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Chapter One

It was one of those days, an afternoon when Narah Collin’s skin felt too small to contain the sexual energy raging through her. Restless youth should be behind her, right? After all, she was approaching the middle of her twenties and was smack in the middle of a project that should occupy her mind and time.

Maybe not so much, she acknowledged as she struggled to concentrate on diagramming the circuit-breaker panel she was replacing at the remote lodge. There were two problems. For one, she’d been an electrician long enough that feeder pipes, neutral wires, and NM connectors no longer fascinated her. Number two, she hadn’t had sex for too long.

Not just sex. Not just vanilla.

Hot and hard, a little scary, nerves short-circuiting, and a take-charge man who handled her body as if he owned it.

Owned?

Frowning, she tried to imagine a slender but strong silver collar around her neck, as she stood naked before her master. The longer she stayed with the image, the clearer it became. They were in a lavish room with heavy red curtains shutting out the world and a large leather chair occupied by a wide-shouldered, black-haired man wearing a custom-made suit. His blood red tie was loose, the top two buttons on his immaculate white dress shirt undone to reveal a dusting of hair and a vein pulsing at the side of his neck. The long, strong fingers of his left hand were lightly curled around the armrest. His other hand held a paddle with her name on it.

She was naked, nude in jarring contrast to the image of a confident man in control of his world.

“You displeased me tonight,” he said in the low, understated tone that always filled her with equal amounts of unease and anticipation. “Did something you know you shouldn’t.”

“I couldn’t help it.” Her attention split between his stern expression and the paddle she knew all too well. “You told me to be gracious to your guests. That’s all I was doing when he—”

“When Robert ran his fingers from the back of your neck down your spine to your ass cheeks. I saw.”

Of course he did. Her master saw everything where she was concerned. Although she longed to point out that Robert wouldn’t have had access to so much of her if Master hadn’t ordered her to wear the red, backless dress, she knew better than to speak until he gave her permission. He’d selected the garment, not simply because as his possession, he could do whatever he wanted to with her, but because he’d wanted to test his stockholders’ self-restraint.

Robert had failed the test. As a result she was going to be punished.

“Why didn’t you move away from him?” Master demanded.

The dress she’d worn without underwear was puddled on the floor near his chair, discarded after he’d yanked it off her. Later he’d command her to take it to the cleaners. Following that, she’d hang it in the closet with the other revealing garments that were the only things he allowed her to wear. Every time she spotted the red, hug-her-curves silk, she’d wonder when he’d put it on her again.

When they’d repeat what was going to happen tonight.

“You told me to pay special attention to Robert.” Why was she bothering to speak when this was all part of an oft-repeated ritual? No matter what she did, and sometimes she deliberately stepped outside the lines, Master would find fault. She’d be punished.

And rewarded.

“I’m weary,” he said. “We’ll discuss the nuances of your misbehavior tomorrow.” He tapped the armrest with the paddle. “Tonight is all about you being taught a lesson.”

She struggled to swallow down the river of emotions swirling through her. If he asked, which he might, she wouldn’t be able to say whether she preferred to be immediately spanked or be forced to wait, to anticipate.

He leaned back a little and spread his muscled legs a couple of inches. “You know what to do.”

Her arms, which she’d submissively kept by her sides, lifted as if acting independently of her mind. She captured her shoulder blade length pale blonde hair Master wanted it like that and pulled it behind her so she could hold the thick mass away from her face with one hand. Trembling with anticipation, she stepped to the side of Master’s legs and leaned forward. She planted her free hand on his slacks-clad thigh to help balance herself as she slowly, gracefully lowered onto his lap.

When she’d first become his, she’d been so awkward she flopped over his legs like some just-landed fish. However, after countless times of repeating the move under his stern tutelage, she’d learned how to control her muscles. Now she took pride in the slow descent that served as proof of her submissiveness.

At first he gave no indication he was aware that her bottom was in clear view and only inches from his hands. However, the hot waves of need now pouring through her left her with no doubt that he was looking at what belonged to him. He almost never allowed her to put on underwear both so he’d always have ready access to her buttocks and because he hated seeing any marks on her smooth skin unless he was responsible. She sunbathed in the nude when it was just the two of them she was almost always naked, and religiously kept her pussy free of hair.

Head down, arms limp, toes curling into the thick carpet, breathing too fast, she waited.

“I’m the only one who ever touches you here, understand?” He lightly stroked her buttocks.

“I understand, Master.”

“Of course you do.” The stroking continued, mesmerizing and hypnotizing her. “Because I’ve taught you. I know it isn’t always easy for you. Avoidance of pain is a primal human instinct but sometimes pain can’t be avoided, can it?”

He wasn’t asking so much as demanding she echo his comment. Caught somewhere between anticipation and the wish this wasn’t happening that she couldn’t move beyond, she said, “Pain is my teacher, Master.”

“Hmm.” He lightly raked her ass with professionally manicured nails. “What else is pain?”

How long had she resisted admitting what she was about to say? It no longer mattered because it had become her truth. “Pain is pleasure, Master.”

“Indeed. Giving pain is extremely satisfying for me, which should be the only thing that matters, but I chose well when I procured you. You get off on discomfort.”

Not always but now. Wise in the ways of anticipating the man who ruled her, she remained silent. She could never completely anticipate what he had in mind for one of their sessions, but they followed a common theme starting with her surrendering to his will. Once she’d turned her mind and body over to him, he took her on countless journeys. Some she loved. Some she hated, not that it mattered to him.

“Your performance tonight wasn’t perfect.” His nails bit at her flesh, causing her to clench her teeth and struggle not to lift her head. “Not perfect at all.”

And because it wasn’t, she was going to be taught a lesson.

“So disappointing.” He spoke in a monotone. “Not befitting a slave of your stature. You hoped I wouldn’t see your eyes widen and your nostrils flair when Robert caressed you, didn’t you?”

Ah, he was in one of those moods when they each played a role. Even though she was never sure when he might change his role, she knew what was expected of her. “You’ve conditioned me so well, Master. Awakened my body to its sensual nature. I was responding as you taught me.”

He pressed the finger pads of both hands into her flesh. “But those weren’t my fingers earlier. You respond to me, not to other men.”

“It’s so hard, Master. I’m-I’m always on fire.”

“Which is what makes you valuable to me. Let’s see what it takes to flame that fire tonight.”

It was coming, the moment of reckoning, or rather the start to what made her feel alive as nothing else ever had. She held her breath as the ten-point pressure let up. She sent a fresh message to her muscles to remain limp since most of the time Master tolerated no resistance from her.

“Such a lovely plump ass.” He lightly smacked her right buttocks. “All that pale flesh waiting to be warmed and reddened.”

He repeatedly struck her in the same spot. Every blow was marginally stronger, the pounding echoing through her, until whining, she wiggled the slightest bit.

“Ah no, little rebel. I won’t stand…”

He didn’t finish, only continued attacking her right ass cheek while leaving the other untouched. She felt unbalanced, half of her rear end on fire and nearing the end of what it could tolerate while the other half cried out for attention. Gathering experience about her, she slid forward an inch on his lap. He stopped her by grabbing her hair and pulling on it as if he was a horseman reining in a runaway horse.

“What’s this? Rebellion?”

“No, no. But— Master, it hurts.”

“It also feels wonderful, doesn’t it?”

How many times had he forced the truth from her? It didn’t matter. “Yes,” she admitted with her head up and shoulders arched.

“Of course it does.” He pulled her back into position. Still holding onto her hair, he resumed his attack on her right buttock.

She endured it as long as she could, fighting with every breath she took to wait him out. Surely this time his hand would wear out before she did. Just this once he’d declare her the winner of the sexual war.

But he didn’t. He never had.

“Master, please, please, please.” Lost in the wondrous discomfort, she pressed her middle against his legs and started grinding. Hot sensation came at her from all directions. She barely noticed when he let go of her hair and switched to spanking her left buttock. The right continued to throb, the sensation so different from the sharp slaps that she felt as if she was being pulled in two.

Every bit of Master’s attention was focused on spanking her while every molecule of her being revolved around the flames growing throughout her. Much more, just a few more blows, and she’d come.   

A sharp rattling sound yanked Narah out of her vivid fantasy but left her panting. She’d heard a wind gust hit the windows before, but there was something different about this one. More energized. Like her.

And bringing with it the storm the radio weatherman had been talking about this morning. Leaving her work, she walked from the storage room behind the industrial-sized kitchen to the lonely-looking main room. Every step took her farther from work and closer to— To what?

Briant or Levi had stoked the woodstove before the carpenters had returned to their work outside, but either the fire had gone out or the chill was seeping into the poorly insulated structure. She wasn’t cold, just restless, needing something different.

Becoming someone different.

Maybe the naked woman draped over her master’s lap who had sprung fully realized from her imagination.

Suddenly short of breath, she longed to press her flushed cheeks against the cold glass. Thank goodness Briant and Levi weren’t in here since there was no way she could keep her arousal to herself. She had to get a handle on herself, somehow.

Be practical. You know how.

Although she winced at the darned familiar inner voice, it gave her the sense of direction she badly needed. After turning the vent and opening the cast-iron door, she added more wood to the coals and watched the flames build. The vibrant colors and potential for danger fed her restlessness.

Instead of going back to work, she wandered over to the large front window and looked out at the world beyond Wolverine Lodge. Nothing had changed. The Wolverine River still flowed past while the surrounding mountains closed her isolated and temporary world off from civilization.

Good. She didn’t want civilization; she needed… something.

To be at a man’s mercy.

To be spanked and more.

Knock it off! she admonished her libido. She wasn’t sure it was listening.

Pine needles swirled and swarmed over the open area between the lodge and river, proof that the wind was picking up steam. The evergreens swayed this way and that, but whether they were dancing with or fighting the approaching storm, she couldn’t tell. The sky had gone from gray to deep purple. If she could fly, she’d soar upward and surround herself with the vibrant hues. Startled by the errant thought, she pressed the palm of her hand against her temple. The next few days were about work, not letting crazy thoughts and fantasies overwhelm her.

What were Briant and Levi doing outside? She placed her hand on the glass and determined it was indeed approaching freezing out there. The two men belonged in a setting like this. They were as determined to prove themselves to the new lodge owners as she was, but could they really work on repairing the wraparound deck with numb fingers?

She was an electrician, not their caretaker. Just the same, it wouldn’t hurt to remind the pair that it was a hell of a lot warmer inside than out – and to have another look at their masculine forms.

Hey, if she was going to order up a master or masters from central casting, she couldn’t do much better than the two men. It would most likely take some major convincing on her part to get them to throw away her clothes and place a collar around her neck, but from what she knew of them, they’d at least listen to her suggestions.

Trying not to let her thoughts get away from her, she pushed open the large front door and fought against the wind trying to keep it closed. The fight gave her at least a momentary outlet for her pent-up energy. Then a chilled gust tore at her ponytail and whipped her dark hair around her neck. She suddenly felt wild.

Way too big for her skin.

Wanting to do and see things she’d never done. Experiencing…

“Hey, you two!” she hollered. “I know first aid, but I don’t want to have to deal with your hypothermia. Come on inside.” Be with me.

Do me.

Acknowledging the thought she couldn’t imagine ever voicing, she squinted into the gloom. It was a little after four in the afternoon, but late fall nights came early in the Northwest wilderness, especially with snow clouds covering the sky.

Her ratty old high school sweatshirt was scant defense against the elements, but she nevertheless stepped out onto the porch. The men had started working on the building’s north side, which meant the planks under her tennis shoes weren’t what she’d call reliable. Something cold splatted on her forehead. The first snowflakes. Instead of feeling chilled, the blood in her temple pulsed with heat. Boy did she ever have a major case of need to be laid.

“Where are you two?” I need you.

Teeth clenched, she fought the insane damn thought. She didn’t need a man. Unlike her mother and older sister, despite her crazy imagination today, her sense of worth would never revolve around a male. As she headed toward where Briant and Levi had last been working, she decided her surroundings were in part responsible for her current thoughts. After all, when was the last time she’d been at a place accessible only by air or water with her only companions two men who epitomized everything she admired in the opposite sex? They worked with their hands. Turned wood, metal, and other materials into enduring structures. They did physical labor, were largely self-taught, strong, determined, independent. Craftsmen in a career she understood and embraced.

And far from hard on the eyes.

Men who might react the same way to the setting and the growing storm.

There! That’s where her runaway thinking was coming from. Storms were energy and power. For reasons she couldn’t get a handle on, she’d tapped into nature’s force. If it wasn’t for a little matter of being a civilized woman, she’d rip off her clothes and— And what? Beg her co-workers to spank her?

Yeah, right.  

The men were where she expected to find them, but they weren’t doing what she’d thought they’d be. Instead of putting up a new railing for the section of porch they’d just replaced, the two stood side by side looking out at something. Levi was a couple inches shorter than Briant, his hair longer than Briant’s near buzz cut, but their stances mirrored each other. Both had shoved their hands into their back pockets and stood on widespread legs – probably so the gusts wouldn’t knock them off balance. Their padded jackets had seen years of hard work and strained over their broad shoulders and hugged lean bellies.

As she stared at them, her mouth dried, then filled again. Her nipples, already hard from the cold and her disquiet, started to ache. Moisture built in a part of her anatomy that had been in hibernation for who the hell knew how long.

It was just the three of them until… when? Obviously the helicopter that had brought the various workmen – workpeople – and supplies here couldn’t fly in this weather. The plumber and a married couple who were redesigning the kitchen had flown out yesterday. Thanks to a month of off-and-on rain, the river was running high which meant boats were out of the question.

Alone. Surrounded by wilderness. Alive. So damn alive.

Wanting things she’d barely ever acknowledged.

Fighting light-headedness, she made a stab at chasing off the vague sense of unease that came with acknowledging the isolation. She was being paid double good money for this job, which she really needed. A little inconvenience was worth it.

As if challenging her to ignore the environment, the wind slammed into her back. Most times she was content with her five feet six inches and one hundred thirty pounds, but right now, she could use a little more bulk.

Unless her master liked her just the way she was.

“What are you looking at?” she asked around the latest errant thought.

Two, maybe three beats passed before Levi looked at her. Briant continued to stare at the river.

“Nothing,” Levi muttered. His gaze seemed to bore into her, and yet she wasn’t sure he was really seeing her. It was crazy of course, couldn’t ever happen, but what if he’d been reading her mind? Knew what she needed from Briant and him.

Despite the thought, her cheeks were chilled, and she tucked her hands under her sweatshirt to keep them warm. Much longer out here, and she’d start shivering. Good, because she needed something ordinary and safe to focus on.

“The weatherman was a little off,” she came up with. They were too close and too far away at the same time, promise and challenge, unreal somehow. Think, damn it! Break free of whatever this is. “I know what a winter storm around here feels like. This is the real deal.”

“We’ve lived in the area as long as you have,” Levi unnecessarily reminded her after a pause. “And you’re right. This is the real deal.”

Briant swiveled toward her then. He hadn’t shaved today, maybe not yesterday either. Despite his ultra-short haircut, everything about his features screamed dark. Back when the two men had been high school seniors and she a lowly sophomore, Briant had worn his black hair nearly shoulder-length. That had gotten him in trouble with the administration because they’d wanted one of their star athletes to represent the school positively. Like the other girls, she’d waited to see if he’d get rid of the sexy locks. He hadn’t, and because both the baseball and football teams couldn’t get into the play-offs without him, he hadn’t been expelled.

Hell, why was she bringing up the past? It wasn’t as if she were still some silly teenager. Hardly. She was a woman with a major case of sexual frustration getting in the way of everything.

“I fished the river a lot this summer,” Briant said. Judging by his tone, she wasn’t sure whether he was talking to himself or her. Maybe, like her, he was trying to get in touch with some part of himself. She couldn’t imagine that his thinking was going down the same road as hers was, but maybe. Hopefully. “I also did as much river guiding as possible.”

Because there hadn’t been enough construction jobs then was the silent message that brought her back to the here and now. She knew, because she’d been in the same position.

“I envy the way you paid your bills,” she said although she wasn’t sure she did. Hearing the river roar, she was hard put remembering a summer when it hadn’t looked dangerous.

“I loved being out-of-doors,” Briant said. “The unpredictable income that’s part of being dependent on wealthy fishermen is another story.”

Nodding, she fought the pull in Briant’s nearly black eyes. Oh shit. Alive. Different. They’d been working under the same roof, so to speak, for the better part of a week. She’d seen him as little more than someone from the past and a temporary coworker, albeit rugged and masculine. Why, today, were his eyes’ hypnotic quality and his damn sexy physique getting to her?

The storm maybe? Somehow that explanation was easier to acknowledge than admitting being horny had hit overdrive.

“At least you had your boat,” Levi said. “I spent my summer working on a remodel for Charles Hand.”

Glad for the distraction, Narah winced in sympathy. Charles Hand was a county judge known for his harsh sentences and tightly run courtroom. Satisfying him couldn’t have been easy.

Hoping to find a light tone, she looked skyward. More flakes struck her face. There was something caressing about the touch. “No exacting bosses here,” she managed. “It’s nice when an owner – or owners in this case – gives us credit for knowing our jobs.”

“To say nothing of the pay.”

She couldn’t think of anything to add to Briant’s comment, or maybe the truth was his damnable eyes were boring too deep into her for an ordinary conversation. Between that and the way the wind kept plastering Levi’s coat against his solid chest, a dip in the river was starting to look like a good idea.

Maybe, because they needed the same cooling off, the two hunks would accompany her. The current would grab the three of them, wrap them around each other, sandwich her between the two larger male bodies.

Yeah, right.

“Give it up.” After filling her lungs, she nodded at the tools and lumber on the deck. She didn’t trust herself to move because she’d be tempted to press her legs together. “You’re not going to be able to accomplish much until this blows over. Besides, I just stoked the fire.”

The men stared at her as if they didn’t know what she was talking about. Truth was, she wasn’t sure where the logical comment had come from when logic had become a foreign concept.

When they continued to stare without speaking, it dawned on her that they might be waiting for her to be the voice of reason. Not for the first time she wondered if the storm was having the same impact on all of them. If that was true, who knew how the rest of the day would unfold? As excited as she was to explore the possibilities, this wasn’t the place to begin the exploration.

“It’s freezing, in case you haven’t noticed,” she said. “And the snow’s picking up.” Becoming something amazing.

Frowning, they glanced at each other. Then they went back to studying her. Oh shit! Briant wasn’t the only one with hypnotic eyes. Levi’s hazel ones were just as deep-set and compelling.

Feeling less steady than she cared to admit, Narah swiveled and marched away. Heat down her spine told her they were staring at her. Heat between her legs said she wasn’t immune.

She could and should have gone back to her wiring job. Instead, once she was back inside, she backed up to the warmth of the stove she didn’t need and stared at the front door. Waited.

She’d seen Briant and Levi a handful of times since the two had graduated high school but hadn’t said more than a few words to them when she did. Certainly they weren’t still the jock and quiet, good math student they’d been when they were teens. The men hadn’t left the area after graduation, and all three of them were in the same general business, which gave them a lot in common.

Or maybe not.

She could be wrong of course, but she didn’t see them as the kind of men who regularly or otherwise planted women across their knees and started drumming on their naked buttocks to say nothing of whatever else masters did to their female possessions.

“Stop it,” she muttered. “Get a grip. Otherwise, Briant and Levi are going to lock you up until the men with the butterfly nets arrive.”

Hmm. Lock her up? Did that have possibilities?

“Stop it!” This time her voice shocked her. “Get that damned grip.”

Feeling as if she’d just chastised herself, she forced her mind to go down what hopefully was a safer road. Any moment Briant and Levi would come in. After depositing their tools near the stove to dry, everyone would grab a beer. They’d sit on the musty furniture that had been here who knew how long. Maybe she’d tell them what she’d been doing in recent years. Maybe they’d talk about the women and possible children in their lives. They’d catch up. That was all, catch up.

Wait out the storm.

Find unconventional ways to entertain themselves in the meantime.

Cold rushed in with the duo. As she’d expected, they dropped their burdens on the old area rug someone had thrown over the soon-to-be-restored hardwood floor. Instead of warming their backsides, however, they stayed where they were. Challenged her to dismiss what they represented. She didn’t even try.

“You’re an electrician,” Levi said as he removed his jacket. “Why?”

“Why not? My uncle’s one.” The way his gaze roamed over her decidedly unsexy attire, she wasn’t sure he was listening to her. Besides, now that she was looking at the way his faded flannel shirt caressed his physique, she wasn’t certain she could give him more than the short-course explanation. Oh damn, why couldn’t she just jump their bones? Or invite them to jump hers. “When I was a girl, I loved looking through his work van. He started taking me to his jobs. I was hooked.”

“Just like that?” Briant asked. Thank goodness he hadn’t shed his jacket. She wasn’t sure she could handle two healthy, close-to-naked male chests at the same time.

“No. It took me a while to commit, but I’ve never regretted it.”

“There aren’t many women in your line of work.”

“No.” Damn it, Briant wasn’t going to play the gender role card, was he? She’d gotten enough of that from her mother, sister, and other women in the family. She was one hundred percent hetero. She didn’t want anyone jamming her into a stereotype box. “There aren’t.”

Briant ran a large hand over his head. Oh God, what would doing that feel like? “It doesn’t bother you, working out here?” he asked. “It’s pretty isolated.”

What did he care? Maybe he was just making conversation, and maybe he liked the sound of her voice and the way her mouth moved. Yeah, right. Darn it, she had to get her mind off sexual thoughts.

And on to what?

“I might ask you the same question,” she said. “This time of year, there’s only one way in and out.” She pointed at the window.

“I needed the job,” Briant said, his words low and slow.

“So did I,” Levi echoed. “The economy around here needs a shot in the arm.”

“Particularly construction,” she put in. She could have jumped into an explanation of how the electrical company she’d been working for had gone bankrupt. Not only hadn’t she been paid for her last two months’ work, she figured her chance of that happening was less than zero. She’d picked up some small jobs, thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations, but they hadn’t been enough. Going without a steady income for so long had left her with debts upon debts. Thank goodness for this job! With a paycheck coming in, she was no longer going around tied in knots. In fact she could feel herself loosen, feeling free after endless months of tension. Maybe she should tell the men about her transformation as a way of getting them to admit the same. 

Today, watching snowflakes race in all kinds of windblown directions not far from where she stood, she realized she didn’t want to talk about herself. The hell of it was, the unnerving and exciting hell of it was, she was interested in action, not talk. As if agreeing with her, her pussy moistened again. If she were naked as her master required her to be, it wouldn’t take much for her co-workers to figure out what was going on – and accept the unspoken invitation.

“What about your husband?” Levi squared off toward her. “Doesn’t he want you home?”

“I’m not married.”

 


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