Jason pulled the black elastic band from his pocket and thoughtfully rolled it over the pads of his fingers, his mind a million miles away from his swanky San Diego office. He’d forgotten the band was in his pocket. His maid service had returned his dry cleaning Sunday night, the same as always, and he pulled the pants from the closet without checking the pockets. He should have yanked it off his wrist and thrown it away as soon as Laura walked out the door. Why had he shoved it in his pocket? Why didn’t the cleaners check the pockets? What if he left a lighter or, god forbid, a tube of chapstick one day? Would those pass through unnoticed, too?
Jason spread the elastic between his fingers. It would be easy to slide it over his wrist again—easy but impossible at the same time. He hooked it over his fingertip and pulled it taut, ready to flick it into the trash bin, but relaxed his fingers, letting it fall back to the desk. It was just a cheap hairband. He picked up a package of them for three dollars at WalGreens the night before he brought Laura back to his house. There were eleven more at home. Each of them identical to the one on his desk.
The phone on his desk chirped, and then his administrative assistant—he only made the mistake of calling Pepper his secretary once—pulled his attention away from the completely unremarkable black hairband.
“Are you ready to call it a night?” Pepper’s voice came through the phone.
“I have a family.”
How late was it? Jason wasn’t sure. He’d been in a daze the entire day—the entire week if he was being honest. Ever since he walked Laura to her car and sent her on her way with a smile and a wave, he hadn’t been himself. He couldn’t keep his meetings straight. He sent off all his work to his paralegals. Pepper had been taking the brunt of the ire from his angry clients, and even her patience was wearing thin.
“We all have to make sacrifices.”
The call cut off, and ten seconds later the office door flung open, Pepper steamrolling in on two-inch heels. “What is going on with you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You haven’t been yourself for the past week. Come to think of it, you weren’t quite acting like yourself last week, either.”
“Nothing is going on with me.” Not anymore, anyway. The previous week, when he had his naughty accountant Laura tied to a fucking-machine in his basement/dungeon, he walked through the office with a certain bounce in his step. He smiled a little easier, and he flew through his work, eager to get it done by lunchtime. He kept her on the fucking-machine as a punishment for her, but it didn’t do him any favors. The entire time he was supposed to be working on briefs, he was thinking about her lithe, sweating body, flushed skin, pumping hips, and exhausted but sincere moans as the dildo drove into her swollen pussy again and again and again…
“Jason? Hello? Where did you go just now?”
“Nothing…I mean, nowhere. Never mind. Just…go. Have a good night, okay?”
“Look, boss, you need to pull it together. I’m keeping this law firm afloat right now, but I’m not a wizard. If you’re not careful, everything’s going to come crashing down around your head.”
A fair warning. He already felt like the earthquake had started—the ground was constantly moving beneath him, shifting and buckling, sending him flying in new directions. Now the roof was going to come crashing down, too? All because of Laura. All because she was greedy and stupid enough to get caught, and he was opportunistic and horny. Not just horny. If he just had an itch to scratch, there were plenty of women he could call. But he’d specifically sought out Laura. He specifically leveraged the situation so he could get her into his bed—and into his BDSM dungeon. He specifically wanted to hurt her, wanted to break her down until he could rebuild her into his perfect slave.
If he had longer than a week with her, he knew he could do it. She was a natural submissive, and she was just beginning to learn it when their seven days came to an end.
“I mean it. What is going on with you? Is it a woman?”
Jason stood and whipped his jacket from the back of the chair. “Look, Pepper, thank you for caring.” He took her by the shoulders and looked her in the eye. “Really, I mean that. But…you’d be well advised to mind your own business on this one.”
“If you’re going to keep me four hours late every single night, I think I have a right to know what the hell is going on, boss.”
“Okay, great. We’ll have dinner one day, and I’ll tell you all about it, okay?”
She nodded, and he released her arms, taking long strides to reach the door before she could call him back. He didn’t know where he was going. He couldn’t go home. There were too many memories of her there. Even in his bedroom because he had stupidly brought her up the stairs and laid her out on the silk sheets and focused all his attention on the nuances of her body in what was meant to be the cruelest of the tortures he’d visited on her. Somehow, instead of hurting her, he’d only managed to scar himself.
Maybe he could go get a drink somewhere? No. He wasn’t in the mood to run into somebody he knew, wasn’t in the mood to drink alone, wasn’t in the mood to call anybody. He stepped into the elevator, walking into a cloud of somebody else’s perfume. Perfume that smelled like Laura’s. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, submerging himself in her scent. There were still a few items in the dungeon that smelled like her, too, even though everything he’d used on her was either clean or sterile. Maybe it was just his imagination. Or her memory haunting him.
He practically fled from the elevator into the parking garage. He couldn’t spend the rest of his life like this. But he couldn’t get her out of his mind, either. What if he found somebody else? Somebody just like her, with red hair and blue eyes and pretty titties…no, somebody opposite of her. Somebody with raven hair and generous curves—maybe even a trained sub so he wouldn’t have to fight so much. Laura had lived up to her end of the bargain, but she’d been so willful.
Jason had invested equal amounts of energy into thinking about Laura and avoiding her, so the sight of her in the parking lot brought him to an abrupt halt. She was five or six cars down the row, standing next to the driver’s door with her head down, thumb traveling quickly over the screen of her phone. She wore oversized dark glasses, and her hair was free of pins, partially obscuring her face, but he still knew it was her. He knew every intimate detail of her body, and he would recognize her at any distance, in any situation.
She was too engrossed with her phone to notice him. He had time to turn back to the building. No, why would he do that? He actually wanted to talk to her. Running from her wouldn’t do him any good, even if that was his first impulse. A part of him was angry at his uncertainty—what was there to be uncertain about? Laura belonged to him. She was his. That’s why he kept the black band he wore on his right wrist the entire week she was in service to him. Their bargain may have been for seven days, but something had happened between them. Had she felt it, too? Or was she happy to be rid of him?
“Well what the fuck am I supposed to do?” Her angry question traveled across the parking lot with perfect clarity, breaking his paralysis. As he got closer, he saw her yank the Bluetooth out of her ear and slam her fist against the closed door. He heard the thud, too, and quickened his pace, eager to reach her before she could do her smooth (extremely sensitive) skin any further damage.
She spun around to face him, but it was impossible to read her expression. Was she happy to see him? Or angry? If she took off her glasses, he would be able to read every nuance of her lovely face. She wore every emotion like a badge, allowed every thought to be reflected in her clear eyes.
“Jason.” Her voice was measured. Cool.