We did it, y'all. We got BLAZE out into the world. I say we because all of the kind tweets and comments you all left me while I was struggling really helped me to stay focused and publish Danny and Jordan's story. And I'm so happy I did! I wrote a sexy superhero romance! Can I make that my brand? Because I kind of want to make that my brand. =)
Anyhoo, BLAZE is now available on AMAZON. $4.99 to purchase and free to read with your Kindle Unlimited subscription. Tell all your superhero loving friends so they can get some of that smexy superhero goodness too. If you need a little convincing, you can check out the first four chapters of BLAZE below. Happy Reading and Happy Friday!
Danny tapped a nervous beat onto the steering wheel with his thumbs as he turned into a small parking lot. The yellow glow of street lamps lit the night, moths drawn by the light flitting beneath them. This lot was unattended and several blocks down from where he planned to go. But cars weren’t allowed to park on the old cobblestone streets in this section of downtown St. Louis, and the lots closer to the club where he was headed were outrageously expensive.
Since his used Altima wasn’t worth stealing, and he didn’t mind the walk, he should be okay parking this far away. Danny pulled into a spot near the front, and stepped out onto the cracked asphalt. After locking the car, he tucked the keys into his shimmery, iridescent blue fanny pack, zipped it up, and set off.
Butterflies swooped and fluttered in Danny’s stomach as he walked. Tonight would hopefully be the start of a new and long-desired chapter in his life. He was about to check out one of the local BDSM clubs for the first time. After a year of researching and role-playing as a submissive online, he was ready to see the lifestyle up close and personal.
He hoped he looked okay. He’d gone for what he’d jokingly labeled a soft BDSM look when choosing his outfit earlier that evening. A sheer white tank top with gold ribbons sewn on in a pattern that mimicked a chest harness, tight black booty shorts, and glittery-blue, ankle-low combat boots. His artists’ soul enjoyed color too much to go with the all black style he often saw in fetish pictures online. There was a cute little choker he’d wanted to add to his outfit, but worried that it might give off the impression he was already in a relationship, he’d chosen a short gold chain with a handcuff pendant instead.
As Danny passed low brick buildings with their windows dark and doors locked for the night, he reassured himself that he would be fine. The D/s community was welcoming. No one would laugh at him for being a newbie. He hoped. It might have been helpful to bring a friend along but this was something he preferred to do on his own. He wanted to walk into The Stocks without worrying about making sure his friend was comfortable. Or worse, being judged by them. That would be too much stress for his first public foray into kink life.
His head down, Danny focused on his footsteps, one foot in front of the other, determinedly taking him to the place where he’d finally connect with others who had the same interests as him. The streetlights reflected off the shine of his boots, the twinkling glitter making him smile despite his nerves. When the glitter abruptly dulled in sudden darkness, Danny looked up in surprise. The street light above him was out, and so were the next several, all the way until just before the club.
Danny slowed his steps, coming to a stop before he went too far past the last functioning light. During the day this was a decent area, mostly commercial, with busy warehouses and small office buildings. But at night it was a little sketchy. The dark alleyways between the old brick buildings could hide any manner of miscreants. Danny looked to the other side of the street where streetlamps glowed, safely lighting the path forward. He considered crossing to the lit side, but felt silly being afraid of a dark street.
Taking his courage in hand, he took several cautious steps forward into the darkness. Then up ahead, something crashed to the ground, the sound ringing out in the quiet night with a loud metallic bang. Startled at the noise, Danny stopped again. Abruptly deciding being silly and alive was better than stupidly brave and dead, he moved to cross to the other side of the street.
But before he could step off the sidewalk, two men strolled out of the alleyway directly in front of him. Danny knew from their red vests they were trouble. Only members of the L Street Posse wore those vests. Both men were big, one bald, the other with long, sandy-red dreadlocks. His heart pounding, Danny took a step back. Then another. And another. The two punks stood there watching him with matching evil grins on their scarred and brutish faces, but neither pursued. Danny understood why when he bumped into a wall of solid muscle. He whipped around and came face to chest with a big, blonde woman, her pale hair tied in a top knot so tight, the strands looked like they were about to be ripped from her scalp.
“Where you going, pretty boy?” she asked with a smug grin.
Instinctively understanding that showing fear would make this situation worse, Danny tried to keep his voice firm and confident when he answered. “I don’t want any trouble.” He held his palms up and out to show they were empty, while wishing he had his pepper spray in hand. Too bad it was on his keychain, which was inside his fanny pack. He belatedly realized that had been a dumb mistake on his part.
“And you won’t get any, as long as you hand over your wallet and phone,” she said.
Swallowing hard past the thick knot of fear in his throat, Danny nodded. He reached down to open the fanny pack, but struggled with the zipper thanks to his shaking hands and refusal to take his eyes off the big blonde so that he could see what he was doing.
“Let me help you with that.”
Danny spun back around when one of the punks behind him spoke, shrinking away when the man pulled out a switch blade and flicked it open with a menacing snick. Danny stood there, his fight or flight reflex stuttering over what to do, leaving him frozen as a result. The dread-lock punk came closer, getting right up in Danny’s face to grab the fanny pack with his free hand. His bloodshot eyes stared into Danny’s as he sliced up with the knife, cutting the strap so that it fell away from Danny’s waist. The guy kept the blade open and tossed the fanny pack to his buddy behind him.
“See what he’s got in there.”
Danny could have told him he didn’t have much. Phone, about thirty dollars in cash, his driver’s license, and his keys. The small bag wouldn’t hold much more than that.
“Take whatever you want.”
Knife Guy had broken their uncomfortable eye contact to watch his friend rummage through the fanny pack. Now he looked back at Danny with an appraising glance, running those bloodshot eyes from Danny’s face, over his chest, and down to his bare thighs. Disgust coated the back of Danny’s throat at the leering perusal, and he was suddenly very aware that his nipples were visible through the sheer tank.
“Whatever we want?” Knife Guy asked in a voice as smooth and slimy as an oil slick.
Danny should have kept his mouth shut. The ugly intent behind that tone was clear. He was now in more danger than only getting mugged. Thankfully, his fight or flight reflex finally made a decision, kicking his adrenaline into high gear. Danny turned, leaping off the curb into the street to take off running. His goal was the small diner a few buildings up on the other side of the street that looked to be open. His car was closer but since they had the keys, there was no point in trying to get to it.
The Red Vests hooted and laughed as they gave chase. Their glee increased Danny’s terror, spurring him on to run faster, until his foot slipped on one of the unevenly rounded cobblestones. He lost his balance, flinging his hands out to brace his fall as the ground came rushing up to his face. One knee hit the cobblestone with a loud crack, and a bolt of pain exploded out from the point of impact. Ignoring the pain in his knee and palms, Danny shot back to his feet, ready to keep running. But the Red Vests had already surrounded him, continuously moving, circling him like sharks before the feeding frenzy.
“Where you going, huh?” the bald one asked in a mockingly cheerful tone.
“Yeah. You said we could have whatever we wanted.” The blonde behemoth put on a playful pout but the expression quickly changed, her mouth twisting into a cruel snarl. “And we want to play with you, pretty boy.”
“Leave me alone!” Danny shouted. Terror and anger gave strength to his usually quiet voice, sending it booming throughout the night. He didn’t know how he was going to defend himself against three assailants, all bigger than him and armed with at least one knife, but he was damned sure going to try. Raising his fists, Danny got ready to swing at the first person who took a step toward him.
Before anyone could make a move however, electricity hummed in the air around them. The hair on Danny’s arms rose just as a rush of air whooshed behind him. He turned, expecting to see the blonde woman coming at him. But she’d disappeared, her place in the circle empty. Danny whipped back around to the other two. They looked scared; their eyes wide.
“It’s him,” Knife Guy whispered.
“Fuck, man! We need to get out of here!” Baldie tugged at Knife Guy’s arm, clearly ready to make a run for it.
“Calm down,” Knife Guy said as he shook off his friend. He scanned the darkness with narrowed eyes, looking for the new player on the scene. “There’s two of us.” He tossed that wicked-long blade back and forth between his gloved hands. “We can take him.”
If Danny hadn’t still been scared out of his mind, he would have grinned at the punk’s mistaken belief. If it was who he thought it was, they absolutely could not take him. The three of them stood locked in their positions, the air tense and sharp as they waited. There was another rustle of air, then a ground shaking boom as a man dressed all in black landed in a crouch between Danny and the punks.
Danny’s lips parted as he gasped in awe. It was him. The superhero. Blaze.
He rose slowly, straightening to his full height, which had to be at least six foot three. A skin-tight suit clung to his muscular frame, the material stretched over wide shoulders and powerful thighs. There was enough light for Danny to make out the midnight blue logo on his chest, a B cut through by a jagged shard of lightning. His head, neck, and most of his face were covered by a cowled mask, leaving only the space from just beneath his nose down to his chin visible. Bright blue bolts of electricity started to crackle over his fists, dancing up and down his arms. He turned to face the two punks and raised a hand, beckoning them forward.
“Let’s go.” He growled the arrogant taunt in a deep voice.
Baldie dropped the fanny pack and charged at Blaze. Danny’s belongings spilled out into the street but he was too busy watching the ensuing fight to pick any of it up. Blaze moved fast as lightning, avoiding the flashing switch blade and shrugging off the few blows the two managed to land. His own fists struck with deadly precision. Body shot after body shot. An elbow to Knife Guy’s jaw. A booted kick to Baldie’s sternum. Baldie crumpled to the street, gasping and wheezing as the air punched out of his lungs from the explosive impact. He stayed down, whether it was because he knew he was beaten or he simply couldn’t move Danny didn’t know.
But Knife Guy wasn’t as smart. He staggered on his feet but raised the knife high in the air. With a guttural yell, he charged at the hero. Blaze simply stood and watched him rush forward, his stillness a stark contrast to the punk’s messy scrambling. When Knife Guy reached him, Blaze effortlessly caught his raised arm and squeezed. A ball of bright blue power transferred from Blaze to Knife Guy, traveling down his arm. Knife Guy screamed, his body dancing against his will from the force of the electricity flowing through him. The knife fell to the ground, followed immediately after by its owner when Blaze released his hold.
Blaze stared down at his defeated opponents, the blue glow over his fists slowly fading into darkness. He grabbed Knife Guy by the back of his vest, dragging him along as he stalked forward to grab Baldie in a similar manner. One by one, he heaved them up against the front wall of a small warehouse, his muscles flexing with every move. The two sat there with their heads lolling, groaning and coughing. It was extremely gratifying to Danny to see them shrink back in fear when Blaze crouched down in front of them.
“You get one warning. Leave the L Street Posse. You won’t like what I do to you if I catch you on the streets wearing these vests again.”
Baldie made his decision without hesitation. “Yeah, you got it.”
“I’m out too,” Knife Guy said.
They struggled out of their vests, Knife Guy removing his with one arm. Once they’d taken them off, they tossed them into the street in renouncement of the L Street Posse.
“Good.” Blaze growled before he knocked their heads together.
They slumped into each other, unconscious, and essentially leaving Danny alone with Blaze.
His heart pounded as Blaze rose and approached him, although the reaction was no longer from fear. There were several superheroes in St. Louis. Danny had seen many of them, either on the news or in person if he happened to be in the right place at the right time. But Blaze was elusive, only fighting at night, never showing up when there was a crowd.
He’d seen a few pictures of him but they were always grainy and blurry, since Blaze didn’t stop to pose. And no one had any idea what he looked like, thanks to the mask that hid so much of his face. Seeing Blaze for the first time up close, huge and powerful, looming over his own meager five foot five made the breath catch in Danny’s throat.
“Thank you. I would have happily given them my money to get them to go away but things were about to get ugly.”
Blaze bent down to pick up the fanny pack and its spilled contents. He tucked everything back into the bag and handed it over. “What are you doing out here alone at night?”
The question was asked in a growl nearly as fierce as when he’d spoken to the L Street punks. It should have cowed Danny. But now that he was no longer in danger, a little of his sass came back. “You’re not about to victim blame me, are you?”
“No. But safety should be your priority and this area isn’t safe.”
“I was going to The Stocks. It’s right up the street from where I parked so I thought it’d be all right.”
“Inside that club isn’t much better than the streets outside. Try Club Decadence. Better parking, lighting, and security.”
Danny knew of the upscale D/s club but their membership fee wasn’t something he could afford on his income as an emerging freelance artist. “Decadence is out of my price range.” He said the words without shame. Facts were facts.
The sound could have meant anything. Danny couldn’t determine Blaze’s expression from what little he could see of his face, and he couldn’t read his eyes in the darkness and the shadow of his cowl. He couldn’t even determine their color.
“Go home,” Blaze abruptly ordered. “Adrenaline drop is going to hit you soon. You need to be somewhere comfortable and familiar when it happens.”
A small trill of excitement shivered through Danny at the directive to go home. Delivered in Blaze’s deep, growly voice, it sounded like a command a Dom would give to a submissive. He wanted that so much. To have it from Blaze would be... He bit his lip to hold back the undignified whimper that wanted to slip free at the thought of submitting to Blaze. “Uh…yeah. That makes sense. Thank you again.”
Blaze nodded, the rest of him silent and still.
With nothing else to say, Danny started back the way he’d come, staying on the lit side of the street. As he walked, he thought he felt eyes on him, watching his progress down the sidewalk. But that had to be wishful thinking. Blaze undoubtedly had lots of other superhero stuff to do. He wasn’t hanging around to make sure a rando mugging victim made it safely to his car. The man had more than likely already swooped off to stop the next crime. Danny turned and looked back over his shoulder anyway. There was nothing there, the street and sidewalks empty save for the punks slumped against the building, enjoying their Blaze sponsored naps.
Danny reached his car, pressing the button on the key to unlock it as he had a hundred times before. Once inside, he secured his seat belt and started the ignition. But before he could put it in drive, his hands started shaking. He held them up, splaying them on the steering wheel. His stomach swirled with nauseous upset too.
Adrenaline drop. Exactly as Blaze had said. The fear response hormones drained out of him, and the throbbing pain in his knee and bruised palms rushed in to take its place. He’d been mugged, and much worse might have happened if Blaze hadn’t shown up. He was damn lucky all he had was a ruined bag, scraped palms, and a banged-up knee.
Danny closed his eyes, drawing deep breaths in through his nose and slowly letting them out through his mouth in an effort to calm down. After several long seconds of concentrated breathing, he was still shaky in the pit of his stomach, but settled enough to drive. Opening his eyes again, he finally popped the car into drive, pulled out of the parking lot, and headed for home.
Blaze stood guard from the rooftop of a low building while the cute little sub made his way back to his car. It was unlikely he’d be attacked a second time. The streets below Blaze had eyes and ears, and thanks to the fight, his presence in the area was known to anyone who might think of starting trouble. Still. Blaze wanted to be sure he was safe. He didn’t usually get personal with the people he rescued but something about the young man called to him.
He was adorable, with smooth dark skin, short, wavy black hair, and big brown eyes that gave him an innocent air. But his mouth, with its perfect Cupid’s bow and lush bottom lip, was made for decadent kisses. Blaze’s palms tingled and sparked as he imagined running his hands over the sheer tank the other man wore to feel the warmth of his skin beneath. And those little black shorts of his had displayed thick thighs and a perky ass that he would love to gently squeeze.
The sub was obviously unattached. He’d been on his way to a D/s club, but no Dom would let an angel like that walk the streets of downtown St. Louis alone at night. If the boy were his, he’d spank that sweetly rounded bottom for putting himself in danger. Then he’d kiss and caress it to take the sting away and make it all better.
But the boy wasn’t his. He hadn’t had anyone that belonged to him for a long time. And that was for the best.
Down the street, headlights flicked on. A few minutes passed before glowing red tail lights exited the parking lot, the car turning toward the highway. Blaze guessed he’d probably needed a moment to gather himself after his mugging. With the little sub safely headed home, Blaze turned his attention back to his task of patrolling the streets of St. Louis. He made a running leap onto the roof of the next building, tucking into a barrel roll to lessen the impact of his landing.
Ten years ago, Anderson Pruitt had selected St. Louis as the location for a massive base of operations for his company. The campus included research and development, production, shipping, and more. But before he’d moved Pruitt Inc. in, he’d demanded an initiative to clean up the city. It might have made sense to focus on offering jobs, as high employment helped lower the crime rate. A solid pay check, a safe place to live, and full bellies often took away the impetuous for crime.
But Pruitt had chosen instead to bring in a private militarized police force. Humans directed the force but it made heavy use of artificial intelligence robotic police. People caught by the police bots often disappeared without a trace. Sometimes they re-emerged months later, with no mention of a court date, refusing or unable to talk about what transpired during their absence. Sometimes they were never seen again.
The Pruitt Initiative hadn’t eliminated crime. It had stifled the city however, turning once vibrant areas into near police states, where the citizens were caught between their fear of the bots and their fear of the criminals who had smartened up and organized in order to survive in the new regime.
But tonight, the criminal element in this sector of the city was quiet. Over the next couple of hours, Blaze didn’t run into any other crimes, petty or otherwise. Deciding to call it a night, he began making his way back toward his car. He was nearly there when he came across two young men standing in front of an ATM operated by Pruitt Bank. They had tools in hand, which made it unlikely they were making an honest withdrawal. Blaze sent forth a bolt of electricity powerful enough to scare the guys into jumping away from the machine.
“Shit, it’s Blaze!”
The two tensed as if they were about to make a break for it. Blaze landed behind them before they could move. “Don’t even think about running,” he said as he held up one glowing fist.
“Come on, man. It’s Pruitt’s money. Not like he’s going to miss it,” one of them said with a bitter curl to his lip.
“Stealing is stealing. Doesn’t matter if you don’t like the person you’re robbing.”
“Guess it don’t matter if you’re hungry, either,” the other chimed in dejectedly.
Blaze took a closer look at the pair. Unlike the hardened muggers from earlier, these guys were young, their faces clinging to boyhood despite the wispy hairs trying to emerge on their chins. The resentment in their shadowed eyes struck a chord of empathy in Blaze’s chest. He let the electricity crackling over his fists fade. “There’s a job fair this weekend. Go to it.”
“Job fair?” The first kid scoffed. “Like anybody is going to hire us.”
Looking at the two youths, haggard and hunched, Blaze had to agree. Besides, if they were trying to rob an ATM because they were hungry, waiting to get a job, and then even longer for their first paycheck wasn’t going to solve that immediate problem. “Go to the red brick building on the corner of Kirk and Seventh. Ask for Mrs. Cannady. She’ll feed you tonight and set you up with whatever else you need to get ready for the job fair.”
Kid Number Two looked at Blaze with narrow-eyed suspicion. “Tonight? You mean you’re letting us go and not turning us in to the P-Bots?”
Blaze crossed his arms over his chest. “That depends on you. Are you going to try to rob another machine or are you going to do like I said?”
“We’ll do it. We’ll do it right now.”
“Right answer,” Blaze said. “I know your faces and the area you run in. And I will check up on you. Believe me when I say you won’t like it if I catch you trying to steal again. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.” The two nodded with near-comical enthusiasm, their heads flopping back and forth like bobble head dolls.
Blaze acknowledged them with a small nod of his own. Then he sank down into a crouch, one foot slightly behind the other, gathering power to launch himself high into the air. He gave the kids below him a show, rising in a dramatic pose, the blue sphere of electricity around him burning bright against the back drop of the night sky. It served as something to tell their buddies about, and an unsubtle reminder of his power.
He traveled across several rooftops before dropping back down to the street where his car waited. Although he could jump twenty feet in the air and run faster than most humans, he wasn’t a speedster. He couldn’t fly either, so a car helped him navigate the city on his patrols.
Although the big, electric-blue Dodge Challenger sat unattended in an alley, Blaze didn’t worry about anyone trying to steal it. His high-tech alarm shut down all systems when he wasn’t inside, and locked the wheel base, rendering it immovable. And anybody who touched the door handles would get the shock of their life.
As he approached the car, it recognized the sensors on his suit and automatically unlocked. Blaze slid inside, disabled the rest of lock-down mode, and pressed the ignition button, bringing the engine roaring to life. A quick shift into drive and Blaze sped out of the alley, racing through the near empty streets until he left the riverfront area behind.
Taking one of the various routes he rotated through to keep anyone from tracking him, he headed home. After a few miles, he hit a button on the customized dashboard. Ahead on his right, the tree line opened up to reveal a narrow side road. He hooked a sharp turn and drove into the gap, the trees moving back into place behind him.
Blaze streaked down the dark, one lane road. As he passed over a section of pavement, the dash blinked, indicating a sensor on the undercarriage of the car had been activated. A section of the road detached, tilting down to a sub-terranean level. Blaze gunned it, his belly lifting as he swooped down the ramp that took him below ground. He continued down the tunnel for another mile, hurtling toward a wide, solid steel door. The car triggered another ground sensor, and the door slid open seconds before the Challenger slammed into it, immediately closing behind him with a solid thunk.
He slowed as the one lane road gradually widened and ended in a large, high-ceilinged underground room. Blaze turned off the ignition, and the rumbling engine faded to silence. He stepped out, the slam of the car door echoing in the cavernous concrete space.
The hour was late and exhaustion pulled at his bones, but he still went to his computer to log in the details from the night’s patrol. He spent a few minutes cross-referencing the new data with his files to check for any escalating patterns or ties to major crime bosses he needed to be aware of. The computer didn’t show any results, so he shut it down and moved to take off his gear.
Blaze tugged the cowl back, then removed his heavy, thick-soled boots. He carried the boots across the room to a glass fronted wardrobe, the cold of the concrete floor seeping through his socks to chill the soles of his feet. The boots went inside the wardrobe, followed by his two-piece suit. The glass door slid shut with a hiss, and a second later, the specialized steam cleaner kicked on, the glass fogging over as it removed the sweat, grit, and blood from the armored suit.
Naked except for a pair of tight-fitting boxer briefs, he strode over to the elevator, punching in a code on the lit keypad to summon it down to this level. Once he stepped inside, the elevator rose, swiftly taking him to the top level of the brick and glass building where he had the entire floor for his private apartment. He didn’t bother turning on any lights, he moved through the dark rooms with ease on his way to the shower.
A few minutes later, he was clean, dry and ready for a few hours’ sleep. Clad in a pair of black, low-slung pajama bottoms, Jordan strode over to the floor to ceiling windows, his bare feet sinking into the plush carpet. From there, he could look out over a great deal of St. Louis. In the distance, the Gateway Arch rose, towering over the city, a beloved and beautiful monument. But the cold steel was immobile, lifeless, and unfeeling. The Arch couldn’t do anything to keep the citizens safe. It was up to him to help those in need.
His thoughts returned to the guy he’d saved from a mugging earlier. Daniel Griffin. He’d seen his name and address when he’d picked up his driver’s license from the street. There was one more thing he could do to help the young man out, and hopefully keep him from returning to the rough area of The Stocks. He’d take care of it, then put the little sub out of his mind for good. An angel like that didn’t need a man like him in their life. His role was to protect from the shadows, so that people like Daniel could live in the light without fear.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
Pounding on the front door reverberated throughout the house, yanking Danny out of a deep sleep. He threw the covers back and stumbled from the bed. As groggy as he was, he still recognized that aggressive knock. It had to be DeliveriesPlus with a package that required his signature. Since he regularly ordered art supplies and merchandise he’d designed, deliveries at all hours was a common thing.
After pulling on a pair of shorts, he went downstairs to look through the small, stained glass window set into the front door. Sure enough, a man wearing the familiar orange polo shirt waited on the porch. Danny opened the door, wincing as the bright, early morning sunshine stung his eyes.
“Good morning. I have a package for Daniel Griffin.”
The delivery driver extended the electronic signature pad and tiny, chewed up pen to Danny. Still blinking the sleep from his eyes, Danny accepted them both and scrawled his name across the screen. He handed them back, receiving a flat envelope in exchange. Danny politely thanked the driver and closed the door.
Looking down at the flat package he held, he sleepily tried to remember what he’d ordered that would come in an envelope that small. Nothing that he could think of. And the return address was a P.O. Box, which didn’t help jog his memory. Danny shrugged. There was no point in speculating when he could just open the envelope. He ripped open the pull-tab, turned the envelope upside down, and shook it. An all-black invitation fell into his hand. It was beautiful in its starkness, the card stock thick and crisp, the lettering embossed on the matte paper in a glossy, no frills black font.
Club Decadence invites you to join us with a complimentary one-year membership.
Danny stared down at the invitation in his hands in wonder. “Holy shit,” he whispered. Blaze. Blaze must have put in a call and asked them to give him a membership. He’d heard that the superhero often went the extra mile and helped former criminals, putting them on the path to turning their lives around. But this gesture went way beyond full-service superheroing.
Danny whooped and danced around the living room with joy. “I’ve got a free membership to Club Decadence!” His roommate Scott was out of town at a convention, so there was no one there to see him shimmying around doing his happy dance. But the dancing didn’t last for long. His aching knee reminded him of the fall he’d taken last night, protesting at his jubilant bouncing.
“I’ve got to do something to thank Blaze for this,” he whispered as he stopped wiggling around and stared down at the card again. Drawing superheroes was his specialty and how he made his living, so the choice was obvious. “I’ll draw him some thank you art.”
He had no way to contact Blaze. As far as he knew, no one did. But social media had vast reach. If he posted something online and enough people shared it, it was bound to make its way to Blaze at some point. Blaze might not have an official social media account like some superheroes but Danny was willing to bet he had either an anonymous online presence or one as his alter ego, whomever that might be.
He started to rush off to the spare room that he’d turned into his work space, but his stomach growled with hunger, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten yet. And his knee still ached, so he needed to attend to that too. “Okay. Breakfast, first-aid, shower. Then art.”
Danny hurried into the kitchen and popped a couple of breakfast tacos in the microwave to heat. While he waited, he took two ibuprofen, then wrapped up ice cubes in a dish towel for an ice pack. He sat down to eat once the tacos were ready. A shiver ran through him from the chill of the ice when he applied the makeshift ice pack to his knee, but he held it steady against the sore area while he ate, and for a few minutes after he finished. That was as long as he could stand to wait.
Impatient to get started on his project, he dumped both soggy towel and empty plate in the sink before rushing off to shower. As he soaped up, he envisioned the scene he was going to draw. He wanted to make sure that Blaze would know exactly who was thanking him so he decided to draw a snapshot of last night’s rescue. By the time he was out of the shower and dressed in old shorts, a tank, and flip-flops, he had it pretty well plotted out.
In his work room, Danny sat down at the desk and turned on his tablet. He only planned to do a quick sketch so he could post it as soon as possible. But once he set pen to screen to draw Blaze, the piece took on a life of its own. Danny carefully detailed the bright blue sparks of electricity that had arced up and down Blaze’s arms. Each line was sharp and jagged, the glow brilliant and casting shadows. He meticulously sculpted the powerful muscles of Blaze’s arms and thighs. And he spent an embarrassing amount of time getting the curve of Blaze’s ass in those tight leather pants just right.
Since he’d drawn Blaze so well, he couldn’t depict himself as a raggedy-looking add on. He drew himself in last night’s outfit, then tapped the pen against his chin as he considered what he should do with his face. Eventually he shrugged and gave himself an exaggerated worshipping expression as he watched Blaze fight. That’s probably how he’d looked anyway.
The criminals he drew as faceless, shadowy blobs of evil, both as a safety measure against retaliation, and because those jerks didn’t deserve to see themselves in his art. In the interest of saving time, he cheated on the background with vague, simple shapes for buildings. Still, it took him hours to finish. But it was worth it. The piece was gorgeous and worthy of serving to express his thanks to Blaze. Danny watermarked the illustration with his signature, then uploaded it to his Twitter account with a heartfelt caption.
Last night I was out and about downtown and ran into a little danger. I was mugged but thankfully, Blaze came along and saved me. Thank you, Blaze, for everything you did for me.
After reading it twice to make sure he didn’t have any errors — he’d hate to go viral with a typo — Danny hit send. He had over fifteen thousand followers on Twitter, with similar numbers on Instagram where he uploaded the picture next. Hopefully the piece would get enough activity that it would eventually make its way to Blaze. He didn’t expect to personally hear back from the elusive superhero, he simply wanted the chance to show his gratitude. His mission for the day accomplished, Danny put the tablet to sleep, grabbed his phone, and went to make a late lunch.
He’d just taken the lunch meat out of the fridge when his phone started dinging with alerts. Since he was starving, he ignored it long enough to make a couple of sandwiches. Once he’d eaten the first and started on the second, he leaned back against the counter, ham and Swiss on white in one hand while he scrolled his Twitter mentions with the other. Lots of favorites and retweets on the Blaze piece. Several comments gushing over the art. Others asking if he was okay. Danny smiled, responding to a few of the comments from accounts he recognized. His smile soured when he came across a tweet from one particular account — an Ignite stan.
Nice art. But it would have been better if you’d drawn Ignite.
Danny screamed a tiny little rage scream at the tweet. Comments like this drove him crazy. He didn’t care if people didn’t like who or what he drew. But taking the time to tell him what he should have drawn was plain rude. Finished with the sandwich, he held onto his phone with both hands, thumbs flying as he hit reply and typed.
How ‘bout no since Ignite wasn’t the one who saved me?!!!
Danny stared at the drafted tweet, with its multiple exclamation points, in vindicated satisfaction. Then he drew in a deep breath, released it, and sent the cursor racing backward to delete every single word without hitting send. It wasn’t worth getting into an argument online with someone who complained about his art. He’d spend all day doing nothing else if he did. It was better to ignore them. Besides the good comments far outweighed the bad. And the tweet was being shared so fast that he had real hope Blaze would see it. Maybe it would get picked up as a Twitter moment which would give it even more reach.
The Blaze art was one post that he wouldn’t mute after a few hours, just in case any truly interesting replies popped up. For now, he went to spend a little time on the stationary bike to work out the remaining stiffness in his knee, and get the blood flowing after the hours spent sitting and drawing. With the music going he got up to a nice steady pace. It wasn’t long before his muscles warmed, the exercise helping his body and mind to relax. He climbed off the bike after the brief workout, ready to get dressed for his second attempt at attending a D/s club.
Club Decadence was a much nicer spot than The Stocks, and Danny briefly considered changing up his style to something a little fancier, maybe with latex. Standing in front of his open closet, he tugged at a shiny black latex vest he’d bought but never worn. It had potential, but he decided to stick with what he was most comfortable in. Danny dropped the vest in favor of a sapphire blue crop top, pairing it with tight jeggings that shimmered with a blue-black sheen. The material of the shirt was so silky and light it swayed with every movement.
Since the shirt left most of his midriff exposed, he used one of his thicker moisturizers to make sure he wasn’t ashy. Squeezing a dollop of the beach and coconut scented cream onto his palm, he rubbed it into his skin until his torso gleamed dark and smooth. The jeggings were so tight the pockets couldn’t fit a credit card much less his phone, wallet and keys, so he buckled another fanny pack — this one a sleek black leather with silver chains — around his waist. A pair of black ankle boots completed the look.
Glancing at himself in the mirror, Danny realized he’d dressed in Blaze’s colors. It was unintentional but fitting. Since he was only attending Club Decadence thanks to Blaze, he’d gladly go out dressed as the hero’s unofficial mascot tonight.
Danny thrummed with excitement the entire drive down to Laclede’s Landing. Club Decadence was at the end of the downtown entertainment district, tucked back from the street. The club had valet parking but Danny went to the well-lit parking lot instead. A guard sat in a security booth, giving Danny a nod as he drove onto the property. Just like Blaze had said, better lighting and security. His appreciation for the superhero’s gesture rose even higher as he got out of the car and made his way to the club. Like many of the buildings on the Landing, Club Decadence was constructed from red brick. It stood two stories high, with black awning over the entryway, and an elegant black and silver sign that read — Club Decadence Private Club — nestled amongst manicured shrubbery.
The cracked glass doors automatically opened outward as he approached, giving off the vibe that he was about to enter another world. A woman seated on a stool behind a glossy black hostess stand greeted him with a warm smile as he entered the small lobby.
“Hello. Welcome to Club Decadence.”
“Hi. Um. This is my first time here. I received this invitation.” He held out the black on black card.
“Your name please?”
“Ah, Mr. Griffin. Again, welcome. We’re glad to have you. Arrangements have been made for a club hostess to show you around.” She raised a hand and pressed a finger to the ear piece clipped to her ear. “Vivian? We have a guest here who requires your assistance. Thank you.” The hostess looked back at Danny. “She’ll be right out.”
Danny ignored the lobby’s black velvet love seat in favor of standing off to the side to nervously wait. Based on the sophisticated decor, he half expected someone wearing a full dominatrix outfit to come through the door behind the hostess stand. Instead the door opened, and a short woman with curly red hair, dressed in a short, daffodil yellow baby doll dress, white knee socks, and shiny black patent leather shoes approached.
“Hi, I’m Vivian. Welcome to Club Decadence.”
“Thank you. I’m Danny.”
After the brief introduction, she led the way back to the door she’d come through, holding it open for Danny. Music with a slow, heavy bass beat poured out of the open doorway, loud enough for the crowd on the dance floor to enjoy but not so loud that Danny couldn’t hear Vivian as she spoke close to his ear.
“Let’s get started on your tour. I’ll show you around, explain the rules, and have you fill out your membership forms. If you have any questions or want a closer look at something, feel free to stop me and ask.”
Danny nodded, a little of his nervousness fading away at her friendly demeanor. “Okay.”
“This is the main bar. As you probably know, lowered inhibitions and BDSM don’t mesh well, so we don’t serve alcohol or allow outside drinks to be brought in. But our bar is filled with lots of yummy non-alcoholic treats, sodas, and water. Plus, it has hooks for Doms to restrain their subs. The usual.”
Danny’s eyes went wide at that last bit. “Oh.”
Vivian grinned and continued on.
The place was exquisite. Lots of plush velvet and tufted leather seating in black or rich jewel tones. Sparkling crystal chandeliers hung over the dance floor and mirrored walls reflected their light. On the far end of the club, dancers spun and dipped behind a wall of screens, their dark silhouettes giving a sleek air of mystery to their performance. And servers dressed in glossy black fetish wear moved throughout the crowd. Danny followed along as Vivian pointed out the currently empty stage that was used for demonstrations and entertainment. They stopped in a small lounge area with big leather club chairs and dim red lighting.
“Are you looking for a Dom right now? Because lots of people are looking at you. There’s going to be a little sniffing around based simply off the fact that you’re fresh meat but you’re so darn hot that I’m sure a Dom is genuinely going to want to snap you up right away.”
Danny tore his gaze away from a sub kneeling at the feet of her Dom, gently rubbing her face over the leather of his knee-high boots before he answered. “I definitely want a Dom. But I think for tonight I only want to learn my way around. This is my first time out in public in a D/s scene.”
“Ah!” Vivian nodded in understanding. “I’m happy your first night is with us. You couldn’t have picked a better place.” She started walking again. “Since you’re with me you don’t have to worry too much about being approached but after tonight if you still don’t want to be bothered, let the hostess know when you check in and she’ll give you what we call a Do Not Disturb bracelet.”
“Got it.” Danny appreciated that was an option. He turned around and tilted his head back to look at the private suites on the floor above. “This is a gorgeous club. I can’t believe I’m here.”
Vivian smiled. “Believe it.”
“Amazing,” Danny whispered to himself. It was amazing and he had Blaze to thank for it.
Jordan sat at his desk in his glass walled office, reviewing order forms and design specs. The work day was over, the street level garage below quiet and empty, the lights dimmed to low. As the owner of the number one custom auto body shop in the Greater St. Louis area, there was always work to do. But it was time to put the paperwork away and stop for the night. He had a few hours to kill before he went out to patrol as Blaze. He could relax for a while before he suited up. Or he could swing by Club Decadence to check on Daniel.
Jordan huffed a laugh to himself. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d sat around to relax so the first option was out. However, that didn’t mean he should do the second option. His original plan had been to leave Daniel alone after taking care of his membership to Club Decadence. But he had the urge to see him again. And a quick follow up couldn’t hurt. He would make sure that Daniel had received the invitation to Club Decadence and was okay after his mugging. That was it. After he checked up on him, he really would move on and forget about the adorable little sub.
His decision made, Jordan put the paperwork away, left the office, and took the stairs to the fourth level. Since he only planned to make a quick stop in the club, he didn’t dress in any leather gear, opting instead for black slacks and a black button down with the sleeves rolled up.
Once he was dressed, he took the elevator back down to the street level, crossing the shop garage to the smaller area where his personal cars were parked. His fingers twitched with anticipation as he slid into the driver’s seat of his 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. He couldn’t explain his excitement. He just knew that he had to see Daniel again.
Twenty minutes later, he pulled up to the valet stand at Club Decadence. The valet came over, his eyes wide as he took in the fully restored muscle car. Jordan tossed him the keys then held up a crisp ten dollar bill.
“I’ll treat her like glass, sir,” the valet said as he accepted the tip.
Jordan nodded and walked into the club’s lobby, where the hostess greeted him with a pleased smile.
“Mr. Wells, it’s been too long since you’ve been in. We’ve missed you.”
He returned her greeting as he passed over his membership card to be scanned. “Hello, Lucille.”
They spent a few moments catching up before she waved him inside with a manicured hand. Jordan hadn’t been to the club in over a year, but it was the same as he remembered — elegant atmosphere with scene members enjoying their kink in whatever way pleased them.
He went upstairs to the private suite he shared with a few acquaintances. There was only one person inside. Rob Marshall, or Big Rob as those who knew him well called him. The man was huge, taller than Jordan’s six foot two, and built like a tank. Although Rob had a calm and easy-going demeanor, people instinctively knew not to mess with him. And that was before they found out what he could do.
Rob looked up from his phone, his eyebrows shooting up in surprise when he saw Jordan.
“Holy shit, it’s Jordan Wells. Haven’t seen you here in a while.”
“Hey, Rob.” He held out his hand and they exchanged a quick, firm handshake. “Been busy.”
“What brings you in tonight?”
“Had some free time. Thought it’d be nice to get out of the house.”
“And out of that suit?”
Jordan’s lips twitched in a small smile. “That too.”
They went quiet when a server stopped in to see if they wanted anything to drink. Rob ordered a non-alcoholic beer while Jordan requested a glass of water. He needed to be hydrated for later. After their drinks were delivered, Jordan went over to the balcony of their suite and leaned on the railing. Sipping the ice-cold water, he scanned the club below. There was no guarantee he’d find what he was looking for, but he had a feeling Daniel wouldn’t be able to wait to check out the club now that he had a free membership.
The low lighting and the crowd made it difficult to distinguish faces. After a few minutes of searching, Jordan spied a short young man on the edge of the dance floor. From the back it looked he could be Daniel. He kept the man in his sights... waiting.
When the man finally turned around, raising his face to look at the private suites, Jordan’s palms tingled. There he was. Jordan sucked in a breath when he realized that Daniel wore his colors — black pants that gleamed in the light and a blue top. The possessive thrill that shot through him at something so simple and probably without meaning was foolish. But he liked it. He wanted that little sub in his colors. Jordan continued to watch from the shadows as the hostess escorted Daniel around the club. Rob came over and leaned on the railing next to him.
“Ah, I see. It wasn’t just free time that brought you in from the streets. He’s cute.”
Jordan didn’t respond. He didn’t expect his silence to stop Rob however. And it didn’t.
“Who is he?”
“I don’t know him personally. I saved him from a mugging last night.”
“And you knew he’d be here how?”
“He told me he was headed to The Stocks. I suggested he come here instead.” Jordan left off the part about paying for Daniel’s membership fee, knowing that bit of information would make Rob dig even deeper.
“Then why are you up here watching him instead of down there talking to him?”
“I’m not looking to get involved with anyone.”
“Hmmm... Maybe I’ll go down and talk to him then,” Rob said as he pushed back from the railing.
“Don’t you fucking dare.” Jordan snapped the words out without thinking.
Rob laughed. “Rein it in, man. Unless you want everyone here to know that Jordan Wells is Blaze.”
Jordan looked down. A small spark of electricity arced over his hand. Thankfully it was indistinguishable from the laser lights currently flashing over the club. He drew the power back in. “Sorry.”
“No worries. But you know that someone is eventually going to approach him, right?”
At that moment, a tall Dom walked up to Daniel. They spoke briefly, Daniel tilting his head back to look up at the taller man when he responded. Whatever he said must have been a polite rejection, because the Dom nodded and walked away.
“Guess he’s not looking to get involved with anyone either,” Rob said. “Or he’s waiting to see if his hero will show up.”
“He doesn’t need to get mixed up with me. You’ve seen how that turns out. I’ve learned my lesson.”
Rob took a slow sip of his beer before responding. “I don’t think the lesson was never get involved with anyone for the rest of your life.”
Jordan made a noncommittal noise. He wasn’t going to argue the point with Rob when he’d long ago made up his mind. “What about you? Why are you on your own tonight?”
Rob shrugged. “Recently parted ways with my last sub. We weren’t clicking the way I’d hoped and I haven’t found anyone new yet. I’m not looking, but if the right guy happens to fall into my lap, I won’t push him off.”
Daniel moved out of Jordan’s line of sight. His water finished, he put the empty glass on the table with a tip beneath it. “I’ll see you around.”
Again, Rob’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Leaving already?”
“Crime never sleeps.”
“True. Be safe out there.”
Jordan nodded in acknowledgment then left the suite. On the ground floor he passed close enough to Daniel to call out the other man’s name and be heard over the music. But he didn’t. After one last glance, Jordan left the club, reminding himself that the little angel was not for him.
Hours later, Jordan returned home as he always did, in that dark, silent hour before the birds began to sing. Tonight, his near-scalding hot shower was especially welcome to soothe away the aches that resulted from being slammed up against a Dumpster. And clubbed in the ribs. And punched in the jaw. His accelerated healing would kick in soon, taking away the pain before the bruises could change from red to black, but right now, he hurt like hell. The beating he’d taken tonight was worth it, however.
He’d obtained the information he needed regarding the drug Croton coming into town. Croton was a powerful stimulant that made you feel as if you could conquer the world, right up until the moment your circulatory system went into overdrive and your heart exploded. The drug originated as a legal enhancer for athletes but quickly spread beyond controlled usage in professional sports to unregulated and illegal use for people who wanted an edge in their careers, adrenaline junkies, and criminals.
Already prevalent on the east coast, Croton was slowly making its way across the country, and had recently started to show up on the streets of St. Louis. He’d heard rumors that the L Street Posse — a gang known for petty crimes at the bottom and gambling on illegal street racing at the top — was the one bringing it in. Blaze intended to put a stop to it before it took over the city. The first step in that plan was confirmation of the rumors. Now that he had it, he could move forward and find out how they were distributing the product.
Jordan sighed. After the night he’d had, it was hard to leave the soothing heat of the three-headed shower, but the lure of sleep finally got him to twist off the faucet and step out onto the shower mat.
He didn’t bother with pajama pants after drying off. He strode naked over to his California king and slid between the sheets, sighing with pleasure as cool, soft cotton settled over his bare skin. Laying there in the middle of his big bed, he swept his arms out to either side. The space was nice. But even better would be a lover keeping the sheets warm for his return. For a blissful moment, Jordan allowed himself to imagine Daniel cuddled up against him. He’d hold him close, tucked into the curve of his shoulder, sharing lazy kisses until they drifted into sleep.
Before he could sink too far into the fantasy, Jordan resolutely pushed the longing for sweetness and warmth away. He was lonely tonight. Big deal. Everyone was lonely on occasion. The feeling would pass, as it always did. And he’d go back to kicking the asses of St. Louis’s criminals without caring about the fact that night after night, he returned to a cold, empty home. Alone.
Ugh, I’m never going to get everything in order!” Frustrated and tired, Danny dramatically collapsed onto his work table, arms spread over scattered sketch books, merch samples, and colored pencils. His roommate Scott passed by the open doorway on his way down the hall. At Danny’s outburst, he stopped and backtracked to lean against the door frame.
“You need any help?”
Danny sighed and raised his head. A plastic charm package stuck to his cheek. “Not yet. I’m still at the trying to figure out what I want to do stage.” St. Louis Geek Fest was coming up in a few months. He’d booked a table in the con’s artist alley and he needed to decide on the merchandise he wanted to take.
“Understandable,” Scott said sympathetically. “Getting started is always the hardest part when it comes to con prep.”
Danny peeled the package off his face and sat up straight in his chair. “You got that right. How was the convention?” Scott was a popular cosplay model, and he’d been hired to work a video game company’s booth at a gaming event, costumed as the main character from their new release.
“It was mostly all right. Some jerk didn’t understand cosplay doesn’t equal touchies and groped my butt. So, I kneed him right in the balls. He tried to complain to security but the joke was on him because they escorted him off the premises as soon as I told them what he’d done to me first.”
“Nice.” Danny held up a hand and Scott came into the room so they could high-five each other.
“Also, a photographer approached me to do a cosplay calendar. I’m interested, but it’s for lewds so I’m going to be extra careful vetting her,” Scott said as he lowered himself to sit cross-legged on the floor. “So, what have you been up to? I saw your tweet the other day. Were you really rescued by Blaze?”
All of Danny’s excitement came rushing back at the reminder of his encounter with the superhero. “Yes. I was walking along, minding my own business when three members of the L Street Posse came at me.”
“Yikes. Were you terrified?”
“Pants pissing,” Danny answered with a laugh. “I gave them my bag without a fuss but that wasn’t the only thing those creeps wanted.”
Scott’s blue eyes went wide as he grasped Danny’s meaning. “No.”
“Yeah. But thankfully Blaze showed up and saved my ass. He took one of them out without me even seeing him. Then he beat the snot out of the other two.”
“Wow, that’s awesome. I mean not awesome that you were mugged but that you got to see Blaze up close.”
“It was. I’ve never seen anyone move so fast. And with all that electricity crackling around him, and those muscles...” Danny scrunched up his shoulders to cover the sensual shiver that ran through him at the memory.
Scott laughed. “Only you would get horny in the middle of being rescued from a mugging.”
“Ha! I doubt I’m the only one who’s wanted to swoon at Blaze’s feet.”
“You have a crush!”
Danny tried and failed to fight back the embarrassed blush heating his face. “I don’t! I don’t even know him. And I’m pretty sure I’ll never see him again. It was exciting for me but probably no more than a blip in the everyday routine of superheroing for him.”
“That’s probably true. What were you doing down there so late at night?”
“I was uh...” For a split second, Danny considered making something up. Then he squared his shoulders and came clean. “I was headed to that BDSM club — The Stocks.”
Scott tilted his head in question. “Are you embarrassed to tell me that?”
“I don’t know.” Danny scrubbed a hand over his hair as he thought about it. “Yeah, I guess? People can be weird about BDSM. Especially when it comes to Black people enjoying it.”
“C’mon, man. We’ve been friends since the 7th grade. You came out to me before anyone else. And you had my back when I started to transition. We were each other’s first kiss.”
“Don’t remind me,” Danny said as he pretended to gag. “You were a terrible kisser.”
Scott laughed again and unfolded his long legs to kick Danny’s chair. “So were you, loser. My point is, you can tell me anything and I’ll have your back. You know that. Embrace what makes you feel good without shame.”
“Thanks, man. I appreciate that.”
“Are you going to try and go again?”
“I already have just not to that same club. Blaze sent me a year-long membership to Club Decadence. I tried it out and that place is amazing. It has this slick black and crystal aesthetic with leather and velvet everywhere but it’s not cheesy at all.”
“Yeah, it’s gorge-”
“No.” Scott waved his hands back and forth to cut Danny off. “Forget the club decor. Blaze gave you a membership to a D/s club?”
Danny rolled his eyes at his friend. “He didn’t give it to me personally. He contacted the club and asked them to sponsor me, and they had the invitation sent over.”
Scott continued watching him with his eyebrows about to jump past his strawberry blond hairline, so Danny rushed on to stop the conclusion his friend was probably about to come to.
“He only did it because I mentioned that I couldn’t afford it on my own after he suggested I go there because it was safer. You’ve heard the rumors about him helping former criminals get on the right track. This is the same thing.”
“Uh. Not really. Sounds to me like maybe you made an impression on him too.”
“Please,” Danny said with a self-deprecating snort. “A too stupid to live guy who walks the streets with his pepper spray in his bag instead of in his hand where he can actually use it if necessary? Probably not.”
“You never know. Heroes can be attracted to someone as easily as us regular people.” Scott pushed himself to his feet. “I’m going to make myself something to eat. You want anything?”
“No, I’m fine but thanks.”
“All right. Let me know if Blaze sends you any more gifts.”
“It wasn’t a gift!” Danny picked up a pencil to throw it as his friend but Scott was already out the door.
After the other man left, Danny grabbed his phone and brought up the tweet with the artwork he’d drawn of Blaze. It was at two thousand retweets, nearly four thousand likes and counting. He touched a finger to the screen, tracing over his depiction of Blaze.
Scott was way off base. It wasn’t possible that someone like that — big and strong and an actual hero — had spared more than a passing thought on average, every day Danny. More than likely, Blaze dated one of the other superheroes, and they had extremely enthusiastic and athletic sex. The kind that broke beds and left cracks in the walls. Their orgasms probably had the power to level a city block, while he at twenty-five, had just now worked up the nerve to explore something new in his sex life.
Danny was suddenly embarrassed that he’d given himself such an adoring expression. He should have drawn himself looking tough and cheering Blaze on, not like a swooning damsel in distress. Danny shrugged and dropped the phone back onto the table. It was too late to worry about it now. His swooning face was out there and all that mattered was whether or not Blaze would see it.
Jordan squatted in front of a 1966 GMC Shortbed pickup, updating the paint from a rusty orange to a bright, candy apple red. Saturday was their busiest day. The garage was packed and noisy with all staff on deck: painting cars, fitting custom rims, installing hydraulic systems, and anything else a car aficionado could think of to outfit their ride. Customers roamed the areas open to them, looking over the finished models on display to get ideas for their own cars.
His spot was popular and had twice been featured on one of those trick out my truck type shows. He hadn’t appeared on camera of course. His shop manager Nina had happily stood in for him, crowing that she was gonna get so many chicks as a result of her new fame.
For the most part, Jordan tuned out all the chaos. After years in the noise, he was able to ignore it and take care of business unless he was directly needed. When a pair of coverall clad legs appeared in his peripheral vision, he continued working. When they stayed there without moving, Jordan finally stopped the spray gun and looked up. Nina stood there with a gleeful grin on her face.
“Have you gone on Twitter lately?”
Jordan looked at her over the top of his respirator mask like she’d lost her mind. She was well aware that he left all of the social media handling to the two shop assistants. “You know I haven’t.”
“There’s something floating around on there you might want to see.”
“What is it? I hope it’s not that guy complaining about the color of his car. I tried to tell him that green he wanted was gonna look like baby shit -.”
Nina cut him off. “It’s not shop related.” She held out her phone, her grin even more excited.
Jordan took off his mask and looked at the phone. On the screen was a fantastic piece of art of him fighting off the L Street Red Vests from the other night. He recognized both the scene and the person in the picture even before he read the caption. Thank you, Blaze for everything you did for me. Daniel. The cute submissive he’d saved. Jordan glanced at the account handle. @Danny_art. So. Daniel went by Danny and he was an artist. Apparently a fairly popular one with over fifteen thousand followers.
“Nice,” he said as he handed the phone back to Nina.
“That’s all? Nice?”
Jordan checked to be sure there was no one within earshot before he answered. “What do you want me to do, log on and thank him? Not all of us have fan accounts.”
Nina shrugged. “It’s not like we get paid to do what we do. Might as well accept a little adulation when it comes our way.”
“I don’t do it for the money or the thanks.”
Nina sighed with loud exaggeration. “Of course, you don’t. Anyway, I’m texting the picture to you so you can have it.” She tapped a few buttons on the screen. “There. Sent.”
“Thank you,” he said before he pulled the mask back into place and squatted down again.
Nina went back to installing white rims on a ghost white Impala, leaving Jordan there to finish painting. Or at least, he tried to finish. He kept thinking of that artwork. Of Danny. It was sweet of him to draw such detailed work to show his appreciation. Jordan wasn’t surprised to learn that Danny was an artist. He had a hard time picturing someone like him, with his angelic face and soft voice, working somewhere like the Pruitt production plant or stuck in a corporate office and wearing a boring suit. Artist fit him. Now he knew two things about Danny. He was an artist and he was into BDSM.
Remembering the way Danny had looked when he’d revealed he was going to The Stocks — so fresh and innocent — Jordan was willing to bet he didn’t have much experience in the scene. He’d love to be the one to teach him about the lifestyle. He would gladly spend hours helping Danny discover which kinks he liked. Jordan had a particular favorite and he longed to find the right person to share it with. Danny could be that person.
One of the hydraulic lifts kicked on, and the loud whine snapped Jordan back to attention. He realized he was sitting there without moving while he daydreamed about a man he didn’t even know. Annoyed at himself, Jordan shook his head and put the paint gear away. He took pride in his custom paint jobs and didn’t want to make a mistake on this while his focus was elsewhere, so it was best to leave it for later. With only an hour to go before the garage closed for the day, he took off his mask and called out to Nina.
“I’m knocking off early.” She was more than capable of running the place in his absence.
“All right. See ya, boss,” she called back.
Jordan took the elevator to the third floor but instead of going to his office for paperwork, he went to his private gym. The room was huge, with only a corner of it dedicated to weight and cardio machines. The rest of the space was dominated by a system of martial arts dummies set into a track that moved them around the room at random. Maybe exerting himself for an hour would get his mind off that adorable little sub.
He stripped out of his garage coveralls and exchanged his work boots for athletic shoes. After a quick jump rope session to warm up his muscles, he turned on the automated dummy system and went into full on attack mode. He leaped and spun around the room, punching and kicking his mobile yet inanimate foes. Jordan took care to temper his strikes so that he didn’t knock the dummies from their tracks, but he didn’t hold back on the intensity level.
Forty-five minutes later, Jordan stood in the middle of the room, sweat dripping, muscles pleasantly burning... and his mind still filled with Danny.
“Fuck it.” Jordan breathed the curse in resignation. He snatched up a towel to wipe his face before grabbing his phone and logging on to Twitter through the shop’s account. Thanks to one of his assistants, he had the Twitter app on his phone. It only took him a few seconds to click through to Danny’s profile.
It was immediately obvious that Danny was good on a professional level. The banner art alone looked like it belonged on a Big Two Comics website. Jordan started to scroll. As expected, Danny had lots of art on his feed. Most of it featured one of St. Louis’s superheroes as the subject. As Jordan thumbed up, he noticed that other than his thank you art there was only one other picture of him. That made sense, as he made it a point not to be photographed when he went out as Blaze. Danny wouldn’t have much raw material to work with.
He kept scrolling until he came across a picture that someone else had taken of Danny. He sat at his desk, slightly angled toward the camera, the light from his workstation lamp casting a warm, golden glow around him. There was another of him smiling as he stood next to a tall Caucasian man cosplaying as a gender-bent Red Sonya. The guy was ripped and the skimpy costume left little to the imagination but Jordan only had eyes for Danny. His sweet smile and dark eyes sparkling at the camera grabbed his attention and wouldn’t let go.
Jordan tightened his grip on the phone. This was ridiculous. Why couldn’t he get Danny out of his head? He shouldn’t be obsessing over him after only meeting him for a few minutes. He must be horny. His days spent working in the shop and nights running around the city fighting crime didn’t exactly leave time for an active social and dating life. Maybe he should hire a sex worker to spend a few hours with. There were a couple of guys he’d hired before that he’d got on well with, some into kink, some not. That might take the edge off.
He discarded the idea before it could take shape. Physical intimacy with a stranger wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to get to know Danny.
Jordan balled up his fists and dropped his head back on his shoulders with a defeated groan. Fine. He’d go to Club Decadence and talk to Danny as Jordan Wells. Maybe once he actually interacted with him in a situation that didn’t involve saving the other man’s life, he’d learn Danny wasn’t even that great. The adrenaline from the fight and the guy’s genuine gratitude at being rescued had probably blown this attraction way out of proportion. Seeing him in a mundane environment should snap Jordan out of his infatuation.
His decision made, Jordan strode from the room, stripping the athletic tape from his hands as he went. Jordan looked at the clock over the door on his way out. He needed to be down at the riverfront later that night for recon, but he had a few hours to spare for a meeting with Danny. Hopefully by the end of it, Danny would finally be out of his head.
Thirty minutes had passed since Jordan’s arrival at Club Decadence, but there was no sign of Danny. By now, he was nearly convinced that the little sub either wasn’t going to show up tonight, or would arrive after Jordan had to leave. He clenched his jaw in frustration, determinedly ignoring the disappointment in his chest. Five more minutes. He’d wait five more minutes before he deemed this a failed mission.
Four minutes and no sign of Danny.
At two minutes, the disappointment in his chest tightened into a lump.
He was about to call it a night and leave when he spotted Danny across the room. He’d come. Jordan’s disappointment disappeared as if it had never been, replaced with something that felt suspiciously like joy at seeing the other man once more.
He looked good tonight, dressed in a sleeveless, white mesh shirt, tight white jeans with multiple rips on the front to reveal the dark skin of his thighs beneath, and black boots that laced up to just beneath the knee. The lights reflected off his white outfit, making him appear to glow as he stood in a sea of people dressed mostly in black.
Wasting no time, Jordan went after him. He took a circular approach to where Danny stood at the bar in order to help their meeting appear accidental. He didn’t want to beeline for him as if they were already acquainted, and have Danny make the connection between him and the hero who’d saved him from a mugging. Jordan reached Danny, bumping into him slightly as he pretended he was passing by. “Excuse me. Sorry about that.”
Danny looked up with a relaxed smile. “It’s okay. It’s crowded in here tonight.”
“Yes, it is.” Jordan held his hand out. “I’m Jordan.”
“Danny. Nice to meet you.”
Danny accepted his handshake. When their palms touched, Jordan swore he felt a spark. Not like the sparks he could produce from within his own body but something warm and intimate shared between them. The dark wings of Danny’s brows drew together in a frown for the briefest second, causing Jordan to wonder if he’d felt the spark too.
“Is this your first time here?” Jordan asked once they released the handshake.
Danny laughed. “Am I that obvious?”
“A little. You look like you’re trying to take in everything all at once.”
“You’re not too far off. It’s my second time actually. A hostess showed me around last weekend but there’s still so much to see and absorb.”
“You’re new to the scene.”
“Yes. I mean, I’ve looked at lots of stuff online and talked to people in chat rooms but it’s different actually being here in person. I almost feel as if I need a BDSM tutor.”
Excitement pulsed through Jordan. There. He had an in. “If you have questions, I can help you. Unless you’re waiting to meet with someone else...” He let the sentence trail away, hoping that Danny didn’t already have a Dom he was there to meet.
“No. I’m not. And that’s really nice of you to offer, thank you.”
“Come with me. There’s a booth over here in a quiet corner where we can talk.”
Danny hesitated only a moment before nodding.
They walked together, Jordan slightly in front to lead the way and clear a path through the crowd. When they reached the booth, he held a hand out, indicating that Danny should slide in before him. Jordan sat next to him, but not wanting to scare the little sub he kept some distance between them and settled near the edge of the booth. He would have loved to sit closer to Danny, thigh pressed against thigh, but simply being here with him gave Jordan a thrill, awakening needs and desires that had lain dormant for far too long.
Danny fiddled with the napkin holder before pulling back and folding his small hands together on the tabletop. “Sorry, I’m nervous.”
“It’s understandable to be nervous. We all feel that way sometimes, especially as we’re learning to navigate the scene.”
“I can’t imagine you nervous and new.”
“Even Doms have to start from the beginning.”
“So, you are a Dom,” Danny said with a nod. “I thought so. I didn’t know if that was okay to ask.”
“You can ask me anything you’d like.”
Danny bit his lip for a moment. “How do you normally tell if someone is a sub or a Dom?”
“Sometimes it’s easy to read in a person. The way they carry themselves or the vibe they give off will let you know. Sometimes it’s not as easy to detect. Or, people can surprise you.”
“Can you tell what I am?”
Looking down at Danny’s open expression and eager to please demeanor there was only one answer Jordan could give. “I’d say you’re a submissive.”
“Yep.” Twin dimples appeared in Danny’s cheeks when he smiled. “I guess I’m obvious there too.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“That’s good to hear. I feel awkward and new, like the new kid showing up half way through the semester and hoping someone will ask me to sit with them at lunch.”
“I’ve already asked you to sit with me,” Jordan pointed out.
Danny breathed a soft laugh, his shoulders relaxing. “True.”
“What are you interested in trying now that you’ve taken the first step in entering the D/s world?”
“Sensation play. I like to be touched.” Danny ducked his head and looked up at Jordan through his lashes. “Is that okay to say?”
Another beat of excitement pulsed throughout Jordan’s body. Sweet. He was so sweet. “Yes.” He held a hand up over Danny’s bare forearm. “May I touch you?”
“Out loud, Danny.”
Jordan realized how eager he was to touch Danny when his power rose, tempting him to let loose enough to give the smaller man a pleasant buzz. But he held it back. He’d been given permission to touch, nothing more. And letting his power free would instantly blow his cover. Jordan kept his electromagnetic power tightly leashed as he began running his fingertips over the bare skin of Danny’s arm.
“Sensation play is a wonderful place to start. There are many different things to feel. The brush of a feather. Silk. Heat. Ice. Which would you like to try, Danny?”
“All of them. I want...” Danny’s lids fell closed and he drew in a shuddering breath before he finished. “I’ve wanted it for so long.”
Jordan let his fingers dance up Danny’s arm to his shoulder, then further, brushing them over his nape. He caressed him there for several heartbeats. When Danny leaned slightly into the touch, Jordan wrapped his fingers around the back of his neck and gently squeezed. Danny gasped before quickly stifling any other sounds by biting his lip. Jordan wished he could take that lip between his own teeth. He settled for lowering his head to whisper against Danny’s ear. “You deserve to be teased and touched until you tremble from the pleasure of it.”
“Look at me, Danny.”
Long, thick lashes rose to reveal warm brown eyes gone soft with arousal.
As Jordan gazed down into those eyes, he accepted that it wasn’t simply adrenaline from the fight driving his attraction to Danny. This untrained submissive was simply gorgeous and sweet and innocent and Jordan absolutely needed to see him past this one introduction. And it appeared Danny shared his attraction. The other man didn’t have the knowledge that technically they’d met before yet he still reacted to Jordan’s touch with honest, open arousal. If the chemistry between them was this intense after a short conversation and brief caresses, what would happen if they had time to explore their attraction in private?
Jordan made a swift decision. One night. If Danny was interested, he would take one night to introduce him to sensation play. That would have to be enough for him, because he couldn’t afford to become involved with Danny beyond a single evening. He asked the question that would hopefully gain him what he sought. “Would you like to try any of them with me?”
Danny swallowed before nodding slowly. “Yes.”
“I’d like that too. I’d like one night to show you how good it can feel to give yourself up to touch. To sensation.”
Danny’s lips parted on a silent sigh, forming a little o. Jordan smiled. He sensed that Danny was one he’d have to coax to get him to verbally express himself when he was lost in pleasure. Jordan liked that. There was so much about Danny that he liked.
“When can we...”
Jordan leaned back and dropped his hand from Danny’s neck, giving him physical and mental room to breathe. “There are a couple of things I want you to do before we scene together. First, you are going to ask the club’s staff about me and vet that I’m a safe Dom to work with.” He took out a card from his wallet that had his name and picture. A secret special addition had been added to it. “Then you’re going to go home and think this over to make sure it’s what you want. If you decide you do want to scene with me, meet me back here tomorrow at nine. I’ll book us a play room. However, if you change your mind, I will understand. You are under no obligation to see me again. Okay?”
“I won’t change my mind,” Danny said as he accepted the card.
Jordan had to hold back a growl of pleasure, happy that Danny shared his attraction. “I hope you won’t,” he said as he brushed a thumb over Danny’s cheek. A quick glance at the clock showed that he was out of time. He needed to get down to the riverfront for his reconnaissance mission. He reluctantly pulled his hand away. “Unfortunately, I have to go. Will you be all right?”
“Yes. I’m fine.” Danny gestured with the card. “Thank you for this.”
“You’re welcome.” Jordan slid out of the booth. “I hope to see you tomorrow night.”
Danny graced him with that sweet smile again before he answered.
Danny practically floated into the house. Scott lay on the couch in the front room, watching TV, and eating from a box of Crunch ‘N Munch. He sat up when Danny came through the door.
“Whoa. What’s got you all dreamy?”
“I met someone.”
“Okay. Who has got you all dreamy?”
Danny shook his head. “Not yet.”
“Ah, I see. You want to keep your new crush private while you let it soak in.” He held up the box of Crunch ‘N Munch and shook it. “When you’re ready to spill I’ve got the snacks.”
Danny went upstairs to his room and closed the door. He leaned back against it and sighed. Jordan Wells. He reached into his pocket for the card he’d slipped into his wallet earlier that evening, wanting to see Jordan’s picture again.
The man was gorgeous. And big. Easily six feet tall with shoulders and arms that filled out his black dress shirt in the very best way — like one flex and the sleeves would explode into shreds, revealing bare naked muscles. His light brown skin tone was a warm contrast to the inky black of his shadow beard and dark brows. And golden-brown eyes had watched him with an intimate gaze that made him feel as if they already knew each other.
Jordan Wells also had the deliciously commanding air of an experienced Dom. Danny had readily obeyed the simple instructions he’d given and eagerly awaited more. The feelings Jordan had aroused in him simply from his fingertips sliding up and down his arm... Danny shivered at the remembered sensation. That simple touch had set off sparks of desire in his belly. He could only imagine how it would feel to be touched in other places by those big, rough hands.
He’d been instructed to think it over but his mind was already made up. Going back tomorrow night was a forgone conclusion. Danny couldn’t wait to try sensation play with the sexy Dom. He hadn’t expected to meet anyone at Club Decadence so soon. Or to have such electric chemistry with a stranger. But it had happened and he was going to take advantage of it. Before he’d left the club, he’d vetted Jordan with Vivian and a few other employees and patrons. Now, there was nothing holding him back from returning to see Jordan again.
Danny tucked the card back into his wallet. He went over to the nightstand to put his phone on the charger, then stripped out of his club clothes, haphazardly tossed them in the laundry basket, and fell into bed wearing only his briefs. The room was dark and quiet as he lay there thinking, too riled up to sleep. He was glad he’d met Jordan. But the only reason he’d had the opportunity to do so was because of Blaze.
Rolling onto his side, Danny picked up his phone so he could scroll through his mentions, first on Instagram then on Twitter. He didn’t really expect to see anything from Blaze, still, he hoped... But there was nothing. Not even an imposter account trying to make him think they were Blaze. Disappointed, Danny put the phone down and flopped onto his back. He wasn’t obsessed. He simply wanted to thank the hero for what he’d done.
Danny lay there staring at the ceiling for all of a minute before he flung off the covers and got out of bed. He went over to his dresser for a t-shirt and shorts to throw on, then grabbed his wallet and phone. If he couldn’t connect with Blaze online, maybe he’d have a chance reaching him in person. The odds were slim but it was worth a try.
The house was dark and silent as he crept down to the first level. Scott must have gone to bed right after Danny had run upstairs. Feeling as if he was on a secret mission, Danny stepped out onto the porch, locked the front door, and quietly ran to his car.
Thanks to the late hour, traffic was light. He made the trip downtown in minutes, parking in the same lot as that fateful night. There was no guarantee that Blaze would be in this area again but maybe it was part of his patrol route or something. Danny got out of the car and locked the door. This time he made sure to keep his keys out, his hand wrapped around the tube of pepper spray, thumb ready on the trigger.
He didn’t venture too far from his car, staying close to the parking lot and not going beyond the lit areas. An old truck drove past. A group of college-aged kids staggered down the other sidewalk, clearly drunk based on the way they laughed and clung to each other. They straightened up when a pair of P-Bots approached, then gave the bots the finger behind their backs once they passed without incident. But there was no sign of Blaze.
Danny sighed. This was a dumb idea. Even if he yelled Blaze! Help! the man wasn’t likely to show up. He could be on the other side of the city for all Danny knew.
Giving up on his foolish quest, he started back to his car. At a quiet noise right behind him, the scrape of a boot on concrete, Danny whirled back around. He raised the pepper spray, ready to blast the presumed criminal in the face before he could be attacked. But instead of the red vest he expected to see, it was skin tight black leather. Blaze. “It’s you.” Danny breathed the words out as he lowered the spray, hardly daring to believe his plan of stand there and look helpless had worked, and Blaze was right there in front of him.
Blaze crossed his arms over his chest. “Why are you out here alone again?”
“I’m armed this time, see?” Danny shook the tube of pepper spray. “I learned my lesson.”
Blaze gave the little canister a sideways glance. Danny didn’t need to see his full expression to know that he didn’t think the spray was worth much in the way of protection. He lowered the keychain to his side. “I wanted to say thank you for saving me, and for the Club Decadence membership. You didn’t have to ask them to do that for me, and I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it.”
Blaze nodded slightly. “I saw your artwork.”
“I hoped you would!” Danny said with a happy smile. “I know you don’t have any public accounts on Twitter or Instagram but I figured someone would eventually show it to you.”
“Someone did. I noticed there were hardly any Blaze pictures on your timeline. Lots of Ignite and Helios.”
Blaze sounded almost disappointed. An image popped into Danny’s head of this six foot plus man scrolling his feed and pouting when he didn’t see any artwork of himself. Danny managed to smother his giggle at the mental picture, but couldn’t resist teasing the superhero. “They’re both very popular. Much more than you. You need better PR people.”
Danny caught a slight twitch to Blaze’s lips. Apparently, he’d managed to amuse the gruff superhero. That gave him the confidence to ask a question that had been on his mind for days. “Would it be okay if I drew more of you? I want to but you seem pretty private and I thought that I should ask before I went wild with the fanart.”
“I don’t mind,” Blaze responded in his deep growl. “Make sure I look good.”
Danny ran his eyes over Blaze, taking in the big, hard body wrapped in supple black leather. He assumed the suit was two pieces, as the pants had a belt and zipper but the top had no openings or fastenings that he could see. Thick padding on Blaze’s thighs and shoulders, and armored plates on his elbows, forearms, and knees gave the suit added protection. And that cowled helmet. It served to protect Blaze’s head, but Danny loved the way it so perfectly framed the hard line of the hero’s bearded jawline, drawing attention to full, sensuous lips. What would it be like to kiss a man who had such strength and power? Danny’s knees nearly buckled at the thought of it. Taken all together, Blaze looked like a gift from the leather fetish gods and he would love to unwrap him.
“I don’t think there’s any worry about that,” Danny finally said with unabashed admiration. As soon as he spoke, the cloud of lust cleared from his brain and he realized what he’d said and how he’d said it. Mortified, Danny clapped a hand over his mouth. He did not just attempt to flirt with Blaze. Lord, the man was going to think he was some superhero fanboy. Which he was. But he didn’t want to be blatant about it in front of an actual superhero.
“I only meant that your fighting style is really cool. I noticed that the other night with the sparks and everything.” Danny waved his fists around in a wild attempt to demonstrate Blaze’s electrified punches, nearly knocking himself in the face with his keyring in the process. He abruptly dropped his hands before he put his eye out.
Again, that noncommittal noise that could have meant anything. Danny suspected this time it meant Blaze was trying not to laugh.
“Anyway, I should get back home. I’m sure you’ve got crime to stop and villains to catch.” He started backing away, still rambling. “Thank you again. You’re the best, really. I promise there’ll be lots more Blaze art on my profile from now on. Good night and uh... be safe!” He gave a little wave before spinning around and hot footing it back to his car.
Danny was so focused on his getaway, he didn’t realize until he’d sat down in the driver’s seat and closed the door that he’d neglected to ask for a way to contact Blaze. But what reason could he give for needing to? He’d had the chance to express his gratitude like he wanted, so that should be it between them. No reason for them to interact again.
He drove to the edge of the parking lot, pausing to let a van go past before pulling out. As he sat there, the ticking of the turn blinker loud in the quiet of his car, he again had that feeling that he was being watched. Danny slowly raised his eyes from the road to check the rear view mirror. Blaze stood there, still as stone, half-hidden in the shadows of the building behind him. And he was definitely watching Danny as he drove away.
You like that? ;-) You can get the rest of BLAZE on Amazon.
CLICK TO READ.
My rambling and not at all edited thoughts on romance novels, writing, and pop culture.