tagRomanceRisk Your Heart

Risk Your Heart


All rights reserved. No part of this novella may be reproduced without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations with credit to M.J. Roberts. Copyright © M.J. Roberts 2015.


This story won first place in Literotica's 2015 Summer Lovin' contest. If you like it, please make sure to give it the number of stars you think it deserves, to keep it on top of the top lists.


Dear Readers,

With every story I write, I try to add something to make it even better than the last. More romance, hotter sex, a character who battles his or her own inner demons the way we really do. Here's your chance to journey with two new people I hope you'll fall in love with.




The scarred man yanked a vicious-looking curved knife from his jacket and raised it high, aimed directly at me. I stopped breathing. A flash from oncoming headlights glinted off the knife as he prepared to strike. I wrenched open my car door and jumped out; we were moving at full speed.

The cold wind hit me first, an instant before the hard smack of the ground. I dropped and rolled. The impact on my back was so hard that my teeth clamped together, I tasted blood, but I didn't stop. I was up and running, barefoot, screaming with no sound, my pleading cries eaten up by the fierce winds.

The air itself taunted me, pressing me back as I hurled myself against it. I was running full out, my heart a thousand dogsleds trying to burst out of my chest, my sweat going from hot, to clammy, to cold in an instant, soaking me fast with my abject fear. I twisted to look behind me as I ran. I saw four more men, wearing white, Jason-like ski masks, and carrying long black wooden stakes raised high over their heads. I started to hyperventilate. I tripped.

I heard a voice from far away. The tone calm but firm. "Leah, you are perfectly safe. You are here in my office. Come back. You are perfectly safe."

My heart stopped beating for a second, and I jerked back with a gasp, jackknifing up to sitting so quickly I almost flew an inch off the couch. I put a hand to my chest.

Dr. Jeffington's kind face was drawn in concerned lines, his body leaning forward out of his chair. "Leah, look around you. You are right here, just where you started. Feel the couch under you," his voice was slow and soothing, almost medicinal. "Take some deep calming breaths."

My heartbeat was techno music on speed, and my eyes were like pinballs, my panicked gaze ricocheting from the paintings to the bookshelf to the desk, bouncing but not registering, until I focused on the sunlight streaming in through Dr. Jeff's window. The tree that had green leaves on it all spring looked as if some witch has sucked all its life juice from every cell and then cackled, a sad result from the late May/early June drought. I knew how it felt. Despite being freezing cold in most of my dream, I was sweating now.

I took a deep, steadying breath and held it, and then let it out very slowly. I let my hand drop from my chest. Reluctantly I looked at my therapist.

"Now, tell me what you saw in the dream," he said.

I shook my head. Tell him I was chased by faceless strange men, again? No thank you. You don't need a degree in psychology to read into that one.

"Leah, I can't help you if you don't talk to me. You were fine, and then you weren't. Why don't you start with—"

I got up. "I think that's enough for—"

"Leah, PTSD is normal in cases where—"

"—today," I said.

He sighed. "You are going to face your past some day, Leah. All of it."

"Gotta go," I said. I grabbed my purse, and walked out the door.


The Hershey's bar had melted in my purse, which was a total bummer because my post-therapy chocolate bar is the one weekly splurge that I allow myself. I sat in my black Ford Focus and banged my head against the wheel. I thought I might look like a blonde Muppet, moshing her head back and forth to Animal drumming or maybe banging my head to The Ramones' "My Brain is Hanging Upside Down".

I leaned back against the hot car seat, suddenly spent. I had one of those silver-colored windshield sunscreen thingies, but I had forgotten to stick it in the front window. I guess in the back of my mind I probably figured the car couldn't get that hot during a 50-minute therapy session. Wrong.

I thought about the dream, vision, whatever, again. Yes, it was awful, but I wasn't helpless. Maybe I wasn't just running away from something, maybe I was also running toward something.

The air conditioning in my car finally hit the point were it was blowing cool air, and I leaned toward the vent and peeled my shirt away from my chest at the neckline and flapped it back and forth in the air stream, enjoying the cool flow on the top of my breasts.

"It doesn't have to necessarily mean anything deep," I said to myself. "So, I have weird hypnosis sessions and freaky dreams. Steven King has freaky dreams too, and he's totally sane."

Somehow I didn't find that too reassuring.

I revved the car and carefully looked over my shoulder as I backed out of the parking space. I noticed I was checking my rearview mirror more than normal, as if I half expected zombies from The Walking Dead to acquire super speed and be able to run up to my car and grab on to the back bumper.

I pictured a bunch of them, in their torn clothes and gray make-up, hanging off the back of my Focus like an undead 'Just Married' streamer party favor. That made me smile.

I pictured the imaginary zombies losing grip, getting run over by the SUV behind me, and exploding into dust. That took the edge off. Imagination is good. I could probably beat these dreams just by thinking silly endings to them. Like Doc Jeff said, the answers to our problems had to come from within.


I canceled my therapy appointment for the next week, and the next. What can I say? I'm a coward. The temperature climbed to record highs, making me worried my air conditioner would break. As I spent most of my time at home in front of the computer, directly under the vent, the thought of an A/C failure was almost enough to give me a new set of nightmares.

I had a lot to be grateful for. Hershey bars, a great imagination, central air conditioning. I focused on that.

Ironically, as the temperatures outside got hotter, my dreamscapes got colder. I was often naked, or almost naked. When I ran in my nightmares I was so cold, my nipples stood out to sharp points that could cut glass as I tried to cover them, wrapping my arms around myself. My feet would slip on the sheer sheets of wet ice, my bare hands plunging into cold mixtures of ice and slush.

My dreams were getting worse. I couldn't remember the last time I slept through the night. The night I woke up screaming, I had to consider going back to counseling.

A summer in therapy. I'd managed to escape it for part of June, and I had had high hopes for skipping most of July. It wasn't how I wanted to spend my August either.

I had planned on ignoring my problems and catching up on all the back episodes of Game of Thrones.

Damn this need for peaceful sleep thing.

I called Dr. Jeff and made an appointment. I didn't exactly walk in with a jaunty step. I didn't hang my head, but it was close. It's a good thing I didn't have a tail, or I might have had it tucked between my legs, because, yeah, I wanted to be there. Right.

"No hypnosis this time," I said, after I said hello.

"Fine," Dr. Jeff said.

He had me fill out this form. It was more of a chart really.

"These are the main areas of a person's life," Dr. Jeff said.

Yeah. I could see that. You rated how well you were doing in which category and why. The categories were things like finance, physical, spouse relationship, family, friends' relationships, social, career, etc. Blah, blah.

I filled it out and handed it to him. I don't know exactly why he made me do it. He knew all this stuff about me. When I finished the chart he took out a marker and colored in the parts that needed work in red. It was a pie with three-quarters missing, a huge red chunk of life torn out.

"I wanted you to see this. You can't live like this and be okay. No one can live like this."

Social: none. Past: gah. Family: HAH! Spiritual: pfft. Mental: basket case with frequent Freddy Kruger. Career: good. Finance: eh. Health: good. Sex: imaginary. Romance: nix, nada, zip, hopeful. Happiness...intermittent.

Dr. Jeff had me color the rest of the chart in. Blue for the areas that were somewhat decent, purple for the areas I was totally satisfied with, and an orange over the red for the areas where I had a little more willingness to work.

The chart looked like one big sunburst. A volcanic stop sign. It was too overwhelming to fix.

"It's June 21st," Dr. Jeff said. "Officially the first day of summer. Traditionally spring is a time for planting and renewal, and summer is a time for really rejoicing and wholeheartedly embracing brand new activities. So we're going to start in and do new things."

I had been abused. Run away. Lived on the streets in some horrible times. Then my Dom had found me, and it had all changed. Eleven amazing years. Now he was dead, and I was looking at blood-red pie. My Dom had helped me with everything, how was I possibly going to....

"All right Leah, we're going to pick one category and work on that. Where do you want to start?"

How about canceling therapy?

"Okay, here's your assignment. You are going to volunteer for something," Doc Jeff said.


"Volunteer. Something that gets you involved with people and does good for others. By next week I want you involved in something new. You've got no religious or spiritual support either, that will be next. By next session I want to hear that you've joined a volunteer project and what it is."

I stood up. I got the same feeling I often had, that I never wanted to come back, but this time it was fierce. It rushed through me. "Thanks, Doc," I said.


Truthfully, I forgot about it. I work from home as a graphic artist, and a big project came up. I became engulfed in that. My dreams were a little less violent, my sleep a little less fitful, my ever-pressing need for sex a little less pressing. Fuck Dr. Jeff. I just needed time.

It made sense that June was rough. June of last year was when my Dom died. June was almost over. I was a mess, but I kept feeling like something magical was right around the corner. It was like when you see something move out of the corner of your eye, but when you turn to face it, it has already flashed out of sight.

July pressed in with three days of over 100-degree weather, and a heat index that cut like a sharp knife, peeling the skin off the landscape. The morning of July 4th the heat wave broke, as if Mother Nature wanted everyone to have a good time.

I opened my window to enjoy the 80-degree weather and the balmy breeze as I worked at my computer. Firecrackers boomed in the distance, even though they sounded vaguely like gunshots, they didn't bother me.

My apartment complex was having a 4th of July party, and by mid-afternoon I could hear kids playing, yelling, and splashing in the pool, and adults talking and laughing. I smelled barbecue sauce and pork and beans, and something that smelled sticky sweet, maybe cut watermelon; the scents carried up through my window by the gentle breeze.

I thought about going down, but it was my first Independence Day without Nick, and I really didn't feel like celebrating. Sitting in front of my computer I realized that I didn't know anyone in my apartment building. The one couple we had been friends with, a Dom/sub pair with the same age difference and general ways as us, moved away right after Nick died. Even though I had been alone for a year, I had blocked out the fact that I had been so lonely. Suddenly the loneliness felt like a yawing empty pit in my stomach that reminded me of the Grand Canyon.

I knew more appointments with Dr. Jeff would help, but somehow I thought it would take more than that. I got up and looked out my window. Dr. Jeff had wanted me to volunteer. I bit my lip. I had to live a little, and I knew I should love again, or at least love as much as I ever could again. I'd built a wall around my heart that never softened. It wouldn't be easy.

Sunday afternoon when I was driving I remembered the dream, the one with the masked men and the knife and the stakes. My mouth turned sour, as if rancid milk lined my tongue, then dehydrated quickly and sucked my tongue up so it stuck to the roof of my mouth. The back of my neck and my palms broke out in sweat, and the air conditioner quickly turned them cold and clammy. It was hard to breathe.

I drove on, not really paying attention to the turns.

I felt my throat constricting, closing up like a maze with the walls squeezing inwards. Sweat beads popped out of my pores, making a cold beaded curtain on my forehead and palms. There was a sudden fisting contraction of my stomach, and the feeling that an elephant was sitting on my heart. Oh, no biggie. I recognized the symptoms as a prelude to a full-on panic attack.

I paid attention to the green in the leaves that lined the road as they flew by the side of my vision and looked for a place to stop. Finally I pulled over into the lot of a big church with a broken steeple. I turned the car off and placed my forehead on the wheel. Had driving set off the dream because that hypnosis nightmare at Dr. Jeff's weeks ago had a car in it? Would I have trouble with driving now?

This was ridiculous. I had to do something. What had Dr. Jeff said? Volunteer. I looked up. I was at a church. Maybe they had... I don't know...bake sales or something. Probably nobody would be there on a Sunday late afternoon. I noted the name of the church and promised myself I would call them later.

I turned the key in the ignition and my car made a chk-cha-hick sound.


I tried it again. More sputtering. Fuck.

I dug my cell phone out of my purse. No reception. ARRRRGGGHHHHHH. Figures.

I got out and walked to the church doors fully expecting them to be locked. Nope. Open.

It was nicer inside than I expected. There was a hush, a loaded poignant silence, the kind you only get in sacred places. There was a ton of light. I walked around calling out and trying to find someone. I finally stopped in front of a bulletin board. I looked at the notices, everything from 'Jesus loves you' to 'need a babysitter'. I spied the church calendar out of the corner of my eye and was just going to check for a bake sale when a huge shaft of light landed on a notice. "Labor Day volunteer coordinators needed. Have fun, meet new people, and make a difference. Make it a 'labor of love'."

It was as if the flyer had a neon sign on it that said 'Yes, I mean you'. I was used to having my dominant telling me what to do. Now I was looking for direction from signs.

I stared at it. I considered just taking the notice off the board but decided not to. Forget it. Maybe. I took a few steps back, staring at the notice and digging into my purse for a pen at the same time. I was walking backwards while I looked down into my bag still not finding a pen....

And knocked someone over. Someone large. And hard. I landed on my back on top of him. Papers flew everywhere and both of us wiggled and floundered, unable to find purchase. The harder I tried to push up the more I just ground myself into him.

"Wait," he said. Then he rolled us, and he was on top of me.

Holy shit. Our eyes met, and I swear there was an electricity, a snap. I was frozen, mouth agape. He reminded me of my Dom. I stared into those brown eyes, only a few inches from mine, and was lost.

"I'm so sorry, I'm...." He got a knee on the floor but slipped on a paper, and he fell on top of me, hard, crushing my breasts. "Oh shit," he mumbled.

The paper wafted down. I tore my eyes away from him to look at it. I could see the letters --Day - -unteer.

"Freakin' glossy flyers," the guy said trying to get off me, and slipping. He fell on top of me again.

"God damn it!"

I laughed. "You're in church."

He rolled off me, and kept rolling until he was away from the paper pile. Then he sprung up. He walked back, watching his step, and offered me his hand. I took his hand, and very carefully stood up. Then I was face to face with him again.

It wasn't so much that he looked like my Dom. They were both brunettes, built, about 6'3, with brown eyes. So I understood why this guy reminded me of him. This guy was closer to my age. He had a face that was innocent, open and smiling. He reminded me of fields sparkling in the sun.

"I usually offer to buy a woman dinner before I try to get on top of her," he said.

I smiled back at him. "I usually request dessert first," I said.

He stuck out his hand. "I'm Drew."

"Leah," I said.

"Pleased to meet you," he said, and crouched down and began to sort the flyers into piles. There were at least four different colored flyers. I helped him sort.

"What do you do? Work at Kinkos?" I asked.

"Huh? No, no. I'm an assistant Deacon here. I'm in charge of volunteers."

My head swam. I said the words. Separately. "You're. In charge." I paused. "Of volunteers."


REALLLLLLY. Thank you Doctor Jeff.

"That's quite a coincidence. I came here looking for an opportunity to volunteer."

"Well, you came to the right guy. We've got the multi-denominational pre-holiday dinner, end-of-summer cleanup, adult literacy, kids' summer reading, home building, poverty and feeding volunteers, the Labor Day fair. Then there's publicity, recruiting—"

I broke into tears.

"Hey, hey. Wait. What?"

He put the piles of papers on a table and dragged over two metal folding chairs. "Sit," he said firmly and pointed. That I could do. After all, I was used to following orders. I sniffled.

Drew took both my hands in his. "Now. Tell me what's wrong."

I shook my head. What was I going to say? Hey, I'm a sub. I'm not used to being overwhelmed with choices. When there's a big brunet hunk around I'm used to him making the decisions and telling me what to do? I don't think so.

Drew lowered his voice. "You can tell me. Hey, I'm the assistant Deacon here. That's the same as the associate Deacon, the vice president Deacon, the honorary 'I comfort crying women all the time' Deacon. You can tell me. I do this all the time."

I had been looking down and I looked up at him a little bit through my lashes. "It's... silly. I... lost someone. Sometimes little things... are just too much." There, that didn't sound awful.

Drew took a deep breath. He held my hand briefly, for two or three seconds, no more, and then rubbed his thumb back and forth over the sensitive skin in the 'V' of my hand, where my thumb met my forefinger. It felt incredibly nice, calming and exciting at the same time. He stopped way too soon.

"Tell me what's bothering you," he said softly.

"I'm not even sure I can talk about it." I squeezed his fingers. "I'm just part wind-up toy that keeps going and going on automatic and part...." blinding need.

"Part what?" Drew asked.

I shook my head again.

"Okay," Drew said. He pulled his hands away from mine. "I'll tell you a story from my life instead. How about that?"

I nodded. "That would be great."

"I married my high school sweetheart. I was a big dweeb, a jerk, but I got the girl. Everyone thought we were too young to get married, but I wanted to nail it down, make sure that amazing cheerleader would be waking up next to me for the rest of my life. So the day we finished high school we eloped, and despite the naysayers we did really well."

Fuck. Married. I should have known. I looked down at his left hand. Gold band on his ring finger. I should have noticed it before.

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