The Submission Sessions, страница 1
Copyright© 2014 Teri Fowler
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
Editor: Karyn White
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
THE SUBMISSION SESSIONS
Shades of Love, 3
Copyright © 2014
Kerri Robertson pushed open the heavy glass street door and walked in to the stark yet modern foyer of an office in New York's Lower East Side.
"Do you have an appointment?"
She turned around to find a tall, willowy receptionist crossing the foyer to greet her, wearing the kind of polite yet disinterested half smile that everyone in her profession seemed to have perfected. Kerri straightened her spine and raised herself to her full five feet four, hoping that the simple black shift and matching peplum jacket she'd chosen to wear that warm autumn day actually looked as nice on her curvy frame as she thought.
"I'm here to see Sebastian March."
The receptionist led her to a seating area through a door off the main hall and offered her a coffee, which Kerri refused, then seemed to glide off again in the general direction she had appeared from.
Kerri fingered the thick business card in her jacket pocket, the one embossed with the therapist's name and address, and felt the butterflies in her stomach kick into overdrive. One more time, she questioned her decision to come.
The internet hadn't provided much in-depth information on the psychosexual therapist her ex, Benjamin, had tried to force her to visit. How ironic was it that his attempt at controlling her had inadvertently given her the motivation to address an issue she'd been ignoring for a long time, but for her own sake, not his.
The way he'd tried to bully her into getting some counseling had been the catalyst for a life-changing, soul-destroying argument powerful enough to end their relationship forever. He'd called her an ice queen and accused her of being totally frigid. Ben had even gone so far as to tell her that most women would kill for a good black man like him who didn't date outside his race. Kerri had lost her cool then and told him to go ahead and try to find one, and see if he could manage to get her off, because he'd never been able to do it for her. He'd sneered in her face and told her that the other women he was seeing had no complaints. Kerri decided she'd heard enough and stormed out of his apartment … but only after throwing her drink in his smug, arrogant face.
She turned to find the source of the deep yet gentle male voice that had called her name. Her gaze landed on a tall, broad shouldered man dressed in a black v-neck jumper and dark blue jeans, walking towards her, his hand outstretched. A pair of piercing blue eyes met hers, and his handsome face split in to a warm, panty-melting smile that wouldn't be out of place on the cover of the magazine she worked for. He even had a tousled mess of short, dark hair, the kind that always made her think of sex because the owner looked like he'd just finished taking a tumble between the sheets.
His large hand clasped hers, the warmth of his flesh seeping into her chilled skin as his eyes seemed to lock with hers. Kerri got the distinct impression that he was trying to read her secrets as he stared down at her without speaking for a nerve racking second or so.
"Hello. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm—"
"Please tell me you're not the therapist." She hadn't meant to cut him off mid-sentence but, damn! Why does he have to be so gorgeous?
His dark brows knitted in confusion for just a moment, bunching low over his almost aquiline nose and totally changing his appearance. He was still just as devastatingly handsome, but now he looked a little menacing, and Kerri got the distinct impression that it probably wasn't a good idea to tangle with him if he was ever in a bad mood.
"Yes, I'm Sebastian March. Is that a problem?"
Heat crawled up her cheeks, and she realized he still had hold of her hand. Kerri slipped it out of his and shoved it in her pocket to finger his card again, nerves getting the better of her. "Oh, no. It's not a problem at all. I just expected someone … older, I guess."
He smiled again, and Kerri felt herself relax a little. "Don't worry, I'm probably quite a bit older than you, Miss Robertson. What are you? Twenty-five?"
"I'm thirty. But thanks for the compliment."
He gestured towards the open door across the hall. "Well, I'm thirty-five. Is that old enough for you?"
The gentle tease made her smile, and she followed him without further comment or complaint as he led her into his office. Once more, she didn't find what she expected. The room was plush and comfortable, in stark contrast to the foyer. Plump leather sofas scattered with cushions faced each other in the center of the room, forming a seating area with a fireplace at one end and a large, sunny window at the other. She looked for the chaise longue she thought she might find in a therapist's office, or the high backed leather chair she'd imagined him sitting in, but besides a few plants, a small table at the end of each sofa, and a thick sheepskin rug lying on top of the polished wooden floor, there was no more furniture in the room. It felt more like someone's home than it did a surgery of sorts, but she guessed that was the point.
A man sized indentation in the cushions of the sofa farthest away from her made it obvious that it was the one Sebastian usually sat in, so when he asked her to take a seat, she chose the other.
"Make yourself comfortable, Miss Robertson. Or can I call you Kerri?"
"Can I get you anything to drink?"
She shook her head as she perched on the edge of the seat and placed her bag on the floor beside her feet.
Sebastian chuckled under his breath and flopped down on to the sofa opposite. "Try and relax a little. You look like you're interviewing for a job."
There was no way she could ever be as relaxed as he seemed to be. She watched, speechless, as he slipped off his loafers and let his bare toes sink in to the plush fur rug. God, she envied him. She'd never been comfortable in her own skin, even when she was alone. Sebastian grinned over at her, his eyebrows raised as if waiting for her to follow his lead. There was little to no chance of that happening, but Kerri sat back in her seat and undid the button on her jacket as a compromise. His grin slipped a little, and his eyes narrowed while he studied her silently, and she got the sense he didn't need to be told that relaxing didn’t come easily for her.
Sebastian went through some routine stuff with her regarding his contract and what she could expect from him including details of his fee, guaranteed confidentiality, and a code of conduct he expected his clients to adhere to that required mutual respect between them and the therapist. Only half of what he said sank in. Kerri was having trouble keeping her attention off the biceps straining the fabric of his cashmere sweater each time he ran a hand through his hair, which was about once a minute.
"So, where shall we start? Do you want to tell me a little bit about yourself?"
A deep, cleansing breath did nothing to calm the butterflies in her stomach, but she ploughed on anyway. "I'm an editorial assistant for a magazine on Madison Avenue. It's hard work but interesting and fun. No kids. Haven't met the right guy yet. Large family. Parents live close by. I rent a s
Sebastian's wide mouth set into a firm line as he picked up a pad and pen from the table next to him and scribbled something down before turning those piercing blue eyes on her again. "That's what you are, not who you are. Tell me something about yourself that might surprise me."
His question caught her off guard. "Oh, wow. I don't know that anything I can tell you would surprise you, Sebastian."
The dazzling grin was back, along with a distinctly mischievous glint in his eyes. "Go on, Kerri. Try and shock me. I dare you."
The soft husky edge to his voice and the twinkle in his eyes made her think of sex again. No wonder he'd chosen this profession. Just a few minutes in his company probably made the average woman as horny as hell. But she wasn't the average woman. And he didn't make her feel horny.
Well, maybe just a little.
"You mean something personal?"
"If you wish."
"Nobody has ever given me an orgasm."
The words were out before she could stop them. Kerri looked down at her hands and wished for the sofa to open up and swallow her whole. She had no idea why she'd blurted it out, but she had and now she couldn't take it back.
To his credit, Seb didn't miss a beat, and his tone remained light and conversational. "Have you ever had an orgasm?"
She nodded without looking at him, terrified she'd be able to tell from his expression that he was judging her or, even worse, that he pitied her. Her gaze fixed one of his big toes where it rubbed gently back and forth across the surface of the sheepskin rug as though Seb was enjoying the feel of the fleece. Even his feet were sexy to look at.
"That's good news. It means there is no physical reason why you can't achieve a climax with a partner."
Kerri's first thought was that he should tell her something she didn't know, but then she acknowledged to herself that it was just her self-defense mechanism kicking in. She wondered what the good doctor would say if she were brave enough to tell him about Christopher. Would he come up with some mindless platitude that was supposed to instantly heal the emotional scars her first boyfriend had inflicted on her?
The soft squeak of leather told him he had shifted in his seat, and she could see out of the corner of her vision that he had moved closer to the edge of the sofa.
"Kerri, I want you to look at me." She tensed as she met his gaze, but it held none of the pity or judgment she'd feared. "It's important that you listen to me now. There is nothing wrong with you. You are a beautiful, intelligent woman who is capable of giving and receiving pleasure. Do you believe that?"
"I wish I did. I can give others pleasure, I know that much. But, for some reason, they never manage to do it for me. It feels good at first, but then my mind starts working overtime and I can sense my partner is getting bored of waiting for me to prove to him how skilled in the sack he is." Kerri knew her voice had gotten a little louder, but a she couldn't fight the sudden tidal wave of emotion coursing through her. "I mean, that's what it's all about when all is said and done, isn't it? Guys don't care about whether women enjoy having sex with them or not. All they care about is feeling like a stud."
It was sure as hell the only thing that mattered to Christopher. Even though she could look back on that awful night with him with adult eyes, and know that what happened wasn't her fault, the damage he'd done still paralyzed her. Kerri had been head over heels in love and totally excited about the thought of losing her virginity to him, but the experience had been nothing but a shameful mistake. In hindsight, she realized that Christopher had probably been a virgin, too, even though he'd claimed not to be. He hadn't taken the time to turn her on, and she didn't have the confidence to ask for what she wanted. The sex had been quick, cold, and so painful it made her cry. When it was over, the boy she was desperately in love with had pulled away in disgust, probably in an attempt to hide his shame at hurting her, and scared of finding out that he hadn't been very good. Christopher had lashed out at her when she wouldn't stop crying, calling Kerri a vile name and telling her that there was obviously something wrong with her because she hadn't enjoyed it. He had dumped her that night and openly mocked her each time he saw her at college in the weeks that followed. When Kerri finally found the courage to sleep with someone else a few years later, and the experience was less painful but only slightly more enjoyable than the first, she had come to the conclusion that Christopher was right and she was just one of those women who didn't enjoy sex. And every relationship she'd had since had just compounded the belief.
Sebastian scanned her face and nodded, as much to himself as her, and scribbled more notes down on his pad. "Do you think every woman believes that about guys or just you? Are all men the same, as far as you are concerned?"
"My friends are constantly raving about their sex lives or how good in bed their new boyfriend is. I know people exaggerate sometimes, but they can't all be lying."
"So you think it's just you?"
Kerri shrugged. "I guess it must be."
"But you said you orgasm when you masturbate, yes?"
"How do you stimulate yourself? Do you use toys or just your hands? Do you watch porn or read erotica?"
"All of the above."
Sebastian made more notes. "Good."
Kerri waited for the shame and embarrassment to wash over her as it always did whenever she tried to discuss sex with anyone, but the feelings didn't come. Seb's demeanor was so relaxed, accepting, and non-judgmental that it was easy to talk about such intimate things with him. Even if he was drop dead gorgeous. For some reason, that didn't matter right now.
His questions continued for the majority of their hour together until she finally broke down and admitted that Ben had been the one to suggest she should get some help. Confessing to a total stranger that yet another relationship had ended because of her failings wasn't easy.
Seb grimaced at the clock on the mantel. "Time is against us, I'm afraid, but we did some good work today. I'll give you some leaflets to take away to help you decide what kind of therapy you think might work for you. There are a few services I offer."
Kerri got to her feet and took the leaflets from him. "Thanks."
"One last thing before you go. It isn't healthy to apportion blame when a relationship breaks down. It's no more your fault than it was his. I hope you decide to continue therapy, either with me or someone older." He grinned again, and her stomach did a flip. So much for not caring how hot he was. "Seriously though, if we do meet again, I hope to hear that you've stopped giving yourself a hard time, okay?
Seb walked her to the street door and shook her hand again. "Have a read through the literature I gave you and take some time to think about whether you want to proceed, and then give my receptionist a call. I'd like to see you again, Kerri. I think we can do some good work together."
As he held her hand for a split second longer than was absolutely necessary, she had the feeling once more that he was trying to read her mind. This time, Kerri didn't pull her hand away—partly because she wanted to show him she wasn't scared of a bit of intimacy, and partly because being touched by him felt so damn good.
Later, tucked up in bed in her apartment, watching a rerun of Sex and the City, she thumbed through the leaflets he'd given her. One of them caught her attention so completely, she forgot all about the love triangle among Carrie, Aiden, and Big. According to the piece of paper clutched in her suddenly moist palm, Sebastian offered surrogate partner therapy.
At first, the thought repulsed her. But then, even as she tried to ignore it, Kerri began to get a mental picture of the gorgeous doctor running those wonderful hands of his all over her naked body as she lay on one of the sofas in his office. She could imagine the way his alabaster skin would contrast with the deep mahogany of her own, and almost feel the weight of him as she saw his massive body pressing hers down into the cushions.
As she put the leaflet down
Sebastian March checked the diary on his laptop again, looking for her name. For the last few days, he'd managed to convince himself that his interest in Kerri Robertson was purely professional, but he'd given up lying to himself about it. She fascinated him but not in the way his other clients did. Kerri was a staggeringly beautiful woman with a deep sensuality, and it was a crime against nature that she wouldn't allow herself to enjoy that part of herself.
When he shook her hand, he'd sensed the heat simmering beneath her buttoned up exterior, and the frustration coursing through her veins had been so intense, he'd almost pulled away. He'd fought the urge because he didn't want her to think he found her touch repulsive, and then have to explain his reaction by confessing to her that he was a psychic who had the ability to read other people's thoughts and emotions.
"Isabel?" Seb shouted through the open door to his receptionist, aware that he could just as easily speak to her via the internal line but desperate for a distraction from his thoughts. She appeared in the doorway, looking slightly alarmed. He'd never shouted for her attention before, and he'd probably just scared the crap out of her.
"Nothing. I just wondered if you'd updated the diary today."
Isabel's spine went rigid, and she raised an eyebrow in his direction, making it clear to him what she thought of being summoned in such a way for something so trivial. "No, I'm just about to do it. We had a couple of calls this morning. Is there something in particular you are looking for?"