Dallin woke up in a panic, his legs tangled in sheets. The sudden impact of his shin against the leg of the worktable he’d slept under was an effective alarm clock. It took him a couple of seconds to realize that whatever fear clung to him was leftover from a truly nasty nightmare. A few seconds after that, he realized his phone was ringing.
Immediately the fear twisted in his guts. Maybe it was just a bill collector—although it’d have to be a damn good one to find his cell number. Still…it was possible. It didn’t have to be Ben calling. Dallin started digging through the nest of sheets and pillows, searching for the elusive phone.
Any sane person would have decided Dallin wasn’t available, but the person on the other end let the phone ring and ring, and Dallin was starting to regret turning voice mail off. It was Ben. It had to be. He was the only one stubborn enough to assume Dallin would still pick up after a couple of dozen rings. When Dallin finally found the cell phone, he clutched it and tried to figure out what scared him more—the idea that Ben hadn’t found anyone or the possibility that he had. Both were horrifying.
Worse. What if Ben had some client who wanted Dallin to dress up in a fur suit and stay locked in a cage or something? Dallin had seen that one episode of NCIS, and a Google search had sent him into kinky online territory he had never dreamed of. Before coming to Phoenix, he’d been a small-town kid who thought getting tied up during sex was the height of sexual deviancy. Yes, he’d been an idiot, but that didn’t mean he wanted to go exploring fur suits or golden showers.
After taking a deep breath and calling himself a moron, Dallin answered. “Hey,” he said. He was going for calm, but his voice did an almost-break thing in the middle, so he probably sounded like an adolescent boy. Great.
Ben was short, sweet, and right to the point. “I’ve found you a client.”
“Oh. Okay.” Dallin wasn’t sure what to say. He tried saying nothing and waiting for Ben to fill in a few more details.
“No excitement? No relief? No. Thank you, Ben, for doing the impossible on short notice
? I know I’m a miracle worker, but this one was tough, even for me.”
“Thanks. Really. This means the world to me,” Dallin quickly offered. For someone raised to always respect his elders, Dallin realized his manners were rusty. “Is he a good guy? Do you know him?”
“He’s not into anything dangerous or unhygienic,” Ben said, which was not an answer, but that was usually Ben’s way of telling Dallin to keep his nose out of business that wasn’t his. Dallin knew enough about the other boys who worked the area to appreciate that Ben’s warnings were far gentler than most pimps’, but Dallin took the hint and shut up.
The silence got uncomfortable, but eventually Ben said, “He wants to meet.”
“Already?” Usually clients wanted some information. Then again, maybe Ben had pulled out the old Craigslist ad. Dallin cringed. The stupid kid who had written that ad didn’t understand himself or how much of his belly he was showing to potential predators. Dallin was older and wiser now, but if this guy picked him after seeing that old ad, Dallin had better be prepared to play at being naive and cute. “What’s he looking for?”
There was another long silence, and now Dallin was getting a bad feeling.
“He wants someone to play long-term sub.”
A cold chill went through Dallin. “Slave play?” he asked carefully. He needed money. He desperately needed money—so much that he had given real thought to calling his asshole parents. However, people who liked playing slave owner were either the nicest folks who wanted a safe place to get a little dirty or insane bastards. There wasn’t a lot of middle ground in that client base.
“No, no,” Ben quickly said, which was good, because Dallin was considering having a full-on panic attack. “He wants a sub—safe words, hard limits, the whole safe, sane, and consensual route.”
That didn’t make sense, because safe and sane Doms had their pick of the club scene. “If that’s true, he should check out the new bar down on Central. Plenty of guys down there will play without asking for a payday in the morning.”
“William likes more control than he gets out of a pickup.”
“So he wants a lot of control over me, but he wants to respect my safe word and limits?” Dallin checked. This was sounding… Hinky
would be the nice way of saying it.
“I’ve known William for a lot of years. He’s safe. I wouldn’t send you out on this sort of long-term job if he wasn’t.”
Dallin’s gut for trouble had a short and brutal war with his trust in Ben. Every bad job Dallin had ever gotten, he’d found on his own—on Craigslist or in the local classifieds. Hell, Ben was the one who got him out of trouble when a local crackpot decided to play a few games Dallin hadn’t volunteered for. When Dallin had missed one check-in, Ben had come down like the wrath of God.
And that was what it came down to. He trusted Ben.
“When do we meet? And what is he looking for? Should I go for young and innocent or bad boy in need of discipline?”
“Try going as yourself,” Ben suggested.
“Right. Me is not really in big demand on the rich-Doms side of the world. He is rich, right? At the very least, tell me he has enough money to pay my bill in the morning.”
“He works for that big furniture place, and he has a house over in Scottsdale,” Ben said.
That was a snazzy part of town, but Dallin knew plenty of poor people who liked to act like they had money. “Does he actually pay his bills?”
Ben sounded amused when he said, “Yes, he does. I promise you that you will be paid for your work. Religiously, even.”
“Don’t bring religion into it. When religion and sex end up in the same sentence, the job always gets weird.” Dallin stood up and started searching for his pants. “I need to clean up a bit. How soon do you need me over there?”
“I’m sitting in the car outside your apartment.”
Dallin cringed. That would be the apartment complex he’d gotten kicked out of for nonpayment of rent. In his defense, he had a choice of paying the rent on the office or the apartment. One made him money. The other was just a place to keep his shit. He made the logical choice. However, Ben was a lawyer, and he would probably give Dallin some lecture about how it was illegal to live in a commercial space.
“I’m at work. I can grab a bus, or you can come over to my design studio.”
“You’re at work?”
“At nine in the morning?”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“I woke you up, and you’re at work.” Ben knew something was wrong.
“I fell asleep working on a project. Just come get me.”
Ben grunted, and that was a pretty good sign that he planned to bring this up again. Asshole.
“I’m wearing yesterday’s clothes,” Dallin said as he started grabbing anything that might give away the fact that he was living in the studio. “I’m not looking my freshest.”
“William wants honest. He doesn’t react well to people playing him, so a little unfresh might be good. I’ll be there in five.” With that, Ben hung up.
“Crap,” Dallin said before opening a cupboard and starting to shove bedding into it. He really needed this job before someone other than Ben figured out he was living in the studio. His landlord would not be amused.
He was fairly sure he’d hidden the truly damning evidence before he heard someone try to open his office door and then curse when it didn’t budge.
“Coming!” Dallin called as he headed for the locked door. “Sorry about that.” He threw the lock and pulled open the door only to freeze. Well, shit.
Ben stood there in short sleeves and a hat that would only look normal on a Cuban detective on television, and next to him stood a second man with dark brown hair, a carefully tailored gray suit, and blue eyes. He was gorgeous. There was no way this guy was going to hire anyone, much less Dallin. Yeah, the client was soft in the middle, and he had one of those round faces that made men look uncomfortably boyish, even when they were in their…late thirties or early forties, Dallin was guessing. Still, he had class. With class and money, a gay man could get laid every day of the week and twice on Friday. This had to be a joke.
Dallin looked at Ben and waited for the punch line. Instead of offering an explanation, Ben moved into the room, forcing Dallin to step back. The new guy followed, closing the door behind him.
Now Dallin really wanted to fidget, but if this was a potential client—a big-money client—he needed to impress. Dallin gazed down at the new man’s feet and tried to project submissiveness.
Ben chuckled. “I told you he was.”
“He’s still young for my taste.”
Dallin looked up, but when he found those sharp blue eyes focused on him, he dropped his gaze back to the floor. He was out of practice. He clasped his hands behind his back and tried to loosen his muscles. He could do this.
“He’s lived a lot in his years. I know fifty-year-old men who are too young for you, but this one isn’t,” Ben said to the man.
“You don’t have to bring that up.”
“Just sayin’,” Ben offered. “You want someone sharp, and that’s my Dallin.”
“Is that right? Are you clever, Dallin?” The man moved forward until Dallin could see his shined black shoes. He shook his head without answering. He didn’t know what rules this guy was using, but some Doms were big into their subs not talking. It was better to be safe than to risk losing the job before he got it.
“He is pretty, and smart enough to know he doesn’t know the rules yet.”
“He’ll give you a run for your money,” Ben promised, and Dallin found he wanted to live up to that expectation. He might be a shitty son and a mediocre business owner and a good but not spectacular designer, but he was a kick-ass whore, and he wasn’t going to make Ben look bad when the man was putting his reputation out there to get Dallin the job.
“You may speak,” William said. “Are you clever?”
“I’m not stupid,” Dallin said. “Sir,” he added onto the end.
“You agreed to sub for me without ever meeting me. That doesn’t inspire faith in your intelligence.”
“I agreed to meet you, sir, not sub for you, not yet. And I agreed because I trust Ben.”
Ben gave a big belly laugh, and Dallin found himself smiling, even if he didn’t mean to.
“I see what you mean about his wit. Please wait outside.”
Dallin glanced up to see who William was talking to. He was looking at Ben, and Ben had his narrow-eyed shifty glare, the one that meant he couldn’t believe you were asking him something so stupid. William gazed back without any expression at all.
Eventually Ben huffed. “Fine,” he said with exasperation, “but this is an interview, so no putting the boy over his desk and nailing him.”
William made a show out of visually inspecting the office. “If you think I would have sex in here, you clearly do not know me as well as you pretend.”
He was a stuck-up prick, and Dallin was standing in front of him unshowered and wearing wrinkled clothes. Dallin wasn’t sure why the guy hadn’t walked out yet. If he liked the finer things in life, Dallin was not one of those. However, William hadn’t left, and Dallin still had a shot at the job, so he took a deep breath and tried to relax into a submissive pose—head down, feet shoulder width apart to give the client a clear view, hands behind his back.
For a time, William circled him, and Dallin fought an instinctive urge to turn in order to keep him in sight. When William ran a finger down Dallin’s back, he couldn’t control the sharp flinch or stop himself from rocking away from the touch. However, he quickly moved back into position.
“You’re all worked up. This is just us talking.”
Dallin thought all sorts of things, like they were talking about a potential job where he sucked William’s dick and got tied up. That was worth getting a few butterflies in the stomach, but he kept that to himself. It also didn’t help that his real life and his life as a whore had just spectacularly collided, and he now had a client who knew where his studio was. That was a little freak-worthy.
“Grab a chair. Sit,” William ordered.
Dallin moved to his worktable and sat down on the edge of the chair, careful to keep his head bowed. William walked over and rested his hand on Dallin’s shoulder. That really wasn’t doing anything to calm him down.
“So, Ben says you’re looking for a regular,” he said, and then he tightened his fingers slightly. Dallin felt a shiver go through his body.
“Yes, sir.” He risked answering, even though it hadn’t been phrased as a question. William rubbed his thumb in a small circle against Dallin’s shoulder. It was weird, but at least Dallin could focus on that and not the butterflies currently staging a colorful but violent revolution in his stomach.
“He suggested that you don’t normally take regulars, and that you haven’t had clients at all for a while now. I am curious about why you’ve changed your mind.”
“I need money.”
“In the short term or long term?”
Dallin glanced up. He didn’t know what answer would get him the job. William looked down at him with a curious expression, and Dallin bowed his head again. “With the economy the way it is, probably long-term,” he admitted, even though it hurt to say it out loud. He’d been so sure he could succeed with a legitimate business, but it wasn’t happening.
“What has Ben told you?”
“Just what he said over the phone.”
“You want a long-term sub. No slavery play. Just subbing.” Again, Dallin risked a glance up at the client since he didn’t seem to mind. “And looking at you, that doesn’t make sense, because you could find someone to play. Easily.”
“Perhaps,” William agreed, “but I don’t want to invest the time. I work long hours, and when I come home, I don’t want drama or games or even some sweet thing that I will have to talk into bed. I want to enjoy myself. I want to walk in the door and have someone totally focused on what I want and what I need.” William tightened his hold on Dallin’s shoulder, and it was as if Dallin could feel the man’s intensity and power through that connection. It made him feel exposed, especially here in the middle of his own design studio where he should be king. “This won’t be some job where you come in for two hours every Monday.”
Considering that was exactly what Dallin had expected, he wasn’t sure where this conversation was going. “What do you expect, sir?”
“I get home between seven and ten every night. You will be at my house waiting for me. Naked. I enjoy bondage, orgasm denial, and some sadomasochism, but nothing outside your limits. I will respect any safe word. You will stay until after I leave for work between six and six thirty the next morning. It goes without saying that you will steal nothing, you will not ever allow anyone else to have control over my house key, and you will never allow anyone in my house. If you violate any of those rules, you will be fired immediately. You will sign a contract agreeing to pay exorbitant damages if you tell anyone about me or my sexual preferences. In return you will earn eighteen hundred a week.”
That was a lot. That would get Dallin out from under his bills pretty damn quick. However, for twelve hours a day, the per-hour pay sucked. And Dallin would be working through his most creative hours. He got a lot of good ideas between eleven and three in the morning.
William added, “You will be given the use of a car so you can come back here to work, and you will be off duty from seven a.m. on Saturday until Monday when I expect you at my house when I come home from work.”
Dallin studied William as he tried to judge the truth of the answer to his next question. “Will I be sleeping during those hours, or will I be strung up on the wall waiting for you to wake up?”
William appeared surprised. “You will be sleeping next to me. You will probably be in restraints, but nothing that would prevent you from getting sleep. I generally go to sleep around eleven and wake up between five and five thirty, so you will do the same.”
That took Dallin’s working hours from twelve hours a day down to roughly six working hours and then sleeping in bed with his client. That wouldn’t be easy…not at first. Dallin would have to schedule extra time for sleep, or he’d get worn out. And if William gave him use of a car, he’d have to factor in gas costs. His studio wasn’t anywhere near Scottsdale.
“I’ll do it for twenty-two hundred,” he said.
“No.” William turned his back and started toward the door.
“What?” Dallin stood, startled by the sudden change in the tone of the conversation.
With his hand on the doorknob, William looked over his shoulder. “I do not negotiate. I agree to every limit you have on paper—no scarring, no scat, no needles, no blood, no golden showers or recordings of the sessions, audio or video. However, I do not negotiate. You accept my terms, or we walk away.”
That kind of decisiveness was a little sexy. Okay, it was a lot sexy. But as much as Dallin wanted this job, he also wanted a reason to avoid it. Maybe he just hated getting back in the game and admitting his design work wasn’t good enough to support him. Maybe his gut was right and he was walking into trouble.
“One week, trial run. After that, we can both decide if this arrangement is worth keeping,” William suggested. “However, the terms will not change if you decide to accept the long-term contract.”
Dallin found himself nodding before he realized what he was doing. A week. He’d agreed to a week.
William gave him a small smile. “Excellent. Are there any new limits you would like to add to your list? Ben informs me that you have been out of the business for long enough that his information might be out-of-date.”
There were a lot of things Dallin didn’t particularly like to do, but for money, he’d do them. Sometimes he even enjoyed them in a perverse, it-would-give-his-parents-a-heart-attack-if-they-knew-what-he-did sort of way. Dallin thought about Sammy, one of the boys who worked the street with him. Sam was in his twenties, but he never looked older than fifteen, which made him very popular in some circles.
“Don’t leave any whip scars, okay?” he asked. He remembered the sight of Sam’s back covered in lacerations. The client had kept him tied down so long that by the time Dallin got Sam to the hospital, the doctors couldn’t close the wounds properly.
“I would never hurt you like that,” William said fiercely, and Dallin believed him. There was something so intense and so raw in William that it was impossible to think that the man was lying. Which either made him a very different sort of client or a really, really good liar. Dallin was just glad Ben was going to know where he was.
“Come to my home tonight at six, and we can sign the official paperwork. Ben knows where I live.” William walked to Dallin’s side and raised his hand to rest it against Dallin’s cheek. It was a strangely intimate gesture—more so than a kiss, even. Dallin swallowed nervously and let his gaze fall to the floor.
“Oh yes, you will do well,” William said, clearly pleased with his purchase. “Six, and make sure you are showered and clean before you come.” Then he turned and was out the door before Dallin could get his thoughts together.