Derreck killed his car’s engine, letting his eyes fall shut as he leaned back against the leather seat. He could barely keep his eyes open as exhaustion pulled at him, sinking into his weary bones until his frame was thinly stretched.
The seat was comfortable enough that he could almost imagine himself drifting off to the sound of gentle ticking as the Mustang slowly cooled. The air conditioning faded, draining his hope for restful peace as sweat beaded on his forehead. Wiping it away, he let out one last sigh before he opened the door.
Even warmer air coated him as he stepped onto the pavement, his sweat drying under the sun almost instantly. A single shriveled maple on the street hung limp, its leaves barely managing to hold on as the sun baked them black. He rubbed his eyes as his shoes kicked up enough dust to blind an army within a few steps.
Stumbling on the curb, Derreck managed to catch himself on the lamp post that jutted out of the edge of the sidewalk. His palm burned as it touched the heated surface, a gasp pushing through his lips.
Usually it wouldn’t bother him—the pain. It was a part of life that he could easily ignore or twist into something much better—but not when he’d gone weeks without a decent night’s sleep.
He’d thrown himself into his work, pulling more hours than anyone else, all to avoid the enthralling eyes of the sub that haunted his dreams. If only it had worked.
“Are you okay?”
He turned toward the voice as it trickled into his thoughts. The street was empty. Even the plant that hung from the lamp post was nothing more than a few dried twigs and a bunch of dehydrated pansies. He paused, raising his hand to block his eyes from the sun’s glare.
The voice had sounded close, but he couldn’t spy anyone as he looked around before noting the white door of his destination and the Office Depot across the street. I must be worse off than I thought.
There was usually no one to see him coming and going in this part of town, which was exactly how he liked it. There were a few other cars parked along the curb, and he recognized them all except the red Toyota next to him.
He huffed, ready to turn away, before something caught his eye. The Corolla’s windows were down, the sun baking the exposed gray-cloth interior with heat waves escaping through the openings. It wasn’t a car that should have had its windows down in a place with nobody around.
Derreck took a step toward the car before peering through the passenger window. In the driver’s seat was a man who must’ve been one step away from heatstroke, especially with his black sweater that probably soaked up warmth that much quicker. The interior was tidy, except for a few empty bottles of water stacked on the passenger seat.
Derreck had chosen a baby-blue tank top and jeans himself, but he wished he could pull his tank over his head and dunk himself in the nearest swimming pool.
Leaning over the side of the car, Derreck touched the hood, hissing as heat lanced over his palm. I am going to be useless tonight. Shaking his hand, he leaned down to get a better look at the driver.
The driver was flushed, his face a healthy pink and his brown hair soaked with sweat so thick that it looked nearly back. His sweater clung to him, the fabric dark in almost every spot on his rail-thin body. The man gave Derreck a broad smile, sending a small wave as Derreck peered into the steaming interior.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” said the man, leaning back in his seat and adjusting the strap over his chest. “I saw you stumble and wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Okay? Derreck couldn’t keep the disbelief off his face. He didn’t even have the energy to turn the question back at the guy who was sweating his ass off in a car when it was sweltering, even in the shade. He didn’t want to know.
“I’m good, thanks,” said Derreck, slapping the top of the car as he turned away. You should ask him if he’s okay. Derreck bit down on the urge as it rose behind his teeth. He had too much on his plate, and he couldn’t take one more ounce of anyone else’s shit before he exploded.
But how many times had he stopped things just before they had been about to go to shit? Too many to count.
“You waiting for someone?” Derreck asked, clenching his fists as he paused on the street. The sun soaked into his shoulders, fresh sweat gathering at the base of his neck. Sweet air conditioning was only a few steps away, but this man was so much worse off than him—sitting in his car…in a fucking sweater.
“Uh, yeah.” The man looked up and down the street once before he settled his gaze on the familiar blank door that called to Derreck like the sweetest siren. Beyond those doors was relief and relaxation that couldn’t be rivaled by anything else in the world. Too bad there wasn’t a bed meant for just sleeping.
The door to the club Unkinked had never been labeled, which kept a lot of pointed fingers from finding it. This man seemed to know what was inside the same way Derreck did.
Someone’s sub? The guy didn’t look like a Dom, although looks were as deceiving as book covers. Derreck had seen twinky Doms control guys twice their size—putting them on their knees and making them beg usually did the trick.
Derreck had it easier. He looked his part of ruthless Dom, and no one in their right mind would ever ask him to be their sub. It would have been their last question with their own teeth in their head if they did.
He turned away, heading to the door and pressing his hand against the cool surface. He could already feel the stress draining from his body, seeping into the beams of the place where his mind and body felt safest. All he needed was a bit of play and he would be set for the next week. If it were good enough, the high might even last a bit longer and he would be able to catch a bit of sleep.
But his highs were becoming few and far between, and the last one had left him wanting—wanting to never step foot in his place of solace again, wanting to leave the lifestyle behind for good, wanting to be vanilla. He shuddered at the thought.
After pulling his key card from his pocket, he tapped it against the door’s sensor, the light taking much too long to flip over to green before the lock slid back with a clunk. The security was necessary, as was the bouncer on the other side of the door and the dungeon master who was patrolling the club. It kept curious seekers from sneaking their way inside the place where people laid their hearts and souls out in the open.
He nodded at the unfamiliar bouncer, giving him a quick once-over before thoroughly dismissing him. Derreck didn’t care if a sub was burly and thick or lean, because he’d long since mastered hitting a target with a touch of jiggle. But he couldn’t pull the bouncer away from his duties.
The bouncer was the third fresh face he’d seen in as many months. The owner of Unkinked, Clint, must have been outsourcing his help for there to be so many unfamiliar faces—either that or maybe they got sick of hearing people fuck and not being able to join in.
Derreck let out a sigh as the cool air trickled over his skin, his sweat turning into goosebumps as the summer heat was sucked away. He let his eyes fall shut as he took a deep breath. Earth and mold that always clung to him gave way to sex and desire, dredging up memories in an instant. He had thousands of memories of Unkinked, and some of them were the best days and nights of his life.
The pull of desire lured him a step away from the door. The sharpness of vodka and rum tickled his nose as he stepped to the curtain. Am I drinking tonight? A drink meant no scene, and a scene was everything he needed.
There was a subtle staleness to the curtains as Derreck trailed his fingers over the fabric, finally opening his eyes. He pushed them aside, taking in every detail of the dark interior.
Three of the booths were occupied, all by Doms and subs whom he recognized. A few looked up as he entered, one sub blushing and looking back to the floor. Derreck kept his smirk to himself as he nodded to their Dom, Selina. She had allowed him to borrow her sub, after all. It hadn’t been nearly as interesting as he had hoped, but he’d still cherished the submission.
The inside of the club was clean and still bright in the early hour—and was likely different than any newbie expected. There was a touch of nudity in the main area, as well as some rocking leather, but the best parts of the club were out of view. Hidden near the back was the entrance to the main stage and open play area, and tucked around the corner were nine private rooms that made even the most stoic Doms salivate.
From the entrance, though, it could have been any other club, with booths along the wall and a bottle-rich bar with wooden stools for those who wanted to socialize and grab a few drinks. The virgin menu was even more robust than the alcoholic one, catering to the couples who wanted to play.
He stepped to the bar, slipping into an unoccupied stool. Brennen was in the next stool over, bent over a shot glass that reeked of vodka and whiskey—a killer combination that Brennen usually stuck with. There were three more glasses strewn around him and his eyes were already glassy.
He wouldn’t be playing, and he was a Dom anyway, which was something Derreck never tried to push. He had no desire to change a person’s identity, whether it was Dom or sub. Both positions demanded respect.
“Hey, Derreck. It’s a hot one today,” said Brennen, looking up from his glass just long enough to ask.
Derreck grunted, tapping the bar top. His nails were still crusted with dirt and clay. No matter how hard he scrubbed, they never seemed to come clean. Even the potato scrubber from the discount store hadn’t done the trick, although it had stung.
He leaned against the bar as another wave of exhaustion settled over him. The murmur of voices was almost enough to send him straight to sleep, and the ease that always settled over him in Unkinked had him even closer.
“You drinking tonight, Derreck?” asked Clint as he worked his way through the half-dozen others at the bar.
Clint had started Unkinked with his husband, and after his husband had passed, he had taken full responsibility to keep it going. Derreck couldn’t imagine keeping the hours Clint did, along with bartending, organizing events and schedules, giving lessons in first-aid and the mountain of paperwork he must have.
Besides the bouncer and the volunteer dungeon master, Clint worked alone, although there were many subs who offered volunteer service as well.
Derreck blinked as he dropped his gaze to Clint’s hips when they swayed with each sauntering step when he moved closer. He was attractive and strong, with a wicked smirk that had caught Derreck’s eye more than once.
Nodding his head, he peered back over his shoulder. Clint was so far off limits that Derreck shouldn’t have even been looking. One drink. One drink before the fun starts.
Clint gave him a quick smile before reaching for a bottle of Jameson. “The usual?”
Derreck shook his head, eyeing Clint up as he passed under the bar’s light. Clint looked tired and from more than just lack of sleep. He looked the way Derreck had felt for the past few weeks. It was another thing that Derreck just didn’t have the energy to fix.
Clint was his friend. Maybe not in a traditional sense, but Clint had been there for him more than once. In return, Derreck usually had his back. But it had been weeks since Derreck had stepped inside the bar. Things had obviously not changed while he had been trying to convince himself he could stay away.
“Give me a shot of Jäger.” Derreck leaned his elbows on the bar top, sagging as he took in his surroundings. Ask him if he’s okay. He looked back to Clint and to the tightness around his eyes. Not here.
“Must’ve been a shit day,” said Clint as he set the bottle of Jameson down and reached for the Jägermeister instead. His grip was steady, and the liquid didn’t slosh over the side as he poured Derreck his shot. Maybe I’m just projecting.
“Shit week,” said Derreck, surprised that Clint didn’t mention his absence. He shouldn’t have been surprised. Clint was one of the most intuitive men he knew, and he must’ve seen the strain in Derreck’s every movement.
Derreck’s callused palms were red and blistered, his skin dry and still dirty-looking, despite his lengthy shower. His muscles burned, even as he raised his glass to his lips and tossed back the shot. The liquid seared a path down his throat, turning him inside out as it sank into him. It eased the ache in the rest of his body for an instant. A bit of rain would have gone so much further than the shot, though.
“You starting a tab?” Clint grabbed the empty shot glass, setting it on a tray beneath the lip of the bar.
“I’ll stop at one.” Derreck pushed off the stool, heading deeper into the club without looking back at Clint. If he’d stayed any longer, he would have had to ask Clint if he was okay. Letting two people down in one day. Must be a record. He grimaced as his gut throbbed with every movement. Jäger had probably been a poor choice.
He scoped out the bar a second time, slowing his stride until his stomach calmed. His gaze lingered on a couple—two subs—as they kissed over their table. Kristie and Katie. It was too bad that they weren’t his type, because two subs were better than one. They needed a soft Dom, but he needed a sub to torture the fuck out of.
There were a few other couples, despite the early hour. After dark was when the real sadists started to emerge from the shadows, but the lifers didn’t care what time of day it was. Derreck was a lifer, too, he supposed, and after more than fifteen years, he should have known that his life was nothing without kink.
He circled the bar area again. There was nothing happening on the main stage or open floor, and he had no desire to just watch if one of the kink room doors were open. He spied a Dom who was reclined in the seating area outside of the rooms, her sub at her feet with his head across her shoe. From the blissed-out look on his face, he was still floating.
Derreck needed something more than that. He needed them sobbing with euphoria in his arms after he fucked them up. It was the only way he was going to get a certain sub out of his thoughts.
He clenched his hands into fists, the calluses on his palms like pebbles over his skin. His hands could do a lot of damage to a person, then dig a grave on a moonlit Tuesday. The damage was always consensual, but the grave…not so much.
He slipped down the hallway of doors that led to kink rooms, which held more implements than any Dom or sub could ever ask for. He slid his hand over the engraved gold letters on his favorite room. Impact. Even the name made goosebumps burst over his skin and sent a shudder of need to his core. His cock stayed soft, as it usually did, except for those rare occasions when a sub managed to surpass his expectations.
Like Nav. He closed his eyes, letting his hand rest against the carved surface.
Nav had been introduced to him by a fellow Dom, and after their first scene together, he had gone straight home with his hands still aching from holding the flogger tight. Stepping in the shower, he had dropped his hand to his cock, jerking himself to hardness with Nav on his mind.
But Nav wasn’t his in the loosest sense of the word, even though he still managed to haunt Derreck’s dreams. Nav had safeworded during their second scene together, then had fled back to his true Dom, Trick. The call of “yellow” still sounded in his ears as if it had only been yesterday.
Sex was so rarely a part of life for Derreck, but during their first scene, he had watched Trick come as Nav had shot against the wall from Derreck’s beating alone. He wouldn’t have been a gay man if he hadn’t felt something.
But Nav had belonged to Trick before the two of them had even realized it. Derreck had seen their looks and had chosen to ignore them, despite his better instincts. It had been a miscalculation that had added to his sleeplessness and had prompted him to steer clear of the club for weeks.
He gritted his teeth, turning away from the closed door and pushing his way down the hall.
He’d come to the club so he could forget his mistake and move the fuck on.
The private rooms were all closed as he passed them, tracing his fingertips over each name. Play, Spoil, Calm, Wet. He wasn’t sure whether or not there were couples on the other side of each door, but the closed door meant that voyeurism was not welcome. I’m not welcome.
He circled back to the main area, sliding into an empty booth, despite invitations from several tables that he passed. He didn’t pause for conversation, just tilted his head before he moved on to his own space. Rapping his knucks against the polished tabletop, he leaned back to survey the room once more.
There was no one for him yet, but he was patient. He could spend hours staring at the same spec of dirt, letting his mind drift until he was content. Sitting in a comfortable chair with the hum of music and the smell of sex in the air was paradise in comparison.
He looked up as the curtain to the entrance slid open and another couple stepped off the street and into his world. Derreck got a flash of the bouncer and a few others before the curtain fluttered back into place. The hum of conversation lulled against his eardrums.
His chest did not squeeze when he spotted Nav tucked under Trick’s arm as they entered the club together. Trick’s tanned hand glowed against Nav’s pale, naked shoulder, a pair of tight boy shorts the only thing on Nav’s body.
It wasn’t that Derreck was jealous of his friend, but there was a certain longing at seeing Nav that summoned his darker side. It wasn’t very often that Derreck could take himself in hand and come quickly, and a treat like Nav would have made any man salivate.
Trick spotted him first, nodding from across the room before he gripped the back of Nav’s neck and pushed him to the ground.
Nav had come a long way since Derreck had last seen him. Dropping to his knees, Nav didn’t seem to care how hard he struck the ground or how rough Trick jerked his head back by his hair. His eyes glazed over immediately, going deep without resistance. He was something special.
Derreck shifted in his seat, trying to ease the tension in his gut. Nav—no, Trick’s sub—stayed on the ground as Trick strolled toward Derreck, giving him a smile as he approached.
“Derreck.” Trick stopped at the edge of the booth, holding his hand out in an offering. Derreck took it, accepting the handshake at face value. Trick had grown a few calluses on his palm, the surface rougher than Derreck remembered. Working his sub hard. Good. Nav deserved someone who would put the effort in.
“Maverick.” He squeezed once before he broke contact, smothering the urge to wipe his hand on his pants. Trick’s sweat on his palm was like a raw nerve, his touch buzzing under Derreck’s skin.
“My slut has something to say to you, if you are agreeable to it,” said Trick, glancing back at Nav. Trick’s eyes were hard, despite the languid way he moved. He traced the room, eyeing someone up as they moved from a booth to the bar, passing close to Nav. Too close, apparently. Trick clenched his fist, his jaw going tight.
Derreck paused, looking back at Trick’s sub. Nav had lowered his eyes to the floor, unmoving, despite the way his knees had to have been aching on the hardwood. Perhaps he had done something to not deserve a pillow—or perhaps he preferred it like that.
Nav wasn’t beautiful in a traditional sense—too pale and soft to meet the stereotypical desires of most men—but Derreck had seen first-hand how alluring he was after a scene. Derreck valued that more than any beauty.
He inclined his head, sliding his hand over the tabletop as he looked to Trick. “I’m agreeable.” His voice sounded more strained than he would have liked, but he’d buried too many people in one week to feel normal. Trick gave him a sharp look, probably seeing straight through him. I must look worse than I thought.
Trick didn’t say anything, though, which made him a better friend than Derreck gave him credit for. Instead, he called his sub over, Nav crawling on all fours with his head lowered as he approached.
Derreck slid his hand over the tabletop, Trick’s sweat on his palm spreading over the surface until he could no longer feel the edge of it sinking into his skin. It left a streaky mess on the polished surface, his fingerprints blatant beneath the light.
Derreck looked up as Nav finally stopped his crawling and kneeled at his feet with his head bowed. His dark hair shone in the low light of the club, looking almost black against his pale skin. A purplish welt peeked through the waist band of his low-riding shorts and Derreck fought the urge to reach forward and press his fingertip to the bruise.
“Speak,” said Derreck, keeping his voice quiet. Nav had a very particular brand of humiliation that he desired, and that brand name was Trick. Derreck was nothing to him.
“I wanted to apologize, Sir,” said Nav, keeping his gaze pointed to the floor, despite his steady tone. “I was lying to myself, and to you, when I asked for a second scene. I should have never disrespected you, and I’m sorry for my behavior.”
That…was unexpected. Derreck tilted his head, not fighting the smile that tugged at his lips. It was also a huge fucking relief. It had been a mistake, but maybe it hadn’t been his alone.
A smidge of his exhaustion uncoiled, his lungs filling easier than they had in a long time.
“Forgiven,” said Derreck, fighting the urge to keep his hands to himself for a second time. Trick, having no need to hold back, threaded his hand through Nav’s hair, tugging him so he had to crawl a step closer.
“Thank you, Sir,” said Nav, tension visibly draining from his body.
So good. Derreck turned his gaze away, swallowing down the words that started to rise. Nav was one of a kind, but Nav was not his.
“Clint will be joining us for our scene,” said Trick, patting his sub on the top of his head. “You are welcome as well, of course.”
Trick’s eyes darkened as he looked at his sub, and it wasn’t because of the low light. Derreck shook his head. That was not the type of torture he was after tonight. He had no desire to string himself along, gaze at Trick’s sub and imagine.
“Slut, go get ready in our room. You know which one,” said Trick. Nav scurried away on his hands and knees, the bottom of his ass cheeks peeking through the hem of his shorts. Another small bruise caught Derreck’s eye and he licked his lips before forcing his gaze back to the table. Trick was staring at him, his eyes hard.
“You’re my friend, Derreck, but I’ve never seen you this distant before—not with me, anyway. You haven’t been here in weeks and tonight…you aren’t yourself. I know you won’t ask for help, so I’m offering it.”
Shit. Am I really that obvious? He swallowed the lump in his throat that had formed as soon as he’d seen Nav walk through the curtain. “It’s nothing. I just need to find myself a sub and let off some steam.”
But will that be enough? It had been before, but Trick was right. He wasn’t himself and hadn’t been for some time. Even before Nav, things had been…off.
Trick hummed before looking around the bar. “There’s only one sub who can take what you have to give right now. The offer stands. You can come, watch or get involved again if that’s what you need. I’m sure Nav would be open to the idea, too. He’s been kicking himself for weeks about what he did to you.”
Not his fault. “He’s good for you,” said Derreck, turning his gaze back to the table. Maybe he wouldn’t stop at one shot tonight. His stomach churned at the idea, goosebumps breaking out over his skin.
A smile cracked Trick’s face, his blue eyes glowing with the glee and something more. Trick had never looked at his previous partner like that, but Derreck had always wondered how their partnership had lasted so long when their kinks hadn’t aligned. Compromise maybe?
“He is. He’s a good man and a good slut,” said Trick.
“The best of both worlds,” said Derreck, his voice flat. Maybe Trick was right. There was no one in the club who could take what he had to give. And on a Wednesday afternoon, that wasn’t likely to change.
His patience snapped and exhaustion settled over him again like a weighted blanket. He stood abruptly, leaving Trick behind as he headed for the door. Hopefully, the blond would understand. He’d seen enough of Derreck to know when to take it personally and when not to.
Pushing the curtain aside, he grabbed the doorknob without acknowledging the bouncer who had jumped to his feet, sliding his cell phone back into his pocket. The bouncer opened his mouth once before snapping it shut, taking a step back as he looked at Derreck.
Stepping outside, the sun instantly soaked into his skin, blanketing him in warmth and urging sweat from his body in seconds. The sun had barely moved in the sky, blazing down with what must have been record-breaking heat.
He could barely feel his feet as he stumbled his way along the sidewalk to his car, stopping at the lamp post and leaning on it as he took a deep breath. The post seared through his shirt, heat bursting over his flesh until he thought he might erupt into flames. It did nothing to quell his exhaustion.
He’d never let it get quite that bad before, but he’d never stayed away so long, either. He hadn’t wanted to face Trick or Nav or anyone else. He just wanted relief. The apology had given him a touch of respite but not enough to calm the restless energy in his core.
“You sure you’re okay?”
Derreck looked up and his gaze followed the sound of the voice.
The guy was still sitting in his car, as if it hadn’t been almost an hour. He had pushed up one sleeve of his sweater, one thin and delicate wrist exposed, but the rest of his upper body was still covered with thick, black material. The flush on his cheeks and the sweat in his hair told of how hot he must’ve been, but he was making no move to remove his sweater.
“Still waiting?” asked Derreck, looking back at the club entrance. None of the couples had been missing a third that he knew of. And no Dom would leave their sub in a hot car like he was some sort of oven-baked dog.
No responsible Dom, at least.
The man nodded, flicking his gaze to the door and back to Derreck quickly. His eyes had gone shiny, as if he was just managing to hold back tears. How long had he been there before Derreck had come to the club? How long would he wait?
It pulled at what few heartstrings Derreck had, but it also spoke to his Dominant side.
It pissed him the fuck off is what it did. He clenched his hands into fists, crossing his arms and staring down at the man in his car.
“Who are they? I’ll go get them for you,” said Derreck. There was no way he was walking away with this guy still sitting in his car as he got closer and closer to heatstroke.
“Oh.” The man dropped his gaze, the pureness of his submission pulling Derreck deeper into the strange thrall. His cheeks flushed brighter, sweat beading under his eyes.
Perhaps it had been the wrong question. Some Doms insisted on titles, and Derreck would have no luck if the guy simply said ‘Sir’ or ‘Master’.
“Describe what they look like,” said Derreck, taking a deep breath to keep the anger out of his voice. He was definitely kicking someone’s ass tonight—just not in the way he’d hoped.
“I—I don’t know,” said the man, his gaze still fixed on his lap. “I only have his name. Someone—a friend online—gave me his name and said that he might be able to help me. They said he comes to this club, but I can’t get in without an invite.”
“You can if you’re a guest,” said Derreck, letting out a sigh. This was just getting stranger and stranger. “Your friend can invite you as a guest, and you’ll have a temporary pass.”
“Oh, they aren’t a member,” he said, finally looking up, but only for a moment. “They went to an open house event here years ago, but they don’t live in the city. I don’t know anyone with a membership.”
It was a conundrum that had always bothered Derreck. Privacy came with the price of inaccessibility and exclusivity, especially for subs who were heartbreakingly shy. He would still take his privacy, though. The one-and-done kinksters could fuck off.
He ran a hand over his scalp, scratching the short, tight curls. It was too fucking hot to think, and he had to get off the street before he passed out.
“What’s the name, then? I can tell you if they are here,” said Derreck. He wouldn’t give away much, because if this guy was a stalker, which was quickly becoming a possibility, then he didn’t want to encourage him.
“Oh, it’s… Let me grab my phone. I have it in there.” He fumbled with his pockets, finally sliding his phone out from the pouch in his sweater. Why the hell was he wearing so many layers? Derreck was getting warmer just looking at him. “I saved it in here, ’cause I’m terrible with names. The guy’s name is Derreck.”
Derreck almost choked on his spit when he heard his own name. Cocking his head to the side, he dragged his gaze up and down the guy’s form one more time. His first impression had been pure madness, but he never was one to hold on to a first impression for long. He usually waited until the sixth before he really made up his mind.
The guy was in shorts and flip-flops, which Derreck hadn’t noticed before. It couldn’t have been great for driving, but at least he wasn’t insane enough to wear long pants along with his sweater. His clothes were good quality but well worn, so he probably wasn’t out to try to kidnap Derreck. He didn’t stand a chance either way, unless he had a gun in his pocket.
The man fiddled with his thumbs as Derreck watched him, the chewed edge of his nail vibrant with fresh blood. All his nails were like that—bitten past the quick to the delicate pink flesh beneath.
“How did your friend say he could help you?” asked Derreck, eyeing the guy’s cell phone. It was a new model, fresh out of the store with a custom case.
“I…” The man trailed off, bringing his thumb to his mouth and catching the vermillion edge with his teeth. A fresh droplet of blood oozed up, shining against his lip until he slowly dragged it away with his tongue.
“I heard he could hurt me,” said the man, so quietly that Derreck had to strain to hear him. “I need someone to hurt me.”
Pushing away from the post, Derreck circled around the car and pulled the door open with a jerk. The man’s eyes went wide and he drew back, shrinking into his seat as Derreck loomed over the car.
“What’s your name?” asked Derreck, lowering himself into a squat. It left the man with a slight height advantage, hopefully easing some of his fear that had sprung up. Derreck reached for the man’s hand, pulling his thumb from his mouth. The flesh was burning beneath his palms, slick with sweat and clammy.
“Maddy,” he said, letting out a sigh at the touch.
There was no buzzing under Derreck’s skin or desire to wipe his fingers clean. It was the rare perfection that always seemed to elude Derreck when he needed it most.
“And why do you want me to hurt you, Maddy?” asked Derreck, watching as Maddy’s eyes went wide with realization.
“So I don’t hurt myself.”