First Chapter: Initiative (Suncoast Society)

s-td-ss-initiative3Now Available: Initiative (Suncoast Society 31, MMF, BDSM) from BookStrand! 🙂

Blurb:

Two years later, Susie mourns the death of her beloved husband and Master, but that aspect of their lives was secret. She now self-medicates with work and thinks love—and passion—are things of the past. When attending her twenty-year high school reunion, her only bright point is reconnecting with beloved friends, Grant and Darryl.

As kids, Grant and Darryl didn’t understand their feelings for Susie…or for each other. It took Darryl going through a disastrous divorce before the men got together and Grant could claim Darryl not just as his partner, but as his slave. They have to keep all aspects of their relationship hidden because of their jobs, yet they immediately recognize the significance of Susie’s bracelet.

That Grant and Darryl now play a far sexier version of Dungeons and Dragons only seals the deal for Susie. When outside forces try to destroy the men’s careers, can Susie take the initiative and save their new-found happiness?

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Chapter One

Only nine thirty on a Monday morning, and already Susan Costello’s day had turned into complete and utter shit.

If they don’t haul me out of here in handcuffs or a straight-jacket by the end of the day, it’ll be a miracle.

Right now she was rubbing at her forehead, trying to stave off a tension headache as her service manager, Tom, ranted about some bullshit her brother-in-law had pulled on Saturday while she wasn’t at the dealership. It figured, the one freaking Saturday she’d taken off in a couple of months, and Jack had decided to strut his stuff in front of a friend of his.

It’s looking more and more like handcuffs.

 

“Now, I stayed on because I loved working for John,” Tom said. “And I love the heck out of you, Susan. But Jack-off needs to butt the hell out of my service department and leave my crew alone, or you’re going to be needing to hire a lot of damn techs. We’re sick of his bullshit.”

“Jack-off” was one of the nicer nicknames most of the employees at Costello Luxury Motors had for Jack Costello. Who, at twenty-nine, had apparently made being an asshole his major mission in life, since he’d pretty much failed at everything else.

“I’m really sorry, Tom. I’ll have a talk with him.”

“You don’t need to apologize to me,” Tom said. “Everyone knows he’s an asshole and none of us blames you. We know you’re kind of stuck with him for now. But we’re done putting up with him, seriously.”

Once Tom had left, Kristin walked in with a cup of coffee and handed it to her. Her administrative assistant wore a knowing smirk. “I didn’t spike it with bourbon, if that’s your question.”

“Why not? I thought you loved me?”

“Because you want to be stone-cold sober when you go and confront Jackass.”

“True.” Susan sipped the coffee, her third cup of the morning.

At this rate, she was thinking about spiking it with some of her leftover Xanax.

“He’s not in yet, anyway,” Kristin offered.

“Figures.” Susan settled back in her desk chair and slowly shook her head. “I’m sick and tired of him.”

“Want me to see if I can find a hit man?”

“He’s not worth jail time.”

“Hence why I kept you sober this morning.”

“You’re too good to me.” Susan smiled up at the older woman, who’d been her husband’s assistant when he’d run the dealership. “Have I told you ‘thank you’ lately?”

“Every day, sweetie.” Kristin settled into a chair in front of Susan’s desk. “The lawyer get back to you?”

“Yeah. No, I can’t outright fire Jack without risking a lawsuit from him or his parents, if they want to fight it.” She smiled. “But I can reassign him. And if he refuses to do the job assigned to him, that is considered failure of duties. Then I can fire him. The will doesn’t guarantee him a particular position or a specific salary, only that he should be offered one. And it doesn’t specify that I can’t move him into another position. If he refuses to do whatever job I give him…” She shrugged.

Kristin grinned as she leaned forward. “Oooh. Tell me more.”

“He gives me any bullshit today, he’s going to become the newest lot wash guy.”

“Ha! I don’t think Jack can wipe his own ass, much less wash a car.”

Susan’s husband never anticipated the manner or timing of his death, or she knew damn well he wouldn’t have left his will set up the way he had. He’d had it drawn up right after they’d gotten married and he’d opened the dealership, when his younger brother was still just a kid. He’d willed a very small percentage of the company, only a two-percent share, to Jack. His parents already owned a third of the shares. Susan owned fifty percent, and a couple of other people, some of them relatives who’d invested when John had started the dealership, owned the rest of the shares.

When John died two years earlier during an accident while on a fishing trip on Jack’s boat, if it hadn’t been for the fact that several of John’s friends had been there, too—who also nearly died as a result of Jack’s stupidity—Susan would have pressed for a manslaughter investigation.

Susan had stepped into her husband’s role at the dealership, as per his will. The fact that she’d helped him build the business and knew every aspect of it from the ground up as well as he did helped her greatly.

Something else that pissed off her in-laws to no end, when they realized they couldn’t just slide right in and take it out from under her.

Susan sipped her non-spiked coffee. “Jack’s going to learn I won’t put up with his bullshit. It specifically states in the will that Jack’s only ‘guaranteed’ a position for thirty months following John’s death. We’re getting close to that now. If he quits at this point, or fails to perform, I’m not obligated to give him another job if he asks for one after that window shuts. John never intended for Jack to sit on his ass and earn a paycheck for doing nothing while pissing people off in the process. He wanted to make sure Jack had a chance he could earn a living. Key word there being ‘earn.’”

“Someone should tell Jackass that.”

“I plan to.”

“As soon as you finish your coffee?”

“Damn straight. I don’t want to face murder charges.”

“I think it’d be manslaughter. I didn’t hear you plan a damn thing.”

“I love you, Kristin.”

The older woman smiled as she hauled herself up out of the chair. “I know. Job security. That, and I have access to the corporate checkbook to post your bail.”

Kristin gently closed the door behind her as she left. Yes, Susan couldn’t do this without Kristin to help keep her sane and nonhomicidal.

Since she couldn’t go after Jackass until he arrived, Susan turned to her computer to start going over yesterday’s sales reports. John never put up with bullshit from Jack, and Jack had spent his time with his nose crammed so far up his older brother’s ass he hadn’t had time to piss off anyone else.

But without John’s iron will to keep Jack in line, he’d pretty much become the asshole everyone else knew he really was.

She was not, however, obligated to put up with it forever.

And she wouldn’t.

* * * *

Jack finally made it in to work a little after eleven. His excuse this time was a dentist appointment.

Susan thought she’d heard the sales guys had an ongoing “Jack’s Excuse Bingo” pool to see what he’d blame for his perpetual Monday tardiness. She had consumed yet another cup of coffee and had worked up a pretty good head of steam by the time Kristin phoned her and let her know Jack had been spotted on the property.

Susan wasted no time heading to his office, knowing Jack would likely scoot out for lunch as soon as he could, not reappearing for a couple of hours.

He’d barely settled in at his desk when she walked through his office door and shut it behind her, locking it before turning to him wearing what she hoped looked like the grin Kristin had dubbed “shark terrifying.”

He must have sensed a problem, because he sat back, leaning away from her as she walked over to his desk and planted both hands on it, looming over him.

“I had an interesting and enlightening talk with my attorney this past weekend, Jack. Would you like to know what he told me?”

He swallowed hard. “Um, what?”

“That John’s will doesn’t guarantee you this position,” she said, tapping the desk. “It guarantees you a position, with starting pay. Now, John loved you and put up with you far longer than I ever would have. If I hear you ever again pull a stunt like you did this weekend, you will be our newest car washer. Got it?”

His eyes widened. “You can’t do that!”

“Watch me. My attorney said I can. There’s not a damn thing your mommy and daddy can do to stop me. And if you refuse to do the job I give you, then you can be terminated for refusing to perform your duties.”

She fought the urge to laugh as she leaned farther across the desk and he actually pushed his chair back and away from her until he bumped up against the wall.

Her gaze narrowed. “I don’t like you, Jack. I hold you responsible for John’s death. You’re damn lucky you’re not cleaning toilets and mowing the grass here. Don’t think I won’t do that, either.”

She made him flinch when she feinted at him before straightening and raising her voice to a normal level. “You do your job. You are a salesman. You do not throw your weight around service, parts, the body shop, or even sales. You are not in charge, and you have no standing whatsoever as management. Therefore, you keep your nose out of other departments. We clear?”

He nodded.

She headed for the door and shot her next comment over her shoulder. “Oh, and turn in that car you’re driving. I’ll have one of the guys give you a trade-in.”

“What?”

She stopped, glancing at him. “Again, the will states you can have a car. Whatever car I decide you can have. Or, you can always pay the friends and family dealership cost rate and buy the one you’re driving now.”

He frowned and slowly shook his head.

“Good. You don’t make enough in commissions to warrant you having that car. I need to turn it over before it gets too many miles on it. Get your stuff out of it and hand the keys over to Matt by noon. If there are any damages on it, I’ll take it out of your pay.”

“But I have a date tonight!”

“Excellent. You can show her your new ride.”

She made sure not to slam the door when she left. She’d already notified Matt, her sales manager, to prep a fifteen-year-old Ford Focus for Jack. It was a trade-in they’d received that week, and they’d been planning to load it on a hauler to send to auction with about seven others.

It was mechanically sound, if not cosmetically in the best shape.

Earlier, Matt had nearly wet himself laughing as she hung up the phone with him.

Susan would make Jack’s life as miserable as possible until he finally quit, which had been Ed’s advice to her, delivered over dinner Sunday night at his and Hope’s house.

Make Jack miserable to the point so that when she offered him a buy-out he’d gladly take the money and run, because once his time ran out, she could fire him for failure to perform. And the shares he owned only gave him voting power, not monetary payouts, so they were pretty much worthless on their own.

Jack wouldn’t be her problem anymore. And if he quit anyway, or gave her cause to fire his ass, even better.

I can only hope.

As she walked back to her office, she realized her day was edging away from handcuffs and back toward a straight-jacket.

Win!

* * * *

Kristin brought Susan’s lunch to her. It was now one of Kristin’s missions in life to ensure she saw Susan eat at least one meal a day during workdays, since during the first couple of months after John’s death Susan had lost over thirty pounds from not eating and hadn’t gained them back.

Kristin set the plastic container on Susan’s desk. “I noticed Jackass doesn’t look very happy at the ride downgrade.”

Susan smiled as she popped the lid on the large salad with grilled chicken. “Yeah, he wasn’t.”

Susan had made sure Matt took a picture of Jack’s face when he saw the car.

Susan stirred the salad with her fork. “Hey, as Ed told me, the will doesn’t specify what kind of car we have to provide for him as long as he’s an employee, only that it’s a car.”

“What if he tries to wreck it?”

Susan shrugged. “Then he can get his own car. I’m not obligated to replace it if he does that.”

“Ha!” Kristin settled in her usual chair with her own salad. The two ate lunch together nearly every day. “Why’d you wait so long to try to get rid of him, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Because I could only deal with so much at once. I finally feel like I have my feet planted firmly enough under me now that I can deal with the stress getting him out of my life for good will put me through.”

“You are still going to your high school reunion this weekend, I hope?”

Susan glanced at the postcard pinned to the cork board next to her desk. “Yeah, I should go. Get out. See people. I can picture me being a real drag, though. ‘Hey, Susan, what have you done over the past twenty years?’ ‘Oh, married a great guy, ran a successful business with him until his brother fucking murdered him through sheer stupidity two years ago, and I have to look at that asshole’s fucking face every day.’” She grimly smiled. “Great conversation starter.”

Kristin cocked her head at Susan. “Stop,” she gently said. “You said yourself you wish you could reconnect with some people. Now’s the time to do it.”

“I know.” She dug through her salad. “I hope Darryl and Grant are there.”

“Were they your D and D buddies?”

“Yeah.” Those wistful thoughts brought a smile to her face. “I was such a geek in high school. I didn’t fit in. I liked cars but the gearheads in shop wanted nothing to do with me. I ended up in this small clique of kids who didn’t belong anywhere else. And we had fun. We played D and D, loved sci-fi movies, hung around together—it was great.”

“What happened?”

“Life happened. College, jobs, and we lost contact. That was before Facebook and everyone had e-mail and cell phones that texted and did everything.”

“Isn’t there some sort of website or something for the reunion where you can connect with people?”

“I’d rather be surprised. Go in with no expectations.” The truth was, it would disappoint the hell out of her if Grant and Darryl weren’t there, and she knew she wouldn’t go if she discovered in advance they weren’t going.

“Well, I think it’ll be good for you. Go tie one on, have fun, puke in a hotel room bathroom, and sleep it off the next day.”

“Gee, thanks. I think.”

Kristin smiled. “You need to get away for a weekend.”

“It’s just up on Siesta Key. Not like I’m going to the Keys or something.”

“You know dang well what I mean. I have to order you home every day.”

“I have a business to run.”

“John never intended for you to run yourself into the ground in the process. And don’t say you aren’t, because I know damn well that’s what you’re trying to do to escape. Some people do drugs or drink. You work.”

Susan didn’t have an answer for that.

Mostly, because Kristin was right, and she knew that Kristin knew it, too.

There wasn’t much about Susan that Kristin didn’t know.

One of those few things being the extent of Susan and John’s relationship. More than husband and wife, more than business partners and coworkers.

But you can’t exactly confide, even to your closest friends, that you were your husband’s willing slave, and that he was your cherished, beloved Master.

* * * *

At least Jack kept his head down and stayed off Susan’s radar for the rest of the day. By the time Susan was ready to leave at seven, Kristin was standing there in the outer office, waiting on her.

“You need to push back the hours a bit. These twelve-hour days are going to kill you.”

“If I’m lucky,” Susan muttered as she walked with Kristin toward the side lot where employees parked.

“Stop it,” Kristin said, turning and making Susan stop. “That isn’t what he’d want and you know it. He loved you. He’d want you to be happy.”

Susan didn’t want to do this here. She’d perfected a strong fortress of a game face to wear at work, but now the prickle of tears stung her eyes. “I’m not happy and don’t think I ever will be again,” she admitted. “The least I can do is what I do best, and that’s work. Keep this place going in his memory. It was his dream, and he was happy doing this.”

“Sweetie, promise me you’ll go to your reunion this weekend.”

“Why?” Late in the afternoon, Susan’s opinion pendulum had swung through the spectrum again, and she’d been considering canceling. At least the lost ticket price wasn’t really a concern for her.

“Because you need to get out for a while. Get out of your head. Just go. Please?”

Kristin was fifty-eight and a combination of adopted mother and big sister to Susan. Especially since losing John.

“Will you get off my case if I go?” Susan side-stepped her friend and continued her trek to her car.

She followed Susan. “For at least twelve hours, yes. That’s the best deal I’ll offer you.”

“Okay, fine. I promise I won’t cancel. I can’t promise I’ll have fun, though.”

“I know. But you never break a promise to me, so I’m glad to know that for the weekend, at least, you’ll be out of your element.”

Susan drove home in a funk. Mixed feelings swirled through her. If Darryl and Grant and some of her other old friends weren’t there, it would be a long, lonely weekend. Hell, some of her friends, like Rusty McElroy, wouldn’t be there because they’d been older and in different grades ahead of her, even though they’d all hung together and played D and D and other games. Went to the movies. Watched sci-fi and other shows on TV.

I wonder if any of them still live in the area.

Yes, she probably could have jumped on Facebook and tried to find them. But she hated using Facebook and rarely went onto the site to check her account, had it locked down tight so people couldn’t find her on it anyway. She wasn’t fond of social media sites, the privacy concerns a pretty big deal for her.

Which, yes, she recognized it was ironic considering how geeky she’d been in high school. It’d been nerve-wracking enough for her going out to the different local events with John, the chamber of commerce and Rotary and other soirees, where she always wondered if anyone would spot their secret.

She would have done anything to protect their secret, to protect his reputation so people didn’t think badly about him, even though he’d been far less concerned about it than her.

She’d trusted John, had been able to relax with his guiding calm and strong patience. She would have followed him anywhere.

Even into death, although that option had been taken off the table for her by the sealed letter he’d left for her with Ed.

He left her with a standing order to live, to try to find happiness, that he wanted her to love again, even find another Master if she wanted. Although she knew damned well he’d never intended to die as young as he had.

Two years. Two long, lonely years.

Kristin was right. Susan knew she used work as her drug of choice, hoping the stress and poor self-care would have taken her down with a heart attack by now.

No such luck.

When Susan arrived home, she followed her usual routine. She locked herself in, reset the alarm, and stripped in the front foyer. Shoes, pants, panties, blouse, bra. Neatly folding her clothes and putting them on the table there.

From the table, she picked up her leather collar and buckled it around her neck, followed by the matching leather wrist and ankle cuffs.

She immediately walked into the living room, where John’s urn sat on a shelf next to the TV, their wedding picture beside it.

Kneeling, she bowed her head. “This girl belongs to her Master,” she quietly recited. “Mind, soul, body, heart. Until Master decides otherwise. I love you.”

Slowly breathing through her mental pain, still sharply keen even two years later, she struggled not to cry. Yes, in the letter John had told her she was free to seek out someone else to love, if she felt they were good for her and could take care of her and protect her. Give her happiness.

The truth was, she didn’t want to. She didn’t have the heart or energy to. It was all she could do to fulfill the final order he’d left for her—to live, to take care of his most precious property as best she could, to protect it, to nurture it.

Meaning her.

And she’d done a damn piss-poor job of that, truth be told.

Kind of difficult when her heart wasn’t anchored in living any longer.

After one long, final breath, she raised her head and looked at the urn. “When does it get easier, Sir?” she whispered. “When does it stop hurting so damn bad?”

 

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http://www.bookstrand.com/book/initiative

Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK) | Kindle (CA) | Kindle (AU)
Kindle (JP) | Kindle (IT)Kindle (DE) | Kindle (MX)
Kindle (BR)Kindle (IN) | Kindle (NL) | Kindle (ES) | Kindle (FR)

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Print: Amazon | B&N