Recently returned to the UK after living in the States since he was eleven, Andrew Barrett is determined to keep busy and make a new life for himself. He works full time as a copywriter and strips at a club on Canal Street on weekends. But it still leaves him too much time to think. Then he finds the BDSM club, Collars & Cuffs, where at twenty-nine, he is their youngest Dom. Young doesn’t mean inexperienced, however. All this activity keeps him focused with no time to dwell on the past. But the past has a way of intruding on the present.
It’s been four long years since Gareth Michaels last set foot inside Collars & Cuffs. But when he finally summons his courage and steps back into his former world, he finds the man who drove him away is still a member, and what’s more, he wants Gareth back. Two men in pain need the freedom they find in each other, but it takes another man’s horrific plans to make them see it.
Gareth has just gone back to Collars & Cuffs for the first time in four years.
GARETH’S HEART quaked as he watched Craig approach. The Dom had changed very little in the intervening four years, except that maybe there was a sprinkling of more gray hair at his temples. His black shirt stretched tight across his wide frame, and at five feet eleven, arms thick with muscle, eyes the color of stone, Craig was still an imposing figure.
Gareth held himself very still as Craig came to a halt in front of him. Those eyes perused him, no warmth in them.
“You’re back. It’s been a while.” The words were delivered in a flat tone. Gareth thought bitterly that no one hearing them would ever guess at the relationship that had once existed between them. Well, I thought you were a cold-hearted bastard four years ago, and you haven’t improved with age.
“Yes, Sir,” Gareth said quietly. He kept his back straight, unwilling to give Craig the satisfaction of seeing him shiver. Just looking at Craig brought back so many memories, and not all of them pleasant.
To his surprise, he felt Leo slip an arm around his shoulders and squeeze lightly. “Yes, it’s really good to have Gareth back with us, isn’t it?” Gareth leaned into him, grateful for Leo’s strong presence. To his left, Pietro stepped closer, so that the two men flanked him. Gareth suddenly realized what they were doing. Warmth flooded through him at the thought of the Dom and the sub who were closing ranks, supporting him, and he felt the tension in his body ease.
The unmasked look of surprise on Craig’s face was unexpected, as was his reaction. He backed away with a curt nod to Leo and one last intent look at Gareth. Leo’s arm was still tight around him, and Pietro’s hand encircled his. Gareth inhaled deeply.
“Are you all right?” Leo asked, his voice low.
Gareth nodded. “Yes, thank you, Sir.” He gave Leo a weak smile. Leo released him with a nod. A burst of applause broke through, startling him, and he looked toward the stage. The demonstration had evidently finished. The crowd around the stage parted as the level of noise grew, and Gareth saw Andrew walking toward Leo. Gareth knew the second Andrew caught sight of him. The Dom froze. Their eyes locked.
Gareth couldn’t breathe. Andrew’s eyes grew wide, his lips parting.
“I meant to ask, why come back now?”
It took a moment or two for Gareth to realize that the words were directed at him. He turned to Leo, who was regarding him quizzically. Leo looked toward Andrew and then back to Gareth. A slow smile crossed his face. “Oh, I see.”
Gareth’s cheeks grew hot. By the time Andrew reached the little group, they were almost on fire. He lowered his gaze, unwilling to look Andrew in the eye. Gareth had seen Andrew naked on stage countless times, but somehow, seeing him in this setting, those tight leather pants, his chest bare, was much more stimulating.
Come on, let’s be honest here. Andrew the Dom is hot.
“Andrew, that was wonderful,” Leo congratulated him. “We’ll have to have you do another demonstration another day.”
“That would be fine,” Andrew replied. Gareth could feel the Dom’s eyes on him.
“Andrew, I believe you already know Gareth, one of our members who’s been away for a while.”
Gareth’s cheeks were scorching hot. He took a peek at Andrew’s face, to find him smirking.
“Yes, we work together.” Andrew deliberately looked him up and down. “You’re looking very well this evening, Gareth.” The smirk widened. “It’s nice to see what you look like with clothes on. It’s not often that I get the chance.” Those dark, dark eyes danced with amusement.
Gareth couldn’t miss Leo’s snort. He was sure his whole face was red-hot by now.
“You’ll have to excuse me,” Leo said, “but I need to go and speak to Thomas about something.” He gave Andrew a brief nod and then gazed at Gareth with a fond expression. “It is so good to have you back.”
Gareth flushed. He turned to find Alex and Pietro talking animatedly with Andrew about the demonstration he’d given. Gareth watched his friend with amusement. Pietro hadn’t changed, thank God. Gareth smiled to himself when he caught Miles looking at the sub with an identical expression on his face.
“Leave the poor man alone,” Miles said to Pietro with a grin. “He’s just performed brilliantly, and here you are, bending his ear. Besides, I need you. You can come help me tidy up the group room.” Miles caught hold of Pietro’s hand and held it. Pietro looked up at him, eyes glowing. Miles speared Alex with a look. “You too, pup. That’ll keep you out of mischief ’til Leo comes back.”
Alex gasped in mock horror. “As if I’d misbehave, Sir. The mere thought hadn’t even considered the possibility of crossing my mind.” He smiled at Gareth. “It was good to meet you.”
“Same here,” Gareth said warmly. He’d taken a liking to the tall young man with the wicked chuckle.
Alex grinned and then followed Miles and his boy toward the group room.
It was then Gareth realized he was standing alone with Andrew, who was regarding him steadily. And suddenly he couldn’t keep still. It was as if his limbs took on a life of their own.
Andrew clicked his fingers. “Focus, boy.” He spoke quietly, but the tone in which he delivered the instruction made it clear he expected Gareth to comply. And Gareth found himself doing exactly that without thinking. He saw how Andrew waited, eyes focused on him.
What the hell do I call him?
“Yes, Sir.” Gareth focused on feelings of calm, letting his body relax, until he stood still, hands by his sides. It wasn’t easy. Seeing Andrew as a Dom, rather than his fellow dancer, set off a fluttering in his stomach. He felt hot. The look of approval in Andrew’s eyes, however, made him swell with pride.
“I think we need a drink.”
Gareth realized he’d left his pint at the bar. “I already have a beer.”
Andrew smiled. “In which case, I definitely need one.” He led the way to the bar area and pointed to a quiet corner with one empty table. Gareth sat, his back to the corner.
Ben appeared at their table a moment or two later, carrying Gareth’s beer. “I believe this is yours,” he said with a grin as he placed it in front of Gareth. He turned to Andrew. “What would you like to drink, Andrew?”
“A Manhattan for me, thanks, Ben.”
“I’ll bring it right over.” Ben walked off to the bar. Before long, Andrew’s drink appeared on their table, and Gareth took a long sip of his beer, trying to cool his warm face. He looked out across the club—and froze when he caught sight of Craig. The Dom was deep in conversation with two other men.
Gareth dropped his chin to his chest. Cold spread throughout his body, and he tensed. You can’t let him get to you like this.
“You need to tell me what’s going on between you and that Dom.”
Gareth jerked his head up.
Andrew flushed. “That was rude. Forgive me. I had no right to speak to you like that. But it’s clear there’s something wrong.”
Gareth stared at him, unable to speak for a moment. Andrew said nothing, but waited, a patient air about him. It was clear he wasn’t about to give up until he got what he wanted.
Gareth looked back to where Craig stood. “Master Craig,” he began and then stopped to draw in another deep breath before continuing. He met Andrew’s gaze. “He was my first master when I was eighteen.”
Andrew’s expression softened. “Go on,” he urged.
Gareth swallowed. “When I was twenty-one, I left him.” God, it still hurts. How can it still hurt me after all this time?
“Was that a mutual decision?”
If he’d thought it hurt before…. “No, not exactly.” The words were barely a whisper. Gareth couldn’t continue. His throat seized up.
Andrew narrowed his gaze. “I think there’s a lot more to this story, but now’s not the time. And to be honest, after that demo, I’m exhausted.”
Gareth gave him a keen glance. Now that he said it, the fatigue was evident. “Then maybe you should rest… Sir.” There was that feeling of confusion again. He expelled his breath. “Look, this feels weird. You’re my mate, and yet right now, I haven’t got a clue how to address you, how to act around you.”
Andrew regarded him steadily. “It’s okay, Gareth,” he said quietly. “We’ve just added another dimension to our friendship, that’s all. I know it’s confusing.” Gareth nodded. “I think we should get together and talk some more. We just need to figure this out.”
Gareth’s heart sank. As long as I don’t have to talk about him.
Something must have registered on his face, because Andrew smiled gently. “How about a bite to eat before Bliss on Friday?” He studied Gareth intently. “I won’t bite, Gareth.” That smirk was back.
It was clear Andrew wouldn’t be letting go of this anytime soon. There was nothing for it but to go along with him.
“Yeah, okay,” he said resignedly. Andrew’s pleased expression brought a brief swell of contentment.
Gareth felt a pang as the words registered. Okay, Andrew was a mate. But right now, those words sounded so good. It had been a long time since someone had said that to him, and if he were completely truthful, he’d missed it. Nothing had filled the void left behind when he’d stopped coming to the club. But in the first few weeks after Craig had…. Yeah, there’d been no wayGareth could have walked in here, not with the very real possibility of running into him.
Andrew finished his Manhattan and then smiled at Gareth. “Then we’ll call it a night. I look forward to seeing you on Friday. I’ll give you a call when I’ve worked out where we’re going to meet up.” He got to his feet, and Gareth joined him. Andrew gazed at him for a moment in silence, until Gareth itched to know what was going through his mind. Andrew’s smile widened. “It’s really good to see you here, Gareth.”
The sincerity of his words was unmistakable, and Gareth responded wholeheartedly.
“Yeah, same here.”
As he watched Andrew walk away from the table, it occurred to him that his relationship with Andrew at work might have just changed. To what extent, he’d have to wait and see. He hoped this dinner on Friday would make it really clear where the lines were drawn. Because right now, he didn’t have a clue.
This book is slightly different from the other books in the series. Where it differs is that it’s not primarily a BDSM story in the true sense of a dominant/submissive relationship and does not feature a heavy D/s relationship between the main characters. Instead this is the story of a relationship building between two men who work as strippers at a club. Andrew is a Dom and Gareth is submissive but this isn’t the crux of their relationship. There are some D/s scenes but they are primarily not between the main characters of Andrew and Gareth.
The plot follows Andrews integration back into life in Manchester after many years of living in the US. He works as a stripper to supplement his income and allow him to afford membership to Collars & Cuffs. In the early part of the book, we see Andrew’s early exploration into the scene at the club (Collars & Cuffs) plus meet the guys who work as strippers at Bliss. It’s not until the mid-point of story that Gareth works his magic with a sexy pole dance, that they finally get together.
Throw in some time spent with characters from the previous books plus a dash of drama as the bad guy comes out to play (there’s a clue in the excerpt!), and it’s a nice continuation of the series!
Born and raised in the north-west of England, K.C.Wells always loved writing. Words were important. Full stop. However, when childhood gave way to adulthood, the writing ceased, as life got in the way.
K.C. discovered erotic fiction in 2009, where the purchase of a ménage storyline led to the startling discovery that reading about men in love was damn hot. In 2012, arriving at a really low point in life led to the desperate need to do something creative. An even bigger discovery waited in the wings – writing about men in love was even hotter…
K.C. now writes full-time and is loving every minute of her new career.
The laptop still has no idea of what hit it… it only knows that it wants a rest, please. And it now has to get used to the idea that where K.C goes, it goes.