Texas Sirens, Book 3
Print Book: Amazon
About the book
Re-released in a second edition with new scenes.
Julian Lodge has everything a man could want. He's rich, successful and owns the most exclusive club in Dallas. But something is missing.
Finn Taylor has worked his way up in the world from humble beginnings in Willow Fork, Texas. The only thing he still loves in his hometown is Danielle Bay. He never told her he was actually bisexual, and he never confessed his love for her. Now she's getting married, and Finn is sure he's lost his chance with the only person he'll ever love.
Julian's vacation to the Barnes-Fleetwood ranch brings them all together. After Dani jumps into Julian's car while fleeing her wedding, Julian knows he has to have her. But nothing is easy in Willow Fork. A danger from Julian's past threatens them all. Julian will have to convince both Dani and Finn that being his will be the best decision they ever made.
Julian Lodge gingerly flicked the four-foot single tail whip and was pleased at the slender line of pink that appeared across Sally’s back. The entire dungeon was silent as was right given the gravity of the ceremony. He quickly laid three more across the skin of his longtime slave’s back and thighs. She never once moved or showed that she even felt the lash. Sally was practically perfect. She never disobeyed or questioned him. She took every punishment he handed out with grace. She was his match, a lovely masochist to match his control freak with a slight streak of sadism. He had been her Master for over two years, the longest he’d ever kept a slave. She’d been his only slave since the incident with Jeremy Walker years before. She’d lived with him, served him, honored him with submission.
He was letting her go.
“Rise, slave.” Julian heard the words come out of his mouth. He pushed them forward, saying all the proper things to keep this ritual moving along. He believed in ritual and routine, was devoted to both, but now he wanted it all over with so he could go back to his penthouse apartment and…he wasn’t sure what came after this.
All around him, he heard the whispers. The Club was like any other social group. There was always gossip, much of it about him.
Sally rose gracefully to her feet. She turned and looked luminous as her eyes met the man beside him. Julian’s heart clenched. She’d never once looked so happy at anything he’d done, but she glowed for Stephen Mann.
The high-powered attorney looked just as happy as he took the whip from Julian’s hand. Julian walked to his former sub and took the collar from her throat.
“Be happy, pet,” he said, meaning every word. He genuinely liked Sally. She’d been a good sub. It wasn’t her fault he wasn’t capable of true commitment. During their years together, he’d never thought of making them exclusive. Their relationship had been comfortable and convenient. He’d known he needed to find her a permanent Dom for the last year. He’d kept up his obligations to her, but his heart wasn’t in it.
Permanent. The word played through his brain like a mystery he had yet to solve.
Nothing in his life seemed permanent.
Sally bowed her blonde head. “Thank you for everything, Sir.”
She wouldn’t call him Master, not ever again. An odd sensation made Julian’s eyes feel strange. His face felt hot. His vision started to cloud. Was he… Oh, hell, no. He ruthlessly tamped down the sentimental feeling that started to overtake him. He wasn’t going to cry. He wasn’t going to think about the fact that he was forty-one years old and had absolutely nothing to look forward to. He had a life most people would kill to live. He was a billionaire, an ultra-powerful financier, and he owned the hottest BDSM club in the south. Unless one considered Sanctum, his security team’s club, but it was only hot because they couldn’t afford an air conditioner.
He had absolutely nothing to feel sad about.
Sally knelt at her new Master’s feet, her head bowed in perfect submission. Stephen Mann’s hand cupped her head, and he offered his thanks as well. Julian moved to the side of the stage as Mann took over. It was only moments before Sally wore a new collar and the couple was accepting congratulations from the members of The Club.
He had a few moments before the crowd broke up. He needed to see if the penthouse was ready for the party that was about to start.
If he could have avoided it, he would have. He felt the odd need to completely pull into himself. But this party was his final obligation to Sally and he intended to honor it.
He stepped up to the private elevator that in twenty minutes would bring everyone to his penthouse where he would fête the happy new couple.
A large man in a dark suit stepped in with him. Ah, his security detail for the evening. He was roughly six foot five and built like a linebacker. And quiet. So not one of the Taggarts or that annoying Miles fellow. He had to admit he liked the broody ones.
“Mr. Lodge,” the man said. He was almost sure the name was Scottish.
McDonald? Nope. This was the other partner. McKay. “Mr. McKay.”
The ex-FBI agent. Yes, he was definitely the broody one.
“It’s Alex,” he said, his voice low. He stared up at the place where the elevator marked each floor. “Tonight I’m your main contact. Adam is monitoring the building’s CCTV and Sean is backing us up. Everyone in the building right now has been vetted. The doors are locked so it’s smooth sailing from here.”
“Have we had any issues?” There was always something going on, someone angry with him for a decision made. It was precisely why he had a security firm on call.
“We’ve been quiet for days,” McKay explained.
He’d made a good call investing in McKay-Taggart Security Services. “Thank you. Are the caterers prepared?”
“Yes, unless you ask Sean, and then they need to redo their dumplings,” McKay said with a shake of his head. “You’ll have to forgive him. He’s a foodie. I have no idea where he got it from because we grew up on Spam, if you know what I mean.”
He didn’t. He’d never experienced a day of material wanting, though that didn’t mean he’d never wanted.
He rather wanted now. The problem was he wasn’t sure what he wanted.
“Are you married, Alex?”
The man beside him stiffened, and Julian regretted the question. He was about to take it back when Alex replied. “I’m divorced but I wish I wasn’t.”
And that was all he needed to know. Why was he even asking the question? He wasn’t chatty. He didn’t need to know about people’s lives. “What did you get out of being married? That you didn’t get from being single? Please feel free to not answer if I’m intruding. It’s been an odd night. I find myself disconcerted and when I am I tend to ask questions I probably shouldn’t.”
Alex McKay’s lips turned up slightly, a rueful smile. “I’m surprised to see you so human.”
“Oh, I assure you, I’m the very definition of human.” He made more mistakes than most. He was simply excellent at covering them up.
The door opened and McKay held it for him. “I was a better human being when I was married to Eve. I don’t know if she made me that way or if loving her made me strive to be better, but the result was the same. I felt more. I was more.”
“And you divorced why?”
McKay’s face flushed, but he stood tall. “I made some terrible mistakes and she couldn’t forgive me. Love isn’t invincible, it turns out. It’s actually quite fragile if you forget to work on it. I suppose love and marriage is like everything else. It is what you put in it. I forgot and mine died. Is that what happened with you and Sally?”
He brushed that line of inquiry off. “Not at all. Sally was a close companion, but that word never came up. I never once thought it. I will miss her though. My apologies for intruding on something private.”
Alex stepped out behind him. “If you could give her up, it wasn’t love.”
Really? Not that they weren’t in accord, but there was one point he needed to make. “I agree, but I wonder about you. You divorced your wife.”
“She divorced me, and I haven’t given up. I might never. She’s smart. We worked together at the FBI and I put my job before her. It was the biggest mistake of my life.”
He’d studied up on the group. He could only be talking about Eve St. James, the psychologist. “Ah, the blonde. She’s quite beautiful.”
“She’s everything.” There was such longing in the man’s voice. “She’s the smartest woman I’ve ever met, the most loving. She was my sub and I let her down. I should have cared more about her than my job. Fuck. I should have listened to her. That’s where I made my real mistake.”
He’d never once longed for any one specific person, never wanted anyone in that way. Well, maybe once. Maybe once he’d thought about taking on a long-term project. He was sure the man in front of him would balk at the idea of him calling a relationship a long-term project. “Well, I hope you get what you’re looking for.”
McKay nodded his way. “I hope you figure out what you’re looking for.”
Julian stared out at his penthouse. Everything was immaculate. His life was perfect. So why was it also empty?
“So do I.”
Two hours later, Julian wondered when his hosting duties could end. He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about what the security guy had said, hadn’t been able to forget the hollow look in the man’s eyes. He walked out onto his balcony, the sounds of the party fading. The lights of Dallas twinkled around him, but he didn’t really see them.
“It’s a good thing you did.”
He turned to look at Leo Meyer as the younger man walked out onto the balcony, two beers in his hand. The thirty-two-year-old former Navy SEAL was his Dom in residence. He pressed a longneck into Julian’s hand. “It was time.”
He’d been looking forward to some alone time. “I’m glad you think so.”
Leo took a sip of his own beer as he looked out over the city. He stood next to Julian, a smile on his face. “Come on, man. I know beer isn’t your speed, but you gotta drink a little. It’s tradition.”
Chuckling, Leo turned to face him. He’d changed out of his leathers into more comfortable jeans and a T-shirt. Julian despaired of him ever becoming fashionable. Rather like another of his protégés. “You broke up with a girl, man. It’s perfectly traditional to drown your sorrows in cheap beer.”
Julian seriously doubted that the beer in his hand was cheap. He’d had the entire affair catered in, and it had cost him a small fortune. Still, if it was tradition, he didn’t see why not. He took a sip of the cold brew. It wasn’t half bad. “Should I drown my sorrows even when I willingly gave the sub away?”
Leo’s mouth turned down. “It was the best thing for her, boss.”
It had been necessary. Though he knew he would miss Sally, he found himself no longer capable of giving her what she needed. He refused to fail her, so he found her someone else. “Sally deserves to be happy.”
There was a long pause. The cool air prickled along Julian’s skin, reminding him he hadn’t bothered with a jacket. He didn’t even think about getting one now. At least the cold meant he felt something. He hadn’t in a long time, not until earlier this evening.
“Don’t you deserve to be happy, too?”
“I am happy.” It was an automatic response, though he knew it was something of a lie. He wasn’t sure what happiness was. His armor came up around him, and Julian felt his face go cold. He turned to Leo. “I have everything I could possibly need. Who wouldn’t be happy?”
Leo sighed and tipped back his beer. “And I spoke too soon. Well, when you’re ready to talk, I’ll be around.” He shoved off the railing and turned to go.
“And what would I talk about?”
Leo’s hand was on the door. “The fact that you’re frozen. When you’re ready, we’ll talk about the fact that you aren’t moving forward with your life.”
That was the absolute last thing he wanted to talk about. “You’re fired. The next time I hire a Dom in residence, I’ll make sure he doesn’t have a degree in psychology.”
“You do that, boss,” Leo said with a smile that let him know he didn’t take his threat seriously. “One of these days I’m going to put that degree to good use. For now, I’m enjoying spanking pretty subs. I just psychoanalyze you in my spare time.”
“Well, stop, please, or I might make good on my threat.” He didn’t want to be psychoanalyzed. He was certain he wouldn’t be happy with what he would find.
“I doubt it. You like me, Julian. You’ll do amazing things for the people who get past that shell around you. You can actually be quite tolerant when your heart is engaged. That’s what those people in there don’t understand. You have a heart. You simply prefer not to use it.”
The door closed behind Leo, and Julian stared out at the night, the words echoing in his brain. Perhaps Leo didn’t know him as well as he thought. Julian had no idea how to use his heart, or perhaps he would have been able to keep the people he loved close to him. There hadn’t been many, but every one of them had left for greener pastures. Not a single one had truly known him.
Hell, he didn’t know himself. Perhaps the time had come to be alone for a while. For the first time in years, he didn’t have a slave and he didn’t particularly want one.
He thought about the lovely blonde. Eve. What had her husband done? He’d put his job before her. Julian rather thought the man’s true crime was allowing her to leave in the first place. She was smart and competent and submissive. With the right Master she could find heights she’d never thought possible.
That was what he wanted. He wanted to be necessary. To want and give as much as he received, and yet he hadn’t found the right submissive.
Not slave. He was fooling himself about the slaves. He needed more than a slave could give him.
He thought about a phone call he’d taken earlier that day. Jackson Barnes had called. He called at least once a week, reaching out. Each time Jack called, Julian asked what was wrong, and Jack simply responded that he was calling to “shoot the shit.” It was confusing. Why would Jack call if he had nothing important to say? Julian would never have used the phrase himself, and yet he found he looked forward to the weekly calls more and more. He and Jack talked about their lives, and Jack often spoke of the wife he shared with Sam Fleetwood. Abigail was pregnant again and due any day now. Jack and Sam were younger than he was. He’d trained them, helped them along, and they had found their happiness elsewhere. They had a family.
Julian wasn’t sure that was what he wanted. He simply wanted to want something.
I was a better human being when I was married to Eve. I don’t know if she made me that way or if loving her made me strive to be better, but the result was the same. I felt more. I was more.
That was what McKay had said. What would it feel like to be more?
He breathed in the night air. He needed to think about it. Yes, some time alone would do him good.
* * * *
Finn Taylor needed to be alone. He needed to get some fucking air in his lungs, and he couldn’t do it surrounded by all these yokels. He pushed out of the Willow Fork Community Center’s double doors and into the chilly night.
Dani was getting married. She was really going to marry that idiot redneck and have his redneck babies. Damn it. How was he supposed to handle that?
He nodded at a group walking into the party. He didn’t recognize the family, but that was probably a good thing. Willow Fork, Texas, hadn’t been a great place for him to grow up. It was hard being gay anywhere, but small-town Texas was pretty much hell on the adolescent homosexual. He’d been beaten up, cussed out, told he was going to hell by just about everyone, and who could forget the time the football team thought it would be hilarious to tie him to the flagpole with the word queer written in lipstick on his forehead?
Yeah, he fucking loved to come home.
Only one thing could have coaxed him from his gorgeous condo in Dallas. Danielle Bay’s thirtieth birthday. When he’d gotten the invitation a month ago, he’d thought long and hard about the fact that it was way past time to confess to Dani. Her sister was out of college. She’d done her duty. It was time to come out of the closet and tell Dani that he was bisexual. It was time to admit that he was in love with her and wanted her to move to Dallas to be with him.
All of those plans had been crushed when freaking Jimbo Smart─there was a misnomer─had announced, beer in hand, that he and Danielle would be married this summer. His Dani was going to marry a man who Finn was pretty damn sure was the product of his mother’s union with a goat. It was the only thing that explained Jimbo’s facial hair. Finn took in a deep breath of chilled air. Motherfucking son of a bitch.
“Do you need help, son?”
That voice. Finn had to take another deep breath. Jack Barnes got to him. Something about the man’s voice went straight to his cock. He turned to look at the richest man in Willow Fork. He was married to Dani’s boss, Abigail Barnes. Of course, if what Dani said was true, Abby Barnes was also married to Jack’s business partner, Sam Fleetwood.
Finn would really like tickets to that show.
“I was just getting some air, sir.” The sir came naturally. The man in the snowy white dress shirt and slacks commanded respect.
Jack Barnes’s lips curled in a secretive smile. God, he was hot. “Me, too. My wife loves this shit, but I am one antisocial son of a bitch. How do you know Dani?”
The dark-haired man sounded so sure. “How do you know I’m not a friend of Jimbo’s?”
A sharp laugh cut through the cool night air. “You don’t look like a man Jimbo Smart would befriend. Sorry, but you’re far too educated and urbane for the Smart clan.” Dark green eyes assessed Finn, and he found himself curiously awaiting Jack Barnes’s judgment. “You’re white collar. Maybe an accountant─no, a lawyer. You’re a lawyer. My brother is a lawyer, so I know the type.”
He was good at guessing professions. Not as good at remembering faces. Finn wasn’t surprised. Sometimes he faded into the background. “Yeah, I’m a lawyer. I know your brother. We work together. I actually met you at a party the partners threw a couple of months back.”
Jack snapped his fingers and grinned. “That’s where I remember you from. I knew you looked familiar. You’re Lucas’s friend. You’re also friends with Dani, and you’re not at all happy that she’s getting married.”
Finn felt himself flush. Barnes had pegged him perfectly. He’d also summed up Finn’s problem neatly. Finn was about to make junior partner in his law firm, a veritable wunderkind to make partner at his age. None of his professional success mattered since he’d done it all, accomplished it all, in order to build a life for him and Dani. Now he was fucked. “He doesn’t deserve her.”
“But you think you do.”
Finn forced himself to laugh. Now that he knew what was going to happen, he damn sure wasn’t going to announce to the world that he’d played the fool again. “Of course not. I don’t guess you’ve gotten the lowdown on me. I’m Finn Taylor, Willow Fork’s most famous queer.”
“Well, I am horribly offended by your lifestyle, Finn.” Jack Barnes’s slow drawl dripped with amused sarcasm.
“What’s got you offended, Jack?”
Finn turned to find Sam Fleetwood walking up. He was wearing jeans and a western shirt that did nothing to hide his magnificent body. Sam Fleetwood was a Greek god.
“It seems Finn here is of a homosexual bent, and he’s a bit miffed by it.” Barnes grinned at his partner.
“Nah.” Sam shook his blond head. “He’s at least bi. He was staring at Melissa Paul’s chest.” Sam turned to him. “You should stay away from that. Seriously, man, she’s trouble.”
He’d only taken a little glance. He knew a hot mess when he saw one. “I don’t care about Melissa Paul.”
“You should keep it that way. Now, I need to borrow Jack. We have a small situation.” Sam’s voice was perfectly even, but Barnes went shock white. There was no mistaking it, even in the moonlight.
“Abby? I knew we shouldn’t have come out. Damn it, Sam. You two need to mind me. I swear if something goes wrong, I’ll have the both of you over my knee.”
If Sam Fleetwood was worried, it didn’t show. “Yeah, that should be an interesting night. Look, discipline is going to have to wait a couple of weeks. Abby’s water broke.”
Jack Barnes had no answer for that. He simply took off running. One minute he was there, and the next his boots were stirring up dust as he sprinted for the doors.
Sam’s chest moved with the force of his laughter. “Sorry, man. You have to forgive him. He is the coolest customer in the world until me or Abby gets sick. It’s a baby. This is perfectly normal, but he’s got to freak out. It’s why we didn’t mention it until now. She’s been having contractions all day. Well, he makes up for it by being a beast in the sack.” Sam slapped his back jovially. “You should get your girl, man. She’s not married yet. Don’t wait or it’ll be too late.”
“Sam, we’re leaving now!” Jack Barnes’s voice boomed across the parking lot.
“Gotta go have a baby. This one’s number two. Got my fingers crossed for a boy. Otherwise, we’ll be hopelessly outnumbered.” Sam practically glowed as he turned and jogged for the big truck, whose engine was gunning furiously. Gravel flew when the black truck sped out of the parking lot.
That truck was speeding toward a future. Finn was stuck hopelessly in the past. His stomach twisted. What was he supposed to do? His first instinct was to march his ass back into that party room and beg Dani to reconsider. He could kiss her and tell her he’d always wanted her. He could explain to her that he’d lied all these years. Yeah, that would go gangbusters.
“There you are!”
Heart skipping a beat, Finn turned, and Danielle Bay walked toward him, a light sparkling in her blue eyes. Her honey blonde hair was pulled back in a loose bun, and the dress she wore showed off her round, glorious breasts. How many times had she complained about those tits when all he wanted to do was get them in his mouth?
“Well, my engagement party is off to a spectacular start. My boss went into labor. My future mother-in-law is mopping up what she calls the wages of sin. Apparently she doesn’t truck with the ménage lifestyle. She won’t say that to Jack Barnes’s face, though. That man scares the crap out of everyone. I love it.” She wound her arm around his waist, cuddling temptingly close to him.
“He seems pretty intimidating.” He’d been a junior in high school by the time Jack Barnes and Sam Fleetwood had bought their spread. Thirteen years later, they ruled Willow Fork, despite the fact that most of the narrow-minded town considered them sinners. They were sinners with an atrocious amount of money, so the sin was tolerated. Finn knew his wouldn’t be.
“He’s an interesting guy.” Dani ran her free hand across his cheek. It was an affectionate gesture. She couldn’t know what it did to him. “Abby is an amazing woman. I can’t tell you how great it is to work for her. She’s opened a free clinic here in Willow Fork. She’s making a difference.”
“That’s great,” he managed to say. He forced his hand to curl around her hip in a perfectly nice “we’ve been friends since high school but never managed to have sex because one of us is gay” kind of way. “I’m glad you found a good job.”
He was happy that she wasn’t working at the Buys A Lot anymore.
“I have a good job, and now I’m getting married.”
Finn heard the hitch in her breath. “Are you sure about this? The last time we talked you didn’t even mention that you were dating Jim.” He left off the bopart. It was simply too surreal to think that his lovely, sweet Dani, who read Jane Austen and watched foreign films with him, could possibly be marrying someone named Jimbo.
He felt her sigh against him. “I didn’t talk about him because I know how you feel about anyone from this town. Look, Finn, I love you. You’re my best friend in the world, but I have a life here.”
“You could have a life in Dallas, too.” He hated the slight whine in his voice. Damn it, why couldn’t he be forceful?
“Not anymore. I don’t have a degree. My only work experience is in minimum wage retail. There’s no way I can get a decent job in the city. I was damn lucky Abby Barnes hired me as her clinic manager. This is as good as it gets in Willow Fork. I’m not smart like you.”
“That’s not true.”
There were tears in her wide eyes as she looked up at him. “Please say you’re happy for me. I couldn’t stand it if you were disappointed. I’ve missed you so much, Finn.”
The pleading in her voice was more than he could take. He hugged her close. “If this is what you want, then I’m happy for you.”
Her head sagged into the crook of his neck. “I’m glad because you’re my maid of honor. Don’t tell me no. I had to fight Jimbo’s whole family to make this happen. They don’t think it’s proper to have a male bridesmaid.”
Every muscle in his body went tense at the thought. He was sure that conversation had been worse than Dani was saying. They wouldn’t want a gay to tarnish their special day. Fuck. He couldn’t hurt her this way. He loved her. He had to be strong.
“Of course, I’ll be beside you.” He would stand there, wanting her, loving her.
Her smile was as brilliant as the sun. “I’m so happy. I couldn’t do this without you, Finn.”
She started talking a mile a minute about everything from her dress to the wedding cake she wanted to order. Finn nodded and tried to figure out how to face the future without her.
Copyright 2018 DLZ Entertainment LLC