Book 6: Rainbows.

Series: Light, Water, Muses.

Rating: NC17

Warnings: Let the kinkiness begin!

Category: The continuing saga of Reflections/ Resurgences/Refractions/Rapids/Ripples.

Pairings: We went for a mix and match theme.


Website: ShatterStorm Productions – Light, Water, Muses

Archive: ShatterStorm Productions only.

Summary: Darya has been curious about Bane. She will have her curiosity satisfied, along with other needs. Sylvia pulls Tessa aside.

Chapter 4 :: Green

++ Darya ++

I'm ready to kill my wife and her friends.

In a good way, of course, but still…

There they sit, that tight little cadre, heads all bent together in a blatantly conspiratorial way. I know they've been planning something, and have been practically from the minute Dace walked into the house. No, I suppose it was more like they started planning the night Dace and Catherine caught up with us for dinner. It certainly kick started my libido in ways I haven't fully understood yet. Thankfully, Karen had no problems helping me with that. Heat rises up from my chest to color my face at the memories. I've already made Karen promise that if I ever get the point of hating her creative mind, she'll have to kill me and put us both out of our misery.

Michael lets out a deep, throaty laugh, head thrown back, and I find myself staring at them again. Suddenly, the striking amber of her gaze meets mine and she lasciviously licks her lips before taking a long drink of beer. My throat is dust-dry in that instant, and I suddenly realize these incredibly powerful women are on the prowl…and I am their prey. This is the deepest kind of trouble, and I tremble at the implications of what it will mean to be caught.

"Fascinating, isn't it?" The low, accented tenor from behind startles me. When I start to turn to face Gabe, recognizing the lilt of his British accent, a strong hand on my hip holds me in place and he leans in close enough for the stubble to rasp at the side of my neck. What a peculiar, and strangely erotic, sensation. "All of that feral intensity aimed directly at you? Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Just waiting for one of them to strike. Which will be the most aggressive? The wolf? The cougar? The tiger?" His chuckle is soft and thick with innuendo. "You may know Karen, but you don't know Bane. She's called the Tiger for more than just her looks."


"Don't be afraid of them, Darya. No more than you need to be. They're not going to hurt you. Nor will they push you beyond what you can handle. Karen will kill the other two if they did, as would Anastasia. Let it happen. And most of all? Enjoy it. You'll be surprised just how empowering and freeing it can be."

With a light kiss to my cheek and a squeeze to my hip, Gabe walks past me to join his friends again. Deeply conflicted even now, I stand there, unable to move for a long moment. There is truthfully no doubting the veracity of his words. I already know that I can trust this entire strange cross section of humanity that Gabe is a part of. My daughter certainly does, and if she trusts him, given her extended sensitivities, who am I to distrust the man? But is he right about this? Probably. After all, he is part of that inner circle these women have. And he's certainly dead-on about Karen killing anyone who would intentionally hurt me.

I chew at my lower lip for a moment. Hasn't Dace been teasing me, flirting with me for months now? And I have wanted to know more about this side of Karen's life. These people were Karen's trusted family long before she met me. Who am I to mistrust them? It isn't as if she will allow me to come to any real harm. Taking a deep breath, my decision is made and I head toward the group of them.

"Hey, babe," Karen purrs as I settle in her lap. "Kids okay?"

"Not my night," I reply, snagging her beer for a quick, illicit sip. "Janet's bunking in with the babies tonight. I've been released from motherly duties until tomorrow."

She quirks an eyebrow at my comment and I smile, catching Gabe's grin in the corner of my eye, as I patiently wait for my wife to catch up. In the late evening sunlight, Karen's bright green eyes darken to a rich malachite, and a wide, almost predatory smile lights her face. She squeezes me tightly, alleviating the last of the trepidation I've been feeling, and brands me with an unholy kiss that curls my toes.

Pulling back for air, she growls softly, just for me, before grinning wildly at her pals. "Consider it a go, my friends."

Dace laughs darkly, that thrumming purr beneath the sound making my nerves hum. "Too bad the Creampuff can't play yet. I've wanted a bite outta her for years! But I think I'll go plant the seeds of that little encounter with her Daddy." Standing to stretch luxuriously, goddess, but she is a tease, Dace finishes off her beer with a flourish and moves toward me. In her eyes is the hint of gold behind the blue, and I lick my lips nervously. For a long moment, she stands still above Karen and me, her gaze and stance quietly predatory, face serious. Just as I'm getting nervous, she chuckles again and leans in to thread her fingers in the hair at the back of my head. I barely have the time to take a breath before I am on the receiving end of a kiss so intense, I very nearly forget who I am. This is exactly what I want and dread from this enticing woman, as she brands my body, soul and sexuality in a way that only Karen has been able to do before now. Without any conscious permission on my part, my hands rise up to grip at shaggy blonde hair, pulling her closer with a whimpering moan. A nip at my lower lip, none too gentle, signals Dace pulling back, and I open my glazed eyes to regard her wicked grin. "That's just a preview," is growled at me and Dace turns to stalk off in the direction of Art and my sister.

I slump back against Karen's chest, feeling her laugh as much as hearing it. My nipples are already so hard, they hurt. Gods and goddesses above, what the hell have I agreed to? Michael provides the next distraction, moving close to me. This predatory grin is so very different from Karen and Dace, more pronounced because of the wickedly arched eyebrows.

"Are all the children in the nursery?" she asks in that low, sultry tone that brooks no dissent, but I only stare at her, dumbfounded for the moment. "If I ask you a question, Darya, I expect an answer. Are the children tucked safely away in the nursery?"

Some sense of self-preservation makes my head nod dumbly. "I was tucking them in before I came out here."

"Good," she replies and hands her beer to Gabe before fluidly standing and looming over me. This must be what a doe feels as a pack of wolves takes her down to die. The smirk on that classically beautiful face is proof that she has followed my train of thought. With a sure grip and a series of careful tugs, I find myself hoisted easily over her shoulder with a light slap to my ass. "Bane, you'll have to lead the way as I've no idea where we'll have proper privacy."

"No problem. Follow me." As she passes him, Karen grabs Michael's beer from Gabe. "Tell Pai to bring us some beer, and the usual water. Art can show her where to go."

"Aye, Bane. I'll give you a bit to get settled and send her up shortly."

As we headed toward the house, I look up as I feel more eyes on me. Not only is Gabe watching us, but the rest of this eclectic family of Karen's all follow us with their eyes, knowing smiles spreading across their faces.

I am such a dead woman…

++ Art ++

"We've got company," Davie chortles before draining her glass. The woman is determined to drink me under the table, and Janet is going to kick my ass when she finds out my agreeing to it.

I glance up to see Dace stalking toward us, an intensely predatory look on her face. "Gahmahtoh!" I mutter as Karen leads a Darya-toting Michael into the house. I know what Dace is after. She's currently in the house, helping Cassie clean up the kitchen. Sucking up my pride and a fluttery case of nerves, I down the ouzo in my glass and stare up at the tall blonde. "He-ey there, Big Cat," I drawl, hoping I sound more sober than I actually am. "How's it hanging?"

"Hard and hot and ready to rut," she retorts matter-of-factly, spinning a chair to straddle it and stare at me with those bright, playful, and predatory sapphire eyes.

I do my best to stare back, but… damn, it's getting hot in here! Stupid ouzo… "I assume you want something from me?"

"The Creampuff," is all she says at first and I stare at her; certain the blonde has lost her mind.

"Blunt much, Dace? For fuck's sake!" A quick refill of my glass is quickly drained, and I have to wonder how the hell I get myself into these situations. Isn't this Zo's forte? When Dace doesn't answer, I shake my head. "Last I checked Sam's an adult and old enough to make her own decisions."

"And she belongs to you and Janet," is the simple reply, and it stops me short. "I always ask before I play with someone else's… toys. No offense intended, of course." Her gaze turns to look at Davie, sniffing the air delicately. "God damn, that smells good."

Davie chuckles darkly, flirtatiously. "I belong to myself, Dace. All you have to do is ask."

Dace echoes her chuckle. "Mmm, but I don't think you or your sister would agree to what I want." Lashing out a quick left hand, Dace snagged Davie's drink and tipped it back.

"What's that? Do you want to play Oreo and be the cream filling to our dark ends?"

Dace splutters, choking on the burning liquid. Chuckling breathlessly, sucking in air against the burn, she rasps, "Yeah, that'd be sweet, but your sister's head'd explode."

"I'm honestly surprised your wolf friend was able to cart her off," Davie sasses in an amused tone. "Then again, there have been a lot of surprising things this weekend."

"So does the offer still stand? Take a bite out of both of you Farazell sisters?" Dace waggles her eyebrows in delight, and even I have to smile.

"One Farazell at a time, Dace," Davie snorts. "And you're better off taking the one that might change her mind now. I'm unattached and always willing to try new things."

I can't believe I'm listening to this. Specifically, I can't believe I'm passively listening to this. A slow, devious smile spreads across Dace's face and she abruptly turns that pale gaze on me again. "So, Little Dog, do I have your permission to approach the Creampuff?" She asks curiously. "I promise I won't push for anything more than she's willing to give. I have too much respect for you guys to do that. If she seriously tells me no, I'll drop it. But I think we both know that she's curious."

Several facts filter through the haze of alcohol and shock.

Sam has the wildest kinky streaks I've ever known, rivaled only by her desire to please. She has willingly rolled over for me on more occasions than I can honestly remember. After learning about what Karen does in her 'spare time,' I've seen Sam watching her old pal far closer, always with a curious, hungry expression. "Like I said, she's an adult. Her ego's a little on the fragile side, especially since she's had Elana. The flattery of someone else finding her sexy will probably do her some good." I notice Davie nodding out of the corner of my eye. "But you can't."

Blonde eyebrows knit in silent, non-accusing question.

"Cesarean," I say quietly, aching still, because one of my beloveds hurts so much, even now. "She'd love to be at your mercy, but she can't. She's got like another four weeks until Bon will even consider clearing her for anything sexual." I try for a smile, but it feels strained to me. "Besides, you'll want to check with Janet, too. Her mothering instincts run pretty deep."

There's a moment when those ice and fire eyes regard me with knowing empathy. The scarred hand reaches out, and I barely remember not to flinch. Stroking softly over my curls, the way my mother would when I was child, Dace smiles softly and there's a lump in my throat. Damn ouzo…

"If you'd like to, please come see me when you're ready. The pleasure will be all mine." With a thoughtful nod and a last comforting caress to my scalp, Dace smiles warmly and stands up to head back to the house. After a few steps, she pauses and looks back where Davie and I still stare after her in silence. "Both of you would be great. I think Sam would find your presence comforting." The smile deepens into something that is impossibly sweet and yet completely suggestive. "Janet too, but I'll ask her myself. Thanks for your time."

"Interesting times," Davie says simply, and all I can do is nod.

++ Cassie ++

Sam's reaction to Karen and her friend carrying Darya into the house is cracking me up. At least Darya and Art generally treat me like an adult. Unlike the rest of my family, who are scandalized that I know anything about sex at all. Sometimes I wonder if they really think I'm still barely twelve years old. It isn't as if I haven't figured out why we'd done the weekend project of soundproofing the apartment over the garage. That isn't Sam's apartment any more than I have tentacles for arms.

"Oh, come on, Sam!" I can't resist teasing. "You can't tell me that you wouldn't jump at the chance to let Karen and her friends play with you like that. Hell, I've seen Dace eyeing you up like a piece of meat since she got here. Not to mention when she was here back in February."

"Cassie!" She squeaks, setting the towel down and scrubs at the sudden flush to her skin. Yeah, my other mom is definitely riled up. "This really isn't the best conversation for you and me to be having."

"I'm sure I can find someone else to have it with you," is my retort as I spot Dace coming up to the sliding glass door.

Sam shakes her head, leaning against the counter and rubbing at her forehead like she's getting a headache. "Are you done?" she asks me sourly, not even realizing that Dace has snuck up behind her.

"She may be," Dace growls and even I feel some kind of visceral reaction as she breathes hotly across the back of Sam's neck, grabbing her hips to keep her from turning, "but I'm not. How ya doing, Creampuff?"

Sam squeaks again, face going white, then flaming red. "Fine," she stammers, voice cracking. It's so strange to see her like this, so vulnerable. Dace better not hurt her…

A low, understanding chuckle signals Dace's attention turning to me. There is kindness and empathy in the broad smile. "Thanks for your help in the ambush, Cass. No feelings will get hurt, I promise. Could you do me an easy favor?"


"Pai's gonna need to bring some beer and water upstairs in a little while. You wanna get her directed up there for me?"


That's the end of my role in this conversation, and the big cat's attention is turned back to the woman who saved me from a fate worse than death. "So, Creampuff," purrs the intriguing voice, and Dace twists Sam around to face her. "I wanted to invite you along for the festivities." The smile is tender and suggestive all at once. "But I know that you're still recovering from Elana's birth."

Sam's eyes widen in surprise at the look on Dace's face, and she nibbles at her lower lip with her teeth. Dace's nostrils flare in reaction, and the currents of emotion fascinates me in ways I'm only really just beginning to understand. "Y… yes," Sam stammers, and Dace glances over at me before leaning in close to murmur something in Sam's ear. While I can't see a word, body language gives me some very good clues. Sam's hands rise to grip Dace's shoulders for support, and I watch her eyes flutter shut. There is a soft whimper as Dace continues to whisper, and Sam goes more and more limp until her head comes to rest on Dace's shoulder. I barely hear the faintly murmured, "Oh god," as Sam nods stiffly.

A quick, warm kiss to Sam's forehead signals Dace pulling away from the embrace and she glances over my direction again. "Is your mom still up?"

Confused by the question, I shrug. "I not sure, but probably. It's her night with the babies."

"Cool," she replies with a grin, then leans in to whisper something else to Sam before reaching out to pet my hair in a way that doesn't seem quite so infuriatingly maternal as when Mom does it. A quick flash of that unforgettable grin is Dace's parting gift to me before she saunters out of the room.

Fascinated, I stare at Sam, who just stands there, one hand on her throat, face flushed with something that looks like exertion. Only once does Sam look at me, and there's something in her eyes that makes me see this hero in a whole new light. The blue gaze is quickly jerked away in embarrassment before Sam retreats outside.

Leaving me with many questions and no easy answers.

++ Janet ++

The knock at the door doesn't really surprise me. Karen still knocks when it's my night with the kids. I have to admit I like that I still intimidated her just a little bit. It's a very nice ego boost.

What does surprise me is that it's Dace who pokes her head in, rather than my redheaded housemate. She has a look on her face that both intrigues and intimidates me. This is one of the few people on this planet and several others that unnerve me. It isn't anything concrete, as Dace is a very nice person, sexy, intense, and playful. In many respects, she reminds me of a far more confident version of my Sam. But it's that overpowering confidence, so unwavering, so intense, that really bothers me. I understand that she acknowledges me as ruler of my house, but she doesn't back down either. Forever standing on the line of propriety with just the tips of her claws hanging over, I hate to admit that part of me likes it.

"Janet? Are you still up?"

"You can come in, Dace," I call out softly as the older three kids are curled up in their beds and the babies in their cribs. Except for Cory, who lays suckling sleepily at my breast. Just a little longer and he can go back to his crib.

So the striking blonde steps inside, Jaffa strolling in after her. A glance over at the kids creases her face with a knowing smile, particularly at the sight of Fawn and Emily curled up together. There is something she knows and I wish I understood it better. Making her way to my bed, the blonde enigma smiles down at my son and raises an eyebrow in question before reaching down to scoop him up in her arms. With tenderness and the firm ease of people who are naturally good with children, Dace deftly massages his back until he burps and whimpers in his sleep before setting him in his crib. I can hear the familiar low rumbling purr of my kitty from across the room and grin that Jaffa is so comfortable around Dace.

A long, comforting caress that has Jaffa's purr in overdrive signals Dace's return to my side, her smile flirtatious. "So, Janet, can I ask you a question?"

"So, Dace, can I stop you?" I flirt back, because something about her brings out the protective and flirtatious sides in me and I want to maintain at least partial control of this strange conversation.

"No, not really," she retorts with a grin and reaches to pull the blanket up over my chest. It takes me a moment to realize I hadn't covered myself up after feeding Cory. "Don't need to be distracted here, you know."

Chuckling, I fix my top. "Are you saying I'm too much woman for you?"

"I certainly wouldn't mind finding out," is the return volley, coupled with a saucy grin. My quirked brow is the best response to that, causing a slight flush to Dace's cheeks. It's subtle, the hint of color to her complexion, and I almost miss it. The slightly uncomfortable clearing of her throat confirms it though, and Dace softens noticeably. "So, Janet, I know you know that I was the one with Bane, I mean Karen, that night a couple of years ago. I was the lucky one that had Sam on the back of her bike."

"I couldn't have missed her expression in February when she met you," I replied dryly.

"Yeah, well, I was hoping you'd be able to help me with something." Am I imagining things or is she actually nervous? "I've already talked to Art and Sam. Now I just need your two cents."

My eyebrows arch towards my hairline. "And since when have you been less than brutally direct about anything, Candace?" The grimace makes me smile. I do so love having the upper hand.

"Okay, then I'll be honest. I think Sam's fucking hot and I want a piece of her. It's a bummer that she can't play because of the surgery, but I think that down the line, I can show her how attractive she is, even outside of you and Art being so adoring. But I don't wanna step on anyone's toes or anything."

"You're rambling," I tease fondly.

"Yeah, sorry, it just that Karen's already let Fen take Darya upstairs. They're waiting for me. I wanted to take Sam up there, too. Hell, let's be honest. I wouldn't mind taking Art up there…or you."

That makes me stare in surprise. "Isn't that's going a little far?"

And, just like that, the dynamics switch again, as Dace's smile goes from nervous to predatory. "What's the matter, Janet?" she purrs, leaning in just to the edge of making me uncomfortable. "Don't think you're sexy enough? You look damned good and I certainly wouldn't have guessed you're the mother of three if I didn't already know." Yep, there it is, the rare but distinctive heat on my cheeks in response to the compliments. "Come on, Janet," she coaxes softly, leaning in a hair's breath closer than propriety would allow. "You're sexy; you've got a great set of knockers. And I certainly wouldn't mind spanking that sexy ass of yours."

The flush is hot and wild on my face now. No one has talked to me like this since before the pregnancy. It isn't that I believe Art or Sam think less of me after the pregnancy, but no one outside of my partners has called me sexy or flirted with me seriously. And yet, here is this striking, incredibly charismatic, and potentially dangerous woman doing just that.

"While I'm flattered, I don't know that I'm exactly up for the kind of games you and your friends play, Dace," is my honest reply. "I like watching Sam and Art play around a bit, but it's just not my cup of tea."

That amuses Dace hugely. "It doesn't always have to be the rough stuff. I'm quite content to just have good old fashioned sex, too. Maybe a little slap and tickle?"

I chuckle nervously. Why is it that this woman can unnerve me like this? "Has anyone ever told you you're a brat?"

She grins and leans in to nuzzle at my cheek. "Whatever you want, whenever you want. This is totally up to you, okay?" I nod gratefully and hug her in thanks. "So, do I get to take a bite outta Sam?"

I chuckle and swat at the back of her head. "One track mind on you. Yes, if Sam and Art have both agreed to it, that's fine. Just… Just don't hurt her, okay?"

She squeezes my hand and I watch the amusement fade. "I've already requested that Art be there as support for Sam. You can do the same if you'd like. I want to see how much of a bottom Sam is, I don't want to hurt her."


I certainly hadn't expected to honestly be doing something like this. Not the day after my children were formally named before their family. But there she is, my beautiful wife being teased by one of my oldest friends. What will it be like to watch Fen and Dace play with her? To watch them coax that freedom of release out of her? Will I become jealous of my oldest and dearest friends? This is my wife they're playing with, after all. And ye, she's agreed to it, asked for it in her own way.


"I'm right here, Dare," I reply, pulling her close as Fen goes about pulling out the various toys I'd asked her to bring along, just in case. Dare nuzzles close, trembling slightly in that way I enjoy. "Nervous, babe?"

"A little," she replies honestly. "But I trust them." She takes a deep breath, but won't meet my gaze. "Karen, I've never done this with anyone but you. And I already know what we've done has been a watered down version of what you've done in the past. Do you think I can handle whatever it is your friends will dish out?"

I tip up her chin to meet her eyes and smile broadly, encouragingly at my wife. "Of course, you can, Dare. You've given birth to three kids. And they understand that this isn't a lifestyle choice for you, per se. It's not like they're going to flay your skin from your bones. I specifically asked for toys that would give you a taste of what can happen, but would not leave any lasting marks. Dace has always been good with a belt, but I made sure she's got a cat for you. And she's got hips that were meant for fucking with a strap-on," I explain, squirming a bit myself at the memories of my kid sister doing just that. "And Fenris? She taught me everything I know about fisting."

"Did someone mention fisting?" comes the curious question as the subject of our conversation steps out of the bathroom.

I watch as Darya's eyes snap to stare at Fen's hands and chuckle. "I was letting Dare know about your specialty. She's happened to enjoy it the couple times we've gone that route."

A knowing smile spreads across Fen's face. "Good," she purrs, leaning in to stroke a hand down Darya's body from temple to hip. "And I'll bet she's pretty loose after birthing twins so recently."

"Not as loose as you might think," Dare replies proudly. "I'll have you know I worked damned hard to get toned after the pregnancy. Karen had to struggle a bit to fist me the other morn--" She trails off, flushing hotly.

"And you look damned fine for the work, Darya," Fen replies with a smirk for my wife, before leveling me with a steady glance. "Bane, why don't you go see what's keeping Dace so long? I'd like to talk to her about our plan of attack."

I nod and give my wife a kiss before heading toward the door. Before I can open it, Cassie pushes it open and leads Pai into the room. "Cass…"

"I'm only here to guide Pai and the drinks up here," she says quickly. "I've got no sesire to know what my family's doing up here. It's bad enough I had to listen to Dace basically proposition Sam to play down the line. Way too much information, okay?" And with that, she turns tail and races back downstairs.

I stand there for a moment, stunned by the possibility of what Cassie's just said. Sam might be playing at some point? Damn…

"It's okay with me if you want to get involved in the play with Sam, Karen," Darya says, suddenly at my side.

I look at her, see the open trust in her eyes, and remember just how fucking lucky I am to have this woman as my wife. "We've had this discussion before, Dare," I reply, pulling her close. "I think it would cause way too many weird feelings for all of us. Especially since we've been living in each other's back pockets for so long now."

She nods thoughtfully. "I bet if you asked, she'd be okay with you directing the action."

I study Darya's face for a long moment. What does she know about Sam that I don't? "I'll think about it, okay?" I reply as I watch Pai set up the camera in the corner.

Dare kisses my cheek, strokes my hair, and heads into the bathroom. At the soft throat clearing behind me, I turn to see an elegant finger pointing toward the door. "Go help Jane with Basker's interview, Bane." Grinning sheepishly, I head out into the hallway.

++ Michael ++

As the door closed behind Karen, I turn to follow her wife into the bathroom and stand in the doorway, watching the woman splash water on her face. I consider biting back a smirk at the slightly trepidatious look in her eyes, but decide not to hide anything. After all, why would I detract from the richness of her experiences? I stalk up behind her, grab her hand, and drag her toward the bed in the main room, snickering at the "Property of the USMC" tag on the blanket. Sitting down, I pat the spot next to me, and motion her to join me. "Come here, Darya," I say, easing back some of the steel in my tone. "We need to discuss a few things."

She moves to sit next to me easily enough, and I can sense her anticipation. I reach out to ghost my hand over her face and down her side, before returning to grip her chin and study her face for a long moment. She meets my gaze curiously until I tighten my grip on her chin; only then does she drop her gaze. Definitely something we'll have to work on when we actually play. Another glance down her body shows her nipples have stiffened again.

"Eager to play, aren't you?" I purr, chuckling when she nods and squirms only slightly. "Good. I like an active partner to play with, especially when we're first learning how the other reacts. But first, we need to make sure we're clear on a few things."

"What kind of things" she asks softly, meeting my gaze tentatively when I release her chin. "I thought Karen already sent everything up with all of you?"

I shake my head, letting my amusement show. "Not quite. Karen set up what she would like to have happen. But she's also not necessarily going to be involved here. I know she's here as emotional support for you. I've no problems with that, nor do Dace, Salix, or Jane. Mel's chosen to be here in a medical capacity." I fully expected the fearful widening of her eyes at that. "Not that anything's going to be happening to intentionally hurt you. We're more professional than that, not to mention the fact that you're family. We don't deliberately hurt family, but sometimes we can get caught up in the scene and forget ourselves. Which is why we're having this discussion. What do you want to get out of this, Darya? I'm quite sure I don't need to stress how important total honesty is in all of this."

Darya nods and gazes down at her hands in her lap for a long moment before speaking. "I don't know how much Karen has told you about our previous forays into this whole lifestyle. I freely admit to an extreme of curiosity to see exactly how you all play. I certainly have since she went to Chicago to help out Dace. I know this has been a big part of Karen's life for far longer than I have. I'm fascinated by the emotional dynamics involved."

"But you could simply 'interview' all of us for that kind of information," I interject smoothly. "Use it as a psychological experiment, if you will, and quite probably write a fascinating article on the subject."

"That's true, I could," she admits. "But that's not all of it. There are already several journals and books dedicated to the subject. I could have my fill of it, if I wanted to suck from the teat of dry academia. But that's not what I'm after here." She grows quiet for a moment again, and I can see she's rying to formulate her thoughts into something that will sound far more coherent than I'm sure it feels on the inside. I find myself fascinated by the depths of her contemplation. "I want to experience the raw, visceral intensity that you all succumb to, whether as dominant or submissive. I've seen the research, now I want to experience it firsthand. I'll admit that a large part of my increased interest is because of Karen, and now Dace and the rest of you."

Again with the silence, an almost hesitation as if she's not sure she should voice something important. I study her for another moment; better to let her stew in the uncertainty now than later when she might get caught up in the activities too much. "And the rest of your interest?" I ask, letting the steel back into my voice ever so slightly. "Complete honesty, Darya, or this is useless."

"It sounds so clichéd," she replies slowly. "I want someone else to take control. I'm always the one in control. I'm the mommy, the wife, the psychiatrist, the professional, the supporting shoulder to take on other people's burdens. For once, I'd like to be the depending on someone else."

"And you can't do that with Karen?"

"It's not the same. Yes, she offers to take the burden from me, but she can't. In many ways, she's part of that burden. She could still lose so much if the wrong people found out about us. I quit the military for Emma. I don't expect Karen to retire from her job for me. I know she would in a heartbeat if I asked her to, but that's not what I want. Not really. The military has been part of her life, her stabilization for over half of her life now. Major Taylor's as much a part of her as Bane is. I can't ask her to give that up for me or the kids. That has to be her decision. But I also know it's stressful for her. We always have to second guess how we act around people that we don't trust implicitly. And I know she can use the play as an outlet for that frustration and fear."

"Actually, that's not necessarily a good thing," I reply, impressed with what she's said, only just beginning to understand what it is Bane has been going through. "If she allows the frustrations to take over, she won't be able to focus on the scene and her partner. That can lead to devastating results if she's not careful. I understand what you're saying about Karen, but I didn't ask about her. I asked about you, your reasons for playing this game.

"Karen and I have played on several occasions in the past three years we've been together. Obviously not as much while I was pregnant."

"No, but I hear you made up for it in spades the other day," I tease dryly, enjoying the way her blush drifts down into the well-endowed cleavage.

"Well, yes," she stammers slightly, hand moving up to unconsciously tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. I made note of the nervous gesture when we'd first met, and am seeing the pattern behind it more clearly now.

"Don't be embarrassed, Darya," I reply, my own hand going up to grab at hers. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with a healthy sex life, or an equally healthy appreciation of it. I just wish I'd been here to hear it. Dace said you've got quite a set of lungs on you. I can't wait to make you scream." I chuckle darkly as her flush deepens. Good, she's still interested. "So you want someone else to take the reins for a while, hmm? Let someone guide your reactions instead of yourself or your wife?"

"Basically. Obviously, I can't be left with any blatantly visible marks. I don't know that I'd be able to explain that to the children or…" Her eyes go shuttered a bit at that last remark.

"Darya, your parents aren't involved in this. They're not even in this state any longer. You need to remember that. You are an adult and more than capable of doing what you need to keep yourself healthy, both physically and mentally. Your parents don't need to know anything about this. It's none of their business, nor does it involve them, correct?" When she nods, I smile. "Would there be this hesitation if you'd hadn't reconciled with them?"

"No," she whispers.

"Then there shouldn't be now. It doesn't matter that your father has antiquated, closed-minded beliefs about what's right and wrong. You don't need to share those beliefs." Part of me feels the very real need to comfort her, but this is an issue I have no reason to be involved in right now. "I'll tell you what, Darya. When this is all over, you and I will find a quiet corner and I'll tell you about my famiy. I completely understand how you feel, but I also know that it can't be something that takes over your life. It's a defeating, debilitating belief that you don't need to obsess over. You're a strong woman, but therre's still a large part of you that never grew up past that little girl who realized she was disappointing Daddy and couldn't fix it without compromising herself. Now what you have to do is help that little girl grow up and realize that the life you've got is better than you probably guessed it would be. You've got a wonderful wife, great kids, and an extended family that is fiercely protective and supportive. Doesn't matter that the bulk of that family isn't blood. Chosen family is far more intense than blood family."

"Thank you, Michael," she murmurs, clearing her throat, and I allow her a moment to compose herself. "Or should I call you Fenris?" she asks, a slightly coquettish tone to her voice. Oh, she's going to be quite a handful, isn't she?

"You'll call me what I tell you to call me," I growl throatily, biting back a smirk. "Now, you don understand the concepts of red and yellow safe words in our play, yes?" She nods quickly, eagerly. "Do you and Karen have safe words when you play?"

Before she has the chance to answer, we hear a knock at the door. Pai sticks her head in, and I'm surprised to discover I hadn't even noticed she'd left the room. When I nod permission, my pup steps in and takes up her respectful pose, showing off a bit for our new playmate. Amused and mildly annoyed with her eternal preening, I make a mental note to take it out of her hide at a later date. "Ma'am, everyone else is waiting outside for you to say it's time to come in. Mel said she wants to talk to you yet, and Lady Heartsblood has requested to watch, if Darya's comfortable with that."

As Pai speaks, I watch Darya from the corner of my eye. She draws up straighter in her place, head held high, and licks her lips. It's her only show of nervousness at the mention of this potential addition to the audience. Finally, she meets my gaze steadily, nodding once, and tucks her hair behind her ear again. I grin ferally. Oh good, she really does want to play. "Have Tarzan and Bane finished Basker's interview yet?"

"Yes, ma'am," comes the quick reply. Good, she's noticed my faint irritation. Pai really does know when to submit at a second's notice. "Sara has readily agreed, as far as I know, since she's waiting in the hallway under Bane's watch."

"Very good. I'll be just a moment longer. You can wait outside with the others until I say otherwise." Pai nods and slips out the door again, leaving me to turn my gaze back to Darya. "All right, Darya, this is it. I need your safe words. Once the others come in, we'll ask you again for your safe words, so everyone knows them and hears them from your lips. At any point, you can back out of this and no one will think any less of you, including your wife. This is for your enjoyment and ours, but if you think you won't enjoy it, by all means don't do it. We've no desire to cause you any issues."

"I understand. My words are Hammond and Emma." At the quirk of my brow, she quickly explains further. "Emma is the complete stop word."

Both eyebrows raise at her choice of words. They certainly aren't words one would normally utter in the throes of passion. "You're sure?"

"As a heart attack."

++ Mel ++

When Fen finally comes out into the hallway, she's wearing a slightly strange expression on her face. I've known her long enough to realize it's a combination of intrigue and anticipation. Obviously, Darya has passed her interview and is waiting anxiously inside. I watch as Bane sends Sara into the room. The woman had passed Jane and Bane's interview, but that was to be expected of Dace's chosen pet. I glance up to see the conflicted look in Karen's eyes and lean over to pat her on the shoulder. "Just a couple of minutes and you can go see her, Bane. But remember, you can't play unless you can set aside that she's your wife."

She grins gratefully at me. "I know. It's just strange…"

"I know. Think of how I feel when Jane goes off to play and I'm not around at all?" When she chuckles, I straighten and take in the group of women in front of me. Four heirs apparent, a current queen, and a treasured abdicated heir. And then there's Olivia, the brunette who seems to be Dace's shadow in so many ways. They all meet my eyes willingly, unerringly. "I just wanted to set a few things straight for all of you before we go in. I know we've discussed the extents to which we'll push each woman, but there are a few things to keep in mind here. As far as Sara's concerned, the only issue we really have to consider is that fact that the last time she played among the group of us, it ended under rather violent circumstances, to say the least. We need to be conscious of that. I know, from speaking with Dace and Bane, that Sara's been working through those issues, but having the group of us together again with her as a focal point might well trigger some memories better left alone. Are we in agreement on that?" Every head instantly nods, and I see the grateful smiles on Dace and Olivia's faces. "And as for Darya…" Karen's head snaps up to watch me carefully. "No more than two of you working on her at a time. This is her first group scene, and I want to make sure she doesn't get too caught up in things. I can't explain it right now, but she could very easily get overwhelmed by the intensity. And no more than three of you actively playing at one time. Just trust me on this, okay?"

I see Karen and Dace both nodding in that knowing way. And is that a modicum of relief in Anastasia's eyes? So she understands her daughter-in-law better than I'd thought. I know Jane and Fenris will also follow my recommendations without hesitation. That leaves Salix. Because I don't know her as well, this talk has been primarily for her benefit. The others have played in my presence far more times than I can count, and they all trust my judgment pretty implicitly. Even Fenris knows better than to go against the doc of the group.

But how do I explain just how I know we have to treat Darya carefully? Sara's easy; plus, there's the fact that we've all dealt with her before. And she's willingly taken on the lifestyle wholeheartedly, according to Dace. But Darya's a different matter entirely. Yes, she has her insecurity issues. I've met the main one already; luckily, it turns out he's decently personable. Then again, a brush with death always does that to a person, doesn't it? Almost always, at least… But she's certainly held her own with her peers. She uses her empathic sensitivities with a level of discretion I haven't seen in a long time. It's been a breath of fresh air to be able to spend time around her and not worry about having to behave myself. And I certainly don't want to diminish or damage that ability of hers. It's an intensely useful tool, both with her children and in her line of work.

"Are we all agreed?" I finally ask, having allowed them the chance to digest my recommendations. As they all nod, I motion for Fen to lead us in. She is, after all, the kingpin in all of this. I file in last and lean against the door as she moves to stand in front of the bed where the two women sit. The other four stand behind her, all in easy view, while Olivia and Anastasia move to sit on the small couch on the other side of the room, outside of Pai's camera range.

Fenris lets the silence fall over the room, drawing out the moment for as long as she can. She's obviously picked up a few more showmanship tricks to add to her performances over the years. The woma n really can be poetry in motion when she wants to be. She holds out both hands, accepting as each of the two on the bed place their own in hers. She watches them intently for a moment before letting that slow, predatory smile morph across her face. "Darya, Sara, do you both agree that you're here to play willingly?" Both women nod readily. "Good." She turns her gaze to Sara, dropping Darya's hand. "Tell me, Basker, what are your safe words?" Quickly, she says the words we've all heard once before. "And do you agree to follow the orders given to you by any of the women standing before you willingly, unless one of your safe words is required?"

"Yes, ma'am, I do," she replies, voice clear and calm, and instantly drops her gaze.

Fenris smiles and turns to face Darya, picking up both of her hands. "Darya, please give us your safe words."

The woman doesn't hesitate as she holds Fen's gaze. "Hammond, Emma."

Okay, I can admit to the curiosity at her choices, and that curiosity is evident on pretty much everyone else's faces. The smallest flicker of a smile crosses Anastasia's face at the 'yellow' word; it certainly would be a strange thing to call out your boss' name while having sex, so I suppose that works. And her 'red' word definitely puts a certain determined look in Karen's eyes. I've also heard that particular story to know where it's coming from.

"And do you agree to follow the orders given to you by any of the women standing before you willingly, unless one of your safe words is required?"

"Yes, ma'am, I do," comes the instant reply as Darya's expressive eyes drop to her lap.

To Be Continued…