The collar, p.1
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       The Collar, p.1

         Part #6 of Submissive series by Tara Sue Me  



  For those who wait with full hearts and empty arms.

  Acknowledgments

  Writing a book is largely a solitary occupation, but I don’t see how it’s possible for anyone to do completely alone. I knew when I first wrote Jeff and Dena together in Seduced By Fire that their story would hurt my heart. Fortunately, I had many people with me on the journey who gave of their time and talent.

  First of all, for everyone who has waited patiently for this story, thank you. It always humbled me to have you read my words. You’re my favorite.

  Raechel, thank you for taking the time to listen to my ideas and answering all my questions. You make me keep it real; I just wish we lived closer together. I wish all good things for you.

  Elle Mason, there were times I feared this book would never see the light of day, and you were always there to offer encouragement or listen to me rant. You have been indispensable, and I hope to one day return the favor.

  Cyndy Aleo, I think you read my first three chapters 4083 times. I don’t know if that’s enough to qualify you for sainthood, but it should be. This was the book that gave me the courage to trust my voice, and you were a big part of that. Thank you for never letting me get by with mere words on a page.

  Rebecca Grace Allen, I treasure the time we spent working out the wrinkles in this one and thank you for not letting me take the easy way out. Remember, if anyone asks, I’m just that awesome. The truth is our secret!

  Tonya and Lauren, the final version is so very different from what you first saw. You don’t know how much I appreciate your thoughts and insights.

  Eden Barber, your comments made Jeff and Dena better. I’m so very thankful you were there and willing to help.

  Claire Zion, thank you for believing in this story. I know I say it about every book, but THIS one’s my favorite. I really mean it this time.

  Steve Axelrod, thank you will never be enough. I wouldn’t be here without you.

  Mr. Sue Me, one day we’ll be reunited with our own two angels. If you get there before me, tell them I love them and never forgot. I’ll do the same for you.

  Prologue

  Abby

  New York City

  I stood in front of the large picture windows in our New York City penthouse bedroom and gazed outside. It was eleven at night and the outside lights illuminated the room. From behind the glass, everything appeared so peaceful and calm.

  Footsteps echoed in the hallway, and I turned to watch Nathaniel come in. I’d left him talking on the phone earlier. Probably that Charlene woman again.

  I was trying to trust my husband with his choice of employee, but it proved difficult when that employee clearly wanted a different sort of relationship. My fingers drifted to my neck, and I traced the platinum collar I wore. I smirked. Charlene could never even begin to imagine the type of relationship Nathaniel needed.

  Nathaniel cleared his throat and inclined his head slightly toward the center of the rug.

  Shit. I scurried to the middle of the floor and knelt.

  “You left,” he said. His voice held no judgment and he wasn’t angry, but I thought I heard a trace of disappointment in his words.

  “I wanted to give you privacy, Master.”

  “The call concerned you, so I would have preferred for you to remain. Next time you will wait for my dismissal before leaving.”

  The call concerned me? That meant it probably hadn’t been Charlene after all. “I’m sorry, Master.”

  “Nothing to apologize for. I didn’t give you any instruction regarding your behavior while I was on the phone.”

  I waited for him to explain how the call concerned me. Instead, he walked to me and held out his hand. Surprised, I let him help me to my feet and we went to sit on the bench at the foot of the bed.

  “It was Jeff on the phone,” he said.

  “Jeff Parks?” I asked. From Delaware? I wondered. Why would he be calling?

  “When we were in Delaware, you had a talk with Daniel’s submissive, Julie.”

  “Yes.” We’d actually talked twice: the night I met her at the cocktail party and days later, when I interviewed her for my blog, The Secret Life of a Submissive Wife. I’d typed up the interview notes a few days ago. I couldn’t imagine anything we chatted about being interesting enough for her Dom to ask Jeff to call mine.

  “Julie told Daniel that she wished their BDSM group had long-term couples like us.”

  “Ah.” Yes, I remembered that. I stroked his cheek, the skin scruffy under my fingertips. “She said we gave her hope for her relationship.”

  His eyes grew dark with longing and he leaned in close. “I would like nothing more than for us to be an example of a committed, long-term Dominant and submissive couple. Beating the odds. Staying together.”

  I tried to bring his head down so I could kiss him, but he didn’t budge.

  “Wait,” he whispered.

  I swallowed my sigh, trying not to show how impatient I was for him, but he saw right through me anyway.

  “In a minute,” he said. “Jeff wanted to invite us to their next group meeting and play party. He thought we could lead a discussion and do a demo scene.”

  We had just started meeting again with our own group, but that didn’t preclude us from meeting with another.

  He ran his fingers through my hair, and his lips brushed against my cheek, sparking my arousal. “Is that something you’re interested in?”

  “Yes,” I said, not even needing to think about it. “I really liked Julie and Daniel and Jeff. And you know I like doing demos.”

  He starting working on my buttons, undoing them one at a time until my shirt hung off my shoulders. “I’ll call him back and tell him we’ll be there.” He pushed the material of my bra aside, exposing a nipple, and I groaned as he gave it a slight pinch. “Later, though. Much, much later.”

  Chapter One

  Present day

  Jeff Parks knew it was taking all of Dena’s willpower not to look his way. And since he had once had that willpower bend to his command, he was well aware of the strength involved. On any other given night, he’d be using his own willpower not to stare, but in light of his recent decision—

  “Have you been listening to anything I’ve said in the last five minutes?” his friend and fellow Dom, Daniel, asked.

  Jeff looked back to the man standing at his side. It was late on a Thursday night and their local BDSM group meeting had just ended. No one was in a hurry to leave, though. Everyone wanted to stay around and talk with Nathaniel and Abby. At the moment, Nathaniel stood beside Daniel, grinning. The guest Dominant had led a discussion about keeping D/s relationships from getting stale. Considering the two scenes Jeff had participated in a few months ago with the married couple, staleness wasn’t an issue between Nathaniel and Abby.

  “Sorry. What?” Jeff asked Daniel.

  “Nothing important. Just going over plans for the play party tomorrow night.”

  “Your house at ten.”

  “At least you remember that part,” Daniel said in his not-quite-teasing voice.

  “I’ve got a lot on my mind.” He might as well go ahead and tell Daniel everything. He’d find out eventually and the two of them had been friends for long enough that he deserved to hear the news from Jeff himself. “I’m moving.”

  “You’re what?” Daniel asked in shock.

  “Why?” Nathaniel asked at the same time.

  Jeff’s gaze automatically found Dena again. She was talking with Abby and Julie. Daniel’s submissive must have said something funny, because Dena snorted with laughter, shaking her head. Her long blond hair swayed with the movement.

  “Ah,” Daniel said.

  “It’s not what you think.”

  Daniel cocked an eyebrow and crossed his arms. “Julie told me about watching you two play.”

  Jeff had imagined as much; in fact, he would have been more surprised if Julie had not told Daniel. That night, months ago, he and Dena had played for Julie while she was trying to decide if she could accept her submissive nature. Though that night had helped Daniel and Julie, for Jeff it’d served only as a catalyst for his decision to move. He gave a nod in reply.

  Daniel watched the two women. “It slips my mind sometimes. Your history with her.”

  “Nothing slips your mind.”

  Daniel tipped his head. “Does her work within the group bother you?”

  Dena was the most experienced submissive within their local group. As such, she was often called upon to participate in demonstrations. She also worked with Daniel and other senior Dominants when they had mentees.

  Jeff had uncollared her years ago, and he knew he no longer had the right or authority to dictate what she did and did not do with other Doms. He told everyone it didn’t bother him. The truth was, though, it did.

  But that was what he wanted, wasn’t it? Wasn’t that why he’d worked so hard to keep distance between them?

  “No,” he said in answer to Daniel’s question. “That’s not it. Her work here doesn’t bother me.”

  Jeff really didn’t want to talk about it. Months later and he still couldn’t forget that night. Having Dena kneel before him again, for her to offer herself for their mutual pleasure. To have her back in his house and arms. He wasn’t sure he could shake it off.

  Dena finally looked his way, saw him watching, and dropped her eyes. It hadn’t done her any good, either; odds were she was still dealing with her own memories of the night.

  Daniel, of course, noticed Dena’s slight response when she caught Jeff’s gaze. “How many times have you played since you two broke up?” Daniel asked.

  “Once. That time Julie watched.”

  “I see.”

  “Moving really doesn’t have anything to do with Dena.” He wondered if the lie sounded as wooden to Daniel as it did to him.

  “Of course it doesn’t.”

  Daniel didn’t say anything further, but instead kept his gaze on Jeff as if expecting him to confess everything. Had Jeff not used the same tactic himself numerous times before, it might have worked.

  “It doesn’t,” Jeff stated again. “We split up years ago. We weren’t right for each other. She’s high society and I’m a high school dropout, a loser.”

  “Bullshit,” Daniel said. “You’re a successful man with your own business. And you’re my friend.”

  “And mine,” Nathaniel echoed. “In fact, if you tried to tell me we couldn’t be friends because of something you did when you were sixteen, I’d kick your ass.”

  “It’s different. Besides, I’m moving to Colorado—at least for a while,” Jeff said. “I need to go help Dad with his business. He needs to retire, and he’s been asking me to help get everything in order.”

  Daniel’s laughter drew the attention of several group members. “Insurance? You?”

  Jeff’s father ran an insurance company he’d taken over from his own father. That Jeff wanted nothing to do with it had always been the bane of his dad’s existence. Jeff had opened his own business, a security service, eight years ago. It was a two-man operation, small, but profitable enough. They offered personal protection and also security services for other businesses.

  “It won’t be forever, just a few months. Tom said he could handle the business here.” His partner had actually been less than thrilled, but he’d realized he didn’t have a choice.

  “Hell, you’re serious,” Nathaniel said.

  Jeff just nodded once.

  “Have you told Dena?” Daniel finally asked.

  He resisted the urge to look at her. “No.”

  “I heard her father’s on the short list for vice president.”

  Dena’s father was a senator with career aspirations that reached to the White House. That, paired with Jeff’s past, had been part of what made him decide to break things off with Dena three years ago. He forced himself not to think of the other reasons.

  “From what I know of Senator Jenkins, he’ll get it.” Jeff wasn’t surprised at the bitterness in his voice.

  The two men looked at him sharply but seemed to sense his unwillingness to discuss the man in question. Jeff had come to terms with the senator a long time ago, but that didn’t mean he liked him or wanted to talk about him.

  “You’re still on to be dungeon monitor tomorrow night?” Daniel asked, changing the subject.

  “Yes. I’ll be there.” His last play party with the group. He wondered if Dena would be attending with anyone. Would his last sight of her be watching as she offered her submission to another? Maybe it would be better that way. If he knew she had someone to look after her, perhaps then he could somehow find the strength to leave her once and for all.

  Julie laughed at something Abby West said. Dena hadn’t been listening to the lively brunette submissive whose husband, and Dominant, had just finished leading a group discussion. Dena’s attention had been on the tiny piece of paper on the floor, because if she looked at it just so, she could see Jeff out of the corner of her eye. He was talking to Daniel and, from all appearances, trying very hard not to look her way.

  “So, Dena,” Abby said, making her abandon the paper on the floor. “What do you do?”

  “I’m a criminal prosecutor for the State of Delaware.”

  Most of the time when she told people what she did for a living, they looked surprised. Abby simply nodded as if that’s what she expected her to say.

  “That sounds like a challenge,” she replied.

  “It is, but I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.”

  Dena couldn’t help but notice that the entire time they talked, Abby was totally engaged in their conversation yet still fully aware of her Master on the other side of the room. Ready to move at either his command or perceived need.

  Dena had once served Jeff in a similar manner, and watching Abby was an almost painful reminder of what she had lost.

  “They’re looking over here again,” Julie said, leaning close to Dena. “Daniel not so much, but Jeff can’t keep his eyes off you.”

  “Stop,” Dena said, glancing at Abby, but once more the other woman appeared completely unsurprised.

  “I’m serious. He hasn’t stopped looking this way since the meeting ended.”

  “Probably because you keep looking at him.” Dena couldn’t help but smile at Julie’s liveliness. Her friend, the newly collared submissive of one of the group’s most senior Dominants, had certainly flourished following her collaring ceremony. If she was honest, most of the time Dena was happy for her, but sometimes it hurt her heart. It was all too easy to remember the heady feeling of belonging to the one you loved.

  “Jeff doesn’t even know I’m standing here. He’s too wrapped up in you.”

  “Let’s change the subject,” she said, not wanting to talk about things better left in the past. But a movement behind her caught her attention—was Jeff leaving?—and she couldn’t think of anything to change the subject to.

  “How are things with you and Daniel?” Abby asked Julie, apparently picking up on Dena’s inability to think about anything other than Jeff. “Not that I really need to ask. You both look blissfully in love.”

  As always, a smile lit up Julie’s expression at the mention of her Dom. “He’s asked me to move in with him.”

  That tidbit of information from Julie was enough to capture Dena’s attention. “Are you?”

 
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