He wanted to dominate her. In every way possible.
Ethan Savage stood against the wall, ignoring the throngs of people who filled the living room to capacity. Between the music, laughing and buzz of nonstop chatter, the walls practically vibrated. Violet Moore threw one hell of a party. Not that he was surprised. She did everything well.
Annoyance pricked at the base of his spine. Why had he promised her he’d come to this shindig?
Because she’d asked, and he was a sucker.
He could be wielding a paddle at his favorite dungeon with a willing sub instead of holding up the wall. He’d tried to say no, but Violet looked up at him with her big lilac-colored eyes, thick, sooty lashes fluttering as she pleaded, and he hadn’t the heart to deny her.
Now he was stuck at this godforsaken party.
He sighed. With most women, he was on the other side of the rope, but not with Violet. Damn woman had him tied up in so many knots he couldn’t break free.
And he didn’t like it one fucking bit.
He’d tried everything to cure his infatuation.
Logic had been useless.
Other women pointless.
Reason didn’t hold a candle to his lust. And it was so frustrating. He ground his back teeth, repressing the low growl deep in his throat.
He understood the physical reaction—she was beautiful—any red-blooded man would want her. What he didn’t get was why his emotions refused to cooperate. He was a software expert, he made his living being analytical. His heart should listen to his brain, it was the far more rational of the two.
Besides, he dealt with fact. And the facts were simple. Violet didn’t want him.
End of story. Case closed.
He was her buddy. Safe. How ironic, considering his sexual preferences. Safe would be the last word any of the women he’d dated would assign to him.
He glanced around the room scattered with strangers and his coworkers from Dynamic Links. Wouldn’t they all be surprised to learn that the serious computer whiz Ethan Savage dominated woman in his free time.
Which led him to his other problem—his gaze narrowed on Violet, laughing up at some GQ-model type—she didn’t have a submissive bone in her body.
He’d known her going on three years now. He’d traveled with her, talked with her, listened to her. Hell, she treated him like a damn girlfriend. And not once did she ever say anything that even hinted at those desires.
And he needed it. He couldn’t do vanilla. From what he could tell by the men Violet dated—she did nothing but.
Ethan prided himself on being a realist, on brutal honesty. If he thought he could play it straight for her he’d blow his ego to hell and confess his feelings. But that wasn’t possible. Nothing less than her complete surrender would satisfy him.
And that was never going to happen.
As if sensing his stare, she turned, giving him her megawatt smile, jet-black hair swirling around her bare shoulders in glossy waves. How’d she get her hair so shiny? He grimaced, taking a sip off his beer. What the fuck was wrong with him?
It irked him how dazzled he was. Not that he was alone. Violet dazzled everyone. It was her nature. It was why she was a superstar at Dynamic Links. Why she was an excellent sales manager. Potential customers, men and women alike, couldn’t resist her considerable charisma. Time and again, he’d watched her woo clients ‘til they were eating out her hands. And he was no different.
She waved him over. He shook his head. The man she’d been talking to slid his arm around her waist. Ethan’s grasp tightened on his bottle ‘til his knuckles turned white. That guy was all wrong for her. No passion there at all. A slick, smooth Ken doll.
She rolled her eyes, turned, and stood on tiptoes to whisper something into the guy’s ear then she slipped from his grasp and started her way over.
He watched her glide across the room, giving her a look that would make his previous conquests shiver in anticipation—but Violet didn’t even falter. Didn’t even seem to notice.
And why would she? Just last week she’d gushed on and on about how much she valued him as a friend. How she could be herself around him. How she didn’t have to put on an act. How comfortable she was. Blah, blah, blah.
With a humorless laugh, he raised his bottle to his lips and let the cold liquid slide down his throat. He valued their friendship too, but it didn’t stop him from wanting to take her and show her exactly who he really was.
Let’s see how harmless you think I am then, sugar.
He watched the sway of her hips in a periwinkle blue halter dress made from some silky material that looked as though water streamed over her body when she walked. His cock stirred. Goddamn thing didn’t have any sense.
When she reached him, he raised a brow, and she smiled up at him. “Not really your scene, huh, Eth?” Her smooth voice sent an electric current right to his balls, reminding him just how long it had been since he’d had a really good, hard fuck.
If you want to know my scene let me take you into your bedroom, tie you up and smack that delectable ass until you beg for me. He smiled back. “You throw a great party.”
She laughed, a soft tinkling sound. “You’re so transparent, I know you hate every minute of this.” She stood on tiptoes and snaked an arm around his neck, pulling him down to give him a squeeze. Automatically, his palm settled low on her back. In his ear she whispered, “I’m glad you came anyway.” When she pulled back, her pink glossy lips curled into a grin. “As your friend, I thought it was good to get you out of the house.”
Friend. He hated the word. Wanted it stricken from the dictionary. And why did she assume he sat alone every night? Alone?
A muscle jumped in his jaw. The intellectual understood her dismissal. The man was irritated. He chucked her under the chin. “Who says I stay home, little girl?”
It wasn’t that he didn’t get it. He completely understood why he was firmly in the friend zone. If this were high school, she’d be the prom queen and he’d get first place in the science fair.
The only reason why he’d even gotten to know Violet was because they had to travel together as the sales and technical team sent in to close important, high-profile deals. Violet was the glitz and glamour. He was the practical collateral.
At times, he was tempted to tell her about his other life. The life where he let all the power he kept carefully in check at work come out to play. And he knew how to play. Knew just how to drive a woman to heights she’d only dreamed about. Just how to drive a woman to surrender.
But to what purpose? He sensed none of the submissive longing in Violet. None. People without those desires didn’t understand them.
Her gaze narrowed. “What did you do last Saturday night?”
Whipped a woman to orgasm, how about you? “Oh, nothing exciting enough for you, Violet.”
She planted her hands on those full hips he wanted to take a bite out of. “Exactly my point. You need something exciting.”
He glanced around her living room then gave her a wolfish grin. “This is the tamest party I’ve been to all year.”
“Ha!” She shook her head, exasperation radiating off her. In an instant, her whole face lit up. Ethan could practically see the bulb pop over her glossy black head. “Hey, you know who you might hit it off with—”
“She’s here.” Violet started to frantically scan the room. “Ah, there she is.” She pointed to a cute, innocent-looking blonde he could eat up for breakfast. “Her name is Casey. I used to work with her at my old company. She’s in marketing.”
“Just talk to her. What are you afraid of?”
His head snapped to glare down on her. Did she think he was a complete pussy? “Not my type.”
Violet’s chin tilted up with that stubborn defiance he knew so well. God, he wanted to take that jaw in his hand and give her a little shake before he took her mouth and kissed her in a way she’d never forget. He sighed. Of course it would send her running for the hills where he’d see nothing but her dust.
“Just who is your type, Eth?”
He gritted his teeth. “Not her.”
“I think she’d be perfect for you. She’s sweet, has a great personality, and she’s adorable. I can already see you on a Christmas card in matching sweaters, fire lit behind you, arms around the golden retriever between you.” She smiled up at him, eyes guileless.
It hit him like an unexpected punch to the gut, she didn’t know him at all. Their friendship was completely one-sided. The friendship he valued was no more than smoke and mirrors.
It wasn’t Violet’s fault. She asked, he held back. While she could be herself around him, he didn’t return the feeling. In fact, all he felt comfortable with was the façade. His chest tightened. He needed to get out of there. He slid his beer bottle on the accent table next to him. “I’m going to hit the restroom and take off.”
Her mouth curved down. “Fine, you don’t have to meet her. But stay?”
“I’ve got something I need to do.” His jaw was so tight he could feel the muscle work across bone.
Like purge you from my system once and for all. He had to forget her. This sixteen-year-old’s crush wasn’t getting him anywhere. Maybe he needed to get a new job. Then he wouldn’t have to see her every day. He got regular calls from headhunters, the next time they called for an interview, he’d say yes.
“What do you have to do?” Violet peered up at him, an almost maternal expression on her face.
“What the hell does it matter?”
Her eyes flashed. “I worry about you.”
“Well, don’t.” Shit. How had he created this image of himself in her eyes, so foreign to who he really was that he didn’t even recognize the person she saw. He stared down at her, unblinking.
Her lips parted on a tiny, imperceptible gasp. “What’s wrong?”
“Violet, you don’t know the first thing about me.”
Confusion creased her normally smooth forehead. “I know enough.”
“Oh? Like what?”
“You keep everyone at a distance. You’re brilliant.”
He cocked a brow. “Tell me something no other coworker knows?” He knew this wasn’t her fault. He’d created this beast, but it didn’t stop the irrational anger that she never saw through it.
“Why are you being like this?”
He shook his head. “Never mind. See you Monday.”
He walked past her, but before he could escape, her soft hand fell on the warm skin of his forearm. An electric shock jolted up his arm. Son of a bitch. So pathetic. Thank God she had no idea. At least he’d done one thing right in this debacle.
He peered down at her.
“Ethan, please tell me what’s wrong.”
“Nothing. I just need to take off.” He’d meant to come off as bored, but each word shot out like a bullet.
“We’re friends,” she started, searching his face for clues to his sullen behavior.
He couldn’t take one more fucking minute of this. “Are we?” He pulled away and weaved his way through the crowd, not bothering to look back.
This stopped now. Jesus. With the way he was acting, even he was hard-pressed to recognize the Master. He’d hit the restroom then take off. Put this party—and Violet—behind him. Cold turkey. No more lunches. No more IMs throughout the day. No more long, leisurely dinners when they traveled. No more drinks. Or morning coffees.
He made his way down the hallway, pausing at the closed bathroom door. He jiggled the knob. Locked. Taking a deep breath, he leaned against the wall. From the closed room he heard a muffled moan, followed by a low groan. Great. Inconsiderate assholes taking up the only bathroom to fuck. He shook his head, straightening.
From the corner of his eye, he saw her bedroom door slightly ajar. She must have a master bath. She wouldn’t care if he used it. After all, they were such good buddies. He walked toward it, pushing open the door with the touch of his fingers.
He’d never seen her bedroom. He glanced around. Froze. It wasn’t what he expected. He’d expected girly pinks and floral.
It wasn’t. It was sensual. Deep blood reds, satin sheets, dark, almost gothic-looking furniture. It was beautiful. Exactly how he would have decorated. The room looked ripe for sex. Carnal. Decadent. The carved headboard with its planks and scrolls the perfect place to tie a woman down.
His cock hardened as his mind slid to an image of Violet, bound, slithering over those sheets, her black hair the perfect complement to the wine-red pillows. Under his complete control.
Stop it. Stick to the plan. He headed into the bathroom.
A couple of minutes later he emerged from the facilities, pausing to take one more look around the room. Not at all what he expected. Was it possible he didn’t know her as well as he thought he did? He shook his head. Didn’t matter. The facts didn’t change. She wasn’t interested, and while she obviously had a sensual side, it didn’t make her submissive. End of story.
He took two steps only to halt. His heartbeat rose into his throat. No, he was mistaken. Looking for something that wasn’t there. He looked again. Was there a woman in handcuffs on the cover of the book peeking out from under her bed?
His gaze slid to the cracked door. He should leave. Invading her privacy would be wrong. He took a step toward the door. Fuck it. He swung around and kneeled by the bed, pulling the book from its hiding place. Blood rushed through his veins. Holy shit. A woman blindfolded and handcuffed filled the image of the cover. He flipped it over, skimming the jacket.
Was it possible he was wrong? Did Violet crave submission? She certainly hid it well. He’d been into dominating for a long time, he was good at it. Knew the signs. He’d caught the faint hint of desires other men would miss, but he’d never sensed any in her. Maybe it was just a curiosity. He leaned down and lifted the bed skirt. He shouldn’t be doing this but didn’t care. He needed to know. Underneath was a box. He pulled it out, lifting the lid. His cock went hard as steel. Not a passing fancy at all.
His little Violet had a secret.