Anwyn stood in the security room, her eyes trained on the
surveillance screen for the Queenâ€™s Chamber. With the high
canopy bed, lush draperies, and polished restraint systems,
it was one of her favorite rooms. The stainless steel and
gleaming wood instruments of pleasure and torture had been
rendered by quality craftspeople. Sheâ€™d spent a lot of time
designing it, her own private fantasy room in a club
dedicated to fantasy. In some ways, she considered it hers,
though she took very few sessions herself anymore.
Running any business consumed a great deal of time, and
Club Atlantis more than most. An exclusive BDSM club,
Atlantis dared to cater to the most extreme players, the
ones who wanted to step boldly over the lines and fully
immerse themselves in a world few understood, even those who
played at less strenuous levels. Knowing diversity was key
to business success, Anwyn had an upper level for those
softer lifestyle people, as well as the dabblers and thrill
seekers. This was the underground level, its geography
enhancing the psychological impact of what it was about. The
deep core zone.
Though everything that occurred in Atlantis was legal in
the ways that mattered, they had the same philosophy as an
illegal business. The people who came here paid a high price
for the painful pleasures they sought, and therefore they
werenâ€™t interested in lawyers and liability suits. It made
it easier to meet those needs.
Down here, Â people were fully dedicated to hardcore
Domination and submission. They understood that consensual
was a term used by the politically correct. They wanted to
lose themselves in their craving need to dominate or be
dominated, and for those purposes, choice was often a
disruption to the fantasy. Because that was a line that
required careful straddling to make sure everyone stayed
safe, her largest cost was well-trained security outside
each playroom door, and video surveillance of what was
happening inside. The eyes she paid to watch those screens
never wavered, her staff making a play by play judgment as
to where the line was. A private ambulance and an on-staff
medical team were ready to help those who needed it.
At this level, it was about a desired, if temporary,
reality, and she was committed to giving it to her clients.
However, since many personalities were incapable of handling
what they thought they wanted, the vetting process for this
level was strict. She herself personally approved or
rejected all applications after viewing video tape of the
entry interviews. Which was why she was sure none of her
staff understood why sheâ€™d approved Jon Smith. He had every
warning flag that resulted in a rejected application. Â
He was aggressive. Passive, active, and every spot on the
spectrum in between. He was a tiger trapped in a small cage,
almost mad with confinement, though only he could see the
bars. In his interview, he couldnâ€™t define what he wanted,
but he had an obvious, burning need for what they were
offering. Heâ€™d given the name â€śJon Smithâ€ť with an insolent
sneer, daring them to challenge it, even producing a
driverâ€™s license that backed it up, but that didnâ€™t mean she
believed his lying ass for a minute.
He was 120% trouble. Sheâ€™d known it the first time heâ€™d
darkened the clubâ€™s doors in a battered leather jacket,
scuffed boots and faded jeans, those midnight blue eyes
vibrant with a breathtaking energy and passion. Because she
knew only one other with eyes that piercing, sheâ€™d taken a
second look to be sure their new guest was a mortal. He was,
through and through. The badly cut dark hair that fell to
his shoulders tempted touch, enhancing the fact he was all
wild animal, fierce and beautiful and scarred. Most people
dressed up for their sessions in some way. Heâ€™d come as he
was, she was sure of that. Probably his only adjustment was
leaving behind whatever weapons heâ€™d been packing, because
that was one rule the club never bent. There were weapons
here, for controlled use, but that was it. Only the highest
level of her security team, most of whom were ex-military,
ever carried. Â
He was so overwhelmingly alpha sheâ€™d wonderedâ€”and still
didâ€”if he might need a Masterâ€™s hand in addition to a
Mistressâ€™s. But during the entrance interview, heâ€™d reacted
to that as if the interviewer had threatened his testicles
with pruning shears.
â€śNo, I do not want to be ass-fucked by a man.â€ť Heâ€™d
surged out of the chair and loomed over Madelyn, who was
fortunately one of her more unflappable Mistresses. â€śDo I
look like a faggot to you?â€ť
It was a kneejerk hetero reaction, and one Anwyn quickly
dismissed. People in the vanilla world were so caught up in
their categories and labels. What people needed inside these
walls had little to do with their sexual orientation,
politics or gender. They needed to be stripped down to their
souls, in order to find the lost treasure of themselves
again. That was why sheâ€™d named her club Atlantis. That, and
because it had lingered in her own childhood memories, a
young girl who read the legends of the enlightened city,
trying to find her own answers.
Of course his violent reaction was another reason his ass
should have been booted out of here. Sheâ€™d watched his taped
interview, read his terse, uncommunicative responses. James
Watts, the head of her security team, said flatly he was a
risk, that he wouldnâ€™t recommend his admission. Instead,
following her intuition, Anwyn approved his temporary pass
and met with her more experienced Mistresses, several of
whom agreed to take the plunge.
In his first session, he wouldnâ€™t be bound, but he was
okay with pain. He kept goading Madelyn, his assigned
Mistress, asking for higher and higher levels, and as he
did, heâ€™d get more worked up. He never moved to hurt
Madelyn, but when his frustration level got too high, he
destroyed furniture, equipment, got verbally abusive. Then,
contemptuously, as if paying a whore, heâ€™d thrown down a wad
of cash for the repairs and stormed out.
But he came back. Heâ€™d seemed a little surprised that
heâ€™d been let back in, and Anwyn had felt her staffâ€™s
speculative glances when she made the decision. During that
visit, sheâ€™d ordered a camera trained on him, so that later
that night she could watch it. Alone. From beginning to end.
Heâ€™d sat at the bar, watched the public play, but hadnâ€™t
tried for another private session that time. Thereâ€™d been a
female slave bound for a flogging, and the few times his
eyes strayed toward her, his gaze would just as quickly
slide away. Anwyn had a trained ear for the begging note in
a cry of pain, a clue to building desire and pleasure, so
she knew the woman was receiving what she wanted. Though he
apparently recognized it enough not to interfere, his
shoulders had hunched, as if he found it difficult to bear
the womanâ€™s cries.
In contrast, heâ€™d watch the play involving a Mistress
without flinching. When a scourge landed on a bare male back
or buttock, leaving red welts, his fingers would tighten on
his glass. Even through the screen, Anwyn felt his yearning,
a gas fire that threatened to consume. It was too similar to
what she knew and remembered, and she felt oddly stripped as
she looked into his face and saw how lost he truly was, this
feral creature whoâ€™d come to her door, not sure if he wanted
to beg for a bowl of scraps or break in and take whatever he
His next private session had gone no better than the
first. Tara was strong, tall, an almost masculine woman.
Heâ€™d hated her, with a viciousness that had almost come to
blows when sheâ€™d tried to force him to his knees. Taraâ€™s MO
was that she got physical with her clients, and she was
trained for it, a former MP and karate blackbelt. Madelyn
had tried mockery, Tara brute force, and heâ€™d responded to
So tonight, Anwyn had sent in her best psychological
Mistress, Chantal. Sheâ€™d tried clever manipulation and head
games to break him down, and now Anwyn was looking at a
destroyed dresser, a shattered mirror. The rich hangings on
the bed had been ripped down, shredded. Their problem child
sat on the bed, his head in his hands. He hadnâ€™t moved since
Chantal had gone to the door, dropped her persona and told
him in an even tone that the club didnâ€™t have what he was
seeking. Sheâ€™d made the private signal to the camera that
she was done with the session, no intention of returning
after he had a cooling-off period.
â€śHeâ€™s a loss, Anwyn.â€ť James had come in behind her and
now leaned against the wall, his well-developed arms crossed
and brow furrowed, the intent gray eyes as focused as sheâ€™d
expect from a man whoâ€™d spent twenty years working with the
DEA. â€śYouâ€™ve got the best instincts Iâ€™ve seen, but I think
youâ€™re off on this one. Heâ€™s not a psychopath, but heâ€™s too
close to it. Too damaged. Completely unpredictable. We need
to cut him loose. Heâ€™s going to hurt someone.â€ť
â€śI agree with your assessment. But I want to try one more
thing.â€ť Leaning over, she pressed the button to reach the
security guard posted outside the Queenâ€™s Chamber.
â€śEngage the locks on the door, Alan. I want Mr.
Smith to know heâ€™s not free to leave.â€ť
She straightened, glanced at James. â€śIâ€™m going to take
over this session.â€ť
His jaw tightened. â€śI could send in three men to secure
him. Maybe thatâ€™s what he wants. You know weâ€™ve had clients
before who want the forced binding.â€ť
â€śYes, but not him. If we go that route, I think we
will push him over that dangerous edge youâ€™re
concerned about.â€ť She studied Smithâ€™s broad shoulders, the
scarred hands clenched at his neck. â€śHeâ€™s all beast, James.
A male will be a threat to him, only make things worse. Heâ€™s
seeking a womanâ€™s touch, but heâ€™s looking for a specific
woman. One he knows he shouldnâ€™t have, shouldnâ€™t want, but
with every wrong woman weâ€™ve sent him, his need has only
gotten sharper, his self-damnation deeper. The goal is
â€śTo what? Or whom?â€ť
â€śThe only opponent heâ€™s been fighting all along. Himself.
Iâ€™m going to clear the ring so he can go hand-to-hand with
himself. Then maybe heâ€™ll let go.â€ť
James gave her an arch look. â€śI have absolutely no idea
what that means.â€ť
â€śI know.â€ť She smiled at him. â€śItâ€™s a lot like watching
the Dog Whisperer. Cesar canâ€™t always explain what
heâ€™s doing. He just knows, because he feels what the dog
feels. Thatâ€™s something most people donâ€™t get.â€ť Though she
kept the smile on her face, she knew James was sharp enough
to see there was no humor behind it. â€śIn order to understand
a creatureâ€™s pain, you have to step inside him, see through
his eyes. And be strong enough not to feel sorry for him,
teach him how to be a dog again. Live in the moment, because
this moment is all there is.â€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t realize Cesar was Zen,â€ť James muttered.
â€śAll good trainers are, James.â€ť She laughed. â€śFeed that
link to my private changing area, please. I want to watch
him while I get ready.â€ť
â€śSpeaking of animals, youâ€™ve had another alley cat show
up. She looks pregnant. I think theyâ€™re spreading the word
that youâ€™re handing scraps out the kitchen door on the
â€śYou can stop sounding so disapproving. I know you do it,
too.â€ť She gave him an absent smile. â€śWeâ€™ll have to catch
her, get her spayed. Maybe sheâ€™ll be more tameable than the
others so far.â€ť
â€śIf anyone can do it, it would be you. Just be careful,â€ť
he advised, nodding toward the screen, telling her he was
referencing Gideon, not her assortment of alley cats. â€śI
know who will have my ass if someone hurts you. As scary as
this son of a bitch isâ€ťâ€”he dropped his voice so only she
could hear himâ€”â€śIâ€™d rather deal with ten of him than a tenth
James, you donâ€™t know the half of it. â€śI run
this club,â€ť she said crisply, snapping his spine straight at
the reminder of who paid his check. â€śIf I get hurt, he will
take that up with me.â€ť
The security chief held his tongue until sheâ€™d left the
room, but then he grimaced, attracting a curious look from
the two security techs monitoring the screens. â€śYeah,
right,â€ť he muttered. If something happened to the remarkable
Mistress Anwyn Inara Naime, Daegan Rei would make everyone
within these walls responsible. Thereâ€™d be hell to pay.
James returned his attention to the Queenâ€™s Chamber.
You hurt her, buddy, your personal demons will look like
Disneyland characters next to what will come after you. You
better hope sheâ€™s right.
* * * * *
Okay, so maybe this time heâ€™d really pissed someone off.
They probably wanted him to stew until some stuffy club
owner in a suit gave him a strong talking-to about his bad
behavior. Delivered the official word that they didnâ€™t want
him here again or theyâ€™d call the cops. Or hell, maybe
theyâ€™d actually called the cops. Somehow Gideon doubted this
place handled its problems with official law enforcement,
though. Most of their security team looked like Rangers or
He wasnâ€™t particularly concerned by a locked door, but
the fact he wanted to leave and it was locked irritated him.
That irritation continued to grow. He knew he was under
video surveillance, so heâ€™d prowled about some, kicked a
prissy-looking vanity stool across the floor so that it made
a satisfying dent in the velvet wallpaper. Queenâ€™s Chamber.
He hadnâ€™t seen a queen grace it with her presence yet. Maybe
some ladies-in-waiting. Pretentious bullshit, but heâ€™d liked
the room. Thatâ€™s why heâ€™d destroyed it.
â€śAll right,â€ť he snapped. â€śI get it. You want me to leave
and not come back. I donâ€™t need your lectures. You know I
have the money to cover it. Just let me the hell out of here
and Iâ€™ll go. Throw a bottle of Jack on the tab.â€ť
Another long, ten minute silence. Fuck it. He was going
to take down the door. Heâ€™d had enough.
Just as he was determining which of his picks he was
going to use, or if it might be just as satisfying to rip it
off its fucking hinges, the locks snicked back, and the
doorknob turned. When the door swung inward, he curled a
lip, ready to leap and snarl at whatever inferior being came
Instead, he went still.
Though heâ€™d scoffed at their efforts, heâ€™d recognized
that the three Mistresses theyâ€™d sent had been formidable in
certain ways. The first, the one whoâ€™d conducted his
application interview, had been older, stout and more
experienced, with a superior rack. Beautiful, full tits just
begging for a manâ€™s adoration. Then thereâ€™d been the Amazon
with the martial arts moves, kind of a tall and better cut
Lara Croft. Todayâ€™s contender had had that slim, upright
look of a spinster schoolteacher.
This oneâ€¦she wasnâ€™t formidable at all. Not physically,
but what she did bring into the room preceded her by about
ten feet, and packed a punch.
Maybe about five-six. A little on the slim side, but a
body that wouldnâ€™t quit, C curves and an ass that would fill
out a pair of jeans in a way that would make even a
non-vampire crave to bite. Only instead of such casual
attire, she wore painted-on latex black pants and stiletto
heels she worked like a pro. Heâ€™d expected some equally
intimidating corset, so that she was tight and armored from
neck to toe. Instead, she wore a lace camisole, one that
gathered on her hips and gave the outfit a casual, sexy
look. Her slim throat displayed an onyx choker with an earth
goddess pendant on it, and her hair, a sable brown, was
loose on her shoulders, shining waves that coaxed a manâ€™s
It was an unsettling mix of Mistress and sub, vanilla
next-door girl and experienced woman. Hard to pin down. Heâ€™d
never seen her before, because he was sure as hell certain
heâ€™d have remembered her. Maybe even asked for her, when
heâ€™d asked for nothing else. Heâ€™d basically said â€śfigure out
what I want or go fuck yourselvesâ€ť. Heâ€™d been kind of
surprised theyâ€™d accepted his membership, and suddenly he
realized theyâ€™d never stopped auditioning him. This was
whoâ€™d been evaluating him, the guy who couldnâ€™t tell them
what he wanted because he didnâ€™t know himself.
When her gaze came to him, he was pinned by killer
blue-green eyes that should have belonged to a mermaid. They
were framed by brown lashes, and underscored by a soft,
small mouth that was an unbelievable tender pink, frosted
with a light gloss.
Though he was unbalanced, he wasnâ€™t fooled by such
fragility. This woman ran the show.
â€śYour real first name, Mr. Smith. Your given name. I
donâ€™t care about your last name.â€ť
Heâ€™d heard of women who purred, or who had a touch of
velvet in their tones, a practiced art. But he realized he
was wrong when he thought the way she walked in the
stilettos and wore the latex was professional, learned. Her
sexuality was innate. There was a rasp to the voice, a husky
pleasure just in the speaking, that touched him as if sheâ€™d
run fingertips up his bare spine while he was strapped to a
whipping post, unable to do more than strain toward her.
Holy hell, where had that
thought come from?
She moved into the room, sliding a shard of wood
gracefully out of her way with her foot. The stilettos were
boots, laced with scarlet ribbon, crisscrossed on metal
hooks that stopped just above her ankle. Tiny charms clinked
together at the ends of the laces as she moved. â€śPlease pick
the broken dresser up and set it against the wall. Then I
would like you there.â€ť
She nodded toward a prayer bench in the corner, set
before a tranquil fountain and stained glass depiction of a
male angel. Back lights drew the eye to the blue of the
angelâ€™s robes, the silver of his sword and wings, the
darkness of his hair.
â€śIâ€™m still waiting on your name, Mr. Smith.â€ť
â€śWhy should I do anything you ask? What makes you so
different from the others?â€ť
Of course he knew, but he wanted her to prove it. Was
afraid she would.
She considered him. He knew body language. If she was
daunted at all, if there was any tension to her, it was
faint, and it wasnâ€™t anxiety. It was the irresistible drug
of female arousal. He knew the really good ones were into
what they did, even in a place where you paid for it, but
some part of them stayed detached, that invisible line
between client and proprietor, strangers.
She wasnâ€™t detached at all. That beast that had been
raging in him, that heâ€™d carelessly unleashed towards the
others, made him fear for her now. Because the beast wanted
her. It hadnâ€™t wanted the others. That soft hair alone was
taunting him closer.
As if she knew his thoughts, she tossed it over her
shoulder in a smooth, elegant move, a faint smile coming to
her lips as his eyes followed it. â€śYou should do it because
I did not ask you to do anything. And because
youâ€™re not a coward.â€ť
Unlike the last Mistress, she wasnâ€™t trying to goad him.
Her voice remained smooth, thoughtful, not derisive. She
kept her gaze on him, her expression serious. â€śYouâ€™re here
for what I have to offer. So letâ€™s proceed. Tell me your
name, and go to the bench, please.â€ť
â€śTrey,â€ť he said. Her expression did not change, the eyes
didnâ€™t even flicker, but he swore he felt the ocean of the
blue-green color close over his head for a moment, the
slither of a feathery tail as the mermaid swam past, leaving
Turning, she moved back toward the door. â€śYou may stop at
the accounts office to pay for the damages. I wish you a
She didnâ€™t hesitate, didnâ€™t slow down. If it was a game,
she was damn good at it, and usually so was he. When she
reached the door, he didnâ€™t even have the extra moment her
turning the latch would afford him, because the same
security guard whoâ€™d opened the door for her did it from the
outside now, not only confirming the interior surveillance,
but the fact this was a woman who didnâ€™t have to touch
doorknobs. Not if there was a breathing male within fifty
â€śGideon,â€ť he snarled.
She didnâ€™t stop. In a blink, she was gone, the door
closing on well-oiled hinges behind her. Gideon stared at
the door, his hands closing into useless fists at his sides.
Hell, he shouldnâ€™t be here, shouldnâ€™t be doing this. Sheâ€™d
been right to leave. Vaguely, he knew heâ€™d paid them for the
right to be here, that he should be pissed, but he
understood this place better than he would have at one time.
This underground level wasnâ€™t about memberships and having
your ass kissed.
Then he realized something. The door was closed. They
left it open after a sessionâ€™s completion. At this point,
the security guard would have put his carefully blank face
back in and told him how many minutes he had before his ass
was expected to be out of there. Instead, he heard the locks
snick in place again.
Something loosened in his chest and tightened even lower.