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Copyright © 2011 Jayne Rylon
The crack of the whip rent the air. Strips of oiled leather painted bright crimson streaks across pale skin. Shock waves originated from the impact site then radiated through the rapt audience. Jeremy wouldn’t have been surprised if the wooden bleachers they sat on tipped over since nearly all the members in attendance leaned forward in their seats. Relaxed, he reclined, slowly spinning the stem of his wineglass between his fingers.
He closed his eyes.
Not to avoid the scene before him. Rather to savor the crisp whistle of the expertly wielded tool. It sounded again and again. Pregnant anticipation overflowed the instant before the braided cat-o’-nine connected with its target—a fit male slave’s taut buttocks. Even Jeremy could appreciate the man’s form, as if he were a marble statue in the Smithsonian.
Except this art lived. It breathed, groaned and…screamed.
The slave on the receiving end of Mistress Lily’s strike jerked in the wide leather cuffs shackling him, spread eagle, facing the dungeon wall. His fists clenched, and his toes curled where they hung six inches or so off the concrete floor. The man tolerated pain well. He responded beautifully, evidence of the quality of his training.
Another precisely placed contact blasted the audience with reverberations of the energy sparking between the slave and his Mistress. The woman—so tiny, so elegant, so gorgeous and so damn strong—could deliver extreme punishment and still seem like an avenging angel or a violent fairy. She overwhelmed Jeremy with admiration. And lust.
The only thing better than observing her work would be to have her at his mercy.
He placed his drink on a silver tray beside his premium seat, which she had reserved at his last-minute request. Suddenly, he feared he’d grip the delicate crystal goblet too tightly and crush the dazzling vessel. A true Master understood his strength and protected the things he valued at all times. At all costs. Even if it meant denying himself something he’d like—no, needed—to have.
With his free hand, he adjusted himself. One thought of Lily ruined his ironclad control. Yet another reason he should leave her the hell alone.
Three months had passed since he’d cornered the manager of Black Lily, an underground bondage club. He chuckled to himself. The fetish label seemed frivolous, fun and light compared to all that had gone on there. Jeremy recalled trapping Lily in her office to probe for information on his last—current, really—case.
He’d stolen a taste of her succulent lips while they’d wrestled for dominance.
Witnesses to her skills would have laughed him out of the dungeon if he expressed his suspicions, but he swore he’d sensed a hairline crack in her armor. That miniscule hint of surrender had driven his imagination mad every night since. He’d replayed the encounter in his mind so many times he might have worn out those brain cells.
Tonight he didn’t have to rely on the vivid memory. Despite explicit orders from his boss—the head of the DEA task force tracking The Scientist and his designer drug—to avoid Lily’s domain, he hadn’t been able to comply with the directive. He’d sat on his hands long enough. Twelve weeks worth of idleness had compelled him to take a risk when he’d caught wind of tonight’s extravaganza in Lily’s honor.
He wouldn’t miss her going away party.
Where did she plan to run to anyway? When would she come home?
Something was happening. He could sense it in every fiber of his being. So why hadn’t she reached out? She wouldn’t disappear without warning. Wouldn’t abandon the legitimate submissives who begged for her mastery and relied on her to provide a safe outlet for their desires. Would she?
All attempts to contact her had failed. She’d obviously received his veiled messages and saved him a spot. Still, she hadn’t had the guts to pick up his call or accost him in one of the shadowy recesses he’d lurked in before the show began. Had she lingered nearby, had the roles been reversed, he couldn’t have prevented himself from initiating contact.
Despite his frustration, he appraised the star of his fantasies. Her waist-length braid would make a great tether, wrapped around his wrist. Thick and shiny, it snaked down her vinyl-coated spine. The rope tapered off near the swell of her pert ass, which made his palm itch to smack it. He’d give his last month’s pay to observe it jiggle and flush red. Spanking her—inspiring a sting across his skin even as he shared the burn—ranked high on his bucket list.
High-gloss, obsidian fabric might as well have been painted onto her skin. It couldn’t get more form fitting. Every curve of her toned calves and thighs along with her lush hips and breasts tantalized him—visible yet hidden. Catwoman couldn’t hold a flame to her.
His obsession released her prey temporarily, enlisting the help of two additional slaves to reposition the focus of her attention. Her devotees scrambled to obey. If they behaved, exceeding her lofty expectations, they might be next. This could be their last chance to suffer for her. To shine for her. The beauty of the voluntary power exchange playing out before him stole his breath.
It’d been so long.
The glorious oblation of her admirers underscored the horror wrought by those who would pervert the sacred relationship, forcing others to submit. As had happened here so recently. Hell, maybe still did in the unmonitored corners of the dungeon.
Had Lily decided to abandon her haven because evil continued to infiltrate the club?
Why wouldn’t his superiors turn him loose? Let him help.
Maybe they figured he’d be recognized. After all, he had assisted Lily in freeing the victims of her psychotic, drug-addicted father and the chemical for which the asshole had sacrificed his life.
Jeremy doubted he would ever enter this place without remembering the day he’d stood by Lily’s side as she personally apologized to each woman she’d unshackled and escorted to safety. He’d tried to comfort her silent anguish and convince her the victims’ misery hadn’t been her fault.
Yet, the Dom in him understood the burden of her suffering. The injury, or worse, of a submissive entrusted to your care and protection left a soul-deep scar that never healed.
He carried one of his own.
Jeremy resisted the urge to scratch the new growth prickling his jaw and cheeks when a sheen of perspiration developed on his skin. The neat beard suited him surprisingly well, considering he’d never worn one before. It rocketed him from geeky computer detective to badass Master. Then again, his leather pants, shiny black boots and bare, ripped chest—which revealed the barbells in his nipples and the string of tattoos low on his abdomen—didn’t hurt either.
For once, his appearance matched his soul. None of the potential enemies in attendance would suspect his affiliation with law enforcement or worry about him infiltrating their inner sanctum. At least he had to believe so. Otherwise, his presence might jeopardize Lily.