Both Ends of the Whip by Brenda Murphy
Octavia Vargus had everything she wanted at Rowan House, Skye’s most exclusive pleasure house, except the one thing she craved. Longing for the freedom to explore both sides of her nature, she leaves Rowan House and her mistress, for a new start in Italy with her partner Bridget Murray.
Vivian Abiola is a connection to a past Octavia would like to forget, and a love she never expected to see again. After Octavia’s past relationship with Vivian is exposed, Octavia and Bridget explore the limits of their desires with Vivian. When an arsonist threatens to destroy their vineyard, past loyalties and secrets endanger their lives, and the three women’s relationship. Their love may be the only thing that helps them survive the firestorm of doubt, intrigue, and jealousy.
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Excerpt from Both Ends of the Whip
“Did you tell her?” Bridget’s voice was hoarse.
Octavia leaned down and touched her cheek. “No.” The springs squeaked when she left the bed. She stretched and walked to the window. With two fingers, she pulled the curtain aside. Cool air seeped in around the window frame. Her skin and her nipples pebbled. Fuck. Why didn’t I? What am I waiting for? Say something. Bridget’s silence was worse than if she had pleaded. The warm smell of their afternoon tryst filled the small bedsit. She glanced over her shoulder at Bridget. She lay on her back with her eyes closed and her hands clasped over her stomach. Her long red hair curled around her head and spilled over the white pillowcase. Octavia wanted to crawl back into the small bed and kiss each freckle scattered over her naked body. She wanted to lose herself in the softness of her skin and make her beg for release. She’s angry. Sad. What am I waiting for? Fuck me, I need to get it together.
She turned back to the window and looked out. Early morning mist hung over the grass surrounding the manor house. A long black car pulled into the circular drive. A lone woman exited the car. Tall and willowy, she glanced about her before she lowered her head and hurried across the pavers. Not a guest. Visitor? Solicitor? Octavia let the curtain fall back into place. Say something. Anything.
“Today. I promise.” Octavia turned to Bridget. She was sitting up now. She had pulled on Octavia’s shirt and was leaning against the brass headboard.
“You said that yesterday.” Bridget looked down at her hands. “I’ve told Cook. She’s gone out of her way to be crueler than usual to me.” She twisted her fingers together. Her shoulders were slumped making Octavia’s shirt appear even larger on her small frame.
Octavia crossed the room and took Bridget’s hand in her own. “Look at me love.” She rubbed her thumb over the skin of her knuckles. Bridget raised her chin, her eyes bright with unshed tears. Octavia leaned down and brushed her lips with a kiss. “Today.” She kissed Bridget again, deeper this time.
Bridget settled her hands on Octavia’s hips. “I can’t stand the idea of anyone else touching you. Every day we’re here, I hate it. I hate worrying someone will ask for you and you’ll go because you think you have to.”
“I go because I made an agreement. I owe Martha. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“It does to me.” Bridget pinned Octavia in place with her hard expression. “If you want me to be committed to you, to kneel to you, to be yours, you need to understand I want the same from you. I’m not a toy or a doll to be played with until someone better comes along.”
Octavia held Bridget’s gaze. “I know, love. I know. Today. I promise.” She lifted the edge of her collar and the number tag jingled. “Today is the last day I wear this.”
“You’re sure? What if you went on holiday? You haven’t taken any time off in years. A break would do you good.” Martha smoothed her hand over Octavia’s shoulders before she tugged at the neckline of her shirt, straightening it. She flattened her hands on Octavia’s chest and leaned in to kiss her.
Octavia pulled back, avoiding the kiss. “No. It’s more than that, Mistress.”
Martha lowered her hands. Her gaze was steady and her eyes dark. “You’re done then?”
Do it. Now. For Bridget. For both of you. Octavia kneeled at Martha’s feet. She lowered her head until her forehead touched the toe of Martha’s boot. She pulled her thick single braid to the side. How many times have I kneeled this way aching with need and want, wanting only to be under her hand? Begged to feel the sting of her lash, to be allowed to serve her. Begged for a kiss. When did it change?
“I want to be free, Mistress. Please release me.” Sweat trickled down her back. She waited in silence, her breathing rough. Martha rested her palm on the crown of her head, her touch igniting a wave of desire in Octavia. Her body warred with her mind. Hard. So hard. So much I want. So much she can’t give. Octavia blinked away the tears that burned the back of her throat. She heard the rustle of fabric. Cold metal pressed against her neck, the sharp edge scraping her skin and she shivered. Her collar fell in two pieces onto the floor, the brass tag clinking on the tiles. Octavia exhaled. She raised her head and sat up. She picked up the remnants of her collar before she rose and stuffed the pieces into her front pocket. Her palms were sweaty and she wiped them on her jeans.
Martha stepped away and turned her back to Octavia. “Have you thought about where you’ll go? What to do with your accounts?”
The chill in Martha’s voice made Octavia’s heart ache. “I’ve been looking. No firm plans yet. I thought I’d leave the accounts with you until I’m settled.”
“Bridget as well?”
No secrets at Rowan House. Nothing to hide. Not now. “Yes. She’s told Cook.”
Martha turned and looked at Octavia. She rested one hand on her hip. “I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did. Last time I trust Cook to hire someone.”
Octavia pursed her lips. “Jealous of a sub?” She rocked back on her heels and crossed her arms. “This has got nothing to do with Bridget. This is about us.”
“Because I refused give over to you? To give you control?” Martha quirked her mouth.
“Because you refused to understand I wanted more, needed more from you.”
“Eight years and it comes to this? You’re leaving me for what? A woman-child? A soft sub? She can’t give you what you need. You’ll be bored in a year.”
“Maybe. But at least I’ll be happy.”
Martha’s face flushed and she inhaled sharply before she smoothed her features. Her manner cool and haughty, she lifted her chin. She met Octavia’s hard look with one of her own. Angry. So angry. And hurt. Fuck. I hurt her. She’d never acknowledge it. Still holding back. Octavia turned away from the hurt in Martha’s eyes. She loves me. But not enough. Not enough to give me control.
“Fuck you. You asked for my ownership. You begged me for it. I didn’t force it on you.”
Octavia winced at the edge in Martha’s voice. “I did.” She met her gaze. “People change. I’ve changed. I should’ve told you about Bridget. I owed you. I’m sorry.”
“I knew. I knew when you didn’t ask me for permission it was more than play.” Martha clasped her hands behind her back. “I expect you to stay through the end of the month. You’ll need to train one of the others to manage the stable until I can hire someone.” She pinned Octavia with her glare. “You’re excused from your other duties.”
“I signed a contract. I’ll honor it.”
“You are not to play with any guests or other staff. Honor our past. Honor my last command.”
Martha turned and squared her shoulders. She walked away, her footsteps loud on the tile floor. Octavia stood in the center of the room. She closed her eyes, trying to shut out the ghosts of memories of their time together that swirled around her. Her heart ached for what had been and what would never be. She thrust her hand in her pocket, pulled the pieces of her collar out. She fingered the smooth edge of her number tag. I’m free. Free to follow my own path. With Bridget. But where? She touched her neck, the bare skin where her collar had been. She swallowed the dry-edged pain in her throat, willing the tears away.
About Brenda Murphy
Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows, and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not swilling gallons of hot tea and writing, she wrangles two kids, two dogs, and one unrepentant parrot. She writes about life, books, and writing on her blog Writing While Distracted.
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