Page 43 of The Protege

Standing close to him while he holds my hand to lead me to the sofa one afternoon, I say, “I’m worried about people walking past and hear me crying out. Will you gag me, sir?”

“Of course, Isabeau.” He finds a handkerchief in his suitcase that came with his tuxedo, puts it between my teeth and ties it behind my head. He reminds me that I can still use my safeword when I’m gagged this way and he’ll understand what I’m saying.

The next time I want to be gagged again, but I also add, “Sir, I think I squirm about too much on your lap and I don’t want to. Will you tie my hands together?”

I’m not worried about the noise. I don’t think I squirm too much. If he knows what I’m doing he pretends he doesn’t. When I’m gagged and he’s tied my hands behind my back he rakes me with a long, heated look but doesn’t say anything, just moves past me to sit down on the sofa. This time when he spanks me he hooks two fingers into my underwear halfway through and yanks them up. I give a muffled moan as the fabric rubs tightly against my clit and sensitive parts. He pretends not to notice. He doesn’t remark on my underwear being wet, either. Because I am wet. I’m very wet.

Later, at a drinks reception hosted by the patrons of the concert hall we’re playing in, Laszlo comes and stands beside me. “Good evening, Isabeau. Do you like my tie?” he asks, stroking his fingers down the silk.

My eyes widen as I see it’s the same one he bound my hands with a few hours earlier. “It’s ah, very nice.”

Before he moves away he murmurs in my ear, “I like that you like it, very much. It’s important to me that you’re happy.” I watch as Laszlo takes a glass of champagne from a waiter gliding by and then he turns away to talk to Marcus.

He likes that I’m happy. He must know that what we’re doing doesn’t just make me happy, it makes me aroused and wet. Why is he pretending he hasn’t noticed? Is it so I don’t get embarrassed? Or is he letting me know that he knows what I’m doing when I ask to be bound and gagged, that I’m finding new ways to be submissive to him?

There are things I pretend not to notice, too. That the knots Laszlo binds me with are practiced and neat and nothing ever needs to be retied. That there’s a hungry glint in his eyes when he looks at me, bound and gagged. And that when he spanks me, Laszlo gets hard.

Chapter Seventeen

Isabeau

Then

“Can’t we play it just the two of us? Please? Like we always have.”

Laszlo’s slicing vegetables for a stir-fry and doesn’t look up. “And leave the whole orchestra sitting silently? Sweetheart, that would be a waste of their talent.”

I take a piece of carrot from the chopping board and chew it, thinking. In just over a month’s time I’ll be eighteen and too old for Laszlo’s youth orchestra, a thought that makes me feel horribly sad, like being told I’ll never go back to Narnia. I and four other members will be graduating at the upcoming Summer Concert and we’ll each be performing a solo piece. I want to play The Swan, of course, and I want to play the arrangement for cello and piano and perform it with Laszlo. “I just think it should be special, that’s all.”

He smiles down at the chopping board. “It will be special because you’ll make it special. I’m the conductor, not the pianist. What am I supposed to do, boot Celeste off her instrument?”

“She’ll do whatever you tell her to do.”

He eyes me from beneath the lock of sandy hair that’s fallen into his eyes. “Now, is that fair on Celeste?”

I suppose he’s right, but I’m just going to miss being in the orchestra so much. I’m going to miss living with him even more as in a few months I’m going up to Durham to study music and I’ll be living in halls. I’ll only see Laszlo during the holidays and on weekends. I’ll take the train up to London as many times as possible, and he’s promised that during the week when he’s not performing or rehearsing he’ll come and visit me.

Three long years away at university. Away from Laszlo. But after that—excitement fizzes through me—I’ll be a properly trained cellist. “Can I join your orchestra when I graduate?”

Laszlo presses the point of the knife into the cutting board and regards me. “I’ve been thinking about that. Not just lately, but many times over the years. I want that so much, sweetheart.”

But. I can see the unsaid word written all over his face and panic makes me stop chewing. He doesn’t think I’m good enough for his orchestra?

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