Quinton Ross was in his happy place.
Standing behind the bar at Blasphemy, the club he co-owned with eleven of the coolest assholes he’d ever known, he surveyed the roomful of wonderfully kinky people wearing a whole lotta nothing. Totally his jam.
And the fact that he’d get to play with one of them later? Seriously, a man’s life didn’t get any better.
Well, having a submissive of his own…that could be better. Theoretically.
Except he’d never found someone with whom he felt like he fired on all cylinders. Someone who was into the same kinky play he was, but wasn’t looking for a twenty-four/seven arrangement, because that wasn’t his style either. Someone who loved the outdoors the way he did, and for whom a fun weekend consisted of camping and hiking and maybe even an afternoon of skydiving. Someone who didn’t mind stepping outside their comfort zone, whether that was in the bedroom or traveling to a new place where maybe you didn’t even know the language.
Syncing that way with someone was harder than it seemed.
But, whatever. He had a great life as it was. He never lacked for company or partners around the club, and no submissive ever left him anything but fully satisfied. He made damn sure of it.
“Hi, Master Quinton,” came a feminine voice from further down the counter.
He turned to find a blond-haired woman with a sleek, silver prosthetic arm leaning against the marble of the ornate bar. Kenna Sloane. And right behind her stood her big mountain of a Dom and one of Quinton’s best friends, Griffin Hudson. “Aren’t you looking lovely tonight, Kenna,” Quinton said with a smile as he made his way to where Griffin was sliding into a seat and pulling Kenna’s slim hips between his legs. “And am I wrong or is this some snazzy new hardware?” He nodded at her arm. She’d lost everything below her right elbow while serving with the Marines in Afghanistan. If she and Griffin hadn’t been fuckin’ fated, Kenna might’ve been Quinton’s kind of woman.
Adventurous. Brave. Willing to push life to the extremes.
But they were fated, something the diamond on her finger and the platinum collar with its unique interwoven knot sitting at the hollow of her throat both indicated. Loud and clear.
Kenna smiled, so much more comfortable here at the club—and seemingly in her own skin—than she’d been when she and Griffin had first reconnected a few months back. “I have a couple different sockets. And a girl has to coordinate,” she said, holding it up to the almost sheer sparkling silver halter top she wore.
Chuckling, Quinton nodded and clasped hands with Kenna’s Dom. “Master Griffin, how the hell are ya?” Their wrists bore matching leather cuffs with embroidered Gothic M’s. Every Blasphemy Master—the experienced Dominants who owned the club and took turns running and monitoring it—wore one.
“Never better, my friend. Never better.” The skin crinkled around Griffin’s dark eyes as he spoke, his smile coming a million times easier than it ever had before. Quinton guessed that was what happened when you were not only able to correct one of the biggest mistakes of your life, but find a submissive who was also your soul mate in the process.
“I know that’s true,” Quinton said, winking at Kenna. She ducked her chin but was smiling bright enough to light up the whole room. And that was saying something, given the size of Blasphemy. Located in the renovated remains of an old church, the massive rectangular nave formed the central part of the club. Filled with lots of seating and play areas, it had a soaring ceiling, massive stained-glass windows all around, and a performance and demonstration stage where the altar had once been. Themed rooms and other private spaces stretched off from the main floor. In addition to the very private and exclusive Blasphemy, the public front of their business—Club Diablo, a three-story dance club in a renovated warehouse—stood across a courtyard.
And Quinton provided hands-on management over it all.
He’d been with the clubs from the beginning, and had used his savings and the money he’d made selling a small but successful bar of his own to purchase his ownership stake in Blasphemy. The deal got even sweeter when his partners had offered him the job of managing the bars and all the food service at both clubs. Food, drink, and sex all tantalized the senses and therefore were equally high up on the list of things he loved, and always had been. Given his prior experience, he pretty much had full control of the operation. Just like he liked.
Griffin placed an order for him and Kenna, then asked, “You have a scene set up tonight?”
Quinton got busy making their drinks and shook his head. “No,” he said with a grin. “But I’m looking forward to the thrill of the hunt.”
Griffin chuckled. “Good luck with that.”
The quip on Quinton’s tongue died when a flashing red light under the bar’s edge caught his eye. An emergency in one of the rooms. He glanced at the tag over the light to determine which one, then slammed the drinks down in front of his friends harder than he’d intended. “Shit, G, sorry. Emergency in the dark room. Get someone to cover?” he said, moving without waiting for an answer. He knew Griffin would have his back.
Quinton moved as fast as he could without calling undue attention. Their members knew that the Masters and a team of other Doms who worked as monitors responded to all sorts of problems around the club. Some were as mundane as an equipment malfunction and others more delicate situations involving disputes between players in a scene. Hell, a few months ago, Quinton had responded when Kenna broke down during a bondage scene, and Griffin had called for help extricating her from his intricate ropework. Sex at the extremes was bound to run into a few issues, which was why consent and safety were hallmarks of BDSM and Blasphemy itself. But none of them wished to distract players from their pleasures with worry or curiosity, either.
Off the main floor, Quinton picked up his pace as he moved down the long hallway off of which most of the themed play rooms were located. The dark room was at the far end. Master Wolf came up beside him. “Hey, man,” he said.
Quinton gave him a nod. “Didn’t know you were on tonight, Wolf. Good to see you.”
A little taller than Quinton, the guy had dark blond hair, the brightest green eyes you’d ever seen, and a chiseled Scandinavian face that turned heads all over the club. “Running the security control room. Relieving Isaac because the baby’s sick,” he said, referring to Isaac Marten, their head of security operations, who had a two-month-old son.
“Damn. Sorry to hear that,” Quinton said as they closed in on their destination. The dark room was actually a series of three interconnected rooms. In the center was a pitch-black bedroom, accessed only through two changing/waiting rooms on either side of it—one of which let out into this hallway, and the other which let out into a different hallway so that the players couldn’t run into each other before or after the anonymous scene. The dark room was very popular, and given Quinton’s interest in sensory deprivation, it was one he’d used many times.
He heard someone in distress before they even got inside.
Quinton and Wolf burst through the door to find one of the monitors trying to calm a woman curled on the floor, gasping like she couldn’t breathe. She wore a slinky bronze dress that bared most of her legs.
“What happened?” Quinton asked, grabbing a blanket from a shelf and going to his knees beside her. He tucked the soft fleece around her.
“I don’t know,” the monitor said. “I sounded the alarm but she told me not to call an ambulance.”
“She just freaked out. I swear. Hard anything happened between us,” a shirtless man said from the doorway to the dark bedroom.
Quinton hadn’t even noticed him there, but Wolf was already questioning him. He nodded to the monitor, a Dom in his forties, and then peered up at Master Wolf. “You all clear out. Debrief him and get his information.”
“You got it, Q,” Wolf said, motioning the other men out into the hall. “Call if you need help.”
As they left, Quinton brushed the woman’s shoulder-length brown hair back off her splotchy face. “We need to get your breathing under control or I have to call an ambulance.”
“No…no…I…it’s…” Clenching her eyes, she shook her head and growled as if in frustration.
Damnit, he needed to do something for her. The part of him that needed to care and soothe decided. He scooped her off the floor and carried her to the couch. Everywhere they touched, her pulse hammered against her skin. If this was a panic attack, it was one of the worst he’d ever seen.
He sat with her in his lap, the blanket still wrapped around her, and cradled her so that they were facing each other. “Breathe with me, little one. Do you hear me? Look at me and breathe with me.” Striking hazel eyes with flecks of gold cut to his. Almost familiar…
Focusing, he exaggerated one breath, than another, and another, until she struggled to match her rhythm to his.
Satisfaction rolled through him as the woman’s body calmed. Her breathing evened out. Her pulse slowed. Her muscles lost their tension.
“That’s it. That’s good. Just watch me and breathe with me. Don’t stop. We’ll kick this thing, don’t you worry.” He stroked his hand over her hair, wanting to soothe her. The color was so rich it almost matched the bronze of her dress. Her hair was beautiful and soft. As was the rest of her, all golden skin and pretty curves. Her weight felt good in his arms. She turned her face into his hand, just the littlest bit, and he stroked her hair again. A jagged scar ran along her forehead and into her hairline over one eye.
The scar triggered the oddest thought: That wasn’t there before.
His gaze cut back to those eyes. Hazel with the gold. And he suddenly knew he’d seen them before. Years ago. Right here at Blasphemy. A name clicked into place.
“Cassia?” he asked. Cassia. As in Cassia Locke, a submissive he’d flirted with quite a few times and was once supposed to play with…but she’d stood him up the night of their scene.
“Y-yes, Sir,” she whispered. “H-hi, Mas-ter Qu-quinton.”
So she recognized him, too. Did she remember that night? He shook off the thought. Their history wasn’t something to deal with just then.
“Hi yourself, kid.” He gently scratched his fingertips against her scalp and concentrated on taking slow, deep breaths that she mimicked. Studying her, Quinton noticed another scar on her right shoulder. Her hair was much longer than the almost boyish style she used to wear. Finally, Cassia went limp in his lap, and her ease unleashed a satisfaction in his blood. “Feeling better?”
She gave a long sigh, the sound exhausted and defeated. “As better as I can feel after utterly humiliating myself. Sir.”
He shook his head. “No such thing happened. Not as far as I’m concerned.”
Her gaze skittered away.
“Did I tell you to stop looking at me?”
Cassia’s eyes snapped back to meet his. “No, Sir.”
Her obedience unleashed even more of that satisfaction. The attraction of BDSM, to him, was as much about the psychology of it as the physicality of the acts. Her reaction—that obedience—represented an ingrained instinct, a need to serve, a desire to surrender. And that fucking heated his blood.
He arched a brow and nodded. “Good girl.”
She shifted in his lap, but kept her eyes on his. The movement reminded his body that he’d been planning to find a partner for later, but he locked that shit down tight. First, because she’d been through something tonight he didn’t entirely understand. And second, because given that she’d stood him up and never bothered to follow up to explain, he wasn’t sure what to make of her anyway. Which meant he needed to know.
“Now, tell me what happened,” he said, nailing her with a stare. “And tell me the truth.”