Welcome to Stealing Serenity, a stand alone, erotic contemporary M/M romantic suspense. This novella is releasing one scene/day (weekdays) on the blog ahead of publication. All chapters will be available for free until the book is published, then they’ll be removed. If you simply can’t wait, the complete ebook is available now on the webstore. Paperback and Subtle Cover alternate coming soon. Expected publication: July 5th
July 18, Monday—6:07 p.m.
428 Magnolia Ln, Seaside Court
Gated Community, National City
How long did a photo shoot like this usually take? Daniel straightened his shirt and rang the doorbell before the anticipation could make him jittery.
Footsteps on the stairs. Kearin opened the door. “A little early. I like that.”
Daniel made that mental note while admiring Kearin’s fitted T‑shirt over tailored jeans. Neither left anything to question. Daniel thought Kearin’s suits had nice lines; they were like a fur coat compared to this cut figure standing here now. Daniel stepped inside, half dazed.
“Shoes here, please.” Kearin indicated an out-of-the-way rack. “And if you’ll follow, we can get started right away.”
Up the stairs to the second landing where the long orange cat lounged on the back of a reclining chair, a glimpse of a sparse chrome and glass kitchen, the library furnished in warm earth tones. Kearin gestured him up the second staircase and to the right.
This room was warmer. He had a camera already set up on a tripod. Lights and reflectors had their own stands. Two coils of rope lay in the center.
All of a sudden, this was very real. He’d volunteered to be tied up. Photographed.
Daniel’s heart raced. He gulped a few breaths. The logic center of his brain kept throwing up flags: he was going to blow his cover. Kearin was going to have photos. Didn’t he know anything about blackmail? The animal heart in his chest insisted this was exciting and tore all the flags down. He didn’t know which to believe. It stalled him halfway to the rope and indecision kept him there until Kearin approached on soft feet. He brought his hand to rest on Daniel’s lower back. The touch was like fire. Daniel blew out a sudden breath.
“Don’t panic now. We’ll start with just your shirt off and see how it feels. If you’re uncomfortable with anything, just say the word. Everything stops.”
Just the shirt. He could start with just the shirt. Daniel nodded, a jerking motion, but couldn’t bring himself to step forward. Kearin moved in front of him—Daniel’s two-inch deficit suddenly stark—and put a thumb firmly on Daniel’s chin, fingers resting against the length of Daniel’s neck. Daniel’s eyes fluttered. He couldn’t stop it. All at once, Justin’s reluctance to talk to Kearin made sense. He’d said the man was intimidating; Daniel thought it was more like intense. He was everywhere even though he only really touched Daniel lightly in a single spot. The very air felt heavy. Kearin’s touch did not compromise. It was so easy to know where one stood under his direction. Daniel took a breath unexpectedly mixed with the woody scent of Kearin’s lotion and opened his eyes.
Kearin grabbed his gaze. There was no other word for his immediate demand of attention. His dark eyes had a ring of bright hazel in the middle that Daniel had never noticed before. “Nothing in this room happens without your consent. Understand?”
Daniel licked his lips. He whispered, “Yes, sir.”
Now where had that come from?
So close to him, locked on his eyes, Daniel saw Kearin’s pupils dilate with pleasure—wide, until there was only a bright center surrounded by a thin hazel ring. Daniel lost himself. He didn’t answer to anyone unless he needed to play a part for the job. He didn’t swoon at a man’s door. He didn’t bare his throat in submission. He certainly didn’t whisper “sir” like it was a reverent prayer.
“Pick a safeword,” Kearin said softly, his breath just a puff of air between them. Somehow intimate. “Something you will not say by accident.”
“Venus.” Daniel named his favorite piece of sculpture.
“Venus,” Kearin repeated. “Take off your shirt.” Kearin’s voice was deeper, a little tense.
It was suddenly that easy. Daniel slipped his shirt overhead and folded it on the stool Kearin indicated. He stood among the rope and tried not to stare at the equipment. He looked at the floor. There were recessed rings in the wood. He looked up. Rings in the ceiling.
Kearin brought a small stepladder. He climbed up with one of the ropes and fed it through a ring, took the time to measure the lengths out evenly. “Stand upright, hands overhead.” He said, “Legs a bit wider than your shoulders—good. Lace your fingers. A big fist.” His warm hand encircled Daniel’s two. “Hold right there…” He tied the rope on itself, an efficient knot exactly where Daniel’s hands came together. “Grab that. You can hang on to it.”
Daniel re-laced his fingers around the monkey’s fist. The rope didn’t stretch when he tested it with his weight.
“Good.” Kearin stepped off the ladder. “Relax your shoulders down. Make sure you can take a deep breath. Focus here.” He reached around and touched Daniel’s abdomen. “Breathe even and slow. With your arms up, it’s easy to shorten your breath—I don’t want to see that.”
“Sir,” Daniel acknowledged. The easy way Kearin took command reassured him. He didn’t have to know what he was doing here; Kearin would show him the way. He took a deep breath and it forced him to lower his shoulders, expand his ribs. The tension eased.
Then Kearin put his hot hands down on Daniel’s shoulders and squeezed. His fingers dug into muscle, working the tightness out to the edges and away. He pushed his weight against Daniel, enforcing the sensation of control. It grounded him into space and time.
Daniel relaxed by degrees knowing Kearin would move him as he liked. His breath deepened. Why had he been concerned about this again?
Kearin climbed back up the small stool to manipulate the pair of ropes hanging from the monkey’s fist in Daniel’s hands. He began weaving. The rope stayed loose around Daniel’s wrists at first, crisscrossing down his forearms and around his upper arms. Kearin stopped just between bicep and shoulder. A mile of rope hung down Daniel’s stomach.
Daniel watched Kearin’s steady hands work the loose rope back up the weave he’d started. Kearin tugged and tightened and wove straight up to Daniel’s wrists. There was still a bit of play, he could move if he wanted, but Daniel was so fascinated with this process he never tried. Kearin was a master—it was easy to see in his knowledge of the knotwork, in the way he stroked Daniel’s arm as he prepared another bend in the rope to ready the skin for binding. Daniel forgot himself entirely.
Kearin guided the cord back down the weave. He stitched the rope together with itself and tied a decorative knot on alternating sides as he worked. The ropes bound Daniel tightly now, a slow process from hands on down. It was rather like the methodical tightening of laces of a tall pair of boots—if the laces ran the full length of his arms. The gradual process felt similar, though the close intimacy of another person doing the tightening felt far different. Kearin constantly checked the weave as he moved downward, correcting any twist in the cord or fold that was less than ideal. The rope smoothed along Daniel’s skin under Kearin’s confident hands.
Daniel jumped. He realized he’d been holding his breath. It was easier to feel the small pull of the rope that way. He couldn’t wait for the knotwork to be complete. He took a deep breath and let it out in a rush.
Kearin looked down at him, hands still threading the rope by memory and touch. “Doing okay?”
“Yeah…” Daniel breathed, half sure he was dreaming. Was this what serenity felt like? Things felt a little floaty.
The hands paused. Hazel-ringed eyes narrowed just a touch. “I’m sorry?” Kearin’s voice held a note of steel.
A fight-or-flight jolt of adrenaline made Daniel tense. How could just two words do that to him? “Yes, sir,” Daniel corrected himself.
Kearin’s eyes softened, and he squeezed Daniel’s elbow. “Good.” He continued weaving knots all the way down the rope. He tucked the now-short tails inside the weave where Daniel couldn’t see them and stood looking for a moment on the step stool. Daniel stared up the length of his own arms, at the ceiling and behind him, the from-below profile of Kearin’s steady expression. The last set of photos Kearin had shown him—the man fighting the ropes—they’d made him wonder. If it wasn’t Kearin who made the men relax, was it something inside? Could Kearin see if Daniel had that thing?
Kearin’s hand passed over Daniel’s nose, between his bound arms, and landed on his chest. Daniel felt the hot brand of it as Kearin dragged it up his chest and throat. Daniel let his head fall back under the pressure, all the way back. He blinked at Kearin’s belt. Kearin paused with his fingers pressed under Daniel’s chin. “Don’t move,” he whispered.
Kearin’s touch drifted away. So did Kearin. Daniel heard him remove the stool. Heard him adjust the tripods around the space. Daniel breathed deeply and let his eyes close.
A shutter snapped. Another. Again.
Kearin had told him not to move, and Daniel found it easy to relax into this position, supported from above and head back. Not unlike a basic yoga pose he used to retain his flexibility. He stood firmly on the hardwood floor, and except for the slight stretch in his neck, it was almost comfortable enough to sleep like this.
“How are you feeling?” Kearin’s hand touched Daniel’s bare shoulder.
Daniel reined his wandering thoughts in for a quick self-assessment and was surprised at the results. He licked his lips. “Good, sir. Calm.” The floaty feeling stuck around, and he liked how secure the ropes felt. He didn’t expend any energy holding his arms up—the ropes carefully held him instead.
Daniel tried to keep his breath even as Kearin dragged his hand down Daniel’s side. His arms couldn’t move, but he had to remember to relax his shoulders when Kearin pressed firmly against Daniel’s ribcage. Blood flushed across Daniel’s chest. He gave up and panted when Kearin’s hand trailed to the edges of Daniel’s jeans. The jeans had to go.
Daniel had never felt arousal like this, curling out of the corners like a slow burn that echoed wherever Kearin touched him. It permeated the light floating feeling and brought him back to ground, but it was a ground with purpose now. Daniel was hot with it. He was ready for Kearin’s portfolio.
“I like this pose you’re in. May I take off your pants for the next pictures?”
“Yes, sir.” Daniel’s body tingled with the anticipation of Kearin’s touch.
Kearin unbuttoned Daniel’s jeans with a practiced squeeze of his fingers. He dragged the zipper down and the staccato grind felt like Daniel’s heart. He pushed jeans and boxers over Daniel’s ass with a firm caress that shortened Daniel’s breath. His skin felt like fire. His erection bobbed toward Kearin. He felt the man’s breath catch across it and shuddered. Would it happen? Would he do like Daniel had imagined? Would he open his lips and touch…? Arousal surged and Daniel squeezed his eyes tighter. He felt Kearin pull the jeans clear of his feet. His breath tripped over Daniel’s hip. What was Kearin doing? Couldn’t he see how desperately Daniel wanted him?
A shutter snapped.
Kearin didn’t sleep with his models. Daniel let the idea filter through him and found he wasn’t disappointed. The sound of the camera centered him, pulled him back from that steep, hungry edge. He was going to be in Kearin’s portfolio. Daniel let his eyes open and took a deeper, calming breath. The studio was dark except for a few spotlights. He could hear the camera shutter and Kearin’s quiet steps as he circled around for a different angle. Daniel spotted him half-absorbed in the shadows fiddling with a small remote that changed the lighting. He didn’t look away from Daniel in the center of the room. Daniel licked his lips, and his ears buzzed faintly. The camera shutter snapped.
Kearin’s eyes nearly glowed in the darkness, fixed like a predator on prey. Daniel felt his cock bob and pulse. Kearin’s gaze fixed there. He slipped the remote in his pocket and groped at his side for the step stool. For a guy that didn’t get involved, he was broadcasting a lot of interest.
Kearin brought the stool around in front of Daniel’s head and stood on the third step to get a better angle for his photos. His crotch settled at eye level and Daniel licked his lips again. Snap. The desire to press his mouth there and test Kearin’s limit came over him. Daniel’s cock thickened at the idea. Snap. He opened his mouth to breathe properly. Just breathing, he swore. Daniel watched a bulge stretch the jeans in front of him. It was a good thing he was bound. Daniel didn’t have Kearin’s strength of will to stay focused on the task at hand. He wanted and his body tingled with need. Snap.
Kearin stepped back to the floor and took the stool with him. Daniel managed not to groan at the loss. His head felt light with all the blood concentrated down below, but he tracked Kearin’s quiet movement around to the front of him. He wanted Kearin’s touch anywhere; it wouldn’t matter now. All he got was a camera shutter.
Daniel felt his cock leak. Pre-come beaded at the top. Snap. Rolled to the edge. Snap. Trailed down the center to his balls. Snap. Daniel’s breath wasn’t slow any longer. Every flick of the camera jolted him. He moaned softly.
He heard Kearin step away and set the camera down. Finally. He couldn’t wait any longer. He needed Kearin’s hands on him. His mouth. God, just the touch of his breath was probably enough to send him, trembling, over that edge. His cock pulsed.
“I think that will be enough for today.”
Enough? What did enough mean? Daniel snapped his eyes up to Kearin as he dragged the stool back and began untying the knots on Daniel’s arms. Removing the rope faster, a little rushed, even. He never looked down to meet Daniel’s eyes. Methodical. Was this it? Daniel could see the tent in Kearin’s jeans plain as day. The man wanted him.
Kearin slid the last rope around Daniel’s wrists and stepped off the stool. “Roll your shoulders out. They’ll be stiff.”
They were. Not as badly as Daniel thought they could be, but it took his attention off his stiff-as-a-board cock and how hard Kearin was ignoring it. Kearin busied himself with camera equipment and refused to even look at him.
Daniel dressed himself. He followed Kearin out without a word. It wasn’t until he struggled to focus on tying his shoes that Kearin spoke.
“Today I wanted to check your reaction to being tied up, make sure you weren’t nervous about it, so the knots were simple. If you’re available the day after tomorrow, we can try a more complicated pose.”
Daniel’s heart raced. This was just a taste of the work Kearin could do. He remembered the jewel-green dragonfly on the red folder and nodded at his shoes. “I’m available then.” So they weren’t going to get crazy on the first date, not a big deal. Daniel could wait another day or two.
His pants tightened, and Daniel reconsidered. He could wait for Kearin. He certainly couldn’t wait to get home, though. Kearin opened the front door for him. As Daniel stepped through, Kearin grabbed the middle belt loop of his jeans. “Oh, and Daniel?”
He froze. Kearin’s voice roughened again, and the pull on Daniel’s jeans put pressure on his hot cock. He had no doubt it was intentional.
“I don’t want you to pleasure yourself until then.”
What? Daniel wasn’t going to play that game. Kearin could dictate while he was in the ropes, but out of them, Daniel was his own man. He tried to turn in the doorway, but Kearin’s shoulder pressed against his, Kearin’s breath rushed across his neck, Kearin’s hard erection dug into Daniel’s ass. There was no way Kearin didn’t want him. He didn’t sleep with his models, but Daniel was sure he also didn’t grind himself slowly against them on the way out the door. They would end up in bed. It was simply a matter of when, not if.
Daniel leaned back and whispered, “Please, sir.” He didn’t recognize his own voice, so soft and colored with desire.
“Oh,” said Kearin directly into his ear, “I want to hear that again.”
Daniel shuddered and closed his eyes to focus. He needed to get control of himself. He could feel Kearin’s lips against the shell of his ear, though, and Kearin’s hand tighten on his belt loop. Kearin slid his free hand down the angle of Daniel’s hip and around his thigh. Inward. He stopped just short of Daniel’s erection. Daniel swallowed. “Please—please touch me, sir.”
Daniel felt the cock against his ass thicken, as did Kearin’s breath. “Go home, Daniel.” Kearin let him go, just dropped him on the top step and left him suddenly bereft of heat and light. Daniel clutched his chest and gasped for air. Sanity. How could this man affect him so?
“Will you obey me?”
There was no question. “Yes, sir.” The door clicked shut behind him. Daniel stood on the top step for several seconds trying to get his bearings and remember where he’d parked the car. Kearin had wiped his mind of all other things.
Daniel wasn’t sure how he’d make it through another forty-eight hours. His cock throbbed, his heart refused to stay put, his stomach flipped upside down and insisted it was better off this way. His ears rang. Will you obey me? He had to sit down.
Parking garage. He’d parked beside the condo. Daniel stumbled down the steps and made his way to the car. He didn’t remember how he got home.
It wasn’t until he sat down at his computer that Daniel realized he’d never tried to check Kearin’s office for any files on Serenity. Kearin had overwhelmed him so completely, Daniel hadn’t even thought about the job. Instead he’d been consumed in a way that defied reason. Not only had Kearin controlled Daniel’s body with rope, he’d controlled Daniel’s mind.
A frisson of pleasure slid into Daniel’s heart.
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