I woke virtuously alone. Wasn’t sure if I should be disappointed, angry, or relieved that, except for the removal of the handcuffs, I was untouched. Decided to wait until after I’d spoken to Mr. Frank to pick my emotional response. In the meantime, a shower and a meal. The house was fairly small, so unless he was downstairs, I was alone. Definitely angry that he was apparently avoiding me after my unsuccessful seduction. I swept up the dried flower petals angrily. The door opened while I was dumping them in the trash.
“How could you?” I snarled.
“I…what?” Mr. Frank looked startled at my accusation.
“How could you treat me like a child?” Humiliation won.
“Um, no idea what you’re talking about…” he eyed me warily.
“You tucked me into bed.” Tears began to well in my eyes. I would not cry.
“Oh. That.” He relaxed.
“Yes. That!” Watcher, I was going to cry. I rubbed my eyes.
“Dariel, I realize some people would make all sorts assumptions about my character based on my sexual preferences, but I like my partners to be conscious and capable of consenting to sex.” He shrugged. “Cuts down on lawsuits.”
“But…” I bit my lip. “Alone?”
He reached up to cup my cheek. “Yes, alone. Because I didn’t trust myself to continue to be a gentleman if I shared a bed with you.”
“Oh.” I must have looked as uncertain as I felt because he cautiously put his arms around me. I immediately snuggled up against him.
“Shh, it’s alright,” he soothed as I sobbed softly in his arms.
“Sorry,” I said when I finally pulled away. “I thought that maybe you’d changed your mind. That you didn’t want me anymore.”
He snorted at that. “I’m not dead yet.”
He gave me a crooked grin. “Dare, I’d have to be six feet under to not want you.”
“Oh.” I digested that statement. “Good. Where have you been? Or is that classified?”
“No.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I needed to talk to my employers. In person. About you.”
He sighed. “Because of the contract you signed. You need to submit to a physical and psychological examination.”
“Why?” My wings fluttered rapidly betraying my agitation.
“It’s standard procedure…”
“I don’t care! Why?” I demanded.
“Tell me.” Why was he being so evasive?
He sighed again. “Dare, the physical should be obvious: to ensure you’re healthy and not carrying any disease or poison or such…”
“What?! You think…? I haven’t! Not with anyone else!”
He rolled eyes. “Relax. I know you haven’t. It’s a routine blood test. I’m tested regularly too. There other is, well, because you might be a spy or assassin.”
“What?!” How could he possibly think that?
“It is a time-honored tradition to use sex to get close to a target,” Mr. Frank replied dryly.
“Oh. I wouldn’t…”
“I know, but better safe than sorry. You’re scheduled to go in Monday.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Yes. Move out,” he told me bluntly.
“Oh.” I wrapped my arms around me. If I left, I’d have to go back home. My stomach lurched at the thought.
“Okay. I’ll do it,” I whispered. It would have to be better, right? “Do they know I’m a Mer?”
He shrugged. “I haven’t told them. While I know they’ve done a background check, which you passed, I don’t know how much they do know about you.”
“I…wait! A background check?”
“Yes. Classified work, remember? You passed.”
“How do you know?”
“Because,” he explained patiently, “if you hadn’t passed, you wouldn’t still be living here.”
“Oh.” That made sense. I did wonder what had turned up as a result.
“So what’s for dinner?”
“What? How can you think of food?”
“Because I slept through breakfast and missed lunch arranging for your exams.”
“Um.” I ran a hand through my hair. “I don’t actually have anything planned. We generally fended for ourselves on New Year’s Day.”
He laughed. “Good thing I have several take-out places on speed dial then. Pizza or Chinese?”
“Mmm…pizza, but no anchovies.”
“You don’t like fish?” Pink eyebrows rose.
“Fresh fish, sure. Preserved fish?” I shuddered theatrically.
“Yeah, but we eat a lot of that at home. Chinese too. Pizza? Not so much.”
“Uh-huh. The Siren can’t handle gluten or lactose that well…so a lot of meat and vegetables. I don’t have a problem though.”
“Yeah.” I grinned. “When we first moved on land I pigged out on ice cream at a neighborhood barbeque. Terrible stomachache, but otherwise no reaction. The Siren had a few bites and had to see a healer.”
“I see. Good to know. You might want to keep that information to yourself. Especially if it’s common in Mers.”
“Okay, but why?”
“Because, my naive little Mer-fairy, some people might use it against yours.”
“Are you what?”
He chuckled. “Way to focus on the important stuff. Like potential weapons against Mers.”
“Oh. Um,” I shrugged. “Why would anyone want to attack us? We just want to be left alone.”
“Oh, Dare…” he gave me a quick squeeze. “I can think of several reasons, none of them good. Part of the reason it took me so long today was that I wanted assurances that you’d be left alone.”
“They do know you’re a fairy. Fairies are rare. They might be tempted to use you or study you.”
“Oh.” I shrugged. “I’m not very good at the magic stuff.”
He snorted. “You picked my state-of-the-art lock, Mr. Not- Very-Good-At-Magic.”
I blinked. “That? A child’s trick.”
He gave me a skeptical look. “Ri-i-ight. Supreme okay?”
“Oh. Right. Supreme’s fine.”
“Okay. Go find something to watch on TV.”
I gratefully escaped to the living room. It had been a very stressful and emotional conversation.
I flipped through the channels. Nothing really appealed to me even though Mr. Frank had the deluxe cable package. I don’t know why. He didn’t watch it much. Maybe for previous roommates? I finally chose a rerun of some cop show.
Mr. Frank came in during the opening sequence. “So, it’ll be here in about thirty minutes.”
I nodded. He came over and perched on the chair’s arm. I flinched when he touched me. “Don’t.”
“Dariel, What’s wrong?”
He sighed. “You signed a contract. One that requires a significant amount of physical contact. How do you plan on fulfilling it, if I am not permitted to touch you?”
It was my turn to sigh. “It’s not that I don’t want you to touch me, but what’s the point? If I don’t pass your stupid tests, I’ll have to leave. I don’t want…”
“Because at least we’ll have this weekend.”
“Do you think that was enough?”
“Enough for who?”
“In Casablanca…they’d always have Paris. Do you think the memory was consolation enough after they parted?”
“Ah, my Dare…” he gently stroked my hair. “I don’t know. I just know I would have regrets if…”
I bit my lip. “I bought presents for you. Did you open them?”
“Just the contract. I left the others downstairs. Shall I fetch them now?”
I blushed but nodded. “Yes, please. I hope you like them…”
He smiled tenderly at me. “The best gift you gave me was your maidenhead.”
I blushed even harder. “I didn’t really ‘give’ it to you.”
“Yes, you did. Last night.”
“But…” I wrinkled my forehead in confusion.
“You offered yourself willingly to me. If you had been awake we would have had sex, yes?”
“Yes,” I whispered. I wouldn’t have refused him. Now…it seemed more.
“So…” he brushed his thumb over my lips. “Last night you offered me your virginity.”
I thought it over before slowly nodding. “Yes, I did.”
He kissed me briefly before going downstairs to get his presents. I played nervously with the hem of my kilt. Would he like them? I’d gone to a lot of trouble to get them…
Should I undress? Or would that be considered too forward? I wiped my palms on my kilt. What was taking so long?
I jumped. “Don’t do that!”
“Sorry.” He grinned unrepentant. “Did you know you squeal like a girl?”
“I do not!” I unleashed a stream of Mer invective which caused him to wince.
“Enough!” he roared. The doorbell rang in the sudden silence. He took a deep breath. “I’ll go pay for the pizza. You…” He shook his head and left without finishing his sentence. Probably just as well. I arranged the brightly wrapped packages on the coffee table.
Mr. Frank deposited the cardboard box next to them and handed me a cold can of soda. “Here.”
I picked at my slice of pizza. The lawyer on screen droned on as he interrogated the Criminal of the Week.
“You need to eat.”
“Dariel…” I took a tiny bite before resuming picking at it. “Don’t make me feed you, my Dare.”
“Sorry. Just nervous.”
He patted my knee reassuringly. “Don’t be. I won’t do anything without your explicit consent.”
I didn’t comment when left his hand there. In fact, I shifted so my kilt rode up exposing my bare skin. I wished I dared more. His hand slid further up my leg as I shifted position to relieve a leg cramp.
“So, Dariel, shall I open my presents now? Or would you prefer to make out?”
“Presents,” I said softly. “Then we can play with them.”
“I want to play with you…”
I smiled shyly. “Open them,” I urged.
“Very well.” He gave me a caress before picking up the first package. He laughed when he saw it. “I see why you wanted me to open my gifts first. But, Dare, they’re not really necessary.”
He lifted his wrist to show me his bracelet. “This has a contraceptive charm it. I get tested a regular intervals for disease. My last one was a few days ago. I’m clean.”
“Oh. I didn’t know that.” I shrugged. “Thorn said that I was responsible for my birth control. Those are the only effective method for herms and occults.”
“Wise man.” He shrugged in turn. “I’ll use them if you want. There really isn’t such a thing as too much precaution.” He tapped his bracelet. “Even this fails.”
“How long does the spell last?”
“About a year, more or less. I got this one in October. Why?”
I did some quick math in my head. “Mr. Frank…I think it failed early.”
“Are you pregnant?!”
“No! No,” l repeated softly. “I’m not pregnant, but I was. I miscarried a couple of weeks after we, um, had sex.” I stared down at my hands.
He covered them with one of his own. “Dare, why didn’t tell me earlier?”
I rolled my eyes. “Because it didn’t seem important. I didn’t even suspect that I might be pregnant. Only my hormone levels gave any indication.”
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be with someone who feels like he has to stay because I got pregnant.”
“Are you okay? Physically? Emotionally?”
I smiled and squeezed his hands. “Yes, to both. It was early enough that it was like I had a period. I talked to a counselor at the hospital a couple of times afterward. I do want children…someday.”
“You don’t have periods?”
I snorted. “Of course not. I’m a Mer. Blood in the water is not a good idea. Sharks.”
“Ah,” he rubbed the back of his neck. “I never really thought about it before…”
I shrugged. “Why would you? Six months ago you didn’t even know that Mers were real.”
It was his turn to snort. “Spoken like someone who is not a nerd.”
“They spend a lot of time trying to figure out how things that aren’t ‘real’ work.”
“Mmm…finish opening your presents.”
“Eventually,” he murmured as he leaned in to kiss me.
I allowed him a brief, far too brief, kiss before pushing him away. “Now, now, if you don’t open your gifts, you won’t get to wrap your package.”
He laughed softly. “We wouldn’t want that, would we?” Another kiss before picking up the next gift. “Oh. My. We are optimistic aren’t we?”
I wrinkled my brow. “Is there something wrong with it?”
“Not really.” He kissed my cheek. “It’s too big for a virgin. You need to work your way up to something that size.”
“Oh, um,” I blushed. “I just kinda grabbed the first one I saw.”
I could Feel his amusement. I gave him an annoyed shove. He fell over laughing. “I’d never been in that kind of store before. Forgive for not spending hours picking out the right size and color. Surely I get credit for trying.”
“Yes,” he wheezed. “An ‘A’ for enthusiasm. ‘C’ for effort.”
“A ‘C’! Just a ‘C’?” I tackled him and began tickling him. He valiantly tried to fight me off. I had a sister and two ‘cousins’. He was badly overmatched.
“Fine.” He panted as we lay there breathless. “A ‘C+’. But no higher. I don’t care how much you tickle me.”
“Well, all right,” I responded somewhat mollified. Besides my kilt had wound up around my waist in the scuffle and his hand rested on my bare backside. “Next time I’ll do better.”
He trailed his hand along my hip. “Actually, to be perfectly honest, you are the only potential partner I’ve had who has augmented my toybox. Thank you for that.”
“You’re welcome. You should open your last gift. Even if it’s not right…”
“Dariel, no matter what happens, I won’t use your gifts with anyone else.”
I reached over to hand it to him. He sat up enough so he could tear the wrapping off. “Do you like it?” I asked after he’d stared at it speechless for a long moment.
“Oh, yes,” he breathed. “I love it.”
“Do we have to wait to play with it?”
“Mmm…it might sting a little more because the leather hasn’t been softened, but it’s really up to you.” He let the leather fringe slide through his fingers. In response I lay across his lap and pulled my kilt up exposing my bare backside. “I take it, that’s a ‘yes’?”
“Yes. I want you to hit me.”
He ran a hand up my thighs. “The term is ‘flog’.’
He gently pushed me off his lap. I remained crouched on the ground. “Stand up and brace yourself against the sofa.” I obeyed, though he made a few adjustments to my position. I gasped as the leather connected with my bare flesh.
“Shall I continue?” he asked courteously.
He brought down again. He didn’t ask as it bit into me a third time. Four. Five. A long pause. I heard the rustle of plastic. Then he gripped my hips and thrust into me. I shifted so I was braced on my forearms. My kilt hung down blocking my view of the action. Didn’t matter. I closed my eyes to better concentrate on what was happening between my legs. All too soon I was crying out my pleasure. He finished shortly after. I sank to my knees with my head and upper body still resting on the couch cushions. I could hear Mr. Frank moving around. Debated helping. Lost the debate. My backside stung.
“You’re sitting on some of the wrapping paper.”
“So I am.” I reached down to tug it free. “I should help.’
He waved me back down when I made to stand. “No. I can manage.”
“Then why do you need me?”
“I can manage. I just don’t particularly like to clean. And as for my cooking…there’s a reason I have Blackjack on speed dial.”
I laughed. “My cooking is hardly five-star.”
“Your cooking can’t be that bad.”
He laughed. “Last time the fire department called for a Hazmat team.”
“Scout’s honor. The military wants to classify it as a bioweapon.”
“Oh, come on.” I threw a decorative pillow at him. He deftly caught it and swung it at me. I ducked and retaliated with its mate. He blocked and aimed for my legs. I scrambled backwards. He smacked me on my backside as I slid across the coffee table. I grazed his shin. He hopped back giving me time to gain my feet.
“You realize, Dariel, this means war.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Bring it.” He grinned and lunged for me. I dodged and got him good with my own attack. I was a master at one-on-one pillow fighting. I discovered that he had some skills of his own.
“Enough,” he held up a hand. “Let’s call it a draw.”
“Never give up! Never surrender! Do you yield?” I panted.
“Perhaps. What are your terms?”
“For my surrender.”
I blinked. Hadn’t expected this. I walked over to stand directly in front of him. He tilted his head back to look up at me. “My terms…” I mused. “My terms are these: you must…” I licked my lips nervously. “You must pleasure me. If I fail to orgasm at least twice I will consider our truce null and void.”
He stared at me before slowly smiling. “Your terms are acceptable. How shall I begin?”
I bit my lip uncertainly. I hadn’t really expected him to so willingly submit to my direction. He was in the perfect position…I slowly pulled off my shirt and undid my kilt. It pooled at my feet as I stood there completely naked. “I think…I think you know what to do.”
“Indeed.” He leaned forward. I dug my nails into my palms as he proceeded to fulfill the terms of his surrender.