So she talked with the president of the food bank for a while, in between mingling with other guests, patrons, and entertainers. She was so vastly irritated when she was needed in the kitchen that she told Carlos to keep an eye out for Ari Braverman, “the lawyer from the other day.” She was aware she was practically ripping her sous chef’s head off for asking what was actually an important question about the rabbit. They were heatedly discussing how to properly fry the sage leaves when the harried Carlos stuck his head into the kitchen and motioned impatiently for her.
Chaos. I don’t need any more chaos in my life.
“Okay,” Natasha told the sous chef, suddenly eager to get out of there. “Frying it like that is perfect. Good job.” And just like that, she washed her hands of the entire sage issue and sped back to the dining room. She was temporarily waylaid by a group of Jane Dough’s wine tasting club members, but she cut it short and sped on. Then some moron from City Hall wanted to yammer at her about the wine selection. She tried to gently tell him to see her sommelier. She couldn’t be expected to know everything about everything, after all.
Then she saw Ari out of the corner of her eye. Who could miss that exquisitely tailored suit, the cultured tilt of his head, the broad, squared shoulders? Even in a room where about half of the men wore suits, Ari stood out as though a spotlight shone on him. Maybe it was just Natasha’s unrequited feelings for him, but she literally stumbled on her words in mid-sentence.
“My sommelier David selected some kosher wines—uh.” Did I just say “uh”? Am I standing here frozen like a statue? Yes, Bob Thornton is staring oddly at me. Her heart racing, her palms sweating, Natasha looked back at Bob but could only muster a ridiculous grimace.
“Kosher wines?” said Bob. “Well, that sounds just dandy.”
It was not just Natasha’s imagination that Mr. Braverman’s gaze was fixated on her, too. It was as though everyone around them milling and chattering turned to soft focus, fading into the fringes of her awareness. Ari, pausing with a wine glass in his hand, became sharper. The easygoing smile seemed to melt just for her, and even Bob Thornton from Public Works seemed to fall through a trap door in the floor.
“Excuse me,” Natasha said vaguely, much too quietly to be heard, and rudely walked toward Ari.
Yes, he was welcoming her with that wide, gleaming smile. He had a dignified elegance, and Natasha wasn’t even ashamed in the slightest that she’d fantasized about sitting on his face. It was true—Ari had that “just fucked” look that softened his well-groomed features, as though Natasha were the only person in the room he wanted to speak with.
As though she were of the utmost importance, the pinnacle of all his interest, the—
Oh, dear God. Those people he’s with. I know them. They’re from The Sandbox.
Abruptly, the smile fell from Natasha’s face. Unbidden, her body made a hard right down another aisle of tables. Her blurry, stinging eyes saw a table full of people congratulating her on something or other, but she just smiled and waved. Smile and wave, and keep walking to your office.
She successfully passed the table of happy people, but near the hostess stand again Moe intercepted her. “Say, Tasha, hate to bother you, but can you find out when they’re going to be able to start serving the green bean salad? I think people are getting hungry and they sure are hitting up the wine awful fast…”
Moe said some more stuff that sounded like blah blah blah while Natasha tried to breathe. The people milling around Ari were clearly friends or at least acquaintances of his. The one tall platinum blonde woman who had her hand on Ari’s shoulder was even collared, as Natasha had been collared to Emmanuel. Natasha knew the women and the two dominant men as being patrons of The Sandbox because they often discussed it freely, as though it were some kind of art association or community theater. The Sandbox was a local bondage club where—well, Natasha didn’t know much about it, having never dared to venture there, being a responsible businessperson and all that. Was that woman collared to Ari?
She stammered, “You’ve never…brought anyone here?”
“Never,” was all he’d say, and he reached behind a ceramic pot that sat on top of the low wall. “The Sandbox people told me where to get these cuffs and other…things.”
Nipple clamps. Natasha was in her element with that implement, and she looked down with interest as Ari slid the tweezer clamps onto her nipples with surgical precision. His gaze flickered back and forth from her face to her nipple, then back to her face. No doubt he was gauging her reaction to the varying tension of the clamps. She writhed, gritting her teeth and arching her neck, and he must have liked what he saw, for he left the clamps tight.
He sat back between her thighs to regard her with amusement. She snarled through her clenched teeth, snorting and bucking like a caged feline. “Do it, you bastard,” she seethed, like an actress in an exorcism movie.
Ari drew himself up. “Whoa, whoa! Who holds all the cards around here, young missy? I don’t think you’re in any position to issue orders. This deserves punishment.” Magically, from behind the same pot Ari revealed a pair of scissors, and with one snip he easily did away with the strip of panty shielding her pussy.
He admired the view while she undulated her spine mightily, like the swells of a stormy ocean. She just wanted him to touch her! Make me come, you bastard! Fuck me in the mouth or pussy! Just do something! Stop teasing me! But she knew this was part of clit torture, and she shouldn’t have been surprised when he swished several fingers quickly over her extended, swollen clit. Of course she jumped about a foot in the air and had to clench her jaw so tightly it hurt. Again and again he swiped his fingers, just enough to set her utterly on edge.
She could have safeworded, of course. She could have even crawled up the side of the wall and leaped over it. She could have brought her bound hands around her front and diddled herself into ecstasy. But this was part of the game, remaining at his beck and call, and Natasha loved it. Every time he brushed the flats of his fingers across her throbbing clitoris she cried out involuntarily and writhed even more furiously. She was trying to kiss the sky with her cunt, shaking and shimmying every time he so much as brushed his hand anywhere near her pussy. Yet he kept it soft enough to guarantee she’d never be able to come.
She shouted through her clenched teeth. “Ari...” Her warning tone did nothing to speed up his toying with her. Her pussy’s inner walls clutched at nothing hollowly, and her helplessness only heightened the anticipation. Would he turn her over his knee, like he had in her office? Would he lightly stroke her cunt, or would he choose the more severe option?
“You’ve got a lovely pussy,” he said now. He smiled, so relaxed, while she just wanted to scream and tear his—or her own—hair out! He gave her clit three or four serious, sensuous strokes of the thumb. Ten more of those and she would’ve been crashing into the heavens with a thunderous orgasm. But Ari seemed to know this. Even more casually now, he removed his tie slowly. “I think I came up with the right word for you. Firecracker. I can just tell that when I allow you to come you’ll just explode. You’re like a live wire, just crackling with electricity. You love being played with, don’t you?”
Natasha did explode then. “Ari! Will you hurry the fuck up?” She knew this would gain her more punishment, but it would probably be the sort she liked.
She was right. Again he frowned, twining his necktie around his knuckles. He tensed the silk between his hands, uncaring if he was ruining the Italian material. “You’re just a fresh, saucy little lady, aren’t you? I’m going to have to do something about that mouth on you.” And with one fluid motion, he kneeled over Natasha and whipped the tie around the back of her skull. A few simple knots and she was completely gagged. She whinnied like a horse and thrashed her head back and forth, but he had expertly prevented her from notifying his neighbors of their games.
Once more he reached behind the pot and withdrew what looked like a little riding crop. Aha. She was familiar with this item, too. It was a “flapper,” a combination of a flogger and a crop, with four leather falls that could be teased lightly or thwacked. Natasha fell silent and stopped writhing with anticipation of what might come next. She panted through her nostrils, her eyes burning.
There it was—the arrogant, smoldering flash in his eyes. She’d known it was there from the stories she’d heard about the trauma room, the brass balls, the ambitious barracuda. He claimed he’d mellowed out, but she didn’t think anyone ever lost that drive, that determination, that quest for power. His eyes narrowed and he slapped her labia with the flapper. It made a sharp crack there in the still courtyard air.
“You need to remember your place, woman.” Thwack. Again and again he slapped her, in such a precise way that every slap got her juices flowing even more. Smack. Not too hard, and definitely not too soft, Ari flogged her pussy in exactly the right manner. Every smack brought her higher and higher up the cliff. He continued the teasing, the torture he’d started with his fingers, only now he upped the ante. He smacked her pussy loudly and now he reached out and diddled her constrained nipple. That was when she screamed.