(Author’s note: This story nagged at me until I wrote it. I’d wanted to do it for the past year, but never felt it was the right time until recently. I have to thank three people in particular for their support and encouragement for this piece: VR Trakowski, who was unfailingly enthusiastic and quick to help me polish the edges off my prose; Suzy, who had read my earlier work with the notorious Fetish club Maison Noire and urged me to bring Sara and Grissom there; and Danie, who continues to set a standard for intricate romance and compelling storytelling that I someday hope to humbly duplicate. Without these three, and many other supportive friends I’d never have attempted this.
To the best of my ability and vision I’ve tried to keep all characterization as closely aligned to my perceptions of them as possible. This is an AU, [alternate universe] and a standalone story not associated with the Casa series.)
I write this with a heavy heart, a heart torn by the depths of my failure. Shortly I will pay my debt and end the contract between us, but as your devoted slave I could not go without paying my last respects. Long I have loved you, Master. I have tried to please you, to follow your whims and desires and thus make myself precious to you.
I have failed. Your commands and touches and tortures are still sweet, the dearest things in the world to me, but they mean little now that I know your heart forever remains indifferent to me. I have your kind corrections and affectionate attention, but not your love, Master, and for me that has become intolerable. I am not the She you seek, nor will I ever be, no matter how many years of faithful service under you I give.
Loving you so, Master, I can only wish that after I am gone you find the one you seek, the one who will kneel before your heart and give you the succor that I never could. I do not wish another Master, for I adore you with all my soul, therefore the time has come and I accept my solution gladly. I absolve you of all guilt or regret, Master and wistfully hope that once in a while you will think of your little Kept One with some flicker of affection.
With my heart’s blood, always,
Grissom let the note drop from his latex-covered hands, not watching it flutter to the floor, missing the bath rug by inches. He closed his eyes, fighting down the rise of bitter bile, and waited a moment for it to pass. Gently, he turned his face to the body in the bathtub.
She was beautiful, even now. Her long brown hair drifted in the water like seaweed, and her half-closed green eyes stared up at him in her last beseeching quest for affection. Grissom swallowed hard and reached to close her sightless eyes, his hand passing beneath the water to do so. Over his shoulder, he heard an impatient cough.
He got on with it.
“Victim was pronounced at seven thirteen. No signs of struggle evident, no disturbance. Presence of a note indicates possible suicide. Due to body’s submergence in water, it’s impossible to fix lividity, but my estimate is that she died roughly six hours ago,” Grissom managed in a monotone. Behind him, Detective Cho coughed again.
“So, young girl, probably no more than twenty or so commits suicide over a broken heart. We’ve got a prescription in the bedroom but it’s not under her name, so we’ll run it and see where she got it from. Looks pretty open and shut to me.”
“No foul play,” Grissom agreed even as the lie tightened his throat. He looked away from Nia’s body and rose, picking up his coroner’s kit and walking to the living room. Every step hurt, and the case weighed ten tons. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears, loud and too fast; recognizing the signs of shock; Grissom made it out to the van and leaned against it, trying to get his breathing under control.
He remembered touching her only yesterday, looking into her eyes as she quivered under the dance of his fingers along her naked spine, running from the clasp of her collar down the long line of her back down to the flare of her ass, skin smooth and warm. She’d been waiting for him, brought in the mail, settled herself on the carpet like the sweet little thing she’d been.
Grissom looked at his hands, ghostly white in their latex, and savagely began to peel them off, the snapping sounds an unexpected touch of comedy to a grim moment. He knew it happened to every coroner, that inevitably you’d run into the body of someone you knew. Someone you—
--Had not loved. On that point Nia HAD been right, damn her. Despite the heat between them, the smooth and delicate dance of domination and submission, the union hadn’t been one with true passion. Grissom knew he played her well, but in the end it was always a matter of affection for a pet. A beautiful, eager-to-please girl, but for all of that, no more than a choice from a stable.
A convenient receptacle.
closed his eyes for a moment and grieved for her. She’d taken
Game too far, had fallen despite his careful rejections and soft
now she’d be in a drawer, waiting for her mother back in
Biloxi to fly out and
claim her. His mouth felt dry, and Grissom flexed his hands, knowing he
get out again, go back and help pull Nia’s body from the
water to bring it in
He felt the throb of a migraine beginning to drive its dagger into his skull.
*** *** ***
“The most telling thing about anyone is what scares them. And I know what you fear more than anything, Mr. Grissom.”
“Being known. You can't accept that I might know what you really desire, because that would mean that I know you. Something, for whatever reason, you spend your entire life making sure no one else does.”
“I'm losing my balance.”
“Your sense of self?”
“No. I know who I am.”
“Yes, I do. You can always say stop.”
“So can you.”
“Mr. Grissom, let’s lay our cards on the table, shall we? My partner and I know you don’t like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and have no interest in the politics of interagency cooperation, but there are other things we know and aren’t above using as leverage at the moment.”
The woman uttering these words was curvy and serene; even the severe cut of her taupe pantsuit couldn’t hide a perfect figure. Her eyes were soft grey, and deep within them was a bright ruthlessness tinged with good humor. Grissom sat back in his chair, unwilling to cede any advantage to her or the hulking man in the black suit standing against the glass wall behind her.
“Leverage, Special Agent Pachelli?” came his soft voice, slow and cautious. She waited a beat, then rose and leaned over his desk, aware that her pose could have been flirtatious and wasn’t, not with the expression on her face.
“We NEED a CSI, preferable two for this case, Mr. Grissom— the best people trained in finding, processing and preserving crime scene evidence. More than that we need ones who can . . . handle the scene in question.”
Grissom refused to react. He waited, patiently; a talent that he’d cultivated precisely for the art of outlasting his opponents. The woman held his gaze, but finally let her glance drop down to his chest and gave a tiny, almost imperceptible sigh.
“Please don’t make me spell this out, Mr. Grissom. I’m almost past the point of asking—no let’s call it what it is--begging—and I’m just about ready to coerce you.”
The only response to this was a single raised eyebrow; Special Agent Pachelli set her pretty jaw and pulled back, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Nia Gastineaux, Mr. Grissom.”
To his credit, he didn’t flinch, but an almost imperceptible flicker crossed Grissom’s gaze, and it was only because the woman had been watching him so closely that she caught his reaction. Instead of smiling in triumph at her success, Special Agent Pachelli tilted her head.
“Nineteen eighty-six, you were a coroner for the Los Angeles Police Department. You were called to pronounce for Nia Gastineaux. On the surface, a straightforward case of suicide . . .” her voice dropped to a lower, softer tone, “ . . . But underneath, where nobody bothered to dig, there was more to it, wasn’t there, Mr. Grissom?”
He said nothing; she expected that and continued, the words slow but steady.
“Nia Gastineaux was a practicing submissive in the world of S and M. She signed a pact through the Shadow League of the Power Exchange to give herself utterly to a Master for a term of two years. We have copies of that contract, and the three signatures on it: hers, the Shadow League director’s, and yours, Mr. Grissom. It’s a pretty explicit document, details of which would definitely give your lab director, Mr. Ecklie an incredible amount of ammunition to fire you.”
An almost electric pause filled the office for moment.
cocked his head, his gaze
soft, his words measured. “That was nearly twenty years ago,
Pachelli. I haven’t been involved with the Power Exchange in
two decades, as
I’m sure your investigations show you. I left that lifestyle
behind when I left
She said nothing; her partner looked at Grissom and spoke up for the first time, his deep voice a low rumble in the room.
“You merely stopped practicing, Mr. Grissom, that’s all. The capacity for it still in you, just as strong as ever. We spoke to the director of the Dominion before coming here.”
“Lady Heather,” Grissom managed through a slightly disapproving expression. Special Agent Pachelli made a small noise of confirmation.
“Yes. She seems to feel that you’re more than capable of returning to the practice. To quote her, ‘Mr. Grissom wears a very good disguise, but it never sits exactly right, and that’s because despite the years, it’s still a false face.’ “
Special Agent Pachelli paced in front of Grissom’s desk, keeping her steps slow. “You know the sport, Mr. Grissom. My partner and I are good enough to pass, versed enough to get where we need to go, but we’re NOT criminalists. We don’t have your eye, your skill in crime scene reconstruction, certainly not your entomological background and without that, there’s no point in trying to go any further with this undercover operation. Finding someone of your professional skill already capable of handling himself in this affair was a godsend, and I for one don’t intend to walk out of here without your co-operation.”
For a long cold minute, Grissom stared at her, his eyes taking her in from head to toe; Special Agent Pachelli fought a shiver at the glacial glint in his gaze, but years of training paid off and she held still. Finally, with a harsh sigh, Grissom slid his fingers under his glasses lenses and rubbed his eyes.
“What exactly makes this case so important that the Federal Bureau of Investigation feels it’s necessary to blackmail a middle-aged civil servant in the first place?”
“Time and desperation, Mr. Grissom,” Special Agent Kanahoe finally cracked a very small, humorless smile. He pushed himself away from the glass wall and reached into his jacket pocket, fishing out a small packet of photos. Grissom didn’t take them, so the other man carefully dealt them out, like a hand of cards. They were glossy black and whites, each a 6 by 4 inch window into horror.
Grissom leaned forward, not touching them, but examining the photos with sudden professional focus that seemed to cut through his ennui of a moment earlier. Special Agent Pachelli moved quietly to stand next to his shoulder and had to clear her throat a little before she spoke.
“Our pathologists have determined that this was done to these victims while they were still alive, Mr. Grissom. Consider that a prime motivator for all of us. The dates and locations are on the backs of the photos, and the acceleration has already begun. Our best estimate is that the next victim will be dead within the next week if we can’t get some sort of break on the case.”
Grissom looked up, his gaze sharp and slightly annoyed, whetted by frustrated intrigue.
“The Bureau has entomologists, at least two world famous ones on staff.”
“Gerald Kimson is in a wheelchair now; his MS has gotten much worse. We considered asking Lars Mac Swain, but it’s not possible.” She looked slightly embarrassed, and her partner broke in.
“MacSwain stutters, Mr. Grissom. Severely. It takes four minutes for him to answer the simplest question. He has other ways of communicating, but since we want to blend in with the crowd, using MacSwain isn’t feasible.”
Sitting back again, Grissom brought his hands together and wove his fingers. Everyone in the room fell silent. Finally Grissom closed his eyes.
Special Agent Pachelli drew in a deep breath and stepped around his desk again, her movements brisk with hope. She smiled for the first time in a while.
“Thank you, Mr. Grissom. Special Agent Kanahoe and I will make immediate arrangements with your lab director for you and your partner to work with us—“
“—Excuse me, but the only person I can commit to this is myself,” Grissom interrupted testily. “And even THAT is with reservations. I doubt Ecklie is going to let you have two CSIs, even from different shifts.”
Special Agent Pachelli’s smile turned into a full grin, making her look years younger. She shot a look at her partner, who slowly gathered up the photos again.
“Conrad Ecklie is not your problem at the moment, Mr. Grissom. Trust me, the FBI is very good at getting co-operation from kiss-ass middle management toadies like your esteemed colleague.”
A ghost of a smile flickered across Grissom’s face at that; he returned his gaze to Special Agent Pachelli, who cocked her head and sighed again.
“So the new question now, Mr. Grissom is—who can you trust?”
It was an excellent question; a serious question and Grissom didn’t know if there was an answer. Certainly Warrick and Nick were out of the picture; Grissom knew neither man would be capable of pulling off a charade that not only would make all of them cross sexuality but also personality lines as well. Warrick was nobody’s slave; after the case at Lady Heather’s, Nick had admitted to no stomach for games of this sort.
That left Catherine or Sara. Certainly Catherine had the moxie to play a slave; she was beautiful, still exuded sexuality and had the confidence to play along with whatever the situation might demand. But there was Lindsay; Grissom wouldn’t put Catherine at risk, not after losing Eddie.
That left Sara.
And THAT was dangerous territory. Grissom mulled the thought in his mind, annoyed because it wasn’t a new one, it was in fact a old, beloved image he’d taken to bed with him for years: Sara in cuffs, Sara slick and sweet under him, losing control to him, submissive to his raging lust . . .
Shifting irritably, Grissom shot a glare at the waiting woman, the name escaping him reluctantly. Special Agent Pachelli nodded.
is a logical choice. She’s
been working with you for four years, she’s got an impressive
solve rate, and
she’s single. That will make it easier to give her some
initial training before
we head to
“She doesn’t need training, just a briefing—“ Grissom snapped quickly, a flare of panic hitting him as reality set in. Posing with Sara, God what had he been thinking? She’d hear about his past, about his most carefully hidden kinks, she’d learn that the mentor she’d admired was . . . deviant. Grissom tensed at that last, feeling himself sicken at the thought of her revulsion. The past year had already been hard enough on both of them, but to see contempt for him in those delicious chocolate eyes would never do.
Grissom, your colleague needs
every advantage she can get--the BDSM scene isn’t something
the average person
off the street can walk into. Even you yourself will need some time to
your expertise. My partner and I have made arrangements to take a pair
suites at the
*** *** ***
Sara looked at the photos on Grissom’s desk and swallowed hard. She’d dealt with a lot of ugly cases, a lot of painful, disgusting deaths, but these were magnified by obvious intent of the killer, and that added a depth of shock to them. Looking away, she took a moment to breathe deeply, then glanced at Grissom and the two agents. Both of them looked impassive; Grissom looked bleak.
“I don’t see the problem. Anything I can do to help nail the sort of monster capable of doing something like this to another human being, I’ll do. Gladly.”
Special Agent Kanahoe looked at her and spoke, his voice a deep rumble.
“Ms Sidle, my partner and I appreciate your commitment to justice, we truly do. However, this case is unique, and as such requires some special discretion. We have been invited to the crime scene, but not in an official capacity, only in a social one. We have no jurisdiction there since it’s on another country’s soil.”
“Excuse me?” Sara managed. Special Agent Pachelli nodded.
believe the crime scene is in an
exclusive club in a sublevel of the Luxembourg Embassy in
“If that’s so, then why are we investigating, and how, exactly are we getting in? It’s a matter for the Nationals there isn’t it? Or Interpol?” Sara argued logically. She could feel a sense of frustration in the room, and remembering the photos, she understood it all too well. The worst cases were the ones hampered by bureaucracy, hung up on red tape while murderers got away and victims languished.
“By private invitation. We have a connection in the Embassy who has asked us to come to the club for a party to celebrate July 24th, International BDSM Day. My partner and I are going and we’ve been told we can bring guests, who will be you and Mr. Grissom.”
“Wait, wait—BDSM? As in bondage, discipline, that sort of deal? Oh man, that is SO not my scene. I don’t think I can handle something like THAT,” Sara blustered, her face flushing. The very idea hit her stomach hard, and she didn’t dare look at Grissom as she tried to sound calm. Special Agent Kanahoe pursed his mouth and brought one big hand down on the desk, next to the photos, drawing her line of sight back to them.
“Lesser of two evils, Miss Sidle. If an evening of wearing a chain collar and spike heels gets you closer to stopping another murder, would you be able to handle it? A few hours of play acting in the company of a colleague as a trade off to save the life of a young woman? Think hard before you answer, because if it’s no, we thank you, but we don’t have time to waste. We’ll have to find someone else to play slave for Mr. Grissom.”
Sara blinked and looked at her supervisor. Grissom stared back at her, only a tiny quirk at the corner of his mouth betraying his amusement. She flushed all over again.
“Play slave?” she squeaked. No one spoke until Grissom leaned forward and folded his hands.
“I need a submissive, Sara, to fit in. The majority of the party guests will be practicing BDSMers in full regalia. Agents Pachelli and Kanahoe have worked together as a team for years so their undercover personas are established and seamless. If you and I are to have a chance at studying the crime scene we need to camouflage ourselves and blend in.”
“Grissom!” Sara gulped, shooting looks at the two agents as she continued, “Are you out of your mind? I don’t have a clue about how to be a slave!”
“I’ll teach you.”
She stared at him, not seeing anything but the soft blue of his intense gaze behind his glasses and sudden dizzy panic clawed at her stomach at the same time a hard, hot pang flared between her thighs.
Sara knew then.
She knew without a doubt that Grissom could do exactly what he’d promised, and do it well because he’d done it before, probably many times. She felt her heart hammer a bit.
Agent Pachelli rose up, hiding her grin at the intensity flaring between the two Las Vegas CSIs. She cleared her throat and scooped up the photos.
that’s settled then. We fly
out of here in six hours. We’ll meet up at the
“Ecklie. Yes—unfortunately he seemed only too happy to loan them both out. Seems to be under the impression that it adds prestige to his lab to be working in conjunction with the Bureau.” Moving carefully for such a big man, Kanahoe rose and held the office door open for his partner, then looked back at the desk. Sara was still staring at Grissom, who was staring right back.
“We’ll be there, thank you.”
The door closed once more and Sara sucked in a breath. In one surging leap she shot out of her chair and paced away from Grissom, the desk, the files, everything that closed her in. He leaned back in his chair, watching her move back and forth on the other side of his desk like an agitated panther.
“Grissom, this is insane, it’s NOT going to work! We’re walking into a crime scene that’s unsecured, that’s out of our authority, and probably contaminated by now! We’ve got no backup, no way of bringing in a kit and anything we find is going to be completely inadmissible in court!”
“Don’t be afraid of me, Sara.”
She turned, looked at him, felt another insecure tremor run through her. Damn the man for saying the one thing she couldn’t respond to. Forcing herself to take a deep breath she crossed her arms over her chest and lied.
“I’m not afraid of you. I’m worried about this case.”
“Sara, I won’t let anything happen to you. I agreed to take this case before I knew I’d need you along. You’re my responsibility from this point on,” he continued, ignoring her comment. She tried to laugh, but her mouth was too dry, so she turned to look out the glass wall of the office instead.
“I can take care of myself, thanks. I’ve done it for a long time and I don’t see any reason to change that part, not even for a case. What I don’t GET, Grissom, is . . . “
The unasked question hung in the air of the office. Carefully he took his glasses off and laid them on the desk, his gaze focused on the rows of jars on the wire shelving off to one side of the room.
“ . . . Is how you could have been working for a deviant all these years?”
Sara flushed, turned and looked at Grissom, but his concentration was still on the jars. She took a deep breath.
“You’re NOT a deviant. I mean, in all the time I’ve known you I’ve never gotten a freaky vibe off of you. Sure you’re a loner and some people around here are fairly sure you’re gay, but the whole leather and whip thing—no. It’s just—no.”
“No whips,” Grissom agreed distantly. “I never developed a taste for flogging although I know how. It’s too easy to overdo it, and end up with too much distracting pain.”
There seemed to be nothing to say to that; Sara gaped for a second then closed her mouth, feeling her skin flush again and knowing it showed. She savagely rubbed her forehead in an attempt to hide her embarrassment, and Grissom gave a soft, humorless chuckle.
“I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m just as uncomfortable right now as you are, Sara.” He murmured. “More so. Out of all the people I work with, you were the last I ever wanted to . . . know. And now you do.”
Sara studied Grissom’s jaw line, seeing it tighten. She managed a weak smile.
“Yeah? Well it’s still a matter of seeing is believing, Grissom. I know you wouldn’t lie about something like this, but I’m not utterly convinced yet, and we still have packing to do.”
*** *** ***
The plane had leveled out, and the soft chime of the seatbelt sign had gone off, allowing people to unbuckle and relax. In the very back row of the plane, Sara did neither, looking at the back of the seat in front of her with a scowl that masked her growing inner anxiety. Next to her, Grissom had his seat back, his eyes closed. He spoke softly, without opening them.
“Sara, what do you want to know?”
She slumped in her seat, slightly deflated by his matter-of-fact question. After a moment, she blurted, “God, EVERYTHING. What do you know about having slaves? How long have you done this? Do you do this on your off-time? Is this about sex? Can you just be normal?”
A smile slid across Grissom’s face; a knowing, slightly bitter expression that made Sara’s stomach ache a little even as another sort of surge headed south in a hot tickle she tried to ignore.
“First things first. I’m normal, Sara. I’ve been a heterosexual male aroused and enticed by women since the tender age of eleven all the way to the current day. I lost my virginity to, and had all of my love affairs with, women, so in terms of normality, I fit the bill. I’ve made love in conventional ways and positions, practiced safe sex and generally behaved in the manner that best qualifies as average.”
Sara blinked, watching at Grissom’s profile as he rattled this off in a soft voice, his hands folded across his stomach. Without looking at her he continued.
“Had a normal childhood, and never thought about kink until my tenth grade year when I was hired to coach Lily Rocamo through chemistry. I had a rep as a good peer age tutor, and Lily was bombing the course pretty badly. She’d come to my house on Wednesday and Friday nights for study sessions and it was tough on both of us. Lily was a popular cheerleader, very much a school celebrity.”
“And you were a ghost,” Sara remembered quietly. Grissom nodded.
“Indeed. In any case, Lily would have been called ADD had there been a way to diagnose it back in ’71. She couldn’t sit still; she couldn’t concentrate or put her focus on anything for longer than a few minutes. Finally, the third time she showed up for tutoring, I tied her to my desk chair and gagged her with a washcloth. I’d threatened to do it, and realized I had to make good on the warning, so I’d already cut a few lengths of my mother’s nylon laundry line and trussed Lily up good. My Scoutmaster would have been proud.”
“Jeez—“ was all Sara could manage, picturing a bound cheerleader with wide eyes. Grissom chuckled, dryly. He opened his eyes and blinked a little.
“I was terrified that she’d resist, but it was the only thing I could think of to get her to sit still. She didn’t fight me, though, and by the time I had her hands strapped to the arms of the chair she was shaking. I thought she was nervous.”
“Was she?” Sara asked, curiously. Grissom’s expression shifted to something slightly bemused and he shook his head.
“She was having an orgasm. I’d never seen anything like that before though I have since. Lily shuddered, and sort of went unconscious, but as I was untying her and wondering what the HELL I was going to tell my mother, she roused herself and told me to retie the bonds. Lily sat quietly through an entire lesson on acids and managed to retain the information perfectly. I untied her, she told me to hang onto the ropes for next time, and that was the start of it, I guess. I’d tie her up each time she came over. Sometimes she wanted me to kiss her, or touch her face; never more than that, and then she’d come. After that she’d be docile and quiet and ready to learn.”
“Yeah. Well, talk about positive reinforcement—“ came Sara’s tart comment, “So she got an A I take it?”
Grissom’s sharp look deflated her for a moment. “A high B, in fact, and her teacher praised her for buckling down and learning to study. Lily and I agreed not to tell anyone about our particular method, most especially her boyfriend, and with the money I earned I managed to buy a new bike. Not a bad trade-off. By eleventh grade Lily had moved away and I filed the experience as an extremely arousing memory.”
“So from that point on you were involved in . . .”
“—Alternatives? No, not really. Bondage wasn’t a part of my personal life for a long time after that. I did all the usual rites of passage through college—lost my virginity, dated, had semi-serious relationships, broke up. I suppose the epiphany if you could call it that, came during the Tri Beta Halloween party. I was given the opportunity to spank the young lady I brought to the party and did.”
Sara felt a wave of heat cross her face and a hard twist of emotions flare through her: Shock. Arousal. Jealousy. She looked away from Grissom and tried to focus on the seat tray in front of her for a moment, wondering where the hell all of that was coming from, and not quite ready to look deeper. Instead, she lifted her chin. Next to her, Grissom gave a little sigh.
“I suppose that shocks you. I’m sorry it does, Sara, but I’d rather that you knew the truth from me than the assumptions you’ll make without it. Yes, I liked spanking her. Yes she liked it too. I’m good at it.”
“Crap.” She blurted angrily, unable to quite quell the rise of tension through her throat. The shock was fading a little now, but the other two emotions were still heavy and thick through her, and Sara desperately hoped the stewardess would be serving drinks soon because she really, really needed one.
As if on cue, the soothing voice of the copilot announced the altitude, the arrival time and that the round of complimentary beverages would be starting. Sara sighed, relaxing a little at that. Next to her, Grissom coughed lightly.
“Order me a bourbon please, Sara, and wake me when it’s here,” he murmured, closing his eyes once more and settling down into his seat. Sara shot him a quick glare, and even though his eyes were closed, he smiled.
When the orders arrived, Sara nudged Grissom awake. He sat up and took the drink, sipping it carefully. She sensed he was as glad to get it as she was to have her gin and tonic and for a while they said nothing, but drank slowly. Finally Sara stirred her ice cubes in her glass, watching them melt.
“So you’re . . . kinky. Sort of. I mean, the tying up and the spanking, hell, everybody tries that once or twice. That’s just experimenting. But to keep doing it—is it the only way you can get off?” she rushed in a low voice, a voice shaky with curiosity and confusion. Grissom cocked his head at her, looking slightly bemused.
“It’s not the only way, as you put it, but it’s certainly the most pleasurable, the most intense. Anyone can have M&Ms, Sara. Playing in scenes though, is like having a Ghiradelli Mocha supreme truffle with raspberry filling laid on your tongue to melt slowly to your body heat.”
Sara squirmed, all too aware that the answer was more seductive than she needed at the moment. Turning, she looked to see Grissom watching her, blue eyes slightly wary. She managed a stiff smile to cover the turmoil.
“Too many truffles can make you sick.”
“Too many of anything can. ‘Moderation in all things’, as Aristotle once said.”
“Are you moderate in . . . this lifestyle thing, Grissom? Does it make you happy? Like those swapping couples?” A thread of righteous anger grew in her voice and she glared at him. Grissom held her gaze, neither returning the anger nor reacting to it. He sipped his drink.
“This isn’t passion outside of marriage, Sara. Commitments here are as strong if not stronger than most socially or religiously sanctioned ones. And yes, for a while it made me happy. My pleasure came from creating pleasure, bringing out the deepest most uninhibited response from my partners.”
“Partners—“ Sara seized on that, her words slightly harsher now as she laughed bitterly, “As in multiple--Sounds pretty shallow to me.”
Grissom set his drink down hard enough to make his ice cubes tinkle. “Sara, how many men have you slept with since college? Before we start calling any kettles black, let’s consider that in my case we’re talking about a single digit number and that each of them was a commitment on my part that I didn’t take lightly. Yes, I’ve had partners, three in the last twenty-two years. Does that make it any more disgusting when compared to your own life?”
She stood up blindly, blinking hard at the knife of pain in her chest, and fumbled to reach the aisle, stumbling her way back to the bathrooms, willing her eyes not to let the sudden sting fall until she’d manage to close the lock on the door. They came, spilling in hot trails down her face, wet streaks of anger, of confusion and pain that she couldn’t sort out one from the other, a jumble of hard, hot emotions throbbing in her.
It hurt. It hurt to think of Grissom with other women, pleasuring them and getting so much of his own out of it. It hurt to think that in all the time she’d spent with him he’d never considered HER worth pursuing.
It hurt because it hurt.
Sara sobbed quietly into her sleeves, wiping her eyes savagely until the surge of emotion began to die away and steely resolve set in. Looking up she caught sight of her blotchy face, her red-rimmed eyes and managed a humorless laugh before turning on the water and splashing comforting coolness over her cheeks. The water felt heavenly, and for a while she bathed her skin, taking time to soothe her complexion before reaching for a paper towel.
Finally, looking up again, she nodded to the woman in the mirror.
“Get real—“ she taunted herself, “You didn’t think the man was a virgin, right? Forty-eight years old he had to have SOME sort of love life—although this wasn’t quite the one I would have thought of. Jesus, this is so . . . fucked. Gil Grissom, entomologist. Criminalist. Sexual enigma in leather—“ she began to grin, just a little, the goofy sense of relief hitting her stomach. The very image of Grissom in leather was enough to made giggles well up, and just when Sara thought she was going to lose it completely, a soft knock on the door brought her out of her mirror tete a tete.
“I’ll be right out—“ she called in a voice stronger than she felt. When she pushed the door open an impatient older woman stood there, anxiously, and Sara passed her to return to her seat. Reaching it, she saw that Grissom was stretched out again, eyes closed, and for that Sara was grateful. She sat down and tipped her own seat back, trying to relax, but all too acutely aware of the man next to her.
Scenes, Grissom had called them. Sara tried to think of what she knew about bondage and discipline. It involved leather and collars, she understood, and some sort of social posturing with one half of a couple being humiliated while the other half got to lord it over them. A wave of nausea rolled through her stomach and she clenched the arms of her seat tightly. Unexpectedly, Grissom’s hand moved and covered hers, the heat of his palm searing through her cold fingers in a sudden wave of comfort so intense she gasped.
“I’m sorry for what I said, Sara. I never meant to infer some sort of moral superiority on my part. Please forgive me—it’s been a rough day.”
Sara looked down at his big hand resting on top of hers, the warmth of it sinking into her tendons, the weight of it an almost physical consolation.
Just as it had been at the police station.
Not trusting her voice, she nodded, and even with his eyes closed, Grissom managed a smile.