The door slammed so hard it shook the wall behind Sean’s back. He lifted his head to find Fuller standing over him, hands fisted on his hips. Sean dropped his gaze to where his arms rested on his knees.
“Are you just going to sit out here and pout while your sub is bound to a bench in there?” Fuller kicked the toe of his shoe into Sean’s bare foot. “You’re being a shitty dom right now.”
Sean picked at his cuticle. “I’ve been a shitty dom for the past half hour. She’s not even wet. I brought her down here wet.”
“She submitted to you.”
His answering laugh redefined pathetic. Yes, she had submitted to him. She’d done it on the basis of an affection and respect he’d spent the last year earning. “This wasn’t supposed to be a punishment.” But that’s all it had ended up being. She hadn’t enjoyed it at all. She’d tried her hardest. He recognized her effort, and he loved the iron will backing it up. She had done her part, but he’d failed to give her what she needed.
“No, but you did learn how to punish her, didn’t you?”
Something Fuller had said penetrated his brain. Sean shot to his feet. “You left her tied up in there?”
Fuller’s nose wrinkled with disgust. “No. You left her tied up in there. I untied her, covered her up, and tried to give her some aftercare. She refused me, man. She wants you. She needs you to let her know this isn’t the end.”
The end. How could this be anything other than the end? He’d never failed with a sub before, and now he’d failed with the one who could destroy him if she left. This morning had gone so well. Later, in the dining room, she had responded to him beautifully. She had warned him that she had trouble climaxing under a whip, but he’d been so confident in his skills that he’d dismissed her worries.
She had responded to both bondage and gentleness before, but she seemed to be immune to them both when he added the whip. This couldn’t be anything but a punishment, and she had done nothing to deserve punishment. Quite the opposite. She had done everything she could to please him, including not faking her response to the whip.
Fuller slammed both palms into Sean’s shoulders, pushing him back against the wall. “Damn it, Sean. I’ve watched you pussyfoot around her for a year. She loves you, and you’re throwing it all away right now. Get in there and hold her. You have a responsibility to see to her aftercare. Tell her you’re proud of her. Apologize for fucking up. Tell her she means something to you, because right now she thinks she doesn’t mean shit to you.”
As always, his best friend had a point. Marcella hadn’t used her safe word, and she hadn’t signaled yellow or red. Stopping had been his decision alone. He needed to fortify his courage, get back in there, and find out how badly he’d fucked things up between them.
He nodded at Fuller with finality. Fuller grinned, his smile conveying an encouraging smugness. Sean turned away, knowing his friend would understand if he didn’t show him out tonight.
The dungeon’s padded walls muted all sounds, but the extreme silence of the room felt unnatural. Marcella sat on the futon, hugging her knees. She rocked back and forth with tiny, unconscious movements. A soft, cream-colored blanket enshrouded her body and helped her curtain of hair hide her face. He swallowed his gut from where it seemed to have lodged in his throat.
She shouldn’t have to comfort herself. That’s my job.
Wordlessly, he sat next to her and pulled her into his embrace. She stiffened, but she didn’t pull away.
“I’m sorry.” She sniffled a bit, evidence of tears he couldn’t see because her face remained buried.
He smoothed his hand over her hair. “None of that, Cella. I’m sorry. This is my fault. I shouldn’t have let it go on for as long as I did. You told me in several ways that flogging didn’t do it for you.”
“I tried. I wanted—” She broke off in a sob, and her tears came faster.
This situation required firmness and compassion, a combination difficult to achieve. With both hands, he guided her face up until her gaze met his. Because she meant the world to him, he dropped his guard and spoke from the heart. “No, Cella. Don’t do this. I’m so proud of you for trying, for doing this to please me. You have no idea how much I cherish the gifts you’ve given me. Your trust and submission mean the world to me. We’re learning each other in a completely new way. Flogging just isn’t your thing.”
Uncertainty wavered in her eyes and deepened the frown lines marring her trembling chin. “I know I’m not the most desirable type of submissive. I should have been more explicit this morning. I’m sorry, Sean. You deserve better than this.”