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She nodded her understanding.

“Now, many people in these kinds of relationships use safe words. I’m not a fan of them myself, but I understand the necessity of them. Especially for a woman being introduced to this world for the first time. After a while you won’t need a safe word because it’s my job to find out your boundaries and push you to the very edge without crossing that line. Does that make sense?”

“Chessy told me it was important to communicate with the man I . . . experimented . . . with that I was new to the scene and to make it clear I reserved the right to pull the plug at any time.”

“Chessy is a very smart woman. She’s knowledgeable about the lifestyle,” Dash said.

“She should be,” Joss muttered. “She and Tate . . . Well, you know since you both have memberships at The House.”

Dash smiled. “I can see the question in your eyes. I could swear I also see a hint of jealousy. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part. You want to know if I’ve ever seen Chessy and Tate, and specifically Chessy . . . na**d. Am I right?”

“I’m more interested in whether or not you’ve ever been with her,” Joss said quietly.

Dash’s expression softened. “Did Chessy tell you Tate shared her with other men?”

Joss’s eyes widened. “Does he?”

Dash chuckled. “Guess you aren’t as knowledgeable as perhaps I thought.”

“That’s not an answer!”

“Does the idea of me being with Chessy bother you?” he asked curiously.

Joss flushed. “Yes. No! Yes, damn it, it does. Sorry. I know I can’t judge your past. But yeah, it bothers me a lot. I mean I know you’ve had other women. I would certainly have never expected you to wait for me forever. How could you have known Carson would die and leave that opportunity for you? But the idea of you being with my friend . . . Yes, it bothers me. I won’t lie.”

Dash slid his hand over hers, squeezing warmly. “Sorry, honey. I was teasing you and I shouldn’t have. To answer your multitude of questions, yes, Tate does, upon occasion, share Chessy with other men. No, I’ve never participated. Yes, I’ve seen her na**d, though I’ve tried to be careful and avoid The House when I know they’re going to be there.”

Joss latched onto the part about Tate sharing Chessy with other men. It boggled her mind because Tate was forbiddingly possessive of Chessy. When they were together, Tate was always in touching distance. When Joss had been married, it hadn’t bothered her. She hadn’t been envious. She’d been thrilled that her friend was married to a man who so obviously adored her. Jealous of the kind of relationship they had? Yes, a tiny part of her had been very envious.

After Carson had died, it had been painful to watch Tate with Chessy because it reminded her of all she’d had and lost. That close connection to another man. The knowledge that he loved her absolutely and without measure.

“He shares her?” Joss asked again, incredulity seeping into her voice.

Dash gave her a gentle smile. “It’s who and what they are, honey. It’s a kink they both enjoy. Tate likes to watch while another man dominates his wife—under his direction. So technically the Dominant acting out a scene with Chessy is in fact submissive because he takes orders from Tate.”

Joss shivered at the mental image and wondered what that was like. Could she have sex with a man while Dash watched and directed? Her ni**les tightened and came to erect points. Her respirations sped up as pictures flashed through her mind. It was too much to take in. Yes, she’d known of Chessy and Tate’s relationship. She knew Chessy gave one hundred percent of her submission to Tate, in and out of the bedroom as she’d discovered recently.

What was it Chessy had said? That she was Tate’s to do with as he chose. She hadn’t considered to what extent that held true, but wow. As shocking as it was, it was also extremely . . . arousing.

“Is that something that turns you on?” he asked silkily.

She caught his gaze and saw his eyes glittering and she wondered if it turned him on. Would he want to do that with her? Give her to another man while he stood on the sidelines? She hadn’t imagined Dash to be the sort who would share anything, especially a woman he was in a relationship with.

“I don’t know,” she said honestly. “In theory it sounds . . . hot. But the reality? I’m not sure how I’d feel about that. It’s definitely not something I’d want to do right away. I would think that takes a certain level of comfort. And trust.”

Dash nodded. “Very true. The man and the woman have to be in complete accord. Their relationship has to be cemented before introducing elements like that. For the woman, she has to have complete trust in her Dominant in order to allow him to give her to another man. That kind of trust is priceless.”

“And for the man?” Joss asked, her curiosity only growing. She felt horribly naïve and ignorant of such things. But now that she’d begun her journey into that very world, she was starved for knowledge. It all fascinated her. “What does he get out of it? Wouldn’t he have to have absolute faith in the woman he gives to another man?”

Dash nodded again. “Absolutely. The man has to trust that he is able to provide everything his woman needs, and that her experience with another man is not only pleasurable for both himself and her, but he also has to trust that when it’s all said and done, he is the one she goes home with, is committed to, and that the experience doesn’t give her a taste of the forbidden that she indulges in when he’s not a participant.”

“Permission to cheat,” Joss murmured. “It blows my mind.”

“No, not cheating,” Dash corrected. “Not at all. Cheating is emotional betrayal. When consent is given by both parties, there is no betrayal. It’s why a relationship has to be absolutely solid before ever venturing into that territory. There can be no doubts, no misgivings, and trust has to be well established between the couple. Otherwise it’s a doomed exercise.”

Joss cocked her head to the side. “Does it not work out sometimes? I mean do you know of situations where jealousy became involved? Or the woman ends up cheating or is no longer satisfied with what her Dominant is giving her?”

Dash shrugged. “Of course. It happens. I’ve witnessed couples still in the beginning stages of their relationship rush into situations they have no business being in. It usually doesn’t end well. I’ve found what most often happens is that the man becomes jealous over another man pleasuring his woman and then he starts to doubt his own abilities. He mentally compares himself with the other man in question. Wonders if the guy pleases her more than he can. If she prefers the other guy to her Dominant. As I said, it takes a special level of commitment and trust for such an arrangement to work.”

“And it works for Tate and Chessy,” she said.

It wasn’t voiced as a question, but the inflection at the end of her words made it such.

“Yes, it does apparently,” Dash replied. “They’re happy. Tate is happy. Chessy is happy.”

Joss frowned. “I’m not so sure anymore, Dash. I’m worried about Chessy.”

Dash’s brow furrowed. “What makes you say that?”

Joss shook her head. “I shouldn’t have said anything. I don’t want it to get back to Tate. It could be nothing. Just a feeling I have.”

Dash frowned. “I’d never betray your confidence, Joss. Nor do I indulge in gossip. And I damn sure wouldn’t tell Tate anything that made him doubt his wife. But I’d like to know why you have your ‘feeling.’”

Joss sighed. “I don’t know really. She just seems . . . unhappy . . . lately. She hasn’t said anything. I know that Tate has been very busy at work. But I don’t think I’m imagining it. Kylie has noticed too. She actually worried that . . .”

She broke off, ashamed to voice what Kylie had suggested. She genuinely liked Tate, and she didn’t believe for a minute that he would abuse Chessy in any way. Things may not be perfect between them but there was no way Tate would ever hurt Chessy. Not physically.

“She worried what?” Dash demanded, concern replacing his frown.

“I shouldn’t say anything,” Joss said.

“It’s too late for that. Now what did Kylie say?”

Joss grimaced. “She worried that Tate was abusing Chessy. We had lunch together. You know that. And I don’t know, Dash. She just seems so unhappy lately. And if you bring Tate up, she clams up and gets this look on her face.”

Dash looked incredulous. “Kylie actually thinks Tate abuses her?”

“I don’t know,” Joss said honestly. “Kylie is . . . Well, you know how she is. You know what she and Carson both suffered. So it’s natural that she would jump to conclusions others wouldn’t.”

Dash shook his head. “No f**king way. The sun rises and sets at Chessy’s feet. Tate is crazy about her. If she’s not happy, there has to be another reason. Maybe they argued. Who knows?”

“Maybe,” Joss said. “I don’t think he abuses her either. Not for a minute. I like him. I like him a lot. And he’s so good to Chessy. I look at them and I feel so . . . envious. It shames me to admit that, but it’s true. I look at them and I want—crave—what they have.”

Dash reached out to stroke her cheek, feathering his thumb over her skin. “You’ll have it, Joss. All you have to do is reach out and take it. It’s yours. I’m yours. For as long as you’ll have me.”

She sucked in her breath. Yes, she knew he wanted her. He’d certainly been blunt enough about that. But he made it sound so . . . permanent. And she had no idea what to think about that.

She wasn’t looking for permanent. She didn’t want permanent. She’d found the love of a lifetime and lost it. She knew she’d never get that back. People just didn’t find perfection twice in a lifetime. Once was hard enough, but twice? Impossible.

She licked her lips, suddenly uncomfortable with the direction of her thoughts.

“What about you?” she asked huskily, returning the topic to them. “Have you ever shared the woman you’re with? Is that something you enjoy?”

“With the right woman, yes. I can’t say I’m lining up to do that with you, though. I’ve spent too long fantasizing about what it would be like to have you in my bed, under my control. There’s no way in hell I want to immediately jump into sharing you with anyone. I’m not saying never. If it’s something that turns you on and it’s something you want to explore at a later date, then we can cross that bridge when we get to it. For now? I’m more focused on you and me, specifically you. I’m a selfish bastard and I’m very possessive of what I consider mine. And Joss, you are mine.”

Her cheeks warmed again, but she couldn’t suppress the surge of pleasure that winged its way through her veins.

“I’m very okay with that,” she whispered.

He smiled. “That’s good. Now, let’s get back to your boundaries and my expectations.”

She immediately tuned in, anxious to hear what all this . . . arrangement . . . entailed.

“To start with, we’ll establish a safe word for you. It’s important that you only use it when you’re genuinely frightened, uncertain or if something hurts you. If anything I do ever hurts you I want to know about it immediately because it will never happen again. We clear?”

She nodded.

“In time I’ll know your limits even better than you,” he said in a confident tone that caused her heartbeat to speed up.

“And your expectations, Dash?” she prompted.

“It’s really simple,” he said. “By offering me the gift of your submission, you’re placing your care and well-being in my hands. I expect your obedience and your respect. Now, respect has to be earned. I get that. And I’ll earn it. Obedience, however, is taught, and I’ll teach you well. You’ll obey my instructions without question or hesitation. If you truly don’t understand a command, you’ve only to ask and I’ll explain. But don’t question just because you’re nervous or hesitant about complying with my wishes, because that will not please me.”

Her eyes widened. It surprised her how horrified she was over the idea of not pleasing him. She wanted to make him happy. She wanted him to be proud of her, to take pride in her. And she never wanted to do anything to shame him or make him regret their relationship.

Was it her natural submissiveness guiding the ship here? Had she always been this way and suppressed it because she didn’t understand it or realize what it was she wanted? Or perhaps she’d only recognized it when she’d come into contact with others in the lifestyle. They’d made her see what it was she was missing.

She licked her suddenly dry lips again. “Are there punishments involved? I know some Dominants . . . Well, I’ve heard that they punish their women if they disobey or displease them. Is that something you do?”

He smiled. “Many find punishments to be pleasurable. In many cases, punishment is in fact a reward. It sounds twisted and contradictory, but pain can be very erotic, as can control and authority. As to whether I enjoy punishments, the answer is yes. In certain situations.”

“Which situations?” she pressed.

“Does the idea of my hand on your pretty ass arouse you, Joss? Does the idea of me tying you up so you’re utterly helpless and then flogging you make you hot?”

Her entire body was one giant flush of heat.

“Is it wrong of me to say yes?” she whispered.

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