KYNK

BY : PastelTears
Category: A through F > Fifty Shades Trilogy
Dragon prints: 955
Disclaimer: This is a word of fiction; all content bearing resemblance to persons or specific events is purely coincidental. This is a non-profit posted work of fiction, and I do not own the Fifty Shades trilogy. (c) All Rights Reserved

Ball and Chain

 Judging from my day job, nobody would likely have ever guessed the sorts of 'activities' I willingly engaged in within the bounds of my free time. Every morning I entered my office donning a pressed suit, perfectly arranged tie, with not a hair out of place (as per my employer's preferences).

        At precisely 05:45 I was crawling out of bed to drag myself into the shower, and by 06:00 I was out for my morning run. By 06:30, it was a second shower, the whole morning spiel - and then a very reluctantly prepared meal before I had to dress for the day.

          Yeah. I know what you’re thinking. I sound like one perfectly boring, perfectly average twenty-something with more or less zero edge. Well, it came with the job. When you were working for Elliott Grimme of Grimme Enterprises (you know the one - the tall, drop-dead-gorgeous SOB with a penchant for all things class), there was little way to avoid it. Every employee, including myself, was expected to be of utmost quality, both in our work ethic and apparently, our sense of style. Something about ‘impressions are everything’, or some shit. I’d honestly stopped listening halfway through the initial presentation because I’d heard this all before

          Be innovative.

          Be exceptional.

          Be. . .

          And blondie lost me. The angry flock of birds crowing beyond the floor-to-ceiling panes to her rear were far more entertaining. I couldn’t tell you how many songs I’d recalled to memory during the entire ordeal just to keep myself awake, either. Plain and simple - I hated meetings. I hated discussing them, I hated scheduling them, and I most certainly hated attending them. This one was no different.

          As you’ve probably guessed, this wasn’t my first day. No, this was more like my third-and-a-quarter-century-of-suffering day. I’d already been through sixty thousand hours of about the most painfully un-stimulating job training sessions since probably ever.

          Whomever was responsible for the travesty that was their HR management was going to receive a strongly worded letter from yours truly. Luckily, I’d recently familiarised myself with the proper format required of the company for all official correspondence. I’d send them a lovely little “fuck you very much” with a cover letter addressed “to the sadistic tyrant of HR”.

          It was obvious that none of them necessarily enjoyed doing what they did, but company policy was company policy, I supposed. Even if it was an exceptionally unimpressive one.

          Now with all the bitching I more or less had been doing, my lack of intrinsic motivation must have been all too evident, but my responsibilities were not something I took as lightly. I was responsible for acting as the secretary beneath the chief secretary. She was a woman of about what I guessed to be thirty-six - detached - and had a serious obsession with doves. Since the first day we had become acquainted, I had steadily taken notice of this fact, be it a brooch, a barrette, or the graphic that had been brushed onto her favourite mug.

          Whatever, everyone had something, I supposed. Who was I to judge? In comparison, I was the last person to be passing judgment on the interests of others.

          When I’d greeted my small office - a branch that stemmed from the office of the chief secretary - I was only mildly disappointed by the simplistic state of it. At the very least it was a clean, organised space, albeit intensely minimalist. Then again, it was perfect. It would be easy to keep the place clean, and so long as I kept everything well organised, the lack of ample storage space could be overcome.

          I seated myself quickly, whipped out my Mac, and powered it up with a long sigh. Apparently, my first assignment was to re-organised the financial reports to be later delivered to my employer at a rendezvous that evening. I had about three hours until that deadline after wasting more or less an entire day in a chair that had become intimate with the planes of my body in ways I didn’t care to recollect.

          All I knew was that an appointment with a very skilled masseuse would be in order once this was all over. I’d even skipped lunch - not having been able to find it in myself to consume any of the brunch selection that’d been offered - and now the decision was coming back to haunt me.

          Damn this. It was a mess - the entire thing - from top to bottom. Whomever had put together this report was sorely lacking, and it was almost too evident. It probably wasn’t  their fault, and I chalked it up to stress, but there was no way I was re-organising anything remotely related to the rubbish I’d been struggling to make sense of for at least a half hour.

          At that point, I had two options; the first was to BS a report and let the original author take a lashing. The second was amassing all of the necessary information and composing a new one. Needless to say, I went with the second option - even if my stomach was eating itself into nonexistence.

          I slaved over it for the next two hours, not including the time it took to request the necessary documentation and pick it up from the archives. I ended up finishing with ten minutes to spare, thankfully, and tucked it into a neat little dossier for the chief secretary before stalking my way into her office. Perfect. Now she wouldn’t have to worry about-

          She was gone.

          I checked in the adjoining lobby for our departmental floor, the employee lounge, and even asked a couple of  the other secretaries if they had seen her.

          Not being one to panic, I sucked in a deep breath and considered my options. Where had I not checked - the ladies’ restroom excluded?

          Still musing when the gentle clearing of a throat caught my attention, I’d slowly turned to peer down at the secretary stationed nearest our office. She was pretty, with large hazel eyes and chestnut coloured curls. They were gathered up into a chignon, as per company standard, but a few errant locks tickled at her cheeks.

          “Mr. Mordecai, she’s in the office with Mr. Grimme.” She explained, holding up a finger whilst she murmured into the receiver. “. . . yes, of course. I’ll send him right in. Mr. Grimme would like to see you now.”

          I blanked. Mr. Grimme?

          She must have realised I’d spaced, because in the next moment she’d been clearing her throat again, nodding in the direction of the big boss’ quarters.

          Mr. Grimme would like to see me now?

          I hadn’t been expecting to come face to face with the man, at least not anytime soon. I was the secretary’s secretary, and by default that didn’t give me very much standing within the bureaucracy here. Why he could possibly want to see me was beyond a mystery. Unless. . . had she mentioned the report? Maybe I was about to have my arse handed to me - well done with a side of unemployment for screwing things up within my first week. Was the report really that late? No, I wasn’t panicking at all.

          Every step I took weighed heavier and heavier on my heart. Was my tie straight, were my glasses sitting properly? Had I crushed my suit? I found myself checking these things over carefully, even going so far as to take down and re-do my hair for good measure. At that point, there was little else that I could do to look more presentable, so I sucked a deep breath in through my nose and very hesitantly pushed one of the french doors open.

          What met my eyes was almost unbelievable - too remarkable to really exist. His office was spacious - sprawling, even with a very modern yet artistically sleek atmosphere. I envied it. I envied the beautiful floors, the leather seating arrangement I was sure felt like butter to the touch, and most of all the city-scape beyond the floor-to-ceiling panes of his office. Already twinkling with the arrival of the evening hours, it was dazzling.

          Worst of all, though, was the magnificent creature seated behind an impressive, neatly organised mahogany desk. He was clad in a suit that must have been expertly tailored, his hair carefully arranged in a manner that suggested that not only was he as charming as he appeared - that he was conscious of the ever-present need to look professional. His steel blue eyes  were piercing, vibrant - lips perfectly sculpted.

Everything from the set of his brows to the line of his nose and the angle of his jaw could render one speechless.

          They had let this become a businessman? This had to be cheating. Who wouldn’t say yes to anything he demanded? He probably could’ve had anything he wanted, right then and there, with just the snap of his fingers.

          I swallowed hard. I wasn’t ready. This was too soon. Was it too late to run?

          “Come in, Mr. Mordecai.” He insisted.

          Yes. I mentally hissed. Aloud I said, “Yes, of course, sir.” I shut the door behind me the moment I’d been able to recall how legs operated, still hugging the dossier containing my report to my chest.

          “Mrs. Stone has informed me that you were charged with the task of revising the final draft of the financial report. Correct?”

          I nodded, catching myself a moment too late. “Yes.” I wasn’t sure why, but for a moment, I felt intensely self-conscious.

          “May I see it, Mr. Mordecai?”

          “Ah- yes, of course.” I glanced to the chief secretary, striding forward to offer the documents as requested. I could’ve sworn I’d caught a smirk hiding away in the corners of his perfect lips and my tie suddenly felt too tight.

          “Mrs. Stone, if you’ll excuse us.” He said politely, offering her a smile I was sure might’ve put anyone less frigid in a coma. Her name must have been Stone for a reason, though, because she’d simply risen with an ever polite “yes, Mr. Grimme” before departing the room.

          It had yet to register with me until the door had shut that she had left me alone with this man.

          “Please - have a seat, Mr. Mordecai.”

          Mr. Mordecai. . .ugh. I sounded like my father. “Yes, thank you. Ezra is fine.” My attempt at politeness was delivered with not nearly as much confidence as I’d been hoping.  Instead of standing there like an idiot, though, I at least had the sense to sink into one of the delicious leather chairs before his desk. Sheer bliss.

          Crossing one long leg over the other, he’d begun to flip through the report, brow furrowed in concentration as he examined my work. This was it - he was going to fire me. I was going to get the boot and I had barely settled in.

          “Mr. Mordecai, did you write this report?”

          Oh, hell. “Yes, sir, I did.”

          More silence, more apprehension. Was this his game? If he was going to fire me, he might as well have broken the news to me already.

          “It’s quite detailed. What do your present duties entail, Mr. Mordecai?”

          “Really, just Ezra is fine. I’m responsible for the tasks assigned to me by Ms. Stone.” He laced his fingers, expectantly, so I cleared my throat and began again. “I’m expected to handle tasks that vary from report composition to scheduling, proposal review, basic clerical tasks, and correspondence.”

          If he was impressed by any of that, he never showed it. I could have sworn I’d seen amusement dancing in his steel blue gaze. It had raked over my features once before, but now they seemed to be studying me again. I vaguely wondered what he must have first thought when I had entered the room.

          I only stood at 174 centimetres with sable tresses that reached my mid-back and turquoises eyes that I hid mostly behind dark thickly-framed spectacles. Today, my hair was done up, just as it would have been expected to be for a secretary. He must have been thrown for a loop seeing my chignon. I had yet to see anyone else here with hair length exceeding more than a few inches. I was an anomaly.

          “You pulled together this report just now?”

          “Yes.”

          “In under three hours?”

          “Yes.”

          “This is based upon months of documentation.”

          “Correct.”

          He straightened up in his chair, then rose in one fluid motion to stride about the desk. Watching him travel was something magical. Every step was deliberate, demanding of attention. No wonder he was so successful. That was the sort of confidence that could conquer nations.

          “How long have you worked for Grimme Enterprises, Mr. Mordecai?”

          “Three days.” I murmured this just as he had settled onto the edge of his desk. From a closer vantage, he was almost intoxicating. I had to do my best not to lean back into the leather, as far away from him as possible.

          “It’s my present belief that you don’t belong there, Mr. Mordecai.”

          Here we go. I thought. He’s going to light my ass up and fan the flames with the report I just handed him.

          “I understand, sir.” I didn’t, but I would accept it.

          “Good. Then, first thing starting tomorrow, you’ll be transferred to accounting.”

          If I’d had any coffee, this would have been the perfect time to spit it out in surprise. “Accounting?

          Tilting his head, Mr. Grimme regarded me as though he’d just discovered the newest object of his amusement. “As I stated. Problem?”

Was he laughing at me? Why? “None whatsoever.”

“As it should be. Now go - I’m sure you’ll find your new office without difficulty.”

Excuse the fuck out of me. Wait, had I just been promoted? For what? Without really knowing what more to say, I rose with a polite nod and marched myself back out of his office. I could feel his eyes bore holes into my back the entire time and slapped a hand over the hairs that’d risen at the nape of my neck.

I was in way over my head, I could feel it, and come the following Tuesday - exactly a week from my appointment - I had already been regretting my lack of decision to refuse the promotion. Accounting was absolute hell, and just about all of my energy had been spent keeping things together. It felt as though I was doing a one-man-show and no amount of coffee seemed to make any difference to my state of exhaustion. Luckily, however, my lunch break had just rolled around, leaving me free to depart the office for the next hour - or so I thought. Before I had even fully shrugged into my pea coat, a pair of expensive Italian leather loafers had sauntered into view. I followed the trail up a pair of dark grey Armani suit pants, a matching waistcoat, and white pinstriped shirt until my eyes had settled on the face of a certain Elliott Grimme.

Elliott sodding Grimme. This was all his fault, completely.

“Mr. Mordecai.” he greeted, tone casual.

I held back a scowl. How dare he be friendly?

“How are things coming along?”

Terribly. “I have it all under control.” I lied. “Nothing that can’t be done.”

“Of course not. After all, I’m sure you’re quite capable.” He mused, turning his gaze back onto me. The intensity of it was something I hadn’t been expecting. I’d lifted my own from the endless stacks of documentation to regard him proper and found that his eyes had been intently trained on me. I wasn’t sure what it was about them, but immediately my anger had melted away, replaced instead by an acute awareness of his scrutiny. I could feel as they appraised every inch of my face, and I was painfully aware of when they had moved on to have a look at the rest of me. It didn’t take long for me to begin to fidget, but almost as abruptly as he had appeared, he had been stating that he would take his leave. It left me confused and just a little disappointed. No matter how nervous he made me when he was present, the moment he was gone, I felt a hint of that familiar dismay arise.

Thankfully, it wasn’t like I had only Elliott Grimme and my newfound bane of existence to focus on. It was friday, so I would have the weekend to myself, and I had been looking forward to that since hearing that my schedule would be better balanced. I knew precisely what I was going to spend it doing, too - and where. It was perfect. Exactly what I needed after a  week like this one, and I was lucky enough to have maintained my member status for all of these years.

Bathory Estate was just a two hour’s drive out of Seattle, Washington, where I’d spent the better part of four years after moving from Los Angeles, California. It was a magnificent, sprawling estate - one of the most resplendent I had ever had the pleasure of visiting.

The moment I’d parked and retrieved my overnight bag from the passenger’s seat of my little black mazda, I was climbing out to peer up at the estate’s main house. The manor was beyond words, and I lost my breath to awe alone, gaping up at gothic arches - the impeccably detailed masonry. Such a profoundly severe degree of beauty was the only reminder I needed of why I’d found this place to be so addicting. Once you drove in past the looming, spired wrought-iron gates, you had entered an entirely different world.

Here, I was Ezraeil - addressed most typically by my full name, and only by the pet name of Ezra by my companion submissives.

I’d climbed the stairs in slow procession, greeted by the familiar face of a man named Allaen. He was tall - taller than I ever guessed a human being could manage to be - and his luscious waves were heavily threaded with silver. His facial features, however, were especially young for his age. I hadn’t actually seen him look any older in recent years, but nothing really surprised me. As far as we were all concerned, Allaen would live forever.

He was the head butler of Bathory Estate, and my escort up the stone steps that would land us at the pair of immaculate french doors awaiting us. He’d taken my bag, ushered me in, and almost immediately had begun leading me off to my room. My memory did the interior of the manor injustice. As compared to the images my mind had managed to cling to for all of this time, it was entirely magical. "So lovely to see you again." He offered, bowing an arm for me to thread my own through, striding  alongside me with a relatively serene expression.

"I nearly thought you'd forgotten us." added Allaen.

"Nonsense. It’s just work that’s kept me away - mostly." It was true to an extent, but it had been that much among other things.

"Well, it does soothe my heart a bit to hear that from you." He explained as we traversed polished marble floors. Every one of our steps echoed across the warm expanse.

"I wouldn't have stayed away for so long if I didn't think I had a handle on things. Trust me, my return is much needed, though."

"Well, that is why we remain here."

Why that made me laugh, I wasn’t sure, but it was the first real laugh to bubble up out of me in a long time. "I don't know what it is about you, Allaen, but I really don’t think this place would ever be the same without you."

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” He informed me with an amused glance from the corner of his eyes.

We had climbed the stairs, arm in arm, until we’d reached the main hall and had taken a second set of stairs toward the rear of the manner to the Eastern wing where all of the submissives dorm’d.

The moment we’d reached my room, Allaen had unlocked the door and I’d immediately bee-lined for the bed, tossing myself in a sprawl onto the perfectly laid black satin. Near instantly, I’d regretted making a mess of the perfectly made bedclothes, but it felt so particularly delicious beneath my exhausted form that I couldn’t bring myself to get up again.

Allaen set my bag down near a pretty chaise lounge, shut the door behind himself, and at last had allowed me to revel. This was what I’d been dying for all week - to at last re-assume the identity that freed me from the complications of the real world.

That’s right. I, Ezraeil Mordecai was a submissive. And I was home at last.

*         *         *

This had to be a dream. There was no way in this life or the next that I was actually seeing this right now. I was almost positive that at some point during my short nap, someone had dosed me, because drugs were the only explanation for what I was witnessing before me.

        I’d changed after a bath earlier in the evening and had napped until around dinner time, having more or less spent my time lazing about to regain all of the strength that work had sucked out of me. I couldn’t believe how demanding it was. Even with my last boss - who had been considerably less agreeable - I hadn’t experienced such horrors. I probably wouldn’t have had as much to complain about if I was lazy, though.

        I’ll concede, had I been lazy, it would have been fair, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. It seemed that every time I managed to get a handle on things, Mr. Grimme was piling on one more task for me to complete - ordering me about as if I were some poor house wench.

        Still, I never complained. Not even when I’d contemplated refusing his orders altogether. He was so demanding. I had to wonder what his relationships were like. Likely high maintenance and too stressful for my tastes. Not that I’d ever really had much of a relationship. I’d dated, sure, but never anything serious enough to count as one. Either way, I was in borderline ‘forever alone’ territory and painfully aware of that.

        When I thought about it, though, I’d more or less become one of those guys who were ‘married to their work’. Grimme seemed to always need something - things he was better off requesting from his secretary, and not an employee stationed way over in the faraway realms of accounting.

        One call was all it took, and there I was - rushing to his office to hear the next request. Picture clearing up a little? If it wasn’t coffee, it was retrieving one of his suits from the dry cleaners’. Before long I’d be walking his dog and ironing his boxers. Did he even have a dog? He seemed like the type - a Great Dane or some other fancy breed suited his style.

        Snapping out of these thoughts, I returned to the present and tucked myself around the corner of the hall I’d just been making moves to venture down. I’d have made my move by then, too, but the last person I’d ever expected to see had turned up at Bathory Estate.

        Elliott Grimme.

        What was he doing here? I could feel the frustration bubbling up in my chest, burning hot in my ears. When I’d left work, he’d still been in a late meeting, so the fact that he was standing at the other end of the hall, chatting so casually with a man I recognised as one of the marshals, was completely infuriating. Was he following me?

        The marshals were responsible for overseeing all of the communal spaces and were posted throughout the estate to ensure that all of the rules were followed - that no foul play was going on. I watched the brunet laugh along to something he had said before wandering off in the opposite direction. Elliott Grimme had turned toward me, tucking his hands into the pockets of his jeans. Jeans. I’d never seen him in casual dress, but now that I had, it was fair to say that he definitely knew how to wear a pair.

        No. No, Ezra. He’s the enemy - focus.

        Yeah, fat chance. I was too busy watching him glide down the hallway. So busy, in fact, that I’d completely forgotten to hide myself. He was magnificent, and the fitted tee that clung to his cut physique left very little to the imagination. Every stride he took was as powerful and deliberate as the ones I’d watched him take the very first time I had ever laid eyes on Elliott Grimme. The shift of muscle beneath lightly tanned skin, the impeccable posture, that grace. I wanted to slap myself, but I was too speechless to be slapping sense into myself, in that moment or the several to follow.

        Before I could fully tuck myself back against the wall, he’d spotted me. In fact, it was likely safe to say I’d been given away the moment he’d turned to head in my direction. Suddenly, there was barely a foot between us, and he still hadn’t said a word. Instead, he’d just smiled, that deliciously evil smile - the last smile you ever saw before your life surely ended. My eyes had honed in on his lips, on the perfect dimple that taunted me. Swallowing hard, I lifted my gaze up to meet his, and all of my frustration melted away. Well. . . the only kind that mattered. Tension coiled in my belly and I tucked my trembling fingers behind my back.

        “Ezraeil.

        “Mr. Grimme.” I wasn’t sure what about this was so amusing to him, but he chuckled once at my response. My cheeks grew how. He was laughing at me - just like the last time.

        “Elliott is fine. Just Elliott.”

        Just Elliott, huh? I tried to find the right words to speak, but the only thing that could come to mind were, “how are you-”

        “-here right now?” He finished. “I arrived a half hour ago.”

        “Yes, but- why?”

        He stepped forward, and I stepped back. Every time he would advance, I’d retreat - until my back had hit the wall. Until he’d had me cornered.

        Elliott leant forward, placing a hand to the wall nearest my head, the amusement never leaving his expression. “Why? I can’t be here?” He challenged.

        Damn it.  It was a trap! “Well, no, that isn’t exactly what I meant--”

        “The better question, Ezraeil, is what you’re doing here.”

        I knew it.

        “You must have been surprised to see me.” He offered.

        He was too close. My heart was ready to practically jump out of my chest cavity, my palms were too hot - clammy from nervousness. I folded my arms low, trying to seem indifferent and likely failing. “Maybe a little.” Pathetic.

        “Well, I’ll make it easier on you. Let’s start over.” He offered.

        “Start over?” Boy, I was dense today. The rumors were true. Hot guys made you stupid. You forgot all sorts of shit. At this point, I was already losing my grasp on the English language.

        “Elliott.” He stated, offering me his free hand to shake.

        “Ezra.” I answered automatically, reluctantly grasping it. Holy damn. The current that shot through my fingers sent a thrill up my spine. This was dangerous - I had to get out of here, pronto. “Pleasure to meet you.” Shut up, you fool!

        “The pleasure is all mine.” he purred.

        Oh, God. . . I was going to faint. There was no question I was going to faint. I had to pull in slow, deep breaths just to make sure I could stay upright long enough to end this conversation.

        This was the first time I had ever encountered Elliott Grimme outside of work, and it was at the estate, no less. I couldn’t fathom - didn’t know if I even wanted to - his purposes for having made the trip all that way, but that night, it tortured me.

        That night, after I’d tucked myself into bed, I’d allowed myself to puzzle it out at last. Finally, I had confronted the reality that Mr. Gri- er, Elliott was here. . . here . . . and staying in the Western Wing. The Western Wing. The wing where only Dominants were permitted. I had seen it only once, on my very first tour of Bathory Estate, and hadn’t set foot there since. Earlier in the evening, when we had parted ways after dinner, I’d watched him ascend the staircase that would lead him to the so-called forbidden land.

        Elliott was  a Dominant. He was here. He was . . . my boss.

        He knew.

        All this time spent with him and I’d been blind to overlook the one fact that actually mattered. Elliott Grimme knew my secret. He knew I was a submissive, and that fact wouldn’t change even when we returned to Seattle.

        Foolishly, I’d given him my personal mobile number, as part of our ‘newly found friendship’ and I felt a ball of dread form in the pit of my stomach.

        What was I going to do? I’d have to see him at work - would he hold this over my head for the rest of my time at Grimme Enterprises? Was this going to turn into some fucked up game of blackmail? I couldn’t be sure about all of these worries, but I recognised one thing.

        Deep down, despite how I hated to admit it, it was a little thrilling. Meeting him here was the first time I’d ever encountered anyone from my life back in Seattle, and so far as I was concerned, he was the only bridge between the two lives I was attempting to lead.

Maybe I was being a little dramatic. Realistically, I knew something about him, too. I knew he was a Dominant. Elliott Grimme, most eligible bachelor, undeniably successful playboy of the business world, was into kink. I wasn’t sure how heavy into the lifestyle he was, but it was enough that he was in it at all.

        Then, it suddenly occurred to me. Had he come here with anyone? The first person to pop to mind, disturbingly enough, was the chief secretary. I happily crossed her off of my list when I recalled the wedding and engagement rings I’d noted on her finger once. Perhaps he had come alone, looking for something to take his mind off of work things just like I had. It could have been as innocent as that. Somehow, my mind wasn’t buying it, though. He didn’t even remotely strike me as the ‘innocent’ type. And more importantly, what were the chances that he’d have turned up here?

        I was still mulling this all over when the face of my phone illuminated in the darkness of my room. I didn’t know what time it was, but whoever it was had better damned well have a good excuse for SMSing me at such an ungodly hour. Prepared to be annoyed, I snatched the device from the end table and swiped the notif to view the hidden text.

Anonymous:

‘Asleep?’

        Anonymous? Who in the hell- ah! I’d nearly forgotten. I’d given Elliott my number. Debating whether or not to respond, I settled back into my pillows. What would be the harm in a little conversation? It wasn’t like it was going to make a whole lot of difference one way or the other. By Monday I’d be back in the office, working eight days a week.

        Succumbing, I tapped into field and typed out a short response.

Not yet.’

        I hit send, let the phone drop to my chest. It buzzed not more than thirty seconds later. Damn, he was quick.

Anonymous:

I didn’t think so. Tell me, why are you here?’

        Why was I here? Why was he here? What the fuck? I couldn’t say any of this, of course, so it was plan B: the truth. Like it mattered now. I’d been caught already.

I just come here sometimes.’

Anonymous:

‘For whom?’

        I was confused, so my next response was relatively short.

                        ‘For me, of course. Why did you come here?’

                Anonymous:

                        ‘I was curious. Did you come here for a Dominant?’

        What part of that was his business? I wanted to be cheeky - give him a smartass answer and turn my phone over to silence it. What did it matter if I’d come here for a Dominant or not? More importantly, what did it matter to him? Exasperated, I tapped out my response, likely with a little too much enthusiasm.

                        ‘No. I did not come here for a Dominant. Any particularly reason why you’re asking?’

                Anonymous:

                        ‘Just curious. It’s late - sleep now.’

        I couldn’t believe it. Was he really not going to give me a straight answer? How was that fair?

                        ‘That’s not much of an answer.’

                Anonymous:

                        ‘Goodnight, Ezraeil.’

        My heart skipped a beat, and I cursed it. What was wrong with me? I didn’t know a thing about Elliott Grimme (you know, besides the fact that he was ridiculously sexy), and there was no excuse for this. Frustration had me tossing the phone across the bed and stuffing my face back down into my pillows. I needed a vacation. A real one. Maybe I could call up my best friend Jung and ask him about it. I wasn’t sure even he would know what to tell me. He was my best friend of well over a decade, roommate for three of those and counting, and just about the most intelligent human being I knew. His wisdom would have been useful right about then, but even he was too far away (and likely sleeping already).

        Sighing in defeat, I pulled a pillow over my head and attempted to count sheep - anything to take my mind off of Elliott Grimme. By three AM I had fallen asleep at last.

                                                                                                                                      *         *         *

        Monday arrived sooner than I would have liked, and it was back to the grind. I woke up that morning to Muse’s “Panic Station” filling our two-bedroom loft and had to admit it was something of a pick-me-up. I sauntered, barefoot and too tired for life, out of my bedroom and into the kitchen area. Jung was in his boxers and a Steve Aoki graphic tee, scrambling eggs and hip-thrusting in time with the beat.

        “Dude.”

        “Oh, shi- you scared the hell out of me. Morning, Cinderella.”

        “Uhh, you mean Sleeping Beauty?”

        “Whatever. They were both princesses.”

        Lee Jung-Min - graphic design major, musical genius, the best personality you’d find this side of the earth and my best and closest friend.

        “When’d you get back?” He asked, wiggling his nose to relieve an itch just as he was scooping eggs onto a plate already occupied by a slice of buttered toast. He shoved it toward me with the spatula and it slid right into place.

        “Thanks,” I murmured when he slid me a fork, too. “Sometime around eleven. There was a tonne of traffic. What are you even doing up?” I asked, turquoise gaze shifting to the digital display of the microwave. It wasn’t even six yet.

        “Pulled an all-nighter, got hungry so I figured I’d make breakfast. How was the trip? Get laid?” He asked with a conspiratorial smile, crunching into his toast and leaning in close enough that I couldn’t not laugh.

        “Unfortunately, no. Not this time around.” I reached up to push my fingers through hair I was sure must’ve looked like a rat’s nest already. “But you won’t believe who I ran into.”

        “Mm?” His brow cocked.

        “Guess.”

        “If it wasn’t Ruby Rose, I don’t give a fuck.”

        “You know she’s gay, right?”

        “Doesn’t mean she’s not hot. Come on, who was it?”

        “Elliott Grimme.”

        I watched his eyes widen, his hand go slack with the toast. “Elliott Grimme?” Jung abandoned the toast, tossing it down on the plate and I picked it up to steal a bite.

        “This Elliott Grimme?” He held up an issue of Riche and I nodded, still nibbling at his toast.

        “Get the fuck out.”

        “No lie, he’s a Dom.”

        Jung’s eyes bugged, then his brows furrowed and he grabbed the toast from my fingers. “Did you fuck’im?”

        I choked, fixing him with a horrified look. “He’s my boss. The most successful fucking I did was when I fucked right off of the property Sunday evening.” I licked the butter from my fingertips and slid from the chair I’d settled onto. “I’m gonna get a run in before I lose anymore time."

        “What? The story was just getting good! Breakfast?” Jung called.

        “Burrito, please?”

        I heard him start in with an irritated ‘uuughhh’, but it only made me laugh. He always made me laugh. If there was one person I could count on, it would be Jung. He was taller than me by about ten centimetres if I had to guess, had ink-black hair and eyes the colour of chocolate.

        As soon as I got my compression tights on, a t-shirt and a hoodie, I pulled on a pair of socks and shoved my feet into a pair of running shoes.

        Seattle was misty that morning, but it was refreshing. The mist cooled my face and clung to my hair as I took the pavement, earbuds plugged in and Jon Bellion at mid-volume.

        By seven, I’d already returned to the loft, showered, dressed and departed for work with my breakfast burrito in tow. I ate it on the way, carefully not to drop anything on myself, and bought coffee before I’d reached the parking deck of Grimme Enterprises.  I was still sipping when I arrived at the lift in the main lobby. I pressed my ID to the sensor, scanned my fingerprint and stepped in to be whisked up to my respective floor.

        I greeted the departmental secretaries on my way in and dropped off a box of doughnuts for them before making my way into my office. Even if I wasn’t into women, there was something undeniably cute about them when they were happy.

        Before I’d even had the chance to lower myself into my swivel chair, my phone had gone off. I groaned, fishing it out of my pocket and swiped the display to life.

        Anonymous: (1) Unread Message

        You had to be kidding me.

        I opened it without expecting much, but to my surprise, it was actually business related. Apparently, Mr. Grimme was requesting my attendance at a board of trustees meeting and wanted me to bring along the updated report I’d been pulling together, as well as the long-term projection of profit for Grimme Enterprises.

        This time I didn’t even bother to respond. My phone was returned to where it had once been and I gathered the documents I would need into one neatly organised dossier, silently praising my meticulous habit of adding coloured tabs to everything.

        I arrived in the main conference room ten minutes later and found that Elliott was already there. He didn’t look up from whatever it was he’d been reading when I entered, so I moved to an empty seat nearest the projection screen - farthest away from him.

        Fine. If he was going to ignore me now, then we had nothing to talk about. I was even successful in seeming a little bored, until all of the board members had arrived for the meeting and real work had needed to be done. It was quick and easy - really more of a formality than anything, and I was happy to promise the reports would be sent to each of them by the end of it. Elliott hadn’t looked at me once - reading over whatever it was that’d been holding his attention so intensely.

        Why did I even care whether he paid me any attention or not? I barely knew him. With this in mind, I rose from my seat and gathered my papers before setting a straight path for the door.

        “Stop.” He said, raising a hand.

        I did, much to my own surprise.

        “In my office.” He ordered.

        I stood, confused, dazed. His brows were furrowed, one leg crossed over  the other, and he was the only one still seated in the otherwise empty conference room.

        “Go.” He waved me off.

        And I went, not pausing even once before I’d come to the doors of his office and had pushed my way in. Just like I had on several other preceding occasions, I dropped into one of two leather chairs before his desk and waited.

        Ten minutes passed before I heard the door open and had turned to gaze at Elliott Grimme over my shoulder. He was toting some file, which he’d tucked into a drawer  and locked away before seating himself on the edge of his desk.

        “Ezraeil.”

        “Mr. Grimme. You wanted to see me?”

        He smiled, lacing his fingers, and left me to wonder until he had straightened from the place on the edge of his mahogany desk in favour of loitering near the glass panels that overlooked Seattle.

        “You attended Harvard Business School?”

        This  was about my credentials? “Yes, that’s correct.”

        “With a full ride, no less.”

        “Yes. Correct again.” And this had to do with anything, how. . . ?

        “What was your major?”

        “Business Administration.” I fired back.

        “Your graduating GPA?”

        “A 4.0, officially.”

        He turned to me again, tucking his hands up behind him. “Mrs. Stone will be leaving us soon.”

        “Really? I mean. . . already? Is she okay?”

        “She’s fine. Familial obligations. This isn’t news, really.”

        “So. . . you already knew she would leave.”

        “Yes.” He confirmed, taking a seat in his chair at last.

        “I’m sorry, I’m unsure where this is going exactly. Surely you didn’t call me here just to discuss my academic background?” What the hell do you want?

        “When I first transferred you to the Department of Finance, you adjusted well. Your work performance has been admirable. Was it challenging?”

        Was this a test? Did I have to lie? “Yes.” Too late.

        “And do you enjoy challenge?”

        “Always.” I answered, so quickly that I immediately felt embarrassed. It dissolved into masked irritation when I realised he was laughing at me again, with his ridiculously gorgeous eyes.

        “Good. The reason I called you here is because I need someone to take Mrs. Stone’s place, effective immediately.”

        “Me? Why?” The words left me before I could stop them.

        He cocked a brow, steepling his fingers. “Isn’t it obvious? Out of . . . three potential candidates, you were the most qualified. I also took into consideration the experience you’ve accumulated from your previous company of employment, and for those reasons, I am appointing you as my secretary. Does this displease you?”

        I could sense the challenge in his question and immediately felt defiance rise in myself. “No.” Elliott Grimme would not get the best of me. I refused to lose.

        He smiled, leant forward to place a forearm across his blotter and fixed me with a level gaze. “Good. I look forward to seeing how you fare.”

        Straightening up, I neatly folded my hands in my lap and regarded him with what I hoped was the same unreadably professional expression I’d seen him pull on several occasions.

        “When do I begin?”Ball and Chain

 Judging from my day job, nobody would likely have ever guessed the sorts of 'activities' I willingly engaged in within the bounds of my free time. Every morning I entered my office donning a pressed suit, perfectly arranged tie, with not a hair out of place (as per my employer's preferences).

        At precisely 05:45 I was crawling out of bed to drag myself into the shower, and by 06:00 I was out for my morning run. By 06:30, it was a second shower, the whole morning spiel - and then a very reluctantly prepared meal before I had to dress for the day.

          Yeah. I know what you’re thinking. I sound like one perfectly boring, perfectly average twenty-something with more or less zero edge. Well, it came with the job. When you were working for Elliott Grimme of Grimme Enterprises (you know the one - the tall, drop-dead-gorgeous SOB with a penchant for all things class), there was little way to avoid it. Every employee, including myself, was expected to be of utmost quality, both in our work ethic and apparently, our sense of style. Something about ‘impressions are everything’, or some shit. I’d honestly stopped listening halfway through the initial presentation because I’d heard this all before

          Be innovative.

          Be exceptional.

          Be. . .

          And blondie lost me. The angry flock of birds crowing beyond the floor-to-ceiling panes to her rear were far more entertaining. I couldn’t tell you how many songs I’d recalled to memory during the entire ordeal just to keep myself awake, either. Plain and simple - I hated meetings. I hated discussing them, I hated scheduling them, and I most certainly hated attending them. This one was no different.

          As you’ve probably guessed, this wasn’t my first day. No, this was more like my third-and-a-quarter-century-of-suffering day. I’d already been through sixty thousand hours of about the most painfully un-stimulating job training sessions since probably ever.

          Whomever was responsible for the travesty that was their HR management was going to receive a strongly worded letter from yours truly. Luckily, I’d recently familiarised myself with the proper format required of the company for all official correspondence. I’d send them a lovely little “fuck you very much” with a cover letter addressed “to the sadistic tyrant of HR”.

          It was obvious that none of them necessarily enjoyed doing what they did, but company policy was company policy, I supposed. Even if it was an exceptionally unimpressive one.

          Now with all the bitching I more or less had been doing, my lack of intrinsic motivation must have been all too evident, but my responsibilities were not something I took as lightly. I was responsible for acting as the secretary beneath the chief secretary. She was a woman of about what I guessed to be thirty-six - detached - and had a serious obsession with doves. Since the first day we had become acquainted, I had steadily taken notice of this fact, be it a brooch, a barrette, or the graphic that had been brushed onto her favourite mug.

          Whatever, everyone had something, I supposed. Who was I to judge? In comparison, I was the last person to be passing judgment on the interests of others.

          When I’d greeted my small office - a branch that stemmed from the office of the chief secretary - I was only mildly disappointed by the simplistic state of it. At the very least it was a clean, organised space, albeit intensely minimalist. Then again, it was perfect. It would be easy to keep the place clean, and so long as I kept everything well organised, the lack of ample storage space could be overcome.

          I seated myself quickly, whipped out my Mac, and powered it up with a long sigh. Apparently, my first assignment was to re-organised the financial reports to be later delivered to my employer at a rendezvous that evening. I had about three hours until that deadline after wasting more or less an entire day in a chair that had become intimate with the planes of my body in ways I didn’t care to recollect.

          All I knew was that an appointment with a very skilled masseuse would be in order once this was all over. I’d even skipped lunch - not having been able to find it in myself to consume any of the brunch selection that’d been offered - and now the decision was coming back to haunt me.

          Damn this. It was a mess - the entire thing - from top to bottom. Whomever had put together this report was sorely lacking, and it was almost too evident. It probably wasn’t  their fault, and I chalked it up to stress, but there was no way I was re-organising anything remotely related to the rubbish I’d been struggling to make sense of for at least a half hour.

          At that point, I had two options; the first was to BS a report and let the original author take a lashing. The second was amassing all of the necessary information and composing a new one. Needless to say, I went with the second option - even if my stomach was eating itself into nonexistence.

          I slaved over it for the next two hours, not including the time it took to request the necessary documentation and pick it up from the archives. I ended up finishing with ten minutes to spare, thankfully, and tucked it into a neat little dossier for the chief secretary before stalking my way into her office. Perfect. Now she wouldn’t have to worry about-

          She was gone.

          I checked in the adjoining lobby for our departmental floor, the employee lounge, and even asked a couple of  the other secretaries if they had seen her.

          Not being one to panic, I sucked in a deep breath and considered my options. Where had I not checked - the ladies’ restroom excluded?

          Still musing when the gentle clearing of a throat caught my attention, I’d slowly turned to peer down at the secretary stationed nearest our office. She was pretty, with large hazel eyes and chestnut coloured curls. They were gathered up into a chignon, as per company standard, but a few errant locks tickled at her cheeks.

          “Mr. Mordecai, she’s in the office with Mr. Grimme.” She explained, holding up a finger whilst she murmured into the receiver. “. . . yes, of course. I’ll send him right in. Mr. Grimme would like to see you now.”

          I blanked. Mr. Grimme?

          She must have realised I’d spaced, because in the next moment she’d been clearing her throat again, nodding in the direction of the big boss’ quarters.

          Mr. Grimme would like to see me now?

          I hadn’t been expecting to come face to face with the man, at least not anytime soon. I was the secretary’s secretary, and by default that didn’t give me very much standing within the bureaucracy here. Why he could possibly want to see me was beyond a mystery. Unless. . . had she mentioned the report? Maybe I was about to have my arse handed to me - well done with a side of unemployment for screwing things up within my first week. Was the report really that late? No, I wasn’t panicking at all.

          Every step I took weighed heavier and heavier on my heart. Was my tie straight, were my glasses sitting properly? Had I crushed my suit? I found myself checking these things over carefully, even going so far as to take down and re-do my hair for good measure. At that point, there was little else that I could do to look more presentable, so I sucked a deep breath in through my nose and very hesitantly pushed one of the french doors open.

          What met my eyes was almost unbelievable - too remarkable to really exist. His office was spacious - sprawling, even with a very modern yet artistically sleek atmosphere. I envied it. I envied the beautiful floors, the leather seating arrangement I was sure felt like butter to the touch, and most of all the city-scape beyond the floor-to-ceiling panes of his office. Already twinkling with the arrival of the evening hours, it was dazzling.

          Worst of all, though, was the magnificent creature seated behind an impressive, neatly organised mahogany desk. He was clad in a suit that must have been expertly tailored, his hair carefully arranged in a manner that suggested that not only was he as charming as he appeared - that he was conscious of the ever-present need to look professional. His steel blue eyes  were piercing, vibrant - lips perfectly sculpted.

Everything from the set of his brows to the line of his nose and the angle of his jaw could render one speechless.

          They had let this become a businessman? This had to be cheating. Who wouldn’t say yes to anything he demanded? He probably could’ve had anything he wanted, right then and there, with just the snap of his fingers.

          I swallowed hard. I wasn’t ready. This was too soon. Could I have a re-do?

          “Come in, Mr. Mordecai.” He insisted.

          Yes. I mentally hissed. Aloud I said, “Yes, of course, sir.” I shut the door behind me the moment I’d been able to recall how legs operated, still hugging the dossier containing my report to my chest.

          “Mrs. Stone has informed me that you were charged with the task of revising the final draft of the financial report. Correct?”

          I nodded, catching myself a moment too late. “Yes.” I wasn’t sure why, but for a moment, I felt intensely self-conscious.

          “May I see it, Mr. Mordecai?”

          “Ah- yes, of course.” I glanced to the chief secretary, striding forward to offer the documents as requested. I could’ve sworn I’d caught a smirk hiding away in the corners of his perfect lips and my tie suddenly felt too tight.

          “Mrs. Stone, if you’ll excuse us.” He said politely, offering her a smile I was sure might’ve put anyone less frigid in a coma. Her name must have been Stone for a reason, though, because she’d simply risen with an ever polite “yes, Mr. Grimme” before departing the room.

          It had yet to register with me until the door had shut that she had left me alone with this man.

          “Please - have a seat, Mr. Mordecai.”

          Mr. Mordecai. . .ugh. I sounded like my father. “Yes, thank you. Ezra is fine.” My attempt at politeness was delivered with not nearly as much confidence as I’d been hoping.  Instead of standing there like an idiot, though, I at least had the sense to sink into one of the delicious leather chairs before his desk. Sheer bliss.

          Crossing one long leg over the other, he’d begun to flip through the report, brow furrowed in concentration as he examined my work. This was it - he was going to fire me. I was going to get the boot and I had barely settled in.

          “Mr. Mordecai, did you write this report?”

          Oh, hell. “Yes, sir, I did.”

          More silence, more apprehension. Was this his game? If he was going to fire me, he might as well have broken the news to me already.

          “It’s quite detailed. What do your present duties entail, Mr. Mordecai?”

          “Really, just Ezra is fine. I’m responsible for the tasks assigned to me by Ms. Stone.” He laced his fingers, expectantly, so I cleared my throat and began again. “I’m expected to handle tasks that vary from report composition to scheduling, proposal review, basic clerical tasks, and correspondence.”

          If he was impressed by any of that, he never showed it. I could have sworn I’d seen amusement dancing in his steel blue gaze. It had raked over my features once before, but now they seemed to be studying me again. I vaguely wondered what he must have first thought when I had entered the room.

          I only stood at 174 centimetres with sable tresses that reached my mid-back and turquoises eyes that I hid mostly behind dark thickly-framed spectacles. Today, my hair was done up, just as it would have been expected to be for a secretary. He must have been thrown for a loop seeing my chignon. I had yet to see anyone else here with hair length exceeding more than a few inches. I was an anomaly.

          “You pulled together this report just now?”

          “Yes.”

          “In under three hours?”

          “Yes.”

          “This is based upon months of documentation.”

          “Correct.”

          He straightened up in his chair, then rose in one fluid motion to stride about the desk. Watching him travel was something magical. Every step was deliberate, demanding of attention. No wonder he was so successful. That was the sort of confidence that could conquer nations.

          “How long have you worked for Grimme Enterprises, Mr. Mordecai?”

          “Three days.” I murmured this just as he had settled onto the edge of his desk. From a closer vantage, he was almost intoxicating. I had to do my best not to lean back into the leather, as far away from him as possible.

          “It’s my present belief that you don’t belong there, Mr. Mordecai.”

          Here we go. I thought. He’s going to light my ass up and fan the flames with the report I just handed him.

          “I understand, sir.” I didn’t, but I would accept it.

          “Good. Then, first thing starting tomorrow, you’ll be transferred to accounting.”

          If I’d had any coffee, this would have been the perfect time to spit it out in surprise. “Accounting?

          Tilting his head, Mr. Grimme regarded me as though he’d just discovered the newest object of his amusement. “As I stated. Problem?”

Was he laughing at me? Why? “None whatsoever.”

“As it should be. Now go - I’m sure you’ll find your new office without difficulty.”

Excuse the fuck out of me. Wait, had I just been promoted? For what? Without really knowing what more to say, I rose with a polite nod and marched myself back out of his office. I could feel his eyes bore holes into my back the entire time and slapped a hand over the hairs that’d risen at the nape of my neck.

I was in way over my head, I could feel it, and come the following Tuesday - exactly a week from my appointment - I had already been regretting my lack of decision to refuse the promotion. Accounting was absolute hell, and just about all of my energy had been spent keeping things together. It felt as though I was doing a one-man-show and no amount of coffee seemed to make any difference to my state of exhaustion. Luckily, however, my lunch break had just rolled around, leaving me free to depart the office for the next hour - or so I thought. Before I had even fully shrugged into my pea coat, a pair of expensive Italian leather loafers had sauntered into view. I followed the trail up a pair of dark grey Armani suit pants, a matching waistcoat, and white pinstriped shirt until my eyes had settled on the face of a certain Elliott Grimme.

Elliott sodding Grimme. This was all his fault, completely.

“Mr. Mordecai.” he greeted, tone casual.

I held back a scowl. How dare he be friendly?

“How are things coming along?”

Terribly. “I have it all under control.” I lied. “Nothing that can’t be done.”

“Of course not. After all, I’m sure you’re quite capable.” He mused, turning his gaze back onto me. The intensity of it was something I hadn’t been expecting. I’d lifted my own from the endless stacks of documentation to regard him proper and found that his eyes had been intently trained on me. I wasn’t sure what it was about them, but immediately my anger had melted away, replaced instead by an acute awareness of his scrutiny. I could feel as they appraised every inch of my face, and I was painfully aware of when they had moved on to have a look at the rest of me. It didn’t take long for me to begin to fidget, but almost as abruptly as he had appeared, he had been stating that he would take his leave. It left me confused and just a little disappointed. No matter how nervous he made me when he was present, the moment he was gone, I felt a hint of that familiar dismay arise.

Thankfully, it wasn’t like I had only Elliott Grimme and my newfound bane of existence to focus on. It was friday, so I would have the weekend to myself, and I had been looking forward to that since hearing that my schedule would be better balanced. I knew precisely what I was going to spend it doing, too - and where. It was perfect. Exactly what I needed after a  week like this one, and I was lucky enough to have maintained my member status for all of these years.

Bathory Estate was just a two hour’s drive out of Seattle, Washington, where I’d spent the better part of four years after moving from Los Angeles, California. It was a magnificent, sprawling estate - one of the most resplendent I had ever had the pleasure of visiting.

The moment I’d parked and retrieved my overnight bag from the passenger’s seat of my little black mazda, I was climbing out to peer up at the estate’s main house. The manor was beyond words, and I lost my breath to awe alone, gaping up at gothic arches - the impeccably detailed masonry. Such a profoundly severe degree of beauty was the only reminder I needed of why I’d found this place to be so addicting. Once you drove in past the looming, spired wrought-iron gates, you had entered an entirely different world.

Here, I was Ezraeil - addressed most typically by my full name, and only by the pet name of Ezra by my companion submissives.

I’d climbed the stairs in slow procession, greeted by the familiar face of a man named Allaen. He was tall - taller than I ever guessed a human being could manage to be - and his luscious waves were heavily threaded with silver. His facial features, however, were especially young for his age. I hadn’t actually seen him look any older in recent years, but nothing really surprised me. As far as we were all concerned, Allaen would live forever.

He was the head butler of Bathory Estate, and my escort up the stone steps that would land us at the pair of immaculate french doors awaiting us. He’d taken my bag, ushered me in, and almost immediately had begun leading me off to my room. My memory did the interior of the manor injustice. As compared to the images my mind had managed to cling to for all of this time, it was entirely magical. "So lovely to see you again." He offered, bowing an arm for me to thread my own through, striding  alongside me with a relatively serene expression.

"I nearly thought you'd forgotten us." added Allaen.

"Nonsense. It’s just work that’s kept me away - mostly." It was true to an extent, but it had been that much among other things.

"Well, it does soothe my heart a bit to hear that from you." He explained as we traversed polished marble floors. Every one of our steps echoed across the warm expanse.

"I wouldn't have stayed away for so long if I didn't think I had a handle on things. Trust me, my return is much needed, though."

"Well, that is why we remain here."

Why that made me laugh, I wasn’t sure, but it was the first real laugh to bubble up out of me in a long time. "I don't know what it is about you, Allaen, but I really don’t think this place would ever be the same without you."

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” He informed me with an amused glance from the corner of his eyes.

We had climbed the stairs, arm in arm, until we’d reached the main hall and had taken a second set of stairs toward the rear of the manner to the Eastern wing where all of the submissives dorm’d.

The moment we’d reached my room, Allaen had unlocked the door and I’d immediately bee-lined for the bed, tossing myself in a sprawl onto the perfectly laid black satin. Near instantly, I’d regretted making a mess of the perfectly made bedclothes, but it felt so particularly delicious beneath my exhausted form that I couldn’t bring myself to get up again.

Allaen set my bag down near a pretty chaise lounge, shut the door behind himself, and at last had allowed me to revel. This was what I’d been dying for all week - to at last re-assume the identity that freed me from the complications of the real world.

That’s right. I, Ezraeil Mordecai was a submissive. And I was home at last.

 

 

 

This had to be a dream. There was no way in this life or the next that I was actually seeing this right now. I was almost positive that at some point during my short nap, someone had dosed me, because drugs were the only explanation for what I was witnessing before me.

        I’d changed after a bath earlier in the evening and had napped until around dinner time, having more or less spent my time lazing about to regain all of the strength that work had sucked out of me. I couldn’t believe how demanding it was. Even with my last boss - who had been considerably less agreeable - I hadn’t experienced such horrors. I probably wouldn’t have had as much to complain about if I was lazy, though.

        I’ll concede, had I been lazy, it would have been fair, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. It seemed that every time I managed to get a handle on things, Mr. Grimme was piling on one more task for me to complete - ordering me about as if I were some poor house wench.

        Still, I never complained. Not even when I’d contemplated refusing his orders altogether. He was so demanding. I had to wonder what his relationships were like. Likely high maintenance and too stressful for my tastes. Not that I’d ever really had much of a relationship. I’d dated, sure, but never anything serious enough to count as one. Either way, I was in borderline ‘forever alone’ territory and painfully aware of that.

        When I thought about it, though, I’d more or less become one of those guys who were ‘married to their work’. Grimme seemed to always need something - things he was better off requesting from his secretary, and not an employee stationed way over in the faraway realms of accounting.

        One call was all it took, and there I was - rushing to his office to hear the next request. Picture clearing up a little? If it wasn’t coffee, it was retrieving one of his suits from the dry cleaners’. Before long I’d be walking his dog and ironing his boxers. Did he even have a dog? He seemed like the type - a Great Dane or some other fancy breed suited his style.

        Snapping out of these thoughts, I returned to the present and tucked myself around the corner of the hall I’d just been making moves to venture down. I’d have made my move by then, too, but the last person I’d ever expected to see had turned up at Bathory Estate.

        Elliott Grimme.

        What was he doing here? I could feel the frustration bubbling up in my chest, burning hot in my ears. When I’d left work, he’d still been in a late meeting, so the fact that he was standing at the other end of the hall, chatting so casually with a man I recognised as one of the marshals, was completely infuriating. Was he following me?

        The marshals were responsible for overseeing all of the communal spaces and were posted throughout the estate to ensure that all of the rules were followed - that no foul play was going on. I watched the brunet laugh along to something he had said before wandering off in the opposite direction. Elliott Grimme had turned toward me, tucking his hands into the pockets of his jeans. Jeans. I’d never seen him in casual dress, but now that I had, it was fair to say that he definitely knew how to wear a pair.

        No. No, Ezra. He’s the enemy - focus.

        Yeah, fat chance. I was too busy watching him glide down the hallway. So busy, in fact, that I’d completely forgotten to hide myself. He was magnificent, and the fitted tee that clung to his cut physique left very little to the imagination. Every stride he took was as powerful and deliberate as the ones I’d watched him take the very first time I had ever laid eyes on Elliott Grimme. The shift of muscle beneath lightly tanned skin, the impeccable posture, that grace. I wanted to slap myself, but I was too speechless to be slapping sense into myself, in that moment or the several to follow.

        Before I could fully tuck myself back against the wall, he’d spotted me. In fact, it was likely safe to say I’d been given away the moment he’d turned to head in my direction. Suddenly, there was barely a foot between us, and he still hadn’t said a word. Instead, he’d just smiled, that deliciously evil smile - the last smile you ever saw before your life surely ended. My eyes had honed in on his lips, on the perfect dimple that taunted me. Swallowing hard, I lifted my gaze up to meet his, and all of my frustration melted away. Well. . . the only kind that mattered. Tension coiled in my belly and I tucked my trembling fingers behind my back.

        “Ezraeil.

        “Mr. Grimme.” I wasn’t sure what about this was so amusing to him, but he chuckled once at my response. My cheeks grew how. He was laughing at me - just like the last time.

        “Elliott is fine. Just Elliott.”

        Just Elliott, huh? I tried to find the right words to speak, but the only thing that could come to mind were, “how are you-”

        “-here right now?” He finished. “I arrived a half hour ago.”

        “Yes, but- why?”

        He stepped forward, and I stepped back. Every time he would advance, I’d retreat - until my back had hit the wall. Until he’d had me cornered.

        Elliott leant forward, placing a hand to the wall nearest my head, the amusement never leaving his expression. “Why? I can’t be here?” He challenged.

        Damn it.  It was a trap! “Well, no, that isn’t exactly what I meant--”

        “The better question, Ezraeil, is what you’re doing here.”

        I knew it.

        “You must have been surprised to see me.” He offered.

        He was too close. My heart was ready to practically jump out of my chest cavity, my palms were too hot - clammy from nervousness. I folded my arms low, trying to seem indifferent and likely failing. “Maybe a little.” Pathetic.

        “Well, I’ll make it easier on you. Let’s start over.” He offered.

        “Start over?” Boy, I was dense today. The rumors were true. Hot guys made you stupid. You forgot all sorts of shit. At this point, I was already losing my grasp on the English language.

        “Elliott.” He stated, offering me his free hand to shake.

        “Ezra.” I answered automatically, reluctantly grasping it. Holy damn. The current that shot through my fingers sent a thrill up my spine. This was dangerous - I had to get out of here, pronto. “Pleasure to meet you.” Shut up, you fool!

        “The pleasure is all mine.” he purred.

        Oh, God. . . I was going to faint. There was no question I was going to faint. I had to pull in slow, deep breaths just to make sure I could stay upright long enough to end this conversation.

        This was the first time I had ever encountered Elliott Grimme outside of work, and it was at the estate, no less. I couldn’t fathom - didn’t know if I even wanted to - his purposes for having made the trip all that way, but that night, it tortured me.

        That night, after I’d tucked myself into bed, I’d allowed myself to puzzle it out at last. Finally, I had confronted the reality that Mr. Gri- er, Elliott was here. . . here . . . and staying in the Western Wing. The Western Wing. The wing where only Dominants were permitted. I had seen it only once, on my very first tour of Bathory Estate, and hadn’t set foot there since. Earlier in the evening, when we had parted ways after dinner, I’d watched him ascend the staircase that would lead him to the so-called forbidden land.

        Elliott was  a Dominant. He was here. He was . . . my boss.

        He knew.

        All this time spent with him and I’d been blind to overlook the one fact that actually mattered. Elliott Grimme knew my secret. He knew I was a submissive, and that fact wouldn’t change even when we returned to Seattle.

        Foolishly, I’d given him my personal mobile number, as part of our ‘newly found friendship’ and I felt a ball of dread form in the pit of my stomach.

        What was I going to do? I’d have to see him at work - would he hold this over my head for the rest of my time at Grimme Enterprises? Was this going to turn into some fucked up game of blackmail? I couldn’t be sure about all of these worries, but I recognised one thing.

        Deep down, despite how I hated to admit it, it was a little thrilling. Meeting him here was the first time I’d ever encountered anyone from my life back in Seattle, and so far as I was concerned, he was the only bridge between the two lives I was attempting to lead.

Maybe I was being a little dramatic. Realistically, I knew something about him, too. I knew he was a Dominant. Elliott Grimme, most eligible bachelor, undeniably successful playboy of the business world, was into kink. I wasn’t sure how heavy into the lifestyle he was, but it was enough that he was in it at all.

        Then, it suddenly occurred to me. Had he come here with anyone? The first person to pop to mind, disturbingly enough, was the chief secretary. I happily crossed her off of my list when I recalled the wedding and engagement rings I’d noted on her finger once. Perhaps he had come alone, looking for something to take his mind off of work things just like I had. It could have been as innocent as that. Somehow, my mind wasn’t buying it, though. He didn’t even remotely strike me as the ‘innocent’ type. And more importantly, what were the chances that he’d have turned up here?

        I was still mulling this all over when the face of my phone illuminated in the darkness of my room. I didn’t know what time it was, but whoever it was had better damned well have a good excuse for SMSing me at such an ungodly hour. Prepared to be annoyed, I snatched the device from the end table and swiped the notif to view the hidden text.

Anonymous:

‘Asleep?’

        Anonymous? Who in the hell- ah! I’d nearly forgotten. I’d given Elliott my number. Debating whether or not to respond, I settled back into my pillows. What would be the harm in a little conversation? It wasn’t like it was going to make a whole lot of difference one way or the other. By Monday I’d be back in the office, working eight days a week.

        Succumbing, I tapped into field and typed out a short response.

Not yet.’

        I hit send, let the phone drop to my chest. It buzzed not more than thirty seconds later. Damn, he was quick.

Anonymous:

I didn’t think so. Tell me, why are you here?’

        Why was I here? Why was he here? What the fuck? I couldn’t say any of this, of course, so it was plan B: the truth. Like it mattered now. I’d been caught already.

I just come here sometimes.’

Anonymous:

‘For whom?’

        I was confused, so my next response was relatively short.

                        ‘For me, of course. Why did you come here?’

                Anonymous:

                        ‘I was curious. Did you come here for a Dominant?’

        What part of that was his business? I wanted to be cheeky - give him a smartass answer and turn my phone over to silence it. What did it matter if I’d come here for a Dominant or not? More importantly, what did it matter to him? Exasperated, I tapped out my response, likely with a little too much enthusiasm.

                        ‘No. I did not come here for a Dominant. Any particularly reason why you’re asking?’

                Anonymous:

                        ‘Just curious. It’s late - sleep now.’

        I couldn’t believe it. Was he really not going to give me a straight answer? How was that fair?

                        ‘That’s not much of an answer.’

                Anonymous:

                        ‘Goodnight, Ezraeil.’

        My heart skipped a beat, and I cursed it. What was wrong with me? I didn’t know a thing about Elliott Grimme (you know, besides the fact that he was ridiculously sexy), and there was no excuse for this. Frustration had me tossing the phone across the bed and stuffing my face back down into my pillows. I needed a vacation. A real one. Maybe I could call up my best friend Jung and ask him about it. I wasn’t sure even he would know what to tell me. He was my best friend of well over a decade, roommate for three of those and counting, and just about the most intelligent human being I knew. His wisdom would have been useful right about then, but even he was too far away (and likely sleeping already).

        Sighing in defeat, I pulled a pillow over my head and attempted to count sheep - anything to take my mind off of Elliott Grimme. By three AM I had fallen asleep at last.

*         *         *

        Monday arrived sooner than I would have liked, and it was back to the grind. I woke up that morning to Muse’s “Panic Station” filling our two-bedroom loft and had to admit it was something of a pick-me-up. I sauntered, barefoot and too tired for life, out of my bedroom and into the kitchen area. Jung was in his boxers and a Steve Aoki graphic tee, scrambling eggs and hip-thrusting in time with the beat.

        “Dude.”

        “Oh, shi- you scared the hell out of me. Morning, Cinderella.”

        “Uhh, you mean Sleeping Beauty?”

        “Whatever. They were both princesses.”

        Lee Jung-Min - graphic design major, musical genius, the best personality you’d find this side of the earth and my best and closest friend.

        “When’d you get back?” He asked, wiggling his nose to relieve an itch just as he was scooping eggs onto a plate already occupied by a slice of buttered toast. He shoved it toward me with the spatula and it slid right into place.

        “Thanks,” I murmured when he slid me a fork, too. “Sometime around eleven. There was a tonne of traffic. What are you even doing up?” I asked, turquoise gaze shifting to the digital display of the microwave. It wasn’t even six yet.

        “Pulled an all-nighter, got hungry so I figured I’d make breakfast. How was the trip? Get laid?” He asked with a conspiratorial smile, crunching into his toast and leaning in close enough that I couldn’t not laugh.

        “Unfortunately, no. Not this time around.” I reached up to push my fingers through hair I was sure must’ve looked like a rat’s nest already. “But you won’t believe who I ran into.”

        “Mm?” His brow cocked.

        “Guess.”

        “If it wasn’t Ruby Rose, I don’t give a fuck.”

        “You know she’s gay, right?”

        “Doesn’t mean she’s not hot. Come on, who was it?”

        “Elliott Grimme.”

        I watched his eyes widen, his hand go slack with the toast. “Elliott Grimme?” Jung abandoned the toast, tossing it down on the plate and I picked it up to steal a bite.

        “This Elliott Grimme?” He held up an issue of Riche and I nodded, still nibbling at his toast.

        “Get the fuck out.”

        “No lie, he’s a Dom.”

        Jung’s eyes bugged, then his brows furrowed and he grabbed the toast from my fingers. “Did you fuck’im?”

        I choked, fixing him with a horrified look. “He’s my boss. The most successful fucking I did was when I fucked right off of the property Sunday evening.” I licked the butter from my fingertips and slid from the chair I’d settled onto. “I’m gonna get a run in before I lose anymore time."

        “What? The story was just getting good! Breakfast?” Jung called.

        “Burrito, please?”

        I heard him start in with an irritated ‘uuughhh’, but it only made me laugh. He always made me laugh. If there was one person I could count on, it would be Jung. He was taller than me by about ten centimetres if I had to guess, had ink-black hair and eyes the colour of chocolate.

        As soon as I got my compression tights on, a t-shirt and a hoodie, I pulled on a pair of socks and shoved my feet into a pair of running shoes.

        Seattle was misty that morning, but it was refreshing. The mist cooled my face and clung to my hair as I took the pavement, earbuds plugged in and Jon Bellion at mid-volume.

        By seven, I’d already returned to the loft, showered, dressed and departed for work with my breakfast burrito in tow. I ate it on the way, carefully not to drop anything on myself, and bought coffee before I’d reached the parking deck of Grimme Enterprises.  I was still sipping when I arrived at the lift in the main lobby. I pressed my ID to the sensor, scanned my fingerprint and stepped in to be whisked up to my respective floor.

        I greeted the departmental secretaries on my way in and dropped off a box of doughnuts for them before making my way into my office. Even if I wasn’t into women, there was something undeniably cute about them when they were happy.

        Before I’d even had the chance to lower myself into my swivel chair, my phone had gone off. I groaned, fishing it out of my pocket and swiped the display to life.

        Anonymous: (1) Unread Message

        You had to be kidding me.

        I opened it without expecting much, but to my surprise, it was actually business related. Apparently, Mr. Grimme was requesting my attendance at a board of trustees meeting and wanted me to bring along the updated report I’d been pulling together, as well as the long-term projection of profit for Grimme Enterprises.

        This time I didn’t even bother to respond. My phone was returned to where it had once been and I gathered the documents I would need into one neatly organised dossier, silently praising my meticulous habit of adding coloured tabs to everything.

        I arrived in the main conference room ten minutes later and found that Elliott was already there. He didn’t look up from whatever it was he’d been reading when I entered, so I moved to an empty seat nearest the projection screen - farthest away from him.

        Fine. If he was going to ignore me now, then we had nothing to talk about. I was even successful in seeming a little bored, until all of the board members had arrived for the meeting and real work had needed to be done. It was quick and easy - really more of a formality than anything, and I was happy to promise the reports would be sent to each of them by the end of it. Elliott hadn’t looked at me once - reading over whatever it was that’d been holding his attention so intensely.

        Why did I even care whether he paid me any attention or not? I barely knew him. With this in mind, I rose from my seat and gathered my papers before setting a straight path for the door.

        “Stop.” He said, raising a hand.

        I did, much to my own surprise.

        “In my office.” He ordered.

        I stood, confused, dazed. His brows were furrowed, one leg crossed over  the other, and he was the only one still seated in the otherwise empty conference room.

        “Go.” He waved me off.

        And I went, not pausing even once before I’d come to the doors of his office and had pushed my way in. Just like I had on several other preceding occasions, I dropped into one of two leather chairs before his desk and waited.

        Ten minutes passed before I heard the door open and had turned to gaze at Elliott Grimme over my shoulder. He was toting some file, which he’d tucked into a drawer  and locked away before seating himself on the edge of his desk.

        “Ezraeil.”

        “Mr. Grimme. You wanted to see me?”

        He smiled, lacing his fingers, and left me to wonder until he had straightened from the place on the edge of his mahogany desk in favour of loitering near the glass panels that overlooked Seattle.

        “You attended Harvard Business School?”

        This  was about my credentials? “Yes, that’s correct.”

        “With a full ride, no less.”

        “Yes. Correct again.” And this had to do with anything, how. . . ?

        “What was your major?”

        “Business Administration.” I fired back.

        “Your graduating GPA?”

        “A 4.0, officially.”

        He turned to me again, tucking his hands up behind him. “Mrs. Stone will be leaving us soon.”

        “Really? I mean. . . already? Is she okay?”

        “She’s fine. Familial obligations. This isn’t news, really.”

        “So. . . you already knew she would leave.”

        “Yes.” He confirmed, taking a seat in his chair at last.

        “I’m sorry, I’m unsure where this is going exactly. Surely you didn’t call me here just to discuss my academic background?” What the hell do you want?

        “When I first transferred you to the Department of Finance, you adjusted well. Your work performance has been admirable. Was it challenging?”

        Was this a test? Did I have to lie? “Yes.” Too late.

        “And do you enjoy challenge?”

        “Always.” I answered, so quickly that I immediately felt embarrassed. It dissolved into masked irritation when I realised he was laughing at me again, with his ridiculously gorgeous eyes.

        “Good. The reason I called you here is because I need someone to take Mrs. Stone’s place, effective immediately.”

        “Me? Why?” The words left me before I could stop them.

        He cocked a brow, steepling his fingers. “Isn’t it obvious? Out of . . . three potential candidates, you were the most qualified. I also took into consideration the experience you’ve accumulated from your previous company of employment, and for those reasons, I am appointing you as my secretary. Does this displease you?”

        I could sense the challenge in his question and immediately felt defiance rise in myself. “No.” Elliott Grimme would not get the best of me. I refused to lose.

        He smiled, leant forward to place a forearm across his blotter and fixed me with a level gaze. “Good. I look forward to seeing how you fare.”

        Straightening up, I neatly folded my hands in my lap and regarded him with what I hoped was the same unreadably professional expression I’d seen him pull on several occasions.

        “When do I begin?”



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