She needs a Dom with heart. He sees the lifestyle as heartless.
Can a brave submissive show a rock star that accepting his true nature will be nirvana for both of them? Letting go with her may help him put the pieces of himself—and his band—back together again.
Struggling with the death of her mother, Sage Lyndsey turned to her Dom for comfort, but his impatience led to a humiliating scene in front of their club. Devastated, she runs to a small town on the Cali coast. Buying into Citrus Pointe’s bakery may be her best decision ever—if she can overcome the embarrassment of having her new landlord’s dog steal her towel right in front of him. It gets worse when she realizes he’s none other than rock bassist Hank Nash, and despite the problems it would cause, she wants nothing more than his talented hands on her, bending her to his will.
Hank is an ex-cop who knows all too well what dominance looks like when it turns to abuse—he saw the consequences on another cop’s wife. After turning the man in, Hank left that life behind to start a rock band, Weekend Washout. Now he’s fighting to keep the band together, and to deny his urge to dominate pretty, spunky Sage. But when Sage’s ex-Dom reappears, Hank is forced into a life-changing decision: Accept both their needs and gain more than one night with Sage, or retreat to the safe life he’s built so carefully?
Sage Lyndsey fingered the button of her silky white shirt and wondered if she should change again. The oversize button-down draped her body, just see-through enough to reveal the black lace bra and tight mini she wore beneath it. Would Kevin approve?
The sound of a key in the front door lock filtered down the hall, speeding her heart and the churning in her stomach. She glanced at the clock: 6:30. The time triggered an all too familiar despair. Late again. There’d be no time to eat, to talk, to cuddle before they left. The pattern had been set for the past few months, and nothing she did changed it. She was beginning to wonder if anything could.
The word jerked her muscles into action. One final look in the mirror, a finger tracing beneath each eye to erase any evidence of tears, and she headed down the hall.
“Sage, where are you?”
Kevin stood at the open fridge door, his suit still perfect, his black hair swept back from a hard, handsome face that still took her breath away. “Right here,” she said.
No response. When he lifted a water bottle to his lips, she waited, but he drank deep without turning toward her. The long line of his throat drew her gaze; she wanted to walk over, place a kiss on the faint stubble along his Adam’s apple, snuggle against his wide chest. She’d always preferred big men, tall and strong, and Kevin had fit her to a T from day one. Unfortunately she no longer seemed to fit him, and the fear that he wasn’t happy kept her from approaching him. Fear of rejection.
That was her. A coward. She shook with the need to go to him, to seek comfort, to know he still loved her, but the “stay back” sign he seemed to wear constantly refused to go away.
And so did her resentment.
Arms open to show off her outfit, she asked, “Well, do you approve?”
Her tone came out a touch too tart, too much sass, but regret wasn’t even a blip on her radar. She had feelings too; she wasn’t just a doll he could take out every Friday when he finally came ho—
Kevin turned. Big mistake. She tried to swallow at the burning disapproval in his dark brown eyes, but every drop of spit went desert dry.
“What did you say to me, sub?”
Dropping her eyes to the floor was automatic. Her hands went behind her back, where she balled them into fists to contain the shot of adrenaline her own anger sparked in her system. She was his girlfriend, his lover, not just his sub, even if that role seemed to be the only one he responded to anymore.
How much longer can I do this?
She straightened her spine, stepped closer. “Do you approve, Sir?”
Kevin advanced, his shiny black dress shoes tapping out a rhythm as he closed the distance between them. She peeked up from beneath her long bangs, wanting to read his reaction, but he was too tall, too close to catch a glimpse of his face. His suit jacket and slacks even prevented her from reading his body language. Would her appearance, her submission appease him?
She already knew the answer, but the needy part of her, the part she was beginning to hate more and more, couldn’t help trying. She sank to her knees, grateful for the slight pain of the impact. It gave her something to focus on as Kevin circled her, inspecting his sub.
That’s all I am anymore. Just…sub. Her mother’s death this past summer had left her anchorless, but she hadn’t been alone. Not until this moment, with the man she loved mere inches away.
Kevin’s dress shoes reappeared in her line of sight. “I approve,” he said. The words validated her efforts, but there was no gruff arousal, no hunger in them. Her failure bore down on her, slumping her shoulders with its weight.
Kevin had already walked away. “We should’ve left half an hour ago.”
She bit back a surge of words. Pointing out that he’d just arrived or that she’d been ready for almost an hour wouldn’t make a difference. He was late a lot, and she was lucky if she saw him for more than a few minutes before they left for Heathers, the BDSM club just outside LA where they played every weekend. The evenings they went to the club were the only nights she knew he’d be home, actually. Otherwise he was often working till midnight and dragging into the house long after she’d gone to bed. Her position as head pastry chef at LesMiz meant she was at work by dawn every day. She tried to understand—Kevin’s work was as important as hers, and he was working a major deal that had taken months of preparation. Being needy wouldn’t make any more difference than pointing out the obvious.
And fighting before a scene was not a good way to start off the night. Not that they’d be scening if he didn’t get his attention on her at some point. Even beyond her personal pleasure, playing with a distracted Dom wasn’t safe, no matter how much she longed for some small part of him, however she could get it.
Heathers on a Friday night was chaos, and tonight proved no exception. Sage entered the locker room as she usually did, went through the motions of leaving her shoes and shirt and purse behind, but she couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling buried in her hollow stomach. She needed to talk to Kevin, make him see that tonight, no matter how much he wanted to, it was more important to get things settled between them than to play. But when she returned to the front and scanned the area, he was nowhere to be seen. He’d gone inside without waiting for her.
This was a clusterfuck all around, wasn’t it?
Minutes later she found him in a dim seating area surrounded by couples. Friends. His, at least. Since she hadn’t been a member of Heathers until Kevin had introduced her to BDSM, she hadn’t had the time to get to know the others much. Doms and Dommes didn’t interfere with someone else’s sub, and that included talking. Most subs were focused on their masters. The situation didn’t leave a lot of opportunity for chitchat. Tonight, as usual, some subs sat at the feet of their masters or mistresses, while others were cuddled in laps or stationed behind chairs, waiting to serve. The masters were all chatting, the subs happy, and Sage felt like an alien landing on the earth for the first time and trying to figure out how the hell to get her equilibrium.
He snapped her a look, and Sage’s racing heart skipped a beat. She hated this, hated it. Why couldn’t he give her anything to work with?
“Sir”—emphasis on the title—“I need to speak with you.”
“Is there a problem?”
The impatience of the words, in his expression hit her harder than a flogger. Everything inside her froze, then kickstarted back up with a jerk that hurt so much she realized she was rubbing her chest. She glanced down at her shaking hand, felt the rush of pain. She looked up, her gaze sweeping the circle of people enclosing her like an animal in a pen. They’d heard him; she knew they had. Everyone was watching, wondering why her Dom was upset, wondering what she wasn’t doing to make him happy. The weight of their stares swamped her as she sank to her knees.
And gave up. Talking wasn’t going to help. Nothing would help. She braced herself against the realization, expecting a total breakdown after the emotional chaos of the night, but all she felt was…nothing. Numb. In the back of her mind, a warning sounded, but even that couldn’t get through the heavy cloak slowly settling over her mind and body.
It’s just one night. Get through the night, go home, work it out then, away from all these people.
“Sage, I asked you a question.”
What was it? She managed to dredge up Kevin’s words and a wooden response. “No, Sir, there’s no problem.”
“Good.” His words were clipped. She should care about that, right?
Time passed, though she wasn’t sure how much. Her legs went as numb as the rest of her, and only when Kevin stood did she manage to climb her way out of it. Where were they going?
She glanced up just as Kevin shouldered his toy bag. No.
“Kevin,” she whispered, trying for his attention without drawing others into it.
He glanced over his shoulder. “Our turn.” His nod indicated the St. Andrew’s cross set back on a small stage nearby. He must’ve signed them up while she was in the locker room at the beginning of the night. If she’d known, she’d have pushed her luck earlier, but she hadn’t.
“Kevin, I don’t…”
He wasn’t there anymore. His broad back cut through the crowd as he strode across the room, obviously intent on his destination instead of his sub.
No. This isn’t good for either of us. I need to tell him.
It’s just one scene. How many have you done? Just suck it up, get it over with so you can go home.
Warnings screamed in her head, every step across the crowded room punctuated by a no no no that wouldn’t stop, but she couldn’t bring herself to say anything once she reached the scening area. Once she caught a glimpse of his face. For the first time tonight, the steel was gone from his jaw. His eyes were lit with anticipation, and his lips had relaxed their tight press. He still hadn’t kissed her with those lips, she realized. But she was supposed to scene with him.
Playing doesn’t require kissing, Sage. Just do it.
She moved toward him. “Sir?”
At her approach, he stopped unpacking his bag and faced her. And smiled. Her breath caught on the longing that exploded in her chest. She wanted that smile, that look. She could do this to make him happy, and then they could talk.
She sank to her knees, returning his smile.
Kevin had never been big on a bunch of toys, and neither was she. She wasn’t a pain slut, either. She needed extensive warmup to take anything harsher than a flogger, and as she watched him line up his tools, she knew this would be a long session. He even set out the cane. Not something he’d used on her before, but they’d discussed it. Still, seeing it there knotted her already tight stomach.
He didn’t always use everything he had handy, though. She forced herself to wait, to trust. She could do this.
“Strip,” he finally told her. Sage took her time, wanting to do something she knew would please him. Her show brought another smile to his lips, and the knots building inside her loosened. By the time he had her buckled facing the St. Andrew’s cross, she was ready to submit.
Kevin went through the same stages as usual, warming her muscles, preparing her for a whipping, but the pleasure that usually accompanied the acts was somehow absent. Even when he started in with the flogger, her favorite, the soft, gradually increasing intensity of the strikes didn’t arouse her. Instead the numbness from before slowly morphed into tension, the weight of her failure worse than the first strikes of the switch he used after the flogger. Her butt and thighs screamed at each impact, and it was only then she realized her face was wet.
Tears. She might cry from release, but they weren’t even close to the end, nor was she crying out for more. She turned her head to the side, desperate for Kevin to read her, what she was feeling.
He’ll see me now. He’ll stop. She couldn’t think beyond that, the knowledge that her Dom would take care of her. Except Kevin didn’t seem to notice, and he didn’t slow. Maybe he was too far lost in the rhythm of the switch, in his own Dom space, or maybe they’d just followed the same pattern so much he no longer noticed her response—or lack thereof—on a conscious level. She certainly wasn’t aroused, but he didn’t check.
The switch whistled through the air. Sage couldn’t help it; she tensed, and an explosion of pain shrieked through her butt. The cuffs bit into her wrists as she pulled against them.
Breathe, just breathe.
Desperation hit her when her lungs refused to inflate. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak. She needed her safe word, needed Kevin to slow down and hear her, see her. She needed—
What air she had left in her lungs escaped in an anguished cry.
A shallow suck of air, then, “Kevin!”
He didn’t hear her above the sound of the switch hitting her thighs, couldn’t hear her strangling on the scream locked inside her throat. She hadn’t realized her eyes were closed, but she needed to see him, needed— Her gaze caught the movement of people at the side of the stage, watching, always watching. Didn’t they hear her, at least? But no, none of them were helping. None of them were supporting. No one saw her, deep down inside, or even bothered to try, and that included her Dom.
Have to stop. Have to—
Agony seared her body, her mind. She turned as much as her restraints would allow, her safe word on her lips.
The switch struck again, but instead of landing square across her upper back, the tip extended around to snap against the tender side of her breast. A high scream echoed in her ears.
“Damn it, Sage.”
Kevin’s curse was lost beneath the roar of denial, of pain that lashed her harder than Kevin’s switch could manage, and then all she could hear was her own voice. “Red! Red red redredredred!”
He was behind her in an instant, or maybe it was a year. She no longer cared. She jerked at her wrists until the bones threatened to pop, but still she couldn’t free herself, couldn’t get the pain to stop, couldn’t—
Kevin’s command sliced through her panic. The heat of his body reached her back, and she cringed away, the wood of the cross abrading her skin. “Red, Sir, please!”
The words were nothing more than a whisper, but he was close enough; he could hear her now. He would hear her. He would stop.
Familiar hands traced her shoulders, her arms, her hands. He gripped the cuffs. He would let her go.
Her legs gave way. She slumped against the St. Andrew’s cross, nearly pulling her shoulders out of their sockets, but she didn’t care. He’d stopped. He would protect her. She waited for his reassurance, his comfort, but instead a low muttering filtered through in disjointed snatches.
“What the fuck— Sage. Can’t even… Shit.”
What she needed wasn’t coming.
“Stop,” she managed to squeeze out. “Just stop.” Not the scene this time. Everything.
Her scream had bled any power from her voice. A hoarse whisper was all she managed.
No acknowledgment. The slap of her cuff being released registered, then the exquisite feel of air on her bruised wrist. When Kevin gripped her there, she snatched her hand away. “Don’t! Don’t touch me.” She couldn’t stand it.
He let go to walk around the cross, facing her. “What were you thinking?” he barked.
She rolled her head against the wood beam enough to look at him. On the way, her gaze caught on face after face after face. All staring. All whispering.
“I can’t do this right now; I just can’t,” she whispered. Closed her eyes. Cradled her aching wrist to her aching body. “I can’t.”
“Then when can you, Sage?” Kevin didn’t bother keeping his voice down. “This is the only time we have together. When else—” He clamped his lips shut.
She winced, raised her eyes to his, silently begging him to see her, listen to her—hell, just hold her. He saw her, all right, but what was in his eyes wasn’t understanding.
Words flitted through her brain, but she couldn’t seem to catch them, make sense of them. All she could focus on was, “I just can’t.” I can’t do this anymore.
Kevin stared a moment longer. Sage waited, every inch of her flaming skin, her entire being crying out for him. But he didn’t come to her; he paced away. Like she was the problem, like she was poison he couldn’t wait to get away from.
Is he right?
He was five feet away when he finally spun back to her. One look in his eyes and she knew. This was it. There wasn’t even time to brace herself before he spoke.
“I can’t do this either.” The cuff he still held hit the floor with a dull thud. Kevin’s face went hard as granite as he returned to her side, but instead of releasing the rest of her cuffs, he reached for her neck. Her collar. She’d worn it with pride since the night he’d presented it to her. Now that pride shattered as he unhooked the clasp behind her neck and removed the precious strip of leather. She was naked, strapped spread-eagle to a wooden cross, but she’d never felt as nude as she did with her neck bare of his collar.
He didn’t even say good-bye, just turned and walked into the crowd, her collar gripped in his fist. He left her there, to the murmurs and snide remarks that weren’t kept to a whisper. Sage turned away from them all, hiding her nakedness, her tears, her pain. Hiding the death throes as something inside her died.
Heavy footsteps approached.
“Master Kevin asked me to release you, Sage.”
Warren. The dungeon monitor had smiled at her earlier this evening. Now his voice was as empty as her soul.
Her shoulder screamed when he opened the second wrist cuff. While he knelt at her feet to undo the final restraints, she allowed the cross hold her weight. Only when he was finished and had stepped back did she straighten.
“Thank you,” she managed.
His nod wasn’t cold, but neither was there encouragement in his expression. “Would you like a blanket, some water?”
She closed her eyes against another wave of humiliation. “My clothes?”
Leaving her at the cross, he moved to the edge of the scening area and retrieved her bra and miniskirt. Sage struggled into them with trembling hands. The cloth against the welts left behind by the switch brought a curse to her lips, but she held it back. She needed to get out of here, get away. Now.
Blindly she crossed the stage, desperate to escape, her last bit of control barely holding her together. Warren let her go. At the edge of the stage, the crowd parted like the Red Sea, allowing her through while flooding her with stares that burned hotter than brands. She kept her eyes on the floor and forced herself forward, step by agonizing step. Her lungs refused to work until she’d reached the relative emptiness of the doors leading to the front of the club and the locker rooms.
The word wasn’t angry. Respect laced the voice, reverence for the title so many people thought meant doormat. She stumbled to a stop, but making herself turn was more than she had the strength for. “Yes, Sir?”
It had to be a Dom or DM, though who, she wasn’t sure. When a tall figure circled her, she glanced up into the face of Master V. Shame dropped her gaze back to the floor.
“Are you all right, sweetheart?”
The tears pushing at her defenses burst forward. Sage brought a hand up to cover her eyes, hide herself from the man studying her. “Yes, Sir.”
It was all she could get out. Nothing else was left.
He had to know she was lying, but he didn’t call her on it. Instead his “Let’s get you home, okay?” quickened her tears. His hand on her arm was impersonal, yet still warmer than anything she’d felt tonight. It eased something inside her she couldn’t describe, didn’t want to describe or examine or even face. She needed to get out of here before she lost her mind.
And go where?
The thought brought her up short. She couldn’t go home; Kevin might be there. But everything she owned was at his house. She’d sold the home she and her mother lived in after her mother’s funeral.
She latched on to Master V. like the lifeline he was. “I need to get out of here, please.” Help me.
And somehow he made it happen. Sage left Heathers for the last time fifteen minutes later, the only word of good-bye that of a Dom she barely knew, despite how kind he’d been to her tonight. As the door of the cab closed behind her, she looked through the window, both hoping for and fearing a glimpse of the man she loved, the man she’d surrendered everything to, but all she saw was the look of pity on Master V.’s pale face, and then darkness as the night closed in around her.
The dedication page for ONLY FOR THE NIGHT reads, "For the girl who is. Love who you are, not who you think you should be." In Sage I saw what I see in so many women, including my own daughter: the weight of expectations. Being a "good" anything—worker, partner, daughter, or even, in Sage's case, a "good sub." The truth is, that designation of "good" has to come from inside us, not outside. Other people don't determine who we should be. Which is why "Bulletproof Picasso" by Train became the theme song for this book.