Coming August 16th, 2022
One year ago
From heights of sixty to eighty feet, it takes up to three and a half seconds to hit the water. In that brief moment of time, a thousand thoughts, images, or feelings rush through my mind. Sometimes during the fall, I’d worry I’d forgotten how. The air would rush past my body, but I’d keep my eye on the landing—growing closer each fraction of a second—as I’d tuck and somersault or straighten into an arrow. With three seconds to freefall, you enter at such a force that if any part of your body is out of line, it will break. But I’d trained for this. My body knew exactly what to do. When I hit the water, profound silence—as near to death as I could imagine—allowed me to forget what I’d done.
I had a suitcase packed and ready under the defense table in the courtroom. The prosecutor Aaron Stroheim and I gave our closing speeches, and the jurors filed out to deliberate. They didn’t take long to come up with a verdict, my case was solid. My client was acquitted.
As soon as the foreperson read the verdict, I lowered my head and began to gather my things. I wanted to get as far away from Cook County Courthouse as I could. I alone knew Martin Liebert was guilty of raping his young associate.
“Thank you, Miss Green.” Martin’s congratulatory tone sickened me. He opened his arms.
I avoided his embrace, nodded, and politely congratulated him. Then I turned my back on the courtroom and dove through the crowded hallway. Reporters shoved microphones into my space as I dodged one question after another. The security guards cleared the way for me. Four officers escorted me through the crowd of journalists and female protesters throwing hateful words like stones. I felt shamed like Cersei Lannister in later episodes of Game of Thrones.
I ducked into the nearest cab. “O’Hare, please. Delta departures.” A week of vacation was exactly what I needed to put my head back on straight.
Martin Liebert, aka Slippery Marty as the media nicknamed him, was an investment broker. He had been arrested and charged with raping Leeann Reigns. Other victims had accused him of inappropriate conduct and assault in the workplace. It was his fourth offense like this, the first to go to trial.
I didn’t like him from the start, but I was a young attorney working for a big firm. Allegedly, Slippery Marty had gotten in an argument with Leeann about an investment client, a local politician. Leeann had given this politician financial advice and subsequently “stole” him away from Liebert. As a result, Marty lost hundreds of thousands in projected income.
He threatened Leanne in front of her eight-year-old daughter, then took Leanne to her bedroom and raped her. In my defense arguments, I discounted the child’s witness testimony and maintained that Leeann had wanted Marty’s job. I painted her as a power- hungry, ladder-climbing bitch. I told the jury she led him on. That her nuances couldn’t be understood by an eight-year-old. The jury sided with me, a female defense attorney. No wonder Milton, Wallace & Edwards appointed me.
Marty confessed to me. He would have confessed to God if he believed in such a thing. I tried to refuse him the opportunity, but not quickly enough. He told me how he’d pinned her to the bed and unzipped her pants while she squirmed.
I’d helped exonerate him. His sins became mine.
After my earlier success defending other sexual predators, Milton, Wallace, & Edwards assigned to me the most high-profile rape and sexual misconduct cases. I didn’t get to choose. I took these controversial cases with the promise of a long and successful career. So far, I was on a winning streak and my upcoming twenty-ninth birthday would be a milestone to remember. My reputation for acquitting bad men was growing. And now, I had seven days to consider my sins against humanity. Seven days alone with my cell phone turned off. Seven days to escape the hell in my mind.
The only people who knew I was traveling were my boss Jim Milton and my paralegal, Christina. They had no idea where, and I told Christina I’d be someplace with no service. Toting a small carry-on filled with essentials—a sundress, bathing suit, toiletries, and athletic shoes—I checked in at the airline kiosk. In line for TSA, I avoided people’s gazes and kept my eyes on the floor. Once through security, I put my shoes back on and caught my breath before heading to my departure gate.
Anonymous, I wandered the streets of Dubrovnik and admired the quaint and beautiful ancient coastal city in Croatia. Centuries-old buildings with red tiled roofs and cathedrals from bygone eras lined the streets. No one here knew me. Bright sunshine washed away the storm cloud of post-trial negativity. With no commitments and no cellphone, I could breathe. On these cobblestone streets I was simply one of a thousand tourists with a Game of Thrones guidebook. Long lines of visitors filed into Fort Lovrijenac, the home of King’s Landing, made famous by the book and subsequent HBO series. Though these sites thrilled me, recalling the magnificent cinematography of the popular series wasn’t why I’d come.
During the nearly direct flight to Croatia, I killed time researching my tombstoning jump site. After placing third in the National Diving Championships in college, I’d discovered a way to cleanse my soul—metaphorically—by jumping into the arms of God and into water several dozen meters below. Tombstoning, as it was called, freed me from mental torture, chains I wrapped around myself after each trial.
The rocky coasts surrounding this region jutted over clear, azure water. The private tour guide and his translator drove me in a speed boat around numerous Croatian islands where I searched for an ideal diving location. From the water, I looked up at the tortuous cliffs surrounding Stiniva Beach and the Blue Cave. Uninhabited rocky outcrops, like the peaks of a sunken mountain range, dotted the Adriatic Sea. During the day trip, we finally anchored near Mana Island. Here, I climbed the pale, square rock formations and dove a dozen meters into the green-blue sea. My audience of two gave me a standing ovation. I tipped them a thousand euros because their applause didn’t feel earned. I wanted a higher cliff. Something more dangerous.
At Dugi Otok Island, a wall of tan and orange rock met the sea. This location provided the tallest cliffs, some reaching 160 meters above the ocean waves. My crew reluctantly stood lookout while I climbed the face to a tiny ledge. Twenty meters above the turquoise water, I faced the wall. With just enough room to bend my knees in preparation, I sprang backward.
The rock crumbled beneath my toes as I pushed off, diminishing the force of my kickoff. Because of the weak launch, I had no time to arch my back and entered the water feet first at an angle. The crooked entry snapped my left ankle to the side, tearing the extensor tendons on the top of my foot. Disheartened, I swam slowly back to the boat.
For the rest of my trip, I wrapped my foot and babied it. I applied heat and ice every few hours and massaged it with medicated salve I’d found in a local drug store.
Late on my fifth day I dined at a five-star restaurant overlooking the Adriatic Sea. A pair of gentlemen flirted with me from across the patio. On their way out, they sent a bottle of champagne to my table. I didn’t finish even one glass, so before I left, I gave the bottle to a couple who seemed to be enjoying the night and each other. I had no idea those two gentlemen would play a greater part in my life the following year.
By taxi, I returned to the hotel, donned my bathing suit, and wrapped my foot in supportive, waterproof Coban. I gathered a few tools and walked from the hotel to the pier. My tour guide and I left Pile Bay at midnight. His translator assured me this was not the best time to see the area, but I didn’t want a visual spectacle. I wanted to be alone when I dove.
On the south side of the Island of Vis, Stiniva Beach offered the best opportunity for my dangerous mission. The populated island where soaring white cliffs protected a pristine, white sand beach, was a tourist attraction frequented by beachgoers and boaters. An array of lounge chairs lay in wait for the next wave of sunbathers. In the cove, my guide dropped anchor about thirty feet from shore, away from a half dozen boats floating beside buoys. I paid my drivers double their rate and tipped them another thousand euros then told them to leave me. Money in hand, they reluctantly agreed. I slipped into the salty ocean and swam to the beach.
I’m not a solo climber but I had practiced at a climbing gym. I gripped the wall tentatively as dull pain throbbed in my ankle. Despite it, I maintained the kind of control that eventually beats a person down. I convinced myself—just as I had convinced the jury—that there was no doubt, no pain, and nothing wrong. I craved having that control taken away. I wanted to be punished for playing God with another person’s life.
When I reached the peak, the fragrant smell of rosemary growing wild among these rocks bloomed as I hiked through the knee-high plants. The piney scent filled the air. A sliver of moon rose to the east. Uneven footing jostled my swollen ankle. A loose pile of rocks collapsed under my weight, causing me to fall on my butt and slide about ten feet. I caught myself but scraped the heels of both hands as dislodged stones tumbled down the cliff. I pressed onward.
Adrenaline made me impervious to the pain in my bleeding palms. If I could locate it, the ideal jump site dropped straight into the undulating water below. Where I approached the point, the sky turned from black to cerulean blue over the sea. Dark shadow enveloped the rocky wall all the way to the water below. During daylight, I had found the deepest water to safely plunge into but hadn’t anticipated how black the sea would be at night.
While checking the stability of the stones beneath my feet I stepped out on the ledge. Visibility increased with the light of dawn. Quickening my forward progress, I finally reached the edge and looked into the black waves below. In the daytime, the water was so clear that rocks beneath the surface were apparent. Their location obvious. I recalled that I needed to propel outward about fifteen feet to avoid collision.
Salty breezes whipped my hair into my mouth. Dark water splashed below promising to wash away my sins. Euphoria, fear, excitement, all mixed together in my personal brand of escapism. In the time it took to hit the water, I would have no control. My burdens would remain on this ledge. And then. . . quiet forgiveness would silence my mind.
My arms rested at my sides. I curled my toes over the edge of the stony cliff and looked downward. Three seconds of freefall. It was enough. I looked toward the horizon where black water met purple sky, then closed my eyes. I inhaled deeply, bent my knees, swung my arms, and propelled outward, away from the rocky ledge.
The launch was a perfect 6.0. In flight, I twisted into a somersault then hit the cool water feet first with minimal splash. As I went under, something tore at my leg.
The force of the impact told me what my senses could not. I didn’t feel the gash as I should have, as I kicked away from the unseen rock and rose to the surface. My fingers found the side of my thigh where sharp coral had torn my leg wide open. But cool water and cortisol denied me the onset of pain.
Winded, I floated on my back and gently kicked my way toward shore. In the shallow water, I limped to the beach. I needed to sit but couldn’t afford to get any sand in the wound. In the dark night, I couldn’t see the extent of it. Air stung the bleeding gash and now pain registered in my nervous system. I collapsed on a beach lounger and groaned. My vision clouded, and I knew I was losing a lot of blood. As darkness threatened my consciousness, I pulled from my belt bag the Ziplock baggie protecting my cellphone and called my translator.
In the dim light of the streetlamp, a bloody trail connected me to the sea.
Present day, late July
The orange Chicago skyline glowed like fires burning in the distance. The sun hadn’t yet gone down on the sizzling summer evening. In Jonathon Heun’s Lake Forest mansion, I closed the floor-to-ceiling curtains of the luxurious first-floor bedroom windows then lit two candles. I dabbed on tinted lip-gloss and stripped off every bit of clothing, then fastened tightly around my neck the diamond-studded collar that Jonathon, my lover, had given me weeks ago.
Earlier, I’d printed out the document written by Jonathon: the Elements of Submission contract which described the relationship I was about to dive into with him. I’d taken two days to read it. Two days to read my lover.
The contract outlined consensual sex play between a dominant and submissive. It listed sadistic pleasures to be given or received, including the acts of piercing and tattooing, caning, and nipple torture. Invasive devices—gags and anal plugs—were among the toys listed in the contract. Jonathon asked me to check off items and label them as hard or soft limits.
Until a week ago, Jonathon had been my client. I was his criminal lawyer in a case where he—it later turned out—had been nothing more than a person of interest. He’d hired me because he had the money to do so. As the CEO for a top-ten Forbes-listed software company, he needed to protect himself and his assets.
As the case progressed, my role as Jonathon’s criminal lawyer became moot. We helped investigators work to solve the murder cases and after the killer came for me, our contract dissolved.
Yet during that time, our interests in each other had bloomed.
Afterward, Jonathon brought me to his mansion in Lake Forest, Illinois, because—I thought—he wanted to pursue a relationship with me. At first, I’d taken his offer of the contract as a power play. But I realized I’d read him wrong. This new contract defined our roles. It allowed me to give or deny consent to certain activities related to sex play. By signing it, I gained power, too. It gave me the ability to define the activities we would explore together. Most importantly, it gave me what I’d ultimately wanted. Punishment.
By now I’d read the contract dozens of times. I knew it as well as the legal documents I wrote for my clients. With Jonathon as my dominant partner, he would have control in the bedroom. His job would include decisions to deliver pleasure and pain by various means. I would be his submissive, the recipient of his rulings. By signing the contract, I gave him the right to bind my ankles and wrists. I gave him the right to whip me or pour hot wax on me. I gave him the right to control my orgasms.
When I signed the contract, I set no limits and repealed none of the suggested activities. I wanted to try them all. My safeword tombstone gave me an out if I needed it. Otherwise, Jonathon would have unlimited domination over me, and that was my choice. I wanted Jonathon to master me and loved the pain as much as the pleasure. I needed to lose control.
I placed the contract on the foot of the bed in front of me then positioned myself kneeling with my knees spread wide, wearing nothing but his diamond-studded collar. When Jonathan entered the room, I held my breath.
Black hair framed intense blue eyes above his straight nose and chiseled jaw. From across the room his powerful energy fluttered my heart. His tall muscular body could shield and protect or overpower and conquer me. Tonight, I chose the conqueror.
He closed the door. His eyes may have needed to adjust to the dim candlelight because he took time to soak up the ambience. Slowly, a wicked smile spread across his lips. “What mischief are you up to?”
I nodded to indicate the contract lying at the foot of the bed.
Jonathon picked up the paper. “Elements of Submission?” he said, flipping to the second page. “You’ve signed it.”
Jonathon regarded me carefully and then frowned. He set the contract down on a table, took off his suit jacket and loosened his blood-red tie. He paused and looked over the pages. “You’ve set no limits of play.”
“I’ll use a safeword if I need to.”
Am I reading him wrong? Is he uncomfortable with this?
He said, “I hope you’ve made a conscientious decision, Mina. With a contract in place, I’ll expect more from you. If you don’t comply with the rules, punishments will be severe. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” The tingling thrill of submitting to him cascaded down my back. I smiled.
He took a deep breath and picked up the pen. “Are you absolutely certain, Mina? BDSM is an intense lifestyle, one that I take seriously.”
“Yes, Jonathon. I’ve thought it over carefully.”
“As dominant, I reserve the right to make changes to this document based on your good behavior and/or transgressions. Once I’ve signed it, I reserve the right to make decisions for you regarding this document. This will not change how you behave in the real world, or how you do your job, but it changes things between you and me to a large degree.”
“I’m aware of that, Mr. Huen. I like rules.”
His smile and chuckle broke through thick air. “My expectations of your behavior will also change. Having signed this, you’ll need to follow the rules, Ms. Green, or pay the consequences.”
I nodded. “Aren’t rules made for breaking?”
“I don’t think you would have said that a month ago.” His white teeth flashed behind his grin.
I shrugged. “Things have changed.”
Jonathon seemed to think it over. Heavy regard for the situation drew lines around his mouth. We both understood the ramifications of a signed contract. He waited; I think he expected me to back down, so I stared into his eyes without faltering.
He took a slow breath, and a distinct change came over him—so subtle that I couldn’t identify it—and he leaned over the table and signed. “Now you are mine. I control your pleasure and your pain. I am your Master.”
Just as some people become addicted to extreme sports or tattooing, I longed for this. I savored the anxiety mingled with excitement that sent my blood racing for what would come next. Adrenaline flooded my veins. Three seconds of free fall. Three seconds to wonder if I’d made the right choice . . . splash. I was ready for this. I was ready to submit to Jonathon.
His hand came down hard on the bed as he leaned toward me. He whispered the command, “Put your head down and extend your arms out in front of you with your wrists crossed, Mina.”
In yoga it’s called Child’s Pose. It’s a vulnerable posture. I lowered my head in a submissive manner. My naked butt raised up in the air, exposed. I heard him unbuttoning his shirt and longed to look up at his strong physique. Instead, I waited for his instructions.
Jonathon tied my wrists together with something soft. He stood beside the bed and caressed my shoulders, gently stroking downward. I tingled at his touch. Though I wanted it, I’d asked for it, we hadn’t had rough sex since Jonathon brought me to his house in Lake Forest.
“Your skin is soft and smooth,” he said.
“And your hand is warm and gentle.” I turned to see his face. As his gaze met mine, something like doubt crossed his features. It seemed fleeting. But I wondered, was he as hesitant and uncertain about this as I?
His blood-red necktie encircled my wrists. Jonathon helped me rise and I lifted my bound-together hands to his chest. His arms. His broad shoulders.
I asked, “What do you want, Jonathon?”
“I want to please you. I want you to be happy, Mina. And if this is how you want it, how you want me—”
“I thought you wanted it, too.”
He dropped his chin and for a moment, Jonathan looked down at our feet. He said, “I realize what a big step this is in our relationship. This contract will simply clarify our roles. That’s important to me.” His sexy, silky voice hummed. “If you want me to take control—if that’s what pleases you—then I’ll do as you wish. The submissive—”
“—has all the power. You’ve said that before.” I held out my wrists to him. “Take control, Jonathon. Punish me.”
He gave a slight nod and looked into my eyes. The hungry look on his face, like a tiger observing his prey, made me want to kiss him.
He said, “I did not give you permission to look at me. Keep your eyes down.”
I dropped my gaze and smiled. The red tie looped around my wrists reminded me of Fifty Shades of Grey. The irony didn’t get past me.
Jonathon stepped closer and lifted my chin in a rough manner. “Is something funny? Tell me what’s funny.”
I tried not to look at him and replied, “Why? Does it bother you that I’m smiling? Don’t you want to spank me?”
The corners of Jonathon’s lips curled upward. In one swift movement, he tossed me over his knee. Aware of his overpowering strength, I didn’t fight. I wanted the reprimand. With his flat hand, he gave me just what I’d asked for. Repeated blows left no time to recover in between. I gasped and cried out with the fiery burn of his slaps. As my skin heated, sharp pain caused my mound to warm. On instinct, I struggled to get away.
Jonathon released me. “Is that punishment enough? Or do you want more?”
I sat on the bed, on my hot ass, and looked him in the eye. “It’s sufficient punishment for now.” Indeed, the heat radiated to my pussy. Aroused, I moaned and touched myself.
His muscles rippled, firm and powerful as he removed his black trousers and freed his erection. He lifted me up by my waist and cupped my bottom with his strong hands. I pressed my hips against his and curled my legs tightly around his waist as he eased me onto his hard penis. I lifted my bound arms over his head and rested them on his strong shoulders.
Jonathon carried me to the wall nearest the bed and pinned me against it. He took advantage of the leverage he gained and plunged into me. Waves of pleasure flowed through me. I bit into his neck, and Jonathon groaned and pulled away.
Kissing me hard on the mouth, he swung me back to the bed. He lowered his lips to my belly, my swollen sex, his hot breath against my pussy, his tongue dipped into my folds, flicking, burning. Desire engulfed me, and I writhed beneath him. Cruel hands stilled me . . . and he began again.
Jonathon kissed my hips, my breasts. He thrust deeply into my tight opening, and I reached a peak—a cliff—and my body spasmed with euphoria.
He unbound my wrists. Grateful for freedom, I wrapped my arms around his muscular back. I stroked his taut shoulders and arms. In beat with his rhythmic movements, my hips met his pelvis—again, again, again. Our thrusts matched, together building speed and intensity. And then, in that instant of twisting, sublime pain, we cried out in unison.
When finally we collapsed, our arms and legs entwined.
We were quiet for many long minutes before Jonathon delicately traced my features with his fingertip. His steely gaze eased and met mine with unexpected softness and understanding that I’d never had from anyone before. We were equals in so many ways.
Could a relationship like ours last?
I kissed his fingertips, and he rolled to his side facing me. “You surprised me tonight, Mina,” he said. His features had relaxed. His lips slightly parted as he stroked my hip.
“I didn’t think you’d sign another contract.” He was referring to our previous legal contract as his criminal lawyer. Two women close to him were murdered.
I kissed his rough, stubbly cheek. “I want this contract and I want you, Jonathon.” My words hung in the air like the exhalation from a cigarette.
After a bit, he whispered, “We’re a perfect match.”
Did he doubt it?
I did. I’d entered this relationship with one selfish purpose in mind. Jonathon was a self-proclaimed dominant, and I wanted—no, needed—his discipline.
“You don’t sound so sure,” I said.
“I’m not sure I can give the proper amount of time to this relationship right now. I want you here, and I love your company. But I’ll be traveling again, soon.”
Jonathon had offered me the contract early in our relationship. Had he meant to scare me away? To tease me? In previous relationships, men in my life had been needy. They had wanted more than I could give. So this—Jonathon’s reluctance to spend time—turned the tables. Unsure how to react, I said, “I only have two weeks of vacation, and then I’m going back to Chicago. I won’t get in your way if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“You could never get in my way. I’ll give you what you want—”
“Whipping, caning, you name it.” He pushed up on his elbow and gazed down at me. “While you’re here, let me take care of you and spoil you—”
“As per contractual terms—”
He touched my hair. “At least until you return to Chicago,” he said.
“What we do in the bedroom stays here, in my opinion. If I’m to remain your submissive, it will have nothing to do with my professional life.”
Jonathon smiled and rested a hand on my waist. “Now you sound like the woman I hired. The woman I admire.”
There was something else he was going to say, I sensed he held back. Jonathon had teased and captivated my curiosity about this lifestyle. I wondered what he was keeping from me. If he was having second thoughts . . . Well, I had them too, but it was too soon to voice them.
He shifted to his side and raised up onto an elbow, taking a lock of my long brown hair and twirling it in his fingers. His eyes sparkled in the dim light, but there was something else, something dark in his look that I didn’t recognize.