The edge of dominance, p.34
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       The Edge of Dominance, p.34
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         Part #4 of The Doms of Her Life series by Shayla Black

  jockeying with a billion people for the same inch of sidewalk.”

  “I’ve only seen pictures of New York. It looks frenetic.”

  “I like it better now that I’m an adult. But it will never be home for me again.”

  Too many bad memories. She understood that. Same reason she’d never step foot into the Kendall house ever again.

  “When I was thirteen, they sent me away to Phillips Exeter Academy. I thought I was escaping my hellhole of a house. Prep school was supposed to equip me for Harvard but…god, I hated that fucking place. It made me feel even more like I had no control over my own life.”

  So he’d chosen an adulthood and a kink that allowed him not only to control most everything but to be master of all he surveyed. “I understand.”

  “Not yet. I’m just scratching the surface.” He blew out a breath as if trying to decide where and how to continue. “Growing up bored and resenting my parents’ freedoms while I was stuck in school, I had this stupid, rebellious dream of being a rock star. I was going to be the next Kurt Cobain.” He laughed. “I knew every note on every Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Nine Inch Nails CD. I guilted my folks into buying me an electric guitar and amp one Christmas. They gave me a Fender Stratocaster—not because they believed in me, just to shut me up. I played the fuck out of that thing, full blast, whenever they were home.”

  Raine frowned. “Did they cuss you out? Ground you?”

  Hammer shook his head. “They just soundproofed my room, shut the door, and left for Rio. It was time for Carnival, after all.”

  The bitter edge to his words made her angry on his behalf. What kind of parents took so little interest in their own son? She didn’t ask if he and his dad ever played ball or if his mother baked him cookies. Clearly not. He’d grown up solitary, used to swallowing down his emotions.

  That was only just beginning to change.

  “I’m sorry. At least I had my mother until I was nine. And my grandparents before her. I knew they loved me unconditionally. Who loved you?”

  “Until you and Liam? No one.”

  Not even Juliet? Raine wanted to ask but sensed he’d get to that part of the story when he was ready.

  He swallowed, not quite meeting her gaze. “We spent summers in The Hamptons. Well, I spent summers there. My parents were…wherever. But I loved the beach—the breeze, the salty brine, the warm sand between my toes. Everything about that twenties Tuscan-style house just felt alive. It was sturdy, had character. At the end of every summer, I hated to leave and go back to that stuffy-ass school in New Hampshire.

  “The summer I was fifteen changed everything. It certainly changed me. I don’t know whether it was for the worst turn of events or simply inevitable.” He shrugged. “My parents announced one night at dinner—a miracle they were there in the first place—that they were going on a philanthropic quest in Africa. That was their fancy way of saying they were going on safari and dropping a lot of cash on the locals for booze and sightseeing. I wanted to go but it wasn’t ‘safe.’ That translated to I’d simply be in their way. Besides, I needed to brush up on my French. The A minus I’d gotten the previous semester wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to get into Harvard, and my French nanny, Linnet, was staying over the summer to tutor me. Tom, our chauffeur, would teach me archery and improve my swimming because good extracurricular activities were so important on a college application,” he mocked.

  “You were crushed,” she said softly, hurting for him again.

  “Yeah. And I was pissed off. The last thing I wanted was to spend the summer being looked after by a nanny I was way too old to need, especially one I’d had a secret crush on for years. Or hauled around by the beefy chauffeur Linnet constantly stared at like he was a fucking god. I certainly didn’t want our housekeeper, Martha, who was older than Jesus and deaf as driftwood, poking around in my business. I’d spent a small fortune on contraband Playboy magazines at prep school and didn’t want her confiscating a single issue.”

  She could picture him young, with a chip on his shoulder, walling himself off from everyone, taking solace with naked women who would never love him in return. “That summer set up a pattern that lasted for years.”

  “Damn near two decades, and you have no idea.” He let out a rough breath. “I’m not going to lie. Now it gets hard.”

  Raine rose to sit in the chair directly beside him so she could cup his face. “I know the man you are today. I know the kind of unflinching care you’ve shown me since you took me in. Something that happened twenty years ago won’t change anything for me.”

  Her words seemed to set him at ease. “Thanks, precious.”

  He’d needed that, and Raine was happy she could give him the love and adoration he hadn’t received as a child. “Go on.”

  “With my tender fifteen-year-old feelings duly crushed, I tossed my napkin onto the dinner table, purposely scraped the legs of my chair across my mother’s antique hardwoods, and tore out of the house. I ran down the beach until I saw a light coming from the pool house. Neither of my parents ever swam, but Linnet liked it, and I had recurring visions of her skinny-dipping for me.” He snorted. “When I peered through the window where the blind was partially raised, she was in there, all right. She was naked, too. But Tom, our brawny, quiet chauffeur had her spread, tied down at her wrists and ankles with ropes attached to eyebolts along the back wall. He wore nothing but leather and held a nasty crop.”

  Raine’s breath caught in her chest. “You watched them?”

  “Fuck yeah. There was my sexy nanny playing out one of my dirtiest secret fantasies. In my inexperienced head, it was so twisted I didn’t even have a name for what they were doing. But I wanted to learn.”

  “What did he do to her?”

  “What didn’t he do?” Hammer gazed out the window, over their backyard. But he was far away, as if he’d gone back to that summer. “Linnet liked pain, and Tom didn’t hesitate to give it to her. When I first found them, he was raining blows on her nipples with that crop. They were purple, and he showed no sign of stopping. He fondled her pussy, bringing her to the brink over and over…” He shook his head. “My cock was throbbing so damn hard. I pulled it from my shorts, fisted it a couple of times, and lost my load faster than I ever had looking at a magazine. But the second Tom plucked her abused nipples and had to press his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams, I got hard once more. When he attached clothespins and started in with the crop again, Linnet cried such pretty tears. And god, the begging… I could hear her through the walls. I imagined she was crying out for me. I came a second time, just as hard as the first. But my damn cock still wouldn’t go down.”

  “Macen…” Certainly, he wasn’t still suffering unrequited love for this woman. And he shouldn’t be ashamed that he’d liked what he’d seen. “You were fifteen and—”

  “Too damn curious. Tom untied her and forced her to her knees with a fist in her hair. She sucked his cock until her cheeks went concave and he’d buried every inch down her throat. Watching them, I came so hard a third time I got dizzy.” Hammer pressed his lips together tightly, still looking out at the wind rustling the palms around their pool. “Even after Tom filled her mouth and she swallowed every drop, they weren’t done. Neither was I.”

  And didn’t he sound…bitter? Self-deprecating? Something Raine didn’t like.

  “He tore off the clothespins, bent Linnet over the bar, and whipped her ass with the crop. Jesus, that turned me on again. I was nearly dehydrated, but I couldn’t stop pumping myself. When he lubed up his fingers and shoved them inside her ass, I heard Linnet moan through the glass for more. Tom was talking to her, but I didn’t know what he was saying. She just nodded and pleaded some more until he aligned the head of his cock against her little rim and inched his dick inside her. Watching them, I came so hard that time I growled.”

  Surprise pinged Raine. “They heard you?”

  “Tom did. He snapped his head toward the window just as I finished sprayi
ng the ground. But he didn’t do or say anything, just fucked her ass hard. When he came inside her, I climaxed again, but there was nothing left in my balls.”

  “So…that started you on the path to BDSM?” The pair had been irresponsible to play where a minor could see, but if Macen was thinking that witnessing them once had warped his head forever, she was going to set him straight.

  He gave her a noncommittal shrug. “The next day, I could barely piss without screaming, but wasn’t going to let what I’d seen go. So I found Tom alone in the garage and demanded to know what he’d done to Linnet in the pool house. He spent the next several hours explaining BDSM to me. He took me step by step through their dynamics. He was her Master. Linnet was his slave. Any desire he had, she fulfilled. It was an intoxicating thought, to get whatever you wanted—no questions asked—simply because you wanted it.”

  “To a kid who’d never had any affection, I’m sure.” Raine wanted to reach for him but sensed he wasn’t ready to return from his trip down memory lane yet, so she waited. “Tom mentored you?”

  “You could say that. I blackmailed him. Tom agreed to teach me if I swore I’d never tell my parents about their kink. So that summer he taught me how to make my nanny kneel and be a good girl for me.” He scoffed at himself. “The first time I ever had sex, I’d tied Linnet to my parents’ bed. Tom buried himself in her ass and whispered in my ear exactly how to get her off, how to last. And for weeks, the three of us locked ourselves away from dusk to dawn. They made it their mission in life to teach me everything, especially how to fuck harder, faster, better, longer—in every way known to man. In return, I had Linnet’s power almost completely at my disposal. It was so fucking potent, staggering. I’d never had a drop of booze, but I knew what it meant to be drunk.”

  Raine hurt for Macen. He wasn’t the pedophile. They were. He’d been a kid, ripe for their picking. He might have been a hormonal teenager and thought he wanted all that, but had he really been ready? Mature enough to deal with the fallout? How much had their abuse cost him? “Then what happened?”

  “I went back to school a changed man.” His tone was harsh, disparaging. “I still made great grades because my parents expected it, but puberty had set in with a vengeance. I shot up, grew a beard, met a guy who made fake IDs. So for a couple hundred bucks, I was in business. The dance clubs in Boston were rich with women who fell easy for charm, money, and a hint of Dominance. I was going home with women ten or fifteen years older than me, tying them up, spanking their asses, and fucking them blind before I was a junior in high school. And every summer, I had Tom and Linnet and a lot more kink to look forward to.”

  Raine’s mouth gaped open. “That continued?”

  “For three years. Summers, holidays…oh, yeah. The Christmas I was sixteen, we fucked so much I thought my cock was going to fall off. I went back to school limping.”

  “You were a child.” She blinked, stunned, weirdly wanting to hug him and soothe him and heal him all at once.

  “Yeah, with more experience than most grown men.” He raised a brow. “Anyway, before I knew it, I was packing up and heading to Harvard. My parents gave Linnet a hefty bonus for putting up with their ‘demanding child,’ then let her go. Tom soon gave his notice, and the two of them took off. I don’t even know where. They left without a single word. I thought I belonged with them, but…”

  Raine’s heart twisted for him. They’d crushed Macen, whether they’d meant to or not. “Were you in love with her?”

  “No. But we were bound by our ‘dirty little secret.’ No one else understood me quite so well, and I just never saw it ending.” He sighed. “I was wrong. So after licking my wounds, I conquered as many subs as I could find to give me that exhilarating power. It fed the need inside me…but I could never really sate it. Something was always missing.”

  And Raine could just guess what happened next. A little bit of math told her that Macen had married young. She’d always found that at odds with the confirmed bachelor and manwhore she knew. “Enter Juliet?”

  “Not quite. As I was starting my second year of Harvard, my parents flew to Barcelona for La Mercè, another giant street party. Anyway, they were standing on the balcony of their hotel room, watching the festivities, when the terrace collapsed and they fell to their deaths. I had to fly to Spain and identify their bodies, then make arrangements for them to be flown back home, plan the funeral, meet with my parents’ lawyers, and settle their estate. It was grueling and confusing and extremely frustrating. The first thing I did was sell that fucking prison on Park Avenue. The house in The Hamptons—with all those memories—wasn’t far behind.”

  “Oh, Macen.” She teared up for him. The loss of the people who had given him life and should have loved him must have been tough. He probably hadn’t expected grief but felt it anyway and hadn’t been equipped to understand. She wanted to touch him so badly, but he still had more to say. “I’m sorry. You didn’t have anyone to help you through that. You deserved better.”

  “They were who they were. I was nineteen and financially set for life, so that was something… It wasn’t like I was suddenly alone for the first time.”

  “You’d always been alone,” she whispered.

  “Pretty much. I was clueless about what I wanted to do, except quit school. I’d gone to Harvard to please them, but now I didn’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations. So I went back to New York, bought an obscenely expensive apartment in Tribeca, and started hanging out at BDSM clubs. I spent my days working out at the gym and my nights working subs to orgasm. But after a while I got bored, so I enrolled in some music humanities courses at Columbia. That’s where I met Juliet.”

  Now Macen got quiet, pensive. “In retrospect, I think I was lonely and wanted family or permanence—something. So I thought I’d create that with Juliet. She was an art major but had to take some music courses to fulfill her undergrad requirements. We shared a class. Thanks to Tom’s tutelage, I recognized her submissive earmarks inside two minutes. So I turned on my charm and seduced her. Within three months, we’d quit Columbia, moved in together, and gotten engaged.” He gave a heavy sigh. “We fed each other’s worst tendencies.”

  “She didn’t have boundaries?”

  “Not many she’d speak aloud. And she wanted constant attention, which I was only too happy to give her as long as she surrendered all her power.” He laughed bitterly. “I thought that was love. A year later, we got married. Her mother despised me for being a controlling beast. The old woman didn’t know the half of it. The hold I had over Linnet was nothing compared to the complete and utter control I wielded with Juliet. She did nothing without my permission, not even put on a sock.”

  Raine pressed a hand over her mouth. The repercussions of his words rippled through her over and over. “She was your slave.”

  “In every way. I was the king of her fucking world, and she obeyed me almost without hesitation or question. In the middle of all that, I lost sight of my responsibility to guide and protect Juliet’s emotional welfare. The harder I pushed her, the more she surrendered. And the greedier I got.”

  “You hadn’t been taught to be any other sort of Dominant.” And he certainly hadn’t known what love was.

  “No, but I should have fucking figured it out somewhere along the way, you know? I didn’t, though. One night we were at a club called Graffiti. Juliet was watching Liam work a sub. I could tell he intrigued her. I’d been itching for a threesome for years. It was the one kink I hadn’t shared with Juliet. Suddenly, I was sure that ordering her to share my pussy with another man would prove just how much she was under my spell.” He huffed in self-disgust. “So I invited him to join us for a drink, then back to our place to top Juliet. It went well. The first time we took her together, it was like being fifteen again. The rush, the thrill, the mind-bending sensations… But it was better because I felt like I’d found the missing half of myself in Liam. We bonded like brothers instantly. Everything was great at first. Then…not so
much.”

  “He told me he wasn’t exclusive with you two.”

  Hammer shook his head, still peering out the window. “It didn’t take long before I suspected Juliet was falling in love with Liam. I knew he didn’t love her. He was too noble to let himself grow attached because she was my wife. I was still trying to figure out what the fuck I was going to do about that when, out of the blue, she swallowed a bottle of pills I didn’t even know she had a prescription for.”

  Raine took in his tense posture, the regret etched into his face, and she couldn’t help herself. She smoothed his hair back and leaned over to kiss his jaw. “The morning you walked out, after I balked at the bondage last week… Liam told me Juliet was pregnant. Don’t be angry with him. I wasn’t coping, and he knew I needed to understand—”

  “I’m glad. In fact, I’m grateful.” Hammer swallowed and closed his eyes. “I didn’t have the balls to tell you myself. I’m still terrified you’re going to look at me like I’m a monster.”

  “Macen, I would never—”

  “You should. I let Juliet down on every possible level as a husband and a Dom. I buried my wife and unborn child, packed up all my shit, and moved to Los Angeles within days. I didn’t even say good-bye to Liam. I couldn’t look him in the eye, knowing how horrifically I’d failed Juliet. His condemnation would have crushed me.”

  “Then you opened Shadows?” Raine hoped to direct him to happier times. He’d done so much good for so many people, and she wanted him to remember that.

  “Yeah. I should have walked away from the lifestyle completely but I couldn’t. Instead, I vowed never to take on another sub. Shadows would be my first priority. I wanted to make sure people had a safe place to play, where Doms would never be taught to feed off power like a parasite. When I opened, I literally had to turn people away and implement a waiting list. The club was an overnight sensation.”

  “It’s a great place. You’ve done right by the members.” She laid a gentle hand over his.

  “Yeah. There’s that. But I was a lousy human being. I would have cut Liam out of my life for good except…I never let go of my guilt. Just before the first anniversary of Juliet’s death, I grew a pair and called him. I told him I planned to come back to New York to visit her grave. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the man until I heard his voice. In fact, I missed him more than I did my late wife, which was another mindfuck.” He shook his head. “That first visit was awkward and bittersweet as hell. But Liam, with that fucking compassionate heart of his, stood by me at the cemetery as I mourned and piled on more guilt and withheld the truth about Juliet’s pregnancy. I didn’t want him to suffer.
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