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Deux

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“What am I going to do with you, Ms. Westfall?” Franky’s grin started at the corner of her lips as she watched her beautiful sub shift on her knees. She had ridden Bridget hard for their first time in their brand new space. Although she’d never miss her old house turned prison, she certainly did miss seeing Bridget on her knees in the red room. They’d made due well enough in Bridget’s bedroom, but nothing was a match for the newly renovated den of pleasure.

It had taken the contractor several weeks to put Franky’s detailed plans into place in Bridget’s spare bedroom turned playroom.

"Thank you so much... you did a great job, we can't wait to use it!" Bridget smiled as she shook the contractor’s hand one final time at their front door.

"No problem at all! Mind if I ask what you're going to use it for? You never did say," The gruff man asked as he moved to shake Franky’s hand.

"Sex dungeon,” Franky smirked with a wink.

"Franky!" Bridget smacked Franky’s arm. "It'll be a multipurpose room, some work out equipment, an extra bedroom, it'll be put to a lot of good use so thanks again for the great work!" Bridget flashed her signature smile.

"You ladies are quirky. I like it. Have a great one and if there's ever anything else, please do give me a ring," the contractor passed a business card into Franky’s hand.

“Cheers, mate,” Franky waved him off down the drive towards his truck.

"Baby, I can't believe you sometimes,” Bridget shook her head as she closed the front door.

“Aw, c’mon Gidge. Poor old fool’s probably never seen a lesbian couple in his life, I had to give him something to talk about. Besides, you knew what you were getting yourself into when you asked me to move in officially.”

“Well you couldn’t stay shacked up in that apartment forever.”

“You’re right, terrible support beams. Would never be able to support a hook without pulling down the whole ceiling.”

“I was more so thinking about the thin walls.”

“Ah yes, my neighbor was terribly concerned for my poor cat howling,” Franky’s laughter filled the air. Roughly she pulled Bridget down the hallway before pressing her against the closed door and shoving her leg between Bridget’s causing her to gasp.

“Please,” Bridget managed to pant as her eyes struggled to remain open. Franky leaned back, her pupils already swallowing the green of her eyes.

“Get in position, Ms. Westfall.”

 

Franky couldn’t stop the smile from straining across her lips at work the following day at the memory of Bridget’s incredible performance. Since dissolving her private practice, she had been working at a portrait studio for nearly six months, and each day was worse than the day before. At the beginning of their relationship, Franky was working to complete her degree in photography. However, they were preoccupied with falling hopelessly in love with one another. Franky spent her mornings in classes and her evenings exploring every inch of Bridget Westfall on every available surface of the home. Franky graduated only to find that the few jobs available were tucked away in family portrait studios. She couldn’t fathom why she needed a bloody degree to squeeze a rubber duck and tell kids to smile. She regretted the day she uttered that ‘any job will do’. Truthfully it had been fine at first. She could survive eight hours of anything if it meant that she got to come home to her golden girl at the end of the day.

Bridget.

She was one thing that Franky would do absolutely anything for. Including suffering through developing family photo after photo. Franky missed the days when she was developing her own film. There was something about waiting for the sultry photos to slowly push through to the surface that put her in a trance. She still remembered the feeling of her chest swelling with pride. I did that, she would remind herself. Capable of capturing such beauty, her skills were squandered on maternity shoots. Frankly quickly learned that there is nothing worse than dealing with a cranky mum-to-be bearing her swollen stomach for the world to see.

Finally finished, Franky sighed through her nose and removed her gloves. She checked her watch and noticed there was ten minutes left in her shift. She rubbed her eyes and prepared herself for the bright light of the photo studio. Spending all her time in the red tinted lights was certainly doing a number, not only on her vision, but also to her sanity. She blinked her eyes several times trying to adjust quickly to the light as she made sure the dark curtain protecting the drying photos was pulled back in place. All she needed to do was grab her bag from under the counter and she was home free.

“Francesca?” A feminine voice behind Franky caused her stomach to lurch up into her chest. Her mouth went dry as her brain scrambled to place the voice. There was a finite amount of people who referred to Franky by her proper name. Unfortunately she’d already been called out, so hiding behind the counter wasn’t an option. Franky slowly turned around to see Vivian, a former client, standing with a baby on her hip and her husband’s hand on her shoulder.

“Hi,” Franky finally spoke, clearly in shock. It had been nearly a year since Franky had stopped seeing private clients. She preferred to put all of her energy and focus into the world’s perfect submissive: Bridget Westfall.

“What are you doing here?” Vivian asked, confused as to what her former Domme could be doing somewhere as mundane as a family photo studio.

“I..um... work... here,” Franky stammered. She could feel her cheeks turning red under the family’s watchful gaze. Her mind instantly flashed backwards to an image of Vivian with each of her limbs securely fixed to each point of the saltire cross as she begged Franky to take mercy on her.

“I was wondering where you had disappeared to. I must say, I definitely wouldn’t have guessed it’d be here!” Franky smiled awkwardly, noting that Vivian’s voice sounded much different when her nipples weren’t tightly secured in her clamps. Franky made eye contact with the former sub’s husband and then back to Vivian.

“Uh, yeah. Here are the package options. I’ll let the other photographer know you’re here,” Franky thrust the pricing book into her hands and darted quickly for the back room.

“It was nice to see you again!” Vivian called after her.

 

The confident and self-assured Domme was a shell of herself and she knew it. Reading people was how Franky survived and Erica Fucking Davidson had gotten so far under her skin she had managed to take that from her too. She hadn't seen that contract clause coming back to haunt her or believed that Erica could ever parade around with Mark in front of her so callously.. but she had. And it had hurt. It had more than hurt. It had destroyed her. Franky felt herself fracture further and further with each blow Erica dealt. Franky thought she had already survived the worst kind of pain - her abusive and neglectful childhood - but Erica's actions had done worse because these wounds were neither physical nor superficial. These wounds reached Franky's core and they shook her. They shook her deeply. Her confidence had taken the worst of it but her ability to domme effectively was wiped right out alongside it.

And so, Franky had called Gavin the very next day and asked him to re-assign her clients. Franky hadn't made the decision impulsively. She had always known that if she couldn't Domme effectively, she wouldn't and couldn't do it at all. There was nothing sexy about an insecure and broken domme. Franky had worked tirelessly to continue cultivating Francesca's image and reputation after blossoming as an apprentice under Gavin's tutelage. She had retained several long-term clients with whom she had worked very closely. And over their many years together, they had come to know and continued to seek out Francesca for her strengths: her passion, loyalty, fierceness, tenderness, and, most of all, her endless confidence when fulfilling their deepest, darkest fantasies and desires. Because Franky had prided herself on her ability to connect with her clients in such a profound way, they would surely recognize that her heart was no longer in it. And how could she expect it to be? Her heart was in a million pieces thanks to Erica Fucking Davidson. Bridget, her beautiful, selfless, and endlessly devoted, Gidge, had picked each and every one of the tiny little fragments off the floor and held them together with nothing but pure understanding, support, and unwavering love as Franky tried to heal.

By the time Franky had made it home, her hands were shaking so badly she struggled to open the front door.

“Hey Baby!” Bridget greeted her warmly from the kitchen as she poured herself a glass of wine. “Red or white?” She asked as she turned back towards the wine cabinet. When Franky made no attempt to respond, Bridget turned with confusion painted on her brow. Once her blue eyes found green, she gasped. Franky’s eyes looked absolutely feral as she grazed over Bridget’s form. A wolfish smile appeared on the Domme’s face as she bared her teeth for her prey to see.

“Franky,” Bridget breathed out as she found herself being pulled under her spell once again.

Franky approached quickly as she pulled Bridget into her arms and began trailing a rough line of biting kisses down Bridget’s neck.

“Franky, what are you-”

“I want to fuck,” the brunette interrupted brazenly as she tugged her black shirt over her head and tossed it to the floor. She made fast work of Bridget’s clothing and it quickly joined the growing pile. Franky picked up the petite blonde with ease, her hands cupping her firm arse possessively as she carried her back towards the bedroom.

“Baby-” Bridget tried once more to get Franky to use words, but her body would always betray her when it felt those solid hands graze over her. Franky silenced her pursuits with a hard kiss to her mouth, teeth biting over soft lips. She dropped Bridget down onto the plush mattress and reached for her thin underwear, but Bridget’s hands reached up to cup Franky’s flushed cheeks in one last attempt to understand. “Franky…” She said calmly.

“Gidge, please,” Franky’s voice cracked in desperation. “Please, I just need you,” Bridget could see even in the dimly lit bedroom, her lover’s eyes were brimming with tears.

Bridget was torn. On one hand she would freely give Franky anything that she desired, but on the other, she knew that Franky was seeking escape from something between her thighs.

Control. Whatever it was that was bothering Franky was making her spiral out of control. And what did Franky Doyle need to center her and bring her back? Bridget. She needed her girl to make her feel whole.

So Bridget did what she did best. She submitted her trust fully into her love.

 

“Well, hello to you too,” Bridget hummed sometime later as her breathing had finally returned to a regular rhythm.

“Hi,” Franky said as she wiped the sweat that had formed on her brow.

“Would you like to talk about it?” Bridget asked as she turned over onto her side, propping herself up on her elbow so she could look down at Franky’s unreadable face.

“I just needed to feel good at something,” Franky finally whispered. She reached her hand up to tuck a stray piece of blonde hair behind Bridget’s ear.

“Did something happen at work?” Bridget translated expertly. Franky sighed. She knew that it was impossible to hide from Bridget’s questions forever.

“A former client of mine came in for family pictures,” Franky explained her warm welcome.

“Oh, baby,” Bridget cooed and bushed a comforting palm over Franky’s cheek.

“It was awful, Gidge. I…” Franky paused in thought as she shook her head. Bridget watched silently as Franky processed her feelings.

“I’ve never felt so fucking humiliated in my entire life.” Franky’s face was immediately covered by her hands, a warning sign that the tears weren’t far behind.

“You have nothing to be humiliated about. We are happy,” Bridget punctuated her words with a kiss to Franky’s hands. “And we’re in love,” she kissed again, carefully taking Franky’s hands in her own and pulling them away to see her face.

It was then that Bridget noticed something was missing. The usual spark behind those emerald eyes had dimmed. How had she missed this?

“Are you happy with me?” Bridget asked softly.

“Of course I am,” Franky reassured with a quick squeeze to her hands. “I just…” The brunette paused in thought once more, searching her mind for the right words to explain what exactly was going on inside of her head. “Just forget it,” Franky gently pulled her hands away and slid out of bed.

“Franky, please talk to me.”

She padded nude towards the en suite, but paused in the doorway. “Just let me think, yeah?”

When Franky returned to the bedroom, she was dressed for a run. She pulled her sneakers from the closet and leaned down to deliver a soft kiss to Bridget’s lips.

“I just need a little bit of time,” Franky whispered.

“Okay, be careful,” Bridget nodded giving Franky’s long ponytail a gentle tug. Franky smiled softly and placed her headphones over her ears, blocking out everything else around her.

Utterly confused, Bridget fell back against her pillow and stared blankly at the ceiling above her. She reflected back on the last year spent falling more and more in love with this new Franky. This new Franky who wasn’t trapped away like a caged animal. Instead one that was allowed to thrive out in the open like she deserved. But why wasn’t she thriving?

Bridget rose from bed and redressed. She knew that when Franky Doyle needed space, it was best to give it to her. Running always seemed to clear her mind when she was left unable to express herself with words. When Franky returned close to an hour later, Bridget had already eaten dinner and readied herself for bed. The brunette entered the bedroom, her body covered in a thin layer of sweat as her breath came in pants. Bridget glanced up from her book, trying to gauge how her lover was feeling afterwards. Franky smiled softly and nodded, signaling she was almost there. Bridget watched as Franky went into the master bath and she heard the shower spurt to life. The psychologist turned back to her book to wait her out a bit longer.

Eventually the water stopped, and Bridget watched as Franky returned into the bedroom drying herself off with a towel. Bridget couldn’t help but wink while she watched.

"Like what you see?" Franky teased as she opened her towel to reveal her naked flesh underneath.

"Always," Bridget giggled softly as she lowered her reading glasses down to properly oggle Franky’s incredible body.

"I love what I see,” Franky nodded in Bridget’s direction as she tugged on a clean pair of pajamas.

"Do you?" Bridget bit her lip softly.

"Of course I do," Franky reassured her partner as she came to sit down on Bridget’s side of the bed, her eyes on her fingernails. "About earlier... I don't know that I can put it into words, Gidge. Just know that the last thing I want to do is hurt you. I love you, I really do. More than I've loved anyone. I love our life and I am so fucking dileriously happy with you-"

"But?" Bridget added nervously, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"But being a photographer…” Franky sighed loudly. “I’m not happy... I've thought about what else I could do, and I've got nothing,” she shook her head, utterly confused at where to go from here. The last twelve years of Franky’s life had been spent building her career in something she was passionate about. Without being a Domme, who was she?

"Well, that is simply not true-" Bridget set her book down on the nightstand as she sat up with her legs crossed underneath her, putting her total focus into the conversation.

"But it is. There's no respectable profession that I am qualified for." Franky had sunk most of her minimal savings on finishing her degree. She was adamant about not relying on anyone to pay her way anymore. Her and Bridget were equals, but she wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep it that way without a steady source of income.

"What does respectable even mean?"

"You're a psychologist, Gidge. A talented, educated, and beautiful psychologist. Look at me,” Franky motioned to herself. “I'm a fucking portrait photographer. When we go out, people look at you and then they look at me and wonder why the hell you’re with me. You know it and I know it. I just can’t compete with your friends." Bridget had to admit that Franky’s fears weren’t unwarranted. She’d been on the receiving end of some questioning looks at Bridget’s work gatherings. Although they didn’t bother her, she knew Franky wasn’t immune to the glances.

"I don't care what other people think, Baby, and neither should you. I know why I am with you. I love you and you love me and we're happy. You said it. You're happy. I am happy too. I just want this." Bridget pressed her palm against Franky’s beating heart. "This is all I want."

"But what if it's not-'' Bridget closed the small space between them with a kiss, interrupting Franky’s sentance. "enough?"

"Franky, what are we really talking about? You know I love you and I know you love me. And besides, I think you already know what you want to do.”

“And what is that?” Franky asked as her eyebrows creased.

“You want to do what you've always done, I don't know why you're fighting it.”

“Because I'm not that person anymore,” Franky shook her head. Bridget was her one and only. How could she practice on anyone else when they couldn’t hold a candle to her perfect match?

“But you want to be.”

“I want to be with you.”

"I want to be with you too. You.” Bridget cupped Franky’s cheeks in her hands, her blue eyes boring into green. “Whoever you want to be.”

“But I don't know who I want to be.”

“You do, baby. Don’t you see? Nothing had to change.”

“What do you mean?

"Baby, I fell in love with you... I fell in love with the you that you were in the first place. The you that you always were. The you, you want to be." Bridget’s left hand dropped from her cheek and came to rest on Franky’s dominatrix tattoo covering her arm. Franky glanced down as Bridget caressed the inked skin gently.

“Are you saying what I think you're saying?

"Yes," Bridget pulled one of Franky’s hands to her mouth, kissing her knuckles tenderly.

“You’re sure about this?”

“You need to be able to do what you love. Practice your craft.”

“Why are you so good at that?”

“I'm not the only one who's good at what she does,” Bridget touched her temple and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. “But I only want to be good for you, Madame,” her voice rasped, causing Franky to groan.

“Are you sure?

“Absolutely. Aren't you?

“Not really... I don't have clients anymore,” Franky scratched the back of her head. She would literally be starting from the ground up once more.
“You should go talk to Gavin... and see what he says.”

“Yeah you're right... maybe it's time for me to go back home.”

“Now, don’t you think I deserve to be rewarded for my good behavior?” Bridget batted her lashes.

“Ms. Westfall, you insatiable cheeky minx,” Franky’s smiled broadly before pressing Bridget onto her back and tugging off her clothes once again.

Chapter Text

Although Franky had been to The Velvet Curtain thousands of times, something about returning made her feel anxious. Perhaps it was the fact that she hadn’t returned any of Gavin’s phone calls after her initial retirement. When the tables turned and she called him, he had answered after three rings and invited her back the very next day. She wasn’t sure what she had done to earn the man’s loyalty, but she was certainly glad she had it now as she felt utterly lost in the world.

Being at The Velvet Curtain outside of normal business hours always felt strange. Seeing it in the light of day almost broke the illusion of the normally illicit space. Without the usual suspects buzzing around, there was a bizarre stillness within. Franky proceeded downstairs towards Gavin’s office and the private rooms that Franky had once known so well.

“Well aren’t you a sight for these sore eyes,” came the low and familiar voice. Franky smiled when she saw Gavin stand from his desk. Without hesitation he wrapped his arms around her in a warm embrace. Franky hadn’t realized how comforted she felt by his steady presence in her life.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call,” Franky began her apology that she’d been scripting the whole drive. Gavin had never been anything but good to her, and she had always taken his kindness for granted. How many times had she sought refuge with him only to turn around and disappear from his life for months? “I should’ve-”

“Please, don’t insult me with an unnecessary apology. You know that our bond transcends time and space . You fell in love and are living your new life,” he translated. He ushered her towards the small lounge so they could talk comfortably.

“Yeah, about that...” Franky began with her eyes on the ripped hole in her jeans.

“What is it? You sounded lost on the phone.” Again, he translated expertly. Sometimes it felt as though he could read Franky better than she could read herself. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering he had been the one to mould Franky into Francesca, the notorious Domme at Velvet Curtain .

“I dunno what to do. I thought just by being with Bridget and having what we have, I would be alright. That it would make working a shit job okay. But...” She hesitated, her head shaking back and forth.

“You’re bored.” Bingo, Franky thought.

“So fucking bored,” she groaned as she burried her head in her hands.

“Of course you are. A smart mind like yours needs stimulation. Truthfully, I am surprised you made it this long. Do you remember when you first started training? How unfocused and temperamental you were?” Franky winced at the memory of her snapping at any minor inconvenience in her life. Even a parking ticket had her flipping tables.

“Yeah, it was awful.”

“And what happened when we were able to focus your talents?” Franky pondered the question for a moment. Even from the very beginning, she could remember her resolve softening as if Gavin was taking sandpaper to her rough edges, smoothing her out.

“I...I dunno, I just felt centered. Calmer.”

“Fulfilled.” Franky nodded in agreement. She was fulfilled by her work. Twelve years she had worked to harness her craft. Never once had it felt like actual work. Maybe that was what was making the transition into normalcy difficult. Franky Doyle just wasn’t cut out for a vanilla job. “You know you are always welcome here.”

“I know...I just...don’t know how I want that to look yet. I don’t want to practice on anyone else.”

“So you’d want to bring her here?” Gavin failed to hide the surprise in his low voice. Franky had never been one to share her most precious pets. Instead she preferred to keep the intimate connection that Domme and sub shared privately, untainted by the prying eyes of others.

“Fuck no, I think I’d probably rip everyone’s eyes out by the end of the night if I did that,” Franky held her hands up, completely shutting down the thought. Gavin laughed and shook his head.

“I know the feeling. But... I may have a solution to your predicament,” Gavin pondered.

“Shoot. Seriously. I’ll take anything you’ve got. If I have to photograph another preggo mom I’m going to open a vein.”

"It’s time for you to think about training an apprentice. Someone who will carry this forward and who will keep an eye on it when you need to take a step back from it all and live your life. Also, because there will be a time when you will need them to keep you in line or remember why you do this in the first place... the way I have you."

“You want me to be a teacher?” Franky cocked an eyebrow. Although Franky was endlessly patient with her subs, she was not with other practitioners. She was known for brutal honesty, sharing her thoughts about other Dom’s performances with ease. She couldn’t care less about their hurt feelings.

“Think about it. It is the perfect solution.” Gavin was right.

“Ok…” Franky sighed “But who?”

"I have a few people in mind but there's one in particular who I think is the perfect person for this and who you can really help to mould into something special."

“What’s his name?”

Her name is Stella,” Gavin gently corrected Franky’s misperceived pronouns. Although he could not blame her. In all of his years of ownership, there had only been a handful of Dommes in comparison to their male counterparts. Female dominates were much more rare, but none as rare as Francesca Doyle. “Come back tomorrow night, if you’d like. She'll be here then."

 

Unable to resist her mentor’s invitation, Franky returned the following night. Her eyes were painted with dark shadow like old times and her tattoos were on display in a sleeveless tank. As she walked towards the bar, she saw the heads turn and the whispers start. She smiled slyly in their direction with a flirtatious wink.

Franky pulled open the thick velvet curtain to reveal the newly renovated performance area. Instead of the usual chaos and assault of the senses, one space was set in the center of the room. A spotlight shone down from the ceiling painting the rest of the room in darkness. Lounges and chairs were placed about the room for spectators to gather in awe. Gavin led her up a small staircase to his VIP balcony. It was neither big nor fancy but its elevation provided them a vantage point with an unobstructed view so they could monitor all elements of a scene while remaining out of sight.

It was then that Franky saw the already kneeling submissive with her head bowed gracefully as she gazed at the floor. How long had she been waiting there patiently without a word as the audience watched on? Anticipation filled the room as the guests squirmed in their seats.

After what seemed like hours, the curtain was finally parted again to reveal a tall brunette with angular features. Her hair was cut short in the back with longer tresses falling into her stoic face. Franky took her all in starting from her leather boots. Her long legs sported a pair of ripped pants leading up towards a leather jacket. Franky scoffed under her breath. Obvious much? She thought to herself. Even still, Franky couldn’t deny her overwhelming beauty. She looked so young.

“How old is she?” Franky whispered into Gavin’s ear, unable to contain her curiosity. She watched as the slender woman slowly began to circle her prey.

“Nineteen.”

“You’re fucking joking.” Franky scoffed. “You didn’t take me until I was-“ Gavin held up a hand to gently silence her. Franky knew that she was breaking cardinal rule number one for spectators: be silent until the end.

“Just wait until you see her.” Gavin did his best to quiet her frustration. Franky sat back, trying to hold back her disdain.

Silently, the Domme used the pads of her fingers to raise her submissive’s chin towards the sky as their eyes locked.

“Your words.” came the young Domme's smooth voice.

“Yellow and red,” the submissive replied quietly.

“Excuse me?” Stella’s head turned to the side, her eyebrows hardening.

“Yellow and red,” she spoke louder.

“I heard you just fine the first time, but I believe you are forgetting something.” The Domme crouched down so her narrowed eyes were evenly matched with her sub. Franky’s heart jumped, recognizing the delicate features of the submissive's face. Franky had seen her before. Kim. “Where are your manners this evening, Ms. Chang?” Stella pulled her hair at the base of her skull elongating the smooth line of her neck. The abrupt action caused the prone woman to gasp.

“I’m sorry, Master,” the sub finally corrected herself. Stella’s full lips turned upwards into a devilish grin.

“Now that is much better.” The Domme rewarded her with a soft brush of her fingers through her long brunette locks. Quickly enough the touch was gone and Stella was standing once more.

The audience and Franky watched on as she slowly walked towards the wooden bureau and selected the waiting pair of leather cuffs.

“Hands,” Stella commanded and secured the cuffs around Kim’s slender wrists. “Why do you wear the cuffs, Ms. Chang?”

“Because I’m yours, Master,” came the submissive’s reply, without skipping a beat. Franky smiled in the darkness as she watched the switch flip deep within Kim’s mind.

“That’s right,” Stella purred again. Once she had successfully linked Kim’s hands together in the soft leather, she returned to the bureau for a length of rope. Franky cocked an eyebrow, but watched on with curiosity as Stella ran the rope through the cuffs. Why doesn’t she just use the rope for her wrists? Why bother with the cuffs? Franky knew better than to ask the questions out loud to her mentor sitting silently beside her. Then Stella threaded the ends up through the ring handing down above them. Franky cringed as she watched the Domme haphazardly tied the rope just high enough for Kim’s arms to be pulled above her head.

As the scene progressed further, Franky couldn’t refrain from watching Kim’s hands, unlike the supposed Domme performing in front of her. Stella’s eyes were busy elsewhere as she landed strike after dizzying strike with the flogger. Her form was good, but why the fuck wasn’t she looking at Kim’s hands?

A low moan escaped the submissive woman’s lips as Stella struck her one last time over her small breasts. Franky could hear the collective intake of breath as they watched Stella pull the rope and extend the length of her submissive’s body taut until she was standing on the tips of her toes. She tied the ropes and picked up the flogger again.

“Have you had enough, my pet?” Yes, she has, just look at her fucking hands you idiot, Franky wanted to scream from the balcony.

“No, Master,” Kim shook her heavy head, holding up the weight of it against her arm.

“What do we think, hm? Has she had enough?” Stella turned her gaze towards the audience and cupped her hand behind her ear while she waited for their response. Franky rolled her eyes at the overt display of her bravado. To the untrained eye, she was playing her part well. She was certainly magnetic, but she was also completely out of her depth.

“Beg,” Stella commanded as she leaned over with her lips hovering dangerously close to Kim’s swollen lips.

“Please,” Kim whimpered as she struggled to stay tethered to this moment. “Please, Master!” Kim continued to beg until her Master finally gave in. With little warning, Stella entered her submissive swiftly, and rode her quickly to a shaking orgasm.

Just barely after Kim’s body had stopped quaking, Stella untied the rope from the ring above and Kim was roughly returned to the floor again.

“What do you say?” Stella bent down to run a hand over Kim’s spine.

“Thank you, Master,” Kim panted.

The audience erupted into a thunderous applause complete with whistles and cheers. Franky didn’t budge from her seat as she continued to observe the so-called Domme once more. Stella delivered a quick kiss to Kim’s lips and covered her with a robe before she stood and exited the curtain. What the actual fuck?  Where was the after care? Where was any lasting connection between Domme and sub? It appeared Stella cared more about her celebratory shots at the bar than the current state of her sub.

Before Gavin could speak, Franky rose from her seat and went to Kim at the center of the room. She knelt to the floor.

“Hey, may I see your hands please?” Franky smiled softly as she extended her palms towards the spent woman.

“Francesca?” Kim asked through her haze.

“That’s right, and you’re Kim. Can you try to squeeze my hands?” Franky asked as Kim sat up and extended her hands towards Franky’s, giving them a very light squeeze.

“They’re asleep.” Franky squeezed the middle of her palms and gently massaged them back to life. When she was finally able to squeeze her hands, Franky rose to look for any type of aftercare salve to place on Kim’s reddened skin. Miraculously she found some resting atop the bureau. Franky began to carefully apply a thin layer and watched as the tension released from Kim’s body.

“Next time call,” Franky stated sternly as she finished with the salve.

“What?” Kim’s brow creased in confusion.

“Call the scene. Remember who’s really in control, yeah?” Franky smiled softly giving Kim’s hands one final squeeze before she turned to leave. Franky found Gavin waiting nearby, but the so-called Domme of the hour was nowhere to be found.

“What are your thoughts, Francesca?” Gavin asked as he offered his protégé a flute of champagne to celebrate her return.

“She’s cocky,” came Franky’s honest reply. She drained the champagne in seconds, but

it did nothing to dull the anger within her.

“As were you,” her mentor reminded her with a curt nod of his chin.

“Well, I didn’t just almost cut off someone’s circulation and cause permanent harm. She’s

dangerous. I don’t know what you’re thinking letting her practice here.” Franky felt her blood begin to boil. Had the tables been turned and Franky been on the performance floor tonight, Gavin wouldn’t have hesitated to tear her to bits. But why was he defending this literal child?

“I’m not. Not yet anyway. Not until she completes her training with a qualified professional. Tonight was a trial. You saw for yourself her potential. She needs someone to help mould her as I have done with you.”

“Do it yourself. She’s all yours,” Franky mumbled as she gave him a quick hug before leaving the club all together. Not wanting to cause any more of a scene, she decided to escape through the back entrance. Finally in the cool air, she breathed a huge sigh as she began her walk towards her car. She needed to be with her girl, and to bring herself back to center.

“Holy fuck! Hey wait, you’re Francesca!” A smooth voice tore Franky away from the thoughts racing through her mind. Confused, she glanced back over her shoulder to see Stella jogging softly to catch up with her, tossing her half-finished cigarette into the street. “You’re a fucking legend. Were you inside?”

“Did I not just come out the door?” Franky glanced back at the illuminated exit sign. Was this girl really an idiot?

“So what did you think?” Stella slipped her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket, ready for the ego stroke that was likely to follow. Franky swallowed back the urge to slap the smug look off her face.

“What do I think?” Franky raised an eyebrow as she watched the young woman nod with a shit eating grin on her face. “You don't want to know what I think, trust me," Franky laughed as she began to walk away once more.

"Of course, I do,” Stella treaded on Franky’s heels like a lost puppy. Franky scoffed at her persistence.

"You can't handle it, trust me," Franky paused again, placing her palm on Stella’s shoulder, gently stopping her from following.

"I asked didn't I?" Frustration was now evident all over Stella's face.

"An actress like you can't handle the criticism. I'll tell you this though" Franky steps closer, getting up in Stella's space. "You are dangerous. You may have the rest of them fooled, but not me. You are clearly in over your head. Any research, if any, that you have done has come from films. Not actual dedication to this craft. You cared more about how your audience felt than your submissive. Not once did you check circulation on your shitty ties. Seriously, a fucking boy scout could have done better than you. But the absolute kicker? Any trust there was between the two of you is now gone, and do you want to know why? Because you left her vulnerable and alone with no aftercare whatsoever.” Franky held nothing back as she watched the smile slowly fade from Stella’s face.

“Aftercare?” Stella raised a brow in confusion. Franky laughed incredulously.

“Exactly. I cannot figure out why Gavin would dare let someone as inexperienced as you to step into this sacred place.” Finally having said her piece, Franky turned on her heels to leave the pathetic excuse for a Domme behind.

“Do you think you could...you know, teach me?” Stella called after her, not daring to take a step closer. Franky stopped once more and walked back to stand inches away from Stella’s face.

“And what makes you think I would want to do that?”

Chapter Text

“And what makes you think I would want to do that?” Franky asked with her arms crossed defensively over her chest. She turned her head and waited for Stella’s inevitable reply.

“Because I'm asking nicely?” Stella smiled that wide grin that Franky had begun to hate.

“Then why aren’t you on your knees?” Franky countered with a quick raise of her brow.

“Leather? On pavement? You can’t be serious.” Stella scoffed.

“Dead serious. Obedience is clearly not your thing. You are untrainable.” Franky waved a hand dismissing her.

“Gavin doesn't seem to think so,” Stella countered with her calculated intelligence.

“So you only value opinions that come from men. Wow! Way to set women back 70+ years.”

“Yuck, please. I don’t eat sausage.” Stella stuck her tongue out and shook her head in disgust.

“Don't have to say that again, I'm a vagetarian.” Franky wasn’t quite sure what had caused her to disclose the information. Stella erupted with laughter.

“Vagetarian! You’re funny. You're gonna want me, wait and see," Stella teased with a wink.

“I have a girl of my own thanks.”

“Well, she better watch out,” Stella’s tongue ran the length of her bottom lip tantalizingly.

Silently, Franky left without so much as a glance over her shoulder.

 

By the time she arrived home, she’d expected to see Bridget sleeping soundly in their bedroom. What she found however was Bridget clad in a pair of sweatpants and flimsy tank top watching television on the couch.

“Hey, Baby. How was it?” The blonde rasped with a smile. Franky stood silently at the door, thoughts racing through her mind at frightening speeds. Instead of a typical greeting, she began to unbutton her shirt and ditched her boots loudly at the door.

“To what do I owe this warm welcome?” Bridget giggled as she watched Franky approach with hunger flecked in her eyes. Her partner didn’t respond with words, instead she picked Bridget up with ease and Franky’s lips came crashing down on hers in a violent but intoxicating wave. “Jesus, Franky,” Bridget moaned through the contact. Soon enough Franky’s skilled lips continued their trail down her neck to the little beauty mark above her breast that drove Franky absolutely mad. She softly bit the tender skin as she carried Bridget towards the kitchen table. “Baby, slow down,” Bridget giggled as Franky pressed her down on the table’s smooth green surface.

Bridget paused suddenly, the smile fading from her lips. The second time in less than a week Franky had greeted her this way. It wasn’t as if Bridget didn’t absolutely love the thrill of it all, but the behavior seemed oddly reminiscent of a Franky from lifetimes ago. One who didn’t talk about her problems and preferred to bear the burden alone. What was she avoiding this time after returning from the sanctuary of her origin story? Bridget propped herself back up on her elbows as Franky made quick work of her sweatpants.

“Franky, ” Bridget tried once more, but Franky’s eyes didn’t raise to meet hers. “Jasmine,” Bridget stated forcefully.

Instantly Franky’s lips and hands were gone as she stumbled backwards to lean against the kitchen island, her panting breath the only sound in the room.

“I let it go one time, but I refuse to let you fall back into old habits that you’ve worked very hard to break,” Bridget sat up, retying the strings of her pajama pants. “Talk first, mind-blowing sex after.”

“Don’t want to talk,” Franky shook her head, her cheeks burning red with a combination of desire and shame.

“That’s a pity, I was hoping you’d have something exciting to tell me about tonight.”

Franky groaned at the memory of this evening's events and unconsciously reached for the first breakable thing within her grasp. She settled on a ceramic candlestick holder and raised it over her head. Before she could launch the item at the wall, Bridget nudged the fruit bowl behind her and listened as it capsized and spilled it’s contents all over the floor. A rogue clementine rolled forward to gently touch Franky’s foot. Franky laughed abruptly, her angry tears fading. After a few more deep breaths, she lowered her hand down from over her head and placed the candlestick holder safely back on the island.

"How about we agree not to take out our anger on inanimate objects, what do you say?"

“I’m sorry,” Franky finally croaked. “I just started to see-”

“Red,” Bridget finished expertly. “Talk, when you’re ready.” She slid off of the table and placed a gentle hand on Franky’s heated cheek and moved to sit back down on the couch. Franky retreated towards the quiet safety of the back yard.

“Fuck,” Franky swore under her breath as she ran her hands over her face roughly. She replayed the night over again in her brain, but it still ended with Stella and that stupid fucking smile. “Fuck,” Franky groaned again, realizing how shitty she had been to her partner for the last few weeks during her identity crisis. Bridget was so much more than a cheap fuck. She was everything, but the way Franky had been treating her was far from the glorious worshipping she deserved. Yet there Bridget went again, proving to Franky she was truly the most perfect woman in the universe and all Franky felt like was hot garbage.

Okay, Doyle, think. Where the fuck is this coming from? Franky sat back on the porch swing to settle in. When did all of this reverting back to the old Franky Doyle start? Franky knew when she felt threatened, her body reacted in one of two ways. For most people it would be considered fight or flight, but to Franky Doyle, it was fight or fuck. But where was all of this coming from?

Franky missed it. She missed the old Franky. Well, parts of the old Franky. She missed the unshakable confidence she once possessed. She missed the thrill of driving her clients to the edge of their limits. She missed helping people live out their deepest and darkest fantasies. But Franky wasn’t a one-woman team anymore - she had Gidge - and the closest she could get to revisiting her past life would be living vicariously through Stella.

Stella. Fuckin’ hell. Stella’s complete disregard for the art form that she loved had really fucking pissed her off. From her ineptitude during scenes to her callous behavior behind the club, Franky was unimpressed. Why did Gavin insist that Franky train her? What did Gavin see that she couldn’t? What was it about Stella that made her feel so absolutely… livid?

It seemed simple. Franky wanted to wipe the smug smile off her face with her fist. She wanted to shove her kicking and screaming from the hallowed grounds of VC. But why did she want Stella gone so badly? Franky couldn’t deny that there was something there. Not a spark between them, god no, but a spark nonetheless Franky could see it as she observed the crowd watching Stella on bated breath. Stella had something, it was then that Franky realized what it was… Gavin saw Stella had the same something he had once seen in her.

Oh shit, Franky thought to herself.

I’m jealous.

There it was. The cold hard truth. Franky Doyle was jealous of Stella’s unlocked potential. Gavin could see just by looking at her that she could be something truly special. She clearly had a gift that needed to be harnessed and mastered. Controlled. And that sobering reality hit Franky like a ton of bricks: Stella had the potential to be a greater Domme than Franky herself. Why was that so hard for Franky to come to terms with? Maybe it was because she was letting go. Yes, she would definitely have to let go of who she used to be. An unbridled force. A revered Domme. But it was also because of who Gavin was asking Franky to be. Franky saw so much of herself in Stella. But Franky was struggling to see any of Gavin in herself.

 

Franky’s first time at The Velvet Curtain wasn’t particularly memorable, but it had still changed her life. Once she stepped inside the dimly lit space, she was surrounded by others who felt the way she did. They didn’t try to hide their true nature. Instead they embraced it with wide open arms. Liberation. They wore their eccentricities with pride like a badge of honor upon their leather garments. Franky mainly stuck to the bar, preferring to fuel herself with liquid courage before venturing out towards the more interesting areas.

“First time?” A man asked as he sat himself beside her.

“That obvious?” She took another long pull from her glass of whiskey.

“I’ve never seen you around before.”

“Sorry, pal, but you’re barking up the wrong tree,” Franky laughed uncomfortably. She was used to men hitting on her because of her good looks, but it still made her skin crawl. When the gentleman joined her in laughter, she relaxed a bit.

“Noted. My name is Gavin... you are?” He extended his hand to shake hers.

“Francesca,” Franky spoke before her brain could catch up. She hadn’t been referred to by her proper name in nearly a decade, but something about this space had caused her to use it reflexively.

“What a lovely name. I’m the owner here, and I make it my mission to know exactly what each of my patrons desires. So Francesca, what is it that you desire?” Gavin asked as if it was the most normal question in the world to be asking a complete fucking stranger.

“That’s a good fucking question,” Franky exhaled through her nose and turned back towards her drink. She finished off the rest of her whiskey in one pull and slid the glass back to the bartender. “What if I have no fucking idea and that’s what I’m here to figure out?”

“Then I will make it my mission to ensure that you do.” Gavin smiled genuinely. He wasn’t creepy. He was kind. He clearly had a better handle on whatever it was that people did in a place like this. He was the owner for Christ’s sake. Perhaps he could be the one to help Franky figure out what she had been missing.

 

Franky smiled at the memory. Gavin had welcomed her in like the lost soul she was. He had seen her. Truly seen her. He had given her purpose. And he had ensured that she was the best at it. Even if it took him the better part of his career to help shape Franky into the best version of herself. Without Gavin, there was no telling where she would have ended up. Then it clicked in Franky’s mind. Without her, where might Stella end up? Although he would never say it, Gavin’s teaching days were behind him. Franky knew that bringing her in to watch Stella that evening was the closest he was going to get to admitting it. It was Franky’s turn to pick up his hat and continue his legacy. She owed it to him after taking her back in so many times and mending her like a broken kite. He gave her the tools she needed to truly soar above the life that felt inevitable. He gave her the life that she’d worked bloody hard to earn. The life she truly deserved. How on earth could she ever compare to him? More importantly, how could she ever repay him? Franky knew of only one way. The Velvet Curtain and all that it represented needed to be there for generations to come. Gavin, Franky, Stella, and all their patrons needed a safe place to be and express themselves away from the judgmental eyes of others.

Franky sighed heavily. She knew what she needed to do.

Finally ready, Franky went back inside and sat down on the coffee table in front of Bridget. She reached forward and brushed her knee gently with the pad of her thumb. Bridget’s eyes were on hers in an instant at the welcoming touch.

“I am sorry for not listening to you. You were right, I was upset and it just seemed easier to reach back for all that stuff again. Gavin hired someone else. Or he’s going to I guess,” Franky came clean.

“I imagine that is difficult to process,” Bridget spoke honestly.

“What do you mean?”

“I know how important Gavin is to you. ”

“He wants me to train her,” Franky’s search searched Bridget’s for any sign of reservation. She had become an expert at reading the slight change in her pupils. “She has real potential, probably even more than I had back then,” Franky admitted the words out loud for the world to hear.

“Baby, don’t you see it?” Bridget whispered, her eyes going wide.

“That I’m fucked up? That I should be grateful for everything he has given me? That this shouldn’t even be a question except my ego is making it one?”

“That you have a real opportunity here to make a difference,” Bridget leaned forward and cupped Franky’s face in her hands.

“I do?” Franky’s eyebrows were lined with confusion.

“Yes,” Bridget whispered. “You do. He’s giving you the chance to be to Stella what he always was to you.

“Why are you so good at that?”

“What?”

“Helping me make sense of everything.”

“It’s a gift,” Bridget shrugged. “You read me, I read you.” Bridget stood from the couch and slowly slid out of her sweatpants before sauntering back into the kitchen. Franky eyed her suspiciously.

“Now, I believe I was right about…” Bridget slid back into a seated position on the kitchen table. “Here?” She grinned wickedly and spread her legs, giving Franky total access to her body.

“Tsk, tsk, Ms. Westfall. Am I going to need to go get the cuffs?” Franky bit back a smile as she approached slowly. She loved it when her girl did her best to look innocent, but she was never the least bit fooled. Franky raked her fingers through Bridget’s locks until she pulled her in roughly for a deep kiss. It didn’t take long for the familiar heat to make itself known. Franky’s hand wrapped delicately around Bridget’s neck, pushing her onto her back and leaving her completely at the mercy of the woman she loved and trusted most. She felt her core surge.

“Please,” Bridget panted aloud as much as Franky’s grip would allow. Bridget wrapped both her hands around Franky’s forearm, begging her to keep her hand there.

“Only for you, my love. Think you’re ready to show me what a good girl you are?”

“Yes, Madame,” Bridget whimpered. Without a moment to gather herself, Bridget felt

Franky entered her swiftly with the length of two fingers.

“Yes!” Bridget groaned as she arched her back. How Franky could send her from zero to one hundred in a matter of seconds would never cease to amaze her. Seamlessly, Franky lowered her head down the length of Bridget’s exquisite form delivering several biting kisses along the way. Finally she took Bridget’s clit between her lips and lavished the swollen bud with her tongue. “Franky, I-” was all Bridget managed to stutter before her orgasm overcame her. She allowed the pleasure to roll over her body in waves until her legs shook with effort to remain open. What should have left her spent only served to ignite the fire within her more. Bridget rose from the table and dropped towards the floor as her hands fumbled at Franky’s trousers. An exhilarated laugh fell from Franky’s lips while Bridget pushed her back against the kitchen island. There was no time to take her down the hall. No, Bridget had to have her right there. Once Franky’s pants were past the curve of her arse, she felt Bridget’s mouth go to work on her sex.

“Fuck!” Franky swore as she felt herself being pulled under the sea of pleasure. Her hand was tangled in Bridget’s blonde locks, scratching her scalp gently as she coaxed Bridget’s gaze upwards. Suddenly Franky’s vision was clouded with those crystal blue eyes staring up at her through her thick eyelashes. Franky opened her mouth to speak, but found her brain was incapable of forming any words. She moaned loudly as she felt Bridget’s tongue flicking over her sensitive folds. Her hips tilted forward of their own accord, the telltale sign that she was close. It was all Bridget needed before she wrapped her lips around her clit and sent her soaring towards the heavens. Franky collapsed to the floor pulling Bridget into her arms as she struggled to catch her breath.

“It’s settled, I’m keeping you,” Franky finally spoke after the haze was lifted. Bridget chuckled low in her chest before she leaned forward and kissed her love deeply.

"Round two?” She asked, wrinkling her nose playfully.

“Yep. Absolutely keeping you.”

Chapter Text

Franky returned to The Velvet Curtain the following day with some conditions. She was no Gavin but she was Francesca aka Franky Doyle and she would damn well do her best to repay Gavin for all that he had done for her over the years. She felt like she owed him that much after her tantrum the previous night. He welcomed her back, as always, knowing that she needed to work things out on her own time and in her own way; though, he had to admit the addition of Franky’s new flame definitely expedited her usually long-drawn out process. Although Gavin had not yet met her, he could tell that he would like her and was already singing her praises.

“I will train her but I have conditions,” Franky gripped her notebook in her hands.

“I’d be shocked if you didn’t.”

“I love this place, I really do,” Franky took a deep breath before continuing.

“Why do I sense a rather large but coming?” Franky opened her mouth to speak, but bit back her instinct to make a wisecrack, knowing Gavin didn’t quite have her same penchant for crass humor.

“If I’m going to do this, I want to do it right. You’ve given me so much over the years, and I will always be grateful for that. I haven’t been there for you like you’ve always been there for me. I know you say you don’t want my apologies, but I need to, Gavin. My whole life I’ve been running away from myself because I’ve been afraid to admit who I really am. But I always end up back here, back with you. You’re the only person who ever gave a shit about me...and I think it’s time that I start paying it back. I want to take on an even bigger role. I want to help you run the Velvet Curtain, if you’ll let me. I think it’s time you updated things... Rebrand and revitalize the place. It can be even better and do even more for the people who need it most. People like me. And I want to be part of it.” Franky nodded towards the bondaged mannequins and cages along the walls that had been there for years. The decor served its purpose, sure, but it lacked something that Franky couldn’t quite put her finger on, but she was determined to figure it out.

“Pardon?”

“I found myself here, and I want more queer people to be able to see this place like the beacon I did. People like Stella. You’re right about her. I think a part of me was jealous of what you saw in her, but I get it now. She’s not a replacement. She’s a continuation... a legacy.”

“I couldn’t agree more. What do you have in mind?” He inquired. After all these years, he knew Franky wouldn’t have made the decision lightly but he was pleasantly surprised about how much thought she had already put into it. Gavin never doubted that Franky would be just as invested in the Velvet Curtain as he was but he was impressed about how seamlessly Franky had stepped up to take on the business-side of running such an establishment. He had seen many of his competitors go under when inexperienced successors were all too eager to take over an esteemed position for clout, lacking the entrepreneurial sensibility to safeguard the history, legacy, and reputation of a popular establishment let alone the acumen to build and grow it. Meanwhile, in less than one day, Franky had recognized and embraced the gravity of the responsibility and duty of care that would be required as both a domme and manager of the Velvet Curtain.

And so, he listened intently and openly to everything, occasionally offering some input while Franky laid out her entire plan for him. She reviewed and explained the hours of detailed notes she had scribbled into her notebook while brainstorming with Bridget the night before.

“Anything else?”

Franky shook her head in response, only persistence was painted on her face. Gavin touched her knee gently.

“I think it’s perfect. I understand your vision and I admire your dedication, Francesca.”

“Why do I sense a but now?” Gavin laughed softly and shook his head. He hesitated before continuing.

“I just need to be sure that you are all in, for the long haul. I’m not getting any younger, I’m afraid. I need to know that this place will be in good hands.”

“What do you mean?” Franky’s brow creased with confusion, she knew Gavin well enough to know that there was something being left unsaid.

“I mean that one day, I hope that this will all be yours,” Gavin motioned towards the vast space of the club. “When the time comes...”

Franky sat back, shocked at her mentor’s revelation. Was he being serious?

“...If you want it to be yours, that is,”

“You know that I definitely do… are you sure about this?... about me?”

“Without a doubt, Francesca… I’ve always been sure that it would be you. Now, let’s get to work.”

****

“So what’s on the agenda for today, Boss? Impact play? Fetishes? Hey, have you ever worked with any puppy people?” Stella tried her best to hold back the excitement in her voice, but she was failing miserably. A chance to train with the Francesca Doyle? How on earth had she gotten so lucky? “Oh and Gavin says your great with a whip, do you think you could-”

“Strip.”

“No, I said whip,” Stella corrected.

“And I said strip...You heard me.” Franky motioned to Stella’s signature leather jacket. “Take it off.” Confused, Stella followed the instruction and shrugged out of it before draping it over the back of the chair in front of her.

“Now what?” She held out her hands to the side impatiently.

Franky slowly raked her eyes over the young Domme’s form. Her feet were clad in heavy leather boots. “Those too.”

“Why?”

“Because I said so?” Franky countered. Uncertain, but unwilling to fuck up her one opportunity to train with a Domme of Franky’s caliber, Stella hastily untied her boots and loudly set them down on the chair, along withher jacket.

“Happy?” She asked, clad only in her worn Harley t-shirt and skinny jeans. Absent her jacket, the layers of intricate tattoos lining her arms were prominently on display.

“You certainly know how to look the part, don’t you?” Franky remarked as she carefully took note of what was on display and where.

“Getting off, are ya?” Stella fired back, raising her eyebrows.

“You wish. Keep going, I don’t recall telling you that you could stop.”

“What?”

“You heard me. You’ll quickly learn how much I hate having to repeat myself,” Franky said coldly. Stella was rarely caught off guard but Franky Doyle was certainly living up to her legendary reputation.

Stella hesitated momentarily as her tattooed hands grazed the edges of her shirt.

Franky crossed her arms and waited silently until she began shedding her t-shirt and jeans from her lean form leaving herself clad only in a black pair of briefs and sports bra. Franky hadn’t instructed her to stop, so Stella continued to remove what little remained before positioning herself standing up with her shoulders back. Her smoldering eyes connected with Franky’s.

“This what you wanted?”

Franky silently circled Stella’s form, sizing her up. Stella was lean and her hips and shoulders were narrow. She almost had the physique of a swimmer. Franky was unsurprised to discover the rest of her body was smattered with more tattoos. Most of which aligned with the bad girl image she was trying to portray to the rest of the world. Her lower back was covered with a rose and other detailed work.

“I know, a tramp-stamp, how cliche.” She said, shrugging her shoulders. “But a bet is a bet.” Franky remained silent as her eyes took in the rest of Stella’s tattoos. The only parts of Stella’s body that weren’t plastered with ink were her hips. Though both remained untouched, they weren’t unmarked. Franky took a step closer to investigate further, noting that her blemishes were actually healed-over scars. Her heart sank.

“You can ask, if you want to know.” Stella said over her shoulder, her posture never once wavering.

“Ask what?” Franky raised an eyebrow, confusion painted over her features as she circled back to Stella’s front.

“How I got the burn marks.” Franky’s brow creased. Stella, unlike Franky, showed no signs of shame about the irregular bits of skin.

“I think I already know.”

“I’m sure you don’t,” Stella scoffed. Franky slowly raised her shirt, exposing the cherry-blossom that she had delicately gotten tattooed over her own markings.

“Yes. I. Do.” Franky punctuated the air as each word was deliberately spilled from her lips. Franky watched as Stella paused and grappled with the implications of their shared markings. As it dawned on Stella, Franky suddenly realized that she didn’t loathe her nearly as much.

“You can get dressed.” Franky tossed Stella’s t-shirt at her bare chest.

“What, no cavity search?” Stella snapped her fingers and clicked her tongue. “Darn.”

Franky chuckled but did not reply.

“Any particular reason you needed the strip search or did you just wanna see the goods?”

“Because you're cocky. Had to make sure it wasn’t just the clothes fueling that attitude but what was actually beneath them.”

“Ohhh, and?”

“You might actually look and act the part, but I’ve seen your rope work. You’re sloppy.”

“It takes too long. What’s the point if I can just use cuffs instead?” Stella asked as she finished redressing and pulled her boots back on her feet.

“Great, you’re impatient too.”

“Excuse me?”

“Lesson number one, Carlin. BDSM is an art. You can’t rush it. You’ll miss things...you’ll miss really important things and you’ll fuck up.” Franky walked towards the closet and selected a standard coiled braided rope. “Single column tie.” Franky thrust the rope against Stella’s chest.

“What?” Stella caught it before it dropped to the floor.

“I want to see you do a single column tie,”Franky sat and extended her forearm, “on me,” and waited patiently for her apprentice to begin.

Stella hesitated before unraveling the long length.

“Can’t we start with something else?”

“You said you wanted to learn shibari. And judging by the show you like to put on, I assume you enjoy suspension as well.”

“Yeah.”

“So we have to start at the very beginning. Single. Column. Tie.”

Stella sighed before taking the end of the rope. Franky bit her tongue as she watched Stella’s brow furrow with confusion as she struggled to complete one of the most basic ties.

When she’d finished ten minutes later, Franky looked down at the mess of knots on her wrist

“Ten minutes for this?”

“Yeah, well, I’m rusty,” Stella shrugged and crossed her arms over her chest defensively.

“Untie me and do it again.”

“Seriously?”

“Do I not look serious to you?” Stella sighed, annoyance painted over her face as she struggled to untie Franky’s wrist. “The point of a single column tie is to be able to remove it quickly in case of emergency. If you see a sub’s skin turning blue you should be able to remove the original knots immediately to bring circulation back fast. Do you know how long it would take to undo this and how dangerous this would be? And do you really think that you can handle losing a sub due to your ignorance?”

“Then how about instead of berating me, you show me how to actually do it properly?” Stella spat back. Franky extended Stella’s wrist roughly.

“Watch me.” Franky commanded Stella’s eyes up to hers and made sure to maintain direct contact. Franky began tying Stella’s wrist expertly. Franky’s gaze never once left the pair of light blue eyes looking directly at her. “Now that...is how you do a single column tie. Did you notice how knowing the ties by heart allowed me to tie you quickly so that I could see every reaction that you had? You want to be able to observe your sub’s face as much as possible otherwise you’re missing the point.” Without breaking eye contact, Franky deftly removed the tie with one tug. “Now be sure to watch closely, I’ll go slower this time.”

And with that, the pair settled into a comfortable speed. While Franky explained and demonstrated, Stella mirrored her new mentor with a newfound understanding and appreciation for the art form. Humbled by her apprentice’s redirection, Franky noted that the more Stella practiced, the better her ties became. Perhaps this Stella Carlin had potential after all.

“Alright, I think that’s enough for one day.”

“What? We only practiced one tie!”

“And you’re going to go home and keep practicing. I want to see a perfect one on your first go tomorrow, Carlin.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re kind of a ball buster, Doyle?”

“Let’s get one thing straight, Carlin. That’s not in my repertoire,” Franky winked as she put on her jacket and turned for the exit without another word or glance in Stella’s direction.

“Well, bye to you too,” Stella grinned.

Franky felt like electricity was coursing through her veins. The simple act of tying and untying that braided rope had somehow restored some small part of her. She drove home to Bridget, unable to hide the huge smile across her face.

Franky Doyle was finally starting to feel like herself again.