Ricochet Chapter Seven


Rick was dozing when his cell phone rang.


“Hey, dom-bro!” It was Cilla, one of his dom friends. “I’m watching the news right now. Shit, man – that looks painful. Way to go, bro. You’re such a fucking badass!”


“What…?” Rick fumbled for the remote and turned over to the news channel.


“TV star Richard O’Shea was pulled over for a speeding violation earlier today,” a smug-sounding presenter said. “It looks as if O’Shea has a lot in common with the character he plays on the hit TV show Collar Crime – trouble magnet Agent Alex Tanner.”


“What the hell?” Rick stared at the TV in horror.


“You’re one bad dom-fucking dom!” Cilla hollered down the phone.


“Yeah, whatever. Fuck off, Cilla.” He snapped the phone shut and turned his attention back to the news.


“It hasn’t been a good day for O’Shea – our sources tell us he took six in the studio discipline room earlier in the day, too – and then another six this evening at the Justice Hall. Even Alex Tanner doesn’t usually get into that much trouble in one day!”


Rick watched, in stunned surprise, as they showed some grainy cell phone footage of him in the discipline room at the Justice Hall. He could feel the embarrassment deep in his bones as he watched every single humiliating second of it. It only made it worse when he realized that whoever had taken the footage had to have been standing… right in the spot where Susan Antonio had been.


“Shit. What a crappy thing to do. I was nice to her as well,” he muttered, feeling completely betrayed. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, legal to video other people’s punishments, so maybe Susan Antonio hadn’t been the sweet innocent he’d taken her for. She clearly didn’t seem to have any problem breaking the law, even straight after being punished for it.


His cell phone rang again, but he ignored it. The only person he was worried about was Petra – he hoped this didn’t mean his job was in danger. He sent her a text, apologizing and saying he’d explain at work the next day. He really wasn’t up to any kind of conversation with his boss tonight; he’d probably only say something to make the situation worse.


He turned off the TV and stared blankly at the carpet for a long time, feeling like the entire world was against him. The doorbell rang, and he wondered if it was the press, wanting some kind of stupid interview. He supposed it was better to get it over with, so he rolled off the sofa, walked slowly to the front door, and opened it.


“Hey, Rick – are you okay?” Matt was standing there, holding a pizza box in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other. He was wearing dark chinos and a blue shirt that brought out the color of his eyes. He looked like he was dressed for a date, except for the denim jacket slung over the top, which didn’t match his outfit at all, and the silver scarf draped around his neck.


“What are you doing here, Matty?” Rick asked tiredly.


“I saw you on the news.” Matt pushed past him and walked into the house. “You looked like shit, and I figured you hadn’t eaten, so I thought I’d bring something over. Pizza and sympathy?” He held up the pizza box.


Rick gave a little chuckle and shut the door. “No need, Matt. I’m fine. Okay, so this hasn’t been the best day of my life, but I’m fine.”


“Bullshit.” Matt’s eyes blazed angrily. “I can tell you’re hurting, and I don’t blame you. How dare they show that footage? Nobody should have been allowed to film you. That’s infringement. Do you know who it was? You could bring a case against them.”


Rick thought of Susan Antonio quietly snuffling into her tissue beside him on the bench. He thought of her thin shoulders, scuffed shoes, and the hole in her blouse and decided he didn’t mind her making a fast buck out of his misery. “Yeah, I know, but I won’t bring a case. I’d rather let it drop.”


“Good luck with that – it’ll be all over the papers tomorrow.”


“I know.” Rick ran a tired hand through his hair. “But if I don’t make a big deal of it or complain about it, then it’ll pass over more quickly.


Matt nodded, thoughtfully. “You know, for an idiotic lunk, you’re actually quite sensible at times.”


Rick managed a faint grin at that. “Did you say something about pizza?” he said, brightening a little as his stomach began to growl.


“Yup. C’mon – you can eat lying on your stomach, can’t you?” Matt grinned at him.


“Sure – I’ve had plenty of practice.” Rick wished he hadn’t said that the minute it was out of his mouth. “You know – from on the show,” he added quickly to cover his mistake. “Alex is always eating that way after the chief has punished him.”


“Yeah. Sure.” Matt patted his arm. They went into the living room, and Matt took off his jacket and scarf and hung them neatly over the back of one of the chairs, while Rick eased himself down onto the sofa with a sigh. “You really are having a crappy day,” Matt said, handing him a slice of pizza.


“Yeah, but it’s looking a lot better now,” Rick said, looking at the pizza, his mouth watering. “Pepperoni and onion? My favorite.”


“I know.” Matt went over to the sideboard, found a couple of glasses, and brought them back to the coffee table. Then he opened the wine and poured them both a glass.


“Wine – very civilized,” Rick said, taking a sip. “And expensive.” He let out an appreciative sigh and glanced at the bottle.


“Of course.” Matt inclined his head. “You might act like a complete philistine, but I’ve noticed you always seem to know a good wine when we have a cast party. So – how do you feel?”


“Sore.” Rick winced.


“I’m not surprised – twelve hard licks in one day – that has to hurt. What’s it like?” he asked curiously.


Rick took a bite out of his pizza. “You’ve never taken licks in public?”


Matt shook his head. “I try to never get into trouble. It’s really not that hard, Rick. You should try it someday.”


“Hah, hah.” Rick made a face. “Seriously – you’ve never been disciplined at work, ever?” Matt shook his head as he bit into his pizza. “How about at the Justice Hall?”


“Nope.” Matt shook his head again.


“How is that even possible?”


“Actually, it’s quite normal for most people.” Matt rolled his eyes. “You’re the freak here, Rick.”


“And you’re the control freak.” Rick grinned. “Never getting into any trouble – ever?” He raised an eyebrow. “You need to cut loose and take some risks, Matt. You might find you actually have some fun.”


“Yeah, because it definitely looked like you were having fun on that news item earlier,” Matt responded tartly. “And you didn’t answer my question – what’s it like?”


“Painful. Hey – didn’t you have a date with Ermentrude tonight?” Rick asked, changing the subject.


“Yeah.” Matt’s face had that pinched look it always got when he was unhappy.


“What happened?”


“She dumped me.”


“What? Is she an idiot?” Rick tried to sit up and then winced and flopped back down again. “Are you upset?”


“No. That’s the weird thing. I think I should be, but I’m not. I’m more mad, I think.”


“That’s good. Don’t be upset – be mad. You totally didn’t deserve for her to treat you that way.”


“That’s not it. I wish it was. I think I should’ve got mad at her a long time ago, but I didn’t. Anyway, I’m not mad at her – I’m mad at myself. I knew I wasn’t enjoying being with her, and I should’ve ended it, not her. Damn it!” Matt kicked the pizza box and it went flying halfway across the room. He made an apologetic little noise and dashed over to get it and bring it back to the sofa.


“Well, I’m angry with her, even if you aren’t,” Rick said. “I always hated the way she ordered you around and treated you like you were something she’d scraped off her shoe.”




“Yeah, Matty. She wasn’t good enough for you. Never could understand why you stuck with her.”


“Me neither.” Matt sighed.


“Well, I’m glad it’s over,” Rick said between bites of his pizza. “You should play the field, Matt. You’re a good looking sub – doms everywhere must be falling over themselves to sweet-talk you into bed.”


“I’m not like you, Rick. I don’t think I’d enjoy playing the field.”


“You’re young – have some fun.”


“See, to me, that isn’t fun.” Matt bristled. “I want to connect with someone, Rick! To find a dom I can really trust and relax with and not…”


“Not?” Rick raised an eyebrow.


“Not have to count with.” Matt’s pale skin flushed an endearing shade of pink. “I wish I could switch off my brain and not have to count everything all the time.”


“It was worse with Emily, wasn’t it?” Rick said. “I could tell. She made you nervous, and when you’re nervous the OCD is worse. Also, you yell at me more on set.” He winked.


Matt laughed. “Well, you do deserve to be yelled at a lot of the time.”


“I know. What can I say? I’m trouble – and today that caught up with me, big time.” Rick glanced over his shoulder ruefully.


“I’m an OCD freak who can’t keep a dom, and you’re an idiot who can’t keep out of trouble.” Matt grinned and held up his glass of wine. “What’s left to do but celebrate?”


Rick laughed and clinked his glass against Matt’s. “You’re right. At least we can be screw-ups together.”


He finished his pizza and lay back down with a sigh, yelping as his sore ass made itself felt.


“Do you want me to put something on that?” Matt asked, getting up. “Where do you keep the ointment?”


“What ointment?”


“Whatever you use on your subs after discipline?” Matt raised an eyebrow.


Rick felt irritated, even though it wasn’t Matt’s fault. “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never disciplined a sub in my life.”


“What?” Matt folded his arms over his chest, looking perplexed. “Seriously, Rick?”


“Seriously. Who the hell am I to discipline anyone for anything? I’m the biggest screw-up there is.”


“But have you never done a really hard spanking session with a sub because they enjoyed it?”


“No, because I wouldn’t enjoy it. It’s not my thing,” Rick said firmly.


“Really? What is?”


“Hah – that’s between me and my subs.” Rick grinned up at him.


“So, you hate spanking?”


“No!” Rick was outraged. “I love spanking – that’s the point. That’s why I’d hate to swing a strap around and do a really hard-core discipline scene. For me, spanking is… well, it’s beautiful.” He smiled as he remembered spanking that sub he’d picked up last night. “It’s an act of intimacy, affection and sensuality – I adore pulling a sub over my knee and building up a spanking, like playing a piano or painting a picture. Just to whale down with some implement for the sake of it, even if the sub gets off on it – that really isn’t my scene at all. It’s not me, or how I like to play.”


Matt gave a little whistle. “Wow – that’s almost poetic, Rick. Just when I think I’ve got you figured out, you go and surprise me. I’ve never met a dom like you before, although half the time I’m not convinced you are a dom.”


“Well, I am,” Rick said flatly. “Just not that kind of dom. Look, spanking is a really personal thing for me, Matt. It’s special, and a really big deal. I hated being down at the Justice Hall, not because I took licks, but because I had to watch other people taking them – especially subs. It was like watching something that’s incredibly important to me being trampled into the dust. It set my teeth on edge.”


Matt sat back down on the sofa again. “You actually mean that? It really did upset you?” He sounded surprised, and Rick realized that Matt had never seen this side of him. Then again, he never usually let anyone see this side of him.


“Yes. Not being punished myself – that wasn’t a problem – but watching and listening to it happening to others, especially subs; that was a kind of torture for me.”


“You’ve spent a lot of time in the Justice Hall, haven’t you?” Matt said quietly, looking at him.


Rick shrugged. “Some,” he muttered.


“So why do you get yourself into so much trouble?” Matt asked. “I mean, first there was today at work, then this evening.”


“I don’t do it on purpose.” Rick took another sip of his wine. “I don’t pay enough attention to details, I guess.”


“I don’t think that’s it,” Matt said, giving him a thoughtful look.


“Don’t psychoanalyze me, Lake. I’m not the one who counts things compulsively.” Rick dug his foot into Matt’s thigh to make it clear he was teasing.


“True.” Matt glanced across the room. “You really have the most giant TV screen I’ve ever seen, Rick.”


“Yeah, well, I earn all this money now, so I wanted to spend it on things that remind me of that fact whenever I look at them.” Rick grinned.


“Can we watch something?”


“Sure.” Rick grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. “I recorded tonight’s episode of Collar Crime earlier. Want to watch us for a laugh?”


Matt grimaced. “I hate watching myself. I always think I make really crappy acting choices, while you and Daniel are always so good. I keep wondering when Petra is going to notice and fire me.”


“Idiot!” Rick nudged Matt with his toe again. “C’mon – it’ll be fun. Isn’t this the episode where the chief’s dark secret is revealed?”


“Yup. Although we do already know what that is.”


“Yeah, but we haven’t seen it all nicely edited together with meaningful music. C’mon – let’s laugh at ourselves.”


Rick grabbed hold of Matt’s arm and pulled him down on the sofa next to him. Matt kicked off his shoes and put his feet up, settling down beside him. It felt cozy, and Rick thought how nice it was to have company that he wasn’t trying to sweet-talk into bed for a change.


The opening credits came up, accompanied by the high speed, catchy theme song that summed up the show in a nutshell.


There was a moody, authoritative shot of Daniel, followed immediately by three faster shots of him: jumping over a car’s hood, gun in hand; looking angsty as he caressed a vintage collar nestling in a box, unused; and, finally, a rare shot of him smiling directly to camera, in which he looked devastatingly handsome.


Matt whistled. “Wow – you can see why he was named the sexiest sub in the world five years running when he was in the Insubordination movies.”


Then it was Rick’s turn – the first shot was of him looking at himself in a mirror while he buckled on his collar before work – which had been the very last scene from the original pilot. That was followed by a montage of him chasing a suspect; lying handcuffed and bare-chested in bed with a sexy smile on his face; and kneeling down in front of Chief Christie, looking contrite.


“Ooh – sexy!” Matt whistled at the bedroom shot. “How many sex scenes have you done on the show so far?”


“Tons. I’m the eye candy, in case you hadn’t noticed.”


“Hah! I thought we’d all been specially selected to appeal to a broad range of possible tastes, Mr. Up Yourself,” Matt commented acerbically.


“Yeah – but I bring the sex, obviously.” Rick poked him in the thigh, and Matt rolled his eyes. “Oh, look what we’ve got here – poor little butter-wouldn’t-melt Agent Ben Harris.”


Matt’s first shot showed him fingering his throat in a disappointed way, clearly upset by the lack of a collar. His montage was him nervously dropping his gun; then gazing up a well shaft covered in grime; and, finally, looking cool, wearing a tuxedo to a party.


“Which episode was that? The tux?” Rick frowned.


“The one where I’m undercover, pretending to be a rich dom at a party,” Matt replied, taking another sip of his wine. He’d already gone through one glass and was on his second.


“Oh, yeah. I remember that one. It was your first undercover assignment; you totally fucked up, and Alex had to step in to save the day.”


“That’s the one.” Matt grinned at him over the rim of his wine glass. “I had a lot of fun with that one.”


“Ooh, kinky! Did playing a dom turn you on?” Rick purred seductively in Matt’s ear.


“Not really. Does playing a sub in every single episode turn you on?” Matt threw back at him.


Rick roared with laughter. “That would be telling.”


“The show’s about to begin, so shush,” Matt ordered, as the massive Collar Crime logo came up onscreen.




It was relaxing watching the episode with Matt. They both zoned out and enjoyed it, laughing at some of the bizarre twists the plot took.


“Ooh look – here comes Karl – time for that big showdown with the chief,” Matt said, pointing as Karl slunk onto the screen, in character as Jason Jarvis, looking slimy and sinister. “Now, he’s a good actor,” Matt observed. “I mean, he’s a really nice guy in real life, but he’s pure evil onscreen.”


“Aw, you have the hots for Karl Morgan.” Rick poked Matt in the ribs.


“I do not!” Matt giggled, waving a hand to shove Rick away and spilling some of his wine on his own shirt in the process. “Oh, shit…” Matt wiped at the big stain ineffectually, and his entire body tensed up.


“Leave it. It doesn’t matter,” Rick said.


“But there’s some on your carpet! I’m so sorry.” He turned a stricken face towards Rick. “I’ll pay for it to be cleaned. Oh, hell…” He rubbed at the carpet frantically. “Do you want me to leave?” he asked miserably.


“What? Don’t be an idiot. It’s fine. Shit like that doesn’t freak me out. Just relax.” Rick pulled him back onto the sofa. Matt was still tense, so Rick stroked the side of his thigh. Usually Matt shoved people away when they got too far into his personal space, but this time he seemed not to notice, and he gradually started to relax.


“Anyway, what would it matter if you did have the hots for Karl?” Rick said, trying to resume their conversation and further defuse Matt’s tension. “He’s a nice guy. You could do worse.”


“True, but I think he has the hots for Daniel, so it wouldn’t be any use if I did.”


“Really? He likes Daniel?” Rick blew out a surprised whistle. “Poor Karl. That’s never gonna happen. I bet most subs would fall over themselves to be with Karl because he’s a good looking dom, but not Daniel. He’s the one sub in the world that Karl can’t have.”


“Yeah. Poor Karl. He’s a nice guy, and so is Daniel. I think they’d be good together.”


“Talking of good together – this scene between the chief and Jason Jarvis totally rocks,” Rick said, as the scene playing out on TV reached a dramatic climax. “Aw! Poor Chief Christie. Jason once stole the only sub he ever truly loved, and it hurt him so badly that he’s never allowed himself to fall in love again. He’s kept the collar he was going to give her all this time because he never got over her.” Rick made a theatrical sobbing sound.


“And now Jason Jarvis is back, intent on hurting the chief again,” Matt said. “Cue sinister music!”


“How’s he going to do that?” Rick asked. “I don’t remember this bit. I sometimes zone out in the scenes I’m not in during the table read.”


“Just watch.” Matt winked.


They watched in silence as the final scene showed Matt as Ben Harris walking into a bar. In an act of rebellion against his strict Lenkan upbringing, he’d gone looking for a dom to take his virginity.


“Oh, shit,” Rick breathed, as Jason Jarvis entered the bar, sat down beside innocent, naive Ben, and turned to him with an evil smile.


“Jason is going to try and steal the chief’s agents from him, one by one, starting with poor Ben.” Matt grinned up at him.


“Oh no! So, next week are we going to see you and Karl writhing around naked in his playroom?” Rick teased. He was surprised when Matt’s shoulders tensed again. “Hey – is there a problem?”


“No. Well, not really…” Matt glanced at him. “Damn it, I knew I shouldn’t have drunk so much wine; I’ll say something I regret.”


“What is it, Matt?” Rick sat up. “Matt?” he said softly, ignoring how much his ass was hurting right now. “C’mon – you’re my best friend – you can tell me.”


“Your best friend? Really?” Matt said skeptically. “You’re the great Richard O’Shea, the hottest thing in town right now. Everyone wants to be your friend.”


“Yeah, but you’re the only one who came around tonight and brought me pizza,” Rick pointed out. “I don’t see anyone else at the door. You’re also the only one who didn’t show up to my public humiliation at work earlier.”


“Public humiliation…? But you invited everyone, Rick! You played the whole thing up.”


“I had to. People would have heard about it and come along anyway if I hadn’t. This way, I made it look like it didn’t matter.”


“But it did matter,” Matt said quietly. “Yes?”


“Yes.” Rick shrugged. “So tell me, Matt – what’s bugging you about the plot line between Jason Jarvis and your character?”


Matt looked down at the floor. “The writers are building up to a big sex scene. We won’t be filming it for a few weeks – first Jason is going to woo Ben and make him fall in love with him. Then he’s going to invite him over for a session in his playroom.”


“What’s the problem with that? You’ve filmed sex scenes before.”


“No, I haven’t. I’ve filmed love scenes before, and they were pretty tame compared to how this will be,” Matt said miserably. “In this scene, my character loses his virginity and totally gives it up to the dom who is seducing him.”


“I still don’t see the problem.”


“The problem is that I don’t know how that feels. I’ve never given it up to any dom – not really.” He looked so desperately embarrassed that Rick felt sorry for him.


“So that’s your dark secret, Matty? C’mon! As dark secrets go, it’s hardly that bad.” Rick pushed his wine glass away, deciding he wouldn’t drink any more in case he confessed to a few dark secrets of his own. He was pretty sure that his would beat Matt’s, hands down.


“But in this sex scene, Ben has to fall under Jason’s spell, submit completely, and really fly. He has to go into his subspace and stay there for hours,” Matt said gloomily.


“And you don’t think you can act that?” Rick asked.


“I don’t know. I’ve never been in subspace in my life, Rick. I don’t have a clue how to act it.”


“Well, I’m not a sub but I still act that every day. You don’t have to have lived something to act it, Matt,” Rick told him reasonably. “If they wrote you murdering someone, you wouldn’t have to go out on a killing spree to know what it’s like. You have empathy and imagination – that’s part of what acting is.”


“I know that. It’s just… I know the audience will be able to see it’s not authentic. I won’t be able to go with it because I can’t in my real life, either. I get tense and anxious and that’ll show in my performance. I’m also worried about screwing up during the filming. It’s going to be pretty explicit, and I’m worried I might freak out if Karl has to tie me up, or gag me, or something.”


“Wow, this is really getting to you.” Rick put a hand on Matt’s shoulder and squeezed reassuringly. “Look, Matt, how about I have a word with Karl, and we go into a rehearsal room, just the three of us, and get you nice and relaxed and talk through the entire scene when it’s time? Karl’s a good guy – he’ll be happy to help.”


“I don’t want people knowing about me. About my sex life and how completely I suck at it,” Matt said uncertainly.


“Karl doesn’t have to know. I’ll just tell him you’re really nervous because it’s such a full-on scene. He’ll be cool about it. Between us, we’ll get you through it.”


Matt gave a tentative little smile. “Okay. Thanks. I think that’ll help.”


“Good.” Rick squeezed his shoulder again. “Matt… do you mind me asking something personal?”


“I’ve already spilled my guts about something very personal, so I guess not.” Matt grimaced.


“Why do you repeatedly get involved in relationships with service-oriented doms?” Rick asked curiously. “Because it doesn’t seem to me like you actually enjoy them much. I mean, I’ve been with service-oriented subs, and it’s fine, but it doesn’t really float my boat. I don’t care about being waited on, and I don’t like ordering subs around – well, not outside of the bedroom anyway.” He winked. “It’s not my thing, and I have to say, I never got the vibe from you that it’s your thing, either. And yet those are the doms you always go for; there’s Ermentrude, and that thick-as-shit guy you were with before her.”


“Troy? He wasn’t thick as shit, he was…” Matt considered it for a moment. “No, you’re right, he was thick as shit. Very good-looking, though.”


“And essentially all he wanted was a servant. You might as well have been his PA, Matt, rather than his sub, for all the attention he paid to you. You just ran errands for him all the time.”


Matt glanced up at him. “I didn’t know you even noticed who I date.”


“Well, I do notice you never seem happy with any of them. I mean… you never roll into work late, walking funny, with a giant smile on your face from some really great sex the night before. You never have love bites on your neck, or handcuff marks on your wrists from a fantastic takedown session. You never wince when you sit down and then smile, like you took a really great spanking the night before. You never look well fucked.”


“Like all your many subs, you mean?” Matt made a face. “The oh-so-lucky ones who’ve been treated to ‘the great Richard O’Shea sexperience’.” He snorted.


“Well, I do ride ’em hard and put ’em away smiling. I know that much.” Rick grinned. “Look, you can tell me to butt out, but I just wondered why you always choose people who don’t really suit your sexual dynamic. Unless… you do know what your sexual dynamic is, don’t you?”


“Yes.” Matt’s face flushed a bright red.


Rick frowned. “And is it so bad that you can’t find a dom who you’d be compatible with?”


“No. I just…” Matt shrugged helplessly.


“Or is it something you don’t think you’d be any good at? You know you can be great as a service sub, because you’re so organized and like controlling things, but you’re so terrified of not being perfect all the time that you don’t want to take the risk with something closer to your heart? Do you think you’d let a dom down if you asked for what you really want?” Rick asked quietly. “Because you think you can’t do it, or you’d be bad at it?”


“I…” Matt’s blue eyes were agonized, and Rick knew that he’d hit a nerve. “Yes,” Matt muttered, dropping his head and gazing mutely at the floor.


“Hey – look, I don’t know what kind of doms you’ve met, but plenty would be happy just to try stuff with you – you don’t have to be perfect or get it right from the outset.”


Except – this was Matt, and even as he said that, Rick knew that in Matt’s head, he did. It was all part of the OCD, his need to get things right and be in control, while counting all the cracks on the ceiling at the same time. That was who Matt was.


“I know that in my head… but I can’t…” Matt knocked the palm of his hand against his forehead. “I can’t do it, Rick.”


“What is it that you want to do, Matt?” Rick asked gently. “I know a lot of doms – I could get you together with one you’re compatible with, who’d help get you over this. What’s your thing? What turns you on?”


“Nothing really way out. Not even anything different or special.” Matt looked up, his face flushed with embarrassment. “I’d like to be swept up in my own submission, to lose myself in it. I want to be overwhelmed, to give in, to be taken out of myself, and to float. I want to feel, Rick, instead of thinking all the time.” He spoke in a low, passionate voice, and Rick could tell how much this meant to him.


“There are plenty of doms out there who’d be happy to take you on that journey, Matt,” he said reassuringly.


“But I can’t do it! I’ll get tense, and anxious, and start counting, and they’ll get annoyed with me, and I won’t be able to please them, and I’ll want to take back control, and they’ll get pissed off with me and be disappointed. Then they’ll end it, and I’ll be worse off than before we started.”


“Wow – you’ve got this whole scenario figured out.” Rick shook his head, chuckling. Then he took another look at his friend, who was sitting there, his face flaming up to the tips of his ears, and the realization hit. “Is that something that’s actually happened to you, Matt?”


Matt shrugged. “My first dom. Guy called Lucas.”


“Your first dom – and I’m guessing you were his first sub, too? You were both young, and Lucas freaked out because he couldn’t take you down. He felt it reflected on his performance as a dom, and you beat yourself up because you couldn’t be the sub he wanted you to be?”


“Yeah. That’s about it.” Matt grimaced. “Stupid, huh? I mean, everyone else manages to be out there having great sex all the time. It’s just me who can’t do it.”


Rick laughed. “I really don’t think everyone else is out there having great sex all the time, Matt.”


“You are.”


“Yeah. Well.” Rick shrugged. “I’m not everyone. Look – what happened to you is just inexperience; you’re older now.”


“It’s happened a few times since then, too,” Matt told him. “After a while, I decided to stop putting myself through it. I was starting to come over as a tease who couldn’t deliver in the bedroom.”


“So it was easier to get involved with service-oriented doms, and be good at that, than try to find a dom who shared your particular dynamic and could be patient and sympathetic with you?”




“That sounds crappy. You should cut yourself some slack, buddy. Sex isn’t about being perfect – it’s about having a good time. It sounds like you’ve got yourself so freaked out about it that it’s hardly surprising you can’t relax and enjoy it.”


“Really?” Matt chewed on his bottom lip thoughtfully.


“Really. You need to stop being so hard on yourself, Matt.”


“And on other people; I really wasn’t very nice to you earlier, Rick.”


“You have a temper – I like that about you. That’s your passion showing through, Matt, and it has to show through somewhere, because you keep it leashed most of the time. At least when you’re throwing fruit at me, you aren’t counting things in your head.”


“I never thought of it that way.” Finally, Rick coaxed a wan smile out of his friend. “Sorry, all the same. I bottle things up and then explode, but I’ve never seen you lose your temper once. You’re always so laid-back.”


“Well, like you said, I do have a lot of good sex – and that helps me relax.” Rick grinned at him.


“That’s your secret?” Matt rolled his eyes.


“Give me a sub’s beautiful ass to spank every day, throw in some hot fucking, and what the hell have I got to explode about?”


They both laughed, and Rick felt he’d at least been able to banish some of Matt’s misery. He wished he knew a better way to help his friend, but he decided he’d think about how to set Matt up with a dom he’d be compatible with, now that the loathsome Emily was out of the way.


“Sorry – I came over here to cheer you up, but all I’ve done is dump my problems on you,” Matt said tiredly. “And you’ve got plenty of problems of your own right now.”


“Hell, no – it’s been good finding out I’m not the only one with bad shit going on.”


“You won’t tell anyone about any of this, will you?”


Rick poked his thigh. “Don’t be an idiot. Look, Matty, I’ve got plenty of faults – most of which you already know because, let’s face it, I don’t do a good job of hiding them – but I’d never betray a friend. I promise.”


Matt smiled at him again and then yawned. “Thanks. So – what do you think Petra will do to you tomorrow?”


Rick sighed. “I have no idea. I’m more pissed off that the press will be following me around for the next few weeks, wallowing in this whole thing.” He stretched out wearily on the sofa. “Whatever Petra does, I’ll handle it.”


Matt yawned again, his eyes glazing over. “You know… I think I might have had too much to drink,” he muttered sleepily. His head jerked sideways, and he blinked, looking endearingly confused. Rick pulled him down gently, so that he was nestled against him. “Sorry… just… mmm,” Matt muttered.


“Don’t apologize, Matty,” Rick told him. “You’re always apologizing, and you really need to stop.”


“Mmm, yeah. Sorry,” Matt mumbled, and then his eyes closed, and he was fast asleep.


Rick smiled and stroked a hand over his friend’s tousled blond hair. “I bet your hair drives you nuts; it’s the one thing you can’t control.” He gently smoothed it with his fingers. “You’d never let me do this if you were awake. You’re such a prickly sub, always pushing people away when your eyes say you want to be scooped up and loved. You must drive your doms nuts.”


Rick leaned back with a yawn. “You know, not one of my clubbing friends gave a shit about what happened to me today, but you did. You’re a good friend, Matty – better than I deserve.”


Matt mumbled something in his sleep and moved his head so it was resting on Rick’s chest, his cheek squished to one side. Rick smiled and wrapped an arm around his friend.


“Thank you, Matty,” he said softly.


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