Authors: Sophie Oak
“The circumstances of Stan’s death are not natural. They’re bringing you in for questioning. I’ve convinced the sheriff not to handcuff you. I know how you feel about that, Natalie. I’m going to do everything I can to keep you out of a holding cell.”
Holding cell. Cage. Cuffs. Nat took a deep breath, but the oxygen didn’t quite fill her lungs. The room spun and blessed darkness took her.
* * * *
Chase Dawson yawned, forcing himself to a semi-awake state. It had been a late night. Mandy, Sandy, something like that, had been voracious. And the tiniest bit frightening. A twinge went through his lower back. Mandy whatshername believed in a quality of athleticism to sex that just might be past his thirty-five years. He was getting fucking old.
God, he couldn’t believe he missed the days of Kitten. Undemanding Kitten, who had to sign a contract that he couldn’t have sex with her. His nights with Kitten had been filled with petting her head while she kneeled at his feet as he watched a game or worked on his computer. And she’d gotten him beer. Sure, she sometimes got lost between the living room and the kitchen, but she was utterly undemanding.
When the fuck had sex gotten boring?
The door opened, and Julian walked in the room, followed by his wife, Danielle.
Dani was here? What the hell had he done? He searched his memory trying to connect Mandy/Sandy with the twistable spine and way too much strength in her thighs to Danielle, because if he’d fucked with her sister or something, he was about to get his ass kicked.
“Thanks for coming down on short notice, Chase. I was surprised you didn’t go with Ben,” Julian said.
“I don’t do airplanes.”
Julian’s mouth turned down. “You don’t do airplanes?”
He shook his head. “Nope. They crash. Like a lot.” He tried to stay out of small, pressurized metal cans whether they were at thirty thousand feet or under the ocean. He was a human. Not a fish or a bird. Chase believed in Darwinism, and that included not allowing his brilliant mind to be selected out because he put too much faith in technology.
Julian stopped and took a long breath. He did that a lot around Chase. Chase was deeply aware that Julian would rather deal with Ben. Everyone did. It didn’t bother him. “Chase, you were a Navy SEAL.”
“Hey, once a SEAL, always a SEAL.” Except those fuckers who’d tried to kill him a few months ago. Of course, they were trying to kill Ben and had gotten him by mistake.
. Even murdering bastards preferred Ben to him.
“You understand it stands for sea, air, and land. How the hell did you handle that? Don’t you have to make a HALO jump?”
He shuddered. “Ben insisted we get certified. What can I say? I was younger then.” And Ben had pushed him out of the plane. Oh, he hadn’t laid a hand on him, but that invisible tether that connected them had forced Chase to follow his brother when the danger was high.
Luckily making a run to Colorado to help find Kitten a Dom wasn’t a dangerous thing. Though he’d heard stories about that town. And there was that call he’d gotten earlier. He grinned. Yeah, setting that bundle of trouble on Ben had been fun. He had no idea what was coming for him.
Julian let it go. “We’ve had a problem at Danielle’s resort. Come, little one, sit down. Put your feet up. I’ll get you a bottle of water.”
Danielle Lodge-Taylor took her husband’s seat behind the desk without any hesitation. How fucking far she’d come. When Chase had met her she was sweet, but completely mousy, a true submissive who had found great strength in her relationship with Julian Lodge and Finn Taylor. She’d gone back to school, opened a business, and now was pregnant. Really pregnant.
“Spa or club?” Chase asked, relieved that this seemed to be about business and not him fucking the wrong chick. Because he often fucked the wrong chick. He had the scars to prove it.
The Willow Fork resort was two-pronged in Chase’s mind. There was the spa/dude ranch aspect. That was the “daytime” portion of the resort. Horseback riding. Massages. Touristy crap. But there was a section of the resort that came alive at night. The dungeon. Danielle’s resort catered to people in the lifestyle.
If something craptastic had happened, he hoped it was in the dungeon. He was bored. Life had ground to a nasty little circle that left him deeply unfulfilled. He woke up, usually long after the sun had risen. He ate some crap because he didn’t cook and Ben was usually still at someone else’s house doing the “domesticity for a day” thing he did so well. He played around on his computer, pretending he still mattered, and then he got dressed for the dungeon, found another meaningless girl, and started the cycle all over again.
A little excitement was just what the doctor ordered.
“Spa,” Julian replied.
. The last thing he needed was to deal with Dani’s accounting problems. Still, he wasn’t about to say no to her. “Tell me about it.”
He’d have to go to bum-fuck, back-ass nowhere and figure out who’d taken more than their fair share of tips.
“Do you remember the incident that brought Kitten to us?” Dani accepted the bottle of water Julian handed to her.
How could he forget? Kitten had been held in utter slavery by a psychotic asshole. She’d been held against her will at the beginning and then indoctrinated into a sort of Stockholm syndrome. The mindfuck the bastard had used on her had worked all too well. Her captor had taken her into all sorts of public situations without her running for help. He’d had two women he’d forced into slavery. When he’d tried taking a third, the bastard had finally gotten what he deserved. A nice knife to the gut. Natalie Buchanan. He’d read her file somewhere along the way. He hadn’t actually met her, but he liked a woman who could wield a knife.
He was fucked in the head. He wouldn’t get on a freaking plane, but he was thinking about screwing the girl with the knife.
“Well, the two women who were with Kitten currently work at the spa as massage therapists. She would really like to go see them. It’s been a while. Gretchen was up here a couple of months ago, but getting Natalie to travel is difficult.”
“So whatever I’m doing down there, I would also be responsible for Kitten?” How the hell was he supposed to handle an investigation when he was constantly worried that Kitten would follow something shiny and get lost? “I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Kitten likes her leash. I can’t walk around the vanilla side of the resort with a hundred-pound woman on a leash.”
He could. He’d done it before, but it tended to hamper investigations.
There was a brisk knock at the door and then the puppy entered. Oh, the puppy was six foot three inches, pure muscled Colorado boy, but there was something about Logan Green that just reminded Chase of an overgrown puppy.
“Sorry. I just got the text,” Logan said.
Three months into his training with Leo, Logan was more confident. And he hit people less. Chase wasn’t sure that was a good thing. He liked a little tussle every now and then, and all his friends were getting married. It had turned them into whiny, pussy-whipped emo kings who no longer liked a good punch in the face.
“Thanks for joining us,” Julian said, his hand on his wife’s shoulder. “I was going to send Ben and Chase down to check out something for me at the resort. I would go myself, but Danielle is due any day now. She can’t travel.”
“She can barely move. She is bigger than a whale,” Dani grumbled. She gasped just a little. “But baby Chloe can move. That was a nice kick.”
Julian’s face practically lit up, his hand finding her round belly in an instant. “Come on, baby, kick for Papa.”
Dani had a tiny smile on her face as she looked at her husband. “He’ll sit like this for hours.”
Chase was surrounded by baby-minded alien transplants. He was sure of it. He believed in conspiracy, and though this one seemed to be a natural function of the biological imperative to breed that somehow led to every man he knew handing his balls over to some sub on a silver platter, it was still a conspiracy. Especially since it seemed to be catching. Good men were going down all the time.
Even Leo had transformed from good-time guy to someone Chase was a little afraid might break into song. If that happened, it was his duty to put his brother’s old SEAL teammate down.
Chase turned a little and saw Logan had no idea what the fuck was going on, either. They sent each other shrugs and a little grunt, the true communication of real men. It was something that said, “Dude, I do not get that and never will.”
Yeah, he could hang with Logan, maybe better than with Ben these days. Ben seemed on the edge of finally figuring out that he could do way better without Chase around.
The good news was Logan could take months to figure that out.
Julian laughed as his hand jumped. “That’s my girl.”
Chase cleared his throat, his universal sign for “someone better tell me why I’m still here.”
Julian laughed a little as though figuring out he’d really gone over the deep end. “Sorry. We’re getting close to the finish line. I get distracted. Now, I’ll send Ben along, too, when he returns, but I’m afraid this won’t wait. Finn is already in the air. Callum Reed is at the sheriff’s office, but Finn won’t pass this off. He feels he owes those women too much to let someone else handle it.”
One of Kitten’s friends got caught with her hands in the cookie jar? Damn. That was going to suck ass. He hated being the bearer of bad tidings. Scratch that. He hated being the bearer of bad tidings when he liked the person he had to disappoint. When he didn’t care about the person, he was perfectly fine telling them that their wife-husband-business partner was a complete douchebag and their life savings was gone.
He would have made a good Grim Reaper.
“What are we supposed to do?” Logan asked.
Dani leaned forward. “I was hoping you would take Kitten down to Willow Fork for a little visit. She’s worried about her friends. As we haven’t been able to find her a Dom, we really need someone to watch her.”
Kitten had proven to be picky when it came to Doms. And everyone was indulging her because she was finally using personal pronouns.
Logan shrugged. “Sure. I haven’t been out of Dallas in months. It might be nice. Does anyone know where her leash is?”
Julian sighed. “Let’s try to break her of the leash outside of the dungeon, Logan. How about just keeping an eye on her?”
A grimace crossed the puppy’s face. “Yeah, I don’t know about that. She can get away really fast.”
Julian stared him down.
“I will totally keep her safe, Mr. Lodge.” Logan’s face went carefully blank, but Chase would bet he was calculating the odds of this new mission going well.
“Don’t forget I LoJacked her.” Kitten had a tracking device in her collar. It had come in handy more than once, especially a few months back when he’d nearly been horrifically murdered by asshole mercenaries who had mistaken him for his way nicer twin brother. “And we won’t be there long. What’s this case?” He could see it now.
The Case of the Quick-Handed Sub
The Case of the Dumb-ass Sub Who Got Caught
“A prominent member of the community was murdered, and Natalie is being questioned for the crime.”
Chase sat up, his previous ennui evaporating. Dead bodies? Scandal? Chicks who kill? Yeah, there it was. He knew he still had a little adrenaline left in his system.
“How’d he die?” Chase was deeply aware that he practically fucking giggled the question.
Julian stared for a moment, probably remembering all the reasons he preferred to deal with Ben. “Apparently someone shoved a needle into his back during sex.”
Black widow killer. Yeah.
And she was Kitten’s friend.
And she’d probably murdered some dude during sex.
Pros. Cons. It didn’t matter. Finally, he wasn’t bored. Chase stood. “Come on, Watson. Let’s get going. The game is afoot!”
Logan stared at him blankly. “Dude, my name is Logan.”
And he wasn’t terribly literate. It didn’t matter. For the first time in months, Chase wanted to do something. Catch a killer.
Ben Dawson stared across the table in the small diner. “So you’re looking for a submissive?”
Cole Roberts was a big man whose casual clothes couldn’t hide his obvious success. Even if Ben didn’t know Cole’s net worth, he would still guess this was a wealthy man. His alpha male status oozed out of Cole’s pores. “I’ve been looking for a while. I have a membership at The Club. I’m only in Dallas about half the year, but I attend regularly when I’m there. I was a little offended Mr. Lodge didn’t think about me when he was dispensing this sub.”
Mr. Lodge probably hadn’t thought of him because he talked about Julian’s matchmaking as a doling out of human property. Roberts was known to be a bit on the hard side. “He’s being very careful with Kitten. She’s family. You’ve heard about her background?”
Roberts had been sent a complete file including a full psych evaluation on Kitten Taylor. He’d submitted to his own psych evaluation, too. He nodded, a certain gravity in the gesture. “Yes, I read the file. I was very sorry to hear that happened to her. Is Lodge attempting to shift her out of the lifestyle? Because if that’s what he’s trying to do, then I’m not the Dom for her. I’m looking for a full-time submissive. I’m willing to exchange room and board and discuss the possibility of a legal entanglement in exchange for service.”