There were only a few sounds Todd Stevens truly loved. The soft shush of a flogger connecting with flesh. The cry a woman makes when she comes. And the solid thwack of leather and wood colliding in perfect disharmony.
The first made his dick hard, the second melted his heart, and the third brought a smile to his face.
Todd rounded first base, his lips curving upward as the baseball soared into the centerfield stands. He stepped on second base, vaguely aware of fans scrambling to see who would come up with the homerun ball. Rounding third, his smile faded, even though the entire Mustangs team waited just beyond home plate to celebrate his ninth inning, game-winning homer.
High-fiving his teammates, he accepted their jubilant accolades, removed his batting helmet, and waved to the crowd before ducking his six-foot-two frame into the dugout that had been his home for his entire Major League career. Thinking about the yet-to-be-determined dugout he would call home next season made his stomach cramp. Less than twenty-four hours ago, he told the Mustangs team management he couldn’t accept the contract they’d offered, choosing instead to become a free agent at the conclusion of the season.
Greener pastures were out there, his agent had assured him. Pastures covered in guaranteed green—of the cold, hard cash variety—just waiting for him to sign on the dotted line. At thirty-two years old, the five year contract the Mustangs offered wasn’t bad, but according to his agent, Todd could get a more lucrative seven year contract with another team and, with the added cash, could retire in style at the ripe old age of thirty-nine.
He wasn’t sure if it was the greener pastures beckoning or the change of scenery in general, but over the last year or two, he’d grown increasingly restless. Dallas was home and he’d made friends here. The media had grown accustomed to him, so they pretty much left him alone off the field, which gave him the freedom to pursue the private lifestyle that had become essential to his existence.
“Hey, Stevens.” Tanner Haversford, the Mustangs short stop slapped him on the back.
“Hey, yourself.” He grabbed his suit coat off the rack in his locker. “What’s up?”
“Some of us are going out for drinks. Thought you might want to come along and celebrate the win.”
Slipping his arms into his jacket, he declined. “Thanks. I appreciate the offer, but I think I’m going to go on home. That homerun took the last of my wind.”
“I hear you, old man,” the relative youngster laughed. “I thought that one was going to clear the scoreboard.”
He chuckled. “That would have been something to see.” He looked around, satisfied he had everything, and headed out.
Tanner fell in step beside him. “One of these days. Either you or Jason Holder are going to at least knock a few light bulbs out.”
“Maybe,” he hedged.
Six years his junior, Jason Holder was the Mustangs’ catcher. He reminded Todd of himself at that age—quiet, confident, and determined to make his mark on the sport. He had no doubt the kid would. It was a shame he wouldn’t be around to see it. Another band of regret wrapped around his heart.
“You sure you don’t want to come?” They’d made it to the team parking lot where only a few cars remained. “We were hoping we could talk some sense into you, get you to stay.”
Well, shit. He should have known. The only things that traveled faster than a homerun ball in the Major League were news and rumors. It was anyone’s guess which one of the two held the record. In his case, news was the winner.
He shook his head. “I appreciate it. I really do, but my mind is made up. This is my last season with the Mustangs.”
“Okay, then. But I want a rain check on talking sense into you. Another time?”
“Yeah, why not?” He waved goodbye and settled into his car. Leaving these guys would be harder than he thought, but he had to be realistic. Even if the Mustangs could afford to offer him the kind of contract his agent said he deserved, he couldn’t stay.
There was something missing in his life, and whatever it was, it wasn’t in Dallas. He knew, because he had looked.
Just like you’ve searched in a dozen other cities the Mustangs have played in. So, what makes you think it will be different somewhere else?
It had to be. There wasn’t any other choice. He couldn’t go on like this, only feeling alive when he was on the field. Even the lure of a willing sub wasn’t cutting it these days. He had a reputation at the Dungeon for being an attentive Dom, and any number of unattached subs would drop to their knees for him.
Only, he hadn’t been to the Dungeon in weeks. Just couldn’t bring himself to go. And that wasn’t like him at all.
He dropped his keys on the hallway table and headed straight for the refrigerator. Beer in hand, he stepped outside to enjoy the quiet night. He’d spent a shit-load of money on the pool and landscaping two years ago because he could no longer stand the confines of the house. He owned a five thousand square foot hotel room with a gourmet kitchen. He kept beer in the refrigerator, clothes in the closet in the master bedroom, and the necessities of life in the bathroom. During the season, he kept an open suitcase on the stool at the foot of the bed—the stool he’d originally purchased with the vision of binding the woman of his choice to and fucking her brains out.
But he’d never found that woman.
In the eight years he’d lived in the house he’d never brought a woman home. At first, he’d liked it that way. Go to the club, find a woman who craved the things he needed to give her—a little pain and a good fuck. Enjoy. No muss. No fuss. Everyone goes home happy.
He couldn’t remember the last time he was truly happy—outside of baseball. Nothing had changed there. He still loved the game, craved the rush of pitting his mind and body against the best athletes in the sport.
He was at the top of his game, in his prime—his agent had said. No reason not to put himself on the auction block at the end of the season. There were teams with deep pockets looking for players like him. Players who had the goods, offensively and defensively.
Todd tossed his empty beer bottle in the waste can and opened the refrigerator in the outdoor bar, in search of another. Finding the small box empty, he cursed, made a mental note to remind his housekeeper to restock that one first, and headed back to the kitchen. Once inside, he suddenly craved something salty to go with his beer and opened the pantry on the off chance there was something to eat. He found an open bag of pretzels, noted the expired freshness date, and grabbed a handful anyway. Before he could test their shelf life, his cell phone rang.
“Saved by the bell,” he muttered, tossing the ancient snacks back into the bag. He kicked the pantry door shut and fished the phone from his pocket with one hand while he opened the under-sink trash receptacle with the other.
Without checking the caller ID, he hit the answer button. “Hello?”
“Hey. What are you doing tonight?”
Fuck. He recognized Adam’s voice and wasn’t in any mood for whatever his friend had in mind. They’d met at the Dungeon a few years ago, two single Dom’s looking to hook up, but on a play-as-you-go basis. They’d been friends ever since, even shared a sub or two. He hadn’t seen his friend for months.
“Just havin’ a beer, chillin’,” he said.
“Great game today. Your walk-off homer was awesome. You should be out celebrating.”
He shrugged and leaned his hip against the counter. “I am celebrating.”
“Oh, I get it. You have someone there.”
“Nope. Just me.” He didn’t expect another Dom to understand
“That just isn’t right, man. Look, I’m at The Buggy Whip. There’s a munch tonight. You should come down, check out the subs. Maybe pick out one or two and go have some fun, celebrate in style.”
It wasn’t so long ago he would have jumped at the chance to attend a munch, particularly at The Buggy Whip. The western themed bar appealed to the horse crazy women in Dallas, but every few months, the place closed early in order to host a gathering for people in the lifestyle. Few knew the owner, a Dallas socialite, was both horse crazy and a Domme.
“I don’t think so,” he said, turning down his second social invitation of the evening.
“What’s up? Word is you haven’t been to the club in ages. And don’t tell me it’s because you’re having too much fun on the road. I know better.”
Unfortunately, he was speaking to the one person on the planet who did know better. Todd had made the mistake of telling his friend about his lack of enthusiasm for just about everything, including sampling the variety of subs to be found in clubs around the country.
“I’m not in the mood, that’s all.”
“Get. The. Fuck. Down. Here.”
He held the phone away from his ear to avoid damage to his eardrum while Adam ranted.
“I won’t take no for an answer. You’ve got to get out, man. Just come down and have a drink. You don’t have to hook up. Just see what’s on the market. Besides, you know Cassandra saves her best culinary creations for this crowd.”
His stomach growled at the mention of the fabulous foods The Buggy Whip’s owner provided. Remembering the petrified pretzels he’d almost eaten, he gave in.
“Okay. I’ll come. Give me a few minutes to change clothes.”
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