My Liege of Dark Haven
Dark Haven - 3
I’d like to thank all of you who have put yourselves in my hands, hoping to be taken to a different world for the next few hours. I’m honored by your trust, and I’ll try not to let you down.
To those of you who demanded a book for Master Xavier (you know who you are), thank you! I hope I did him justice.
My Dark Haven characters and I thank my wonderful editor, G.G. Royale, who noticed I’d dressed them in chain-link rather than chain mail. They’re quite relieved not to be wearing fencing material.
A big thank-you to Belinda McBride and Sierra Cartwright, who started the Dark Haven odyssey with me and generously said that I owned Master Xavier. (I explained that to him—it didn’t go over well.)
Welcome to Leagh Christensen, my new personal assistant, who jumped right in and started overhauling my life. You’re amazing!
To Bianca Sommerland, Fiona Archer, and Kathy Holtsclaw, who beta-read this book and made it far better than it would have been without them.
For those of you on my new street team—many, many hugs. Your LOL brattiness lightens my day, and your enthusiasm for new books forces me back to the desk. (Pain and pleasure, right?)
A shout-out to the San Francisco Citadel, especially Phil, August, and crew. Despite all the hardships, you’ve kept alive the dream of a home for lifestylers.
To my two fledglings who are ready to leave the nest—may your wings be strong and your flights long and glorious.
And, as always, my love and appreciation to my Dearheart. You truly do keep me sane.
Bless you all.
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 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 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. Let me know how you’re doing. I worry, you know.
Meantime, come and hang out with the Doms of Dark Haven.
The thick fog swathed the streetlight, preventing the dim yellow glow from reaching the ground. On the dark San Francisco street, Professor Abigail Bern watched the red taillights of the taxi disappear into the mist. With the enthusiasm of a convict facing a firing squad, she turned toward the infamous Dark Haven BDSM club.
In contrast to the flashing display of the nightclub down the street, this place didn’t exactly set out the welcome mat. To the right of the heavy black door, only a small, discreet sign proclaimed DARK HAVEN. She understood the lack of advertising. The BDSM community was in the same position as the gay population in the past. People weren’t “out.”
They certainly wouldn’t like being studied.
She didn’t plan to tell them. Covert participant observation, it was called, in which the subject never knew a sociologist was present. And it makes me uncomfortable. But she wouldn’t gather anything that could identify a member. And really, her research on the culture might even help the community—it certainly couldn’t do any harm.
She didn’t have a choice. Publish or perish was no longer a cute phrase—not with the proposed cutbacks at her university.
It had been a ghastly week. She might lose her job, and she’d definitely lost Nathan. Although she would drive him to the airport tomorrow, he was already gone from her life. Her breathing hitched at the emptiness in her chest.
She hadn’t been meeting his needs, he’d said. His need to tie her up, call her names, order her around. His need to have his precious BDSM in the bedroom. Hopefully, during her fieldwork, she’d grow to understand the appeal of such things. Maybe she’d even be able to indulge him by the time he returned in August. They could try again.
I don’t want to lose him. Her attempt to take a deep, calming breath failed, and she realized she’d laced her corset far too tightly. Shaking her head, she looked down at herself, and her spirits lifted. I look hot. After researching BDSM styles, she’d bought a calf-length skirt, a fancy corset, and tall vinyl boots. All in black. The corset pushed up her ample breasts and yanked in her thick waist; the skirt hid her wide hips, creating a Barbie figure—well, if Barbie were a size sixteen and a Domme. The don’t-mess-with-me effect was amazing.
Nathan called her a submissive—or maybe he simply hoped she was—but she wasn’t convinced. Given the choice, she’d dress as a Dominant. Besides, going into a BDSM club looking like a…a victim would be stupid. I might not be gorgeous, but smart? Oh yeah.
She headed for the building, anxiety mingling with determination and…okay, maybe a little excitement as well. Here goes. She pulled the door open and—
A woman barged out, knocking Abby backward.
“Clarissa.” A familiar-looking, gorgeous man followed her. “Are you certain you want to walk out like this?”
“I’m sure.” Clarissa glared as she yanked on a coat over her skimpy bustier and thong. “Very, very sure, Simon.”
Abby took a step back, her stomach unsettled at the woman’s raised voice and open anger. Don’t yell. Don’t scream. Please, please, please.
“I thought being the receptionist meant I’d get some Xavier time, but nooo.” Clarissa jerked her coat closed. ”Instead he offered to find me someone to play with. Yeah, what the fuck good is that?”
As the woman edged back from uncontrollable rage, Abby relaxed enough to take mental notes. Xavier time? Was that a technique or a machine or what?
And she’d better go in before she got caught watching. She detoured around the man, entered the club, and faced a bulletin board with a huge calendar in the center. Various events were penciled into the squares with yarn running out to surrounding flyers. A tea for Dommes. A Master/slave event. A furry barbecue—which sounded just wrong. What did a party for littles involve? The busy calendar reminded her of the equally big one her mother had used to track Abby’s debate-team nights, Grace’s soccer games, and Janae’s beauty-queen contests.
Abby turned at the greeting.
Like an ad for cuteness, a slender young man in bright-red running shorts and a matching red collar stood behind an L-shaped reception desk. He patted a device that resembled a credit card reader. “Ma’am. Swipe your membership card right here, please.”
“I don’t have a card.” Membership? Wasn’t the club a walk-in sort of place?
“That’s okay. Show me your driver’s license, and I’ll find your number in the computer.” He gave the monitor a dubious frown. “I think I can look it up.”
“I mean, I’m not a member.”
“Oh.” He dropped into the wheeled chair, making it squeak in protest. “That’s bad. See, you can’t get in if you’re not a member. Not anymore. You have to have a recommendation or take the classes. There’s a bunch of hurdles to jump since Dark Haven turned all private and ex-ca-loosive.”
Faint music and the hum of conversation came through the inner door as Abby stared at him in dismay. “Exclusive? But…” I don’t have time for this. The club opened only on weekends, and her research had to start right now or she wouldn’t get it done, peer-reviewed, and published in time to save her job. “Can I fill out an application?”
“I used the last one.” He scowled at the computer. “I could print one. Maybe. There’s a form somewhere.”
She craned her neck and pointed to an icon on the desktop screen. “Try the APPLIC.”
He clicked and an application appeared. “Score. Do you know how to send it to the printer? Last time I tried, I got awarded the blue screen of death.”
After she guided him through the steps, the printer hummed to life. She grinned. Even after four years of being a professor, she still got a zing from teaching, no matter the subject.
“Here you go.” He proudly handed her the form with several more from a folder. “You might as well fill out the waivers and consents too.”
Off to one side, she started on the paperwork, sighing at the legalese. The usual disclaimers. The place wasn’t responsible for any disaster that might befall her. How reassuring. She needed a physical and blood work? Jaw tight, she doggedly continued.
When the room had emptied of incoming people again, she handed the pile back to him. “How soon can you process this?”
“Hell, without Destiny here, probably forever,” he said, turning glum. “Longer than that if my liege asks me to do the paperwork. I’m a lover, not a typist. But I can’t afford the membership fees if I don’t volunteer. Look at what it costs.” He shoved a paper across the desk.