The warm scent of vanilla drifted through Bella's nostrils as the soft feminine body molded against hers. Raven's sparkling green eyes stared back at her, and even her silky, long brown hair invited Bella to take her pleasures.
Then why didn't she feel aroused?
Even the atmosphere called to her fantasies. Stone walls surrounded her, candles along the floor provided a romantic glow, and a large king-size bed fitted with black silk sheets rested in the center of the bare room.
Raven wore a mauve lace thong, matching bra, and sleek black heels. Her body was nothing less than a perfect ten. Her perky breasts along with her creamy-colored skin should entice Bella. But her dry panties declared her arousal was nonexistent.
Pushing her reservations aside, Bella, who'd dressed in crimson lingerie, pressed her lips against Raven's. Beneath her touch, the woman's skin was flawless as she ran her hands over a soft back.
A gentle mouth melted against hers, which was so different than a man's demanding kiss. Bella parted her lips and welcomed the light swipe of Raven's tongue; then Bella's muscles bunched as an unexpected bubble of emotion rose.
She broke the kiss and burst out laughing. "Shit. Sorry."
Raven dropped her hands that trailed Bella's arms, then frowned. "Is something about this amusing to you?"
"No. No. I can do this." She twined her fingers through Raven's silky hair and yanked the woman forward. "I want this." Pressing her lips against Raven's mouth, she swirled her tongue with Raven's and searched down deep to get her motor running.
Delicate hands slid along her back to rest on her ass and squeeze. Bella sucked in a harsh breath and fought against the reaction burning in her gut, but failed miserably. Her laughter tore from her throat.
"Oh God." She placed her hand over her mouth in an attempt to hide her smile. "I'm sorry."
Raven folded her arms. "This is getting old."
"I know. I thought I wanted this, but when I kiss you, it feels all wrong."
"Then let's end this. I won't be offended." Raven's tight features relaxed. "You tried something new, and I give you credit for that. But clearly, you're not turned on by women."
Bella's cheeks warmed. "Clearly not."
Raven strode over to her robe that rested on the floor by the bed. "You're a lovely woman, Bella." She grabbed it, dressed, then handed the other robe to Bella. "I hope you find what you're looking for. Preferably with someone whom you don't laugh at when kissing." With a sweet smile good-bye, she spun on her heels and left the room.
Bella sighed, stared at the now closed door, and wrapped the robe around herself. She was relieved to see Raven go to end this embarrassment, but she was pissed too. She'd made a mess of this, hadn't she?
The pact of seduction formed with her best friends hung over her. Tonight was her night to fulfill that promise. She thought a woman had been her ultimate fantasy. How wrong had she been?
Failure burned wicked in her body.
She entered the dressing area located at the back of the room, then dropped the robe and slid back into her tight black minidress. Leaving the robe on the bench, she strode out of the room and slammed the door with a loud bang.
Without a hitch to her step, she passed door after door to rooms that probably contained people treating themselves to their sexual fantasies, exactly what she should've been doing.
She hurried down the staircase, and the sound of her heels against the wood echoed in the open space.
After a nod at the bouncer who guarded the entrance of Castle Dolce Vita, she opened the thick wooden door and made it to her silver Honda Civic. Her seat belt was fastened, car was started, and she hightailed it out of the parking lot in a single breath.
Darkness surrounded her on the drive from Bowleys Quarters back to Baltimore, and that was fitting since it matched her mood. Each light she passed on the half-hour drive brought her closer to home, which only increased the pout on her face.
After she turned onto the tree-lined street of the two-story colonial-style house that she shared with her three friends, she pulled into the driveway. She parked behind Marley's SUV, cut the ignition, and heaved a sigh.
A warm glow spread out from the living-room window, indicating everyone was still awake. Not much of a surprise. They had all been on pins and needles when Marley went to fulfill her fantasy. They'd be waiting for her too.
What should I tell them?
Exhaustion weighed her down, leaving her needy and craving a hug. Not a state she enjoyed. She gulped back the emotions pinning her to the seat, exited the car, then approached the house. Be strong, Bella.
At the front door, she ground her teeth to keep from showing her disappointment and entered the home. All three of her best friends, who were watching a movie, looked toward her.
She forced a smile. "Hi."
"Why are you home?" Marley's green eyes narrowed on her. "And so soon?"
She shut the door behind her, shed her coat, then kicked off her shoes. Sadie and Kyra shifted along the cushions to make room, and she plopped down into the plush couch. "I couldn't do it."
Kyra made a face and flicked her black hair over her shoulder. "Couldn't do what?"
"My night with Raven."
Sadie leaned forward, which gave Bella an unwanted view of her newly purchased breasts. "What happened?"
She ran her hands over her face, then dropped them to glance between the women. "Well, we were kissing, and"--she groaned at the memory--"I laughed in her face."
A pause followed; then laughter erupted, and Bella couldn't help but chuckle too. The heavy weight in her chest released and her muscles relaxed.
Of course they'd understand.
"So you're not attracted to women," Marley said, her dark curls bouncing off her shoulders as she shook with silent laughter.
She grunted. "Not at all."
"What's the plan now, then?" Sadie glanced at Marley and Kyra before her warm chocolate-colored eyes focused back on Bella. "I mean, not that I don't understand, but we made this pact." Her look became knowing. "You'll have to come up with another fantasy."
She nibbled her bottom lip. "I don't have any other fantasies, though." She was aware that she hadn't looked at Marley. BDSM made her confused and curious all at the same time.
Kyra offered a kind smile. "You've got time to sort it out. Sit on it for the next week and see if you can think of anything." She waved her hand dramatically. "Lord knows the castle has everything and anything you could dream up."
Always the voice of reason, Kyra was. "True." She released her teeth that dug into her lip and pushed the frustration behind her, more than done with it all. "Is Reed's party tomorrow night still a go?"
Marley nodded. "Yes, and you're going." She gave a shit-eating grin. "If you're not getting all hot and bothered this weekend, you might as well get drunk."
At least there was that.
On Saturday night, Kole finished stocking the beer in the fridge and heard the crowd behind him grow louder. He grabbed a beer for himself and cracked it open.
After a big gulp of the brew, he moaned from the crisp aftertaste, then scanned his condo that he shared with Reed. Both were criminal lawyers with a top firm in Baltimore, but that wasn't their only shared connection; they were both sexual dominants.
The roommate relationship had worked out well, and with the shared mortgage, they could afford the luxurious condo.
Their living room was full of friends from the castle, some from the law firm, and others just personal friends. It always amused him to watch those who didn't live the D/s lifestyle mix with people who did.
For most, they'd never notice the way the submissives doted over their Masters, seated lower than the ones who commanded them. But Kole saw it clearly, and it created an ache in the pit of his stomach.
While he didn't want a submissive 24-7, he had wanted one when he demanded it. And he'd never found a submissive who intrigued him enough to start a long-term relationship with.
As he continued to survey the room, one woman caught his eye, and the tension in his muscles increased.
Bella sat on the couch, a gin and tonic in her hand, while her three best friends laughed around her. He'd never seen the woman look so depressed. She'd always been full of sass and the life of the party.
All the reasons he craved to have her under his command. As a man, he appreciated her saucy attitude and the strength she portrayed. As a Dom, he'd enjoy seeing her lose it when she gave him control.
More to the point, her beauty appealed to him; her long blonde hair flowed beautifully over her shoulders, and her tight body aroused him. But the submissive buried inside her tempted him repeatedly.
A low laugh dragged Kole out of his thoughts. He flicked his gaze away from Bella to find amused blue eyes staring back at him. Reed cocked his head. His dirty-blond hair fell over his eyebrow. "Hiding in here, are you?"
"Not hiding, watching."
"Ah, the Dom in you can't help but study." Reed grabbed a beer out of the fridge, opened it, then took a sip. "Who are we studying?"
Kole glanced over at Bella, and her gaze that normally sparkled with life only held dismay. "What's going on with Bella?"
"You just won't leave it alone, will you?"
He ignored the jab that Bella shouldn't intrigue him since she hadn't shown an interest in him for anything more than friendship or in BDSM. "I can't help but notice she seems out of sorts." He looked back at Reed. "And that's unlike her. She's always so put together."
Reed leaned his hip against the kitchen table and examined Bella. "From what Marley told me, she went to the castle for her night with Raven but couldn't go through with it."
Kole shifted on his feet, and his chest constricted at the thought of her being with anyone. "I could've saved her the embarrassment and told her that myself; she's not a lesbian."
Reed nodded firmly. "I'd imagine she realizes that now."
Kole gazed over Bella, pondering the complex puzzle that she was. He'd seen from day one that she had submissive tendencies. But it wasn't his place to inform her, nor was it his place to put her under his command, even if it'd please him.
With a grunt, he glanced at Reed. "What's with the long face, though?"
"Marley said she's frustrated because she failed." Reed's stare became pointed. "You know Bella. I'm sure her pride is playing a part here."
Kole took another gulp of his beer; then he shook his head in frustration. "It's bothering me much more than it ought to, knowing that I could guide her way."
Reed snickered. "Back to this, are we?"
It wasn't a secret that Kole had an interest in Bella. Hell, how could he hide it? Every time they all went out to a dance club or even met at a pub for Sunday Night Football, she teased him. But he wasn't the only one captured by a woman. "Marley spun you just as hard."
Reed inclined his head. "Got me there." Then, his expression firmed. "But this is different. Marley knew the lifestyle interested her. Bella doesn't. If you plan to stick to vanilla sex, then by all means"--he waved out toward Bella--"enjoy yourself. But it should stop there."
Vanilla sex didn't interest Kole. Even if Bella could use a good lay to brighten her mood, he didn't have it in him not to demand her submission, especially once he settled himself between her luscious thighs.
Reed continued, "If Bella finally realizes that her tastes extend to BDSM, then it's my responsibility as Marley's Dom--and boyfriend--to place her with the right one." He lifted his chin, his voice deepening. "That's not you."
Kole snorted. "Thanks for the high opinion, jackass."
"You know what I'm saying, Kole." Reed's tone softened, and he placed a hand on Kole's shoulder. "You've never taken a newbie who's as innocent as Bella into a scene."
"I don't think she's as innocent as she puts off," Kole retorted. "There's a feisty woman in her, and that strength I'd imagine would make for a sub I'd enjoy."
"Strengthwise, yes," Reed countered. "But she's not submissive in nature. I doubt she has it in her to give you the control you want." He dropped his hand, folded his arms. "And then I'll be placed in a position to explain why she can't sit for a week since her ass will be marked for her disobedience."
Kole was well aware of who he was and that he enjoyed pushing his subs to extremes that Reed would never go in order to show their submission to him. Plus that he tolerated much less than Reed did from a submissive.
But something existed between him and Bella, and that told him that Reed's worries were irrelevant. He wouldn't be drawn to a submissive who couldn't give him what he needed as a Dom.
Reed stared hard into Kole's eyes and finally sighed. "Fuck, my talk is pointless, isn't it? You're going to go after her, aren't you?"
Nothing Reed had said would dissuade him. An opportunity had presented itself that he wouldn't let pass him by. Bella needed a fantasy. And he'd give her the one he knew she craved, even if she didn't realize it. "I'll introduce the idea and let her decide if she wants to pursue it."
Kole grinned. "I'll awaken that dormant submissive in her, let her squirm awhile until she realizes I'm exactly what she needs."
Reed exhaled, long and deep. "Promise me you won't push her excessively if she doesn't submit to you as you'd like?"
"You know"--he glared at Reed--"for my roommate and friend, your opinion of me is discouraging."
Reed's expression was measured. "I'm well aware that you push subs when they're under your command." He gestured toward Bella. "Be careful with her, or Marley will rip into me, and I won't hear the end of it."
"I won't push past her limits, even if those limits are way too low." He cocked his head and sighed in exasperation. "Does that suffice?"
Reed nodded. "That'll do." He grabbed another beer out of the fridge, then left the kitchen to join Marley.
Kole leaned against the counter, pursed his lips, and regarded Bella. He had no doubt if he offered himself to her for a night of blistering hot sex, she'd jump on the chance, but getting her into a scene might prove difficult.
She clearly sensed his gaze on her, since she'd glanced at him. A pretty blush filled her cheeks, and she looked down at the glass in her hands. A reaction he enjoyed.
He suspected when Bella wanted a man, she didn't hold back and went after him. But when it came to him, she was a shy little thing who couldn't hold his gaze.
Tonight, he needed to open the doorway so she'd finally stop ignoring her interests in BDSM.
You've got your work cut out for you.
Good thing he loved a challenge.