem among them returned to her now that she’d paid her price. Already, Caroline knew the discussion with Rachel on the drive home would be intensive, and she would have given all she had in this world to see the future, the next few days, at least.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Caroline -- Part Thirty

They arrived at Bill Fletcher’s house a few minutes early, and rang the doorbell, impressed with a variety of cars parked in the driveway and front yard. Caroline felt a bit smug that hers was by far the most luxurious of the cars there. It took her a moment to realize that all but one of the vehicles, however, was a relatively late-model Ford of some sort, mostly pickup trucks, and a couple SUV type vehicles, and two cars, a Taurus and a Crown Victoria. The only other non-Ford was a bright red Corvette that gleamed in the sunlight. Another vehicle arrived just as they were getting out of the BMW, this one a black Expedition. A woman emerged from it, who looked vaguely familiar to Caroline, who decided she must not have seen her before after a moment’s consideration. The woman was far too striking to forget. She was an Hispanic woman, pretty, tall at around six feet, and with long white hair that stretched nearly to her waist. She was one of those people who would be all but impossible to forget, Caroline knew.

“Hi, I’m Julieta,” the lady said to them with a disarming smile. She pronounced her name as HOO-lee-etta. “You must be Caroline and Rachel.”

“I’m Caroline,” Caroline said, offering her hand as she grinned. “The pretty one with me is Rachel.”

“It’s good to meet you,” Julieta said, and shook Rachel’s hand as well.

“And you, Dr. Orozco,” Rachel said, also smiling, albeit a bit dreamily, Caroline noted with a smile. Rachel wasn’t quite out of space just yet. Caroline fervently hoped this state wouldn’t be plainly obvious to everyone here. She’d hate for people to think that Rachel was some kind of a stoner, considering her position at TCBS as Allen’s right hand, so to speak. Caroline also realized that she had indeed seen Dr. Orozco before, or at least her grainy black and white photograph, in the local yellow pages, when she had been looking for a new doctor when her last one had retired and she didn’t like the doctor that had taken over his practice. Dr. Orozco didn’t even make her short-list, because her office in Cuervo Rojo was just too far to have to drive, close neither to her home nor her office.

“Let’s go in and meet everyone,” the doctor said and led them into the house without knocking, obviously a show of some close association with their host. Julieta Orozco, M.D. was comfortable in the home of Bill Fletcher, and Caroline’s instant judgement was that the doctor was a nice woman. Since a man is judged by the company he keeps, he’d already scored a brownie point with Caroline before she ever even met him. They were greeted in the foyer by a pretty dark-haired young woman, slightly plump, wearing jeans and a red polo shirt.

“Hi, you must be Ms. Loring and Ms. Cook,” the woman said, smiling. “I’m Danielle Fletcher. Come on in! Everyone’s out back having a beer while Bill does some cooking. Can I get you ladies a drink?”

“Please,” Caroline said. “I’m just Caroline and she’s just Rachel. And yes, I’d like a Coke, if you have any, or water if you don’t.”

“Okay,” Danielle said. “And you, Rachel?”

Rachel shot a look toward Caroline, then just shook her head and said, “nothing, thank you.”

Danielle nodded with a strange look on her face and disappeared toward the kitchen, and Julieta led them out to the back yard, promising that Danielle would bring Caroline’s Coke to her outside. The yard looked to be nearly an acre in size, and at the back of it was a biggish red barn with the doors closed. There were a dozen or so people milling about the large back yard, casually chatting with one another, and two other men standing at a big barbecue pit, billowing clouds of smoke into the hot summer air. Unsure what to do, Caroline and Rachel followed the doctor toward the barbecue pit.

“Shall I schedule you now for your bypass grafts,” Julieta said, laughing. “Let me guess, you’re cooking lots of pig in there, and probably a big-ass brisket with a role of fat on it that would give a heart-attack to a grizzly bear.”

“Of course,” one of the men said, as they both turned. He was about six feet, of medium build and with jet-black hair interspersed with a scattering of white strands, and had what Caroline thought were the most startling green eyes she’d ever seen. He was dressed in blue jeans that looked fairly new and a dark blue Dallas Cowboys tee-shirt. He hugged the doctor and gave her a kiss, grinning all the while.

“Bill, these ladies are Caroline and Rachel,” Julieta said.

“Welcome to my home,” Bill said, offering his hand to Caroline with a wide smile.

“Thank you, Sir,” Caroline said, taking his warm and strong-feeling hand in hers. “I’m Caroline Loring and this is Rachel Cook.”

“Now, didn’t we already go over you calling me ‘Sir’ like I’m ninety years old,” he said with a snarl and a laugh, and then rolled her hand over, palm down, and smacked it with his left hand, more or less playfully. But something about it sent a little thrill through Caroline, a thrill that was equally dismaying. “It’s just plain old ‘Bill’ around here. If you start calling me Sir and Mister, I’m going to start thinking I’m important or something. Can I get you something to drink?”

“Got it here,” Danielle said, handing Caroline a twenty-ounce Coke, still in its bottle. “Are you sure you don’t want anything to drink, Rachel?”

“Can I have some water,” Rachel asked, still sounding fuzzy to Caroline’s ears.

“Of course,” Danielle said, heading to the kitchen again.

“It’s nice to meet you too, Rachel,” Bill said, letting Caroline’s hand go and offering his hand to Rachel.

“And you as well, Bill,” Rachel said, taking the hand and smiling slightly.

“This gentleman trying to teach a master chef such as me how to cook dead animals is George Bank,” Bill went on, as the man waved and smiled at them, a bit too far from them and a bit too crowded to offer his hand. “You should probably call him Mister and Sir and all the rest of that shit since he has sixteen more dollars than God showing on his last tax return.”

“Actually, it’s twenty-seven dollars and fifty-three cents,” George joked. “I just massaged the numbers some to keep me in a lower bracket.”

“It’s nice to meet you as well, Sir,” Caroline said, suddenly feeling a deep thread of disquiet. Although he had a local reputation far and wide as a very good man, and was well-loved by most of the locals in the Five Counties region, Caroline knew that he was a multimillionaire, perhaps even a billionaire, and could buy and sell her a dozen times over with just his pocket-change. To be fair, you wouldn’t know it to look at him, she judged. He was a couple inches shorter than Bill, and just beginning to get a paunch. She figured him to be perhaps forty-five or so. He had brown hair and brown eyes, and she knew if she bumped into him in a Wal-Mart, she would have given him zero notice beyond the polite apology that decent etiquette would require of her. She somehow expected a filthy rich person to somehow look the part in some non-specific way, and here she was confronted with just a regular guy. Wearing fairly ragged jeans and a grey polo shirt that was sweat and grease stained, he looked more like Bill Fletcher’s hired help, a cowhand pressed into service to help with the big party. The only two things that gave it all away were a very expensive wrist watch, indeed a Rolex, on his left wrist, and a heavy gold ring, what looked to be twenty-two karats by its particular color and gleam, with a tri-spoked emblem, the spokes curved, on his right ring-finger. Inside each of that ring’s hollows was a fairly large diamond.

“Prostrating yourself won’t be necessary,” he joked with his own broad smile, seeming to sense Caroline’s discomfort. “Just buy a statue of me in the lobby gift shop and pray to it regularly.”

Instantly disarmed, Caroline bellowed laughter at his joke, and Bill and George joined in with the laughing, so that was all good. Even Rachel mustered a smile as Danielle brought her a bottle of Ozarka water. Bill led them about and introduced Caroline and Rachel to a number of people, many of whom Caroline knew by reputation, including Fiona Brezhnev, the wife of George Bank, who was apparently independently nearly as wealthy as her husband. She was also introduced to their personal assistant, a very tall black-haired woman named Christine, who smiled as she took their hands. She also met Kate Norris, the owner of a local chain of pet and feed stores in the area, as well as a young woman with her named Sharon Carter, a pretty blonde-haired woman with an open smile, who Caroline judged to be perhaps twenty-three years old, maybe twenty-four. There was another man present named Chance Donovan, a big guy, grey-haired and with a full bushy grey beard that matched, who looked somewhat dangerous, like a retired biker out on parole. That said, his demeanor seemed soft and rather gentle, and he had a ready smile and blue eyes that twinkled, and Caroline was amused at the image of Charles Manson and Santa Claus perhaps spawning an illegitimate love-child.

“It’s been a long while, Mr. Donovan,” Rachel said, still with a bit of a dreamy smile as she took his hand. “How’re things at Second Chance’s these days?”

“Busy as ever,” he smiled. “Actually, that’s why I’m invited over here. I’m about to be a chain of sorts. I’m going to open a restaurant and bar at the mall.”

“Oh, that’s good,” Rachel said, smiling a bit more intently now as she turned toward Caroline. “Mr. Donovan here cooks some of the finest barbecue in all of south Texas out at his place.”

“Just call me Chance, please,” he smiled, actually even blushing a little bit.

“Oh, okay,” Caroline said. “I’ve heard of Second Chance’s, but I’ve never found my way out there before.”

“Tellya what,” he said back to her, still smiling warmly. “You come out any night and the first beer is on me, and I’ll even spot you to a free meal just to show you I’m full of southern hospitality and good manners.”

“Or just old-fashioned bullshit,” Bill chipped in, strolling up to them. “You’ll note that this ruffian surely didn’t offer to prove his legerdemain around the pit today, Ms. Loring.”

“Screw you, Bill,” Chance laughed. “You want my barbecue, drag your ass out to my place and buy some!” Bill laughed too, and that put Caroline at ease as well. She liked Bill on instinct, and decided Chance should perhaps be judged by the company he kept. She wondered what all businesses these people meant to have at the new mall, and decided she’d find out all that information soon enough.

“Maybe I need to replace Danielle with you for my rodeo act and learn you some manners,” Bill joked back, affecting a thick southern drawl.

“Not on your life, Chief Smoke,” Chance shot back, and then men laughed once more, obviously enjoying the banter. Caroline was curious as to what this was about the rodeo act, but filed it away.

“Actually, we figured to give everyone a little demo after lunch,” Bill said, then explained to Caroline. “The Cuervo Rojo County Fair is coming in a couple months, and the rodeo with it, Caroline, and a lot of locals do different acts there just for the entertainment. It’s in a good cause. The rodeo money, the profits, all go to local youth activities. It’s not nearly so big as that rodeo in Houston, mind you, but they do the best they can. So Danielle and I are going to do a little show for it during an intermission, and you people all get a little preview today.”

“I look forward to seeing it,” Caroline said, hoping they weren’t going to burst into song or something like that. She liked Bill, but his voice, while pleasant, wasn’t that of a singer. But instinct told her to outrageously compliment his singing even if it sounded worse than a cat in a blender.

“Let’s eat,” George called out from the barbecue pit, and everyone lined up for food. The barbecue was delicious, and Caroline raved over it. Rachel, meanwhile, ate a full meal, but still seemed rather off. After the meal was done, Danielle went around with a trash can, tossing everyone’s plate and cleaning off the picnic tables, while conversation turned some toward the new mall. Dr. Orozco was moving her office over there, it seemed, and Kate Norris was opening up a branch of her business there as well, to be managed by young Sharon, which surprised Caroline. She seemed awfully young to take on such responsibility, but then, Kate Norris was known for her successes in business, and Caroline doubted that Kate was putting a fool in charge of anything. But the talk about the mall didn’t go into deep details, just general plans. Caroline was grateful that nobody wanted to lay out details, because she was just about entirely in the dark on this mall project.

“So who’s up to see the show,” Bill asked loudly. He’d disappeared to the barn and Caroline’s eyes widened to see a bullwhip coiled in his right hand. He’d also donned a cowboy hat, she noted. Everyone got up from the picnic tables and got into lawn chairs to watch the event to come in a bit more comfort. Danielle, meanwhile, came out to the middle of the lawn, carrying a small box. She and Bill kissed a moment, and then she stood about six or seven feet from him, and lit a cigarette, crossing her hands behind her back and puffing at it some. Caroline figured out what was coming next, and wasn’t at all surprised when Bill expertly cracked the whip and sliced the tip right off of the burning cigarette. She smiled as she heard Rachel squeak in surprise as Bill handed Danielle two sparklers left over from the Fourth of July, and she held one in either hand, standing with her arms out in a cruciform position. Rachel loosed a deep moan next to Caroline this time, and Caroline didn’t know whether to be amused or worried. And then three lives changed forever as Bill cracked the bullwhip a third time, snapping off another sparkler as Rachel slid from her chair in a boneless heap.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Caroline -- Part Twenty-Nine

They woke earlier that Sunday, albeit not by choice. The phone was ringing loudly at seven in the morning, and a sleep-muddled Rachel answered. It was Allen, asking for Caroline. It took Rachel a while to rouse her mistress, but finally Caroline came to some semblance of wakefulness.

“I hate fucking up your Sunday,” Allen began when he got a sleep-muddled hello from Caroline. “But I need you to handle some business today.”

“Yes, Sir,” Caroline asked.

“Bill Fletcher called me a few minutes ago, and wants to meet you today, if at all possible,” Allen said. “I told him I didn’t think that would be a problem, but that you were still getting up to speed on his account. He said it wasn’t so much about business as a social get-together, but he wants you to be there, at his place, later today. He’s putting on lunch, apparently, and wants you there to meet and greet people. No pressure, but sometimes things like this are more important than all the research in the world on his file. You can learn a lot about someone at lunch that just doesn’t quite make its way into the files.”

“I see,” Caroline said, frowning.

“Go ahead and call him, and make the arrangements,” Allen said. “He’s awake already. He knows I tend to be an early-bird, although he didn’t know I was out of town. I just told him I wasn’t going to be able to come there with you. I’m going to be buried in busy the rest of the day, but call me this evening and let me know what happened, okay?” He gave her Bill Fletcher’s phone number, which she cited aloud for Rachel to write down on a notepad on her bed stand.

“I’ll call him as soon as we’re off the phone, Sir,” Caroline promised.

“How are things going with you and Rachel and your little exercise this weekend,” Allen asked.

“I think better than expected,” Caroline said, smiling as she took Rachel’s hand in hers and squeezed it.

“We’ll talk about that too this evening,” he said. “It looks like I won’t be flying home until tomorrow morning. This stuff here is a total train-wreck.”

“Yes, Sir,” Caroline said. “I’m sure I can keep Rachel busy another evening.”

“I figured as much,” he said, and snorted a small laugh. “I need to go, Caroline. I love you, and you be sure and tell Rachel I love her too. I’ll see y’all tomorrow, honey.”

“Yes, Master,” Caroline said and hung up. She crawled out of bed and went to the bathroom, taking a long moment to pee and then wash her face, trying to get more awake before calling Mr. Fletcher sounding like she was in the throes of a hangover or something. Rachel took it on herself to go get coffee going, and was back upstairs in a few minutes with a fresh mug of it for her mistress right as Caroline was reaching for the phone. Caroline thanked her, and then dialed the phone.

“Hello,” a woman’s voice answered on the first ring.

“Hello,” Caroline said. “My name is Caroline Loring. I’m calling for Mr. Fletcher. May I speak with him, please?”

“Yes, Ma’am, of course,” the woman said. “I’m his wife Danielle. Hold on one moment please, Ms. Loring.” Caroline heard the phone clunk to the table, and a moment later a distant voice saying it was a Ms. Loring on the phone, and yet another moment later, a man’s voice.

“This is Bill,” a warm-sounding voice said. “I didn’t expect you to call back so soon, Ms. Loring.”

“It was no problem at all, Sir,” Caroline said, surprised at how smoothly she told the lie, indeed annoyed that she’d been robbed of a couple more hours’ sleep. “Mr. Martin said you wanted to see me today, Sir?”

“Well not if you keep calling me Sir like I’m some ninety-years-old geezer,” he shot back, and chuckled. Caroline smiled despite herself. His voice and manner thus far were indeed disarming. “What I had in mind was to invite you out for a good lunch, to meet a few friends, some of whom will be occupying spaces in the mall, and some who are just friends. I’ve found that it’s always better to know one’s associates socially rather than just in a business atmosphere. Besides, I do a lot of my work from home, so you’ll probably be out here a lot over the next year or so while we’re getting these things rolling, so you may as well learn to be comfortable here, right?”

“Yes,” Caroline said, cutting off the automatic Sir that usually followed. She couldn’t help being southern and brought up with such mores, and saying sir and ma’am to people was as natural to her as breathing for that reason alone. “I need to know when and where, of course.”

“Naturally,” Bill said. He gave her directions to his house, and then added that she could certainly bring a friend, or a date, if she wished.

“Yes, if I may, I’d like to bring along Mr. Martin’s assistant, Rachel Cook,” Caroline said.

“By all means,” Bill said. “Make sure y’all come hungry now. We’re putting on a huge barbecue. Be here at about one?”

“We’ll be there,” Caroline confirmed. “Do we need to bring anything?”

“Only an appetite,” he answered with a smile clear in his voice. “Oh, and it’s casual here. Just jeans and shirts, nothing fancy. Okay?”

“Alright, then,” Caroline said, her mood improving. If he was as nice as he seemed, it would be a good working relationship to follow, she knew. “One o’clock it is, Bill. We’ll be there.” They hung up, and Caroline finished her coffee.

“So it’s lunch at one, Mistress,” Rachel remarked. “We’ll need to be out of here at a quarter past twelve, by the look of the directions. What do we need to wear, Ma’am?”

“He said it’s casual,” Caroline answered. “Why don’t you get breakfast ready for us? I’m going to go do a few laps in the pool and then we can eat and see how we can kill a couple hours.”

“Yes, Mistress,” Rachel said, and went down to the kitchen. Today wouldn’t be the first social event she’d had with TCBS’ business associates, but she was annoyed that it was cutting into this little precious time she was having with Caroline. On the other hand, she knew that neither of them had much of a choice, and she knew enough about the Fletcher deal to know that Caroline’s monetary circumstances were soon to take a major shift upward. As she started whipping together pancakes, she smiled at a fresh and random thought. Caroline had pretty well given Rachel free rein over the kitchen, bowing to Rachel’s superior expertise here. She was very much enjoying the stoke to her ego that Caroline’s positive ranting about the chow had engendered. She started cooking the pancakes as she heard Caroline splashing in the pool, wondering if Caroline would buy a new house for herself with this newfound wealth, and if she would have a pool of her own put in. She sure seemed to love that luxury here.

“What do you know about Bill Fletcher,” Caroline asked Rachel over breakfast several minutes later. “I’m afraid I got caught kind of flat-footed here this morning. That was going to be tomorrow’s day, learning his file. All I know is that he’s the guy building a mall over in Cuervo Rojo.”

“Not much, really, Mistress” Rachel said. “He owns a hell of a lot of rental housing in the area. I seem to recall that he recently married a woman who works for Bank & Brezhnev, but I’ve no idea what she does for them. I’m afraid he’s a cipher to me. Allen hasn’t said much about him, and I don’t know who even did the work compiling his file. A piece of advice, Mistress?”

“Please,” Caroline said.

“Most people are pretty well up-front about things, and if he’s indicated to you that this is really a social event, it’s probably safe to take him at face-value,” Rachel said. “Besides, by the time you got to the office and opened his files up and started reading up on him, presuming there’s much there in the file to know about him personally, it would be time to haul ass over to his party anyway. Mistress, do you know the phrase ‘stuck like Chuck?’”

“All too well, I’m afraid,” Caroline said, and snorted. “And point taken. These are very good pancakes, by the way.”

“Thank you, Mistress,” Rachel said, once again pleased with herself. They finished breakfast and Caroline told Rachel to come out to the pool after she got the table cleared and the kitchen cleaned. While Rachel did these things, Caroline swam a few more laps. She’d found out she enjoyed the swimming more than she’d remembered, and doing so nude was also something of a liberation. Another benefit was that it helped to loosen the soreness in her shoulder from the epic beating she’d laid on Rachel the other night.

She’d been in the pool for maybe twenty laps when she stopped for a breather to see Rachel in attendance, smiling that Rachel had taken it upon herself to fix another Coke for her. Caroline came out of the pool and drank some of the Coke, then eyed Rachel, circling her while she stood nervously and a bit self-consciously. Her marks were healing nicely, Caroline noted. In fact, the welts were only faint traces on her shoulders this morning, although her butt was still a black-and-blue mess, and was likely to be for several more days. Caroline lightly traced her wet fingertips down Rachel’s spine, and was gratified to see Rachel quivering in response, loosing a bit of a whimper and then jumping as the fingers apparently traced over a ticklish spot.

“Would you like to swim some before I take you inside,” Caroline purred. “Or would you just like to be taken, my dear?”

“As you please, Mistress,” Rachel moaned. Caroline slipped her arms around Rachel and cupped her breasts with her hands, feeling hard nipples as Rachel’s breathing quickened. Outstanding, Caroline thought inwardly, feeling a touch of her own arousal. Jesus, Rachel was turning her into a slut, she thought with dark glee. Caroline’s own nipples had hardened quite nicely too, and she lightly tickled Rachel’s back with them, swaying some to let them swing easily. She was rewarded with another moan from Rachel, and then turned her around, kissing her deeply, letting her know that she was very much desired. Caroline didn’t want to waste time drying off from the pool, and didn’t want to waste time dragging Rachel indoors, for that matter, and so she walked-pushed her to the grass that lay beyond the patio, and they fell to the grass for a wild session of more sex, using one another and both of them exploding into hard climaxes in the soft green grass. After maybe a half-hour of this, as the sun rose higher in the sky, getting the yard already extremely hot despite the early hour, they went into the pool and paddled about the water for a while, cooling off and exercising some. But they were soon tired, and Caroline was just beginning to burn in the hot sun and UV rays intensified by the water, and so they dried themselves and went indoors.

Caroline went to the bathroom while Rachel knelt beside the living room sofa, and when she was done in the bathroom, she went into the dungeon and found a flogger with deer-skin tails, dyed red and black over a handle woven in the same colors, then returned to the living room with it. Rachel eyed the flogger with intermingled fear and desire as Caroline approached, but she held her place, and merely bowed her head to look toward the floor in what Caroline thought was a very nice supplicant posture indeed. Without any preamble, Caroline gave Rachel eight or nine strokes of the flogger, painless ones that only warmed her skin and pinkened it fetchingly.

Rachel purred and growled with the sensation, loving a slow and easy flogging that built her up, heated her, and she could endure one hell of a lot of it when it began just as Caroline was doing. Caroline took a moment and caressed Rachel’s shoulders, then raised the flogger again and laid another dozen or so strokes, these a bit harder, letting the warmth set deeply into her. “Get your little ass to the dungeon, right now,” Caroline ordered. “Crawl, Rachel!” And Rachel did crawl, but it wasn’t a shamed or humiliated crawl, but a proud one, like a great cat in the wild, on the way to her den. Caroline was impressed, and very much excited by what was in store in the dungeon.

Once in the dungeon, Caroline pointed Rachel to a St. Andrew cross, and then told her she had the choice whether to be attached to the cross facing it, or facing outward, to be flogged in front. Rachel shivered a bit, but then crawled to the cross and stood, then about-faced, and spread her limbs to be secured. Caroline secured her to the arms of the cross, then blindfolded her, and then nibbled Rachel’s belly while Rachel squirmed and even giggled, before she retrieved the deerskin flogger and started working her breasts and thighs with the soft leather tails, taking her sweet time in heating Rachel’s skin with the flogger while she moaned and purred in sheer ecstasy. After perhaps a hundred of these easier lashes, Caroline started stepping it up, and by the time she’d laid a hundred more, she was going full bore at Rachel, who was starting to get that distant look on her face of a submissive detaching her mind’s moorings before hurtling off into subspace.

Caroline tired of the deerskin flogger, knowing she’d done all she could with it, and moved to a heavier flogger, an equally beautifully crafted tool with jet-black tails of bull hide. She started off easily again, knowing this item was far heavier and with a greater thud to it than the one that preceded it. But in a moment, she was lashing Rachel quite well with it, deepening the redness on her breasts and thighs, and even her sides, as Rachel only swayed and moaned, her eyes half-lidded on the verge of some special fantasyland. Caroline thought about changing floggers, then decided to stay with this one, since the results seemed to be quite nice. A minute later, her decision was rewarded when Rachel slumped into a swoon in her bonds, shot off into subspace at the speed of light. Caroline envied her this. She hadn’t been to space in a long while, some four years, she supposed, remembering the long-ago event, but not the particular date when her ex had so masterfully send her into this lovely flight fueled on endorphins and trust.

Caroline grinned, quite pleased with herself as well as with her girl, and gently removed Rachel’s cuffs, helping her to the bed, where they lay together a long while as Caroline gently stroked and caressed the cruising Rachel. It took a long while for Rachel to return to some semblance of normality, perhaps an hour, but then she was about to function well enough that they went upstairs, showered and dressed, and were on the road to the Fletcher place in plenty of time.

Neither of them had a clue that the events of this morning would come to light by sundown, and would perhaps irrevocably change three lives. Sometimes life turns in all-new directions on unpredictable little variables, and so would the events of this day take them.