She’d driven around the block four times, sat in the car talking to herself, and now here she was. Catherine wondered if she could do it. Knock on the door and actually talk about this. She had to. If she backed out now, Sara might slip out of reach forever. Catherine was tired of watching the other woman struggle through life, over-focused on work and choosing the wrong partners. This was it. Time to put up or shut up. Raising her hand, she banged the ornate brass knocker against the heavy wooden door.
The sound echoed hollowly in the cool night air. Stuffing her hands into the pockets of her short leather coat, Catherine rocked back and forth on her heels, fighting the urge to sprint to her car and drive away. She was so busy concentrating on not leaving she jumped visibly when the door opened.
“Catherine, what a surprise. I never expected you to come in outside of work.” Lady Heather smiled slightly and stepped back, gesturing for Catherine to come inside. “You are here on your off-time, right? There hasn’t been another murder involving one of my girls?”
“No,” Catherine managed to respond. The single word answer was husky and tight. She hadn’t been this nervous before her first night on the stage. She saw an eyebrow rise slowly and grimaced at Lady Heather. “I, um, wanted to talk to you…professionally.”
Surprise flickered in the green eyes before Lady Heather’s usual cool arrogance reasserted itself. “Of course. Did you want to try out one of our playrooms? Or did you have something else in mind?”
Catherine’s skin burned. She was sure the blush was visible even in the dim lighting. “Look, I’m not here for a little slap and tickle,” she snapped. Anger helped push her nerves away. “I just need some advice.”
“Forgive me, Catherine.” A warm hand brushed Catherine’s arm. “You seemed uneasy and with the mention of seeing me professionally…” Lady Heather shrugged. “I’m afraid I jumped to conclusions.” She smiled fully, the Domme disappearing with the expression. “Can I offer you some tea? There are even some scones left if you’re hungry.”
The change in Heather helped Catherine regain her composure. “Just some water, thanks. Sorry for losing it. I’ve been a little stressed lately.”
“No problem. I understand completely.” Heather led them to an ornately appointed sitting room. While Catherine examined the furnishings and personal items, her hostess pulled a velvet rope dangling from the ceiling. A mellow chime sounded deep in the interior of the large house. Seconds later, a handsome man in full butler regalia bowed at the door.
“My Lady?” His voice carried a hint of the Deep South, not the English bite Catherine had expected.
Heather barely glanced at him. “A water for my guest. My usual.” With another bow, the man disappeared.
Catherine realized her time was up. She couldn’t stall anymore. “Alright. I have this problem with a co-worker.”
Swallowing against a sudden surge of nausea, Catherine watched Sara set her kit on the thick carpet and glance around the room with wide eyes. “Wow. This is…” Sara broke off, grinning.
“Sick, twisted, an affront to decency?” Catherine probed. She held her breath, waiting for an answer.
Sara gave her a questioning look. “Since when did you grow morals?” The words hung in the air. Catherine noted the tide of red rising up Sara’s face. “Sorry, Cath, that just slipped out.” Brown eyes pleaded for understanding and forgiveness.
Not wanting Sara to see just how susceptible she was to that look Catherine frowned fiercely. “Process the scene. I’m going to talk to Lady Heather.”
“Sure. I can do that,” Sara’s mumbled words followed Catherine down the long hallway. She smirked to herself. So far, things were going as planned. Sara’s slip of the tongue added a little authenticity to her game. Rounding a corner, she knocked on the plain wooden door guarding Lady Heather’s inner sanctum. The knock was pro forma. Not waiting for an answer, Catherine turned the knob and stepped inside.
“Catherine.” Lady Heather smiled from her seat behind a small table. Grissom sat next to her, the remains of breakfast on his plate. “Everything alright? Do you need help?”
Catherine shook her head. “No. So far so good. Sara’s busy processing.”
Lady Heather smirked. “Is she dedicated and focused, your Sara?”
“Very.” Catherine shared an understanding look with the Domme.
“That’s not always a bad thing.” The cool voice was edged with laughter. “You just need to teach the sub a better place for all that hard work.” Lady Heather stroked Grissom’s hand. “Isn’t that right, Gil?”
Clearing his throat, Grissom fiddled with his glasses.
She winked at Catherine and took a sip from her cup. “I’m afraid Gil’s upset with you, Catherine. He thought he had a chance with your Sara.”
“Really?” Catherine had known that. It was just fun to watch her boss grind his teeth, and glare impotently at her. “It would never have happened. Sara’s too smart for that.” She paused, smiling wryly. “Well, maybe not. Her taste in men is almost as bad as mine.”
Glancing at her watch, Catherine stood. “I just wanted to thank you again for setting up the scene for me. I know it was a little more involved than your usual.”
“Oh, it was no trouble.” Lady Heather stood and came around the table. “Gil provided the technical support. Too bad he forgot his manners when I told him it was for you and Sara.” She wrapped an arm around Catherine’s waist and walked her back to the door. “Remember, Catherine. It’s all in the attitude. Be strong. Be confident. Most of all: be what she wants and needs.”
Smiling wryly, Catherine stepped back into the hallway. “Good advice. The question in…can I do that?”
An eyebrow climbed toward Lady Heather’s hairline. “What was rule number two, Catherine?”
“Be confident.” Catherine locked her doubts away and stood straight. “Thanks again, Lady Heather.” The door closed with a soft thud. “Be confident. Be confident.” Repeating the phrase over and over, Catherine marched back to the ‘crime scene.’
Sara was huddled on the floor, plucking at the carpet with tweezers. Taking a moment to admire the sight of Sara’s jeans-clad ass, Catherine leaned against the doorjamb. “Find anything?” she called out. She knew the answer already. After all, she’d been the one to design the ‘murder.’
“Some strange looking fibers.” Sara sat back on her heels and looked over her shoulder. “What about you? Anything from the Lady of the House?”
Catherine merely shrugged, moving closer. “Not really. She’s a cool customer. Gil’s with her now. Maybe he’ll have better luck.” Or not. Catherine hid a grin, remembering his stiff posture and silence when she’d been talking with the Domme. He hadn’t looked at all lucky. Moving on with her plan, Catherine snapped on a pair of latex gloves and peered around the room.
“I get the feeling we’re missing something,” she remarked. Although she pretended to scan the scene, her attention was focused on Sara’s reaction.
Nodding, Sara stood up and moved closer to Catherine. “I agree. I can’t track the progression of the crime. Did the perp tie the victim up first? Then do the deed? Or was the stage set after the murder?”
This was going to be too easy.
“I don’t know.” Catherine bent over and looked at a picture of the victim lying on the floor. “What’s even harder to understand is: why aren’t there any defensive wounds? Who lets their killer tie them up and strangle them, all without a single defensive wound?” She dangled the bait, waiting to see if Sara would bite.
Sara crossed her arms over her chest and spun around slowly. “You want to run it?” There it went - hook, line, and sinker.
“Sure.” Taking Sara by the arm, she led her to the doorway. “Let’s do it right, though. From the top.”
Although Sara looked surprised by Catherine’s quick start, she nodded. “So I bring you here because-“
“No.” Catherine interrupted. “The victim was brunette, about your size. Let’s change roles.” She mentally laughed at the slight flush crawling up Sara’s neck. “I bring you here to play. We’ve met before, work together, in fact.” Catherine moved behind Sara, a hand resting in the small of her back. “Are you nervous?” she asked, not making it clear if she meant Sara the investigator or Sara the victim.
Sara cleared her throat. “Yeah, a little.” Her voice shook slightly.
“Don’t be. We know each other really well, even if this is our first time here.” Using light pressure, she guided Sara across the room. They stopped at the foot of a massive four poster bed covered in rich mahogany silk. “We’re exploring. So…” Catherine stroked a finger over Sara’s neck, eyes drifting partially closed at just being able to touch the other woman. “Kneel.”
“What?” Sara stiffened, and Catherine gripped her shoulder.
Pressing down, Catherine repeated, “Kneel. I’d have you kneel here, eyes on the bed. The bed where I’d make you mine.” Through continued pressure, she finally got Sara on her knees. “Hmmm, something’s not right.” She broke the scene deliberately, sensing Sara was about to panic. “Maybe…” Catherine stepped to Sara’s right and looked down. “It’s the position. Why don’t you rest on your heels? Maybe put your hands behind you, right hand on top of the left, palms up?”
She got a mocking smile in response. “You seem to know a lot about this, Cath. There something you want to tell me?”
Catherine laughed. “Honey, I learned a long time ago, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. A lot of the men I met when I danced ate this stuff up. Tips were better if you could play a part.”
Sara shook her head, relaxing. “Guess I never thought of that. OK, how did you want me again?”
It took a minute for Catherine to clear the sexual haze from her mind at Sara’s innocent question. When she finally answered, her voice was deeper than normal. “Kneeling, hands behind your back.”
“Oh, yeah.” Sara took the position Catherine had described.
Sweat broke out all over Catherine’s body at the sight. Stick to the plan, she cautioned herself. “You stay there. I’ll go and grab a few items from the toy chest.” She strode quickly across the room, opening the ornate armoire against the far wall. Raising her voice so Sara could hear her, she continued, “Since it’s our first time, I wouldn’t pull anything too heavy. For tonight, just some rope, a paddle…” Catherine paused, fingers gliding over the various instruments inside. “A nice cherrywood paddle, I think. And then, something to make you feel good after your spanking.” A harness and dildo joined the items in her hands.
“You really think this is how it happened?” Sara had broken position. She now sat on the floor, watching Catherine’s return. Her eyes widened, the irises darkening when she saw the tools of the trade Catherine carried. “Wow! That’s…that’s big, Cath. There is no way you are using that on me.”
“Sara,” Catherine reminded her coworker, “we’re just calling the scene, remember?” For now she finished internally. By the time this charade was over, Catherine intended for at least a part of the scene to be real.
Sara grinned sheepishly. “Yeah.” Ducking her head, she rubbed the back of her neck. “Got a little carried away when I saw that monster.”
Smirking, Catherine dumped her items on the bed. “Where should you be?” She injected a hint of command into the words, smiling in satisfaction when Sara immediately resumed kneeling.
“Sorry. I’ll get the hang of this yet,” Sara announced.
“That’s why we came here.” Catherine was adlibbing now. It wasn’t about the fake crime scene anymore. She wanted to feel Sara out, tailor the next few minutes to her needs.
Sara nodded. “Right. Um…what do I want?”
She sounded very young and nervous again. Hoping this was the real Sara and not the pretend victim, Catherine ordered, “I can’t tell you that. You have to tell me.” Her voice was soft but firm. She was in control of the scene. Sara just had to tell her where to direct her energies.
Moving to where Sara knelt, stiff and uncooperative, Catherine went down on one knee. Her breasts pressed into the brunette’s right arm and shoulder, her lips centimeters from Sara’s ear. “This is where things get complicated, Sara. If the sub doesn’t know what she wants, how does the Domme know the best way to care for her needs?” She made sure to keep her voice low, beguiling, and let her breath warm Sara’s ear.
Goosebumps erupted on Sara’s arm. Catherine felt the flesh pebble. “Yeah,” Sara choked out. “That…” she coughed, “that would certainly throw a spanner in the works.”
Rolling her eyes, Catherine wondered if Sara talked like a science nerd even in bed. “You could say that.” She let the mood shift a little, then brought them back on topic. “What do you like, Sara? Should I simply take you? Hard and fast?” Catherine saw Sara’s eyes flicker to the bed, locking onto the faux phallus. “Or would you prefer a little warm up first? Want to bend over the bed and let me add a few marks with the paddle?”
“Cath!” Sara’s eyes dropped closed. A flush colored her neck and cheeks.
Because she was so close, Catherine could see the sweat gathering at the nape of Sara’s neck. Sara’s breath sounded ragged, labored. Biting back a grin, Catherine slowly pulled away. The scene required patience. Touching Sara was not the way to manage that. It was time for Sara to make some choices. Pushing a little harder, Catherine ordered, “Tell me what you want, Sara.”
A frantic headshake was her only answer.
“Fine,” Catherine nearly purred. “We’ll do this the hard way.” Standing, she gripped Sara’s shoulder. “Get up.”
The brunette was stiff with anger, but she rose. “Cath-“
Catherine snapped her hand up, cutting off the protest. “Finish the scene.” They locked eyes, fighting for control. Catherine’s hands clenched at her sides, all her muscles tensed. She couldn’t lose this battle. Finally, when she thought she might scream from the silent struggle, Sara dropped her eyes. Catherine slumped forward, body trembling. Relief made her dizzy for a minute.
Pulling herself together, she picked up the scene. “Bend over, chest resting on the bed, hands behind your back.” Satisfaction and desire snaked through her when Sara did as directed. She picked up a length of velvet rope. Time to get back on track with the plan. Catherine looped the soft and supple cord around Sara’s wrists, murmuring, “Do you know why I’m using velvet, Sara?”
Sara seemed to be having trouble talking. It took three tries before a she got out a husky, “No.”
“No rope burns.” Letting that bit of information work its way through Sara’s brain, Catherine finished binding the other woman. With shaking hands, Catherine caressed Sara through her jeans. “So beautiful.” The words slipped out before she could censor them. Stepping back, Catherine gripped the paddle firmly in her right hand. She could do this.
As her hand rose, Sara turned her head. The brown eyes were wide. Catherine froze. “You set this up!”
Busted. It didn’t even matter how Sara had figured it out. Catherine lowered her arm and tossed the wood back onto the bed. “Yeah. Every last detail.” She was suddenly cold. So close. She’d been so close to getting Sara where she wanted her. “Let me untie you,” she said flatly.
“Why?” A tiny smirk crept across Sara’s face. “You were doing so well at figuring out what I wanted.”