Max – On Sale Now!

Do you like twisted, sordid stories full of manipulation and depravity?

Max is on sale at Amazon US for $0.99 / Amazon UK for £0.99 until May 12, 2017.

And the best part? Get Max for less than a buck and tack on the Audiobook narrated by Nick J Russo for just $1.99

Folks who dislike unhealthy relationships, are sensitive to consent ambiguity, or have eurotophobia should take a big step back from this story.

It’s dark… ish and full of mindfuckery.

Substance abuse, pornography, violence, cheating, unprofessional behaviour, criminal intent, abuse… and good lord, the lies.

Get your copy now!

Sacrificed: Now Available in Audio

Did you love Michael Ferraiuolo’s narration of Caged? Want the next one?

Out now:

Reunited once more, the crew of Baal’s Heart must make the long and treacherous journey south to the towering spires of the Devil’s Isles. The path through the mountain range is fraught with peril; mayhem and tragedy plague the pirate ship, but what the men find beyond the spires is the most shocking of all.

In this sequel to the acclaimed Caged, the pirates are dragged into a dangerous new world by Captain Baltsaros’s all-consuming obsession. In the midst of terror and chaos, Jon learns that the captain and first mate have been keeping secrets from him. But will the truth tear them apart?

Audible review:
What about Michael Ferraiuolo’s performance did you like?
In a word: incredible. His ability to switch seamlessly between and among all the characters’ voices is truly awesome. This is far more than just a “reading”… it is performance art.

Win a Signed Copy of Better the Devil You Know – Contest ends Oct. 31

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Win a Signed Paperback of Max by Bey Deckard

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Originally, I was going to publish Max later on in October, but the planets aligned and everything was ready quickly, so I sent it live early… and promptly got really fucking sick. cough sneeze

The stress of finishing a book (hey, it’s stressful) on top of all the stress I’ve been under concerning the pit bull ban in Montréal means I got hit harder than I normally would. Thankfully, I am on the mend. (Also, for those who haven’t heard yet, a judge from the Superior Court of Québec, at the SPCA’s behest, suspended the pit bull ban until the actual court hearing is held [which could be in a few months]. HOWEVER, the fucking mayor is now vowing to appeal. shakes head)

Anyhoo.

SO! Max quietly went live and I have to say that I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s the first book I wrote that really covers some of my own stomping ground (The Complications of T was also set partially in Montréal but they never really went out heh) and that was incredibly fun. Almost all the locations are based on real ones, and I tried to convey a sense of Montréal-ness in the use of language and names of things throughout the book: French/English coexistence, crime syndicates, marchés, the metro, the fireworks over the water…

Hey, I love my city… :)

Is it a dark book? Some say yes, some no. It’s certainly twisted and covers dark themes overall. Don’t expect anything resembling a healthy relationship in it. Mostly it’s suspense… or a thriller. I think it’s a rollicking fun psycho romp. I had a good time throwing in references, both subtle and blatant, to my favourite movies and I put together a soundtrack that has some songs that I loved dancing to back in my goth club days.

 

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I’ve got three signed paperbacks to give away. All you have to do is answer the following questions and you’ll be entered to win (international entrants welcome). Send your answers to bey.deckard@gmail.com with the subject: Max Paperback Giveaway.

Good luck! I’ll draw three names on Halloween.

Question one: What movie is this from?

I see angels, Mickey. They’re comin’ down for us from heaven. And I see you ridin’ a big red horse, and you’re driving them horses, whippin’ ’em, and the’re spitting and frothing all ‘long the mouth, and the’re coming right at us. And I see the future, and there’s no death, ’cause you and I, we’re angels…

Question two: In the soundtrack, I used one song that was used in a TV show. What is the name of the show? (hint: it features a serial killer)

Question three: What movie is this from?

Early seemed harmless. Primitive, but harmless. Of course the fact of the matter was he had killed his landlord less than an hour before we met him. He was even wearing the guy’s ring. Who knows what he did with the finger?

Question four: Why was Montreal once called (and sometimes still referred to as) “Sin City”?

Question five: What movie is this from?

I’ve no plans to call on you, Clarice. The world is more interesting with you in it.

☞ Max is Live! ☜

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“Intimidation? I’m not trying to intimidate you, Dennis. See?” Max dropped down to his knees and stared up at Crane, his cheek dimpled. “I’m as harmless as a kitten.”

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Nya Rawlins: ★★★★★ “A train wreck, roadkill you can’t turn away from… dissection and resection… Max vs Crane is a tour de force of sensual transgression.

The Blogger Girls: ★★★★★ “It is one heck of a jam-packed exciting ride.

Buy it now:

Amazon – http://geni.us/MaxZon
Smashwords – http://geni.us/MaxSW
ARe – http://geni.us/MaxSW
iBooks – http://geni.us/MaxiTunes
B & N – http://geni.us/MaxBN
Kobo – http://geni.us/MaxKobo
CreateSpace – https://www.createspace.com/6595825

Add it to Goodreads – http://geni.us/MaxGR
Enter the paperback giveaway – https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/206234-max
Listen to the soundtrack – http://geni.us/MaxOST

Max is now available for preorder – (Releasing Sept. 30)

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Order from:

Amazon

Smashwords

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iTunes

Barnes & Noble

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Read an excerpt

And there’ll be a paperback available probably sooner.

Novella (49,000 words)
Genre(s): transgressive, psychopath, dark erotica, QUILTBAG

Fresh out of school, Dr. Crane takes on a new patient who both intrigues and unnerves him. Charming, manipulative, and amoral, Max has exactly the sort of mind Crane finds himself drawn to with fictional characters.

As Max weaves himself into Crane’s life, Crane realizes that while fiction might be safe, Max certainly is not.

When the professional line between them thins, who gets to define where one man ends and the other begins?

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Ok, so I did the thing. I couldn’t see any reason why not to, especially that it frees me up to work on my other book… *coughdaddykinkcough*

 

 

Sessions With Max – #8

Novella – 49,000
Genre(s): transgressive, psychopath, dark erotica, QUILTBAG

Fresh out of school, Dr. Crane takes on a new patient that both intrigues and unnerves him. Charming, manipulative, and amoral, Max’s proves to be exactly the sort of mind Crane found himself drawn to in fiction.

When Max begins to weave himself into Crane’s life, Crane finds himself realizing that fiction is safe, and Max is certainly not.

 

Excerpt

 

Disclaimer: Read at your own risk.

1 – The First Session

Monday, June 13th

“I wish you would stop doing that.” The words were spoken in a friendly tone, each syllable enunciated so precisely that they gave the impression of a foreign accent.

Crane frowned at the young man seated across from him in the oddly plushy bright-orange barrel chair. They were over half an hour into their first session, and he was still struggling to establish a rapport with this new patient. “Doing what?”

“Mimicking my posture to make me feel more at ease,” replied Max, and he drummed a few beats with his fingertips against his calf as he looked around in distaste at the small shabby office Crane shared with the other therapists at the psychology clinic.

Crane uncrossed his legs and sat back in the chair, discomfited. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even realize I was doing it.”

“S’aaall right.” This time it came out slow and drawled, and Crane found himself smiling. “It has the opposite effect on me,” Max explained with a shrug. “I’m intensely cognizant of you doing it.”

Crane chuckled. Cognizant. The crisp pronunciation was back. The way Max’s accent and speech patterns shifted constantly was fascinating.

“Okay, Max,” he said, nodding. “I’ll try my best to stop doing it. It’s my training, you know.”

“I know.” The reply was accompanied by a smile, but there was something slightly unsettling about it.

Crane looked down at his notes, just to take a moment to think. Relief. That’s what he felt. It was as if he’d gotten a pass because he’d given the right answer—like it would have been inexcusable had he been mimicking Max on purpose. Crane flipped over the scant info Max had provided on the clinic intake sheet, still pretending to read. For some reason, as they spoke, his mind kept slipping to the mafia movie he had seen that weekend with his wife, Mary. When he finally glanced up, Max looked amused.

“Sorry, I was just trying to get back to what we were talking about,” Crane said. They had been talking about what Max called his “ghost”, an imaginary friend that had been with him since childhood. “Can you tell me more about Eric?”

“Eddie.” There was a flicker of annoyance in Max’s dark eyes.

“Sorry. Eddie. Can you tell me more about him?” Crane couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt the need to apologize so often in a session. Then he wondered if Max even cared for his apologies.

“What do you want to know?” The finger drumming again.

It was one of three nervous tics that came over the young man whenever he was asked something uncomfortable. There was something odd about the tics though. Crane decided then to take note of them to see if they always happen in the same order. After putting two marks on the upper left-hand side of the page, he gestured with his pen. “What is he like? Is he like you?” Crane asked with interest.

“He’s not like me, no. We’re actually rather dissimilar.”

“In what way?”

A furrow appeared between Max’s dark brows as he thought. It was like he was mentally shuffling through his answers to give Crane the one of least importance, and he was reminded of that expression about holding cards close to one’s chest. Under “reason for seeking counselling” on the intake sheet, Max had written “taedium vitae”, which translated to “tired of life”. Crane was about to point out that Max was the one who had come to see him, not the other way around, when Max finally spoke up.

“He’s nicer. A little shy. Says I should be more serious… He’s a bit of a fucking pain in my ass sometimes, to be honest.” The words were followed by the cheerful, almost self-mocking laughter that always surprised Crane by how genuine it sounded.

“Would you call him a friend?”

“Yeah. But it’s more than that.” Max uncrossed his legs and leaned forward with his elbows on knees, stroking down over his mouth and jaw with one hand.

Crane made another mark on the paper, this time in the top-centre of the page. That’s tic number two. “More? Like you have a deeper relationship?”

Max nodded.

“Is there a sexual aspect to this relationship?” This time Max smirked before he nodded, and the answer didn’t surprise Crane. He wanted to ask more about the sex just because he was curious as to what exactly that entailed but decided against it.

The young man clasped his hands loosely so that they hung between his knees as he watched Crane, but he didn’t say anything else. Something about the way Max blinked was odd… like it was too slow or not done often enough.

“What I’m getting at is that”—Crane glanced quickly down at his notes—“Eddie provides you with all the companionship you could ever need.”

“Mm.” Paired with the tiny nod, it was a grunt of acknowledgement. Again, nothing else was said.

Crane started to get annoyed, but noticed then that Max was looking at him with obvious levity. He exhaled in frustration.

“I’m sorry,” Max offered with a chuckle. “You’re not asking for more than yes or no answers. Try to reformulate your questions so I’m forced to say more.”

Crane’s eyebrows rose. There it was again, that mixture of unsettled and relieved that had him sitting tense in his seat, but he smiled and nodded anyway, trying to keep his expression bland and friendly.

“Ah! That’s you giving me a hint, right?” Crane said. It was like every time Max got tired of seeing Crane flounder, he would throw him a bone about how to approach his therapy.

Max’s smile was sly. Then he rubbed the back of his neck as he sat back before pushing the peak of his cap up a bit.

Crane’s pen made a fourth pen tic, top-right corner. “Do you think Eddie gets in the way of making real connections with other people?”

A slight curl in Max’s lip appeared, like he disapproved, and Crane realized that he’d asked yet another yes or no question. He frowned and rephrased it quickly. “I mean, why do you think Eddie affects your relationships with real people?”

The laugh that rang out was so lively and full of mirth that Crane found himself laughing along even though he was struck again with an infuriating juxtaposition of emotions.

You asked the right question! Good boy! Have a liver treat!

“Okay, Doc. You’re assuming that Eddie isn’t a real person. I assure you he is. Realer to me than you are,” said Max, still grinning. However, his expression flashed to serious an eye blink later. “Why do you think he’s affecting my relationships? You said for yourself just a few seconds ago that he provides me with all the companionship I could ever need. Wouldn’t real people, as you called them, affect my relationship with Eddie, and not the other way around?”

Crane opened his mouth, but Max swiped the air with a hand and cut him off before he could voice his concerns.

“No, I know what you’re going to say. Human beings need other human beings. I get it. I do. But really, Doc, I’m happy with the level of socialization I get. If I want more, I just go find more, it’s not a big deal.”

Crane kept himself from frowning. He knew that people, in Max’s world, were sort of like commodities or tools—easily obtainable, useful, but impersonal. Then he did let himself frown. “What if you were to ask Eddie to go away for a while and see how you do without him?”

Max’s handsome face was devoid of expression. He shifted in his chair chair, placed his ankle on the opposite knee, and drummed out a little beat against the denim; Crane made a mark, top-left.

“I wouldn’t.” Fingertips drummed again, and Crane made a sixth tic, again in the left-hand column.

“Just as an experiment.”

“I wouldn’t,” Max repeated and rubbed his jaw; another mark went into Crane’s notebook.

“What if I were to ask you to do it for the good of our sessions? Just to see what happens?” He knew that if Max had had his imaginary friend for as long as he claimed, it would take more than that, but Max was incredibly self-controlled—anything was possible. Mostly, Crane was curious about how Max would answer.

The last tic in Max’s cycle showed itself as he scratched at the back of his neck and then lifted the peak of his battered old army cap high enough to show his squashed brown curls beneath it. Crane made another small dash in his notebook, feeling like he’d accomplished something by discovering the repetitive pattern of Max’s nervous tics.

“Dr. Crane,” said Max, shaking his head slowly when he finally replied. “If you knew what you were asking me to do…” Suddenly, all the nervous movements stopped, and Max went still, staring at Crane with dark eyes. “No. I’m going to tell you what you’re asking me to do. Consider this one a freebie. You’re asking me to”—Max paused, his expression becoming a little pained, even vague for a moment—“send the one thing that’s keeping me out of jail or out of the loony bin on holiday. That is what you’re asking me to do.”

Crane was disturbed by the way Max’s gaze held his, but he couldn’t look away. It was like all of his reactions were being categorized and filed away in Max’s lizard brain. At that moment, he realized that Max would do it and send Eddie away if he asked him again. But if Crane did that, he would be responsible for… responsible for what? He blinked, trying to hide his unease from the young man sitting across from him.

In a flash, Max’s face split into the friendly smile that seemed to be his default expression, and he pulled himself to his feet. There was a pulse of fear in Crane’s gut at the sudden proximity—tiny, but it was there.

“Time’s up!” said Max cheerfully.

Sure enough, with a glance to his watch, Crane saw it was three thirty. He rose out of his chair, towering over his dark-haired patient. He was more flustered and tense than after any of his other consults.

“See you next week,” Crane managed, and Max made a double clicking noise with one side of his mouth, like he was chastising Crane for being unnerved.

It was also the same noise that Crane had heard people use to call their dogs. A seed of anger took root inside him, but he kept a calm smile on his face even though Max gave a little nod, like he could see right through his pretense.

Reaching for the doorknob, Max threw a look over his shoulder. “I’ll do them all in reverse next week, just for fun,” he said with a wink. Then he was gone.

Crane looked down at the page where he’d been keeping track of Max’s tics. He slowly tore it out of his notebook, crumpled it up, and threw it in the garbage. Looking out at the bright sun, he was struck with the urge to cancel his next appointment and bike home, simply to see Mary’s smile.

 


 

2 – Common Ground

Monday, June 20th

Crane smiled as Max sat down across from him. They were supposed to be in the same therapy room as their first session, but he had found Debra, the receptionist, having lunch in it when Max arrived. Crane shifted a little in his seat and chided himself for not simply telling her he had booked the office instead of abdicating and taking the empty one at the back of the clinic—this one was cramped and musty smelling, and the chairs uncomfortable. No wonder it was always free.

Grow a backbone. Five weeks working at the clinic and he had yet to find his stride—he felt like the bumbling newcomer, still wet behind the ears.

Max crossed his legs and leaned back. Steepling his fingers, he returned Crane’s smile.

“Are you going somewhere after this?” asked Crane as he opened his notebook on his lap.

Max’s brown curls were tamed, and he was wearing a black button-down with a tie, black pants, and polished square-toed dress shoes. He looked down at himself and frowned. When he met Crane’s eye again, his expression was one of amusement.

“Nah.”

The tone was friendly, but Crane felt the same strange tension as the previous week. He was being made to feel stupid for asking, even though it was a valid question—the last time he had seen Max, he had been dressed in old jeans and jackboots. Crane gritted his teeth and stared down at the blank page for a moment.

“So… How was your week?” he finally asked, smoothing out his expression as he glanced back up.

Max’s dark eyes crinkled at the corners as he contemplated the question. “Oh… It was okay. Didn’t get up to much.”

Crane nodded and jotted down the date. “And your level of stress?”

This time Max’s brows pinched above his nose, and Crane wondered if the uncertainty he saw in his face was sincere.

“I… don’t know,” said Max. “That’s the problem. By the time I’m able to recognize that I’m stressed, it’s pretty bad.”

“What are you feeling now?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

Max’s face split into a wide grin, and he let out a laugh. Crane found it a little startling the way his expressions changed suddenly.

Nothing is a simplification of what I’m feeling at this exact moment. Yes, I feel something. No, I don’t know what it is.”

“Can you describe it?”

Max’s expression went pensive. “My heart is beating faster than it normally does. My shoulders hurt, which I’m going to attribute to tension. Sometimes, I feel like I need to take an extra breath.” He sounded a bit terse.

Crane leaned forward and Max averted his eyes. “You’re just telling me what you’re feeling physically. What about mentally? How are you feeling?”

Max grimaced as he looked out the window. One shoulder came up in a small shrug. “Somewhere between amused and annoyed. Like usual.”

“What do you mean ‘like usual’?”

The way Max’s eyes swivelled back to Crane’s gave him the impression that his mood had slipped somewhat in the direction of “annoyed”.

Max sized him up for a moment. “Those are my two basic moods. The only other ones I can identify reliably are anger and arousal… But I do, on occasion, get them mixed up.”

Crane stared into Max’s dark eyes and felt his heart beat faster, but he forced himself to smile. Never show fear. Wasn’t that advice for dealing with aggressive dogs?

After a moment, Max smiled back. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m not used to being like this with anyone.”

“Like how?” Crane sat back, then let out a silent sigh of relief as the tension in the room petered out.

Max averted his eyes again. “Honest.”

“That’s good that you’re being honest with me.” He glanced down at his book and realized the page was still blank. He wasn’t sure how to approach this session. Max wasn’t nearly as talkative as last time. Not for the first time, Crane wished he had Max’s previous therapy records. “Have you ever been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder?”

Max chuckled and glanced at Crane. It was a yes or no question, but it obviously amused him enough that he gave Crane more than a one-word answer.

“Why does everyone ask me that?” Max said, rolling his eyes. “No. I do not fall on the spectrum.”

“But you get asked that often?” It was another yes or no, but again, Max was forthcoming.

“Yeah. It’s a real pain in my ass—it’s like everyone and their dog is obsessed with diagnosing folks with Asperger’s. Drives me insane.” Max grinned and smoothed down his tie. Crane noticed then that the geometric patterns on it were the aliens from Space Invaders, and he laughed to himself.

Crane made a note: Feelings = bad topic. Mental acuity = good. “What do you think you have?”

“Me? Nothing. I’m normal.” Max’s laugh rang out and Crane added his own quiet laugh. “No, serious, Doc. They’ve tried to pin me with a number of things: manic-depressive or bipolar even though I am neither manic nor depressive, nor do I have any kind of discernible mood swings; narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, dissociative… etcetera, etcetera.” Max rolled his hand in the air and chuckled again, dismissing the diagnoses. “But you’re smarter than they are, Dr. Crane… Aren’t you?”

Crane smiled at the compliment before he could stop himself. Max was charming, manipulative, focused, self-aware, and incredibly intelligent—exactly the kind of character that Crane normally loved on-screen. However, this wasn’t fiction, and the room suddenly felt even smaller when Max’s expression went neutral and he tilted his head a little. The psychopath’s head tilt.

Half of him knew he should probably drop Max as a patient and refer him to someone with more experience. Crane was barely out of school, and Max was only his fifth patient. He was out of his league. However, the other half was thrilled at the chance to pick Max’s brain. To study him. Hell, maybe he could write a paper on him.

Crane nodded. “None of those things fit,” he agreed, fully aware that he was saying exactly what Max wanted to hear. He tried to formulate his next question in a way that would get Max talking.

“No trauma,” said Max pre-emptively, and then he frowned as he focused on something above Crane’s head.

Crane glanced down at what he had written, and a tiny, cool surge of adrenaline raced through him: History of trauma? “How did you know I was going to ask you about trauma right then?” he asked.

For a moment, it was like Max hadn’t heard him as he continued to stare over Crane’s head. Then he blinked and focused on him.

“That was the next logical question, wasn’t it?” Max said with a smile. “At least, that’s what I would have asked.” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. In the dim natural light of the office, his eyes appeared black… completely opaque. Crane couldn’t look away, seized by the ridiculous suspicion that Max could see into his thoughts. “No trauma. Normal upbringing. No one was murdered in front of me, I was not molested by anyone, and I’ve never been in the kind of accident that would cause brain damage.”

When Max’s eyes slid away from Crane’s to stare once more at a spot above his head, Crane looked down at his book and scratched out his question about trauma. He glanced up at his patient and saw Max was scowling at whatever he had been staring at before. Crane looked behind him at the two paintings on the wall.

“Sorry… It’s just that they’re identical,” said Max. “Why in the hell would you have two identical paintings on the same wall? Especially in a clinic where you see people with mental problems? That’s enough to drive me a little nuts. I can’t concentrate.” Max stood up and closed the space between them in two steps.

Crane’s mouth went dry as he stared up, startled, and wondered what the young man’s intentions were. For a split second, he had the strangest feeling that Max would reach out and cup his cheek softly. His face flushed and his skin grew hotter at the obvious merriment in Max’s eyes. Crane swallowed.

“Would you care to swap places with me,” said Max softly. There was something far too intimate about the tone of his voice, as if he were asking Crane something else entirely. Crane lurched to his feet, all too aware of the sweat dampening the underarms of his shirt.

“Yes. Sure. Sorry,” he mumbled, brushing past Max to take his vacated seat. Max’s cologne smelled like wood fire and musk, and it clung to the fabric of the chair. He reopened the notebook on his knees and looked down, though he closed his eyes after a moment. Crane was straight. There was no reason why Max would affect him in such a way, but there it was—Crane, unbelievably, was getting an erection, and the more he thought about it, the worse it got.

Think of Mary.

When he looked up at Max, he saw nothing but the same subtle amusement that was so often on his handsome face. However, it was as if Max felt he had gone too far and answered the rest of Crane’s questions as helpfully as he could. The rest of the session passed quickly with an atmosphere that felt nothing but amicable.

With five minutes left, Max steered the conversation towards movies, talking about the last film he had seen. It was the same mafia movie Crane had gone to see the previous week. He nodded enthusiastically at Max’s theory about the main protagonist.

“Oh yeah,” Crane said with a smile. “I love psychopaths.”

Max leaned forward in his seat, a Cheshire grin on his face. “I know you do.” It was nearly a purr.

Crane watched Max stand, and as he got to his own feet, he mumbled something about seeing him the following week. When Max was gone, it took a few minutes of deep breathing before he felt okay to leave the office.

 

 

Crane looked over at Mary, sleeping on the couch next to him. He felt guilty. He shouldn’t be feeling guilty. He glanced back down at the phone in his hand, the message he had reworded a dozen times waiting there for him to hit Send.

Hope you don’t mind, it’s Dr. Crane. Got your # from file. Can’t make Mon next week, Wed okay? Same time.

He could have had the receptionist reschedule for him. There was no reason why he should be the one texting. Crane took a long pull from his beer, spared another look at his slumbering wife, and sent his message out into the ether.

Almost immediately the phone buzzed in his hand.

Hey Doc. No prob Wed. Just started watching something you might like. Ch 23. Movie about a serial killer.

Crane stared at the message for a few seconds. Feeling strangely excited, he got up, went to the fridge, and grabbed another beer. Mary blinked at him sleepily when he sat back down.

“Why don’t you go to bed?” he said with a smile. “You’re not even watching your show.”

She sat up and yawned. “Not coming?” she asked, rubbing her face as she stood.

“I’m not tired,” he lied. “I thought I would stay up to watch this thing a colleague of mine recommended. If you don’t mind, that is.”

Mary nodded and squeezed his shoulder. She leaned down to give him a kiss, her breath a little sour.

“Why would I mind? Stay up and watch your show, honey. Just keep it down, okay?”

Crane nodded and watched Mary climb the stairs. He waited a few seconds, then picked up the TV remote and switched to channel twenty-three. A woman on the screen started crying hysterically. Quickly, he thumbed the volume button. He took another swig of beer and grabbed his phone.

Watching was all that he sent.

The phone vibrated a second later.

Good.


 

3 – The Rabbit Hole

Monday, July 18th

Crane checked his phone. Again. No message from Max and it was three minutes into their appointment. He pinched the bridge of his nose, tapping his pen against his knee a few times. Was he going to be “stood up” again? Last week, Max had messaged him almost ten minutes after he was supposed to have been there with a simple “can’t make it, see you next week.” Annoyed, Crane had messaged back immediately to point out that Max would be billed the usual two-hundred-dollar fee since he hadn’t given twenty-four hours’ notice. The reply that came from Max a heartbeat later was an infuriatingly short “Yeah.”

He stood up and crossed the room to look out the window. The noontime traffic below was light, and the weather had shifted from gloomy and overcast to sunny since he’d been at the office. He glanced at his phone. Seven minutes late. Fucking hell, Max. Technically, he wasn’t required to wait around if a patient was more than fifteen minutes late. However, the thought of sitting there like an idiot until Max deigned to message him only to dismiss him again… Well, fuck that. Max was playing games with him. He was sure of it. After two weeks of texting each other semi-regularly, always under the pretense of discussing movies, the radio silence of the last week was… What? Frustrating? Insulting? Worrying?

Crane pressed his palm over his mouth, breathing slowly through his nose as he stared at the empty sidewalk below.

Why are you getting so riled up about this? Max lives to manipulate. If you react to this, you’re just playing into his power games. He’s obviously not coming. Crane sighed, squinting in the direction of the nearby metro station.

You know what? If you leave right this minute, you can probably catch Mary before she heads out for her shift. Maybe you can go take a walk in the park together… hand in hand, like you used to when you were first dating back in high school. Remember that? Yeah. That sounds nice… Despite the thread of his thoughts, Crane remained at the window, scanning the street for any sign of Max.

Crane was stalling. He knew it and hated himself for it. Squeezing his eyes shut, he groaned softly into his palm. Then he opened his eyes and fished in his pocket for his phone.

No. Don’t message him. Don’t chase after him. Don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing that he’s gotten under your skin. Have Debra email him the bill and tell him that he’s being referred to another therapist… hell, another clinic.

Crane felt like punching something really hard… or crushing something. Or… having sex. No, not sex. Fucking. Dirty, raunchy hard-core fucking. Shoving his dick into someone with the sole purpose of emptying his balls. No foreplay. No talking. Just raw, animal fucking.

Crane felt his cock stir and jammed his hand down the front of his Dockers to adjust himself. With a bitter laugh, he fondled himself gently for a moment. What did he know about fucking? Even as a hormonal teen, Mary had been all about making love. Not that that was a bad thing, but now that they were no longer trying for a baby, even the lovemaking had dwindled to almost nothing.

His skin prickled uncomfortably, and a cold spike of adrenaline went straight to his gut a full second before the quiet voice spoke behind him.

“Sorry I’m late.”

Crane pulled his hand out of his pants as he spun around, his mouth dry. How long had Max been standing there, watching him? It took some effort, but he managed a serene smile as he gestured to one of the seats.

“That’s fine, Max,” he lied. “Take a seat.” The clock on the wall above the door showed that Max was nearly twenty minutes late.

Max sat down and crossed one leg over the other so his ankle rested on the opposite knee. There was a large pixelated skull on his black shirt, and he wore threadbare jeans and black and white Converse. On his head was the dark-grey, army-style cap he’d worn the day they’d met, its frayed, curling brim casting his features into shadow.

Max scratched at the side of his head and tucked a brown curl behind his ear, giving Crane a crooked smile.

“Wow, Doc… You waited for me,” he said, sounding relieved and awkwardly, endearingly shy.

Crane wanted to believe it wasn’t an act, that he had been wrong in assuming Max’s absence last week and his late arrival today were some kind of game. That through some miraculous journey of self-discovery, Max had transformed into the painfully earnest young man who stared up at him with his big brown eyes full of soul. Then Max’s expression went sly, and eyes narrowed, he tilted his head at Crane, shattering the illusion. “D’awww… You stayed and waited and waited for little ol’ me even though you could have left.”

Irritated at Max’s mocking tone, Crane took his seat. “You’re assuming that I don’t have another appointment this afternoon.”

“I don’t assume anything,” Max replied, his words crisp and cold. “I know you’re not seeing anyone else today.”

“And how do you know that?” Crane opened the notebook in his lap to busy himself.

“I called and asked Debra.”

“Ah.” Crane scribbled a note in the margin of the page to remind himself to have a talk with the receptionist about Max. “So… You made me wait today on purpose then? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes, Dr. Crane. That’s exactly what I’m saying, though you already knew that.”

“Did I?”

“You’d be fucking stupid not to. And you may be many things, but stupid is not one of them, thank God.”

“I don’t apprecia—”

“So how does that make you feel? Knowing that I let you wait on purpose?”

Crane ignored the question, his jaw set in annoyance for a moment. He let out a slow, calming breath.

“Max, what on earth is the point of making me wait?” he said in a weary, patronizing, and completely unprofessional tone… He couldn’t help it. “What were you hoping to achieve? Hm? Were you hoping to make me angr—”

“You would have waited even longer… just on the off chance that I came in. I made you wait here. You could have gone home and gotten in a little”—Max bit his bottom lip and punched his fist out a few times, punctuating the gesture with soft grunts—“with the missus. Instead, you stood here waiting for me.”

“Max, that’s… really inappropriate.” Crane barely kept the anger out of his voice.

“And do you know why you waited for me? Maybe you don’t even know the answer… Maybe you do…” Max went eerily still, staring at Crane without expression, waiting for him to answer.

Crane wanted to move past this posturing—somehow dispel the weird, breathless intensity that infused the room as Max once again took control of the session… and of him. Crane knew he had waited too long to answer when a coy grin dimpled Max’s cheek.

“It’s because you missed me,” Max said in a soft voice.

“I didn’t miss you.” Crane abruptly closed his notebook. “And I don’t appreciate you wasting my time.”

“Oh, but you did miss me. You missed me when I didn’t show up last week. You missed me when I didn’t answer your texts. You missed me when you turned on your TV and I wasn’t there with you, messaging you…”

“Max. Stop. I didn’t miss you.” But it was a lie. It was a damn lie. And Max knew it.

“I made you miss me. I wanted you to miss me. I wanted you to think about me when you woke up in the morning. I wanted you to think about me when you went to bed at night. I wanted you to think about me when you parted your wife’s creamy white thighs—”

“Okay. Session over. I would like you to leave.” Crane’s pulse crashed in his ears and he felt dizzy. He needed Max to stop talking.

“Ohh… Did I cross a line there?” asked Max, his brown eyes wide. “Is it because it’s all true?”

“Get out,” whispered Crane.

“You missed me. And I needed you to miss me, Dennis. Do you want to know why?”

“Dr. Crane,” Crane corrected him. He couldn’t believe he was letting this go on. He had to get to his feet and leave the room. Maybe have Debra call the police. Max was far shorter than him, but the young man was more muscular… And what if he had a weapon?

Crane didn’t move. Pathetic.

Max smiled at him. “If you missed me, then I knew I could trust you, Dennis.”

Fingers digging into the arms of his seat, Crane took slow, measured breaths. A breakthrough? More mind games? “It isn’t prudent to let this continue.”

Max blinked and sat up. “Prudent? Did you work all those long years getting your degree so you could be prudent? So you could work at treating eating disorders and sexless marriages?”

“I worked hard so I could help people.”

“No… not really. Not truly. I don’t believe that. You didn’t sit there watching documentaries on Carl Rogers going ‘Ooh… I want to heal the world!’ No, you told me watching Silence of the Lambs was what inspired you. You told me that darkness and depravity drew you like a moth to a flame. You said you wanted to study evil and see if it held up to your expectations. Do you remember that?”

Crane had indeed said those things. He even remembered the night he’d said them. One too many beers, Silence of the Lambs on Netflix, Mary working late at the Montreal General, his cellphone in hand with Max’s last message waiting like an invitation to bare his soul: tell me everything. He let out his breath, a harsh counterpoint to the quietly ticking clock above.

“Are you afraid of me, Dennis? You shouldn’t be. I’m trying my very best to make you understand that I like you. And I’m offering you the very thing you desire the most: me. You know I’m a fine specimen of amorality. I’m giving you the opportunity to look behind the curtain. No holding back.” Max stood, his smile friendly but gaze intense.

Crane almost flinched when the young man took a step towards him.

“No,” Crane said. “I’m not interested in your head games, and I’m certainly not impressed with your attempts at intimidation.” Crane’s heart was beating too fast, and the resulting light headedness hoarsened his voice.

Max raised his hands and took another step. “Intimidation? I’m not trying to intimidate you, Dennis. See?” Max dropped down to his knees and stared up at Crane, his cheek dimpled. “I’m as harmless as a kitten.”

Crane could smell Max—his cologne, the deodorant he used, the slight mint on his breath. He straightened in his chair and swallowed thickly. Max was far, far too close. Crane thought he could feel the heat emanating from him. It was ridiculous and shocking… and arousing. He should have been afraid, but instead, he was terribly excited. Crane clenched his jaw when he saw his patient’s smile slip a notch. Max’s eyes seemed to darken farther—there was hunger in them.

“Don’t fight it,” Max murmured.

“I’m not fighting anything.”

“No head games. No lies. No manipulation. No holding anything back.”

“You said you were being honest before,” Crane pointed out.

“I lied.”

“Then how can I be sure this time?” he heard himself ask in a calm voice that belied his speeding pulse.

“You have my word.” Max placed a hand over his heart.

“The word of a psychopath.”

Max’s dark brows shot up in amusement, and he clicked his tongue twice. “Ouch, Doc. You make it sound like such a bad thing. Besides… That’s not a real diagnosis.”

“It’s a personal observation.” Max’s personality disorder didn’t fit neatly into a single category. Not paranoid, too careful, too self-aware, too grounded, too emotionally stable—Max was confident and driven by an unshakable and fully formed sense of self. But then there was this imaginary friend Eddie. Crane was still uncertain whether Max actually believed Eddie existed or if he was aware he had created him as a sort of mental prosthetic—the conscience and moral compass that he had been born lacking.

Crane narrowed his eyes at Max. “What does Eddie say about this?”

Max smirked. “Eddie says he’ll protect you from me.”

Licking his bottom lip, Crane frowned. It was tempting to take him up on his offer. So tempting. Ever since he’d started seeing Max, it always felt like he was brushing the surface. This was a golden opportunity to see the true twists that Max’s mind took—witness what he was capable of.

What the hell are you thinking?

“Come on, Dennis. I’m laying my soul bare here,” said Max, tilting his head back. He lifted the peaked brim of his cap before settling it back down over his flattened curls, an easy smile on his face. “Come down the rabbit hole with me…”

During their sessions, Max had hinted at things he’d done. Terrible things. Crane knew he had purposely kept from reporting any of Max’s criminal allusions so he’d keep coming back. He already had a foot in the rabbit hole.

“I promise I’ll be as honest with you as I can be,” Max said, his expression blank. Crane trusted that more than the sunny smile.

“I have to abide by the limits—”

“—of confidentiality. Yes, I know. And that’s a rule you’re simply going to have to break. Otherwise…” Max gave a shrug.

“I can’t do that.”

“You can. You can do anything you want. It’s not like I’m going to tell on you. In fact, let me give you a sample of my honesty right now, free of any obligation on your part. And just maybe it’ll help convince you…” Max placed a hand on Crane’s knee, and Crane tensed, his heart like a jackhammer in his rib cage.

“What are you doing?” He didn’t push Max away. No… It was more like both feet in the rabbit hole.

“I’m going to unzip your pants, gently take your cock out, and put it in my mouth,” Max replied matter-of-factly as he reached for the zipper in Crane’s Dockers.

Crane grabbed his hand. “I don’t think so,” he rasped.

“Then why aren’t you moving my hand away?”

Crane tightened his hold slightly on Max’s hand but did nothing to stop him from sliding the button through the hole or easing the zipper down. Crane’s cock was throbbing up against the seam of his pants, growing more uncomfortable by the second. This is insane. He glanced up at the clock. There were only a few minutes left in their session.

“Oh, there’s plenty of time,” Max murmured, his smile charming again. “And if you’re worried that someone will come in… Well, doesn’t that make it more exciting?”

Crane winced and shut his eyes as Max’s cool fingers touched him through the opening in his boxers. He shifted his hand so it rested on Max’s forearm. The muscles slid smoothly beneath Max’s skin as he freed Crane’s cock from his pants.

“See? You want this as much as I do. And, what a gorgeous big cock you have, Dennis. Beautiful. Simply stunning. I haven’t had something this nice in my mouth in a long while…” Max said, stroking him slowly.

Crane felt something warm touch the slit in his cockhead and gasped. Opening his eyes, he held his breath as he watched Max run his tongue down his shaft and back up to the swollen crown, his gaze locked with Crane’s.

Max pulled away and grinned. “Does that feel good?”

Crane nodded slowly. He couldn’t tell what he felt more: aghast or thrilled.

What are you doing? part of him was screaming. The other part was mesmerized by the licked shine of Max’s bottom lip as he stared up at him, Crane’s cock in his hand. With the other hand, Max flipped his army cap front to back so the rim was out of the way.

A thought stuck in his mind—about whether any of his colleagues had been sucked off in this office by one of their patients—but it fled the moment Max’s mouth enveloped him, hot and wet, and he leaned his head back on the chair with a quiet groan, eyes closed.

In less than a minute, Crane was breathing heavily, sweat soaking the thin cotton of his shirt. His cock slid out of Max’s mouth, and he heard him chuckle.

“I know I’m good, but I’m not that good. I take it that it’s been a while? Does your wife not have a taste for cock? Hm, Dennis? Are you imagining that it’s her mouth on you?”

Crane reached out and cupped the back of Max’s head to pull him back down. Obediently, Max’s lips slid around his cock again, taking him deep enough that Crane felt him try to suppress a gag. Crane flared his nostrils, teeth clenched, and held Max in place.

“It’s ‘Doctor Crane’, Max—my wife’s the only one who calls me Dennis—and you’re the one sucking my cock. No one else,” Crane said in an even tone, the one he saved for therapy sessions. Then he dropped his voice into a low growl. “Now… Don’t stop until I’m done with you.” That he was in charge was pure fiction, he knew that, but it made it easier for him somehow. And… he liked that Max was humouring him.

What else do you think Max will humour?

Crane crushed his eyes closed. How deep would he go down the rabbit hole?

When Max nodded as best as he could, Crane eased up on his hold. However, he kept his hand on the back of Max’s head, his fingers buried in the mess of dark curls to ground himself in the moment, and a moment was all that it took.

“Gggguuuhhh,” he choked out, arching back against the chair as he unloaded into Max’s talented sucking mouth. By the time he sagged back, empty, warm, and dazed, staring into the gentle mockery in Max’s eyes, he felt like he’d just signed a contract in blood.

“So, you’re in for a penny, in for a pound, eh, Doc?” whispered Max. Licking his top lip, he winked, then rose to his feet, adjusting his cap to face forward again. He pointed to Crane’s open fly. “Plenty more of that, I promise.”

“You’re in a very promising mood,” Crane said, grimacing as he tucked himself away and zipped up. He felt dirty.

“I told you. I like you. And I’d like to show you something tonight.”

“On TV?” Crane asked. He stood, a touch shaky. A man had given him a blowjob. And not just any man, one that was possibly criminally insane. And it was the best blowjob he’d ever had.

“No TV. In person.” Max smiled up at Crane. The dirty, guilty feeling was already fading fast, replaced by a pathetic eagerness over seeing Max again so soon.

What had Max said? In for a penny, in for a pound. His traitorous mind was already pointing out that Mary had another graveyard shift at the hospital that night. She’d never know he was gone as long as he was back before she was.

“What is it?” he asked, wary.

“Well, that’d spoil it, n’est-ce pas?” Max grinned. “I’ll text you an address later and you’ll meet me there.”

Without waiting for an answer, Max spun on his heel and waved back over his head as he opened the door. “See ya, Doc. You’ve given me plenty to swallow. I’ll think about it at length later tonight and see what comes of it…” he said cheerfully, loud enough that anyone in the vicinity would hear.

Red-faced, Crane stood in the middle of the small office, knowing he was in over his head but wondering how long he’d suffer having to wait for Max to text him.

 

Coming Sept. 30th, 2016

Buy Now

Sessions with Max – #5

Novella – 49,000
Genre(s): transgressive, psychopath, dark erotica, QUILTBAG

Fresh out of school, Dr. Crane takes on a new patient that both intrigues and unnerves him. Charming, manipulative, and amoral, Max’s proves to be exactly the sort of mind Crane found himself drawn to in fiction.

When Max begins to weave himself into Crane’s life, Crane finds himself realizing that fiction is safe, and Max is certainly not.

 

Excerpt

 

Disclaimer: Read at your own risk.

1 – The First Session

Monday, June 13th

“I wish you would stop doing that.” The words were spoken in a friendly tone, each syllable enunciated so precisely that they gave the impression of a foreign accent.

Crane frowned at the young man seated across from him in the oddly plushy bright-orange barrel chair. They were over half an hour into their first session, and he was still struggling to establish a rapport with this new patient. “Doing what?”

“Mimicking my posture to make me feel more at ease,” replied Max, and he drummed a few beats with his fingertips against his calf as he looked around in distaste at the small shabby office Crane shared with the other therapists at the psychology clinic.

Crane uncrossed his legs and sat back in the chair, discomfited. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even realize I was doing it.”

“S’aaall right.” This time it came out slow and drawled, and Crane found himself smiling. “It has the opposite effect on me,” Max explained with a shrug. “I’m intensely cognizant of you doing it.”

Crane chuckled. Cognizant. The crisp pronunciation was back. The way Max’s accent and speech patterns shifted constantly was fascinating.

“Okay, Max,” he said, nodding. “I’ll try my best to stop doing it. It’s my training, you know.”

“I know.” The reply was accompanied by a smile, but there was something slightly unsettling about it.

Crane looked down at his notes, just to take a moment to think. Relief. That’s what he felt. It was as if he’d gotten a pass because he’d given the right answer—like it would have been inexcusable had he been mimicking Max on purpose. Crane flipped over the scant info Max had provided on the clinic intake sheet, still pretending to read. For some reason, as they spoke, his mind kept slipping to the mafia movie he had seen that weekend with his wife, Mary. When he finally glanced up, Max looked amused.

“Sorry, I was just trying to get back to what we were talking about,” Crane said. They had been talking about what Max called his “ghost”, an imaginary friend that had been with him since childhood. “Can you tell me more about Eric?”

“Eddie.” There was a flicker of annoyance in Max’s dark eyes.

“Sorry. Eddie. Can you tell me more about him?” Crane couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt the need to apologize so often in a session. Then he wondered if Max even cared for his apologies.

“What do you want to know?” The finger drumming again.

It was one of three nervous tics that came over the young man whenever he was asked something uncomfortable. There was something odd about the tics though. Crane decided then to take note of them to see if they always happen in the same order. After putting two marks on the upper left-hand side of the page, he gestured with his pen. “What is he like? Is he like you?” Crane asked with interest.

“He’s not like me, no. We’re actually rather dissimilar.”

“In what way?”

A furrow appeared between Max’s dark brows as he thought. It was like he was mentally shuffling through his answers to give Crane the one of least importance, and he was reminded of that expression about holding cards close to one’s chest. Under “reason for seeking counselling” on the intake sheet, Max had written “taedium vitae”, which translated to “tired of life”. Crane was about to point out that Max was the one who had come to see him, not the other way around, when Max finally spoke up.

“He’s nicer. A little shy. Says I should be more serious… He’s a bit of a fucking pain in my ass sometimes, to be honest.” The words were followed by the cheerful, almost self-mocking laughter that always surprised Crane by how genuine it sounded.

“Would you call him a friend?”

“Yeah. But it’s more than that.” Max uncrossed his legs and leaned forward with his elbows on knees, stroking down over his mouth and jaw with one hand.

Crane made another mark on the paper, this time in the top-centre of the page. That’s tic number two. “More? Like you have a deeper relationship?”

Max nodded.

“Is there a sexual aspect to this relationship?” This time Max smirked before he nodded, and the answer didn’t surprise Crane. He wanted to ask more about the sex just because he was curious as to what exactly that entailed but decided against it.

The young man clasped his hands loosely so that they hung between his knees as he watched Crane, but he didn’t say anything else. Something about the way Max blinked was odd… like it was too slow or not done often enough.

“What I’m getting at is that”—Crane glanced quickly down at his notes—“Eddie provides you with all the companionship you could ever need.”

“Mm.” Paired with the tiny nod, it was a grunt of acknowledgement. Again, nothing else was said.

Crane started to get annoyed, but noticed then that Max was looking at him with obvious levity. He exhaled in frustration.

“I’m sorry,” Max offered with a chuckle. “You’re not asking for more than yes or no answers. Try to reformulate your questions so I’m forced to say more.”

Crane’s eyebrows rose. There it was again, that mixture of unsettled and relieved that had him sitting tense in his seat, but he smiled and nodded anyway, trying to keep his expression bland and friendly.

“Ah! That’s you giving me a hint, right?” Crane said. It was like every time Max got tired of seeing Crane flounder, he would throw him a bone about how to approach his therapy.

Max’s smile was sly. Then he rubbed the back of his neck as he sat back before pushing the peak of his cap up a bit.

Crane’s pen made a fourth pen tic, top-right corner. “Do you think Eddie gets in the way of making real connections with other people?”

A slight curl in Max’s lip appeared, like he disapproved, and Crane realized that he’d asked yet another yes or no question. He frowned and rephrased it quickly. “I mean, why do you think Eddie affects your relationships with real people?”

The laugh that rang out was so lively and full of mirth that Crane found himself laughing along even though he was struck again with an infuriating juxtaposition of emotions.

You asked the right question! Good boy! Have a liver treat!

“Okay, Doc. You’re assuming that Eddie isn’t a real person. I assure you he is. Realer to me than you are,” said Max, still grinning. However, his expression flashed to serious an eye blink later. “Why do you think he’s affecting my relationships? You said for yourself just a few seconds ago that he provides me with all the companionship I could ever need. Wouldn’t real people, as you called them, affect my relationship with Eddie, and not the other way around?”

Crane opened his mouth, but Max swiped the air with a hand and cut him off before he could voice his concerns.

“No, I know what you’re going to say. Human beings need other human beings. I get it. I do. But really, Doc, I’m happy with the level of socialization I get. If I want more, I just go find more, it’s not a big deal.”

Crane kept himself from frowning. He knew that people, in Max’s world, were sort of like commodities or tools—easily obtainable, useful, but impersonal. Then he did let himself frown. “What if you were to ask Eddie to go away for a while and see how you do without him?”

Max’s handsome face was devoid of expression. He shifted in his chair chair, placed his ankle on the opposite knee, and drummed out a little beat against the denim; Crane made a mark, top-left.

“I wouldn’t.” Fingertips drummed again, and Crane made a sixth tic, again in the left-hand column.

“Just as an experiment.”

“I wouldn’t,” Max repeated and rubbed his jaw; another mark went into Crane’s notebook.

“What if I were to ask you to do it for the good of our sessions? Just to see what happens?” He knew that if Max had had his imaginary friend for as long as he claimed, it would take more than that, but Max was incredibly self-controlled—anything was possible. Mostly, Crane was curious about how Max would answer.

The last tic in Max’s cycle showed itself as he scratched at the back of his neck and then lifted the peak of his battered old army cap high enough to show his squashed brown curls beneath it. Crane made another small dash in his notebook, feeling like he’d accomplished something by discovering the repetitive pattern of Max’s nervous tics.

“Dr. Crane,” said Max, shaking his head slowly when he finally replied. “If you knew what you were asking me to do…” Suddenly, all the nervous movements stopped, and Max went still, staring at Crane with dark eyes. “No. I’m going to tell you what you’re asking me to do. Consider this one a freebie. You’re asking me to”—Max paused, his expression becoming a little pained, even vague for a moment—“send the one thing that’s keeping me out of jail or out of the loony bin on holiday. That is what you’re asking me to do.”

Crane was disturbed by the way Max’s gaze held his, but he couldn’t look away. It was like all of his reactions were being categorized and filed away in Max’s lizard brain. At that moment, he realized that Max would do it and send Eddie away if he asked him again. But if Crane did that, he would be responsible for… responsible for what? He blinked, trying to hide his unease from the young man sitting across from him.

In a flash, Max’s face split into the friendly smile that seemed to be his default expression, and he pulled himself to his feet. There was a pulse of fear in Crane’s gut at the sudden proximity—tiny, but it was there.

“Time’s up!” said Max cheerfully.

Sure enough, with a glance to his watch, Crane saw it was three thirty. He rose out of his chair, towering over his dark-haired patient. He was more flustered and tense than after any of his other consults.

“See you next week,” Crane managed, and Max made a double clicking noise with one side of his mouth, like he was chastising Crane for being unnerved.

It was also the same noise that Crane had heard people use to call their dogs. A seed of anger took root inside him, but he kept a calm smile on his face even though Max gave a little nod, like he could see right through his pretense.

Reaching for the doorknob, Max threw a look over his shoulder. “I’ll do them all in reverse next week, just for fun,” he said with a wink. Then he was gone.

Crane looked down at the page where he’d been keeping track of Max’s tics. He slowly tore it out of his notebook, crumpled it up, and threw it in the garbage. Looking out at the bright sun, he was struck with the urge to cancel his next appointment and bike home, simply to see Mary’s smile.

 


 

2 – Common Ground

Monday, June 20th

Crane smiled as Max sat down across from him. They were supposed to be in the same therapy room as their first session, but he had found Debra, the receptionist, having lunch in it when Max arrived. Crane shifted a little in his seat and chided himself for not simply telling her he had booked the office instead of abdicating and taking the empty one at the back of the clinic—this one was cramped and musty smelling, and the chairs uncomfortable. No wonder it was always free.

Grow a backbone. Five weeks working at the clinic and he had yet to find his stride—he felt like the bumbling newcomer, still wet behind the ears.

Max crossed his legs and leaned back. Steepling his fingers, he returned Crane’s smile.

“Are you going somewhere after this?” asked Crane as he opened his notebook on his lap.

Max’s brown curls were tamed, and he was wearing a black button-down with a tie, black pants, and polished square-toed dress shoes. He looked down at himself and frowned. When he met Crane’s eye again, his expression was one of amusement.

“Nah.”

The tone was friendly, but Crane felt the same strange tension as the previous week. He was being made to feel stupid for asking, even though it was a valid question—the last time he had seen Max, he had been dressed in old jeans and jackboots. Crane gritted his teeth and stared down at the blank page for a moment.

“So… How was your week?” he finally asked, smoothing out his expression as he glanced back up.

Max’s dark eyes crinkled at the corners as he contemplated the question. “Oh… It was okay. Didn’t get up to much.”

Crane nodded and jotted down the date. “And your level of stress?”

This time Max’s brows pinched above his nose, and Crane wondered if the uncertainty he saw in his face was sincere.

“I… don’t know,” said Max. “That’s the problem. By the time I’m able to recognize that I’m stressed, it’s pretty bad.”

“What are you feeling now?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

Max’s face split into a wide grin, and he let out a laugh. Crane found it a little startling the way his expressions changed suddenly.

Nothing is a simplification of what I’m feeling at this exact moment. Yes, I feel something. No, I don’t know what it is.”

“Can you describe it?”

Max’s expression went pensive. “My heart is beating faster than it normally does. My shoulders hurt, which I’m going to attribute to tension. Sometimes, I feel like I need to take an extra breath.” He sounded a bit terse.

Crane leaned forward and Max averted his eyes. “You’re just telling me what you’re feeling physically. What about mentally? How are you feeling?”

Max grimaced as he looked out the window. One shoulder came up in a small shrug. “Somewhere between amused and annoyed. Like usual.”

“What do you mean ‘like usual’?”

The way Max’s eyes swivelled back to Crane’s gave him the impression that his mood had slipped somewhat in the direction of “annoyed”.

Max sized him up for a moment. “Those are my two basic moods. The only other ones I can identify reliably are anger and arousal… But I do, on occasion, get them mixed up.”

Crane stared into Max’s dark eyes and felt his heart beat faster, but he forced himself to smile. Never show fear. Wasn’t that advice for dealing with aggressive dogs?

After a moment, Max smiled back. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m not used to being like this with anyone.”

“Like how?” Crane sat back, then let out a silent sigh of relief as the tension in the room petered out.

Max averted his eyes again. “Honest.”

“That’s good that you’re being honest with me.” He glanced down at his book and realized the page was still blank. He wasn’t sure how to approach this session. Max wasn’t nearly as talkative as last time. Not for the first time, Crane wished he had Max’s previous therapy records. “Have you ever been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder?”

Max chuckled and glanced at Crane. It was a yes or no question, but it obviously amused him enough that he gave Crane more than a one-word answer.

“Why does everyone ask me that?” Max said, rolling his eyes. “No. I do not fall on the spectrum.”

“But you get asked that often?” It was another yes or no, but again, Max was forthcoming.

“Yeah. It’s a real pain in my ass—it’s like everyone and their dog is obsessed with diagnosing folks with Asperger’s. Drives me insane.” Max grinned and smoothed down his tie. Crane noticed then that the geometric patterns on it were the aliens from Space Invaders, and he laughed to himself.

Crane made a note: Feelings = bad topic. Mental acuity = good. “What do you think you have?”

“Me? Nothing. I’m normal.” Max’s laugh rang out and Crane added his own quiet laugh. “No, serious, Doc. They’ve tried to pin me with a number of things: manic-depressive or bipolar even though I am neither manic nor depressive, nor do I have any kind of discernible mood swings; narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, dissociative… etcetera, etcetera.” Max rolled his hand in the air and chuckled again, dismissing the diagnoses. “But you’re smarter than they are, Dr. Crane… Aren’t you?”

Crane smiled at the compliment before he could stop himself. Max was charming, manipulative, focused, self-aware, and incredibly intelligent—exactly the kind of character that Crane normally loved on-screen. However, this wasn’t fiction, and the room suddenly felt even smaller when Max’s expression went neutral and he tilted his head a little. The psychopath’s head tilt.

Half of him knew he should probably drop Max as a patient and refer him to someone with more experience. Crane was barely out of school, and Max was only his fifth patient. He was out of his league. However, the other half was thrilled at the chance to pick Max’s brain. To study him. Hell, maybe he could write a paper on him.

Crane nodded. “None of those things fit,” he agreed, fully aware that he was saying exactly what Max wanted to hear. He tried to formulate his next question in a way that would get Max talking.

“No trauma,” said Max pre-emptively, and then he frowned as he focused on something above Crane’s head.

Crane glanced down at what he had written, and a tiny, cool surge of adrenaline raced through him: History of trauma? “How did you know I was going to ask you about trauma right then?” he asked.

For a moment, it was like Max hadn’t heard him as he continued to stare over Crane’s head. Then he blinked and focused on him.

“That was the next logical question, wasn’t it?” Max said with a smile. “At least, that’s what I would have asked.” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. In the dim natural light of the office, his eyes appeared black… completely opaque. Crane couldn’t look away, seized by the ridiculous suspicion that Max could see into his thoughts. “No trauma. Normal upbringing. No one was murdered in front of me, I was not molested by anyone, and I’ve never been in the kind of accident that would cause brain damage.”

When Max’s eyes slid away from Crane’s to stare once more at a spot above his head, Crane looked down at his book and scratched out his question about trauma. He glanced up at his patient and saw Max was scowling at whatever he had been staring at before. Crane looked behind him at the two paintings on the wall.

“Sorry… It’s just that they’re identical,” said Max. “Why in the hell would you have two identical paintings on the same wall? Especially in a clinic where you see people with mental problems? That’s enough to drive me a little nuts. I can’t concentrate.” Max stood up and closed the space between them in two steps.

Crane’s mouth went dry as he stared up, startled, and wondered what the young man’s intentions were. For a split second, he had the strangest feeling that Max would reach out and cup his cheek softly. His face flushed and his skin grew hotter at the obvious merriment in Max’s eyes. Crane swallowed.

“Would you care to swap places with me,” said Max softly. There was something far too intimate about the tone of his voice, as if he were asking Crane something else entirely. Crane lurched to his feet, all too aware of the sweat dampening the underarms of his shirt.

“Yes. Sure. Sorry,” he mumbled, brushing past Max to take his vacated seat. Max’s cologne smelled like wood fire and musk, and it clung to the fabric of the chair. He reopened the notebook on his knees and looked down, though he closed his eyes after a moment. Crane was straight. There was no reason why Max would affect him in such a way, but there it was—Crane, unbelievably, was getting an erection, and the more he thought about it, the worse it got.

Think of Mary.

When he looked up at Max, he saw nothing but the same subtle amusement that was so often on his handsome face. However, it was as if Max felt he had gone too far and answered the rest of Crane’s questions as helpfully as he could. The rest of the session passed quickly with an atmosphere that felt nothing but amicable.

With five minutes left, Max steered the conversation towards movies, talking about the last film he had seen. It was the same mafia movie Crane had gone to see the previous week. He nodded enthusiastically at Max’s theory about the main protagonist.

“Oh yeah,” Crane said with a smile. “I love psychopaths.”

Max leaned forward in his seat, a Cheshire grin on his face. “I know you do.” It was nearly a purr.

Crane watched Max stand, and as he got to his own feet, he mumbled something about seeing him the following week. When Max was gone, it took a few minutes of deep breathing before he felt okay to leave the office.

 

 

Crane looked over at Mary, sleeping on the couch next to him. He felt guilty. He shouldn’t be feeling guilty. He glanced back down at the phone in his hand, the message he had reworded a dozen times waiting there for him to hit Send.

Hope you don’t mind, it’s Dr. Crane. Got your # from file. Can’t make Mon next week, Wed okay? Same time.

He could have had the receptionist reschedule for him. There was no reason why he should be the one texting. Crane took a long pull from his beer, spared another look at his slumbering wife, and sent his message out into the ether.

Almost immediately the phone buzzed in his hand.

Hey Doc. No prob Wed. Just started watching something you might like. Ch 23. Movie about a serial killer.

Crane stared at the message for a few seconds. Feeling strangely excited, he got up, went to the fridge, and grabbed another beer. Mary blinked at him sleepily when he sat back down.

“Why don’t you go to bed?” he said with a smile. “You’re not even watching your show.”

She sat up and yawned. “Not coming?” she asked, rubbing her face as she stood.

“I’m not tired,” he lied. “I thought I would stay up to watch this thing a colleague of mine recommended. If you don’t mind, that is.”

Mary nodded and squeezed his shoulder. She leaned down to give him a kiss, her breath a little sour.

“Why would I mind? Stay up and watch your show, honey. Just keep it down, okay?”

Crane nodded and watched Mary climb the stairs. He waited a few seconds, then picked up the TV remote and switched to channel twenty-three. A woman on the screen started crying hysterically. Quickly, he thumbed the volume button. He took another swig of beer and grabbed his phone.

Watching was all that he sent.

The phone vibrated a second later.

Good.


 

3 – The Rabbit Hole

Monday, July 18th

Crane checked his phone. Again. No message from Max and it was three minutes into their appointment. He pinched the bridge of his nose, tapping his pen against his knee a few times. Was he going to be “stood up” again? Last week, Max had messaged him almost ten minutes after he was supposed to have been there with a simple “can’t make it, see you next week.” Annoyed, Crane had messaged back immediately to point out that Max would be billed the usual two-hundred-dollar fee since he hadn’t given twenty-four hours’ notice. The reply that came from Max a heartbeat later was an infuriatingly short “Yeah.”

He stood up and crossed the room to look out the window. The noontime traffic below was light, and the weather had shifted from gloomy and overcast to sunny since he’d been at the office. He glanced at his phone. Seven minutes late. Fucking hell, Max. Technically, he wasn’t required to wait around if a patient was more than fifteen minutes late. However, the thought of sitting there like an idiot until Max deigned to message him only to dismiss him again… Well, fuck that. Max was playing games with him. He was sure of it. After two weeks of texting each other semi-regularly, always under the pretense of discussing movies, the radio silence of the last week was… What? Frustrating? Insulting? Worrying?

Crane pressed his palm over his mouth, breathing slowly through his nose as he stared at the empty sidewalk below.

Why are you getting so riled up about this? Max lives to manipulate. If you react to this, you’re just playing into his power games. He’s obviously not coming. Crane sighed, squinting in the direction of the nearby metro station.

You know what? If you leave right this minute, you can probably catch Mary before she heads out for her shift. Maybe you can go take a walk in the park together… hand in hand, like you used to when you were first dating back in high school. Remember that? Yeah. That sounds nice… Despite the thread of his thoughts, Crane remained at the window, scanning the street for any sign of Max.

Crane was stalling. He knew it and hated himself for it. Squeezing his eyes shut, he groaned softly into his palm. Then he opened his eyes and fished in his pocket for his phone.

No. Don’t message him. Don’t chase after him. Don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing that he’s gotten under your skin. Have Debra email him the bill and tell him that he’s being referred to another therapist… hell, another clinic.

Crane felt like punching something really hard… or crushing something. Or… having sex. No, not sex. Fucking. Dirty, raunchy hard-core fucking. Shoving his dick into someone with the sole purpose of emptying his balls. No foreplay. No talking. Just raw, animal fucking.

Crane felt his cock stir and jammed his hand down the front of his Dockers to adjust himself. With a bitter laugh, he fondled himself gently for a moment. What did he know about fucking? Even as a hormonal teen, Mary had been all about making love. Not that that was a bad thing, but now that they were no longer trying for a baby, even the lovemaking had dwindled to almost nothing.

His skin prickled uncomfortably, and a cold spike of adrenaline went straight to his gut a full second before the quiet voice spoke behind him.

“Sorry I’m late.”

Crane pulled his hand out of his pants as he spun around, his mouth dry. How long had Max been standing there, watching him? It took some effort, but he managed a serene smile as he gestured to one of the seats.

“That’s fine, Max,” he lied. “Take a seat.” The clock on the wall above the door showed that Max was nearly twenty minutes late.

Max sat down and crossed one leg over the other so his ankle rested on the opposite knee. There was a large pixelated skull on his black shirt, and he wore threadbare jeans and black and white Converse. On his head was the dark-grey, army-style cap he’d worn the day they’d met, its frayed, curling brim casting his features into shadow.

Max scratched at the side of his head and tucked a brown curl behind his ear, giving Crane a crooked smile.

“Wow, Doc… You waited for me,” he said, sounding relieved and awkwardly, endearingly shy.

Crane wanted to believe it wasn’t an act, that he had been wrong in assuming Max’s absence last week and his late arrival today were some kind of game. That through some miraculous journey of self-discovery, Max had transformed into the painfully earnest young man who stared up at him with his big brown eyes full of soul. Then Max’s expression went sly, and eyes narrowed, he tilted his head at Crane, shattering the illusion. “D’awww… You stayed and waited and waited for little ol’ me even though you could have left.”

Irritated at Max’s mocking tone, Crane took his seat. “You’re assuming that I don’t have another appointment this afternoon.”

“I don’t assume anything,” Max replied, his words crisp and cold. “I know you’re not seeing anyone else today.”

“And how do you know that?” Crane opened the notebook in his lap to busy himself.

“I called and asked Debra.”

“Ah.” Crane scribbled a note in the margin of the page to remind himself to have a talk with the receptionist about Max. “So… You made me wait today on purpose then? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes, Dr. Crane. That’s exactly what I’m saying, though you already knew that.”

“Did I?”

“You’d be fucking stupid not to. And you may be many things, but stupid is not one of them, thank God.”

“I don’t apprecia—”

“So how does that make you feel? Knowing that I let you wait on purpose?”

Crane ignored the question, his jaw set in annoyance for a moment. He let out a slow, calming breath.

“Max, what on earth is the point of making me wait?” he said in a weary, patronizing, and completely unprofessional tone… He couldn’t help it. “What were you hoping to achieve? Hm? Were you hoping to make me angr—”

“You would have waited even longer… just on the off chance that I came in. I made you wait here. You could have gone home and gotten in a little”—Max bit his bottom lip and punched his fist out a few times, punctuating the gesture with soft grunts—“with the missus. Instead, you stood here waiting for me.”

“Max, that’s… really inappropriate.” Crane barely kept the anger out of his voice.

“And do you know why you waited for me? Maybe you don’t even know the answer… Maybe you do…” Max went eerily still, staring at Crane without expression, waiting for him to answer.

Crane wanted to move past this posturing—somehow dispel the weird, breathless intensity that infused the room as Max once again took control of the session… and of him. Crane knew he had waited too long to answer when a coy grin dimpled Max’s cheek.

“It’s because you missed me,” Max said in a soft voice.

“I didn’t miss you.” Crane abruptly closed his notebook. “And I don’t appreciate you wasting my time.”

“Oh, but you did miss me. You missed me when I didn’t show up last week. You missed me when I didn’t answer your texts. You missed me when you turned on your TV and I wasn’t there with you, messaging you…”

“Max. Stop. I didn’t miss you.” But it was a lie. It was a damn lie. And Max knew it.

“I made you miss me. I wanted you to miss me. I wanted you to think about me when you woke up in the morning. I wanted you to think about me when you went to bed at night. I wanted you to think about me when you parted your wife’s creamy white thighs—”

“Okay. Session over. I would like you to leave.” Crane’s pulse crashed in his ears and he felt dizzy. He needed Max to stop talking.

“Ohh… Did I cross a line there?” asked Max, his brown eyes wide. “Is it because it’s all true?”

“Get out,” whispered Crane.

“You missed me. And I needed you to miss me, Dennis. Do you want to know why?”

“Dr. Crane,” Crane corrected him. He couldn’t believe he was letting this go on. He had to get to his feet and leave the room. Maybe have Debra call the police. Max was far shorter than him, but the young man was more muscular… And what if he had a weapon?

Crane didn’t move. Pathetic.

Max smiled at him. “If you missed me, then I knew I could trust you, Dennis.”

Fingers digging into the arms of his seat, Crane took slow, measured breaths. A breakthrough? More mind games? “It isn’t prudent to let this continue.”

Max blinked and sat up. “Prudent? Did you work all those long years getting your degree so you could be prudent? So you could work at treating eating disorders and sexless marriages?”

“I worked hard so I could help people.”

“No… not really. Not truly. I don’t believe that. You didn’t sit there watching documentaries on Carl Rogers going ‘Ooh… I want to heal the world!’ No, you told me watching Silence of the Lambs was what inspired you. You told me that darkness and depravity drew you like a moth to a flame. You said you wanted to study evil and see if it held up to your expectations. Do you remember that?”

Crane had indeed said those things. He even remembered the night he’d said them. One too many beers, Silence of the Lambs on Netflix, Mary working late at the Montreal General, his cellphone in hand with Max’s last message waiting like an invitation to bare his soul: tell me everything. He let out his breath, a harsh counterpoint to the quietly ticking clock above.

“Are you afraid of me, Dennis? You shouldn’t be. I’m trying my very best to make you understand that I like you. And I’m offering you the very thing you desire the most: me. You know I’m a fine specimen of amorality. I’m giving you the opportunity to look behind the curtain. No holding back.” Max stood, his smile friendly but gaze intense.

Crane almost flinched when the young man took a step towards him.

“No,” Crane said. “I’m not interested in your head games, and I’m certainly not impressed with your attempts at intimidation.” Crane’s heart was beating too fast, and the resulting light headedness hoarsened his voice.

Max raised his hands and took another step. “Intimidation? I’m not trying to intimidate you, Dennis. See?” Max dropped down to his knees and stared up at Crane, his cheek dimpled. “I’m as harmless as a kitten.”

Crane could smell Max—his cologne, the deodorant he used, the slight mint on his breath. He straightened in his chair and swallowed thickly. Max was far, far too close. Crane thought he could feel the heat emanating from him. It was ridiculous and shocking… and arousing. He should have been afraid, but instead, he was terribly excited. Crane clenched his jaw when he saw his patient’s smile slip a notch. Max’s eyes seemed to darken farther—there was hunger in them.

“Don’t fight it,” Max murmured.

“I’m not fighting anything.”

“No head games. No lies. No manipulation. No holding anything back.”

“You said you were being honest before,” Crane pointed out.

“I lied.”

“Then how can I be sure this time?” he heard himself ask in a calm voice that belied his speeding pulse.

“You have my word.” Max placed a hand over his heart.

“The word of a psychopath.”

Max’s dark brows shot up in amusement, and he clicked his tongue twice. “Ouch, Doc. You make it sound like such a bad thing. Besides… That’s not a real diagnosis.”

“It’s a personal observation.” Max’s personality disorder didn’t fit neatly into a single category. Not paranoid, too careful, too self-aware, too grounded, too emotionally stable—Max was confident and driven by an unshakable and fully formed sense of self. But then there was this imaginary friend Eddie. Crane was still uncertain whether Max actually believed Eddie existed or if he was aware he had created him as a sort of mental prosthetic—the conscience and moral compass that he had been born lacking.

Crane narrowed his eyes at Max. “What does Eddie say about this?”

Max smirked. “Eddie says he’ll protect you from me.”

Licking his bottom lip, Crane frowned. It was tempting to take him up on his offer. So tempting. Ever since he’d started seeing Max, it always felt like he was brushing the surface. This was a golden opportunity to see the true twists that Max’s mind took—witness what he was capable of.

What the hell are you thinking?

“Come on, Dennis. I’m laying my soul bare here,” said Max, tilting his head back. He lifted the peaked brim of his cap before settling it back down over his flattened curls, an easy smile on his face. “Come down the rabbit hole with me…”

During their sessions, Max had hinted at things he’d done. Terrible things. Crane knew he had purposely kept from reporting any of Max’s criminal allusions so he’d keep coming back. He already had a foot in the rabbit hole.

“I promise I’ll be as honest with you as I can be,” Max said, his expression blank. Crane trusted that more than the sunny smile.

“I have to abide by the limits—”

“—of confidentiality. Yes, I know. And that’s a rule you’re simply going to have to break. Otherwise…” Max gave a shrug.

“I can’t do that.”

“You can. You can do anything you want. It’s not like I’m going to tell on you. In fact, let me give you a sample of my honesty right now, free of any obligation on your part. And just maybe it’ll help convince you…” Max placed a hand on Crane’s knee, and Crane tensed, his heart like a jackhammer in his rib cage.

“What are you doing?” He didn’t push Max away. No… It was more like both feet in the rabbit hole.

“I’m going to unzip your pants, gently take your cock out, and put it in my mouth,” Max replied matter-of-factly as he reached for the zipper in Crane’s Dockers.

Crane grabbed his hand. “I don’t think so,” he rasped.

“Then why aren’t you moving my hand away?”

Crane tightened his hold slightly on Max’s hand but did nothing to stop him from sliding the button through the hole or easing the zipper down. Crane’s cock was throbbing up against the seam of his pants, growing more uncomfortable by the second. This is insane. He glanced up at the clock. There were only a few minutes left in their session.

“Oh, there’s plenty of time,” Max murmured, his smile charming again. “And if you’re worried that someone will come in… Well, doesn’t that make it more exciting?”

Crane winced and shut his eyes as Max’s cool fingers touched him through the opening in his boxers. He shifted his hand so it rested on Max’s forearm. The muscles slid smoothly beneath Max’s skin as he freed Crane’s cock from his pants.

“See? You want this as much as I do. And, what a gorgeous big cock you have, Dennis. Beautiful. Simply stunning. I haven’t had something this nice in my mouth in a long while…” Max said, stroking him slowly.

Crane felt something warm touch the slit in his cockhead and gasped. Opening his eyes, he held his breath as he watched Max run his tongue down his shaft and back up to the swollen crown, his gaze locked with Crane’s.

Max pulled away and grinned. “Does that feel good?”

Crane nodded slowly. He couldn’t tell what he felt more: aghast or thrilled.

What are you doing? part of him was screaming. The other part was mesmerized by the licked shine of Max’s bottom lip as he stared up at him, Crane’s cock in his hand. With the other hand, Max flipped his army cap front to back so the rim was out of the way.

A thought stuck in his mind—about whether any of his colleagues had been sucked off in this office by one of their patients—but it fled the moment Max’s mouth enveloped him, hot and wet, and he leaned his head back on the chair with a quiet groan, eyes closed.

In less than a minute, Crane was breathing heavily, sweat soaking the thin cotton of his shirt. His cock slid out of Max’s mouth, and he heard him chuckle.

“I know I’m good, but I’m not that good. I take it that it’s been a while? Does your wife not have a taste for cock? Hm, Dennis? Are you imagining that it’s her mouth on you?”

Crane reached out and cupped the back of Max’s head to pull him back down. Obediently, Max’s lips slid around his cock again, taking him deep enough that Crane felt him try to suppress a gag. Crane flared his nostrils, teeth clenched, and held Max in place.

“It’s ‘Doctor Crane’, Max—my wife’s the only one who calls me Dennis—and you’re the one sucking my cock. No one else,” Crane said in an even tone, the one he saved for therapy sessions. Then he dropped his voice into a low growl. “Now… Don’t stop until I’m done with you.” That he was in charge was pure fiction, he knew that, but it made it easier for him somehow. And… he liked that Max was humouring him.

What else do you think Max will humour?

Crane crushed his eyes closed. How deep would he go down the rabbit hole?

When Max nodded as best as he could, Crane eased up on his hold. However, he kept his hand on the back of Max’s head, his fingers buried in the mess of dark curls to ground himself in the moment, and a moment was all that it took.

“Gggguuuhhh,” he choked out, arching back against the chair as he unloaded into Max’s talented sucking mouth. By the time he sagged back, empty, warm, and dazed, staring into the gentle mockery in Max’s eyes, he felt like he’d just signed a contract in blood.

“So, you’re in for a penny, in for a pound, eh, Doc?” whispered Max. Licking his top lip, he winked, then rose to his feet, adjusting his cap to face forward again. He pointed to Crane’s open fly. “Plenty more of that, I promise.”

“You’re in a very promising mood,” Crane said, grimacing as he tucked himself away and zipped up. He felt dirty.

“I told you. I like you. And I’d like to show you something tonight.”

“On TV?” Crane asked. He stood, a touch shaky. A man had given him a blowjob. And not just any man, one that was possibly criminally insane. And it was the best blowjob he’d ever had.

“No TV. In person.” Max smiled up at Crane. The dirty, guilty feeling was already fading fast, replaced by a pathetic eagerness over seeing Max again so soon.

What had Max said? In for a penny, in for a pound. His traitorous mind was already pointing out that Mary had another graveyard shift at the hospital that night. She’d never know he was gone as long as he was back before she was.

“What is it?” he asked, wary.

“Well, that’d spoil it, n’est-ce pas?” Max grinned. “I’ll text you an address later and you’ll meet me there.”

Without waiting for an answer, Max spun on his heel and waved back over his head as he opened the door. “See ya, Doc. You’ve given me plenty to swallow. I’ll think about it at length later tonight and see what comes of it…” he said cheerfully, loud enough that anyone in the vicinity would hear.

Red-faced, Crane stood in the middle of the small office, knowing he was in over his head but wondering how long he’d suffer having to wait for Max to text him.

 

Coming Sept. 30th, 2016

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Hotter than Hell Sale –
Better the Devil You Know – $2

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Montréal is hot in the summer. Know what else is hot? Hell.

For the rest of July, Better the Devil You Know is on sale at 50% off at All Romance eBooks and through Payhip (through me).

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Sessions with Max – #3

Novella – 49,000
Genre(s): transgressive, psychopath, dark erotica, QUILTBAG

Fresh out of school, Dr. Crane takes on a new patient that both intrigues and unnerves him. Charming, manipulative, and amoral, Max’s proves to be exactly the sort of mind Crane found himself drawn to in fiction.

When Max begins to weave himself into Crane’s life, Crane finds himself realizing that fiction is safe, and Max is certainly not.

 

Excerpt

 

Disclaimer: Read at your own risk.

1 – The First Session

Monday, June 13th

“I wish you would stop doing that.” The words were spoken in a friendly tone, each syllable enunciated so precisely that they gave the impression of a foreign accent.

Crane frowned at the young man seated across from him in the oddly plushy bright-orange barrel chair. They were over half an hour into their first session, and he was still struggling to establish a rapport with this new patient. “Doing what?”

“Mimicking my posture to make me feel more at ease,” replied Max, and he drummed a few beats with his fingertips against his calf as he looked around in distaste at the small shabby office Crane shared with the other therapists at the psychology clinic.

Crane uncrossed his legs and sat back in the chair, discomfited. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even realize I was doing it.”

“S’aaall right.” This time it came out slow and drawled, and Crane found himself smiling. “It has the opposite effect on me,” Max explained with a shrug. “I’m intensely cognizant of you doing it.”

Crane chuckled. Cognizant. The crisp pronunciation was back. The way Max’s accent and speech patterns shifted constantly was fascinating.

“Okay, Max,” he said, nodding. “I’ll try my best to stop doing it. It’s my training, you know.”

“I know.” The reply was accompanied by a smile, but there was something slightly unsettling about it.

Crane looked down at his notes, just to take a moment to think. Relief. That’s what he felt. It was as if he’d gotten a pass because he’d given the right answer—like it would have been inexcusable had he been mimicking Max on purpose. Crane flipped over the scant info Max had provided on the clinic intake sheet, still pretending to read. For some reason, as they spoke, his mind kept slipping to the mafia movie he had seen that weekend with his wife, Mary. When he finally glanced up, Max looked amused.

“Sorry, I was just trying to get back to what we were talking about,” Crane said. They had been talking about what Max called his “ghost”, an imaginary friend that had been with him since childhood. “Can you tell me more about Eric?”

“Eddie.” There was a flicker of annoyance in Max’s dark eyes.

“Sorry. Eddie. Can you tell me more about him?” Crane couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt the need to apologize so often in a session. Then he wondered if Max even cared for his apologies.

“What do you want to know?” The finger drumming again.

It was one of three nervous tics that came over the young man whenever he was asked something uncomfortable. There was something odd about the tics though. Crane decided then to take note of them to see if they always happen in the same order. After putting two marks on the upper left-hand side of the page, he gestured with his pen. “What is he like? Is he like you?” Crane asked with interest.

“He’s not like me, no. We’re actually rather dissimilar.”

“In what way?”

A furrow appeared between Max’s dark brows as he thought. It was like he was mentally shuffling through his answers to give Crane the one of least importance, and he was reminded of that expression about holding cards close to one’s chest. Under “reason for seeking counselling” on the intake sheet, Max had written “taedium vitae”, which translated to “tired of life”. Crane was about to point out that Max was the one who had come to see him, not the other way around, when Max finally spoke up.

“He’s nicer. A little shy. Says I should be more serious… He’s a bit of a fucking pain in my ass sometimes, to be honest.” The words were followed by the cheerful, almost self-mocking laughter that always surprised Crane by how genuine it sounded.

“Would you call him a friend?”

“Yeah. But it’s more than that.” Max uncrossed his legs and leaned forward with his elbows on knees, stroking down over his mouth and jaw with one hand.

Crane made another mark on the paper, this time in the top-centre of the page. That’s tic number two. “More? Like you have a deeper relationship?”

Max nodded.

“Is there a sexual aspect to this relationship?” This time Max smirked before he nodded, and the answer didn’t surprise Crane. He wanted to ask more about the sex just because he was curious as to what exactly that entailed but decided against it.

The young man clasped his hands loosely so that they hung between his knees as he watched Crane, but he didn’t say anything else. Something about the way Max blinked was odd… like it was too slow or not done often enough.

“What I’m getting at is that”—Crane glanced quickly down at his notes—“Eddie provides you with all the companionship you could ever need.”

“Mm.” Paired with the tiny nod, it was a grunt of acknowledgement. Again, nothing else was said.

Crane started to get annoyed, but noticed then that Max was looking at him with obvious levity. He exhaled in frustration.

“I’m sorry,” Max offered with a chuckle. “You’re not asking for more than yes or no answers. Try to reformulate your questions so I’m forced to say more.”

Crane’s eyebrows rose. There it was again, that mixture of unsettled and relieved that had him sitting tense in his seat, but he smiled and nodded anyway, trying to keep his expression bland and friendly.

“Ah! That’s you giving me a hint, right?” Crane said. It was like every time Max got tired of seeing Crane flounder, he would throw him a bone about how to approach his therapy.

Max’s smile was sly. Then he rubbed the back of his neck as he sat back before pushing the peak of his cap up a bit.

Crane’s pen made a fourth pen tic, top-right corner. “Do you think Eddie gets in the way of making real connections with other people?”

A slight curl in Max’s lip appeared, like he disapproved, and Crane realized that he’d asked yet another yes or no question. He frowned and rephrased it quickly. “I mean, why do you think Eddie affects your relationships with real people?”

The laugh that rang out was so lively and full of mirth that Crane found himself laughing along even though he was struck again with an infuriating juxtaposition of emotions.

You asked the right question! Good boy! Have a liver treat!

“Okay, Doc. You’re assuming that Eddie isn’t a real person. I assure you he is. Realer to me than you are,” said Max, still grinning. However, his expression flashed to serious an eye blink later. “Why do you think he’s affecting my relationships? You said for yourself just a few seconds ago that he provides me with all the companionship I could ever need. Wouldn’t real people, as you called them, affect my relationship with Eddie, and not the other way around?”

Crane opened his mouth, but Max swiped the air with a hand and cut him off before he could voice his concerns.

“No, I know what you’re going to say. Human beings need other human beings. I get it. I do. But really, Doc, I’m happy with the level of socialization I get. If I want more, I just go find more, it’s not a big deal.”

Crane kept himself from frowning. He knew that people, in Max’s world, were sort of like commodities or tools—easily obtainable, useful, but impersonal. Then he did let himself frown. “What if you were to ask Eddie to go away for a while and see how you do without him?”

Max’s handsome face was devoid of expression. He shifted in his chair chair, placed his ankle on the opposite knee, and drummed out a little beat against the denim; Crane made a mark, top-left.

“I wouldn’t.” Fingertips drummed again, and Crane made a sixth tic, again in the left-hand column.

“Just as an experiment.”

“I wouldn’t,” Max repeated and rubbed his jaw; another mark went into Crane’s notebook.

“What if I were to ask you to do it for the good of our sessions? Just to see what happens?” He knew that if Max had had his imaginary friend for as long as he claimed, it would take more than that, but Max was incredibly self-controlled—anything was possible. Mostly, Crane was curious about how Max would answer.

The last tic in Max’s cycle showed itself as he scratched at the back of his neck and then lifted the peak of his battered old army cap high enough to show his squashed brown curls beneath it. Crane made another small dash in his notebook, feeling like he’d accomplished something by discovering the repetitive pattern of Max’s nervous tics.

“Dr. Crane,” said Max, shaking his head slowly when he finally replied. “If you knew what you were asking me to do…” Suddenly, all the nervous movements stopped, and Max went still, staring at Crane with dark eyes. “No. I’m going to tell you what you’re asking me to do. Consider this one a freebie. You’re asking me to”—Max paused, his expression becoming a little pained, even vague for a moment—“send the one thing that’s keeping me out of jail or out of the loony bin on holiday. That is what you’re asking me to do.”

Crane was disturbed by the way Max’s gaze held his, but he couldn’t look away. It was like all of his reactions were being categorized and filed away in Max’s lizard brain. At that moment, he realized that Max would do it and send Eddie away if he asked him again. But if Crane did that, he would be responsible for… responsible for what? He blinked, trying to hide his unease from the young man sitting across from him.

In a flash, Max’s face split into the friendly smile that seemed to be his default expression, and he pulled himself to his feet. There was a pulse of fear in Crane’s gut at the sudden proximity—tiny, but it was there.

“Time’s up!” said Max cheerfully.

Sure enough, with a glance to his watch, Crane saw it was three thirty. He rose out of his chair, towering over his dark-haired patient. He was more flustered and tense than after any of his other consults.

“See you next week,” Crane managed, and Max made a double clicking noise with one side of his mouth, like he was chastising Crane for being unnerved.

It was also the same noise that Crane had heard people use to call their dogs. A seed of anger took root inside him, but he kept a calm smile on his face even though Max gave a little nod, like he could see right through his pretense.

Reaching for the doorknob, Max threw a look over his shoulder. “I’ll do them all in reverse next week, just for fun,” he said with a wink. Then he was gone.

Crane looked down at the page where he’d been keeping track of Max’s tics. He slowly tore it out of his notebook, crumpled it up, and threw it in the garbage. Looking out at the bright sun, he was struck with the urge to cancel his next appointment and bike home, simply to see Mary’s smile.

 


 

2 – Common Ground

Monday, June 20th

Crane smiled as Max sat down across from him. They were supposed to be in the same therapy room as their first session, but he had found Debra, the receptionist, having lunch in it when Max arrived. Crane shifted a little in his seat and chided himself for not simply telling her he had booked the office instead of abdicating and taking the empty one at the back of the clinic—this one was cramped and musty smelling, and the chairs uncomfortable. No wonder it was always free.

Grow a backbone. Five weeks working at the clinic and he had yet to find his stride—he felt like the bumbling newcomer, still wet behind the ears.

Max crossed his legs and leaned back. Steepling his fingers, he returned Crane’s smile.

“Are you going somewhere after this?” asked Crane as he opened his notebook on his lap.

Max’s brown curls were tamed, and he was wearing a black button-down with a tie, black pants, and polished square-toed dress shoes. He looked down at himself and frowned. When he met Crane’s eye again, his expression was one of amusement.

“Nah.”

The tone was friendly, but Crane felt the same strange tension as the previous week. He was being made to feel stupid for asking, even though it was a valid question—the last time he had seen Max, he had been dressed in old jeans and jackboots. Crane gritted his teeth and stared down at the blank page for a moment.

“So… How was your week?” he finally asked, smoothing out his expression as he glanced back up.

Max’s dark eyes crinkled at the corners as he contemplated the question. “Oh… It was okay. Didn’t get up to much.”

Crane nodded and jotted down the date. “And your level of stress?”

This time Max’s brows pinched above his nose, and Crane wondered if the uncertainty he saw in his face was sincere.

“I… don’t know,” said Max. “That’s the problem. By the time I’m able to recognize that I’m stressed, it’s pretty bad.”

“What are you feeling now?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

Max’s face split into a wide grin, and he let out a laugh. Crane found it a little startling the way his expressions changed suddenly.

Nothing is a simplification of what I’m feeling at this exact moment. Yes, I feel something. No, I don’t know what it is.”

“Can you describe it?”

Max’s expression went pensive. “My heart is beating faster than it normally does. My shoulders hurt, which I’m going to attribute to tension. Sometimes, I feel like I need to take an extra breath.” He sounded a bit terse.

Crane leaned forward and Max averted his eyes. “You’re just telling me what you’re feeling physically. What about mentally? How are you feeling?”

Max grimaced as he looked out the window. One shoulder came up in a small shrug. “Somewhere between amused and annoyed. Like usual.”

“What do you mean ‘like usual’?”

The way Max’s eyes swivelled back to Crane’s gave him the impression that his mood had slipped somewhat in the direction of “annoyed”.

Max sized him up for a moment. “Those are my two basic moods. The only other ones I can identify reliably are anger and arousal… But I do, on occasion, get them mixed up.”

Crane stared into Max’s dark eyes and felt his heart beat faster, but he forced himself to smile. Never show fear. Wasn’t that advice for dealing with aggressive dogs?

After a moment, Max smiled back. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m not used to being like this with anyone.”

“Like how?” Crane sat back, then let out a silent sigh of relief as the tension in the room petered out.

Max averted his eyes again. “Honest.”

“That’s good that you’re being honest with me.” He glanced down at his book and realized the page was still blank. He wasn’t sure how to approach this session. Max wasn’t nearly as talkative as last time. Not for the first time, Crane wished he had Max’s previous therapy records. “Have you ever been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder?”

Max chuckled and glanced at Crane. It was a yes or no question, but it obviously amused him enough that he gave Crane more than a one-word answer.

“Why does everyone ask me that?” Max said, rolling his eyes. “No. I do not fall on the spectrum.”

“But you get asked that often?” It was another yes or no, but again, Max was forthcoming.

“Yeah. It’s a real pain in my ass—it’s like everyone and their dog is obsessed with diagnosing folks with Asperger’s. Drives me insane.” Max grinned and smoothed down his tie. Crane noticed then that the geometric patterns on it were the aliens from Space Invaders, and he laughed to himself.

Crane made a note: Feelings = bad topic. Mental acuity = good. “What do you think you have?”

“Me? Nothing. I’m normal.” Max’s laugh rang out and Crane added his own quiet laugh. “No, serious, Doc. They’ve tried to pin me with a number of things: manic-depressive or bipolar even though I am neither manic nor depressive, nor do I have any kind of discernible mood swings; narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, dissociative… etcetera, etcetera.” Max rolled his hand in the air and chuckled again, dismissing the diagnoses. “But you’re smarter than they are, Dr. Crane… Aren’t you?”

Crane smiled at the compliment before he could stop himself. Max was charming, manipulative, focused, self-aware, and incredibly intelligent—exactly the kind of character that Crane normally loved on-screen. However, this wasn’t fiction, and the room suddenly felt even smaller when Max’s expression went neutral and he tilted his head a little. The psychopath’s head tilt.

Half of him knew he should probably drop Max as a patient and refer him to someone with more experience. Crane was barely out of school, and Max was only his fifth patient. He was out of his league. However, the other half was thrilled at the chance to pick Max’s brain. To study him. Hell, maybe he could write a paper on him.

Crane nodded. “None of those things fit,” he agreed, fully aware that he was saying exactly what Max wanted to hear. He tried to formulate his next question in a way that would get Max talking.

“No trauma,” said Max pre-emptively, and then he frowned as he focused on something above Crane’s head.

Crane glanced down at what he had written, and a tiny, cool surge of adrenaline raced through him: History of trauma? “How did you know I was going to ask you about trauma right then?” he asked.

For a moment, it was like Max hadn’t heard him as he continued to stare over Crane’s head. Then he blinked and focused on him.

“That was the next logical question, wasn’t it?” Max said with a smile. “At least, that’s what I would have asked.” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. In the dim natural light of the office, his eyes appeared black… completely opaque. Crane couldn’t look away, seized by the ridiculous suspicion that Max could see into his thoughts. “No trauma. Normal upbringing. No one was murdered in front of me, I was not molested by anyone, and I’ve never been in the kind of accident that would cause brain damage.”

When Max’s eyes slid away from Crane’s to stare once more at a spot above his head, Crane looked down at his book and scratched out his question about trauma. He glanced up at his patient and saw Max was scowling at whatever he had been staring at before. Crane looked behind him at the two paintings on the wall.

“Sorry… It’s just that they’re identical,” said Max. “Why in the hell would you have two identical paintings on the same wall? Especially in a clinic where you see people with mental problems? That’s enough to drive me a little nuts. I can’t concentrate.” Max stood up and closed the space between them in two steps.

Crane’s mouth went dry as he stared up, startled, and wondered what the young man’s intentions were. For a split second, he had the strangest feeling that Max would reach out and cup his cheek softly. His face flushed and his skin grew hotter at the obvious merriment in Max’s eyes. Crane swallowed.

“Would you care to swap places with me,” said Max softly. There was something far too intimate about the tone of his voice, as if he were asking Crane something else entirely. Crane lurched to his feet, all too aware of the sweat dampening the underarms of his shirt.

“Yes. Sure. Sorry,” he mumbled, brushing past Max to take his vacated seat. Max’s cologne smelled like wood fire and musk, and it clung to the fabric of the chair. He reopened the notebook on his knees and looked down, though he closed his eyes after a moment. Crane was straight. There was no reason why Max would affect him in such a way, but there it was—Crane, unbelievably, was getting an erection, and the more he thought about it, the worse it got.

Think of Mary.

When he looked up at Max, he saw nothing but the same subtle amusement that was so often on his handsome face. However, it was as if Max felt he had gone too far and answered the rest of Crane’s questions as helpfully as he could. The rest of the session passed quickly with an atmosphere that felt nothing but amicable.

With five minutes left, Max steered the conversation towards movies, talking about the last film he had seen. It was the same mafia movie Crane had gone to see the previous week. He nodded enthusiastically at Max’s theory about the main protagonist.

“Oh yeah,” Crane said with a smile. “I love psychopaths.”

Max leaned forward in his seat, a Cheshire grin on his face. “I know you do.” It was nearly a purr.

Crane watched Max stand, and as he got to his own feet, he mumbled something about seeing him the following week. When Max was gone, it took a few minutes of deep breathing before he felt okay to leave the office.

 

 

Crane looked over at Mary, sleeping on the couch next to him. He felt guilty. He shouldn’t be feeling guilty. He glanced back down at the phone in his hand, the message he had reworded a dozen times waiting there for him to hit Send.

Hope you don’t mind, it’s Dr. Crane. Got your # from file. Can’t make Mon next week, Wed okay? Same time.

He could have had the receptionist reschedule for him. There was no reason why he should be the one texting. Crane took a long pull from his beer, spared another look at his slumbering wife, and sent his message out into the ether.

Almost immediately the phone buzzed in his hand.

Hey Doc. No prob Wed. Just started watching something you might like. Ch 23. Movie about a serial killer.

Crane stared at the message for a few seconds. Feeling strangely excited, he got up, went to the fridge, and grabbed another beer. Mary blinked at him sleepily when he sat back down.

“Why don’t you go to bed?” he said with a smile. “You’re not even watching your show.”

She sat up and yawned. “Not coming?” she asked, rubbing her face as she stood.

“I’m not tired,” he lied. “I thought I would stay up to watch this thing a colleague of mine recommended. If you don’t mind, that is.”

Mary nodded and squeezed his shoulder. She leaned down to give him a kiss, her breath a little sour.

“Why would I mind? Stay up and watch your show, honey. Just keep it down, okay?”

Crane nodded and watched Mary climb the stairs. He waited a few seconds, then picked up the TV remote and switched to channel twenty-three. A woman on the screen started crying hysterically. Quickly, he thumbed the volume button. He took another swig of beer and grabbed his phone.

Watching was all that he sent.

The phone vibrated a second later.

Good.


 

3 – The Rabbit Hole

Monday, July 18th

Crane checked his phone. Again. No message from Max and it was three minutes into their appointment. He pinched the bridge of his nose, tapping his pen against his knee a few times. Was he going to be “stood up” again? Last week, Max had messaged him almost ten minutes after he was supposed to have been there with a simple “can’t make it, see you next week.” Annoyed, Crane had messaged back immediately to point out that Max would be billed the usual two-hundred-dollar fee since he hadn’t given twenty-four hours’ notice. The reply that came from Max a heartbeat later was an infuriatingly short “Yeah.”

He stood up and crossed the room to look out the window. The noontime traffic below was light, and the weather had shifted from gloomy and overcast to sunny since he’d been at the office. He glanced at his phone. Seven minutes late. Fucking hell, Max. Technically, he wasn’t required to wait around if a patient was more than fifteen minutes late. However, the thought of sitting there like an idiot until Max deigned to message him only to dismiss him again… Well, fuck that. Max was playing games with him. He was sure of it. After two weeks of texting each other semi-regularly, always under the pretense of discussing movies, the radio silence of the last week was… What? Frustrating? Insulting? Worrying?

Crane pressed his palm over his mouth, breathing slowly through his nose as he stared at the empty sidewalk below.

Why are you getting so riled up about this? Max lives to manipulate. If you react to this, you’re just playing into his power games. He’s obviously not coming. Crane sighed, squinting in the direction of the nearby metro station.

You know what? If you leave right this minute, you can probably catch Mary before she heads out for her shift. Maybe you can go take a walk in the park together… hand in hand, like you used to when you were first dating back in high school. Remember that? Yeah. That sounds nice… Despite the thread of his thoughts, Crane remained at the window, scanning the street for any sign of Max.

Crane was stalling. He knew it and hated himself for it. Squeezing his eyes shut, he groaned softly into his palm. Then he opened his eyes and fished in his pocket for his phone.

No. Don’t message him. Don’t chase after him. Don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing that he’s gotten under your skin. Have Debra email him the bill and tell him that he’s being referred to another therapist… hell, another clinic.

Crane felt like punching something really hard… or crushing something. Or… having sex. No, not sex. Fucking. Dirty, raunchy hard-core fucking. Shoving his dick into someone with the sole purpose of emptying his balls. No foreplay. No talking. Just raw, animal fucking.

Crane felt his cock stir and jammed his hand down the front of his Dockers to adjust himself. With a bitter laugh, he fondled himself gently for a moment. What did he know about fucking? Even as a hormonal teen, Mary had been all about making love. Not that that was a bad thing, but now that they were no longer trying for a baby, even the lovemaking had dwindled to almost nothing.

His skin prickled uncomfortably, and a cold spike of adrenaline went straight to his gut a full second before the quiet voice spoke behind him.

“Sorry I’m late.”

Crane pulled his hand out of his pants as he spun around, his mouth dry. How long had Max been standing there, watching him? It took some effort, but he managed a serene smile as he gestured to one of the seats.

“That’s fine, Max,” he lied. “Take a seat.” The clock on the wall above the door showed that Max was nearly twenty minutes late.

Max sat down and crossed one leg over the other so his ankle rested on the opposite knee. There was a large pixelated skull on his black shirt, and he wore threadbare jeans and black and white Converse. On his head was the dark-grey, army-style cap he’d worn the day they’d met, its frayed, curling brim casting his features into shadow.

Max scratched at the side of his head and tucked a brown curl behind his ear, giving Crane a crooked smile.

“Wow, Doc… You waited for me,” he said, sounding relieved and awkwardly, endearingly shy.

Crane wanted to believe it wasn’t an act, that he had been wrong in assuming Max’s absence last week and his late arrival today were some kind of game. That through some miraculous journey of self-discovery, Max had transformed into the painfully earnest young man who stared up at him with his big brown eyes full of soul. Then Max’s expression went sly, and eyes narrowed, he tilted his head at Crane, shattering the illusion. “D’awww… You stayed and waited and waited for little ol’ me even though you could have left.”

Irritated at Max’s mocking tone, Crane took his seat. “You’re assuming that I don’t have another appointment this afternoon.”

“I don’t assume anything,” Max replied, his words crisp and cold. “I know you’re not seeing anyone else today.”

“And how do you know that?” Crane opened the notebook in his lap to busy himself.

“I called and asked Debra.”

“Ah.” Crane scribbled a note in the margin of the page to remind himself to have a talk with the receptionist about Max. “So… You made me wait today on purpose then? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes, Dr. Crane. That’s exactly what I’m saying, though you already knew that.”

“Did I?”

“You’d be fucking stupid not to. And you may be many things, but stupid is not one of them, thank God.”

“I don’t apprecia—”

“So how does that make you feel? Knowing that I let you wait on purpose?”

Crane ignored the question, his jaw set in annoyance for a moment. He let out a slow, calming breath.

“Max, what on earth is the point of making me wait?” he said in a weary, patronizing, and completely unprofessional tone… He couldn’t help it. “What were you hoping to achieve? Hm? Were you hoping to make me angr—”

“You would have waited even longer… just on the off chance that I came in. I made you wait here. You could have gone home and gotten in a little”—Max bit his bottom lip and punched his fist out a few times, punctuating the gesture with soft grunts—“with the missus. Instead, you stood here waiting for me.”

“Max, that’s… really inappropriate.” Crane barely kept the anger out of his voice.

“And do you know why you waited for me? Maybe you don’t even know the answer… Maybe you do…” Max went eerily still, staring at Crane without expression, waiting for him to answer.

Crane wanted to move past this posturing—somehow dispel the weird, breathless intensity that infused the room as Max once again took control of the session… and of him. Crane knew he had waited too long to answer when a coy grin dimpled Max’s cheek.

“It’s because you missed me,” Max said in a soft voice.

“I didn’t miss you.” Crane abruptly closed his notebook. “And I don’t appreciate you wasting my time.”

“Oh, but you did miss me. You missed me when I didn’t show up last week. You missed me when I didn’t answer your texts. You missed me when you turned on your TV and I wasn’t there with you, messaging you…”

“Max. Stop. I didn’t miss you.” But it was a lie. It was a damn lie. And Max knew it.

“I made you miss me. I wanted you to miss me. I wanted you to think about me when you woke up in the morning. I wanted you to think about me when you went to bed at night. I wanted you to think about me when you parted your wife’s creamy white thighs—”

“Okay. Session over. I would like you to leave.” Crane’s pulse crashed in his ears and he felt dizzy. He needed Max to stop talking.

“Ohh… Did I cross a line there?” asked Max, his brown eyes wide. “Is it because it’s all true?”

“Get out,” whispered Crane.

“You missed me. And I needed you to miss me, Dennis. Do you want to know why?”

“Dr. Crane,” Crane corrected him. He couldn’t believe he was letting this go on. He had to get to his feet and leave the room. Maybe have Debra call the police. Max was far shorter than him, but the young man was more muscular… And what if he had a weapon?

Crane didn’t move. Pathetic.

Max smiled at him. “If you missed me, then I knew I could trust you, Dennis.”

Fingers digging into the arms of his seat, Crane took slow, measured breaths. A breakthrough? More mind games? “It isn’t prudent to let this continue.”

Max blinked and sat up. “Prudent? Did you work all those long years getting your degree so you could be prudent? So you could work at treating eating disorders and sexless marriages?”

“I worked hard so I could help people.”

“No… not really. Not truly. I don’t believe that. You didn’t sit there watching documentaries on Carl Rogers going ‘Ooh… I want to heal the world!’ No, you told me watching Silence of the Lambs was what inspired you. You told me that darkness and depravity drew you like a moth to a flame. You said you wanted to study evil and see if it held up to your expectations. Do you remember that?”

Crane had indeed said those things. He even remembered the night he’d said them. One too many beers, Silence of the Lambs on Netflix, Mary working late at the Montreal General, his cellphone in hand with Max’s last message waiting like an invitation to bare his soul: tell me everything. He let out his breath, a harsh counterpoint to the quietly ticking clock above.

“Are you afraid of me, Dennis? You shouldn’t be. I’m trying my very best to make you understand that I like you. And I’m offering you the very thing you desire the most: me. You know I’m a fine specimen of amorality. I’m giving you the opportunity to look behind the curtain. No holding back.” Max stood, his smile friendly but gaze intense.

Crane almost flinched when the young man took a step towards him.

“No,” Crane said. “I’m not interested in your head games, and I’m certainly not impressed with your attempts at intimidation.” Crane’s heart was beating too fast, and the resulting light headedness hoarsened his voice.

Max raised his hands and took another step. “Intimidation? I’m not trying to intimidate you, Dennis. See?” Max dropped down to his knees and stared up at Crane, his cheek dimpled. “I’m as harmless as a kitten.”

Crane could smell Max—his cologne, the deodorant he used, the slight mint on his breath. He straightened in his chair and swallowed thickly. Max was far, far too close. Crane thought he could feel the heat emanating from him. It was ridiculous and shocking… and arousing. He should have been afraid, but instead, he was terribly excited. Crane clenched his jaw when he saw his patient’s smile slip a notch. Max’s eyes seemed to darken farther—there was hunger in them.

“Don’t fight it,” Max murmured.

“I’m not fighting anything.”

“No head games. No lies. No manipulation. No holding anything back.”

“You said you were being honest before,” Crane pointed out.

“I lied.”

“Then how can I be sure this time?” he heard himself ask in a calm voice that belied his speeding pulse.

“You have my word.” Max placed a hand over his heart.

“The word of a psychopath.”

Max’s dark brows shot up in amusement, and he clicked his tongue twice. “Ouch, Doc. You make it sound like such a bad thing. Besides… That’s not a real diagnosis.”

“It’s a personal observation.” Max’s personality disorder didn’t fit neatly into a single category. Not paranoid, too careful, too self-aware, too grounded, too emotionally stable—Max was confident and driven by an unshakable and fully formed sense of self. But then there was this imaginary friend Eddie. Crane was still uncertain whether Max actually believed Eddie existed or if he was aware he had created him as a sort of mental prosthetic—the conscience and moral compass that he had been born lacking.

Crane narrowed his eyes at Max. “What does Eddie say about this?”

Max smirked. “Eddie says he’ll protect you from me.”

Licking his bottom lip, Crane frowned. It was tempting to take him up on his offer. So tempting. Ever since he’d started seeing Max, it always felt like he was brushing the surface. This was a golden opportunity to see the true twists that Max’s mind took—witness what he was capable of.

What the hell are you thinking?

“Come on, Dennis. I’m laying my soul bare here,” said Max, tilting his head back. He lifted the peaked brim of his cap before settling it back down over his flattened curls, an easy smile on his face. “Come down the rabbit hole with me…”

During their sessions, Max had hinted at things he’d done. Terrible things. Crane knew he had purposely kept from reporting any of Max’s criminal allusions so he’d keep coming back. He already had a foot in the rabbit hole.

“I promise I’ll be as honest with you as I can be,” Max said, his expression blank. Crane trusted that more than the sunny smile.

“I have to abide by the limits—”

“—of confidentiality. Yes, I know. And that’s a rule you’re simply going to have to break. Otherwise…” Max gave a shrug.

“I can’t do that.”

“You can. You can do anything you want. It’s not like I’m going to tell on you. In fact, let me give you a sample of my honesty right now, free of any obligation on your part. And just maybe it’ll help convince you…” Max placed a hand on Crane’s knee, and Crane tensed, his heart like a jackhammer in his rib cage.

“What are you doing?” He didn’t push Max away. No… It was more like both feet in the rabbit hole.

“I’m going to unzip your pants, gently take your cock out, and put it in my mouth,” Max replied matter-of-factly as he reached for the zipper in Crane’s Dockers.

Crane grabbed his hand. “I don’t think so,” he rasped.

“Then why aren’t you moving my hand away?”

Crane tightened his hold slightly on Max’s hand but did nothing to stop him from sliding the button through the hole or easing the zipper down. Crane’s cock was throbbing up against the seam of his pants, growing more uncomfortable by the second. This is insane. He glanced up at the clock. There were only a few minutes left in their session.

“Oh, there’s plenty of time,” Max murmured, his smile charming again. “And if you’re worried that someone will come in… Well, doesn’t that make it more exciting?”

Crane winced and shut his eyes as Max’s cool fingers touched him through the opening in his boxers. He shifted his hand so it rested on Max’s forearm. The muscles slid smoothly beneath Max’s skin as he freed Crane’s cock from his pants.

“See? You want this as much as I do. And, what a gorgeous big cock you have, Dennis. Beautiful. Simply stunning. I haven’t had something this nice in my mouth in a long while…” Max said, stroking him slowly.

Crane felt something warm touch the slit in his cockhead and gasped. Opening his eyes, he held his breath as he watched Max run his tongue down his shaft and back up to the swollen crown, his gaze locked with Crane’s.

Max pulled away and grinned. “Does that feel good?”

Crane nodded slowly. He couldn’t tell what he felt more: aghast or thrilled.

What are you doing? part of him was screaming. The other part was mesmerized by the licked shine of Max’s bottom lip as he stared up at him, Crane’s cock in his hand. With the other hand, Max flipped his army cap front to back so the rim was out of the way.

A thought stuck in his mind—about whether any of his colleagues had been sucked off in this office by one of their patients—but it fled the moment Max’s mouth enveloped him, hot and wet, and he leaned his head back on the chair with a quiet groan, eyes closed.

In less than a minute, Crane was breathing heavily, sweat soaking the thin cotton of his shirt. His cock slid out of Max’s mouth, and he heard him chuckle.

“I know I’m good, but I’m not that good. I take it that it’s been a while? Does your wife not have a taste for cock? Hm, Dennis? Are you imagining that it’s her mouth on you?”

Crane reached out and cupped the back of Max’s head to pull him back down. Obediently, Max’s lips slid around his cock again, taking him deep enough that Crane felt him try to suppress a gag. Crane flared his nostrils, teeth clenched, and held Max in place.

“It’s ‘Doctor Crane’, Max—my wife’s the only one who calls me Dennis—and you’re the one sucking my cock. No one else,” Crane said in an even tone, the one he saved for therapy sessions. Then he dropped his voice into a low growl. “Now… Don’t stop until I’m done with you.” That he was in charge was pure fiction, he knew that, but it made it easier for him somehow. And… he liked that Max was humouring him.

What else do you think Max will humour?

Crane crushed his eyes closed. How deep would he go down the rabbit hole?

When Max nodded as best as he could, Crane eased up on his hold. However, he kept his hand on the back of Max’s head, his fingers buried in the mess of dark curls to ground himself in the moment, and a moment was all that it took.

“Gggguuuhhh,” he choked out, arching back against the chair as he unloaded into Max’s talented sucking mouth. By the time he sagged back, empty, warm, and dazed, staring into the gentle mockery in Max’s eyes, he felt like he’d just signed a contract in blood.

“So, you’re in for a penny, in for a pound, eh, Doc?” whispered Max. Licking his top lip, he winked, then rose to his feet, adjusting his cap to face forward again. He pointed to Crane’s open fly. “Plenty more of that, I promise.”

“You’re in a very promising mood,” Crane said, grimacing as he tucked himself away and zipped up. He felt dirty.

“I told you. I like you. And I’d like to show you something tonight.”

“On TV?” Crane asked. He stood, a touch shaky. A man had given him a blowjob. And not just any man, one that was possibly criminally insane. And it was the best blowjob he’d ever had.

“No TV. In person.” Max smiled up at Crane. The dirty, guilty feeling was already fading fast, replaced by a pathetic eagerness over seeing Max again so soon.

What had Max said? In for a penny, in for a pound. His traitorous mind was already pointing out that Mary had another graveyard shift at the hospital that night. She’d never know he was gone as long as he was back before she was.

“What is it?” he asked, wary.

“Well, that’d spoil it, n’est-ce pas?” Max grinned. “I’ll text you an address later and you’ll meet me there.”

Without waiting for an answer, Max spun on his heel and waved back over his head as he opened the door. “See ya, Doc. You’ve given me plenty to swallow. I’ll think about it at length later tonight and see what comes of it…” he said cheerfully, loud enough that anyone in the vicinity would hear.

Red-faced, Crane stood in the middle of the small office, knowing he was in over his head but wondering how long he’d suffer having to wait for Max to text him.

 

Coming Sept. 30th, 2016

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