Top to Bottom

Top to Bottom by Delphine Dryden
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Jul 18, 2016
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Jul 18, 2016
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This title is part of the Escape universe.

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Drusilla Stasevich wants to leave the past behind and start the next chapter of her life. Returning to her hometown to open her dream kink club, Escape, seems like the perfect solution. But it can be tricky making dreams come true—especially when the person you want to share them with isn't around anymore.

Amie Templeton is no stranger to tough times. She’s learned to make it on her own, and doesn’t do relationships outside the kink world. When her ex Dru moves back to town, old feelings surface. But that’s fine, right, since Dru has just opened the hottest new kink club in town?

Dru and Amie want to get the distracting spark between them out of their systems. Instead, their intense play sessions fan that spark into a flame. As if Dru didn’t have enough on her plate, an anonymous saboteur threatens to push her new club out of business. It will take the help of everybody at Escape to set things right again, and a lot of trust for Dru and Amie to start working toward a new life together.

Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes:

Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.

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Chapter One

The Boot Worm was eyeing Amie from across the room, and it made her skin crawl.

It had been a long evening, and she was sick of Club Onyx. And not only because of the Boot Worm. Amie’s shoulder was still sore from the flogging she’d given her ex-girlfriend Mara not twenty minutes earlier. A flogging that had culminated in an orgasm for Mara, but not much satisfaction for either of them.

Not that Amie would have come in the public room at the club, anyway. She’d faked it a time or two, when she thought it would add to a sub’s humiliation. But she usually saved her actual orgasms for when nobody was watching, nobody was judging.

Tonight she’d been stupid, like always. Mara had called and pleaded in her cutest voice—so pretty, so soft, so fucking needy—and Amie had agreed to meet and beat. Because she thought, like always, that this time would be different and she’d actually touch some part of Mara that would change everything.

In the heat of the moment, after flogging Mara’s ass and shoulders red, what Amie had really wanted to touch was Mara’s cunt. She’d wanted to reach into that wet heat with two fingers and stroke Mara’s soul until she screamed. Give her a workout she would never forget, remind her who had the real power in the situation. But Mara had opted to be flogged to orgasm instead, so Amie had done that. And then Amie had held Mara’s hand through yet another pissy little meltdown, and she was done. So done with it.

She’d told Mara about the new local club, Escape—and handed her a card with the owner’s number on it, so Mara could get herself on the invitation list—in part so she wouldn’t have to see her ex around Onyx quite so much.

She wanted to go home . . . but she needed to find somebody first. Somebody else to work on, who would be present when she hurt them. In the moment. Focused on Amie, on the pain, not on some existential crisis in their own impossible-to-satisfy mind.

Onyx only had the one room, and a tiny bar area. The Boot Worm was lurking near the end of the counter, turned around on his stool to face the crowd, his eyes glued to Amie’s feet. He’d almost gotten in a lick earlier, when she was still distracted by Mara. Usually the creepy fucker kept a reasonable distance if Amie glared at him strategically, but tonight she’d had to shut him down verbally because he’d gotten practically on top of her before she noticed, and she was still shaking from the encounter.

Bad enough she had to deal with the fucking male gaze all day at the gym. What she wanted as Mistress Amie was immediate recognition and respect . . . and never, ever, creepy unrelenting eye contact from a male sub who tried to touch a woman without her permission. She would have slapped the leer right off his smarmy face if she hadn’t known he would be jerking off to the memory for months. And it would have brought her no joy at all.

Once upon a time, she’d loved this crowd. This energy. Not this particular club—it was great that St. Andrews had a kink club at all, but Onyx had never been the most shining example of the species—but the community in general. She’d belonged. Now, though, the place was crawling with pierced youngsters trying too hard to impress. Half of them didn’t even seem interested in kink, more in drinking and dancing and decoratively hanging out in a place that looked dark and forbidden. And the club was members-only, which made it even more mysterious and intriguing.

Amie was only thirty. Way too young to feel old in a club. She forced herself to scan the crowd with a more critical eye, studying the people lingering near each station to see if she could spot any likely unattached subs.

From the sea of black leather, Lurex, and skin, a face shone out. Sweet, round, cherubic, under an artful tousle of blond curls. Fluttering eyelashes. The club lighting hid the blush Amie knew was probably heating those apple cheeks as the sub caught her gaze for a second, then glanced toward the ground with a hesitant smile.

He was good at the game. And he wasn’t her first choice, but he would do.

She shifted her toy bag higher on her shoulder, then unclipped her riding crop from the D-ring on the hip of her corset. She drew the leather through her fingers as she strode across the club, letting the anticipation build until she stopped in front of her willing prey.

She gave him a slow look, top to toes, then up again. Sighed. Forced the name out, even though she always felt like an idiot saying it. “Pookiebear.”

“Mistress Amie.” He put his hands behind his back, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “It’s nice to see you, ma’am.”

“You’re here alone tonight?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Well, then.” She slid her eyes around the room one more time. It was either Pookiebear or the Boot Worm. “And here’s an empty bench. What are you waiting for, Fluffy? Let’s get ’er done!”

He practically tripped over himself scooting toward the bench. By the time Amie had dropped her bag and started rooting through it for her favorite cane, Pookiebear was draped over the broad leather support, his legs spread, his rounded ass perfectly displayed in the backless vinyl shorts he sported.

If she were at work, Amie would be setting Pookiebear up for a world of hurt right now. He came to her classes sometimes—she tried to pretend that kind of overlap between her worlds didn’t throw her—and while he didn’t look as fit as some of the participants, he always worked hard and she could tell he stretched out and practiced at home, too. That was all she required; that earned her respect. But at the gym, she’d have had him doing roll-ups until he cried. Here at Onyx, Pookiebear got to sprawl on a bench and let Amie do all the work. And here, his soft, lily-white butt was literally his biggest asset.

“Get that rear up,” Amie chirped, slicing one palm across the unblemished, creamy surface. The skin paled, then flushed a delicate rose pink. She made a fist, holding in the heat that grew from the moment of contact. Pookiebear wiggled his hips higher, eager and adorable as a puppy. “Let’s see what we can get done. The usual, I take it?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Anything new I should know about?”

“No, ma’am. Well, I have to watch my left knee right now, but it’s fine. I’ll let you know if I need to move.”

“Oh no. ACL again?”

He nodded, shrugged. “I did something to it on that mud run last weekend.”

“You should stick to low impact,” she chided him. “Except for this kinda impact, obviously.” She whipped the slender cane through the air, letting him hear it.

“At least it’s easy on the knees, ma’am.”

“But it’s a bitch on the ass. Okay, let’s do this!”

Twenty minutes later, the cross-hatching of red on Pookiebear’s ass and upper thighs had melted into a glowing field of visible pain. Pookiebear squirmed and whimpered, looking close to tapping out. He kept trying to glance over his shoulder at her, following her with his eyes, as if seeing the swing before the impact would help. He wasn’t thinking about anything other than his momentary Mistress and the cane she was nearly breaking over his butt with each stroke. Smooth, easy, perfect. Right when she never wanted it to end, that was usually the time to stop. Amie made the last stroke count—she didn’t break the cane, but she nearly broke Pookiebear’s tender skin, high on his cheeks where he would feel it but still be able to sit down at work.

“Donesies,” she announced.

Pookiebear groaned. “Thank you, Mistress.”

Amie and her victim were both breathing hard, turned on. Ready to go do something about that. Not with each other. Pookiebear would go home to his Master, who might or might not let him relieve the tension that night.

Amie saw him off with a hug and a reminder to hydrate, then packed up her bag and attempted to stride out of the club with the same swagger she’d had on the way in.

She wasn’t feeling it anymore. She wasn’t feeling much of anything anymore except tired.

With a long gray cardigan belted over her black leather corset and skinny pants, Amie looked like anyone on the street as she walked to her car, drove home, and trudged up two flights of stairs to her apartment.

She always had appeared that way—blonde, bland, pretty enough to be the kind of “normal” people aspired to. But the leather was always there underneath.

The apartment was dark. She had probably forgotten to leave the kitchen light on, but she had a few minutes of low-level panic as she went through the rooms, heaviest cane in hand, opening closets and looking behind curtains. She did the bathroom last, advancing into the windowless space and using the tip of the cane to whip the shower curtain to one side.

Empty. She let her shoulders relax.

Back in the kitchen, she went to flick the light on and found the switch already up. Flicked it down, up again, down and up twice. She hadn’t left it off, it had burned out.

“Fuck.” Replacing the fluorescent meant a call to the landlord, always a pain in the ass and always an occasion for mild anxiety. Because Amie’s closets were not vanilla spaces, and the maintenance guy might decide he needed to go into one of them for some reason, and what if, what if, what if.

Telling herself it would probably be fine, she collapsed into her desk chair and opened her laptop, staring at the blank screen until it slowly flickered to illuminated life.

Emails. Ugh. But she would never be able to sleep if she didn’t clear at least some of them. Mostly spam, easily deleted. She needed to set up some better filters.

She clicked to the apartment’s website, submitted a maintenance request for the kitchen lightbulb, then returned to her inbox.

An email from her younger sister, Abigail. Amie toyed with the idea of deleting it unread. When she opened it anyway, she wished she’d done that. It was the usual semiregular screed, a mixture of guilt and shame, love and hate. No sinner so far gone Jesus’s love couldn’t redeem them, even if Amie had torn the family apart; Grandma might be going into the hospital again and probably would like to see Amie, but only to know Amie had repented, was coming back to the family, back to the light, back to the Lord. Abigail wanted a prodigal sister situation so badly she was practically foaming at the mouth about it. In part because without Amie, she had to field the family’s craziness on her own. But she was part of it. And Amie had walked away for a reason.

Well. Been kicked out for a reason, more like it. But her parents’ response to finding her kissing Kaleigha Gibson on the back porch had been to offer a summer’s worth of conversion therapy. Her grandma had actually suggested consulting with the Catholics—unlikely allies indeed, for some die-hard Baptists—about exorcism. All because she’d kissed a girl.

And liked it.

Fortunately for Amie, the family hadn’t seen the bite marks on Kaleigha’s tits, the welts Amie’s fingernails had left on her back . . . all of it carefully placed so the cheerleading uniform would hide it. That was how they’d met, in their freshman year of college—they’d been the stars of the squad.

Amie was a base. Kaleigha was a flier. And oh, how Amie had made that girl fly.

Amie pushed Kaleigha from her mind, deleted Abigail’s email, and clicked to the next one on her unread list. A barely decipherable note from Chris mentioning she owed him one for passing along a business card to her office mail pigeonhole earlier that day, after her old friend Drusilla had dropped it off at the gym’s front desk. As if common courtesy to coworkers now earned Chris favors.

Babe I no u and that hot ass elvira bich who left that card are guna get it on. U sure u dont ned a 3th.

U dont no what ur missing

U owe me on for puting it in ur box lol

“Jesus, dude, learn to fucking communicate.” On his phone he was at least marginally understandable thanks to autocorrect, but when Chris emailed from his computer, he had all the written language skills of a stoned middle schooler.

He was good with rope, though; she had to give him that. Not that she liked to think of Chris the Rope Top when she was pissed at Chris the Trainer. What would Mara call it? “Crossing the streams.” Amie tried to avoid that, and yet . . . Chris from the gym was Master Cool from Onyx, and sweet sub Pookiebear from Onyx was Woody the actuary who was simply a delight in Pilates class. And Mara. Amie had tried to take Mara, the whole thing with Mara, out of the club. Into domesticity.

It hadn’t gone well.

Thinking about Mara—Mara’s pretty suffering face, her grimace of pain, the noise she made in the back of her throat when she hurt but wanted to come—lit Amie’s libido again. The memory was stronger than the actual scene they’d shared earlier in the evening. She put Pookiebear’s expression, his apprehension and attention, on Mara’s face. Dropped one hand to her lap, stroking from her knee to her thigh, letting her hand come to rest with her thumb nestled against her pussy.

Soft skin, crossed with red, hot and sore from marks Amie had made. The swing of her arm, the impact in her wrist when the cane connected, the gasp from the sub. She closed her eyes and flexed her hand, searching the edges of the pleasure, recalling Mara’s hands gripping tighter around her restraints.

Amie worked her fingers deeper, spreading her thighs, everything dulled and hampered by what she was wearing. Sighing, she stood up to strip it all off. Buckles and laces and the stiff, steel-boned armor of her corset that she had to peel away from her chest. The pants were going to take more work, damp as her skin was. The leather was butter soft and thin, but there was only so much “breathable” could do.

She stopped with the pants around her hips, to sit again and undo her boots. More laces, from the toes up past the knees, shaping her calves in the gleaming black patent. She tugged and shook and wriggled until each boot was free, then shimmied the rest of the way out of her pants, almost as exhausted from that whole process as she had been after caning Pookiebear.

Slumping back into the chair, she put her hands between her legs again, then sighed.

“Fuck it.”

She could have used a shower, but she needed the sleep more. Dragging herself into the bedroom, she opened her nightstand drawer and pulled out Old Reliable. She reached behind the nightstand and plugged the big Hitachi in by feel, then flipped the comforter back and rolled onto the bed. She didn’t have to set an alarm. Didn’t have to be anywhere too early. She could get off, fall straight to sleep without worrying about cleanup, then shower at the gym in the morning after her own workout. It would be practically as good as a vacation—and the closest thing to a vacation she could currently afford.

Amie felt herself up, rolling her nipples one at a time, exhaling, trying to let the tension of the day go and concentrate on that ephemeral thrill between her legs. Images flitted through her mind: Pookiebear’s ass dimpling under the cane, a glint of wetness on Mara’s thigh, Kaleigha’s dark-brown nipple with a bite mark next to it. Her mother’s face—revulsion, horror, betrayal—right before she’d slammed the door on Amie. “Even if you did tear this family apart . . .” “Nothing that can’t be made whole if you’d repent . . .” Dru’s face, seen from below, her hair falling over one eye the second before she swept it back.


No good. So it would have to be up to Mr. Buzzy to get the job done, because there was no denying Mr. Buzzy.

She flicked the vibe on, brought it to her clit, and held it there until she felt like squirming away from it. Then she increased the pressure, locking down her body, refusing to move until the orgasm ripped through her.

Once she was done, she turned the vibe off, but didn’t bother unplugging it. She just curled away from it, grabbed her pillow, and wrapped herself around it, wishing it could be a living thing. If she’d invited Mara home with her, it could have been Mara, right? Warm, rosy ass pressing against Amie’s thighs. Slightly sweaty, tired bodies cuddled together. Soft breathing. The scent of somebody else’s shampoo in her nose. Somebody’s perfume. A bruise she could find in the dark, press to earn a whimper before kissing the pain away again. A last reassurance of the shared connection.

But then, the next morning. And then, always, eventually, a fight about the future. About how ridiculous it was to think of a future—two women, who mainly only had kink in common anyway. What were they going to do, move in together, get married? Be “that lesbian couple”?

Mara would say, Why not? But Amie knew that couple from her hometown. They had the same bad haircut and always wore men’s pants and polo shirts and they ran a pool-cleaning company together and several times a year when she was growing up, assholes from the high school had painted rude words on their store window. They were viciously sarcastic to each other. She didn’t want to be them.

She also knew that wasn’t how it had to be, and that she was being prejudiced and irrational and thinking like a hick. She knew other lesbians. Who were all simply people, in and out of relationships like anybody else. Even some people from the club, kinky people passing as vanilla out in the world. She’d see them around town—at the gym, at the store, at restaurants—living their lives, doing normal-people things. Being couples. If she hadn’t known who was the top and who the bottom, she might never have guessed. Which seemed terrifying in some ways, but magical in others. So equal. So freeing.

That was what she’d tried to have with Mara. Mara, who sometimes reminded her so much of Dru it hurt, but with none of Dru’s switch tendencies. So she should’ve been perfect, right?

Either Mara or Dru, if Amie had shown them that email from Chris, would’ve groaned in exactly the right way.

Either one could, if Amie had let them, have gotten her off with no need to resort to Mr. Buzzy.

Except back when Dru had done that, it had seemed so . . . illicit, somehow. Dru had been the bad girl who knew an astonishing amount about this new kink thing Amie had started exploring, and Amie had been on a near-constant high from the thrill of finally discovering she wasn’t alone in the world.

It had still been easier to do the whole sex thing in the first place. Hell, Amie had even still been dating some vanilla women back then. Figuring the whole thing out. But a lot of time had passed, and she’d been burned over and over again, and become set in her ways. She’d never understood the way her vanilla dates wanted to play around, kissing and petting, acting as though it revved them up when it all left Amie completely cold. She wanted to find it arousing, she just . . . didn’t. She hadn’t gotten any better at it, so eventually she’d abandoned the effort. And when Mara had tried going down on her once, outside of a scene, when necking during the boring part of a movie had turned friskier . . . it hadn’t gone well. The term “stone butch” might have been bandied about defensively by Amie, something she still wasn’t proud of because it was a lie and a cop-out. Mostly she hadn’t known why Mara seemed so interested in doing it—in making her lose control.

Amie came. She just didn’t come during sex outside of scenes anymore . . . and rarely during scenes. She didn’t come with other people. She came at home, usually with her vibrator. And it felt necessary. It was not a source of joy. It was time to face the truth about that.

And probably discuss it with her therapist or something. So she should add “move therapy appointment up by a week” to her long to-do list. Just as well she’d passed on Dru’s card to Mara. Amie didn’t have time to rekindle old friendships. No matter how nice she’d heard Dru’s new club was, or how astonished Amie had been to hear that the slinky, black-clad Goth siren had come to the gym looking for her while she was out with a personal-training client.

Nope. No time. And no more energy left. The series of beatings and the orgasm finally took effect, and Amie nodded off, one arm slung over her pillow, the Hitachi rolling against her back.

from RT Book Reviews

[A] much-needed addition to an often underserved genre.

from Publishers Weekly

**Starred Review** [T]ender and sweet with a healthy dose of hot, responsible kink, and the main characters are deliciously well-rounded and engaging.

from Kirkus

[S]exy and heartwarming. A racy story of love, honesty, and the willingness to lose control.

from Library Journal

**Starred Review** This novella is short and sweet, with a fair dose of smut for good measure. Highly recommended for folks seeking a delightfully quick, kinky F/F read.