“Okay, what do you think? Is this too much or just a bit naughty? Sometimes when the guys get excited it’s hard to tell.” Looking at Matthew’s photo on the dresser, I sighed. “I know. It’s too late to back out now.”
Opening night of the club was probably not the best time to be having an existential crisis, but there I was anyway.
Taking a deep breath, I grabbed the picture frame that held his photo and sat down on the bed. I had almost an hour before Dakota and Tristan were supposed to pick me up, but I had a feeling they weren’t going to wait that long. Dakota had been texting me all day, asking me variations on the same question…are you doing okay?
The answer might be no or it might be yes; I just wasn’t sure anymore.
“We’ve had mini-scenes when Dakota gets a wild hair up his ass and decides we need to try something ridiculous, but this is going to be a full scene at the club.” Every once in a while, when I talked to Matthew I knew what he would say, but in that moment, I couldn’t feel anything except nerves.
The smiling picture and thoughts of a scene brought back memories of our first confusing exploration into BDSM. We’d both been so worried about what the other would think, even though we’d talked around the idea for ages. Finally, Matthew had burst out laughing and asked why we were so scared. He’d said he was just going to spank me, not turn into some kind of serial killer.
“You’re right. They’re not serial killers.” I smiled. “Even though Dakota’s written enough death scenes to probably be a damned good one.”
I could almost hear Matthew laughing. “I know. You were right. But since you’re dead, that’s not a bet you’re going to be able to collect on.”
Matthew had always said Dakota would end up writing naughty books based on all the crazy things we talked about. He’d made a very dirty bet one time when we’d both been three sheets to the wind and I’d only taken it because, well, it was Dakota and the bet had been ridiculously hot.
“Okay. I’ve got this.” Just remembering all the wild things he’d said and had been curious about made me feel better. “I know you’re going to be watching from somewhere, but remember that no matter what happens, I love you.”
He’d said almost that exact same thing when we’d been on vacation one time. He’d bribed the bouncer at a strip club to let me in too because, of course, having an omega in a strip club had been scandalous. There weren’t many of those kinds of establishments around anymore, but we’d taken our first and only cruise vacation and had ended up finding one on this little out-of-the-way street on a tiny island.
He’d gotten a completely random idea that we should do something wild we would never do at home. Since I’d never been able to tell him no when he’d gotten that look in his eyes, we’d skipped the city tour we’d planned and ended up at a strip club.
Matthew had promised the bouncer that we would behave and wouldn’t start shit, but he hadn’t really believed us. Evidently they didn’t usually allow couples in because of jealousy issues and never single omegas, but he’d laughed and said we looked so innocent we’d either leave in minutes or would end up being dirty little things.
We’d ended up being dirty little things.
I still had the selfie we’d taken with the bouncer and one of the club performers that had turned out to be married to the bouncer. It’d been an eye-opening experience for us and had made us really see that we could make our marriage whatever we wanted it to be.
Giving the photo one last smile, I stood and walked over to place it back on the dresser. “You’re going to love this outfit. I look like one of the dancers from the club that time. But you might end up seeing me again in person sooner than you think because there’s a damned good chance I’ll have a heart attack just thinking about letting people see me.”
But Austin said I’d looked hot when I’d first tried them on, so that was something.
He’d drive everyone nuts about a lot of things, but he wouldn’t lie about clothes. Austin’s goal for this evening seemed to be for everyone to look hot and do outrageous things—and so far, it seemed like I’d let him have his way on both.
I was really going to have to learn to tell him no…but telling him yes had always been so much more fun.
Gathering up the rest of my stuff and tossing it in my bag, I walked over to the dresser. “Okay, I think I’m done. I’ve got my stuff for tonight and comfy clothes for after. Dakota is threatening to drag me back to his house later, so don’t worry if I don’t come back here tonight. Oh, and I also threw in my toothbrush and stuff like that, just in case. Sleepovers are much better if you don’t have to deal with a fuzzy mouth the entire next morning.”
I was still ridiculously nervous, but a warm feeling washed over me. “I know. It’s going to be fine.”
A knock at the door had me forcing a bigger smile and standing straighter. “This is going to be great. You’re right.”
Refusing to feel bad about the one-sided conversation, I grabbed my gym bag and headed for the door. Opening it, I smiled. “You’re not supposed to be here yet.”
Dakota waved his hands. “I finished the chapter so it was either now or when Tristan remembered to drag me away from the computer. But he’s helping with last-minute stuff for the club.”
I nodded. “He’s the best at managing things besides Shane.”
I’d come to learn that idea people and planners were two different sorts of individuals. Both were necessary, but our ratio seemed to be skewed toward the idea people.
“Yes.” Dakota sighed. “But he’s mine and I really don’t want to share.”
I laughed. “You share really well, though.”
I knew because I’d had just a bit of firsthand experience with that.
Dakota snorted. “Not sex, his to-do lists and organizational abilities.”
Because those were so much more personal than sex?
“You’re right. That is important.” I’d learned long ago not to question sincere insanity. It made sense in his head, and that was what mattered. “But it’s only for today. Then he’s all yours again.”
Dakota smiled, clearly relieved at that. “That will be nice. I actually had to stop working on my own today and remember to get ready.”
Laughing was probably not the right response, but I did it anyway.
He snorted. “I set three alarms and somehow managed to turn off the first two without realizing it. Luckily, I set that terrible screeching kitchen timer so I had to go out there and turn it off. But I’d just finished the chapter when that started screaming at me, so it was perfect timing.”
Shaking my head, I moved us out the door and locked up. As we wandered toward the stairs, Dakota glanced down at the bag. “You’ve got your outfit, right?”
How could I forget it?
“Yes, I double-checked.” I thought I was doing a great job of looking relaxed, but he stopped us in the hallway.
“You haven’t changed your mind, right?” He was looking surprisingly focused, so I knew he wasn’t going to drop the conversation.
“No, I want to do it. I’m just nervous.”
“Because of everyone watching?” It was a good question, but I shrugged.
“I don’t know, honestly.” I thought about it for a minute. “Matthew and I had a few people we were comfortable around, but we never did anything like this, and I just can’t help but wish he was here to experience it too.”
Dakota reached out and gave me a hug. “If anyone were to come back as a ghost just to watch their partner get flogged while strangers jerk off, it would be Matthew. I’m sure he’s going to be cheering you on.”
He was utterly sincere and wonderfully deluded.
“I love you. But your logic frightens me sometimes.” I smiled when he shrugged.
“Blame it on Austin. He’s contagious.” And again, he seemed very sincere.
“You’re right. We’ll blame all this on Austin, and Matthew will love it.” We’d never been very religious, but hopefully, wherever he’d ended up he wouldn’t get tossed out for getting turned on watching me.
“It’s going to be great.” Dakota grabbed my hand and started dragging me toward the stairs. “And you’re going to look fabulous getting flogged.”
I snorted. “You’re only saying that because we’re going to be wearing matching outfits.”
The plan was for both of us to be on stage with Tristan alternating between flogging us. Somehow my smart mouth had basically sounded off that I’d do something at the club if they’d started dating, and now they were basically living together, so I had to pay up.
Well, that was my excuse, anyway.
I’d been nervous about doing it alone, though, so Tristan had volunteered Dakota to do it with me.
He grinned. “We’re going to look fabulous and have the best asses of anyone there.”
“Don’t let Austin hear you say that. Those are fighting words for the man with the panties.” We both giggled as we headed down the stairs.
The old building had been a factory at some point but had been made into fun apartments about twenty years ago and then sold off as condos. By the time Matthew and I had moved in we’d needed to do some renovations, but I’d loved it from day one.
The homey layout reminded me of an old-fashioned cottage, but there were always neighbors around which had turned into a blessing when Matthew passed. But cute and unique meant the layouts were a bit odd sometimes and the only elevator was at the opposite side of the building, so I usually took the stairs.
By the time we got to the parking lot, Dakota was complaining about having to exercise before a big performance and was sounding a bit like Austin. I knew it was probably just his nerves, but I was having a hard time keeping a straight face.
Unfortunately, the drive over to the club where we were meeting everyone didn’t go any more smoothly. We were both nervous and trying to hide it and doing badly. Why Tristan had thought letting us do this part on our own was a good idea, I’d never know.
By the time we were walking in the door, Dakota was a bundle of nerves and I was ready for a drink.
Not an auspicious start.
Tristan came down the main stairs and took one look at us both and began shaking his head. “It’s a party. Both of you stop worrying.”
“I’m not worried.”
“I’m not worried.”
The fact that we said it both at the same time probably made it less believable.
He laughed, ignoring the bustle of people who were running around, and wrapped us both in a big hug. “You are both going to have fun and blush and get turned on, and then when you’re both a bit frantic, I’m going to flog you and let you zone out completely.”
He made it sound easy…except for the frantic part.
Dakota grinned. “Can’t we skip to the zoned-out part?”
“No chance. Austin might kill us because he’s just a bit worked up.” Tristan looked upstairs. “He’s rearranging the playroom for the fourth time and I think Silas is getting ready to tie him down to something.”
I couldn’t decide if that would be a good thing or not.
Dakota took a deep breath. “Okay, I’ll go distract the drama queen.”
Looking over at me, Tristan smiled. “Will you go talk to Tanner and make sure everyone who was hired or volunteered has shown up?”
Nodding, I felt a bit steadier. Something to do always helped make things easier. “Yes, and I’ll make sure the other presenters are here or on their way.”
That was easier than thinking about anything else.
“And when that’s done and everything is on track, please remind people to relax and that this is supposed to be fun.” Tristan glanced around the room at the tense faces. “If I thought it would help, I’d go around and make it an order.”
He was so serious, Dakota and I both started to laugh.
A frustrated sound came from upstairs, and then we heard something about the elephant being the wrong color. Austin was clearly losing his mind, but we weren’t sure about what. I looked at Dakota. “Worst-case scenario, tell him you’re worried about that caterer he was obsessing over and he needs to check on him. That should at least get him out of the playroom.”
Once Austin had realized one of the new applicants ran a catering company, he’d taken that over completely. Provided that the evening went smoothly, they were going to talk about the company doing some work for the club long-term.
Dakota sighed but gave a nod. “Okay, heading into battle. If I don’t return, someone make sure my computer history is cleared before anyone sees it. I was researching stuff this morning and I’m going to look like some kind of sexually deviant serial killer without some context.”
As he charged off up the stairs, I glanced over at Tristan. “I’m honestly not sure there’d be enough context in the world to smooth over whatever he was looking at.”
Tristan shrugged. “I’m sure the book will turn out great.”
“I’m starting to think you don’t have enough self-preservation instincts when it comes to Dakota.” Shaking my head, I walked deeper into the room and started counting bodies.
Those two were going to end up on some kind of watch list or get us all on the national news.
But there was nothing I could do about it so I focused on my job. I’d been working on the volunteer and staff list for so long I knew how many there should be and had met most of them. As I finished the count, I knew I was missing four bodies as long as I didn’t include the caterer. I just had to figure out who. Tanner’s voice was coming from the smaller room where the mini stages were set up for the scenes.
“I’m halfway through the checklist and…” His words trailed off as someone else spoke, but I wasn’t sure who it was until I walked in. Shane. Yes, I should have guessed.
They were watching each other intently, and I couldn’t decide if they were getting ready to have sex or negotiate a million-dollar deal. “How is everything going?”
The interruption startled them both and had a young guy in the back of the room giggling. He seemed to be doing something with the lights and I mentally changed the tally in my head. “I’ve counted heads and I think I’m only missing a handful of people.”
Tanner nodded. “We’ve got one monitor that’s running late and will be here right before we open and there are two very patient people upstairs who were willing to sacrifice their sanity for the greater good.”
“Plus the caterers? They arrived and are doing their thing?” When Tanner nodded again, I started to relax. “Good.”
Then he seemed to realize we were missing someone. He looked around me. “Dakota?”
I snorted. “He went upstairs to wrangle Austin.”
“Good.” Tanner’s body relaxed. “He’s making me nervous and I wasn’t nervous.”
“If you would’ve let him dress you, he would’ve been much more distracted.” I pointed between them. “This is your fault.”
Shane coughed, trying not to laugh. “We couldn’t come to a meeting of the minds about clothing.”
I rolled my eyes. “You just wanted to wear a suit and not have to let anything show.”
He nodded, clearly still thinking he was right. “Yes.”
“This is a BDSM club. You both look like lawyers.” They looked good…but slightly stuffy.
Tanner shrugged. “I wore what I like best and I expect everyone else to do the same.”
“Then we’d all show up in pajamas with ice cream stains on them or just naked. This is supposed to be a break from the boring real world.” Lecturing them was starting to make me feel better. “Next time, I expect to see you in something you wouldn’t wear to the office.”
Neither of them had a suit fetish, so it wasn’t reasonable.
Tanner chuckled. “We’ll see.”
I shook my head. “Nope, or I’ll tell Austin that you put up a fuss because you didn’t think you looked good enough to dress in something skimpier.”
They both groaned and I knew I’d won. “I expect to see more appropriate attire next time, gentlemen.”
Then, leaning around them, I pointed to the giggler. “You too. Those pants are very nice, but you look like my cable repairman.”
He gave a soft laugh and nodded. “Because I am. I just got off work.”
I knew he’d looked familiar. “We’ll have Austin fix you up, then. Dom, sub, or something else? I need to give him a direction or he’ll get distracted.”
That just earned me a startled blink. “Sub?”
I wasn’t sure if that was supposed to have come out as a question or not, but I took it as a statement anyway. “Perfect.”
Turning back to Tanner and Shane, I smiled. “I’m going to head upstairs and make sure the masochists you talked into helping with Austin don’t need rescuing.”
Tanner snorted. “Better you than me.”
Shane smiled and tried to distract me when I shot Tanner a dirty look. “We’re almost done with the final checklist, then we’re going to relax and make everyone else start to enjoy themselves too.”
Wondering why all Doms seemed to think they could dictate fun and relaxation like a chore on their to-do lists, I smiled and headed off to wrangle everyone. A bit of flirting and teasing would go much further than orders when it came to getting everyone to settle down.
The final book in the Romance & Revolutions series.
How does an omega know when it’s time to live again?
Pulling away from all the reminders of his husband was the only way Wade survived his alpha’s passing, but time and the love of his friends helped heal the once immeasurable wounds. However, coming out of his grief has left him new pains. Left with an empty house and an ache to submit, Wade can’t help wanting to belong to someone completely again. But is he ready to move on?
How does an alpha know when it’s time to reach for the love he’s always wanted?
After the death of his friend, Griffin stepped away from the only man he’d ever loved—the only one he could never have. Time apart from the sweet omega who’d always made him smile hasn’t dimmed his feelings, but it isn’t until he sees the beautiful man submitting to another that he realizes, once again, he might have missed his chance at love.
When the pull to submit meets the push to dominate, sparks fly, but it’s love and tenderness that will finally give them the confidence to move forward together.
Story Contains: M/m romantic content, BDSM elements, and non-shifter alpha/omega dynamics.