“There is nothing wrong with finding competence sexy.” Sitting up straighter, not that it helped make me look taller, I stared at the wiggly, nearly naked man. “You asked what traits I find sexy in a man and I told you. Competence. Intelligence. Emotional stability.”
This was not rocket science.
Conner didn’t seem to agree with that sentiment, however. He was gaping at me like I was a bizarre new species of bug he’d just discovered. But since that was an improvement over his initial reaction to my clothing, or just the fact that I was wearing them, I didn’t worry about it.
Shaking his head, he gestured around the room. “Those are important characteristics in a good person, especially a good Dom, but what about looks?”
The expression on his face said he had no idea what I was talking about, but he was trying to be polite. Unfortunately, it was one I was familiar with.
Trying not to sigh, I ran my hand down my shirt and sat straighter. I was going to have to compromise and come down to his level if we were going to get anything accomplished. “Personality, moral fortitude, and intelligence are more important than looks, but yes, there should be physical attraction.”
But since I’d never dated with that in mind, I wasn’t sure what to say. Everything else had always come first, and then the attraction had followed. “I appreciate tall men?”
Conner’s sigh said that wasn’t particularly helpful…and since I was barely five foot five if I stretched, he might have been right.
“Let’s try this again.” He studied the room, nodding and muttering to himself. “I think we can cross off anyone in politics. Just to be on the safe side.”
Since that seemed like a prudent choice, I nodded.
Turning back to me, he rolled his water bottle between his hands. “Most younger guys might not have a lot of…well, any of that yet, so can we say that you’re looking for someone a bit older?”
I’d always been drawn to more mature men, and college had just solidified that, so I nodded. “Yes, that sounds logical.”
Conner looked oddly relieved. “Alright, you’re…you’re not that old so maybe not too mature—”
I scoffed. “I’m over twenty-one. Don’t make it sound like I’m five.”
Conner snorted. “You’re one day over twenty-one. So yeah, you’re basically five compared to the guys I’m thinking about introducing you to, so forgive me for worrying.”
Just from glancing around the room, I could tell I was at least more mature than a good portion of the men I could see, so I thought he was being dramatic. “I’d have applied earlier if I could have.”
That didn’t seem to help Conner’s disposition. “I’ve never met a more polite brat in my life.”
Was I supposed to respond to that?
His huff indicated I should’ve said something, but he charged back in anyway. “Alright, so you like tall. What about BDSM preferences?”
That was easier to answer than picking out random physical traits that might end up being attractive. “My interests lie in control, restraints, and mild pain. I’m also more than a bit curious about the lifestyle side of BDSM, not just weekend scenes.”
Conner rolled his eyes. “Of course you are.”
Since they’d already taken my money and approved my application, I didn’t feel the need to be polite any longer. “You really are very dramatic.”
It made me wonder if there was a correlation between bad behavior and a lack of clothing.
Conner actually looked chagrined. “Sorry, for some reason you rub me the wrong way.”
I shrugged. “I could say the same about you, but I wasn’t going to.”
I might have been raised by wolves, but at least I knew how to behave. “You don’t have to like me. You’re definitely not my target market. But if what you’re saying is that this is not the right establishment for me, please refund my fee and I’ll be on my way. Honestly, with the number of politicians you were rumored to have as members, I wasn’t sure this was going to be a good fit anyway. Different values and all.”
When his face tightened, I knew I’d scored a hit.
If he thought I would sit there like a good little sub and let him look down his nose at me, he was dumber than he looked.
Conner’s expression changed, and he gave the impression he was going to say something else rude, but he backed down. “No, we don’t want you to leave; there are a lot of Doms who would be a good fit with you. I’m just…”
He paused and looked around the room. “I’m going to have Ben talk to you about that, though. Just please wait right here.”
He stood and walked off muttering about needing a drink.
Another point not in his favor. Alcohol led to nothing but trouble.
As Conner weaved his way through the room, seemingly unable to resist wiggling his ass at everyone, I shifted in my seat and leaned against the wall. The little bistro set was cute, but not built for comfort.
Skimming my gaze over the room, I smiled at a group of littles and their Daddies. Life would have been easier if I were able to sink into such an innocent headspace. However, since that wasn’t an option, I looked away and scanned the small groups crowding the lounge space.
A stocky, frowning man at the next table made a comment about a scene starting soon, so I hoped that meant the room would clear out a bit. As I searched through the faces and noticed the range of body types, I wished there was a way to glance at someone and know how trustworthy they were.
I’d counted on the owners being able to point me in the right direction, but if that wasn’t true, I wouldn’t be coming back. Spending my own time sorting completely randomly through Doms did not sound like fun. There had to be a more efficient way of finding the Dom I wanted than just arbitrarily getting to know them.
However, I hadn’t found a system yet, which was why I’d had such high hopes for the club.
So far the only Doms I’d met outside the club hadn’t been the most patient individuals, but I’d thought that was because they fell into the wanna-be Dom category. I was starting to think maybe that had been an incorrect assumption.
I’d nearly talked myself into leaving when a familiar face on the other side of the room had everything in me skidding to a halt. I knew he was important, but I didn’t know why.
Who was he?
Was he a professor from college?
I knew I’d seen him before—in a sea of strangers, he was more.
He had to be at least forty, but his expression said serious and experienced, not old. I knew him…but from where?
I was so engrossed in finding the memory, I jumped as someone sat down at the table. My gaze pulled away from the maddeningly familiar figure to a stranger wearing a band T-shirt and worn jeans that probably cost more than my wardrobe.
This had to be Ben.
Reaching across the table, I extended my hand. “Ben, I presume?”
He nodded, looking a bit uneasy as he shook it. “I’m sorry things didn’t go smoothly with Conner. Normally we find that new subs are more comfortable talking with another sub, but maybe another avenue would be best.”
“I agree.” I wasn’t sure what Conner had explained, so I stayed silent. I might not like him, but throwing him under the bus to his Dom didn’t seem like the right thing to do.
Ben actually smiled. “I think I’m starting to see why you didn’t click.”
That list probably would’ve been too long to sort through because he just continued without going into detail. “From what I understand, you were listing character traits you find appealing?”
When I nodded, he continued. “From what I gathered from Conner, you’re looking for a solid sort of man who’s mature and trustworthy and happens to be a Dom who leans toward the lifestyle side of things?”
I thought that was a good way to describe it. “Yes, that’s accurate.”
He seemed pleased to have a grasp on the situation. Relaxing back in his chair, he ran his hands over his thighs and looked around the room. “Honestly, I’d say that a lot of men here fit that general description. I think that’s part of what was tripping Conner up.”
I really didn’t care why he didn’t like me, but I was mildly curious. “Part? What was the other?”
Ben smiled again. “He operates more on passion and instinct first and logic second. I have a feeling you’re the exact opposite.”
“How can a sub be comfortable with that sort of passion without trust first?” I’d never understood that kind of logic, but I’d long since realized I was in the minority.
“I can see where you’re coming from. To start, I would say avoid the Doms in politics. They aren’t bad people, but I don’t think you would see things the same way, and their lives can be…complicated.”
Since I happened to agree, I nodded as he continued. “I think we should take a quick tour, then introduce you to a few people.”
That sounded like my best option if I was going to stay, but first, I had to ask about the man. “I think that’s reasonable, but first, can you tell me who the man in the white button-down shirt is?”
Shifting, I looked in his direction, relieved to see that he was still there. “He’s with a group of men in the far corner. He’s familiar, but I can’t place him.”
Ben leaned around me, searching the room until he nodded. “His back is to the wall? That’s Stuart—”
“Blake.” The word popped out before my mind had a chance to catch up. “It’s Mr. Stuart.”
Ben chuckled. “Not what most people call him, but yes. How do you know him?”
I ignored his teasing. “He was my neighbor when I was younger.”
How could I have forgotten?
Ten years hadn’t changed him much. I should’ve recognized him right off the bat because I’d thought about him on and off for longer than I should have. Maybe it was just that he looked so much more striking than I remembered him.
Clearly my childhood imagination hadn’t oversold him like I’d always told myself. Age had only made him sexier, or maybe that was my years changing how I saw him. “Do you think he would find it awkward if I said hello?”
I turned back to Ben to see him shaking his head. “He’s a nice guy. It might take him a minute to get over the shock, but after that, I’m sure he’d be fine.”
As I looked back at Mr.…no, just Stuart, Ben cleared his throat. “He’s a bit—”
I chuckled, interrupting. “Straightforward and blunt.”
Ben grinned. “Not how some people describe him, but yes.”
“I’m glad.” My response seemed to confuse Ben, but I thought it was logical. Why would I have wanted Stuart to have changed? Knowing he was the same steady, trustworthy man made me want to grin, and I felt the stress that had been weighing on me finally lighten.
Maybe all the drama of getting into the club would be worth it.
I wasn’t expecting Stuart to throw himself at me, that would be ridiculous, but he’d always been nice to me. He couldn’t have changed that much.
Ignoring the new, odd tension building inside, I focused on Ben. “Would it be more appropriate for you to walk over with me or is that not necessary?”
I wasn’t going to claim to understand all the social rules. Ben made a noncommittal gesture with his hands. “Either way would be fine, but I’ll walk over and say hello too.”
I could see that he thought he would need to save me from embarrassment, but I’d been such an annoying child there was no way Stuart would’ve forgotten me. “Perfect.”
Picking up my bottle of water, I stood before he could find another ridiculous question. This had not gone as I’d planned.
Ben seemed to bounce between worried and finding me cute, neither of which I appreciated, but he led me across the room without complaint. The space was starting to thin out, so as we made our way over to Stuart, we got several curious looks.
Most men couldn’t seem to decide how to classify me, but there were a few obvious Doms that didn’t seem to mind the fact that I’d come in fully clothed. I nodded toward a few that had a good feeling to them, making mental notes about who I might want to question Ben about.
As we finally walked up to Stuart and the men he was talking to, he looked over and studied me. He couldn’t seem to place me, but he didn’t look away either. The serious, almost studious expression brought back a wave of memories that made me smile.
When we were within a few feet, Ben started to speak, but I jumped in, smiling at a still-confused Stuart. “Mr. Stuart, you will be pleased to know I have finished my math, and I didn’t run through your flower bed.”
There were a few seconds of silence where his friends just stared like the bug they’d been watching had started to quote Shakespeare, but Stuart’s eyes lit up and he started to laugh.
Everyone else seemed stunned as he stood up and walked around a small table to hug me. Leaning back as he held on to me, he studied my face before shaking his head. “You sure you don’t need help with your homework? Math never was your favorite subject, kiddo.”
I scoffed. “I’ll have you know, I now have a degree in accounting.”
Stuart’s grin widened. “Really?”
I nodded, finally feeling a bit sheepish. “I had to follow my hero, didn’t I?”
That got me another hug and an understanding smile. As he held me tight, he whispered quietly. “It’s so good to see you. I was so worried when your family disappeared.”
I squeezed his arms as he pulled away, wanting to acknowledge what he’d said but not willing to open up in front of strangers. Stuart understood that, though. He dropped the topic and turned to his friends. “This is Asa. This little troublemaker used to drive me crazy. He was constantly running through the yard of my first house, and he would drive me crazy.”
I rolled my eyes. “Once. And then you came out on your porch like a grumpy old man and scared the hell out of me.”
Stuart scoffed, but the way his friends laughed and nodded said they could picture it too. Waving them off, he turned back to me. “What are you doing here?”
My expression must have told him that was a ridiculous question because he just kept going. “There is no way I’m old enough for you to be able to be a member.”
My eyes were going to be the most muscular part of my body if I kept rolling them so much.
“I turned twenty-one yesterday. So yes, you are old. And as for what I’m doing here, I think that should be obvious. My sexuality was probably clear even back then, I just didn’t understand it.” Or why I’d been so drawn to the grumpy man down the street.
Stuart looked like he wanted to protest, but he finally shrugged. “Yeah, not going to lie, it doesn’t surprise me.”
Another one of the reasons I’d liked him as a kid.
When the adults around me were all insane and I’d been terribly alone, he’d always told the truth.
“I just can’t believe how grown up you are.” Then he grinned and rested his elbow on my shoulder. “Or should I say mature since I’m not sure you got much taller?”
I shrugged off his arm. “One of us has gotten more mature, but it’s certainly not you.”
He laughed, but his friends were wearing polite smiles and watching us like we were zoo animals. Ben wasn’t much better either. Stuart must have realized it because he sent them all looks that clearly told them to behave.
That helped somewhat, especially when Stuart began making introductions. He started with the man who’d been sitting next to him. “This is my friend Porter.”
Then he gestured to the sub who was kneeling quietly and was, surprisingly, dressed. “And his boy Landon.” As he went around, introducing me to the men he obviously considered his friends, one actually looked familiar, so I realized he’d probably known most of them for a long time.
When the niceties were taken care of, he turned back to me. “This is your first time at the club?”
He gestured to Ben who was still standing there trying to look like he knew what was going on. “Is Ben showing you around? I thought I saw you with Conner.”
I winced, which had Ben coughing to cover his laughter.
Stuart grinned. “Still making friends the hard way, I see.”
Shrugging, because he might have been right, I focused on the first part of his questions. “Ben will show me around if he has to, but he was hoping to find someone to pawn me off on. Conner and I see things very differently, so him showing me around wasn’t the best idea.”
Stuart’s friends were trying not to laugh, but Ben was just gaping.
Had he expected me to lie?
Stuart nodded. “I rub him the wrong way too.”
Glancing between us, he looked at me. “I would be happy to show you around, if you don’t think that would be awkward.”
“Why would it be?” I shrugged. “Unless you’ve changed significantly since we last met?”
The man I was sure I’d seen before shook his head. “He hasn’t.”
That was good to know.
Studying Stuart, I relaxed at the familiar warmth he’d always radiated under his stern exterior. “I would love for you to show me around. Thank you.”
Maybe this hadn’t been a bad idea after all.
Sometimes you just have to go after what you want…even if that’s to submit.
Asa has always known he wanted a Master to serve and love…but finding someone he can trust has turned out to be his biggest stumbling block. Why no one has patience any longer is his biggest question…right up until he sees a man across the room at the Bound & Controlled club. Suddenly, all he needs to know in life is the identity of the familiar man with the compelling stare.
When a blast from the past shows up in the most unexpected place, Stuart knows he has some decisions to make. Asa has always seen things just a little bit differently, and Stuart can’t imagine letting him navigate the club or the lifestyle alone. But is he really the right man for the sweet boy with the troubled past?
Sometimes it takes two slightly broken souls to form one perfect love.
Story Contains: M/m romantic content, BDSM elements, and two slightly stubborn men with control issues that make them a perfect match