Delia and Daniel have a picture-perfect life. They like their jobs. They love their house. Everything is coming up roses . . . but in private, they’d rather have the thorns. Their recent forays into kink have brought them closer than ever, but there’s still something missing, and they can’t quite work it out.
Mara knows what she’s missing: a significant other. She tried vanilla, and it was a total bust. But when she and her last girlfriend took things out of the kink club and into the “real” world, they fizzled. Even their friendship is on the rocks now. Mara feels like a lost stray, looking for a forever home.
When the three of them meet up at the brand-new club Escape, their connection is instant. And surprising—none of them were expecting more than a few hot nights. But now they might be ready to bring their kinky threesome into the light of day and build a life together.
Publisher's note: This title is a heavily revised re-issue of a prior story, Roses and Chains, originally released in 2011.
This title comes with no special warnings.
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.
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Scenes in the main room at Club Onyx weren’t Mara Tyndall’s favorite thing. But they served their purpose.
Tonight, that purpose was to make her forget her very stupid recent attempt to date outside her flavor. He was vanilla, she was rocky road. She should have known it could never work.
She could also stand to forget her entire week at work. The developers who’d been late with their specs, then thrown her under the bus when she couldn’t get her portion of the manual written and delivered on schedule. Her supervisor, who knew she’d done her best with the limited time she had, but hadn’t backed her up to his boss because he didn’t want to “make waves” and throw off the production cycle even further. Mara had been forced to take one for the team—another of her least favorite things. And it was becoming a regular feature of the job. That afternoon, for the first time ever, she’d spent more time job hunting on her phone than working on her computer.
Most people could achieve their Friday oblivion with a few beers and a movie, but she’d always needed something a bit more esoteric. In many ways her life had been easier, less stressful, when she had someone to provide that oblivion regularly.
“I think this side’s done. Time to turn you over and toast the other side, slutski.”
Mistress Amie was relentlessly perky. Her kitten-with-a-whip insouciance struck a particularly acute note tonight, because she knew exactly why Mara was there. She knew what Mara needed. And in her relentless, perky, cruel way, she was not saying I told you so.
She was not saying it very loudly, with everything she did and every expression on her face. I told you you’d be back for more the minute your life turned to shit again. You need this too much to walk away. You need somebody like me.
She wasn’t wrong.
Amie always, always thought she knew best. And she was right often enough to make it really annoying. Which was one of the reasons she and Mara had split up. Except for their irregularly scheduled trips back down memory lane at the club.
Mara gasped as Amie loosened the leather cuffs around her ankles. “Fucking . . . cheerleader from hell.” For her sass she received a brisk slap on the upper thigh where she knew the flogger marks were still flushing, blending into one blotchy pink map of the pain she’d endured thus far this evening. She groaned when the mistress released the restraints around her wrists and she lowered her arms too suddenly.
“I can see we’re not quite there yet. Okay, stretch it out, then face the cross.”
Amie really did sound as if she were leading an exercise class. Which was appropriate, since she was a Pilates instructor and personal trainer by day. The kind who made a lot of money making wealthy people hate her guts—they despised her, but loved the results she helped them achieve. Amie was an expert at getting people to take more pain than they ever thought they could tolerate.
Mara knew the heights Amie could inspire her to. They had spent close to a year, off and on, exploring those heights, and although her mind might resist returning, her body was already responding all too eagerly to the cheerful mistress’s wicked ministrations.
Mistress Amie was still her usual chirpy self as she shackled the leather back into place. “And now, let’s work that rear!”
Mara inspected the top crotch of the St. Andrew’s cross she was now facing. The paint’s chipping. Tad needs to touch this thing up.
The flogger cracked against her butt, and she reflexively shouted, “One!” before her brain caught up. “How high, Mistress?”
“I’ll let you know. You know math isn’t really my thing, sweet cheeks.”
Against the upper thigh. “Two!”
Really hard across the shoulders. “Three!”
The unpredictability slowly lost its edge, ceased to engage her mind and instead forced her to relax, to accept that there was only one important piece of knowledge here: there would be a blow. She wouldn’t know exactly when or how hard; she wouldn’t know where the pain would land next. She was buffeted this way and that, merely a leaf, and Amie’s flogger was the wind.
“Do you need to come?” The chipper, smug voice in her ear was accompanied by a surprisingly gentle hand tracing the line of her spine from neck to ass. “Hmm? You want me to make you come for me, Mara?”
The hand dipped lower, following the curve of one cheek, ending up cupping the top of one inner thigh. Amie wouldn’t touch her pussy unless she asked for it. That wasn’t the way things were between them anymore. Tonight was merely a favor, and an orgasm would be another favor. Another way for Amie to avoid saying I told you so. And they both knew it.
She hated acknowledging that Amie was right. But she needed this too much. She needed to come in order to feel as if the scene was over for the evening. Submitting to her own needs was more important than submitting to Amie. It took more humility.
She nodded. But even if things had changed, Amie hadn’t.
“No. You know better. Say it.”
“Please make me come.”
“No. You know what I need to hear, slut.” Amie paused, then added more quietly, “You know what you need to say.”
“Mistress. I need to come, please make me come, Mistress.”
“Thank you. My hand or the flogger?”
Oh, a touch. A touch was so nice, so personal. She knew Amie would do it just right, apply exactly the right amount of pressure. Press her perfect, leather-corseted breasts against Mara’s back as she slid two fingers inside her to tease, then finished her off with that brutally, beautifully merciless stroke against her clit. With her strapped to the cross on the dais, in plain view of everyone in the club. And she knew, with the part of her mind that remained aware of such things, that everyone was watching. Everyone. Watching the adorable cheerleader pinup whipping the naughty little Goth girl. It had once been the highlight of everybody’s week at Onyx, watching the two of them go at it on the cross.
“The flogger please, Mistress.”
It wasn’t really what she wanted. But it would be enough to get the job done.
Amie paused, squeezed her thigh briefly, then backed off. She would never touch without permission. She loved rules, enforcing them as well as following them. She would never come anywhere close to crossing lines, and Mara had always found her predictable. The mind-fuck had never been Amie’s strong suit.
Amie had never been able to push her the way she needed to be pushed. The way that had nothing to do with physical pain. Not that anything Amie did in their scenes was wrong . . . just that her words had never struck quite the perfect note that her actions had.
But she knew how to work a flogger. Her touch with that was as exquisite as it had ever been. The snap of the leather between Mara’s legs was gentle—a caress, a tease. Not quite hard enough. Because Amie was a Dom, after all, and enjoyed the control that withholding afforded her. Mara enjoyed it too. She moaned and worked her hips, trying to push her ass out to present a bigger target. The next flick of the whip wrapped under and up a tiny bit, a zap of high-voltage pain over her clit and pubic bone, drawing the first true scream of the evening from her lips.
Amie hit a rhythm a few strokes later, slap and swing and slap and swing and slap and oh . . . there.
It hurt to come, and Mara screamed again as the flogger continued to drum against her. She craved the feel of fingers or a cock or something inside her, and the climax ramped higher and higher and felt almost spiteful because it wouldn’t let her go and it didn’t satisfy.
It was a resolution of sorts, but wasn’t quite the relief she had sought.
Amie pulled her down from the cross and into her arms, letting Mara weep into her honeysuckle-scented curls.
And she didn’t say I told you so.
A few minutes later, Mara was seated on the floor next to Amie’s chair, wrapped in the soft, fluffy throw she’d brought with her for that purpose. As Mara dutifully finished off a bottle of water and plucked idly at one of the Dom’s bootlaces, Amie leaned down and pressed an unexpected kiss to the top of her head. Then she handed her a business card. Mara took the card and stared at it for a moment before looking up at Amie.
“My friend Dru’s new club. You have to call for directions, and to get your name on the list. I know you don’t like new places, sweetie, but I think it’s time. You’re barely holding it together, aren’t you? Maybe you can find somebody new to play with there, who can give you what I can’t. Besides, I think it might be good for you to have a change of scene. I’m gonna tell Dru to expect your call.”
She wanted to crumple the innocent white oblong into a ball and throw it back at Amie, but she knew her frustration wasn’t the Dom’s fault. It was her own. She looked at the card for another long moment before answering carefully.
“I’m sorry if I didn’t please you tonight, Mistress. It was very kind of you to—”
“Don’t. Don’t bullshit me. We were never like that.” Amie gave a sharp sigh and pulled her ankle from Mara’s reach, then stood and tucked a finger under Mara’s chin to force her eyes upward. She was too well trained to jerk away, no matter how much she wanted to.
“Honey, we always did have a good time here in the club. It never worked outside, and we both knew that. But we gave it a good try, and I can respect that. What I cannot respect”—Amie landed a soft faux slap against her cheek—“is a sub who plays passive-aggressive bullshit games, and won’t let herself get what she needs from the arrangement.”
Mara knew better than to apologize. She bit down on the automatic I’m sorry and nodded.
“I’m not sure what you need, Mara. And I don’t think you’re sure either. But there’s no reason to feel bad about that. It’s brave to be out there trying. You don’t need to beat yourself up for not figuring it out faster.”
“I know. I know.”
“Especially not when there are so many people who would be thrilled to do that beating for you.”
She couldn’t help but smile, and Amie grinned back—the million-megawatt, slightly evil smile that attracted subs from miles away. The prom queen has decided she wants to whip your ass . . . you’ll take it and like it, so bend over. Mara had been one of the first in line when Amie’d arrived on the local scene, and she would never regret the experience or their time together.
But Amie really had been a popular prom queen, and Mara really had been a disaffected, Indie-rock-listening Goth girl. Similar ages, similar backgrounds on paper, but in reality they might as well have been from different worlds. Though they’d tried to find some common ground outside their scenes, it had simply never gelled. They shared one big negative: each of them had been on their own from the time they left high school. Amie’s fundamentalist family had kicked her out after catching her with another girl. Mara’s parents had divorced when she was young, and she had never felt at home in the apartment she moved into with her mom and brother afterward. She’d gone to another state for college and never returned. But “lacks a sense of family” wasn’t a solid basis for a relationship. Really, they should have figured it out as soon as they realized their entire music libraries had only a dozen songs’ worth of overlap—all Christmas music.
Whenever things had gotten tough, they’d tried to solve it on the play floor at the club. In the end, that hadn’t been good for their relationship or their scenes.
“Mistress, may I worship your boot?” A groveling young man in a studded black leather thong had knelt down near Mara at Amie’s feet. It happened all the time, and she knew to wait while Amie dealt with it. She didn’t blame the guy. She felt much the same about Amie, even though they were no longer together and she wasn’t a boot fetishist. Her ex-mistress had a magnetic vibe, drawing subs from all directions like so many helpless iron filings.
This one made the mistake, though, of starting his move before he had received permission. He was already leaning in, mouth open, when Amie spoke.
“Move that tongue any closer to my boot, worm, and you’ll be thrown out of this club for a month. Drool on the leather, and I’ll rip that fucker out of your damn mouth. You do not have my consent.”
Then she turned back to Mara, ignoring the man, who was smart enough to squirm away without another word. He did whimper, however. He had almost certainly enjoyed the rebuke on some level.
“Pushy asshole. Look, just call the number. I haven’t been yet, but I’ve heard the place is amazing. Dru . . . she has the best taste, so it’s sure to be awesome. And I wouldn’t suggest it if I didn’t think it would help. It’s worth a shot, anyway. So be brave, okay? Now how are you feeling? Are you good to be on your own now, or do you need me to stay with you awhile longer?”
Aftercare hadn’t been Amie’s strong suit even when they were still together. She tried to hide it, but Mara had always sensed she had a limited patience for cuddles. Now, without even perfunctory postscene snuggling, the care felt downright clinical. It would have amused her if she weren’t already feeling the dangerous drop as her endorphin high started to fade. As it was, she thought an attempt to keep the connection going would only weary and depress her further.
“I’m good. Go play, have fun. And thank you.”
“You know it was my pleasure. And a perfect warm-up for me, too. I’ll go play, but I’ll stay out in the main room in case you need me before you go, okay? And I’ll call you tomorrow to check up on you.”
With another pat to her cheek, Amie was gone, strolling away across the main floor of the club like the Queen of the Doms, off to review her subjects.
Leaving Mara alone to consider the merits of calling the number on the innocuous white card.
There came a moment for Delia when it all balanced perfectly, suspended in time, fragile and magical. The pleasure and the pain, the need to come and the desire to cling to delicious arousal. The struggle, and the sweet inevitability of submission.
That was the moment that always made it worth doing in the first place. What it was all about. And lately, she couldn’t seem to get there.
Daniel was a wonderful husband, and when Delia had finally confessed a few months earlier that she needed something edgier in the bedroom, he’d gone along enthusiastically. He’d seemed relieved, even, that she’d brought it up. Because it had always been there, a silent factor they both hinted around but had never spoken aloud. He’d had the impulse but hadn’t known how to raise the subject, because it wasn’t his native tongue—dominance. He was still learning, as was she. Usually the knowledge that they were in this together, learning this for each other, was more than enough to compensate for any momentary lapses into awkwardness. They could laugh it off, work it out. The past few weeks, though, the timing had been off.
And tonight didn’t have a promising feel to it. She’d tried to clear her mind by clearing her to-do list—curriculum reports proofed and filed, laundry tumbling in the dryer, clean sheets on the bed, teeth brushed—but she’d realized about an hour earlier that the guys who mowed the lawn and trimmed the bushes had never made their weekly visit. And Daniel had apparently forgotten to follow through on his promise to call them. The lingering annoyance lurked in her brain. As Delia left the master bathroom, Daniel strode into the bedroom with his Dom face on, and all she could think about was whether the HOA would be leaving a passive-aggressive note on the door about the landscaping.
“On your knees, Dee. Hmm. Why are your clothes still on?”
She paused, not sure whether to kneel or strip, and he sighed in a manner that seemed more pissy than masterful.
She had to remind herself not to roll her eyes. “I’m sorry, Sir, I stopped to brush my teeth.”
“Did I tell you to do that?”
Oh, Daniel. Did you really want me to skip it, since I ate onions on that burger earlier?
“No. I’m sorry, Sir.”
But it didn’t ring true, she couldn’t suspend disbelief. Daniel was still Daniel, not Sir, and she was also still worried in the very back of her mind that she might actually have forgotten to put the wet clothes in the dryer that afternoon as she’d planned. Plus the lawn business. Being annoyed about stupid shit made it so much harder to clear her mind and enjoy the evening. And he hadn’t told her to take her clothes off, she was sure of it. She would have remembered.
She knelt as gracefully as she could, wishing like anything she were already out of her jeans and tank top. It was so much easier when she was naked; it seemed to help both of them work their way into the scene.
“I know you’d rather be naked, Dee.”
Then again, sometimes he did display that uncanny ability to read her mind. She smiled as she settled into place to wait.
“Don’t you want to know why you’re still in your clothes?”
“Yes, Sir.” Now she was really confused. She’d thought the clothes were an oversight on his part. That he’d asked because he’d expected her to have them off. She also wanted to know why Daniel was still in his clothes.
“Because we’re going on an adventure.”
The way he said “adventure” piqued her interest. Outside the house? Daniel hadn’t liked playing at the last club they’d tried, because he didn’t like other men seeing her naked, or even semi-naked. And she wasn’t sure if there were any clubs close by that had private playrooms. The only one in St. Andrews was Onyx, and there were no private rooms there, she knew that for sure. It wasn’t the right night for a munch, and she didn’t know of any classes scheduled . . .
Daniel disappeared into the closet; she heard him rummaging around, but he offered no explanation. When he came out a minute later, he was still wearing his jeans, but with a close-fitting black T-shirt on in place of the bright-red walkathon freebie he’d been wearing. He was smiling like a kid with a secret, but he still somehow looked Very Serious with his rimmed glasses and closely cropped beard. His jeans were low-slung enough to draw the eye to his trim waist, and just tight enough that a discerning eye could tell he had an extremely nice ass. Sexy intellectual.
Hipsterlicious, she thought, stifling a giggle.
He frowned as though he’d read her mind. “Does that shirt have one of those elastic things in it?”
“A . . . shelf bra?”
“Dee, work with me here. I don’t need to know what it’s called.”
“Yes, it does.”
“Sorry. Sir.” Fuck.
“Good. Take off your actual bra, then. Are you wearing panties with those jeans?”
“Um, yeah. A thong.”
Daniel walked around behind her and bent over, tugging the waistband of her jeans down in back to reveal the thong. It was plain pink cotton, nothing fancy.
“Okay, never mind, you can keep that. But lose the bra.”
It took her a moment to work the thin straps of her bra around her arms, loosen the back clasp and draw the whole thing free. Once she had, Daniel snatched it up and leaned into the open bathroom door, chucking the bra in the direction of the hamper. She hadn’t been planning to wash it this go-round, but she appreciated his consideration in not throwing it on the floor.
Then he returned and stood in front of her, staring down her red tank top as though assessing whether he liked what he could see.
Delia was officially off guard now, with no idea what to expect. And she was thrilled to realize it was kind of making her hot.
“Now play with your nipples. I want them hard. Like you just stepped out of a walk-in freezer, that kind of hard.”
She reached up with both hands and tweaked her nipples obediently, knowing he liked to see her do it roughly. He knew she liked it that way. Pinching, twisting . . . they had already been hard, now they were harder and getting sore. If she didn’t get to put her bra back on, rubbing against the shirt would keep them erect all night.
Delia knew she should be concerned about that. She never went out braless. It was tacky, and she was big enough up top to be a tad saggy—though Daniel insisted that wasn’t the case, that her boobs were perfect and perky. Daniel had blind spots like that.
“Chin up, Dee. Hold your hair out of the way.”
He had a leather strap in his hand . . . her collar. The one that usually went on after her clothes came off. It had become an informal signal between them that the scene was really starting. It was a finger-wide strip of soft white leather, with a buckle and a D ring. No spikes or rivets, no “slave” spelled out in diamonds. Tasteful.
But it was definitely not a street collar.
Daniel finished fastening it around her neck, then stood up but didn’t step back. Dee could see he was already aroused, so she wasn’t too surprised when he undid his jeans and pushed his boxer briefs down to free his erection. If he was going to be able to concentrate at all on whatever excursion he had planned, he needed to lose this edge first. She didn’t even realize she had licked her lips in anticipation until Daniel chuckled.
“Eager tonight, my little cock-worshipper?”
“Yes, Sir.” She attempted to feign chagrin, but suspected she was doing a piss-poor job of it.
“No, not ‘Sir.’ We’re trying something else tonight. Master. Say it.”
“Okay. Now say it and try not to look at me like I’m crazy.”
She snickered; she couldn’t help it. Then Daniel put his hands on her head and tipped it back, meeting her eyes as she looked up. He wasn’t smiling. Dee swore her heart skipped a beat, the way it had the first time they’d ever kissed. “Say it, Dee.”
She caught her breath, letting it out slowly, giving herself permission to enjoy taking this side of him seriously. “Master.”
“Better. Now be a good girl and suck your master off so he doesn’t accidentally cream his jeans ogling your tits in the car later.”
And just like that, the delightful tension broke. But for a moment . . . for a moment, Delia had forgotten all about the laundry, and the HOA, and the clothes she had on, and everything but the look in Daniel’s eyes and the too-tempting proximity of his very stiff penis.
That part, of course, she could always handle. She was bending toward him, lifting up on her knees, when Daniel threw her another curveball.
“Hands behind your back.”
His hands were still holding her head firmly, thumbs playing suggestively along her lower lip. Delia looked up at him, uncertain, but he just waited for her to comply. When she did—slowly—he teased her mouth open and pushed one thumb inside. She suckled obediently, despite being hungry for something bigger.
She didn’t have long to wait. He dragged his thumb out and pressed his hips forward, encouraging her to wrap her lips around the wet tip of his cock. She tried to spread the moisture with her tongue but wasn’t quite quick enough. Her lips caught against his skin, and he frowned and pulled back a bit. Then forward, easier this time, allowing her to swipe a quick lick around him before pushing deeper. And again, farther still, deep enough to be slightly uncomfortable.
And then he stopped moving and continued to hold her head tight, and Delia felt torn between the urge to escape and the urge to do . . . something. Whatever this was, this new thing Daniel apparently wanted from her. What had he been reading or watching? She found he often expanded his repertoire after doing some research.
“I like it when you suck me off, Dee.” His voice was calmer than she would have expected. It was a bit surreal, hearing him sound that in control when her mouth was full of his cock. “But I think what I really want is to fuck your mouth. Which is a different skill. So tonight you’re going to practice that.”
Oh, sweet Jesus. She moaned, nearly choking on him in the process. Bless him, he’s been watching bondage porn. That subscription he doesn’t know that I know about was worth every penny.
“Fortunately you already don’t have much of a gag reflex. So we’ll try this carefully at first and see how it goes. When I push to the back of your throat, I want you to swallow. Like you’re going to swallow my dick. Got it?”
“I’ll take that as a ‘Yes, Master.’”
He pushed, she swallowed, and then she panicked for a second as his thick cock pressed her tongue down and cut her air off completely. She caught her breath when he pulled back, and felt helplessly grateful for the encouraging squeeze of his hands against her skull.
“Good. Longer this time. You want to keep your throat open like that if you can, not try to swallow me each time.”
Another inexorable motion of his hips, and Delia gulped as he filled her throat again. She found she could breathe out, though not in again. She fought the urge to gag and tried to relax. To accept.
He moved out and in again, and she realized it was getting easier because her lips were coated with spit.
Crap. Drooling. Automatically she started to lift a hand to wipe it away before actual slobbering could occur, but a sudden tug on her hair made her stop.
“No, Dee. Hands stay behind your back. What, is it the spit? Are you worried about looking gross?”
She nodded as best she could. She wanted to do what Daniel said. But she really, really wanted to wipe the spit off her lower lip.
“If you move your hands again, you won’t get to wear my collar out tonight.”
Or maybe he’s been reading bondage porn.
“It’s not gross, anyway. It’s sexy.” Out and in again, a bit deeper now. She thought she would feel him in her throat for a good long time after he was done. “Like you don’t even care what you look like, all you care about is taking your master’s cock like a good slut. And when your hot little mouth is nice and wet, it’s much easier to fuck. Which I think you’re ready for now.”
Oh, talk some more dirty talk. And haven’t you already been . . . oh.
Yes, this was different. He’d been experimenting before. He’d been giving her time to figure it out. Now he wasn’t stopping, he was fucking, filling her mouth with his cock in the uneven, shuddering beats she knew meant he was very close to finishing.
All she wanted was to reach up, fill her hands with him, feel his muscles working. And yes, maybe control his pace, a subtle press of her hands against his hips to gain a second of breath or a shift in angle. Instead, she dug the nails of one hand into the wrist of the other to keep them behind her back.
She couldn’t quite get enough air. She was dizzy, she was slobbering. When Daniel shifted his hands, covering her ears, she could hear her blood roaring like the ocean in a storm. Then he came, spurting straight down her throat, which was already open to take whatever he gave.
And she had never, ever been so turned on in her entire life.
[Q]uick and dirty. . . . Lots of fun with characters who are completely human, flawed and relatable.
[A]n unconventional romance, pushing the definition of love beyond society’s norms.
**Starred Review** [A] story that rings with authenticity. . . . [I]t’s easy to go along for the ride and enjoy the red-hot sex and the warmth and vulnerability of the whole cast.