Dark Control an all-new sexy standalone by Annabel Joseph is available NOW!
Dark Control by Annabel Joseph
Release Date: September 25th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Not all fantasies are safe, sane, and consensual. Welcome to the world of The Gallery…
Juliet meets Fort St. Clair on a miserable, drunken night, and wakes up the next morning cuffed to his guest room bed. Of course, Fort would never take advantage of her. No, the pleasure and pain he wants to inflict on her body must be negotiated in advance, because once Juliet sets foot in his private, exclusive dungeon, she belongs to him.
BDSM at The Gallery is supposed to be a straightforward arrangement, an affair by the rules, but Juliet and Fort’s growing connection brings unexpected emotions they can’t control. She’s the free spirit who transforms his rigid world, and he’s the Dominant she can finally trust—or can she?
I crossed to join him on the sofa, leaving some space between us for the questions and uneasiness to fit. He put his cup on the table behind him, then reached across the space to touch the top of my knee. His fingers trailed over the place he’d grabbed me last night, lightly, nothing sexual now. He wanted to discuss things. A future for us, maybe.
Next, he tilted my neck, inspecting the place where he’d bit me, his touch lingering like he might still soothe the pain. “No marks,” he said. “At least nothing obvious. You feel okay?”
“Yes, I feel fine.” I felt more than fine. God, I felt a million things. “How do you feel?” I asked, turning the question back on him.
“Conflicted,” he said, coming right out with it. “Here’s the thing about last night. What I did to you up against the wall in that work room…that was me on my best behavior. That was me being a gentleman.”
“Was it?” I took a sip of my tea now that it was cooler. “It felt pretty nice.”
“I can be worse. I usually am when it comes to sex.”
“Hmm.” I took another sip of tea to process, rolling the vanilla and cinnamon flavors on my tongue. “You mean you can be even rougher?”
“Rougher, colder, more intense. I’m a Dominant, but it’s more accurate to call me a sexual sadist. I like to hurt women and force them to do things for my pleasure. It’s how I prefer to get off.”
“I understand about BDSM.”
He shook his head. “You understand mainstream BDSM, the safe, sane, consensual stuff they do at Underworld. You’re into the romance of it, the slap and tickle to get off. To me, that’s going through the motions. It’s not real. Well, not real enough.”
I met his gaze, wondering what he meant by that. Not real enough?
“It’s hard to explain,” he went on, an edge of frustration in his voice. “Especially to a BDSM baby like you.”
“A BDSM baby?” I protested. “Maybe I’m a mess, but I’m not a baby. I’ve been submissive for years. I’ve done a lot of scenes, experimented with a lot of things.”
“I’m not trying to insult you. I’m trying to explain. You’ve been with a few Doms, you’ve participated in the lifestyle, but at the end of the day, you’re looking for pleasure, a good time.” He grimaced. “I’m into something different.”
“You don’t like having a good time? How does that work?” I blinked in confusion. “Why do you do whatever the hell you do if it’s not fun?”
“It’s fun to me. Dark fun, though.” He shifted, pushing back his hair. “I do BDSM for the rush and release. I like to push boundaries, and hang out with other people who like to push boundaries. Places like Underworld only scratch the surface of power exchange. I belong to a private club where people…go a little further.”
“So…” I put my tea on the low table in front of us. “This is why you’re not good for me? Your sadism is the reason you believe we won’t work out?”
“It’s hard for me to work out with anyone, Juliet. Except, you know, the women who come to the private club. I can be as rough as I want, as cruel as I want, and they want more.”
I looked away from him, biting my lip, considering how to reply. “Do you think…” I turned back to him. “Do you think I didn’t want more last night? Do you think I responded badly to your force?”
He held my gaze. “I think you responded wonderfully. That’s why I’m sitting here on your couch, drinking tea with you, which I literally fucking hate.” He picked up his cup as if to illustrate his point, pounded the rest of his tea, and swallowed with a disgusted face. “I hate tea, Jewels. More than anything in the world.”
“I’m not sorry. I only meant to say hi to you last night, but it went further than that, and now we have to decide…”
“Decide if we’re going to go further still?” I looked at him from under my lashes. “How often do you go to your private club to do dark, sadistic, non-fun things?”
“Often enough,” he said tightly. “And I don’t always play with the same women. It’s not a relationship thing, where we all pair up into couples.”
“It’s a sex club thing.”
He shrugged. “It’s scratching a mutual itch with no emotional expectations. So it’s not for everyone, especially emotional types. When the wrong people get caught up in that kind of lifestyle, the results aren’t pretty. That’s why I’ve been trying to stay away from you, even though I find you painfully attractive.”
“Painfully attractive.” I sniffed and sipped my tea. “Can’t hurt me, can’t live without me.”
“It’s not a joke, Juliet.”
“I know.” If it were a joke, I wouldn’t feel such lust and confusion, such horrible curiosity. “You could show me the kind of dark stuff you like to do,” I suggested. “You could invite me to this club to see what goes on, and I could tell you how I felt about it.”
“Spectators aren’t allowed. Only vetted people are allowed at the club, so there aren’t any misunderstandings.”
“Oh.” At this point, I understood what he was trying to say. Even after last night’s scorching-hot hookup, he thought we might be terminally non-compatible.
He reached for my hand and held it hard. His deep hazel eyes hit me full force, his lips pressed in a line. “I’m trying to protect you,” he said. “Since I can’t…” Those eyes raked over me, leaving me feeling stripped. “Since I can’t enter into any kind of…”
“Relationship,” I provided.
“Any kind of relationship with you, especially the sweet, emotional relationship you probably want…”
I let out a long breath. “That’s fucked up. You don’t know me well enough to know what kind of relationship I want. Honest talk: I wanted sex from you from that first sober morning I met you, and I got it.” I stood with my cup and saucer, carrying my tepid tea over to the sink. It had too much sugar. It was too sweet, like me. “I don’t have any judgment about your…your thing. Your sexual sadism, your private club, your playboy ways.”
“Playboy ways,” he repeated in an amused mutter.
“At the same time, I think you’re kind of an asshole. If you don’t want a relationship with me, don’t ask me to dinner at the Ivy. Don’t invite my boss to be part of your ad campaign, and then drop by his art show to fuck me against a wall after weeks without contact.”
“I tried to call you after the Ivy. You blocked my number, Sparkles.”
I glared at him from the kitchen. “Sparkles?”
“To go with Jewels. To go with your eyes when you get really emo and intense.”
I picked up a dishtowel and started aggressively wiping invisible spots on the counter. “I had to block your number, Fort. No offense to you personally. I’m just at the point where I have to be more careful about the men I let into my life.”
“As you should be.” He stood to bring me his cup, his expression turned serious. “I try to be careful too. I try to maintain boundaries when I think someone might be easily hurt.”
My eyes widened. “Me? You think I’m some fragile flower? I’m just super sensitive to bullshit right now.”
He didn’t reply, only watched me with his lofty, level gaze. A sadist? Definitely. He could hurt me in so many ways, and those were only the ways I knew about.
“Come here, Sparkles,” he said from across the counter.
“My name’s not Sparkles.”
“Come here, Juliet.”
I wanted to say no. I wanted to make some more hot tea and dash his most-hated mixture in his face.
No, I wanted to go to him. His expression was kind, if resigned. His arms opened for me. I walked around the counter and let him embrace me. He pressed his cheek against my forehead and stroked my back.
“You’d hate it,” he said. “You’d hate what I’m into.”
“I didn’t hate it last night.”
“I was careful with you last night.” He tilted my head back and brushed fingers across my temples and through my hair. “We have this rule at the club: never fuck with the vulnerable. We’re not allowed to hook up with women who are emotionally or physically complicated, women we might damage. We can’t even bring them into the space. It’s like an honor system.”
I tugged my chin from his fingers and looked away.
“I figured out why I like you,” he went on. “I figured out why I want you so much. It’s because you’re all on the surface. Your emotions are right there, plain as day, all the time. You don’t give a fuck about saying what you feel and being who you are. You have this open expression, this way of looking at me and at other people. And you dress however you want.”
“What’s wrong with the way I dress?”
His eyes glanced over the blue fur headband I wore. “I love the way you dress. I love the way that headband matches your eyes, but not your clothes.”
“These are my Sunday hangout clothes,” I said, pouting. “They’re not supposed to look hot and put together like your freaking designer suits.”
He held me against his chest, running his big hands up and down my back. “Just shut up for a minute, because I don’t know what to do with you. I don’t know what to do about what happened last night…”
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Annabel Joseph is a NYT and USA Today Bestselling BDSM romance author. She writes mainly contemporary romance, although she’s been known to dabble in the medieval and Regency eras. She is known for writing emotionally intense BDSM storylines, and strives to create characters that seem real—even flawed—so readers are better able to relate to them. Annabel also writes non-BDSM romance under the pen name Molly Joseph.
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