tagBDSMParadise Loft Ch. 03

Paradise Loft Ch. 03


Mark seats Jenni in Freddy's armchair, hitches up his skirt, and sits at her feet. She plays with his hair the way he likes while they get to know their brother-in-law and his girlfriend.

"I'm sorry we've intruded on you like this. Freek said we should come early so we could catch up a little," he says with the politeness of his brother.

"You're totally welcome here anytime. Sorry about all the..."

"Not a problem for us," he says.

"So I guess Evie must have told ya what happened to Freddy."

Bastiaan nods meaningfully. "That sounds like him. He's always had peculiar luck. Did he ever tell you he was struck by lightning?"

"No!" they all say.

"When he was about 13 maybe, he was walking in a field and it happened. It wasn't even raining, just one of those summer electrical storms. A farmer found him lying there and brought him to the hospital. They could tell what happened by the marks on his skin. Later he covered them with tattoos."

"He never said nothin' to me," Mark says, surprised. It's the kind of story most people would tell. "Where are my manners? Freddy would be ashamed I ain't offered you anything to drink. Champagne? Orange juice? Both?"

"Both sounds nice," Lesley says in a pleasing, smooth voice that matches her easy smile. She's American and looks to be a little younger than Mark. She's got a soothing, lunar energy about her and features to match: High, round cheekbones, almond eyes, the complexion of a brown orchid. She wears a fine gold ring in her septum and her natural fro frames her face like a cloud in the night sky. Her cleavage is outstanding. Her low neckline reveals a little birthmark shaped like a rabbit.

She doesn't look like the kind of woman a stuffy, conservative businessman would date. She looks like someone Freddy would desire.

Jenni has a flash of intuition looking at her: The Berkenbosch boys have the same taste in women. Freddy's brother seems so down-to-earth and nice that's it's hard to imagine them not being close. He'd made it sound like they were just very different people, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It hits her that maybe they had a falling out over something in particular. Maybe it was a someone.

"I hope that's them!" Jenni says at the sound of the car in the driveway. A moment later Freddy and Jasper walk through the front door. Freddy looks embarrassed and slightly worse for wear. He raises his bandaged hand. It's a hell of a lot of gauze for a fingertip, but that must be to hold the bandage on.

Bastiaan rises. "Freek... Freddy," he corrects himself. "Hoe gaat het broer?"

"Ik voel me stom, maar het gaat goed," he says and they embrace. "I said I feel stupid, but I'm fine," Freddy translates. "You've met everyone, I take it?"

"Yes, we've just met. This is Lesley."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Freddy says, offering his good hand. His eyes alight on her chest for an understandable millisecond.

"Likewise. Sorry your day got off to a rough start," she says in her relaxing voice. He shrugs and gives her a slightly dopey smile. Perhaps there were painkillers involved in the ER visit. Maybe it's just that she's pretty.

Mark and Jenni take in the two brothers side by side. They have a strong family resemblance, though Bastiaan is only just over six feet tall and more slender than his little brother. He has fine lines in his face set in a kind pattern that could be a preview as to how Freddy might look in a few years. His hair is dirty blond, but his eyes are the same unusual hazel green as Freddy's.

Mark stands and goes to Freddy without a word. He presses his hands to his boy's chest, but rather than baby him after his ordeal, presses harder until he steps back, then once more so he's up against the wall. Mark kisses him in a charged display of dominance.

Lesley reflexively looks to Jenni, who giggles. "This is how they always are," she whispers. They share the grin of two women who like what they see.

"You're in trouble," Mark growls, breathlessly.

"I'm sorry for being so clumsy, Sir."

"It ain't that. Ya tried to get her to lie for you. That earns you a punishment."

"I'm sorry. I just didn't want you to worry."

Mark laughs. "Shh, I know. 'Cause you're sweet like that." He kisses his cheek. "Are ya in pain?"

"It's still numbed up."

"That's good. Maybe we can get you one of those protective gloves for when you use your knives. Will you wear it?"

"If you tell me to."

"Well, I'm tellin' ya. No glove, no love."

Jasper groans.

"Oh, you love it," Mark retorts.

Jasper nods that he does. Giving Mark shit was his way of expressing affection after their silly makeout session. Truth be told, both men had greatly enjoyed that, though Freddy had not. Now they just give each other a hard time, as guys do.

Evie emerges from the kitchen with a tray of champagne flutes. Her gaze on Jasper is soft with loving gratitude for taking care of this unfortunate situation. "That didn't take as long as I thought!"

"I said it was his wedding day and asked, all other things being equal, if they could keep that in mind. I think they believed me because of this," he says and gestures at the collar. "I'm not actually religious," he explains to the others.

"I admit, that part surprised me, " Bastiaan says.

Jenni offers Freddy his favorite chair, then sits on his lap with the entitled air of a house cat. He sighs with contentment to have the mishap behind him and his sister's comforting weight on his body. Jasper takes the remaining seat on the couch beside Lesley. Jenni observes a hint of something pass between them. She supposes it's the pleasant surprise that they aren't the only black person at this thing.

"We should have a toast," Bastiaan says. "To family."

"To family," they echo and take a sip.

"So how did you two meet?" Evie asks.

Bastiaan defers to Lesley. "We're in the same coven. He's one of the first people I met when I joined and it was love at first sight," she says with a soft laugh.

"You're also a Pagan?" Jenni asks him. This was turning out quite different from the picture she'd had in her head.

"Of course! We were raised like that. Our family has been for generations. Maybe always."

Mark can't keep it together and starts to laugh. "Freddy, babe, I'm startin' to get the feelin' you and me don't really talk too much."

"It's difficult with your tongue in my mouth, Sir."

* * * * *

The kitchen witches arrive on schedule. Freddy's pick for the catering is a little company consisting of three chubby, cheery goth girls. He shows them through to the kitchen and they bubble with enthusiasm for the day as if they were guests. It makes sense, in a way, that if their passion is aphrodisiac cuisine, this particular celebration would be in their wheelhouse. In the living room, Freddy's family grins at the sound of the girls' exuberance over the bohemian backyard set-up, as well as the workable, immaculate kitchen. They fuss and coo over Freddy's injured hand. "Yes, I am a poor thing," he deadpans. "Do you require any assistance? We're just hanging out if you need any help carrying things inside."

"No! We've got this," their leader replies. "We're very excited about what we'll be serving today!"

"We know it will be excellent," Freddy tells her with an amused smile. She's a cook with heart, which is why he chose her.

"Is it all right if we put some things in your fridge?" she asks.

"Of course, anything you want to use." He checks to make sure there is room for them. "Guys?" he calls to the living room. "What are these boxes?"

"Flower crowns," Jenni yells back.

"Is there someplace we can put them?" he asks.

Jenni appears in the doorway. "On our heads?"

"She is the clever one," Freddy explains to the girls. "Okay, we're doing flower crowns now!"

The others go with the flow. Like in any house that's at all a home, it's inevitable that everyone would end up in that room.

"Okay, let's take a look at what you've done, sis," Freddy says as he opens the first box.

"Oh, that one's mine. I had it on earlier," she says, and sticks it unceremoniously on her head. "The other ones, I haven't seen."

"Ooh," the girls say. "I love that!" They would. Jenni gives them a bashful smile. They are "cool kids" to her.

"Do you want us to go?" one of them asks. "I mean, this is like a family moment and we're just the staff."

"We ain't people who have staff," Mark drawls. "Have some champagne."

As they refuse because they are working, he's pouring. "Just don't cut your fingers off. We had enough of that."

Jenni takes in their reaction to her lovely and strange fiancé. One of them sucks her lip ring as she checks him out. Jenni gives a sideways look to Evie to find her returning it with the same repressed smile.

Freddy has opened all the boxes. "They're all different." One is made mostly of lavender. He lifts it up to inhale the scent.

Jenni takes it from him. "That one goes with Evie," she says. It matches her clothing and is also the substance she's used in the past to calm her.

Evie is a cool customer but looks bewildered as Jenni places the lavender crown on her braided head. There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen at this wedding, no maid of honor. Yet, that was obviously how Jenni felt about her.

"Little Mama," she says.

Jenni punches her lightly on the shoulder. Evie feels emotion deeper than most, but hates sentimental displays. Jenni doesn't much care for them, either.

Mark decides that the crown of bright asters and snapdragons is Jasper's because he can pull off the color scheme better than his paler friends. It would fight with his boy's vivid hair. Jasper tilts his head curiously when he sees what Mark means to do, but then stands straight for him to set the flowers on his head. Like Evie, he wasn't expecting something for immediate family. Mark simply looks into his eyes with an enigmatic smile.

For Freddy, he chooses the one made of a variety of creamy white blossoms. They match his complexion, but the choice perhaps reveals that Mark views him as a bride. He'll always see his boy as his virgin because of his innocent nature. Even though Freddy's tangle of disparate desires is more complex than Mark's or Jenni's, he's the sanest of the three and has the purest heart.

Bastiaan films on his phone as Mark reaches up to place the crown on his little brother's head. He smiles sentimentally. Jenni recalls Freddy saying that he was going to be shocked by the news of his marriage. That was now officially a mystery. The paganism obviously doesn't shock him and the same-sex relationship doesn't either.

Freddy bends into Mark's kiss as gracefully as one of the sacred trees for which his family is named. His good hand lightly trails over Mark's naked back, not daring to touch him bolder in the middle of this gathering. That much bare skin surely has a powerful effect on him, especially with Mark looking as gorgeous as he does today.

Mark presses possessively on the back of his neck as he drinks him in. His other hand floats up to caress his cheek and, even with the slight smile he wears, he's able to tug sensually at his boy's blushing lips with his own.

Jenni wonders what the long white skirt will do for the massive hard-on she senses is on the way. She knows them well enough to know they're almost ready to skip the festivities and revel in each other's bodies.

Even though the sight of two men expressing affection is more commonplace nowadays, these two make it nearly impossible not to stare. One of the kitchen witches sighs involuntarily. Their leader nudges her and they file out around the couple to begin to bring in their feast.

Mark finally pulls away and shakes his messy hair. "Better stop that now," he growls softly. Freddy places the last flower crown on his Master, who had left the most minimal one for himself. There was no reason to gild the lily.

They all decide to get out of the way and wait in the backyard for their guests to arrive. It was about that time. Jenni sets the sign she'd made on the front porch: "Welcome! Please come around to the backyard." She'd drawn a bent arrow as if to explain how to find the back of the house.

"It's nice, but how dumb are our friends?" Freddy had teased her.

"A sign's supposed to have an arrow," she'd grumbled.

They'd moved all the porch furniture to the back and Freddy had bought some more to make a comfortable lounge area for most of the guests to hang out around the fireplace. "Auspicious weather," Bastiaan remarks sincerely about the dark grey sky. That must be a witch thing, Jenni notes. She's just glad it's cooler than typical for late summer. Nerves about the ceremony are threatening to cause her skin to respond with sweat.

They sit down and wait to receive their guests.

Lizbeth and Clarice arrive. If Lizbeth was at all put out to be invited to her sometimes lover's poly wedding, she covers it well. She had made sure to look extra desirable, with great attention to every detail of her summery appearance.

"Freddy!" Clarice shouts and charges for him.

"Who is this princess? I didn't know a princess would be gracing us today!" Freddy says.

"She insisted on the princess costume. And the wand."

"Ah, a fairy princess. Even better," he says like someone in the know.

"I'm hungry," Clarice announces. Right on cue, the girl on serving duty brings out a tray of elegant small bites for the drinks hour.

"There you go. Princess food for the hungry girl."

"Oh, she won't eat..." Lizbeth starts.

Clarice chooses a small cracker that looks like a grown-up PB&J with a light brown paste and shiny pomegranate seeds on top. She pops it in her mouth, pauses, then spins with a flourish of her wand.

"See, she likes it," Freddy says.

"Is that some kind of nut butter?" she asks.

"Um... in a way. It's a pâté made of Rocky Mountain oysters."

"You mean... she hardly eats anything and you got her to eat testicles?" Lizbeth whispers harshly. She's more annoyed he can bend the kid to his will without trying than that he fed her balls. Jenni has another flash of intuition: He's going to be the father of daughters. For all Mark's non-traditional masculinity, she can picture him running after a rambunctious little boy more than drinking imaginary tea from a tiny cup.

Freddy shrugs. "It's full of nutrients and will give her energy."

"Just what a four-year-old needs." Her tone changes from scolding to tenderness. "Oh my god, sweetie! What happened to your hand..."

The next guest to arrive is Ingrid, the client for whom Freddy had built an elaborate cat climbing structure. Mark stands as she makes her way across the grass because he spots an elderly lady using a walker. On closer inspection, it's a cat stroller. She's not particularly frail, just old and unusual. She's dressed in a Chanel suit and does seem like the kind of woman who follows Coco's adage about taking one thing off before leaving the house. Then adds a cat. Her white hair is swept up in a fresh coiffure.

Freddy rushes up to greet her. He holds his bandaged hand behind his back.

"Ingrid, I'm so pleased you could make it."

"Freek, you look so handsome," she says, using his given name and pronouncing it correctly.

"You look wonderful. And who is this fine fellow?"

"I brought Marcello. He's the one who likes to go places," she says about a Siamese who looks to be her age in cat years. He wears a bowtie. Freddy walks her to a comfortable seat and introduces her to the others. "Nicely done," she remarks to Freddy upon meeting his intended. He blushes and gets her a glass of champagne. "I brought a gift. Looking now at the bride, you may not want it," she laughs.

At the perplexed looks, she continues. "I was trying to think of what to get for a pagan wedding. Then I remembered: Vikings - my people - gave brides a kitten. It's good luck for fertility. I see you don't need it, but he is very cute. Do you like kittens?"

Jenni nods vigorously. "Yes!"

Those weren't polka dots on the colorful gift box resting on Marcello's stroller, but air holes and it did contain a little black kitten. Jenni cuddles it to her neck and gives Mark a look that says, 'You have no say in this matter.'

"I'm surprised this place don't have a black cat yet. Thank you, ma'am," he says.

Clarice wants to hold the kitten and Jenni reluctantly hands over the tiny purring creature.

"I love kittens," Lesley says. "Can I have a look at him, Clarice?" she asks gently.

The girl wedges herself between Lesley and her boyfriend to let her "help" hold him.

Jenni glances at Lizbeth who rolls her eyes and mouths the word "okay." Everyone knows she now owns a cat. At least the kid will have more to amuse her today than strange aphrodisiac taste experiences.

Dr. Mori arrives with her husband and Tom. A look at their new shrink's husband explains her macabre last name. Under the circumstances surrounding their relationship, Jenni always associated it with "remember you will die." Now she can see she's just married to a Japanese man. Totally unrelated origin.

Evie gives Tom a big hug. She doesn't ask how he's feeling, just smiles to show how happy she is to see him.

Mark makes the introductions and Dr. Mori seems genuinely curious about Freddy, as well as pleased for her patient. "Everything looks great," she says admiring what they've done with the yard. "So do you. He'd be happy," she adds poignantly.

Speaking of which, Jenni takes Tom by the hand. "I'd like to show you something if that's okay."

"Oh. Uh, okay," he says and allows himself to be led across the yard to the long table.

At the head of the table, in lieu of a place setting, there is an altar of sorts with a placard reading: "Dr. Lucien Zavodny. Always in our hearts." There are candles already burning surrounded by pinecones and flowers and heart-shaped stones.

"I didn't want you to be surprised to see this. If you don't like it, we'll take it away."

"Of course I like it," he says in a soft, sad voice. "He does, too. Is it crazy that I still feel him around sometimes?"

Jenni shakes her head. "We do, too. Oh. I guess there is something else we should ask you... we picked the name 'Lucien' for the baby, but that should be yours. It feels wrong not to ask your blessing about that."

Tom gazes into the candle flames. "There were some patients who seemed to suck the life out of him... he was always very fond of you. I think it's sweet. But I can't discuss this any further right now."

"Of course. Want some champagne? We also have some very interesting things to eat..."

They return to the group. The conversation is lively with the welcome sounds of tipsy laughter. Clarice is still enchanted by her kitten. More good food has arrived: Roasted peaches and dates filled with vegan cheese, watermelon wrapped in prosciutto for the carnivores. The server is attentive and keeps up with the champagne consumption. To Jenni, it seems almost a shame to have to break up such a successful party in order to do something that feels more desperately personal with each passing moment. She sits with Mark and he holds her close to him, understanding just how she feels.

Savina arrives in a dramatic midnight blue dress with a camera around her neck and a young, androgynous date on her arm. Jenni can't tell if Jamie is a boy or a girl and the cool, firm handshake is no help. It won't matter, especially not here.

"My wedding present," Savina says about the camera in her unintentionally haughty way. "I thought I could give you a collection of good photos." Jenni knows it's also the only way she won't be utterly bored and climbing out of her skin.

"That is so thoughtful!" she exclaims. Savina looks frightened the girl might press her body against hers. She does, but only briefly.

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