“Joss, honey, you’re shaking like a leaf.”

She glanced up guiltily. She hadn’t wanted him to see her nerves. But as he said, she was trembling head to toe. How could he not see it? Or feel it, for that matter. Her hand was solidly twined with his, and her skin felt cold and clammy despite the warmth of the day.

He squeezed and offered her a reassuring smile. “It’s going to be okay. I know you’re nervous, but there’s no reason.”

“It just occurred to me that you have a lot of experience in this lifestyle while I have none,” she muttered. “What do I possibly have to offer you? I’m sure a novice isn’t high on your list of wants.”

He stopped just in front of the door and fixed her with his steely gaze.

“What you have to offer me is something no one else can ever hope to offer me. You, Joss. You’re giving me you and that’s all I want and need. I swear it. You have no idea how long I’ve dreamed of this. Of us. Together. Yes, I want to have sex with you, but it’s so much more than that. You may not believe it yet, but you will. I guarantee it.”

His quiet vow comforted her. She squeezed his hand back and then smiled.

“You’re certainly good for my ego, Dash. I haven’t felt beautiful in so very long. I haven’t felt desirable. I haven’t felt desire, for that matter.”

“And now?” he prompted. “Do you feel it now? For me?”

“Oh yes,” she breathed. “It shocked the hell out of me. I never expected to feel this way about you. Never imagined wanting you so badly. But there it is.”

“Thank fuck,” he muttered. “Glad to know I’m not the only one suffering here.”

She grinned. “Then how about we do something about that suffering?”

He looked shocked. So much so that she regretted her forwardness. Embarrassment crept up her neck, a wave of heat that flooded her cheeks.

Then he let out a low growl, leaning down to claim her mouth.

“I think that’s a damn good idea. Let’s go inside. I’ll get your things later. I want to get you settled in. I want you to be comfortable here, Joss. I want you to consider this . . . home.”

He tugged her inside, a wave of cooler air washing over her, removing the heat from her cheeks.

She’d been to Dash’s many times, but she’d never ventured beyond the living room, the kitchen or the guest bathroom. He led her through the living room and up the stairs to the master bedroom.

A prickle of awareness tingled up her spine as she took in the masculine feel to his bedroom. The bed was huge with a multitude of pillows. It was a four-poster, and she hadn’t imagined him to like that kind of furniture. It almost seemed feminine, something a woman would have in her bedroom.

“What are you thinking?” he queried.

She glanced up and then smiled. “Silly thoughts. I was looking at your bed and thinking that it seemed incongruous with what I know about you. I would have never imagined you having a four-poster.”

A gleam entered his eyes and amusement quirked his lips. “I need something to tie my woman to. It’s only natural that I’d have the proper equipment for the job.”

Heat flooded her cheeks once more. She had to be bright red. Then came the realization that she wouldn’t be the only woman in this bed. It shouldn’t bother her, but it did. Dash owed her no explanations for his past sex life. She’d been married, for God’s sake. She certainly couldn’t have expected him to remain celibate when he didn’t think he’d ever have a chance with her.

“What the hell are you thinking now?” he demanded.

“More silliness,” she murmured.


He wasn’t going to let it go, and hell, she was honest to a fault, much to her detriment.

She sighed. “I was thinking about the other women who’ve been in your bed—this bed,” she said unhappily. “Stupid, I know. But it bothers me.”

Dash turned her so she faced him and he gripped her shoulders, holding her directly in his line of vision.

“There haven’t been any women here, Joss. Not here. I won’t say there haven’t been other women, but I didn’t bring them here. I couldn’t. Maybe before Carson died, I may have gotten to that point, but after? I couldn’t bring myself to even form a relationship. Not when I was so set on you.”

“I don’t even know what to say,” she whispered. “It shouldn’t mean so much, but it does, Dash. It means a lot that there hasn’t been anyone for a while.”

He leaned toward her and kissed her forehead. “It means a lot that there hasn’t been anyone for you since Carson. I was afraid that by waiting so long, by waiting to declare my intentions as long as I did, that I would lose you to another man.”

She wrinkled her nose. “How do you know there haven’t been other men?”

He grinned. “I would have known, Joss. You may not have seen me every day, but I checked up on you. I was watching. And waiting.”

She harrumphed but smiled, touched by the fact he’d been there. Waiting. For her.

He walked her backward until the backs of her legs bumped the edge of the bed. Then he lowered her down until she was perched on the edge. Once she was sitting, he gathered her hands in his and knelt in front of her.

Now, granted she didn’t know everything about dominance and submission, but didn’t he have all this backward? Shouldn’t she be in the position of subservience to him? Not the other way around!

“What are you doing, Dash?” she asked quietly. “Shouldn’t I be the one kneeling for you?”

He smiled, squeezing her hands in his. “Darling Joss. I’m at your feet, literally. I admit it’s not a position I normally find myself in. But with you all the rules change. I wanted to put us on more equal footing for the discussion to come. And perhaps I wanted to humble myself to you to make a point.”

“What point?” she asked curiously.

“That for all the power you cede to me, in fact, it’s you who holds all the power in this relationship we’re embarking on. That may sound contradictory, but it’s absolutely true. You hold all the cards. You’re in the driver’s seat. Because it’s you who decides whether to give me your submission. It takes a strong, confident woman to hand over control to her partner. And the thing is, yes, you are submitting to me, but my desire to please you far outweighs my desire to dominate and control you. Does that make sense?”

She nodded. “I suppose. I just never thought of it in that light.”

“Consider it now,” he directed. “And listen to everything I’m about to tell you. I’m going to lay out the rules, though I hate that word. There are no rules between us, honey. No hard-and-fast guidelines. What we do, I want us to enjoy. I want to bring you pleasure and I want you to please me. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. One I hope we both find happiness in.”

“Fair enough.”

“Now, to get to my expectations. Or rules if you want to call them that. I prefer to consider them requests. Requests that you will choose whether to agree to or not. But I want you to have a very clear picture of what will go on between us because I want you to have the opportunity to back away. It’s not what I want. I hope to f**k you want the same things I do. But there’s only one way to find out. Lay out the ground rules and we’ll go from there.”

“Okay. I’m ready, Dash. Don’t hold back any longer. I’m dying over here because I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to do. I’m so afraid of making a mistake. Of disappointing not only you but myself.”

His smile was exquisitely tender. It made her feel so very warm on the inside where she’d been cold for so very long.

“You won’t disappoint me. I don’t believe it’s possible. The only way you’ll disappoint me is if you walk away without giving us a fair chance. I’m not saying it’s going to be all roses and sunshine in the beginning. There will be adjustments we both have to make. Compromises. But together I think we can overcome any obstacle to our relationship.”

“You say the most wonderful things,” she said in an aching voice. “I don’t know how you’re able to see to the heart of me, how you can know so much about me when I know so little myself.”

He stroked his hand over her cheek and then through her hair to twist the loose strands.

“Rule number one, and these are in no particular order. So bear with me while I get to them all. And be patient. I know you’ll have questions, but try to save them until the end when I’m finished outlining the guidelines. Then, once I’ve covered all the bases, you can ask any questions you want. Anything you don’t understand we’ll talk about. I’ll be as honest as I can possibly be with you, Joss. Even if I worry the truth will frighten or intimidate you.”

“Then tell me,” she said simply. “I’m listening, Dash. I won’t interrupt or question you until you’re finished. No matter how hard that may be,” she added ruefully.

“Okay then, the first is that when you are here with me, in this house and we’re alone, I want you na**d unless I tell you otherwise. Starting now, or rather when we’re finished going over my expectations.”

Her eyes widened but she kept her promise and bit her lip to prevent her immediate objection.

“Second, when I tell you to do something, I expect instant, unconditional obedience. You may not understand why I ask you to do what I ask, but I expect you to trust me and at least be willing to try.”

She nodded. That didn’t sound too hard, although she had no idea what those requests would be. Part of her anticipated the unknown. The other part of her was terrified. She hated not knowing exactly what she was walking into or agreeing to.

“I don’t expect you to kneel in my presence unless I request it. The only time I want you to kneel is if I summon you. Then I’d like you to kneel, with your arms resting on your thighs, palms splayed upward. This is a standard position of submissiveness. Thighs open so that no part of you isn’t accessible to me or my gaze. The only other time is when I return from work or if I’m away for any reason, when I return, I’d like for you to be in the living room, on your knees, waiting for me. I want you to be the very first thing I see when I walk through my door. I want a reason to want to come home, and if you’re here, waiting for me, believe me, sweetheart, it’s what I’ll want more than anything. You, waiting, my reward after a long day.”

She got the impression this was important to Dash. Something he enjoyed and craved. And if that was the case, she wanted to do it for him. She wanted to please him and bring him happiness. She never wanted to disappoint him. She had too much pride for that. No, she may not have the experience other women he’d been with had, but that wasn’t going to prevent her from doing her damn best to be the most desirable submissive he’d ever had a relationship with.

There were no half measures for her. From the moment she’d decided to embark on this new lifestyle and explore her sexuality and her needs, she’d known that she’d throw herself completely into it. No holding back of anything. She’d give wholly and unreservedly of herself and hope that the man she was with would appreciate the gift she gave. And nothing in Dash’s words had given her any reason to doubt that he would most certainly cherish and protect her gift of submission.

“When I issue a command, I expect instant obedience. No hesitation. No questions. I want you to trust me to take you to a place you’ll enjoy and feel safe in. I’ll never ask you to do something that I think you’d object to. That doesn’t mean I won’t push you out of your comfort zone. But as I mentioned earlier, the further we get into this, the faster I’ll learn what your boundaries are and I’ll never purposely cross them unless it’s something we discuss and agree to try.”

Again she nodded, because as with his other expectations, they didn’t seem unreasonable.

“Now, we briefly touched on punishments and pain. Pain can be very erotic if administered correctly. Both for the man and the woman. Many women enjoy a man exerting his dominance with crops, belts, his hand or any number of other methods, all of which I’ll introduce you to over time.

“But I’m not into punishment for the sake of punishments. I prefer to think of them as rewards. Which sounds stupid, but after you’ve experienced the various levels of pain, spanking and other things as well, I think you’ll understand what it is I’m trying to explain to you.

“I will absolutely push the line. I’ll bring you damn close without crossing those lines. I’ll pay attention and in time I’ll be as in tune with your body as even you are. It’s my job as your Dominant to know exactly what you want and need, sometimes even better than you will.”

“I want that,” she said quietly. “I want a man who will take. A man who won’t ask. Who won’t force me to make decisions. I want those choices taken from me. It excites me. I can’t explain the need or the craving I have for that, but it’s there. Maybe it’s always been there. And I want that from you, Dash. I’m prepared to go a lot further with you because I trust you and I know you’d never willingly hurt me.”

“I appreciate that trust, Joss. It humbles me,” he said gently. “You can’t know how precious it is to receive that kind of gift from you.”

“Is there anything else or have we covered it all?”

He smiled. “Impatient little submissive, aren’t you? I love your enthusiasm, Joss. Your willingness to put so much faith in me to know what you’ll enjoy. Yes, there will be other things, but I don’t want to overwhelm you on the very first day you’ve moved into my house.