Young, directionless Casey Eller is the perfect bait for a trap Sheriff Kirkland's been laying for fifteen years. On Christmas Eve, he uses Casey to stage incriminating photos of the most powerful man in town, a brutal sadist who takes his pleasure from torturing his subs. A man whose cruelty has only grown since Kirkland subbed for him.
When Casey ends up hurt, Kirkland realizes his mistake. Ashamed of himself, he treats Casey's injuries and offers the unconditional acceptance and devotion that a slave craves from his Master. Kirkland knows he can't give Casey a lifetime, but will two days be enough for either of them?
...As long as Casey didn’t move too much, everything felt fine. Not normal. Not great. Not good. He kept his eyes closed and he stayed burrowed in Kirkland’s thick blankets and soft sheets. The bed was larger than Casey’s. Cleaner, too. He didn’t want to leave it. He didn’t know what to expect from the world if he did venture out of the little cocoon he had made for himself, so he stayed still and kept his eyes closed.
The sheets smelled like Kirkland. His own skin smelled like Kirkland. It was his soap. And his shampoo. And laundry detergent. Casey wasn’t the type to notice laundry detergent, but he did notice the way Kirkland smelled, and the longer he kept his nose buried in the thick pillow, the more he picked out the similarities.
Kirkland would probably want his bed back soon. In fact, he’d probably want Casey to get up and get dressed and get out of his house. He could probably do that. His welts seemed to be healing, and it was Christmas day. Kirkland had the right to have his house to himself on Christmas day. Kim would be happy to have him for dinner and let him stay the night. He didn’t have to be alone.
But he didn’t feel alone in Kirkland’s bed. He felt surrounded by the other man, like he was there, holding him. He could still feel Kirkland’s surprisingly gentle hands drying the water from his back—except there was nothing surprising about it, which was probably the most surprising thing at all. Kirkland wasn’t Nelson. Kirkland wasn’t violent and cruel. Kirkland wouldn’t be delighted by shouts that were choked on a painful gag. Kirkland wouldn’t get off on kicking him in his ribs and stomach, and then spit on him when it was all done.
Did that matter? Casey wasn’t sure. He didn’t want to leave Kirkland’s bed, even when his stomach started to growl and his bladder felt heavy.
Everything confused Casey, but Sheriff Kirkland made sense to him. He didn’t know how to articulate it. Somebody smarter, somebody who had paid more attention in school, or somebody who had seen a bit of the world, probably would have been able to put it all into words. But he understood the older man. He got it. He didn’t before.
What was Kirkland going to do with the tape? He had never made that part clear to Casey. Would the images and sounds Casey gathered be enough to do anything? A part of him regretted handing the camera over. It was the only thing he could think to do—the only way to answer Kirkland’s question—but that meant Kirkland would see just what Nelson did to him. That meant other people could see it, too. That meant everybody would see…
Would see everything.
The thought made Casey sick and he burrowed deeper under the blanket. For the moment, this was safest. At least in Kirkland’s bed, it didn’t matter if his stomach was knotted, and if his face was hot, and if his ass was still sore.
More than once, the door creaked, like somebody pushed it open. Kirkland had never shut it the night before, not completely, but even now, Casey didn’t have the guts to poke his head out and see if he stood there watching him. Without knowing what to expect, it was better to hide. Pretend to sleep. Pretend he wasn’t ready to go. He might not ever be ready to go.
The third time, the creak came with the whisper of footsteps. A firm hand rested on his shoulder, but Kirkland didn’t try shaking him awake. He just held it, like that was enough.
“You need to get up,” Kirkland said. “It’s going to hurt more and longer if you stay in bed.”
“What time is it?” It didn’t matter, but Casey was happy to stall.
“Almost noon. I made pancakes. And bacon. You should eat something.”
Casey’s stomach rumbled at the thought of pancakes. Hot pancakes, covered in sweet, sticky syrup. But he wasn’t quite ready to push the heavy blanket aside.
“I don’t have any clothes.”
“There’s a clean T-shirt and jeans in the bathroom. They’re just extras we use down at the station when we bring in vagrants so nothing fancy, but they should mostly fit you. If you want me to take you home instead, just say the word. But you’re welcome to stay.” He squeezed Casey’s shoulder slightly, then let his hand drop away. “It’d be nice to have company today.”
Casey slowly pushed the blanket back and sat up. His back protested, but it wasn’t the same sort of burning pain that had crippled him the night before. “I’ll stay. Pancakes sound good and…you were right last night. It’s best to avoid everybody until I heal a bit.”
It was a little weird seeing Kirkland in casual dress. His uniform was always crisp, and the suit he’d worn the night before had been along the same lines. Today, he wore faded jeans and a plain black shirt with the cuffs rolled neatly up. It showed off the dark hair curling along his forearm and more lightly onto the back of his hand, but even better, reminded Casey of the man’s strength. Safety didn’t come just from Kirkland’s bed; Kirkland would protect him, too. He was sure of it.
Kirkland stopped him from standing, holding Casey’s shoulder still as he ran his other fingers over the bruises marring Casey’s chest. He poked and prodded, never saying a word. Casey bit the inside of his cheek to keep from wincing when he hit sensitive spots.
“If you want to take a long shower, the food’ll keep.” Kirkland released him and fell back to the open door. “But take a shower regardless. It’ll help.”
“Yes, sir.” It didn’t occur to Casey to say he wanted food instead of a shower. It did occur to him to ask Kirkland to go into the bathroom with him, but he wasn’t a child. He didn’t need Kirkland to hold his hand in the shower. “You don’t have anybody to spend the day with?”
Kirkland took a moment to respond. “I have you, boy.” He left without another word.