Rough Canvas (Nature of Desire #6)

Rough Canvas (Nature of Desire #6) - Page 8/23

The Zone was one of Florida's most high-class BDSM clubs. The fact they'd bought and renovated the fetish club Detonation meant it likely would soon have the same reputation in this area. Particularly if Tyler Winterman's name was involved in it.

Marcus grudgingly gave the arrogant ass that much. The Detonation already was known as one of the area's finest underground fetish clubs catering to the BDSM lifestyle. It also catered primarily to men, and so had many different play options catering to their fantasies and tastes. Marcus had been here before, but not since the renovations.

As Marcus stepped into the foyer area, which was designed to look like the open terrace of a Roman plaza, he showed his card and paid the cover charge. Artfully arranged among the various columns and tall urns of plants were chairs and low tables for the men sitting and ordering drinks, eyeing each newcomer. Except for another couple who had entered just ahead of them, he and Thomas were the only recent arrivals to this front area. Since Marcus knew Detonation's entrance ritual, he decided it was a perfect way to start the evening.

He glanced at Thomas at his side, his arms now free, but still shirtless and wearing the collar.

"Take off all your clothes."

"What?" Thomas' gaze snapped to him.

"Do you need help with your slave, sir?" The maitre d' said coolly, looking as if he did bouncer work.

"No. But thank you." Marcus inclined his head.

Thomas saw that the obvious submissive member of the pair who'd come in ahead of them was already stripping for his waiting Master, who was casually talking to another Dom he apparently recognized. Because of the many men lingering here with avid eyes and an anticipatory air, Thomas quickly realized that most of the Masters had their slaves strip off all their street clothes here, preparing for the environment in a very public manner, underscoring the way it was going to be up front.

"Thomas. I said strip."

Thomas nodded, suppressing an unmanly tremor in his hands as he opened his jeans, pushed them down over his haunches, careful not to snag the harness. His ears burned at the whistles from their audience, the explicit comments made about what he was revealing. He tried not to be reminded of movie scenes where a new prisoner was brought into the cell block.

Removing his shoes, he took it all off, folded it up into a bundle. Marcus handed the maitre d' the bundle and a tip in exchange for a token on a chain, which he put over Thomas' head. It dangled below the collar. The pewter disk had number sixty-eight on it.

"When we come back for your clothes, that's how we'll get them. However, if anyone other than me speaks to you here, you are Slave Sixty-Eight. Do you understand?"

Thomas managed another nod, though he could barely follow Marcus' words.

There must be fifty men lingering in this area. Two more slaves had come in and were being made to strip. One was rebellious. His Master quickly yanked the chain attached to a manacle locked just below his slave's knee, above the swell of muscular calf, dropping him to a kneeling position. The maitre d' and another bouncer were brought in to forcibly strip him, his struggles obviously arousing them all.

Marcus pressed against Thomas' side, holding his arm when he instinctively started forward.

"Easy. It's the way he and his Master like it, pet. Things are a bit more high-powered here than at the other clubs you've been to, but it's all still consensual. All right?" His fingers tightened on Thomas' quivering shoulder.

Thomas wondered if he was the only one close to a panic attack. It was too warm in here. Too many staring faces.

"Eyes down, pet. On my feet at all times unless I say otherwise. Hands at side, palms open."

"Leash, sir?" This from the maitre d' again. "Cock or collar?" Holy shit, no.

"Yes. Cock, please." Marcus' hand came into view, snapped it onto the ring on the cuff at the base of Thomas' very erect, sheathed cock. Thomas could see some fluid inside the condom where he leaked.

"Is he up for auction tonight? Jesus, I'd like a bid on his ass." A male voice, right behind him. Thomas stiffened, almost turned before he remembered Marcus had him tethered. Marcus' hand slid around his biceps, stilled him.

"You'll let the Master look at you, pet. He's complimenting my taste." I don't like this. I don't. Please, let's go home where you'll touch me and murmur to me in that fuck-me voice I can't resist. But he didn't say it. And his cock got harder at Marcus' touch, the protective authority in his voice.

"He's not up for auction tonight, but he will be on public view. This is his first time here. First time participating, ever."

"Enjoy, then." The man moved away, but Thomas' body remained rigid. Too many people...too close...

"Thomas." Thomas had to fight the urge to look up as Marcus pressed his forehead to his. "Sshh. You're ready for this. No one will touch you without my permission. You understand? They might say things, but no one can touch you unless I say so. It's the rules. This is a safe place. I'm not going to let anything happen to you that you can't handle. Okay? Just enjoy the scenery."

Marcus watched Thomas digest that. He'd never taken it to this level with his shy, tough farm boy, and now he was wondering if that was because of Thomas' underlying innocence, his gentle nature, or something else Marcus didn't want to face in himself.

There were a large group of unattached Doms trolling for partners. They would participate in the auction that would occur periodically, allowing a sub the thrill of a new handler, or his Master the opportunity to share him. Before Thomas, Marcus had shared subs when it would be a kick for both of them, something to increase the intensity. It usually involved laying out the slave over a bench to be fucked by him while his sub went down on another Master.

But he wouldn't share Thomas. Couldn't imagine or even countenance it. Marcus told himself it was too much; Thomas looked overwhelmed as it was. But that wasn't why.

I'd kill anyone who'd touched you...you're mine.

He hadn't intended to say those words that day next to the field, but in the dark shadows of his heart, the place he knew a pure spirit like Thomas should never come near, Marcus considered Thomas exclusively his.

He pushed down a sense of uneasiness. Thomas was ready for this. But was he?

He changed his mind about the leash and took it off, set it aside. Thomas obediently kept his gaze on Marcus' shoes...or thereabouts. Marcus suppressed a smile, even as it built the hunger in his gut to see the flicker of lashes checking out his cock.

Thomas was nervous, hell yes. But he was aroused and there was that sexy little tremor to his limbs that tightened all those pleasing muscles. Nerves, but more than nerves. Thomas still didn't consciously understand this type of intimacy enough to know his reaction was normal, but Marcus had been deep in this world a long time, and recognized every sign. As most submissives did, eventually Thomas would take the bit in his mouth and ironically pull his Master where they both wanted to go.

I want to call you Master again...for a week.

"Do you want my cock in your mouth?" Marcus demanded, cognizant they were still standing center stage.

Thomas nodded. Marcus reached out, toyed with the numbered disk on his chest.

"When I ask you a question, Slave Sixty-Eight, you will respond, 'Yes, Master'." Thomas' nostrils flared. "Yes, Master."

Marcus let his fingers trail upward now, hook under the buckled collar, tugging so Thomas moved a step forward. "You want it enough to take it here, in front of all of them?"

Thomas inhaled sharply, but Marcus saw his eyes close, his cock jump another inch.

He didn't like it confined in the Latex, but he knew his slave would need it, though there were few things he liked as much as feeling Thomas' semen warming and wetting his skin, smelling the musk of it. "Yes, Master. Whatever pleases you." There was a wave of appreciative response from those sitting nearby, a reaction to the chance to witness an unexpected floor show. The Dom who'd spoken to Marcus took a seat on a divan behind Thomas, not more than several feet away, where he'd get a good view of every flex and shift of Thomas' tight ass, still penetrated by the probe, the strap running between his buttocks.

Marcus exerted downward pressure on the collar. "On your knees, then." As he stripped off his belt, he thought what it would be like to leave his marks on Thomas' flesh, hear the pleasurable grunts of pain. He could let the other Master do it while Thomas sucked him off, a suitable punishment for his flirtation earlier in the day, but Marcus wanted the pleasure of marking his skin. He wanted to hoard all the pleasure involving Thomas.

Marcus also thought about having Thomas clasp his hands behind his head, his only anchor Marcus' hand in his hair, pushing him into a bobbing rhythm on the cock he knew was long, thick and hard enough to gag most slaves. But Thomas knew how to take all of him, so good at relaxing his throat. He wanted to feel Thomas' hands.

Thomas' first touch caused a shudder to run through him. Marcus was usually good at masking such reactions, but apparently breaking Thomas into his first high-level BDSM arena was affecting him strangely. Though scared as hell, Thomas was trusting him. And the power of a submissive's trust could blow away anything a Master had to offer.

Thomas unfastened Marcus' slacks, took down the zipper and eased underwear and outer garment down just enough in front to release Marcus' cock to the gaze of the crowd a scant moment before he covered most of it with his mouth, not an easy feat. He took it deep into the back of his throat, just as Marcus liked it. It made him pulse and leak the first drops onto Thomas' tongue. When he felt Thomas swallow, he suppressed a growl of response.

Thomas' strong, firm fingers circled him, his thumb stroking the taut vein beneath as he slid down, up. Slow, letting the crowd see the glistening moisture his mouth left all along Marcus' shaft, polishing it up for them.

Like many submissives when being Dominated, Thomas' focus narrowed only to his Master, so Marcus knew it was likely his slave was no longer even aware he was performing in front of a group. Essentially given no choice, his only task was to please his Master. His tongue caressed Marcus, tasted, mouth pulling, increasing suction.

Marcus was overwhelmed by the picture of it, both before his eyes and in his mind.

Thomas on his knees before him, naked. Long, muscular lean body bare in all ways except for the cock harness straps, the probe up his ass, the collar on his throat telling everyone he belonged to someone. At least in here, Marcus didn't have to pretend it was true - or wonder how true it was.

Another couple had come in, another slave stripping, and the energy in the proportionally small area was hot, pounding, pulsing. All of them were sucked into this tableau in the center however, and many of the men had moved closer. There was a circle of aroused, tense males within five feet of them on all sides. Marcus knew it was Thomas who held them riveted.

A new, relatively inexperienced sub on his knees and working his Master's cock in his mouth, his own organ stiff and straight above his thighs like a sun dial, needing release, restrained by the collar cinched around it.

Trying to retain his sanity, Marcus slid a hand into his loose pocket, amazed that he didn't fumble. He removed the remote, held it up so others could see, and pressed it to highest setting, where he knew the probe would do a staccato dance against Thomas' prostate.

The reaction was instant, and gratifying. Thomas jerked, his buttocks squeezing together in a way that caused several groans from their audience. Even Marcus had to suppress a reaction as muscles rippled along Thomas' curved back, his broad shoulders bunching.

"You keep working me, pet. Don't you let go."

Thomas made an inarticulate sound against his cock, part plea, part growl. His hand tightened on the base of Marcus' cock, the other dropping to grip his thigh through the trousers, fingers pushing into hard muscle. Marcus' hips were jerking, cock so stiff it barely moved, but Marcus knew it was ready to explode. Thomas' breath was a harsh rasp, hot friction against him, working him the way only a man knew to do.

Ruthless, relentless, fucking fantastic.

"Keep going," Marcus said sharply. Thomas clumsily obliged, trying to keep his mouth moving in a rhythm over him as the probe turned him mindless. Responding to his Master on instinct alone and filling Marcus with an even more ravenous desire to push him, to make him give it all.

Just when Thomas was sure he was going to come, cock harness or not, Marcus eased the vibration to a slow hum and forcibly pulled his head back, taking Thomas' mouth from his cock, leaving him staring at the broad head, licking his lips from the salty taste of what had come into his mouth, collected on the tip.

He was forced to sit back, despite wanting to feel it deep in his ass, even if it meant turning around and putting his hind end in the air like an eager hound. But Marcus rearranged his clothes over his enormous erection and brought him to his feet with his hand on his elbow. "Come with me."

"That's where I thought we were headed," Thomas rasped. Marcus' fingers bit into his arm and he subsided, though he was pretty certain he saw his Master's lips curve before Thomas lowered his gaze back to his feet as he'd been ordered to do.

Marcus took him down a dimly lit hall strung with lights to show murals on the wall depicting explosions, red and orange streaks of fire. Long strips of cloth hung from the ceiling in a staggered pattern, some translucent, some solid, so the different textures brushed the skin and occluded vision. It was easy to brush against the bodies of those passing in the opposite direction, smell the scents of different men. Thomas kept his gaze glued on Marcus' feet with effort, his Master's grip on his arm firm.

They emerged into the dizzying lights and noise of the main club area. Though he'd been able to mostly forget about the watching crowd from the intensity of going down on Marcus, Thomas was relieved he was no longer the center of attention. Here the music was loud, throbbing. There was a crowded dance floor, darkness and strobe lights giving brief images of all the things going on.

Men in cages suspended over the dance floor. A couple of them dancing while a handler stood on the platform outside, ready with a hot stick or cattle prod if they didn't obey their Master's mandate to perform for the crowd. One of the men had tears on his cheeks, perhaps as new to this as Thomas, but like Thomas his cock was hard. He was dancing with a riveting fury, his hands in clenched fists against the struggle going on within him.

On another two raised platforms, men were bound spread eagle to spinning wheels.

People could come by and spin their naked bodies, or... Thomas watched as a man, obviously a total stranger to the bound slave, pulled the wheel around so its occupant was upside down. Then he jammed his cock into the slave's mouth, which was wrested open with a gag ring. The Dom leisurely fucked his mouth while sipping a cocktail and talking to another Dom.

It was hedonistic, like one of the fascinating upper layers of Hell. Dark and shadows. Thomas felt sick and excited at once.

"Your eyes aren't on my feet." Marcus' voice brought him back and he obeyed, but he noticed Marcus had given him time to study his surroundings before he'd reminded him. "I'm letting go, pet. You stay two steps behind me at all times. You forget and look up again, I'll make you do it on your hands and knees like a dog so you can't see anything but my feet."

There was something hard in Marcus' voice that hadn't been there in the foyer. The tone suggested he might do the humiliating thing he described. Thomas followed, wondering at the feelings swirling in his stomach. It was like being offered candy, but the wrong kind. He couldn't put a name to it, but some shadowy apprehension was moving low in his belly, the deeper they moved into the club. He wasn't sure...

Before he could complete the thought, they moved out of the dance area into a new space. This was one large room divided by a wall of clear glass. The glass was partitioned into rectangular sections by Ionic columns. Between each set of columns was a carved wooden chair that looked as though it might have graced the judgment hall of a Roman governor.

Metal pieces formed artistic diamond-shaped divided lights in the glass, but they were functional, for there were protrusions bolted onto those metal frame pieces.

Because Thomas only dared a quick glimpse, he couldn't tell what they were. He wasn't going to risk Marcus doing exactly what he'd said he'd do, and dealing with how that might turn him on. But not knowing the whole picture, having to rely on Marcus' guidance, was creating all sorts of tangled reactions within him, apprehensive and lustful at once.

Marcus stopped by one of the chairs. He effectively banished Thomas' thought process by opening his slacks again and taking a seat. Almost absently, he fondled Thomas' bare thigh. "Come here, pet. Keep your eyes down." Because of that, he had to let Marcus guide him. Marcus nudged him so Thomas stood in front of his Master, facing away from him. "There are two handles in front of you. Bend over and take hold of them."

They were at mid-body level, anchored into the metal frame pieces of the glass wall.

Now he could see there were people on the other side. A man bent toward him, a mirror image of how Marcus wanted him. His long cock was hanging down between spread, trembling thighs as someone took him from behind. He had his mouth pressed on the glass, stretched open by the rubber phallus mounted there. A duplicate of the one in front of Thomas' face now, sheathed in an unlubricated new condom.

Thomas' own body started trembling as he realized what Marcus intended to do.

"You're making me wait."

As Thomas grasped the handles, Marcus continued in an implacable voice. "Take the dildo in your mouth, all the way, until your lips are against the glass. It's sterile. The attendants clean the glass and replace the condom between every use. Once you get it all the way in, you'll lift your eyes. You keep them open and staring straight ahead." Thomas obeyed slowly, reluctant and self-conscious. When he took his lips down the length of the hard rubber cock, he and the man being fucked on the other side were essentially in a kiss, separated by thick double-plated glass. The way the handles were anchored in the steel framework their knuckles would have touched.

The wild drumbeat of the music on the dance floor could be felt through his bare heels. Where the glass was hinged to the Ionic column, there was a slender line of space, so he could hear the grunts of the other slave, as rhythmic and primal as those drums.

His eyes were a pale green, his hair red and long. He had a pale, muscular body, with a tattoo of a dragon over the left pec that undulated as he reacted to the thrusts of whoever was fucking him.

Thomas didn't want to keep his eyes open, feeling far too exposed to this man and his submission, but his Master had ordered it, so he did.

I am Slave Sixty-Eight. I obey my Master and that's all. I'm not responsible for anything but giving him pleasure. I don't think about who I am beyond this moment, or what others would think. It's all about this moment...

To hold onto the handles and lean forward the way Marcus wished, Thomas had to bend his knees. The significance of that uncomfortable pose struck when Marcus slid his chair up behind Thomas, removed the lubricated probe, put his hands on Thomas' hips and brought him down on his cock.

Holy fuck. Truer words never spoken. After all the stimulation from the coffee house to this moment, Marcus' cock sinking into him had the searing pleasure of fire racing through his blood. Thomas bit down on the rubber cock savagely. The panic in the other man's eyes reflected his realization that Thomas had just been penetrated, and it propelled him closer to a release Thomas was sure his Master had forbidden him.

Both of them were sucking frantically on the phalluses, a way of goading or controlling themselves, Thomas didn't know. He just had to do it.

Perhaps Thomas was just imagining it, torqued as he was, but he thought he could feel the pressure of the other man's lips, their texture, even as he imagined it was Marcus' cock he was deep-throating, almost choking on it as Marcus thrust deep, withdrew and thrust deep again, full penetration and withdrawal each time. It left a trail of clawing need all up and down the passageway, to the root of him. He heard Marcus' grunt of approval like a gift. God, he'd gone beyond wanting to come. He had to come or he'd just die.

Thomas couldn't beg with his mouth so occupied, so he begged with his body, his arm muscles banded steel as he held onto the handles with tight fists, hips lifting up and slamming down. Marcus' hands slid down either thigh where Thomas sat on his lap, caressed muscles, then one hand reached between his legs, released the harness a notch.

"Come, pet."

Despite his overwhelming desire to do so, Thomas managed to hold back. Not until he'd brought his Master pleasure. He gripped him with his strong inner muscles, sliding up and down Marcus' delectable length. He longed to feel that hot jetting pulse of his climax, the spasmodic clutch of his hands. Marcus' hands were powerful enough to bruise and they often did. Thomas loved it.

It was submission and yet an exercise of power at once. The desire to serve his Master's pleasure but prove he could make him do something, no matter how many times he'd had slaves within walls like these do his bidding.

"Stubborn," Marcus said, but his voice was hoarse. Thomas renewed his efforts, so on each slow withdrawal Marcus was pulling against resistance from muscles oiled with lubricant, that knew just how to stroke and hold him...

Thomas grunted as Marcus abruptly slammed into him, slick and slow gone hot and fast. He hung onto the handles, providing the counterpoint even as need burst into undeniable release. "Oh God..." his voice was garbled against the gag of the phallus.

"Let it go," Marcus growled.

You first, damn it. Thomas' nerve endings had never felt so sensitive. If Marcus touched him anywhere - his elbow, an earlobe - he would go off like a rocket. Though the fire of it was all consuming, Thomas hung on, thinking he could hold on just another second...

Marcus groaned, his hands clutching his hips, shoving up into him so Thomas' body rocked forward, chest to the glass. "Fuck..." That guttural curse and the spasmodic vibrations of Marcus' body gave Thomas what he needed. He let go, crying out against the phallus deep in his mouth. The man before him ejaculated, no doubt spurred by his reaction. It was like a video screen though, for everything living and real to Thomas was all Marcus. His semen filling him, the press of his thighs and open slacks against the back of his legs and ass. That hard, undeniable cock impaling him.

He was pumped relentlessly. He kept up, his hands slick on the handles, his body rocking even past the point when his release was done, like a dog humping air because it felt too damn good to stop. Only Marcus' hands sliding down to grip his ass and bring him to a stop returned Thomas somewhat to himself.

He rested his forehead against the glass, mouth still full of the dildo even though his chest was expanding fast to get air around the gag. Marcus' hands moved over his back. Reaching forward, he removed the now full condom, a cosseting that moved something in Thomas, creating a lump in his throat. Marcus had been demanding, even a little mean, but at the end, there was this reminder of tenderness, of care.

If his intention was to keep Thomas off balance, it was succeeding.

Marcus took several of the wipes that were provided in a discreet and decorative wooden box mounted on the column and cleaned Thomas, keeping pressure with one hand on his back to tell him he wanted him to stay in that position. Thomas watched, amazed as the man who'd been fucking the redhead got up and turned over his chair to another.

The redhead gave him a weary wink and winced as he was immediately rutted upon by a new occupant of the chair who'd donned a condom before plunging into his ass with an enthusiasm bordering on violence. Apparently their show had stirred things up.

"He was auctioned to submit to whoever his Master deemed appropriate," Marcus observed. "Either because it pleasures and excites his Master and his slave to be shared, or because he's being punished and he consents to allow his Master to punish him this way." His hands wiped at Thomas' genitals and Thomas noticed the man was watching the tenderness. No, devouring it with his gaze. Was it watching a man's hands on another man's cock? Or like Thomas was he enthralled with the contrast of punishing demand with gentle care?

"Straighten up and turn toward me. Keep hands and eyes down." Thomas obeyed, turning to find Marcus had apparently cleaned himself and rearranged his trousers so everything was in place. Marcus' long-fingered, beautiful hands rose with another wet paper cloth to clean Thomas' face where saliva had escaped his mouth.

"What are you thinking?" His voice was low, velvet.

That I can't tell if you hate or love me in this place, or if it even matters. Thomas couldn't say that, though. Despite the fact they seemed to have reached a higher plane of intensity, a bond that seemed to make other words unnecessary, some essential component of the intimacy that could exist between them so easily was missing. He just couldn't put his finger on what was off.

"What's going to happen next?" he asked instead.

"Whatever I want to happen," Marcus said mildly, tossing the wad of tissues in another discreetly placed steel can.

"How..." Thomas swept his downward glance toward the other slave, whose eyes were now closed. "How do they stay safe?"

"His Master is standing about ten feet away, watching it all. Making sure every man he's given the privilege of fucking his slave is appropriately protected."

"Will you..."

"Share you? Let another man fuck you, for pleasure or punishment?" Marcus touched his face. Whereas before he'd wanted to raise his gaze, now Thomas resisted. But Marcus slid his fingers in the strap of the collar, knuckles pressing on Thomas' windpipe to force his head back to meet his cold green eyes.

"Is that what would turn you on, pet? To have your Master whore you out? There's some women here. I could let one barter for some cunt-eating time with my slave. You could practice for that doe-eyed fiancee of yours." The reassurance that Marcus' tenderness had evoked vanished. "Don't." One word, spoken through stiff lips, was all Thomas could manage. Don't do this.

"Why? Is she that precious to you?"

"She's a friend. And you're just doing this to get me to take a swing at you. Which I will if you don't shut up about her. It's not about her. It's about you and me."

"Really? That's news to me. My understanding is it's never been about you and me, to the point I often wonder if there is a you and me in your mind."

Marcus told himself he didn't know where the anger had come from. But that was bullshit. He'd been overwhelmed by Thomas' response to him, not just here, but since they'd stepped into the club. He'd expected Thomas' resistance. Instead, his shy lover had surrendered to things that far exceeded what he'd been asked to give Marcus before. Going down on him in this setting, letting himself be spread out and fucked the way he just had. He submitted to Marcus, belonged to him fully, in so many ways. And at the end of the week it wouldn't mean a damn thing.

Coming to a club like this, where emotions could be brought rocketing to the surface so easily, was a mistake. As he'd just demonstrated with the below-the-belt shot that roused the side of Thomas he so rarely saw. When the dark eyes became sharp and direct, the body shifting into a Southern boy kick-your-ass forwardness posture, nothing would back him down.

A muscle flexed in Thomas' jaw. "Would whoring me out turn you on? It's not okay for me to let someone else fuck me, but it's okay if it's you doing the letting? Is that what my Master wants?"

Marcus couldn't bring himself to be dishonest about what he wanted from Thomas.

Never. He'd made that oath to himself when he went to North Carolina to find him.

"No," Marcus said it fiercely. Then, more softly, his hand gentling on Thomas' neck, thumb stroking over the pulse, a quick pass over the flushed jaw. When Thomas tried to push him away, Marcus turned his hand, gripped his wrist, kept it pinned to his shoulder. "I don't want any other man to fuck you. Ever. The idea of it makes me physically sick, and so furious I can't..." He stopped, shook his head. "No."

"It's not what I want, either." Thomas swallowed and suddenly there wasn't a club, pounding noise and flashing lights. There was just his face, close, his eyes meeting Marcus'. His sensual mouth was held in a line taut with the power of his emotions, spun up and to the surface, so Marcus knew his words were brutally honest. "No matter what happens, Marcus. With Daralyn, with any of it, you're the only man I want.

Now or forever. The only man I'll ever let inside me again." Words of devotion could cut like rusty saw blades. Marcus wanted to quip, wanted to make some dig at how young Thomas was to be making such a rash statement. He was only twenty-seven, for Chrissakes, but Marcus knew Thomas had the soul-deep understanding of himself to make the utterance with the certainty of an oath.

Indeed, it was Thomas' very spiritual sense of himself, his responsibility to those he loved, the wisdom to perceive who needed him the most, that drove Marcus to insanity.

Even as it made him want to be with him with a hunger that made him worry he might blurt out the same foolish promise.

The only man I'll ever let inside me again...

When Thomas reached out to touch his face, Marcus stepped back, shook his head.

Thomas stopped midair, waited a pregnant second, then slowly lowered his arm.

Marcus lifted the Velcro cuffs and gestured to Thomas to turn. When he did, he wrapped the cuffs around Thomas' wrists, trying to keep his mind on what he was doing and not the back of Thomas' neck, so tender and exposed with his head bowed, his eyes cut down again.

Marcus wanted to bury his face there, his nose in the soft line of hair and skin, smell deodorant and aftershave, warmth.

Instead, he latched the cuffs together. Thomas' knuckles rested on the curves of his bare ass, so that Marcus couldn't resist caressing him there. Thomas' fingers twitched but didn't seek to entwine, his shoulders rising and falling, the elevated breathing pattern showing he was fighting a frisson of panic at experiencing the restraints in such an environment.

"Come on." Marcus took his arm. He was crazy to be here, but he couldn't leave.

There was too much he wanted to do to his slave. Needed to do to him.