Brenda Murphy © 2018
All Rights Reserved
“Black suit? Wedding, or funeral?” Elaine shifted her weight on the bed and plumped the pillow with her fist.
Martha tilted her head and looked at her sister. “Madam has a thing for suits.” She folded her shirt and placed it in her packing cube. “I miss the way Sarah ironed my shirts. So meticulous.”
Elaine snorted. “Another one that left us. Are you going to see Vivian? I wonder how things are going with Bridget. What a succulent little brat.” She sucked her teeth.
“Do you miss Octavia?” Elaine smiled a sick smile, the one guaranteed to start a fist fight when they were children.
Martha frowned at Elaine. “Let’s drop this. I’m not going to see Vivian. She messaged me last week. Something’s come up. She won’t be attending.”
Elaine raised her eyebrows. “Something? She’s never missed one. Even the year she lost Miriam.”
Martha sighed. “She said the three of them were—involved, and she was not attending.”
Elaine’s expression changed, the teasing look on her face gone. “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
Martha pursed her lips. “I will be. I love Vivian. I want her to be happy. I can’t believe Bridget is okay with it. She’s such a tight-ass.”
Elaine left the bed. She moved behind Martha and hugged her hard before she released her. “I’ll get out of your hair and let you finish packing. Anything special you want for lunch?”
“Is Myfanwy busy?” Martha chewed her lower lip, longing for the comfort of Myfanwy’s sweet submission.
“She’s scheduled with a client until tomorrow night.” Elaine rested her hand on her sister’s forearm. “Should I have Robin bring it to you? You haven’t even looked at her since I hired her.”
Maybe something new. Who knows? It might fill this empty place inside of me. Martha patted her sister’s hand. “That sounds delightful. Is there any of the soup we had last night?”
Elaine squeezed her arm. “Yes. I’ll send her up in an hour.”
I hope this letter finds you well. I expect you will attend me for what will be my last occasion. I will explain more when you arrive. G.
Martha folded the scented notepaper and placed it in her journal. The last? She swallowed on a dry throat. The rumors must be true. What will become of the Onyx? She sat back and looked out of the window. The last of the sun highlighted the drive and reflected off the white stones surrounding the center fountain. Her thoughts folded back in on themselves. So many years. No decisions. No worries. Submission. Obedience. Pain. And love. Madam’s love. What will I do?
A tap at the door interrupted her melancholy thoughts. She slid her journal into her desk drawer and sat back in her chair. “Enter.”
The door opened, and a small woman in a short black skirt and simple white blouse pushed a meal cart into the room. She was thin, her face defined by sharp angles. Her makeup was professionally applied, the cherry-red lipstick contrasting with her pale skin and overbright blue eyes. A cap of bleached blonde curls covered her head.
“Your soup, Mistress.” She met Martha’s gaze briefly and looked down. Her voice was soft. “Where would you like me to serve you?”
Elaine did well. Tasty indeed. “My bed.”
Martha stood up and crossed the room to stand over to the small woman. She hooked her fingers under her collar. “Robin, isn’t it?” She leaned down, watching her response, and cupped the back of her neck. “My bed.”
Robin stilled in her arms. Desire coiled in Martha’s gut.
“Me, Mistress?” Robin’s voice was tremulous.
“Look at me.” Martha pinned her with her gaze, assessing her true feelings. She ran her thumb over Robin’s plump bottom lip, smearing her lipstick. No fear. Acting. Enticing but not real. “You can refuse. I won’t hold it against you.”
“Oh no, I’m not refusing, Mistress. I didn’t expect you would want me.” She spoke in a well-practiced voice, the facade of innocence mildly annoying to Martha as they moved through the dance of permissions. Robin lifted her chin and held Martha’s gaze.
Martha studied Robin’s face. Her self-deprecating words didn’t match the hard edge reflected in her eyes. Practiced. Not innocent. But she plays it well. “I won’t ask for your permission again. You’re free to refuse me as is anyone who works here.”
Robin pushed into Martha’s arms. “Oh no, Mistress. Please.” The breathy quality of her voice and the way she pressed her body into Martha’s embrace signaled her willingness to serve. “Don’t send me away. Let me serve you.”
Willing. Truth. Not innocent but willing. Martha kissed her, letting herself get lost in Robin’s well-acted surrender. She broke their kiss, and Robin lowered herself to her knees. “Bed. Now. Face up.”
Robin crawled across the floor. She stood up and toed her shoes off before she climbed up. She lay in the middle of the large bed, dwarfed by the king-size mattress.
“Hands over your head.” Martha stood next to the bed, her thighs slick with want in spite of her depressed mood. Or maybe because of it. “Spread your legs.”
She kicked off her shoes and shed her pants and underwear before she mounted the bed. Martha kneeled between her legs and shoved Robin’s skirt up; then she grabbed the waistband of her panties. She stripped her sheer underwear off and tossed them over the edge of the bed. The scent of Robin’s excitement made saliva pool in her mouth. She slid one finger over her clit. The small gasp from Robin made Martha press her legs together to relieve the ache. She thrust her thumb into the liquid evidence of her desire. Can’t fake being wet. At least she’s into it. She gathered Robin’s wetness before she leaned over her and pushed her thumb into her mouth. Robin opened to her and sucked hard. She moaned on cue, and the mechanical sound of her response threatened to derail Martha’s plans.
“You like that, don’t you? You look like sugar wouldn’t melt in your mouth, but I see the slut in you.” She pulled her thumb free and slapped her face. “You want to suck my clit, don’t you?”
Robin’s eyes were bright. “Oh yes please, Mistress. Let me. Let me please you. Please.”
Martha moved her hand down and entered her, fucking her slowly. Robin arched up to meet her thrusts. “Do you want to be my little fuck-toy?” She ground the heel of her hand against Robin’s clit, watching pleasure play across her face.
“Oh. Oh please, Mistress. I. Oh please. Just for you. Please, Mistress.” Robin twisted her hands in the sheets above her head.
“Do you want to come for me?” Well trained. Knows what I like. Hot need wound through Martha’s body. She thrust harder.
“Please, Mistress. Let me come for you. Just you.” Robin thrashed her hips, welcoming Martha’s deep thrusts. “Please.”
“Give it to me. All of it. Now.” Martha pushed hard and deep, sweeping her fingers over Robin’s sweet spot.
Robin arched off the bed and groaned as she spilled her pleasure, soaking the duvet beneath her. Martha pulled her hand away and rose to kneel over Robin’s face. She pinned her arms with her knees.
“Lick me.” She settled on Robin’s face, rocking herself on her tongue, rolling her hips. Robin lapped at her and thrust her tongue deep before she sucked hard on Martha’s clit. Sharp spikes of pleasure shot through Martha and she came with a deep groan. She raised her hips and lay next to her.
Robin rolled to her side to face Martha. Her lipstick was smeared, and Martha touched her cheek and looked into her eyes. “That was lovely.”
Robin smiled at her. “The pleasure was mine, Mistress.” She reached out and rested her hand on the front of Martha’s shirt, toying with the buttons. “Is there anything else, Mistress?”
Yes. No. Good, and yet not what… No. Who I want. Will I ever stop missing her? Martha caught her hand and squeezed it hard. “No. Thank you. You may return to your duties.”
A flash of anger passed over Robin’s face before she smoothed her features. “Your soup will be cold. Should I bring you another bowl?”
Angry. At me. Interesting. “No. I’m not hungry.” Martha shifted off the bed and picked up her clothes. She turned her back to the bed. She heard the bedsprings squeak, the rustle of Robin’s clothes as she put her uniform to rights. She kept her back turned and listened to the cart wheels rattle as Robin left and pulled the door closed with a hard click. Martha let out the breath she had been holding.
She went to the bathroom and washed her hands in the sink, anxious to be rid of the reminder that what she had was not what she wanted.
Twenty women stood before Martha in the main ballroom. She looked at each of their faces, favoring some of them with a smile. “I will be gone for two weeks. The house is closed to guests. You are all free to go or stay. Those of you who choose to go on holiday, please leave a copy of your plans with Millie. If anyone has any trouble while traveling, please call the main landline.” She inclined her head at Elaine. “Cook is in charge while I am away.” She didn’t miss the small murmurs and one loud groan from someone in the crowd, or Elaine’s expression of satisfaction. She would never understand her sister’s desire to be the most feared Dominatrix in the house.
Elaine squared her shoulders and focused her gaze on one of the submissives. “You have something to say?”
Roxy had been with them since the start, and she never tired of pushing Elaine’s buttons. “Oh no, Mistress. Nothing to say.” She rested her hand on her hip and rocked back on her heels and dared to meet her Mistress’s gaze. “Here.”
Elaine’s voice took on a warm tone. “Later then.” She licked her lower lip and smiled a tight smile at Roxy. Martha looked away from their display, jealous of the obvious love between them. Why doesn’t she commit to her? She loves her. Has loved her for years. And Roxy would kill for her. She scanned the faces of the rest of the crowd. Myfanwy stood close to Roxy. Her brows were knitted and her gaze fixed on Robin. The newest addition to Rowan House, Robin, was standing at the back of the crowd, a bored expression on her face. Martha watched her. The contrast between the woman who had served her at lunch yesterday, and the hard-faced woman she saw before her was disconcerting. Robin looked up suddenly and into Martha’s eyes. The shift in her demeanor when she knew herself observed was startling, her face morphing from hardened whore to innocent woman in seconds. Martha looked away and waved her hand at the group.
“You’re dismissed. See you in two weeks. Be well-behaved. Be sane. And for God’s sake be careful.”
Martha rested her handbag on the foyer floor. “This may be the last time I make this trip.” She buttoned her long gray wool coat. She pulled her black leather gloves on before she placed her fedora on her head and adjusted the brim. She checked herself in the mirror. Elaine picked up Martha’s purse and handed her the large bag. Martha looped the strap over her shoulder.
Elaine met her gaze in the mirror. “Maybe not. You know it’s not the first time she’s implied it would be the last. She is dramatic.”
“Yes, but the tone of her message is different than the other times.” Martha opened the door and stepped out. The icy wind stung her cheeks. She flipped up the collar of her coat. The black car idled in the drive. Millie was loading the last of Martha’s bags into the car.
Elaine pulled her thick blue sweater tighter, her hands red from the cold. “I envy you Italy this time of year.”
“I’m sure Roxy will keep you warm.” Martha hugged her tight. She released her and tucked a wisp of red hair that had worked loose from her braid behind her ear. “Go inside. I’ll be okay. I’ll text you when I get there. If you need me, I left the contact information on my desk.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.” Elaine stepped back.
She won’t go inside until I’m in the car. Millie held the door of the car open, and Martha hurried across the drive. She entered the car, and Millie closed her door. She sat back and looked back at the house. Elaine had gone inside, but Martha could see her holding back the curtain and peering out of the foyer window. She waved, and Elaine raised her hand. As much as she treasured her two weeks with Madame Givernay, she hated to be away from her home and her sister. Not quite two years apart, orphaned young, they were as close as twins even if their looks could not have been more different. And yet. She longed to rest at Madame’s feet, safe, cherished. Martha leaned back in her seat, settling her hips into the smooth leather. After buckling her seat belt in place, she blew out a long breath, ready to be away from the responsibility of running Rowan House. A nagging sensation of uncertainly tugged at her mind before she pushed it aside. Elaine can handle it. They’ll be fine. They always have been. I’m being silly. She tapped her foot, anxious to be free, even if for only a bit.
“Are you warm enough, Mistress?” Millie met her gaze in the rearview mirror. “Should I adjust the heat?”
“I’m comfortable. Let’s go. We’re only one flock of sheep away from missing the ferry.”
Millie laughed. “Yes, Mistress. I’ll get you there in time.”
She looked out at the gray clouds clustered over the distant mountains. The ferry ride will be rough. And cold. Damn it. She pulled her bag into her lap and rummaged through it, looking for her anti-sea-sickness bands. She slid them over her hands and pressed the button over the acupressure points on her wrists.
These things are fashion tragic. Ugh. At least they work.
The lounge on the ferry was crowded. Not trusting her stomach, Martha found a spot along the rail, the cold wind quelling her nausea. She sighed as she looked back at Skye. Her thoughts worked in circles as she mulled over the message from Madame, Vivian’s absence and new relationship with Octavia and Bridget, the way she had responded, or rather not responded, to Robin. She chewed her lip. The sound of a man’s frustrated voice carried over the wind and disrupted her thoughts.
“You have to come inside. I can’t leave your sister alone, and it’s too cold for her out here. Please. We can stand near the door.”
“No. Please, Dad. It’s too hot in there. I don’t want to throw up. Please.”
Martha turned her head and saw a small boy. He looked about seven, red-haired, and thin. His face was pale. The man standing next to him had a diaper bag slung over his shoulder and a baby in his arms. The baby, wrapped in multicolored blankets, started to cry. The man looked as if he might join her any minute. He shifted the baby to his other arm and held out his hand. “I’m not going to ask again. I need to get your sister inside.”
“I’ll be sick, Dad. Please. I’ll stay right here. Please don’t make me go inside.” The boy’s voice was earnest, on the verge of tears. He held his stomach with one hand and belched loudly. Martha looked around for a bin just in case.
She walked along the rail and stopped bit away from the family. “Sir? I’ll stay with him if you like.” She pointed to one of the wide lounge windows. “You can see us from there.”
The boy looked at her, his eyes wary. She smiled at the boy. “I get sick inside too.” She looked at the man. “I’ll wait here for you when we dock.”
The baby’s crying was louder. The man bounced her in his arms, and she settled for a moment. He met Martha’s gaze, an uncertain expression on his face. The baby fussed again. “Thank you.” He looked at the boy. “Mind her. I’ll be right inside if you need me.”
He hurried inside with the baby and took up a place at the window. The father waved at the boy and he waved back before he turned to Martha.
“I’m big enough to be alone out here, but Dad thinks I’m a baby.” He looked up at Martha and cocked his head to the side. “You’re really tall for a lady. I like your hat.”
Martha laughed. “I suppose I am, and thank you.”
“Do you really get sick too?”
“Yes.” She held out her arms and displayed her wrist bands. “But these help.”
The boy frowned. “How?”
“They press on a spot that helps keeps the sick feeling away. Hold out your arm.”
He held out his arm, and she pointed to the gap between his glove and jacket sleeve and a spot on his wrist. “Measure down three of your fingers and press there with your thumb.”
The boy did. “How long does it take?”
“It’s not instant, and it works better if you put pressure on the spot before you start feeling sick.”
His brow furrowed as he concentrated. After a few minutes he smiled. “It works.”
Martha smiled back. She glanced back at the window. The man was focused on the baby, feeding her a bottle. What is the story here? Why is he traveling alone, and how much farther do they have to go?
The boy tugged her sleeve. “Where ya going, lady? We’re going home. I’m getting a puppy. Do you have a dog? Do you like the ferry? I like it even if I get sick.”
Martha numbered her answers on her fingers. “Italy. I have a horse and some cats but no dog. And yes, I like the ferry.”
“You should get a dog. They’re the best.” He looked back and waved at his father. The man waved back.
“I’ll think about it.”
A gust of wind blew over the deck, and Martha held tight to her fedora. The boy pushed closer to her, leaning his body into her, and shivered.
“Are you cold? Do you want to go inside?” Martha looked down at him.
“No. I like it out here. Look at the clouds. Do you think we’re halfway? Look, the gulls are following us. Do you like birds? I like birds.”
They spent the rest of the trip with the boy talking and asking questions without waiting for answers. Martha was grateful for the distraction, marveling at the way seeing the world through the observations of a small boy made the excursion wondrous. They docked, and she waited with the boy until his father arrived. The baby was sleeping now.
“See, Dad. I told you I could do it.” The boy’s color had improved. His cheeks were a bright pink.
The man ruffled his hair. “You did. I saw.” He looked at Martha. “Thank you. It was so nice of you to help. My wife does this by herself all the time. I don’t know how.”
The boy took his hand. “Look, Dad, there’s Mom. Let’s go. See ya, lady.” He pulled his father through the crowd. A small part of her, the part that wondered what it would have been like if her parents had survived the accident, grieved for the normal life she’d never known. Boarding schools and caretakers had been her world.
She waited until the crowd cleared and made her way off the ferry. Millie was waiting for her. She opened the door, and Martha slid into the warm comfort of the car.
Millie met her gaze in the rearview mirror. “Do you want to stop at Fort William, Ma’am? For something to eat?”
“No. Unless you need something.”
“I’m good, Ma’am.” Millie pulled the car onto the road, and Martha focused her gaze out of the window and settled in for the ride.