“And he has you here without a collar?”

My chest tightened with panic. A collar? What the hell had I gotten myself into? My hand went to my throat. I felt suddenly naked without the symbol that would prove I was Blake’s, truly. I looked down, the glimmer of my ring bright in the low light.

“We’re engaged.” I wasn’t sure if I should have revealed the detail, but it was all I had now.

“Ah.” Remy smirked, looking away a moment. “The ultimate collar. You must be very special indeed, to be his wife and his slave.”

When he returned his attention to me, I glared, loathing the way the word flowed off his tongue so easily.

“I’m no one’s slave.”

The dark wing of his eyebrow lifted, an unspoken challenge lighting his eyes. “You don’t serve to please him?”

“Y-Yes, of course I do.”

What kind of question was that? I wanted to please Blake. In every way. With sex, of course, but in life, I wanted his happiness. I craved it almost as much as my own. But I hated the way Remy painted what we shared. For all the progress I’d made with embracing submission, I bristled at this man’s easy assumption that I was less—a slave, a submissive.

He hummed softly. “I’m very curious now what brings you here. Tell me, did you come to play? Or to learn?” He looked into the main area, a new activity beginning to take shape where the other had ended. The room was lined with small booths, shrouded in darkness. The shadows. I wanted to hide there until Blake came for me, but I feared whatever already lurked there.

I followed his gaze, spying with shame on the various debaucheries that played out before us. Still, I couldn’t tear away from the scene at the far end of the room. A young man had become the focal point of the evening’s current entertainment. Bound by his wrists and ankles to the brick wall by heavy metal holds, he appeared distressed. Tessa was pacing back and forth in front of him. She came up close. I couldn’t hear their exchange from this distance, and I could barely see what happened next. He grunted, as if someone had punched him in the gut.

Tessa moved to the side, revealing the man’s now exposed penis jutting forward from his pants. Without warning, she slapped his rigid member, eliciting more painful grunts. His bare abdomen tightened with every unwarranted slap, and then released when she rotated her assaults with gentler strokes. He sucked in a sharp breath with a hissing sound when the weapon of play made contact again.

Then she was very close to him, her mouth against his ear. I tried to imagine what she was saying to him, scolding him for some imagined wrongdoing no doubt, reminding him of the rewards of his obedience. As if watching a movie, I caught myself empathizing with his struggle, with his experience. Once again, that look of pleasure mingling with evident pain released an unwanted sensation through my body. Watching Tessa tease and taunt him woke unexpected stirrings too.

“Or perhaps you came to watch.” 

Remy’s words interrupted my blatant gawking at the scene in front of me. Heat suffused my cheeks. He’d caught me being one of those people. His lips lifted with a satisfied smile, as if he were watching a child experience a new wonder for the first time.

“It’s all right, cherie. People here love to watch. There is no shame in that.”

Shakily, I brought my drink to my lips and tried to forget what dominance might feel like. Real dominance. Not just being on top. Heat prickled my skin when I remembered the brief moment of power I’d enjoyed the night before and the incredible intensity from Blake I’d inspired. I’d crossed a line, and I still wasn’t sure what to make of what had happened between us then.

I twisted uncomfortably in my dress, the layered fabric suddenly too hot against me even with all it revealed to Remy and others. We weren’t alone at the bar, and despite the many distractions before me, I could feel his eyes on me every time. His and other men nearby. The number of Doms per capita was high in this building.

Would I always recognize that kind of man when one crossed my path, because of the way Blake made me feel? Maybe, but something was different with Blake—everything was different.

I began to panic that he’d misunderstood my earlier text. I’d only told him to meet me at the club. Maybe I should have been more clear, sent an address. Jesus, what if I was stuck here in this godforsaken place at Remy’s mercy? My previous thought of him having a cage reared up in my mind.

I inhaled a steadying breath and tossed back the rest of my drink. I turned my wrist only to realize I’d left my watch at Alli’s apartment. Time ticked on, and I was no closer to my goal.

“Are you certain he’s coming?”

“Yes,” I replied quickly. “Is this your place?” I hoped to distract him from Blake’s absence.

“Yes, I own La Perle. I have for many years.”

“Has it always been…like this?” I tried to sound casual, but I was certain Remy wasn’t mistaking my novice curiosity with anything akin to confidence.

“Always.” He motioned for the bartender and pushed my empty drink toward her. Turning back to me, he asked, “Do you know what it means?”


“La Perle.”

“It’s French for ‘pearl’ isn’t it?”

“Of course, but do you know why?”

I shook my head and he leaned in as if to tell me a secret. He was still standing, but his body was close, too close. Suddenly tense, I swiveled toward the bar as the bartender placed another drink on the dark wooden surface. Remy’s hand went to the back of the stool. His whisper was hot, an unwelcome sensation against my skin. I tried to mask a shiver.

“You are wise to be afraid. If I didn’t know Landon, I would show far less restraint with you.”

I exhaled a panicked breath and stared down at the bar, unwilling to look into the man’s eyes and give anything else away. 

“Because this is not a place for restraint,” he continued in a slightly less predatory tone. “At least not for men like me. Perhaps for you…but only to reveal la perle, the succulent treasure at the center of you, cherie.” 

I frowned. I didn’t know what he meant, and I didn’t want to.

“The pearl, like your submission, Erica, is an object of great beauty. The most precious pearls are found in the wild…in unexpected places.”

He tucked the hair that had fallen between us, obscuring my face, behind my ear. His touch fell to my shoulder, trailing down to my elbow with heavy intent.

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