Empty-Handed Heart [Suncoast Society]

By: Tymber Dalton

The playtime wasn’t guaranteed tonight, either. It depended on how she felt.

Maybe someone else wouldn’t want to be bothered with her emotional and physical baggage, but he came into their relationship with plenty of his own. He found Etsu to be a sweet spirit, always willing to try things, with complete trust in him.

Maybe too much trust, and perhaps a bit misplaced, but he desperately didn’t want to let her down. She’d helped soothe his heart and the ache in his soul, the first person he’d opened himself up to emotionally since…

He tried not to think about him.

And she was so different from him that Aden wasn’t reminded of that pain every time he looked at her. They’d been dating for six months now.

She’d eagerly taken to hypnosis, too. Super-easy to put into trance. With it, he’d been able to help her mitigate some of her anxiety, as well as amply the sensations she felt during their scenes without him having to play as hard with her.

Aden was pretty sure he loved her. Lately, he’d been thinking about asking her to move in with him, except he hadn’t met most of her family yet. Etsu was roommates with her brother Tosh’s sister-in-law, Molly, sharing an apartment, and had been for three years after Etsu finally convinced her parents that she needed to move out and be on her own.

It also meant Etsu couldn’t so much as sneeze around Molly without it almost immediately getting back to Etsu’s parents. Having sex there was out of the question. The one time Aden had tried to spend the night there, her mother had suddenly shown up and stayed until the wee hours, making it plainly clear she wasn’t leaving until Aden did despite Etsu repeatedly asking her to leave.

He’d opted to be gracious and defer to the woman, hoping maybe it would earn him brownie points.

It apparently hadn’t.

Etsu had later reamed Molly a new one for ratting her out. Etsu was thirty-one, not seventeen, for chrissake. Then, the first several times Etsu had spent the night at Aden’s, her mother kept texting and calling until Etsu finally, firmly, told her mom she was turning off her phone.

Likewise, Etsu had to be extremely careful in the days after they played if she had marks. Aden wouldn’t put it past her parents to call the law if they saw strange bruises on her.

He’d met one of Etsu’s brothers, Hiroki, or Ro, as Etsu called him. At thirty-six, he was the third-youngest sibling, and four years older than Aden. The three of them had lunch one afternoon several weeks earlier.

It hadn’t…gone well.

Aden sensed the guy hated him on sight. While Aden appreciated the level of protective love, it was annoying to be painted with whatever brush the man was using, and likely had something to do with the way Aden’s introduction to their mother had happened.

Didn’t help the guy was an attorney.

Etsu had warned Aden going into this that her parents and three older brothers were overprotective. Her family’s antics had tanked every relationship she’d ever tried to have. They pointed out to her the fact that the men had broken up with her proved they weren’t worthy of her, and that they’d been right to not like them.

All while completely ignoring their role in the men rightfully wigging out.

Maybe that would have been a honking red flag to other guys, but from Etsu’s health history—including several asthma attacks that had sent her to the hospital—he understood it. That, and she was the baby, the only girl with three older brothers.

So this time, she was taking her time and not rushing to introduce Aden to all of them.

Aden had spent eight years with a sadist.

Another five mourning the man’s departure.

Her family was a bunch of rank amateurs compared to what he’d been through. He could damn sure wait them out.

Choosing not to pressure Etsu—because pressuring her would stress her out—he’d opted to wait before taking things farther with her than he already had in terms of a relationship. Bide his time.

Wouldn’t deny to himself it meant he didn’t have to address his own emotional issues or think about him. That metaphorical grave could remain undisturbed indefinitely.

Wasn’t like Etsu was pushing for more right now, either. They were dating, she was his submissive, and things were good. Molly had stopped ratting out Etsu to her mom every time she slept over at Aden’s, although she’d still text the woman if she thought Etsu wasn’t feeling well.

Obviously, Etsu had never told Molly about her involvement in BDSM. No way in hell would her family stand for that, and it was something Etsu loved and needed.

Ironic that I had no family and am now dating a woman whose family is practically glued to her.

More irony? He would love to have a close relationship with her loving, extended family. It killed him to be excluded from family gatherings and holiday events, except he’d never tell her that. Didn’t want to add to her stress and guilt over it. She was handling things as best she could, and he got it.

Still, it stung.

Especially when the past two Christmases he couldn’t even spend the day with Ygor in Tampa, because he’d flown out to California on his son’s dime.

Aden didn’t even have a legit right to feel jealous over that, because Ygor wasn’t his father, even if he still called him Da and for the past thirteen years the man had been the closest thing Aden had to a real father.