Ben pointed his beer bottle at Sully. “Which is why we both joined this club in the first place. Neither of us was finding that open-mindedness in the regular dating world.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“You need a reminder, because I remember those days, pretending a quick fuck-and-suck hookup satisfied me. I got goddamn tired of feelin’ like a deviant for what I did want from the women who shared my bed. So while I understand where you’re coming from, I also ain’t gonna kid myself that I’ll ever find the type of woman I want outside of a club like this.”
Sully whistled. “That’s a harsh answer.”
“But it’s a no bullshit answer. It was…liberating when I stopped lying to myself that my membership in this club was temporary.”
Sully’s astute gaze pinned him in place. “You looking for a permanent sub too?”
“Even if I was, I doubt I’d find one.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“Says the lawyer,” Ben drawled. “So, why haven’t you asked the redhead out?”
“Scared to. What if I find out she’s a kindergarten teacher who reads to the elderly in her spare time?” Sully dropped his voice. “Would I be able to fuck her as hard and raw as I did before? Or what if the attraction only makes sense in the club?”
“I hear ya. Which is why I haven’t played with a woman from this club, outside the club, for a while.”
“A while?” Sully repeated with confusion.
“Can you blame me after what happened with Zoe?”
“No. Hell, I’d forgotten about her.”
“Wish I could,” Ben muttered. Zoe had been sweet at first, and he’d even taken her to his house—which was a rarity. Didn’t take long to discover she needed far more pain in her sex play than he was comfortable dishing out. Zoe preferred to be caned. Not occasionally, but as a prelude to every sexual encounter. And she hadn’t wanted the marks only on her ass; she’d demanded them on her legs, arms and back.
When Ben refused to beat her that severely, Zoe turned nasty, threatening to blab far and wide about Ben’s sexual appetites. That’s when he’d discovered she lived in his hometown. Ben feared how much damage that type of rumor could do to him—a man who fiercely guarded his privacy, especially within his enormous family and within the conservative ranching community. The only reason she hadn’t blabbed was under threat of expulsion from the club. And luckily, she’d been scarce in recent months. Still, Ben had asked himself if the misstep he’d made with her had been his fault. If he’d just talked to her honestly, would it have had a positive outcome for both of them?
The incident reinforced Ben’s decision to keep the two halves of himself separate: Bennett, the sexual dominant, and Ben, the laid-back rancher. The women who appealed to Bennett would never find a permanent place in Ben’s life. Inside the club he never spoke of his life outside the club.
One thing the incident hadn’t changed? The fact Ben liked sexual variety. He liked devoting a few nights to a woman, figuring out what she needed, giving it to her and heightening the sexual experience for both of them. He knew that’s why he excelled at domination games: he didn’t get complacent. Or attached.
“Earth to Bennett. You still with me, man?”
Ben glanced up from his beer. “Yeah. Just thinking. Wondering what’s in store for me tonight.”
“I’m so glad you asked,” Cody said behind him.
He faced his buddy who owned the Rawhide Bar. “Already planned something for me? I’m hoping it involves a hot blonde and a pair of handcuffs.”
Cody snorted. “There’s a door upstairs that’s sticking, floor trim that’s come loose, and a couple other things that are beyond my handyman abilities.”
“You been saving shit jobs for me so I’ll feel useful when I show up?”
“Fuck no. We all know you’re useless.” He and Sully laughed when Ben flipped them off. “Seriously, I could use your carpentry skills.”
Ben drained his beer. “Let’s get it done before the club opens, so floor trim ain’t the only thing I’m nailing tonight.”
“What does one wear to a sex club?”
“Speaking as a submissive, I wear whatever I’m told to wear. Or more to the point, what I’m told not to wear.”
Depressed by her dull clothing choices, Ainsley focused on her friend Layla. “But I’m not a submissive, so am I supposed to adorn myself like a badass dominatrix?”
“Well, Miz Hamilton, did you bring a selection of latex and leather?”
“What do you think?”
“I’d be shocked if a bank executive openly admitted owning fetish wear.” Layla smiled impishly. “Besides, the Rawhide Club is a private club, like the Elks Club or the Moose Lodge.”
Before Ainsley could retort, Layla bounced off the bed and inspected the clothes hanging in the tiny hotel room closet. “Don’t you have a corset?”
She doubted a girdle counted. “No.”
Layla rummaged inside her mini-suitcase and tossed out pieces of lingerie. “I have exactly what you need to get appropriately dolled up.” She draped a red and black polka-dotted push up bra over her shoulder, then a matching g-string, followed by a lacy black peignoir and a red satin kimono.
“Isn’t it a little obvious I’m on the prowl for sex if I waltz in wearing my underwear?”
“Girlfriend, what part of looking sexy to get you hot sex is confusing? That’s why this club is in existence.”
“So it is a sex club.”
Ainsley groaned and flopped on the bed. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe she should’ve stayed home and organized her spice cupboard.
No. You need to add spice to your life—specifically your sex life—not keep it bottled up in your kitchen.
Layla bounced on the bed beside her. “What’s really going on?”
“What if I can’t? I mean, what if Dean was right?” Beg any decent man to tie you up and spank you during sex and he’ll be out the door.
“First of all, your ex-husband was a tool. He blamed you for his…ah…shortcomings.”
“Look, sweetie, we’ve been friends for a long time. You settled for Dean. You were over thirty, panicked about being unmarried and alone, and picked the first guy who wasn’t a total troll. Your sex life with him was as predictable as every other part of your life with him. It wasn’t a good match, no matter how hard you tried to convince yourself otherwise.”
“True. Thanks for the pep talk.”
“The club may not be your thing. But you won’t know unless you try it.”
“Murphy is okay with me just observing?” The other club she’d visited had strict policies about guest expectations. She hoped she didn’t stand out like some wide-eyed wannabe tonight, although technically, she was.
Layla smirked. “I handled Murphy. You are my old friend, Angel, from my banking days.” Her phone buzzed and she said, “Give me a minute.”
Ainsley’s thoughts drifted to her failed marriage as she stared at the hotel room ceiling. During the first year of wedded bliss, both she and Dean were so smug about how theirs was a true partnership. Neither had more control financially, emotionally or physically over the other. They were equals. They both held upper level management jobs in the banking industry. They shared the household chores. They took turns cooking and doing laundry.
The only change during their second year of marriage was their sex life became more perfunctory. But they’d talked about it, Dean assuring her that desire fades. Reminding her that friendship, companionship, open communication, common interests and mutual career goals were far more important than sex.
During their third year of marriage, what Ainsley thought she’d loved about Dean began to drive her crazy. His insistence on everything being a joint decision. From where they ate dinner, to the type of wine they drank, to which place changed the oil in their cars. When he asked for her help in choosing a spring vacation destination, she’d suggested that he surprise her. He argued surprises weren’t fun. She argued meticulous planning wasn’t fun. That’s when they started to argue about a lot of other things.
Ainsley realized while she appreciated some aspects of a well-ordered life, there was something missing in hers. Passion. Excitement. Spontaneity.
One night, in year four, she’d decided to rev up their sex life. She stripped in the living room in front of the TV, dropped to all fours and asked Dean to fuck her from behind.
Flustered by her crude demand, Dean refused.
She tried again a few weeks later, on the way home from a cocktail party. Tipsy and feeling naughty, she tried to give Dean a blowjob in their Volvo.
Flustered once again, Dean refused.
The following month her attempt to entice him into light bedroom bondage using his Brooks Brothers’ ties netted the same result: a big fat no. As did her suggestion that he punish her wanton, wicked ways with a spanking.
At that point Dean suggested she needed counseling.
At that point Ainsley suggested he needed Viagra.
And that’s when their supposedly perfect marriage fell apart. Not only because Ainsley craved variety in the bedroom, but the way she’d voiced her concerns to her husband—he wasn’t seeing to her needs—had put Dean on the defensive. He became cruel. Cutting. Condescending. What she saw as an attempt to improve the intimacy in their marriage Dean saw as her attempt to force him into becoming a type of man he wasn’t. A type of man he’d never be.
So for all her bold talk, in the last year and a half since her divorce, Ainsley hadn’t done a single thing to take charge of her sexuality except increase her collection of vibrators.
One night after an extra glass of liquid courage, she’d asked Layla for advice on how to kink up her sex life. Because Layla’s relationship with her longtime squeeze, Murphy, was kinky indeed—Layla was a fulltime submissive and Murphy was her dominant.