Home > The Dom Identity

The Dom Identity
Author: Lexi Blake


Chapter One



Between the elegant buffet set in the conference room and the sense of hushed anticipation that hung over the office, it was obvious something big was happening this morning.

Michael Malone just wished it wasn’t happening to him. He’d been somewhat excited about the idea of a new assignment when it had first been floated by him, but now he wondered if life wouldn’t be easier if he avoided this particular job.

“He doesn’t even eat carbs,” a deep voice argued. “These babies will be wasted on him.”

“He eats carbs,” a feminine voice replied.

“No, he doesn’t. Julian Lodge lives off the blood of his enemies, baby. That’s it. That’s how he stays all lean and predatory. Also, should we be having this meeting in the light of day?” Yep. That was his boss. Ian Taggart.

Michael had been working for McKay-Taggart Security for…had it really been the majority of his adult life? He’d started out—like most MT employees—in the military. The Navy had led to the SEALS and the SEALs to the CIA. The CIA had turned into a clusterfuck of a job, and so he’d landed here and stayed.

He liked his job, enjoyed his team. So why the fuck had he started to think about quitting?

“He’s not a vampire.” Despite the fact that he couldn’t see Charlotte Taggart, he heard the smile in her voice. She always seemed genuinely amused by her husband’s antics. Which was a good thing because there were a lot of them.

“Think about it.” The man most people called Big Tag chuckled. “Have you ever seen him in the light of day?”

“Yes. Many times,” Charlotte insisted.

“Never even once.” Big Tag continued like his wife had replied in the way he wanted her to. But that was his boss. He plowed through life like a steamroller.

That wasn’t fair. A steamroller flattened things, and the truth of the matter was Big Tag tended to make life better for the people he met. The Taggarts were responsible for most of the good marriages around him. He’d recently been to one of the weddings Charlotte and Ian had a direct hand in.

How the hell had Hutch gotten married before him?

And when had he started to feel like a wallflower at some Regency ball? It wasn’t like he was on the shelf or something. He was a man in the prime of his life, and he wasn’t unattractive. It wasn’t like he hadn’t had some good shots. So why hadn’t they worked out? After a while a guy started to wonder.

He should never have agreed to watch movies with his mother after her surgery. She’d suffered a hard fall while riding around the ranch she and his dad lived on. Shoulder surgery had followed, and he’d taken his turn making sure she wasn’t alone. She’d made him sit through rom coms and a weird amount of Regency romantic drama, and now he was a Jane Austen character worried about his marital prospects.

“Is the big guy here yet?”

Michael turned, and Kyle Hawthorne was standing there. Kyle was a reminder that everyone was moving forward, including Michael’s ex-fiancée. She was marrying Kyle’s brother.

“No, he’s still fifteen minutes out.” And now his morning was complete because there she was. Tessa Santiago, soon-to-be Hawthorne. Never to be Malone because he’d been the dumbass who couldn’t love her the way she needed to be loved.

He was starting to wonder if he could love anyone. Maybe his twin had gotten all those genes. It was weird. All of his life he and JT had basically been in the same place, but the last several years had changed all of that. His identical twin had gotten married and now had two kids.

Michael was still drifting through life.

“I don’t get it. It’s like we’re entertaining the president or something.” Kyle glanced into the conference room. “Charlotte threatened unholy hell on anyone who ate the pastries before the client gets here. I saw Li taking Boomer out of the office because he doesn’t think he can stay away from a buffet. Is he a freak of nature or something? How the hell does he eat the way he does and not weigh a thousand pounds?”

“Boomer works out hard, and he’s got a freaky metabolism. And we didn’t do all this for the actual president,” Tessa pointed out. “All he got was some drive-through. But this is Julian Lodge. For Big Tag, he’s way more important than any president.”

“He’s intimidating.” Kyle frowned. “You know how Big Tag explodes at least twice a day? Julian is the guy who never explodes. He’s kept all that rage and hate inside for years, and one day it’s going to come out. You do not want to be standing in front of him then.”

Tessa rolled her eyes. “He’s a sweetheart. I think you’re projecting because you kind of defined yourself there, buddy.”

Kyle sighed. “That’s probably fair. But I still say Julian Lodge is scarier than Big Tag.”

“How do you know Julian?” Michael was surprised Tessa was talking like she’d made a study of the man. Tessa had only been with McKay-Taggart for two years, and in all that time Julian had never once come to the office. She wouldn’t have worked with him. Tessa was in the bodyguard unit. Lodge had his own full-time bodyguards.

Julian Lodge ran Lodge Corp, a multibillion-dollar company that he’d inherited from his parents. More importantly to Big Tag, he ran an investment group called the Masters Fund. It was also worth several billion dollars and was the very reason Big Tag was loaded. That was where a lot of people got it wrong. They thought Tag’s money came from the company, and some of it did, but the big bucks came from shrewd investments and making the money he had work for him.

Julian Lodge had taught Tag that. He’d been the first investor in McKay-Taggart and now was treated like royalty.

But he wasn’t sure how Tessa knew that since she hadn’t come to the yearly football games Big Tag and Julian threw that sometimes included one of them putting an actual athlete on the payroll in order to win. Those “family” picnics were vicious at times, with Big Tag and Julian going at each other like two T-Rexes fighting for territory.

“Oh, I had to meet with him when I started going to The Club.” Tessa’s tone had gone soft.

“It’s so gross. She calls my brother Professor, and they run some hard-core scenes about her not turning in her homework.” Kyle made a vomiting sound. “I joined The Club to get away from my family.”

She was going to The Club with David Hawthorne. Well, of course she was. David was her Dom, her top in a way Michael had never been. Their sex life had been one of the many ways he’d failed her. There had been a spark in the beginning, but no magic need had come to life beyond a mutually pleasurable experience.

There was supposed to be more. He was almost certain of it. He saw it all around him. Never once had he called Tessa up to his office and fucked her over his desk. He wouldn’t have disturbed her workday. It seemed rude, and yet he knew damn well not to walk into Big Tag’s office without making sure it was safe. Because even after five kids and years of marriage, those two went at it hard sometimes.

He’d topped Tessa when they’d been engaged, but it had been play. And toward the end of their relationship, they’d stopped going to Sanctum altogether.

“Why The Club?” He hoped she wasn’t avoiding him. Tessa needed Sanctum. She’d needed more than he could give her.

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