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Her Country Master: The Dungeon Fantasy Club, Book Five

By: Anya Summers
Published By: Blushing Edge
Copyright: © 2016 Blushing Books® and Anya Summers
13 Chapters / 55,000 words
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Elise Beauregard is a wedding dress designer on the verge of a total career meltdown, thanks to a particularly vicious former client. Her best friend Kara encourages her to explore the BDSM lifestyle at the Dungeon Fantasy Club in Manhattan. She’s definitely intrigued by what she sees, but unsure how to begin.

When she is hired to design the gown for the club owner's fiancée, Elise is elated. This could be the opportunity she’s been waiting for. If she gets this dress right, her career might just be saved after all.

Tyler Jenson is a billionaire rancher and Dom. His ranch on the Kansas - Colorado border is one of the first in the state to adopt clean, sustainable energy technology. His other passion is the D/s lifestyle. He is a hedonist, and he craves a woman's submission in order to feel complete. When he receives a wedding invitation from his best friend Declan, he's only too delighted to accept.

After a scorching night with Elise, Tyler recognizes she might just be the girl for him. He can only hope she feels the same way. But Elise has other things on her mind. Not only is she in Scotland to design the most important wedding gown of her career, she also harbors a dark and painful secret that prevents her from getting close to any man.

 

Publisher's Note: Her Country Master is the fifth book in Anya Summers' best-selling Dungeon Fantasy Club series – however, like all the rest, it can be read as a standalone.

Disclaimer: This book contains explicit scenes including anal play, spanking, and other BDSM elements. If such material offends you, please do not purchase.

Chapter One

 

Failureshrouded her every footstep.

The weight of it. The inevitability of being exposed as a fraud. That, when it came down to it, Elise didn't measure up. It was unavoidable. What should have been the trip of a lifetime was instead a last ditch effort on Elise's part to keep her fledgling company afloat. When the review of her upcoming spring bridal dress line hit the stands in two weeks, Elise's company, Bridal Reflections, already struggling and on life support, would be finished. The premiere fashion critic, Vicki Shaw, had all but eviscerated Elise's latest line with her critique.

Elise wouldn't even know about the horrid review if it weren't for the fact that Miss Shaw delighted in tanking designers' careers, and had emailed her a copy of her review that would appear in the latest Bridal Designs Magazine—January issue. Elise had two weeks before the bottom fell out in her life. Two weeks before everything she'd scrimped, saved, and bled for came to a grinding halt. Two weeks before she'd have to decide whether staying in New York was the right move on her part, or whether she'd have to leave a city she'd come to consider her home. To go where, she had no clue, back to her folks' place in Kentucky, perhaps.

She cringed at the thought.

There was no guidebook for how she should handle this situation. If she moved back home to Kentucky—her stomach did a loop-the-loop at the mere thought of that—her overhead costs would shrink considerably, but she would no longer be on top of the pulse of the fashion industry. There'd be other costs she'd incur for shipping her fabric and supplies a third of the way across the country instead of across the city, but after this review, she'd be lucky to have her line picked up by a department store, let alone any bridal shop.

Oh, she smiled and put on a brave face, like she was doing now with the devilishly handsome butler, Jared, who had been sent to retrieve her at the Inverness airport. The man made her think of Braveheart with his brawny, testosterone-laden build. It made her wonder what he looked like in a kilt.

Her latest client, the billionaire mogul, Declan McDougal, had sent his private jet to fetch her in New York. She had been hired to design the perfect custom wedding gown for his fiancée Zoey. With her company on the line, Elise knew that if she made one wrong move on her part with the McDougal wedding gown, she was toast. There would be no coming back from it, no chance of resurrecting her career. Which was already hooked up to life support.

Elise mumbled her thanks to Jared as he loaded her entourage of supplies into a van.

"What's in all these bags?" Jared huffed as he loaded up box after box, trunks that were stuffed to the brim and quite heavy. She prayed it would all fit. If she needed to, she'd wait with any remaining boxes if he had to cart it to the manor in shifts.

"Dress material." Her forced grin felt sharp upon her face, with her lips stretched almost to the point of cracking. Even to herself, her smile seemed brittle and far too forced. But she couldn't help it. Even faking it the way she was now, she couldn't seem to feel the excitement that should be there at the chance to design the wedding gown for such a mogul. This was the opportunity of a lifetime her best friend, Kara Lowe, had helped to engineer. Most people would be overjoyed at the chance, whereas all she could seem to drum up was a mild excitement. Hell, the way the butler looked, she should be down on her knees and thanking whatever god would listen for such a fine specimen of manhood being at her disposal. Granted, Kara had given Elise the scoop on the manor, the butler, and even the BDSM club located in the bowels of the place. If she weren't so stressed, she might actually be enjoying herself.

Instead, she just felt dead inside, as though nothing and no one really fazed her. Elise had been working eighty plus hours a week for more than three years. Already suffering from major burnout, and then to have all her efforts and sacrifices boil down to a dismal failure, she had no words, no thoughts, other than despair. It had actually hurt, a sharp stabbing pain in her chest, to see Kara completely blissed out with her two men. And it made Elise feel like a horrible friend that she couldn't do more than pretend to be happy for her, when everything in Elise's life seemed to be imploding.

Jared, bless the man, instead of leaving her at the airport with the remainder of her boxes—which weren't going to fit inside the van no matter how much rearranging he did—took it upon himself to hire an extra cab to cart all of her boxes to the manor house. When the van and cab were stuffed to the brim with her boxes and luggage, Elise grudgingly climbed shotgun into the cab with a small sigh. At least she wouldn't have to make more than small talk with the cab driver. She had a feeling the butler would have wanted more engagement from her, and this small escape was a luxury. This way, she could use the next hour to prepare herself for the manor and her first face-to-face meeting with Zoey Mills and Declan McDougal.

In a market fraught with competition, Elise had held her own, even being crowned 'a designer to watch' in the first year of business when she'd begun her company three years ago. Elise loved creating unique wedding gowns. She was good at it, too. She knew that. So did the vast majority of her clients. Everything had been sailing along smoothly; she'd been considering expanding and taking on help to meet the increasing demands for her work. And that was when life had hit her with a double whammy.

Last February, Elise had been hired to create a gown for one of Manhattan's elite; one Mindy Stone, when Elise and the bridezilla, who Elise was convinced had been spawned in the fiery pits of some hell dimension, had run into major creative differences. Elise refused to design the gaudy trash the bride had wanted. After multiple designs and a partial refund they parted ways, but it had not ended there, as it should have. The bridezilla had set out on a vitriolic campaign to smear Elise's reputation. And it had worked.

Normally, Elise was made of stauncher stuff; in this industry, if you didn't have a gut full of iron, you were doomed from the start. However, thanks to Miss Stone's revenge crusade, Elise had begun losing clients left and right. It had escalated in the last two months to the point where Elise had recently spoken with an attorney about the possibility of filing a defamation lawsuit against the socialite. But because it was all hearsay, with no concrete evidence to convict the bridezilla of any wrongdoing, it would be an uphill and costly legal battle she'd likely lose in the end.

Elise was already struggling to pay her bills as it was because of the downturn in her sales. The terrifying part of it, which kept her from sleeping through the night—or getting any sleep at all for that matter if things didn't turn around fast—was that Elise had three months before she ran out of savings and would have to close up shop. This was why, when her best friend, Kara, had tossed her name into contention to design the billionaire mogul Declan McDougal's fiancée's gown, she had all but thrown herself at the project with every shred of creative genius still left in her fingers. Except Elise didn't know if it would be enough, if she would be enough, to make this one gown change the downward spiral of her fate.

Elise popped another Tums in her mouth. She'd taken to chewing on them like some people chewed gum. It was the only way she could combat the roiling acidic nerves in her stomach that had taken up residence in her body. She'd lost weight because of it. So basically she was sleep deprived and starving, her hip bones were starting to show, and her clothes hung off of her to the point where her doctor had run some bloodwork to make sure she wasn't ill.

She hadn't told Kara about the smear campaign. She was too embarrassed about it and had tried to hide it. Considering they swam in the same professional circles, hiding it from Kara had become a job in and of itself. Ridiculous, Elise knew. Kara was the best, and would do anything for her. But with everything going so well for Kara, it was harder to admit how messed up her own life had become. So she'd said nothing—although Elise realized her window of not discussing it with her best friend dwindled more each day. If Kara didn't hear about from her, likely Chase or Zeke would hear the industry chatter regarding the smear campaign before long. And then, when the review hit the stands in two weeks, it would be game over.

Elise knew she probably should ask Kara for help, see if there were a few more brides she could nudge her way, but Elise hated not being able to hack it on her own by the strength of her hard work and convictions. Unfathomably stupid on her part, but where she came from, you relied on yourself and didn't take handouts. That was her father's work ethic speaking in her ear. As much as she'd tried to get away from her upbringing, it hounded her every step.

Granted, if her Hail Mary Pass didn't work, Elise would find herself back on her folks' farm in Kentucky. She shuddered at the thought. She was an avowed city girl. Give her towering steel and concrete over cow and horse manure any day of the week. Most of her family couldn't understand why she'd lit out of her little Podunk town for college in the Big Apple. She had just always known she wanted more for her life. Not that there was anything wrong with country living, it just wasn't her first choice for where she wanted to live. Elise loved having conveniences at her fingertips. Driving thirty minutes or more just to go to the grocery store—or any other store, for that matter—was not her idea of a good time.

Country living was not for Elise, never had been, as much as she'd tried to fit in during high school. She'd always had a curious mind and a fascination with people, add in a dash of insatiable wanderlust and voilà: a handcrafted urbanite.

She loved that this trip added another stamp to her passport. After she'd graduated college, she'd had a three-month gap between the start of her internship and end of classes. Elise had used that time to backpack through much of Europe and never regretted it for a minute. She actually believed it was what made her so good at designing wedding gowns. Travel of any kind infused the brain with new ideas and ways of being. For her, the chance to stand inside the Basilica and in St. Peter's Square, meander through the Louvre, and walk along stone ramparts of a castle in Germany, had all expanded her scope and given her inspiration she'd been able to filter and channel into her designs.

Scotland was lovely. Even as the land changed into its winter coat, the rolling bleak hills and vales suited her mood perfectly. What surprised her most was the lack of trees. There were some, but the land was more open field with copses of trees that had already shed their finery and now stood like eerie, dark-silhouetted skeletons waving their bare branches in the breeze.

When the manor home came into view, it seemed to rise out of the earth like a bastion against time itself. Elise couldn't stop an involuntary shudder from sweeping along her spine. One man owned all of this. It reminded her, somewhat, of the great horse farming estates back home in Kentucky that sprawled for miles on end. To call a place like this home meant money was no object, and the power that was inherent from owning an estate of this magnitude meant that one false move on her part could end her career faster than any smear campaign or review.

Elise popped another Tums.

She could do this, get back in the batter's box and hit a home run with the bride's dress. It would put her company back on the upswing and lessen the blows from the nasty review and smear campaign. She just had to continue sewing a fabulous dress for the bride one stitch at a time.

The cab pulled alongside the van in the circular stone drive. Elise took a few steadying breaths before she exited the vehicle, hiding her trembling hands. She was about to enter the lion's den and she couldn't show fear. She would walk into that manor and appear fearless if it killed her. Elise had learned, swimming in the shark-infested waters of the industry in Manhattan, to never let people think for even a minute that she couldn't totally take them down. Regardless that she was a more of a pacifist and her inner workings could be rightly compared to a marshmallow rather than a steel forge.

"Let's get you inside out of the chill first, and then the cabbie and I will get all of your things, Miss Beauregard."

She nodded at Jared, her throat tight as she tried not to hyperventilate. She could do this. Elise repeated the litany in her brain. Faking it that she was calm and collected had become so ingrained, no one even saw beneath the exterior, not even Kara. Elise liked it that way, even though it was exhausting to maintain such a charade.

Elise followed Jared into the impressive foyer. Warmth enveloped her frame as they left the freezing outdoor temperatures. She absorbed the grandeur, spotting a few pieces that she knew she'd have to inspect closer. This place was incredible. And she was only in the foyer. My goodness, to live in such a place. As they moved further into the manor, the foyer opened up into a great hall of sorts, with soaring ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and a grand marble staircase that made Elise, with her Southern roots, think of the staircase in Gone With The Wind.

A beautiful blonde wearing a maid's uniform stopped at the sight of her and, more importantly, so did Jared. The woman's ice blue eyes caressed the butler, undressing him with her gaze. Elise actually felt uncomfortable at the blatant desire marring the maid's face.

"Sherry, be a good lass and take Miss Beauregard to Zoey." The butler's reaction, while warm, showed no signs of accepting the maid's obvious and blatant overture.

At his response, Sherry's face fell briefly, a mere flicker of indignation crossing her gaze. She recovered rapidly though, shifting into a congenial mask of pleasant indifference as she addressed Elise. "Right away. Come with me, Miss."

"Not to worry about your things, Miss Beauregard, I will get them all inside straight away and delivered to your room." Jared bowed his head with a slight nod in her direction as he started to dismiss her.

"Thank you. Before you send them all to my room, you are going to need my input first. Most of them are for Zoey's dress, and I would hate to have to move them more than once. Can I meet you back down here after I speak with Miss Mills, and then we can decide which trunk goes where?"

"Certainly. As you wish." Jared nodded again and left her with the maid.

"If you would follow me," Sherry murmured, with an underlying annoyance lacing her voice. The poor thing. It was obvious she'd been intimate with the butler at one time and that he no longer fancied her.

Elise fell into step behind her, absorbing the elegance of the manor. Everything was pristine and lovingly cared for. Wood paneling glistened with polish, the marble floors shone without a speck of dust to mar the perfection—in many ways, Elise felt like she was in a museum because of the obvious care given to the place.

They took the stairs to the second floor and strode down a long hallway toward a room at the end. And what a fabulous room it was, too. It was a library with a small dining area off to one side. Seated on a sofa, near an impressive hearth where a fire happily danced, chasing away the chill November morning, were the bride and groom to be.

Declan McDougal was a total hunk in that mouth-watering, he-can't-be-real, 'are you sure he's not photoshopped' type of way. The woman nestled next to him, holding a mug of ivory china in her hands to ward off the chill in the air, must be Zoey. They complemented each other perfectly, which was something you didn't always see when it came to a bride and groom. Where his form was all hard planes and angles, hers was softer, more rounded, and seem to fit him to a tee.

At her entrance, they both stood up, and Zoey approached her.

"Elise, it is so good to finally meet you in person," Zoey exclaimed, surprising Elise when she pulled her in for an embrace. Then she pulled back just as swiftly. "Sorry, I just feel like we already know each other, we've talked so much."

"Likewise," Elise replied. Some of the nerves galloping in her chest subsided a teensy bit at the warm welcome. It really would be okay. She'd ace this wedding dress with flying colors and be back in the game in no time.

"And this is my fiancé, Declan." Zoey gestured to the big hunk of a man, whom anyone could see was thoroughly and completely enamored with his fiancée.

It made her heart squeeze with envy. Elise had never had anyone love her that much. When it came to dating, she was defective, and when men discovered that deficiency, they tended to skedaddle for greener pastures. Jesus, she needed to get a grip. She'd been in Manhattan for a decade now but no matter how much she tried, her roots never went away. You could take the girl off the farm but never truly take the farm out of the girl.

She held out her hand, praising herself internally when it didn't tremble. "It's a pleasure to meet you both. Can I just say, your home is absolutely lovely."

Declan's large hand closed around hers in a firm handshake. "Likewise, Miss Beauregard. And thank you, I hope you will enjoy your stay with us. Have a seat, can we offer you coffee, tea, anything?"

Elise sat on the opposite loveseat. "Tea would be lovely, thank you."

Zoey played hostess, handing her a delicate ivory mug filled with tea.

"How was your trip?" Declan asked.

"It was fine. Little bits of turbulence, but that's rather common at this time of year." Elise accepted the cup, grateful to have something to do with her hands.

"I'm sure you must be exhausted," Zoey murmured.

"Actually, I slept fine on the plane. I have no problems sleeping while traveling. Granted, I'll probably sleep like the dead tonight." What she left out was that she rarely slept more than four hours a night anymore, anyway. Not with the increasing levels of stress in her life, and she shied away from taking sleeping pills. Elise had entered new realms of exhaustion to the point where she couldn't remember a time when she hadn't been deep-in-the-bone weary.

"You're so lucky, I need to be horizontal and in a bed in order to sleep. What do you need from us to get set up? I know you mentioned in your last email, dedicating a space where you could work and do fittings. Does the type of space matter?"

"Actually, if you have a room that has a lot of natural light, that would be best. And if we could make it so that no one enters the room once everything is set up, we won't have to worry about anything that could potentially harm the materials. The last thing we would want is someone to inadvertently spill something on your gown."

"I think the small study at the other end of the hall would do. We can show you the space and then you can decide if it will suit," Declan said.

"That would be great. Then I will have to show your butler what needs to be moved there. I brought quite a few packages with all my supplies. If you could give me the afternoon to get everything set up, we could potentially do the first of your fittings today."

"Today? Really?" Zoey exclaimed, with a bit of dreaminess masking her voice. "You already have my dress made?"

"Yes and no; I have a design shell that is malleable. Meaning, I need to see that I have your measurements correct, and that you like the fit and style the way we discussed. I'm not saying that your measurements are wrong, but even a dimension that is an inch off can change the fit of a gown drastically. Then, once we've done this first fitting, I will adjust the size, fit and design as needed. We'll do a couple fittings over the next week until you are fully satisfied that it's the gown you want. Once we have a final style approval, that's when I will start adding the extra beading and finishing touches to it. All in all, before I leave Scotland, you will have your dress."

"Wow. This is so exciting. I never thought in a million years I'd have a custom wedding gown. I'm so glad Kara recommended you to me."

Declan's phone rang and he stared at the smartphone with a slight grimace. "Do you mind if I take this and leave you two?"

Zoey squeezed his hand. "Go, I'll be fine."

Declan nodded and left the library just as the sexy butler strolled in.

"Jared, what I can do for you?" Zoey asked with a warm gaze.

The heated look the butler sent Zoey made Elise want to fan herself. Kara had mentioned, when she'd explained the BDSM lifestyle she was merrily enjoying with Zeke and Chase, that Miss Zoey Mills not only had the billionaire mogul practically eating out of her hand, but that the butler sometimes joined them as well. Elise had to work to keep her face from flaming red. Kara had taken her to the Dungeon Fantasy Club in Manhattan, with Zeke and Chase there, of course, and she had to admit the lifestyle intrigued her. It had been interesting. Not the melt-your-panties-off experience that Kara had described but, then again, she had not one but two stud-muffins whose only job, it seemed, was to paste a dopey, satisfied grin on her best friend's face.

"I wanted to inquire if we had a location for all of Miss Beauregard's supplies. We've finished moving them into the manor," Jared said.

"Gosh, did you bring that much?" Zoey said.

Elise shrugged. "I had to make sure I have extra bolts of fabric on hand, just in case."

Zoey took that information in stride. "If you're not too tired, Elise, what do you say we scout the study Declan mentioned, and see if that will suit?"

Elise set her cup on the tray on the coffee table. "Absolutely. Let's take a look and then I can get set up."

She followed Zoey and Jared from the library to the opposite end of the hall. Judging by the length of the hall, the manor was just massive. Skitters of fear danced along her spine. Money gave people power over others. It was why the Manhattan socialite's smear campaign had been so effective. She had money, gobs of it, and wielded it like a sword. Shaking herself, attempting to calm her nerves, Elise popped another Tums in her mouth as Zoey opened a door. Just because she'd had one bad experience, it didn't mean the McDougal wedding would be. Kara had gushed over this couple, and she wasn't one given to theatrics.

Elise trailed after Zoey and Jared into a sweet room. It reminded her of a feminine version of a study. The furniture was all soft lines and pale woods. Then there was this luxurious, 'your feet sink right in its so comfortable' rug in a pale mauve floral design. And the large bay of crystal clear windows spanning two sides of the corner room would make this the perfect workspace.

"So, what do you think?" Zoey turned and asked.

"I think it will work perfectly for my needs."

"Great. Jared, if you could start having her things brought here, I'm going to show Elise her bedroom."

Zoey shifted her attention to Elise. "To make your life a bit easier, I'll put you in the Queen Margaret room a few doors down."

"That works for me. Thank you. Jared, I can be down to help separate my luggage from the rest of the trunks in a few minutes."

The three of them spent the next two hours arranging the little office to suit Elise's needs. She had Jared bring in some full-length mirrors he'd confiscated from a few of the bedrooms and arranged them against one of the walls, along with a small square dais for fittings. Elise would likely rearrange a few things as she went along for better workflow. She'd leave the bolts of fabric in their respective trunks for now, pushed up against the other wall. They moved the desk away from the wall so she could set up her sewing machine and sewing supplies. Elise was a bit of a nutcase when it came to organization. She wasn't one of those creative types who could never find anything. She had a system, an organized one, where everything had a place. A bit anal retentive on her part, but what was a girl to do. It worked for her—which, in the end, was what mattered.

Her luggage had been placed in her room; which was bigger than her apartment and elegant in an old world style with dark woods, heavy brocades, and jewel tones which Elise absolutely adored. It made her feel a bit like a medieval princess. She'd explore it a bit more later; as it was, she had a fitting to get started.

It was just the girls now, as Jared had left, mumbling about needing a Belhaven after lugging all of her things up. Elise unearthed the dress from the respective trunk and Zoey gasped behind her. That was exactly the type of response Elise had hoped for, and it chipped away at some of her terror.

"Is that my dress?" Zoey exclaimed, a little awestruck as Elise turned, holding the gown. Even though it was just the shell of the dress, it was already shaping up to be one of the most gorgeous creations Elise had designed thus far in her career.

"Yep. Why don't you head behind the privacy screen over there and try it on? Let me know when you need help and I'll fasten the buttons along the back for you."

Zoey's excitement as she stopped arranging the room and made a beeline for the privacy screen made Elise smile. This was one of the reasons why she did this work. Not for the bridezillas, who drove her nuts, but for the sheer joy she witnessed on a client's face. It soothed her soul, since it was a look that would never be reflected on her own face. Men don't buy damaged goods, and that was what she was.

It took Zoey a few minutes before she called for aid in doing up the back of the dress. Elise steered her out from behind the screen and over onto the raised dais. Many women were a little unsteady when they put such a large gown on, but Zoey seemed to navigate the process better than most. The gown itself was a strapless, ivory tulle overlay, fitted throughout the bust, and then flowing down in clean, elegant lines to a chapel length train.

Elise stood back from her work, admiring the lines of the dress. Zoey had a great figure. Not every woman could pull off a strapless gown, but she had just the shoulders to do it.

"I feel like a princess," Zoey murmured as she twirled and preened a bit at her reflection.

"And you look like one, too. Now, remember this is just the shell, and to get a feel for whether you like the style or want me to start from scratch. I haven't added any of the crystal and metallic beading or metallic embroidery that we discussed."

Elise studied the lines, checking the fit. "You know, after seeing it on you, I want to suggest we add an accent at the waist here to really emphasize your great figure with a line of pearls, rhinestones and crystals. What do you think?"

"That sounds wonderful. I'm going to trust your instincts on this. It already looks better than I could have ever dreamed. I think we are on the right track with this," Zoey gushed profusely. If only all of Elise's clients were this easy to please.

"Okay, great. If you will stand still, I'm going to pin some sections to make it fit you better and to work on the hemline. For our next fitting, if you have the shoes you plan to wear with your gown, I want you to bring them so that we can make it more accurate. For now, I'm just going to pin the hemline and we'll go from there."

Elise worked her way from the bust, over the waist and on down to the hem, making slight adjustments as she went. While she did so, thoughts of the taboo club in the manor swam in her mind. She was utterly fascinated by the BDSM lifestyle. Kara wouldn't have taken her to the club in Manhattan if she'd thought it was something Elise wouldn't care for. Would she be able to indulge her curiosity while she was here?

"So Kara told me that there is a club in the manor." Elise tried to appear nonchalant but she was insatiably curious about the club and the lifestyle.

"She really shouldn't have told you. That's against the rules." Zoey didn't seem mad but her features had become shuttered a bit.

Snap. She'd broached the topic too soon.

In an effort to save face and recover ground, Elise added, "Kara mentioned that I could talk to you and only you about it. Kara and the guys took me to the Manhattan club a few times."

"Did she really? She didn't tell me that. What did you think?" Zoey asked, studying her, still with a closed look on her face. Elise realized the censure must come with the territory. Hell, Kara hadn't mentioned her relationship status to some of their other friends in New York when they'd met for Sunday brunch the other day.

"It's interesting. I never even considered that there were other ways people relished having sex. Do you like being a submissive?" Oh sweet baby Jesus, someone gag her. Someone really should put a muzzle on her. When her nerves started to show she had a tendency to babble, and after her faux pas she seemed to be on a downward spiral.

Zoey cleared her throat.

"Sorry." Elise felt the blush spreading as she applied another pin along the hem. "I know we don't know each other well. I'm just curious. I found the club rather intriguing."

"So you are wanting to learn more about the lifestyle then, and see if it's right for you?" Zoey asked.

"Yes, something like that. I don't really know if it's for me or not, but I'd like the opportunity to explore it a bit if that's possible."

"Let me speak with Declan. I'm sure I can get you a provisional membership while you are here. We do have some fairly strict guidelines that must be adhered to, and there's a non-disclosure agreement you would need to sign."

"I signed one in Manhattan when I attended with Kara. I don't mind doing so again. I understand the need to for secrecy."

That seemed to appease Zoey a bit as some of the tension drained out of her body.

Elise added the last of the pins.

"Okay, you can go ahead and change back into your clothes. Be careful of the pins. I'll stand right on the other side so you can hand me the dress."

She helped Zoey off the small raised dais.

When Zoey was behind the changing screen, she responded, "You asked me if I like being a sub."

"Yes. Sorry if that's too invasive. I know it's not my place." Elise tried to back pedal but she couldn't seem to assuage her curiosity for the lifestyle. She'd not participated in Manhattan. Really only been more of an observer, even as her best friend and two honeys had participated in scenes that still made her blush. Barring her rather obvious embarrassment at witnessing her best friend get it on before a crowd of onlookers, some of the other scenes she'd witnessed had left her feeling like her skin was three sizes too small and had left a telltale wetness between her thighs.

"I don't mind you asking, really. Being a sub, loving Declan, has changed me in ways I never thought possible. I love being a sub. I love being his sub. There's a freedom in it I never found anywhere else. And most of it is contained to the bedroom, but it does spill over into the rest of our lives at times."

"And you don't mind giving him control?" That was the kicker for Elise. How any independent woman could enjoy giving up control. Kara certainly didn't seem to mind in the slightest, she still managed to run a successful business and appeared happier than she'd ever been. But Elise didn't know if she was that easygoing and able to relinquish control of her life, not as the distinct urge to pop another Tums into her mouth swelled in her chest.

"No. We're partners. He's made it a point to understand me more thoroughly than anyone ever has, and his role as my Dom is to ensure I'm happy. When it comes to decisions regarding my life, I still make them. So really the only control I've ceded him is in the bedroom, which I can tell you is extremely hot and a bit of a power trip for me, too. It actually gives me more control than I ever had in other relationships because it's through my submission that I am able to provide my Dom with pleasure the only way he can attain it. Vanilla sex for me never felt right, and always made me feel like I wasn't normal. It wasn't until Declan that I finally understood why. I need to submit. If you are into that sort of thing, or think you might be, then the club is a safe place to explore those desires."

"Interesting." Elise was surprised at how much food for thought Zoey had provided her with. She had never even considered that there might be power behind the loss of control. It was a facet of the lifestyle which made her want to step into the arena and try it.

"I'm surprised Kara didn't mention any of this," Zoey said.

"She's been a little distracted of late, between Zeke and Chase, not that I blame her." Except Elise had had no one to talk to after going to the club in Manhattan. So a part of her was a little peeved at Kara, and did in fact blame her for leaving her hanging. Kara had opened this door to wonderland for Elise and not stuck around to help her navigate it.

"Well, feel free to ask me anything while you are here." Zoey stepped from behind the screen, back in her jeans and sweater, holding the dress by the bust.

Elise took it from her, and began hanging the gown up. "Thank you. I just might do that," she murmured, feeling touched at her host's offer.

"If you are done with me, I'm going to go see Declan about that membership for you. Why don't you meet us for dinner in an hour in the small dining room on the first floor? Just take the elevator down and take a left, the dining room will be the third door on the left."

"Sure. I have a few more things to do here to get things prepped."

"Then I will see you in an hour." Zoey left her alone with her thoughts.

So far, going to the club in Manhattan had been the one thing that had driven away Elise's anxiety in the last two weeks. If the club here could offer the same distraction, even if all she did was sit and people watch, she'd jump on it. As to whether she wanted to participate or not, Elise wasn't sure. She liked sex, she did. It had been far too long since she'd had an orgasm from something that wasn't battery operated, but she didn't know if she could do it in front of an audience.

It was the pleasure she had witnessed, the unrestrained joy plastered across Kara's face and every other sub she spied, which intrigued her. Had she ever experienced pleasure that intense? Elise could honestly say no. Oh she'd had orgasms, sure, but not like that.

Elise arranged Zoey's dress so that it was ready for her to begin the alterations come morning. She stifled a yawn. Tonight might be a short night at the club if the jet lag was starting to hit her system.

Leaving the room, Elise made her way down to the dining room, trying to ignore the hope bubbling in her chest.

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