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Belinda's Crown by Skye Michaels

Belinda’s Crown

Le Club, Book 6
by Skye Michaels

Siren-Bookstrand

eBook ISBN: 1622421833
Print ISBN: 978-1-62242-183-1

Belinda is mightily attracted to Matt, one of the members of the very private, luxurious BDSM club known as Le Club Laurel Oak-Ocala. Matt’s horse, Perfidy, may be the one to deny the Hamiltons the elusive Triple Crown, but can Belinda deny Matt her heart?

Note: Prologue omitted.

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Chapter One

Le Club Laurel Oak, Ocala—Second Friday in May, 2013
Belinda Jones looked out the window of the chauffeured black Lincoln limousine as it stopped briefly at the electronic gates and then rolled into the walled Laurel Oak Estate and up to the well-lit steps of a stunning, gingerbread-trimmed white mansion. Mike Hamilton, one of her bosses at Eden Creek Farm, had arranged for her to be driven to the celebration dinner at the estate in style. He had said he didn’t want her to have anything to worry about. He just wanted her to be able to enjoy the evening.
The Eden Creek folks had always treated Belinda like family, so she was not surprised to be invited to their private Kentucky Derby celebration dinner for family and friends. She had been surprised that it was to be held at the Laurel Oak Estate and that she would have to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to attend. Mike and Ross had said that they didn’t want their wives to have all the work and stress of giving the party at the farm, especially since the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, was coming up the next weekend. Everyone was going to enjoy the celebration.
As a young teenager, Belinda and her friends had titillated each other with outrageous ghost and horror stories about what went on at the abandoned and decrepit Victorian mansion at the end of Fort King Street. One of their favorite adventures as kids had been playing chicken and running up to knock on the front door of the mansion and then scampering back to their friends with their hearts pounding.
Belinda was an experienced jockey, and although she was only twenty-five, she had been riding for Eden Creek Farm since she was a teenage exercise rider. Her two stunning wins on Derby Weekend had resulted in a whopping payday that had allowed her to pay off the mortgage on her small farm and bank a substantial amount toward her retirement. At her age she had to be cognizant of her future. She wouldn’t be able to race forever. She also knew she wanted a family someday.
Her head was still reeling from the excitement. There was really nothing like blasting under the wire two full lengths ahead of the field and then trotting into the winner’s circle to have a blanket of hundreds of red roses draped across your lap while the stands roared and cameras flashed to the Dan Fogelberg tune “Run for the Roses” playing in the background. To say it had been an emotional moment would be the understatement of the year. The media attention had been extreme, both for the farm and for her personally. The only one not fazed by all the attention was Rockstar himself. She had been interviewed by several sports magazines and had been on the news as well as 60 Minutes and other television news shows. The attention had been completely overwhelming.
Everyone at the farm had worked so hard to get Rockstar to the Derby, and working with Ross Hamilton and Rockstar had been one of the best experiences of her life. It had taken years of work, training, and faith. It wasn’t just the three years of work with Rockstar but all that had come before. Not only had training the handicapped horse required far more effort than the usual two-year-old, but the farm’s breeding program had been meticulous, striving to bring out the best qualities of their stallions and mares in each new year’s crop of foals. It had been worth the additional effort. The half-blind horse had pulled it off for all of them.
The fact that she had also shut out Matt Jackson’s horse, Perfidy, was just the icing on the cake. Matt really made her nervous. She couldn’t put her finger on exactly why. The prior year he had tried to hire her away from Eden Creek Farm to ride for his stable, Jackson Stud, but she had not been interested in making a change. He had taken it well enough since he was basically a businessman and a gentleman, but she was sure he had not been expecting his blandishments to meet with any resistance. Guys like Matt Jackson were just used to getting their way.
As the limousine pulled up in front of the mansion, Belinda straightened the skirt of her sleek, black Donna Karan sheath, fluffed out her mass of long, wavy red hair, which she usually wore in a French braid, picked up her clutch, and prepared to get out of the car. The chauffeur walked around and opened her door. She swiveled her hips, and her shapely, well-muscled legs tipped with three-inch, black spike heels were on the driveway as the handsome young chauffeur helped her out of the car. She stood up and looked straight into the eyes of Matt Jackson who stood on the porch smoking a cigar. Hot damn! What’s he doing here? He certainly wouldn’t be invited to the Hamilton’s Derby party.
Matt gave her one of his enigmatic smiles, nodded his head, and said, “Good evening, Belinda. You look lovely tonight. Congratulations on your wins last week. I hadn’t heard whether you enjoyed the roses I sent you.” He smiled wolfishly. It made her feel like prey on the open prairie with no place to hide. Matt Jackson was very good-looking in a rather harsh and ruthless way. His wasn’t a comfortable face, but it was compelling. He was tall and muscular with wavy, dark-auburn hair streaked with flashes of gold and dark evergreen eyes that looked almost black in the evening light.
“Thank you. The roses were lovely, but as you know, I received quite a few of them last week.” She brushed past him and into the lobby of the club. She was so shaken by seeing him unexpectedly that she barely took in the elegant décor of the lobby. She was normally not a rude woman, but something about that man rubbed her the wrong way and set her nerves on edge and her hormones flooding!
The desk clerk saw that she was disoriented and took her arm. “Let me get your signature on the paperwork, Ms. Jones, and then I can show you to the Hamilton table in the garden. By the way, congratulations on your wins last week. Most of the staff here placed bets on you and Rockstar and, needless to say, at forty-to-one, were very pleased with the results.”
Belinda gave the required confidentiality agreement a quick glance, signed it, and then she smiled at the desk clerk. She was grateful that he was grounding her and letting her focus on him and get her breath back before she had to join the party. “Thank you. I’m glad it worked out for everyone. I have to admit that I had a small wager myself,” she said with a grin. As the clerk guided her out on to the veranda and down the steps into the beautiful blooming garden, she caught her breath and began to calm down. I don’t know why he always affects me that way. He makes me feel like a mare in heat. It must be pheromones or something.
* * * *
Matt Jackson leaned back against the white railing, stretched out his long legs, and took another puff on his cigar before tossing it into the bushes. He knew his appearance was intimidating. His high cheekbones and hawkish nose harkened back to the Cherokee heritage a few generations back on his mother’s side and gave his face a slightly exotic Native American cast. He smiled speculatively as he crossed his arms over his muscular chest and watched Belinda’s cute little backside as she walked away from him. Her butt has a nice sway but no jiggle. Too bad. I like a little jiggle. Her legs aren’t bad either, for a little redheaded spitfire of a woman. He didn’t know why he found the little jockey so fascinating. He couldn’t help yanking her chain every chance he got. She wasn’t even his type—not by a long shot. He liked a tall, statuesque blonde with a good rack and a great ass—an obedient one who made a lot of noise during sex. As one of the founding members of Le Club, he was known to be a strict Dom, although he did not think he was overly cruel. He grinned to himself. I wonder if she’s a screamer or a moaner? It could be interesting to find out.
* * * *
As Belinda walked down the steps into the garden, everyone at the table rose and applauded. She blushed. She hadn’t expected to be the center of attention. She was going to have to get used to that. Except for the kids who were too young to attend an event at Le Club, the entire Hamilton family was there. In addition, several other couples, all of whom she had met before at the farm at one time or another, including Jason and Calleigh Steele, Trent and Paula Redding, Justin and Kelly Devereau, Jamie Devereau and Anne Sutton, and Max Warrick and Anamaria Sanchez were also in attendance. A beautiful table with white linens, gleaming crystal, elegant china and antique silverware had been set on the lawn surrounded by the abundantly blooming English-style garden. The Kentucky Derby trophy surrounded by a beautiful floral arrangement of red roses was the centerpiece.
Mike and Ross Hamilton each kissed her cheek and escorted her to a seat between them. After everyone was seated again, Ross stood to make a toast. “To Belinda, who worked with us hand-in-glove for two years getting Rockstar ready for the Derby. Thank you, Belinda, for all of your hard work and your faith in our guy.”
Everyone clapped, and Calleigh Steele called out, “Don’t forget about my namesake. Her win in The Oaks on Calleigh’s Delight was stunning, too!”
“Absolutely,” Mike Hamilton, the older Hamilton brother, said. “That’s why we have a little token of our appreciation for you, Belinda.” He handed her a small box wrapped in shining, silver paper with a red bow. He smiled at her and said, “Open it.”
Belinda carefully slipped her short, French manicured nail under the edge of the silver paper and slit it open, revealing a black velvet jeweler’s box. She looked from Mike to Ross and then around the table at the smiling faces. Robbie and Madison Hamilton smiled at her in encouragement. She carefully pried the box open and gasped. Inside curled in a bed of black velvet was a matching necklace and bracelet, each with an intricate center station in silver studded with diamonds. She had seen the work of this jewelry designer around Ocala before. Tears came to her eyes. She knew that the tightly braided horsehair jewelry was made of tail hair. Ross Hamilton had worn a bracelet made of the tail hair of his open jumper, Flashfire, that she had admired since he had gotten engaged to Madison.
She looked at him, and he nodded. “It’s tail hair from both Calleigh’s Delight and Rockstar. Their names are engraved on the back with the date of the Derby. We thought you should have a special keepsake in honor of your spectacular wins last week.”
“Oh…Thank you so much. They’re beautiful, and I will treasure them. I can’t believe it. I have always loved these pieces, but they were a little too pricey for me.” She laughed although tears gathered in her eyes. “Until recently anyway. Thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime. Working with you guys and Rock has been a dream come true.” She was overwhelmed. She put the bracelet on her wrist and turned her back to Ross, pulled her abundant red hair up off her neck, and said, “Please clasp the necklace for me.” Although the horsehair was thick and somewhat stiff, it felt wonderful, and the diamond studded station in the center rolled against her skin. She put her finger up to the bead and rolled it like a worry bead. She knew she was going to be wearing it all the time.
The dinner of standing rib roast, Caesar salad, braised asparagus, potatoes roasted with red peppers, and other assorted side items was served family style as wine was poured. The conversation at the table was lively, but Belinda was quiet. Mike put his arm around her and said, “Is anything wrong, little one?”
“Nothing at all. I’m just overwhelmed. This has been a heck of a few weeks. Just the anticipation of the races and then the actuality is enough to stun anyone. Thank you for the necklace and bracelet. They’re just gorgeous.” The truth was she had been thinking about Adam. The sweet moments like this were doubly hard without him. He would have been so proud.
“It was our pleasure, Belinda. Robbie and Maddie worked with the designer on what we wanted. She did a good job.”
After dinner, and while dessert was being served, Mike stood up and said, “I have an announcement. We have decided to syndicate Rockstar before the Preakness and the Belmont. We’re going to offer a limited number of shares to our friends prior to the other races at a discounted rate. We are keeping seventy-five percent in the family. If he wins the Triple Crown, the syndication price will quadruple at least. Even if he doesn’t win either of the other two legs, his stud fees are going to be substantially higher than our other stallions. We expect to be fully booked, so it’s a good investment either way.” He turned to Belinda. “We are giving you a share, Belinda, because of your outstanding work with Rockstar. We know Jackson offered you a substantial signing bonus and you didn’t take it. We appreciate your loyalty to the farm.”
Belinda was stunned. Before last week she could never have imagined being in this financial position. It was a heady feeling.
Mike turned to Jason Steele. “We’ll be in next week to discuss the syndication agreement, Jason.”
Jason replied, “Sounds good guys. I can tell you that I will want at least three shares, one each for Emily Rose and Victoria Rose’s trusts, and one for Calleigh and me.”
Trent Redding popped in with “I’ll take three as well. I think a share each will be a good addition to the twins’ trusts, and the way my darling wife spends my money, I’ll need the income.” Paula punched him in the arm. Belinda knew that as the editor of Ocala Country Life magazine, Paula did not need to depend on her husband’s income as a heart surgeon.
Jamie Devereau, who Belinda knew to be the head of the Devereau family companies, said, “If there are any shares left over after everyone else lets you know what they want, I’ll take them for Devereau Investments.” 
“Wait a minute, little brother. If there are any leftover shares, Devereau Investments will have to split them with the Devereau Foundation.” Belinda knew that Justin Devereau, polo player and businessman, was the head of the Devereau family charitable foundation and ran the various real estate interests including farms in France and Brazil. She had enjoyed attending several of the polo matches played by his team at their farm. He and his wife, Kelly, had recently had their first child, Justin Jr. or J.J., and split their time between the Devereau Plantation outside New Orleans and the Devereau Plantation South, their farm in Ocala.
From the enthusiastic conversations bouncing back and forth across the table, it was obvious to Belinda that there would be no syndication shares available for outsiders. While everyone was chatting, Belinda was looking around the estate grounds curiously. She had given the confidentiality agreement only a cursory glance when she signed it and had not really paid too much attention. Now she was wondering exactly what went on here. The grounds were stunning. From the black-bottom swimming pool and cabanas, strutting peacocks, and the tranquil pond at the bottom of the lawn complete with black swans, everything was gorgeous.
Belinda saw Mike’s wife, Robbie, a forty-seven-year-old stunning redhead with a warm sprinkling of freckles and bright-green eyes, notice her looking around. She smiled at Belinda and said, “If you want to join me for a little trip to the ladies’, I’ll explain it all to you. It’s a little complicated.”
Belinda joined Robbie, Calleigh, and Paula for a trip to the ladies’ room. It was as gorgeous and opulent as the rest of the mansion in an old-fashioned Victorian way. They sat on little upholstered slipper chairs in the ladies’ drawing room.
“The four-car garage building at the back of the property is actually a dungeon,” Robbie explained. “This is a private BDSM club with only ten members.”
Robbie proceeded to explain that the Laurel Oak Estate had been perfect for a club patterned after and loosely affiliated with Le Club Beaudelaire—New Orleans, a club started by Justin and Jamie’s father many years ago in the French Quarter. The Ocala club was located at the edge of the Ocala historic residential and business district.
“Four years ago the estate was purchased by an anonymous investment group, and the first thing they did was put up the ten-foot high stone wall outfitted with security cameras and an electronic gate. Needless to say, my curiosity about the estate skyrocketed, but I couldn’t dig up any details,” Paula said with a twinkle in her eye.
“That’s for sure,” Calleigh quipped. “And believe me, she tried. From that moment on she drove me crazy for details about the renovations that were obviously going on behind the wall. But I, as well as all of the contractors and workmen, had signed confidentiality agreements and wouldn’t say a word about the work that was being done.”
Paula continued. “Finally it appeared that the project was finished, but to the entire neighborhood’s dismay, no one was able to get a look inside or find out what went on behind the gates. The security was tight, and the employees, tradesmen, and other people who went in and out couldn’t be convinced to spill the beans about the project.”
“The acquisition and renovation was funded by initial investments from the members who also pay an annual membership fee to cover the operating costs and salaries of the employees,” Robbie explained.
“So what does BDSM stand for?” Belinda asked as she tried to take it all in.
“The acronym ‘BDSM’ stands for Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission and Sadomasochism. It’s an alternative lifestyle, which includes spanking, whipping, blindfolding, bondage, role-playing, dominance, and submission. Not everyone indulges in all the various components of the ‘Lifestyle,’ as it’s called. Some indulge more deeply than others. The purpose is to increase sexual tension and pleasure for all participants. Some of the employees participate in the sexual activities at the club, but some don’t. However, everyone is required to sign the same confidentiality agreement you signed when you came in.”
Belinda was shocked. This is definitely not common knowledge around town. Who would ever think it? She had seen some people walking toward the garage building but had not been able to see what they were wearing. 
“It’s a strictly consensual sexual relationship based on trust. It’s not abuse,” Robbie continued. “While most of the members of Le Club enjoy a variety of kinky experiences, most of us don’t dive wholeheartedly into the more severe practices of extreme whipping and bondage. A few of the members take full advantage of the facilities, however, and you might hear some pretty strange sounds coming from the Playroom.”
“So this is a private club. Anyone here is either a member or a guest who has signed a confidentiality agreement? Does that mean that Matt Jackson is a member?”
“Yes. Matt is a Dom, or Dominant, and one of the founding members. Just remember, anything you see or hear is confidential. You can get in a boatload of trouble for talking about any of this—just ask Calleigh.” Robbie grinned. “She got herself in some real difficulties by talking about the club. She was the architect who designed the plans for the renovation of the property. She was overheard discussing the estate by the wrong person…”
“Yeah. I almost sank my little ship over that one!” Calleigh sighed. “That was one scary weekend.”
Paula had the good grace to look a little chagrinned—but it didn’t last. “That was one fabulous weekend. Ha! And it led to you marrying Jason and me, eventually, marrying Trent. You can’t complain about that.”
Belinda shivered as she thought about Matt Jackson, the Dom. She had never even heard the term before today. This was astonishing and something to think about…and more than a little scary. Kinky sex? Spanking? Yikes!
The ladies went back to the table to finish dessert and coffee. The party wound down, and Belinda found herself heading toward the front door and the limousine that would take her home. As the chauffeur was helping her into the car, she saw Matt Jackson helping a long-legged, impossibly tall and voluptuous blonde woman wearing a skintight, short, low-cut red dress into his low-slung, black Jaguar convertible. She giggled to herself. I wonder what they’re going to do with the remainder of their evening. BDSM anyone?

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