Disclaimer: SM owns Bella and company; the call center owns my ass. This is what floats through my brain between calls. If you're not 18 yet, you shouldn't be reading this. AH, rated M for bdsm, femmeslash.

A/N: I had already started fooling around with this story idea when I heard about the Twilight No Stress Love Fest. Among the many delicious Valentine prompts was "a very special session with Master/Mistress," which morphed into "the circumstances leading up to a very special session with Mistress Esme."

Valentine hugs and kisses to my wonderful beta, TruceOver, and pre-reader, sadtomato.


My days are filled with classes and projects, exams and term papers, as I work on my degree at the University of Washington, but my nights belong to the call center. The hours are great and the salary supplements my scholarship so that when I do have the occasional Saturday night off, I can actually afford to go out and have a little fun.

Cold calling randomized lists of telephone numbers to recruit participants for longitudinal research on health and nutrition is a thankless job but, for $12.50 an hour, I can stand to do it for ten hours a week. There are, of course, no fringe benefits, unless you count the down time that occurs during every shift while we wait for new phone numbers to be loaded for the next round of calling. I know I should use the free time for studying, but that's usually when I grab my Kindle to sneak a peek at my current selection of erotic stories.

The majority of the calls we make go to answering machines because most people screen their calls these days and, unless they already have something to do with UW (and not many people in New Hampshire or Arkansas do), they don't want to be bothered. This is really frustrating because I get a little (and I do mean little) bonus for every person I recruit who completes the interview process with the researchers. I've been told that I have a lovely phone voice and, when I actually do get someone on the line, they usually agree to participate. But I'm not allowed to leave a message so I can't charm anyone unless they actually pick up the phone and say hello.

Friday, February 11

6:45 p.m.

Hello.

I've made 25 calls in less than two hours and reached twenty-two answering machines, two unsupervised children, and a bitch who cussed me out for interrupting whatever bitchy thing she was doing at the time. I'm counting the minutes until my break at 8 p.m., just going through the motions until then, when a masculine voice sends a shock wave through my system.

There's no rising inflection, no hesitation – just that voice. It's a deep basso rumble, almost a growl – one of those voices that, on the rare occasions when I hear one, makes me melt, even if its owner is reciting multiplication tables or reading a grocery list.

"Good evening, sir," I say as my senses go on alert and adrenaline floods my body. Or is it serotonin? Dopamine, maybe? Oh hell, I'm never going to pass that psych class at this rate. "Um... My name is Bella Swan, and I'm calling from the University of Washington Medical Research Center. We are – "

Bella, is it? It pleases me very much to hear you call me Sir.

Is it just wishful thinking, or does this man with the very sexy voice sound like a Dom? Should I pretend that he didn't just recite a line straight out of the BDSM novel I'm currently reading?

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," I gush. My heart rate has increased and I may be panting just a little.

Is that the best you can do, pet?

Pet. Code for submissive. Can't pretend now, can I? How on earth did this man end up on my call list? I'm not complaining, just curious. Wildly curious.

"No, sir."

Well? I'm waiting.

I visualize an impatient toe tapping in a black leather riding boot. I squirm in my chair as sparks of heat flash through my belly. I scrunch down a little, grateful that the cubicle to my left is empty tonight; I'm not so sure about the one on the right.

"I'll do my best to please you, Sir," I say softly, entering into the game.

That's better.

"Thank you, Sir."

Do you play, Bella?

What a question. I have been fascinated by the whole BDSM subculture ever since I read my first story last year – the one about Ethan and Jaden – but I'm also very nervous. How can I make this sound like I'm still doing what I'm getting paid for? Around here the walls definitely have ears.

"No, Sir, but I study a lot."

I see. Does that mean you are a student?

"Yes, Sir."

Very interesting, because I happen to be a very good teacher. Let's try a little something, shall we, pet?

"Yes, Sir."

Spread your knees about six inches apart and keep them open. Have you spread them for me, Bella?

"Yes, Sir," I say, my voice quavering a little. My muscles clench as I squirm again in my chair, keeping my knees apart as instructed.

Tell me what you want, Bella.

I feel a flash of panic, combined with a rush of desire. I want to rub my legs together, but I'm not permitted to do that, am I? Before I manage to ask the question, I come to my senses again and remember where I am.

"That is correct, Sir. Your participation is voluntary. And all calls may be monitored or recorded for quality control purposes," I recite verbatim from our script.

Angela's head pops up over the cubicle wall in front of me, a quizzical expression on her face. From where she sits, she can usually hear my side of any conversation. That's one of the few annoying things about this job: shitty headphones and mics, with zero acoustic attenuation between cubicles. However, there's usually not much to hear.

Until tonight, that is.

Angela and I have been best friends for a long time, ever since our rather mundane childhood in Forks. I had given her that first BDSM novel to read and was relieved – and excited – to discover that I wasn't the only one who was wildly curious about it. We've had countless discussions since then about what we think we know, as well as our worries and fears about what we don't know. I'm so grateful to have Angela to share this with me.

We've also done a lot of research, both on line and around Seattle. We make weekly pilgrimages to our favorite sex toy store, Babeland, to look at their latest stock of handcuffs and floggers and other things we haven't figured out yet. Fortunately, the women on the sales staff there are very helpful.

Recently, we spent an evening giggling over lists of soft and hard limits as we tried to figure out what each item meant and what our limits might be. Now that was an interesting night. By the time we had finished our lists, we weren't giggling anymore, except when we touched a ticklish spot. We'd always been affectionate with each other, hugging and holding hands in a friendly way. That night we got a whole lot friendlier.

It started with the discussion of nipple clamps. We had just bought a set at Babeland, the ones that Jeanne said would be good to start with. It wasn't the first time I'd seen Angela's tits, but it was the first time I had seen them flush with the rosy glow of her blush, and noticed the deeper pink of her prominent nipples. I couldn't help but touch them, reaching out with one finger to circle first one, then the other, spellbound as they got larger. It was even more fascinating to watch Angela's eyes close, her head fall back, and hear her moan. I grew bolder and took both nipples between my thumbs and forefingers, squeezing gently. Startled, her head snapped up, her eyes flew open, and her moan changed to a gasp.

"Is this okay?" I asked, surprised by her intense reaction.

She nodded quickly. "Please don't stop, Bella!" she whispered.

Thus encouraged, I leaned down and licked, then sucked, each one. Angela's hands, which had been tightly clenched fists, opened and came up into my hair. I went back and forth between both nipples for a few moments, feeling my own wetness increasing as I did.

"The girls are beautiful, Ang," I told her.

"You're pretty nipply yourself, Bella," she laughed.

I looked down at the evidence protruding through my bra and t-shirt. I quickly pulled off both garments and picked up the clamps.

"Let's see," I said teasingly. "What did Jeanne tell us about how to do this?" Now it was my turn to laugh in response to Angela's frustrated sigh as she waited for me to do something. "Oh yeah..." I pinched and pulled one nipple until it was larger, if that was even possible, and gently attached one of the clamps, then did the same with the other. "How's that?" I asked, looking into her eyes.

She took a deep breath. "Okay," she said in a shaky voice.

"Does it hurt?"

"Yes, but in a good way. You know what I mean?"

I nodded, then reached up and pulled lightly at the chain dangling between the clamped nipples. Her strangled moan of pleasure mixed with pain surprised me, as did her hands suddenly clenching my arms.

"Jeanne said not to leave them on very long the first time," I reminded her. I kissed her as I unclamped both nipples at the same time. She made that strangled sound again in the middle of the kiss, then pulled away, looking down at the hard evidence of her arousal.

"Oh Bella, that was amazing!" she told me.

That wasn't the only amazing thing that night. After that we could hardly keep our hands off each other as Angela readied my own nipples for the clamps. My breasts never seemed very sensitive before then, but one round with the clamps and I was moaning like a porn star and grinding against Angela's leg. It didn't take long to go from legs to fingers to lips in all the right places until we gave each other some highly satisfying orgasms.

That was also the night we talked about taking the next step. We had recently attended a munch for newbies like us sponsored by the Center for Sex-Positive Culture. Okay, no one really calls it that; it's known as The Wet Spot. Anyway, that's where we met Mistress Esme, a gorgeous professional Domme, or Domina, the title she prefers. We had no idea that people made a living doing this professionally. They certainly weren't offering any classes for it at UW. Anyway, her enthusiasm was infectious and she invited us to book some time in her parlor, the term she uses for her playroom. We haven't taken her up on it.

Yet.

Now, as Angela looks curiously over the cubicle wall, I point to the phone, shake my head in bewilderment, and give an exaggerated shrug. All in all, a totally useless set of gestures that serve to explain absolutely nothing to her. She bursts out laughing.

Who is there with you, pet?

"It's my friend Angela, Sir," I reply, looking up at Angela with a grin as I emphasize the Sir for her benefit. Her eyes widen.

You say you study a lot, Bella. What have you studied?

"Actually, Sir, it's a rather long, hard list..." I hear a low, bemused chuckle in response to my little joke. Then I begin to feel nervous, wondering if Carmen is recording all this in the Quality Control office and getting ready to fire me. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, I think with a mental shrug. "...But I'll be starting lessons soon," I add, just to see how he will react.

Lessons, pet? And who will be your teacher? You have my permission to identify them informally.

I sigh in relief, although it doesn't really matter whether or not I say the title of Master or Mistress if Carmen has been monitoring the call. "Esme," I tell him.

Ah yes. Mistress Esme is well known here, a respected Domina, but I suspect you already know that, don't you, my pet?

It takes a moment before I realize that he has asked me a question because I am caught like a deer in the headlights of the word "here." I look back at my computer screen and see that his phone number is on Shaw Island, one of the San Juan Islands north of Seattle. He's not some hypothetical Dom somewhere out in the middle of America; he's local. I feel a combination of trepidation and excitement at what that might mean.

Bella?

"Um, I'm sorry, Sir. What was the question?"

If you were mine, I would already be preparing a punishment for your inattention. I asked if you knew about Mistress Esme's reputation."

His voice had taken on a thunderous note and I was astonished to realize how aroused I was as I wondered how he would punish me.

"I'm very sorry, Sir. The answer to your question is yes." Then I decide that I want to know what the punishment would be. "May I ask you a question, Sir?"

However, before he can reply, I look up as Angela makes a frantic gesture and suddenly disappears back down into her cubicle. This can only mean that Rosalie, our ferocious supervisor, is roaming the floor, hoping to catch slackers who aren't meeting production goals. I fleetingly imagine how she might look dressed in a black leather corset and stiletto heels instead of the prim white blouses and ballerina flats that she usually wears with her drab skirts and jackets, before returning my attention to my keyboard, knees still apart.

"Yes, Sir, we'd be very happy to call back again at your convenience," I say with brisk efficiency as Rosalie pauses near the entrance to my cubicle.

When do you work the phones again, pet?

"Will some time tomorrow evening between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. be convenient for you, Sir?"

Perfect. I'll be expecting your call at 8. Oh, and Bella...

"Yes, Sir?"

Wear a skirt to work tomorrow.

"Yes, Sir."

And don't wear any panties.

He hangs up and I let out a little gasp, grateful that Rosalie has moved on. But she hasn't gone far.

"Listen up, everybody," I hear her say. "Carmen called in sick and no one else is available tonight for Quality Control so you'll have to wait until next week for your performance reviews." I let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that I didn't just lose my job, although I have to admit that I wouldn't have minded very much if the call had been recorded, as long as I could get a copy.

Angela corners me in the break room an hour later. "What the hell was that all about?" she demands, grabbing my arm as she sits down next to me expectantly.

"I can't believe it, Ang. Somehow I ended up talking with some Dom who lives up on Shaw Island!"

Her eyes widen in disbelief. "You have got to be kidding me!"

I smile as I envisage the two of us, naked and kneeling in a waiting position before a masterful yet loving Dom. In my imagination, with my eyes downcast, I can see only the black denim encasing his muscular legs, the length of his engorged cock pressing against the fabric, the bone structure of his beautiful bare feet. He doesn't have a face yet, but at least now he has a voice.

"For real. And his voice..." I trail off as I swoon a little until she laughs.

"That good, huh?"

"Wait 'til you hear it."

"When?" she asks.

"I'm calling him back tomorrow night. Maybe you can listen in too." Then I lean in closer to her. "He told me not to wear panties to work tomorrow," I say in a low voice.

Her mouth opens in a perfect O and I'm off again in my fantasies, drowning in vivid sensory detail as I imagine that I am feeding our Master's thickening cock into that beautiful mouth, feeling him harden even more as she sucks in his length, watching her throat flex as she takes him in more deeply, hearing his moan of appreciation as he reaches for her head and begins to thrust, gently at first, then more forcefully until he starts to come, filling her throat, and then pulling out, a thin, pearly strand of his come stretching from her mouth to mine as he quickly presses past my lips for me to take the last pulsing jets of his orgasm...

"Earth to Bella. Where did you just go?" she asks. I blink and come back to reality, telling her every detail and watching her blush. Since that night with the lists, we haven't slept together again but we do share our fantasies. I see it as simply good practice. Talking about fantasies is incredibly arousing and I want to be able to do that with my future partners, whoever they may be. I don't want to be shy about it so I try to practice with Angela, and she does the same with me.

However, getting aroused in the break room at work is not such a good idea. Those fifteen minutes pass all too quickly and we both laugh at our discomfort as we head back to our cubicles. I guess I shouldn't be surprised when she pulls me into the rest room before we re-enter the call center, proceeding into the large accessible stall and quickly sliding the latch into place.

"Angela, what – ?" I don't even finish asking the question before she reaches up to my face with both hands and kisses me passionately. I wrap my arms around her and pull her into a tight embrace. I feel her hips undulating as she presses into me and I respond in kind.

"Bella, you can't just get me all hot and bothered like that and then do nothing about it!" she says, panting a little as we come up for air a few moments later.

"Sorry!" I say, laughing as we give each other a few more friendly kisses before leaving the stall and checking our appearance in the mirror as we head back to work.

Saturday, February 12

7:55 p.m.

I have been in a fever of anticipation ever since he – whoever he is – hung up last night.

First there was the fantasy that I shared with Angela and our quickie make-out session in the bathroom. When I went home, it was even worse. Every time I closed my eyes, I started imagining us in a playroom again.

This time I was wearing a strap-on and moving in and out of Angela's ass as she lay face down, blindfolded and gagged, bound to a padded bench while the mysterious Dom enjoyed me in the same way with his long, lovely cock. Between my fingers and my vibrator I must have come at least five times before I sank into an exhausted, restless sleep.

Even then the erotic images fired by my feverish imagination did not cease. In my dream, I was alone with my Master, on my knees and waiting in anticipation for his first word.

My favorite word.

"Open," he said, and I relished having his cock all to myself. Once again he found his release in my mouth before moving me to the mats and tying an elaborate shibari configuration...

I awaken covered in sweat, with the sheets in a tangle around my body. Taking a shower only makes things worse as I fantasize about an after-care ritual involving hot baths and soothing lotions. I can't imagine how I'm going to concentrate enough to take calls tonight.

The first two hours of my shift seem to stretch on endlessly until finally, at 7:55, I summon Angela over to my cubicle and we sit side by side facing the computer with our backs to the cubicle's entrance as I bring up the call record. Although I had coded last night's call to come back to me automatically, it doesn't always happen that way, so I pull it up in advance in order to review the call history.

Normally, I don't pay much attention to the names of the people I call. It doesn't really matter if I'm talking to Robert Smith or Mary Sue Williams as long as they sign up for the research. But this time it's different. This time I need to know.

I scroll down the screen to find the name attached to the phone number. Carlisle. Carlisle Cullen. His name is a perfect match for his voice. Strong. Powerful. Damn sexy.

I dial his number and listen with impatience as it rings several times, then clicks over to an answering machine. I nearly cry with disappointment. Almost simultaneously, however, someone picks up the phone.

Hello.

"Good evening, Sir. This is Bella Swan, calling from the University of Washington Medical Research Center. How are you this evening, Sir?" Next to me Angela giggles, a little from nerves and a little from the scripted formality of my introduction.

Ah, Bella. Right on time. And is that Angela I hear as well?

"Yes, Sir. I'm calling to offer you fifty dollars to participate in a short interview with researchers at University Hospital. This is part of a national study on health and nutrition. May I verify that I have dialed..." I rattle off the ten digits of his area code and phone number.

That is correct. Make a note of it for future reference.

"Oh! Yes, sir!" I'm struggling to keep my mind on my job while the happy thought of calling him again tries to take over my brain. "Um... The interview process will take only about an hour of your time and includes free valet parking at the hospital. May I schedule an appointment for you at your convenience, Sir?"

I spoke to Mistress Esme about you and your friend. She remembers meeting the two of you and is wondering why you haven't called her, as you promised to do. And here you are, asking me to do something when you haven't even had the courtesy to make one phone call.

"I'm sorry, Sir." I blush as my imagination runs away with me again at the thought of what kind of punishment Mistress Esme might dole out. Would she start with sharp slaps that would turn my ass a rosy red color? Would she choose a flogger? A paddle? Would she handcuff my wrists first? "I have so many questions, Sir."

You can be sure that she will see to it that your education is very complete.

"Thank you, Sir. Um... Do you have any questions about the research? If not, may I set up an appointment for you, Sir?"

Perhaps. First, let me find out if you are more obedient to me than you have been to Mistress Esme. Did you wear a skirt today, Bella?

"Yes, Sir."

Did you wear panties?

"No, Sir."

Very good. Now touch yourself, pet.

I close my eyes and do so, forgetting for a moment where I am, forgetting that Angela is still sitting next to me, listening to every word.

Are you wet for me, Bella?

"Oh yes, Sir!" I say a bit breathlessly. Angela giggles.

Prove it. Tell Angela to touch you now, and then put her fingers in your mouth so that you can taste yourself on them.

"She's listening too, Sir." Angela wraps one arm around my shoulders and runs the other hand up my leg from my knee right up to my clit before one warm finger slides inside me.

"She's touching me, Sir," I whisper. "And – " I stop talking as her glistening finger reaches my mouth and I kiss it quickly, tasting myself, then licking and sucking her finger as she stifles a moan.

Can you imagine how hard I am, thinking about how I could reward you? First I would tie your wrists behind your back. Then I would bend you over your desk and lift your skirt. Of course before I could reward you, I'd have to administer the punishment for your inattention yesterday, wouldn't I?

"Yes, Sir." I'm squirming in my seat again, feeling the trail of wetness that I leave there.

I believe that a brief spanking would be sufficient. Just enough to redden your beautiful ass and get your juices flowing even more than they are now... They are flowing, aren't they, Bella?

"Oh yes, Sir."

Then I'd have to decide whether to fuck you in your pussy or in your ass. Hmm... I'm in a generous mood today, pet. What would you prefer?

"Both, Sir!" I blurt out. Angela covers her mouth to stifle her giggles.

We'll see about that after you've done a bit more preparation for me. Make the call, Bella. Mistress Esme is waiting for you.

"Yes, Sir." He hangs up before I can arrange another appointment to call him back. Angela and I look at each other in surprise and then we burst out laughing. All this hilarity is quickly squelched, however, when heads start popping up from other cubicles.

"What's goin' on, Bella?" Eric asks.

"Just a funny call," I say, hoping that no one will pursue this. They don't. Within seconds everyone is back in their cubicles, dialing like mad because Rosalie has been spotted heading this way. Angela escapes back into her cubicle and I'm left alone to pull myself together and face the rest of my shift.

Sunday, February 13

12 noon

I have the early shift today, which means I'm the only staffer on duty during the first two hours. I take my break when Angela arrives just before 2 p.m., and we go into the break room to make the call. I'm already a bit frantic because I haven't been able to find the card that Mistress Esme gave me at the munch. Fortunately Angela found hers at home and now she calls the number. We hope that there's an answering machine at least.

Which is kind of funny when you think about it, since answering machines are the bane of the call center's existence, keeping us apart from all those potential research participants out there.

Imagine our surprise when a real, live person actually answers the phone. Angela covers the mouthpiece as we both try to listen. "I don't think it's her," she says. "Or else she likes to talk about herself in the third person." We both giggle at that.

We are surprised again when we end up with an appointment for tomorrow, Valentine's Day. Apparently, Mistress Esme is hosting a private party in the evening but has had a cancellation in the afternoon and if we want it, the appointment time is ours.

Of course we want it.

The woman on the phone takes our e-mail addresses to send each of us a preliminary checklist, to be returned before noon tomorrow. She gives us directions and tells us a little about what to expect. We'll start in position for a scene, but Mistress Esme will talk with us before going further. She describes the position and then tells us that before the end of the second hour we'll spend some time processing the experience and decide what's next. Her rate is rather steep but we're splitting the cost. Besides, it's worth it.

When we leave the call center we talk at length about what we should wear tomorrow. After debating heatedly for some minutes, I finally concede to Angela's wish for fancy lingerie and sexy dresses and shoes, even though I'm sure that we could probably wear t-shirts and sweatpants if we wanted to, since the first thing we'll do when we get there is take off all our clothes.

Monday, February 14

3 p.m.

We ditch our morning classes and go shopping for Valentine's Day lingerie, even though we know that probably no one will ever see it but us. Red for Angela and black for me, worn under dresses of the same colors, with shoes to match.

We've spent a lot of Valentine's Days together in the past. It's a wretched holiday if you don't have a significant other, but we've always refused to be depressed by that fact. And now here we are, together again.

At 2:59 p.m., we stand nervously at the ornately carved front door of a mansion in one of the most elegant districts of Seattle. Angela reaches for my hand and I hold on gratefully.

"Ready?" she asks in a whisper.

I nod.

She presses the bell. We hear a melodic chime echo through the house. A moment later the door opens, and an exquisitely beautiful petite young woman greets us. She has lively dark eyes and short, spiky black hair. She is dressed in nothing but a delicate silver collar, black stilettos, and a starched frilly pink and white apron, like the kind worn by French maids in men's fantasies. Her make-up is impeccable, right down to the color on her pierced nipples, which matches the color on her lips. Her earrings match the barbells in her nipples too.

"Welcome," she says with a wide smile. "My name is Alice. I'm Mistress Esme's personal assistant. We spoke on the phone yesterday. Please come in." She leads us into a wide marble hallway with closed doors on either side. The décor is tasteful and expensive. On one side of the hall is an antique mahogany Chippendale table holding an enormous crystal vase filled with dozens of long-stemmed red and white calla lilies. A flawless mirror in an ornate gold frame hangs above the table, allowing us to check our appearance.

"Don't worry; you both look beautiful," Alice whispers conspiratorially. In a louder voice she adds, "May I take your coats?" After arranging our things in a closet, she turns to lead us toward the back of the house but notices us staring at the imposing portrait of a handsome man hanging opposite the mirror.

"That's Master Charles. He was Mistress Esme's husband and Dom. He left her all this when he died," she explains, gesturing vaguely, seeming to indicate the mansion and all of its contents.

"Mistress Esme was a submissive?" Angela asks.

"Oh yes!" Alice replies. "All of the best Doms and Dominas begin as submissives. That's generally believed to be one reason why they know how to take such good care of us. Master Charles first trained Mistress Esme as his submissive and then he married her. After his death, she began her training as a Domina."

Low voices can be heard through the closed door of the room to their right. "That's the library," Alice says helpfully. "And to your left is the music room. Now, if you will both be so kind as to follow me, I'll take you to Mistress Esme's parlor." She walks toward the far end of the entry hall and then goes through the doorway there.

As we reach the doorway, I think we both have a moment of panic when we see the steps leading downward. Alice has disappeared. We hesitate at the top of the stairs until she reappears again.

"Come this way, please. And don't worry," she says with an infectious laugh. "It's not a dungeon or anything. It actually leads out to the pool." Reassured, we hold hands again and head down the steps. The wall on one side of the stairway is a spotlit gallery of evocative black and white photos, displaying the human body in bondage, with the added elements of light and shadow heightening the eroticism.

The room we enter appears to run the length of the house and has been fitted out very elegantly. Comfortable-looking sofas are arranged in several groupings around low padded tables carved from exotic woods. Matching cabinets are interspersed between the sofas. Wall sconces and recessed lighting highlight some furnishings and cast others into shadow. Alice lights a taper and moves gracefully around the room, lighting numerous tall red pillar candles that begin to give off a delicious scent.

"That's jasmine," Alice informs us as she extinguishes the taper and comes back to where we are standing. "Mistress Esme's signature scent. It penetrates the soul and opens up emotions. Jasmine is usually associated with sensuality. For Mistress Esme, it also symbolizes her love and respect for the gift of submission."

The paraphernalia of a well-equipped Domina is arranged artistically around the room. Right away I notice a Saint Andrew's cross and various benches and suspension frames. An ancient Catherine's wheel is hanging on one wall; a glass display case with antique floggers and Victorian sketches illustrating the manner of their usage is mounted on another. This is clearly a social gathering place that can accommodate far more than just a pair of submissives in training.

"Mistress Esme has the best play parties!" Alice exclaims exuberantly.

I try to imagine such a gathering, try to see myself naked and on display for others, kneeling on the floor, bent over at the waist, with my head and torso resting on one of the tables, my hands bound artfully behind my back, as guests admire my form or respond to a demonstration by my Master or Mistress...

"Bella?" Angela elbows me back to the present. I guess I'd better start paying attention. An obedient submissive can't be daydreaming all the time.

Alice waits patiently with a knowing smile on her face. "You'll be invited at some point, but only to watch, of course, until your training is complete and Mistress Esme decides that you are ready. It's a great honor to be one of the centerpieces at her parties. Tonight's party should be fabulous."

She sighs with evident pleasure at the recollection of her past experiences and in anticipation of the evening to come. Then she gets down to business. "Please remove all of your clothing and place everything in the armoire" – she gestures to an open cabinet – "and then return to the training area and kneel on the pillows, in position, until Mistress Esme arrives." She indicates an open area away from the sofas where two pillows await us on the floor.

"The bathroom is behind you, under the stairs, in case you need it before you get started. Do you have any questions?" We both shake our heads. "Well, I'll leave you then."

She pauses, with a wistful look on her face. "I envy you. I truly do. You are at the beginning of an amazing journey." She gives each of us a hug before departing from the room.

We both smile weakly, our nervousness increasing as we near the beginning of our training at long last. "This is it!" I say, giving Angela a hug and a kiss. "Remember, we want this. We can do this. And I'll be with you every step of the way."

"Thanks, Bella," Angela says with an anxious smile. We help each other undress, with kisses and touches adding to our already heightened sensitivity.

Finally, the moment of truth arrives. We walk over to the pillows and sink down onto them, sitting back on our heels. We both take deep breaths as we compose ourselves. Chin up, eyes down, shoulders back, chest out, palms down and resting on the thighs, knees apart.

Breathing deeply, focusing, awaiting pleasure and pain.

Ready.

Time passes.

The heavy velvet curtains covering the doors and windows overlooking the pool are closed, making it impossible to measure the passage of time by the movement of the sun.

Time stands still.

I close my eyes and follow my breaths in and out, feeling the oxygen flowing through my body, interspersed with the delicious scent of jasmine. Feeling the muscles around my sex clench and relax in time with my breathing.

Feeling my heartbeat measuring out the seconds, the heaviness of my breasts, the occasional whisper of heated air touching my flesh as the furnace comes on. Feeling Angela at my side settling into a similar inward-looking place.

At the same time, my skin is alive, anxious to be touched, twitching here and there on my arms and legs as the nerve endings fire in anticipation.

At last the tread of footsteps can be heard on the stairs coming down to the parlor, the light click of stiletto heels on parquet flooring as Mistress Esme approaches. The sight of thigh-high black boots as they come into view before us is a welcome relief from the tension of waiting.

There's something else too – the soft sound of another pair of feet, bare, coming to stand behind her, off to the side, just out of range of my peripheral vision.

I struggle with the incredible temptation to break form, the seething curiosity to look up and see who else has arrived.

And then I hear it – the word that already forged an immediate and immutable bond, a direct connection to some of my deepest desires.

Hello.


A/N: Thanks to naelany and OnTheTurningAway for hosting the Love Fest, and to the participants who took the time to read and comment on the story over on LJ. You can read all of the wonderful contributions at http: / / community (dot) livejournal (dot) com/twi_love_fest/2011/02/14/

Special thanks to einfach_mich for allowing "Jeanne" to make a guest appearance at Babeland.

My fervid yet inexperienced imagination has been greatly stimulated by several exquisitely written stories about BDSM, including Between Pleasure and Pain by sadtomato, Our Lives Unbound by theladyingrey42, The Garden by winterstale, and tuesdaymidnight's not-exactly-a-bdsm-story, Raw and Rosy.

Ethan and Jaden refer, of course, to characters in J.P. Barnaby's book, The Forbidden Room.

If you are thinking about moving beyond vanilla sex to something more unusual, please learn all you can first and take care of yourself along the way. Remember: safe, sane, and consensual (or risk-aware consensual kink, if you prefer).

Finally, speaking of fervid imaginations – Bella's hourly pay rate exists only in my dreams.