Writin' kinky since before it was cool
Tomorrow is the magic day! It’s the day my latest edition to the Masters of the Castle series goes live on Amazon. Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?
When journalist Sandy Ebelson decides she needs a breakout story to advance her career, where does she set her ambitious eye? Why, on the Castle, an infamous BDSM resort that has plagued her small town for years. Sneaking inside is only as difficult as buying a ticket and filling out a fake application, but when Sandy finds herself matched to ex-military masters Eric and Reeve, carrying out her investigation grows quickly more complicated.
Especially when it comes to Master Reeve, whose rough touch and dark authority make her body respond in ways she’s not at all prepared to understand. Sandy will do anything to get her story, and that includes pretending to be his submissive. What she doesn’t yet know is how much of what she’s doing is really ‘let’s pretend’ and how much is the real her, giving her heart to a man she has every intention of betraying.
Publisher’s Note: Like all the other stories in the Masters of the Castle series, this contemporary romance can be enjoyed as a standalone. It contains elements of power exchange, explicit language, and MFM ménage scenes.
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Seducing Sandy – Chapter One
“Well,” the woman on the bus beside her said with a good-natured laugh. “It was hell, I’ll tell you, but I got myself together again. I got a job. I’m living on my own and supporting myself for the first time in my whole adult life, and now… look at me.” She spread her hands in a cramped shrug, indicating the whole of the seat they shared and the length of the crowded, noisy bus in general. “I’m on my way to the Castle.”
“Yeah, but…” Knowing she risked sounding out-of-place and perhaps even judgmental, Sandy Ebelson tried to bite the question back, but curiosity overwhelmed her. “Why here? Why the Castle?”
A twinkle in her green eyes, the older woman winked. “Oh, I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to do something wild and crazy before I’m too old to enjoy it.”
Sandy’s gaze danced over what few facial wrinkles the other woman had. “You hardly look ‘too old’ for anything.”
“Aren’t you a peach?” The older woman laughed.
Sandy didn’t argue, but she meant it. What was ‘too old’ these days? If forced to guess, she’d have placed the other woman in her mid-fifties, what with that hint of hard-to-cover grey in the brown of her shoulder-length hair, and lines at the corners of her eyes that deepened when she laughed. But it was an attractive laugh and, for all that she was carrying a few extra pounds under that heavy winter coat of hers, it was a rather handsome woman with whom Sandy was sharing her bus seat. And who was she to be judging anyone else, anyway? Sandy wasn’t swimsuit-model thin either, not now and certainly not in the summer months. Nor would she be seeing her twenties again any time soon.
“Screw anonymity.” Smiling, the other woman stuck out her hand. “My name’s Wendy.”
Relaxing just a little, perhaps for the first time since bullying her way into this assignment, Sandy shook Wendy’s hand. “Nice to meet you. I’m Sandy.”
The bus bumped in and out of yet another rut in the long, unpaved drive that led away from Granger and the country highway they had just departed from. A wide series of farm fields surrounded them now, all knee-deep in snow at the moment and about to get deeper if this morning’s weather forecast held true. Stalks from last fall’s harvest still poked up through the snow here and there.
“So, tell me,” Wendy said as she snuggled in for the last leg of their journey. “What brings you out here?”
Work, but Sandy knew better than to say that. Fishing expedition, that was her next option, but she wasn’t sure she ought to say that either. “I just…” she hesitated, that old familiar awkwardness creeping up into her face on a wave of heat, “…want to learn more about myself, I guess.”
She was blushing. She knew she was, but if Wendy noticed she didn’t think enough about it to bring it into the conversation. People probably blushed talking about this place all the time.
“You and me both.” Wendy nodded. “I can’t wait to see what they’ve got planned for me.”
The older woman hugged herself, but Sandy knew the shiver that went through her had more to do with excitement than chill. This was a luxury bus, with warmers in the seats and heaters underneath. It was right on the verge of being almost too warm, but although Sandy had her coat open, she didn’t take it off. It was too crowded. Not just the seat that she shared with Wendy, but the entire bus was packed. Sandy would have to stand in order to shrug out of the heavy garment, and they were in the very first row. Which meant she had a great view through the front windshield of the forest they were creeping up on at the super-safe speed of fifteen miles-per-hour that kept them from sliding off the road and into the field. Beyond that forest lay the Castle. The largest (according to their website) BDSM dungeon in the country.
Her heart gave an extra skipping jump. She couldn’t see the Castle yet, although here and there she thought she could pick out the shadowy grey form of a massive stone structure deep within that sheltering forest. It was another few minutes of crawling travel before she caught sight of her first multicolored flag playing peek-a-boo through the ice-shrouded branches. Here and there, she spotted the dark shadow of security cameras planted high on the electric poles hidden amongst the trees. If she let her imagination run away with her, she could almost imagine herself on a very comfortable bus en route to prison. Which was ironic, really. Because that’s exactly where her boss warned her she could end up if she persisted in chasing this particular story. The Castle, he said, was insanely protective when it came to safeguarding the privacy of its guests. She would not be the first person arrested if she got caught.
The allure, however, was just too strong, especially for Sandy, who had always dreamed of being a journalist. It was a tough market to break into, though. A person had to be really, really good these days if they wanted to get away from the minutiae of writing stories like firefighters rescuing kittens from trees, or elementary school play performances, or local births and deaths, and who got arrested over the weekend and why. Granger was a small town and she’d lived here all her life. Big cities offered better news stories, but the competition was greater there. She didn’t want to move anyway, so what did that leave? As far as she could see, Sandy had one choice: She had to find a story, a big story, and she had to be the one to deliver it. She had to prove she had the skills to make it as a journalist—a real journalist—or forever be content writing articles like: “Criminals Cut Loose in Egg Aisle, ‘Chicken butt, that’s what’ spray painted in 41 colorful ways all over Tully’s Grocery.” Or covering local events like who won the chili cook-off during Dust Bark Days and who won the coveted Miss Sheep crown at this year’s Lamb and Wool Festival.
Small as Granger was, even this sleepy little berg had its share of secrets. When it came to Ohio, no secret was bigger than the Castle.
It had been in operation here for years, but Sandy had never met anyone who’d admit to ever being inside. A real-life castle, it had been rescued from demolition crews making way for a shopping mall in Scotland. Dismantled brick by brick, the infamous owner, Marshall Leaf, had shipped every last bit of it to America, where it was rebuilt in the wilds of Ohio farm country. Granger was only a few miles east of it, a peaceful little slice of American morality that had been trying for years to shut the place down. At least once a month, some church started up a petition or picketed in front of city hall. But the plain fact was, the Castle wasn’t going anywhere. Not when Granger had no other major source of business revenue or jobs to replace it, and certainly not when nothing short of Disney World moving to Ohio would have replaced the level of tourism the Castle inspired. Sure, the tourists were only in town long enough to get on and off the Castle’s privately-owned buses. But there was still money being made at the local gas stations, restaurants, the coffee shop at the bus depot, sometimes the hotels, and surely the tourist traps, because for years now they’d been springing up on both sides of the main thoroughfare through town like fudge, cheese and jewelry-selling whack-a-moles at a carnival show.
“People have a right to know what goes on in that place,” Sandy had told her editor-in-chief. “Don’t you want to know?”
“I’m pretty sure I can imagine,” he’d dryly replied. “Just hold on, now. If you think you’re the first person who’s ever tried to break in over there, think again. I can show you a whole stack of police reports on the people who’ve failed.” Digging a file out of his desk, he began flipping laminated clippings across to her side of his desk. “Elsa Crowley, caught on the grounds and arrested for trespassing. Daniel Webber, caught on the highway taking pictures. His equipment was confiscated, and he and his film crew were sued for invasion of privacy. He lost to the tune of half a million because the dumb shit actually filmed himself crossing the fence at one point, with a sign right there that read: No cameras or recording devices may be used on these premises and no trespassing. Andrew Harlestone, who landed a job there for about three hours before he was caught with a camera on him. He got fifteen years and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.” There were more clippings in that folder—a lot more—but he stopped, dropped the file on his desk, flopped back in his chair and frowned at her. “What are you trying to do?”
“It is a statistical fact, Bill,” she’d hotly replied. “99.1% of these kinds of social dungeons—” She’d put that in air quotes. “—are nothing more than fronts for illicit and illegal activities. I’m not a prude. I saw Fifty Shades of Grey. I own all the books. But is that what’s really going on here?” She began counting off on her fingers. “Drug trafficking, sex trafficking, rape, coercion, assault—all of that could right now be occurring in our own backyard and nobody is doing anything about it.”
His frown deepened. “Maybe because there’s nothing happening.”
“Or maybe because they’re too scared of what could happen to them if they talk.” She frowned back.
A leap of muscle ticked along his jawline as he studied her. But he wasn’t shutting her down; he was listening.
“I’m not saying that is what’s happening,” Sandy had persisted, trying to rein in her exuberance and bring it back to a strictly professional level. “And I’m sure not trying to buck for free vacation time. Maybe this really is just a place where consenting adults come for some good clean kinky fun. But if it’s not—” She paused for emphasis, bracing her hands on the edge of his desk to lean back towards him. She lowered her voice to a conspirator’s level, “—don’t you want to know? I mean, beyond all question. You’ve got four girls, don’t you? Don’t you want to know for sure every time they drive down that road, they’re not driving in front of a place where girls their age or younger are being pedaled to the lusts of the men who visit there? Why does it cost so much to get in? Why is the security so high? What are they hiding?”
It had been a low blow to mention his daughters, and Sandy knew it the minute she saw heated anger flare in the backs of his eyes. But Bill wasn’t editor-in-chief by chance. He had worked his way through the paper for twenty years, earning every one of his grey hairs, and he knew how to hold his temper.
“All right,” he’d eventually said. “You go ahead and draw up a detailed plan of what supporting evidence you have now, what you think you’ll find if you get in there, and how you intend to find it. I’ll take a look at your plan and we’ll go from there. But I’m telling you now, I don’t think you’re going to find jack shit. The Castle ain’t nothing but a place for rich people to hang out with other rich people, doing God knows what because it’s the latest craze that money can buy. So fine. You wanna go get yourself in trouble over nothing, you go right ahead. But when you get arrested, don’t come crying to me for bail money. And if you don’t get arrested, congratulations, you’re the new Miss Martha Perfect. There’ll be a charity bake sale next week at the Pentecostal for you to cover.”
She really shouldn’t have mentioned his daughters. But, on the other hand, if she hadn’t, she probably would have had to come up with the entire ungodly entrance fee all on her own. But two days after that conversation and two hours after she dropped her type-written plan on Bill’s desk—complete with an entire section of “anonymous tips” that she’d made up, because for a story like this, the end would absolutely justify the means—he’d called her back into his office and handed her a voucher for the entry fee. The paper had covered it.
“Don’t say I never gave you anything,” Bill had said, right before he arched his eyebrows in serious warning and added, “Don’t get caught.”
So, now here she was. On a bus next to Wendy, bouncing out of the final tooth-jarring rut right before they crossed through a set of massive wrought-iron gates into the last half-mile stretch of private woods surrounding the Castle. A manned security shack was built into the high stone wall and the gate itself towered a good eight feet higher than the top of the bus. Solid wall was all she could see stretching out the length of the property way to either side of the bus, until the denseness of the forest swallowed it up. Both wall and gate were higher than a standard ladder could reach, but not for a cherry picker. Good luck getting one of those past all those security cameras or the guard shack so someone could snap some pictures over the wall.
The creak of the gates swinging open was antique-ish and rusty and probably done solely for the shivering effect that raced right up the length of Sandy’s spine. She squirmed in her heated seat, feeling the warmth against her bottom, but in a way that felt almost foreboding. At some point during her visit, her butt was going to feel this kind of warmth but in a whole new way. She’d known that for weeks.
“Don’t lose your nerve.” Sandy didn’t mean to say that out loud. She wasn’t even aware she had until Wendy laughed beside her, a slightly deeper, burble of a chuckle.
“You and me both.” The older woman still grinned and the light of excitement in her eyes hadn’t diminished, but it was mingled now with something that looked a little like fear. Her hands were clenched so tightly in her lap that her knuckles were white.
Sandy’s hands were doing the exact same thing, she suddenly realized.
Passing beyond the shadow of the wall, the bus crept down a longer drive where the forest at last gave way to neatly manicured grounds all covered in snow. The hedge maze was planted in bristly evergreen shrubs, the only dots of greenness in what was otherwise a landscape of white, marked by naked Greek and Roman statues and salted walkways that cut through an ankle’s depth of ice and snow. Those walkways spiraled out every which way, some leading into the woods and others toward a series of outbuildings, including a massive stable in the distance, easily identified by its numerous corrals.
Crowning all of that, however, was the Castle itself, guarded by another wall and a portcullis which was raised up high and the drawbridge already lowered over a liquid moat. The water must have been heated, if only to a temperature somewhat warmer than the air above it. It was steaming.
The bus pulled into a roundabout stop near the entrance, where a cluster of costumed livery men were waiting to unload the luggage. They were an orderly and efficient bunch. Being in the front row had its perks. As soon as the bus was parked and the doors swung open, Wendy and Sandy were the first to disembark and by then, the livery men had the luggage compartments propped open, with several pieces hauled out and stacked into the horse-drawn cart they’d brought with them. It was both a rustic and incredibly fancy touch, considering this was really nothing more than a glorified sex hotel.
“I’m so excited,” Wendy kept saying as they crossed the drawbridge together, followed by a trail of hopeful koi, begging their passing shadows for food. A burlap bag full of fish pellets set just off the drawbridge quickly identified itself as the reason why, along with a plaque above it that read: Feel free to feed the fish. No more than one handful, please.
Sandy almost stopped to do so, but squeals from two younger women racing each other to the bag let her know those fish wouldn’t be starving anytime soon. They didn’t take just one handful, either. They took two apiece and made several trips, until a gruff salt-and-pepper haired ‘servant’ in clothes that didn’t look much different than the burlap bag, albeit layered and probably warmer than her own coat, called out to them in a heavy Scottish brogue, “Dinna make me send ye fer switches!”
“Ooo,” Wendy leaned into Sandy to whisper. “I like him!”
“Do you like switches?” Sandy whispered back, because really, to her that would have been the bigger concern.
Wendy just giggled. She might have been fifty, but that giggle had schoolgirl mischief stamped all over it. It was enough to make Sandy laugh too. She shook her head and, despite the seriousness of the cause to which she’d already condemned the Castle, together they went to the admission tables to collect their fake names, their information packets, and the bracelets they would wear for the duration of their stay.
“Oh my God, this feels so real,” Wendy—now Jasmine—said as they found two empty seats. They sat together, because the devil you knew was always better company than the one you didn’t know, especially at a fantasy BDSM resort. Not that Sandy—now Ginger—had ever been to one before, but it was starting to feel incredibly real to her now too. When she opened her manila envelope and shook the bracelet into her waiting palm, she felt yet another trembling quiver roll through her in waves. This was it. This was the point of no return.
Which was pretty much her exact same thought the moment she’d boarded the Castle’s private bus.
And again, when she’d stepped out of her car in the Starbucks parking lot where the other Castle guests stood sipping their lattes, talking about the weather and how much snow was expected before tomorrow, and waiting for the buses to arrive.
Except this time, it really was the point of no return. She was here. The buses would soon be leaving again, if they hadn’t done so already. The gates would be closing and she would be stuck in the middle of this frozen nowhere, miles outside of town, surrounded by woods—and quite possibly wolves—in a place she had convinced her boss might actually be a sex slave operation.
The crowning of a new Miss Sheep didn’t seem so bad right now.
What the hell had she been thinking?
* * * * *
“What the hell were you thinking?” Eric demanded, his blue eyes huge with disbelief.
“Why the hell are you giving it to us?” Reeve added, taking the assignment file out of Eric’s hands to better see the details for himself. Red hair, green eyes, definitely a looker, judging by the photocopy of her driver’s license. But then, it wasn’t attraction that concerned him regarding this case. It was the word ‘reporter’ spelled out all in caps above her name, highlighted in neon yellow and circled in bright red ink.
“Two sets of eyes are better than one,” Marshall answered, leaning back in his throne of an office chair, fresh cup of coffee in his hands. Both drapes over the tall, narrow-paned windows behind him were wide open this morning, but ice obscured the glass, which in turn reflected color from one of the waving turret banners, turning it the same eerie shade of blue as Marshall’s eyes.
Those eyes were almost as well-known as this entire resort. Called the Master of the Masters for a reason, Marshall could make even the brattiest submissive back down and the most alpha of his dominants submit with little more than a stare. The joke below stairs was, it was so penetrating, that stare was all he’d needed to impregnate his wife, Kaylee. Whether Marshall had heard that joke yet was anyone’s guess, but since it was still being passed around, probably not. Regardless, Reeve hated that stare. Marshall only had maybe five years on him, but getting called into the Master of the Master’s office was like getting called into his father’s study at the end of a day that he already knew was about to get a little bit worse. At thirty-one, Reeve would have thought he was too old to spank, but sitting in this straight-backed chair meant for naughty submissives, staring at those two crook-handled canes on the wall directly behind the throne… well, Reeve half-way expected it.
Every single time he got called in here.
“I know you two have tag-teamed other guests in the past,” Marshall continued. “I should think this would be just another day on the job.”
Reeve exchanged looks with Eric. They’d been best friends practically from the day they’d met, serving together in the army, sharing women even then, and certainly sharing the same kind of kinky proclivities that made working at a place like the Castle something of a dream job.
“You’re setting us up with a vanilla,” Eric told him.
“A dangerous vanilla,” Reeve added. “The kind that takes notes and files lawsuits.”
“No, read the file. I’m setting you up with someone who claims to be new to the lifestyle. Unlike some, who lie through their teeth because they don’t want to be seen as ignorant—” Like Marshall’s own Kaylee, who had entered the Castle exactly that way. Reeve and Eric exchanged looks, but neither said that. “—at least she’s willing to tell the truth. She’s also filled out a list of potential likes and dislikes, which she claims eagerness to explore. And that means you get to treat her like any other guest who enters these premises. She’s interested in rope and bondage, right up your alley,” Marshall told Eric, and then turned to Reeve. “She’s also interested in flogging and spanking, which gives you something to explore. Or, at least she says she’s interested. But she’s also a local reporter, born and raised in Granger, and no doubt possessed of all the same prejudices that have plagued us from the moment we decided to set up in this town. So, as I said before, two pairs of eyes watching over her every move are far better than one, especially while showing her all around our lovely, safe, sane and consensual, and completely law-abiding—” He caught himself and rolled his eyes. “Apart from that whole ‘no adult can lawfully consent to receiving physical bodily harm from another’ bullshit, of course—completely law-abiding establishment. Now, are you willing to accept this assignment, or do I need to find somebody else?”
That was an order posed as a question and Reeve knew it.
So did Eric, who stopped rubbing his eyes. He dropped his hand into his lap and pasted on a smile that was only phony to those who knew him well. “I love it. I’m excited about it.”
“Count me in,” Reeve agreed, but only so he could get out of this chair and out of this office with what few shreds of domly self-esteem he had left.
“I can’t wait to get started.” Heaving out of his chair, Eric took back the file. “When do we meet her?”
Marshall didn’t smile, not exactly, but there was a glint of mirth in the ice of his eyes when he said, “Mistress Miranda should be finishing up her speech in the courtyard now. She’ll be waiting for you in the Meet and Greet.”
Reeve startled. “What, she’s here now?”
“We don’t even get a day to plan it out?” Eric seconded. He kept his smile and his falsely cheerful tone, however. “Well, this just gets better and better. I can’t wait.”
“Dismissed.” Marshall chuckled.
“I just can’t wait,” Eric repeated on his way to the door, still cheerful although the strain to remain so could be heard in his voice. As soon as the door shut behind him, he dropped both the smile and the false tone, smacked the folder against his thigh and grumbled, “I just can’t wait to wrap my hands around her neck and throttle her. Wait. Does she like breath-play?” He opened the file to look. “Hard limit. Damn.”
Reeve scrubbed his face with both hands. Already his analytical mind was drafting a list of things to do. “We need to get into costume, reserve a room, figure out a game plan… Any ideas?”
Flipping through papers, Eric said, “She put no to role-playing, but yes to age-play.”
Reeve snorted. “She probably thinks we’re peddling out children.”
“Probably,” Eric agreed. “But that gives us a place to start. What do you think, should we be brothers again or just really good friends?”
“Do I have to see you naked if I say the latter?”
Eric snapped the file folder closed long enough to give him a wounded gasp. “You love seeing me naked. It gives you something to aspire to.”
Reeve punched him in the arm, but his amusement was short lived. As they walked, Eric opened the file, acquainting himself with her limits and her likes, and Reeve stole another glance at the woman’s photo ID, stapled to the upper inner corner of the folder jacket. She really was pretty—a redhead with a shapely face that probably crowned an equally shapely body.
Not that that mattered. She was a Granger reporter; she was here looking for trouble. Knowing what he did about this town and its incredibly small-minded populace, Reeve was glad all the rooms came with a fully stocked chest of adult toys. It wasn’t often that he opted for man-made when it came to sexually fulfilling his role as the ultimate Dom and seducer of an assigned submissive. But in this case, he’d happily purchase all the toys it took, because he would not be touching her intimately.
All that pretty red hair, shapely curves and a smile that looked so innocent and friendly. Reeve tsked and shook his head.
If only a person’s appearance matched the deviousness of their intentions…
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My father sold me into marriage. Though I know my worth is measured by a negotiated bride price, I accept the agreement. After all, how many young girls of reduced circumstance have the opportunity to marry a handsome earl? Such things happen only in halfpenny novels.
Richard, my husband, is both more and less than I expect. He demands such things from me and the pleasure is beyond my comprehension, though I know I get only the small part of him his mistress Angeline doesn’t claim for herself.
When my husband brings her to share our marriage bed, she binds me into a web of delight and agony I cannot escape. Nor do I want to. I am enthralled by their touch, my obedience bound to their will. My love for them is boundless, and I am their willing concubine.
The spell is broken when I learn what Angeline truly seeks. I know I must take back my husband and my family. Suffer not a witch to live, and I have labored too long under her spell.
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Available only as a part of the Black Light Roulette Redux box set!
“He acted immediately, tugging me so close my body brushed up against his. With his mouth up to my ear he hissed, “You’re my submissive tonight, Baby. I suggest you watch your tone of voice. You’ll defer to me with respect, or I’ll make good use of one of those benches in the middle of the room.”
I pretended to scratch my forehead with my middle finger, effectively flipping him off, but he merely narrowed his eyes with a look of smug satisfaction.
Shit. Maybe playing with fire was a bad idea. I cleared my throat.
“Yes, Master. Whatever you say, Master. I hear and obey.”
Two could play at sarcasm.
His nostrils flared and his lips thinned as he looked past me to the woman at the wheel. “Emma, give her the ball again, please. We’ll spin three activities while we’re here so we don’t need to come back up to the stage later.”
Since I’d witnessed another dom requesting the same thing, I wasn’t surprised when Emma held out the ball again. Taking it without a word, I watched as the second ball dropped.
Even though it had been way too long since I’d been with a guy, this was the stupidest thing I’d ever done, like going into a grocery store with a wad of cash and an empty stomach. I hated him. Hated him. I wanted to hurt him. And yet, being near him again, my body betrayed me. Instead of cold apathy, I felt turned on, which made me so angry I threw the ball into the wheel again, barely hearing the next line.
“Sybian orgasm torture.”
“Hard limit,” I said, glad I’d entered that on my application. Chase would know, but I wanted to repeat it for Brayden’s benefit.
If I was gonna spend the night with him, he would make me come.
He chuckled low, and for a moment I wondered if he could read my mind.
I grew dizzy with fury, my cheeks aflame as for the fourth time, I dropped the ball to pick another kink. “Whipping.”
Brayden’s lips quirked up ever so slightly at the edges.
“You sure about that? You’ve never been on the receiving end of a whipping from me, Baby. Damn, the opportunities lost…”
The way he said ‘baby’ made me want to throat punch him. Despite the fact that my stupid, stupid body responded, the low husky way he talked about whipping me made my belly dip and my breasts swell. Oh, God.
“Fine, Brayden,” I hissed, furious at him for making me horny.
He clucked his tongue and shook his head, mocking in a sing-song voice, “Baby’s cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Gonna get tied up and whipped thoroughly and fucked senseless.” He shook his head and said with a sigh, “Should’ve maybe done this a long time ago.”
“And the last one?” Brayden asked.
A third roll, and I held my breath.
Brayden muttered under his breath with dripping sarcasm, “Great, just what she needs, to be tied up a little tighter.”
“Fuck you,” I hissed.
Brayden clucked his tongue. “And that, Baby, just earned you your first punishment.”
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Shameless by Maren Smith
He called her Piggy-girl, and for six months now Hadlee has struggled to leave that part of her in the past. Then Black Light sends out its second annual invite: three hours of play, partnered with a dom chosen by chance, doing whatever the roulette wheel decides. For Hadlee, making it through the night means more than a month’s free membership in D.C.’s most infamous BDSM club. It means a return of her dignity, courage—her Self—and just maybe, the one thing Hadlee isn’t looking for… the love of a man who has wanted her for almost a year.
“He’s here,” Garreth said through the cracked doorway, and for a moment, Hadlee melted. She always did when she heard the deep, rich timbre of his voice, but then what he’d said registered and that yummy, melty sensation shimmering in the pit of her stomach vanished.
Her heavy winter coat half on and half off her shoulders, Hadlee went cold. She stared into the open locker that she’d chosen for the night, surrounded by an over-abundance of stark white tile, the brightness of which was amplified by the florescent recessed lighting above. The ladies’ locker room was always so jarringly bright, especially compared to the atmospheric gloom of Black Light’s interior dungeon. Only Hadlee hadn’t spent a long night here, not yet. She’d only just arrived, and if ever she wanted to resew the tattered shreds of her life back into the whole cloth he’d destroyed, she couldn’t—wouldn’t—let him be the reason she continued to stay away. Not anymore. Not tonight.
Nice thought. The sentiment sounded good in her head. If only her hands weren’t already shaking and her gut twisting in painful knots.
“Hadlee?” Garreth tried again, cracking the door a little wider. This was the ladies’ locker room though, and he worked security here. Well versed in the importance of safe rooms, he did not stick his head inside. “Are you in there?”
“I’m here,” Hadlee said, not raising her voice. She didn’t need to. Currently the only woman in here, the room was not so huge that either of their voices got lost or disjointed in the minor echo. “I heard you.”
“He’s here,” Garreth repeated anyway.
Squeezing her hands together to stop the trembling, Hadlee made herself take off her coat. “That’s fine,” she said, not because it was, but because it had to be. “I don’t own the place.”
No, but Chase was the man running the show tonight, and he was also the right-hand of Jaxson and they did, in fact, own Black Light. Neither owner liked Ethen any more than Garreth did. But the sad fact about public dungeons would always be this: they couldn’t make operating costs if they only allowed in people that everybody liked. She knew that.
So did Garreth.
So did Ethen.
“I could say something,” Garreth offered anyway.
“To Chase and Jaxson?” She looked back over her shoulder, barely tall enough to see over the tile partition that blocked the cracked door and most of him from her sight. He still wasn’t looking in. “Don’t you dare. I’m not going to be one of those people.”
“I meant to Ethen.” For the first time since opening the door, the taint of weighted disapproval changed his tone. It grew deeper. “What do you mean, ‘those people’?”
Garreth was the only person from Black Light that she had any kind of relationship with outside the club and even that was purely accidental. They’d met for the first time more than a year ago, when she’d first gained her membership. Since then, they’d become… friends, of sorts. Sometimes it felt more like co-workers, meaning they smiled at one another and often talked. He had her cellphone number; she had his, too. And once, that one time six months back, he’d been to her apartment. She’d never been to his, but sometimes she wondered if—stripped of his dark dungeon monitor’s uniform and in the privacy of his home—Garreth might not be an actual dom. Not everyone who worked here lived the lifestyle, but if Garreth didn’t, he had all the right mannerisms. Like when he talked to her in that tone and dancing chills tickled like scratchy fingertips down the ladder of her spine.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” she hedged, trying to dispel the feeling.
“Uh huh,” he said, disapproval deepening.
“I don’t…” Her fingers shook a little as she folded her coat and placed it neatly in the locker. She hesitated before trying again. “I only meant, I don’t run and tell ‘daddy’ just because things don’t go my way. I’m not a whiner.”
“Not a whiner,” Garreth echoed, the weight of his tone growing heavier. “Just because? That son of a bitch put you in a hog wallow, full of mud, animal shit, and rotting food. He made you kneel there in the cold, and the wet, and the filth for an entire night. I don’t care what you did. He can’t justify that because that wasn’t a punishment, Hadlee. That was torture, and it endangered your health.” He must have been leaning against the threshold because Hadlee heard it when Garreth shoved back off the frame and grabbed the door. “I’m not a boxer any more than you’re a whiner, but if he says one word to me, I’m still going to break his nose.”
Hadlee smiled, but it was a flash-pan smile at best—gone as fast as it crossed her lips. The soft bump of the locker room door closing told her Garreth was gone, too, leaving her alone in the too-brightness and empty echoes that tattled on her every move as she collapsed on the nearest bench. Her legs were shaking as bad as her hands. She gripped them tight into fists, hoping to find some inner strength and still the traitorous trembling. She wasn’t weak; she was strong. She hadn’t done anything wrong, she told herself, the same familiar mantra she always told herself whenever she got scared. She had nothing to be ashamed of.
Were they going to be with him? The errant thought popped into her head, bringing with it a fresh wave of fears. Would they be playing tonight, too? If so, they might come in here next.
Her fists trembled all over again. Swallowing back queasiness, she changed her clothes quickly, shedding out of the sparkling pink club dress she had only ever worn the one time before—to this very club, in fact, back before she’d met Ethen or his girls. His menagerie, he called them. All of them so tall, so beautiful, so perfect in the black leather harness-type dresses he liked for them to wear. The ones that did not hide their nakedness, but enhanced it, gifting each of them with animal masks that amplified the exotic, mysterious qualities of the animals each represented. There was Puppy-girl, with padded gloves that turned her hands into paws and the puppy mask that covered her entire head, letting none of her features be seen, not even her hair. His favorite was Kitty-girl, with her pointed black ears and her black half-mask dotted with whiskers; he doted on her. And, of course, Pony-girl, who he’d had the longest. With her long white-blonde hair done up in a high mane-like ponytail, and shiny black knee-high boots with three-inch spiked heels and hooves under her toes. The only one missing was her: Piggy-girl, with that ugly half-mask crowned with its a black-leather snout and those floppy pig ears and, God, she shuddered, that cork-screw butt-plug tail. They all had to wear one, each tail specific to the degrading animal they represented.
Except no one seemed to feel degraded when they dressed up as Ethen’s menagerie. Only her. Her stomach still churned because of it. It had been six months since she’d escaped and still she could barely stand to look at herself in the mirror without seeing the way the curves of her body had bulged around the too-tight harness straps, with all of its buckles pulled to the very last notch. She wasn’t fat, and never had been. She wasn’t model-thin, either. Not by any means, but she wasn’t overweight. But that harness… all she could see now when she looked at herself in the mirror was the Piggy. The one he liked to make kneel down on all fours and eat off the floor. Off a plate, if she was a good girl. And when she was bad…
She shuddered. She could still smell the shit and rot and the earthiness of the mud-wallow where she’d had to kneel, for hours, in the hopes he might forgive her. Shame swept her, hot and familiar, because she’d told him she wanted to take the outfit off. That she couldn’t wear it anymore. That she hated how it made her feel. That she wasn’t a pig. She wasn’t Piggy-girl.
The mud had been deep and cold. Kneeling, she’d sunk into it halfway up her thighs. Her ass had been in it, with that awful pig-tail butt-plug inside her. The only reason she hadn’t been eaten alive by mosquitos and horse-flies was because it was too cold. She’d wanted to get up so bad, to get off her knees, but Ethen had ordered her to kneel there and she couldn’t make herself not obey him. They’d only been together six months, though at times it had felt like years. He’d been her Dom, her life—her god, as he sometimes liked to whisper when it was Piggy’s turn to spend the night in his bed. He was the one who could make her submissive’s soul whole. The one who brought her pleasure, and the one who dished out punishment and pain, and who made her kneel all night long, crying those ugly tears, with nothing to wipe her face or blow her nose because whenever he came outside, making sure she was doing as she’d been told, he’d never brought a tissue.
“Use your hand,” he’d coldly said, but she couldn’t because she’d fallen just trying to kneel down without twisting her ankles in those incredible high heels that were part of Piggy’s uniform. There’d been muck all the way to her elbows, and she couldn’t bear to wipe that stuff on her face.
“Bend over,” he’d said then. “You’re not coming out of there until you press your face into the wallow. I want it all the way back in your hair and your ears.”
Hadlee refused, so he’d gone back into the house and there she’d sat, crying. Past the rise and fall of the moon, past the time when he put his menagerie to bed—Pony in her stall, Puppy in her crate and Kitty on a pillow by the living room fireplace. Past the point that she’d run out of tears. From that point on, she could only kneel, shaking in the cold and wondering why she didn’t leave.
Get up, Hadlee. You’re worth better than this. Get up!
“Get up.” The echo of her own warbling voice in the locker room jolted Hadlee. Her hands fisted in the sequined skirt of her dress. Dozens of hard sparkling disks cut into the soft flesh of her fingers and palms. She wasn’t alone anymore, either. While she’d been lost in bad memories, two other women had come into the locker room. Regulars at Black Light, she knew their faces but not their names. Both had paused in the middle of changing to look at her.
“Are you okay?” one asked.
Hadlee got up off the bench. “Fine,” she whispered, and faced her open locker. She forced herself to finish undressing. She hated taking her clothes off in front of people. That was one of the reasons why she had decided to join Black Light’s first anniversary of last year’s infamous Valentine’s Day Roulette. Although she had been a member, she hadn’t attended the event last year. She hadn’t seen the things that had happened here and because of the standard dungeon rule ‘What happens at Black Light, stays at Black Light’, she knew she’d never know exactly what had occurred. But she’d heard whispers that it had been beyond amazing. That only hardcore submissives could get through such trials and ordeals, not even for the kind of prize Black Light was offering—an entire month’s membership, free. Most people couldn’t afford to come to a place this high-class, but Hadlee could. A shrewd investor, she’d taken her father’s half-million-dollar estate as soon as it became hers and within eight years, turned it into a half billion. She didn’t need a free membership, not to Black Light or any other dungeon. She was here for a much more valuable prize: the ability to once more look at herself in the mirror without hating what she saw. She wanted to see her own reflection without Piggy-girl staring back at her. She wanted her dignity back. She wanted her pride, her confidence, and her self-respect. She wanted her Self back.
And she was willing to do anything it took to regain that prize. Even if it meant putting herself up on a blind playdate with whatever dom happened to spin her name on Black Light’s infamous roulette wheel. Even if it meant doing whatever she, in turn, might spin when it came her turn to take a chance.
Even if it meant dressing up as Piggy again?
Her chest constricted, squeezing in on her heart so hard she felt herself go faint. Please, she prayed, let the man who spun her name be anyone but Ethen.
* * * * *
Stationed at the top of the stage steps, feet braced apart and arms folded, Garreth looked out over a minor ocean of people milling around the tables on the play-floor and in particular at the one man that Garreth honestly believed the world would be better off without. Ethen O’Dowell, in the flesh and sitting like fucking royalty among his harem of masked ‘animals’. He’d chosen a table one row in front of the dungeon entrance where everyone coming or going had no choice but to walk right past him. From that spot, he couldn’t help but see everything bound to take place here tonight. It was also where he couldn’t help but be seen as well.
It was psychological warfare, the first battle-shot of which was intended for Hadlee. To shatter what little peace of mind she’d gathered in the months since she’d left him. That son of a bitch.
Garreth tightened his grip on his own arms. He locked his legs, anything to keep from stalking back down those steps and walking right up to the man. He’d been serious when he told Hadlee he’d punch the man out. He’d never been so serious, and that wasn’t at all like him. He wasn’t a violent man. And yet, it was all he could do to keep his breathing slow and steady, especially when Ethen looked right at him. Even in Black Light’s atmospheric low lighting, he recognized Garreth.
I see you, Garreth let his frown say.
Ethen had the nerve to smile. Drink it all in.
“Please tell me we’re not going to have a problem tonight.”
Caught. Damn it. Garreth turned, pasting on a smile for his boss’s benefit. “Hey,” he greeted Spencer. “I would have thought you’d be over by the bar, getting ready for this all to start.”
Spencer was not fooled. Climbing the stage steps, he knew without needing to be told exactly who Garreth was staring at. His frown deepened the moment he spotted Ethen. “That doesn’t answer my question. So there will be no misunderstandings later on, are we going to have a problem tonight?”
“Not on my end,” Garreth vowed. “Will you be giving the Zoo-Keeper the same warning?”
“Ethen doesn’t work here. You do. That means I expect you to keep things professional, no matter what. Now, I don’t know what happened to make things go so sour between the two of you—”
Garreth wasn’t quick enough to bite back the bitter laugh that rolled up and out of him. “No, you sure don’t.” And Spencer would never know, because Garreth had promised Hadlee he wouldn’t tell anyone. It was the worst promise he’d ever made, but one he would keep until the day he died. For her sake, if no one else’s.
“Don’t push me,” Spencer said, softening his voice if not his tone. “I like you, man. I’ve always liked you, and I’m not an idiot. I know something’s going on. You won’t say what, so that’s on you. But the minute you let whatever it is bubble over to taint the integrity of Black Light, then it becomes my problem. Ethen is a jackass, fine. I get it. But he’s also one of the best civil law lawyers in the country and he’s quick to sue. Do not give him a reason to shut us down.”
As if he could hear the conversation, Ethen’s smile broadened. He dropped a hand to pet his Kitty, sitting on the floor at his feet. Puppy was lying down under the table. Pony was sitting in a chair beside him, her hands on her knees. All of them were naked in their harnesses. All of them had pierced breasts hanging out and legs splayed, their shaved pussies turned so he could see them if he so desired. One of Black Light’s few High Protocol masters, his rules were his own and damn near indecipherable to everyone else, and Garreth hated him. He’d never hated anyone in his life. He was an EMT by profession, a volunteer firefighter who had worked first response for years. His job these days revolved around keeping even the riskiest play at Black Light as safe as possible, but he’d always been geared more toward helping people rather than beating men to death. Which was exactly what he wanted to do every time he looked at Ethen.
“Don’t do it,” Spencer said one last time.
It took real effort, but Garreth pasted that smile back on his face. He even tried to make himself believe it was genuine. “Everything’s golden tonight. There’s not going to be any problems. None whatsoever.”
Spencer grunted, then he looked up and his gaze locked on someone else. Across the room, Hadlee had just left the locker area. She was winding her way through the crowd both standing and sitting around the tables and, God, how his heart stumbled when Garreth saw her. She looked beautiful. But then, she always did. In preparation for tonight, her long, curling, chestnut-brown hair was pulled back in a functional ponytail and her little black negligee sparkled, catching the light as she moved closer to the stage. He wanted her so badly it hurt, but she never looked at him. She never looked at anyone these days, and all because of Ethen.
Had she seen him yet? If she had, she was trying not to let it bother her. Her head was high, her back stiff, her poise calm and controlled, but she was going to have to walk right past Ethen’s chair in order to reach the other party participants already gathered below Garreth at the bottom of the stairs to the stage. She was going to pass right within his easy reach.
Shit. Ethen must have seen him staring. Swiveling around, he followed Garreth’s gaze and now he was watching Hadlee too. She did her best to put as many people between them as possible when she passed his table, but already Ethen was on his feet and moving to block her path.
That mother fucker.
Garreth was moving before he could stop himself, side-stepping Spencer and jogging down the stage steps.
“Garreth,” Spencer called after him, but Garreth didn’t stop. He charged into the crowd, but already Ethen had Hadlee by the arm. Garreth quickened his step, but still Ethen had her shoved up against the outside wall of the medical area. Hadlee grabbed Ethen’s arm, but it wasn’t until Garreth saw her wince—either at her impact with the wall or the pinch of the other man’s grip—that he suddenly knew, while he might be geared more toward helping people, tonight, in about two seconds flat, he was going to break Ethen O’Dowell’s arm.
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Her Consort by Maren Smith
She was a salvage operator, patrolling the depths of deep space.
He was a professional consort to royalty, built like a Neanderthal. Twice her width and twice her weight. His six-pack abs had six-pack abs. She knew, because she’d seen them.
It really was kind of too bad they didn’t get along.
She had found him floating in deep space, with life supports beeping their way down from barely alive to no-longer-compatible-with-life. At the time, he’d been dressed in nothing but his skivvies and a hyper-sleep escape pod. Now, two years later, she had to remind herself that salvaging his pod and waking him up was still the right thing to do, especially when most days all she wanted to do was kill him.
“It’s a dead ship,” Piper said for the third time. She was no one’s stereotypical redhead; she tried to control her temper.
“It’s an Ocymit ship,” Kogan corrected, huge hands knuckling into lean hips as he planted himself between her and the docking bay hatch. “You’re not going.”
The whole of him made a very effective blockade. Standing only two inches over five feet herself, it didn’t take much, but it wasn’t her lack of height that made him so aggravatingly unmovable. He was short too, only a few inches taller than she was. But even had she been six feet tall and a man, she doubted she could have forced him aside. Built like a Neanderthal, Kogan was twice her width and at least twice her weight, and it was all muscle. His six-pack abs had six-packs. She knew, because she’d seen them. All of which meant Piper could shove, push, and punch until the cows came a-shuttlin’ on home, she wasn’t budging him. Not until he decided to move.
“Get out of my way,” she said through gritted teeth.
Shoulders rolling, he made himself comfortable. “No.”
And as so often happened these days whenever they were in the same room together, Piper lost her temper. “This is my job! I salvage dead ships and sweep up the debris that could potentially hurt other ships. It’s what the shipping conglomerates pay me for. Who are you to—” She cut herself off, but too late.
“Kogan Pulgoy Vovlov,” he announced, already puffing up the way he did anytime she was stupid enough to give him an opening to run down the litany of his titles. “The Third.”
“For the love of God,” she groaned.
“Envoy of my home world, pay attention now—” he made an effort to enunciate carefully, ignoring her scowl because she could never pronounce it right, “Hogluopraeswyria. Consort-in-waiting to Her Royal Ambassador, Agi Oof’Thal, currently assigned to Earth.”
“Rejected consort, you mean,” she sniped, and he deflated. “You weren’t on a flightpath to Earth when I found you. What’s the matter, Kogan? Did you piss her off, too?”
“No,” he grumbled, frown deepening. “We got along.”
He sounded disappointed.
“If that was true, she never would have put your cranky ass on the first flight home to ol’ Hoggy.”
He scowled. “Don’t call it that.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She wasn’t. “How about you get out of my way and I promise I won’t call it that again?” She was even willing to keep that promise. His home world had a bazillion letters. Given a little time, she was pretty sure she could come up with something every bit as objectionable to him as Hoggy.
Kogan didn’t move.
“Look.” Piper heaved a sigh. “There’s nothing over there. I scanned the whole ship, hacked their system, and checked all the monitors. I couldn’t get into trouble if I tried!”
“That’s a lie. I’ve been with you for two years now.” He folded burly arms across an equally burly chest. “You are very good at getting into trouble.”
In spite of all her best efforts, her growing aggravation once more poured out as a growl. “I’m not going to find anything over there.”
“You could find an Ocymit,” he countered.
She scoffed. As if anyone had seen a living Ocymit since the end of the Plurvian-Delta War. That was forty years ago. She only knew what one looked like because her grandfather had kept pictures. “I promise I’ll run like hell the other way.”
Kogan scoffed back. “With an attitude like that, he’s probably already printing up auction flyers.”
“There’s nothing living over there!”
“You’ll be stripped naked and chained to his bed before you get three feet from the hatch.”
“At least I’ll have sex!”
“I’ll barely have time to yell ‘I told you so’ before he launches into hyper-drive and leaves this ancient beast of a vessel far behind. Left with no other option, I’ll be forced to send your parents the annual offspring-to-parent holiday photo of myself beside the Christmas twig, all alone. Again.”
“You promised you wouldn’t do that!”
“No, I promised I’d put pants on. There’s a difference.”
“I know how to do my damn job,” she sniped. “I’ve been doing it long before I found you!”
“Yes.” He inflated again. “But only half as well.”
Now it was Piper’s turn to deflate. So… that was what this was about. “Hey, Kogan,” she said without enthusiasm. “Wanna help me scavenge the Ocymit ship?”
Kogan brightened. “How kind of you to offer. I would love to.” He stepped out of her way, grandly gesturing for her to lead on. “Women and children first, I believe your saying goes.”
“Only if the ship’s about to explode.” She took the lead anyway. “Asshat.”
“You humans and your colloquialisms. There are too many to keep track.” He fell into step, following her through the narrow corridor that led to the docking hatch. Here Piper had her pick of the dozen or so silver-gray pressure suits that lined the walls. Kogan only fit into one and so it took extra time while he combed over every inch of it in search of the tiniest oxygen-escaping perforation. She helped him. When she finally decided to kill him, she was determined to do it with her own two hands. Not through carelessness or oxygen deprivation.
They helped each other with the lightweight O2/CO2 conversion tanks, each no bigger than a deck of cards, which plugged into their forearm controllers and which guaranteed at least six hours of breathability so long as they didn’t tear their suits. Which was always a possibility on a salvage run, she wasn’t saying otherwise. But regardless of what Kogan thought, Piper wasn’t reckless or careless with her safety, and she was good at her job.
And because she was, before she turned her attention to opening each of the two ships’ hatchways, she entered her passcode into the security panel just outside this nook of a room and passed out firearms. She preferred the short-range plasma gun, with the long barrel that reduced the kick of each shot and the contoured grip that fit the palm of her hand. He always took the disruptor rifle, because it was so big. Between the dual cartridge and the scope, it was bulky too, and it packed almost two hundred rounds. Not one of which he’d yet had the opportunity to fire. They were salvagers, not pirates. Still, hope burned eternal.
“I’ll go first,” he said, as she opened up their side of the hatch and began the tricky process of hacking into the Ocymit’s system through their exterior access lock.
“A person could leap to his death from the top of your ego,” she muttered, snipping two wires in half. “I’m captain of this vessel. At best, you’re a passenger; at worst, you’re the ship’s very hairy mascot. You’re only coming because I allow it. I’ll go first.”
His censuring frown crackled over the speaker in her helmet when he said, “I am not hairy.”
“Please. I could wear your chest for a sweater.” A spark leapt when she struck the ends against one another, but lights all around the door also flickered on, then off again, and she heard the click of the lock releasing. The door opened easily after that.
“Captains go down with the ship,” Kogan said, snagging the back of her suit and yanking her behind him. Ignoring her squawk of protest, he took the lead.
“That’s only if we sink, you idiot!”
“Asshat!” But there wasn’t much she could do. She might be the captain and the only remaining member of what had at best only ever been considered a skeleton crew, but that still didn’t mean she could give him orders. She couldn’t physically knock him out of the way either. Especially not when, like now, he seemed determined to take charge. “I’m supposed to give the orders and you’re supposed to take them, damn it.”
“Hush.” Shoving her behind him and using the threshold for cover, he hunkered in the doorway, rifle at the ready as he peered down the long, dark Ocymit corridor beyond.
Nothing moved, although as they slowly ventured inside, at first it was hard to tell. The corridor was full of junk—bits of wall and periodic ceiling panels, broken furniture, empty supply storage containers, and garbage mounded knee-deep in places—but none of it looked alive. The lights kept flickering, creating a strobe-like effect that cast eerie garbage shadows on the walls and ceiling. Emergency lights weren’t supposed to blink like this. Either they had been tampered with or they had become damaged over time. Judging by the layer of dust she wiped off the cover of the light near her foot, the ship could have been drifting on dwindling batteries for a very long time. And yet, she couldn’t help thinking there seemed a symmetry to how the garbage in this corridor was thrown about. The longer she looked at it, the less the mounds struck her as random and the more it took on the deliberate appearance of an obstacle course, with the dark ‘dust’ smudges on the wall beside her taking on the ominous hues of old disruptor fire.
“Stay close,” Kogan told her, but Piper was already leaning in to get a closer look at the nearest smudge. She wiped her finger through it, feeling tiny blisters of cooked wall through her gloved suit, telling her brain something her eyes only belatedly confirmed.
“Wait,” she said, but too late. Only a handful of steps in, Kogan found the first booby trap. She heard the click when he stepped down. Fortunately for them both, he heard it too.
She swore. “Don’t move.”
“If you don’t know how to disarm panel mines, I’ll be moving at least twenty feet at very high velocity in every direction.”
Grumbling under her breath, Piper headed back to her ship.
“Where are you—”
“I need light,” she snapped. From salvage mission to cluster-fuck before they got out of the hatchway. That had to be some kind of record, even for them.
It took ten minutes for her to rig enough lights to see by, then she had to clean the garbage from around him. Working slowly, in constant search of more booby traps, she shifted enough trash to cut through the floor panel directly behind him. Crawling head and shoulders into the hole, she aimed her wrist-light at the nest of wires (and, oddly, at least a greenhouse or two worth of dead ivy-looking vines) surrounding the explosive beneath Kogan’s foot. It was armed and blinking.
“Maybe it’s a dud,” Kogan said optimistically.
Crawling back out from under the subflooring, Piper said, “Don’t move,” and headed back into her ship for the toolbox she’d accidentally half-buried under a mound of shifted garbage. Finding her wire cutters, she once more got down on her belly and leaned head-first into the hole. There wasn’t a lot of space in the subflooring to maneuver around, only a foot or so, at best. She twisted upside down, using her legs for balance as she angled and reached.
“Look for the black wire,” Kogan said helpfully.
“They’re all black wires,” she muttered, using the nose of the cutters to nudge her way through the nest and get a better look at the components underneath. When it came to explosives, Ocymit or Terran, it didn’t seem to matter. They were all built pretty much the same way, with the same identifiable parts. She had to do a physical trace of the wires before she felt comfortable making a decision on which to cut.
“Take your time,” Kogan said. “I’m just admiring the view.”
A prickle of irritation climbed her spine, dashing up out of the shadows of the subflooring to center in the flesh of her ass. Piper came up out of the hole so fast, she whacked her helmet on the lip of a floor panel. Glaring at him through the lighted faceplate, she rubbed the back of her skull through her suit. “Asshat.”
His smile was wolfish. “You’ll notice I waited until after you disarmed the mine before I said anything.”
“See if I disarm the next one,” she vowed, shoving to her feet and storming past him. Her angry stomp off was destroyed three steps later when she crossed from his floor panel to the next and heard that ominous click. She froze, then closed her eyes. “Oh, for the love of—”
“Ocymits are dangerous, trap-setting, money-grubbing bastards,” Kogan reminded her.
“Nobody’s seen one since the war,” she stubbornly insisted.
“One doesn’t have to see one to lose the fight,” he just as stubbornly replied. “One only has to explode.” He held out his hand.
Piper handed him the wire cutters. “It’s the black wire,” she wryly said as he pried up the floor panel behind her.
“It’s all monochromatic to me,” he told her cheerfully, dropping to one knee. “I’m color blind. Don’t move.”
This wasn’t the first booby trap she’d seen him disarm and, unless she smothered him in his sleep, it probably wouldn’t be the last. But as she stood there, basking in both the bright lights shining through the hatch behind her and the humiliation of being clumsy enough to set off their second trap in under twenty minutes, she couldn’t help but admit the view was pretty nice. The silver suits they wore were neither slimming nor form-fitting, but when he lowered himself to his belly to wedge his head and broad shoulders one burly arm at a time under her section of booby-trapped floor, with his legs spread wide for counterbalance, that suit became molded to his ass in a way she’d never seen before.
His was a fine ass, too. Coupled with lean hips and thick thighs, the high round curves of it looked damn near… what was the word? Molest-able. Clearly, she’d been in deep space too long, but his was the kind of ass that made a girl want to dig her nails in. And bite. Maybe even give a little smack or two, just to see if it had a bounce to it.
Kogan wiggled his way back out of the hole. “You want to do what to my what now?”
“I said you’ve been down there forever. What’s the holdup?” Her face burned, sending ribbons of slow warmth twisting through her abdomen to tangle in places that never should have burned for anyone as irritating as Kogan. “Why?” Piper cleared her throat. “What did you think I said?”
Grunting, he started to thread his head and shoulders back under the floor. “That you want to wear my genitals on your…” His legs suddenly lashed and she heard it when the back of his head whacked the underside of the booby-trapped panel. Kogan all but flung himself back up onto his knees, knocking his head again on the lip before he withdrew enough to stab her with an accusing finger. “Asshat!” he cried with such unexpected discovery that she almost took her foot off the explosive’s switch. “All this time I thought that nothing but another colorful human curse word. You want to wear my genitals on your face!”
Her face didn’t burn now, it scalded. “That is not what that means!”
“I was paraphrasing. I personally see no erotic appeal in the literal translation. Unless—” Cocking his head, he cautiously asked, “You actually do want me to rub them atop your head? Again, no erotic appeal in that, per se, although since they would already be in the general vicinity, if you’re interested, there is a move I could show you…”
“What? No!” If her body grew any hotter, she was going to spontaneously combust and yet, horror upon horror, her gaping mouth refused to form another single coherent rejection for what he was suggesting. Worse, her brain was running with it, summoning up a whole kindling pyre of images—him and her, hip to head, with the masculine musk of him filling up her senses while she opened to take that first long-denied taste upon her tongue—images fit to haunt her dreams for the rest of her life. The twists in her gut became strangling knots, but not before the warming tug of them ignited a slow, thumping pulse between her thighs. “That’s not what that… what I…” God, she couldn’t breathe right. Her heart was too high up in her chest. She couldn’t do this whole conversation. She pointed to the floor. “Disarm the damn mine!”
“I disarmed it the first time,” Kogan soothed. “I was going back for the cutters I dropped.”
Every nerve in her body was doing the most amazing impersonation of an ocean wave, rolling up her one way and down the other, lingering in places she really, really wished weren’t responding. To him, of all people. He wasn’t even people. He was a big, hairy Neanderthal of an alien who had been the biggest pain in her ass for two very long years. One would think on a salvage ship the size of a small city, if she didn’t want to see someone then she wouldn’t have to. It was amazing how many times she ran into Kogan in the halls, more often than not, fresh from the showers and wrapped only in a towel.
Sometimes, not even a towel.
Great. Now she had that in her mind as well.
Having retrieved the cutters, Kogan pulled out from under the missing floor panel, but not all the way. He shone his wrist-light through the crawlspace to the next panel. “I think we’ll encounter fewer traps if we went under the floor.”
That killed some of the pulse in her nethers. But only some.
“I get so much as one spider in my suit and I’m going to climb all over you.”
“To get back out of there,” she snapped when he opened his mouth. “What’s wrong with you? We don’t even get along!”
Rising slowly, he looked at her. He wasn’t much taller than she was, but as the corner of his mouth curled, the sheer closeness of his powerful physique began to do weird things in the pit of her stomach.
“No, we don’t,” he agreed, but with a glitter in his stare that made the tiny hairs on her arms stand up and her nipples tighten into peaks. “No. We sure don’t.”
Alpha Aliens, available now!
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A LITTLE ABOUT ME
Fortunate enough to live with my Daddy Dom, I am a Little, coffee whore, pain slut, administrator at two of my local BDSM dungeons, resident of the wilds of freakin’ Kansas (still don’t know how I ended up here) and submissive to the love of my life. An International and USA Bestselling Author, I have penned more than 120 novels, novellas and short stories, and am the author of the Masters of the Castle series.
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What are people saying about Jennifer Bene’s newest release?
“This is so beautifully fucked up.” – Niki, ARC reader
“I just finished Destruction. I don’t know how you do it! Every freakin time you make my insides curl in on themselves and then slap me in the back of my knees. Congrats you did it again. Marvelous writing!!!” – Gabriela, ARC reader
“Loved the story! Read it right through in one sitting!” – Terri, ARC reader
Vengeance and destruction are all he has left.
Lianna Mercier has everything. She’s beautiful, well-educated, her father is rich, powerful — and she works for him. The perfect little princess, raised to be just like daddy.
But it’s all a lie.
A bloody, fucked up lie, and David Gethen is about to tear it all down and destroy Lianna in the process. He wants revenge, he wants to finish the plan his father started years ago — but after he takes her, after he tortures her, he begins to realize just how wrong he may have been.
“Whatever it is you want, I can help you get it. You don’t have to do this.”
“You can’t,” he answered, and he knew it was true. The lack of action from the asshole when she’d begged on the phone had made it clear. As long as he stopped, Mercier would continue to drag this out — which left only one option, he’d have to hurt the girl, torture her until he gave in for real. No more promises, no more time, no more deadlines.
Action or destruction.
“I can. Ju-just give me the chance.” Her hands tightened into fists as he moved closer, tugging at the chains that he already knew wouldn’t give her any slack.
“No more chances for you or Daddy. Either he signs, or we keep going until you’re done.”
“Done?” she whispered, and the tears pooling in her eyes caught the lights making them shine. So fucking beautiful. Such a fucking waste.
“Oh God!” The girl fought hard, ripping at the cuffs, making her breasts bounce, nipples hardened by the cool air in the room, and he watched for a minute as a few tears leaked out into her hair.
“Don’t worry, I don’t want you to talk to him this time.” Lifting the ball gag in his hands, he smiled underneath the mask when she shook her head, panic making her flail harder at the chains while his cock stiffened against his leg.
“Please! Just let me talk to him again, please, tell me what you want him to sell and I’ll convince him! I swear! I’ll do it!” As she begged, he knelt down beside her, taking a moment to trace one finger over the soft skin of her arm. She felt so pure, so good, and how someone like her had come from someone so evil he couldn’t figure out — but none of that mattered. All he needed was her suffering.
“Open up.” He held the gag in front of her face, offering her the easy way, but she clenched her teeth tight just like he’d expected. Somehow the girl was simultaneously terrified of him, and still defiant. Where was her sense of self-preservation? Why wasn’t she submitting to him fully in an attempt to make him lenient?
Not like it would work.
Wrapping his hand under her chin, he dug his fingers into the muscles of her jaw, slowly forcing her mouth wide as she whimpered. As soon as there was enough space, he forced the ball gag between her teeth, and then pressed his hand down to keep it there. “Tsk, tsk. I wasn’t asking, princess, and when you disobey you just make me angry.”
A sharp, incomprehensible shout escaped her lips, so he locked the gag a notch too tight, leaving her groaning as her jaw strained.
“You should hope he loves you as much as you think he does.”
Jennifer Bene is a USA Today bestselling author of erotic romance. She’s been in the Amazon Top 50, and had #1 top-selling books in BDSM, Suspense, Thrillers, Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. While she’s been writing for years, it’s always been the dark stuff that makes her tingly, so her books are full of aggressive alpha males, feisty women who may or may not have a submissive streak, and intense, psychological story lines. Don’t worry though, she always insists on having a nice little happily-ever-after, because without the dark we’d never appreciate the light.
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Join us for all the fun, laughs, and mischief you can get into at our Mischief Under the Mistletoe party online tonight starting at 8pm EST. For one hour only on Romance Readers Recommend, follow the link here and join if you’re not already a member! Prizes and giveaways galore, we’d love to see you there!
Well, look no further, because you found it! Our ‘A Daddy For Christmas’ anthology is live and you’re going to get the scoop right here. For your reading pleasure, six amazing authors introduce six awesome Daddy Doms, just in time for the holidays. I guarantee you’ll never look at candy canes the same way again. And it comes with giveaways, so what could be better than that?
Papa’s Little Bride by Sue Lyndon:
When Kingston proposes marriage to Faith a few weeks before Christmas, he’s upfront about his expectations in a bride. Not only is she to call him Papa, but she’ll be under his complete authority and subject to his discipline. She soon thrives under his guidance and finds herself falling for her strict but loving Papa. But despite her newfound happiness, she can’t help but worry something will go wrong. Is their arrangement too good to be true, or has she finally found her forever home?
Build-A-Daddy by Maren Smith:
For Aubrey, when an impromptu trip to Build-A-Bear leads to an unexpected rescue by the cowboy Daddy of her dreams, she thinks her deepest, most secret wish about to come true. Sometimes it’s a brand new stuffy at Christmas time; sometimes, it’s a whole lot more.
Santa Daddy by Katherine Deane:
Alex and Connor are undercover again, and it’s all fun and games until the caroling starts. Can Alex make it through this Christmas season without her usual bah-humbugging? Or will her Daddy, Connor have to take matters into his own hands?
Mountain Man Daddy’s Christmas Surprise By Kara Kelley:
Tis the season and Mountain Man Daddy has a lot to do to surprise his little wife, Avery, with his change of heart about Christmas, but Rocky, their pet bear, is acting strange and refuses to leave Avery’s side. Mountain Man Daddy suspects it’s one of his past arrests lurking, and he’s more protective than ever. But when Avery finds out the real reason, she and her sneaky old neighbour, Annie, start planning a surprise of their own.
The Daddy Contract by Adaline Raine:
Kayleigh Cavett penned a desperate letter to Santa Claus hoping for her own holiday miracle. She begged for someone to take care of her and get her life back on track. The next morning she awakens to find a stranded Sebastian Cruz, her brother’s best friend and life long crush. When the handsome lawyer offers to spoil her rotten until the snow melts, will she accept his terms?
His Little Noelle by Maggie Ryan:
Her very name means Christmas, yet she’d never experienced the magic of the season. Davis is determined to change that and give his little Noelle the greatest gift of all… a family.
A Daddy For Christmas is available now on Amazon Kindle for the super low price of $2.99 and on KU for a limited time only. Get your copy today because this box set will not be around for very long!
Plus, join me for an online party tomorrow night starting at 8pm EST at Romance Readers Recommend for lots of fun and prizes! If you’re not already a member, follow this link to join and I’ll see you there!
Boy, it’s been a while since last I posted one of these. But I’ve decided to start my New Year’s resolutions early this year. I’m going to need the practice, plus I’ve been a busy girl and have a metric fuck-ton (for those keeping track, that’s two fucks heavier than the standard) of stories coming out this winter. So I need to take all the opportunities I can to advertise them!
First up: Build-A-Daddy which is coming out in the A Daddy For Christmas Anthology.
For Aubrey, when an impromptu trip to Build-A-Bear leads to an unexpected rescue by the cowboy Daddy of her dreams, she thinks her deepest, most secret wish about to come true. Sometimes it’s a brand new stuffy at Christmas time; sometimes, it’s a whole lot more.
Decided, she faced him as fully as her seatbelt allowed and said, “You exist only because I created you.”
“I’m pretty sure my parents will disagree, but all right,” making himself open to the possibility, he said, “how do you figure that?”
“I thought you into existence.”
“My mom has a really fun story about the twenty-six hours of labor she went through with me. She likes to tell it every time I get a new girlfriend, which pretty much disproves your theory.”
“You only think that because I conjured you.”
“You couldn’t conjure me as an orphan?”
“That would make your back story more tragic, but no, all good characters need interesting back stories.”
A Daddy for Christmas is a sexy collection of ALL-NEW age play romances, brought to you by six USA Today and international bestselling authors. Daddy always knows best, and the young ladies in these smoking hot novellas are lucky to have the firm guidance of a father figure during the most magical time of the year. Grab some hot chocolate, snuggle up in your favorite reading spot, and let these dominant but loving daddies take charge.
Papa’s Little Bride by Sue Lyndon
Build-A-Daddy by Maren Smith
Santa Daddy by Katherine Deane
Mountain Man Daddy’s Christmas Surprise by Kara Kelley
The Daddy Contract by Adaline Raine
His Little Noelle by Maggie Ryan
Coming November 27th!!
Don’t forget to check back with all the other fabulous authors in this week’s Saturday Spanking! Just click the next name in the link below.
Papa’s Prey by Zoe Blake
She was his. His Property. His Possession…His.
Trapped in a world of dark decadence, the innocent Corinne is now bound to obey her new husband’s every depraved desire. She is his little doll, to be played with and punished as he pleases. Every night she is brought to his chamber after being dressed by her nanny at his command. Each night is different. Will she be a baby doll? A kitten? Something more sinful?
She is his little captured bird. Will she fly away and escape or learn to love her gilded cage?
Warning. This is a dark daddy dom historical romance. There are no cuddles or caresses in this hero’s castle. If the heroine’s cry in the night will shock and disturb you, then please do not purchase this book.
Dark Romance, Gothic Romance, Daddy Dom, Erotica
He was here. The dark lord. The one who had spanked her as she was draped helplessly over the altar.
“Why?” she asked. Her voice hoarse from sleep and tears.
“Because I wanted you,” he answered simply.
“But…but I’ve never met you. Not really. How could you love me?”
Lucian chuckled. “You are a treasure, my doll. Who said anything about love?”
Corinne bit her lip in confusion. “You married me! If not for love, then…why?”
“I have already told you. Because I wanted you, and what I want, I take. From the moment I saw you walking alone on the moors two years ago, a fairy sprite with your white blonde hair and fair limbs, I knew I would possess you. Must possess you.”
Dawn was breaking. Golden streaks of light peeked through the lace curtains which covered the small glass windows of the coach. If he’d seemed ominous in the poor light of a moonlit chapel, the effect was even more powerful in daylight. In the chapel he’d seemed somehow an indistinct form, a haze of power and leashed energy. Now, every nuance of his face. Each sharp angle. Each sardonic quirk of his mouth. The calculating gleam in his eye. All was distressingly on display. Despite the warmth of the furs, Corinne shivered. Continuing her silent perusal as the damning impact of his words sunk in, she could not help but stare at his hands. Large, tanned. The knuckles of his right hand showing the faint spidery outline of several scars. From a fight no doubt. His left bore the heavy signet ring. At this very moment, she felt like the flower, being crushed in the talons of the mighty Lord Talon.
Under no illusion this would be a true marriage, Corinne licked her dry lips before venturing to ask, “What are you going to do with me?”
“How beautiful you look with your pale cheeks and wide frightened eyes,” he observed. “Beautiful…as was watching my handprints blossoming into perfect red impressions on your other pale cheeks when I spanked you over the altar.”
His blatant description had her face heating with shame. When he shifted forward, Corinne instinctively shrunk back further into the welcoming folds of the fur blanket.
A flash of warning crossed his face. Already learning, Corinne lowered her head and once again sat forward.
Lucian reached out to grasp one perfect thick curl to run his hand down the heavy, silken length, both of them watching it unfurl against his palm. He gave it a fierce tug, wrenching Corinne forward till her body leaned over the small space which divided them.
“You will remain my perfect little doll. An enjoyable plaything made solely for my pleasure,” he whispered against her open mouth. “I shall keep you as a child, entirely dependent on me. Every piece of fabric that caresses your body. Every morsel of food which crosses your lips. The very air you breathe. You will owe everything to me and you will repay me with complete obedience. I will see to it that your every waking thought is in giving pleasure to me.”
Corinne’s eyes filled with tears. “Please, sir. I know nothing about giving pleasure to a man. I can be of no use to you. Please just let me go. I will return to the convent!”
“No. You are mine and mine you will stay. I shall teach you how to please me. How about we begin this very moment?”
Releasing her hair, he sat back into the plush leather seat. His broad shoulders and chest seemed even more commanding in the confined space. Corinne watched as he slowly opened his bent legs wide. Snatching a brocade pillow from the corner of the seat, he placed it between his feet.
“Kneel before me.”
Available on Amazon now!
If you love age play with a ‘taken captive until she learns to love it’ kind of theme, then you’re going to love this book. Zoe Blake is a master at her craft. Her description takes you right into this world. But don’t take my word for it. Follow the buy it link to Amazon and read the first chapter for free. I dare you not to fall in love!
USA Today and International Best Selling Author in Dark Romance
We are all attracted to the forbidden. Addicted to the rush we get from reading something naughty…something kinky. We love to lose ourselves in the fantasy. The powerful lord who sweeps the lady away to his remote estate to ravish her. The cowboy who takes the sassy city girl over his knee to teach her a lesson. The devilishly charming pirate who seduces his beautiful captive. I write those dark fantasies.
Dark Romance Historical Titles
The Submission of Little Emmie
Disciplining the Maid
Chosen to be His Little Angeline
The Duke’s Possession
Papa’s Little Pain Princess
His Dark Obsession
Worth Fighting For
Ride Hard Historical Western Series
The Cowboy’s Revenge, Book One
The Gunfighter’s Pursuit, Book Two
The Rebel’s Secret, Book Three
Little Victorian Ladies
A Little Submission
The Dark Forest Anthology
Check out Zoe’s Website at www.zblakebooks.com