Takeover: A Private Merger

Note: This ~8500 word vignette takes place directly after the events in Takeover. It serves a bit as an epilogue to that book.

aprivatemerger

TAKEOVER: A PRIVATE MERGER
by Anna Zabo

Sam couldn’t eat another bite of flourless chocolate cake. Thankfully, he and Michael had opted to share, so there wasn’t much left. They sat too damn close together in the cafe, touching, holding hands, laughing, and smiling.

It was bliss. Pure heaven. He’d stepped out of the closet and into Michael’s arms, damn all the trouble that would cause. He’d deal with that later. “I wish I’d met you years ago.”

Michael squeezed his hand. “I was messed up in the head back then. We wouldn’t have done well.”

From the little he knew of Michael’s past with Four Rivers and his ex Rasheed, if he’d met Michael before now, he’d have been stepping into a minefield of broken hearts and promises. Exactly the worst time to meet. “I suppose I regret living like I’ve been.” Running from company to company. Hiding. Always hiding his sexuality to keep his business contacts intact, even as the world changed around him. The higher you got in business, the more conservative the values.

Michael nodded. “I understand.”

They were interrupted by the waiter bringing the check. Sam snatched the billfold before Michael could, dropped his credit card inside, and handed it back to the waiter. “My treat.”

“I could’ve expensed it.”

A trace of cold ran down Sam’s spine. “No. Not this dinner.” Not a date between them. They were nominally boss and employee, though that would change very soon.

Michael colored and nodded. He must have realized that paying on the company dime wasn’t the best idea. “What will happen when we get back to Pittsburgh?”

Thank goodness the waiter brought back the receipt. Tipping and signing gave Sam enough time to think of an answer to that question. “Well, I’ll pack my office and what little I have in the apartment, since that vanishes with the job. I’ll find another place to live…then I guess we’ll figure out the rest.”

Those dark eyes studied him. “If you’re not averse to the idea, you could—” The ringing of Michael’s phone cut him off. He snatched it up.

Just as well, since the thought of living with Michael stole all of Sam’s breath. He wanted that, but feared it. He hadn’t lived with anyone—well ever. Not since his freshman year of college in Boston.

“Hello?” Michael spoke into the phone. “Gretchen?” He glanced at Sam. “Drinks? When?” Conflict played across his features.

Sam relaxed. Good. Sundra was pulling Michael into the team. He laid his hand on Michael’s wrist and spoke low. “Say yes.”

Michael furrowed his brow, but nodded. “Yes, I’ll be there. Thanks.” He finished and set the phone down. “The top management is having drinks at a bar a couple blocks from the hotel. They’ve invited me to join them.”

“Thought it was something like that, which is exactly why you should go.”

There was hesitation and wonder in Michael’s whole being. “They’re really courting me to stay on, aren’t they?”

Sam snorted. “Michael, you built Four Rivers and kept it together for years, at a cost to yourself. You’re a tremendous engineer and a valuable asset. They’d be fools not to keep you.” Made absolute business sense. Sam nodded toward the door. “Shall we?”

They rose and headed out into the muggy, packed streets of New Orleans.

“I was hoping to have a nice long night with you.” Michael pressed a hand to the small of Sam’s back and lightning shot through every vein. He’d left his suit jacket back at the hotel and Michael’s touch burned through his dress shirt. It was a wonder he didn’t burst into flames.

“We’ll have time later,” Sam replied. Hours and days and weeks. Perhaps a lifetime, if all went well. “I’m not leaving.” Not anymore.

Michael stroked his thumb against Sam’s back and his smile said everything.

Oh yes, he wanted to spend the evening with Michael, preferably naked and screaming, Or maybe crying. Whichever Michael preferred. But they both couldn’t drop their careers just because they’d fallen in love. His was in shambles. Out of a job, out of the closet, but hardly out of choices.

Sometimes you needed to change the game to play it.

“You’re thinking again,” Michael murmured.

“Always.” Except when Michael made him soar, made him forget the world in a haze of pleasure and pain. “I have so much work to do if I’m going to start a consulting firm. Find the right people to work with. And then there’s the situation with William.” Sam had no doubt William would make it known that Sam was gay and had been fucking an employee, especially once William figured out who dropped the financial information into Sundra’s lap.

“William’s done.” Michael waved a hand. “He can’t touch you.”

“I wish that were true.” They stopped at a curb to wait for the light. The hotel loomed nearby, as did Michael’s drink date. “He and I know many of the same people. Run in the same circles.” In fact, there was one phone call he needed to make soon, before William did.

“He’s going to get nailed for the financial shenanigans.” There was hesitation in Michael’s voice. “Isn’t he?”

“Depends on how much they have and what it means.” So hard to catch people like William. Might not be worth it for Sundra to delve into. God, he hoped he’d given them enough.

The flick of Michael’s thumb on his back was both calming and exhilarating. Sam could barely walk straight when the light turned green. “You’ll come out on top, I’m sure.” Michael’s tone changed to one of finality. “People know you. Doesn’t matter who you’re sleeping with.”

Another thing Sam wished were true, but the world had changed. Maybe Michael was right.

When they reached the hotel, Sam faced Michael and looked up into those brown eyes. “While you’re off getting to know your new team, I’ll let my colleague in Boston know I’m turning down his offer.”

Michael reached out and straightened Sam’s tie. The tugging and tightness around Sam’s neck sent a sharp bolt of lust straight to his balls. “I’ll text you before I return.” Michael spoke softly. “When I get back, I want you kneeling on the floor of my room, wearing only this.” He gave the tie a subtle pull, then stepped back. “See you in a couple of hours.”

No kiss, but that was fine, since Michael’s touch and his words set every part of Sam alight. So much so that he wanted to run up to Michael’s room, strip and kneel right then. “I—yes.” He was so fucking hard.

Michael’s smile was wicked, he winked and headed off down the street.

God, that man. It was a very very good thing they wouldn’t be working together much longer. He liked being under Michael a hell of a lot more than being above him.

When Sam could breathe again, he entered the hotel and headed up to his room. He keyed himself in and tossed the card on the bed. Jacking himself off was tempting, but Michael liked him on edge, and to be honest he loved that too. He did loosen his tie. If he were going to call Fabian, he needed breathing room.

He stared at Fabian’s contact information on his phone, then tapped connect. Three rings and there was Fabian’s gritty voice saying his name.

“Fabian, it’s—Randell.” He almost said Sam. Another thing he’d change going forward. Sam fit him. Sam was him. “I know it’s outside business hours…”

“Never a problem with you, Randy, you know that.”

Such friendliness in his voice. Sam sat on the bed, heart in his throat.

Fabian continued. “Calling to tell me you’re signing that contract?”

“I—No. I’m sorry, I’m not.” Despite everything, he felt sadness there. It would’ve been an exciting job. A good fit, had he wanted to continue running.

“Ah, damn. Got a better offer from someone? We can renegotiate…” There was Fabian, the business man.

“No,” Sam spoke with care. “I’m changing directions. Staying in Pittsburgh and starting my own consulting firm.”

A creak from the other end. Maybe a chair? Hard to tell. “In Pittsburgh?” A cough. “I understand wanting to settle down, but why there?”

“Life got complicated.” Sam’s chuckle was bitter. “Then William tried to blackmail me.”

The silence stretched and Sam shifted. After that line, a whole host of questions could pour from Fabian. Finally, the other man spoke. “Does he have something on you?”

The truth stung. “Yeah, he does. I fell into a relationship with one of the Four River’s employees. We kept it quiet, but…”

“Not quiet enough, eh?” Sympathy there. “You aren’t the first, Randy.”

“Oh, I know.” Several others in their circle had wound up in compromising situations. At least Sam was single.

A grunt. “So you’re staying in Pittsburgh for her? Hope she’s worth it.”

Sam tensed and this time, he was the one lengthening the silence. Finally, he croaked out a single word. “He.”

An intake of breath on the other end, but nothing more.

God, his throat was dry. He spoke anyway, each word rough and jagged. “He. And yes, he is. Enough to stop running from job to job. Enough to stop hiding.” He swallowed, trying to find some moisture to wet his throat. “I know you’re not particularly fond of…gay…queer…people, but you’ve been kind to me. I wanted you to hear this from me, not William.”

“Randy—”

Sam kept going because his heart wouldn’t stop slamming against his chest. “I gave Sundra all I had on William. The financial irregularities. Everything. Once William figures that out…” Sam spit out a harsh laugh. “We’ll see how many contacts I have left to start a business.”

“Randy—”

“I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear.”

A long pause from the other end, then quiet words. “Are you going to let me talk this time?”

“I—sorry. Yes.” God, this was hard. Waiting. Listening for inevitable rejection. Or the condescension.

“You’re telling me that what William has on you is that your gay and you slept with an employee?”

“Yeah. He wanted me to sing his praises to Sundra or he’d tell all to everyone.” Would still tell, regardless. Sam was sure of that.

A laugh. “So, you didn’t play his game? You gave Sundra the dirt you had on him, and came clean?”

His skin itched. “Yeah. I can’t see all of what William did, but it looks like a Ponzi type thing.” He paused. “And yes, I told Sundra why William was blackmailing me.”

“Good thinking.”

Sam didn’t know what was going through Fabian’s head, but damn he was going to need a drink after this call.

“The man you’re with, what’s his role at Four Rivers?” Curiosity there.

“He’s the head of their QA department, and was instrumental in founding the company.”

“So, a direct report to you.”

“We met in Curaçao. Neither of us knew where the other worked until I walked into the all-hands meeting when I arrived in Pittsburgh.”

Fabian coughed. “That must have been a shock.”

“You have no idea.” Sam rolled his shoulders as tension leaked away. Fabian hadn’t hung up in disgust and the conversation was remarkably…friendly.

“What does Sundra think of him?”

“They’re grooming him to lead the office there—since he’s more or less been doing that for years.”

“No repercussions, then?”

“Other than outing myself, no.” It was damn lucky for both him and Michael. “To be honest, it’s a relief not to be living a lie, even if I do stand to lose a host of friends and contacts.”

When Fabian spoke again, his voice was unusually soft. “My nephew Derrick graduated from high school last year. Got into MIT, but even with scholarships and financial aid, he wasn’t going to be able to afford it. My sister and brother-in-law do fine, but college is so expensive now.”

The itching under his skin grew. He didn’t know where Fabian was going with this story, but Fabian never spoke without a reason. “It is, yes.”

“I offered to pay some of it. Keep the kid out of debt, you know? Those loans are poison.” He paused. “Gave him a big check at his graduation party and everything. Not for the whole amount, of course, but enough to start.”

“That’s really kind of you.”

“He’s a great kid. Smart. Well-behaved. Gets good grades.” Fabian sighed. “The day after, Derrick stopped by my place and gave me the check back.”

Oh. Oh. Tightness in his chest.

“You were right, Randy. I didn’t care for gay people. Said hurtful things.” Sadness in Fabian’s voice. “Derrick…my nephew…a kid I love like my own kids…he stood in my entryway, shaking like a leaf and told me he was gay. Said he couldn’t accept my check, since he was one of ‘those people’ I always went on about and couldn’t live that lie, not even to go to MIT.”

So many emotions. Pride. Anger. Relief. “It’s different when it’s someone you love, isn’t it?” Sam said. Sharp words, but maybe Fabian needed to hear them.

“It is. And it made me face things about myself. Reflect on who I really was. How much hate was in me. I didn’t like what I saw.” Another squeak over the line—definitely a chair. “I apologize for the things I said, Randy. They were unconscionable. I know that now. When you get your firm set up, contact me. You’re one of the best. I’ll do what I can to scare up business for you.”

Not at all how he expected this phone call to go. “Thank you for telling me that, Fabian.”

“It’s truly the least I can do.”

His turn to probe. “What happened with your nephew?”

Fabian took a deep breath. “We talked for a very long time, and in the end I apologized for hurting him so deeply and I promised to do better. He’s a sophomore at MIT and doing great.”

Fabian was putting his apology to work. That was a start, just like his offer for contacts.

“I think you’ll find you have many more allies than William,” Fabian said. “You’re right that some of the circle will drop you, but let me ask you this, Randy. Would you want to work with those fools?”

That was a formidable point. “No.” He had options. Could pick and choose clients. Sam ran a hand through his hair. “I wouldn’t want to work with anyone unwilling to work with me.”

A chuckle. “There will be plenty of people willing to work with you. Build a stunning team and the contracts will come. I’d lay money on it.”

Normally, he’d take that bet, but not when he was sitting on top of improper financial dealings, even if they were Williams. “Well, you’ve set my mind at ease.”

“Good.”

They finished the conversation and Sam stared at his phone, a giddy stream of euphoria racing through him. Of all the people. If Fabian remained a contact, then this ridiculous consulting idea might work.

He needed that drink, though. A quick check of the time told him he could grab something from the hotel bar before Michael called.

He needed Michael more than anything else. His touch, his orders, his passion and love.

This is real. This is happening.

He was changing his life.

✵✵✵✵✵

The bar wasn’t that crowded—probably due to the proximity of the French Quarter outside its doors. Still, it housed a few convention-goers not willing to brave the streets. Sam ordered a gin and tonic. There’d be enough alcohol to calm his nerves, but not enough to go to his head even if the bar poured heavy.

When the drink appeared, he took a careful sip, and the pour was heavy, but came with a generous helping of ice. If he nursed the drink, he’d be fine.

“Randy.” Anger, deep anger, wrapped the enunciation of the name Sam wanted to shed.

The voice and the hatred belonged to William. Sam’s breath caught and he rotated to find William seething behind him.

“Where’s your fuck buddy, Mike?” William’s voice was loud enough to turn heads.

For the first time since college, Sam didn’t care that he was being outed. He picked up his drink and stared at William. “He’s off having cocktails with the executive staff of Sundra Networks.”

That wasn’t the answer William had been expecting. He started and fear twisted his features. “But I thought— What did you do? What did you tell them?”

Sam sipped his drink and was glad for the gin. “I told them the truth, William. All of it.”

Such an angry, ruddy face. “So they approve of you fucking an employee?”

“Of course they don’t, and I don’t blame them.” Sam shrugged. “But we didn’t break any actual policies and he’s not my employee anymore.” He swallowed another mouthful of gin and tonic. “And I’m the one being fucked, if you must know the details.”

William gaped like a fish.

Sam gave another shrug. “I don’t like being blackmailed, William. If it means the world finally learning I’m gay and I like taking it in the ass, well—you’re welcome to shout it from the rooftops.” Yeah, definitely the gin talking.

An edge of fear crept into William’s expression. “You know something.”

“I know many things, Billy,” Sam said. “I’ve been in this game as long as you have.” He drank the rest of his gin and tonic and set the glass down. “But as long as you’ve been on the up and up with your business dealings, I couldn’t possibly have anything on you, right?”

One horrifying moment later, William was in his face, hands grabbing at the fabric of Sam’s shirt. “You fucking fag!”

Sam fell back and struck the bar edge, lancing pain up his back—both from the impact and from the bruises still left from Michael’s flogging. His curse was loud, but was drowned out by the bartender. “Hey! Get that guy off him!”

Someone steadied Sam and someone else—security—grabbed William. But only for a moment. A twist and a shove and William was heading for him again.

Fucking asshole didn’t know when to stop.

All the rage and anger and too many years of pandering to people like William rushed into Sam and his fist connected with William’s face. Fire flared against Sam’s knuckles, but the crunch that sent William staggering back into the security guard’s arms felt glorious.

God, that was wonderful. Except for the throbbing in his fingers, Sam felt alive and light. He shook out his hand and opened and closed his fist. Nothing broken.

More security arrived, but William stood in the grip of the first guard, looking down at the rug like he didn’t quite know what had hit him. There was blood on his lip.

He’d done that. Hit William. No blood on the back of his hand, but he’d be bruised there. Already, his knuckles were red. No way to hide that from Michael.

“Are you all right, sir?” That from one of the guards.

“Yes.” He took a breath and met William’s gaze. “No harm done.”

For his part, William was pale and shaking. “I don’t suppose there’s a way we can settle this without paperwork?”

One of the guards rolled his eyes—but also looked like he wasn’t about to enjoy the incident report or the potential for calling the police. “Sir?”

Sam was tempted to say no, dial 911, sit in some office somewhere, and detail every last second of that exchange, but he’d gotten what he’d wanted. More than that. “If he gets out of my face and stays out of my face—I’m satisfied.”

“Want to get back to your boyfriend?” Venom in William’s voice.

“God, will you give it a rest?” The words poured out of Sam. “Jesus, if you weren’t such a pig with women, I’d think you were jealous.”

William didn’t say a damn thing. The guard who’d spoken raised an eyebrow.

Sam waved the look away. Maybe William was jealous, who knew? Sam didn’t care. “You know, Michael’s twice the businessman you are, William.” He turned back to the bar and nodded at the bartender. “I’d like to settle up.”

“On the house,” she said. “He’s been trouble all weekend.”

When he turned around, William was still there. So were the guards. “Do you need me for anything?” he asked the guard who’d spoken earlier.

“If you’re fine, sir—”

“I am.”

The guard pulled William away from the bar. “You should head back to your room.”

William let himself be led away, but not before he threw more words at Sam. “If Mike really was twice the man as me, he wouldn’t be where he is now.”

“You mean out having drinks with the top executives at Sundra while you pick a bar fight?”

William glowered, but the guard pulled him away.

Once out of sight, Sam sank down onto the bar stool. He doubted that would be the end—this little incident would only encourage William. “Fuck.” There’d be months and months more of this before William—and his shady dealings—were behind him.

“Excuse me.” A woman’s voice shook Sam from his musings.

He took her in—short red hair and multiple ear piercings. Surprisingly, they worked well with her stunning blue suit. He’d never seen her before and if she had a conference badge, she wasn’t wearing it now. “Yes?”

“Are you S. Randell Anderson?”

He let out a huff of a laugh. “I am. Please call me Sam.” It was a start. One person at a time.

She held out her hand. “Alexa Brown. I’m with TelCom Today.”

Oh hell. A journalist. He shook hands with her anyway. “I suppose I gave you a huge amount of fodder.”

She snorted. “We’re not a rag sheet, so no, you didn’t. I’m working on an article about women and other minorities in the industry.”

Sam was glad to be sitting, because the realization hit him hard. Gay. Minority. He let out a breath. Things would change and not everyone would be like Fabian. “I—I don’t…”

She perched on the bar stool next to him and her voice was gentle. “Sounds like you came out recently.”

That was pretty much the heart of it. He scratched the back of his head. “I did, yes.” Today. Jesus. Michael needed to call soon, because Sam was slipping and twisting and falling into panic again.

Whether Ms. Brown noticed, Sam didn’t know. But her smile was kind. “I’d love to hear your thoughts about that, when you’re ready.” She pulled a business card out of her blazer pocket.

Sam took it, studied it, and flipped it over in his hand. “I’m not ready yet.” Everything was raw and new and ached. He’d done this before—been out—but the Sam of his high school and early college years was gone, replaced by someone with far more to lose. Far more to gain, too.

Her nod was solemn.

He tucked the card into his pocket. “When I am, I’ll contact you.” He stuck out his hand. “Very nice to meet you.”

She took it, and her grip was strong and warm. “Good luck, Sam.”

He rose and took his leave. Time to retreat to Michael’s—their—room and strip off everything from his old life. He wanted nothing more than to start anew.

✵✵✵✵✵

Drinks with Sundra had gone remarkably well. Sam had been right—Michael had needed to rub elbows with his soon-to-be colleagues. He nursed a dark beer the entire time, both to show restraint to the people who would decide the fate of his—and all of the employees at Four Rivers—career and also to stay sharp for what he had planned to do to Sam the moment they were alone.

Which would be very soon, now that they’d all retired from the bar. On their walk back to the convention hotel, Michael texted Sam two words:

Knees. Now.

The power, the shiver, and the desire flooded through him. He tucked away his phone, and fell into step next to Gretchen.

She gave him a quick glance. “How do you think the people in Pittsburgh will react to the buy-out?”

A good question. “Some will fear it at first, and we’ll lose a few employees since Sundra is so big and some prefer the startup life, but after a week or so, I think most people will be glad for it. It’s been a rocky year.”

“And how will they react to you and Randy?”

“Sam.” It came out automatically. Sam was…Sam. At Four Rivers, in Pittsburgh, and on his knees in front of Michael.

The rhythm of Gretchen’s steps faltered. “Sam, then. That’s going to take me a while to get used to. He was Randy for so long.” She picked up her stride again. “I’m guessing no one at Four Rivers knows about you and him?”

“Not that I know of,” Michael said. Wouldn’t take too long for folks to put it all together and figure out Michael had been fucking the boss. “Honestly, I think most won’t care, not when they see the offer Sundra is making. Sam did exactly what he came to Pittsburgh to do.”

A nod. “We’ll watch the situation, then.”

They’d have to.

The air conditioning in the hotel was a welcome treat from the humid hot air of the New Orleans night. Michael said good night to the Sundra executives and headed up to his room, his heart and mind full of Sam.

His Sam, the one none of the others saw, the Sam he’d have when they returned to Pittsburgh. With a quick slide of the keycard, he unlocked the door and opened it. There was the sight he’d been waiting for all evening: Sam on his knees. Naked and hard, wearing only his tie, tight like a collar around his neck.

He’d even clasped his hands behind his back, though he didn’t drop his gaze. Bright blue eyes held Michael’s attention. Still proud, even in the guise of submission.

Michael stopped and admired the view. Damp hair meant Sam had showered. Excellent.

Pity they weren’t back in Pittsburgh. He had only a handful of toys here and nowhere near enough rope. He wanted all of Sam. Every last ounce of his will and determination. Wanted to give Sam the high and freedom he craved. Michael stepped forward and tilted Sam’s chin up. “You were right about the drinks.”

“I know this business.” His reply was breathy.

“So you do.” He ran his thumb over Sam’s jaw. “Pity I can’t flog you again tonight.”

Sam’s breath hitched, but any words were lost when Michael slipped his thumb between Sam’s lips. What came out was a low moan that curled the desire in Michael’s core. Such a perfect sound. Sam sucked and licked as if Michael had given Sam his cock to swallow.

The welts and bruises across Sam’s back were stunning. Had it been earlier in his life, back when he’d been in practice with BDSM, maybe he could have added to them. But too many years had passed since he’d been at his peak as a Dom, and Sam was too new to this. More would only risk injuring Sam.

Luckily, there were other ways to torment a man. He pulled his thumb free of Sam’s delightful mouth and stepped back. “I want you kneeling on the bed, as you are now.” He turned to his tote bag of toys, not bothering to see if Sam would obey.

Sam would. Simple as that. He could order Sam to lick his dress shoes and Sam wouldn’t hesitate if it got him what he wanted. Following orders was its own type of control—one of willpower and desire—and Sam delighted in control.

So, how to break that? Pain managed it, certainly. The sting of hand or crop of flogger eventually broke past that wall. Even then, Sam seemed to be able to hold himself still when given a choice. There was freedom in being able to obey or not.

So, take that away, as he did that first night when he looped a belt around Sam’s wrists.

Michael took out a pair of leather wrist cuffs, lined so they wouldn’t leave marks. They did, however, clip together easily and were extremely hard to wiggle out of. Yes, they would do. He turned back to Sam.

He’d obeyed perfectly, not resting on his heels, but balancing on the bed, his back to Michael. Once more, Sam’s hands were clasped at the small of his back, but this time, his gaze was down, exposing the long line of his neck, broken only by the bright red and blue striped tie. Somehow, the dim light of the room seemed to highlight where Michael had bruised and beaten Sam the day before. Eying the matching bruises and lines tightened Michael’s balls. His marks on the man he wanted to share the rest of his life with. He’d forgotten this part of himself, the feel of the flogger, the pride in bringing his lover to new heights of pain and pleasure and the joy of seeing the aftermath.

It’d been so long.

“Very nice,” he said. “You like this, don’t you?”

“I love this,” Sam whispered. “I love you.”

More fire in his blood, but this ignited bone and marrow and his soul. He stepped close and wrapped his hand around Sam’s throat and pulled backward until Sam lost his balance and the only thing keeping him from tumbling was his head against Michael’s chest. A small sound—the edge of fear—slipped from Sam’s throat and he looked up, eyes wide, his pulse thrumming under Michael’s fingers.

“I adore you.” Michael ached for Sam, had since he sent the text. Having Sam under his hand, that flicker of both fear and trust in his face was intense—he wanted to come right then. Could with just a stroke or two. “I love every moment with you.”

“I have a long way to go before I deserve the man you are.”

Michael tightened his grip. “Don’t you think I should be the judge of that?”

Sam’s pulse quickened and his throat worked beneath Michael’s hand. “I—yes?” Sam’s dick jutted up, hard and tempting, pre-come glittering on the crown.

“Good answer,” Michael whispered. He released Sam’s neck and tipped him forward. “Shoulders on the bed, Sam.”

Sam prostrated himself as ordered and displayed his lovely whipped and bruised ass perfectly. A nice sight, but that’s not what caught Michael’s attention. He took hold of Sam’s right wrist and lifted it gently. The knuckles were purple-red and swollen. “What happened to your hand?”

A muffled grunt. “William’s face.”

Twin emotions of anger and pride erupted in Michael. “You punched William?”

Sam seemed to sink into the mattress. He rolled his head to one side, to speak without mumbling into the bedspread. “Yeah. He came after me. The first time, security pulled him off. The second time—well—I didn’t let him get close enough to do anything.” He filled Michael in on the rest of the story.

Seemed that William had realized things weren’t going his way, the little fucker. Michael was utterly proud of Sam, though. However, the knuckles put a damper on the evening.

“You should ice it.” He let go of Sam’s wrist.

“And you should fuck me.” There was annoyance in Sam’s voice.

Well, if Sam wanted to play it that way, he obviously wasn’t damaged that much. Michael swatted each of Sam’s ass cheeks—hard. Sam’s pained yelp sent lust straight to Michael’s cock. “Maybe. If you behave.”

A hiss and a moan. “I did ice it. Before you arrived.”

“Good.” Despite the pain in Sam’s voice—or rather because of it—Michael spanked him again, just as hard.

This time, Sam cursed and groaned. “I’m sorry,” he panted out.

Michael ghosted his fingers across the raised welts from yesterday—now even more red. “For what?”

A shudder ran through Sam’s beautiful prone body. “For asking you to fuck me.”

Dark desire spread warmth down Michael and he swatted Sam’s ass again, eliciting a pain-filled moan. “You didn’t ask at all.”

Sam’s breath was ragged. “I’m sorry for demanding you fuck me.”

Not yet he wasn’t. “Better.” Sam’s flesh beneath Michael’s fingers radiated heat. “When your ass is in the air for me is probably the worst time to demand anything.”

He squirmed, then whispered the truth. “I don’t want William to ruin this.”

“He won’t.” Michael took Sam’s wrist again. “Wiggle your fingers for me.”

He did, and with ease. “It’s not broken, just sore.” He gave a hiccup of a laugh. “My ass hurts more.”

Oh, how he wished he wasn’t so out of practice with a flogger or that Sam’s back and ass weren’t already beaten. He didn’t know Sam’s limits—and he didn’t know his own any more. There’d be a few calls he’d have make when they got back to Pittsburgh. A rusty Dom could be dangerous and Sam deserved better than that. Hopefully, all the old connections were still there.

Of course, that also meant calling Eli. Which meant explaining to Sam who Eli was. Before Rasheed, there was Eli. After Rasheed—well, he’d fucked up his friendship with E pretty damn well during Rasheed. But Eli remained a phone call away. One Michael very rarely made.

Eli never called him at all.

God, he’d let Rasheed take so much from him, then let so much go himself. He certainly wouldn’t let William take this night from Sam.

Leather on those wrists then. Strip everything from Sam. Michael slipped on one cuff and buckled it tight and then the other. Sam’s breathing shifted, became tighter and faster. Michael clipped the cuffs together and let go. “There.”

A little moan from Sam, but no words. Michael stepped back.

Sam’s ass was ruddy from being spanked. God he loved doing that, his hand against Sam’s tender flesh. They could start there—it would be easy enough not to go too far.

Michael cocked his head. There were also the long lengths of Sam’s trembling thighs. Bare and untouched. Flogging there hurt and Sam had been obstinate and needed a little disciplining. Delight rose in Michael and he adjusted himself in his pants.

“I’m not pleased with your mouth, Sam.” He stroked a welt on Sam’s ass. “I think you need a reminder of who’s in charge when we’re together like this.”

Sam shifted, but kept his lips together. Smart man.

Michael stepped away, took off his watch and cufflinks and stripped off his shirt before returning to his bag of toys. He could use the crop again, but there was another option. He pulled out a small cane—simple acrylic and eighteen inches long. Perfect for travel. Also stung like hell, especially against trembling thighs.

He took a deep breath to keep from moaning. This would be fun, at least for him, though Sam might think otherwise.

Sam was a picture of humility, forehead pressed into the bed spread, ass up, and hands firmly cuffed in leather. Not the most comfortable position, judging by Sam’s breathing. “I know you like control. Crave it.” He brushed the side of the cane against Sam’s left thigh and Sam gasped. “I also know you want that taken from you.” He stroked the other side. “And when we’re here, where you want to be, you damn well will relinquish every bit of power to me.” He cracked the cane quickly against Sam’s thighs, first the right and the left.

Sam jerked his head up, his inhale sharp. “Oh fuck!” Pain deepened his voice.

Michael’s balls ached and a dark fire bit into his blood. He placed a hand against Sam’s back. “Head down.”

Sam’s breathing was ragged and harsh, but he bent.

“Three more, each side.”

A moan from Sam. “Please.”

“Please what?”

A cough of a laugh. “I guess I shouldn’t ask you to be gentle.”

He caressed Sam’s ass, then kissed it. “That was gentle.” He waited until he felt Sam tremble, then laid two more blows to each thigh a little harder this time. Sam’s cry was guttural and part moan. Faint red lines rose where he’d struck.

“You going to give me lip again?”

Sam croaked a laugh. “Probably.”

At least he was truthful. The last two strokes were hard, not anywhere near what Michael could throw, but had enough force to raise a line across each thigh and bring Sam close to tears, judging from his shattered breathing. But his body was relaxed. Pliant. All Michael’s.

He drew a finger over one of the welts. “I’ll have to remember that you like the cane.”

“I don’t,” Sam said, a slur in his voice. “I really really don’t like that thing.”

“Mmmhmm.” Michael pressed his lips to Sam’s ass, and wrapped a hand around Sam’s hard cock. “Like, loathe. Same thing for you.”

A whimper.

“True?” Michael whispered against Sam’s skin.

“True.” A ghost of a word.

He let go of Sam’s dick and slid both palms over Sam’s ass. “Never get tired of this.” Another kiss, then another. A nip, a lick. Over bruises and welts. He spread Sam’s cheeks apart and worked his way inward.

Sam twisted beneath him, shuddering and gasping. “Michael? Michael!” Panic there.

He backed off. Wasn’t a safeword, but something wasn’t right. “Yeah?”

“Please, I…” Embarrassment colored his voice. “You’re not going to…” Sam trailed off.

Now that was interesting! “Never had your ass eaten?”

Oh, the squirm and the whisper. “No.” His whole body was red, and not from the beating.

He kissed close to Sam’s hole and delighted in the gasp and the wiggle. “You know how to make me stop.”

“You’re a fucking…”

Michael tongued Sam’s hole and the next word was lost in an intelligible cry that ended in a moan so heavenly, Michael couldn’t help palm his own straining cock, still covered in his dress slacks.

Sam’s breathing turned into a litany of groans and whimpers and curses. He loved that sound—Sam being turned inside out.

He didn’t let up licking and sucking Sam’s hole until the timber of his moans changed. “God.” Sam’s words were mostly air. “I wanna come so bad.”

Good thing Sam’s hands were nice and restrained. Even as he twisted in the leather, they held fast. Michael couldn’t wait to see him hung up on a rack or draped over a horse.

“You like that?” He didn’t give Sam time to answer before he tongued his hole and pushed inside.

Sam’s answer were the words Oh, Fuck, and God, repeated over and over, like beads on a string. So very nice. Such a simple, pleasurable way to take every bit of Sam’s self-control away.

“I want to hear you beg, Sam.”

A choked sob. “Please.”

“That’s not even close to begging.”

“Fuck, Michael, I can’t!” Tears drenched Sam’s voice. No doubt if Michael looked, he’d see mortification on a wet face.

So, rimming both turned Sam on and utterly shamed him. Things like that were gold. Only one thing to do, really…

“Sam.” Just his name, but laced with every ounce of disappointment Michael could muster.

That had almost the same effect as the cane. A deep inhale, then a moan. “I—Michael—Please.”

“I’m waiting.”

Sam pressed his head into the mattress and shook. “Fine.” Pain and tears there. “I want you to eat my ass.” It was a whisper, but his voice grew bolder. “I want you to lick my hole. Fuck me with your tongue until I can’t see straight. Please—” Desperation in Sam’s voice. “God, I fucking love it.” The next sound was a sob. “Please, Michael.”

Poor Sam. He was going to get everything he’d begged for. Michael redoubled his efforts until Sam was a shaking moaning mess on the bed. Michael almost expected Sam to come from the rim job, but he didn’t.

Michael nearly did though, from the timber of Sam’s cries. Finally, the need to be buried deep inside Sam overrode the desire to turn him inside out solely with his mouth. He stumbled back from the bed and shed the rest of his clothes. Didn’t take long to get a condom and lube on. Sam was so pliant, he slid right in, balls deep, and they both moaned. God, he needed Sam. Wanted to give him every ounce of pleasure he could. Take away everything, then return it tenfold. Michael pulled back and thrust in again.

No more words. They didn’t need them. Sam’s cries and hungry moans, the way he met Michael’s every stroke, spoke for him. Take me. Use me. Give me what I want. So Michael did, fucking him hard and fast, stroking him off until Sam was coming and cursing and yelling Michael’s name. His own orgasm, that blinding piece of pain and bliss, stole his breath and his heart, and he thrust into Sam until the world came back into focus.

Collapsing on Sam wasn’t an option, but Michael’s arms and legs were barely holding him up. He pulled out of Sam, breathless and dizzy and fought against both. Sam had melted against the bed, but in a position that couldn’t be comfortable at all. “Let me get the cuffs off.”

Sam shook both arms. “Just—free them?” A dusty voice.

What Michael could see of Sam’s face was a mess of tears and bliss. He’d done that. Again. Warmth flooded through him, and he unclipped the cuffs from each other, ditched the condom, then sat down next to Sam on the bed.

Sam pulled his arms up and laid his head on his hands. “Like the leather.” Sleepy words.

“Looks good on you.” Beautiful. He wanted to wrap Sam in leather. Or rope. Not all the time—but when they needed it. When Sam wanted it.

“Have matching ones at home?” Sam lifted his ankles and wiggled his feet.

“I have matching ones in the bag. But no rope or spreader bar.”

An inhale. Sam rolled on his side and peered up at Michael. “Spreader bar?” Excitement in his wrung out face and frame.

This man had no limits. Michael stroked Sam’s cheeks. “Keeps your legs apart.”

“Mmm.” Sam pressed into Michael’s hand. “I think I have a lot to learn.”

They both did. Now they had a chance to do that—together.

“Let’s get some sleep. We can talk about it in the morning.”

Sam nodded, eyes closed.

Michael stripped the bedspread and gently untied Sam’s tie. Both were wet with Sam’s semen. He tossed them aside, and helped Sam under the sheets. No way Sam was moving any farther than that. He was practically passed out, even now.

Michael took a quick trip to the bathroom to wash his hands, face, and brush his teeth—then he crawled into bed.

He still couldn’t quite believe he had Sam, but there he was, snoring softly on the pillow next to his.

Perfect.

✵✵✵✵✵

When Sam woke the next morning, every bit of him ached in glorious ways. He hadn’t been this well-fucked in… Well, never. Not like this. Some part of him wondered if he should feel remorse for liking the pain, for enjoying and craving being bound and spanked and flogged. He didn’t. It seemed as natural as every other part of him—something that was him.

It was Michael who had unlocked it, those months ago in Curaçao—Michael who slept next to him now. He rolled onto his side and found Michael wasn’t asleep at all. “Been awake long?”

A sleepy, but bright smile. “Not too long. Just laying here thinking I have to be the luckiest man alive.”

Warmth flooded through Sam. “Ditto.”

“Come here.” Michael opened his arms and Sam scooted over into them and pressed his lips against Michael’s neck.

The brush of hands against his ass sent a spark of pain and memory racing through Sam. Michael’s hand slapping his flesh. Whatever the hell Michael has used on his thighs. The rim job.

God, the rim job. He whimpered into Michael’s flesh.

A deep chuckle. “Did you enjoy last night?”

“Oh hell, yes.” Eyes closed, he breathed in Michael and the vague scent of sex and starch from the hotel sheets.

“Everything?” Amusement in Michael’s voice.

He knew what Michael was asking. “Yes.” A whisper. That was all he could manage.

Michael stroked his hair. “Tell me.”

It was a command, even though it was gently given. Sam gave in to it. “I’ve never been rimmed before. It’s not something that I ever thought I wanted.” Now he both desired and feared it—mostly because it cracked his brain open and he lost everything to a different pleasure than pain brought.

“And?”

Sam snorted. Typical Michael. Digging for more. “It’s…intimate. I mean, fucking is one thing, but your mouth on my asshole is…really beyond that.” He paused. “You trust me. A lot.”

“Likewise—since you let me beat you.” Michael cupped the back of Sam’s neck, his hand warm and firm. “There’s quite a bit that could go wrong with that.”

“I loved everything last night.” He shifted and winced. “Well, except for the part with William.” Even in the diffused light peaking in from behind the curtains, his knuckles looked swollen. Could move his fingers, though.

His wrists were still encircled in the leather cuffs Michael had buckled onto him. He’d lost the tie afterward—and probably would have to trash it, as it and the bedspread ended up absorbing all of his load when he’d come.

Michael caught one of the loops on the cuff. “I like seeing these on you.”

Desire pooled deep in Sam. “I like them on me.” At least here in bed with Michael.

“I’m going to guess a collar is out, though.” He let go of the loop.

Sam considered it. “I don’t know, to be honest.” He didn’t mind the tie, but then he wore those all the time. “I don’t want to be your sex slave.”

Michael laughed and propped himself up on his elbow. “I don’t want that either. I meant what I said. I don’t want to run your life.”

Just make him fly. He’d flown so very high last night, all of his barriers stripped. Pleasure he hadn’t expected. And the pain, the glorious pain. “Good.” He paused. “Maybe a collar. We’ll see.”

Warm fingers stroked his neck. “I love you.” Michael’s voice was unexpectedly soft. “Whatever you want.”

“Oh, now it’s whatever I want.” Sam flopped on his back and regretted it instantly. “Fuck!” Pain lanced up his back and his thighs throbbed. So good. So bad. Sitting on a plane for a couple hours was going to be hell.

A snicker from Michael. “Serves you right.”

“What the heck did you beat me with, anyway?”

“Want to see?” Michael sat up, then slipped off the bed. The sight of his naked back and ass, the way his muscles moved as he walked and the broadness of his shoulders were a balm of desire against the ache in his back. The two mixed in a way that tightened his balls and hardened his cock. Michael pulled a thin cane with a black handle out of his duffle bag.

“It’s purple.”

“I like purple.” Michael returned to the bed and handed the cane to Sam. A tiny plastic thing.

“Of course you do.” Sam smacked the rod against his hand. Not hard, but it still had sting to it. With more force behind it, those swings would hurt. Had hurt. Holding this did nothing for him. But imagining it in Michael’s hand was something else.

“Acrylic,” Michael said. “Bit of a beginner’s cane, but good for travel.”

Sam sat up, wincing as his thighs rubbed against the sheets. “You’re hardly a beginner.” He handed the cane back.

Michael held the handle in his right hand but kept a grip on the end with his left. “Not a beginner, no. But I am out of practice.” He shifted. “How much do you want to get into BDSM, Sam?”

Good question. He adored what Michael did to him. Had done to him. He certainly wanted to explore more. “I have no frame of reference to answer that. I don’t know what’s involved.” Other than what he’d seen in porn. And he knew better than to trust that—even the amateur stuff. Especially the amateur stuff.

Michael toyed with the cane. “You like pain. Quite a bit of pain.”

Sam nodded. “Seems I do.”

“I can give you what you want, but…”

“You’re out of practice.” Sam studied Michael. Unusual to see him so hesitant. “How do you get into shape?” It wasn’t like there were courses for whipping people…where there? He pulled his legs up and hissed. “Shit.”

Michael gave another one of his deep, appreciative chuckles. “Love seeing that, too.”

Sam snorted.

“There are clubs. House parties.” Michael shrugged. “Mostly parties in Pittsburgh. I used to go, but when I started dating Rasheed—”

“You stopped.” Another thing that asshole took from Michael. If he ever met the man… Probably a good thing he wouldn’t.

Michael thwapped the sheets with the cane. “Exactly. But I still know people from that time. I can find out about parties. Demonstrations. If you wanted, we could go.”

Sam sat still, because his whole body tingled. “I’d be your—what?”

“Partner,” Michael said. “Submissive, at least in those spaces.”

Submissive? Well, he did submit to Michael. “Only you?” Maybe he’d watched a little too much of that porn.

“Yes.” Fast and firm, that reply. “I’m not good with sharing.”

“I’m not good with being shared,” Sam said.

Michael let out a breath. “Good.”

This was really happening. He was in a relationship with Michael. Planning a life. Dating. Talking about weird sex parties. He laughed, reached over and pulled Michael to him. Sam took Michael’s mouth and kissed him like he’d never ever kiss another man again.

When he broke the kiss, Michael took a deep breath. “Not always submissive.”

“No. Not at all. Don’t you forget it.”

Deep brown eyes and a smile that lit eternity. “Oh, I won’t. Not for an instant.”

“Can you live with that?”

Michael cupped his face. “Yes. For as long as you’d like.”

He’d no idea what the future held—so much was unplanned and unwritten—but he had Michael. And Michael had him. “This is love, isn’t it?” Sure felt like it.

“Yeah.” Michael spoke against his lips. “It is.”

He certainly could live with that.

Copyright © 2016 Anna Zabo
All rights reserved.