Authors: Sophie Oak
And that was the only damn reason Ben was sitting here. Roberts was willing to talk long term, and Kitten needed that. He wasn’t much of a romantic, though, if he considered marriage a legal entanglement. “How many full-time submissives have you kept in the past?”
“Only one. Emily Yarborough.” Roberts went still, only his lips moving. “She died. Car accident. She was being driven home by a friend and they took a curve too fast. You don’t take curves fast on the pass, Mr. Dawson.”
Elk Creek Pass, the same mountain passage Roberts’s ski resort was named after, was one of America’s more dangerous passes, but then Roberts lived in one of America’s more dangerous towns. “I’m sorry to hear that.” But he had something else to address. “So you didn’t consider Mason Scott to be a submissive?”
Roberts remained perfectly calm. The only sign that the name had an effect was the tightening of his eyes. “Mason Scott is my partner. We have business interests together. I won’t lie to you. In the past we had a sexual relationship. Mason is a switch. We met at The Club, but that part of my life is over. Miss Taylor doesn’t need to worry that she would be second. I will put her first.”
Ben was pretty sure Kitten would find the idea of bisexual Masters delightful, but Roberts seemed firm. Ben moved on to other problems. “So if you did sign a contract with Katherine Taylor, you would continue to live here in Bliss?”
Roberts took a long drink of his coffee. “I stay here half the year, as I said. If my submissive needed to be in the city in order to find her peace, then I would consider staying in Dallas for longer, but I would always need to come here. This resort doesn’t run itself. I would prefer she come with me. I have no intention of leaving my sub at home.”
Another point in his favor. He was also recommended by Stefan Talbot, a friend of Lodge’s, and he’d passed Leo’s tests.
Ben closed his notebook. “Do you really want another sub? It’s only been a year since Emily’s death. I like Kitten. She’s a whack job, but she’s a truly sweet girl who’s had to overcome some horrific things. I don’t want her to get involved with a man who won’t care about her.”
“How will I know if I don’t try?” The words came out in a flat monotone.
“You could date. You don’t have to sign a six-month contract on an unseen sub.”
Roberts laughed, the first sign that he could look anything but grim. “Have you seen the women around here? They’re beautiful and sexy and they like to shoot people. Seriously, I’ve heard rumors that they have a club.” He sobered a bit. “No. I don’t need to date. Dating is a false thing. It’s two people dancing around the truth. A contract is more effective. We know we’ll be together for six months so we can relax and give the relationship a real go.”
“Kitten can be a handful. I’m not trying to say she isn’t sweet, but she can push some boundaries.”
Roberts pulled out a file of his own. “Here’s my list of rules and punishments. If they fall outside of her hard limits, we can discuss alternatives, but I prefer my way. I can handle a bit of manipulation. She wouldn’t have a brain if she didn’t try. I prefer to use pleasure as a reward, though I admit to sometimes viewing my submissive as stress relief. I would never harm her sexually, but I will use her to my own ends and sometimes without thought to her pleasure.”
And he sounded perfect for Kitten. Kitten wanted to be necessary. Roberts could give her what she wanted. The question was would he be what she needed? “Please come to The Club next month and I’ll introduce you.”
Roberts frowned. “And what will she be doing until then?”
Possessive. Not a bad thing in a Dom, but a little out of bounds with a woman he didn’t know yet. “She’s being cared for by a Dom in training. A young man from these parts. It’s a pure training relationship. No sex involved.”
Roberts cracked a smile. “Logan Green is training my potential sub? Well, that’s something I never thought I would say. Tell Logan hello and he better take care of her. If Lodge doesn’t mind, I would appreciate being able to send her a few things. Just some small gifts.”
Clothing most likely. Ben understood the impulse. When he was involved with a woman, he liked to know she was wearing something he’d bought for her. Of course, Ben usually liked to actually meet the woman first, but hey, he was used to being around eccentrics. Hell, his other half was about as eccentric as a person could be.
Roberts stood and shook his hand, and Ben sat back down, glancing at his watch. He had all night. His plane wasn’t supposed to leave until tomorrow morning. He had a room at something called a Movie Motel and plans to eat dinner with a couple of old clients. Jesse McCann and Cade Sinclair were ready to show off their fiancée, Gemma.
Ben was never going to get married because his other half was a brooding, paranoid, borderline-psychotic weirdo who wouldn’t even get on a plane.
Ben sighed and looked up at the specials. He wasn’t sure he wanted to try escargot in Bliss, Colorado.
He sipped his Coke and wondered what the fuck he was doing. He was thirty-five years old. He’d thought he would still be in the military. Then Ada had been murdered.
He could still see her, but now it was more of a gauzy image than the former sharp picture that assaulted his brain on a nightly basis.
She hadn’t loved him. She’d enjoyed him. She’d loved Leo. It was far past time to let her go.
The trouble was he didn’t have anything to hold on to. Sometimes he thought he held on to Ada because he needed to believe he could have had a relationship. It wouldn’t have been with Ada. Even at the time he’d known it, but she’d been so sweet, so brave. He couldn’t resist the fantasy that she would understand him.
But she’d wanted Leo. Perfectly sane Leo. Leo, who could have a relationship with a woman on his own. Oh, he was marrying a woman and sharing her with his brother, but that was by choice and not because he felt like he had half a soul.
The bell over the door jingled. This town was getting to him. It was weird. Happy trios were everywhere, just taunting him with their families and marriages. A big scarred guy was sitting two tables over with his sweet-looking wife and a dude in law enforcement khakis who didn’t look like a family friend since they both kept kissing the brunette and passing their twins around.
He couldn’t see Chase with a kid.
A cold wind seemed to run through him, and he closed his eyes because just maybe he was dreaming and he could shift the dream into something good and sweet, and his very nice but completely chaotic mess of a little sister hadn’t magically shown up in small-town Colorado because she was still in Los Angeles where he was safe from her curse.
“Benny, you’re doing that thing again. I’m not going away. Do you think the burgers here are good? I’ve been a vegan for the last six months, well, mostly, except for steak. I can’t live without a little steak but other than that, totally veggie.”
He cracked open one eye and there she sat, Georgia Ophelia Dawson.
She gave him a little wave. “Hi, brother. I knew you were in there.” Her face went all puppy dog eyes and toddler pout. “Please feed me. I had to hitchhike in from LA, and the trucker only had jerky and you know how I feel about dehydrated meat.”
His blood pressure pulsed. “You hitchhiked? What happened to the BMW I bought you because Dad wouldn’t splurge past an Accord?”
Her eyes went even wider, and he would swear she managed to squeeze a tear out. “I had to sell it to pay for my acting classes.”
“If you paid for your classes, then why aren’t you in LA going to class?”
“I had to leave acting class because I’m really, really bad at it, Benny. And Daddy wouldn’t pay for my rent either because I decided to become an actress instead of that boring businessy thing.”
It was called a bachelor’s degree. Georgia had a degree in management, for all the good it had done her. “Georgie, why are you here?”
Now the tears started in earnest. “Daddy cut me off.”
No big surprise there. His father had married five times, producing six children with four different women. Georgia was the youngest of his siblings. He and Chase had an older brother and two younger ones, and then there was Georgia. The only female in the group. She’d lasted the longest. The rest of them had been shoved out in the world with nothing at the age of eighteen. Ben often wondered if it was because she was a girl or because she was as beautiful as her mother had been. “Dad cuts everyone off. Chase and I have been cut off since we graduated from high school.”
“But you have a trust fund from your mom. My mom was a stripper. All she left me was a legacy of body glitter and regret.”
He practically growled. It had been inevitable. His father was an asshole. It was only Georgia’s charm that had kept her in his good graces thus far. And she was right. Prudence had been an ill-named stripper and an even worse wife and mother. She’d left Georgie behind when she got her divorce settlement. When Carlton Dawson was the responsible, loving parent, Ben had known Georgie was in trouble. Luckily, she’d had a great nanny and boarding school—like five of them.
“Georgie, I hate to say this, but you have to grow up. You’re twenty-five years old and…how the hell did you find me? Why aren’t you in Dallas up Chase’s ass over this?”
He didn’t have to ask why she hadn’t sought out their other siblings. Win was too busy building an empire. And Mark and Drew were god only knew where. It was freaking classified. But Chase was right where he’d left him, safe in Dallas, where Georgia should have been able to find him and bug him about this.
“I called Chase. He told me to come find you, and I thought he was right. So I hopped on the first plane to Colorado and then found the trucker with the bad jerky. He dropped me off here. I’m glad I listened to him. You’re my favorite brother.”
He was her sanest brother, and the one who was quickest with the checkbook.
Still it didn’t explain everything. “Okay, so he knew I was going to be in Bliss, but how did he know to send you to the diner? I was supposed to go out to the lodge.”
Roberts had changed the plans at the last minute. Ben hadn’t informed Chase.
“Oh, he did that thing on your phone so he can always know where you are.”
Son of a bitch LoJacked him.
Georgie put a hand over his. “Don’t be mad. It’s how Chase says he loves you. Or how he says, ‘Hey you stole my stuff and I’m going to kill you.’ By the way, thanks for not letting him kill me when I took his wallet. I really needed the money, and he was being an ass.”
This was what Georgia did. She took a perfectly nice afternoon and filled it with chaos. There was one surefire way to get her back on a plane for LA. He reached for his checkbook. He wouldn’t miss the money. She was right about that. His mom’s parents had been pure old-school money. They’d set up very large trust funds for their only grandchildren. “How much do you need? Rent, classes, food, everything. I’m only writing one for the next six months.”
She sat back, a startled expression on her face. She bit her bottom lip, tears filling her eyes. “I can’t believe I’m saying this. Oh my god. I don’t like this feeling at all. It’s horrible.”
“What?” How much was this fit going to cost him? He was so glad his mother had been a wretchedly wealthy debutante and not a stripper.
She went the lightest shade of green. “I can’t take your money.”
Was there a doctor in town? “Are you all right?”
She shook her head. “No. Oh, Benny, I think I’m maturing. I think I need to get a job and be with my family.”
Now he was sure he was the one turning green. “You don’t have to do that. Look, I have a lot of checks.”
Those tears started up again, and he was pretty sure everyone was watching. “Come on, Benny. I haven’t been near my brothers in over ten years. Not since you left me all alone with a cold, distant father while you two went off and saw the world.”
“We weren’t seeing the world, Georgie. We were getting our asses shot off because Dad kicked us out and our trust fund didn’t kick in until we were twenty-five. We had to go into the Navy to eat.” There was an idea…
She cut him off at the pass. “I can’t. I’m a pacifist.”
A low hum started throughout the diner. He was well and truly fucked. “Fine. You can come back with me, but Georgie, Chase and I live in a club.”
She nodded, drying her tears with the paper napkins from a dispenser at the end of the table. “I know. Daddy calls it a den of inequality. Who’s the unequal one? It’s Chase, isn’t it?”
“Iniquity. It’s a den of iniquity.”
“Is that like a financial thing? Equity?”
Yep, there were times he wondered how she’d made it through school. “Sure.”
Her face brightened and her whole demeanor changed from “lost and damaged soul” to “life of the party.” “I’m so excited. This is going to be awesome. I need some fries. They’re vegan, right? Oh, and they have bacon. Nice. You can pick up the check, right, brother? I don’t have a job yet. I’m thinking about maybe trying to be a party planner. I can totally do that.”
He’d be picking up the check and all the bodies along the way because Georgia Dawson, while good-natured, was a force of chaos the world hadn’t seen since the last atomic bomb had been dropped. He was pretty sure Georgie had been the thing let out of Pandora’s Box. Bad shit followed her.