Eric shook his head. “I can’t.” He stamped his feet as if that would keep the circulation going in his limbs. If he’d know Rebecca would want them to huddle in the far corner of Accendos’s walled garden, he’d have put on a thicker jacket. Given the icy wind, his gonads might be frozen forever.
“And why not?” Rebecca widened her stance and crossed her arms over her breasts—still glorious, even if hidden by a fleece. “A portrait of Alexander when administering a scene would go for—”
“Hundreds of thousands. I know that.” But paint his portrait? While dominating someone?
How did he explain this to her? For the last two months he’d itched to capture Alexander, not just wielding his dominance like a Samurai sword but, well, doing anything.
But oil paint on a canvas could never contain the man. How did one catch the exact blue of his eyes, especially when they deepened like a sea about to break over a levy when a correction was required? Or the way the light ignited the silver in his hair as he circled a willing submissive, deciding what he’d like to do next? Eric’s mind went to mush just thinking about doing him justice.
The frost had left intricate patterns on the grass tufts under his feet. That’s when he realized his gaze had dropped. Such an automatic reaction when even thinking about Alexander.
Rebecca’s hand cupped his chin, raised his face. Her eyes held too much concern. “What’s wrong, really?” she asked.
The genuine problem with painting Alexander was deeper, wasn’t it? Eric slipped too easily into Alexander’s thrall when he was in full Master mode. How the hell would he be able to hold a drafting pencil when his fingers would ache to reach for his cock—or Alexander’s. Or any part of Rebecca. Anything to connect with them both.
He took her fingers, surprisingly warm in the cold, in his. “I love the idea of the three of us starting a mentoring program at Accendos. I’d trust no one more than Alexander to teach the next generation of people like us. Hell, even having an art auction to raise money for it. But, what you’re asking me?” He spun away. He couldn’t do it.
His feet crunched the brittle limestone pebbles under his feet as he headed back to the house.
Rebecca jogged alongside him, her breath leaving a hazy entrail in the frigid air. “You’re thinking his ego doesn’t need it. But people around him need it.”
Her hand gripped his arm frantically. “Please.”
“That’s not what I’m thinking at all. I have no painting skills when he’s in full… Alexander mode.”
“Who does?” She chewed her bottom lip. If anyone understood, it would be her. “But you could try.” She dropped her hand and gestured for him to follow her. “Do you have a notebook on you right now?”
She knew he did.
His hand found its way to his backside, felt for the small black moleskin he kept in the back pocket of his jeans. It was a comfort to find the flat surface there. Inspiration could strike at any time. Ever since he’d painted Rebecca a few weeks ago, his hands needed to sketch and capture everyone around him. Everyone except Alexander.
The sound of a branch snapping off a distant tree sounded—probably from being weight down by ice. He understood the feeling.
She took in a big breath, let it out in a white cloud that hovered before her face. “Your lips are turning blue. Let’s go inside.” She slipped her arm into his and led him back toward the house.
She still walked too slow. “Do you know the hardest part about being separated by Alexander for all those years? It was not knowing if he was happy. If he was living the way he wanted to. Even apart, he was ubiquitous in my life. There wasn’t a day I didn’t think of him. Like he was gently guiding me all the time just by existing.”
Eric understood that, even when not physically in the room, Alexander was present.
“And it’s the same for so many people.” She drew closer to him. “He doesn’t realize what he’s done for the people who cross the threshold of this place. So about my school idea… I he could mentor the next generation, well…”
“He’d find purpose.”
“And…” She cocked her head. Oh no. He recognized the storm brewing in her gray eyes. “You and I can offer ourselves up to be the demo leaders, which means…”
One side of Eric’s lips inched up. Finally, blessed warmth spread through his body like wildfire at the thought. “I like it.” Being handled by Alexander in any way, shape or form was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Still didn’t mean he’d be able to paint the man doing it.
“Just consider what I said. About the painting. It’d raise a lot of money for it.” Her warm hand slipped into his. She raised it up to her mouth, and she sent hot breath over his skin.
A sly smirk formed on her face. He was an idiot to say “yes” but stopping Rebecca from egging him on? Futile. The woman was as stubborn as Alexander. Scratch that. Maybe worse.
They strode toward the Library where they’d knew they’d find Alexander. As soon as they stepped into the large archway, Eric’s gaze alighted on the back of Alexander’s head, the silver in his black hair shining under dimmed lighting. He sat in an armchair witnessing the scenes playing out in the room. The club in recent times had relaxed since Alexander had been traveling with him and Rebecca. Relaxed wasn’t how Alexander operated his home-turned-club.
A woman in the far corner keened as a ginger-haired man, someone Eric didn’t recognize, twisted her nipple with some force. The day had started early. Saturdays were like that at Club Accendos.
A man, blindfolded, kneeled five feet before Alexander. Another young man with a toss of dark hair over his forehead bent at the waist. Whatever the guy said, it elicited quite a reaction from the lucky bastard showing himself off to Alexander. The blindfolded one shuddered from head to foot.
Rebecca dropped his hand, marched up to Alexander and hard-dropped to the pillow next to his chair. She bent her head. Alexander didn’t flinch at the intrusion. Mild, but still an interruption.
“Can we talk?” she mouthed. Still no response. His eyes remained firmly aimed at the scene unfolding. It was only when the woman in the corner loudly moaned did he raise his chin. Blinked twice.
Rebecca inched closer, laid her head on his knee. Her hand reached for his shoe, an expensive pair of Italian leather loafers. Eric swallowed hard when Rebecca snaked her hand up under his trousers leg. What was she doing?
Eric only had to move six inches to the left to see Alexander’s face in a mirror reflection—a large, ungodly thing with a thick gold frame.
Rebecca opened her mouth to speak, and Alexander raised his index finger. “Stop,” he said to Rebecca. At least that’s what Eric thought he said. He’d read the man’s lips.
In true Rebecca fashion, she didn’t stop, however. She pushed off the floor, rose, and circled behind the chair. She placed her hands on Alexander’s shoulders, leaned down and ran her hands down his chest. One hand slipped inside his shirt. She then mouthed something in his ear that Eric couldn’t hear or lip read.
His icy blue eyes remained fixed on the couple before him.
Eric had spent countless hours studying Alexander’s cues. The set of his jaw, the way his right pinky finger and ring finger rubbed together to move the ring on his hand. There was one subtle gesture Eric would avoid at all costs—a small muscle in his left cheek that throbbed when displeased. Alexander’s chest expanded in a long inhale. And that muscle? A slight twitch formed.
Alexander raised another finger. The dark-haired man nodded once at him. Alexander then divested himself of Rebecca’s hands and rose from the chair. “Rebecca, here.”
Alexander stripped people bare with his penetrating gaze, no matter the scenario. It gave nothing away yet said everything at once. It was as if he knew things—things about you. But now? His eyes fired like blue lightning. Skin-searing.
Rebecca had overplayed her hand interrupting him. And why the devil was it so important to have broached this subject of starting a mentorship program immediately? The man was busy.
Eric could spin on his heel and head upstairs. Let her just deal with the consequences. Or should he stay? He never failed to worry about her. She was so reckless sometimes. Impatient. Demanding.
Other times she came across like a little bird, delicate, as if she might snap if handled too harshly. He’d yet to see what constituted “too harsh,” however. She’d often told him and Alexander they did nothing with her she didn’t crave.
He slunk along the inside of the library. When he could finally see Alexander’s face, the man’s eyes sliced to him for a moment, then back to Rebecca, who circled to face him. She smiled up at him. Devious. Not at all sorry.
He gazed down at her. “Someone interested in play?”
His large hand descended on her cheek. His fingers then raked backward to grab a fistful of her hair. He yanked her head back, and her lips dropped open. He half dragged, half led her around to the back of the chair. He then unceremoniously pushed her forward so her body had no choice but to drape over the back of the chair.
“So watch.” He kicked her legs wider, and she had to splay her palms on the seat cushion to keep from face-planting. He then positioned himself between her legs, but didn’t touch a single part of her. “Eyes on the scene, Rebecca. Maybe you’ll learn something.”
Rebecca’s eyes glanced upward to Eric. He’d slunk so far around the library when his back hit the the old library ladder that rested against the tall bookshelves, he startled. He leaned against the sturdy wood thing.
He didn’t know where to look. The scenes unfolding around him? Because any order Alexander gave Rebecca, he often obeyed in solidarity. It had become a natural state—this partnership between him and Rebecca with one sole goal—love Alexander, obey Alexander.
Or perhaps he should watch the man himself? Eric flushed from head to toe at witnessing Alexander in his element, like a schoolboy. It was all that talk about painting his portrait, and the reasons he’d always fail at it.
Rebecca’s gray eyes caught his once more, and she mouthed one word. “Draw.”
Ah, the devil’s mistress had nothing on this woman. She was trying to inspire him, perhaps?
Still, why not? It would be futile, but at least it’d give his hands something to do other than drift to places it should not.
He reached into his back pocket and drew out the small notebook. Then into his jacket pocket. He found an ink pen. Not at all what he should use, but no one had to see the scribbles.
“Are you watching, Rebecca?” Alexander’s words floated in the air. He wasn’t looking at her. Rather his gaze wandered around the room as if taking in all the scenes. Like the strongest oak standing in a forest of saplings.
When she didn’t answer hi question. His large hand reached out and slapped her on the ass.
She inhaled sharply. “Yes, Sir. What would you like me to see?”
His brow furrowed. Displeased with her question? The lines softened across his forehead. “See what I see. Power. Pain. Pleasure. Discipline.”
Alexander didn’t see people the same way mere mortal did, like their hair color, their height. He tuned into their energy. Call it aura-reading. Call it mind-reading. It didn’t matter. Eventually, he ferreted out what they wanted, needed with this superpower of his.
Rebecca’s lips parted. “I see you in everything here.” Her eyes drifted closed, as if she was a sated kitten in a slice of sunshine.
Eric’s lids grew heavy. As if they were linked, Eric found his own eyes closing. Sounds floated all around him. The soft whisper of air moving in and out of his lungs. Soft moans to the right. The slap of flesh ringing. Small murmurs.
Fabric drew closer. His eyes snapped open. It’d been a trick of his mind—or ears. Alexander stared at him. His spine straightened another inch and his nostrils flared. He wasn’t angry, however. He was just being himself. Noticing everything. Taking in everything.
Eric’s hand hovered over the notebook. He’d been scratching something. He didn’t bother to glance down. Doodles, nothing more.
His gaze softened. His pen scratches soon mixed with the moans, the rustle of fabric, heavy breathing all around. He didn’t even know what he was drawing at that point. Something far more important caught his attention–an Alexander, he hadn’t considered before. A level of dominance he was shocked he hadn’t tuned into.
Alexander drank in all the scenes, like a lion might assess its pride. He was in control of every scene in the room. his presence gave them permission to continue. His gaze kept them on watch. And he could stop them at any time. Rebecca was right. Alexander was everywhere. A merciless energy field that cradled you, sometimes pushed you. But always loved you.
He looked down at his paper and was stunned to see what he’d drawn. A face with eyes so piercing, Eric nearly stepped backward.
Alexander’s voice rang out. “Rebecca, Eric.”
His gaze lifted to the man. “Do you two want to tell me what you’re in cahoots about?”
Eric pushed off the ladder, let his legs carry himself forward until he stood by the two of them. An odd calm had settled in his belly. “Rebecca has an idea.” And for reasons he would never understand, he lifted the notebook and showed it to Alexander.
He waited in a submissive silence for him to study it. Eric’s heart thudded heavy in his chest. “It’s not right. It’s just a draft.” He could never stay silent for long.
The man’s lips inched up. “It’s good.” His gaze returned to assessing the room. “I was waiting for you to do that. And to learn more about this mentorship program you two have been whispering about.”
Alexander had known what they were planning? Or had Rebecca already told him and this was a set-up?
Eric and Rebecca locked eyes for a second. She smiled at him.
Alexander filled his chest with air. “I like it. Now, sit.” His gaze dipped to the pillow Rebecca had abandoned. “Sketch more.”
At that moment, he didn’t care how the man found out. Alexander had just asked him to draw. A glow started deep in his pelvis, traveled up his spine, down his arms. Alexander wanted to be sketched, and as if jolted by a life-giving electricity, his fingers twitched around the pen he’d clutched.
Maybe he’d finally been given what he didn’t know he needed. Permission.
Eric settled himself on the pillow. Opened to a new page.
Alexander granted him another look. “When you’re done, come see me. Ask me what inspiration you need to finish, and we will do whatever it takes.”
He sent a sent a silent prayer to the gods and goddesses of artists and released it like smoke to the heavens. Let this sketch not be good enough. Let it require all the inspiration Alexander could dole out.
Rebecca has said “people” needed this portrait. She’d meant him, hadn’t she?