Originally released September 2004; re-released with new publisher/cover July 2015.
Mark is a reclusive Dominant who confines his sexual interests strictly to the online world. On his routine afternoon ferry ride, he meets a woman who rouses the Master in him, and the line snaps between the virtual and real worlds. She begs for him to take her over, and bring them both fulfillment and healing. He wants to refuse her, but he finds himself agreeing to spend one day with her. It’s a mistake, because the anger he holds inside is fully capable of destroying a soul as rare and beautiful as Nicole’s. But no Master, not even one as strong and disciplined as Mark, can resist the offer of a submissive who wants only one thing – to be his forever.
© Copyright 2004 - All Rights Reserved
She was nervous, which almost made her laugh. Why she’d chosen this moment to get nervous, she didn’t know. She’d broken federal privacy laws to be here. Her friends and especially her family would say she was risking her physical well-being, because she hadn’t told anyone where she was going. She’d taken the week off from work, because she had no idea if she’d be back tonight or in several days. If she was home sooner rather than later, she’d need the balance of the vacation days anyway to pull the pieces back together.
Now that she’d committed herself, she knew the greatest risk of her bold move was to her emotional wellbeing. And therein she had the answer to her sudden lack of composure.
It was a beautiful day. As the ferry mates shouted out the all clear and the passenger vessel for the triangle run through Ballentyne and Morehead Islands pulled away from the dock, the sun glittered off the water in the marina and the white hulls of the well-maintained yachts in their marina slips. October was still a warm month in coastal North Carolina, the water often holding enough summer heat to allow swimming. A tern, its dark head sleek from his underwater fishing, dove again, and came up fifty feet away from his original spot.
She wore sunglasses, so she could take all this in and still keep an eye on the stairwell to the upper deck. She knew he was here. She had heard someone call his name as they were boarding, heard him respond, the cadence of his voice muffled by the chatter of day trippers. She’d wanted to turn then, seek him out, but she didn’t. She wanted the first time she saw him to have the isolated perfection of a painting in a gallery, where she could look upon him, separate from his surroundings, and get a good, long look, not a desperate glimpse at him among other milling bodies.
Footsteps scraped on the metal stairs to the upper deck. He’d told her that he always sat along the starboard rail, so she had placed herself about fifteen feet away, on an anchored center bench, her profile to that position. If she looked toward him with the concealment of her sunglasses, he would think she was studying the shoreline, the tourist attractions of the island beach strands and the opposing lighthouses of Ballentyne and Morehead Islands that had guided ships from the ocean into the waterway and river for decades.
Nicole swallowed, forced herself to relax as she saw a man’s form enter into her peripheral vision, take a seat exactly where he had described he sat.
He’d forbidden her to do this. That was another reason for her nervousness. To disobey one’s Master, not for the pleasure of punishment, but because she knew she had to do it or lose her mind, didn’t make it less nerve-wracking.
He’d also told her if they ever met face-to-face, she’d be disappointed. With a casualness she was far from feeling, she turned her head so she could capture him fully within the frame of her vision.
He was just sitting down, in the process of leaning back against the rail that ran behind the metal bench, comfortably situating his ankle on the opposite knee. He had his notebook out, balanced on his thigh, and he took a sip from a Diet Coke can, his head tilted back slightly, showing her the arch of his throat. Placing the can in the crevice between his thighs, he slid a pen from the pocket of his cotton button-down shirt, a soft, faded teal color.
She’d ceased breathing, living. Her heartbeat had stopped. That was the only thing that could explain the stillness that descended on everything around her as she set eyes on the man she loved with every part of her, for the very first time.
He reminded her of a wrestler. Not the big flamboyant artists of WFW, but a finely-proportioned, stocky Olympic athlete. A bear. Strong, solid, built square and muscular. His shoulders alone looked like they could carry any trouble offered to him, and his quiet, steady expression inspired confidence. Not a tall man, he was perhaps four or five inches over her five foot three.
His dark brown hair was mixed with silver, early gray for a man not quite forty. It was a rich pelt that lay smooth against his scalp, but she thought it might get curly if it got longer. He would not be the type of person who wore his hair longer, denying the advance of time with the foolish vanity of a ponytail, though his thick locks would have been beautiful as a mane.
She had imagined the pieces of him, studied his two-dimensional photograph until her fingers had turned the corners soft and smooth as cloth, no matter how carefully she handled it. Now she had the opportunity to study him as a whole, absorb the physical and metaphysical at the same time. Particularly as she moved to his face.
He didn’t wear sunglasses, but the early morning sun denied her as good a view of his eyes as she wished, since they were half closed against the bright light. But under the dark silk of his eyebrows, she discerned the rich brown color of his irises, vibrant eyes that seemed to notice everything around him. Firm lips that were a little thin, suggesting a formidable temper when riled.
While his body and demeanor suggested a bear, the shape of his head, his profile and the silver-streaked hair reminded her of a wolf. A combination of two strong totems, both of whom steered clear of direct contact with humanity as long as their habitat was not encroached, but were fierce when cornered.
He was writing in the notebook now, intently, and she wondered what he was writing. She liked his arms, the forearms in particular, the soft down of brown hair that lay on them and on the top of the broad, strong fingers with short trimmed nails. Only the top button of the faded shirt was open, and the sleeves were carefully, equally folded back past his elbows, the sign of a man who expected to get his hands dirty every day. He wore his jeans not tight, but snug, as Southern men did, so she could see there was good muscle tone in his thighs. He’d lifted the soda can to his lips again, and she was unable to stop her eyes from lingering on the shape of him in the crotch area, making her thankful for the sunglasses.
This was him. The man she’d needed, wanted and thought about in a million different ways for the past eighteen months. She could stay where she was, do a round trip in the boat, never identify herself, never make a move in his direction. Her impression of him would remain intact, enhanced now because she’d seen him, fleshed out the image she’d built within her mind. She’d have no illusions shattered.
But she wouldn’t have anything more than that. Each drastic step she’d taken to come here reflected that she’d made her choice. All or nothing. And there was only one direction to go for that.