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Embracing the Storm Chapter 1

Spencer

“Dex picked the kids up twenty minutes ago. He said that he and James were going to take them out to dinner as soon as James is off work. He also swore up and down that he’s happy to keep them until tomorrow afternoon. He doesn’t work on Saturdays anyway. So we’re free to go. Oh! I made dinner. I just need to take it out of the oven.” My husband’s words were so rushed I struggled following them, especially having just walked in the door from work.

I hadn’t even taken my coat off, but Grayson was so excited about heading to DASH—the BDSM club in Nashville—that night, that he’d nearly tripped over his tongue while he greeted me before rushing back to the kitchen without ever giving me a kiss. I put my bag down, hung up my coat, and took my shoes off, then headed toward the kitchen to find my husband.

He’d just taken a casserole out of the oven and was hurrying to the cabinet to get plates when I got there. He’d buzz around like a bee if I didn’t stop him, so as soon as he’d set the plates down I wrapped my arms around him. When I finally had him trapped in my embrace, I pressed my chest to his back and spoke quietly into his ear. “What do you want to do at the club tonight?”

Gray shrugged before giving me an uncharacteristically quiet response. “I don’t know, really.” I felt like he wasn’t telling me something, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Our Dom/sub relationship rarely left Dom And Sub Heaven, but there were times that I knew he wanted more, even if he didn’t seem to be able to vocalize it.

Since the last time we’d been to DASH, his submissive desire seemed to be stronger, but I couldn’t seem to tease what exactly it was out of him. The last time I’d asked him what he wanted to do for the evening, he’d given me a look I hadn’t been able to read, like he wanted to ask me something, but the words never came. It had taken me too long to realize he’d wanted me to suggest something, except I had no idea what that something was.

This time he seemed more nervous about going to DASH than excited and it had my senses on high alert. Gray was normally high energy and opinionated. He had an opinion on everything. It was one of the things that had drawn me to him when we’d first met at a club in Oregon nearly fifteen years earlier. He’d known exactly what he wanted, and for the night, he’d wanted me.

I’d gone home with him and, despite not meaning to, I’d spent the night. Apparently, three rounds with Gray in one night was enough to make me pass out and sleep better than I had in months, if not years. Well, wild sex and my pediatric residency that I’d been completing at the time. Either way, we’d both fallen asleep after round three, and I woke up eight hours later with his lips wrapped around my cock. We’d been inseparable ever since.

After so long together, we could usually finish each other’s thoughts, but tonight was different. Gray was nervous and anxious and was struggling to look me in the eyes. Was there something eating at him that I couldn’t figure out? “Do you want to stay home tonight?” I felt like I had to ask the question. I didn’t see how it could be that—he’d nearly tackled me at the door not even five minutes earlier. Then again, he’d always been a nervous talker.

Dark brown hair flopped about as he shook his head vigorously. “No, no. I really want to go. I just don’t know what I want to do. I don’t have a full plan. Do you mind if we play it by ear?” He asked the question then nibbled on his lip nervously. He was hiding something, and if I had to guess, there was something he wanted to try, but didn’t know how to ask me.

“Of course not, babe. I’m just looking forward to spending the evening with you.” I could deal with him taking the lead, though usually when he got wishy-washy about his opinions, it meant that he was ready to have me make choices.

I’d been surprised when Grayson had brought up the BDSM club a few years earlier, but in all honesty, we’d always dabbled in a little BDSM here or there, just not formally. Grayson identified more as a submissive, but didn’t seem to have any particular kink. Sometimes, he liked a spanking with my hand or a flogger. Other times he liked to kneel at my feet while I fed him dinner. There had even been a time a few months earlier when I’d given him a list of chores that needed to be done that day. I’d noticed a few hours in that he was hard as a rock, and by the time the list had been completed he’d been begging to cum.

I’d never had a problem with Gray wanting to try new things out or not settling on one particular kink. I simply liked knowing I was giving him what he needed at the time.

Watching Gray buzz with nervous energy, I thought about how I saw the night. Normally, if he got super antsy like this, he seemed to gravitate more toward letting everything go because he was overthinking something. With his work as a freelance writer, that happened often when work got crazy or he felt like things weren’t coming together the way he wanted them. Gray’s way of finding total silence in his mind usually involved him kneeling at my feet for a while.

Kneeling was something he’d do, even at home. It was so innocent that it was okay if the kids woke up or walked into the room—it just looked like he was resting his head against my thigh.

Given his mood that night, I was expecting a quiet night at DASH. Even if I’d had other plans—which I hadn’t—I’d have been perfectly fine sitting quietly while he relaxed at my side. I’d never deny Grayson something that helped him relax and be in a better mental state afterward.

Gray gave me a tentative smile. “You sure you’re okay not having a plan?”

“Absolutely.” I nipped at his shoulder and felt him tremble. He was currently dressed in layers, his favorite sweater on top, since the temperature had dropped and he was always cold. The pile of blankets on the couch told me he’d spent a good portion of the day snuggled there while he worked. I’d bought him a space heater for his office, but he still preferred to sit on the couch with every throw blanket around him. He could write anywhere, and if cuddling on the couch helped, I wasn’t going to complain.

I knew he wouldn’t be wearing his favorite sweater to the club, and what he chose to wear would help me decide how to plan my night. “Do you have an outfit picked out?”

If he was going to kneel at the club, he’d normally wear a skimpy pair of leather shorts and a leather harness, and I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off him as I talked with friends. If he was in the mood for impact play, he’d skip the harness and put on a jock covered by comfortable clothes that could easily be taken off and more importantly put on when he was in a floaty space.

Grayson tensed slightly in my arms, and even I could admit that was weird. He always knew what he was going to wear. There was something about DASH that made Grayson want to show off everything he had. Not that it mattered much. I got to see his firm body in whatever it was he’d chosen, and it always made me hard as a rock. I swore the man hadn’t aged a day since I’d met him. Even on the wrong side of forty, he could still pass for late twenties. Hell, he’d gotten carded two months ago when we’d ordered drinks with dinner, and I’d been mistaken for his dad on more than one occasion. When someone called me his dad, he always got the biggest smile on his face as he kissed me breathless, all the while proclaiming me, “The best Daddy in the world.” That statement had elicited a wide variety of responses that normally left us laughing.

He focused way too intently on dishing up the chicken bake he’d pulled from the oven, and after a moment finally responded quietly. “I’ve been thinking about it, yeah.”

“Well, I can’t wait to see what you picked out. I know it will be perfect.” It wasn’t a lie. I was genuinely curious, especially if it had him reacting this way.

The red that climbed up his neck was interesting, but I let it slide. If he wanted to surprise me, I’d happily allow him to. At least when he turned around, he was smiling at me. “I think so too.”

“Now, let’s eat so we can get out of here. You were so excited when I got home, I thought you were going to take flight.”

Grayson giggled, and I couldn’t help, but smile. When he made sounds like that, I knew he was going to want a quieter night at the club, and that took a little of the uncertainty away from me.

Once we sat down, Grayson relaxed, and with it, so did his mouth. All the words that had seemed stuck in his throat while he was serving dinner began to spill rapidly, though I noticed he was avoiding talking about DASH. “I hope Dexter knows what he’s getting himself into tonight. Mia and Jay were plotting.”

“Imagine that—our monsters were plotting. I think they take after Dexter. I’m more worried about James.” My brother liked predictability; he always had. Even as a kid, he’d had notes and lists. Some of that I blamed our parents for, but even years after their deaths and more time than that estranged from them, he’d remained the same. Which was why Dexter was both simultaneously the best and most unexpected thing to ever happen to James.

When my parents found out I was dating a guy in high school, they’d kicked me out of the house that night and kept me from James until the point when time and distance had made it impossible to reach out to him. I’d kept tabs on him as best I could, thanks to the Internet. But because of my parents, I’d spent most of my adult life without James in it.

Thanks to Dexter, we’d reunited about a year earlier, and my life felt complete. I still worried about shipping the kids to his house, though. He needed predictability, and kids did not provide that. Dexter, on the other hand, was a ball of chaos, and my brother hadn’t killed him yet. Sometimes James joked that it would just cause him too much paperwork at the sheriff’s office and it wasn’t worth it, but I knew how much he loved Dexter. “Speaking of monsters, what are the dogs up to? It’s frighteningly quiet in here.”

“Dexter took them,” Grayson said as though it was totally normal, but I damn near choked on my rice.

“Dexter took the dogs? To their house?” Shit, James was going to have a heart attack. There was nothing like a bull mastiff, a giant mutt, and two young kids to throw his perfectly ordered house into disarray.

Grayson shrugged. “Dexter swears James doesn’t have a problem with it, and their backyard is fenced in. It’s fine.”

Famous last words. Did I message my brother and apologize now? Did I just beg for forgiveness tomorrow? I had no idea the best course of action and just hoped that he didn’t run the other way when he made it home to a house full of not only children, but dogs too.

We hadn’t received a frantic call from James by the time we’d put dinner away, so I was cautiously optimistic that Dexter wouldn’t be sleeping on my couch for the next week. I shut the dishwasher and turned to Grayson. “Okay, let’s go get dressed.”

Grayson’s smile was tentative, but he hurried out of the room and up the steps. I had no idea what to make of his mood. Excited and tentative seemed strange to me, even with the intention of heading to DASH for the evening. Scratch that, especially with heading to DASH for the evening. Grayson was always eager to try new things while we were there, and if we went to a demo, he was the first to volunteer. Was there something he wanted to try that we hadn’t yet? Maybe that was it. Maybe he was nervous about telling me.

I began to think about all the things I’d seen at DASH that we hadn’t tried. Rope play and fire play were the only two things that came to mind, and if he was interested in those things, I was going to have a lot of learning to do before I’d be comfortable trying them on him.

When I got to our room Grayson was already in the closet, his clothes in a pile on the bed. I wasn’t in as much of a hurry as he was and sat down on the bed to remove my socks. I’d managed to get my pants off and was working on my dress shirt when Grayson came back into the room, his outfit nothing like I’d ever seen him wear to the club before.

Dressed somewhere between his normal summer-casual clothes of screen print T-shirts and cargo shorts, and the extra-soft and comfortable attire he’d wear for impact play, he looked… different. No, he wasn’t wearing cargo shorts, but a pair of loose cotton shorts. I’d never even seen the cobalt blue shirt with a dragon on it either.

When we’d come upstairs, he’d been so excited I’d half expected him to come out in some leather harness and go-go shorts, not an outfit that looked like he was getting ready to go to preschool in. The briefest glance toward his face told me he was still nervous about my reaction. It wasn’t just his face—his toe dug nervously into the carpet and the fingers of his right hand wrung the hem of the shirt while he fought to keep his left hand down at his side.

The smile that crossed my face was more because of the way the nervous habit always gave his feelings away more than any words could. When his thumb would instinctively go toward his mouth, I knew he was nervous. He usually fought the urge, just like he was at the moment. Gray was convinced it was childish and he shouldn’t do it, but I’d seen how it brought him comfort and I’d never told him to stop.

It didn’t change that I was still confused. Part of me thought he was teasing me to see how I’d react, but the way he was fighting to keep his thumb out of his mouth told me he wasn’t joking. I was even more confused than I’d been downstairs, but I knew well enough that the way I responded was going to have an impact on the way the evening went. Something told me this was important to Gray.

I couldn’t just stand there all night staring at him, so I threw caution to the wind and went with what felt right. “You look cute.” It wasn’t a lie, and that was just as confusing to my brain as the outfit he was wearing.

Tension left his shoulders and he stopped digging at the carpet. Most telling was the way his hand relaxed at his side. When his eyes met mine, they were full of relief. “You think?”

“I do.” A thought crossed my mind. Dressed like that, I definitely didn’t see him wanting to be spanked or flogged, and that left me questioning what to wear. “What do you think I should wear?”

His bottom lip got sucked into his mouth as he chewed on it in thought. “Um, I guess something comfortable?”

Something comfortable was a lot different than sexy. I usually wore snug jeans and a tight shirt, but maybe that night I’d just go for comfort; he certainly had. Not wanting to make his nervousness come back, I simply nodded and headed toward the closet to find something to wear. Deciding what to pick shouldn’t have been that hard, but I couldn’t figure out what Grayson was up to.

In the end, I settled on a pair of jeans and a soft flannel shirt he always liked seeing me in. I also grabbed a comfortable sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants for Grayson since I couldn’t imagine him being warm enough in his current outfit. The club was usually warm since people were often nearly naked, but my husband ran cold in the summer and it was December.

He raised an eyebrow at me when I returned to the bedroom. “For later, when you’re shivering.”

“Oh, yeah, good plan.”

I looked him over, and while I’d been getting dressed, Grayson had put socks on—brightly colored ones with dragons on them. All things considered, it looked like we were ready. “Time to go?”

Grayson nodded and hopped up, taking my hand and following me toward the front door. Something was definitely different, but the more I took things in stride, the more relaxed he became, so I vowed to take my cues from him. I’d figure it out at some point. My husband couldn’t keep secrets to save his life, so he’d inevitably spill the beans. Until then, I’d go with my gut, and right now my gut said we needed to get going.

“Come on, my Popsicle. It’s time to go.” I held out his coat and Grayson nearly dived into it. I zipped the coat as automatically as I would one of the kids’. It didn’t strike me as strange until I’d already stood up to grab my coat. Grayson gave me a pleased smile and I couldn’t help but pull him in for a kiss. It was over quickly, but Grayson was getting antsy and I knew we needed to head out.

***

The parking lot at DASH was busier than it normally was, especially for this early in the evening, but I didn’t pay more than a passing thought to it. Grayson had been wiggling in his seat and talking about everything but DASH since we’d gotten into the car. Now that we were here, he was practically vibrating. What bothered me most was not being able to tell if it was with excitement, nerves, or a combination of the two.

Alice was sitting at the registration desk just like every night we came. She had to have been in her eighties, but she was always at the desk and smiling at every member. Tonight she was wearing a black-and-white sequin top that caught the light as she moved. “Someone looks excited,” she said with a smile toward my husband as I handed over our membership cards.

His head went up and down in agreement and he squeezed my hand tightly. It felt like he thought he’d float away if I didn’t ground him.

“You can check your coats before you go in,” Alice instructed. “We’ve got the room quite warm back there tonight.”

We handed our coats over and headed through the door and into the club space. As soon as the door was opened, I felt Grayson tense, and the noise I heard wasn’t what I’d expected. Usually when we arrived, the sounds of skin being marked and moans of pleasure greeted us; tonight it was laughter and squeals, and I was pretty sure I heard a bark as well. I looked behind me, wondering if we’d come to the wrong place.

I’d handed Alice our membership cards, I knew this hallway, but I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then we came around the corner and I found the entire scene area had been rearranged. The crosses, spanking benches, and tables that Doms usually spread their subs out on had all been pushed to the side, leaving the center of the largest area in the club wide open. Well, it would have been barren had the space not been filled with toys, and not of the sexy variety. Blocks and balls and play rugs were spaced out across the floor. In the corner, a table filled with coloring books and crayons had three men sitting around it. Stuffed animals littered the floor, and a play gym with toys clipped to it was occupied by a guy lying on his back while batting at a toy… and was he wearing a diaper?

I looked over at Grayson to find his eyes wide, but he didn’t seem to be as shocked as I was. If anything, excitement danced across his face.

And what did I make of that?

Along the wall were comfortable couches with men sitting on them. A few of them were holding their subs in their laps while they talked with friends, and suddenly the pieces started falling into place. This was a littles night. I’d seen these advertised a few times, but had never thought to ask Grayson about it. Had Grayson known, and if he did, what did that mean?

Judging by the look on his face, he was a little overwhelmed with what was going on around us, so I took him to one of the couches and sat down. To my surprise, he automatically sank to the floor beside me, but instead of kneeling like he often did here, he sat on his butt and rested his head on my lap as he studied the boys playing.

I watched him watching the activity in front of us and wondered what he was thinking about. He hadn’t made a move to join them, but he was interested. I’d gotten so caught up in my own thoughts about the situation, I’d missed a guy taking a seat beside me.

“I wouldn’t normally say anything, but you look so much like a guy I know through work it’s uncanny.” The deep voice cut through my thoughts and caused me to startle. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. Trent,” he said, sticking out his hand.

I took it automatically. “Spencer.”

Trent looked close to my age, and his gaze flicked from me to the play floor a number of times. “Curious, no. Leave Caleb alone.” He scolded a man dressed in an aqua puppy hood with a tail that matched playing a few feet away with two other guys. One of the men was playing happily with blocks and the other looked exasperated as the puppy—Curious—tried to climb into his lap while he was reading a book. I could see Curious’s scowl through his hood, but he sat down with a huff beside the guy I now knew as Caleb.

Wait, Caleb. My eyes had been wide since we’d walked in and now they felt like they would fall out of my head. I knew Caleb. I knew him as Dexter’s best friend—a shy physical therapist who was always well dressed and very much in love with his boyfriend, Travis. I’d spent countless hours with Caleb and Travis, and now Caleb was here, playing with a puppy.

I watched closely as Caleb reached out and petted Curious as he began to read the picture book to him. I couldn’t deny the two were sweet together, but it was still pretty surreal to be in this spot. My hand reached out and I automatically began to card my fingers through Grayson’s hair. I felt more than heard him hum as he relaxed more fully against me.

I looked over at Trent, who was studying me closely. “Spencer?” His quiet laughter took me by surprise. “As in James’s Spencer?”

I blinked dumbly, which was all the confirmation he’d needed. “I work with your brother, James. I’m the sheriff out in Cheatham County.”

Somehow I managed to become even more surprised and it showed on my face. Trent laughed again, but it was warm and oddly calming, and his grin was infectious. “I knew you looked like someone I knew. You look exactly like your brother.”

The statement made me grin. It still made me ridiculously happy to have James back in my life and I loved every moment of it. That didn’t explain who the guy talking to me was, though.

“James is a new guy since you guys met up again. But that’s not why we’re here, sorry, it’s just good to meet you finally.” He shook his head slightly, like he could clear the surprise meeting away so easily.

“Anyway, like I said, I’m Trent. The guy in the aqua puppy gear is my boyfriend Logan, and the guy playing with blocks is our boyfriend Aiden. They’re playing with Caleb, Travis’s boy. But from the look on your face, I’m guessing you already figured that out.”

I nodded. “Caleb is Dexter’s best friend. He’s at our house frequently.”

Trent gave me a blinding smile. “Doesn’t surprise me. I think James said he’s got your kids tonight.”

“And the dogs,” I said automatically.

Trent laughed heartily. “That’s going to drive him insane.” He gestured to an older guy who came over. “Trav, I think you know Spencer.”

Travis’s eyes widened comically. “Fancy meeting you here. Not to sound rude or anything, but I had no idea Grayson was little.”

I glanced down to find my husband had slipped away and was now happily playing with Caleb, Aiden, and Logan… or was that Curious? “Truthfully? I didn’t know it either.”

Travis’s eyebrow cocked high on his forehead in confusion, and I felt myself shake my head. “We dabble in a lot of BDSM, but this is honestly the first time this has ever come up.” I watched as Aiden pushed a pile of blocks over to my husband and Gray took them with a giant smile on his face. “He brought up coming here since he knew I’m not on call this weekend.” And I was beginning to think I’d been set up.

Travis and Trent both looked over to where the guys were playing on the floor while I continued to try to work through my own thoughts. “He certainly seems content.”

And that I couldn’t deny. But how did I feel about it?

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