Cherished, A Masters and Mercenaries Novella, Book 7.5

A doctor living a double life

By day, Dr. Will Daley is one of Dallas’s most eligible bachelors, but every night he dons his leathers as one of Sanctum’s most desired Doms. He’s sworn off looking for a long-term relationship but is captivated by the club’s newest member, Bridget Slaten, even though they couldn’t be more different. She comes from a world of privilege and he was raised in poverty. When he discovers she needs a date to her sister’s wedding, he makes certain he’s literally the only man for the job.

A woman no longer willing to live in the shadows

For most of her life, Bridget hid herself behind her laptop. She can write romantic, sensuous lives for her characters but not herself. Having Master Will as her date to the wedding is a thrilling prospect but he has a special request. He wants her to accept two weeks of his services as a Dom, a lover, and expert in BDSM, and that is an offer she can’t refuse. Their sexual chemistry is undeniable, but it’s in the tender moments that Bridget realizes she’s falling for a man who might never trust her with his heart.

A love strong enough to cherish

Together in paradise for a week, Will realizes he can’t imagine his life without Bridget.  As the wedding approaches, ghosts from their past come back to haunt them and threaten to ruin the peace they’ve found. With everything exposed, they will have to risk it all to claim the love that can set them both free.

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Reviews

I can’t help but to continuously be in a state of shock and awe over this amazing series by Lexi Blake. Her Masters & Mercenaries Series constantly gives us characters that we can relate to, characters that we can laugh and cry with, and characters that run away with our hearts. The characters that we know and adore collide with new characters that seem to fit right in. Together they bring us a love story so explosive, so intensely erotic, and unbelievably captivating, that all you want to do is stay attached to this world and these characters for as long as possible. ~ 5 Stars, Shayna, Shayna Renee’s Spicy Reads, shaynareneesspicyreads.com

As usual, Lexi Blake combines pathos, love, suspense and humor in a captivating mix that will keep the reader turning the pages to find out what happens… Lively dialogue, likable characters and a complex plot that touches the heart all combine to make this entry into the Masters and Mercenaries series a delightful, exciting book. ~ Purest Delight, Shadow, Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews, guiltypleasuresbookreviews.com

Ms. Blake is a master at pulling you heart first into the story and making you forget that you are reading about fictional characters. The McKay/Taggert group and their friends have become a family that I very much wish to be a part of… To cherish is to hold or treat as dear, feel love for, and to cling fondly or inveterately to.  That is the perfect description of how I felt after reading Cherished the newest novella in Lexi Blake’s Masters and Mercenaries series. ~ Robin, Sizzling Hot Books, sizzlinghotbooks.com

I just can’t get enough of this series.  Thank you Lexi Blake for your complex characters and a story that flows like honey.  I know once I pick up one of you books that I will not be able to put it down until its done. Cherished had me laughing one minute and crying the next.  I loved this story and I know that any reader that enjoys BDSM will really come to love this series.  Bravo Lexi once again!!! ~ Kelley, Smut Book Junkie,smutbookjunkie.com

Excerpt

Chapter 1

There was something deeply humiliating about begging and pleading while wearing a corset and a thong. Oh, Bridget Slaten was fairly certain it helped most women get what they wanted, but it didn’t seem to be working for her. Then again, she was kind of using the tools on the wrong crowd. Somehow, she didn’t see her gay hubby and female and straight best friend responding to her boobs hanging out.

She looked across the room and saw Will Daley striding across the club toward the bar. Would he respond to her boobs hanging out?

She consigned that line of thinking to the same place she always shoved the idea of writing that science fiction romance where her heroine was the only woman left on an earth made up entirely of Channing Tatums. Sure it was a fun idea, but it wouldn’t work in the long run. The man made her heart pound—Will in this case, though obviously Channing did it for her, too—but there was zero chance that she would have anything to do with either of them. Will was out of her league looks wise and she wasn’t looking for a one-night hookup, which was all a woman ever got from him.

No way. No how. She’d gone through too much crap to willingly walk into the fire again. She hadn’t had sex since she’d kicked Benjy out, and that was probably the safest bet.

Still, she couldn’t help but watch the way he moved, his every limb a testament to masculine grace.

“If you don’t watch out you’re going to need a rag to catch the drool, honey,” Chris said.

She turned to one of her two best friends. Both Chris Roberts and Serena Dean-Miles were sitting in the decadent booth where their Doms had left them. Bridget sighed because no one had ordered her to wait for him. She’d only been coming to Sanctum for three weeks. She couldn’t expect that she would find a regular in that time. She wasn’t stupid. She knew she was considered a bit difficult. She’d been training with two of the approved regulars, Jesse Murdoch, who was a sweetheart and a half, and Mitchell Bradford, who kind of scared the crap out of her, but he was good with ropes. Still, they weren’t hers and never would be. She was, as she always seemed to be, alone among the happily paired off. Time. It simply took time. That’s what she tried to tell herself. Some day her Dom would come and all that shit.

She knew one thing though. It wouldn’t be gorgeous, smart, hunky, hot and manwhorey neurosurgeon Dr. William Daley.

“I am not drooling. It’s just weird to see him here. He moved into my building last month.” She’d watched him moving his boxes in, the Texas heat causing him to sweat and get rid of that shirt he should never, ever be allowed to wear. His chest was a work of art, and he had those notches on his hips she wrote about so lovingly in her romance novels. She’d stared at him and sighed, and he’d looked up at her with an arrogant grin right before three women walked up behind him, obviously helping him move. A harem. He had a harem of beautiful women who followed him around. They came to his condo at all hours of the day or night, sometimes in singles, more often as a slender, graceful pack.

She’d already been one of many and she hadn’t even known about it until the end. She wasn’t going to walk into a relationship where the man was sure to cheat.

“It’s all my fault. Well, not really mine. It’s Derek’s. I told him about the empty condos and he’s been mentoring Will. When Will changed jobs, he wanted a new place because of…well, because of the stuff that went down.” Serena’s voice trailed off.

Stuff? There was stuff? Shit. She really wanted to know the stuff. Like now, but she forced herself to play it cool. She kept staring straight ahead and kept her tone as negligent as possible. “Stuff?”

Chris snorted, a sound he somehow managed to make elegant. “Don’t even try it, sweetie. You can’t make me believe you aren’t interested in that man.”

Serena bit her bottom lip and sighed—a sure sign that she knew something everyone else didn’t. She’d been best friends with Serena and Chris for a very long time, and she knew their tells. And naturally they knew hers. “I don’t know that being interested in Master Will is a good idea. Why don’t you let me set you up with one of the new guys? There are some seriously cute men Ian’s recruiting lately.”

She’d seen them. She liked to call them baby Doms. From what she understood, they were almost all ex-military, and every damn one of them was seeing Sanctum’s brand new resident shrink. Since Eve and Alex were on the cusp of adopting, Eve had pulled back and so Ryan, Sanctum’s manager, and Ian Taggart, the owner of the club, had decided to hire a shrink—Kai Ferguson. He’d seemed to be some hippy dippy pretty boy until the first time she’d seen him wield a whip. Kai had approved her application but not before explaining that she had daddy issues and abandonment issues that she should really deal with.

Yeah, like she didn’t know about those. In fact, those were exactly the issues she needed to deal with tonight. She tended to like to forget about her horrible, awful, very nasty parents, but her sister had made it so she couldn’t avoid them. Whatever secrets hottie Will was hiding would have to wait.

“I need a date to my sister’s wedding.”

Both heads turned.

“What?” Serena asked.

“I thought you weren’t going.” Chris shook his head as if to say that was a bad idea.

She fricking knew it was a bad idea, but she was trapped. Of her entire family, she only still talked to her sister, Amy, on a regular basis. Amy, who she’d protected as a kid. Amy, who had begged her to come to the wedding and then screwed her over.

She couldn’t leave Amy alone amongst the barbarian horde. She wished Amy had left her some dignity. “She’s my sister. She called me. I have to go. Besides, I should meet whatever douchebag my dad picked for her so I know who I need to kill later in life.”

Serena leaned forward. “Maybe Amy’s in love.”

“Maybe Daddy’s in debt.” Somehow she seriously doubted that Amy had magically fallen in love with the exact person who could boost her father’s company and who happened to want to get married at the exact right time. “Look, I know my father. He tried to pull the same shit with me. How do you think I got kicked out and disinherited? I wouldn’t marry the man he wanted me to. Larry Halford of Halford Properties. Dear old dad wanted to expand and he views his daughters as assets to be given away at his behest. He was born about a thousand years too late. He would have made a great feudal lord, and by great I really mean awful and unfair.”

“Sheeeit,” Chris said in a slow Texas drawl. “Well, I’m glad you’re going. She asked me weeks ago and I hated the idea of going without you. I wasn’t going to tell you because I know how you feel about it.”

Amy had met Chris and Serena several times. It didn’t surprise Bridget that Amy had invited her friends. And it made what she was going to ask a little simpler. “So which hot hubby are you taking, Serena? Because I really need to borrow the other one. Amy fucked up and told everyone I’m flipping engaged.”

Serena’s eyes widened. “Are you serious? Why would she do that?”

Bridget sighed. “She was at one of her many showers and the cousins started talking shit about me and how I can’t find a man to save my life because I’m fat—very original—and no man wants a woman who writes smut. No good man that is. The family has a problem with the way I make a living. Amy was the slightest bit tipsy and said I wasn’t only seeing someone, I’m freaking engaged, so now to avoid both my humiliation and hers, I need a fiancé. I’m thinking Adam. He’s perfect and he doesn’t scare me the way Jake does.”

Serena’s head shook. “Jake is a sweetheart. He isn’t scary.”

Jacob Dean was former military and unlike his brethren, Kai, he didn’t need to wear leathers and wield a whip for everyone in the vicinity to know that he was a predator. With a body to die for and a face that could have been hewn from granite, Jake Dean looked like a man who had once been a Green Beret and now served as muscle for one of the world’s premier security agencies.

He would be at the wedding in a work capacity since McKay-Taggart provided security for her father’s corporation, but maybe she could pass off Adam Miles as her boy toy.

Adam was a gorgeous piece of metro hotness. He was always perfectly dressed, always lovingly groomed, and the man knew how to take care of a woman. While Jake handled all of the heavy stuff, Adam was the day-to-day man. He took care of Serena’s schedule and made sure she didn’t forget to eat. He made sure she came back to earth after spending the day in her head making up stories. Both of Serena’s men adored her and they were both great fathers to their son, Tristan. Was it too much to ask that she kind of, sort of borrowed one for her sister’s wedding?

“I know Jake’s a great guy, but I think my dad’s met him so I need Adam to play my fiancé for the week.”

Serena looked at her like she’d grown two heads. “I’m not letting you borrow one of my husbands, Bridge. I love you, but they would protest. We’re going to Hawaii. I had to convince the guys to let me come, and do you know how I managed that? By offering them sex. Both of them.”

They could have all the tropical sex they wanted as long as they didn’t do it in front of the wedding party. “Well, I didn’t plan on sleeping with him. Come on.” She pulled out the big guns. She touched her side. “Sorry. It’s a bit of pain from where I lost my spleen.”

Serena went a little white. Serena always did when reminded of the day she’d almost been murdered by her vicious ex-husband and the husband of her and Bridget and Chris’s literary agent, who took extreme exception to his wife representing “smutty” authors. Douchewad. Bridget was happy they were all dead. Except Lara. She still missed Lara. Her new agent was a lesbian whose partner was a big fan, so that was a plus. Losing her spleen because she’d gotten in the way of all the murders had been kind of crappy, but it had caused her to reevaluate her life and it did give her a go-to when she needed some guilt to back her up.

“I’ll talk to him,” Serena said.

Chris put a hand out. “No, you won’t.” He pointed that terrifically judgmental right index finger of his Bridget’s way. “I told you the last time was the last time.”

“But all I got out of it was the last Diet Coke in the fridge,” she complained.

“I believe I pointed that out at the time. It’s been over a year. The spleen is now off the table and you can’t use it,” Chris pronounced. “Serena, you’re officially off the hook for something you didn’t actually do in the first place.”

“It seems wrong to have traded my spleen for a Diet Coke,” Bridget grumbled although she knew she would happily do it on her worst days. She needed the caffeine. Still, it probably was wrong of her. “Fine. Let’s bargain. I’ll let you have the next two hero names we argue over.”

They tried not to have the same names in their books to avoid confusion, but when one wrote ménage, hero names became difficult to come by. She swore her next set of ménage boys would be named Fred, Maurice, and Algernon. That was all she was going to be left with. It was a good trade.

Serena’s eyes narrowed. Yes, there was some interest there.

“It’s not going to work and you can’t trade your husband for use of the name Cash in your next book,” Chris argued.

Oooo, she hadn’t thought of that one.

“Dibs,” she and Serena exclaimed at the same time.

Chris’s eyes rolled. “Seriously? That was a joke name. And I don’t think your family is going to buy Adam as your loving fiancé if he’s sleeping in Serena’s room.”

Minor issues. “He can sneak out of my room at night.”

“We’re taking the baby with us,” Serena explained. “I need both of them. Tristan is a handful. He doesn’t like to sleep. Like ever.”

“Okay, we can say that Adam’s your manny.” She could write a backstory. After all, she was a novelist. She could craft a whole fictional story to obfuscate the truth that she was kind of sad and alone. “That’s how we met. I like that a lot. It’s a meet-cute story. I fell for him because of his amazing diapering technique.”

“Do you even hear your own craycray anymore?” Chris asked, shaking his head.

“Adam isn’t going to Hawaii as the manny, Bridget,” a masculine voice said.

Damn it. She turned and Jake was frowning down at her. Yep. He scared her. She tried to give him a grin. “Come on, Jake.”

Jake wasn’t buying it. “Nope. There are now a bunch of unattached Doms at Sanctum. I’m pretty sure Ian imported them from Special Forces land. Oh and the doc and the lawyer. Pick from them. Any of them will do, but there’s no way you’re getting the dude who changes half the diapers. It’s not happening. Also, your father’s met Adam. He’s our client, though you should know we both think your dad’s a complete asshole but he pays his bills on time.”

Well, his PA, who he was very likely sleeping with him, paid his bills on time. Perfect.

Serena sent her a sympathetic look. “You know who you want to ask.”

Doctor Will, with the perfect pecs and biceps that she wanted to lick. “Yes. I wanted to ask Chris, but he’s already met two of my cousins and insulted their taste in shoes because they’re awful. They know we’re never, ever going to sleep together. So I’m screwed. Maybe I can tell everyone I’m a lesbian. I could hire a hooker.”

She could also interview the hooker and get some research out of this cluster fuck. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea…

“Because that’s not going to take away from your sister’s wedding or anything.” Serena shook her head. “You could tell everyone Amy was mistaken.”

Another way to derail her sister’s wedding. Her family was a cesspit of gossip and judgment. There was one way and only one way out, and that was to find someone to go with her, and her father would probably recognize a hooker from a hundred yards away. He was an expert, after all.

“Okay. It can’t be too hard, right? I’m offering a free trip to Kauai. My father’s sending a jet and paying for the ridiculous suite. All I have to do is take his intolerance, bigotry, and hatred, and I will be greeted with a gift basket on arrival. Wouldn’t any man want a piece of that?”

Of course, taking a neurosurgeon would solve everything, including her desperate lust for one particular doctor.

She looked around but Will was nowhere to be found. Damn it.

She couldn’t. It would be stupid, and the truth was it wasn’t like she was his type. She’d seen the subs he preferred to work with. Thin. Deeply submissive. Not the “just for fun” girls. He would hear her bratty mouth go off and run the other way. She was sure the first time she flipped someone off on the road he would dump her. That was if and only if he would go out with her in the first place, which wasn’t going to happen since he already had a trio of gorgeous women to choose from and his pick of the subs at Sanctum.

“You could ask one of the new guys,” Chris offered. “Unless you want to ask Jesse. You’ve worked with him a couple of times.”

She couldn’t not notice the use of the word “work.” Most people in the lifestyle would have used the word “play.” But she didn’t play. She “worked.” She used the time they gave her at Sanctum to research, never for herself but rather for the characters in her books. When she sat and interviewed the Doms who would talk to her, like Jesse and Alex McKay and Mitchell, she wasn’t looking for someone for herself. She was merely thinking in terms of backstories and characters and good scenes.

Will Daley made her think of what it would be like to have her own Dom.

And that was precisely why she was going to stay away.

Decision made. “All right then. I think I’ll talk to some of the baby Doms since Serena is so very selfish and you are incapable of looking like you want to sleep with me.”

Serena pouted a little. “It’s not selfishness.”

She let her friend off the hook and leaned in for a hug. “I’m teasing you. I honestly couldn’t handle Adam anyway. We would fight over the mirror.”

Jake laughed and started teasing Serena about how Adam sometimes used her hair products. Chris’s Dom returned and settled him on his lap.

Happy couples. Yep. They were all around her. Well, couples and trios. She noted Karina Mills walking into the bar holding hands with her fiancé, Derek Brighton.

So much happiness and not a bit of it seemed to be slated for her.

Great, now she was holding a pity party. Lovely.

She looked around. Beautiful men were everywhere. Even the ones who weren’t conventionally attractive had character stamped on their faces. There was no doubt about it. It was a smorgasbord of male beauty.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to pretend to have a boyfriend for a while. Hell, maybe she’d even find someone she liked. Someone who wouldn’t cheat on her and spend her money.

Or she could settle for not humiliating herself.

“Tomorrow. I’ll make a list tonight and ask them tomorrow,” she said more to herself than anyone else.

But her best friend was right there. Serena smiled and put a hand in hers. “I’ll help you. Let’s go get dressed and head back to our place for coffee.”

“And baby watching,” Bridget said quickly. Watching Tristan Miles-Dean had become her favorite pastime. She’d never really thought about babies until her best friend had one, and now she loved to look at the expressions he made while he was sleeping and the way he tried to eat his own foot.

Serena nodded. “And baby watching. We’ll figure out the perfect guy to ask. It’ll be fun.”

Bridget doubted that it would be fun, but at least she wasn’t alone. Chris gave her a wink.

No. She might not have a guy, but somehow she’d found the best friends a girl could ask for.

* * * *

“You’re pathetic, you know.” A sarcastic voice had Will Daley turning away from his current occupation of eavesdropper.

It didn’t matter. It seemed the relevant conversation was over, so he flipped Mitchell Bradford off and slunk out from behind the sofa he’d been sitting on in time to watch Bridget Slaten saunter off in her heels and a miniskirt that left just the tiniest smidgen to his imagination. Fuck, that girl had the sweetest ass he’d seen in forever.

Unfortunately, it was attached to a banging body and the brattiest mouth he’d ever come across.

“I have to listen in because she won’t talk to me.” Will crossed his arms over his chest as she turned toward the locker room. He kept his voice down because Chris Roberts, his boyfriend and Dom Jeremy Hill, and Jake Dean were still talking.

Mitch shook his head. “I think that’s what we call a signal in our world. You see, we’re supposed to read body language and be able to tell when a sub is happy or distressed.”

Will sighed and wished law school had made Mitch less sarcastic. “She’s not unhappy. She’s afraid of something.”

Bridget Slaten was a complete mystery to him, and he wasn’t exactly sure why, but he felt a desperate need to solve her. He’d first met her when Derek had found him a condo. Will figured Derek owed him since Derek and his fiancée, Karina, were the reason he’d nearly been murdered and humiliated horrifically, so when he decided on a fresh start and Derek offered, he’d taken them up on it.

Not at first. At first he had too much crap to deal with. There were police reports to be filed and explanations given of how a killer had almost gotten away with pinning his crimes on Will. There was Starr, who had used him for months when all she was really doing was getting close so her boyfriend could kill Karina and collect on an insurance policy. He could still see her, her normally placid face screwed up in disgust.

You’re a pervert. The things you made me do. You’re the one who should be going to jail. Not me.

He shook off that particular humiliation. He didn’t like to think about the fact that her trial would be coming up soon.

It had been a motherfuck of a few months. Hence the need to start over.

And to shake off the past and embrace who he really was. He was a Dom and he needed this kind of play. He wasn’t going to hide it anymore. He’d spent the last several years making sure no one at the hospital knew he liked to visit clubs. He’d gone so far as to live in Dallas and work in Fort Worth so he wouldn’t run into anyone who knew him. He’d told lies about his profession.

He was still the kid who didn’t want anyone to know he lived in a trailer and his mom was a meth head.

No. He didn’t hide now and he wasn’t going to hide his interest in Bridget. His sisters even teased him about her because he tended to trip or miss steps when she walked by.

“What makes you think she’s afraid and not simply uninterested?” Mitch asked. There was no way Will could miss the speculative look in his friend’s eyes. Mitch was a lawyer, a shark of the highest order. He was always assessing, always plotting.

Wishful thinking? “She watches me when she thinks I’m not looking.”

Lila had been the one to inform him of that interesting nugget, though she was known for being ridiculously over positive at times. All three of his sisters tended to take a super-positive, the-world is-still-great view of life, which considering how they’d grown up was a miracle.

Mitch’s big shoulder shrugged. “She could be worried you’re stalking her. Which you are. I’ve found women have excellent prey instincts. They get antsy when the big bad predator keeps licking his chops around her.”

“I’m not drooling over her, damn it.” At least he hoped he wasn’t. He had to admit he thought about those tits all the time. Real. Soft. Big. He was pretty sure he couldn’t hold her breasts completely in the palm of his hand. They would overflow. She would never fit into the designer clothes the women at work dreamed about. She was too curvy, too womanly. Soft breasts flowed into curvy hips and that ass. “I’m interested. She’s a gorgeous woman.”

And now he understood that she was a woman with a problem. Yeah, his brain was chewing on that information. Aloha and all that.

“I didn’t think she was your type.”

“I have a type?”

Mitch rolled his dark eyes. “Dude, you’ve screwed every super sub here. You do know that she’s only here for research, right? From what I understand, she’s not looking for a Dom. I’ve worked with her a couple of times and she’s very closed off. There’s not a lot of trust there for anyone except her two sub friends. She wants to ask her questions and do some light impact play, but I don’t think any of it really moves her. I’ve heard she writes romance books. What the hell does D/s have to do with fluffy romance books?”

Ah, the lawyer hadn’t kept up with pop culture. “Didn’t you know Doms are the new cowboys?” He’d heard Bridget and her friends laughing about some blog proclaiming that fact. They’d been of the firm opinion that cowboys were still cool. And Bridget had immediately started talking about a cowboy Dom as the coolest thing ever. “Bridget writes smutty books. Sex books. She’s looking for new fetishes to write about. And she needs a Dom. There’s a lost little sub under all that brattiness.”

Not that he would be her Dom. No. He wasn’t looking to be anyone’s Dom. Not on a permanent basis. He simply wanted to play with her, spend some mutually pleasurable time inside that hot body of hers. Bridget wasn’t the type of woman he would settle down with for more than a few nights. Weeks, maybe. A month tops.

They would kill each other—but they would likely be spectacular in bed, and damn, but he could use that.

“Smutty books?” Mitch huffed. “I don’t see it. She’s a romantic at heart. If she’s writing books, I would bet my life they’re about romantic fantasies.”

Which only proved he hadn’t spent a lot of time studying Bridget. Will had checked out her covers. They were super salacious, with naked bodies and titles like Her Billionaire Masters. Yep, in the plural. Somehow, he couldn’t see that book being about love and commitment. No. Bridget had some interesting fantasies, and he was the man to make a couple of them come true.

Though not the ménage one. When he got in her bed—for however long he was there—he would be the only one there. He didn’t share and he would make sure she understood that he could take care of her every need without a partner.

If he could only pin her down.

“She needs a date to her sister’s wedding,” he explained, his eyes on the locker room. He was waiting to see her one last time. He had it so damn bad.

“Interesting. I’m not sure how that will help you. If she’s reluctant, I doubt that a couple of hours with bad champagne and a cover band are really going to help you plead your case.”

He felt his lips curl up. The whole time she’d been talking, he’d had a scenario playing through his head. A scenario that ended with him on top of her. “Do you know who her father is?”

“Haven’t had the pleasure.”

Will doubted there was any pleasure involved. “George Slaten.”

Mitchell whistled. “Are you telling me that Bratty Bridget is the heir to Slaten Industries?”

It had shocked the hell out of him, too. It was obvious she was doing well financially. She lived in a nice building in a good part of town. She drove a nice but not over-the-top car, but she’d come from a billion dollar world. Poor little rich girl. Will had known more than one of those, and it was one more reason to not be attracted to her.

His dick wasn’t listening. His dick didn’t care that she came from an overprivileged background. His dick didn’t give a damn that she wasn’t a woman who would bring him peace or even pretend to need him for anything but an orgasm. His dick just wanted her.

“Her sister is getting married and apparently it’s a lavish event.”

Mitchell nodded. “Big Tag recently signed Slaten Industries as a client. Adam’s revamping their computer security.”

“Apparently he and Jake are also working security for the week-long wedding festivities in Hawaii. And Bratty Bridget has been asked to bring a date.”

A single brow rose over Mitch’s eyes. “You think she’s going to ask you?”

Not a chance in hell. “She’s planning on sitting down with Serena to decide which of the Doms she’s going to ask. They’re going to make a list. I assure you, I won’t be on it, but that’s a mistake.”

“You don’t think the other guys would take care of her?”

“I think she’ll walk all over the other guys. I think the other guys won’t know what to do with her.” He didn’t know what to do with her, but he really wanted the chance to try.

“Maybe she’ll ask me. We get along all right.”

Wow. That was what red-hot rage felt like. It came out of nowhere and set his blood to boiling and his fists to clenching. The entire idea of Mitchell putting his hands on her body made him see red, and he knew damn well Mitch had already done it. Mitch had flogged her, but there hadn’t been anything sexual about it. He’d watched them together, all the while thinking that there wasn’t a spark between them. There had been no real connection, no flow of energy from Dom to sub, and yet he kind of wanted to take his friend apart for even suggesting that he be the one to go to Hawaii with her, to share a room with her, to pretend to be her lover.

Mitch held his hands up in obvious surrender. “All right. I’ll say no if she asks. Will, you’ve got a serious problem. You look insane right now.”

So he wasn’t good at hiding his feelings. He sucked at it. He took a deep breath, schooling his expression. “Sorry. I would rather you didn’t go out with Bridget.”

“Yes, I can plainly see that you would rather kill me than let that happen.” Mitch’s expression turned thoughtful. “You only want to hook up with her, right?”

“Hook up” was a stupid term. He liked the old ways. “I wouldn’t mind having a short-term affair. Nothing serious. Very casual.”

Mitch’s head nodded but in that way that let Will know he was indulging the crazy. “Yeah, I can see that.”

“You’re an asshole.” He had also pretty much become Will’s best friend. Over the weeks he’d been at Sanctum, he’d come to depend on Mitch, despite the fact that they had utterly different backgrounds. Mitch had proven to be the kind of man who didn’t care that a person hadn’t come from money. He respected the hell out of any man who could pull himself up. Will had been forced to pull his own ass up from the muck more than once, and he’d supported three sisters while he was doing it. Didn’t the universe owe him a little pleasure? Didn’t it owe him a couple of nights with the world’s hottest brat? “I’m going to make sure she has nowhere else to go.”

Mitch’s lips curled up. “Really? You’re going to talk to every Dom in the place and scare them off?”

He shrugged. “Scare them. Bribe them. Blackmail them. I don’t care as long as she comes to me at the end of it.”

“Well, you know I love a good takedown as much as the next guy. Try to make sure she doesn’t get hurt. How can I help?”

She wouldn’t get hurt. He knew the type. Bridget Slaten likely wasn’t capable of really being hurt by someone like him. She would never see him as a suitable mate, so all he could ever tempt her into was an affair. Maybe even a D/s affair. The thought of dominating her made his dick jump. “Let’s make a list of our own and start working our way through. By the time we’re done, she’ll know she has one option and one option only.”

She caught his eye as she stepped out of the locker room now dressed in her usual armor of jeans and a black T-shirt and a pair of comfortable sandals. He’d noted that she never wore heels unless she was in the club. Her raven black hair flowed in tresses around her shoulders and he wondered what kind of shampoo she used and how it would feel to have all that hair spread out on his chest as he held her close.

She turned slightly and their eyes met, hers widening in a startled-doe look before turning distinctly arrogant and bratty as she turned her nose up and walked away.

Yeah, she was aware of him. And soon she would realize there was no escape.

Copyright 2014 Lexi Blake