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A Firm-Handed Man by Constance Masters – Sample

Chapter One

Mikala Black opened her freezer and inhaled deeply. Of course she knew there was no smell, but there should be. Surprising really, that no one had invented a way to make ice cream taunt you with its aroma. Not that it really needed to taunt any more than it already did. The delicious tub of pecan crunch just sat there, waiting to be devoured—but she couldn’t, she shouldn’t. Five stubborn pounds had settled on her ass during her weekend away with the girls a month before and they weren’t going to remove themselves. Ice cream wasn’t part of the strict new regime she’d set for herself. She shut the door and paced up and down her kitchen trying to forget it was even there. But it didn’t matter which way she turned, the sight of that door and what was hidden behind it beckoned her.

“You have a problem,” she told herself. “Go watch TV or something. Better still, go for a jog.” She actually snorted at that one. There was something she could do to fill a half hour that was calming—something that could burn calories rather than add them.

She padded down the long hallway to her bedroom, stripping her clothes off as she went. What she needed was some mood music. She leapt onto the bed and flicked her iPhone on shuffle. Sam Smith flooded the room, ‘Not in That Way’—crap, not that. That was her music to wallow by. It certainly wasn’t the tune she needed now. Oh, God, Justin Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’—was she sixteen? ‘Me, Myself and I’—Hip hop, really? It was really time to take a good look at her music collection. Mikala switched the music off. All she needed was a little imagination…

Big hands, clutching at her ass, pulling her against his hard body. His body wasn’t the only thing hard. She could feel his, err, excitement, pressing against her lower belly—

Was it her belly? He must be tall then, well, taller than her, a lot taller than her. Would he be able to kiss her comfortably, believably, like a proper fantasy? Oh, shut up, Mikki, it’s a fantasy. Everything works in a fantasy. Just have him kiss you. Her eyes closed and her fingers slid between her legs, spreading her lips and delving…

His breath was hot against her ear. He whispered something that wasn’t even audible, sending ripples of pleasure right to her core as his tongue danced down her neck. His stubble grazed her delicate skin as his thumbs worried her peaked nipples.

Her fingers began working, she was feeling it already. It had been so long since she’d been touched in that way… well, by somebody else, that is. Obviously she’d touched herself. Focus.

He was leaning in for a kiss…

“Stop!” she squealed out loud. He didn’t have a face. How could she make love, even in a fantasy, with a man with no face? It wasn’t like it was a person who just wasn’t her taste or someone she really didn’t like or that she actually hated like Rick the dick who had broken her heart. No, no, no, Mikki, don’t start thinking about him or this will be all over before it even begins. Get your act together, woman, conjure someone up, anyone but him. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to put some features on her dream man. No, she couldn’t seem to do it. Her fantasy man was faceless. Great, it was over. Mikala sighed sadly. Or was it? There could be a way. Perhaps her man was busy, his face hidden. It wasn’t like you always had to be staring into the eyes of the man you were making love to. This could just be sex, hot lusty sex. After all, this wasn’t real. She didn’t have to be accommodating or polite. She didn’t have to do things in a certain order. This was about her getting off. Once again she closed her eyes and her fingers began their probing…

He was under the sheet now, spreading her legs.

Now they were getting somewhere. “Oh, yes.”

His stubble grazed her upper thigh, her outer lips and then, he switched. There was tongue, glorious tongue; flicking and sucking and she couldn’t help it, it was a reaction—her knees clamped on his head, hard.

Didn’t matter, did it? It wasn’t like she was going to hurt him…

His hands lifted her and he slapped her ass twice, once on each cheek. “Let me in,” he said gruffly.

Oh, God, that voice, those few words, those slaps on her ass. Her fingers took on a life of their own. Oh, crap, she was going to come already. It was what she wanted, needed and yet it always took her by complete surprise. Her body stiffened and what felt like a giant bubble of pleasure popped. Waves of delight shot through her like little beads of mercury racing to nowhere in particular but everywhere just the same. When the bubbles all petered out and her body was calm, she flopped back onto her soft pillows, more relaxed than she’d felt in a long while. Trouble was she was still alone; no strong arms around her and no warm body to cuddle against.

Mikki found herself in front of the freezer again. What harm would a little do? She took out the tub, cracked open the seal, and got herself a spoon. “Eating the whole tub would be really greedy,” she muttered, “even for me.”

She scooped a small portion into a bowl, covered it with wrap, and placed it in the freezer. “Better,” she said, taking the rest of the tub and heading for the living room.

Two hours later, while the credits rolled on her favorite old movie, Mikki sprawled out on the sofa, rubbing her tummy. The empty tub and spoon sat on the coffee table. Okay, so maybe she had been a little greedy with the ice cream, it wasn’t like anyone would find out. It would be her own little secret, once the evidence had been thrown in the trash. That was about to happen when there was a knock at the door.

“Hi, Court, what a nice surprise! I wasn’t expecting you today.” Courtney gave her a hug. The two girls had been best friends since kindergarten.

“You didn’t think I’d leave you to your own devices when you’re so obviously down about the dreaded day looming, do you? Your phone was off and we all know the anniversary is coming up.”

Mikala looked behind her friend. “Megan not coming?” The three girls had been friends since school and it was unusual for them to do group things with one of them missing. They had always had a great time together growing up. Although not the coolest kids in school, they had teetered on the edge of the coolest group. There were times that Mikala, looking back now as an adult, would like to go back and slap her teenage self. As amusing as it had been at the time, she—well, all of them really—had been basically not very nice. Unfortunately, she couldn’t wind back the clock or change the past; all she could do was be a good person now that she was an adult. That counted, didn’t it?

Courtney barreled past her, thrusting a smoothie cup into her hand. “I got you the mango twist,” she said.

“Oh, thanks, hon, but I just couldn’t, honestly.” Mikki almost went green at the thought of putting anything in her mouth.

“Oh, my God, Mikki!” Courtney said with disgust. “You ate the whole tub?”

Mikala had been stopped pre-cleanup, so the evidence was right there for everyone to see. “Not the whole tub! What do you think I am, a pig?”

“No, but I do think you’re sinking into an abyss again. I bet I even know what kind of movie you were watching.” She pressed rewind on the remote and chuckled. “You are literally trying to drown yourself in ice cream and sexist man-takes-charge movies again. You do know that this movie was made back in the early sixties? People just don’t think that way anymore. There is no such thing as that kind of happy ending.”

“A girl can dream, can’t she?”

“Yes, of course she can, honey, but you still have to live in the real world. That’s why I’m here.” Courtney smiled. “Megan will be here shortly. We know tomorrow marks a year since you and Rick broke up.”

Mikala flopped back onto the sofa with a groan. It was bad enough that she’d been acting pathetically about the anniversary, but being so predictable that your friends saw it coming was even worse. “I wouldn’t care if I’d actually done something great since then. Like moved on. I had so many plans. I was going to study so I could get a new job, change the color of my hair. I wanted to lose weight! I have done none of those things. I am basically a failure at life.” While Rick the dick got married to someone else and was expecting a new baby, one that had been conceived while he was supposedly with her.

“You aren’t a failure at anything. I must admit though, your positivity could use some work. The first one is easy to take care of, decide what you want to do and sign up for classes. The second one, I don’t understand; you have gorgeous hair! Why would you want to change it?” She smoothed her hand over Mikala’s hair. “It’s all dark brown and shiny; why would you want to be another girl with dyed blonde hair? The third one is ridiculous; you’re only a size eight, for God’s sake.”

“I know, but I want to be a size four or a two would be even better.” Rick’s new wife was about a size nothing and she had a whole human being hiding somewhere inside her skinny little frame. Besides, how was she ever going to be tossed over someone’s knee as a size eight? She could be wrestled probably, maneuvered. What woman wanted to be maneuvered over a man’s knee? Courtney was right, a lithe body would probably never happen but she had to be ready just in case, didn’t she? What if she did find the perfect dominant man and he had to stagger across the room with her in his arms only to flop her across his lap and have her dislocate his knees. There was nothing hot about that.

Courtney scoffed. “You know, those boobs are never going to fit into a size two anything.” She ran her hand over her own small chest. “And you should be damn grateful to have them. I don’t know why you don’t get them out more often.”

“Who for? I don’t think you and Megan need to see them.”

“Did I hear my name being used in vain?” Megan said. “I let myself in. What are we talking about?”

“The fact that Mikki hasn’t reached any of her goals since she broke up with Rick,” Courtney said. “And she’s been watching Elvis again. I told her that stuff is just outdated.”

“Ah, yes, the impossible list of life changes,” Megan said. “Elvis is a little out of date, there is Fifty Shades though—”

“Fifty Shades, I think she’s had enough crazy in her life so far, don’t you? Need I mention—”

“Rick the dick,” they all chorused.

That made Mikki giggle. It was a name they’d come up with for Rick when, after two years of being in what she’d thought was a relationship leading to marriage, he’d told her they had to break up because he’d gotten another girl pregnant and needed to do the right thing, after all he was a decent man. He’d actually said those words; that he was a decent man. So his nickname had been created by Megan and they all agreed it fit him perfectly.

“Well, I think I have an idea to get you out of your doldrums. Did you eat that whole tub of ice cream?” Megan asked.

No, geez, I put some back in the freezer.” Megan didn’t feel sick anymore but her head thumped. She didn’t want to make her friends feel unwelcome; they were only trying to help. “Tell me what you have in mind.”

“What we need here is to widen your circle a bit and have a night out, somewhere we don’t usually go,” Megan said.

“Girls night!” Courtney said. “Going out is a perfect idea, especially to a new place. A change is as good as a holiday.”

“I don’t know if I feel like going anywhere,” Mikala said. “I just might stay in. I could watch a miserable movie and eat junk.”

“And wallow, really? No way! You’re going to come out with us and you’re going to like it,” Courtney said.

“Man, you’re bossy sometimes,” Mikala said.

“Somebody has to be,” Courtney said.

“That’s what you need, an old-fashioned man that will make you pull your head out of your ass on a regular basis,” Megan smiled.

Mikala smiled back. She and Megan never discussed it beyond lighthearted banter but she had the feeling Megan understood her longing for a man who knew how to take charge. She wouldn’t be at all surprised if that’s what Megan was looking for herself.

“Mikki, you’re a full-time job,” Courtney said.

“You sure are,” Megan agreed.

“Lucky you love me,” Mikki said with a smile, and she knew they did.

“Let’s order in some Chinese food and plan,” Megan said.

“Good idea,” Courtney said.

“I’m not very hungry,” Mikki said. She really wasn’t but more than that, she knew she was about to be barreled into something that she wasn’t sure she was ready for.

“You will be by the time the food comes,” Megan said. “Besides, a couple of glasses of wine will relax you and open your mind to our super fun ideas.”

“I can’t talk you two into letting me have a quiet night, can I?”

“Nope,” they said in unison.

“I’ll get the glasses,” Mikki said with a chuckle. As much as they could be irritating, these two were the yin to her yang and they stopped her from dissolving into a pile of negativity whenever she was down. Everyone should have friends like she had. These two were irreplaceable.

“Get big glasses,” Megan chuckled.

“I don’t mean to be so negative, it’s just,” Mikki started to say. “Rick moved on before we had officially broken up and I’m, well, I’m still alone. I want a boyfriend, I want to have fun and I want…” Oh, God, she hated to say it. “I want some really hot sex with a man who doesn’t need a road map to find his way to all the right places on my body.”

“You and the rest of the female population,” Megan said. “If you find this perfect man let me know where you got him from so I can get one of my own.”

A glass of wine or two or three later and miraculously, Mikki was feeling both hungry and more open to suggestions for a night out. Maybe going out and having some fun would do her some good after all.

Courtney nudged her so she’d obviously missed something. “Sorry?” she asked.

“Tomorrow afternoon we’ll be here to help you dress to impress. If we’re going to do this though, we’re going to do it with style. So don’t get ready until we get here.”

“Are you saying there’s something wrong with my style?”

“Not exactly, hon,” Courtney said. “It’s just that lately, you’ve been dressing, let’s say for comfort.”

“Which is fine if you’re just hanging at home, it’s just that if you want to meet someone new, you might need to wear something, well—” Megan started.

“That isn’t jeans,” Courtney finished for her. “A dress, it’d be nice if you wore a dress.”

“I don’t even own any nice dresses,” Mikki whined. She really wasn’t comfortable in dresses.

“We’ll be over in the afternoon and we’ll bring everything you need.”

“And drinks,” Megan said.

“And snacks,” Courtney added with a grin. “You’ll see, we’ll have fun.”

“Hmm, famous last words,” Mikki said.

Andrew Weatherly finished packing his suitcase and wheeled it out of the room. Yet another successful conference, this time in Japan, done and dusted. Orders were flowing in; his career was on the upturn and he should be happy and grateful that all his hard work was paying off. Yet he wasn’t. It was always like this. While he was in front of a crowd of potential buyers, he was at his best. It was an adrenaline rush that fed him, in a professional sense mostly, but when everything had wound down and he was ready to head for home, melancholy trickled in. Home time, not to a family or a wife who was waiting anxiously for his return; just a house. In all fairness, it was a really nice house. It was a beautiful space with every modern convenience but it sometimes felt empty and cold, like a place he was staying at rather than a home. It never really felt like he lived there. Of course it wasn’t empty, he had nice furniture and good artwork on the walls; it was just devoid of the feminine touch. He and the house had a lot in common.

Mikki spent the morning cleaning her modest apartment, getting ready for her friends to arrive. Although she was a little apprehensive about what they might have planned, she was kind of excited to be venturing out for a change. She was a little concerned about the yet to be seen outfit she going to be squeezed into. The kind of dresses that the girls wore when they went out were not exactly what she would normally choose to wear herself. Not that she disliked her friends’ clothes, and she definitely wasn’t a prude. The problem was just that she didn’t see herself as being the right type to fit the dress. She just knew that she was going to have bumps of flesh showing through clingy fabric and her boobs were definitely going to be on display. Yep, not really what she did, she was more of a jeans girl.

Her kitchen was finally clean and Mikki was standing near the appetizers she had prepared. As the day wore on she became increasingly nervous, so she amused herself by cooking. Well, more chopping than cooking; whatever, she made food. Finally, the girls arrived and they had brought everything they could possibly need and then some.

“Are you two moving in?” she asked.

“Wait until you see the dress we got you.”

“You didn’t go and buy anything, did you?” she asked, disturbed that her friends would have spent money on something she was probably only going to wear one time.

“Kind of, I shopped in my little sister’s closet. She won’t even notice.”

Mikki laughed but inside her anxiety was increasing. Not only was she going to be wearing a dress that she wouldn’t feel great in, that dress belonged to her friend’s sixteen-year-old sister. “I’ll have it cleaned and you can give it back to her next week.”

Courtney shrugged, “If that’s what you want, she won’t notice.”

“So what’s the rest of this stuff?”

“Ooh, I love your nibbles,” Megan said. “We have alcoholic beverages, we have makeup, and we have shoes.”

“Please tell me they’re not going to be really uncomfortable or impossible to walk in?” Mikki frowned, fear at what her friends planned on getting her to wear clouding her excitement just a little. It wasn’t the going out that was scary, it was the tottering around on hooker heels with half of her ass hanging out that had her concerned. Still, there was always the hope that she’d meet someone, so she decided to go with the flow and hope like hell that they were attracted to someone who liked to wear teenage clothes. What was the worst that could happen?

“You better show me then.”

Courtney pulled out the dress and held it up. “It’s really nice, see?”

Mikki smiled; she was pleasantly surprised. “I like it actually. It isn’t completely body hugging, I hate that.”

“It’s a little low cut at the top but that’s what you need. Those,” she waved at her friend’s boobs, “are definitely your best assets, you need to get them out, well, almost out at least.”

“Really?” Mikki said, her voice laced with sarcasm.

“Yes, really,” Megan agreed. “She’s totally right.”

“Off you go. Try it on and you can see what you think.”

“I think I might need a drink first.”

Andrew opened his laptop, preparing to catch up on some of the paperwork he’d been neglecting while he was away. He looked over the aisle at a youngish couple who held hands and chatted; they were clearly wrapped up only in each other. Every now and then they would laugh. Hers was a bubbly, feminine laugh while his was deeper, yet they still seemed to mesh. It would be nice to have someone to talk to, to laugh with instead of only thinking about work. He closed his files and opened a search page. Maybe he should look into a dating site. It was the way to meet someone these days, wasn’t it? His sister had offered to try to find him someone, often. Sash was happily married with a baby on the way and couldn’t understand why everyone shouldn’t be feeling what she was feeling. Let’s face it, she had a point. The trouble was it was never that easy, especially when he was looking for someone who shared his rather unique needs. It was never easy to open up to someone about a fetish. But spanking to him was more than a fetish, it was more like a way of life, or at least he hoped it would be one day if he could find the right woman.

Mikki managed to get herself into the dress and although there was a little more cleavage than she usually liked to display, she was happy to go along with the girls’ plan. Amazing what a few drinks could do to settle a person down, that was until she saw Courtney coming toward her with a pair of false eyelashes.

“You’re not putting those things on me,” she said. There was no way she was going to spend the evening feeling like she had spiders building a nest on her face.

“Don’t be a naysayer. We’re going to a new bar in the next town, we have to blend in,” Courtney said.

“I hate false eyelashes,” Mikki whined. She knew it was an argument she wasn’t going to win but she really did hate the feel of fake eyelashes. Now she was wishing they had just snuck alcohol into the drive-in or something instead of planning a complicated night out. She could have stayed in her pajamas.

“We’re doing this.” Megan had her hands on her hips and all five feet of her said she meant business. “Close your eyes.”

Mikki took another giant slurp of her drink and closed her eyes. Why the hell did she let herself get talked into these things?

“Keep still, Mikki, or you’re going to go out with these things stuck to your cheeks,” Courtney said.

“I am keeping still but if you make me talk then I have to move my mouth.”

“Mikki, zip it, seriously, and I’ll be done.”

“Is that it?” Mikki asked as her friends stood back and admired their handiwork.

“You look great,” Courtney said with a grin.

“I think that Cinderella is ready to meet her handsome prince at the ball.”

“Or at the very least a hot stranger that will buy her a drink.”

Mikki looked in the full-length mirror. “You don’t think it might be a little, well… slutty?” she asked. “I like it but it’s a little more fitting than I like in the top; my boobs are like, out there, you know?”

“That’s the whole point,” Megan giggled.

“Are you sure this will attract the right kind of guy?”

“Look, hon, the thing is, today’s guys, they want a sneak peek of your boobs. They want to see what your naked body might look like underneath the mandatory clothes.”

Mikki sighed. If only there were more old-fashioned guys around. That’s why it was hard to meet people. It was almost like heaven had dropped her into the wrong era. Still, this was the world she had to live in so she could go along with things for one night, she supposed. Who knew, she might get lucky and meet the one.

“This cab is going to cost a fortune,” Mikki mouthed. “How far are we going?”

“Far enough that we won’t run into any of the losers we’ve been running into for the last couple of years,” Courtney whispered.

“We need some fresh and more upmarket blood,” Megan said, not bothering to keep her voice down.

“Shh,” the other two said together.

The bar was dark inside as was the norm but the decor was completely different from their neighborhood bar. Warm colorful lighting lit the seating area without being garish. As well as some stool seating at the bar, warm brown plush sofas were neatly arranged either side of fancy coffee tables for a more intimate feel. The dance floor wasn’t scuffed old boards but mirror finish shiny opaque tiles that were lit from beneath. This may have been a little too tacky to be called classy but it was a giant improvement on their little ‘Harry’s Bar’ where you danced around the pool table when the dance floor got too crowded. The upside of Harry’s was you always felt welcome and relaxed; not really the case at this bar, not yet anyway. “I don’t know that we fit in here,” Mikki said. She clutched Courtney’s arm as they tottered on their heels to one of the couches.

“Don’t be silly, of course we’ll fit in, we’re gorgeous,” Courtney said. “Just look like you’ve been here a thousand times.”

“That is easier said than done.”

“Just take a seat over on that vacant sofa and I’ll get us a drink. What would you like?”

“I don’t know, a beer?”

“I’ll choose you a cocktail,” Megan said, giving Courtney an exasperated glance.

“Don’t leave me here by myself,” Mikki said. She felt really uncomfortable, like people were staring. They probably weren’t even interested in her at all in either a good or a bad way but that didn’t stop her from feeling judged. Mikki attempted to sit but although the skirt of her dress wasn’t tight it was still short. She wanted to give it a tug but that left her in danger of a mega wardrobe malfunction of the top half. There was only so much a scrap of material could cover. She lowered herself precariously onto the padded seat, holding her purse in front of her as an itty-bitty screen. Once seated, she clamped her legs shut and tried to look casual, only managing a half-ass job. She had no idea what to do to amuse herself without looking like a loser while she waited for her friends. What the hell was taking so long anyway? Oh, dear God, a young man smiled at her; she smiled back before she thought about it. No, no, no, he was walking toward her. Had she given him some kind of sneaky come-on?

“Hey, doll,” he said slimily. “I see you need a drink.”

“No, actually my friends are bringing me one,” she said. After they get back from where they’re obviously distilling their own, she thought.

“Well, I might just sit here and keep you company,” he said, planting himself next to her on the sofa.

“Actually I’d just like to have a drink with my friends if that’s okay.”

“Of course,” he said, and yet he didn’t move.

“Is this some kind of dare?” she said, noticing the group he had been sitting with looking over at him with big grins on their faces.

“No, I was just trying to be friendly.” He got up, obviously offended, and moved back to his friends.

A twinge of guilt washed over her, apparently in the two minutes since she’d arrived, she had managed to lose her friends and hurt someone’s feelings. She would have to try harder to act like a grownup who was used to social situations.

“Try this, it’s delicious,” Megan said, plonking a pink cocktail in a fancy glass down in front of her.

“Ooh, this is nice,” she said, taking a decent-sized sip.

“Isn’t it?” Courtney grinned, taking another swill of her drink.

“I think we should dance,” Megan said, when they’d drained the last drops of their drinks.

“Really?” Mikki whined. “Why don’t we have another drink first?”

“Because we’re supposed to be getting out there and having fun,” Courtney said. She placed her friend’s empty glass on the table and took her hand, dragging her to her feet. “Time to shake it.”

“That’s exactly what I’m scared of. There isn’t enough fabric in this dress to keep me all together if you shake me up and down to the music.”

“Exactly what we’re aiming for here.” Megan wiggled off toward the dance floor where couples and singles alike were beginning to move to the music.

Mikki tried to join in with the others but it was like her body had become disconnected; every part of her was trying to go a different direction. If the plan was to ‘get her out there’ and make her look appealing to the opposite sex, the plan was failing miserably. What she truly looked like, low self-esteem aside, was an uncoordinated freak who was trying to be someone she wasn’t. After the third song failed to induce any sign of natural rhythm in her, she stopped trying. Time to admit defeat.

“I’m sorry, girls, I just can’t do this, it’s not me.”

“What is wrong with you, Mikki?” Megan hissed. “You love to dance.”

“I love to dance at home while I’m vacuuming or when we pop down to our local bar and I’m wearing a shirt that does up in the front, jeans, and my boots. Dancing in this getup, with everything showing and shoes that I can barely even walk in is crap. It’s not me and if I did meet someone who thought this was me, they would be really disappointed when they finally opened their eyes and realized who I was.”

Courtney’s face softened. “I’m sorry, Mikki, we were only trying to help.”

“I know you were and the night is not a complete loss. I haven’t had a terrible time. You girls keep dancing and I’ll just get myself a drink and go sit over at the bar and watch for a bit, okay?” Maybe with a barstool she could inch herself onto a seat without having to fold herself completely in half first.

“No, we’ll come and sit with you,” Courtney said, glaring at Megan and daring her to argue.

“No,” Mikki said. “You two are having fun, I don’t mind sitting a couple out while you dance.”

“If you’re sure,” Megan said.

In answer Mikki waved a hand from behind while she hobbled off toward the bar.

Mikki sat up on a stool at the bar and ordered another cocktail.

“Lost your friends, Mikki?”

Mikki turned her head to the familiar but not very welcome voice next to her. It was the sleazy young guy from before. “You again,” she said. “How do you know my name?” Her nickname even, not just her normal name.

“I may have heard you and your friends talking.”

“Really, so you were eavesdropping?”

“I wouldn’t really call it eavesdropping. I couldn’t help but notice you were a little uncomfortable and I was coming over to ask you if you would like to sit down and have a drink.” He smiled. “When I saw you heading over here I thought I’d join you.”

So she was right. She did look like a dork when she was dancing. “How nice of you to notice,” she said. And to point it out to me.

“I didn’t mean it like that. I only noticed because I was uncomfortable too. If you have a drink with me you’ll be doing me a huge favor. Plus, my friends don’t think you’ll give me the time of day. You don’t want me to look like a loser, do you?”

It was dark and more people had filled the place. She couldn’t see much of his friends if she were honest. “It’s a public place, I can’t stop you sitting there. I’ve already ordered my drink but thanks for the offer.”

“Okay then, sounds like a plan.”

She watched curiously as he ordered a mocktail. Was it unusual for a man to drink a soft cocktail? She only really knew men to drink beer or possibly wine at a restaurant. Rick drank cider sometimes but they didn’t really do cocktails where she was from. Of course they were on the menu of their local but the staff wasn’t that good at making them so very few people ever sampled them. She had to admit she was curious. “Not drinking?”

“I’m the designated driver,” he said, answering her question with another friendly smile. “See, you’re safe with me.”

Maybe she had misjudged him. She wished the place wasn’t so dark so she could actually get a good look at his eyes.

Three drinks later that he insisted on buying her and Mikki was finally able to relax, as much as she could relax, perched on a stool in heels that pinched her feet and in a dress that wasn’t designed for sitting. Her friends were dancing with a couple of men and she was finding her drinking partner much less creepy so that was something; in fact he seemed quite nice. “I think I might have another,” she said, “then I’ll see if my friends want to catch a cab.”

“No need to catch a cab,” the guy who she knew now as Morley suggested. “My friends are well and truly in party mode. I can drop you home and come back for them.”

“I don’t think that would be right,” she said. “I mean, I came with my friends and I should go home with them.” Her mother’s voice rang in her ears from when she was first venturing out with her friends: ‘Stay together, you’re always safer in a group.’ She knew her mom was right, but this guy seemed okay and the thought of being in her own living room with her shoes kicked off, eating the bowl of ice cream she’d left in the freezer was almost a pull too hard to ignore. It would also be a lot faster and a lot cheaper if she gave in and let him drive her.

“I’m sure they would understand, especially if you told them you were feeling sick or something.” Yet another flash of his friendly smile and she was convinced. She took out her phone and sent Courtney a message explaining what she intended to do.

That doesn’t sound safe. The reply came fast.

He’s stone cold sober and the designated driver for his group.


She giggled at Courtney’s all caps message. She typed back.

I’ll be fine

I’ll message when i get home

Before anyone could stop her, she picked up her purse and did her best to straighten her dress. “If you don’t mind, I’ll take you up on that offer of a lift home.”

Morley jumped to his feet immediately. “Sure thing, I’ll get the car and meet you out front.”

Andrew Weatherly sighed with pleasure as he opened his front door and dropped his luggage. He hung up his coat in the closet near the door before heading to his bedroom to shower. The unpacking could wait half an hour while he washed away his travel grime. It had been an exhausting three weeks and a long flight. He was well paid by the car company he worked for as a mechanical engineer and the travel was a perk he had always enjoyed up until now. For some reason, he was feeling different about it all this time. He couldn’t help but imagine again what it would be like to come home to the warmth of a family or at least a woman who was pleased to see him. It wasn’t hard to find a woman to have sex with but what he really wanted was someone to love and someone who loved and needed him. Oh, what it would be to have someone to cuddle up to at night; to have the house warm and the lights on when he came home.

“So where do you live, Mikki?” Morley asked.

Mikki told Morley where she lived and sat back, kicking off her shoes and allowing her purse to drop to the floor. “Thanks, I really appreciate this.” Her eyelids felt heavy, each blink settled just a little longer than the last until the urge to open them again became too hard.

Mikki couldn’t explain what actually woke her but she did wake up and it was with a start. There was nothing she recognized about her surroundings. Gone were the buildings. She should be able to see something familiar when she stared out of the window; a building or a street, some kind of landmark but she saw nothing but darkness and trees. “This isn’t the way home,” she said, trying to keep her voice calm.

Apparently Morley had left his silky smile back at the bar because all she saw or heard now was a chuckle and a sneer. “Come on, you didn’t expect me to drive you straight home, did you? You’re a grownup; you must know how these things work. We’re going to have a little fun first, then I’ll take you home.”

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