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By TAWNY TAYLOR
APHRODISIA BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Tawny Taylor
All right reserved.
Thoroughly, utterly, intoxicatingly sexy.
And as deadly as a cottonmouth.
That was Malek Alexandre, summed up in twelve concise words.
A spectator at the private bondage club, standing in the shadows at the back of an open dungeon, Lei Mitchell moved aside to let a slave wearing a black thong and dog collar pass. Her gaze never left Malek. Not for a second.
This was an opportunity she couldn't deny herself.
For once she was free to just ... enjoy. Without fearing she'd be caught by Malek, one of his brothers, or her sister, Rin.
Lei's hungry gaze wandered up and down his body at leisure now, taking in the full glory of his heavily muscled form. He was wearing a simple outfit—black, snug-fitting knitted shirt and tailored trousers, no leather for this man—but still Lei could make out the rippling bulges and clean lines defining each muscle as he lifted his arm and flicked his wrist. The leather tails of his flogger sailed through the air toward their target, and Lei's breath caught in her throat.
Malek was not just any dom. He was the dom. The one who made her blood pound hard and hot through her veins. If only submitting to him wouldn't mean her destruction.
Warm and tingly all over, even though her insides ached a little at knowing she would never—could never—know the pleasure of submitting to her master, Lei stood in that dark corner, just out of his sight, and watched as Malek trained a submissive. The sub, a male, clearly enjoyed every stroke of the lash, as evidenced by the look of utter rapture on his face ... and the large bulge pressing against the only garment he was wearing, the snug black G-string. Like Malek, the sub was lean, firmly muscled, bronzed, attractive. He was also delightfully responsive. She wouldn't mind taking him back to her private suite sometime.
Since being rescued from a nightmarish life as a sex slave, Lei had come to this private bondage club to exorcise her demons. One of her previous owners had trained her to dominate him. As it turned out, his kink had become her salvation. Now she was the one in control. She was the one holding the whip, tying the knots, instead of receiving the blows or being bound and forced to fuck.
Free now from that horrendous life, she couldn't seem to stop herself from seeking out opportunities to dominate men. She wasn't sure why. She received no sexual fulfillment from it. She received no emotional fulfillment either. She was still the empty shell of a girl she'd been the day her sister had bought her out of hell.
But now she was an empty shell with a compulsion.
And a fascination with a certain dom.
As Malek released his submissive from his restraints, in preparation for a change in position, Lei tried to walk away.
But she couldn't. Her feet simply wouldn't move.
Her body was tight. Hot. Her heart was pounding. It was as if she were lowering to her knees before Malek, waiting breathlessly for his next command.
Malek ran his fingertip down the sub's spine.
A tiny shudder of pleasure quaked through Lei's body. Her pussy clamped tight against an aching emptiness. She licked her dry lips and curled her fingers into fists.
What would he do next?
The submissive settled on his knees on the floor, butt lifted high, rather than resting on his heels. He tipped his head down. Waiting. Patiently.
Lei had been forced into that position too many times to count. She'd never voluntarily kneeled before a man. She couldn't now. But that didn't stop her from imagining herself in the submissive's place at this moment. If she closed her eyes, she could feel Malek's gaze sweeping up and down her body. Her skin burning. Her nerves prickling.
It was anxiety and anticipation both. A touch of fear coupled with the expectation of good things, wonderful things. Of unimaginable pleasure. And glorious pain.
If only ... if only ...
"Is that a smile I see?" Malek's voice was unexpectedly light, playful. His tone both put her at ease and made her that much tighter.
"No," the submissive answered.
"No, Master," Lei whispered to herself as she opened her eyes. Such a show of defiance surely deserved a punishment. She didn't want to miss this.
What would Malek do?
A chill skittered up her spine.
Malek's brow lifted, but he said nothing.
Ah, he was going to let his submissive wait, wonder.
She unclenched her hands and dragged her sweaty palms down the sides of her legs. A huge lump congealed in her throat. She swallowed hard and squeezed her thighs together. The burning in her pussy was becoming intolerable.
Malek used the tip of his whip to lift his submissive's chin. "I asked you a question, and I expect a proper answer. So I'll ask again, is that a smile I see?"
The submissive's lips twitched. "Maybe."
This was a submissive who liked to push his luck. Lei had scened with more than enough to know the type. They craved the punishment and weren't by nature submissive. They merely took on the role so they would be in a position to get what they wanted. Depending upon the submissive, and the dom, that could be a few lashes, being humiliated in public, or perhaps being paddled to within an inch of their limits.
But what he probably wasn't expecting was what Malek did, even if they had discussed the possibility ahead of time.
Malek walked away.
The submissive's eyes widened. His mouth formed an "O" of shock; then his lips clamped shut.
Damn. Lei couldn't help but smile at the submissive's reaction. She'd put money on him thinking twice about playing Malek like that again. Or maybe he'd make a different choice in a dom, if that was his game. Either way, it was something to watch.
While Lei continued to study Malek's behavior as he prowled around the open dungeon, he turned. His gaze swept the crowd of onlookers gathered around the perimeter of the room. It snapped to her.
Their eyes met.
The air seeped from her lungs.
Her face burned.
He smiled, and she swore her heart skipped a beat. Maybe two.
Dangerous. That's what that man was.
Her body had never reacted this way to any man before, especially Since ... being rescued. She met his smile with a tiny nod, then forced herself to walk through the throng toward the back hall, toward her private suite, her haven. Her sanctuary.
Lei was here?
Lei had been watching him?
Malek gave himself a mental head shake, but he couldn't throw off the shock of seeing her here. Of all places. A dungeon. After everything she'd been through. What the hell?
And what exactly had he felt when their eyes met?
He wanted to go find her, talk to her, ask her what she was doing here. And then he wanted to drag her the hell out of here. She didn't belong in this shithole. No way in hell. Some of the doms would eat her alive.
But he couldn't, dammit. Not until he was through with Chris. An obligation was an obligation.
After one last glance toward the back exit, where she'd disappeared, Malek forced his focus back on his submissive, who was still kneeling right where he'd left him.
Chris wasn't new to the lifestyle, but this was the first time they'd scened. He had one hell of a pain tolerance and virtually no limits. But he was no fucking submissive. He was merely playing the part to get what he wanted. If Malek had known any of the other doms who frequented this dungeon, he probably would have learned that before tonight.
Malek figured he might as well give Chris what he was looking for and then be done with him. Never again. He didn't play those games.
He was about to take up a paddle when the curtains closing off the windows of one of the private suites lining the back wall opened, revealing the scene within to spectators in the main dungeon.
And she was the one holding the flogger.
Malek's breath hitched.
She was a domme. Of course. How could he have not guessed?
The crowd that had been gathered around Chris and him shifted, moving in front of Lei's window, cutting off Malek's view. He figured that was probably for the best. He didn't need the distraction.
He strolled toward Chris, who was kneeling with his eyes cast to the floor, and squatted. "You're no more a submissive than I am," he murmured.
"Pain gets me off," Chris admitted, not denying Malek's allegation.
"Not the submission."
"You've picked the wrong dom."
"Yes, sir." Chris's eyes shifted up. "Are you through with me?"
"For your own sake, and safety, you need to be honest. With every dom. Every time."
"I don't owe you a thing. Not considering your lie."
"No, sir, you don't. You're right."
Malek stared at the young man, at his handsome face. He was young. Stupid. Vulnerable. Clueless. And desperate. A very dangerous combination.
"I don't know where else to go," Chris said, eyes pleading. "I ... need this." He tipped his head toward the paddle.
Malek flipped the handle in his hand. "Okay, I'll give you what you want. No more lying to me."
Chris's eyes lit with excitement. "Yes, sir."
Malek eyed Chris's hard little ass, his target. "Now, on all fours."
* * *
An hour later, Lei wandered back through the main dungeon on her way toward the exit. After that session, she wasn't feeling what she normally did. It had gone well enough. Her submissive had experienced a breakthrough that was quite emotional to watch, but for the first time since her release, Lei felt like she was just going through the motions. She didn't want to admit what she suspected. Not to herself. Not to anyone.
Mildly discontented, she made her way through the unusually crowded spectator area of the dungeon toward the exit. As she wriggled through a dense pack of men, someone grabbed her ass.
A flash of fury blazed through her body.
"Who the fuck just touched me?" she snapped. Her arms flung across her chest. Her hands shook as her fingers curled into fists. Getting no response, she moved toward a gap in the wall of bodies. But the gap narrowed, the suffocating throng closing her in, making her insides twist.
"Lei," a deep voice said behind her.
She didn't turn around. She couldn't. Her whole body was trembling now. Tendrils of dread wound through her, constricting her throat.
She just needed to get the fuck out of there. Now.
When a man moved in front of her, blocking her exit, she frantically searched for a new path. Her skin crawled. Her ass, where whoever had grabbed her, burned. Her stomach was clenching. Sweat dribbled down her hairline. "Dammit," she muttered, recognizing her panic for what it was. "Excuse me," she said to the man standing in her way. He didn't budge. He leered at her instead, and instantly she felt sick. Trapped.
All those old feelings of panic, despair, and powerlessness bubbled to the surface. Frozen in place, her muscles locked up and she stared back at him.
Would she ever escape the ghosts of her past?
A hand cradled hers. The grip was strong but not crushing; insistent but not overbearing. She looked to see who it was.
He stepped up beside her and she gave the leering dom a look that would make any man shrink back. "This way." Together, they wove through the thick crowd, finally breaking free at the exit.
Outside, Malek turned to her. "Forgive me. You looked like you needed some help."
"I was fine ... but thank you." She glanced around. The parking lot was packed. It was never like this. What was going on? "I've been coming here for a while. It's never been like this."
"Yeah, this isn't the usual crowd, is it?" Malek hadn't released her hand.
She wriggled her fingers, sending him a message she'd like him to let go now. "No, it's not."
"Once a month, the owner runs an ad in the Metro Times. On those weekends, you get a different crowd in here." Malek set his hand on the small of her back. That was no better. In fact, the intimate contact made her feel far worse.
"I'll have to remember that." Her back arched, her spine stiffening, as her body tried to shrink away from his touch. "I'm okay now." She motioned to her car. "Thanks again."
She tottered on slightly wobbly legs down the row, toward her waiting car, parked beneath a light. Behind her, she heard Malek's footsteps echoing in the dark. He was following her, but that was okay. At least she felt a little safer. It was late, nearly midnight. And although this area—which was more industrial than retail or residential—was generally considered safe, she couldn't be too careful. At this time of night the street and surrounding area were mostly abandoned—the perfect location for a mugging.
Pretending she didn't know Malek was following, she un8 locked her car and opened the door. But before she could slide into the driver's seat, Malek caught her hand again, halting her. She whipped her head around and jerked her hand away. "Please don't touch me. I don't like it."
"I'm sorry." He raised his hands, palms out, the universal gesture of surrender. "Of course you don't ... I ... just wanted to warn you that there was an accident on I-275."
"Thanks." She gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile. "Are you going home now, too?"
He glanced over his shoulder before answering. "Yeah, I think I'm done for the night."
"I'll see you at home, then." Aware he was watching her, she gave him a little wave, then slid into her seat and started the car. He stepped back when she shifted into reverse, moving aside, out of her way. She noticed he didn't start moving to his vehicle until she was rolling down the aisle toward the road.
As she waited for an opening in the traffic, a little tremor skittered through her body. An aftershock.
Her counselor had told her it would take time to get better. During those long months she'd endured as a prostitute, she'd seen and experienced some horrific things. Nobody got over that kind of stress overnight. But it frustrated her how often those old feelings surged to the surface. And it scared her how overwhelming they were, too. She'd been utterly frozen in panic back there in the dungeon. Unable to move. To speak. And all it had taken was a look from that man.
She was beginning to think she might never get over this bullshit.
Determined to shove her dark thoughts aside, Lei cranked on the stereo, filling the car with the deep base of a Lady Gaga dance tune, and maneuvered onto the road. In her rearview mirror, she watched a pair of headlights follow her. Malek's, no doubt. Those headlights remained behind her as she turned down one road, then another, winding her way home.
A half hour later, however, when she pulled into the driveway leading up to the house she shared with her sister, Rin, Rin's husband, and his brothers, Malek and Talen, the car that had been following slowed but didn't turn. In her mirror, she caught the flash of silver as the vehicle passed under a streetlight.
She'd seen Malek's car plenty of times. He parked it next to hers in the driveway.
It was red.
Had someone else followed her home? Who? And why?
I'm probably just being paranoid. Again.
Maybe she'd thought she'd seen silver. It was very dark around there. The road was canopied by dense, snow-covered branches from the mature oaks and maples flanking both sides of the street. If not for the street lamps and her headlights, the shadows would be so thick she wouldn't be able to see her hand in front of her face. So, of course it would be easy to mistake colors.
Even so, her heart started thumping against her breastbone. Her hands were shaking. She white-knuckled the steering wheel and crept up the driveway. Just as she was parking, Malek's red Mercedes prowled up the winding drive and turned into its spot next to hers.
She exited her car, turned to Malek, and asked him, "Did you just pass the driveway for some reason?"
"No. Why?" His gaze flicked toward the road.
It's paranoia. Post-traumatic stress disorder.
How many times had she thought she'd been followed since she'd been freed? How many times had she reported to the police that she was being stalked?
When would it stop?
"Oh, nothing." She click-clacked up to the back door.
Perhaps her therapist was right. Maybe it had been too soon to cut back to two sessions a month.
Chapter TwoIn the past few months, Lei had learned a few things about the family she'd been more or less adopted into.
First, men were slobs. She found dirty socks in the oddest places. And used dishes ... popcorn kernels ...
Second, residing with three brothers was a lot like living among a pack of rabid wolves. As much as the brothers loved each other, which was often evident, the boys snarled and snapped and growled at each other. Oddly, their behavior made them endearing.
Excerpted from Darkest Desire by TAWNY TAYLOR Copyright © 2012 by Tawny Taylor. Excerpted by permission of APHRODISIA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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