Ever since he’d been unceremoniously dumped on his ass three years ago, Logan Powell had done the world a favor by avoiding the fairer sex. Women had very real needs, emotional as well as physical. They deserved to be involved with someone who was a better person than he was.
So what the hell was he doing at a BDSM play party in the dungeon of his friend’s home, staring at the petite blonde on the other side of the room?
It wasn’t just her strong, athletic build that attracted him, but also the short spiky hair, fuck-me boots, tight black T-shirt and skimpy leather skirt. What did him in, though, was the way she tugged on the hem of her skirt in a betrayal of nerves.
He propped a foot against the wall behind him and watched her fidget as he considered his next move. It had been months since he’d scened. And on the rare occasions when he did play, he preferred to engage with experienced submissives. If his tingling detective senses were anything to go by, the woman in question had never been dominated.
He shouldn’t ache to be the one to give her the first taste of the exquisite pleasure that came from submitting. Shouldn’t. But he did.
Joe Montrose, the house’s owner and tonight’s host, walked over and stood next to Logan. “Jennifer…” Joe said.
“What?” Logan cupped his ear to indicate he was having difficulty hearing over the thundering pulse of a Nine Inch Nails song.
Joe repeated himself. “Her name’s Jennifer Berklee. She works with Noelle. It’s Jennifer’s first time at one of these events.”
“I’m not interested.” Logan shook his head, wondering when he’d become a liar.
“You don’t miss it?”
“Playing with a newbie?” Teaching her about her own responses? Driving her to the edge of distraction, keeping her there, then shoving her over it so he could catch her and care for her? “No.”
“Not at all?”
Despite himself, Logan watched as Jennifer squared her shoulders and moved toward Simon, a Dom who regularly attended a number of events in the area. Her hips swayed alluringly and Logan adored the way she all but strutted in those booted heels. For a stupid, but thankfully brief, second he wished she was walking in his direction. “Is Simon still looking for someone to collar?” Simple Simon, as Logan thought of him, though it probably wasn’t a fair nickname. But from what Logan had seen, the man had a single approach to women, and a boring one at that. He never seemed to drive a sub to the very edges of endurance and give her amazing completion. The man wasn’t a bad Dom, just an uninspired one.
“Yeah,” Joe replied. “He’s been looking since Lisa ditched him.”
Shouldn’t matter. Nope. Not a bit.
Joe said something that Logan missed. Even though he clearly knew he was being ignored, Joe kept running his mouth. “So, are you?”
Logan dragged his attention away from Jennifer. “Am I what?”
“Coming to Noelle’s surprise birthday party? She’s turning thirty.”
“When is it?”
Logan turned and narrowed his gaze at the man who’d been a friend since basic training. Later, after they’d left the service, they’d returned to the Middle East as civilians. They’d survived two years of skin-searing heat and an explosion in which most of their team had died. Because of what they’d shared and how well they knew each other, Logan knew Joe’s vague answer meant he was hedging. “What date?” Logan frowned at his so-called friend. “Specifically.”
“Ah. February fourteenth.”
Logan scowled. “I fucking hate Valentine’s Day. You know that.” It wasn’t just the cloying expectations but the still-raw memories that he preferred to leave buried. Being among happy, loving couples only made it worse.
“Missing the party will make you a bigger asshole than you already are,” Joe replied cheerfully.
Joe grinned. Not much bothered the man.
In silence, they watched the interplay between Jennifer and Master Simon.
“If you’re interested in playing with her, either Noelle or I can arrange it.” Without waiting for a reply, Joe moved off, leaving Logan in blessed, voyeuristic peace.
Dom and sub spoke for a few moments and eventually Master Simon nodded at the St. Andrew’s cross.
A blaze of unwelcome and unwanted possession arced through Logan as she closed the distance toward the X-shaped BDSM equipment.
As if sensing his attention, she glanced over at him.
He folded his arms across his chest as their gazes locked.
Even across the distance, he saw her shiver.
Smart girl, recognizing the danger he emanated.
After a few seconds, she shook her head and turned away.
Simple Simon took a step in her direction.
Suddenly, Logan realized he did want to be the man behind her, pressing her against the wood, instructing her to lift her arms high so he could affix her wrists to a pair of cuffs.
Instead, another man had that honor.
The man secured her in place and she immediately pulled her right wrist free. If Logan were in charge, he wouldn’t have allowed that to happen. Even if all she wanted was a taste of his dominance, he’d make sure she would never forget the experience.
After putting her wrist back in place, Master Simon rubbed her buttocks through her skirt.
Logan’s cock thickened.
Because he needed human contact to maintain his sanity, he showed up at Joe and Noelle’s events several times a year. While watching others scene interested him, he’d rarely gotten aroused from it.
Then again, he’d rarely had this kind of visceral reaction to a woman.
Master Simon selected a sturdy leather paddle. It wasn’t a bad decision, Logan mused. The toy was intimate, but not overly so. And since her delectable derrière was covered by her skirt, the impact would be minimal. Good choice for a neophyte.
Master Simon gave the sub three swats.
The third made her move her body to one side—something she did easily since her ankles weren’t secured.
That was a mistake Logan wouldn’t have made.
He wanted his subs to feel every damn thing he did to them. He wanted them aware, aroused, interested, committed, and he wanted them to stay in place while it was happening.
Without any change to the rhythm, Master Simon delivered two more swats.
Then the man put down the paddle on a nearby bench, and she freed herself from the restraints.
Logan blinked. Was the scene already over?
Jennifer turned toward Simon, adjusted her skirt, then smiled politely before scurrying up the staircase.
With a curse, Logan pushed away from the wall and followed. If she had scened with him, there would have been no bland, polite smiles afterward. At the very least, he would have talked to her and asked questions instead of allowing her to walk away.
When he found her, she was near the front door, reaching to take her coat from a rack.
“May I?” he asked.
“I…” She dropped her hand and turned toward him before meeting his gaze.
Until they were this close, he hadn’t known her eyes were blue, bright and vibrant.
He wanted to see them widen with shock, darken with desire. “Logan Powell,” he said by way of introduction as he grabbed her coat and held it for her.
“Thank you.” She settled into it, then knotted the belt around her waist as she faced him.
“I watched your scene with Master Simon.”
Her shoulders stiffened.
“You didn’t seem all that into it.”
Her mouth was pressed into a firm line, making him realize he wasn’t any more adept than Simon had been. Bulldozing on, Logan took a business card from his wallet and offered it to her.
She hesitated and he wasn’t sure she’d accept it.
“Feel free to call me if you want to experience a real scene.”
“That felt real to me.” She rubbed her behind.
“Perhaps I’m mistaken,” he allowed. “But it seemed as if you might have wanted something more. BDSM is not just about impact. There’s a mental and emotional component as well. Trust is involved, and so is getting exactly what you’re looking for. I think you know that.”
She glanced at his contact information before taking his card and stuffing it into her pocket.
After saying good night but not responding to his offer, she left, closing the door behind her with a decisive click.
“Your technique’s a little rusty,” Joe observed.
“How long have you been lurking?” Logan pivoted to glare at his friend.
“Lurking? I prefer to think of it as making sure my guests find their way out safely.”
“He’s being nosy,” Noelle said, joining them. She pressed her fingertips to her husband’s forearm.
Logan didn’t miss the sign of deference and affection toward her Dom. Until this moment, he hadn’t envied the pair their hard-won relationship. Tonight, though, he felt a twinge of regret for the choices he’d made.
“I was hoping Jennifer would talk to you,” Noelle said.
“Maybe if Logan had more tact than your average gorilla, he might have had a chance.”
Noelle frowned at Joe.
“She took my card,” Logan said in his own defense. And maybe, maybe, she’d call.
* * * *
“You should call him,” Noelle said.
“Call who?” Jennifer feigned ignorance.
Noelle snagged a garlic bread stick from a basket and wagged it at Jennifer.
“Who are you talking about?” asked Eden, another member of the infamous Carpe Diem Divas.
To avoid the question, Jennifer reached for the bottle of Chianti. She refilled the wineglasses of the other women gathered around her kitchen table. They’d started meeting two years ago when they’d all been going through relationship challenges. They’d decided to seize life, no matter what it tossed at them. Over a pitcher of margaritas, the Carpe Diem Divas had been formed. Even though Noelle was now happily married to Joe, she still attended. Jennifer couldn’t blame her. Everyone brought something delicious to eat, and the drinks were always plentiful.
Tonight, they were meeting in her somewhat renovated Highlands bungalow for the first time. To save money, she was doing most of the remodeling herself, which meant some things were almost finished and others were nowhere close, including the dining room walls that were still a shocking shade of canary yellow.
“We’re talking about Logan Powell,” Noelle explained to Eden. “He’s a hunky Dom.” She folded her arms triumphantly. “And he’s interested in Jennifer.”
“What?” Eden demanded, turning to face Jennifer. “Details. Now. All of them.”
Hyperaware that she was the focus of everyone’s attention, she took a sip of wine and stalled. “There’s nothing to tell. Really.”
“Okay,” Eden said, apparently undaunted. “Where did you meet him?”
“At a play party at my house,” Noelle replied.
Jennifer scowled. “Do you mind? What if I wanted it to be a secret?”
“No secrets among friends,” Morgan insisted.
“You went to a party?” Eden prompted. “About time.”
About a year ago, she and a few members of the Carpe Diem Divas had gone to see a movie about BDSM. Of course Jennifer had heard about BDSM, but seeing it played out, larger than life, with one of her favorite actors in the leading role as a Dom, she’d been intrigued. She’d watched, unblinkingly, as the man had removed his shirt and flogged his helpless submissive. She’d imagined herself in the heroine’s role, helpless beneath a man’s sensuous lash.
At a bar afterward, she’d pestered Noelle with dozens of questions. But it had taken Jennifer a number of months to gather the courage to accept an invitation to experience it for herself.
“So,” Eden persisted, “did you play with this Logan guy?”
Jennifer shook her head. “No. With someone else.”
“And what did he do to you?”
“He, um”—she ran her finger over the base of the wineglass—“gave me a few swats.”
“A few swats? Is that all?” Eden demanded.
“What did he use?” Ava asked.
“A paddle,” Jennifer replied.
Noelle sat back, sipping her wine, following the conversation as if it were a tennis match.
“Wait a minute.” Morgan scowled. “You have a thing for floggers.”
Definitely, there were no secrets with this group of friends.
She and Morgan had recently gone shopping for a bachelorette party that Morgan was hosting. They’d ended up at an adult bookstore. And, encouraging each other, they’d slipped through the curtain that hid the shop’s dungeon area. Maybe because of the movie, she hadn’t been able to get the idea of floggers out of her mind. Fortified by the mojito she’d had at dinner, she’d allowed the sales guy to show her the expensive leather pieces. Morgan had encouraged her to buy one. Before the end of the night, she was the owner of a flogger—still unused—that had cost her half a paycheck.
“Back to the story.” Eden leaned forward. “What kind of paddle was it? A wooden one like in the movie?”
“It was leather.”
“How did it feel?” Ava asked.
Jennifer wrinkled her nose.
“You didn’t like it?” Eden demanded.
“It was a bit disappointing. I was dressed, so…” She shrugged. “I didn’t really feel much.”
“That’s why you should call Logan,” Noelle said triumphantly, joining the conversation. “He’d give you a paddling you’ll never forget. Better yet, a flogging.”
Jennifer squirmed and a flush crept up her cheeks.
“You have been thinking about him.” Noelle narrowed her eyes.
All week. Jennifer had remembered the way Logan had held her coat and the way he’d skimmed his strong hands across her shoulders. He’d ignited her nerve endings along with her imagination. But there had been something about him, his implacable tone and the way he’d looked at her. He’d regarded her intently, and his jade-colored eyes had unnerved her. It was as though he’d seen beyond the surface and wanted more. “He’s not my type.” She hoped to convince herself along with her friend.
“Why not?” Noelle demanded.
“He looks…” She paused then settled for, “Too dangerous.” Too masculine. Too broad. Too big. Too handsome. Too focused.
“His scar’s sexy,” Noelle said.
“Scar?” Eden looked between the two of them. “What kind of scar?”
“A jagged one. It runs from the corner of his eye up into his hairline,” Noelle replied for her. “When I asked him about it one time, he changed the subject. And Joe told me to leave it alone. I know Logan is a detective of some sort, but I don’t think it’s for a police department. It could be his own company.” She shrugged. “All Joe will tell me about Logan’s past is that the two of them were in the Middle East a number of years ago. They were there as civilian contractors. I think maybe they’d both served tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan when they were in the service, so going back made sense to them.” She shrugged. “I don’t know if that’s where the scar happened, but that’s my guess.”
Ava shivered dramatically. “Logan sounds yummy.”
“He is.” Jennifer had noticed him the moment he’d entered the basement, and her core temperature had shot up. And that sexy scar had continually drawn her attention, despite her intention not to stare.
When she’d gone home after the party, she’d masturbated. But instead of remembering the paddling, she’d imagined that Logan had been standing behind her. Rather than swatting her through the skirt, she’d fantasized that he’d bared her skin and given her hard, deliberate smacks.
But now… The image of him wielding a flogger was all but etched in her mind.
“Why don’t you call him? You should.” Eden asked, “Do you have his number?”
Her blood went sluggish. “Because I’m a coward.”
“No, you’re not,” Ava countered. “You did go to the party after all.”
Jennifer appreciated her friend’s loyalty.
“Come on. Here’s your chance to live a little,” Noelle said.
Until recently, Jennifer had always done the right thing. In school, she’d worked hard so she could get into the college her parents had selected for her. She’d graduated near the top of her class, become a CPA, and joined her father’s firm, exactly as expected. Even so, she was still figuring out what she wanted.
“He’s trustworthy,” Noelle went on. “Joe considers him a friend. He doesn’t say that about many people. Very few, in fact. And…” She reached for her glass and trailed off mysteriously.
Jennifer didn’t want to be intrigued. But damn it, she leaned forward with interest.
Noelle glanced around, heightening the tension. “I’ve spoken to a couple of the subs he’s played with…”
“Quit teasing and tell us,” Eden begged.
“They say he’s an exceptional Dom. Unrelenting, demanding, but patient.”
Ava and Morgan fanned themselves. Jennifer was suddenly tempted to do the same.
“As good as the guy in the movie?” Morgan leaned forward.
“Better,” Noelle said.
“No way,” Ava protested.
“You could do worse,” Noelle finished, leveling a look at Jennifer.
“You can’t let What’s-His-Face fuck up your whole life,” Eden added unhelpfully.
“Brett,” Jennifer supplied. “His name was—is—Brett.” Not that Eden had forgotten.
“I think you should let this Logan guy flog you,” Ava said.
“Master Logan,” Noelle corrected.
Jennifer met her friend’s gaze.
“Well, if he were swinging a flogger at my naked body, I’d call him Master Logan,” Noelle clarified.
Jennifer tried to shove that image from her mind. But it wouldn’t budge.
After they’d shared a few giggles, the conversation moved on, thankfully away from her and a fictional scene with Logan.
Ava mentioned the new guy who’d been hired at her firm. She said he dressed in suits and seemed aloof. But she’d seen him last weekend while running in Washington Park. Since it had been unseasonably warm, he’d been in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and she’d noticed he had a tattoo. It seemed that Mr. Professional had an intriguing side.
“Did you talk to him?” Eden asked. “Maybe trip him?”
Ava shook her head and finished her wine.
“You should go for it,” Noelle encouraged. “Ask him to coffee or something. What can it hurt?”
Though she tried to participate in the conversation and nodded at what she hoped were appropriate intervals, Jennifer was otherwise occupied with the tantalizing fantasy that Logan might demand she call him Master…
Even after her guests had left, the thought remained. More than ever, she wished she had been brave enough to take Logan up on his offer at Noelle’s party.
She retrieved his business card from her coat pocket where it had rested, undisturbed, for a week.
It didn’t reveal much. His name. Office number. An email address from a service that half the country seemed to use.
There was no occupation listed, no company name, no cell phone number.
She traced his name, and a dragon seemed to roar to life in her stomach. It wasn’t butterflies, but something fire-breathing, threatening to consume her.
As much as she wanted to have the courage to dial his number, she didn’t.
She dropped the card back into the pocket. Then she told herself that she’d run into him again in the future. If he offered to scene again, she’d accept his offer. She wouldn’t be a coward twice. After all, Noelle had said he was a good Dom. And that made him a safe choice.
A chill skated up her spine and caused a cold feeling to seep into her head.
There was no way Logan Powell—Master Logan—was safe, no matter what she told herself.
But that realization didn’t stop her from walking into her closet and taking her flogger from its hook.
She traced one of the strands. The leather was firm and thick.
For a frightening, dizzying second, she pictured the handle in Logan’s hand as he took a purposeful step toward her.