Taking part in Emily Carrington's First Chapter Fridays….
Here's the first chapter to Changing Roles
Enticing readers is fun. 🙂 Here's the BLURB!
Kate Summers's career on the Police Force came to an implosive end when she was outed as a noted Domme. She now subsists at the fringes, scraping by as she feeds off the misery of others. Catching cheating spouses for divorce lawyers has become her paycheck, and a case brought by the woman who destroyed her career will bring many challenges. To follow the leads and solve a murder, she must reenter the world that cost her career and change roles. There's only problem, she swore she'd never submit to a man—at least never again.
A sharp dividing line separated work and play. I hunted men during the day and toyed with them at night. My life was in perfect balance—until it all fell apart. That was two years ago. I struggled for a time, gave up everything I loved. Now I’ve adjusted to a new normal. A very featureless and bland vanilla existence.
Despite everything that had happened to derail my career, pursuing criminals still ran in my blood. My dad had been a cop. His dad had been a cop. I was a virtual poster child of blue-blooded protect-and-serve. I had been a cop myself, a detective, and I delivered men to justice one criminal at a time.
That all changed because someone decided being a detective was not compatible with dominating men.
Instead of working on the front lines of law enforcement, I’ve been consigned to the fringes, and with a little more elbow grease combined with honest work, the Kate Summers Detective Agency would be nearly solvent.
The door chime rang in the outer office, announcing the arrival of a potential client. I looked through the one-way glass separating my office from the waiting area and hoped a job with a decent payout accompanied whoever had entered. I valued these glimpses because of what I could learn in those few moments before my office assistant, Mitzy, ushered them in to see me.
I loved Mitzy and couldn’t have handled the solitude of this job without her. A treasure, she was barely twenty and had a hacker’s gifted mind. Her quirks left me with the cleanest office known to mankind and the most secure computing system in town. Mitzy bounced to her feet for the meet and greet, while I used the faint reflection in the glass to apply mascara, hoping to make myself look more presentable, more successful, and therefore more likely to land the case.
Mitzy shifted out of the way, and the client came into view. My blood pressure spiked, and my words rushed out in a low, heated growl. “What the hell are they doing here?”
And by they, I meant Mayor Westmoreland and his wife, Catherine, the two individuals singularly responsible for destroying my career.
Diamonds adorned Catherine Westmoreland. The precious stones were small on her bulbous knuckles and large on her grotesque earlobes. They also encircled her fat neck.
Would be nice if they choked her.
She sniffed the air with a wrinkle in her upt`urned nose and applied a lace handkerchief to her face. As if Mitzy would allow any offensive odor to grace the Kate Summers Detective Agency. Mitzy kept my office three sparkles beyond clean.
The mayor wore a dark-blue, three-piece suit with a cherry-red tie cutting off circulation to his neck. His fat jowls shifted to and fro as he moved his massive bulk.
My nemesis—and destroyer of careers—picked her way through my waiting room like she was wading ankle deep in filth. But her hard, brittle eyes lacked the edge I was all too familiar with, and those diamonds she wore shook with fine tremors.
Mitzy, oblivious to politics on any scale, didn’t seem to recognize the power couple. She invited them to sit, handed out our standard intake questionnaires, and proceeded to her desk, where she continued her computer game.
Mayor Westmoreland collected the clipboard from his wife and placed it on Mitzy’s desk, the forms left untouched. He said something, and Mitzy’s eyes widened. Her fingers flew to the intercom.
I let the phone ring while a range of emotions swirled within me. I backed away from the one-way glass until the desk bumped against the back of my thighs.
Their accusations had ended the upward arc of my career. Only a month before I’d been let go, the mayor himself had bestowed upon me the distinguished Detective of the Quarter award. I had been firmly set to make Officer of the Year. Not a bad showing after eight years on the force. Then, a spectacular fall from grace occurred. Catherine Westmoreland had discovered my nighttime proclivities, and like a tempest, she’d swept in and derailed my life.
Balls of steel were all well and good, but add leather, a whip, and a penchant for dominating men, and the golden child of the police force was suddenly no longer welcome to protect and serve.
The incessant buzzing of the intercom continued. I pressed the button. “Yeah?”
“Boss lady, you’re never going to guess who’s waiting.”
Mitzy always acted as if I couldn’t see through the one-way glass. I took in a breath. Counted. One. Two. Three. Very slowly I exhaled, releasing the tension lodged between my shoulder blades. I had no idea why they were here and needed to remain professional. I certainly wouldn’t let Catherine Westmoreland see me crack.
“Send them into my office. And Mitzy?”
“You can take the rest of the day off.”
After this confrontation, nothing productive was going to happen in my day. Already the exhaustion of having to face this dynamic duo pulled at me.
“Sure thing, boss.” Mitzy escorted the Westmorelands to my office door.
I sheltered myself behind my beat-up desk, taking what refuge I could from the distressed metal. A poor shield, but I would need a barrier between those who’d destroyed my dreams and myself.
The mayor seated his wife in the one bare metal chair reserved for clients and stood behind it, shifting from foot to foot. “Detective Summers—”
I tapped my fingers on the metal desktop. “Due to the destructive work of your lovely wife, I no longer claim that particular status. I’m a private investigator now.” No need to waste pleasantries.
His wife avoided direct eye contact. “Miss Summers.” Mrs. Westmoreland bit her lower lip, took in a deep breath, and pressed on. “We wish to employ your services…and your discretion.”
I wanted to laugh, but the serious expression on her face had the laughter dying in my throat.
“You want to offer me a job?”
My gaze flicked to the mayor. He redirected me and gestured with his hand, letting his wife take the lead. Of course he would. His wife clearly wore the pants in their family.
“What makes you think I’d help you?”
Mrs. Westmoreland choked back a sob. “Please, don’t make this difficult.”
Oh, I wanted to make this all kinds of difficult. My eyes narrowed as I tilted my head. “How can you think I would ever work for the two of you?”
Mrs. Westmoreland dabbed at the corners of her eyes with her fine Southern lace handkerchief. “Miss Summers, it’s my little girl.” Her lower lip stopped quivering. “The police found her. She was…she was tied to a beam. They m-murdered her!”
No matter my feelings for the woman sitting in front of me, the death of a child was the worst possible tragedy I could imagine. I couldn’t help but feel her sorrow. I hated that she made me feel any sympathy for her at all when all I wanted was to hate her.
But there it was; her sobs almost had me stepping out from behind my desk to offer comfort. “I’m sorry for your loss, but I don’t see how I fit into this.”
“Elizabeth was twenty-two.” The mayor barely got out his words.
Tears poured freely down Mrs. Westmoreland’s cheeks now. “My little girl had cuffs around her ankles. Cuffs on her wrists. She had one of those…those collars around her neck. I know what that means.”
Her lips twitched into a disapproving frown, and her gaze flicked down to the floor. “I understand what she was…involved in.” Her fingers twisted the fabric of her skirt. “You can help. My husband says you are the best.”
The best detective or the best Mistress? I wondered which he’d meant. Neither applied anymore. I’d given up the Mistress life when it had cost me my detective badge.
The mayor found his voice. He dabbed at his forehead with a handkerchief pulled from his inner pocket. “Of course, the police are investigating, but they don’t really understand. Not like you would.”
“I haven’t heard anything in the press.”
Surely something like this would have hit the local news. As a private investigator, I routinely scanned the police channels. There hadn’t been a whisper of the murder of the mayor’s daughter.
The two of them exchanged a look.
“We’re trying to keep it out of the press.”
Of course. The mayor’s proud, influential family wouldn’t want their name dragged through the mud. Mayor’s Daughter Killed in Sex Games Gone Wrong. Those headlines would never see the light of day.
“When did she die?” Nothing in the press meant this must have happened in the past day or two.
Mrs. Westmoreland blubbered out another sob. Her husband put an arm around her shoulders. “It’s been four days.”
Four days? I wanted to either claw their eyes out or laugh hysterically. They’d waited too long. In a murder investigation, the first twenty-four hours are considered the golden window of opportunity where the majority of cases are solved. Each successive day lowered the odds of finding the killer. Four days meant my chances were practically zero.
I hated how the tragedy of their daughter’s death moved me, but of course it would. A twenty-two-year-old girl who’d died in a scene was my past coming to life. My gut seized with the briefest flash of memory.
I’d been just shy of seventeen myself and had missed death by a sliver of a moment. My breath quickened, and I locked those images back into the never-revisit-the-past memory vault where they belonged.
As a minor, my name had been scrubbed from all the reports, but the mayor was a powerful man. He could know more than he should. It didn’t matter. As much as I detested these two, the death of an innocent demanded justice. I would help them. It ran in my blood, a part of that blue-blooded legacy of protect and serve.
“My baby was a brave little girl.” Tears trickled from the corners of her eyes. “She wrote and told us she was happy. She’d met someone special. I can’t imagine her being involved in something like this.”
Nice girls liked to get dirty all the time. “You never know what she may have been into, Mrs. Westmoreland.”
A look of disgust washed over her features. “Not Elizabeth. She wasn’t like that.”
“You mean like me?”
She glanced away, and the mayor put a hand on her shoulder. “Look, we don’t know what happened to Elizabeth, except she…”
He breathed out a deep sigh. “We haven’t been close.”
“By close, what do you mean?”
They exchanged a look. He answered. “Elizabeth ran away a few years ago. We hadn’t heard from her in a long time. Then a few months ago, she started talking to us again, told us she’d met someone—”
“The prince of her dreams,” said Mrs. Westmoreland with a sigh.
He patted her shoulder. “Yes, the prince of her dreams. We didn’t think much of it, just that we were so happy she was speaking to us again. Now she’s gone.”
“Miss Summers, I found this card in my daughter’s things,” said Mrs. Westmoreland. “I think it’s one of those fetish clubs.” Her parchment lips turned on the word. “Please. We’ll pay triple your usual fees.”
I took the card.
Mrs. Westmoreland’s face softened with hope.
Of all the private investigators in the city, why would they choose the one who hated them the most? It didn’t make sense.
The mayor dipped his head. “We have this as well.” He placed a manila envelope on my desk. “It’s a copy of the police report.”
I pulled the file folder out of the envelope and thumbed through it. The initial police report held details of the case. I skimmed it quickly, then found the coroner’s report attached to the back. Their findings told of a horrific tale of torture.
Mrs. Westmoreland dug through her purse. “Those pictures…they’re horrible.”
And indeed they were. An attractive girl was tied to a beam, her body littered with the marks of torture, her face purpled by suffocation.
She thrust a picture at me. “This is my Elizabeth. It’s from a few weeks ago.”
I took the small photo from her shaking hand. A gorgeous young woman stared back at me. A smile softened her face. Dazzling white teeth attested to good genetics or thousands in dental treatments. From Mrs. Westmoreland’s raggedy smile, I assumed they’d paid a fortune on orthodontics. “She was very beautiful.”
“Please,” begged the mayor. “Please consider taking this case. The police could use your expertise.”
Accepting would remind me of everything I’d lost. I would take it, but I needed a moment to think before I did. I rose to my feet, indicating our conversation was finished. “I’ll let you know what I decide.”
“Thank you.” The mayor reached to shake my hand. “We look forward to hearing from you.” He took his wife’s hand in his and led her out of my office. The door chimed on their way out.
Mitzy had already left. I was alone at two in the afternoon to close up the office. Not the best way to generate new business, but I needed some downtime after meeting with the Westmorelands. And there was always office work to be done.
I glanced at the card Mrs. Westmoreland had given me. The fetish club imprinted on the thick card stock was not one I recognized, but I was certain someone at my old club, Stripes, would be able to get me an introduction. My reputation was solid in the scene, even if I’d walked away from it.
I’d spent these past couple of years convincing myself I no longer needed to fill the emptiness inside, but after the dynamic duo’s visit, that familiar itch returned. The Westmorelands had ripped me from Stripes, and now they’d given me an excuse to return. I suppose everything happened for a reason.
They’d wasted four days. If I wanted half a chance of solving this case, I needed to start investigating immediately. It was time to revive my old persona. The Mistress of Pain would return to Stripes this evening.
I had a few short hours to find the confidence to wear the signature white of my alter ego. Good thing I kept a whip in my bottom desk drawer. It would be perfect for warming up.
I heaved a heavy sigh, wishing for the impossible. I was trapped in a role where I delivered pain instead of receiving it because giving pain was so much safer than the alternative. The last time I’d been on the opposite side of a whip I’d nearly lost my life.
Elizabeth Westmoreland and I had nearly shared similar fates, only I’d survived mine. I had been forced to deal with the aftermath of my trauma, and becoming a Domme had been my version of therapy.
It had worked well for a time.
Men desperate to escape their ordinary lives worshipped under my whip, achieving release through the pain only I could deliver. In return, their tortuous cries allowed enough solace for me to make it through to another sunrise. Everything had worked perfectly until my evening activities had come to the attention of the public eye.
Specifically, to Mrs. Westmoreland’s judgmental eye.
Once a rising star, now I was nothing but a tarnished ex-cop with a ruined reputation, doing my best to survive as a private investigator. All those television shows had lied when they glorified this job. There was nothing easy or glamorous about it. I was drowning. The morass of small-time cases, cheating spouses, domestic squabbles, and the ever-popular background checks threatened to pull me under every day.
Those jobs paid the bills, but the stench of it—oh, the foul reek of slimy filth—saturated my pores. Not that I judged. No, never that. Background checks brought in the dough. But I barely managed to keep my head above water.
Money had been trickling in, but a steady stream of bills made sure it poured right back out.
And that mountain of debt? Didn’t want to think about that. Working as a PI kept the lights on and paid my assistant’s wage, but it would never compare to the pride of a detective badge or the consistent paycheck.
I turned the lock on the outer door and headed back to my office. I stood behind the secondhand government desk, worn and battered like my reputation, and sighed. Its twin drawers were barely hanging on. The bent handles and rusty rails had definitely seen better days.
With a harsh exhalation, I blew back the hair dangling in front of my eyes and gave the lower drawer a hard yank.
I gave another pull, and it screeched its protest, filling my small office with the squeal of metal on metal. I hated that sound. Reminded me of cats screwing in an alley.
If only I were so lucky.
My dry spell hadn’t been broken in years. Then again, sex had always been fraught with complications. Better to leave it to the electric fuck toy nestled in the top drawer of my nightstand. A nonjudgmental, sure-fire path to release, my vibrator could satisfy the few physical needs I endured.
The emotional ones? Well, no tool was perfect.
Clichéd or not, I could write a book about them.
The only one I’d ever let in had shattered my soul. He’d showed me what I craved, something dark and twisted. I’d willingly gone with him down that path, knowing what I did would be considered depraved by some. He’d stolen my innocence, destroyed my trust, and left me hollow and nearly dead.
That hole in my gut had come from him.
Now I settled for giving that which I could not receive. I soaked in the screams of men, letting their pain fill the emptiness he’d left behind.
Damn if I hadn’t become a legend along the way.
All it had cost me was the career I’d worked so hard to earn.
Yeah, I could write a book on the subject of men. First chapter would be: “Unless They Are Kneeling at Your Feet, Stay the Fuck Away.”
From the drawer I pulled out a stack of unpaid bills and slapped them on the desk. It was time to begin the daily task—a creative shell game of shuffling my dwindling cash reserves and warding off the creditors for another few days. They hadn’t started knocking on my door, but unless I did something soon, they would come.
My gaze brushed over my bullwhip coiled in its restless sleep and nestled beneath the bills.
It was never a good idea to get out of practice. With the implosion of everything I’d once held dear, my practice had become a twice weekly occurrence. Now nearly a week had gone by since I’d brought it out to train.
An itching in my fingers had me reaching for the comfort of the braided handle. My fingers curled around the plaited leather, seeking a longtime friend and finding the worn areas smoothed out by use. I gripped the handle, pulled it out of the drawer, and measured its weight.
I moved around to stand in front of the desk and focused my attention on the far wall. Suspended from the high ceiling, a steel bar dangled on a chain. Hanging from the bar, five red disks waited, urging me to strike.
I’d modified the gun targets for whip practice years ago and had set the contraption up in my office when it became apparent I would have a lot of downtime in my new job. This was nothing like having a man strung up before me, but I used what I had.
Even if I was no longer an active player in the scene, throwing a whip wasn’t a skill one let go. Constant practice was essential to maintaining accuracy.
I moved in front of the desk and created space, pushing the metal chair to the side. I took up position near the middle of the long, narrow room and checked for clearance. I wasn’t worried whether I had enough room. Other than my beat-up desk and office chair, a single metal chair for the client, and a bookcase behind my desk, the office space I’d rented was tall enough, long enough, and wide enough to practice inside. But the habit of checking my surroundings—a safety protocol drilled in after years of study—made the action compulsory.
Satisfied the arc of the whip would be clear, both behind and to the side of me, I rolled my shoulders and tightened my fingers on the grip. Then I relaxed. My body took the stance I needed to focus.
I shook out the bullwhip. The tip rasped on the polished concrete floor, almost like a whisper of promise. That whisper traveled up my spine, shot to my shoulder, and raced down to my wrist.
Intent on the first target, I lifted my arm to the twelve o’clock position, and muscle memory took over. I’d performed this move tens of thousands of times.
The whip flowed. The fall formed the all-important loop, racing outward from the handle until it broke the speed of sound. I hadn’t rushed the crack, hadn’t thrown my muscle into the move. I kept my arm relaxed and my fingers loose and let the momentum of the whip do all the work. All I had done was aim, a feat perfected after years of practice.
Crack! Ping! One red disk spun.
I lifted my arm again.
Crack! Ping! The second twirled, shaking the bar.
Again and again, I did this five times with my right arm. Then I switched arms. It had taken years to learn to throw ambidextrously, but I was equally proficient with either arm. Being able to switch arms helped prevent fatigue during a long scene.
Five with the left.
Five more with the right.
Overhead, overhand, and the sidearm throw.
I flowed through each with the ease of a Master, my aim flawless. I hadn’t even broken a sweat.
Damn, I love this rhythm. My breath eased out of my lungs, only slightly labored. My muscles warmed with the effort.
This was so much better than paying bills.