Chapter 3 – Truce?

Tara Cox Literary Erotica logo

Kirsty smiled as she watched Monica swing on her playset. The day was chilly and a bit grey. Those dark clouds overhead were just another reminder of him…and last night. She dropped her head and toyed with a blade of tall brown grass. Even that would be gone soon, hidden under the white of snow, she mused.

Breakfast this morning had been tense. Unlike the café yesterday or dinner last night, everyone was not talking all at once. No one talked at all. She caught Bjⱷrn looking at her across the table a couple of times. She tried to smile reassuringly at him, but it did not seem to work. Those dark circles were still present beneath his green eyes too.

Svein, too, did not have much to say, only answering his uncle’s questions a couple of times. Or she assumed they were questions. She would talk to Petrine when she came out of the greenhouse. Maybe she could order an online language course. She was certainly tired of not knowing what the people around her were saying.

Of course, he was the most silent. Although that was not all that unusual, he sat directly across the table from her. Never once did he look up, though. Damn, the man. She had woken up alone in that damned monstrosity that passed for her bed. Torture device was more like it. Hell, her whole fucking bedroom was.

The bed with its four huge posters and metal rings all around it. She remembered photos on that site of women suspended with rope in mid-air. She bet they could do that there. So, why did that idea excite her as much as it frightened her?

She had explored the room a bit after she finally found the energy to get out of bed and forced her shaky legs to work. She could not find her clothes. So, she wrapped herself in the quilt.

The wardrobe she had come to realize could double as a St. Andrew’s Cross with three of those rings across the top as anchors for roping. To make it worse, the ancient mirrors on the doors would reflect everything. She would see every blow before it even hit if her eyes were open anyway.

And that damned chair? The one that she had thought at first was some oversized captain’s one. It was more like a fucking throne. She had shivered as she ran her hands across its ancient wood. It also had three rings. On at the very top of the high back, through a laughing Loki’s nose. The other two at the ends of the arms through the snouts of dogs, or she thought they were supposed to be dogs anyway.

Of course, the one thing she had wanted to explore the most was that damned trunk, which she supposed was their ‘toy box,’ only more substantial than the one on the boat. It was locked when she woke up. Besides the rope and that horrid tawse, she had no idea what else might be in store for her.

She had jumped up from the floor and wrapped the quilt tighter about her when the door to her room opened. It was only Petrine, though — only her mother-in-law.

Kirsty looked once more towards the closed doors of the greenhouse. The woman had disappeared in there over an hour ago, and she had no idea what she was doing. She thought about knocking, making sure that everything was all right. But she was in charge of Monica.

Thinking about that room that was now hers, but it had been this woman’s before. Mikael’s words from last night about the things his parents might have done in there, well, maybe disturbing Petrine was not the best idea after all. Talking about her marriage and how it worked with the woman had been bad enough yesterday, the other was most definitely one conversation she was not ready for.

BDSM? Bondage. Domination. Submission. Masochism. She had checked all the boxes last night in that room with him. She shifted on the hard, cold ground where she sat. She was still sore this morning. Walking was not easy. Then again, neither was sitting. Was it from the stiff leather of the tawse that he had used, not on her bottom, but her…front? Or was it from his fingers and tongue stuffing her fuller and fuller, more than most cocks ever could?

Pain slut. His words tormented her. She had had enough trouble trying to come to terms with her need to submit to a man in this feminist world in which she lived. But she had never for one moment thought that final M – masochist – would apply to her. She would have sworn that pain did nothing for her. Until last night…

She fought back the tears as she looked around her. Monica had moved on to her sandbox that was protected from the elements beneath a playhouse that rose a good five feet above it. The whole thing showed such careful planning and construction. She would have loved to have had such a thing with ‘her kids.’

‘Her kids,’ her clients, she should say. Her hand rested on her coat just over her lower abdomen as she watched the little girl play. They had never been hers. All of them had merely been borrowed for an hour once a week or so. Calling them that was just her way of making her life seem like it meant something, like she had some purpose.

But today, another therapist would step in and take over where she left off. Some of them would not even notice. For others, of course, the transition would be much harder, but she knew that they, too, would adjust eventually. She was so easily replaceable. She always had been. The email from her supervisor authorizing her sabbatical just proved that.

Now nothing was tying her to that old life. Her flatmates had confirmed that they would be happy to look after Little Miss. Actually, they had begged and pleaded to keep her. Kirsty still was not sure about that, though. Even though Petrine had a couple of cats, mousers as she called them, this place was more than large enough for Little Miss to join the family.

This place, the Holding. It was breath-taking. Petrine, Monica, and she had wandered around a bit more after they had cleared up the breakfast things. It was acres and acres, one of the larger islands in this area. Most of it remained fully wooded though there were a couple of good-sized fields like this one which housed Petrine’s greenhouse and Monica’s play area. Another housed Olav’s cabin and a woodworking shop. A third was blanketed with late autumn wildflowers.

This place was so beautiful and peaceful. Peaceful in a way that she had craved her whole life. While she knew that she was not on the autistic spectrum, Kirsty had always wondered if something was wrong with her. Sensory processing disorder, perhaps?

London had just always been too much. Too loud. Too many people. All were rushing around, most with no real place to go or be. She shook her head and closed her eyes for a moment as she leaned her head back and inhaled the fresh, clean scent of pine and sea. It reminded her of them.

She forced her eyes open again, though they seemed so fucking heavy right now. She had no idea how much sleep she had gotten last night. But this felt, unlike any exhaustion she had ever known. Not even after her rare all-night binge in uni with her girlfriends had she felt this… She frowned as she tried to find the words to describe it. Tired? Yes, more like exhausted, knackered. The colloquial British – shattered – took on real meaning.

But at the same time, her whole body thrummed with some weird energy. She supposed it must be something like what her kids with ADHD, hyperactivity, felt. Nervous energy. She could not sit still or force her mind to focus, not for even a moment. The two were at complete odds, and it felt like they were warring inside of her, like they might tear her body apart in this battle.

She felt like her whole skin just did not fit, like it was itchy and scratchy all over. To make it worse, one minute she was freezing cold and the next she was too hot. She reached up and felt her forehead. She did not feel feverish, but perhaps that was it. Maybe she was coming down with something. She had, after all, been through an ordeal that would weaken most people’s immune systems. Kidnapped and taken hundreds, a thousand miles from home?

Home? Just that word made her want to burst into tears. What was it anyway? Certainly not the damned one bedroom in a flat she shared with two other women to whom she barely spoke. Not the boarding schools that she had been sent to from the time she was seven so that her parents could concentrate upon what was truly important: their careers as consultants, doctors in the vast National Health Service. Hell, not even the large brick home in one of the better neighborhoods in north London where she had lived on school holidays, where her earliest memories of nannies and housekeepers had formed.

She shook herself. What was wrong with her? She had thought after speaking with Bjⱷrn and Petrine yesterday that she was coming to terms with everything. Every? Thing? Kidnapping? Married to three men? Hot sex, unlike any she had ever had…with not one partner, but three. She supposed she could count Mikael, even if it were not intercourse as such. And kinky bondage, domination, submission, and now even masochism.

Fuck her ex-boyfriend Raj for giving her that damned tablet as his final present on Valentine’s Day. Only a couple of weeks before informing her that he was going to marry his cousin from India. Fuck those damned e-books that had gotten her so worked up about BDSM. Fuck Captive Brides most of all. And especially fuck Raquel Graffen and her sick imagination about Dom brothers who captured women to seduce and marry them. And fuck, her new reality where that was no longer just fiction.

She shivered. But it was from more than just the cold that seemed suddenly to be overwhelming. This time it was not a single chill. She was shaking. Her whole body trembled as if she had a high fever and chills.

“Kirsty?” she heard the soft voice and looked up. Her mind clouded even more just then. The older woman with long silver hair and kind green eyes looked down at her. She knew that she should recognize her. That she knew this woman, but her name escaped her.

“Look at me, Kirsty,” the woman commanded. Commands? She was good at those, wasn’t she? It seemed that something else was missing.

But right then, she did not care. She was floating…just floating. She remembered this. Remembered him. Then it was not so fun anymore. She was falling. Falling so fucking fast. Everything around her was spinning so fucking fast like that ride at the funfair.

Green eyes? Someone else had green eyes like that too? But she could not remember who just then. But it did not matter. “I think I may be sick…have caught something,” she tried to whisper though she was not guaranteed any sound came out of her throat. It was so dry at the moment.

Warm arms wrapped about her then. She gave up and just leaned into them, closed her eyes.

Petrine looked at her daughter-in-law. “I’m going to fucking kill him,” she swore.

She looked over to where Monica was playing on the climbing frame. She could not leave either of them unattended. Not now. And there was no way she could carry this woman to the boat where her boys were probably all working on the nets. Olav’s cabin was just over the ridge, but if the damned man were in his woodworking shop, then he would not hear her screams over the machinery.

But she had to try. She took off her coat and wrapped it around the younger woman, “Everything will be alright, Kirsty,” she tapped her face lightly, just enough to rouse her and get her to open her eyes.

“Listen to me, sweetie. This is drop, just sub drop, that’s all,” she did not add that it was the worst she had ever seen or let on how scared she was. Sub drop was after all…shock. The body’s response to trauma.

“Damn, Mikael. Damn him to hell,” she whispered under her breath as she began to scream at the top of her lungs, “Help!”

Monica looked up. She could see her granddaughter beginning to panic, but what option did she have right now? She could not leave either of them. She felt tears forming in her eyes as panic rose. She knew what to do…of course, she did. She had dealt with this herself a few times, though never this bad.

But other than keeping her as warm as possible with her coat, there was not much she could do. The house was too far. She probably could not even get the girl to her greenhouse, although she should try. Water – she needed water, but that also was at the house. Chocolate? Herb tea? All of it was out of reach. Especially what the girl needed most: her son’s comfort. Fuck him. She was going to lay into Mikael’s ass when she saw him.

She opened her mouth to try screaming again when he appeared out of the trees. “What is it, Mama?” he yelled as he continued towards them. She noticed that Bjⱷrn was only a couple of steps behind her middle son.

“What’s wrong?” he panted. “Monica seems fine,” he shrugged.

It was the last thing that Petrine wanted to hear from her son. Bjⱷrn leaned down next to her; he seemed more in tune with the situation though he did not speak. She passed the woman’s limp body off to her youngest son as she stood up.

She was not a small woman at five foot eleven inches, but her sons, all of them, towered over her. Right now, that did not matter at all. She poked him in the chest. “Your daughter is fine, Mikael. It is your wife you should be fucking worried about.”

“What the hell were you thinking? She is your WIFE. Not one of your whores. Or those pathetic subs you play with in the clubs. Where all you have to do is hand them a bottle of water, wrap a blanket over their shoulders, and give them a couple of pats… ‘there, there.’ It is fucking called – aftercare. Have you never fucking heard of it?”

Her son’s face clouded over as he looked from her red face to the ground where his younger brother was holding the girl and brushing her red hair back out of her face. The pained look in Mikael’s eyes that were so fucking much like his father’s almost made her regret her harsh words…almost, but only for a moment.

Then Svein appeared out of the woods in one direction and Olav from the other. Both men spoke at the same time, “What is it? What’s the matter?” Of course, her husband had to add ‘old woman’ for good measure.

“He’s the matter. My idiot son, that’s what’s the matter.” She stared at all of them in turn, “Have none of you ever heard of a little thing called sub drop? Aftercare? Any of this ring a fucking bell?” She was so angry that she was trembling. She could see her sons all blushing as they looked at the ground.

It was the first time that she had ever spoken openly about it. Any of it. She supposed that all of them had put the pieces together as they grew up. It was after all her husbands, who had introduced the boys to the BDSM clubs once they were old enough. Places like Amsterdam and Saint Petersburg had some of the best.

Still, she supposed that none of them wanted to connect the dots. Wanted to admit to themselves that if their fathers…then their mother? Maybe she should have forced the issue sooner, though, and made sure they saw things from the woman’s perspective. The submissive’s. She probably was not doing any of this right. But she was mad right now — madder than she had been, in a long time.

“Bjⱷrn, help me get her to the house,” she commanded. “Mikael, take care of your child.”

Then she was spinning. Until she stared up into the dark grey eyes of her husband, she recognized that color. Knew that she was not the only one who was mad at the moment. Well, that was just too fucking bad. Whatever the Old Man had to say would wait. Right now, she needed to get the girl back to the house. See to her properly.

His eyes never left her face as he spoke, “Svein, help Mikael take your wife back to the house. Son, you know what needs to be done. Bjⱷrn, watch your niece for a few minutes. Your mother and I need to ‘talk.’”

Petrine knew that she should listen. She had not seen this man like this in….a very, very, very long time. Maybe too long, considering that she did not have the wisdom to shut up while she could. She shook her head, “No, Bjⱷrn and I can manage. Monica is scared. She needs her father.”

He leaned in even closer. He was quiet when he spoke, too quiet. “As you told our son last night, right now, his wife needs him more.”

He crowded even closer into her personal space, brought his face right next to hers until she could feel his whiskers abrade her cheek. “Open your mouth again, Rachel, and it is double. Do you understand me?”

He drew back, and all it took was a look to send them all into action. Though Mikael’s shoulders slumped and he would not look at any of them, he reached for the woman. Bjⱷrn drew her tighter into his arms and shook his head, “No, I’ll take her.”

“No, this is Mikael’s job, and you know that, son. Besides, your mother is right,” he said as he looked over to where the little girl cowered in the corner of the sandbox. “Monica is frightened. And besides her father, she likes you best. Give your wife to your brothers; they can manage.”

Petrine could see that he wanted to argue. She smiled; at least her youngest had some sense. Then again, she had had more of a hand in raising him; of course, it was logical that he could see things more from a woman’s perspective.

Her smile froze when she saw him looking at her. Bjⱷrn reluctantly released his burden to his brothers and stood up to go to his niece. Mikael and Svein draped her arms over their shoulders, and half carried, half dragged the semi-conscious woman towards the house. She noticed that Svein’s face was almost as dark as Bjⱷrn’s.

But neither of her sons’ came anywhere close to the dark grey that flashed in his eyes. That was when she realized. She was in trouble. Big trouble as he crooked his fingers and motioned for her to follow him. She thought about running. It would not be the first time. Maybe she could even outpace him…this time. She was close to a decade younger, after all. But then what? Run where? And if speaking would warrant double, what additional punishment would running earn her?

She sighed. No, it was best to go with him. To get this over with as quickly as she could. Although she doubted very seriously that it would be all that quick or that it would be over with any time soon. She would likely need extra cushions for a few days from the looks in those eyes. For the first time, she felt fear. It had been almost thirty years since she had faced a real punishment, but something told her that was about to end.

Mikael stared at the woman: his wife. Their wife, he reminded himself as Svein pulled back the quilt and helped him get her into the bed.

Damn it, his mother was right. He had screwed up — big time. And while no one had ever actually died of sub drop…how would anyone know though? This was as bad as he had ever seen it.

“Fuck,” he cursed as he pulled her boots off. He massaged her feet, trying to get circulation back to her extremities.

“I’ll grab what you need downstairs,” Svein said as he headed towards the door.

And wouldn’t you know it, Mama had to let him have it in front of his brothers. Not that he did not deserve it. He should have known better. He had been playing these games for close to fifteen years. But Mama was right about that too…dealing with drop in a casual play partner was very different.

Besides adequate hydration, which idiot that he was, he had not even seen to that last night, thinking that she looked so beautiful and peaceful as she slept. He had not wanted to disturb her. Or that was the excuse he had used for not waking her. Not looking at the anger, disgust, and hatred in those eyes after what he had done, how far he had pushed her, was much closer to the truth.

Too fucking far, he sighed as he reached up and pulled down her skirt and tights in a single motion. He was not sure whether he wanted to laugh or scream when he noticed that she wore no panties beneath them. One thing about their wife: she was about as naturally submissive as they came. He had made that command without consulting either Svein or Bjⱷrn. But then again, he had not expected her to remember and obey something he had casually tossed out in the heat of the moment.

He chuckled as he tossed the damn things across the room. He pulled the quilt up in case Svein came back. Not that his brother had not seen the goods. Hell, he had seen them before either he or Bjⱷrn. But he still was not comfortable with any reminder that this wife was theirs – to share. Was that the problem? Had he pushed her so hard because he wanted to stand out, to be different from his brothers?

She rolled over and opened her eyes, “Mik…” she began.

He placed his fingers over her lips, which were cool to the touch. “Don’t talk right now, Kirsty.” He saw the confused look on her face. She really did have the most expressive features. One look and he could almost read her mind. “You dropped. Sub drop.”

She frowned for a moment then nodded as if she remembered. But did she remember what had happened, or what drop meant? “We…I…should have been more careful. We had no idea how you would react to pain.” Or that level of pleasure, he thought but would not embarrass her right now with that reminder.

Svein entered the open door carrying a tray. Mikael frowned as he brought it to the bed. “Back to the world of the living, Kirsten?” His older brother asked as he passed the tray to him and knelt next to the bed.

Mikael flexed his fingers as he reached for the bottle of water. He tried to still his mind and cool his anger as he watched Svein brush hair back from her face with a smile. “How are you feeling?”

She shook her head a bit as Mikael lifted her shoulders from the pillow and brought the bottle to her lips. He did not pull it away until she had emptied half of it. Then he smiled at her as he picked up a piece of the dark chocolate from the tray. “Magic elixir. Open wide,” he coaxed her.

She shook her head, but he brought it to her lips anyway. With a firm look, she opened and allowed him to feed it to her. He made her finish the bottle of water before he turned to his brother. “Thanks, but I have this from here.”

He saw the dark look cross Svein’s face and squared his shoulders, preparing for an argument. Instead, his brother placed his hand on his shoulder, “Baby brother may not like to admit it, but this could have happened to any of us. You know as well as I do that drop varies from sub to sub.” He looked to the woman in the bed, whose eyes were closed again, “We had no way of knowing hers would be this bad,” he whispered.

Absolution was the last fucking thing he wanted from this man. He would have a thousand times preferred that Svein smash his fist into his face. But this was worse, much worse. He shook his head so violently that he dislodged his brother’s hand.

He lashed out, “I should have known. It probably was not the first time. When I went down into your cabin yesterday to tell her we were docking, she had been crying. So yeah, big brother, maybe it could have happened to any of us. Maybe it already did with you.”

He saw Svein’s hands fist at his side. He prepared for what was to come. But a fight was just what he wanted. And the way he felt right now, he would take them both on. His father too.

But the small moan from that bundle in the bed pre-empted whatever release he might have found by slamming his fist into his brother’s face. Svein and he both looked towards the bed where she tossed and turned restlessly.

“Look after her,” was all his brother said as he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.

Mikael climbed back onto the bed next to her. He debated whether to leave her be, but right now, it was more than just sleep, which she needed. He reached down and pulled her sweater over her head.

She woke up and stared at him, “Mikael?” Her voice was stronger this time; that was a good sign at least.

He lifted her enough to undo her bra and slide it down her arms. She reached for the edge of the quilt and pulled it almost to her chin. The blush on her cheeks, another good sign, told him that it was more than the chills that prompted her actions.

He reached over for the herb tea that was also on the tray. It was one of his mother’s unique blends. Was this its real purpose? His mother. It was one thing to suspect. Another to pretend the way his brothers did. But damn it, having your mother lecture you on the Dom rules – in front of your father, brothers, and wife.

“Here, take a sip of this,” he said as he leaned down and propped her up. He brought the cup to her lips, and she sipped slowly.

“Thank you,” she whispered as she tried to smile.

Fuck, he deserved it all – and worse. He helped her to finish half of the cup before he placed it back on the tray, “More chocolate? More water?”

She shook her head, “No, I’m fine. I don’t know what happened,” she had a puzzled look on her face. “Maybe I am coming down with something.”

He placed the tray on the floor, close enough that he could easily reach it. Then he climbed into bed next to her. He knew she would not welcome it, so he stayed fully clothed, only kicking off his boots before coming to rest on top of the quilt. He drew her into his arms. Held her as he had last night against his chest.

He was glad that they were spooning; that way, she could not see his eyes when he spoke, “It is drop, Kirsty.”

She turned and looked at him, funny, “Yeah, I remember. Well, a bit sketchy, but your mom said that too.”

Mikael remembered a lot more his mother had said and blushed as he shifted her back around in his arms. “I am sorry. It is my fault. When I came back last night, you were sleeping, so I did not wake you. Then this morning…”

What could he say? The truth was that he had been in such a damned hurry to get out of her bed before she woke up that he had not given water or checking on her a second thought.

She shook her head, “No, really, how were you to know?”

He chuckled, “A hell of a lot more than you would. I have only been playing these games for almost fifteen years.” He felt her stiffen in his arms. Maybe he had not said that very well, “I mean, I pushed you pretty hard last night.”

Damn, did he love making this woman blush – even now. “How about you get some more rest, and we’ll talk when you wake up?”

She nodded as she closed her eyes. But then she started fidgeting and squirming like a fish on a hook. Her hips brushed against his throbbing cock. Fuck, that was what got them into this trouble: thinking with his little head.

He tried his damnedest to ignore it. He tried drawing back so that there was a small space between them. But she just scooted back, three times, until he was on the edge of the bed with nowhere else to go.

He considered his options. She needed rest. She needed to be held. Fuck, she needed that most from him. She needed…

His hand slid slowly up from where it rested safely over her hip. He lightly caressed just the underside of her breast through the blanket. He did that for a couple of minutes, nothing more. The quiet “Oh” that escaped her throat, told him what he needed to know.

He slipped his hand beneath the quilt until it brushed bare flesh. He spent several more minutes lightly caressing his fingers in ever-smaller circles, homing in upon her nipple. Her hips increased their now frantic rubbing. But he noticed then that it was not just his cock that she was rubbing, her thighs seemed to be rubbing against one another. There was very little doubt now what she needed – but not forced ones this time.

He turned her slightly as he allowed his fingers to feather across her nipple. It was hard, impossibly taut. He looked into those eyes as they half-opened. She was bone-fucking tired. He saw that. But her body was not letting her genuinely rest. “I have no right to ask. But let me give you what you need, Kirsty. Please?”

She frowned and shook her head, “What I need? I don’t understand.”

His arm underneath her shifted just enough that his hand rested upon her bare mound. She shook her head, “No, there’s no way. I couldn’t possibly. Not after…”

He leaned and softly whispered against her, “Not after the way you came for me last night. The hundreds of times, I forced your body to come…over and over and over.” He softly licked the edge of her ear, “Not like that, no, that is not what you need right now, but you do need this.”

He rolled her beneath him as he smiled down at her. He felt like a hypocrite. A liar and an asshole as he asked, “Trust me.”

She smiled softly and moved against him, “Of course.”

Mikael closed his eyes. What the fuck? That was the last thing he truly wanted or needed to hear from her. She should be hitting him and throwing stuff at him. Screaming and calling him a bastard. Not this complete surrender again.

But this time, he could not afford to let it get under his skin. That had been his mistake last night. Dom Rule Number Three: you cannot control anyone else unless you can first control yourself. And he had forgotten that. But he swore as he had to Monica last night: not again. He would not mess this up for them again. For any of them.

He breathed deeply. Focus on just getting the job done. Take care of business. She was just a sub with a need. Nothing more. He had played with hundreds of them. He tried with all his being to push down that tiny voice that he had been so successfully ignoring for so long when it whispered, ‘This is not play, and she is not just any sub.’

His fingers continued to toy and lightly caress her nipple as he bent down and began to trail kisses down her throat and over her shoulders. By the time he got to the soft swell of her breast, her hips were arching against his hand that merely rested its weight softly top her pubic bone. He knew that it would take just one touch, and she would be off….he had seen that time and time again last night.

But that was not what she needed this time. This was about what she needed. Nothing more, he tried to convince himself.

He ran his tongue across the soft skin. This time he allowed himself to take the time to play dot-to-dot with some of the large freckles, twinkling like stars in the constellation of her milky breast. He closed his eyes, ‘Bad choice of words, bud,’ he chided himself at the thought of those soft mounds hard and full with milk, her tummy round with child. He pulled himself back from the next thoughts…before it was too late.

This woman got to him. Worse than any other ever had. But he could not allow that to show, to control him. Dom Rule Number Three became a mantra in his head as he lathed both breasts with equal attention.

Equal attention – would even that ever be enough for him? And hadn’t he done everything he could to push her away; make sure that he did not receive even that?

He raised slowly, looking down on her. Her eyes were closed, but the rapid rise and fall of her chest gave no doubt that the woman was most definitely not asleep. That thought was confirmed a second later when she opened them.

He chuckled, “You pout worse than Monica. Do you know that, woman?”

He bent and did something else he swore he would not do – he kissed her. Really kissed her. Not bite. Not a quick peck. A deep and thorough conquering of her mouth. And while he did, he allowed his hands free-roam over that ripe, lush body of hers.

He would not have thought this woman his type physically. Greta had been petite, almost anorexic, as had most of the subs and pros that he occasionally frequented. But he was discovering that there was something to be said for a lover that was softer, fuller, and curvier.

He could go on like this all afternoon. It was a sobering thought. After last night, how could he still not be satisfied? How many times had he made this woman come? How many times had she fulfilled his dark fantasy? That sweet pussy gushing its juices all over his face. That had been his intent now as well, though not as violently as he had used her last night.

But he realized now that would be a mistake. The point of this was to get her off…quickly…and then let her sleep for a bit. If he tasted her, all bets would be off. As much as he wanted to think he could remain in control, just the thought of her tight pussy coming on his tongue, her cunt juices coating his face had him granite-hard inside his jeans. No, eating her out to another shattering orgasm was not the right choice, not this time.

He lay back down on his side next to her, drew her into his embrace as he returned to kissing her lips. It was not just the woman’s cunt which tasted delightfully sweet. Kissing had never held much fascination for him, foreplay to be quickly gotten out of the way for your partner’s sake. But this…this was a banquet all its own.

He ran his thumb teasingly across the hard nub of her nipple. Then the other. She arched against him and moaned into his mouth. It reminded him of the point of all this as he ran his hand slowly down her body, across that tummy.

He chided himself once more as fantasies of it round and full with a child filled his mind. He hoped his brothers would hurry up and get the job done. ‘No, you don’t,’ whispered that damned traitor in his head. He brought it to heel before it forced him to truths that he did not want to face.

By the time that his finger slipped between her folds, she was slick, wet, and oh so fucking ready. Even as light as this touch was, she lifted her hips off of the bed. Her moans into his mouth increased. Her breathing became increasingly shallow as his thumb brushed the sweet flesh…once…twice… He had barely begun the third, gently brush across her clit when her whole body shook in his arms. This time she screamed into his mouth.

His lips crushed hers as he swallowed every bit of it. Not because he gave a damn about the noise. Let her scream the whole fucking Holding down for all he cared. No, he wanted to take that energy deep inside of him. Wanted to store it, remember it. Because never again would he allow himself to lose control as he had last night.

His mother was right. This was their wife, and she deserved better. More. He would find a way, somehow to bury his darkness, to hide that bad boy. He would give her what she needed, not what he wanted. He would control his demons. He drew the magic of her screams deep inside; a reserve against that time, when that was not so easy, when he wanted to push her limits, when he needed more than she would ever give. This kiss, these screams would have to be enough.

He held her body as the tremors became aftershocks. He softened the kiss. Still, his finger rested unmoving over her clitoris. When she opened those eyes, they were incredibly sexy and sleepy. Satisfied was the only word to cover it – and that made him want to roar. He had done that, given that to this woman.

“Better?” he chuckled as he kissed her forehead and drew her closer to his body. She only nodded as she snuggled tighter into him. He shook his head as he slowly pulled that finger back. She whimpered. She actually fucking whimpered. He could not resist a soft swat to her bottom, “Greedy,” he teased.

“Yeah,” she muttered against his chest, “And whose fault is that, I wonder?”

He shook his head and chuckled. He was sure she would drift quickly off to sleep then. Instead, she once more fidgeted and moved. “You really are. Greedy. No more. You need sleep more than you need to come again,” he admonished.

She opened her eyes, “That is debatable, Sir. But the problem is not that. The problem is your shirt.”

He laughed a full throaty, belly-busting one that echoed around the room. “Now, you tell me? Why didn’t you say that earlier?”

She shrugged as she toyed with the top button of that shirt, “And miss out on what you offered? Do I look stupid to you?”

He remembered what Svein had said in the hall last night about having something to laugh about. Maybe. Just maybe, he was right.

“Take it off,” she demanded.

Mikael froze for a moment. Another of the things that he had sworn. To keep his clothes on at all times with her. It was a boundary that he had not crossed…since… Sure, it might only be a shirt. But he felt it. He had already kissed her. Now, this. The woman was chipping away at all of his promises, his safety zone, his wall.

So, why the fuck was his fingers pulling the rough wool from the waistband of his jeans even as hers was working the third button from the top? And why the fuck did those eyes just get so fucking wide like a little child on Christmas morning?

Her hand slipped inside it as he was left to finish the job. Her fingers ran across the hard plains of his heated skin until he was sure he would go up in flames. He forced himself to remain calm as he shrugged out of it. Her head barely moved as she clung tightly about his waist. And those fingers were driving him insane as she tugged and toyed with the hairs that covered his chest. He playfully swatted her bottom as he once more arranged them back comfortably on the pillows.

But she immediately shifted her head, “Nah-uh, I want a fuzzy pillow,” she pronounced with finality as she moved her head to the center of his chest.

Could she hear how fast his heart was beating? Did she have any idea what she was doing to him? He covered her hands with his own, to keep them still, a desperate attempt to keep what little remained of his sanity.

Within moments, she was asleep. The gentle rise and fall of her chest and the soft mewing almost of a kitten told him that her dreams were sweet. But he was left alone. Wide awake…with his demons. And the battle to control them, before he did anything else, he would regret.

Olav followed her into his cabin, holding open the door. He wanted to laugh at the look she gave him as she entered. His wife was mad. So be it. So was he. And it was about damn time that the woman remembered she was his sub as well as his wife and best friend. She had not just stepped over the line. She had fucking blown the damned thing up.

He sighed, but that was his fault too. His and Stig’s. All of theirs really, but especially his. He should have drawn these lines long ago. He had let this woman reign over them all for way too long. And that only made this punishment harder. Maybe that was as it should be – as much a punishment to him as to her. But he would think about that later. Right now, he had the battle to win.

“That boy was out of line, Olav. You know that,” she said as she twirled around to face him even before he could close the door.

He did so quickly. Their sons did not need to hear what transpired between them. Any more than they needed their mother to broadcast the truth of the nature of their relationship.  Something that all of them had been willfully ignorant of – until she opened that kissable mouth a few minutes ago.

“Did I give you permission to speak, Rachel?” His only chance of re-establishing boundaries that should have never become this blurred in the first place was to take full charge now.

She glared at him, and he covered the few feet between them, maintaining her gaze the whole way. “Whether or not our son screwed up with his sub is beside the point right now. What is the point is that I have fucked up with mine. And more importantly, that fuck up has hurt our sons and their wife.”

“But…” she began.

He used his fingers and thumb to collar her mouth, holding it open so that she could no longer speak.

“Did I not make myself clear, Rachel? You do NOT have permission to speak right now. You have said way too fucking much already this morning. Now it is your turn to listen. To some truths, some hard ones, that we should have said long ago, old woman,” he sighed and closed his eyes for a moment.

This was harder than he had thought. Especially knowing that the responsibility rested squarely on his shoulders. But that did not change what must be done now. And it really must be done. He opened them again and once more steeled his own emotions: you cannot control your sub, if first, you cannot control yourself, he reminded himself.

“Here’s a piece of information for you, sweetheart. Doms are human too. That means we are going to fucking make mistakes. And all that shit about safe, sane, and consensual – that only works if you are playing. Not that it isn’t a good thing in clubs or casual situations, but it simply does not apply in a real relationship. Because sorry, sweetie, but when I take you to bed, I keep forgetting to drag out that big old Dom bible we all are issued.”

He got closer still, invaded her space, used his superior size to intimidate her, to remind her of just who she was…something she had forgotten long ago. “Right now, I am in no position to judge our sons for how they handle their wife, considering how mine behaved.”

He turned her head so that their eyes met head-on, “Tell me, woman, do you think that you helped our daughter to adjust to her fate, to our way of life, by lecturing her husband on how to be a good Dom in front of her?”

He released her jaw then, stepped back just a fraction, and watched her massage her the flesh. After a moment, she looked up at him, that fire still blazed there. Not that he did not love this woman’s flames. He did, they all had. But there were limits. There must always be limits, and she had crossed them.

“Someone has to…” she began.

“What? Protect her? That is not your place, Rachel. You might have forgotten, old woman, but you are a sub too.”

He shook his head as he stepped forward once more, “No one denies that you are a strong woman. And a brilliant one even. That’s why I love you so fucking much. Too fucking much, maybe.”

“But this has to stop. Now. We have all let this go on way too fucking long, sweetheart. After Bjⱷrn was born…” His voice trailed off. Even after all this time, he saw that pain in her beautiful face as fresh as that day almost thirty years ago.

This time though, he steeled himself. He needed to do what was best for her, not what she wanted. That was the mistake they had all made for so fucking long. And it had to stop now. Before she hurt others…anymore perhaps than she already had. And that meant that it was time for some truth between them — the hard truth.

“We were all so fucking afraid we would lose you. You just kept drifting further and further away from us. From the children too. So, we let you have your way. Forced Mikael to remain with you and Bjⱷrn when he wanted to join us at sea as much as Svein had. But we convinced the poor kid that his mother needed him here more. We put a weight on that little boy’s shoulders that should have never been his to bear.”

He choked back pain that was old, bitter, and sour, like the taste of vomit the next morning after getting shit faced drunk and throwing up who knows what. Hell, that was what he wanted just then, but he would not allow himself. He had never taken the easy way that Andreas had, trying to forget it all at the bottom of a bottle. But now he was the only one left, the one who had to pay for all their mistakes.

He shook his head, “Maybe we were even right. Maybe letting you keep Mikael and especially Bjⱷrn as long as we did helped to heal those wounds. You came to terms with it. We all tried to. But there was a price to pay. There always is.”

He sighed heavily, “The problem is, Rachel, we let this shit go on way too long. We let you get away with murder. We let you forget who you are. What you are. You, my beautiful, amazingly strong, intelligent wife, are still first and foremost my sub.”

“Control, boundaries, rules are not just there because we Doms need our fucking egos stroked. They are there because you need them. Subs need them to feel safe, secure, and loved. And we all forgot that – all of us.”

“But we cannot afford to anymore. That girl does not need you to protect her. That is her husbands’ jobs. She needs you to mentor her, to model good behavior her, to help her find her place here. And this morning you did anything but that. You undermined not just Mikael’s authority with hers, but all of them. You sowed even more seeds of unrest among our sons.”

He stood face to face with her, “You disappoint me, Rachel.”

He watched as those green eyes clouded over with tears, he saw the muscles of her throat work reflexively, trying to swallow back the emotion. And for the first time in a long time, he felt hope. That maybe it was not too late. That maybe, just maybe, they could find their way back – to what they were, who they were always meant to be.

“So, my beautiful Alpha, we need to set some new rules, new boundaries. First of all, you will apologize to Kirsty and our sons at dinner tonight. You will admit that you were out of line. No justifying, no hemming, and hawing. You were wrong. Subs do not tell Doms how to do things. Period.”

He watched her face as she considered his words, when she finally nodded slowly, he felt that hope jump in his old chest once more. After forty fucking years, how did this woman still do that?

But now was not the time to soften on her, he reached out and landed a solid barehanded slap on her butt. “You really have forgotten what you are, old woman. Never again nod or shake your head at me. The proper answer is ‘Yes, Sir.’ Maybe once in a rare while, ‘No, Sir.’”

Her eyes flared wide then, “What? You are the one who threw our dirty laundry out there. Made our sons face something they have been trying for most of their damned lives to ignore. So, if you have no problem with them knowing the truth, then you can damned well live it in front of them from now on. And the proper response is?”

She inhaled deeply and dropped her eyes from his gaze, “Yes, Sir,” she whispered.

Maybe he should have been satisfied with that little progress, but he was not. He lifted her chin and forced her to look him in the eye, “Did you say something, woman?”

That fire challenged him once more. He realized then that he was quite looking forward to re-training his beloved wife as his sub. Maybe it was wrong, but he also was quite pleased that this time, it would be to his standard. No sharing. No compromise. His wife…his submissive. And the little darling was in for more than one surprise along the way.

“Yes, Sir,” she replied after a long pause. Louder this time.

But not fast enough, as a second even harder blow found that jean-clad bottom. “Number two – you will never again call them ‘boys.’ They are men, and they are Doms. They have not been your boys in many, many years.” He chuckled, “Hell, I am not sure if Svein ever was.”

“Nonetheless, every time you call them ‘boys,’ you will be punished. Ten the first time. Then twenty…”

“I know the drill. Then thirty. Forty, and so on. I am not that old and senile, old man,” she challenged.

He threaded his fingers through her hair and pulled it. Hard. Until her head fell back, and those eyes flared open. He leaned in and bit down hard on her neck, right over her pulse. He held it for a long moment as she squirmed. Not until she stilled, at last, did he release her.

“I have never found ‘brats’ attractive, especially not sixty-three-year-old ones. Maybe that is my fault, …mine and my brothers. But hear me now; it ends this morning. And sorry, Rachel, you have mistaken me for my soft ass brothers. I prefer exponential punishment: ten, twenty, forty, eighty, one-hundred-sixty, three-hundred-twenty. Do I need to keep going?”

He relished the way that those eyes flared in fear. Had he ever seen that look? Not since that first night on the ship when she had tried to take Andreas’s head off with the hook and nearly put out Lars’s eye in the process.

“Now, you start to understand me, old woman. And don’t think my arms are too old or weak to do it either. I spent fifty years at sea hauling nets, and I still spend most days working with them in the shop. Don’t think you can try me. I promise you these old arms can last a lot longer than that cute little butt of yours.”

“Oh, and yes, we need to get back out there and relieve Bjⱷrn. He and Svein need to finish what they were doing on the boat. But then again, too, I seem to remember that with you, delaying your punishment only makes it worse…gives you time to think about it more.”

He leaned in again, “But tonight, after dinner, after you apologize to all of us, this sweet ass is mine, old woman.”

“To make my rules clear. You will politely excuse yourself. You will come back here and shower. You will then kneel, oh yes, I said kneel woman. On the floor, not the rug. And you will stay there until I join you. Then we will discuss what your punishment will be. Based on how serious this offense is – and, it is. And on your behavior, your contrition, for the rest of this day. Is that understood, Rachel?”

She started to nod her head but caught herself. “Yes, Sir.” When it came out throaty and low, she tried again, “Yes, Sir.”

“You are not getting a ‘good girl.’ You have a far ways to go to earn that one. Now, get your cute ass moving,” he said as he slapped it again.

Kirsty stretched and rubbed her nose. Something was tickling it. She smiled as she remembered what. The man was full of surprises…and her fetish for hairy chests… ‘Well, one in three ain’t bad, right?’ she chuckled.

“Awake, are we, sleepyhead?”

She looked up into eyes that were more silver than foreboding grey at that moment. “Was I asleep very long?” her fingers could not help but enjoy the bounty of her discovery.

And she was more than pleased that her little itchy shirt ploy had worked. So, maybe he was not completely naked. Maybe they had not ‘consummated’ anything. But it was a baby step in that direction — a little brick out of that wall he had built around himself.

“A couple of hours. We need to get down to dinner soon. How are you feeling?”

She stretched, making sure to rub her naked body against as much of his bare skin as she could. She frowned for a moment then smiled up at him, “I would say good, but not sure that covers it.”

He landed another of those barehanded slaps on her butt. “Quit flirting.”

She batted her eyes, “Whatever are you talking about?”

“Cock tease,” he chuckled.

She was never sure where it came from. Shy was her usual mode of operation. But something…some thing…made her reach out and place her hand directly over the fly of his jeans. She smiled broadly to discover that this man was not as unmoved by her as he seemed.

But her joy was short-lived as he picked her hand up and brought it to rest on his shoulder. In that position with his covering it, she could not even play with his chest. “And no pouting either, woman.” He sighed, “We need to talk.”

She nodded and looked up at him. He wanted to talk then let him begin. But when he did, it was not what she expected.

“Is my daughter autistic?”

The question itself did not surprise her. She had known they would get to this – eventually. It was his timing that surprised her. Why now? Like this? Naked in his arms…after? Well, just after.

But she had also prepared her answer, and she stuck to it, “I am not a pediatrician or psychologist. I am not qualified to make a diagnosis.”

“I did not ask for one. I don’t even want one. Growing up in this family, the last thing Monica needs is another label to make her different. What I want is your honest opinion?”

She sighed; she had had only a small taste of what it must be like ‘growing up in this family’ as he called it. And that still stung. But he had asked a valid question, and he deserved the truth.

“As long as we are clear on that…then, yes. Yes, I believe that Monica fits somewhere on the autistic spectrum,” she was surprised when she felt his chest move beneath her hand. The heavy exhale as if a weight had been lifted from him.

“I think I knew. At least from the moment, we began to read about your job, what you do. The more I read, the more I saw Monica,” he was staring steadfastly at the ceiling as he spoke.

She did not push, did not say anything. But neither did she make any attempt to move away out of his arms. She had been part of the team, which gave parents this news more than once. And while she was truthful that she was not qualified to make the actual diagnosis, she also did not tell him that she had served as one of the team, the panel that did.

But this felt so fucking different. The child might not be hers, but in some weird way, she felt a connection to the little girl as much as she did her father. Felt as if she belonged here – with them. But maybe she was just foolish. There were so many questions still left. So many things unsettled between her and Mikael. Especially between them.

It was several moments that they lay like that. She was uncertain what more to say or do. She knew the routine – give them time, don’t push, and let them come to terms with it. But this was not ‘they,’ this was him – her husband.

She liked to hope one day she could come to feel as close to him as she did to Bjⱷrn…as drawn to him as Svein. But wasn’t she already? Okay, maybe in some dark way, she was not quite ready to handle.

He must have felt her move though because he looked down at her then. She wanted to reach up and brush back the moisture that glistened in his grey eyes. But she knew that would not be appreciated. He would not want to hear how it was all right, how she had seen even the strongest of men weep, throw chairs across the room, curse their gods, blame their wives, and as many different responses as there were people over the years. All she wanted was to make it better somehow.

“Can you help?” his voice was impossibly deep, but it held the thread of hope that she sought to draw this man closer.

“That depends on what you are asking, Mikael,” she dared not brush away the tears that she doubted he even realized were on his cheek. But she did battle his hold on her hand enough to lace her fingers through his, to offer a comforting squeeze.

“I cannot cure her. Autism is a life-long way of being. A different way of experiencing the world in which we live,” how trite that part of the speech she had heard hundreds of times sounded now…with him…in this moment. But then again, she had never laid naked in anyone’s arms when she gave it before.

“But can I offer ideas, options, even therapies that can help you and her…and all of us to bridge the gap between our worlds. If that is what you are asking, then the answer is yes,” she looked up at him, met that gaze. “If you will let me, if you trust me with your child, if I have your permission.”

He chuckled and softly returned the squeeze of her fingers before bringing her hand to his lips, “If I did not, if we did not, you would not be here right now,” he said.

She kicked his shin, “Thanks for the reminder about the Russian girl.”

His eyes danced, “Which of my dumb ass brothers mentioned that you had competition?” He laughed again, “Dumb fuck…baby brother, of course. That boy doesn’t know when to shut up.”

“Yes, well, sorry if you are disappointed,” she pouted.

“What makes you think I am disappointed?” he said as he slapped her bottom once more.

Then his face darkened, and the serious one was back, “Truce? Can you and I call it a truce? I promise you I won’t lose control like I did last night. Never again, you have my word on that.”

She knew that should make her happy. So why the hell did she feel like she had just lost ground with this man? And why the fuck did it make her want to push his buttons? To see just how far she could go until he broke?

She simply nodded, “Truce, it is then.”

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