Monday, May 16, 2016

Studio Time: Thirty-One

The third floor

One long stroke after another, Duff swam down the length of the pool, turned, hesitated, then turned back toward the ladder. The air was uncomfortably cold.  He did not heat the pool, had not done so up until now but might reconsider if he stayed in South Beach. 

He had left Rayne still sleeping but she was now up, sitting on the floor in the living room, going through the rest of the boxes he had brought from Sandy Point. It would have been a sweet moment to see her sift through the little pile of trinkets had she not tossed most of them back into the box with an angry dismissive gesture. 

He had spent the evening managing her swings in mood from despair to rage and back again. She'd made calls to her father without hearing what she wanted and received multiple calls from Woody which further upset her. He had finally taken her cell when she placed one strange call to Jimmy Breaux's empty shack, apparently to listen to the voice recording. It had been a very long night.

Duff pulled himself up out of the water, shivering, then toweled off briskly and padded into the spa. He'd set aside a t-shirt and light sweats and shrugged into them now hoping he would not have to go find something warmer.  It would be warmer in the kitchen, and he tossed the wet towel on the floor and headed into the house.

She had made coffee.  Although Duff had discovered she could not cook at all, Rayne did know how to make good coffee. It reminded him of home and the way their family cook brewed it – freshly ground, aromatic, and robust of flavor. He poured a cup and leaned against the counter to watch her. 

Rayne glanced up at him through stray wisps of silky hair and smiled as she reached down into a box, then jerked her hand back and brought it to her mouth. She sat back. "Ouch."

Setting the cup on the counter, Duff walked up to her, touched her hair and asked, "Did you hurt yourself?"

"I cut my hand.  That knife is supposed to be in a sheathe inside a jewelry box. It's not." Rayne looked back down into the box and carefully moved something inside it. "It's old but it's still really sharp." 

"Shooter cut his hand on a knife in your bedroom drawer," he told her. "Perhaps it's the same knife?"

"It's the only one outside the kitchen so it has to be the same one. Was he hurt much?"

Duff shrugged. "He said he wasn't." He sat down on the sofa and stretched out, propping bare feet on the coffee table.

"Ok that's good." Rayne stood up, wiped her hands on her jeans and shoved the small pile on the floor to one side with her foot, then, when she didn’t see what she was searching for, pushed the armchairs aside.  She used a good deal of force – the legs scraped on the tile. "You didn't see a box with a white tassel, did you?"

"I couldn't tell you, cara. I packed what I thought you would want but after two hours, I didn't pay attention to what was left. Is it important to you?"

"No. I used it to keep the knife safe, that's all. I'll find another box.  I lose everything anyway.”  She sounded disconsolate and very young, a girl who misplaced her jewel box, except this box held a knife instead of her bracelets.

"Come sit with me. Tell me why you keep a knife in your bedroom."

"I've told the same stupid story over and over again."  She curled up beside him, sounding irritable and tired.  "When I was a little girl I met someone who made a very big impression on me and then disappeared.  I searched for him or somebody like him just about my whole life. Every relationship I had was about him and they all crashed and burned.”

She shrugged, cleared her throat, and rested her hand lightly on his thigh, her touch gentle, and she leaned against his shoulder. “I finally ran into him again in my first semester in college and he was nothing like what I thought he was.  I don't even know how to describe or was all just horrible, just a giant mistake.”  With a dry edge to her voice, Rayne added, "I thought he was a prince. He gave me that knife and told me it was his sword.  I believe he knew how to use it - it's not a toy."

This was no small knife. Whoever gave Rayne a knife like this and called it a sword would be dangerous. That she could romanticize the incident for much of her childhood unnerved him. "Cara, you are not sentimental. What does the knife mean to you?"

She stared at him and pulled away, then whipped back a fast and hard reply.  “You’ve got to be kidding. It means don’t do it again. Don’t throw my heart at a stranger, be careful, and remember there is no prince.  It’s a warning, not a keepsake.”

Rayne stood abruptly and walked toward the kitchen. Was it possible she still searched for a knight in shining armor? Duff was no prince or white knight but he was honorable in his own way. Surely Rayne didn't think of him as a prince.

Duff rose from his seat and followed her. He gripped her shoulders gently and turned her around to face him. Clasping her hips between his hands, he placed a tender kiss on her lips. "You loved him cara?" he asked, unsure of whether or not he wanted to know. The thought that she could share a deeply emotional connection to anyone else gnawed at him.

"Duff I only met him twice in my life.  Everything about it was bad, and I've spent too much time thinking about it." She was shutting down, but she raked her fingers through his damp hair and offered a small smile. "And I don't want to talk about it anymore."

Duff pulled her close cradling her head against his shoulder. The things about him he'd yet to tell her raced through his mind. Would she think he’d been lying by omission? His carefully planned progression to introduce Rayne to his lifestyle was no longer an option. After the night she'd had the timing could not be worse but he had to tell her. Duff knew without a doubt he could scare her off.

She had not run from him, he reasoned, she probably would not, but still, she might.  The world was closing in on him, she would find out on her own, and it wouldn't be long before her father interfered as well.  He didn’t have the time to let it happen slowly, let her be sure she wanted the whole man he was, let himself hold onto what he knew he now dreaded losing.  Mine, he thought quietly, but mine to lose. 

"I know how difficult it must have been for you to share your story. Events in our past can haunt us for many years even when we believe we have firmly shut them away. There is something I want to share with you cara."

Duff took her hand and led her toward the stairs. "There will be no secrets between us. You asked to know why the third floor room is locked. Come. I will reveal everything to you."

As they ascended, Duff felt the slight tremble in her hand and squeezed it reassuringly. On the second floor landing, Rayne started toward the bedroom but he held her hand firmly and kept her from continuing. "No cara, we go up.”

When they reached the third floor, Duff released her hand. The landing was severe. This area set the stage for how he would expect her to enter the room beyond the heavy double doors - with no adornments and in total submission. Once he unlocked the doors, he could not close them again.  She would always know this room was up here, could not ignore it, would either accept or reject both the room and him. He punched the security code into the wall panel, opened the door and gestured for her to enter.

She hesitated for only a moment and then walked through.

The color was the first change to hit the senses, a powerful and deliberate blow of red shaded to the violet end of the spectrum.  The designer he had trusted to create the space had attempted to persuade him to use a darker theme - less color, less light - but he had persisted.  He wanted the contrast for his own sake as well as for the impact he intended to make on his visitors.  He believed it worked.  The chains hanging from the ceiling certainly helped.  The light?  He had always rejected tradition.   This was his space.  He would do what he damned well pleased with it, and he did not like darkness.   

Rayne moved further into the room and then turned to look at him with a surprised, almost confused look on her face. She quickly shuttered her expression and stood a pace or two beyond the dresser in the entry, motionless.  Duff thought she might start with a question but she said nothing.  She walked up to a whip hanging from one of the nearer hooks, reached out for it, then lingered there deliberately running her fingers along the thick leather coils before dropping it to study the Shibari photo to the right.

He was immediately aroused. Duff shifted uncomfortably hoping to ease his growing erection, focusing on what she did as she walked around the suspended bed toward the spanking rack. Instead of simply wandering around the room, though, Rayne reached up and pushed on the chain hanging above her making it swing back and forth, then pushed it yet again.   He took another deep breath. Let her explore, he told himself.  Let her have time to realize what this was, to fall into fear or anxiety if that would happen and to give him a chance to help her work through it.  If she did.  If he could.

Rayne stepped to the bank of windows overlooking the channel and the towering slopes of the nearest peak in the volcanic range.  There was no access from the back of his house.  It was humanly possible to make that harrowing and dangerous climb up the slopes of the volcano and aim a camera down,but he had never heard of anyone successfully attempting it.  Even if they did, no one could see through that glass.  She looked out and then back at him.  “You realize there’s a whole wall of glass here.  I know you’re kind of casual about privacy, but considering what this place seems to be, maybe windows were a mistake.”

He started to smile and stopped himself.  If she was using sarcasm to manage her emotional reaction, they would probably be all right.  “As I’ve mentioned before, I like the light.  The windows are a special order, though.  The glazing prevents anyone from seeing in from the outside.”

“Uh huh.”  Rayne touched the spanking rack with her bare foot and ran her hand through her hair, smoothing what did not need smoothed, her gesture nervous. “You should ask my mother about that.” 

At first the remark confused him then he recalled the bodyguard scandal, long forgotten by most people.  He was surprised she brought it up.  After the mistake he had made with the gate, her concerns about privacy were justified.  "Cara, there are blinds fitted in the wall.  The switch by the door closes them.  My attitude is not as casual as you think; you do not need to worry about anything in here including the windows."

Leaving the windows with the problematic view, she crossed the room, and looked at him with a straight and very steady gaze. "It’s nice for a torture chamber.  This is about more than the hardware, isn't it?"

“Yes it is, cara. I am a Dominant and this will be our playroom. Of course we still have much to discuss and I had hoped to introduce you to all this in a different manner.” He glanced around the room. It wasn’t so bad was it? Surely not as hardcore as the clubs he used to frequent.  He had used the room infrequently.  As his own public profile rose, it became difficult to bring someone here, a little difficult at first and then almost impossible.  The house had not been built to accommodate access to this sort of space either.  He could not bring equipment up the stairs and did not want to attempt to haul something up and through a window.

"It's not a torture chamber.  I'm not a sadist."

Her voice shook, her eyes began to fill with tears and she brushed at them, blinked hard, returned to him, put both her hands on his shoulders and held on so hard she came close to pushing him.  He caught them and gently held her.

"How do I know what you are?”  She drew an audible ragged breath and tried to pull free.  “You should have told me, I don't understand why you waited so long, it's like you don't even know me, I don't know why you brought me here.” 

Then in one of Rayne’s sudden and unpredictable mood swings, she careened from confused anxiety to a full on attack. 

"You let me bring all my stuff here! You let me leave my house!  Now I don't have anywhere to live!"

She was shouting, shoving at him, angry and distraught, and her distress over her house surprised him.   Rayne was not homeless.  She could return to her father's house, or she could ask Cooper to help her find a place to live, or she could stay with the Taylor girl.  She had any number of options. He did not understand it and was again momentarily at a loss. 

Duff took her wrists again, now a little uncertain, recalling the way she had broken free of his grip in the gallery in one quick and violent motion.  If she needed reassurance about staying here, he would give that to her.  “Cara, the last thing I want is for you to leave.  If you want to go, I'll help you do that but that is not what I want, not at all.   I want us to sit down and have a conversation about why this will succeed because I believe it will.”

She jerked away from him, her shoulders stiff, body as tense as he had ever seen it.  He saw tears fill her eyes but her mouth was tight and determined.  "What have I ever done to make you think I'm submissive? Why would you think I'd agree to this?"

Duff drew a deep breath and let it out. Time for him to take control. “Rayne, I want you to go downstairs and wait for me in the spa. After I lock up, I will explain.” Without a word, Rayne brushed past him and headed downstairs. If she did as he said and didn’t run out the front door, they had a glimmer of hope. 

He descended the stairs and relief washed over him: she was still here, standing by the pool, staring down into it.  She followed his instruction even though it was very obvious she was not happy about it or anything else.

"Rayne?"  She shifted her weight, balanced on those long slim legs and close enough to the edge of the pool to dip her toes in the water if she pleased, something he had seen her do when heavy rain filled the pool to overflow.  She didn't respond but she didn't walk away.  

Unwilling to continue to wait for her to turn around, Duff slid his left arm over her shoulders and more or less steered her away from the pool into the shaded spa.  On hot days it was a welcome retreat.  Today it was not, the tiles as chilly underfoot as they had been when he had climbed out of the water this morning.  He looked forward to her warmth.  If she stayed.  “Come through here, let me show you something.”

He had bought and sold homes twice since moving to South Beach.  This time, one of the first things he had done was hang the painting, and here it was, the golden girl, lovely and young, brightening the shadows in the spa.  Duff held onto the living subject of that portrait, rested his check against her hair and allowed himself to simply feel her breathe. 

Pointing to it, he said quietly, “The first time I saw this painting, I knew you were the one. Everything I have done, everything we have done has led up to this moment cara. I know you don’t believe you are submissive but I disagree. I saw it from the beginning. I continue to see it in the ways you respond to me. Give us a chance to make this work.”

Rayne slipped out of his arms and walked toward the portrait. For a moment he was tempted to hold onto her but it seemed the better choice to let her go.

“You’re wrong,” she said flatly.  “That painting doesn't mean anything.  I was unhappy, my life was so messed up, you don't even know.  It was painted for the landslide charity.  I didn’t want to be painted.  I didn't know what I wanted.”

“And yet you allowed them to paint you despite your uncertainty. I see a young woman who needs someone to care and support her, guide her, and to see to her every need. I am that man Rayne. Have I not proven that to you? Think back over these last several months and the changes you have made to please me simply because I told you to wear certain clothes, carry yourself in a specific way. You sought my approval and I gave it emotionally and physically. The way you respond and follow my lead in the bedroom, submit to me whether you want to believe it or not.”

She didn’t answer.  She searched his face, watchful, wary: the girl who kept the knife.  

“I am not asking you to be a slave.  I am not asking you to give up your power. On the contrary, you hold it all.” Duff ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “I know this is more than you expected and I’d hoped this conversation would happen in another manner.   I will not betray your trust cara.  I will not hand you a present and disappear from your life.  I want to care for you in all ways, to be the one you can count on.   Set aside your preconceived notion of what this way of life is and open yourself to the possibilities.  Are you not at least willing to try?"

“And what if I can’t do this? What then?”


  1. Hmm. Yes, Duff should have mentioned his preferences earlier. And in the state Rayne is in, this probably wasn't the best time for her to find out. But--Rayne's been in a rough place for a long time, probably most of her life at this point, really. It was bad timing, but there hasn't really been better timing.

    I'm not sure I agree with Duff's assessment of Rayne, though, at least outside of the bedroom. It's possible to be sexually submissive without being submissive in other areas of life, and I'm not sure Rayne's the people pleaser Duff thinks she is at this point. To me, Rayne has always seemed more like someone who's had a difficult time forming her own identity--I'm guessing she's been, from birth, just "Cooper's daughter" to most people--and, as a result, has taken to letting other people define her because that's easier in the short term. She might grow past that eventually, and at this point, Duff's bound to be a stepping stone in her life no matter what happens. Honestly, I think I find his telling her what to wear much more brow-raising than the fact that he's into BDSM.

    If Rayne opts not to participate, I hope Duff can be respectful of that choice, whether or not their relationship can continue after that. If she does decide to try it, I hope he adheres to good BDSM etiquette (I'm guessing that will be covered in their discussion?).

    Glad to see you online! :)

    1. Hey Van! Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment.

      Duff has never met a woman who reaches him the way Rayne does and she brings out emotions in him that he is unfamiliar with. There are things in his past that make him wary and the fact that Rayne is Cooper's daughter adds to his own unsteadiness with her.

      I also have to come to Duff's defense. I know there is a lot of hype and preconceived ideas about BDSM. I can tell you that what Duff doesn't want is a slave. His dominance is strongest in the bedroom although he does exert it to an extent in other areas. We will be revealing more of that in coming chapters (although not right away).

      Rayne needs a strong hand in her life, someone to steady her but not necessarily define her. Hopefully the way we plan to write their story will do both characters justice in the end. If she opts out of his way of life, he will have a choice to make too.

  2. I've missed this story and this world a lot so l'm so happy to see an update. I guess the other shoe had to drop sometime. Better she hear it from him. I agree with Van's assessment of Rayne trying to find herself amid those on the outside trying to define her and though she is very strong willed she is still very much a little girl in certain ways. I think that might be what Duff tapped into at first, that vulnerability she hides with her own brand of bravado. I'm not sure he's completely right about her submissiveness though. Then again l'm not sure she's right about it either. I can't wait to see what happens next :)

    1. Hello Muzegoddess and thank you so much for sticking with us. I won't repeat what Beth said except to say thank you for reading.

  3. Oh muze it's so good to hear from you.

    Rayne's young but she hasn't accomplished anything important to her. Her brother Wyatt graduated from college and is now front man in a popular band. Her two younger brothers are in college and at least one of them will probably do well. Her best friend is also about to graduate and has a promising career as a photographer. She dropped out and all she's done with music is play random gigs with Jimmy. She's floundering. Her first and most important relationship was with someone who rescued and protected her. Then there was Ryan, another powerful and protective man. The first was Gabe so yeah, that ended in shock and betrayal and abandonment. Ryan was a disaster. For someone who grew up in what seemed to her to be a battlefield, the prospect of finding that protector was very appealing, and still is, although she would no longer probably admit it. Maybe submissive isn't exactly right but giving up some control to someone she trusts wouldn't be a stretch for her.

    Thank you. It means so much to know that someone still enjoys this.

  4. Oh wow, I wasn't expecting that! Raynes moods are extreme but I can understand why she would be feeling this way about this room. Duff obviously feels very at ease with her to show her this room as I imagine it's not something he would show just anyone. I adore these two together and hope they can get through or past this.

    Great to see an update and always look forward to more! :)

    1. Hey there and thank you!! We plan on keeping it up this time - crossing fingers!

      Rayne didn't expect the third floor room at all despite Duff's hints. She thought she was somewhere safe with someone she could trust and then this, so she's angry and scared and and feels like she's been tossed out with nowhere to land when she really needs one. Duff hasn't felt this way before and he's moving from an idealized obsession to dealing with a real woman who may not completely fit his fantasy. They're good together. I thought she was going to make a match with Jimmy until Duff came along so we'll see.

      Again, THANK YOU!!

    2. Hi Jennifer and thanks for reading! I love these two together as well although I had hoped Jimmy could grow into the right guy for her. She needs a strong man though. I don't see Rayne as someone who wants to take care of or mother her partner in life.