tagBDSMRaw and Broken Ch. 06

Raw and Broken Ch. 06

bysecretsxywriter©

It has been a wonderfully enlightening and unexpected journey with Daphne. I hope you all have enjoyed the trip as much as I did writing it. The story has come to come to an end at some point, though. So everyone off the kinky train for this group. Thank you for your loyal readership! - SSW

***

Another tear slid from the corner of my eye and over my heated cheek while I waited for Stefan to reply. To explain what he was doing standing over me in Malcolm and Becca's mansion on a beach in Delaware when I'd left him in Paris not even two months ago.

He stared at me, his jaw twitching. When he did speak, I was glad I was already sitting.

"I came to get the backup keys to my aunt's beach house. I was taking a gamble that Malcolm—"

"He's in Chicago." My eyes widened. "Wait, you know my brother-in-law?"

His chuckle was faint. "Apparently I do, if Malcolm is your brother-in-law. We used to spend the summers out here with our families when we were kids. My aunt owns that house at the front of the— Hey, are you okay?"

I sniffed and wiggled my nose, trying to stop the impending flood I could feel building up inside me. But when I blinked, my eyelashes were damp. "I'm sorry. I'm still trying to grasp that you're here."

"Trust me, I hadn't expected you to be the one to open the door."

I waved my hand at him, unable to stop my chin from trembling. "What are the chances?"

He sat down on the edge of the coffee table, his hands clasped between where his arms rested on his thighs, his gaze down at the space between his feet. "I haven't talked to Malcolm in ages. But he had contacted my aunt last winter when a friend or relative of his no longer needed the house."

I frowned. "That would have been my husband, Drake. He rented it indefinitely while we tried to repair our marriage. Then he...well."

"I'm sorry."

I just nodded, unable to form any more words at the moment. While I had loved Drake very much, I had chosen to move on. But saying his name again brought back memories. And not exactly the good kind.

"She recently had a mild heart attack," Stefan said, thankfully derailing my train of thought. "She'll be fine, but she decided to move to Paris to live with my mother. We flew back to collect her in Arizona. It's already difficult to manage the rental property from there, much less overseas. So she asked me if I'd spruce up the beach house and look into realtors. Malcolm's family has always kept a spare set of keys in case of an emergency, and she said he was living out here now. So I thought..."

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to fathom what he had said. What this meant. Stefan and Malcolm had grown up together. Well, at least during the summers. He'd come to sell his aunt's house. Which meant he hadn't been searching for me. And he would be leaving once he'd taken care of business. He would be returning to Paris with his mother and aunt, to carry on the modeling business and his private fetish of erotic photography.

I wasn't sure why that last thought brought pains to my chest. And more tears. I'd convinced myself I was over him. He was just another man. We would both live our lives in our separate countries on our respective continents. Yet here he was again, making a scene at my front door.

He was so quiet, I had to open my eyes to verify he hadn't gotten up and left. That I wasn't dreaming. Suddenly, he shook his head.

"What?"

He looked up at me, a frown on his face. "It's hard seeing you again."

I stood and limped to the kitchen, thinking the bruise on my ass was going to linger longer than other times, mostly internally. There was a cabinet next to the fridge where I knew Malcolm had several keys on hooks. I searched through them, and lo and behold, there was one labeled 'Brunet.' Claudette and Stefan's last name. I retrieved the ring with two keys then returned to the living room. "I'm sorry I've caused you such distress. Here you go. You don't—"

"Stop it, Daphne."

"What? You just said—"

"That it was hard to see you." Stefan rose, towering over me. "Not that I didn't want to."

"I don't understand."

He brushed his fingers at my cheek, pushing my hair behind my ear. His voice was almost inaudible. "Do you have any idea how difficult it was to watch you get in that taxi? To watch you leave? Knowing you didn't feel the same way I did?"

My breath came out as a shudder as my eyelids lowered. If he only knew.

"I never thought I'd see you again. Hear your voice. Touch your skin."

My legs were shaking now. My mouth dry. I licked my lips and swallowed. I swear he groaned.

"Daphne, I'm not willing to call this a coincidence. I mean, what are the odds that you would be living here in the same freaking cul-de-sac that I spent my summers, related to an old friend of mine? That I would happen to come back to the states right now?"

I just shook my head, my heart thumping in my ears.

"I don't know what your plans are. But I'm going to be around for a few weeks. I have to get my aunt's house ready to put it on the market."

"Are you saying you want to spend time with me?"

"Woman," he said, his voice gravelly, "you can only imagine the things I want when it comes to you."

I gasped. He continued before I could say anything.

"But to answer your real question, yes. If you're willing, I'd like to hang out with you. Get to know you more on our own turf without all the models around. See where it goes from there."

"Our own turf? That's Chicago, for me. I'm out of my element here."

"I'm not."

I smirked at him. "Just where exactly did you grow up?"

He cleared his throat. "Southampton."

I smacked his arm. "Are you kidding me?"

"Not at all." His eyes suddenly bored into mine, his mouth a firm line. "Before we go any further..."

I had just inhaled through my mouth when he pressed his lips to mine, his hands palming my face. He took advantage of my surprise to slide his tongue into my mouth. To languidly draw my tongue into his. I think he moaned. I know I did. And for a moment, I forgot I could breathe through my nose while my mouth was preoccupied.

When he let me go, I staggered back to fall down on the couch and cried out. "Oh, God, my ass hurts."

"Well, that's the first time I've gotten that response after kissing a girl!"

"Just get the damn ice pack," I said, laughing with tears rolling down my face.

###

We spent Sunday sitting around talking. Being lazy. From what Malcolm had stocked for my presumably solitary week, we whipped up a salad and a cheese tray and sat out on the porch as the summer breeze blew in off the waves.

When Stefan asked about Drake, I only discussed the vanilla side of my late husband. He held me as I cried after telling him about Lilly. And after the sun had set, he kissed me gently and left to go back to his aunt's beach house.

I sat up in the observation room for a long time, just watching the stars through the open window. Wondering why I no longer felt nervous being with him. When I did go to bed, sleep came quickly. And I had a wonderful, peaceful rest.

He was back again in the morning, ringing the bell before seven. Thankfully, I had been up already to watch the sun rise and take a walk on the beach.

"Are you still on Paris time or something?" I let him in and went back to the kitchen.

"Something," Stefan said, following me. He leaned on the island. I could feel his eyes on me as I pulled two mugs from the cupboard. "Do you models always look so good when you roll out of bed?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

"Yes, I would. That's why I asked. But if you won't tell me, there are other ways to find out myself."

Heat filled my cheeks at what he was implying. "No. We're just like regular human beings with bedhead, bad breath, and hairy legs. Well, not the latter for me. I live on the beach right now. Anyway, I've been up for a bit."

"I see."

I fumbled with the pre-made cups and the buttons on the instant coffee machine. One mug done, I set the other one in place and started the machine whirring again. "I miss having a real cappuccino every morning. Oh, and the corner bakery. The cheese pastries? Mmm."

"See, I knew Paris had grown on you."

"I never said it hadn't." I set a frothy mug before him. I took a tentative sip out of mine and managed to swallow it. "Sorry, this is the best I can do."

"Do you have any plans today?" He watched me over the rim of his cup as he blew on it and took a sip as well. His slight grimace told me he didn't care for the watered-down drink, either.

"You don't have to drink it."

He took another sip. His lips pressed together, and I saw his Adam's apple rise and fall as he swallowed. "No, it's good."

"Liar." I tossed the contents of my cup into the sink. "It sucks. I know."

"Oh, thank God!" He quickly dumped his out as well and filled the mug with water from the fridge's dispenser, gulping it down. When he was done, he wiped the back of his hands across his mouth and smacked his lips.

I was trying very hard not to laugh but ended up failing. Miserably.

"So...do you have plans?"

"Let me check my calendar." I wiped at the tears in my eyes and pretended to pull out a notebook and flip through it. "Looks like I've got lying on the beach scheduled from now till sunset. But I think I can pencil something in. What did you have in mind?"

The corner of his mouth turned up. "Want to help me inventory my aunt's house? I need to get a list of repairs and see what else needs to be done to spiff up the place."

"You're really selling it, huh?"

"Yep, probably to some yuppie who will only come down from the Hamptons on the weekends during the summer to feel normal."

"Very funny. Have another glass of water while I go change."

"You look perfectly fine to me. Besides, you'll probably get sweaty."

I raised an eyebrow at him then looked down at my old shorts and the Justin Timberlake T-Shirt Drake had given me. I was so glad that I wasn't still drinking my fake cappuccino because I would have spit it out. I'd forgotten which T-shirt I'd grabbed before my walk.

"Come on, we have a lot of work to do," Stefan said, grabbing my hand.

We were halfway across the cul-de-sac when I said I'd forgotten the house keys. Anything to go back and change out of the suggestive shirt. He cleared his throat and pointed at my other hand.

I stared at the Eiffel Tower keyfob and the two keys dangling from it. I did not remember swiping them off the counter. But I'd done it so many times in Paris as I was running out the door to get to a shoot, it must have become second nature.

He continued his beeline to the other side of the circular road while I tried to think of some reason to turn around. But none came to me. And then we were slowing down, and my mind switched focus.

As crazy as it may seem, I had never been to Drake's rental property...or rather Stefan's aunt's house. Our group had always hung out at the mansion. Both Malcolm and Drake had said the other dwelling wasn't anything special, so we weren't missing much by not visiting. And I'd not really paid it much mind as we drove past it on occasion.

"Now don't hold back on me. Tell me what you really think." Stefan stopped in front of the house with a silver Audi parked in the driveway and flung his hands out. "Ta da!"

"Um...Yeah. How about, ta dump?"

"Seriously?"

I just stretched out my own hand at the property before us.

He scratched the back of his head. "I guess you're right."

The house was set back in a grove of trees that had gotten a bit overgrown. But it was actually a benefit in this situation. The biggest eyesore was the fact that the main living area of this house had been noticeably raised up from the ground level by at least eight feet. You needed to climb a flight of wooden steps to get to the front door. And then that was accessed through a screened-in porch. If you listened closely, I was sure you could hear banjos playing.

While the porch looked out onto the cul-de-sac and the beautiful homes surrounding it, the building as a whole looked subpar against them. Unworthy to be considered a beach house. Yet the location at the mouth of the circular road did provide foliage as a backdrop that the mansion and the other dwellings closer to the beach did not have. It just hadn't been maintained.

I had asked once, and Malcolm had said all of the houses were at raised heights to reduce flooding. But the curb appeal here was so...lacking. So unlike the gentle slope with stone steps that led to the mansion's black front door. Or the unique paths and stairs on the surrounding houses that had landscape and porches to hide the fact that they weren't on ground level. Surely there could be better away to mask this entrance?

There was an open-air porch directly above the screened-in one with just a wooden railing surrounding it. Drake had told me he could see the ocean over the rooftops of the other houses. While it probably offered a great view, it would be lost if the lower porch was removed to update the façade. It was a conundrum for the new owners, though, I guessed.

I told Stefan all of this. That he needed to find a way to keep the upper balcony but make the entrance more appealing. He wrote something down on a pad of paper he'd retrieved from the car. Asked me my opinions of what I would change. I faltered, but he insisted. He wanted to know what a woman thought. What would make the house more sellable. Because in this neighborhood, he said he hated to say it, but he agreed it was currently a dilapidated mess.

When he started toward the stairs, I asked, "What's in the garage?"

"Just some umbrellas, chairs, and sand toys. I got empty boxes from a local grocery store yesterday and threw them in there. A dumpster is being delivered tomorrow, and a donation center will take whatever is left. Which shouldn't be much beyond the basic furniture and some decorations."

I followed him up the creaky stairs, the two-by-four railing swaying without much effort on my part. "If anything, this has to be secured. It's unsafe."

"And we've just begun." He grunted and shook his head.

"Hey, you asked."

"I know. I know. Also, try to see past the bad paint jobs. What I need is a second pair of eyes to find major defects, like this. And your opinion on the layout. Does it flow? Can you imagine if you were living here, would you be able to work in the kitchen? Relax in the living room?"

I squinted at him, to which he raised his hands up.

"I'm just theorizing, Daphne. You said you have a degree in theatre. Pretend you're the new homeowner. What would you change? What would make you want to buy this house?"

I took a deep breath and made a comment about replacing the front door with something more substantial than the existing metal storm door. French doors maybe. Opening up the front of the house to the sorry-excuse for a beach property.

Stefan jotted down more notes. "You know, you're good at this?"

"I'm a woman," I said, grinning at him. But then my face fell. I almost cried. I could see why Drake hadn't invited us over.

As soon as we stepped through the front door, we were immediately in the kitchen-slash-dining area. To the left was a narrow lunch counter that barely looked wide enough for a plate. The peninsula cut the already cramped space into an even smaller area that was no bigger than the kitchen in my old studio apartment. The outdated counters and appliances were arranged in a C-shape with the sink centered along the outside wall. At least it had a window above it. Except that the view was of the screen room. And Stefan's aunt had placed one of those tall, plastic outdoor storage cabinets against the screen on the far side.

He mentioned that it was for storing beach towels. Before I could ask why they weren't inside the house, he said I'd find out soon enough. Then he asked me about the kitchen layout, as if that was the only problem with it.

There was a decent number of cupboards, and they reached up to the ceiling. Except the ceiling was made lower than normal by inset, boxy light fixtures that gave the room a yellow cast. I worried that Stefan wouldn't be able to stand up straight. I wondered if Drake ever had problems.

The two major appliances—the stove and fridge—were stained from years of use, and had probably been here since the Regan era. There would have been a decent amount of counter space between them, but half of it was taken up by a commercial-sized microwave. Which made me wonder if the oven and stove even worked.

A small pantry across from the sink had three shelves that barely looked deep enough to hold more than a handful of boxes or cans. Next to that were two bi-fold doors—also relics of years gone by when it came to design standards—that hid a stackable washer and dryer next to a small water-heater.

And that was the main food prep and cooking area in a nutshell. Almost literally.

I frowned. This was pathetic.

"Stefan, let's be honest. I don't know if this was considered to be upscale when your family bought it. But no woman would buy this place now based on this kitchen alone. Especially not without a dishwasher. You may have to narrow your market to just bachelors."

"We can put one in." He stepped into the kitchen area with me. And noticeably ducked his head.

The only positive about this area was that we could stand side-by-side. But it was very...cozy. I covered my mouth to muffle my laugh. "Where would you put it?"

He pointed to an area but apparently realized it wouldn't work. He turned to another wall, hesitated, and turned again. When he'd done a full circle of this, he shrugged. "Well...I don't know."

"Maybe we should move on."

He sighed. "Yeah."

I took five steps to the right...toward the door. I almost walked right through it and back to the mansion. But I'd promised I'd help him, so I surveyed what was being used as a dining area.

It was basically just an extension of the open living room that ran from the front door at least thirty feet to the other side of the house. There was a wide section of ceiling over the area where a picnic-style table had been placed in front of a picture window that looked out on the porch. It gave a good indication of the true height of the kitchen if the gaudy lights were removed. Beyond that, a vaulted ceiling defined the rest of the space as a great room. Except it wasn't so great.

The only other item in the area was a hutch on the east wall. The shelves and single drawer were bare. But the bottom cabinet had mismatched placemats, candles, and an empty picture frame with seashells haphazardly glued to it and 'Delaware' painted on in childish writing.

"Your handiwork?" I grinned at Stefan as I held it up.

He shook his head and laughed. "I can honestly say, no. Not sure where that came from. Maybe one of my cousins. So what's your analysis so far?"

"Well, you should probably gut the kitchen. This is supposed to be a beach house. You need to think Southampton meets Bethany Beach. Right now, it's just the house on the wrong side of the tracks."

"That bad?"

"The renters probably spend more time on the beach...and not just because they're at the ocean. I enjoy the surf and sand as much as the next beach bum, but when you've got a house in this location? You want to spend quality time enjoying it. Not just sleeping in it. And your new owners? They may not want it for a rental. Look at Malcolm and Becca. They've made a wonderful home for themselves out here all year round."

He pressed his lips together then let out a deep sigh.

"We don't have to do this. Or at least I don't, if it's upsetting you."

"No. It just sounds like more work than I was expecting to take on. We've only looked at two rooms. But you're right. It would be a good family home if it was updated. Anything else here before we move on?"

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