It had been one of those well-rounded cases with blackmail, extortion, some insider training, and enough kinky side shenanigans to make it both a plus in Peter's career and the sort of thing that'd be a good story for both of them.

If Neal'd shut up.

"I always figured it was about safety," Neal said pleasantly.

"I am really sorry I asked, alright? You know we're almost in your radius, I could make you walk home."

"You did ask, and I'm trying to answer. I always figured it was about safety. The dominant protects the submissive."

"By chaining them up?"

"Hey, that was the only part of the whole thing that was on the straight and narrow, remember?" Neal said.

"And flogging them?" persisted Peter.

"Yes, but—"

"And the red rubber thing?"

"Peter, do you mind?"


"And I told you that you didn't want to know what the red rubber thing was for."

"You could have lied to me about it."

"Would I lie to you?"

There was silence in the car.

Neal shrugged. "The submissive trusts the dominant to meet their needs, and the dominant trusts the submissive to stop them if they go too far. That's the mutual trust. The submissive can pull the plug at any time. That's the appeal. There are two choices: submit or quit, and if they quit, that's it, it's over till next time."

Peter was silent a moment. Then, "Honeysuckle."


"Why was the safe word on the wall then?"

"No idea. Dungeon rules? It's not as if there's some sort of licensing requirements for a dungeon. Anyway, it's not like you don't already understand the relationship perfectly well."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Neal tilted the seat back, relaxing. "I always figured my safeword for you was 'Take me back to prison now'."