Capture & Surrender (Market Garden, #5)
L.A. Witt & Aleksandr Voinov
On Friday night, Nick strolled into Market Garden for the first time in days, and Frank breathed a sigh of relief. Nick had looked awful the other night—more stressed, exhausted, even haunted than a Dom-for-hire ought to be, which was why Frank had sent him home. Now, Nick was smiling, which was unusual. His professional face hovered somewhere between a glare and feigned disinterest. Or the focused stare of a hunting hawk. But not tonight.
Frank was halfway through a coffee when Nick came by his table. Frank nodded to him. “Have a seat. How’s it going?”
Nick slid in opposite him and ran his long fingers through his hair, mussing the blond strands, then stared down at the table. “Got things sorted. Thanks. But . . . um . . .”
Frank tapped his mug with his thumb. “Something else?” A sense of please don’t let it be bad fluttered in Frank’s chest. Nick had needed time off; no doubt the new boyfriend’s fault. Remember, Frank, it can always get much, much worse.
Nick took a deep breath. “I’m not staying. I can’t do this anymore.” He gestured around the club, but Frank kept his gaze fixed on Nick, reading him for worse news. “Wish I could, but I’ve been sloppy and that’s not what the Garden is about, is it?” The slight lift at the end of the sentence was only for politeness’s sake. Nick had that very Dommish habit of making a sentence sound like a question, checking for consent, when the underlying decision was as good as made.
In this case, he’d made the decision to leave. A shame, that. The kid was amazing with anything that caused pain. A couple dozen clients gushing on the members-only internet forum attested to that.
“What’s the problem?” Frank took a sip from his coffee.
“To put it bluntly, I’ve fallen so hard for someone that I can’t concentrate on anybody else.”
Lucky bastard. “Congratulations.”
Nick smiled wryly. “Thanks.”
“I’m sorry to see you go.” Frank put his mug down. “But, I certainly won’t try to keep you. Especially if someone’s managed to tame the—”
“Tame?” Nick laughed. “Oh, I don’t think so.”
Frank chuckled. “Keep telling yourself that, kid.” He paused. “I, um, I don’t suppose I can talk you into coming back for some BDSM seminars? Yours are almost always standing room only, and if I’m going to lose the money you bring in, that would sure soften the blow.”
Nick tapped his black-painted nails on the table, then shrugged. “I’m not going to turn away the income. I just—” He stopped and looked away, his expression suddenly as serious as it had been when Frank had told him to take some time off.
Frank pushed his mug aside and leaned forwards, folding his arms on the table. “Something wrong?”
Nick met his eyes again. “Demonstrations and seminars are fine. But I can’t . . . I won’t be with anyone else. Flogging and bondage for a demo, fine. But I’m not fucking anyone.”
Nick’s adamancy didn’t surprise Frank, but his monogamy certainly did. “Well. Uh.” He cleared his throat. “That’s fine. I’m sure we can arrange for volunteers if you need anyone to demonstrate techniques you’re not comfortable performing.”
“Okay.” Nick nodded. “You have my email address and my mobile. Give me some warning, though. I’m not coming in on a moment’s notice.”
“Of course not.” Frank extended his hand across the table. “Good luck with everything else.”
Nick shook his hand, his long, slim fingers tiny compared to Frank’s, and smiled. “Thanks.”
They didn’t bother with small talk—Nick hated it and only used it when he was trying to get into a john’s wallet; and Frank wasn’t much of a conversationalist, either—and shortly after they broke the handshake, Nick left. Frank sat back and watched him go. There would be a dent in his wallet, that was for sure. But he still had moneymakers, of course. With the way word was getting around about Tristan and Jared, it wouldn’t be long before they were making up for the loss of Nick.
He fought the impulse to replace his coffee with a cocktail or a triple whiskey, but he’d quit drinking a long time ago because of the myriad medications he had to take a hundred times a day. Those had a tendency to turn the effects of alcohol very unpleasant. Didn’t mean there wasn’t the impulse every now and then, but these days, he mostly blew off tension in the gym. Maybe he could go do that tonight.