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Authors: Roni Loren

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BOOK: Caught Up in You
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Kelsey returned the hug, standing up in the process. “Definitely. Give me a call.”

Charli gave her one last pat on the arm and headed out, leaving Kelsey with Grant.
That alone was a testament to how strong of a relationship the two had. How many women
would leave their guy alone with a chick in thigh-high boots and a corset?

Grant nodded in Kelsey’s direction. “Come on in, Kelsey. Marc said you wanted to chat.”

“Yes, sir.” She followed Grant into his office, the warm woods and stone of the room
matching the rustic feel of the rest of the resort, and sat in the chair across from
his desk. “I had a few questions about my position.”

He settled in his large chair and adjusted the blinds behind him so that there wouldn’t
be a glare on her face. “Sure. Shoot.”

She clasped her hands in her lap, trying to keep herself from fidgeting. “Some things
have come up in town again, and I think the only way out of them is going to be to
move away for a while.”

His dark eyebrows lifted. “What kind of trouble, Kelsey? If you’re struggling with
your sobriety, there are things . . .”

“Oh, no, nothing like that,” she said, her words rushing out. “This is old trouble
that won’t seem to go away. I think I just need to cut my losses and start over somewhere
else. But I need to have more of a nest egg to do that. I thought maybe I could start
taking on a few trainees to earn some extra money.”

Grant frowned and leaned back in his chair, considering her in a way that made her
want to bow her head. “The requirements for my trainers are very clear. Both sides
of training are required. And you haven’t done the submissive part yet. Believe me,
I understand why you haven’t been able to do that portion. After what happened to
you last year, I can only imagine how frightening that could be. I wouldn’t want anything
to trigger those memories for you. But it wouldn’t be fair or safe to make an exception.
I need my trainers to understand and experience both sides firsthand.”

“Right.” She looked down at her hands, not surprised by the answer but disappointed.
She’d tried to do the thirty-day submissive immersion twice now because being a trainer
was more lucrative than being a part-time domme like she was now. But each time the
day to start had gotten close, she’d cancelled at the last moment. And she hated that.
Hated that her attacker still held any power over her at all. Davis hadn’t been a
dominant, he’d been a sociopath and rapist who’d held her against her will, beat her
mercilessly, and tortured her for the three days he’d had her. She obviously knew
that wasn’t what submission entailed. Yet, she still hadn’t been able to take that
step with anyone.

Grant sighed and leaned forward, setting his chin on his clasped hands. “Kelsey, can
I be honest with you?”

“Yes, sir,” she said quietly.

“I hired you because you’d been through a lot, and I wanted to give you an opportunity
to get on your feet. And I think discovering your domme side has helped you gain confidence
that the men in your past had stolen from you. You’ve blossomed these last few months.”

Warmth gathered in her chest at the compliment. “Thank you.”

“But dominance is not your natural state,” he said, his eyes meeting hers. “You’re
more than capable of being in that role, but I can tell you have to work hard at it.”

She frowned, his matter-of-fact assessment like a bucket of cold water over her head.
“I don’t understand.”

His too-keen eyes evaluated her. “After a session, you don’t look satisfied or fulfilled.
You look spent. And I know you don’t use your membership benefits here. The only people
you dominate are the ones paying for the privilege. You don’t play with anyone for
your own enjoyment.”

She glanced away, focusing on a spot over his right shoulder. Truth was, as sexually
pent up as she could get, she never had the desire to take up one of the submissive
members on their offers. She’d been abstinent since about a month after the attack.
The first few weeks afterward had been filled with a backslide into drinking and far
too many one-night stands. She’d been on a mission to erase the memory of that last
person who’d touched her by having any and everyone in her bed. But after waking up
hungover in some strange apartment, parked between a guy she’d picked up at a bar
and
his girlfriend, she’d hoofed it to her therapist and returned to The Ranch to ask
for her job back. And thank God she’d done those two things. She didn’t even want
to think about where she’d be otherwise.

Dominance really wasn’t about getting off for her anyway. It was a release of different
sorts. It kept the hungry demons at bay—the whispers of old addictions, the threads
of insecurity, the temptation to tumble backward and not feel. It centered her. “I
just haven’t found someone who interests me yet.”

“Hmm,” he said, obviously not buying that ocean-front property in Arizona she was
trying to sell. “Or perhaps you’ve got a longer and more important journey left on
the other side of the equation, and what happened to you blocked you from accessing
that side of yourself. When you first approached me last year, before Davis, you wanted
to do the submissive part first. It was what you were drawn to.”

She shook her head. “I’m not a submissive, Grant. Men have controlled me all my life.
I can assure you, I gain no satisfaction from being at someone’s mercy.”

“Or maybe you’ve met the wrong someones.”

“Well, there’s no fucking doubt about that.”

He gave her a kind smile. “I could see if some of the clubs in Dallas are looking
for part-time dommes, if you’d like. You could earn extra money that way, though their
screening processes for members are going to be more lax so you may get some jerks
in the mix.”

She shook her head. The last thing she wanted were guys who thought dominatrix equaled
prostitute. No way. As she sat there, frustration started to morph brick by brick
into resolve. “No. I’m tired of this. Davis is dead and letting him haunt me means
he wins. Fuck that. I need to try again.”

Grant watched her for a long moment, then nodded. “I’ll tell you what, darlin’. You
find a dom you’re comfortable with to complete the other half of your training and
when you’re done, I’ll be more than happy to let you take on a few trainees or a small
class. And if you do well with those, I’ll even recommend you to The Plantation in
New Orleans. They pay well and are looking for new trainers. It’d get you out of town
and a place to stay rent free.”

A ticket out of town and more money? It was exactly what she needed. “That would be
amazing.”

“Do you want me to ask Colby if he wants to take you on? Or maybe Kade Vandergriff?
Kade’s looking for a sub, though I think he prefers one who is going to submit to
the full experience.”

“No.” She adored Kade, but didn’t want to muddy the waters with a friend. She didn’t
need to take the training to that level to get the benefit. “I’d prefer to keep sex
out of the training.”

“Not a problem,” Grant said, making a note on a pad on his desk. “I’ll talk to Colby
later and see if he’s interested.”

She wet her lips. Colby was a friend and a good guy. She’d assisted him in more than
one training class, but the thought of submitting to him left her feeling hollow inside.
However, the sooner she could get this done, the sooner she could put some real money
in her pocket and get the hell out of town. “Thank you, Grant.”

He gave a quick nod, though he looked more resigned than pleased. “Anytime, Kelsey.
But please make sure you’re truly ready to do this and that this is the job you want.
I think you have potential to be a terrific trainer, but unless you feel a passion
for that role, the position will drain you dry. A nice paycheck won’t fill in the
gaps.”

She glanced away, her body feeling heavier in the chair than it had a moment before.
The Ranch had been her saving grace after she’d recovered from the attack. It had
provided her a job, structure, and a group of friends who had treated her like family.
She loved the strange, alternative world that existed behind its gates. But despite
the good people, the posh resort, and the luxury of the surroundings, she never felt
more excited than when she was crammed in that tiny, hot kitchen at the Sugarcane
concocting a new recipe and chatting with her customers. That was what put the froth
in her coffee each morning. That and serving her favorite patron . . .

But that dream was going to have to be put on hold for a while. Culinary school would
have to wait. Her life would have to wait.

Again.

Perhaps payment for former sins was never really done.

But at the very least, maybe she could put a vicious ghost to rest.

FIVE

Wyatt
leaned back in the seat of his brother’s car,
plucked off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes, a blinding headache booming behind his
lids. “Half of me is hoping you’re fucking with me about this and that you’re going
to say ‘just kidding’ when we pull up.”

Jace glanced over at him, wryness tugging at the side of his mouth. “Sorry, brother.
’Fraid not. But if you’re going to give Kelsey shit about this, I’ll turn around right
now. Just because she’s not as innocent and vanilla as you thought she was shouldn’t
make a difference.”

“It’s not that,” Wyatt said with a tired sigh. “It just makes the favor I was going
to ask her for a little more complicated.”

“Why is that?” Jace asked, merging into the other lane and throwing a what-the-fuck
glare at the interminably slow driver they were passing.

Because it made her even more enticing. Because the idea that the sweet waitress had
a down and dirty side made his cock ache. Because the thought of her submitting to
his will had old desires burning holes through a wall he’d erected a long time ago.
“Because I don’t . . . do this.”

“You used to,” Jace said pointedly.

“Don’t start.”

“No, I will fucking say what needs to be said, Wy,” Jace said, irritation cutting
through his normally laidback manner. “You think you can turn that shit off? That
you can simply pack it away in a neat little box and pretend that isn’t part of you?
You may be able to convince yourself of that, but I saw you in action in college.
Don’t forget who brought me to my first play party.”

“I didn’t bring you. You followed me.”

“And thank God I did because I might never have figured out what all the stuff I was
feeling meant.”

Wyatt shook his head and adjusted his glasses back in place. Jace was the one and
only person in his life who knew Wyatt had been in a D/s relationship when he was
in graduate school. But his brother also knew what had happened and should know better
than to push him on this. “I’m glad you found your thing. But I have no interest in
traveling down that road again.”

“Right. Because I’m sure you find that scheduled Saturday night fuck very fulfilling,”
Jace said, throwing him a look. “Pick up dry cleaning, shop for groceries, screw fuck
buddy of the month.”

Wyatt scowled. “It’s not like that.”

“I bet you even put it on your calendar,” Jace said, on a roll now. “Do you draw in
a little heart there? Or maybe a happy face?”

Wyatt grunted, but had to wrestle back a smile on that one.

“Holy shit!” Jace said, his expression lighting like a dog who’d stumbled upon a favorite
bone. “You
do
put a smiley face, don’t you? You sick fucker.”

He shrugged. “I
may
put a star.”

Jace laughed hard at that, his eyes watering with the effort.

“And for the record, the woman I was . . . spending time with is not in the picture
anymore. So no more Saturday night appointments.” And really, Wyatt hadn’t felt any
regret over that. Their get togethers truly had become about as interesting as picking
up his dry cleaning. He got more out of one morning at the diner with Kelsey than
a slew of Saturday nights with Gwen.

“Fantastic. You’re unattached and in lust with one of my favorite women. Perfect time
to live a little and have some fun.”

Wyatt stared out the window, watching the dark of night creeping over the fields.
“No, it’s not. Even if I wanted to try this world again, Kelsey deserves better than
what I can offer. You know I’m not cut out to do all that relationship stuff. My life
doesn’t have room for that. I’ll end up hurting her.”

Jace smirked as he pulled off the road and took a left onto a half-hidden driveway.
“And what makes you think
she’s
looking for a relationship, genius? You’re getting all noble and shit, but why would
you assume all women are pining away for roses and a ring? Kelsey’s been through a
lot—much of which has been caused by men.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, sensing Jace was talking about more than drug dealers
being after her.

A flicker of regret passed over this expression. “It’s her story to tell, not mine.
But all I’m saying is that I doubt she came to work at The Ranch because she was searching
for the One with a capital
O
.”

Wyatt focused on the large cedar building looming in the distance as he absorbed Jace’s
words. Why
had
he assumed that? Maybe that wasn’t what Kelsey wanted at all. He’d met those women
out on a husband hunt all the time. Girls like that flocked to guys like him—ants
to a Popsicle stick. They got wind of his money and position and were already building
dream houses on the beach in their minds. He could smell it on them like over-spritzed
perfume. He’d never gotten that vibe from Kelsey, not even a whiff.

“Maybe you’re right,” Wyatt admitted.

Jace leaned out of the car to press his finger to a machine at the entry gate, then
turned back toward Wyatt. “I’m always right. I thought we’d established this by now.”

Wyatt sniffed, so used to his brother’s ego that he didn’t bother to respond to it.
“This whole plan might work out after all.”

The gates in front of them swung open, and Jace pulled forward. “Oh, and one thing
I forgot to tell you.”

“What’s that?”

He sent a sly grin Wyatt’s way. “Your sweet waitress who I know you’re weaving filthy
slave fantasies about?”

Wyatt grimaced but didn’t deny it.

“Yeah. She’s a dominatrix.”

“She’s a—” Wyatt’s head dropped back against the seat. “Ah, fucking hell.”

* * *

Kelsey stripped down in the locker room and donned the
standard black bra and panty set that most female submissive trainees wore at The
Ranch. Colby had also told her to wear a basic leather collar for their first session.
She knew why he’d made the request. He’d obviously sensed her reluctance to take the
role even in their initial limits negotiations and wanted to put that psychological
symbol in place early. And it’d been a powerful one. The minute she’d fastened the
simple strip of leather around her neck, her heartbeat had picked up speed and her
skin had gone clammy.

I can do this,
Kelsey reminded herself.

Surprisingly, despite the trauma with Davis, fear wasn’t at the forefront of her mind.
She knew Colby wouldn’t physically harm her. There wasn’t even a doubt there about
that. She was more knotted up about what this submission could open in her. She tried
not to think of all the men she’d yielded to in her life. None of those relationships
had been D/s based, but the blind trust had been there all the same. When she let
her guard down, she could lose herself in a guy. Each time thinking
this
was going to be the one who didn’t fuck her over. And time and time again, she’d
picked the wrong guy to grace with that hope.

Growing up, she’d thought it was her version of rebellion against her mother’s sour
view of men. Her mom had told her and her sister to trust none of them, that men only
did what was good for their dicks, their wallets, and their ego. But Kelsey had trundled
along, reading her fairy tales and believing that she could create her own one day.
And that silly girlish hope had only led her right down the path scarily close to
the one her mother had ended up on. Kelsey had been used, taken advantage of, and
belittled more times than she cared to remember. And now she was going to let another
guy have control over her.

Even though logically she knew it was temporary and that Colby would rather cut off
an arm before he ever hurt her, she was having trouble keeping her dread locked away.

She glanced at the clock and realized she had three minutes before she was due in
the training room.
I can do this,
she repeated silently, and took a deep breath. In an hour, it’d be done. The hurdle
crossed. All she needed to do was get past this first session, then it would get easier.
Gathering up all the iron inside her, she straightened her spine, slipped on a silk
robe and ballet flats, and headed out into the hallway. Reluctant or not, she wasn’t
going to dare to be late.

Once she made her way down the hallway to the training area, Kelsey let herself in,
shucked the robe and shoes, and kneeled down in the middle of the quiet room. Colby
had left a kneeling pad on the floor and had made sure the temperature in the room
was comfortable. Both were subtle messages to her that he wasn’t going to push her
too hard this first time. But there was a blindfold sitting in front of the mat, proving
that he wasn’t going to be
that
easy. She slipped on the blindfold, sat back on her legs, and laid her palms up on
her bare thighs. Now she waited.

* * *

Grant Waters crossed his arms and eyed Wyatt before
looking back to Jace. “Kelsey’s in a training session right now.”

“With who?” Jace asked. “Wyatt just needs to talk to her for a few minutes.”

“And Wyatt isn’t a member here,” Grant said, ignoring Jace’s question.

Jace groaned. “Come on, man. I signed him up for a membership a few months ago. You
already have all his information and approved him back then. He just never took advantage
of the gift. And you know I wouldn’t send anyone in who I didn’t trust to follow the
rules. Wyatt knows how this works. He’s the one I learned from.”

Grant hooked his thumbs in his pocket, stared both of them down for a moment more,
then softened his stance. “You’re lucky we’re friends, Austin. Because I would normally
throw out a member for trying to pull this kind of last-minute shit.”

Jace smiled his most winning smile. “Aww, is that your way of telling me you love
me best?”

Grant shook his head. “Poor Evan and Andre. How they put up with your cocky ass is
a wonder.”

“They both happen to love my ass. And I, theirs.”

Grant let out a long, God-give-me-the-strength sigh and cocked his head toward the
big door on the far side of the lobby. “Kelsey’s supposed to be working with Colby.
If he left the viewing window open to the room, you’re welcome to observe. But don’t
interrupt.” He looked to Wyatt, his gaze all business now. “If you want to talk to
her, you wait for the scene to be done.”

Jace clapped Grant on the shoulder. “Thanks, man. ’Preciate it.”

Wyatt shook Grant’s hand and thanked him, but Wyatt could barely get the words out.
They could go watch? Fuck. That.
The thought of seeing Kelsey touch some other guy or worse, having that guy touch
her, had a sick feeling gathering in Wyatt’s stomach. No way would he be able to stand
by for that.

He caught up with his brother as Jace walked through a door that led from the main
lobby into a hushed hallway. The dark maroon walls and soft scone lighting gave Wyatt
the sense of entering into some other realm. He leaned over to his brother, keeping
his voice low. “Jace, I can’t watch her with some other guy. I’ll want to—”

Jace gave him a knowing look. “That bad, huh?”

“Fuck.” Wyatt raked a hand through his hair, the wave of possessiveness more concerning
than anything he’d felt about Kelsey thus far.

“Don’t worry,” Jace said. “I’ll look in first.”

Jace led him down another hallway and up a set of stairs until they ended up in a
corridor lined with doors and windows. Jace walked ahead of him, peeking in and then
waving Wyatt forward. “Come on, the rooms are soundproof, so no one can hear us.”

The first two rooms were empty, the third had two men and a woman in it—one guy fucking
the girl from behind, the other guy fucking him. All their faces were twisted in the
throes of ecstasy, and the lack of sound gave the sense of watching some porn flick
on mute. Wyatt had never considered himself a voyeur, but the scene was kind of hard
to turn away from. All that flesh.

“You all right, brother?” Jace asked as he turned to see what Wyatt was looking at.
He smirked. “Ah, nice. Don’t think too hard on that one, though. I don’t want you
traumatized.”

Wyatt looked back to his brother. “Why would I be— Ah, hell, never mind.”

Jace laughed. “Come on.”

Wyatt’s brother had revealed to him a few months ago that he’d fallen in love with
not just a woman, but his best friend, Andre, too. Wyatt had been happy for Jace even
though he knew a three-person relationship would be a tough journey to walk. And he’d
been around the trio, saw the shared glances, the affectionate kisses. It’d been odd
at first to see his brother kissing another guy, especially when Jace had been such
a womanizer all his life. But the three of them were all so easy together, so loving,
that it’d quickly become normal to Wyatt. However, he’d purposely not allowed his
mind to travel to what all that involved behind closed doors. There were some things
you didn’t want to imagine, and his brother having sex was one of them.

At the last door on the left, Jace peeked in the window and sent Wyatt a quick thumbs
up. “Bingo. Found your girl.”

“She’s not my—”

“And you’re in luck, brother. She’s all alone. Looks like she’s still waiting on Colby.”

Relief sprung up in Wyatt like fucking daisies popping up around him. God, he was
so damn screwed with this girl. “Can I get in?”

“Sure, the doors don’t lock here. But if she doesn’t want you in there, you’ll need
to leave.” He nodded toward the other end of the hallway. “I’ll look out for Colby
and explain what’s going on.”

Wyatt glanced back over his shoulder, expecting the other man to appear any second.
He didn’t need to waste any time. Kelsey wasn’t going to like that he’d tracked her
down here, but he had to see her again. And he hoped he could offer her a solution
to both their problems.

But as he walked by his brother and saw the view through the window with his own eyes,
all semblance of rational thought leaked out of his head into a puddle on the floor.
Kelsey wasn’t in the domme position at all. She was kneeling quietly on a cushion
with her head bowed and her long blonde ponytail hanging down her back, a blindfold
covering those pretty blue eyes. A scant pair of panties curved over her slim hips,
and her breasts were framed by a demi-cup bra that barely covered her nipples.

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