Unquietly Me welcomes J.A. Rock!
Hi! I’m J.A. Rock, and right now I’m touring the internet talking about my latest release, 24/7—Book 4 in The Subs Club series. Thanks so much to the blogs that are hosting me on this tour, and be sure to leave comments on the tour posts for a chance to win a $15 Riptide Publishing gift card!
We started the Subs Club to make the kink community safer for subs. Except now the others are so busy chasing their happy endings, it’s like they’ve forgotten what Bill did to Hal and the fact that he got away with it. They used to think I was betraying Hal’s memory by hooking up with the owners of the club where he died. Now they don’t seem to care about any of it anymore.
Maybe I am sometimes angry with GK and Kel for giving Bill a second chance, but they’ve been mentoring me for a year now, and whatever else they’ve done, they make me feel incredibly safe. So I want to try something: I want to offer them my complete submission, 24/7. To serve the people who forgave Bill. That’s the way I want to hurt.
Except I’m starting to care about them in a way I never meant to—and I think they feel the same way. But after Hal, I don’t know if I want to be in love again. Because what I really need, more than anything, is to see Bill brought to justice. Even if I have to do it myself. Even if it means losing GK and Kel.
Buy Link: Riptide Publishing
About the Subs Club series
After the death of their friend Hal at the hands of an irresponsible dom, submissive friends Dave, Kamen, Miles, and Gould band together to form the Subs Club—an organization seeking to expose dangerous local doms. The club slowly evolves as romances blossom, loyalties are tested, and tensions mount in a community already struggling for unity in the wake of Hal’s death.
From domestic discipline to knife play to fashion paraphilia, and from family drama to new jobs to first loves, the members of the Subs Club explore life’s kinks inside and outside of the bedroom as they attempt to let go of the past and move forward.
About the Author
J.A. Rock is the author of queer romance and suspense novels, including By His Rules, Take the Long Way Home, and, with Lisa Henry, The Good Boy and When All The World Sleeps. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and a BA in theater from Case Western Reserve University. J.A. also writes queer fiction and essays under the name Jill Smith. Raised in Ohio and West Virginia, she now lives in Chicago with her dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.
J.A. Rock is giving away $15 in Riptide Publishing credit. Leave a comment to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 11, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
I stood naked in the kitchen and reached into the cloth bag that used to hold Scrabble tiles. I scooped a handful of marbles then let most of them fall. Used my thumb to roll the remaining two against my palm until one dropped. I made a fist around the winner and drew it out of the bag. Slowly uncurled my fingers.
Eight white marbles in the bag. Two black. The odds had been in my favor, so why—
It doesn’t do any good to think like that.
I stared at the marble.
You can handle it, whatever it is. As long as it’s for her.
My breathing slowed, and the knot in my gut loosened.
I gazed around the kitchen. At the dishes Kel and Greg had told me to leave in the sink after supper. I had an overwhelming urge to wash them and put them away. Instead I got a glass from the cupboard and filled it with ice and water.
I could swap out the marbles. That occurred to me on the rare occasions I drew a black one. I could just put it back in the bag and grab a white one. They’d have no way of knowing. But I never did it.
They trusted me.
Stop earning black marbles if you never want to draw one.
I closed my hand around the marble again and took a deep breath, then walked to the living room. The mint-colored walls were covered in artsy, black-and-white photographs: Kel in Caracas, pointing at the National Pantheon, one leg kicked up behind her like a pinup girl. Greg photoshopped on the back of a buffalo in Yellowstone, his eyes wide, his mouth open in an O. A boudoir photo of Kel on a white wooden chair, wearing skintight leather shorts, a chest harness with star-shaped studs, and motorcycle boots. Her large breasts hung between the harness straps, and her dark hair fell in loose curls past her shoulders. That picture got taken down when they had company, a print of Dal Lake put up in its place. Another photo, this one of their courthouse wedding here in the city—both of them in jeans and T-shirts. There was one photo on the side table, stuck by a corner into a four-by-six frame overtop of Kel’s cousin’s senior portrait, of the three of us downtown last fall, outside some sushi place.
Kel was sprawled in the faded red armchair, and Greg was straddling her, kissing her neck. I felt just a second’s envy. She glanced up as I entered, and smiled at me. That smile did what it always did—made my legs go numb, my skin turn warm, and my brain forget how words worked. She was one of those people who drew attention without demanding it. When I’d first met her, I’d had the stupid thought that she was like Waldo in a Where’s Waldo? book—she looked at home in any surrounding, to the point where you might not notice her at first glance. But once you spotted her, you felt like you’d found what you’d been searching for. Like in a sea of shopkeepers or gladiators or vampires, this was the person who mattered.
She pushed Greg gently off, and he stood beside her chair while she straightened, tugging her black top down over the exposed skin of her stomach. I dropped my gaze to the carpet and knelt carefully in front of Kel’s chair, holding out the glass of water. She took it and set it aside, then placed her hand on the top of my head in a wordless thank-you.
I spread my knees, because yeah, the spread knees, the lowered gaze, the hands clasped behind the back or the fingers laced behind the head . . . I liked this ritual, even though it felt kind of ridiculous. I wasn’t always sure I saw much difference between ritual and cliché. My parents held fast to a couple of random Jewish customs and holidays. But even those traditions had seemed hollow to me in recent years. Echoes of what they’d once signified. “We’re not super Jewish,” I’d heard my mother say once. “But we’d never want to abandon our heritage.”
News flash: You can’t abandon or change—really change, I mean—the things you inherit. Your nose or your laugh or your anxiety disorder. Your family’s choices, from your great-grandmother getting on a boat to your grandmother going to that college—the one where all the girls “went Sapphic”—to your mother running away with that man. You can try to ignore your inheritance or else sculpt over top of it—a sort of cultural plastic surgery. I’m agnostic now. I got my hair rebonded. I no longer have a separate sponge for scrubbing meat pans. But everyone can tell you’ve had work done.
I placed my arms behind my back, clasped my left wrist in my right hand, and bowed my head. My hair brushed the knees of her pants. I could smell the environmentally friendly fabric softener she used. She leaned down and held her cupped hand where I could see it, and I unclasped briefly to drop the marble into her palm. Reclasped.
She gave a low whistle. Her legs shifted slightly. “Greg. Look here.”
“Uh-oh.” He sounded like he was trying not to laugh. He’d been doing better lately at not making fun of me when I was in trouble, and I’d been doing better at not taking it so hard when he did. He touched the back of my neck, and my skin prickled there. “That had to be the only black one in there, right? And, like, a thousand white ones.” I stayed quiet but answered in my head: There were two black marbles. One for forgetting to bring the strap. Saturday the twentieth. One for missing the signal to get the gear bag. Friday the twelfth.
Kel stroked my hair gently. “What’s the tally, Gould?”
“Two black, eight white, Ma’am.”
“So you’ve been good this month?”
I made a face at the carpet. I hated questions like this. It was like being asked to “give your paper the grade you think it deserves” in freshmen comp class. “I’ve tried to be. But I could still improve, Ma’am.”
I waited for a snort from Greg, but there was nothing. When I’d started playing with them a year ago, Greg had teased me about being a brownnoser. He hadn’t meant it, really, but it had annoyed me. Submitting came a lot more naturally to me than it did to him, and I couldn’t help my desperate—and okay, probably obnoxious—need to obey.
I’d never told him how much it bothered me. Rationally I knew it was no big deal. The teasing, the way he tried sometimes to get me in trouble. It just fucked with my headspace to want so bad to please Kel, and yet always be anticipating Greg’s derision if I was too eager.
Maybe, deep down, he was afraid Kel wished he were more like me when he subbed. Which wasn’t true at all. She loved her husband in a way I could only dream about being loved. Loved the way he challenged her, loved watching him learn to please her. And she loved using me to humiliate him. When I stayed balanced on one foot during a rope scene while he struggled and hopped around: “Gould’s doing what I told him to. Why can’t you?” Or, if she pegged him, and he grunted and ow-ed through it: “Gould can take my cock up his ass without whining. What’s your problem?”
It had made me uncomfortable at first, because I assumed it hurt Greg’s feelings, made him resent me. But then I saw how much he loved being taunted that way. He got off on the humiliation of not being able to obey the way I did, of being told he wasn’t performing adequately. It creeped me out how well I understood that need. That desire to be found wanting, no matter how hard I tried to please. To be humiliated in spite of my goodness. Or maybe because of it.
Kel took her hand off my head and reached for one of the two cookie tins on the table beside her. Each was filled with slips of paper. The slips in the red tin all had rewards written on them. The slips in the purple tin were all punishments. We kept a jar of black and white marbles in the kitchen, and when I fucked up, I had to put a black marble in the bag. When I went above and beyond, I put a white marble in. At the start of each of our weekends together, Kel made me draw a marble to determine whether I’d be punished or rewarded. At the end of the month, she emptied the bag and we started again.
“You’ve been very good,” she said quietly. “But I have to say, I’m excited for the chance to punish you. I almost never get to.”
I didn’t answer. When she held the purple tin out to me, I rummaged in it and pulled out a slip of paper. Handed it to her without looking. My heart was thudding.
Relax. It’ll please her to do this to you. Whatever it is.
In my fantasies, I let her do anything to me. I let her hate me, let her terrify me, let her make me feel subhuman. She used me any way she wanted, with absolutely no regard for my feelings, and I took it all until I broke, until I really was nothing.
In reality, I started pissing myself over a fucking black marble.