Is it a gift if it’s taken by force?

Treat yourself to this steamy anthology all centered around love, dominant men, and their (mostly) willing Valentines. This set includes six brand new, scorching novellas by USA Today and other bestselling authors…

Mr. Imperfect by Carolyn Faulkner
Nina is a curvy girl who is wary of men who seem too perfect. She always seems to lose her heart to them when they want nothing to do with her.
Then along comes Clete. He’s entirely too perfect, although the first thing he does is treat her the way she’s always wanted to be treated by a man.
But is he just too… everything for her?

Dangerous Beginnings by Melinda Barron
Ty and Alexis enjoy their life as man and wife, and as Master/sub. But when they meet Harlan, a Dom, they know he will be an interesting addition to their lives.
But Harlan has a problem, a man who blames him for the loss of his business. Can the three of them overcome the problem and start Albuquerque’s first BDSM club?

Snowed In At Miss Robin’s by Eva Nightingale
Essie’s life has been a struggle; when her husband dies she is left destitute. Life changes when she meets Lieutenant Samuel Bannister but the attraction between them leads to an event that has consequences for them both.
It all comes to a head at the annual Valentine’s Day ball held at Miss Robin’s private academy. A wild snowstorm is blowing – but inside the Academy, the temperature is most definitely rising.

A Luring by Mia Easton
Veronica embarks on a solo road trip to distract herself from all thoughts of Valentine’s Day. When she gets lost in the backwoods of Louisiana, she seeks directions from a tall, dark and handsome man who is exceptionally rude and suspicious – albeit incredibly attractive.
Trey is a former cop who has returned home after an experience left him emotionally scarred. He’s more than intrigued by Veronica and will use everything he has to lure her back to him…

A Valentine’s Consent by Alyson Force
Denise and Andrew were married under difficult circumstances, but she has accepted the dominant nature of her husband and their life together is changing for the better.
Andrew has fun plans for Valentine’s Day, but Denise is preoccupied with a secret that may destroy the trust they’ve built . On the other hand, it may pave the way for their future…

Anticipation by Tabitha Black 
Ever since the five new Doms for hire strutted into Nox Oasis, women have been falling all over themselves to get close to them. All except Nanette. Though she is very attracted to Luke, she’s vowed never to get hurt again. Especially not by someone like him.
Then he invites her to the Valentine’s Day ball and she finds him impossible to resist…

Chapter One

He was definitely not my type.

I preferred tall men who were built like brick shithouses. Something along the lines of a Jason Momoa, or a Chris Hemsworth—muscles on their muscles, broad, and distinctly Y-shaped.

Not that physicality was really anything I used to judge potential mates, when it came right down to it. After all, I could hardly have any kind of expectations in that area, considering my own situation. Hell, I’ve been known to run from really good looking men, not that I thought they were going to follow me or would ever be interested in me in any way—quite the opposite, in fact. Besides, I was much more concerned that he be able to speak in complete, coherent sentences, preferably comprised of words of more than one syllable, and that those words be as grammatically pristine as possible.

Mea culpa. I’m a grammar Nazi.

He had the tall part down pat, though. If I had to guess, I’d say he was six-two or three, but then, at five-five and a half (I never forget the half), I’m not that great a judge. But he was lean looking, like a greyhound, with wavy black hair that just brushed his shoulders and looked nicer than mine, and bright, intelligent green eyes. He wasn’t classically good looking—he couldn’t have made it as a male model—but he was still disturbingly pleasant to look at, with a ready smile for everyone who swarmed to meet him, and a warm, but wicked, dark chuckle that could be heard across the room.

I turned my head away from him, not wanting to be caught gawking at him. I had suffered quite enough embarrassment in my life; I didn’t need to cause myself any more.

No, he was not for the likes of me.

Oh, and he was late. More points off. Big, big points off.

I’m a punctuality Nazi, too.

More of that laugh of his, intimate yet comforting at the same time, seeped into me like warm broth into a cold belly. But it didn’t soothe me—it made me want to escape from him—to take the easy way out and just go home, which I might have done in another situation. But I couldn’t, being the sister of the guest of honor. So I headed into the kitchen, instead, which was always a great refuge. He’d be shaking hands and laughing like that for a while yet, and I decided—coward that I am—that I’d just see how long I could avoid him—make a game of it, like I had been for a few months now already.

This was supposed to be my moment of truth—when we actually were introduced for the first time. But perhaps I could manage to get out of this place without ever having had what would certainly be the distinct pleasure of meeting him—for everyone but me.

And him, inevitably.

The kitchen was a vibrant mess that I was glad my nasty neat sister couldn’t see. There were five women crowded in there, all in various stages of either preparing, sending out, or cleaning up from having made or brought something to eat or drink.

I heard the buzz in there—the news of his arrival—as if he was a celebrity or something.

“He’s here!”

“Did you see him?”

“What’s he wearing?”

I had to roll my eyes at my friends—such sheep!

Most of them were well into the drink part of things already—which made me relent a bit in my derisiveness about their unbridled enthusiasm for this man. I had a feeling that I was just going to be a bother and an interruption—something I pretty much felt I was all of the time anyway—or worse than that, I was going to get pulled into doing something I didn’t want to do—like meeting him.

So I stole a homemade éclair that I knew Alice Corbin had brought, grabbed a healthy two fingers of excellent Bulleit whiskey, neat, and headed for the welcome quiet—and relative privacy—of the balcony, away from the madding crowd.

I’d always thought that whoever wrote that particular phrase had gotten the adjective wrong—it should have been ‘maddening’. I hate crowds, and I was damned proud of myself that I’d lasted as long as I had. I raised my glass to myself for a job well done, on both points, having avoided him, too, popping all of the small—to me, anyway—homemade pastry into my mouth at once.

It was unbelievably delicious—orgasmic, even!

But I should have known better than to count my chickens so soon.

Seconds later, I heard the door open, as the éclair was looking like a very bad decision and I hurried to chew and swallow it. Forcing myself not to turn my head to see who had joined me, I continued to look out at the beautiful view of the city I would probably never be able to afford for myself, and took another generous sip of my drink.

“I saw you raise your glass to someone and assumed that you had company out here. I hope I’m not imposing.”

Oh, fuckin’ A, it was him. Just my bad luck.

And yes, he was definitely imposing, but I could hardly say that to him, although all of me wanted to.

I swallowed the rest of the éclair mixed with whiskey, hoping I hadn’t gotten a big spot of custard or chocolate on my face or the girls. “I was toasting myself for having managed not to kill anyone at the party—yet, anyway.”

“Oh dear. That bad, is it?” His smile was in his tone. He walked gracefully over to me. I could just see the bastard out of the corner of my eye—everything he did was elegant and graceful, which only made me hate him just that much more, since I tended to lumber awkwardly through life.

“Yeah, well, I’ve never been the most sociable of people.”

He nodded. “Perhaps that’s why we haven’t met yet.”

Not feeling in the least like coddling him, I turned my head to meet those extraordinary eyes of his. “That’s precisely why we haven’t met.”

Damn—that made him laugh, and him laughing up close was a shit ton more potent than him laughing from across the room.

I’d have to be careful about doing that. Unfortunately, being the youngest of four had made me into a bit of a clown, and, if I was feeling comfortable enough, there was nothing I liked more than to make people laugh.

But that would be a very dangerous pursuit with him. I’d known he was the dangerous type even before I’d ever been in the same room with him.

And now, up close and personal, he was utterly devastating.

It took me a minute to get there, as I was bathed in his disturbing presence and my mind completely ceased to function for a long moment. While I was trying to recover, he assumed a posture that mimicked mine, only he did it much, much better than I ever would, bending over at the waist and leaning on forearms that were surprisingly well muscled, lightly haired and tanned, with bulging veins that caught my eye.

Bless him for having jettisoned his suit coat and rolling up his sleeves! Rroarr!

But it was his hands that got me; that I had to drag my gaze reluctantly away from. They didn’t look soft and white, as if he’d never really used them. Instead, they were astonishingly long fingered, with slight calluses at the tips, nails neatly trimmed, with the occasional small nick or scar here or there, which were plentiful enough signs that he had worked for a living, at least at some point in his life.

I forced myself to take a deep breath. The man next to me — who smelled unimaginably good, and to whom I was incredibly attracted, despite the fact that I knew that anything developing between the two of us was a complete and utter impossibility—was off limits. He was fool’s gold, like a fisherman’s fly—a trap that would have me beating my heart against a rock in futile hope of being the target of even the smallest smile, the slightest touch, such that every night for the rest of my life, I would go to bed unfulfilled for want of him.

Yeah, no.

Been there, done that, had the bar tab and the extra! Censored! amount of pounds to prove it.

And I was not going to allow that to happen to me again. I’ve made that mistake too many times before—hung my heart on someone who would either soon tell me he wanted to be ‘just friends’, or worse, someone who would use me and string me along for what he could get out of me.

So I shoved him—mentally—while my mind and my heart and Lord knows my genitals were screaming bloody murder against it—into the ‘potential friend but nothing more and even that is probably not a good idea’ closet, then took a big breath.

It wasn’t easy for me to compartmentalize him like that. In fact, it was hard as hell. But it helped me relax—took a lot of the pressure off. I no longer needed to try with him. I didn’t have to compete with anyone else for his attention—which he would most definitely be likely to lavish on someone who was a lot thinner and prettier than I am. I didn’t have to worry about what he thought of me. He was my sister’s friend, and I didn’t care one whit whether or not he became mine.

There were still the muffled screams from the closet disturbing my supposedly calm mental state, but I ignored them and concentrated on the feeling of freedom I’d just given myself.

I could just be me. Either he liked me or he didn’t, and my bet was that he wouldn’t—although I always bet no one liked me. I’m far from everyone’s cup of tea, nor do I—usually—strive to be. Sometimes I got suckered in by a pretty face, and always ended up regretting it.

Well, that was not going to happen this time.

The voices from the closet mumbled rebelliously that, if there was ever going to be anyone I should strive for, it was him, but I viciously nailed the door shut on their protestations.

“Well, just so that we can get the formalities out of the way, let me introduce myself. I’m Clete Downey.”

He held out one of those gorgeous fucking hands, and I shook it because my Mom’s voice told me I was obligated to—where she came from in this mix I’ll never know! She was still nagging me from beyond the freakin’ grave!

But I touched him for as short a time as possible before releasing him to tuck mine under my arm as I crossed my arms over my chest.

Defensive posture much? I asked myself.

“I know. Someone in your family was a big athletic nut to name you that?”

“It’s a family name from I don’t know where, although it suited me okay when I was in sports in high school and college. Now removed from that, it is a bit questionable, isn’t it?”

“Yup. I’m Nina. Charles.”

“Yes, you’re Georgina’s sister, right?”

I nodded, taking another sip of my whiskey. “You’re right, and Tina’s sister, not that I admit that in public very often.”

He chuckled again, and I frowned up at him. “Your parents named you Gina, Nina, and Tina?”

“Technically Georgina, Christina, and Nina, but yes.”

“That’s adorable.”

“Not so much really—all that rhyming was a pain.”

I stared at him for a sec, then asked, “Can I be straight with you?” I was proud of myself that I had actually asked him before letting loose.

“Sure. I hope you always will be.”

I smirked. “For future reference, that’s probably something you should never say to me. I don’t have much of a filter.”

I leaned my elbow on the railing before I began to speak. I wasn’t nasty; I just said what I was thinking—which is never a good thing.

 “You are entirely too easy to make laugh, you know. You oughta cut that shit out. On top of that, you’re really nice looking, but not intimidatingly so, which is even worse. You’re tall, you smell like every man should but rarely does, and you apparently have a good sense of humor. You’re annoyingly close to perfection. You being all of those positive things at once is going to completely fuck up the curve for the rest of the men out there, who are—pretty much the lot of them—schlubs who could never hope to measure up.”

That only made him raise his eyebrows in surprise and chuckle.

I forced myself to look at him dispassionately. He didn’t seem to be concerned in the least by my words or my scrutiny, which was more ammunition against him. “There’s got to be something wrong with you. I’ve only heard truly glowing things from my sister and her friends, who seem to think that you’re the second coming.”

There was no way I could not snort at that—however unintended—double entendre.

Son of a bitch, he had done the same thing, and he was blushing, too. It was terribly charming.

It made me frown and remember.

“Ah—you were late.”

He reached around in his coat pocket, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. And, of course, before he used them, he looked at me. “Do you mind?”

“Absolutely not, but those are even more points off.”

“So, it’s the old point system, is it?”

“No, distinctly not the old one. I go well beyond one to ten. It’s so male to reduce a woman to a number based on her looks. I have my own, private scale—that I think a lot of women have in their heads but probably wouldn’t admit to, especially not to a man.”

“You’re a trendsetter, no doubt.”

I couldn’t discern whether he was being sarcastic or not—probably not. He seemed much too nice for that.

“And lateness and smoking are not acceptable traits in a man, as far as you’re concerned?”

“Oh, we’re not talking about me. We’re talking about what women in general want.”

He nodded. “Okay. I get both of those things not being desirable, although I want it noted that I’m not habitually late. Want more faults? I’m so far from perfect as to be laughable, so I could go on about them all day, but I wouldn’t want to bore you.”

It was terribly sporting of the pain in the ass to offer to catalog his shortcomings for me, and I was just enough of a cretin to let him do it.

“Somehow I doubt that, but more is always better.”

“A generally questionable philosophy, but here goes.” He exhaled a puff of smoke, and I surreptitiously inhaled as much as I could of it. “I’m a procrastinator, I’m probably what most women would consider to be too close to my mother and I bite my nails.”

“They don’t look bitten,” I pointed out—like an idiot letting him know that I had noticed them.

He just smiled at that. Of course he did. “I try to get a manicure every week—it’s helped me stop.”

“No misogyny? No serial killing? No embezzling? Nothing really juicy?”

Unlike me at the moment, but it wasn’t as if I was going to say that to him—hopefully.

“Nope. I’m an only child who was raised by my Mom—hence the closeness and distinct lack of misogyny. I’ve certainly had fights in my life—which, I’ll have you know that I always won—but I’ve never killed anyone. And I’ve worked too hard to cheat myself, since I own the company. It would kinda be counter-productive.”

“Can I have one of those?” I asked impulsively.

“Sure,” he offered me the pack and proceeded to light it for me.

“Thanks very much.”

“You’re welcome.”

When I’d handed them back to him and was very happily puffing away on my own cigarette—after a bit of a coughing spell, since it had been a while—he asked, “Did I give you enough bad things to counter the good?”

“Not really, but you gave me enough for a while, thanks.”

I sensed he was laughing at me—politely, of course—with his grave, “You’re welcome.”

And I could tell he was smiling indulgently down at me even though I wasn’t looking at him. That’s how powerful his smile was!

“Besides, neither of us ever has to see each other again after tonight, anyway, so it doesn’t really matter that I’m allergic to perfection.”

“I-I don’t think I understand.” Even his frowns were beautiful.

Another puff, and another—lesser, thankfully—coughing fit.

“The unvarnished truth is that my sister insisted that I come here tonight. And you are the reason for that insistence. She fancies herself a matchmaker, you see, although, considering what she knows about each of us, she should have known better. She’s been very unsubtly trying to get us together for months now, and I’ve been actively avoiding it.”

He wasn’t smiling, but was gazing down at me with quite a serious expression, one that leaned tantalizingly towards dominant.

I shook my head—literally—the moment that thought popped into my head. Or, more likely, I was just seeing what I wanted to see—wouldn’t be the first time. I absolutely could not go there. If that was true, I’d end up throwing myself at him like an idiot, and with my luck, he’d step aside at the wrong moment to avoid me and I’d end up going over the railing.

“So, you’ve been avoiding meeting me?”

“Hell yes! I’ve seen pictures of you. Why would I want to meet Mr. Perfection,” I motioned up and down at him, “when I am the embodiment of Ms. Imperfection Extraordinaire?” I drew my hands down the outline of my distinctly chubby body as I spoke.

Clete looked even less happy at that description of myself. “I’ve seen pictures of you, too. In fact,” he cleared his throat before continuing, “the way your sister and your friends have spoken about you when I’ve been with them made me ask your sister to introduce us, just about three months ago.”

He took a step closer to me as I let that sink in.

“So you see, it was not your sister who was insisting, really, all that time,” his caramel whisper wormed its way behind all of the defenses I had erected against exactly that. “It was me.”

I moved a bit away from him and took a nervous pull on my cigarette, which resulted in the worst coughing fit yet, doubling me over with it.

“Are you sure you should be smoking?” he asked, sounding much more concerned than he ought to about someone who was, essentially, a total stranger.

Straightening, I smiled, avoiding those potent eyes of his, and answering with great enthusiasm, “Oh, I’m most definitely not supposed to be smoking.”

Any traces of any kind of amusement left his face at that information, and he sounded almost comically aghast. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that I have very severe asthma, and if my doctor—or my sisters—knew that I was smoking they’d each predecease me.” I thought about it again. “No, they’d kill me, instead.”

Almost before I had finished my sentence, the cigarette had been quite literally snatched out of my mouth and stomped on, as if it was a particularly odious bug.

That had me gaping up at him, but his next movements caused my jaw to hit the floor.

He turned me towards the railing again, wrapped what was a very strong—if not muscle bound—arm around my waist, and with no further ado, proceeded to heartily wallop my backside several times.

Unfortunately, it was mid-October—still quite warm, especially for Maine—and I was wearing a light skirt. It had the odd effect of making me wish it was the dead of winter, and I was wearing a snowsuit, or something equally protective! That man spanked hard!

He didn’t give me very many swats—and I was too stunned to count—but I knew that, however many he gave me—rapid fire, in a flurry—were going to be the cause of me looking for reasons not to sit down for a while.

When Clete was done, he let go of me completely and stepped a bit away, so that we were no longer in contact with each other.

I was in the act of opening my mouth to scream. Embarrassment be damned; I just wanted the spanking to stop!

He shoved his hands into his pockets, and didn’t look at me at all, at first. “I’m sorry. I should never have done that. But I can’t imagine why an obviously smart girl like you would want to ruin her health that way. I got carried away, and I’m sorry.”

Then he reached into his pocket and found something in his wallet that he handed to me.

“What’s this?” I asked, taking it automatically.

“It’s my lawyer’s business card, in case you want to sue me for what I just did to you.”

I had to snort. “So… I take it you do this a lot?”

“No, I’ve never done anything that was quite so stupid before, probably. Well, not as an adult, anyway. I saw him recently, so I had his card on me, and I figured I’d own up to the fact that I probably just did something that’s going to cost me a lot of money.”

He didn’t sound all that worried about it.

“And flushed my reputation down the toilet at the same time.”

Now that he sounded worried about.

Not that I didn’t want to sue him for being so forward, but what I really wanted to do was reach back and rub my butt so badly that I had to lace my fingers together to stop myself from doing it.

I knew I should—at the very least—have railed against him for what he’d done, but it would have been hard for me to do that and maintain a straight face, since it was pretty much the fulfillment of a dream for someone like him to have spanked me, regardless of the impetus, and regardless of whether or not I thought he was right to do so.

What I did do—to his great surprise—was tear up the card and let the pieces flutter away in the wind.

“So I guess I shouldn’t ask you for another cigarette, huh?” I asked cheekily, instead.

The smile that he’d been wearing disappeared as if it had never been. And was that a growl I heard come out of him? It was unbearably sexy, whatever it was!

The damned man was getting me all hot and bothered, and I was going to end up going home alone to fire up Clark Kent, which was what I’d named my magic wand vibrator.

After I killed my sister for telling him about my proclivities, that was.

“That’s okay. It’s not like I’m not going to pass a zillion convenience stores on my way home,” I grinned up at him. “I should probably tell you to expect a call from my lawyer, but I can’t afford one, so you lucked out. Thanks for the cheap thrill. You’ll forgive me if I leave now and never see you again, I’m sure.”

His hand shot out as I moved past him and those long fingers manacled my wrist carefully.

“Wait, please.”

I looked at his face, then down at his hand, then back again. “Adding kidnapping to the assault charges, Mr. Downey?”

That got those full lips to curve downward.

“I wasn’t kidding when I said that I was the one who was pushing to meet you.”

A loud, uncouth guffaw escaped my mouth that I immediately regretted, then regretted regretting. “Excuse me if I find that extremely hard to believe. Like, downright impossible to believe.”

He stepped in front of me, and suddenly—built like an outhouse or not—he seemed very big to me, indeed. And he was still claiming my wrist, his hold tight enough that I knew I wouldn’t be able to break it if I tried. His grip was still not so tight as to hurt in any way, but I couldn’t escape the knowledge that it was there, either.

I was excruciatingly aware that I was being kept in place for him and by him.

“So, if I asked you to go out with me, you’d turn me down?”

I leaned my head back and forth, as if I was considering my answer very carefully. “Well, let’s see. I already told you that I’m allergic to perfection.”

“And I gave you several ways in which I am definitely not perfect, and I can supply more if you’d like. Although I’d like to point out to you that usually people you want to date want to know good things about you, not bad.”

“I am nothing if not dedicatedly weird, and you didn’t let me finish.”

“I think I’ve noticed that already, but go ahead.”

“You ripped a cigarette out of my lips, killed it with your ginormous foot, then proceeded to spank me.” I scrunched up my face and caught his eye. “You dating someone?”

“No…” He was right to be cautious.

“Engaged?”

“Nooo…”

“Married?”

“No—”

Before he could say anything else, I interrupted him. “Do you see where I’m going here in regards to why you might not have a significant other, considering your behavior towards me? I think Mr. Perfect is in the rear-view mirror at this point.”

Clete’s scowl was quite foreboding. “I don’t regret anything I did. Well… maybe one thing.”

I figured it had to be the spanking. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. Giving you the cigarette.”

I sighed, shaking my head dramatically.

“Not quite the takeaway I was hoping for, I have to admit.”

The next thing I knew, he was kissing me. He took that last step towards me, arms wrapping around me and holding me as if I was the most breakable thing on the planet, and claiming my lips the way he’d claimed my wrist and spanked me—firmly, with purpose and determination.

His mouth didn’t turn into a giant tongue on me, either, for which I was grateful. He did, however, make sure that I was all in on it as soon as I got over how startled I was to be kissing him at all.

He was just the perfect height, utterly to my tastes. Not a giant who’d have to contort himself to kiss me, and not a shrimp who’d need a ladder, either.

Clete held me just right, too, one hand respectfully on my lower back, the other coming up to cup the back of my neck.

Much too quickly after he’d slanted his lips even more hotly across mine, he lifted his head to look down at me, causing me to have to stifle a moan of protest at the loss.

“I want you, Nina Charles.” His breath, like mine, smelled of whiskey. “I’ve known it since I first saw your pictures in your sister’s apartment and on her desk at work. And you might not know it, but everyone talks about you in glowing terms, too, which only made me want to meet you even more. As you’ve discovered in the past few minutes, I’m nowhere near perfect, I promise you, and as you get to know me, I’m sure you’re going to find many ways to add to the imperfect list.”

He let me go—slowly, making certain that I was steady on my feet—and holding onto my hands as he stood before me, tipping my chin up to meet his eyes. “If I thought you’d let me, I’d lead you out of this place and have you in my bed inside of fifteen minutes.”

My mouth snapped shut at that, of which I was very glad, because it contained the drool that his words inspired in me.

“But I can’t imagine that you’re any fan of mine at the moment. And besides, I want more than that from you. I would like to take you out sometime. You name the date.”

I’m sure I stood there with my mouth hanging open again like a yokel for much too long a time, which prompted him to give me one of those heart stopping smiles of his.

“I promise you’ll have a good time, and I’m not even talking about being in bed with me.”

My mind was nowhere near as sharp as it had been before he’d kissed me, or I would have already left the scene of this tragedy waiting to happen.

“I — uh… You… um… We… er…”

“Don’t think so hard about it,” he commanded softly. “Just say yes.”

That last statement was made with a distinctly dommish tone that made my eyes flit to his, but all I saw there was what I thought was genuine encouragement.

And that had me teetering on the edge of doing the impossible, the improbable, and the highly unlikely all at the same time.

I was seriously considering saying yes.

“Do I need to spank you again to get you to agree?” he asked, having the audacity to look surprised when I was rightly outraged by what he’d said.

“What? No!”

“I don’t know.” His brow furrowed as if he was in deep concentration, and it only managed to give him that professorish vibe that was horribly hot. “It seemed pretty natural, to me, even though it’s the first time I’d done it to you. I have a feeling that you need a firm hand.”

Holy Christ, I was going to end up in jail because I was going to kill my sister! She’d definitely told him what I liked!

“As a matter of fact, I don’t just have a feeling that you need a keeper, I know it, considering that you bummed a cigarette off me and proceeded to smoke it, when you’re an asthmatic.”

“What did you want me to do with it, eat it?”

I’d forgotten how ass-adjacent his hand was, but I found out quickly enough.

“Ow! Stop that! Clete, cut it out!”

It was a shorter spanking, but my butt was already sore, so it was at least as bad as the first one. And he kept me close to him rather than letting me go when he stopped, capturing both of my wrists and holding them behind my back.

Holy crap, he was close! Every inch of his body was pressed up against mine, and I could tell that he was at least as aroused as I was.

But I couldn’t even begin to come to grips with the idea that he was even talking to me for this long, much less that he was asking me out, or that I’d only known him for seventeen seconds and he’d already spanked me twice!

“Nina.”

My eyes found his immediately. The man knew how to use his voice to its best advantage, that was for sure.

Barely believing that I was doing this, I heard myself say, “All right.”

Again, he did something I absolutely was not expecting, lifting me into the air as if I weighed nothing at all, twirling the two of us around a bit, then putting me down very gently and looking inexcusably smug.

“I’m very happy that you said yes, and I wanted to get that out of the way.”

“What?”

“I figure at some point in the near future, you’re going to try to argue with me that you’re too heavy for me to lift, and now you already know that that’s not true.”

I headed for the door on legs that were shaky on several accounts, letting go sarcastically with, “Yeah, and I’ll be sure to drop by and visit you when you end up in traction a few hours from now.”

Not a smart thing to say when he was behind me.

I outright yelped at the heavy-handed swat he administered as he closed the gap between us.

“Not funny, and not acceptable.” He almost sounded angry. “Don’t do it again, Nina.”

Clete’s hand found the small of my back—which managed to cover an inordinate amount of my back without seeming improper, after it had already covered an inordinately improper amount of my backside—and remained there as we rejoined the celebratory throng.

I felt as if everyone was staring at me, all wondering the same thing I was: what the hell was he doing with me?

But I wisely didn’t say that. I might not have known him for very long, but I knew him well enough not to test the idea of whether or not he’d smack my butt in front of all of these people.

And there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he wouldn’t hesitate in the least to do exactly that, if he thought the situation warranted it.

***

Don’t do it.

The very autocratic text came through just as I was settling into bed. I’d stayed an unusually long time at the party, and that was entirely due to the fact that Clete was surprisingly reluctant to relinquish his hold on me, and I couldn’t seem to muster the will to even begin to break it. It seemed he was always touching me in some way or the other—an arm looped casually around my waist, a gentle hand on my back, strong fingers entwined with mine.

And it wasn’t just that either.

He paid attention to me—to me! Not to my sister, or her friends, or the innumerable women who flocked around him, who undoubtedly shared the same incredulousness about where they found him as I did. And he was damned solicitous, too, without being obsequious in the least.

He offered to get me another drink and something to eat. I declined both, and he gave me an intent look, as if he was going to object to that, but he didn’t. When we’d wished my sister a happy birthday yet again, and we’d both kissed her goodbye, Clete had held my coat for me. He kept me close in the hallway and elevator, and he put me into my own car as if he was helping a princess into a glass carriage.

Hell, he was apparently that nice to everyone. He’d gone in with me to ask my sister’s friends, who had taken over her kitchen, if there was anything I could do for them, tagging his own offer of help onto mine. And when he was pressed into service—for ‘being tall’, which he joked was one of his best talents—putting away things in the top shelves of the cupboards, washing dishes, and cleaning counters, he did so cheerfully, not seeming put upon in the least, as some men might have.

Clete also took anything that he considered particularly heavy out of any woman’s hands that he could see, scolding them lightly—with a smile and a wink—saying that that was ‘man’s work’.

I was rolling my eyes, but the others were lapping it up.

When I finally got home, I did little other than feed the cat and take a shower before collapsing on my bed. And I was tired—I’d been one of the first people at Gina’s place this morning to help set up and get the food going, since I had a key. But I wasn’t that tired, especially considering what had gone on between myself and a certain incredible man who had surprised the hell out of me in so many ways!

I’d already reached into my nightstand for my favorite lube, and Clark Kent was plugged in and raring to go when the text tone sounded.

And, once I’d read it, I had no doubt who had sent it.

Funny, I didn’t remember giving him any of my information… Not that there weren’t multiple sources of it at the party, or through people who were already friends of his, who were likely my sister, who was already on my shit list.

Who dis? I sent back.

LOLOLOL Dis is Clete, as if you didn’t know. And I meant what I said.

You said, Don’t do it.

That’s right.

Don’t do what?

Coy doesn’t suit you, Nina.

How is it that I could already hear him saying that to me, his voice just slightly stern and a bit deeper than his usual tone?

I don’t remember asking you whether or not it did. I’m asking for specifics about your shockingly demanding, enigmatic text.

Don’t do what I would be willing to bet you’re getting ready to do, and I hope I’ve timed it right to catch you before you’ve done it.

He couldn’t possibly know what I was planning!

I’d bet that you’re tucked under the covers quite comfortably, and that your vibrator, or whatever you usually use to satisfy yourself, is looking pretty good to you about now.

Wow, there’s no ego in your family; you got it all.

LOL I have, on occasion, succumbed to the imperfection of being overconfident. You can add that to your list. So tell me that I’m wrong.

I began to type again, but was interrupted by his, Without lying.

I backspaced over the fabrication I’d begun, but then I just sat there, biting my lip. I really did not want to let him know that he was right. It just seemed like a dangerous precedent.

So? He prodded.

You’re wrong.

Why did I feel as if I wanted to obey him? He might have spanked me, but he wasn’t anyone in particular to me. Why was it that I felt compelled at that moment to do as he asked and tell him the truth?

Finally, I retired the vibrator to my nightstand again, not really understanding why I was doing it.

Huh what? You’ve got Superman there? Why didn’t you say so? I’m a big fan, I’ll be over in a minute!

  1. I was going to say, ‘a Dom’, but I decided against it. For my purposes.

I sent him an ellipsis.

Because you’re submissive. You’d have to be, or I’d be sitting in jail. Thank you for not calling the cops on me because I spanked you, btw.

Biting my lip, I didn’t text anything in return.

I understand why you’re quiet, little one. I do. But I want you to know that I intend to usurp ole’ Clark’s position right out from under him. Therefore, I don’t want you to have any further contact with him.

I couldn’t resist typing, LOL to him, because I was laughing at his portrayal of my vibrator as a rival.

He sent me a smiley emoji, then texted, But I’m not kidding, old Clark is going to have to be happy in your nightstand or your headboard or wherever he hangs out when you’re not using him until we see each other again. And beyond. I don’t need the competition!

I had to give him an LOL againat that.

What?

Tell me that you understand what I just told you you couldn’t do.

It was just a text, for crying out loud, and yet I squirmed against its inherent dominance anyway!

Good girl.

Damn you’re bossy!

I think our encounter this afternoon, and the fact that you agreed to date me despite—or maybe because?—of it kind of proved that that’s what you like in a man, didn’t it? And, frankly, what you like is—as you’ve might have noticed—exactly how I am as a man. I think we’ll fit together very well, especially on that hard to find level. Tell me if I’m wrong in all of this.

I’m definitely taking the fifth.

I sent him a chicken emoji.

But you’re going to see me again, and that kind of says it all for you.

Night, Nina. Sleep well.

Not friggin’ likely since you vetoed what usually gets me to sleep.

I’m sure you’ll sleep fine. Good night.

You, too, Clete.

Oooh, baby, I love how you text my name!

That got me laughing and lol-ing to him.

Night, Niña.

He’d typed my name differently, as if it was the Spanish word instead, which I knew meant that he had called me a little child.

And I wasn’t sure whether I liked that or not.

I knew I didn’t much like being told what to do.

While at the same time, I adored being told what to do!

Needless to say, it took me a while to get to sleep that night.