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The Pleasure Principle (MFM)

Etopia Press

Heat Rating: SCORCHING
Word Count: 49,442
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They've never let a woman come between them. Until now.

Anderson Cain and Edgar Brax have been best friends since college, two men with very strict—and very different—approaches to finding love: one by studying the physical act of sex, the other by mastering the art of dominance and control. But throughout their relationship, one thing has remained a constant: They've never let a woman come between them. Until now.

Shy and mousy Alice Dahl spends her days cleaning houses for clients who value discretion. In her bulky uniform, glasses, and cap, she appears non-descript and unobtrusive, and does her job without asking questions. Until she begins working for the secretive, and stunningly gorgeous, Dr. Anderson Cain, who awakens a sexual longing in her that she can't ignore. A new woman comes home with Dr. Cain nearly once a month—and that's about how long they last. Alicia longs to have a chance to be with him, even though she knows that's ridiculous. But when her curiosity lures her into his forbidden study, she can't resist peeking at his notes. And what she finds astounds her. Dr. Cain is researching the subject of sexual pleasure. Even just skimming over the experiments arouses her as he describes each subject's threshold of pleasure and the methods used to achieve climax. And she finds the venue where he meets his subjects: Damsels, a secretive BDSM club in the heart of the French Quarter.

Determined to take a chance, for once, Alice embarks on a masquerade into the exclusive New Orleans underworld of Dominants and submissives. Her stunning makeover gains her admittance at Damsels, but the owner of the Club, Edgar Brax, senses her innocence the moment he sees her. The Dom inside him feels a powerful and all-consuming need to protect her and make her his own. Until he finds out that the girl he's set his heart upon is his friend Anderson's next subject. They've never let a woman come between them before. Perhaps this time, they might enjoy it…

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“Please, give me one more chance. I’m not ready for this to be over.”

Alice heard the sound of high heels clicking on the polished hardwood floor leading away from the study and pressed herself into a nearby alcove. She knew the woman wearing the heels would be entering the foyer soon and that Dr. Cain would probably be right behind her. She hoped he wouldn’t notice her presence.

She really had little hope he would ever notice her, even under the most normal circumstances. Still, it would be embarrassing for him if he realized his housekeeper was witnessing a personal matter. The agency trained her to be invisible to the clients she served, and her shy nature made it easy to blend into the background everywhere she went. And if that wasn’t enough, her plain uniform, bulky hair cap, and glasses made her want to stay out of sight.

Her heart ached as she caught a glimpse of the doctor from her hiding place. His square jawline was set and his facial features calm, despite the actions of the woman who reached for his arm in a desperate attempt to keep him close. His piercing blue eyes were dark and gave nothing about his emotions away.

Alice felt a longing pang in her heart for the handsome and aloof man. She knew she didn’t have a chance with someone like him. She’d seen a bevy of beauties come and go in the year she’d been assigned to him. Each one seemed more beautiful than the last—she could never compare to these stunning women he entertained and she knew it. She found it strange they never lasted longer than a month, even though he appeared totally committed to them when they were together.

“Anderson, I thought we were beginning to mean something to each other. Something more than…” The woman made a sudden move forward and it looked to Alice as if she were going to kiss him. He froze before she made contact and even from her alcove, Alice could feel the wall that slammed up between the couple.

“We had an agreement, Beverly.” His tone was quiet, but his lips were pressed into a thin, white line.

“Fuck the agreement.” Her eyes were wild, distraught. “You can’t do all things you did to me and expect me to walk away. You are a heartless bastard.”

What had he done to her? Alice was taken aback by the words. She knew Dr. Cain entertained many women, but this was the first time she’d seen any of them for longer than the few seconds it took to cross the hallway into his office. She began to inch away from the recess with her back pressed against the cold white wall as closely as she could get. This was bad…really bad, and she couldn’t get caught eavesdropping.

It wasn’t as if she’d planned to listen, but she knew she should have left the moment she’d heard voices. If only Alice hadn’t been so enamored with the doctor, so envious of the women he brought home. They were perfect, glamorous, charismatic—everything she wished she could be.

“I’ll have Johnson see you home.” Dr. Cain’s voice carried around the corner and Alice heard the front door open. She knew there was always a car waiting outside when he was in residence.

“That’s it?” Beverly’s shriek echoed off the vaulted ceiling. “You’re just going to dump me off on your driver after everything we’ve been through?”

The sudden crash of porcelain on tile splintered the air and Alice cringed. There was no leaving out the back door now. She’d have to stay and clean up the pretty blue vase in the hall. There was nothing left to do now but weather the storm.

She couldn’t see them anymore, but she could hear crying and the feeling behind it was so disconsolate that her heart ached in sympathy for the woman. There was no doubt in her mind that Beverly was devastated.

“I will take you myself, of course,” he responded in a very cool manner. “But if I may remind you of the terms of our agreement, there will be no touching.”

No touching? Did Alice hear that correctly? The entire scene she’d just witnessed made no sense and her head was spinning.

This is none of your business, girl. Keep your head down and do your job. It was advice she often gave herself, but this time it felt thin. She always kept her head down and stayed safe. What did it get her except a lonely life? When was the last time she felt like she was living?

Her heart was pounding. She was afraid, yet intrigued. But who was she kidding? Even if she wanted to learn more, to be a part of Dr. Cain’s life, he’d never pick a wallflower like her out of the garden when there were so many other vibrant blossoms to choose from.

“Mind the glass,” Dr. Cain said. High heels clicked again, unevenly, and Alice heard shards from the vase grind beneath Beverly’s shoes. The front door latched and the silence that filled the house was numbing.

Alice hadn’t realized how tightly her shoulders were bunched up until she relaxed and her muscles ached. Her soft, non-slip soles didn’t make a sound as she crossed the room to pull her cleaning cart from the closet. She took her time with the dustpan and hand broom, just in case they hadn’t left the premises. The last thing she wanted was to be caught on her hands and knees in front of the door if they burst back through.

She tiptoed carefully through the glass and cracked the heavy oak door to peer outside. The car was gone. Johnson must have walked around to the back after he had been dismissed and Dr. Cain took over. She knelt down and swept up a pan of glass with a sigh. At least it was over.

Alice caught a glimpse of herself in the hall mirror as she walked back with the shattered pieces. Her mousy brown hair was pulled up into a white cap that looked like a mushroom and her thick glasses made her eyes bulge like they were inside fishbowls. No one would ever glance at her twice unless it was in sympathy.

She was a clever girl, though. Top of her class, though she had always been too timid for anyone to get to really know her. Too bad there weren’t any sexy brain contests to go along with the wet T-shirt competitions she’d witnessed at college.

Then she saw it as she was turning away. The door to Dr. Cain’s study was ajar. Alice could barely believe it. In all the time she’d worked for him, the door was always locked and the study off limits. He must have been distracted by his dealings with Beverly and gone off without securing it.

Her stomach churned in apprehension as she approached the forbidden area. Alice wanted to go inside more than she’d ever wanted anything else in the world, but she was afraid. It wasn’t the kind of thing she’d do, disobey the rules like that. But to glimpse his study would be a chance to see a part of him she’d been unfamiliar with, and she wanted to know more.

She’d lose her job if anyone found out, but she needed to do this; just a few seconds in the room, and she wouldn’t touch anything. With a quick look over her shoulder to make sure she was alone, Alice slipped inside.

A deep, musky scent greeted her in the dim study, and she took a moment to breathe it in before pulling the door closed without latching it. She didn’t know if it automatically locked and she didn’t want him coming home to find her trapped inside.

Oh, this room smelled like Dr. Cain. Like expensive cigars, fine brandy, and supple leather. It gave her shivers and made her knees a little weak. She felt close to him, even if it was a fleeting illusion. Thick volumes lined the walls in bookcases that reached from the floor to the ceiling, and a cold fireplace with a large mantle dominated the far end of the room. Feeling a little guilty, she scanned the walls for any sign of his degree. After all this time in his employ, she wasn’t sure what type of doctor he was. There was nothing displayed, however, that could answer her questions.

Alice was keenly aware he could be back at any moment. She had no way of knowing how far away Beverly lived and couldn’t get caught in the study. As she was turning to the door, she caught a glimpse of a manila folder on the corner of his desk.

“Do not go over there and take a look. Are you crazy?” Wow, she was talking to herself now. Maybe she was crazy—for doing this.

She strolled to the desk in a causal manner, though no one was watching her. Once she did this, there was no turning back. But what did she have to lose? A job cleaning houses? She could have done anything while she worked her way through grad school, but this job was the easiest to get. And she never had to be social with anyone.

The label on the tab of the folder read Beverly Hines. This had to be the woman who had just left. Why would he have a file on her? That was bizarre, but Beverly hadn’t seemed to mind it. Alice knew she was going to open the folder before she picked it up. She’d thrown all caution out the window when she came into the room, and now she was guilty, no matter what she did from here on in. Why not go for the prize?

Her hands were shaking as she gingerly picked up the folder and opened it to the stack of papers within. Alice gasped as she read, her free hand covering her mouth to smother the sound. What she found was so surprising, she nearly dropped the pages.

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