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       Bound, p.26

         Part #1 of Mastered series by Lorelei James

  job. A rough blow job since the guy was slamming his hips and fucking her face, while another guy stood behind them, his dick in his hand as he jacked off.

  They continued down the hallway. Before they reached the next stall, she asked Knox, “The rules here are anyone can participate? Is there a hierarchy? Are the members singles or couples?”

  “There are single submissives and single Dominants. A single submissive not paired with a Dominant is fair game, which is what submissives want. They negotiate what happens between them. It’s all consensual. Some members come here to swap partners. Some couples join to use the equipment and indulge in themed rooms. Others join because they’re exhibitionists or voyeurs. There are as many different reasons for belonging to the club as there are types of people who belong.”

  Amery nodded. She couldn’t imagine dropping to her knees and giving her lover a blow job in public because he demanded it. In private? When Ronin commanded her to do something, it was sexy and thrilling because she knew she’d affected him deeply enough to earn that demand. Made it sweeter and hotter because it was just between them.

  The next stall had chains dangling from the ceiling and O-rings embedded into the floor. She thought it was odd that it was unused until she saw the RESERVED sign.

  When Knox said, “Are you ready to go upstairs?” in her ear, she jumped.

  “Uh. Sure. I don’t suppose there’s a real bar around here?”

  “’Fraid not. No alcohol on the premises.”

  So all these people acting this obscene way were completely sober.

  Don’t do that. Don’t judge them. Not your life, not your business.

  But part of her worried about what Ronin might expect from her. Maybe the reason such a hot, sexy, intense guy like Ronin was still single at thirty-eight was that he had kinky tastes that most women couldn’t handle.

  Very scary thought.

  They stopped by the elevator and Knox stepped in front of her, blocking her from view.

  She looked up at him. “What?”

  “You need to lose the scowl.”

  “I’m scowling?”

  “And looking disgusted, which doesn’t go over well here as you can imagine.”

  Amery inhaled a deep breath and let it out. “I don’t think I can do this, Knox.”

  “Can’t do what?”

  “Any of this stuff. Maybe I am a prude. But I don’t ever see myself getting fucked on a pool table in front of a bunch of strangers. I’d be crying for real if I was tied up and being whipped. I’m not saying it’s dirty or bad or wrong, it just isn’t me.”

  Knox looked confused. “Why did you think it had to be?”

  “Ronin is a member. And doesn’t that mean . . . ?”

  “You’re here to learn, Amery. Ronin has asked that you watch the demo and then talk to him about it. That’s the only thing you need to concern yourself with tonight.”

  So Knox hadn’t denied Ronin participated in scenes like those—but he hadn’t confirmed it either.

  “Come on,” Knox said. “The room has probably started filling up.”

  The cavernous room had a stage on one end, complete with billowing curtains. A lone chair sat close to the stage, with other chairs in a semicircle behind it. People were spread out against the back wall for the best vantage point. Conversation was hushed. The vibe was different in here than the other scenes. No props decorated the stage.

  Knox pointed to the chair. “You’ll be front and center.”

  “But I don’t want to sit in the front. I’d rather be in the back so I’m not a distraction.” She paused. “Not that he’d be distracted by me, but why take the chance?”

  “Because that’s how Ronin set it up and where he expects you to be.”

  Feeling conspicuous, Amery sank into the chair. Knox stood beside her and scanned the crowd. When the lights dimmed he squeezed her shoulder and disappeared.

  She awaited the dramatic flair that would announce Ronin’s entrance: smoke machines, swirling colored lights, epic music. Everything went dark except for the stage.

  Here we go.

  A woman wearing a white robe entered stage right. She didn’t drop to her knees. She stopped and kept her head bowed as she waited.

  When Ronin moved across the stage, Amery could feel the energy crackling from him. He wore white gi pants and a white tunic that set off his coloring to perfection. Were his eyes warm like topaz? Or that molten color of blackstrap molasses that indicated his arousal?

  Ronin dropped coils of rope at the woman’s feet. Then he swept her long brown hair aside and murmured in her ear.

  Goose bumps cascaded down Amery’s skin. She knew exactly how it felt to have Ronin’s warm lips in that spot. How his deep voice seemed to burrow beneath her skin.

  Then Ronin pulled the silk sash from the robe and folded it in half, using it to secure the woman’s hair. She kept her head bowed. Ronin slipped his fingers beneath the collar of the robe, pushing it off her shoulders. The satin material caught in the bends of her elbows before he straightened her arms and the robe pooled on the floor.

  The woman was naked. Her thighs were a bit heavy, her arms thin. Her belly pouched out. She had several tattoos on her arms and a flower above her pendulous breasts. An enormous bright blue bird of some kind decorated the outside of her right thigh from her outer knee to her hip. Everything else about her was ordinary.

  Why did Amery feel the need to scrutinize this woman’s body?

  Because Ronin’s hands would be all over it. She had to convince herself this woman was nothing special. Just a random model plucked out of this club specifically for this purpose.

  So why did the woman’s head fall back when Ronin spoke to her? That’s when Amery suspected this woman was no stranger to Ronin’s touch. She knew exactly what was coming.

  A jealousy that she’d never experienced rocketed through her.

  Then her lover was running his hands down the woman’s chest. Cupping the weight of her breasts in his palms and moving south to map the curves of her hips. He reached for the coil of rope and retreated to stand behind her.

  The rope Ronin used was vivid blue. First he turned her so her back was to the audience, allowing everyone to see how expertly he immobilized her wrists after pinning her forearms together. Then he faced her forward.

  Amery watched Ronin winding the rope, his fingers connecting with the woman’s skin on every pass. She felt the gentle scrape of his calluses. When he circled the next section of rope around the women’s midsection, Amery’s abdomen contracted as he wound it tighter. Then he crossed the ropes over the model’s breasts, compressing the flesh, and Amery felt the air leaving her lungs as he pulled the ropes almost to the point of pain.

  All eyes were focused on the woman. Her body decorated with crisscrossing ropes and knots, her rapid breathing, sweat shining across her chest.

  Just for an instant it wasn’t some nameless woman onstage. When she lifted her head, Amery saw her own face.


  THEN Ronin spoke to the audience. “Feel free to take a closer look at this shibari technique called ‘zigzag.’ The model has consented to be touched as you examine the tying techniques.”

  Holy shit. The woman had agreed to let strangers touch her without restriction?

  “No questions directed to me, please. Admire the beauty of the canvas and not the painter.” Then he disappeared into the shadows.

  The crowd swarmed the woman. The last thing Amery saw was an expression of bliss on the woman’s face as she gave herself over to the touch of hands.

  Knox crouched in front of Amery. “Don’t you want to look?”

  She shook her head.

  “Why not?”

  Don’t tell him. She let her hair fall over her face, hoping it hid her blush.

  “Amery. This is an important part of who Ronin is. That’s why you’re here. Don’t you want to witness his mastery?”

  She lifted her head and wished she was
confessing this to Ronin. “No. I don’t want to see Ronin’s mastery with erotic bondage on her body. I want to see it on mine.”

  Knox’s eyes searched hers. “Tell him that. There’s an unmarked dressing room at the end of the hall. He’ll be in there after this.”

  The crowd returned to their seats instead of exiting the room. Wasn’t this over?

  Ronin returned to the stage.

  Apparently not.

  Amery watched Ronin untie the woman’s hands. Speaking to her in a low tone. Caressing her. How she hated to see Ronin’s hands on that woman because she knew exactly how wonderful it felt to have his hands on her.

  He removed the ropes.

  Someone behind Amery said, “What’s going on?”

  Another voice answered, “He’s dragging this out as he unties her and reties her differently. Then he’ll fuck her.”

  Was this what Ronin had been doing the Saturday nights he’d been unavailable to her? Demonstrating his rope skills on women and then his skills as a dominant lover?

  Her entire body seized up with shame. She’d trusted him. She’d had sex with him without a condom, for God’s sake.

  Then Amery shut out the judgmental voice that’d been with her since childhood, reminding herself not to jump to conclusions.

  She refocused on the stage as Ronin created a new rope configuration on the woman’s lower half. Smoothing his fingertips along the rope lining her belly and hips. He crafted knots that ran in a straight line down her abdomen, across her hips, over her mound, and between her legs.

  But Ronin’s hand didn’t drop over the woman’s pussy. He tugged on the remaining rope as he instructed her. She turned around and spread her legs, showing everyone the rope work that framed her pussy and her anus, but left her completely accessible.

  And Amery felt an entirely different type of jealousy. What would it be like to be that free and accepting of your own sexuality and your body? Not only in private, but in public as well?

  “This kinbaku technique is called ‘exposing the cherry.’” Ronin affectionately ran his hand down the woman’s spine. He bowed to her and then to the audience. He nodded to Knox, who quickly joined him onstage.

  Knox returned the bow and then lightly slapped the woman’s ass cheeks. She gasped in surprise.

  The anticipation in the room increased. Especially when Knox hauled her upright and began kissing her nipples and fondling her breasts while his free hand pulled on the crotch harness, dragging the knot across her clitoris.

  Amery tried to wrap her head around what she was seeing. When Knox directed the woman to unzip his fly and pushed her to her knees, she fled.

  People had started to exit the demonstration room by the time Amery realized she’d zoned out in the middle of the hallway—afraid to go forward or back.

  Then she spied the unmarked door at the end of the hallway. After she reached it, she paused, unsure if she should knock or just go in.

  Quit being a chickenshit. He’s expecting you.

  She turned the handle and stepped inside the room.

  Ronin’s broad back was to her. He’d taken a shower since the familiar scent of his soap hung in the humid air and he’d changed clothes. He was so lost in thought he didn’t turn around until she clicked the door shut.


  Her name sounded beautiful coming from his sinful lips—almost like a benediction. Should she go to him? Her feet wanted to move but her brain screamed at her to be cool, to make him come to her. She’d already taken the first step by showing up at Twisted tonight.

  Ronin combed his fingers through his damp hair. “I’m glad you came.”

  “Me too.”

  “Are you okay?”

  “No. I’m so not okay right now, Ronin. Not at all.” Despite her efforts to stay calm, she began to shake.

  He crossed the room and crushed her to his chest. “Baby. Stop. Just breathe. You’re here now. That’s all that matters.”

  She closed her eyes and clung to him. “Is it really?”

  “Yes.” He whispered, “I’ve missed you,” into her hair.

  “I missed you too.” Amery dug her fingers into the hard muscles of his back and burrowed deeper into the spot between his chest and chin that her head fit into perfectly.

  After several glorious minutes of being in his arms, Ronin tipped her head back. “I know we need to talk. But first I need this.” His mouth came down on hers. Kissing her as if he might never get another chance.

  Amery basked in the passion that ignited between them. Every kiss, every touch was filled with heat and promise.

  “Come home with me,” he murmured. “We’ll talk all night and all day tomorrow if you want.” He pressed soft kisses down the side of her neck. “Please. I’m dying for you.”


  Ronin slowly released her. “Let’s get out of here.”

  Amery scarcely remembered leaving the club. She wasn’t sure they spoke at all during the drive to his place.

  Upon reaching his penthouse, she kicked off her shoes and Ronin reached for her. He traced the edge of the cotton material to the V of her cleavage. “I like you in my shirt.”

  “I’m a little low on sex club wear. And I should change.”

  “Don’t. You look great.” He took her hand and led her into the living room.

  Amery sat on one end of the couch, facing the opposite end, with her feet in the middle cushion, putting some distance between them.

  Ronin mimicked her position, but he immediately grabbed her foot and set it on the inside of his thigh. His fingers swept over her ankle bone and the back of her calf in a continual arc.

  The man’s face gave nothing away, so the fact that he needed to touch her to establish a physical connection allowed her to relax. “I’m so sorry for the shitty things I said to you last Saturday.”

  “I know you are.”

  “Can you forgive me or will my knee-jerk reaction always be a sticking point between us?” When he didn’t immediately respond, another thing occurred to her. “I’m not the first woman to react that way, am I?”

  “No. You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson. Or at least learned to have better timing.”

  “Why did you pick Saturday night?”

  Ronin’s dark eyes bored into hers. “Because you told me no boundaries and I ran with it.”

  She had tossed that out. Why had she been so shocked he’d taken her bold words at face value?

  Because you’re never reckless and you expected civility from a man who deals in violence.

  “In retrospect . . .” He shook his head. “Just ask me the questions I see in your eyes.”

  Unsure on how to phrase her question or issue or whatever the hell it was, Amery focused on her ragged cuticles.

  But Ronin didn’t allow it. He moved closer. His warm fingers slid below her chin and he tilted her face up. “Don’t be shy with me, Amery.”

  “Why didn’t you tell me about the rope stuff from the start? If it isn’t a hobby and it’s part of who you are?”

  “I’ve hidden a lot from you. I don’t blame you for wanting to get away from me.”

  Amery watched as his features softened. And dammit, the vulnerable side of him softened something inside her.

  “I’ve been training in martial arts every day for as long as I can remember. And by training, I don’t only mean the physical side, but the psychological aspect, the spiritual aspect, and the
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