Curiosity killed the cat. That could also be said for her concentration, Kelsey mused as yet another soft cry echoed up from the lower floor and distracted her from the numbers on the computer screen before her. Do not leave the office tonight, no matter what. Due to the secluded location of this private establishment, her foster father had insisted on driving her tonight and dropping her off with that dictate, one Jared Markham, the owner, had reiterated before leaving her alone in his office to audit the club’s books. Twenty-nine years old and Jordan still keeps an overprotective eye on me. She shook her head ruefully. It was hard to get upset with either Jordan or his wife, Theresa since they were the closest thing to family she’d ever known.
A shiver racked Kelsey’s body as the suspicious sound of leather snapping against bare skin reached her ears, the high-pitched shriek that followed making her jump. She didn’t know much about her accounting firm’s new client except that Dominion was a private club and the only time she could audit their books was in the evening as there was no one around during the day. But putting two and two together was easy and she knew, just knew she was inside a kink club for the first time. Growing up in Philadelphia, she’d heard all about the decadent social pleasures Pennsylvania’s largest city boasted.
“It’s none of my business. Focus, girl,” Kelsey lectured herself as she calculated the debit column for the third time. Odds were, the long dry spell since her last relationship ended contributed to her mind insisting on straying toward those foreign sounds. I mean, really, who shrieks like that during sex? Not her, that was for sure. As much as she loved doing the horizontal nasty and missed getting naked and sweaty with a hard male body, her orgasms had never rendered her a mindless ninny nor were powerful enough to draw a cry out of her.
She made it through the debit column before a low moan resonated upstairs, sounding as if it had been wrenched from a tortured woman’s throat just outside the open door. Kelsey glanced out into the hall and at the rail along the catwalk circling the lower floor. What could one peek hurt? Just enough to satisfy my curiosity so I can concentrate on work.
“Oh, hell, why not?” she muttered, pushing back from the desk. She wouldn’t get any work done at this rate. Her sneakered feet were quiet on the carpet as she stepped into the hall and sidled over to the far corner where she could stay partially hidden. She knew she shouldn’t be risking this. If caught going against a client’s instructions, she could lose her job, and the last thing she ever wanted to do was disappoint the McAllisters who had taken her in and kept her after the second foster family in five years turned her back over to the state.
Kelsey’s life before the age of five was as murky as the Hudson River, her only memory that of holding a small black puppy while angry male voices followed by a series of loud, unexplainable noises filtered through a closed door. She remembered nothing else, not even how she ended up a ward of the state. No one had claimed her then and no one had stuck with her in the twenty-four years since, not those foster parents or counselors poking at her memory between the ages of five and ten, and not one of the four men she’d enjoyed a relationship with in the last ten years. Only Jordan and Theresa, who never let the fact she wasn’t biologically theirs matter. She would do anything for them, including putting up with their ever watchful, overprotective concern that could, at times, stifle and irritate the hell out of her.
I’ll make it fast, she promised herself. Just a quick look, enough to answer the plaguing questions each of those sounds kept popping up. Leaning sideways, she peered down, her knees almost buckling at what she saw. The dimmer lighting didn’t hide the odd contraptions both men and women were bound to or the apparent pleasure they reaped from their partner’s attention and the public exhibitionism. Weren’t they embarrassed? she wondered, gazing down upon the pale, stripped bodies on display.
Kelsey shifted her eyes around the room and zeroed in on a tall man standing right below her, his face revealing displeasure as he appeared to rebuke the blonde who trembled before him wearing nothing but a sheer, thigh-length slip. She could only catch snippets of the man’s deep voiced lecture. “…attitude… not acceptable… know better… I’m disappointed….” The young girl paled at that last utterance and tears pooled in her eyes as she lowered her head.
Slapping a hand over her mouth, Kelsey watched wide-eyed as the girl slid her hands under her slip and lowered her panties to mid-thigh. With a barked order, the man snapped his fingers and pointed to the arm of the sofa next to them. Other people milled about, some pausing to watch as the subdued girl turned and positioned her hips on top of the arm, the slip inching up, baring her butt as she braced on her elbows and lowered her head to the sofa seat. Kelsey’s legs gave out and she squatted down, which wasn’t far considering at five-foot-two she was already halfway there.
She wasn’t surprised when the man pulled his arm back and swatted the blonde’s butt, but the ripple of shocked awareness warming her body with as much heat as she imagined those fleshy cheeks were feeling did. Oh, that’s just wrong. Kelsey groaned as the girl lifted her butt and pushed back, as if begging for more, which he delivered with enough force to jiggle the rounded globes. “Knock it off you two,” she hissed under her breath when her nipples puckered in response to the scene. “This is not our thing, so don’t get any ideas.” But when the next spank reddened the under curve of the girl’s right buttock and her stomped bare foot in reaction earned her a sharp-voiced reprimand and a smack that pushed her forward on the seat, Kelsey’s long neglected pussy spasmed and went damp. Fisting her hands, she rolled her eyes and cast a quick look down between her bent legs. “You too, you slutty bitch. Behave!”
If she didn’t get back to work soon, her own butt might be in trouble, but she couldn’t seem to pull herself away from that one scene. Not understanding why those two enthralled her, she forced herself to scope out some of the other activities. The two women kneeling at a man’s feet with their heads bent over his straining cock was certainly eye-catching and worth ogling for a few moments, as was the woman writhing under her raised, chained arms as two men dropped melted wax onto her nipples. Kelsey’s nubs heated and pulsed even though she couldn’t imagine ever agreeing to try such a painful thing, her body’s continued betrayal giving her something to think about. But two men? Well, what red-blooded woman didn’t fantasize about that ultimate pleasure? She wondered if she would shy away from such an offer if she were ever lucky enough to get one.
Her gaze followed one man’s hands as they stroked down the young woman’s waist and thighs before trailing up the insides of her spread legs. A shudder ran through Kelsey as he cupped the woman’s bare labia, her head dropping back as her hips thrust forward into the cupped palm. She had never considered going further than keeping her pubic hair neatly trimmed but witnessing the woman’s reaction to such a light touch on that sensitive skin gave her one more thing to think about.
Unable to resist another look before getting back to work, she gazed back at the spanking scene and flinched every time the man bounced his hand off the poor girl’s bright red butt again. Oh, that’s wrong too, she thought again, this time with a gasp before biting her lip. It wasn’t the tormented young woman’s eager acceptance of the hard spanking Kelsey criticized – to each his own, whatever floats your boat and all that – but the tingles racing across her own cheeks, raising goosebumps in their wake from witnessing those punishing blows.
With a well-aimed swat right between her legs, the man brought the girl to her toes with a startled cry just as Kelsey heard a soft footfall behind her. Before she could come to her feet with a plausible excuse, a hard hand cut off her surprised gasp, the tight pressure sending a wave of cold terror through her. Why do these things always happen to me? was her first thought.
Whimpering in fear as he drew her up and tried to walk backwards with her back held tight against his front, she forced herself to recall the self-defense moves her foster parents had drilled into her over and over starting the first week she’d come to live with them. Digging her nails into his bare arm, she drew blood as she thrust her right foot behind his right ankle and yanked forward with as much strength as she had in her leg. Caught off guard, her assailant stumbled, loosening his hold enough for her to wrench free and let out an ear-piercing scream.
“Fucking bitch,” he swore, making a grab for her arm.
Panting, Kelsey put all her fright-induced adrenaline and momentum into swinging her body around, intending to deliver a back kick to his kneecap. Her aim was off due to his towering height and her foot snapped against his upper thigh hard enough to knock him back a step. In horrified disbelief, she watched him flail his arms out as he hit the rail, his overcompensated efforts to regain his balance forcing him backwards. Kelsey rushed forward and made a grab for his arm as footsteps pounded up the stairs. But neither her nor the people rushing to her aid were fast enough and he landed on the floor below with a sickening thud.
Shaken to the core, Kelsey inched forward and peeked over the rail, the sight of his awkwardly sprawled body threatening to bring up the nausea roiling in her stomach. Oh, shit.
Kelsey strained to hear what was going on outside the office where ‘Master’ Jared had ensconced her over an hour ago after rushing to her side at the rail. She twiddled her thumbs around and around, a nervous habit she had no desire to break. No one should have as much bad luck as her, either in being in the wrong place at the wrong time or as the target of some creep’s malicious designs, it was never clear which. Wasn’t an attempted kidnapping during her second-grade field trip enough? Or the late-night break-in through her bedroom window in her second foster home three years later that ended with that perp getting hit by a car when the alarms scared him off? Her life since the McAllisters had taken her in had been incident-free, thank God. And now, this. She supposed she should feel some relief in having two FBI employees on her side but fretted over causing trouble for either Jordan or Theresa.
Sirens had heralded the approach of law enforcement and, she assumed, an ambulance, well over an hour ago now. Since she hadn’t heard those blaring alarms signaling a fast return to a hospital, she knew her would-be attacker was dead. She shuddered, guilt and sadness overriding relief. To be responsible for another person’s death, regardless of the circumstances, was a burden she wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Louder voices neared the door and Kelsey recognized Jordan’s. She hoped Theresa was with him. Her foster mother often took her side as a teenager. Of course, eleven years had passed since she’d needed a buffer against getting into trouble with her foster father. The door swung open and, regardless of worrying over disappointing or angering either McAllister, she jumped to her feet and flung herself into Jordan’s outstretched arms the moment he entered. When he hugged her in return, whispering, “Thank God you’re safe,” and then transferred her to Theresa’s warm embrace, she broke down into sobs.
“I’m so proud of you, Kel,” Theresa crooned, smoothing back her blonde hair. “If you hadn’t kept your head and remembered everything we taught you…” Her voice caught and she tightened her arms before releasing her. “But you did, and that’s what counts, right?”
Kelsey sucked in a deep breath and brushed the tears aside with the backs of her hands. “If you say so. Do you know what he wanted? Was he looking for money or…” She paused, unsure if she should reveal she knew what sort of establishment this was.
Jared walked in just then and lifted one dark brow at her dangling question. “Maybe you think he broke in here wanting a sneak peek and you were in his way.”
She flushed and looked away from the censure in all three of their gazes, but caught the quick, unnerving glance between Jordan and Theresa, one she’d witnessed off and on over the years and didn’t understand. Irritation crept in and she resorted to sarcasm. Fisting her hands on her hips, she squared her shoulders and looked back at them, drawling, “Well, what do you expect? You people aren’t exactly quiet down there.”
Jordan rolled his eyes, a gesture she had picked up, much to his amusement. “You’re coming home with us until we know more about this guy and can figure out what he wanted.”
Kelsey shrugged, more relieved by his order than annoyed. “Fine by me. I don’t relish spending the night alone.” She still quaked inside and prayed she could sleep without nightmares haunting her.
“Montana?” No way. Enough was enough. Kelsey jumped to her feet and started pacing in front of Jordan and Theresa who were seated on the sofa in their den while trying to ignore the sensitive tingling erupting over her labia with each shift of her silky panties against the newly bared skin. She’d finally given in to that plaguing curiosity yesterday and had been enjoying the tantalizing sensations having a denuded crotch evoked until just now when the couple dropped that bombshell on her. She had agreed to stay with them and work out of the house this past week in deference to their concern for her, but this was carrying their over-protectiveness way too far. Not since she’d first come to live with them had they gone to such extremes in keeping close tabs on her.
“No. There is no reason to send me away just because you don’t know what, or even who that guy was after.” They had identified the man who broke into the club last week and unearthed his reputation as a thug for hire. The problem was, since he was dead, there was no way to know who hired him or for what purpose. Was someone targeting the club, or one of its members and she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, like when she was a kid? Or had he been after her specifically, and if so, why?
Throwing up her arms in frustration when they remained quiet, she snapped, “There is no reason for anyone to come after me. I’m a nobody, and no one knows that better than you. I love you, you know I do, but this is asking too much. Montana? Who the heck goes to Montana? There’s nothing there but cows.”
Theresa stood and padded across the plush carpet to grip her upper arms and halt Kelsey’s movements. “Thousands of people visit Yellowstone each year, but regardless, sweetheart, we know how upsetting this has been for you. You’re not sleeping, and the stress of not knowing is making you irritable. We get it, we really do. But, Kelsey, I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you.” Her voice wobbled and Kelsey panicked seeing the tears swimming in Theresa’s green eyes. “It would tear me apart. We love you too, and you know that.”
Crap. The woman knew just what trump card to play, and when. Kelsey believed her foster mother. Theresa couldn’t feign the naked emotion written on her face, and both she and Jordan had demonstrated how much they cared for her in numerous ways over the years. Would it be too difficult for her to repay their kindness and love by giving in to this demand meant to ensure her safety? Maybe, when she thought of leaving her beloved city with all the noise, pollution, rude people and the best food and entertainment anyone could ever want for the boring, unpopulated, backwoods west.
She glanced at Jordan and saw the same love and determination to protect her at all costs reflected on his face. “You do know the odds of that guy being after me are next to none, right?”
Theresa stiffened, and Kelsey noticed she didn’t turn around and look at her husband. These two had always harbored secrets, but given their professions as FBI agents, she understood and never questioned them. If she felt excluded at times over the years and hurt from their obvious attempts to keep things from her, she sucked it up as a small price to pay to stay a part of their lives.
“We know, Kels.” Jordan sighed and stood. “But in our line of work, we’ve learned not to take unnecessary risks, and where you’re concerned, we’ve always drawn a hard line we know you don’t understand. I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not. You have come to mean too much to us to ever be sorry for putting your safety first.”
Have they always played so dirty, or was this a new tactic now that she was older and more independent? Either way, it didn’t matter. She would cave, she always did. But, God, she didn’t want to go to Montana.
“Fine. I’ll go since you took it upon yourselves to clear it with my boss for me to work remotely.” That also rankled. “But give me a time limit. I refuse to leave my home for an indefinite period.” There, exerting an ounce of independence made her feel much better.
Theresa squeezed her, her smile coming through her voice as she replied, “Thank you. It won’t be bad, I promise. We have some friends who run a small dude ranch. You’ll have fun.”
A dude ranch? Could this exile get any worse? “How long, Theresa?” she reiterated, pulling out of her arms.
“Give us a month. Will you do that?” Jordan asked.
“A whole month? What am I supposed to do in my spare time? Muck out smelly stables?” A shudder of revulsion rippled down her spine. Eew!
Theresa laughed, wrapped an arm around her shoulders and steered her toward the kitchen. “It won’t hurt you to repay their hospitality by pitching in to help, but I’m sure they won’t ask you to. Greg and Devin are former agents and have experience with keeping an eye on people in trouble. I’m sure we can convince them to welcome you as a guest for a few weeks.”
Kelsey narrowed her eyes as a small thread of hope blossomed inside her. “You haven’t asked them yet, have you? A possible reprieve.” She threw her fisted hand up in the air with a wide grin. “Woo hoo!” The unsure look Jordan and Theresa exchanged offered her an even bigger boon. Neither of them was as sure of her welcome on this dude ranch as they let on.
Greg Young eyed his friend, Dan Shylock from across the table. The Barn, their private club, was still quiet with him, his partner, Devin, Dan, the Dunbars and the sheriff the only ones here at the moment. They’d just finished a short meeting regarding the club’s newest members, Kurt Wilcox and Mitchell Hoffstetter, and were enjoying a drink before opening the doors. He didn’t know much about either man other than Kurt and Caden were old high school friends and Kurt had recently returned to the area after a twelve-year absence. Mitchell was the new, much-needed doctor in Willow Springs and both were experienced Doms.
He relished the few hours he and Devin spent here every Saturday night, socializing with friends and indulging their ménage kinks with willing submissives. But now, Dan just informed them he and Nan were going to tie the knot, following in the footsteps of first Caden then Grayson and shortly after him, Connor.
“We were hoping you would hold out longer. Soon there won’t be anyone left to play with if this keeps up.” Shaking his head, Greg sighed as if disappointed, but in truth, was happy for the lawyer. He and Devin had enjoyed the pleasure of Nan’s submission before her recent commitment and knew what a lucky man Dan was.
“Doubtful,” Dan returned. “Besides, after five years, we decided we knew each other better than most couples when they marry.”
“When it’s right, it’s right. I took way too long learning that the hard way,” Connor put in. Kicking his long legs out, he leaned back in his chair, eying Greg and Devin from under the lowered brim of his Stetson. “You two have never lacked for female attention.”
Devin lifted one dark eyebrow and nodded at Connor’s left hand. “Neither did you, but there you are.”
“Jealous?” the younger Dunbar taunted.
The men all laughed at that, but only Greg knew just how low the odds of his best friend and business partner settling down with one woman were. He had rebounded faster than Devin after the fuck-up that prompted them to leave the Bureau five years shy of full retirement. Taking a smaller pension had been a small price to pay for losing a protected witness but, unlike Devin, Greg refused to let one failure keep him from having an open mind about the future.
“As delightful as we find your wife, there hasn’t been a relationship either of us has envied,” he answered for both himself and Devin. “Who would indulge the girls’ fantasies of submitting to two men if we split off and restricted ourselves to one woman?”
A wry grin twisted Caden’s lips as he pushed his chair back and stood. “I can’t wait to see which one of you caves first.” Looking toward the front doors as they opened, a smile stretched his leathered face, softening his gaze. “And there is my lovely, pain in the butt wife now.”
Grayson shifted the toothpick he was chewing on to the corner of his mouth as his lips curled. “What has Sydney done this time?” he asked, keeping his gray/green gaze on his wife as she and her friends headed toward their table.
Caden fisted his hands on his hips and shook his head in mock disgust. “I should know better than to ask her to do anything except cook, but we brought in a newborn who lost its mama overnight and needed hand feeding.”
Greg and Devin might still be new Masters in the club, but in the eighteen months they’d been members, they’d heard enough rumored stories about Sydney’s penchant for spoiling animals to know she’d taken her husband’s instructions a step further than he wanted.
“And?” Dan prompted as Nan settled on his lap wearing an eye-catching tight, leather dress with crisscross straps down the sides. All the Doms enjoyed the slender brunette’s taste in fetish clothing.
“And I returned at lunch to check on the calf and was he in his stall in the new calving barn? No.” He shook his head. “How the hell she managed to get him into the mess hall is beyond me, but there he was, lying on a pile of blankets in front of the fireplace, all snug and content, with the dogs guarding him.”
“I couldn’t leave him alone out there,” Sydney said, padding up to her annoyed husband with Tamara and Avery joining Connor and Grayson. “There are no other calves in there right now, and he was missing his mom. Really, Caden, have you no heart? At least there he could see me in the kitchen and know he wasn’t alone.”
Caden blew out a breath, as if giving up trying to reason with her. “That’s okay, darlin’. I felt better after you spent ten minutes over my lap. Come on. You can help me behind the bar.”
Maybe Greg hadn’t been totally honest a few minutes ago, he pondered, watching the couple walk hand-in-hand across the hardwood floor to the circular bar in the center of the converted barn. Surely that wasn’t a pang of envy tightening his abdomen. Like Devin, bachelorhood suited him just fine, or, it had until they’d joined this club and witnessed the downfall of each of their friends in the last year and a half. But ever since he and Devin helped Dan coax Nan back into the lifestyle she loved after a traumatic experience rendered her incapable of embracing the erotic pain she got off on, he’d been as discontented flitting from submissive to submissive as Dan was during Nan’s long, unexplained absence. Watching how the lawyer had taken advantage of his and Nan’s close relationship, both here at the club and outside this sex-charged atmosphere, to aid her in healing before resulting in their now fully committed relationship had started him on contemplating the merits of such a bond.
“You look good, Nan,” he said now, pleased to see the shadows haunting her gold eyes were fading more and more with each day that had passed since she’d returned from testifying against the bastard who had abused her. That sexy dress conjured up the feel and taste of her soft skin as she had writhed in bondage.
“Thank you, Sir.” She leaned against Dan, her face flushing with arousal as her fiancé slid his hand up the inside of her bare leg, her thighs falling open to give him unfettered, unabashed access to wherever he wanted to go.
“Putting that asshole away for twenty years agrees with you,” Devin remarked as he pushed his chair back and stood. “But since your Master has gone all possessive of you lately, I’ll excuse myself.” He looked toward Greg. “Coming?”
Nodding, he rose as Connor nudged Tamara up, saying, “I’ll take the first shift monitoring upstairs. You’re with me, sweetie.”
Greg smiled as Tamara narrowed her eyes at Connor’s back as he tugged her toward the stairs leading up to the loft. Everyone knew how it irked her when he called her sweetie, which, of course, was why he did it. “One of these days, his teasing will land him in more trouble than he’s aiming for.”
“Can’t tell him that.” Grayson hefted Avery over his shoulder and smacked her upturned butt then lifted a hand to them as he strolled toward the spanking benches near the back.
“We’ll catch you two later.” Greg turned to ask Devin what, or who he had in mind for tonight when his phone buzzed from his back pocket with an incoming call. Pulling it out, he checked the caller I.D. and glanced at Devin with a cautious expression. “It’s McAllister.”
Devin’s quick, unequivocal reply didn’t surprise Greg. “You don’t know what he wants. Maybe he’s just checking in.” Even Greg didn’t believe their ex-boss at the Bureau would call just to chat, but he wasn’t as opposed to talking with Jordan as much as Devin.
“He’s not. The answer’s no,” he bit out, tightening his jaw.
The phone buzzed again. Ignoring his friend’s glower, he brought it to his ear as he strode toward the back doors for a quieter place to talk. “Hello, Jordan,” he answered as he opened the glass slider and stepped out into the cool, September evening air. “To what do I owe the pleasure of hearing from you again?”