“C’mon, Jay, we’re going to be late!” Nik Rostov bellowed from the top of the stairs. When Nikolai Rostov bellowed, in that deep, rich, basso profundo voice of his, moose were known to sit up and take notice. Fortunately there were no moose in Passion Lake, Virginia, a resort community nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
At six feet, eight inches tall, Nikolai “Iceman” Rostov was nearly as large as a grizzly bear, and even more dangerous. Despite his size, his lithe body was trim and fit, rippling with muscles. He could snap a person’s neck as easily as if it were a toothpick. He was a specialist in SAMBO, the martial arts used by Spetsnaz, the Russian Special Forces, as well as all sorts of vicious street-fighting techniques he’d learned growing up in the slums of Odessa. His entire body was tattooed, including his head, which was covered with curse words and phrases in the Cyrillic alphabet.
For years he’d shaved his head so the tattoos were visible. And intimidating. But two years ago, when he and Jay had opened the Passion Lake Lodge and Campgrounds, he had given in to the advice of his SEAL buddies and had let his black hair grow out. Now it was thick and shaggy, curling around his collar. Intimidating was not a good look for someone in the hospitality business.
He still wore the gold hoop in his left ear, but now it was mostly hidden by his hair. and the neat black mustache and goatee that had given him such a wicked, almost Satanic look had morphed into a softer, scruffier, sexier three-day growth of beard. He still looked like a grizzly bear. Except when he smiled, like he was doing now, which completely spoiled the effect. When Nikolai Rostov smiled, he looked more like a teddy bear than a grizzly bear. On missions with his SEAL team, he’d never smiled.
Nik and former teammate Jay “Dizzy” Gillespie owned the Passion Lake Lodge and Campgrounds. The Lodge was an enormous, rustic structure that boasted twenty-four guest rooms, a spacious, two-story Common Room with pine-paneled walls, an open, beamed ceiling, and a rock-wall fireplace big enough to roast an entire ox. But the jewel in the crown was The Icebox Bar, a Texas Roadhouse style establishment with good food, friendly atmosphere, and plenty of space for dancing. The Midnight Riders, a live band made up of their buddies and some local musicians, played rock and roll music every Friday night and good old, down-home country music every Saturday night. There were enough musicians in Passion Lake to allow the band members to rotate, so no one person was committed to more than every other week-end. Although they often sat in on each other’s sessions.
Passion Lake Lodge was situated on a hill overlooking its namesake, a large, deep, freshwater lake. Nik and Jay had purchased the land and helped to build the main building, as well as six cabins scattered randomly through the woods, and a small campground area along the near end of the lake. The entire area had become a popular destination for boaters and fishermen, and there was even a white-sand beach for kids to swim and build sand castles, as well as a dock for them to jump off of.
“Hold your horses,” Jay’s voice floated up the basement stairs, “there’s plenty of time.”
“We have to be there in fifteen minutes. It’s thirty miles away. Do the math!”
“You know I don’t do math,” Jay hollered.
“Hence your chronic lateness,” Nik retorted, watching as his business partner and frequent scene partner entered the stairwell and started up the stairs from their private wing at the west end of the Lodge building. “Hold it, boy. Did you pick up that trail of dirty clothes you left on the floor?”
Jay just smirked. “Yes, Papa Bear. All picked up and put in the hamper.”
“You know how crazy that makes me.”
“I know. That’s why I do it.”
Biting his cheek to hide his smile, Nik stepped aside to let Jay join him. “You know,” he said thoughtfully, “if you were a sub instead of a fellow Dom, an attitude like that would earn you a punishment.”
They were in the long hallway that led out into the bar. Along the right-hand wall were doors leading to Nik’s office and the public restrooms. Behind the left-hand wall was the kitchen and the end of the Icebox’s bar. They could hear voices and the muffled clank of pots and pans—the usual hustle and bustle coming from the kitchen. The kind of hustle and bustle that told them it was going to be a busy night at the Icebox. With both the Lodge and the cabins fully booked and campers in the campground, that wasn’t a surprise. Jay closed the door. It locked automatically.
“Look, Nik, I know that you always pad the time, because you know I’ll always be late. Therefore, we are always right on time.” Jay smirked. “And kudos for use of the word ‘hence’.”
Nik frowned, his attention riveted to Jay’s well-defined pecs and six-pack abs playing peek-a-boo between the flaps of his leather vest. “What are those?”
Jay looked down at himself as if expecting to find something. “What are whats?”
Jay just laughed. “Look it up. That’ll be your word for tomorrow. And do we remember our word for today?” For the past ten years, Jay had insisted that Nik learn a new English word every day and use it in a sentence. As a result, Nik’s vocabulary had increased enormously.
He now spoke nearly perfect vernacular English and had lost most of his accent, except for a slight glottal heaviness that was especially noticeable when he reverted to his native Russian, which he often did, especially when vexed. Like he was now, muttering beneath his breath in a guttural street dialect he knew Jay didn’t understand, even though Jay spoke flawless Russian.
“Yes,” Nik said through gritted teeth. “Today’s word is throttle. The sentence is, ‘My partner is so annoying, my fingers are itching to grab him by the throat and throttle him’.”
“Perfect,” Jay laughed. “Except today’s word was viscosity.”
Nik just gave his partner an exasperated grin, looking him up and down. Jay was six feet four with freckles and light green eyes the color of sea glass. A thick thatch of collar-length, reddish-brown hair hid his slightly over-sized ears and gave him a tousled, sexy, just-rolled-out-of-bed vibe augmented by his lean, muscular frame. His happy-go-lucky attitude was diametrically opposed to Nik, who had never had a single happy-go-lucky moment in his entire life. Where Jay took very little seriously, at least not since he’d left the SEALs, Nik took everything seriously.
The mischief twinkling in Jay’s green eyes often made him look twelve years old instead of the thirty he actually was. But the deep stillness that was an innate part of who he was, served as a warning to everyone not to take him lightly. Or it should have. Despite his youthful looks, or, quite possibly because of them, he’d also been one of the most lethal members of his SEAL team. He could kill with parts of the body not usually considered to be weapons. A flick of his hand, so swift it was barely detectable by a slow-motion camera, could crush a man’s windpipe. Enemies who had underestimated him based on his boyish appearance and demeanor, were now dead.
Jay was the youngest of four brothers, eleven years younger than Max, the next oldest, fourteen years younger than Dave, seventeen years younger than Sam, the oldest. Because of this enormous age gap, he’d never been close to any of his siblings. Their mother had died of cancer when Jay was only three. Their father, General John Gillespie, a Deputy Director under the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was a cold man and a harsh disciplinarian who’d rarely spent time at home with his sons. He’d left their upbringing to a succession of live-in housekeepers and nannies. All of the Gillespie boys had entered a different branch of the service, so when Jay’s turn came, the Navy was the only one left. He’d entered the day of his eighteenth birthday and immediately signed up for SEAL training, determined to make his father proud of him. Unfortunately, that was something he would never know. General Gillespie had died before Jay even finished training. But he had definitely made his older brothers proud. All three of them had attended his graduation, wearing their own Army, Air Force, and Marine uniforms. The four brothers now maintained a regular correspondence through email and Skype.
Jay had also been the youngest member of his SEAL team. One of the team’s linguists, he had an excellent ear and was fluent in six languages, including Russian, Arabic and Bulgarian.
When Nik and Jay met nearly eleven years ago at the Naval Air Base in Coronado, California, they had formed an instant bond, despite the fact that Jay was barely nineteen and Nik was nearly eleven years older. As a Russian defector with unique and specialized skills, plus a USB drive containing secret Russian Army intelligence files, Nik had been hired by the U.S. Navy to teach street fighting techniques to the newest SEAL trainees, eventually becoming a SEAL himself. He and Jay had been inseparable ever since, fighting together, scening with subs together, going into business together, living together.
Jay loved Nik Rostov. He was more of a brother to him than his own had ever been. He was also a trusted friend and partner. A fellow Dom. And possibly something much deeper, although that was an area Jay had always refused to even look at, much less explore.
Growing up on the streets of one of the Ukraine’s worst neighborhoods, Nik’s life had been brutal. The son of a disgraced Russian naval officer and a local prostitute, Nik, at age eleven, had seen his father gunned down in the street. That’s when he had realized that the only fate awaiting him in that place was misery and death. So, at the age of eleven, rejecting the drugs, gangs, weapons, and ruthless disregard for human life that surrounded him, he had escaped, stowing away on a Turkish freighter headed for Sochi.
As soon as they’d left the port, he had turned himself in to the Captain, paying for his passage by working in the engine room. Never complaining, never shirking, he had done the same amount of work done by men twice his age and size. And he had done it well. Because Nik Rostov had possessed something that none of the other people in his life had ever had. Integrity. And a driving need to be successful.
At the time, Sochi had been a resort destination favored by the top leaders of the Communist party in Russia. As a result, it was cleaner and more upscale than many other Russian cities. He’d quickly made himself indispensable to the owner of a fashionable restaurant in one of Sochi’s better neighborhoods. In exchange for washing dishes, sweeping, cleaning the greasy flat top, and running errands, he’d been given three meals a day and a cot to sleep on in the storage room. The restaurant owner, impressed with his ambition, became somewhat of a mentor to him, teaching him how to read and write. By age fifteen Nik had saved enough money to buy a train ticket to Moscow. Armed with the name of his mentor’s uncle, another restaurateur, Nik had distinguished himself first as a bus boy, then a waiter, and finally, as house manager. As he’d grown, he’d watched Russian state television avidly, mimicking the way the news anchors spoke, teaching himself how to speak proper Russian, instead of the gutter dialect he’d grown up speaking.
At age eighteen, he’d joined the Russian Army and had been recommended by his superior officer for Spetsnaz, the Russian Special Forces, working his way up to the rank of Second Lieutenant. He had discovered, as he’d grown older, that he somehow possessed a bottomless capacity for comfort and guidance, even though he’d never experienced either as a child. Nurturing was simply an innate part of Nikolai Rostov’s nature.
And Jay, whose childhood had been similarly barren, had soaked it up, as evidenced by the fact that they had grown even closer over the last three or four years. They had an easy camaraderie that allowed Jay the freedom to joke and be playful and Nik the opportunity to bluster and scold and then reassure. It was a dynamic that worked well for both of them.
Nik gave his partner an appraising glance. Tonight Jay was dressed in black leather pants, no shirt. The sides of his leather vest were linked together with chains dangling across the well-defined muscles of his broad, tanned chest and abs. Nik was also dressed in black leather. But his pants had buckles up and down the sides and instead of a vest, he wore a leather harness that consisted of four thick straps, two over his shoulders and two around his sides, all connected to a steel ring in the middle of his superbly sculpted chest. They both wore heavy black biker boots.
Both men exuded an aura of power that was mesmerizing. They were pure, primal males, predatory and lethal. They commanded attention no matter where they were or what they were doing. If they were in a room, no one else existed.
“Being late is a sign of disrespect,” Nik said. “Do you remember what I said I would do the next time it happened?”
“”Yeah, you said you were gonna paddle my ass.” Jay waved a dismissive hand. “You always say that, Papa Bear. I know you don’t mean it.”
Nik’s smile was pure evil. “Well, boy, as it turns out, you were wrong. I do mean it. And tonight you’re going to get what’s been coming to you for far too long. And just to make it truly meaningful, I’ve decided to do it at the club. At one of the public stations.”
Startled, Jay just stared up at his partner, one of the few men who was actually tall enough to make him look up. His mouth went dry. His gaze faltered. Holy fuck! Nik was going to punish him? In public? Jay swallowed hard. Not because he was horrified at the prospect. But because he was aroused! This was something he’d often fantasized about—being disciplined by Nik’s large, but loving hand—wondering what it would feel like. Nik was a very powerful man. One of the few men Jay knew who could easily hurt him.
But that wasn’t what concerned him, because he knew Nik would never do anything to harm him. All the subs they had ever scened with had loved Nik because he was so nurturing, always making them feel cherished and beautiful. No, Jay was more concerned that his secret feelings for this man, the feelings he’d kept bottled up for years, carefully hidden behind a façade of joking insouciance, would punch through the brick wall he’d built around them and reveal themselves. And when they did, the shit would really hit the fan. Nik would probably be so repulsed, he’d throw Jay out on his ear.
“Next time, perhaps, you’ll stop and think before you disrespect me again,” Nik concluded, hands on his hips.
“Spoken like a true Dom,” Jay joked, giving the Russian giant a fake, slow motion punch to the shoulder. “Well, come on, then, if you’re so worried about bein’ late, then why are we still standin’ here?” He edged around Nik and strode toward the door at the opposite end of the hall, snapping his fingers over and over. “C’mon, Papa Bear. Haul ass. Hop to it. Shake a leg. Get your butt in gear. Or I won’t be the only one getting spanked tonight.”
Nik just smiled and shook his head. He followed Jay out into the main restaurant area of the Icebox Bar and Grill. It was a large room with a wide-plank wood floor and a vaulted, beamed ceiling. Two of the walls were brick, salvaged from an old cotton mill. A cheerful fire blazed in an enormous, arched fireplace against the end wall. Even though it was still a little early for the peak dinner crowd, at least half of the booths and tables were occupied with customers. Waitresses were bustling around taking orders, refilling drinks, and carrying enormous trays of food. Around a dozen people, most of them regulars, were sitting at the huge, antique oak bar, drinking, eating, and watching the big-screen TVs or just talking.
The bar was Nik’s pride and joy. It was sinuous, curving in a shallow S shape. The top was granite in warm shades of brown and yellow. Three fluted oak columns held up the massive oak over-bar which provided a lowered ceiling above the work area. Recessed lighting gave the entire work area a warm, golden glow, making it seem cozy and intimate. Outlined with crown molding at the bottom and top, the center part of the over-bar featured lighted niches displaying bottles of some of the finer blends served at The Icehouse.
The bar had been rescued from an old Civil War-era hotel in Roanoke, Virginia, that had been slated for demolition to make way for a high-rise, luxury apartment building. Nik and Jay and some of their friends had painstakingly cleaned and polished every inch of the dry old wood, restoring it to its former glory. It was now one of the town’s main attractions, featured on the Passion Lake tourist brochures.
Steve “Mo” Moran, a former SEAL buddy who was now their general manager, sat on his usual stool at the near end of the bar talking with Amy Parrish, one of the Icebox’s bartenders. Andy Sloan, the other bartender, was down at the opposite end making Margaritas. The electrical current passing between Steve and Amy was so powerful, Nik wondered for the hundredth time when those two were going to get together. The attraction was definitely there. Amy was a submissive, constantly giving off signals that she was totally willing. To a Dom like Steve, that should have been like a siren’s call. Yet, for some reason, Steve refused to act on it. Or even acknowledge it, treating Amy almost like an annoying little sister.
Nik put his hand on Steve’s arm. “All right, Mo, we’re leaving.”
Steve spun around. “Okay. Have fun, you two.”
Nik rolled his eyes. “It’s Open House night. Lots of newbies. Don’t know how much fun it’ll be.”
“Yeah, I much prefer monitoring on Members Only nights,” Mo agreed. “Less chance of anything getting out of hand. Don’t worry about anything at this end, though. I’ll hold down the fort.”
“We never worry when it’s you holdin’ down the fort,” Jay said. “You’ve always had our six.”
Several of the regulars acknowledged Nik and Jay by nodding or lifting their glasses.
They went out into the lobby, past the pool tables and two heated games of darts, pleased to see games of Uno, Scrabble, and Texas Hold ’Em in progress at three of the game tables. Several couples were in the seating area in front of the fireplace just talking. Two of the women were knitting as they talked. This was Senior Retreat Week a joint promotion being offered at both the Lodge and the Passion Lake Bed and Breakfast, the elegant Victorian mansion at the edge of town. Everyone over 65 was being given a fifteen percent discount on food, drink, and lodging for the three days and two nights of the promotion. Evidently running television ads in places like South Florida and Arizona, extolling autumn’s virtues at a hefty discount, paid off. Both the Lodge and the Bed and Breakfast were filled to maximum capacity. In fact, this promotion had turned out to be such a success, the entire town of Passion Lake, including all the restaurants were offering discounts to anyone booking the Holiday Package over the four-day Thanksgiving week-end. Television ads were running all up and down the East coast from Maine to Miami. The B and B was already booked solid and the Lodge nearly so.
As Nik and Jay passed through the lobby, several people waved at them.
Passing Nik’s monstrous Harley, his preferred mode of transportation, they walked across the parking lot to their black Humvee, the only car big enough to accommodate Nik’s size. Jay automatically went around to the driver’s side. He caught the keys Nik tossed to him over the roof and got in.
Jay may have been slow getting ready, but his driving made up for it. He drove like a bat outta hell and had the speeding tickets to prove it, although he had never had an accident and, thanks to specialized SEAL training, was superb at both defensive and offensive driving. Nik, on the other hand, drove like an old woman, never going a single mile above the speed limit. Whenever they had to make tracks and get someplace fast, like right now, Jay always drove.
The club they were going to, Risqué, was an exclusive BDSM club in Marshall’s Creek, a small town around thirty miles away from Passion Lake. Risqué was owned by Jesse Colter and Adam Sinclair, the former commanding officers of SEAL Team Fury, a nickname chosen by the members of the team themselves. The club was a replica of a twelfth-century castle, modeled after a club in Yorkshire, England, owned by Thorne Cahill, a friend of all of theirs. Thorne also owned the club in San Diego frequented by all the Navy Doms whenever they were on base.
Jesse and Adam’s club, Risqué, was located on Marshall’s Hill, the historic antebellum estate that had been their wife Sarah’s childhood home. The enormous Greek revival mansion had been transformed into an elegant Bed and Breakfast. The full-scale medieval castle that was Club Risqué, complete with turrets, crenelated battlements, and a majestic central tower, was located around a quarter of a mile beyond the B & B, on a part of the sprawling estate where stables, barns, and a racetrack had once existed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Marshall family fortune had been founded in the early eighteenth century on breeding the finest race horses in Colonial America.
The club’s main entrance in the central tower was reached via a drawbridge over a shallow moat. At the bottom of the moat a man-made stream tumbled over strategically placed rocks. Flowers and ornamental grasses were tucked in the nooks and crannies between the rocks. A smooth green lawn sloped down the sides of the moat to the stream’s edge. Flickering torches lined both sides of the path leading up to the drawbridge, as well as both sides of the drawbridge itself. There was a line at the entrance, where two men wearing chain mail hauberks beneath their silk surcoats with Club Risqué’s insignia on them, were carefully checking invitations. Two others holding spears flanked the opening that led into the club’s lobby.
Club Risqué catered to an exclusive clientele, whose privacy and confidentiality were maintained by requiring thorough background checks on every prospective member, along with a stiff yearly membership fee. It offered a variety of play stations, theme rooms, private rooms, an authentic medieval dungeon, a capture garden, and an outdoor walking trail with strategically placed “Pleasure stations” instead of workout stations. The club sponsored regular lectures, seminars, workshops, and presentations, having just recently hosted some of the foremost practitioners of Shibari rope art in a week-end of demonstrations and hands-on sessions.
“Lotta cars here tonight,” Jay muttered twenty minutes later, as he pulled into the large, well-lit parking lot. As Nik had said earlier, tonight was an Open House, where new and prospective members could have a chance to experience all the amenities Club Risqué had to offer. Invitations to an event such as this were exceedingly hard to come by,
Jay drove around to the Employees Only entrance at the back end of the castle. Nik swiped his card and punched the code into the keypad. The lock clicked. They entered a brightly lit hallway, passing the staff lounge on the left and the staff locker rooms on the right, headed for Jesse and Adam’s office. Nik stuck his head in and saw Jesse Colter sitting in his leather desk chair. His booted feet were propped up on the large mahogany partner desk he shared with Adam Sinclair. Their wife, Sarah, was kneeling beside Jesse’s chair, her legs spread wide to reveal her swollen, glistening pussy. Her head was down, her hands resting on her thighs. She didn’t look up when Nik entered.
Since she was usually given full leeway to greet all the Dungeon Monitors with a smile and a hug, Nik suspected that she was being punished. Jesse was stroking her hair absently, his attention on the man sitting on the other side of the desk. Adam Sinclair, the other owner of Risqué.
Both men were wearing leather pants and black satin shirts, Sarah wore a red leather corset that displayed her beautiful breasts on a little leather shelf. Wide leather wrist and ankle cuffs, a stiff leather collar with a dangling dog tag that said “Owned”, black stockings and black stilettos completed her outfit. A leash hung from the D ring at the front of her collar. Her nipples were adorned with a set of Japanese clover clamps linked together by a chain. Dangling from the chain was what looked like an ordinary, triangular fishing weight. Except there was nothing ordinary about this one. Made of platinum instead of lead, its three sides were crusted with diamonds. Pink sapphires formed an initial on each of the three flat surfaces. J, A, and S.
“Well, we don’t expect any trouble, but you never know,” Adam was saying as Nik and Jay walked in, blowing the testosterone level in the room through the roof. “Even though Jason vetted everyone thoroughly and the invitations were hand-delivered to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, events like this are always risky. That’s why I scheduled five extra DM’s for tonight.” He looked up. “Hey, Nik. Jay.”
The men all high-fived each other, then Jay plopped down onto the leather sofa along the front wall, thrusting his long legs out in front of him. “Where is everybody?” he asked. “Are we early or something?”
“As if,” Jesse snorted. “Try late. As usual.” But he said it fondly, without heat, because Jay had always been such a favorite.
Nik rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Yes, Master J,” he said. “It is a bad habit that I have allowed him to develop over the past few years. But that stops tonight. It’s high time the boy stopped disrespecting not only me, but you and all of his fellow DM’s as well. His lateness affects all of us. Therefore, I have decided to take matters into my own hands”—he gave a wicked grin—“so to speak, and administer a public punishment that I want all of you to witness.”
“It’s about time, Nik,” Adam murmured, looking at his partner across the desk. Jesse nodded. “If you’re asking for our permission, you’ve got it. You can give Jay his punishment right after Sarah gets hers.”
Nik heard Sarah’s sudden, sharp intake of breath. He went over and hunkered down next to her. It was clear from the streaks on her face that she had been crying. “Permission to speak to your slave, Master J? And to touch her?”
Jesse looked down at the woman kneeling in complete subjugation beside him, his love for her shining in his eyes. “You have permission to speak to Master Nik, Sarah. But do not read too much into his kindness. He cannot stop what is going to happen to you. Am I clear?”
She swallowed. “Yes, Master.”
Nik reached out his hand, curling his fingers beneath her chin and lifting her face to look at him. Her eyes were dazed, half-closed with a mixture of frustration, arousal, and exhaustion. Her hair was in wild disarray, her face was damp with sweat and flushed with exertion. Yet, despite all that, she was one of the most beautiful women Nik had ever had the privilege to know. He loved Sarah Marshall Colter-Sinclair, like the little sister he’d never had. On more than one occasion he had fought alongside Jesse and Adam to rescue her from assholes who had dared to threaten her. And, being the honorable man he was, he would willingly do so again. He took threats to any of the people he loved as seriously as he took anything else in his life. “Privyet, lapochka,” he said in a gentle voice totally at odds with his hard-edged appearance.
“Hello, Master Nik.” Her words were slightly slurred, as if she were drunk, although Nik knew she hadn’t been drinking. She was drunk on arousal. On being brought to the verge of orgasm over and over an untold number of times without being allowed to climax. And she was exhausted, barely holding on.
“Are you being punished, my love?”
She just stared at him for a long moment through half-lidded eyes, as if she didn’t understand the question. Then she blinked, swallowing hard. “Yes, Master Nik.”
“What did you do that was so horrible?”
“I came without permission.”
He nearly laughed out loud, but managed just in time to keep his expression stern. “You know that is not permitted, little one.”
“Yes, Master,” she said dutifully.
“Tell Master Nik what you did next,” Jesse ordered.
“I…sort of…called Master Jesse an asshole.”
Nik couldn’t help it. He laughed. “She’s got you there, my friend,” he said to Jesse. “You are an asshole.”
Jesse scowled. “You’re not helping.”
All of a sudden Sarah uttered an involuntary little cry and her body jerked, and Nik realized that she was plugged, probably both in her vagina and her ass and that Jesse and Adam had just turned on the remotes.