Edge of the Enforcer
Mountain Masters & Dark Haven - 4
To my readers,
The books I write are 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 in your relationships. Good Doms don’t grow on trees, and there are 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 will have your safe word. You will have a safe word, am I clear? Use protection. Have a backup 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.
And while you’re looking or even if you’ve already found your dearheart, come and hang out with the Doms of Dark Haven.
Thanks to you all for talking me into writing about deVries. (And although he won’t say as much, he’s grateful too.)
Kisses to Suede and Phantom for answering questions about the sadistic mindset.
My gratitude to Leagh Christensen, my personal assistant, for shouldering an amazing amount of thankless tasks, and blessings upon Lisa Simo-Kinzer, gracious Mistress of my street team and discussion group.
Thanks to my beloved ShadowKitten’s street team for enthusiastically pouncing upon potential new readers and for help with story questions.
Where would I be without my evil beta readers—Bianca Sommerland with her love of darkness and heightened emotions, Fiona Archer who likes balance and romance, and Monette Michaels who expects consistency (sheesh!) and intense action. Sweet Liz Berry kept deVries from stepping out of line, and Molly Daniels added a keen eye—and lively discussions on weaponry. Thank you all!
A big shout-out goes to my editor, Maryam, and the awesome copy, line, and proof-editors at Loose Id. Their passion for turning a manuscript into something y’all would want to read is so, so appreciated.
I’m sending big hugs to all of you who come and play on my Facebook pages and in the new Discussion Group. My days are brightened by cat jokes, heated discussions about the Masters, eye-candy, and your enthusiasm for answering odd questions.
As always, my love and appreciation to my Dearheart, who ruthlessly drags me out of the cave and reminds me that life is meant to be lived.
No moon. Beneath the cold stars, the pickup bumped over the rutted road, tossing the mercenaries around like fired shells from an M-4.
“Fuck,” deVries growled under his breath. He resumed his kneeling position and braced himself on the wooden side slats. Grasping Harris’s shoulder, he used his free hand to apply pressure to the young man’s belly below his bulletproof vest. Blood poured out, warm over his fingers. The new merc wouldn’t live. They’d put dressings on the leg wounds, but from the amount of bleeding, the bullet in his pelvis had ripped up his insides.
Medical care was too far away.
“I-I’m cold,” Harris whispered. The kid was in his midtwenties.
Too fucking young to die.
“Hey, Iceman. Here.”
DeVries caught the jacket a teammate tossed over and added it to the others on Harris. Poor bastard. Last one to join the team. First one to go.
“You got anyone back home?” deVries asked.
A convulsive tremor shook the kid. His systems were shutting down, one by one, no matter how hard his body fought. “Uh-uh. Wife left me.” Another shiver. He sucked air. “She d-didn’t like being poor. Want her back so signed on here. Pay’s good.”
Yeah, mercenary work paid top dollar.
“Got no one,” the broken whisper continued. “You?”
“Nah.” No one to go home to. No one to talk to about his job or his merc work. No one to mourn if he didn’t return. Missions like this made for a fine adrenaline zing. Didn’t make for a long life.
The kid had screwed up. Tripped and alerted the perimeter guards. A nice clean extraction had turned into a goat fuck. DeVries’s armor had stopped one bullet; the next one had ripped a chunk of meat from above his hip. His jeans were already soaked with blood. Couple inches over and he’d have been lying beside Harris.
“We get the guy out?” Harris whispered.
“Affirmative. You did good”—what was Harris’s first name?—“Luke. The man’ll be reunited with his family by tomorrow.” But it sucked that the asshole they’d rescued wasn’t worth someone’s life.
“Won’t see it.”
Grief and anger twisted in deVries’s gut. Dammit. Wasn’t fair.
In the faint moonlight shining down into the bed of the farm truck, Harris’s eyes were dull but level.
“No, you won’t.” DeVries wouldn’t lie. If a man could face the question, he deserved an honest answer. DeVries closed his hand over Harris’s chill one. Squeezed. “I’m sorry. You have anything you need done?”
“Buy the boys a round for me.”
His throat tightened. “You got it.”
Harris’s eyelids drooped, and his breathing turned shallow.
DeVries settled in beside him. A man shouldn’t die alone. Each time the truck hit a bump, pain stabbed into deVries’s side, reminding him he was alive. One day, he’d be the poor bastard lying there. No pretty woman to cry for him and make him fight to survive. Only a teammate to keep vigil.
And he’d die…for what? To save a dirty politician from his well-deserved desserts? To get a few extra bucks in the bank?
He’d turned down money before. His mouth tightened, remembering his fucked-up childhood and how his mother’s pimp had yelled at her. “…good-looking boy. The little shit could fill his pockets with big bills, and he says no? You got the stupidest kid in Chicago.”
But deVries hadn’t wanted to be a whore. To sell himself for money. He’d craved a real home. Someone to love him. Right. Now here he was, a mercenary and alone. God had a fucking good sense of irony.
A week later, deVries walked through the chill autumn air up to the door of Dark Haven—the notorious San Francisco BDSM club. As he entered, he found a line of members waiting in front of the reception desk.
Fine with him. He could use the time to get his head into the right space for the night. With a sigh, he leaned on the wall, feeling the drag of exhaustion like he wore diving weights on his belt.
Damn fucked-up mission. The throb of grief was more painful than the wound in his side. Harris had died before they’d reached the pickup point. Hadn’t even had anyone to notify. Because his wife didn’t want to be poor. Yeah, some bitches could be greedier than any soldier for hire.
With an effort, deVries sidestepped old dark memories. He was in enough of a crappy mood. The healing gash along his hip still hurt like hell, and ripping the stitches open would be stupid, so using his favorite flogger was out. But, damn, he wanted a good, long session. The need to inflict pain was a low hum in his bones.
The pretty receptionist named Lindsey smiled at the next person in the line.
“Hi, HurtMe,” she said in her soft Texas drawl, taking the membership card from the young man. “Are your classes going well?” Despite the leisurely, warm river of her voice, Lindsey had a personality that danced like a sunlit fountain.
Under her attention, the masochist glowed as he told her about his exams.
DeVries shook his head. Lindsey was the reason the line moved so slowly. The girl liked people and had the ability to talk with anyone about anything.
Too lively to sit, she stood behind the reception desk. Her wavy brown hair, streaked with red-and-gold highlights, had grown over the summer to her bra line. Quite a bra it was too. The club owner, Xavier, had decreed an animal theme for the night, and Lindsey wore a fur leopard-printed bra. Be nice to see what covered her ass, since the girl didn’t lack imagination.
Rather a shame she never stripped naked, though. She had a sweet little body—one designed to be used well and often. Unfortunately she didn’t enjoy the harder forms of kink.
“Have a good night, sweetie.” Turning, she looked at deVries and held her hand out. “Sir, may I take your card?”
He handed it over to put through the card reader.
He noticed how she averted her big brown eyes, and her mouth tightened. Apparently, what he’d told her a while back had hurt her feelings. She needed to get over it.
“Lindsey,” he growled.
Her gaze flashed up to his.
She gave him a puzzled blink, and hell, he wanted her under him, giving him that confused look as he started doing everything he’d imagined to her.
But he wasn’t going to go there, even if she did still owe him a blowjob and anal sex from a paintball party last July. Sadly, he’d been called away on a mission and hadn’t collected. Pissed him off at the time. Just as well—fucking her would have been a piss-poor move. Lindsey was a sweet submissive, and he had no use for niceness in his life.