The weight of his palm as it settled on Joanne’s hair created a warm wave, and it worked its way down to her toes and back up her thighs to settle low in her belly. How had she not known what a true dominant could do to her body with such a simple touch? Certainly not something she’d gotten from what’s-his-name all those years ago.
His fingers dug into her hair, nails scraping against her scalp and sending tingles of pleasure along neglected nerve endings. The pulse in her chest intensified to a tribal drum beat.
“You’ve worked hard today. I appreciate your eagerness to take on responsibilities unfamiliar to you. Master Derek will be proud of you.”
“Thank you, Master Mark.”
“I am proud of her progress.”
Joanne drew air in through her nose and tried to keep her spine straight while Derek greeted Mark. His voice shouldn’t move her, but it did and she couldn’t change her body’s response. Master Mark was merely a warm up for Derek’s intensity.
Then he touched her, his finger trailing across her shoulders, left to right and back again, a gentle caress meant to sooth but instead, it caused her pulse to jump.
“Has Mark taken good care of you, Joanne?”
A simple question, but Derek’s tone made it seem as if they’d been humping their way to nirvana. Was he jealous? Did she want him to be? Dammit. This place, these men, were driving her crazy in ways she’d never imagined.
What else could she say except, “Yes, Master Derek.”
Warm breath floated across her cheek along with the distinctive scent of Derek. “Maybe you should offer him a kiss.”
Her hands quivered where they lay across her thighs. A kiss in this club could mean many things and she had no point of reference for what Master Derek suggested. If anything, she’d rather kiss Derek, but he hadn’t offered.
“Yes, Master Derek.”
A hand appeared in her sight line. Derek’s. She placed her hand in his and let him help her to her feet while Master Mark waited for his kiss. She’d never heard of a boss needing a kiss for giving an employee a task to perform, but she’d never worked in a BDSM club. Who knew?
He’d lowered his backside to a sawhorse left by the contractors, a concession to her height, and she was glad she wouldn’t be expected to climb his body for this kiss. Eyes down, she moved into place between his open thighs.
“Joanne. Look at me.”
Damn that masterful voice. She lifted her chin until she could see all of him from his clavicle to his messy brown hair. The hint of a flirty smile made her relax a bit but the slumberous Dom-at-work eyes negated the feeling. Master Mark was all about power and lust, and he had both assets in spades. Any woman tangling with him would be squashed into submission in a heartbeat.
Nevertheless, she offered him her mouth.
He met her halfway, a soft brush of mouth to mouth, the slide of his tongue across her open lower lip, and then the pressure of his full mouth on hers, invading and investigating until he’d finished.
“Joanne, go and wait for the next delivery truck.”
Unsure as to who gave the order, she turned on weak knees and left the empty restaurant, pleading with her legs to keep her upright and moving until she was out of sight of the two men.
Derek kept his eyes on her until she’d reached the end of the rear hall and turned toward the front entrance, sure she’d fall before she made it. Once sure she couldn’t overhear their conversation, he asked, “Do you really want her?”
To his credit, Mark didn’t even consider the question. “No. You know I don’t do commitment, and Joanne is one of those women who craves a happily ever after. I prefer the happy for the night version.”
Relief trickled and seeped under his scalp, and irritation he didn’t need. “Then don’t mess with her.”
Fucking hell. Where did that come from?
“You want her for yourself. Fine. Take her. I won’t interfere unless you want to share.” Mark’s easy expression gave nothing away, making him an excellent poker player and a master manipulator with the women. His sense of fairness was his only redeemer when it came to his sex life. He never seduced a woman unwilling to take him on his own terms.
Even with the little he knew about Joanne, he knew she wasn’t a play-toy for Mark. “I don’t want her. I just don’t want to see her hurt.”
Mark made rudimentary sounds of agreement but one dark brow rose in question. Best to ignore the issue, Derek said, “Are we on schedule with the opening?”
Mark’s smirk made it clear he hadn’t been fooled. “Pretty much. I have interviews set up all day today and tomorrow. Care to split the list with me?”
"Sure. What am I looking at?” Derek asked.
“Why don’t you take the bar staff? Since Joanne has some experience in that area, she can help and you can continue her training.”
“Thanks, buddy. I thought she was handling deliveries all day.”
“Nope. She’s all for you, my friend. Enjoy the gift.”
Mark strode down the rear hall as Joanne led the delivery men in through the front of the building. Her hesitation as she came into the dining room made him feel like a jackass. He stepped aside while she spoke to the crew then stepped behind her before she could leave.
“Joanne. Follow me.”
Satisfaction stirred when her chin lowered and she fell in step without comment. Derek stayed to one side of the wide hall. They moved against the traffic of the workmen, but he wanted to be in the bar area before the applicants arrived for their interviews. He had a schedule in mind for her training and he didn’t want to deviate too often.
He fact that he wanted a few minutes alone with Joanne had nothing to do with his feelings. She needed training and he’d agreed to school her on submission. Today they would play in the guise of training.
Knowing she followed without question didn’t make it any more or less a job. Just as thinking about her outside of the club didn’t mean he had feelings for her. She was a trainee, nothing more, and he wanted to be sure her training progressed to the point she’d be well-prepared when the club opened.
The bar had been installed during the reconstruction, a long, curved wooden expanse that curved from one side of the room to the other. Half the room was designated as dance floor, the other half providing tables and chairs for drinking and socializing. Unlike the rest of the club, the floors in this area were hardwood, stained in a rich brown, and sealed to keep them durable. A few tables, those sent as samples before Mark chose the décor, peppered the floor.
Derek pulled a chair over to one of the tables and set it to face the door. To Joanne, he said, “Arrange a few of these chairs outside the door and return to me.”
Her easy compliance encouraged him to push harder.
When she returned from the hall, she carried a manila folder. “Mildred asked me to give this to you, Master Derek.”
He sat at the table and opened the folder, glancing at the list while he made her wait. After a moment or four, he lifted his hand palm down and extended it to his side. Joanne paused and he could feel her anxiety in the air around them before she went to her knees on the wooden floor.
“Good girl. Face the wall behind me, with your back to the main entrance.”
She adjusted her body and settled into the submissive form. A check of his watch and the schedule Mildred provided gave him ten minutes to play.
“Remove your blouse.”
Drawing a settling breath, Derek watched from the corner of his eye as her fingers dove to the hem of her top and pulled it over her head. Folding it neatly and placing it in front of her knees, she reached for the clasp of her bra and added it to the shirt.
“You honor me with your compliance, Joanne.” He pushed his chair back enough to enhance his view. “You’re a beautiful woman.” One finger traced her collarbone from the left side of her body to the right, then slid lower to circle her breast, beginning at the outside swell and swirling inward until he fingered the tight bud.
Eyes properly down and breath moving a bit faster than normal, she maintained her pose. Impressive.
He repeated the tracery with the left breast, and when he reached the apex, he palmed both mounds, rubbing and pinching the nipples until spikes formed.
“Beautiful, Joanne. Just beautiful.” Derek shifted his chair back to the table and quietly told her, “The first applicant has arrived. Stay as you are until I release you.”