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Book X of the Nature Of Desire Series

Release Date: April 30, 2017

Being truly helpless is the only thing that can save him. But it’s the one thing he’s not willing to do.

Marius has all the things a Mistress could want in a one-night-sub encounter. Hot body, loads of charm and a willingness to get her off in any way she pleases. That’s his reputation at The Zone. But Marius has a dark side. When a Mistress pushes him for something deeper, he’ll push back, mess with her head. When he takes it too far one night, The Zone management has had enough. He’s kicked out of the club and there’s only one way back in—Lady Regina.

Regina’s been studying Marius for a while. She enjoys her submissives in all flavors, and she likes them challenging, though not usually the “knight-in-distress” type, so screwed up she’d need a backhoe to dig him out of his dysfunctions. But on that pivotal night, she sees something in Marius. He doesn’t know what it means to be truly helpless to a Mistress, but he needs it, more than any sub she’s ever encountered. And that’s a challenge this Mistress can’t resist.

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Excerpt

© Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

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“You’re fucking smirking at me? You want me to break you, you goddamn asshole? What the hell is the matter with you? What do you want?”

He started to laugh at her, the muscular man built like a gladiator. He was chained, his arms above his head, seemingly helpless. Yet his laughter snapped something, forcing her into a place where she was the one without control. Her white-knuckled grip on the whip only drove the rage. She wanted to make him bleed, make him scream with the kind of pain that brought bowel-loosening fear, not pleasure. “You piece of shit, you arrogant, adolescent--”

 In some tiny corner of her mind, the Mistress knew she should have ended this forty-five minutes ago. It had stopped being fun, it had gone over a line, and he'd dragged her past it somehow, into this place with him. She cranked the chains so she yanked him off the ground, his feet dangling, weight suspended brutally by his arms. It ended the laughter. If she kept him in the position long enough, his shoulders would dislocate. Given what she’d done to him in this session, the muscles had to be screaming in agony already.

The snap of the dragon tail caught him mid-body, then lashed at his testicles. The blows wrested grunts from his throat, and his strong body writhed like a snake speared by a hook.  Yet the light of challenge didn’t die in his far-too-steady gaze. He was still sneering at her, the son of a bitch.

“Use it,” she snarled. “Use it.”

You use it,” he said in a soft voice. Almost pitying. That, and the contempt beneath it, dug into her like barbed claws. In a calmer moment, she might have realized that yes, the pity was for her, but the contempt…she was only the surrogate target.  

But she was far from calm. That kind of logic would return when she found herself again, the Domme she normally was. Not this Hyde-like monster he'd yanked out of her soul, twisting her mind and heart as if he were Lucifer in the desert, bringing out the worst and darkest parts of herself she’d never wanted to know were there.

Even while bound and seemingly helpless, a predator could take down a victim. She hadn’t known that. She was destroying everything she cherished about herself, and he was reveling in watching her bleed. She hated him. She was going to make him suffer, goddamn it. If she was being dragged into hell, he was going with her.

§

Regina propped a booted foot on the lowest rung of the chair in front of her and sipped her drink. She had the tables in this section of the mezzanine to herself. On a weeknight, it was a quiet, less popular spot at The Zone, backed up to the executive offices and not as close to the public play areas. She’d retreated to it, wanting to experience the club tonight the way she enjoyed the beach. By closing her eyes and experiencing it through all her senses, rather than actively seeking the waters.

She’d come ready to play, clad in latex from hip to ankle and calf-length boots. A sheer black shirt with a soft flow to the fabric had a couple of buttons fastened to close it over her black bra. The French braiding along her crown became long ropes of hair swinging loose past her shoulder blades. The shimmer of her relaxed and braided locks was highlighted with auburn and threaded with a scattering of sparkling silver and red beads.

Once she’d hit the floor, though, nothing had grabbed her. Some nights were like that. She’d removed herself from the anticipatory gazes of a small but appealing group of unattached male submissives, all of whom she’d enjoyed before.

While nothing there had roused her interest, her decision to sit here suddenly provided a front row seat to drama. She opened her eyes as Alex, one of the Dungeon Masters on duty, took the stairs to the mezzanine three at a time and put his head and broad upper torso into the open door of the floor manager’s office. “Terry, we’ve got a problem in Room 7. I need backup to end it now, or he’s going to do her real damage.”

“Goddamn it.” Along with the expletive, Regina heard a chair roll back and Terry emerged. The rangy woman with a blonde bob shrugged out of the fuzzy lavender cardigan she wore over her corset, snug jeans and stilettos. Regina was sure it kept her warm while she was sitting at her desk. Lower temps were a necessity in a club that generated a lot of body heat, but like most places, that wasn’t in the offices. It was in the playrooms, public dungeon and on the dance floor, which even at this muffled distance was sending pumping bass through the table surface beneath Regina’s fingertips.

“If you’re calling for reinforcements, we're already too late on the damage part,” Terry added in a clipped tone.

“Nobody has safe worded,” Alex said. “And it’s…well, fuck.”

“Never mind.” Terry brushed his shoulder with her own as she passed him and gave the long blond braid down his back a tug. “It’s not your fault. We both know what the problem is. Or who,” she added darkly. “Let’s go shut him down.”

All Regina had to hear was a woman was in danger, and she was on her feet, following in their urgent wake. She wasn’t staff, but she was a volunteer DM and gold star member of The Zone. The safety of a sub was everyone's responsibility. She wouldn't get in the way, but she'd be there to help. If Alex had to contain an asshole, Regina was trained to assist. Or they might want an extra Domme on hand to help calm and care for the sub.

It pissed her off, thinking a Dom had let things get out of hand and wasn’t caring for his bottom. But it was an unusual occurrence at The Zone, which vetted its members carefully and had a diligent monitoring staff, so her curiosity was roused. Alex was a competent and experienced DM. What kind of situation could have escalated so far he’d called on Terry rather than defuse it himself?

Alex had left backup outside Room 7. The hallway was quiet otherwise, the open doors and dark interiors of most of the private rooms suggesting the bulk of tonight’s play was happening in the public areas. Otis offered a short nod, arms crossed over his beefy chest. His neck was permanently brick red. While it was thanks to his fondness for fishing the Florida Gulf with no sunscreen, he claimed it showed Southern redneck was permanently baked into him.

“Still hasn’t safe worded,” he grumbled. “Was about to go in anyway, fuck it all. She’s crying.”

“I’m making the call. We’re going,” Terry said, and punched in a master code. “Head back to the main floor and keep an eye on things there with Georgina, Otis. Regina will be here for additional backup.”

She tossed a glance over her shoulder, telling Regina she’d been aware of her presence all along. Regina wasn’t surprised. Terry didn’t miss much. She was a submissive herself in her off time, but Regina was sure that helped relieve the stress of her other detail-oriented job, a public defender with the Tampa DA’s office.

Regina hung back until they entered, then she closed the distance so she could see into the room. Terry immediately issued a clipped order to stop the session, but Regina saw it was protocol only, like the police identifying themselves to a perp who’d already given up.

Red Siren was collapsed in a corner of the room on a chair. She was trembling, her face rigid as if she was about to start screaming through stiff lips.

The situation wasn’t what Regina had assumed, but when she saw who the sub was, it wasn’t a surprise. It also hit her hard in the lower belly.

Goddamn Marius.

Marius’s reputation at The Zone had been going downhill over the past eighteen months. Most Mistresses didn’t even bother with him anymore, but when they did, the highest rating he earned was frustrating-as-fuck. Topping from the bottom, an incorrigible brat, a misclassified Dom, a sub caught in the nebulous world of not wanting to be a Dom, but way too controlling to be a top. She’d heard all the speculations, and had suspected he was an amalgamation of all of that. Plus one more, added by her good friend Lyda.

“He’s an asshole,” the Mistress had said bluntly.

Regina didn’t disagree with the assessment, but probably because of the puzzle he presented, she’d let herself get intrigued. Over the past few months, she’d studied him from all angles, though she’d only allowed herself one scene with him. The punishment had been a request from management, a flogging for putting his feet on the furniture. It was a public thing, a demo for the pleasure of the viewers. In that environment, she hadn’t attempted to dig deeper into his head than the purpose of the scene required. For the most part, he’d stayed just as out of reach, taking the punishment with a pleasing and calculated flex of muscles under the blows, his head tipped back and eyes closed.

Yes, she was intrigued by him, but she’d remained in observation mode. No matter how fascinating she found a question with no ready answer, she wasn’t going to commit herself until she was sure he was worth her time. That he had the potential to be more than an asshole.

She didn’t know if this would close the file on her interest, but it would be the end of something. As her gaze swept Room 7, the cold feeling told her what had happened here. It also explained Alex’s frustration and Terry’s anger.

Boy, you are so done. You finally pushed it too far.

 Even so, his condition sent a spurt of angry incredulity through Regina. A Domme with Red Siren’s excellent rep should not have let herself get played, pushed so far that she’d lost control like this.

Marius was off his feet, hung by his arms. His torso, legs and upper thighs were a mass of swelling welts, likely from the pile of toys lying in a discarded stack on the ground before him. Fuck, she’d thrown everything but the kitchen sink at him. Dragon tail, violet wand, steel paddle, even a frigging sjambok, a wicked-looking rubber cane.

The marks on his body, the strain in his shoulders, should be evident in his expression. Yet she only saw boredom, a mild annoyance. Until he turned his silver eyes toward her and she caught a flash beneath all that. A look which hit her mid-body like a second sucker punch.

Feral. Wild, violent, an animal in a trap. Then it was gone and the boredom was back.

Two things were happening. He was as spun up as any submissive would be, caught up in an intense scene that had gone bad. Yet another part of him, the part she suspected had contributed to that wrong direction, had iron control over his exterior reaction, making him look entirely detached.

It was a dangerous combination to handle and defuse, one she admitted she’d never encountered. Most times, a topping sub stayed in control. Marius was both in and out of control.

This boy shouldn’t be within a hundred yards of a BDSM club environment. Not anymore.

 Another disturbing element in that buried-deep-but-not-deep-enough look was the desire to do harm. It was what a human predator emanated, emerging out of a cloak of shadows in a dark alley. But Regina wasn’t in the habit of averting her eyes, and she was no one’s prey.

 “If the Mistress is done with me,” Marius said to no one in particular, “it’d be nice to get some slack.”

Red Siren had stayed hunched on the chair, shaking her lowered head as Terry spoke to her, the manager’s hand on her shoulder. Yet when Marius spoke, the Domme’s head whipped up like she’d been stung by a bee.

“You didn’t give me any slack.” She spat the words in a hoarse growl and exploded off the chair, taking Terry by surprise. Before she could grab her, the Mistress had charged Marius like a wounded animal, going after him with scarlet nails and shoving hands, wresting a grunt from him as the impact jerked him against the chains.

Alex quickly subdued her in a neutralizing pin, and Terry shifted, blocking her view of Marius. Regina stepped into the doorway, catching the manager’s eye. “I’ll handle him if you want to get her out of here,” she offered.

Typically, the sub would have been the first person they attended in this situation. But Marius was being an ass, his studied indifference a passive attack, and they needed to get Red Siren away from that act now.

Terry had come to the same conclusion, prioritizing the care of the Domme to protect the interests of the club. “Appreciate it,” she said shortly.

Red Siren was weeping in Alex’s arms. Fortunately, in that condition, they could shepherd her out between them without further incident. Regina slid past them and approached Marius.

“Poor thing,” Marius murmured. His tone was flat, not mocking, but Regina went with instinct. It didn’t mesh with “safety first” in this instance, but that didn’t make it any less necessary. He’d been moving his head, following the activity in the room, so she wasn’t worried about cervical issues. She fetched him a sharp slap that boxed his ear.

It startled him, snapping his attention to her in an instant. Seizing his sweat-dampened dark hair, she jerked his head around and clamped her other hand on his jaw so he could see Red Siren being led down the hallway. Marius had a solid, strong-boned face, his jaw covered with a manly dark sandpaper stubble that rasped under her fingertips.

Alex had paused to give Red Siren a tissue from one of the liberally distributed dispensers before putting an arm around her again.

“That’s your handiwork. Proud of yourself? Look at her. Unless you can’t.”

This time the aggression that flashed to the surface of his expression stayed. Good. She needed to spill off as much of that as she could, in addition to tending to the physical issues.  Releasing him, she moved one hand to rest between his shoulder blades as she picked up the remote control to the suspension system. As she started taking him back to the ground, she could feel his explosive energy through her touch. If it wasn’t defused, he could take this situation from bad to worse.

When she noted he’d pinned his gaze to the top of the doorframe, she snorted. “Yeah, that’s what I figured. You can’t look at her. So just shut up,” she added when his lips parted. His eyes narrowed but she ignored him. She’d given him enough slack he was back on his feet, his elbows down around his ears. It eased the shoulder strain but not all at once, which would have been more hazardous.

Marius was close enough to six feet to be taller than most women. Not Regina, since in her three-inch heeled boots she was six even. But he was built like a brawler, his thick dark hair chopped in a spiky style adding to the bad boy look. His tough facial features framed striking gray-blue eyes that went to silver when agitated, another way she could tell he was far less detached than he seemed. Right now they looked like newly minted nickel.

He was clad only in a pair of latex shorts, his cock a thick curve under them even when not on duty. It wasn’t the first time she’d noticed he had the proportions to please a woman at full erection. If only the rest of him didn’t seem so at odds with that goal.

He only had one tattoo, a recent addition and nice work. Covering his right shoulder, the design looked like his skin had been torn away by claws to reveal armor beneath a leather-style jerkin with buckles.

It was a shame he hadn’t had actual armor to protect him tonight. But as she assessed his condition, she saw other scars and faded bruises. She noted fresh abrasions on his knuckles, layered over scar tissue. Cataloging even older injuries, she suspected his nose had been broken and possibly his right cheekbone. Red Siren was the first scene he’d had at The Zone recently, but there were other clubs, some far less reputable, that might allow rough play to exceed the boundaries of good sense.

 When he wanted to do so, he exuded pretty boy charm that transformed his features accordingly, but in his current unsmiling mode, he wasn’t pretty. He looked like a man who’d survived a lot of fights. Fights he’d gone looking for.

Her mind returned briefly to that one punishment session they’d had. Despite his obvious detachment and her decision to keep the connection high level, when she’d released him from the St. Andrew’s cross, there’d been one moment when he’d breached the emotional distance between them. As she braced a hand on his forearm to reach up and uncuff his wrist, he’d rubbed his jaw against her knuckles, resting his head on them for a couple heartbeats. As if a sudden weariness had come upon him, or he’d simply needed the connection.

Her brow furrowing, she’d touched his head lightly with her free hand. When he hadn’t moved right away, she cupped her palm over his temple, her fingers stroking along his crown. She knew when a sub needed aftercare, and it was like that, only she didn’t sense the need came from their session. She’d had the thought that maybe the need had surfaced as a delayed reaction to a lot of past sessions, where he hadn’t let himself ask for or accept it.

His eyes had opened. He’d met her gaze briefly, and something in the depths had reached out to her, a cry in the wilderness. Then it was gone. He gave her that shit-eating grin and stepped off the cross, turning his back on her. He’d thrown the obligatory “Thank you, Mistress,” over his shoulder, and made the cute girl subs laugh as he rubbed his ass in pained affectation.

She heard he’d taken one of them out in the parking lot and fucked her in her car. The next time they were both at the club, he didn’t even acknowledge the young woman, sending her fleeing in tears when he claimed not to remember her. Which was bullshit. The man missed no details and intuited what wasn’t obvious. It was why he could fuck with Mistresses the way he did.

So yeah, she’d been studying him more than what qualified as a casual hobby. If he was just an asshole, as Lyda had said, Regina would have put it to bed some time ago. But that moment at the end of the punishment session, the look in his eyes, had kept her gathering intel.

Over the bar were casual snapshots of staff members bantering with one another, posing and smiling. Ironically, Marius worked security and as a paid part-time DM at the club, like Alex, and was extremely effective at both. In those pictures, he displayed a whole different persona from what she had under her hands now.

However, those images were older, the most recent one of him taken well over a year ago. While Regina always suspected his charm and flirty nature were a defensive act, there’d been a more genuine quality to it back then. Kind of a, “Yeah, you’re not getting deeper into my head, but you can have a lot of fun if you stay in the approved area. Don’t knock too hard on the doors and we’ll be all good.”

But something had shifted in recent months, and had reached a breaking point tonight. He’d used that charm as bait for a trap, and lured Red Siren into those darker rooms. Then he’d shut her in there all by herself and turned her fear and insecurities on her. Until she’d seen that feral look, Regina wouldn’t have put it together, but now she deduced he was a sub who’d developed a sadistic streak, and not the pleasurable kind.

That didn’t make sense, nor was it a natural development in the psyche of a true sub. For she was certain that’s what he was, no matter what smokescreen he put up to confuse the issue. The man who’d rested his head briefly on her hand might be a feral creature, so she didn’t make the mistake of thinking that had been about trust. But it could have been a fleeting wistfulness that he could trust her with everything happening in his fucked-up head.

And speaking of fucked-up… His firm lips curved in a half smile now. The gesture was crooked because of a scar across the corner. She remembered when he’d shown up with the busted lip, though she didn’t know the cause. She just remembered he’d had stitches in his chin and along his cheek. The smile brought the right touch of concerned and rueful to his expression.

His blue-grey eyes would have been mesmerizing except for that hardness in them, a calculating watchfulness that said he never completely stepped out of the picture and let go. It made the discerning woman wary, instead of melting with need. Until he turned on the charm, which he did now, masking the earlier flash of attitude.

“Sorry, Mistress. Didn’t mean to be disrespectful. Was coming out of the zone,” he said. “Hope she’s okay.”

“Do you now?” she asked coolly, rubbing the muscles in his shoulders, working out the knots, making sure he hadn’t been injured. If he had, she suspected he wouldn’t have revealed it with a single word. It took a while to get even a male sub with a healthy attitude to admit when he was hurt and required some cosseting. Not only was Marius leagues away from that healthy attitude, he resonated with the tough-guy vibes. So she was thorough.

He tilted his head unconsciously to give her better access, and a breath escaped him, making her suppress a tight smile. There you are, bad boy. She had good, strong hands. When it was called for, she knew how to mix strength and strokes together the right way.

“Yeah.” He recalled himself enough to answer her question. “I don’t mean her any harm.”

“Just worked out that way, hmm? Interesting choice of words. Most subs would be upset with her for losing control like that, for not keeping them safe. Sounds like you hold yourself partly to blame. A humble or insecure sub might incorrectly do that, but you’re neither of those.”

“Sounds like you got me all figured out.” The broken lip curled. “So tell me what I am, Mistress Regina.”

He shifted his body so his ass brushed her thigh. Not only an insolent move, but inappropriate, both in timing and situation. That didn’t stop sparks from igniting wherever their flesh touched. It was why she’d felt that punch in the gut when she knew he’d crossed a line that he probably didn’t yet realize was going to bring this to an end. He’d gotten under her skin, more than she’d realized.

Fortunately, her libido didn’t do her thinking for her. Her Mistress side did.

She dropped the slack on the chains so he could lower his arms fully. In the same motion, she gripped his wrist, twisted, and bumped the back of his leg, shoving him to one knee. She ignored his grunt. Yeah, he was hurting, but he wasn’t injured. As Keanu Reeves á la The Replacements said: Pain heals.

The wrist pin kept him in that position. With the threat of excruciating pain and a possible wrist fracture if he tried to get out of it, it would keep most subs still. At the height of his session with Red Siren, when the air had likely crackled with violence, he’d have been one of those who’d risk a broken bone rather than be subdued, but for now, he went still as she bent over him and spoke against his nape. It was easier to keep his head bowed down with the hold she was employing, but she wondered if he was doing it purposefully to charm her. That wouldn’t interest her. If his true sub part was responding, that would, but neither route had her attention right now. He wanted an answer to her question; she’d give it to him.

“You’re a fucked-up soul,” she said flatly. “Been lost in the woods for so long you stopped calling for Mommy, even though the need to do it’s still there, pissing you off and blaming everything female for it. It digs into your heart and squeezes until you think the blood’s gone, leaving stone. Probably why your eyes are the color of poured concrete.”

They flashed. Feeling the thrum of tension through his shoulder, she tightened the screws, her hold on his wrist, before he could do something inadvisable. “But stone is what you better get used to feeling, boy, because you just hit rock bottom here.”

He tensed, but she was done with him. For now. Letting him go, she shoved him, so he had to catch himself with his hand on the floor as she stepped away. She felt his eyes on her back as she moved across the room. “You don’t have any injuries requiring formal medical treatment, though you’re going to be sore as hell the next few days. Won’t be the first time, so I expect you know how to handle that. Put some antiseptic on those welts on your ass and thighs to minimize the chance of infection. Wipes are in the locker room.”

She waited until she closed the door of the room behind her to lean against it and blow out a breath. Shit and double shit.

Over the years, she’d explored and binged on a lot of BDSM practices. Primal play, Mommy/boy, rope, electric, wax, impact, interrogation, pony and puppy play. All the basics in restraint and pain for punishment and pleasure. The Zone had been her place to indulge and learn, and network into other opportunities in private homes and at BDSM events during her work travels. The skills allowed her to serve as a DM and be regarded as a resource in her own right for other Masters and Mistresses.

As an engineering consultant in the technology and manufacturing industries, staying on top of all the latest advancements was critical. She had the type of mind that sought and devoured new information. If she had an interest in acquiring a new skill set, she wasn’t a dabbler. She wanted to master it and did.

Yet there was a type of interaction with a sub that had nothing to do with the mechanics, and it had kept BDSM an enduring passion long after she’d mastered and moved on from other interests. That connection simmered beneath the surface of scenes, a potential treasure that could surface during any of them. She’d played along the edges, dipped her toe into it now and then, keeping it a casual addiction. She was too busy and had far too many other pastimes to bog herself down in a relationship.

Yet when she’d seen others experience it at far deeper levels, she’d felt the twinge that told her one day she would want to go deeper and find that treasure for herself.

She was aware that emotions were her unknown frontier. She wasn’t averse to the idea of getting involved with someone; in her practical way, she simply knew it would take the right opportunity to motivate her in that direction.

Months of studying him, chewing on the enigma in random moments, and still she hadn’t seen it creeping up on her. Not until she’d met his gaze and registered the feral look, which had somehow connected to the other look he’d given her at the end of their punishment scene. The thrum that went through Regina’s bones now was a message easy enough to read.   

“Yeah, he’s trouble. But there’s something shiny hiding under the heap of hurt he’ll dish out.”

His violence and Red Siren’s distress had packed the room with dense negative energy, but that glimmer remained as hi-def clear as the cold starlight in Marius’s gray eyes, impossible for her to ignore. A diamond dug out of a septic pond was still a diamond. The question was how dirty a person was willing to get to obtain it.

When she’d bent and spoken into his ear, giving him the hard truth, she’d caught his sidelong glance, measuring her. Trying to figure her out. He wasn’t thinking of that one meaningful moment from their punishment session, she was sure. He was more likely riffling through every bit of data he had about her to figure out how to work this. She wasn’t worried about that. She hadn’t given him front row access to measure her.

She wasn’t a romantic. She’d rarely seen that glimmer of treasure, and when she did, often it was fool’s gold. But she could feel the difference in that part of herself that knew such things. If she doubted it, she only had to defer to the equal surge of “oh shit no” that came along with it, afraid she was right.

Yeah, the timing might suck, or it might be where it was supposed to be. Didn’t matter anyway, did it? His ass was so done here. As quickly as the realization of her interest had happened, the optimal conditions in which to pursue it were going to close. She wasn’t going to chase the boy down in whatever corners of the world he inhabited outside The Zone.

As she left the room, she strolled back to the floor, to all appearances dismissing the whole thing. Yet she kept a close eye on Marius as he emerged from the corridor, moving stiffly. He was headed toward the locker area when Alex intercepted him. Marius initially balked at whatever the DM told him, but Alexander set his jaw and put a hand on his arm. An ultimatum had been delivered. When he pointed upward, Regina glanced up to the third level and saw the light on in Tyler’s office. Fuck, she hated to be right. They’d called the boss man himself. She suspected Alex was saying Tyler wanted Marius in his office now, no time to change. He could either comply or clean out his locker and leave, period.

Forfeiting his membership, one of the perks of his employment, wouldn’t be the only penalty for noncompliance. He’d broken the common sense rule of not shitting where you work.

She saw a quiver run through him at Alex’s words, and his gaze flicked to the contact point between them. Tension infused Marius’s body language with warning. Registering the latter, the DM removed his hand, but he kept his hard gaze pinned on the other man. Even at this distance Regina felt that crackle of electricity she’d experienced when she’d first laid her palm on Marius. He was still spun up from the scene, the whole situation. Guilt twinged through her for leaving him so abruptly, though the proper aftercare for a sub who’d shoved himself into sub drop through his own sadistic behavior wasn’t in any BDSM play manual she’d ever read.

Still, maybe she could figure out a subtle way to shadow him up to Tyler’s office, and devise an even less plausible scheme to get herself into the office, or within hearing distance.

It turned out such strategies were not necessary. When Alex saw her, he held Marius in place with a gesture and crossed the room to her. “Lady Regina, if you’re willing, Mr. Winterman has requested your presence. He feels your insight and participation into this situation would be valuable.”

An interesting way of phrasing it and one she was sure was deliberate, knowing what she did of Tyler Winterman.

“It would be my pleasure,” she said.


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