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A NineStar Press Publication

Published by NineStar Press

P.O. Box 91792,

Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87199 USA.

Knotted Legacy

Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Murphy

Cover Art by Natasha Snow Copyright © 2018

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact NineStar Press at the physical or web addresses above or at

Printed in the USA

First Edition

September, 2018

eBook ISBN: 978-1-949340-67-9

Print ISBN: 978-1-949340-71-6

Warning: This book contains sexually explicit content, which may only be suitable for mature readers, and depictions of hot wax play, blood play, rope play, collaring, kidnapping and forced captivity.

Knotted Legacy

Brenda Murphy

Table of Contents


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Author Note

About the Author

To C, always.

I am forever grateful to my friends at Templeton’s, the best tea shop ever, for the endless pots of tea and support. Alison, Stuart and Jennifer, thank you.

Chapter One

“Black suit? Wedding, or funeral?” Elaine shifted her weight on the bed and plumped the pillow with her fist.

Martha tilted her head and looked at her sister. “Madam has a thing for suits.” She folded her shirt and placed it in her packing cube. “I miss the way Sarah ironed my shirts. So meticulous.”

Elaine snorted. “Another one that left us. Are you going to see Vivian? I wonder how things are going with Bridget. What a succulent little brat.” She sucked her teeth.

“Miss her?”

“Do you miss Octavia?” Elaine smiled a sick smile, the one guaranteed to start a fist fight when they were children.

Martha frowned at Elaine. “Let’s drop this. I’m not going to see Vivian. She messaged me last week. Something’s come up. She won’t be attending.”

Elaine raised her eyebrows. “Something? She’s never missed one. Even the year she lost Miriam.”

Martha sighed. “She said the three of them were—involved, and she was not attending.”

Elaine’s expression changed, the teasing look on her face gone. “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”

Martha pursed her lips. “I will be. I love Vivian. I want her to be happy. I can’t believe Bridget is okay with it. She’s such a tight-ass.”

Elaine left the bed. She moved behind Martha and hugged her hard before she released her. “I’ll get out of your hair and let you finish packing. Anything special you want for lunch?”

“Is Myfanwy busy?” Martha chewed her lower lip, longing for the comfort of Myfanwy’s sweet submission.

“She’s scheduled with a client until tomorrow night.” Elaine rested her hand on her sister’s forearm. “Should I have Robin bring it to you? You haven’t even looked at her since I hired her.”

Maybe something new. Who knows? It might fill this empty place inside of me. Martha patted her sister’s hand. “That sounds delightful. Is there any of the soup we had last night?”

Elaine squeezed her arm. “Yes. I’ll send her up in an hour.”


I hope this letter finds you well. I expect you will attend me for what will be my last occasion. I will explain more when you arrive. G.

Martha folded the scented notepaper and placed it in her journal. The last? She swallowed on a dry throat. The rumors must be true. What will become of the Onyx? She sat back and looked out of the window. The last of the sun highlighted the drive and reflected off the white stones surrounding the center fountain. Her thoughts folded back in on themselves. So many years. No decisions. No worries. Submission. Obedience. Pain. And love. Madam’s love. What will I do?

A tap at the door interrupted her melancholy thoughts. She slid her journal into her desk drawer and sat back in her chair. “Enter.”

The door opened, and a small woman in a short black skirt and simple white blouse pushed a meal cart into the room. She was thin, her face defined by sharp angles. Her makeup was professionally applied, the cherry-red lipstick contrasting with her pale skin and overbright blue eyes. A cap of bleached blonde curls covered her head.

“Your soup, Mistress.” She met Martha’s gaze briefly and looked down. Her voice was soft. “Where would you like me to serve you?”

Elaine did well. Tasty indeed. “My bed.”

“Pardon, Mistress?”

Martha stood up and crossed the room to stand over to the small woman. She hooked her fingers under her collar. “Robin, isn’t it?” She leaned down, watching her response, and cupped the back of her neck. “My bed.”

Robin stilled in her arms. Desire coiled in Martha’s gut.

“Me, Mistress?” Robin’s voice was tremulous.

“Look at me.” Martha pinned her with her gaze, assessing her true feelings. She ran her thumb over Robin’s plump bottom lip, smearing her lipstick. No fear. Acting. Enticing but not real. “You can refuse. I won’t hold it against you.”

“Oh no, I’m not refusing, Mistress. I didn’t expect you would want me.” She spoke in a well-practiced voice, the facade of innocence mildly annoying to Martha as they moved through the dance of permissions. Robin lifted her chin and held Martha’s gaze.

Martha studied Robin’s face. Her self-deprecating words didn’t match the hard edge reflected in her eyes. Practiced. Not innocent. But she plays it well. “I won’t ask for your permission again. You’re free to refuse me as is anyone who works here.”

Robin pushed into Martha’s arms. “Oh no, Mistress. Please.” The breathy quality of her voice and the way she pressed her body into Martha’s embrace signaled her willingness to serve. “Don’t send me away. Let me serve you.”

Willing. Truth. Not innocent but willing. Martha kissed her, letting herself get lost in Robin’s well-acted surrender. She broke their kiss, and Robin lowered herself to her knees. “Bed. Now. Face up.”

Robin crawled across the floor. She stood up and toed her shoes off before she climbed up. She lay in the middle of the large bed, dwarfed by the king-size mattress.

“Hands over your head.” Martha stood next to the bed, her thighs slick with want in spite of her depressed mood. Or maybe because of it. “Spread your legs.”

She kicked off her shoes and shed her pants and underwear before she mounted the bed. Martha kneeled between her legs and shoved Robin’s skirt up; then she grabbed the waistband of her panties. She stripped her sheer underwear off and tossed them over the edge of the bed. The scent of Robin’s excitement made saliva pool in her mouth. She slid one finger over her clit. The small gasp from Robin made Martha press her legs together to relieve the ache. She thrust her thumb into the liquid evidence of her desire. Can’t fake being wet. At least she’s into it. She gathered Robin’s wetness before she leaned over her and pushed her thumb into her mouth. Robin opened to her and sucked hard. She moaned on cue, and the mechanical sound of her response threatened to derail Martha’s plans.

“You like that, don’t you? You look like sugar wouldn’t melt in your mouth, but I see the slut in you.” She pulled her thumb free and slapped her face. “You want to suck my clit, don’t you?”

Robin’s eyes were bright. “Oh yes please, Mistress. Let me. Let me please you. Please.”

Martha moved her hand down and entered her, fucking her slowly. Robin arched up to meet her thrusts. “Do you want to be my little fuck-toy?” She ground the heel of her hand against Robin’s clit, watching pleasure play across her face.

“Oh. Oh please, Mistress. I. Oh please. Just for you. Please, Mistress.” Robin twisted her hands in the sheets above her head.

“Do you want to come for me?” Well trained. Knows what I like. Hot need wound through Martha’s body. She thrust harder.

“Please, Mistress. Let me come for you. Just you.” Robin thrashed her hips, welcoming Martha’s deep thrusts. “Please.”

“Give it to me. All of it. Now.” Martha pushed hard and deep, sweeping her fingers over Robin’s sweet spot.

Robin arched off the bed and groaned as she spilled her pleasure, soaking the duvet beneath her. Martha pulled her hand away and rose to kneel over Robin’s face. She pinned her arms with her knees.

“Lick me.” She settled on Robin’s face, rocking herself on her tongue, rolling her hips. Robin lapped at her and thrust her tongue deep before she sucked hard on Martha’s clit. Sharp spikes of pleasure shot through Martha and she came with a deep groan. She raised her hips and lay next to her.

Robin rolled to her side to face Martha. Her lipstick was smeared, and Martha touched her cheek and looked into her eyes. “That was lovely.”

Robin smiled at her. “The pleasure was mine, Mistress.” She reached out and rested her hand on the front of Martha’s shirt, toying with the buttons. “Is there anything else, Mistress?”

Yes. No. Good, and yet not what… No. Who I want. Will I ever stop missing her? Martha caught her hand and squeezed it hard. “No. Thank you. You may return to your duties.”

A flash of anger passed over Robin’s face before she smoothed her features. “Your soup will be cold. Should I bring you another bowl?”

Angry. At me. Interesting. “No. I’m not hungry.” Martha shifted off the bed and picked up her clothes. She turned her back to the bed. She heard the bedsprings squeak, the rustle of Robin’s clothes as she put her uniform to rights. She kept her back turned and listened to the cart wheels rattle as Robin left and pulled the door closed with a hard click. Martha let out the breath she had been holding.

She went to the bathroom and washed her hands in the sink, anxious to be rid of the reminder that what she had was not what she wanted.

Twenty women stood before Martha in the main ballroom. She looked at each of their faces, favoring some of them with a smile. “I will be gone for two weeks. The house is closed to guests. You are all free to go or stay. Those of you who choose to go on holiday, please leave a copy of your plans with Millie. If anyone has any trouble while traveling, please call the main landline.” She inclined her head at Elaine. “Cook is in charge while I am away.” She didn’t miss the small murmurs and one loud groan from someone in the crowd, or Elaine’s expression of satisfaction. She would never understand her sister’s desire to be the most feared Dominatrix in the house.

Elaine squared her shoulders and focused her gaze on one of the submissives. “You have something to say?”

Roxy had been with them since the start, and she never tired of pushing Elaine’s buttons. “Oh no, Mistress. Nothing to say.” She rested her hand on her hip and rocked back on her heels and dared to meet her Mistress’s gaze. “Here.”

Elaine’s voice took on a warm tone. “Later then.” She licked her lower lip and smiled a tight smile at Roxy. Martha looked away from their display, jealous of the obvious love between them. Why doesn’t she commit to her? She loves her. Has loved her for years. And Roxy would kill for her. She scanned the faces of the rest of the crowd. Myfanwy stood close to Roxy. Her brows were knitted and her gaze fixed on Robin. The newest addition to Rowan House, Robin, was standing at the back of the crowd, a bored expression on her face. Martha watched her. The contrast between the woman who had served her at lunch yesterday, and the hard-faced woman she saw before her was disconcerting. Robin looked up suddenly and into Martha’s eyes. The shift in her demeanor when she knew herself observed was startling, her face morphing from hardened whore to innocent woman in seconds. Martha looked away and waved her hand at the group.

“You’re dismissed. See you in two weeks. Be well-behaved. Be sane. And for God’s sake be careful.”

Martha rested her handbag on the foyer floor. “This may be the last time I make this trip.” She buttoned her long gray wool coat. She pulled her black leather gloves on before she placed her fedora on her head and adjusted the brim. She checked herself in the mirror. Elaine picked up Martha’s purse and handed her the large bag. Martha looped the strap over her shoulder.

Elaine met her gaze in the mirror. “Maybe not. You know it’s not the first time she’s implied it would be the last. She is dramatic.”

“Yes, but the tone of her message is different than the other times.” Martha opened the door and stepped out. The icy wind stung her cheeks. She flipped up the collar of her coat. The black car idled in the drive. Millie was loading the last of Martha’s bags into the car.

Elaine pulled her thick blue sweater tighter, her hands red from the cold. “I envy you Italy this time of year.”

“I’m sure Roxy will keep you warm.” Martha hugged her tight. She released her and tucked a wisp of red hair that had worked loose from her braid behind her ear. “Go inside. I’ll be okay. I’ll text you when I get there. If you need me, I left the contact information on my desk.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.” Elaine stepped back.

She won’t go inside until I’m in the car. Millie held the door of the car open, and Martha hurried across the drive. She entered the car, and Millie closed her door. She sat back and looked back at the house. Elaine had gone inside, but Martha could see her holding back the curtain and peering out of the foyer window. She waved, and Elaine raised her hand. As much as she treasured her two weeks with Madame Givernay, she hated to be away from her home and her sister. Not quite two years apart, orphaned young, they were as close as twins even if their looks could not have been more different. And yet. She longed to rest at Madame’s feet, safe, cherished. Martha leaned back in her seat, settling her hips into the smooth leather. After buckling her seat belt in place, she blew out a long breath, ready to be away from the responsibility of running Rowan House. A nagging sensation of uncertainly tugged at her mind before she pushed it aside. Elaine can handle it. They’ll be fine. They always have been. I’m being silly. She tapped her foot, anxious to be free, even if for only a bit.

“Are you warm enough, Mistress?” Millie met her gaze in the rearview mirror. “Should I adjust the heat?”

“I’m comfortable. Let’s go. We’re only one flock of sheep away from missing the ferry.”

Millie laughed. “Yes, Mistress. I’ll get you there in time.”

She looked out at the gray clouds clustered over the distant mountains. The ferry ride will be rough. And cold. Damn it. She pulled her bag into her lap and rummaged through it, looking for her anti-sea-sickness bands. She slid them over her hands and pressed the button over the acupressure points on her wrists.

These things are fashion tragic. Ugh. At least they work.

The lounge on the ferry was crowded. Not trusting her stomach, Martha found a spot along the rail, the cold wind quelling her nausea. She sighed as she looked back at Skye. Her thoughts worked in circles as she mulled over the message from Madame, Vivian’s absence and new relationship with Octavia and Bridget, the way she had responded, or rather not responded, to Robin. She chewed her lip. The sound of a man’s frustrated voice carried over the wind and disrupted her thoughts.

“You have to come inside. I can’t leave your sister alone, and it’s too cold for her out here. Please. We can stand near the door.”

“No. Please, Dad. It’s too hot in there. I don’t want to throw up. Please.”

Martha turned her head and saw a small boy. He looked about seven, red-haired, and thin. His face was pale. The man standing next to him had a diaper bag slung over his shoulder and a baby in his arms. The baby, wrapped in multicolored blankets, started to cry. The man looked as if he might join her any minute. He shifted the baby to his other arm and held out his hand. “I’m not going to ask again. I need to get your sister inside.”

“I’ll be sick, Dad. Please. I’ll stay right here. Please don’t make me go inside.” The boy’s voice was earnest, on the verge of tears. He held his stomach with one hand and belched loudly. Martha looked around for a bin just in case.

She walked along the rail and stopped bit away from the family. “Sir? I’ll stay with him if you like.” She pointed to one of the wide lounge windows. “You can see us from there.”

The boy looked at her, his eyes wary. She smiled at the boy. “I get sick inside too.” She looked at the man. “I’ll wait here for you when we dock.”

The baby’s crying was louder. The man bounced her in his arms, and she settled for a moment. He met Martha’s gaze, an uncertain expression on his face. The baby fussed again. “Thank you.” He looked at the boy. “Mind her. I’ll be right inside if you need me.”

He hurried inside with the baby and took up a place at the window. The father waved at the boy and he waved back before he turned to Martha.

“I’m big enough to be alone out here, but Dad thinks I’m a baby.” He looked up at Martha and cocked his head to the side. “You’re really tall for a lady. I like your hat.”

Martha laughed. “I suppose I am, and thank you.”

“Do you really get sick too?”

“Yes.” She held out her arms and displayed her wrist bands. “But these help.”

The boy frowned. “How?”

“They press on a spot that helps keeps the sick feeling away. Hold out your arm.”

He held out his arm, and she pointed to the gap between his glove and jacket sleeve and a spot on his wrist. “Measure down three of your fingers and press there with your thumb.”

The boy did. “How long does it take?”

“It’s not instant, and it works better if you put pressure on the spot before you start feeling sick.”

His brow furrowed as he concentrated. After a few minutes he smiled. “It works.”

Martha smiled back. She glanced back at the window. The man was focused on the baby, feeding her a bottle. What is the story here? Why is he traveling alone, and how much farther do they have to go?

The boy tugged her sleeve. “Where ya going, lady? We’re going home. I’m getting a puppy. Do you have a dog? Do you like the ferry? I like it even if I get sick.”

Martha numbered her answers on her fingers. “Italy. I have a horse and some cats but no dog. And yes, I like the ferry.”

“You should get a dog. They’re the best.” He looked back and waved at his father. The man waved back.

“I’ll think about it.”

A gust of wind blew over the deck, and Martha held tight to her fedora. The boy pushed closer to her, leaning his body into her, and shivered.

“Are you cold? Do you want to go inside?” Martha looked down at him.

“No. I like it out here. Look at the clouds. Do you think we’re halfway? Look, the gulls are following us. Do you like birds? I like birds.”

They spent the rest of the trip with the boy talking and asking questions without waiting for answers. Martha was grateful for the distraction, marveling at the way seeing the world through the observations of a small boy made the excursion wondrous. They docked, and she waited with the boy until his father arrived. The baby was sleeping now.

“See, Dad. I told you I could do it.” The boy’s color had improved. His cheeks were a bright pink.

The man ruffled his hair. “You did. I saw.” He looked at Martha. “Thank you. It was so nice of you to help. My wife does this by herself all the time. I don’t know how.”

The boy took his hand. “Look, Dad, there’s Mom. Let’s go. See ya, lady.” He pulled his father through the crowd. A small part of her, the part that wondered what it would have been like if her parents had survived the accident, grieved for the normal life she’d never known. Boarding schools and caretakers had been her world.

She waited until the crowd cleared and made her way off the ferry. Millie was waiting for her. She opened the door, and Martha slid into the warm comfort of the car.

Millie met her gaze in the rearview mirror. “Do you want to stop at Fort William, Ma’am? For something to eat?”

“No. Unless you need something.”

“I’m good, Ma’am.” Millie pulled the car onto the road, and Martha focused her gaze out of the window and settled in for the ride.

Chapter Two

Her wool coat, so practical on Skye, was ridiculously hot for Lake Como. Martha placed it beside her on the seat. The flight had been as rough as the ferry trip, and she wanted nothing more than to be out of a moving vehicle. The driver was quiet on the ride from Malpensa airport to Madame’s villa. The limousine was appointed in white leather, impractical as hell but stunning.

The slight headache that had started on the ferry was now a ripping pain, and she wanted to curl into a ball in a dark room. Great way to meet Madame. So stupid not to pack my medication. Or sunglasses. She rubbed her neck, trying to ease the tight tendons along her spine. I miss Octavia’s hands. Damn if I don’t miss all of her, not only her hands. Robin. Where did Cook find her? I’d have passed. Too whorish. We’ll have to work on her demeanor. Our customers won’t like it. She looked out of the window, grateful to see the familiar unmarked drive of Madame’s home. Finally. I hope I can rest before I see her.

The car glided to a stop in the formal drive. The white pavers leading to the front of the house gleamed. The housekeeper, Alicia, stood waiting on the steps. The driver opened her door, and she stepped out and pulled her hat down to shield her eyes from the glare of the sun. Her mood lightened as she walked up the familiar path.

Alicia smiled at her. “Buongiorno.” She embraced Martha and kissed both cheeks. “Madame sarà così felice di vederti. I’m happy to see you too.”

A tall woman in black slacks and a starched white shirt appeared. Alice pointed at the car waiting in the driveway and inclined her head at the woman. “Get her luggage.” She clasped Martha’s arm. “Let me take you to your room.”

“Are the others here?”

Alicia looked down. “It is only you. Madame only asked for you and Ms. Abiola, who sends her regrets.” She looked up and met Martha’s eyes. “She is—Madame is tired.”

The sadness in her voice undid Martha. She placed her hand on top of Alicia’s hand. “Should I go to her now?” Martha wanted to see her, touch her forehead to her feet, let her command of her whatever she needed.

Alicia tilted her head, her lips pressed in a firm line. “No. She’s napping and would never forgive me if I did not let you recover from your trip so you could present yourself properly.” She guided Martha up the stairs to her room.

Alicia opened the door and pushed it wide. The room was bright. Fresh flowers graced the table, and the bed was turned down.

“I’ll send Gia up with some coffee. Would you like something to eat?”

Martha’s stomach turned at the idea of coffee and food. “Could I have some tea, please? Ginger tea if you have it.”

“As you wish. Dinner is at eight. I laid out your gown and your collar.”

Martha toed off her shoes. “Thank you.”

Alicia smiled, her gaze steady, and she touched Martha’s cheek. “Gia will bring the tea. If you need anything else, let me know.”

She closed the door behind her, and Martha stripped out of her suit jacket. She opened her suitcase and retrieved her toiletries bag.

A sharp rap on the door made her jump. She opened it to find the woman Alicia had sent to get her luggage standing in the hall with a tray. “Come in.” She stepped aside, and the woman placed the tray on the desk.

“You’re Gia, yes?”

Si. Do you require anything else, Miss?”

Martha smiled at her. “It’s been years since anyone has called me Miss.”

Gia blushed. “No offense, Miss.”

“None taken. Call me Martha.”

Gia smiled back. “Will I see you at dinner—Martha?”


“See you then, Martha.”

She closed the door softly. Martha sipped her tea. The ginger worked its magic and her stomach settled. She undressed, her nipples pebbling in the cool breeze from the window. She took her tea into the bath. The tub was deep, and she filled it as full as she dared. She added lemon-scented bath oil before she lowered herself into the soothing heat of the water. With a sigh she leaned back and closed her eyes. Nap. Dinner. My collar.

She thought over what Alicia had said, as the light citrus smell surrounded her, soothing her body but not her heart. Why only me and Vivian? Fine time for Vivian not to show up.

The water cooled, and she heaved herself out of the tub. She dried herself and brushed her teeth before she lay down on the crisp white sheets and pulled them over her. She closed her eyes. I should text Elaine. Later. I’ll text her later. She turned to her side and gave in to sleep.

The formal dining room was set for two places. Empty chairs greeted her, and a silence hung over the room like a shroud. Martha clasped her worn and faded collar tight in her hands to stop them from shaking. Her sheer gown hugged her curves. The fabric rubbing against her nipples kept them half-hard. She looked up when the door clicked open. Madame Givernay stepped through the double doors.

A wide white scarf covered her head. She had never been a large woman, but now her cheekbones stood out, her face all dark hollows and sharp angles. Her clothes hung loosely on her body.

So thin. So frail. No. Oh no. Martha bit her lip and suppressed a gasp. Gia stood next to Madame, letting her lean on her arm as she assisted her to the chair at the head of the table. Martha waited until Madame was settled and Gia had left them before she approached. She knelt next to Madame’s chair. She lowered her head and held her collar out with both hands. The brush of Madame’s fingers against her own as she took the collar from her made her shiver. Madame placed the collar around Martha’s neck and buckled it. A firm hand on her chin pulled her head up.

“Eyes to me.” Madame’s voice, silk over steel, was loud in the quiet of their intimate dinner.

Martha raised her gaze and looked into Madame’s deep-brown eyes. The light was there, her spirit strong, tempered but present.

“You look like you’re afraid I’ll break if you breathe.” She patted her lap. “Lay your head here, pet. I’ve missed you.”

Martha rested her head on Madame’s lap, the soft folds of her skirt soothing on her cheek. Madame carded her fingers through Martha’s hair before she traced her cheekbone with the sharp edge of her nail. Martha’s tension melted away under Madame’s touch. She always knows what I need. In her twenties and thirties, Martha would have been anxious for Madame to have her, to punish her, to beat her until Madame and her wishes were her world. But as Madame had aged, and Martha turned forty, she understood pacing, and the pleasure of serving, of simply sitting at her Mistress’s feet waiting on her will, focusing all her attention on attending her.

Madame cleared her throat. “I’m dying, pet. I won’t live to see the end of the year.” She wrapped her hand in Martha’s hair and tugged hard. The sharp pull on her scalp focused Martha. “No tears. I want no tears of pity, or of sadness.”

Martha bit her lip, pushing away the emotion that dried her throat and made it hard to swallow. “Yes, Madame, as you command.”

The hand in her hair tightened, and her head was pulled back. Madame grasped her chin. “I do. I command it.” She kissed her forehead and took her mouth, kissing her, lips fierce and demanding. Martha trembled in her grip, surrendering herself to Madame’s mouth. Madame released her before she rapped on the table with her knuckles. Martha knelt next to her chair, eyes down, hands resting on her thighs palms up. The sensation of Madame’s kiss lingered on her lips and filled her body with longing.

The door opened, and Martha watched from under her lashes as Gia brought in the meal. Madame rested her hand on the top of Martha’s head. “Rise, pet. Eat with me. I’ve not the strength to feed both of us.”

Martha rose and took the seat next to Madame’s chair. The delicate scent of saffron wafted from the soup placed before her.

“Eat.” Madame took up her spoon and Martha did the same. They ate their soup, the silence heavy between them with unasked questions and answers Martha didn’t want to hear. Martha shifted in her seat and rested her spoon on her soup plate.

Madame finished, and Gia cleared their plates. She returned with the main course.

Madame leaned back in her chair. “I am disappointed Vivian would not join us.” She picked up her glass of water and took a sip. “I wanted you both to act as executors of my will.”

Martha dropped her fork, and it clattered on the table. She raised her eyes to her Mistress’s face. She held her gaze. No words passed between them. Madame pulled the scarf from her head. The sight of her bald scalp made Martha bite her cheek to keep her tears back and honor her promise to Madame.

“I’ve exhausted all treatment options.” She turned in her chair and motioned to Gia. “Bring me the package on the sideboard.” Gia brought an overstuffed folio to Madame and presented it with both hands. Madame took it, her arms trembling with the weight of the folder. She dropped it on the table.

Martha wiped her mouth and sat back. Grief stifled her appetite. She picked up her wine and gulped half the glass.

Madame eyed Martha’s glass. “Go ahead, pet. I can’t drink wine anymore, but I like to watch other people enjoy my cellar.”

Martha picked up her glass and drained it. Gia moved quietly and refilled it with the bottle from the sideboard. She turned to go, and Martha grabbed her wrist.

“Leave the bottle.”

Gia inclined her head at Madame, who nodded her agreement. She placed the bottle on the table and left them.

Madame rested her hand on the thick burgundy leather brief folio. “Here are my instructions. I want you to read them. We will discuss them tomorrow.” She grabbed Martha’s hand, her grip surprising in its strength. “Know if I could I would take you back to my room and spend the night listening to your sweet screams of surrender. I’m so sorry to not be able to attend to you as I should.”

Martha leaned over and kissed the back of her Mistress’s hand. “It is enough to be here with you.”

Madame squeezed her hand. “You never disappoint me, my pet. My love.” She pulled her hand free. “Eat. Drink. I want to watch your wonderful mouth while you eat. Everything has lost its flavor for me.”

Martha ate because she knew her Mistress deserved her best behavior. Deserved her obedience. Deserved everything Martha wanted to give and more.

“You’ve read through my instructions?” Madame looked at Martha from over the top of her glasses. “Are the directions clear?”

“Yes, Madame. Very clear.” Martha knotted her hands together. “But there is one thing…”

“Out with it. I don’t have time for chitchat. Imminent death focuses you as much as pain.”

“Am I to understand you are giving me a person? A Lucia Coruso?”

Madame narrowed her eyes. “Not giving. I want you to provide a place for her. She has been with me for the last fifteen years. I want to provide for her.”

Martha frowned. “I understand. But why do you think Rowan House is the right place for her?”

Madame sat back in her chair and raised her chin at Martha. “Are you questioning my judgment?”

“No. I just…I’m not sure I’m the right person to be her Mistress.”

Madame laughed. “Whatever gave you the impression that’s what I intended? Lucia will make her own decisions. I simply want you to provide a place for her to live. My house in Givernay reverts to my niece. Lucia inherits the bulk of my estate here. Everyone else will share in what’s left after the sale of the house. They have families to return to if they choose. The Onyx ends with me, but for those who have developed a taste for what we have had here, there are very few places to go. Lucia has no family. Rowan House will be perfect for her.”

“What if she doesn’t want to go? Skye is a far cry from Lake Como. And our clientele tends to desire more physical forms of entertainment.” Martha sipped her coffee. “Has she agreed to your plan?”

Madame pursed her lips, her eyes dark. “She will. Just as you will.” She exhaled forcefully and sank back in her chair. She waved her hand over the documents. “Any more of my decisions you want to question?”

Chastised, Martha bowed her head. “No, Madame.” She placed her cup on the table. “I’ll do as you ask, Mistress. She’ll have a place at Rowan House for as long as she desires. I will provide for her as you request.”

“Lucia Coruso, this is Martha MacLeod.” Madame sat back in her chair. “Lucia recently returned from Japan.” She rested her hands in her lap, a half smile on her face as she observed them.

Madame’s demeanor as she watched them raised the hairs on Martha’s arms. The woman who stood before her was as tall as Martha. Her thick dark-brown shoulder-length hair hung in loose curls around her face and brushed the tops of her broad shoulders. Her skin was medium brown. Corsican? Sicilian? She was dressed in black trousers and a sharply tailored white shirt. The top three buttons of the shirt were unfastened, giving Martha an unfettered view of her collarless neck and ample cleavage. Martha caught herself staring, and she forced herself to look at Lucia’s face. Her eyes were a bright blue-green. Those eyes. Like the sea at Amalfi. Oh, Madame, you know me well.

Lucia looked into Martha’s eyes and inclined her head. “Madame has told me so much about you, Martha.”

The cool edge in her voice cut through Martha’s fog, and she extended her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Martha caught the delicate scent of Lucia’s perfume, sandalwood and jasmine, a subtle blend of spice and sweet.

Lucia took her hand and squeezed hard. Her grip firm, she kept her gaze on Martha’s eyes. “And you as well.”

The effect of her touch and the hard edge to her voice had Martha clenching her jaw. Trying to top me? What the hell? Martha returned the firm grip and her sharp gaze. Does she think I’m a sub outside of here? She’s a Mistress? What the hell is Madame up to?

Lucia let go of Martha’s hand and turned to face Madame. “I take it you’ve not changed your mind, Madame?” She pursed her lips. “You want me to go with—” she nodded toward Martha “—her.”

It was the disdain in her voice and the failure to use an honorific that set off the Mistress in Martha. Oh, fuck her. She doesn’t want to go to Rowan House. I don’t want her either. She and Elaine will be at each other’s throats. Damn, this is awkward. That’s all I need—another bitter, disgruntled Mistress in the house. Fuck.

Madame snapped her fingers. “Come here, Lucia.”

Lucia lowered her chin to her chest and walked over to Madame’s chair. She sank to her knees. Madame reached out and grabbed her chin. “You will not disrespect her. She was making subs beg for her touch when you were in grade school.” She released her, and Lucia sat back on her heels. “It is my final wish you go to Rowan House. What transpires after you are there is your business. I won’t be here to care.”

Lucia’s lip quivered for a moment before she firmed her mouth. “Yes, Madame.” Her voice was soft, the tone one of respect. Martha watched. Not speaking, waiting for Madame to signal the meeting was over.

Madame fisted her hand in Lucia’s shirt and pulled her face to within inches of her own. “Eyes to me.” Lucia raised her head. “You came to me and asked for my ownership. I didn’t force it on you. Trust me now. Honor my request. I will summon you to return here when I need you to attend me again.” She pressed a rough kiss to her cheek and released her shirt. She looked away from Lucia. A fine tremor shook Madame’s hand. She picked up the small hand bell by her chair and rang it once. Gia entered the room. “Take me to my room.”

Gia assisted her to stand. Martha waited, trying to make sense of what had taken place between Madame and Lucia. Madame glared at Martha, her eyebrow raised and her gaze hard, daring Martha to speak. Martha looked away from her Mistress and watched from under her eyelashes as Madame walked from the room, her fingers wrapped around Gia’s arm and her head high, leaving behind the force of her will.

Lucia remained kneeling, her head bowed, her hand resting on her cheek where Madame had kissed her. Martha waited until Lucia rose. She kept her head down as she turned away from Martha and left the room, closing the door softly. Martha walked to the window and looked out at the garden. Bees hovered over the late September blooms, a riot of orange and yellow. She chewed her lip as she replayed her meeting with Lucia and Madame. What the hell have I agreed to? This is trouble. She’s trouble. And beautiful. What am I going to do? What are you up to, Madame?

Martha stood in the foyer. She watched Gia as she packed her bags into the trunk of the car. Her heart ached, but she held back the tears that had been a constant threat since her last dinner with Madame. She looked around the foyer, memorizing its detail, knowing the next time she stepped through the door it would be as executor of Madame’s estate.

Alicia touched her elbow. “It’s time to go.”

Martha picked up her purse and settled the strap over her arm. She walked out into the early morning sun. Gia slammed the trunk closed before she moved to open Martha’s door.

“Wait.” Lucia’s voice was loud and commanding.

Martha stopped and turned back. Lucia came toward her. She wore the sheer gown Madame preferred her submissives wear. A red collar graced her neck, and even though she wore the clothes of a submissive of Givernay, her strong posture and direct steps indicated to Martha even more strongly that outside of the Onyx she was a Mistress, as she had suspected. Martha did not look away from her ripe body on display. Lucia’s nipples tented the sheer fabric.

Martha raked her gaze over her figure before she looked to her face. “Yes?”

“I’ll be to you in one week.” Lucia rested her hand on her hip.

“I’m aware.” Martha raised her eyebrow. “Is there something else? I don’t want to miss my plane.”

Lucia cocked her head at Martha. “I don’t know why Madame is sending me to you.” She met Martha’s hard gaze with one of her own. She lifted the edge of her collar and dropped it. “I only wear this here. I don’t intend on wearing one ever again once Madame is gone.”

Martha squared her shoulders. In her heels she was taller than Lucia, and she used it to her advantage. She stepped close, forcing Lucia to look up at her. “What you do, or do not do, is no concern of mine. I am honoring Madame’s request. I do not expect you to be anything at Rowan House other than my guest. Madame asked me to provide a place for you and I will.” She lowered her voice to a harsh whisper. “I don’t like this any more than you do, but for now, it is how it is, unless you’d like to tell Madame otherwise.” She pressed her advantage and stepped closer. “Understand this, guest or no. I will not tolerate anyone disrespecting me.” She touched the edge of Lucia’s collar with the tip of her finger before she trailed her hand down the front of her gown and flicked her nipple.

A flash of want shone in Lucia’s eyes before it was replaced by an expression of shock and anger. She stepped back, putting distance between them. She clenched her fist in her gown and opened her mouth as if to speak before she closed it and pressed her lips in a thin line. She turned on her heel and walked back to the house, her steps loud on the stone path.

Martha watched her walk away, pushing away the desire stirring in her belly as she observed the sway of Lucia’s thick hips under the filmy gown, and the way she held her head erect as she retreated into the house. Her eyes. So like Octavia. And yet not. So much pushback. Her mouth is exquisite. Too bad she can’t control it. She waited until the door closed behind Lucia, then settled her fedora on her head before she turned and walked to the car. What are you playing at, Madame?

Chapter Three

The thread of desire for Lucia, begun on the path outside the Onyx, had expanded into a thick coil of want in Martha’s body. She had replayed their last interaction in her mind in an endless loop with various endings, most of them some version of her taking Lucia back inside Madame’s house to show her exactly why she shouldn’t underestimate Martha. All her fantasies featured Lucia submitting to her in exquisite detail. She rearranged the pillows on the bed in the suite of rooms she had set aside for Lucia for the sixth time. She turned and looked around the room. Flowers. I should have ordered flowers. No. Too much. She chewed her lip as she paced the room.

“Are you sure you want her this close to you? Why not the Blue Suite? It was good enough for the princess we entertained last year.” Elaine quirked her mouth at Martha. “I’ve not seen you like this in forever. Why are you making such a fuss? From what you said, she’s a right bitch.”

Martha tilted her head at her sister. “Yes. But Madame expects me to…”

“To what? Take her in? Make her your sub? You’ve been cagy since you got back.” Elaine pulled out the desk chair and sat. She shoved the other chair out with her foot. “Spill it.”

Martha left the pillow on the bed and took a seat across from her sister. She leaned forward and rested her arms on her knees. “Madame wants me to provide a place for her. She asked me to care for her.” She chewed her lip. “She was—unclear about specifics. I might have left things on a bad note with Lucia.”

Elaine’s laugh was loud. “I wish you could see your face.” She reached over and patted Martha’s arm. “We’ll take her in hand. She’ll not come here and disrupt what we have. And the fact she is still coming is something. You couldn’t have been so bad.”

“She’s obeying Madame’s request. She’s a Mistress. We need to show her the proper respect.”

Elaine snorted. “Respect is earned. I’ll be respectful. Enough.”

Martha rolled her eyes at her sister and huffed before she pulled her chair closer to the table. “Come on. I want to go over the menu with you.”

“No. We’ve been over it twice.” Elaine stood up and stretched. “You need to take the edge off. You haven’t been with any of the subs since you returned, not even Myfanwy. Why don’t you give Robin a try again?”

Martha pursed her lips. “No. Too whorish for me. It’s not what I want.”

“You mean who.” Elaine frowned at her. “You’ve been a mess since Octavia left. I could kill her for leaving you.”

“It was for the best. She wasn’t happy. I could sense it. I choose to ignore it until it was too late.” Martha leaned back in her chair and looked at the ceiling.

Elaine walked to the door. “Then let’s take a walk to the stable. I’ve got my eye on Rachel. Her arms make me want to watch her work. She looks like she could bench-press a house. Or me.”

Martha laughed. “She’s built. I’ve seen her pick up a twenty-kilo bag of horse feed in each hand and walk to the other end of the barn without breathing hard.” She stretched and shook out her hands. “Fresh air will do me good. Give me a minute to change. I’ll take Bruno out for a ride, give you some time alone with her.”

“You read my mind.” Elaine led the way, and Martha closed the door behind them.

Martha tugged on her black leather riding gloves and tightened the buckle on her hard hat. She gathered the reins in her hand before she climbed the mounting block and settled herself onto Bruno’s broad back. She leaned down and adjusted her stirrup. She sat up and smiled at Rachel. “I’ll be a while, but if I’m not back by eleven, search for me.”

Rachel released Bruno’s bridle and smiled up at her. “Yes, Mistress.” Elaine lifted a well-worn crop and touched it to her brow in salute to Martha. “I’m sure we’ll find a way to keep busy while you’re gone.” She rested her hand on Rachel’s thick shoulder before she tugged at a lock of her hair. Rachel shifted her feet and inclined her body toward Elaine, leaning into her touch.

Martha rolled her eyes at her sister. She turned Bruno’s head and urged him on with a squeeze of her legs. The morning was crisp, the grass a silver green with the morning frost. Not willing to risk a canter over the slickness of the wet grass, she guided him to the well-traveled path leading to the small stand of trees on the far side of the meadow and kept him to a fast walk. Thoughts of her visit with Madame, and Lucia’s impending arrival, filled her head. I wonder if she rides. It’d be nice to have a someone to ride with again. She pushed away the edge of sadness cutting into her thoughts as she remembered times she had spent with Octavia riding the trails of Rowan House, and what would happen after.

She rode into the wood and Bruno’s breath puffed out, visible in the chilly air of the forest. The trees were mostly bare. A few leaves remained behind, lone holdouts stubbornly clinging to the branches ready to be rid of them. As she rode deeper into the woods, the rhythm of the horse under her and the comforting smells of horse and leather mixed with the damp fall scent of the forest lifted her spirits and soothed her.

She came to the fire circle in the center of the woods. The neat stack of firewood and the tidiness of the turnout shed told her she had made the right choice in Rachel. She was as meticulous in her care of the horses and this area as Octavia had been. A vision of Octavia, bare to the waist, hands lashed to the top fence rail, back striped by Martha’s lash, as she begged for the heavy pain she craved, pervaded Martha’s thoughts. She straightened her posture, took a deep breath, and blew it out forcefully. Let it go. Move on. She has. I need to.

“Right, Bruno?” She dismounted and led the horse to the small fenced paddock. She knotted her reins and clipped a lead shank to his bridle before she tied him to the fence rail. “I won’t be a minute. Behave.” She patted his shoulder. He rubbed his head against her arm, leaning into her touch. She pressed her forehead against his neck, drawing strength from his simple affection. “Promise.”

Martha stood next to the fire ring. She pulled the letter from her pocket and held it to her nose. The faded scent of Octavia’s cologne clung to the note. She unfolded it, taking care with the brittle paper, and read the words Octavia had written to her when she had pleaded to be hers, to wear Martha’s collar. She dug in her pocket for her lighter. With a steady hand, she rolled the flint and touched the edge of the lighter’s flame to the paper. The thin stationery caught quickly, and she laid it in the fire circle. She watched the blue-and-yellow flame as it curled and burned the creamy white paper to gray ash. When it finished burning, she picked up the bucket of water standing by the fire ring and doused the embers.

Done then. It’s time. Time to move on.

“This is your suite.” Martha kept her tone even, wanting to put the tension of their last meeting behind them. She pushed the door open and handed Lucia the key.

Lucia took the key in her hand and walked ahead of Martha. She pulled her large-brimmed black hat off and set it on the bed. She shrugged off her suit jacket and placed it next to her hat. Lucia turned in a slow circle as she surveyed the room. “This is lovely. Thank you.”

“I’ll have Millie come and unpack for you.” Martha stood in the doorway and rested her hand on the frame. “We’ve cleared your trunk and camera gear. I’ll have them brought up. I’ll return your phone to you once it’s been cleared. We have the same rules for the staff and guests as the Onyx. Only you, my sister, and myself are allowed to have our phones. Everyone else has to check them out to use them and then return them. We don’t allow any phones or photography equipment in any of the play areas, dungeons, or the stable.”


“If you find you need anything, please let me know. The staff are all pledged to the house and available to you. Anyone with a collar is yours to command, if you—” she met Lucia’s gaze “—have a need.” She turned to leave.

“Wait. Please.” Lucia called to her.

Her please and the soft tone in her voice fanned the flame of desire Martha had worked so hard to put out. She stepped back into the room and closed the door behind her. She walked over to Lucia and stopped in front of her. “Yes? Do you need something?”

“I need to apologize to you.” Lucia lowered her chin to her chest.

“Not necessary. We were both not at our best. I’ll leave you to get settled.”

Lucia looked up and into Martha’s face. “I was rude to you. I want us to start over.”

Martha held her gaze. “I should apologize too. It wasn’t right of me to touch you without your permission.”

Lucia’s mouth curved into a smile. “I can’t say it didn’t get my attention.”

Martha looked into Lucia’s eyes, letting her desire show, encouraged by Lucia’s unguarded expression of interest. Her breath quickened, and a surge of desire stirred her.

Lucia stepped closer and lifted her mouth to Martha. Her mouth. So close. Kiss her. No. Not yet. Not without her consent.

“I hope in a good way.” Martha stepped back, not trusting herself.

Lucia laughed and took a step toward Martha, her mien changing from one of contrite apology to predatory in an instant. Martha’s stomach tightened when she heard the full notes of her laugh and observed the change in Lucia’s demeanor. Even more kissable when she laughs. She curled her fingers into her palm to keep from grabbing her by the shoulders and kissing her. She fought the urge to push Lucia, to see what would happen if she challenged her.

“Yes. After I got over being angry.” Lucia held her gaze a moment longer before she looked away. “You said all the staff are pledged to the house, not to you?” She walked to the edge of the bed and trailed her fingers over the brocade bedspread.

Does she know about Octavia? Did Madame tell her about Octavia? “No. They are contracted to the house. Sometimes there are personal arrangements between staff, but it does not relieve them of their duties to the house.” Martha shifted her feet and shoved her hands into her pockets.

“How has it worked out? Any conflicts?” Lucia turned back to Martha and looked into her eyes.

Martha met her gaze. “Occasionally we have people who choose to leave, but I’d rather have them leave than be unhappy working here. Our guests deserve to have submissives and Mistresses who are emotionally present and like their work.”

“And you?”

“What about me?”

“Do you like your work?” She closed the distance and stood in front of Martha, a teasing light in her eyes.

“Very much. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t.”

Lucia tilted her head and pursed her lips, her expression thoughtful. “Is the bath through there? I need to freshen up after my trip.”

Martha wanted to linger, to continue getting to know this woman who challenged her. “Yes. Would you like me to send up someone to attend you?”

“No. I’m used to attending to myself.”

Perhaps I could help you? Don’t say it. Keep it together. “Would you like a tour of the house? After lunch?”

“I’d like that.” Lucia unbuttoned the top button of her shirt and pulled the hem from her pants. She unbuttoned the rest of the buttons and stripped off her shirt. The saucy black-and-white polka-dot bra with black lace she wore matched the playfulness in her eyes. “Very much.”

Martha studied Lucia’s body, unable to keep herself from admiring her voluptuous curves. When Lucia reached for the button at the top of her trousers, Martha forced herself to turn away from Lucia’s display. “See you at lunch.” She left the room, her steps light, planning her tour.

The hall was empty, and Martha was grateful she didn’t encounter any of the house staff on the way to her room. The thick ache of want between her legs drove her steps. She pushed through the door and leaned back against it to close it before she turned the lock. Her face was hot, and she tugged her shirt over her head before tossing it aside. After she toed off her shoes, she lay back on her bed and closed her eyes. She slipped her hand inside her silk tank top and pulled at her nipple until it was a hard point. Visions of Lucia’s sultry curves and full body filled her mind. She moved her hand lower and cupped herself. She kept the other on her nipple and imagined Lucia’s mouth on her, the way her nipples would harden and ache. A soft groan rumbled from her chest. She touched her clit and then lower, drawing the wetness between her legs over her clit. She rubbed faster as she imagined pushing Lucia to her knees and burying her hands in her hair. She moaned, thinking of Lucia’s full lips on her, sucking her clit, as she knelt at her feet. She jacked her clit with slick fingers. She came quietly, her body shuddering as she brought herself off, her mind overflowing with she wanted to do with Lucia. She stroked her clit, riding out the aftershocks.

Does she want me? Would she submit to me? I want. So much I want with her. Please let her say yes. She looked at the mantel clock. What should I show her first? The playroom? The dungeon? She shivered as she imagined Lucia in the playroom. Playroom first. Then the dungeon.

Chapter Four

Elaine sat across from Lucia. Martha watched her sister closely from under her lashes. After Martha had introduced Lucia to Elaine and pleasantries had been exchanged, their conversation had evaporated. Martha’s gut churned, anxious for their tour. Worried about Elaine’s potential to offend, she was unable to manage more than a few bites of her lunch. She sat back and touched her napkin to her mouth. Lucia ate quietly, and Martha admired the way she was cool under Elaine’s scrutiny. Lucia wore a simple black sweater set topped with a slender strand of pearls and khaki trousers. It was simple, elegant, enticing in its understated innocence, and Martha could not stop herself from wondering if she still wore the bra she had seen her in earlier beneath it.

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