It takes her a week to leave her flat again. Thankfully, she’s in the middle of a new book, so she has no meetings scheduled. She’s also dodging phone calls from her friend Elena, since Emilia knows that the Russian will try to interrogate her – and Emilia will never, ever, ever discuss Daniel Oates with anyone. To do so, she also cancels her sessions with Mistress Eva, claiming to have fallen ill. She’s also shredded his card, washed and donated all the clothes she wore that day, and will never, ever, ever eat Italian in her life. The latter is an exaggeration. She’s already ordered an Italian take-away once since then, and had no problem enjoying it.

The most astonishing part – or perhaps, not astonishing at all – is that the Daniel Oates incident hasn’t created any sort of aversion to sex in Emilia’s mind. She still wants to write it – and more so, she’d like to have some as well. After three days of crying, eating ice cream, and rewatching every single film in her collection of romcoms, twice – from The Jane Austen Book Club to Someone Like You – she was making herself a cuppa and suddenly realised she wouldn’t mind a session with her rabbit just now. The thought was so surprising that she dropped a teaspoon. She listened to her body attentively – and headed to her bedroom to pull out her ‘sweeties box’ from under the bed. After three crises, she sort of ran out of her favourite fantasy scenarios – and then the memories of a certain restaurateur’s cock popped up in her head. Emilia tensed – but no negative feelings rose, and she got two more servings of endorphins out of it.

Her writing hasn’t suffered either. If anything, writing snogging and heated caresses has gotten easier – and more fun. She changed the protagonist’s hair colour to ‘coffee-coloured,’ gave him a beard – and suddenly, she found describing kisses, and bites, and running one’s hands on a male chest and shoulders so very titillating. Previously, she, what’s called, lived for the confession slash misunderstanding clearing scenes, putting a kiss or an embrace in them just because the genre demands. And now, she’s enjoying describing tactile details and feels all flushed doing so – and she just can’t wait to share the pleasure with her readers.

The thing is, she was hurt. She felt humiliated. He kicked her out of his bed and his flat. On the other hand, he wasn’t rude about it, and he had been nothing but considerate, understanding, and accommodating the whole time. And everything was clear between them from the start: she was doing research, he offered his help. She got an orgasm out of it – and loads of said writing material. He asked if she wanted to continue, and once he didn’t get her consent, he ended their interaction. So, while she has every right to feel whichever way she feels – which would be sad, disappointed that it was just one time, and sort of wistful because he was just so lush! – Emilia gives herself four more days of a romcom worthy mopefest, and then she’s ready to go back to reality.

Her mobile rings when she’s returning to her flat, balancing two paper bags of groceries in her arms. Emilia tucks them onto the nearest bench and fishes the phone out of her pocket.

“Emilia, good day!” Mistress Eva sounds just as professional and friendly as always. “Is it a good time?”

“Hi. Um… Yeah, yeah, it’s quite alright,” Emilia mutters and sits down near her groceries. She should’ve just quit the whole sex therapy thing, instead of vaguely promising to schedule their next session when she’s ‘on the mend.’ “What’s up?”

“I’m calling you regarding a rather unusual matter.”

Now that Emilia’s listening attentively, she can hear just a tinge of odd tension in the dominatrix’s voice.

“Yes?” Emilia squirms on the bench.

“And I’d like to state from the start, that under any other circumstances, I’d never get involved in such a situation,” Mistress Eva continues. “But you aren’t a client in my club, which means there’s no breach of confidentiality. On the other hand, you’re my client as a therapist, which puts me in an ambiguous position. So, at any point of time, I’d like you to tell me if you’re uncomfortable, and we will forget this happened. Alright?”

No matter how much she tries, Emilia fails to come up with a single reason they are having this conversation.

“Sure,” she answers. “What’s this all about?”

“Daniel Oates came to see me yesterday,” the dominatrix says. “Not in my professional capacity. He stopped by and told me he was hoping I could pass a message to you.”

If a bus passed Emilia and splashed her from the large dirty puddle she’s currently staring at, she wouldn’t even flinch.



“Would you like me to continue talking?”

Emilia doesn’t know – just as she didn’t know if she wanted him to continue then, in his bed.

“Why did he come to you?” Emilia sounds raspy. “Wait– what? He–” She presses her hand to her forehead. “Go on, please.”

“Are you sure you don’t find this unethical?” the dominatrix asks.

The woman has a PhD in clinical psychology. She’s all about ethics and confidentiality.

“What did he say?” Emilia asks, keeping her voice even.

“According to Daniel, there was a misunderstanding between you two, after which you said you’d ring him up, but you didn’t.”

Emilia gasps. It’s true! She still can’t fathom why, but she did blurt it out just before running away!

Mistress Eva continues, “And obviously, if you don’t feel like talking to him, he won’t bother you again. And here I’d like to say something, from my personal point of view, not as your therapist. I’ve known Daniel for almost ten years. You have nothing to worry about. ‘No’ means ‘no’ to him, the man’s all about consent.”

Emilia can’t argue with this statement.

“So, he wants me to call him,” she draws out questioningly.

“Only if you want it.” The dominatrix laughs quietly. “I’m not prying, Emilia. And I don’t know how well you got to know him. But Daniel is… Daniel. He has his quirks. He’s not the most talkative of men, but it’s not due to any sort of toxic masculinity. He just has trouble naming and expressing his emotions. And he is– I don’t know how to describe it.”

“Literal,” Emilia mutters.

“Yes, that’s right.” Mistress Eva chuckles. “He is. You told him you’d call, and you didn’t. He assumed you weren’t interested.”

“Then why is he asking you to talk to me?” Emilia points out an error in his logic, desperately trying to ignore the fluttering in her chest.

“He said he was hoping that you simply lost his card and had no means to contact him.” Mistress Eva emits another silver laugh of hers. “I feel that I’m obliged to remind you here that we’re talking about a man who has no imagination. The fact that he’s trying to conjure a plausible scenario, in which he still has a chance with you, should tell you a lot.”

“Why didn’t he just text me himself?” Emilia grumbles.

She orders herself to take the butterflies in her stomach under control.

“Because he doesn’t have your number,” Mistress Eva deadpans.

Sod it. He doesn’t.

“And again, I’m sure even if he did, you’re in no danger of him stalking you. You can just say ‘no,’ and you won’t ever hear from him again.” The woman gives Emilia a moment to digest the information and then adds, “He didn’t go into any details. I’m not his therapist or your dom. In this situation, I’m just a messenger. All he said was that he might have unintentionally given you a wrong impression, I quote, ‘due to his usual idiosyncrasies.’”

Two things make Emilia feel alarmed. Firstly, Mistress Eva not being Oates’ therapist or Emilia’s dom. Does it mean that the opposite is true? Secondly, what sort of idiosyncrasies are we talking about here?

Emilia is so out of her depth here.

Also, she shredded his card.

“Could you give me his number, please?” Emilia says in a small voice. “I did lose his card.”

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