Dan Shylock entered the playroom of his BDSM club tired and unsure why he’d bothered to come out tonight. He’d had his hands full with trying two court cases this week and continuing his newest employees’ education in small ranching. If it weren’t for Bernie, his reliable, trustworthy foreman of the past nine years, he wouldn’t be able to juggle both a legal career and a working ranch. After noting the crowd spread out in the converted barn, he veered toward a quiet, secluded corner, taking a seat on a sofa that faced the room. Leaning back with a sigh, he crossed one booted ankle over his opposite knee and stretched his arms out behind him. Scanning the Saturday night members, he spotted his friends, the Dunbar brothers at the circular bar in the center of the floor, their wives at their sides, like usual. It tickled him how content the two confirmed bachelors now were with wedded bliss. He could see why they had succumbed so fast to the charms of Sydney and Tamara, just not why they’d been in such a hurry to make that commitment. Although, he mused, Connor’s downfall hadn’t come nearly as quick or as easy as Caden’s. You’d think, maintaining such a close friendship with the neighbor girl for years would have made the decision to take their relationship to the next level a no-brainer, but the younger Dunbar had fought against going that route and it almost cost him their special connection for good.
The image of a golden-eyed brunette popped into his head, a common occurrence lately. He’d thought he and Nan Meyers also enjoyed a close bond, both as frequent Dom/sub partners here at The Barn and as friends outside of the sexually charged atmosphere. But the longer she stayed away and out of touch, the more he questioned what was going on with her and why she had shut him out along with her other friends. She’d left Willow Springs last summer, right after the Dunbar’s double wedding, to spend a few weeks with her brother in New Orleans and hadn’t returned in the ten months since. Every time he went by her closed up tea shop located not far from his office in the town square, his gut tightened as he thought of her abrupt silence following the first few weeks of her departure.
“You’ll scare the subs away with that scowl,” Sheriff Grayson Monroe drawled as he took a seat next to Dan.
“Nah, they love all of us just the way we are.” Dan flicked him a sideways glance. “Where’s your pretty wife? Never mind, I see her now.”
With her soft, round curves displayed nicely in a red teddy, Avery padded up to them carrying a soft drink and beer, handing the beer to Grayson with a blush as Dan enjoyed a slow look at her delectable body. “Evening, Avery.”
“Hi, Master Dan.” Grayson tugged her onto his lap and wrapped an arm around her waist. “How are you?” she asked, leaning against her husband with a contented sigh.
“I’d be better if you were still single, or if Master Grayson would share once in a while,” he teased just to watch her face turn a deeper shade of red. “I swear, this place used to be more fun before everyone decided to settle down with their subs.” The sheriff hadn’t waited long after the Dunbars to put a ring on Avery’s finger and the couple had married last fall.
“Maybe you’d enjoy yourself more if you would start playing again. When was the last time you made one of our subs happy?” Grayson never did believe in beating around the bush.
Dan frowned, thinking back. Had it been that long since he’d indulged himself here? There had been a few nights when he hadn’t been in the mood for anything except socializing, and with his caseload, he hadn’t frequented the club as much in the last two months. Between the physical exertion of ranching and keeping up with his law practice, he stayed busy.
Shrugging, he lowered his arms and leg to lean forward, bracing his forearms on his thighs. “I guess it has been a few weeks,” he admitted with a rueful shake of his head.
Grayson reached up and cupped Avery’s breast through the silky material, rasping his thumb over her nipple until the pouty bud hardened. “You kept to yourself a lot right after Nan left as well. Everyone misses her. Still no word?”
Well, yeah, he missed her too. She was the only sub he didn’t shy away from playing with on a regular basis, mainly because she shared his enjoyment of remaining free of entanglements. The delightful way she embraced her submissiveness and her penchant for pain play and rough sex made her the perfect match for his strict dominance.
“I haven’t heard from her, and last I checked with Tamara, neither had she,” he replied, his irritation with Nan’s silence underscoring his words. “I’m just tired tonight. It’s been a long, stressful week.”
“How are the military parolees working for you? Getting the hang of things?” Sliding his hand downward, Grayson idly caressed the inside of Avery’s thigh, the slow circular motions drawing Dan’s gaze.
Shifting, he felt the first stirrings of interest in choosing someone to scene with. “Yeah. Their time in an Army jail for possession followed by a stint in rehab took its toll, just like the others I’ve hired following their release. Morales is doing well but Pete has lapsed twice. I’m holding out hope he’ll come around, though. They deserve a second chance for cleaning up their act, or, at least trying to.” Dan and Grayson both spent years in the military. During his time as a JAG officer, he’d both defended and prosecuted numerous military recruits on drug charges while Grayson had seen combat firsthand. It hadn’t taken him long to understand how the atrocities of war could drive even the most stalwart of young people into substance abuse in order to cope.
“I get it, they still need supervision. I admire your commitment, but don’t envy you the job.” With a nudge, Grayson prodded Avery up and stood to clasp her hand. “Caden has you down to monitor the loft in about fifteen minutes. Does that work?”
Dan nodded. “Sure, I’ll be up. Catch you later.” He winked at Avery and watched his friends head for the stairs leading to the upper level of the converted barn.
The Dunbar brothers and Grayson were already in the middle of renovating the dilapidated barn when he purchased his property, but as soon as he’d gotten wind of the project, he didn’t hesitate to offer his help. The members took turns keeping an eye on scenes, especially those using the bondage equipment. They were a close-knit group and everyone knew and adhered to the rules of the club and the well-known guidelines that ensured safe BDSM play, but that didn’t mean mistakes weren’t made or something consensual couldn’t get out of hand.
Pushing to his feet, Dan decided he’d stayed to himself long enough and strolled toward the bar, noticing Caden leading Sydney out back. He knew the pretty redhead enjoyed the hot tub, and it appeared her husband was in the mood to indulge her. An excellent chef, she likely bribed him with a favorite dish or dessert. If he employed as many hands as the Dunbars, he would hire her in a heartbeat to cook for them. His small cattle herd was manageable with five cowpunchers, just large enough to enable him to indulge in both his love of ranching and practicing law.
Sliding onto a barstool next to Tamara, he tugged on her black braid and flashed her a quick grin. “Why don’t you dump your Dom and play with me tonight? Aren’t you tired of him yet?” He tilted his head toward Connor behind the bar.
She returned his smile, her gray eyes lit with pleasure as she gazed at her husband. “He is tiresome,” she replied with a mock sigh. “But I waited too long to get him into bed to give him up now that I have him there. But, thanks anyway.”
“Did I mention the new spanker I picked up this week, sweetie?” Connor whipped his blue eyes from Tamara to Dan. “Master Dan, why don’t you find your own girl to pester? I think I heard Leslie mention your name earlier.”
“Get me a beer and I may indulge her after I monitor.” Dan clasped the cold bottle Connor handed over and took a swig before saluting the couple with the brew. “Thanks.”
Winding his way toward the stairs, Dan took in the gyrating couples dancing to a pulse-pounding beat, trying to remember the last time he enjoyed a sub sliding her soft body against his to the tune of a sultry voice. He had a fondness for slow dancing, but it had been ages since he’d indulged in that pleasure. Frowning, he took the stairs up to the loft, trying to remember when the last time was. Surely it wasn’t with Nan. Had it really been all those months ago, before she’d taken off? Taking another long pull on his beer, he wondered at himself, and vowed if she ever got her enticing ass back here, she would answer for occupying his mind way too much with worry for her. As far as he knew, she hadn’t been in touch with any of her closest friends for some time now either, which wasn’t like her.
Greg Young, a newer member of the club, met him in the center of the dim loft, both of them eying Master Brett for a moment as he wielded a slim cane across his wife, Sue Ellen’s round buttocks. Bound facing the wall, she embraced each swat with a soft cry and lift of her ass for more. A year ago, the middle-aged couple was the only pair in a committed relationship.
“Are you here to relieve me?” Greg asked, tilting his auburn head with a grin tugging at his lips as Brett released his wife and she cuddled against him with a glazed expression.
“I am.” Clapping him on the shoulder, Dan said, “Go on. I imagine you and Devin are ready to send someone into subspace.” The two close friends often shared a woman between them, and from what Dan had witnessed, their subs always went away content and happy.
“We do aim to please. It’s been quiet up here.” A high-pitched cry of release resonated from the far corner where the webbed fucking swing was being put to good use. “Well,” Greg drawled, “relatively quiet, anyway. Later.”
Dan waved him off and settled against the back wall. Tipping his Stetson down, he crossed his arms and scanned the activities with slow perusal, noting who was where and what scenes they were playing out. He enjoyed this time of observance, watching others play, maybe choosing his own next partner and a scene from what he witnessed. But as the hour wound down, he was contemplating calling it a night instead, unable to set aside his exhaustion from the busy week and the mental dissatisfaction plaguing him tonight.
Caden appeared upstairs, ready to take over just as Leslie approached Dan with a lustful interest reflected in her blue eyes any self-respecting Dom would find difficult to ignore.
“Master Dan, how are you?”
Her voice was as soft as her lush body and Dan held out his hand to her without thinking about it. “I’m good, Leslie. Care to join me?”
Her eyes lit with excitement as she clasped his hand. “I’d like that, Sir.”
He looked toward Caden and received his affirmative nod before tugging Leslie over to a chain station, intending to put the flogger swishing against his side to good use and an end to his odd mood. He knew from topping her before how much Leslie relished the snap of leather against her bare skin. Almost as much as Nan, making him wonder if his long absent, favorite sub had been getting her needs met these many months away. Disgusted with himself for thinking about another when his focus should be on the girl who had entrusted herself to his care now, he whisked Leslie’s breast hugging, spandex top over her head, freeing the plump mounds with an enticing bounce.
“Just as pretty as I remember.” Cupping both breasts, he kept his eyes on her face as he kneaded her malleable flesh before plucking the sensitive tips into hardened buds. “More?” he asked, preferring his partners to vocalize their needs.
She leaned into him with a moan, her eyes glazing over. “Yes, please, Sir.”
Dan twisted her nipples until she flinched and then held the tight pinch for three seconds. “Good girl,” he praised her when she remained still and quiet. He suppressed a satisfied grin as he released the pale pink buds and she exhaled with a relieved breath. “Arms up and I’ll give you what you need.”
Her eyes flicked down to his flogger and a delicate shudder went through her. Raising her arms, she allowed him to bind her wrists, her breathing speeding up with anticipation as he skimmed his hands down her swaying torso to loosen her shorts. Shoving them down along with her thong, he reached behind her and curved his palms over her buttocks, squeezing hard enough to make her yelp. He loved those startled cries he could pull from a sub, especially when she embraced whatever he was doing to cause them.
Shifting his hands to Leslie’s hips, Dan spun her around to face the wall. Leaning against her back, he bent his head to nip the tender skin between shoulder and neck and felt her shiver. Satisfied with the response, he stepped back, unhooking the flogger from his waist.
“Soft and slow or hard and fast?” He gave her the choice as he trailed the braided strands over her buttocks and watched the soft mounds clench.
“Um… maybe a little of both?”
It always seemed to fluster some subs when he let them choose before starting instead of working them into accepting more as he went along. He didn’t do it often, but he found himself reluctant to draw this scene out. A nagging sense of disquiet kept intruding to disrupt his thoughts, and it wouldn’t be right to put her through her paces if his own head wasn’t fully in the game.
With a flick of his wrist, he snapped the flogger across both cheeks hard enough to leave red stripes, soft enough to draw a moan of pleasure instead of a low groan of discomfort. “Yes, I now recall that about you. More heat, less sting. Got it.”
Dan worked the flogger over her ass and thighs, inching up to her lower back for lighter strokes. Leslie swayed in the restraints, her hips jutting back to accept the lashes and then jerking forward as she gasped and allowed the prickling warmth to seep into her muscles. He preferred raising a deeper hue than the faint blush encompassing her backside, but then, these scenes weren’t about him, at least not at this stage. By the time he finished delivering twelve strokes, a light sheen of perspiration coated her back and slick cream glistened at the seam of her puffy labia.
Dan returned the flogger to the hook at his waist and brushed his fingers over her quivering flesh, enjoying the warmth and Leslie’s shudder before sliding his middle finger down her crack. With a twist of his hand, he slid a finger between her damp folds and pushed past her puckered anus’ tight resistance with his thumb and set up a series of short jabs meant to tease and torment.
“Oh, God, please, Sir,” Leslie gasped, thrusting back against his marauding hand.
“Please, what?” he demanded, clutching her hip with his free hand to hold her still. “More of this?” He withdrew from both orifices and then rammed back inside harder, deeper, bringing her to her toes with a cry.
“Yes, yes, please…”
One of his favorite perks of being a Dom was playing with a sub for long periods of time, tormenting them by dragging out their release, or withholding it at his whim or in accordance with their needs or actions. Leslie was a sweet girl, always eager to play and please, but instead of taking his time to enjoy her, he zeroed in on her clit, giving in to her pleas with little thought, just a sudden desire to move this along.
Annoyed with himself, he demanded in a tone harsher than intended, “Come for me, Leslie.” He rubbed her clit harder, faster, until she gushed over his finger and her strained cry resonated around them.
Dan stroked inside Leslie’s clasping pussy as she settled down from her climax, playing with her silky sheath until the small ripples ceased and she shuddered with a sigh of sated contentment. As soon as she calmed and turned to him with a grateful smile, he released her arms and held her shaking body close. Despite his semi-erection, he didn’t feel a pressing need to indulge in his own pleasure. Instead, exhaustion crept back in, prodding him to make it an early night.
Tilting her face up, he kissed her cheek, noticing her clear eyes. “Let me help you dress, hon.”
“Sir, I’d be happy to reciprocate,” Leslie offered, inching her hand down his waist.
He grabbed her wrist but smiled to soften his refusal. “I know, and appreciate it, but I’m good.” At least, that’s what he kept telling himself.
Nothing has changed. Nan Meyers breathed a sigh of relief as she peered out the taxi window as they drove through her small hometown of Willow Springs, Montana on a quiet Monday morning. There had been so many changes in her life the ten months she’d been away, she didn’t think she could handle it if she’d finally gotten the nerve to return home and found a lot of things weren’t as she’d left them. She needed the soothing comfort of small-town living, the embrace of warm friendships and the time to find herself again more than a spring blossom needed the sun to survive.
Looping around the quaint town square with its gurgling fountain and century-old buildings, she instructed the cab driver to take her around the back of the block of small shops and businesses. Parking behind the tea shop she inherited from her grandmother, she grabbed her bag and got out, handing him his fare through the window.
“Thank you. Have a nice day.”
She waited in the empty alley until he drove away, standing next to her car where she’d left it parked so long ago. She’d timed her arrival during mid-morning, when everyone would be at work and few people were out and about shopping yet. With her emotions in a turmoil and her confidence still shattered into a million pieces, she needed to get her bearings before seeing anyone she knew well yet.
Nan took a moment to bask in the mid-May sun warming her face before clutching her suitcase and reaching for her keys. When she’d left for a short visit with her brother in New Orleans last summer, she had only planned on being away for a few weeks, thus the one bag. Getting involved with Gerard Avet and her own stupidity kept her away much longer. A shudder ran through her as the memories she was determined to overcome flitted through her head. Her brother, Jay had begged her to hold off a little longer on returning, insisting she wasn’t ready to go it alone. But she wanted her life back, and her life was here, in the beloved town where they’d both grown up before Jay left for college and their parents died in a car accident a few short months after retiring.
Nan inserted the key and let herself into the back door of the two-story shop, veering left and up the rear stairs to the apartment she’d lived in with her grandmother following the loss of her parents shortly after her seventeenth birthday. With Jay settling in New Orleans following college instead of coming back home to Montana, it had been just the two of them the last seven years of Nana’s life. Jay visited often and the three of them had remained close, sharing the burden of grief along with the cherished memories of their family, but Nana passed away over eight years ago and Nan returned to the apartment with a stab of nostalgia.
Opening the door, she was unprepared to face the darkened interior, the flash of instant terror keeping her rooted on the threshold. Gripping the doorknob, she sucked in a deep breath, fighting off the throat clogging fear threatening to choke her. I’m fine, this is home. Gerard is in New Orleans awaiting trial. The silent assurances did little to calm her racing heart or settle the nausea churning in her stomach that darkness always produced. She had spent three long, terror and pain-ridden days locked in Gerard’s pitch-black basement before her rescue, long enough for fear to become entrenched into her soul with a tight clutch she’d failed to loosen in all the months since.
Sliding a shaky hand along the inside wall, she found the light switch by touch and flicked it on. The center bulb in the overhead fan lit up, dispelling the dark and easing her terror as she scanned the combined living, dining and kitchen room and breathed in the musty odor of a closed-up space. There was no distant sound of slow dripping water or the dank smell of an unfinished cellar. Shaking off the paralyzing remnants of her neurosis, she entered the small cozy home, set her suitcase down and went straight to the window to shove the blinds up and let in some much-needed fresh air and sunshine. The last of her jittery nerves settled down with the incoming breeze and bright swath of light spreading across the hardwood floor.
“Much better,” she said aloud with a decisive nod, gazing out at the mountains towering behind the buildings of the square below.
New Orleans might be rich with history and offer an array of twenty-four-seven entertainment, but Nan still preferred the wide-open, less populated spaces she’d known her whole life. For fun, there were large barbeques at the neighboring ranches and riding pell-mell across a prairie dotted with daisies and glimpsing elk among the Ponderosa Pines or Douglas Firs. The annual county fair brought a crowd from the nearest towns in the spring and with both the Red Lodge Mountain and the newest dude ranch within a thirty-minute drive, they enjoyed tourism benefits year-round.
Thinking of the new ranch and lodge that opened right before she left reminded her of meeting the owners, Greg Young and Devin Fisher, and the one ménage she’d indulged in when they’d become members of The Barn. Just thinking about the kink club owned by her closest friends’ now husbands drew a ripple of longing through her. Leaning her forehead on the windowpane, Nan closed her eyes and recalled the fun and pleasures she had indulged in as a member of the nearest BDSM club. Master Clayton, who moved away a year after the club opened, had tutored her into accepting and then embracing her sexual submissive needs, and taught her not to be ashamed of getting those needs met through pain, bondage and dominance.
It had taken Master Gerard just one short week to strip her of everything she craved and cherished about the lifestyle she’d reveled in for five years.
Pivoting from the window, Nan turned her mind to the tasks of settling back into her apartment before venturing downstairs and getting to work on what needed to be done to open her tea shop again. Her phone rang as she started to toss her purse on the kitchen counter. Pulling it out, she wasn’t at all surprised to see Jay’s name pop up. “Hello, big brother,” she answered with a warm smile.
“You got in okay? How are you holding up?” he asked, getting right to the point.
Discounting that brief lapse into fear at the door, she answered him with all honesty. “Yes, my flight arrived in Billings with no problem and I just got home. Other than looking around at the cleaning I need to do, I’m fine. But I love you for caring.”
“Always, sis. I’m a plane ride away if you need me. Don’t hesitate to call if you can’t cope.”
Nan stiffened against his good intentions. Damn it, she vowed. She would get her act together, and her life back, one way or another, without continuing to lean on her brother. “I have to do this, Jay. You know that.”
His sigh came through the line. “Yeah, I know. That doesn’t make it any easier. Remember, I saw the state you were in when we got you out of Avet’s house.”
She didn’t need the reminder. She would carry the scars on her back forever, mementos of the mistake she’d made in trusting the wrong person. “Trust me, I remember. I’ll call after I get settled back in, I promise.”
“I’ll hold you to it. Bye, sis.”
Nan hung up feeling better just from hearing her big brother’s voice. She would give anything if Jay moved back to Willow Springs but had given up trying to persuade him. He’d tried just as hard to entice her into relocating to New Orleans, but just as he’d made a life for himself there, she fostered no desire to start over anywhere else.
Brushing her hands down her jean-clad thighs, she tightened her jaw with determination and muttered aloud, “Okay, down to work.”