Note to my generous readers: Please forgive any typos? But feel free to tell me about them. LOL
For the last thirty minutes Alexander couldn’t rip his gaze from the painting—two bent, spread knees and what lay between them. In this picture, what he knew to be sweet, pink flesh was depicted as a flourishing garden of blues, greens and yellows.
Another man stopped, gave him a holiday greeting that he barely heard. Alexander couldn’t stop staring at the depiction of Rebecca, open, vulnerable, beautiful. Finally, the man left Alexander alone again to drink in the sight of his love.
Someone else stopped. Cleared his throat. “What do you think?”
He twisted to face Eric, his blond hair halo-ed by the twinkling Christmas lights of the tree behind him. “Beautiful. Except Rebecca is a natural redhead so the garden is a bit…”
“Lush?” Eric stepped forward and the two men faced the painting. “It’s metaphorical.”
“Hmmm. Yes, and apropos, I suppose.” Rebecca was the most alive person he’d ever met—besides Eric. He tilted his head toward the frame. “I see someone’s already bought it.”
“I’m surprised you were willing to auction it off, actually.” Eric lifted a wine glass to his lips.
Alexander glanced at him. “Oh? I rather like your and Rebecca’s idea to open that training camp. And raising funds this way. Let’s people have some ownership around its success.” The art gallery jumped at the chance to showcase and sell art from Alexander’s private collection—and the few originals painted by Eric.
Eric’s eyebrows shot up. “But not too much ownership?”
Alexander chuckled. “Maybe I’ve softened in my old age,”
“God, let’s hope not.” He cleared his throat again, shuffled on his feet a bit. “What do you think of the … other painting?”
Alexander had been waiting for the question all night. He squared himself to a very nervous-looking Eric. “Which other painting?” He couldn’t help tease the man. Eric was a naturally gifted painter, something he’d not shared with anyone until very recently. And the painting he’d done of Alexander was stunning.
A twinkle shone in Eric’s eyes. “That one.” He lifted his chin toward the portrait of Alexander.
Alexander glanced at it, once more appreciating the depiction of himself. It showed him standing in the middle of the Library, his eyes not focused on any particular scene that unfolded around him. At least that’s what a casual observer might see. On closer inspection, Alexander finally understood exactly where his eyes in the painting landed.
It didn’t rest on the woman strapped to a black padded bench before him or the two men intertwined with one holding the other’s head back by fistfuls of hair to the side, something Eric particularly enjoyed when Alexander did it to him.
Rather, Alexander’s gaze was firmly locked on someone across the room, a woman with red hair blowing in an unseen breeze from an open window.
And in the far right corner of the painting? A man’s reflection in an old fashioned stand-up, full-length mirror. The man also stared at Rebecca, but held something in his hand. It was a full forty-five minutes after staring at it, he’d recognized the object the man held, as it was purposefully half hidden from view.
It was the Contessa, Alexander’s oldest flogger from a time long ago when he and Rebecca first started out in the lifestyle. He’d used it on her—and Charles, their late lover.
The message the image gave was both hidden and clear. Even after wearing Alexander’s bracelet, a collar of his choice, Eric remained unsure of his place. He only hoped after tonight the man would understand. Eric was always free to leave, but if he did so Alexander would mourn him as strongly as he had Charles.
Eric smiled at him. “Which one? The one of the old man over there.”
Alexander arched an eyebrow. “I’d say the subject is still able to stuff that younger mouth of yours with something that will make you rethink your ageism.”
Eric swallowed. “No agesim. Wouldn’t dream of it, but if you feel the need to prove it, I—”
A light hand fell on his shoulder and Rebecca’s face appeared between them. “What are you two whispering about?”
“You,” Eric said quickly.
So the man believed he’d dodged a bullet—or a mouth full of his cock.
“Oh, good, and… look. It sold.” She pointed at the portrait of her. “I wonder who bought it?” She craned her neck around the small crowd that gathered before black onyx sculptures of bodies intertwined and paintings from an abstract depiction of a woman holding a man to a more tame pastoral scene.
“It was sold to someone very lucky.” Alexander circled her waist, drew her into him. Now that people in the room knew Rebecca had sat for the painting, too many eyes assessed her. Probably wanting to know if she was a “real” redhead since the picture gave no clue.
Still, he liked Eric’s interpretation. Rebecca was similar to a lush garden. Full of quiet energy and endless surprises. He also enjoyed Eric’s depiction of him. It’d been real.
Eric’s eyes drifted down to Alexander’s hold on Rebecca, then shot back up to his face. The man’s thick bracelet declaring him tethered to Alexander and Rebecca was visible. His fingers touched it. Instead of comfort, however, Alexander caught flashes of discontent crossing his eyes.
Alexander gestured to Eric to draw closer. “Why don’t the three of us adjourn to the back showing room? I have a surprise.” He lifted his chin at Marta, the gallery owner who hovered nearby. He’d asked her to stay on stand-by for his signal.
She nodded her head once, then moved toward them.
Rebecca twisted in his hold, gazed up at him. “There’s a back room? Will there be wine? Please tell me there will be wine.” He hadn’t let her have any until she gained permission. It was a little game they liked to play. She couldn’t drink until he did.
“Private bar, too.” He led the two of them past Rebecca’s portrait. Marta would know what to do next—bring both the picture of Rebecca and the picture of him to the back room.
After getting Rebecca her glass of chardonnay, and Eric an excellent malbec, Alexander moved to the back wall where a single painting stood on an easel shrouded in a gold swath of fabric. Two empty easels bracketed the hidden picture.
He got one sip in of his wine when Marta and her team, two men dressed entirely in black, entered. Each man carried a painting, the one of Rebecca and the one of himself. They set them up on the two waiting easels.
Eric threw him a puzzled look. “What have we here?” He then glanced at an equally puzzled-looking Rebecca. She shrugged in his direction.
After Marta and the two men strode out without so much as a backward glance, Alexander moved to the shrouded painting. “I have a present for us.” His hand reached for the fabric but then he thought better of it. This moment would be pivotal.
Then again, so many moments in his life had proven to be so.
“Everything okay?” Rebecca’s hand fell to his arm. Perhaps he had frozen for a moment. Unlike him. Hesitation was for fools. This night had to go right, however.
“Fine.” He took her hand, gestured for Eric to grow closer. He clasped the man’s forearm, and lifted Rebecca’s hand to his lips. She graced him with a small, shy smile.
“Nothing’s wrong, you two. Let’s just say I haven’t been this happy in so long, it’s taking longer getting used to than I thought.” He sucked in a long breath, let it out as he drank in Eric’s hazel green eyes. “I have a Christmas wish.”
“You got it,” Eric said quickly.
“Anything,” Rebecca answered.
He dropped his hold on them, and unveiled the painting with a rather dramatic yank of the fabric so it fell to the ground. Eric’s mouth slowly dropped open at seeing it. Rebecca stilled, though he saw her throat bob in a delicate swallow.
“This…” Alexander stepped backward. “… is what I want.” He lifted a hand toward the painting. “I want all three of these scenes. I have two. Now I want this third one.” He pointed to the middle painting he’d just unveiled.
As Eric had worked on the portrait of him, Alexander commissioned another painter–Francisco Sanchez, whose last portrait sold for over $100,000 under a bidding war. When Alexander, who’d funded his early days as a painter, requested a specific scene, the man had generously obliged.
“It’s…” Rebecca began. She’d wisely stopped. Rather, she dipped her head and stepped backward, leaving Alexander and Eric standing before it. She always had a sixth sense about things.
Eric swallowed slowly. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Say anything. Or, don’t.” Alexander shrugged. “But it’s what I want.”
Eric stepped a little closer, bent forward to get a closer look. The request Alexander had made of Francisco was simple. Paint him dominating Eric in a scene—but not just getting to the pain-pleasure mix. Rather, capture—if he could—how Alexander felt about given the great honor of lording over the man.
In the picture, Alexander’s back was to the viewer. But he could be seen in that same full-length mirror as seen in the portrait Eric had painted. His own eyes were cast down on a kneeling Eric. Intense. Unwavering.
Eric’s face was tilted upward at him. He wore nothing but a lattice of ropes, his blond hair tousled as if it’d been fisted and yanked. It had been. The vision of the night in the Library when Francisco came by to do his early sketches rushed in on Alexander’s mind like a flood.
It was a rare scene with just him and Eric. He couldn’t even recall where Rebecca had been that evening, which touched him deep in his heart. He wasn’t concerned for his memory or that fact that he couldn’t pinpoint Rebecca’s location in the past. She would always be safe so long as he lived. And she would always be his true love. Rather, Alexander had found himself enthralled with Eric that evening. And many others, if truth be told.
Francisco captured their dynamic that evening perfectly. The painting showed every tense muscle under Alexander’s white dress shirt leaning toward Eric. His eyes honed in on the man kneeling before him as if he was both prey and prize. Because that’s what Eric was to him in that moment.
Eric hadn’t moved from his stance over the painting, except for his eyes which darted around in his face as if searching for any message in the painting that wasn’t exactly what the Alexander had intended. He could search all he wanted. The picture perfectly captured who Eric was to Alexander.
Equal to Rebecca.
Alexander was the first to break the silence. “Do you understand now?”
Eric straightened, turned to Alexander. His eyes shone in the low lighting. “I think so.”
He moved closer to the man. “Rebecca, come here.” She did as she was asked, nestled into his side. “I need you to understand without a doubt.” He quickly glanced at the painting and back to Eric. “You are mine. You are mine and Rebecca’s. Forever and as long as you wish it. You needn’t ever question it again.”
Eric chuckled a little. “Sounds like I’m getting my wish instead of you.” He attempted to lighten things?
Alexander’s jaw tensed. “No. It’s mine. Every time you think yourself unequal, it …” Damn, stupid emotion lodged in this throat. Unexpected. Unwanted. He needed Eric to get this.
Rebecca’s lungs expanded into his chest as she took in a long breath. “It hurts,” she filled in for him.
Eric’s eyes widened slightly. “I would never hurt you.”
“Then know what I say.”
Eric’s shoulder’s dropped an inch, and he nodded.
Alexander drew closer to him, taking Rebecca with him. ‘If you ever feel that old insecurity creeping up on you, you come tell me.” He glanced at the portrait again. “I’ll remind you.”
One side of Eric’s mouth inched up in his signature smirk. But he nodded. Finally, perhaps the man got what he meant to him?
“Now, let’s join the party out there.” He gestured for them to move toward the door.
“But, won’t the owners want their two paintings? They both sold, right?” Rebecca craned her neck backward to the three paintings.
“Yes, I do. I own all three.”
She playfully slapped his chest. “And here I thought my portrait was ending up over Seamus’s mantle. He was teasing me about it all night.”
“Over my dead body,” Alexander said. “They are officially now for our eyes only. Our secret. I hope you don’t mind especially about your work.” He slapped Eric on the shoulder. “It’s just I’m rather possessive over you… and Rebecca.”
Lines around Eric’s eyes softened. “I’m touched. Honored.” He cleared his throat.
“Good. Because I plan on doing much touching tonight.”
“Anything you wish,” Eric said.
Rebecca nodded vigorously.
“Now…” Alexander winked at her. “… before we abandon the party, care to help me with something?”
“Of course,” she said.
“We’re going to announce to everyone your training camp idea. Only I’m thinking we need to expand the idea. To a real school.”
Rebecca clapped her hands in glee. “Perfect. And I have another idea.”
Of course she did.
“You have the Dominant’s council with the Tribunal. But what if I start a submissive council?”
Eric snorted. “Are you kidding? Can you see a bunch of submissives trying to decide something? ‘You ask him. No, you ask him.’
Alexander laughed. “You do have a point there. But…” He sobered. “I’ll consider it. I’m in a generous mood.”
“Wow, remind me to ask you for a yacht,” Eric said.
“We already have one.” His hand steered Eric down the hallway. “Marta will wrap up all three of the paintings. They’ll hang in our bedroom. In the meantime, the school starts tonight by helping Master R with Carolina.”
The man chuckled. “What did she do this time?” Lina’s brat reputation proceeded her.
“Apparently, she’s not yet learned all she needs to. Care to help?”
He shrugged. “What do you want me to do?”
“Everything. With me.”
Now he got a real smile out of Eric—and Rebecca.
Alexander still knew he was going to have to spend the rest of his life making sure they understood it.
So, he would.
Because I was promptly kicked out of the scene. They got busy. Imagine that.
If you’d like to learn more about Alexander, Rebecca and Eric,
you can find their story (which takes place before this serial)
in INVINCIBLE here and here.