Show Me Baby A Masters of the Shadowlands Novella 1001 Dark Nights 3

  “This is true.” Andrea frowned. “I’ll be observant.” The two women exchanged looks with undertones of…something shared?

  As Jake studied them, his gaze focused on Rainie’s yellow and red streaked hair. A few stiffer strands were green as well. “Did you get something in your hair?”

  “Oh, did I. Master Galen brought in neon hairspray and wanted to be artistic.” She rolled her eyes. “Crazy Fed.”

  Jake turned slightly. Unfortunately, he couldn’t let her impertinence pass. “Rainie.” Fisting her hair, he pulled her smoothly to her feet.

  “Hey!” She grabbed his wrist.

  “Whether you have a problem with the FBI agents or not, you’re going to be respectful.” He paused and added, “Trainee.”

  Her arm lowered. “I…I’m sorry, Sir.”

  The instinctive yielding of her body sent a frisson of pleasure up his spine. Be a delight to push her further. “There are lines a submissive shouldn’t cross. You shouldn’t cross. Not only for a Dom’s comfort, but yours as well. I’ll enforce those limits, Rainie.” He didn’t bother to add she wouldn’t enjoy coming up against his will. Either she was smart enough to know it or she’d learn.

  “I’ll keep that in mind,” she said. When he twisted her hair, increasing the pull, she added a hasty, “Sir. I’ll remember, Sir.”

  He eyed her. Was she going to cause trouble tonight? She and Uzuri were known pranksters. Only two other submissives in the Shadowlands were more mischievous. He smothered a smile. Gabi’s mouthiness kept Marcus on top of the D/s game, and little Sally was such a handful it took both Galen and Vance to keep her playfulness within bounds.

  He had to admit he envied the other Masters their spirited submissives.

  Keeping Rainie quiet with his hand in her hair, he regarded her clothing. Completely black… He glanced at Cullen. “Let me guess—Z’s using the trainees as walking canvases?”

  “That’s affirmative, buddy. And all submissives—trainee or not—get their lips painted so they glow.” Cullen tapped Rainie’s mouth and barked a laugh when she snapped her teeth at him.

  Jake studied the sumptuous female feast he held and zeroed in on her very fuckable mouth. She had softly pink lips with a crease in the center of the lower one. “Were your lips glow-painted?”

  Rainie looked up through a stray lock of hair. “Uh. No.” When he didn’t respond, she added a hasty, “Sir.”

  “Let’s get the task out of the way then.” He put a hand on her nape, and her thick, silky hair tickled his fingers as he guided her toward a table. With an effort, he ignored the effect she had on him. The woman was too damned appealing for his good.

  The reverse wasn’t true. For whatever reason, she didn’t want anything to do with him—and he figured that was a submissive’s choice to make. Even if it left him feeling fucking disgruntled.

  Master Jake had big hands. Rainie felt the power in the fingers curled around the back of her neck. She barely managed to suppress a shiver and wanted to scold her body for getting worked up. Burned once, twice shy.

  But that thought kept slipping away when she was close enough to see the laugh lines fanning from the corners of his eyes.

  He was known as a fun Master. Friendly. Easy-going…to a point. She liked that kind of Dominant.

  But even without the past between them—although he knew nothing about that day—she wouldn’t want to be with him. Last winter, when a date had taken her to the super-expensive restaurant, Caretta on the Gulf, Jake had been there with a gorgeous, thin, designer-clad woman. His suit had said money. His manners had said polish and class. Everything about him reaffirmed he was out of her league.

  And yet his grip did funny things to her insides.

  When they reached the table, he released her.

  Silently, she looked up at him. He was more than a half-foot taller than her five-seven, and totally lean and muscled. His cheekbones were defined. His jaw, strong. His nose, a work of art.

  And here she stood. A fluffy, plus-sized woman from the slums. They had nothing in common.

  “Z wanted scenes to be lightweight. Will his dictate put a crimp in your plans tonight?” Jake’s voice was as flowing and flawless as the black silk shirt he wore.

  “Not really. Hitting the dance floor is at the top of my agenda.” Dancing was far more fun than sex—and tonight, it would be awesome under the black lights.

  One sharply angled, masculine eyebrow rose. In all his perfection, he reminded her of a slightly younger Master Marcus. Jake must be…about thirty or thirty-one, right?

  “Aren’t you interested in doing scenes? Finding the ideal Dom?” he asked.

  At one time when she’d joined, she’d wanted to score the perfect Dom. Now? Not so much. “Of course,” she lied.

  She crossed her arms over her chest as the heavy weight of a Dom’s scrutiny landed on her—Jake’s scrutiny—and her spine turned to water. How did he do that?

  “Hey, Jake.” Kendall—known in the club as Barge—strolled over. The Dom wore a skin-tight, black vinyl shirt and pants. Sometimes she wondered if he’d joined the Shadowlands just to dress up.

  “Barge. Good to see you.” As the wall sconces dimmed and the black lights came on, Jake dipped his finger into the glowing red pot and outlined her lips with the body paint.

  Why did the simple glide of his finger seem like sexual overture? Why did his touch have to feel right? She knew better. No perving on the sophisticated, classy Dom.

  When Master Jake stepped back, she stifled her urge to get closer. Instead, she turned her attention to Barge.

  “Want to do an easy flogging scene?” Barge asked her. “Z lent me a flogger, and I’d like to see the falls in the black light.”

  Rainie considered. Last month, Barge had talked her into seeing him outside the club. Although their two dates had been pleasant enough, he reminded her of other “nice” men she’d known, possessing a personality more willow tree than oak. When push came to shove, Barge would bend—much as her previous boyfriends had when confronted with peer or family pressures over dating her.

  However, even though she didn’t want to date Barge, his scenes were fun. She wasn’t looking for anything more intense—not after her horrible week.

  “Sure.” After a warning look from Jake, she amended her answer to, “I’d like that, Sir.”

  “Okay then. Let’s go, subbie.”

  “Yes, Sir.” She followed Barge across the room and managed to check over her shoulder only once…to see Jake watching her thoughtfully.

  * * * *

  Jake’s hour of serving as a dungeon monitor was over. After handing off the gold-trimmed vest and getting a bottled water, he dropped down in a leather chair between two scenes to admire the light show. In the shadowy room, the glow-painted floggers, canes, and paddles were mesmerizing.

  There were also some enthusiastic body-paint jobs, especially on submissives’ breasts and pussies. Stripes, circles, dots. In one shadowy section, a pair of glowing green breasts seemed to float in the air without a supporting body.

  Z had developed a great theme, as usual. During Jake’s travels in the Army Veterinary Corps, he’d appraised several BDSM clubs and none suited him as well as here.

  Being voted in as a Shadowlands “Master” had been an honor he hadn’t expected. He didn’t mind putting in the extra time Z requested of the Masters. He figured mentoring new Doms, supervising scenes, and protecting submissives were all activities any experienced Dom should perform without being asked.

  Of course, Z did have his favorite project. And during the past hour, Jake had made a point of checking on the trainees. Uzuri had gone upstairs with Holt, one of her favorite Doms. In the far corner, Tanner waited in a dog kennel while a married couple—a Mistress and a switch—prepared for the scene they’d do.

  And here was the third trainee.

  In the scene area to Jake’s left, Barge and Rainie finished cleaning the equipment and sat down to talk. She had her back turned t
o Jake, and he spotted a few light pink areas on the untattooed parts of her shoulders, but no welts. She hadn’t cried, hadn’t reached subspace, didn’t appear stressed. Then again, not much frazzled Rainie.

  She definitely had an interesting personality—and a confusing one. Damned if he could figure out why she had such an aversion to him.

  He turned away to observe the other scene where Mistress Anne was caning a male submissive. The sub groaned with each smack of the cane and yelped at the lightest touch to his genitalia. The lack of expression on Anne’s face conveyed her displeasure. The Mistress liked to dispense pain, and she didn’t play with lightweights. As often happened, the submissive had probably tried to impress her by claiming to have a high pain tolerance.

  Now they both knew the truth.

  Barge’s lifted voice drew Jake’s attention.

  “C’mon, Rainie. I’m willing to work around your schedule,” Barge said. “Surely you’ve got a night free next week.”

  “I really don’t. It’s a busy time at my company, and I’m sorry, but my career comes first.”

  She didn’t sound particularly sorry, Jake thought. She sounded like a woman flicking an impertinent bug off her arm. His jaw clenched as memories rained down on him. “I’m sorry, Jake. I have my future to think about. I can’t turn down an opportunity like this.” At least, Heather hadn’t been cold. No, she’d cried. Told him she loved him.

  And then she’d moved to the West Coast the very next day.

  Fair enough. He’d picked himself up and worked through the defeat. Live and learn, right? He still wanted a wife. Children. Damn straight. He just needed to fall for a woman whose priorities matched his own—and someone who would at least talk about compromise.

  Feeling as if his presence was an intrusion, he rose. Their argument was polite enough. No need to intervene…although he’d keep an eye on them from farther away.

  As he retreated, he noticed Z and Sam also within hearing range. Sam had on a gold-trimmed dungeon monitor’s vest, so he was on duty.

  Z wore his usual tailored black clothing, right down to the black leather, black-faced watch. He tilted his head in an invitation to join them. “Jacob, did anything of interest occur this evening?”

  “No disasters.” Jake smiled. “I think you’ll lose Tanner from the trainees shortly. The Coltons plan to ask him to become a third in their relationship.”

  “That would be a good match for all three,” Z said.

  “Agreed.” Sam glanced behind them with displeasure. “Barge and Rainie, though. Not a match.”

  “Not even close.” Jake’s brows drew together. On a different night, he wouldn’t have permitted the scene with Barge. She didn’t need lightweight play. “I’d say she’s in a rut. Doesn’t want to be pushed. Doesn’t want anything heavy.”

  “Indeed.” The lines bracketing Z’s mouth deepened. “I need to carve out more time for the trainees.”

  Jake shook his head, seeing the guilt drop onto the Dom’s shoulders. The owner considered the trainees—hell, all the members—to be his responsibility. “I don’t think you have more time available, Zachary.” He deliberately used Z’s full name. “And you have new obligations, like a pregnant wife. Time to lighten the load and learn to delegate.”

  Sam’s sandpapery chuckle held approval.

  To Jake’s relief, Z gave him a wry smile. The best Doms saw themselves clearly—and had a sense of humor. “Perhaps so, Jacob. In fact, I think you should take over the trainees.”

  “Me? I don’t—”

  Gray eyes alight with amusement, Z squeezed his shoulder. “You’re not only equal to the challenge, but you would also enjoy it.”

  “Maybe.” Probably. Jake held up his hand to stall. To think. After a minute, he said, “I might like being the Trainee Master, but I need to refuse.”

  “What the hell?” Sam growled.

  “The responsibility isn’t a concern.” Jake’s gaze drifted to Rainie. Since she’d come into his clinic, he’d had an…urge that grew stronger each day. Time to ante up. “I believe a Trainee Master shouldn’t meet a trainee outside of the Shadowlands. Which is why I’d prefer to avoid the job.”

  Z followed his gaze, and a faint smile appeared. “I see. And respect your honesty. Will you have a problem working with her as a Master?”

  “Not at all,” Jake said.

  “Excellent,” Z said.

  Sam shifted his weight. “Got a chore for you then. The girl has trouble refusing a Dom’s orders. Maybe she’s intimidated, maybe wants to please too badly, maybe both. I figured she’d conquered the problem, but”—he nodded toward the couch—”she’s lying instead of just saying no.”

  Work with Rainie? Hell, yes. “I’ll take that project.”

  “Very good,” Z said. “Thank you, Jacob.”

  As the two men continued their rounds, Jake stayed in place, considering. “…trouble refusing.” Not good.

  As a veterinarian, Jake was skilled in reading body language—although admittedly, humans were vastly more difficult. He’d never exceeded a submissive’s boundaries, spoken or not. But not every Dom had learned to read a submissive.

  And even in a pick-up scene, a submissive and Dominant performed an intricate dance. To be fulfilled, the sub needed to give up control. Yet, a Dom had to trust that a sub would say stop if he pushed too far.

  Sam, being a sadist, certainly knew the danger of a bottom lying to a top. Was he right about Rainie having a problem?

  As he drank his water, Jake considered. When she’d agreed to scene with Barge, her body had been relaxed. No conflict between her body language and her words. But later, she’d refused a date and insisted she had to work. At that time, her head had jerked sideways in unspoken contradiction. She’d widened her eyes and fixed her gaze on Barge, a technique often used by liars to show their honesty.

  Yes, she’d lied to Barge. If Sam was correct, she’d been uncomfortable saying “no” to a Dom.

  The thought of Rainie caving in and doing something she didn’t like sent a trickle of anger through him. Knowing she’d lied didn’t make him happy either. His job—tonight—would be to change that behavior.

  Jake tipped his head back and studied the ceiling. How best to achieve that goal?

  She’d have to practice saying no…but in a realistically intimidating setting. One where she’d find refusing difficult.

  He’d have to find more than one Dom to assist. She might find it easy to decline a stranger’s orders, so he’d create a tenuous bond between her and the Dom—and punish her for anything other than a firm no.

  Plan forming in his head, Jake looked around and picked out the Doms he’d trust to follow instructions.

  * * * *

  This is ridiculous. Rainie couldn’t put up with more of Barge’s bullshit. With some effort—stupid low-slung couch—she struggled to her feet. “I’m going to clean up.”

  To her relief, Barge remained sitting.

  She gave him a token bow. “Thank you for the scene, Sir.”

  Brows drawn down in anger, he didn’t answer.

  She turned away, annoyed more with herself than him. She was totally a sniveling, spineless slug. Why hadn’t she simply said she wasn’t interested in dating him? That he did nice scenes, but she didn’t want anything else from him? But no-o-o, instead, she invented excuses. With a disgusted grunt, she shoved her hair back.

  Thank goodness, Master Sam hadn’t been around. When he’d caught her waffling rather than giving a straight refusal, the sadist had given her a “lesson” by smacking her ass until she’d managed to spit out a resolute “no.”

  She thought she’d learned that day. Apparently not.

  Let’s not mention the backsliding to Master Sam, okay?

  After a leisurely trip to the restroom—to give Barge a chance to leave—Rainie headed for the bar. Since Master Z’d started hiring waitresses, she didn’t have any official duties. Right now, she wanted to go home. A quick word to Master Cullen, a
nd she’d be free to leave.

  Midevening, several club members had finished playing and sat at the bar socializing. Jessica perched on a barstool. Beside her, Master Z was talking to Mistress Olivia.

  “Rainie. C’mere.” Jessica had always been curvy, but her pregnancy made her even rounder. A while back, she’d abandoned her pretty corsets. Tonight, she wore a low-cut green tank top with a loose-waisted vinyl skirt held up by suspenders. Trust Master Z to attire his submissive in an outfit that would make even pregnancy sexy. “Did you have a bad session? You seem unhappy.”

  “Nah, the scene was fun. The glowing strands on the cat-o’-nine-tails were spectacular.” As she’d hoped, the flogging had been mostly a massage. If only Barge hadn’t been a putz afterward.

  “The paddles flash pretty good too.” Jessica shifted her weight on the stool as if her bottom hurt. “I can testify to that.”

  “Oh really?” Rainie glared at Master Z. He’d hit a pregnant woman?

  “Don’t look like that.” Jessica wrinkled her nose. “He’d told me to stay put and I didn’t, so I got a few good swats.”

  A few swats with a paddle wouldn’t hurt her. “Well, you actually do look better. Not so tired.”

  “Nope. I’m good. Andrea made me sit longer after you left. And when I tried to restock the munchie tables, Z swatted my ass and planted me here.” With a pout, Jessica stroked a hand over her rotund stomach. “Yeah, planted. I swear, I feel more like a potato than a woman.”

  Obviously hearing her, Master Z curved his arm around her waist so his palm rested on her baby bump. “If you want to compare yourself to a food, I’d say a peach. Ripe. Succulent.” He kissed the curve of her shoulder and neck, and his resonant voice deepened. “You’re beautiful, kitten, and I love you more every single day.”

  As Jessica’s eyes filled with tears, her hand covered her husband’s. Her Dom’s.

  A disconcerting yearning shook Rainie.

  I want that. Want it all.

  But no. She wanted no husband or babies, at least not here in the Tampa/St. Pete area where her past would rise up and bite her in the butt.