HOW much of ourselves do we surrender to another before we are so deeply lost that life loses its luster without that person? At what point do they become the air we breathe? How do they become the moon we need, our central axis to orbit, so that we cease to be anything but their reflecting landscape? We know that we would die without the gentle rain of their love and affection to feed our growth.
These are the poetically put questions that ran daggers through Sophia’s mind, heart, and soul as she sat on the cliffs, staring out at the sea. Tears ran freely down her cheeks, and she didn’t try to stop the wind from blowing hair into her face. It was midday now, but she lived for the night—it held her love and the one who held her heart.
She looked down at the plane tickets in her hand and, with a deep breath, stood to walk back up the path to her car.
SOPHIA hugged her mug of coffee while she sat at the kitchen table. Her mind whirled circles around the ways in which her life had changed in the past few weeks. Like a dervish, she thought.
She was so entirely lost in Anton that when she was around him, she never had a chance to think about how much he had altered her. Jinx nudged her knee. “Hey, boy, didn’t see you last night.” She reached down to stroke his head and listened contentedly to his purring. “Let’s get you some breakfast.”
She stood to fetch the kibble, cursing under her breath when she bumped her toe against the table leg. “Ouch, shit, hell.” After she’d rubbed the throbbing out of it, she headed to the bedroom to dress for the day.
It was really beginning to feel like summer, and, in celebration of the new season, Sophia decided to slip on a light chiffon sundress of ivory fabric with deep cleavage and a halter neck. She stepped light-footed out into the bedroom, brushing her hair, which had grown just past her shoulder blades, and looked up at the portrait.
Anton stood where he always did, handsome as ever. The sight of him made her weak at the knees, and she shivered when her gaze came to rest on his hands. She had come to anticipate unimaginable torment from those delicate fingers, but so far in vain. His fingers curved elegantly around the crop’s handle and sent goose bumps racing down her spine.
Passion stirred in her, molten and ever present when she thought about seeing him later that evening. She placed her hairbrush on the dresser and reached for a light pashmina to wrap around her bare shoulders, then placed a large sun hat on her head. She loathed being burned in the sun, as her fair skin was beyond vulnerable.
She headed out through the front door, strolled barefoot down to the lake, and sat in the swing seat she had put under the willow tree. She had a lot to think about, and this was her new favorite spot to do all the thinking. In the early days of a South African summer, the water shimmered under a clear blue sky, with thunderheads building in the distance over the mountains.
Sophia stared out over the lake, feeling miserable. There had been no ceremony or celebration after she’d accepted the collar from Anton. The past few weeks had been a never-ending game of waiting and anticipating. He had lifted her lovingly to her feet that night, put the cane she had handed him away, and kissed her on the nose.
“I’m not going to do this tonight. I’m not going to do this until I’m ready to. You cannot imagine how much I love that you’ve chosen something that scares you to such an extent, but that’s not for right now.”
They’d spent a nice evening, but he had been spectacularly gentle with her. After her mental preparation, she was deeply let down—as though he didn’t think she could handle it or was weak, perhaps.
She curled up on the cushioned seat, swinging in the crisp breeze and warm sun, and closed her eyes, thinking of Anton giving her instructions on how to meet him every night.
“You will wait at my feet, wearing only your collar and a pair of heels. If I want you to wear anything else, I will leave instructions. I expect you present when I appear. Never will you be late.”
She took a deep breath, and as she imagined his words, she could virtually hear his voice. The tone and authority in it. A shiver ran down her spine. So far she had not been late or inappropriately attired. He managed to make her dread the day it happened with just his words.
He had only given her the one instruction, no other rules or tasks. They had not been down in their basement for weeks, and Sophia was starting to feel agitated. She couldn’t even go there alone, as he kept the key hidden.
Her mind would not relax, and it settled on the random fact they were low on certain foods. If she planned to feed Anton a decent dinner, she needed to go shopping. Perhaps it would be a distraction from her frustration and restlessness. Sophia hopped off the swing and strode back to the house, newly amazed that this beautiful piece of paradise was hers and that she shared it with a man she was so incredibly head over heels in love with.
She sighed happily as she unlatched the door and picked her purse and keys up off the little hall table. She slipped her feet into the sandals that lay by the door and headed to her car.
* * * *
At the local grocery store, she purchased a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as deli meats and cheese. She would make bruschetta with pesto, mozzarella, and sliced sun-ripened tomatoes for dinner, simple food to celebrate the warmer temperatures. Plus, Anton loved fresh food. Sophia bought takeaway coffee and decided to take a walk to the Howick Falls after leaving the foods in her trunk and making sure she’d parked in the shade.
She leaned on the rail next to the 300-foot drop and watched a pair of yellow-billed kites circle in the updraft. She marveled at their freedom, not limited by terra firma. So unlike humans. This was a mated pair, and she saw them settle on their nest opposite her viewpoint. Sophia sipped her coffee, then noticed the sun sitting low on the horizon, and as she glanced at her watch, her stomach flipped. The day had flown, and she was going to be late greeting Anton for the first time.
She tossed the coffee cup into the trash can as she ran past on the way back to her car, then leaped into the driver’s seat and raced the sunset home. Sophia latched her seat belt as she turned onto the main road, remembering the circumstances that had brought her here.
“Is this Sophia Barry?”
“Yes, it is. Who am I speaking to?”
“My name is Anthony Larson. I am Anna’s attorney, and we spoke just before the funeral. I need to see you, Miss Barry.”
That had been part of the telephone conversation with her godmother’s lawyer after Anna had been killed in a car crash a few months before, not too far from this road. Sophia tried not to think about that, or exceed speed limits, but her heart rate increased exponentially as the sun sank closer to the horizon. She took the final turn into the long drive that led up to the house in full darkness.
There were lights on, and she was sure she had left everything off. She tried to calm herself, slowing her breathing as she pulled into her covered parking. She knew she had to get out and go face him, and she was not entirely sure why she was so scared. Sophia opened her door, stood on shaking legs, and retrieved the groceries from the trunk.
The light in the entrance hall was still off, and her foot caught, making her stumble over the threshold into the dark space beyond. The bags had barely dropped from her hands before someone seized her hair from behind. The door swung shut.
“You weren’t there.” His voice filled her ears, soft, even-toned, and menacing. “Why? I was worried sick when you were nowhere in the house.”
Sophia attempted to reach for his hand in her hair. He was hurting her. “I’m sorry, Anton. I went to buy fresh food for dinner and didn’t realize the time passing. I forgot to leave a note.” She whimpered as he grasped her hands together behind her back. He pressed against her.
“I don’t care that you didn’t notice. You clearly don’t care enough to pay attention and need to be reminded of how things between a Dominant and his submissive work.” His breath was hot on her neck, his voice terrifying.
“I’m sorry, Sir. I didn’t mean to be late. I’m sorry. Please don’t hurt me,” she begged him as she was dragged, shoved, and half carried to the bedroom. “Please, I just wanted to buy fresh food. I didn’t mean to be late. Sorry!” The last word came out a scream as his grip tightened more in her hair, and he released her hands, turning her to face him.
They stood at the door to the basement, and when their eyes met, he spoke softly to her, lifting her chin in one hand. “Stop, hush. Do you think I haven’t noticed how fidgety you have been these past weeks? You want to feel what it’s like to submit to me, really surrender? You did not fulfill the one duty you have. You are my submissive, and for disobedience I will punish you.”
Sophia was still softly pleading as he continued, his calm demeanor more disconcerting than outright anger would have been. He kept eye contact with her, then roughly tore the sundress straight down the front and slid it down her arms to leave it in tatters on the floor. “Wait for me downstairs, naked. Kneel in the carpeted area. I will come to you when I’m ready.” She staggered when he released her as he turned to stride from the room.
In her state of terror, Sophia dropped her panties and shoes right there on the floor with what remained of her dress. She leaned for a moment against the open door to the stairwell, breathing hard. The dark was a gaping mouth ready to engulf her, a pit of self-made fear. She stumbled down the steps one at a time, noticing the ambient lighting had been adjusted to a dim setting.
The space had been prepared to receive its penitent. He had planned this before her arrival.
* * * *
Sophia stepped off the stairs, her foot landing heavily with a soft thud, devoid of grace, on the cold rubber flooring. The distance to the carpeted area made her feel like she was taking an inmate’s last steps on death row. The malice in Anton’s voice was lodged in her mind. She didn’t think it was necessary to render her this terror-stricken simply because she was late. He was being unfair.
Where was loving, gentle Anton tonight? She knew she’d been dying for this show of Dominance, but the way he was going about it seemed warped. She reached her goal area and her blood turned to ice. The plain narrow bench stood there, and on it lay the crop and cane, the same cane she had chosen weeks ago. Why like this?
She sat down, faced away from the bench, and got into her kneeling pose, tucking her feet under her butt. She slowed her breathing, but her heart continued thudding in her ears. This was not exactly what she had in mind when she’d ached to come back down here all these weeks.
Her mind had wandered to more pleasant thoughts, but when she heard the rhythmic thump of his boots on the hard flooring, she was instantly on edge, yanked cruelly back to reality. Her hands shook as he stopped in front of her, and she swallowed back fresh tears as she watched him from the edge of her vision. Without speaking, he walked over to the bench to move the two implements out of the way and placed them on a nearby chest. She closed her eyes and listened for his movements but came alert when the crop touched her lips.
“Kiss it, Sophia. It is an extension of my will, which you will respect as it metes out a just punishment.” Her lips were numb against the cold leather as she kissed the edge of the implement. Anton repeated the process with the cane.
“Stand, come to the bench, bend forward from the waist, and rest your hands on top of it, fingers spread.” She glanced at his face, cold and hard, as she did this. He never stroked her or touched her tenderly, merely corrected the position of her feet and flattened her back with a hard hand. “I’m going to warm up your skin with twenty strokes of the crop so I don’t damage you, and then fifteen of the cane as your punishment.” He spoke from behind her, and Sophia resolved to be as quiet as she could. She refused to give him the satisfaction of her screams. Those he liked, and silence he despised. When the blows started landing with the crop, she bit down on her lip hard enough to taste blood, and her fingers dug deeply into the leather of the bench.
Anton stopped, and she tried to catch her breath before the next assault began. “I enjoy this as little as you do. I hate punishments. All Dominants do.”
With a derisive snort, Sophia glared at him from under her hair. Then she looked back down at her hands and focused on the leather under them, on the carpet, on anything except the singing of the cane as he swung it through the air.
The first searing stripe left her breathless. If she were able to, she would have screamed, but the intensity of it stole her voice. Instead she collapsed with her elbows on the bench, and that was where he left her. He counted the strokes aloud, and at fifteen, when she was quivering and covered in sweat, her ass and thighs burning, painted a welted red, he dropped the cane to the floor.
As he made contact with her back, she hissed menacingly. “Take your hands off me, now.” He nodded and silently stepped away from her. She strode out of the basement, ignoring any further orders he may have given.
Blood thundered through her ears as she stormed into a guest bedroom. She locked the door behind her seconds before he caught a hold of it. The handle rattled, and she heard him outside, cursing.
“Let me in, please, Sophia. This is what punishment is. It’s not fun. It’s horrible. For us both, but it has to be done. You need to learn your place as my property. That collar around your neck means something, you know.”
She stepped up to the door and laid a hand on the wood, speaking softly. “Right at this particular moment, your property thinks you can go fuck yourself, Sir. Fuck off. Leave me alone.”
She climbed into the bed, being careful with her damaged skin on the cotton sheets, which were rough as sandpaper. Sophia curled into a ball and started sobbing.
She fell asleep as tears ran from her closed eyes and her ribs shook from the shuddering cries that racked her body.
Anton heaved a sigh and walked away after Sophia ignored his fifth knock. She couldn’t hurt herself in there. He shook a bit of circulation back into his fist, which was numb from banging on the hard door. While he made his way to the kitchen to sit down to a cup of coffee, he wondered if he’d been too harsh with her. This was the first time she had ever experienced a punishment, and he had meant to teach her a lesson but not alienate her.
He didn’t entirely like that she had isolated herself from him, although a part of him understood her reasoning and how she must be feeling. Feeling that you’d disappointed your Dominant was one of the most difficult emotions for a submissive to cope with. The thought popped into his mind that she still had a flowery image of submission in her mind. She saw the kind, giving, tender, and fun stuff. The harder aspects were what made or broke you, and either you were destined to serve or your relationship died under the whip, so to speak.
He fidgeted around the kitchen, trying to find the coffee press and grounds. When he got those along with a mug and cream together, he tilted the shiny kettle left and right, looking for the switch. “I freaking hate modern crap,” he muttered to himself, slamming it down with a thud, and splashed its contents onto the hair that flopped over his eyes. He eventually noticed the electrical outlet was not turned on. As he flicked the switch, the appliance hissed to life immediately. His frustration melted away as the therapeutic scent of the coffee reached his nose, and he sagged onto the bench at the kitchen table, exhausted, before dropping his head into his hands.
A deafening clap of thunder shook the house without warning, along with a blinding flash of blue-white lightning, and Anton jerked upright in his seat at once. It didn’t trouble him, but he knew Sophia was scared of storms, and this was sure to wake her up no matter how deeply asleep she might be. He sipped the last coffee from his mug and listened for movement from the room she had run into. As the next bolt of lightning lit the night sky, he heard a squeal, then locks turned and feet came thundering down the passage.
She must have been deeply asleep, because she seemed to want to run straight into him, but a foot away skidded to a halt and backed into a corner. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to almost jump on you, Sir.” Her face was tearstained and downcast. She remembered her nudity, tried to cover herself with her hands, and stared at the floor near her feet.
He held his arms open toward her. “Oh, baby, come here.” She took small steps to him and carefully climbed onto his lap, cringing as her sore skin came into contact with his pants. “It’s okay now. You’re okay.” He put his arms around her and held her tightly.
“I’m sorry you got angry at me. I’m sorry I was late. Please don’t hit me like that again. Don’t leave me alone.” She clung to his shirt, her face buried in his chest.
They sat there quietly, and he reached up to stroke her hair. It was wild from perspiration earlier and still matted from sleep. “It’s okay, baby. I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere, but I do need to get up so we can go somewhere more comfortable. I can’t breathe with you on top of me like this.” He gasped for air, adjusting her position on his chest. She sniffled, wiped her nose and eyes on him, and sat up.
Anton took in her bleary red eyes and swollen nose. She looked as if she was on the verge of tears again, and it tore him apart. He had done this. He had hurt her emotionally. She didn’t know these things well enough yet to have handled such harsh treatment, and when she now looked at him, it was with fear in her eyes.
“Let’s go to bed, angel girl.” He maneuvered her off him when she nodded, then he stood and picked her up before carrying her to their bedroom. With her head resting on his shoulder, he climbed onto the big soft bed and laid her down, curled in behind her, and held her tightly in his arms.
She relaxed and fell asleep amid thunderclaps and lightning flashes, while he lay there with his heavy guilt and silently dreaded having to abandon her when the sun rose in a few hours.