Jim was shaking with a mixture of arousal and fear. Blair wouldn’t really do that, take him somewhere public, would he? Even in a mask?


“Yes, Master,” Jim whispered shakily.


“Well, I’m going to take you somewhere right now,” Blair declared. “But it’s only downstairs. Just a minute, James.”


To Jim’s surprise, Blair looped a length of sturdy rope over the railing, leaving the ends hanging down below. Beckoning to Jim, Blair picked up the covered tray and led Jim downstairs. The purpose of the rope became apparent when Blair positioned Jim beneath the dangling ends and pulled up a stool, climbing up to tie the rope securely to Jim’s cuffs, imprisoning Jim’s hands over his head. Jim didn’t pull on the ropes to test them. He’d seen the knots. Hell, he’d taught Blair those knots. He shivered slightly, awed by Blair’s careful choreography. If he’d needed or wanted to, Jim could have released himself from the chain upstairs, but escape would have been difficult enough to give Jim a sufficient illusion of helplessness. Now, however, Blair had pulled his hands up far enough that short of some pretty serious acrobatics, Jim wasn’t getting loose without help.


“Mmmm, you look beautiful,” Blair smiled, stepping back to look. “Legs wide apart, James – I already told you that once. This is your last reminder. Good boy.”


He walked around behind Jim, then stopped. A long moment of silence, but Jim heard his Guide’s breathing change. It wasn’t arousal. Gentle fingertips touched his back.


“I never really looked at you like this,” Blair said softly. “There’s scars here, faint, but I can see some. Did you play that hard, James, or are these something else?”


Jim took a deep breath.


“Where, Master?”


Blair’s fingertip traced a line.




“That was from Peru, Master. When I was thrown from the helicopter I fell through some branches.”




“Knife wound from – well, never mind. Covert Ops, Master.”




“Bullet graze, Master.”




Jim swallowed.


“That’s from a whip, Master. I told you about the assignment with Mark. But he didn’t do it. It was our – our target.”


Blair stepped around to Jim’s front again, searching his eyes.


“James, how hard do you play? Have you set limits with your Doms?”


Jim took a deep breath. It was hard to answer, even though those eyes held no judgment, no condemnation.


“Sometimes I’ve played pretty hard, Master. I’ve set limits, but not – probably not like you’re thinking. I told them they couldn’t fuck me or cause any permanent injury. That’s about it, Master.”


“That wasn’t very smart, James,” Blair said quietly. “Not with men you hardly knew.”


Jim didn’t flinch from Blair’s gaze.


“I know, Master,” he said, just as quietly. “But there were times when I just didn’t care very much.”


Blair’s hand shot up and gripped Jim’s chin in an iron-hard grip.


“From now on you care,” Blair whispered, his eyes boring deep into Jim’s. “From now on you care every minute. I realize that right now you may not know what your limits are, and we’ll find that out together, but there will be limits and we will observe them at all times, and whenever those limits change, then we will observe the new ones. Are you absolutely clear on that, James?”


Jim’s heart melted, simply melted, in a wave of love so intense that he thought wonderingly for a moment that he might weep for the first time in literally years. He also realized he’d never been so hard in his life.


“Yes, Master,” he whispered. “I understand. Absolutely.”


“Good.” Blair released his chin and stroked his cheek very tenderly for a moment, his voice returning to normal. “I’m going to take these clamps off now. They’ve been on long enough.”


Jim let out a hiss as Blair carefully removed the nipple clamps. He stepped out of Jim’s line of sight for a moment, then returned holding something that made Jim’s breath catch again – a light parachute cord flogger with a leather handle.


“Where’s touch right now, James?” Blair asked conversationally.


Jim checked.


“Three, Master.”


“Take it back down to normal. Anything else dialed up?”


“No, Master.”


Blair stepped close again, letting Jim smell the leather of the handle, feel the cords against the skin of his chest.


“Now, I realize you’ve played hard, and this is pretty lightweight for you,” Blair said softly, laying the flogger on the side of the stair. “But I want you to trust me. I’m going to take you as far as you need to go. You need to stay with me here because I can’t watch your face. So I’m going to give you some other things to focus on. Now watch me, James.”


Slowly Blair drew the tank top up over his head, setting it aside. His eyes on Jim’s, he unlaced the front of his trousers, opening them. His erection peeped out through the opening, and Blair pushed the top of his trousers down to mid-thigh to give Jim a good look at the rosy length. The tip was shiny with precome and Jim’s mouth watered.


“Hungry, James?” Blair asked silkily, and Jim had to swallow several times before he could speak.


“Yes, Master,” he whispered.


“If you’re a good boy and don’t zone out, I’ll let you make me come,” Blair promised. “For now, though, just watch.”


Blair stepped out of sight for a moment and returned holding a short length of leather strap, approximately the width and thickness of a belt but only about six inches long. Holding Jim’s gaze, Blair reached up and stroked the strap through his hair, down his cheek, across his lips. He trailed it around the nape of his neck, exactly the route Jim’s tongue so loved to travel, then back around and down over his chest, rubbing it softly across his hard nipples. Jim moaned helplessly.


“Like what you see, James?” Blair purred.


“Yes, M-Master,” Jim gasped.


“Keep watching.”


The strap continued its journey downward, one corner tracing a circle around Blair’s navel, sliding around to the small of his back – one of Blair’s favorite erogenous zones – and then Jim watched transfixed as Blair slid the strap between his buttocks and passed it down that shadowy crevice, over his perineum, his smooth scrotum, and slowly, slowly up the length of his cock. Jim stared, shaking hard. He’d never wanted to be a short scrap of leather so much in his life.


His eyes still on Jim’s, Blair rubbed the strap slowly over his cock, wetting the leather with his precome, back and forth, back and forth. Jim was moaning softly now. Then Blair took the strap away, laying it aside and nonchalantly lacing his pants up again. Jim whimpered with disappointment.


“Shhhhh, shhhhh, James,” Blair said comfortably, tying his pants closed. He picked up the strap and stepped close to Jim, raising the strap to Jim’s nose. “Smell.”


Jim smelled and nearly fainted as Essence of Blair exploded through his olfactory nerves. The scent of Blair’s semen was predominant, and after that, the musk of his sweat, of course, but the layers of scent were rich and complex – skin oils, the soap he used, shampoo, conditioner, the different aromatic oils of his hair, and oh, God, pheromones in quantities Jim could barely believe. He shot instantly to the very brink of orgasm, his hips pumping helplessly, whimpering softly.


“Oooooh, James, you’re so responsive, such a good boy,” Blair crooned. “Do you know what this strap is? It’s the reward for a good boy, a beautiful responsive slave who’s pleasing me so much, trying so hard for me. Now behave yourself and earn it, and in a little while I might let you have it.”


He laid the strap on the phone table, tantalizingly close and yet out of reach, and picked up the parachute cord flogger again, walking around behind Jim.


“Here’s the rules, James,” Blair said in that voice that coiled around Jim’s spine in hot tendrils. “First, use your safeword if you need it. What are your safewords?”


“Yellow for caution, Master,” Jim said. “Red for full stop.”


“Very good. Second, stay with me. Do not close your eyes or hold your breath. Do not turn any sense up or down unless I tell you. If you feel yourself starting to zone, use your safeword. Third, stay perfectly still unless I tell you to move. I don’t want to hit you in the wrong place because you made an unexpected movement. Fourth, no talking except to answer me or to use your safeword. You’re welcome to scream, moan, whimper and make any other nonverbal sound you like, but if you can’t stay quiet enough to keep the neighbors from calling the police, use your ‘yellow’ word and I’ll put something in your mouth. Are you clear on the rules, James?”


“Yes, Master,” Jim said. He was breathing hard now; he knew he was shaking and hoped Blair couldn’t see it.


He expected something more – warnings, questions, more rules maybe – so the first stroke took him completely by surprise. It wasn’t across his ass, as he might have expected, but across the backs of his calves and knees. Jim yelped, more in surprise than pain; the stroke was barely hard enough to sting even on that thin skin, but he was hard put not to pull away reflexively. He managed to hold still just in time for the second stroke to lash across the backs of his knees and lower thighs.


To Jim’s surprise, Blair made no effort to be unpredictable with his strokes after that first one, laying a light rhythmic pattern of strokes up the backs of his legs, over his ass and up his back to his shoulders and back down again, then up, then down... it was almost soothing, not painful, just... very noticeable.


Gradually, however, the subtlety of Blair’s genius began to seep into Jim’s awareness as his skin warmed and tightened and became sensitized. It was as if he had turned up his sense of touch, but he hadn’t. The strokes were no heavier than before, maybe even lighter, but now they were little electrical kisses, sweet and painful, and they’d slipped in under his guard before he could even tense against them. Involuntarily his buttocks clenched and Jim became incredibly aware of the plug inside him. He seemed to heat and swell inside too, and each little shocking stroke sent a throb of pleasure through him.


Almost simultaneous with this realization, Blair walked around to Jim’s front and laid one stinging stroke right across Jim’s sore nipples. Jim howled and arched his back even as lightning zapped from the point of impact straight down into his cock, sending shock waves of a dry orgasm echoing from one end of his body to the other. Before he could recover, Blair delivered two more good hard strokes to his widespread thighs, high enough that they barely missed his scrotum, and the contractions of Jim’s body sent new waves of ecstasy shooting out from the plug, seeming to start his climax all over again.


It took Jim a moment to realize that Blair had stopped and walked out of sight again. He reappeared, this time carrying a flogger of strips of butter-soft suede. Jim was trembling, breathless, panting, his body already hypersensitive. He’d never felt so naked in his life.


“I want you to turn up touch, James,” Blair said quietly, although he was a little breathless too. “Two notches for now.”


“Yes, Master,” Jim panted, shuddering as he obeyed. The residual sting and heat and pleasure in his skin flared almost unbearably.


Under normal circumstances Jim would have called the suede flogger a light toy, more a massage than anything else, but the first touch of the heavy soft strips across the backs of his shoulders made Jim cry out in disbelief. He was on fire; he couldn’t even distinguish whether the potent sensation was pleasure or pain. A few strokes later he decided it was pleasure. A few more and he was no longer in doubt.


Blair read Jim’s nerve endings with a fiendish psychic accuracy, covering his skin with patterns of heat and stinging kisses, pausing to run the soft leather up and down his burning skin, then back to those electric strokes. Halfway through he paused and had Jim turn up touch two more notches before he resumed his rhythm. Jim felt Blair was methodically stripping away layer after layer of Jim’s defenses, like peeling away the layers of an onion to get to the tender white core. Once Blair went to the refrigerator and returned with an ice cube which he traced down Jim’s spine, then quickly up the bottom of his cock, and Jim screamed and almost had to use his safeword.


“How’s my light, James?” Blair asked conversationally, and Jim could hear the ice cube plunk into the sink.


“Green, Master,” Jim gasped. He was trembling all over now, his body helplessly weak and singing with pleasure, every nerve shooting sparks.


“I think it’s time for this, then,” Blair said. He picked up the strap and walked up in front of Jim. “Open your mouth, James.”


Jim obediently opened his mouth and shuddered again when Blair slid the side of the strap between his teeth.


“Close your mouth,” Blair said. “You may taste the strap with your tongue, but you may not suck on it. If you need to get rid of the strap, spit it out. If you want to use your safeword and can’t manage to get rid of the strap quickly enough, grunt twice rapidly. Nod if you understand, James.”


Jim nodded, feeling another wave of helpless adoration. His body was singing and the strap in his mouth tasted like the very essence of Blair Sandburg, guarding and owning him even through his taste buds. Dear God, he’d never felt so open, so vulnerable and yet so safe. So free.


“Now I’m going to have to punish you,” Blair said regretfully. “I’m going to punish you for trying to lie to me about the box, and I’m going to punish you for hiding your needs from me. I’m going to give you five strokes for each. Use your safeword if you need to, but I’ll consider that a ‘red’ and the scene’s over. Nod if you understand.”


His heart pounding, Jim nodded.


Blair laid down the suede flogger and produced another instrument, and Jim shuddered. It wasn’t a paddle – not exactly. It had a sturdy leather-over-wood handle, but the striking surface itself was rather long and supple, a leather strip about the width and thickness of a wide belt, though shorter. Blair stepped around behind him.


“Focus on the plug and on the strap in your mouth,” Blair said in that melting voice. “Take nice deep breaths for me, James.”


The first stroke exploded across his ass like dynamite, jarring the plug excruciatingly inside him. The second seared its way up his spine to his brain. The third sent sparks across Jim’s vision. By the fifth stroke Jim was screaming hoarsely, his teeth digging into the strap as Blair exploded across his tongue, as pleasure and pain, fire and ice chased tails around his nerves. On the sixth stroke he came – and then again on the seventh and then – and then –


Several blurred moments later Jim realized that he was hanging limply from the ropes, his muscles jerking in little spasms of residual tension. His ass felt like it was on fire; he was sure it had to look like raw hamburger. Then he became aware of Blair’s voice, Blair’s cool hand stroking his cheek.


“Good boy, James, you did fine, you did so good,” Blair murmured lovingly. “Such a beautiful brave man, so strong.”


Blair’s fingers tugged at the strap in Jim’s mouth.


“Let go of this now, James. You did fine, you don’t need it anymore.”


It took Jim a moment to unclench his jaw. The muscles ached furiously.


“I’m going to let you down now, James.”


When Blair untied the knots Jim collapsed helplessly to his knees, his legs simply too weak and shaking to support him. He let himself go, clutching Blair’s legs, burying his face in the leather of Blair’s trousers, breathing in great hoarse gasps, hanging on to the last shred of Jim Ellison by the barest of threads.


Then Blair’s soft voice said, “Shhhh, James, I love you,” and warm lips pressed against his temple, warm hands stroked his hair.


And Jim broke, broke utterly as neither pain nor pleasure nor danger had ever broken him, opened his soul and sobbed, tears streaming down his cheeks and burning in his nose and running into his mouth and soaking the front of Blair’s trousers, great gasping sobs torn up raw from the depths of him. And even as he sobbed out years’ worth of frozen tears, he was chanting, “Love you, love you, Master, love you so much – “


And somehow, somehow as always Blair understood, magically whisked him to the couch and held him, not panicking, just held him quietly and let him weep until the storm passed, then gently wiped his face clean and handed him kleenex to blow his nose.


“I’m sorry, Master,” Jim whispered, still hiccupping with swallowed tears.


“Sorry, James?” Blair said tenderly. “Whatever for?”


“For – you know,” Jim mumbled. “I know I look awful.”


“Shhh, you’re beautiful.” Blair kissed him softly. “Just beautiful. You let go for me, James. You finally let go. I’m so proud of you. Look at me now, James.”


Jim forced his eyes up to meet the love in Blair’s expression. He bit his lip hard lest he start weeping again.


“You’ve earned your reward,” Blair said gently. “I’ll let you come, and I’ll let you make me come. Would you like to suck me off, or would you like me to fuck you?”


Jim hesitated. He didn’t deserve the pleasure of Blair fucking him, but he wanted it desperately. And his nose was so stuffed up now that he was miserably certain that he couldn’t manage a good blowjob to save his soul.


“Would you fuck me, Master?” Jim whispered. “Please?”


“Of course, Baby,” Blair said lovingly. He pulled Jim to his feet, steadying him when Jim wavered, then reached down and unsnapped the leather bands around Jim’s cock and scrotum. He unfastened the harness, too, carefully drawing the plug out, smiling at Jim’s moan. “Bend over the couch, James. You may come when I do, but not before.”


Jim obeyed, pitifully glad of the couch to lean against, and spread his legs wide. He felt somehow cleansed, still, empty both physically and emotionally, but in a good way. Emptied of something cold and aching. Empty in a peaceful way. Empty in a way that hungered for his Master to fill him up again. The first cold touch of lubricant, however, reminded him that his sense of touch was still turned up.


“Master?” he whispered. “Should I turn touch back down?”


“No, James. Leave it up.”


Jim had thought that after wearing a plug for so long he’d be open, even loose, but he was surprised at how huge Blair’s finger felt as it slid into him. He heard a chuckle behind him.


“Oh, man, you’re so fucking tight, so hot, James, you’re like a furnace. This is going to be just beautiful. Relax, James, nice deep breaths, just stay still and relax for me.”


Two fingers and it felt as though Blair was trying to push a telephone pole inside him, so impossibly tight and full. Three fingers was uncomfortable, but oh, God he wanted Blair’s cock inside him so badly, more than he’d ever wanted it before. He felt reborn, and that must be why he felt so tight. He’d somehow become virginal, and that was fitting, wasn’t it?


Then Blair was sliding inside him so smoothly, so beautifully that although it felt his cock had grown a foot longer and six inches thicker Jim moaned with nothing but pure ecstasy. He’d been emptied, and now Blair was here to fill him, fill him full again but this time full of love and pleasure. He clung to the couch and sobbed with pleasure as Blair rocked slowly, rhythmically inside him, sweet gentle rocking incongruous after that explosive whipping, slow easy pleasure more devastating than the pain. It was too good, too hot for both of them, and Jim could feel Blair racing toward orgasm even as he kept up the same slow gentle strokes, his cock throbbing and swelling with the need to release its pressure, and Jim prayed he could hold out that long. And then Blair’s fingers reached around and pinched his sore red nipples hard, and Jim stifled his scream, not of pain but of pleasure, by biting into the cover of the couch as the moment arrived for them both, and the hot wet spurts inside him were the most exquisite sensation Jim had ever felt, every individual pulse of Blair’s blood echoing through his body as Jim came with a pleasure almost more spiritual than physical, came softly and gently and profoundly from the depths of his soul. And once again his legs gave out, simply refused to hold him up, but his Master’s arms were warm and strong around him, guiding him down to rest.




Warmth surrounded him – warm water, warm skin, warm touches, warm lips against his ear. Jim slowly opened his eyes. He was sitting in the bathtub, a little cramped because Blair was sitting in the tub behind him, Jim between his legs, Jim’s head on his shoulder. Blair stroked a soft sponge very slowly over his skin. Judging from the feel of his skin, Blair had already pretty much finished cleaning them both up.


“Hey, Jim,” Blair whispered, kissing Jim’s ear. “I love you.”


Jim? Jim reached up and touched his throat. The collar was gone.


“Scene over, love,” Blair confirmed. “You okay?”


Jim smiled. He was so much more than okay. The Berlin Wall had come crashing down, leaving peace in its wake.


“Yeah,” he whispered back. “I’m fine. I love you too... Blair.”


Blair’s hand cupped Jim’s head, holding it warmly against his shoulder, and Jim let him, sighing and relaxing. He was sore all over and his ass felt scoured raw, and he was utterly, exquisitely happy.


Except for the doubts that tried to swim up from the pit of his stomach. He pushed them back down as long as he could, but at last he had to ask.


“Blair, were you okay with that?”


“Okay?” Blair chuckled. “I could’ve played with you for hours longer, Jim. It was incredible. Awesome.” A brief hesitation. “How about you? Was that what you needed?”


“It was everything I needed and all the things I never knew I needed,” Jim said quietly. “You were right. You knew me in a way nobody else ever did. It was like – like you held my soul in your hands.”


Warm press of lips against the back of his neck.


“If I did, it was because you trusted me enough to give it to me,” Blair said softly. “I’m so fucking honored that you let me go there with you. That you let me see the rest of the man I love.”


Silence for a long, comfortable moment.


“So – “ Jim hesitated. “What happens now?”


“What happens now,” Blair said, “is we get out of this bath, I dry you off and take you upstairs, and then I give you a long, slow massage, feed you, cuddle you, hold you and otherwise pamper and make love with you for the rest of the weekend.”


Jim smiled a little awkwardly.


“That wasn’t exactly what I meant.”


“I know.” Blair gently pushed at him. “Come on, let’s get out. I’m wrinkling up like a prune.”


Blair dried him gently, chuckling when Jim hissed as Blair dried his ass.


“Man, I’m not going to be able to sit on Monday,” Jim said ruefully.


“I’ll rub some lotion on,” Blair said unrepentently. “Here, look.” He turned Jim to the full-length mirror on the bathroom door.


Jim glanced, then did a double-take, turning slightly for a better look. His ass was pink, all right, although some of that was probably from the hot water he’d been sitting in, but there wasn’t a bruise in sight, much less anything he could call a welt.


“I don’t believe it,” he said blankly.


Blair smiled patiently.


“Hey, I told you I was a semiprofessional,” he said indulgently. “With proper warmup and a skilled Dom, a little goes a long ways. Well, and it helps to have a sub who’s got a boosted sense of touch, I admit. Come on, let’s go upstairs.”


Jim stretched out on the bed, groaning contentedly as Blair rubbed warm oil into the skin of his back and buttocks.


“Hey, you’re awfully quiet,” Blair commented. “How about some feedback here? Compliments, critiques equally accepted.”


“I don’t know what to say,” Jim said at last. “I mean, the others aren’t even in your league, so there’s no comparisons to be made. What should I say? It was incredible, it was mind-bending? You know that already.”


“True,” Blair chuckled. “At least judging from observation.”


After a long moment, Jim worked up his nerve to broach the one subject that had him puzzled.


“Uh – one question?”


“A hundred, if you want,” Blair said easily. “What?”


Jim licked his lips, trying to phrase it properly.


“You didn’t – I mean, I’ve been with Doms who were heavily into, you know, the humiliation thing, but you didn’t – ah, hell, I don’t know what I’m saying,” Jim said awkwardly.


“I know what you mean,” Blair said, suddenly serious. He stopped rubbing and rolled Jim over, forcing Jim to meet his eyes.


“I felt like maybe that wasn’t what you needed,” Blair said, very quietly. “Was I wrong?”


Jim shook his head slowly.


“No,” he said very softly. “No, you weren’t wrong. I never liked that stuff. I guess, I don’t know, it was too much like the way my father used to be. But I always figured it was – I don’t know, part of the package.”


“Hey, this is a custom package,” Blair said gently. “You can order a la carte all the way. I wanted you to feel safe and loved – take the weight off, as you said.”


“You did,” Jim said quietly. “You did all those things and more. Blair – “ He hesitated. “Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve let go like that?”


Blair silently shook his head.


“Years,” Jim said. Then he shook his head too. “No. I’m lying. I’ve never let go like that. Never. Only you could get so deep inside me. Only my Guide, my love... my Master. I’ve never had one, you know. I’ve had tops and Doms, but never a Master. Never until now. I mean if you ever want to again,” he added uncomfortably.


Blair smiled and kissed Jim softly, then abruptly slid off the bed.


“Hang on just a minute,” he said. “I’ve got something for you.”


He returned with a velvet box, handing it to Jim.


“I was going to give it to you this weekend anyway,” he said. “Sunday’s our one-month anniversary. But I think this is an even better time.”


Jim took a deep breath and opened the box. On the velvet lining lay two matching chain bracelets with alternating links of white, rose and yellow gold.


“Oh, Chief,” Jim said softly. “This must have set you back quite a bit.”


Blair only smiled.


“When I saw these, I just liked the look of them,” he said. “But right now they mean something special. See how the three colors make the whole? That’s like you, Jim. Sentinel, mate, slave. And because you’re willing to give all of yourself to me, you let me be all those things for you – Guide, mate, Master. It’s the totality that makes the chain strong. So I’d like us to wear those, to remember that there’s no part of ourselves we can’t share with each other. That all those parts only make the chain stronger.”


Jim opened his mouth, but he couldn’t think of a single thing he could say without completely embarrassing himself. He settled for taking one bracelet from the box and fastening it quietly around Blair’s wrist, then handing the other to Blair to fasten around his wrist.


“I love you, Chief,” Jim said softly, kissing Blair, praying that that kiss could express what Jim’s pitiful communications skills could not. When he raised his head, the glow in his Guide’s eyes told him that once more Blair had understood.


“I love you too, Big Guy,” Blair said. He pulled Jim down to the bed and curled into their favorite cuddling position, Jim on his back, Blair half lying on Jim’s chest, his chin propped on his hands.


“So – “ Jim said tentatively. “Does that mean we’re going to do this again?”


“I hope so.” Blair’s eyes probed Jim’s. “I don’t want it to get out of proportion to the rest of our love life, but, I mean, I kind of expected that we would, you know, whenever either of us need or want it.”


Jim let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he was holding.


“I’m good with that,” Jim said softly.


“And – um – “ Blair’s eyes sparkled. “I hope you’re open to trying it the other way around, too, you know. Just for fun, though. After all, we’ve barely dipped into those boxes.”


Jim pictured Blair spread out over the bed, maybe blindfolded, his wrists and ankles tied to the corners, Jim teasing his bound and erect cock with the tip of a riding crop...


“Oh my God,” he whispered, feeling the first signs of renewed life in the southern realms.


Blair chuckled and slid fully on top of Jim’s body.


“Eat your heart out, Pandora,” he said, bending down for a kiss.


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