The clang of sabers split the morning sky. Unlike depicted in many movies, there were no silver bullets in sword fighting, especially in competitive fencing. There was no magic, only strategy punctuated by thrusts, feints, and parries.
Nigel Pedersen eyed his opponent and made a vow to himself to go easy on the unconventionally beautiful sabreuse. He wondered how she’d gotten involved with the underground fencing movement. Not something most women were attracted to and it had only a very small following in the States. It had come about when a group of fencers had grown tired of the restrictions by traditional fencing clubs. Where was the danger? Where was the ability to force an opponent to his knees in surrender?
She seemed comfortable holding the saber, but he wondered how she had qualified to do so. Even in the secretive world of sword fighting, precautions were taken to ensure people weren’t over-matched or fighting with weapons they didn’t have the skill for. Those who chose to compete in this arena needed to have knowledge of the weaponry and possess the expertise to wield it.
Besides which, the clothing was so much better. He rather suspected she had chosen her outfit with an eye toward distracting her male opponents. She had a beautiful figure with high, full breasts, just barely contained by her leather corset. She wore a blouse of a gossamer-like cream silk and rust-colored breeches tucked into dark brown field boots that had seen better days. Her garb emphasized a small, nipped-in waist that flowed into hips just made to accommodate a man as he fucked her. And when she’d turned around earlier in the day, he’d caught a glimpse of the most glorious backside he’d seen in a very long time.
No protective gear was used and weapons were either real or replicas. All had to have blunted edges or guards to ensure no one lost a limb. The weight restrictions of formal fencing were lifted so the hits an opponent could inflict could be far more damaging.
He reached for his sword, wrapping his hand around the well-worn hilt. Stepping forward and into her space, he saluted her. Damn. If she had meant to distract her opponents with her sexuality and desirability, she had dressed for the part. But he had no intention of allowing her to tromp on him as she had her earlier combatants.
“You’ve had a rather charmed run today, Lady Raven. Is the medallion around your neck a talisman of some kind?” he asked in a smooth, superior tone.
Many combatants in his chosen sport adopted an alternate identity and name. While not high on any police department’s list of crimes to be countered, the fact remained that what they were doing was technically illegal. If someone had a job that required any kind of clearance or where there was any chance of an arrest, they chose to adopt a veil of anonymity.
She smiled. “Hardly, but a girl has to use all of her resources to win. I find calling attention to my feminine assets with a shiny bobble often distracts my foes.”
“While your assets are something to be admired, I’ve always preferred to be a participant as opposed to an observer—so just looking has never been enough for me.”
“You’re an arrogant sonofabitch, Bulldog,” she said, making use of his fighting name and wondering how such an elegant man had earned such an inelegant name.
“Such ugly language from a beautiful lady’s mouth is an abomination. Were you mine, such vulgarity would be punished.”
“Punished? You really are a snotty British bastard,” she said with a smile. “I rather suspect I’m grateful for a variety of reasons that I belong to no man, especially you, and I call no man master.”
“The right man could make you call him master… and be happy to do so.”
Her only answer was a derisive snort as the referee called for the fight to begin.
“En garde,” the referee said, ensuring both opponents were ready. He watched and as the two combatants acknowledged he was about to signal the fight to begin, he raised his hand and as he dropped it, shouted, “Allez!”
Nigel immediately went on the attack, believing his size and obvious level of skill would intimidate her and cause her to retreat. He brought the heavy weapon, with the blunted edges, up in a quick, offensive attack.
The sabreuse had not anticipated his quick and forceful strike and had to make a relatively weak, glancing blow with her saber, deflecting his blade. Nigel recovered, making a high to the outside hit that she countered with a defensive parry. The sabers glinted in the rising sun, their bolts of light seeming to echo the movement of the sabers. Nigel pivoted, dropping his blade under hers, trying to wrest it from her grip. But she was quick and was again able to counter his move and press her own advantage, backing him up a step.
Her attack was blunted by her emotion. He’d managed to rattle her and make her angry.
“Tsk! Tsk, Lady Raven. Someone with your skill should know better than to allow her temper to get the better of her and rule her actions. Emotions blunt your skill and give your opponent an advantage.”
The crowd that had gathered laughed softly.
“When I want fencing lessons from you, asshole, I’ll ask for them,” she snarled, pressing another attack.
Nigel countered her attack and pressed one of his own. Lady Raven parried and feinted, trying to draw him away. Recognizing her strategy, he stepped aside and as she rushed forward, he swatted her luscious backside with the flat of his blade, chuckling when she yowled. It had done her pride more injury than her body. She stumbled but recovered quickly.
“Balance, Lady Raven. Never press an attack unless you are sure of your ground.”
“Do you want to fight, Bulldog, or bore me into surrender?”
Nigel had rather enjoyed the way his saber had bounced off her ass. It had been firm, but with just the right amount of give. The sabreuse’s outfit left little to the imagination and it wasn’t at all difficult to imagine having her naked and either draped over a spanking bench or restrained to a St. Andrew’s cross at Baker Street. He thought he’d rather enjoy having her at his mercy there—his flogger falling rhythmically and encouraging her lust to come to the fore of her emotions.
She brought her weapon up and returned the blow, whacking him in the hip. Damn, that hurt. She had more strength than he’d given her credit for. Yes, he’d most definitely like to have her strapped to a piece of impact equipment at the club. Perhaps all of his strikes with a flogger would not be to entice her arousal, but to teach her a lesson about less than honorable fighting techniques.
Without warning, she reached down with the tip of her blade and tossed dirt up into his eyes. Although not technically against the rules, that kind of trickery was rarely used. He batted the debris away, but she was able to use the distraction to smack his hand with her saber, forcing him to release his weapon. With an almost lightning speed, she dropped low and swung her leg, sweeping his feet out from underneath him before jumping to her feet and resting the tip of her blade at his throat.
“Yield, Bulldog?” she asked.
Reluctantly, he raised his hand in surrender. She had won the fight, but she hadn’t beaten him, and he was sure she knew it. Had she fought without utilizing underhanded means, she would have been routed and he was quite certain she was aware of that fact.
“You fight dirty,” he said in what he hoped was a tone that indicated distain rather than annoyance.
She laughed—a sound that seemed to be at odds with her persona. It was neither sarcastic nor dismissive, but still indicated she knew she had bested him by less than honorable means.
“No, Bulldog,” she said, backing away and offering him a small bow… no feminine curtsy, but a courtier’s bow. “I fight to win.”
“Game and prize to Lady Raven,” offered the game official.
A small cheer went up as the remaining players surrounded her, ignoring Nigel as he got to his feet. He could feel his cock harden at the thought of her naked and not just tied to a St. Andrew’s cross—lord, how he’d love to take his flogger to her. No, the brief fantasy that flashed before his mind was of her presenting her ripe pussy for him to plunder. Nigel could almost feel the heat radiating off her punished backside. He’d be sure to focus the stingier falls from his flogger to that portion of her anatomy.
“You all right, ole son?” asked one of the onlookers.
“Other than my pride, everything appears to be intact,” Nigel replied. “She’s really quite good. I fear I underestimated her.”
“Good? The girl is spectacular, not to mention all kinds of gorgeous.”
Nigel said nothing but picked up his weapon and shouldered his way through the crowd.
“Well done, Lady Raven,” he said, proffering his hand.
She shook it with a firm, steady grip. “Thank you, but we both know had you not been bound by your own code of chivalry, the outcome could easily have been reversed.”
“That’s kind of you to say. May I buy you a drink at the after party?”
“No, thank you. I need to get back to London.”
“I could give you a lift,” he said, not quite sure why he was loath to release her hand but could find no reason not to when she tried to remove it a second time.
“Thanks, but I have my rental. It was nice to have crossed blades with someone with your skill.”
“There are other types of play…”
She smiled, her eyes dancing. “Yes, and I plan to indulge in my other favorite while I’m in London.”
She pulled her hand from his and retreated into the well-wishers before getting to her rental Range Rover, putting away her equipment and driving away.
Fortunately, that was more than enough time for Nigel to note the license on the Rover. He’d know all there was to know about Lady Raven long before she got back to London.
So, that was the man known as the finest sword master in all of Britain and Europe. Olivia Miles wouldn’t dispute it. He’d been, by far, the most formidable opponent she’d ever faced. Fortunately, he was old school and followed a noble code of honor, conduct, and tactics. She, on the other hand, as she had told him, played to win. Nothing she had done today had been against the rules, but generally it was considered bad form to toss dirt in a foe’s eyes. But damn it, he had made her angry. He was so arrogant. Who did he think he was, taunting her that way? Another opponent might have gone for his nuts. She smiled inwardly; his breeches left little to the imagination that the man was well endowed, so it would have been a large enough target, but it just wasn’t something she would do. She almost wished she hadn’t promised Jordan to be at Baker Street tonight and had taken Bulldog up on his offer for a drink and perhaps more.
Although she’d flouted the commonly accepted rules of chivalrous conduct today, she cherished the protocols in both her D/s relationships at the various clubs in which she played and her role of translator at the UN. And while Bulldog might be the stuff of some of her fantasies, she was sure he was far too polite to give her what she needed… especially right now.
Olivia was just returning from a fairly stressful summit hosted by the International Court of Justice. Tensions and tempers had run high. Maintaining her cool and masking her personal reactions had been difficult. The only good part of the entire two weeks had been reuniting with her friend, Jordan James… now Jordan Fitzwallace. Jordan was now married and submissive to Robert Fitzwallace—now there was a Dom with a capital D and because he was, she’d never seen JJ happier. She and JJ had an odd friendship, often going extended periods of time when they didn’t speak and then being able to pick things up as if they’d just had dinner the week before.
Olivia’s cell rang; glancing at the caller ID, she answered, “JJ!”
“Olivia. How was your game, fight, whatever you call it?” asked Jordan.
Olivia laughed. “Smashing as you Brits like to say. I took on a guy who is considered to be one of the best in the world… and I won! I don’t think he thinks I did so fair and square, but it doesn’t matter what he thinks. I forced him to yield.”
“Good for you! Do you use actual swords? Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Replicas or weapons made for movies are most often used, but you can use real ones. Whatever is used has to have blunted edges. You can still get hurt, but it’s hard to get killed.”
“Oh, there’s a ringing endorsement… easy to get hurt, hard to get killed. Hmmm… a bit like D/s now that I think about it; although there are times it feels like Fitz is trying to fuck me to death.”
“But what a way to go!” Olivia laughed.
“True enough. You’re still planning to come to Baker Street tonight, aren’t you?”
“I am and I turned down drinks with my worthy opponent to do so.”
“Where was the hardship in that?” teased JJ.
“You have no idea. The guy was hung and very easy on the eyes. Almost too pretty.”
“I don’t care. We’ve been friends for years and you’ve never been to the club, so I expect to see you. If you want, bring Mr. McHung with you.”
Olivia laughed. “Oh, my God, he’d pass out. He’s very British. I think he’s a lord or something.”
“You do know most of my doms are British and are really quite handsome.”
“I don’t think you have a clue as to what I gave up. He is beyond gorgeous and just exuded a kind of intensity that almost had me swooning. The man is ripped and gorgeous, reminded me of a dark, hunky version of the men in some of those English dramas they show on public television. And when he speaks, it’s like a fine pinot noir with a swanky accent.”
“Then why are you coming to the club?”
“Because vanilla won’t do it… especially after the summit. I need to escape into subspace and you always say you have the best doms.”
“I do, but even as my guest, you won’t be allowed out on the main floor without an escort and Fitz has become something of a stickler for protocol in the public areas. I suppose I could ask one of my resident doms or my head of security to escort you until you’re certified to play. I used to only put doms through the wringer, but Fitz put an end to that. Although he does have a point that it’s only fair and really does set the subs up for a better experience. God, I hate it when he wants to change something and he’s right.”
“Doms are so annoying when they’re right,” agreed Olivia. “But in all honesty, I think I’d actually prefer it if I had someone to show me the ropes and maybe more if he’s so inclined.”
JJ laughed. “Are you kidding me? Gorgeous, intelligent submissive from America? Whoever ends up escorting you will most likely have to fight the others off… which, I suppose was actually Fitz’s point to begin with.”
“Will you and Fitz be playing tonight?”
“Fitz isn’t big on public play outside of showing me off or punishing me when I’ve pissed him off. But we do plan to be at the club tonight. Did you bring anything to wear? Fet wear only in the dungeon space or upstairs, but street clothes are fine in the bar.”
“I actually bought a new steampunk-esque outfit based on your description of Baker Street.”
“Perfect. I think you’ll have a great time, even if you never leave the submissives’ salon. We have a great group, none of the usual bitchy stuff you see in a lot of the better clubs. I tend to weed out the mean girls. Well, that’s not true. I’m just meaner than them so they leave… or I have Fitz growl at them, and they run for their lives. He really has a low tolerance for that kind of bullshit.”
“Do you know that when you talk about him, your whole body goes soft and you can even hear it over the phone?”
“I know. It’s so annoying. I’d tell you not to tell anyone at the club that, but they already know. Why don’t you plan to come about seven? Is that too late? We’ll get you set up and you can meet your escort in the bar with Fitz and me.”
Olivia ended the call and dropped her rental car with the agency and then took a taxi to her hotel. The Montagu Place Hotel was an intimate boutique hotel with only sixteen rooms in a Georgian townhouse located not far from Baker Street. She’d stayed there on a previous trip and had been greeted the day before like a long-lost friend. She acknowledged the concierge as she entered and made her way up to her room.
Slipping inside, she removed her clothes as she headed to the shower. The shower was large and had amazing water pressure and heat. She let the large showerhead beat down on her tired muscles before turning it to more of a lukewarm trickle, allowing her skin to lose its flushed appearance and sensitize it to a lighter touch. Olivia wanted to enjoy Baker Street and hoped to find a dom that she could play with, if not fully, then at least falling into a submissive role, achieving the peace that could only be found there.
She planned to be in London a week and to spend part of her time performing some translating work for JJ. She also planned to meet a hacker friend for breakfast at the Savoy Grille to look at something he’d stumbled across. She wanted to do some sight-seeing. It had been years since she’d been in London as a tourist with time to herself.
Nigel left the site of his defeat shortly after the woman known as Lady Raven, driving his vintage Rolls Royce back to his home in London. He slipped into his fashionable, Tudor-style townhouse not far from Baker Street and unlocked the hidden space behind his fireplace. The space was small and originally had been a place for so-called heretics to hide. He engaged his secure computer and in less than half an hour he was reading a full-blown dossier on Olivia Miles. There was quite a bit of information available as she had a high security clearance due to her work as an upper-level translator.
Most of the information contained was relatively tame, until he got to the threat assessment section. He wondered if she knew she’d been barred from a Top Secret designation due to her known involvement with the BDSM community. Twits! The Americans could be such prudes. There were lots of people with Top Secret clearance at the home office who had worse kinks than BDSM and no one thought a thing about it. That wasn’t necessarily true. They might think about it, but rarely was any action taken as long as one was discreet.
Playing a hunch, Nigel called Adam, the head of security at Baker Street and the unofficial liaison between the Cerberus Group, the private black ops group headed up by Robert Fitzwallace, and the home office. He liked Fitz and admired the way the man had collared and wed Baker Street’s owner, Jordan. Fitz’s intrepid wife also worked as an international activist and one-woman rescue squad for women being trafficked around the globe. Before Fitz had entered the picture, Nigel had topped Jordan on numerous occasions, but when he’d tried to deepen the relationship and become her dom, she’d broken it off. He idly wondered if Fitz had ever had a contract with JJ… not likely. The man had blown into her life, rocked her world, and become her everything… and she, his.
“Nigel? How’d your game go?” asked Adam, answering his phone.
“Not as well as I might have liked.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“Not to worry. I think that things might be looking up. Don’t I recall that JJ has a friend coming into Baker Street tonight?”
“Yeah, an American she’s worked with a couple of times, Olivia something or other.”
“Has anyone agreed to be her escort?”
“Not yet. I was going to ask you. Both Harry and Malcolm have pretty much become exclusive…”
“That’s fine, Adam. I’m happy to do it. Any idea when Ms. Miles might be coming in?”
“Tonight, at seven. How’d you remember her last name?”
“I ran part of the background check on her at Fitz’s request.”
Adam laughed. “I’m not sure JJ would have liked anyone doing that.”
“Thus the reason Fitz asked me to do so quietly. Did she request anything specific?”
“No. She wants to meet with whoever, Fitz, and JJ in the bar at seven and take it from there. I’ll let her know that you’ll be her escort for the evening.”
“Thanks, Adam. I’ll send along a note to be delivered to the submissives’ salon with the outfit I’d like her to wear. Let’s see if we can’t show JJ’s friend a memorable time.”
“Sounds good. See you later.”
Nigel pulled out the handmade paper from his desk. He had selected it for its tactile qualities. Using a fountain pen, he scripted Olivia a preliminary note to be delivered to her hotel. She was staying at the Montagu, a small hotel with a reputation for an impeccable staff and service.
My name is Nigel Pedersen and I am one of the resident doms at Baker Street. Captain and Mrs. Fitzwallace have asked that I be your escort this evening.
I have taken the liberty of reviewing your application for visiting status at the club. While of course as the guest of Mrs. Fitzwallace assures your approval, I thought you might find it interesting to contract with me for the length of your stay.
I am one of the club’s most experienced impact players and could easily take care of your needs in that area as well as introduce you to some sensory play you might find pleasurable.
I’m including a standard contract for play for Baker Street. I have been advised of your hard limits and was happy to see that you didn’t exclude sex as a part of aftercare. Of course, your safeword would be honored.
Don’t feel obliged to sign, but I think you would enjoy yourself if you did. If you don’t wish to sign, I will be happy to act as your host this evening and to negotiate with any other dom you think might be better suited.
If, however, you agree, please read and sign the enclosed contract and have it returned to Baker Street. I will arrange for your clothing for the evening and will have it waiting for you.
Olivia was just getting ready to hop naked into bed to take a brief nap when there was a discreet knock on her door. She grabbed a robe and opened the door, accepting a manila envelope addressed to her in beautiful cursive writing that bordered on calligraphy.
She read the note, telling herself that Nigel Pedersen had some nerve and yet she found his suggestion intriguing, even a bit arousing. He was right, she could always safeword out, but it might be fun to truly give up any and all control… at least for her first night at the club. She read over the contract and phoned JJ, who vouched for both the skill and prowess of the dom. What the hell, everything being upfront and notated in black and white was one of the things she liked about D/s—everyone knew what to expect. She signed the contract and had it returned to Baker Street.