Page 50 of The Protege

“I’m really sorry, sir,” she whispers again, more emphatically this time. Her face is flushed and tight with remorse and she can’t quite meet my gaze.

In a softer tone of voice, I say, “It’s all right, I believe you. Now off you go.”

“Can I just—walk beside you for a minute?”

I nod, and we start to move down the street. As we walk I keep an eye on her, and there’s something wrong. Her eyes are on the ground, her lips are parted and her breathing’s shallow. I stop and tug her gently into an alcove, out of the view of the others up ahead. She won’t meet my gaze even when I gently lift her chin to mine. “Hey. Sweetheart. What’s wrong?”

She shakes her head, her eyes confused.

“You don’t know?”

She nods.

“Is it what I said before? The way I said it?”

She thinks for a moment, then nods. She still hasn’t said anything and she looks dazed and perplexed, and I suddenly realize what’s wrong. After I spank her she becomes like this, pliable and quiet and unable to talk a great deal, but we’re alone then and she’s safe and able to come back to me in her own time. This time she’s dropped into subspace on the street. Shit. I didn’t mean to do that. I just wanted to pull her quickly and sharply back into line.

“It’s all right, sweetheart. You come back when you’re ready, I’m right here.” I watch her, my hand on her shoulder. She stands quietly while people move past us and I know she’s not aware of any of it. She’s only aware of me so I keep myself very still, close to her, letting her know she’s safe.

Isabeau takes a deep breath and blinks several times, finally meeting my eyes. They’re so large and green and vulnerable that my heart catches in my throat. I can only look at her, helpless, her lips close to mine. It’s not just me who has an effect on her. She affects me, too, knowing I’ve made her feel this way.

“Laszlo…” She trails off. Her green eyes are mesmerizing and I can’t tear my gaze away. She raises her chin, tentative, and kisses me. Her lips are soft and full and she presses them against my mouth, and then again. Her tongue flicks my lips and the whole world around me evaporates to nothing. There’s just her body pressed closed to mine, her lips against mine. A bold kiss. Inviting me in. Inviting more. I kiss her like I’ve wanted to kiss her since she was seventeen and I knew I was the worst kind of man for wanting her in that way. It’s still wrong because even though she’s twenty-one now I have too much power over her. And I like that power too fucking much.

She whimpers in my arms as I kiss her harder. I can’t seem to stop and she opens her mouth, needing me. But I have to say something and I make myself pull away, cupping her face between my hands and breathing hard. “Isabeau. I didn’t mean to do what happened just now. I didn’t realize I could do it just like that. I’m sorry.”

She reaches up hesitant fingers to touch my face, that punch-drunk look still in her eyes. “What is this feeling?”

“I put you into subspace.”

She traces the outline of my lips with a forefinger. “Oh, is that what it is? I like it. I feel like I’m floating.”

I capture her fingers in mine. I like it, too. I like it very much and that’s why it’s dangerous. She seems to know what I’m thinking and a woozy smile crosses her face. She presses herself closer, her lips just a hair’s breadth from mine. “You like me being in your power. You like it when I slink over your lap and beg you to spank me. You like putting me into that place with just a few sharp words. Don’t you, daddy?”

My breath catches. Daddy. A few years ago if a woman had called me that I would have thought it was cute, but told her that I preferred sir, or master. Master is very pleasing, so close to the maestro I’m called on stage. Get on your knees for your master. Show me I’m your whole world. I would have said that daddy is silly. Pouty. Sugary. I’m not a silly, sugary sort of man. But when Isabeau first called me daddy three years ago it didn’t sound silly. It sounded fucking delicious and caused thumping, pounding arousal to course through my body. I want it from her again. I want it only from her, my sweet little Isabeau who wants to rub herself against me in my lap while she calls me daddy. I’ve never wanted anything so much in my life.