It wasn’t often that the Mistress of Dallas went on a vanilla date. But for Colby Wade, a gorgeous cop with a cocky smile, Malinda Kannes decided she’d make an exception.
Besides, after their little impromptu demonstration earlier this week when they were first introduced, she had to think that maybe he wasn’t as vanilla as he thought. That was true of most people she’d met over the years, and she’d come to believe that everybody had a kink somewhere on the scale. Though they might not admit it.
As Executive Producer and part owner of VCONN Enterprises, a cable channel catering to the more adventurous viewers in Dallas, she’d made a name for herself as the Domme in Dallas. Most of the time she could walk around the city without anyone recognizing her unless she wanted them to, so she hoped that would be the case tonight. It wasn’t like she was showing up for this date dressed in a latex corset and five-inch heels, twirling a spiked dog collar around her index finger. Though the thought brought a smile to her lips as she moved through the darkened dining area.
The look on Colby’s face would no doubt be priceless. Within the hour, their competitor station KDSX would probably have been waiting outside to snap pictures of the narcotics detective and Mistress exiting the restaurant. Way more fame and notoriety than a tight-lipped conservative cop would care to draw. Combined with the tasteful but suggestive commercial he’d helped shoot for their friend’s new designer line, he’d be the talk of the town.
So instead of blatant Domme attire, she’d worn one of her favorite dresses created by Vicki for her Bound by Madame V label. Classically elegant lines hugged her hourglass figure in a luminous gold. Vicki said she’d chosen the color to bring out the amber highlights in Mal’s eyes; Mal had chosen it tonight because she always felt like a prowling tigress in this dress. Powerful, liquid-gold sunlight barely contained in a feminine svelte package.
Evidently Colby saw the same thing as she neared the quiet alcove she’d requested for their date. Slowly, he stood, his gaze locked on her. Not afraid at all—but definitely wary and bespelled by the seductive sway of her hips. Tall and lean with close-cropped brown hair and hard cop eyes, his toughness as a former Marine couldn’t be disguised by the navy suit he wore. In fact, the jacket strained at the shoulders and through the biceps, warning that he’d put on even more muscle since he’d bought it.
He pulled her chair out for her, but it wasn’t a submissive gesture. Just good Southern manners. He had an easy Texan drawl and the way he said “ma’am” was like a lover’s caress, whether he meant it that way or not.
“I wasn’t sure that you’d still want to meet me.” She kept her voice light, her power under wraps. She didn’t need to make a display or grand gesture. Not here, not yet. They might never get that far for her to test the waters with him that much. Right now, they were just a man and a woman meeting to talk. Casual. The barest of acquaintances.
He certainly wasn’t applying to be her next submissive.
He sat back down across from her. “Wild horses couldn’t keep me away.”
She wanted to ask why her, why now? Why did this intensity blaze in the dark blue of his eyes, shimmering in the candlelight? But the waitress came to take their orders. He ordered a beer and steak, still mooing. She wanted the mushroom risotto, a glass of pinot, and decided to splurge and put her order in for cream brûlée. The last time she’d eaten here, they’d run out of her favorite dessert before she’d placed her order.
“How well do you know Elias?” Colby asked.
“I know that he’s your partner and Vicki’s fiancé, but I’ve never met him socially.” She could tell him about body language, which he might actually buy as a cop. Detective Elias Reyes was top dog, alpha, not a submissive bone in his body. Very much like Colby. Though this man tempted her, where she’d never even glanced Reyes’s way, even if he hadn’t been attached.
Colby took a pull from his long-neck bottle, somehow managing to keep an eye on her the whole time. “He tried to warn me off from this.”
Of course he’d warn his partner off from a woman like her, though his fiancée was no pushover herself. Mal widened her eyes and let her lips quirk. “From this? A nice, casual dinner date?”
He didn’t mince words, which she liked. She also liked that he made his own decisions rather than listen to his buddy’s advice. Though maybe Elias had a point. “Victor tried to warn me off too.”
“Vicki’s brother? Why would he care?”
“I don’t know much about how cops work, but I’m guessing there’s a hierarchy, whether it’s understood or formal.”
Colby nodded. “Sure. I was the new man on the totem pole for quite some time and everybody dumped their shit on me. Now I get to dump my shit on the new guy.”
“Elias is pretty high up that totem pole, wouldn’t you say?”
“Sure. He’s got the experience and the track record to make lieutenant.”
“Is that the top guy in your squad?” When he nodded, she replied, “Then in my world, Victor’s the lieutenant. He’s the Master. Everybody in our world, who plays in this city, knows who he is, if nothing else, by reputation alone.”
“Your world,” Colby said slowly. “You mean…” He looked around but the waitress was nowhere to be seen. “BDSM. Where do you rank? In that world?”
She smiled faintly. “I’m number two, second only to him.”
“So you have to take his orders?”
She blew out a disgusted breath and picked up her wine glass. “That’s exactly why Victor thought this was a mistake. You know nothing about our world. He doesn’t want either of us to be hurt.”
“I’d never hurt a woman, Mal. You know that, right?”
The solemn weight of his voice sank through her body like a stone tossed into a bottomless lake. So sweet. So misguided. “Sugar, it’s not me that Victor’s really worried about.”
Colby chuckled, blinding her with the sudden intensity of his smile. Good lord almighty, he was a gorgeous, cocky bastard. It would be so much fun to bring him to heel. “Don’t worry about me. I know how to protect myself.”
With guns and bullet-proof vests and badges, sure. But he had no defenses against her. He honestly had no clue how easily she could tie him in knots. Literally and figuratively.
Maybe Victor’s right.
Colby sensed her subtle withdrawal and reached across the table to take her hand. Another clue that he didn’t know what he was doing. No submissive would have dared touch her without her permission. “Hey, did I say something wrong? If I’m an idiot, tell me. I won’t be offended.”
“What are you doing here, Colby? For real. Why did you agree to see me? If you’re just curious…”
He shrugged but didn’t let go of her hand. “About whips and chains and shit? Nah. Not curious. At least, I don’t think I am.”
“Then why are you on a date with the Mistress of Dallas?”
“Why are you here on a date with a cop?” He countered.
“I know exactly why I’m here.” She’d seen so much in him during their little demonstration. His ferocity, his strength, implacable and unmoved, though definitely interested. He wasn’t intimidated by a woman with power, and that alone intrigued her. Add in his determined will and strength of character, and all she could think about was trying to break him.
Not his spirit, but his will. Breaking him to her command. Bringing him to his knees. Where he’d do as she asked, not because he had to—but because he wanted nothing more than to please her.
Bringing a strong, independent man like Colby to a submissive state was like the Holy Grail for a Domme like her.
She sat back in her chair and firmly pulled her hand out from beneath his. “Then explain it to me.”
~ * ~
After two tours of duty in Afghanistan and a full year working narcotics in Dallas, not much could rattle Colby anymore. And that rattled him clean off the Geiger counter. He peeled at the beer label, trying to decide how much to tell her. How to tell her.
Something in his gut insisted that she, of anyone, might understand, and if he was extremely lucky, might even be able to help.
Hell, at this point, just not being so fucking alone with this shit would help.
He could talk to Reyes, but his partner wasn’t a touchy-feely, let’s talk kind of guy. Come over for beer and poker, sure. Discuss women or emotional issues? Fuck that shit.
She didn’t say anything. She didn’t press for details. Minutes passed, and she didn’t fiddle with her glass or sigh with impatience. He flicked a quick look up to her face, and she was still watching him. Still waiting, ready, willing to listen.
“You ordered dessert.”
Her head cocked slightly but she didn’t act thrown by his comment. “Best cream brûlée in town right here in this restaurant. Though Mama’s is way better.”
“I like pie, cobblers, anything with fruit and crust.”
“I can get behind anything with lard or butter in it.”
“When I was on tour, I’d dream about pie. All food, really, because those MREs taste like crap, but especially pie. God, I could not wait to get home and have a big old slice of warm blackberry cobbler with a huge scoop of ice cream slowly melting on top. I wanted it so badly I could taste it. It was the first thing I ate when I got home. I took Mom’s entire pan, dumped out a half-gallon of vanilla directly onto the cobbler, and ate the whole thing in one sitting out of the pan with the biggest spoon I could find. It was great.”
“After a few times, it was just food. Honestly, it might as well have been an MRE. It wasn’t as great as I remembered. None of the food was. I mean, it was great to be home. Great to eat real food. Maybe I’d built it up to crazy greatness in my head, but once I was home, it just didn’t seem the same. It was food. I had to eat. God, I’d get so hungry, just like I’d been in the desert, lying there staring up at the little bit of shade I could find while my stomach gnawed a hole clear to my spine. But it wasn’t good. It just… was. It didn’t satisfy my hunger. Nothing did.”
“You got used to it.”
He shrugged. “Maybe. I told myself that. But it wasn’t just the food. Everything started to feel the same. Not dark, not bad, but just flat. It’s like the sparkle and excitement has gone out of everything. I’m not ever satisfied. With anything.”
“When you were overseas, were you on the front lines, in danger? Or were you more in supply and communications?”
He was impressed she knew even that much about the military. “Front lines, seek and destroy. We were constantly finding and disabling land mines, hunting terrorists, trying to protect the villagers. I thought maybe I was just an adrenaline junkie, so I tried new things like sky diving when I got home, but it didn’t do much for me.”
“So instead you became a cop.”
“I figured getting shot at on the streets would be the closest thing to re-enlisting I could do, though I’m sick to death of both to be honest. Then I felt bad, because I know plenty of soldiers have suffered bad PTSD since they got home and had it way worse than me. Some couldn’t get help and they’d rather kill themselves than keep suffering. The last thing I should want to do is go back, and I don’t, not at all. But I’ve got this… this… need. This hunger. To live, to fight, to be on the edge, like I was.”
“Have you seen a therapist? There are lots of different ways PTSD could manifest, though I’m not an expert. Some guys might be depressed, while others can’t sleep or have nightmares.”
“I did, for awhile, because I started having some other issues.” He waited, hoping she’d figure it out. The last thing any man wanted to admit to was sexual dysfunction, let alone discuss with a gorgeous woman.
“Ah. Food was just food, and sex…”
“A man’s got to eat, supposed to eat, right? But I didn’t have any interest. I burned with need, the same as I got hungry for food, but nothing satisfied me. It just… was. I didn’t feel anything and finally quit trying. I didn’t have any medical issues and medications didn’t seem to help other than take the edge off a bit.”
“You can’t perform?”
God, he hated this. Shame thick, suffocating him. “I can. It’s not that. If I’m interested, attracted, aroused. But I’m not. It’s like being ravenous to the point of starving to death, but looking at a table loaded with all the best and favorite foods you can imagine, yet you can’t eat any of it. The thought of putting any of it in my mouth makes me want to hurl.”
As if on cue, their food arrived. His thick rib eye steak looked perfectly prepared and his stomach growled, ready to eat. He’d skipped lunch today and only grabbed a stale donut off Reyes’s desk this morning. But he was afraid it’d taste like chalk on his tongue, just like everything else.
He took his time cutting it up into small methodical pieces before risking a bite. “I have all this aggression and energy building inside me. Energy I used to release on the battlefield or in bed. But with that outlet gone, I’m walking a tightrope everyday. Don’t lose my temper. Don’t lose control. Chase the perp, but don’t beat the shit out of him. It’s dangerous in my line of work. There are already too many shitty cops shooting people out of fear or rage. I refuse to be one of them.”
“Have you tried exercise? Does that help?”
He stabbed a bite of steak with his fork but didn’t put it in his mouth. “I’ve run the blackberry cobbler off ten times over and added twenty pounds of lean muscle from working out so hard, but I still feel the same. On the edge, yet stuck. Ready to kick some ass, but without an enemy to attack. Ready to—”
He hesitated, not wanting to offend her.
She took a bite of creamy risotto and thoroughly licked the spoon as if she’d found the most luscious dessert in the world. Her eyes glowed in the candlelight, warm amber, molten gold, her dark skin luminous, like she’d swallowed the sun and it glowed through her pores. “Ready to fuck yourself into oblivion but unable to get it up.”
So he’d thought. Until he’d seen her at VCONN the day he’d gone to pick up his partner. Until she’d danced in his arms while the camera rolled. So innocent, just a little playacting. Until her teeth sank into his throat and her belt ended up wrapped around his wrists.
“I didn’t need to feel your crotch to know that you had a hard on while we played together.” Christ, her voice had dropped an octave, warm, thick honey that made him want to gobble her up. “I also don’t need to slide my foot up into your lap to feel how hard your cock is right now.”
A fine shudder rocked through him. The thought of her toes sliding up his leg, her heel pressing on his crotch, damned near made him come right here in this restaurant.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” She laughed softly, a warm secret for his ears only that didn’t make him feel shame or embarrassment. Then her voice hardened. “Look at me, Colby.”
He braced for disgust, embarrassment, amusement, or worse, pity. God, if she pitied him, he’d probably go home and eat a couple of bullets.
But when he finally dragged his gaze to hers, he couldn’t breathe for the look in her eyes. Without any hesitation, she smiled, her eyes warm and shining with what he could only call interest. The way a hungry predator might watch its unsuspecting prey right before it pounced.
“Eat your steak.”
His eyes flared with surprise, and yeah, disappointment. The last thing he’d expected the Mistress of Dallas to command him to do was eat.
She leaned toward him, and he could almost feel the heat coming off her body. She burned like the sun, a supernova that would blister his skin and burn him to ash, and he’d love every minute of it. His skin actually prickled, as if he could feel the energy rising off her. “Put that fork in your mouth. Eat it. Eat every fucking bite.”
His hackles rose, his ego flaring with a sudden declaration of masculine independence. He didn’t take orders from anyone but his commanding officers. Certainly not a woman. A Mistress. He wasn’t the kind of man who’d leap to obey, not like Vicki’s other man. He liked Jesse well enough, but deep down, he’d never understand a man being that… Meek. Whipped. It just wasn’t in him.
Mal stared at him, not moving a muscle, and he couldn’t look away. If he looked away, he’d lose. He knew that much. And losing even something so small to a woman like Mal would be…
His dick thudded, a complaint because it was trapped in his pants.
Before he could change his mind, he put the fork in his mouth and chewed.
Fork tender, juicy steak. Not tasteless chalk. Stunned, he froze, afraid to lose the moment. Afraid of sliding back into that gray nothingness he’d been living in for so long.
He swallowed, hard. Stabbed another bite. Still tasted good. Damned good. He shot a dark glare at her, suddenly suspicious. Was she some kind of witch? Not that he believed in that crap, but seriously. He’d been struggling with this for over a year, and now, a few words from a Domme seemed to be the answer to his prayers. “How the fuck did you do that?”
With a knowing wink, she continued to eat her risotto. “You’re a hardened soldier who needs something to fight. And I’m always up for a good challenge.”
“What’s the catch?”
She licked her spoon again and damned if his eyes didn’t roll back in his head. He sucked in a deep breath, holding back the surge of lust that demanded he toss this table aside and fall on her like a starving man. “I get to be the lucky woman to break you.”