Antiques by Bailey Bradford
General Release Date: 10th August 2021
Word Count: 53,479
Book Length: NOVEL
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE
Since rebuilding his life, Elliot Douglas has led a quiet existence, hiding behind a routine and the old-fashioned clothes and behavior that make him seem older than his early forties. Now he’s taking one step at a time toward creating a more fulfilling life…one in which his sexual needs to submit are met.
However, baby steps are left behind when he meets Detective Andrew Harrington.
A driven—some say obsessed—Scotland Yard detective, Drew lives by compartmentalizing, focusing on his work and, as a Dom, enjoying BDSM sex as a stress relief. On the track of stolen paintings, he’s traced them to San Antonio, where he’s distracted from the case by an infuriatingly handsome antiques trader who’s not as predictable or fuddy-duddy as he wants the world to think.
Intrigued, Drew’s drawn to that mystery as much as the one he’s there to solve, which blindsides him.
Elliot and Drew’s attraction is instant, and their feelings strong, especially when Drew poses as Elliot’s boyfriend to infiltrate the local antiques scene. But nothing is what it seems—not the case, not Drew…and not even Elliot. With deception all around them, what hope do two men unused to trust and commitment have of a relationship?
Reader advisory: This book contains a scene of on-page stabbing, assault and the threat of sexual assault.
Elliot Douglas knew he should have been hurrying. He detested being late for anything, considering it disorganized at best and impolite at worst, when he prided himself on being neither of those things. In addition, he was very much looking forward to this appointment. No—he very much needed this appointment. While those undeniable facts made him lengthen his stride a tad, his interest in the architecture and design of the houses on the midtown streets he was walking along meant he kept glimpsing things that grabbed his attention.
As the proprietor and manager of San Antonio’s Intrinsic Value antiques shop, his wide-ranging interest in art and design had him taking in everything from the houses’ building styles to their colors and trims. He’d been to many well-known interactive museums and ever since his first visit to this area of San Antonio had thought of it as a living architectural gallery.
His whimsical feeling that he should have a chart or worksheet so he could tick off examples of the different building types all around him made him smile. Maybe he should make something along those lines, some mini poster to be labeled and even colored in? Edwardian, Victorian, Tudor… His quickening steps echoed the rhythm of his thoughts that listed the design styles he passed. I would design that, yes, if I could draw.
Should he have chosen this neighborhood to settle in? The question surged whenever he came here to Tobin Hill, where his love of collectible objects and period pieces had him slowing down to appreciate details of everything from lawn or porch furniture to hanging lanterns or even lampposts that caught his eye. If his pace slackened, it was because of that and nothing to do with him being in his forties. Forty-two wasn’t old, no matter how old-fashioned he was or even how he might feel at times, and Elliot kept his six-foot-plus frame fit and in shape.
But the visual appeal of this community, and the location, so convenient for his store, had him second-guessing yet again the area he’d actually bought real estate in. Well, too bad. With all the work he was putting into his property, he couldn’t see himself moving. And besides, he really liked his house, his refuge from the world.
His destination was in sight, and he hurried up the short drive and onto the small porch of the square ranch-style house, smiling anew as always at the realtor description of these nineteen-seventies stucco properties as “California bungalow style”.
There would be no need to lift the brass knocker, so Elliot raked both hands through his light-brown hair to settle the slightly long waves that sprang from his temples, trying not to think that he’d combed his fingers through where his hair had started to silver. He even went to polish his wire-framed glasses before remembering he didn’t wear them in the daytime any longer…which of course had him blinking, aware of his relatively new contact lenses.
“Lars.” Elliot greeted the man who’d opened the door for him and who now stood back to usher him in with his usual pleasant, welcoming expression.
“Elliot.” Lars was discreet, never saying Elliot’s—or anyone’s name—until the front door was firmly closed. He tended to blend into the room, tasteful yet unremarkable, and was now unobtrusively noting Elliot’s arrival on a slim handheld tablet, the dark-gray cover of which he flipped open and immediately flicked closed again.
The computer equipment had grated on Elliot at first. He wasn’t at all a fan of technology, but he knew he couldn’t expect people to keep track of appointments in ledgers or books these days. And goodness, he had a cellular phone—as he still called it—himself nowadays. A friend from the club where Elliot exercised and swam worked in IT and had helped him choose a sleek, slimline model. Nothing big or bulky or flashy, and Elliot was still in the forgetting it in his office or kitchen phase of coexistence with it.
Karl, the man he was here to see, came out into the waiting room and regarded him. “Good morning, Elliot. Do come on in…or do you need another minute yet to look around and think how you’d decorate and furnish the place?”
He’d told Karl about that silly habit of his, something he did in homes or stores or restaurants, and Karl had found it charming, always remembering it. Elliot gave a rueful nod of acknowledgment and, casting his eyes down, walked past Karl into the next room, where there was calm and peace and barely audible soft music playing. He waited for Karl to enter behind him, close the door and sit, then nod toward a chair for Elliot to seat himself.
“You walked here?” Karl asked, his steely blue eyes catching the light. The morning sun made his neatly groomed dark hair, short beard and mustache shine. He probably chose to sit where he was on purpose and his stillness ensured he’d remain in the light. “Elliot?”
“Oh, excuse me. Wool-gathering. Yes. I like the walk. It’s part of coming here, for me. A warm-up.”
He knew what he meant. The distance was nothing from Intrinsic Value, in the city’s cultural Pearl District, but more of a stretch from his home in Lavaca.
“And you came from home? I’d hate to think you were at work so early.” Karl gave him an assessing once-over. “Help yourself to water.” His short, sharp chin jerk indicated the jug and glasses on the small table. “Have you been overworking since your last visit?”
“Well…” Elliot hedged, pouring himself a little water that he didn’t want and wouldn’t drink.
“Elliot. You know better than that.” Karl sharpened his tone a little. “Tell me.”
He hadn’t gone into recent…incidents in any great detail with Karl but had shared some of what had been happening at the store and with his employees lately. Now he caught Karl up on how things had finally settled down again after the events that had been set in motion when Elliot had purchased items from the Buckman sale.
“I swore off them, but I did go to another estate sale last week actually. There’s the local art and antiques fair coming up soon and I have a list of items to look out for there,” he finished.
“With most of them being for your house, on which you’re still working nonstop,” Karl surmised. Elliot dropped his gaze. “But you’ve found time to relax, to exercise? You look in great shape.”
Elliot’s face heated at the kind words. “Swimming most evenings, and I took up squash again.” More like he’d forced himself. But…
“Excellent. And we’ll have you switching to racquetball soon!” Karl’s eyes gleamed and he stood, motioning Elliot to his feet with a quick crook of his fingers. “It’s time. Go on through.”
Through into what Elliot thought of as the real room, after he’d showered and prepared, of course. Elliot was used to older mirrors, in the store and his house, and tended to avoid modern ones, but the full-length bathroom mirror here didn’t give too stark a reflection. The recessed lighting made his eyes seem more tawny than brown when he peered at his irises, checking on his lenses. Towel tucked around his waist, he walked into the treatment room. The real room.
“Elliot.” Karl coming in the other door caught him by surprise. “You’re not lying down.”
“Sorry,” Elliot muttered.
“Don’t be sorry. Be more obedient.” Karl took off his suit jacket, leaving him in his shirt and vest. He rolled up his sleeves, revealing his muscular forearms. He was powerfully built, with quiet, contained strength.
It was starting, frissons whispering down Elliot’s spine. Nodding, he lay on the table, swallowing at the snick of the door being locked, then the splat of the oil being pumped. The noises, the scents, were familiar, as were Karl’s hands smoothing his upper back and shoulders. Him pressing strong thumbs up the nape of Elliot’s neck had Elliot holding in a moan.
“Head to the side on the rest…hands on the wings…” Karl ordered, a second before the table’s mechanism popped out the armrests either side for Elliot to hold on to. In seconds, a padded strap snaked across his neck, holding his head in position and leather straps were buckled around his wrists, keeping his hands in place.
Buckled by Lars, who Elliot hadn’t even heard come in or lock the door again after him, although Elliot knew he would have, just as he knew Lars would now position the flat mirror to the side of the head of the table, angling it in such a way that Elliot could see what Karl would be doing to him. Everything Karl would be doing to him.
Karl paused, even after Lars finished, making Elliot shiver and ask, “Now what?”
“You know what.” Karl whisked Elliot’s towel away, leaving him naked. In seconds, the table’s end section was extended and widened, spreading Elliot’s legs to Karl’s satisfaction, and further straps secured his ankles to the corners. He peeped in the mirror—he was fully bound, as pulling at his bonds showed him.
“The ball gag, I think,” Karl said.
Elliot shook his head.
“Hmm. I’ll let you have that…” Karl’s voiced faded as he appeared to think. A quiet command had Lars offering him a tray from which Karl made his choice of the selection of bandannas it held. He twisted the cotton cloth into a strip and made a knot in its middle, tying another on top of the first to make it bigger. Big enough to gag Elliot, when placed in his mouth and the fabric tied around the back of his head.
“I like the look of over-the-mouth on you,” Karl reflected. “And it soaks up the saliva. But it’s the ball gag next time.”
The hard edge to his voice had tiny tremors rippling Elliot’s skin and his rapidly filling balls had him shifting on the table.
“Although I do like to hear you,” Karl commented, drawing a sharp fingernail down Elliot’s spine.
Elliot, eyes wide, struggled around the gag.
“You struggle so prettily,” Karl told him, watching his face.
Elliot didn’t think he looked pretty at all. He thought he looked like the thickset, almost middle-aged man he was. But here, at Karl’s, he felt pretty, perhaps, and loved the sensation. He thrilled at all the different feelings that each part of the appointment provided, and underlying them all was pride in himself for having taken this stride toward what he needed. Another step out from behind the wall I built around myself.
Karl’s “Ready?” had hardly reached Elliot’s ears before Karl delivered the first blow, an open-handed spank to one ass cheek. Although Elliot knew what was coming, the first strike was always a jolt, a blow he felt radiate out from the point of impact to his toes in one direction and his head in the other—Karl hit hard. Elliot breathed out around the cloth in his mouth, riding the sensations in the few seconds Karl allowed before he followed the initial smack with a second to the other cheek, one that made Elliot pant through the gag.
More powerful, meaty smacks followed, Lars’ quiet voice counting them. Having Karl’s sub witness what his Dom, Karl, did to Elliot was part of the process.
“Ten. And that’s the warm-up.”
Elliot was almost relieved. He was already burning, tears slipping from his eyes. He turned slightly to catch Lars’ impassive expression and that added to the sensations buffeting him. He turned back to see Karl in the mirror, shaking out his hand.
“Now, sting or thud?” Karl watched Elliot’s hand and repeated, his voice harsher, “Elliot, sting? Thud?”
On the second choice, Elliot curled his fingers twice, their agreed signal for yes. Everything they practiced was always pre-negotiated.
“Good.” Karl took a wooden paddle from the flat box Lars held out to him. He motioned to Lars to loosen Elliot’s gag a little. “How many?”
“U…up to you, sir,” Elliot managed before Lars replaced the gag again.
“Is the correct answer.”
Elliot thought Karl rewarded him for it by hitting extra hard.
“Five, I think…” The blows Karl, pro-Dom, landed were precise. He’d never once come anywhere near to striking Elliot’s hip or tailbones. The impact of each tightened every nerve in Elliot’s body and fired heat through every vein, intensifying with each hit.
“Ai’ive,” Elliot counted, as well as he could around the soaked cloth in his mouth.
“And now the other…” Karl murmured, and selected a new paddle for Elliot’s other butt cheek.
“No!” Elliot implored through the gag, trying to struggle. “Nuff. Can’t take more…”
Karl waited a few seconds then bent low to speak next to Elliot’s head. “Oh, you’ll take it, Elliot. And any more protest, and I add strokes to the tally.”
That extra bite, that element of being forced that inch beyond what he said he could handle—thought he could handle—was everything to Elliot. It had started with being strapped down—he still remembered his struggles—then having another person witness his play… All things Elliot had barely understood deep down in the recesses of his psyche that he craved. But he was starting to understand more and more…and act on his needs.
Karl straightened and began again, and there was only the impact, the blows, and Elliot’s soul vibrating to each one, to take him soaring. Heat burning through him, he was shaking and sweating when Karl finished. He had his eyes closed, but felt hands undoing his straps, then Karl was helping him to turn over. He cried out when his abused ass made contact with the table.
“Look at you.” Karl’s voice held admiration for Elliot’s straining cock, the head wet and shiny with pre-cum. “How badly do you need to come?”
This was another Karl question that didn’t need an answer. “You’re going to wait a full minute. Do not touch yourself until I say. Understood? Say the word.”
“Understood.” It came out in nothing like his usual cultured tone.
The second hand on the large wall clock had never moved so slowly. Elliot, desperate, was just beginning to suspect something was wrong with it or that Karl had rigged it, when Karl nodded. “Do it. Let me see you.”
It didn’t take Elliot long. A few pulls at himself, a loud moan and he climaxed over his stomach and chest, his body a rigid arch off the table. His eyes on Karl, basking in the warmth on his face and the praise he loosed, Elliot milked his cock to the last drops. He accepted the soft tissues Karl held out to him to dab at himself. It didn’t matter, because the session always finished with another shower.
His after-shower always felt totally different from the one before, and now Elliot was less keyed up, he could appreciate the finer details, such as Karl having ready the bergamot and sandalwood soap Elliot liked, which he used at home. Elliot lathered his body, wondering as he always did if he’d ever have someone do that for him, in the same ways as he’d soap that person, both of them caring for the other.
He made himself wait until he was toweling himself dry to examine his ass cheeks. What he saw had him grinning, and not just at the reddened color—the paddles Karl had used on him had been imprinted.
He’d tried to glimpse the words or designs on them during the session but had been unable. Now, though, he stared at his right cheek, with its new image of a heart, right in its center, and at his left, which bore the word love. He did love it, every aspect of coming here, the service Karl provided, the careful way he ran his business, how it didn’t feel like a transaction…
As much as Elliot thrilled to the anticipation and thrived on the acts themselves, he also loved the winding down. The final stage was always out on the back porch with Karl, for light chat and the herbal tea they both enjoyed…and Elliot forced himself not to wince at how sitting on his recently paddled ass felt.
“Do you get to the club much?” Elliot thought to ask. The place they’d met, where Karl played as a Dom.
“Not as much now.” Karl put his cup down. “And I know you don’t either. The atmosphere’s a little different in there recently. I think there are some changes on the horizon—I heard it’s getting a little harder-edged, more extreme, and maybe new management? But we’ll see if the changes are for the better. Some can be.”
Elliot’s preference for a routine was a half-joke between them. When he stood to go, Karl looped a hand around his upper back to bring him close. “Take care,” he murmured.
Elliot started his walk to the store. He felt good, lighter, as he always did after a session with Karl, yet heaviness was creeping in sooner than it usually did. He reviewed the progress he’d made. Trying to come out from behind the barricades he’d shuttered himself behind, he’d gone for coffee with a couple of guys from his sports club and even a drink once, but there’d been no spark.
Then, when he’d come to understand that rough, submissive sex was what he craved, he’d gone looking for it in Caress, where there were plenty of Doms. But as much as he might crave to play in public, the idea of subbing to someone he didn’t know, who didn’t know him, and who Elliot didn’t know if he could trust, made him freeze up.
He’d found a good compromise in Karl and his behind-closed-doors service. He liked the kind of man Karl was, and also their arrangement, but couldn’t help envying what Karl and Lars had.
What must that be like, that sort of relationship? To be with someone he could give all of himself to, voice all his needs to, and for that person to act on them with him…because they met his needs too? And all of them, including companionship, domesticity… He’d never had that and doubted he ever would.
“Wishes and dreams, maybes and moonbeams.” It was a silly expression of his grandmother’s, one he hadn’t thought of for years, and it came to him out of the blue.
No. Elliot focused on the day ahead, on his schedule, what he’d be doing and when. He planned to order something different for lunch—that was the next brick he was going to topple from the wall around himself. Maybe one day, in the future, he’d be ready to take bigger actions, but for now…
Now was longing, as tenuous and as strong as a moonbeam, slipping through the cracks.
~ * ~ Jo‘s Review ~ * ~
This is book 2 in the Intrinsic Values series and I enjoyed it, probably more than the first as the story was a little more developed than book 1. My only slight grumble, which possibly dropped it half a star, is that the Elliot of this book was not how I visualised him in the first book. I suppose, though, that’s actually the point in that he is keeping his true self hidden behind a mask he wears.
About the Author
A native Texan, Bailey spends her days spinning stories around in her head, which has contributed to more than one incident of tripping over her own feet. Evenings are reserved for pounding away at the keyboard, as are early morning hours. Sleep? Doesn’t happen much. Writing is too much fun, and there are too many characters bouncing about, tapping on Bailey’s brain demanding to be let out.
Caffeine and chocolate are permanent fixtures in Bailey’s office and are never far from hand at any given time. Removing either of those necessities from Bailey’s presence can result in what is known as A Very, Very Scary Bailey and is not advised under any circumstances.
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