Read an Excerpt
Nathaniel looked at me as if I’d sprouted horns. “You think we should what?” he gasped.
Exactly the reaction I’d expected. I took a sip of my red wine and repeated myself. “I think we shouldn’t have sex the month before the wedding.”
“I was afraid that’s what you said.” He tilted his head. “Why?”
I picked up my napkin and pretended to wipe my mouth in order to hide my smile. Why? This from the man who had been so scared to talk about anything at the beginning of our relationship. Quite a change from the one who sat across the table from me now. The one who felt the need to discuss the whys and why nots and even the I don’t care, whatevers about almost everything.
“I know the napkin trick,” he said with a smile of his own. “I’m just a bit curious as to why you would suggest a month-long period of abstinence when you have long-term sexual deprivation marked as a hard limit.”
“I suppose the smart-ass answer is what’s the definition of ‘long term’? To see your face a few minutes ago, you’d think your definition is a week.”
“A week for me is long term.”
I laughed. “Then let’s just say this is me pushing your limits.”
“Pushing limits is my job,” he said in a serious tone of voice, but his eyes were lit with amusement.
“I’m pushing mine, too, you know. Seriously, a month with nothing after one of our normal weeks?” I tried to count on average how often we had sex during a typical week, but gave up. Between our everyday lives during the week and our weekend lives when I wore his collar, well, there was a lot of sex.
“It’s not as if I’ve never gone a month, you know,” Nathaniel said. “And by abstaining, do you mean just us together or can we get off individually?”
I couldn’t help it; I laughed again.
“What?” he asked.
“Just you being you. Trying to establish the rules of something we haven’t even agreed to yet.”
“I want to make sure I’m making an informed and well thought-out decision,” he said in typical Nathaniel fashion. Always the planner. Always with backup plans. Hell, I bet even his backup plans had backup plans.
“You’re smiling at me again,” he said.
I reached across the table and took his hand. “Just smiling at you being you.”
He lifted my hand to his lips and placed a small kiss on my knuckles. “So tell me why we should do this month-long thing.” He took my hand and traced the line at the base of my thumb. I shivered. “Because I’m thinking a month is a really, really long time.” He brought my palm up to his mouth again, but this time nipped the skin just a bit. He smiled at my moan. “Wouldn’t you agree?”
I shifted in my seat. “When you put it that way.”
“I don’t know if it’s possible for me to keep my hands off you for an entire month.” His lips danced along the top of my hand. “Much less my other parts.”
My mind blanked for just a second at the touch of his lips on my skin and the images his words evoked. Why had I thought not having sex for a month before the wedding was a good idea?
Across the table, he looked at me with his I’m waiting expression.
I cleared my throat. “Well, I just thought a month would, you know, give us something to look forward to.”
“I see. Because marrying me? Eh, you can do that any old day. Nothing to look forward to there.”
He was kidding, right? I loved and hated that it was still hard for me to tell sometimes.
“You know what I mean,” I said, deciding he was joking.
He let go of my hand. “Somewhat. I also think our wedding night is something to look forward to no matter what we have or haven’t done the month before.”
“But think about how”—I searched for the right word— “intense it’ll be after we haven’t done anything the month before.”
His eyes darkened. “I guarantee you I can make it intense without having to abstain for a month.”
“Nathaniel,” I half whined, half begged.
He sighed. “You really want to do this?”
“And it’s really important to you?”
“And I can’t jerk off in the shower?”
“You can’t jerk off anywhere,” I clarified for him with narrowed eyes, just in case Mr. Rule Book decided to throw in my face two weeks before the wedding that I’d only specified he couldn’t jerk off in the shower.
He leaned back in his chair, exhaling. “Damn. You’ve been around me too long.”
“Impossible, but somehow true at the same time.”
“You can’t come either,” he said. “No playing with yourself.”
“And speaking of playing, what do we do about weekends?”
I’d thought about that, of course. Ideally, I would still wear his collar. Submitting to him wasn’t entirely sexual, though sex did play a major role in our weekends.
“There’s plenty we do on the weekends that doesn’t involve sex,” I said. “I think I should still wear your collar.”
“True, but there’s a sexual undercurrent in just about everything we do,” he countered. “You don’t have a submissive personality outside the playroom; it’s part of your sexual nature. Serving me during the weekend turns you on. We need to think about whether having you serve me the month before the wedding, even in a nonsexual manner, will be a source of irritation. For us both.”
He had a point. I tried imagining serving him all day on a Saturday, but without sex. If we stayed out of the playroom, I could easily see us both becoming increasingly sexually frustrated. With our emotions probably already running high as the wedding approached, collaring me might not be the wisest idea.
“No sex and no collar the month before the wedding,” I said. “We’ll probably both implode.”
“As long as we don’t take it out on each other.”
“But on the upside, think about how awesome the honeymoon will be now.”
“Abby,” he said softly. “The honeymoon will be awesome regardless. But you know, we haven’t talked about whether you’d like to wear your collar at all during our honeymoon.”
“Yes, I think so. Not all the time. Probably not even most of the time. But for a day or two?” I thought about how it would feel the first time he collared me as his wife. When I would be Abigail West. My belly tightened just thinking about it. “Maybe more than a day or two.”
Nathaniel nodded. “We’ll keep it flexible.”
“Another thing, I know I won’t be wearing your collar on our wedding day, but I’ve decided I’m not going to wear any type of necklace.”
“This part of me.” I brushed my neck. “Is for your collar. If I’m not wearing it when I become your wife, I’m not wearing anything.”
His eyes grew dark and he gave me a sultry smile. “I’d thought about buying you a necklace for our wedding, but it would have been just that. A necklace. Your idea means so much more.”
I was glad I was sitting down. His look would have made my knees weak had I been standing.
“I’m looking forward to collaring you for the first time after the wedding. When you’re Abigail West.”
I squirmed in my seat, thinking about our honeymoon plans.
We were going to Zermatt, Switzerland for two weeks following the wedding. Nathaniel had reserved a stunning chalet. We could step right outside and ski, or stay inside and do . . . other things. At first we discussed going somewhere tropical, but the more we thought about it, getting away to a snowy location sounded perfect.
Snow, after all, had been one of the driving forces in our relationship. I believed we would have still wound up together had it not been for the week we spent snowbound in his house, but there’s no telling how long it would have taken to get to that point. Somehow it seemed fitting that we honeymoon with snow. Besides, damn near nothing beat Nathaniel naked in front of a roaring fire.
“Abby?” the man in question asked. “Did I lose you?”
“Sorry,” I said. “Just daydreaming about the honeymoon.”
“Well,” he said, pushing back from the table. “The way I see it, we don’t have much time before our self-imposed month of celibacy.” He walked over to me and held out a hand. “Let’s not waste it.”
“I have to say, Abby,” Felicia said the next day, spinning slowly and looking over the old chapel, “this place is perfect.”
Because Nathaniel and I wanted to get married before the end of the year, we only had three months to plan the wedding. With that timeline, every possible venue in New York City and the surrounding area was booked. It wasn’t a big deal to us; we simply wanted to get married and had tentatively planned for the ceremony and reception to be held at Nathaniel’s estate.
He had friends and business associates everywhere, though, and earlier in the day he’d received a call that the wedding booked at the small chapel had been canceled. Since Felicia hadn’t returned to her teaching job following her marriage to Jackson, I asked her to come look at it with me. Felicia and I had been friends since our childhood days in small-town Indiana. We went to college together and even roomed together for a short period of time.
Early in our relationship, Nathaniel had mentioned that his cousin, Jackson, a professional football player, didn’t have a date for an event the entire family was attending. On a whim, I mentioned my best friend, Felicia. They went to the event together and were married less than six months later.
The chapel we were at, just outside the city, was over one hundred years old and the sanctuary had an almost medieval look to it with rustic wooden pews and stone walls. I could easily imagine how beautiful and romantic it would be bathed in candlelight.
“It is perfect, isn’t it?” I said in response to Felicia. “Since we’re not inviting anyone other than close friends and family, there’ll be plenty of room. Any bigger and there would be too many empty seats.”
“And the space is so beautiful, you don’t need much in the way of decorations.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” I said. “Just candles and maybe a few flowers.” Nathaniel had said he wanted cream-colored roses with just a hint of pink at the tips.
“Now you just need a reception space to open up.”
I sat down on one of the pews and pulled out my planning notebook. “We could still have it at Nathaniel’s if nothing becomes available.”
She sat down next to me, her expression serious. “How long do you think it’ll take before you start seeing the estate as yours?”
Her question caught me off guard, I’d honestly expected her to ask me about the food or music or something. “I do,” I said. “Lots of times when I’m talking I’ll say ‘our house’ or something similar. Sometimes it just comes out as ‘Nathaniel’s’ though. I guess if you think about it, it’s been his place longer than it’s been mine.”
“I haven’t said this and I’m sorry I’ve waited so long, but I think he’s good for you.” Felicia tucked a strand of red hair behind her ear. “Whatever it is you guys have with each other, it’s obvious that it’s working.”
It was the closest she’d ever come to saying she approved of our lifestyle. I couldn’t help it, but I looked at her in shock.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she said. “I simply got curious and Googled a few things.”
“You Googled ‘BDSM’?”
“You know we’re having this conversation in a church, don’t you?” She shot a look over both shoulders, though she didn’t have to, the place was empty.
“Should we step outside? I will if it’ll make you more comfortable.”
“No, we can stay here. I just thought it was odd to be talking about stuff like that in church.”
I smiled. “Stuff like that? Say it, Felicia. Say ‘BDSM.’”
She punched my arm. “Stop it, perv.”
“Me? You’re the one Googling kinky sex.” I wiggled my eyebrows. “Did you find it exciting?”
Though we could discuss just about anything, she’d never wanted to talk about my need for submission. Unfortunately, the early part of my relationship with Nathaniel hadn’t done much to endear her to the lifestyle. Especially considering the shape I’d been in when I left him.
“I guess I can see why someone would like it,” she said. “And I read that it’s more than kinky sex.”
“I told you that.”
“I know, but I wanted confirmation.”
“Right, because everything on the Internet is true.”
“Admit it, you just like giving me a hard time.”
I winked at her. “Yes, partly. But really I’m just glad you finally see it’s a need I have that Nathaniel fulfills.”
She sat back in her seat and suddenly looked very self-satisfied. “Nathaniel said as much once.”
She was dying to tell me. I could see it in her eyes. Since I wanted to hear what she was talking about, I played along. “Really? When?”
“That time you were in the hospital.”
“That was ages ago.” In actuality, it hadn’t even been a year, but so much had happened since then.
“Feels that way doesn’t it?” She shook her head. “Anyway, that night you were in the hospital, I went out in the hallway one time to tell him what I thought about his sorry ass. He told me then that whenever you were together, it was always your needs first.”
“Really?” I’d always wondered what it was the two of them discussed that night, because I noticed their relationship had changed afterward; neither one of them had ever told me.
“Yes and I didn’t believe him. I thought it was all about him since he was the dominant.” Her eyes grew quizzical. “It’s true, though, isn’t it? Even though you’re the submissive, he’s always thinking about you and what you need.”
“Right, but conversely, he’s my focus when I’m wearing his collar. I’m always thinking about him.”
She thought about that for a few seconds. “Interesting. Like you balance each other out.”
“Something like that, but honestly, when I’m wearing his collar, I’m not thinking about how balanced and equal we are. I’m thinking only about him and what he’s saying.”
“Which is why I’d make a horrible submissive.”
I shrugged, she was probably right. “It’s not for everyone and that’s okay. Obviously what you and Jackson have works for the two of you.”
She gave a hearty smile at the mention of her husband. “I’ll say.”
“Speaking of Jackson,” I started and then stopped, unsure I really wanted to know the answer to my question.
Oh well, I decided, might as well know once and for all. “Does he know about our lifestyle?”
She laughed. “I wondered how long it would take you to ask.”
“Yes, he knows. We were watching TV one night and they did a story on the increased public interest in BDSM. He looked over at me, I looked at him, and I finally said, ‘Yes, I know about them.’”
That Jackson knew really didn’t surprise me, I’d always assumed Nathaniel’s cousin knew. Honestly, he had spent enough time at the house. Nathaniel kept the playroom locked, but it was possible Jackson had been over a time or two when it wasn’t. Especially during the time he stayed over following my breakup with Nathaniel.
“And he knew you meant us?” I asked Felicia.
“Neither one of us came out and said it for a while. I guess for me it was that long talk you gave me on confidentiality. I didn’t want to be the one who told Jackson his cousin was kinky.”
Before I’d gone to see Nathaniel the first time, when I was talking with Felicia about what I was going to do, I’d pounded into her head how important confidentiality was. “Thank you for that, I really appreciate it.”
“You’re my dearest friend, I’d never betray your trust. I finally told Jackson I was your safety call. He nodded and said he figured I knew about Nathaniel since you and I were best friends.”
“How long has Jackson known?”
“He said he had a suspicion for a long time, but it wasn’t until after you guys broke up and got back together that he knew for sure. We really didn’t talk much about it after that.” She looked around the still empty church. “If you’re finished looking over this place, I think we should leave. All this kink talk in church has me afraid lightning’s going to strike me dead.”