She stepped away, letting her hand touch the fine leather of the spanking bench. It was beautifully made, completely unlike some of the manufactured ones she’d seen on the internet. This one had been lovingly crafted with hand-carved wood. The leather straps had been lined with soft cloth so the submissive’s wrists never chaffed. These were men who would take care of a woman, even if they didn’t love her.

Tal followed her. “Damn it, Piper, you don’t even know the meaning of that word. Play means something different in this room. You should leave. I plan to have this room redecorated as a family room.”

She turned her head, looking at him over her shoulder. She winked his way. “I can imagine what the family will do in here. And I know quite well what it means to play.”

She headed over to the wall. The dark panels had gilded doors in the center. She slid one open. Her eyes widened. It was a wall of sex toys. And someone had arranged very tasteful lighting to illuminate the plethora of vibrators, handcuffs, paddles, and whips. There was a whole drawer full of jewelry. They looked a bit like earrings.

She picked up a particularly lovely set. They looked like emeralds but she noted they dangled from the end of small clips. She opened the clip, pressing down on the tops. Little biting notches covered the sides, like an alligator opening up to take a bite. “You torture a girl’s ears?”

He stared at her, keeping some distance between them as though he didn’t trust himself to come closer. “They aren’t for your ears, Piper. They’re nipple clamps.”

She nearly dropped them. “Nipples? Why?”

He sent her a nasty smile. “They make the nipples exquisitely sensitive. And they’re a form of erotic torture.”

“Did you buy these?” They were gorgeous, diamonds and emeralds. The idea of adorning parts of her body no one but her husbands would ever see held a certain appeal.

“I did, though no one has worn them. I enjoy clamping my subs. I like the way the jewels swing and how they glow against a sub’s skin. Or I did. This part of my life is over now. I have no intentions of this lifestyle entering our marriage.”

She replaced the jewelry on its velvet-lined drawer. Rafe had been right. This was a huge piece of Tal’s sexuality. He’d carefully chosen everything in this room. He’d likely designed the interior himself. According to his brothers, he’d once spent hours in here playing with subs, women who trusted him with their pleasure. Since his capture, he’d lost this part of himself. Piper suspected he wouldn’t be whole without it. “What if I want to try it?”

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His voice came out as a low growl. “Get out of here, little girl. You have no idea what you’re doing.”

It was time to prove she did know a thing or two. As gracefully as she could, she sank to her knees, spreading them wide in a slave pose. Her skirt pooled around her. She hadn’t expected to see Tal, so she wasn’t dressed for the occasion. She’d come here merely to get a lay of the land, but now that Tal had followed her, she wasn’t giving up this chance. She let her head drift down in a submissive position and waited.

The waiting was the hardest part. Silence reigned. She could hear the sound of her own breath, the roar of her heart, and the movement of Tal’s shoes against the marble of the floor. It was hard and cold against her skin, and she was pretty sure that was why Tal had installed marble, not for its beauty but for the way it would keep a sub deeply aware of her surroundings.

“You’re overly dressed for a sub, Piper.”

“Do you want me to undress, Tal?”

“Sir. In here you call me Sir. Look at me.”

She let her eyes drift up. His face was hard, no tenderness at all in his eyes. And his slacks sported a magnificent erection. “Yes, Sir?”

“Do you have any idea what you’re asking for? Do you understand what you seek? I never meant to come down this path with anyone again.”

Tears pooled in her eyes because she suspected Rafe and Kade didn’t know the whole story. “Because you loved Lily so much you can’t stand the thought of another sub?”

His eyes narrowed. “My brothers have been talking.”

“Please, Talib. I would rather know. I have to know what the boundaries of this marriage are.”

“I suspect I could tell you and you wouldn’t respect them at all. Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps you do need to see this part of me. Maybe then you will understand. You have one chance to get out of this. Get up and walk away, and we can simply be friends and lovers and partners in our intellectual pursuits. If you stay here, you will belong to me in ways you cannot imagine. You’ll be mine to command, to torture, to fuck as I please.” His hand tangled in her hair, drawing her head back, forcing her to look up at him. He towered over her, a dark, menacing, entirely sexual presence. “I will not go easy on you. Never imagine that because you’re my bride that I won’t make you scream for me.”

Every word that came from his mouth was a promise of dark pleasures. She was a little afraid, but refused to walk away. “I want to try this, Talib.”

“There is no trying. Yes or no.”

Piper drew in a shaky breath, hoping she could handle him. But really, she had no choice. Deep down, she trusted that he would never truly harm her physically. Knowing that, she could put her body in his hands and hope that his heart followed. “Yes.”

“Then take off your clothing. You aren’t allowed to be dressed in my dungeon. You will fold your clothing, come back, and present yourself to me. Slave pose, but with your arms locked behind your back.”

Piper stood, feeling awkward and ungainly. It wasn’t easy to get up. Tal’s hand came out to steady her. “Thank you, Sir.”

His face was like perfectly sculpted granite. “I expect you to practice. You will practice every day until you can rise with exquisite grace. Your grace speaks much about your Master.”

She flushed, embarrassment flooding her. “I’m klutzy.”

“But capable of learning, Piper. Now remove your clothing and present yourself to me.”

Her shaking fingers went to the buttons on her blouse. He watched her every move with dark eyes that missed nothing. She was caught between apprehension and anticipation as she carefully folded the blouse, then pushed the skirt to her hips.

“Slowly. This is a show for your Master. It is a delicious reveal of what you’re offering me, and I can either accept or reject it.”

It. He was talking about her body. He was talking about her heart.

She slowed, her hands skimming down her body as pushed the light skirt past her hips. The minute he forced her to slow her movements, she became aware of what she really was doing—and her effect on him. This was a dance for her Master. Maybe she didn’t have to be good at it yet. She only had to show him all she offered.

She turned to him, letting him see her body. It wasn’t something to hide. Her body was his. It didn’t matter what he felt now. Maybe he was only looking for sex. Piper suddenly realized that she couldn’t control Tal’s heart. She could only do this, offer him everything she had. She loved him. She admitted to herself that she’d probably loved him even when he was just a name on a computer screen. Those months of computer exchanges had bonded her to him. Deep inside him, that man existed, and she couldn’t let him go without a fight. But the only heart she controlled was her own.

Tears pricked her eyes. Deep inside her soul, she could hear Rafe and Kade whispering to her as they did when they had made love. They’d promised her they loved her. They told her she was lovely. Her heart was a worthwhile gift, and Tal was a worthwhile man. The whole sheikh thing, she’d decided, wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be. She’d watched as Talib gave and gave to the people around him while they just asked for more. He might have everything money could buy…except life’s treasures that were free but priceless, like moments of pure respite with a woman who would give all to him whenever he wished.

She folded her skirt, grateful for once that she was wearing the frilly underwear Rafe had bought for her. The white lace clung to her curves, and she could practically feel Tal’s eyes rake her as she bent over. She slipped off her sandals and added them to the neat pile.

“Next time you will wear heels. I know my brother bought you some. He has perfect taste. He knows what will look good on you when you wear nothing but the shoes.” Tal’s voice had gone deep. “Your answer is always, ‘yes, Sir.’”

“Yes, Sir.” She couldn’t help but see that he’d relaxed. He might not even realize it, but his shoulders had softened and his eyes were filled with that languid darkness she now associated with Tal and pleasure.

“Finish the job I gave you.” He leaned against one of the dark columns that dominated the room, just waiting for her to take off the rest of her clothes. “Show me.”

The bra had a front clasp. She was grateful for that. Rafe had made it very easy for her to unsnap it, but she let her hand trail down first, breathing softly, allowing his eyes take it all in. She cupped her breasts, thinking about the way Kade would palm her, rubbing his thumb over her nipple, getting it hard and ripe for his mouth. She let the pads of her fingers gently skim her nipples before finding the clasp. The lacy bra came undone and her breasts bounced free.

She’d always thought she was a little too chunky, but she felt different with Talib’s eyes on her.

“The underwear now. Your pussy belongs to me. I don’t like you hiding it. I know my brothers have a thing for silky lingerie, but when you’re with me, you will not wear it. That pussy will be bare, ready for my use whenever I wish it. I will be able to raise your skirts and fuck you anytime, anywhere. Do you understand me?”

She knew the answer he expected. “Yes, Sir.”

Hooking her fingers under the waistband of her undies, she slid them down.

She placed them on the pile and stood, waiting for his approval.

Tal stared for a moment, then he straightened, closing the space between them. “You seem to have picked up a few tricks, Pandora. You’re not as charmingly graceless as you seemed just days before.” He stopped mere inches from her. “Turn around. Place your hands on the seat of the spanking bench. I want your ass high in the air. Arch your back.”

She did as he asked, leaning over and trying to find a good position.

“Spread your legs wider. Never try to keep me out.”

He was behind her, his feet between her legs, forcing them farther apart. Her legs were spread wide, leaving her pussy on full display. She could feel cool air on her hot flesh. Tal’s hand traced the line of her spine.

“This is how you present yourself to me. When I ask you to greet me, you sink into your slave pose. When you present yourself to me, you will find the nearest flat surface and take this position.”

Piper closed her eyes. She knew what she must look like to him. Wanton. Ready. Her pussy was begging to be filled with cock. His.

“Are you wet for me, concubine?” His hand was close. He was right at the base of her spine. Any minute he would find the valley of her ass and his fingers would go past it, straight to her pussy. She wanted more there than just a few fingers, but she was aching. She would take anything.

A loud smack cracked through the room and the skin of her backside exploded with a sweet heat. She couldn’t help but gasp at the sensation of his hand spanking her ass.

“Answer me.”

“Yes, Sir.” Days ago she would have been too embarrassed, but now she understood. There was no place for shame in a loving relationship. Her pussy was sopping, desperate for his touch. She could admit everything to him. “I’m so wet.”

Another smack, this one to the other cheek, spreading out the erotic pain. “Don’t ever lie to me in this room. This is my room. No one but the two of us exists in this room. I might share you with my brothers everywhere else, but here you belong only to me. Now get on your knees. Greet me. Show me what you’ve learned.”

She pushed herself off the bench and turned. Every nerve ending under her skin was alive. She sank to her knees, the cold marble hitting her flesh. She remembered what she’d seen and spread her legs wide. There were several variations of the slave pose. Tal had asked her to place her hands behind her back, thrusting her breasts out. Threading her fingers together, she spread her knees wide so her pussy was on display.

Tal stood before her. She stared at his ridiculously expensive shoes. She could feel the heat of his body, but for a moment, he didn’t move. Then his hand cupped her head, fingers sinking in. “I want to feel your mouth, concubine. Take me deep. Swallow me down.”

His hands went to the fly of his trousers, working rapidly to unleash his cock. He pushed them down, the slacks hitting the floor. He wasn’t wearing briefs. His cock bobbed, the large plum-shaped head pointing toward her.

She didn’t bother to bring her hands to him. She was pretty sure that would get her spanked, and she wanted to taste Talib. His hands pulled her head forward.