She didn’t want to, but she would pull a power play if they didn’t start talking. It was too important to ignore. Tal had gotten off on slapping her backside. What other things made his blood pump? How could she use his own dark desires to set a trap for him? One intended to push him past this polite mask he wore. A trap to help him fall in love.
Rafe settled his arms around her. “My brother enjoys playing…certain games.”
“BDSM.” She wasn’t stupid. Along with looking up the marital laws of Bezakistan, she’d typed the word spanking into her search engine and came up with a shocking amount of pure pornography that might have given her computer an STD, along with some very informative articles on BDSM.
Rafe raised a brow, and Piper was happy to have surprised him.
“Yes,” he admitted. “We all enjoy it to some degree. My brother is more interested in the Dominance and submission portion of the lifestyle.”
Thank god she had Rafe because Kade already had another purpose. He seemed intent on making her crazy. He sucked on her nipples, getting them hard and sensitive. He bit and played with them, seemingly ignoring her conversation with Rafe.
“Has he taken a sub before?” She asked, remembering the words that had been used in the articles.
Rafe shut down. Kade stopped what he was doing. And the pieces fell into place.
“Yes,” Kade replied, his voice low. “She was his submissive, but you have to understand what that means.”
Piper was pretty certain she knew. “It means she played with him. It means they followed certain rules. Were they twenty-four seven?”
Kade looked startled. “How do you know this? And no, they were not. They came together for play, but Tal didn’t want the responsibility outside the bedroom. I wasn’t interested in giving Lily what she wanted at the time.”
“Kade met her in London at a club,” Rafe explained.
“A fetish club?” She nearly laughed because the surprise was apparent on both their faces. “I can read, guys. I looked it up. Spanking seems to kind of go along with the lifestyle thing. So Lily wanted more than even Tal was willing to give her?”
“When I first met Lily, she was happy to simply play,” Kade explained. “She was very independent. She had a good job as a personal assistant to a high-powered CEO. She was fun. And she wanted to see the world so I brought her back home, and Talib immediately hired her.”
Piper could fill in the blanks. Lily had fallen for the handsome sheikh and wanted more. “Did she ask to be his slave?”
She’d figured out it was the BDSM equivalent of a marriage. It was a deep and lasting connection, or it should be.
Kade stiffened, guilt clouding his features. “I thought it would be fun for them both. I knew she wasn’t for me, but she could have made Tal happy for a while and she would get something out of it, too. But six months in, she was making him miserable. She was clinging and jealous of everyone, including me and Rafe.”
Kade put his head to her breast again, but this time he seemed to need comfort. She let her hand find his hair, smoothing it back.
“It’s all right. You didn’t mean for her to get hurt,” Piper said.
Kade seemed to calm a bit. “Tal felt responsible for her. She’d played some before, but she claimed he was her first Dom. We know now that was a lie, but at the time he felt a deep sense of duty toward her. He’d taken a few submissives before, but never a slave. He was planning on letting her go. He just needed to find a way to do it with kindness.”
Tal would likely take the responsibility of a slave seriously, even if he wasn’t in love with her. Though she couldn’t be sure he hadn’t been. How could his brothers really know his heart? Tal believed in sacrifice, for his country, for his brothers. He would have sacrificed his own love if he’d been certain his brothers couldn’t accept her as their wife.
“So she died before he could end their relationship.”
A long look passed between Rafe and Kade. They were thinking about hiding something.
“If we wish her to be a member of this family, we must treat her as one,” Rafe said. “She should know everything.”
Kade nodded shortly. “We kept much of the incident out of the papers. What got through was bad enough. They took Lily along with Talib. He doesn’t talk about it. I believe she was tortured in his presence in an effort to break him.”
Tears pooled in her eyes. Talib would hold that guilt in. It would hurt him more than any physical pain. “How terrible for them both.”
Did he miss Lily? Had he loved her deep down? Was he still in mourning? And was that why he couldn’t open up to Piper?
Rafe turned, his face close to hers. “Piper, it was a terrible time, and I don’t know that he’s fully come out of it. He hasn’t taken another submissive. I don’t think he has played at all, and I believe this has created a void in his life. He needs a place where he is in control. I know it sounds crazy. He’s the sheikh, but his whole life is dictated by his country, by laws and traditions, by the press and our economy. In his playroom, he needed only to think of his own needs and those of the women who brought him pleasure.”
“It was more than pleasure.” Kade sat up. “It was about trust. He needed that perfect trust he got from his subs. I don’t need to control the way Tal does, but I’ve played enough to understand how that bond of trust would appeal to him. His life is hard. He works all day. He needs to relax, and he won’t allow it. The night of our bonding was the first time I’ve seen Tal relax. He slept. He never sleeps anymore. I know you’re angry. I know you feel we betrayed you.”
She gave him the slightest smile, touching his cheek. “I think you took the quickest path to success. It annoyed me, but we all know I’m not going anywhere. I think you knew that if you got me here, I wouldn’t be able to back down.”
Because she cared about the people around her. Because she loved them. Because she’d loved them since she’d met them. Because this was the journey of her life, and it had led her to three amazing men. She wasn’t going to walk away because she was scared. She was going to fight. Tal thought she was a safe choice. Well, maybe it was time for her to prove that he’d met his match.
Rafe put his forehead to hers. “I know I should apologize, but if I get to spend the rest of my life with you, then it was worth it. I would commit the worst of crimes if it meant bringing you into my family because I think you can save us. Kade and I already love you. I think Tal does, too. Be strong enough to hold us together.”
Strong. It was a word she never would have used to describe herself, but now she saw Piper Glen through their eyes. Through Mindy’s eyes. She had been strong enough to save her tiny family, to be true to her parents. She could be true to her own heart, too. She could form her family, her new world. She just had to be smart enough and brave enough to make it happen.
She kissed Rafe, forgiveness flowing. It was silly to be mad when she loved them, too. They had played a game, risked a lot to keep her close. They were offering her something extraordinary. Love. A crazy bright future. A whole country to build. How could she turn that down?
Rafe’s hand sank into her hair and his tongue surged in, rubbing against hers. Tal wasn’t the only one who seemed to need a little dominance. Rafe pulled back on her hair gently, his mouth controlling hers.
Kade went right back to her breasts, sucking and tugging and nipping again.
She let go of all her worries. There was no place for them here.
Piper eased the key into the lock and slipped inside the door. Dark. This room was so dark when almost every other room in the palace was lit with sunlight. She did as Rafe had instructed and closed the door before she started to look for the switch so no one would notice when she turned on the light. She ran her hand across the wall to her left and, sure enough, there it was. She flipped the switch.
Wow. So this was what the guys meant by dungeon.
The whole room was paneled in dark wood, the floors covered in a black marble. She was glad she hadn’t worn shoes. Almost any sound would reverberate in this room like the crack of a whip. She feared that even breathing too hard would sound loud.
She tried to look at the room logically. She’d spent the night before in Rafe and Kade’s arms, but this morning had been spent studying Talib, or more specifically, this one piece of Talib. She’d really delved into researching BDSM and all its accompanying toys online. She recognized a spanking bench. It was a padded bench-like piece with places for the submissive’s arms and legs to be tied down while her backside remained in the air for the Dom to torture. There was a large cross on the wall. She searched her memory. St. Andrew’s Cross. She’d watched a short video where a woman had been whipped by her Master while tied to the cross. He’d been an expert with the whip, leaving not a single welt on his sub’s flesh but sending her to some euphoria called subspace that puzzled but intrigued her.
Was that what she had felt the beginnings of that first night with Talib? Subspace? After a while, the pain of the spanking had seemed muted and every slap of his hand had an almost calming effect. She hadn’t needed to be in control. She hadn’t even wanted to be. She’d simply wanted to please him and to gain pleasure in return. It had been relaxing to utterly let go, trust him, and not worry about how she looked or acted or what others would think.
She kind of longed to get back to that place, and she worried Talib was the only one who could take her there.
“Would you like to explain why you’re here?”
She nearly screamed at the sound of Tal’s dark voice cutting through the silence. “Oh, you nearly scared me to death.”
He frowned at her, his hawk-like features in pure predatory mode. “You should not be here.”
“How did you know I was?” Piper asked, surprised he’d gotten here so quickly. Was the door on a silent alarm?
“I followed you. I caught sight of you as I came out of a meeting with the press. I wanted to make sure trouble didn’t find you.” His narrowed eyes told her he wasn’t happy. In fact, he looked furious. “I see you sought trouble instead. This door is locked. How did you get inside?”
Talib’s fury wasn’t simple. Maybe this had been a huge mistake. She’d wanted a little peek into his soul, but he looked almost volcanically angry. His face had flushed to a deep crimson, his hands in fists at his sides.
“I’m sorry.” Her voice seemed to squeak through the room.
“I did not ask for an apology. I asked for an explanation. This door is locked. Besides me, only my brothers have the key, so I would like to know which one of them betrayed me.”
She held her ground as he stalked forward. He was wearing his normal dress shoes, and they definitely echoed through the dungeon as he crossed the floor to her. She wasn’t about to get Rafe in trouble because she was curious. She held up the set of keys. “I stole them while he was sleeping. I wanted to know what was in here.”
Tal came to hover over her. He used every inch of his height for pure intimidation. “You thought you could simply walk into anywhere? Without permission?”
Piper sucked in a breath, reaching for her courage. The last few days with Rafe and Kade had been lovely, but she’d missed Talib’s utter dominance. But now, being in this room alone with him, doubts crept in. Would she be enough woman for him? Could she hold even a little piece of his heart? Or had it been locked away when Lily died? She couldn’t know unless she risked herself.
Ultimately, she was either in or out, and she had to decide now. She couldn’t really leave Bezakistan and her men so she couldn’t back down either. “Well, I was told this all belongs to me now. Or is marriage different in Bezakistan? Please inform me, Talib, because I seem to be ignorant of so very much.”
He moved even closer, the heat of his body rolling off him. “You have yet to agree to our marriage, so I don’t think you can lay claim to anything.”
Suddenly, she wasn’t so scared of him. If he was truly disinterested, there wouldn’t be a huge erection in his slacks. He’d only been in the room with her for moments, but his cock had stiffened and pointed at her. She made a move of her own. She wouldn’t win Talib al Mussad with shyness. She let her body brush his. “You made your points very clear, Tal. You know I’m not going anywhere.”
“I know nothing of the sort.”
“Only because you’ve been avoiding me for days.”
His eyes flared and he backed off slightly. “I have not. I’ve checked in on you. I could not spend every moment with you. I had business to attend to. And even if you have made your decision, there is no reason for you to be in this room.”
She turned, surveying the dungeon. It was a huge space for just two people to play in. She would bet Rafe and Kade had spent a little time in here, too. She could picture them in leather pants and nothing else. She couldn’t help it. Ever since the spanking Tal had given her, she’d been unable to stop thinking about it. “I think I have every reason to be here. Unless you’re planning on a very open marriage, I should be the only woman in this room. I like it. I want to play in here.”