“My mother said I’m supposed to put myself in your hands because I can’t be trusted to pick for myself.”
Had that come out weird?
The way the owner Conner was staring at me with his mouth open said I’d been awkward in some way. Taking a guess, I smiled and expounded. “The last Dom. Well, he said he was a Dom—wait, where was I? Oh, yes. Well, he stole my TV, and the guy before him tried to get me to do some sort of auction where I’d submit to a Master for a month, and that just didn’t seem like a good idea. I have to work and my mother said the whole thing sounded fishy.”
She was probably right, but he’d been wonderful at giving me attention.
She kept saying that attention whores attracted trouble—and she would know.
I thought explaining my questionable dating history would clear up the curious looks I was getting from the half-naked club owner.
Somehow I was fairly certain I’d made things worse.
I was starting to regret acting like myself in this meeting. I did sweet and shy so well it was very believable, and most people liked it better than overly excited and a bit awkward.
If I kept going, I was going to fall into rambling territory, so I tried to pull back my excitement as I smiled and stopped talking. Thankfully, it only took a few seconds for Conner to take charge of the conversation again.
“Your mother knows about…” He gestured vaguely around the club. “The club and being a submissive?”
“Yes.” That was the part that startled him? People were strange. “I’m more than happy to introduce myself and explore on my own, but like I said, my radar for healthy Doms is slightly off.”
Mental stability and good decision-making weren’t the first things I noticed about a man. Sexy eyes, strong hands, patience… those all seemed more important in the moment.
Conner’s brain was still lagging behind, but eventually he shook his head. “No, I’d be happy to show you around and introduce you to some Doms and just guys in general you might get along with.”
That sounded promising.
“What are you looking for in a Dom?”
Ugh. Why did everyone start there?
He was just like my mother.
“Um, patience?” Conner blinked at me again, almost like a computer that’d rebooted wrong.
Oh, that would be interesting.
“What do you mean?” Conner’s question chased away the image that had been taking shape in my mind.
“What do I mean?” What did he mean?
What had we been talking about?
Conner cocked his head. “I’m starting to get the picture.”
I was glad he was because he was kind of vague.
Clearing his throat, he seemed to be trying not to smile. He was a very odd individual, and I knew a lot of curious people, so I could always pick out the interesting ones.
“You said you were an artist?” His question seemed to be a huge leap in topic, but pointing that out would’ve been rude.
“Yes.” I decided to keep my explanation simple since he seemed even more easily distracted than I was. “I paint and sculpt.”
“That’s cool. Do you want to talk to some of the Doms who are artists? Most have regular day jobs, of course, but they’re really interesting to talk to.”
“No, thank you.” Two highly creative people made drama, not a relationship. “I’ve heard accountants are patient as long as they’re not easily overwhelmed by people.”
Conner was back to blinking at me.
It was quite unnerving, even if it made my fingers itch to start sketching him.
“Accountants? Okay, let me think.” He looked around the room, studying the different groups of men before turning back to me. “So if I understand you right, you’re looking for a patient Dom that likes creative guys but is a bit more logical himself.”
When I nodded, pleased we were finally getting somewhere, he started asking more questions. “Do you have any particular kinks you’re interested in, or something you want to have in common with your Dom?”
Were fun toys from Bad Dragon considered a kink?
Everybody had dildos and toys, right?
“No? I enjoy toys, but I haven’t explored much beyond the basics with the Doms I’ve met.” My judgment might be questionable, but I wasn’t stupid. Letting someone I’d just met tie me up and use wonderful things like floggers on me wasn’t a good idea.
My mother would’ve killed me.
Conner nodded, but his expression said I hadn’t made his job any easier. “Alright, what about dislikes or kinks that you couldn’t deal with?”
That made me think. “Um, no blood play or anything my mother would see as questionable. I just don’t think it would be worth the safety lectures.”
I thought the answer was logical, but Conner’s head cocked to the side and he was back to watching me curiously.
He was so strange.
“So we’ll look for a patient Dom that’s not into anything extreme.” It sounded reasonable to me, but Conner’s expression said we weren’t seeing things the same way.
Thankfully, a pleasant-looking gentleman took that moment to come over. He radiated Dom, but he didn’t seem to be flirting, so I guessed that he was the other owner or another employee. He had a very similar aura to Mom’s, so I found myself relaxing as he stopped by the table we were sitting at. “Hi. I thought this might be a good time to come over and introduce myself. I’m Ben, the other owner of the club.”
Ha, I’d guessed right.
As he reached his hand out to shake mine, I smiled. “Keegan Banner. It’s nice to meet you.” It was good to put a name with a face even if we were technically strangers.
“Mom said to say hello if I saw you.’’ His face went blank for a split second.
Right as I was thinking I’d have to explain who she was—which would’ve been awkward since she counted him as a casual friend at the very least—he smiled. “Alexandra. It was good to hear from her.”
He glanced around the room. “She was a huge help putting all this together.”
Ben chuckled as he turned back to me. “I feel bad. I didn’t even remember her having a kid, much less one old enough to join the club.”
Shrugging, I brushed off his worry. “She probably never mentioned me. Until I got old enough to make my own decisions, she was careful about protecting my privacy.”
I hadn’t even been allowed to have any kind of social media presence until she’d been convinced I could be responsible enough. Though given her position in the community and the fact that she’d worked as a consultant setting up BDSM clubs all over the world, I could understand her caution.
But people’s reactions to my existence were strange.
And it was making finding a Dom awkward.
For some reason, the fact that she’d trained a lot of the most trustworthy local Doms made them uncomfortable.
“Well, she did a very good job.” Ben smiled. “I just hope we make a good impression.”
That was yet to be determined, but since that would be rude to say out loud, I smiled in return. “I’m looking forward to meeting people.”
That was diplomatic.
Possibly too much so because Ben glanced around for a moment.
“We’ve got a lot of members here tonight.” He turned back to me and grinned. “Some who weren’t even trained by Alexandra.”
I just blinked at him, forgetting to try to act like he would expect. “Why would knowing that a Dom was well-trained and competent make me uncomfortable?”
People were so illogical.
They were both now staring at me oddly, but thankfully Ben started to nod. “Very true. Not all Doms are good at passing on healthy behaviors to those they mentor.”
But since that was a sad and sometimes frustrating topic, I did my best to switch gears. “Yes, so I’d rather focus on finding Doms to meet that would be a good fit regardless of whether they’re self-taught or were trained by another Dom.”
Focusing back on Conner, I smiled. “Conner was going to introduce me to a few people and show me around the club?”
They seemed like the types to worry, and I didn’t need anyone else who liked to hover and obsess over my well-being.
Ben was wearing a broad smile when I looked back at him. “That sounds like a great idea. Who were you planning on starting with?”
Since that question had been aimed at Conner, I shifted again, hoping to hear a confident list from him.
No such luck.
His gaze was just bouncing from me to Ben to seemingly random men around the room.
It didn’t seem to be a very helpful way of finding people to introduce me to, so I decided to take a leap and see what happened. Mom couldn’t blame me for not following her rules if these guys were so flaky.
Studying the men around the room, I ignored a few who set off even my limited radar for bad news and smiled as an eager-looking man with a teasing glint in his eyes walked up to us. He was just mature enough to look confident and sexy, but there was something about him that made me want to sketch him naked and kneeling with questions etched on his face.
Who was he?
Ignoring Ben and Conner who seemed to be debating whether I should meet the writer who seemed to have buried himself in the corner, I stepped away from them and walked toward the smiling man.
“Hello.” Extending my hand, I scanned down his body, shivering as his fingers wrapped around mine. “I’m Keegan. I’m a new sub at the club.”
His hand lingered on mine like he was in no hurry to let go of me. With someone else, it could’ve felt awkward or too controlling for a first meeting, but with him, I liked it. “You’re fascinating. Have you ever posed as an artist’s model?”
The sexy man’s smile widened even more. “In college. Are you an artist?”
Nodding eagerly, I studied his face, moving side to side to get a better look at him. “Yes, as long as you’re not dangerous or frustrating I’d like to sketch you, if that’s alright.”
His lips tightened like he was trying not to laugh, and for some reason, I loved the way they quirked and gave him a rakish look. Reaching up with my free hand, I stroked over the skin just above his mouth, trying to remember what I was supposed to be doing this weekend. “What are you doing next Saturday?”
His full smile came back, and he laughed. “I think I’m going to be lying on a couch and getting to know my new interesting friend more.”
I shifted my gaze to his eyes. “Me, right? I don’t want to make assumptions.”
Nodding, his fingers caressed over mine. “Yes, you.”
Forcing myself to look around the club, I looked back at him, loving the way he was just enough taller than me that I could be tucked against his chest when he decided we were going to cuddle. Oh yes, this was going to be fun.
“Would you like to show me around?” Hmm, did he want a title? “Um, Sir? What’s the appropriate way to address you?”
He chuckled, and I loved the way the soft laughter made his eyes sparkle. “I think for now you’ll call me Julian.”
Oh, he looked like a Julian…classical features like an ancient statue but with a warmth marble would never have.
I loved it when people matched their names.
Fingers crossed that his cock was bigger than the statues in question.
“That would be wonderful. Thank you.” Stepping closer, just to make sure he knew I wasn’t just interested in him for aesthetic reasons, I smiled. “I should probably tell you that I promised my mother I wouldn’t be completely restrained tonight or have penetrative sex. Oh, and she wants me to get to know several Doms before I take those steps. Is that going to be a problem?”
Instead of giving me an odd blink or looking at me curiously, his smile widened, and he stepped back to study me. His head cocked, and he looked deep into my eyes before he chuckled again. “You look just like your mother.”
“Thank you.” She was beautiful, so I’d never seen that as the awkward compliment some people thought it should be. “Did you study with her?”
He nodded, then shrugged. “Well, a bit a long time ago. She helped me figure a few things out and we’ve kept in touch over the years.”
Since he didn’t seem to find the memories to be negative, I relaxed a bit inside and smiled. “I’m glad she was able to help.”
I meant that sincerely, and he seemed to understand because he squeezed my hand. “After we’d been friends for a few years, she told me a bit about you, so I appreciate her rules and I have no problem respecting her wishes as long as that’s what you want as well.”
I shrugged. “I’m a bit more willing to throw myself into a situation than is sometimes advisable, so this seems like the best way to handle things for now.”
And it would give me a chance to ask her about him before things got too interesting.
“But you’ll still let me sketch you?” I had to make sure nothing had changed with that. “People get very awkward knowing both of us.”
He laughed, giving me a rakish grin as he answered my questions in one go. “Yes, scamp, I’ll still pose for you. We’ll just have to find a time to do it and I want to get to know you a bit first. My relationship with Alexandra was mostly talking, so I’m not going to find it awkward at all to know you both. She’s always been very proud of your career, and who am I to hold back a budding genius?”
As I rolled my eyes, Conner’s head popped into my peripheral vision. “Genius?”
I wasn’t sure what to say, but luckily Julian didn’t have that problem. “Keegan here is one of the best-known young artists in the country. Well, not too young anymore, thankfully.”
His teasing gaze grew heated and suddenly the image in my head shifted so he was standing commandingly and beautifully naked over a kneeling sub.
He was fascinating.
“And for tonight, I’m hoping he’ll be mine.” Then Julian drew me closer until I was pressed against his chest, still just holding my hand. It was like he knew I’d follow him anywhere so there was no need to keep me trapped against him. “Then I’m going to get to pose for him.”
This was turning out much better than I’d ever imagined.
I was definitely going to owe my mother a thank you…and possibly some flowers.
Keegan hasn’t had the best luck with Doms or dating, but he’s not letting that stop him from finding Mr. Right…or maybe that should be Mr. Flirty and Mr. Stern but Sexy. When a promise leads him to the Bound & Controlled club, his artistic nature can’t help being pulled to two very different Doms, but who says he has to pick just one?
Julian and Niall know they’re no good for each other. They’ve been down that path, and all they found was frustration and baggage. But when a too-sweet-for-his-own-good artist bounces into the club, they have to decide if they’re willing to let the past get in the way of what could be a perfect future.
Sometimes love is easy…sometimes love is hard…but it’s always worth fighting for.
Story Contains: M/M/m romantic content, BDSM elements, one artist who sees things a little differently, one switch with a stubborn streak, and one Dom with more baggage than he’s willing to admit. There are mentions of past trauma but nothing on page and nothing explained in detail.
Author’s Note: While this can be read as a standalone, it will make the most sense if you read the series in order.