Beyond Addiction, Prequel
The Prequel to BEYOND ADDICTION
And memories, an enticing new Dom…did she have the courage to say yes?
Fallon Crowe has been out of the D/S life since she managed to break away from an abusive Dom that she had become addicted to. Her social life had been nonexistent but for her it was safer that way. Cord Jamieson had become a world-weary Dom. Even the twists of pleasure he enjoyed so much had lost much of their appeal.
Until he met Fallon. It was a business arrangement. Her marketing firm would contract a project for him. But the electricity between them lit up the sky. Could they move forward together with a renewed interest in D/s heightened by the intense emotional connection?
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If she keeps nibbling her bottom lip like that, I’m going to take her down to the floor right here in this restaurant.
Cord Jamieson slouched in the booth, studying the woman across from him. She was typing furiously on her netbook, her lower lip caught between her teeth in a way that made him want to thrust his tongue into her mouth. Her red top showed just a hint of cleavage. He’d already memorized the lush curves that enhanced her medium frame. Streaky blonde hair fell in a curtain around her face, emphasizing high cheekbones and unusual violet eyes.
The moment he’d been introduced to Fallon Crowe, the instant they shook hands, the electricity of the connection shocked him. He couldn’t remember the last time a woman had hit him that hard, if ever. He saw the effect reflected in her eyes, too, and in the way she quickly removed her hand from his.
The awareness was still front and center—as well as that intangible something, that undeniable feeling when like recognized like.
Did she get it too? Did she recognize him as a Dom, just as he knew without question she was a natural submissive?
Like many of the subs Cord knew, Fallon was a confident career woman, very sure of herself. Still, the latent need to be dominated was there, all right.
Hiring her to do the promotion for his ranch and plan the facility’s opening event bought him time to truly assess the situation. He was having a hard time chasing his recurring fantasy of her naked, on her knees, hands bound behind her back, her full lips wrapped around his cock. His currently very hard, swollen cock.
All the desires he’d been tamping down for the two months since they’d first met wanted to come roaring back. The need to dominate. To play the games that had been such an integral part of his life for so long.
Or was it just wishful thinking on his part? She’d been very careful to avoid any touching since that single handshake, almost as if she was afraid of her reaction to him.
Cord had certainly expected a dry spell upon arriving in this very conservative community to revitalize a failing ranch, turning it into a working one with a little tourist attraction thrown in. He didn’t think this area was much into BDSM. Traveling back and forth between Dallas and the Texas Hill Country had kept him busier than he’d expected since he bought the old ranch. Restocking the herd. Hiring new hands. Interviewing a foreman. Meeting with architects. The planning commission. The county commission.
Too busy to satisfy his needs.
His head ached just thinking about it all. Other parts of his body ached too.
He wondered what Fallon’s story was. She’d certainly been avoiding the little test signals he’d sent out. Had her last Dom been insensitive? Uncaring? Too harsh in the games they’d played? God, how Cord hated when that happened. It cast a blight on the whole lifestyle.
The thought of restraining her and paddling what he was sure was a very sweet ass nearly made him moan. It had to be the unusual abstinence that was making him so horny.
Knock it off or you’ll embarrass yourself.
Fallon looked up from her keyboard, a tiny vertical frown between her eyebrows.
“I’m sorry this is taking so long.” God, he could listen to her voice forever. “I want to make sure I’ve included all the notes you brought.”
“Take your time. I’m happy with the work you’ve done so far. I guess I should consider myself lucky. I understand you’re the best around, although you were on sort of sabbatical for a while?”
A shadow of sadness washed through her gaze for just an instant. What was that about? Family problems? Something else? Probably something he didn’t want to know. He sat up a little straighter and signaled for the waiter.
“Another drink, Fallon? Maybe some wine?”
“Oh,” she sighed. “Wine sounds great but not when I’m working. A soda will be fine.” She smiled. “I’ll be done in just a few seconds. Then you can scroll through to see if it’s what you want.”
Cord looked around the restaurant as he sipped his drink. Fallon preferred meeting here rather than her office, which was in her house. After the lunch crowd left, they pretty much had the place to themselves. This was one of very few upscale watering holes in the county yet still rustic enough that he didn’t feel as if he was back in Dallas, where the claustrophobic environment of the city was choking him little by little. He was just tired of it all.
Forty was just around the corner. Before it hit he wanted a change in his life. He was suddenly tired of the seemingly endless parade of subs, women who meant little to him except for the exchange of physical pleasure. It had been his choice, of course, only now he wanted to choose something different. For a while he even thought about giving up the D/s lifestyle, except it was too ingrained in him. Like a drug that he couldn’t kick. The tension in his body after two months of practically enforced abstinence showed him he was too addicted to change now.
“Thanks for being so patient,” Fallon said, tucking her hair behind her ear.
The little gesture always turned him on. Hell, everything about her turned him on.
“No problem,” he assured her.
He lifted his bourbon on the rocks, sipping it slowly. He didn’t need alcohol dulling his brain for what he had in mind later on. Today was their fourth meeting, and he finally had a plan he thought might work. Get her in a private situation, something much less public than this restaurant, even if it was nearly empty. Away from any and all prying eyes so he could let her know what he wanted. See if she wanted it too.
If for some reason she was reluctant, he certainly wouldn’t force her. That wasn’t part of his personality. But holy shit, he wanted to top her more than he’d ever wanted to dominate a woman.
Take it easy, asshole. You’re not talking about a life commitment here.
But wasn’t that exactly what had been rambling around in the back of his mind? Forget all the casual playing and settle down with the right person?
He mentally kicked himself. First he had to see if she was as interested in him as he was in her. Then they could take it from there. Sweet Jesus, she got to him deep down in a way no woman ever had, and he hadn’t even fucked her yet.
Cord figured if he didn’t do something soon, his balls would explode. Good thing he was able to work out his energy lately by herding the new cattle and testing out the horses.
“Okay.” Fallon turned the little netbook to face him. “I’ve got everything in here, from the first press release through the entire campaign to the opening event. Take a look at this timeline. Tell me what you think.”
He scrolled through the document, noting she’d incorporated all his suggestions and taken them to the next level. It was an excellent campaign to tickle the public’s interest, right up to the invitation-only opening party targeting the people who could make his venture a success. Cord nodded, sliding the computer back to her.
“Looks good. Send ‘em a copy. Then you can get started on the graphics.”
“Great! I’m so glad you’re happy with it.”
She caught her bottom lip in her teeth as she saved the document and emailed it to him. Watching her, Cord thought if his cock got any bigger or harder he’d never be able to get out of this booth.
He set his drink down and leaned forward across the table, nudging the laptop to the side. “Fallon.”
“You haven’t seen the ranch in a few weeks. A lot of work’s taken place. I think it would be a good idea for you to come on out. Bring your camera. Take some pictures.”
She frowned again then nodded. “Sure. You’re absolutely right. Maybe I can do an early press release, sort of an ‘in process’ kind of thing. When would you like to do it?”
I’d like to do it right now.
“I was thinking you could come out later this afternoon. I can take you around on the four-wheeler then throw a couple of steaks on the grill.” He grinned. “It’s still pretty rustic but definitely ready for one visitor.”
“Oh, I’m not sure—”
He closed his hand over one of hers. “Afraid of me, Fallon?”
She didn’t pull her hand away, which Cord considered a good sign.
“Um, no. Of course not. I just don’t know if—”
“If you trust yourself with me?” He made his tone teasing although he saw the answer in her eyes.
Her breathing hitched just a little. Leaning closer he could see the pulse at the hollow of her throat beating.
Her cheeks flushed a becoming shade of pink. She jerked her hand away, sliding her gaze back to her computer. She distracted herself by finishing her drink then closed down the netbook. When she looked back at him, her emotions were under control.
“That would be very nice. I often have onsite meals with clients. Gives me a feel for the place.”
That isn’t all you’re going to feel if I have my way.
“Then it’s settled.” He looked at his watch. “How does five o’clock sound?”
“Fine.” She slid the little computer into her briefcase. “But then I insist on paying for lunch.” Her smile was like a sensual caress.
“Uh-uh. I’m the client; I get to decide who pays for what.”
“If you agree then I can deduct it as a business expense,” she pointed out.
“Maybe next time.” He signed the tab for their meal and unfolded himself out of the booth. “See you at five?”
He waited for her to stand then guided her to the door with a light touch at her elbow. She tensed but didn’t move away. Cord thought he’d give his brand new bull to know what her conflict was—him or the whole D/s thing. Was she fighting it? If so, why?
In the parking lot they stopped at her car. It was all Cord could do not to cup her face and taste the full lips he’d been staring at for the last two hours. Instead he stepped away.
“See you at five.”
She nodded. “Looking forward to it.”
He hoped so, because he certainly was. Meantime, he had a lot of preparations to take care of.
Fallon placed her briefcase on her desk and was just removing the netbook when the doorbell rang. Damn. She needed room to breathe. Time to straighten out her head before showing up at Comanche Pass Ranch. The last thing she needed right now was someone cluttering up her space and distracting her.
“I thought I’d take a chance. See if you were home.” Claire Panetta stood on her front stoop, smiling. “You had lunch with Tall, Dark and Much Too Dangerous today, right?”
Fallon sighed then opened the door wider. The two women had been friends since high school. Claire was the only one in Fallon’s vanilla circle who knew the other side of her life. The addictive side, which she had a feeling was about to get her in big trouble.
“Come on back to the den,” she said. “I’ll pour us each a glass of wine.”
“Is that an ‘uh-oh’ drink or a ‘yeehaw’ drink?”
“I’m not sure. Let me get our drinks. It’s a nice day today. Not too hot. We can sit out on the patio.”
However, when they were stretched out on padded loungers, sipping their wine, Fallon wasn’t sure where to start.
“So how was lunch?” Claire asked again. “This is what? The third time? Fourth? Are you past the ‘this is just business’ hurdle yet?”
Fallon ran her finger around the rim of her glass. “It is just business, Claire. I keep telling you that.”
“You also told me you immediately recognized him as a Dom. A strong one. I’d think that would appeal to you.”
A shiver skated down Fallon’s spine. The signals had been there from the beginning. From the moment they shook hands and she looked in his eyes. After all these years, she knew the signs instinctively. For a long time, ever since Brian, she’d avoided the lifestyle, but for Fallon it was almost like trying to stop eating. Or breathing. The past fourteen months had been miserable. Only the challenge of rebuilding her business had kept her sane.
“The best reason for me not to get involved with him,” she said. “The last really strong Dom I got involved with turned into a disaster, as you well know. I should have turned down the account.”
Claire pulled her sunglasses down the bridge of her nose, looking at Fallon over the rim. “Try selling that to someone else. I hear your tone of voice when you even mention his name.”
“You know exactly why I can’t do this.”
“Oh, horseshit.” Claire took a healthy swallow of wine. “Are you going to let that bastard Brian ruin your life forever? None of what happened was your fault.”
Fallon stared into her wineglass. “If I had been more respectful to him, or more accommodating…”
“Again, I say horseshit.” Claire sat up and swung her legs over the side of the lounger. “I don’t pretend to understand what draws you to the lifestyle, kiddo. I don’t judge you, either. Different strokes and all, you know? I have a feeling, though, just from the couple of times I’ve seen him that Cord Jamieson is a totally different animal from Brian Willoughby. They may have the lifestyle in common but I’ll bet they approach it differently.”
Fallon shrugged. “Maybe I just can’t take the chance.”
“I think it’s time you did. Brian went beyond dominant. I don’t presume to know everything, although I’ve done a lot of reading just so I can understand the lifestyle when we talk about it. I know a good, responsible Dom never, ever abuses his sub. Never takes her beyond her limits. Never inflicts harm.”
“Claire—” Fallon began.
“Listen to me. Brian was a sadistic son of a bitch who used his position as a Dom to inflict excessive punishment. It wasn’t you, kiddo, it was him. All him.” She peered at Fallon over her sunglasses again. “Are you hearing me?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
“But not listening.” Claire finished the rest of her wine. “Don’t move. I’ll be right back.”
She returned with the open bottle, topped off Fallon’s glass and refilled her own. “So…” she said, arranging herself on the lounger again. “About Tall, Dark and Much Too Dangerous. He whose name never passes your lips.”
“Cord Jamieson.” Fallon said the name deliberately. “There. See? No problem.”
“So tell me about lunch.”
“God, Claire.” She pushed her hair away from her face. “I’m so conflicted here! My brain tells me I should keep this strictly business. It’s turning into a very lucrative account for me.”
“Really?” One eyebrow arched. “If you’ll pardon me, your pussy and your nipples are telling you something else.”
Fallon’s cheeks heated. As close as the two women were, despite the many erotic things she’d experienced, it still embarrassed her slightly when her friend spoke so plainly. A Dom had once told her that was one of her most appealing qualities, her ability to still blush.
“He wants me to come out to Comanche Pass Ranch at five for a tour,” she blurted out. “And dinner on the grill.”
“Well, hell. If you don’t go, maybe I will.”
Fallon laughed. “You’d run from a Dom like him as if your pants were on fire. Believe me. After all these years, I recognize him for exactly what he is.”
Claire studied her. “So why are you running from him? Still scared? Fallon, you know you can’t turn your back on the lifestyle any more than you can stop breathing. You said he doesn’t give off negative vibes.”
Fallon stared out across the yard. “Maybe I just don’t trust my judgment anymore.”
Claire waited a heartbeat before commenting. “Again, Brian was an abusive person. He used the D/s lifestyle to cloak what he really was.”
Tears burned against Fallon’s eyelids. “He hurt me, Claire. A lot. But worse than that, he made me feel it was my fault.”
“So you’ll… what, just walk away from any relationship? From life?”
Now it was Fallon’s turn to hesitate. “I wish I could,” she said in a very low voice. “Every time I close my eyes, I… remember.”
“Maybe it’s time to make new memories, kiddo.”
“Oh, Claire, I just don’t know.” She took a swallow of wine.
“You’ve stayed away from any contact with the lifestyle for months,” Claire pointed out. “You can’t tell me it hasn’t bothered you. I see how edgy you are. You’ve been addicted to it for years. I don’t think quitting cold turkey was the best thing to do.”
“Not even for a good reason?”
Her friend sighed. “We are what we are. That’s just the plain truth. All I know is you haven’t been happy for a long time. It isn’t just the aftereffects of what happened with Brian, either.”
“That’s a good part of it.”
“One man. One lousy, stinking man. Don’t let him fuck up your life, Fallon. That way he really wins. Get back into what you love. You’ll be a lot more careful this time.” She laughed. “Besides, Mr. Tall, Dark and Much Too Dangerous may look like Brian but I didn’t get the same vibes from him the couple of times I ran into the two of you. The way he acts around you, it seems as if he’d give you the respect Brian never did.”
“I didn’t spot it in Brian, either,” Fallon pointed out.
Claire snorted. “I never liked him from day one, but you were so besotted you wouldn’t have listened to me.”
“All the wrong things. I know you’ll be more cautious this time. I say go for it.” She smiled. “Fallon, this is what you want. This is your life. And Cord Jamieson does not give off bad vibes.”
“The thing is, Claire…” Fallon scraped her fingernail along the outside of her glass. “I really like this guy. I think I could like him even more. What if—”
“No ifs, remember?”
“Okay, okay.” Fallon sighed and looked at her watch. “In that case, I’ve got some work to do before I get ready to step into his lair.”
“I’ll get out of here so you can get to it.” Claire studied her with a wicked gleam in her eyes. “Remember, I expect a full report.”