Stronghold (Stronghold 1) (10 page)

BOOK: Stronghold (Stronghold 1)
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Angela’s wide eyed excitement
after she’d toured Chained popped into his head before he forced it back
down.  Dammit.  Why was the best chemistry he’d had in years with a
Domme?!  It made absolutely no sense and yet there it was.  Which
pretty much explained his preoccupation with her and his very deeply hidden
hope that maybe she had her inclinations wrong.  That did happen,
especially with people who were new to the scene.  Just look at Stephanie and
her insistence that she was a masochist when she was the farthest thing from.

Trying to overcome his
distraction, he finished out the Introduction scene with a light spanking for
Stephanie and giving her an orgasm with a vibrator.  He was somewhat aroused,
but more because he kept fantasizing rather than focusing on the woman at
hand.  They just didn’t have the kind of connection that he wanted, even when
it came to a play partner for more than one night.

So when she tried to flirt with
him before leaving, he gently but firmly let her know that while he was happy
to be a Dominant for her as she explored her boundaries, he’d be introducing
her to other Doms who would suit her.  The disappointment on her face wasn’t
very deep, but he still made a mental note to make sure to introduce her around
the club before she could get too attached to him.  There was always the risk
of inexperienced players misinterpreting the intensity of the scene for
intensity of emotion.

As he was seeing Stephanie out he saw Olivia
at the bar and motioned to her that he’d be there to talk in a moment. 

“Tough night?” The sultry redhead asked when
he sat down on the barstool next to her with a heavy sigh.

For a moment he just looked his friend over. 
She was gorgeous, with that flaming red hair and eyes that shifted from grey to
blue, flawless skin that a Dom who didn’t know better might dream about
whipping, and had all the requirements that he’d want in a woman (other than
being submissive in the bedroom) and yet he’d never had a lick of attraction to
her.  Because they just didn’t mesh that way, so the issue of sexual attraction
never came up.  So why with Mistress Angela?

“That bad?”

“No,” he said, shaking his head and pushing
his recent obsession away.  He needed to get a grip on himself.  “It wasn’t
terrible, she just didn’t want to admit that she wasn’t a masochist.”

Olivia snorted, glaring at him as she grabbed
for napkins.  “Don’t say things like that while I’m drinking.  So what finally
convinced her?”

He smiled.  “I gave her a bit of a ‘come to
Jesus’ lecture, she was pretty determined.”

“Lucky she didn’t end up with Andrew or me
then.”  Amusement quirked Olivia’s full lips.  Andrew might have taken
Stephanie at her word and gone right into something painful before realizing
his mistake, Olivia would have done something similar to Adam but without the
lecture.  She was a big believer in letting people come to their own
conclusions and considering how stubborn Stephanie had been…

Ouch.

“Is Jared still here?” he asked.  The big Dom
had been replaced at his post by the door by Patrick, who had looked so surly
that Adam had bothered to do more than nod at him while he’d sent Stephanie on
her way.

“No.”  Olivia’s voice was sour as she took
another sip of her drink.  “Truckstop decided to tell him that she’s going on
yet another whirl-wind adventure to find herself, which resulted in them having
an argument, which resulted in Patrick sending Jared home so they could ‘work
things out.’”

“Ah.”

Not much to work out there.  Marissa didn’t
seem to like staying in one place and was constantly taking short-term out of
state and out of country jobs to try and ‘find herself.’  A task which
apparently usually involved having an open relationship with Jared so that she
could try to ‘make sure’ he was the right man for her – which obviously she
couldn’t do unless she tested out other men.

A little smile played on Olivia’s face,
surprising Adam.  He raised his eyebrow at her.

“That’s not why Patrick’s so grumpy though.”

“It’s not?”  He was surprised, the circumstances
surrounding Jared and Marissa’s relationship (if it could even be called that)
was normally more than enough to make any of their group pissy.  Olivia’s
statement and amusement intrigued him.

Her smile broadened, her eyes sparkling blue
with good humor.  “Nope.  Lexie called in to get Amy’s number so see if she
could cover for Lexie this Saturday.”

“So?”

“Apparently Lexie has a date.”

Adam was about to ask “so?” again before a
number of factors suddenly collided in his mind with several observations that
he’d made over the past few months.  His mouth opened, closed and then a little
smile curved his lips as well.  “Interesting.”

“I certainly thought so.”

“Do you think anything’s going on there?”

“No, Patrick promised Jake that he’d take
care of Lexie.  And so he will.”  Olivia’s lips quirked.  “Even if it kills
him.  And I don’t think he’d be open to alternate interpretations of ‘take care
of’ even if part of him wants to be.”

“Should be interesting to watch.”

“Nearly as interesting as watching you pine
away over a Domme?”

Adam groaned and then glared.  He’d almost
managed to forget about Mistress Angela for a few minutes.  “I’m not pining
away.”

“You’re not acting like yourself either. 
What happened to being more open-minded about the submissives in the club?  You
know that Patrick’s trying to play match-maker, putting you, Andrew and me in
charge of the majority of the Introduction Scenes, but you barely glanced at
the sub that you had tonight.  What was wrong with her?”

“Andrew’s never going to go for a newbie.” 
Not after what happened when he tried to introduce his now ex-girlfriend to the
scene.  The scars from that were still affecting him today.

“You know that, I know that, even Patrick
knows that, but I think he’s hoping that pushing Andrew will at least force him
to confront his issues.  Now stop avoiding the question.”

“We just didn’t have any connection. 
Chemistry.  Whatever you want to call it.”  Stephanie had been perfectly nice,
but he just hadn’t felt an interest.  He glowered at Olivia, not particularly
enjoying having his own issues questioned.  He knew very well that his friends
considered him too picky, but he was actively looking now.  Really.

“Sometimes you have to let that grow.”

And sometimes it was just instant.  The way
it had been with Mistress Angela. 

Dammit.  Maybe he should go see her show this
weekend.  See if that chemistry was still there or if he had just imagined it. 
Maybe he was just building it up to something bigger than it was in his head.

“Ouch!”  He glared at Olivia as he rubbed his
side where she’d poked him.  Hard.

“What were you just thinking about?” she
demanded.

“My plans for the weekend,” he snapped back.

Olivia rolled her eyes.  The sparkling blue
was slowly fading to a more neutral grey.  “Please tell me you are not going
back to Chained.”

“No,” he said.  They sat in silence for a
moment because she knew him well enough to know that there was more he wasn’t
saying.  Adam sighed.  Out of all of his friends he was most comfortable
talking about women with Olivia.  Not just because she was one, but because if
he asked her not to tell anyone about their conversation she wouldn’t.  The
rest might say they wouldn’t, but eventually they’d either forget that they
weren’t supposed to or they’d have a couple of drinks and tell someone else in
confidence, and then it would spread around to everyone.  He was guilty of the
same thing so he didn’t get mad at them for it, but everyone knew that Olivia
was really the only one to safely tell anything.

She hadn’t even divulged that Justin and
Chris had gone back to instruct at the Venus School because they’d been going
after Jessica.  That had come as a rather big surprise when the duo had come
home. 

“Angela told me about a play that she’s in at
a community theater.  It opens this weekend.”

“You’re going to drive to Virginia to see
community theater?”

“Nope.  The theater is about twenty minutes
away from where I live.”

“Hmmm.”  Olivia put her empty glass down on
the bar and shook her head when Lisa came by and asked if she wanted another
one.  Adam continued to nurse his drink.  “Why do you want to see her again so
badly?  I’m not going to condone you pushing a possible Domme into trying out
being submissive just because she’s new to the scene and you’re a lot more
overpowering than you realize.”

If Olivia had been anyone else, Adam would never
admit his conflicted feelings.  But when Olivia wasn’t being a pain in the ass
and mocking him, she was one of the most comforting and emotionally astute
people he knew.  “I want to know if the chemistry I felt with her is real.  I
want to know why I’m attracted to a Domme.  I want to know if she
is
a
Domme or if she’s just attracted to the scene and isn’t aware of her true
inclinations.”

“And you’re hoping that she’s wrong about her
inclinations and is actually submissive,” Olivia said drily.  He didn’t
respond, knowing that she was going to be a little pissy about that aspect of
it.  While she knew that none of their group of friends were the type who
thought that women should automatically be submissive, men like that did exist
and Olivia’d had to deal with a few jackasses like that in the past.  It made
her rather touchy on the subject.  So he just let her think things over until
she was ready to say something.  “Tell you what.  Don’t go this weekend.  Come
here, talk to some of the subs.  If, next week, you are still feeling hung up
on
Mistress
Angela, then I will go see her play with you.”

“And you won’t tell any of the guys?”  He
knew he sounded insecure and needy asking, but he just had to confirm.

“I won’t tell any of the guys.”

“Thank you.”

“I do, however, reserve the right to mock you
relentlessly in private.”

Adam sighed.  “Of course you do.”

Chapter 5

“This is
The Gift of Fear
by Gavin De Becker,” Angel said, holding up her personal and very worn copy of
the book.  “I want all of you to go out and get a copy as soon as you can
or borrow it from the library, read it online… whatever.  If you need to,
you can borrow a copy from me, I have about five extra ones, but if you don’t
return them to me by the end of the semester then I will hunt you down and all
the self-defense skills I teach you won’t be enough to help you.”  She
grinned at the class of mostly young women who tittered a little bit at her
joke.

Teaching these classes tended to
be the hardest for her; the ones done in community centers or at her parents’
dance studio usually had a broad mix of women, many of whom were coming from
places of experience.  They knew the value of what she was teaching. 
It hurt to know that they’d had those bad experiences, but at least she knew
that what she was teaching them was going to help protect them in the
future.  Here, at a community college, she couldn’t always be sure. 
The majority of these girls were under 21 years old, they had just hit a
seriously dangerous period of their development, and they didn’t even realize
it. 

The worst had been when, halfway
through a semester, a student came in with her smiles and sparkling eyes gone
and a sudden and violent need for what Angel was teaching.  Fortunately
the school had counseling services, which she could recommend, but it never
stopped her pain at having to deal with situations like that.  

"What this book will talk
about, and what we'll discuss in class, has a lot to do with awareness.
 It's about not putting yourself into a dangerous situation, about being
aware of when you are and about not putting your guard down.  There are
tons of little things that you can do, with your day to day life, to make
yourself safer; oftentimes they're not even things that we think about."
 Angel looked around the room at the cheerful faces in front of her.
 "Raise your hands: how many of you, when you first get into your
car, take the time to check your hair or your make-up or your cell phone?"

Every girl in the room raised her
hand and Angel nodded.

"When you first get into
your car is one of the most dangerous times for a woman if she's being followed
or targeted.  We aren't paying attention to our surroundings, we're
distracted and concentrating on other things, and meanwhile we're sitting
ducks.  I'm willing to bet that most of you don't even lock your doors
while you're sitting there."  The expressions on all of their faces
were sliding into seriousness, which relieved her.  Sometimes the college
girls were liable to try and make a joke out of everything, it looked like this
class she actually had ones who were willing to think about their actions,
which made everything easier.  "This class isn't just about punches
and kicks, it's also about raising your awareness in your day to day
life."

One of the students, a serious
faced blonde who had been frowning almost as soon as Angel had begun speaking,
raised her hand.  "Miss Jones?  You make it sound like we should
always be worrying that someone's out to get us."

"Not worry, no," Angel
shook her head, feeling her pony tail bobbing behind her.  "But it's
good to always have a general state of awareness, to know in the back of your
head that bad things sometimes happen to good people.  This shouldn't make
you frightened or stop you from doing the things that you want to do, it should
just be an added factor to your life.  For example, I'm going to assume
that most of you have been to a party on campus."  The majority of
them nodded their heads.  "While you're there, I
hope
 you're
retaining your awareness of where your drink is at all times and that you don't
accept a drink from someone you don't know.  Roofies are something that
women didn't used to have to worry about, but now they are and it's, hopefully,
second nature to all of us to be cautious about what we drink when we're in
that kind of situation."

The example was getting a lot of
thoughtful nodding, a small revelation dawning on more than one face.
 Angel smiled.  Thankfully she'd learned a lot since the first time
she'd taught a class to college age girls, not that it had been that long ago
since
she'd
 been one, but they did require slightly different
handling from her classes where the ages were more mixed.  There the
younger women could usually be expected to take their tone from the older
women; for the college classes Angel usually had to impress the seriousness of
what she was saying during the first couple of classes.

"We'll talk more about this
every class, especially once you all start reading.  I'm not going to
assign a certain amount of reading, but if you can try to read a chapter a week
that would be great.  Again, I'm not assigning this book for the class but
because I truly think it can help you."  She allowed her expression
to show the earnestness that she felt.  "Okay... now let's stand up
and we're going to start stretching before we put on the gloves."

Leading the class through the
stretches and then the basic punches and blocks that always comprised the first
lesson, she couldn't help but laugh at the enthusiasm some of the students were
showing.  Since they had gloves on their hands and the blockers had pads
that they were holding up there was no danger of anyone hurting
themselves. 

"Remember," she called
over the shouts and grunts.  "Yell 'NO' as loud as you can every
time!"

"NO!  NO!  NO!"
 The girls chanted as they punched.  

"Remember, punch from the
waist," Angel advised one of the girls.  "You're still punching
from your shoulder, you want to get your whole body into it... Good!"  The
blocker staggered a little under the force of the punch and the girl squealed
and jumped.  Angel laughed.  "Just don't forget to say No!"

She spent the rest of the class
directing them on technique, going through one by one to watch their punches
and blocks and giving them tips.  Most of them were having a good time,
enjoying both the exercise and the liberty to be so violently physical, and
some of them were very serious about it.  Angel didn't mind enthusiasm or
enjoyment, as long as none of them were apathetic.

******

After class Angel gathered her
things together, hurrying out the door.  She was supposed to be meeting Q
for lunch since his job was so close to the college.  Checking her phone
she made a face as she saw that she had a missed call from her mom and no
voicemail.  If her mom was just calling to chat then she'd leave a lengthy
and detailed messaged; if her mom needed something then she wouldn't leave a
message at all, she'd just expect Angel to call back and found out what it was.

The system didn't make any sense
to her, but at this point in her life she was used to it.  As she walked
out of the gym building she hit the re-dial button. 

"Angel!
 Sweetheart!"

"Hi Mom, what do you
need?"

"Oh you know me so
well," her mother said with a cheerful laugh.  "Are you free
this Saturday?"

"My show opens this
weekend."

"Oh I know sweetheart, I
meant during the day.  Robert's great-uncle passed away and he has to go
home for the funeral, we need someone to cover his Beginner waltz, tango and
swing classes."

Angel made a face because she
already knew she was going to say yes even though she preferred having nothing
going on during the day when she had a show.  She'd been looking forward
to a Saturday of doing nothing; her tentative plans had included laundry,
baking some cookies for the cast and possibly playing video games with her
roommates.  It had been a while since she'd had the opportunity to kick
any of their asses since they'd been wrapped up in their latest computer game,
but the past couple of days they'd been coming up for air more often so she had
hopes they were about to join the world of the living again. 

But her parents needed her help
and Robert deserved to be able to attend a family funeral without worrying that
his absence was causing an undue burden on anyone. 

"Yeah mom, no problem.
 Tell Robert I'm sorry to hear about his great-uncle."

"I will dear... thank you so
much.  Will you be over for dinner at all this week?"

"No, we've got rehearsal
every night until the show opens on Friday."

"Okay sweetheart, well we'll
see you on Saturday then.  Maybe we can take you out after the matinee on
Sunday?"

"That sounds good Mom,
thanks."

Because her parents owned a dance
studio where her mom did a large chunk of the teaching their schedules didn't
allow them to come to come to any of her opening nights.  They always had
class and a social dance on Fridays.  Sometimes they came to see her on
Saturdays but this weekend her Dad was going to be out of town running a winter
camping survival program for the nature center he worked at, which was why her
mother had to call her.  Normally they didn't ask her to cover classes
when she was in a show, but sometimes it just couldn't be avoided.  

Sighing, she put her phone away
and went to her car before she did her customary glance around the parking lot
before getting in.  It was one of those little tricks that she'd been
telling her students about that had become second nature to her by now.  

******

Flush with victory, Angel bowed,
gripping the hands of the people on either side of her.  They were all
grinning like mad loons, humming with energy that was actually tangible.  

That was the effect of a
successful Opening Night lauded with applause at the end.

As soon as the curtain went down everyone
started cheering and hugging each other, thrilled with their success.  

"Clear the stage!
 Clear the stage!  Get out of your costumes and get out of
here!"

Angel laughed at the stage manager's
exasperated tone, but she and the other actors quickly got out of the way so
that the stagehands could break down what they needed to on the set so that
they
 could
leave as well.  Chances were they'd beat the cast to the Opening Night
party.  Although, of course, everyone would get held up when they left, as
they ran into the people they knew who were waiting for them out in the lobby.
 

Her roommates had come tonight,
her parents would be there on Saturday, and Leigh would be coming Friday night
next week with her mother and Michael.  Some of her other friends would
show up at one point or another, although none of them had confirmed what night
they'd be coming.  She didn't mind that because it meant she got a nice
surprise when they did show up. 

Quickly she scrubbed her face of
the worst of the make-up, managing to do so without streaking the eyeliner or
mascara, and changed into her regular clothing.  

"Where's the fire?"
teased Rhonda. 

Grinning, Angel picked up her
purse.  "The faster I change, the faster I can collect my friends,
the faster I can get to John's house and have a drink!"

Their director had offered up his
residence for the opening night party, which was brave of him since that was
usually the most raucous party.  It didn't seem to matter how old they
were, theater people were theater people and after a successful opening night
they wanted to stay up late talking, laughing and generally having a good time.
 Usually with a drink in hand.  Angel had been at cast parties that
had lasted until 4 or 5 in the morning with just a few hardcore hold-outs
sitting around chatting about inconsequentials. 

It had been an amazing day.
 Not only had they had a great opening night, but she'd received an email
back from Stronghold saying that her application for membership had been
accepted.  Unfortunately they wanted her to come in on a Thursday for a
look around the club and an "Introduction Scene" where she'd meet one
of the Doms and test out whether or not BDSM was really for her, and she had a
pick-up rehearsal next Thursday before the weekend's shows so she had to wait a
week and a half before she could go... but just knowing that it was coming up
made her incredibly excited.  A week and a half really wasn't so long to
wait, especially since she knew she'd be able to keep herself busy between now
and then.

Too bad she didn't have any
rehearsals other than on Thursday next week, but she could always find other
things to do.  And hopefully going to Stronghold would help erase the
piercing blue eyes that were popping up so often and so inconveniently in her
head.  She needed someone new to focus her fantasies on.

******

"You're not even trying," Olivia
complained.  "You've barely talked to a single sub all night!"

Adam gritted his teeth and did his best to
ignore her.  At least she was complaining quietly where none of their
other friends could hear her.  So what if he hadn't played with any of the
subs?  He'd chatted with several of them and had known pretty quickly that
he wasn't in the mood to do anything with any of them.  

Ever since Olivia had promised to go see
Mistress Angela's show with him next week he hadn't been able to get that woman
out of his mind.  Not that he'd been very successful at it beforehand.
 

BOOK: Stronghold (Stronghold 1)
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