The Deal (mm mc hypno coll)

[Synopsis: The college swim coach is offered a deal.]

Disclaimer: The naked hypnotist strides confidently into your room. His lips curl in what might be a smile as he dangles his shiny crystal pendulum before your eyes and announces, "Listen and obey. If you are not of legal age, or if you offended by sexual situations, you will leave this place immediately. From here on, no matter how autobiographical it may seem, everything will seem like fiction to you, a pleasant dream where scientific possibilities and laws may change according to my suggestion. Now, if you are willing, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride."

Copyright © 2003 by Wrestlr. Permission granted to archive if and only if no fee (including any form of "Adult Verification") is charged to read the file. If anyone pays a cent to anyone to read your site, you can't use this without the express permission of (and payment to) the author. This paragraph must be included as part of any archive.

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The ringing phone shocked me awake. After being up most of the night, in both senses of the word, my partner de jour (what was his name again?--I can never remember the names of guys I pick up in bars) and I had finally collapsed into an exhausted, satisfied sleep maybe an hour before.

The phone rang a second time. Ten minutes after 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. What kind of sadist was calling at this hour? My sleep-addled brain considered the merits of flinging the phone across the room but the coordination required would take too much energy and thought. Why don’t they pass laws against calling before noon?

I fumbled the phone to my ear. “Hullo?”

“Coach Steve?” asked the man’s voice on the other end. “You have to help me. It’s about Maximilian.”

Okay, he called me Coach Steve, but who the hell was “Maximilian”? My grandmother had had a dachshund named Maximilian when I was a kid, but that dog was long deceased. And last I checked, my grandmother wasn’t a man.

So I said, “Huh? Whoo’zzis?”

“It’s Mark Jones,” the caller prompted, as if speaking to a five-year-old. “My son Max is on your swim team? This is Coach Steve, isn’t it?”

Oh! Max. Right.

“Yeah, this is Steve. Sorry--I’m not much of a morning person on Saturdays. What’s this about Max? He in some kind of trouble?”

“You have to help us. He thinks he’s some kind of skinhead punk now. You should see what he’s done to himself!”

I started to mention that I’d see soon enough at practice on Monday, but by then I was awake enough to keep my mouth shut. “Skinhead punk?” I said instead.

“Or worse! He was out all night last night. When he came home this morning, he’d gotten his hair bleached blond and he’s cut it like some freak from a rock band or something.”

I started to mention that “skinhead” and “bleached blond” don’t normally apply to the same look at the same time. At the last second, my manners kicked in again, and instead I said, “Oh?”

“His mother and I--we’re just--I can’t--“ Mr. Jones sputtered to silence for a second, then: “I just don’t understand what gets into that kid sometimes.”

Max’s family is well-to-do. His parents have high-power careers--he’s a major-league lawyer, and she’s a corporate vice president or something. I’d met them once and spoken to them a few times on the phone. The type of parents who are high on drive and low on affection. Their son Max was a sophomore on my college swim team. It’s a big-name, upscale college, the kind that virtually ensures a good job when he graduates. Too bad Max’s family lives in the same city as the college--I think he’d be much happier with some distance between them.

“Listen, Mr. Jones,” I said, “Max is a twenty-year-old college student. You’re a parent in your forties. I think Max is supposed to do things you don’t understand.”

Max’s father sighed. “Well, his mother is worried sick. And that’s not the worst part. When he came in this morning, he’d gotten some kind of piercing. It’s disgusting! He has this metal ... bar--it’s stuck right through his eyebrow. He looks like a hoodlum. How’s he supposed to get a good career looking like that? His mother is upstairs crying right now. She’s worried he’s gotten one of those penis piercings we keep hearing about and she’ll never get grandkids.”

I rolled my eyes. I’d come to the conclusion long ago that getting grandkids was not as great as straight people seem to think.

“You’re closer to his age,” Mr. Jones said, which was true--at thirty-two, I was only twelve years older than Max. “He looks up to you. You’re his coach, for Christ’s sake. Can’t you just ...”

The guy still asleep in my bed--Al? Hal?--had rolled over on his back. His big stiffy wobbled in the air for a second before settling across his chiseled hip. He looked like the younger brother I never had. I raised an eyebrow and wondered how he could be hard again after everything we did together to deflate it just a few hours before--the guy had impressive stamina. I had tried to keep my voice down, but I think he was stirring. I wondered whether I should wake him up first or just blow him. I’d have to end this conversation quickly.

“Look, Mr. Jones, you have my sympathies, but Max is a good kid. I’m sure everything will work out. What do you expect me to do?”

“I’ve sent him over to your place with some papers. He’s on his way.”

“What papers?”

“The papers are just an excuse. I told him it was for a donation I’m considering making to the Athletic Department--that much is true. Listen, he likes you. He looks up to you. You’re his coach. If you talk to him, maybe he’ll listen to you.”

Here came that sinking feeling again. I was awake enough to understand the bargain Max’s father was offering, what he wanted me to do in exchange for that donation. And I didn’t like it.

I said, “Listen to me? And just what am I supposed to say?”

“I don’t know. Just ... talk to him. When he gets there, find out if he’s ruined himself with one of those piercings in his private parts. If he hasn’t, then you have to make him promise to never ever do such a thing for the rest of his life.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Listen, can’t this wait until Monday? I can just stroll through the locker room and--“

“No! It has to be today. We have to know right now! Call us the minute you find out. His mother--you should see the way she’s upstairs right now, crying her eyes out.”

I sighed. I didn’t become a coach to get sucked into family issues. This was the third call like this I’d gotten from Max’s parents this year. The first had been when he came in drunk one night. The second had been when they found out his friends had nicknamed him “Stony” because he liked to smoke pot sometimes. Both times his parents had badgered me to step in, and they kept at it until I relented. It was my own damn fault because, both times before, I’d been able to help Stony--er, Max--work past the need to rebel by getting drunk or getting high. There’s a little trick that I’d learned that made things like that fairly easy. Once I got a guy in the right frame of mind, I could be very persuasive. I wondered if Mr. Jones would approve of exactly how I had helped Max work past those issues. Probably he would say the end justified the means, but still I always filed that under “Things No One Has to Know.”

“Okay,” I groaned. “I’ll see what I can do. No promises, though.”

“Thank you,” Mr. Jones sighed quietly. Then he hung up on me.

Some people have no manners.

Looks like I’d be waking up Al or Hal and not blowing him after all--well, at least not this morning. I gave my bed-partner’s thick dick a few brisk strokes, just enough to summon him back from Dreamland.

I said, “Sorry to wake you so early, stud.” I learned long ago: no man ever objects to being called “stud.” Comes in handy when you can’t remember his name. “I know we had a late night, but that was the father of one of my team members on the phone. His son is on his way to make a delivery here, and I’d kind of like it if I was alone when he gets here.” I didn’t mention that it was because no one at the college knew I was gay. Again: “Things No One Has to Know.”

At least I had the pleasure of helping this hunky number get his pants and shoes on. And I made sure he gave me his phone number too. I dragged him, still half-asleep, to the doorway of my apartment, kissed him, and pushed him out into the hallway and shut the door. When my doorbell rang twenty seconds later, I thought it was my overnight guest again. Had he mislaid something? Well, he certainly hadn’t mislaid me--in fact, I’d rarely in my life been so well laid ...

I opened the door, still naked as the day I was born. And there was Max. Naturally.

“Hey, Coach. Sorry to wake you and all,” he said, “but my dad wanted me to give you this ...”

He handed over a manila envelope. His eyes raked up and down my body as I took it. Nothing he hadn’t seen before when I showered with the team. He cocked an eyebrow at me, appreciatively, and the new brow piercing glinted.

“C’mon in,” I said, opening the door wider and ushering him inside.

“You sure stay in good shape, Coach. Unlike my dad, I mean.”

“Thanks. Staying in shape’s my job, being a coach and all. But don’t be too hard on your dad. He’s worked hard to give you a good life.”

Max sprawled out on my couch. I dropped the manila envelope--I’d have a look at the amount later--on the end table, next to the silver whistle on its red cord that I wore at practice, and I scooped up a pair of discarded boxer shorts off the floor. “So who was that guy I saw leaving your place?” Max asked as I started pulling them on.

Gulp. “Uhm ... He was just a friend. He stayed the night.”

Max said, “Oh.”

An uncomfortable silence, while I finished pulling on my boxers and dropped into the chair beside the couch.

“Must have been some party,” Max said quietly, with a wink. He wasn’t dumb, and it wasn’t too hard to figure out. Partially-dressed man, plus leaving his unmarried coach’s apartment early on a Saturday morning, equaled ...

I had never claimed to be straight, but I’d never officially told any of the team that I was gay.

“Pretty cool, huh?” he said, pointing at the silver stud through his eyebrow.

“On you, it looks good,” I said, relieved for the change of subject. “I like the hair too. That’s what I told your dad. Every thing you’ve ever done, no matter how outlandish, always winds up for the better. He shouldn’t worry. You’re a smart young man. You’ve got taste.”

“So he called you again, huh?” Max smirked.

“Yup. About ten minutes ago, when you were already on your way.”

“Dude, you really need to change your phone number.”

We laughed. His father had described his new look as “skinhead punk” and “bleached blond.” What I saw, though, was a little more sedate than that. I saw a twenty-year-old guy who could be categorized somewhere between “hunky” and “gorgeous.” His hair had been cut very close on the sides, down almost to stubble, and left an inch longer on the top, where it was gelled up into little spikes. His hair was medium brown, and he had had blond streaks and tips bleached into the top. Instead of a punk, he looked more like a surfer. His hair perfectly complemented the caramel-brown of his eyes and his sensual features. And his stellar smile more than lit up his face. I thought he looked damn hot--as usual--and when I combined his new appearance in front of me with the memory of how well he filed out the team swimsuit, fore and aft, and of his naked body and streamlined muscles in the gym showers after practice just the day before, I started to get a little hard. I was suddenly aware that all I had on was a pair of thin boxer shorts.

“You mean that about my taste, Coach?”

“Sure. But your dad did make me promise to talk to you about something.”

Max rolled his eyes and grinned. “Duh! I already know where babies come from!” He poked the middle finger of his right hand through the ring he made with the index finger and thumb of his left, sliding it quickly in and out, in and out. This sly dude’s obscene gesture made me feel suddenly very horny, and my dick hardened even more. I knew I’d better get that conversation wrapped up quickly, or I’d be embarrassing myself.

“No, no,” I laughed with him, “it’s not that. He made me promise to make you swear you’d never get your dick pierced or anything. He said your mom is afraid you’ll do something like that and she’ll never get any grandchildren.” I picked up my whistle from the end table and toyed with it, absently. “So ... you haven’t done anything like get your dick pierced already, have you?”

“Jeez! He’s worried about my dick?” Without any warning, Max stood up and pulled his tee-shirt up and dropped his jeans to his knees. His body was long, lean, and surprisingly chiseled. And as tasty as that was, the thick piece of meat he hauled out over the pushed-down elastic waistband of his boxer shorts looked even tastier.

Uncircumcised, I noted again, in a purely scientific way. I’d seen his cock before in the locker room and the showers, but never this up-close and personal.

“There,” he said, shaking it at me. “Now you can tell my folks my baby-maker is just fine, okay?”

It was more than “just fine.” Unless my eyes were deceiving me, it was starting to rise to its upright position even as I stared at it.

Max hastily slammed it back in his boxers and pulled up his jeans. He swore under his breath, “Shit! I’m such a freak! Getting a woody in front of my coach!”

Now I had a serious woody myself, so I moved my legs around to try to hide it.

“Coach, you gotta promise me you won’t tell my dad I’m queer like you, okay? Please?”

I started to tell Max that just getting boned up in front of another guy didn’t mean he was gay, when I saw it in his eyes. I knew right away: he had meant what he said. He liked guys, and now he knew I did too. It was also clear we were both nursing hard-ons.

“Relax, Max. Your secret’s safe with me.”

“Whew!” he sighed, relieved, as he sank back down on the couch, sprawling back, legs spread. “Thanks, Coach. Man, my mom is so hung up on getting grandkids. She’ll freak if she ever finds out ...”

Some part of my brain noted that his cock had not subsided yet.

“No problem,” I said. “Don’t stress over it, Max.” I held up the whistle I’d been toying with, into the morning light filtering through the thin curtains, and let it turn at the end of its red cord. “You know, you probably shouldn’t do or say things just because they set your parents off.”

He watched the whistle closely, already fascinated. “Yeah, I know.”

“If you want to bleach your hair and get your eyebrow pierced, that’s your business. You can make your own choices. But maybe you should bring up the subject with them first. Maybe tell them you’re going to do it.”

His eyes tracked it as it swung in a casual arc.

“They’d just say no.”

“Maybe, but at least they wouldn’t feel like you’re doing this to get back at them for something. Give them some time to get used to the idea, you know?”

“I’m an adult. I can make my own decisions.”

“True. And part of being a mature, responsible adult is considering other people’s feelings. Especially when they’re your parents and especially when they still put a roof over your head.”

He sighed. His eyes never left the whistle. “Coach, what am I supposed to do? They don’t like what I like to wear. They don’t like the music I listen to. They’d freak big-time if they found out I was gay--do you know what a pain that makes it to get laid when you can’t risk going to a gay bar or picking up a guy because someone they know might see you? I haven’t gotten laid in so long I’ve got cum backed up to my ears. They want me to be all adult and stiff like them, and sometimes all I want to do is party and cut lose and have some fun. I know I’m supposed to be all mature and take responsibility for my actions and all, but--fuck, Coach!--what am I supposed to do?”

“Just relax. Everything is going to be fine.”

I’d been using hypnosis with the team to help them focus and work past anything in their minds that might be subconsciously holding them back. Private sessions in my office after practice. Sometimes one-on-one, sometimes two or three. His conscious mind might not have remembered the details, but his subconscious knew, and responded to, the focusing agent: my whistle swinging sedately back and forth in the air between us.

This was the way I had helped him get past alcohol. This was how I had helped him replace the high he got from smoking pot with the high he now got from swimming.

“Just keep your eyes on the shiny silver whistle,” I droned. “Watch it sway ... Back and forth, back and forth. Fix your eyes on it. Take a nice, deep breath. Good. Just keep breathing deeply. Listen to my voice. You will find that your eyelids are starting to get heavy. You were out late last night, weren’t you? You didn’t get much sleep. You must feel very tired. Yes. Your eyelids must feel so very heavy. Almost as if they had a heavy, heavy weight attached to them. The longer you stare at the whistle, the longer you watch it swing back and forth, so slowly, back and forth, the heavier your eyelids get, and maybe you blink if you need to, and they feel like something heavy is pulling them down, almost as if they want to close, slowly, as you relax and give in to that tired feeling and let yourself get drowsier and sleepier and heavier. And you feel as if your eyes are closing, slowly closing, getting drowsier and more tired. When they finally do close, how good you'll feel. Drowsy. Heavy. Pulling down, down, down. Slowly closing. Getting harder and harder to see. Go ahead and blink If you need to. You feel good. So relaxed. So very, very hard to keep those tired, tired eyes open. You feel as if very soon they will close tightly, almost tightly closing, almost tightly closing already, tightly closing.

“Now, let your eyelids close down. Good, Max. I want you to mentally picture and imagine that you are looking at the muscles in the tips of the toes of your feet. In your imagination, follow those muscles as they move back into the ball of your feet. Back into the arches, and all the way back into the heels. Now, turn all those muscles loose. Let them grow limp and lazy, just like a handful of loose spaghetti. Now, as the muscles relax, just let your mind relax, too. Let your mind drift where it will. Let your mind drift off to pleasant scenes in you imagination. Now, let the relaxation move on up, into the ankles now. From the ankles, all the way up to your knees. The calf muscles begin to grow loose and limp, so heavy, and so relaxed. All of your tensions are fading away. You're relaxing more with each easy breath that you take. Begin breathing more deeply, now, just as you breathe each night, when you are deep and sound in slumber. Just imagine that you can see your breath as a white mist, coming from your nostrils. Each and every time that you exhale this white mist, you are freeing yourself of tension, and going deeper, deeper into drowsy relaxation.

“Now, from the knees, all the way to your hips, the long thigh muscles are turning loose and just relaxing now. Now, as those muscles relax, just let go a little more, and gently, calmly, easily, let yourself drift into a pleasant state of easy relaxation. Turn all the muscles loose and go deeper in sleep.

“Now, the wave of relaxation move on up, into your stomach now. Into your solar plexus, the center of nervous energy. Each muscle and nerve lets the tension loose, relaxing. You're drifting down, deeper, deeper into sleep. Down. Deeper in slumber.

“Up through your ribs, your muscles relax. Into the muscles of your chest. The muscles of your chest grow limp and loose, so relaxed. All of your tensions are fading away. You're relaxing now, more with each easy beat of your heart, and going deeper into drowsy slumber.

“Into your neck, the muscles let go. All around your neck, the muscles relax, just as they relax each night when you are deeply, soundly asleep. Turn them all loose, and go deeper and deeper into slumber. Now let the relaxation start down your back. From the base of your skull to the base of your spine. Each muscle and nerve along your spine lets the tension go, so loose, relaxing. You’re drifting down. Deeper and deeper into sleep. Deeper in drowsy slumber.

“And now the wave of relaxation spreads out into the broad muscles of your back. All across your back. All across the back of your shoulders. Turn loose every muscle and every nerve, and go deeper and deeper into sleep. Into your shoulders, the muscles let go. From the shoulders, down to the elbows of both arms. The upper arm muscles are turning loose, and just relaxing now. From your elbows, down to your wrists, your forearm muscles grow limp and loose. From your wrists to your fingertips, feel each muscle and nerve let loose, relaxing. You're drifting down. Deeper and deeper in sleep.

“Into your jaw, the muscles relax. Your jaw may part slightly, teeth not quite touching. All around your mouth, the muscles let go. Up through your nose, each nerve gives way. All around your eyes, your muscles are heavy and so relaxed. Even your eyebrows are relaxing now. Across your forehead, the muscles smooth out. Across the top of your skull. Down the back of your neck. Down through your temples, back around your ears, all of the muscles are loose and limp, just like a handful of loose spaghetti.

“And now, you may feel a pleasant tingling sensation in the tips of your toes, or in your fingertips, growing stronger and stronger now, as if your entire body is being bathed in the pleasant glow of complete, absolute relaxation. You’re completely relaxed. Each muscle and nerve in your body is loose and limp and relaxed, and you feel good. Don’t you, Max?”

A moment of silence, then his voice eased out, “Yes ...”

“Good, Max. You’re doing beautifully.” I knelt down at his feet. “In a moment, I’m going to touch you, and it won’t bother you at all. In fact, whatever I do will just help you relax and sink deeper, won’t it?”

“Mmm ... yeah ...” he breathed.

“That’s it,” I said as I pulled his right foot into my lap. His leg was dead weight. “Each breath helps you relax and become even more limp.” I untied his shoe and slipped it off. I reached up under the leg of his jeans and pulled his sock down and off. “Everything I do just helps you feel more limp and more relaxed and more open to my suggestions.” I eased his right foot down onto the floor and reached for his left to repeat the process.

He was well-trained from all the sessions we had had in my office after practice. His eyes stayed closed in deep sleep, body limp on my couch. I had to admit I found Max extremely hot. I regretted what I was about to do, in return for his father’s donation, but I figured I knew a great way to make it up to Max.

“Max, you know you shouldn’t upset your parents, right?”

“Mmm ... yuh ...”

“They do a lot for you. There are ways you can be your own person without provoking them, aren’t there?”

“Nnngh ...”

I eased up alongside his body. As rebellion went, I thought as I surveyed his face, an eyebrow piercing and spiky hair were pretty minor.

“Everything I do relaxes you. Helps you relax deeper and become more open to my helpful suggestions.” I worked my fingers gently through his hair, breaking up the styling gel that held it in short spikes. I couldn’t do anything about the blond streaks, but when I finished, his upturned hair looked more like a longish crew-cut. I thought his father would consider that an acceptable compromise. As for me, I thought it made Max look even hotter, and I suggested he start wearing his hair that way instead of spiked.

“You don’t really want to keep your eyebrow pierced, do you?” I purred into his ear. “A piercing is a lot of trouble to maintain, and you aren’t supposed to swim until its fully healed, right? But you want to swim--you love to swim. You love to swim more than you want the piercing, I’ll bet. Isn’t that right?”

His sleeping face frowned slightly. “Mmmyeah ...”

“You can’t get into the pool on Monday if your piercing isn’t healed, can you? It might be better if you took it out and let the hole heal up over the weekend, right?”

“Okay ...”

“Your arms are so light. You find you can lift them so easily without waking up. So easy to lift them and remain deeply relaxed. Lift them and let them remove the stud from your eyebrow. Yes, that’s it. Just like that. See how easy it is? Now, hand it to me.”

His hands held out the pieces of the piercing, and I took them from him. I fit them together and laid it aside on the end table. “Now, let your arms slowly go limp again. Twice as relaxed and limp as before,” I said, and his arms settled themselves to his sides again.

I went over a few more suggestions with Max, helping him visualize his way through a stroke that had been giving him trouble in practice--hey, I wasn’t about to waste an opportunity to help one of my swimmers improve--and I threw in a few suggestions that he might find it easier to be more comfortable with his sexuality too. Then I sat back in my chair and snapped my fingers to wake him up.

He yawned and looked at me, confused, as if mulling something. “Uhm, thanks, Coach. What you said made a lot of sense.” I always allowed my guys to be aware that they’d been hypnotized, but always helped them blur their memories of what I suggested. All they remembered was that the session had been very useful, very valuable.

“Just trying to help,” I said, which was true. I tried to focus on the fact that Max wouldn’t be able to swim as well if he was distracted by family tensions. I tried not to think about his father’s promised donation, and I definitely tried not to think about my boner, which certainly hadn’t gone down yet. Neither had his, I noticed.

Max sat up. His expression set itself--he’d made some decision. “There’s one more thing you can help me with,” he said, standing up.

“What’s that?”

He pulled off his tee-shirt and dropped it onto the couch behind him. His fingers gripped the tube of flesh in his crotch, outlining it clearly through his jeans. “You have to ask?” he smirked. He opened his jeans, shoved them to his knees, and half-staggered, half-swaggered a step closer to me. I felt the fingers of his right hand curl around the back of my head. He whispered huskily, “C’mon ... You know you want it. You’ve been hard for me ever since I got here. It’s okay. You’re a really hot guy. I want you too.”

Inside the thin material of his boxers, his hard rod was plainly visible.

Hmm. Apparently, my suggestions had taken better hold than I’d expected. I felt a sudden pang of uncertainty--he was one of my swimmers, and when I had told him he’d feel more comfortable expressing his sexuality, I hadn’t meant with me. On the other hand, Max was an extremely attractive young man, and I was only human.

He pulled back and pulled his feet free of his jeans, discarding them. He knelt before me. “Or maybe you want it this way instead?” he murmured as he bend his head toward my crotch. He pulled my concealing hands aside. “C’mon--I wanna see it.”

Right then, though, all I was conscious of was how hard I was, how close this hot young stallion was, and how hard he was.

He sat back on his heels, naked now except for his boxers. “Hey, Coach--which way to the bedroom?”

So instead of talking anymore, I stood up and took Max’s arm and pulled him to my bedroom and pushed him down on the unmade bed. I couldn’t stop myself. Forget the consequences--I was spellbound with lust. I could still smell the spunk that Al/Hal and I had spilled throughout the night. I wasn’t embarrassed--I was too turned on.

Max tumbled across the mattress, on his back, grinning up at me. He was extraordinarily handsome to begin with, and the blond streaks in his brown hair accentuated that. All of those long, sleek muscles, sprawled out and ready to play. The hairless chest. The substantial cylinder in his boxers. About average in length, but very thick.

I crawled onto the bed beside him, bending over him. His fingers curled again around my neck as I popped open the snaps on his boxer shorts. When I took Max’s fat cock in my mouth, he groaned. I worked a finger up the leg of his boxers and found the crack of his ass. It was sweaty and fuzzy and his hole was wet. I pushed my finger inside, and he gasped. I found his pleasure knob and rubbed. He bucked his hips and fucked my face like an express train.

“Oh, fuck, yeah!” he gasped. “Fuck, yeah! I’ve wanted this so fucking long!”

At this pace, he wouldn’t last much longer. I pulled my dick out of my boxers and stroked it in time, hoping we’d lose our loads together.

And we did. Max came down my throat--and damn, what a load!--and I came into the top sheet that all night had served as a king-size cum rag.

As we both panted in the afterglow, I let Max’s softening dick slip out of my mouth, and then I examined it closely. Max smirked down at me and said in a low growl, “Now you can tell my dad how perfectly intact his son’s baby-maker still is.”

“That I can,” I acknowledged with a smile. “But I’m going to suggest that regular inspections--by me, of course--will be the best way to keep you unmarked by anything in the future--except for the occasional stray tooth, and for that I apologize in advance.”

“It’s a deal,” Max said with a grin and a wink as he bent his mouth toward mine. “Just don’t commit me to having kids, okay?”