ELLIOT AND MIRANDA LOCKWOOD WERE VISIBLE DURING THE TIME THE KIDNAPPING IS SPECULATED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THE TWINS WERE LAST SEEN IN THE KITCHEN BY THEIR HIRED NANNY FRANCESCA ESPINA, AGE FIFTY-FOUR YEARS, WHO HAD SUMMONED THE BOYS TO THE KITCHEN FOR DINNER.
—New York Times, June 10, 1990
Sophie barely had time to protest at the dom’s tight hold on her wrist before he dragged her across the room to where a group of people circled a couch against the wall. She could have said “red” and stopped whatever game he’d intended to play so she could keep searching for Emery, but the word died on her lips. A large crowd of people all turned to face her, amusement flashing in their eyes. The crowd’s focus on her was not comforting in the slightest. She was prey, for a so-called contest, in a BDSM club. Searching the faces for Emery’s, she prayed she’d be lucky enough to find him. If not, she’d use her safe word and get free of the man and his “contest.”
Holding her, he grinned darkly at the onlookers. “Found a newbie. She’ll be perfect.”
Sophie again jerked to get her wrist back and failed. She stifled a gasp as he promptly smacked her bottom with an open hand. Her gaze darted across the crowd, trying to seek out Emery’s familiar face. He had to be here somewhere. Most of the club members had moved in to watch her and this dom.
“Stand still, bow your head,” he commanded.
To her shock she obeyed instantly—not because she naturally bowed to anyone who shoved her around, but because something inside her responded to the commanding tone he’d just used on her. He seemed like a man who would enjoy punishing her, and she knew enough about this lifestyle to know she never wanted to end up over a spanking bench, even if the idea did make her insides flare to life.
“Bring her here, Royce.” A cool, rich voice spoke, pouring over her skin like whisky—slightly rough, with an intoxicating bite to it. When this man spoke, the voices murmuring around her stopped and a hush fell over the area.
The crowd around her and the man, Royce, parted. Another man, sitting on the blue brocaded couch, watched them. His large hands rested on his thighs, fingers impatiently drumming a clipped beat. Royce shoved Sophie none too gently, sending her to her knees right at the man’s feet. She reacted instinctively, throwing her hands out to balance herself, and her palms fell on his thighs and her chest collided with his knees.
Air rushed out of her lungs in a soft whoosh. For a few seconds she fought to regain her breath as she leaned against the stranger for support. The large muscles beneath his charcoal pants jumped and tensed beneath her hands, and she whipped her palms off him as though burned. She’d practically been in the man’s lap, the heat of his body warming her, tempting her with his close proximity. Hastily she dropped her head and rested her hands on her own thighs, waiting. It took every ounce of her willpower to concentrate on breathing.
She still didn’t look at his face, focusing instead on his expensive black shoes, the precision cuffs of his dark charcoal pants. Her eyes then tracked up his body, noting the crisp white shirt and thin, blood red tie he wore. It was loosened beneath the undone top button of his dress shirt. She had the sudden urge to crawl into his lap and trail kisses down his neck and taste him.
“Raise your eyes,” the voice demanded.
Sophie drew a deep breath, letting air fill her, making her almost light-headed. And then she looked up.
Her heart leapt into her throat and her brain short-circuited.
Emery Lockwood, the object of her darkest fantasies, the ones she’d buried deep in her heart in the hours just before dawn, was looking down at her, predatory curiosity gleaming in his gaze. He trapped her with a magnetic pull, an air of mystery. She was caught in invisible strands of a spell woven around her body and soul.
The boy’s soft angelic features were there, hidden beneath the surface of the man before her. He was the most devastatingly, sensual man she’d ever seen. His high cheekbones, full lips, and aquiline nose were all parts of the face of a man in his early thirties. But his eyes—the color of nutmeg and framed with long dark lashes any woman would kill to have—were the same as those of the wounded eight-year-old boy in her photo. Although she could see that they’d hardened with two decades of grief.
He was masculine perfection, except for the thin, almost invisible scar that ran the length of his sharp jaw line. Even after twenty-five years, he still bore the marks of his suffering. She ached with every cell in her body to press her mouth to his, to steal fevered kisses from his lips. Her fingertips tingled with the need to stroke over the scar on his face, to smooth away the hurt he must have endured.
“Do you know the rules of our game?” Emery asked. As he spoke, his gaze still held her in place, like a butterfly caught beneath a pin and encased in glass. Hands trembling, she pursed her lips and tried to remain calm and collected. It was nearly impossible. The heat of his intense regard only increased as the corners of his mouth curved in a slow, wicked smile. Oh, the man knew just how he affected her!
Emery leaned forward, caught her chin in his palm, and tilted her face up to look at him. Her skin burned deliciously where his palm touched her. He pulled her, like the moon calling to the tides, demanding devotion and obedience with the promise of something great, something she couldn’t understand. Her senses hummed with eagerness, ready to explore his touch, his taste. Like a minnow caught in a vast current, she was pulled out to deeper waters, helpless to resist. In any other situation, she wouldn’t have been so off balance, and wouldn’t be letting herself get sucked into this strange game she sensed she was about to play. But here in this dark fantasy of the Gilded Cuff, she didn’t want to look away from him.
“The rules are as follows: I give you a command, you obey. I have to make you come in less than two minutes. I cannot do more than stroke any part of your body covered by cloth—no touching between your legs and no touching of your bare breasts. You are to look into my eyes and do whatever I say so long as my commands are within the rules. If you come, I win; if you don’t, Royce wins.”
Sophie struggled to think clearly. There was no way she would have agreed to this anywhere else, but in the club, this was the sort of game the doms played…the sort of game Emery played, and he wanted to play with her. A shiver of desire shot through her, making her clit pulse. How could she refuse?