The last persons Oliver ever wanted to see were Merideth
and Lucas. How fitting they've come crawling to him for help. It's the perfect
opportunity to extract a little payback and toss their scattered hearts back in
their faces as they did him. Yet, one look at his broken Merideth
elicits more sympathy than he can bear.
Lucas had forgotten how much he enjoyed being in Oliver's orbit. Yes, he'd come
to him to help Merideth heal emotional scars, but now
he's determined to re-establish ties with Oliver. This is where he intends to
stay…if Oliver doesn't throw him out first.
Merideth needs them more than life itself. Only they
can help her recover from an attack that left her physically and emotionally
scarred. It'd be so easy to lean on them and let them take full control…and
never find her true self again. Only she can unleash her inner
Domme and punish those who prey on others. Then will she
finally be a woman to match the men she loves.
They burn hot together just as they had before. Each older and wiser than
before, strong wills tempered by maturity. Old habits though…and there can only
be one true Master.
Oliver Holbrook sank into the heated brown marble bench custom-made to
cradle his ass. A twist of his wrist turned on the shower. With the touch of a
button, he could adjust the showerhead’s direction, the spray pattern it
emitted, and the water temperature. Wealth had its privileges. This was one of
His cock lifted higher when the gentle warm water cascaded over him. It knew
the ritual. Everyone should have a well-trained penis.
Oliver snickered at the thought. As if that could ever happen. The beasts
had minds of their own. His was no exception; he’d just managed to learn to
control it over the years. The people under him, those who held him in such
high regard within the community, would be stunned to learn the extent to which
he’d gone to master that control. He didn’t care to enlighten them. It was no
one’s business but his.
He filled his palm with soap from the array of dispensers on the wall, lathered
it to billowing suds, then wrapped one hand around his cock and shoved the
other between his legs to knead his balls. This was how he started each morning
and ended each night…unless, of course, he’d found a stunning woman to share
his bed. And that was becoming more of a hassle than it was worth. Few saw
beyond the trappings of his life or cared about the man inside. That was fine.
It helped protect his heart. A higher priority didn’t exist. Guarding his heart
underscored most of what he did. Oh, he had those he loved, but it was love
Oliver avoided like the plague. Once burned…
He spread his legs and let the soft spray kiss his thighs. Eyes closed, he
imagined a lover’s tongue flicking up his legs and tugged at his balls while he
flashed his fist over his cock. It wouldn’t take long—it never did—but it
relaxed him for the night better than all the booze in the world. Conversely,
morning jerk offs energized him.
Fantasies danced through his head, urging him to stroke faster, harder. Images
not of the bondage and discipline that were so much a part of his life, but of
lace gloves and high-neck gowns that begged to be peeled away to expose the
smooth skin beneath. Of corsets straining to be unlaced, and breasts longing to
be freed into a lover’s waiting hands and lips. Of long, thick hair that felt
like watered satin threaded through his fingers when he unleashed it from its
pins. Hair color was irrelevant.
Oliver imagined the woman’s gasp, the blush that rushed her cheeks, that shy
tilt of her head when she offered her neck, then her throat, and finally a
taste of the rise of her breast. Maybe he’d paddle her at some point, tell her
what a naughty girl she was. Because he did love watching a woman’s ass turn
rosy red under a good spanking, loved peeling panties down and smelling her
arousal, loved adding to the smacks until she writhed and begged to come.
Oliver plunged into his grip and growled as he came. He sprawled there in the
aftermath, pretending again that the shower spray was a lady’s fingers
feathering over him, bringing him back down to earth. He closed his eyes, too
relaxed to move at the moment. But as the wonder of masturbation faded, the
sense of something not right rushed in.
No security alarm. No sound over the water. But he never second-guessed his
instinct. On alert, Oliver shut off the shower, slid open the glass door, and
grabbed one of the Egyptian cotton towels off the crystal bar a hand grasp
away. Underwear would have made him feel less vulnerable. A weapon would have
been even better. He blotted the water from his body and extended his senses
There it was—a hint of fragrance from the blooming sage that hugged the rear
perimeter of his home. Desert monsoons had brought the bushes and other dormant
plants to life. The scent never permeated his house unless someone opened a
door or window. During August in Palm Springs, that happened as little as
possible. And it never happened at night with the house secure and the alarm
set. Someone was in his house. Someone who’d somehow managed to override or
disable the security system.
Oliver’s adrenaline spiked. His heart raced. Just as quickly he ordered himself
to calm. He could count on one hand the people who’d have the code. Any of whom
might decide to take advantage of his open hospitality—if they hadn’t left mere
He missed them. Julia, Lori, and Rachel had been a big part of his life for so
long. Not that he begrudged them their happiness. Hell, he’d been instrumental
in seeing them get hooked up with the men they loved. But it wasn’t the same
without them or their alternate Domme personas—
Maneater, Soleil, and Raven—around. Maybe one of them
missed him too. Missed him so much she’d come back.
He mentally shook his head. His visitor wasn’t one of the ladies or anyone else
he might welcome. This was an intruder.
Oliver tied the towel around his waist. His cell phone was on a dresser that
felt miles away rather than a mere twenty feet. There was also a dedicated
landline with extensions throughout the house, one right by his bed. Again too
far. If an intruder disabled security, he might have cut the house phone as
Oliver debated his options. Grab the cell, duck into his walk-in closet, and
retrieve a handgun from the safe? Or lock himself inside the closet and call
9-1-1? He opted for the latter…with his gun in hand just in case.
Years ago, he would have cringed at the thought of hiding from danger. He’d
definitely gotten smarter over the years. One picked one’s battles with care.
Slow steps took him to the door leading to his bedroom. Soft yellow light from
the bedside lamps glowed in invitation. He’d set the stage for sleep: turned
down covers, fluffed pillows, placed a book on the nightstand. Another nightly
ritual. The book was gone.
At that realization, Oliver heard a page turn. To his right. The corner where
he’d placed two chairs and a table—another cozy niche in his little cave. He
edged forward and saw the glow from the lamp in that area.
“Don’t worry. I’m not a murderer.”
It took a few seconds for Oliver to process the familiar voice, one he hadn’t
heard in years. Lucas Ashmore.
“I noticed you didn’t say you weren’t a thief.” Oliver stepped into the room.
Sure as shit, Lucas shot him a smile from the corner chair. He’d made himself
quite comfortable with the book and a glass of whiskey from the living room
bar. Scotch, if Oliver remembered correctly. Oliver remembered too much.
“Cat burglar, please. One sin of a misspent youth.
Show a little respect, Oliver.”
He snapped the book closed and stood in one fluid motion. Evidence of the
feline grace that always landed Lucas on his feet. He was more dressed for the
rumba than breaking and entering, with tan pants and shirt that skimmed his
skin but let him move with ease for all those tight places he might find
himself. The clothes also helped him blend in with the Palm Springs crowd. It
was the perfect disguise…as always.
The years had been kind to Lucas. Oliver would give him that. His blue eyes
were just as bright, and the small laugh lines bracketing his eyes and mouth
added maturity and character, not age.
Oliver itched to double-check his face in the mirror for signs of aging. To
measure himself against Lucas.
“Vanity, thy name is Oliver.” He heard Merideth’s
taunt, the one she’d always say when the three of them were together.
“You’re one to talk,” was always his retort.
“A rose is a rose,” Oliver replied. “And so are its thorns.” He took an
imposing stance, his best Dom scowl in place.
A haunting sense of déjà vu struck him. This was how they’d first met. That
long-ago night, when Lucas had broken into Oliver’s home and interrupted killer
sex with Merideth. They’d toyed with him that night,
intending to scare him straight. Who knew it would bond them so tightly in love
and lust? Or that they would wind up tearing each other apart years later?
Uncertainty replaced Lucas’s smile. He took another sip of Scotch, his gaze
locked on Oliver’s. Was he remembering it all too?
“I have nothing that might belong to another, even remotely,” Oliver told him.
“I have no jewelry to speak of, no prohibitively expensive artwork or
sculptures. Most of those are from friends and associates I support. You’d get
little from their sale. The loss to me would be sentimental. The loss to—”
“I’m not here to take anything.”
Lucas sounded wounded that Oliver would think such a thing. Even Oliver had to
admit it was a low blow, referring to that single incident too many years ago
when Lucas had first walked into his life. Lucas’s actions had been borne of
desperation and necessity. Still, Oliver couldn’t let this one go.
“What the hell else would you expect me to think? Sneaking into my home in the
middle of the night, breaching my security system.”
“Ten thirty is hardly the middle of the night. Besides, would you have seen me
“No.” Oliver turned away and walked to the closet so he could dress. Lucas was one
of the last persons Oliver ever wanted to see. He heard Lucas rattle the ice
cubes in his drink.
“Would it help if I told you I knocked?”
In a house this size? “Unquestionably polite.”
“It serves me well.”
Paid well too. Lucas was dominant enough to pursue, submissive enough to
concede, crafty enough to find the middle ground where everyone thought they’d
won. The go-to man when museums wanted to acquire items or return antiquities
to the countries where they belonged.
“Yes, you’re quite the hero. But we both know you didn’t start out that way.”
Oliver hauled on a pair of gray silk boxers, then followed them with a pair of
white shorts and a salmon-colored brushed-silk shirt.
“Ancient history,” Lucas called out.
Let it go. “So you’re here. I’m sure this isn’t a social call. What do
“Merideth needs you.”
The unexpected words jolted Oliver. Thank goodness the privacy of the closet
hid him from view. He recovered quickly and buttoned his shirt as he strode
from the closet. “We’ve been down that road before. I couldn’t give
Merideth what she demanded.” They’d torn each other’s
emotions asunder reaching that conclusion. Even Lucas’s peacemaking couldn’t
“In the end, neither could I.” Lucas drained his glass.
Oliver wanted to interrogate, dissect what Lucas meant. He wondered why he
Lucas scrunched up his face in puzzlement. “You didn’t keep tabs on us?”
“I didn’t care enough to keep tabs on you.” A semi-lie. Word filtered to
Oliver on occasion. Business was business, after all. It was the personal
aspects of these two people he didn’t want to give a damn about.
“Fair enough.” Lucas conceded the point with a slight nod. “More ancient
history as far as I’m concerned. But that was then, and this is now.” He set
the glass down hard and stared at the cubes as if willing them to melt or
generate more Scotch. “Merideth needs you.”
“She made it clear—”
“She was hurt, Oliver. Caught in the wrong end of a bad scene.”
The news sliced through him. Razor sharp, knife deep.
“I don’t know the specifics. A mutual friend told me. She took care of
Merideth afterward. I’ve been out of the country. We
haven’t been together for a long time.” Shaking his head, Lucas wandered over
to the dresser and fiddled with the wooden bowl of coins Oliver dumped from his
pockets each night. “It happened about six months ago. Whispers and rumors came
my way. Though I’ve yet to find out who’s responsible. She’s not the same
person. She’s…broken inside. Fearful, reclusive.” He swallowed hard. “To hear
of a woman of Merideth’s strength and caliber reduced
Oliver had a hard time reconciling that description with the woman he knew, the
woman he’d heard about over the years. But something that traumatic would screw
with anyone’s head. “She needs help.”
Lucas snapped his gaze up to Oliver’s. Tears filled his eyes. “Why the hell do
you think I’m here?” he said through clenched teeth. “Do you think I’d come
crawling to you otherwise? She’s breaking my heart!” He slammed his fist into
his chest. “Again.”
Oliver bit back the words Now you know how I felt.
Lucas pulled in a breath. The tension eased from his jaw. “I went to her the
minute I heard. She told me she needed you, to get you. I still love her enough
to do it. I’m hoping you still love her enough to help her heal.”
A storm of emotions roiled through Oliver. He didn’t think any of them were
love. Too much hurt was in the way.
“Where is she?”
“Where do you think?”
Irritation crawled up Oliver’s spine. Lucas had brought her with him. For a couple
who needed his help, they were really pushing it.
Lucas stepped into Oliver’s space and touched Oliver’s arm. Oliver glanced at
Lucas’s fingers, then at the man. A smoldering look to warn Lucas he’d gone too
“I’ll beg if I have to.” Determination edged Lucas’s
voice. “Get on my knees before you. Submit. Hell…” He knelt before Oliver,
glaring up at him. “I’ll even suck your fucking dick.”
Oliver smirked. “I’ll keep that in mind.” Lucas could squirm a bit on that one.
Frankly, there was only one mouth Oliver wanted wrapped around his cock right
now. And the owner was apparently downstairs waiting.