Amber took her sweet time saying good-bye to Rob that Sunday afternoon after my seventeenth birthday. She’d kissed and cooed over him at the door of his convertible while I stood at the curb, knee bouncing, worried we’d miss our bus if we didn’t run for it soon. Worried that my mother would find out that we spent my birthday shacked up with Amber’s rich “uncle.” Mom’s wrath would have been tolerable, but the fear that she might keep me from spending time with Amber made me fiercely anxious. That weekend was the first time I’d explored my sexuality. The first time I’d felt sensual. The first time I’d experienced real desire. Now my life had possibilities; I didn’t want to go back to before.
“Amber.” I’d meant to nudge her gently, but I couldn’t mask my anxiety. Her name was both a prayer and a curse.
She’d twisted her head sharply in my direction, the arch of her eyebrow letting me know she hadn’t appreciated being rushed. She’d worn that expression only a few seconds before her features had relaxed and her lips slid into a playful grin.
“Emily,” she’d called to me, sugar dripping from her voice. “Don’t you think Rob deserves a decent kiss for all he’s done for us?”
“Of course he does.” I’d matched her sweetness, though I’d been pretty sure that most of what had been “done” had been done for Rob, not that I’d objected. It had been fun and he’d bought us pretty things and given us pretty drugs and that had been well worth the blow jobs and the aching thigh muscles. “Just, the bus…”
She either hadn’t heard me or hadn’t been as concerned about the time because she beckoned me closer with a nod. “Come say good-bye to him, Em. Come kiss him.”
At her request my pulse had begun to race, my cheeks flushed, and heat barreled between my thighs, and not simply because I’d wanted one last kiss. My concern about the bus had faded into the distance, so I’d taken the three steps over to them, then tilted my chin up and met his mouth with mine, letting my tongue dot against the tip of his before sliding it along the curve of his upper lip.
“Jesus, Em. The bus is about to leave. We have to run.” Amber’s inflection had been teasing, proving she’d been aware of my distress all along. Grabbing my hand, she’d tugged me away from our “uncle.” She’d waved to him once more before we broke into a run, making our ride just as the doors had been about to close.
We’d taken a seat in the back, and, once we’d caught our breath, lost it again in a fit of giggles. “He’s great, isn’t he?” she’d asked after we’d settled down, but before I could respond, she’d bounded on. “I knew you’d like him. You didn’t mind when I got bossy back there, did you? When I told you to kiss Rob good-bye?”
“Not at all. I liked kissing him.” It had felt like a lie, or at least, not the whole truth. I had liked everything we’d done that weekend together, the three of us. Every new experience. But half the reason I’d enjoyed that last kiss so much hadn’t been because of what it was – the feel of lips on lips, the twining of the wet, thick muscles of tongues – but because Amber had told me to do it… ordered me out of equal parts playfulness and love.
It wasn’t the first time I had recognized my desire to submit. When we’d met several months before, Amber had uncovered my longing to yield. To please. To surrender.
But this time her command had also awoken my sexual tastes. She had summoned a creature to life inside me – a deeply seated beast with an appetite for carnality and a desperate need to be stroked as she knelt at the foot of the one who would feed her.
It was then I caught the first glimpse of the person I would become, and the role Amber would play in my life as the first master I wanted to please.
My feet moved automatically, pulled by a force that couldn’t be simplified with a label of compassion or curiosity or obligation. I crouched in front of Reeve and took Amber’s limp wrist into my hands. My body was present, going through the motions of a concerned friend, but my head was in a fog. The smell of sex still lingered in my nose, the orgasms Reeve had given me still rang through me, low and wide, like the faintest waves sounding off a tuning fork.
Then there had been Reeve’s declaration. He’d hinted both that he loved me and that he knew who I was, knew that I’d been Amber’s friend. That had sent me into shock long before I’d been confronted with her ghost in the flesh.
She was supposed to be dead.
I was confused. I was relieved. I was more than a little scared.
Around me there was a buzz of voices, discussing Amber, but nothing they said made sense. All I heard was a steady drone and her whimpers softer than when I’d first seen her and barely audible. She didn’t seem to be conscious, whatever pain she carried was so great that it slipped out in her sleep.
Reeve tried to get her eyes to open, slapping gently at her face with the same hand that had caressed me earlier in the evening, had been inside my mouth and cunt. The concern etched on his face and the tight emotion in his tone as he coaxed her were mirrors of the way he’d spoken to me in our most intimate moments.
“Emily. It’s you,” Amber whispered.
My focus snapped to her. I was aware now – of her, of her injured state, of the frenzy occurring on her behalf. Aware that Reeve now knew conclusively that his Amber was also my Amber.
“Yes, it’s me.” I stroked the length of her arm, forcing my gaze not to zoom in on her black eyes, her bruised nose, the sallow color of her skin. She’d been beaten badly. Her body was stick thin, her wrist fragile under my hands. I wrapped my fingers around it and registered a pulse, stronger than I’d expected from the near skeletal figure before me. This couldn’t be the confident, vibrant woman that I’d known, and yet she couldn’t be anyone else. My shoulders threatened to sag with guilt and grief, and my throat felt coarse like I’d swallowed sand.