Kelly Jones finally finished unpacking the supplies that had arrived earlier that day. She and Jesse Erickson, her best friend and business partner, had been so busy with customers that neither had had a chance to unpack until now.
Their business, Indulgences, kept them very busy on Fridays and Saturdays. Today, a hot and humid Friday, had been no exception. Since opening almost two months ago, their customer base had grown so fast that both Kelly and Jesse had almost worn themselves out trying to keep up with it.
It had taken Kelly and Jesse's two husbands, Clay and Rio, to convince Jesse that the store needed to hire more help. With the store closed Sundays and Mondays and the high school girls they'd hired working nights and Saturdays, it had become a lot less stressful.
"Whew! Well, I closed up out front. Business is really picking up." Jesse smiled at Kelly as she eyed the packages on the table. "Did we get everything we ordered?"
"Yes, all of it." Kelly nodded and gestured to the assortment of herbs and scented oils she hadn't yet put away. "I want to start experimenting with scents next week." She started putting the items in one of the overflowing cabinets. "I can't wait until we get the new cabinets installed. It's so hard to find anything."
They wanted to branch out into a men's line and Kelly couldn't wait to get started. She closed her eyes. If she could find a way to duplicate Blade's clean, earthy scent, they could make a fortune.
"Yeah, I know what you mean. And with adding all these new ingredients, it's going to be even harder to find anything," Jesse agreed and turned to Frank Elliott. Frank had just recently been hired after Clay and Rio found him in a ditch, badly beaten.
"Thanks for getting rid of the boxes, Frank. As soon as you take them out, you go ahead to Miss Gracie's."
Frank frowned and looked at Jesse. "But Mr. Clay and Mr. Rio said not to leave you alone."
He did whatever Jesse and Kelly asked of him, without hesitation, except when it conflicted with Clay and Rio's wishes.
"It's okay." Jesse guided Frank toward the back door. "I promise we'll be leaving in a few minutes. You tell Miss Gracie that I need a dozen orders of chicken and dumplings and two apple pies to go. I'll be there in a few minutes to pick them up. I just want to talk to Miss Kelly a minute."
Frank still looked worried, but reluctantly left.
"You know he's going to call them," Kelly smiled as she resumed her task. "A dozen orders and two pies?"
"You've seen them all eat. I threw myself on Gracie's mercy long ago. I want to talk to you."
Kelly continued to put things away, aware of Jesse's scrutiny.
Jesse leaned against the counter and crossed her arms over her chest. "How are things with you and Blade?"
Kelly shrugged. "What do you mean?"
"I think you know." Jesse's eyes were sharp. "Ever since we moved here, he's been sniffing around you. He's been watching you since that first day, when you and Cullen got here in the moving van."
Cullen, Kelly's older brother, had been visiting her while Jesse visited her sister, Nat, here in Desire. When Jesse called Kelly, asking her to move here, Kelly, wanting to escape Simon, an abusive ex boyfriend who kept coming around, had jumped at the chance.
Blade's dark good looks and fierce scrutiny had made Kelly edgy from the beginning. A man of few words, Blade hid his thoughts behind a cool mask and amused gaze.
The intensity with which he regarded her had terrified her at first. The only times she'd ever been on the receiving end of such attention in the past was when she was about to be beaten and raped by Simon.
Kelly had learned to avoid Blade like the plague.
Little by little, the fear she'd felt around him had changed to something else, an awareness she fought to overlook.
Kelly lifted her eyes and saw that Jesse watched her knowingly.
"Kelly, I know what you've been through," Jesse murmured softly. She reached out to touch Kelly's shoulder.
"I think you're ready, Kelly. Don't keep putting distance between yourself and Blade. Give yourself and him a chance. Don't let what Simon did to you keep you alone for the rest of your life."
"I'm scared," Kelly admitted softly. She looked down at the fragrant herbs in her hands. "You know the kind of man Blade is, Jesse. He's a Dom! He and his partners train other Doms. What if it doesn't work? I don't want to feel helpless ever again. What if I can't let go of my fear during sex? You know that Blade would want me to submit. Being with a Dom would make me feel helpless again."
Jesse hugged her friend. "Does Nat seem helpless to you?"
Kelly smiled reluctantly. Jesse's sister had been married to a Dom for years. Kelly had no idea what went on in their bedroom, of course, but out of it, Jake and Nat's love and devotion to each other showed clearly. Jake utterly adored his mischievous wife and Nat glowed with happiness.
"They're in love, Jesse." Kelly sighed. "It makes all the difference in the world."
"If Blade isn't in love with you, Kelly, I'll eat Clay and Rio's hats, dust and all." Jesse smiled. "He's a good man, Kelly. I asked Clay and Rio about him. They say they've never met a man with more patience than Blade."
Jesse waited until Kelly's eyes met hers. "He's been patient with you, hasn't he?"
Kelly thought about Blade's non-threatening touches and how carefully he treated her. They'd known each other for two months, had been together almost every day and he hadn't even kissed her yet.
"Yes," Kelly nodded reluctantly. "Blade has been very patient with me."
"You're crazy about him, aren't you?"
"I'm not sure what I feel." Kelly shook her head. "Thinking about Blade touching me scares me to death. Thinking about him touching another woman makes me feel like hitting something."
Kelly nervously began to pace the workroom. "Blade will always touch other women, Jesse. His job demands it. How would you feel if Clay or Rio were constantly around naked women eager to please them, touching them to train other men in how to get them to respond?"
Kelly watched her friend grimace. "You have a point. But, you know he doesn't have sex with them, right? Rio told me that Blade, Royce, and King never had sex on the job. And we both know what kinds of things go on at the club. Don't you think Clay, Rio, and Jake are there watching when some of the other men fuck a woman in the main room? Do you think they join in?"
Jesse gathered her purse. "Don't make the mistake I almost made. If it wasn't for Nat, I never would have gotten involved with Clay and Rio."
Kelly watched Jesse walk to the door and turn back, startled at the tears glistening in Jesse's eyes.
"Look what I would have missed. Please give it a chance, Kelly. Believe me, it's worth it."
Kelly stood staring at the door as it closed behind Jesse. Did she have the courage to follow her friend's advice?"
Absently, she locked up downstairs and went up to her apartment. As soon as she reached her bedroom, she began stripping off clothes, anxious for a hot shower.
Standing under the spray, she thought about what Jesse had said. Closing her eyes, she pictured Blade. She longed to be able to free the shoulder length black hair Blade kept tied back. Thinking about the way those piercing dark blue eyes looked at her hardened her nipples and made her stomach clench.
Little tingles of awareness shot through her and she covered her breasts with her hands, imagining that Blade touched her. Moving her hand down her body, over her stomach, then lower, Kelly pressed her fingers against her aching clit. Rubbing gently, then more furiously, Kelly sobbed. She couldn't find the release she craved. Frustrated, she pinched her nipple as she fought to orgasm.
Her sobs became worse and she doubled her efforts, but release escaped her. Finally admitting defeat, Kelly slumped to the shower floor, crying softly. She couldn't even pleasure herself.
Without ever experiencing his touch, her body nevertheless knew its master. Kelly knew Blade would be the only one who could give her the pleasure and release her body demanded. He started this fire and it appeared that only he could put it out.
Never having had an orgasm, Kelly could only imagine how it would feel. She'd been a virgin when she met Simon and when he took her, he had only his own pleasure in mind. When sex turned to beatings and rape, what little enjoyment Kelly had felt turned to fear and pain.
She wanted to feel it. She needed to know the pleasure to be found between a man and a woman. Her body would no longer be denied.
The more time she spent with Blade, the more aware she became of her body's response to him. That tingle of awareness whenever she saw him became stronger and stronger. Now she felt a sharp jolt every time he got close to her, one that shot straight through her, making her nipples hard and sensitive and her pussy weep.
Her body reacted to Blade as it reacted to no one else.
Standing, she turned off the shower and got out, briskly drying her over sensitive body, and donning her robe. Sitting on the edge of her bed, she absently began to run a comb through her hair. What could she do?
It was apparent that Blade waited for something. Maybe for her to make the first move?
Could she do it? Could she go to Blade and tell him that she might be ready for a physical relationship?
What if he didn't want her that way?
No. Remembering the times he'd let her see the desire in his eyes, Kelly knew that he wanted her.
But, did he really care for her?
Standing, she began to pace her bedroom. He had to care at least a little for her to be as patient as he'd been. Two months and he hadn't so much as kissed her!
What could she say to him?
'Hey Blade. I'm ready for our relationship to become physical.'
No. That would never do. What if he said, 'What relationship? We're just friends.'
No. She couldn't say that.
She couldn't even be sure she would be able to submit to him the way she knew he'd demand.
Wait. There always seemed to be women there. They had to be training the women how to learn to surrender control to their Doms. As much as they trained the Doms, wouldn't the women have to be trained, too?
What if she asked Blade to help her the way he'd probably already helped countless other women? She could tell him her fears of being helpless, unable to fight a man's strength when she felt the most vulnerable.
She would be able to find out not only if she could have sex again, but if she could enjoy a physical relationship with Blade, a man who would dominate in the bedroom even more than other men.
And, she could do it without Blade ever knowing she'd fallen in love with him.
If she found out she couldn't handle being submissive to Blade's dominance, she wouldn't have the added embarrassment of having him shun her feelings if he didn't feel the same.
Yes, it might be the perfect solution.
If Blade cared for her and she could handle sex with him, it would all work out. If not, well, at least she'd tried and would learn something about herself, even if she discovered that she could only enjoy straight sex, or if she could even enjoy sex at all.
Moving to her closet, she jerked a sundress from its hangar. She would go to Blade now, before she lost her nerve.