“I don’t know why I’m so nervous,” Seth muttered as he finished shaving. “These are our friends. It’s just dinner.”
“Exactly.” Leah hugged him from behind, meeting his gaze in the bathroom mirror. “They are our friends. Family.”
Left unspoken, they’d also been Kaden’s friends. Many of them he’d known, met through Kaden and Leah. But Seth hadn’t known they were kinky until…
He didn’t want to go there tonight in his head. Not now. Even if part of tonight’s purpose was to raise a glass in Kaden’s memory while celebrating Leah’s birthday early.
Tonight’s dinner was just that—dinner and reminiscing. Ed and Hope, Pat and Lyla, Tony and Shayla, Ross and Loren, Walt and Holly, Derrick and Marcia, Mason, Cole, and Kim, and Scrye and June. They were the ones who could come to this private dinner. Tilly, Cris, and Landry had been invited but couldn’t make it because of their schedule, as had a couple of others.
This was…the core.
The birthplace of the Suncoast Society.
Well, some of the people, their partners hadn’t been around back then.
Tonight was casual, barbecue and memories, a toast.
The only reason Seth was doing this was Leah had asked him to. She’d wanted a quiet, peaceful, relaxing evening with their friends.
“I’m okay,” she said, echoing his thoughts.
“That’s spooky, babe.”
“I could see it in your face. I’m okay. I feel strong. That’s why I wanted to do this.”
“I know.” He patted her hands, where they’d settled on his midsection. “Let me finish shaving.”
In all honesty, he…just wasn’t feeling Christmasy this year. Not really. Not in a social kind of way. He just didn’t have the energy to be…chipper. He hoped he was putting on a good enough front for Leah, but maybe it was finally having survived the fallout, now he was experiencing a long-delayed reaction.
Absolutely he wanted to decorate the yard and house, yes.
But he wanted to cocoon himself with Leah within its walls, stare, and reminisce. He didn’t want to…people.
It was a feeling he knew would come and go, too. Because he might wake up the next morning eager to get their holiday play party plans finalized.
This, too, shall pass.
The sad melancholy.
Christmas had always been Kaden’s holiday, and Seth would always honor it and his friend.
There were too many good memories embedded in his brain not to.
Yet he’d hit a point where with Leah solidly grounded and doing well in a way even she admitted she never believed possible, and with their financial and personal lives in order…
It allowed him to finally notice the gaping void in his soul.
He could and would fake it. He’d been doing that.
Until his dying day, he’d carry Kaden’s final words in his memory, the sound of his best friend taking his final breaths.
The feel of curling up next to him in bed, Leah on Kaden’s other side, both of them holding him as the ultimate control freak finally released his tenacious grip on this plane and…continued on without them to whatever came next.
Seth wished he believed in heaven or reincarnation or any other number of religious ideologies where he could pretend Kaden was frolicking with a whip and rope bunnies and enjoying the hell out of himself.
Seth had nearly talked himself out of believing that the Halloween sights at the party they’d thrown last year had been spectral visions of the man.
Even though he wouldn’t tell Leah that. If it made her feel better to think that, so be it.
Maybe I need to go to the doctor. Maybe I’m depressed.
As he looked into the mirror once more, for a brief moment he thought he saw Kaden’s grey gaze peering at him.
Closing his eyes, he counted to three. When he opened them again, it was just his own face staring back at him.
Okay, I definitely need some time with friends to take my mind off things. Obviously, I’m exhausted and too deep in my own head.
* * * *
Leah knew Seth had only gone along with this for her sake.
There was a secret she’d held back from him, though. One of the few cards left by Kaden for her alone, given to her by Ed before they’d even thrown the first Halloween party following Kaden’s death.
Instructions for her about Seth.
Once Seth knows you’re okay and he’s not obsessing over you, he might get depressed. Maybe, if you feel up to it, have a private dinner at the house with the old gang. The original gang. You know who I mean, love. The old-timers. God knows they heard enough about Seth from me that they might be able to gently help him refocus and center himself. Ground him.
I can’t tell you exactly when to do this. That’s up to you based on how he’s doing. But I know that man nearly as well as I know myself, and I know if our positions were reversed, I’d be feeling like that. If you don’t have the strength to do it, I understand, but I think it’d really help him.
Don’t give up on him, sweetheart. If you’ve made it this far, I know you’ll be okay with him. Let him know he doesn’t have to be strong all the time. I know I can’t change what’s happened, but I wish I’d said something to him years ago, when he split with Kelly. I should have, and you were right. I did the best I could back then, love. Perhaps I tried to control things too much. Too exacting.
Do what you feel is best, but please, don’t let my best friend slip away from life and living. Don’t let him dwell too long or deeply. Help him see there are others who can be there for him now, who he should lean on when he needs to. Tell them that. Tell them why you need the dinner for him. Tell them that I asked them to please do this for him.
I love you, Leah. I know you can do this. I know you’re strong enough. And I know you’ll always make me proud.
At the time, she’d sat in Ed’s office and sobbed as she read it, because…well, she knew.
Kaden was right. So, so right. With Seth feeling confident knowing she was okay, and with their college classes now behind them, and their real estate management doing well…
The void in their life was now unavoidably there for Seth. How many times had she caught him unconsciously turning Kaden’s wedding band on his finger? The one Kaden himself had put there just before he died.
But until now, she really hadn’t felt it was the right time, or that Seth was hitting a deep enough low, that she needed to do this. He’d always bounced back before she’d given serious thought to holding that dinner.
Now, with the anniversary of Kaden’s death rolling up on them again, it was time to do this.
And when she’d personally called everyone to invite them, she’d done just as Kaden asked and told them why she wanted to have this dinner. Told them what Kaden had asked of her.
The ghost of Kaden past helping out in the present.
Or would that make it the ghost of Kaden present helping in the future?
In retrospect, they realized everything he’d prepared, he’d done so in the early months right after his diagnosis, completing them and getting them out of his way so he didn’t have to worry about anything.
Kaden the control freak.
Even with everything Leah had to do for the banquet, this was no burden for her. Not really.
Seth was now her Master and husband. These people were her true extended family. The ones who’d been there as much as they could for them when they needed them the most.
The ones who’d understood.
The ones who’d keenly felt Kaden’s loss in their circle, not just his death but his absence, and who had strived to carry on his philosophy to the next generation of people finding their way to the lifestyle.
To welcome newbies, to help educate, to teach safety and fun and finding their own way without guilt and without saddling themselves with preconceived notions.
Extend hospitality and kindness to those who were struggling to come to terms with their truths, sometimes following years of self-denial.
To make sure they always had a place to feel like they were at home.
Tonight would be about embracing that, and the people she loved.
All while remembering the man who was the reason they were all there to start with.
Finally, when they were able to leave, Kaden found the note in the Lexus and chuckled as he read it. “We have our orders from Sir, love.”
She wore a pouty expression. “He didn’t even say good-bye.”
Kaden grabbed her chin and kissed her, hard, until she melted and he felt her body responding. “You will obey Sir, and you will obey me. Understand?”
Glancing around, he realized there wasn’t anyone close enough to see what they were doing, and the lot was dark enough to conceal them. He shoved the hem of her dress up with his left hand, sliding his fingers between her thighs.
Her legs automatically spread for him.
He cupped the back of her neck with his right hand as he slid two fingers into her pussy.
She hadn’t been allowed panties tonight.
A moan escaped her.
“That’s more like it,” he said. “My good girl, doing as she’s told. I need to know that you will obey your Sir the way you obey me.”
“Yes, Master,” she gasped, already trying to hump his hand.
She fell still even as another whimper filled the car.
“This is Sir’s birthday gift to you. You don’t want to be ungrateful, do you?”
“No, Master.” She already sounded like she was slipping into subspace.
“It’s also his Christmas present to both of us. And I plan on enjoying it.”
Less than an hour later, they were checked into their room and Kaden had opened the bottle of champagne. He made Leah strip, except for her heels and the formal leather collar he’d buckled around her neck from the items Seth had included in the bag. Then Kaden had turned off the lights in the room and opened the balcony doors. They stood on the secluded balcony and sipped champagne as the cool Gulf salt air swept over them. It was dark and the moon just a sliver, meaning no one who might be on the beach could see them.
He’d only shed his jacket. He moved behind her, his cock hard in his tuxedo slacks and pressing against the seam of her bare ass. “How many times have I fucked you while wearing this, love?”
She tipped her head back. “Not nearly enough times, Master.” She wiggled her ass against him, making him even harder.
He finished his champagne and took her empty glass from her and set them on a table out there. Then he grabbed her by the hair and kissed her, hard, tipping her head back almost to the point she lost balance, before lowering her to her knees.
“Then if someone wants a good fucking, I suggest they get busy showing their Master how eager they are.”
He glanced around but spotted no one who could see them as she unzipped his fly and fished his cock out, engulfing it.
Cradling her head in his hands, he buried his cock to the root in her mouth, holding it and waiting a long moment before withdrawing. She held on to his thighs, her control now totally ceded to him as he fucked her willing mouth.
“Sir included some interesting toys, love. You’ll spend some of the weekend with a butt plug in. I expect we’ll be getting delivery or room service.”
She moaned in agreement as her tongue did delicious things to his cock. He tightened his grip on her head and slowed his pace, afraid if he blew too fast that he might not be able to get it up for her again that night.
One of the bad effects he’d noticed lately. Not just his body’s stamina the cancer was eating away.
After a few minutes of that, he brought her back inside and slapped her on the ass. “Hands and knees, love. On the bed.” He closed the balcony doors as she complied.
Walking back to the bags, he dug out lube, a butt plug, and one of the nitrile gloves Seth had handily provided.
Spending several minutes teasing her while he lubed her ass, he finally started fucking the butt plug into her rim as she moaned and rocked her hips against him.
“Maybe I’ll make you wear it home,” he said. “So Sir can fuck your sweet ass when we get back Sunday evening.”
Her back arched as her moans rolled through her.
Yep, she was deep in subspace.
Once he had the butt plug seated inside her, he stripped off the glove and flipped her onto her back. Shoving his pants down enough he could fuck her, he slowly entered her, smiling as she did her level best to get him to fuck her faster, harder, deeper.
He’d take his time and savor this.
After draping her legs over his shoulders, he pinned her wrists over her head. He could have put the leather cuffs on her, but didn’t want to just yet.
He loved holding her down and knowing she enjoyed it as much as he did. When he looked back at the early days, he could almost laugh at himself and his reactions to the whole situation then. Understandable reactions, because he’d had no clue what he was doing except trying to keep her safe the only way he knew how.
Blindly flailing through the dark and hoping to grab hold of an answer to protect her from herself.
After that first night, when he’d totally lost his shit and spanked her, he’d sworn to himself he would never, ever lay a hand on her again if he wasn’t one hundred percent sure he was in complete control of his emotions.
That had been a hard one, because there’d always been a level of fear in the early years. Fear of harming her, of going too far, of not going far enough. He’d had to refine that definition to mean terror, and illogical and irrational lack of control.
Measured worry and careful caution were good kinds of fear that had helped him learn so much in their years together.
Slanting his lips over hers, he kissed her, swallowing her needy moans, savoring every moment.
Trying to freeze it in time, absorb it into his cells, into his DNA. Whatever happened next—in the grand scheme of things—he wanted part of this and every moment to be carried with him into that, if possible.
Slowly fucking her, he patiently bided his time, knowing from the way she rocked her hips below him that she was trying, working her way up that slope. He lifted his lips from hers.
“Come for me, love,” he whispered. “Give it to me. Be my good girl.”
She raised her head, trying to chase his lips and kiss him again. He smiled, still just out of reach. “No, you do what I said.”
Another whimper, more rocking, a slightly desperate sound to her breathing as she struggled to make it, to follow his orders.
To please him.