Lyla knew she was in trouble the moment Kurt came into the room wearing a pair of faded, tattered jeans and nothing else.
She tried not to stare as he padded barefoot past the kitchen table, chest muscles rippling, half stalking the fridge like some kind of jungle cat.
It wasn't just that her roommate Melanie's brother was a sexy as hell fire fighter with killer blue eyes and a movie star smile, though that was bad enough.
Kurt Wharton was a Dom.
A sexual dominant, the kind of man who made women obey him in bed, who trained them--trained them--to please him.
Lyla had looked it up on line, the night Melanie had told her of her brother's BDSM lifestyle. According to the websites, dominant men sought submissive women. They put collars on them, they spanked them and sometimes they whipped them.
Submissive women often called their dominants Sir or Master. When they were displeasing they could be punished. Dominant men put them in bondage, controlled their sexuality and sometimes made them beg to come.
Lyla, to her horror, had been aroused looking at some of the pictures and last night when Kurt arrived, she had shivered almost imperceptibly shaking his hand. His grip was very firm and warm and his eyes were disturbingly captivating.
She was glad it was partially dark in the foyer so he hadn't seen her blush when he told her he had heard a lot about her.
The way he said it, slightly suggestive, with a total masculine confidence had made her heartbeat quicken. It wasn't so much what he had heard that worried her, but what he might be imagining. She had excused herself to bed as quickly as possible, leaving the two siblings to catch up.
"Where's the OJ, Little Sister?" Kurt drawled now to Mel, his voice smooth and rich and potent as Lyla's coffee.
"Wow," Mel heaped a healthy serving of seven am sarcasm on him. "That's a charming look. Why don't you just go nude?"
Nude. Lyla squirmed at the thought of Kurt, splendidly naked, so confident, totally in control. Did his women ... his slave girls ... crawl to him and worship that perfect body?
Lyla wouldn't mind kneeling before him right now, unzipping those jeans with her greedy fingers and pulling out his huge cock, the outlines of which were so insolently straining the denim.
She would kiss and lick and suck and devour his shaft, begging with whimpers for him to come in her mouth, filling her with hot, bitter sweet semen for her to swallow down, his hand on her head, stroking ... like she was his pet.
But Lyla wasn't submissive.
At least she didn't think so.
BDSM was a lifestyle choice, or maybe it was genetic, but it wasn't for everyone, certainly not for her.
When Lyla had done her research on the Web, though, she had gotten wet between her legs. And her nipples had gotten hard.
She had shut down the computer in her room and gone hastily to bed, heart pounding. But she went back the next night to see more and the next night after that.
Lyla told herself it was strictly curiosity, nothing personal.
Kurt was leaning against the counter, orange juice in hand. He could have been an ad for the product, or maybe for the faded jeans he was wearing, low slung on those bronzed hips. He could advertise dirt, for that matter and make it sell.
Lyla should know, she was in advertising.
"You'll have to excuse my baby sister," Kurt said, looking right at Lyla with a pair of piercing blue gray eyes that went straight through her. "Sometimes she gets up on the wrong side of the broom stick."
Kurt grinned sideways at his own barb, winking, so damn charming.
Lyla squirmed some more.
Kurt must never know that she had looked up anything about BDSM.
She had book marked a number of the websites, all of them with lots of pictures of women, consensual slaves, blindfolded, tied and chained, writhing in delicious torture, sexually compromised, controlled ... used.
Last night, when she had first stood in his presence he took her breath away. She had survived shaking his hand ... barely.
"That's right, big brother," said Mel, on the verge of showing her fifty percent Irish temper. "I'm a witch and I'm going to turn you into a toad if you don't put a shirt on."
"Let's leave it up to your roommate," said Kurt, clearly enjoying the sport. "Lyla, are you a prude like Mel or can you handle a little skin?"
Lyla swallowed. A woman didn't handle a man like Kurt. She was handled by him.
God, that chest ... so magnificent, hard, chiseled from years as a fire fighter and before that a stint in the Navy. She could lick every inch of it, not to mention that ribbed abdomen and the thick biceps.
Melanie snorted. "Way to back her into a corner, Kurt."
"Your roommate's a big girl," said Kurt, not taking his eyes off Lyla. "She can answer for herself."
Lyla tensed. Submissives were called girls.
His eyes were relentless on her, unyielding. What was his problem? And was it Lyla's imagination or had he put a little emphasis on the word girl?
Melanie must have picked up on it, too. "That's enough," she snapped at him. "Lyla's not one of your little subbies you can play head games with."
Kurt raised a brow at his sister. "She knows?"
Mel shrugged. "She's my roommate, Kurt, I tell her everything."
Kurt's expression was unreadable. "That means you can share your private life with her, Melanie, not mine."
"So sue me. It just slipped out one night," Mel said.
Kurt arched a brow. "Really, Sis? Did it just slip or did the Merlot help push it a bit?"
"Go fuck yourself," snapped Melanie, her button pushed.
Lyla frowned. Mel didn't drink that much, once a week or so they had a little wine at home or maybe at a party. Why was Kurt being such a hard ass?
There were family issues, though, with the drinking. Melanie had alluded to it, with regard to both her parents. Scotch was their father's chosen beverage, Merlot their mother's. Was Kurt being overprotective of his little sister?
Kurt was studying Lyla, picking up on her unease. "Perhaps you would like me to fuck myself as well?"
Lyla found her tongue. He had gone too far in her opinion.
"No, Kurt. It's just that Melanie wasn't drunk when she told me about you being into BDSM. She doesn't drink that much, as a matter of fact."
Kurt smiled, deep, complicated. "So, the kitten has teeth."
Lyla bristled. She was twenty eight, the same age as Melanie, just four years younger than Kurt. "I'm hardly a kitten," she retorted.
Kurt inclined his head. "I stand corrected," he said.
Melanie was on her feet. It was after seven thirty and she was late. "You know how much I don't need this shit, Kurt? Lyla, I apologize. I am quite sure Kurt will do the decent thing and leave after breakfast. Won't you, brother dear? You are so good at leaving, after all."
"Not as good as you are at holding grudges. For your information, Lyla, my sister is still pissed at me for going into the Navy nine years ago and leaving her with the parents from hell."
"You flatter yourself," said Melanie. "You are the one who needed me, not the other way around."
"If you say so, Melanie. Seems to me we are better off on our own."
"Fine," she said. "Just don't expect me to be there to come crying to the next time one of your fantasy submissives breaks your heart."
"Don't go there," Kurt said. "You know better."
Lyla couldn't bear the conflict anymore. Hers hadn't been the most peaceful of houses growing up either and she had spent much of her life using words to try and make things better.
"Guys, please don't fight. Melanie, we've known each other almost a year and you are a super person, a loyal friend. You helped me get over Gil, right? And Kurt, you are a good person, too."
Kurt smiled, almost mocking. "And how do you know I'm any good?"
"Because Melanie loves you," Lyla stood her ground. "She is so proud of you and all your accomplishments. I'm sorry, both of you, if I am making this worse, it's just how I feel."
"You needn't worry on that score," said Kurt dryly. "We manage to fight quite well on our own."
Melanie gave her a hug. "You are so silly and sweet, Lyla. It's okay, really. Kurt is being a big jerk and he is going to apologize to us right now."
She spoke with sufficient humor in her voice to make Kurt respond in kind.
"I'm a brute, what can I say."
Melanie kissed them both on the cheek. "I gotta run, kids. Traffic is going to be a bear."
"I'll make sloppy joes tonight," said Kurt, as if nothing had happened.
"It will be just you two," said Melanie, heels clacking over the linoleum on her way to the front door. "There's a zoning meeting tonight."
Lyla's stomach did a twist. Her alone with Kurt for dinner...
How about her alone with Kurt now?
Lyla cleared her throat. His male presence filled the room, untempered by the neutralizing, protective factor of his sister. "I should probably get going, too," she managed a smile.
"Stay," he said.
Lyla froze. "What?"
"I know you don't have to go to work until nine. You have time," he said.
It was true, she usually stayed in the kitchen enjoying a little quiet time after Melanie left.
"I need to go in early today," she said.
He smiled, lips at a steep angle. "You're lying."
Lyla clutched her coffee mug. "Excuse me?"
"You are lying, Lyla McKenzie. You don't have to leave early. You want to avoid me."
"How dare you accuse me of such a thing," she said.
Kurt sat down in Melanie's spot, settling himself with ease, his large capable hands in front of him, dangerously close to hers. "It's not an accusation. It's a fact. And I even know why you want to avoid me. But we'll get to that. First, tell me about this advertising job of yours."
"I don't have to tell you anything." Her pulse raced. What did he think he knew about her that was so special? He hadn't a clue about her nature.
"That's true," he agreed. "But I would like it if you would tell me."
It was weird, how he seemed so much older than her, way more than just four years. He wasn't just sexy. He was magnetic, attracting her in ways that were not just physical. "Very well, I will tell you, out of respect for Melanie."
"What's so funny?"
"You," he said. "Using Melanie as an excuse to please me."
Lyla felt a surge of heat. "I am not pleasing you. I could care less what you like!"
"If you say so."
"I do. For your information, I have been a creative director for a major agency for the last two years, before that I was an associate. I have a marketing degree and--"
"So basically advertising is professional lying, right?" he interrupted her, taking a piece of toast from her plate.
"Do you mind?" She glared.
"You weren't eating it," he pointed out, taking a bite.
He chewed slowly. She shook out her dark curls, trying not to watch his mouth. This man was really starting to get under her skin. "Advertising is not lying," she declared, watching him demolish her breakfast.
"Okay, so call it concealing the truth. You are very good at that, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am," she gave it right back. "It's called courtesy. For example, I am not going to tell you what I really think of your behavior because I am too polite."
"Oh, I know exactly what you think of my behavior, Lyla McKenzie." His eyes were aglow like a predator's and his features were locked in calm amusement. "It turns you on."
She kept from telling him to fuck himself--just barely. "You really do like pushing people's buttons, don't you?"
"When they are full of shit? Yes."
"Is Melanie full of shit?" Lyla tried to change the subject off of her.
"When she tries to act like our mother and hold onto the past she is. As for you, you have a different problem."
He was toying with her, like a cat with a mouse.
Better just get this over with, she thought, whatever it is.
"Why don't you just tell me my problem, then, Dr. Freud. I am sure I will feel so much better."
He shook his head. "Not until you improve your attitude. I will give you a clue, though. Talking to me is making you wet and the more I push you, the wetter you get."
Lyla's pussy burned. She was wet. But there was no way he should be concerning himself with such a thing. "I think maybe you should leave after all. I am going to call Melanie."
"And tell her what? That her mean old dominant brother has you all hot and bothered and could she please make him go away? Melanie thinks BDSM is a joke, but we know otherwise, don't we."
"There is no we," she insisted, her voice strained.
"If you mean 'we' as in a relationship, no, there isn't and we won't ever have one because you are my sister's roommate, her good friend, off limits. But between you and me, let's lay it on the line, no bullshit, all right? You're submissive."
Lyla might as well have been struck by lightning. Blood pounded in her ears. "I don't know what you're talking about."
How could he think such a thing let alone say it? It was a lie, a terrible lie.
"You haven't had one," he said, continuing to gauge her. "But you will."
"One what?" She whispered, her voice full of dread, masking a desire she dared not name.
Was this why she had been aroused by all those pictures of bound women late at night? There had to be another explanation. Maybe she was a dominant ... or a lesbian. That would be so much easier right now.
His smile was one of pure triumph. He had her. "A Master, Lyla, a man to control your body and own you, someone strong enough to put you to his service and keep you there."
In his eyes were lost worlds, dark and mystic worlds, dangerous worlds and with it a deep, perpetual fire, unquenching thirst.
He was supposed to be a fireman--he was supposed to extinguish blazes not start them.
Kurt laughed. "If you could only see yourself. Don't worry, baby, I'm not going to mess with you. But if you ever want me to help you find a man, a real man, I have friends. Good men who will break you in right."
The words zapped up and down her spine. "No one's going to break me in. Do you hear me? And I'm not your baby."
Her protests left him unfazed. "You will be masturbating today," he predicted. "You will think of me. You will fight it, but you won't be able to help yourself. Damn it, you are a hot one. It's too bad, really. You have been like a sister to Mel, she loves you a lot and she talks about you to me on the phone all the time. I dearly appreciate that. If I met you anywhere else, Lyla, if you were a stranger or whatever, I would take you ... show you what your body can do, what it needs. It's going to be damn hard. I want you, baby, I won't lie. I want you bad."
Lyla's lips were bone dry. Her heart thumped like a rabbit's as a dozen emotions competed for supremacy. Her nipples burned, craving attention, along with every other part of him. "You ... you arrogant prick," she said. "How dare you sit there so smug and think I would want to ... to submit to you..."
But he wasn't being smug at all. He was just stating everything like a fact. He was dominant, she was submissive, there was mutual attraction and they couldn't act on it.
No. That couldn't be what was happening.
Oh, god, what was he doing now? He was putting his finger to his lips, very, very slowly. He took the kiss and transferred it to her mouth, making her shudder with the contact, so seemingly soft and innocuous and yet fraught with incredible heat and symbolism.
Lyla sighed as he branded her.
"Sweet baby," he said, as if reading thoughts she wasn't aware of herself. "In a different world..."
Lyla slipped away, just for a moment.
It was more powerful than any part of any man ever to touch her before. What if that finger should brush her neck, touch her earlobe or press against her nipple?
She would surely arch her back, push out her breasts for that touch. She would proffer her belly, part her legs for it. She would come for it, she would moan for it, she would give in to it, everything she had and everything she was would be surrendered.
And that was only Kurt's finger, one of ten, which didn't begin to cover the rest of his body, his arms and legs ... and cock.
"Don't touch me," she pulled herself back to reality. "You have no right."
Kurt winked at her, assured, self-contained, the most centered man she had ever seen. It drove her crazy. It made her sopping wet, out of her mind with the desire to be taken, fucked like a little rag doll until she forgot her own name.
"Run along, Little Miss Lyla Good Girl," he teased. "Mustn't keep the boss man waiting."
"My boss is a woman," she declared, pushing back her chair at last. "And she isn't a pervert like you."
"Dinner's at seven," he told her, playful to the last. "Don't be late."
Lyla quivered. Being late would imply naughtiness on a submissive's part ... and punishment.
"Don't hold your breath," she served notice.
He offered no reply. Good. Maybe he was catching on. Lyla McKenzie wasn't submissive. Most importantly, she wasn't his submissive.
So what the hell was she, she thought miserably, making a quick detour back to her bedroom to change her sopping panties.
She was in deep shit, that's what she was.