“You didn’t answer my question, Kyrie.”

I sighed. “I don’t know, okay? I guess, yes, I have experienced both. With Matt it was sweet and meaningful, although we never said ‘I love you.’ But the other guys I’ve slept with, it’s only been about the act, really, so according to my own definition, that would have been f**king.” I was shocked to hear myself answering, so openly, such deeply personal questions. I wasn’t usually so forthcoming. “What about you? Have you experienced both?”

My question was met with a long moment of silence. I wasn’t sure he’d answer. But then he did. His voice was slow, as if he was thinking about his words as he spoke them. “No, I must confess I have not. I have never made love before. I have only f**ked, if we’re using your definitions.”

“What is your definition, then?”

Another long silence, and the slowly spoken response. “There has only ever been the act, for me. It has always been devoid of meaning, devoid of emotion. That is by design, however. No one has ever meant anything to me. I have never let them, or wanted them to. My sexual partners have always been very carefully chosen for their willingness to engage in sex with me upon my terms. By contract, actually. Not a financial contract, as I have never paid for sex, but a contract of silence. Meaning, they can never speak of their time with me.”

“You’re very private, then.”

He actually laughed. “Oh, Kyrie. You have no idea how private I am.”

“Why?” The question came out of my mouth before I could stop it.

Again the long, thoughtful silence. “The only reason I’m answering your questions is to put you at ease. Normally, I wouldn’t respond to such interrogatory conversational gambits.” He sighed. “I do not trust, Kyrie. Not anyone. Not ever. I do not rely on anyone. I do not allow anyone past my walls. And by walls, I mean the literal walls of my home, and the metaphorical walls around my heart and my life.”

“You’ve been hurt.” Again the words fell from my lips before I could stop them.

“Haven’t we all?”


“Yeah, I guess so.” I took a long sip of my drink. “I still don’t understand what you want from me. Why we’re playing this game.”

“All I want from you, Kyrie, is you.”

“Then why…like this?” I gestured to the blindfold, and then away, meaning the way I was picked up. “Why the checks? Why the hired goon saying he was ‘collecting’ me? Why the blindfold and the…the mysteriousness? Why? If you wanted me, why not simply arrange to meet me?”

“Would you have come?” I heard leather creak, and his voice sounded nominally closer, as if he’d leaned forward. “If I’d arranged so that we ‘accidentally’” —I heard the quotes around the word— “met, would you have believed me? What would I have said? ‘Oh, hello, Kyrie, I’m the guy who’s been sending you the checks.’ I think not. And if I’d arranged a meeting and gotten to know you under what would be considered normal circumstances, and then eventually revealed that I was the one who’d sent the checks, would you not have been upset that I’d kept the truth from you? That knowledge would’ve tainted whatever relationship we’d established up to that point. Am I wrong?”

I sighed. “I guess you’re right. I hadn’t thought about it that way.”

“I am a very honest man, Kyrie. Perhaps you’ve noticed that. I will say the exact truth. I wish all my interactions to be truthful. This way, the truth has been established from the outset.”

“Okay, I get that. But why the secrecy, then?”

“As I said, I am a private man, Kyrie. Few people meet me in person. You are, as a matter of fact, one of only four people who have ever been past those doors. Harris, whom you met; my housekeeper, Eliza; and Robert, the second-in-command of my business affairs. And now you. I am not ready to reveal myself to you, for my own privacy and sense of security. And also…” He trailed off, as if considering carefully his next words. “Also…I am keeping a secret from you, Kyrie. A very deep, very dark secret. One that affects us both, and one that will change the very fabric of our relationship. And I am not ready to reveal that to you, either. When I tell you this secret of mine, you will very likely walk away, and I will have to let you. Seeing as I’ve just gotten you here, I’m not ready for that to happen. I’m telling you this much now so you’re aware that I’m keeping something from you.”

“But you won’t tell me what it is?”



“Because I’m afraid to, Kyrie. Because I’ve been waiting a very long time to bring you into my life, and now that I have you, I’m jealous of the time I get to spend with you.”

Something in that statement unnerved me. But what, though? Oh, yeah. “Clearly I’ve never met you. But yet you say you’ve been planning for this for a long time. Which means you’ve been stalking me?”

He sighed. “Essentially, yes. Watching. Waiting. Protecting.”


“Yes, Kyrie. Protecting. I’ve kept an eye on you. How do you think I knew to send the check when I did?” I heard him shift, a pause, and then the sound of an object being set upon a table. A few moments later, a door opened somewhere, and footsteps approached us. “Harris.”

“Hello, Harris,” I said.

“Good evening, Miss St. Claire.”

“Harris here has been the eye I’ve kept on you. His primary instruction was to watch, unobserved, and never, ever make any contact, or allow you to ever feel watched. Did he succeed in that?”

I thought long and hard. “Yes, I suppose so. There have been a few times where I had a vague sense of being watched, but mostly, no.”

“I have a file on you, several flash drives full of photographs. And let me reassure you that you’ve never been photographed in any way that would violate your privacy. There are no nude or revealing photographs, no shots of you in private with any of your boyfriends or…liaisons…over the years. Just enough to inform, to know.”

“To know what? And why?”

“To know you. To be sure that you’re okay, safe, provided for.”

“But I wasn’t provided for. I wasn’t safe.”

“Yes, you were. You never starved. You were never in any direct danger. I only interfered when I felt there were no options left. And there were a couple of times Harris acted to keep you safe, although you may not be aware that anything even happened. He is, after all, very good at his job.” He paused, and then continued. “Harris?”