Sondra madly loves George, but when he asks her to take the next step in their relationship and move in with him, she gives him an ultimatum: Dominate me. She wants him forever, but she needs more.
Five years ago, George walked away from BDSM and the life he’d lived most of his adult life after one tragic night and a scene gone wrong.
Now, the woman of his dreams needs him to be her Dom, to add a little pain to the pleasure. He’s not sure he has it in him, but for Sondra, he’ll try…
George Morgan smelled the mouth-watering aroma of food before he slipped the key into the lock of the front door to his townhouse. He smiled to himself as he walked in. “Honey, I’m home.”
His heart swelled with love as Sondra peeked her head around the corner from the kitchen, grinned at him, and said, “Hi, babe.” By the time he’d set his briefcase down and kicked off his shoes, she was walking toward him with that gorgeous smile on her face and a short shot of Black Label in a rocks glass in her hand.
Sweeping her into his arms, he kissed her deeply, cupping her butt in his palms and sinking his tongue into her mouth, tasting the sweet tang of the zinfandel she favored. “Mmm. Now that, you gorgeous woman, is how I like to be greeted when I get home from work.”
She chuckled and kissed him again, this time almost chastely, before she pulled from his arms. “Here. Take this. I’ve got to get back to the fish.”
He took the glass from her and sipped, sighed, and felt so…complete. The fact that she was here cooking him dinner could only mean one thing—she’d made up her mind. But Sondy liked to do things her own way, and he’d wait until she brought up the subject. He moseyed into the kitchen and watched her work at the counter, chopping veggies for salad, checking the fish filets every so often as they sizzled in a pan on the stove. When he moved up close, she glanced over her shoulder at him.
“What, what?” he teased.
“What are you staring at?”
She’d obviously come over right after work, because she wore a silky, off-white blouse and matching slacks that hid her long, shapely legs but made her ass look good enough to eat.
“You. You look good there.”
She frowned at him. “Barefoot and in the kitchen?”
He laughed and cupped her butt again. “That, too.” He winked and then took another sip of his drink. “God, hon, you are gorgeous.”
She stood almost six feet tall in her bare feet, just a couple of inches shorter than him. She was built. From her long legs to her slender fingers, to the sexy, exotic tilt of her big, dark chocolate eyes, he’d never seen anything more gorgeous in his life. She had large breasts that made his mouth water, hips just right for holding on to, the perfect high, round ass, and when she wrapped herself around him, all long limbs and soft woman, he knew there was nowhere else in the world he ever wanted to be.
“You’re not so bad yourself, G.G. Why don’t you go sit down and stop making me nervous?”
He laughed again, pushing a handful of her long, thin braids to the side so he could kiss her neck, the little colorful beads woven into her hair clicking softly. He breathed in her musky, floral scent and sighed in contentment. “Nothing makes you nervous, so don’t even pretend.”
She batted her long eyelashes and tried to act very innocent, which failed when that wicked gleam entered her eyes.
“I love you,” he whispered against her lips.
She kissed him, softly, gently, and touched his cheek. “I love you too, George. Now, out of the kitchen or we’ll never eat.”
He waggled his eyebrows at her, which made her laugh, but he moved around the counter to the small dining room where she’d set the table with two place settings in his white stoneware and cheap stainless steel flatware. He wanted to buy her china and silver, diamonds and gold. Her agreeing to move in with him was just the beginning. He had an eighteen-month plan that would culminate in a wedding of her choosing, wherever she wanted, whatever she wanted, though he’d love to see her in a big white dress.
His Sondy had been raised in the projects, first generation American of Nigerian descent. But she’d fought her way out, went to college on scholarship, and now ran the HR department of a huge mortgage company, making a good enough living to buy her hard-working mother a small condo in the suburbs. He had never met a woman like her, and he knew she was the one for him. They were compatible in all ways. Never in his life had simply looking at a woman made him ready to drop to his knees and beg her to be his forever…until now.
She was very cautious, though, so he’d started with proposing she move in with him. She’d made it clear, very early in their relationship, that she wouldn’t jump into anything—except his bed, it seemed. She was the aggressor there, which had been thrilling, even though he’d known from day one she was special—too special to mess things up—and he’d tried valiantly to be a gentleman and not rush into bed.
She didn’t take relationships lightly. She needed her space, which he would give her even if they resided under the same roof. She’d had a fucked up childhood and some abusive relationships in her young adult years. Now she knew what she wanted, what she didn’t want, and she would do things on her terms. End of discussion. He’d waited until the six-month anniversary of their meeting before he even dared broach the subject of moving to the next step. He’d been terrified of pushing too hard. When she’d said she needed to think about it, he’d been a little afraid, but at least she hadn’t said no.
She was here, in his home—which she’d had the key to for a good four and half months—cooking him dinner the night after he’d asked her to move in. Things were looking good. Real good.
“Would you pour the water, please?” she asked, passing a glass pitcher of ice water onto the breakfast bar that separated the kitchen and dining room.
He got up and grabbed the carafe. She was very proper when they ate in. She could cook like no one’s business—he told her she should have been a restaurateur, at which she laughed so hard she snorted. When they ate in, she set the table, whether it was just take-out pizza or something fancy and meaningful, like tonight. They had their drinks; wine, beer, soda, milk, and always a glass of ice water. She said it didn’t matter what kind of shithole—her word—they’d lived in growing up, her mother had always set the table for dinner.
When she told him about the one Christmas dinner where she and her mother had split a can of baked beans her mother had stolen from the corner market, just so they wouldn’t starve, she said her mother served it on chipped china saucers she’d scrounged out of a trash bin. His heart had broken. And then when he met her mother, a scrappy little wiry woman with an accent so thick sometimes Sondy had to translate, he’d fallen in love all over again. He adored Asa as much as he did his own mother. Gracey Morgan, along with her second husband the retired army sergeant, had brought him and his two brothers up in an upper middle-class neighborhood, giving them anything they could possibly need.
Though his household had been a pretty strict one, with the sergeant keeping them all in line, they hadn’t had family dinnertime other than holidays, and those had been spent at one uncle’s or cousin’s or another. He and his brothers, all grouped in a four-year age range, had grown up close, got into fights often—mostly with each other—but had been involved in just about every after-school activity except cheerleading. Family time was going to one game or another together, not sitting at the dinner table…sharing.
He’d grown to love having dinner with Sondy, and often with her mother, sitting together, looking at each other over a wonderful meal—Sondy’s mother was a fabulous cook too—and sharing what had gone on in their day, their week, plans, wishes and dreams.
George planned to make sure the three of them, Sondy, Asa, and he, took a vacation to the Grand Canyon next summer. Sondy’s mother had once said it was the one place she dreamed of seeing—a spiritual place, she’d called it.
Sondy set a plate in front of him, placed one on the empty spot next to his, and turned around to grab her glass of wine.
“This smells wonderful, hon,” he said, spreading the paper napkin out and laying it over his lap. Grilled tilapia with a golden brown coating of panko, lightly buttered roasted red potatoes with onions and garlic, asparagus spears, and a small bowl of green salad. He even loved her green salad, because she put everything in it. This time he could see sliced green grapes and some dried cranberries. The vinegar dressings she made from scratch were to die for.
“I tried a new recipe for the fish,” she said as she spread her own napkin and picked up her fork. “There’s a little something in there that should be a surprise.”
He smiled at her and reached for her hand. “I’m glad you’re here, Sondy. And I like anything you cook.”
She smiled, but it was small and didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Honey?” he said softly. “You okay?”
She nodded, squeezed his hand, then pulled away and picked up the butter knife.
He watched her eat with precision for a few moments. She used the knife to cut the fish, even though it was so tender it practically fell apart. She cut her potatoes, already in bite-sized pieces, into smaller pieces. She poked her fork into her salad a couple times, picking up just the right combination of pieces.
Her eyes lifted, and she said, “What?”
He smiled. “I just like watching you.”
She put the forkful of veggies in her mouth and slowly chewed while keeping eye contact.
His gut tightened, and he couldn’t exactly figure out why. Something wasn’t right.
Oh, God. Was she going to say no? Was this dinner to soften the blow? She didn’t want to live with him? He set his fork down as the taste of the few bites he’d taken turned sour in his mouth. He lifted his glass of Black Label and drained it.
Sondra took of a sip of her wine.
“You’re not moving in, are you?” he asked.
She swallowed. “Please, eat first.”
He closed his eyes and took a slow, deep breath as his heart shattered. “I can’t eat now. Just tell me, get it over with.” She loved him, he knew she did, so why couldn’t she commit? She’d had it bad, but she was in her midthirties now, and he thought she’d gotten over the trauma of asshole men who’d taken advantage of an innocent, young, scared—
“I love you, George.”
She took another bite of fish, another bite of potatoes. Obviously the decision to rip out his heart didn’t affect her appetite. Finally, she set her fork aside, demurely wiped her mouth with her napkin, and said, “There’s something…I need…” She let out a tiny laugh and glanced away.
His stomach clenched so hard he thought he might throw up. “What do you need?”
Sondra was never nervous, never acted like this. She’d been straightforward from the moment he met her. Assured of herself in all things. “I’ll do anything, honey.” He leaned forward and picked up her hand from her lap. “Anything at all.”
“This was easier when I practiced it in my head.” She squeezed his hand then stood up and disappeared down the hallway. He waited, not so patiently, for her to return, carrying a black plastic shopping bag.
She sat back down, pushed her plate aside, and set the bag on the table in front of her. Finally she looked at him. “George,” she said softly. “Do you know what BDSM is?”
He choked. Literally. He gasped and started coughing.
“Oh…” Sondra picked up his glass of water and held it out to him, which he took and gulped.
Eyes watering, he met her gaze again. “What did you say?”
She licked her full lips, her pretty tongue so pink against her dark skin. “From your reaction, I think you heard me.”
He cleared his throat a couple of times. “BDSM. As in the whole bondage thing?”
She nodded. “Yes. Bondage, Domination, Discipline, Submission, Masochism.”
George shut his eyes as a cold sweat popped out on his forehead, his gut tightening. She’d found out. Dear God above, she’d found out his dirty, not so little, secret. It was over. He’d never see her again. “Yes,” he said, his voice hoarse with suppressed emotion. “Yes, I know what it is.”
“How much do you know about it?”
He opened his eyes, wanting to yell at her. She didn’t play games, so why this? To see if he’d be honest? What did it matter? His sweet, beautiful Sondra would run now. His once abused Sondra…
“I know what it is, Sondra,” he said honestly.
“Have you ever…” She sucked her bottom lip between her teeth. “Have you ever experimented?”
He ground his teeth and fisted his hands against his thighs. “Yes.”
A small smile flitted across her lips. “Oh, good.” And then her smile grew. “I was worried something like this would turn you off.”
It took a long moment for his brain to catch up with her words. “What are you talking about?”
She smiled even more now. “Okay, that was the hard part.” She seemed to be talking more to herself than to him as she reached into the black plastic bag and withdrew a book. It had a black and white cover with a pair of bound hands. The title was in an odd script that he couldn’t read upside down. “I love you, George. You’re…almost perfect.”
He frowned, so confused his head started to hurt.
“But there’s something missing in my life—in our life together—and it’s a deal breaker for me.”
“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”
“I know.” She reached to his lap and picked up his right hand in hers, bringing it to the tabletop. “I know, and I’m so afraid what I have to say will make you run. I was worried I’d have to start from the beginning, explaining what BDSM is and everything, and I’m glad I don’t have to go back that far. But I got you this book.” She pushed it across the table so it sat next to his plate. “It explains the psychology behind it, so you don’t think I’m completely messed up in the head for wanting—needing—this.
George was pretty sure he was going to throw up.
“I love you.”
“You’ve said that.”
“I know you love me, and you want me to move in with you.”
That was the plan. He nodded.
“I have…” She licked her lips, a nervous habit he’d never seen from her in the six months they’d been together. “I have a request. A need.”
She squeezed his hand. “I need to be dominated.”
George surged out of his chair and moved away from the table, into the kitchen and the liquor cabinet, and pulled out the bottle of Black Label.
Fuck it. He didn’t bother getting his glass. He unscrewed the lid and tipped the bottle to his lips.
“George!” Sondra grabbed the bottle from his hand, splashing some of the alcohol on his face and shirt.
He turned to face her, his ears ringing, his heart thudding. “You can’t be serious, Sondra. You can’t mean that. After the life you’ve had, the…the abuse. You can’t want to be dominated. You’re the most unsubmissive woman I’ve ever met.”
She set the bottle of alcohol on the counter and took both of his hands in hers. “You need to read that book. Please. It has nothing to do with being strong or submissive in the real world. This is something I need in our private life. In the bedroom. I’m not into the whole living-as-a-slave thing or anything.”
She chuckled, and he winced. The thought of his Nubian goddess as a slave made him sick.
“This has to do with needing a man to…” She licked her lips again. “Oh, God, George.” She leaned against his chest and wrapped her arms around him, burying her face against his neck. “Please be open-minded about this.”
She sounded so desperate. Unsure of herself. It killed him. This was not his Sondy. His strong, strong-willed woman.
“I just need you to…”
He ran his hands up and down her arms. “What do you need?”
She loosened her grip around him and leaned back to look into his eyes. “I need you to overpower me. Dominate me.” She swallowed and slowly blinked. “You are the man of my dreams, and no one has ever treated me the way you do. You respect me, love me, make me feel like a princess. But I need…more.”
“You were abused.”
“Because he was a bastard who tricked me into believing he was a Dom. He wasn’t a Dom; he was a control freak who liked hurting women.”
“You didn’t tell me that.”
“I was embarrassed. I made a mistake.”
“What if you’re making a mistake now?”
“The only mistake I’d be making is if I moved in with you, committed to you, and had issues I hadn’t talked to you about.”
“I didn’t know you weren’t happy in the bedroom. I’ve always…I tried to be an unselfish lover.”
“You are. You’re amazing. It’s me who has the problem. I like a little pain with my pleasure.”
He started to shake his head, but she grabbed his face. “Don’t say no. Please, George, don’t say no like that.” It was the tears, making her eyes extra shiny, that stopped him. She didn’t cry. She was the strongest person he knew. “Give it a chance,” she whispered. “Please. Because this is a deal breaker for me.”
“You can’t be serious.” He throat was so thick with suppressed fear he practically croaked the words.
A tear dripped from her eye and rolled down her cheek.
“Oh, God.” He pulled her against him and buried his face against her neck. “Don’t cry. Please don’t ever cry.”
She sniffed once and wound her arms around him. “I’m not crazy, George. I’m not. I got introduced to the lifestyle while in college, and then I sought counseling because I thought I was sick and depraved for craving it. I’m not. I’m normal. It’s fantasy for me. Only in the bedroom, not in my daily life. I don’t want to walk around the house naked all the time. I don’t want to wear a collar or anything. I just want—need—a man to dominate me more often than not in the bedroom. Tie me up, spank me, whip me, blindfold me, sexually torture me. I need this to be sexually fulfilled. You are a beautiful man, a loving man, and I wish I could ignore this part of me.” She pulled back again and cupped his face between her hands. “I realize this might not be fair to you, but it would be more unfair to me to commit to you when I know there’s something missing in my life, that I’d never be totally, completely fulfilled. I want you to be the only one. I want it more than anything.”
George closed his eyes and touched his forehead to hers. “Sondra… I…”
She put her fingers over his mouth to stop his words. “Read the book. Check out the rest of what’s in that bag.” She moved her fingers and kissed his lips oh so softly. “You know where to reach me.”
She moved out of his arms, but he kept hold of her wrist when she would have walked away from him. “And if I can’t?”
She dropped her gaze and pulled from his hand. “I think I’ve made that clear.” And then she walked out of the kitchen, and he stood there, listening to her put her shoes on and pick up her purse and keys from the side table in the hallway. The door quietly clicked closed behind her.
He grabbed the bottle of Black Label from the counter and tipped it again, taking a long swig that burned from his throat to his gut.
Five years ago he’d walked away from the lifestyle for good. Trained himself to be gentle with a woman. Tamed his need to dominate. It had become a drug to him, and like a drug, he’d needed more and more and more of it. Until one night he’d gone too far.
He was terrified his addiction, if he gave in to it even a little, would consume him once again.
He wasn’t sure he could do that for anyone, even the love of his life.
Carrying the bottle, he went back to the table, picked up the black bag by the bottom and dumped it out. Silk ties, a blindfold, faux fur-covered handcuffs, and a sleek little vibrator. He ran his index finger over the smooth material of the blindfold and shuddered.