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I’ve spent my life depending on one person: myself. I’ve learned the hard way that other people will only let me down. I’ve worked for everything I have, but thanks to my drug-addicted mother, I’m about to lose the one thing I’ve craved for years. Needing to make some extra cash, I ask my boss at Restrained Fantasies, a Dallas BDSM club, for some extra shifts. Much to my chagrin, Master Carter Burkes is with him, and he leaps to my rescue, bound and determined to save me – only I’m not the kind of girl who needs to be saved.
I can’t sit by while Raven, a recurring figure in my fantasies, is in trouble. My job as a detective keeps me busy, but I’m not looking for a relationship, just a sub to assist with a class I’m teaching: Reading Your Submissive. Raven always claimed she wasn’t a member of the lifestyle, so imagine my surprise when I discover a budding submissive inside her. She gets under my skin in ways I can’t fight, but emotions are dangerous. I learned that the hard way. Is getting close to her a mistake? Will I destroy her life like I destroyed the life of the only woman I’ve ever loved?
This is book two in the Restrained Fantasies series but can be read as a standalone.
Publisher’s Note: This romance contains elements of danger, suspense, mystery, power exchange, sensual scenes and adult language. If any of these offend you, please do not purchase.
Carter needed a sub, and he needed one now.
In four hours, he was supposed to start a class at Restrained Fantasies, the Dallas BDSM club that was his second home, but forty-five minutes earlier, the sub he’d enlisted to be his teaching subject had called in sick. How was he supposed to give a class on reading subs without a fucking sub?
If he had a little more time, he’d be able to find someone from Restrained Fantasies’ clientele, but time was the one thing he didn’t have. And not having everything planned out ahead of time scraped on his every nerve.
Carter dropped onto the leather desk chair across from one of the club’s co-owners, Brock Michaels. The other man made an interesting contrast to the sleek modern feel of his office. Brock was menace and intimidation that had somehow been fused together to create a living person. Shaved head, tattoos covering most of his upper body, the man oozed bad-boy-biker out the wazoo. He was the kind of man Carter, a detective outside the walls of the club, would pay close attention to if he were skulking around in dark alleys at night.
“Oh, I know who I could ask,” Carter said with a smile, the suggestion more to get a rise out of his friend than being an actual suggestion. “You could always let me use your pretty little sub. Viv looks spectacular in chains.”
Brock glared up from the paperwork scattered across his desk, his expression a few degrees’ shy of homicidal. “I don’t share Viv with anyone. Ever. And if you want to keep your testicles from being kicked into your throat, you’d do good to remember that.”
Carter fought to keep his grin from spreading and failed miserably. “I know, I know. Viv’s off limits. What about her friend Anne? Do you think she’d be game?”
“Most likely.” The other man leaned back, crossing muscular arms across a chest about as wide as the Grand Canyon. “Anne’s game for almost anything. If she says no, you could always ask Terry. She might like the overtime.”
“Already asked Terry, but she has plans she said she couldn’t get out of.”
Brock opened his mouth to respond, but a knock sounded against his partially open office door, and an angel followed the sound inside. Well, a dark angel, anyway. Raven Malek, with her blacker-than-black hair and purple highlights, tattoos running the length of her arms and shoulders, nose and eyebrow piercings, ripped jeans, and a T-shirt with a bleeding rose could never be classified as an angel. But damn, she drew him in with the unstoppable fury of a supermassive black hole.
Emphasis on black.
Raven was one of two bartenders at Restrained Fantasies and, for the past few months, she’d also been an on-again, off-again player in Carter’s jerk-off fantasies. He couldn’t pinpoint precisely when the young woman had snagged his attention, but she had. All five-foot-six, lush and curvy inch of her.
What would her sexy body look like tied open to him? Or better yet, what would it look like on the end of his cock?
She flashed him a quick, nervous smile before turning her attention to the man who ran the place. “May I have a quick word with you, Boss?”
“Sure thing.” Brock turned to Carter. “Give us a minute, would you?”
“Of course.” Carter adjusted his hardening cock as he pushed to his feet.
Raven motioned him back into his seat, a lock of purple hair falling over her eye and creating a stunning contrast to her creamy complexion. “That’s not necessary, Carter. This won’t take long.”
Carter nodded but didn’t reclaim his seat. At this point, it’d probably be better to keep still, his hands crossed over in front of him concealing his hard-on.
Raven turned back to Brock. “I was wondering if it were possible to pick up some extra shifts over the next month? I need to make some extra cash. It’s kinda a desperate situation deal.”
The cop inside Carter jolted to attention, and every protective instinct inside him leaped to the surface. What kind of trouble was Raven in? Car broken down? Medical emergency? Paying off another drug-dealing pimp for her low-life mother? Knowing some of the shit Raven had lived through, he was placing bets on the latter.
Like all Restrained Fantasies’ employees and clientele, she’d had to submit to both drug testing and a background investigation. Raven had come back clean on all accounts, but she’d been mentioned in several police reports related to a Brenda Malek. And damn. Her mother was a fucking mess. Drug possession, prostitution, resisting arrest, child endangerment, the list went on and on.
Regardless as to the why, something was apparently bothering Raven. Tense shoulders, inability to remain still, fisting her hands. She was the textbook definition of a person on edge, and every instinct in his body cried out to help her.
“I’ll have to check the schedule,” Brock said. “I can’t make any promises, but I’m certain we can work something out.”
Raven kneaded the muscles along the side of her neck; Brock’s answer hadn’t been the one she’d been hoping for.
Her lower lip trembled, drawing Carter’s attention to the scar bisecting her chin. He’d often wondered how she’d gotten it. The scar was quite faded, which meant it was old. Had her mother given it to her? Child endangerment didn’t reach the severity of child abuse—at least under the law—but it didn’t mean her mother hadn’t hit her.
“I’ll work anytime, anyplace, Boss. Restrained Fantasies or Ravenous… whatever I can get. I promise I won’t be picky.”
Ravenous was the non-hardcore BDSM restaurant downstairs; a restaurant with little more than some surface kink, which was why Carter had only been there a few times.
“I’ll clean the sex rooms,” she continued. “I don’t care. Whatever you need, I’m your girl.”
Whatever she could get? Did whatever include moonlighting as his sub for the class?
Brock looked his way, and judging by the expression on his face, his thoughts were traveling along the same track as Carter’s.
“Come to think of it, Raven,” Brock said, “I might have something for you. It’s a little unorthodox, but the pay’s good. I just need to talk to someone before I can give you the details.”
She nodded. “Thanks, Boss. You don’t know how much I appreciate this.”
The small upturn of her lips appeared spontaneous and genuine, not like the forced one she’d given Carter earlier. This was good news for her, which only underscored her desperation—and his need to help her.
With a quick glance his way, Raven turned and headed back the way she’d come. Carter followed her with his gaze. Her walk didn’t have its usual pep. She wasn’t jamming away to the music in her head, wasn’t freely throwing around her incredible smiles. Oh yeah, something had her insides in pretzels, and the detective in him wanted to help.
The Dom in him needed to help.
The moment she cleared the room, Carter turned back to Brock and flattened his palms on his friend’s desk, a move that relayed dominance. “I want her.”
Brock smirked. “For the class, I assume.”
“Yes.” And in other ways, but that was a different conversation entirely.
The left side of Brock’s lips curled up as if he could read Carter’s lie for what it was. “You have my permission to approach her, but be careful. She’s not part of the lifestyle, and I don’t want to lose my best bartender because you pushed her too far. Got it?”
“Got it,” Carter lied. Well, mostly. If she agreed and showed even the smallest attraction to him and the world of submission, it would be balls-to-the-fucking-walls.
Raven punched the elevator button and waited for the doors to open. Damn her fucking mother. Damn her, damn her, damn her. Ten thousand dollars. How the hell was Raven supposed to come up with that kind of money by the end of the month?
Who fucking screwed over their own child this way?
She fisted her hands at her side and fought the urge to punch more than the elevator button. Taking out another loan or getting new credit cards with credit limits large enough to help was out of the question. She was over-extended as it was; served her right for trying to help the bitch in the first place. After helping her mom out with attorney fees and bail after her last arrest, Raven had been left holding the bag. She still couldn’t believe her mom had skipped on bail. Again. And crazier still, Raven didn’t know why she’d bothered helping in the first place. That had been her first—twentieth?—mistake.
Meth was slowly destroying Raven’s life, and she’d never touched the stuff.
The elevator doors slid open, and Viv Michaels strutted through. Viv was the boss’ sub and the love of his life. She was a sweet, vivacious woman Raven had come to like a lot.
Viv was dressed in her usual club fare. Black fuck-me boots, red miniskirt, and a matching leather corset which barely contained her ample breasts. She was the boss’ perfect match in every way—and it made Raven a whole lot envious. She’d never trusted anyone enough to let them in, let alone have what Viv and the boss had.
Viv’s lips curved into a friendly smile. “Hey, Raven. How’re you?”
Raven forced herself to return the other woman’s smile. “I’m good.”
Viv’s gaze sharpened. “You sure? You look… upset.”
“Just having a bit of a tough time today, but everything will work itself out. It always does.” More likely it won’t. It never did.
Over the years, she’d gotten damn good at lying about her emotions or redirecting the conversation, so with luck, Viv would take the near-lie at face value and move on. Because this problem wouldn’t work itself out. She might as well face reality and get used to it.
She’d be homeless by the end of the month.
Viv placed her hand on Raven’s arm and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Okay. Just know I’m here if you need to talk.”
The offer warmed Raven. Part of her acknowledged the impulse to accept Viv’s offer, hug her close, and let the tears come. The other part, however, the stronger part, reminded her trusting another person only ended in disaster. She’d had enough tragedies in her life already. The only person she could depend on was herself.
“I’ll keep your offer in mind,” Raven lied.
“Good.” Viv flashed another smile and then headed toward the boss’ office. She seemed so sweet and sincere. Maybe, if Raven was very lucky, she could trust Viv.
Yeah, and maybe someday, Raven would have more than two fond memories of her mother.
Raven stepped onto the elevator and pressed the button for the ground floor. She still needed to go home before her regular shift. She’d come straight from the bank, and she wasn’t exactly dressed for—
“Hey, Raven, wait up!” Someone forced their arm through the sliding doors and kept them from closing. When they opened again, she found herself staring at the handsome face of Carter Burkes. And her libido jumped to immediate attention; it usually did when he was around.
The sexy cop might be close to ten years her senior, but he wore his age like a badge of honor. Defined biceps and triceps bulged from the sleeves of his black T-shirt. The cotton stretched over his trim torso in all the right places, and his leather pants did little to cover the contour of muscular legs she’d admired more than once in the club.
A few strands of gray decorated the hair at his temples; otherwise, the perfectly messy brown locks appeared thick and lush. More than once, she’d had to squash the temptation to bury her fingers into the strands just to see if they were as soft as she’d imagined.
A day’s worth of growth covered his cheeks and square jawline. And damn those dimples. Why’d they have to amp his fuckability to stupid levels? Didn’t she have enough shit to worry about?
His eyes, however, were the only real hint to his age. The gray-blue pools hid so much pain, something she knew way too much about; the same shadows looked back at her every time she looked in a mirror.
What tragedies scarred this man’s life?
“Carter,” she murmured, trying unsuccessfully to keep from fussing with her hair. She had to look a mess. She’d rushed out to the bank first thing this morning. No makeup. No primping. Nothing. She’d been too nervous. She had, at least, brushed her hair at some point, right? “What’s up?”
“If you’re looking for some extra money,” he began, bracing both hands on the doors to keep them from closing, “I have something for you.”
“Really?” She fought the urge to raise her hands to the sky and scream, hallelujah!
He nodded. “It’s a job here at the club, something very different than making drinks.”
Intrigue tickled her spine. A job at the club? Talk about a wide variety of possibilities. “What kind of job are we talking about?”
“The kind that requires spending a lot of time with me.”
“Oh.” She could certainly think of worse job descriptions.
Carter took a step closer, letting the doors slide closed and trapping them in the small space. The scent of man and Ivory soap messed with her senses.
“What do you say I buy you a cup of coffee at Ravenous, and we can discuss the details?” he asked.
Sharing a drink with Carter Burkes at a BDSM-themed restaurant? Finally, this shitty-ass day was looking up.
Carter didn’t know which was more intoxicating. Sitting within kissing distance of Raven, nestled at a table in a dimly lit corner of Ravenous, or the alluring scent of whatever vanilla product she wore. The aroma tempted him closer, even as common sense told him to stay the fuck back. He planned to help her, maybe fuck her—okay, hopefully fuck her—but that was as far as it could go.
No emotional entanglements.
Life was easier when his heart didn’t get involved.
Relationships always ended badly, and he couldn’t handle a repeat of Emily. What happened to her had nearly killed him. Literally and figuratively. He couldn’t go through that kind of pain again.
Focusing on his surroundings, he performed a quick rundown of the room, his go-to move for calming his mind. The hostess, a leather-clad bombshell decked out in full dominatrix fashion, smiled at him as she escorted another couple to a nearby table—although table might be stretching the term.
Massive cushioned platforms ‘hung’ from the ceiling by four thick chains and were secured to the floor with a hidden base, giving the illusion that the seats were suspended in mid-air. Circular, wrought-iron tabletops sat in the center of each platform, the perfect size to hold Ravenous’ trademark shared, no-silverware-required meals.
Ravenous was aesthetically a BDSM dungeon. Old styles had been blended with new. Leather, chains, and wrought-iron bars paired with creams, deep reds, and blacks. Ornate chandeliers and rock walls rounded out the space. It mirrored the club’s décor perfectly, just without the naked people.
When Raven was finished dressing her coffee—two sugars and a splash of cream—she took a sip and sighed. “I swear I could live off coffee.”
“I swear I do live off coffee.” And he wasn’t joking. What time he didn’t put in at the precinct he spent at Restrained Fantasies, which left little time for things like eating. “Well, coffee, citrus smoothies, and PowerBars. I swear I haven’t had a good, home-cooked meal in half of forever.”
“So, you’re not big into cooking, I see.” She flashed a dick-hardening smile. “I enjoy cooking. I suck at it, but I enjoy it. I’ve been cooking since I was four. Kinda had to since—”
Her sentence stopped suddenly, and she took another sip of coffee, although she didn’t need to finish the thought. He could surmise the end. Her mom had been too strung out on drugs to bother cooking for her daughter. He’d, unfortunately, seen variations on the theme many times throughout his career.
“So,” she said as she placed her mug back on the table, “tell me about this job. And forgive me for being a bit uncouth, but how much does it pay? And how soon before I get paid?”
She smiled, but unease played in her orange-brown eyes. Rapid blinking, nibbling on her lower lip, a slight furrowing of her brow, all signs of being under massive stress.
His chest tightened in sympathy. He wanted to cover her hand with his and tell her everything would be okay, anything to make her smile again.
“The job’s to be my assistant for Reading Your Sub, a new class I’m teaching at the club. The sub I’d hired—”
She was already shaking her head, the sudden fear streaking across her forehead telling him she knew what he was about to request. “I tend bar at a BDSM club, but I’m not part of the lifestyle. I made that very clear to Mr. Michaels when he hired me.”
Yes, Carter knew her preferences very well.
“For this class, Raven, preferences don’t really matter. Hell, I’d go so far as to say it’ll be a plus.” He gave her a reassuring smile, but she didn’t look particularly reassured.
“How so?” She furrowed her brow, changing the position of the delicate silver hoop decorating her eyebrow.
He wanted to trace the piercing with his tongue. Did that make him weird?
“Reading Your Sub is all about showing newbie Doms how to better serve their subs by learning to accurately read their body language.”
“Yeah. Got that from the syllabus, professor.”
Carter laughed out loud; it was damn close to a snort. God, he loved her snark.
“What exactly would my role be, scared bartender asks already dreading the answer.”
“Well, basically, you’ll let me place you in certain situations, some of which will make you uncomfortable, some of which might arouse you. Everything I do will be done to evoke physical and emotional responses from you, responses I’ll point out and dissect so other Doms can see them and recognize them for the future.”
“What kind of situations?”
“Various states of bondage mainly, maybe toward the end, bondage with a ball gag so I can delve deep into the non-verbal aspects of the class.”
Shaking her head again, she wrapped her arms around her middle—a flashing neon sign. Crossed arms indicated anxiety, internal discomfort, or vulnerability. She might not be outright terrified by his offer, but she wasn’t okay with it either. Maybe it was time for a mini demonstration.
He caught her by the chin, the hold a smidge beyond gentle yet not approaching anything remotely abusive. If she wanted, she could free herself with one jerk of her head.
As he’d anticipated—and counted on—she went completely stiff a few moments before grabbing his arm.
He mentally broke down her reaction as he verbalized what he saw. “Your body went rigid and your eyebrows rose, which tells me you were surprised by my sudden move. Your lower lip’s trembling, which tells me you’re scared. But strangely enough…” He flicked his hand, freeing his wrist from her grasp, and pressed his index finger to her chin, gently this time. “You’re also licking your lips which tells me there’s a seed of arousal deep inside you in need of tending.” He leaned in so close his breath warmed her lips. “Am I wrong?”
She took a quivering breath. “Yes. V-very wrong.”
“Liar.” He pulled back far enough to snare her with his gaze. “Your voice has gotten tight, and you’re stuttering. You want me. At the very least, you’re aroused by me in your personal space. It’s okay to admit it, little one.”
“No.” Resignation tinted her arousal. “I’m. Not.”
She was lying so hard.
Sweetening the pot, he stroked his thumb over her cheek. “I know I like having you in my personal space. I’d also be honored to be the first to help you explore your submissive side.”
Those expressive eyes widened. His admission had surprised her. And excited her. And for reasons he couldn’t grasp, angered her.
“I’m not subservient to anyone,” she said, jumping to her feet, “so you’ll need to find someone else to be your plaything for class.”
Like Brock had warned him not to do, Carter had pushed her too far, too fast, and she was running. Fuckity, fuck, fuck, fuck. He had to get her back quickly.
“The pay’s a thousand dollars,” he called after her, startling the woman at the table next to them and making her drop a piece of fruit smothered in chocolate fondue.
Raven stopped cold. Her shoulders were tense and pulled back, showing defiance while standing proud and tall, but her hands told a contradicting story. They were closed in fists, a clear fighting posture. She was in conflict but with herself. Which did she want more?
Or to save her pride?
He went to her, careful not to step too close, and kept his voice so low only she could hear. “The situations I put you in will in no way compromise you. You have my word, Raven. No sex, no exposing yourself. You will remain in control and can stop it at any time.”
She turned back to him, chin lifted. “I need the money, but I won’t sell my body to get it.”
“I’m not asking you to, sweetheart. If I were, I’d have to arrest us both.” He paused a moment to let his meaning sink in. “I need you to be my subject for a class. That’s what I’m paying for.”
“No sex? No flogging? No—”
“I can’t spell out everything I might or might not do because it could color your reactions, and I want your reactions to be completely authentic. However, I guarantee I won’t do anything like the things you’re probably thinking.”
Her expression remained like granite. “I won’t have sex with you for money.” She drove the point home with lethal finality. “I won’t.”
He nodded. Hoping to lighten her mood, he added, “So are you saying you would have sex with me for fun, then?”
Finally, the sexy smile he adored recaptured her lips, and laughter bubbled from her sexy-as-sin mouth. “I didn’t say that either.”
He gave an over-exaggerated shrug. “Can’t blame a Dom for trying.”
She shook her head, but she was all laughs.
“Come on, Raven.” He motioned back to their table. “Let’s sit back down, and I’ll go over some of the finer details before class.”
After taking a deep breath, she nodded. “I’ll listen—but that doesn’t mean I’m saying yes.”
“Read ya loud and clear.” But at least, she was listening.
What the hell had she agreed to?
Raven paced the maze of packed boxes in her living room, her better judgment twisting her intestines into pretzels. She still couldn’t believe she’d agreed to be Carter’s—what had he called it? —subject for a BDSM workshop. She should call and back out, tell him she was having second thoughts. Yes, just call and admit she was scared.
She half-flung herself onto a three-box pile to her right. Canceling would be the smart thing, but the money she’d make for what amounted to three days of work would take a chunk out of the ten thousand she needed. But would this money matter in the long run?
She honestly couldn’t see any way to raise the kind of money she needed in a month, participating in Carter’s class or no. She’d already had a little over three grand in the safe upstairs. In her getting-ready-to-move sale, she sold everything of value. Jewelry, her grandmother’s antique dining set, her bedroom set. She took the term ‘fresh start’ literally. Nothing from this shithole would pass the doors of her new place.
Well, what would have been her new place before her mother had struck again.
What would never be her new place if she didn’t meet Carter for his damn class.
The plan had been to buy all new furniture after moving in. She was currently sleeping on a mattress in the living room and living out of boxes, but if she could somehow find a way to pull the money together, everything would be worth it, even if she had to sleep on a pallet on the floor and live out of boxes for months.
She grabbed a random T-shirt from the box beside her and chucked it at the piece of shit sofa she doubted she’d be able to sell. It still amazed her how quickly and thoroughly her plans had derailed, but this wasn’t the time or place for dissecting her crappy life. She had to be back at the club in under two hours, and as one of her Army foster dads was fond of saying, she still needed to shit, shower, and shave. Definitely shave.
Just in case.
Carter was hot, after all. And what was so wrong with a girl getting her jollies off? So long as she wasn’t fucking him for money, everything was game.
Forty-five minutes later, she stood naked in front of her closet. What was she supposed to wear when subbing in for a sub? Carter hadn’t elaborated on this aspect, and she hadn’t thought to ask. Usually, when heading to work at the club, she’d throw on a pair of tattered jeans and one of the many leather corsets she’d bought at the Restrained Fantasies’ shop, but something told her Carter wouldn’t want her to wear anything quite so covering. Ugh, she’d have to show off her legs, wouldn’t she?
She looked heavenward. “Just kill me now.”
She started digging through her clothes. Did she own a skirt anymore? Maybe she could find something leftover in her mom’s closet and—
Raven cut the thought off at the neck. She would not borrow clothes from her meth-addicted mother, so she could go to a sex club and give herself to a man for cash. And okay, technically, she wasn’t resorting to prostitution like her mom had, but this felt too damn close for comfort. Selling her body for cash was her mother’s thing, not Raven’s, and by god, she was not her mother. She was, however, desperate.
Letting out a long breath, she grabbed a pair of jeans and pulled them on. She paired the denim with a blood-red corset and her favorite black combat boots. The outfit probably wouldn’t work, but she knew a person who could help.
After locking the front door, she grabbed her phone and dialed the club. The boss answered on the third ring.
“Hey, Boss. It’s Raven. By any chance, is Viv around?”
Carter did a double-take.
Raven stepped into the dungeon anxious out of her mind. She stood with her arms crossed, her spine as rigid as the stone walls surrounding them. She was fidgety too, both hands and feet, as if she were fighting the urge to run, and her soulful eyes were dark, pupils wide, and swimming with fear. None of her anxiety, however, affected him more potently than the sight of her decked out in full bondage gear.
Be still his throbbing dick.
A blood-red corset wrapped her torso, accentuating her curvy figure and lifting her breasts to a point where they commanded absolute respect and undivided attention. On her feet, she wore a pair of black combat boots with a flair of decoration; sexy leather-and-rivet straps wrapped the ankle. Talk about submissive perfection.
It was the parts between the corset and the boots, however, which drove him to the outer edges of sanity. A cutoff jean skirt showed off thick, powerful legs wrapped in wide fishnet stockings. The ensemble played with his mind, and the black four-poster bed behind her only added to the picture.
She was a fucking powerhouse. What would those strong legs feel like locked around his waist as he rammed into her? The mere thought had his cock swelling to full attention behind the zipper of his leathers.
This would be an agonizingly long class.
Adjusting himself before taking a step, his boots soft against the tile floor, Carter went to her. “Wow. Just… wow. You look positively edible.”
A smile broke through her obvious discomfort. “Thanks. Viv took me shopping. I wasn’t sure I could pull this off, but she insisted.”
“And I’m so very glad she did.” He made a twirl-for-me motion with his index finger. “Turn. I want to see the back.”
She hesitated a few heartbeats before complying, and he had to bite his lower lip to keep from groaning. He’d always admired her ass when she’d been behind the relative safety of the bar. He’d ordered many a drink for the sole purpose of making her squat and stretch to reach seldom-used bottles of alcohol, putting her round ass on full display, but now, no bar stood between them, just a small swath of skin-tight denim.
“I’m going to touch you,” he said matter-of-factly as he stepped around her and stood toe-to-toe. “Before anyone gets here, so you can, at least, feel a little more comfortable with me and your role in class.”
Yeah, comfort was the reason he wanted to touch her.
She shook her head. Sweet Jesus, she looked as if she were utterly terrified he’d string her up to the wrought-iron chandelier and grab her by the pussy, with or without her consent. Only assholes did something so disgusting—not to mention illegal—and he wasn’t a fucking monster. He was a Dom, but he was also a gentleman, although not always so much with the gentle.
“I’m not going to grope you, Raven. I swear. Safe, sane, and consensual. It’s not just a club tagline; it’s something I take very seriously.”
“I know. I know. It’s just…” Closing her eyes, she drew in a long, deep breath and then froze. When she opened her eyes again and locked their gazes, determination painted her face even if fear never left her expression. “Touch me.”
With cobweb soft touches, he drew his right index finger along her jaw. She tensed, shoulders pulling back, but she didn’t pull away. He’d take this as a good sign.
He lifted his other hand and repeated the motion on her opposite side. “I’m not going to touch you anywhere that’ll make you feel compromised. That much I promise you.” He’d covered this before, but given her discomfort, he was compelled to repeat it. “But I will touch you during class. Nearly intimately. Aside from the two big spots, is there anywhere else you have strong negative feelings toward?”
For a long moment, she didn’t answer, and when she finally did, it was little more than a shake of the head. No, no, no. Nonverbal communication wouldn’t cut it. He’d long ago made a habit of having all subs, especially new ones, verbalize all answers directed at him.
“I need you to voice all answers from here on out,” he said. “I’m very good at reading people, but there are times when the voice can counter body language. A person might learn to control their body language and nod in consent to a question posed, but it’s harder to hide emotion in the voice.” He trailed an index finger along the pounding vein in the left side of her neck. “The husky rasp of arousal, the quiver of fear. The physical, hormone-laced responses are much harder to control. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” she murmured.
“Yes, Sir,” he corrected.
As he’d anticipated, she went tense at the suggestion of having to call him Sir. Back in Ravenous, his mention of her being submissive had triggered an adverse reaction. He wasn’t sure why, but something about being called or thought of as a sub was downright insulting to her. But why? And would he have time to get to the bottom of it before the class was over?
“I’m not your sub,” she said, head held high.
“For the next two hours, you most certainly are, and you will act the part accordingly.” And maybe, if he was lucky, she might discover she liked being submissive, in the bedroom anyway. “This is not a class on proper punishments for unruly subs, so you’ll need to act like a good little sub for the duration of the class. Do I make myself clear, little one?”
He held his breath as he waited for her response.
“Yes, Sir,” she said finally, her defiance never wavering.
Could she have spoken through more clenched teeth? It was, however, a start, so he’d take it.
He rewarded her acquiescence with a gentle kiss to the forehead. “Good girl.”
She smelled like vanilla and desire. He doubted he’d be able to smell anything vanilla scented again without going instantly hard.
“Exactly how much do you know about the lifestyle?” he asked. “Safewords, obviously. What else?”
All employees were instructed in the use of safewords—specifically the club’s safeword, red—so they could be on the lookout for anyone not respecting a member’s rights.
“I know the boss usually orders a house draft. Vivian gets a Porch Swing. Master Stephen never gets anything from the bar. And I know you like to order Caipirinhas because I keep the Cachaça on the back of the bottom shelf, so I have to bend over to reach it. And you, in turn, get to check out my ass.”
The left side of his lips turned up. The girl was good. “So, in other words, you don’t know much about the lifestyle specifically.”
She pursed her lips and looked skyward. He swore he could hear the curse words in her expression before she spoke again.
“Not really, Sir.”
He rewarded her catch and correction with another soft forehead kiss.
He held his hand out for her. “For tonight’s class, safeword and subservience will probably be all you need. So, if you’ll follow me, I’ll show you some of the toys I might be using on you later.”
Might be using on her later?
Fear nearly froze Raven to the tiled floor. The man standing before her terrified her on so many levels. One way, more than the others, but she didn’t want to admit it.
It wasn’t the black leather pants or the simple black tank top showing off arms powerful enough to squeeze her broken pieces back together. It wasn’t the leather wrist cuffs or the thick silver chain which connected to some hidden spot on the back side of his belt and to a big “O” ring on the front. It wasn’t the strong set of his jaw or the penetrating way he looked at her. No, what scared her most was the way he made her feel in deep, untouched parts inside her, parts she’d neglected far too long.
Ridiculously desperate to please him.
He created a shitstorm of emotions she couldn’t handle, couldn’t decipher them either. It was why she actively avoided him at the club. She had no foundation to deal with feelings not revolving around anger, disappointment, survival, or pure lust, but somehow, she found the inner strength to place her hand in his.
Skin connected to skin, a simple touch, nothing more than two people experienced when shaking hands, but the heat inside her core doubled and threatened to drop her to her knees.
She steeled herself, drawing in a much-needed breath. She wouldn’t fall for whatever spell he was weaving around her. And it was a spell. She might not believe in magic, but it was the only explanation she could conjure to explain how much he affected her sanity.
Carter smiled and drew her hand to his lips. As with the other two kisses he’d given her, a warmth began at the spot where his lips contacted her skin and spread out to encompass her entire body, giving her the exact calming sensation she’d been seeking herself. Damn it! Were his lips laced with fucking Xanax?
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Liar.” He drew a fingertip along her forehead. “The skin here’s gone wrinkly. Something has you upset. What is it?”
She swatted his hand away. “Stop it.”
“Getting inside my head. It’s… disconcerting.”
“Classic redirection.” Grinning, he stroked his thumb over her lips. “But I won’t push you to tell me things you don’t want to. Just know, I’m here if you need me.”
“I don’t need someone to save me.”
“Never said you did, little one, but I’m here nonetheless. Even if it’s just to be a sounding board.”
He eased his thumb again over her lower lip. She fought the urge to laugh. Did guys ever want to ‘just talk’ with a girl unless sex was involved at some point?
Not in her experience.
But she nodded anyway.
Seemingly satisfied, he walked with her onto the dungeon’s circular platform, which sat two steps higher than the rest of the floor, and directed her toward a long table covered in black satin. She’d noticed the table when she’d walked in, but her fear and the sexy Dom at her side had usurped all her brain power—not so much now.
She swallowed against the lump forming in the back of her throat, and Carter placed a hand tenderly over her throat. Not around. His hand was only slightly curved, palm contouring against her voice box.
“Relax, pet,” he cooed. “No one’s going to hurt you. At best, I’d orgasm you into a coma, and that’s not an exaggeration. Well, not much of one.”
A shiver chased down her spine. “That sounds, um…” She swallowed again, her larynx working against his hand. “…um, interesting.”
And okay, it was as far from interesting as anything could possibly be. Calling the idea interesting was about as apt as saying the desert was a bit dry.
“Is ‘interesting’ really the best word you can come up with?” he asked.
No way she’d answer that.
With his free hand, he gripped her hips and pulled her firmly against his hard body and even harder cock, her back to his front. “Remove the sheet.”
His voice was a soft seduction, and she obeyed without hesitation. The satin was cool against her skin, a welcome contrast to her clammy grip, but the second the table’s content was revealed, everything lurched into slow-motion.
She worked at the club long enough to know what most of the items were. The rather mundane stuff like blindfolds, handcuffs, wrist and ankle cuffs, and collars. The middle-of-the-line kinkiness like leashes, harnesses, and a flogger. Those, if she were being honest, she’d expected. The stuff on the far-right side of the table, however, gave her pause.
Nylon ropes, a riding crop, two types of whips—oh fuck, nipple clamps. She tried taking a step back, her head flailing back and forth, but he had her in his grip. She was trapped. This wasn’t what she’d signed up for.
“Breathe, pet,” he murmured. “Your heart’s pounding.” With the same gentle hold, he cupped a hand around her neck and positioned her head against his mountainous shoulder. “Just breathe. Breathe…”
Easier said than done. Her mind was racing. Okay, not only her mind. She was racing. Heart, breath, libido… every fucking thing. It was too much.
“I will not hurt you,” he said. “I will not expose you to any of the other Doms or allow them to hurt you or touch you. You have my word, Raven. Trust me.”
She grabbed onto the word. Trust didn’t come easily. She wasn’t sure it ever had. Or ever could. Even when her mother was around, Raven had been on her own since the age of five. Fending for herself. Cooking for herself. Cleaning the house by herself. Stealing money from the scattered bills on her mother’s bedside table, the ones the Johns’ had left, and giving them to Mrs. Bishop, the kind lady next door. Raven and Mrs. Bishop had had an arrangement; Raven would bring over what money she could, and Mrs. Bishop made sure the electric and water bills got paid.
Looking back, Raven was pretty sure what money she stole hadn’t come close to the actual bill amount, but Mrs. Bishop had never once complained. Nor had she complained whenever a hungry Raven had shown up at her door, stomach rumbling, or when Raven had needed to get away from the Johns who arrived at all hours of the night. Mrs. Bishop and a single foster father had been the only people in Raven’s life who had come close to earning her trust, but here Carter was, asking for trust.
It was a distinction something inside Raven recognized. Still…
She closed her eyes and raked in a calming breath. She couldn’t give all her trust, but here, in the confines of Restrained Fantasies, in the arms of a man sworn to obey and uphold the law, maybe—just maybe—she could give a little. Not her complete trust. That was too damaged and broken to ever give entirely, but she believed Carter when he’d said he wouldn’t hurt her.
She’d hold tight to the thought.
“I trust you, Sir.” She dug her fingernails into his leathers and grabbed on, as if holding tight to him was the cure for all her ills.
“Good, girl.” He grazed his lips over the shell of her ear as he spoke, before moving to tease the pounding vein along the side of her neck. “I like the way you respond to my touch. It’s incredibly arousing. What I wouldn’t give to explore every inch of you.”
His words were liquid desire, fueling her lust and igniting something inside her she’d never experienced before. A powerful vulnerability which left her feeling raw and exposed but in the best possible way.
He kissed her neck, not lingering too long, which only served to make her want him more. Had he done that on purpose? Probably.
“Turn around,” he ordered. “I want to study your face.”
She obeyed before the consequences of her actions registered in her mind, until his gorgeous eyes were boring into hers.
The hand which had been around her neck was in her hair, fingers grabbing tight. The hand at her waist shifted to the small of her back and tugged her against him. His erection was heavy against her belly, a physical sign leaving no doubt to the way she affected him. He wanted her as much as she wanted him.
His gaze dropped to her mouth. He licked his lips as if trying to decide whether kissing her was a good idea, which it wasn’t. It was a terrible idea.
She pushed to her tiptoes.
“How’d you get the scar on your chin?” he asked. “I’ve always wondered.”
His question threw her for a moment, and she shook her head. If she allowed her thoughts to travel back in time, to the night she’d gotten said scar, the darkness could overcome her again.
She carried many scars from her childhood and not all were physical.
“Okay,” he murmured. “The scar’s an off-limits topic. Got it.”
Raven swallowed hard, suddenly aware of where her hands were. Her fingers were inching their way up his back as she pushed further onto her tiptoes. She almost felt like she was under some form of hypnosis. Or maybe it was more like a prisoner in her own body. She wasn’t sure how to describe it; all she knew for sure was if his mouth didn’t cover hers right fucking now, she might completely lose her mind.
As if reading her mind, Carter took her lips—and time stood still. It was stupid and cliché, but there it was.
Reality froze around them. Surrender built in her body like a pressure cooker nearing its blast point. Every passing second, she grew more and more insistent, and she hated it. She wasn’t submissive to anyone. She wasn’t. But even as she tried talking herself back from the ledge, Carter deepened their kiss.
His tongue slid over hers, claiming it, claiming her in one powerful move, and her stupid, traitorous body was all too eager to surrender.
A knock sounded against the closed dungeon door, and the sexy man in her arms drew back, cursing under his breath, although she wasn’t sure if it was the interruption or the kiss itself annoying him most.
She wasn’t sure she wanted to find out either way.
“Come,” Carter said as he stepped away from her and turned to the door.
Raven didn’t turn to see who entered, but she didn’t run either, which, all things considered, she considered a win.
Holy fuck, her heart was pounding like she’d sprinted up every flight of stairs in the building. She’d never been on the receiving end of a kiss like that—a kiss that had barely begun. Who knew kisses could harbor that kind of intensity?
What had she gotten herself into?
A man’s deep baritone drew her attention. “It’s time. You ready to get this shindig started?”
God, that was the boss. Fuck. Why did his presence make her feel even more emotionally strung out?
“Yeah,” Carter answered, his voice annoyingly unaffected. “All ready to go.”
“Good.” There was a slight pause, and when the boss spoke again, humor played on the outer edges of his voice. “I’ll give you a few moments to wipe the lipstick from your mouth. It’s not really your color, Carter.”
Gawd. She wanted to melt and slink away through the building’s pipes.
As the door clicked shut, Raven reached into her back pocket, where she usually kept her compact, but Carter caught her by the wrist and tugged until they stood face to face again. The tempest in his eyes had lessened, which annoyed her to no end. She was still reeling from their kiss; he should be too.
He ran the pad of his thumb carefully over the bottom crease of her lower lip. Holy shitballs. Was he fixing her lipstick?
“There we go,” he said when he’d finished. “All perfect again. Now, my turn.”
Her hands trembled like she’d been two weeks lost in a blizzard. Wiping away her lipstick from his lips was a strangely intimate act. Were all Doms as sweet? Or just Carter? Because yeah, she didn’t quite consider Doms and sweet as copacetic terms.
Would he be this sweet with a flogger in his hands?
Did she want to know?
“You ready?” he asked.
She nodded and then immediately caught herself. “Yes, Sir. I’m ready.”
“Good.” He pressed a quick kiss to the end of her nose. “Now, let’s get you into a little bondage.”