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Partners in Play #1: Seduced by Fire: A Partners in Play Novelby Tara Sue Me
According to Julies best friend and business partner, Sasha, men only bought flowers for two reasons: to get in your pants, or to get back in your pants. While Julie didnt think that to be an absolute truth, once Sasha made up her mind, she didnt often change it.
The front door of Petal Pushers, the floral shop they owned together, opened with a melodic ring. After seeing the two customers walk in, Julie decided to make her case once again.
Look at those two,” she said with a whisper, making sure the customers couldnt hear. I highly doubt hes trying to get into her pants.”
Sasha looked up from the computer where she was placing an order for next weeks stock. The he” in question was tall, with sculpted angular features, and dirty blond hair, but the woman by his side wasnt the usual trophy girlfriend. She was an older woman, dressed for the chilly weather in Wilmington, Delaware, in a winter white coat that probably cost more than Julie made in a year.
Never know these days.” Sasha punched a few keys on the computer. I need to make a few calls. Can you handle these two?”
Julie waved her to the back office and turned her attention to the couple still standing by the door. This time she noticed how expensive the guys coat was while he talked on his cell phone. The woman with him admired a floral arrangement displayed for an upcoming wedding.
Good afternoon,” Julie said. Welcome. Can I help you with something?”
The older lady smiled. My great-granddaughter has a ballet recital tonight. I wanted to pick up some flowers.” She turned to the guy, still on his phone. Daniel, do put that away and come here.”
The man at the door spoke a few more words before disconnecting. Sorry, Grandma. It couldnt wait.”
She rolled her eyes. It never can.”
I heard that.” His voice was low and deep and as he approached, his gaze met Julies. Blue steel was her first thought when she saw his eyes. Hard and immovable. She actually squirmed under their scrutiny.
For a second, she thought he realized the effect he had on her, because something in his expression flickered with understanding. Just as quickly, though, his mouth upturned into a soft smile. Were looking for something to thrill the heart of a five-year-old ballerina.”
Julie stood and told herself to focus on the sale, not the customers eyes. Your daughter?”
The older lady laughed. Heavens no, dear. Not Daniel,” she said as if the idea of Daniel having a daughter was the most humorous thing in the world.
Daniel appeared unaffected by his grandmothers words. He only raised an eyebrow to Julie and proceeded to take off his leather gloves.
He pulled one finger at a time free, and for whatever reason, Julie found herself unable to stop watching the mundane task. His fingers were long, and as he took the last glove off and kept it in his fist, she admired the elegant but subtle strength in the way he moved. Her mind drifted, imagining those fingers brushing her skin. Those hands on her . . .
How would his touch feel cupping her chin, trailing downward, across her breasts? Lower, brushing her hips, inching closer—
He smacked the gloves against his palm.
The five-year-old in question,” he said, eyes lighting at her startled expression, loves ruffles, ponies, and all things princess.”
Focus, she scolded herself. Flowers.
Sounds like she would love pink roses.”
Pink roses. Excellent suggestion, Ms. Masterson,” he answered with a whisper and a glance at her name tag. Thats exactly what I thought, but Grandma thought wildflowers.”
Based on what you said, the roses. Definitely pink roses.”
Well take a dozen.” His blue eyes were steady on hers and she leaned closer as his voice dropped further. How about you, Ms. Masterson, what type flowers do you like?”
Im not really a flower-type girl.”
She shrugged. I guess it comes from working with them all day.”
It wasnt that she didnt like flowers; she just didnt like getting them from men. In her opinion, there were plenty of other more romantic gifts.
Daniel,” his grandmother said. Have you decided on something?”
He winked at Julie. Were going with pink roses. Shes guaranteed to love them.”
After they left with the roses, Julie tried to decide what it was about him that made her react the way she did. He had a breezy confidence about him, but a lot of her male customers did. There was something, though, about the way he moved that seemed somehow more.
They leave?” Sasha asked, returning from the back office and running her fingers through her dark spiky hair.
Yeah. And you were wrong—he wasnt trying to get into anyones pants. He was buying flowers for his niece.”
Sasha flipped through the days receipts. Daniel Covington doesnt have to try to get into anyones pants. Women just drop them at the mere sight of him.”
Julie looked up from the new arrangement she had been working on. You know him?”
It really shouldnt have surprised her. Sasha knew everyone. It was one of the reasons the shop had been so successful. Julie was the business-minded one, Sasha the people person.
Or maybe she had dated him. Sasha was known for her ability to run through men like tissue paper. Every other month, it seemed she was on the arm of a new guy. New and improved. Highly disposable. But certainly Julie would have remembered Daniel.
I dont know him, know him,” she said. But I know of him. Hes the senior vice president of Weston Bank.”
Second-largest bank in Delaware.
That certainly explains why he didnt blink at the cost of a dozen pink roses in January.
Wealthy and good-looking,” Julie said with a sigh. The universe is so unfair.”
Sashas head snapped up. Not you, too.”
Not me, too, what?”
Wanting to drop your pants for Daniel.”
Julie picked up the flower shed been trimming and twirled it between her fingers, trying not to remember how she imagined Daniels hands and what theyd feel like on her body. I dont want to do any such thing. Whats it to you, anyway? Youre always telling me to get out more.”
I didnt mean with him.”
Are you telling me Im not good enough for the senior vice president of Weston Bank?” She pointed the flower at her friend. Dont make me come over there.”
She added the last as a joke, but in reality she was just covering the hurt at the suggestion she wasnt good enough for someone like Daniel. Hurt, yes, but there was also anger at her friend. How dare she insinuate she couldnt date an executive? Besides, who was Sasha to judge? It wasnt like she had a stellar record with the opposite sex.
Im just telling you, youre not compatible.”
And I thought you didnt know him.”
I dont,” Sasha said in the tone of voice that told Julie the topic wasnt up for further discussion.
Julie tried to decide if she wanted to push it. What did Sasha know about Daniel that made her so certain they werent compatible? She wondered again for just a second if they had dated.
Doesnt matter anyway,” Julie finally said. He just came in to buy roses. Its not like Ill ever see him again.” Because the universe really wasnt fair.
Sasha looked at her apologetically and nodded toward the trimmed flowers Julie was working with. On the other hand, people we would be okay never seeing again always seem to pop up. I took a phone call in the back.”
Julie dropped the flower. Mrs. Grant? Again? Shes already changed her order twice.”
She read an article.”
Of course she did.”
Sasha dug in her pocket and pulled out a ten-dollar bill. Why dont you go grab us some mochas? Ill handle her this time.”
Julie took the cash. Youre the best.”
Dont you forget it!” her friend teased as she left.
The sound of flesh slapping flesh rang out in the otherwise silent room as Daniel watched the couple in his playroom. Ron was his new mentee, a highly coveted position in their local BDSM group. Daniel had held several conversations with the young man, but this was the first time he had watched him with a submissive.
The submissive, Dena, was an experienced sub in their group. A good choice for a Dom in training, which was why Daniel had asked her to join them for the afternoon.
Daniel walked to where Ron had her positioned over a padded table. Nice location,” he said, in response to the spanking the young man had just administered. But do it again. Harder this time.” He ran his hand over Denas ass. Barely warm. Shes no masochist, but she needs to feel it.”
Ron nodded and went back to spanking.
Watch for signs,” Daniel instructed. Dena hadnt been commanded to be still and she wasnt bound. When she starts to get aroused, shell lift up to you. Listen to her. If shes not required to be silent, you can judge her response by her moans.” He lifted his voice for her benefit. But I did command silence today, so if she gives so much as a whimper, you can watch me punish her.”
He didnt miss the hitch in her breathing. He smiled in response and walked to stand by her head. Dont get too excited, girl, I call it punishment for a reason. You wont like it.”
Dena steeled her body and if Daniel were a betting man, hed guess there would be no disobedience today. He took a step back so he could keep both participants in his sight. Ron was putting more power into his strike and she loved it.
Run your hand between her legs,” Daniel instructed. Itll allow you to see how wet she is and heighten her arousal.”
Ron gave her one more slap on the backside and then slipped his hands between her legs. Shes soaked.”
Smack her pussy quick and hard a few times. Tell her shes been a good girl.”
Ron continued with the lesson, following Daniels advice, correcting himself when needed, and bringing Dena closer and closer to climax. While watching his mentee pleasure the submissive orally, he recognized his own need. It had been weeks since hed played with anyone. Far too long since hed held a womans submission in his hands and showed her the pleasure he could bring her.
Without even thinking about why, his mind wandered back to the petite florist with the long dark hair hed talked with days earlier. There had been an air about her. Something beyond her physical beauty drew him to her. Maybe the intelligent and self-confident look in her eyes or the unveiled way shed sized him up. Certainly, thered been some kind of sexual awareness between them. What would it be like to have her submission? To control her pleasure? It was far easier to picture her on her knees before him than it should be.
Forget it, he told himself. Shes strictly vanilla.
Not that he knew it with any certainty, but hed learned a long time ago it was best to assume a woman was vanilla until proven otherwise.
He forced his attention back to the couple before him. Ron needed a lesson in how to care for a submissive after play ended. Any thoughts having to do with the beguiling florist would have to wait.
Because as much as he tried to think otherwise, he knew it to be only a matter of time before she joined him in his fantasies.
Dena,” he said, as Ron left the house. Would you mind staying around for a bit?”
Dena glanced back at him and nodded, a look of anticipation on her face.
Damn. She probably thinks I want to play.
Not that it would be unheard of. They had played together before. She was an attractive woman and had fully embraced her submissive spirit. He had asked himself before why the two of them had never been a couple, but never came up with an acceptable answer. Finally, he chalked it up to not being ready for a serious relationship.
Once in the kitchen, he poured her a glass of water and pulled a chair out for her.
Thanks,” she said, sitting down. She cocked her head. Everything okay?”
Yes, of course.” He poured himself a glass and sat across from her. What did you think of Ron?”
He has potential. Ive served worse.” The corner of her lip upturned a bit. Of course, Ive served better.”
Her sly comment drew his thoughts to the last time theyd played. Surprisingly, though, the memories dimmed in comparison with the fantasies hed had of the florist. Unbidden, the image of her on her knees before him beckoned.
Stop! He clenched his fist. He would master his thoughts. They would not get the better of him. He forced his attention on the conversation at hand. I think he shows potential as well. An eager learner.”
Daniel had lived the lifestyle of a Dom for over ten years, been a mentor for five. In that time, hed seen plenty of men, and women, who wanted to become Doms or Dommes. Often, it never worked because they saw BDSM as a way to meet their own needs, to control, to exert power over a submissive. And while there was a place for that in his view of a power exchange, so much more important, he thought, was the protective care a Dom took of his submissive. How he graciously took her trust and used it to bring them both pleasure.
His thoughts once more drifted back to the florist. What would it be like to be entrusted with her submission? He pictured her bent over his table in the playroom downstairs: ass facing him, legs spread, her body willing and eager for whatever he chose to do to it.
His cock hardened just thinking about it.
You seem a bit distracted today, sir.”
Sir” was how submissives in their group were to address Doms when not out in public. Daniel had given Dena permission to use his name when they werent in a scene, so it wasnt difficult to see shed addressed him more formally as a subtle hint of her interest in playing.
He needed to get her focus on something else. Ive just got a lot on my mind lately.” Before she could offer to distract him, he continued. I told Ron to call you in the next day or two, so let me know if he doesnt. Id also like your thoughts on areas he needs help in.”
She nodded, unsurprised. She had worked with Doms in training before and knew what was expected. Ill e-mail you by the end of the week.”
Anything that happened today youd like to talk about?”
She shook her head. Nothing stood out as out of the ordinary or unexpected.”
Are you still planning to speak at the next meeting?”
Their local group held meetings once a month, generally before a party, and he was scheduled to speak at the next one. Yes.”
Let me know if you need help with a demonstration or anything.”
He felt the need for a long, hard jog. It was time for her to leave. He drained the last bit of his water and pushed his chair back. I think Ill be fine, but thank you for the offer. Come on. Ill walk you out.”
She didnt so much as move and her lips curled up into sly smile. I was rather hoping we could spend some more time in your playroom, sir.”
It would be so easy. A simple word, a slight nod of his head, and she would be his for the next hour or so. She offered her body for his pleasure and a part of him wanted to take it. To use it. To use her. But the larger part of him knew he wasnt in the right frame of mind for the playroom. To take her there would be greedy and unwise. So he held his need in check and simply shook his head.
Not today, Dena.” He stroked her cheek hoping to ease any embarrassment on her part. I need to run and make a few phone calls.”
As soon as she left, he changed and went for his run. Afterward, he showered and then flipped his laptop open and scrolled through the e-mails his administrative assistant had sent him over the last few weeks. Something had sprung to his mind during his run and he knew from past experience his mind wouldnt rest until he checked it out. He looked through all the e-mails searching for one in particular.
And there it was.
He skimmed the e-mail and drummed his fingers on the tabletop for just a second or two before sending a reply.
I cant believe you didnt tell me we had a gig with Weston Bank.” Julie slammed and locked her car door as she shot Sasha a nasty look. Daniel Covington probably thinks Im an idiot for not mentioning it last week.”
Sasha had oh-so-slyly mentioned yesterday that they had a meeting at the bank at two oclock today to discuss floral arrangements for the black-tie melanoma fund-raiser in two weeks.
Sasha walked beside her. Seriously, Jules, Im sure Daniel Covington has no idea whos providing flowers.”
Tap. Tap. Tap. Julie concentrated on the sound her heels made on the sidewalk. She couldnt afford to be flustered at this meeting. The benefit was a big event and if everything went well, it could lead to larger jobs in the future. Besides, Sasha had done the right thing. Had Julie known about the meeting, shed only have worried about it. Odds were, Daniel probably thought flowers appeared out of thin air.
Youre right. Besides, its not like you knew hed be stopping by with his grandmother,” Julie said, pushing open the door. This meeting goes well, Im taking you to dinner.”
Thank goodness, all I have at my place is an overripe banana.”
The front desk receptionist took their names and then showed them to a small conference room. Mr. Covington will be right with you.”
Julies head spun to Sasha. What did she say?”
Sasha looked just as surprised. Apparently he has an idea about the flowers after all.”
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how she looked at it, Julie didnt have time to dwell on anything. Within mere seconds, the door opened and Daniel breezed into the room. He wore a light gray suit and a bright blue tie that complemented his eyes. There was a look of momentary surprise as he noticed Sasha, but he was all smiles when he turned to Julie and held out his hand.
Ms. Masterson, good to see you again. My niece loved the roses.”
Then he looked to Sasha and shook her hand. Ms. Blake.”
There was a hint of recognition between the two. Julie picked up on it immediately. Neither Sasha nor Daniel seemed to acknowledge it, almost as if they had silently agreed to act as if they didnt know each other.
Daniel waved toward the chairs. Lets have a seat and finalize these plans, shall we?”
Surely a vice president had better things to do than to discuss flowers for a benefit? But it wouldnt be proper to ask, so Julie did as suggested and sat.
This benefit is near and dear to my heart,” Daniel said. My grandfather died of melanoma.”
Im sorry to hear that,” Julie said.
Thank you, but it was years ago. The flowers we had at last years event were subpar and I wanted to ensure the same didnt happen again. That would be why we hired you this time.”
I assure you, the Petal Pushers dont do subpar,” Julie said.
Thats what I like to hear.” His smile was easy and gentle, but his eyes held a tinge of desire.
Twenty-five minutes later, theyd negotiated all the floral arrangements and pricing. With a deft sweep of his pen, Daniel signed the contract and smiled.
Pleasure doing business with you. I can already tell Im in expert hands.”
As they all stood to leave, he addressed Sasha, Can you give me a moment with Ms. Masterson?”
A wary expression crossed her friends face, but Sasha pursed her lips together and nodded. Ill be in the car, Julie.”
Julies heart raced and she felt certain the temperature had risen in the small room by at least fifteen degrees.
Julie,” Daniel said when the door closed. It fits you. May I call you Julie?”
Determined not to appear as flustered as she felt, she smiled. If I can call you Daniel.”
Of course.” Was it her imagination or did his eyes darken as he spoke? I was wondering, Julie, if you would be at the benefit outside of your professional capacity?”
The tickets were a hundred dollars a plate, nothing she could afford. No, Ill be there before it starts, but Ill leave after everythings set up.”
He took a step closer to her and her heart raced faster. Would you come, then? As my date?”
Sashas words of warning repeated themselves in her head, but she refused to listen to them. There was obviously something, some chemistry, between her and Daniel. Shed felt it the first time she met him and obviously he felt it, too; shed be a fool not to explore it.
Yet, how could she both set up for the benefit and get ready to attend as a guest?
The simple answer would be to book a room at the hotel it was being held at. The problem with that was the five-star price associated with the five-star accommodations. An image of her on a date with Daniel flickered in her brain and she knew shed pay it.
You can say no. I promise I can take it.”
Her head jerked. What? Oh, no. I was actually just trying to work out the logistics in my head. I mean, Id love to accept.”
No. She had no idea how it would all work, how shed manage to do everything. She didnt even want to think about what Sasha would say. But one look into his captivating eyes, a glance at his easy smile, was all she needed.
Not yet, but I will.”
Would it be pushing my luck to ask you out to coffee sometime next week? Before the benefit?”
Two dates in one week? Thursday afternoon?”
He took a business card from the papers on the table and wrote something down. Heres my cell. Call me.”
She would. She definitely would.
A week later, she was putting the final touches on a funeral arrangement when Sasha came through the door. It was Wednesday. Recently, Sasha had been taking a long lunch on Wednesdays to spend time with her latest boyfriend, Peter.
How was lunch?” Julie asked. She really didnt have to. Sasha nearly screamed satisfied woman” the way she strolled into the shop, stopping here and there to touch a petal.
Now, you know I didnt eat anything.” Her eyes grew dreamy and she smirked. But, since you mentioned it. While I was—”
Stop it right there. No kinky sex talk in the shop. Someone could walk in.”
Julie knew her friend Sasha was a sexual submissive, and she understood a few details of what that entailed. Whenever Sasha played with a new Dom privately, Julie acted as her safety call, waiting a specified time for Sasha to text or call with a secret code so Julie would know all was well. Truth be told, even though some part of her thought there should be something scary about needing a safety call, a bigger part of her had always wondered what itd be like to submit sexually.
Just saying,” Sasha said. You can always tell a good one. Its like they can read your mind. Kinda freaky.”
The guy in charge?”
Its so much more than that. Its like an itch, an ache. And when youre with the right Dom, and he scratches it just so?” Sasha sighed with deep satisfaction and simultaneous excitement.
Hearing Sasha talk about it made Julie want to try it all the more. After all, it seemed to suit Sasha. And just because she tried it didnt mean she had to do it forever. She could just see if she liked it.
But no sooner had that thought passed through her mind than she wondered what it would be like to submit to Daniel. Would he be gentle in bed or was he into taking what he wanted hard and fast?
Youre sighing,” Sasha said. Whats on your mind?”
Had she sighed out loud? She didnt even realize it. Just thinking about something.”
Would that something happen to be a certain vice president?”
Here lately, its always about him.”
Just be careful, okay?”
But that was the problem. She was always careful. For once she wanted to take a risk.
Daniel was standing inside the coffee shop, waiting, when Julie arrived on Thursday. She took a second to watch him from the window. Having arrived after work, he was wearing a beautiful dark suit that emphasized his blond good looks. He was drawing admiring glances from several women.
Locally owned, the coffee shop was her and Sashas favorite hangout. Furnished with plush leather couches and handmade bookshelves, it was the perfect place to spend a winter afternoon. She wondered if Daniel had ever been inside before. Right now he was looking at the far wall, frowning at something she couldnt see.
Must have been a bad day.
She looked down at the polo shirt she always wore to work and wished shed had time to run home and change into something nicer. It wouldnt look like she belonged with Daniel when she joined him. Shaking her head, she pushed open the door. Let people think what they would. For the moment, she was with Daniel and that was all that mattered.
His expression lightened when he saw her and he walked over. Hey, come on in. Let me take your coat.”
She shrugged out of her winter coat, trying hard not to react when their hands brushed. Thanks.”
He seemed completely unaffected, hanging the coat on the rack beside the door. You want to get a table while I order?”
She told him what she wanted, medium latte and a blueberry scone, then found a secluded corner table and waited. He hadnt been in line long when a young woman approached him. He shook his head at whatever it was she said. The lady reached out to touch him, but he shot her a look that froze her in her tracks.
The look troubled Julie a bit. It had been so cold and stern, and seemed totally out of character for Daniel. At least, it seemed out of character for what she knew of Daniel so far. Maybe she hadnt read him as well as she thought.
She asked him about it when he found her minutes later. Did that chick hit on you?”
He placed her latte and scone in front of her. Yes, some people cant take no for an answer.”
Some people are really bold. I cant imagine approaching a stranger in a coffee shop.”
He took a sip from his cup. She wasnt a stranger.”
Did that make her an ex, a friend who wanted more, maybe a business associate? She wanted to ask, but didnt. It was their first date; she had no claims on him and he owed her no explanations.
Im very selective about who I go out with,” he said.
She raised an eyebrow and he laughed.
That sounds a bit snobbish, doesnt it?” he asked.
Slightly. You make it sound like you think the rest of us will date anyone with a basic grasp of the English language and most of their teeth.”
Let me rephrase, then.” He sat thinking for several seconds before finally giving up. Nah. Ive got nothing.”
Thats okay, I understand. You have certain criteria youd like in a woman and some people dont make the cut. Im selective about who I go out with, too.”
Im glad I fit the bill.”
She shrugged. What can I say, Im putty in the hands of a man who talks in complete sentences.”
He didnt take it like the joke shed intended; instead, his eyes flashed with desire. I doubt youd be putty for just any man no matter how well he spoke.”
Damn near every conversation shed ever had with Sasha about submission ran through her mind, but she pushed them out of her head. She focused her attention on Daniel, trying hard not to imagine being putty in his hands.
Its a figure of speech. Im a self-made businesswoman. Im putty in no ones hands and I dont intend to be.”
Is that so?” His eyes looked so deeply into hers that she wondered if he saw through her words.
Yes,” she said, but even she didnt believe her response. From the look he gave her, she could tell Daniel didnt either.
Thats too bad.”
He spoke the words so softly, she wasnt sure she was meant to have heard them.
He changed subjects, bringing up the benefit on Saturday. Julie asked about his grandfather and he was happy to talk about him. He shared some stories about fishing as a young boy with his grandpa that made her laugh, but also realize the warmth and love that had been between them. Her own grandparents had died before she was born, so she didnt have a connection like Daniel did. She admired the love he obviously felt toward his grandfather, and was moved that he expressed it by organizing the melanoma fund-raiser every year.
She found Daniel easygoing and fun to talk with. He had an air about him that set her at ease. Except for the times—and it happened more than once, so she knew it wasnt her imagination—that he looked at her with those blue eyes and the intensity took her breath.
There was something unusually captivating about Daniel. She just couldnt quite put her finger on it.
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