Todd hated to leave her, but what choice did he have? Spring Training wasn’t an “if you feel like attending” event, and the way things had been between the two of them, he couldn’t take Brooke with him. They needed to consider her bakery, too. Baked by Brooke thrived, thanks to her hard work and determination. Leaving the business in the hands of her hired help for six weeks wasn’t an option.
His grip tightened on the handle of his computer bag. Taking a deep breath, he relaxed his fingers, setting the chocolate-colored leather case, a Christmas gift from the woman standing across the room, next to his suitcase.
Tears streamed down Brooke’s flushed cheeks. Her usually luminous eyes were flat and rimmed in angry red.
“Brooke.” He took a step toward her, and she took an answering step back.
She’d been his sub long enough to recognize the tone of voice he used when he expected her complete attention and compliance. Though from her defiant stance, he wouldn’t know it. Reining in his anger, he tried once again to reason with her.
“I know you trust me, so I don’t understand why this is so difficult for you. You’ve literally put your life in my hands countless times, babe.” He hoped the use of the endearment would get through to her, but her arms remained knitted over her midsection as if she was trying to hold herself together. Maybe if he stated the obvious one more time.
“I can’t stay, and you can’t go with me.”
“I know that!”
Her insolent reply cut him to the core. How did we get to this point? With only a few minutes left to affect a change in her thinking, he didn’t have time for another pointless argument.
Deliberately dropping his volume so she’d have to concentrate to hear him, he ignored her outburst. “We’ve been over this. You said you wanted a deeper relationship when we left The Dungeon. You said you wanted a twenty-four/seven arrangement, but you’ve defied me at every turn. I don’t know anything else to do but this. Have you forgotten what our contract says?”
She shook her head, indicating she understood the clause he referred to, but there had been too many misunderstandings already, so he spelled it out for her. “You agreed to abide by my judgment on all things regarding your training and discipline. All things, Brooke. If you’ve changed your mind, then say so. We can void the contract right now if that’s what you want.”
Fresh tears followed the tracks left by her seemingly non-stop crying. Each salty drop was like acid, eroding away his conviction. He didn’t want to end their relationship, but they couldn’t continue the way they’d been going. Something needed to change, one way or another.
“Do you want to end this, Brooke?”
Her gaze snapped to his. Finally. “No! God, no.”
“Then you will submit to my will in this.” He stepped closer, close enough to touch her, but his hands remained fisted at his sides. “The way we’ve become… It’s my fault. I promised to see to your needs, and I haven’t. I let you keep things to yourself. I let you defy me, and I withheld punishment when I knew better. I apologize for my shortcomings as your Master. Trust me, Brooke, this time apart will be good for both of us. Frank is well respected as a trainer. He’ll take good care of you while I’m gone. He has my full permission to deal with you as he sees fit. He’ll do whatever it takes to teach you how to live the life you claim you want.”
“I want to be your slave, not his.”
Todd stifled a sigh. He’d enjoyed Brooke’s sassy personality at The Dungeon, but dealing with it in a complete slave/Master relationship had proven difficult. “Don’t use that tone with Frank,” he warned. “He won’t appreciate it.”
A flicker of something flashed in her eyes. Fear? God, he hoped not.
“He’s prepared a discipline program that you will adhere to. If you deviate, you’ll take whatever punishment he thinks necessary.” He let the warning sink in before reassuring her. “Remember, I’ll see every minute you spend with him. I’ll watch the live feed whenever I can, and when I can’t, I’ll watch the recordings. I’ll follow your progress closely. For the next few weeks, Frank will be your Master, but everything he does, he does because I allow it.”
“Thank you, Master.”
His blood heated at her soft-spoken concession. Ever since he’d told Brooke about his plan, she refused to use the title he, admittedly, didn’t deserve. That she used it today gave him hope.
“I promise you everything will be all right.”
“I want to make you proud, Sir.” The slump of her shoulders nearly broke his heart.
“None of this is your fault, subbie. I couldn’t be more proud of you than I am right now. I’ve seen you struggling to interpret my needs without proper direction. I made you a promise when we signed the contract, and I didn’t fulfill that pledge. This time apart isn’t a punishment. Think of it as a learning period.” For both of us.
He was determined to understand what it was like to be a sub so he could be a better Master for Brooke. “Scared out of his mind” didn’t half cover the ice-cold fear running through his arteries. Frank had hooked him up with a woman in Phoenix willing to take him on. She’d vowed to initiate him into the world of subservience in six weeks. Although he couldn’t imagine what that would entail, he knew it wouldn’t be pretty. But, as they say, failure wasn’t an option. Brooke needed him to be a better Master, and the only way he could do that was to understand what went on in her mind.
He wanted nothing more than to make her wishes come true, if only she would tell him what they were. “What? Tell me.”
“I wish I was going with you. Who will take care of you?”
“I’m not helpless. I did a pretty good job before I met you.” With a finger beneath her chin, he tilted her face up. It felt so good to hold her. Letting her go, giving her over to another man for even a short time, felt as if he was cutting off a vital limb. He hated the ravaged look on her face, but in his heart, he knew the path he had chosen was the right one for both of them. They’d be stronger, better able to navigate the minefield of their relationship, after their time apart. “You vowed to follow my orders.”
“Then here they are. Don’t worry about me. I want you to concentrate on your training. Give yourself fully to Frank. Every command he issues, every punishment, every pleasure—”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Oh, yes, subbie. Frank will pleasure you. If he doesn’t, I’ll have to kill him. You can’t go six weeks without. Have you forgotten you’re forbidden to pleasure yourself?”
“No, Sir, but I can wait.”
He smiled at her absurd remark. “This from the girl who made herself come in a public place because she didn’t think I would have her?”
Her face turned red as he reminded her of the first time he saw her. He had been attending a munch at The Buggy Whip because he couldn’t think of a good enough excuse not to be there, but he wasn’t looking for a sub. She had come with friends to shop the available Doms. He watched from across the crowded bar as she made herself come—while looking straight at him. She’d gotten away before he came to his senses, only to show up at The Dungeon weeks later, apologetic and ready to take her punishment.
“You can’t go a week, and we both know it. Besides, it’s not for you to decide. As I was saying, everything Frank does to or for you is at my command. Heed his directives without question, or suffer the consequences. For six weeks, I command you to be selfish. Give as is demanded of you, but use the experience to learn how to live the life you’ve committed to living. Learn to give and receive pleasure. Learn to accept punishment when you fall short of expectations.” He brushed his lips across hers. “Learn to accept who you are.” While I learn who you are, too. “Can you do those things for me?”
“Yes, Master.” There was a light in her gorgeous blue eyes that hadn’t been there in days. The band constricting his heart loosened a notch or two.
“That’s my subbie.” For the first time in what seemed like months, his smile wasn’t forced. “My ride is waiting.” He kissed her again, deeper this time, pouring every ounce of his need and longing into the action. Their separation would be hard on her, but it might very well kill him. No way would he add that knowledge to her burden. Breaking the connection, he set her away from him. “I’ve got to go. Frank will be here this evening. Be ready for him.”
He intended their goodbye kiss to be short, nothing more than a brush of lips, but her mouth was a temptation he couldn’t resist. He went back for more. It took every ounce of discipline he had to walk away from her.
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