Nikola knocked on the door of Helen's rooms, keeping an eye out for anybody who might whisper to pater. Strictly speaking he should not be in this house, let alone outside this door, but Helen asked for his company, and he could not say no.
("I have a gift for you," she murmurs, stroking his back with the handle of the cat. "Meet me outside my room at eleven. Knock once."
Nikola nods, eager for the whip and for her pleased satisfaction. "Yes, Helen."
Holding his chin, she waits until his breathing matches hers. Happy, she walks around him. With a whispered, "Good boy," she strikes her first blow.)
The door opened, a sliver of light tumbling into the hallway. Knowing his cue, he entered, closing the door behind him.
"Exactly on time," Helen murmured. "Come, join me by the fire." Her voice, honey mellow, hypnotised him. She was using her command voice, the one that put Nikola firmly in his place with just a word and sent shivers down his spine. Anticipation prickled his skin as he walked to the fireplace, dropping to his knees by her feet. Instantly she started stroking his head, humming as he melted under her touch.
They remained that way for a time. Nikola couldn't say how long, but he luxuriated in his role, bringing calm to his mistress without a word.
She smiled, running her thumb across his lips. "I have a gift for you, but it is one you must think on before you accept."
"A gift from you I'd have to think about? Have you got me wine in a puzzle box? Because those puzzle boxes are never perplexing enough."
She laughed, gentle and warm like the fire, and brought out a plainly wrapped package. "I give this with no expectations. Our relationship - eyebrows down, dear - is outside the usual societal norms, but I wouldn't change any aspect…" She looked down at the package. "Except this one."
Nikola narrowed his eyes. What did she mean? Accepting the package, he was surprised by it's almost weightlessness. "Not a wine bottle."
"Get your mind out of the cellar, dear, and concentrate."
Nodding, Nikola pulled the string holding everything together and watched as the paper wrapping unfolded, blossoming in his hand. There, unassuming was--
"I didn't think a leather collar would fit into our daily lives."
He just stared. "It's…" In his hands was a dark blue, silk, cravat. Turning it over, marvelling at the dark blue embroidery, he asked, "... What does it mean? To us?"
Helen swallowed, a minute action that told Nikola this wasn't just a nice surprise. "You're my submissive. No-one else may play with you without my permission."
"I don't want anyone else," he replied, already taking off his old cravat.
"Look up," she ordered gently, smiling when their eyes met. "If you accept this, you're agreeing to my rules completely.” He nodded, but Helen didn’t move. “I mean it, Nikola. My rules, as we agree before play. No breaking them halfway though.”
“I agree,” he affirmed, handing her the cravat. “I don’t need another mistress, I need you.”
Taking the silk material, she ran her thumb over the embroidery. With a nod, she tied it around his throat. “Mine,” she whispered, carding her fingers through his hair again.
Time passed. Nikola went into hiding, Helen kept doing her work with the Sanctuary. Her surprise at seeing him in Rome was from his being there, but part of the hurt was from seeing a different cravat (close, but not hers) around his neck.