Read Bitter Bonds Online

Authors: Lex Valentine

Bitter Bonds

Bitter Bonds

Souls in Bondage Book Two

Lex Valentine

Dominant Jake Conrad isn’t going to get involved in another relationship with a submissive. Burned by two former submissives, Jake vows never to collar one again. Then his best friend Ray brings him a sub like no other. Finn is damaged and bitter, although not as bitter as Jake. The white haired submissive has secrets and talents Jake never dreamed of and the lure of Finn’s need to submit calls to Jake’s soul.

Everyone Finn has ever loved walked away from him. He fears caring for anyone when he knows the outcome will shatter his heart again. When Finn falls for Jake, he gives his lover the ultimate gift, a chance to have the dreams he set aside years before even though he knows that if Jake accepts the gift, he’ll walk out of Finn’s life forever. A slave to his love for his Dominant, the submissive finds his true strength in easing Jake’s bitterness even at the cost of his own happiness. Dedication

For everyone who wanted to hug Haven. Prologue – Cristophe and Rafael

Icy wind swirled around the black building, but the structure itself no longer had piles of snow and slush decorating it and the adjacent parking lot. One of the two angels sitting on the roof rubbed his hands over his bare arms.

“Brrr,” he said to his brother. The dark haired angel cocked a sardonic brow upward. “You can’t feel the cold.

What’s wrong with you?” “I feel the memory of the cold,” Cristophe complained. His brother Rafael rolled his eyes. “This is better than that infernal snowstorm

we had to work in a few weeks ago. I couldn’t see where I was going.”

Cristophe arched his white wings upward. A clutch of feathers drifted downward. “Something’s wrong, Rafe. We’re losing feathers again.”
“Duh,” Rafe muttered, shaking his own wings and watching the feathers fall. “There had to be a reason we’re on the roof of this club again. Do you think everything we did at Christmas has come undone?”
Cristophe’s beautiful face crinkled in thought. “No. I don’t think we’re here for Kellen and Haven. Something else is wrong.”
Rafael drew a deep breath. Then he shook his head. “Some
, not some
. His hope is gone and he’s frightened.”
Tears welled in Cristophe’s eyes. Rafael hugged his sentimental brother. “We’ll fix it, brother. It’s what we do, remember?”
“I feel him now.” Cristophe wiped his eyes. “He’s so lost. Like Haven was. He’s such a beautiful soul, Rafe.”
Rafael nodded. “He is. His soul is filled with the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. One day he’ll make a wonderful angel.”
“But not today. Not now. It’s not his time,” Cristophe insisted. “We have to help him find his place in this world.”
A frown settled on Rafael’s face. “This won’t be easy. The other person we have to help is bitter and resistant.”
A snort escaped Cristophe. “And Kellen wasn’t resistant?” He waved a hand in the air and more feathers drifted down. “No one could be worse than Kellen.”
“Maybe not, but this guy is no walk in the park either.” Rafael sighed. “He’s lost his music and his soul has only a flickering bit of light left in it. You better hope the music in the other one’s soul can spark that tiny flame.”
Cristophe shook his head. “I’m not going to hope, Rafe. I’m going to do better than that. I’m going to

They started drifting upward, a few more feathers falling from their wings in the high wind.
“We just have to make both of them believe too,” Cristophe said.
Rafael looked skeptically at his thinning wings as they moved through the air above the kink club. “I pray we pull this off, Cris. For everyone’s sake.” One – Ray

The guy shivered in his leathers. Ray could plainly see the tremors. He glanced at the thermostat behind the bar. The temperature indicated a comfortable 72 degrees. Other parts of the club were kept warmer because the patrons of those areas tended to wear fewer clothes or no clothes at all. In the bar, most of the clientele had clothes on and the servers, though dressed skimpily in leather vests and shorts, had never complained of the temperature before.

Still, there he sat. Perfectly tailored leather jeans. Expensive leather trenchcoat. High end boots. Beautiful chain mail shirt. Shaking like a leaf in a high wind.
Ray eyed the shock of white blond hair, trying to determine if it came from a bottle or not. As he stood pondering the silky strands, the guy looked up. A beautiful, memorable face burned itself onto Ray’s retinas. Triangular with a pointed chin and high cheekbones, an elegant blade of a nose and eyes so pale they didn’t appear real. Ray decided the hair and the light gray eyes were natural. With the hair, the eyes and his bone structure, the kid obviously had some kind of Nordic blood. To Ray, the young man looked very like a character in one of the anime art posters that his best friend Jake collected.
Checking the time, Ray decided the Nordic young man had been seated at his bar for the better part of ninety minutes, nursing his free cola. He watched the dancing in a “got nothing better to do” sort of way. What did seem to interest him were the Doms who strolled through the bar without a sub at their heels. They drew his attention, yet whenever one of them stared right at him, the young man’s eyes dropped and he pretended not to notice. If it weren’t for the shaking, Ray would have thought his actions somewhat predatory.
He wiped off the bar and got a cola for one of the bouncers, waved to a few friends, and then made his way back toward the stool where the anime kid sat. Ray had seen predatory submissives before. They hunted Doms the way some women hunted rich men in order to become trophy wives. The trembling young man at the bar was no predator. Ray would have staked his share of the club on it.
Darkness was the only leather club in the area and one of only two gay bars. The place rarely had a slow night and Ray knew almost everyone who walked through the black doors. He had one silent business partner, his best friend Jake Conrad, and one other partner who worked the club the same as he did. But while Ray kept an eye on the bar and the employees, his partner Gavin Hancock ruled the playrooms.
Tonight, Ray would have given anything to have Gavin’s take on the anime kid. The only thing he’d been able to fathom thus far was the kid must have had money at some point. The expensive clothing bore that out. The shaking, the way he watched all the unattached Doms and the flash of fear in his eyes when one of the Doms returned his gaze all had Ray itching to figure out the puzzle the guy presented.
“You’re frowning. It’s not very attractive.”
The voice held a note of amusement. Ray turned to find his friend Nick Edwards leaning against the bar a couple of feet away. He walked over and got the guy his usual cola without ice. Nick sipped it and stared over the rim of his glass at Ray.
“Who’s the anime kid?”
Ray bit back a laugh. “So you noticed he looks like one too?”
Nick rolled his eyes. “It’s too obvious to anyone who knows what anime is. Micah would love him.”
“Where is Micah?” Ray asked. Nick rarely came to the club without his husband who was also his submissive.
“Off with Haven at a book signing. Apparently, they both adore the author, some gay mystery writer.” Nick shrugged. “I’m not so literary. That’s more Kellen’s style than mine. He’s the cerebral one in the family.”
Ray glanced around the room quickly but didn’t see Nick’s brother Kellen anywhere. “Did Kellen take them to the signing?”
Nick pulled up a stool and sat down. “Nah. He had to work late on some techie coding project.”
“Leaving you to haunt my bar all on your lonesome?” Ray raised a brow at his friend. “That’s unusual.”
“Actually, I only stopped in for one drink and to say hello. Then I got a look at the scenery and instantly thought of Jake.” Nick sipped his cola and glanced over at the anime kid again. “If he’s not here, he should be. That kid’s perfect for him.”
“Yeah, I was thinking the same thing,” Ray agreed. “The kid’s like a wet dream for Jake. If I could figure out what the hell his story is, I’d call Jake and ask him to come down here on some pretense just so he can see the guy.”
Nick snorted. “If you want to know the kid’s story just ask him.”
Ray snapped his dish towel at his friend. “Maybe I will.”
Walking away from Nick, ostensibly wiping down the long length of the gleaming bar as he went, Ray headed back toward the kid with the shock of white hair. He still sat on the same stool, but he bent over a bar napkin, scribbling on it furiously with a pencil stub. As Ray drew near, he noticed musical notes littering the white paper. His heart began to thud as excitement took hold of him.
“What are you so afraid of, kid?” he said softly as he approached.
The young man’s head snapped up, his expression very like that of a deer in the crosshairs of a hunter’s rifle. “I-I,” he stammered and thrust the napkin quickly into the pocket of his duster.
Hoping to shock the young man into unguarded speech, Ray growled, “You looking to whore yourself out?”
His ploy backfired. Instead of speaking, the young man’s face flushed bright pink and his pale gray eyes gleamed with sudden tears. Ray stepped closer, his eyes raking the younger man, taking in the blue shadows beneath his eyes and the pronounced hollows of his cheeks. Once he looked past the kid’s outward appearance, he appeared hungry and scared. Wide eyed with fear, the guy’s shaking returned with a violent shudder.
“I-I’m s-sorry, sir. I won’t, I promise,” the young man whispered. “It’s just that II…”
He broke off, obviously too embarrassed and frightened to continue. Ray found it fascinating how easily he could read the kid. When he made to slip off the stool and leave, Ray snapped a hand around his slender wrist.
“Tell me your story, kid. No one will hurt you here.” Ray kept his voice low and even and laced with sympathy.
The young man’s eyes widened more until Ray thought his eyeballs might fall out of their sockets. He shook his head, fear making his features more drawn. Ray swore he could see despair in every blue shadow and hollow. And he could also see someone who hadn’t eaten in a long time.
“Hey, Nick!” he called out. “Order up a pizza. Pepperoni, veggies, the works. There’s an extra five in it for them if they get it here in less than thirty minutes. Use the phone behind the bar. The number’s on the wall beside it.”
Ray glanced down the bar and saw Nick nod and move toward the phone. He turned back to the frightened young man whose pulse raced beneath his fingers. As he stared into the kid’s eyes, he had the disquieting sense that if he didn’t get the kid to talk, he’d walk out the door and never come back. And something in his gut led him to believe the reason the kid wouldn’t return would be because he couldn’t. That scared Ray.
“Look, kid, no one will hurt you here. I’m one of the owners. Nick over there,” he pointed to where Nick stood behind the bar on the phone. “He’s a friend of mine. His submissive is about your age. If there’s something wrong, if you need help, Nick and I will do what we can for you. If we didn’t, Micah, Nick’s sub, would kick our asses. You’re in good hands here. But we can’t help you if you don’t tell us what’s wrong.”
Fear and disbelief warred on the young’s man’s expressive face. Finally, he whispered, “I was going to sell myself. I need money. I-I’m hungry and I’ve nowhere to go.” He looked down at where Ray’s fingers wrapped around his wrist. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
Ray let go of the kid’s wrist. Pale gray eyes filled with tears. The kid looked like a damned angel. Not his type at all, but the lost look in the young man’s eyes reminded Ray of the expression he’d seen in Jake’s eyes far too many times in the past.
With a sigh, Ray gave the guy an encouraging smile. “It’s hard to know who to trust when everyone seems hell bent on using you.”
The young man nodded, sniffing back his tears and surreptitiously swiping at his eyes. He eyed Ray with a cautious expression on his narrow face. Ray refilled his glass with cola and pushed it toward him.
“Pizza will be here soon. You can share it with us. What’s your name?”
The guy wrapped one hand around the glass. “Finn.”
Ray raised one brow. “A Celtic name to go with your Nordic looks. That’s different.”
Finn shifted uneasily on the bar stool. “My mother said Finn meant fair or white in Gaelic. She named me for my hair.”
“Ah, so it’s natural then. I wasn’t sure if you dyed it. I see a lot of wild colored hair in here,” Ray told him.
Nick returned and plopped down on the stool beside Finn. “You look like an anime poster.”
A faint flush stained Finn’s cheeks. “I did some cosplay when I was younger. Too old for that stuff now.”
“So how old are you?” Nick looked Finn over from the top of his head to the tips of his expensive boots.
Finn shivered a little but he met Nick’s curious gaze. “Almost twenty four.”
Nick shot Ray a triumphant glance. Finn was about the same age as Haven and Micah which made him perfect for Jake. Ray’s gut told him he was totally doing the right thing. The guy needed help and Jake needed to let go of his bitterness and see that not all subs were cut from the same cloth.
Ray left Finn with Nick in order to serve some customers. When he returned, Nick was paying for the pizza which he handed to Ray. The smell of pepperoni wafted from the cardboard box and he set it on the bar.
“Go ahead. Eat up,” Ray said, pushing the box closer to the hungry eyed submissive and pulling out a handful of napkins from under the bar.
“If you don’t, we’ll eat it and the Scotsman here doesn’t need all those calories,” Nick teased.
“Fuck you, Nick. I’m in better shape than you.” Ray flexed one arm, aware that the sub’s eyes were on his bulging biceps.
Finn gazed from one man to the other and then cautiously opened the pizza box as if he feared it would be yanked away from him. The scent of the pizza grew stronger and Ray saw the kid’s expression become glazed. He pulled out a slice and began to eat. Rapture crossed his beautiful face and his eyes closed as he savored the food. Nick’s gaze silently met Ray’s. They both knew the kid had been starving and the glance they shared solidified their resolve to help him.
When the sub had eaten three slices, he pushed the box away. Ray took it and handed it to Nick who opened it and pulled out a slice.
“Now that you’ve eaten, do you want to tell me what’s wrong? I already told you Nick and I will try to help,” Ray said in a tone meant to calm the skittish submissive.
Finn’s shoulders sagged and his eyelids drooped drowsily. Lethargy seemed to sweep over him right before Ray’s eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. His gaze had a soft unfocused look. Ray muttered a soft curse.
“When was the last time you slept?” he asked gruffly. “And where?”
Shivering, Finn raised his eyes to meet the concerned gazes of Ray and Nick. “I grabbed a few hours yesterday. I-I have a room, but there’s no lock on the door and s-sometimes…” His words trailed away and Ray knew instantly that men had tried to abuse the guy.
Nick’s jaw clenched and he looked away. Ray knew from experience that the other Dom struggled to control his anger. Ray didn’t bother. His fists clenched and he could barely stop himself from putting one through something that would make a suitable noise.
“Tell me your story. The short version is okay,” Ray encouraged him. “I can help you, but I need to know what’s happened to you.”
Exhaustion filled Finn’s expression and Ray could see that he’d given in. He really didn’t have it in him to resist Ray’s demands.
“I came out and my family kicked me out. They don’t want me if I’m gay,” he said simply. “A man took me in, a Dom. He trained me and I served him for five years. One day I came home from grocery shopping and my things were packed. He had collared a new submissive. Younger, prettier than me.”
The sub picked at the sleeve of his leather duster. “The only reason he let me keep all the things he’d bought me was because they didn’t fit his new submissive.” He swallowed hard. “He gave me a little money but he couldn’t be bothered to remove my collar. I had to take it off myself.”
Finn glanced up at Ray with shame filled his eyes. A moment later, he turned his head away, his eyes closing. Ray wished he knew the Dominant who had kicked the kid to the curb. He would love to teach the bastard a lesson. Men like him gave all Doms a bad rep.
The sub opened his eyes, his expression both weary and wary. “I got a room and sold everything I could to pay for it. I got a fast food job, but I lost it when a customer hit on me.” He tipped his head down, staring at the polished surface of the bar as if he couldn’t bear to look at Ray and Nick. “I ran out of money a couple of weeks ago. The rent is due tomorrow. I was hungry. I thought I could sell myself, but I couldn’t work up the courage to do it.”
Finn bit his bottom lip, his expression nervous. Ray’s gaze shifted from Finn to Nick. Nick’s expression told Ray he was thinking the same thing Ray was thinking. They couldn’t let this guy go back to the boarding house where he’d been staying. It wasn’t safe. They needed to take him to Jake’s and make their friend care for the sub. Jake needed a purpose and Ray had finally found him one.
He tapped the watch on his wrist and told Nick, “I can’t leave. Can you help him gather his things?”
Nick nodded and pulled out a cell phone. “Let me text Micah so he knows where I am.”
As the other Dominant turned away to send a text, Ray turned back toward the submissive. Fear held sway on Finn’s thin face.
“Look, kid. Not all Dominants are like the asshole who turned you out. Nick and I know plenty who are good men.” Ray drew a breath and stared into the submissive’s frightened eyes. “My friend Jake owns a recording studio and he could use some help, someone to sweep, dust and keep the equipment tidy. He’ll give you a room and board in exchange for the work. How does that sound?”
Finn frowned. “He’s a Dominant too?”
Ray nodded. “He’s part owner of this club but he’s the silent partner.”
“Would I be required to sleep with him?” the sub asked hesitantly.
Keeping his cool, Ray answered in a soothing voice. “No. Not required. That doesn’t mean the two of you couldn’t come to a mutual arrangement in that regard, but it would be between the two of you. I’m just asking if you want the job so you have somewhere safe to sleep and food to eat.”
The submissive looked thoughtful for a few moments as if he was considering whether or not Ray told the truth. Then, he nodded slowly.
“Nick will take you to pick up your stuff. You get it and come on back here. When my shift is done, I’ll take you over to Jake’s.”
Finn bent and lifted a small gym bag from the floor at his feet. “I have all my stuff here. If I left it there, someone would just take it. I don’t need to go back there for anything.”

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