Playing the Master
Pleasure In Disguise, Book 2
by Dani Collins
Ebook ISBN: B01EYZV4ZQ
[ Billionaire BDSM Romance, MF ]
Ann Parker is being forced to marry a stranger, the coldly handsome Porter Navarro. She’s led a sheltered existence and had to develop a submissive attitude out of self-protection, but when she’s secretly made over and presented to Porter as “Violet,” she finally begins to taste liberation.
Removing her glasses so their yellow lenses wouldn’t interfere, Ann peered through the crack in the mirrored bifold door and watched the couple against the wall of the bedroom. The man’s hat was knocked to the floor and his pants hung loose around his thighs. The woman’s skirt was bunched to her waist, revealing her coffee-cream leg hitched on to the man’s thrusting hip.
They were doing it.
And watching them made Ann feel…hmm. Nervous, but not in the fearful way some of her observations made her feel. Excited.
She saw a lot doing this, standing quietly in a spot no one would think to look. Places like a closet with a door ajar were dismissed as empty, and she became a part of the room, like the furniture, silently witnessing all that went on.
She had learned a lot this way—how people really thought and felt. Whether they stole or simply admired beautiful things. Why they gave their loyalty to a man like her stepfather, Cain.
Despite the reason he’d brought her here, she liked Paris. The servants in this mansion weren’t on guard against her habit, and Cain was very distracted. More had gone on in the twenty-four hours she’d been here than had happened in the Al-Zahra mansion in a given year.
The woman seemed to like coupling with this man. In Al-Zahra, Ann had rarely seen men at all, mostly just Fonzo, the chauffeur. He’d been married to her best friend, Raina, the housekeeper. They’d been private people, especially about sex, but Raina had explained certain things when Ann asked. Like how it worked. Ann was deeply curious about the whole process. Did it feel better with someone else than it did alone?
This couple seemed to think so. They had stepped into the room, loosened and collided with urgency and subdued moaning. Their hips were locked together and grinding. What did that feel like?
A rush of heat pooled between her legs. Ann fought the sensation, tightening against it, but that only pulsed a sweet pleasure through her loins. It took all her concentration to stand very still and modulate her breathing.
She swallowed, glad the hushed noise of hands running over clothing and ragged gasps covered her own hitching breaths. The woman’s nails were scraping over the back of the man’s shirt. She arched her neck so her bright red curls bunched on her shoulder and met his thrusts with lifting motions of her hips. The man had his knees bent, his head dipped so his mouth was against her neck. His pale buttocks tensed as he pushed his groin into the woman’s again and again. Their pace grew fevered, their soughs of air sharper.
Ann burned all over. It was so much more exciting and visceral than the pornography Cain watched. That was very Tab A into Slot B, the actors’ faces never this expressive even when they were shown.
Rather than the squirmy mixture of repulsion and curiosity she felt when she glanced at that stuff, this sent flutters of real arousal into her abdomen. Her skin prickled under her loose abaya. Transfixed by the struggle, she held her breath, practically with them as she sensed their crisis looming.
“I’m coming, oh fuck, I’m coming,” the man ground out, thrusting hard into the blue evening gown bunched against the woman’s stomach.
The woman made noises between anxiety and approval, taut and tall as she accepted the pin of the man’s hips into her own. They held the position of stasis for a long minute, the woman’s face frozen in an expression of joyful anguish.
Is that what I look like when I fondle in the dark? When she was coming? Ann’s stinging blush turned to one of discomfiture, but she couldn’t wait for this interminable night to end so she could seek the privacy of her room and relive this experience.
Releasing pleasure-filled sighs, the couple relaxed and slowly disengaged from each other. The man stepped back to tug his pants up his hairy backside. Ann caught a flash of the woman’s mound before she worked her skirt down. Hairless?
As the man closed his fly and buckled his belt, he said, “Gracias,” but in the way of a sarcastic American.
“Mon bijou, thank you.” The woman’s breathless English carried an accent that was French, but she pronounced thank as “zank.” She wasn’t blue-black or tall like the Ethiopian maid they’d left in KSA, but her cadence sounded a little like her.
“Why did you want me to bring you here? Looking for new clients?” the man asked.
“I don’t troll, you know that. Invitations are strictly by referral. If you breathe a word of the club to anyone, I’ll bar you for life. No, this is lurid curiosity.”
“Uh-huh.” He sounded skeptical as he picked up his Stetson and positioned it on his ruffled hair. Glancing around the small dressing room, from its plush, round bench in the center to the closets that lined it, to the vanity table with its delicate lamp, he shrugged as though to say, Nothing left to do here. “Feel free to give ol’ Trev a call if you find yourself locked out of any more parties. That was a pleasant little knee trembler, Eloisa. Take care now.”
He pronounced her name with that same thick drawl. El-oo-ee-sa. Without even a kiss, he left, closing the door behind him.
Eloisa smoothed her satin gown into place. It hugged lovingly at her waist and across her round hips then revealed one smooth brown thigh through its high slit as she walked forward. Coming to the mirrors, she inspected her reflection for flaws, finger-combing her shiny red locks before cupping each breast to ensure the upper swells sat high over her sweetheart bodice. Removing a lipstick from her bag, she ran it over her capricious smile, eyelids drooped in smug satisfaction.
Ann’s heart pounded so loud she was sure the sound filled the room. She held her breath, counting the seconds as she willed the woman to finish grooming and leave.
Instead, Eloisa made one of those tiny shifts of posture and Ann couldn’t even blink. They were staring at one another.
She can’t see me. It’s dark in here—
Eloisa pressed the door open and their similar heights put them face-to-face.
Ann’s stomach plummeted into her knees. She dropped her gaze and fumbled her glasses onto her face. The lenses were greased by her clammy grip and caught, refusing to slide against the caked dryness of her face powder. She left them smudged and crooked.
Did Eloisa recognize her? Ann had made only the briefest of appearances downstairs when the guests had first arrived. Since then she’d been sidling into alcoves and stairwells, not comfortable being the focus of interest after so many years of being locked away and ignored. She definitely had not wanted to be noticed climbing the back stairs to this room.
“Quelle surprise,” Eloisa said in a facetious undertone.
Ann didn’t dare look into her eyes. People who were angry were cruel. You didn’t provoke them by being defiant.
A noise at the door lifted her startled gaze, but the bifold doors unexpectedly blocked her vision as they were thrown back into their rails. Enclosed in darkness once again, she had the barest sliver to view who entered the room.
Oh. Porter Navarro.
Her heart took a further tumbling drop to somewhere in the foyer two stories below. This would be bad. Now her stepfather would find out. If Porter backed out of marrying her, Cain would kill her. Literally. He’d told her so.
Her entire body quivered with an urge to flee, but as usual, she was trapped.
Porter said nothing as he stared at Eloisa.
She placed insolent hands on her hips and tossed her wild curls with bravado.
Ann hadn’t done anything so bold when introduced to him. She’d been too terrified, too conscious she was being sold to a man who looked more wicked and dangerous than her stepfather—which was saying something.
Thankfully, he hadn’t bothered to let his dark gaze linger on her the way he did with Eloisa. If he had, she hadn’t seen it while she’d stared at his shoes. How did Eloisa stand his scrutiny? He was intimidating, tall and ropy with muscle.
And yet, as Ann stole her first opportunity to study him without being observed, the sexy slithery feeling in her abdomen returned. He was even better looking in person than in the photos she’d looked up online.
His father was Spanish, but Porter had been born in South America, which leant warm Latin swarthiness to his skin. His brows weren’t too heavy, but they were intense over smoky gray eyes. He wore a precision-thin moustache with an equally ruthless narrow line of hair that started below his bottom lip and ran into a curving anchor that followed the edge of his strong jaw.
His mother was French, which accounted for the sensual lips, she supposed, but he was more worldly than that, having grown up around the globe as his father expanded the family oil interests. His accent had held a British boarding-school clip. His clothes were tailored either here or in Milan because his tuxedo fit his flawless build to perfection.
Everything about his appearance was excruciatingly perfect, from his shiny black hair swooped to the left to his polished black shoes. Even his companions, women of various ethnicities who’d been photographed by online gossip sites sprawled upon him in barely there bikinis, were utterly flawless.
But when Ann had looked past his brutal handsomeness and money and power, and read the titles he was given, “Sexual Adventurer,” “Master of Kink” and “Lady Killer,” taking her chances with defying Cain and making a run for it looked like the safer option.
Not that she had much say in the matter now. She curled her sweaty palms into fists, holding her breath, waiting for Eloisa to expose her. Waiting for Porter to speak.
They only confronted each other in silence.
Eloisa softened her posture first. She moved toward him with a swish of her hips.
“Mon bijou, this evening is full of the unexpected.” She sounded amused.
Ann dug her teeth into her lip so hard she expected to taste blood. Her nerves frayed as she felt the noose drawn a fraction tighter. A damp chill sat on her skin.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting to see you here.” He glanced toward the closet where Ann was hiding. “Find anything interesting in there?”
“Only your fiancée.”
Ann’s inner being drained from her eyebrows to her ankles in a sucking plunge.
“Is that where she got to?” Porter asked with disinterest, implying he thought she was joking. “People have been asking.”
Ann’s throat locked around a burst of hysterical amusement. Her stomach flip-flopped and all she could do was stand there motionless, waiting for Eloisa to release the blade on the guillotine.
“They want to see what kind of woman could leash the infamous Porter Navarro. From the brief glimpse I had, she seems intriguing.” Eloisa slid a familiar hand over Porter’s arm, lifting onto her tiptoes to attempt a kiss on his cheek. Her gaze cut sideways toward the closet from the corner of her swooped lashes. It was a teasing acknowledgment of Ann’s presence.
Before the kiss landed, Porter set a firm hand on her collarbone and pressed her to flat feet. “What are you doing here, Eloisa?”
“Ever the Dominant.” She tsked as he brushed her hand from his belt buckle. “I just told you. Like everyone else, I wanted a look at this paragon you’re planning to marry. Is she really a virgin?”
“According to Cain. Given how plain she is, I can’t imagine any man would touch her without other incentives.”
As Eloisa tittered, indignant heat crept into Ann’s cheeks. She didn’t know where it came from. Having witnessed how her stepfather had treated her mother, she had little interest in catching men’s attention. In fact, she’d spent the past nine years ensuring Cain found her less than interesting. Repulsive. Raina had helped her disguise the fact she’d grown into the body that had only been starting to blossom when her mother had been killed. Ann couldn’t peel back the layers at this point to reveal that, actually, she wasn’t half-bad. Not with Cain watching her every second, determined to get rid of her and her mother’s oil company in one ruthlessly lucrative stroke of his pen.
Still, it bothered her to know Porter thought she was unattractive. She feared it meant he’d be callous at best, harsh and vicious as her stepfather at his worst. That closed a door on her. Part of her had wondered if this marriage could be a turn of fortune, but apparently not.
“That’s another thing that has me curious.” Eloisa came toward the closet again and fussed with her hair. “You can’t need money. Why are you marrying for it?”
“I’m not,” Porter dismissed with a negligent shrug. “Cain wants to cash out, and if I don’t take this opportunity to absorb his company, someone else will. I like being on top, so I’ll take the steps necessary to stay there.”
“And consume a virgin along the way? Such a sacrifice.”
“Hell, no. She can save that for her next husband. Her stepfather has been living in Saudi Arabia so long he thought her virginity would make a sweetener for the deal. It drew interest from others, I’ll admit, but deflowering innocents doesn’t do it for me.”
“Overdosed in the early years, I imagine. When are you coming to the club? You know people started asking for you the minute you arrived in the city.”
He swept that away with a flick of his hand. “I won’t be there this trip.”
“What?” She spun around. “Why?”
“Reasons that are my own.”
“Something to do with your brother?”
He didn’t move, but he seemed to solidify into a hardened substance in a way that made Ann lean her weight back and hold her breath, gaze fixed on Eloisa, waiting to see if she reacted to his subtle descent into dangerous.
“I’m closing a business deal,” he said in a quiet voice that was deadly enough to lift the hairs on Ann’s arms. “It’s complex and requires a lot of my attention.”
Eloisa made a huffing noise, affecting disinterest as she checked inside her pocketbook, but Ann sensed the charge of hostility between them. “You said she’s from KSA? Saudi Arabia? That explains the lab coat, but they’re not Muslim, are they? Not the way he drinks. Where is she from originally? I heard England.”
“I have no idea. Why does it matter?”
Eloisa offered a smile that held her cheek in a tense bump against her profile. “Just curious.”
He folded his arms. “The marriage is a formality, Eloisa. Don’t feel threatened.”
“By whom? You?”
He lifted a weary brow.
“Of course I wouldn’t. We have no hard feelings between us,” she declared. Her hand pressed into the small of her back, fingers crossed against her spine.
Her cheeky signal made Ann smile despite how awful this was. She liked how Eloisa was standing up to Porter. She’d never had the nerve to stand up to anyone, especially a man who exuded so much power.
Her heart took a little swoop as she regarded him again. He was a quietly dangerous animal, like a panther or a raptor. The kind you wanted to look at through the glass at the zoo, because face-to-face, if he decided to make a move, you’d be gone before you knew what had happened.
And Eloisa was baiting him, treating this like a joke. Bringing Ann in on the secret as if they were conspirators. In a way it made her feel less lonely, just for second, but she was alarmed. She didn’t want Porter to discover her and think she was aligning with this woman. He didn’t seem very pleased with Eloisa.
“I can see your hand in the mirror,” he drawled. “This isn’t a love match. I wanted to buy the company outright and forego the marriage. Cain has made it a condition, because marriage will unlock her trust fund. It’s pure greed on their part, since the compensation for the rigs and drilling rights should be generous enough to hold them for a few years, but he won’t budge. So I’ll marry her to secure the merger and divorce her as soon as everything finalizes. You have no reason to feel slighted, Eloisa,” he finished in a condescending tone.
Interesting information to process later. Ann tucked it away and watched Eloisa drop her loose fingers to her side.
“Why would I feel slighted? We had a lovely affair and went our separate ways. We’re still friends.”
“That’s the way I remember it.” He strolled laconically across the roses in the area rug, becoming more threatening with each step.
Ann drew a slow, awe-filled breath at Eloisa’s strength in standing undaunted as he approached to loom over her.
“And even though I continue to like and respect you—” he began.
“Do you? Perhaps we have different definitions of that word,” Eloisa cut in with a hint of hardening frost.
“—I’m concerned about your motives.” He took hold of her chin.
Ann’s heart raced like a caught bird, fearful for Eloisa. She didn’t want to watch violence, but Eloisa didn’t so much as twinge with apprehension.
“Rather than calling me and asking for an invite, you fucked your way in here—”
“Would you have allowed me to come?” she interrupted again. Such insolence.
“No,” he stated implacably.
“There you go.” Eloisa jerked her chin from his grip and half turned away. “But how else could I see if she’s worthy of you? I failed to capture your heart and wanted to know who could,” she stated breezily. “That’s understandable, isn’t it?”
Ann thought she heard genuine heartache beneath. That was bad. If Eloisa regarded her as a rival, it would be very, very bad.
“Jealousy is a wasted emotion, especially on me. You’ve always known that, and in this case it’s even more misplaced.”
Eloisa turned to look up at him, lips widening in a flat, tight smile against her still profile. “The mighty will never fall?” she challenged, a rasp of bitterness threaded through her tone.
“No,” he assured her. “Not for you or any other woman. So there’s nothing to see here. You can leave. Now. As discreetly as possible.”
“Afraid if I stay, she’ll find out what kind of man you really are and refuse to marry you?”
He released an impatient sigh, but the way he briefly averted his gaze suggested there might be some truth to Eloisa’s accusation. “This deal has to happen. I won’t let you or anyone else jeopardize it.”
Warnings seemed to crackle in Ann’s ears at his determination, but before she could fully examine why, Eloisa distracted her, saying, “Promise to come by the club and I’ll leave without a fuss.”
“You’ll leave because I told you to,” he said with an arrogant look down his nose. “I’ll drop in for a drink if I’m bored,” he allowed with a flicker of patronizing indulgence.
“Oh, I can tell you’re bored,” she said sweetly. “I’ll ensure suitable entertainment is provided,” she added as further enticement.
When he said nothing and the silence drew out, she glanced very briefly toward the closet, then cocked her head at him, voice almost leaving a cloud of chill in the air. “No? Not interested in other women? Saving it all for your fiancée? What do you really know about her?”
This was it. The doors would be flung open. Curdles of dread soured Ann’s stomach as she held her breath again.
“I don’t need to know anything about her and neither do you. That’s the point I’ve been hammering since I walked in here.” He opened the door to the hall. “Now go. Down the back stairs and out through the kitchen.”
Eloisa’s response, something about not being his bitch, faded into the noise of conversation from below as they left the door open.
Ann released a slow exhale and waited a full three minutes, bemused, one hand over the sick knot lingering in her stomach. Porter and Eloisa had speculated on her virginity—which was intact. That only meant she was inexperienced, much as she was with all the ways of the world, but she wasn’t naive. As much as she’d like to believe there would be no repercussions from the unpredictable Eloisa, instinct told her that would be wishful thinking.
The real question, however, wasn’t what action Eloisa would take, or when, but how her betrothed would react. Porter didn’t have much of an opinion of her to start with, obviously, and he held her fate in his wide hand. Would he care that she had watched his lover coupling, or that she’d eavesdropped on his conversation? Would he tell her stepfather?
Despite years of wishing she could see her future, she’d learned that things had to play out in their own time. She could only respond when it happened, and then always in a limited way. Unless she made changes.
She trembled in a kind of shock as she stepped from the closet and slid the other side of the closet open, where wraps and overcoats had been hung by the servants. Fingering through the pockets of one damp raincoat, she found nothing and slid it across to the ones she’d searched before the approaching voices of Eloisa and her suitor had prompted her to step behind the bent door.
Paris was becoming less interesting and more dangereux. Perhaps not the best place to run away after all, but when would she have another opportunity?
This isn’t a love match.
If she bided her time and allowed the marriage, would she gain the trust fund that was rightfully hers and finally be free? She didn’t bother thinking about the greater fortune, the oil company. It might have been started by her father and inherited by her mother, but it had gone to Cain on her mother’s death and Ann had no interest in fighting him for it. Ridding herself of him was worth whatever he may or may not be stealing from her.
Skimming half of the notes from a cologne-scented pocket—a trick of subtle theft, she’d observed, was slower to be discovered—she tucked her find with the rest up the sleeve of the dress she wore beneath her abaya. A few minutes later, she used the back stairs and the pantry entrance to the dining room to rejoin the reception.
The band was on intermission. Perched on the piano bench, she hid behind the piano’s raised lid, skirt and slippers blocked by a potted fern. If she had the ability to buy stocks, she would have made a fortune on what she overheard undetected.