Club Shadowlands by Cherise Sinclair

  Sensitive little one, a sheltered pet. It only made him want her the more.

  He stroked her hair and told her how brave she’d been, how wonderfully she’d taken responsibility for her actions, how much he cherished her sharing with him. He praised her courage at trying to save the other sub, how rare it was to find someone willing to act to help another.

  He spoke only the truth. Even though she’d been wrong to break up the scene, the bravery of her actions impressed him. More stunning had been the way she’d accepted the judgment rather than trying to blame someone else. The facets of her personality were mesmerizing, ranging from a spitfire to this yielding woman in his arms. From controlled and careful to passionately responsive. She delighted him.

  Slowly, her crying turned to jerky breaths as exhaustion overcame her.

  After all too short a time, he felt her mind turn on and start burying the hurt and embarrassment under layers of control.

  Her body stiffened, no longer accepting his comfort. “I want to leave now.”

  “The rain and wind haven’t lessened, and you have no car. However, you may stay in the entryway, and no one will bother you.”

  Her breath hissed out, and she shoved at his arms. “Let me go.”

  “We will sit here until your legs work on their own. Unless you want me to carry you across the room?”

  She stopped immediately. “At least put me down.”


  That brought her head up, her green eyes as wet as a forest in the rain.

  “I have never had to punish someone I just met,” he said, letting his own anger show. “Discipline is a trust issue between a Dom and a sub. We do not have that trust between us. To have to perform a scene, a punishment scene like that, was extremely unpleasant. It bothered me to see you hurt, Jessica,” he growled. “You will let me hold you and offer me some comfort in return.”

  Her eyes widened. Earlier, she had understood the damage her heedless actions had created with Smith and his sub. Could she grasp the discomfort she had caused him?

  He could almost hear that clever mind turning over the events. This was a very smart woman.

  And then she whispered, “I’m sorry” into his shirt.

  “As am I,” he returned evenly, not granting her the grace of forgiveness. Not just yet.

  She sniffled a little, edging her way under his defenses. “What do you want me to do?”

  “Just sit with me, little one, until we both recover a bit. You are a comforting armful of woman, and my body likes having you against it.”

  With his words, her mind opened to more than the lingering pain. He could sense the way her body suddenly became aware of him again, of his muscles against her softness, of his hand stroking her hair, of his scent. When she squirmed to ease the pain of her sore ass, his cock reacted to the provocative movements. She had the kind of body he enjoyed most: round, soft, and abundant.

  As he hardened, she froze, realizing what her movements had incited.

  He chuckled and pressed his lips to the top of her head. “I want a kiss, and then I’ll take you to the entryway.”

  “That’s all?” she asked suspiciously.

  Narrowing his eyes, he stroked the underside of her breast, his thumb rubbing the nipple.

  Her alarm was accompanied by a flare of heat.

  “Maybe I should ask for more?” he murmured.

  She set her hand over his, trying to pull him away, as successful as a kitten tugging on a human’s hand.

  “One kiss.”

  With an aggrieved sigh, she tilted her head up.

  This time he would go more slowly. He brushed her lips teasingly, like in his days in Special Ops, scoping out the terrain. Her mouth was soft with a tiny ridge in the center of the lower lip, dividing it into two tiny bottoms. He took the kiss deeper, opening her lips with his own, coaxing her into responding. Under his slow assault, her mouth softened, much like a woman’s nipples after she’d come. Still deeper, he invaded her mouth, taking possession.

  Her fingers tightened around his hand, so he tightened his fingers around her breast. A gasp. He read in her mind the complex roil of emotions of a woman with growing needs. Heat seared pathways from her breasts to her pussy, and when he sucked her tongue into his mouth, it upped the sensations in her body the way an elevator carries a person to the top.

  When her appealing body quivered with hunger, he drew away slowly before he could be lured into more. A promise was a promise, and she was overwhelmed already. If the chill of the entryway cooled her lust, then so be it. Of course, if her needs and thoughts drove her back into his territory… Well, his imagination had already placed her in his bed, her pussy open to his tongue, his fingers, and then his cock. He would enjoy taking her over and over until her screams of ecstasy left her limp and ready to take again.

  He shook his head to ease down a little, then brushed another kiss over the mouth that was almost as sumptuous as her breasts.

  “Up, little one.” He pushed her to her feet, wrapped an arm around her as her knees buckled. Just to annoy her, to put strength back into her legs—and to see if the punishment was turning to something else—he ran his hand down her ass, squeezed each sweet cheek in turn, remembering the vivid pink that had glowed on her fair skin.

  She caught her breath, and, oh, yes, another gratifying increase of heat.

  “As I said, pain is a sensation very close to excitement,” he murmured, still stroking her buttocks, enjoying her confusion as the soreness twisted into erotic sensation. “If I bit you there, you’d probably come.”

  Her back stiffened, and she tried to move away. She wasn’t used to words tantalizing her desires even as his fingers did her ass.

  Without saying more, although he was already thinking of what he’d be saying soon to her, what he’d say when her first wrist was shackled to his bed, he led her out to the entryway where Ben ruled in the cold and barren room.

  Chapter Five

  The troll guarding the door glanced up as they entered. Sir kissed Jessica’s fingertips, nipped one sharply enough to send heat into her fingers and even deeper, and left without speaking.

  “Got yourself kicked out?” Ben set down his pen and pushed his papers to one side.

  “I didn’t want to be in there anymore.” Jessica settled onto the floor in the corner farthest from the door and shifted uncomfortably. Hardwood floor, sore butt…bad combination.

  They’d hit her with a paddle.

  The memory of the pain entwined with the memory of Master Z’s hands stroking over her bare bottom, how his fingers had touched her breasts so gently. Her hands closed into fists. What kind of person was she to be aroused by that?

  “Do you do that sort of stuff?” she asked Ben, jerking her head toward the door. Not that she really wanted to talk, but her mind kept shifting to uncomfortable places, much as her butt was doing. Trying to take her mind off both, she started finger combing through the tangles in her hair.

  “Nope. I’m straight vanilla sex, as they call it. Z prefers that for his guards. We don’t get diverted.” He fumbled in his pocket, tossed her a comb.

  “Thanks.” She grabbed a lock of hair to work on. “It doesn’t bother you what they do in there?”

  He shrugged. “World’s full of variety, why not sex? Everything in there is—what’s the phrase?—safe, sane, and consensual. Yeah. If they like a little more kink to get their rocks off, it’s no business of mine.” He grinned, rubbed his jaw. “My brother-in-law is from New Orleans. Doesn’t like bland food. If it doesn’t bite back, he’ll dump pepper sauce on it. Nice guy; just has different taste buds than me.”

  As he turned back to his paperwork, she stared down at her hands. Different tastes. Did she have different tastes? Surely not.

  Those people on the dance floor—the ones who had excited her—had been the two couples where the men were obviously in charge. Sir had used a word for that, but she couldn’t remember what he’d said.

are the terms for a guy in charge and a woman obeying?” she blurted out, and reddened when his eyebrows lifted.

  “You’re thinking of a Dominant/submissive relationship? Dom/sub. If the dominant is a man, he’ll usually be referred to as Master or Sir or anything else he chooses.” Ben’s lips curled up. “His sub sure isn’t going to contradict him, right?”

  The smack of the paddle rang in her ears. “Uh, no. Where does slave come into it?”

  “More often that’s a person in a life relationship, where the Dom has even more control. There’s some couples here like that, but for lots of people it’s only for sex or playtime.”

  “So every night this place is filled with…”

  “BDSMers? Nah. Saturdays only. Fridays are for the swinging crowd, Thursdays are leatherboys. Sometimes he’ll rent the room out for private parties.”

  “Busy place.” Master Z, they called him. So he was a dominant, and he treated her like a submissive. Submitting to a man. Even as she rejected the whole idea, her body thrilled at the thought. Dammit, he’d let her be paddled until she’d been crying all over the place. Then he had held her as tenderly as a child while she cried on him.

  She shifted again, trying to find some position where her butt didn’t hurt. Like that would happen. So would she prefer sex to have a bite? Should she be analyzing this like she would some client’s books?

  Why shouldn’t she take the time to study it?

  Okay, then, admit it… Watching the Dom/sub couples had made her hot. Hotter than she’d felt even watching porn on TV with Matt, her last boyfriend. He’d been trying to get her more interested in sex, but the porn had been not only boring, but a turn-off.

  Watching that Dom kiss his sub—no, take a kiss, allowing no refusal—had been far more erotic than watching a penis pumping into a woman on film. And the way Master Z kissed… Her insides melted at the memory. She shook her head. Thinking about his demanding mouth, those firm lips, would turn her brain to mush. Think, Jessica.

  But this BDSM stuff was way over the top, wasn’t it? She didn’t need something kinky to get off. Sex was pleasant enough, really it was. Once she got started. And she got off at least half the time. Her orgasms were nice.

  She bit her lip. Why did she get the feeling that if she went to bed with Master Z, nice wouldn’t be the operative word? Because he’d take her, not have sex with her. She doubted she’d have any choice in how it would happen or what he’d do.

  Just the thought of that sent moisture trickling between her legs. Oh, God.

  Still drawing the comb through her hair, she realized the strands were free of knots, flowing down to the middle of her back. Now what was she going to do to keep herself diverted? She could hear the people inside the club laughing, talking. The music thrummed with a compelling beat.

  She wanted to go back in there. Find out what she was missing. And she was too scared to do it. He’d punished her. Her ass still hurt, dammit.

  A part of her brain pointed out that she’d broken the rules, and he hadn’t been happy at all about having to enforce the rules.

  Nonetheless, what if she went back and he did something horrible to her?

  She didn’t even know him.

  “Is he a good boss?” she asked, her voice barely over a whisper.

  “Got it bad, don’t you?” Ben shook his head. “Okay, here’s the rundown on Master Z. Been here for years. The club is his hobby. Nothing unlawful, no drugs allowed. Pays his employees on time. Expects his people to be professional. Divorced once, two grown children, not serious with anyone now. Women fall all over him, and in his world, he’s known as the best master around. And that’s according to the subs, who would definitely know.” He gave her a challenging grin. “That what you wanted to hear?”

  She flushed and nodded, looking down at her hands.

  “Oh, and he doesn’t go for the hard-core S/M stuff, whips and beatings and blood. If you’re hankering after that, he’s not your man.”

  “But—” The paddle.

  “Not to say if a sub stepped out of line, she wouldn’t get punished,” he added. “But there’s a difference between a spanking kind of thing and getting whipped. Or so I’ve been told.”


  Sir was interested in her. She’d seen that, felt his erection pushing against her. He’d be willing to take her to bed. Show her…things. The thought made her insides quiver, and her core throb.

  If she stayed here in the entryway and left in the morning, this Dom/sub stuff would be an itch at the edge of her mind, be whispering to her every time she went to bed with someone. She’d be comparing a what might have been with normal sex and never know if reality would have lived up to her imagination. After all, maybe sex with a master would be just another fizzle like so much of her sex life had been.

  Could she stand not knowing?

  Before she’d really decided—had she decided?—she was on her feet.

  “Going back in?”

  She set the comb down on his desk. “Don’t tell me. I’m dumber than I look, right?”

  He grinned. “Braver at least.”

  * * * * *

  Zachary felt her before he saw her, a compelling mix of desire, fear, and determination, and his own emotions flared up with pleasure. Although he’d hoped, he hadn’t really expected her to return, not after such a harsh introduction to the lifestyle. He’d considered joining her in the entry, talking more with her, but had refrained. She should make her decisions without his influence.

  Wasn’t it ironic that he’d discover an intriguing woman, one where the chemistry between them was like gasoline and fire, and she wouldn’t be part of the scene?

  But here she was now, resolve and courage uppermost in her emotional fields. She might be innocent as far as alternative sex, but she had an admirable ability to honestly acknowledge her own needs. And the guts to go after what she wanted.

  Pity her bravery had brought her to this scene, he thought, trying not to smile as she walked up beside him and froze. A pretty sub with bright red hair was tied to a spanking horse. The angle had been tilted so her ass was high in the air…much like Jessica’s had been, Zachary remembered with enjoyment.

  He glanced down, seeing Jessica’s eyes widen, feeling her shock at seeing the tied sub. Her imagination was undoubtedly putting her there in the sub’s place, with him behind her.

  The Dom in the scene squirted some lube onto his fingers and now slid two fingers into his sub’s perky little asshole. The redhead wailed and squirmed—more from arousal than pain, Zachary knew. But Jessica tightened against his side, so he leaned down.

  “These two have a long relationship,” he whispered. “He has taken her this way over and over, and she comes screaming every time. They’re both enjoying the show they’re putting on, Jessica.”

  She was stiff until his words sank in, then relaxed. “You’re sure?”

  “As sure about them as I’m sure that you’re not ready to have my fingers sliding into anything except your pussy.”

  Her sharp inhalation, followed by an intriguing wave of heat, hardened him like a rock. Yes, the attraction was definitely there. Would the trust that was needed follow?

  So when she turned her face up to scold him for his bluntness, he simply took her lips, those soft pink lips he’d been craving since the last time. His arm around her foiled her attempt to step back. He set his other hand along her jaw, keeping her tilted at the right angle to toy with her mouth, to nibble on her succulent lips, to run his tongue across the velvety skin and tease until she opened for him, letting him in deeper to discover the secrets inside. When he sucked on her tongue, she melted.

  Her lips seemed to burn under his as he tantalized them both until she flattened her curvy body against him in an effort to get closer. Pleasure indeed.

  Reluctantly, he pulled back, taking her arms and setting her away from him. As she blinked, returned to her surroundings, the tied-down sub in front of them received her master’s cock with a s
hriek of delight and then spasmed into a loud and happy orgasm.

  Jessica turned a dark red, choked a little. “Ah. Guess you were right about them, huh?”

  Grinning, Zachary put an arm around her, steering her away.

  They weren’t returning to the bar; he was taking her toward the front of the room. Jessica dragged her feet. “Where are we—”

  “You’ve had a long day and probably missed supper,” Sir said. “You must be starving by now.”

  Food? That seemed so…mundane in this exotic place, but the thought set her stomach to growling. “I guess I am.”

  She hadn’t noticed before, since it had been on the other side of the bar, but the front corner opposite the dance floor held long tables filled with finger foods. Sir handed her a small plate, and she moved down the table, picking up tiny meat pastries, stuffed mushroom caps, crab canapés. He didn’t take anything to eat, just poured them each some iced tea.

  “Aren’t you hungry?” she asked.

  “I ate earlier.”

  In an unoccupied sitting area, she sat on the couch, and he took a chair. He rarely wasn’t touching her, she realized, looking over the coffee table at him and feeling more than physical distance growing between them. She set the plate on the coffee table, increasingly self-conscious.

  “So,” she said. She was back to feeling awkward in a man’s presence; wasn’t that weird? “How did you come to own a club like this?”

  He leaned back in the chair, obviously at ease, his legs stretched out in front of him. One lean hand held his glass of tea as he contemplated her for a moment. “The lifestyle can be a lonely one, and people turn to the clubs for company. I didn’t like the abuse occurring in some of them and wanted to see if I could do better.”

  She started to pick up a pastry and stopped. How could she eat in front of him? He probably thought she was way too big as it was. When she looked down, her hips and thighs seemed like they bulged beneath the skimpy skirt. She folded her hands in her lap.

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