Part #2 of Lessons From the Rack series by Tara Sue Me
To my family.
If you know me, you know I’m not much of a plotter. That fact has never bothered me before, but halfway through writing this book, I started doubting if Lennox and Marie would have a Happily Ever After. Doubt can be a scary thing, but only if you let it get to you.
Thankfully, I’m surrounded by people who not only support me but remind me that books don’t get completed by worrying about them. You can only finish a book by sitting your butt in a chair and writing.
So thank you to both my cheerleaders and taskmasters. You know who you are.
Thank you to Mr. Sue Me, who understands my need to sometimes have my head in the clouds, and therefore keeps us both grounded.
And many thanks to my readers. Without you I’d be unemployed, and even on those days when doubt creeps in, I never forget that I have the Best. Job. Ever.
I saw him as soon as he walked into the room. How could I not? He was by far the hottest man at the party. The way he strolled in, with that swagger only the most confident men have. I’m sure if I had been able to look anywhere else except at him, I would have seen other women similarly obsessed. His dark hair, dark eyes, and that mouth? Hell, that wasn’t even taking into account his hot-as-hell, fuck-me-all-night body.
But when I had a chance to look at something else, it wasn’t to the other women, it was over to Marie, and then I knew I was in trouble. We’d never wanted the same thing before.
The one thing Mariela could count on to never let her down was dance. Dance was the one thing she could turn to and lean on when things were hard. The one thing guaranteed to make a day better or to take away all her stress. Through thick and thin, life’s ups and downs, it had always been her rock. Until today, when the rock crumbled.
She took a deep breath, moved into position, and jumped and turned in a coupé jeté en tournant. Finding her technique lacking, she repeated it again and again until, exhausted, she leaned against the barre and let a string of curses fly.
“Bad day?” someone asked from the hallway.
Mariela lifted her head and forced a smile at Andie Lincoln, RACK Academy’s newest chef. “You could say that.”
“In that case, I came just in time. Come with me, I need someone to try my icing and tell me if it sucks.”
Mariela pushed back from the barre and wiped the sweat from her forehead with a nearby towel. “Isn’t that what we have men for?”
“Yes. Well, that and sex. But Fulton always likes everything I make, and Lennox just kind of looks at me like I’ve grown a second head and says he doesn’t understand why I feel the need to improve upon perfection.” She tilted her head. “So now that I think about it, nah, that’s not what we have men for. We only have them here for sex.”
Mariela laughed, glad that Andie had shown up to drag her away from a disappointing ballet session. “Okay, let me clean up and I’ll be right there.”
“Just come like that. No one’s here yet.”
Mariela looked down at her leotard and tights. Not really dining room apparel, but then again the students for the fall session wouldn’t arrive for another week. She threw her towel back over the barre. “You’re right. What kind of icing are we talking about?”
Andie started chatting about buttercream versus cream cheese and, to be honest, Mariela zoned out a bit. Cooking and baking were not her things. That’s what chefs were for.
Andie pushed open the two wide wooden doors that led into the dining area. “Okay, go have a seat and I’ll bring the samples out to you.”
Mariela looked around the area and breathed a sigh of relief at finding there was no one else in the dining area. And by no one else, she meant the headmaster, Lennox MacLure. Other than Andie and Fulton, he was the one other person on the island that housed the academy. The other staff members would be arriving tomorrow.
Unfortunately, she hadn’t sat down for more than two minutes before Lennox walked through the door. She dropped her head and pretended to be horribly curious about the pulled thread on her tights.
She expected him to ignore her. After all, that’s what he did best. But even with her head down, she could sense him approach her.
“Marie,” he said, calling her by the nickname only he ever used.
She looked up and, like always, he took her breath away. Dark and dashing, as her best friend Winnie had described him. She had been right, with his black-as-sin hair and gray eyes, he looked like he belonged between the pages of a historical romance, starring as an evil pirate or maybe an unrepentant rake.
“Lennox,” she said, cringing because she knew her raspy voice gave her away.
“You are aware the dining hall has a dress code?”
She waited for him to smile and tell her it was a joke, that of course he wasn’t going to enforce the dress code when there were only four people on the island. But the smile didn’t come and neither did the hahaha, I’m just joking follow-up.
“What?” she finally asked.
“The dress code,” he snapped. “You’re in violation of it.”
“Oh my god. You’re serious.”
“We have rules and regulations for a reason.”
“Right, but since there are only four of us here . . .” She trailed off, assuming her intent would be clear.
“You thought you didn’t have to follow the rules?”
She couldn’t believe he was being such a dick over something so stupid. “Yes,” she said, just to goad him. “That’s it exactly. I figured since there were only four of us, you wouldn’t care if I wore a leotard and tights into the dining room. I mean, seriously, who do you think it will bother? Not Fulton or Andie. And you typically don’t give me the time of day. I could probably sit on your desk, buck naked, and you wouldn’t lift an eyebrow.”
“I would have thought by now you’d be well acquainted with the expectations I have of my employees.”
He knew just what to say to shut her down. There was little else he could have said that would cut as deeply as the unnecessary reminder that all she was to him was an employee.
“It’s my fault, Master MacLure,” Andie said, appearing with a tray in her hands. “She wanted to get cleaned up, and I told her it didn’t matter since there are only four of us here.”
Mariela stood up. “No, it was my fault. I knew better.”
She turned and walked out, not waiting for either of them to say anything.
• • •
LENNOX WATCHED MARIE walk away with a lump in his throat the entire time. Yes, he was an ass. He shouldn’t have reprimanded her for her casual attire, but hell, what was a man to do? She’d walked into the dining area in that dance outfit like it was nothing at all. How could she not know what the sight of those skintight clothes would do to him?
Hell, why did she think there was a rule that only street clothes could be worn in the dining hall? Technically, the rule stated no fetish wear was allowed, but that outfit she had on could in no way be considered street clothing.
Even though she’d left the room, he could still picture her perfectly. She was petite and he liked that about her. Liked that she was small and dainty compared to him. Fuck, what it did to the Dominant inside him to imagine her tiny body beneath him. How it would feel to take possession of her.
He clenched his fists as the image of her swam before his eyes. The outfit had left nothing to his imagination and even though he’d seen her naked before, to see her in dance attire like she’d worn today did nothing but mock him.
He pictured it all too clearly. Her lithe body, made strong by her dance routines. The muscles of her legs. How would they f
For he knew the rush that came with taking control of a submissive was only multiplied when her submission was coupled with a strength she had willingly laid aside. And he had no doubt that as small as she was in stature, Marie was a powerhouse. To be given her submission would mean to be gifted with the sweetest of all gifts.
Yet even though he knew how amazing it would be, he could not allow himself to take it. He knew she would give it to him. He’d known for a long time that he need only look at her and she’d be on her knees. But it was an offering he could not accept.
He no longer allowed himself to indulge in his Dominant nature. Ever. In fact, he’d buried it so deep within him and for so long, he wasn’t sure he could revive that part of him. What he did know was that he could not take the chance of finding out. The last time he’d freed that need within him, the results had been fatal. He could not take that risk again. Especially with Marie.
If the end result was she thought him a coldhearted bastard, so be it. He could live with her scorn. What he could not live with was the responsibility for another woman’s death.
“I feel as though I should apologize again, Sir,” Andie said, and he realized he’d been staring at the empty place Marie had been sitting for several seconds. “But I’m not exactly sure what for.”
“Has Andie been causing trouble again?” her Dom and one of his Master Professors asked, coming up behind her. “Do I need to take her over my knee?”
Lennox smiled as Fulton’s arms came around his submissive, even as she swatted at him in mock outrage.
“What’s this about again?” she asked. “When have I ever caused trouble?”
Fulton dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “The correct question is, when have you not caused trouble?”
Andie crossed her arms. “Mpph. I didn’t know I caused you so many problems, Sir.”
“You’re putting words in my mouth, Andie. I didn’t say problems, I said trouble.”
“Pretty much the same thing.”
“Hey look,” Fulton said, obviously trying to change the subject. “Are those icing samples?”
Andie reached for the tray and held it out to him. “Yes. I was going to have Mariela help me decide which one tasted better.”
Fulton grabbed a spoon from the place setting already on the table and took a bite of each one. “Mmm, I don’t know. They’re both really good to me. Boss?”
Lennox dutifully took another spoon and tasted them. “These are both excellent, but so is the icing you’ve been using. Why mess with a good thing?”
Andie shook her head and mumbled under her breath while cleaning up. She gathered everything together and started for the kitchen without saying anything further.
“Andie?” Fulton asked as she walked away.
“Sex,” she called over her shoulder. “Just sex and nothing else.”
“What was that about?” Lennox asked Fulton as she left through the door that led to the kitchen.
“Damned if I know. I gave up trying to figure women out ages ago. It only gives you a headache.” Fulton scratched his head. “But she said ‘Sex and nothing else.’ That has to be good, right?”
“You would think.”
“Wish she’d have left some of that icing. Think I’ll go in the kitchen to see if I can get some more.”
Lennox snorted. “Good luck with that.”
• • •
AN HOUR LATER, Mariela had taken a shower and changed into her regular clothes. She wasn’t surprised when Andie knocked on the slightly open door of her office.
“Hey, girl,” she said, pushing the door open wider. “Come on in. Have a seat.”
“I’m so sorry about Lennox. I had no idea he’d throw such a fit.” Andie sat on the loveseat, tucking her legs underneath her.
Mariela sat beside her and waved her comment away. “Don’t worry about it. I’m used to it.”
Andie nodded. Mariela had shared most of her history with both Andie and Fulton when they’d stopped by her apartment a few weeks ago to show off Andie’s collar. Mariela had kept some of the story to herself. The new couple didn’t need to know everything.
Andie still didn’t seem convinced. She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter if you’re used to it. He was a total ass to you. Seriously, would he have said anything to anyone else if they’d come into the dining hall dressed like you are, with only four people on the island?”
“Seeing as how you’re the only one of the remaining three who could possibly even fit into a leotard or tights, I’d say he probably wouldn’t have said anything. Though Fulton is a definite. If he showed up in my outfit, I know Lennox would say something.”
Andie reached out and touched her shoulder. “Let’s take a minute to imagine Fulton in a leotard and tights.”
“Pink?” Mariela asked.
“Is there any other color?”
They giggled for a few minutes over the idea of Fulton in a pink ballet outfit. Andie looked over to the barre.
“Did you ask for Lennox to install that for you?” she asked.
“No, he actually did that on his own, believe it or not.”
“I believe it. I think he cares more than he lets on.”
Mariela shook her head. “It doesn’t matter if he cares or not. What’s he going to do about it? Even if he were to come to me and confess his undying love—and I know hell would freeze over before that happened—he won’t be whole until he admits he’s a Dom as well as a man.” She sighed. “And I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.”
It had been three years since Winnie’s death. Three years. She had thought he would have returned to the lifestyle long before now. Yet outside of establishing the BDSM academy, he didn’t seem to have taken any steps in that direction. She couldn’t understand how he could ignore that part of himself, especially since he was surrounded by it daily.
“Do you know, I don’t think you’ve ever told me how you and Lennox first met,” Andie said.
“The first time I was actually introduced to him was at the dinner party where he first met Winnie.” She remembered that day so vividly. Standing there beside Winnie and being introduced to him. Finally, she had thought, she could meet the man she had wondered about for so long. But of course, he only had eyes for Winnie.
“But you knew who he was before then, right?” Andie asked.
“Yes.” She hesitated for a minute, waiting to see if Andie wanted more information.
“Come on,” Andie finally said. “I know there’s more to it than that. Tell me all about it.”
Mariela took a deep breath and let her mind wander down the paths of her memory. Paths that she had not traveled down in quite some time.
“I first noticed him at a play party,” she started. “It was a new group for me and I didn’t know very many people. He was there. I wish you could’ve seen him then. How he was before he pulled back from the lifestyle. He was doing a demo scene and he was magnificent.”
She could still remember how he stood there without his shirt on. Could still picture the way his muscles moved as he worked with a submissive. He had been a sight to behold.
“Of course, I asked who he was. I was told that Master MacLure was the club’s most eligible Dom. Intelligent, good-looking, wealthy, and one hell of a Dominant. All the subs wanted him. Male and female. I think I spent the entire night watching him do one thing or the other.”
“How long was this before the dinner party where you were introduced to him?”
“Six months maybe?” She tilted her head to the side as she tried to think back. “I went to every play party after that first one. Just hoping to get a good look at him. He went to several of the meetings, but never with the same submissive. Oh no. Not Lennox. He had his choice of partners vying for his attention. I guess he probably would today as well.”
Headmaster by Tara Sue Me / Romance & Love have rating 4.1 out of 5 / Based on45 votes