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Unfurl: Chapter 27

RAFE

It’s a typical Monday morning.

Gen is immaculate, as usual, while Cal and Zach both sport dark circles under their eyes. I know without asking that Cal’s are fucking induced, while Zach’s face wears the type of deep fatigue of a man whose weekends are more exhausting than his weekdays.

I know he finds it easier Monday to Friday, when the girls are in their routine, and distracted, and surrounded by their friends and trained professionals. On the weekends, the practical and emotional burden falls mainly to him. I know the relief he feels when he drops them at school on a Monday morning is almost subsumed by his agonies of guilt over that very emotion.

I know he’ll grab a nap on the sofa in his office at some point, and he’ll feel guilty about that too. As if any of us give a fuck. He’s highly efficient and seriously good at what he does, and that’s all I care about. But, unlike Cal and me, Zach hasn’t shrugged off the Catholic guilt they rammed into us at school.

He needs a fuck. Well, he needs a good night’s sleep and a fuck, but I’d never suggest the latter. He’s not remotely ready. Though the way he looked at Belle’s friend Maddy the other night didn’t escape my notice.

I wonder if and when he’ll ever be ready to put himself and his needs first, even for an hour.

It’s not my place to say anything, though. I’ve tried and been rebuffed too many times. I want to help, but Zach makes it clear that having anyone second guess how he’s trying to manage this hell is unhelpful. What he needs from us is practical help and unmitigated support for how he’s choosing to handle things.

What Zach needs, I intend to give him.

The only atypical thing about this Monday morning is that I have spent the past two days not fucking, technically speaking, although I’ve been curled around Belle all weekend and have come a gratifying number of times.

It’s not like being inside her, though.

And that is precisely the topic I wish to bring up with Gen and Cal today, except Cal beats me to it.

He strolls back to the sofa, fresh espresso in hand.

‘Did you tell Gen you were a naughty boy on Friday?’ he says, grinning evilly.

I shoot him a warning look.

‘How so?’ Gen enquires in her trademark haughty style.

Fuck, I hate doing this. I hate that I have to betray Belle’s confidence in any way, but I need to report back to Gen so we can make Unfurl an even safer, more trusted experience.

I sigh. ‘She had a great time in the scene, but once she’d come I kicked Cal out and got her to suck me off.’

Cal shakes his head like he’s still pissed off I pulled a fast one. Zach’s thick black eyebrows wing up, and Gen purses her mouth like a headmistress.

‘And?’ is all she says. She’s giving me enough rope to hang myself.

‘And it was all fine.’ I have zero intention of telling these three how much more than fine it was, how explosively hot. ‘But afterwards, she got upset. She said she felt cheap and grubby.’

Cal blows out a breath. ‘You absolute fucking twat.’

‘Hey. It wasn’t the blowjob, okay? It was the whole thing. We didn’t consider the fact that she was always going to need more reassurance than we’d factored in. She’s got a praise kink, definitely, but she was so onboard with the scenes that I didn’t realise she’d feel so vulnerable afterwards. She needed intimacy, really. I don’t think she can handle the filthy parts without proper aftercare.’

‘Makes sense,’ Gen admits. ‘So, how did you leave things?’

I brace myself. ‘I didn’t leave things. I looked after her, we had a shower together, and, well, I spent the entire weekend with her. Walked her to work before I came here.’

Zach drops his head and rubs a hand over his forehead. ‘Oh, boy. Here we go.’

‘Jesus Christ,’ Cal says. ‘You jammy fucking bastard. I knew it! I knew you had a thing for her.’

Gen watches me. ‘Not ideal, Rafe.’

I press my lips together. ‘I know.’

‘You like her.’ It’s not a question.

‘Yeah.’ I sigh.

‘Talk to me.’

‘I’m… interested, okay? She’s got under my skin. She’s been under it since the first time I met her. I can’t stop thinking about her. And it seems mutual—we have a connection. It’s intense between us.’

‘Mate,’ Gen says, ‘she’s a twenty-two-year-old virgin. She doesn’t know what she wants. You’re her neighbour, and you’re a lot older than her, and you’re supposed to be sponsoring her. The reason we mix things up in Unfurl is so no one gets too attached, and here you are, getting involved. It’s blurring a lot of lines.’

‘About that,’ I say firmly. ‘I’m handling next Friday. There’s no way Alex is fucking her.’

‘Oh my Lord,’ Cal says. ‘Listen to yourself. Did you hear a word Gen just said?’

‘She’s not a piece of meat you can pass around,’ I tell them both. ‘She wants it to be with me. She got upset when I told her it would be Alex. Belle gets to choose who she fucks.’

‘Obviously, you’re right,’ Gen says. ‘But did you explain to her why we went with Alex for her first time?’

‘Yeah,’ I tell them smugly, ‘and she said it would hurt a lot more with someone she didn’t feel comfortable with.’

Silence. Because they can’t fault Belle’s logic.

Gen blows out a breath and gets up, looking more troubled than she usually lets on. ‘This whole thing is bothersome, I have to say. I hope you know what you’re doing, Rafe. The structure of the programme exists for a reason. I can’t tell whether I’m more worried for you or for her.

‘She’s twenty-two. You’re her first. I—right now, it seems like the chances of each of you hurting each other are equal. I wouldn’t know who to put my money on. On the one hand, I’ve never seen you want to commit to a woman, and I don’t want this poor girl getting her heart broken on our watch because she’s your new, temporary plaything.’

I open my mouth to protest in the most vehement way possible, but she puts up a hand to stop me.

‘On the other, she’s doing amazingly well in the programme, and I know from having spoken to her that her father is very controlling. She’s had a very sheltered, dogmatic upbringing. She’s just at the very start of her journey of throwing off those shackles. She has everything ahead of her. She’s not going to want to settle down, you know.’

‘What Gen’s saying,’ Cal interjects like the total dickhead he is, ‘is that the last thing the poor girl needs is a new daddy.’

‘Fuck off, you twat,’ I grunt. ‘I’m well aware of that.’ I’m painfully aware of the way Belle’s body responded to Cal and me on Friday, of the excited flush on her face when I told her she’d earned the poisoned chalice of being the priests’ plaything. She’s embracing this unconventional path to finding her sexuality; she’s flourishing as she takes it.

Gen put it perfectly. She’s not about to jump out of the hold of one controlling man and straight into the arms of another. And, if I have a single decent bone in my body, I won’t let her.

‘Let’s change the subject.’ I recall the cooling coffee sitting in front of me and take a gulp. ‘What did you get up to after I kicked you out, Cal?’

He grins like the cat that got the cream. ‘I made good on my word and went to find Maddy. Fuck, she’s hot.’

A shadow crosses Zach’s face, and he quickly looks down at his mug. Cal hasn’t noticed, though, and keeps on talking. ‘Now that’s a girl who knows what she wants. She’s fucking insatiable. She was with some other guy when I found her—he was eating her up against a pillar. He had that sweet little green skirt around her waist and her shirt unbuttoned the whole way. I tell you, her tits are perfection.

‘Anyway, I muscled in, and finally he got the message and moved on.’

‘What did you do with her?’ Zach asks. His voice is strangled, and the sound of it sends alarm bells ringing as much as the question itself. Zach isn’t salacious; he’s not one to enquire too closely about anyone’s sexual exploits. He’s usually low-level amused by but generally disinterested in what the rest of us get up to here.

Cal hasn’t noticed that Zach won’t meet his gaze. ‘Well, she said she was jealous Belle got two priests, so I made it my business to tend to her. I took her to one of the glass-fronted rooms, kept my costume on, stripped her naked and fucked her from behind on the table. We had quite the audience in the end. She’s really fucking hot.’

A muscle leaps in Zach’s jaw. ‘Sounds like fun.’

Cal picks up on the yearning in his voice and slaps him on the shoulder. ‘It was fun. A lot of fun. And you know, whenever you’re ready to dabble, however long it takes, we’ve got your back, yeah?’

Cal has misappropriated Zach’s envy as general, whereas to me it sounds highly specific.

I have a feeling my mate liked what he saw in Maddy the other night and envies the fuck out of Cal for getting his hands on her. I suspect I wasn’t the only guy on Friday letting a twenty-two-year-old get under my skin.

And I know two things to be true.

One, Zach will never, ever act on those feelings.

Two, that’s a good thing, because I don’t know Maddy well at all, but I have a hunch that my brokenhearted friend attempting anything with her would be a disaster of unmitigated proportions.


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