Amara entered the club and fought the sudden urge to flee. It had been eighteen months since she’d stepped foot inside Haven, Perth’s most exclusive BDSM club, and so much had changed in that time. This used to be her safe haven, the one place she never had to hide her true self. Where she could let go of her control issues and let her submissive side come out to play. Now, it was a strange place. It was somehow more daunting. She didn’t belong here anymore.
With her best friend by her side, she signed in as a guest and handed over her completed waiver and membership forms. The dim lighting from chandeliers and wall sconces cast red and gold glows around the main room. The only well-lit section was around the bar. Everything spoke of darkness, pleasure and sex—the wooden flooring, darkly painted walls, exposed beams that held an assortment of chandeliers.
There was no artwork on the walls anymore. Instead, they were decorated with an array of toys free for anyone to use. Even the position of the bar had changed. Now set against the far-left wall, the oblong wooden bar top sat as a feature of the room. Chains hung from the top beams and deeply set metal links were inserted into the wooden top. Perfect for naughty little submissives, she thought.
A dance floor took up a small portion of the converted warehouse, and the rest of it was taken up by an array of black and brown lounges, armchairs and small tables. But there was plenty of empty space for play, for submissives to be splayed out as tables, as one man currently was. A Domme sat on a black leather lounge and had her boot-covered feet resting on his back. The look on the man’s face, that smile of pleasure and desire as he looked straight ahead while his Domme spoke to him… Amara knew that feeling well and missed it deeply. It filled her with envy.
The familiar scents of leather mixed with sweat and sex invaded her nose as she inhaled deeply. The sounds of leather slapping flesh, bare hands smacking arses and cries of pain and pleasure were comforting. It had been far too long since she’d been involved in any of this. Despite her good reasons, she mentally kicked herself for taking such a long break. The atmosphere of the club called to her. She’d missed this, needed this. When she’d frequented it previously, it had still been a public club. Now, under new ownership, it was private and exclusive. She’d been lucky to get access to a temporary membership. If she hadn’t been helping with a demonstration, she wouldn’t be here at all.
A hand touched her back and guided her towards the bar. Her friend Larissa gestured for her to take a seat on a red leather-covered stool and took a seat beside her.
“Haven looks so different now,” Amara said as she looked around.
“Yeah, the new owner did a complete renovation before he opened it up. He’s always changing things around, though,” Larissa said.
“You’ll have to introduce me so I can thank him for allowing me in.”
“I can’t believe he gave you a month-long pass. Good thing we vouched for you, isn’t it?”
Amara regarded her friend with a small smile, despite the sadness and anxiety that filled her. “Too bad I won’t be using it other than tonight.”
No matter how badly she wanted to, she wouldn’t be returning. She simply didn’t have the time. She was a twenty-eight-year-old woman with almost no social life. And wasn’t that just a little depressing?
“You will be coming back next week. You promised me.” Larissa’s stern expression told her there would be no give on her promise.
“Fine, I’ll come back next week. But after that, you know I can’t.”
“I know why you say you can’t. I’m sure you could work something out.”
Amara accepted her drink from the bartender, thankful for the interruption. She didn’t want to talk. Not tonight. Tonight was about her dipping her toes back into the old lifestyle she’d loved so much to see if there was still a spark there. Not that she expected to play with anyone tonight. Now that she looked around to see all the other women nearby, she realised it definitely wouldn’t be happening. They all held such confidence, self-assurance. Two things she was now severely lacking.
What had happened to her? She used to saunter around confidently, knowing how to turn on her sexual appeal like a switch. Once upon a time she would have shown up in a latex skirt and a tight corset, sexy as hell. Now, she wore a multicoloured pleated skirt that was too short for her comfort and a tight black top that showcased her large breasts and veered attention away from everything else. She’d gained weight and had more fat rolls than she used to, bigger curves than she was comfortable with. In some spots, she was just plain round. She used to love her curves, the roundness of her belly, the mounds of her breasts, the softness of her thighs, but now… Now it was all too much.
“Stop fidgeting,” Larissa scolded her, slapping her hand gently. “You look great.”
Amara hadn’t realised she was pulling at the hem of her skirt, trying to cover her thunder thighs that peeked out below the pleated fabric. Taking a sip of her soda, she clasped the glass in both hands and held it in her lap.
“I can’t believe I let your husband talk me into this,” she mumbled.
“You’re doing him a big favour. The other sub pulled out and he needed someone with big boobs to model for him. You have amazing breasts,” she told Amara in a matter-of-fact tone. “You’re really helping him out.”
Larissa’s husband, Agin, was one of the Masters of Haven. A select few Dominants were voted in as Masters and Mistresses by the members. As a result, they were called upon to conduct demonstrations and help out with mentoring newer Dominants, as well as helping submissives by negotiating scenes for them.
Back when Amara had frequented Haven, there had been none of that. It was a public club with professional bouncers as well as experienced Dominants doing dungeon monitor duty. Now it was all done in-house. Even the bartenders and attendants were club members who got discounted rates on their memberships in return for their work. Perhaps that was how Amara could become a full member. Larissa had suggested it to her on the drive over. She could wait tables and serve drinks. It would be a great way to get to know people, too.
Shaking her head, she wiped her mind of that thought. She wouldn’t be joining. Other than the fact that she could never afford the dues, she wouldn’t be able to commit to it. A wave of anxiety washed over her, cooling her skin as her palms began to sweat. Tonight, she was going to be a model for Agin for his rope demonstration. A very talented rigger, he’d called on her before for practice when he needed a body type different from his petite wife’s.
Tonight, she would be half naked in front of a room full of strangers, on display, wrapped up in rope. Previously, she’d been a total rope bunny but had never managed to find a rigger of her own. She could do without it, though, and leave it as a special treat to indulge in once in a while. What she really desired—needed—was submission and masochism. Those two parts of her she would never be able to ignore. In not playing for so long, she felt like she’d lost a part of herself.
Oh God, I can’t do this.
She gulped her drink nervously and began to fidget again.
“Don’t even think about backing out,” Larissa warned. “Agin needs you tonight. He chose you because your body is perfect. He chose a specific design just for you.”
“I’m just so nervous.” So nervous she wanted to burst into tears.
Fuck, what had happened to her? When had she become so beaten down, so pathetic?
“You have nothing to be nervous about. The demonstration isn’t until later. For now, we’ll just sit here and relax. After the demo, if you want to play, you can play. If you want to leave, you can leave. No pressure.”
“I shouldn’t have come so early. All it’s doing is making me more anxious.”
“It’s good for you to get out of the house for the night. Belle will be here soon, and it’ll be just like old times.”
Amara forced a smile. The trio of them had always hung out here. Just three little submissives looking to get into trouble.
“You’ll have to look upstairs while you’re here. They’re private rooms now and they’re all themed. Grayson does an amazing job. He’s always changing things around, so it never gets stale.”
“I assume that’s the owner.”
“Yeah, you’ll meet him later. He attends all the demonstrations. He’s very hands-on.”
“It has a different vibe, too. Or maybe it’s just me,” she admitted sadly.
“Hey, none of that.” Her friend rested a hand on her bare knee. “Tonight, you are just like the old Amara. Confident, vibrant, sexy as hell and open to anything. Once the Dominants see you all roped up, you’re going to stand out like a beacon and be fending off their offers.”
Amara let out a laugh that was far too bitter. She definitely didn’t hold her friend’s confidence. Larissa scanned the room, clearly looking for her husband. Larissa and Agin had the sort of relationship Amara had always dreamt of. The Dom and sub had met in this very club a couple of years earlier and had been inseparable ever since. Amara remembered the night they had met. The look on Larissa’s face when he asked her to scene with him. The happiness and contentment that had glowed from her afterwards. She knew, right then, that her friend was a goner.
On cue, Agin approached, tall, broad-shouldered and intimidating as hell in all black. He enclosed her nape with one hand and the other woman shivered in response, a big smile spreading across her face as she looked up to him. Bending, he kissed her long and hard. Amara averted her gaze and tried to ignore the pang of envy that shot through her chest.
“There’s my girl,” Agin said, a hint of an accent still evident even though he’d been living in Australia for twenty years. “Amara, you look divine.”
Amara couldn’t help but blush. Agin always complimented her. And he never lied. He really did see her as an attractive woman, even if she didn’t believe it herself. The fact that the man was a Dom just made her happier. Maybe someone else tonight would see her as attractive. Maybe she would get lucky.
“Thanks. It’s been so long since I wore nice clothes, I wasn’t sure what would still fit me.”
“Well, you definitely chose well. It’s nice to see you wearing something other than a T-shirt and jeans,” he teased.
“Hey, some men like the casual look.” Not that she’d experienced it herself.
His eyes darkened as he regarded her. “But all men appreciate when a woman shows off her body, especially one like yours.”
Anywhere else, she would have called him a perv and hit him. But not here, not in Haven. She was very aware that he was a Dominant, a well-respected one at that. Here, she showed him the same respect she would show any other Dominant.
“The showcase isn’t until eleven and I’m on dungeon monitor duty until then.”
That explained why he was wearing a silver-trimmed leather vest along with his silver wristband that showed he was a Master.
“Amara, if you need anything before then, you come and find me. If a Dominant wants to scene with you, I will help you negotiate. You are here under my protection tonight. You are not to play without my knowing.”
“You, wife.” He looked down at Larissa with nothing but desire and ownership. “You are to stay in the submissive area until I retrieve you.”
At Amara’s confused expression, Larissa pointed to an area on the opposite side of the large room where a cluster of men and women were gathered, some cuffed, like Larissa, or collared—the taken submissives—and others bare of such garments—the available submissives.
“Now, get your arses over there before I spank them,” Agin said with a smile and patted his wife on the butt.
“I love you, Sir,” Larissa said as she stood.
Her husband shot her a wicked smile. “Don’t tempt me to shirk my responsibilities, woman.”
He gave her one more kiss before leaving to patrol the room. When inside the club, Agin was very much the powerful Dom. Although friendly with everyone, he had an aura about him that wasn’t approachable, not to a submissive at least. It had taken Amara months to become comfortable speaking freely with him in a lifestyle situation. It still amused her because outside of the BDSM environment, he was incredibly approachable. The two sides of his personality were like chalk and cheese.
Amara grabbed a Pepsi Max and met Larissa in the submissive area, the two of them sitting on a two-seater red leather lounge. She suddenly felt like a tiny mouse cornered by a starving alley cat. A couple of Doms walked by, assessed the two of them, gave them both pleased smiles and moved on. Amara had forgotten how difficult this part of the night could be. Sitting alone, waiting for a man or woman to approach her, never knowing if she would be propositioned or overlooked. It was damn nerve-wracking. Right now, she hated it. Putting up her barriers, she steeled herself and set her attention on her friend, not on the strangers walking by.
A little while later, their friend Belle approached, walking by a couple of men who all but leered at her as she strode by. The woman was a freaking Amazon—with light-brown skin and dark eyes, she was tall, curvy in all the right places, while remaining muscular and toned yet somehow still soft. Her black hair was placed in a series of elaborate braids before culminating in a high ponytail. She was always dressed to impress and tonight was no exception. She wore a black latex skirt, a black corset and sky-high fuck-me heels. The woman was a true picture of beauty. But it was her smile that always caught Amara’s attention. Before they were friends, Amara had been attracted to her. But she had quickly friend-zoned Belle and they had been inseparable ever since.
“Hey, ladies.” She greeted them each with a kiss before sitting on a chair beside them. “When did you get here?”
“About half an hour ago,” Amara said. “I thought you’d be off playing with your new friend.”
“Ayden’s not here yet. Just wait till you see him, Amara. The guy is built, everywhere.”
“And I’m sure he’d appreciate us knowing all about it,” Larissa added with a laugh.
Belle stuck to strictly physical relationships with men. In the five years Amara had known her, she’d only had one relationship. She had strictly D/s relationships and even they didn’t last long.
“He likes his public play. You might see it all later,” Belle added with a wink.
Amara laughed. Belle had come a long way from the little newbie who was terrified to embrace her submissive side. Now, she was one of the most confident women around.
“What time does Agin need us?”
“Not until eleven.”
“You’re a free agent until then,” Belle told Amara with a knowing smile. “How about we go do a lap?”
“I’m not sure I can play tonight.”
“Come on. Last week you were all excited about the prospect. What changed?”
“I showed up and was reminded just how much I’ve changed since I was here last.”
Just how much her body had changed. God, even her attitude sucked now. She should have been here just having fun with her friends, enjoying a night out. Instead, all she could think about were the negatives. When the fuck had she become such a pessimist? She’d always been such a positive person.
“The longer I’m here, the worse I feel about myself. Look at these women. They’re all so beautiful. And I’m just a fat, frumpy mess.”
“You’re being ridiculous.” Belle grabbed her hand and stood, not giving her a chance to say no. “Come on, let’s go.”
Amara followed her friend through the club, Belle catching stares from just about every unattached Dominant in the place. A few men approached her, completely ignoring Amara’s presence. That made Amara feel even shittier than she already did. The lump building in her throat threatened to cut off her air. Tears burned her eyes as she forcefully blinked them away. Belle rejected one more Dom as they made their way towards the back of the club.
“I thought you and Ayden weren’t exclusive,” Amara said, after pointing out she had rejected all the other Doms.
“We’re not, but I don’t feel like meeting anyone new tonight. Not when I’ve planned a scene with him.”
“So, it’s okay for you to reject the idea of a scene, but not me. You hypocrite.”
“I haven’t been out of the game for a year and a half. You have.” Belle nudged her as they turned to head back towards the submissive area. “You need to get back on the horse, so to speak.”
“You know I don’t have the time to see anyone.”
She barely had any time to herself at all. She definitely didn’t have the time to date or sleep with anyone on a regular basis. Belle gave her a sad smile and wrapped her arm around her shoulder briefly in a comforting manner.
“I know you don’t, sweetie. But I see life passing you by and I absolutely hate it. A couple of years ago you would have been all over this place. You would have put yourself out there. Now, you won’t even look anyone in the eye.”
Amara had no comeback because it was true. She was different now. Life had changed her. And not for the better.
“Well, looks like you’ve caught someone’s attention.”
Following Belle’s eyeline, Amara saw Eddie, a man who had topped her for a few months before everything went to hell. As handsome as ever, he flashed her a grin and headed towards her. His muscular legs powered his long strides and his broad shoulders were encased by a black silk shirt. Amara remembered exactly how his body looked beneath all that clothing, how his flesh felt against hers, his body overpowering her as he gave her the best orgasms of her life. They hadn’t seen each other for long before she broke it off, but the man held promise to be a permanent Dom, maybe more. He had always made her feel so utterly feminine and that wasn’t something she experienced on a daily basis.
“Well, if it isn’t little Amara.” His voice was as smooth as ever. Bending, he kissed her cheek, his dark hair brushing her temple. “I didn’t expect to see you here tonight.”
“How have you been?”
“Well.” He looked her up and down, his gaze pure sex. “You look amazing.”
Amara frowned at his lie. She looked far from amazing. But the look in his eyes told her that was exactly how he saw her. He’d never been one to mince his words.
“Thank you.” She forced a smile.
Belle had scooted off to the side to converse with a Domme, watching Amara from the corner of her eye. She’d never been a subtle person but her hand gesture made Amara laugh.
“What have you been up to?”
“Not much. I’ve been really busy with work.”
Good, Amara, that’s not technically a lie.
“How have you been?”
“Great. I actually met someone not long after we split.” He looked over her shoulder. “Here she is now.”
A short, curvy brunette approached, a collar around her throat, the look of a thoroughly loved submissive spread across her features. She tucked herself under his open arm and gave Amara an assessing gaze.
“Amara, this is Cynthia. Pet, this is my old friend, Amara.”
The woman offered her a smile and nodded slightly, obviously not having permission to speak. Amara smiled at the other woman, then Eddie.
“Well, it was good seeing you again.”
“Yeah. You too.” His gaze ran over her one last time. “If you’re interested in playing tonight, come and find me. I’ve missed that hot little body of yours.”
Amara opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. She certainly hadn’t expected that from him. Not when he had a sub of his own. Then again, Eddie had always been partial to threesomes with two women. Fond memories of the two of them playing with another female submissive ran through her mind for a moment. Yeah, they’d definitely had a lot of fun together. With a cocky chuckle, he ran a finger down her cheek before leaving with his submissive. God damn, the man was still as sexy as ever. And he’d just made her feel better about herself than she had in a very long time.
Belle stepped back to her side, a grin on her face.
“What are you waiting for? Go scene with him.”
As hot and dominant as Eddie was, he hadn’t incited that tingle in her. Not like he used to. His touch had done nothing for her, his words nothing more than mere flattery. There was nothing inside her but a cold emptiness. Maybe she was broken.