“I can’t believe I have to find another lawyer. I didn’t think this was going to happen so soon.” My brother Nate was talking to me, but I was only half paying attention to him.
I nodded slowly, keeping one eye on the front door of DASH and waiting for our other brother Larson to arrive. “You’ve been saying you need to start thinking about that since you moved back here. That’s been, what, over a year? Suck it up, buttercup, the time has come.”
Nate gave an Oscar-worthy sigh. “I know that!” His voice was nearly a whine, and I was pretty sure that if I’d taken my eyes off the door, I would have seen my dominant, firm-handed, no-nonsense brother pouting.
“You know, whining is probably not the best way to find yourself a sub. It’s not a very attractive quality in a Dom.” I finished with a little smile, just to make sure he knew I was teasing.
I didn’t have to look at Nate to see the eye roll he gave me—it was apparent in his voice. “You’re one to give advice about finding a submissive. You’re at a BDSM club waiting for Larson.”
“I’m not here to find a partner right now. Tonight Larson is my only concern.”
Glancing away from the door and toward Nate, I saw him rolling his eyes so hard it looked painful. “If he shows up. You and I both know that’s a big fucking if.”
Given Larson was fifteen minutes late, I was thinking the same thing, though I was trying to remind myself that Larson’s schedule wasn’t always predictable. Instead of allowing myself to continue dwelling on his absence, I changed the topic back to Nate’s employee search. “There has to be someone looking for a job.”
His defeated sigh had me forgetting to stare at the door. “I’ve had so many applications come in, but no one even remotely stands out as a good fit.”
“You know, you two are going to kill the mood if you keep talking about work.” Our dad had come up behind us without either of us noticing, and we both jumped in surprise.
“Jesus, Dad. You’re one to talk. If you give the two of us heart attacks, it’s really going to kill the mood and bring a lot of unwanted attention here.”
I shook my head and muttered under my breath. “Maybe it would actually get Larson here.” As a lieutenant with a fire department just outside of Nashville, Larson tended to have his hands in a little bit of everything, even in the city. Very little happened without his knowledge.
“He’ll get here.” My dad reassured me with the same undying confidence he’d always shown.
It was my turn to roll my eyes. I’d been stood up by Larson one too many times to believe he’d actually show up tonight.
Dad sat down on the other side of me and squeezed my thigh. “Listen to me, Zander. If you keep scowling at the door, you’re going to scare members away. Larson needs tonight; we all know it. Just like we know that he’s going to have a hard time talking himself into it. Knowing your brother, he’s in the parking lot, hoping you’ll leave before he gets here. Give him time.”
I looked over at my dad to find him giving me his signature sympathetic smile. I’d gotten it a lot over my nearly forty years. When his partner, my other dad, died when I was four. When I was upset about moving from our little house into his fiancée’s massive house a few years later When my first girlfriend broke up with me, then again when I broke up with my first serious boyfriend. That smile never failed to provide comfort to me, even when he was reassuring me that my stubborn younger brother had not stood me up again.
In any other family, seeing your dad in a pair of skintight leather pants with a leather bulldog harness on would have been considered awkward. In the Johnson family, this was normal.
When your parents owned a successful gay BDSM club, it was simply par for the course to be open about sex and sexuality. That was probably why most of my siblings identified somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum, and probably why most of us were into BDSM in one way or another. It was definitely why we’d all forgotten what privacy was.
“He’s needed tonight for two months now, and he’s stood me up three times.” I glanced down at the bag between my feet. All I wanted was for him to be able to let go for a little while, and since he was as convinced he wasn’t going to find a Daddy as I was that I would never find a boy, it made sense for me to be here for him… if he’d simply show up.
Nate let out a laugh that reminded me my brother—the one I wasn’t waiting for—was still here. “Remind me again why you and Larson don’t just get together? The two of you are perfect for one another.”
Dad shook his head, and I laughed at Nate’s question. On paper, it certainly seemed like we’d be perfect for one another. “Um, first of all, we tried. Remember? One kiss and we both noped out. Not only was it the most awkward kiss of all time, but Larson needs a very different Daddy than I could ever be. A night being his surrogate Daddy, or more like his big brother, here and there is fine, but I’m not looking for a little.”
My dad made a strangled sound in the back of his throat. “Maybe more than I really needed to know about you two.” The smile on his face told me he wouldn’t have cared if we were together.
“So what are you looking for? I always got the impression a little would be right up your alley.” Nate was trying to needle me, but before I could answer, Dad squeezed my leg and I looked over to see where he was pointing.
Larson, his cheeks already pink, had come through the door holding a small bag at his side. “Gotta go,” I told the two as I stood up to make my way toward Larson’s towering frame.
I approached him as casually as my excitement would allow. By the time I reached him, I was already feeling more relaxed. “Hey.”
Larson bit his lip but gave me an uneasy smile. “We don’t have to do this, you know.”
I knew better than to engage in that line of thought and changed the subject quickly. “Go get changed. I’ll wait.” I wasn’t going to let him overthink tonight more than he already had, but I also wasn’t going to make him needlessly uncomfortable. At the end of the night, I was still just his brother, not his Daddy, but the next time he agreed to come to the club, I was going to have to remember to pick him up. He’d probably worried himself nearly sick while he’d driven from Oak Hill to here.
Larson nodded, his big green eyes showing apprehension, but thankfully he didn’t argue as he headed toward the changing room. I looked over to where my dad and Nate had been not even a minute before, but they were nowhere to be seen. I said a silent thank you to the two for knowing that Larson wouldn’t want an audience.
Five minutes later, Larson appeared in the doorway of the locker room. It would have been impossible to miss his imposing frame. I wasn’t short at six feet two, but Larson had a good four inches on me. The cotton pajamas he had on left nothing to the imagination: broad chest and shoulders, muscular stomach, arms, and legs. Larson had a physically demanding job, and under the snug cotton, it was blatantly obvious.
“Have you washed your hands?” I winced at my question but then reminded myself it was valid and something any Daddy or caregiver would do, especially with Larson. He didn’t have to be in little space for his thumb to go to his mouth.
His cheeks turned bright red at the question, but he nodded and held them up to me. I could still see wetness on his free hand. The other was holding his blanket—well, his newest one. He’d gone through about five over his lifetime.
“Good job. Let’s go play.” I double-checked I had the small bag I’d packed with a few new coloring books, a new fire engine for him, and a small Dalmatian wearing a fire hat I’d found at the toy store the night before. There were also snacks, a sippy cup of juice, and a bottle of milk—just in case.
I was nothing if not prepared.
I held out my hand and he eyed it suspiciously for a second before finally taking it and allowing me to lead him toward the playroom. If he could immerse himself in play, he’d be quiet and would keep to himself. I was there for moral support and to provide snacks and drinks, but that was about it.
I settled him on the floor near enough to the couch that I could easily interact with him. “Have fun, bud.”
Larson’s left thumb went to his mouth, and with his right hand, he began sorting through the bucket of toys I set in front of him. It took nearly fifteen minutes, but I eventually saw his shoulders lower and a smile peek out from behind his thumb. When he looked up at me and held out the chunky building blocks, I knew he’d finally found the space he’d been desperately needing. With the realization, I felt my body fully relax as well and I allowed myself to sink back into the couch.
I couldn’t help but smile at him as I nodded in acknowledgment. “I like your blocks.”
Larson didn’t say anything as he blushed, then ducked his head, and continued to play.
For the next hour, I watched as Larson played, scooting a little closer to me as he built his road. I handed him crackers and a cookie and eventually the sippy cup to wash it down.
At some point, a guy walked in and took up a corner on the other side of the room. He kept to himself, and being as focused on Larson as I was, I didn’t pay much attention to him. Well, not more than to notice he couldn’t have been much past his mid-twenties and had a distinctive tattoo that covered his right pec, over his shoulder, and down to his elbow. Larson didn’t seem to register the newcomer’s presence, so I quickly diverted my attention away from him and back to my brother.
“Book?” Larson asked a while later.
I’d been watching Larson without really watching, content to let him play while simply relaxing into the seat, so it took me a few seconds to pull my attention back to the room and what he’d asked. “Sure. Do you have one in mind?”
Larson gave me a wide grin. “This.” He produced the same puppy book we’d been reading since we were kids. It had been the first book his mom had bought me shortly after our parents had started dating, and as such it had also been the first book I’d read to Larson. Thirty-five years later, it was still a book he liked me to read.
I patted the spot beside me and watched in awe as Larson scrambled to climb up. He wasn’t normally snugly with me, and that gesture alone told me just how badly he’d needed a night to fully relax. Reaching into the bag, I quickly found the stuffed animal I’d brought with me. Larson’s smile said it all, and I knew I’d picked the exact right thing at the store.
Then I did something I hadn’t done in years—I handed him the bottle I’d packed. A brief moment of surprise showed on his face before he took it and curled closer to me.
I fell into a rhythm reading the book until I heard Larson suck air. A quick glance to my side found Larson nearly asleep, heavy eyes blinking sleepily as he pulled his blanket around his shoulders.
Shit. That hadn’t been the plan, but there was little I could do at that point. I plucked the bottle from his hand. “Come on, Lars. Let me get you home.”
He mumbled something as he pulled his blanket toward his face. It wasn’t like I could carry the man who outweighed me by probably forty pounds, so I did the next best thing and pushed him upright, then stood to take his hands and pull him to his feet.
My eyes caught a glimpse of Nate walking by the room, and I waved to grab his attention. Thankfully, he noticed me and looked over. “What’s up?”
I pointed to the sleepy man in front of me and mouthed, His stuff.
Nate grinned and headed toward the locker room without another word. That lack-of-boundaries thing really needed to be addressed, but at the moment I was thankful we all shared a large locker. Since we all had a key, there was no need to pull Larson out of his headspace to get one. If I was lucky, I’d get him home and into his bed without really pulling him too far back to reality.
Nate was back before I had Larson’s toys cleaned up. He winked as he set the bag by the door and disappeared down the hallway. I slid the last bucket back into place, then motioned to the door with my head. “Come on, bud. Time to go home.”
Larson gave a longing look to the toys, and I knew it had been too long since he’d played. Even little, Larson was starting to question when he’d be back, and I knew he needed someone to get him out of his head more often. It sucked that I couldn’t be that person for him, but I kept trying to let him know I would always be here for things just like this.
I gave a quick glance around the room and noticed the boy who’d been in the other corner had left at some point as quietly as he’d arrived. Had I seen a Daddy with him? Shit, I’d been so focused on Larson I’d let my guard down. I didn’t normally like to see littles playing alone.
I scooped Larson’s bag into the same hand as my own, double-checked he had his blanket, and gripped his hand, but my mind was on the boy who’d been in the corner. Would Larson have liked to play with him or would he have been too shy?
When Larson hit his growth spurt in high school, he became self-conscious about his size. Unfortunately, too many Daddies had been looking for tiny boys, and it had done a number on his self-confidence over the years. Maybe a friend in the lifestyle would be good for him.
I knew a number of littles and their Daddies. Hell, Larson also knew many of them, yet from what I’d gathered, he’d never shared that he was little. Fucking closed-minded Daddies. It wasn’t the first time I’d wished like hell Larson and I could have made it work. It wouldn’t be the last. But anything more than brothers just wasn’t in the cards for us. That didn’t mean I couldn’t be more active in helping him find a Daddy for himself.
Larson was groggy enough that he hadn’t noticed we were leaving with him still in his pajamas. Luck was also on our side because we made it out of the club without anyone stopping us to chat. I glanced back at the door, despite knowing it was heavily tinted for privacy, but didn’t see anyone watching us, even Gram, who had somehow become the receptionist at DASH. Getting out of there without at least one member of my family stopping me had to be a record. Maybe Nate had given them a warning to leave us alone.
Thinking about Nate reminded me that I needed to let him know we were going to leave Larson’s truck in the lot. I shot a quick text to Nate as I continued to guide Larson to my truck.
“Wait, my car,” Larson said as I opened the door to my SUV for him.
“Nate will drop it off at your house tonight. Dad said he’ll drive Nate home. I know you have to work tomorrow.”
Larson looked like he was about to argue, so I held up a hand to stop him. “You’re too tired to drive. I know you work in the morning—you’ll have your truck, promise. Let me drive you home.”
He must have been tired because he simply harrumphed as he climbed into the seat and buckled himself in. I smiled to myself as I shut the door. Any other time, I’d tease him over how easily he’d submitted in the moment, but I headed toward the driver’s side without a word.
Larson’s house was only a fifteen-minute drive from the club in the middle of the day. In the dead of night, we’d arrive faster. Larson wasn’t quite as little as he’d been at the club—spending most of the trip filling any silence with talk about our family and my work—but was every bit as exhausted. His words were punctuated with frequent yawns, and even though I knew he was trying to avoid talking about DASH, sometimes he’d slip up and thank me for the night or his new stuffed puppy.
“I named him Dalton,” he said as I pulled onto his street.
“Dalton?” I asked, the name surprising me.
“Dalton the Dalmatian. It works.”
I smiled to myself, knowing he couldn’t see me in the dark. He definitely wasn’t big yet if he was still talking about his stuffed animals. But that meant I wasn’t going to leave him at his house alone. Thankfully, Larson had a comfortable spare bed to crash in.
Fifteen minutes after I pulled into the driveway, I was sinking into the bed across the hall from Larson. I already knew I’d wake up early to make him breakfast before we both had to get to work. Larson would complain that I shouldn’t have been there still. He’d tell me that I definitely didn’t need to make him breakfast. Then he’d thank me and head out the door while I cleaned up and got myself to the office.
Not for the first time that night, my mind drifted back to the guy at the club. I couldn’t picture his face and I still couldn’t remember if he’d been with someone. I chastised myself in a whisper, “Bad Dom.”