Dane double checked the knot at the back of Tess's head. Firm without being tight. It wasn't as tight as the knot binding her wrists at the base of her spine. She was trussed and blindfolded with the black nylon thigh highs he'd handed her two days ago in a plain, brown package over the counter at the diner where she worked. He'd done it when he knew she'd have a few more hours left on her shift. Let her wonder about the gift a while.
She was wearing the virginal, white pair as she knelt on the hardwood floor at the center of his broad, open loft. The way the lace tops stretched around the creamy, burnt almond tone of her skin made Dane's blood crackle. Sitting back on her feet, spine straight as a fence post, her hair bunched in a cluster under the blindfold. She wore it brushed out straight, and if she'd let it down it would fall past her shoulder blades.
The long row of windows, as good as a wall of glass directly behind her, looked out on the opposite building. It was almost a mirror image of Dane's building. They were once thriving, brick factories, but now they were being sold off floor by floor and being converted. There was a long, black leather sofa against the wall just below the massive line of windows. The coffee table in front of it was the only furniture in that area of the loft. At the far end was a half flight of steps leading to an upper level where Dane's office and bedroom had been walled off.
"How do you feel?" he asked, rearing back up to his full height.
"I'm not sure," she replied tentatively. The traces of her French accent were faint but clear. Early on, she'd told him how she grew up in Marseilles, though her parents had come from Ivory Coast.
"Fair enough," he said, walking around to face her from the front. Even though he still hadn't learned her last name, seeing her blindfolded in the position she held, exposed but for the scant gift she was wearing, Dane felt a momentary urge to hate everything about the world that wasn't connected in some way to making her feel safe and loved. Everything else was an insult to his emotional equilibrium.
"Um ... ok ... Should I call you Master or something?"
"No," he said quickly. "If you want a master go to a fucking Star Wars convention."
Even behind the blindfold her face remained impassive. She held her shoulders square, her breasts jutting forward like fat, half scoops of flesh. In the sepia light of the single, standing lamp by Dane's chair, her nipples stood out like something carved out of exotic wood.
"Sorry ... um ... just seems like I should call you something – I dunno – formal, or whatever."
"You can call me Dane, just like at the diner. Sir is okay, too."
"Is Dane your first name or your last name?"
"Both. Kind of like Prince. You can think of me as The Asshole Formerly Known as Dane."
She cracked a smile and then started to giggle, but caught herself and broke it off.
"Sorry, Sir," she apologized.
Her hips and thighs stood out in stark relief as she knelt back on her haunches. She wasn't the kind of beautiful that made you look twice or three times passing her on the street, but Dane had logged hours studying the curl of her jawline across the counter when she was working the diner. Her eyes were almost as dark as her hair, with a guarded curiosity about the way they darted back and forth from his. She was only the kind of beautiful that made him wish he could kneel and lay his weeping face across her bare thighs and beg her forgiveness for the way she made him feel.
He knelt down in front of her so their knees touched. He reached out with his hand and ran his fingers over the line of her jaw.
"Relax, Tess. If you can. Just be yourself and everything will be all right. If something strikes you funny then go ahead and laugh. Do you understand what a beautiful thing a woman laughing is? Please don't take that away from me, okay?"
"Oh ... kay," she said. But the moment for laughing was already gone.
"That position suits you," he said, brushing his thumb across her cheek once more before standing back up. "It fattens up your ass and thighs. It makes you look even more ... substantial."
She had a petite build, almost squat with solid curves, but there was this purely feminine fluidity in the synergy of her form, even in the way she wore that cheap cotton uniform at the diner. To him, she was like this diminutive monument to
"Are you gonna touch me?" she asked.
"I'd like to," he told her. "Very much. But not if you don't want me to."
She nodded. "What if I just let you know how I'm feeling about things as we go along? Would that be okay?"
"That would be fine." He pushed his hair back with his fingers. It was dark and long, almost black, with one vein of grey streaking back from just above his left temple. "Tell you what," he added. "If I say something or touch you in any way you don't like, just say 'stop that', and it will end immediately. And if you want out of this entirely, just say 'stop'. Easy as that."
"Sounds good. Mr. Dane."
He smiled down at her, momentarily savoring the shape of her blindfolded face. He tucked his finger under her chin and lifted her face, as if she could see the look in his eyes.
"I'm pretty sure you already figured out I'd never lift a finger to hurt you," he said. "Or you wouldn't have come as far as this. Just think of it as the two of us going on a little journey together."
Tess uttered a light, brief chuckle. "Honestly," she said, "I'm not sure why I'm here. Why I agreed to this."
"Yes you are, Tess." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "You're here for the same reason I am – because you have this nagging instinct inside saying we might just be wired the same way, and you're dying to find out if it's true."
He leaned over and took a deep breath, inhaling the small layer of air warmed by the pulse visibly hammering through her neck. "I know you're wearing perfume," he said, "but I can smell the purity of your skin. I want to kiss your neck, Tess. Would that be okay?"
"Yes..." she halted. "I think so. Um ... Mr. Dane."
He inhaled again and then pressed his lips to the delicate warmth of her throat. Air and blood were coursing through it at the same time but at different speeds. It was like her breath and pulse were dancing with each other.
Finally, Dane stood up. He thought about pulling off his dark, burgundy jersey and black drawstrings, but instead he turned back to the chair and took a seat.
"I can almost see your pussy, Tess," Dane said, calmly.
"Yes, Mr. Dane."
"Did you know keeping your knees together like that only makes you look more delicate and vulnerable?"
"Hadn't thought about it, Sir. Just don't know if I want you looking up me like that. Yet."
"With your legs open, it makes you look more powerful just because it's a bolder position. Even though you're actually more vulnerable that way. It's brash. Fearless. Like a statement." A muscle on one side of her jaw clenched briefly. "Does any of this arouse you, Tess?" he asked calmly.
"Feel kinda strange, to be honest. Tingly. It's weird not being able to see you. My heart's pumping but I think it might just be nerves."
"Mine's pumping, too, Tess. Let's just ease our way into this, okay?"
"Good enough, Mr. Dane."
"Does calling me that make you feel like you're at work?"
"I most definitely do not feel like I'm at work."
Dane laughed. "Okay. Why don't you tell me when you first got the idea I was interested in asking you here for this little ... chat? Can you pinpoint a particular moment?"
She took a moment to answer. "Come to think of it ... yeah," she said. "It was that time you came in a couple weeks ago. I caught you looking at me. I think you know the time I mean. I catch you looking a lot, but I never minded the way you look at me. But that day you just kinda had this thing going on in your eyes like I hadn't seen before. It was..."
"It was what, Tess?"
Dane wasn't sure he was ready for the answer. He was afraid she would be right.
"Can't say, sir."
"Tess." His voice went raw with a demanding huskiness. As much as he didn't want her to complete the thought with the others in the room, he also needed to push her just a little.
"Do I really have to answer that?"
"Yes, you do. But you can always say 'stop that', remember? You have a choice, Tess. In everything. Always."
She took a moment. It was hard to tell what she might have been thinking under the blindfold.
"Let's just say you were looking at me like you know me better than you do," she finally said.
He smiled. Her nipples were gathering into hard, jutting knots. His hand grazed along the inside of his thigh, brushing over the thickening swell of his cock through his pants.
"Explain," he said.
He sensed she was testing his promise. They were just getting warmed up and she needed to know how secure she really was. Dane let it go and changed tack. "Do men tell you you're beautiful?"
"Sometimes. Not much."
"What's much, Tess?"
"Not sure. Like every day, I guess."
"What do you think? Do you think you're beautiful?"
"Depends on the day."
"How about today?"
"As weird as all this feels, I feel beautiful now."
Dane smiled again. He slipped off his shoe and threw it across the room. Tess turned her body to follow the sound. Her breasts quivered slightly and her torso corkscrewed with the gesture. Then he did the same thing with the other shoe just to watch her do it again in the opposite direction. When she turned back to her original position, he knew the moment the dark berries of her nipples dropping into his mouth was too far away.
"Do you know why I started going to the diner?"
He paused a beat. "You're lying, Tess. Don't do that."
"I'm sorry. I just..."
"Stop apologizing and answer the question."
He got up from the chair and padded a barefoot circle around her, pulling off his jersey as he walked.
"I ... um ... see how you watch me work. You look at the way that stupid fucking uniform doesn't fit me. I know your eyes are on my ass when I lean over somebody's table. But you look at my face a lot, too. Maybe more than anything else."
"You still haven't answered the question." He came back around in front of her again and untied the drawstring on his pants. They dropped silently to the floor. He was naked underneath, and he wondered if she could sense him standing above her, stroking his hardening cock.
"You started coming in because of me ... I guess."
"Good," he said. "Now was that so hard to say?"
She shook her head. Dim light played across the muscle and bone of her shoulders. It made the tips of her breasts look lacquered. He squeezed his cock and the knob oozed. As he gazed down at her damp lips, he imagined touching them with his cock for the first time – that first rush of hot breath over his flesh the moment she opened her mouth and turned him into something he wouldn't recognize.
"Wasn't hard. Wasn't easy, either."
"Why should such a thing be so hard to admit for a woman who has men tell her she's beautiful?"
She didn't respond and he didn't push her. He gave his cock several languorous strokes and sat down on the floor in front of her. He couldn't bring himself to be as far away from her as the chair he'd been sitting in before.
"Open your legs now, Tess."
"I think I need help."
Dane put his hands on her knees and pushed them apart while she squirmed and shifted, until her knees were open wide enough to expose her pussy. He placed his palm on her inner thigh, just where the lace top of her thigh high ended. He was touching skin and silk at the same time. He kneaded the meat of her thigh for a moment, then slid his hand toward her slit, letting his fingers brush against her lips just long enough to find them damp.
"How many men have you fucked, Tess?"
He started massaging her thigh again, but higher ... just on her skin this time. The other hand reached for one of her breasts, pressing into the warmth of her flesh, thumb smoothing back and forth across her marbled nipple.
For a moment, it seemed like she wasn't going to answer. But then she finally told him. "One." The hand on her thigh reached the graze along her pussy again. Damp was gradually turning to wet.
"You're lying, Tess. I told you not to do that." He ground his fingers against her slit hard enough to make it feel like a warning.
"No ... not lying..."
Heat gathered where he was touching her pussy, the light slick of moisture quickly becoming a flow that was beginning to soak his fingers.