What was going on? Beth watched as Master Patrick talked with Z and a strange Dom. They all looked at her. Her uneasiness grew when Master Patrick picked up his toy bag before returning to her.
"Beth," he said. "Master Z has a suggestion for you."
A suggestion? She glanced at the bag filled with his BDSM equipment. "Are you stopping the scene?"
He nodded. "I'm sorry, but it's not coming together for us. Maybe this will work better." He gave her an apologetic smile. Beth's stomach clenched when he handed her limit list to the stranger before walking out of the scene area, leaving her still chained to the station.
She turned her gaze to the two big Doms. Master Z was impeccably dressed in his usual black silk shirt and tailored slacks. In contrast, the other Dom looked rough in black leathers and a skintight muscle shirt that showed off a powerful build.
Fear ran through her. Why had Z sent Patrick away? And why was that other Dom here?
Master Z studied her, then lips compressed; he shook his head. "Beth, I fear the Shadowlands is not the best place for you. I think--"
"No!" Horror rolled through her. He would kick her out? Cancel her membership? She'd have nowhere to go except the Tampa clubs where no one would watch out for her. She would have no real safety, would never be able to relax knowing Kyler could walk in at any time. Stupid to need this so much, but she did. "No, please, Master Z." She yanked at her cuffs, wanting to drop to her knees before him. "I ... whatever you want, I'll do. Beat me if you need to--" Beat her? Just the idea strangled the voice in her throat. "No ... I mean..."
He stepped closer, cupped her face with his hand. "Little one, you are not getting what you need here. I suppose we can try one more time, but you'd have to actually cooperate and give up some control. Can you do that?"
"I will. I promise, Sir." Maybe she didn't get everything she wanted from coming here, but it helped. Helped ease the stranglehold the coldness inside had over her emotions, kept it from growing and taking over her life.
"Then this is what will happen." He nodded to the sinister man standing to one side. Beth glanced at him, met unwavering dark eyes. His gaze captured hers, pinned her in place. She stared at him, barely breathing, before ripping her eyes away.
"Master Nolan will be your Dom tonight and in the future," Z said. "As long as he is willing to top you, you may remain. If he gives up, I'll terminate your membership immediately."
Have that Dom top her? Take her under command? Panic filled her as her carefully built world cracked, splintering like antique glass. "Master Z, please." She dropped her voice to a whisper. "Please don't do this. I don't like him. It can't--"
"Have you met him?"
She shook her head.
"Beth," Master Z said quietly, "I've known Master Nolan for years. I trust him. What's more to the point, I trust him with you." He tilted his head and waited for her answer.
Beth's breath hitched. Master Z didn't threaten; everyone knew that. It was one of the things that made him such an effective Dom. So either take the cruel-looking Dom at his side or leave forever. "I'll try, sir," she whispered, although her insides shook.
"Excellent." Master Z stepped back. "Nolan, your sub, Elizabeth."
She looked at the Dom. Everything about him seemed hard. Mean. At least six feet tall, broad shouldered, thickly muscled. His darkly tanned face was the reddish-bronze of Native American ancestry. His eyes were black. Reaching his upper back, straight coal-colored hair, exactly as long as hers, had been tied with a leather band. A long white scar ran over his left cheekbone. She winced, knowing exactly how that must have felt.
His menacing gaze ran over her slowly, inch by inch. He didn't miss anything; his eyes lingered on her scars, her breasts, her legs. At least she still had on some clothes, was all she could think. What would he do to her? If he whipped her, she'd leave. She'd have to leave. She bit her lip to hide its tremble.
"Physical problems?" he asked Master Z.
"None. Her medical forms state she's in good shape." Master Z gave her a fleeting smile and simply walked away, leaving her with this stranger.
"Spread your legs," he snapped, and she did, the panic wrapping around her and filling her head. He brushed a hand across her pussy, through the red curls, and grunted when his hand came back dry. He looked ... brutal
Kyler was elegant, slim and smooth, and a monster. How much worse would this man be? A tremor ran through her.
He saw her reaction immediately; she had a feeling nothing escaped those piercing eyes. The authority and power that radiated from him demanded submission, and she dropped her eyes.
This was an experienced Dom, the type she avoided.
"Your safe word is red. If I think you're using it before you need to, I will stop immediately, and we will be done permanently." His deep voice sounded like gravel being poured out of a truck, his words taking on the impact of boulders striking the earth. Her shoulders tried to hunch, to prepare for the pain.
"You may use yellow. I will take it into consideration and may or may not stop. Look at me now." His eyes were cold, empty as a starless night. "Do you understand?"
"Yes, Sir." The quaking increased, expanding from her stomach and into her chest. She tried to ignore it. She could do this. She was in the Shadowlands, and there were people everywhere. They weren't alone.
"You may address me as Master, Master Nolan, or Sir." His lips twitched. "My Liege or Sire will work occasionally if you're trying really hard to suck up."
"Yes, Sir." A joke ... or not? She couldn't tell, and that realization scared her to death. At one time, her survival had depended on the ability to read every nuance in a voice, every expression in a face. He gave her nothing.
"If I institute high protocol, you will keep your eyes lowered and speak only when permitted. However, during a scene I want your eyes on me." He tilted her chin up, met her eyes in a look that seared straight down to her toes. "You have pretty eyes, Elizabeth. Keep them on me."
A compliment? The flash of pleasure at his words disappeared as the sound of her full name engulfed her in the memory of Kyler and how his voice would thicken with anticipation. "Elizabeth, you didn't ... Elizabeth, you forgot ... Elizabeth ... " She cringed.
Master Nolan's eyes narrowed, the pressure of his fingers increasing on her chin. "Your eyes," he said. A pause. "Pretty." A pause. "Elizabeth."
She didn't move when he said her name, she knew she didn't, but his head tilted slightly before he asked, "What would you prefer to be called?"
"Beth. Please call me Beth, Sir." Would he do that or would he prefer to punish her with her given name?
He nodded and released her. When he stepped back, she managed to pull in a breath.
"Normally we would discuss your limits, wants, and needs at this point in time." He glanced at her hard limit paper, tore it in half, and dropped the pieces on the floor. "The normal procedure obviously hasn't worked out for you." He lifted his eyebrows and waited.
No, no, no. She bit back the words. Took a breath. Another. Unable to speak, she managed a nod.
"My job is to give you what you need. We may not agree, so until I know you better, I will not gag you. What is your safe word?"
"Red, Sir," she whispered, the tremors spreading to her legs.
"Very good." He ran a finger down her face, his touch warm on her chilled skin. Grasping her hair in one big hand, he tilted her head back to take her mouth, not permitting any movement, and yet she didn't receive the crushing kiss she'd expected. Instead, his firm lips teased her mouth, and his tongue brushed over her lips until she opened.
He kissed her slowly, thoroughly, as if he had no plans to do anything else. Ever.
Pleasure fizzed through her like a shaken-up soda.
When he finally drew back, her lips burned and her head spun. No one had kissed her like that since ... since high school when she and Danny parked his car and would kiss all night. After a second, she blinked back to reality and realized in amazement that she'd forgotten her fear for that time.
His intense gaze focused on her face. "You kiss well, sugar."
She had a second of delight from the compliment.
He ran a finger down her cheek. And then his hand continued down her neck, her chest. His fingers slowed at the whip marks, and a flash of anger appeared in his eyes.
When he stroked along the swell of her breasts, she stiffened. Would he touch her below now? Was he planning to whip her? She couldn't...
His fingers opened the front of her corset, tiny hook by tiny hook.
"No." The word escaped. She'd been naked before, but he was different from the other Doms.
One eyebrow raised, and his gaze stabbed her to silence. The corset dropped onto the wood floor.
His strong hands cupped her small breasts. He rubbed her nipples with his thumbs, and she found the sensation fairly pleasant. A corner of his mouth turned up. Abandoning her breasts, he unzipped her latex miniskirt and let it slide down her legs to the wooden floor.
Naked. Totally vulnerable to him. To him. Her hands jerked as she instinctively tried to cover herself.
As the chains restraining her hands jangled, he glanced up, then stepped back. He simply stood there, waiting, until her panic slowed.
She couldn't take her eyes off him. Now he'd touch her, try to bring her to--
He took a spreader bar off the wall, the widest one. Unhooking a set of cuffs from his belt, he buckled them onto her ankles and attached the bar, pulling her legs apart with firm hands.
So quiet. Unlike some Doms, he didn't speak at all. But he never stopped assessing her--his eyes on her hands when her fingers gripped the chain too tightly, on her body when her breathing faltered, on her face when she couldn't conceal the tiny quiver of her bottom lip.
Stepping back, he waited until ... She didn't know what he waited for.
He winched the chains until her body stretched upward, her toes touching the floor just enough to keep the strain off her shoulders. She could move nothing now. Anxiety welled inside her along with the tiniest thrill. He was totally in control.
He grunted his satisfaction and circled her, coming to a stop behind her.
She flinched when a callused finger ran down her back, ever so slowly, and she realized he was tracing a scar.
"Metal-tipped flogger?" he asked, his voice casual. His finger slid down one mark, then the other, one by one until her skin began to anticipate the next stroke.
His finger brushed along her side. "One-tail?" he asked, continuing to touch her shoulders, her back, her flanks. Each gliding touch was light and excruciatingly slow. His fingers grazed over her bottom, and a quiver ran through her.
"Yes, Sir." Kyler had boasted of the evenness of the cuts. All she could remember were her screams.
"How long were you with him?" he asked. Just a request for information.
The lack of emotion in his voice let her open the door to her memories a little further. "Two years." Two years of pain that had slowly buried her sexuality until she wasn't sure if Beth, the woman, even existed anymore.
Master Nolan touched each parallel scar. Other Doms occasionally asked a general question about the humiliating, ugly marks of Kyler's displeasure. She now knew he had hurt her for his own pleasure, not because of her actions, yet the scars still embarrassed her as if she'd been at fault, as if she were as worthless as he'd always told her.
No one had ever looked at each one, questioned each one. She felt like the Dom had pulled her out of the shadows where she'd been hiding, and instead of revulsion, she found only mild interest.
He stroked down her thighs, her calves. He walked to her front and started at her toes. Moved up, stopping at her right shin and the knotted scars there, the uneven bone beneath the skin. "What did this?" he asked, his voice a whisper.
"Cast-iron skillet, Sir."
Did he growl? He worked his way up, his stroke so light she barely felt it, and yet her skin grew so sensitive she was aware of the heat from his fingers before he even touched her.
His touch found the scars on her hip, the burns on her breasts, the healed gashes on her chin and cheekbones, the bump on her nose from the fist that broke it.
"Sugar, you're a mess," he murmured. His voice didn't ooze sympathy, just stated a fact. He took her lips again. Harder this time, deeper, but just as slow and careful. Velvet and iron. His tongue took complete possession before enticing hers in turn. Her breath quickened as a slow burn started low in her belly. She could go nowhere, refuse nothing. Could only submit. And enjoy. Slowly he pulled back, stopping to nibble on her now-swollen lips. He drew her breath into his lungs, gave her his, the exchange more intimate than sex with someone else might be.
His hands cupped her breasts again as he'd done before.
An unexpected tingle ran through her. She jerked when his abrasive thumbs rubbed her nipples. He tugged at one peak gently, rolling it between his fingers, his intent gaze on her face, her mouth, her eyes.
Incrementally, the pressure increased with each pinch, each roll of his fingers until an electric current sparked to life, flowing between her breast and her clit. Until her breath huffed in.
He kissed her again, his mouth demanding. One hand cupped her head to hold her in place, as the other stroked her breast. His kiss distracted her, and a sharp pinch to her nipple made her jump, hiss in surprise. He continued, drugging her with sensuous kisses, shocking her with pinches until her insides started to melt and a glorious feeling of arousal rushed through her.
She leaned into his kiss as his hands slid down her body, lower and lower, until he touched the curls of her pussy. He drew back and showed her his hand, his fingers glistening.
Her mouth dropped in disbelief. She was wet. How long had it been?
He licked his fingers, and his firm lips curved into a smile. The line of a crease in his cheek softened his face slightly.
"I like your taste." His blunt words eased the worry inside and warmed her. There were actually things he liked about her. And unlike the other Doms, he didn't appear frustrated or unhappy with her.
After glancing around, he walked to the wall and brought back a low stool, seating himself in front of her. His face was level with her crotch. For a minute ... then another ... for what seemed like an eternity, he just looked at the V between her legs where she gaped open from the leg spreader. His gaze burned into her, and she felt her labia, her clit, warm and awaken. When he finally touched her, she jolted and sucked in an uncontrolled breath.
His gaze rose, and he watched her face with those unreadable eyes as he moved his finger through her slick, wet folds. His finger, just one, slid slowly from her mound, down beside her clit, down almost to her anus, and then back ever so slowly. Again and again, he traced that route, as if he had nothing better to do, no plans to do anything else. Each unhurried stroke wakened more nerves until her lower body pulsed with urgency, until her hands fisted around the chains with the need to push against his hand.
He changed and moved his finger to her clit, circling but never making contact, the deliberately slow swirls making her restless in anticipation. Frustration. She could feel her clit harden, enlarge, then throb painfully when nothing, nothing touched it. She dampened further, aching for release, but he didn't seem to notice, this Dom who didn't appear to miss any little nuance of her movements. Another piece of her control began to slip away.
"Sir," she whispered. She hadn't been this close in so, so long. "Sir..."
His gaze darkened, and his mouth tightened to a severe slash. "You do not have permission to speak." And his finger never slowed. A circle, another, her clit on fire, her world narrowing to just his touch.
When he removed his hand and stopped touching her entirely, she whimpered.
In silence, he removed the spreader bar. Her legs closed over her engorged clit and swollen labia. Over her own wetness. Her body ached, needing more.
He unbuckled her ankle cuffs and removed them, reattaching them to his belt. When he rose, she stiffened, preparing herself, mentally and physically for the invasion of his cock. Fear and anticipation mingled together as her need died down to a simmer.
He held his wet fingers in front of her face. She could smell her arousal. "You will smell like that next time, sub," he said. "And possibly I will take you further."
Next time? Not now?
He released her chains. She would have fallen except for the strong arms that steadied her.
"Easy, sugar," he murmured in a deep growl. He drew her closer and cupped her bare bottom with his hands, pulling her up against his rock-hard body. A thick erection pressed against her stomach.
So he did want her. The knowledge sent desire surging through her, followed by anxiety. He wanted her; why didn't he take her? She looked up at him in confusion, met his unreadable black eyes, and watched those eyes crinkle slightly at the corners.
This time when he kissed her, his tongue moved in the same slow circling rhythm as his finger, reminding her of the sensation. And again, her lower half grew heavy with need, her swollen clit throbbing with every heartbeat.
Her legs wobbled. He tried to pull back, but her arms were tight around his neck. Even as she pressed herself to his body, she trembled. He must know how excited she was. He would bend her over, take her ... He'd eroded her control, the shields holding her together.
Grasping her upper arms, he moved her away from him. His gaze ran over her as he checked her steadiness.
And then he tapped her cheek gently and walked away, leaving her naked and aroused.
Staring after him. Hating him. Wanting him.