Oliver had told Robin very clearly, a full month before they got married, that he expected to dominate her in the bedroom, and that he planned to discipline her in what he called the old-fashioned way. She had thought he was joking at first, but though he had begun the conversation with a good-humored expression on his face, he had become very serious, and his voice had taken on the stern tone that she sometimes wished he wouldn’t direct at her.
“Robin, sweetheart, I know it will probably come as a shock to you, but this is why I haven’t attempted to do more than kiss you all the time we’ve been dating, and why I’ve refused your invitations to stay the night in your apartment.”
And why, despite you having four houses where you might stash your various uncles, aunts, and cousins, it appears we can never be alone in any of them? Because Robin always needed a chaperone, like in some Victorian novel?
“I don’t understand,” Robin said, really meaning it, rather than—as she usually intended by the words—wishing to gain time to get the upper hand in a conversation.
They sat at dinner in her apartment in Vancouver: not a big place, but very elegant. She could immediately grasp, even if she had no idea where Oliver thought he was going with this conversation, what had brought it on: Robin had set everything up with a view to sending a nearly explicit message to her fiancé of four months—the man whose handsomeness, when he looked at a building or a car as if he meant to acquire it, made her weak in the knees.
Tonight we will have sex.
Robin had dated two men with any degree of seriousness, and had slept with each of them on the second date. By the time Oliver Marlowe had proposed, on their fourth date, she had concluded that he didn’t have any intention of taking their relationship further but was simply too polite to break it off with any abruptness—or that he was so insanely busy commanding his world-spanning investments that he hadn’t found the time to schedule the breakup. In fact, she had decided that she needed to spare herself the pain of his simply ceasing to call by telling him she had met someone else.
Instead, he had proposed, and now look where they were four months later: instead of taking the bait of the red scarf draped over the lamp in a serious, if also rather ironic, attempt to tell him he could get moving, he had decided to tell Robin that he didn’t intend to have sex with her until she agreed to some set of bizarre conditions. Constraints? Restraints? Her mind whirled.
She remembered Stacy, a coworker at the foundation, saying, “Robin, are you sure? Everyone calls him a shark, or, you know, an alpha male.” Stacy had practically whispered the last part, as if she didn’t really believe that some men were like that, leaders of the pack, while other men were sheep, but the idea appealed to her in some embarrassing way. Robin had laughed it off, because she found the notion almost as incomprehensible as what Oliver now calmly told her.
“If you’re interested,” he said after taking a sip of the $200-a-bottle Burgundy, of which he had of course brought two bottles to pair with Robin’s boeuf bourguignon, “you’ll be able to find a good deal of reading material online. I’m a man who knows how I like to find my pleasures. I love you, and I intend to have sex with you often. I also intend that we will have at least two children. Sex is a very important thing to me, and sex with you is something I’ve been eagerly looking forward to, but it’s even more important to me that you follow the rules I will lay down. Now that we’ve had this talk, I’ll draft them tomorrow and send them over. If you break a rule, you will have a spanking—and things will get progressively worse for your backside if you continue to disrespect my wishes—but besides being your charming self and keeping me such wonderful company, you will have no other duties.”
Robin felt her brow develop the deepest crease she thought it had ever had. Now she did feel the need to buy time. “What kind of rules?”
Oliver smiled, but his eyes glittered in the candlelight in a way that seemed suddenly dangerous. “Nothing very onerous, sweetheart. Treating the servants with respect. Not disturbing me when I’m working except for real emergencies. Being punctual.”
She looked hard at him, wondering suddenly if she was seeing the real Oliver for the first time and reluctantly concluding that, no, she had seen this part of him without acknowledging it, from the first time they had met. Her tycoon fiancé hadn’t suddenly shown himself to be a monster—and Robin had enough experience from her foundation work to know that tycoons, like everyone else, perhaps, but with greater opportunity to indulge their monstrosities, could show a very dark face.
But Oliver Marlowe’s handsome visage, youthful still at thirty-two but so serious no one would ever call it boyish, seemed to her still only to have light in it. How could that be, when he had just threatened to—her mind reeled and nearly refused to bring the word back up to consciousness—spank her?
“A ten with a ten,” Stacy had said over coffee the morning after Robin and Oliver’s first date, with what Robin had heard as a note of envy in her voice—misplaced, because in Robin’s estimation Stacy too deserved that awful, coveted designation that both men and women had given Robin since college. Ten. Stunning. Gorgeous. Movie-star looks. So hot.
Her two previous boyfriends, both nine+, one met in her sophomore year French Literature class, the other at a conference, had in their eyes—especially during sex—a gratitude that made Robin feel like she could stay with them indefinitely even as it made her wonder whether she had settled. The breakups had both been the result of long distance just being impracticable. Maybe the circumstances had exposed a certain tenuousness in the emotional commitment involved, but Robin could honestly say she had been in love with both men.
She had set her cap for Oliver in the same way she had set her cap for various men, including those two boyfriends, but she had had a consciousness that she might not find the same gratitude in the eyes of the dark-haired, dark-eyed financier who stood a full head taller than she did even in heels and strode through the corridors of power like a lion in a Savile Row suit. Robin didn’t believe in alpha males, but she supposed that, if she had, Oliver would be on the shortlist.
“Okay,” she said slowly, in response to what she thought would probably be better termed expectations than rules. She looked down at her plate, saw a morsel of perfectly braised beef, and started to play with it idly. When she and Oliver were married, Robin wouldn’t have to cook. She could cook any time she wanted, of course, in the three enormous kitchens of the three enormous houses she had seen—or, she supposed, in the undoubtedly enormous kitchen of the undoubtedly enormous fourth house, outside Paris. She thought she cooked nearly as well as Oliver’s chef, Paul, but she also thought she could get used to cooking only once a week and letting Paul introduce her to French country cuisine one region at a time.
But how could it be okay? Had her fiancé really just told her that if she wanted to have sex with him, she had to obey his rules? Had he insulted her, or… what? She tried to cast her mind back to the frank way in which he had dealt with the subject of the bedroom. “I expect to dominate you in the bedroom, when we do have sex.” What did that even mean?
The phrase no one had uttered in her hearing, that she knew must lie submerged in the flow of whispers of which Robin would have to be terribly naive not to hear the susurration, surfaced: trophy wife. A ten with a ten. She supposed that a ten like Oliver couldn’t technically have a trophy wife, but she also knew that wouldn’t stop the gossips who saw a lively, beautiful, younger woman on the arm of a frankly boring, if handsome, refined, and hyper-intelligent, man.
What was it like in the bedroom, for trophy wives? They sacrificed their youth for the comfort their husbands brought them. Did they have to sacrifice their ideas about sex as well? Most of them didn’t even have children, did they? Maybe no sex was part of the bargain, when you caught a billionaire.
She shook her head gently, watching her fork push the beef around her plate, trying to clear the thought away. It wasn’t like that with Oliver. Until this moment she had had no trouble persuading herself of that despite knowing how much gossip their relationship had generated, and how much speculation about the beautiful, rising Robin Reed of the global philanthropy world having caught the fabulously wealthy Oliver Marlowe.
Above all Robin wouldn’t be a trophy wife because she had a good deal more going on, career-wise and culture-wise, than the women whom the gossips characterized that way. Of course, after getting married she would have to subordinate the vast majority of that to Oliver, wouldn’t she? She knew that part without having any set of rules sent over: he expected her to manage his household and to raise the children when they came, had said as much when he told her the story of his life, speaking about his old-fashioned mother in glowing terms.
But she loved him: she had no doubt of that, and she had no doubt that he loved her back. She loved the way he looked at her not with puppy-dog gratitude but with frank appraisal and care, as if always trying to decide how he could make her happy. She loved the way she could always make him smile with a giggle or a pout, and the way he focused his attention on her and only her when he spoke to her or she spoke to him, even when there were lots of people around.
All that seemed to make it even harder to understand the things he had just said—the ultimatum, it seemed, he had just given her.
“So this is an ultimatum?” she said, as soon as the word came into her mind. She still needed time, she thought. If she could have bought it by the metric ton, she would have.
“No,” he said. “Not an ultimatum. Unless I guess you decide you can’t marry me now that you know my expectations. But I’m assuming that although it might not be what you were expecting, what I’m saying won’t be a deal-breaker for you. We both really want to spend the rest of our lives together—I know that for as close to a fact as I think I can know anything.”
Robin looked up at him sharply, and saw in his dark brown eyes the confidence she had heard in his voice. In her heart, she found the same certainty.
“But… you still think it’s okay to… spank me?”
He looked steadily back into her eyes. “I do,” he said. “It’s an old-fashioned notion, but I think it’s important that the responsibility for our little and hopefully growing family ends with me. You’re a brilliant woman, sweetheart, but I need to be the one who leads you, and guides you, and lets you be the person you’re destined to be.”
She loved him for that, even as she struggled to get her mind around the idea that what he had said could have anything to do with the corporal punishment of the adult woman he had just called brilliant. She loved the way he talked about destiny: neither of them held any religion to speak of, beyond a vague loyalty to the similar Christianities of their childhoods, but Oliver had an unwavering faith in the world’s need for people who could make things better for others, and in his own destiny to use his wealth, both inherited and self-made, to bring about good things for all.
The world sometimes seemed to Robin, who had the ability to witness its atrocities first hand in her foundation work, to be getting darker and darker. A global financial collapse, hinging on the twin problems of water and energy, sometimes seemed inevitable. With Oliver by her side, for the first time in her life, she felt she could really do something about it—that to do something about it might even represent her destiny.
How bad could his leadership be, she had thought.
Really, six months in, it wasn’t bad, even though Robin knew now that she couldn’t give Oliver what he wanted. Even though she was for the first time about to be late getting home, because she had lost track of time while shopping for a dress. Even though she knew she would now be in trouble for the first time, and she had no idea what would happen except that she couldn’t be what Oliver wanted, when he told her to… to do something, to prepare somehow… for her first spanking.
As she walked from her car to the door, her head hung low in a last-ditch effort to stave off Oliver’s justifiable anger with a gesture of contrition, she thought about what had happened in the bedroom that night he had told her his expectations, of how hard Oliver had worked to help her relax as he’d demonstrated to her what he meant by dominating her.
Robin had known herself to be what she privately termed borderline frigid. She had kept a little bottle of lube in her nightstand, and as they had kissed next to the bed, she had told him about it, with a blush.
“Alright,” Oliver had said gently, “but do you like sex, sweetheart?” He had his hand under her dress, and inside her panties—had just put it there with the casual confidence bordering on arrogance with which he seemed to do most things. It felt fine, but Robin didn’t really like foreplay, or afterplay, very much, if she were to tell the truth.
“I like it,” Robin had said, just managing to keep the defensiveness out of her voice. “I mean, I don’t think it’s the most important part of life or anything, but it feels okay.”
She had looked up into his dark eyes and for the first time since their very early dates she had found she couldn’t read his expression. She had felt her brow grow troubled.
He had smiled, though, and said again, “Alright.” Then, to her utter confusion, “Why don’t you kneel down for me and give me a blowjob, sweetheart?”
Standing outside now, Robin shook her head to clear the memory, and opened the back door of the palace she now inhabited, thanks to the love of the man whose cock she had to suck when he commanded it, twice a week, with utter politeness. They had had sex that night, and then on Wednesdays and Saturdays after that, when Oliver told her the time had come to take off her clothes and kneel in front of him to get him ready.
He told her to suck his cock, and she obeyed, because she didn’t know what else she could do. She knew she didn’t do it very well, but he never said anything except, “Good girl,” which she didn’t really like but never said anything about so she truly had no grounds for complaint, or “That feels so good.” She liked it a little better when he said, “That feels so good,” though she felt sure it didn’t feel as good as he knew it could feel: Robin had no illusions as to the probability that Oliver had had his cock sucked by experts.
She struggled to take his hard length as deep as she could until he told her he would fuck her. Despite the coarseness of the word, which he said in the least coarse way imaginable, he was never anything but polite. It was as if he could tell she didn’t care to be dominated, as if they had a sort of negotiated truce where sex came into their marriage: as with the household rules, he would lay down some basic guidelines that represented his minimum expectations, and if Robin could follow them, all would be mostly well. She would have to give him oral sex when he requested it, and afterward receive his cock in her pussy as he pleased to give it to her, twice a week.
“I’ll fuck you now,” he would say, and then either, “On your back with your knees up, please,” or “Bend over the bed, please.” Then he would indeed fuck her, using the lube if he needed it to get inside her even after she had thoroughly wet his hard penis in her mouth. Really Robin preferred receiving his pounding cock from behind, because she didn’t have to see the reassuring smile on Oliver’s face as, pushing her knees back nearly to her chest, he moved in and out of her pussy until he gave a little grunt and she felt his seed spurt inside her. When he had her doggy-style, something she had done once or twice with her college boyfriend just to see what it was like, she could close her eyes and wait for that grunt and the feeling of his pulsing cock as he held her hips and murmured one of his good girls from time to time.
On their wedding night, he had had her both ways. After the second time, which had lasted a long while and had happened from behind, he had said, “I’m sorry to put you through that twice, sweetheart, but you look so beautiful in that nightgown I couldn’t resist.” Then, as he always did, he asked if she would like him to kiss her between her legs, or caress her with his hand, to make her come. And, as she always did, she said, “No, Oliver. Please.” Then he took her in his arms, the very nicest part, laid her in their bed, and held her until she fell asleep.
Twice a week after that, Wednesdays and Sundays, they had sex the very same way. Infinite politeness, infinite patience—but always at his command. Everything would be fine, except that Robin knew she couldn’t give him what he wanted—what he deserved.
And now she had broken a rule.