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"Darlings, you've come overdressed," Cassia purrs, flinging a white cape over her shoulders as she glances from Ashby to me. "And under dressed. Attendance is by accordance to the strict dress code only. Follow me."
Without saying a word, Ashby steps into line behind her while I look down at my outfit: black jeans, boots, a flannel shirt with sleeves covering my arms all the way down to my wrists. How much more clothing does she want me to put on? Tightening my hold on my date, I take in the cheesy, Halloween decorations on the walls. There's a portrait of a woman who turns into a skeleton as we walk by, her painted face morphing into a mostly decomposed smile. Bats hover above doorways we don't use. Occasional end tables host a menagerie of old novels, most of them vampire related, with dusty cobwebs flung over them. Darkness overtakes the majority of the halls besides the flicker of purple and blue candle flames.
We walk forward down a needlessly long tunnel. He hadn't mentioned the mansion before we showed up. Said he'd wanted to keep it a surprise. I lick my lips as a shiver runs up my spine. There could be any number of things hiding in the shadows around us. This is a party after all and our hostess seems overly devoted to the celebration of the holiday.
As if on cue, she flings open a giant, maroon door and stands back, sharpened canines glinting in the soft glow of the red room in front of us.
"I know I said there wasn't going to be a theme this year, but I changed my mind last minute." Her light eyes fall on Ashby. "Thought we should add a bit of dominance to the mix."
His throat bobs as he swallows hard. "Cass, I know it's been a while since I've been to one of these, but—"
"Uh uh." She holds up one gloved, palm and shakes her head at him. "Nope. No arguments. I've been kind enough to provide the costumes. You two just need to pick something and match."
Her pink lips pull up into a malicious smile. "That, or I could have you separated and let the rest of our guests decide what to do with non-conformers. Ashby, darling, you know the women swoon when you're up for grabs."
Back straightening, lips pull back into an uncomfortable sneer, Ashby clears his throat. “I don’t believe we agreed to this, Cass. It sounds a bit hardcore for even my tastes.”
Chewing the corner of her lip for a moment, Cassia grins at him with sharpened canines. “During the masquerade three years ago, you fucked me in the ass over the bar counter with everyone watching. Are you telling me you’re suddenly shy or can your guest not handle this?”
“I can handle it.”
The words are out before I really take a moment to think about it. Her standoff is no longer just with Ashby. Those piercing eyes move from her interrogation of my boyfriend to land on mine. Silence takes over the room. I'd told Ashby I would go along with everything, but I'm not going to deal with her behavior anymore. Screw her rich tastes.
Clearly enunciating each syllable, I break the quiet first. “What do you want me to wear?”
Her blue gaze returns to Ashby. “Am I to assume she’s in charge?”
Stepping in front of me, he shakes his head, recovering the lead of our intimate discussion with the hostess from hell. “She doesn’t want to be a part of that group. I’ll be in charge. Just leave, so we can coordinate our outfits."
I swear her eyes flash red for just a moment before she dramatically flips her cape over her shoulder and strides from the room, the click of her heels leaving a demand for obedience the next time we face her. Ashby waits for the sound of her departure to fade and then reaches towards me. He's cold. I try to cover his fingertips with my own, but he moves away, his attention no longer on me as he walks along the three, heavily adorned walls.
We need to have a serious discussion about my reason for being here before we go back out there with these animals he calls friends. Instead of talking, however, I glance to the wall closest to me and take in the hanging collars. Red, pink, black, blue, some spiked, others shiny leather, each looks a little too fancy to be the average clothing choice for a dog. Matching leashes hang a foot away. They aren't for dogs, either.
"I'm sorry I let you believe this would be an easy encounter. I thought maybe they'd grown out of their more grotesque behaviors." He clears his throat, working hard to pull out the three-syllable adjectives to describe Cassia while he fingers a full body harness in front of him. "We can go now if you want. I won't blame you for wanting to run for the hills at this point."
We didn't come to leave this early. Setting my hands on my hips, I smile at the flared nostrils and dark sunglasses of the silly man in front of me. Nothing about our short relationship should have given him the impression that I give up so easily. Taking the course of action before words, I reach up and pop the first, second, third buttons on my shirt. His covered gaze follows each quick movement. A hitch of his breath echoes around our shared enclosure. We could screw the rules and just stay here for all I care.
I know he likes to play along with the games, though. Pausing my undressing, I let my hands go back to my hips while my shirt hangs wide open for his silent appraisal. I can handle his friends as long as he continues to only look at me like that.
"Did you bring me here just to make me jealous?"
A startled croak leaves his throat. "What?"
He doesn't focus well when I start to show off too much flesh. "Don't tell me you forgot about you and that other woman—"
"Oh." Raising one palm, he stops my tirade before it can begin. "Her. Cass and I are only friends. We had a couple of physical flings. Nothing ever felt right. I'm not here for her."
Arms crossed over my chest to obstruct his view, I nod. "Okay. Fine. She's part of your past. Why did you bring me here?"
The corner of his lips lift. "Because this is one, giant sex pad and I hoped we could have a little fun."
Without giving me a chance to respond, he runs his hand along the wall of intricate harnesses. "Now, baby, what are you going to let me put you in?"
Not moving, I watch him move to the furthest side of the room, admiring all of the costumes on his way. "So, I'm baby now? It was precious out in the car."
"Darling," he licks the front of his teeth, drawing the pet name out for added emphasis. "I'll call you whatever you want as long as my name is the only one you're screaming tonight."
The nerve endings in my fingers and toes light up all at once. Fire takes over my limbs. My stomach clenches. Throat dry, I can't respond.
Ashby crosses the space back towards me and lifts my chin with a finger as he takes off his glasses. The collage of tiny, white scars around his pale eyes stand out in the mood lighting. Taking in the rare chance to see his naked gaze, I run a fingertip around the rough perimeter. With the addition of the stubble on his chin, he's the sexiest man I've ever had a chance to stand in a weird, BDSM dungeon. No amount of old marks, or old habits, is going to change that.
"You haven't picked anything yet. Mind if I demand that you're in red?"
I hadn't put much thought to actually wearing any of the collars of harnesses. Swallowing hard, I nod to his question and then look around the room. There's too many choices. Some too much fabric, others barely enough to keep me decent with my pride in tact. I can't make this kind of decision alone.
"Do I have to call you master or something?" I tease, squeezing his hand as I pull him to the wall across from us.
"Just Ashby will suffice, sweet girl. What if we do something like this?"
Pulling red straps off a hook on the wall, he holds out the burgundy material for my opinion. "Is it going to hurt?"
A mischievous grin takes over his features. "Only if you ask for it."
Trusting he won't test my limits too much, I finish unbuttoning my shirt and then hold my hands out for the strange device. "Tell me how to put it on."
"Oh no, that's my job. Why don't you strip down for me, so I can demonstrate?"
Heartbeat increasing with the heat of his exposed stare, I do as he says, removing one sleeve and then the other before letting the red, flannel flutter down to the floor. My boots follow. In my black bra and jeans, I wait for his eyes to meet mine and then hook my thumbs into the waistband of my pants. Undo the button, slide the zipper down halfway, pause for his moan, and then turn to give him my back as I push them down.
His hands cover mine before they've even left my hips. Chest to my back, he helps move the denim down further, exposing my lace bottoms. His fingers graze the backs of my thighs, the area behind my knees, the inside of my legs, and then he has me step out.
"Don't turn. Keep your legs apart." His voice is deeper, each breath more ragged than the last. "This should be quick."
Bending to one knee, he presses his lips to my lower back and then goes to work on attaching the first strap to my left thigh. A wandering hand brushes the skin just above that. Tingling spreads from there, my skin prickling for more attention from the fine specimen on his knees. He doesn't go any higher. Suppressing a groan, I wait while he hooks the second strap to my right thigh.
"Okay. Turn. Wrists out."
Two more straps. Silver hooks dangle off each cuff. Ashby grins at his success.
"Better be good tonight, or I'll be tying you down."
Excitement trickles over my skin, branching out from the shiny, red shackles on each of my four limbs. "Whatever you say, dear. Are we ready to get this show on the road?"
"Somebody's anxious to get going." He murmurs, reaching over his head to remove his shirt and then replace it with a red key on a long, silver chain. "We still have to make it through a whole party."
Matching his arched eyebrow with my own, I nod to his tight pants. "Really? How much longer are you going to make it?"
"Good point. Let me show you the rest of the dungeon."
Hand in hand, under dressed for any other occasion, the hooks on my wrists jingle with every step. Ashby leads us forward, obviously less forgetful about the layout of the house than he was about his previous relations with the host. We pass through two doors, take a hall on the left, enter an open archway, and lose ourselves to the mansion's maze.
Taking a staircase down, I pause at the sound of moaning half way down. "I think there's someone down here already."
"Everyone's down here, sweetheart. Trust me."
My feet hit the bottom and he drags me forward as his lust surpasses my own. The doors to our left are shut with red signs dangling from their golden handles. To the right, the doorways are wide open, begging for an audience to the acts beyond.
A woman in nothing besides the handcuffs holding her wrists behind her back kneels in front of a man promising to remove her gag if she's good. Room two, a man's spread eagle over the top of a circular mattress while another guy runs the end of a whip along his thighs. A third couple makes out in the hallway without taking advantage of one of the courtesy rooms.
Ashby nods to them and then drags me into a room on the left, slamming it shut behind us. "I'm going to fuck you harder than the whole lot out there, darling. Sit."
My ass hits the nearest surface, a high-backed chair. Scrambling to control my breathing, I watch him lock the door and then saunter towards me. Eyes wide, lips twitching into a grin, he stops a foot from me.
"Put your hands out to the side, baby. I've rethought the whole restraint concept." Leaning forward, his lips brush my ear as his hot breath sends tremors down my spine. "I'm definitely incorporating it."
I abide to his command, relax as he pulls my arms around those of the chair and hooks my wrists to my thighs. Wiggling my limbs to get used to the new position, I swallow hard. There's going to be no escape. Not now. Not til he's done with me.
His hands undo the front of his pants. "Yes, Tamyra?"
My throat's dry, tongue clumsy. I gape up at the creature in front of me and say the only word that comes to mind. "Please."
Lips twisting up, he reaches forward to run his fingers from my throat to my bra. "Oh, you're going to be saying that a whole lot more in just a moment, sweet girl. Why don't we make you a little more comfortable first?"
I don't get a chance to consent to his question. He undoes the clasp on my bra and lets it dangle forward on my trapped arms. Reaching into the new space, he caresses one breast in each hand, rubbing the sides of his thumbs over my nipples. The chains on my wrists rattle. Shoulders tight, I strain against the trap I let him set. I want to touch him back, pull him closer, have him touch me more, but I'm stuck. Growling in frustration, I lean my head back and thrust my chest up while my knees begin to tremble.
"That's how I felt the second I saw you start to take off your shirt. Since I've been suffering longer, you'll just have to wait for more."
Groaning, I hook my ankles behind his knees and tug him closer. "Don't be an ass. You're already getting what you want."
He chuckles, a deep, throaty sound that leaps from his lips as he catches his balance on the chair. "Really, sweetheart? I haven't even gotten you naked yet."
The next few seconds go by too fast to follow. He's got a knife. I no longer have any panties. Smirking, he pulls the cut fabric out from under me, taking his time to run his fingers along my ass and down to the straps keeping me secured to the chair. The remains of my underwear hit the floor. His pants follow.
Lifting my legs higher, he wraps them around his hips, leaving me wide open for him. "You do remember that name you're supposed to be screaming, right?"
Ashby. It's Ashby. Tonight, for now, I'm his.