The Institute:Daddy Issues(9)By: Evangeline Anderson
“All right,” I said reluctantly. “I just don’t like the idea of fetching a stick or begging for treats.”
“No, no, my dear.” Stevens laughed. “That would be puppy play. The Institute isn’t about that at all.”
“I was just kidding about that,” I said. “But you’re serious—that’s a thing? Puppy play?”
“There are all kinds of kinks,” the professor said. “But as of now, you need only be concerned about one. So maybe the two of you would like to come to my house for supper and I can explain your roles in more detail?”
“No.” Salt spoke up, surprising me. “No, we will meet at my house,” he said, looking at Stevens. “Less trouble this way.”
“Well, okay, sure.” I shrugged. “Professor Stevens?”
“Just tell me the address,” he said nodding. “I’ll be there with bells on.”
Knowing that he was deep in the fetish community made me wonder if he meant that literally. I had a feeling Salt and I were going to find out.
I hummed as I moved around Salt’s kitchen, setting out a plate of sandwiches and stirring the soup on the stove. Living in Florida, I had never been much for soup before I met my partner. It’s almost never cold enough to crave winter comfort foods, which was how I always thought of it. But I had gradually learned that Salt didn’t see a meal as complete without it, so I had added a number of new soup recipes to my cooking repertoire. The kind we were having tonight was actually a nice vegetable soup I had made for him a few weeks before. He had frozen the rest so all I had to do was reheat it—convenient.
As I worked in the kitchen, Salt set the table. He was also humming to himself in a low, tuneful baritone. I stopped my own humming to listen to him. I hadn’t thought of it much before but it occurred to me how much I liked my partner’s voice. It’s very deep and masculine and commanding. It’s funny—he doesn’t talk much and when he does, he keeps his tone quiet for the most part. But still, when he talks, people listen and things get done. I liked that about him.
“What are you humming?” I asked, stirring the soup again. “It’s nice.”
“Is a song my grandmother used to sing to me at night sometimes.” For a moment, he stopped humming and sang instead, his deep voice washing over me as the rich, guttural Russian language filled his warm kitchen. It sent a shiver through me for some reason, though I didn’t know why.
“What does it mean?” I asked when he finished. “Translate for me.”
“It is what you call a lullaby I think. It goes…My little fox, my little kitten, sleep, oh sleep—the day is through. Heavy eyes and tired feet. Sleep my little mouse, sleep my little…” He paused for a moment. “I think the last would translate into ‘my little nugget of gold.’”
“What?” I burst out laughing. “My little gold nugget? Is that a nickname in Russia?”
“Da—of course.” He gave me one of his rare smiles. “What is more precious than gold? You could also call someone dear to you pchelka—my little bee.”
“Little bee?” I frowned. “But bees sting people.”
“Bees also give honey,” he pointed out. “Which is an English term of endearment.”
“I guess so,” I acknowledged. “It does sound weird when you think about it. Though no stranger than a man calling a grown woman ‘Little girl’ or a woman calling a man ‘Daddy,’ I guess.” I shivered. “Ugh—I’m really not looking forward to that.”
Salt frowned. “This bothers you greatly—the terms we are meant to use for each other?”