Enter a decadent sensual world where gorgeous alpha males are committed to fulfilling a woman's every desire…
Olivier isn’t sure what he’s gotten himself into when he joins the Honey Club, only that a dark part of him hungers for the lifestyle offered by this exclusive club. Here, no boundary will be left untested…and one's deepest fantasies will become an exquisite reality.
When Amélie invites Olivier to surrender, she gives the alpha submissive what he craves. Soon they both find themselves falling harder than they ever anticipatedbut as their connection deepens, the truth about Olivier’s past could destroy everything…
Gripping and seductive, The Deep End is the first book in a sensational new series from bestselling author Kristen Ashley.
About the Author
Kristen Ashley is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty novels, including Mystery Man, The Gamble, and Own the Wind. She grew up in Indiana, but has lived in Colorado and the West Country of England.
Read an Excerpt
The Deep End
By Kristen Ashley
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Kristen Ashley
All rights reserved.
There Could Only Be One
Amélie sat in the semicircle booth at the back of the club, her lips to the rim of her champagne glass, her eyes to the bodies moving through the large space in front of her, her mind wondering when it had happened.
For seven years, as a day passed that she knew at the end of it she would be going to the club, she felt a mild but persistent anticipation.
This, as she'd make her preparations to go, she'd allow to build into excitement.
But right then, as Amélie took a sip of her drink, she observed the bodies shifting around her in the early throes of the game as if she were in a mall, seated on a bench, taking a break from shopping to sip coffee and regard the mundanity of human existence, which was curiously watchable at the same time it was unreservedly boring.
She put her drink down and continued to inspect the specimens on display.
This was not a difficult task. From the moment she'd sat down half an hour ago, they'd peacocked in front of her table, the males, definitely, and even some females.
She found this annoying. It smacked of desperation, something that most assuredly didn't stir her — unless she was the one who painstakingly roused that emotion through hours of play.
As for the females, that caused deeper irritation.
She'd been a member of the club for seven years. In that time, she'd seen many come and many go.
Amélie had remained.
She was known.
Even if the member was new, they could (and should) talk to their equals.
If they did, they'd get more than an earful.
Further, they could go to the small room behind the luxuriously welcoming and highly secured foyer. A room that held the computer (a computer that was attached to no network, not even a modem, thus it couldn't be hacked). A computer that would provide them the information they needed.
Of the many strict, absolutely unbreakable rules that one must sign upon membership being granted to the club known as the Bee's Honey, keeping this information up to date was one of them.
This also wasn't a difficult task.
If you were trained and experienced, a true member from skin to blood to bones to soul of the decadent world these fabulously appointed walls contained, none of the rules was a difficult task. They were as natural to you as the knowledge of how to pick up a fork. How to swallow a bite of food that had been chewed. Indeed, how to just chew.
Therefore, Amélie kept her information up to date, checking it on occasion out of respect for her culture as well as out of respect for Aryas, the club's owner and her dear friend.
Although up to date, that information gave very little away. If she were to interact with one in any meaningful way, her superior class of membership would share the essential traits in their nature with their inferiors in far more personal ways than a profile on a computer.
However, the fact that she did not — ever — choose female toys was part of her profile.
This information was provided with the aim to focus the hunt, offering details to the prey of who might wish to flush them out.
That was the kind way Amélie chose to look at it.
The purpose was more integral to the world in which they lived.
You did not waste the time or attention of your superior. It was disrespectful and it was intolerable.
Amélie assumed the females continued to strut with the dim and useless hope that she'd feel moved to teach them a lesson.
She never was.
If they listened to their peers, they would know this too.
When a lesson needed to be learned, Amélie was very willing to teach it.
But she had a certain way she preferred to play. She was known for that. Well known for that.
Not exactly a stickler for the rules, though there were some she enjoyed enforcing.
It was simply that Amélie liked to play.
She had no interest in slaves.
No, she was searching for toys.
This being well known, it continued the vicious cycle of why the females' maneuvers were so very irritating.
Or perhaps, she thought, taking another sip of her drink as she looked through a beautiful woman who had been a member for over a year (in other words, she should absolutely know better), the scene had become irritating.
In fact, the aimlessness with which the entirety of her life seemed to flow was irritating.
She felt her spine straighten as this thought broke through with naked honesty for the first time since the inklings of it started months ago (inklings that she'd denied).
A thought that shocked her.
But more, it dismayed her.
Regardless, sitting there experiencing those emotions, she could no longer deny the simple fact that that feeling had been creeping up for some time. And not just here at the Honey. Aryas owned seven exclusive clubs west of the Rockies. Amélie paid bundled membership, which meant she could go to any of them. As she traveled frequently, she availed herself of this.
And although she might find a toy to while away a few hours, as weeks turned to months and those months turned to more months, it was coming clear she was giving more than she was receiving. She was assuaging a need and not having her own needs assuaged.
That wasn't it.
She wasn't finding what she needed.
In play or in life.
She licked her lips to hide discomfiture, something that was unusual for her, and looked down to her champagne glass, understanding with a strange sensation of a fist squeezing her heart, that wasn't it either.
She wasn't finding who she needed.
At the Honey and not at the Honey, Amélie was Mistress Amélie. A Dominatrix. A very good one. A respected one. A coveted one. Even a craved one. Her affectionate style of play, coupled with her experience and skill, made her highly sought after.
As that, she could easily find toys to play with.
She'd done that.
And she felt very real fear that she was becoming bored with it.
It wasn't the lifestyle that bored her, for Amélie didn't consider it a lifestyle. A choice. Something she could have or lose. Something she could move on from. Something she could grow out of. A curiosity she could satisfy and leave behind.
It was what she considered a Lifestyle, capitalized with appropriate emphasis. As essential as oxygen. And if she were not to have it, she fancied it would feel like climbing nearly to the peak of Everest. Every next step a struggle. Every breath a blow, for you were doing what came naturally, but it didn't fully provide the essential element that would allow you to continue existing. Every second a mental battle as to what level of insanity you'd breached that you'd even consider going on.
The problem was, Amélie had been born with champagne tastes. Tastes bred imperatively through her line for generations as to weave right through her DNA.
There were many ways she could find toys: other clubs, ads, parties, conferences, personally hosted weekends.
The Honey, however, was the only place that truly offered champagne. Aryas had a certain philosophy that even if an individual had the means to be a member, this didn't mean they would be accepted. In fact, he gave "scholarships" to those in both membership classes who could in no way afford to be a member at regular rates, but who would provide services to the club that were invaluable.
It wasn't about how someone looked. It was about how they played, their experience and training, their personalities. At the Honey, there were no boundaries, anything went as long as it was consensual.
That said, there were vagaries in their world, genuinely troubled souls who used the Lifestyle to work out issues that should be communicated in a certain kind of doctor's office.
This, along with the majority's resilient inclination to judge that which they didn't understand, cast a shroud of depravity on her world.
This, with his lengthy and highly invasive application policy, Aryas kept out of his clubs. His members were safe in every aspect they could be.
The people there not only practiced the Lifestyle, they embraced it.
She lifted her gaze and instantly saw Bryan. It wasn't difficult. He'd been around some time and she'd had him so he knew not to peacock. But he also knew to put himself directly in her line of sight.
Seeing Bryan, another realization came to her, hitting her with a cruel blow to the solar plexus that made her struggle with not appearing winded.
There were not many like Bryan.
When Bryan's membership had been approved and he'd started moving through the viewing floor of the club (the large space in the middle that had some high, narrow bar tables with plushly upholstered stools, all this surrounded by booths Doms could sit in to evaluate and make their choices), Amélie had felt a powerful curl of excitement gather in the pit of her belly the likes of which she hadn't experienced in years.
This was because Bryan's type was not often found, not only in D/s clubs, but also out in the world.
Darkly handsome with the air of an alpha vibrating around him like a visible aura, he was a large man, tall, six foot four, and very well developed. Indeed, when she'd had him strip naked, Amélie had found he'd pushed it right to the edge where he could be considered unappealingly overdeveloped. Fortunately, the appearance of his genitalia did not support her quick assessment that he was aided in the endeavor of bulking out his frame with certain substances.
This, of course, made him all the more appealing.
Amélie was five foot ten. Not only in the club but out in the world she easily dominated nearly everyone in sheer size, both men and women obviously intimidated by her. This was not helped by the fact that she was curvy yet lean, exclusively wore heels, high ones, and she was filthy rich and looked it.
Therefore, with men whom she was eye-to-eye to, or looking down on, who were slighter or leaner than her, part of the challenge, the fun of the game, was removed at the starting gate.
Playing with a six-foot-four, 240-pound toy would be a challenge, even to Aryas (who did not do men but that didn't negate the point), who was six foot six and not a small man by any means, and not simply because of his height.
However, Amélie had broken Bryan within fifteen minutes.
Not a true break. This was the heart of the disappointment in the loss of the promise of him.
But the façade of the alpha melted away to expose the pleaser, making him less of a challenge than many subs who read as recalcitrant and wanted (in other words, needed) a firm guiding hand to take them where they needed to be.
Nevertheless, as he physically was her type from the top of his dark head to the tips of his large feet, she'd tried him again.
It was not overexcitement during that first session that brought him to his knees.
It was the sub he was.
And that was not the kind of sub she needed.
Watching him sip his drink, though, doing his best to pretend he didn't know she was looking at him, Amélie moved her study from Bryan to his drink.
Whisky. The pure kind that didn't need another letter of the alphabet. Others had learned the art and mastered it, but there could only be one.
She'd been mistaken in her taste in toys.
It was not champagne she was looking for.
It was that coveted, priceless, smooth, deep, incomparable burn of the finest scotch whisky.
Bryan might be sipping that.
But Bryan was not that.
In all her years playing, Amélie had not encountered that.
And to her increasing distress, it occurred to her that, even as it was with the actual liquid, there might be one bottle existing in the entire world, owned by another and never to be on offer.
Not even for a sip.
"Jesus, Amélie, are you on Mars?"
Startled, Amélie's eyes moved up to Mirabelle.
Mistress Mirabelle, a Domme at the club, her tenure there a little more than three years, her prevailing penchant exhibitionism, her indisputable talent restraint, her most important role being one of Amélie's closest friends and her co-conspirator in starting their Domme-exclusive book club.
"Chérie, you're right. I was in another world," Amélie murmured in reply.
She lifted her chin for Mirabelle to touch her, even in Phoenix, doing this European — cheek to cheek and the switch to do the same to the other cheek, as Amélie's mother had taught her to expect, to teach those around her that she did and anything else was intolerable.
Mirabelle moved out of the way and Amélie was startled again, this time she hid it, when she saw Trey coasting behind her friend.
This was a surprise.
Amélie hadn't been to the club for more than a month.
The first two weeks this was at her choice, the beginnings of unease about what was on offer, the hope that when she returned, there would be something fresh to play with.
The second two weeks she'd been traveling, the first week to France, a duty visit for a cousin's wedding, the second on business.
She'd been home for several days and put off going to the club, hoping her long absence would bear fruit.
From what she'd seen, this had not occurred.
What she witnessed now, as Mirabelle slid into the curve of the booth opposite her, was that she'd left with her friend breaking in Trey, a tall (ish, a man had to be tall for Amélie to consider him tall) lean man who was very pretty. When he'd made his debut over a year ago, they'd both clocked him, seeing as he was an alpha-sub. However, they both were drawn to more rugged types.
Mirabelle experimented more in a variety of ways so she'd given him a try.
By the time Amélie had left for France, Mirabelle had had three sessions with him. She'd also declared she was besotted.
Mirabelle could get besotted. Then her attention would wander.
It hadn't wandered.
It wasn't as if Mirabelle wouldn't return repeatedly to a certain specimen. But it appeared she'd actually arrived with him or at the very least ordered his arrival time to coincide with hers so she could strut into the hunting ground with him at her heels.
A communication of ownership.
Mirabelle settled in and Amélie looked to Trey as he moved to stand at his Mistress's side in the booth.
Unlike many clubs, the bar/social area just inside the front doors of the Honey, known affectionately by all the members as the "hunting ground," was circumspect.
Another of Aryas's rules.
There was a generous variety of choices of places to play beyond the hunting ground, privately, publicly, on display, and socially.
But in the hunting ground, members came dressed well. They behaved well. There were things you could do, things that were done, more than likely nightly, that were not flaunted. But Aryas had a definitive feel he wished to nurture in his establishments. You couldn't even see any of the back playrooms from the hunting ground. There were no suggestive paintings or sculptures. And no one was wearing traditional BDSM or role-playing attire.
The walls were paneled in gleaming wood with beautifully designed light fixtures dripping with unpretentious crystals that sat over the booths and hung from the ceilings. At the back wall, there was a showstopper of a bar with beveled mirrors. And lining the other walls, semicircle booths upholstered in the deepest burgundy velvet.
It was an opulent but nevertheless relaxed and comfortable atmosphere where Doms could scrutinize and select which specimen suited their fancy.
Now, behind the doors leading off the hunting ground, the experience Aryas wished to provide (and succeeded in doing so) was a different story entirely.
Therefore, Trey was in a nice pair of dark slacks and a tailored shirt in light blue. His shock of thick ginger-blond hair was tamed. Amélie couldn't see his shoes, but they were no doubt polished to perfection ... and not by Trey.
He looked, as did Mirabelle and Amélie, as if they were out on the town at a fashionable watering hole having a cocktail before they were going to go out and drop five hundred dollars on a meal.
Regardless if the rules of circumspection in the hunting ground where adhered to, even there the rules of play were never to be ignored.
In this vein, when Trey felt Amélie's attention, he did not lift his eyes to hers as he said, "Good evening, Mistress Amélie."
"Trey," she murmured, her gaze moving to her friend.
"Mistress Mirabelle, it would be my pleasure to get you a drink," she heard Trey say.
"Vodka, rocks, my lovely," Mirabelle replied, her eyes on Amélie. She tipped her head to the side. "Would you like Trey to get you a fresh drink?"
"Thank you, darling, I'm fine."
Mirabelle nodded to Amélie. Given his unspoken order, Trey moved toward the bar.
He shifted away walking backward for a few steps so as not to show his Mistress disrespect by giving her his back, but as Mira's attention was on Amélie, he eventually turned toward the bar.
When he was well away, Mirabelle's attention turned to her toy.
Part of Amélie's allure to a sub being that it was known widely in their circles that she'd gone above and beyond the traditional training, including painstaking hours manipulating devices, flogs, paddles, cats, switches, crops, straps, and so on, Amélie had also perfected the art that was, in her opinion, the single most crucial skill a Mistress or Master could hold.
Excerpted from The Deep End by Kristen Ashley. Copyright © 2017 Kristen Ashley. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
One: There Could Only Be One,
Three: Black Box,
Four: Lost and Never Found,
Six: Miracle of Miracles,
Seven: Too Delicious to Be Real,
Eight: Soixante Quinze,
Ten: Clawing Right Under His Skin,
Twelve: Lipsticked Lips,
Thirteen: Took Us Deep,
Fifteen: Flawed Perfection,
Sixteen: Dream Come True,
Seventeen: Remained Standing,
Eighteen: Bitch of a Mistress,
Nineteen: Make It All Okay,
Twenty: I May Already Have Landed,
Epilogue: The Tangle That Was Them,
Preview: The Farthest Edge,
Praise for Kristen Ashley,
About the Author,