Tender Mercies - By Kitty Thomas
She turned at the sound of Asher’s voice and smirked, wiggling her ass at him.
He sucked in a breath at the sight of her. Her long, elegant limbs, the supple leather collar, the black heels. The slutty kitty outfit he’d dressed her in, complete with a tail he’d inserted an hour before his friend had arrived. Though he wasn’t sure outfit was the proper term, as what she was wearing was little more than black satin ribbons that crisscrossed her body, leaving exposed everything one would wish to see. Her dark mahogany hair fell forward over her eyes, giving her a look of demure submission that was so beyond the truth of his playful Darcy, it was laughable.
“Be a good kitten, and crawl over to James.”
She made her way across the floor toward their guest, the bell he’d added to her collar jingling the entire way. As Asher watched from across the room, he could see the evidence of her arousal, her skin glistening with the telltale signs of her growing excitement. She loved it when James came over. Such a little exhibitionist.
James sat perfectly still, Asher’s bullwhip draped across his lap. His eyes dilated, and his lips parted in a grin.
“Sir,” Darcy said, bowing her head.
“You go far too easy on her, you know.”
Asher shrugged. “I’m sure you intend to remedy that problem in a few moments.”
It was true, he was a bit tame with her, but she knew she was his. He had the paperwork to prove it; he owned her and could do whatever he pleased. His kindness wasn’t motivated by lack of right. And yet he’d been far more lenient than was probably advisable.
She’d charmed her way into his heart, and because her masochism surpassed his sadism, it was difficult to truly punish her. He’d gone so soft on her that he sometimes sang her to sleep when she asked. He couldn’t bring himself to deny her anything, and now she was so spoiled that drastic measures had to be taken to correct the situation.
“James is going to punish you with the bullwhip,” he said, the amusement gone from his voice. “You pushed the boundaries too far this time. For god’s sake. We were in public. Smarting off to me like that? It wasn’t your wisest move.”
She went quiet, her delicate body still, her eyes on the floor. Her anxiety seemed to hum like a thousand buzzing bees. There was a faint tremor. She was genuinely afraid. Yes, the weight of the situation had finally landed on her. Tonight wasn’t about play.
He considered calling it off, his stomach going queasy over the possibility of truly hurting her.
James caught the change in his posture. “Relax. I know what I’m doing.”
“How much training have you had with that thing?” he asked, his eyes not straying from the huddled form at James’s feet. Asher had practiced and practiced, but he’d never been able to bring himself to start practicing on a woman. James had.
“How many live human beings have you practiced on?” He looked up at his friend, still unsure of the course he’d chosen, but determined he wouldn’t be the one led around on a chain.
“Five. I know what I’m doing.”
“Master?” Darcy said.
“Will you stay with me?”
He nodded, and she let out the breath she’d been holding. “After tonight I expect your behavior to change. Are we clear?”
Asher watched grimly as James rose to his feet. The trembling in his slave had reached its zenith, and he wondered if she was milking it, trying to play on his feelings for her.
“Are you backing out?” James asked.
She looked up, the hope naked in her eyes, as if she might beg him. And if she did, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to ignore her entreaty. But she remained silent, and her eyes went back down as she seemed to try to control the shaking. No, she wasn’t faking it.
That knowledge made him want to stop the punishment before it began, but where would they go from here? If he showed weakness when she obviously now needed a firm hand, would either of them be satisfied again?
It had to happen.
James stood and pulled Darcy to her feet, leading her to the wall against which the St. Andrew’s Cross stood. He secured her wrists and ankles to the frame so she was spread-eagled. Asher came up behind her and pulled her long hair out of the way, leaving her back exposed. She shivered.
“Do it,” he said, stepping back to