Damn, the place was looking better every day and might actually open on time, Steve Gladston thought as he parked in the front lot. Working the day job while his partners managed the construction irritated, but it had to be done. He’d much rather be here every day, in the thick of it, but his turn had come and gone. The security system was in and fully integrated.
At the top of the main staircase the sound of loud voices keyed him to the location of his partners. From the mixture of laughter and profanity, Derek was pissed about something and Mark was egging him on. Fun times ahead.
“What’d I miss?” He sailed into the room and flopped on the new sofa, waiting for the next explosion.
Mark relocated to the matching chair next to the sofa. “Derek’s training the new submissive we hired.”
“Sweet job. Why all the yelling?” When Derek didn’t reply, Steve turned to Mark. More silence and a lifted brow.
So it was about Mary.
And he was no fucking counselor.
“She wouldn’t want you to be alone.”
Anger and pain poured out of his friend. And an unvoiced question. How do you know?
“She loved you. Mary never hid her feelings around us like she did on the floor. You were her husband and her lover and her Dom. We were her friends.”
Derek sagged into the other upholstered chair and stretched his legs out into the open space between the furniture. “Where have you been all day?”
Steve blew out a breath and settled his shoulders. Okay. Better to change the subject than argue about a dead woman and the man who wouldn’t let go. “I worked a bid at Lindsay & Sons. One of us has to make some money around here.”
Derek leaned back and popped his neck before answering, and he still didn’t meet either man’s gaze. “Forgot about that. How’d it go?”
“What, no squabbling about the cost?”
Steve relaxed a little. Finally, a decent response along with the change of subject.
Mark spilled his two bits, even though he wasn’t part of their security business. “I remember Simon Lindsay from school. He was head of the debate team. Can’t imagine he just rolled over and took the first offer.”
“Helps when I show up in time to stop a robbery and rescue the little sister.” Yeah, he was gloating, but the altercation with the bad guys got his blood pumping, and so did the meet and greet with the lady. Letting them stew on that little bit of information, he got up and looked around the room. “Where the hell did you put the fridge?”
Mark laughed. “The new cabinets were installed this morning. Open the one on the far left.”
“Damn, I keep forgetting you come from money.” Steve pulled out a cold bottle of water and offered it to Derek, then tossed it to him and grabbed another. When Mark shook his head, Steve closed the door and went back to his chair.
“Did you stage a break-in to get the contract?” Derek asked.
“Yeah, go ahead and slash my ethical soul, but we got the job on merit alone.”
“Right. Tell us what really happened.”
“Seriously. There were three men in the building when I got there. The girl was screaming and I went in. Put two down before the brothers and the police arrived.” As the story unfolded, their expressions went from disbelief to amazement. ”And the little sister is all mine.”
“How in the hell do you find these situations?” Derek asked.
“Somehow I doubt Simon will allow you to drag his sister to a BDSM club, no matter how nice the facilities are,” Mark said. “I know for a fact he’s as straight-laced as they come.”
“Yeah, maybe, but she’s a grown woman and makes her own decisions.”
“You’re delusional. She’s got three older brothers. Three overprotective older brothers. Give it up.”
They might be right, but he didn’t give up easily.
A knock on the office door interrupted his retort, and Mark’s assistant, Mildred stepped inside. “Mr. Harrison, the carpet is here.”
“Great.” Mark stood and stretched. “We have work to do.”
“We’re not laying carpet, are we? Didn’t they bring people to do that?” Steve asked. Hell, all he knew about carpet was that it was something to walk on. He could build and wire a security system, or create internet barriers, or act as a human shield, dammit, but he didn’t do carpet.
“Don’t be a baby.” Mark shoved his shoulder. “We’re moving the already delivered furniture out of the way in each room, then putting it back.”
Derek opened the door and ushered them out. “A little manual labor will be good for us, blow off a little tension.”
Mark laughed. “Still got that hard on?”
“What’d I miss?” Steve asked, following them down the hall.
Derek didn’t appreciate the question, especially when he turned the first corner downstairs and ran right into Joanne.
“Why are you still here?” he asked without thinking. The look on her face set him back a step. “Sorry.” He let his shoulders drop a bit and changed the wording. “I thought you had to be at your other job.”
His change in tone didn't work. Brittle and contained, she said, “Not until six. And since I picked out the carpet, I’d like to see it when it’s installed.”
He offered a smile. “Right. Forgot about that.”Mark and Steve came around the corner and Mark said, “Welcome to Private Delights, Joanne. This is Steve Gladston, our other partner. Steve, this is Joanne Reynolds, our first Staff Submissive.”
Heads turned all around him and Mark grinned. “I changed the title, since Paid Submissive didn’t have the right—well, it sounded like something illegal.”
“Thank you, Mr. Harrison.” That from Joanne, and Derek slapped him on the back.
“Decent of you.”
“Where are we starting this project?” Steve asked.
They split into pairs. Mark and Steve headed toward the back of the lower level, leaving him with Joanne.
Perfect. Temptation and self-disgust in one hot package.
“What should I do first?” she asked, and his first thought was get naked, followed by an ache in his chest.
“We’ll start with the playrooms, make sure all the floors are clear.” Two steps ahead of her on the stairs, he heard her sweet reply.
His cock responded before he could take another breath, thick and ready for the next step. The step he didn’t want to take.