This is going to sound crazy, but just hear me out.
I considered telling Nori that nothing she could say to me would sound as crazy as the thoughts that had plagued me since the accident, but I didn’t. Something about her expression, about her certainty that whatever she was thinking could help me get some control back in my life, kept me silent. That and how I knew she’d be upset if she learned exactly how dark my thoughts had gotten.
There was also the fact that her face was slowly turning bright red.
I assumed that someone in the medical profession wouldn’t get embarrassed about much, so whatever was on her mind must be extremely interesting. For the first time in a long time, my curiosity was piqued. Whatever she was about to say would most likely have the possibility of distracting me, for a while at least. Since I meant what I said about not ending things because of Father O’Toole, distractions were welcome.
“This isn’t exactly…ethical,” she began, her teal eyes sliding right past mine to fix somewhere over my shoulder. “But since I’m not exactly your nurse either…”
Now I was really interested.
Her expression hardened, like she’d made some sort of decision. Her gaze came back and fixed with mine. Blood rushed south. Shit. One look from her and I was harder than I’d been in months. What the hell was wrong with me?
“Have you had sex this week?”
I stared, thinking I must’ve misheard her. There was no way she’d just asked if I’d had sex recently.
Her face was still red, but that stubborn look on her face told me she wasn’t going to let me get away with not answering.
“I know you didn’t have sex when you were in the hospital.” She gave me a grin. “Unless you were hooking up with Nurse Appleton.”
The joke surprised a smile out of me. Probably my first real, genuine smile in who knew how long. “Tempting, but no hooking up with Nurse Appleton.”
Especially considering the nurse in question was probably sixty and looked like Lester Hamish, a cross-eyed drunk from Father O’Toole’s old parish.
“And unless Father O’Toole was mistaken about you over this past week, you haven’t left the house,” she continued. “So no sex then.”
“No.” My good mood vanished. “Not that it’s any of your business.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Want to give me a minute to explain before you bite my head off?”
“Go for it,” I snapped. “Not sure how me not getting laid ever again will ever be your business, but go ahead.”
“Why won’t you ever get laid again?” she asked, then her voice softened. “Because you’re a monster?”
I couldn’t stop myself from flinching, and I couldn’t stop the wave of self-loathing that went through me.
“You said you feel like you don’t have control over anything.” Her voice softened even more, but there was no pity in it. “Do you want it back? Do you want to feel like a man again?”
I swallowed hard and had to look away. Hearing her say those things…
“Shit,” she muttered. “I don’t really know how to say this without just coming out and saying it.”
“Spit it out, Nori.” I turned away from her. “Just fucking say it and get out.”
For a moment, I thought I’d managed to push her away, to get her mad enough that she’d go back to Texas and her boyfriend. Then she started talking again.
“My ex-boyfriend and I were part of a…lifestyle where control was important.”
Ex-boyfriend? Ex? I was so caught on that first word that I almost missed the second word I should’ve been paying attention to.
What the hell was she talking about?
“When I first met Tanner, he saw something in me.”
I didn’t turn to face her, but I was no longer lost in my own head. I was listening, probably harder than I’d listened to anyone lately.
“He saw a part of me that I hadn’t allowed myself to see,” she continued. “And after we’d been dating for only a few weeks, he told me something about himself that he felt I needed to know if we wanted to be in a relationship. He told me that he was a Dom.”
There was a moment of heavy silence as she waited for my brain to catch up. She wasn’t the only one. My mind was refusing to process what I knew she was saying.
In a post-50 Shades world, even most housewives knew what those two words meant.
“Yes,” she answered my unasked question. “Tanner introduced me to the real world of BDSM. He showed me what it meant to be a Dominant, and how I was a natural Submissive.”
Somehow, that wasn’t a word that fit the woman behind me.
“It’s not what most people think,” she continued. “Probably not what you’re thinking.”
“You don’t know what I’m thinking.” Hell, I didn’t know what I was thinking.
“That I’m not some weak, mousey little girl with self-esteem issues.”
Okay, she had me on that one.
“Being a Submissive isn’t about being weak,” she said. “It’s about giving over control to someone.”
I was suddenly very aware of the fact that she was standing less than a foot behind me.
“Tanner taught me what it meant to truly submit, to trust someone so much that you know you don’t have to worry about anything, that you know they’ll take care of you.”
I’d never liked it when she’d talked about Tanner before. I really didn’t like it now. The thought of someone having her so vulnerable, so trusting…
And what did all of that mean? What did it mean to be vulnerable to someone in bed? Real vulnerability, not just some emotional shit that rom-coms try to sell you.
Images flashed through my mind.
Nori blindfolded and naked.
Handcuffed and naked.
Tied up…and naked.
I closed my eyes and tried to push the images away.
“We sometimes went to a club where I saw other Doms and Subs, where I learned about that world. I was in it for almost four years.”
I decided I must’ve fallen asleep at some point and this had to be some sort of weird, erotic dream. Weird because there was no way sweet, innocent Nori was into S&M.
And erotic because the idea of sweet, innocent Nori into S&M turned me on more than I cared to admit.
“I don’t understand what this has to do with me.” My voice was rough, and I didn’t need to look down to know that my shorts weren’t doing anything to hide my erection.
The idea of Nori in any sort of sexual situation would make me hard. Thinking of her in even my vague understanding of the BDSM lifestyle was making it impossible to think straight.
I heard her take a deep breath and wondered what she was steeling herself to say next. What else could she say after that insane proclamation?
“I think you might benefit from…learning from me.”
I did turn now, shock overriding everything else. “Excuse me?”
The color that had faded from her face came back with a vengeance. “I think that learning about…I think that you could benefit from…oh, shit. I don’t know how to explain it.”
“Try,” I said dryly. “Because this is getting weird.”
“Fuck,” she muttered and looked down, her fingers twisting in front of her. “I should go. This was a bad idea.”
“Nori.” I started to reach for her, then realized that probably wasn’t a good idea, especially considering the subject matter. And the fact that I was sporting a very visible hard-on. “Whatever you were thinking, you thought it was important. Just tell me.”
“I was thinking that you should be a Dom,” she blurted it out, then clapped a hand over her mouth.
I would’ve laughed at the gesture if I hadn’t been still playing that sentence over in my head.
She thought I should be a Dom.
As in kinky sex with handcuffs and whips and leather.
Yup, definitely a weird, erotic dream. There was no other rational explanation.
“A Dominant is all about control,” she said. “And you lost control. So being a Dom would give it back. At least some of it.”
I took a step back to put a little more distance between us. If I hadn’t been sure that Nori didn’t have a cruel bone in her body, I would’ve thought she was messing with me. But all I saw on her face was sincerity. Well, that and embarrassment.
“I know this is crazy.” She was talking faster now. “But I really think getting that sense of control back would help you.”
“So you want to take me to some S&M club with a bunch of freaks that’ll probably be turned on by my scars and have me order some stranger to fuck me?”
It wasn’t until I saw her entire body tense that I realized what I said.
She told me something extremely personal, and I said something completely insulting.
“I didn’t,” I started. “Fuck. I’m sorry, Nori. I didn’t mean it that way.”
She gave me a nod, but her expression was still tight. “It’s okay. Entirely my fault. I shouldn’t have brought it up. It was out of line. Inappropriate.” She started to turn. “I’ll call Father O’Toole and let him know that he needs to find someone to take my place.”
She actually got two steps before I realized she was serious. She was going to leave.
And I didn’t want her to.
I reached out and grabbed her arm, holding her as I closed the rest of the distance between us. I looked down at her, the six-inch difference in our heights putting her right at my chest. I was suddenly aware that I wasn’t wearing a shirt.
I could smell her now, the scent of that same shampoo and soap she’d used back in Texas. The same clean, crisp smell I’d come to recognize without consciously trying to.
The wanting hit me right in the gut, a sharp, painful twist that was stronger than any desire I’d felt before. If I’d thought I wanted her after that dream, it was nothing like what I felt now. This was more primal, more urgent.
“What did you mean?” I asked. I kept my voice low, my grip loose. I kept waiting for her to pull away, to tell me I was overstepping. “What did you mean when you said learning from you?”
She looked up, a lock of that nutmeg brown hair falling across her forehead. I wanted to push it back, trace my fingers across her face, but I restrained myself. I still wasn’t sure what this meant yet.
Her eyes met mine. “I want to teach you to be a Dom. To me.”