“You know, if those pants were just a little tighter in the ass, he might be more tempted to bend you over that desk.”
Thankfully, Austin had waited until Shane closed the door before starting to drive me crazy.
“Stop that.” I rolled my eyes then glanced toward the door, double-checking that it was securely closed. “Do you know how hard it is to find a decent admin?”
Finding a spouse was easier.
At least, the way my father kept threatening to handle the situation was.
That’s what he called an unmarried omega over thirty. I’d say he was living in another time, but he was living in another universe.
“You worry too much.” Austin rolled his eyes, sitting down in the chair in front of my desk. He looked a little bit like Queen Drama gracing the peasants with his presence. “Why would I chase away such delicious eye candy? Now there’s an alpha who knows how to dress.”
Agreeing with the drama queen would’ve just egged him on, but claiming I hadn’t noticed would clearly be a lie.
Rock, meet hard place.
“I refuse to objectify my employee.” At least, I refused to do it out loud. Fantasies couldn’t always be controlled—that’s what my story would be if I ever got caught, anyway.
Austin scoffed. “Whatever you need to say to feel better about the way you ogled his ass.”
“I didn’t ogle anything about him.” Not that time, I hadn’t. I’d had plenty of run-ins with him already that morning, so the urge to drool and beg to worship his ass had diminished somewhat. His package…now that was another story.
The man had to start wearing looser pants or my heart might give out one day.
Not that those words would ever actually come out of my mouth. He’d think I was insane and worse, wicked. Working for an omega was one thing, but working for one who wasn’t above reproach was another. No alpha would get caught working for someone like that.
Someone like me when no one else was around to see me.
Austin didn’t count. He was just as wicked as I was…probably more.
“Again, not judging.” Austin smiled sweetly. “However you describe yourself is fine.”
“You’re such an asshole.” I chuckled, deciding not to waste my breath on defending myself. “Why are you here?”
Normally, the lazy man couldn’t be dragged out of the house this early unless shopping was involved. “If you’re spending money, Bradley might kill you.”
Austin’s devilish laugh made me want to groan. “He’s such a worrywart. We need to find someone else for him to obsess over. I can’t be his only project in life or it will kill us both. Besides, I just sold that shopping mall I bought a few years ago on the other side of town to some developer who thinks the neighborhood is up-and-coming. I made enough money Bradley can’t complain about my spending for at least a month. I let him invest a ton of the profits, so he’s busy hoarding it all away so I can’t spend it.”
“What did you do?” I knew that look. He was too pleased with himself.
“I found the cutest neighborhood in Bay Ridge. It’s got all these little houses and shops. I think I’m going to buy a few.” Austin was nearly vibrating in the chair, he was so excited. “They’re so darling and a few are for sale. I’m going to drag my real estate manager down there later.”
Only Austin could think that buying up what would probably end up being a whole town was a reasonable investment. “Bradley’s going to kill you.”
He giggled but shook his head. “Nope. Remember? I gave him the money from the shopping center, so he can’t complain.”
“Are you going to take out a loan for the town?” That just didn’t sound like Austin.
“It’s not a whole town.” Austin sighed, waving his hand like he was brushing away my error. “You’re so dramatic. And no, I’ve actually been sitting on a few million from that stock deal last year and I think it’s time to invest it.”
I shouldn’t ask.
I really shouldn’t.
“Where has the money been? I know Bradley wouldn’t have left that much money lying around.” It would break the man’s cold, hard heart to see that big of a pot where it wasn’t earning as much as it could.
Austin grinned wickedly. “In diamonds under my bed.”
And since those had gone up so much over the last year because of problems in Africa, he’d made a killing. “I hope you no longer have several million dollars in diamonds under your mattress?”
Austin nodded regally. “Yes, I took them to the jeweler last week and we started selling off the gems this morning.”
Which explained why he was up so early and so damned excited.
“Other than bragging, why are you here?” If he wanted to brag, I could fight fire with fire, but I had a feeling he’d invaded for another reason.
“The club.” He sat up straighter and extended his legs out. “You were serious? It wasn’t just your version of a drunken rant?”
Like I had drunken rants on a regular basis.
“Deadly serious.” I was tired of constantly hiding who I was and what I wanted from everyone but my friends. There had to be more people out there who were into the same things we were. Specifically…alpha people.
“Okay then.” Nodding, Austin seemed to go from diamond-hiding drama queen to business mogul right before my eyes. “I’d like to see the warehouse and start making plans. Some of the diamond funds can go toward renovations. Bradley should be pleased he doesn’t have to sell off any investments to foot the bill.”
I grinned. “I’m not sure pleased is how I’d describe his reaction when you tell him you’ve been sitting on millions of dollars. Literally.”
Austin rolled his eyes but nodded with a wicked gleam in his eyes. “He’s going to hit the roof.”
But I wasn’t going to jump in the middle of that. “When do you want to see it?” I glanced down at my watch. “If you want to do it today, I can probably get off a little early…say five?”
Austin nodded. “That sounds good. But if you make me have a meeting at five, you have to feed me. I want steak.”
Snorting, I leaned back in my chair. “Date backed out at the last minute?”
He sighed, some of the drama fading away to show the sweet but frustrated man underneath. “Damned alpha seemed fine online, but then once we exchanged real names he panicked.”
“Money panic or did you do something weird? I haven’t read the headlines in the last few hours.” Most of the time Austin liked to fly under the paparazzi’s radar, but sometimes he just couldn’t seem to help himself.
Austin’s hands came up in a “who, me?” gesture. “Money panic. He owns a bookshop. Isn’t that cute? I mean, I knew going in that probably meant he was so vanilla it would be frightening, but the cuteness factor could make me overlook that.”
“Sorry.” It might have been a simple statement, but Austin knew how genuine it was. I’d been in the same boat many times. Everyone said they supported omega rights, but that didn’t mean they were prepared for rich omegas that came with baggage.
He shrugged, not willing to let it get him down. “I’m going to hold out for wicked and dirty this time. I have a new online profile and it’s fabulous. I’m going to meet my badass alpha. I just know it.”
“If you end up on the news because they traced that profile back to you—”
Austin interrupted. “You worry too much. I got this one set up with a friend who does internet stuff and there’s no way it can be traced back to me.”
He was going to get hauled to jail for some kind of hacking scheme.
“I’m not going to bail you out if you get arrested. I’ll send Bradley or worse, Wade.” Bradley might get angry, but Wade would be worried and hurt.
“That’s just mean.” Austin frowned, taking me seriously. “No one is going to get arrested and no one is going to tell Wade about my internet fun.”
“You’re going to end up meeting a serial killer, or worse, some fringe lunatic who’s catfishing people.” This had bad idea written all over it.
“Which is why my friend has agreed to do background checks on anyone I meet.” Austin smiled like it was all perfectly normal. “See, I’m not a complete idiot. He just wants to be one of the first members of the club once it opens.”
“How many people have you told about this?” Yes, the idea was to find like-minded people, but not to tell so many that we’d end up on the news.
Austin rolled his eyes so hard they looked like slot machine cherries going around. “I met him in a chat group. He’s dirtier than we are and not a threat.”
I wasn’t going to ask what Austin meant by dirtier than we were.
I knew better.
“Just be careful.” The last thing either of us needed was publicity.
“I will be. Now, what kind of time frame are we looking at building-wise? I don’t remember what kind of state that warehouse is in.” He frowned. “Give me a notebook or something to write on. I hate not being able to have a purse. Do you know how much easier life would be if my only options weren’t pockets or a briefcase?”
“No.” But I reached in my drawer and handed him one of the small notepads I used in meetings occasionally.
He snorted, still clearly hung up on the purse issue. “Now, renovations?”
And we were back to business mode. It was like watching those Saturday-morning toy ads where Barbie’s friend Oliver would go from businessman omega to family man omega in the blink of an eye. Even little plastic dolls kids played dress up with promoted an agenda about how we were supposed to behave.
“Let’s say extensive.” I tried to picture the inside of the building in my mind. Grabbing a notepad myself, I started jotting things down as they came to me. “It’s got a lot of good features that would give it a loft warehouse feel, but we need to make it more inviting and divide it into smaller spaces.”
“Smaller spaces as in different types of living rooms, or are we going to go full out and do private rooms couples can book?” Austin’s serious look didn’t quite match the conversation we were having. He looked more like we were discussing world peace than private BDSM rooms.
“Both.” If we were going to go all out then we’d do it right. “I think we need to have some public spaces that are separate from any sexual activity, some semipublic spaces for scenes and demos, and then private rooms.”
“We also need bathrooms or locker rooms, and eventually, I think we’re going to need a teacher of some sort if we’re going to have BDSM equipment on site.” He started making notes. “And I think we need to keep the place dry to start with and see how we feel about adding a bar later.”
A teacher…advertising for that would be fun.
“A bar? Can we have alcohol without someone from the liquor board going nuts?”
“Yes.” He kept making more notes, frantically scribbling on the pages. “Private clubs are different from restaurants. We just have to make sure everything is worded right. Dues can include limited alcohol.”
“I’ll leave the legalities of that up to you. We just don’t need anyone coming in randomly to inspect the building.” I didn’t want to have to explain anything to an outsider, but I added a bar to the list, followed by a question mark.
“Oh, and we need a few rooms designed for heats. You know, better soundproofing and scent barriers to keep from affecting everyone else.” Austin looked up. “Right?”
I did my best not to smile, but the whole thing felt a little surreal. “I agree.”
“Good. I’m going to start putting together a list of contractors, but we’re going to have to be careful how we address everything.” Austin looked down at his list. “Most of it can easily be explained away by saying we’re going to have a gym on site or something like that, but the heat rooms might raise some questions.”
“Just say they’re going to be used for meditation or something, so we want to keep them completely distraction free.” I shrugged when Austin grinned. “Most people won’t want to ask questions. We’re sweet omegas. Of course we wouldn’t be doing something unsavory.”
Austin’s laughter echoed through the room, making the large space feel even bigger. “I plan on doing all kinds of unsavory things there.”
“I think we all do, but let’s not tell the contractors that.” I threw a paperclip at him when he kept giggling. “We do not need to end up on the news or in the gossip magazines. This is going to be a quiet private club. Nothing any different from the hundreds of other private clubs in the state. Just because we’re not focused on horseback riding or politics doesn’t mean we’re not just as boring.”
Austin sighed dramatically. “Being associated with something that boring is going to kill me.”
That worked for me. “I’d rather your popularity suffer than all of us end up getting arrested for public indecency or contributing to the delinquency of an omega.”
“That law only comes into effect if an alpha is caught molesting an omega. Not the other way around. If something happens, all you have to say is you instigated it and it’s good.” Austin shrugged at my confused expression. “That nudist retreat thing. I learned all kinds of useless facts.”
If any of us needed to know how to get out of a police situation when accusations about morality were being thrown around, it was obvious that we’d go to him…well, him or Jonah. I made a mental note to set aside money in a separate account for legal fees just in case we were all hauled into court.
“Just remember we’re looking to keep a low profile with this.” That shouldn’t be hard. We had good lawyers and were all smart. We just needed to be careful and think things through.
“I agree.” Austin’s smile looked more sincere that time. “I want a place where I can have fun, and who knows, maybe even meet the right guy. None of us are going to do anything to ruin this.”
I took a deep breath and nodded. “I’m just tired of dating people who think I’m insane for letting the slightest bit of who I am escape. I’m going to end up married to some boring alpha from the right kind of family if I’m not careful.”
“That much pressure, huh?” Austin’s expression softened.
“Yes, thankfully not the whole kids and family routine, but my father is convinced I’m lonely and miserable, and he’s going to fix the situation if I’m not on top of it.” And his version of fixing something was not always predictable.
“Did you talk to Shane about your father’s finances?” Austin closed the notebook and leaned forward.
“Not yet; that was on my list this morning, but there were so many other things to do it got pushed to the back burner.” I rolled my head around, trying to loosen the tension in my shoulders. “I’ll talk to him as soon as we’re done.”
Austin chuckled. “You look like you’re fifty instead of closer to thirty.”
I groaned. “I slept like hell last night. I woke up creaking.”
“Old man, are you sure you should be thinking about doing dirty things with alphas? You seem more ready for retirement.” Austin chuckled at his own wit as he crossed an ankle over his other leg.
“My massage therapist had to go out of town unexpectedly for a family emergency, so I’m stuck until she gets back.” Finding a competent massage therapist wasn’t hard, but finding one who I knew would keep their mouth shut and who would guarantee my privacy was insanely difficult. I just didn’t have the time to vet anyone at the moment.
“Let me know if you need to borrow my guy.” Austin shrugged and moved forward in his seat. “He’s this vanilla beta who has almost no personality, but he’s good.”
“I might take you up on that.” I stood, trying not to notice how tight my back was. “I just hate getting to know someone new.”
Austin rolled his eyes but didn’t point out that he thought I was insane, which I appreciated.
“Just let me know if you change your mind.” Austin stood and started for the door, so I followed, setting my notes next to the stack of papers for Shane.
“Thanks.” As we reached the door, I smiled. “Good luck with Bradley.”
He winked. “Not that I’m going to need it.”
Austin opened the door and then gave me a too innocent smile. “Let me know if you need a new tailor.”
“Goodbye, Austin.” I tried to keep a pleasant expression on my face because Shane’s office wasn’t far from my door, but judging by Shane’s cough, it wasn’t believable.
He grinned wickedly. “I’ll see you tonight. Don’t forget reservations.”
I sighed. The drama queen was going to milk the evening for all it was worth.
As he sashayed off toward the elevators, Shane rose and closed the distance between us quietly. For such a big man, he knew how to move without looking awkward or stomping through the space.
Nodding, I gestured vaguely toward the direction Austin went. “The drama queen requires dinner. Can you set up reservations at The Grill at six thirty? I wouldn’t ask, but Boyd will be here any minute.”
Shane’s time was too valuable to just make reservations and do ridiculous things like get me coffee, but he always said the same thing to me when he brought me a cup in the afternoon. So I tried to remind myself of that when I asked him to do little things.
I’d always had the system where the bigger of an asshole someone was to work with, the more menial tasks they got given, but not giving Shane any seemed to frustrate him. It was an odd system and initially had taken us a few months to get the bumps worked out.
“He called to say he’s running late.” Shane smiled and shook his head as I started to speak. “But you still don’t have time to make the call because he doesn’t just want to talk about the contracts, he wants to get them signed today.”
“What?” He was supposed to bicker and drag his feet. That was what the old geezer always did. “This is just to punish me for that half a percent he wanted last time, isn’t it?”
Shane chuckled. “No, but I’m sure he’ll make it sound that way if possible. From what I was able to gather, there’s something going on in his personal life that he needs to focus on, so playing games with you is having to go on the back burner.”
I wouldn’t ask how he knew; Shane would just smile. But it was probably one of his siblings. He seemed to have countless relatives and knew everyone in the city in one way or another. But while he could always find out information for me, I’d never heard even a hint from anyone that he talked about his job or me in any way.
That was another one of the reasons I refused to play along when the guys started talking about him. He was too good to lose because of my libido or their dirty jokes.
“It’s got to be big if he’s willing to just sign the contract without driving me insane.” Spending time with people like John Boyd was one of the biggest frustrations about my job. The constant need for attention and drama that some people in positions of power had was beyond my ability to grasp.
My father might have been insane, but he’d instilled a good work ethic in me from an early age and had always made sure I knew that money didn’t just mean power, it meant responsibility as well.
“Yes.” Shane nodded. “Let me get you the contract notes. I’ve called down to legal, but I think you’re going to need to confirm a few last-minute items with them.”
“Did you get an idea if this is something negative? Did his grandson show up in the tabloids again?” Boyd’s grandson was right on the edge of notorious.
For about a year, every time gossip would circulate, that alpha was in on it. Unfortunately, it was always for things like drinking and dating underage omegas. Nothing that I was interested in or would tolerate in my social circles, so it had been a straining point in my relationship with Boyd when he’d wanted me to start negotiating with the boy.
Because real men weren’t assholes or caught playing drunk party games at college frat parties when they were clearly too old for that kind of thing. Real men worked hard and were like the man standing in front of me, trustworthy and kind…and unfortunately, very vanilla.
Sometimes a risk feels too big to take.
Tanner is smart, wealthy, and head over heels for his administrative assistant. That doesn’t mean he’s going to do anything about it, though. Some gambles are just too big for an omega to take, even one who seems to have it all. Omegas are supposed to be family-oriented, go-getters at work, and equal in every way. The one thing they’re not supposed to be is submissive.
Shane is organized, built like a tank, and passionate about making his boss’s life easier. He also might be in love with Tanner, but he’s always been careful to keep that safely tucked away. Tanner could be the perfect man, but he’s never even looked twice at Shane until secrets start coming to the surface.
When everything is riding on one confession, is the risk just too much?
Story Contains: M/m sexual content, BDSM elements, non-shifter alpha/omega dynamics, edging, and spanking.