Stray Master

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[Chapter Twenty]

🔓🔎🗝

It’s been a good two weeks since the discussion in my apartment. Good meaning okay. It hasn’t been horrible but it isn’t the best either, Miss Parry still acts oddly around Lewis but I can tell she’s trying to get to know him and allow herself to see him for how he is; a genuine, loyal man. Ryan is still around and sleeping on my couch, when asked I was told he would go back in another week and that his college had announced a short break from classes since midterms just ended and students needed a break. He had been acting peculiar since the discussion, staring more at me and putting space between him and Lewis. CeCe is the most normal one, she’ll throw glares at Ryan and Miss Parry sometimes but she doesn’t treat me or Lewis any different.

Lewis is trying too, with Miss Parry. When she comes up to him on days he’s with me at the shop and talking to other customers he’ll excuse himself and speak with her, I can see it’s not always easy- often times he tenses and will most likely growl out a sentence and Miss Parry crosses her arms with an unpleased expression. I assume that’s when she presses too hard or far and he reminds her he’s not going to be submissive when she does. He doesn’t call her names as much lately, he’ll slip up but he doesn’t see a problem with the occasional common insult that isn’t harmful. To be honest, I don’t mind the names he does use. He explained them to me once before bed when he was picking out my clothes and they mostly fit her and are harmless.

He and Ryan have had a slightly more strained relationship, which is saying something because they only briefly spoke in the first place. Ryan had been intimidated by Lewis at first and didn’t know what to talk about with him and Lewis just didn’t see the point in trying to start a conversation with someone that feared him, if only somewhat. Although when they did, mostly around me, they had gotten along well and Ryan had got Lewis to chuckle once. Now though, the strain is mainly blamed on Ryan. He won’t go around Lewis without someone present and won’t start up a conversation. Lewis doesn’t care, to him, if someone is too scared of him to simply be in a room alone with him; it isn’t his problem.

I know Lewis did nothing to cause this sudden intimidation Ryan has of the Scotsman, Lewis had never deliberately gone to Ryan, more so he happened to walk into the same room as him. Ryan had done nothing to threaten Lewis or set his anger off, and that’s the only reason Lewis would even use his size to intimidate someone purposefully. So, Ryan is the cause of this strained acquaintance relationship they have. I need to ask him about it, and his weird behavior during the discussion. It may have slipped my mind, but I remember it distinctly now.

I’m unsure if CeCe notices it at first, how Ryan will subtly move away from Lewis when the larger man is close by, how he lowers his eyes and rarely speaks unless Lewis directly asks him a question- which is far and between occurrences. I catch her smirking in our friends’ direction when she does happen to see him shifting away from the Scotsman, and when she talks to Ryan she’ll tease him until he goes red and glares at her with an intensity that could spark a fire. I know I’m missing a piece of the situation, why he’s acting as he does and why CeCe is torturing him the way she is with her mocking and serious glares. She does the same to Miss Parry, minus the mocking.

Lewis doesn’t seem in on the secret, but I know he suspects something. His thick eyebrow will rise when he catches Ryan moving from him and he’ll continue to watch my friend as the college student slowly turns a light pink and keeps their eyes from meeting. Ryan will clench his fist into whatever shirt he’s wearing and bite at his lip. Lewis hasn’t told me what he thinks about it, but I’m assuming Ryan has a crush and is embarrassed it’s the man I’m dating.

Although, when I told CeCe my theory, she laughed so hard she split iced coffee on the counter and had to remake the cup. Until I’m told differently I’ll believe my guess because it’s the most pleasant and innocent assumption that can be made. I’d rather avoid my friend wanting to fight my date.

Lewis doesn’t seem to care that Ryan is essentially avoiding him, not that I expected him to. He doesn’t appear to care for people he doesn’t know or care for, their not his problem or responsibility. The Scotsman acts like he usually does with Ryan, polite yet distant and allowing the man to keep his distance. Lewis appears to know what is happening, or at least assumes it, and doesn’t bother to reassure Ryan or is pleased he’s keeping further away. When I asked if he knew Ryan was acting odd around him a few days ago, he had merely hummed and nodded, saying he doesn’t care as long as Ryan gets his shit together before he leaves for school. I found the way he phrased the answer surprising because it sounded as if he expected me to know what was happening, which I don’t.

I plan on asking, or questioning, Ryan today to get answers because I want Ryan to be able to go to Lewis if he needs advice on being a dominant or how to care for a submissive, at this rate that will never happen. Lewis is a good dominant, I’ve seen him show it plenty of times to know he’s experienced and Ryan doesn’t know a lot of experienced Dominants personally, it could help him be better for his submissive- if he ever finds one.

They don’t have a lot in common and I don’t blame them for being hesitant to start a conversation, Ryan is far more sporty than Lewis despite the size difference, and Lewis doesn’t play sports; unless you count his job and him growing up working on a farm is a sport. Ryan is a city boy through and through, he hasn’t spent a day in the country or seen a farm animal in real life, he grew up having everything handed to him as a city boy with good parents does. Lewis worked his ass off with animals and wood, a tractor from what he mentioned at one point, dealt with broken fences and herding sheep and cattle. They probably feel awkward with each other, or mainly Ryan, since Lewis isn’t at all bothered.

After my shift today I’m going to ask Ryan what his deal is before Lewis walks in to pick us up and either take us to the apartment or we agree to hang out together. Ryan won’t talk if Lewis is here to intimidate him, however unintentional. I’ll have to corner him to make sure he can’t runoff. I can only hope he’ll confide in me and explain why he’s suddenly avoiding Lewis, maybe I can convince him that the Scotsman is harmless to my friends and will most likely tolerate conversations. Hopefully, this will be over when Lewis comes to pick us up as I want to spend my time with both of them because Ryan and I hadn’t gotten to and the want for them to get along is strong.

I plan on using tomorrow, Thursday, to take Ryan to dinner as we normally do and catch up properly. Lewis may be tired from work but I don’t mind if he comes, I suspect he’ll understand that I want to spend time with Ryan and back off even if he is possessive. There haven’t been issues with Ryan kissing or touching me, I’m fully content with Lewis, so the Scotsman seems to trust both of us alone. It’ll be my day off, we’d have the whole day and can even set a day to do it again before he leaves as I should have done when he arrived.

My shift is nearing a close when CeCe nudges me to warn me that she’s stepping away to go to the bathrooms, the crowd had slowed and there’s a peaceful murmur over the cafe, the sounds of typing from students on their laptops or friends politely keeping their voices down not to cause a distraction. There’s no line for me to handle and I use the time to sweep the area behind the counter, making a pile of any ground coffee that managed to fall. I’m throwing the pile away in the trash when I hear the door open and bell ding, turning to greet the person I see a handsome tall Black man with a tan woman, the man looking annoyed, and the woman with a smirk on her lips.

The man reminds me of Lewis with what he has on, jeans and a tank top with a half-zipped hoodie over it. He could be shorter than Lewis but unless they stood side by side, I can’t tell. He has pretty brown-gold eyes and his hair has short dreadlocks to his shoulders, He has a bandage on his forearm that I can see peeking from the fold of his pushed-up hoodie sleeve. The woman has a neon vest on over her white shirt that is covered in dirt and grime, her camo green and brown pants aren’t much better and her boots are tracking dirt in. She isn’t wearing makeup, I can see natural lines and blemishes on her skin, her eyes are a deep hazel color and her lashes are thick. She’s my height, having to glance up at her companion.

When they get close enough to hear, I’m confused and slightly concerned. The man’s voice is low and his tone is the kind Lewis had used on Miss Parry a few times when he was particularly annoyed by her. “Girl, leave him alone. He doesn’t need some new girl coming onto him.”

The woman rolls her eyes, voice accented enough I can guess she’s Hispanic. “Please, he’ll come around. I’m here for two more weeks, I can be persuasive.”

The man raises his brow, “He flat out said he was gay. Lewis is dating someone already and he actually likes this dude, don’t go bothering him.”

My thoughts freeze, Lewis? Could these be his coworkers? They do look like they just got done working around dirt, my Lewis is named Lewis and is gay. Maybe it’s a coincidence. Although it bothers me that this woman thinks she can turn a gay man straight within two weeks, or ever. I’m assuming the man rejected her and explained he was attracted to men, and this woman just doesn’t accept it.

It shows when her lips purse as if the reminder gives her a sour taste. “Oh well. I’m this boy won’t last long, probably a phase. No man looking like Lewis is gay.”

They’re at the counter by now, the man’s eyes rolling up to the ceiling like he needs a moment to process the sentence he just heard. Then he sighs, long and suffering. “He’s always been gay. I’ve known him longer than you, trust me on this. Stop flirting with him, it’ll just give you a bad impression on the crew. You’re a good lady, stop while you’re ahead.”

Then he turns to me, effectively cutting off the topic for now. He gives a kind smile and glances at the menu for a split second before snapping his eyes back down to me. I swallow, suddenly nervous at having such an intense gaze on me, being reminded of the man Lewis kicked out. He seems to tell also and quickly apologizes, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. Just- do you happen to be dating a Scottish man?”

My eyebrows go up, slightly confused again as I nod. “Yeah...Lewis. Why?”

The woman stares at me as if she saw something that wasn’t there before, all the while the man laughs. “Thomas! Man, Lewis doesn’t stop talking about you. Goes on and on about your eyes, how pretty the different colors are.”

I’m blinking as I process this, a man that works with Lewis recognized me from merely my mismatched eyes because Lewis talks about me so much. I can’t believe this, never did I imagine that my eyes, the very ones I get stared at for sometimes, could be so appealing to someone that they talk about me until one of their friends can identify me without even knowing my name. It’s flattering and I feel myself blush scarlet at the thought of Lewis chattering away at this man about me. I can only hope it’s not anything embarrassing and it’s good, like how cute he finds me or my eyes.

His woman friend studies me, intensely gazing at my face then my torso as predators would prey. “You sure you don’t have the wrong Lewis?”

Instantly, I shake my head. “There’s only one Scotsman I know that is huge and intimidating named Lewis that likes my eyes, and unless your’s is lacking an equally huge Irish brother, it’s the same Lewy.”

The man laughs, leaning on the counter, “Yea, those two are a handful. Lewis has been telling us to come here since he met you, saying something about really good coffee and cute baristas.”

I smile at him because it does sound like Lewis would say that and it suddenly reminds me what they are here for, my blush is still present even as I ask what they want. “I think Lewy was exaggerating, but I’ll make you guys a cup just to be sure. What do you want?”

While I’m working on getting their coffee ready, the man introduced them- himself as Brain and his friend as Valentina. She’s only working with Lewis and Brian for a few weeks to get used to the site and working construction, then she’ll be moved to smaller projects and crew. Valentina doesn’t speak much, watching me carefully with her eyebrow scrunched up in what seems to be confusion. I don’t let it bother me, she was determined to make Lewis straight simply because she didn’t believe he was dating another man, now that she saw me, she’s probably wondering why Lewis chose me of all people. Sometimes I can’t believe it either, then his kisses and touches linger on my skin long after he’s touched me and I remember he does want me, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.

Brian tells me how Lewis is doing today, that when he and Valentina left the site the Scotsman was handling a machine, I’m not good at identifying big machines and had no idea what he had said. I’m told that Lewis might break yet another machine or nearly kill Seán again, I can’t tell if Brian is joking or if he’s serious. I’m hoping it’s only an inside joke because I had already worried about Lewis while he’s at work, construction can be dangerous after all, I don’t want to worry about him injuring Seán. Brian reassures me that the men watch over each other, just sometimes Lewis gets distracted while working machines, it’s not often but he does almost hurt people.

I can picture Seán scolding Lewis for it and protecting him if he was in danger of getting hurt, the same goes for Lewis to the Irishman. Lewis may be the one to injure Seán the most on accident but he’ll protect him if he’s able and it reassures me that they’ll both be fine.

I’m placing the coffee and banana nut muffins I know both Lewis and Seán enjoy, Brian hadn’t ordered them but Lewis hadn’t come in and eaten anything and I want to make sure he eats something. Brian appears to be getting ready to ask about them but Valentina burst out a question before he can. “How long have you and Lewis been dating?”

Brian rolls his eyes, a flash of gold appearing in the lights of the shop. I don’t mind the innocent question, giving her a small smile, “Just over two months.”

She nods slowly, considering, “And your exclusive? Dating anyone on the side?”

Now I’m getting suspicious, remembering that she wanted to attempt to gain Lewis’s attention even if he rejected her by stating he’s gay. She probably thinks he’ll date her if we’re not exclusive. Glancing at Brian earns me an apologetic expression, knowing I may be uncomfortable with the questions. “We agreed we wouldn’t date anyone else.”

Valentina pouts, giving a slight nod before grabbing her coffee and turning to leave. Brian sighs as he watches, turning back to me to smile kindly, “Sorry for her, she’s had her focus on Lewis since she walked on-site and won’t take his lack of attention to her as rejection. You got nothing to worry about, he’s whipped and wrapped around your finger.”

I grin at the reassurance, loving the teasing tone at how he describes Lewis’s affection for me. As he pays for the coffee I explain the muffins before he can ask or attempt to pay for them. “The muffins for Lewis and Seán, can you give it to them for me? Do you want one? On the house.”

Brian beams at me, “Yeah, I’ll drop them off for you. Muffins aren’t my thing but thank you. Have a good day, Tom.”

“You too, thank you!” I wave at him before he leaves.

🔓🔎🗝

CeCe returned shortly after Brian and Valentina left, saying Miss Parry needed to speak with her and Ryan. My friend seemed pleased with how the conversation went, smirking at me as she helps me wipe the counters down for the shift Miss Parry works by herself until Oliver gets off his own shift and comes to help. Ryan had been in the kitchen with Miss Parry, helping her with baking sweets or muffins for the display cases in front of the counter me and CeCe work at. I’m sure he’s in there to hide from CeCe or Lewis, or both of them.

Once the clock changes and CeCe shoulder checks me relatively gently, I go hang up my apron and wave to CeCe as she heads to the door. Usually, she stays to talk to Lewis for a few minutes, Seán if he’s with Lewis. But today she needs to take Sally back to the vets for a check-up to make sure she’s healing as she should be and see if she needs any more shots or a special diet since the vet said she was slightly overweight. That leaves me free to question Ryan freely, as long as I can get him away from Miss Parry.

The kitchen is spacious, for a small building like the shop anyway and it’s nearly spotless because Miss Parry likes working in a clean space. Spotless, if not for the flour and sugar and eggshells and butter all over the far left shiny gray counter. Ryan isn’t much cleaner than the space he’s working in, there’s flour in his hair, and I spot yet another piece of shell in it as well. His jeans have dried butter and batter on them, the apron he wears is a mess of yellow yolk and caramel sauce. He’s stirring more batter in a big, shining stainless steel bowl, the batter is sloshing around and occasionally spilling over the sides.

Miss Parry is on the other side of the kitchen where the twin ovens are, pulling out two batches of Muffins to put off to the side to cool and place two more in to bake. She’s the first to notice me, smiling once she turns around to start a new batter. “Tom! You need something or do you just want a muffin for the ride home?”

Our relationship is still wounded, but we’re healing and I’m very slowly building what trust I lose for her. She’s attempting to get along with Lewis and not treating him horribly, she actually smiles at him sometimes on the better days. It’s all I can ask that wouldn’t harm our relationship if she hadn’t done this, try and talk with Lewis, I’m unsure how we’ve continued. I love her and want to have her in my life as a person to trust, if she couldn’t just try to make amends with me and Lewis, I don’t know what I would’ve done about it.

Ryan stopped and looked up at me, giving a smile before returning to the batter. I gesture at him as I turn back to Miss Parry, “Care if I borrow him for a few minutes? Lewis should be here soon anyway.”

She nods and shoos Ryan away from his bowl of batter, grumbling about the mess and needing to teach him how to clean after himself. Ryan mocks her as he walks towards me, rolling his eyes playfully with a grin. I laugh, leading him to the staff room for privacy. He doesn’t ask why I’m taking him in here, staying quiet until we sit down at the table. He leans his forearms on the surface, facing me with a small smile yet his eyes have a glint of apprehensiveness in them. I keep my smile as a way to reassure him it’s nothing bad, or at least I hope it isn’t.

Deciding I should start with I think is a simple topic, before moving on to his performance at the talk we had in my apartment, I start with his strange behavior around Lewis. With a small sigh to give me a sense of calm, I ask, “Ryan, why are acting weird around Lewis?”

Instantly, he tenses and his smile falters, eyes flicking away. After a few seconds, he clears his throat, stuttering, “W-weird? I’m not acting weird, di-did he say something?”

My brows rise as I slowly shake my head, seeing him relax slightly before going stiff at my next sentence. “I just noticed you were. I’m just curious if something happened.”

He quickly rejects it, “No, no, nothing is wrong. He- Lewis is a great dude.”

“Uh-huh.” My head tilts at the blush on his cheeks, wondering aloud, “Do you...have a crush on him?”

Ryan snaps his eyes to mine, wide and unbelievable, as his head shakes frantically. “No! I don’t- no.”

“It’s okay, I don’t mind.” I keep going as a way to reassure him, “I mean, I understand. It’s just...you always blush around him and you can’t look him in the eye, you always move away and-”

I’m cut off by Ryan, “I love you.”

Blinking at the sudden change of topic, my eyebrows scrunch together, “...I love you too.”

Ryan looks pained, his eyes close tightly and he releases a long sigh. His hands clench together once and he winces as he confesses, “No. Tom, I love you. More than a friend. I want you back and I can’t because he’s in the way and if he knew I’d be dead.”

My breathing has stopped at the unexpected knowledge. I didn’t prepare for this, him having a crush or hatred for Lewis, I could deal with. This? Nowhere near prepared. I thought we had gotten past that point in our relationship, where we feel feelings knowing that we tried before and it didn’t work out. But, that was when we were younger and stupid and didn’t know how to have a serious BDSM relationship. We’ve learned and changed, it could be only natural to feel old feelings again. Yet, I feel lost because I don’t return them. I found who I was searching for, who is the perfect Dominant and man for me. Lewis. I don’t understand how to deal with, process this.

It must show because he rushes to explain himself, seeming to panic. “I’m scared if he knows, he’ll beat me up. I’m angry at him coming into your life and being so good to you, I want that. I want to take care of you. I thought if I kept away, he’d never see it because apparently to CeCe I’m obvious. If he doesn’t know, I keep my life. And be able to be around you.”

I can only mumble, “Lewy wouldn’t kill you..” in the smallest voice I’ve ever used since I moved with my Aunt and met Miss Parry.

Ryan scoffs, “No, not kill. But surely beat me to an inch of my life.”

It’s still processing that he loves me, even as I continue the conversation. “Ryan..we tried that before, it didn’t work out..”

He sighs, “I know, Tommy. But we’re older and more experienced than we were back then. I’d like to try again if you’ll let us. Will you?”

I can’t think, the information so sudden I’m still slightly shocked. Do I want to try again? Being with Ryan was nice while it lasted, it wasn’t the healthiest by any means as we didn’t understand what we wanted just yet out of the relationship. It was good though. With him, I could be myself and I’d enjoy my time with him, he had friends that I didn’t like but who has perfect friends? He tried to make time for me, give me attention and he tried his best to fill what needs I did know I had.

But..do I want him back?

Voice getting closer to the staff room interrupt my thinking and the conversation, I recognize them as Miss Parry and Lewis. Ryan stiffens even more as the door opens and my boss and date walk in. Lewis automatically gravitating to me and leaning down to press a kiss to my cheek while Miss Parry looks between Ryan and me. Lewis glances at Ryan, seeing his rigid posture and the lost look in my eyes, and breaths a silent sigh that is only noticeable by his chest shifting.

He leans down to pick me up, holding me by the back of my thighs and against his side. He looks down at Ryan again, “Ya stayin, or goin?”

Ryan grips the table tightly, “Staying.”

Lewis nods once, turns, and leaves the cafe.

🔓🔎🗝

At my apartment, Lewis sits us on the couch. I’m on his lap, straddling his thighs and laying on his chest with my head tucked under his hairy chin. He hadn’t said anything on the drive over, allowing me to go through my wild thoughts. Now, we sit in silence, save for the murmur of the tv in the background, for what feels like forever until he finally speaks.

“He tell ya?”

Thinking back when I assumed he suspected something, I’m not as shocked as I would be. He knew but didn’t tell me himself because it was Ryan’s problem, not his and he shouldn’t confess what isn’t his to confess. Lewis knew Ryans was fearful, is scared, of him finding out and he knew my friend wouldn’t attempt something, so he left it be. I like that he didn’t and still trusted Ryan just enough not to try anything with me- out of fear or not.

“Yea. Quite the shock.” I snuggle closer to his warmth, feeling him wrap his arms around me tightly.

He noses at my ear, voice soft, “What’d he say?”

Sighing, I tell him how the conversation happened. He chuckles when I explain I thought Ryan had a crush on him but lets me finish, after that it’s silent for another few seconds.

“Do ya want ta? Date him.” He doesn’t sound angry or possessive, only curious.

It takes an even longer silence for me to speak. Thinking and comparing Lewis to Ryan when we dated, how I felt to how I feel now. Back then I didn’t know what I wanted and thought Ryan had all the power, we never communicated on what we wanted or needed. We didn’t have safe words or know that the Sub has the power even when it doesn’t appear so. It wasn’t healthy and it was draining at times, sometimes I felt trapped and other times it was amazing. Ryan grew as a person and Dominant, I know this, but he doesn’t get what I need from a relationship.

Lewis makes everything easier, whereas Ryan it was hard and easy simultaneously. Lewis knows my needs and is still learning them, and is okay with it all. He takes care of me in ways that make me feel special and loved, he provides for me and makes sure I’m his first priority. We communicate and talk things through, go through them. I know I have power in this, one word or rejection, and Lewis will back off. I had never felt trapped, Lewis brings me a sense of protection and contentedness I hadn’t previously. He knows how to read me, calm me, ground me.

With Ryan, I couldn’t breathe at times. With Lewis, I always have air, sun, and water.

“No, I don’t. Just want you.”

“Good.”

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