Disclaimer: The original characters and plot of the Twilight Saga are the property of Stephanie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. The storyline of A Family like Ours is mine.

*ΩafloΩ*

**WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS EXPLICIT SEX/BDSM SCENES, LANGUAGE – STRICTLY NC-17!

A FAMILY LIKE OURS: A SEQUEL TO PEOPLE LIKE US

CHAPTER 3

"Can I get you anything, Mister Cullen?"

Jackson looked up from his book to smile at the young stewardess, "A Cherry Coke would be great."

She blushed and walked up the aisle.

"Another conquest, Bro?" Nicholas sniggered as he sat down across the row.

Jackson rolled his eyes, "She would run away screaming."

Nicholas laughed and nodded in agreement.

Once Jack had his drink and they were alone, Nicholas looked over at his brother, "Hey, have you ever used a short handled Cat o' Nine tails?"

Jackson frowned, "Have you been back in Dad's room? I told you to stay out of that room, Nick. Dad will pitch a fit if he finds out, no, when he finds out! You know that he has a fuckin' photographic memory!"

Nicholas shrugged, "Like he will even notice! I don't think that he's been in there for months, or years! Don't worry; I haven't been back in there. It was only that one time. No, I saw this on one of the blogs."

Jackson leaned back and sighed, "Look, Nick, I don't have much more experience than you with this stuff. But I do know that you can't go around brandishing that stuff! You don't know how to use that equipment and I don't know enough to help you. You can do some serious damage if you don't know what you are doing! Fuck, we need to speak to Garrett or Jazz."

Nicholas raised an eyebrow, "Are you sure about them?"

Jackson looked across the plane to where Jared was sitting with his girlfriend.

"Yeah, Jared is sure, he overheard Alice and Kate talking one night and Jazz is cool, but maybe we should approach Garrett first. You know, he has the clubs."

Nicholas nodded, "Okay, so we can do it when we are down in Tahoe."

"That's the plan."

The brothers sat quietly.

"Mom's going to freak the fuck out." Nick said quietly.

Jackson raked his hand though his hair, "We don't know that and in any case, if we are right, Mom knows about this lifestyle at the very least and it's not something that she needs to know. More than anything else Mom and Dad have always told us that they want us to be happy and I know that I've tried to be 'normal' but it's not what I want."

Nick nodded unhappily, "I just don't want them to look at us differently, you know?"

Jack nodded, "No matter what, just remember that we are in this together."

Jackson stared down at his book. He would never have chosen this for himself and definitely not for his little brother.

He had always been aware that he was different. He like being in control and he liked to control as much of his life as possible. As he had entered his teens and his sexual appetite had awakened, Jackson had become more aware of how much he wanted to control his sexual partners.

His first girlfriend, Becky Kimble, was two years older than Jackson and she had asked him to spank her one night. Jackson remembered with a wry smile that he had come in his pants before he had struck her twice. His sixteen year old mind had gone into overdrive.

The feel of her flesh beneath his fingers, the sight of her pale skin turning pink and the sounds of her soft groan had been enough to finish him before he even began.

Jackson had been horrified at how much he had thought about what else they could do and by the end of their relationship six months later, they had explored a few more things that they had researched together.

He had recognized that his dominant nature was not all that strange or out of place after he had done a bit of online research. He was a Dominant. He wanted to become a dominant.

He had kept his secret for the past three years and then only a year before, he had come across a very distraught Nicholas one night while he was home on Spring Break.

Nicholas told him that he was becoming a monster. Apparently he and a couple of his buddies had watched a BDSM movie one night and suddenly all of the things that he had been feeling had just come out. He thought that he was a monster because he wanted to discipline women! He wanted to have them kneel at his feet as he whipped or spanked them.

Jackson had listened as Nick had poured his heart out to him and all the while he had felt so guilty. What if Nick was this way because of him?

Eventually Jackson had confessed that he felt the same way. Not exactly the same but close.

They had talked for hours until Jackson, ever the planner, had come up with a plan.

They would learn as much as they could about the BDSM lifestyle until they could find themselves a mentor or a trainer. In the mean time they would either abstain from sex or just do vanilla if the urge became too great.

A few months before, Nicholas had phoned him at school one night. Apparently, he had been home alone, a rear occurrence in their home, and he had finally managed to open the door in his parents Annex that had always been out of bounds and that was locked with an electronic code lock.

He had been shocked to find that the room was a fully fitted, state of the art, BDSM playroom. After the shock had worn off, they decided that perhaps it was not such a surprise that they had 'followed in his footsteps.'

Nicholas had wanted to talk to Edward about it but Jackson had dissuaded him. If his father knew that Nick had violated his trust by breaking into his private playroom, he would be furious and it would only embarrass their mother.

Jackson didn't want to even think about their mother being a submissive. They all adored Bella. She was the epitome of a loving wife and mother. She was smart, funny, warm and loving. She seldom said a bad word about anyone.

She rarely raised her voice and was always there when any of them needed her. Although she wasn't a pushover–not at all in fact lately Jackson had noticed that she seemed to have a glint in her eyes and a spring in her step that had seemed to be missing the last time he came home.

Jackson smiled as he stared out at the blue sky, his mother was almost perfect.

*ΩafloΩ*

Bella sat at Kate's kitchen table playing with the cooling mug of coffee as Kate finished making sandwiches and she put them on the table and sat down.

"How are you doing?"

Bella smiled, "Much better."

"Are you still seeing Paul twice a month?"

Bella nodded, "After each visit to the club. It was one of his and Garrett's conditions. You know it wasn't easy dealing with the guilt. I have been feeling as if I'm cheating on my Master and on my husband. Edward and I don't have any secrets. But this thing is just too big for me to ignore any longer and I know that you don't agree with Garrett and I am so sorry that I've put you in this position but Kate, it's really helping. You have been an amazing teacher."

"Bella, I am your friend and I love you. I was never against you going to the club. I was just worried about you. I worry that this isn't enough for you and that something's going to happen to endanger your marriage."

Bella smiled at Kate sadly, "I think that Edward and I are doing that all on our own, sweetie. Our lives have become so busy that even when we are together, it's as if there are a million other things to think about and talk about that 'we' have just gotten lost in the fray. What I'm doing has helped me to become so much stronger. I feel capable."

Kate smiled at her mentee, "Well, you are looking fantastic."

The two women shared a smile as Bella took another sip of her coffee. Kate nodded at her, "Are you almost done?"

Bella nodded.

"Good, let's go into the gym and we can go through your routine for tonight. I want to be sure that you are using the equipment correctly. I know that Garrett is there if something happens, but let's be as prepared as possible, okay?"

Bella smiled and she couldn't help the feeling of anxious excitement. This was one of the conditions that Kate and Garrett had insisted upon when Bella had come to see them a few months before.

Bella had to learn how to use each piece of equipment proficiently before she was allowed to use the private playroom at the club.

The other condition was that Bella had to use their home as a base whenever she was going to the club so that Garrett could monitor her safety. Garrett always made sure that he was at the club when Bella was there and most times he would either drive her back and forwards himself or he would hire a driver and a town car for her.

At first Bella tried to protest but then Garrett had settled her arguments when he said that she had two choices: do things his way or he would tell Edward.

Once in the gym/playroom, Bella and Kate stripped down to shorts and cropped tops. Kate put Bella through her 'paces' and positions before they moved onto the hardware that was locked in several cabinets along the wall.

"What are you using tonight?" Kate asked.

Bella smiled, "I've got a taste for the suede flogger and the leather cat o' nine tails."

Kate gestured for her to retrieve the two instruments and she laughed at Bella's excitement.

"You are eager aren't you?"

Bella turned around to face her friend, "Do you remember when Edward and I first got into this lifestyle? Remember how terrified I was that he was going to beat me or abuse me?"

Kate nodded. She remembered many discussions that they had.

"Well, is it strange that of what I miss the most about it is the discipline of pain? It's not even the mind-blowing sex or orgasms," she laughed, "Although I really miss those! No, it's the feeling of submitting to the will of my Master, the joy that I got from knowing how much my submission was pleasing to him, even if it meant asking for and receiving his discipline."

Bella sighed as she ran a finger over the soft tendrils of the whip in her hand, "Now I use the feeling that I get from this test of my submission, as a way of giving in to what I crave most without being unfaithful to my Master."

Kate shook her head as she turned away from her friend.

Communication had always been the stumbling block between Edward and Bella and it seemed that even twenty years of marriage had not helped that! They were both so stubborn and strong willed that it was all that Kate could do not to lock them in a room until they got their act together! They were their own worst enemies!

An hour later, Bella had showered and changed into her street clothes again and she was on her way to the building that housed CULLEN & PARTNERS INC.

Anderson had arranged special parking for Bella and as soon as she stepped out of her car, a tall African American man had stepped forward to greet her politely and escort her to the penthouse offices where Anderson and Brian spent most of their days now.

Bella fidgeted nervously as the lift whooshed up to the top floor. When the doors opened, Bella was once again met by a middle-aged woman who smiled at her politely.

"Good morning Mrs. Cullen, Mr. Anderson is expecting you. Please come this way."

Bella exchanged a nervous smile with the man who gave her a small nod, "I'll wait to escort you back to your vehicle ma'am." He said quietly.

Bella followed the woman to high vaulted double doors and after a soft knock she opened the door and stepped back.

Bella could not help the smile from spreading across her face as she saw her old friend and body guard turn away from the large windows.

"Andy!" she exclaimed as the giant of a man grinned from ear to ear and for a moment his face looked youthful and happy.

Anderson hugged Bella briefly and he led her over to a large black leather sofa.

He handed her a bottle of water and sat down next to her.

"How are you, Bella? You are looking gorgeous as ever."

"Flatterer! How are Shelley and the kids?"

Cordon smiled proudly, "They are doing great! Peter is still determined to join the Forces after high school and his mother blames me and Millie is the cutest but most precocious child. She is twelve going on thirty."

After speaking for a few minutes, Anderson nodded at Bella, "As much as I love to catch up with you, I know that this isn't a social call. What's going on, Bella?"

Bella bit her lip before she pulled out the plastic covered envelope. "That was delivered by hand a few days ago. I have tried not to contaminate it with my fingerprints."

Anderson's blue eyes grew cold as he stared at the envelope that she was clutching tightly.

"Put it here on the table, Bella." He said softly.

Bella swallowed and followed his instructions as he quickly rose and collected a few items from his desk drawer and from a closet behind his desk.

When he got back, Bella saw that he was wearing a pair of latex gloves. He handed her a pair before he picked up the envelope and shook out the contents.

Bella watched as he deftly used a pair of tweezers to turn the photograph around. She tried not to focus on the pictures of her husband laughing and happy with another woman but instead she watched as Anderson opened what looked like a doctor's medical bag and within minutes he was dusting a powder over the envelope, and the photograph. After he had managed to pull off a couple of prints and he had gone over the picture with a magnifying glass, he stood up and walked over to his desk and picked up his phone.

"Mrs. Silverton, please get Mike in here ASAP," he put the phone down and leaned against the desk as he looked at Bella.

"Mike is one of our best agents and he is an absolute whizz when it comes to getting information. I suppose that you checked to see if the photos had been doctored in any way?"

"Of course. It was one of the first things that I did. I just don't know what this person is after. I mean I know that Edward isn't cheating on me and after all this time, whoever it is should know better than this to rattle me." Bella said with a dismissive toss of her head.

"Bella; I am not trying to hurt you, but you need to tell me what's been going on." Anderson said gently.

Bella nodded.

"I know that." Bella was wringing her hands together. "Things between Edward and I have been a little strained. It's not another woman or anything, but he has been away from home a lot and we haven't really had time to ourselves."

Anderson wanted nothing more than to have Edward Cullen in front of him at that moment because he would have liked the chance to slap the bejeezus out of him, but instead he just tried to smile encouragingly.

"If there isn't anyone else, then what about this photograph?" he asked.

Bella shook her head, "She's an artist that he is working with–but that isn't really what's got me worried."

She could deny it all she liked, but Anderson could that she felt a little unsure of her answer.

"Are you involved an any activity that could be used against either you, Edward or your family?" Anderson asked.

He noticed straight away that Bella when so pale at his question that he thought she was going to pass out and he put a hand on her arm.

"I can't help you if you don't tell me what's going on"

Bella shook her head to clear it. She knew that Anderson had to have an idea of their lifestyle from working and living so closely with them, but they had never discussed it and she was loath to begin now.

"I… I… it's not illegal." Was all she said and she tried to get the sofa to swallow her whole.

Anderson didn't need her to elaborate. He nodded quickly, "And there isn't anyone else involved?"

Bella shook her head, "No, I swear! What concerns me is–why did they send this now? I mean, what would anyone have to gain by sending this to me? What are they after?"

Anderson shook his head, "That's what we need to find out. Look Bella, leave it with me. I'll make sure that I put our most trusted people onto this. We will see what we can get from the physical evidence and we'll review the security disks from the ranch."

He could see that Bella was only listening with half an ear and he stepped away from her to take a small white envelope off his desk.

"Bella; I promise you, we will do everything that we can to find out what is going on here. It's probably nothing you know, just another crazy fan or something."

They smiled at each other. Over the years there had been a few of those to contend with.

Bella stood up and picked up her purse but Anderson put his hand on her arm, "Tell him." Bella opened her mouth to protest but Anderson shook his head, "Bella, I know that you have only told me a bit of the story, but if I can give you some advice, probably the same advise that I gave you twenty years ago after Edward was shot. Tell him. Talk to your husband because you know that 'a house divided will not stand in the face of adversity'.

Bella nodded and on impulse she wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him.

"Thank you Cord. I miss you like crazy you know."

Anderson smiled as they stepped apart.

"It's not as if we don't see you guys, just not as much as we would like to. Our meetings with Emmett usually take place here. Levi and Quil are doing a good job, right?"

Bella rolled her eyes, "As if you even have to ask. They do a great job of securing the ranch and if we need them, they are always only a phone call away."

As they reached the door it opened and a good-looking man with blonde hair and twinkling blue eyes smiled at them. Anderson narrowed his eyes when he saw the other man's gaze linger on the beautiful woman next to him.

"Mike! Took you long enough!" he snapped.

The man paled and he swallowed nervously, "Sorry Boss, good day Ma'am." He said politely.

Anderson nodded to where the photo lay on the table.

"Glove up and get that to the lab ASAP. There are a couple of fingerprints that I managed to lift but there might be trace on the flap from saliva or trace inside. I want this to be your top priority and this is 'eyes only'–understood?"

Mike stared at him for a moment before he looked at Bella again. Anderson could see the moment that he recognized who Bella was.

"Got it?" Anderson growled.

Mike jumped and darted across the room, pulling a pair of gloves from his pocket.

"Got it Boss, no problem."

Anderson steered Bella to the lifts where the man that had escorted her from her car was waiting.

Anderson held out his hand to Bella and she was surprised when she looked down to see the white envelope in his hand.

"What's this?"

"Call it an emergency kit. If anything else arrives for you that is unmarked or unexpected, I want you to use the gloves inside here to handle it. Also, slit the flap open carefully and shake out the contents or use the tweezers inside here. There is also a Ziploc bag to put anything that you find into. Remember to seal it immediately and then call me."

He put his hand on Bella's shoulders, "Be vigilant in the next few weeks. When are you leaving for the lake?"

Anderson, Shelley and the kids were joining them at Lake Tahoe for Independence Day.

"We will fly down with Max the week before the 4th."

Anderson hugged her briefly at the escalator doors, "Try not to worry and take care of you, Bella." He said quietly.

Bella walked to her car and thanked the man for his escort and she drove back to Sausalito.

Anderson walked back into his office his cell phone rang. He frowned when he saw who was calling.

Emmett.

Anderson didn't believe in coincidences.

"Emmett."

"Andy, listen something's come up. I need the best we have in IT and forensics to come to Suite 7 at the W. Edward's here and he received a hand delivered envelope which contained a couple of photographs of Bella."

Anderson seldom felt any fear but for the first time in years, he felt the fine hairs at the back of his neck stand up.

No, he didn't believe in coincidence – ever.

"Emmett, we are at 'D.A.R.C.' with immediate effect. Switch over to Sat in five." Anderson snapped as he disconnected the phone call.

He quickly sent Brian, his partner and the company's ten top agents in their respective fields a coded SMS and made his way to their situation room as another phone began to ring in his pocket. This one was a flat black phone that operated via satellite and was untraceable through the usual hacking methods. Every one of his top-level agents and upper management had one that was fully charged at all times in case they were ever under threat.

The acronym D.A.R.C. stood for exactly that – Dangerous – Averse – Rogue – Conditions. This meant that any correspondence was to be conducted in safe surroundings and only their most trusted, most experienced staff were put onto that job.

Men began filing in as Anderson took a bottle of water from the glass fridge and walked over to his chair as he wondered what the fuck the Cullen's had got into now?

*ΩafloΩ*

She stopped outside Kate and Garrett's home just after four o'clock that afternoon.

Garrett answered the door with a smile, "Hey Bella, come in."

Bella accepted the drink that Garrett offered her as they took their seats in the sitting room.

"Kate's just taken Kirsty to her friend for a sleepover."

They chatted for a couple of minutes before Garrett asked what Bella's plans were for that evening.

Bella blushed before she answered and Garrett thought of how young she looked when she did that.

"I've kind of got a 'scene' in mind and I know how I want it to play out. I've got everything that I need with me. I'm not sure if I will need the full two hours, though."

Garrett nodded, "How are your sessions with Paul going?"

Bella nodded, "They are going well. I have another session tomorrow morning with him." She rolled her eyes, "I know that he is going to ask me whether I've spoken to Edward yet."

Garrett raised an eyebrow, "What will be your excuse this time?"

"I don't need an excuse, G; there is other stuff going on right now that is more important. I will tell him – but," she stopped talking and stared at her friend silently.

Garrett could feel her fear rolling off her shoulders. He formed an idea and decided to back off for now. He could feel that Bella was more anxious than usual and her pent up frustration and anger was palatable.

Hmm, interesting, he mused.

"Okay, Bells, whatever you say. Why don't you start getting ready? Kate will be home soon and I've got to do something for the club before we leave."

Bella nodded.

Bella made her way to the guest room that she used when she was here. She smiled as she walked into the pretty but fairly plain room. She knew that this was Kate's bedroom that she used when she and Garrett were in an overnight scene.

Bella found a lot of comfort in being in the room. It helped to put her into the correct frame of mind and she spent the next half an hour writing in her journal at the small white writing desk that stood in the corner of the room.

Once she had finished, she checked that her hair was straight and brushed it out until it was shining before she pulled it up and back into a rather severe looking ponytail.

Bella smiled at the dress that she had put onto the bed earlier. This was one of the boldest dresses that she had ever worn.

It was black netting with bright, embroidered flowers in the most strategic places. At first glance it was demure, until you realize that there was no underwear beneath the thin fabric.

Bella took extra care getting dressed. She knew that if her submissive friends knew what she had been up to, they would think that she was crazy. Hell, she even thought that she was crazy when she agreed to Paul's suggestion.

She thought back over that conversation as she zipped the dress that fitted her like a second skin.

The feelings of frustration had been building up for a while but every time Bella thought about speaking to Edward, she would retreat into silence instead.

Bella had always been good at masking her feelings and pushing her own needs and wants aside for the rest of her family. She knew that it wasn't healthy and she knew that she owed it to her husband to talk to him, but she didn't want to hear him say that he no longer wanted her in that way.

As her feelings grew, so did her aversion to eating. One morning, after the girls had left for school and Max had been dropped at kindergarten, Bella dropped in to visit Alice for a cup of coffee.

Bella sat at the kitchen table, watching her friend bounce around the room as she put fresh muffins onto a plate.

"What's got you so worked up this morning, Twister?" Bella teased.

Alice actually blushed as she brought everything to the table and sat down.

"Jazz and I are going to the Munch tomorrow night. The boys are busy this weekend and so I'm going to be collared for the entire weekend! Oh my, Bells, I'm so excited! It's been months since we have been able to do this. You know, usually it's an hour here or there, but an entire weekend!" Alice beamed.

Bella knew that she had responded correctly because Alice had not noticed anything and soon afterwards, she had made some excuse to leave.

Bella had rushed to her car and had driven away, not thinking or stopping until she was parked outside Paul's practice in Sausalito.

As soon as Paul saw her, he had cancelled his next two appointments and he had tried to find out why his former patient and friend was sitting crying her eyes out on his sofa.

*ΩafloΩ*

Paul looked at her as she wiped her face with the crumbled up tissue and he sighed, battling not to let his frustration show.

"Isabella, I need to ask you this and I want you to think about your answer before you speak."

Bella looked up at him with red rimmed eyes. She had spent the last four weeks on his sofa, crying about the fact that Edward was not prepared to meet her needs as a submissive.

"What do you want?"

Bella frowned, "What do you mean?"

"What are you hoping to gain from coming to see me? What do you want me to do for you?"

Bella looked embarrassed as she wrung her hands together, "I'm not… I don't… um," she closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she looked at him again. "I want to be happy. I thought that I was, I mean I am! I love my husband and my children and I have a rewarding career, so I should be happy! Right?"

Paul nodded but kept silent.

"But – I'm not." Bella whispered as her eyes filled with tears that she blinked away.

"I am a submissive. That is a part of who I am and not being able to be that way is just killing me! And I just can't tell him! I know that he loves me and that he is only thinking of me, but him not wanting me that way just hurts so much and I don't know what to do about it! Tell me what to do!" as her tears gave way to anger and frustration, Bella's voice became stronger and more determined.

Paul sat back against his desk with a small smile of satisfaction.

"Finally, now we can get somewhere. So, do you want me to find you a Dom?"

Bella gasped, "WHAT? NO!"

Paul actually laughed as Bella glared at him indignantly, "So it's not all sexual?"

This time Bella rolled her eyes, "You know that it's not. In fact my sex life is fine, if not a little boring because he treats me as if I'm going to break if we heat things up too much. No, it's so much more than that. I miss the discipline of the routines. I miss serving him. I miss relinquishing control to him. I miss the scenes and the playroom of course." She blushed.

"I miss sharing my deepest thoughts and desires with my Master, giving him my absolute trust. I feel weaker, out of control. I feel as if I'm hiding a part of myself and I'm denying who I am. I feel no different than before I met Edward, when I lived in denial of my true identity in my teens and early twenties – and I HATE IT!"

Paul allowed Bella to vent her anger and pain as she pulled a pillow over her face and began to scream into it for several minutes before she began to sob noisily.

After what seemed like a long time, Bella raised her red, blotchy face to find Paul kneeling in front of her with a bottle of water in his one hand and a soft damp cloth in the other.

She cleaned her face and drank almost half the bottle before she spoke.

Her voice was raspy and thick, "So, what do I do now?"

Paul took a seat next to her.

"Well, the good news is that you are not crazy. You may be a little depressed but it's nothing that changing your attitude and some routines won't take care of. Now, I'm going to tell you what I've told a few people in your position."

"Essentially, you are a submissive without a Dom. In order to stay happy within yourself, you need to allow yourself time to be a submissive. I know that this isn't easy with a house full of kids but you have enough help to be able to use your playroom for a couple of hours a week, right?"

Bella nodded but Paul could see that she wanted to say something and he gestured for her to speak.

"I can't use our playroom without Edward. I've tried, but it feels wrong somehow and I don't know what to do in there alone."

Paul pursed his lips and he thought of a solution.

"Okay, I have a suggestion but I will need to clear it first and you will have to take a few lessons on how to service your desire to submit and you need a safe place to do this."

Bella nodded.

Paul excused himself at that point to make a phone call and when he returned he was smiling.

"Have you ever been to Breaking Dawn?" he asked.

And that was how it began. Paul contacted Garrett and Kate, who both agreed to give Bella 'lessons' and Garrett agreed that Bella could use one of his playrooms in the club on the condition that she would only ever be there when he was on duty. She always used the executive private entrance that led from the underground parking to his private suite and then he would take her to the room that she would use.

After two months of 'lessons' and mentoring, Bella was told that she was ready for the playroom inside the club.

Bella had been going to Breaking Dawn for almost three months but she felt an amazing difference within herself. She was more in control and it felt good to train every day.

She still had moments of insecurity, just like she did when she watched the program on television, but the most part her emotions were more controlled.

She had also seen an improvement in her body and muscle tone. Her hips and but were firmer and tighter than before and she felt a new confidence that had been missing before.

The only thing that she and Paul disagreed on now, was the fact that she still had not told Edward what her fortnightly visits to the city entailed.

There was a knock at the door and Kate stuck her head around the corner.

"Wow, Bella, you look spectacular!"

Bella smiled and she turned back to put the last swipe of red lipstick on.

"Turn around and let me look at you."

Kate almost didn't recognize the exotic beauty standing in front of her. Bella's dress fell to her knees but it fitted every curve like a loving glove. The flowers covered all of her strategic bits and that made her even more desirable as she wasn't on display for all to see. There was just a hint of the bare skin that lay beneath the lace and net.

Kate's mouth popped open when she looked down at the six inch black stilettos that Bella was wearing.

"Fuck me," she muttered and Bella laughed aloud.

"Don't let Garrett catch you saying that to me!"

The two women giggled and Bella was about to put the lightweight crushed satin cape around her shoulders when Garrett walked in with a grin.

"What are you two – GOOD GOD!" His eyes were wide with shock and Bella thought that he looked apprehensive.

"Bella, no way! You cannot go out in that!" he stammered.

Kate narrowed her eyes warningly and she looked from Bella's anxious face to her husband.

"Why not? You aren't her father, G, or her keeper. Bella looks hotter than hot!" she smiled encouragingly at her friend. Kate was pissed off because it had taken Bella months to begin to show confidence within herself and Kate did not want Garrett to screw up what Bella had worked so hard for!

Garrett swallowed convulsively before he nodded, "Yeah, too hot. Fuck, Bella, you are going to give anyone that sees you a heart attack!"

Bella grinned as she twirled around to show him the full effect of the dress.

Garrett palmed his face, as he thought to himself that Edward was going to kill him before he had a stroke.

Fuck! I'm a dead man.

He looked at Bella and smiled brightly, "You look absolutely exquisite Bella, but you have to keep that cover up on until you are inside the private room, understand? I don't need a riot on my hands tonight!"

Bella grinned at him as she wrapped the almost floor length pashminas around herself.

Kate was staring at Garrett suspiciously. Something was wrong. Garrett had been preoccupied when he had gotten home that morning but she knew better than to interfere or bug him for information. He would tell her when he was ready.

"Are you ready?" Garrett asked Bella before he put an arm around Kate's waist. "I will try not to be too late tonight. Tony will be in around nine to take over so I will be here before ten."

Kate nodded.

As the door closed behind Bella and Garrett, Kate had an idea.

She hurried up to their bedroom. She was going to surprise Garrett at the club. They hadn't had a night out in ages and with both the kids away, they could have a few drinks, dance and maybe even commandeer one of the private rooms. Kate smiled as she opened the locked side of her closet that held her 'special' outfit.

This was going to be such fun!

*ΩafloΩ*

As Garrett drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, he thought about the evening ahead and he wondered how things would go. He felt terrible that he was betraying Bella's confidence but at the same time he was worried about her safety now. Whoever had hacked into their security system was good at covering their tracks but not better than Emmett's men, thankfully.

After going over the system, they had detected an 'additional user' on the system. The 'user' had remote access and had given themselves 'administrative permissions' which meant that they could see every room in the building including the parking lot where one of the photos were taken from.

After a few minutes, Emmett suggested that they encounter 'computer problems' that evening because whoever was accessing their system had received inside help.'

Garrett had taken that news hard. He trusted everyone that worked in his clubs–he had to because confidentiality was a top priority in that lifestyle. Garrett had given Emmett full permission to investigate every single employee. He had also agreed to have one of Emmett's security team, Eric Yorkie come on board as a new staff member to monitor the situation while the rest of the team traced the remote location.

"Are you okay, Garrett? You are quiet this evening." Bella asked.

Garrett nodded, "Yeah, it's just work stuff. Listen, I want you to put your mask on before we arrive tonight. There could be some paparazzi hanging around because it's such a popular event."

Bella paled at the thought of a member of the press taking a photograph of her entering or leaving the club–it would be disastrous for them all.

"Have you given any more thought to telling Edward?" Garrett asked.

Bella nodded, "I want to tell him this weekend. I thought that we could talk when he gets home."

"Do you want us to be there with you?"

Bella shrugged, "I was thinking of asking him if we could stay in the city for the night and then that way, if I need to call you guys for reinforcements then we can just come to you."

Garrett nodded, "That's a great idea."

He looked over at where Bella was staring blindly out of the window.

"You know, Bella, you have come such a long way in the past few months. You have grown more confident and although I know that it's been difficult for you, you have been amazing. I don't want you to think that anyone, especially not Edward, has the right to make you question your self-worth or self esteem."

Bella smiled at her friend, "Thank you for saying that."

"I mean it–you give that jackass hell, girl! He has been a shocking example of a dominant and he has shown absolutely no regard for your feelings as his wife or his sub, but you know that he loves you. We both know that he has this misguided notion that you are going to break or shatter into a million pieces at any moment."

"I know."

Garrett continued, "It is up to you to stand up for yourself and your rights as a submissive and a woman."

"You are right, of course you are and I think that I've changed too much to ever go back to that frightened little girl that I was."

Garrett patted her knee, "Good girl. Well here we are."

Garrett parked in his private bay and got out of his car, taking the time to look around. The underground garage should have been secure, but after that morning, he knew that they were not one hundred percent safe anywhere.

Bella steeped from the car and she quickly put her black feather and lace mask in place. Her red lips looked sinful against her pale skin and the black material and Garrett smirked as he led her to the lift.

He hoped that Edward was ready for this.

*ΩafloΩ*

At exactly seven o'clock Edward knocked impatiently on Garrett's office door.

"Come in."

Edward walked in wearing a pair of black jeans, black dress shirt and black boots. He was wearing his wrist-band and the three quarter gold and black leather mask that Garrett had given him. Thankfully, Edward had the forethought to cover his unique hair with a knitted cap.

"Hey Edward, you are right on time."

Edward nodded. He was radiating tension. He felt sick and out of focus all day long. Even though Garrett had tried to waylay his fears, Edward wasn't sure what to expect.

After everyone had left, Edward had the rest of the day to 'stew' in his own memories and imagination.

Twenty years of memories played in his head.

Bella kneeling before him with her small hands wrapped around his cock and her mouth bringing him infinite pleasure, time and again.

Bella on the whipping bench or over his lap, her pert little bottom pink, her mouth slack as she was lost between pleasure and pain.

Bella beneath him, writhing with need, keening and calling his name as she came apart.

Bella.

All day he had been haunted by the memories, each one of them more special than the last and overshadowing it all was the thought that if she had moved on, he would never experience any of it with her again.

Edward realized that Garrett was talking to him and he hadn't heard a word.

"Edward?"

Edward shook his head, "Huh?"

The older man put his hand on Edward's shoulder and chuckled, "Come on, I can see that you aren't going to be of any use until this is over."

Edward nodded and he was grateful when Garrett put a glass of some dark liquid into his hand.

Garrett sighed and nodded.

"Okay, we have disconnected the link from the private room so we will need to go to the observation room. Bella is well aware that I keep an eye on her, so we are not invading her privacy. Let's go."

Garrett led Edward down a hallway and up to a solid unmarked black door. He pulled a key card from his pocket and he walked into a dark room. It looked like an empty dance studio, with one wall being windows from ceiling to floor and a wooden floor.

There were several chairs that faced the 'window'. Once Edward's eyes had adjusted to the darkness he walked towards the 'window' and he saw a room that looked the same as the one that he was in, only bigger. Cabinets lined one wall and a whipping bench stood on one side. Edward's eyes widened as he recognized the piece of equipment in the middle of the room and he was about to question Garrett with the door to the next room opened and Edward let out a gasp.

She was an absolute vision.

Her hair was pulled up into a high ponytail that accentuated her fine features. She appeared not to have an excessive amount of make up on except for her luscious red lips and her eyes looked large and dark against the mask.

"Fuck me." Edward whispered as he stared at her in one of the sexiest dresses that he had ever seen. Her feet were enclosed in the most dick hardening pair of black stilettos that made her legs look a mile long.

Edward groaned as he felt the uncomfortable pressure against the fly of his jeans.

He heard Garrett chuckle but he ignored him.

Without looking at the mirrored wall, Bella put the bag that she was carrying onto the chair that stood next to the door and after walking around the room, Bella slipped a disk into the CD player and she took a deep breath and stood absolutely still for a moment before she reached behind her and unzipped her dress.

Edward was vaguely aware of the fact that he was almost panting as he watched the private striptease taking place before him. Edward felt his heart stutter as one of his earlier instrumental compositions filtered into the room and Edward watched as Bella smiled tenderly as she peeled the dress down her arms.

Bella emptied her mind as she slowly undressed and neatly hung her dress up on the hook behind the door. She was naked beneath her clothes and with a soft sigh she closed her eyes and cleared her mind of everything except the thought of her Master.

Even though Edward was not her Master actively, he was still the one–the only one that she would ever want to serve, please and satisfy.

"Master," she murmured as she took a cushion from a chair and put it on the ground before she moved into her 'waiting' position. The stiletto heels dug into her bottom slightly as she opened her knees and she lifted her hands and clasped them behind her head. Her breasts were soft but still firm as her nipples pebbled in the cool room.

Bella kept her eyes lowered just as she would if she were waiting for him to walk through that door.

Edward's mouth had dropped open as he stared at the vision before him. Bella had never looked more alluring or more vulnerable as she did spread before him and he felt a lump in his throat as he realized that he had missed seeing her like this.

A feeling deep inside of him rose up and before Edward knew what he was doing, he was crying quietly.

So many lost years between them. So much time had passed. So very many regrets. What had been the point of working? What was the reason behind his passionate drive to succeed when he could have; no, he should have been home, with this magnificent woman all that time?

It was a shock when Bella had fallen pregnant with Max shortly after her thirty-eighth birthday. Edward had taken her away on holiday and while in Florence, she had contracted a touch of 'flu which had turned into a respiratory infection. Edward and Bella had both forgotten about extra protection when she was put onto antibiotics and two months later, Bella remembered that she had not had a period and they discovered that she was pregnant.

Right from the beginning though, that pregnancy had been different from all of the others.

Instead of blossoming like she did previously, Bella was short-tempered and ill for almost six months.

Edward had watched from the sidelines as Bella seemed to fade away as the pregnancy progressed.

She was lethargic and sad most of the time and the increased sex drive that she had previously was nonexistent. But even if she had wanted to, Edward was terrified of hurting or upsetting her.

Her morning sickness was so bad that she had to be put onto a drip three times.

It was during one such stay in hospital that Edward had snapped.

That had been his first mistake, but he was so scared that he was going to lose her, that he would have tried anything.

Doctor Ephraim Landenberg was a well-known television psychiatrist that happened to be visiting someone when he overheard Edward and Charlie speaking in the hallway of the hospital.

"Excuse me, my name is Ephraim Landenberg, I'm sorry but I couldn't help but overhear you talking. You said that your wife is depressed? And she's pregnant?"

Edward had been so desperate for help that neither he nor Charlie stopped to think or ask any questions.

"She is pregnant with our seventh child and she has been really ill this time around. Can you help her?"

Dr Landenberg smiled and produced a card from inside his jacket pocket, "That is the least that I can do! My dear friend, I will have her up and running around in no time!"

Four months later Bella had given birth and she was even more depressed than before, despite the fact that Dr Landenberg had her on various medication as well as insisting that Edward be very gentle with her and treat her like a 'fragile egg'.

His entire family had disagreed with him and Charlie, but Edward kept hoping to see and improvement in Bella.

Bella had been unable to breastfeed Maxwell because of her medication and that caused even more stress and anxiety. Her feelings of inadequacy intensified but when Edward went to see him, demanding that he refer Bella to another doctor, the smarmy doctor had accused Edward of trying to push her too hard, which only made Edward feel guilty about wanting her to get back to 'normal'.

Fortunately Bella had fallen ill and upon a thorough examination it was discovered that Bella would need to have a hysterectomy. Thankfully Edward had called Paul and he began to wean Bella off her medication.

Over the next two and a half years Bella improved slowly until she had picked up her paintbrush and her camera again.

Edward had wanted nothing more than to take Bella back into the playroom, but the only time that he had, Bella had become ill and had safe worded.

Edward vowed that he would do anything to keep his wife happy and healthy and if that meant that he had to put that side of his life, or their lives away for good, then that is what he was going to do.

Now as he stared at his beautifully broken wife kneeling alone in a playroom, he was almost overcome with remorse and guilt.

Garrett pulled Edward roughly into his arms as he pulled him away from the observation window. The rooms were all soundproofed and the glass was virtually impenetrable, but he didn't want to risk disturbing Bella. She cherished her time at the club.

Garrett looked sideways and Edward and before Edward could move, Garrett had him pinned to a chair.

"Don't even think about it! You have to tread really carefully here, Edward. I'm only letting you see her because I can't convince you that she does not have another master. Now, if you are not going to behave, I will have you removed." Garrett's voice was hard and cold and Edward knew that he meant every word that he said.

With a defeated sigh Edward nodded, "Okay, I'll behave."

Garrett nodded, "I can see many hours of training in your future, Edward. You have fallen into bad habits."

Edward inwardly groaned but he knew better than to say anything to his former mentor. Garrett was a hard task master and Edward knew that he was not going to be easy on him.

Instead he turned his attention back to the window where Bella had remained in position for at least fifteen minutes.

Bella had always had a problem in staying still for a long time, but it seemed that the pupil had mastered the art.

He could see how calm and relaxed she appeared although her posture was absolutely perfect.

Text book perfect.

Edward felt his heart swell with pride for his wife.

As if she could sense his presence Bella raised her head at that moment and she stared at the wall of mirror.

"Master…" she whispered as if she expected him to answer her or to appear.

Edward wondered if she could feel his presence.

Bella rolled to her feet and she stunned Edward with her gracefulness. Edward noticed that she was still wearing her ridiculously high heels and the sight of her firm ass and long legs were enough to make him whimper.

Bella walked over to the bag and she bent over.

"What's she doing?" Edward whispered.

Garrett shook his head, "Just watch."

Bella pulled several lengths of what looked like tape, a cat 'o nine tails and a suede flogger.

"Just watch,"

Edward couldn't have looked away even if he had wanted to as Bella stood once more in the middle of the room with the flogger in her hand.

She took a deep breath and began to move the instrument lightly at first almost in a figure '8' pattern over her back. After several minutes, Edward could see the sheen of perspiration over her skin when she threw the flogger down and picked up the cat.

*ΩafloΩ*

As Bella worked the Cat over her warmed up flesh, her mind went back to the first time that she had stepped into this room.

She had spent the entire hour weeping.

She had been so unsure and afraid but with Garrett and Paul's encouragement Bella had forced herself to overcome her feelings of guilt until she could almost block those feelings out completely.

Her need for punishment was somewhat soothed by the bite of the tendrils from the cat o' nine tales but she knew that it still wasn't enough. Nothing would really heal the hole in her heart until she 'confessed' how she was feeling to Edward.

Bella felt a rush of anger and frustration wash over her and her stroke intensified until a knot in the leather caught the underside of her breast and she flinched, halting her lashing.

She realized that she was panting with the exertion that she had used in her anger and she threw the whip away from herself as she walked over to the mirrors to look at her back.

"Shit!" she exclaimed when she saw the angry red welts. While some of them would fade overnight, she knew that she was going to have some residual marks the next day.

"I suppose, I have no choice now but to tell you what I've been up to, Edward. I wonder how much you are going to freak out at me. Maybe you won't even care, and that's what scares me." Bella murmured as she ran her fingers over some of the worst marks.

With a sigh Bella turned away from the mirror and once again moved to kneel on the floor, this time, she dropped her head to the floor and in the silence of the room Edward's heart almost broke as he heard her next words.

"Forgive me Master. I have failed you and broken my vows to you. Please forgive me."

*ΩafloΩ*

On the other side of the mirror, Edward was biting on his first hard to keep his cries from being heard. He could not believe that his beautiful wife had resorted to self-flagellation in order to maintain this balance in her life.

What have I done?

Edward stood like a statue until Bella got up and disappeared into the adjoining bathroom with her bag and clothes.

A little while later she reappeared with her face devoid of makeup, her hair pulled back into the high ponytail was still damp and she was dressed in a pair of leggings and an off the shoulder T-shirt and ballet slippers.

Edward smiled because she looked no older than Alexis. She carefully packed everything into her bag and wiped the floor with a disinfectant wipe before she took a few deep breaths and with a nod to the camera in the corner of the room, Bella turned out the light and left.

"Where is she going now?" Edward asked as he stared into the darkened room.

"There is a car waiting in the basement to take her back to our place. We insisted that she come back to our house so that we can give her the aftercare that she needs and we can check that she hasn't hurt herself too badly." Garrett explained.

"Has that happened before?"

Garrett chuckled, "In the beginning it was quite a challenge for Bella not to injure herself but she has become far more agile over the past few months."

Edward nodded. He looked at his friend, "Thank you for taking care of her when I didn't," he said.

Garrett nodded shortly, "I was more tempted to hunt your ass down and whip the shit out of you, believe me but then I realized that this wasn't about you as much as it was about Bella. You fucked up badly Edward, but you can fix this."

"I want to, but I don't know where to begin." Edward said as they made their way back to Garrett's office.

"Listening, Edward, that's where you begin. Think about everything that you have heard and seen today. Talk to Bella, get her to open up to you, properly and listen to what she tells you and then talk to her. Let her know how you have been feeling. Find out what your wife wants and then move heaven and earth if you need to – but give it to her!"

After reconnecting the 'broken' feed into the room that Bella was using, Garrett and Edward made their way down to the private parking area.

"Edward," Garrett called as Edward was about to slip into his rental car, "fight for her–you and she are worth fighting for."

"I intend to." Edward said grimly.

Hours later Edward stood staring out of the window. The room behind him was as dark as the night but still he could not find sleep.

His earlier phone call to Bella had been difficult, as he had to pretend not to be any wiser. He had begun by telling Bella that he had finished his work early and he was spending the night in San Francisco rather that drive at night.

Bella had sounded nervous when she had admitted that she was spending the night at Garrett and Kate's house.

They made arrangements to meet in Edward's suite for breakfast.

His mind had been a scrambled mess with the events of the past two days and yes, he was worried about the implications of the general public finding out about his and Bella's lifestyle but he was more concerned about the look of sadness on Bella's face inside the playroom as she had apologized for some imaginary sin.

He was determined to fix this, beginning tomorrow.

*ΩafloΩ*

A/N: Thank you to everyone for continuing to read and review – your response has been overwhelming.

Let me know what you think!

Till next time,

Michele