He paused, and here his voice seemed almost bitter, sounding ever more like a derogatory lecture. “All this is predicated upon a set of societally agreed-upon unspoken agreements. You are engaging in social commerce. He buys you drinks, buys you dinner. Flowers, perhaps. If he’s particularly well mannered, he’ll open doors and pull out your chair. But you are acting out a game. If he were to step beyond the parameters of this prearranged code, you would reject him outright, most likely. If he simply walked up to you and said he wanted to take you home and f**k you, how would you respond?”

I swallowed, hard. “I’d—I’d probably be pissed,” I admitted. “That’s…crass.”

“Precisely.” His voice softened, his breath once more in my ear. “It’s not that you would be opposed to him taking you home and f**king you. Oh, no. That, after all, is precisely the goal of the game our fair society has set up: to f**k. But the manner of one’s approach makes all the difference, no?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Pretty much.”

“Tell me, Kyrie. What’s the difference between sex, making love, and f**king?”

“It’s…subjective, I think. The difference in definition varies from person to person.”

“Yes, I know. That’s why I’m asking you what you think.”

I blinked behind the blindfold, an instinctive reaction to thinking. “Could I…sit down? Please?”

“Of course. How rude of me to leave us standing here in the foyer.” He took my hand. “Come.”

“Wait…the blindfold…aren’t you going to take it off?” I pulled back against his hand, reached for the fabric covering my eyes.

Strong fingers imprisoned my wrist, stopping me gently but firmly. “No. Not yet. Not for a while, I think.”


“What? What do you mean, not for a while?” I jerked my hand free, turned to where I thought he was standing.

“I mean that I’ll remove the blindfold when I’m ready to do so. I am not yet ready for you to see me. You have four other senses, Kyrie. Focus on those.”

“Are you, like, ugly or disfigured or something?”

He laughed, and the sound was loud with raw amusement. “How very blunt of you, Kyrie!” He took my hand once more, and I couldn’t help a shiver running through me. His hand was huge, swallowing mine completely. Rough with calluses, yet gentle. “No, I do not believe I am thought ugly by those who have seen me. And I am not in any way disfigured. I am not particularly old, or young.”

“Then why can’t I see you?”

“Because this is part of my game. It pleases me. I like the way the blindfold looks on you. I like the control it gives me, how dependent on me it makes you. You could, at any time, remove it. You are not shackled, after all. But you have not taken it off, have you? Nor will you. You’ll leave it. You want to give control over to me, Kyrie. You’re afraid to do so, but you want to.”

“I am afraid.” Admitting it out loud, to him, made my fear more real yet, strangely, less panicked.

“I know. And that’s okay. Fear makes us cautious. I don’t expect immediate total compliance. I don’t expect you to trust me quite yet. I have to earn that. And I will. You’ll learn to trust me. And when I feel you have learned to trust me, and when I feel that I in turn can trust you, that’s when the blindfold will come off.”

I felt his hands lightly grip my shoulders from behind, and I let him guide me into a walk. He directed me for what felt like a hundred steps, and then he turned me to the left, and we walked another hundred steps. He turned me around and nudged me backward until I felt a couch or a chair touch the backs of my knees. I sat down into a deep leather chair, and sighed in relief as my fear and nerve-weakened legs relaxed. His fingers lifted one of my ankles, and I felt an ottoman slide underneath my feet. I sank deeper into the chair, finding it to be immensely comfortable.

“A moment, if you will,” he said, and I heard his footsteps recede, back in the direction from which we’d come. He returned in a few moments, “Here, Kyrie. Your Scotch.”

I held out my hand, and he pressed the cold glass tumbler into my palm. I lifted the rim to my lips, sipped the thick burning heat, and this time I relished the taste.

“Now, where were we?” I heard his voice coming from off to my left.

I turned in the chair slightly so I was facing him. I realized even as I did so, how arbitrary that convention was. Facing a person when you spoke was a habit borne of eye contact. I was blindfolded, and thus facing him was pointless. I stayed as I was, though.

“You were asking me to define the difference between sex, making love, and f**king.”

“Yes, precisely.”

I thought for several moments, composing my response. My “host” was an intelligent, articulate man, speaking as if he’d been very well educated. He had a hint of an accent, from somewhere in the United Kingdom, I thought, although it was faint enough that I couldn’t place it any more precisely. I had a feeling he would appreciate a considered response to his question. Why I cared whether he appreciated my response was, again, something I didn’t care to examine. I did, though, and I couldn’t deny it.

“It’s about emotion, I think,” I said. “Sex is the clinical term, the context-less word for the act. It means nothing else, holds no meaning or importance beyond the mere physical act of engaging in sexual intercourse. Making love is…well, obviously it’s about love. It’s about the expression of the way you feel about someone. Fucking is…I guess I think about it as something crude. Rough and empty of emotion. Hard and fast. Although I guess it doesn’t have to be rough or hard, just…devoid of emotional exchange. You’d f**k someone you just met at the bar. You wouldn’t, and I think couldn’t, make love with someone you just met. You have to know them, understand them, care about them, actually love them to make love, whereas you can f**k anyone, anytime, no emotions or connections required.”

“And have you personally experienced both?”

I hesitated to answer. “I…I don’t know. I think so? I thought I was in love once. I thought what we had meant something. I’ve had sex, obviously. I’ve hooked up with guys I didn’t know super well, but I’ve never slept with any of them right away. It would have to be after a few dates. I guess I’ve got a three-date minimum, you could say. It’s not something I’ve ever laid out in so many words, but, now that I’m thinking about it, it’s true. I’ve never had sex with anyone I hadn’t been on at least three dates with—at a minimum. And I don’t always sleep with guys I’m dating.”