The Institute:Daddy Issues(3)By: Evangeline Anderson
I’m ashamed to admit I had to get most of my information off dating sites. Not that I had any interest in my partner that way but still—those were the places where they had the most information about Russian men and the way they interact with their women.
I learned that your typical Russian man was generous, helpful, courteous and extremely protective of his chosen woman. According to the sites I read, they also tend to get serious quickly about a woman they consider to be theirs. Now that I was Salt’s partner, he apparently considered it his job to protect me and shield me from harm. Not a bad quality in a partner, if I could get over my feminist prickliness and adjust to being treated like more than one of the guys for once.
It took some effort on my part and constantly reminding myself that the way Salt was acting toward me was cultural, not in any way sexist or demeaning. But finally we fell into a routine. Salt still opened doors for me, helped me in and out of my coat and insisted on buying my lunch when we ate out together. (In Russia, the man always pays—it’s an insult to ask to split the bill.) And in return, I had him over to my place for a home cooked meal at least twice a week—I know I don’t seem very domestic but I’m actually a pretty good cook. I even learned to make borscht for him which is more complicated than you might think.
The only place I really had to draw the line was when Salt wanted to defend my honor. I don’t know what the Russian police force is like, but I don’t think they get the concept of police brutality. In the beginning, any perp we brought in who mouthed off to me was likely to be picking his teeth up off the floor the next minute. I finally made Salt understand he was going to get us both suspended if he didn’t stop, so now he contented himself with simply threatening anyone who disrespected me. It was a distinct improvement, especially from the Captain’s point of view.
And speaking of Captain Douglas, I hoped he was finally going to explain why he needed Salt and me to go to the infamous Institute.
“We need you to go undercover,” he was saying. “Get in good with the other…ah participants at the resort, and see if you can identify the source of the Please. This new batch is the most dangerous yet so if we can catch the manufacturer and dry up the supply, we can save a lot of lives.”
“Go undercover in what capacity?” I asked, frowning. “I mean, what exactly do they do there, anyway?”
“I thought you knew all about it, Sugarbaker.” Captain Douglas folded his arms over his narrow chest.
“I know it’s some kind of kinky resort,” I said. “Is it a BDSM thing? Are Salt and I going to have to dress up in leather and use whips and chains on each other?”
Salt’s face darkened. “I will not whip Andi. She is too delicate for such treatment.”
In the beginning of our partnership, that kind of statement would have pissed me off. Now I knew it was just Salt protecting me. Still, I nudged his muscular shoulder and made a face at him.
“Who said you would be doing the whipping, huh? You think I can’t be the one wielding the paddle? I’m plenty dominant enough to be a dominatrix.”
Salt gave me a coolly appraising stare. After a moment, it got hard to hold his ice-blue gaze but I refused to drop my eyes and lose the little staring contest we found ourselves in.
“No,” he said at last. “You are dominant to many men but not to me, Andi. This I will not allow.”
Captain Douglas cleared his throat which broke my concentration. I looked back at our superior, losing the staring contest.
“A-hem. Unfortunately, though the Institute does practice a form of BDSM, it’s not the kind you traditionally think of when you’re talking about the kink community.”
“Well, what is it then?” I demanded. “If it’s not whips and chains, I mean.”