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Saturday, January 22, 2011

How Long? by Bethann Buehler


"Is there anyone here you don't know?" Brogan inquired, weary from the constant attention Rainey garnered from most of the men that sauntered through the main level of the leather club nearest the dance floor.

"I don't know her," Rainey teased, pointing to a woman she actually didn't know, barely able to focus on the conversation Brogan was trying to hold as the heavy beat of the music rang in her ears.

Sitting in one of the low slung chairs alongside the boys, Rainey knew to anyone looking in from the outside, she'd appear steady, collected and in control. But as the music switched from from JT to Kayne West's Stronger, Rainey felt anything but calm. For the first time in her life Rainey actually felt jealous. There was no way a woman in her position at a club like Skin could just get up and go dance with reckless abandon like her girlfriends were doing now. Furthermore, Rainey didn't necessarily agree with the words Kayne was singing. She didn't feel stronger at the moment. She felt left out, tired and bored, even though she knew she could have her pick of nearly any man in the place.

Confused by her feelings, when Ricky Martin started singing Nobody Wants to be Lonely, Rainey couldn't stand it anymore. She had to get out of her seat and do something.


***

"Is everything alright?" Brogan questioned as Rainey stood. Vehemently opposed to even coming to such a place, Brogan hated the fact he felt so out of place. After all, he was struggling to figure out the protocol for a man basically falling in love with an otherwise uninterested Domme. Maybe he should start a support group, Brogan thought as he watched the woman he adored walk through the doorway toward the common area. Fuck!

"Any thoughts about this, counselor?" Their colleague, Max, asked pointedly.

"About fifty. You?"

"Same. Makes trying murderers seem tame, doesn't it?"

"Now that you mention it."

"Cowboy?" Justin looked away from the spot where his wife, Kate, was now swaying to a Paula Abdul dance track and grimaced at Max. "Damn if you lawyers aren't uptight all the time. My eyes are glued to that little slip of a blonde out there. What are we even talking about?"

"It wouldn't be a crime to go watch," Max pushed, watching as Brogan slid forward on the edge of his seat the moment Rainey stepped from view.

"This isn't my scene. I don't even want to be here. But I want to be with her. Trouble is, she barely knows I'm alive."

"Ever think she might not want to be here either? I can tell you first hand I've never seen her sit down for more than five minutes before tonight." Accepting another drink from their waitress, Max watched as Brogan's mind kicked into overdrive.

"I know you wouldn't want her to think she has to try and impress you or anything. Besides, if she got hurt in the process, you'd never forgive yourself. Right?"

"Damn straight," Brogan growled, springing from his seat and heading in Rainey's direction.

"How long you gonna keep jerking him around?" Justin asked, raising his glass in a mock toast to their new ringleader as Brogan stepped from sight.

"A while probably. It's kinda fun."

"Think he's figured out if he'd just step up, she'd fall into his arms faster than he could think to catch her?" Knowing what he did about his sister, Justin sensed Rainey's resolve to be the resident badass was fading fast.

"I think she'll fight him but it's shadow boxing. The real battle is taking place between her ears."


***

"How long?" Placing his hand in the small of her back, Brogan laid his chin on Rainey's shoulder and rested his lips so that they were just touching her ear. The music was loud and her thoughts were elsewhere, but Rainey desperately wanted to hear Brogan out.

"My whole life."

"Both sides of the whip?"

"No." The thought of sharing her feelings about being under someone else's control scared the shit out of Rainey, let alone the notion of suffering any physical pain.

"No interest or no one strong enough to take the lead?"

"No interest. I don't know. Both maybe." The longer Brogan stood touching her, leaving no space between them as he continued his interrogation, the more uncertain Rainey became of herself. Of her lifestyle. Damn this stupid man!

"You all right?"

Unsure how to respond, Rainey hesitated. "I'm tired." That covered her health. "And I'm pissed." And that covered the fucked up state of her emotions.

"Anything I can do to help?"

As Rainey felt the slight weight of her body mesh with Brogan's, it was all she could do to remain upright. On the platform in the middle of the now crowded room, the pair watched as two men bound their lover and took turns flogging her before they marked her body with the hot ropes of their seed. By the time the men were finished, there wasn't a place on the woman's heated flesh that didn't bear evidence of their ownership.

"Ever do that?" Brogan whispered.

Oh my God. "Never."

"Ever bottomed at all?" While Rainey smiled at the fact Brogan sounded like he'd taken the words right off of some internet primer on alternate lifestyles, she still didn't want to answer.

"No."

***

Aware of the way Rainey tensed as he spoke, the strangest thought crossed Brogan's mind. Had Rainey ever even had intercourse with a man? Oh shit.

"Have you ever actually had sex?" Feeling like an idiot the minute the words fell from his mouth, Brogan waited. Grand juries took less time rendering death sentences than Rainey did responding to the one question Brogan desperately needed to know.

"How long?" he murmured.

Brogan watched as Rainey snapped and tears flooded her eyes. There was no way she'd get into a discussion about her life with him, Brogan knew that. But that fact that she was crying had him stumped. Rainey Daniels was a woman who ate criminals for brunch. What the hell?

As he traced the outline of her cheek with the back of his hand, Brogan caught a stray tear and placed a delicate kiss on the tender spot where Rainey's neck and shoulder met.

"College."

Unable to believe the word that slipped from her mouth like a tainted confession, Brogan fought to read between the lines of Rainey's fragile answer while doing a bit of mental math. Eight years? Ten years? Surely not, he questioned in his head as he felt his heart shatter. Steadying himself, Brogan stroked the smooth strands of her hair and breathed in the sweet essence of the woman he loved.

"Take me home." Rainey whispered, turning to Brogan and burying her head in his shoulder.

"We don't have a car here, sweetheart." Pulling her as far into him as he could without physically making them one, Brogan felt the overwhelming urge to protect Rainey crowd through every part of his body.

"Justin," they both said in unison as if remembering simultaneously that Justin and Kate had driven into the city separately because their sitter had been a few minutes late.

Steering them both back to the bar area, Brogan kept one hand protective wrapped around Rainey and motioned to Max with the other, catching his attention just as Justin turned and stared wide eyed at the man clutching his sister, holding her to him as if both of their lives depended on him not letting her go.

"Help me get her to your truck," Brogan said, holding out his free hand for Justin's keys. While he had no idea if it was possible to safely drive two hours with a woman glued to his chest, damn it if Brogan wasn't going to try. Besides, Brogan was scared that if he let Rainey go, she'd run so far he'd never see her again.


***

"I love you," Rainey whispered as they pulled away from the club, lowering her head into the crook of Brogan's arm, burying her confession in the warmth of him.

"I figured you barely knew I existed."

"I knew you were there," Rainey admitted, unable to believe she'd finally met her match in this hunk of a man who seemed to know more about her than she cared to admit about herself. "I just didn't think..."

"Don't think. Don't fight me on this. Just let me love you," Brogan pleaded, pulling Rainey so close she had a hard time remembering what it felt like before he'd first touched her. "Forever," he added, holding her tight enough that for once, he didn't care if he scared her.

Rainey was tired of fighting for her place in life. Tired of keeping her distance, of being alone. It was time for her to admit that the man seated next to her had presented an argument she couldn't debate. "You win."

Author bio: BethAnn Buehler's world revolves around her family, her friends and her love of writing. She can most often be found having breakfast at a local restaurant with her parents, enjoying a caramel latte with her girlfriends or neglecting her responsibilities as a wife and mother because she's thinking about her next story. BethAnn is a member of the Indianapolis Writer's Group as well as the Romance Writers of America, Indiana Chapter. She lives with her awesome husband, gorgeous little boy and two rotten Silky Terriers. You can find BethAnn on face book and at her website: www.bethannbuehler.com

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