Perched on her Dom’s lap, Kelly Franklin grinned as he patiently tried once again to show her the best way to use chopsticks.
“No, darlin’. Hold the top stick as you would a pencil, but don’t grip it. Just rest it on your middle finger. That’s right. Now, place the lower one against your ring finger, like so,” James Evans repeated, repositioning her grasp. “Let it lie in the dip between your thumb and index finger, but a little closer to your thumb.”
“How do you know so much about using chopsticks when you come from Texas?” she asked, her mind more on the strong curve of his jaw than his instructions.
“You ain’t payin’ proper heed to what I’m tellin’ you, Kellian Franklin. And that’s gonna earn you a plug of fresh ginger up your butt in a few minutes, if you don’t watch out.”
Kelly’s wide smile faltered for a second. That was a new threat. “Why? What does that do?”
Releasing her fingers, Jim gazed up at her with a look of amazement. “Don’t tell me in all the eight years you’ve been in the lifestyle, no one stuck a ginger plug up that pert little back hole of yours.”
“No. Why would they? I mean I’ve had plenty of plugs and other, less pleasant things shoved back there, but no one thought to push in groceries.”
Jim chuckled and shook his head. “Well, that’ll be another first for us, then, darlin’.”
“Why? What’ll it do?”
He chucked her chin. “I’m not gonna say. You’ll have to find out when it happens.”
Drawing back a bit, she scowled at him. “I’m not going to like it, am I? Will it hurt?”
With a quick shake of his head, he gripped her waist and moved her to the couch beside him. “That’d be tellin’. Besides, every sub reacts differently.”
“But you intend it as a punishment, don’t you?”
He shifted his position to stare down at her. “I’m considering using it as a way to gain your attention. Since you clearly aren’t interested in learning how to use chopsticks, go ahead and pick up your fork. I’d rather you ate Western style than starved.”
Kelly dipped her utensil into the moo goo gai pan he’d ordered for her along with a side of chicken fried rice and held it there. Less than an hour ago, she’d feared being knifed to death by her former psycho boyfriend and Dom, and, less than thirty minutes ago, she’d been stretched across her police detective Dom’s knees while he gave her a spanking for attempting to run away. Then he’d stolen her breath by proposing. It had been a crazy up-and-down night, and though she’d agreed to eat, Kelly’s stomach wasn’t in concert with her words. She stared at the cooling food.
“Somethin’ wrong, Kelly girl?”
She quickly smiled to reassure him. “No. I mean, I’m fine.”
“Uh huh. Wanna try that again?”
Grimacing at how easily he read her, she murmured, “I guess my insides still aren’t settled after Mike’s attack.”
“Understandable. I can put our dinner in the fridge and heat it up again later, if you’d like to lie down for a bit.”
“I’m not sure I could sleep. I feel tense and uneasy, not sleepy.”
He took her plate and set it on the low coffee table in front of them. “Well, I might have a cure for that.”
Certain he did, she gave him an impish grin. “And what might you have in mind, Sir?”
Rising, he grasped her hand and led her into her bedroom. “Why don’t you fetch us some towels, sugar, while I see to the rest?”
Always eager to play, Kelly scurried to the bathroom, gathered the towels he’d requested, and scampered back with her arms outstretched.
“Good girl,” he praised. Removing the fluffy terry cloth from her grasp, he placed the items on the edge of her bed and turned back to slip his fingers beneath her shorts and panties. “Now, let’s dispense with these, shall we?”
Once her lower garments were on the floor, she raised her arms so he could remove her top. He liked to undress her, and she enjoyed the attention. It brought back happy memories.
“Okay, up on the bed. I want you on your knees and elbows, with your head restin’ on your hands and your butt high in the air.”
Though Kelly’s stomach dropped to her feet, she hesitated only a second before she obeyed. However, once she got into position, her legs and arms began to tremble.
“What is it, doll?” he asked, while strong fingers gently stroked her back and bottom. “You do realize I’m not gonna hurt you the way that perv did, right?”
“Yes, Sir,” she answered as her trembling increased despite knowing Jim would never purposefully cause her any injury or harm.
His hand caressed her hindquarters a little more firmly. “You even came for me when I played with you back here last night.”
“So, what’s got you shiverin’ like a newborn colt, now?”
“Nothing. I’m just being stupid.” The smack Jim delivered had Kelly snapping her head up and giving an undignified squawk as she turned to scowl at him. “What was that for?” she demanded in a very unsubmissive tone.
“For not bein’ truthful with me. This position clearly bothers you for some reason, and I want to understand why. I expect you to answer honestly, when I ask you a question, and not give me prattle like I don’t have eyes or a brain in my head.” The sharper his voice grew, the more miserable Kelly felt, until her eyes burned with unshed tears.
Jim gave her bottom a couple of reassuring pats. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to snap, but sometimes you frustrate me.”
“I don’t intend to,” she answered softly.
“Yeah. I get that. But I still need you to be honest with me. So, what else did that asshole do that makes you so nervous about this pose?”
“He made me assume it when he gave me the enema. Then he plugged and restrained me so I couldn’t move, keeping me vulnerable and exposed to anyone who came by.”
“You have a thing about bein’ put on display like that, don’t you?
Kelly nodded miserably. “Yes, Sir.”
“Did he know that?”
“He knew it was a hard limit for me, but he did it anyway to punish me, probably because I hated it so much. He didn’t believe subs should be allowed limits.”
“Both subs and Doms have the right to set boundaries, Kelly. Doms might try to stretch their sub’s threshold a bit, since it’s in their job description to do so, but that doesn’t mean hard limits shouldn’t be respected. The more I learn about that prick, the more I wish I’d shot him where it would have done some real damage.”
Though Kelly’s eyes still burned, a giggle emerged at the thought of Jim shooting Mike in his privates, which made him smile back at her. “I really do like that sound, sugar. And I want you to make it often. Despite your unease, would you be willin’ to try this for me?”
She nodded. She did trust Jim with all her heart. He might never be able to wipe her memory of all the terrible things Mike had done to her, but he could replace the scarier moments with much more pleasant adventures.
“That’s my girl,” he praised. “Head down and raise that pert and perky bottom up high for me.”
She did as he asked with only a soft groan of protest. As he always did, Jim gave her the time she needed to gather her courage by reassuring her with calming strokes and caresses. “Do you know how much I enjoy touchin’ you?” he asked, his voice low and soothing.
“Well, maybe I should tell you, then. Here,” he said, running his hand along the curve of her backside, “your skin is petal soft and smooth and, when freshly pink from a light spanking, it blooms like a rose.” He kissed the small of her back in a way that had Kelly tingling with pleasure as she gasped in a breath. She loved his petting, and her body responded with tiny shivers of ecstasy.
“Here,” he said slowly sliding his fingers down the crease in her buttocks until he reached the warm, wet center of her. “This is one of my favorite play areas where I find the slight scent of honey and jasmine mixed with a salty, earthy aroma that is all you. When I put my lips here, I feel like I’ve entered the Garden of Eden.” The moment his actions followed his words, Kelly tensed and moaned from the exquisite sensation.
“Still,” he commanded. “I want you to remain quiet and motionless while I continue my explorations. This is my pleasure journey, not yours, so you must stay open, yet silent, for me. And you do not have permission to come.”
Kelly groaned deeply at that, so Jim rewarded her with a light spank. “What did I just say?” he demanded, his tone firm and Dom-like.
“Sorry, Sir,” she mumbled. He gave her a harder smack, and she cried out.
Worried, she lifted her head and gazed back at him. “What did I do wrong, now?”
“I asked you a question, and, rather than answer, you apologized. An apology, though appreciated, is not what I sought. You know better.”
Uncertain, Kelly drew her lower lip between her teeth then asked, “Are you angry with me?”
His expression immediately softened. “No, sugar. I’m not angry at all. I am only trying to teach you what I want and expect when I’m directing you as your Dom, but I think it may be too soon after everything that’s happened. You feelin’ a little rocky?”
She nodded as tears filled her eyes again. He arched an eyebrow at her.
“Yes, Sir,” she replied dutifully.
“All right. Here’s what we’ll do. I’m gonna take the taste I want so badly, and you’re gonna come for me when you’re ready. No teasin’, no torture. Just give in to whatever you’re feelin’. Agreeable?”
She nodded again then, recalling herself, added, “Yes, Sir.”
“All righty then. Back in position.” The moment she obeyed, he lowered his lips and gently sucked and nibbled until she was rocking her hips back to press them more firmly against him. He took her right to the edge and gave her clit a gentle nip, which sent Kelly soaring with a cry as she came in his mouth. With Jim playing her like a finely tuned instrument, Kelly ejaculated almost as copiously as a man. Tiny pleasure-filled spasms flowed through her body while he continued coaxing orgasms out of her until her knees could no longer hold their position and she crumpled forward.
Within seconds, he had her stretched out on the sheets. After placing a few light kisses on her hair, he made sure she was warmly covered as her trembling body came down from the erotic high he’d given her.
He slipped in beside her and pulled her against his warmth until her body and spirit calmed. “I am very pleased with you right now, darlin’, so I want you to rest for a bit, hear? I need to call the station, so I’ll just be in the next room. All right?”‘
Snuggling deep under the covers, Kelly sighed with contentment as she slowly drifted off to sleep.
Awakened by a loud bang, little Kelly tossed back her blanket and ran barefoot into her parents’ room, but her father wasn’t there.
“Where’s, Daddy?” she demanded, fists on her hips. Daddy always eased her nightmares and checked to be sure all the monsters were exorcised from under her bed and inside her closet before she lay down. Daddy took care of all the scary things, so Daddy was the person she sought when she’d had a bad dream, which Kelly, with the impeccable logic of a six-year-old, determined must have been what awakened her.
“Shh,” her mother hissed, finger to her lips. Kelly could tell Mommy had been crying, and that bothered her, but not as much as the absence of Daddy did.
“I need you to stay in here for a while, Kelly,” her mother insisted as she pushed Kelly toward their walk-in closet. “Be a quiet little mouse, and keep hidden until Mommy says it’s okay to come out. It won’t be long. I promise.”
Kelly started to protest, but her mother was closing the door when two men dressed in black, holding what looked like toy guns in their hands, burst into the room. Able to see through the tiny crack left when the door didn’t close all the way, Kelly tried to make herself small as she watched and waited for her mother’s return.
“Do as we say, lady, and no one needs to get hurt. Go over there,” one of the men ordered as he waved the gun from Kelly’s mother to her parents’ big bed. When her mother stood at the bed’s side, Kelly could see the top of her lacy nightgown and the wooden footboard, but not much else since she was crouched on the floor. She didn’t recognize the man’s voice, and both men wore something sheer over their heads that squished their faces into funny expressions, so she hunkered down on the carpet and clapped a hand over her mouth. She’d originally assumed her mother had wanted Kelly to play a game of hide and seek with Daddy, but, now, she thought something might be wrong. These men were strangers. And they weren’t being very nice.
“Lie down, lady, and stay real quiet,” the first man said before turning to his partner. “Check for the expensive stuff, while I keep our hostess entertained. This family ain’t poor, so they should have something worth our trouble.”
“Okay, but I get a turn, too,” the other man insisted as Kelly heard him trod over to the dresser beyond her line of vision to rifle through her mother’s clothes and jewelry box.
A turn at what? Kelly wondered as the first man pressed a hand over her whimpering mother’s mouth then pushed her down on the bed out of Kelly’s sight.
“Shh,” the man crooned.
“I said quiet, bitch, and I meant it,” he growled. “Make one more sound and I’ll shoot a bullet through your lovely brain. Would hate to do that, but I will.”
Though Kelly couldn’t see what the man was doing, she heard her mother give a muffled grunt. Unsure what to do, Kelly curled into a smaller ball and remained as still as the mouse her Mommy told her she needed to be.
Kelly blinked at the strange woman in blue who extended a hand to her, but didn’t move. Mommy said she had to stay where she was.
“It’s all right, sweetie. You’re safe. Just come with me.”
“Mommy?” she asked in a tiny voice she didn’t recognize as her own.
“Your mommy has been taken to the hospital.” The woman crouched down so she was eye-level with Kelly. “What’s your name, sweetie?”
“Kelly. Where’s Daddy?”
“He’s with your mommy, Kelly. You’re safe with us, now, and Mrs. Simpson will be here shortly to take you to a nice place where you’ll be more comfortable. In the meantime, why don’t you come out of that closet and walk downstairs with me?”
“Well, you certainly can’t be all that comfy in there, can you?”
“I’m okay. Are the men gone?”
“Did you see them?”
Kelly nodded and shut her eyes. “I think one of them hurt Mommy.”
“Your mommy isn’t hurting anymore, Kelly. She’s with people who will take good care of her.”
“Isn’t she coming home?”
The woman swallowed then slowly shook her head. “No, sweetie. She won’t be coming home.”
Kelly felt a rising panic inside her. Something was very wrong. “What about Daddy? Is he coming home?”
The woman closed her eyes and looked away for a moment before she turned back. “No. He’s going to remain with your mommy, but you don’t need to worry about either one of them.” The policewoman extended her hand again. “Come with me, Kelly, and we’ll fix you something to eat. All right?”
Kelly shook her head. “I’m not hungry.” Her eyes burned, and she rubbed at them. “I want my daddy.” The woman moved closer to wrap her arms around Kelly, but she resisted. Not wanting to leave her safe haven, Kelly screamed and kicked to get loose. She had to wait where Mommy told her to stay put. If she left, her parents wouldn’t be able to find her.
The policewoman pressed Kelly’s face to her shoulder as she lifted her out of the closet, but Kelly still saw how red her parent’s bed was. Dark red. She hated red. It was an ugly color, and it always smelled wrong. Five or six men stood in the room, but they didn’t say anything as Kelly was carried out and down the stairs. She fought to return upstairs. She’d been safe there. But the woman kept tight hold of her and took her into their dining room. She spoke to other people gathered in there, but didn’t put Kelly down.
“This is Kelly Franklin. She’s our only witness to what happened here yesterday, but I’m not sure how much she’ll remember.”
Kelly blinked away the tiny bits of white that clung to her lashes. She still had nightmares about the events of that night, even though it had happened over twelve years ago. She was eighteen, now, and homeless.
Wondering how everything had gone so wrong, she wrapped her arms about herself in an effort to keep warm. New York City streets could be brutal in the winter. The City didn’t get a lot of snow, but treacherous patches of ice dotted the sidewalk when temperatures dipped below freezing. Her woolen coat had definitely seen better days, and the soles of her shoes were so thin, a piece of cardboard would have been just as effective. Her lack of substantial winter garments allowed the cold to nip and bite at her through every seam and gap it could find, until her toes and fingers grew numb. She’d fallen a long way, in a very short time.
The period of her life from the break-in that killed her parents to where she stood had occurred in a blur of distant memories. She didn’t like to remember any of it, and yet, with her teeth chattering and her body aching as she attempted to find refuge from the wind in a narrow alleyway, she couldn’t seem to think of anything else.
After the female officer carried her downstairs, and the police had finally come to the conclusion a terrified six-year-old made one lousy witness, Child Services took over her care. Neither of her parents had any siblings, so despite every effort made to locate a family member who would take her in, it seemed no one desired to bring a temperamental orphan into their home. Following protocol, Child Services first tried placing her in foster homes, but Kelly’s nightmares and belligerent attitude toward strangers scared the other children too badly, obliging Child Services to move her into a residential treatment center. Unfortunately, that meant she was surrounded by even more kids and adults, so she continued to run away. Consequently, Kelly found herself homeless and penniless, with no relatives to harbor her and a penchant to flee every chance she got. So, she was handed over to one of the few parish orphanages still in existence.
Kept under a more secure watch and a stricter regimen with the nuns, she remained a ward of the Catholic Church for twelve years and even briefly considered becoming a nun, but she wasn’t Catholic or even a devout Christian. So, seven months after she turned eighteen, she was given the clothes she wore, some spending money, and a list of places where she could find shelter and food. They no longer had the room or funds to accommodate her, and she was of age. Kelly hadn’t been exactly a model child, so even though the nuns weren’t cruel, she suspected they were relieved to see the last of her.
She spent several days looking for work, but, outside of her gamin looks, she really had few qualities to recommend her, and fewer serviceable abilities. Despite having received what was equivalent to a high school education, she wasn’t adept at handling money, knew next to nothing about computers, had abysmal typing skills, and her grasp of any finer social amenities was practically nonexistent due to her own stubbornness, not through any fault of the nuns.
Kelly had barely spoken for several months after her parents’ murder, and hardly a night passed by that she didn’t wake up screaming from visions of two gunmen hunting her down. As a result, she had difficulty associating with others and preferred to keep to herself.
Though the clothes she wore weren’t fashionable and had proved woefully inadequate for the weather, they were clean, and she appeared somewhat respectable. Grocery checkouts didn’t require a fashion degree, but she did need to be able to work a cash register and give back correct change, neither of which was a talent she’d picked up at the orphanage. What use would she have had for money there?
She couldn’t afford to pay rent and hated going to the shelters, but at least they provided food and a bed. Cold and miserable, Kelly had been briefly considering committing suicide when another woman took pity on her by saying with her face, she could probably make a decent living if she chose to let others use her body. Not only was this particular trade not discussed by the church, it was regarded as a sin, so Kelly remained uncertain. The nuns tended to punish if they even caught a girl pleasuring herself, which meant following a path of carnal service was a straight road to Hell. Realizing she didn’t possess enough skills for a respectable job, she looked to what she could do.
After she’d been at it for three hours, Kelly reluctantly admitted she made a lousy whore, too. Positioned in dark alleyways rather than under a light, she only spoke with customers who sought her out directly.
Her first experience was pitiful when the john lost patience and ripped off the underwear she refused to remove because it wasn’t dignified. The act was as close to rape as it could be, but he told her that was fine with him since he liked it rough. He was drunk, so he hardly realized he’d hurt her or that he’d taken her virginity. She doubted he would have cared even if he had known. He gave her fifty dollars, which paid for a meal and lodging for the night.
Her next night was little better, though she didn’t offer as much resistance when the man pushed her against a wall, lifted her skirts, and thrust into her without so much as howdy after he asked her price. She used the scale the woman had given her.
“Ask twenty for a hand job, fifty for front penetration, sixty from the rear, and seventy-five if he wants you to blow him off. You don’t want those things in your mouth if you can avoid it. Trust me.”
None of her customers had gotten past the fifty mark, which was just as well since Kelly had little idea what she was even offering, but she figured she’d learn soon enough. However, her third night was distinctly different.
The man, whom Kelly quickly suspected was a true gentleman, would be her fourth customer, if he chose her. Dressed in a stylish, black woolen coat, which he’d left unbuttoned despite the cold, revealing a trim waist beneath a muscular chest, he cut a rather dashing figure. Though no judge of fashion, Kelly thought his vest and suit looked expensive. His nails were well-manicured, and his dark hair had a touch of gray at both temples. When he approached her, she had to crane her neck back to see his face, since he stood at least a foot taller than she did. Used to men testing out the merchandise with a squeeze or two before they bought, Kelly was surprised when this man made no effort to touch her or even ask what she charged for her services. Instead, he took a single step back and inquired in a cultured voice, “How old are you, young lady?”
“What’s it to you?” Kelly snapped back. Yeah, she really had to learn how to be more gracious, but she wasn’t in the mood. Her feet hurt, she was hungry, and her cheeks felt like ice.
“Answer my question,” he directed, and the frown on his face puzzled her. The man clearly wasn’t drunk, and he appeared well off. So why was he out trolling the streets for a whore? And why did he appear so stern all of a sudden?
“I’m nearly nineteen, if it pleases you,” she answered with a slight rise to her chin. She wasn’t a child, though, right then, he made her feel like one.
His mouth relaxed into what could almost be considered a smile. “It does, as a matter of fact. In spite of the garishness of your makeup, you appear much younger. Have you taken your evening repast, yet?”
Had she taken what? Who was this guy, and why did he talk as if he’d just stepped out of an historical romance novel? Not that she’d read all that many, of course.
Despite his gentlemanly manners, this potential customer slid her wariness meter into orange for some indefinable reason. Unsure if she wanted to go anywhere with him, she unsuccessfully tried to suppress a shiver and said, “I’m not the sort who steals or take things, so don’t look to me for an evening repast, whatever that is.”
The frown promptly returned as he removed his woolen scarf and wrapped it around her neck then turned her so his back sheltered her from the worst of the wind. “You are inadequately dressed for this weather. Is that the best coat you own?”
“No. I left my mink at home. Sorry. Who knew I’d need it tonight?
“Your impertinent attitude is far from conducive for social intercourse, young miss. You should amend it at once by showing proper respect to a gentleman who merely wishes to offer you aid.”
Grateful for the additional warmth, Kelly drew his scarf closer and caught a faint but pleasant scent of wood smoke and lime, even as she gave an unimpressed shrug. “Whatever.”
“I dislike repeating myself, but I shall, just this once. Have you eaten dinner, yet?”
“Well, why didn’t you just ask that earlier? No,” she answered, unsure whether the man meant her or good or ill, and yet unable to walk away.
“No what?” he prompted.
She raised an eyebrow. “No. I haven’t eaten dinner, yet.”
Taking a deep breath, he regarded her through lowered eyebrows. “If you and I are to get along at all, my saucy young miss, you will address me as sir. Understand?”
Kelly might be naïve, but she wasn’t stupid. “Yes… Sir.”
“Better. Now, I should like to take you some place where you can get warm while you consume wholesome, nourishing food and we can talk a little more privately. Would you be amenable to such an endeavor?”
“Depends. Are you planning to pay for my time?”
He let out a sigh. “If you determine a meal and conversation aren’t sufficient, I shall recompense you for the lost wages you’d acquire had you remained in this delightful spot for the entire evening, offering your body to strangers. Are my terms to your satisfaction, now?”
Yeah, if the man was willing to give her what she asked, get her out of the cold and feed her, who was she to argue? She gave an offhand shrug, but rather than indicate which direction she should head, he stood before her, still sheltering her with his body, and glared at her with that same frown as he waited.
“Yes, sir?” she replied, uncertain if that was what he wanted, but taking a guess it was.
“That is correct. So, what is your standard rate?”
“Depends on what’s wanted.”
“Yes, I suppose it would. All right, what would you require for three hours of conversation?”
“That’s it? You want to just talk while you take me to dinner?”
She eyed him up and down. He looked like he could afford a lot, so she upped her rate. “Three hundred.”
“Really? Don’t you think one hundred dollars an hour for food and a discussion is a bit exorbitant?”
“Maybe. But you asked.”
“Fine.” He took out his wallet, peeled off three crisp one hundred dollar bills, and handed them to her. She’d never seen anything larger than a twenty before, but, rather than show her ignorance, Kelly quickly stuffed the money in a safe place and regarded him with a haughty look that drew a reluctant chuckle from his chest.
“You’re a cheeky little brat, aren’t you?” When she grinned, he bent toward her. “Since we are to dine together, perhaps you should tell me your name.”
Seeing no harm in that, she replied, “Kelly. Kelly Franklin.”
“Kelly. Is that your full given name?”
“No. It’s Kellian, but I prefer to be called Kelly.”
“I see. Well, Miss Kelly Franklin…” He extended a gloved hand to her. “Would you be willing to accompany me to a fine dining establishment?”
She placed her fingers on his palm with a nod, and they proceeded down the sidewalk—hand-in-hand.
The building where they finally stopped was more than a few blocks away. Kelly didn’t mind walking, normally, except her feet felt as if they’d been encased in ice. Still, she kept quiet and followed her escort to a set of double wooden doors with brass handles and frosted glass. When they stepped inside, Kelly was met with a burst of delightfully warm air, perfumed with delicious scents of hot food and the scent of moneyed customers. Kelly rubbed her hands together to ease her prickling fingers as a gentleman elegantly dressed in black greeted them.
The black-suited attendant gave her host a small bow. “Mr. White, we haven’t seen you here in quite a while. Your usual table, sir?”
“That would be fine, Henry.”
Henry escorted them to a private nook set in a distant corner near a gently glowing fire, which Kelly gravitated toward immediately. She was standing right in front of the welcomed warmth when she realized their table was separated from the rest of the dining room by a folded partition. She promptly turned to face her companion, uncertain if it would be wise for her to seclude herself with a relative stranger where no one else could see them. Even on the street, there were always passersby. Mr. White had paid for her time, and they were still in a public place, so she doubted he would hurt her, but he could attempt to do other things she might not like. Before she could utter an objection, her coat and scarf were removed from her shoulders and a warm hand rested firmly at her waist.
“You will be quite safe with me, my dear. I can assure you no harm will come to you here or any other place you might choose to accompany me.”
With a reluctant nod, Kelly let Mr. White, if that really was his name, seat her. He took the chair directly across from her. “I should prefer to order for you, if you don’t mind.”
Realizing she was hungrier than she’d thought, Kelly gave another shrug that earned her a quick frown. Mr. White opened his menu and gazed at it for a moment until a waiter in a black suit and tie stood at their table. “The young lady will have two slices of roast turkey with only a smidgen of gravy, mashed potatoes with a pat of butter, and green beans. What would you like to drink, my dear?” he inquired politely.
She shrugged. “Soda?”
“Unacceptable. Soda is extremely bad for your teeth and has no nutritional value. You may choose water or milk.”
“What about iced tea?”
“No. Tea is loaded with caffeine, which you do not need. Milk is much better for you.”
“If you were going to dictate what I drink, why did you bother to ask me what I wanted?”
“Don’t be impertinent, child. Give the waiter your selection.”
She glanced up at the man who reminded her a bit of a penguin. “Water, please.”
“Very good, miss. And you, sir?”
“Just black coffee for me, Andrew.”
The waiter gave a polite nod. “Very good, sir.”
Once the penguin had waddled away, White leaned across the table toward Kelly. “Overall, I’d say you did very well. I’m proud of you.”
Kelly blinked as a flush of uncertain pleasure heated her cheeks. Unsure what to do next, she pulled the square of white linen folded beneath the gleaming silverware and moved to place it on her lap.
“No. I’d prefer you wear your napkin under your chin. Allow me?” Not waiting for her answer, he rose to tie the cloth into a bib around her neck.
Fingering the delicately patterned, snowy-white material, she frowned at him. “Why?”
He returned to his seat. “To catch any spills you might make. If we are to get along, I’ll expect you to do as I ask without discussion or delay. I do not care to have my requests questioned.”
Giving him a frown, she scooted her chair closer to the table. Though Kelly thought her benefactor might be a little odd, odd was better than cruel any day as far as she was concerned.
When her dinner arrived, Mr. White removed her plate from the waiter’s hands, sliced her meat into small, bite-size pieces, as he would for a child, then placed the cut-up food before her. “There you go. You may eat, now, if you wish.”
Yup, the guy was certifiable, but Kelly was too hungry to protest, so she picked up her fork, closed her eyes to relish the moment, and used all her willpower to keep from shoveling everything into her mouth at once. The roasted turkey and creamy mashed potatoes were the best things she’d eaten in a long while. Though she wished she could savor the meal, she was so hungry, she gobbled down everything she’d been served. As she ate, Mr. White plied her with questions, wanting to know if she had a family or friends, where she grew up, where she went to school, etc. She answered them, but, when she asked him a question in turn, he sidestepped it by asking her something else.
Realizing this was an interview of sorts, Kelly let him take the lead while she ate. Once she was done, she wiped her lips and glanced up to find the gentleman smiling at her. Offering a tentative smile in return, she gave her substitute bib a gentle tug but stopped when he lightly slapped her hand.
“No. The napkin stays in place until I say you may remove it.”
Kelly blinked at him but obediently lowered her hand to her lap.
“Good girl. You may pick one dessert from the menu the waiter will bring us, but, whatever you pick, I will feed it to you. Understand?”
Kelly hesitated, about to ask why, but his expression indicated he would not welcome having his intentions questioned, so she answered, “Yes, sir.”
Another approving smile. “Well done. You learn quickly.”
When the waiter brought the menu, Mr. White directed him to hand it to her. She examined her selections. All of them were appealing, but, given his prior restrictions, she suspected her host had something specific in mind he wished for her to eat. Rather than having her choice vetoed again, she glanced at him and said, “I thought maybe the chocolate cake?”
“I think the icing might be too sweet for you. Perhaps another selection would be more appropriate?”
“Chocolate pudding?” she asked.
“Acceptable. Bring the young lady pudding, Andrew, but serve it to me, please.”
“Yes, sir,” Andrew replied and left without so much as a blink of surprise.
Considering his request a bit unusual, Kelly asked, “Do you come here often?”
“On occasion, yes. They know what I prefer.”
“As you will, too, if we choose to continue our association.” He paused when Andrew set a china bowl of chocolate pudding before him, along with a spoon. “Thank you.” After Andrew left, Mr. White gazed pointedly at Kelly. “Scoot your chair around the table, child, so you’re closer to me.”
She gave him a slight scowl but obeyed. Once she was positioned the way he wanted, he dipped the silver utensil into the pudding and held it to her lips. The moment she opened her mouth, he fed her the first spoonful. The confection was rich and chocolaty, and if he preferred to feed it to her, she’d play along, though she suspected he possessed some sort of father complex.
“While you eat, I shall continue to ask more questions.”
Given this was all on his nickel, Kelly agreed without an argument.
“Where do you live?”
That drew her up. Did she really want this man, who ordered her food, made her wear a napkin under her chin, cut up her meat, and insisted on feeding her dessert, to know where she slept? Frowning, she hesitated to answer him. She could lie, but, if she did and he caught her in the fib, she imagined he would grow quite angry. And she didn’t want that, either.
“Are you afraid what I might do with that information?”
“A little,” she confessed.
“I can assure you I only mean to discover how far we shall need to travel in order to collect any belongings you may wish to bring with you.
“I don’t have much, but why would I need to collect any of my things?”
“All in good time, my dear. All in good time.”
When the pudding dish was empty, he untied the napkin from her neck and patted her lips.
“That’s a good girl,” he murmured softly. “I am very pleased with you, tonight, Kelly Franklin. So, I intend to give you a reward once we leave here. Are you warm enough that you would be willing to walk a bit farther with me?”
Kelly had no wish to go back out into the cold, but he’d bought three hours of her time, and dinner had taken barely an hour, so she gave another nod.
He accepted her answer without comment, requested and paid their bill then assisted her into her coat, taking care to ensure his scarf was securely wrapped about her throat before he buttoned her up.
“You need something that will keep you much warmer; else you could catch a chill.”
Kelly had no argument for that logic. Once they left, he took her by the hand again and escorted her to a spot near a small newspaper stand. “Consider this a special treat, since candy is bad for your teeth, but you may go over and select one confection. Then bring it back to me, unopened.”
He removed several crisp dollar bills from his leather wallet and handed them to her. “Go on,” he urged.
Kelly strode over to the counter and surveyed her choices. She hadn’t gotten much candy at the orphanage, and couldn’t afford it since she’d left, so this was indeed a treat for her. The way her new benefactor seemed to read her mind at times, she wondered, while she selected chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, if his generosity came from his acute perceptiveness or out of past experience.
Receiving the change, she brought it and the candy back to her escort. Although he’d paid her, she didn’t really consider him a customer anymore. In truth, he’d proved to be her knightly savior. She handed him the coins, first, which he thanked her for and put away, then he held out his hand. So, she placed the packaged cups in his palm, too.
Offering her a pleased nod in return, he removed the paper wrapping from the sweet and fed her the first bite. Smooth creamy chocolate melded with salty-sweet peanut butter on her tongue, and she moaned with pure pleasure. Smiling, he handed the patty over to her.
“Take small bites, and your treat will last longer,” he advised.
Though it was difficult, Kelly did her best to follow his instructions. Once she’d finished the first patty, she licked her fingers. Due to the cold weather, it hadn’t melted much, but she didn’t want to waste a single delicious taste.
He offered her the second piece with a slight frown. “Don’t you own any gloves?”
“I lost them,” she informed him with a shrug as she relished the remainder of her treat.
“We shall purchase a new pair for you, tomorrow, then.”
Her gaze flashed up to meet his as she licked her fingers again, but this time he shook his head and clasped her hand in his to wipe it clean with a linen handkerchief. Did men still carry those?
“Proper young ladies do not lick their fingers,” he scolded, placing the cloth back in his pocket. She thought he would release her hand then, but he merely stared at her for a long moment before he asked, “How would you like to live with me?”
Kelly frowned. Though the man seemed genuinely considerate of her well-being, he was still a stranger who’d refused to answer most of her questions. He hadn’t even told her his given name, saying instead that she should call him sir.
At her hesitation, he leaned closer. “I want to take care of you, Kelly. You’ll have your own room, plenty to eat, suitable clothes to wear. I will see to your every need, so you will want for nothing. I will also further your education by having you take classes at some point to ensure you gain the skills you’ll require to find a proper job when we eventually part.”
Interesting. He spoke of parting before they’d even gotten together. Kelly knew there had to be a catch, but she couldn’t imagine what it might be. Gazing up at him, she asked, “So, are you expecting to throw me back on the streets when you’re finished with me?”
His frown deepened as he glared at her. “You are never to return to the streets. Is that clear?”
She shrugged. “What am I to do for money, then?”
“Cash won’t be an issue, since I will provide for you. But, if you’re worried about your future, I will say that I intend to establish a trust fund for you, which you may draw upon when you turn twenty-one. You’re eighteen, so two hundred dollars a week should provide you with a nest egg of around fifty thousand dollars that I will expect you to build upon once you’ve got a respectable job.”
Two hundred dollars this week would have kept her cozy. So, what was the catch? “Will you be sleeping with me?”
“I will see to your every need, Kelly,” he repeated slowly, as if she had trouble understanding him. “Though I doubt we will share the same bed for an entire night.”
“Will you at least tell me your name, sir?”
“I don’t see what difference that should make, unless I adopt you, which is unlikely, but my name is Graham White.”
“Where do you live, Mr. White?”
Kelly received a firm slap on her thigh for that. Rubbing the spot he’d smacked, she scowled at him. “What was that for?”
“What did I say you were to call me?”
She swallowed. He appeared quite serious about the etiquette he wanted her to follow. “Sir.”
“That is correct. I do not want you ever to refer to me by my name. Is that clear?”
“Good. I have an apartment located on Fifth Avenue near Central Park.”
Kelly thought he was still being evasive, so she asked, “What sort of restrictions will you put on me if I agree to live with you, sir?”
“I’m not sure I understand your question.”
“Okay, if I meet someone at school, can I invite them over to visit?”
“No, you may not. You will be taking your classes at home, over the Internet. Other than our weekly afternoon out, I foresee no need for you to depart the apartment.”
Kelly thought she was beginning to get the picture. “Will I ever be allowed to leave without you accompanying me, sir?”
“If you’re required to be somewhere without me, we will discuss it at that time. Until then, I expect you to remain solely in my company.”
He intended to make her answerable to him alone. Kelly wasn’t sure she liked that idea. He had been strict, but not cruel, even so…
“Is your current life so full of possibilities you have difficulty making a decision?”
She snorted. “No.”
“That’s a most disgusting sound. Don’t make it again. It’s not ladylike. So, why do you hesitate?”
“Because, sir, I don’t know you, and you seem intent upon keeping me prisoner while I remain under your control.”
His face immediately softened, and he smiled. “No, Kelly. You won’t be my prisoner. You will be my cherished daughter.”
“Not in the full legal sense. But that is how I shall regard you.”
She leaned closer to him. “But men don’t usually sleep with their daughters, sir.”
“True. However, as you aren’t truly my blood relation, nor are you still a little girl, even if I choose to treat you as one, I fully expect you will need erotic stimulation and satisfaction from time to time. And, when you do, I will provide it. No one else will be allowed to touch you, Kelly, without my permission. If you grow ill, I will have a doctor attend you, of course. In fact, one of the first things I will insist upon is taking you for a physical and dental checkup, but your every other interaction will be with me, and me alone.”
Kelly didn’t know what to make of that, though it did make his actions and statements a lot clearer in her mind. He would be treating her as if she really was his daughter, and yet…
“Here’s what I suggest. Since you remain uncertain as to my intentions, why don’t we give it a one-month trial? At the end of thirty days, if you don’t wish to stay with me, I will give you one thousand dollars and release you from all obligations to me. Would that arrangement be more amenable to you?”
To have all her needs met and then be given a thousand dollars after one month seemed too good to be true. Could she trust him? Did she really have a choice, considering the alternative? “All right,” she agreed finally, though she still had more than a few reservations about this new deal she’d struck.
“Excellent.” He offered her his hand again. “Come with me while I hail a taxi, and we’ll discuss what items you might desire to collect from your lodgings.”