She rushed into Nettles, tugging her corset up while looking around for Keegan. To her disappointment, he hadn’t been the door guy tonight. She’d hoped to wow him with her breasts rising enticingly from the tightly drawn outfit. The short skirt showed more leg than she had ever bared in public. She, who had never taken all that much fussing with her appearance, had worked for over an hour on her hair and makeup, including a light sprinkling of sparkling powder across her boobs. Mandy wondered what the hell had gotten into her, going all goey-girly. But when he stepped into view from the back hallway, all tall, dark, and magnetically handsome–and when those gorgeous chocolate eyes found her from across the room and widened in surprise–it was all worth it. He crossed to her quickly, drawing a smile from her. She gazed up at him as he came close.
“You’re late. I looked for you an hour ago.”
The tone of mild censure felt like a slap. Her smile slipped a bit, then fell away as he frowned down at her. Her gaze slid to the floor.
“What?” He looked at her, concerned.
“Nothing. I’m here now.”
Her voice was low, her gaze still lowered. He took her by her upper arms, his face serious.
“Mandy–you need to be honest with me. Did something happen?”
She looked up at him, resisted the urge to smack him.
“What happened was that You didn’t even notice me…I worked forever to look like this. I got this corset a few days ago to surprise you, did up my hair, bought some make up….I got locked in the bathroom when the knob came off, and it took using my mascara wand to shoot the bolt open…and after all that work? Damn you –you didn’t even notice. I don’t know why I even bothered…”
The wild spill of words faltered as emotion clogged her throat. Never before had she worried about what someone thought of her. And to have it all ignored–her gaze returned to her feet so that he couldn’t see the tears that threatened. But she needed to finish saying her piece. She swallowed down the hurt and started again.
His finger rested on her lips.
“Trust me, Mandy, I noticed. But… you were supposed to be here an hour ago. Naturally I was concerned.”
The mad came hard and fast. Her words, at first stopped by her emotion, suddenly flung themselves at him, bullets of embarrassment and anger.
“Well –next time you can stuff your concern where the sun doesn’t shine and fucking see me.”
Her hand flapped up and down her body.
“This—this get up? This isn’t me…I just..I wanted you to see….” She ran out of words, ran out of courage, ran out of mad.
She shoved her palm against his chest. The humiliating urge to cry suffused her. She would not cry for a man, over a man, or because of a man. With a quick twist, she pulled away, and ignored his call. In a moment she was out of the main room and heading somewhere, anywhere else. Fucking man!
Her flight came to an abrupt end when she slammed into someone. One damned tear broke free.
“Whoa…easy there little one.”
“I’m sorry…just…sorry.” She tried to move away, but his hands held her closer.
“Calm down Mandy and tell me what’s wrong?”
She didn’t want to see who it was, but a finger under her chin forced her head up, until she was looking into the concerned gaze of Sir Roderick.
“Are you okay? Did someone hurt you?”
To be asked that question again, right after Keegan had mouthed it made her tremble with anger. Then again, she wasn’t totally sure who knew about what had happened to Fae, but she guessed, with Roderick being one of Jakob’s friends that he would have been informed. She shook her head. Everyone was on guard here, and she had to make allowance. Besides, she wasn’t mad at Roderick. Taking a deep breath, she tried to smile. Her face felt a bit wobbly…she didn’t like emotional scenes. She just wasn’t good at them.
“No…I’m fine. Really. I..”
“You seem upset. Come, let’s get out of this hallway.”
He steered her out of the corridor, a busy route traveled by those who came out to play, on their way upstairs, or those who were done playing and heading to the bar area. She let him steer her out of the hall and into the larger playing room. Though there were several scenes in play, there were also quiet nooks. He sat pulling her down beside him.
“Now, little one…tell me what got you into such a state?”
“I–” she paused taking a breath. How fucking humiliating that Keegan and his sudden stupidity had brought her here.
She didn’t know where to go with it. She shook her head, closed her eyes and hoped that a giant sink-hole would open up under her feet and just swallow her whole. A finger stroked down her cheek.
“You look lovely.”
Her eyes flew open; her gaze shot to him, surprise blooming on her face.
“Well, you do. You’re our sweet janitor most of the time–and a more attractive cleaning lady I’ve never seen–but today? You look…”
He paused, his eyes taking a slow track from her head to her lap.
“…amazing. I’m especially fond of this view…”
His finger flicked, barely, across the top of her left breast. Her breath caught a moment, and she remembered every time that he’d invited her to play. She’d seen him, of course, involved with others. And she still very much felt that if she said yes, it would totally end any further interest he had in her. A player, her momma would have called him. But a kind one.
“It appears that you and your young man have had a bit of a misunderstanding. Let me hasten to add that I don’t need the details–you should know, however, that this lifestyle forces a brutal sort of honesty upon us all. If I’m playing with a girl, and she says she is fine, then I need to believe that she can, indeed, take more of my play. You may not be used to that sort of truth yet, but understand, no matter how painful it can be? It saves a lot of misunderstanding. And if you two have decided to take a break from each other, please know that I would be more than happy to take you under my wing.”
His words were kind, and true, and made her feel stupid. Not that that had been his motive, she knew. But they kind of made her feel small. For not hearing what Keegan was saying, for being rather self-absorbed. But dammit! She’d never dressed up for a man before, and certainly not as ….slutty was the only word that fit here…as she was now.
“Thank you, Sir…”
He interrupted with a smile.
“There’s an important first. I see that we’ve begun to have an impact, if you’ll pardon the pun, on you.”
Now she smiled. Indeed, there had been some major impacts over these last few months. She’d been knocked out of a very comfortable vanilla existence, and dropped headfirst into this world. It wasn’t a bad place. She had found, despite all odds, the answers to some tough issues, ones that she had long thought dead and buried. Orgasms didn’t matter. A person to spend time with didn’t matter. A job didn’t …well, okay it mattered but it was more about the paycheck…until Nettles.
This place had changed her mind, changed her attitude, changed her. Sir Roderick’s hand landed on her knee, caressing her upper thigh with his pinky finger.
“You make me hungry for that innocence.”
His frank words made her blink. Attention fully focused on him, she failed to see Keegan enter the room, look towards where she sat intimately with Roderick. He frowned, took a step forward as if to go to her, then abruptly turned on his heel and strode away. Roderick smiled down at her.
“Yes, my dear, you’re all heat and questions just now, a truly lovely time to explore a new slut’s body and mind. I find both equally fascinating. Do let me know if you decide to play, will you?”
With a soft pat on her thigh, he rose and walked across the room and began talking to a few people watching the scene happening there. She tried to process the multitude of things running through her mind–surprise, at the kindness and the compliments, shame at how she’d freaked out on Keegan, and surprisingly, the sudden strong urge to have Keegan’s hands smacking her bum–even here, even in public.
And wasn’t that the biggest change of all?