Olivia stared at her boyfriend in disbelief. “Are you serious?”
Kyle raised one blond eyebrow, which unfortunately added a layer of smug condescension to his Generically Handsome White Guy face. “Do I look serious?”
“Yes.” His usual affable smile was missing, his mouth pinched tight. “You look very serious.”
“Well, then.” Kyle took out a pen and tapped the thick sheaf of papers on the table between them.
“You’re telling me if I don’t sign that, we’re done.”
“That’s what I’m telling you.”
This didn’t make any sense. “I don’t want a Master/slave relationship, Kyle. You know that.”
He laid the pen on the table. It was the fountain pen she’d given him for his birthday last month, she noted. It was made in Germany, by some company that was apparently the world leader in fancy fountain pens, and had cost almost as much as her share of the monthly rent. It had a black lacquer finish, gold trim, and a gold nib that squirted ink all over her fingers every time she used it.
“It’s not about what you want, but rather, what you need,” Kyle said, and Olivia narrowed her eyes. He only used words like ‘rather’ when he was trying extra hard to be taken seriously.
“I don’t need a slave contract—which, by the way, is not in any way legally enforceable.” She paused to take a calming breath. If she started yelling, he’d just shut down, and they’d never get anywhere. “I need you to talk to me. I don’t understand where this is coming from.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.” He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms, his expression shuttered. He looked the way he did when he was trying to bluff his way through a crappy hand at the poker table, or when someone disagreed with some political talking point he was repeating. Like he knew he was fucked and wanted to walk away, but his pride wouldn’t allow it.
She knew that pride. It was stubborn and immovable and her biggest obstacle to figuring out just what was behind this ridiculousness.
She switched tactics. “Kyle, this is something we have to talk about. You can’t just spring a contract on me like this.”
“Actually, I can.” He arched an eyebrow again. “I’m the Dom, and I make the rules.”
That was such pile of verbal crap that she momentarily lost the power of speech, and while she was gaping at him, trying to figure out what the hell he was thinking, he stood up.
“I have to pick up Andy for the game.” He crossed the room and scooped his keys out of the bowl on the table next to the door. Her bowl, her table. “I expect that contract to be signed when I get back.”
The bafflement and shock that had held her frozen since he’d first tossed that contract on the table was fading, replaced by an incredulous fury that made her feel like she was breathing sulfur. “Or?”
“Or you can pack your things,” he replied calmly. “It’s your choice.”
He twirled his keys around his finger—another nervous tell—opened the door and walked out.
Olivia stared at the closed door for a moment, then looked down at the contract. It was at least twenty pages, held together with one of the bright pink binder clips she kept in the kitchen junk drawer to use on bags of chips or frozen vegetables. Kyle’s name was in bold type at the top, right in front of the words, “hereafter referred to as Master”, and her name, bolded but not capitalized, right before “hereafter referred to as slave”, and the remainder of her disbelief disintegrated in a flood of pure rage.
She stood up, shoving back from the table hard enough to make it wobble, and stalked to the bedroom. She pulled her suitcases from the back of the closet, laid them on the bed, and began to pack.
She worked methodically, rolling her clothes to minimize wrinkling and maximize space. When the dresser, the closet, and the nightstand on her side of the bed were empty, she walked across the hall to the guest room-office to gather the clothes she had stored there.
There wasn’t a lot—the cocktail dresses she rarely had occasion to wear, a formal gown she’d bought on a whim when a local dress shop had gone out of business, and the plastic storage bin with her corsets. When she pulled the bin down from the top shelf, the dust coating the lid made her sneeze. It had been months since she’d worn one, though she and Kyle went to a kink event nearly every week. It had just seemed like too much trouble, and Kyle hadn’t cared one way or the other.
“That should’ve been a fucking clue,” she muttered, and sneezed again.
Back in the bedroom, she crammed the dresses into the already full suitcases, then zipped them closed and wrestled them to the floor. She pulled the duvet off the bed, then the sheets, and added the pillow she’d broken in how she liked it to the pile before heading into the bathroom for her toiletries.
She needed a box for the kitchen, and found one in the office, full of Kyle’s tax files. She dumped them without remorse onto his desk chair and packed it tight with utensils, measuring cups, and the egg timer in the shape of a cow—and she took the pink binder clip off the damn contract, too. She pulled a garbage bag from under the sink for the potholders and dishtowels, then added her bedding, towels, and every spare sheet from the hall linen closet.
The sonofabitch had been sleeping on a bare mattress when she’d moved in, and he could damn well do it again.
She gathered her laptop and tablet from the living room, her extra phone charger and the blanket her aunt had crocheted for her in college. The electronics went into the tote she used as a purse, the blanket into the garbage bag. Then she dragged everything to the front door and took a last tour of the apartment.
She made a list of all the things she’d need to come back for. The prints and photos on the walls, the table by the front door. Her stand mixer still sat on the kitchen counter, her dishes in the cabinets. There were pieces of sculpture and statuary she’d collected over the years scattered throughout the apartment that would need to be carefully wrapped and packed, as would her reproduction Tiffany lamp. Her grandmother’s mirror hung above the entry table, and the chair and dresser that were the only pieces of furniture she’d kept when she’d moved in with Kyle.
She quelled the twinge of anxiety at the thought of leaving so many of her things behind and grabbed her keys. It took three trips and some creative arranging, but she managed to get everything into her ancient Camry. By the time she climbed the stairs for the last time, she was sweating, her tank top sticking to her back. She’d retrieved one of the hair ties she kept on the stick shift of her car, so her hair was off her neck. But sweat trickled between her breasts and down the backs of her legs, and the only thing keeping her moving was righteous rage.
Back in the apartment, she hefted her tote with a grunt, and started to take the front door key off her key ring. She wanted to leave it right in the middle of his damned contract where he couldn’t possibly miss it, but she hesitated. She had to retrieve the rest of her things, and if she left her key behind now, she’d have to go through Kyle to do it.
“The hell I will,” she muttered, and palming her keys, turned to go. Then she caught her reflection in the mirror over the entry table and winced. She was a mess. Half her honey-blonde hair had fallen out of its hastily constructed topknot to hang, limp and damp with sweat, to her shoulders. She’d sweated off her makeup except for a solid smudge of mascara under each eye—which, except for the faint flush of exertion on her cheeks, was the only color on her already pale face. Even her eyes looked dull.
Dull and beige. It was a good way to describe her relationship with Kyle. And now, over.
She hitched her bag higher on her shoulder, and her gaze landed on the chain encircling her neck. The everyday collar was only slightly longer than a choker, with a tiny key charm that nestled in the hollow of her throat. The necklace’s standard clasp had been removed and replaced with silver rings that attached to the charm, turning a standard removeable chain into a permanent one. The only way to get it off was to break it.
She stared at it, remembering how she’d felt when Kyle had fastened it around her neck. She’d been so happy, so full of hope. Now, staring at the tiny key that had meant so much, all she felt was anger and sadness.
She dropped her bag to the floor and grabbed the necklace in both sweaty fists. The little silver rings gave way easily, pulling free with barely a twist, and the key fell with a musical clink to the floor at her feet.
She picked it and stared at it, small and insignificant in her palm, the broken chain dangling from her fingers. A year of her life in two broken pieces of silver, she thought, her throat tight, and wanted to rage and scream at the waste of it all.
Instead she walked to the table, dropped the charm and the necklace on the contract, then walked back to the mirror and pulled it off the wall. With the heavy tote on one arm and the mirror tucked under the other, she walked out.
* * * *
Olivia drove automatically, weaving through traffic without really noticing it as she considered her next step. Finding a new place to live was first on her agenda, and that meant a large cash outlay—first and last month’s rent, security deposit, plus the cost of movers, though she might be able to avoid that last item if some of her friends were willing to help. A couple of guys with a pickup could probably handle the dozen or so boxes of her belongings, plus the few pieces of furniture she hadn’t sold when she’d moved in with Kyle.
Shit, she was going to have to buy furniture.
Mentally kissing a good chunk of her savings goodbye, she continued to drive. The sun was bright in the sky, making her wish for the sunglasses in the bottom of her bag. Unfortunately, she’d loaded all her electronics in on top of them, and since she’d have to pull over in order to safely dig them out, she flipped the visor down and kept driving.
She pulled to a stop at a red light, thumbs tapping on the steering wheel as she mentally worked through her list. After finding an apartment, getting the rest of her stuff moved, and buying new furniture, there was only one thing left to do.
Find a new Dom.
“Dammit.” The light changed, and she stomped on the gas. Under the anger and outrage, the strongest emotion she felt at the ending of her relationship was disappointment. She’d chosen Kyle because his kinks aligned closely with hers, and after a year together, she’d finally felt like they were ready to take the steps to fully explore them. But instead of settling happily into the kinky relationship of her dreams, she was homeless and Dom-less and back at square one.
“Dammit,” she muttered again, and forced herself to ease off the gas. A speeding ticket would just put a cap on her day. She tried some of the yoga breathing her friend Sadie was so damn fond of, deep inhales and controlled exhales, and by the time she pulled to a stop on a quiet tree-lined street, she was more tired than angry.
She looked up at the house with a sense of relief. She always felt at home here, in the brick two-story that had been lovingly and painstakingly renovated. When Cade had bought the house a year ago, the brick had been crumbling, the porch sagging, and the interior firmly stuck in the last century. When he’d shown her the pictures and told her he intended to live there during the renovations—which he was going to do himself—she’d thought he was in over his head.
It had taken him several months to do all the work, but he’d repaired the brick and rebuilt the front porch, and he’d taken the interior from chopped-up rooms with stained floors and crumbling plaster to a bright, open space with restored woodwork and plenty of light.
The last time she’d been there he’d been trying to decide on tile for the downstairs powder room. He’d been torn between a modern glass subway tile and an old-fashioned penny tile that mimicked what might have been installed when the house had been built in the nineteen-twenties.
She wondered idly which one he’d chosen.
Any one of her girlfriends would have welcomed her with open arms and a sympathetic ear—well, any of them except Becca, who had plans—which was why she’d come here instead. She didn’t want to talk about it, at least not yet, and it would be easier to avoid questions at Cade’s.
Mostly because he wasn’t there.
She glanced at the clock on her dashboard, noting that it was just past six. His phone would be off if his scene had already begun, but she knew he’d check his messages when he turned it back on, so she dug out her phone and tapped out a quick text.
I left Kyle. Hope it’s ok if I crash in your guest room, she wrote, and, hoping that would be it, turned off the ignition and climbed out of the car.
She was popping the trunk when her phone dinged with an incoming text.
“Shit,” she muttered, and dug it out of her pocket.
It’s complicated, she typed back, and hoped that would be enough.
A new message popped up within seconds. Are you okay?
She smiled. Of course he would ask that first, she thought with a sigh, and responded quickly so he wouldn’t worry. I’m fine. Pissed off, but unhurt.
You still have your key? The alarm code?
Olivia sagged with relief. Yeah.
I’ll be home late, or possibly tomorrow. Lock up behind you.
Tomorrow? “Go, Becca,” she murmured with a little grin. It was impossible to keep secrets in the kink community, so even though Cade hadn’t said a word, she knew his play date tonight was a threesome with Becca and her partner, Nick. It was Becca’s fantasy to be with two Doms, and after months of discussion and planning, she’d finally given Nick the green light to make it come true.
She felt a little twinge of envy for her friend. Thanks, Cade. I’ll cook breakfast, she told him.
I’ll hold you to that, he responded, and added pancakes, bacon, and eggs emojis.
She responded with a thumbs-up, then tucked her phone away. She had a couple of trips to make with her stuff, then she could raid Cade’s fridge for something cold to drink. There wouldn’t be beer, but he always kept a couple of Cokes in the crisper drawer.
With the promise of an icy soda waiting for her, she pulled out the first suitcase.