Ripping the box cutter through the cardboard, Buttercup tore down another carton to take to recycling. She grabbed the pile of books, hefted them into the front of the store, and loaded them on a shelf she’d prepared earlier. Shoot, long day and more to go. The shop was closed Mondays, and since Winston taught several classes, it was her chance to really do the unpacking, stocking, and other big jobs.
A knock rattled the glass. She smiled. The shop had a lot of loyal customers, and sometimes they really needed something for a spiritual event or ceremony. They knew she’d sell it to them, even if she was closed. She lifted the edge of the shade that covered the glass door. What the heck? Melanie and Andy stood outside, scarves around their necks against the California chill.
She opened and motioned them in. “What’s up, you two?”
Melanie wore tight black yoga pants that looked great on her slim frame and a hooded sweatshirt. “You doing inventory, Buts?”
“Unpacking and stocking, actually. Not as tedious. Why?”
“Want a volunteer?” Mel pointed to Andy, who smiled. The man sure didn’t talk for himself much.
Buttercup noticed he was wearing workout pants and a sweatshirt too. “You came dressed for the job?”
He looked down. “No, I was going to do yoga with Mel.”
“Then Winston told us you were working hard over here, and Saint Andy wouldn’t hear of you doing it alone, so he made me bring him here.”
“Really?” She looked at him, and he blushed. “Hell’s bells, I can always use help. Especially strong male help.”
“Well, you got him. I’m gonna be late for class. Can you bring him home when you leave?”
“Sure.” Hell, the guy looked appetizing in those slim athletic pants. A lot better than khakis.
Melanie rushed off, glancing at her watch, and Buttercup looked at her new apprentice. Why on earth had the guy wanted to help her? “You sure about this? Yoga would be a lot more fun.”
He looked down and blushed again. “Yeah, I’m sure.”
“Okay. You asked for it.”
An hour later she had run cute Andy ragged. He’d carried boxes, unloaded books, cut up cartons, and ferried stacks of material to the recycle bin. She asked. He did. Not a question. She’d died and gone to heaven. She looked at him up on the stepladder. Hell’s bells, she had a lot of cute butts in her life right now. “Hey, let’s take a break. You like tea?”
She went back to the little kitchen area she kept in her stockroom, poured a couple cups, and turning, found he’d followed her in. “You want milk or sugar?”
He smiled shyly. “How do you take yours?”
“I like milk in this kind of tea.”
They sat in the two café chairs at a little round table shoved up against the wall. “So you’re a stockbroker?”
“Yeah. A Portfolio manager, actually.” He looked up at her through his lashes. “It’s okay to be surprised. Everyone is.”
“’Cause you’re so, uh, quiet?”
“Yeah. But I have a gift for stock picking and market analysis. I’m actually pretty good at it.”
“Yeah, Mel said.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound egotistical or anything. I --”
“Andy, quit it.”
“Yes, ma’am.” And he simply stopped talking.
She stared at him. “What did you say?”
“Why did you say that?”
His eyes stayed cast down. “Because I want to please you. Do what you say.”
“Why?” He didn’t answer. “Answer me, Andy.”
“Yes, ma’am. I want to do what you say because I like you so much, and I want to serve you.”
Well, shit. Just plain shit. “You don’t even know me.”
“Yes, ma’am, I do. I felt I was supposed to come here, and when I met you, I knew why. Because you’re my…” His eyes glanced up, then back to his teacup.
Holy shit. What had she done by putting her desires out into the universe? Created a ready-made slave? “Andy, did Melanie tell you I’m with someone?”
“Yes, but we don’t have to have sex. Just let me serve you, please.”
“Sweetheart, didn’t you just break up with someone?”
“See, that’s all that’s going on. You’re on the rebound from this other woman.”
“Hell! Andy, was this man your dom?”
“And your lover?”
“So you’re gay?”
“No, I’ve always been with women until him.”
“I’m not even a dominatrix.”
She got that glance through the lashes again. Sexy much? “Yes, you are. You’re my Mistress Buttercup.”
She burst out laughing. “See, right there I fail. A dominatrix has to be named Tanya or Greta or Antonia. Certainly not Buttercup.”
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