Her Master & Commander
Jared had never backed down from a challenge in his life.
But he had to forcefully convince himself to walk the next few steps. With a final deep breath, his heart hammering like a drumbeat in his chest, he somehow put one foot in front of the other.
His gaze zapped to Zoey, drawn to her luscious body all snuggled up against Declan, as he entered the library. Jared seated himself on the opposite couch. The pain of remembrance slashed at his internal composure. He’d touched her here for the first time, rather innocuously, with no intentions other than pleasure in the moment. Except it was also where he had discovered her skin was softer than the finest spun silk, and tasted the honeyed dew of her desire as she came in his mouth. Everything inside Jared ached for a dream that would never be. His heart was breaking, shattering into a million tiny pieces. It was like he’d been punched in the solar plexus. It hurt to breathe.
Deep in his bones, he understood the decision he had made was the best for all concerned parties. Yet he also realized the immense crater it would create in their lives. His the most.
“Thanks for meeting me. I know you must be tired from your travels.” He couldn’t even voice the word honeymoon. It sliced at his heart like a fileting knife.
“What did you want to discuss?” Declan asked, his face a calm mask of sublime satisfaction, glancing at Jared with a raised brow. Had he ever felt that complete? He envied his best friend his damn happiness—which was why he had to make a break, otherwise he’d grow bitter and resentful. Jared couldn’t allow that to happen.
His heart beat rapidly in his chest. He resisted the urge to clench his fists. He wanted to rage at the unfairness of it all. He’d done more than his fair share of indulging in tantrums while they had been away. He’d screwed his way through the available sub pool, twice. Anything to try and fill the gaping ache this had formed inside him.
He choked out the words before he lost his nerve. “I’ve decided to leave.”
“Are you taking a trip somewhere?” Zoey asked, cocking her head to the side, her confusion evident. The silken strands of her chestnut hair cascaded around her delicate shoulders, beckoning his fingers.
Jared shook his head, his gut tightened at the forthcoming pain. “No, lass. I’m leaving Scotland. I need to, it’s self-preservation. I already proposed this to the other members and they approve, I’m going to open a DFC on a private island off Nassau.”
Stunned silence filled the room and Jared clenched his hands together to hide that they were trembling.
“What? Why? I don’t understand. I thought we were all happy,” Zoey cried, trembling in her husband’s arms. Arms belonging to Jared’s best friend. It was like a dagger being plunged into his chest.
And this was what he had been dreading the most, looking at the woman he’d fallen in love with, fat tears in her gorgeous eyes and no full understanding of why he must leave her. As much as he wished things were different, you couldn’t make someone feel something they didn’t. Zoey had never once gazed at him the way she did Declan. Theirs was a bond and a love he couldn’t ever hope to compete with—not that he would, it would ruin his friendship with Declan and everything he’d built over the last decade.
God, he loved her. And he knew she cared for him, maybe even loved him, but he would always be second fiddle to Declan and his heart couldn’t take it.
He inhaled a deep breath before continuing, feeling the tinge of moisture in his eyes. “Lass, it’s for the best. You and Declan are man and wife now.”
“But that doesn’t mean—”
He cut her off standing. “I won’t sleep with another’s wife. And I need this, lass.”
He had to leave now, before her sobs changed his mind. Zoey’s tears were ripping him to shreds. And then his best friend finally intervened.
“If that’s what you want, and if the other members approve using the island we purchased, then I’m in agreement. I will miss having you around, though,” Declan murmured with understanding in his gaze. He knew that Jared loved his wife.
Zoey’s tears were falling fast and furious as she shook her head. “I don’t understand why you want to go away. I thought we were happy. I thought—”
His heart in his chest, Jared said, “I love you, lass. And as much as it pains me, I need to go.”
“We both love you, you don’t have to leave.”
He knelt in front of her and gripped her hands, staring into her hazel depths which had turned bright green with the storm of her emotions. He pleaded with her. “Please don’t make this harder than it is. I know you love me, but not the way you love Declan. It’s nothing for you to be upset about or apologize for, but I need to leave so I can fall out of love with you. Lass, I need you to let me move on and I cannot do it from here.”
With the gentlest care, he pressed a kiss to her forehead and stood. Shook Declan’s outstretched hand, a wealth of emotion in his gaze. This man was his brother and best friend, and always would be. With a last caress of Zoey’s cheek, he said, “Goodbye, lass. Be happy.”
And then Jared turned away, feeling wetness trickle down his cheeks as he exited the library and the manor. He took one last look at his home and homeland. One day, he would return, one day when it no longer felt like there was a knife plunged through his heart. One day, when he no longer loved Zoey.
He had been in exile for six months, five days, and twelve hours.
He huffed as he pushed his legs, accelerating his run time, trying to shave off seconds. Jared had never been a huge fan of running outdoors in Scotland, had preferred the easier, more sedate pace of a good hike into the hills. Granted, he had used the gym at the manor house religiously, but that was because for him, part of being a Master and a Dominant was maintaining control over one’s environment, including his physique.
Every morning since he had arrived on this tiny spit of land on the cusp of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico he now called home, he had run. At first, he had been running from the incessant pain, the desolation that had followed him from Scotland. Jared had not been prepared for falling in love with Zoey, his best friend’s new wife. Before Zoey, he’d had a rather strict policy on getting too close to any submissive. So he’d thought nothing of joining in and double topping Zoey with Declan when he’d asked him. But Zoey had tangled him up inside from the moment she’d appeared looking like a drowned kitten on the manor doorstep. There had been far too many nights, looking back, on which Jared had wished he had never involved Declan when she’d first appeared, but even then, he didn’t think it would have stopped Zoey and Declan from getting together, only stalled their relationship a bit.
It had been an entire month before he had answered any calls from Zoey or Declan. He loved them both and didn’t want to cause his best friend or his new wife pain. In the end, he had needed the space for his own sanity and self-preservation. His heart still beat within his chest but a deep-seated, monumental grief had taken up residence as his constant companion. Instead of dealing with his broken heart, Jared focused on enacting his plans to build on the island and create an exclusive BDSM vacation getaway for those in the lifestyle. This place, dubbed Pleasure Island, had been a dream the founding members—himself included—had tossed about in their meetings over the last few years, after purchasing the island with member dues.
When it became evident that Declan and Zoey might invite him into their love-play upon occasion, he realized he would always be an outsider looking in. He would never forget his last time with her, feeling her undulate beneath him, or the warm clasp of her body drawing him further under her spell. As much as he loved Zoey, and he did love her with every part of his being, Jared couldn’t be second fiddle. If he’d stayed at the manor, he always would have been on the outside looking in at their relationship, begging for whatever scraps and morsels of affection were tossed his way. He couldn’t live that way.
The moment they departed for their honeymoon, he organized and initiated plans he had swimming in his brain. He spoke with the founding members about his ideas sans Declan, and then worked with Tyler Jenson, one of the founding Dungeon Fantasy Club members, on the architectural planning.
Then he’d moved all but heaven to bring this place into fruition. Pride swam in his chest as he raced over the space age pathway, built to withstand hurricane force winds, and it was solar powered, meaning that at night, the path was illuminated, with no need for electrical wires or polluting the environment. Tyler had assisted him in creating the most environmentally sound resort with as little carbon emissions as possible while still making it a vacation destination fit for a king.
Pushing his legs harder, faster, he passed one of the small, private dome, ivory villas. The unique space age design of the circular villas had been constructed to withstand hurricane force winds and potential flooding. It was something Jared and Tyler had brainstormed mainly because hurricanes in this part of the world were fairly common. If constructed correctly the first time around, the number of incidents where rebuilding would be necessary might be minimized.
The first floor of each villa was mounted on stone pillars and raised twenty-two feet off the ground in case of flooding from a hurricane’s storm surge. Even the main hotel was one large dome building in this futuristic design meant to withstand hurricane force winds. Each individual building had been equipped with steel window covers that could slide over the unbreakable glass windows and seal shut. The individual house units also had a Tesla house battery that relied on solar energy. They had a main energy hub near the center of the island that consisted of solar energy panels, courtesy once again of Tyler. It made the island almost entirely green, energy efficient, and off the grid—except for the fuel needed for the boat charters to ferry guests back and forth from Nassau’s airport, the golf carts guests used to putter around the island, and a few all-terrain Jeeps. He and Tyler were speaking to Tesla about designing solar-powered golf carts so they could go green there, as well.
By his second month living here on his catamaran, construction had begun on all the structures he passed as his legs ate up the distance. In some respects, by assembling the facets on the island; from the main hotel to the villas, the greenhouse, the boat docks, pools, and everything else down the list, Jared forged his place in the world, creating his home, his business, something he could take pride in. As he built, he healed.
For the most part, anyway.
There was always this ache inside his chest. As if the best part of his life was missing. Some of the loss was for Scotland, for his home and friends in the DFC, but most of the pain filling his soul was Zoey. He hadn’t scened with another submissive or got his rocks off with anything other than his hand since he left Scotland. And it wasn’t for his lack of trying either, he had spent a few nights in Nassau dance clubs searching for a woman to bed for the night, but none of the lasses batting their eyelashes his way had been what he craved. In the end, he walked away more unsatisfied than when he’d arrived at the club.
There were days when Jared felt like he’d left his heart and soul behind in Scotland, and he had no idea whether he could retrieve them. There were days when he called himself a fool, telling himself that he should return home and pick up the pieces of his life. Being without the two people who mattered most to him was akin to torture. Maybe he could lift his ban on sleeping with his best friend’s wife, be the occasional second top when Declan allowed it and invited him to share in the bounty of Zoey, take whatever scraps available to him. And maybe he needed his fucking head examined.
In July, Pleasure Island had opened to incredible fanfare within the Dungeon Fantasy Club community. They had done a soft launch first with a few of the premier members, to work out any kinks with a practice run that had gone much smoother than he had expected. Then they had expanded admittance, making it available to the rest of the members. The island getaway thus far had garnered rave reviews. Zoey and Declan hadn’t come. Declan had shot him a couple emails that Jared had dodged. He hated ignoring his best friend but he wasn’t ready to see them. He needed more time. All it would take was Zoey crooking her finger at him or turning her aroused gaze his way, filled with invitation, for his resolve to crumble.
He gritted his teeth at the familiar ache, driving his legs harder, his breaths coming in pants. Sweat poured down his body.
Warmth ballooned in his chest at the pride he felt in his creation. He was no longer second fiddle. He had never minded Declan being at the helm of membership in their club. For the most part, he had preferred it. In all honesty, some of his dissatisfaction with Scotland had begun well before Zoey. Declan had begun deferring more and more of the decision making to Jared without granting him the final word on matters, so stepping into the role of commander at the helm of this place felt natural.
Jared had plans that he wanted to implement. While he would need to put it before the Founding DFC Members, he had already decided that his vote, after all the work he had put into this place, would be worth two. But he didn’t expect any opposition to what he would propose. Jared wanted to make the island getaway open to other private clubs in the BDSM community they knew about and who could afford the rather hefty price tag for a week-long stay.
He sprinted over the last leg of the beach toward the main hotel, the glistening ivory shining like a beacon for weary travelers.
He wanted to host masquerade balls with BDSM fashion, have a swingers week or two built into the schedule. Sponsor a singles week or month for all the unattached Doms and subs looking for that special someone. Have a lottery at each of the main clubs for submissives who couldn’t afford the price tag to earn points that would cover the cost of their stay on the island. That one he had already been in communication about with the Scotland, Manhattan and Los Angeles clubs, and it had been approved already. A few of the unattached Doms had been extremely enthusiastic and one had even said, “Fucking fantastic idea, I’ll swim there on three legs.”
Jared took the grand entry stairs two at a time to the front entrance of the main building. He had his own private villa overlooking the beach, but more often than not, his schedule kept him here and he stayed in his penthouse suite on the top floor. It was good that he kept busy. It kept his mind off the blistering ache inside his chest.
The island was a place where those in their community could come, relax on vacation, and not worry about their lifestyle offending anyone. It was a clothing optional resort where at any time, any place, a Master or Dom could utilize the facilities to punish a misbehaving sub, scene with a sub, or just plain spend time with his sub. Victor Deluca was apparently doing just that with his petite little sub, whom he currently had bent over one of the coffee tables in the lobby, filling the air with her moans of pleasure.
Seeing the image brought back memories Jared would rather forget.
“Master J,” the receptionist Yvette said, stopping him as he walked past the glossy black front desk.
She was a sweet submissive, followed his rules and the rules of the island with near absolute perfect behavior. Instinctively he knew there was more to the voluptuous beauty with her miles of midnight hair that begged for the right Dom to wrap his fingers through. It was a damn bleeding shame he’d been in a relationship with only his hand. There had been a time, not so very long ago, when he would have enjoyed unraveling the gems inside her as she averted her gaze in respect.
“What can I do for you, Yvette lass?” Jared asked.
“Your appointment, the interview, is waiting in your office for you.”
“Yes, Sir. She caught Deke’s boat over,” Yvette explained further as she typed into her computer.
“Thanks for letting me know. I’ll see to the interview in a bit.” He gave her a small nod.
“Oh, and I almost forgot, Jeff wanted you to stop by surveillance.”
He saluted her and gave her what had been called his panty-dropping smile, watching her milky smooth skin change color as she blushed, turning a delicious shade of pink and her pretty bow mouth spread in a shy grin. Maybe he should take the advice he’d doled out to Jesse after his accident and take an available sub and fuck Zoey out of his system. Nothing else had worked. If he didn’t get back up on the horse, he would never move on and the callouses he’d developed would become permanent.
Jared had never been such a fucking pansy in his life. Game on. Plans set. He was getting his voracious appetite for the fairer sex back in the arena. Before Zoey, he’d never wanted for a bedmate or willing subs to sink himself into, and he would reclaim his old way of life. Starting tonight with Yvette.
“I will do that on my way. See you at the club this evening.” He laid on the accent and watched a shiver run over her body.
“Yes, Master J,” she replied, so very sweetly. The way her lips moved, he could imagine them wrapped around his poor, neglected cock, which actually stirred to life—rather tepidly at her obvious interest—but it was more than it had done for an age.
With a final salute her way, just as the cacophony of moans from Victor and his sub ended as they found their release, Jared took the stairs up to the second floor where the club was located, and also surveillance for the entire island. When it came to the lifestyle, he was a safety-first kind of Dom. He had seen too many atrocities happen for him not to ensure that every guest was one-hundred-percent safe. The club took up the vast majority of the floor, with the security room along the back end of that level.
Jared pressed his thumb onto the door scanner, and the lock clicked open. He preferred using technology instead of having to run around with a million keys on his person. He entered the room, chock full of flat screen monitors that lined one wall and overlooked the general public areas, as well as another bank of smaller monitors that viewed every room, every public area, all the stops they had installed along the walkway. At the center of the controls was Jeff Redman, built like a linebacker, a former cop out of Miami who wanted a fresh start away from homicide, and a damn fine Dom.
“Jeff, Yvette told me to come see you. What’s the latest?” Jared asked, sauntering over to the bank of monitors Jeff was studying.
With a few keystrokes on his computer, Jeff pointed at his screen as weather radar appeared. “There’s a low-pressure system forming off the West Coast of Africa we need to keep an eye on.”
That was the last thing he wanted to stress about, but it came with the territory in these parts. He asked, “Enough that we need to worry about it?”
“Enough that we should not lose track of what that system is doing or where it’s headed. Should it form and come together, that bitch could be the mother of all storms.”
That was one thing Jared had never had to worry about in Scotland, hurricanes, and he wasn’t too keen on them but there was nothing for it. He hadn’t much cared for winter in the Highlands, so it was a tradeoff.
“Well, keep me updated if anything changes. I don’t want to be left with an island full of visitors and the fury of the gods barreling down upon us. I’d much rather evacuate the island as a precaution and have nothing happen than to push our luck.”
“You got it, Bossman.” Jeff’s fingers tapped away and he transferred the Doppler radar to one of the monitors.
Confident that Jeff and the rest of his security detail for the island had this well in hand, Jared left the surveillance room, taking the elevator up to the top floor of the hotel and his penthouse suite. His office made up half of the top floor and was connected to his penthouse for easy access. After a quick shower, he dressed for the day, opting for black slacks and a button down shirt. As the proprietor, he had to at least appear to be civilized, when he far preferred the board shorts that now proliferated his wardrobe for island living.
He knew his cook would have his breakfast delivered to his office, and headed down the connecting back hall to his office. The secondary office door was two-way mirror. It gave him a moment to study anyone in his office without them knowing they were being watched.
He could only see her profile view but she made his gut clench. The petite woman stood poised at the bank of windows overlooking the beach and ocean, her arms wrapped around her waist in a protective shield, staring dejectedly out at the view. It was spectacular oceanic imagery at its finest, one he had stared at for hours on end, searching for peace and calm. One he was going to have photographed for the aesthetically pleasing visual, and yet this beauty stared at the sight with distress clouding her entire body. Her body language screamed the turmoil roiling inside her.
What had happened to make this woman so unhappy?
Midnight curls that appeared to be spun from a cloud hid part of her face and fell against her rigid shoulders that seemed to carry the weight of the world on top of them. While she might be short in stature, her body was all woman, curvy and well-formed in a turquoise sundress that made her caramel skin glow.
Mrs. Davos, his matronly chef, bustled in with his breakfast tray. At the unexpected intrusion, the haunting beauty flinched and spun around defensively, her eyes darting around, searching for a quick escape. Jared had known instinctively from her profile that she was lovely but it hadn’t prepared him for the full brunt impact.
She bowled him over with her beauty. Her face should have graced magazine covers, not be applying for a maid’s position. Haunting, dark chocolate eyes full of sorrow and secrets, framed by inky lashes, and dark brows. She stirred him; his body awakened as if it had been a slumbering giant and his cock hardened, straining against the confines of his slacks.
Jared had always been a sucker for a damsel in distress. He could picture her splayed out on his desk as he feasted on her flesh and made her scream his name. He had to take a few deep, calming breaths to stall his raging hard-on. Christ, he hadn’t felt this much arousal in months.
Once he was certain he wouldn’t enter his office woody first, he opened the door, wanting to save the lass from her hand wringing as she stuttered her explanation for being in his office.
“Franchesca,” he said, waltzing into his office domain. “Whatever it is you made me this morning smells delicious. Thank you for taking such good care of me.”
Franchesca Davos preened like a schoolgirl, patting her salt and pepper hair. She was an older submissive from Greece whose Dom had passed away a few years back. Since then she had devoted her life to her two boys and her cooking, which Jared thought was divine. “You’re welcome, Master J. Can I get you anything else this fine morning?”
“That will be all for now, thank you.”
Franchesca gave him a slight nod as she retreated from the room. But Jared had already dismissed her ample form from his mind as he focused on his other guest. He sauntered over to where she stood, rather defensively, near the table on which Franchesca had parked a cart full of breakfast offerings.
“Jared McTavish.” He stepped into her personal space bubble on purpose, noting how her dark chocolate eyes widened and her gaze darted toward the door. Skittish as a newborn foal as well, when he held his hand out for her to shake.
“Um, Naomi Cates, sir.” She glanced in his eyes and then quickly averted her gaze. Hmmm, was she a submissive? The Dom inside him roared to life. He needed to uncover that little fact: submissive or no. He hadn’t inferred that little tidbit from her background check.
He clasped her hand in his, her delicate bones held more strength in them than he would have guessed. Skin that was silky and soft as a feather. He watched her eyes widen at his touch. He noted the way she wet her lips and anxiety seemed to fuel her.
“Nice to meet you, Naomi lass. May I offer you some refreshment; coffee, tea, or perhaps you’d like to sample one of Mrs. Davos’ pastries?”
“No thank you, sir, I’m fine.”
He’d see about that. The woman obviously wasn’t fine as she skittered away from him the moment he released her hand, putting distance between them.
“Why don’t you have a seat?” He withdrew one of the chairs at the glossy mahogany table for her and gestured to the leather chair. Satisfaction flowed through him as she demurely complied.
“While you may not be hungry, I find that I am famished, so I hope you don’t mind if I eat?”
“No, not at all.” She shook her head and clasped her hands together in her lap. She wouldn’t even look at him. Was he that horrible an ogre? Had island living turned his ability to attract the fairer sex to dust? If it had, Yvette wouldn’t have blushed so prettily not an hour ago, so it couldn’t be that.
“Tell me, why would you like to work on Pleasure Island?” He filled a plate with eggs, pastries, fruit, and avocado, and poured himself a cup of dark roast coffee, all while noticing Naomi fidgeting in her seat. The woman had this frenetic energy and he wanted to soothe her, calm her until she genuinely smiled.
“Well, I am a hard worker and I ran my own cleaning business for a few years.”
Then she spent the last few years going from job to job all over the state of Florida but Jared kept his knowledge to himself. What he needed to know was whether she would leave once she knew what occurred on the island. It wasn’t a lifestyle for everyone and he didn’t hold a grudge against a person if it wasn’t their cup of tea. He sat with his meal at the head of the table, placing a napkin over his lap as he addressed her in the seat on the left.
“That still doesn’t answer my question, Naomi lass. Why Pleasure Island? Why do you want to live and work away from the bulk of civilization? We don’t have a mall or tourist shops. We have a general store on the first floor, but you have to take a boat to get to the nearest grocery store for anything more involved than basic necessities. There are no fast food restaurants or pizza joints, although I would like to add more dining options in the years to come, but that’s another conversation. This is a small island where everyone knows everyone.”
“I like living a simple life. I don’t need much in the way of material possessions. I happen to love the warmth and the beach, so for me it would be perfect.” Her response seemed almost canned and too perfected.
“I see.” He took a bite of cinnamon scone, considering Naomi’s reply. Why did he get the feeling that if he told her no regarding the job, she would shatter before his eyes? He also got the distinct impression she was running from something or someone, and he wanted to give her the sanctuary he felt she sought. He had been lucky that the DFC members had purchased this island years ago with intentions to turn it into a retreat or getaway, and that he had the financial means to go wherever he wanted.
“Well, I did look at your qualifications and spoke with your previous employers before I even scheduled an interview. You are over qualified for the job. We need the extra help here, but before I offer the position to you, I need to ensure you understand what is involved. You do realize what type of resort this is?”
She blushed a becoming shade of pink and responded in a wispy voice, “I know it’s a nudist colony.”
He chuckled. “Not precisely. It’s more than that, actually. Have you ever heard of BDSM?”
Shock riddled her slight frame, her chocolate gaze widened, and as she nodded, the blush deepened into mauve. “Yes, I’ve heard of it.”
“Good. Pleasure Island is a getaway for those in the lifestyle, to enjoy a vacation, without the constraints normally placed on them at other resorts. Here at the island, we believe in safe, sane, and consensual, with all interactions monitored twenty-four seven. However, there are also no rules with regards to where an encounter or scene between a Master or Dom and their submissive takes place. What that means is that you could encounter a sexual act like I did returning from my run this morning in the hotel lobby. I need to know that you are okay with that.”
“Oh, I see.” She was noticeably taken aback and twisting her hands in her lap. He wanted to soothe her fears but couldn’t hold back what she’d encounter here on a daily basis. The last thing he wanted was to hire her and then have her crying foul over interrupting guests as they fucked.
He addressed her with no quarter, regrettably, when he wished he could shield her. “If that is something that doesn’t sit well with you, then this isn’t the place for you, I’m afraid. There’s no shame in it, and I will make sure you have a ride back to the mainland.”
Naomi digested his words for a moment before she squared her shoulders and responded. “I can do the job. It won’t bother me.”
They would see about that. He noticed the tremors she bravely attempted to hide. The tenacity and determination written across her face impressed him. It was his turn to be astonished and not a little enthralled by the woman before him.
For Jared, the most astounding response out of their meeting was that the dormant Dominant inside him—who had been subdued and downright missing in action these last few months—roared back to life, and it wanted her. Was she a submissive? She certainly acted like it. If not, perhaps he could entice her into taking a walk on the wild side and experiencing a night of unencumbered bliss. She was a beguiling mixture of tenacity and anxiety. For that possibility to occur, he needed her to remain on the island.
“In that case, you’re hired.”