“Could you be a bigger fucking dork?” Who just randomly showed up with food and said “Date me”?
I continued to mumble to myself. “He’s going to think I’m insane.”
And he’d probably be right.
This was all that wide-eyed sub’s fault.
He just had one of those faces that seemed too earnest to question. It hadn’t felt like he’d been lying. No, he’d been telling the truth. Fuck. Please let him have been telling the truth—because walking up to Warner’s door wasn’t the time to start second-guessing bringing dinner to the sexy man.
This was definitely all Asa’s fault. He’d turned my life upside down in a matter of seconds. One slightly awkward conversation at a coffee shop had been all it had taken to have me walking up to Warner’s house with a pizza in hand when he had no idea I was coming, much less that I was interested in him.
This was going to be a fucking disaster.
I’d been delivering pizza to Warner every Friday for months until recently, and even though we’d barely exchanged a handful of personal words, there’d been something about the man that had pulled at me. But I hadn’t even been sure the sexy man was gay, much less a Dom like I’d wanted.
He’d clearly been thinking something similar because according to Asa, the sub of a friend of Warner’s, he’d been talking about me for just as long. Asa had assured me that the pull wasn’t one-sided, but I just hoped he’d read the situation right. Otherwise, the next few minutes were going to be very awkward.
Taking a deep breath, I reminded myself I was strong and could tackle a bit of embarrassment before balancing the box in one hand and ringing the doorbell. It was such a familiar motion that it brought back all kinds of memories as I stepped back.
How many times had I waited in this exact spot, desperately fantasizing that when he opened the door it would turn into something dirty and erotic, like a bad porn, but with better acting and genuine desperation?
I wasn’t sure how long it would take before my wait would be over, but in seconds, I saw movement through the windows near the door. As the door opened, the first thing I noticed was the surprise on Warner’s face and the second was the phone in his hand.
There was a split second of silence before he spoke into it. “I’m sorry. I’m going to have to cancel the order.”
The reply from whoever was on the phone made him smile. “No, everything is fine. Yes, you’re right, I love the food, but I have unexpected company and it seems that my plans for the evening have changed.”
The other person must have disconnected quickly because he glanced down at his phone before sliding it into his pocket.
His eyes darted back and forth between the box and my face before he gave me a teasing grin. “I really hope that’s for us to share because I just canceled my dinner.”
The laughter in his gaze snapped me out of my stupor. He’d always been so careful with me; seeing this side of his personality was enough to get my brain going again. “Yes, that’s what I had planned. I had an interesting conversation this afternoon, and it gave me a push.”
I swallowed and continued. “Hopefully in the right direction?”
Warner’s smile dropped the teasing edge, looking earnest and confident. “Yes, I think so.”
Stepping back, he gestured for me to come in. “You have me very curious about this mysterious conversation.”
Following him inside had a small hurricane forming in my stomach. It didn’t feel wrong or unsafe, but it was almost like stepping into a dream. Reminding myself it was real, I forced my brain to stay on track so he wouldn’t think I was hesitant about showing up.
Smiling, I returned his teasing grin as he closed the door. “It was unexpected.”
My response had his smile widening. “Well, if it brought you back to my door tonight, I’m grateful.”
As he led me into his living room, I had to question him. “You’re more…flirty than I’d expected.”
Not that it was a bad thing, but I was curious.
Warner shrugged as he walked us over to a dining table tucked between the open layout of the kitchen and the living room. As he stopped, he leaned against a chair. “I assumed seeing you show up like this meant you were something other than straight. Am I wrong?”
Shaking my head, I felt my cheeks heat. “No, you’re not wrong.”
Another teasing grin flashed over his face before he went back to just looking pleased. “Then I’m just going to relax with the sexy man who showed up on my doorstep, and no matter how things turn out, I’m not going to bother trying to look too stoic. Sound good?”
I found myself nodding as more of my worries faded.
He thought I was sexy.
“Sounds perfect.” Setting the box on the table, I opened it, knowing it was his favorite. “Sausage and peppers.”
Warner chuckled, looking terribly pleased. “I will admit to being a creature of habit.”
Trying not to grin, I nodded. “I noticed.”
That made him laugh. When it faded, he shook his head like he thought I was a bit cheeky, then pointed to a seat. “Make yourself comfortable. What would you like to drink?”
As I followed what I was going to pretend was an order, he opened the fridge. “I have Coke, water, or tea.”
“Water, thanks.” I felt a little useless watching him bring plates and bottles of water to the table, but he didn’t seem put out, so I just enjoyed the view. When he finally sat down, I could see a thousand questions running through his head as he handed me a bottle of water and a plate.
“So tell me about your conversation. I’ve been kicking myself for not finding a way to see if you were interested in me, but I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable.” Then I got another teasing grin. “Or have to find a new restaurant if I’d read the situation wrong.”
It was my turn to laugh. “Hey, I didn’t want to lose my job because I flirted with the wrong guy.”
Nodding, Warner moved the box between us. “But you’re here now. Who do I have to thank for that?”
As we each took a piece, I started to explain between bites. “I meet an interesting guy named Asa this afternoon. It seems that his…Master is one of your friends?”
There was no point in beating around the bush. Warner’s eyes sparked with something sexy and hot that sent a shiver through me before it was gone just as quickly. “I shouldn’t be surprised.”
He leaned back in his chair, studying me, or maybe just trying to decide what I was thinking about. “There is not a subtle bone in that boy’s body. Are you okay with everything you found out?”
I must not have looked too weirded out because as I nodded and started to answer, tension eased out of his frame and he took another bite. “Hearing that your friends were in that kind of relationship was good, honestly. Not knowing about that part of your life was one of the things holding me back from even hinting about my…interest.”
That got me another one of his heated flashes.
“But Asa was trying to be discreet, so don’t think he told me too much deliberately. Some of it was accidental.” Asa was awkward, not malicious or a gossip.
Warner chuckled. “How does my interest in BDSM accidentally come out?”
That made me grin again. “He mentioned that you guys had plans later tonight, and I thought he meant dinner. He’d talked about the restaurant where you’d seen me with my sister-in-law and niece, so it was logical. That’s when he had to do a bit of explaining, and when it became clear I knew about the club, he became a bit more open.”
Warner’s groan had me trying not to laugh. He leaned forward, giving me a very Dom look that said he wasn’t pleased with how funny I found his drama. But if his goal was to make me behave, that wasn’t the best way to achieve it.
To me, the look had me picturing being bent over his lap and thoroughly and wonderfully punished. My shiver gave away at least some of what I was feeling because his gaze got even sexier. “I think all this knowledge is very one-way. I don’t even know your name, much less what you’re interested in.”
He scoffed when I smirked. “And I don’t mean favorite pizza toppings.”
Finishing my bite, I decided not to worry about oversharing. From what Asa had said, I didn’t need to worry about shocking Warner, and it wasn’t like he was a stranger. I might not know a lot of details about him, but I knew what kind of guy he was.
“Well, my name is Ridley, and I’d be glad to answer any questions, but I don’t know where you want me to start.” Just randomly listing out interests didn’t sound like the best idea.
Warner nodded, wearing an easy smile. “That’s understandable. Did Asa mention I’m a Dom?”
“I don’t remember specifically how he worded it, but yes, that was the impression I got.” I’d been a bit stunned as he’d started to dump everything he was thinking out, so some parts of our conversation were clearer than others.
“Have you ever dated a Dom? I’m just trying to get a feel for where you’re coming from and your level of experience.” Yeah, making assumptions about this kind of stuff could have everything going sideways.
“I’ve known I wanted to explore my submissive side for years. At one point I even joined an online BDSM group, but it didn’t work out, and it’s been a while since I’ve dated anyone at this point.” Because my life kind of exploded.
But he didn’t need to know the details of everything that had gone topsy-turvy in the past year. “And I’m just looking for something…something casual, I guess. My life is a bit crazy right now and I can’t make any promises.”
With anyone else or in another situation I would’ve been jumping the gun, but Warner gave off a steady feel that said he wasn’t into casual dating and I didn’t want to give him the wrong impression. The way his face grew more serious said I’d read him right.
“What do you mean by casual? I can accept boundaries, but if you’re looking to date other people or scene with other Doms, then I think staying friends would be the best plan.” I could always use more friends, but that wasn’t what I’d pictured with Warner.
I just wasn’t sure he’d be satisfied with what I had to offer.
“I’m not looking to see other people. I haven’t dated in months and there’s no one else I’ve been drawn to. I just have a lot going on, and up until recently I was working two jobs.” Thank God that was over.
“Right now, I have one or two nights a week free, and what I need more than anything is to escape reality.” I was trying to sound laid back so he wouldn’t ask too many questions, but he shifted and his body language said he was thinking more seriously.
“You’re safe? I can respect your boundaries, but only if I know you’re not in danger.” The look on his face and the set of his shoulders said my not being safe was a deal-breaker. It was sweet.
“I promise I’m safe. I just had several unexpected bills and some family drama I don’t want to go into.” I needed at least one place that didn’t remind me of death and struggle. “But the bills are paid off and there isn’t anything to worry about.”
I might not want to talk about it, but I didn’t want him to worry.
Warner nodded, playing with the crust of his pizza. “But you have a safe place to live, and aside from needing to submit, you don’t need anything?”
His expression said he wasn’t going to move on until he was satisfied.
It was such a Dom thing to do, I had to fight the urge to kneel for him. “Yes, Sir. All I need is a safe place to submit and…and a friend, but more than that?”
There was no way I had the energy or time to devote to a full relationship, but a Dom with benefits who could be satisfied with my schedule…well, I could make that work.
Warner was still studying me, and I had to wonder how I’d missed this side of him before. “If I’m understanding everything you’ve said, you’re looking for something exclusive but casual in the sense that you don’t have a lot of time to devote to a relationship. You also want to submit, but you don’t have a lot of experience in the lifestyle. Is that correct?”
Nodding as I watched his steady expression, I felt more at ease when he didn’t immediately tell me he wasn’t interested. “Yes, that’s correct.”
But the way he said it sounded very one-sided.
“I know that sounds kind of selfish, and if you don’t want someone who can’t make promises, I understand.” It would suck, but he deserved more than what I could give him…though I wasn’t ready to walk away.
I wasn’t sure what kind of person that made me, but I wasn’t going to make Warner’s decisions for him. I might not understand everything about the lifestyle, but I knew enough to be confident that a Dom wouldn’t want me deciding what he needed in life.
Warner eventually looked away, reaching for another slice and probably giving himself a few seconds to think. As he finally seemed to come to some sort of conclusion, he set the food down on his plate and looked up at me.
“First of all, I think you sound honest, not selfish.” He raised one eyebrow and gave me a firm stare that made me squirm in my seat.
Oh yeah, that felt too right to question.
“Very good.” Taking a sip of his water, he pulled back the aura that said he wasn’t going to put up with my nonsense. “What is your schedule this evening? When do you need to go back to your regular duties?”
That question had my face heating up again. “I don’t have to be anywhere until eight tomorrow morning.”
Then I started to second-guess how that had come out. “Not that I’m saying I should stay here until then. You just made it sound like I should be very thorough. Was that—”
“Ridley.” Warner’s firm tone halted the rambling answer, which I was grateful for. “I always want a thorough answer. You did very well.”
The relief and pleasure that shot through me probably should’ve been reserved for orgasms, but just knowing I made him happy sent sparks of sensations through me. “Thank you, Sir.”
That earned me another smile from Warner, but his expression looked less sweet and more erotic, especially with the way his fingers were slowly trailing around the edge of the plate like he was touching something a lot less innocent than dinnerware.
While his subtle smile sent sparks through me, it was his words that hit low in my body. “After dinner, we’re going to sit down and discuss limits for tonight as well as limits in general. We’re also going to go over a list of things you’re open to trying, as well as things that are off-limits.”
I wasn’t sure if he needed a response as he talked, but I just answered instinctively. “Yes, Sir.”
Limits were the first steps toward actually doing something…right?
Life takes unexpected turns; Ridley knows that better than anyone. But no matter what life sends his way and how hard he has to work to keep his new family together, nothing is going to throw a wrench in his plans…not even the handsome, commanding older man who sends his heart racing and makes him want things he can’t have.
Life takes unexpected turns, but that doesn’t mean Warner likes leaving things up to fate. Just when he thinks that the man of his dreams has slipped through his fingers, Mr. Right turns up on his doorstep with pizza, a smile, and an interesting no-strings-attached proposition, leaving Warner with one simple question: what if he needs the strings?
Story Contains: M/m romantic content, BDSM elements, and two men who just need a push to see how perfect they’ll be together.
Author’s Note: While this can be read as a standalone, it will make the most sense if you read it after the first two books in the series.