Authors: Miranda Baker
For Ben, my inspiration, my hero and my world.
Destiny was waiting for a sign. She propped her booted feet on the bench and settled sideways in her booth at Johnny’s Downtown. The BDSM club was one of the few places in Norton where she felt comfortable—where her leather, dreadlocks and motorcycle boots kept good company with tattoos, piercings and exposed skin. It was a place where collars were commonplace and black was the color of choice. The room hummed with a D/s vibe that made Destiny feel right at home.
Too bad she was too restless to enjoy it tonight. She’d been inside the club for an hour now, but none of the boys looked tempting. What was the deal? This was not a complicated choice. She usually made swift decisions, occasionally too swift. Waffling over who to top was bizarrely out of character for her.
She scanned the dark corners of the room, where the subs chatted quietly with one another. A girl, maybe?
No, not tonight.
Her gaze wandered to the circular bar in the center of the room where Johnny, the owner of Downtown, captured her attention. It was hard not to take notice of the six-foot-two bartender with colorful tats on every exposed inch of his arms and an eyebrow ring that served to emphasize the wicked gleam in his eyes. Johnny Delcorral was well known in Western New York’s BDSM community and somewhat of a legend in Norton. You couldn’t throw a rock in his club and not hit a submissive girl willing to let him hurt her in any way he chose.
She wondered if the eyebrow ring and his many earrings were the only hardware he carried, or if, like her, he had metal in places he kept covered. On cue, her clit perked to attention, reminding her of the reason she had come to Downtown tonight.
She scanned the room again. One familiar, particularly sweet-looking boy with long blond hair stirred her, but not enough to get her out of her booth. She knew he was lovely bound with rope, all smooth, tanned skin and pleading excitement. Caught in the memory, her eyes lingered on him too long, bringing him to hopeful attention. She sighed and glanced away, doubting she had the energy for that kind of play tonight—not unless she could pull it from the air surrounding the powerful bartender. Was everyone as aware of Johnny as she, or was boredom fucking with her head tonight?
It seemed to her as if Johnny commanded the room. His charisma fueled the sensual atmosphere but kept everyone on their toes and coloring between the lines. She only remembered seeing one fight break out in the bar, a brawl that had ended abruptly with an angry growl from Johnny. He had stalked from behind the bar, taken one man in each hand and stuffed them back into their booth. Menace had poured from him like a dark cloud, his body so tightly coiled that the sleek muscles in his arms had bunched and rippled like rocks under the surface of his skin, distorting the Celtic designs on his arms. He had spoken to the men in a voice so low that she hadn’t been able to hear a word. The curiosity had nearly killed her. Especially when their eyes had widened and they laughed.
She wondered what it would be like to have all that confident, male power under her fingertips, responsive to her touch. It was satisfying to top a man who craved discipline, but a guy like Johnny? What would it be like to put him on his knees, willingly, and make him beg? Abruptly, she realized she was staring at him, and that he was watching her, too, while he polished beer glasses.
His eyebrow, the one with the ring in it, lifted. Her own ring, lower, answered.
Destiny pushed out of her booth and stood, deliberately making her way across the bar. She stopped in front of him and tossed her dreads over her shoulder. “You called?”
“And you answered very nicely.” He was all but laughing at her, shaved head gleaming, black eyes flickering in the bar’s candlelight.
Awareness hummed through her. His physical magnetism was palpable. He must be hell on wheels with his subs, as irresistible as the devil himself. After all, the man had drawn her, a Domme, across the bar with a simple flick of his eyebrow.
“Got a problem tonight, Mistress?”
She lifted her chin. “Not exactly a problem—more like a lack of inspiration.”
He nodded. “Uninspired, huh? Ever think about switching?”
“Not a chance,” she denied. “I’m an Aries. We don’t submit.”
His black eyes glinted. “I’m a Leo. Wanna bet?”
Destiny fought a rogue impulse to lay herself at his feet and instead focused on what it would be like to feel him at hers. She planted her feet firmly and took control, forcing her gaze over him minutely, gathering her strength around her, letting it buoy her until his hard-core leathers and tattoos, his metal and muscles and self-control ceased to make her feel subordinate.
Her boredom, she noticed, was gone.
She had spent three years honing her skills as a Dominant, and yet his challenge made her curious. Could she willingly subdue her temper, delay her gratification and let someone else lead for once? What would it be like to bottom for Johnny? An adventure, certainly, possibly even an education, given his reputation. She knew the best tops spent time on the bottom so they could better understand their subs’ needs, but theory was always easier than practice. Talking to this enigmatic man made her feel more alive than she had in months, but that didn’t mean she wanted to switch. Or did it?
She met his eyes. “I might be willing to negotiate.” It was more an impulse than a decision—one she might regret, but also impossible to resist.
Johnny gestured with the glass. “Have a seat.” His black eyes flashed again. There was humor there, but steel underneath, and he watched her as if he knew what following an order cost her and he was enjoying her struggle.
Destiny slid onto the barstool because she wanted to, not because he had demanded it. She was determined to take the upper hand. “So, do you know anything about astrology?” she asked.
“Not a thing, but I know people—women, especially. You don’t want to be on top tonight.”
“No?” Her eyes slid back to the blond.
“Lookin’ for love …” Johnny hummed the rest of the line under his breath, but she heard it in her head anyway—and she didn't care for what he was implying.
“I’m not looking for love,” she scoffed.
“Of course not. But he’ll disappoint you anyway.” Johnny slid another glass into the rack.
“How do you know?”
“If you’re here talking to me, then you’d be wasting your time with that pretty boy. I’m done at one. Let me take you Upstairs.”
“There’s an upstairs?”
“This is the main part of the club, but yes, there’s another level.”
“Can I go check it out?”
He shook his head. “You need an escort on your first night. It’s my world up there. I say who gets in, who stays. I make the rules and everyone who enjoys playing by them has a good time.”
Destiny pictured a rabbit warren of dark rooms with slave girls chained to every wall and Johnny making his way from room to room, whip in one hand, dick in the other. “So what does that make you, the über-Dom?”
He chuckled, the sly sound ruffling her nerves. “I don’t often play.” His dark gaze flitted over her again, licking her skin, lighting fires. “I draw a crowd when I do, though. You like crowds, Destiny? Do you like to be watched?”
She sat up straighter on her stool, wondering what kind of a crowd was gathered Upstairs tonight. Who else had Johnny invited into his inner sanctum? Curiosity added its weight to her inner struggle. Johnny poured a shot of Patrón and set it in front of her. “You know my drink?” she asked, surprised.
He shrugged. “I pay attention. Not just to drinks, though. I notice all kinds of things about people—like your mood tonight.” He cocked his head and raised his eyebrow again. “Do you want to play with me? Because I think you do.”
His arrogance should have been irritating, but she couldn’t take offense at the truth. She did want him—just not the way he thought.
Thinking about that, Destiny knocked back the shot and licked her lips. “I don’t know anything about you.”
“Don’t let that stop you.” He set the glass and the towel on the bar and faced her squarely. “You didn’t answer my question. Do you like to be watched?”
Curiosity overtook caution and she found herself answering him. “Yes, I’m an exhibitionist. But I’ve never bottomed, and I don’t think I’d want an audience the first time.”
“Agreed. Hard limits?” He moved swiftly to negotiation. Her limits, his desires, their needs—a verbal contract between two interested parties that would bind their play in the rules of the BDSM world.
Destiny sipped the beer chaser Johnny provided. He didn’t rush her, which was good, because frankly, she’d never seriously considered putting herself on the other side of the power dynamic. Bottoms held the power, truly, but it wasn’t supposed to feel like it. Part of the play was feeling powerless, and her Dominant nature utterly rejected that concept. She wasn’t sure how much submission she could handle. Where should she draw the lines? What boundaries would permit her to let him take control?
She watched him run the bar towel over each glass as he waited for her to answer. The thought of putting herself under those rough hands made her tingle. Her nipples peaked. Sexual energy thrilled through her tight muscles. For one night, she could handle just about anything, she decided.
Destiny looked up from his strong hands to see that he was watching her, not the glass, as he worked.
“No blood,” she finally answered. “No blindfolds. Always wear a condom. No other women. And not tonight.”
“Do you have any questions for me? Anything you need?”
She nodded again swiftly. There was one thing she wanted to know, but it didn’t have anything to do with her needs. She watched him closely. “Why do you like to Dominate?”
Johnny frowned. He dropped the towel again and placed his hands flat on the bar. His shoulders formed a tight bridge as he loomed over her. “You’ll agree to submit to me with ridiculously few limitations so long as I tell you why I’m going to enjoy the experience?” His voice was incredulous.
Uncertainty crept up on her. It wouldn’t be the first time her impulsiveness had gotten her into trouble. Johnny was a big man in more ways than height and breadth, she was sure. She thought of those hands, blunt-fingered and ringed, positioning her, his tattooed arms encircling her body as he pushed into her from behind. Blood rushed south, north, engorging her vulva and breasts, sending a flush up her chest. She ignored her arousal and focused on him. “I’m not afraid of you. Do you want me to be?”
“A very proper question from my new submissive.”
Destiny rolled her eyes, making Johnny grin. Humor flashed merrily in his dark gaze. She hoped he wasn’t the kind of Dom who wanted her to look down all the time. She enjoyed seeing his eyes glow like that.
His smile faded. “As for an answer, no, I’m not into fear. Pain, yes; fear, no. I won’t expect you to cringe, but you will show me respect.” His voice was quiet, calm and diamond-hard.
“Earn it.” Destiny clenched every muscle she could control to keep her shiver from showing.
“Ah, Destiny, there is absolutely no doubt of that.”
He reached across the bar to stroke his index finger over her lower lip. His touch made her breath stop in her throat. Her mouth fell open and her tongue darted to taste the pad of his finger. Lime from the gin and tonic he had just mixed made her mouth water. The urge to lower herself was shocking.
“Good girl. Good, good girl,” he whispered. “You are going to please me very much.”
Sweet Jesus, she wanted to. Fear spiked in her center.
Where was the woman who loved power, the leader, the one creating the scene? Panic made her pull her head back from him and close her lips, but he caught her by the jaw, fingers gently clamped around her chin, his little finger feathering the pulse in her throat. “Uh-uh, no way, little lamb. There is no strength in denial. Choose this. Don’t let your brain talk you out of what you need.”
Her thoughts pinwheeled. She cleared her throat and swallowed, a difficult feat with his hand on her throat. “Not lamb—ram. The symbol for Aries is the ram.”
“Since you asked so nicely, I’d be happy to.” His slight, mocking smile returned and his hand dropped away from her face, chilling her.
Destiny was torn. Half of her still wanted to flip this situation, make him bow and scrape, put him on his knees in any way she could. The other half, the rising half, actually wanted what he could give her—a strong hand, a will to match her own. She sure as hell hadn’t come across another man who brought out a submissive side of her.
Again, the wicked gleam. “Choose it. It’s only fun if you want to. Mostly.”
“Fun? You do this for fun?”
“Absolutely. Does that answer your question?”
She nodded slowly and Johnny’s shoulders relaxed. He took her hand. “Isn’t that why you do it too?” he asked.
She had to think about that. Her eyes rested on the blond boy in the corner. He was waiting for her. She knew he was waiting for her. So like Damian, her first love and the man who had introduced her to the BDSM lifestyle, with his long, blond curls and sweet disposition. Also like him in his need to serve. She shook her head. “No, that’s not why I do it.”