UNRAVELED Chapters 1-3



“Please tell me this isn’t happening, Jillian.” My brother, Michael’s voice is pained. His forehead creased.

Expression somber, I nod. “It’s happening.”

“This is not how I want to spend Valentine’s Day,” he says, a scowl marring his handsome face.

Helplessly, I shrug. “Neither do I, but what can we do? It’s out of our hands.”

He stands there in the doorway leading to the condo he shares with his girlfriend, Layla. “Are we really going to do this?”

“We are,” I say in my most grave tone. “Let’s not think of our mother.”

His face twists and he winces. “Don’t bring her into this.”

I understand. It’s hard. The biggest trauma in our sibling relationship. I lower my eyes. “Dad would be so disappointed.”

Next to me my fiancé, Leo, who also happens to be Michael’s best friend, pinches me. “Be nice, can’t you see he’s suffering?”

I do see. But I’m Michael’s little sister; this is much harder on him than it is on me. I fight the grin twitching at my lips.

Michael’s hand tightens on the doorknob. “If you’re concerned about our father, you could stay home.”

“I would.” I shake my head and cast a sideways glance at Leo. “But he won’t let me.”

Leo shoots me an exasperated eye roll.

Unashamed, I continue, really twisting the knife into my brother’s heart. “He’s unreasonable. He won’t take no for an answer.” I let my eyes grow wide while I lower my voice. “He spanks me, like, all the time.”

Michael grimaces, but the faintest of smiles flickers. “Knowing you, I’m sure you had it coming.”

Leo shakes his head. “Believe me she did.”

I tap the heel of one knee-high leather boot. “Some brother you are. We’re family.”

This is the unfortunate consequence of having a dominant fiancé and brother when all your kinks are right there in the open. They tend to side against me.

Michael raises a brow. “Back to the point, it’s not too late to go home. Save us all the family humiliation.”

“Sorry, not going to happen.” I flutter my lashes. “We’ll just have to learn to live with it.”

Leo sighs, and when he speaks his tone is amused. “You’ll both survive.”

Michael narrows his gaze on Leo. “Easy for you to say, I don’t see your sister here.”

Leo’s hand slides territorially around my hip and gives me his sly glance. “Lucky for me, my sisters aren’t like that.”

Surprised laughter spurts from my lips and I elbow the love of my life in the ribs. “Hey! What’s wrong with that?”

Leo kisses the top of my head. “Not a thing, I mean, it’s fine for his sister, but my sisters are too pure for that.”

He’s teasing, of course. Just one of the many perks he gets from being engaged to his best friend’s baby sister.

I have to play my part accordingly. I jerk away and plant my hands on my red latex-covered hips. “I didn’t hear any complaints this morning.”

I’m pretty sure most of the stuff Leo did to me is illegal in most states, but believe me, I’m not complaining. Leo’s a sexual genius.

What can I say? I’m a lucky girl.

“Stop. Not another word.” Michael growls. Apparently he’s in overprotective big brother mode, and looks quite menacing standing there in all black, with that set of his granite-like jaw and high cheekbones. “I don’t want to hear this, nor do I want to do this.”

I roll my eyes at my brother. “We’ve all had to make sacrifices.”

It’s our friend, Brandon Townsend III’s, big night. This weekend he’s opening his brand new club—a modern-day speakeasy—that’s literally the talk of the Chicago club scene. Unlike his current place, this isn’t a sex club, and the waiting list is a mile long. Tonight is a special occasion, a Valentine’s treat. Brandon is holding a very exclusive VIP party for all his kinky friends. According to him, he can’t go too straight; he’s got a rep to live up to.

My brother doesn’t appreciate there are people that would kill for a chance to go to one of Brandon’s parties that he takes for granted. I don’t make that mistake. I have connections to make. I’m going to be an art dealer once I finish my masters. I mean, sure, making contacts at a sex party isn’t ideal, but you never know when the CEO of a company, that likes to be trussed up and hogtied, is going to need some art for his corner office.

“Just shoot me,” Michael says in a droll voice.

“That can be arranged, I have a gun,” Leo says, good-natured. Leo and Michael are homicide detectives at the Chicago Police Department. Bloodshed is a regular topic in these circles.

There’s a female exasperated huff from behind Michael’s broad, six-five shoulders. “Are you going to let them in or just stand there blocking their way?”

Michael’s jaw turns hard and he glances back at Layla, whom I still can’t see. “Are you getting sassy with me, girl?”

A laugh. “They’ve been standing in the hallway for five minutes while you complain. At least let them sit on the couch.”

“Yeah! Let me in,” I say in my best annoying little sister voice.

Leo grips my elbow. “I suppose we should take pity on him.”

“Well, I would if he would let me in the door.”

Leo winks at me, and then grins at Michael. “It would be nice if you let us in.”

Before he can respond, Layla ducks under his arm still blocking the threshold and straightens to her full five-seven.

One look at her and I let out a low wolf whistle. She’s gorgeous with wild chestnut hair she’s curled into something exotic and untamed. Her sky-blue eyes are smoky and heavily made up. Her dress is white, short, and silky. In more polite circles her outfit might be considered more appropriate as a nightgown, but on her it looks exactly right. She’s clearly not wearing a bra and her white boots go up to her knees.

She looks insane, like a go-go sex goddess, with no trace of the haunted girl I’d met nine months ago.

“Jillian’s here.” She throws her arms around me in a hug.

I squeeze her and then pull back to look at her. “Goddamn, girl. You’re smoking.”

She beams. “Why thank you, so are you.”

She’s right, I am. I’m wearing a red latex fetish dress with a short flirty skirt that plays up my Amazon height, endless legs and makes my waist impossibly small in a corseted top. Leo laced me into the dress and would be lacing me out of it sometime tonight. I didn’t know when, but it was a matter of time, and the anticipation was already killing me.

What can I say, I like to be watched.

A kink I had no idea about until I started going out with Leo, who likes to push me to my limits. We’ve been together for almost a year now and he’s pulled me farther and farther into my submissive side, much to my brother’s dismay.

Which brought us to tonight where our worlds are colliding.

Not that we all didn’t know about each other’s proclivities. Layla and I were known to get into trouble together quite often.

You’ve got to keep these men on their toes.

Leo pulls Layla close, running his hands affectionately and mildly inappropriately over her stomach. He kisses the side of her neck and grins at Michael. “I can’t wait to see what you do to all this bare skin tonight.”

I’ve learned over time that the BDSM crowd tends to be a bit more handsy than most would consider polite.

I’ve gotten used to it.

My brother gave him a dry look. “I can’t say I feel the same.”

While Layla and I have been “dealt with” a time or two (or many) in front of each other, Michael and Leo keep it pretty tame. But tame and Valentine’s sex parties don’t really go hand and hand, and my brother is having a hard time adjusting. Not that I can’t relate, when Michael puts Layla through whatever he’s got planned I won’t be anywhere in the vicinity.

But I can still have fun with it in the spaces in-between.

Because I’m still a little sister, and giving my big brother fits is kind of like a job requirement.

Layla grabs my hand and we duck under my brother’s arm and walk into their condo. Their dog Belle leaps from the couch and runs over to me in excited circles. My brother rescued her from the streets a couple years ago. She’s so mangy and pitiful looking she’s completely adorable. She’s also the worst trained dog ever.

When she tries to plant her huge paws on my stomach, Layla barks, “Belle, down.”

The dog promptly sits, and looks at Layla with panting, excited eyes.

I’m in shock. Before Layla, Belle was a lovable, overly affectionate wild beast that wouldn’t listen to anyone, least of all Michael. “Wow! I’m impressed.”

Layla strokes the dog’s ears. “Good girl.”

Belle stares at her in worship and doesn’t move from her spot.

I pat her on her head and her whole body shakes as her tail pounds against the hardwood floor, but she still stays seated.

I whip toward my big, scary brother. “Layla’s trained her. She listens.”

He narrows his eyes. “Don’t remind me.”

Layla leans down, flashing all sorts of cleavage, and pats Belle on the head, who whines with excitement. “That’s right, girl. He’s too easy on you.” She tosses a mischievous glance at Michael. “Later I’ll teach you how to give a proper command.”

I cover my mouth to keep from laughing, but Leo has no problem and the sound of his rich voice rings though the living room.

Michael crosses his arms over his chest and shakes his head. “You just can’t help yourself, can you?”

“Nope.” Her voice is flippant. The more time that passes the more sassy Layla becomes and I have to say it’s pretty awesome.

My brother practically pulled her back from the dead, and she’s been thriving ever since. When I first met her, it worried me to watch Michael so enraptured with someone so broken, but I see now he wasn’t wrong to love her. She’s the best thing that ever happened to him, because he needs someone that’s a constant challenge.

And Layla is a challenge.

With a sweet, innocent expression, Layla points to the floor. “Down, Belle.”

The dog promptly falls to the floor and plants her head on paws, looking pitifully adorable. Layla flashes Michael a grin. “It’s all in the tone.”

He cocks a brow. “Is it now?”

Layla flips her hair. “I’m surprised you don’t know that.”

I recognize her look, the amused defiance, I’ve used it on Leo many times and he indulges me when he feels like it.

The question is if Michael is in the mood to indulge Layla.

Michael slants a glance at Leo. “She’s giving me no choice here, is she?”

Leo shakes his head. “No, she is not.”

Michael assesses Layla then points to the floor. “You can come to heel right next to Belle, girl.”

So he’s not in the mood.

Something flashes in Layla’s blue eyes. “I don’t want to.”

Michael shrugs. “Too bad. Kneel.”

I flash her a look of sympathy, although it’s really her own fault. I didn’t know my brother was a dominant—or even what a dominant was—until I started dating Leo. But now that our dirty secrets are all out in the open, both Michael and Leo are more overt in their displays as long as we’re not with the rest of the family.

Although we’ve never done anything like we’re going to do tonight. We did grumble. One night when Leo and I were over at Brandon’s for dinner I protested it as inhuman, but Brandon ordered us all to get over ourselves, exclaiming he’d never speak to us again if we didn’t show up.

I accused Brandon of being a dramatic schoolgirl.

Which ended up with me turned over Leo’s knee while Brandon watched in amusement.

I mean, sure it was embarrassing, but I still came.

Layla stands there, not obeying. She glances at me, but I can only shrug helplessly.

“Layla,” Michael says his tone full of warning. “I’m not going to tell you again. Trust me, you won’t like the consequences.”

Layla gives an indignant little sigh and sinks to her knees.

Michael walks over to her, strokes her hair and whispers something in her ear that makes her gasp.

Leo’s arm comes around my waist and he kisses my temple. “Look at you, being such a good girl.”

My heart swells ridiculously, because I like to make him proud. I bat my lashes up at him. “Always.”

Leo’s head dips and his lips brush my ear. “Later, I’m going to put you on display. Everyone is going to watch you and they’re all going to see exactly what kind of girl you are.”

My knees actually go weak.

He’s been working me over all day and I’m about to combust. He’s brought me close to orgasm about a hundred times but I haven’t come.

And, I want to come.

You have no idea how bad I want to come.

“I can’t wait to sink my cock into that hot, tight cunt of yours.” Leo’s teeth scrape my earlobe. “In front of everyone.”

My whole body goes tight with fear, anticipation and arousal. I take a stuttery breath and look up at him. “You wouldn’t.”

His eyes darken. “I would. I am.”

I swallow hard.

“I’m going to lay you out, expose you, and fuck you.”

“Oh god.”

He smirks. “Indeed. Consider it a Valentine’s present.”

I bite my lip and twist the antique, platinum diamond engagement ring on my finger. He’s giving me my fantasy and it makes me nervous as well as excited. He’s dug deep into my exhibitionist side, testing and seeking out the things that flip my switch. The only person I’ve ever done anything in front of before is Brandon because he’s a friend and he’s safe. But as my boundaries have stretched, so have my limits, and my fantasies have become increasingly depraved. I thought that is where they would stay. Leo’s never done anything like this. Never fucked me in front of anyone. Never exposed me for just anyone to see.

I’m terrified.

Even as the fear rushes through me, wetness slicks down my bare thighs, because, of course, I’m not wearing any panties.

I’d had some on, but Leo shredded them off me with a knife, then licked my pussy until I twisted under him, pulling back when I was about to come.

I grip the counter.

Leo’s mouth brushes my neck, his tongue sliding over my skin. “That’s right. Everyone’s going to be watching you. Are you wet, Jilly?”


“Do you want everyone to watch you?”

I’m not thinking about the sanity of my answers. “Yes.”

“Are you going to please me?”

“Yes.” He makes me a mindless needy mess and all I want in the moment is to continue.

But before he can, the doorbell rings.

He strokes a finger down my bare arm. “I believe you will.”








I don’t know what I’m doing here. I almost turned around and went home about a hundred times on the Uber ride over. The only thing that stopped me was Layla. She invited me to this party and I don’t want to disappoint her.

It’s not like I’m a prude or anything, but sex parties aren’t really my thing. I agreed because I was curious, and have second-guessed my decision ever since.

Michael, my best friend Layla’s boyfriend, let’s me in. He smiles and wraps me up in a big bear hug that makes me feel like a miniature person. I’m only five-three, practically tiny next to Michael’s tallness. “Ruby, glad you decided to come along. Come on in.”

“Thanks for the invite,” I say in my most breezy voice. I’m beyond nervous to be doing something so outside my comfort zone, but I don’t want anyone to notice.

I walk into Michael and Layla’s living room to find Layla kneeling on the floor, wearing an obscene white dress that hardly leaves anything to the imagination. Unable to hide my shock, I let out a surprised, “Oh.”

Layla flashes me a sly little grin before giving Michael a dark look.

Michael laughs. “Layla’s working on a bit of an attitude adjustment right now, what can I get you to drink?”

I bite my bottom lip as a stab of jealousy twists in my chest. A jealousy I don’t understand or want, but seems to grow every time I see Layla and Michael. Even engaged in their kinky behavior, they are just so together. So very in love. It’s a stark reminder that Layla has managed to share this bond with two men—her fiancé that passed away and Michael—while I haven’t managed to find it once.

I clear my throat and try to pretend it’s perfectly normal that she’s kneeling on the floor, patting her dog, Belle, and scowling at the love of her life. “I’ll take whatever you have. I’m not picky.”

I turn to Leo and Jillian, who’ve I’ve gotten to know quite well over the last nine months. They’re also in the so-called “lifestyle” and look positively gorgeous together with their dark hair and olive skin. Like Michael, Leo’s wearing all black, and Jillian is decked out in some sort of red dress I can’t even figure out how she got on. The top is a tight corset she looks sewn into and the skirt is a flirty little fabric that barely reaches mid-thigh on her ridiculously long legs. She’s tall—at least five nine or ten—and looks like an Amazon warrior princess.

Leo strokes his hand down her rubber-encased hip and Jillian gives me a glassy-eyed, slightly unfocused smile before waving hello.

Leo winks at me. “You’re looking lovely tonight, Ruby.”

“Thanks,” I say, the response automatic, although I’m not sure it’s true. I’m pretty enough, but in my short, black skirt, studded belt, and black tank top I’m dressed all wrong.

Layla and Jillian look like sex and sin. Every man that sees them tonight will want them. Lust after them and covet what Michael and Leo have. I, on the other hand, look like a pixie rock princess. Like I’m dressed for a Halloween party instead of to be ravished on Valentine’s Day.

And what was I thinking going out with the two most in-love couples on earth the night of single girl hell? I should be out with Ashley and my other hangout girlfriends, trolling the dance scene as we all try and forget that we’re not attached.

What can I say? Curiosity got the best of me, as it always does. Curiosity my conservative, Christian parents have warned me about since I could walk. As a child, growing up in a small town in Indiana, their number-one mantra was—be careful, Ruby. Of course, I rebelled, and pretty much got into any trouble I could find. Which, I suppose, is why I agreed to come tonight.

A decision I’m pretty sure is a mistake. I’ve been here one minute and I already feel out of place, like a fifth wheel. It’s not that I don’t love hanging out with my best friend, because I do. I love Michael and all that he’s done to help Layla heal from the murder of her fiancé. And Leo and Jillian are fun to be around and a guaranteed good time. I know they’ll do everything in their power to make sure I’m included.

It’s just that usually we’re at a bar or restaurant and everything is totally normal. Like being with regular couples. But tonight, going to some sort of fetish party to kick off the opening of their friend Brandon’s club, I’m out of my element.

I know I should consider myself lucky, when my friend Ashley heard I’d scored an invite to the hottest ticket in town, she’d begged me to let her come, but it’s not my kind of scene. If we were going to a metal club, I’d be totally fine, but I’m not into BDSM, nor do I want to be. I’m tagging along for the experience, to say I’ve seen it firsthand. To prove to myself I’m not the closet conservative I sometimes fear I am.

But after five minutes I realize my mistake. Leo and Michael are in full domination mode, and I can’t avoid it. Sometimes when we go out, I sense the undercurrent of what Layla calls the power dynamic between them. Occasionally, Michael will take her by the neck and say something in her ear with a certain look on his face that will make Layla shudder, but for the most part, they act pretty normal. Tonight all bets are off, I’ll be unable to escape what they are. The air practically pulses with it. Proof positive by the fact that I’ve walked in to Layla kneeling on the floor, saying nothing.

Not that I want to be dominated, because I do not. I’ve asked Layla enough questions to understand the basics and it’s not for me. I can’t stand the thought of someone trying to control me. But I can’t deny I find myself fascinated despite myself. In moments of introspection, I’ve determined it’s the dedication and focus dominant men seem to possess that intrigues me.

I’ve never had a man pay attention to me the way Michael and Leo pay attention to their women. Unlike Layla, who clearly has a knack for picking perfect men, I have the exact opposite problem.

I have terrible taste in men.

I can’t even deny it.

I’m always attracted to the wrong sort. Emotional, temperamental rocker boys are like crack to me. I mean, I’m hardly the first girl to be attracted to musicians. Intensely creative types that lose themselves in their poetry and guitars.

I’m also that type. I’m a graphic artist by day, and singer by night.

They are my people.

Unfortunately men like that tend to have Peter Pan complexes.

Which, I actually don’t mind. Even at the ripe old age of thirty, I’m not in a hurry to be a grown up. Sure I have a job, my own apartment, and I pay my bills, but that’s as far as it goes. As far as I want it to go. I have no interest in a conventional, traditional life. I don’t want a husband, kids and a mortgage.

I grew up like that—in Pleasantville—with parents that love each other. My mom and dad have a good, solid traditional marriage and they raised my brother and sister and me to have family values. My siblings toe the party line; walk the straight and narrow, living within a five-mile radius of my parents’ house, in the small Indiana town where I grew up. They raise their kids, go to church on Sunday, PTA meetings, and pot luck dinners at neighbors. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that life at all. It’s the American dream.

It’s just not my dream.

I don’t want to be ordinary.

I want to live my life on the fringe. I want to stay up all night drinking bad coffee and talking about philosophy. I want to roll out of bed at eleven. Follow my impulses. Live without schedules and restrictions. So the fact that I attract men that aren’t interested in grown-up life is nobody’s fault but my own.

Michael hands me a martini glass, pulling me from my rambling thoughts. “Layla made lemon drops for you girls.”

“Thanks, Laylay,” I say, calling her by her college nickname. We were paired up as roommates our freshmen year, and despite our differences, we have been best friends ever since. She’s the best friend I could ever ask for. She understands me and I understand her. We’d walk through fire for each other. Unfortunately for her, she was forced to travel a dark road, and I stayed by her side the whole time, even when she infuriated me.

Layla glances at Michael and he nods. She shifts her attention to me and says, “You’re welcome.”

I grin down at her. “What’d you do?”

She pouts, her thick heavily mascaraed eyes batting at Michael. “Absolutely nothing.”

“I’m totally unreasonable, aren’t I?” Michael strokes her hair affectionately.

“Totally,” Layla says.

And I experience a stab of envy at the love on Michael’s face as he looks down at her.

Jillian pours a glass for herself. “Layla makes the best drinks.”

The doorbell rings and I frown. “Who’s that?”

Michael goes to the door and Leo says, “Chad.”

Oh no. Layla conveniently forgot to tell me she invited, Chad Fellows. I’d suspect a set up except it’s pretty clear we’re not each other’s type, despite the fact that over the past couple months he has become my unofficial date when neither of us has one.

From what Layla told me, she went out on a blind date with Chad, thrust upon her by her sister right around the time she met Michael. Apparently, three or four months ago, Michael and Layla ran into Chad on a date and they all hit it off. They’d started hanging out, going on double dates with the other couple, until Chad broke up with the girl he’d been seeing. She’d disappeared, but he’d stuck, becoming part of the group.

I have nothing against Chad. I actually like him a lot. He’s a perfectly nice, solid guy. He’s just a bit traditional for my tastes. Yes, he’s good looking in an All American, Abercrombie and Fitch way. All tall, lean muscles and broad shoulders, with that killer jaw, high cheekbones and nice crystal-clear, blue eyes. He’s also got short, expertly messy brown hair, and a good mouth.

He’s the kind of guy you bring home to your parents. The settling-down type. As an IT manager, with a good nine-to-five job, he’s actually kind of a catch.

If you like that kind of thing.

If I brought a guy like Chad home to my mother, she’d be on her knees thanking Jesus that her daughter had finally seen reason.

Michael opens the door and the man in question walks in. In gray pants, a white button-down, and messy bedroom hair, he looks good. He wasn’t the least bit nerdy or anything, he just didn’t look dark and dangerous like Leo and Michael. He looks harmless. Clean cut.

What was he even doing coming to a fetish party? He belonged even less than I did. Those dominant girls were going to eat him for breakfast if he wasn’t careful.

At least watching him fumble around would keep me entertained.

As he strolls in he doesn’t even seem to pause at Layla kneeling on the floor. He glances down at her, but there’s no flicker of surprise like I would have expected. He hands Michael a bottle of wine, shakes Leo’s hand, and give Jillian a kiss on the cheek before waving at me. “Hey, Ruby.”

I wave back. “Hey, Chad.”

He winks at me. “Glad you came along to keep me company.”

“Me too.” I relax a bit. He might not be my type, but at least I won’t be an odd man out. And we get along so well it’s hard to be put out.

He gives Jillian a long, appraising nod before flashing a grin at Leo. “Well done.”

Leo laughs. “I agree.”

Michael places the bottle on the counter, and says, “Be right back.”

When he walks out of the room and down the hallway Leo says to Chad, “Wait until you see what I do to her later.”

Jillian flushes, gasps, and glares at her boyfriend. “Don’t say that.”

I blink. That was overt. Leo will give poor Chad a heart attack before he even gets to the party.

What am I doing here again? I could be at The Whiskey, watching one of my favorite bands. I have my eye on the bass player, although so did a lot of females, so I’ve been playing hard to get.

I wasn’t sure it was working though.

Chad’s brow rises, and he looks at Jillian like she’s a horse up for auction. “I hope I get a front row seat.”

Leo turns his attention on Jillian, his gaze raking over her. “I think that can be arranged.”

“Leo,” Jillian hisses. “Stop that.”

Leo kisses her soundly on the lips before twisting his hand in her hair, and saying to Chad, “Being watched makes her wet.”

At his words shock rolls through me. I want to look away but find I can’t. I expect Chad to be shocked too, but instead he leans in and whispers something in Jillian’s ear that has her swallowing hard.

Where’s his surprise?

My whole body flushes hot and I finally tear my gaze away.

Michael walks back in and Leo releases his hold on Jillian.

Chad turns to me, an easy smile on his face. “No Valentine’s date tonight, Ruby?”

I can only stare at him, confused and vaguely out of sorts. Why isn’t he taken aback, like I am? How is he able to adapt the easy manner I’ve been shooting for since I walked in?

“Nope,” I say lamely. A bad feeling vibrates in my chest and suddenly I want to go home. This is too much information. Too much…something. “Where’s your date?”

I suppose this isn’t really the kind of place you bring just anyone.

He shrugs. “Casual dates don’t really go over too well on Valentine’s day.” He gives me his winning, got-to-love-me smile. “Too many expectations.”

I laugh and the tension in my shoulders ease a bit. “Exactly.”

He grabs the beer Michael offers and winks at Layla. “Got yourself in trouble there, did ya?”

Layla sticks out her tongue at him.

Chad rubs his jaw, lightly dusted with stubble, and says to Michael, “I don’t think she’s sorry.”

Michael flicks a glance down at her. “Are you sorry, girl?”

“Of course,” Layla says, her voice saccharine sweet.

“And what are you sorry for?” Michael walks and stands in front of her. At six-five he towers over her on the floor and she looks small and delicate.

She meets his gaze and licks her lips. “I’m very sorry Belle only listens to me.”

He crouches down, takes her by the throat and she gasps. “I see you’re in the mood to be bratty tonight.”

“Me? Never?” The words a husky, gasping sound.

I hold my breath.

This is much more explicit than I’m used to them being.

He gives her a smile that would have me shaking in my boots, but all it does is flush Layla’s cheeks a pretty pink. “You’re in the mood to be bratty. I’m in the mood to be unreasonable. This should be an interesting evening, don’t you think?”

“Yes,” she says, her tone all breathless and clearly wanting.

He straightens, crossing his arms as he looks down at her. “Since I’m stuck in this hell with my sister, let’s take care of that attitude in the bedroom.”

Without a word she raises to her feet.

Her dress is short, silky and leaves almost nothing to the imagination. She is a beautiful girl, but tonight she looks otherworldly gorgeous. And sexy in a way I can’t even fathom. I don’t understand how Michael can be so possessive over her, so utterly devoted, and still be fine letting her walk around like that.

Michael twines his fingers through her hair. “A few strikes with the cane should set you right, don’t you think?”

Out of the corner of my eye I see Jillian wince, and I assume this is not a pleasant experience. I mean, how could it be? A cane? I flush hot.

Layla, always a brave girl, says, “I didn’t really do anything wrong.”

Michael raises a brow. “You’re not being sassy and a bit bratty?”

“I am.” She flashes a smile. “But you like it.”

“I do.” He crooks his finger. “Let’s go.”

And down the hallway they disappear.

Jillian takes a sip of her drink. “Well now, this should be fun.”

Chad laughs. “Indeed.”

Suspicious, I stare at him. He’s not…no. No way. That’s impossible.

I glance longingly at the front door.

Suddenly, I want to go home.








When we get to our bedroom, Michael shuts the door behind us.

I walk to the edge of our bed, anxious and excited. I had been a tiny bit bratty.

I have my reasons. Reasons Michael understands.

I’m wound up. On edge.

Michael knows this. He knows everything about me. Knows what I need and just how to give it to me.

He comes up behind me and slides his hands on my silk-covered hips, leaning his head down to brush a kiss over the curve of my neck. His erection presses against my back. “You look so fucking hot tonight.”

I lean against him, arching my breasts high in the air.

We’re ready to go at it. It crackles the air between us.

Since the first time I saw him it’s been like this. So hot we’re bound to get burned. Time has only made us stronger. Made me stronger. With Michael, I’m the woman I’m meant to be, and not the shell of the woman I’d become. The road had been long and hard, but I’m finally in a place where I’m free of the past. Well, almost.

It’s still a dull ache, but it doesn’t consume me the way it did. Doesn’t run every aspect of my life.

I crane my neck and rest my head on Michael’s shoulder. I’m filled with a nervous anticipation about tonight. I’m one big ball of energy; wound a couple of clicks too tight. I know the possibility of what could happen, of what he might do to me, and as much as I fear it, I need it to make me whole. To make me complete so I can erase that horrible night from my mind. So I can conquer the last of my demons.

But most important, I need to do it for Michael, because it’s what he deserves. Somehow I believe it will allow me to give back a tiny portion of what he’s given me. To prove that out of all the women he could have, he was right to choose me. Right to believe I’m worth all the effort he’s put into me.

He reaches up and cups my breasts. “You need to be marked.”

It’s not a question. He knows. I have so much anxiety about tonight; I need the reminder that I belong to him.

I can already envision the fiery sting of pain on my flesh, the raise of the long, striped welt the cane will leave behind. It will hurt, and in that moment I’ll hate everything about me that craves this, but after I’ll feel better. Calmer. For the rest of the night, no matter what happens, I’ll wear the physical reminder of his possession of me on my body. And I need that.

Part of my nerves is because tonight is the first time I’ve done anything like this since my fiancé was murdered before my eyes. When I met Michael I’d frequented the club I now know belongs to Brandon. It had been part of my punishment, part of my self-afflicted slide into oblivion. Since I’ve been with Michael we haven’t been back. That place is the reminder of too much pain.

When Brandon invited us to his new club, at first I hadn’t wanted to go, the memories of that horrible night too deeply engrained in my mind. Michael and I spent a lot of time talking, and in the end, we’d decided to go. This is a new place, not even really a sex club. It won’t be the same. So I’m being brave, despite my memories.

In the end, it’s better to face your demons so you don’t drown in them.

It’s time for new memories, created with the man I love more than life itself.

But it doesn’t mean I’m not nervous. So I acted out, just a little bit. I need to work through all my excess energy and sassy is the way I do it.

Michael doesn’t let it slide. Doesn’t always give me what I want. But tonight he understands I need the pain to ground me. And he’s not going to deny me.

He runs his hands over my nipples, rubbing his thumbs back and forth until I moan. I’m not wearing a bra, or panties. My dress is really little more than a nightgown. The white the only concession I’d made for the angelic theme. His fingers trail over my ribs, down my stomach, before bunching the fabric and raising the hem above my hips. He slips between my legs where I’m already wet and aching.

He growls, and bites my neck. “So goddamn beautiful. So goddamn wet.”

I groan and arch into his touch. He’s skilled, driving me crazy but never delivering the type of pressure I need to get close to orgasm. A slow, delicious tease. His thumb brushes my clit. I sigh his name. “Michael.”

“Mine.” His free hand wraps around my neck, his fingers squeezing just enough to set my heart racing into overdrive.


“Should I fuck you now, or later?”

“Both,” I gasp. Losing myself in him.

“Greedy.” His pressure increases, and I lean against him, letting him take all my weight so I don’t have to think about anything but his hands on my body.

“Always,” I whisper. Because I am. I know how lucky I am and don’t ever take it for granted.

As I sit on the sharp edge of coming, he stops. The silk of my dress slides down my thighs, and his hand leaves my neck to press against the base of my spine. He exerts pressure. “Down you go.”

I don’t hesitate, I just lean down over the edge of the bed, my arms resting on the soft comforter, my face turned, eyes closed.

He moves, and I don’t have to look to know he’s going to the wardrobe in the corner that contains various toys and instruments he sometimes uses on me. We’re a hands on type of couple, but there’s always exceptions, and the cane is one of them. The door opens and there’s the sound of shifting objects before he closes it again.

I gulp. Swallow hard. And hold my breath.

I hate the cane as much as I love it.

Unless you’re a girl like me it’s hard to explain how you can love something and hate something in equal measure. How it can be terrifying and make you drip with excitement.

You’ll just have to trust me.

Without a word he slides my dress up past the curve of my ass and trails the bamboo across my skin.

I shiver. In lust and in fear.

“Is this what you were hoping for with your sassy attitude?” He slides the cane along the side of bare leg, over my thighs, down my calf and up again.


“Do you still think I’m being unreasonable?”

“Yes.” Clearly I’m not the smartest girl.

He laughs, and squeezes my hip hard enough I’ll have a bruise tomorrow. “I am, a little, you’ve been much brattier. But I want to hurt you.”

I shudder and a trickle of wetness slides down my thigh.

“I want to mark you and you want to be marked.”

“Yes.” I struggle for breath and clutch the comforter.

“Two strikes. I think that will be a proper reminder, don’t you?”

“I do.” It’s more than enough. Just enough. I’ve taken more, but we are going out. It’s a reminder, not a real punishment.

He steps away from me and I keep my eyes tightly shut.

“Raise up on your elbows.”

I comply, shaking my head so my chestnut hair curls down my back, and around my shoulders, creating a sight I know he’ll enjoy.

“Very pretty,” he says from behind me and by the sound of his voice, he’s lined up. “You ready?”

“Yes.” I try and relax. It’s so much easier if you relax.

But when you’re waiting for pain, sometimes relaxation is too great a goal.

Muscles tense, I hold my breath.

I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Finally I hear it, the whisper through the air a fraction of a second before it strikes my skin.

I cry out, falling out of position unable to help the scream as the fiery sting explodes, sharp and intensely focused.

“Back in position, girl.” His tone is that hard, commanding bark I love more than anything.

I hurry back into place, and brace myself, but this time there’s no waiting, and the second I’m anchored he hits me again.

The pain brings tears to my eyes and I squeeze them shut as I count to ten. I can already feel the two distinct stripes of pain running across my ass, can feel the raise of welts that will be white before they turn red.

It hurts. A lot.

But the tension that had bound me up so tight before is gone and I feel fresh and new. Accomplished somehow. All that’s left behind is insatiable lust.

Michael puts the cane on the bed, and soothes a hand over my back. “Better?”

I nod. Still taking deep breaths through the fiery pain.

“What do you need?” His is tone gruff.

“You.” He’s all I ever need.

He grips my hair and twists so my head cranes back. “Fucking gorgeous.” Then he covers my mouth, claiming me in that way only he can.

His tongue strokes, tangling with mine. Possessing me so I feel nothing but his lips, and the brand of his ownership in the two stripes of fire along my skin.

He pulls away, and says against my mouth, “Hard and fast, Layla.”

I arch my back, moaning my acceptance.

He moves behind me, and I hear the zipper slide down, before he grips my hips.

He kicks my legs farther apart and then slams home.

I cry out as he fills me to the hilt and his skin abrades the marks he’s left behind.

He pulls out and thrusts back in and my clit brushes against the edge of the bed.

Every single ebb and surge is heaven. Every rub of his hip against the marks he left increases my desire. So good. So goddamn good I might lose my mind.

It’s all I can think as he fucks me, hard and rough, taking complete control.

Filling me up. Making me whole.

The orgasm barrels down on me and I gasp his name in a pleading question. “Michael?”

He growls, and impossibly increases his pace. “Yes, Layla.”

I explode around him. Pleasure mixes with pain, creating a kaleidoscope of sensation that crests through my body in pummeling waves, making me mindless and incoherent.

He follows me, spilling inside me over and over again until we’re both breathless. Normally he’d collapse on top of me but he doesn’t, conscious of the marks on my skin. Besides, we have guests waiting for us to come back so we can go on what is sure to be a strange adventure.

He pulls out and helps me to my feet, my knees still wobbly.

My dress falls effortlessly back in place. After he’s zipped up, he twines his hand around my neck. “Better?”


He kisses me, soft and sure. “I love you, Layla.”

“I love you too.” More than he can possibly know, possibly understand. I rise to my tiptoes, twining my arms around his neck. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” He licks my pounding pulse. “You’ll be okay, sugar.”

“I know.” I squeeze him one more time before I let him go.

He leads me back into the living room, hand clasped with mine.

When we get there, Jillian, winces at me. “You okay?”

“I’m great.” A smile graces my lips, wide and open. Because, I am.

Leo laughs. “All sorted out, girl?”

I wrinkle my nose at him. “Are we ready to go?”

Jillian winks. “We were waiting on you guys.”

“Well, I’m ready.”

I turn to Ruby, who’s standing next to Chad. They look odd together—my rocker, Snow White best friend and Chad, who is about as clean cut as can be. She seems to have no clue that Chad is also dominant, and I’ve thought about clueing her in, but Michael insists she should figure it out on her own. So that’s what I’ve done. Time will tell if it’s a wise decision or not.

Ruby’s brow is furrowed and she looks distressed. Which she probably is. I’ll have to talk to her later and try and explain.

I’d debated inviting her to this party, because it’s out of her comfort zone, but in the end I gave her the option and let her make up her mind. She’s curious about domination and submission, despite all the times she tells me she can’t figure out why I’d want such a thing.

All her protests that she’d never let a man control her are…telling. She asks too many questions, watches Michael and Leo a little bit too closely, and is a little too interested for casual curiosity. So I’m giving her a vehicle to find out more, but she’ll have to pick up the keys and start the ignition.

She’ll get an eyeful. Tonight, subtle isn’t an option.


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