But Quinn started to laugh. His older brother, who defined restrained, laughed so hysterically tears rolled down his face. He laughed so hard he doubled over on the couch. He’d look up at Dalton, then at Ben, and cackle, giggle and wheeze with laughter.
Not the reaction Ben had predicted.
Finally, Quinn calmed down. He wiped his eyes. He addressed Dalton, who’d taken a seat during Quinn’s laughing fit. “I understand your concern, okay? I don’t know how I would’ve reacted seein’ Ben in that situation. But you’ve taken it totally out of context.”
“So you ever been to a bar or a club in a big city like what you seen in Gillette?”
“That don’t matter. This ain’t about me.”
“You’re laying all Ben’s secrets bare. I’m expecting the same thing from you.”
“You’ve lied about how many women you’ve fucked, haven’t you?”
Dalton squirmed. “Huh-uh.”
“Come on, Dalton. Admit bein’ a McKay sometimes makes you feel you’ve gotta live up to that man-whore reputation,” Quinn cajoled. “You ain’t the stud you pretend to be are you?”
Took a solid minute, but Dalton blushed and shook his head.
“How old are you again?”
“You’re awful damn naïve,” Chase answered. “I wish you’da told us your suspicions besides the vague Ben needs help and he’s too proud to admit he has a problem line that got us to haul ass to Wyoming.”
“Wait,” Ben inserted. “Dalton didn’t tell you guys anything?”
Gavin said, “No. Just that it was urgent and Ben’s brothers needed to intervene.”
Ben wasn’t sure which shocked him more; that they’d all come, including Gavin, or that they hadn’t questioned why they should come.
“Why aren’t you guys takin’ this seriously?” Dalton demanded. “It’s some heavy shit.”
Quinn lifted a brow at Ben. “I’m sure you would’ve preferred to keep this quiet as you have for years, but given the circumstances, you wanna explain? In plain terms so Mr. Naïve over there gets a decent grasp on it?”
“I’m what’s called a sexual dominant. That means in sex play, I’m in charge. But in order to be dominant I need a submissive. A submissive chooses to give herself, her body, her will, to the Dom. A Dom does not take what isn’t offered. There isn’t rape. There isn’t torture. At least not in my scenes. I don’t expect my subs to be lifestyle subs twenty-four/seven. I’m a Dom strictly in sexual situations.” He gave Dalton a pointed look. “With women.”
Dalton had the grace to be flustered.
“On the surface, the Dom/sub relationship is about sex. And I ain’t gonna lie, the sex is what drew me to it. It still does. That exchange of power is heady stuff. But when I’m in my dominant role, I’m completely attuned to my sub. To her needs, her fears, her pleasure.”
“How long have you been a dominant?” Quinn asked.
“Officially? About eight years.”
“But what about the whippings?” Dalton blurted out. “That ain’t right.”
“That’s not for you to judge.” Ben looked at his brothers. “What bothered Dalton was I wasn’t sexually involved with those submissives. Because it’s not always about sex. I used the single tail whip on the sub at the request of the sub’s Dom. That Dom decides when I stop.”
Chase asked, “Do you do that a lot?”
“Whip another Dom’s sub? Only because they know I’m awful damn good with a whip. The new Doms learn from me. Some Doms don’t like usin’ the single tail but their sub really gets off on it. So I fill a need.”
“So you like beatin’ on women,” Dalton said.
Snapping at his clueless cousin would serve no purpose. “Only if they ask me real nice.”
“That ain’t funny.”
Gavin laughed. “Yes, it is. I’m getting quite the education. I’m impressed, Ben. Shocked, but relieved.”
“Not me. I sort of suspected,” Chase said, “when I noticed instruments of the trade Ben accidentally left on his bar last summer. And the missus says sometimes when she looks into Ben’s eyes, she has the urge to do whatever he tells her.”
Ben’s eyebrows went up. “Ava said that? Really?”
“Yep. Now I’m wonderin’ if you can teach me that trick.” Chase smiled slyly. “Because, bro, the ‘be a man’ advice really worked.”
“He gave you the ‘be a man’ advice? Hell, when me’n Libby were havin’ problems he told me I needed to romance her. Be a different man than I’d been.”
“And it worked, didn’t it?” Chase said.
“Best thing I ever did.”
“Maybe when I’m not so pissed that I took my marriage vows seriously and my ex-wife did not, and I’m ready to dip a toe into the dating pool, I’ll come to you for advice, Ben.”
That acceptance, coupled with the fact Gavin had flown up here out of concern, was sort of an olive branch. “Sure. Will I be giving the advice over the phone? Or in person over at the B&B?”
“Only time will answer that question.”
“So what now?” Dalton asked Quinn, Chase and Gavin. “I’m the village idiot because I didn’t know this was…what did you call it? A lifestyle? A real lifestyle out of the movies and shit. You guys are on board with Ben’s whole tie ’em up, whip ’em and fuck ’em attitude toward women?”
Ben ran his hands through his hair. “What do you want from me, Dalton? I don’t talk about this part of my life. I don’t need your acceptance or your approval. I just need your promise this won’t go any farther than you. I don’t want members of the McKay family lookin’ at me like I’m an abuser. Or wondering if the woman I’m with has no self-esteem because she is submissive to me in the bedroom.”
“Fine. I ain’t gonna tell anyone, because Christ, who’d believe me?” Dalton stood, confusion warring on his face, looking like a twelve-year-old boy who’d just watched his first porn flick.
“What?” Ben asked wearily.
“Are you pissed that I told them?”
I’m more pissed about the shitty things you said to me regarding the land deal. “I’ll get over it. Eventually.”
“Well, that’s…good, I guess. I’ll see you around.” Dalton practically ran out.
Ben sort of felt sorry for him. Sort of.
Quinn stepped behind the bar. Ben sat on the barstool between Gavin and Chase. Which was strange because Ben usually kept the bar as a buffer between himself and those he served.
Maybe that’s an indication of how you view the world.
“Drinks all around, boys,” Quinn said lining up four shot glasses and filling them with Scotch. He raised his glass. Paused. “What the hell are we drinking to?”
“To Dalton bein’ a dumbass,” Chase drawled.
They laughed and clinked their glasses together.
Gavin motioned for Quinn to set ’em up again. “As much as you won’t apologize for the lifestyle you lead behind closed doors, I won’t apologize for buying Rielle’s place. So if you want to berate me, go ahead. But I don’t want it to be a point of contention between us forever, Ben.”
“I’ve no interest in beatin’ that horse anymore. It’s dead. And buried.”
“I can’t believe you all showed up.” Ben looked at Chase and Gavin. “Do Mom and Dad know you’re here?”
“Nah. We didn’t wanna worry them. Now that we know you ain’t some psycho killer, we’ll probably just take off without telling them. It’ll stay between us.”
Ben fiddled with his full shot glass. “Ah, thanks.”
“I’ll admit it’s a slippery concept to grasp, pain as foreplay. But as long as I don’t gotta watch you in action? It ain’t none of my business,” Chase said.
“In all seriousness. The reason I laughed so fucking hard when Dalton said you were outta control? Because I know you, Ben. I work with you every goddamn day. You have more control, more cool-headedness and more compassion, in any situation, than anyone I know.”
Ben had no idea what to say to that.
They bullshitted about nothing. But it didn’t seem forced. Or like they were all trying to avoid the elephant in the room.
Quinn and Chase took off, cracking jokes about examining Ben’s collection of chains, whips and sex toys. Ben would’ve been worried if they hadn’t given him a rash of shit about being a pervert.
But Gavin wasn’t in a hurry to leave.
“So was Sierra covered in body piercings when you picked her up a few weeks back?”
“No. Luckily for her mother. She’s a piece of work. It’s no wonder I steer clear of anything resembling a date.”
“Your ex-wife has ruined you for all other women?”
“Christ, she’d have a field day thinking she still had that much power over me.” Gavin sighed. “I just don’t have the…hell if I know. Desire? Patience? Time? Balls? My excuses change every week. It isn’t so much Ellen’s fault anymore as it is I find reasons not to meet women, let alone get mixed up with one.” He sipped the Scotch. “What about you? Still involved with that new banker?”
Ben shot him a sideways glance. “Bein’ involved with Ainsley wasn’t common knowledge, so where’d you hear it?”
“Rielle said her car was here a lot.”
“Yeah, well, it’s over.”
“Why? Because you came clean to her about your club life as a dominant?”
How did he phrase this and keep Ainsley’s experimentation as a sub a secret?