Hard Rhythm


By Cecilia Tan

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Are they ready to go all the way?

Maddie Rofel has seen it all. Even the kinkiest games she witnesses working as a hostess in L.A.’s most exclusive private sex club fail to shock her, much less turn her on. Until the night she has a very personal encounter with drummer Chino Garcia, and the two discover an intimate connection neither can deny. Suddenly the jaded hostess is softening under Chino’s touch, and submitting in ways she never expected . . .

All his life, Chino has been running from something. Normally he beats back his demons by losing himself in his music. Now he’s losing himself in Maddie. And, while it drives Chino wild when Maddie bares her body to him, what he really wants is for Maddie to bare her soul. For that, Chino will have to push Maddie past her furthest limits-and share his own dark secrets.


Chapter One


“Are you sure about this?” I asked Gwen as I swung the short whip back and forth, getting the feel of it. The whole thing was about as long as my arm, the braided black leather making it look like a cobra with one long loose leather piece at the tip. The catalog had called it a “quirt” but it was a whip for sure, a mini–Indiana Jones number, made for driving people, not cattle.

“Oh, Maddie, it couldn’t be worse than the leather belt Mal likes to use,” Gwen said, her eyes lighting up like a cat’s as I flicked the whip in the air.

I chuckled. “I think it’s you who likes the belt.”

She blushed with a glowy smile. “Yeah. My favorite.” She and Mal had been engaged for a couple of months and they were the cutest sadomasochists I knew. She loved pain, he loved her, and they doted on each other. I handed her the quirt and she ran her fingers down the length. “I ordered one for each room. You think they’ll be too harsh for people?”

“I guess it’s just that it’s an actual whip.” Visions of cowboy justice being meted out by sadistic sheriffs ran through my mind. I’d been playing at BDSM a long time. Not only had I worked here at the Governor’s Club for a few years now, ever since I’d moved to LA ten years before I’d always been involved somehow with kink or with sex-related jobs. Even my volunteer work had been on the margins: staffing a domestic violence crisis hotline. It wasn’t like I hadn’t seen a whip before, but the big ones were typically only attempted by people who trained to use them for years. This one was small enough to be dangerous in some amateur’s hands. I trusted myself to use it responsibly but I wasn’t sure I trusted the members of the club not to hurt themselves, especially with all the new ones we had been bringing in lately. “Maybe we should test them out before we just put them in all the playrooms.”

Or maybe I was worrying too much. “Ooh, I really want to find out what it feels like,” Gwen said dreamily, followed by a sigh, oblivious to my concern. “But Mal won’t be back for another week. What else is in the box? I ordered some stuff for the dungeon and some to kick-start your new column.”

I looked up from digging in the box. “You did? You didn’t have to do that, Gwen.” I was due to start a weekly sex toy review column for the PlayPeople Network next week, partly writing and partly video blogging. It was a high-profile, well-paying gig, and I was a little nervous about it. Working in a sex toy store was one thing. Putting up videos of myself for the whole world to see was another. Well, it’s not like I was going to run for office, right? “Sex toy manufacturers will send me plenty of stuff once the word gets around.”

She grinned. “I’m worried you’ll just get ten knockoffs of the rabbit pearl vibe and nothing interesting. I want to get you started off right, you know? I know how important the opportunity is to you.”

“Aw, thank you.” I gave her a quick hug. Gwen and I had gotten really close since her grandfather had died. I’d been giving her BDSM and boyfriend advice and she’d been wanting to help me with my stalled journalism career. I still wasn’t sure if reviewing sex toys for one of the biggest “adult lifestyle” media companies was a great career move. I had a strong feeling my résumé being heavy with sexual topics was already the reason editors didn’t take me seriously; becoming a well-known video blogger was probably going to be the final nail in that coffin. Every time I did something sex-related, I seemed to succeed, while all my attempts to do “serious” journalism had been stymied. With my thirtieth birthday on the horizon maybe it was time to give up on doing something my parents could actually tell their neighbors about and just go with what had always worked.

Being what my own mom called “a busty bombshell” had gotten me plenty of attention over the years, and while that attention might have been necessary—even welcome—when I was trying to get dancing gigs, it had mostly negative consequences in the journalism world. If you wanted to get into political reporting your best bet was to be a tall man with a square jaw.

I dug into the box to find a new set of leather paddles. They were black with silver studs set in them: very punk rock meets the Inquisition. Under those were a few sets of shearling sheep–lined leather wrist and ankle cuffs and some other useful bondage items. Then I pulled out something white with that molded high-tech look. “This must be a vibrator?”

“Oh, yes. You can remote control it with a phone app. I don’t know how that one is to play with solo but I’ve worn it while Mal’s had the control.” She grinned and bounced off to check the sheet and towel supply for the evening.

I set about distributing all the new toys into the playrooms of the dungeon before the party guests could arrive. Gwen and her sister Ricki were the official hosts since the dungeon was in their family mansion—the family secret—while I was a mere employee, one of three paid hosts who kept an eye on the guests and, when necessary, kept things interesting. I made the rounds, checking on the safe sex supplies and plugging in one of the other new pieces of equipment Gwen had recently acquired, the Rotorvator.

Everything seemed ready, so it was time to get dressed myself. As I entered the employee dressing room I was startled by someone rushing out: Paul, Ricki’s assistant. Inside the room I found one of my fellow hired hosts sitting on the shoe-changing bench, looking a bit sheepish. “Brad,” I scolded. “Aren’t you straight?”

“Not completely,” he said with a shrug, and followed his—paramour? conquest?—out of the room. I hoped for low drama with whatever was going on there and opened my own locker. As I pulled my bag out to stash the toys Gwen had bought for me, my phone buzzed with a new voice mail message. I picked it up to see who it was from and cursed silently: a guy I had tried to land a writing gig with a year or two ago. Back then he’d been an editor at a big newspaper. Word was he’d been recently fired. What was he doing calling on a Friday night? No doubt trying to hit on me again. Loser. I made sure the ringer was off and stuffed my bag back into my locker. I got quickly into my usual work attire: an overbust leather corset, matching knee high boots, leather “tennis” skirt, and badass attitude.

The attitude was second nature to me now. It was all about maintaining professionalism; before this I’d worked in plenty of sexually charged situations, including as a showgirl, model, and cashier in a sex toy emporium. Here at the Governor’s Club I did demonstrations of techniques and equipment with Gwen and Chita—getting naked from time to time—but I wasn’t technically there to have sex with party guests. Well, unless I really wanted to—and I typically did not want to. Everything went more smoothly if they remembered that. They were here to have fun; I was here to do a job. It wasn’t as if working in the dungeon actually got me aroused.

Guests began to trickle in and I went to play hostess at the front door for a bit. I greeted Conrad Schmitt, one of the oldest members of the club, and inquired after his wife, who wasn’t with him. She’d caught a cold and had stayed home, he said. Lately it seemed fewer of the older members were attending, as more people who had been recruited by Gwen and Ricki joined. Next to arrive was Sakura, a close friend of Ricki’s who was also a part-time fetish fashion model and performance artist. “Maddie, so good to see you. Help me tighten my corset, would you?”

“I was about to ask you to do the same for me,” I said with a laugh.

After we’d helped each other tighten our laces in the guest changing room, Gwen caught up to us. “Sakura! Come see the Rotorvator! No one’s tried it yet.”

“I’m sure if you keep showing it off, someone won’t be able to resist,” I told her as she led Sakura to see the contraption. I went behind the bar to pour drinks while people were still in social mode. Done in polished wood and red velvet, the bar ran along one wall, while a sectional sofa and some low, leather-covered seats lined the main socializing area, and the Catherine wheel dominated the far corner.

I was startled to see Chino Garcia come in. I’d assumed if Mal was away that all the members of The Rough were out of town, but apparently not. Chino strutted into the dungeon like the cock of the walk. Or as my dad used to call it, the walk of the cock. “A bad boy like that just wants to stick it somewhere warm,” he had warned me.

When I was younger I hadn’t heeded that warning. Bad boys were my catnip, the thing that made me roll on my back and yowl. But after years in Hollywood, years of cheaters and losers whose only redeeming quality was how good they were in bed, I was jaded to the tattoos and the macho saunter. Maybe if I’d spent less time being derailed by attempts at relationships with those guys, I’d be something more than a dungeon hostess and sex toy expert now.

I watched Chino cross the room to greet Sakura and Ricki, and I saw Sakura look him up and down. Was she trying to figure out if that strutting attitude translated to dom or sub? I know I was. Since Axel’s bandmates had joined the club, I hadn’t seen Chino play. Oh sure, he joined in happily enough when it was Ricki’s birthday and Axel made her crawl through “the paddy-whack machine” like a kindergartner, or that time when one of the older executives’ wives had wanted all the men to do a circle jerk onto her. But being sexually adventurous didn’t reveal whether he was a sadist or a masochist, a top or a bottom, a dom or a sub. Usually anyone who came into the club identified themselves right away so they could find a partner. Chino hadn’t, and that bugged the hell out of me. I was used to doms being bossy and subs being needy and Chino was neither. My bet was he was just a poseur who liked hanging around with his kinky friends.

He slipped off his leather jacket as he greeted Axel and Ricki. He was wearing nothing but leather pants and tattoos underneath. I felt as if a cool breeze had just blown across my own bare shoulders, goose bumps rising and my fingers itching to touch his ink all of a sudden.

Stop it, I told myself. He annoys the fuck out of you and you’re better off steering clear of him. I didn’t appreciate how he turned everything into a joke. But when he threw back his head and laughed at something Sakura said, I found myself adjusting my corset as my nipples hardened against the supple leather. I stared at the long line of his neck, leading down a buff, well-inked chest. Playing drums kept him in ridiculously perfect shape.

My hormones must have been peaking or something. I made myself tear my eyes away from him and went to do a rounds check of the rooms, to see which were in use and whether any of them needed a resupply of condoms or lube. It was still early in the evening, though, and while Kresley Palmer had strapped his wife over the new padded spanking bench in the Inquisition Room, everyone else was still socializing and warming up.

When I came back Gwen was showing the new paddles to the group. “Can’t wait to find out what these feel like,” she enthused, “but I have to wait until Mal gets back.”

Chino picked one up and swung it in slow motion like a tennis forehand. Then the annoying fuck made eyes at me. “Hey, Madison, aren’t you the one who usually shows off new things around here?”

“You bet I am,” I snapped, holding out my hand for the paddle in challenge. Let’s see how fast this joker backs down. “I’d love to see how many you can take before you beg for mercy.”

He twirled it by the leather loop on the handle instead of handing it over. “Is that right? Who do you think could take more, you or me?”

Sakura’s eyes lit up and she came between us. “If you wanted a fair test, I could paddle you both.”

Chino’s eyes were locked on mine, though. Not backing down at all. “Naw. I think the only way it’d be fair is if we take turns beating each other. You think you can take ten at a time? Twenty?”

“Twenty per set, no bondage, hands on the wall, drop hands and you lose,” I said, staring right back at him. Oh, I was so on fire to put him in his place, to make him lose that smirk.

“Agreed,” he said. “Should we flip a coin to see who goes first?”

I clucked my tongue. “Tsk, no. You can beat me first to make sure this contest isn’t over too quickly.”

He raised an eyebrow as if to say touché, and Sakura chuckled, looking back and forth between us. “Oh ho. And what does the winner get from the loser, hm?”

“How ’bout fifteen minutes in private to do whatever we want,” Chino said.

“Does the Rotorvator work on men, too?” I asked.

“Definitely,” Gwen said.

“Then I know what my fifteen minutes of entertainment will be,” I said with a wicked grin. “Lube up, drummer boy. Sakura, will you be the judge?”

“Surely,” she said with a wicked grin of her own.

Chino sketched a bow in my direction and then gestured toward the empty area of wall across from the Catherine wheel. “If you’ll assume the position, please.”

I took my skirt off, revealing my thong underneath, and placed my hands on the wall. There was no way I was going to lose this contest. Gwen had nicknamed me “Iron Butt” after the first time she’d tested new hardwood paddles on me. I was sure Chino was either going to be all bravado and turn the scene into a joke, like he did every conversation we’d ever had, or he was going to turn out to be a secret sub who was going to love being paddled…which might be more fun than winning. How long would it be before he was actually begging me to spank him?

Either way I couldn’t wait to beat the smirk off his face. Those thoughts entertained me while I waited for him to start. I imagined his ink-black hair plastered to his neck with passionate sweat while he looked up at me from his knees…

What was taking him so long anyway? I glanced back: he was gathering a crowd of spectators.

And he’d stripped down to nothing. My jaw dropped. The real thing was even better than my imagination. His entire body was lean, hard muscle, not the chunky bulk of a weight-lifting nut but the powerful form of a man who actually used his muscles for something. He’d even stripped off his leather pants, revealing the dragon tattoo on his leg, but I found my eyes drawn to the graceful curve of his cock—already hard. Just from anticipation of paddling me? If so, there went my theory that he was a closet subbie.

*  *  *


I could feel the stiffened leather of the paddle in my hand and smell the leather of her corset, but the taste in my mouth was the rush of anticipation. Finally. I’d been trying to find a moment, an opening, an opportunity to play with Madison ever since I’d met her on the orientation tour of the dungeon. She put up a strong front—sexy independent woman—so I knew it had to be the right moment. And now, after months and months of waiting, she was finally right where I wanted her, submitting to me.

Well, not exactly submitting, since at this moment—despite readying herself for an ass-beating—she wasn’t acting submissive in the slightest. “You ready?” I asked.

She sneered. “Waiting for you.”

Perfect. This was going to be fun. “So that’s how it’s gonna be.” I tucked the paddle under my arm so I could run my hands over her bare buttocks. Ample and round, ripe for a beating, and all mine to feel as I wished at this moment. She kept her hands against the wall and let me have my way. Apparently she didn’t mind being touched or I was sure I would’ve heard another comment from that smart mouth. She didn’t flinch and I wondered if I could get away with kissing her.


“I’ll count,” I said, and stepped back to take aim. Twenty strokes, eh? She had plenty of real estate down there: ten on each side was barely going to cover each cheek from all angles. But my intention wasn’t to just beat her all to hell. I wanted to make it last. I wanted to make a connection. I’d been biding my time for so long, I wasn’t going to rush through it like some newbie.

I didn’t hit particularly hard, just hard enough to wake up her skin, to pink it up. The sound of the leather smacking her bottom was more arousing than the dirtiest dirty talk I’d ever heard, and the sight of her back arching as I laid on the blows made my cock strain upward in response. Oh, yeah. That was what I wanted. Seeing Madison take what I could dish out made every dom instinct in me sit up and roar.

Frankly, being a dom is a lot of work. In my time in the scene I’d tried everything and everyone—after all, it was practically a rule of being a rock star that the “purity test” was your to-do list. Unless you’re some kind of control freak, there are easier ways to get off than domination. It takes the right partner to be worth it, which was why I didn’t just play with anyone available. But right then, reddening her ass and hearing the paddle go smack, I had no questions about whether Madison was worth it. I wanted to rope her hands and drag her into a private room. I wanted her. Not “for sex,” not for “a girlfriend,”—it wasn’t on that level of thought. It wasn’t a thought at all, in fact. It was pure desire.

And she wasn’t even acting “submissive.” That only made me want her more. A lot of the control freak male doms of the world can’t handle that kind of woman.

But I can.

*  *  *


Chino seemed determined to spread the redness all over my butt. He’d barely gotten one good swat in on each part of my bottom before it was time to switch places.

He handed me the paddle with a little bow and put his hands on the wall. I imitated him, rubbing my hand over the peach fuzz of his buttocks before I took to swinging the paddle. Unlike me, he had hard, tight buns, easy to hit both at once. I swung upward slightly, catching the tender underside with each swat. He gritted his teeth and by the time I neared twenty he was grunting on each blow.

His turn again. “Remember, Madison,” he said as he ran his hand over the striking zone, “all you have to do to make the pain stop is put your hands down.”

I could feel the warm spot on the wall where his hands had been. “Not likely.”

“As you wish.” He stepped back.

This time he hit much harder and it was me who grunted. Apparently he’d gone easy on me for the first round, but since I hadn’t gone easy on him, now the gloves were off. He was putting a full swing on each blow and leaving the paddle against my skin so the studs would dig in. Still, I’d suffered worse. This wasn’t that bad…

Until he got to eleven and I felt my palms prickle with sweat. What was going on? All of a sudden there wasn’t enough oxygen in the room, but as I sucked in breath after breath the feeling only got worse instead of better.

I felt his hand on my shoulder, solid and warm. The blows had stopped and his voice was calm in my ear. “You all right?”

“Of course I’m all right.” I blinked. Wasn’t I? I let out a breath. It was just a little adrenaline rush, I told myself. No big deal.

He sounded amused. “Because it’s your turn.”

“Oh.” I stood straight, my heart still pounding but my head high. “I lost count.”

That smirk again. “Good thing I’m honest, then.” He held out the paddle and I took it, remembering my goal. To wipe that smirk off his cheeky poseur face. His flushed, exhilarated face. That wasn’t the only part of him that was flushed, either. The eager curve of his cock beckoned, a glistening bead of precome at the tip catching my attention. I gave his shaft a couple of quick tugs to surprise him—sometimes a little attention right there would drop a guy into subspace once he realized someone else would do him—but not Chino. He growled low in his throat.

I started paddling him as hard as I could, taking the full backswing and really laying into him. But did he scream? No! The bastard started barking like a dog on each swat!

When I got to twenty I almost threw down the paddle in aggravation, but I took a breath, thinking if I lost my cool I lost the contest. Keep calm and carry on; isn’t that what they say? I gave him a glare as I handed over the paddle and put my hands against the wall again.

The pain of the paddle radiated from my buttocks down my legs and up my spine. But it wasn’t serious enough to be the cause of the tightness in my throat or the stone in my gut. I forced air in and out of my lungs, my eyes clamped shut, trying to figure it out. Maybe I should have eaten more than a granola bar for lunch. Maybe I hadn’t remembered to drink water for a while. I clamped down on everything, knowing all I had to do was outlast him. I focused on that goal.

I felt his hand at the small of my back. His voice was low and firm in my ear. “Your turn.”

“Thank you.” I snapped my eyes open and grabbed the paddle again.

This time I laid into him without a pause between blows, bam-bam-bam, and this time there was no dog barking or cheeky waggling of his ass. This time he threw his head back, his teeth gritted, a long grunt or growl erupting just as I got to twenty.

“Whew,” he said as he let his arms down slowly. “Remind me never to make you mad.”

My jaw dropped. Couldn’t he tell I was mad already? I put my hands against the wall, my thoughts whirling, but it was difficult to think through all the freaking out my body was doing.

The first blow came quickly and I suddenly focused: What exactly was I doing? I shook my head. I knew better than to hit someone in anger. That went against everything I knew and everything I’d been taught about BDSM, against everything I counseled victims of abuse about on the hotline. My knees began to shake as the realization sank in along with the next few blows. I was really out of control. And why? Because Chino was annoying? That was not a good reason to hit someone, even if he did volunteer for it.

A sob caught in my throat as I realized he was slowing down, smoothing his palm down my buttocks between each hit, and then giving me a sharp, corrective swat with the paddle before soothing the sting again. The unexpected feeling welled up that I deserved it, I deserved to be corrected, punished, in front of everyone. How could I have let my emotions get the better of me like that? I was supposed to set an example. I was supposed to enforce the rules, not break them.

“Fifteen,” he said, keeping the count aloud. “Sixteen.”

I swallowed hard, trying to keep all my emotions bottled up. I would not cry. Not in front of everyone. “Chino,” I forced through my tight throat.

He swatted me sharply again. “Seventeen. Remember, Maddie. If you’ve had enough all you have to do is drop your arms.”

I pressed my palms flat against the wall. Could I do it? Could I bring myself to give in?

“Eighteen.” After this one he didn’t soothe the skin and a new sob tried to erupt. Why? Because having that small dab of forgiveness taken away was abruptly soul-crushing.

What the hell was going on in my mind, my heart?

“Nineteen,” he said from right beside me as he swung the paddle…but this time he only placed it lightly against my skin, as if he knew I’d had enough, as if he knew it was only going to take a feather to knock me over. As if even one more gentle tap would be too much.

I dropped my arms and fell into his.

Chapter Two


In the BDSM how-to books and SM 101 seminars they always talk about how people can get blindsided during scenes by unexpected emotions or sudden memories. It had never happened to me before but as Chino led me to a private side room—to collect his “prize” of fifteen minutes to do as he wished—I realized that must be what was going on. Every emotion I could imagine was zinging around inside me like ping-pong balls: anger, shame, fear, sadness, confusion.

And lust. Most confusing of all, I was dripping wet and didn’t know what to do about it.

Well, maybe Chino was going to have his way with me, if his comments to the spectators as he half carried me away were any indication. Axel and Ricki and Sakura had all congratulated him as we’d left the scene. The door closed behind us as he took me into a private room. He swept me literally off my feet then—and I am not a petite girl—picking me up and then laying me down on a bed. I expected him to start unlacing my corset, but I heard him rustling around beside me. Was he getting lube or something?

No, a bottle of water. He cracked it open and encouraged me to sip from it. I concentrated on swallowing, on not spilling it, on handing the bottle back without dropping it. We were in the “princess” room, the one with the four-poster canopied bed. The posts each had pairs of leather cuffs attached, hidden by the canopy. I wondered if Chino knew they were there. I decided not to tell him.


  • "Everyone knows Cecilia Tan is the queen of hot, but she's also the queen of wit and angst and voice. Taking the Lead is a book that grabs you by the collar and gives you flirty-eyes. It will tell you, 'Go sit, over there in the corner chair, and don't get up until you're done.' You will do it-absolutely and happily-because Cecilia knows exactly what you want."—Christina Lauren, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Bastard and Sweet Filthy Boy
  • "Cecilia Tan writes erotic romance the way it was meant to be written: full of emotion, intensity, and chemistry that's so hot it burns the page. Taking the Lead is no exception; it's deliciously sexy and utterly satisfying."—Tara Sue Me, New York Times bestselling author
  • Tan skillfully makes her third Secrets of a Rock Star novel do double duty, first as a wildly creative, enthusiastic, immersive, and incredible hot romance between experienced kinksters, and second as a public service announcement that clearly illustrates the difference between BDSM and domestic abuse. Her portrayals of BDSM will delight the experienced and the curious alike."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Hard Rhythm
  • "In Tan's capable hands, reality doesn't send fantasy crashing down; once engaged, it deepens the connections that make for the best play. This is an outstanding example of the erotic romance genre."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Wild Licks
  • "Cecilia Tan's second Secrets of a Rock Star novel starts off with a bang and doesn't let up."—RT Book Reviews on Wild Licks
  • "Veteran Tan kicks her Secrets of a Rock Star series off with a sultry start. With a satisfying plot and an engaging cast of characters, the only thing slowing readers down will be their refractory period."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Taking the Lead
  • "Seductive fun not to be missed! Cecilia Tan will make all your sexy wishes come true!"—Lisa Renee Jones, bestselling author of If I Were You on SLOW SURRENDER

On Sale
Jan 31, 2017
Page Count
336 pages

Cecilia Tan

About the Author

Cecilia Tan writes about her many passions, from erotic fantasy to baseball. Not only is she an author, but she has also edited more than fifty erotic anthologies and founded her own publishing house, Circlet Press. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and her nonfiction on baseball has been in Baseball Ink, Gotham Baseball magazine, Yankees magazine, Yankees Annual, and elsewhere. Cecilia currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

You can learn more at:
Twitter @ceciliatan

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