The pain had faded and with it the terror that she would die. But not knowing where she was made DG creak open her eyes. A large, rough hand gently held hers. She followed the arm up to the blue eyes piercing the darkness. That's why she was safe. She squeezed his hand and drifted away.
When she woke again, sunlight filled her bedroom and Raw sat in Cain's chair. She squelched her disappointment over what was probably a dream.
"Cain was here. Had to go work," Raw said.
"What time is it?" DG sat up gingerly, but Raw's healing hadn't left her sore. "Thanks for fixing me." She tested the hand that a boot heel had pounded.
"Welcome. DG no need to rush. Everything canceled so you rest before trip."
"Trip? To former Duke Herku's home." Raw nodded. "Fun, hunting Longcoats with the Tin Man who can't--" The despair rose and seized her throat.
"DG must talk to Cain."
"How! When the only time he can be in the same room with me is when I'm unconscious!" She hurled herself out of bed. Free time was rare and she was not wasting it crying over Wyatt freakin' Cain. Not after how crystal clear he had made things.
"Cain thinks of leaving." Raw's sentence stopped DG before she reached her bathroom. She turned, but breathing was painful. "Cain hurts. DG talk to him tonight."
Raw left and DG sat on the floor. Cain wanted to leave. He couldn't stand being around her. Her fists pounded the carpet while she cussed Zero. And she added a few choice expletives at Gulch for exposing Cain to more of what disturbed him and for making her think there was a chance.
She jerked open her wardrobe and found the gauzy black dress hiding in the back. She almost threw it into the fireplace, but nothing was burning. She hung the dress again.
Raw wanted her to talk to Cain. So she would. And the Tin Man would know exactly what he was giving up in detail.
After reassuring Az that she wasn't damaged permanently, she spent the rest of the day researching for her plan, testing every section for any weakness before she dressed. There was much Cain wouldn't like, and more manipulative than she liked. If Raw was right; she swallowed hard. No, she wouldn't order Cain to stay, but she had to know the truth. She laid her hand on her bedroom wall and her power pulsed. Stone shifted to wood under her fingers. The door looked more like one found in Other Side new construction than matching any palace doors.
A cocking gun answered her knock. "Cain, it's DG. Open up so I can see if my magic trick works."
"And how exactly am I supposed to know you're the Princess?"
Paranoid Tin Man. " I still haven't told anyone you're a cuddler." She heard him putting away his gun before the door knob turned. His crystal blue eyes dilated seeing her wearing the better-fitting copy of the black party dress. "Can I come in?" she asked.
Cain already had his vest off and didn't move. "New way to sneak out of the Palace?"
"Only if we're under attack. Can we talk, please?" She darted into his rooms when his stance shifted.
He shut the door. "I wasn't expecting to be entertaining tonight." The bed covers were turned down for its occupant to slide under.
DG perched in one of the armchairs in front of the fireplace. "If I wanted refreshments, I would have scheduled something at tea time. But there's no guarantee you'd actually meet me for that." That was too bitter to start with. She glanced at Cain as he sat in the other chair. His guard was up, so much for easing into it. "You've been avoiding me since we returned from Kansas."
"My duties are keeping me busy."
"I have enough people who sugar-coating the truth for me, Wyatt Cain! You weren't so busy as long as I was unconscious." His jaw hardened and she looked at the empty hearth. "I don't blame you for not being able to stand the sight of me. I just expected you to be honest about it." He didn't answer. She gripped the arms of the chair to keep from grabbing the gauzy fabric of the dress. "I won't stop you from leaving. I just wanted to tell you I'm sorry." Oh God, she was going to cry. She shouldn't have held out any hope for forgiveness. "I'm sorry I touched you without consent. I didn't want to, but Zero said the longer I cooperated the longer he'd let you live and then they hurt you when I balked." She wiped her cheeks roughly. "I should've stopped when you said 'no.' I'm sorry. I know that's not good enough--I'm sorry." She stumbled standing up. She couldn't see her just-created door with blurred vision.
His large hand wrapped around her arm and turned her to him. "DG, I told you, you didn't do anything wrong. The blame is all on Zero."
"And you can't stand to be around me because I remind you of what he did. I understand. It hurts but it's better to be honest." It hurt to smile but she made her lips attempt one. "Will you at least accept a pension or something so I won't worry if you're making ends meet?"
"I'm not leaving." He pulled her against his chest. "And you don't remind me of Zero."
She couldn't get comfortable with his strength. "But you've been avoiding me?"
"I'm only a man. I have limits." He pushed her away but held her shoulders. "Limits that don't mean much to you."
"I don't want to hurt you! I'm letting you go so you can be happy!"
"Like I can be, knowing you're picking someone like Duke Herku or Charles Reachard!"
She pulled out of Cain's grip. "I didn't pick anyone. I've never picked."
"You're a Princess, no matter how much you don't like it. The relationship power is yours, no matter what you do inside your bedroom. Let Raw read and me vouch for your next lover, so you're not found half-dead again."
"Next lover?" She looked at his slumped shoulders as he sank back in his armchair. "That doesn't make any sense and I can usually follow Glitch logic."
His lips thinned. "Your choice in men is beyond questionable. How in the world did you choose the one guard in the bunch who wants you dead?"
Her jaw dropped. "Choose Charles? He attacked me!"
"Outside? In the dark?"
Maybe it had looked like a lovers' rendezvous. "You never came." His eyes narrowed at her blurted statement. "You sent Ahamo to tell me what was going on. I had to stop thinking about how you were avoiding me, so went out to the gazebo. Didn't even think about guards. And Charles knocked me out." She touched the spot on her head, but Raw had healed that.
"Why didn't you fight back?"
"He yelled about Pete." She hugged herself, feeling the blows again. "How I didn't save his brother because I liked what the Longcoats did. Then the punching started."
Cain ran a hand over his face. "You can't let someone put you in the grave because you feel guilty. Pete would have been the first to stop his brother if it meant your life!"
"I know that! The voice in my head telling me that sounds just like you actually." She rubbed her arms, hoping that would ease her shivers. "I've never done this before. I never had to. I had sense enough to turn down the Duke. But I will give into somebody."
"You gave it up before."
"It was easier to quit when every time I twitched, it hurt. But you and Elmer--"
"Reminded you how good it can feel."
She nodded. "I can't fuck the Zone worse than I already have because I'm horny and can't put my duties first. And no one can promise me that the next guy with horrible plans for the Zone won't figure out how to push my buttons."
"No one would let that happen to you," Cain said.
"And what happens when my need to be punished ruins my good Princess image?"
"I don't think Raw can change how you feel." He leaned back in his chair.
DG took a deep breath. "Good thing I have another idea. One you can help with." She knelt, clasped her hands behind her back, and looked up at his suspicious face. "I can submit to you."
He frowned. "So it's me or the Sin District?"
"Damnit, you know why I can't trust strangers again!" A physical slap would have hurt less. "All you had to say was you weren't interested. You didn't need to insult me." She headed for the door before the hot tears fell.
Cain stood as well. "You are not a cheap gutterdoxy! Stop thinking like one!"
"Cheap? When I worked, you had to pay three hundred sixty to spank me and much more to fuck!" She yelled over her shoulder while her hand twisted the doorknob.
Cain's hand slammed the door shut before she pulled it open an inch. "You come in here to throw me out and then you throw your body at me; what the hell am I supposed to think?"
"That you mean more to me than a damn client!" She swiped the hot tear on her cheek and glared at his stony face. "And I wasn't throwing you out. Raw said you're thinking about leaving. Leaving means getting away from me because avoiding me wasn't helping." She looked at the floor. "I'm sorry for messing things up, and don't be upset because I always mess things up." She tugged on the dress. "I can't even negotiate with a little light seduction without fucking it up. I'm sorry. I'll go now."
Cain's hand never budged. "You've never done what before?"
Her humiliation quota better be met for the next six months. "I've never had to start a negotiation before. Doms always found me."
"And you could reject the offers?"
"From the sane ones."
"So you want me to be your Gulch in the Zone?"
"I don't expect you to copy him." She met his eyes and his face had softened. "You're going to have different desires, different turn-ons, different--"
"Why me, DG?"
"Because you're the only one I trust." Her breathing stopped, but Cain didn't realize the importance. Love was easy; but trust? "You won't hurt me or use me to hurt the Zone." No, don't let him know how much power you would give him.
He didn't take his hand off the door, but used his free one to pull her closer, and keep her in place by stroking her back. She couldn't stop quivering even if ordered to. "How were you going to seduce me?"
"Elmer told me I should wear this dress for you." She stepped closer and Cain straightened but didn't break their locked gazes. "Then remind you how you first thought I needed to be turned over your knee and spanked." His face reddened. DG pressed his hand against her thigh, easing it under the material and up her leg. Cain's eyes widened when his fingers found her bare ass. "And here I am begging for you to do just that."
Both Cain's hands grabbed her ass and pulled her to his chest. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders. His lips grazed her neck. "You should've started with the seduction."
"Stop being sorry for everything." Cain rubbed her ass. "How can I say I'm sorry if you're always sorry first?" The squeeze was unexpected and DG moaned as she pressed tighter against him. "And part of this mess is my fault too."
DG's brain buzzed pleasantly, but she needed to think. Cain squeezed her ass again, and her lips pressed against the skin under his jaw. He gasped but she felt him hardening. Each squeeze was followed by a kiss. If he wanted this to stop he would smack or release her, not pull her closer each time.
"Aren't we supposed to be negotiating?" He said between heavy gasps.
"I'd like to come to an arrangement with you."
Cain let go, but steered her back to the armchairs. He sat so he was directly across from her. "All right," he cleared his throat twice. "I have some stipulations."
She had to swallow for her voice. "Do you want them in writing?"
"A contract?" She nodded, and he frowned. "Your word is fine if mine is fine with you."
"It's fine, but we could write the rules if it made you more comfortable. Just so you know."
He unbuttoned another shirt button like it was strangling him. "Yeah, well, I won't share you. If you want someone else, you have to end things with me."
"Glad you think so. You'll have to tell me what you want."
DG frowned. "But I have. I want to submit to you."
"I don't know what you like or don't like."
"No safe words, no limits, Wyatt, I don't need them with you."
Cain rubbed his face. "It won't work that way. You took limits away for Gulch, but he knew them and wouldn't use them on you. So what don't you like, DG?"
Why did she think he hadn't noticed that? She looked at the floor. "I'm not crazy about anal sex, but I won't fuss over it. Nipple clamps are the quickest way to make me cry, well, clamps anywhere."
"Clothespins make a good substitute, but you can't attach weights to them." Body parts twinged with remembered pain.
She realized she was shivering when Cain scooped her onto his lap and hugged her. "You're safe, DG, you're safe now," he said.
"Sorry, I didn't plan on having a breakdown." She pressed her face into his neck.
"You haven't talked about it ever. I'm not forcing details from you. Let it out in its own time." He petted her hair. "All I need is what else reminds you of him."
"Bullwhip." Her breath shuddered and she pressed harder against Cain. "You don't seem the type."
"You're right. One last thing, how are we supposed to keep this a secret? Especially from the servants?"
DG sat up, ignoring his arousal to smile at his stoic face. "Help me with my extra-credit magic project." She pulled him to a blank portion of his bedroom wall. Cain watched her, but left his hand against the wall where she pressed it. She closed her eyes, mentally drew what she wanted, and connected it to herself, Cain, and a bedroom. He caught her when the magic drain made her sway. "Our pocket dimension dungeon," she said.
Cain stared at the solid wooden door now in the wall. It fit the Palace décor better than the door between their bedrooms. "Our what?"
"Magic users can carve out spaces for themselves, accessible only to themselves. This door will only appear to us and only if we're in a bedroom."
He blinked at the door, than at her. "How can you do this when Tutor is convinced you're flunking his lessons?"
"Oh, Az and I figured that out while you were hiding. My magic is bored."
"He teaching me the same stuff I was learning when I was five. Wouldn't you be bored if someone was still holding your gun while you're at target practice?" He didn't answer, so DG opened the door.
It revealed a scrumptious bedroom: polished wood, rich leather and suede, and plush velvet. Her bare feet sank into the rugs. They had both spent too much time in real dungeons for her to recreate that environment.
Cain loomed behind her. "Aren't you missing something?"
She summoned a black leather collar and held it to her neck before turning around. "Does this meet with your approval, Master?"
"Call me by my name."
"That's not respectful enough." She licked her lips before continuing. "I'm not your equal, I'm your tool in here. To call you by your name, it makes the collar pointless."
Cain nodded. "My rank then, Dorothy Gale."
He was fast; he knew how much she hated her full name. "Yes, Commander."
His nostrils flared at her meek tone and the look in his eyes made her quiver. "Strip and hang up that dress. You will wear it again." She slid the hemline over her head and hung the dress with the corsets before he spoke again. "You didn't wear it that way to the Twister Club."
"No, Commander, I was a good girl then."
Cain smirked as he pulled her naked body flush against his. "Not the adjective I would ever use for you." He walked them to an ottoman and DG was across his lap before she blinked.
His unhurried slaps to her ass spread heat matching the heat pooling at her sex. She fell into bliss, trusting Cain. She woke when Cain set her on her feet. "Get the cuffs."
"Yes, Commander." She crawled to get both sets, hung the leather cuffs to her collar, and crawled back to him.
He stood her, facing the wall. "So clever." He kissed the inside of her wrist before he buckled the cuff around it. "Knowing exactly what I wanted to see." He attached the cuff to a chain so her arm extended over her head. "My handprints all over your backside." He repeated the kiss, buckle, and attached her other arm. She stared at the wood grain and trembled. Cain's arm wrapped around her, squeezing before his hand cupped her folds. "You okay?"
"I'm close, Commander." Her voice shook.
"I can tell." Two of his fingers plunged inside her.
She spread her legs to give him better access. "Do I have permission to come? I… I can hold it, but I'm out of practice."
Cain withdrew his hand and she whimpered. He kissed her cheek. "I want to know I'm pleasing you." He rubbed her legs before buckling the ankle cuffs on and then attaching them to a spreader bar that widened her stance so she stood tiptoe. "That's what that bar is for, right?"
"Yes, sir. Spreader bar."
His hands skimmed up her sides as her leaned over her. "Do you remember our conversation in the hospital on the Other Side? How you told me not to apologize for what happened?"
Where was he going with that? "Commander, it happened before you knew me. You can't blame yourself for not protecting me then."
"Silly princess." He chuckled. "I was apologizing for thinking you weren't tough enough to handle everything the O.Z. could throw at you. Including forgetful headcases, traumatized Viewers, and surly Tin Men." His lips and tongue caressed every whip scar on her back.
And if that wasn't enough to whirl her head, his hand returned to tease her clit once he reached her waist. She exploded, thankful for the cuffs and chains holding her upright.
She felt his erection while he hugged her. Was he going to fuck her against the wall? He just unbuckled the cuffs when she could stand.
"What do you want now, Dorothy Gale?"
"To serve you, Commander." She sank to her knees and reached for his belt buckle. He caught her hands. She looked up at his serious head shake."I'm here for you. It makes me happy to serve your sexual needs, Commander."
"No, DG. Not like this." Cain pulled her to her feet. "Take off your collar."
She had ruined it. She didn't know how, but it was shattering. "I'm sorry. Punish me for being so presumptuous."
"Collar off." His frustration made him growl and she blinked back tears as she fumbled with the buckle. "I can't order you to my bed."
"There's a perfectly nice bed right over there with built-in chains and tie downs." She pointed to the four-poster in the corner.
Cain growled and undid her collar, dropping it on the floor. Her gaze followed as she tried not to cry. His hands cupped her face. "I can't be Gulch." His voice was much rougher than his touch. "I can't take."
"You have my consent!"
"Because I'm ordering you. I need this to be real. I can't."
"But I want your orders!" She shook her head.
His hands cupped her face again. "Come to my bed because you want to be there!" His lips pressed against hers before he let her go with a sigh.
DG touched her lips. His eyes were shut, his body tensed. Wyatt Cain kissed her. His avoidance and anger fell into place. He didn't think she felt the same. She eased her arms around his neck. "Wyatt." She copied his chaste kiss before pressing her body against his. "Take me to your bed." She saw his startled blue eyes before she kissed him harder.
Cain's growl shifted to a moan as he deepened their kiss. His hands ran down her back, cupped her ass, and tugged her legs to wrap around his body. They moved into Cain's bedroom. He set her on the bed and tore off his clothes in what she was sure was record-making time. She never had a chance to comment on it before he delved into her. "Wyatt!"
"Sorry, DG, I'm not going to last much longer." He nipped her neck.
She wrapped her legs around his hips. "Harder, Commander!"
They came together, words abandoning them as they cried out. Cain rolled to his back, but tucked her under his arm as he panted. A horrible fear seized her gut when he didn't say anything. "Did I please you?"
"You were a high-platinum courtesan and you can't recognize a satisfied man?"
"It was my first time--"
His smirk vanished. "You don't have to pet my ego with lies."
She propped up on her elbow. "I have never lied to you. You are my first vanilla sex, so I don't know--."
"Vanilla? Why are we cooking?"
DG shook her head. "If kink is chocolate, no kink is vanilla. Still sweet, but different."
"You've always been tied up?"
"I like being tied up. You are still going to tie me up?"
"As long as we have this too." He tugged her down. This kiss was less desperate than the others, but his hand combed into her hair and stayed there after their lips parted. "We have this?"
"I'm not going anywhere. Well, they want me to go to Herku's place and I hope I'm not going alone or with two replacement guards that can't do your job."
"Like I would let you out of my sight for that long." Cain smiled as he tucked her against his side again.