Masters of the Shadowlands - 2
To my readers,
This book is fiction, not reality and, as in most romantic fiction, the romance is compressed into a very, very short time period.
You, my darlings, live in the real world and I want you to take a little more time than the heroines you read about. Good Doms don't grow on trees and there's some strange people out there. So while you're looking for that special Dom, please, be careful.
When you find him, realize he can't read your mind. Yes, frightening as it might be, you're going to have to open up and talk to him. And you listen to him, in return. Share your hopes and fears, what you want from him, what scares you spitless. Okay, he may try to push your boundaries a little—he's a Dom, after all—but you have your safeword. You will have a safeword, am I clear? Use protection. Have a back-up person. Communicate.
Remember: safe, sane and consensual.
Know that I'm hoping you find that special, loving person who will understand your needs and hold you close. Let me know how you're doing. I worry, you know.
Meantime, come and hang out with the Masters of the Shadowlands.
The massive stone building loomed over the extensive grounds like a forbidding castle in some gothic novel. Club Shadowlands. Kari Wagner shook her head at the intimidating sight, at the thought of what the evening might hold.
Beginners lessons at a private BDSM club. She'd gone insane. Really. Her mind had rotted completely away. Teaching high school, that's what had caused her lapse in sanity. All those teenagers…
Her date, Brian—or Buck, as he liked to be called—grabbed Kari's arm and pulled her through the front door. She slipped a little, and his grip hardened. “Damn, you're slow.”
In the small entry room, a huge security guard stood behind a table, looking so ogrelike he was almost cute. “Good evening, sir, miss.”
“Good evening.” Kari closed her mouth before she called him Shrek.
He held out his hand. “Papers, please?”
As Buck handed over the doctor's certificates and money, Kari eased her arm away. She'd been attracted to his authoritative personality—so different from the usual men she dated—but he'd never been rough before. Then again, he didn't know how to do this domination stuff any more than she did.
The guard finished looking at the papers and handed them off to another man before saying, “I'll take your jacket, sir. And miss? Please leave your shoes with me now.”
“My shoes?” After a glance at the guy to see if he was serious—he was—Kari slipped off her orange sneakers.
The guard patiently kept his hand outstretched until she handed over her Tigger-decorated socks also. A little snort of laughter escaped him. “Thank you, miss.”
Buck's pale brows drew together at the sight of the socks. “What the hell are you wearing?”
Kari glanced down at her ankle-length denim dress. “Sorry. It was parent-teacher day, and my last set of parents arrived a half hour late. I didn't have time to go home and change.”
“Honestly, Kari, you dress like a five-year-old.” He straightened the lapels of his black suit.
“Well, I used to teach kindergarten after all.” She laughed. “But my high-school students like my clothes too.” Besides, even if she'd had time to change, what would she have worn to a BDSM club? Some weird lacy corset thing? Surely they'd dated long enough for him to know her better than that.
“Well, folks, have a pleasant evening.” Smiling, the guard pointed them toward a door on the right wall.
Wait a minute. Kari frowned at her bare feet, then looked at the man. “Excuse me, but why is Buck allowed to keep his shoes on?”
The guard blinked. “Did I make a mistake? Which one of you is the Dom or Domme?”
“I am.” Buck gave her a disgusted look. “Just be quiet, Kari. Don't talk at all.”
She bit back her first response—and the second—and settled for a nod. Buck might look like Prince Charming—tall, slim, blond—but his manners needed a little work. Still, she should give him a break. If he wasn't Mr. Perfect Dominating Man, she wasn't exactly a ten on the Gorgeous Submissive Woman scale, right? In fact, considering her conservative upbringing, this whole evening was probably doomed to failure.
Before they reached the door, Buck yanked her to his side, his fingers digging into her skin. “There will be other Doms here and other beginners. Remember you're with me. Don't talk to anyone else. Don't look at anyone else.”
“Got it. Now let go of me.” With an exasperated sigh, she pried his hand from her arm, then followed him into a large office with lush dark brown carpeting and creamy white walls. An antique desk and office equipment took up the far side of the room. In the right corner, several big men and two women, all dressed in gold-trimmed leather clothing, eyed her and Buck before returning to quiet conversation.
The center of the room held a sitting area occupied by two men. One was a tall, broad-shouldered man with silvering dark hair wearing European-tailored black slacks and a black silk shirt. His dark gray eyes had focused on her and Buck the minute they walked through the door. Now, he tilted his head toward the couch across from him.
“That's got to be Master Z,” Buck hissed as they crossed the room. “All this is his. You watch your mouth and don't speak unless I give you permission.”
She did exactly that, closing her mouth over her impulse to tell him where to go. He meant well, and she wasn't going to leave before she found out more about this bondage stuff and why it excited her so much.
In black leathers, the other man looked downright dangerous: hard-faced with an equally hard body, open vest stretching over broad shoulders. Black hair slightly curling to the nape of his neck, potent brown eyes, the shadow of a beard along a stern jaw. If Buck was the golden prince, this man was the dark one.
When the men rose, Kari froze, feeling like a mouse confronted by lions. Mouth dry, she managed to move forward and smile.
“Buck,” the gray-eyed one said in a smooth, deep voice. “Welcome to the Shadowlands. I am Master Z.” He shook hands with Buck and then Kari. His warm hand engulfed her cold fingers as he studied her for a moment. “Welcome, Kari.”
She opened her mouth, remembered not to speak, and smiled instead.
Master Z nodded to the other man. “This is Master Dan.”
The man nodded, shook hands with Buck, and then took Kari's hand, his grip much gentler than she'd expected. When she looked up, his dark brown eyes trapped hers. He didn't leer or do anything other than look at her, yet she felt a flush rise into her face. She pulled her hand back and looked down. She could still feel his penetrating gaze.
“Please be seated,” Master Z said. He waited for everyone to sit, then resumed his seat. He tapped the coffee table where their medical records and questionnaires were spread. “Your papers are in order. You're both free of any disease.”
He glanced at her and Buck. “The rules of the Shadowlands are simple. Don't touch anything or anyone that doesn't belong to you without permission. Do not interfere in someone else's scene. The equipment is here for your use, and after your introductory class tonight, there are private rooms upstairs, also for your use.” He nodded to the men in the corner. “Dungeon monitors—DMs—supervise activities and are available to answer questions or even to help as needed. Watch for the gold trim or an orange badge.”
His gaze turned to Kari. “Here at the Shadowlands, use the term 'Master' for those in authority over you: me, the DMs, and possibly, your Dom. When in doubt, address any Dom as Sir or Ma'am.”
“I understand. Thank you,” she said without thinking and winced at Buck's glare.
Dan Sawyer half listened to Master Z while he sized up the two people who would be in his charge. The bland-faced man with pale blond hair and blue eyes. About five-eleven and a lanky one-seventy in a black suit. He had a narrow mouth with more frown lines than laugh lines and checked his date frequently as if afraid she'd disappear.
The woman wasn't beautiful, but compellingly pretty. Midtwenties. Wide blue eyes and hair the rich brown color of Guinness. A soft pink mouth bracketed by faint lines, showing she knew how to laugh and did it often. She was little, about five-four, and definitely not slender. Her long dress couldn't conceal her very lush curves despite being buttoned right up to the top.
Interesting choice of attire for the club. Was she modest? Probably. He studied the way she'd pulled her hair into a tight French braid. Modest and conservative. Huh.
He rubbed his chin and studied her further. Had she wanted to be in a BDSM club, or had her date dragged her? Maybe he had, considering the way she was rubbing her arm.
Shaking his head, Dan leaned back in his chair. Looked like this couple would bear watching.
She'd be a pleasure to watch. To see tremble. To see helpless need in those big eyes. To see… He set his imagination aside. Wherever those thoughts had come from, they were out of place. He was a teacher tonight.
A roar of laughter from the corner caught his attention, and he glanced at the other DMs for beginners' nights. All had been Dominants for years, all trustworthy men and women. Some with their own submissives, some, like Dan, without. A few were looking for a new sub to train. Dan wasn't.