Rowan Stanton knows he is submissive. He loves to look after people but the country hotel he works at can’t quite fulfill his need to serve. When he succeeds at getting a new role as houseboy at The Retreat, an exclusive BDSM hideaway in the New Forest, he believes it’s his dream job. Inexperienced in many ways, he soon realizes he’s not as prepared as he thought for the demands placed upon him.
Lorcan Wilder is young, rich and successful. He’s also haunted by nightmares and has sacrificed a decade to his business. Selling it gives him the freedom to explore his Dominant side and four weeks at The Retreat are the start of a new life. He doesn’t expect the young submissive employed to serve him will have such a profound effect on him. Exploring and pushing Rowan’s boundaries is exactly what Lorcan needs to separate himself from his past.
Lorcan makes full use of The Retreat’s facilities, from the genuine dungeon to the secret toys concealed in every room. He rediscovers his energy for life and gradually re-engages with the world. However, his efforts to compartmentalize the past ultimately fail and he comes to realize what he’s always known—that true submissives have an inner strength he can only envy.
By the end of his stay, Lorcan can’t let Rowan go, though he thinks he must. What will convince him that he’s allowed a happy ever after, and will he find the courage to accept it?
“Who’d have thought there would be so many applicants for a role where the job description includes nudity and a willingness to get your arse whipped?” Carey Hoffman leafed through the pile of paperwork in front of him. “This is a lot harder than recruiting for club servers.”
“Relax, Sir. It’s important we find the right people. The more applicants we get, the better chance we have of finding someone perfect.” Alistair Easton, Carey’s submissive, kneaded his Master’s shoulders. “Our first paying client deserves the best.”
“That’s so good.” The tension melted from Carey’s shoulders as Alistair loosened knotted muscles. “Maybe we should go upstairs for an hour so that you can relieve other parts of my anatomy.”
Alistair giggled. “Not a good idea if you want to invite people in for interviews this week. We have work to do.”
Scowling, Carey turned to his friend and bar manager Harry Croft. “What’s a Dom to do, Harry, when his sub takes charge?”
“Generally,” Harry replied, “I find it’s best to do what I’m told.” He ruffled his sub’s hair. Kai Smithson was seated on the floor between Harry’s legs. “You can always spank him later, but for now, Alistair is right. We have to get through all these applications this evening. We only have one post left to fill, don’t we?”
Alistair knelt at Carey’s side, hands folded in his lap, his serenity in complete contrast to the noise and activity going on all around them. The Underground was always busy, but Friday nights tended to be hectic. Carey had sequestered a quiet corner for their discussion. A low table held paperwork and drinks, and cushions softened the floor for Alistair’s knees and Kai’s backside. Carey still found it hard to concentrate. He blamed Alistair for looking so tempting in leather trousers and a sheer silk shirt. He imagined removing the shirt, exposing Alistair’s smooth skin inch by inch, then watching his lover wriggle out of the trousers…
“Carey?” Harry brought him out of his daydream.
“Sorry, I got a bit distracted. Where were we?”
“The last vacancy—if you can keep your mind on recruitment and off whatever it is you’re planning to do to Alistair?” He shared a conspiratorial grin.
“Oh, yes. Right. Well, I’m thankful Mr. Wilder’s requirements are not too onerous. Tor Halvorsen will act as executive chef. He cooked for Joe and Heath when they had their taster weekend with Olly and Aiden and their reviews of his cooking were first rate. Olly said, and I’m quoting here, that Tor’s double chocolate brownies were better than an orgasm after two days in chastity.”
Alistair and Kai both burst out laughing.
Harry rolled his eyes. “Olly would be proud. He can create chaos even when he’s hundreds of miles away. That’s two extra strokes for you tonight, young man.” He gave Kai’s hair a gentle tug. Kai sucked on his lower lip but his eyes sparkled and he rubbed his cheek against Harry’s thigh.
“Tor has recruited two kitchen assistants, both, I might add, stolen from here at The Underground,” Carey said. “As Mr. Wilder is traveling alone, Tor says that will be more than adequate to cover his stay and allow for days off for each of them. Tor intends to work through and take some time off in between clients. He’ll also take on training Benjy and Frank. Going forward, I think we should consider rotating the junior kitchen staff through The Retreat. Then they’ll all get experience of different kinds of catering.”
“That’s a great idea. At least they won’t be shocked by anything they see at The Retreat.” Harry grinned. “Right. Goran has sorted all the drink supplies, so Mr. Wilder won’t starve or go thirsty.” Goran was Harry’s very capable deputy bar manager. “He can always take a quick trip down there if Tor needs him for anything. It’s always possible that the client will want to throw a party while he’s staying. Goran’s already offered to run the bar for events like that.”
Carey nodded. “Excellent. Then we have Luke Redding as general manager. He’s ex-forces, like Tor.”
“The Retreat is going to be run like a military campaign,” Harry said. “Tell me about Luke. I know he’s a member here but not much else.”
“He’s a well-respected Dom. Kept up his membership even when he was overseas on active duty.”
“Well, you do give service personnel an excellent discount.”
“I do, and they deserve it. Whereas Tor was in the army, Luke is ex-Navy. Served fifteen years then took an honorable discharge to care for his father who died last year. Mother passed when he was a child so his dad brought him up. He told me at the interview that he gave himself to his career, then to his father, now it’s his time. He was very open. He doesn’t have to work for the money but needs a purpose. He’s a very experienced manager and won’t take shit from anyone. He’ll be perfect for mentoring the young men that will be working at The Retreat, as well as the contractors. Management of the house and garden staff as well as all the arrangements related to housekeeping and maintenance will sit with him, and if our guests want any training in a particular technique, Luke can either handle it himself or bring someone in from the club if he doesn’t feel qualified. He knows the area well too—he was based at Portsmouth for many years and the New Forest was a favorite daytrip destination.”
“I hope I’ll get to meet him one day,” Harry said. “I’m surprised I’ve never come across him here.”
“I’m sure you will. I intend to have post-stay debriefings with The Retreat’s management team here at the club.”
“Good idea. So, when you Skyped with Mr. Wilder…”
“Lorcan. He prefers to be called Lorcan.”
“When you Skyped with Lorcan, did he have any special requirements for other staff?”
“I think he’s going to be a low maintenance client—he was reserved, but friendly. The stay is a personal reward for selling his business. From what I could make out, he’s done little else but work for many years. He’s had some training as a Dominant and has excellent references from a couple of clubs I know in the U.S. He wants to see whether immersion in the lifestyle is what he wants because, as he said, he thinks it is but he’s never had time to prove it to himself.”
“Sounds like he has his head in the right place.”
Nodding, Carey flicked through a few applications. “I’ve done a full background check. There was an incident in his late teens, which I won’t go into here because it shouldn’t cause any issues. It marks him as a survivor. He plays hard when he has the time but that isn’t often. He admits to a preference for blonds. Smaller than him and not too muscled.”
“How tall is he?” Harry asked.
“Six feet one.”
“That rules out three of these—all within an inch of that height. There are also several brunets and one redhead in here so I’ll put them aside. That still leaves six possibles.”
“Whoever we choose has to be prepared to be very flexible.” At Harry’s feet, Kai giggled. “Not that kind of flexible, brat,” Carey chided. “Lorcan wants one man to be his personal assistant, valet and submissive. He doesn’t want a lot of people around the place because his break is about getting some breathing space, so this man will be at his beck and call twenty-four seven. Experience isn’t needed. I think Lorcan wants someone he can mold to his requirements, so we’re looking for a relative innocent—but one who knows what he’s getting into.”
“And who understands the difference between furniture wax and candle wax.” Harry rolled his eyes. “Talk about mission impossible.”
“The housework will be light, just Lorcan’s bedroom and bathroom. The contracted cleaning service will handle the rest. We’ll need someone bright enough to be an effective assistant…”
“And who doesn’t mind taking notes naked, with a plug up his arse.” Harry laughed. “Sorry, I’m being facetious.”
“You may not be that far off the mark. Nudity and minimal dress are non-negotiable.”
“Well, that helps us narrow the field a bit more. Two of these applicants are house subs here. I know them both and I don’t think either of them could be called sweet and innocent—they’re a pair of brats. Of the remaining four, two have university degrees and one went to work straight from school but got very good grades at A level. The last one seems to have drifted from job to job but does have waiting experience.”
“Drop him for now and ask the other three to come in. When we have time, I want to see all the applicants we’ve rejected for this job in case they’d like us to hold their details for future opportunities. It would be nice to be able to offer clients a portfolio of staff to choose from rather than having to go through this process all the time. That way we can also broach the subject when we recruit staff for The Underground. Whoever we choose this time will be permanently employed, but The Retreat is fully booked for months. We’ll need to alternate between clients so that the houseboys can take some time off and that means we need to line up someone else for the next booking after Mr. Wilder. We can cover unexpected illness or, God forbid, walk-outs, with staff from the club in the meantime.” Carey caught Alistair’s eye. “What do you think, love?”
“The catalogue is a brilliant idea. I’d be happy to take pictures for it, but maybe you should ask some of the members what they think, too? You have an instant audience for research here.”
“You’re right, of course.” Carey surveyed his club. The Underground was his pride and joy and he fully intended to make The Retreat just as perfect. “I’ll leave the interview arrangements to you, Harry. Time for me to make sure my members are happy. I think the boss giving his sub a public spanking might go down well tonight, don’t you?”
“You know it will.”
At Carey’s side, Alistair shivered. Carey stroked his hair. “Would you like that, sweetheart?”
“If it makes you happy, Sir.” Alistair kept his eyes downcast but Carey could see he was smiling.
“Oh, it will, you can be sure of that and if you’re very, very good you might even get to come. Emphasis on the might.” Carey raised his glass. “A toast. Here’s to finding someone for Lorcan Wilder who lives up to our exacting standards.”
Harry pulled Kai onto his lap. He clinked his glass against Carey’s. “Bottoms up!” He avoided spilling his drink by the narrowest margin as Kai shook with laughter.
“They soon will be.” Carey chuckled while Alistair tried, unsuccessfully, to conceal a groan.
She loves the English weather, especially the rain, and adores a thunderstorm. She loves good food, warm company and a crackling fire. She’s fascinated by the psychology of relationships, especially between men, and her stories contain some subtle (and some not so subtle) leanings towards BDSM.
LM is winner of the National Leather Association’s Pauline Reage Award for best novel and the 2016 Golden Flogger Award for best BDSM novel in the LGBT category. She has received multiple Honorable Mentions in the Rainbow Awards and won the Action and Adventure category of Divine Magazine’s Book Awards in 2015.