"Garland, great work!"
Toby Garland looked over his shoulder. A man he vaguely recognized as Thomas from accounting stood a few feet behind him.
The guy grinned and clapped him on the back as if they were the best of friends. "I still can't believe you got that damn contract through!" he bellowed into Toby's ear. On the other side of the office, someone turned up the music yet another notch.
A few of the other employees at SKIN advertising agency spotted the quiet little corner Toby had taken refuge in. They immediately rushed across the room to shake his hand, slap him on the back and nudge his shoulder in what seemed to Toby to be a very well-choreographed attempt to spill at least part of his drink down his favorite suit.
Toby tried to listen. He tried to care what the people he'd been working with for the last three months said to him. Good manners demanded he nod and fix a polite smile to his lips, but he couldn't actually bring himself to take in more than one or two words out of each dozen they babbled at him.
"So, I guess this makes you unemployed," someone joked.
Toby offered him a vague nod. "Yes," he agreed. "Something like that." He looked past the guy's shoulder and scanned the room, searching for a head of short blond hair that should have been visible several inches above the heads of everyone else in the room.
"Anything else lined up?" the guy to Toby's right asked.
"Two weeks holiday, then I'll be starting work on another contract negotiation for another company," Toby answered, automatically.
It was nice that people asked, he told himself. Honestly, it was, but right then he didn't even care if he had another job to go to, himself. The only thing that mattered was that his contract with this firm was finally, blessedly, over.
"Anyone we know?" someone else asked.
"Nothing's been finalized yet," Toby said, diplomatically. He turned his head a fraction to scope out the left hand side of the room.
In the furthest corner of the room, Hudson Scott stood up. Well over six feet tall, he was wonderfully easy to find in a crowd once he got to his feet. Toby gave up even pretending to listen to his former colleagues as he tracked Hudson's progress across the room.
As one of the four founding members of an advertising company who'd just signed a contract securing their prosperity for the next five years, Hudson was quickly surrounded by people who no doubted wished to congratulate him, suck up to him, or ask him for a raise.
Somehow continuing to answer the questions put to him on automatic pilot, Toby took full advantage of each moment when the crowd of office workers between him and his former boss moved in a way that allowed him to catch sight of the other man.
Toby had become something of an expert at making the most of each brief glimpse of Hudson over the last few months. The slightly older man looked perfectly in command, entirely in control of the whole damn world. Toby swallowed and tried to work some moisture into his throat. His grip on his glass of Coke tightened as anxious energy bubbled inside him and desperately sought for some subtle form of release.
Hudson had taken off his jacket. His tie had also been dispensed with at some point during the office party. With his shirt collar open and his sleeves rolled up, he presented the most informal image Toby had ever seen of him. Watching his every movement and every shift of muscle visible beneath the pale blue shirt, Toby followed Hudson's leisurely steps toward the other end of the open plan office area.
The other man didn't even glance in Toby's direction as he stepped into his private office, leaving the door slightly ajar behind him.
Toby managed one last smile for the group of people still gathered around him, before he politely excused himself. Taking a deep breath, he made his way across the room as quickly as possible while still maintaining some modicum of discretion about his destination. Leaving his glass of Coke on a desk just outside Hudson's office door, Toby squared his shoulders and tapped on the glossy black surface.
Toby nudged the door a little further open. Hudson stood on the opposite side of the room, looking out of the huge picture window that practically filled that wall of his office. He didn't even glance over his shoulder to check who had joined him.
Toby pulled the door closed behind him. The moment it clicked shut, the sounds filtering into Hudson's office from the party became distant and muted. The rest of the world ceased to exist.
There was a shiny silver key in the lock. Toby reached for it. The soft swish of a mechanism turning over, completely drowned out the blaring music. For several long seconds, Toby stared at the key. He never remembered seeing it left in the lock before.
It hadn't all been in his mind then...
He turned to face his former employer with renewed confidence.
"You did excellent work on the negotiations," Hudson told the view over the river.
Hudson finally turned to face Toby, properly acknowledging his presence for the first time. "No false modesty?" he asked.
"No," Toby said, very simply. "I'm good at what I do. Your company paid me a very good wage for my services and they got their money's worth out of me."
Hudson nodded once, accepting everything he'd said as fact, before his lips twisted into a half smile. "And now?"
"Now, I don't work for you anymore," Toby said. "My contract with you ended the moment you signed the contract with Anderson Technologies." And Toby had never been more grateful to see pen put to paper or to see a job come to an end in his life.
"There's another contract on my desk."
Toby hesitated, but only for a second. Quickly pulling himself together, he strode across to Hudson's desk. Several sheets of paper had been placed neatly in the center of the black leather inlay.
Toby held back a sigh. This really wasn't what he'd had in mind when he locked the door. He could have cheerfully condemned every contract on the planet to hell right then but, even knowing full well his business acumen always died the moment his brain dropped below his belt, Toby still ran his eyes over the first page, instinctively wanting to please Hudson.
He read the first words, wondering if this would prove to be a test, or part of the game they were about to play together, or something else entirely. It wouldn't be completely unexpected if it turned out the man he'd been watching every day for the last few months intended to make him jump through a few more hoops before they got to the more enjoyable part of the evening, but at the same time...
A frown formed across Toby's brow as the meaning of the words on that first page finally sunk in.
"A slave contract," he blurted out.
"A submissive contract," Hudson corrected, quite calmly.
"The principle difference being?" Toby asked, reading the title page over once more in the hope of finding a punch line. It had to be a joke. It had to be...
There wasn't much to be gleaned from the cover page. It was barely more than a statement of whom the contract was to be between, and a definition on who would be referred to as the dominant party and the submissive party in the rest of the document--as if anyone could ever have been in any doubt about that.
"The natural desire of any slave is emancipation and freedom," Hudson informed him, leaning casually against the window on the other side of the room. "But any true submissive wants nothing more than to belong to a master--to freely give up control of himself and to offer everything he is to another man. I'm no slaver, Toby--I have no interest in an unwilling partner. However, a well-trained submissive--that is an entirely different matter."
Toby continued to stare down at the printed page. Hudson could call it whatever the hell he wanted, it was still a slave contract. Toby had seen enough of them to know. He'd drawn up enough of them for various local dominants to understand the drill.
He took a deep breath and tried to think clearly as images of just what Hudson was offering him flooded his mind and swept all rational thought aside.
Kneeling before his master wearing nothing but a leather collar. His hands in cuffs as he hung suspended from chains attached to the ceiling. Bowing down until his forehead rested on the floor at Hudson's feet. Facing the wall as Hudson held him there, refusing him any bit of comfort, any fraction of free movement as he thrust into him.
Toby blinked. "You never mentioned that you were interested in anything this serious," he said. His voice was perfectly level. No trace of emotion crept through to indicate just how freaked out he was. Hearing the fake calmness settled Toby's nerves a fraction--but not nearly enough to stop his heart racing or his breaths from faltering behind his ribs. A damn slave contract...
Hudson walked leisurely around his desk until he stood directly behind Toby. "I never mentioned I wanted anything at all from you, Toby," he said. "But here you are, in my office, with the door locked, and a very obvious erection spoiling the line of your trousers."
Toby stared down at the paperwork on the desk, not really seeing it as Hudson stepped in very close behind him. The larger man's body heat seeped through their clothes but Hudson stopped just a fraction of an inch short of actual body contact. Tensing every muscle he possessed, Toby fought against the instinct to lean back and press himself against his former employer's larger frame.
He'd only need to sway back a few inches, and he'd be able to use his whole body to assess the other man's build. He'd know if Hudson's physique was as fantastic as he'd always imagined it would be, once those expensive business suits were stripped away.
As Toby stood perfectly still and silent in front of Hudson's desk, he wanted nothing more than to turn around and discover how it would feel to be held close against the taller man's body. The need to find out if he'd be allowed drag his fingers through Hudson's short blond hair or if there would be rules in place that made him beg before he was even allowed to touch the other man, was like a physical pain.
Maybe more than anything else, Toby desperately needed to know if leaning back just a fraction of an inch would confirm that Hudson was as hard as he was. Another moment spent wondering about it all, and he'd lose his mind.
He no longer had that right.
Toby closed his eyes, but he barely allowed himself a prolonged blink before he forced them back open. He couldn't lean back. He couldn't move at all--not without Hudson's permission.
He no longer had that right.
With or without signing his name to a contract, Toby knew he'd given up any and all rights, barring any Hudson might chose to grant him, when he walked into his former employer's office and locked the door behind him. That knowledge dropped directly to his cock, making him swell further within the increasingly tight confines of his trousers.
"Hudson," he began, praying his voice would stay steady just a little while longer.
"That's not what you've been calling me inside your head, is it?"
Toby trailed off. He licked his lips as nerves made his throat close up completely.
"When was the last time you called me Hudson inside your head, Toby?" he whispered in his ear.
The words slipped straight into Toby's spine, sending another shot of arousal to his already aching shaft.
Hudson's tone hardened. "Answer me."
"First week," Toby managed to stutter out. His voice cracked as Hudson shifted behind him, brushing their bodies together before retreating a fraction of an inch, to a place where Toby didn't have permission to follow.
"What have you been calling me inside your head since then," Hudson asked. "Mr. Scott? Sir? Master? Something else?"
"Sir," Toby confessed. "I've been calling you sir."
"Then it's about time you started using that title out loud, isn't it?"
Toby swallowed. "Yes, sir."
"Good boy," Hudson said. Taking half a step back, he ran his fingertips very lightly down Toby's spine.
A shudder racked Toby's body. His eyes dropped closed. It had been so long to wait. He'd spent so many hours imagining what might happen between them once his work for Hudson's company came to an end. And now that the moment was here, Toby could hardly breathe well enough to enjoy it. His head spun, but he couldn't even be sure if that was down to an inclination toward submission or a simple lack of oxygen.
"The moment you put your name to this contract, you will call me sir whenever we are alone together--no exceptions. There will be punishments if you forget. In public, wherever and whenever the use of an honorific would draw attention, you may continue to call me Hudson."
Toby blinked his eyes open and looked down at the contract, at what the other man was offering him. His brain quickly gave up on the idea that anything like a rational thought process was going to happen and shut down completely.
His body jerked into action, more than ready to take up the slack and make sure a stupid little thing like survival instinct didn't make him pass up the most erotic opportunity that had ever come its way.
Toby's brain watched, detached and emotionless as his hand reached out and took up the pen resting to one side of the paperwork. His other hand turned over the loose pages until he reached the last one, where two signatures were required. His thumb pressed the button on the top of the pen.
The dotted line called out to him. Toby silently watched his hand patiently guide the pen to the right spot on the page.
Without any warning, the slim, silver pen was jerked out of his hand. It rattled against the hardwood flooring as it slid across the dark stained boards and rolled to a stop underneath the table on the far side of the room.
"What do you think you're doing?" Hudson demanded.