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THE ASCENDANT

Book Seven

Gypsy Cole

Copyright 2013

Gypsy Cole Productions



This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, events, and locations are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons or events, living or dead, are entirely coincidental. It is intended for the use of Adults over the age of 18, and the personal enjoyment of the Buyer. No part of it may be reproduced or transmitted by any electronic or mechanical means; including photocopying or recording; without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law, or in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews without the specific written permission of the author.



NightWriters Publishing

All Rights Reserved



This Book Is Meant For Adult Entertainment.

Materials include graphically sexual descriptions and Adult sexual situations.

18+ Only. NSFW



The Cast

_________________________________________

Shana Halliday

Tobias Jansen

Katrina Carpenter

Ronald Lavery

Moses Shyton

Maya Rameraz

Grace Anderson

Shelby Greyson

Trevor Washington

Victoria Harrington

Marcus Washington

Antonio Blankton

Michelle Crane

Phylicia Reed

Angela Preston

Summer Waters

_______________________________________

Chronicles Of The Beloved One

Piece By Piece

Those Kind Of Games

Goose The Gander

Ceremonial Slave

Christening

Summer has returned to the mansion, ready and – mostly – willing to do as needed to be accepted into the Co'Opt, and with her return Tobi at last reaches his pinnacle as Second Dominant. But, not before his secret drives him to do something so shocking that it pushes both him and Shana to limits they've never explored before.













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What Is The Pursuit Of The Dominari?

If I am to be a motivating instrument in the freeing of the hearts, minds, and Spirits of they who wish to be released from the bounds of inner fear, sexual repression, and stunted desires…so that they may find their true Selves, embrace their true Destiny, and live by the Truth of who they are to Become...my Pursuit is do so with patience, caring, diligence, honesty, and above all the commitment to preserving a harmony of the Spirit.”

“Barely legal,” Trevor muttered to himself irritably, making sure his bedroom door shut behind him. Turning toward the main stairs he set off to make Shana's summons in the great-room, going on to himself beneath his breath, “Should've known...you just don't get that kinda luck old man.”

It had been several days now, since Shana had shared with them all the reason Summer was left to stay with her brother...and why she was being allowed to return after her birthday. Likely not 'all' of what her true reasons were – did they ever really know Shana's reasons for doing anything? haha – but enough to bring a bit of understanding that the younger woman had indeed come through a rough time.

All he'd been able to think of, however, was how crazy he was being in thinking about her the way he had been recently. What was it about her that had him acting like Marc, wanting to 'protect' her – and more...?

It was that 'more' part that he'd have to watch himself with. Although of course, now, he participated in the Family Sessions, and happily, it was still all at the will of their Domme. And if she caught a whiff of it being anything else...well, he didn't want to go back there, at all. His time would come, eventually. If any of them survived this shit stirred up by Tory, and the lunatic Staci, whom he couldn't find it in himself to miss now that she'd been kicked out of the Co'Opt.

Which of course didn't stop him from wishing he didn't know that hell awaited on the other side of these doors.

Piece By Piece

“Well my pets…Shana has come to a few decisions,” she began quietly as they all again gathered as instructed, this time seated on the floor in front of her. It had been a very quiet four days.

“I wish to say first, that I was wrong. Part of what I have been trying to teach you all here is a sense of unity, which includes looking out for one another and protecting those you love. I realize now that this is exactly what you did. Most of you who knew about what was going on, knew as well that there was no true danger to those involved, and that the real worry…as I proved myself I suppose…was in their actions being discovered. Thus, either by mutual or silent agreement, you decided to protect them by keeping their secret.” She paused to gauge their reactions to that; Confusion. Wariness. Nervous expectation for the other shoe to drop.

Good.

“Now, as I mentioned the other day, I can not lay the entire blame at the feet of those who expected to be directed in what they are to do. Your Owner placed her Trusted in charge, instructed each of you to be obedient to them, and left you to their direction. That they either themselves set aside the Tenets, or unwisely allowed others or other matters to lure them away from the duty entrusted to them, is not the fault of any except them…and your Mistress must accept her share of the blame for that as well.” She paused again to draw a breath and gather her thoughts, “Thusly, I am not going to issue any more lashes for what occurred, other than the penance in progress for dipping by these involved in the original lawlessness. As I was not here to tell, I can not blame you for not telling me.”

They waited, wisely knowing that this was too easy.

“There are, nonetheless, the repercussions of what happened to contend with,” she confirmed next, settling that. “Where we are today is in some part due to a complete disregard of the known consequences, perhaps uncoordinated but surely irresponsible, and each of you did know such repercussions would befall the entire family, even if no one knew what that girl was up to…and I'm convinced of that, at least.”

Blank stares from some.

“What I'm saying, darlings, is that had there been no shunning of my rules, there would have been nothing to catch and record. And although I do believe none of you had anything to do with Staci's twisted little plot to avenge Jessie…because you have shown such a degree of unity in the interest of protecting your housemates while these acts of disrespect were being carried out, I believe your unification ought to be carried right over into the sharing of those consequences.”

Now they got it. They were all in the shit.

Shana stood to her feet, “I will be back in a few.” She strode away, but at the door tossed a glance over her shoulder to quip with narrowed eyes, “Everyone wait here,” then disappeared around the corner of the door-frame.

They could hear her softly padding feet on the carpeted winding staircase. By the time the sound faded away, many of them were out of long-grown habit looking to Tobi, their silent pleas that he somehow again 'work his magic' with their Domme.

He sighed softly but audibly, but at last posed a irritated judgment of his own, “This is some stupid shit,” then stood and paced away, intending to leave the room himself until Shana returned; a clear indication that he was not to be even considered as an avenue of 'help'. It wasn't as though he didn't have enough to deal with, still not knowing how badly he was going to get his own ass kicked for their dipping right under his nose. These people had stirred Shana to such a state that he'd never be able to come clean about what he'd done, without a viable threat to his life.

So they turned to Trina. She sighed as well, wondering what the hell s-h-e was supposed to say to him, but heard her voice say anyway, “Tobi.” He paused before swinging his gaze back to her, with a look in it she easily recognized.

“You know what I think?” he blurted suddenly. “Some of you must have a grudge against me or something…it's like you wanted to see me get my ass in the sling. What the hell were you trying to prove? You wanted to make her feel needed when she got back? Show her no one can run the house like she can?”

He spoke to them all but gave Marcus a long look that lowered his gaze away. Tobi hadn't 'needed his help' that afternoon as much as he'd wanted to get him alone, so he could read him the entire riot act. Marc had agreed it hadn't been cool, and had admitted for once that he had some trouble 'involving' himself, even with truth sitting right in his face and people he cared about sitting on the edge, so to speak. He'd apologized, sincerely. Tobi had clearly not been happy, but he'd said no more and had gotten on with what Shana wanted him to do, only then assigning Marc a task so they could be done more quickly.

All of the others looked away with reddened faces, except Phylicia briefly, who seemed to be asking with her eyes what he'd had to prove with what they'd done. He ignored her and went on, turning to Victoria to add meaningfully, “Y'all have got to be crazy. I don't even get what the hell you -” but then shook his head in weary disbelief, leaving that there as Tory lowered her gaze, with a trembly sigh. “Just sitting up in here, knowing all this shit was going on…” Tobi added, his voice tight with real insult – and mild hurt. “Y'all left me ass out, like she wasn't gonna hold this shit to my feet. What? Did I just suddenly become invisible at some point while she was gone? That it?”

Might as well have,” Tony muttered in a very low whisper.

Tobi heard something, and turned to face the younger man beside him, “You say something, Nio?”

Tony met his gaze but shook his head slowly. “No sir.”

Tobi narrowed his eyes in thought, almost certain what he said was registering now. But, as no one else seemed to have heard it, he drew a breath to calm himself. It really would be no benefit for him to go ranting and raving at them too.

Still, he pointed up the stairs, his tone tinged with weariness rather than anger as he added, “We all know Shana. Behind this shit, heads are gonna roll. That's how it is. That's how it always is. That's how it's always been. Period. So fucking with her right now would do, what? Get her to change her mind? N-o. Bring the storm down on everybody.” He shifted back to Trina. “They don't even know what they've turned loose. But you do. So what do you want me to say? That it's somehow gonna be alright? It's not.

Trina met his gaze with a mild question in her own, inwardly wondering what she'd said to bring all that shit crashing down. But quickly realizing as he turned away again that he was worried -with damn good cause- for his own ass as well, she sighed to herself, then tossed up her hands in surrender to that truth.

“This is g-r-e-a-t,” Trevor started in. “It's just great. Thanks people. Apparently you managed to mix me up in some more of your shit.”

“Tobi's right,” Moses defended without raising his voice. “This is about the craziest mess I've ever seen here.”

“Nooo…that crock-a-shit about being 'made to'…that was some-”

Trina swung around, her voice remaining low but filled with irritation as she locked her gaze on Tory, snapping off her defense that the others had gone along. “You think it fucking matters? Damn, with all this shit…loaning cameras, letting folks into her spot, giving out the code to one that you got from another one…you must be smoking bath salts or some shit! You don't even know how lucky you are to be alive right now. In fact, don't get too comfortable with the idea that she's only gonna beat your ass for a couple weeks over this.”

“Huh…think she hurt me over the last thing?” Trevor concurred, angered at her himself. “You wait and see.”

“She's been kicking my ass for ten days already!” Victoria snapped at him, “You people don't think that I frickin' know she's pissed? You think I don't know how utterly screwed I am?” then suddenly pointed at Michelle, “But this lying little-”

“That's not gonna help,” Tobi cut this off immediately. “In fact, I'd suggest not letting her catch a whiff of any fussing between the four of you…this shit has already got her pissed enough, and we still don't know where that's leading to…for you or any of us.”

This for some reason brought Victoria's narrowly regarding gaze flicking from Phylicia to rest on him for a moment. But before he could begin to wonder what it was for (or seriously worry), Gracie interjected seriously;

“I thought she was gonna kill me when Brian kidnapped me…and he only almost took it, for real!”

“Anyway,” Trina's voice jumped into the middle of the look Michelle shot at Gracie at the 'for real' part of that statement, then spoke to Tory with a meaningful look of her own. “You just be thankful that she's learned how to calm herself down, 'cause the Shana I knew four years ago would have killed that fool Staci, over some madness like this…and made you wish you were dead, already.” She glanced among the other three. “Sooo…just take the lesson, and don't piss her off anymore with any bullshit about being forced to do some shit you clearly w-a-n-t-e-d to do.”

“Hah,” Moses muttered just loud enough to be heard, “I promise it's too late for that kinda hope. Piss her off any m-o-r-e? Hell girl…with all these folks whispering and 'helping' and knowing who was doing who…I'm telling y'all. It ain't gonna be nothing so nice this time.”

Tobi shook his head as he went on. “Trina's right about one thing…I've known her since we were five, and trust me, none of you have even seen her true temper. It's like…shit, I don't even know how to say…like, throwing rocks at a hungry mama mountain lion while she's standing in front of her cubs!”

This had the effect of bringing several attempts to smother humor, even apart from them being soon to discover what their Domme had in store.

“Should've known anyway that you can't keep any secrets here with everybody running their mouths,” Moses reiterated softly, backed up at once by Ronny, who quipped to Tory;

“And especially about some freaky shit going on.”

She shot him a look. “Yeah you would know, wouldn't you.”

Ronnie blushed and looked away - he was labeled one of the house gossips himself.

“It's still the truth, Tory,” Trina couldn't help but agree.

Tory had had enough. “Dammit Trina, I said I know how fucked up this shit is, ok?! And I don't need the comments from the knuck-knuck gallery to back it up…so y'all can just shut up and leave me the hell alone! Geez!"

“Who'n the hell are you yelling at?” Trina came right back, her tone harder suddenly. “Because, um…I k-n-o-w you ain't talking to me. We're usually cool and all, but you don't front off to me, miss…you ain't gonna ever have that much rank, ok?”

Tory backed off, turning away, not really out of fear – she respected Trina but she wasn't cautious of anybody here except Shana – she was just tired. “Whatever.”

Tobi sighed and turned back to the others, with what he hoped was a calmer tone, “Ok guys, look. This is all getting us nowhere. We all know the situation is screwed. We all know it shouldn't have gone like it did. Shana's pissed, and we all know that means everybody's in the shit. But arguing about it isn't gonna help. Just the other day we were swearing that this whole issue hadn't changed the fact that we all still want to be here, together, with Shana. So that means we'll have to deal.”

“With another 'family lesson',” Trevor got in his final complaint. Several people shook their heads, but this was more regretful agreement than rebuttal.

Tobi didn't try and sugarcoat it. “Yeah…most likely.”

“Likely?” Ronny grumbled. “Shit…we'll be lucky if a 'lesson' is all! Shana says she's not whipping ass over this? Hell, that scares me more than any lesson!”

“I'd have to agree with him on that one,” Trina put in wryly. “But like she said today, there wouldn't have been anything to see if nothing had gone down. And trust me, she ain't letting that go so easily as Staci got out of here.”

“Bet that,” Tory agreed softly.

Tobi gave her a look filled with sympathy he couldn't help, then reminded them all with a touch of worry he neither could quite hide, “Look at the bright side guys.” And when they all looked to him with the confused question as to how they could possibly find one in this mess, he finished softly, “None of you are me.”

No one could find anything to say to that.

In any event they didn't have time to respond. The door opened and Shana re-entered the room. Every eye immediately focused on the black sports-bag she carried slung over one arm. She brought their attention to herself as she sat it down.

“This day marks the beginning of new understanding of what it means to be united as a family, my pets. Oh, Victoria…although I have a special task for you, in the interest of this part of our little lesson, after today you will not participate further.”

Tory knew there was only one reply to give when Shana's eyes fell on her; “At your will, Mistress.”

Shana granted a smile, although her eyes remained cool. “That's exactly the right reply today. I like it. The rest of you should take note. Ok, all of you, undress – that's everybody.” This for Tobi's benefit, as it was his little sound of surprise that reached her ears. She met his eyes too, so that he would know she wasn't even in the mood. “If you try me, this will get worse.”

He huffed slowly enough for it to sound like a sigh, making a face to go with it; but, seeing the clear warning at last turned partly away and began on his buttons.

Shana ever so slowly allowed her gaze to drift back to her other Chelahs, with a clear tinge of appreciation that mingled with disappointment. This part was evident in her voice as she muttered, “I had really looked forward to something else this coming week.” But she at once disconnected herself from this line of thought, taking a little breath of her own before continuing, as they finished undressing. “Alright, I'm going to call your names in pairs. As you hear this, the first person called will seat themselves with the partner I've assigned. We all clear on that?”

Everyone nodded, albeit with wary glances among themselves, then replied in their learned manner by chorusing softly, “At your will, Mistress.”

“Wonderful,” Shana praised. “Antonio, you're with Grace. Shelby with Maya, Trevor you're with Angel, Marcus with Michelle, Ronald with Katrina, Phylicia you're with Moses.” By the time she finished speaking they were each in place.

Satisfied, she nodded and went on, “Just right. Now, I'll tell you all what's happening. You are all on restriction, firstly, for the coming two weeks…and, for the first time, this will include Session as well, which is being suspended.” She paused while that reverberated about the room but didn't wait for reactions. “Also, as Summer is due back soon…if her acceptance into this family is granted, Elder Tobias and myself will conduct her Initiation alone.”

Here was another shock for them. Shana had never, never, held an Initiation in which the family was not allowed to accept their newest member. But there it was. They could only accept her decree.

Seeing that they had, Shana went on quietly – not having even begun the surprises, “Ok. Moving on. All of you, with a partner, stand up.” As she said this and they complied, she turned to the bag on the table beside her, opening it to withdraw a handful of leather lashes in varying sizes and braids. She didn't wait for their reactions this time. “Each of you step forward, I'm going to give you one of these, and then you can sit down again.”

This was handled in short order; each of them took one of the braided cords she had chosen for them. There was one left -a four braid- when they were all seated again, but she didn't explain why she'd brought an extra and no one tried to seek any further information – truly not wanting to know.

She kept it in her hand, however, as she went on calmly. “I have learned that often, the most effective way to show people a point is to let them experience it. Live it. So, I thought I'd allow you another perspective…those of you who consider yourselves leaders will come to know the view your charges have, and those who feel you could do better if you could say, will be given a chance to prove it.” Everyone remained silent until she continued. “For the coming six weeks, you will each act as one another's monitors. You will alternate days, assuring that the tasks assigned to your partner are fully completed. Of course, even as Monitors, you will have chores of your own to complete, so that no one is simply standing around staring at the other, but the day's Monitor will have a lighter load, and I'll be checking that work myself.”

She turned and went to seat herself. “This will be…and hear me, my pets…this will be a time of strict adherence to the Law of this House. Be sure this is always at the fore of your conscious action, for no deviation from this will be tolerated. Every t crossed and i dotted when reports are made…every reason for penalty recorded properly, every chore assigned completed entirely, every chore-list inspected and signed off on. Also be aware of every word verbalized, with respect for who is being spoken to, and the fact that reestablishing the peace of this household is an extremely high priority to your Mistress.”

She paused again to let that sink in before going on, “So then, let me tell you how you'll handle Law issues. As Monitors, you will be responsible for the other's timeliness and thoroughness, behavior, and obedience. But what I don't want, is for any of you to spend every day bent over. That's not what this is about, so be careful. For matters which require penance, but that are not determined to be worthy of the lash, another form of discipline is to be decided upon, such as an extra chore which can be added to the duty list, to be carried out that day or on the next available day, or time spent standing Duty…again within the perimeters of the rules. Be sure all is recorded, and initialed once it's done…by both partners.”

She gave this another moment before continuing. “Each of you are to do as you're instructed, within normal duties and the perimeter of the rules. There is to be no bickering. There is to be no challenging of the day's Monitor. No disruptions of the peace in this House will be tolerated, and I'm going to caution any of you who would be tempted to not to treat your partner fairly…I will be watching, and will deal personally with any who stir up any shit.”

Knowing they understood this, she went on quietly, “That said, if a cause arises…whether reported to me or determined by me, that by the Law requires lashing, your partner will as well issue the reprimand, under my own direction. As Monitors, it is not necessary that you run to me with every little offence, but I don't want to hear of any covering for friends. If your partner breaks the rules, and these offences are worthy of the lash, I'd better hear about it. If I discover that you are allowing slacking, indolence, disrespect, or disobedience, in any form, both of you will face me, at the racks, with the rod.” She gave them a moment with this one too, then went on to ask “Are we clear?”

“At your will, Mistress!” they all answered at once. What else could they say?

Shana nodded and went on in a new tone, to enlighten them of the moral of the story. “Good. And finally…this is my verdict on the occurrences just revealed. I find that you are all guilty of neglecting your commitment to me, if not out-rightly violating it, and through such, of conspiracy to undermine House Law, by either commission or omission,. Thus the sentence, in which you all will participate…the only exception being what I have stipulated…is that you will all submit to five lashes, administered by your new partner – right now, so everyone starts off on the same footing.”

Brilliant; this was the one word which went through several minds at once. This, indeed, was the most-exceptional-to-date display of why she was Master of Shana's House.

As long as they could mutually keep themselves and their partners in line, those outside of the four remaining 'outlaws' (Tony was done with his single week) wouldn't have to face her lash – over this matter. But, there were already enough snakes in that garden to poison nearly every one of the partnerships.

First, several people were paired with partners they didn't get along with too well when forced into close situations; already one opportunity for both to get in trouble – or a trading of getting the other in trouble, that Shana would figure out right quick. Next, some were paired with friends, and all too likely to get caught up covering for them or letting them get away with things.

Then there were those settled with personalities as strong as their own, which raised the worry they would have to avoid arguing over who was going to do what, who had to listen to whom. More-than-called-for strictness would bring sure retribution the following day when the upper hand was traded, and off they would go on a tit-for-tat race; which would eventually land both in front of Shana for disrupting the peace of the House.

There were also those with partners as meek as themselves, yet some of those same possibly had a hidden strand or two of manipulative cunning, and may seem to be granting 'undue lenience', but might use it to coerce undue submission. That could lead to a genuine falling out; a definite bullseye for the rod. And, those who would neither of them know what the hell they were doing trying to be somebody's boss – which meant making sure their partner took care of their business – would definitely have to get a clue right quick, or answer to Shana themselves.

Thus, despite her promise that she would issue no reprimand for what had gone before, her promise to apply the rod herself for any number of matters which probably wouldn't go as she had stipulated, would remain a very real shadow over the weeks ahead, and it was quite likely that most of them would end up racked anyway, if they weren't very careful.

And finally, the coup d'etat; They were to have the experience – and share in the embarrassment – of having their asses warmed by their partners' new lashes, right here for everybody to see.

Fucking brilliant.

When she finished softly- “You have heard?” -there was nothing they could say, except;

“We have heard, Mistress.”

“Marcus and Michelle…you can start. I'll allow you to choose who goes first, and to Position in whichever way works best. But, oh…one final thing my pets.” She fixed them a stern look. “During this correction, or any other that becomes necessary for you partners to carry out, I will be watching for any undue lenience, or harshness. An overt display of either will, again, earn you a date with your Mistress. I don't intend to bother correcting you…you'll know at the end whether I'm satisfied.”

Ok, now they were worried. Most were inwardly questioning how, as they had never wielded a lash, they were supposed to know whether they were being too lax or too harsh with it. But they didn't ask.

Marcus quickly decided that Michelle would hardly be able to carry out an effective lashing if he went first – would likely be too busy crying, he predicted wryly – so he quickly moved to lay his own across a nearby chair, and then stepped forward.

“I'll go first.” Michelle looked absolutely horrified. Worried that her hesitation would earn Shana's rebuke, he told her simply, “Just get it done, Mickey.” And with this he turned and bent straight over.

Shana knew another of those moments of humor, as Michelle still stood, lash hanging at her side, staring at his behind as though she expected it to hit her back if she dared strike it. But she managed to keep a slightly warning look, when Michelle glanced to her nervously.

Michelle took the hint; she had to get on with it before Shana's patience started thinning. Resigned to it, she lifted the slender 'cat she'd been given, already dreading being done; he had been given a heavier four braid.

When his third blow fell, she went from whimpers to a soft shriek. He paused and looked again himself to Shana, who tilted her head a bit and said nothing. So he drew a sigh, then reluctantly intoned, “You know there's none of that Mickey. That has to get you another one. And you hush.” He resumed swinging, and this time she began crying – but she didn't scream again.

She had to force herself to stand up straight when he was done, and he hadn't even been swinging that hard, she was sure. But he was a man!

Unsurprisingly, all of the men followed Marcus's lead and offered to take the first round, believing as he did that the women would be less able to deliver acceptable force after enduring their swings. This somewhat backfired for a couple of the guys; Moses shared with Michelle the distinction of earning an extra lick for his whimpers – Phylicia had a bit of experience swinging the lash. Shelby got a sixth because Shana had to have Maya repeat one when her swing became entirely too light, and she herself got another for having to be corrected.

In all however, it worked decently enough. Each successive pair managed to complete the unpleasant task without much drama; so at last only Trina and Ronny remained. Shana already knew there was going to be trouble here, and thought to herself- 'It would be her,' -when Trina told him as she stepped forward;

I'll go first.”

His brows raised in surprise; but, quickly agreeing that he would likely be the one in too much pain afterward to issue the swings properly – of course Trina wouldn't have any trouble with hers he nodded and instructed quietly; “Ok. Go on over to the chair.”

Trina turned around to look at him in surprise. Up until that point only one pair had deviated from the simple 'bend over' position; Angel had moved Trevor to his knees because he was so much taller than she- and she had asked, after explaining why. Trina already was not at all happy about being forced to participate in this little lesson. Not necessarily because she had been 'outside' during this fiasco, but simply because she was forced to partner with Ron.

Hearing that he and Shell had been discussing what had happened between them during Shana's fateful trip, when Maya had come to the Brownstone in her absence, had convinced her that it was still in his thoughts, so she hadn't doubted for a minute that he would be looking for the first opportunity possible to pay her back. And now she had her answer – the little punk planned to take full advantage of her 'position'!

First blood had been drawn.

She hadn't realized she was standing there glaring at the floor until he asked quietly; “Kay…did you hear me?” And now she nodded without looking at him, but treated him to a stone cold look of promise before turning and facing the chair, placing her hands – and head – down. She was ordered eight for her hesitating, and even more ticked off, she afterward used her most experienced swing to wear him out – not harsh, targeted – knowing he for sure knew better than to make a sound.

'Here we go', Shana was in that moment musing to herself. But she now brought their collective attention back to herself by speaking again, this time to Shelby, “By the end, you had lightened your stroke, too. Don't do that again. And MayaShana knows what a strong young lady you are, there's nothing preventing a stronger swing except you.”

Maya, still sniffling a bit, shot a look at her new partner, whose concern mirrored her own. But Shana merely went on to the next pair, speaking to each of them in turn, pointing out what she'd noticed about their methods – and making them all extremely nervous to learn that n-o one had measured up.

Fortunately however, she only was warning them of what she'd be watching for in future, as they found out when she sat back in her seat and told them softly, “You may consider this a critique…directions if you will, for doing it correctly the next time, be there one. It is o-n-l-y this once. In future, I will demonstrate the correct method, via connections made with y-o-u-r skin. I stated that no skimping on the Law would be tolerated, and I mean just that. You have heard?”

“We have heard, Mistress!”

Shana nodded, and now turned to her final confrontation – for she was nearly certain that's what it would turn into – to call Victoria and Tobi forward.

Those Kind Of Games

Ok, that was the third time a door had closed with just a little too much force since Tobi had at last decided to return to their suite. First the suite door, then their bedroom door, twice – they rarely even shut it unless someone was in their guestroom.

She had not seen him since she released her Chelahs to return to their rooms early that afternoon, and it was now after dinner. She knew he was still angry, though, had plenty of proof of that as he again stomped past where she was seated at her small business desk, pouring over several memorandums and reports. There was much about her business that she had neglected to some degree, during the time since she'd been home. In fact, between their Honeymoon and her trip, she had several months worth of matters to get caught up on, and she was resolved to completing it, or some of it anyway, before starting on the house schedules for the coming week.

Yet she was equally as invested in making sure Tobi understood why she had done what she'd done – hopefully without it turning into a fight. She knew what his problem was; she'd had a very reluctant Victoria warm him up, first time anyone but she herself had ever done so. And so she was going to try her best not to get drawn into his insult.

Thus her tone stayed quiet as she at last called to him, “Tobi.”

He still absolutely did not acknowledge her at all, but she knew that this was his way of trying for a response that would let him vent his disgust with her. He was angry and embarrassed because – the argument would go – until Tory got her Bump she was still technically a Sub. He was an 'Elder'and next to her the longest-standing, highest-ranking member of her 'entourage' (a sardonic term he'd picked up the habit of using, one she didn't much care for)…and her husband…and so why should he have to accept a lashing from Tory?

And in front of the whole house, would become his final contention.

The fact that she herself had been issuing the girl's daily punishment right in front of the family as well would have done nothing to appease his insult. Her reasoning however, was; Tory being able to take unfair advantage of her ever increasing 'authority' and influence, had been possible because he had neglected to monitor her activities, allowing her to run the house he should have been running. Shana felt it was only 'fair' to say he had essentially put himself and her at the same Rank; Partners. Thus the two should share in the Family Penalty as partners, like the others.

She also felt, more privately, that he should experience first-hand what he'd left her newest Chelahs to deal with; and, she'd noted that despite her reluctance, Victoria had not skimped on her swing.

“Have you eaten?” she tried again, finally halting his pacing from one room to the other.

“Why?” he sneered at last. “Got some more crow to shove down my throat?”

She lowered her gaze to the table, in a studied effort to keep from laughing – in another situation that would have been his intent. But she knew he wasn't trying to be funny now, and so pulled it together quickly enough to keep him from noticing.

“You got something you want to say to me, TJ?” she asked instead – with an impressive soberness.

This time he faced her head on, deliberately exaggerating his own accent. “Nooo…Mistress Shana…your humble Boi sure wouldn't want t'rile you again. I'll just mosey on t'bed now…like the good Boi I've been taught t'be!”

“Look Tobi,” she tried a different tact, “If you've got a problem, just spit it out.”

He shook his head, as though all were right in his world. “Ain't got no problem, Mistress Shana…sure wouldn't want t'give you that impression.”

“Ok.” She shrugged deliberately, ready to return to her paperwork, “Just thought I'd ask.” She lowered her head to focus again on the table's contents, but she could still see him clearly from the corner of her eye, standing there huffing, so after a minute she raised her gaze again to ask calmly, “What?”

Now he wanted to talk.

“Why did you marry me, anyway?”

Her brows went up as she repeated,“What?”

“Why'd you marry me?”

She frowned, then sighed. “Didn't we just have this conversation?”

But he insisted. “I know. Just want to see if I got the same answers, since apparently I misunderstood something the last time. So why did you marry me?”

She felt slightly put upon to be dragged into this while her own mind was on what had just happened; but she obligingly took a breath and told him sincerely, “Because I love you, Tobi. And I wanted us to be together.”

He tipped his head – he'd obviously expected this answer – and came right back, “But…we've always been together, and we've always loved each other. So marriage didn't change that, right?” She nodded, a bit warily. “So what did you want that we didn't have?”

“I wanted back what we had,” she reiterated quietly.

He of course knew what she meant, but went on firmly, “Know what I wanted…what I thought I was getting?”

She gave him an assessing look. “No…what?”

“The freedom to be what I'd always wanted to be.”

She quirked a brow. “That says a l-o-t of things, Tobias. Which do you mean?”

He gave his head a shake, deciding suddenly on a bit of honesty. “I vowed to you that I would do whatever you wanted, to keep from losing you. And I've stood by that promise, all this time. But in our vows, we said we would face what came 'together'. If we're gonna do this 'together' we've got to be together…like we were…if you really wanted to get that back by marrying me.”

“Isn't that what we're doing, Tobi?” she asked wearily. “You just said that we've always been together. Now you're saying we're not?”

“I don't mean together just in the same House…or sharing the same bed,” he came back with an effort at patience. “We were friends, partners…in the same place…wanting the same thing…not one of us kept at a lower level or another raised to a higher level. Equal. That's together. For me, that doesn't include being embarrassed all the time by being bent over every time you take a notion.”

There it was.

“I'm not trying to embarrass you with anything I do.”

“Dammit Shana, you know what I'm talking about!” he ground out. “I'm your husband!”

“I know Babe,” she assured mildly. “And I'm glad for that. What's that got to do with this?”

“What do you mean what's it got to do with it? Every damn thing! How're you gonna bend me over for that girl, out there in front of everybody?”

“It was a fam-i-ly penalty, Tobias,” she reminded him softly. “And your participation in it had nothing to do with you being my husband, nor did being my husband exclude you from it. You're a part of this family…one of my Subs…and as the one of my Subs given watch of my other Subs during my absence, you so obviously failed in this Duty it nearly resulted in disaster… it may still. Thus, as one of my Subs in whom I was not pleased, you stood with the rest as sentence was carried out. It's what was happening. It's over.”

Her attitude said deal with it. He instead challenged tightly, “Yeah, ok…Tory punished me, and you punished Tory…so, since you admitted that you screwed up too…who gets to warm your ass?”

Score one for him.

“You'd better be careful, Tobias,” she warned.

His own eyes weren't much friendlier. “I am a Dom. And you've got no cause to treat me like some green kid!”

Now, her eyes settled a new look on him. “And I am your Prime. I decide when and if you get to exercise that Rank…you haven't Ascended yet.

“Yeah I know,” he sneered, “…up to you, probably won't either. You get such a big kick outta keeping me were I'm at.”

Her eyes widened in true surprise, and her accent thickened a bit. “What's that supposed to mean? I get a kick outta it?”

He shot her a sideways look. “Figure it out.”

She drew a breath. Tried again. “Tobi…I didn't force your agreement to anything that I've done since that day in the cave. Now, you might have some idea that you did it all 'for' me, but if you're more honest you'll hear what you said to me a little while ago, about doing it because you didn't want to be without me, so you did it for you.

He shook his head. “I don't see it that way. I've always been willing to do anything for you, and let you treat me any way you wanted.”

Shana pursed her mouth, repeating with a look, “Let me,” but wanted to know now, “Anyway…see, the point in that statement is that it's what you promised to do…then, and after we got married. So, what, your feelings changing?”

He reddened but shook his head. “You're making it sound different than I mean it, Shana.”

“I'm just telling you how I'm hearing it, Tobias.” Her tone was a study in reason.

He huffed a bit but, concerned for the note of genuine, baffled apprehension he recognized in her voice, he sighed softly and decided to try again. “Shana, of course everything that I've said about my feelings for you is the truth. It's just that I'm trying to get you to hear my feelings on this…I don't think it's fair for you to still be holding me to that promise eleven years later…since you've gotten me now.”

This seemed to throw her a little, so she asked, “I've got you now? I haven't 'had you' all these years, Tobi? Or am I still 'playing around' at being Mistress Shana?

He blushed and looked away, remembering that day and knowing how that sounded, but only hedged softly, “You know what I'm saying, Shay.”

She drew a breath. “No, what are you saying, Tobias?” She thought she knew the answer, but just had to hear it from his own mouth. “Just say whatever you're saying.”

It took him nearly an entire minute, but at last he admitted in a careful tone, “I've appreciated your guidance all this time…but it's been three years since I earned my Status. Now…” he hurried on as her look immediately clouded, “I don't want in any way to take over anything. But…well…I want to be free.”

Shana was speechless for nearly a half a minute herself. As he went through this little build up, she had rather been expecting that he was coming to an admission of whatever was presumably on that other video. She had not at all expected this. And now, she had to consider how his own little secret – and who he shared it with – might be behind this shocking declaration.

“Free of what? Us??”

He realized what she thought and shook his head as he enunciated slowly, “Not-saying-that.”

She breathed again. “So what did you mean? You got something you need to tell me, Tobi?”

His heart did a little double skip, and for a moment he wondered if she did in fact know. But her gaze was merely curiously concerned, and there seemed no indication that she meant that. So he forced his breathing to calm and shook his head.

“Nothing except what I'm saying, Shana…I feel I've been doing it this way long enough. I'm not really concerned with becoming a Master. I want for you to recognize me as a full Dom, and free me as an Independent.”

Shana set down her pen, glanced away and back as though hearing something elsewhere, then breathed out at last, “W-h-a-t?”

“You heard me. I want the full partnership you offered me…both in writing and on the altar. I believe I'm ready to Ascend. I want to be free to be who I am.”

He actually had thought about it a great deal. Since, really, she'd bent him over a mere two days after they'd come home from their honeymoon. He'd gotten just a bit too snappish, she'd been just a bit too stressed by all she'd had to start catching up on now that she was home, so he'd ended up with a reddened ass, right in the livingroom with half the house there to watch. Afterward, he had protested, and she'd of course shut him down, by reminding him he was by no means above anyone else here, especially when it came to needing to remember who she was and what they were doing here. He'd pressed anyway, telling her that at least she could stop humiliating him that way, whipping him in front of the others, and take up her displeasure with him in private. She hadn't answered and had walked away.

Since then he'd been thinking. He was never going to be free of the possibility of that happening as long as he was, technically, still a Sub. Really no higher in rank than Tory except by the esteem Shana herself granted him. With her home again, he'd had to return to asking to share his body even to be with his own sub. He still had to check before he got on any of 'her' Subs. And, he still had no clue when she'd agree to let him at anything but rim unless he was with her.

And, dammit, he still had to be subjected to those humiliating whippings; when and where and how – and, now, by who she said.

He really had taken enough of that shit. So he had determined to ask her to release him. He hadn't planned to do it so soon, but in light of his idiotic romp with Phylicia (and a more deeply denied reaction to Phylicia's challenge that he be a Dom), it was likely better that he get on with it.

There was of course that factor. It had also begun to occur to him that her reaction when she found out about him and Phylicia -and after this past week he was pretty certain she would, eventually- might be lessened if she was only reacting as his wife, rather than his Domme. A long shot, he was sure; no 'status' would stop her from kicking his ass. But it was possible that if she learned to regard him as her equal, rather than 'hers', she might at least not kill him.

“Wow. Hm,” Shana's brows still demonstrated her confused astonishment, as though she couldn't seem to make his words register, but when she began speaking this time it seemed as though she were doing so more to herself than him. “He doesn't want me as his Domme anymore…” She paused again. “Well, you're already a full partner, so you must mean how much say you get over things here, right? Right.” She yet again glanced at him briefly, but didn't really seem to see him at all; although her words mostly seemed to be directed at him. “Ok, so…you…want to be Independent.”

And at last, she seemed to get a grip. Then, her whole demeanor changed, right before his eyes. Rather than the wife he had spent the prior seven months with, she was in that moment absolutely all Dominari again – the old Shana.

She proclaimed with finality- “No.” -and returned her eyes to her work.

This time it was Tobi who was flabbergasted. He'd expected her arguments about him not being ready. Expected her questions about why now, all of a sudden. He hadn't quite considered her seeming disturbance – as though stung that he would ask – but figured he should have; and would have assured her that this in no way meant he didn't want to be with her. That he loved her and would continue to recognize this as her House. And, prepared to pose his own debate about why this would be better, he thought he had covered every contingency.

He had not expected her outright refusal. And with the blanket and seemingly final 'no', what he thought was a long-buried, and of course angered, whine materialized from somewhere. “No? What do you mean, no? How're you just gonna say 'no', just like that!?”

She set the pen down, but shook her head without looking up again. “You asked me a question and I answered it.”

“But…” he began.

She cut him off. “In case you've forgotten again, Tobias, it is my prerogative whom to release from their vows, even upon Ascension. You have not Ascended yet, as I pointed out earlier. Nor do I believe you ready to do so, in light of the matters which have just earned you that reprimand that has you so 'riled'. So, the answer to whether I am going to approve your Ascension, to Independent or otherwise, is I am not. I will however strongly suggest that instead of complaining about things, you do what is necessary to earn that Ascension. In the meanwhile, I would also suggest not bringing up the subject again.”

No way was that the end of it. “I've been training for four years!” he snapped.

“And haven't learned much, apparently,”

This didn't help. “You ain't right, Shana! How's that shit fair? You gave Trina her Bump without a damn blink? How're you just gonna arbitrarily shoot me down?”

“Katrina…” she came back coolly, “…had an agenda of her own she was trying to follow…one that turned out rather badly, if you remember. Now, do you have something…or someone…else, you'd rather be doing?”

He got the reference and backtracked hurriedly, “Nooo…I just…I think it's time I stopped being a Sub.”

“And I do not. End of debate.”

“I can't flippin' believe this!” he erupted, flinging his arms in the air and spinning away, then turning back to gripe, “I thought I would get out from under this shit when I married you! How'm I gonna be your husband, your partner…when I still have to deal with life as a damn Sub? How do I do that? You tell me Shana…cause I can't figure it out!”

She met his gaze again. “Look, TJ…what is all this? The night we got engaged, when I asked if you felt neglected, you near about had a fit thinking I was thinking of setting you loose. Now, out of the blue, not even a year later you wanna be 'free' of my Ownership? You tell me why?”

“It isn't 'out of the blue' for me,” he contended more quietly. “You always tell us to talk to you about how we feel…so I'm talking, and you're mad. So what do I do?”

Shana was given pause by this thought, and considered it seriously for several moments. “You're right,” she conceded as softly. “I'm not being as open-minded as I've promised to be. I'm listening.”

He moved closer. “Shana, baby…I'm not saying this as a way to piss you off, or make you think I don't wanna be yours. My thing is, I don't feel at all like I'm getting anything out of being a so-called Dom. Hell, you still put me back in a collar whenever you want. And you still reclaim my sub whenever you want…I can't even decide on how and when and how much to be with him…I still have to get your ok. And we don't even have to mention still bending over to have my own ass warmed by my wife!”

“Lord,” she sighed. “Come on, Tobi. Don't tell me you're still stuck on that day after we got home?”

He reddened, his look saying Yeah, so?, but he wasn't done. “You didn't have to do it with everybody there.”

“You're complaining about that a lot lately,” she noted wearily. “But when did that ever make a difference? Everybody here has had their ass warmed Center, at least once. And you were getting corrected wherever and whenever necessary long before any of this group came along.”

“And I've a-l-w-a-y-s hated it!” he erupted heatedly.

“Well, this is certainly a day for revelation then, isn't it?” she snapped, her accent more pronounced now. “Anything else? You hate being made love to in the open too?”

He again forced himself to get a grip, and began again quietly, “Shay…”

She cut this off, fighting to keep the sharpness out of her tone, her own attitude now one of being that she had other things to do. “Tobi…One more time. You chose to pledge again.”

“Ok, yeah, I took my vows again as your Sub…but you could at least try to honor your vows to treat me like your Husband.

'So it really is a man thing,' she griped inwardly, studying him silently for a moment. Then she tried again softly, “Why the hurry all of a sudden, Tobi? You've started final evaluation by Monitoring Summer. And even though it'll be delayed a little while by this suspension…you'll probably get your Bump anyway in a couple months.”

“See that's what I'm talking about, right there!” he ground out. “Every-time something comes up you use it as a way to keep me from being promoted! It's like you don't want me to Ascend at all!”

“No,” she came back at once – he was not getting away with that one. “Every time I think you're ready to Ascend, you get wrapped up in some shit that proves to me you're not! You act you don't want Ascension!”

“How'd you come up with that shit?!” he challenged hotly. “Maybe if you'd stop treating me like I'm nothing more than a stupid kid you schlepped in off the street, I would be able to focus on something besides getting the Bump I was supposed to have had two fucking years ago!”

Supposed to have had?” Shana repeated with a little laugh, but it faded quickly. “Let me refresh your mem'ry, Tobias Eric Jansen…This, is Shana's House. I am Prime Master here…you recall what that means don't you? That means you aren't 'supposed to' have shit, unless I say so. That means, whether you are eventually released of my Ownership or not, is my choice.” And here her voice took on a new tone. “That means, in case you missed it, that at this moment, you are still very much my property, sweetie, and this is still Shana. Don't you forget that.”

This silenced him although it did not erase the belligerent look in his eyes. She drew a breath to regather some control. “So, let me enlighten you as to a few other definitions.”

“Definitions,” he drawled. “So this is school now.”

“Yea, as apparently you still need some instruction,” she shot back in a like tone.

He drew a heavy sigh and flopped into a chair, laying his head back with a purposely affected air of boredom. Shana drew another breath of her own in an attempt to keep her cool, and after moment went on more calmly. “As I said…you are a member of this House. This means that you are subject to Shana's rule of this House, and required to obey all given instructions. For your inattention to my instructions, you were being reprimanded…that means being punished -”

“I know what the heck 'reprimand' means…” he grumbled.

She nodded amiably, “G-o-o-d, cause I want you to stay with me on this thing. For your inattention to the instructions you were given, you were placed on suspension. During this time of censure…that's, reprimand -” she shot him a look ”-your authority was…isalso in a state of suspended use…a fact well known…and discussed, when said suspension was decreed. Which means that your 'rank' was no more than Victoria's, as neither you nor she are any longer in a position of authority over anyone. Thus, when it came time for this reprimand, as one of the Subs of this House you were in no position to protest my decision. Nor, are you now in any place to debate it.”

She paused here, waiting to see if he would have something to say about that. He crumpled his face slightly but maintained his silence stubbornly. So she drew a breath and went on to finish. “This also means…in case you missed it…that while being reprimanded, you absolutely do not get to seek your Ascension, or Independence, or the 'right' to have anything.”


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