Authors: Jennifer Probst
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Erotica, #BDSM, #Novella
Her gaze narrowed. Annoyance gleamed from meadow green eyes. “It’s not Paul’s decision, just his recommendation. I know if I’m ready or not, Rem,” she said coolly. “But that’s up to me. Not you.”
“It certainly is up to me,” he shot back. “You’re not ready for that shit and I’m not letting you do it.”
“You don’t have a choice. You have no right.”
“No, Rem. You’re my friend, remember. You don’t want any more than that.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “You can’t be both.”
Her last words struck him like a meaty punch in the stomach. They stared at each other, the sexual energy whirling around them like a violent tornado. Rem smothered a violent curse, shaking with frustration.
Summer finally spoke up. “It’s definitely a leap, but you’ll know if you’re ready. I did.” Rafe took her hand and pressed her palm to his lips. “If this is a part of who you are, who you need to be, Chains is a good place to find it.”
“Thanks.” She forced a smile and stood up. “I have to go. Harry is still nervous when I leave him alone for too long.”
“I’ll walk you out,” he said gruffly.
“No.” The word lashed him like a whip. “I’ve got this. Thanks for letting me join you guys, tonight. I loved meeting everyone.”
They said their goodbyes while Rem remained quiet. She walked away, and he stared at the table, taking note of the trickle of water linking his beer glass to hers.
He looked up. Rick seemed to be the one to speak for all of them. “Go after her. Tell her you’ll be her Dom at Chains. You belong together.”
He’d thought that once before. He’d been wrong. He’d spent years questioning every move, every action, until he lay awake at night with a burning emptiness in his gut. His life after Cara had been a mess of jagged pieces he was desperate to put back into a puzzle. Now, she’d returned, and he wanted her just as bad. Logically, he understood he was still afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of not giving her what she needed. Afraid of failing them both.
“I can’t,” he said shortly. “It’s better this way.”
Frustration glimmered in Rick’s eyes but he nodded his head. “Okay. We got your back, brother.”
Sloane cleared her throat and raised her hand. “We’ll need another round here.”
Rem gave a grim smile and leaned back in the booth.
ARA CHECKED IN AT THE FRONT
desk of Chains and waited for Paul. Usually the club was filled with pounding music, orgasmic groans, the slap of whips and floggers, and the smell of sex. Since it was a weeknight and the club didn’t open till nine pm, the place was quiet.
She had officially completed her lessons with Paul and they’d scheduled an exit interview. This was the time she could become a full member of the club, and he’d guide her into the first public scene.
Rem’s reaction to the news confirmed he still held real feelings for her. Temper and possession had carved out the lines of his face; blasted from the heat of his gaze. She hadn’t told him as a threat. She intended to fight for Rem as long as it took, but she had to show him she was her own person. He was no longer responsible for her happiness all the time. Cara had seen many Dom/sub relationships and they worked in a variety of ways. In some, Doms took their submissive’s contentment and day to day happiness as a sign of whether or not they’re doing their job. For Cara, she already knew what she needed. A man to let her have a bad day, but comfort her. A man to strip her, beat her, pleasure her, and free her in the bedroom. A man who respected her, but didn’t think every decision in her life was dependent on him.
She wanted a full blown partner. For life.
Cara was able to slay her own dragons, but damned if she didn’t want a man to kick a little ass beside her, then kiss her wounds afterward to make them better.
She smiled and hugged Paul. A big meaty man, with bulging muscles and a stout figure, his shaved head gave him a bit of a brutal look but was tempered by his beautiful brown eyes. She once told him they reminded her of a doe’s and he threatened to beat her.
“Follow me.” He led her through the club and into the private offices toward the back. She sat on the red leather couch while he propped himself on the edge of the desk.
“You’ve come a long way, Cara.” He crossed his arms in front of his chest and studied her. “I feel like you’ve grown a lot. Embraced the lifestyle. How do you feel about doing a structured, public scene?”
She raised her chin. “I want to do it.”
“Let’s go over limits, and expectations of the scene. I can be in charge, or set you up with one of the other Masters at the club.”
“That’s fine. You’re also free to play with the other members. I can introduce you around on Saturday night to a few Doms.”
She squirmed on the bench. There was one thing she learned about the lifestyle, and that was the need for honesty at all times. “Paul, there’s only one man I’m interested in. He’s already a member here. His name is Remington Steele.”
He raised his brow in surprise. “Rem? Yeah, he’s a regular. All of his brothers are members. Wait a minute, you’re involved with Rem?”
“I spent one night with him. And we were involved when we were young. Now we’re… friends.”
He stared at her. “Friends, huh? With benefits?”
She gave a wobbly smile. “I’m still in love with him. I ran away years ago, afraid to tell him I was scared, and now I’m looking for a second chance.”
Paul winced. “Communication is key in a relationship.”
“I know. I was young and stupid. But I’m ready now, and know I can give him what we both need. I’m playing for keeps.”
Paul shook his head. “Cara, this sounds like an emotional mess. Do you want me to talk to him? See where his head is at? Do you think he wants to do the scene with you?”
She dragged in a breath. “I think so. But he’s holding himself back, because he’s afraid he’ll get hurt. I don’t blame him. I’d like to push him so he realizes what’s at stake for us.”
“And you’re using me to do it? Hell, if Rem considers you his, he’ll tear apart any man in the way. Gonna put me in that position?”
“No, of course not. He knows you’re my teacher and that we haven’t been intimate. I told him everything. If I do this scene, maybe it’ll give him a chance to— a chance to—”
She swallowed past the lump in her throat. “To claim me.”
His face softened and he crossed the room, pulling her against him in a warm hug. “I’m sorry, baby girl. I have to warn you that it may not turn out how you want. He may choose to walk away if he sees you going into a scene. He may realize he can never really trust you again. Can you deal with that?”
She nodded against his chest. “I’m not giving up. But maybe this will tell me if I’m fighting for nothing. Maybe he’ll never be ready to forgive me.”
“You’re playing a dangerous game, Cara. But I’ve also seen you grow through this practice. Come into yourself. You’re beautiful when you submit, and it’s a part of who you are. I think doing a public scene will help solidify that within you.”
“Then we’ll do it together. And hope Mr. Steele doesn’t kick the shit out of me.”
Rem looked at his watch. He’d texted Cara hours ago and no response. His call went to voicemail. It was Saturday night and he was supposed to go to Chains. Find a submissive to play with and wring out some sexual frustration. There was just one problem.
He only wanted Cara Winters.
Since she’d mentioned doing a public scene at the club, Rem hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it. About her submitting to another man. Letting him touch her. Bring her to orgasm. Scream his name and shatter apart.
The image taunted him every night, keeping him from sleep. No matter how many times he went over the rationale of remaining friends and keeping the past behind them, his heart smashed through the barriers and screamed for him to make a stand.
Cara was right all along. He had to eventually choose. Keep her as a friend and let her go? Break off their relationship completely and try again to banish her ghost? Or claim her for his once and for all?
But was he ready?
Seems like everything else didn’t matter if he had an opportunity to see her. He dropped plans with his brother, rescheduled appointments, and tried to keep some shifts open in the evenings so he could sneak in a visit. When had it happened? When had seeing Cara become more important than anything else in his life?
His cell phone jumped and he quickly punched the button. His shoulders slumped at the sound of his brother’s voice. “Hey, Rick. What’s up?”
The line hummed. “You going to Chains tonight?”
He hesitated. Since he’d spent the night with Cara, Rem hadn’t been to Chains to play. Sure, he’d gone in, talked to his friends, instructed some younger Doms on techniques of a scene, but he couldn’t think of anyone else but Cara. “Nah, I’m in for the night. Why?”
Rick cleared his throat. “Look, dude, don’t freak out. Especially if you’re just
. But Paul called me and said he’s doing a public scene with Cara tonight at the club.”
A roaring sound echoed in his ears. His blood thickened in his veins. “What did you say?”
“Cara’s doing a scene. Look, bro, I have to say this or I’ll regret it. She loves you. I saw it clearly at dinner — it’s all over her damn face when she looks at you. If you still have feelings for her, let her know. Claim her tonight as your submissive. Life’s too damn short for regrets or fear. Got it?”
“I gotta go.”
The idea of another man’s hands on her caused a primal rage to beat in his body. Private lessons with Paul was one thing. A public scene where a crowd watched his woman get naked and pleasured by some other Dom was not going to happen. Not with the woman he loved.
He had to get over there. Now.
Rem grabbed his phone and wallet, driving over to Chains in record time. He put his hand up in a brief greeting as he raced past Liliana at the front desk. The club was packed. The raw, throbbing music hit his ears as hard as the scent of leather and sex hit his nostrils. Rem made his way past the large dance area where writhing couples twisted and turned in a parody of sex. The lounge was a comfortable, open space with leather lounges and chairs, and erotic paintings hung on the red walls. He stopped at the crowded bar and motioned over to Easton, the bartender.
Easton jerked his head toward the private rooms. “Prepping for a scene.” Easton was a perfectionist with a drink, knew who everyone was and where they were, and one of most popular Doms at Chains. He wore jeans, a cut off tank that emphasized roped arms, and his dirty blonde hair was tied back. He rarely dressed the part, preferring to filter his methods of control in ways other than clothes. “You okay, man? You look stressed.”
“Nothing a good fight won’t cure,” Rem muttered under his breath. “Thanks.”
He tore past the corridor, where various erotic scenes played out behind glass, and checked the Royalty room where Paul preferred to prepare, flinging open the door.
“What the hell— Rem?”
His fingers clenched. His nostrils flared with hot anger, and he shut the door behind him, grabbing for control. “Where is Cara?” he asked in a low voice.
Paul flinched, but he kept calm. “She’s getting ready in the women’s locker room. Summer is with her.”
“I know who Summer is, I’m just confused why she’s in there with Cara helping her prep for a scene that’s not going to happen.”
Paul tightened his lips. “Calm down, Rem. Listen, Cara told me what was going on between the two of you, but she’s trained for this and wants to do her first public scene. As a member here and Dom, you’re welcome to step in and do the scene with her. Is that what you want?”
“She’s not ready for this! Shit, I think she’s only pushing herself to prove something to me.”
“Maybe she just wants to prove it to herself,” Paul said mildly.
“She doesn’t know what she wants.”
“I think she knows exactly what she wants. And so do you.”
“No thanks.” Paul’s delighted grin made him want to pounce and rage, but Rem knew the man was only trying to get him to admit the truth. The truth he’d known from that very first night she walked back into his life. “She’s under my protection. I’m responsible for her well-being and she will be doing this scene. With or without you.”
He strode over and got in Paul’s face. Dropped his voice to a growl. “Cara is no longer under your protection. Get it? She’s mine. She belongs to me, and I will be the one doing this scene with her.”
Rem had to hand it to the Dom. Paul pushed him right to the edge. “Why? Convince me you’re able to handle her better than I can.”
“I love her, asshole!”
Paul grinned wider. “About damn time. She’s set up for room 3. It’s a sensation play scene — all the instruments are ready and on the table. She’s got ten minutes. Need anything else?”
Rem pulled his shit together and turned his back. “No. I’ll beat the crap out of you later.”
Rem slammed the door on Paul’s echoing laughter.
He weaved his way through various couples, nodding to a few, and reached the women’s locker room. The truth shimmered in front of him. In a way, these last few years without her had been necessary. She’d learned to spread her wings and fly alone. And he’d learned not everything was always under his control, and love was bigger than past pain.
They’d both grown stronger apart, but together they were unbreakable.
It was time to claim her.
He knocked, and Summer peeked her head out. “Hi, Rem. I won’t let you break down the door. Are you finally ready to admit she’s more than a friend?”
He narrowed his gaze in warning. “You’re just as meddlesome as my brother. Just because you wear black leather and hold a whip doesn’t mean I can’t take you on.”
Her red lips widened into a smile. “Try me.”
“I need to talk to her.”
“Fine. You can come in and I’ll stand guard.” She strut out in a cat suit with a nasty looking flogger. “You have five minutes.”