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By TAWNY TAYLOR
APHRODISIA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Tawny Taylor
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWell, damn. His days of hedonistic excess were coming to an end, at least temporarily. But if Dierk Sorenson had anything to say about it, he'd be back to his overindulgent ways in no time.
"There he is!" his brother Rolf exclaimed, as Dierk opened the front door of the family's newest real estate acquisition, a six-thousand-square-foot house in Franklin Village. The building sat far back from the road, on a sloping, wooded lot. Two acres. Private. Quiet. It was perfect. Of course, if the neighbors had any idea their newest arrival was a pack of vampires, they might not agree. "Our prodigal son has returned."
"I'm not your son," Dierk remarked, shoving past his jeering brother as he stepped through the door. "And I'm not here to stay. Where's our formidable king, Shadow?"
"In the library, I think. Hey, aren't you going to give your baby brother a hug?"
"No." Dierk sensed his irritating brother was tailing him, like he used to when they were younger. Some things never changed.
The nauseating scent of fresh paint burned his nostrils, just another of a long list of minor annoyances Dierk had to deal with today. Dammit, a ripe woman was all he wanted right now. None of this shit.
He found Shadow in the library, as Rolf had suggested, along with another brother, Stefan.
Shadow glanced up fromthe paperwork strewn across his desk, giving Dierk a cautious smile. "Glad to see you could make it."
"I always respond to a summons from my king," Dierk responded coolly.
Stefan left his post next to Shadow to give Dierk a clap on the back. "It's good to see you, brother."
"Yeah, you, too." Dierk scowled.
"Don't be so enthusiastic, bro. Shadow might decide to keep you around permanently." They exchanged glances and then Dierk busted into a hearty guffaw and yanked his brother into a tight hug. "Good to see you, too."
Franklin, Michigan, might not be his favorite place on earth, but it was great seeing his brothers again. It had been over a year. Damn, how time flew when you were hiding from your demons.
Shadow cleared his throat, reminding the brothers that he'd had a reason for dragging Dierk to this dull little corner of suburbia.
"Leave us. We need to talk. In private."
"Later," Stefan said, giving Dierk one last grin.
"How about we head to the bar later?" Rolf offered.
"Yeah, sure," Dierk said. Metro Detroit's night life wasn't anything like that of New York, Paris, or Amsterdam, but in a pinch it would do. Dierk had seen worse. At Shadow's invitation, he sat in a chair next to the fireplace. Shadow took the matched mate sitting next to his. "So, what's the proposal you wanted to run past me?" Dierk asked.
"It's not so much a proposal as it is a favor."
"Yeah? A favor from me? I'm not the most reliable of the twelve of us, in case you hadn't noticed." He was damn proud of his reputation as the black sheep of the family. He lived for the next sin, the next indulgence, the next corruption.
"I have. But this is something I think you are particularly suited for. I need someone to run Twilight for me."
Dierk groaned. "Your bondage club? You sent your private jet-dragged me halfway across the globe-to ask me to run your little bondage club? Anyone can manage that place-"
"That's not necessarily true." Shadow's expression darkened. "There've been some ... problems there lately. Nothing major-"
"You don't need me. You're full of shit."
Shadow wasn't bothered in the least by his younger brother calling his bluff. "Maybe. Okay, yes I am. Not about needing someone to run the club, just the reason why."
Dierk shook his head, seeing where this was going. He didn't like strolling into a trap, but that was exactly what he was doing. Eyes wide open. "You should shut that money pit down. You're always complaining about it running in the red. Why keep sinking money into it?"
"Because it's the only bondage club in southeast Michigan. And, more important, it's the only one in the state for our kind."
"So, they can drive up to Lansing. It's only an hour-and-a-half drive. Besides, who says 'our kind' can't play side by side with mortals? You ask me, and I'll tell you that a human slave boy is just as much fun as an immortal one. You just have to be a little careful, that's all. Can't get carried away with the restraints, since they need to breathe. Then again, we all know that, since we've all played with mortal women."
His brother, notorious for having the determination of a mule, shook his head. "I have my reasons for not closing the place down, the primary one being it's my way of showing our people that I do care about their daily needs. An hour-and-a-DECADENT half drive one way is not exactly convenient." Shadow stood, walked around his desk, and lowered himself into the high-back leather chair. "Not that I should have to explain any of this to you. Either you'll agree to run the place, at least until I find someone to take over permanently, or you won't. What'll it be?"
"Are you saying this gig is temporary?" He was a fool. "How long do you think it'll take you to find someone else?" A complete and utter idiot.
"Can't say. Hiring your replacement isn't high on my priority list." His brother snatched up a piece of paper and stared down at it for a few beats before glancing up. "I'm not going to lie to try to convince you to help me out." Dierk just about laughed in his brother's face at that one. "I've hired several general managers outside of the family, and they've all been disasters. This has to stay in the family, and every other Sorenson male, even Rolf, has turned down the position."
"The place is that bad?"
"No, it's no better or worse than any other bondage club you've been to." Shadow went back to reading the paper he was holding.
What would he do now? Dierk knew he was being lured into a trap, but damn if he knew what kind of trap it was. None of what his brother was saying made any sense. And this was the last thing he wanted, to be chained to a failing bondage club for the next year or more.
He stood, walked to an overloaded shelf, and ran an index finger down the spine of a dusty old book. He pulled the volume off and flipped the pages. "Then why'd all of our brothers turn it down? Every one of us is a Dom. We all practice the lifestyle, in one form or another. It's in our blood."
"Yeah, I know." Shadow snatched up a pen and started scrawling in his jerky handwriting on the page now lying flat on his desk. "But it seems the others might like to hang out at Twilight in their free time. They don't want to make it a career."
Dierk dropped the book on Shadow's desk. It landed with a dull thud. He planted his hands on the glossy top and leaned forward, glaring. "That's the shittiest nonexplanation I've ever heard."
Shadow shrugged. "You've always been a straight shooter, little brother. I knew that wouldn't change, even when you're talking to your king...."
That was true. His mouth might've gotten him in trouble a time or two, but at least no one could ever say that he was a bullshitter.
"... and the brother who has helped you out of a scrape or two before," Shadow added.
Shit. Dierk straightened up. His brother was going to play that card. "I'll give you a month."
"Six, and that's my final offer."
"Done." Shadow thrust his hand out, reaching across his desk. "You can start tomorrow night. Rolf will show you around."
Dierk shook his brother's hand, knowing without a doubt that he'd just taken the bait. What kind of hell had he just walked into?
Shadow released his hand. "I hope you'll consider living here, with us."
He smiled as he took in the shelves weighed down with books, the furniture and artwork, the huge wall of windows stretching the entire length of the room. At the moment, the drapes were pulled back, revealing the lush landscaping outside. Silver moonlight shimmered in the raindrops clinging to the leaves of the lilac bushes, now in full bloom, giving the whole place an ethereal otherworldly glow. It was damn ... pretty. "No, I don't think I'd fit in here. This place is too cheery for my taste. I'll find a cozy little hovel closer to work, if that's okay with you." At his brother's assent, he left the library, in search of Rolf. It was still early. He didn't have to be anywhere until tomorrow night. It was time to let loose and release some tension.
There was plenty of trouble he could get himself into in the next twenty hours. He was determined to make sure some of that trouble involved alcohol and a lush woman who was willing to sate his needs. It had been too long, at least forty-eight hours, since he'd heard a sub beg for mercy.
It sucked, being a man of honor. The last thing in the world he wanted, or needed, was a regular full-time job. But thanks to his inability to deny his brother any favor he asked, that was exactly what he'd just gotten. Worse yet, he had no doubt there was more to this gig than his brother was letting on.
"Take me somewhere where the bourbon runs like a river and the women are easy," he said by way of a greeting when he found Rolf in the living room, sprawled across a couch, watching a football game.
Rolf twisted his upper body, glancing over his shoulder at him. "I have the perfect spot in mind. Want to freshen up or anything first?"
"No. I'm as fresh as I'm going to get. Let's go." He tipped his head toward the front foyer, then, not waiting for Rolf, he turned and headed that way. It had been a helluva long flight from Amsterdam. He needed to unwind.
"Hey, where're you going?" Stefan asked, coming down the circular front stairs. Wearing his usual, neatly pressed black pants and shirt, he was looking a little overdressed for the kind of bar Dierk favored.
"Just heading out for a drink or two," Rolf answered from behind Dierk. "Wanna come?"
"Yeah. It's been a while since I let loose."
"Just don't embarrass me, you two," Dierk tossed over his shoulder as he pulled open the front door. "If one of you sings karaoke, I'm outta there."
"Damn," Stefan cussed, laughter in his voice. "Bailey's is having their grand championship contest tonight. I can do a mean Barry Manilow."
"Oh yeah, 'Copacabana' is one of my favorites," Rolf said, nodding his head. "Although I'd rather go for 'Every Breath You Take' by the Police. I've been told I have a gritty voice, like Sting."
Laughing, Dierk headed outside, shuddering not because it was cold, but because of the horror of imagining Rolf belting out a Police tune. The man was tone deaf. "No, no, no. I'm not listening to a bunch of wannabes bellow eighties tunes. Not a chance."
He shared an easy camaraderie with his brothers as he rode shotgun in Rolf's car. They avoided talking about the worst of the events of the past year: the destruction of their childhood home in Eastern Europe and the shocking and devastating loss of their only sister, Tyra.
Instead, Rolf and Stefan took turns telling him war stories of the women they'd conquered and the ones that had gotten away. And, for just a split second or two, Dierk almost regretted missing some of those nights.
Some twenty minutes later, they pulled into a parking lot snugged against the side of a red brick building. A flickering neon sign announced BOB'S BAR. A line of Harleys hugged the side of the building.
Felt like home.
The building's dark interior was thick with cigarette smoke, the music loud, the women hot, ready ... and willing. A pair of leggy blondes with full lips, tits that made his cock hard, and asses that begged to be spanked gave him a once-over.
Yep, he was home.
He eased himself onto a barstool, ordered a double, and invited the blondes to join him with a nod of the head.
Wynne Fischer leaned back against the couch and closed her eyes. It was so much easier talking about this subject-about sex-with her eyes closed. No matter who she was talking with, male or female, friend or counselor, sex was just one of those subjects she had a really hard time discussing. "The little things are what get me going. A soft touch on the small of my back. A wicked grin when no one else is looking. A sexy note left in an unexpected place." She sighed. "I don't understand. Why would anyone need all that other stuff-whips and chains? It's just not sexy. Or loving."
Her therapist, Susan Smith, took a moment before responding, "How does it make you feel, learning that your fiancé found those things sexy?"
"How do you think?" Wynne blinked open her eyes for the sole purpose of rolling them. God, this counselor was already starting to sound like the last one, and the one before that. Did they all share the same script or something? Where could a girl go to get some real help? "Confused."
"Anything else? How did you feel after learning he was gay, on top of everything else?"
"I don't know." She closed her eyes again and let her mind go back to that awful day, which hadn't started awful at all. It had been a pretty April day. The air smelled really good, like grass and earth. The sun was warm. They were walking in the park, talking about the last minute details of their wedding plans. The puppy they'd just adopted was scampering around their ankles, nipping at their shoelaces.
John had been quiet lately, and she had been worried about him. She kept prodding him to tell her what was bothering him, until he'd finally confessed everything, there in the park, next to the jungle gym. He admitted he was having an affair with one of his coworkers-a guy-and had been living a secret life for almost two years.
Her life didn't just fall apart. It blew up in her face.
"I guess I felt empty inside," she confessed. "Numb, at least for a while."
"What about now? Do you still feel empty and numb?"
"No. Now I'm confused, wondering if I did something wrong ... to make him turn to men. I'm hurt that he kept so many secrets from me. Shocked he did so for so long. I didn't have a clue." She met Susan's brown-eyed gaze. "I honestly thought we were happy. How could I not know things were so wrong? Am I that oblivious? That blind?"
The counselor gave Wynne an encouraging smile. "Of course not. You wanted to believe the best. I think that's human nature. Your fiancé never gave you any reason to think anything was seriously wrong."
"Yes, you're right. He misled me." As Wynne bent over and picked up her purse, she felt a new emotion drift to the surface. Her face warmed. Her heart started thumping heavily in her chest. "He lied. For months and months. We had sex. Lots of sex. He acted like he enjoyed it. Pretended it was good."
"And that makes you feel ...?"
"Maybe a little mad."
"A little?" Susan leaned forward. "Wynne, you don't need permission to feel any emotion. It's okay."
Wynne nodded, jerking on her purse's zipper. "Okay, maybe I'm more than a little mad. Maybe I'm very mad, pissed ... furious. Absolutely livid. It wasn't fair for him to let things drag on so long if he wasn't happy." Finding a pack of gum, she snatched a piece, unwrapped it, wadded the wrapper up, and stuffed the stick into her mouth. She chewed so hard her jaw snapped. "We were together for three years. We were engaged for one. And none of this came up until a few weeks before our wedding." She swiped at the hot tears streaming from her eyes, tugging a tissue from the box Susan handed her. "It wasn't fair to keep such important secrets from me. I mean, maybe John knew I wouldn't understand that whole whips and chains thing. That could be part of the reason why he kept it quiet. And the gay part ... oh God. But still. It's just wrong, what he did." She closed her purse and set it on the floor. "Then again, I keep telling myself he probably couldn't help it. He was probably ashamed. Suffering."
"What do you mean, 'couldn't help it'?"
"I've been doing some reading about sex addiction. How people get sucked into depravity, needing harder and harder stimulation. It wasn't John's fault, I don't think. He was ... sick. Right? That's what I have to keep telling myself." Noticing Susan was staring at her hands, she glanced down. She'd torn the tissue to shreds without realizing it. She raked the ripped bits into a pile and balled them up, stuffing them into her pocket. "It's the only way I can deal with this without going absolutely crazy. I mean, what else could it be? It has to be a sickness, right? An addiction. Normal sex with a woman simply wasn't enough anymore."
Excerpted from DECADENT MASTER by TAWNY TAYLOR Copyright © 2010 by Tawny Taylor. Excerpted by permission.
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