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As a child, Kelly dreamt of having a handsome husband, beautiful children, and a dog playing in the backyard. But life rarely turns out the way you plan, and she fears her clock is ticking. Still on the prowl for the perfect husband, she becomes bolder in her search. A night that starts out like any other, ends up being the one that changes everything. As the owner of a security company, Kendrick McFall takes safety very seriously. His first instinct is to keep Kelly at arms length. However, she isn’t his to command,and she isn’t easily persuaded to stay away from the world in which Kendrick lives. A world that she craves. Taking her under his protection seems to be the only way to keep her safe from the ghosts of his past, and protect her from new threats. Along the way he doesn’t just seek to secure her safety, he wants to secure her heart.
The cab pulled up in front of the nightclub at quarter to ten on a Thursday evening. Kelly paid the driver, stepped out onto the sidewalk and looked at the line curling around the club entrance. It would be a long wait. Resolved, she stepped to the back of the line.
She’d spent the better half of the day listening to the newest student aid in her department ramble on about her fiancé and their wedding plans. The photos of the gown she’d chose for the big day seemed endless as she’d flipped through them on her phone. Of course, her fiancé was gorgeous and had fallen flat on his face in love with the barely twenty-something girl during college. They were to marry in the summer, and he was taking her to Paris for their honeymoon. Everyone fawned over the details and how happy they were for her.
Kelly faked the enthusiasm as best as she could, squashing down the pang of envy that threatened to consume her.
Where was her Mr. Right? Where was her knight in shining armor? She’d been waiting nearly thirty years to find him, where was he!
After all the happily-ever-after bullshit, the last place she wanted to be was sitting at home, alone.
As clubs in the city went, Krush met two of her three requirements. The bathrooms were clean, and the drinks were strong. It did not meet her requirement of a large ratio of men to women, especially on Thursdays, but she would take her chances.
When she finally stepped into the club, she took a minute for her eyes to adjust to the swirling colors of the room. The music she heard during her thirty-minute wait from the street vibrated the floor and the walls as it continued to thump the evening away. Swarms of bodies writhed and swayed about on the dance floor while the DJ stood on stage behind his table of cables and spinning records holding one earpiece of a headset to his ear. He wore only a vest with his jeans; tattoos covered every inch of his arms and chest.
“Kelly!” A large hand pulled on her arm, yanking her from the crowd toward a small table in the corner of the room. “What are you doing here?” Alex yelled into her ear.
She shrugged in response. “What I always do. What are you doing here?” she yelled back, scanning the crowd.
The day had been particularly long and depressing, and she wanted nothing more than to lose herself in a new man or at the very least the prospect of a new man.
“Got booted from the apartment again. Jessica won’t answer her phone ‘cause it’s Thursday, so I headed out. I tried texting you an hour ago—you didn’t answer.” His light blue eyes shimmered with the overhead light, calling her attention to them.
In another life and perhaps another time, Kelly might have found Alex to be the one she was looking for under every rock and barstool in Chicago. She liked his toned, slender build, but the inner strength he possessed was what she found most attractive. No situation she found herself in was too much for him; he had saved her more times than she’d be willing to admit, from arrogant men who were out for one thing—and not the thing she was willing to give.
Most of their friends believed Kelly to be out looking for the right guy to give her the fulfillment she sought between her legs. Alex understood she wanted more; she wanted everything, including a satisfied libido.
“My phone sucks,” she yelled over the music, taking note of a tall man making his way through the crowd.
His shirt gripped his biceps that looked more like small bowling balls on his arms than muscles. Dark hair slicked back over his head with gel; she wasn’t keen on hair products on her men—but the pickings looked slim for the evening.
“Not him.” Alex followed her stare to the type of man he’d termed hot-rod, meaning any man who put more stock in his appearance than his personality.
“Why not?” Kelly looked over her shoulder at Alex. The music had taken over her, and she was swaying to the beat. No point in going to a club if you weren’t going to dance.
Alex raised his eyebrows. “Seriously? I could oil my old bike chain with his head.”
“Who knows? The guy you least suspect could be the guy!” She gave him a smile. “Just look at Jessica.” She pointed out and left Alex standing alone, shaking his head at her sashaying figure as she made her way toward the bar.
Jessica had landed her happily-ever-after without much attempt on her part. In fact, she had fought kicking and screaming almost the entire way.
Kelly tried not to think about her best friend’s love life. It was filled with more than she could bear to dare to dream about wanting. She didn’t want to think about the future of anyone other than herself at the moment. Some hot dancing and a decent conversation, she would settle for that and call it a successful evening.
Getting to the bar seemed the easiest task of the evening. Getting the bartenders attention was another issue all together. She flashed her brightest smile, flung her red locks over her shoulder and thrust her chest out. Nothing. Finally, she leaned against the sticky bar rail to keep an eye on her target.
He stood only a few feet away from her, sipping his beer. Most guys got their beer and headed back to their group. She took this as a sign of his lack of girlfriend.
A long curl blocked her view, and she shoved it back behind her ear, annoyed with her choice of leaving the unruly mess loose for the evening. During this tug of war with her hair, her possible future boyfriend slid down the bar in her direction.
She made another attempt to call the bartender.
“Need a drink?” Her target slid closer to her.
She nodded and bit her lip, playing into his male ego.
“What’s your poison?”
She chose to ignore the cheesy line and concentrate on picking her drink. She didn’t like alcohol because she couldn’t hold it well, but she feared ordering a coke would seem prudish at best.
“Captain and coke.” She settled on a drink she hoped would be the least offending in taste and alcohol. If she let it sit long enough, perhaps the liquor would sink to the bottom.
He turned away from her to bark out the order. His cologne wafted over her. The cheap, stuffy aftershave reminded her of her grandfather. Not an image she wanted at the moment.
“Here you go.” When he smiled, the two sides of his chin split in half, leaving a divot in the middle, kind of like having a tiny butt on his face. “My name’s Ted, by the way.”
Her shoulders dropped, and she thanked him for the drink. He placed a large hand on the small of her back and led her to a table near the dance floor. She sipped at the offending drink and tried to act enthralled with his storytelling. She couldn’t hear anything he said over the music, so she stuck to nodding and smiling.
She nodded herself right into being escorted out of the club with his arm around her shoulders. A look at her watch confirmed it was past midnight. She decided to let him lead her from the club and then ditch him at the cab.
Another night wasted. Even if she did find Mr. Right, it was more likely to be Mr. Right now and wrong tomorrow. None of the men she’d seen in the club even fit the strong, confident man she was searching for.
“Wait here.” He left her in the front of the club while he walked over to a young guy, maybe ten years younger than herself.
She took the opportunity to wave down a cab for herself and make her escape. He made his way back to her just as a cab pulled up. “You’re leaving?” His face twisted into a mixture of astonishment and disappointment.
“Yeah, sorry, I have a busy day tomorrow—”
“Okay, that’s cool.” She worried his head would be injured from his massive shrug. “My buddy over there just told me about a party. You wouldn’t be interested, anyway.” He opened the door to cab.
“Why?” She put a hand on her hip. After all, who was blowing off whom?
“It’s an S&M party. Not your thing.” He looked her up and down with his eyes, measuring her.
She put a hand out to hold the door. “S&M, like BDSM?” Her heart hammered with excitement at the prospect before her. Finally, the man had said something interesting, and it was already past midnight. Her nine o’clock chem class would be hard enough to get through at this point; if she stayed out later, she might not get there at all.
“Yeah.” He nodded. The cab honked. “You play?” He sounded surprised.
“Well, no, not really. I’ve never been, but—well—would you mind if I tagged along?” She found herself asking.
The cabbie yelled for her to either get in or close the door. The stud shut the door for her.
“Not at all. C’mon. My car is this way.”
She shook her head and pounded on the cab before he took off.
“How about I meet you there?” She hadn’t left all of her sense at home.
He looked at her cautiously for a moment then opened the door to the cab. She slipped in. He stuck his head in the front window and gave the address to the cabbie that waved him off and peeled away from the curb. They had wasted enough of his time already.
The cab dropped her in front of a quiet, average looking bungalow. A few lights created shadows in the front of the house, giving her the only clues that someone was inside. She looked at her watch and pulled out her phone, thinking to call Alex to come get her. He was probably still out or at least willing to help her when she found herself in stupid situations.
She could already hear Jessica and Erin’s voices as they lectured her on the safety of clubbing alone. Knowing they would be completely right, she decided to text Alex and at least let him know where she could be found. Plus, she felt a little guilty just leaving him behind at the club.
A car sped down the street and pulled to the curb right in front of her, distracting her from her task. Her stud leapt out of the car.
“Good, you made it!” He smiled as he pressed the button on his keys, the car chirped. He flung his heavy arm over her shoulders and led her up the stairs to the front door. He hadn’t given her any time to say anything. She had a few questions about where they were, but he seemed to be in a hurry.
The front door opened as they stepped onto the porch. A man wearing a black polo shirt with a clipboard greeted them.
Ted slapped his hand in a hearty handshake and introduced her as his girl. The man made a few marks on his board and stepped out of their way.
Once inside, Kelly heard low growls and yelps coming from beneath her feet. The floor vibrated in a subtle fashion, and the smell of burning wax filled the air. The living room was void of anything other than the usual furniture; the dining room was much the same way.
Ted led her to a door in the kitchen and paused with his hand on the doorknob, looking back over his large shoulder at her. “Ever been to a dungeon party?” he asked.
She shook her head; they’d already covered this at the club.
“Stick to me, don’t put your eyes on anyone else, and do as I say while we are here.” His voice thickened as he spoke; his hand tightened on her arm as he flung the door open and he half shoved her into the dark stairwell.
Her hands groped the wall for a railing, but found none. A bright strobe light messed with her depth perception, and she stumbled down the last two steps. Ted caught her before she face planted onto the floor. The sticky floor. The music played too loudly for her to hear her shoes peeling from the floor, but she felt every bit of it with each step she took.
Cries and leather snapping crowded her senses. She tried to get her bearings with her surroundings, but too many movements made it hard for her to capture the full picture. The walls were painted black. The ground was dark too. The only light she found was the strobe lighting and some white Christmas string lights that hung over pieces of equipment.
The equipment looked to her like torture devices. Several women and men were tied to large wooden X’s and bent over benches. Some were dressed; most were not. Other men and women stood behind them with large whips, paddles, and floggers in their hands, administering harsh beatings to their counterparts who cried out in pain.
A large hand wrapped around her upper arm and pulled her to another part of the room, where oversized pillows were laid out on the floor. “Stay here.” He shoved her onto one of the pillows.
She sank into it and continued to look around her.
A woman knelt at her right. A black corset held her naked breasts outward, and a large thick leather collar held her head upright. Her hands were folded behind her back. She appeared content with her position. Her smile held a blissful quality to it as a man dressed in jeans and a leather vest bent down to rub his hand along her jaw.
“Here.” Ted thrust a glass into her hand. “Coke,” he explained and downed his own drink while sinking onto the pillow beside her.
She sniffed it, no liquor. She gulped it down, keeping her eyes on the goings-on around her. People were laughing. Women were led around on chain leashes, looking happier than most women walking down the street holding a man’s hand. The music paused for a minute then started back up again. The strobe lights flickered on and off, but no one seemed to notice.
“Have you ever been spanked?” He leaned over to ask in her ear. The smell of his cheap aftershave made her stomach turn.
“Uh. No.” She shook her head. In truth, she hadn’t—not outside her fantasies anyway. The images of a strong man tossing her over his knee, yanking up her skirt, tearing down her panties, and delivering hard smacks to her bottom until it was popping with color and her face was covered in tears brought her to many peaks in her alone time play.
“Want to give it a try?” His eyebrows shot up, and his lips curled into a grin.
The strobes flickered again; the music skipped a few beats. Her eyelids drooped, and her lips tingled.
“Try what?” She scratched her elbow then her neck.
“I want to spank the shit outta you. Your ass is perfect for it.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
“Now, I really want to.” His face changed. His lips tightened around his teeth that looked excessively white from the black lighting in the room. His eyes turned cold, and his hands grabbed her again, harsher than before. He pulled her to her feet.
She stumbled as he dragged her through the room. Her head swam; she tried to focus her eyes. Her lips tingled more when she tried to speak. Her feeble attempt to pull free of him was met with laughter as he brought her to a bench.
The leather was moist when it met her face as she was slammed over it. She tried to kick out her legs, but felt his hands on her ankles. Cold metal clicked into place on her ankles then on her wrists.
The strobe lighting flickered again. The music paused then started. Her head spun. Her skirt was yanked up over her ass. Hands were on her panties, then a chill air rushed over her bare bottom. She wiggled with little effect. Nothing was clear.
Laughter and cries surrounded her. She couldn’t hear anything. She felt hands on her ass, spreading her cheeks. She pulled on her restraints, but didn’t see her hands moving. She opened her mouth to scream, but her voice was gone.
The hands were gone. She tried to focus on the loud voices behind her. Music slowed. She tried to look over her shoulder but saw nothing. A smacking sound vibrated in her mind. Darkness crept over her sight. The leather of the bench became soft as she closed her eyes and drifted away.