Moving hurriedly down the walkway, she pushed herself to go faster as the heavy thud of footsteps against concrete echoed behind her. He was gaining and would soon overtake her, one of his strides matching two of her own much shorter ones. Glancing back, she saw his long shadow growing larger as he approached the corner, advancing steadily. Turning front, she spied a shaded portico up ahead and darted between the columns. When she exited to the left by the infrequently used rear pathway and he still kept coming, gaining even more ground, she realized she’d underestimated his height and speed and that one of his strides was more like three of hers. As her heart raced with apprehension, she licked her dry lips and pressed on, urging her legs to pick up the pace.
She shouldn’t have gone in there, had been warned not to several times, in fact. It was a risk, she knew that. Entering a lion’s den was never a wise proposition, but when he was persistently irritated and cross, it was plain foolish. She’d been found out, however, and she had no choice but confess to what she’d done. Now he was livid, set on retribution. Escaping the island and his wrath was an option, a rather childish one considering her position and that she’d been fully aware from the outset that this would be the result, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t delay the inevitable, allowing his anger to cool, before facing the consequences of her actions.
Coming to a slight uphill slope as the cement path turned to swirling tile, she slowed, skidding slightly as her ankles wobbled unsteadily. Damn these shoes! Three inches, minimum, the spiked heels she always wore to compensate for her lack of stature gave her only the slightest boost when surrounded by the giants she worked with, all of them well over six feet tall. She needed that edge, however small, but sacrificed agility and speedy getaways in the process.
Pausing at an outcropping of tropical plants and shrubbery, she ducked down, taking a moment to catch her breath as she scanned the path behind her. At that exact moment, he made the turn onto the same path she was on, his tawny hair gleaming in the stream of sunlight that bathed the rear of the mansion each morning at this time. Her eyes dipped to his face, devastatingly handsome, despite the perpetual scowl. Right now, it was worse than usual, more than a glower, twice that of a frown. He looked royally pissed with all of that dominant anger focused on her.
She took note of the long wooden implement he held in his hand, tapping it repeatedly against his thigh as he moved, one of the many indicators of his displeasure. She swallowed, hoping for a miracle, either to instantaneously develop the talent for teleportation and disappear to nearby Jamaica, or perhaps that he might be suddenly struck by a case of rare and spontaneous tropical amnesia. But of course, with her luck, neither wish came to pass.
Knowing she couldn’t stay in her hiding spot—considering it consisted of insignificant yucca plants, a nearly transparent hibiscus tree, and lacy ferns, it wasn’t much of one—she decided to sprint toward the opening between the buildings up ahead. She dared a glance in his direction as she re-entered the walkway and his eyes met hers. The icy blue sending a chill down her spine despite the ninety-degree heat. Taking another quick look back to gauge the narrowing distance, she poured on what little steam she had left and darted around the corner.
With a whoosh, the air left her lungs as she slammed into an unyielding wall. Bouncing off the solid surface, she teetered backward on her heels—yes, those damnable shoes again—her arms flailing in wild, wind-milling circles to keep her balance.
“Mariah!” the wall exclaimed, which was actually a hard muscled chest, attached to a tall, masculine frame, as hands, strong and quick, enveloped her waist and kept her ass from a painful meeting with the unforgiving tile beneath her.
Grateful to her rescuer, she looked up with words of appreciation on her lips, but they stuck in her dry throat as she met a pair of indigo eyes, as dark as the deepest bands in the Caribbean Sea only yards away from where they stood. They were achingly familiar, as was the man—Dimitri De Luca—her boss, fiancé, and her dominant master. Knowing he would shelter her from any threat, she crumpled into his arms.
“This time your sub has gone too far, D,” the irate man barked, almost upon them. “I demand satisfaction.”
Mariah closed her eyes, bracing to withstand the oncoming storm that was Byron St. John, their world-renowned award-winning chef who she had unwisely ticked off with her well-intentioned interference. Dimitri’s arms tightened around her, his protective embrace encompassing her like the bars of a steel cage as he whispered against the top of her head, his voice husky with inflection, “Piccola mia, what have you done?”
“I can explain, sir,” she breathed.
“There is no explanation that will suffice. Not this time!” her angry pursuer snapped, overhearing as he skidded to a halt a foot away.
“You’re overreacting,” she shot back daringly, only to shrink into D’s chest when Byron growled, his eyes flashing with outrage.
“Quiet, baby,” Dimitri urged, quickly assessing the volatility of the situation. “It seems you’ve poked the beast enough already. Let’s hear the charges, and then you’ll get your chance to present your defense.”
She stiffened, her mouth dipping into an offended pout as her head fell back to look up at him. “How do you know I’m not the plaintiff, the wronged party?”
Amusement swept over his darkly attractive features and his mouth kicked up on one side. “Mariah,” he murmured indulgently.
“What she’s done is indefensible, D. So I wouldn’t put money on an acquittal.”
“Byron,” Dimitri said calmly, meeting the angry gaze of his head chef who had taken a half-step closer and now stood only inches away. This close, she could feel the fury rolling off of him in waves. Although she was fairly certain he wouldn’t dare touch her, let alone spank her in retaliation, he was a loose cannon and she couldn’t be sure. That’s why she’d fled. It seemed fate had a hand in leading her directly into D’s arms. As master dom and owner of Pleasure Bay, his exclusive BDSM resort island tucked away in the Caribbean Sea, he alone had the authority to settle this dispute. She would have brought this to him later, after Chef Hothead’s temper had time to cool, or at least reduce to a simmer, but he’d accelerated her timetable. Darn him.
“How about we take this to my office?” D’s words made it sound like a suggestion, but his firm hold on her body and his decisive tone made it clear it was much more than that.
“A spanking bench in the dungeon is more what I had in mind,” Byron quipped.
“With any other sub I might agree, but this one is mine and up to me to decide.”
“I am aware and respect that, D. In fact, I was heading your way. If you remember, the last time she wandered into my kitchen and stirred the proverbial pot with her schemes and manipulations, I warned her and you agreed.”
Mariah spoke up in her own defense. “I didn’t agree.”
“Be silent, little one. Your agreement is not required,” Dimitri said, in a voice ringing with authority. He angled her face up to his, resolutely meeting her gaze so that there was no confusion. “As your dom, I am your judge and jury, and decisions lie in my hands, quite literally.” She opened her mouth to protest, but his fingers on her chin tightened in warning. “Do you have a problem with that?”
She blinked as her mental wheels began to turn, silently weighing the options—defiance versus compliance—and evaluating her odds of sitting comfortably for the next few days. Sending a sidelong glance the irritated chef’s way and seeing no leniency there, she looked back at her dom—gorgeous, intelligent, fair, and respected, by her and everyone who worked for him. Her rational self emerged, as did her submissive, stifling the impetuous streak that tended to get her in trouble.
Bowing her head, she reluctantly gave her negative response. “As always, I will defer to your handling of the dispute, no matter the outcome.”
Releasing all but her hand, he turned, leading the way as he decreed, “Molto bene, piccola mia. Let’s go get to the bottom of this.”
Falling in step behind them, Byron snorted at this unintentional pun and tapped the bowl of the slotted wooden spoon he carried against his palm. “As the offended party, I took the liberty of selecting the means of your sentence and brought it along.”
“He hasn’t ruled in your favor yet,” she bit out, tossing a frown the chef’s way as she followed Dimitri, practically jogging up the steps in order to keep up and having little choice with his huge hand gripping hers.
They arrived at his second floor office, each pausing briefly to take in the panoramic view that no matter how annoyed or angry one became, could not be ignored.
“Have a seat,” he said. His instructions were clearly aimed at Byron, for he corrected Mariah when she moved to do so as well. “You, naughty girl, will kneel.” He pointed to a spot on the floor by his feet as he settled into his chair behind his desk.
“You’ve convicted me already,” she accused with a pout, “without even hearing my side.”
“I haven’t heard anyone’s side and likely won’t if you keep interrupting. Another peep before it’s your turn will warrant a gag in addition to the spanking you’ve already earned for defiance.”
With a glower of dissatisfaction, she remembered her long-ago vow to submit to him, and more recently to abide by his decision—now wishing she hadn’t opened her big mouth—and sank gracefully to her knees on the thick carpet.
Dimitri settled his hand on her head, his fingers sinking into her thick blond curls. Though she was his submissive, she was also his bride-to-be and he loved her. A bit of reassurance was not out of bounds and she welcomed it, considering.
“Tell me,” D directed the other man.
“I can do better than that, I’ll show you.” Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out a folded piece of glossy paper, which Mariah recognized immediately. She should, she’d designed the ad herself. He laid it out flat on Dimitri’s desk and they both watched as he leaned in to read it.
Serve Under the Master
World-renowned and international award-winning chef, Byron St. John,
is in search of an experienced sous chef for his kitchen at the
exclusive Pleasure Bay resort.
Qualified applicants will compete for the grand prize; a one-year paid contract as sous chef at this private Caribbean island getaway.
- Must be an experienced BDSM practitioner
- Experienced submissives only. (Two doms in the kitchen just ain’t gonna work)
- Must be willing to enter into a consensual contract for discipline, as needed
- Further play arrangements are allowed, but are separate and not required for participation in the contest or employment agreement
- Use of the five-star facilities during down time is provided
- Other benefits include paid accommodations and travel expenses
Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to enhance your culinary skills as you learn at the foot of the master, in more ways than one.
Online applications only. References required.
As he finished, she heard Dimitri’s slow release of breath. It had been a ballsy move, yes, but something had to give. Byron’s kitchen was in constant chaos and they had a revolving door of qualified chefs rotating through the island. D had complained about it numerous times himself. Still, when she looked at his face, she saw his astonishment that she’d had the nerve to do this without asking.
“She’s placed that ad in over a dozen lifestyle papers, upscale BDSM clubs, and several trade magazines.”
“That is the BDSM ad. I was more discreet in the vanilla magazines,” she explained in her own defense.
Dimitri sat back and without saying a word opened a drawer in his desk. She stiffened instinctively as he removed a red rubber ball. Robert, her former master used a gag frequently; Dimitri never had. Although like earlier, he had threatened to. Being a submissive, she could do obedient; quietly obedient, however, posed a challenge.
She eyed it warily, a visible tremor rushing through her.
“Eyes to me, Mariah.”
She shifted her wide-eyed gaze to his handsome face.
“Who am I?”
“Who am I?” he repeated.
“My master,” she breathed.
He leaned close, until she couldn’t mistake the intensity of the emotion in his compelling dark eyes. Most emphatically, he asked again, “Who. Am. I. Baby?”
“You are the man who loves me, cherishes and adores me, and would cut off his right arm before letting anything truly hurt me. You are Dimitri, my master by choice, who I have willingly gifted my submission to, and who I love with all my heart.”
“Eccelente, cara mia, with one correction. I would die before allowing you to come to harm.” He stroked the outer edge of his thumb down her cheek and along her jaw before asking further, “Your safeword?”
“And your safe signal?”
She raised her right hand, fingers splayed wide with her palm outward; it meant it was too much, when she wasn’t able to say it.
“Bene,” he murmured, his gentle smile transforming him from handsome to strikingly beautiful. Another tremor rocked her body, this time for an entirely different reason. “Open,” he ordered.
“I’m sorry, master.”
“I know, but your apology and obedience comes too late. I warned you.”
He placed the large red ball with the hole in the center to facilitate breathing between her teeth. It didn’t have a strap; rather it was up to her to see that it stayed where he put it.
From the beginning it had been that way with Dimitri. In an effort to overcome her justifiable fears, he had rejected the use of physical restraints, bondage equipment, and many of the usual implements, using his voice, his sheer force of will, and his body to dominate her. It was her choice to follow his commands, to keep in position, and submit, thereby accepting his control. Although he directed, guided, ordered regularly, and doled out consequences when he felt they were needed, both in play and real time, she was the one who had the real power and could end it whenever she wanted with a word or gesture. In the beginning, she had tested him frequently, but he had never failed to respect her safeword. Now, she never needed to use one, confident that her dom and future husband would not exceed her limits or betray her trust.
“Hands behind your back,” he ordered further. “Eyes down and silent. You will remain that way until I tell you otherwise, understood?”
“Mm-hmph,” came her muffled response.
With her eyes on the floor, she couldn’t see, but heard as D turned his focus to Byron. His hand remained in her hair, however, a sign that his attention had not fully left her.
“Now, we might get somewhere,” he said softly, his tone laced with amusement. She bristled, and it was all she could do not to look up, but she didn’t, eyes obediently fixated on the blue-gray tufted wool rug that covered the burnished hardwood floor.
“Don’t let anyone else see that sympathetic look, or it will ruin your reputation as a hardass master chef.”
Startled, Mariah couldn’t stand it and peeped up in time to see the stern dom shrug. “She’s so little, it’s like picking on Tinkerbell.”
“Not quite. That pretty little fairy didn’t speak, if I recall.”
“Not being up on my Peter Pan trivia, I’ll take your word for it.”
While both men gave a low laugh, she shifted, telling them she didn’t like the turn of the conversation by grunting a protest. D’s fingers tightened in her hair as she did so and her muffled grumblings subsided.
She heard the scuff of shoes on the carpet and the creak of leather as the chef settled into a chair. Dimitri had two very nice burgundy wingbacks across from his desk, which she would have preferred had she been given the choice.
“Papilio?” he inquired of D.
“Papilio blumei, to be exact. She chose it for two reasons: because she loves those black and vivid green butterflies that inhabit the island, and like a butterfly, she has come through a difficult metamorphosis stronger and more beautiful than before.”
She had told him the former only. Her heart felt full that he had figured the other out. Sometimes she felt he knew her better than she knew herself. Needing to communicate how she was feeling, she leaned her weight against the side of his leg. His fingers eased their grip and withdrew, but didn’t go far, beginning to stroke the length of her hair gently.
“So, did you know about this?” Byron asked point blank.
“No, apparently she acted alone.” There was a long pause before he continued thoughtfully. “You know, it’s not such a bad idea. You’ve been through eight sous chefs this year alone. You said yourself it was because most wouldn’t listen, their egos nearly as big as your own, and because they were vanilla, you couldn’t use appropriate discipline to whip the few who had potential into shape.”
“Absolutely not. Having a submissive as your under chef might be the solution to your problem.”
When silence encompassed the office, she struggled not to look. With D’s hand gliding over the long waves of her hair where it fell down her back, and toying with the curls at the ends, he would notice even the slightest motion. Frustrated, she closed her eyes, opening them again when Dimitri asked, “You agree, don’t you, my friend?”
That’s when she noticed movement to her left. Shifting her eyes without lifting her chin, she almost shouted in victory when she caught their reflection in the glass front credenza nearby. It was a perfect mirror image, and in it she saw Byron nod.
“Yes, dammit. But the end does not justify her means. She can’t rope my ass into her schemes this way. I won’t stand for it.” He leaned forward and laid his long spoon on Dimitri’s desk, his insinuation clear.
“I will take care of her interference. Since it was your ass that got roped into this contest, as you say, you may watch, but that’s as much as I’ll allow.”
“Of course. Might I suggest a nice round number. Say one hundred?”
A squeaking sound came from behind the gag as she reacted to such an outrageous amount. Both men looked over.
“You might, but I tend not to go by number and use color and proper remorse as my guide.” D glanced back at him thoughtfully. “Since you’ve agreed to this contest, I’ll ask you to see it through to the end. Don’t send them packing on day one like I know you’ll be tempted to do.”
The chef scowled for a moment, then gave a short laugh. “I’ll be damned, De Luca. You know me far too well, for that’s exactly what I had planned.”
She grunted. Darn stubborn man!
“But,” he added, “I realize I need another chef. Membership is growing and despite thinking I can do it all, I know that I can’t.” He paused, and she felt his eyes on her once again. She dared a glance up, seeing his lips twitch slightly. “What if I bring in other judges, to keep it on the up and up? Mariah, for example, and I have an old associate chef in Jamaica whose been chomping at the bit to visit the island.”
“That sounds like an excellent idea,” D approved. His phone rang just then. “Dimitri here.” He listened for a moment, then cursed under his breath. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
After he hung up, he rose and bent to remove her gag while continuing to address Byron. “I apologize, but we’ll have to postpone your retribution and her chastisement until tonight. A problem has come up with one of the guests that can’t wait.” He suggested as he assisted her to her feet, “Tonight, our suite, say eight o’clock? That’s sufficient time after supper service, isn’t it?”
Immediately, Mariah protested. “Wait. I thought I got my say.”
He cupped her chin in his hand and tilted her face up to his.
“Did you go behind chef’s back to do this?”
“Did you do it to force his hand when he wouldn’t let you vet his staff?”
“I did, D, however—”
“And you deliberately withheld this from me, your boss, your dominant, and the man you are going to marry and promise to love, honor, and obey for the rest of your life?”
When she opened her mouth to try again, his dark eyes dared her to be so foolish and she wisely said nothing. It reminded her of how during a wedding planning session last week, the traditional use of ‘obey’ in the vows had been a sticking point for Dimitri. Although indulgent with her often, he was dominant through and through, in charge of their relationship in all aspects. She had agreed with very little fuss and was fully prepared to receive a revocation of her modern, independent, liberated woman’s membership card in the mail any day now. But the arrangement worked for them mostly because he was right 99.9% of the time, gorgeous, intelligent, perceptive, nearly perfect man that he was.
“How do you plead, little subbie?” Byron asked, not sounding angry any longer, more so amused.
She paused only a moment, considering how petty she would seem in the face of her high-handed actions, then admitted, “Guilty as charged, sirs.”
“You are hereby sentenced to punishment at eight,” D decreed, his lips tipped up into a devastatingly irresistible grin. “Now come up here and kiss me before I go.”
As she stood on tiptoe to give him that kiss, he leaned down, meeting her halfway, for a tender lip touch that left her wanting more when he pulled away all too soon. “Do you need me to come with you, honey?”
“No, little one. You stay here and work out the details of this contest with chef.”
“I thought Gracie could—”
“Nope.” Byron stated, patting the chair next to his own. “You got me into this mess; you’re not bailing until the sugar is caramelized on the last crème brûlée.”
She glanced at Dimitri, who was smiling, but shaking his head. No help there. “Yes, sir,” she murmured as she gave in and moved to the vacant seat beside the chef.
“Another crisis averted. Just another day in the life of the master dom of Pleasure Bay,” he said, tongue in cheek as he headed toward the door. “Let me know if I need to mediate, or flagellate, whichever the case may be.”
“D!” Mariah exclaimed to his departing back as Byron chuckled.