Free Look at Healing Hark

Chapter One
Around him the sounds of the club soothed Harkahome Hark Akula's overstrung nerves. Standing off to one side of the huge, opulent great room, he leaned against one of the walls as he watched the scene unfolding in front of him. On the raised dais, one of the members was putting on a demonstration with his submissive. A rare sense of homecoming settled over him. It had been too long since he'd set foot inside of Olivia's. As one of the premier clubs in Chicago, a person had to have either money, clout, or know the owner of the club to even gain temporary access to the club. And even that didn’t guarantee acceptance to the exclusive BDSM club. You fucked up and you were gone. It was that simple. Mistress Olivia ran the club with an iron fist that occasionally was backed up by her submissives. Even trained as he was, he didn’t want to take on Jude Larson or Micah Beaumont, if the rumors about what happened when they were down in Louisiana last year were true.
Tonight had been the first time he’d visited the club in a long time. Once he’d found George Rotthaus and his wife Teresina, he’d no longer needed the club. He’d settled down comfortably in their home in a county north of the city and threw himself into helping raise their son, Alex. He’d thought he’d found a small slice of heaven on Earth with the man meant to be his Master and the sub they shared. So when they were taken from him, it had nearly killed him. One would think a man accustomed to death, wouldn’t have been stunned and grief-stricken when he’d lost his family. The deaths of George, Teresina, and little Alex had totally been unexpected. And all my fault.
After he’d gone hunting and made the fools who killed his family pay, he'd retreated to the home they created together. And now it's gone as well. The fire set by Cyrille Karas, during his stint protecting Zhenya Addi-soon-to-be-Poulanos and her beautiful little daughter Sophie, had destroyed everything but his memories. Even so, it had been worth it to still be able to hold the drooling little girl in his arms, to see Zhenya find happiness with Teresina’s brother, Gabriel. He expected any day now to get a call about their wedding, even if Zhenya was taking it slow. Once Gabriel got the ring on her finger, it would only be a matter of time before he marched his submissive in front of the minister. The other man wouldn’t take the chance that Zhenya would be taken away from him like his former submissive, Sara, had been.
“Please, Master!”
The desperate plea echoed through the main room drew Hark out of his thoughts. From his position he could see the blond man manacled to the pillory. His strong back, bare and glistening, had several red stripes already as the man twisted sensually against his bonds. Instead of trying to get away, the man was trying to get closer to the kiss of the whip. In his pants, his cock stirred at the sight. He couldn’t decide if it was  because he wanted to be the one administering the lashing the man was begging for, or the fact it'd been over two years since he'd felt the lash against his own skin. His reprieve from his lusts was over. His body once again craved the illusive pleasure he experienced in the past. He hadn’t felt anything remotely resembling desire since the Rotthaus’s deaths.
Shifting a bit, he stepped further back into the shadows, blending into them. His leather pants wouldn't hide his semi-erect cock, and the last thing he wanted was for one of the un-collared subs to see it and offer themselves to him, as several had when he'd first come into the club. He’d promised Zhenya he’d try, but found himself unable to accept what they offered. Instead he found himself taking baby steps to see if he was ready to move on. The woman who’d offered herself had been tempting, but it took more than lust to stir him into engaging in a scene. He needed more than physical desire - he needed the connection he'd found with only two men and one woman in his entire lifetime. Now with two of them dead, and the third unable to handle his needs he found himself once again looking for the trust, the acceptance, he constantly struggled to live without.
Watching as the man’s Dom, dressed in all black drew his arm back, Hark’s sixth sense tingled. The man with his shoulder length hair gathered into a tight braid, reminded him of a ghost from his past. The hair rose on the back of his neck. The fluid motions of the man's body seemed almost dream-like as he effortless flicked the single-tail, dancing it along the skin of his submissive. His weary soul recognized the man without even seeing his face. It can't be. Not now after all I've gone through. Mother Earth wouldn't be that cruel.
The need to confirm or deny the possibility of it being his former Master drove him to act. He kept to the shadows and skirted the edge of the gathering crowd, not that anyone was paying attention to the nearly six and half feet of Native American, when such a scene was going on. All eyes were focused on the man being whipped and if it was who he thought it was, his former Master had only grown in his prowess with the single-tail since they parted ways. Finally in a position to get a glimpse of the man without being seen, he sucked in a deep breath as both pain and euphoria hit him simultaneously.
It was him. Diachi Rai. The man who un-collared him over ten years ago.
His cock, which had been semi-hard just watching the whipping, turned to stone in his pants. His body swayed forward, the familiar draw of his first master potent as it had been the first time he'd spotted the slim Asian man across a smoky bar outside of Tucson.
“Hark?” The soft inquiry did little to penetrate the pull, until a slender hand touched his arm, shattering the spell.
Glancing down at the slender fingers resting on his forearm, he drew a ragged breath. He vibrated with the need to do something, anything that would get him closer to Diachi, but at the same time, he needed to run, to get away before he humiliated himself by begging the man to take him back. As if sensing his torn emotions, the woman attached to the hand, Olivia, wrapped her arm through his to guide him back the way he'd come.
“Shhh, I know,” she soothed as she slowly but irrevocably pulled him away from the scene. “One foot in front of the other. One breath at a time.”
Allowing a petite, five-foot-two Domme and owner of the club guide him should've gone against everything dominant inside of him, but she was also a friend. He focused on her words, taking one step, one breath at time, until she had him in her office. As the door closed behind them, he gave a relieved sigh. She’d done it. She’d gotten him out of the great room before he’d done something stupid. She was a good friend. Not that he needed this as proof to that. She'd been around right after he'd lost his family, there to comfort and console him, when others hadn't been able to penetrate the shell he'd built around himself.
“Sit, Hark. Let’s talk.” She motioned to the chair in front of the black and silver, modern inspired desk. Easing his large frame into the chair, he watched as she plopped down in the chair next to it, instead of behind the desk.
“Talk?” He gripped his leather-covered knees. “I thought I was ready for this, but now I’m not so sure. I know you said it was time for me to quit hiding. But I’m not ready to deal with subs throwing themselves at my feet.”
Swinging her legs over the arm of the chair, she pivoted so she could look at him. “That’s the reason why I asked you to come tonight. Why I had Zhenya push you into coming tonight. I’m tired of seeing you hide. You’re a wonderful submissive and even a better Dom than some I’ve met. They’re gone, but you’re still here.”
“I know they are gone. I could’ve told you that, and saved you the trouble of having me underfoot tonight, merely taking up space.”
“True, and you have told me repeatedly that you understand. I was just hoping being here, exposed to people with the same wants and need as yourself might rekindle the fire inside you. I’ve been watching you all evening, hoping to see that spark.”
“And did you?” Dread filled his stomach. He knew the answer. He’d been lifeless, just going through the motions, until he spied Diachi. Then he’d moved in like a hawk, stealthily circling his prey.
“It was more than a spark. It was a raging inferno, just waiting to be tapped. If he’d so much as crooked his finger you’d have been at his side. It confirmed what I thought.”
He turned his head so fast, his braid swung over his shoulder as what she was saying sunk in. “You wanted to see if I would react to his presence.”
“Guilty as charged.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I’ve known both you and Diachi a long time. Almost as long as I’ve known Bryan Sterling. A more giving soul I’ve never met. Which is why I needed to see how you would react to seeing Diachi again.”
“Well, it’s obvious I still feel a pull towards him.” He laughed sardonically. “That’s one thing that has never changed. Diachi merely has to breathe in the same room as me, and I’m ready to fall to my knees for him. Which is a good reason for you getting me out of there. The last thing I needed to do was embarrass him by causing a scene.”
“Well I’m sure you’ll get used to his effect on you, by the time your condo is ready.”
He stiffened. “What do you mean when my condo is ready? I’m already living there and paying you rent.”
“As your landlord, I’ve made arrangements for you to stay with Master Rai and Bryan, while I have the inside of your condo remodeled.”
Anger pulsed through him. “You what?”
She met his gaze, not flinching. “You’ve been complaining about how small the shower is, plus how the interior needs some serious renovations. The contractor assured me they could start Monday. That will give you the weekend to get what stuff you need…”
He surged to his feet. “I realize that you own the condo. But the idea was for me to do them, not for you to hire some outsider to come in, kick me out of my home just so you can play matchmaker by having me stay with the man who un-collared me.”
“Sit down, Harkahome.” She uttered the words softly, but the steel behind them had him sinking back into the chair. “You will listen to me. I will not force you to go to Master Rai’s any more than I would force Jude or Micah to leave my side. The choice is yours ultimately.” She swung her legs down and stood, facing him. “But ask yourself this. If you had a chance to recapture what you had with him. To build something stronger -would you take it? Or would you let the past ruin what could be a wonderful future?”
A growl rumbled free of his chest. Fury washed over him. “He has a submissive now. I will not ruin another’s relationship for my own happiness. It would throw off the balance of my life. You may not think much of my native ways, but balance is something I take very seriously.”
Approaching him, she placed a hand on his chest. “I respect your ways, but didn’t you once tell me you needed harmony along with balance to have a full life?”
Eying her warily, he nodded. “Yes, it is the Navajo way. Balance and harmony with the people and environment surrounding us is the path to true living.”
She gave him a tumultuous smile. “And forgive me for saying this, but I think Danchi and Bryan hold the key to you finding the harmony that has been missing since George and Teresina’s deaths.”
He covered her hand, understanding in her own way she was trying to help him. “I…”
She pressed her free hand to his lips, silencing him. “Don’t answer yet. Take the weekend to think about it. If you decide not to go to Diachi’s, call me and first thing Monday I’ll call the hotel of your choice. I’ll pay for the cost of a suite for the duration of the condo renovations.”
* * * *
Slipping out of her office, Olivia pulled the door behind her, leaving Hark inside it. She’d claimed it was to give him some quiet time to think, but in all honesty she’d needed to slip away before she pushed too hard and ended up on the wrong side of her friend. It had been close. She saw it in his eyes when she’d told him, he’d be staying with Diachi for the duration of the renovations. When she’d spoken with her brother, Caelan, and his friend Gabriel about this cockamamie scheme, she hadn’t realized she’d be grabbing a tiger by the tail. For a second, she’d thought that Hark would storm out of her office and disappear like a wisp of smoke. Much like the shadow walker he’d once confided to being during one of his few drunken binges after he’d buried his family.
Reaching into her pocket, she pressed speed dial and waited impatiently for Caelan to pick up. A few moments later, his slight Irish burr filled her ear. Striding down the hall, she slipped into her private playroom. This was a conversation she didn’t want the man in her office overhearing.
“Well, I’ve baited the hook. You and Gabriel better know what you’re doing. This shit backfires and he’s gonna be in the wind.”
“I know. But since he came out of hiding to help with Zhenya’s situation, we all realized how thin he’s gotten. He’s not the same Hark who used to come to the club with George. He’s wasting away.”
“I know, but I don’t know how I ended up being the one to break it to him.”
“Because you’re a woman. He won’t deck you for interfering and the fact that you’re in essence his landlord…”
 She squeezed the bridge of her nose, as the familiar three taps on the outside of her door interrupted them and signaled the arrival of one of her submissives. “Dammit. I have to go, Caelan. If either Jude or Micah realize what’s going on they will run to Hark and our plans will be over before they started. I’ll call you later.”
She hung up the phone and bid which ever submissive was out in the hall to come in. Relief washed over her as Micah entered, looking every inch the game designer he was.
“There you are, Mistress.” He pulled her into his arms.

She relaxed against him, savoring the comfort their nightly ritual gave her. This is why I agreed to Caelan and Gabriel’s scheme. Hark deserves to have this.