Damon Steele arrived at Pleasure Manor in a mood as foul as the mansion was grand. Another night haunted by the echoing volley of gunfire, screams of men in pain along with images of torn bodies left him edgy and unfit for polite company. He gripped the steering wheel hard enough to turn his knuckles white. He should just keep going, follow the circular drive past the house, head right back down the long, tree-lined driveway, and return home to his depressing studio apartment where he could wallow in misery. Because he wanted to run, hide, and be alone, he forced himself to park. Bryce Langston, a fellow SEAL and Dom, seldom asked for help, so Damon had driven almost three hours to his friend’s country estate.
He stepped out of his truck. The muscle in his left thigh twisted into a tight knot. “Shit.” He wheezed out a breath and would have landed on his ass had he not grabbed on to the open door and clung like a man holding on to a floatation device. Breathing deep, he leaned back, half sitting and half standing. “Should’ve taken the billionaire up on his offer to send the limo.” His injury didn’t do so well with long bouts in a car, but he’d figured the drive might hold at bay the nightmare that claimed most of his waking moments and all his nights.
He sucked in air as he stretched his left leg and massaged his thigh, breathing through the painful spasm. The breeze drifted through the trees and swiped across his sweaty brow, the cool hand of a concerned mother checking her child for fever.
His lips twisted. He didn’t remember his mother’s touch, her voice, or even what she looked like. At age three, he’d been left to the mercy of the state. He’d had many mothers after that, some good, most who took him in for the money. He’d had a nice family once until a new baby arrived and he’d found himself once again on that never-ending circuit of one foster home after another.
The memories of the boy segued into the nightmare that stalked him day and night—his men trapped, dying, and him unable to save them and get them out.
He’d been forced to leave them, his brothers in his military family, same as every mother, real or foster, had tossed him aside. The sharp pain in his thigh eased, and before the past could yank him back into the black pit his life had become, he clamped down on his emotions and feelings and stood, refusing to wallow or fall.
Limping more than normal due to muscle spasms and exhaustion, he climbed the steps. A plaque to one side of the dark, double doors proclaimed the residence to be Pleasure Manor. He lifted the large doorknocker. It fell with a resounding crash against the steel plate. The door opened. A butler in black bowed.
“Welcome, Master Steele.”
“Hastings.” Damon stepped into a grand foyer and took in the sparkling chandelier, antique furniture, slick marble floor, and a floral arrangement a good four feet tall that graced a gleaming cherrywood table. Wishing he’d brought his cane, he followed the butler. Pride refused to let him use that crutch. He entered a book-lined library where a fire popped and crackled. The warmth of the room wrapped around him with the comfort of an old, worn quilt while the quiet elegance soothed his jangled nerves.
“Master Steele,” Hastings announced him.
Bryce rose from a long, dark table dotted with files, maps, and paper. He strode forward, hand outstretched. The two men shook. “Good to see you, Damon. I appreciate you coming here. Glorie and I have a meeting here in less than an hour, one we hope you’ll stay and join.”
“Always a pleasure to visit your little cottage in the country.” His tone was facetious as the place was a huge mansion complete with turrets and impressive grounds, which included woods and real cottages.
He bowed to the dark-haired woman seated at the table. “Mistress.” He gave Glorie Amadori the title she deserved. Her formidable reputation as a Domme and powerful businesswoman intimidated most men, even other Doms.
She inclined her head. “How are you, Damon?”
“Surviving.” That one word summed up the last few years of his life. He glanced away. The woman had the uncanny ability to see deep into a person’s soul, and he was far too vulnerable at the moment. He lowered himself into a leather chair, grateful to be off his aching leg. Hastings set a thick mug of coffee in front of him, then left the room.
“What’s up?” He eyed the pair of Doms.
“Need a favor.” Bryce shifted papers and folders.
Damon stretched out his legs. He had a good idea what his old pal needed or wanted. “You want me to take part in one of your events.”
“Yes. I need another Dom for a three-day event coming up.”
He lifted the mug of coffee. “Don’t tell me there isn’t anyone willing?” An invitation to Bryce’s mansion was an honor. Damon couldn’t see very many Doms refusing a weekend of role-play.
Bryce chuckled. “Got a waiting list a mile long, but this sub is new. I need someone I can trust with this one.”
Surprised, Damon regarded his friends. “You’re allowing newbies?”
“There are several this time, including my sub.”
Damon nudged his half-empty coffee aside and lifted a brow. “You’re participating?” His friend hadn’t taken part in his own events since losing his beloved wife to cancer.
“Yeah.” Though Bryce’s voice was matter-of-fact, there was a grim set to his mouth and his teal-colored eyes hardened.
Damon sensed there was more to it than just taking on a new sub, but he didn’t ask. “Much as I’d like to help you out, I can’t.” He had a rule—no overnighters. Since his injury, he hadn’t slept with a woman. Enjoy a night of sex, yes, but sleep, no.
Bryce picked up a file and tapped it on the corner of the table. “When are you going to forgive yourself? What happened to your men wasn’t your fault.”
Damon jumped to his feet, then hissed as pain shot through his thigh. “Fuck that. I was their commanding officer, and I left them behind.”
Standing, Bryce glared at him. “Hell with that. You were under heavy fire. That shell took out your entire team. Had they not pulled you out, you’d have died.”
Thinking of the widows and their children brought guilt and grief to the forefront. “It should have been me,” he ground out. “Mike, Eric, Robert, and Manny had families. Should have ordered them to go. To save themselves. They came back for me. They came back and died.” He’d never forget the blast that shook the ground, the shrapnel, and the screaming.
“Bullshit. The blame lies with the enemy, not you. It’s a risk every SEAL, hell, every soldier takes when we swear an oath to our country.”
“Yeah, but you got yourself and your men out.” He and Bryce met in the service, trained as SEALs and went on several missions together before each commanded their own group of well-trained men sent into hot spots wherever and whenever needed. Bryce had walked away at the end of his time while Damon reenlisted. He’d served twelve selfless years just to be given the boot. A fist slammed on the table.
“Fuck it, Damon. You didn’t fail. Someday you’ll realize that and quit kicking yourself in the ass.”
“Enough.” Glorie’s quiet but authoritative voice broke through the air of thick emotion. “Time is ticking. The others will be here soon.”
Bryce snagged a folder from his desk and removed a photograph, which he handed to Damon. “This is Caitlin Olsen.” He tossed the file onto the table. It slid across, stopped falling over the edge by the mug.
Damon stared at a close-up of a brown-haired woman sitting on horseback. His breath caught in his throat. She glanced over her shoulder at him as though he’d just called her name. Humor brightened her lively, golden eyes, and her mouth curved in a wide smile. For an instant, there was just the two of them sharing a warm, happy, private moment.
She sat in the saddle, her posture straight and commanding, head high, telling him she was a woman in charge and in control and used to issuing orders and having them obeyed. She held the reins in one gloved hand while the other was frozen in mid-stroke on the horse’s neck.
Gentle strength. What would it feel like to have those hands touching him, her eyes on him as though he were the only person in her world? He shook off the crazy notion, yet he couldn’t glance away.
Her humor and love of life mesmerized him, but beneath it all, her gaze was deep and penetrating. This woman didn’t miss much. His fingers tightened on the photo, and he resisted the urge to trace her features with his finger. He needed to see her, longed to hear her laughter and surround himself with her earthy beauty and vitality.
Damon stumbled back and dropped into his chair. “I don’t work with new subs. You know that.” God, but he wanted this one.
Bryce resumed his seat. “Caitlin’s had a tough time of it. Raised two younger siblings while caring for her mother who had MS. Glorie and I have each interviewed her. She owns a horse ranch. She’s strong-willed, used to being in charge.”
Damon set the photo onto the table, yet he couldn’t tear his eyes from hers. “Sounds like she’s more Domme than sub.”
“Or a woman who yearns to give up control in one area of her life,” Glorie put in. “The theme for the three day event is Fairytales.” She grinned and added, “Fairytales your mother never read you. If you agree to partner Caitlin, she’ll be Belle.”
He lifted a brow. “Who is Belle?”
Bryce laughed. “Need to freshen up on your bedtime stories, bro. Belle from Beauty and the Beast.”
For a long moment, Damon held his friend’s gaze, aware of the ironic mirroring of his life to that fairytale. His glanced back at the photo. Shit. She was definitely a beauty, and he himself was pretty beastly these days, a wounded war hero according to government. Curious despite himself, he grabbed his cooling coffee and snagged the folder. He took a sip and opened the file. And choked as he swallowed.
A picture of Caitlin, wearing a skimpy bustier, greeted him. “Fuck!” His breath caught in his throat as he stared at a much different image of her. She was leaning against a tall bedpost, hands over her head, wrists tied with a scarf. Her tits were bare, the nipples a deep, rosy red and puckered, begging for a man to suck and lick. But what had his heart pounding and his dick stirring was the way she rested one foot on the bed, revealing her dark mound with just a hint of pink showing.
“Damn.” His gaze shifted from her body to her face. The pose was supposed to be inviting, sexy and enticing, yet the uncertainty lurking in those large, expressive cat-like eyes spoke to a part of him he thought long dead.
Damon glanced from Bryce to Glorie, then stared at Caitlin Olsen. It’d be a cold day in hell before he allowed another Dom to introduce her to the BDSM lifestyle.
Three weeks later
“Caitlin Olsen, what the hell are you doing?” Caitie stared at herself in the mirror. She wore a low cut blue dress with a white apron and matching blue and white feathered mask. The woman staring back at her was a stranger. She was dressed as though she were on her way to a Halloween party, except she’d never wear anything so revealing in public.
The fabric of the dress was practically sheer. Thank god for the apron in the front, but there was no hiding her dark, pouty tips. If that wasn’t bad enough, the bodice was so low, if she sneezed, her girls would bounce right out. She tugged at the elastic neckline, tried to tuck herself in more securely, but the design was meant to reveal, not cover.
She bit her lower lip and whirled around in front of the mirror to eye the back of her dress. The points of the handkerchief hem swirled just below her ass. In the bright light, she could see the outline of her butt. Per instructions, she wore no bra. She flushed. And no panties. “Shit. Hope you don’t have to bend over, Caitie-girl.”
From a pocket in her apron, she drew a thick, creamy-yellow invitation. A banner style logo stretched across the top. In the center, an embossed, metallic blue castle gleamed with the words The Kingdom of Dom in a fancy, swirly script. She scanned the invite.
You are hereby invited to Pleasure Manor for a weekend of pure pleasure.
Pure pleasure. She shivered with anticipation. She was thirty, yet she was as excited as a horny teen. Sex hadn’t been part of her life for far too many years. She’d been too busy raising her much younger siblings and caring for her invalid mother. Now she was on her own.
She didn’t have time to date, and online dating services weren’t for her. Too risky. Besides, her ranch, For the Love of Horses, took most of her time and energy. She had her pick of men. One couldn’t own a ranch without lots of hunky, brawny men to help work it, but she had a rule. No sex with the hired hands, no matter how good-looking. Too many complications. She’d learned that miserable lesson the hard way. So she’d allowed her friend to talk her into trying a weekend BDSM role-play.
Sydney St. Claire
With a complete stranger.
She let out a groan.
A stranger. What had she been thinking?
No strings. No emotional involvements. No jealousy and no tantrums.
Her last boyfriend had worked for her and had been jealous of the men on the ranch, yet any time they went to a bar, he’d flirt outrageously with the waitresses and barmaids. She’d lost too many hired hands due to fights and threats before she’d broken up with Larry and kicked his two-timing ass off her ranch.
And now, here she was in a mansion called Pleasure Manor where orgasms were handed out like candy on Halloween, according to her good friend. It wasn’t Halloween, but the event had sounded like fun, so here she was, eager to gather a bagful of goodies. Except she was hiding in the ladies’ lounge with her second thoughts.
She studied her costume. For the next three days, if she didn’t chicken out, she was Belle. But who was the Beast she’d agreed to submit to in return for sex?
She laughed. No one who knew her would ever call her a submissive woman. She wasn’t some wimp eager to play doormat to any man, nor was she the type to jump into bed with a stranger. Lord knew, she hated bar hopping with her friend Maize. She shuddered. Too many slimy creeps out there. So what was she doing here?
Both Bryce and Glorie, the host and hostess of the event had suggested that she had a deep, inner need to be submissive, to give up control in one
Beauty Submits to Her Beast
area of her life. She rolled her eyes as she finger-combed her hair. She didn’t think so, yet she’d agreed to submit to this man as though she were his sex slave.
“Sex. Slave.” A hum of desire swam through her bloodstream like an alligator sliding into the river to hunt prey. Since signing up for the event, she’d had lots of fantasies of her dream hunk driving her wild and giving her one orgasm after another. An arrow of lust set off the throbbing deep in her center. Damn, she was wet just thinking about it.
The door to the lounge opened. A woman in a black uniform with a white apron poked her head inside. “Hey, you’d better get in there with the others.”
Caitie whirled around, relieved to see her friend. “Good God, Maize,” she said. “I must have been crazy to let you talk me into this? I don’t know anything about this BDSM stuff. Or being submissive.”
Not beyond what she’d researched on-line. She pressed her fist into her stomach to still the sick, panicking feeling welling up inside. “I’ve never even read Fifty Shades of Grey.” But listening to her friend go on and on about how wonderful it was to hand over control to a man and get pleasured in returned made her long to experience what Maize referred to as the incredible and never-ending weekend of orgasms.
Maize flounced into the room, her short, black skirt bouncing. “You’ll love it, Caitie. Give your Dom a chance. Just think about the wild and kinky
Sydney St. Claire
sex and lots and lots of delicious orgasms.”
Pacing, Caitie chewed her lower lip. “It’s the kinky sex I’m worried about.” She whirled around. “I don’t know this guy, not even his name.”
The maid grinned. “Identities are protected. That’s why everyone wears masks.”
“You’re not wearing a mask.”
She giggled. “That’s ’cause I’m part of the staff.”
Caitie narrowed her eyes, stepped back, and crossed her arms, then groaned when one breast popped out of her top. She adjusted the neckline. “Why aren’t you participating if this is so much fun?”
Maize preened in front of the mirror. “Who said I’m not?” She wagged her brows. “Have you any idea what pleasures that butler can give an innocent maid in the pantry, girlfriend?”
She held up her hand. “Don’t tell me. Don’t need to know.”
“Come on. You best join the others.”
With one last glance in the mirror, Caitie followed Maize to a formal parlor.
“Have fun, Belle.” Her friend closed the door behind her.