Novel Name : Checklist J, K, L

Chapter 13

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Davina tensed when he called bullshit. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

“No, don’t pull back behind your walls.”

“Then don’t call something bullshit until I finish explaining it.”

He scrubbed his hands over his face. “You’re right, I’m sorry.”

Davina rolled her shoulders in an effort to relieve the tension. Trying to explain what she felt, and what
she needed, was hard when it was more of an amorphous idea than a clearly delineated thought.

Looking around the table, she picked up two similar sized bottles of hot sauce. “This is us at Las
Palmas.” She set the bottles down, then picked up the salt and pepper shakers. “And this is us trying to
have a relationship.” She set these down a few inches from the hot sauce pair.

“I need to know that these things can stay separate.” She put her hands on the outside of the various
condiments and started scooting them across the table towards one another.

Grif slid his knife into the narrow gap, stopping the forward progress. “We need a barrier. This knife.”

“Yes. Like I was saying, if we do one or the other, we remove the need for the knife.” She picked up the
salt and pepper shakers and the knife, leaving only the hot sauce on the table.

Grif took them from her, setting them back down. “I love you, Davina. If…doing both will hurt you, then
we’ll pick one or the other, but damn it, I want more than that. I want to fall asleep next to you, and
judge your Netflix queue, and see shitty movies and show you stuff I invent, and…” He waved his
hands in the air. “Life. I want to do life stuff with you.”

Davina had to swallow past the lump of emotion in her throat. “I want that too, but I’m so scared.”

Grif got up and came around to her side of the table, sliding onto the bench seat beside her. He put his
arm around her shoulders and kissed the side of her head. “We’ll figure this out. We just need a knife.”
He squeezed her shoulders. “Hey, wait, we already have a knife. Las Palmas is the knife. The Tabasco
sauces only exist at Las Palmas.”

“And if we were actual little glass containers, that would work, but we’re not. I don’t trust that the D/s
relationship won’t spill over. It will start small. As a joke when I beat you at a game of Mario Kart, you’ll
threaten to spank me.”

“First of all, you’d never beat me at Mario Kart, but go on.”

“Then we’d have a fight, a real fight, and you wouldn’t even mean to, but your voice would change, and
it would be your Dom voice, your Master voice, and I’d give in.”

“I would never do that, Davina. You know me.”

“You wouldn’t mean to,” she whispered. “I know that, but if we have equal power here—” She pointed
to the salt and pepper, then to the hot sauce, “but here it’s a power exchange, no matter what we do,
the scales will always be uneven.”

“So the knife needs to be a way for you to have more power? That’s easy. We switch off who’s the top
at Las Palmas. I’ll sub for you every other month.”

Davina’s heart lurched. “That is so sweet, but now that I know how good it feels to call you Master,
there’s no going back.”

“If you tell me that we can’t be together within an hour of telling me you love me, I’m going to…I don’t
know what. Davina, please. There’s a solution. We’ll find the knife, together.”

He’d been her sexual partner for years, and in that time he’d been a good partner, kind and
adventurous, fun and intense. “I love you, Grif. And I think I’ve loved you for far longer than I’ve

“And I love you. It’s nice to say it. Even better to hold you while I say it.”

He captured her lips in a gentle kiss. He tasted like salt and tequila, and smelled wonderfully familiar.

“I’m scared,” she whispered as they broke apart.

“All we can do is try.”

“I lost myself the last time I let a D/s relationship spill over.”

“I do not want that, at all. And I don’t mean to dismiss what happened to you in the past. Hey, unrelated
question, what’s Vance’s last name?”

“Don’t worry, I bought his company, liquidated it, and orchestrated it so he went bankrupt.”

Grif twisted so he could face her. “Uh, what was that?”

Her phone chimed. Davina picked it up, checked the message, and smiled. “I think I found our knife.”

“I am very confused, but you’re smiling, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign.”

“A very good sign.” She plucked one white and one yellow sugar packet from the sweetener options.

“There’s a third version of us?”

“Yes.” She set the knife aside, then positioned the sugar packets on the other side of the salt and
pepper, so each of the sets was in a line.

“If those are the knife, shouldn’t they go in the middle?”

“Forget the knife, we’re done with that analogy. And go back to your seat so I can see you.”

“And you are seriously worried about being too submissive in a relation-…I’m going, I’m going, stop
poking me with your bony fingers.” Grumbling, he returned to his side of the booth. Planting his elbows
on the table, he stared down at her little diorama.

She looked at him and a swell of affection mingled with need, love mingled with lust, nearly took her
breath away.

“Balance,” she said. “It’s all about balance. You’re probably right. If we just had these two—our spicy
D/s relationship, which we keep at Las Palmas, and our vanilla relationship, we would probably be fine.
You’re not Vance, and I’m not the same woman I was back then.”

He looked up, face soft and loving. She would die happy if she got to see Griffin look at her like that
every day.

“I will do anything to protect you, make you happy,” he murmured.

She hoped that was true, because she was about to drop a bombshell.

“But I need there to be balance,” she said softly. “On this side, you have the power. In the vanilla
relationship we have equal power.” Finally she pointed to the sugar packets. “But in our professional
lives, I have the power.”

Grif blinked. “Uh, come again?”

“You’re Lion Tail Tech, right?”

“Yes… Davina, what are you—”

“You said you’re backed by a venture capital firm, right? I’m guessing they essentially pay your living

He was frowning. “In exchange for first right to bid on anything I invent that isn’t under prior contract.”

“And what’s the name of the venture capital firm?”

“Kapa Capital.”

Davina held out her hand for him to shake. “Davina Kapadia, majority shareholder and CEO of Kapa

Grif’s eyes went round. “Holy shit. You’re…like my boss.”

Davina grinned. “Better than that, I own your ass professionally.” She tapped the sugar packets.

“You…you’re… But I never met you.”

“I’m sure you’re very good at what you do, but I don’t meet with everyone the firm invests in. I only
thought to check because the name—Lion Tail—is so unique I recognized it. You were probably
assessed by Sabah Bowler.”

“Uh, yea…”

“She works for me.”

“Holy shit.” He sat back. “So if we break up, or I piss you off, you could ruin me.”

The amusement and relief that she’d been feeling dissipated to be replaced by anxiety. She’d been so
caught up in the release of anxiety when she realized she’d be in a position of power, that she had that

safety net that assured her she wouldn’t end up losing herself, that she hadn’t stopped to think it

“I would never do that,” she rushed to say. “Never. I don’t actually have a lot to do with the day-to-day
relationships with our assets.”

“Your assets… That’s what I am. Your asset.”

Fuck. She’d played that all wrong, and from the way he was looking at her, she’d just lost him.

Davina poured more margarita into her glass, then chugged it, grimacing as the tequila burned her
throat. When she set the glass down with a snap, Grif was looking at her with a cold set to his features.
Angry. Disgusted.

She was such a fool.

“Well, at least we have hot sauce,” she said. “Unless that’s gone too. I can understand if you don’t want
to…I mean it might be weird for you to top me, knowing what I do.”

She reached for the pitcher again, but he caught her hand, lacing their fingers together. She hadn’t
expected that. Could he feel the way her hands were trembling?

“Balance, right?” He gestured to her strange little display. “You’re right, it is a little…unnerving…to think
about dating your investor. But that’s how you feel, right? Unnerved, nervous, about dating your

She nodded, swallowing against the desperate hope his words were raising inside her.

He took a deep breath. “If knowing that you have power over me in the sugar area is what makes you
feel safe enough to be in a relationship with me at salt and pepper, and submit to me over in hot sauce,
then… Then I’m damned glad you own my ass professionally.”

Relief made her light headed. She laughed softly and closed her eyes. “I was so scared I’d just ruined
it. I mean I know I had to tell you, once I guessed who you were, but I thought I’d lost you.”

“You can’t lose me. This is just the start of us. Or at least the salt and pepper us. Spice us, and sugar
us have been together for years, even if we didn’t know about sugar until now.”

Davina pushed up, thighs bumping the table as she leaned across to kiss him. She felt him smile
against her lips.

When she took her seat, it was with a sense of peace flowing through her veins, akin to that feeling she
got after finally collapsing into her favorite chair after a long day.

And yet she was also suddenly aware of the feeling of her nipples rubbing against the lace of her bra,
the seam of her jeans against her crotch.

“I do have a few questions,” he murmured. His heavy lidded eyes were her first clue that this was not
going to be a PG-13 question. “So when we role play with you as the heartless investor, and me as the
overworked inventor, begging for just a little more time to make his wonderful new invention work, and
you make me get on my knees to beg you, and then you pull up your skirt and make me lick that sweet
pussy…” He grinned. “Is that over here in the spice area, or since you’re the top in that situation, is it
more of a salt-and-pepper pretending to be sugar?”

Davina licked her lower lip. She very much wanted this man on his knees, with his face buried in her
pussy. “It’s going to be a right-now-in-the-parking-lot-thing if you keep talking like that. Have I
mentioned how sexy it is that you’re a switch?”

“Hmm, not yet, but good to know. And what about when I want to beta test a cool new smart vibrator
I’ve been tinkering with? When I slide it into your pussy and against your clit—” He raised his leg,
bracing his foot beside her on the bench so she couldn’t get out. “When I flip the switch that will track
your heartbeat, ramping up the vibration until you’re right on the edge of coming…” He used his other

foot to force her ankles apart. “And then reading your vitals to know when to back off, keeping you on
edge for hours…is that a spicy thing? I mean inventing stuff is more of the sugar area, so maybe we
should just meet in the middle with salt and pepper…”

Davina leaned out of the booth and caught their waitress’s eye. “Check, please!”

Grif chuckled.

“Role play is spicy,” she said, voice husky and breathy at the same time. “That vibrator thing is salt and
pepper. Vanilla people have vibrators, right?”

“Then I will keep role play with the Tabasco. I’m going to do whatever I need to make you feel safe.
Safe and loved.” Grif raised her hand to his lips, kissing her knuckles.

They might not have the answers, and there were more things about their relationship—or relationships
—that could go wrong than right, but when Grif reached across the table and took her hand, it didn’t
matter that they might not make it.

They were going to try.

* * *

If you like J is for… check out the bestselling Orchid Club series, starting with San Francisco Longing.

With each step he took, James was more and more captivated by the woman. When he stopped in
front of her, the toes of his shoes mere inches from her knees, he could hear her sharp inhale.

“Are you alone?” The question was blunt, but if she was with another Master, he wanted to know now.

“I’m just here to watch,” came her soft reply.

James looked around, weighed his options, then pushed the couch she was kneeling behind out of the
way. He grabbed a stool from nearby, placed it beside her, and sat. “Just watch?” he asked.

“I’m allowed to watch,” she said, but it almost sounded like a question. Like she was asking permission.

“I’d like to watch with you.”


“Are you collared?”

The question took her by surprise, because she looked up, for the first time meeting his gaze. Her face
was lovely, if not exactly classically beautiful. She had eyes the color of melted chocolate, and in the
dim light they seemed fathomless. She looked at him searchingly, and with such intensity that he sat
back, almost startled.

“Why?” she asked.

“Why what?”

“Why do you want to know if I’m collared?”

“Ah, you want to play the ingénue?”

She shook her head. “No. I’m not Mabel.”

It took him a moment to recognize her reference. The Pirates of Penzance. She was a fellow opera
lover. He’d been thinking she was more of a Julia from The Grand Duke.

He considered her. “May I watch with you?”

Another searching gaze, and then she glanced toward the floor, eyes submissively lowered.

“I’m not going to, uh, do anything tonight.” Her words were hesitant. “If you want to…do things…you
should go and, um, do them.”

James couldn’t let that pass. He reached out, cupped her chin, and forced her to look up. “I will do what
I want, brown eyes. Don’t presume to tell me what to do.”

Her lips parted, her breath fanned his wrist, and she shivered.

That look—at once surprised and nervous and full of desire. Desire roared through him. He would have
her. Maybe not tonight, but he would have her.

“What’s your name?” He softened his grip but didn’t release her chin.

She hesitated, then said, “Ana.”

She was lying; he could tell from her body language and tone. “Your real name.”


No last name, but that wasn’t unexpected. It had been bold of him to ask, but this lovely woman wasn’t
“Ana.” She was feminine, but not delicate, submissive, yet oddly reticent. It wasn’t uncommon for
members of the society to keep details about themselves private, and some even used pseudonyms.

“If you’re not interested in my attention, say so.” He released her chin. “You’re under no obligation to
me, or to anyone.”

“You just want to watch…with me?”

“May I ask you a question?”

“Do you need my permission?”

His lips quirked in a smile. “I was being polite.”

She paused, and surprised him when she replied, “I might not answer.”

“Intriguing. If you wanted me to leave, you’re going about it all wrong. Here is my question. Is this your
first gathering?”

She winced, and James realized in what poor taste that had been. He leaned forward, bracing his
elbows on his knees. “My sincerest apologies, Christiana.”

“It’s obvious?” she asked him.

James cursed himself. Normally he was more suave than this. Then again, normally he didn’t care
about the outcome of a conversation as much as he cared about the outcome of this conversation.

“I haven’t seen you before,” he said, making sure to tell the truth, though it was a somewhat round-
about answer to the question.

“I’m new,” she admitted softly. “And just here to—”

“Watch,” he said in tandem with her.

She looked up at him, then smiled ruefully. “I guess I said that already.”

“Once or twice. You’re really here on your own?” he asked softly. “No guide or sponsor?”

Her smile vanished to be replaced by a worried expression. “I, um…didn’t know I needed to have one. I
should go…”

James held up a hand. “It’s been so long since I joined that I’ve forgotten how we welcome new
members. Perhaps you’d allow me to make up for my lapse by acting as your guide tonight.”

She looked at him warily.

“And by that I mean I’ll be your companion as we watch the debauchery.”

“Debauchery.” She looked around again, then frowned. “How long have you been a member?”

“I’ll answer that question, if you answer mine. Will you allow me to watch with you?”

Her gaze searched his face. He tried to read her expression. She was wary, but also excited. He could
see that in the way the corners of her mouth moved, as if she were fighting a smile.

“I don’t even know your name,” she said.

“James Nolen,” he replied instantly. He had nothing to hide. The NDA members signed would prevent
her from spreading any Page Six-style gossip.

She looked around once more, then met his gaze. “Yes,” she whispered. “I will watch with you.”

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