My Liege of Dark Haven
MOUNTAIN MASTERS & DARK HAVEN, BOOK 5
Threatened by university cutbacks, Professor Abigail Bern’s only hope is to publish a provocative research paper–soon. Planning to covertly observe behavior in the notorious Dark Haven BDSM club, she takes a receptionist job. When the owner calls upon her to assist in a demonstration, she’s appalled. Then fascinated. Under the unyielding hands of the master known as my Liege, she discovers a need to be more than an observer.
Xavier’s new receptionist is striving to keep an emotional distance, and he’s intrigued. Although she’s intriguingly intelligent, beautifully submissive, and sweetly vulnerable, her defenses keep her on the fringe of life. As he draws her into truly participating, she, in turn, begins to fill his world.
Ever since meeting Xavier, Abby questions everything she believes about herself. She’s falling for the stern owner of Dark Haven, and he’s beginning to care for her…until the day he learns why she’s in his club.
PRAISE FOR THIS SERIES
"In My Liege of Dark Haven there is a sensuality that seems to saturate every line of the story, enthralling the reader with its combination of romance and dominance; a temptation that can’t be resisted. Readers are lured into Xavier and Abby’s relationship and held hostage by the characters emotional depth, courage, passion and demands." ~The Romance Studio
"If I had my druthers, I’d wish to read something of hers every day as she keeps me entertained, magnetized and often aroused. Keep them coming. You’ve a lifetime fan in me. My Liege comes highly recommended." ~ Fallen Angel Reviews
"MY LIEGE OF DARK HAVEN exceeded my expectations. It takes a lot of talent and hard work to maintain such high consistency in a series but Cherise Sinclair seems to hit it right every time. It’s no wonder why she’s at the very top of my auto buy list for this genre! Simply put, Sinclair will thrill and excite you. Master Xavier is so hot, he’ll leave you breathing fire! 5 flaming feathers" ~ Under the Covers Book Blog
"I found myself laughing and crying and laughing some more with this story. The ride Ms. Sinclair takes the reader on is one not to miss." ~ Two Lips Reviews
Xavier Leduc stood in the downstairs dungeon, watching a younger Dom release his sobbing submissive. Rainier’s session had gone badly. The younger Dom had asked for instructions on how to use nipple clamps correctly after the sub was settled.
A demonstration would be more effective than lecturing. Xavier looked around, half expecting his previous receptionist to hurry over with his toy bag and whatever else he might need. But no, Destiny had quit. He missed her efficiency.
Dixon, one of the Dark Haven staff submissives, stood nearby, obviously hoping to be used.
Xavier decided against using the young man for two reasons. Male subs often tried to disguise their pain, which would defeat the purpose of the lesson. And a woman’s larger nipples made it easier to demonstrate clamps.
Besides, he enjoyed handling a woman’s breasts.
“Dixon, run upstairs and get my toy bag from the bar.” Which submissive to use? Hadn’t the new staff member, Clarissa, been pushing for attention? “And bring the receptionist.”
“Yes, my liege.” Disappointment plain in his face, Dixon trotted away.
Rainier sat with his submissive on the couch, stroking her hair as she cried. Vivid red and purple bruising marked her right nipple. Nothing excessive, but this young woman wasn’t into pain, and her Dom hadn’t learned the difference between an erotic pinch and damage.
Turning away, Xavier surveyed the rest of his large dungeon. At almost midnight all the equipment was in use, from the Saint Andrew’s crosses near the stairs to the spanking benches in the center. Lusty screams of at least two women came from the harem room. One of the evening dungeon monitors, deVries, in his usual ripped-up leathers, looked in the theme room’s small window. Along with checking the participants’ safety, the blond sadist was undoubtedly enjoying the show.
“Here’s your bag, my liege.” Followed by a young woman, Dixon handed over the leather bag.
“Quickly done. Thank you.” Xavier glanced at the woman behind Dixon. Mid-to-late twenties. Medium height with pleasingly full curves, pale skin, and ear-length platinum hair. Dressed head to toe in black like a Domme, she stared around the room. His presence hadn’t even registered.
Odd how refreshing that felt. But she wasn’t the receptionist he’d requested. “You’re not Clarissa.”
She started, then smiled at him. “That’s quite observant of you.”
Dixon stared at her in alarm. “I… Um, my liege, she’s—”
“Dixon.” Xavier’s warning tone silenced the young man. “Could I presume upon you to inform me who you are?” he asked the blonde politely. “And where Clarissa is?”
“Clarissa quit”—her man’s digital watch was far too big for her delicate wrist—“about two hours ago. I’m filling in tonight.” She held her hand out. “Abby.”
His faucet of amusement cranked open. Straight-faced, he took her hand. “Xavier.”
“Good to meet you.” She gave a brief, no-nonsense shake and disengaged. “Now, can I help you with something? I’m new, but I’ll do my best to figure out how to get you what you need.”
Dixon looked terrified, clearly expecting Xavier to come down all Dom on Abby’s head.
Had he been that bad tempered recently? Xavier smiled. “That’s good to hear, Abby, since I need your breasts for a few minutes.”
“Of course. I—” She took a hasty step back. “What?”
“Your breasts. I’m going to instruct Master Rainier on how to apply nipple clamps.”
She retreated another foot before her chin rose. “I’m the receptionist, not a teaching assistant.”
Teaching assistant? Interesting term. “The receptionist assists in demonstrations when needed.”
She crossed her arms over her chest, and he almost grinned. She didn’t realize how the posture pressed her pretty breasts upward. With her flawless pale skin, if he sandwiched her breast between his darkly tanned hands, the effect would be that of an Oreo cookie. The white center was his favorite part.
Her hair was wispy as a dandelion gone to fluffy seed. The downy hair on her arms was the same shade and indicated her mesmerizing coloring was natural.
“I’m not a submissive. I’m a Domme,” she informed him in reasonable tones. “I’m the one putting clamps on, not receiving.”
“The receptionists are always submissive.” Before she got herself in trouble, he made a guess and asked, “Simon recruited you?”
“Despite your overly encompassing clothing, I doubt Simon made an error.” Xavier took her pointed chin between his thumb and finger. As her smoky eyes widened and she tried to retreat, he let his voice slip into command mode. “Be still.”
A shiver ran through her, and her pupils dilated. Even her breathing stopped.
“Very pretty,” he murmured. Her surprise at her own reaction made his cock stir and brought his dominant instincts sliding to the fore. When she lifted her hand up to push him away, he captured her wrist. “No, little fluff, don’t move. I want to look at you.”
Her speeding pulse tapped a protest against his fingers. “I’m not submissive,” she whispered.
“Oh, I think you are,” he said. In fact, her Domme clothing looked so wrong on her that he was tempted to rip it off. “However, I might believe you lack experience. How familiar are you with BDSM? Have you been spanked?”
“No.” Her slight wiggle seemed to indicate possible interest.
Her cheeks pinkened.
He’d bet the lady owned a vibrator. “Did your boyfriend use a vibrator on you?”
The flush started at the tops of her breasts and flowed upward. He’d never seen such a clear red color. Lovely. She gave a tiny shake of her head and realized she’d answered his intimate question. Her brows drew together.
“New to everything, then. Are you here because you want to know more?” But why would a newbie take a receptionist job? His eyes narrowed, and he took another guess. “You’re too impatient to wait through the screening process?”
She nodded, and her small upper lip pressed against the plump lower. “And the membership fees…”
Had gone high when he’d converted the club to exclusive. “I see.”
Should he let her stay without taking the class or being recommended? As the owner of a security firm, Simon had infallible instincts about people. A priority flag on her application would speed up her medical and background screening. And he did need someone on the desk. He tugged on a silky lock of her hair and caught a hint of a light springtime fragrance. “I’ll make you a deal. You fill out the paperwork, do the physical, and stay as a receptionist for at least four months, performing all the receptionist duties, and I’ll waive your first year’s dues.” He stepped back a pace to let her think.
Think she did. Her eyes turned unfocused in an expression oddly akin to that of subspace. Yet rather than relaxing, her entire body and brain seemed to jump into high gear. Unbelievably sexy. What would it take to shut off her brain?
Her attention returned to him. “Not that I doubt your word, but my reading indicated the lifestyle can attract unstable personalities. One, can you prove the manager will agree to your deal? Two, how do I know you won’t ask something of me that I will refuse to do?”
Intelligent women were so fun to play with. He hardened as he imagined a chess game. Spanking her for every pawn he captured. Fucking her if he took her queen. If she lost the game, then… Concentrate, Leduc. “Those are valid concerns.” Unable to resist, he ran a finger down her cheek. Her skin was as smooth as it looked. Smoother. “For question two—right now, I intend to use only breast clamps and bondage tape on your wrists. Do you have a problem with either?”
She swallowed. “I g-guess not.”
He studied her. He was pushing, but he didn’t think it was too much. Although he could overwhelm a compliant sub, this wasn’t one. And the receptionist did need to be able to fill in as a submissive when needed.
Off to the side, Dixon was shifting his weight from leg to leg as if expecting Abby to get flattened. “Dixon, can you explain who I am?”
“Please, my liege, she didn’t know. Don’t—”
Ah, the fluff had made a friend. “I’m not offended. She simply needs confirmation of my position here.”
Dixon turned to the young woman. “This is the owner of Dark Haven. Master Xavier. Call him ‘my liege.’”
Xavier sighed. He had no idea who’d first given him that title, but the submissives took such delight in it, he’d allowed it to continue.
Taking a step forward, Dixon whispered all too clearly, “For fuck’s sake, don’t upset him or say no to him.”
Abby’s lips curved into a provocative O. “Well. Forgive me, please, m-my liege.”
Since she wasn’t his, he tried not to think of the ways a submissive might demonstrate her penitence. “Now we have that straightened out, let’s get on with the lesson.”
Dixon motioned to Rainier’s submissive. “I…uh…brought her an ice pack, sir.”
Finished crying, the young woman had curled into a corner of the couch. “That was thoughtful of you. Ask Rainier if you may assist her while he joins me.”
“Yes, my liege.”
Xavier glanced at Rainier, who was leaning on the couch next to his submissive, and said, “I’m sorry for the delay.”
“No problem. Destiny would be hard to replace.”
“She has been.” Xavier set his toy bag on the oversize coffee table and removed a roll of bondage tape. He preferred leather cuffs, but the tape was less intimidating. After stepping behind Abby, he grasped her right wrist. “Abby, since we’ve not played together before, you tell me if something is getting to be too much.”
It’s already too much. Abby looked over her shoulder at the owner of the club. White dress shirt, black silk vest, black jeans, black boots. Definitely in the tall, dark, and handsome category, only the words seemed insipid compared to the reality. The wide, muscular shoulders turned tall into dangerous. His skin held the darkness of Native American ancestry, and the long black braid down his back was a definite statement. Very handsome, with chiseled European features that went well into hard-edged.
And scary. But she couldn’t back out. She doubted the man had a benevolent bone in his body. Quite obviously if she didn’t “assist,” she’d be out the door. She sure hadn’t thought her participant observation would include real participation. Unease tickled the back of her throat.
He glanced up, and the sun lines at the corners of his eyes crinkled with amusement. “Easy, Abby. The club safe word is red, and if you use it, play stops immediately. Say it loudly, and a dungeon monitor will show up to make sure you’re all right.” Holding her arm firmly, he wrapped what looked like wide packing tape around her right wrist a couple of times, and she realized the material wasn’t sticky.
“Red. Got it.”
“Abby,” he said. “I daresay you know how to address a Dominant in this setting, especially the one working with you.”
The uninflected reprimand made her flush as if she’d been caught cheating off someone’s test paper. “Yes, my liege.”
He didn’t rant but nodded acceptance.
Despite her relief that he hadn’t lost his temper, anxiety thrummed in her ears as he pulled her other arm behind her back and secured both wrists together. She closed her eyes and tried to pretend nothing was happening. She’d never been able to let Nathan put her in handcuffs. Why in the world was she allowing this stranger to restrain her arms?
But she needed this place for her fieldwork. Needed to keep her job. Publish or perish. If she ever met the academic who’d invented that phrase, she’d shove his papers down his throat until he choked.
She opened her eyes.
Xavier stood in front of her, looking down. Why did he have to be so tall? His warm hands massaged her bare shoulders. “Any strain in your joints?”
He studied her silently.
She shifted her weight, trying not to think about her lack of mobility. If she didn’t move, she wouldn’t know—much like closing her eyes during gory movie scenes.
“Pull on the tape, Abby. How does it feel?”
Her arms jerked involuntarily, and just like that she knew she was restrained. Couldn’t defend herself. That her body was available to the impassive-faced Master. Alternating waves of heat and cold rushed over her as if she stood in front of a rotating fan. She pulled harder, and panic squeezed her throat.
“Easy, pet.” He cupped her chin with one firm hand. His fingers curled around her arm, creating a warm place on her skin. His movements showed how easily he could touch her…yet the contact was comforting. Settling. “Eyes on me.”
Panting, she looked up and into eyes the color of darkness, but the specks of golden brown made them warm, not cold.
“Good girl.” He stroked his thumb along her jawline. “You know you can’t escape, but I’m not going to do anything you won’t enjoy. We’re here in a public place, and you have a safe word that will summon every monitor in the dungeon. Now slow your breathing down before you hyperventilate.”
Oops. His gaze never left hers as she pulled in a measured breath and let it out.
“Better. Another.” His grip on her upper arm was unyielding but not painful. A man’s hand.
Why did his touch seem different from Nathan’s? Why didn’t she get that horrible dread?
“Little fluff, I want you to remember how you’re breathing now. When I tighten a clamp, it will hurt for a few seconds. I want you to inhale through the pain like you did with your fear.”
“Do you get flu shots?”
“Yes.” When his eyebrows pulled together, she added a hasty, “My liege.”
“This is the same level of pain, although people rarely get turned on by vaccinations. Whereas nipple clamps…” A crease appeared and disappeared in his cheek.
She nodded to say she could handle that much pain. But could she handle these disconcerting flares of heat? Her nipples actually tingled as if anticipating the touch of those powerful fingers.
Was this the kind of thing Nathan had wanted to do with her? Guilt pressed on her chest. Considering he had dumped her, she shouldn’t feel as if she were betraying him. But she did. And she’d let a complete stranger restrain her. Alice had fallen down a hole into Wonderland; Abby had fallen into quicksand and was sinking fast. What am I doing here?
Xavier hadn’t moved, was simply watching her. “What’s the matter, Abby?”
“I don’t know you at all. You’re talking about…” Nipple clamps. “I don’t know you.”
“I see.” His hand was still curved around her upper arm as he moved closer. With his fingers under her chin, he lifted her face and gave her a light kiss. His lips were firm but velvety. Gentle. How could someone with such a merciless face kiss so sweetly?
When he lifted his head, she whispered, “Why did you do that?”
His aftershave was totally masculine with a hint of the exotic, like a pirate who’d visited India. He rubbed his thumb in a circle over her cheek, his lips only an inch from hers. “Because I can,” he whispered back. Then he smiled. “Because I’m going to be touching you much more intimately in a moment.”
Heat roared through her at the thought of his hands…elsewhere.
“Think of this as an introduction. I’m Xavier.” He covered her mouth with his, and it wasn’t a gentle, sweet kiss any longer. He took her lips, demanding a response. When she pulled at the restraints and gasped, his tongue swept in. She couldn’t move, couldn’t escape, and…
He stepped back, grasping her arms to keep her steady. Ravished by only a kiss, she stared at him. Her lips felt swollen, and she ran her tongue over them.
A flicker of heat lit his eyes, followed by amusement. “Are we better acquainted now?”
Her voice came out sounding as if he’d strangled her instead of kissing her. “Yes, my liege.” If he introduced himself like that at a faculty party, the floor would be littered with swooning academics.