183 pages / 90500 words
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Tobias is a skilled Dom and Noah is a man in need of just that. He wants to sub badly, but has yet to find someone he believes in. Through a series of encounters in the world of bondage and discipline, we learn why Noah has trouble trusting, and why Tobias is reluctant to let himself love.
Still, Tobias can’t resist Noah’s charms, and the two of them set about making a scene for themselves, one that works for them and their unique set of problems. But can they stay together in a world where learning to love means accepting all of their dark secrets?
There were many truths in this life, Tobias decided as he knotted his tie for the evening. Death comes to all, taxes must be paid, and fortieth birthdays were a reason for one's friends to buy nice wine, make lavish cakes, and throw dinner parties. Forty-first birthdays, on the other hand, went unremarked upon by all but one's nearest and dearest. As he had cards from a few friends and a message from Phan, he thought he'd just about exhausted the expected well wishes.
But turning forty-one did not mean he was dead or unable to make his own fun. He'd made his arrangements for the evening, planning with as much detail as he could—which, admittedly, wasn't much. He knew what to wear for his mood; he knew where he'd go and what he'd eat; he knew what he wanted. But there were an amazing number of variables at play, more than he usually allowed.
He was thinking about that as he straightened his dinner jacket and pocketed his keys. It was a highly planned evening of spontaneity that lay ahead of him, the novelty of which made him smile. Perhaps letting the fates blow once in a while was a good thing. In any case, he'd find out shortly; the worst he could do was have an evening of fine dining and a bottle of wine. The best would be far, far better, but it was rare to find exactly what he sought.
Tobias ran a comb through his hair one last time as he waited for his car, the light in the entry to his condo making the few stray silver hairs shine among the darker brown. Forty-one wasn't too old, he decided. It was a fine age to be, the height of his success and skill. He lacked for nothing, really.
Only someone to share his birthday with.
The phone rang and he pushed the thought away, startled to realize it wasn't the house phone signaling his car, but his landline. ''Dr. Vincent,'' he said as he answered. God, he hoped it wasn't an emergency—he really wasn't dressed to have a lamb be born, or to nurse a horse through colic.
''Good evening, Doctor, I'm sorry to call like this. I'm sure you have plans,'' came the smooth and cheerful voice of his elderly housekeeper.
''Oh, Mrs. Miller, hello. I do, yes—I'm just on my way out, but I have a few minutes.'' He smiled to himself ruefully; he would talk for as long as the lady decided, and he knew it. No matter how successful he got or how many birthdays he had, there would always be Mrs. Miller to defer to.
''I'm merely calling to wish you a happy birthday,'' she said, ''and to ask if you'll be out to the farm this weekend.''
Tobias’ smile grew. ''Thank you, Mrs. Miller, that's really very kind of you. And yes, I'm planning to drive out tomorrow afternoon until Monday.''
''Should I tell Peter not to come then, or would you like him to exercise the horses?''
''No, I'll do it,'' he decided. It was one of the best things about going to the country, and he wouldn't happily pay someone to do it for him when he was there. The house phone buzzed at him, two shorts. ''Thank you again, Mrs. Miller.''
''I'll see you tomorrow, Doctor,'' she said, and he could picture her grinning. ''Enjoy your evening.''
''I hope to,'' he said with a smile. He hung up, buzzed the front desk, and headed to his club.
The car pulled up in front of the building and Tobias lowered his window for the security guard. ''Good evening, Tobias,'' the man said with a smile that was entirely professional, despite his use of Tobias' first name. It was a club rule that all members were to be treated equally until there was an agreement in place between individuals, and as last names were not used at all in order to preserve anonymity, given names were expected.
''Timothy,'' Tobias said with a warm smile. ''When did you start out here?'' The last time Tobias had been to the club Timothy had been inside.
''About five months ago. I like it, though I'm called back inside if needed.'' Timothy made a note of the number on Tobias' membership card and smiled at him again. ''Have a nice evening, Tobias. And welcome back.''
The car moved slowly ahead and stopped at the wide front steps; by the time Tobias had opened his door the driver was there, and the front door was opening.
''Tobias! Timothy said you were here.''
Tobias shook his head and smiled again. ''I trust you don't mind me appearing again after all this time?'' he asked Bradford.
Bradford met him on the steps and shook his hand. Tobias' friendship with Bradford went back far too many years to count anymore, and even after Tobias’ long absence from the club, the man’s firm handshake felt as familiar and comforting as a favorite sweater. ''The day we turn you from here, my friend,'' Bradford told him with a warm smile, ''is the day I close the old place up. Now, come in! Eat. Enjoy your birthday. I have a room reserved for you, as you requested. You're not meeting anyone are you?''
The club had a small, exclusive membership made up of carefully screened Dominant and submissive men. These men had been screened not just for their level of training but also style and personality, thereby keeping the membership diverse and varied. It wasn’t a BDSM club in the common sense; it was more a place for men to meet, socialize and fulfill each others’ needs and fantasies in a safe and monitored environment. Bradford had taken over management of the club a number of years ago, and eventually assumed ownership as well when his mentor, a smooth, confident Dom who had also been a mentor of Tobias’, was ready to retire. Bradford was a natural host; he knew his membership well, and he had a knack for making everyone feel right at home.
Tobias shook his head again and allowed himself to be led inside. The solid doors closed behind him and he took a deep breath, immediately relaxing. There was just something about the dark interior, the plush fabrics and deep wingback chairs that called to him. Or perhaps it was the crossed whips decorating the walls.
''I don't have a guest, if that's what you mean,'' he told Bradford as they made their way to the small bar. ''But I'm open to possibilities.''
''I was hoping you would say that.'' Bradford suddenly looked speculative. ''In which case...''
''Wait,'' Tobias said, laughing. ''I'm not saying I want you to find me a date. I'm just saying I want to have a pleasant evening—a nice meal, people I like around me—''
''And it's been eight months since you've been here, Tobias. I know you spend your weekends on the farm and your weeknights in town. I'd certainly have heard if you had someone new.'' He shook his head sadly, making Tobias grin. ''No, my friend, you deserve to play. And I might just have the right someone for you.''
Tobias tilted his head and considered his friend. Bradford had been running the club for a number of years, had been an integral part of Tobias' own training. There was perhaps no one more capable of knowing the type of partner Tobias needed, liked... desired.
''Tell me,'' Tobias invited, accepting a glass of ice water from the bartender.
Bradford beamed at him, delighted. ''I can, and will do you one better. Come.''
Tobias had little choice but to follow as Bradford crossed the room with purpose to a small table. Tobias, being behind, could see little other than a man sitting alone. He rose quickly as Bradford made a direct path to him.
''Tobias,'' Bradford said grandly, ''I would like you to meet Noah. Noah, this is Tobias. It is my opinion that the two of you are well suited. Of course, you may decide otherwise, but I encourage you to at least discuss the matter.'' He then bowed his head and stepped back, wishing them good evening with a knowing grin before turning and walking away, leaving Tobias to face this stranger alone, knowing no more than his name.
Sometimes love is complicated.
Copyright 2016 Chris Owen