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Carly Marie's Author Page Posts

Undisclosed Secrets Prologue


I absently spun the expensive fountain pen around on my desk as I read over the letter in my hand. It had been a great run. I hadn’t been so unsure yet excited about a move since I left Tennessee at twenty-two. A lot had changed in over twenty years.

My legs were restless and my skin felt too tight. No longer able to sit at my desk, I stood and paced toward the window overlooking the San Francisco skyline. Everything was sleek, modern, clean: in one word, expensive. From the three-hundred-dollar fountain pen on my desk, to the custom leather desk chair, to my Italian leather shoes and custom-made suit. The floor-to-ceiling windows in my corner office—no, it was no longer going to be my office—afforded me views from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Transamerica Pyramid and beyond.

The life I’d become so accustomed to in the last decade was so far removed from where I’d started out that I hardly recognized myself anymore. I’d made more money in the last handful of years than I could spend in a lifetime. Sterling Enterprises now had headquarters on every inhabited continent. I’d traveled the world and dined with some of the most influential people in the process. I’d had dinner with the Queen at Windsor Castle and somehow ended up attending mass with the Royal Family at Westminster Abbey. A bit awkward for the atheist with parents who practiced Buddhism, but overall a fascinating experience that I knew most people would never have.

The week before, I’d been in India meeting with the National Security Advisor’s staff. My little three-person start-up security venture had turned into a global standard of military and private safety. Sterling Enterprises now employed nearly fifty thousand people across the globe. I’d been the CEO of a Fortune 500 company for close to fifteen years, in the Fortune 100 for a decade, and we’d been hovering in the top ten for the last three years. The latest projections put us in line to be top five for the fiscal year-end, but I wouldn’t be here to see that happen.

I’d been voted Most Eligible Bachelor for three years and had been approached by dating shows a number of times in the last handful of years. There had never been a point in pursuing those shows. It wasn’t like I was going to find the man of my dreams from a list of men a network picked for me. At the rate I was going, I wasn’t going to find the man of my dreams on my own, either. It was one of the reasons I’d decided to step not only back, but down. After two decades working my way to the top, putting my business, my employees, and ultimately my career ahead of everything else, it was time for me to live for myself.

No one would look at me and think, He grew up in rural Tennessee. Just like no one would believe that I was ten minutes away from walking into the boardroom, handing in my resignation, and leaving this life to go home.

Could Tennessee even be considered home now?

I shook my head at myself. I had to be insane. I was voluntarily—willingly—leaving the eight-figure yearly salary, spacious row house, private driver, chef, and jet lifestyle for middle Tennessee. I knew I hadn’t completely lost my mind because I wasn’t moving back to my parents’ farm in what really did amount to the middle of nowhere to do yoga with my mom at the crack of dawn. Or to work for my dad’s herbal remedy store. I wanted a change, yes, but I didn’t hate myself.

“Mr. Murphy?”

I turned to see my secretary, a woman a few years younger than me, standing in my doorway. She fit the image of Sterling Enterprises: crisp, clean, put together.

I almost laughed at the absurdity of it all. My company, my little venture, had become this huge entity that I hardly recognized. My jeans and T-shirt days at the office had been replaced with expensive suits and ties. The leaky office space I’d rented a year after moving to the Bay Area had been all but forgotten. Nothing in this gleaming highrise looked like the guy I was. This was all bows and glitter, glitz and prestige.

This wasn’t me.

I forced a smile at my secretary. “Hi, Holly.”

She sent me a blinding smile, her whitened teeth gleaming behind her red lipstick. “The board has all arrived and is in conference room eight. Coffee, tea, and sandwiches will be delivered in five minutes. Mr. Murdoch will be calling in today. His plane was stuck in Canada due to blizzard conditions.”

“Thank you, Holly.”

I took one last glance at the view from my office, picked up my phone, laptop, and the letter from my desk, and headed toward the conference room my current board was assembled in.

The frosted, tempered glass door opened as I approached and the hushed conversations quieted as it slid closed behind me. I straightened my jacket and took a seat at the head of the table, smiling across the room of fifteen individuals. “Good afternoon.”

A murmur of greetings passed across the room and my chief financial officer’s tinny voice crackled over the conference line. “Afternoon. Sorry I’m not able to be there in person.”

I had to force myself to not roll my eyes as I waved my hand despite his not being able to see me. “Don’t worry about it, Andre. Weather happens, especially in March.” A grin broke across my face that I hoped my no-nonsense CFO couldn’t hear, though I knew the others in the room knew how much I was enjoying his discomfort. “Especially in Canada.”

His grumbles said my humor at the situation hadn’t been masked well. I smirked again, a perverse pleasure at his annoyance making it hard not to laugh. It was fun to get under his skin. It wasn’t a secret I didn’t love the guy, no matter how good he was with money. No, I actually really disliked him and I knew neither of us would be saddened by no longer working together.

I once again questioned how we’d come to hire the man. I’d made my dislike of him abundantly clear from the beginning. The vote to make him CFO had been the day my love for the company I’d poured my life into began to wane. I knew at that moment that Sterling was no longer mine.

While I might have been the CEO, the founder, the visionary who’d begged and pleaded for people to loan us money in the beginning, this was now bigger than me. CEO was an impressive title, my salary even more so, my life was perfect from the outside. The inside was something different, and each time I had to address the man I couldn’t stand, didn’t agree with, and ultimately didn’t trust, more of the love and passion I’d always had for this company faded away.

I cleared my throat, buying myself an extra moment to get my thoughts in order. “Alright, I know we’re all busy and would like to leave here at some point, and I’m sure Andre wants to get on his plane as soon as humanly possible. Let’s get down to business.”

The next three hours were spent crunching numbers and discussing contracts, bids, technical issues, and project updates as well as placing phone calls to headquarters around the world for information. Projections and information were thrown out from every direction and keeping track of everything going on pushed my resignation to the side.

As we were concluding our meeting, my fingers brushed against the small stack of papers under my laptop—my resignation letter. The letter I’d spent the better part of a month writing, rewriting, and writing again for good measure. I’d made sure to thank each and every member of the board, each headquarters around the world, and to express my true love of Sterling Enterprises and its employees.

My heart rate picked up as my fingers grasped the stack. “Before we adjourn for the weekend, I’d like to discuss one more order of business. I hope it will be quick. Andre, I’m forwarding this to you now.”

Yeah, right. Like the resignation of the CEO and founder of one of the largest corporations in the world would be quick or easy. I took the stack of papers, split it in two, and handed them down either side of the table. Then I sat back and studied their faces as the fifteen men and women around the table read through the one-page letter. I watched their eyes widen as they processed the words.

Seconds of uncomfortable silence stretched to minutes as they took in the information before my information security officer gasped. “You’re leaving?”

Blaine had been with me from the start. He’d been the first person I’d recruited when I’d finally had some venture capital. A year or so older than me, Blaine was a computer genius who had hacked into more government and private agencies than I was comfortable with. I had long ago made him promise to keep his habits to his home and far away from Sterling. He’d become so well-known in the hacking world that he was often hired by companies to expose vulnerabilities in their systems. There had yet to be a system that could withstand Blaine.

I nodded slowly as emotions I knew were coming began to surface. “It’s time. I’ve been thinking about it for years. I’ve taken Sterling further than I ever imagined, but in the process, I’ve lost a bit of myself.”

I thought of friends I’d long ago lost contact with, my parents who were aging. I wanted to be there for them if they should need me… even if they drove me insane most of the time. And there were indulgences I hadn’t been able to enjoy nearly enough over the last number of years, always concerned with my image, my company, the impact that my personal life could have on international deals if I were photographed at Leather Week or exposed as part of the BDSM community. While it was all normal in San Francisco, many other nations were not as open to alternative lifestyles.

“It’s time I focus on my own life.” One where I was no longer Cane Murphy, President and CEO of Sterling Enterprises, but Canyon River Murphy, retired CEO.

Nathan Prologue


I’d never been so glad to see our Fifth Avenue apartment building since the day I’d moved in. If I heard another Congratulations for the rest of my life it would be too soon. Hours of smiling and pretend happiness had worn on me. All I wanted was a cold beer and to forget about the day.

Emma hadn’t fared much better.

We hadn’t spoken much on the ride back home and we rode the elevator up to our apartment in silence, both of us lost in thought. As soon as the doors opened on our floor, Emma let out a sigh. “Thank fuck.”

The only reason I laughed was because she’d voiced what I’d been feeling. “Longest day in history.”

Her response was pure Emma. “I need a drink.”

That made two of us. We walked down the hallway to our door. Thanks to the large box filled with unopened champagne, leftover cake, and a few gifts, I had to wait for Emma to fish the key ring from my pocket.

The box was getting heavier by the second and the open door was a welcome sight. We walked into the apartment, not bothering to stop to take off our shoes, and headed toward the kitchen.

I slid the box onto the counter and turned to see Emma standing behind me, her lips pressed into a firm line. Her immaculately styled hair from hours before had become unraveled in places, but the hair product the salon had used kept it at unnatural angles. The makeup that had been perfect at one in the afternoon was splotchy and smudged twelve hours after it had been applied.

To me she was still beautiful, and she looked a lot more like the woman I’d known for eight years.

Even rolling out of her room first thing in the morning, no caffeine in her system, hair rumpled, with sheet creases on her cheeks, Emma was beautiful. The professional makeup and hairdo had only accentuated her natural beauty, but I liked her more like this. Like this, she was my Emma. My best friend and confidant.

After shucking my tuxedo jacket, untying my bow tie, and popping the top three buttons of my shirt, I pulled the box of cake off the top of the pile. Below it sat one of the bottles of champagne we’d escaped with. Emma was still in her dress but had headed over to the silverware drawer and pulled two forks out. “Shall we eat our feelings?”

The first genuine laugh I’d had in hours bubbled from my chest. “God, that sounds like a perfect way to end this day. Can I interest you in champagne?” I held up the bottle of champagne that had caused me to nearly choke on my water when I’d heard its price at the tasting six months earlier.

“Skip the glass.” She reached into the fridge. “Beer?”

“Please.” I might have been wearing a custom-tailored tuxedo and had spent the last week rubbing elbows with New York’s most elite attorneys and socialites, but I still preferred a cold bottle of beer to any glass of wine or champagne offered, and Emma knew it.

I popped the cork just as Emma took the cap off my beer. We traded bottles, and I grabbed the cake box, following her into the living room where we promptly collapsed on the couch, wedding attire and all.

Because, somehow, we’d gotten married that day.

Emma propped her Converse-clad feet onto the coffee table, took a long swig of champagne, then stabbed a bite of cake.

I wasn’t as anxious to eat the cake but sighed in relief as the cold beer slid down my throat. “How did we even get here?”

Emma’s laugh was sardonic, and she shook her head. The motion caused the loose strands to move, but it wasn’t a natural movement, and I found myself staring at it. “I think it started with us drunkenly deciding to date to get people off our backs about not being settled down and nearing our mid-thirties.”

I nodded at the memory. “Right, because we’re far more valuable partnered up or some such shit.”

Another long pull from the champagne bottle later, Emma narrowed her eyes at me. “No, I’m apparently worth more partnered up. Partnered, but god forbid I have children… You needed someone so that people stopped questioning why you weren’t dating.”

My cheeks flushed but I didn’t say anything.

“Elliot Mitchell, you’re thirty-five years old and aside from a drunken half-confession to me that night, you’ve never said the words out loud.”

I drained my beer too quickly and went to get another. There was no point in pretending this was going to be a one- or even two-beer night. “It wasn’t supposed to get this far,” was the only defense I had as once again I took my seat next to her.

She left half the slice of chocolate cake with raspberry filling uneaten and started on a slice of lemon sponge cake. I couldn’t remember the filling in that one, but then again, the cake had been huge, with multiple layers and just as many different fillings. The only one I’d cared anything about was the layer with German chocolate cake, dark chocolate ganache, and the sweet coconut filling that had nearly given the baker a heart attack when I asked for it.

Eventually, Emma sighed. “Who’d have thought your bringing me coffee one morning would end up with us walking down the aisle?”

I poked at my cake as I thought about that fateful day. She’d been exhausted after having not slept much while preparing for a trial that was starting. I’d stopped by her favorite coffee cart on my way into work to pick us both up coffee, then swung by her firm on the way up to my own office.

Emma’s eyes had widened when she spotted me walking toward her, and a genuine smile spread across her face. She’d pulled me into her office and given me a giant hug and kiss on the cheek. As she sipped the double shot mocha, she sighed. “I’m so glad I’ve called keeps on you forever.”

We’d both laughed, and I’d given her another hug and headed up the elevator to my own office, the law firm her dad had started thirty-some years earlier. I hadn’t thought a thing of the morning detour until Emma flew into my office unannounced at lunchtime, panting as she closed the door, her eyes wild with panic. “Think fast! I don’t know how—” But the knock on my office door cut her sentence off and she groaned. “I’m so sorry,” she apologized as she opened the door to both her mom and dad.

Her mom, Michelle, looked over the moon while her dad—my boss—looked like he’d swallowed a lemon. “Why didn’t you tell us?” Michelle gushed as she continued to speak. “When did it happen?”

“I’m sorry?” I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about.

Michelle carried on like I hadn’t spoken. “An engagement! How exciting! When’s the wedding? Oh, we have so much to plan!”

The ringing in my ears was nearly deafening. My eyes shot to Emma’s but she was pale and offered no help to me, so I did the only thing I could think of. I smiled and went for as close to the truth as I could without having any idea what the actual truth was. “Oh, well, it’s kind of new.”

It had snowballed out of control from there. Before we could right the misunderstanding, Emma had been dragged to a dress fitting. When she’d come home shell-shocked to inform me that her mom had purchased her a wedding dress, we talked about it and had decided to go through with it.

The most mature decision ever? Probably not.

The easiest? Well, looking back, no, it hadn’t been.

But hindsight’s twenty-twenty.

Over the last few months, Emma and I had nearly lost our friendship over the wedding stress. We’d both argued about calling the entire thing off. In the end, we’d followed through with it, but the last week had been a special form of hell.

Emma gave up on the sponge cake and went for a direct kill. “Did you ever talk to your brother?”

I shoved half of the remaining slice of cake into my mouth.

She shook her head. “What am I going to do with you, Elliot? That was half the reason we went through with this insane thing. You two need to talk.”

I washed the bite down with a swallow of beer and glanced over at her. “Do you really think Rand would let him anywhere near me? God only knows what that man knows. He’s huge and kinda scary.”

“And you’ve been an absolute asshole to him all week.”

I made to open my mouth to refute it but Emma held up her hand and glowered at me. “Do not make excuses to me. I get it. Your parents are stressful. He’s in a nontraditional relationship. You’re so vanilla you couldn’t even be considered French vanilla. This year has been stressful and you’ve been on edge. But Jesus, Elliot, you went through so much trouble to get your brother here so you had a chance to talk.”

“That was before I knew he was going to have his Daddy with him! Seriously, I really didn’t think he’d have a Daddy! How the hell do you go to a ranch in Middle of Nowhere, Tennessee, and end up hooking up with your gay boss?”

Emma let out a snort of laughter that told me she was probably tipsy by that point. A glance at the bottle said the champagne was half gone. It was going to be an interesting night. Despite her intoxication, her words were clear and precise. “He told you he was bringing Rand. He gave you warning. And they were sweet together. No offense, but if I could find a man to look at me the same way Rand looks at Kyle, I’d consider dating.”

My eyes fell closed and I stifled a laugh at her statement. “None taken. Truthfully, if a guy ever looked at me like that, I’d consider it too.”

Emma let out a gasp. “I think that was the closest you’ve ever come to admitting your sexuality.”

If only I wouldn’t lose the only family I had if that happened. I pinched the bridge of my nose, trying to figure out a way to change the subject before things got more uncomfortable. “You know it was faked?” I winced at my own words. “I mean, I think it was faked? But now it’s real? At least I think it’s real?”

Emma’s eyebrows made a weird succession of movements before settling on a confused arch. “Well, if they faked it, they faked it well. Your brother is genuinely in love with that man, and Rand looks at him like he hung the moon. And that protective streak he has for Kyle couldn’t possibly be fake.”

I waved my empty bottle around in front of me. “It’s not fake now! It was when we first invited them to the wedding. He didn’t want to come.”

“Imagine that.”

“Hey, we didn’t want to be here either,” I shot back defensively.

Emma leaned over and rested her head on my shoulder. “We’ve fucked up, El.”

Tell me something I don’t know.

“Your dad hates me. Your mom thinks I’m an idiot. My brother hates me. My parents aren’t happy with me… but there’s nothing new on that front.”

“My dad doesn’t hate you. And my mom will cool off.”

The headache that always hung out behind my eyes threatened to turn into a migraine. “We kept this up, thinking it wouldn’t be that bad. Maybe I’d finally make partner out of it; you’d move up in your firm as well. Well, you’re about to be made partner, but your dad made it clear that that isn’t in the cards for me. Fuck.” I scrubbed my free hand down my face.

Emma hummed, that patient understanding way I’d come to know and love about her. Yes, I loved Emma but not in the way a husband was supposed to love his wife. “Did you really want to make partner?”

I lifted a shoulder. “Honestly? I don’t know. It’s just what’s expected, right?”

“There are plenty of attorneys who never want to become a managing partner in a law firm.”

I thought about her words. Did I want to be a partner? If I really analyzed it, I hated my job. I loved the law, I liked family law, and I loved being an attorney. But did I want to bring even more work home every day? Did I want the responsibility of managing other people? Probably not. Hell, I was quickly proving I could hardly manage myself.

I felt my body sink back into the couch as the weight of the realization fully hit me. I didn’t want to be a partner. At least not in Richard’s firm. I’d wanted it because my parents expected it. Fuck.

Emma stayed silent for so long I thought she’d fallen asleep. When she spoke, I jumped slightly. “It was a helluva party, though.”

I couldn’t help my chuckle. “That it was. Too bad we were too angry to really enjoy it.”

We sat in silence for a long time before I came to a decision. “I’ll take the fall for this.”

Emma’s head shot up and she swayed slightly. “What?”

“Em, this is your apartment. This is your life. You’re NYC born and raised. You love your job, you love the city, you love your friends. You’re about to make partner. What do I have? A law degree and eight years in a firm that isn’t going to make me partner? You can still be happy. We’ll file for an annulment on Monday. I’ll find something else. You’ll move on.”

Emma scooted closer. “If I move on, then you have to too. You need to stop trying to please the two most vile people on the planet. If you hadn’t made Nancy and Edward Mitchell happy before this week, you never will. They are truly the nastiest people I’ve ever met, and if you keep trying to please them, you’re going to turn out the same way.”

I winced at her scolding. She wasn’t far from the truth. I hadn’t laughed since their plane had landed. I’d been a fucking nightmare of epic proportions, even worse than normal, and I could admit that. “And how will I do that?” The defeat in my voice was depressing even to me.

Her warm hugs and steady presence would be the worst loss from this entire disaster. I wasn’t going to be able to stay in New York, and I knew that. A city of eight million wasn’t very big when lawyers started to talk. I was going to be blacklisted from every firm in the city. The weight of the last week was nearly crushing.

“You’re going to be true to yourself.”

I took it back. That was the most crushing thing of the last week. My eyes went wide, and my newest bottle of beer paused halfway to my mouth. “I-I what?”

Emma poked me with a flawless French-manicured finger. “It’s time for you to live for you. You’re going to find a job you like. You’re going to come out.”

When I went stone-still beside her, she backpedaled slightly. “I’m not telling you to take out a billboard in Times Square. I’m telling you that you’re going to tell at least one person the truth.”

Sweat trickled down my back. I was thirty-five and the closest I’d ever come to saying what Emma was asking—no, telling—me to say was that I didn’t like women in that way. She’d gotten it without my needing to say more. It was what had made our “relationship” work as long as it had. Emma didn’t want to be married or dating; she was happy single. I was tired of dodging attempts at being hooked up with everyone’s friend or sister. With us dating, she hadn’t been pressured to find a man, and I hadn’t been pressured to find someone to date.

Then it had gone sideways.

“I’m not trying to send you into a panic attack, Elliot. But you’re not getting any younger. If you are willing to take the blame for this mess that we got ourselves into, then I’m going to demand that you find happiness. You’re not going to do that until you admit to yourself that you’ve lied to everyone for the last twenty-plus years you’ve known.”

That last piece of cake was not sitting well in my stomach. “Look what happened to Kyle when he came out.”

Emma squeezed my arm. “He found a job he loves, a home he loves, and a man who loves him every bit as much as he loves him.”

“Before that, Em. The hell he went through at home. The hell he went through at school. The hell he still goes through.” I groaned as the weight of it all really sank in. “The hell I’ve put him through so no one looked too hard at me.” I’d been an asshole to him since he came out, but I’d never been there for him before that either. That was on me, but the way I’d treated him since he’d come out was what really bothered me.

She wrapped me in a hug and held me tight. “And it’s time to make that right. Call him in the morning. Without your mom and dad and grandma around. I won’t go if you don’t want me to, but meet up with him, grovel, and apologize. It’s not going to fix it, but hopefully it will set the wheels in motion. Maybe you can salvage something from this disaster of a week.”

“I’ll call him,” I promised after a few moments of silence. “But the odds of him agreeing to meet me are infinitesimal at best.”

We spent the next few hours discussing what steps we needed to take, how we’d move forward and onward, and what we’d do without the other. In the eighteen months we’d lived together, our lives had become intertwined even without the romance. It was going to be an adjustment to not have the other just a door away.

“Where are you going?”

I shrugged. “Back to Chicago, probably. The house is big enough that my parents likely won’t even remember I’m there after a few days. I’ll find a job.”

She chuckled. “Is Chicago really big enough for you to live that close to your parents?”

My dramatic sigh was answer enough. “Fuck if I know. I’ve got savings—I just don’t want to dip into them. Maybe I can find some place less expensive to live? Maybe find a job outside of Illinois.”

“I’m here for whatever you need. Always. I hope you know that.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Fuck, I’m drunk. And champagne hangovers suck. I’m going to head to bed.”

“Need help out of that dress?”

Emma looked down at her attire. “Ha! Wedding dresses aren’t made to be gotten out of on your own. They assume the spouse will do that.”

I grinned. “God, I’m going to miss you.”

She got a little teary-eyed. “Same. But you’re going to finally fly. And I’m not going to let you retreat again. You’re free now.”

Instead of acknowledging her words, I did what I did best and changed the subject. “Let’s get you out of that dress.”

She saw through my misdirection but thankfully didn’t push harder. “And in the morning, you’re going to call your brother.”

Five sleepless hours later, I could honestly say I’d stuck to my word. I called Kyle as soon as I thought it was reasonable, but the call went straight to voicemail. So I did the next best thing and sent him a text.

Me: Want to do breakfast?

The text back came about two hours later. Short and to the point.

Kyle: Already home. You can’t use me as your token gay brother anymore.

I read the text a number of times. He was gone, and he was rightfully angry. There was no salvaging this mess, and I had no one to blame but myself. And for the first time in I couldn’t remember how long, I cried.

Zander Chapter 1


“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.”

Embracing the Storm Chapter 1


“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?

Home For Christmas Chapter 1


December 1

Harrison took a swig from his beer bottle and looked toward the fireplace. “You know, when you wrap your woodpile with Christmas lights, it kinda defeats the purpose of having a fireplace.”

I stuck my tongue out at him. “I think it’s pretty.”

He nodded. “It is. I think I’m going to steal the idea for the house. Do you know that your brother has no Christmas decorations?”

“What?” How the hell could that be? He’d lived in his house for over a decade. There was no way my brother didn’t have Christmas decorations.

Harrison nodded at nothing in particular. “Yeah. I went to get them out of the shed after Thanksgiving dinner and there wasn’t a single decoration. I asked him about it and it turns out that he doesn’t have any.”

I took a swig of my beer as I mulled the statement over in my head. “How is that even possible?”

“Poppy!” Carter’s voice echoed through the house. “Poppy! Jack took my crayon!”

Colt shook his head. “Carter, you two should be getting showers, not coloring,” he called up the steps.

“Pop, Carter has marker on his face,” Lydia all so helpfully called down from the steps.

Harrison laughed. “Dude, Colt, I know your sperm fertilized that egg, but he’s so much like Dare at that age it’s scary.”

Colt sighed. “He sure as shit didn’t get it from me.”

“That’s not what your mom says,” I teased as I moved to stand up to go figure out what happened.

Colt stilled me with a hand on my arm. “I’ll get them. You guys have barely had a second to breathe this week. I’ll be very thankful when whatever this phase is finally ends.”

Harrison laughed and pointed at my hand where I’d been jotting notes down while we were in the studio. “I wouldn’t count on it.”

Colt’s answering groan was good-natured. “Am I going to have to scrub you extra well tonight?”

“If I’d known that I was going to get extra attention, I’d have written notes somewhere else.”

Harrison snorted his beer and almost fell out of his chair laughing. “Damn, only you two. Only you two.”

I watched my husband shaking his head at me as he climbed the steps. “You’re trouble,” he called out as he reached the top, and I wasn’t sure if he was talking about me or Carter. Five-year-olds were hell. Then again every age with Carter had been a new form of torture. He’d had broken bones, stitches, and more close calls than the other two combined, and that was just this year.

“You ready for Christmas? I mean, aside from the lack of decorations?” Harrison, my brother, Jasper, and their boyfriend, Greg, had been engaged for nearly a year but had yet to find time to have a commitment ceremony. When Greg’s oldest daughter told them that she’d be in Oklahoma on Christmas Day for a layover, they’d decided Christmas was the perfect time to get married. Harrison and I had stopped at the jewelers in Nashville on the way home that night to pick up their rings, and I might have been a bit jealous of them. The rings were a gorgeous black metal with a black walnut inlay. The wood had come from a branch of a tree on Harrison’s property where Greg had proposed to them. The inside of each band was a different color, and the jeweler had etched the thumbprints of the other two on each ring. They were unique and gorgeous and so perfectly suited for them it was kind of sickening.

Harrison tipped the last of his beer back and stood to grab us new ones. “Honestly, I’m so fucking ready. I never thought I’d be one to marry. After all the shit I’d been through with Neil and the fact that he’d sworn up and down he would never get married and cave to a pointless institution, it seems a bit surreal to be at this point.”

He returned and handed me an open beer. “Neil was an ass. And for what it’s worth, I think it’s totally fucking awesome that after all these years, we’re going to be related.”

Harrison’s cheeks rose with a smile I couldn’t fully see behind his beard. “That’s wild. Growing up, it would have been impossible to be at this point.”

I’d opened my mouth to ask him if he had any plans for his bachelor’s party, but before I could say anything, a blur of pink flew by me and straight into Harrison’s arms. The force of Lydia’s impact nearly toppled the chair backward. “Uncle Harrison!” she squealed as though she hadn’t just seen him a week earlier.

“Hey, kid.” He wrapped large arms around her and smiled. “Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

She shook her head and laughed. “I’m going to Gramma’s house once my brothers are done in the shower. Pop’s gonna be scrubbing Carter for the rest of the night.”

I winced. I didn’t know if I wanted to know what my youngest son had gotten into, but I knew I had to ask. “What markers did Carter get into?”

She shrugged. “Just the normal school ones… but he made his face look like a clown.”

I groaned and Harrison laughed. “Not helping,” I scolded my best friend. We’d been so busy lately, it had been days since I’d had any little time, aside from our bedtime routine. With the kids heading to my in-laws and Harrison as the only other person in the house that night, I was desperate for time to simply forget everything. If Colt was exhausted from the kids, though, I didn’t know if it would happen.

Harrison laughed again. “Sorry, Dare. I’m sure your plans won’t be foiled.”

Twenty minutes later, thundering footsteps down the stairs drew our attention away from the Christmas cartoon we’d been watching with Lydia. Two freshly showered and dressed boys were charging down the steps at a startling speed. It didn’t matter how often we yelled at them to walk or hold the handrail—the two never learned. They always got a stern warning while I usually ended up over Daddy’s lap while he reddened my backside. Sprain my ankle one time over a decade earlier and I still got spanked for it… not that I hadn’t purposely “forgotten” to use the handrails a number of times over the years.

Tires crunched on the gravel outside our house and the kids nearly toppled us to get to the door. I saw where we ranked compared to their grandparents and was still laughing to myself as I made it to the door they’d left hanging open.

“Hey, Derek.” Cheryl greeted me with a smile as she watched the kids scramble to climb into her car. “You guys ready for a quiet night?”

I met her at the bottom step of the porch. “You have no idea. You know you can send them back if they’re too wound up. Hopefully they’ll conk out on you before long; they’ve got school in the morning.”

Cheryl hugged me tight. “I know my son is laid back now, but he and his brother were once just as insane as these guys.”

I’d heard stories, but it was hard to imagine Sheriff Westfield ever being as crazy as my kids.

“We’ll be fine, Derek,” she assured me, then looked up and waved to Colt, who’d just made it to the door. His shirt and jeans were still wet, and he looked thankful to see his mom.

“You can take them whenever you want,” Colt said as he joined us at the sidewalk. He dwarfed his mom in size but still greeted her with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you. They need out of the house—badly. They’re driving us nuts.”

“I used to call your Nan and say the exact same thing about you and Mitch.”

Colt let out a belly laugh. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Mitch and I were pure angels!”

Cheryl snorted and patted him on the cheek. “You keep telling yourself that, baby. Just keep telling yourself that. We’ll see you guys after school tomorrow!” She waved as she headed back toward the car. “Stay warm, boys. It’s cold tonight!” She giggled to herself as she climbed into her car. “Not that I think you’ll have any problems figuring out how to stay warm.” Colt and I both groaned but called goodbyes as we watched her turn around in the driveway.

I sank into Colt’s embrace. It was about damn time we had a night to ourselves… well, mostly to ourselves. Harrison didn’t really count.

“Come on, buddy, let’s get you wiped down. You smell like beer.”

And just like that, the adult world started to fade away; my giggle was softer, I blushed easier, and Colt became Daddy in the blink of an eye. Then Daddy reached out and grabbed my hand to lead me into the house.

As we walked between the living room and kitchen, Harrison slid my train sippy cup across the granite counter. “I’ll make a snack while your Daddy gets you ready for bed.”

Daddy grinned. “Thanks, Harrison. It’s great to have an extra set of hands around here.”

Harrison was already turning around to dig through the fridge, and we were on our way into the bathroom.

“What have I told you about writing on yourself?” Daddy asked as he scrubbed my hands under the warm water.

I laughed—the feel of the water and Daddy’s fingers scrubbing against my palms tickled. “That I should use paper?”

“And didn’t I make sure you had a notebook with you today?”

I nodded my head.

“And where was it?”

“In my pocket.”

“Why didn’t you write on it? You had to reach in your pocket to get the pen.”

I figured telling him that writing on my hand was just more convenient wasn’t what he wanted to hear. “Um, because when I’m in the recording booth, it’s easier to look at my hand than a piece of paper?”

Daddy sighed. “Buddy, you have paper everywhere in there.”

“Sorry, Daddy.”

He finished rinsing my hands and studied them. I couldn’t see anything, but I knew better than to say anything. I wanted to enjoy my toys that night, not end up spanked and heading to bed. There were many nights I’d take a spanking over toys, but not after I’d been stuck in big mode for days.

A kiss was placed to my temple. “Good boy. Now let’s go get you ready for bed.”

I bounced a little. “Train PJs?”

“Yes, buddy, train PJs.”

“Yay!” I cheered, and I realized I’d been too loud when my voice echoed off the walls of the bathroom.

Daddy just chuckled as he led me to the bedroom to strip me and get me into my pajamas. Not even ten minutes later, I was waddling toward the living room, diaper taped around my waist and wearing my favorite train pajamas. Heading over to our Christmas tree with a train running around it, I sank down by the control panel. “Can I turn the train on, Daddy?”

“Carefully,” Daddy agreed, watching me closely as I flicked the train on. As I settled back to watch it, Harrison appeared beside me with a snack of crackers and an applesauce packet. He knew Daddy well enough to know not to give me anything sticky, or maybe he just knew that anything he gave me remotely near sticky would end up all over me.

Harrison took a seat across from Daddy on the couch and the two began to chat. They could talk all night, which was fine with me. My train sounded a lot more interesting. We didn’t have to be in Nashville until ten the next morning, and for all I cared they could stay up all night. I found my coloring books—the Christmas-themed ones that had come out with our decorations earlier in the week—and tucked my legs under me, ready to lose myself for the rest of the evening.

I’d colored two pages before my legs started to get sore. I clicked off the train, put my crayons and coloring books away, then headed over to the couch with my sippy cup and curled up between Daddy and Harrison. Daddy’s big arm wrapped around my body and he rubbed my shoulder. “How about a show?”

Mmm, a cartoon sounded nice. “Blankie,” I mumbled as my thumb made its way to my mouth. I didn’t know how I’d left it in our room, but for some reason it hadn’t been with me.

“I’ll get it,” Harrison mentioned as he stood up. “I need another beer anyway.”

With anyone else it would have been awkward to have him enter our bedroom. Even the kids knew to knock and wait for one of us to answer the door. There was too much of my little stuff in there for me to be able to hide it. Before we had kids, I’d had my own room for little things, but now they were relegated to our bedroom and no matter how big it was, they were obvious.

Harrison had seen it all, though. He’d made me bottles at night while we were on tour, he’d seen me diapered, seen me playing with toys, and he’d known about my blanket since we were kids. Harrison might even have known more about my little side than my brother Ty, and that was saying a lot.

Colt adjusted me so I was mostly across his lap and turned on the TV. He’d tolerated my cartoons for years, but since having kids, he’d found a few he liked to watch. I often tried to find ones we both enjoyed when I had time to watch them in the evenings. That evening I pointed at Scooby-Doo as it scrolled across the screen. It was a favorite of Harrison’s and mine, and I knew Colt didn’t mind it.

“Oh, Scooby,” Harrison mentioned as he handed me my blanket. “This is a good one too.”

Everything faded away as I watched the show, and I would’ve sworn we’d just sat down.

“Hey, buddy, you’re falling asleep.” Daddy’s voice came from above me, causing me to drag in a deep breath. Falling asleep, nothing—I’d been dead to the world, and I burrowed deeper into Daddy’s lap, pulling my blanket over my face.

Harrison’s chuckle on the other side of the couch was what finally pulled me out of my fog. “If you don’t get up now, you’re going to be bitching that you’re sore tomorrow.”

I tried to mumble around my thumb that getting old could go to hell, but a big hand came down on my padded backside. “Well, I was going to warn you about your language, but now I think we need to get you changed.”

Pushing myself up to a seated position, I growled at both Harrison and Daddy, though I got the impression I wasn’t very convincing when they both smiled at me. “Go to our room. I’ll make you a bottle.” Daddy turned to Harrison, a smile still on his face. “Once I get this one in bed, I’m going to collapse as well. We’re going to have a crazy few weeks before leaving for Oklahoma.”

Harrison yawned. “It’s late enough. I’m going to go call Greg and Jasper and head to bed. Hell, Jas will end up asleep in a bit anyway. He still gets up at the ass crack of dawn no matter what.”

Jasper was the definition of an early riser, though Harrison and Greg both said he was sleeping in more often now. Of course, sleeping in for Jasper was seven a.m., but that was practically lunchtime for the guy who used to be up before the rooster crowed.

“Go brush your teeth while I make you a bottle,” Daddy coaxed as he pushed me toward the bedroom. Even when our kids were home, this was a normal night for us. Our dynamic had become so natural to both of us that we slipped in and out of our roles without much thought. There would definitely be a day that the kids started asking questions—like why Poppy cut Daddy’s food up or why he tucked Daddy in before eleven every night—I just hoped it wasn’t for many more years.

I gave Harrison a hug, told him I’d see him in the morning, then headed toward the bedroom to brush my teeth like Daddy had told me to. It was hard to believe we’d been doing this for over a decade at this point. Since Hometown had stopped touring two years earlier, though, I couldn’t remember a night I hadn’t been diapered for bed or a twenty-four-hour period where Colt hadn’t been Daddy for at least a little bit of time.

“Come on, buddy, to bed. You’re about to fall asleep standing there.” I had no idea when I’d zoned out, but I’d finished brushing my teeth and had gotten lost in my own head. We were going to have a busy few days ahead of us before Harrison headed back to Oklahoma. Thoughts of the next few days were enough to have the real world pulling at me and my energy zapping from my body just as quickly. Bed sounded nice. Then again, so did a dry diaper.

I followed him into the bedroom and collapsed onto my side of the bed. A thumb rubbed over my creased brow. “You’re really tense.”

I nodded. “Lots on my mind.”

Daddy hummed. “I can understand that. Let’s see what we can do to help that.” In seconds I was lying in just a diaper and my train pajama top, my snug shorts tossed into the basket of clothes along the wall. I’d found my blanket again and pushed my thumb into my mouth, content to let Daddy work.

The tapes pulling from the front of my diaper was loud, but I’d become so accustomed to the sound it hardly registered in my brain. Then a cool wipe ran over my skin, wiping away all traces of wetness on me. A second wipe along my dick was what had really drew my attention to what he was doing, and blood began to head south quickly. “Mmm,” I mumbled around my thumb, my hips rising to meet his touch as my length began to harden.

“I thought you would like that, but you need to stay still if you want me to continue.”

Evil. Daddy was pure evil. I’d probably have said as much if it hadn’t been for the thumb still shoved in my mouth and the ghost of his breath over the tip of my dick. Instead of words, a long moan escaped around my thumb as I struggled to keep my hips on the bed.

“Good boy. Stay still for Daddy.” Then his tongue was on me, licking my dick from base to tip and sending shivers up my spine. All thoughts of exhaustion fled as my erection filled completely and my thoughts became a hundred percent focused on Daddy and what he was doing between my legs.

“Please,” I whispered as my free hand gripped at the pillow under my head. “Please, please, please.”

My begging had Daddy chuckling against my balls, and in turn I was struggling to stay still against the vibration of his laugh and the way his scruff tickled me. Years ago it had been dark brown but had turned gray with flecks of brown and, if possible, I found it even sexier. Though at the moment I was too frustrated to appreciate it. He was the best at driving me insane with his ministrations.

“You’re being so good for me,” he murmured against the crease of my leg before he lifted slightly and engulfed my length. He’d not quite lost his gag reflex, but he’d gotten a lot better over the years and could take all but the last few inches of me into his mouth at once.

Warm, wet heat wrapping around my cock had me gasping and my thumb pulling from my mouth so I could fist the bedding. “Oh, god. Oh, oh, yeah. There.” Sex with Colt was always something special, but at the moment it became even more special. Maybe I’d been more stressed out than I thought or maybe just more ready to let everything go and let him send me flying before bed. Whatever the reason, every nerve ending in my body was alight. Tingles ran from my scalp to my toes, yet we’d barely begun. I had no idea how I was going to stay still for him, but I’d do my damnedest to try. I needed to cum, and I needed to sleep. Hopefully cumming came before sleep because there wouldn’t be time in the morning.

His hand wrapped around my balls, rolling them gently as he sucked greedily on my dick. I knew better than to cum without permission, but if he kept that up, it was going to be hard.

“A, C, C, C, G, F—”

His lips left my dick and brown eyes looked up at me. “Buddy, what are you doing?”

“Reciting the sheet music for At Home.” Duh.

“And why are you doing that?”

“So I don’t cum.” Duh. Why else would I be reciting sheet music in the middle of sex?

Colt laughed so hard his ass hit the floor. “Twelve years and you still surprise me.”

I shrugged a shoulder. “Twelve years and your lips are still magical. You told me I couldn’t move, and you haven’t given me permission to cum yet.”

“Someone’s being a brat.”

I snorted. “Someone’s being wicked.”

“What you’re telling me is that this isn’t going to last long.”

Bingo! “Yeah, not so much.”

A wicked smile crossed his face. “Five minutes, then you can cum whenever. If you cum before that, I’m putting you in the cage until we leave for Oklahoma.”

I did some quick mental math, not easy when I was rock hard and Daddy was between my legs. Five minutes and I could have more orgasms for the next… seventeen days, or seventeen days of a cage. I was going to try hard to be good. Of course, being caged was frustrating but the orgasms after were out of this world. Then again, being caged at the studio would be uncomfortable.

Daddy didn’t give me time to weigh the decision further. “Ten twenty-three. Can you make it to ten twenty-eight?” And his lips were on me again.

Dammit, it was hard to focus with his mouth wrapped around my cock. I kept watching the clock and I swore time had begun to move backward. It was all sensation: licks, sucks, breaths. My toes were curling, moans escaping my mouth, groans and grunts of pleasure filling the room. How was it only ten twenty-four?

The suction was broken and Daddy looked up from between my legs. “Harrison’s going to hear you.”

I actually laughed. “Do you forget that they were here last month and we heard them three nights in a row?”

“That guest house is sounding better and better.” He didn’t say anything else before he took me back inside his mouth.

The clock clicked over to ten twenty-five. Three more minutes. I could do this. I fisted the sheets. At least thinking about my brother having sex in my house had my orgasm pulling back from the brink just a bit, but it wasn’t going to last. Daddy was not going easy on me, and a few seconds later I was back to screaming into the room as he bobbed up and down on my dick, gagging himself on my length as he pushed me closer to the edge.

Ten twenty-six, and a finger traced my rim. I bit my lip so hard I tasted blood before I shoved my thumb back into my mouth. Involuntary tears sprang to my eyes, the bite to my lip harder than I’d expected. But the finger slipping into my hole made me forget about the pain in my lip.

Ten twenty-seven. I was not going to cum yet. I had made it this far—I wasn’t going to give up now. I might have been submissive, but I was also stubborn as hell and didn’t like losing. Though I was certain the clock had become stuck on twenty-seven. Fine, I didn’t want to go there, but I started thinking about the noises Harrison, Greg, and Jasper had made while they visited. At the time, Daddy and I had laughed about it, but with Daddy’s mouth on my dick while he played with my balls, there didn’t seem to be anything that could bring me back from the edge.

My balls had drawn up tight to my body, my spine was tingling, and the world was graying at the edges. Sweat had beaded across my forehead, and my legs shook from the effort it took to not thrust off the bed. As the world faded completely away, the clock ticked over to ten twenty-eight. “Yes!” I screamed into the room as my orgasm finally crashed completely over me and my vision faded to dark spots behind my lids. “Made it,” I said, gasping after the third time my cock spasmed in Daddy’s mouth.

He adjusted his lips and swallowed everything. I collapsed onto the bed, sated, my heart pounding and my dick still twitching. Daddy pulled off slowly before wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. “There, now you should sleep.”

I hummed. I was going to hear from Harrison about how loud I’d been, but I couldn’t find the energy to care. I’d probably be singing a different tune the next morning while I listened to Harrison, though. Daddy stood up and grabbed a fresh diaper I hadn’t even noticed before. With expert level efficiency, he had me taped into a new one in just a few minutes and then we were snuggled into bed. He was already pulling me close before I remembered that he hadn’t cum yet.

“Daddy, you.” I shook my head, but sleep was already pulling me under. “You didn’t cum.”

He kissed my temple as he rocked his groin into my hip. He was soft, and it took too long for my brain to catch up. “Don’t worry about me, buddy. I came.”

“Oh.” A silicone nipple teased my mouth and I opened instinctively for my bottle.

“Baby, what happened to your lip?”

I chuckled, having totally forgotten about it. “I wasn’t going to cum early.” He growled, and my dick tried to twitch in my diaper. “Not fair.”

“You can’t hurt yourself in order not to cum. I should cage you for that.”

I shook my head. “No, that wasn’t part of the agreement. You just told me I couldn’t cum before ten twenty-eight. And it was an accident anyway.” I closed my lips around the nipple and hummed as the cold milk hit my mouth.

“Night, buddy.”

I smiled around the bottle and let my eyes drift shut.

Undisclosed Attraction Prologue


“Okay, you’re all set. That was the last of it.” I pulled Caleb into a hug and kissed his temple.

Caleb dug the toe of his tennis shoe into the dirt at the base of the giant oak tree in the backyard. He sucked his lower lip between his teeth and worried at it. Reaching up, I tugged it loose with my thumb. “Your Daddy will kill me if you go back to the truck with a torn-apart lip.” With my other hand, I swatted at his thigh. “Do not get your new shoes dirty. Travis will never let you come back over here if you keep that up!” Even I had to admit the white sneakers with dinosaurs printed on them were adorable.

Part of me already missed Caleb living here. He’d moved in next door when we were ten, and we’d spent nearly every day together. He’d basically moved into my parents’ house when we were sixteen and we’d lived together or right next door to one another since. Then again, Caleb had hardly been at his place since he’d started seeing Travis, so not a lot would change with him moving. We’d still see each other at work, spend time together on the weekends, and have dinner at least once a week.

“Are you going to be okay?” Caleb looked so lost, his hazel eyes sad as a puppy’s.

My heart hurt for him but I forced a smile. “Of course I will, Cal. You’re in good hands. You’ve earned this, and you really should have moved in there two months ago.” I rolled my eyes playfully at him. “Cal, your Daddy loves you so much. It’s your time to fly, baby bird.”

And it was my turn to stretch my wings. Caleb and I had always been open about his little side. Okay, maybe I’d pushed just a little bit in the beginning, but it had been for Caleb’s benefit. He needed to get it out in the open, and I always made sure to drive him just insane enough that he wouldn’t take himself too seriously. It was a hard job, but someone had to do it. And I’d been damn good at my job.

I hugged him tighter, pressing featherlight kisses on his temple. “It’s going to be fine. And you and Trav are perfect for one another. I’ve never seen you happier.”

Caleb sagged into my arms. “I know, Dex, I know. But you’re going to be here alone.”

My eyes struggled not to roll. I could see Travis hovering in the back door of Caleb’s old town house, and part of me wanted to have him come over and save the day. I think Travis and I both knew Caleb needed to work this out on his own. Travis was giving him that time, yet was ready to swoop in and hold him close if needed.

Shifting foot to foot, I started a gentle swaying motion, effectively rocking us back and forth. The motion calmed Caleb and his shoulders began to sag as stress left his body. “I really do love Daddy.”

The snort of laughter I let out couldn’t be helped. “Oh my god, I know you love Trav. That’s never been in question, Cal. That’s why you need to go with him and not worry. Best friends move away from one another every day. You’re barely twenty minutes from here. You aren’t moving to the other side of the country.”

Caleb drew in a breath and I could feel his resolve strengthening. Finally. I knew he’d get to this point. “You’re right. And I’ll see you tomorrow at work.”

“Like you could get rid of me that easily.”

When Caleb laughed and pushed at my shoulder, Travis finally stepped forward. “Will you come to dinner at our place next weekend?”

I hadn’t spent much time at Travis’s house since Caleb had been living there, but I found myself nodding. “Absolutely. Wouldn’t miss it.”

Knowing we had a set time to see each other outside of work seemed to lift Caleb’s spirits even more. “Okay, I guess we really should get going.” He leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Love you, Dex.”

I squeezed his hand. “Love you too, Cal.”

Watching the two lock up the town house for the final time was more emotional than it should have been, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t choke down a few tears as they pulled out of the parking lot. My own home had a different feel to it, knowing Caleb wasn’t right next door to me.

I stepped into my house, shutting the door behind me and leaning against it. The air conditioning had made the metal cool against my back, and even through my cotton shirt, I felt the satin of the camisole I’d slipped on that morning slide against my back.

I smirked.

Caleb was well on his way to having himself figured out, but I had a lot to learn about myself. More than I’d ever realized.

Undisclosed Curiosity Chapter 1


My eyes cracked open when the evening sun filtered through the blinds, and I felt the cold spot next to me in bed. That spot had been occupied by Trent Sylvan, my very naked best friend, when I’d fallen asleep. I kept the sad sigh of frustration to myself. This was what we’d agreed to when we accepted that a relationship between the two of us would never work. Post-sex snuggles were no longer in the cards. Well, maybe extended post-sex snuggles were no longer in the cards, because Trent never left me before I fell asleep.

No matter what I said and no matter how well my brain understood that we weren’t still in a relationship, I missed it. At least, I missed it with him. We’d been a thing so fleetingly that we hadn’t even told our closest friends. To everyone we knew, we were still and only ever had been best friends. Hell, I was pretty sure no one in Kingston Springs even knew I was bisexual. Why would they when I didn’t bring guys around?

Then again, why would I bring guys around when I’d already met the perfect man? I had no reason to bring a guy around when I knew I’d never find another man like Trent. I had to accept that best friends with benefits would have to do, at least until he found his Mr. Right and not just Mr. Right Now. Unfortunately for me, I was Mr. Right Now. It would happen eventually. He was too good a guy to stay single forever. The thought sat heavy in my stomach and I struggled to brush it away.

The delicious tenderness in my ass that only came after being fucked long and hard reminded me of why I was in bed to begin with. And the feeling reminded me again that there was only one man who could make me feel so thoroughly used that I didn’t want to move for hours.

The one man I couldn’t have.

I knew we needed different things out of a relationship. It didn’t matter how off the charts our sexual chemistry was or how deep our friendship ran; I wasn’t submissive, and Trent needed a submissive.

On paper, our relationship should have worked beautifully. I was a puppy, and Trent was a Dom. In practice it wasn’t so simple. Even as a pup, I wasn’t submissive. In that headspace, I liked knowing someone was there to make sure I remembered to take a drink or help me keep track of time, but I didn’t like being spanked or doing tricks for a Master. Outside of puppy space, I couldn’t stand someone—even my best friend—keeping tabs on me or trying to set a schedule for me.

Trent thrived on control—he needed it to be truly happy. It took less than a month to figure out that we couldn’t be what the other needed long term. In order to preserve our friendship, we agreed to not date.

I hadn’t told Trent how painful the split was for me, and I didn’t plan on it. Two years later, it sometimes still hit me hard that I couldn’t make it work with my dream man. The last time I’d ghosted him for a couple days—no small task when we lived together and worked in the same office—was because I’d seen him flirting with someone at the bar and it had nearly ripped my heart out. Jealousy at seeing him with someone else turned me into a green-eyed monster, and I didn’t like it.

Despite confusing both my brain and heart, despite knowing what we were doing was making it harder to separate my best friend from the love of my life, we still fell into bed together. Boyfriends or not, once we’d learned how good we were together in bed, our sexual chemistry couldn’t be ignored. I usually fell asleep faster and slept better after a round of sex with Trent than I did with anyone else, but he always slid out of bed before I woke up. If I really analyzed his motives, I would have to admit it was likely his way of trying not to confuse me. While logically I appreciated it, I still hated it. I missed waking up warm and cozy and wrapped tightly in his arms.

A clattering in the kitchen brought me out of my thoughts. My heart pounded in shock for a moment before I realized it was probably Trent making dinner for us. I had plans to go to DASH, the BDSM club in Nashville, and Trent had a late shift at work. We both needed to eat before we left, and Trent would make sure we both got food.

There were still times he’d go to DASH with me as my handler when I wasn’t in the mood to play with someone else, but usually we tried to avoid going to the club at the same time. Seeing your best friend nearly naked, or in my case watching my best friend punishing a naughty sub, wasn’t something we preferred to see on a regular basis. Our schedules at work usually aided in our ability to avoid each other fairly well.

I dressed quickly, doing my best to ignore the tenderness in my ass, before heading to the kitchen. Trent greeted me with a big grin and his sexy as sin wire-rimmed glasses. “Hey, sleepyhead.”

Pretending to be unaffected by Trent was getting harder and harder as time passed. Part of me had even begun to wonder if I could find some modicum of submission in me. Would a little submission be enough for him? I shook my head to clear the thoughts. “First of all, haven’t I told you not to wear your ‘please fuck me’ glasses when I don’t have time to drag you back to bed? And second, how long have I been asleep?”

“Sorry, my contacts are bothering me. Besides, I figured they could help Curious get all horny before going to the club.” He winked. “You never know, you may meet a sexy guy that checks all your boxes.”

I rolled my eyes. The only man for me was Trent. Going to DASH had never been about finding a man, whether he accepted it or not. “You’re seriously messed up. And don’t call me Curious. Jesus, when you do that, you make my dick all confused.”

Curious was the name I’d chosen for myself when I’d first gotten into puppy play over five years earlier. It might have been unconventional to choose my own puppy name, but I’d known that the odds of me finding a handler that could accept I didn’t want to submit were slim. When I sank into that headspace all I wanted was to not think for a while. I’d jumped into puppy play after discovering a book about it. The first thing I thought of to describe myself was curious, and with that, Curious was born.

Trent let out a full belly laugh that had me chuckling as well. When he finally stopped, he slid a bowl of spaghetti and a side salad toward me. “Eat—you need your energy for tonight. You won’t be able to give some poor unsuspecting Master a run for his money if you don’t have food in you.”

I ate a few bites of spaghetti before I spoke up. “Not looking for a Master. And I’m just going to chill tonight. No scene play for me. I may hit up the littles’ room, find that super-soft beanbag thing and people watch, for all I know.”

Trent snorted. “Logan, you can’t sit down for more than five minutes without going stir-crazy.”

I can when there’s a certain cute little who likes to cuddle. I wasn’t willing to tell Trent that. He was convinced I needed someone less controlling than him but still more kinky than vanilla. Aiden, the sweet little who I’d been meeting up with more often than not in recent months, was about as far from a Dom as someone could get. He wanted a Daddy to take control. I couldn’t do that. I was too damn distractible to be a decent Daddy for anyone, but especially someone as sweet as Aiden. We’d met at the club earlier in the year, shortly after I’d sworn off all relationships, male and female. Our almost-relationship, paired with the sex Trent and I shared, is what had kept me from looking for another relationship. That was for the best anyway—every one I’d had ended in disaster.

Aiden and I had made it a point to not allow our relationship to develop into anything more than some frotting or a hand job, usually in one of the BDSM club’s private rooms. But we texted frequently between meetups. A strong friendship had formed between the two of us, and yes, even sexual attraction was there too. I’d already learned my lesson about letting sexual attraction and friendship morph into a relationship with someone I couldn’t meet the needs of. I wasn’t going there again.

When Aiden was diapered and in his little headspace and I was in my puppy gear, I could cuddle with him for hours and never get antsy. I couldn’t even do that with Trent unless I was falling asleep. The only time I ever got restless around Aiden was if someone I didn’t have a good feeling about tried to engage with him.

Just the thought of seeing Aiden again had me ready to rush through dinner.

I must have made a face because when I blinked up, Trent had his eyes squinted, examining me closely. “What’s that look about?”

I shoved a bite of food into my mouth. “What look?”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full.”

I forced myself to swallow, but I flipped him off at the same time. “You’re not my Dom—you can’t tell me what to do.”

“If I were your Dom, you’d never be able to sit down. Now, why did you get that dopey smile on your face?”

I wiggled slightly in my seat. He wasn’t even my Dom and I was hardly able to sit after he fucked me earlier in the evening. I had no desire to have him—or anyone else—redden my ass. Then I remembered Aiden and his cute smile. Too bad Trent wasn’t looking for a little. If I allowed myself to go down that rabbit hole, he ticked every box Aiden was looking for despite Trent being too stubborn to realize it. My best friend had the potential to snuggle the hell out of someone like Aiden. Trent still swore he was the big bad Dom type, but I could see the super-soft teddy bear lurking right below the surface. The older he got, the more apparent it became to me. He wasn’t playing as hard at the club from what I’d heard. Actually, the last munch I went to I’d overheard a few of the Doms saying that Trent hadn’t had more than a spanking scene in over a year.

But it would be weird to introduce Trent to Aiden—the man I’d accepted I loved despite not being able to do anything about it, and the man who had quickly become an important person in my life. I wasn’t ready to say I had feelings for Aiden, but I knew if we spent more time together feelings could easily develop.

It was all sorts of fucked up and, selfishly, I didn’t think I was strong enough to survive the two of them together.

I shook my head to clear the thoughts because, thankfully, it didn’t matter. Trent still tried to go for the brats, even if they were all wrong for him. Sure, he wanted more of a lifestyle relationship, but he’d shut down the idea of being Daddy. The last time we’d talked about it he’d told me it was because all the boys looking for a Daddy at DASH associated him with discipline, so it didn’t matter anyway. He was so oblivious.

It didn’t change the fact that I could see the giant teddy bear who would snuggle a sweet sub to death. I didn’t like going to bed at a certain time, and I didn’t want to have to check in with him multiple times a day. I also didn’t like punishments. Trent needed someone who craved the love, doting attention, and punishments he loved to give and I wasn’t that person.

But where would that leave me?

Yup, I was a selfish asshole.

“Logan…” Trent’s tone had taken a hard edge that made me squirm again. Dammit, he was a good Dom.

He only got growly like that when I wasn’t paying attention. Shit, he’d asked me a question. What was it? I replayed the conversation we’d been having. Friends with benefits, sexy times, awkward to introduce them, funny smile. Oh! “It wasn’t a dopey smile!”

Trent raised an eyebrow at me and inclined his head. “Really?”

“Really. I was just thinking of a… friend.”

The disbelieving look Trent gave me said I probably wouldn’t be able to avoid the question forever, but I didn’t know if I was ready to share Aiden with him yet either. Aiden and I had something special. Almost as special as the decades-long friendship and bond that Trent and I shared, only ours was much newer. I shoved a bite of salad in my mouth in the hope of deterring Trent from asking more questions.

He shook his head at me but changed the subject. “Okay, well, I need to get to work. Finish eating, then have a good night at the club. Promise me you’ll text me when you get home? I’ll worry about you otherwise.”

The lump I felt in the back of my throat was easier to ignore when I swallowed the bite in my mouth. It wasn’t so easy to ignore when I spoke. “Promise. I’ll even text you when I get there.”

The promise made Trent relax. I might not have been a submissive, but I liked making him smile. Knowing I’d done something to put that smile on his face made me happy. He deserved all the happiness in the world. He kissed the top of my head on his way to the steps. “I need a shower before work. Have a good night. And Logan?” He waited until I looked up. “Please remember to text me when you get home.”

I nodded. He’d worry about me all night if I didn’t.

“Have fun. Love you.”

“Love you too.” The words were so automatic by that point it felt weird if we left each other without saying them. The habit had started sometime in our late teens or early twenties. I’d been in the Marines, and as we said goodbye, we’d say it when we hung up the phone. I’d not felt romantic love for him at the time, but over the years those feelings had changed. Now it was so ingrained in us we didn’t think about it. Well, I thought about it, and the words always made my heart race a little. I absolutely loved Trent Sylvan, and I knew without a doubt I always would.

When I was done with dinner, I packed up my bag. I didn’t plan on jumping into a scene and a mosh wasn’t scheduled for the night, so instead of my sexy harness and leather jock, I grabbed a pair of well-fitting sweats, a snug T-shirt, and my show tail. I wasn’t going to be putting a plug in—even my smaller one would be uncomfortable after Trent had fucked me so well. I had a number of leather jocks that would allow me to attach my tail directly to them. But I decided to go more simplistic—and more comfortable—and chose a leather belt instead. Not that Trent would believe me, but a hookup at the BDSM club was not what I was looking for.

Until Trent met his forever guy—whether he knew it or not—I was his. All I wanted to do was curl up with Aiden while he played and gave me belly rubs.

On my way out of my room, I grabbed a package of teething cookies from the box I kept hidden in my closet. It would be too hard to explain to Trent why a box of teething cookies had suddenly appeared in our kitchen, but Aiden had let it slip that he liked them one evening while we were having dinner and since then I never went to the club without a package of them. The smile Aiden gave me each time I handed them over made it totally worth the extra few bucks I spent at the grocery store every once in a while. He’d shared a packet with me and, while they weren’t terrible, I definitely didn’t enjoy them the way he did. Seriously, just give me a real cookie and I’d be happy. Then again, the little graham cracker dog bones Trent bought for me from time to time probably had the same effect on me. I chuckled at the thought as I tossed my bag into the passenger’s side of my truck.

There was something about knowing Aiden would be little at the club without me around that always made my stomach uneasy, so I made sure to be at least ten minutes earlier than we’d planned on. As long as I’d known him, he was the most punctual person on the planet, making it far easier for me to plan my arrival time.

The club didn’t allow electronic devices in the main play areas—privacy reasons—so I always made sure to have a paperback book with me when I went to hang out with Aiden. I spent a moment texting Trent to let him know I’d arrived safely, then dug my book out of my bag and settled in to read until Aiden inevitably knocked on my window. Ten minutes later, at exactly eight p.m., I heard his knock.

Aiden was contemplative as I exited my truck. “Why are you always early?”

I tried to give a casual shrug—I didn’t want him to start arriving earlier than me. “Trent made dinner tonight, so I was running a bit early.”

Aiden gave me a hard look like he didn’t quite believe me, but then he inclined his head toward the door. “Shall we?”

I grabbed my bag and stuffed my book inside. “Let’s go.” I was normally on the go, but after Trent had fucked me so well, I couldn’t wait to curl up and cuddle for the night. Maybe I could sink far enough into my puppy space that I’d be able to push thoughts of Trent out of my head for the evening. For whatever reason, they were invading my thoughts more often than normal. I planned on ignoring the part of my brain that swore I was cheating on him, telling me I shouldn’t be at the club without him despite us agreeing to give each other space at DASH. This was why it was a bad idea to mix pleasure with friendship. Trent and I worked hard to not let our sexual relationship be anything more than sex, but my brain still didn’t seem to get the memo. There was part of me that had fallen in love with my best friend back in high school and I just had to keep reminding myself that we wanted very different things out of a relationship.

Different, and what was beginning to feel impossible for either of us to find. Unfortunately, unmatched chemistry between the sheets and a lifelong friendship didn’t always mean we’d be compatible in base desires.

And now I had put myself in a bad mood to be entering the club.

Alice sat at the registration desk, just like always. As the mother of Master Zachary, DASH’s owner, Alice had been integrally involved since the inception. I couldn’t imagine sharing kinks with my parents, but Alice wasn’t like any other septuagenarian I’d met. She’d also been the receptionist since the day the club opened, and I was sure Dom And Sub Haven wouldn’t be the same without her. She gave us a bright smile, scanned our ID cards into the computer, and let us back into the club.

Aiden’s butt was rounder than normal, telling me he’d changed into a diaper before he’d left the house. Yes, I was inspecting his ass. It was a perfect bubble butt in just a pair of jeans, but when he put a diaper on it was rounder. With him walking toward the locker room in front of me, thoughts of Trent drifted away. The amplified bubble butt and his unstyled brown hair that flopped into his face paired well with his little side. Of course, the dark scruff on his face was decidedly not little and Ienjoyed teasing him about it.

We made our way to the changing room and Aiden began shimmying out of his fitted jeans and sweater to reveal a onesie with puppy prints all over it. For the first time, I was jealous of his attire.

Even jealous, my dick reacted to him. If I thought he was sexy in a onesie and a thick diaper, I could only imagine how Trent would react. Fuck, I was not going back down that track. I focused my brain power on his shirt. “Where’d you get that?”

Color filled his cheeks and he ducked his head. “Umm, someone I know online made it for me.”

“That’s so cool!” It was cute and bright and the aqua-colored paw prints matched my puppy gear perfectly. I forced myself to focus more on getting ready than his shirt, but it was hard. My puppy gloves, tail, knee pads, collar, and finally my hood went on and we were ready to go.

While I’d focused on getting myself ready, Aiden had clipped his binkie to his shirt and dug his favorite stuffed animal, Hedge, out of his bag. The old hedgehog looked kind of sad, and despite him insisting it was clean, its fur was matted. The last time I had teased him about it he’d insisted it wasn’t dirty but well loved.

I made sure to grab the cookies from my bag and pushed them into the pocket of my sweats before I got on the floor. We’d done this routine so many times in the past few months that it had become second nature to me. Aiden got his sippy cup from his bag, then picked my leash up and clipped it to the D-ring on my collar. “Come on, Curious. Let’s go.” He didn’t sound like the man I’d walked into the club with. His voice had softened and there was an excited tone that hadn’t been there before. I didn’t normally like a leash, but with Aiden it didn’t feel like a submissive act. With him, I was simply a little boy’s puppy, nothing more, nothing less.

As we made our way to the playroom, the few people at the club that evening smiled at us. We had to look like quite an odd pair—a little and his puppy strolling through the club with no Dom in sight. Even when I glanced up, I could see the fullness of Aiden’s diaper through his onesie. I got a few pats on my head from people I knew, but we were mainly left alone.

Worth The Risk Prologue


“Daddy!” Thomas’s voice rang out across the park. “Daddy, watch!”

My body sagged into the park bench. I was exhausted. Beyond exhausted. I’d put in my eighteen hours at the hospital, then rushed home to get Thomas and Eli off the bus. I hadn’t slept during my shift thanks to the insanity that was the emergency room, so I was going on twenty-four hours without sleep. I’d thought that going to the park would give the kids a chance to run off some energy and give me a little bit of time to decompress after my shift.

I was wrong.

Eli called out next. “Daddy, push me on the swing. Please?”

I forced my eyes open and tried to plaster a smile on my face. “Give me a second.” I yawned and reached high over my head, trying to stretch exhausted joints. My back popped, my neck cracked, and a headache sat just behind my eyes, reminding me with each passing minute that I hadn’t slept in over twenty-four hours.

I glanced over to where I heard Thomas’s voice, and I found him high above the playground’s jungle gym, climbing over the plastic tubes. “Thomas, please get down from there.” I’d seen enough injuries from kids falling off playground equipment that it should have sent terror through my heart, except my brain had reached the point where it refused to process it.

Single parenting was hard. No, that was an understatement. Single parenting was something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Living three hours from my nearest family made my job that much harder. When my wife unexpectedly left me six years earlier with a two-year-old and a four-year-old, I’d been dumbstruck. I’d left for work, kissed her and the boys goodbye, and come home the next day to a small moving truck in our driveway and a packet of divorce papers that contained custody documents. She was done. She didn’t want to be a wife, or a mother—all she wanted was freedom. She had kissed the boys goodbye, given me a cold hug, and walked out of our lives. Nicole hadn’t even returned for the divorce proceedings.

I’d dealt with every stage of grief as though she’d died. Sometimes I still found it easier to believe she’d died than to think that she’d left us and never even sent a card to tell us where she was. Over the span of a few years, the boys stopped asking about her, and by that point they had few, if any, memories of her.

Days where I got to work and my feet hit the ground running, only stopping when I clocked out eighteen hours later were, thankfully, rare. Very rare. However, each time I had to come home to parent my boys alone after a full day of no sleep, I found myself angry at my ex-wife all over again.

I made my way to the swings and spent ten minutes pushing Eli before my phone rang. It was on the second ring before my brain processed it was my phone, and it took another two rings for me to step away from the swing and get it out of my back pocket. I was at risk of it going to voicemail before I answered, so I didn’t bother to look at the screen as I swiped up to accept.

“Hello?” I questioned through a yawn.

“Damn, you sound like shit.”

I pulled the phone from my ear and looked at the screen. “Carl?” My brother sounded identical to my dad, which caused me pause every time they called.

“Yup. You okay?”

Even through my exhausted haze I could hear the concern in his voice and was touched by it. He was usually so busy with his job as a government contractor that we didn’t get much time to talk. When he was home, he spent the time with his own family and our parents. Last I’d heard he was supposed to be home in a few weeks. Thinking about the date, I guessed he’d managed to get leave as expected. “Long night at work. At the park with the boys in hopes they wear themselves out so we can all get sleep tonight.”

Carl hummed into the line. “You work yourself to the bone up there in Louisville.”

Between the mortgage, car payment, private school tuition, and the nanny who watched the boys while I worked, I didn’t have a choice. “It can be difficult. Did you get leave just to call and give me a hard time?”

Carl laughed so hard I had to pull the phone from my ear. “Sometimes. Actually, I was calling because I overheard something interesting while I was waiting on Dad’s oil change today.”

I stifled a yawn. “Oh? What’s that?” I didn’t know if I cared much about small town gossip, but Carl sounded excited.

“The doctor here in town is retiring and he’s looking to sell the clinic.”

“Your point?”

Carl blew out a breath like I was an idiot. “Mark, you’re qualified. From what Jeff says, there’s no one in town who wants the job. Apparently, there aren’t many doctors here.”

“Who’s Jeff?”

“The owner of the garage. He’s also a pretty good friend, and he knows Doc well.”

“Carl, I’m settled here.”

Carl blew what sounded like a raspberry into the phone. “You’re alone up there. I talked with Doc, asked him when he’s looking to retire. He says he’d like to be out by Christmas. But if he doesn’t find someone, he’s going to close the clinic.”

I walked to the bench closest to the swings. “I’m not just going to take a job in Fairview because you call me out of the blue.” Work was hard, the hours were long, and of course he’d called me after one of the most difficult shifts I’d had in months, but none of that meant I was looking to make a change.

My job paid the bills and then some. The kids were settled here; everything they knew was here. School, friends, sports, doctors—they were all in Louisville. Did I want to go from a big city to a small town? I thought I remembered my mom mentioning that there were only about ten thousand people who lived there. There were over 600,000 in Louisville. Ten thousand was almost small enough that everyone would know everyone.

Then again, my parents were there. Carl and his family lived there. I could actually see them all without needing to take a day off work or a weekend off activities.

Doctor of a small town clinic sounded a bit too Hallmark Channel movie to me. On the other hand, it would be nice to have people nearby. There was a park in the middle of town, and kids were always there when we went in the summer. The boys would make friends. I yawned and my jaw popped. I was going to fall asleep on the bench if I sat there much longer. “Give me his number. I can at least look into it.” Had I said that out loud?

I could hear the triumph in Carl’s voice. “I’ll send you his number as soon as we get off the phone.” He paused for a moment before he continued. “Hey, Mark?”

“Yeah, Carl?”

“It would be nice to have you and the boys nearby. I miss seeing you. Being gone so often is hard, but coming home and knowing that one of us will have to travel three hours if we want to see each other sucks.”

Twist that knife a little deeper, Carl. “I miss you too. And I miss Mom and Dad. But I don’t know that I’m cut out to be the head of a small town clinic.”

“Just think it over and talk with Doc. He’s a great guy.”

I promised to think it over. First, I needed to get the boys home, fed, help them with homework, and tucked in bed, and hopefully have the energy to make it across the hall to my room before I passed out. I managed to check off every item on my to-do list in short succession, but through it all Doc’s number seemed to be burning a hole in my pocket.

I got the kids in bed at eight. Eli had seemed to be as exhausted as I was, and while it was still early for Thomas, he had picked up on how tired I was and promised to read in his bed until nine. I said goodnight and headed to my room.

I should have fallen asleep quickly. My head should have hit the pillow and I should have been out like a light. At twenty after eight, I was still staring at my ceiling, my thoughts swirling about the job in Tennessee. It wasn’t like it was mine for the taking, and I hadn’t made up my mind, but I needed more information or I’d drive myself nuts. Maybe I’d talk to the guy Carl called Doc and realize I wasn’t a good fit for the position. Maybe the terms would be impossible or the income wouldn’t be there to support a family.

Huffing, I rolled over, grabbed my phone from the charger, and tapped Doc’s number into my phone. I didn’t know why I hadn’t expected him to answer at eight twenty-five at night, but I hadn’t, so hearing a voice surprised me.

“This is Doc.”

Untamed Prologue


The young man sitting across from me sipping coffee wasn’t what I’d expected when I’d posted an ad for someone to help with the breeding program I was trying to get off the ground at Untamed, the horse ranch I’d inherited from my dad when he died ten years ago. Until now, we’d been a rescue and training center. I had no intention of leaving our roots—the area I lived in didn’t have enough people to take on the unwanted animals as it was. I had an open-door policy at the ranch, and we took in any stray or unwanted animal that came our way, within reason.

My goal was to expand Untamed to be something a little more profitable so supporting all the animals we did wasn’t so difficult. I knew enough about breeding to know I didn’t know nearly enough to do what I wanted to do. That hadn’t stopped me from dismissing the three previous applicants because I didn’t trust that they knew the difference between a mare and a gelding.

Kyle was young, younger than I’d expected when his application had appeared in my inbox a week earlier. His brown hair was cut short on the sides and longer on top, the jeans he wore were fitted but worn, and his plaid button-up shirt was new, but it didn’t appear as though he was trying too hard to impress me. He was impressing me, but not just with his job qualifications. Kyle was gorgeous, well-spoken, and his eyes were mesmerizing. I needed to be careful or I was going to make him uncomfortable with the way I was staring.

“Kyle, how is it you found my job posting exactly?” According to his application, he was living in Columbus, Ohio and had a master’s degree in animal husbandry. I didn’t know how he was old enough to have a master’s degree, and I was perplexed about what he was doing in Tennessee. And judging by his lack of accent, he hadn’t grown up anywhere near the South. 

“I’m looking for a change of pace. I already knew I’d have to leave Columbus if I wanted to find a job doing what I love. Over the last few months, I’ve been keeping my eye on job postings out of state. I wrote a script to scan for job ads looking for positions in my intended field. Your post came up, and it seemed like a good fit. I love horses, and I like the idea of being on board during the beginning stages of a breeding program where we can work together and set something up that works for you and the ranch. Coming into a system that’s already in place and just taking over someone else’s job doesn’t sound as rewarding to me.”

Expanding Untamed to include a breeding program had always been my dad’s dream. Unfortunately, he died before it ever became a possibility. It had taken years of saving, and I’d had to sell off a few acres at the back of the property to a development company to have enough money to expand. My dad would be rolling in his grave if he knew I’d sold the land, but the truth was, it was useless land full of dead earth and more natural hazards than I wanted to deal with. I’d be shocked if the development company found a way to make it useable, though they had paid me a hefty price for the property. The influx of cash had given me the ability to give this crazy venture a go. Finding someone who understood animal breeding well enough to walk me through the intricacies of what I didn’t know had been a lot more difficult. The fresh-faced kid sitting across the table from me seemed to have the drive and the education that just might make it work. Not wanting to show him how excited I was, I forced myself to ask more questions.

“What got you interested in husbandry?” 

The smile that crossed Kyle’s face was genuine. “It’s actually kind of a backward story. I’ve always loved animals. My grandpa had a small farm in Illinois, and I enjoyed spending time there as a child. He died, and the farm was sold before I was even a teenager, but I’ve always associated ranches and farms with my grandfather and happiness. I knew I wanted to do something to make a difference, I just didn’t know what exactly that would be. My parents tried to pressure me into vet school, but that didn’t feel right. I took rural sociology as an elective during my senior year of high school. We studied agriculture and visited a working cattle ranch for a field trip. Most of my classmates were repulsed, but I was fascinated. I knew then I wanted to go into husbandry.”

I appreciated his honesty. I’d already decided I was going to take him back to the ranch to let him meet the horses and the ranch hands and to see how he felt about the place. If we could make something work, we would.

Kyle sat back in his seat and pulled his hands over his head as his brown eyes sparkled with amusement. “Besides, how ironic is it that a gay man who won’t be reproducing has a career specializing in reproduction.”

I almost spit my coffee across the table. 

He didn’t miss a beat as he leaned forward. “Will my sexuality be a problem? Believe me, I knew I was going to have an uphill battle finding a place that would accept me. There aren’t many LGBT-friendly ranches out there. Actually, if there are any, I haven’t found them. So I need to know upfront if my sexuality is going to cause issues. Your ranch sounds nice, and you seem like you’d be a good man to work for, but I’d like to know now if there’s going to be a problem.”

It wasn’t often someone rendered me speechless. Knowing he was gay, I was going to have to work even harder to keep my attraction to him under the radar. I’d be a hypocritical asshole if I told him I had an issue with his sexuality. I was bisexual myself but getting the breeding program off the ground was the most important thing. Even being open with the hands, I wasn’t quite so brazen about announcing my sexuality to people, especially strangers. The guys at the ranch had been introduced to my partners in the past and had never batted an eye, so his sexuality wasn’t going to be a problem. After what was probably too long, I shook my head. “No, your sexuality won’t be a problem at Untamed.”

Kyle’s entire body sagged into the chair as he let out a long sigh. “Great.” All the false bravado he’d been portraying was erased in an instant. It wasn’t until then that I realized how much tension he’d been holding in his body. How many times had his sexuality come between him and a job? I probably didn’t want to know because it would only piss me off.

“Why don’t I take you to the ranch so you can meet the hands and the animals?”

He looked like an excited kid as he nodded. “Awesome!”

Already Home Chapter 1


Harrison groaned quietly as his orgasm built. It was muffled, and I could only assume he was covering his mouth so he didn’t wake me. I’d worked until the wee hours of the morning because my latest client had a late-night party. I’d ended up being an overpaid and overqualified bouncer. It was easy money, but I was too old to be falling into bed when the sun would be rising in under two hours. 

Knowing there were two gorgeous men waiting for me at home made it even harder to wait out the end of the party. I’d finally gently reminded the guy that his dad expected him at the office before ten, and he should think about calling it a night. Socialites were quickly becoming the bane of my existence. I hadn’t realized how much money was in Oklahoma when I’d asked to take on a few contracts for Oscar. The socialites were all entitled and spoiled, but the adult children of the oil tycoons were the worst. Thankfully, the current client seemed to have a healthy fear of his father, and I carefully chose when to use that information to my advantage. At a party after four in the morning was an appropriate time. 

That left me slipping into bed just after five, trying not to wake Jasper or Harrison who were cuddled together and buried under the blankets. The first cold snap was just hitting Oklahoma, and no one was ready for the chilly late-October air. I drifted off quickly only to be awoken an hour later by Harrison’s frantic whimpers.

I didn’t know how long they’d been going at each other but from the sounds Harrison was making, it had likely been a while. I dared to crack my eyes open and watched as Harrison pressed his fist to his mouth.

Jasper’s mouth popped off Harrison’s dick. “Shh. You’re going to wake Greg.”

Harrison groaned but whispered his reply frantically. “You’re killing me!” 

I don’t know what Jasper did, but Harrison’s eyes went wide, and he shoved his fist back into his mouth. When he finally got himself under control, he carded his fingers through Jasper’s short blond hair. “God, yes, do that again. Please, do that again.”

I diverted my eyes from Harrison and looked at Jasper between his legs. Jasper was tugging frantically on his own cock with one hand while his other hand was buried under Harrison. I assumed Jasper had a few fingers in Harrison’s ass while his mouth was on Harrison’s cock. 

Two months earlier, I’d never have believed that Jasper would be confident enough to be on his knees giving someone a blow job. Yet, there he was, and he was clearly enjoying it. 

When the three of us had fallen into bed together at the beginning of October, we hadn’t had any plans to make it a permanent thing. But it had been clear after just a few days that what we had was far more than a casual hookup for fun. A week later, we’d decided to see where the relationship took us. It hadn’t taken much time for Harrison to be in our bed every night. We couldn’t seem to get enough of each other. But, for the most part, Jasper and Harrison didn’t do much sexually without me.

It had never been a rule, in fact, I’d encouraged them to explore when they had time alone together. Jasper had been hesitant, and Harrison didn’t seem to be comfortable pushing him to do anything he wasn’t comfortable with. I was happy to see them initiating something when I wasn’t actively involved.

Harrison gasped as Jasper’s head bobbed up and down on his cock.

I couldn’t resist saying something. “You two are so sexy.” My voice was raspy and sleep filled, but it caught their attention. Harrison’s eyes widened, and he looked over at me. Jasper’s eyes flicked up to meet mine, and a wicked grin spread on his face around Harrison’s cock. 

“You were supposed to be asleep.” Harrison was still whispering like it would put me back to sleep.

“Um, my sexy men are all over each other in bed. Do you really want me to sleep through that?” 

Jasper hummed, and I didn’t know if that meant no or yes. Either way, Harrison’s hips bucked off the bed and Jasper gagged slightly.

“Sorry!” Harrison’s earnest apology was sweet, and Jasper doubled down on his efforts. 

“Aren’t you going to cum for Jasper, beautiful?” 

Harrison’s deep voice caught in his throat and he whimpered, nodding frantically.

I turned my attention to Jasper. “Sexy, focus on the head. Harrison likes more attention on his tip than his shaft.”

“Fuuuck,” Harrison groaned at my instruction. I liked to direct them, and it was something we did from time to time. Knowing I was watching but still not actively involved was almost as erotic as being part of the action.

Jasper lifted up slightly, letting his tongue flick over the tip of Harrison’s cock. A strangled moan escaped Harrison’s lips, and he dug his fingers into my arm. 

“Cum for Jasper, Harrison. He’s being so patient, but I think he wants to taste you already.” Jasper nodded as best he could with a cock in his mouth, and I heard him hum his agreement.

Harrison’s entire body went rigid, and he threw his head back. He let out a steady stream of curses, and I could see Jasper beginning to swallow deeply. I placed my mouth on Harrison’s and swallowed his screams.

Jasper tugged at his dick a few more times, and his orgasm followed Harrison’s, leaving a sticky puddle of cum on the bedding between his legs. 

When Harrison’s body finally relaxed into the bed, Jasper pulled off his cock. After giving his inner thigh a gentle kiss, he crawled up to the top of the bed and settled between us. We wrapped ourselves around Jasper and quickly drifted back to sleep. 

I woke up sometime later to Jasper wiggling out from between us. “What’s up, sexy?” 

Jasper looked up at me with his bright blue eyes and whispered so he didn’t wake up Harrison. “Gotta shower. I need to get to the office to do payroll this morning.” 

“I’ll go make breakfast.” I climbed out of bed and slipped on a pair of boxer briefs.

I stopped near where Harrison was sleeping before leaving the room. He looked so peaceful curled into the bedding. I brushed his hair out of his face gently, smoothed the blankets around him, and then left him sleeping peacefully. 

Jasper joined me in the kitchen twenty minutes later. I’d just poured two cups of coffee, and he slipped in front of me so he was between me and the counter. When he turned and slid up onto the counter and wrapped his arms around my neck, pulling me into a kiss, my dick began to harden. He may have gotten off already that morning, but I’d only gotten to watch my two sexy men have amazing orgasms and my dick was more than ready for some action. Maybe when Jasper went to work, I could go climb back into bed with Harrison.

Jasper wrapped his legs around my waist. “I love you.”

I nipped at his jaw. “I love you too.”

His right hand came to my chest, and he ran his palm up and down. “Sexy, you’re killing me. I want to take you upstairs and strip those jeans off you and—”

“Whoa!” A deep voice, that was decidedly not Harrison’s, gasped from the doorway.

Jasper went rigid, and my erection, which had been ready to play a few seconds earlier, was now flagging, but it was still not safe to turn around. 

Jasper hadn’t looked at the doorway yet. “Did you lock the door this morning?” 

“Marla gave me a key.”

Declan was one of my best friends, and I’d know his voice anywhere. I just wasn’t expecting it in Jasper’s kitchen first thing in the morning on a Friday. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing in Oklahoma, again, but he was there now, and we were going to be coming out as a couple for the first time.

Jasper unwrapped his legs from my waist, but still spoke directly to me, even though he was talking to his brother-in-law. “Is Ty here?” 

Declan let out a strangled laugh. “That’s what you’re worried about? Not that you’re locking lips with Greg? You know, one of my best friends?”

Jasper’s shoulders sagged in relief, and his head rested on my shoulder briefly. “I’m going to take that as a no.” 

I stepped back, pretty sure my erection was at no more than half-mast at that point, and I hoped my black underwear would hide it well enough. “Hi, Dec.”

Declan’s eyes were as wide as saucers as he took in the two of us. He’d finally stepped fully into the kitchen. He looked over at Jasper. “You’re straight.” Then he looked at me. “And you live in San Diego.”

Jasper’s eyes narrowed. “You were straight until you started dating my brother.”

Declan shook his head. “No, I’d always been closeted. Big difference.”

“We’re not going to argue over who’s gayer and for long. It doesn’t matter if Jasper figured out he’s bisexual yesterday or ten years ago.”

Jasper slid off the counter and stood next to me staring at his brother-in-law, almost challenging Declan to say something else.

Declan took a deep breath. “Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry. I’m in shock. How long?” 

“How long what?” Jasper snapped.

“I don’t even know.” Declan shook his head like he couldn’t figure out what to make of any of it. 

I jumped in before tensions could get any higher. “We got together the night we went to The Stick Pony when I dropped Nate off at school.”

“We hit it off quickly. Things moved fast. Then Greg started taking some jobs for Oscar, and he’s been staying with me.”

Declan blinked rapidly but looked directly at Jasper. “Fuck. I should have listened to that gut instinct that told me there was something there when you met at our place.”

“And you also told me he was totally unavailable.”

“And you told me you were straight!”

“I was dating Kayla at the time.”

“There was something there when we got to the bar too! I told you to be careful. How the hell did this happen?”

My head was spinning with the speed of the conversation, but I was getting frustrated at how accusatory Declan was being. It was like he didn’t believe Jasper could actually be attracted to men and didn’t believe I should be attracted to Jasper. I cleared my throat. “Sit.” 

Declan moved stiffly to the table and took a seat. I handed Jasper his coffee and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Go sit down. We need to talk this one out.”

Jasper grumbled but took his coffee to the table and sat as far away from Declan as he could. I shook my head at him. We all knew we needed to start telling people. Declan’s unexpected arrival in our kitchen had just pushed the timeframe up a bit. I set a mug in front of Declan and then took a seat next to Jasper. I made sure to brush my leg up against his so he knew I was there for him.

Declan took a sip of coffee and sighed. “Okay. I think the shock of you two kissing has worn off. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

There was the levelheaded SEAL XO I knew. This Declan was easy to talk to, and I could easily explain what was going on. “I was attracted to Jasper when I met him at your house after you got hurt. At the time, you’re right, I wasn’t ready for a relationship, he was dating Kayla, and half the country separated us.”

“I’ve never been the straight brother. It’s a label everyone else put on me. It wasn’t worth correcting everyone because I’d never been able to fully explore my sexuality with someone I was attracted to.”

Declan blinked. “So this isn’t new?” 

“I told you, I’d never been able to explore with anyone before Greg. That doesn’t mean I haven’t always been attracted to both men and women.”

Declan rubbed his head. “Okay, so you’ve always been bisexual, but you were attracted enough to Greg to want to be with a man for the first time.” It wasn’t a question. I thought maybe he was trying to work everything out, so I gave him time to process.

Jasper nodded after a minute. “When you took me out to the bar and I saw him again, I was just as attracted to him as I had been the first time I’d met him.”

When Jasper trailed off, I picked up where he left off. “We hit it off pretty quickly. You all were off having fun, so we took the opportunity to get out of there and get to know each other a little better.”

Declan’s eyes widened. “You said you didn’t feel well!”

Jasper shrugged. “We lied.”

“Really? You two?” Declan was still surprised, but he was catching on. 

We both nodded.

He tilted his head. “And you’re both happy?”

“Incredibly,” Jasper answered before I could even open my mouth. “Happier than I’ve ever been honestly.”

I smiled and squeezed his leg under the table. “It’s going really well. Jasper’s reminded me what it’s like to have an identity outside of being a SEAL and a dad. I’ve really enjoyed the time we’ve spent together.”

“You guys really love each other, don’t you? I mean, I heard you earlier, but you really do.”

“I love Greg. I can say that without any hesitation.”

“Wow.” Declan looked dumbstruck at the admission.

“I couldn’t have said it better myself. There’s a reason I haven’t rushed to head back to San Diego. I’m enjoying my time here, and I can’t imagine leaving now. The last time I felt anything like this was with Andrew. But the truth is, Andrew and I went so slow and it was such a gradual change, that it was never anywhere near this intense.”

Declan stared at his coffee for a few moments before he finally picked it up and drained almost half the contents. When he set it down, he looked up at us. “Well, congratulations then. Who all knows? Because I would have thought Marla would have told us in a heartbeat. Did you threaten her with her life?”


“Me? What do you mean, me?” It apparently dawned on him what Jasper was saying because Declan’s eyes widened comically. “Me? I’m the only one who knows? As in you haven’t told anyone?”

“Well, Harrison knows,” Jasper admitted.

“Harrison? But not Derek?” 

We nodded. “Only Harrison. He saw us kissing in the bar that night.”

“Kissing! You kissed at The Stick Pony? I didn’t know you had it in you, Jas!” 

He flushed and looked at his almost empty coffee mug. “Uh, yeah. I may have gotten carried away.” He looked up at the clock. “Shit, I need to get going. Payroll isn’t going to do itself.” 

I pushed back from the table. “I’ll get you a cup for the road.”

“Thanks.” Jasper beamed up at me.

Declan shook his head like he was trying to clear his thoughts. “Can I tell anyone?” 

Jasper shook his head. “Please don’t. I need to tell people in my own time. We need to make sure to tell Greg’s kids. And I really don’t want Ty and Derek to find out through the grapevine. Unless Ty is with you this trip, I may have to wait until Thanksgiving to come out to everyone else so I can do it in person.”

Declan shook his head. “Ty’s at home with the kids. I’ll do my best to respect that. Uh, I’m happy for you two. Really.” He looked at the clock. “I guess I better get going too. I have a meeting with Oscar this morning at ten.”

I nodded, finally putting the pieces together. “So that’s why you’re back.”

Declan laughed. “Yeah, Marla gave me the key because I wanted to swing by and see if you wanted to do lunch. I kind of forgot to ask that after seeing you two… well, yeah.”

I chuckled at his discomfort. Declan wasn’t normally shy about sexuality, but I could see that this was bothering him quite a bit. I had a feeling it was the newness of everything and him trying to wrap his head around what was going on. 

“Unfortunately, I’m working this afternoon. But if you’re in town for a few days, we’ll catch up.” I handed Jasper his travel mug of coffee as Declan stood up.

“I’d give you a hug, but,” he trailed off looking down at my lack of clothing. 

I chuckled. “Hey, we weren’t expecting company.”

Declan held his hands up in surrender. “I’ll always text from now on. I don’t want to interrupt anything.”

Jasper finally laughed. “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.” He walked Declan to the door and told him goodbye. He shut the door as Declan walked to his truck shaking his head, still processing everything that had just happened.

“Well, that’s one less person we have to tell.”

Jasper laughed uncomfortably as he put his hat on. He opened his mouth to say something, but Harrison walked down the steps wearing just a towel. “Damn, orgasms make me so sleepy.”

I burst out laughing. Thirty seconds earlier and we would have been explaining a lot more than just my relationship with Jasper. I kissed Jasper then pulled Harrison into my arms. “We know, beautiful. We always make sure there isn’t anywhere we need to be before we make you cum.”

Harrison grinned and leaned over to give Jasper a quick kiss as Jasper opened the door. “Have a good day, Jas.”

“You guys too.” Jasper left, and Harrison and I went to the kitchen. We needed another pot of coffee.