- Author: Evanne Lorraine
- Series: Demon Hunters
- Genre:BDSM & Fetish, Full-figured Heroines, Holidays, Fantasy & Paranormal
- Cover Artist: Marci Gass
- Next Book:Demon Hunters 2: A Very Demon Valentine's
Holly loves her job as a private nurse, but the ill and injured offer little chance to explore her secret longings, especially not for a submissive seeking a master worth risking her heart. When she braves the exclusive La Ceinture Noir, a mysterious dom takes charge of her. She never sees his face, but she’ll never forget his powerful mastery.
Demon hunter Colin avoids the sweetly submissive nurse next door because she doesn’t deserve to be drawn into his nightmare world. No one does. All he has to offer her is pain and heartbreak. He damn near trips over his own tongue when he spots her in red lace lingerie at the club. After a too brief interlude with the enchanting little slave, he comes to his senses, and alters her memory of their encounter before leaving.
But there’s more to Holly than he suspects. For openers, she’s immune to his mind games. He can’t erase her memories without serious damage and he can’t bear to hurt her. The more she learns about him, the greater her jeopardy. How can he keep her safe through a very demon Christmas?
- Note:This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: anal play, BDSM theme and elements (including/not limited to: exhibitionism, spanking), sex while in non-human form.
There were only four units on each floor. Not speaking to one of her next-door neighbors, especially this drool-worthy man, felt wrong. But he didn’t welcome conversation. He hadn’t been exactly rude. Most of her attempts to get acquainted had met with single-word responses. Even a plate of her still-warm homemade chocolate chip cookies had only received a burning glance and a curt, “I’m allergic.”
After his last rebuff, she’d taken the broad hints to heart and left him alone. A crying shame, because she had to ignore the only single man under seventy in the entire building. Her neighbor was tall, dark, and as tempting as original sin. Although he was plainly not interested in her, she still couldn’t help staring at him every time they met. Even his perpetual scowl didn’t spoil his appeal. If the man ever cracked a smile, then he’d be irresistible. Perhaps that was why he never smiled. A snarky inner voice grumbled about what a huge pain it must be for him to have to fend off the hordes of pushy women who wanted his big hands on them.
Who was she kidding? She just wasn’t his type. There were men who liked full-figured pear-shaped women, and that was the kind of man she needed. Too bad he wasn’t one of them.
To change the discouraging channel in her head, she crossed into the living room and turned on the table lamp. Instantly the room glowed with warmth. Ubiquitous beige pile carpeting muffled her footsteps on her way to the kitchen. She clicked another switch, and a perfectly healthy and uniformly green faux ficus shone with fairy lights. The small silk tree blinked discreetly, fluffing out the corner by the sliding glass doors to her tiny balcony.
A library book waited by her favorite chair next to the bargain love seat she’d upgraded with an ivory crocheted afghan from her grandmother draped over the frayed arm. Her one good piece of furniture, a china hutch, held a collection of Blue Willow serving pieces and the few family photos she had, each one lovingly framed.
For a moment her gaze lingered on the faded snapshot of her mother holding a toddler Holly in her arms. They were both laughing, light hair plastered against two pumpkin-shaped heads and surrounded by the placid water of a large lake. Grandmother had told her the lake was in Cedar Grove, but Holly had no personal memory of the day, although she still remembered the sound of her mother’s laugh.
True to her Pisces astrological sign, Holly adored water and had always been an excellent swimmer, perhaps part of her maternal heritage. She sighed, wishing she knew more about her family’s roots.
Nothing in her unit said Christmas was only a few days away.
The glossy wrapping of her friend Tamara’s present caught Holly’s eye. She gently shut the lid on her old wishes and sparse memories. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth while she crossed to the counter where her friend had left the gift. Tam was determined to introduce Holly to the lifestyle she’d found so thrilling.
Listening to Tam talk about the club and scenes was one thing. Actually attending an event at the exclusive venue would be a much bigger leap. Tam’s role as a Domme fit her like a pair of sterile gloves. But her friend’s insistence that Holly embrace her inner submissive just couldn’t be right. Holly was a capable, independent woman. She definitely was not into being beaten or humiliated. Bossed around a little...
The idea of submission seemed much better in theory than actually being ordered to strip by some strange dominant man. At the same time, she had to admit there was something there because her cheeks warmed, and her body hummed to life even during her denial.
Am I really a kinky kind of girl?
Holly used a utility knife to slice through the pretty ribbon and slit the paper, then carefully slid a silver box from the wrappings. The embossed initials meant nothing to her, except as a reminder that the gift, like the exclusive La Ceinture Noire, was far beyond her pay range.
Earlier she’d been curious about the present. Now she was reluctant to actually look inside. Perhaps the entire BDSM scene Tam had told her so much about was better kept as a fantasy.
Ignoring the gift for the moment, she retrieved the teakettle. After filling it with water, she set it on the cooktop and busied herself arranging a Christmas cup and saucer from her collection. She deliberated her choice of blend, finally spooning a mixture of mint, rose, and green leaves into the matching teapot. A sputtering whistle signaled that the water was ready, and she poured a steady stream into the china pot and inhaled the nurturing scent of fresh brewing tea. With the ritual complete, she pulled out the envelope and read the enclosed card.
La Ceinture Noire requests the pleasure of your company at our annual slave auction.
All proceeds from the auction go to the Wagging Tails Shelter.
Friday, December 23rd at nine p.m.
Black tie for Doms and Dommes
Clothing optional for slaves
Clothing optional? Oh. My. Dear. God. Tam forgot to mention the dress code. There was no way Holly was going anywhere in her birthday suit.
Her gaze flew to the box, and she lifted the lid. Under a layer of discreet tissue paper lay a crimson lace concoction. When she pulled it out, the material separated into two garments--a bustier and boy shorts. Wearing the delicate lace lingerie would be better than going naked--but not by much.
Was she actually considering this? No way. She might be submissive--easygoing was more how she thought of herself--but she wasn’t kinky, no matter what Tam thought. She’d meant well by insisting Holly accept the invitation. Since Tam was spending the holidays with her family on the East Coast, the invitation would be wasted if Holly didn’t use it.
Still she was under no obligation to actually go the slave auction.
She stuffed the undergarments back into the box and poured herself a cup of calming tea. Since it was still too hot to drink, she peeked at the lingerie again. Perhaps... After all, trying on an outfit in the privacy of her own bedroom definitely wasn’t the same thing as making a commitment to go.
A knock on the door interrupted her rationalizing. When she peeked through the viewer, her dangerously handsome neighbor stared back at her.
Holly opened the door a crack. “Hello?”
“Your left rear tire is low. Give me your car keys, and I’ll take care of it.”
She’d never been this close to him and gaped like a ninny. The man was a full foot taller than her five-feet-six-inch medium height, and his shoulders--actually, everything of his--weremuch broader than hers. Although he was all solid muscle without any visible body fat, while she...wasn’t. Flustered by her own reaction, she let go of the door and flapped her hands at him like an anxious goose. “You don’t need--”
He cut her off with a stern, “Give me the keys, Holly.”
There was something about her name spoken in his deep voice that compelled her to obey. Without stopping to reflect on what she was doing, she raced to where she’d left her purse, rummaged for her keys, and hurried back to where he waited.
He held out an open palm. She detached the car key ring and gave it to him. Her fingers brushed his hand, barely making contact, yet a frisson tingled through her, sparking vibrant life into practically forgotten zones that she’d thought permanently frozen.
Her gaze flew to his. She wanted to know if he’d felt same the electric connection. His dark eyes glinted with sparks of wildfire, and she dropped her lashes immediately--lowering her focus to his sensual lips and then his hard jaw. When that view made her just as dizzy, she closed her eyes. This didn’t help either, because she breathed in his aroma, and an image of his compelling gaze had already burned into her memory.
The stubble was gone, and he smelled fantastic. She drew in notes of patchouli, cedar, and vetiver. He wore the same black leather duster he’d had on earlier. A gym bag, large enough to hold a small country’s arsenal, hung from his left hand.
“Be right back.”
“Thank you...” She paused, hoping he’d fill in his name. Come to think of it, how did he know hers? When she dared a second peek at him, the door to the stairwell was already closing. He was amazingly fast, or more likely, she’d been daydreaming--more stunned by his touch than she realized. She shook her head at her over-the-top reaction to her unexpectedly considerate neighbor.
The holidays brought extra emotion into every encounter. Combine the season with Tamara’s provocative invitation, too many long hours at work, plus her own hormone overload, and she was a walking emotional wreck waiting to happen.
The man had simply been nice. This was real life, not one of the erotic romances she was addicted to reading. He wasn’t planning to sweep her into a passionate embrace, and she wasn’t going to spin his good deed into a tragic unrequited love affair. What she would do was a find a way to repay his kindness.
Her tea had grown cold, and the rest of the pot was overbrewed. She emptied the contents, cleaned the pot, and started again. While her tea steeped, she daydreamed for a few minutes about the love affair she was never going to have. After a bit, she shook off the fantasy and moved to the bedroom to change into flannel pj’s, a henley, and her fuzzy dragon slippers before pouring herself a fresh cup. Perhaps she should wait to change. Nightwear seemed a tiny bit too casual for thanking her unexpectedly thoughtful neighbor. She shook her head at her silliness. There was nothing seductive about her leisure outfit. She’d already had a long day, and she was past ready for comfortable and cozy.
When she reentered the kitchen, an inspection of the freezer failed to turn up anything inspiring for dinner. She popped her most festive option--a frozen low-calorie apple, cranberry, chicken entree into the microwave. Turning for a sip of her tea, she spotted the gleam of her car keys on the counter.
For a few seconds she blinked stupidly at the shiny metal. Then realized she must have forgotten to lock her door as she did so often. After all, she lived in a secure building, so what was the point? Her newly helpful neighbor had brought them back and left them next to her purse where she’d be sure to see them. He’d probably knocked, and she hadn’t heard him.
She checked the front door, which was now locked securely, but that made sense, because he would’ve locked it behind him. The only other explanation was that she’d locked the door and he’d picked the lock--highly unlikely. She was turning into an old lady worrywart who jumped at shadows, and she was too young for the role.
The whole episode with her drool-worthy neighbor, especially her reaction to his dominance, had her thinking that she might actually be sexually submissive. Or else Tam had successfully brainwashed her, and she was imagining Doms.
She glanced at the red lace. In order to find out, she needed to leave her sanctuary and take a crazy risk or two before she was too hopelessly set in her ways. Although she was only twenty-seven, she hadn’t been out after dark except for commuting to and from work in months.
Considering that something as small as the faintly mysterious appearance of her car keys made her nervous, she decided it was time to shake up her routine. Sex had never been the exciting fireworks she’d read about. Perhaps the reason for her lack of excitement was because she wasn’t a plain vanilla kind of girl.
She couldn’t deny the idea of a dominant lover excited her, but could she handle the reality?
The red lace lingerie beckoned--there was nothing vanilla about that outfit.
Opening the invitation again, she read carefully. The chances of her meeting anyone she knew at La Ceinture Noire were infinitesimal. Tamara had explained about the club’s rules, safe words, and hard limits. The invitation was an unexpected gift and her best possible chance to explore a different world. The slave auction even benefited Wagging Tails, a charity she supported. She’d just listed four good arguments for taking the very tiny risk.
What did she have to lose? Nothing at all, except another boring, lonely, night at home alone.
“All I want for Christmas is a Domdom to call my own,” Holly sang softly.
* * * *
“Meet me at the club.” As usual, Duec didn’t bother with formalities like hello or good-bye. His boss’s no-frill style didn’t ruffle Colin’s feathers.
He replied in the same clipped format, “On my way.”
After ending the call, an almost remembered fact teased the edge of his mind, the same way an unreachable itchy spot in the middle of his back drove him crazy. The elusive thought stayed maddeningly out of reach--more than likely something to do with his gorgeous blonde neighbor. Whatever refused to come into clear focus sure as hell wasn’t one of her thoughts, because he couldn’t read her. He’d spent his life trying to filter out others’ thoughts. Now, when he finally wanted to connect with another mind, she was as closed to him as a nuclear reactor. At any other time he would’ve laughed at the irony, but this was the much-too-delectable Holly. His inability to read her drove him absolutely bat-shit crazy.
Since La Ceinture Noire--LCN to the staff and demon hunters--was only a mile and a half away, Colin decided to walk. The cold winter night was exactly what he needed to erase the glimpse of Holly’s lush curves covered by nothing but thin cotton panties and a matching bra. The tongue-lolling view had ended abruptly when she hid her tempting roundness under baggy flannel bottoms and a shirt that hung to her thighs and drooped over her small hands.
Even if he could forget the unintentional peep show, her reaction to his simple demand for her keys had pushed his On button to let’s go, and there it stayed. The off-limits, way-too-fragile human woman was a natural submissive.
He silently snorted. Like he needed that particular news flash to make her more tempting. Her soft skin, long legs, and perfect ass were already huge turn-ons. But the only things he had to offer her were pain and sex, and he wasn’t playing those kind of games with an innocent. This made her a distraction he couldn’t afford to indulge in.
His long strides carried him out of high-rises and into the thinly populated section of concrete tilt-ups, professional offices, small businesses, and warehouses interspersed with an occasional sandwich shop. The tree-lined parking lots were nearly vacant as the last of the tenants joined the thousands of commuters clogging the freeways.
The club stood alone on an oversize, quiet corner lot. The entrance to the first floor of the parking garage was invisible from the street. Except for the rare open night, an unobtrusive gate required a membership card for admittance. Colin dipped his plastic into the slot, received a green go light, and the heavy steel mesh parted.
The sidewalk had been shoveled clean, but he stamped his boots to shake off the last of the snow during his walk to the elevator. When the metal cage rolled to a stop, the doors opened, and he exited into the foyer. Along with warmth and noise from the club, the thought that had been teasing him slammed home. He’d forgotten to erase Holly’s memory. Shouldn’t be a big deal--it wasn’t like she knew jack shit about him. He’d handled it every other time he’d run into her. But his lapse in following standard protocol shook him. He scowled and upgraded her to a dangerous distraction.
“Would you like to check your coat, sir?”
Colin took in Harry’s red bowtie with a quirk of his eyebrow and noticed Christmas carols were playing softly in the background--holiday spirit invaded even the sanctuary of La Ceinture Noire. He shook his head to the doorman’s standard offer, preferring to keep his weapons handy. “Is Duec in the office?”
“Yes, sir. He asked that you join him.” Harry addressed Colin’s back as he crossed into the club, waved to acknowledge the doorman’s info, and took the stairs two at a time.
A hallway, open on one side to the main room below, ran the width of the building. An elevator marked the center. Private rooms lined either side. The east end was a staff lounge. Duec’s office was on the west. Only the lounge and the boss’s office had windows.
From the vantage point of the hanging walkway, Colin checked the club action as he crossed the hall. Swags of greenery interspersed with tasteful clusters of ornaments and generous red bows draped the railing and the lighting fixture above the bar. The gleaming curve of wood was backed by mirrors lined with liquor-topped glass shelves. Beneath the mirrored display, cabinets housed refrigerators, sinks, glassware, mixers, and three sophisticated computer stations. The high-backed leather stools in front of the bar were full, the floor space behind them crowded with members.
A group of subs waited in the pen. Actually a half wall of booth backs separated the space known as the pen--an open area furnished with a circular velvet sectional in a deep red--from the main room. Available subs were uncollared. Those waiting for their Masters were collared. Doms and staff wandered in and out of the pen freely. As usual, Doms and the occasional Domme were fully clothed in everything from leather to standard business attire. The collared subs wore whatever their Masters provided--usually damn little. Free agents chose fetish wear designed to flatter their bodies.
None of the available subs rang his bell. A damn shame, since he was edgier than usual and really needed some kinky sex to stabilize him.
Needed was a big part of his problem. Like most demon males and all the demon hunters, he was a natural Dom. This meant he liked to give orders, and he had a severe allergy to taking them. So even though sex was the only thing besides hunting that burned off his dangerous aggression, needing it did not sit well.
Wanting a sweet little sub is a whole ’nother matter.
He rapped twice. The lock snicked open.
Listening to the phone, Duec, owner of La Ceinture Noire, one of the ruling council of demon lords, and head of the cadre of demon hunters, waved him in with a grimace.
Duec’s expression didn’t bother Colin, because his boss’s irritation was directed at the caller. If he’d been that angry with him, then Colin would’ve been concerned. He was fast and strong, but Duec had him beat on both counts; plus the exclusive club housed an arsenal and defined home-field advantage. Colin’s talents made him a very hard male to surprise. In turn, his gifts made him an excellent demon hunter and a formidable enemy for anyone--even a full-blooded demon.
Colin scanned the room for clues as to why he’d been summoned. Learning anything from the office decor was unlikely, but observation and deduction were two of his most valuable skills; he liked to keep them honed.
A cluster of white poinsettias had been gathered in a brass planter atop the credenza under the window, framing downtown Treeland’s lights from their east hills location. Pretty, but all the flowers told him was that Miranda, Duec’s secretary, was still on the job. The north wall was covered with video displays running feeds from the security cameras around the club. A slight delay between the action and the digital video stream made the images waver occasionally as they refreshed. The sound was muted. Only two public scene rooms were in use. One was still setting up, a Dom binding his sub to a classic Saint Andrew’s cross. The other held a flogging technique demonstration with an excited submissive quivering under the expert strokes of Ramon, one of the club’s most popular Doms.
The rest of the office looked like it always did--frighteningly clean and well organized. The heavy rosewood desk was immaculate and protected by a glass top in case anything sloppy happened. A substantial black leather couch, flanked by twin end tables holding massive brass urn-style table lamps and copies of Time, Newsweek, and Fortune, and a pair of club chairs faced Duec’s desk. Colin sprawled in the one closest to the video displays. The position gave him a comfortable view of the room’s main entrance. Even so, he angled his seat slightly to divide his attention between the door and his boss.
Aside from the current glower, Duec could’ve graced the cover of a romance novel. During the ten years that Colin had worked for him, he’d never seen his boss in his natural form. Working and living with so many humans, most demons wore their glamours far more than they did their own skins. Colin didn’t even know what kind of demon his boss was, other than a pureblood. He had to be, since only a pure demon could sit on the demon council.
An earth demon with the natural talent for stoking lust in every species and gender seemed a likely fit for Duec, but he knew from firsthand experience that the male was a wicked fighter, so an aggressive fire demon made sense too. Duec was also scary smart, making an intellectual air demon a definite possibility.
Half air demon himself, Colin still occasionally dreamed of flying. Since he’d failed to shift at puberty, wings were never happening for him. As a latent demon, he didn’t quite fit into either the human or the demon society. He couldn’t imagine himself as part of humanity or as part of the codified society of pure-blooded demons. Working for Duec, one of a small cadre of demon hunters, was where he fit. It was the only role that gave him acceptance and respect. The elite operation was sanctioned by the Council of Demon Lords, but their existence remained secret from the general population, which was safer for everyone. Even demons had enemies.
Returning to his search for clues, he noted Duec’s laptop was closed, which meant Colin had been summoned for something other than a hunt. He pushed away the disappointment and schooled himself to wait patiently, hoping like hell his boss hadn’t called him to lecture him about getting laid.
Taking out three rogues in one night had been rough, but Colin was all grown up, and he could handle rough. What he wasn’t entirely sure he could handle was kindly advice, even from Duec. His feelings were still too raw.
After Duec ended his call, Colin stayed quiet. He didn’t bother scanning Duec’s thoughts. His boss would notice, and life stayed easier when he kept the constant barrage of others’ thoughts down to a blur of background noise.
“Trent left for the East Coast this morning. His mother is failing.”
“I’m sorry. He’s an only child?” Colin made it a question, but most demons were. Pregnancy and childbirth were automatically high risk.
Duec nodded. “Yeah. That leaves us a Dom short for Saturday’s auction.”
Colin swallowed his sigh.
“I need your help.”
He wasn’t ready for scenes and games with some sub, but he couldn’t say no to Duec. He sure as hell couldn’t plead pressing work or any other obligation. His boss knew better. He stretched his lips into a convincing grin. “Sure, what time?”
“Be here by six for mingling, then a demo scene around seven. Auction starts at eight.” Duec lifted the receiver and hit a preprogrammed number, then glanced back at Colin. “Black tie.”
Great, a full penguin suit--his least favorite. “Okay if I roll up my sleeves for the demo?”
Duec flipped him off.
“See you Saturday.” Colin let himself out of the office and rolled his neck until it cracked. Damn, he was still wound tighter than a shibari weave. Sick newt that he was, he’d actually been hoping for a hunt to let off steam. He’d better find a distraction to take the edge off before Duec caught on and ordered him to get busy, or he became a menace.
He scanned the club again from the top of the stairs, looking for a likely candidate. None of the waiting submissives were any more appealing. An image of his curvy neighbor flickered through his mind’s eye. He hated not being able to read her. If he touched her, then her thoughts would be accessible--probably. The idea, not a smart one, burrowed in like an itch he shouldn’t even think about scratching. He slowly descended the wide stairs, whistling tunelessly. All I want for Christmas is a sweet little slave and some red rope.
Copyright © Evanne Lorraine
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