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After rescuing a woman from the storm-tossed waters surrounding his family island, Hunter Lemaster grows suspicious of Chloe Markham’s motives for being out in the inclement weather. When his stranded guest exhibits signs of submissiveness and neglected need, her shy demeanor draws on the strict Dom side of him and he can’t resist giving her what she so desperately needs. Taking advantage of her vulnerable state, he uses his expertise to question her, but is still unable to get the full truth from her.
After returning to Charleston from her ill-fated trip to Magnolia Island, Chloe resigns herself to returning to La Rouge, the club her best friend introduced her to. After getting herself into a bind of her own making, Chloe is shocked when Hunter Lemaster swoops in to rescue her. The truth is now out about why she was so close to his island, and Hunter agrees to let Chloe accompany him back to Magnolia when his friends return so she can assist in their continued search for a murderer. A threat against Chloe at the end of the weekend proves they are on to something, and also convinces Hunter to keep Chloe close – for her safety and his pleasure.
Publisher’s Note: This book is intended for adults only. It contains elements of power exchange, explicit scenes, discipline, and BDSM. If any of these offend you, please do not purchase.
*** Currently available exclusively at Amazon ***
Too late she realized she should have heeded the uncomfortable sensation crawling up her spine the last few minutes. One second she was scanning the pre-dawn, deserted beach, wondering why he had insisted they meet this far from the house, and the next blinding pain erupted across the back of her head, the wet sand rising to greet her face as she toppled forward. Roaring in her ears drowned out the sound of the tide rolling onto the shore all around her, her fingers clawing at the damp granules before another wave of excruciating agony rendered her unconscious, sparing her the terror of the final blow that took her life. The white, frothy crests of waves splashing against her body returned to the ocean tinged pink with blood. The sun rose a scant fifteen minutes later, the morning heat bearing down on her body as seagulls circled overhead, curious but afraid to venture too close just yet. Their raucous calls protested the brutal act that disrupted the normal peaceful tranquility of their island and the death of one so young. Lynn Baker would never see her twenty-eighth birthday.
Hunter Lemaster leaned on the shiny bar top, bracing himself on his elbows as he perused the cavernous, restored ballroom and the small group of friends he, his brother, Ryder and his cousin, Logan had invited for the weekend. Their private party started last night and would end by tomorrow afternoon when everyone would return to their obligations in the city. Having met their ten guests, two married couples, two single men and four non-committed women, at a favorite BDSM club in Charleston, they were all familiar with the equipment in the great room. Dan already brought his pretty wife, Liz, to orgasm twice as he fucked her where she hung bound on the St Andrew’s cross. The red stripes decorating the soft, fleshy fullness of her breasts put him in the mood to work his flogger over a willing participant, a mood that didn’t come upon Hunter as often of late. As luck would have it, one of his favorite players took that moment to sashay up to the bar, a teasing grin flirting with her lush lips.
“Master Hunter. You look lonely over here all by yourself.”
Since he was comfortable with no one but himself for company, he hadn’t been, but eyeing the attractive blonde wearing nothing but a lacy, see-through camisole and thong, Hunter decided Lynn was just who he needed to improve his morose disposition. Her approach fell in with Logan’s earlier suggestion about asking her if she’d be up to another ménage with the three of them tonight. Coming around the end of the bar, he clasped her elbow, stating, “I’ve told you several times, Lynn, I don’t stand on protocol around here. Our private parties are solely for fun.”
“But, it’s fun to call you Master,” she protested with a laugh, skipping alongside him with willing enthusiasm as he guided her to a padded bench a few feet away.
Nodding to Alex, who seemed pleasantly entertained lounging on a wide sofa with Molly and Susan working their mouths in tandem over his straining erection from their kneeling positions at his feet, Hunter wasted no time lowering Lynn over the bench and securing her wrists and thighs to the four corners. With her hips resting right on the edge, the position left her plump ass bare and quivering for attention.
Cracking his palm on one delectable, bouncing buttock, he said, “Fine, but if you get mouthy, I’ll gag you.”
Whipping her head around, she tossed him a cheeky grin. “Me? Mouthy?”
He smacked her other buttock, biting back the urge to return her grin. Give this one an inch and she’ll take a mile, he reminded himself. “Behave and I might let you climax.” Her low moan of surrender tickled him because he doubted it would last long. Unclipping the multi-strand flogger from his waist, he didn’t give her a warning before snapping the leather strips across her ass with minimal force. Red stripes blossomed on her white skin, the slight shift of her hips a sign she found the warm sting arousing.
Hunter couldn’t pinpoint when his interest in indulging in his dominant side had begun to wane, nor could he come up with a reason for his recent step back from the lifestyle he had enjoyed ever since Uncle Jim had introduced his three nephews to BDSM proclivities over fifteen years ago. A small surge of pleasure curled in his abdomen as he struck the tender area just beneath the undercurve of her buttocks, her startled cry from the shaper pain as pleasing as the shine glistening along her pussy slit. His response to the arousal he could induce through pain proved he still enjoyed giving a submissive woman what she craved the most. Maybe his thirty-fifth birthday had something to do with his melancholy, although he thought he was way too young to be suffering disillusionment with his life like he’d heard a lot of men went through when they hit middle age.
He swung his aim across Lynn’s ass again, this one harder, her jerk and the ensuing redness replacing the faint pink lines eliciting a fresh gush of cream between her legs. Pausing in his strikes, he reached down and ripped her thong off.
“Damn it, Hunter,” Lynn exclaimed in outrage, swiveling her head to glare back at him. “That was my favorite one!”
Nonplussed in the face of her anger, Hunter replied, “I’ll buy you a dozen more.” Keeping his eyes on hers, he slid one finger between her slick folds and tickled her swollen nub. “It’s much easier to do this without that scrap getting in my way.”
“Oh, well, when you put it that way… ow!”
His aim between Lynn’s legs cut her off, but from the puffiness of her flesh, didn’t cool her arousal. “You up for both Ryder and I tonight?” he asked when he spotted his brother returning from out back through one of the French doors on the far wall. Like him, Ryder had been in a funk tonight and could most likely use a pick-me-up.
“In case you haven’t noticed, you have me so primed, I’m game to do all three of you, if Logan’s free too.”
Was it any wonder she was a favorite, not only of theirs but others in their close-knit group? She was plain fun to be with as well as being understanding of their needs as they were of hers. That couldn’t be said of all the submissive women he’d met over the years. “We were hoping you’d say that.” Appreciating her reply, Hunter returned to her tight pussy and drove two fingers deep inside her wet heat, the tight clutch of her vaginal walls heralding her climax.
“Come now, Lynn.” He knew she’d have no trouble obeying his order, and she didn’t fail him by milking his plunging fingers as her body shook with the pleasure he induced. Pumping her swollen clit, Hunter drove her over the edge quick, his own need now pressing with painful insistence against his zipper.
Hunter smiled at his twin, Ryder’s green eyes reflecting more interest than he’d shown all day. “And she’s game for another Lemaster triad,” he said, reminding Ryder of the pleasure she’d been to fuck the last time the three of them took her together.
“Then, by all means, let me help.”
Ryder joined him in releasing Lynn from the bench. Taking her in his arms when she wobbled against him as she stood, Hunter asked him, “Want to pass the message on to Logan and meet us in the blue room?”
“I saw him outside in the maze with Max and Clare. Give me a few to remind him it’s his turn to do the final check before meeting us.”
“Got it.” Lynn squealed a he flipped her over his shoulder, so Hunter gave her tender ass a swat to give her something to whine about as he strode from the room and up the wide, ornate staircase of their three-story Victorian manor. The blue room was located half-way down the hall of the second floor, the plush navy carpet complimenting the dark blue and burgundy, patchwork quilt spread over the king-sized, four-poster bed he tossed his soft burden on top of.
Shaking her tangled, blonde hair out of her face, Lynn leaned up on her elbows and laughed up at him. Spreading her bent legs in invitation, she drawled, “Now what, Master?”
“Now,” Hunter replied as he stripped his shirt over his head then pinned her with a dark look as he slowly undid his jeans and lowered the zipper, “you see to me.”
Scrambling to her knees, she whipped the flimsy camisole top off before grasping his straining cock with both hands and lowering her head to swipe her tongue over the seepage dampening his crown. Clasping her head, he pushed between those smiling, plump lips with a low, guttural moan, the stroke of her warm tongue sweeping down his rigid length damn near undoing him. “Fuck. I forgot how good you are at this.”
Her moan of pleasure vibrated around his cock, the sensation heightening his already acute pleasure. Pulling back, Hunter shoved her shoulders, sending Lynn toppling back again as Ryder entered and shut the door behind him.
“That’s a good position to start.” Ryder eyed Lynn’s naked sprawl with an appreciative, slow perusal as he stripped on his way over to the bed.
“I thought so.”
They flanked her sides, spread her legs over their thighs and dipped their identical, mahogany haired heads to her breasts. Hunter suckled with long drawn pulls as he dampened his fingers in her cream again before inching his hand down between those plump cheeks and probed her tight, puckered back entrance. “Easy,” he crooned with a swipe of his tongue over the distended peak when she bucked against his slow invasion into her dark channel. Ryder joined in the foray with a double fingered thrust into Lynn’s pussy, drawing a whimper from her that could’ve been pleasure or frustration at their slow teasing strokes.
“Quit teasing,” she panted, lifting into their marauding hands, already on the verge of another climax.
Nodding to Ryder, his brother took the cue, pulled out of her and landed a resounding smack on her bare labia, drawing a startled, pain-filled cry from her.
“That…” She clamped her mouth shut at the cool look Hunter leveled at her as he pulled back then finger-fucked her ass with a forceful, knuckle-burying thrust. “Please…” Lynn pleaded instead of complaining.
Working in tandem, they drove her up several times before leaving her to dangle unfulfilled, waiting on their whims. Her frustrated groans came with tight fisted yanks on their hair until Hunter gripped her wrists together in one hand and held her still for more sensual torture. Then his cock’s demands became too strong to ignore. He shifted up on the bed, leaning against the slatted headboard with a pillow propped behind him, and drew her over his lap. Ryder took over, arranging her legs over Hunter’s thighs then urging her down on his up-thrust, begging erection already sheathed and waiting for her.
“Logan better hurry or he’ll be on his own,” Ryder grumbled as he positioned himself behind her lush ass.
“Speak of the devil.” Hunter thrust up into Lynn’s welcoming sheath as their older cousin by two months stepped into the room, eying the threesome with lust-filled pleasure.
“Bout time you showed up.”
Like Ryder, Hunter didn’t wait further as he took Lynn’s pussy with deep plunges, timing his possession with Ryder’s thrusts and losing himself in the age-old act of mindless fucking.
Hunter woke alone with the early, amber glow of dawn peeking through the thin curtains covering the glass on the French doors opening to a small balcony. He figured Ryder would sneak out early and return to his own room on the third floor, but he wondered where their bed partner had taken off to. No one ever roused before 11:00 am on these weekend gatherings and Lynn’s absence raised his concern. Flinging the covers aside, Hunter used the attached restroom, splashed cold water on his face to get rid of the last dredges of sleep then pulled on a pair of loose Riviera cotton pants before exiting the room. The hall remained quiet with the other bedroom doors still closed as he trotted downstairs.
A quick search of the lower level proved futile as did the jaunt he took around the outside. The low hum of island birds flocking among the trees resonated alongside the constant splash of ocean waves rolling onto shore. Whenever Hunter holed up at the house alone to write, he loved bringing his coffee outside and listening to those sounds as he watched the sunrise, but this morning, the worry gnawing at his insides detracted from that enjoyable prospect. Jogging down the boardwalk that led to the beach a few yards from the house, he swore under his breath at the trouble she was causing him. The thing was, it was unlike Lynn to just up and take off like that. She knew how strict the three of them were regarding their insistence everyone stay within the five acres surrounding the manor to ensure their safety. Since the rest of the island remained unsettled and with its natural, wild habitat untouched, there could be hazardous pitfalls. Often, Lynn was the last to rise after a late night of sexual excess, which made him even more concerned about her whereabouts now.
When a quick scan of the beach yielded no sign of her, he withdrew his phone from his pocket and woke Ryder with a terse, “Meet me on the beach, by the boardwalk. I can’t find Lynn.”
Twenty minutes later, Hunter switched his squinted-eyed glance at the circling seagulls to the sandy beach up ahead, his mouth going dry, his heartbeat escalating to a pounding rhythm when he realized he and Ryder had finally found Lynn. Rushing toward her body lying face down at the edge of the shore opposite from the beach near the house, they stared in stupefied outrage at the evidence of her brutal death.
“Jesus,” Hunter breathed, turning ice-cold eyes toward his twin. “Who the hell would do such a thing?”
“That is the question, isn’t it?” Ryder returned with bleak resignation at the implications they were both thinking.
Someone they’ve known and befriended for years had betrayed them in the worst way imaginable.
Across the ocean, a storm brewed in swirls of dark, menacing clouds. A jagged streak of lightning split the black horizon, the ensuing clap of thunder still a far off distant sound. Hunter could no longer see the small Bay boat carrying Ryder, Logan and Melanie back to the mainland marina and safely out of harm’s reach of the impending threatening line of weather forecasted to wreak havoc along the South Carolina coastline for the next few days. Pivoting in the sand, he trotted down the beach until he spotted the narrow path cutting through the woods that led to Darlye and Tim’s cottage. Even knowing it was a futile endeavor, he couldn’t help but check in on the older veteran caretakers and ask them one more time if they’d rather ride out the weather at the manor with him. Having spent over a year traveling the war-torn Middle East as a military journalist, writing on horrific stories he was always too late to change the outcome of, he could sympathize with the two Vietnam veterans who wanted nothing more than the quiet solitude Magnolia Island afforded them.
Until Lynn’s murder, their family island had been a sanctuary for the men, but like the Lemasters, they too wanted justice for the senseless death of one so young. It still rubbed Hunter the wrong way to suspect his long-time friends of committing the atrocious, cowardly act of bashing in the back of the vivacious blonde’s pretty head. His, Ryder’s and Logan’s plan to gather the same small group of people together this weekend who had been on the island that fateful day eight weeks ago hadn’t narrowed down the suspect pool by much, if at all. The scare Melanie, Logan’s girl, received when she wandered through the woods too far from the house had thrust a few of their friends in the spotlight just because their whereabouts couldn’t be accounted for when she overheard two, nondescript voices discussing Lynn and what happened to her as an accident. That wasn’t enough to level any accusations, just to increase their distrust of the people they’d known, and indulged in their BDSM activities with for years.
“God damned cluster-fuck,” Hunter grumbled as he stepped into a cleared copse and strode over to the two-bedroom cottage. Rapping on the door, he wasn’t surprised when Tim opened it with a scowl. “I know what you said…”
“Then why are you here?” Tim growled. “Get your ass up to the house and quit worrying about us. We’re not that old we need you fretting like a mother hen over some bad weather.” On a softer note, he asked, “That girl okay now?”
“Melanie’s fine. She’s a trooper, and she has Logan,” Hunter replied, not surprised the gruff man had a tender spot for Melanie. She’d used her sweet wiles and dogged determination to wear down Logan, hadn’t she?
Nodding his graying head, Tim said, “She’s good for the boy.”
Hunter smiled at Darlye as he peeked around his roommate’s shoulder. “Melanie and Logan. Wind’s picking up, so I’ll get going if you’re good. Don’t hesitate to come on up if this places rattles too much shortly.”
“Will do. Thanks, Hunter.”
Darlye, a double amputee, maintained a better disposition than Tim, who suffered from PTSD, but he also carried the ravages of war around with him and didn’t care to deal with a lot of people on a regular basis. Trudging back to the manor, Hunter thought of his uncle, the man who’d been legal guardian to him, Ryder and Logan since their parents had died together in an automobile accident when the three of them were just thirteen. If it hadn’t been for Jim’s work with veterans, his uncle’s two, decade’s long friends and fellow army buddies wouldn’t have the chance to live out their lives in relative peace as the caretakers of the grounds and house. They were often on the island alone when Hunter wasn’t craving the solitude himself for his writing and left to spend time in Charleston with his brother and cousin, and uncle if he happened to be in between one of his veteran retreats.
The wind had increased by the time Hunter returned to the manor and he sprinted inside just as a few raindrops began to fall. The brunt of this storm wouldn’t hit for a while yet, but he didn’t delay in making the rounds through the three-story, historical home, flipping the plantation shutters closed to protect glass from flying into the rooms in case of breakage. The eerie whine reverberating throughout the house as the wind continued to increase didn’t bother him. Others might find staying alone in an old home filled with creaks and groans during a storm creepy, but the scary ambience of the rattling structure didn’t faze him, especially when he was smack dab in the middle of penning a juicy murder mystery.
He thought of Lynn as he entered the blue room on the second floor, checked the windows and closed the shutters. For eight weeks, her death had haunted him and the rest of his family. He knew Ryder, Logan and Jim wanted nothing more than to find out who committed the atrocity to one of their own, and they ached with the loss of such a young, vibrant life as he did. He swore when he found out who betrayed her in such a way, the person responsible would be lucky if they let him live long enough to see his day in court.
A loud bang alerted Hunter to the rising wind gusts. Hastening across the hall to the red room, he grabbed the blown open French door before it could slam against the frame again. A light mist blew in and dampened his face, but didn’t prevent him from spotting the small boat bouncing on top of the choppy waves a few miles from Magnolia’s shore.
“What kind of fucking fool…” he swore before sucking in a sharp breath when it became obvious whoever manned the craft lacked the skills needed to maneuver through stormy waters. He couldn’t make out whether the person hunkered down at the helm was male or female, only that he or she was a fucking idiot. When the boat tilted at a precarious angle as another high wave rocked it, he knew that person would never make it without help.
Swearing as he high-tailed it downstairs and into the mud room off the kitchen, he prayed they both didn’t end up drowning before he could haul the fool to shore. Tossing a head to toe slicker over his head, Hunter dashed out into the inclement weather, grateful for the summer humidity for a change.
Chloe Markham managed to hang onto her white-knuckled grip of the small boat’s wheel as the next hull-slamming wave caused it to tip at a frightening angle. White capped, swirling water rose toward her tense body, receding only when the craft righted itself with no help from her. Okay, maybe this was an asinine plan, she bemoaned as she struggled to control both the boat and her escalating panic. As if the brilliant idea to crash the Lemasters’ party wasn’t bad enough, she had to go and compound that idiocy by ignoring the weather warnings for today, thinking she could beat the brunt of the storm even though she’d gotten a later start than when she had originally planned to leave.
Windswept rain lashed her face, the cool spray working to keep her focused through the terror of her miscalculation. Chloe never should’ve taken her mother’s phone call earlier and, of course, shouldn’t have magnified that error by allowing her parent to get under her skin with yet another reminder of her looming, thirtieth birthday and she was still single. She meant well, Chloe knew, by wanting to see her only daughter settled with a ‘nice’ guy, just as she knew that wasn’t in the cards for her now. By the time she had ended the conversation and soothed her frayed nerves with an hour of quiet meditating, she’d been dismayed to note the late time and rushed to the marina without thought except to follow through with her plan before she chickened out.
The fast-approaching wall of black clouds lit up for a split second from another jagged lightning bolt, and even though she prepared for it, the loud, booming thunder that followed shook her body and her resolve. Oh, God, Chloe, you really are an idiot. Her best friend’s voice chose the worst times to sneak into her head, and right now, she could only recall one other time that was worse than this moment. Since she didn’t dare take her attention off trying to keep from drowning by going down that road, she held even tighter to the wheel and tried once again to keep it on a course toward Magnolia Island which still loomed way too far away for her peace of mind. The twenty-minute boat trip from the marina to the mapped-out island had already taken thirty minutes, and she appeared to be at least another ten away yet.
The wind finally calmed enough to enable Chloe to catch her breath and steer back on course toward the island she hoped, prayed was the right one Lynn had told her about months ago. So much had happened since her friend had tried without success to entice Chloe to join her at a Lemaster private party, all of it for the worse. She wished now she had caved to Lynn’s constant cajoling, her efforts to draw Chloe out of her recent melancholy always ending in abject failure for both of them.
Sadness engulfed her as the image of Lynn’s pretty face forever etched in a cold mask of death rose unbidden in her mind. Chloe had been too distraught to attend the funeral, but had forced herself to spend a quiet hour at the funeral home alone with her best friend for the last time. In that solitary hour of grief, she must have promised Lynn a hundred times she would do everything she could to see her death didn’t go unpunished. Maybe this plan to arrive unannounced and uninvited on the Lemasters’ island wasn’t a smart idea, but she’d been so mired in depressed grief, she’d been desperate to find answers any way she could. Her friends, Molly and Kim, had caught her at a particularly weak moment and talked her into trying this foolhardy stunt.
Lost in her thoughts, the sudden shift in the wind again took her by surprise, drawing the howling roar of the storm much closer. Before she could get her bearings, the gusts rose to gale force strength within the span of a few minutes, just as a fork of lightning split the sky directly in front of her. The sudden, ear-shattering explosion of thunder coinciding with the abrupt increase from a light, spraying mist to a downpour threw Chloe off balance, her knee-jerk reaction to swing away from the noise and face soaking deluge tilting the boat almost on its side. Toppling from her seat, she scrambled to right herself as sharp talons of terror clawed at her insides when she saw the swirling dark waters rising to drag her under.
With fear-induced strength, she stood and tried to scoot back, but her bad knee gave out and the next wave struck too soon, toppling her over the side. The blinding pain from her head connecting with the hull as she went over saved her from being conscious when the angry ocean swallowed her up.
Ryder swore yet again when he pulled within a foot of the floundering boat just as its inept owner went over the side. Thank God she, judging from the long hair, had enough sense to wear a bright orange life vest. Keeping one hand on the wheel, he bent over and hauled her onto the Bowrider, most likely giving her more bruises to match the knot forming on her temple when the need for both hands to control the boat forced him to drop her unceremoniously on the decking. Working as fast as he could under the circumstances, he steered into the waves and rode them back to the island, the trip taking twice as long fighting the elements. The brunt hadn’t arrived yet, but he sure as hell didn’t want to be out in it when it did.
A grueling twenty minutes later, Ryder carried his houseguest into the downstairs parlor where they often held their poker games. Laying her on the small settee, he wasted no time checking her head wound, relieved to see it wasn’t as bad as he first thought. The bleeding had slowed to a trickle and her breathing remained steady. He could try to get hold of the Coast Guard to get her to the mainland and a hospital, but from the sounds of it, they would have a difficult time getting to shore now. Hoping the blow had just rendered her temporarily unconscious, he opted to wait it out for now.
“What the hell were you thinking?” he asked the unconscious young woman as he stripped off his slicker then struggled with getting her out of the life vest. Her slim eyebrows had a reddish tint which indicated she might be a redhead, but with her hair wet and tangled, it was difficult to say for certain. The smattering of freckles over a small nose would’ve been cute if she wasn’t so pale. Hoping her lack of color was normal and not due to a serious head injury, Ryder managed to get her out of the short-sleeved blouse and white, summer weight pants before pausing to stare down at her lush, rounded body, clad now in a wet, plain white bra and panties.
“Don’t take this wrong, whoever you are, but those have to go too.” He tried not to stare too long at soft breasts tipped with coldly puckered, pale pink nipples as he divested her of the bra, but he was only human. It didn’t help his good intentions she had the body type he favored most, soft and lush, with curves and dips in all the right places.
Tightening his jaw at his lack of willpower, Ryder stripped the panties down her legs, refusing to drool at the quick peek he glimpsed of bare, plump folds shielding her pussy. Then his eyes landed on her legs and the two jagged scars running down both sides of her right, swollen knee. The scars still bore a hint of color, but not the vivid red of a very recent injury. Sometime in the last year, would be his guess, although the current puffiness had most likely occurred as she fought to keep the small boat under control.
Grabbing the quilted throw draped on the back of the small sofa, he tossed it over her, gathered up her clothes and risked leaving her alone for a few minutes to shuck his own wet garments. Returning to the mud room, he went into the attached laundry and tossed both sets of sopping clothes in the washer before rushing upstairs to don a pair of jeans and tee shirt. Digging out another tee shirt and a pair of draw-string shorts, he returned to his uninvited guest, praying she woke soon, was all right and that this god-awful line of storms made a liar out of the weathermen and passed by tomorrow so he wasn’t stuck with her for several days.
Hunter didn’t mind being around people, he just preferred to take having others around on a limited basis. He’d enjoyed their weekend party, the first he, his brother and cousin had held since Lynn’s death eight weeks ago. Even with their suspicions regarding their friend’s guilt hanging a pall over the activities, he had liked entertaining again as much as he had been looking forward to his ‘alone time’ after they left.
He would try not to take his resentment over having an uninvited houseguest for a few days out on her, but, damn, it annoyed him to have to cater to an idiot who was so dumb as to be out in this weather. Even if she was attractive with cute freckles and possessed a body soft enough to cushion his much larger, harder frame.
And large, wary grey eyes, as Ryder discovered when he returned to the parlor and found her awake.
Chloe turned from surveying the unfamiliar room as a man who set her pulse to racing stepped inside. Damp, dark brown hair curled around his nape, the goatee surrounding his unsmiling mouth of the same rich hue. It wasn’t the intent, probing look in his dark blue eyes that had her mouth going dry, but his wide, muscled chest and thick, bulging biceps that drew her eyes as he strode toward her wearing a tight tee shirt and jeans. The man exuded sex, and she recognized the look of dominance stamped on his handsome face. He had to be one of the Lemasters Lynn had told her about, but which one?
The last thing she remembered was going overboard and blinding pain as her head struck the side of her boat. She’d been close to Magnolia Island, she was sure of it, and now assumed she’d landed here by his good grace. Her head pounded with a dull throb as she blinked to focus her blurred vision and get her jumbled thoughts in order. Clutching the blanket to her, Chloe kept a wary eye on him, unsure of what to say, what reason she could give for being out in this storm. To say she hadn’t thought this venture through was an understatement, but she’d have to take herself to task for her botched, desperate attempt to work her way in among Lynn’s play partners to find her killer later.
“Did you rescue me?” she asked, her voice emerging as wobbly as her insides.
“I’m Hunter Lemaster, and after I pulled you from the ocean, I got us both back to my island, safe and sound. How’s your head?”
His deep voice soothed her raw nerves even though his mouth remained in a frown. “I have a bad headache is all. Pretty lucky, I guess, considering.”
“Yes, considering,” he returned in a dry tone, those enticing lips kicking up at the corners in a way that could either be deemed sarcastic or teasing. “You care to share why you had your boat out with this storm brewing?”
Crap. Chloe thought fast, glancing away from those searching eyes as she sought an explanation that would sound plausible since she doubted the truth would sit well with him. When none jumped to mind fast enough, she went with a partial truth. “I miscalculated. I thought I could return to the marina before it got close enough to be a problem.” He didn’t need to know she hadn’t been returning.
That answer was about as evasive as her gaze, which caused Hunter’s suspicions to rise to the surface. Stifling the urge to dig deeper, he reminded himself her reasons were none of his business and let it slide. Best to just make her comfortable until he could get her back to the mainland. He was having enough trouble keeping his physical attraction under control, he sure as hell didn’t need to get involved with her problems.
“Your clothes are in the washer.” Tossing the shorts and tee shirt on top of the throw she held in a tight-fisted clutch, he said, “That’s all I could find that might fit you, if you want to get dressed. When you’re ready, come into the kitchen and I’ll fix you something hot to eat, or drink if you’re not hungry. Go left out of this room then take the hall off the entry to the kitchen. I’m the only one here, so if you get lost, holler, I’ll hear you.”
Pivoting away from those wide, shifting eyes that revealed more than her abbreviated explanation, he took two steps toward the door before swinging back around and inquiring, “What’s your name?”
“Oh, Chloe Markham, and thank you for rescuing me.”
With a terse nod, he left her alone and Chloe breathed a sigh of relief he showed no recognition of her name, as she had hoped. She had been with Jake for over two years while Lynn continued to play the field in the clubs. She knew, from Lynn, the Lemasters had quit partying at the clubs when they turned their private island into a BDSM playground for themselves and their closest friends and Lynn had introduced her to the scene well after that. Sticking to the truth as much as possible, she figured, would help in the long run of getting the answers she craved.
As soon as her host shut the door, Chloe sat up and tossed the blanket aside, reaching for the clothes he’d loaned her. It’d been a long time since her face warmed from embarrassment over others seeing her naked, but picturing Hunter undressing her, eyeing her plump body and scarred knee, sent a long-forgotten flush up her neck and over her cheeks. She’d put on weight since the devastating split with her first Master, his cruel words still holding power over her six months later. The car accident that irreparably damaged her knee left her scarred in more ways than the two obvious, surgical ones. When she’d heard the soul-crushing news of Lynn’s murder a few months later, the double blow had tossed her into such a depressed state, she had refused to leave the house for weeks at a time.
It hadn’t been until her and Lynn’s mutual friends, Kim and Molly, had invited her to lunch last week, reaching out in both friendship and sorrow, and mentioned the Lemasters’ private party this weekend in Lynn’s honor she’d begun to think of searching for answers on her own. Without revealing her true motives, she’d asked if she could come with them, but since it was by Lemaster invitation only, they couldn’t bring guests. Thrilled she wanted to start getting out again, they suggested she show up on the island and then they would put a word in for her to stay. Problem was, Chloe was discovering as she pulled the soft, extra-large black tee over her head, the party had bailed before the storm, something she hadn’t taken into consideration, and now she had no idea what to do now she was here alone.
You really didn’t think this through, did you? Shoving aside the self-recriminations over her botched plans, she stood and stepped into the loose gym shorts, wincing when she tugged the drawstring and looked down at her bare legs. She hadn’t worn shorts or skirts since Jake ended their two-year, Dom/sub relationship, her scarred, banged up knee and the limitations the injury imposed on her a constant reminder of what she’d had and would never have again. When Chloe planned to just show up at a party she wasn’t invited to with the hopes she’d be asked to stay and play, she had shoved aside the doubts about being able to jump right back into the lifestyle she’d benefitted from then lost all those months ago. She’d firmly believed the need and determination to discover who had killed Lynn and why would overrule any lingering reluctance to bare herself, physically and emotionally, again to all the submissive lifestyle required.
She should’ve known better, just like she should’ve paid closer attention to the weather report as Hunter’s remark he remained the only one here meant the party had ended before she arrived. Her impulsive behavior often landed her in trouble, but never more so than now. Now, she found herself an unwanted guest with the people who were highest on her suspect list already gone.
As much as she loved Lynn, her friend’s penchant for crossing the lines when she met a man she wanted and hadn’t had yet had often landed her in hot water with significant others. Chloe knew shortly before her death, Lynn had started up a new affair she wanted no one to know about, not even her, or Kim or Molly, which meant the man was in a committed relationship. Since she hadn’t had the nerve to return to the club scene since her breakup, the next best place to seek out this possible mystery man and top suspect had been at another private party at the Lemasters’, but once the storms passed and she returned home empty-handed, she’d have no choice but to look for her answers at the club.
Wrapping the blanket around her, she adjusted the ends to drape over her legs and cover her misshapen knee before going in search of the kitchen and the first man to catch her interest and stir her longing since Jake.