A perfect example of power play between a man and a woman can be found in "The House on Black Lake". In chapter twenty-two, titled "The Beast In The Cage", Alexandra Brighton and Ramey Sandeley engage in a fierce power enchange that leaves each altered and prepared to take their relationship to the next level.
Following is complete chapter:
The Beast in the Cage
I watch a myriad of my reflections in the eyes of the exotic stuffed animals, as I move through the entryway.
“Where have you been, Alexandra?”
He moves up behind me, baring touching.
“What are doing up so late, Ramey?”
“I might ask you the same question. St. Agathe closes up tight by ten o’clock, unless you’ve been invited to a private party.”
“I was invited to a private party.”
“Was it good?”
Ramey digs his fingers into my arm and swings me around to face him. He looks dreadful, with hair sticking up in tufts, the corners of his lips caked with dried blood, and his T-shirt stained with perspiration. What is more alarming are the gray hairs mingling in the growth of stubble on his chin - the first sign of anything that has staked a claim on his perfection. A wave of repulsion rides up my spine and spikes a fit of nausea, disgust unfathomable in my former carnation. The God has fallen from his pedestal. This grim satyr looks and smells like nothing more than a filthy drunk.
“I need to talk to you; come back to my room.”
“Take your hands off me. Enough is enough! I don’t welcome the sexual advances of my friend’s husband, or anyone else’s for that matter.”
“You sure rode in on a high horse.”
“I’ve paid a high price for my freedom, unlike you. I have no respect for men who seek the safety of the cage and the thrill of the wild, but don’t have the courage to commit to either.”
“Don’t lecture me, dear.”
“Fuck you, Ramey.”
“I don’t take seconds.”
“Is that so?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?
“She stayed the night in Montreal.”
He digs his fingers deeper into my arm and guides me roughly through the house.
“I said no! Let go of me.”
“Quiet. You’ll wake the children,” he says, then draws me inside the room and engages the bolt lock.
“I prefer to stand.”
“Suit yourself, baby.”
He moves to a hanging chair, upholstered in brocade, with interlocking chains connected to hooks in the ceiling.
“I’ve seen your little warlock’s den, Ramey. What are you, some kind of wizard?”
“I have a fascination with science and magic. Does that frighten you?” he says, and sits in the chair with legs spread wide.
“You don’t frighten me.”
“Did you fuck Andre Labat?”
“Jealousy doesn’t suit you, Ramey.”
“Answer the question.”
He rides his hands up the chain and draws a tongue over cracked lips.
“I’m disappointed; I thought you had higher standards.”
“Why did you row me out to stay in the house on the island?”
“I love a good game. Terror and Titillation is one of my favorites. I also like Pain and Pleasure. They’re goal posts on the same playing field. Rowing you out on the lake and leaving you there, was like tying you up without tethers. The thought of you alone and frightened got me off - knowing I could set you free . . . or not.”
“You have a very sick mind.”
“Freedom can only be attained through absolute containment. The body is a vessel for the soul and the soul is the conduit to the spiritual world. When your body is contained, your soul is released. The soul’s escape is a powerful, life-changing event. And when it happens, there is no turning back.”
He stops the motion of the chair.
“Don’t pretend you don’t understand.” He gets up from the chair and moves across the room to where I stand next to the door.
“You know exactly what I mean, don’t you? You’ve had a taste of it, haven’t you?”
I clasp the palm of my hand against my chest to calm my wildly beating heart.
“It started in the house, didn’t it? And last night in the hallway, you went there with me, didn’t you?”
“Is this the warlock talking? Or do you worship a darker deity?”
“Yes, it’s happened, Alexandra. That’s why you fell for the pathetic charms of Andre Labat. But giving yourself to that little worm is like a sailor dipping his cup in the sea when he’s dying of thirst. He’ll never be able to quench what I see in you.”
He stands only inches from me now - so close a bead of sweat drops from his forehead onto my cheek.
“I made love to Ruth the night we left you on the island and pretended she was you.”
“Save your confessions for your satanic priest.”
“But you had to fuck with it and move into my basement.”
“Nothing matters to you, does it, other than satisfying your perverted needs?” I say, and turn to walk out the door.
“I didn’t give you permission to leave yet.”
He blocks my movement to the door.
“You stay in my house, eat my food, drive my car, and expect me to babysit your son so you can go out and fulfill your perverted needs?”
“I refuse to defend myself. You invited me to stay in your home. I’m your guest. I will be leaving soon, so you shall be relieved of your burden shortly. And with whom I choose to share my bed is certainly none of your concern. I’m a single woman and free to do whatever I desire. I was once contained, but I had the guts to release myself. You, on the other hand, are completely contained. You wear on your hand the gold band of ownership, proof you’ve been tamed. You are no different than your marked and pierced livestock. You have no claim on freedom. You’re branded, Ramey.”
The look in his eyes terrifies me. They are the eyes of a killer.
“Listen, Ramey, I’m tired and you’re drunk, and this isn’t the best time to have a discussion. We can talk tomorrow if you like, preferably with your wife present. Now, please move away from the door . . . I need to check on Sammy.”
Ramey’s perfect teeth glimmer inside his parted lips.
“I want you to consent to a punishment for your behavior, for being such an ungrateful houseguest. Five lashes would be fair, wouldn’t you agree?”
“This has gone far enough.”
“Have you ever taken a beating?”
“What are you saying?”
“Have you ever taken corporal punishment from a lover?”
“I have no idea - ”
He gestures the bed against the wall, a four-poster bed swathed in yards of parachute silk and covered with a plush crimson duvet and lace pillows.
“You’re acting crazy, Ramey. I’m leaving.”
“You walk out that door and I’m taking you and your son to the airport tonight.” He spits out while grabbing my arm.
“Get out of my way. I’m leaving this room."
“Go . . .” he says, motioning to the door. As I turn to leave, he whisks me up into his arms and carries me across the room to throw me roughly onto the bed.
Like a prodded beast inside its cage he paces the room. His eyes glow, dark gray eyes transformed to a vivid gold. Or perhaps the change in color is a reflection of the flames from the studded candles stationed on wood pedestals next to the bedposts.
“Stand up and bend over,” he orders.
“There’s only one way for it to happen. We’re the same you know; we’re the same kind.”
“I’m nothing like your kind.”
“I haven’t slept since I met you,” he says in a chilling voice. “I wander through a maze of empty houses filled with dark shadows. When I awake in the darkest hours I want to take you into my arms and lose myself inside you. Some nights I feel I might succumb to the gloom and follow the curse of my legacy.”
He observes me with a strange curiosity, as though he is aware I have been plagued by similar dreams.
“We’ve been together since the first moment I took your eyes - the night you walked into the crazy house in the desert on the arm of your asshole husband. You looked like an angel dressed in white, with snow falling outside the windows behind you, and Mozart echoing in the rafters - a fucking angel sent on a mission to destroy me. I’ve waited for you a very long time - it feels like more than a lifetime, and perhaps it is. My quest is only to release you I’ll give you what you deserve, and more importantly I’m offering what you need to spread your wings and fly.”
“You’re not listening to me. I said no! You are not used to hearing that word, so it may sound foreign to a man like you - one who has never been refused.”
“There is no other way,” he says with calm assurance. There’s no other way for you to break out, to crack the shell. You say you’re free, but you’re not. You took off your ring, but you still live inside the cage. Your perfect world was never your own, and now it’s impossible to return. You can refuse, but we both know it has to happen, sooner or later.”
“Who are you to lecture me about perfect worlds? If you were true to yourself, you’d be living in hell, or at the least in a cave instead of this castle.”
He stops his pacing and moves to where I sit perched at the edge of his bed. He grazes his hands along the heavy leather belt holding up his jeans and begins to unfasten the buckle.
“I could tie you up and torture you with love first, but you don’t deserve it.”
“You’ve tortured me long enough.”
“Well then, let’s get to it.”
“How does beating someone free them, for God’s sake?” I ask, and avert my eyes from what is impossible to explain, ignore, or understand, for that matter, the male thing, the strength of not knowing, wanting to know, what lies beneath.
“It’s a method used by tribes and most civilizations throughout the history of the world. When used in initiation, to help the initiates ascend to a higher level of spiritual awakening. The experience is powerful for both the giver and the receiver.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve experienced it.”
I struggle to gather my thoughts. I don’t know how to express my feelings, so I let something deeper take over and speak for me. “You may be a sorcerer, but you are neither my master nor my priest. My body and soul are not for your taking. That privilege is earned through trust and commitment. You are correct. I am not yet free. But when I am, I will only supplicate myself to a man who worships me as much as I worship him.”
I shift my focus to gaze at a picture in a gilded frame, set on the nightstand next to a crystal bowl of fragrant potpourri. It is a photograph of Ruth and Ramey wrapped in each others arms, surrounded by their five young children, standing in front of a Christmas tree trimmed in colorful balls and ribbons and brimming with dozens of gaily wrapped packages.
“We’ve been conjoined by fate, and there’s no turning back,” he says, and a strangled thread of emotion seeps into these words, a mixture of sorrow and regret that makes me shudder.
There is a long and terrible silence, a silence like no other. It is the stillness after an upheaval, after the squeal of the tires and the sound of the catastrophe. It is the hush when you know your life will never be the same. It is the dead calm when you have crossed the line of time into a new existence. Something has changed. This interlude of sadism has changed me forever.
“Look at me . . . look into the pupils of my eyes, Alexandra. They are the only place in the body where you can look inside the mind and see what it is thinking and feeling.”
I straighten myself on the downy silk comforter, wipe the tears from my lashes and gaze directly into Ramey’s eyes. Beyond the fading anger, I see other emotions flicker. There are nuances of more vulnerable feelings, and something else, more profound and meaningful than the vain and shallow substances floating on the surface. A shadow lurks there; a glint of the unspeakable hides beneath the wreckage of his heart. He holds a terrible secret in the unfathomable depths. It is wild, crazy, unbelievable, and eminent, yet I have no idea what it is.
“You’re moving away from me, baby. It’s like you’ve fallen into the bottom of a well. You’re crouched down there, but I can’t get to you. I can’t save you.”
“Forgive me, but you are mistaken. I didn’t ask you to save me.” I stand up from the bed and move across the room.
“I believe it’s you who’s looking to be saved. You need to save yourself, Ramey,” I say, then turn and walk out the door.