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Chapter Nine

It was like going cold turkey, Rick thought a few days later, gazing at himself glumly in the mirror in his trailer. He felt utterly miserable – it wasn’t so much Petra’s embargo on clubbing, although that didn’t help, but it was that he couldn’t be himself. He had to monitor his behavior all the time, watch what he said, and keep one eye on the clock so he wasn’t late, and it was making him depressed.

He couldn’t even ride his bike in the hills, in case he zoned out and was pulled over by the police again. Even apart from Petra firing him, there was a good chance he’d lose his license if that happened.

So he was stuck in a nightmare of timekeeping, politeness, no sex, and, worst of all, no spanking.

He had been surprised to find that what he missed most of all was not so much the sex as the time he spent with a sub over his knee, gently warming a cute ass. That was something to be relished and savored, something he could lose himself in, and something he knew he was damn good at.

He missed making a sub squirm, squeal, giggle, sigh and melt into a ball of relaxed submission over his knees. That was when he was most in touch with his own dominance – when he was spanking a willing sub who loved it as much as he did. That was when he was the master of the universe, flying as high as his sub on the sensation.

He didn’t have any energy these days and felt tired all the time. He didn’t like sleeping without a beautiful, naked sub curled up beside him, ready to service him sexually at any point during the night. He needed the distraction of having a sub to explore. Without it, his demons came out and tormented him, keeping him awake at night. Subs were his drug of choice and without that drug he was slowly drowning.

He couldn’t go out clubbing to find a willing sexual partner – it was too risky. Besides, the paparazzi were all over him right now after catching Matt staying over.

At that moment there was a sudden flurry at the door, and the human whirlwind that was Matt in a bad mood stormed into his trailer without knocking.

“Have you seen this?” He threw a magazine across the trailer, and Rick caught it in one hand and glanced at the front cover.

Is Rick swimming in Matt’s lake? the headline screamed, over a picture of him and Matt emerging from his house a few days ago, Rick’s hand clamped firmly around Matt’s wrist.

“They made a pun out of your last name being ‘Lake’?” Rick shook his head sadly. “That’s crappy writing.”

“Really? They’re insinuating that we’re having an affair and your problem is that the writing’s crap?” Matt glared at him.

“Well, it is!”

“Yes, it is,” Matt conceded. “And this one is even worse.” He flung another magazine at Rick.

Rickochet! TV star Matthew Lake takes a walk on the wild side with his handsome co-star! 

This one had a picture of Rick throwing Matt over his shoulder and striding with him towards his bike.

Rickochet! Hah!” Rick laughed. “Now that one is actually pretty good.”

“Yes, yes,” Matt said impatiently. “The first headline is a feeble play on my name, and the second is an even worse pun on yours. Hah, hah, very funny.”

“Rick O’Shea… ricochet.” Rick was still laughing at the joke. “I love it.”

“Well, I don’t. And I do damn well feel like I’m ricocheting all over the place because of this. My life used to be calm and ordered, just the way I like it, until this happened. Now the paparazzi follow me everywhere, and people think I’m subbing to you and keep asking me what you’re like in bed, and Emily left a very snippy message on my cell phone, and… it’s all totally fucked up!” Matt threw his hands up in the air.

“Huh. See, for me it’s the opposite,” Rick said, sitting down on his couch and flicking through one of the magazines. “My life used to be full of fun and chaos and now it’s totally boring. I used to actually have a life, Matty, and now I can’t do anything, or go anywhere, or be myself in case I screw up and get fired.”

“It’s like we swapped lives,” Matt lamented, sitting down beside him. “I’m leading your high octane life, and you’re leading my more structured…”

“Boring…” Rick interjected.

“Ordered,” Matt insisted with a glare. “Life.”

“I guess we’re getting a taste of how the other half lives.” Rick found the article about them in the magazine with the Rickochet! headline and began laughing again. “Matthew Lake might play wet-behind-the-ears young agent Ben Harris on the hit TV show Collar Crime, but in real life he’s a sexy sub-about-town who knows what he likes in a dom. And what he likes is his co-star, legendary sub-tease, Rick O’Shea. Sub-tease? Where do they get this shit?” He glanced up at Matt, who was shaking his head furiously.

“This one is even worse.” Matt grabbed the other magazine and began reading. “Rick O’Shea’s sexual appetite is legendary – no sub in town is safe from his advances! But it looks like he’s met his match in fiery co-star Matthew Lake. Matthew plays an innocent virgin onscreen, but our pictures show he’s not dom-shy in real life! Has Rick finally found a sub who can cure him of his sub-sexing ways?

“Sub-sexing? Is that even a word?” Rick glanced at the photo of himself strapping on Matt’s motorcycle helmet that accompanied the article. The camera must have caught him at an odd angle, because it looked like he was giving Matt a doting look as he buckled the strap.

“No, it’s a walking alliteration and that’s all that counts,” Matt grumbled.

“This one goes on,” Rick said, reading aloud. “By all accounts, Rick is a real dom’s dom, the kind who likes to master ‘em and move on. Matthew Lake’s friends say they’re worried that he might have gotten in too deep. ‘Matt’s a very sweet natured and sensitive sub,’ one Collar Crime insider told us. ‘Whereas Rick is a total player, a real sub-seducer, and we’re all worried that Matt will get hurt.’

“My friends?” Matt grabbed the magazine off him. “What ‘friends’ did they talk to?”

“They didn’t have to – they just make this stuff up. Let me read the rest of your article.” Rick reached for the other magazine and read it out loud.

Rick O’Shea might act like a party-loving dom who is just out for a good time, but insiders say the handsome, easygoing dom is really just looking for the right sub to love – and they doubt that Lake fits the bill. ‘Matt has a really fiery temper,’ one cast member told us. ‘He’s blown up at Rick on more than one occasion, and he can be pretty mean when he gets going. We’re just hoping their affair doesn’t go sour and turn into all-out war. If it does – we’ll be the ones caught in the crossfire!’

“Hah! How come in one of these articles I’m some bad-tempered, manipulative sub, who only wants to snare you in my evil trap, while in the other I’m sweet and sensitive, and you’re about to devastate me by dumping me?”

Rick shrugged. “It’s all crap.” He assumed a dramatic pose. “They clearly don’t know either of us, because if they did they’d know I’d never hurt you, Matty!” He fluttered his eyelashes extravagantly.

“Oh, you old sub-tease.” Matt winked at him. “As if I’d let you!”

“Hey – you’re talking to a dom’s dom, you sexy sub-about-town.”

“I’m not dom-shy, so fuck you!” Matt laughed helplessly as Rick tackle-hugged him onto the couch.

Rick pinned his arms above his head. “You should be careful – remember there isn’t a sub in town who’s safe from me!” He held Matt down with one hand and tickled him with the other until Matt was a gurgling mess beneath him.

Then Rick sat back with a sigh. “Thanks, Matt. I needed the laugh.”

Matt sat up. “Still feeling down, huh?”

“You have no idea. Look, Matt – I’m sorry about all this shit.” He waved his hand at the magazines.

“It’s not your fault, and in some ways I’m kind of flattered. I guess I must have really made it in this town if the magazines are making up shit about me. Now, c’mon.” He stood up. “We’re due on set in a couple of minutes. It’s Karl’s birthday, so there’s going to be cake.” He held out his hands, and Rick took them and allowed Matt to haul him to his feet.

He exited the trailer with one arm slung over Matt’s shoulder, but without the usual feeling of exuberance he experienced when about to shoot a scene. Being with Matt in the trailer, goofing off, just made him even more aware of how much of a straitjacket he was in the rest of the time.

He felt stifled, and it was making him irritable… and his co-workers weren’t used to an irritable Rick O’Shea.

Chapter Ten

The cast and crew had bought a huge chocolate birthday cake as a surprise for Karl – and he did look genuinely surprised; Matt didn’t think he was acting it.

“I’ve never been on such a friendly set,” Karl said, coming over to talk as Matt ate his slice of the cake.

“Really? I’ve only done a handful of other shows, so I guess I’ve got nothing to compare it with.”

“Trust me, they aren’t all like this. You guys have been so welcoming. I think it’s largely down to Daniel – as the lead, he sets the tone for the entire set, doesn’t he?”

Karl cast Daniel a wistful look, and Matt felt sorry for him. “What other shows have you done?” Matt asked, deliberately changing the subject. “I remember seeing you in that adaptation of A Tale of Two Switches a couple of years ago.”

“You saw that? It was pretty low budget, but I was proud of it.”

“I loved it, and I thought you made an awesome Nathaniel.”

“Thanks, Matt. Sadly, I’ve also been in some real crap – one has to pay the bills, after all.” Karl made a face. “Before this, I was in a show that only made it to six episodes before it was cancelled – and rightly so.”

“Bad, huh?”

“Worse – boring.” Karl grinned. “It was a sort of sci-fi thing – a dystopian vision of a universe in which nobody identifies as dom or sub. It was called Otherworld.” He traced his hand through the air like a title appearing across an imaginary screen.

Matt grinned. “Ooh – sounds kind of kinky.”

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But instead of going for the kinky angle, which might have been fun, they tried to do it as a sort of serious, high-minded exploration of how such a society would work.”

“And how would it work?” Matt frowned. “Are they all switches?”

“Nope.” Karl shook his head. “Most people don’t identify as dom, sub, or switch, and the minority who do have to keep quiet about it and meet up in special clubs.”

“So it’s kind of like an inversion of how things work in our world? But who collars who, then?” Matt asked, confused.

“Nobody collars anyone – that’s the point.”

“So, when a couple get serious about each other…?”

“They move in together.”

“That’s it?” Matt tried to get his head around that. “Do they even have weddings?”

“Yes – but they use rings instead of a wedding collar and belt.”

“So – who puts the ring on who? I don’t get this.” Matt wailed.

Karl grinned. “They each put rings on each other.”

“Oh. Okay. So, there are no big collaring scenes? I love collaring scenes.”

“No collarings, no leashes, no wedding belts – no dynamics at all.”

“No sharing a plate?” Matt asked. When couples in a romantic relationship became serious, they often started sharing a plate, with the dom hand-feeding the sub. Karl shook his head, and Matt thought about it for a moment. “So, if they can’t do any of those things – what was this show actually about?” he asked eventually.

Karl laughed. “Like I said, it only ran for six episodes and then it was cancelled. What shows have you done?”

“Not much – mostly little roles in crappy soaps. This is my first big break.”

“Ah, crappy soaps – I remember them well. I was once in one about a dom addicted to kink houses.”

Matt gave a guilty laugh. “Kink houses? Really?”  He took a large mouthful of cake and munched on it studiously, hoping he didn’t look like someone with a secret fascination for kink houses.

Karl glanced across the room to where Rick was standing. “Is Rick doing okay?” he asked quietly. “Only he’s usually the life and soul of the party, but he’s been kind of grumpy the past few days.”

“He’s trying to be good,” Matt said, around his mouthful of cake. Rick did look grumpy. He was standing by himself, his hands thrust deep into his pockets, looking bored. Usually, he’d be the center of attention, and there would be a large group of people around him, hanging onto his every word while he performed outrageously to his audience.

“Then I guess that’s taking its toll,” Karl observed.

At that moment, Rick turned abruptly and stalked off in the direction of his trailer.

“I hope he’s okay,” Matt murmured. “He’s been through a lot lately.”

“Yeah – I saw the news – and the magazine articles.” Karl raised a meaningful eyebrow.

“Oh, please! Don’t believe anything you read in those. I went over to Rick’s place to cheer him up – I took some wine, and we ended up falling asleep on his sofa after watching an episode of Collar Crime.”

“So there’s nothing going on between you two?”

“What? No!” Matt laughed. “If you’d been here longer you’d know that me and Rick – we’re combustible. We argue all the time, and we have nothing in common. There’s no attraction there, and besides, Rick likes to play the field, and I…” He paused, unsure how to finish that sentence.

“You’re looking for a big romance?” Karl prompted gently.

“No!” Matt protested. “I mean, everyone’s looking for love – except Rick, obviously – but no, I’m realistic about that. I’m simply looking for a compatible dom to share my life with.”

“A compatible dom? Karl grinned. “You make it sound more like a job interview than finding a life partner.”

“It’d be easier if you could find someone that way,” Matt said. “You know, put an ad in the paper, interview a few people, find someone suitable and settle down with them.”

“I can’t believe a cute sub like you has any problems meeting someone.”

Matt flushed, thinking of all the doms who’d dumped him. “Maybe I don’t date the right kind of doms,” he muttered.

“Or maybe you want a dom to charge into your life and sweep you off your feet.”

Matt gazed at him suspiciously. Was he wrong about Karl’s thing for Daniel? Was Karl hitting on him instead?

“Maybe.” Matt shrugged. “To be honest, I don’t believe in all that romantic crap. I love it in the movies but in real life the best you can hope for is to find someone you’re reasonably compatible with who doesn’t drive you nuts.”

“Well, maybe – or maybe you have to be open to the possibility of it happening. You’re not likely to have a big, romantic love affair if you’re too sensible to believe they even exist.”

Matt glanced up sharply to find himself looking into Karl’s shrewd, dark eyes. No, Karl wasn’t hitting on him – he was just a very perceptive dom who knew how to read a sub. Maybe there was some hope for him with Daniel after all.

Chapter Eleven

Rick trudged to the make-up trailer, yawning: yet another early start without waking up with a sub in his bed, or a sweet ass to spank. After nearly three weeks of this he felt like he was walking through mud. Petra was watching his every move at work, and the paparazzi were watching his every move the minute he left the studio.

He felt stifled, listless and bored, and he woke up every morning with a headache that left him foggy for the rest of the day.

“Sheesh.” Estelle was in the trailer having her make-up applied when he walked in. “Looks like someone had a bad night.”

“Bad night, bad week, bad fucking life,” he snapped, thumping himself down in the seat next to hers and sprawling there, gazing at himself moodily in the mirror.

“Well, there’s only one cure.” Estelle gave a throaty chuckle that sounded completely obscene, as only she could.

“Kill myself?”

“Hell no, sweetheart! That’s just admitting defeat. No, what you need is to find a nice sub and fuck their brains out.” She gave a ribald laugh and leaned towards him. “If I was thirty years younger, I’d let you tie me to the bed and have your way with me.”

“Oh, I agree with the cure, Estelle, but how the hell can I find a sub to oblige when I’m under Petra’s house arrest?”

“Oh, please!” Estelle waved a hand in the air. “One does not have to go to clubs to meet beautiful sexual partners. I met my best lovers on various film sets over the years.”

“I don’t think that really works for me here,” Rick said. “I mean, Daniel’s great, but you know, no. And the twins are cute, but they’re looking for twin doms, and some gigantic big love affair, so that rules me out on both counts.”

“What about Matthew?” Estelle asked.

Rick laughed. “Matt? No! He’s my best friend.”

“And why would that make him an unsuitable lover?” Estelle raised an eyebrow. “My fourth spouse, Erica, was my best friend, and we had a very happy marriage until she died. I’d almost given up on finding anyone who could handle me, but she tamed me. No other dom has measured up since,” she said sadly. “I shouldn’t really have married spouses five and six. But Erica… what that woman didn’t know about Japanese rope bondage wasn’t worth knowing.” Estelle gave a happy sigh. “Amazing knots, tied in the most deliciously arousing places.” Rick stared at her. “Sorry – I got carried away.” Estelle winked. “So, if it worked for me and my best friend, why not for you and yours?”

“Because I’m me,” Rick said flatly. “And I’ve got no intention of fucking Matt up with a bunch of romantic promises I’ll break.”

“Why would you break them?”

“Because I will.” Rick shrugged. “Anyway, Matt’s too sensible to think of me that way.”

“Ah yes. Matt’s the most sensible kid I’ve ever met, such an old head on young shoulders. I swear the boy’s never had any fun in his life.” Estelle shook her head sadly. “But surely you must have a little black book with the numbers of your old conquests in it, Rick? When I was a young sub, newly arrived in this town, I couldn’t move for suitors. Had about five little black books, with some very famous names in them.” She winked at him and tapped the side of her nose knowingly. “Those were the days! I fucked hundreds of beautiful doms and don’t regret a second of it. Nowadays, you probably keep all that in an e-phone or whatever it is young folks use to keep track of their beaus. Why don’t you call up a few exes and see if you can arrange a reprise of your good times together, huh?”

“I don’t do reruns,” Rick said automatically.

“Maybe not, but you’re in a pickle right now, my darling, and you might have to change your ways a little – yes?” She stood up, deposited a little kiss on the side of his head, and then left the trailer.

She did have a point. Rick took out his cell phone and flicked through it. He didn’t usually take subs’ numbers but some had stolen his phone when he was asleep and put themselves into his address book anyway, anxious to snare a TV star.  One more night with someone he hardly remembered from the first time around wouldn’t put much of a dent in his no reruns rule, so he called one of the numbers. A sub called Sherry, who he vaguely remembered as having been a real firecracker in bed, answered.

“Hey, Sherry. It’s Rick – Rick O’Shea,” he said in his sexiest voice. “It’s your lucky day. The handcuffs are ready and there’s a play collar with your name on it hanging from my finger right now. All you have to do is say the word.”

There was a shocked pause, and he grinned to himself, imagining her surprise at getting his call.

“Really? You fuck my brains out, promise you’ll call, and then I hear nothing from you for six months, and you think you can just call me and I’ll drop everything and come running? I don’t think so, buddy.”

The call was disconnected abruptly. So, that hadn’t gone as well as he’d hoped. He tried another number, and a man’s voice answered.

“Oh hi, I’m flattered, Rick, but you shouldn’t have left it so long. I found myself a lovely dom, and she collared me last month. She’s so lovely.” The man sighed happily down the phone, and Rick made polite noises and ended the call.

On the third call, a grumpy sounding female voice answered.

“Hey, Marlene,” Rick said, immediately going into his patter. “It’s Rick O’Shea. Remember that night you spent in heaven in my arms? Well, we could do it all over again.”

“No, we fucking couldn’t, asshole,” the voice replied. “Marlene is my sub now, and I don’t care who you are – don’t fucking call this number again.”

“Not going so well, huh?” a pretty make-up boy asked, coming over to get Rick ready for his first scene.

“You could say that.” Rick glared at his phone.

“So, we’re giving you a bloody nose,” the kid said brightly.

Rick winced. “I think I’ve already been given one.”

“Aw, c’mon – it’s not that bad.” The young man smiled at him, and Rick remembered what Estelle had said about finding someone at work and took a proper look at him. He was probably in his early twenties, nice looking, with a very spankable ass. He wasn’t wearing a collar, and he gave off a distinctly subby vibe.

Rick flashed him a broad smile. “So… you’re new here, aren’t you? What’s your name, sweetheart?” he purred.

The boy laughed. “My name’s Tim, but don’t even think about it, Rick. I’ve heard all about you, and I prefer long-term relationships to one-night stands, however good that ‘night in heaven’ might be.” He grinned. “I mean, it’s still only one night, right? I think I’m worth more than that.”

Rick gave a little grunt. “Yeah, you are, honey. You stick with that attitude, and you won’t end up alone and grumpy like me.”

Tim patted his shoulder sympathetically, and Rick sighed; it seemed like the entire world was against him right now. Tim began applying his bloody nose, and Rick picked up a magazine that someone had left lying around and glanced at it.

Torn between two doms! the headline proclaimed, over a picture of Matt and Karl talking intently, their heads close together. Karl was holding a plate of cake in one hand, his fork raised as if he was about to feed it to Matt. Rick recognized the picture from Karl’s recent birthday party, and he knew nothing happened between Matt and Karl then, but the intimacy of the photo implied that they were sharing a plate and for some reason that annoyed the hell out of him.

Couples only shared a plate when they were in a serious relationship. It was a courtship ritual and not one that Rick had ever had any interest in before. The idea of hand-feeding a sub wasn’t something he’d ever expected to do, or had any wish to do, so why did the idea of Karl hand-feeding Matt bother him so much? Especially when he knew it hadn’t actually happened.

Next to it was a picture of Matt and himself, taken outside his house a few weeks ago. They were both sitting on the Harley, with Matt nestled between his arms. It looked equally cozy, giving every appearance that he and Matt were an item. No wonder the magazine’s readers believed the crap that was made up about them.

Between the two pictures was the image of a tear down the middle, separating them, tying into the Torn between two doms! headline.

Rick flicked through the magazine to find the article.

Is Matthew Lake the luckiest sub alive? The Collar Crime cutie has two of the hottest doms in town begging him to wear their collar. Who should he choose? Super-sexy and smooth Brit Karl Morgan? Or rough, ready and randy Rick O’Shea? We asked our online readers to decide!

“Rough, ready and randy?” Rick rolled his eyes, feeling irrationally annoyed. He knew it was all garbage, yet it rankled all the same. He scanned the selection of reader comments irritably.

I think he should go for Karl, one gushed. That gorgeous British accent makes me go weak at the knees! Karl Morgan can tie me to the bed any time.

Definitely Karl, another one said. Because, let’s face it, Rick is damaged goods. Every sub in town has slept with him.

“Damaged goods?” Rick threw the magazine down and shoved his chair back. “That’ll do, Tim. It looks great.” He glanced at himself in the mirror to see that he now had a convincing black eye and fake blood stuck to his nose and jaw.

Damaged goods sounded just about right.

Chapter Twelve

Matt stood on the command center set, nervously going over his lines in his head. This was a big scene, with every cast member present, and they had some complicated choreography to do as they searched for a bomb inside the collar crime H.Q..

Rick was last on set, and he stomped over to the red tape on the floor which marked his spot.

“Nice black eye,” Daniel said, but Rick just gave a preoccupied grunt in reply.

Matt exchanged an anxious glance with the twins. Rick wasn’t a lot of fun these days, and they all missed the energy and humor he used to bring to their long working days.

They ran through the scene, and Rick knew his lines back to front, as he had every day for the past three weeks. In fact, he was the model actor in every respect – never late and never unprepared for his scenes. Theoretically, this should have made working with him a pleasure, but it wasn’t. Matt was far more tense when filming now. Rick used to relax him by teasing him before a big scene, which distracted him far more successfully than his usual method of counting. Now that Rick was on his best behavior, the teasing had stopped.

They began filming and had almost finished the take when Estelle screwed up her lines.

“Fuck me sideways with a dildo!” she screeched, and the entire set burst out laughing. Estelle’s salty language had made Matt blush when he first acted with her, but now they were all used to her ‘Estelle-isms’ as they called them, and had even taken to using some of her more insane ones as catchphrases.

Rick got up from where he was crouching with the twins, shielding them from the expected bomb blast. “Let’s go again,” he growled.

“Sorry, my darlings,” Estelle called, as everyone went back to their starting positions.

They had nearly made it all the way through when one of the twins tripped over Daniel’s leg and went crashing into Rick, knocking him into the edge of a computer console.

“For fuck’s sake!” Rick roared, pulling up his tee shirt to reveal a nasty red mark.

“Oh, Rick, I’m so sorry,” the guilty twin said, throwing herself into his arms.

“I’m sorry too, Rick,” her sister said, also throwing herself into his arms, even though it hadn’t been her fault. The twins had a tendency to act as if they were one person, which had startled Matt at first, but he was used to that now, too.

“Sorry, Rick! Sorry!” They smothered his face with little kisses, and old Rick would have lapped up the attention of two pretty, squealing subs throwing themselves at him and making a fuss of him, but now Rick shoved them away.

“Could we just do the scene?” he said stiffly, returning to his mark and offering up his face to Tim the make-up artist, who was hovering nearby.

“Oh, Rick,” Casey sighed.

“Oh, Rick,” Cara echoed.

“What?” he demanded.

“Nothing,” they trilled in unison, turning to Matt with sad eyes.

“Let’s go again,” the director said, and by this time you could cut the atmosphere in the room with a knife.

They managed to get through the scene without anyone screwing up this time, much to everyone’s relief.

“Thank fuck for that,” Rick said, raising his hand to wipe some of the fake blood from his nose.

“We’re sorry, Rick,” Casey said. “Please don’t be mad at us.”

“I’m not mad at you. I screw up enough in scenes, so I’ve got no right getting mad at anyone else for doing it,” Rick replied with a shrug.

“Not anymore. You’re always word perfect these days,” Daniel said.

“Yes, you are, Rick. You never get a line wrong, but…” Casey began. Then she hesitated, blushing.

“But?” Rick raised an eyebrow.

“It’s just… we liked you better before,” Cara said, and then she clapped her hand over her mouth.

“But we did,” Casey continued. “We miss our Rick; the one who gave us hugs, and tickled us, and told us really bad jokes.”

“We do. We miss him,” her sister confirmed. “It’s not the same now. It’s not fun anymore. You’re not fun anymore, Rick.”

Matt held his breath, wondering what would happen next. Rick might explode – or he might slip into the goofy, fun-loving persona that they all preferred.

He did neither. Instead, he stuck his hands into his pockets and gazed at them all moodily. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m not angry with any of you. I guess I can either be the Rick who is always late and goofs off, or I can be the Rick who turns up on time, remembers his lines, stays out of trouble and isn’t much fun. It looks like I can’t be both.”

“But Rick, there must be a way,” Casey said. “We hate seeing you so unhappy.”

“I already told the kid he needs to get laid,” Estelle chimed in from where she was standing between Daniel and Karl.

“It’s not that! Not completely anyway. It’s more complicated than that. It’s this – see these hands?” He held his hands out, waving them around. There was an insane gleam in his eyes, and Matt knew that whatever he said next was either going to be very profound or very ridiculous. As this was Rick, he had a fair idea which it’d be…

“These hands were made for spanking, my friends!” Rick announced dramatically. Matt sighed and buried his face in his hands. “Do you know how long it’s been since I last spanked a beautiful, round, soft ass? Since I put my hand on a sweetly curving butt and took some sub high into subspace?” Rick demanded.

Matt parted his fingers and peeked at Rick through them, wondering just how far into the ridiculous his friend was going to take this and whether he could bear to watch.

“I’m guessing, a few weeks?” Daniel ventured, looking like he was having a hard time not laughing.

“Yes! And it’s driving me nuts. Sex is good – I love sex – but spanking is something else. It’s like telling a pianist he can’t play the piano, or an artist that she can’t paint.”

Matt saw Karl shoving his fist into his mouth and turning away, his shoulders shaking as he tried to control a fit of giggles.

“You could pay someone to… uh… oblige?” Daniel suggested.

“Richard O’Shea has never paid a sub in his life, and he’s not starting now,” Rick snapped.

“Oh, Rick!” Casey threw herself at him.

“Rick!” Cara joined in.

“That’s so sad. It’s the saddest thing I ever heard,” they cooed.

“It’s the funniest thing I ever heard,” Karl muttered to Daniel, who had to pretend he was having a coughing fit in order to hide his snort of laughter. Karl patted him helpfully on the back.

“If we’re done here…” Rick had a pained look on his face. “I have lines to learn,” and he stalked off the set.

“Oh dear,” the twins said mournfully. “Poor Rick.”

“That was classic,” Karl sighed, wiping away little tears of mirth from the corners of his eyes. He held up his hands. “These hands were made for spanking!” he proclaimed dramatically.

“Don’t mock Rick,” Casey said reproachfully. “We love Rick.”

“Yes, my dears, we do,” Estelle said, gathering them in her arms and fixing Karl with a stern glare. “Karl, you’re new here, my love, and you have to understand – Rick is the heart of this show and right now he’s struggling. He’s always been there for us – each and every one of us – and now I think we need to be there for him.”

The smile faded immediately from Karl’s face. “I’m sorry, Estelle,” he said contritely, and Matt noticed him flashing a furtive glance at Daniel, to see whether he’d screwed up with him, too.

“Estelle has a point,” Daniel agreed. “Rick was pretty over the top, but then that’s Rick, and I have to say…” He paused, looking thoughtful. “I can’t speak for all of you, but work hasn’t been as enjoyable for me since Petra put him on his best behavior.”

“I agree,” Matt said quietly. “Rick isn’t Rick unless he’s being annoying. I…” He flushed, as he always did when speaking about anything personal, but then he decided it was worth saying, so he plowed on. “I’m not always very confident during big scenes,” he admitted. “I get really nervous, but that’s never a problem when Rick’s around. He calms me down with his teasing and stupid jokes. I didn’t realize until this happened what a difference he makes to my performance.”

“How very true, my dear Matthew,” Estelle said. “I don’t think any of us realized how much Rick brightens up our lives with his energy and sense of fun. As you all know, I’ve worked on a great many sets with a great many true acting legends, but I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed a set as much as this one – and Rick is a large part of that.”

“Yes, he is.” Daniel nodded firmly.

“He totally is,” the twins agreed, hanging on to each other, their eyes swimming with tears.

“Then we must find a way to bring him back,” Karl said, stepping forward. All trace of mockery was gone, and there was now a determined look in his brown eyes. Matt had the sudden realization that Karl was the kind of person who instinctively led and whom others instinctively followed.

“What would you suggest, Karl?” Daniel asked.

“I have an idea – I just need to think it through. Meet me in my trailer in half an hour, and I’ll explain it to you then.”

Chapters 13 - 14

You can buy Ricochet from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.jp, Kobo or in various different formats from Smashwords for only $5.99!

December 2015

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