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In the Zone
by Sierra Cartwright

Category: Erotica/BDSM Erotica/Romance
Description: Genre: BDSM Contemporary

The lovely Alani Dane, professional submissive has a thing or two to learn, and Master Nathaniel absolutely will be the one to teach her.

When he catches Alani yawning during a scene with one of Zones' more prestigious members, club owner Master Nathaniel Stratton takes her bad behavior as a personal affront. Although he's seldom in the country, the club's success matters to Nathaniel and his partners. Nathaniel vows to personally deal with Alani, fraternization be damned.

The dangerous enigma that is Master Nathaniel alternately thrills and terrifies Alani. At heart, she's no man's submissive; she's a masochist who craves beatings that will send her into subspace, make her forget. And she swoons under the bite of this dom's punishing leather belt.

Nathaniel is determined to make her the perfect sub and shatter the emotional barriers she's erected to keep her safe. But in a battle of wills, dominance, and submission, there can only be one victor, and Nathaniel will win, as soon as he puts Alani in the zone.

Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: anal play/intercourse, strong BDSM theme and elements.

eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2012
eBookwise Release Date: May 2012


20 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [261 KB]
Words: 56571
Reading time: 161-226 min.

"All right, you naughty wench. Tell me what you deserve."

Alani Dane, professional submissive, rolled her eyes. She deserved a night off from the playacting of this weak-wristed wannabe dom.

"Sub," the man prompted when she didn't immediately answer. His voice was laced thick with a fake British accent.

She'd seen him on television, providing legal analysis for a high-profile murder case. She'd bet her last dollar he wasn't from England. In the outside world, he was a smart man, a snappy dresser, but here, he affected airs. He even wore a cravat, and his jacket had tails. One night he'd checked a top hat and cane at the front desk.

She was grateful he'd tied her to the St. Andrew's cross facing away from him. Even though it was still early on a Friday evening and they were in one of the club's public areas, there were a few couples scening. A female sub was being fastened to a spanking bench, and a male sub was hanging from a ceiling hook. The man wore a wicked-looking contraption around his cock, complete with metal spikes. He appeared ridiculously happy.

Absently she wondered how long it had been since she'd felt that way. Weeks? Months? Ever?

The techno music thrummed out an urgent beat, but since it was still early, the volume was relatively low.

Sometimes during scenes, she went deep inside her head, creating a fantasy within a fantasy. She often pretended she'd been naughty and needed punishing. Recently, going away mentally had been the only way she could get into what she was doing.

Tonight, though, even that wasn't working. Unfortunately she'd played with Master Richard several times before. She knew what to expect. The next half hour, maybe less, was going to be boring.

"Tell me what you deserve," he repeated.

"Oh, Sir, I've been bad," she said, forcing a tremor into her voice.

He touched the small of her back. She let out a small cry and pulled against the restraints. "So bad." She'd learned to manipulate her dominants into giving her at least of little of what she wanted.

Knowing Master Richard was an ass man, she wriggled her hips suggestively. "Please, Sir, I want to be good for you. Perhaps you'd better teach me to behave."

"That's more than you deserve, sub."

"I know, Sir. But I'm hoping you'll take pity on me."

"What will it be this evening, you naughty, naughty girl?"

She knew the answer he wanted. But she knew what she wanted. She wanted to be punished hard by a powerful man. She wanted to be with a man who would demand her very best. Her fantasy dom would tug a belt from around his waist and use it harshly on her bare butt. Or maybe he'd catch her repeatedly with the brutal strike of an open-handed slap.

"Well? Answer me!" He pinched a bit of skin near her waist.

That was unexpectedly delicious. If he would keep that up... "Whatever you want, Sir," she said, her answer so well-rehearsed she could recite it in her sleep.

"The flogger it is," he said.

In the right hands, she supposed the flogger could be memorable. When swung by this unskilled dom, it was barely more than a lover's touch.

"I'm going to pull up your skirt."

"Oh, Sir! No. Please. Anything but that!"

"Hush, sub."

She imagined his words were supposed to be forceful, but they came out as a request.

With his small hands, he drew her skirt up.

"Oh, Sir!"

He tucked the material into her waistband, then trailed his soft fingertips between her buttocks.

She'd worn a thong, and he hadn't requested she remove the material. She knew he wouldn't delve inside the silk to play with her clit. He wouldn't do anything to ensure she got into the scene like he did.

As Master Richard caressed her bare buttocks, his fingers trembling and his breathing ragged, she stared at a mural of Maroon Bells, mountain peaks near Aspen. It was one of the most photographed sites in North America. Maybe this summer, she'd try climbing them.

She tried to lose herself in the picture, grateful Zones had no clocks in the public areas. Each second with Master Richard was interminable. Staring at a minute hand would only make time drag more.

She felt something on her rear, and it occurred to her it was the flogger. She jerked her hips, hoping he didn't realize the reaction came several seconds after the impact.

"Beg for another."

"Oh, please, Sir! I need you to punish me."

His second stroke had a little more oomph behind it. She reacted quicker that time and squirmed against her bonds.

"Thank me."

"Sir! Thank you, thank you! Please, will you punish me some more?" She stuck out her ass.

He continued to flog her, and she remembered she needed half-and-half at home.

Kukae. Shit. She was being paid to give this man a fantasy. And if he was pleased, he was a good tipper. Alani closed her eyes so she could focus her attention.

Several times, early in her career, she'd gotten lost in a scene. But now, it took all the skills she'd learned at a college acting class to stay in character. It wasn't the doms who were lacking; it was her.

"How many was that, sub?"

How many? She'd barely registered any. "It hurts so bad I lost count, Sir. Please," she wailed. "Take pity on me. I promise to be good."

"Four more," he said.

He landed another. She jerked dramatically.

As he paused, probably drooling over the sight of her too-rounded derriere, she yawned.

She instantly snapped her mouth shut when she saw Master Nathaniel push away from a side wall. He was one of the club's three owners, and he was out of the country a lot. She didn't know much about him, but the rumor mill said he was some sort of secret black ops agent who trained resistance forces throughout the world. She knew the work he did was dirty and dangerous, and the small scar bisecting his chin proved it.

Damn. Why hadn't she noticed him standing there?

His chilly gaze was on her as he moved toward the cross where she hung.

Had he seen her disrespectful yawn?

Alani instinctively clenched her muscles.

She'd rarely seen him engage with the club's subs or patrons. He showed up for occasional meetings, and once he'd signed paychecks when Master Marcus was out of town.

She told herself not to be nervous. But the internal pep talk was a losing one.

Master Nathaniel was dressed professionally. His long-sleeved shirt was turned up at the cuff, and the top button was unfastened at his throat. He wore loose-fitting slacks and polished wing tips. She imagined his attire was intended to make him appear civilized. It didn't work. Raw masculine power radiated from him. Nothing could temper his air of danger.

He smelled of a cold winter night, and his green eyes were just as chilly.

Secretly, he terrified her.

"How's it going here, Master Richard?"

"Oh, very well, Master Nathaniel."

She didn't dare crack a smile at the fake British voice.

"I'm just going to give this saucy wench a bit of a workout," he continued. "Only three more strokes to go."

"Mind if I watch?"

"Delighted to have you," Master Richard said.

"Let's help keep you in the scene, shall we?" Master Nathaniel asked her quietly.

He'd caught her yawning, no doubt.

"Alani, is it?"

"Yes, Sir."

He captured her chin between his thumb and forefinger, leaving her powerless to escape physically or emotionally.

"Look at me," he snapped.

There was force in his voice, if not volume. All her senses sharpened.

"Keep your eyes open. For this moment, I am your entire world. Don't forget it."

He tightened his grip.

Her heart thundered, this time with real fear.

"Do you understand, Alani?"

"Yes," she whispered.

"Proceed, Master Richard," he said.

Master Richard hit her hard, as if goaded by Master Nathaniel's presence.

She gasped from the unexpected sting.

"Better," Master Nathaniel said softly. "She is a saucy one," he said, looking over her head. "Make the last ones really count."

"Unclench your cheeks, love," Master Richard said. "I do so enjoy seeing your arse jiggle when I give you a good one."

She swallowed deeply. Somehow, this was more compelling, even a touch humiliating. She wasn't sure why. Being something of an exhibitionist, she generally liked people watching her. But Master Nathaniel with his brutally penetrating gaze was different.

He barely blinked. As much as he wanted her to focus on him, he focused on her. She'd never experienced anything like this.

"I said unclench your bum." Master Richard poked her with the hilt of the flogger. "Do it now, you cheeky girl!"

"Yes, Sir." She drew in deep breaths, willing this to be over with. All of a sudden, she didn't have to pretend to be nervous or focused. She was hyperaware of everything going on.

Master Richard was taking his time. Master Nathaniel's grip was unyielding. And she wanted to be released from her bondage and go home for the night. Master Nathaniel unsettled her.

Finally, he let the flogger fall.

She yelped. Where had that strength been previously?

She felt the dom's fingers tracing her garters.

Wiggling and moving seemed obscene with the way Master Nathaniel was looking at her.

"Ready for your last one?" Master Richard asked.

"Yes," she said. More than ready.

He hit her a final time. She squeezed her eyes shut against the sting. When she opened her eyes again, Master Nathaniel was still looking at her, his jaw set, nothing revealed in the enigmatic depths of his eyes.

"Thank Master Richard for flogging you," Master Nathaniel told her.

"Thank you, Sir," she managed.

Master Nathaniel released her as suddenly as he'd grabbed her. Without a word, he strode away.

She watched him out of the corner of her eye until she lost sight of him.

"You were a good girl," Master Richard said as he released her right ankle.

"I'm sure I'll have trouble sitting for the next few days, Sir," she fibbed. She had to admit, for Master Richard, it had been a robust flogging.

"Let that be a lesson to you."

"It was. I'll try to be better." Although with him, she never even knew what her supposed infraction was. Other doms dreamed up elaborate stories and had her deliberately misbehave so they had something to punish.

He took way too long unfastening her left ankle. He probably just enjoyed being crouched between her legs.

Moments later, her wrists were free.

He gently helped turn her around to face him. He held her for several seconds, making sure she was able to stand. On the three-inch stilettos, after being tied to a cross, that was sometimes more difficult than it seemed.

"Steady, lass?"

"Yes, thanks." She smiled gratefully and then knelt and directed her gaze toward the floor. "I enjoyed the scene, Sir." She hoped he was savvy enough to heed her wordless signal that the scene was over, whether or not he had time remaining.

"You were most excellent, Alani. Behave yourself until I see you again."

"I will try, Sir." She glanced up to see him hook the flogger onto a belt loop.

Without another word, he headed toward the bar.

She exhaled.

As she stood and smoothed her skirt back into place, she glanced around, looking for Master Nathaniel.

When she didn't see him, she exhaled gratefully. She snatched up her discarded blouse and started toward the reception desk, planning to tell Willow she wasn't feeling well and that she was going home for the rest of the evening.

Before she got there, a firm hand landed on her shoulder, stopping her in place. Slowly, reluctantly, she turned and looked up at Master Marcus, one of the club's other owners and her direct boss.

"Alani. My office. Five minutes."

Master Marcus had addressed her quietly. No one around them would have heard him, but she did. She'd caught the sharpness in his normally modulated tone. The worst was the firm set of his jaw.

Damn Master Nathaniel. Rat. Fink. Bastard.

It didn't matter to anyone that she'd tried to get into the scene with Master Richard. The owners would only see her failings.

"Did you understand my order?" he asked when she didn't immediately respond.

"Yes, Sir. I'll be in your office in five minutes."

He nodded, then turned and headed toward the front of the club where his office was located. He probably needed time to pull her personnel file and write her up.

"Crap." Forgetting decorum, she hurried into the ladies' dressing room.

Her hands were suddenly clammy, and nerves had dried her mouth.

Alani had joined the staff at Zones two years ago. She'd started as a receptionist and then had gone through the training to become a submissive. The first year as a sub, never knowing what to expect, had made nerves and fear collide, leaving her on a near-constant adrenaline high.

It had been a struggle to figure out the exact nuance each dom wanted. Did they want her to be stoic? To struggle? Maybe to thrash? To remain silent behind a gag? Maybe count out the strokes they laid against her well-rounded ass?

For most of her adult life, she'd craved beatings. She lusted after the belt, dreamed of the crop, imagined the paddle. She sought out any man who would give her an over-the-knee open-hand spanking.

But since the horrible incident years ago, she'd avoided anyone wickedly wielding a cane.

Even though she was now part of the management team, she was bored. There were few challenges. Each night had become routine rather than something to anticipate.

Over the last month, she'd toyed with the idea of requesting a leave of absence.

But before she could make a decision, she'd been caught yawning.

It was one thing to think about a temporary absence; it was another to be forced into it.

She splashed water on her heated face and tucked a few wayward strands of hair behind her ear.

She filled a cup with water from the watercooler and tried to pretend her hand wasn't shaking.

A woman, apparently a sub if her collar was anything to go by, came in and stood in front of the long vanity. She gripped the edge of the sink and stared sightlessly in the mirror.

"Are you all right?" Alani asked. She didn't have time for hand-holding, but the woman hadn't even blinked.

When the woman didn't respond, Alani touched her bare shoulder. "Are you all right?" she repeated. "Can I do anything for you? Do you need a ride home?"

"No. I..." The woman met Alani's gaze in the mirror. "I had no idea how much it would fucking hurt."

"What happened?" The club had a number of professional monitors who watched every scene and looked out for new guests. If anything had been truly out of bounds, the sub would have been followed in here.

"I've wanted to play for a long time," she said, blinking back tears. "I've been begging my boyfriend to spank me. And since it's my birthday, he agreed to come here." She gulped in a huge drink of air. "He...he beat me. He sat on a chair and pulled me over his lap. He lifted my skirt, made me call him Master, and then he... Oh my God, he said he liked it."

Alani crossed to the water dispenser and got the woman a drink. "Here," she said, pressing the cup into the woman's hands.

The woman was nearly thirty, a couple of years older than Alani. She was tall and thin with blonde hair drenched with highlights. She wore a PVC jacket that was barely zipped, a micromini skirt, and spiky heels. Only in her dreams was Alani that thin and tall.

A female monitor pushed the door open, her brows arched. Alani waved the woman away before asking the blonde, "Where did he beat you?"

"My butt."

"Anywhere else?"

"That was bad enough!"

"Let's have a look."

The blonde gasped.

"No need to be shy," Alani said. "I've seen plenty of behinds."

Blushing furiously, the woman put down her cup and hiked up her skirt. She stood still while Alani looked.

"You're fine," Alani said. "More the shock than anything."

The woman kept glancing over her shoulder, trying to see her ass.

"Come here," Alani said. She drew the blonde into the dressing area and positioned two cheval mirrors. "Now look."

The woman's mouth fell open. "It's hardly red."

"You have a couple of marks that will fade fast. You won't bruise. I think you and your boyfriend need to have a talk. And maybe attend a couple of classes if you want to pursue this lifestyle." She smiled although she was horribly conscious of the passing of time. "Although it may not be for you." If she knew the club's monitors, the blonde's boyfriend was receiving a similar talk. "A spanking can hurt, especially if he hasn't warmed you up first."

"Damn! Is it always like that?"

"No." She wished it were. "Let's get you fixed up," she said.

The blonde straightened her clothing, and Alani offered a damp towel. The woman blotted her face, finger-combed her hair, then gave a wan smile. "It wasn't what I expected."

"It rarely is," Alani said. "But it can be wonderful and rewarding, with patience and communication."

She walked the woman back to the monitor who waited outside the door.

"Daniel's talking with her boyfriend about aftercare," the monitor said.

"Thanks." To the blonde, Alani said, "You'll be all right."

Which was more than she could say for herself.

She was more than five minutes late.

For a moment, she considered changing her clothes before the meeting.

Since she never knew what to expect at work, she kept a variety of shoes and clothing in her locker.

Because she was still on duty, her skirt ended midthigh, and she was conscious of the very feminine garter and stockings she wore. If Master Marcus allowed her to sit, bare skin might be revealed. Jeans or dress pants would be better.

Her shelf bra pushed up her breasts and left her nipples exposed beneath her see-through black blouse. And her heels... She'd worn three-inch stilettos because they made her calves look shapely, not because they were suitable for a meeting with the boss.

But she was already in plenty of trouble. After pulling back her shoulders, she headed toward the front of the club.

Willow stood behind the reception desk, checking reservations, making sure paperwork was signed, ensuring club rules were understood. And she did it all with a disarming smile. Lovely and competent.

"Master Marcus said you were to go straight in," Willow said, looking up from the computer keyboard.

Alani couldn't read anything in Willow's expression.

"Good luck."

That was telling.

Alani was too well trained to rush. She moved gracefully and purposefully past the reception desk and into a small alcove. No one watching her would have any idea nerves were churning inside.

Three different doors opened to the alcove. Two were office doors, one for Master Marcus, another for Master AJ. There was a private restroom for staff.

Several chairs dominated the area, along with a couple of silk ferns and a handful of magazines, mainly about architecture or things to do in Denver. There was nothing remotely kinky about the area.

She smoothed back her hair, even though she didn't need to. She'd mostly gotten past playing with her hair when she was nervous, but now, the old habit returned.

After taking a deep breath, she knocked on Master Marcus's door.

"Come in!"

She hesitated only for a moment before turning the knob and entering.

He moved aside a document and laid his pen on top of the page. "Come in and close the door behind you."

He'd phrased it as order, not an invitation.

After following his instructions, she crossed the hardwood floor toward his desk, suddenly unsure how to behave. She'd been here two years, and she'd worked with Master Marcus almost every day. He'd told her during her last review that he was pleased with her performance, but that was before she'd started faking it.

Master Marcus hadn't invited her to sit, and he hadn't instructed her to kneel, so she stood there, her hands folded at the small of her back, waiting.

He didn't stand, and she struggled not to squirm beneath his direct appraisal. She hadn't been this uncertain since the day she'd interviewed for the job.

He folded his hands behind his neck and leaned back in his leather chair.

Rules of decorum dictated that she didn't speak first. But this wasn't a scene. And she was nervous. "Yes, Sir?"

"Sit," he instructed.

Two chairs faced his desk. His framed business degree hung from the wall. A decorator-inspired silver vase sat on top of a credenza.

The space could belong to a banker, lawyer, or oil executive in a downtown Denver skyscraper. On her first visit, it had shocked her that this professional-looking office was in a BDSM club in a renovated Lower Downtown warehouse.

The room seemed to radiate its own energy, as if it had been branded by masculine power. And she was enough of a natural sub to find it intoxicatingly arousing.

She sat on the sleek modern chair, the metal cool against her bare skin. She kept her back straight and crossed her legs. She tugged on the hem of her skirt in a futile effort not to reveal bare skin, and then she finally sighed and folded her hands in her lap.


The man missed nothing. "Yes, Sir."

"Tell me what's going on, Alani."

"I'm not sure I understand the question, Sir." Stalling was always a good tactic.

"I told you to meet me in five minutes." He glanced at the wall clock. "It's been closer to fifteen."

"There was a patron in the dressing room. It was her first visit to the club, and she thought she wanted her boyfriend to spank her until he actually did. She didn't handle it well. I thought you would want me to stay with her until I could get her calm enough to turn over to a monitor. I apologize for being late, Sir."

He nodded. "You did the right thing."

"Thank you, Sir."

He allowed the time to drag, and each moment made her stomach tighten. Stalling was fine if she did it, not so great if someone else were doing it, she realized.

"Master Nathaniel has been to see me."

There'd been no reason to tell on her. "Even before he came to see me, I'd been planning to have this discussion with you."

She lowered her gaze. "I'm sorry I've disappointed you, Sir."

"I know Master Richard can be a pompous ass. But you've had scenes together before without rolling your eyes and yawning."

Master Nathaniel had even seen her roll her eyes? Just how long had he been watching?

"We've had no complaints about your performance from your doms. But I've noticed your lack of attention. Until recently, you were our best professional sub." He leaned forward and dropped his hands to the desk. He looked at her intently. "I'll ask you again, and I expect an answer. What's going on, Alani?"

She forced herself to meet his gaze.

Master Marcus's jaw was set, and his brows were drawn together. Apparently he was angry, but he seemed more curious than anything.

"I love to be spanked and punished," she said. "But all of my transgressions have been fake."

"Until now," he said drily.

She thought for a moment he might be teasing. But his eyes contained a lethal amount of power, and he wasn't smiling.

While Master Marcus wasn't as tall as his two partners, he was broader, a testimony to his construction background and hours in the gym. His blond hair had been permanently streaked by the sun.

More than once she'd wished he weren't in a permanent, committed relationship. She'd participated in a few demonstrations with him on one of the club's stages, and she'd enjoyed every scene. He wielded a wicked crop, and his open-handed slaps to her butt took her breath away. But he made it clear to everyone that he was devoted to Karyn, his sub. He taught an occasional class, but he wasn't available for anything more.

He waited until she finally said, "I want it to be more serious than it is. I don't want to be the chambermaid who didn't polish the silver correctly or the vanilla girlfriend who flirted with another man at a party." She played with her hair.

"If you want to take a leave of absence, I have no objection," Master Marcus said. "Zones only employs the best, the most dedicated."

She winced. That used to be her.

"I want to make a couple of things clear. You would be welcome to return, with stipulations. You'd go through an abbreviated version of the training process."

Despite her best intentions, her shoulders slumped. Except for participating in scenes with one of the club's trainers, she'd hated the training process. For weeks, someone had followed her around constantly, making sure she followed the club's decorum.

"If you choose to return, you'll start as a regular employee, not a manager." He took a breath. "You're a valuable resource to us, Alani, and not just as a sub. Your financial acuity and the way you interact with other employees is a bonus. If you complete your sixty-day probation successfully, you'll be added to the management team again."

More than anything she loved being on the management team. During the day, she worked from home as a bookkeeper. Zones was a big part of her social life. She appreciated that her opinions were sought and listened to. She loved being part of the strategic planning. Knowing the team would be talking about her stung.

"The thing is, Alani," he said, his voice gentle and reassuring, "this isn't about the club or our clients. In the right mindset, you would have been able to get into a scene. A true sub, which I had thought you were, would have focused on pleasing her dom."

The words stung.

"Think about this situation from Master Richard's point of view. He specifically requested you. Because of his position in the media, he's not comfortable having a BDSM relationship made public, so he comes here. We respect his privacy; we give him a safe place to escape the pressures of being on camera. He pays his membership fee, and he's a generous tipper." He raised his brows, as if in question.

She nodded and shifted.

Master Marcus was right. She was making this all about herself.

"You're behaving as an employee, not a submissive."

"Is it possible to be a sub and want more?"

"Of course it is," he said. "Relationships and jobs end in the BDSM world just like they do everywhere else. What's at issue here is your mindset. You're not surrendering."

She'd screwed up by not talking to Master Marcus. She exhaled. She kept her hands folded in her lap so she didn't betray her nerves. "What next?"

"It's your choice. Time away from here for you to evaluate what you want is good. We can do it as a leave of absence. Or we can do it a more formal way. We can document your behavior, give you a verbal warning. You can take some vacation time if you want, clear your mind, see if it helps."

She'd had jobs all the way through high school and college. Never once had she received a reprimand of any sort. All of a sudden, the idea of being away from Zones terrified her. "So those are my only choices?" she asked. "I take a leave of absence and get retrained, or I get a verbal warning?"

"You'll be monitored and retrained, either way."

She wrung her hands together. Master Marcus had never been this inflexible before.

There was a knock at the door. Master Marcus called out, "Come in."

She resisted the impulse to turn around to see who'd entered.

"Ah, Master Nathaniel."

She squeezed her eyes closed. Bastard. Tattletale. She'd rather have a meeting with the devil.

"Since Master Nathaniel is home, he'll be running the club while Karyn and I are on vacation. I invited him to participate in this meeting."

The evening had gone from bad to disastrous. She could hardly think. "You're going on vacation, Sir?"

"I'm surprising Karyn with a trip to celebrate the two-year anniversary of her collaring. I wasn't sure it would work out until Master Nathaniel came home."

Master Marcus nodded purposefully, indicating she should greet Master Nathaniel.

Having no other choice, she turned to acknowledge him.

He regarded her before closing the door. He crossed the room to stand just behind Master Marcus. "Bring me up to speed."

She waited for Master Marcus to respond, but then saw both men were waiting on her. She swallowed. "You know what happened during my scene with Master Richard."

He folded his arms across his chest. "Explain it in your words."

Master Nathaniel went from nemesis to asshole. "I was having a scene with Master Richard. I wasn't into it, and you caught me yawning."

"And rolling your eyes. Twice."

She flushed.

"The yawn would have been forgivable if you were tired. It's the combination of behaviors that has me concerned."

She wasn't willing to concede anything to him. "At the moment, I'm deciding between a leave of absence or signing a verbal reprimand," she said in conclusion, noting the pieces of paper in the middle of the desk.

"And retraining," Master Marcus clarified. "Overseen by Master Nathaniel."

Even from halfway across the room, the man radiated leashed energy.

"I want to back up," Master Nathaniel said. "I want to know why, little sub, you allowed your attention to wander."

"Master Marcus and I have already discussed that."

He set his jaw.

Clearly she'd just made another error.

She remembered the powerful way he'd captured her chin and forced her attention back to the scene. He was tall, intense, commanding. Unaccountably, she was becoming aroused.

"I'd like a few minutes alone with Alani, if you don't mind," Master Nathaniel said.

Master Marcus turned to look at his partner.



What the hell? Alani cleared her throat. "Uhm..."

Both men ignored her.

Master Marcus stood.

Her heart thundered. She didn't want to be alone with Master Nathaniel. Not for one moment.

The door closed quietly behind Master Marcus. Suddenly it was just her and this terrifying man.

She told herself to run, hard, far, and fast. Her traitorous body refused to obey her brain's command. Part of her wanted this, wanted it with a hunger that bordered on desperation.

"When I ask a question, Alani, I expect an honest and quick answer. Am I clear?"

"Yes, Sir."

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