I am on the Red Line leaving Porter Square when I receive Ian’s text: You’re sure you remember your safe word?
My stomach is a quarrel of sparrows in a steel-boned cage. I’m starting to regret the corset, a waist-training brocade underbust in white. He always preferred me in white, said it made it easier to tell when I was thinking of him.
I haven’t been back to Boston in years, not since Ian and I split up. But the anticipation I feel, like the ache between my thighs, is instinctive. I can tell he’s anxious, too, because this is the third time he’s asked about my safe word since I landed.
The conductor’s voice crackles over the PA system. Next stop, Davis Station.
I’m probably making a mistake, returning to the house I once called home, to the man who taught me how much pleasure my pain was worth. I wasn’t a virgin when we met, and I had seen and read enough to know I wasn’t vanilla either. I was butter and sugar waiting to be whipped. Waiting to become Devil’s food, he said, the first time he cuffed me to the Saint Andrew’s Cross in his den.
Seems like a lifetime ago.
We found each other again on an internet forum dedicated to Japanese rope bondage. Straightaway, I recognized his handle and propensity for short, clipped sentences. I was debating whether I should say something when he messaged me. And it was only a matter of time before flirtatious, nostalgia-laced emails led to sexting at the office.
I’m officially in town for a job interview at a publishing house, smaller than the one I currently work for, but better aligned with my values. There is the work you do for money, to shelter, clothe, and feed yourself, and then there's the work you do to feed your soul. If you're lucky, they're one and the same. It’s been a while since I’ve felt lucky.
The train lurches. I brace my heel against the scuffed floor and inhale, testing the give of my lacing ribbons. Over the corset, I have on an ivory blouse and a black, high-waisted skirt. Clean lines and classic hues; sensible garments for a respectable applicant. I imagine how they’ll look strewn across Ian’s floor.
I bite back a smile. The decision to spend my last night in Boston with Ian was an easy one: I am nothing if not a masochist. For three years, I served at his feet, watching him lay the groundwork that would eventually earn him the unofficial title of Northeastern University’s Professor of Kink. Like a tenure-tracked Rapunzel locked in an ivory tower, Ian only let his hair down under select circumstances, such as the promise of pain or pleasure, or the occasion to exhibit his mastery of both. Dating was off the table, but when he offered to let me serve as his live-in submissive, I abandoned my lease, threw my couch into storage, and gladly assumed the position.
Even now, ten years later, I still flinch when someone asks if I’ve read his books or attended his lectures. I have subbed for Dommes and other Doms in the years since I moved out, but in that time, no one has ever fucked me, beat me, or kept me as well or absolutely as Ian.
Nevertheless, I cannot afford to get sentimental. This isn’t about picking a scab so much as scratching an itch. It’s about indulgence, plain and simple. Once I reenter Ian’s home, I’ll be subject to all the old rules and expectations. If I want to turn back, now is the time.
I thumb my reply: She remembers.
The train slows to a halt. I shoulder my bag, enjoying the slight compression my clothes give as I make my way to the platform. While exiting the station, I spy a pair of teenagers kissing on a bench like they’ve forgotten they’re in public. My own lips tingle. I cross the street and don’t stop walking until I reach Ian’s house—my old address. He’s had the three-story Victorian re-sided from blue to earthen brown. I step up onto the porch and the front door opens before I have a chance to knock.
The man in the doorway appraises me soberly. Time has had its way with both of us, but he’s still Ian: fair and well-kept, features carving themselves into a look of brutal resolve. Somehow, the wrinkles around his eyes have made him even more attractive.
“Hello, Ayla,” he says. I haven’t the slightest clue as to his thinking, whether he’s glad to see me, or plagued with regret.
“Hello—” My voice is compliant. “—Sir.”
He moves to let me pass. “Come in.”
My chest hums like a hive, my limbs made sluggish by veins thick with blood like warm honey. I take a steadying breath and head inside.
The walls in the foyer are pastel gray where they once were gold. Abandoning my boots, I follow Ian upstairs to the living room where I’m struck by a barrage of familiar sights and aromas. There’s his grandmother’s old Remington typewriter on the desk, his floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, the scent of dried eucalyptus and cowhide. I lean against the brown suede sofa, overwhelmed. If I squint hard enough, perhaps I can make out the indents of my knees in the Persian rug.
He takes my overnight bag, sets it on the divan, then offers his hand, which I accept, letting him steer me into the kitchen. He’s had the floors stripped and the appliances updated to stainless steel, but I can still see us in here, cooking together, washing and drying the dishes by hand, me bent over the table with a brandy snifter on my back, trying not to spill while he languidly fingers my ass.
“She’s blushing,” Ian says, his expression equal parts menace and amusement. I touch my cheek, not surprised to find my skin a little clammy.
Ian comes toward me, bullying my feet until my back is flush against cold steel. I can smell his soap and aftershave, a hint of his sweat. Eau de nostalgie.
My head swims.
“She looks exactly the same,” he says. Not true, though if that’s how he sees me, I’m not going to argue. He moves closer, breathes me in, then out. “Smells the same, too. But I wonder...” He smooths a hand down my belly. “Does she taste any different?”
My gorilla-fisted heart thrashes as he makes slow, careful work of the buttons on my blouse. I let the garment slip from my shoulders. The underwire digs at my ribs as he forces my bra cups down. Heat gushes from his mouth with an audible whoosh.
“Still perfect,” he says. His thumbs graze my nipples, and everything inside me goes taut. “I want her eyes on me at all times. Tell me she understands.”
“She does.” My words are froth.
Ian bends to taste my nipples, one, then the other. Pleasure twinges between my legs, sharp and potent. Then, like whiplash, he releases me, and strides to the far side of the room to rest against the sink, his gaze apathetic. His feigned indifference is my undoing. At the office, I barely acknowledge praise, but when it comes to serving my Dom, I can be made or broken by a single word—or lack thereof.
“She should be naked,” he says.
I unfasten my bra, let my skirt and panties drop, each garment shed a symbol of my surrender. I’m about to unhook the corset when he raises a hand to stop me. He plucks my underwear off the floor, folds them, and tucks them into his pocket, from which he draws a strip of ivory leather.
My collar. He’s kept it all these years.
I am not prepared for this.
I fight the tightening around my eyes. “Of course she does.”
“Then she knows what to do.”
A moment of hesitation, then I lift my hair. This is all so familiar. Ian approaches, his features etched in stone; I envy him this capacity to become impenetrable. He fastens the collar around my neck, and I no longer belong to myself.
Ian’s mouth claims mine, hard and demanding, like he is against my thigh. A wintergreen cloud fills my head like helium. But instead of floating up, I delve deep, tunneling into myself—into memory itself. I hear the crack of a whip, feel the sting of a cane and the pressure of Ian’s hands on my hips, his fist around my throat. His tongue breaches my lips to fuck my mouth as his time-travel kiss fucks with my head. There’s a rush of euphoria, followed by the crushing weight of doubt and discontent. I am lost to it, wrenched apart by it. Reliving every moment from that very first kiss, up to and including our gut-wrenching goodbye.
I’m still reeling when he pulls away and stuffs my panties into my mouth.
“Give me her wrists,” he rasps.
I offer my hands. He extracts a pair of cuffs from a drawer by the stove, which he uses to secure my wrists. Ian kept all sorts of equipment stashed around the house when I lived here, in case he felt like doing blood play in the shower, or clamping my nipples during lunch. He pulls a chair out from the kitchen table and motions for me to sit. I drop onto the cold wood. He drags another chair out for himself and sits in front of me, blocking my knees so I can’t close them.
“Where should her hands be?” he asks.
How could I forget? I clasp them between my breasts, fingers intertwined.
Satisfied, he glides his palms up my thighs. Then down, then up, a little higher each time. He’s baiting me, seeing how long I can go before I beg. Once, I would’ve caved in seconds, but time has made me patient. Or, at the very least, more refined. I plead without words, using my body, my eyes, my breath.
Finally, his thumbs reach my labia. I gasp, the sum of my awareness dropping into my lap. He cracks the slightest of smiles when he feels how wet I am, then slides two fingers inside me. I bite down on my underwear as his thumb traces figure-eights over my clit.
“I apologize for my impatience,” Ian says, teasing the panties from my mouth. “I forgot to ask how her interview went.” He speaks calmly, like we’re old chums catching up over coffee. Technically, we are in his kitchen.
I wet my spit-chapped lips and try and remember how to form sentences. “It went well.”
“I’m pleased to hear it.” He fucks me with three fingers now, long, slow thrusts, then slips them into his mouth. “Still delicious.”
Ian kisses me again. I taste myself on his tongue. He presses on my clit, and I grind against him, so close to coming I might as well be gone.
“Will she take the job if they offer?” he asks.
His fingers stop moving.
“What did she tell them?”
“I told them I needed to think about it.” I expect him to admonish me for bungling my pronouns, but all he does is stare.
“Has she thought about it?”
“Not really,” I lie. Of course I’ve thought about it. Not only about the job, but about what moving here might mean for us. My clit throbs against his fingertips.
Ian scoots back and stands, unzips his slacks, and pulls out his gorgeous cock. He’s so erect that the head bounces off his shirt. Cupping the nape of my neck, he guides me forward. My lips part automatically as the tip brushes my mouth. I tease him with my lips and tongue before taking him deep, the skin of his cock tight and blood-hot. He tastes like strong brandy, like recklessness, like the past. I suck greedily, wanting him to feel how keenly I’ve missed him, how lucky I feel to be serving him now. I’m rewarded with a drop of salt.
Years ago, I’d have taken schadenfreudian pleasure in building Ian up just to shoot him down. Now, instead of using him for sex and then brushing him off, what I want more than anything is to forgive what I’ve been unable to forget: all the reasons I ultimately left. The anger and resentment, his emotional absenteeism and my own passive aggression.
Ian’s fingers curl around my collar. “If I had the power to forbid her from taking this off again, I would.”
Do it. Forbid me. Order me to keep it on. Cuff me to your bed and let me stay forever.
But I know that cannot happen. He doesn’t mean it; it’s just a game. Yet the fact that I want to say Yes so badly tells me I’m not nearly as immune to him as I should be. I should be thinking No. But there isn’t enough room in my mouth for both Ian’s cock and the word No, not that No would stop him. Only my safe word could do that.
Coming back here was a mistake; I see that now.
Starved for air, my chest tightens, entombed within its oversized finger trap. There’s no way I can stay here tonight and have the strength to leave in the morning. Not in this time capsule of a house.
As soon as he finishes, which shouldn’t be long, I’ll make up an excuse to go. But to my dismay, instead of coming, he withdraws, still hard, and holds my face with both hands.
“Charity,” he whispers.
My whole body stills. He says it again. Charity. Love of mankind. Money given freely to those in need. Goodwill and tenderness toward men.
My safe word.
He takes a seat in the chair across from me. I rest my hands in my lap.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
Ian shifts uncomfortably, covering himself with the hem of his shirt. “Look, Ayla, I know you’ve been looking forward to this. And I know we talked about playing casually while you’re in town.”
I sit quietly until I can no longer stand the silence. “But?”
“But...” He rubs his face. “If you’re thinking about taking that job... Christ, I just didn’t think they’d make an offer so soon. I thought we’d have more time.”
“Time for what?”
“For this. To see if there’s still something here.” He scoots his chair closer. I’ve never seen him so ruffled. It doesn’t suit him. “Ayla, I’ve missed you. I didn’t realize how much until you got here. And I know I made some terrible mistakes with you back then. I just want to say I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. I’m sorry I paid more attention to the number of views on my TED Talk than I did about whether or not you were listening, or what you had to say. You supported me, and I failed to do the same. For all my talk about being a responsible Dominant, I was lousy at it.”
I shrug one shoulder. “Not all the time.”
“No,” he says. “But often enough.”
Ian uncuffs my wrists and kisses them. Somehow, this gesture feels more intimate than anything we’ve done since I arrived.
“I think it’s clear that you and I have unfinished business,” he says. “I thought I could handle seeing you casually, but now that you’re here, I can tell that won’t be possible. And if you take that job...”
“Do you not want me to take it?”
He smooths my hair. “I want you to do work that matters to you. If that means staying where you are, I’ll be disappointed, but I’ll support you in that decision. If it means taking the offer and relocating to Boston, I’ll be there on moving day with coffee and an extra set of hands.” He clears his throat. “But as much as I would enjoy playing with you in the short-term, what I can’t do is play at being your Dom. It would have to be a more...permanent position.”
“You’re asking me to serve you again?” My hopes rise like champagne bubbles, but I do my best to cork them.
“To own you would be an honor and a privilege,” he says.
There's the work we do for money. To shelter, clothe, and feed ourselves. And then there's the work we do to feed our souls. If we're very, very lucky, the two can be one and the same.
I kneel at Ian’s feet with my hands clasped at my sternum. “It would be her honor to serve you, Sir.”
Smiling, he cups my chin, denting my lip with his thumb.
“Then she has work to do.”
I kiss and suck his fingers, then look to his face for permission to lift this shirt. He nods. I raise the hem, exposing his half-hard cock, which I pepper with kisses until he’s fully hard again. I wrap my lips around him and suck, bobbing my head, narrowing my cheeks, taking him deep and pressing my nose to his pubic bone.
Ian’s hands fist in my hair as he fucks my face. When he comes, I don’t swallow right away, because I know how much he likes to watch the white drip down my chin.
Rising on shaky legs, I straddle Ian’s lap and rest my head on his shoulder. He folds his arms around me and pets my back. I am love drunk, melting into the inevitable sweetness that awaits me. No matter how brutal the scene, Ian’s aftercare is always twice as tender.
Pressing a kiss to my forehead, he cups my mound in his big, warm hand and my entire pelvis throbs. He spreads my lips and teases my clit. I’m desperate to come, but knowing Ian, he’s going to make me earn it.
Like a promotion.
This story was originally published in The Sexy Librarian's Dirty 30, Vol. 2, edited by Rose Caraway.
Rachel Woe is a forbidden love junkie who probably watched too many inappropriate movies as a teenager. A longtime lover of risqué fiction, she used to smuggle Story of O and The Sleeping Beauty trilogy to school, folded inside brown-bag book covers. On the rare occasion when she’s neither reading nor writing, you can find her camped out at the back of the cinema or on the hunt for a perfect Irish eggs Benny.