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When Molly loses her longtime Master, she feels lost, angry. Confused. She’s unsure of her future, even her calling to the BDSM lifestyle. She knows her Master always intended her to go to his friend Mephisto next, but their emotionally—and sexually—fraught history is still a confusion of desire and fear in her mind.
Mephisto wants to help Molly, but he doesn’t want to force her into service she’s not sure she wants. He owes it to Clayton to help her find happiness, but how? Molly and Mephisto advance and retreat from one another as they try to untangle their complex feelings. More and more it seems their tense standoff will only end one way...
This 63K word erotic romance novel contains consensual BDSM play, Master/slavery, sado- masochism, anal play, objectification, caging, and other consensual activities which some might find offensive.
Chapter One: This Day
Molly paused in the midst of her violin practice, subduing the urge to hurl the instrument across the room. Breathe in , breathe out. Master wants this. You serve your Master. Suck it up.
This was all Mephisto’s fault. If he was here right now, she’d happily smash her violin over his head. Master hadn’t been after Molly to improve herself until she’d gone to stay with Master Mephisto for a week. Then, suddenly, after a few meetings with Mephisto, her Master had decided she needed to put her mind to something challenging besides serving him.
The thing was, Molly was perfectly happy just serving him. She hadn’t understood her Master’s sudden desire to “broaden her horizons” as he put it. It sounded suspiciously like something Mephisto might say. Master had finally decided Molly should apply herself to learning an instrument so he could relax and listen to her play in the evenings. Molly had suggested the triangle or tambourine, but Master had rejected those ideas and bought her a violin. A thirty thousand dollar violin.
Talk about pressure.
Sure, Master liked to spoil her, but a thirty thousand dollar violin was a little over the top, especially since she’d never played an instrument in her life. The first six months had been excruciating, both for Molly and Master. She lived to please him, but in this, she fell short. Even twice weekly lessons with a violinist from the City Orchestra couldn’t inject any talent into her clumsy fingers. Her failure was a constant pain, made worse by her Master’s tireless encouragement. He wouldn’t let her give up. When she finally realized he wouldn’t let her bail out, she did slowly start to get better.
Now, two years later, she was adequate at the instrument, but not good by any means. Not good enough for Master.
Of course, when Master took her to Mephisto’s elite BDSM club, the irksome man always made a point of asking how her lessons were going. It worried her that her Master and Mephisto remained such close friends, frequently lunching together. She imagined these lunches as nothing more than pow-wows in which they plotted ways to drive her insane. The violin in her hands was proof enough of that.
“Girl!” Mrs. Jernigan yelled from downstairs. “You can leave off that infernal racket. It’s five o’clock.”
Molly turned to the door and squelched the urge to make a nasty face. The grouchy old housekeeper couldn’t see her anyway, and Master wouldn’t like it. He preferred that she behave with grace and decorum. She’d learned early in their marriage that childish or petty behavior was strictly punished, usually with a cane. She would have to stand and listen to a sharp, emphatic lecture, then describe exactly what she’d done to be punished for. She always felt two inches tall as he glared through her recitation. Then, he’d deliver the brisk command to bend over. When she was sniffling and crying with ten red stripes across her ass, she’d have to stand and thank him, sincerely, for correcting her.
Well, sincerity was never a problem. She was grateful for his guiding hand, even when it hurt her so badly she couldn’t sit down. It was her behavior that troubled her, like her impatience with the violin. She knew when Master got home, she’d have to admit she’d lost her temper in practice, that she’d wanted to smash the priceless instrument he’d gifted her with. How spoiled of her. She deserved to be punished for it.
At least she hadn’t made the face at Mrs. Jernigan. “Girl!” came her voice again, like nails on a chalkboard. All right. Damn. Now she’d made a face. It wasn’t her best day, but Master accepted all her weaknesses, corrected them, and moved on. Perhaps later, if he saw fit to punish her and she took it well, he would reward her with sex. Molly loved when her Master made love to her, even when he was rough or hurt her. Just as often, he was gentle and attentive. He loved to make her come.
Molly carried the violin to its case and carefully laid it within the velvet lining. It was valued at thirty thousand dollars, sure, but it was priceless to her, because it had been a gift from her Master, just like the slim metal eternity collar around her neck. Her collar was designed to pass for a piece of jewelry to the vanilla world, but it was so much more than that. It was the only thing she wore on a day-to-day basis, the only thing she wanted to wear. Her Master wanted her bare to his gaze, so that’s how she was happiest. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d worn clothes in the house. Perhaps at Clayton’s annual holiday party a couple months ago. Her yearly opportunity to be snubbed and side-eyed by his vicious, holier-than-thou family.
Ugh, what was wrong with her today? Another transgression to confess—nasty thoughts about his sisters and their jerky husbands, and his stodgy old mother with her old-bat wrinkled face. Master would agree with her that his family was nasty but he’d still punish her, because it wasn’t genteel to think such thoughts. Wow, she was going to get her ass beaten.
She closed the violin case and proceeded resolutely downstairs, before Mrs. Jernigan could scream “Girl!” again in her abrasive voice. The housekeeper took her arm none too gently as soon as she arrived. For a tiny woman she had a good grip.
“It’s about time. Should I tell your Master you’re dawdling around today?”
Why not? Molly thought silently as Mrs. Jernigan nudged her onto the scale. On top of everything else Molly had to confess to him...sure, dawdling. She lifted her arms so Mrs. Jernigan could measure her waist and hips with her tape measure. The housekeeper recorded all these numbers—to the quarter inch—in a small ledger kept in a desk by the kitchen door. Molly didn’t think Master ever looked at it, but she knew if she deviated from Master’s desired weight and physical dimensions, Mrs. Jernigan would be the first to let him know. Fortunately, Molly’s weight and figure had remained largely unchanged over the years of their marriage. Perhaps because her Master also controlled how and when she exercised and what she ate.
Mmm, Duck a l'orange tonight. Her favorite. She always dined alone earlier in the evening, so she could focus all her attention on him once he arrived home. It was important. Her Master worked hard, sometimes even on the weekends, and what little time they had together she dedicated completely to pleasing him, which in turn pleased Molly. It wasn’t only his authority she loved. He was handsome too, fit for a fifty year old, with a full head of blond hair that barely showed any gray. He was tall, with light blue eyes that could be hard as ice or warm as a balmy summer day.
Molly took slow bites, chewing, thinking a little sadly that she’d probably receive some icy stares tonight. To even think about smashing the violin... She would have to practice harder. She would promise Master after he punished her, when he let her make her pretty little speech about doing better, that she would practice twice as hard going forward to make it up to him. That thought comforted her. Master would understand. Above everything else, he was merciful. He accepted her as she was, which was why she loved him so much it hurt her sometimes. Literally hurt her. She’d lie in bed beside him—if she’d been permitted to sleep in his bed—or on her pallet on the floor if she wasn’t, and ache with love for him.
It was like her life was split into two sections, before Master and after Master. She’d met her Master when she was in her early twenties. She was thirty now, but her years of courtship and marriage to Master were all she thought about, not her previous life. Her previous life was like some dream, or nightmare, fading a little more each year.
The duck was delicious, as always. Molly took a few bites of salad and drank the milk Master insisted on, even though she didn’t like it. It was Friday and Master would be home soon. A whole weekend with him. She hoped he didn’t have to work over the weekend, but if he did, she’d deal with it. She’d use the time to practice!
Mrs. Jernigan poked her head in, her glance clearly broadcasting that she thought Molly was “dawdling” again. But Master liked when Molly ate slowly and sedately. Sometimes he’d take her out to an expensive restaurant and it was like being in heaven for two or three hours. They’d linger over course after course, wine and coffee and dessert, and he would give her that look across the table, that look that expressed such mastery and ownership, but kindness and sexiness too.
Molly placed her napkin beside her plate. Mrs. Jernigan came in to clear the table and take the plates back to the cook, who would then turn around and begin preparing Master’s dinner. Molly heard that Master paid the cook a lot. He probably paid Mrs. Jernigan a lot too, to keep quiet about the lifestyle they shared. “Hurry, girl,” the old woman said. “Go wash and do something with that hair of yours. Then you can read in the living room until your Master’s on the way up.”
Master always buzzed Mrs. Jernigan when he got to the lobby of their building so Molly would know to get in position to greet him at the door. It was her absolute favorite time of day, when Mrs. Jernigan yelled “He’s coming!” and Molly would put away her book and hurry over to the foyer to kneel the way he’d taught her. Legs spread, hands in her lap, head bowed submissively. A slave pose, but to her, it was her Master’s pose. “Why do you wait with your legs spread, girl?” he would quiz her sometimes.
“Because my body belongs to you, Master,” she’d answer. “All of it.”
“And why do you bow your head?”
“Because I’m your slave.”
Oh, God. Molly couldn’t think about those conversations or she’d have to add the crime of touching herself to her already-too-long list of trespasses. She curled her legs under her and read the book Master had set out for her, an obscure title about the history of China. He chose a wide variety of books for her to read, so that sometimes Molly felt like her head was full of strange, disjointed knowledge. No matter. If he wanted her to read it, she read it. She concentrated on the dense, scholarly text in case he chose to test her understanding. Her fingers traced over her smooth metal collar as she turned page after page. She became so engrossed that she startled when Mrs. Jernigan appeared beside her to click on a stronger light.
Molly looked around in confusion. “What time is it?”
“Nearly seven. Your Master’s late, but it’s Friday. Maybe he’s having dinner or drinks with a friend.”
“Maybe,” Molly said. She wished he was here though. She felt unsettled and irritable. Something about this day just didn’t feel right.
* * * * *
Mephisto received the call at five in the afternoon. He’d always remember the time, and the voice of the hospital official, frank but sympathetic. Clayton Copeland kept a card in his wallet naming Mephisto as his emergency contact. Mephisto knew he might get this call one day, but he’d hoped it would be a lot later. Decades later. Clay was only fifty years old.
Mephisto raced across town, but he was too late. The doctor spoke with him briefly, explaining a lot of medical stuff while Mephisto stared at the still form on the hospital bed. Clayton didn’t look like himself. It was strange, how quickly the life force fled once the body was gone. It should have lingered a while, especially in someone as powerful and vibrant as him. It should have seeped away slowly, so it wasn’t such a shock to see him lying there. So Mephisto could have had the time to say goodbye. It wasn’t right for a great man like Clayton Copeland to die alone.
The sterile medical words roiled around in Mephisto’s brain as he sat at Clay’s bedside trying to make sense of things. Ruptured cerebral aneurysm. Stroke, seizure, death. The doctor spoke to Mephisto as if he might have expected this. The bulging vessel in Clay’s brain had been diagnosed almost two years earlier, at a medical center in New York. They’d had difficulty placing a stent. Didn’t Mephisto know about any of this?
No. All Mephisto knew was that almost two years earlier, Clay had called and asked him to look after Molly for a week so he could take a “business trip.” Mephisto remembered Clay making a flurry of abrupt legal preparations around that time. He remembered a strange conversation at a park afterward, a secretive expression clouding the man’s face.
If I die tomorrow, tell her you love her.
I would give her to you now if I wasn’t so selfish.
Why had Clayton kept this secret from them? Because he was a very unselfish man. He hadn’t wanted them to carry the burden of worry about a condition that couldn’t be fixed. Mephisto could have handled it, but Molly would have been beside herself with fear and anxiety.
Mephisto looked at his watch and then buried his hands in his dreadlocks. It was nearly seven. Molly would be wondering where Clay was, why her Master wasn’t home yet. What now? He’d promised Clayton he’d take care of Molly in the event of his death, and he would, but Mephisto had never really thought past the general idea of the thing, and he certainly hadn’t expected it to happen so soon. Hell, of course he’d take care of her, but he’d never thought about the specifics, like how on earth he was supposed to look Molly in the eyes and tell her that her Master was gone. Then there were all the other things he’d have to help her with...funeral arrangements, dealing with Clayton’s family and his multi-million dollar estate. Clayton had multiple businesses and foundations, and real estate from coast to coast, all of it Molly’s now.
Later. Mephisto would think about all that later or he’d get overwhelmed. For now, he had to go to Molly, and he had to figure out what to say when he got there, because they weren’t the kind of words you could come up with on the fly. Molly...your Master died today. That part was easy, but what would he say then? He’d have to bring her to the hospital. She would need to say goodbye, even though it would be heart wrenching for her to see Clayton lying there lifeless. Mephisto was all too familiar with the still, unsettling face of death, but it struck deeper when it was a friend. For Molly...
Mephisto stood and straightened his shoulders. He could finish his breakdown later. For now, he had to be strong enough for both of them. He drove to Clayton’s high rise, sitting in traffic beside other cars containing people going through the everyday grind. Going home perhaps, after a day of work. Looking forward to dinner or a night on the town. Fuck, it was Friday. He called Josh at the club, asked him to manage events for the night. It seemed bizarre that while he was driving over to wreck Molly’s world, everyone else was going about their usual business and the employees of his fetish club were showing up for a typical night of work.
Mephisto took the elevator up to Clay’s floor, took the long walk down the hall. He’d only been to Clay’s gleaming castle in the sky a few times. He stopped outside the formidable front door, rubbed his temple and took a deep breath. His knock brought the housekeeper. Mephisto couldn’t remember her name. She took one look at his face, though, and she knew.
“I need to see Molly,” he said.
The housekeeper stepped back and let him in. Molly was perched on a chair in the living room. He could see her from the foyer, her dark head bent over a book.
“Mr. Copeland died today,” he said to the old woman. “A couple hours ago.”
He’d spoken quietly but Molly looked up at the sound of his voice. For a moment, the most fleeting moment, she looked happy to see him, like anyone might look when they saw a friend. But then, perhaps from the look on his face, she understood something was wrong. She came to him and her sudden distress, her nakedness, none of it registered with him. Just that gleaming collar around her neck.
“Molly, it’s Clayton. Your Master. Your husband.”
He reached out to her, took her hand. Her voice trembled when she asked, “What? What is it?”
He couldn’t say anything more for a moment with the tension in his throat. He swallowed hard and squeezed her fingers. “I’m so sorry. He had a stroke. They took him to the hospital. He started having seizures.”
Tears filled Molly’s blue eyes. “Oh, no. Poor Master.”
He kept staring at her, too weak to say the next words. Her gaze begged for more information, but at the same time, she looked afraid to ask. “Well?” she finally managed. “Did they fix him? He’s okay, isn’t he?”
Mephisto shook his head. “He’s not okay. He died around five o’clock this evening. I’m so sorry.” They were such inadequate words. He embraced her, meaning to comfort her, but she went wooden, rigid. She pulled back and shook her head.
“That can’t be. He was perfectly fine this morning. There’s got to be some mistake.”
“Another patient. Mistaken identity.”
“It’s not a mistake,” he said. “I’ve just come from there. If you want to go see him, I’ll take you. You should probably go see him one last time.”
Still she stared at him. She didn’t believe. He turned back to Mrs. Jernigan, standing near the foyer wringing her hands. The frail woman shook her head at Mephisto and ran away, into some back hallway. Molly stood like a statue, her hands pressed to her mouth.
“I can’t believe it. No,” she said.
“I’m here to help you. I promised Clayton I’d help you if anything ever happened to him.”
He reached out to touch her but she skirted his grasp, turning her back on him. He watched her draw in deep breaths, her slender shoulders rising and falling. She shook her head, a small, hypnotic movement.
Denial. First step.
“Honey.” He moved closer to her again. “Do you have clothes to put on? I’m afraid if you don’t see him one last time to say goodbye, you’ll regret it later. It’s up to you, but—” His voice cut off. He was giving her choices, which was probably the last thing she could handle at the moment, this girl whose choices were all made for her by the man who’d died.
“Where are your clothes?” Mephisto asked instead. “Please get dressed.”
“He has them,” she said. “My Master.”
“In his room?” Mephisto set off down the hallway. Molly came after him, grabbing his arm.
“He doesn’t let me in there. Not without him.”
He stopped and turned to her. “Listen, Molly. Your Master left you in my care. I’m taking you to the hospital to say goodbye and sign papers and do all the things a wife has to do. You owe him this, to do things the right way.” His voice was sharper than he’d intended. She paled and stepped back while he continued down the hall. A moment later, he heard her behind him. He barged into Clay’s bedroom and paused. Pristine, as he’d expected it to be.
Molly stepped aside as the housekeeper pushed through, the wrinkles beneath her eyes damp with silent tears. “I’ll get some things together for Mr. Copeland. He would want his best clothes. His favorite cufflinks and shoes.”
“Thank you,” Mephisto said.
Molly stood at the door, eyes wide, while the housekeeper moved around the room gathering items for Clayton.
“I’m sorry,” Mephisto said. “I don’t remember your name.”
“Rose Jernigan. I’ve been his housekeeper for twenty years. It’s not right, him gone so soon. He’ll be missed.” She clamped her lips shut then, running a lint brush over a black wool suit.
“Mrs. Jernigan, I need to know where he kept Molly’s clothes.”
“She’s got plenty of clothes in the second closet. Very nice things.” She pointed to a door adjacent to the bathroom. Mephisto found another full dressing room.
He turned to Molly. “Come pick something out. What did he like you to wear? Did he have a favorite outfit?”
Mephisto just wanted to give her something to think about besides the tears choking her, and Mrs. Jernigan’s somber work collecting Clayton’s clothes. Molly crossed to a bureau and took out panties and a bra, and smooth stockings with lace at the top. He could see her fingers shaking from across the room. Mephisto turned away and let her dress, helping Mrs. Jernigan pack Clayton’s things in a high-end travel bag. “Will you come?” he asked the housekeeper. “You’re welcome to come with us.”
She hesitated and shook her head. “I’ll need to get the house in order for callers. Have you told his family?”
“If you have their contact information, you should call them. They can call his lawyers and business partners. Everyone will need to know.”
A stifled sob sounded from the closet. They both turned. The more Molly dressed, the harder she cried, and the bleaker Mephisto felt. She pulled a dark cardigan over a silk shell and fumbled with the placket. Mephisto crossed to her and fastened the row of small black buttons one by one. Then Molly went to an ornate wooden jewelry box and opened the lid. So many priceless pieces for a wife who probably only wore clothes a handful of times a year. Mephisto helped her put on a pearl necklace and earrings, thinking of Clayton and his love for her. It was so unfair. So unfair. Couples that loved so hard should have forever together.
“I can’t...I can’t do this,” she whispered. “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”
“You don’t have a choice,” Mephisto said, kindly but firmly. “I’m sorry, but you don’t.”