Grissom smiled to himself. He could see Sara pulling the car apart with Greg, using more energy than was actually needed. Sara was strong, beautifully so; nevertheless, she yanked the bumper off with a wrenching sound that carried clear across the garage. Greg shot her a worried look.
“Hey Wonder Woman, let’s not get carried away—“ he chided; helping her set the chrome length off to the side. Grissom noted Sara was still wearing the leather thong around her throat; it peeped out from the slightly unzipped portion of her jumpsuit. He waited in the doorway of the garage until the two of them had set the bumper down, then strode in, keeping his gaze on the file in his hands.
I need you to go over the evidence on the
“Right.” Greg acknowledged with a little sigh. He took off his goggles and headed past Grissom, leaving him alone in the semi-darkened garage. Sara looked up and stiffened slightly. Grissom studied her for a long moment before speaking.
heard back from Special Agent Kanahoe today
regarding the murders in
“That’s good.” Sara nodded, her gaze never leaving his. “Really good. They have any leads?”
so far, but I haven’t been given any details.
Kanahoe mentioned the suspect in question has two priors in
nodded again, shoving her hands deep into her
overall pockets to prevent Grissom from seeing her shiver.
had been nearly three days since his
“How much longer will the car here take?”
“Probably until the end of the shift,” Sara replied, “Now that I don’t have Greg to help.”
Grissom managed a patient smile. “You do better with vehicles on your own; Greg’s learning fast, but he can be distracting. I want you to clock out promptly tonight, and make sure you check your locker.”
“My--?” she asked curiously. Grissom didn’t nod; he looked at her steadily for a moment, then smiled. In the semidarkness, Sara could feel the heat of his hunger, and she clenched her teeth, grateful and stunned at how even the sight of his seductive side could stir her feelings so quickly.
“—Locker.” He turned and strode off again, leaving her standing against the car door.
*** *** ***
The envelope was a white one, legal sized, heavy and expensive. Sara knew Ronnie would have tagged it at one of the high-end brands, possibly private stock. She glanced at the address and felt a pulse of heat seeing ‘Zara’ in bold, familiar handwriting across the front of it. She changed quickly, and tucked the envelope into her purse, down between her wallet and ID badge. Working at nonchalance, she left the building and crossed the parking lot to her car, climbing in and gripping the wheel hard. The urge to open the envelope there and then taunted her, but she fought it, and turned the ignition instead, driving slowly out of the parking lot and towards her apartment.
Once there, she scrambled to open the door and kick it shut behind her. The purse flew onto the couch, and she dropped herself into the chair by the desk, reaching for the enameled letter opener in the old Harvard mug. A quick slice, and Sara gently tugged out the three sheets of paper within. Two were white, held together with a gold clip. The other, the cover note, was on a slip of stationary that made her stare.
It was a simple sheet of light grey, with an embossed silver S on the top, like a crest. The bold black ink stood out, and Sara murmured to herself.
“Pleasure is the object, the duty, the goal of all rational creatures—Voltaire. Okay, that’s totally Grissom thing to say—“ She chuckled softly before continuing to read out loud.
“My Zara. Enclosed please find the terms of agreement for your intimate education under me. Read through them and sign your name on the appropriate lines if they meet with your approval. This pact between us will stand for the duration of six months pending your consent. Read through it carefully, and return it, signed, to my person this coming Saturday morning. Should you have any questions or concerns about this matter, please contact me via my cell phone. Sir.”
Sara blinked a little. She set the note down, and looked at the other two pages, slightly amused at the utterly business tone of the thing, but equally touched to see that the entire contract had been handwritten in Grissom’s strong cursive, the letters flowing and bold. Taking a breath, she picked up the first sheet.
“This contract is the written record of a personal agreement existing between the pet calling herself Zara and the master known to her as Sir, from the date this sheet is signed to the date six months from now. This contract is entered into consensually, mutually and bindingly, with respect and goodwill by both parties.”
Silently, she read the rest of the document to herself.
Of my own free will, I, Zara herein known as the submissive, hereby grant you, Sir, herein known as the Dominant, full ownership, care and use of both my body and mind as of the ____ day of _____, 20___, at ____:____ am / pm _____, until the ____ day of ______, 20___, at ____:____ am / pm _____.
This period of time will herein be known as the Education.
Zara will obey Sir at all times and will wholeheartedly seek his comfort, pleasure and well-being, above all other considerations she may have.
Zara agrees that she shall derive her own pleasure from accepting her part in the relationship described in the Education Documents and that she will gladly accept the pleasures her Dominant provides. She further agrees to confess her desires for Sir’s consideration. It is her full and complete responsibility to inform her Dominant of her desires so he may best decide how to incorporate them.
Zara will strive diligently to re-mold her body, habits, and attitudes in accordance with the Sir’s desires. Also, Zara agrees to change her actions and speech to express her changed habits and attitudes.
Zara will seek, during the Education, to learn how to please Sir better, and will gracefully accept any criticism in whatever form He chooses, within the Negotiated Boundaries Contract.
Zara renounces all rights to privacy or concealment from the master. She will answer truthfully and completely, to the best of her knowledge, any and all questions Sir may ask of her, within the Negotiated Boundaries Contract.
Zara understands and agrees that any failure of hers to comply fully with Sir’s desires shall be regarded as sufficient cause for any punishment He deems appropriate, within the Negotiated Boundaries Contract. She also understands and agrees that if at any time her Dominant disregards the terms in the Negotiated Boundaries Contract, she may at that time and that time only can dissolve all contracts within the Education Documents by uttering the termination word. If after the termination word is uttered more than once by Zara because Sir has either continued to disregard the Negotiated Boundaries Contract or has repeatedly, in isolated situations, disregarded the Negotiated Boundaries Contract, Zara has full legal right to press appropriate legal charges upon Sir as prescribed by her legal representative.
Within the limits of the Negotiated Boundaries Contract, Zara otherwise unconditionally accepts, as Sir’s right, anything He may choose to do with her, whether as punishment, for His amusement, or for whatever purpose He desires, ONLY within pre-negotiated limits.
Zara agrees to take all the experiences that occur during the Education, that transpire in the relationship that has been described in the Education Documents, as a chance to learn and grow, and use them to improve the relationship between the Dominant and submissive, both during the Education, and possibly after it.
Signed by, _______________________________, Also known as Sir/ Dominant
signed by, _______________________________, Also known as Zara/submissive
dated this ____ day of ______, 20____.
During the Education, Zara places the following restrictions on Sir, as negotiated boundaries that the Dominant will NOT violate under any circumstances during the Education.
Both Dominant and submissive understand and agree that if at any time Sir disregards the terms in the Negotiated Boundaries Contract, Zara at that time and that time only can dissolve all contracts in the Education Documents by uttering the word _____________, herein known as the termination word. If after the termination word is uttered more than once by Zara because Sir has either continued to disregard the Negotiated Boundaries Contract or has repeatedly, in isolated situations, disregarded the Negotiated Boundaries Contract, she has full legal right to press appropriate legal charges upon Sir as prescribed by her legal representative.
Sir the Dominant shall NOT:
Signed by, _______________________________, Also known as Sir,
signed by, _______________________________, Also known as Zara,
dated this ____ day of ______, 20____.
Of my own free will, I, Sir, herein known as the Dominant, hereby accept you, Zara, herein known as the submissive as my full responsibility and care, of both in body and mind as of
the ____ day of ______, 20___, at ____:____ am / pm _____,
the ____ day of ______, 20___, at ____:____ am / pm _____.
This period of time will herein be known as the Education.
I will command Zara at all times and will expect her to seek My comfort, pleasure and well-being, above all other considerations that she may have.
I accept responsibility for Zara’s pleasure during the relationship described in the Education Documents, during the Education. I may, at My discretion, administer pain or pleasure at any time, within the Negotiated Boundaries Contract. Upon disclosure of the Zara’s desires for My consideration, I may or may not grant those pleasures desired by her. I will re-mold Zara’s body, habits, and attitudes to whatever I desire, within the Negotiated Boundaries Contract.
Sir expects Zara to learn how to please Him better. The Dominant may instruct the submissive in any way He feels appropriate, within the Negotiated Boundaries Contract. Sir may administer critical correction to Zara in any way He feels appropriate.
The Dominant expects all rights to privacy or concealment of the submissive to be revoked to Him. He has the right to ask any question of Zara and has the right to expect her to answer truthfully and completely, to the best of her knowledge.
Sir also understands and agrees that if at any time He disregards the terms in the Negotiated Boundaries Contract, Zara at that time can dissolve all contracts within the Education Documents by uttering the termination word. If after the termination word is uttered more than once by Zara because Sir has either continued to disregard the Negotiated Boundaries Contract or has repeatedly, in isolated situations, disregarded the Negotiated Boundaries Contract, she has full legal right to press appropriate legal charges upon Sir as prescribed by her legal representative. Within the limits of the Negotiated Boundaries Contract, the Dominant has the right to do anything He may choose to do with his submissive, whether as punishment, for His amusement, or for whatever purpose He desires, no matter how painful, unpleasant, or uncomfortable to the submissive.
Sir agrees to take all the experiences that occur during the Education, that transpire in the relationship that has been described in the Education Documents, as a chance to learn and grow, and use them to improve the relationship between the Dominant and submissive, both during the Education and possibly after the Education,
Signed by, _______________________________, the Dominant
signed by, _______________________________, the submissive,
dated this ____ day of ______, 20____.
Sara drew in a shaky breath. The formality of it seemed excessive. She read over it again with dawning awareness of the language, of how much power it actually gave HER in this relationship with Grissom. He’d stressed three times that she could end it immediately, that she had rights to pleasure and that he had a responsibility to her throughout their time together. The blank lines of the Negotiated Boundaries made Sara shiver a little, and she wondered what would ultimately be listed there. There were several things she knew she had no interest in, and others that were as the word indicated, negotiable.
Sara grabbed few Post-it notes and listed a few ideas out, then reached for her cell phone. Speed dial had her connected to Grissom within the first two rings.
“Sara.” His tone was gentle, and she realized he’d been expecting her call. Carefully she sat back in the chair.
“I have questions and concerns.”
“Thought you might.”
*** *** ***
The bookshop was small but brightly lit and inviting. Sara walked in, noting that even at eight in the morning, the soft strains of Vivaldi playing, and the high, old-fashioned bookcases of oak lining the walls. Customers wandered and browsed quietly, some lost in reading as they sat in cushy chairs or settled into carpeted corners. A huge fish tank stood in the center of the main room, and lazy koi drifted among strands of aquatic weeds. Sara glanced around. On one side was a small series of alcoves with armchairs and coffee tables. Most were recessed enough to give a good sense of privacy, and in one of them, she found Grissom sitting comfortably, engrossed in a thick volume. He glanced up over the top of his glasses at her, smiling as he set the book down.
“Glad you found the shop. It’s not easy to see from the main road.” He murmured, moving to help her set her coat and purse down. Sara glanced at the title of the book he’d abandoned: A Literary History of Opera. He followed her gaze and gave a small shrug. “Boning up. So. Would you like some tea?”
Sara nodded. Although it wasn’t a particularly cold day, she wanted something to hold in her hands. Tea was useful that way, and she got as much comfort from the heat of the cup through her palms as by drinking the contents. Grissom wandered purposefully towards a little kiosk that held a few urns, cups and other items while Sara took stock of the store.
Galileo’s Garden was an eclectic shop, privately owned and comfortable. She noted a few cats perched on some of the bookshelves, and the plants here and there were all living, not artificial. The sections were clearly labeled by hand printed signs hanging from the high ceiling, and the entire atmosphere had a genteel, old-world charm to it. She relaxed a little, curling her feet up under her in the big chair, and taking the cup of tea from Grissom once he’d returned.
He settled back into his chair, the small coffee table between them and sipped his coffee, giving her time in a quiet unhurried way. Finally, she set the cup down and reached for her purse, pulling out the contract. Seeing it, he smiled, particularly at the thick field of butter-colored post-it notes clinging to both sheets. Sara cleared her throat, clutching them and glancing over at Grissom.
“Okay, first question—are you getting this notarized?”
“No. It’s not a legally binding document, Sara, just a private covenant based on honor and mutual consent. Nobody will ever see this but us.”
She gave a quick nervous nod, tucking her hair back behind one ear. Grissom set his coffee down, then rested his elbow on the chair arm, his chin in his palm. “I felt it would be wise and perhaps comforting to lay the groundwork out in black and white before we did anything more. A chance for you to be perfectly clear about what you want and don’t want.”
“Give me an example,” Sara challenged, feeling a warmth in her belly that had nothing to do with tea. Grissom’s mouth pulled into a quick smile as he replied.
“Well, you might list that you will never permit me to pinch you. Or call you Snookie.”
“Or do either of those,” Sara shot back, grinning herself. “Pinching hurts, and Snookie is SO not me.”
“Pinching can be delightful, if done lightly in the right places, but I agree with the latter. You are not a Snookie. Much more of a Sweet Cheeks.” Grissom observed gravely, but with a twinkle in his eyes. Sara rolled hers, embarrassed to feel a hint of heat on her face. To combat it, she reached for her cup and took a fortifying sip. It was green tea, brewed at just the right strength, and when she looked up, Grissom was holding a pen out to her.
“Let’s start with the absolute no-nos then. I myself am not interested in anything involving urine or feces.”
“Ugh! Agreed,” Sara nodded emphatically, printing ‘No elimination play’ provided at the Negotiated Boundaries lines. Grissom leaned forward.
“I also absolutely refuse any edgeplay.” Seeing her confusion he clarified, “Nothing that draws blood—no pins, razors, whips, knives nothing with an edge or a point. Is that understood?”
“People DO that?” Sara asked, a little dry-mouthed at the thought. Grissom nodded, his expression wintry for a moment.
“Unfortunately, yes. They also brand, which I refuse to do. Ritual scarification is interesting only in an academic sense, and I have no wish to EVER leave a mark on you that can’t be . . . kissed away,” he trailed of very softly.
Sara wrote ‘No edgeplay or branding’ in a slightly shaky hand. She shot Grissom a quick glance and murmured, “No—verbal abuse.”
He nodded. “That one will need some spelling out. If I call you something in the heat of a scene, we need to agree it’s taken in context, Sara, and not meant as abuse.”
She fought against her smile, remembering the power of Grissom’s voice, and the way his vocabulary could caress and tease. Rather than admit it though, Sara shot him a veiled glance. “Example?”
“Oh. Well, while in the throes of passion, if I should call you a beautiful sulky bitch, or that your smirk needs to be spanked away. You need to know I mean it in the nicest possible way.”
“What IS it with you and spanking?” Sara growled under her breath, feeling warm and off-balance. Grissom said nothing, but his glance flared for a moment as he took the pen from her unresisting fingers.
“We could list it down,” he murmured regretfully. Sara felt his disappointment with an odd sense of exasperation and amusement; he was just like a kid giving up a favorite game, right down to the very slight pout. She drew in a breath.
“Grissom—you said you’d never hurt me, so I assume spanking would be more or less for show rather than serious pain. I can handle the ‘for show’ part if you’d just admit it’s a kink of yours, all right?”
“Not a kink, a . . . preferred form of foreplay,” he corrected mulishly, peeking at her over the top of his glasses. She snorted.
“Tomato, tomahto. The fact is, you want to paddle my derriere in the worst way, and don’t think I haven’t figured that out. “
“What gave it away—the constant lecherous looks, or the repeated commentary?” Grissom asked silkily. Sara broke into a grin. It was fun, this flirting with him again; it had the razzle of their early days with the added strength of sensual memory to them. Just knowing what his body felt like, tasted like . . . Sara fought a squirm and batted her eyes.
“A little of this, a little of that. I’m trained to find the evidence ya know.”
“Well, from your reactions, I’m going to theorize that you’re not as annoyed as you pretend to be, and working on that assumption—“
Sara held his gaze as he lifted his coffee to his lips; she murmured, “Oh I don’t know--considering what ELSE I’m willing to let you do to my poor little ass—“
He choked; Sara felt a surge of personal triumph at finally managing to flabbergast cool, levelheaded Grissom and looked away, her chin high, a delicious grin on her lips. Grissom coughed a little and wiped the back of his hand along his bearded chin, setting his coffee down.
“Touché.” He muttered, the hint of red high on his cheekbones. Sara did smother a chuckle at that and turned to face him again, her own eyes hot and bright.
“What? Did you think I wasn’t prepared to bargain and get my way on a few issues here? Think again, Grissom. I have at least two things I want noted in this contract of ours, and I’m willing to negotiate for them.”
His look was one of hot delight with a hint of pride; respectfully he took off his glasses and gave a nod to Sara as he picked up the pen and waited. She looked down at her fingers, letting them grip each other as she softly intoned. “I want this . . . thing . . . between us to be mutually exclusive.”
“Exclusive.” He echoed faintly. One of the bookstore cats sauntered over and leaped onto the table, dropping herself in a sprawl on the opera book. Sara nodded, her hair falling to hide her face for a moment.
“Yeah. If I’m going to be educated by you, I don’t want any . . . distractions, for either of us. I won’t be your second slave, your substitute, your surrogate, or your mercy fuck, Grissom.”
He leaned forward; until his knee was nearly touching hers, and dropped his head a little, his voice a soft, soft whisper.
“Agreed. I ask the same, Sara. Be mine, stay mine.”
With a shiver, she remembered when he’d said those words before, his face taut with a passion so intense that even the recollection of it now sent heat flaring between her thighs. She tossed her hair back, risking another look at him.
“Good. So write it down,” she told Grissom as she picked up her lukewarm tea. He moved the pen over the lines, writing firmly. Vivaldi had ended, giving way to a Bach concerto, and Sara pulled some of the post it notes off of the contract, balling them up. The cat looked interested in one, and batted it off the table, then gave chase. Grissom stopped writing.
“So noted. For the duration of our folie aux deux, we will not date or engage in personal relations with any other persons. And your other request, Sara?”
“I want . . . “ she drew in a shaky breath, aware that this one was going to be tricky. Sara started again, “I want a chance to practice what you preach.”
Grissom frowned. It was a deep expression, his face motionless for a long moment, blue eyes staring straight ahead. The tiny clench of his jaw, and quick rise of his shoulders held her attention for long minutes as he didn’t speak. Sara waited. It was the hardest thing she’d had to do in a long time; that drawn-out quiet pause. Sara felt the back of her neck stiffen, her thighs tense. So much was hanging in the balance here, so very much, she realized.
“Switch?” Grissom breathed, the word curiously flat. He said it as if the concept was a new vocabulary term. Sara looked into the depths of her tea.
“Grissom—I accept that you’re going to show me things and teach me things and part of that sharing is going to have to be letting me try them out too. How can I be perfect in MY role if I don’t ever get the chance to see what yours is like?”
“Because I’ll tell you when you’re perfect,” he replied blandly, but Sara saw his attention wasn’t in the answer, that he was still thinking and staring off into space. She sipped her tea to give both of them a moment more, then spoke up.
“It’s only fair to give you time to consider my request, Grissom. I didn’t--don’t expect you to be thrilled by it, but I’ve thought a lot about this, and I feel I NEED the occasional opportunity to consider the other side of my Education.”
After another drawn out pause, Grissom gave a slow sigh, like the leak of air from a tire.
“Let me . . . sleep on it.”
“Fair enough.” She responded lightly, trying to keep her voice low. Grissom shook off his concentration and picked up his coffee, absently swirling it.
“You drive a hard bargain for a submissive, Sara.” He commented, but the corner of his mouth had turned up, and quickly he drained the cup. Sara waited until he was done to speak up.
“Hey, you of all people should know I don’t take commitments lightly. And besides, weren’t you the one quoting that pleasure was the object, goal and duty?”
Grissom set his cup down, and arched an eyebrow at her; nervous giggles spilled from Sara, and in that little moment of relief, he reached for her hand, squeezing it.
“Remember that—it will be on the test.”
*** *** ***
He couldn’t sleep, so he didn’t try. Grissom knew himself well enough now to know that when rest eluded him there were places he could go and wrestle with his thoughts, places where no one disturbed him. The University library was one. The Pastoral was another. Stopping at a supermarket he absently bought a cheap bouquet and drove out to the cemetery as the sun rose higher. He parked and walked through the gates, slowly wandering down the paths with his cellophane wrapped flowers in one clenching fist.
Christ, he should have seen it coming. This wasn’t Nia, or Shelly or Adair, no; this was Sara, clever and restless, brilliant and stubborn. She was the challenge now, and her confronting him should NOT have been a surprise.
But it was. He’d expected a few listings on the contract but not a true negotiation. And her sly insinuations about anal sex both stunned and intrigued him, left him aroused and frustrated. Grissom tightened the grip on his flowers, making the cellophane crinkle loudly. Only a few other people were about, scattered widely among the neat rows of tombstones. He walked on, moving past flat bronze plaques set in the green grass. At an intersection, a fountain bubbled.
He trusted himself. He knew how to pleasure, how to read the sighs and sobs, how to gauge the effect of his words or when to draw out a glorious moment for the grateful body writhing under his. It was a matter of skill and patience and profound care. And Grissom knew he loved doing it. Bringing someone—Sara—to the deepest intensity would be the zenith of pleasure for both of them.
Or would it?
Carefully Grissom dipped his fingers in the fountain, feeling the cold bite of the water along his skin. It was a shock, but refreshing at the same time. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine himself bound and blindfolded, locked in on Sara’s throaty voice, her teasing hands over his skin. It was all too easy to visualize, but his throat tightened even as his cock thickened in quick response. Grissom sank his hand further into the fountain. The chill of the water along his unprotected skin burned. He held his hand there for a while, feeling the fingers go numb as he thought.
Trusting Sara. A woman he’d seen under amazing stress, dealing with horrors far beyond those seen by the average person. A woman who fought her own demons, and had risen above them to achieve so much lately. A woman he’d helplessly, hopelessly loved for so very long. A woman he burned once and burned for still.
Love seemed to be the key, Grissom despaired as he set the flowers down and plunged his other hand into the fountain. One felt the shock anew, the other was numbing out now, losing the edge of sensation in the slow acclimation to the temperature. Grissom stared at his hands through the ripples on the surface, flexing them against the resistance of the water. He thought briefly of the lyric from Pink Floyd, about being comfortably numb.
About how the last twenty years of his life had been precisely that.
Grissom looked again into the water, seeing a ghost of a dead woman’s face between his chilled fingers. Nia’s image faded slowly from his imagination, and Grissom pulled his hands out, wiping them over his face and beard, savoring the coolness of his palms against the flush of his face. The water refreshed him; he felt the wetness, the chill, smelled the faint aroma of plant stems and mildew in it. Grissom brushed a finger over his mouth, tasting the cool silveriness.
All right. He would. Not easily. Not all the time. But for Sara, he could once in a very great while concede, and give her this opportunity. To FEEL again, at the careful mercy of her hands would be what trust truly was.
Grissom left the flowers at the foot of a crumbling stone grave under an ancient cottonwood.
*** *** ***
Sara’s phone rang; sleepily she scooped it up and rolled to her side, bringing it to her ear.
A soft breath and then, “Yes.”
“You’ll have to earn it, Zara. You’ll work harder for that privilege than anything you’ve ever strived for in your life. But—yes.”
The phone went dead; Sara gave a joyous tense, clenching her pillow and muffling her shout into it, the giddy relief and rush of power surging through her entire body. Grissom’s words echoed in her ear, but it was his tone that mattered far more to her, that slightly strained growl hinting at insecurity barely masked.
But still, it was ‘yes.’