Alana reminded herself she wanted this, needed this. This insanity, the trip, the vacation ... The entire thing had been all her idea, a grand adventure to sate the hunger burning deep inside her. Hunger? No, that wasn't the right word. This wasn't as simple as hunger; it was more like an obsession. Since she'd discovered Sir Ethan Kendall, she'd been unable to stop thinking about him; she'd been unable to stop wanting him. Learning about BDSM from any other man simply wouldn't do. She had to have Ethan.
So, now, here she stood, an American on English soil, waiting, uncertain, frightened, and if she were honest, consumed by an unholy excitement that made her heart thump and her palms slick with cold sweat.
Her fellow passengers had claimed their bags from the carousel and exited the area nearly half an hour ago. She was the only one standing here, orphaned.
At this time of night, Heathrow was cold and lonely. A nasty wind battered the windows and a miserable drizzle spat on the panes. Yesterday in Florida, the sun had blazed across the afternoon sky, palm trees had swayed gently, the humidity had been blessedly low, and she had been running around in cut-off shorts and a tank top.
Now, she shivered. Instinctively she knew the sudden chill wasn't from the dreary weather. It was from the mixture of anticipation and low-level fear.
Surely it wouldn't be much longer until Ethan came to collect her.
Or perhaps it would be.
He could, would keep her waiting as long as he wanted. She was, by her own choice, totally, completely one hundred percent at his mercy for the next fortnight.
A man, tall, broad, and wearing a blue cap and yellow rain slicker pushed through the revolving door.
Her mouth suddenly dry, she nodded, instead of responding. Ethan? It could be, she supposed, since she had no idea what he looked like. Not that anyone did, really. He didn't frequent her side of the pond and he had never been a player on the scene. Despite that, his reputation for working with submissives was legendary. It had taken her months to find him and make contact, which in its own way was remarkable. Among her numerous naughty sins, she was an excellent computer hacker. It would have taken slightly less time to contact the President of the United States on his private cell phone.
The man stopped near her. Water dripped from his slicker onto floor. Good God, let this be Ethan. Up close, this man was a hunk and a half. His eyes were blue, but not just an ordinary blue. They were an electrifying, stunning blue. She could imagine him capturing her gaze while he commanded her onto her knees.
His hands were large and just the thought of him touching her naked skin made her want to obey.
"I'll be having the personal effects that Master requested you bring."
Which meant this man wasn't Ethan.
She exhaled. So who was he?
This was it.
Ethan's e-mailed instructions had been very specific. She was to travel lightly. She should wear a skirt with stockings and a garter belt--no knickers, he'd said, and she'd had to learn that that translated into American panties--and the highest heels she could tolerate. Her blouse should button up the front. Surprising her, he'd added an instruction that she should wear a bra. As for suitcases, she'd need none. He would be supplying everything she needed.
She was allowed to travel with her prized handbag containing identification, credit cards, cash, passport, and, of course, the letter.
The unnamed man stood there, his hand extended. "Your personal effects, if you please," he repeated.
There was something about being in a submissive state of mind that made Alana's brain turn to mush. She was competent--more than competent--at her marketing job. She led her team in strategic ideas. But put her with a man who held sexual power over her, and she struggled to think straight.
"Ms Simmons? Do you need me to repeat the request?"
"No." Her hands were shaky as she shrugged her purse from her shoulder and unzipped the bag's main compartment.
She made a neat little pile on his extended palm.
"Keep the book," he said. "Master didn't request anything else."
Master? It was the second time he'd used the word. Was this man a slave, much like she wanted to be? Surely not. As big, strong, and yummy as he was, he was probably just being respectful of Ethan's British title.
Tucking her papers safely inside his slicker, he said, "Now dispose of the rest."
"I beg your pardon? Throw away...?"
With infinite patience, and without a scowl forming between his brows, the man repeated the order.
"Are you mad? Do you have any idea how much I paid for this bag?" Ever since she'd been old enough to lust over fashion magazines, she'd wanted a purse that department stores kept safely locked in a glass case. Or, even better, one from a fashionable little store that discretely tucked price tags inside the bag. Alana had spent days bidding on this particular purse on an internet auction site. She'd wondered if her credit card would melt from the frenzy. "You're kidding me, right? Tell me this is a bad joke."
He said nothing.
Another drop of water dripped from his slicker onto the floor.
Then she realised this was the first test. Being bound and flogged was one thing. Throwing away a purse that cost a month's salary was another, entirely.
With a sigh, she walked over to the nearest rubbish bin and tossed in her handbag. As if that wasn't bad enough, it still contained her journal, the book she was quite enjoying, and worse, her toiletries, including her favourite tube of mascara.
Good God. Was she really ready for this? Ready to be stripped to her barest, basest level? For that's what Ethan would demand from her.
The man, who still had not introduced himself, headed for the exit. She shrugged and then followed him.