Two New Reviews!

First up, Conn has made a new conquest for the dark side (or is that the poetry side?) of BDSM.  KC from Smokin’ Hot Books writes:

Dear Sir I’m Yours was a beautifully written exploration into what I find is one of my top 10 fantasies of the sexy professor and naïve/innocent student. I literally was swept away by her prose and sexy professor Conn who takes submissive Rae on an exploration of her own wants and desires.

The W-2 comment made me snort coffee on my monitor (go read the full review to get the joke!).  She also reviews Holly Summers’ (Victoria Dahl’s) The Wicked West, which I loved too.

Next up, a lovely review for Defiance from Soleil Noir of Beyond the Invisible, in particular, for Storms as She Walks:

This is the most Romance-oriented story out of the lot, but there is so much more too. Joely has a knack for building bonds between her characters, both romantic and platonic. What really brought this story home to me was the dynamic of Thunderer’s regiment. The military-style banter had me in stitches and the battle scenes were beautifully executed.  The romance was a bit tame-for a Burkhart read, which usually scorches off the page- but not in an unsatisfying way. Sweet and fulfilling, it fit perfectly within the confines of its tale.

Hands down my favorite Anthology from Drollerie Press thus far. Probably the best Anthology I’ve read. Ever.

Read the whole review here including Soleil’s detailed comments for Laura Anne Gilman’s and Angela Korra’ti’s stories.

Thank you, Soleil and KC!

Friday Snippet: #Victor

This is the last longer snippet I can do, but I’ll try to torment you with little NaNo snippets throughout the month.  First draft, etc. etc.

“What I want,” he growled out, turning to face her with his most intimidating glare, “is for you to quit playing with me.”

He cursed his poor word choice as soon as they left his lips.

Laughing softly, she stood and began to gather up her presentation.  “I haven’t even begun playing with you yet.”

Damn it all to hell, she gave him her back.  To him!  Uncaring, unafraid, with a little flirty glance over her shoulder, she walked toward the door with her storyboards tucked under her arm.

He pounced, seized her in unforgiving hands, and slammed her against the wall.  He pinned her with his body, using every inch of his taller, stronger, muscled frame to punish her for such audacity, grinding her against the wall.  Storyboards tumbled to the floor.

And the little saucy wench arched into him with a welcoming sigh.

Dropping his forehead against hers, he sucked in a breath and held it for a count of ten, tightening the reins of his control.  “Save it for the show, or I’m going to drag you off to my dungeon and torture you to my heart’s content.”

“Promises, promises.”

He couldn’t help but laugh then.  God, her spirit was unflappable.  “You don’t know what kind of player I am.  I’m on the edge, baby, and as heavy as you can take it.  And then, since I’m a selfish, cruel bastard, I’m going to take you even further.”  He swallowed hard and forced the words out.  “I want to hurt you real bad.”

“Good,” she purred.

“Damn it, don’t you know the difference between sensual pain and downright injured?  Give me some space and time to–”

“Yes, sir.”

He pulled back enough to look into her eyes.  Had he been away from serious play for so long that he’d forgotten the most basic elements of a scene?  Of course she’d rather have his orders.  “On the show, I’m Master V.”  She nodded, staring at him intently.  “Your Master.”

Her body sagged against him and she buried her face against his neck.  “Thank you, sir.”

“Off the show, I’m Victor, your boss and the producer of our show.  No playing, no taunting, all business.”

“And after the show?”

Reluctantly, he backed away, keeping his hands on her until he was sure she was steady on her feet.  She looked up at him with such hope and longing in her eyes that his throat closed off.  He couldn’t breathe.  It’d been so long since a woman had looked at him like that, as though he was her entire world.  As though she’d die if she failed to please him.

“If I haven’t scared you away yet,” he replied, his voice gruff with emotion, “then, God help you, you’re mine.”

Bending down to pick up her scattered boards, she flashed a smile that melted his heart.  The curve of her slim spine and the rounded swell of her buttocks outlined by her skirt made his hand clench in longing for his crop.  “I don’t scare easily, Mr. Connagher.”

“You don’t know me yet, Ms. Holmes.  Now make your escape before I change my mind.”

“If nothing else, you’ve certainly given me incentive to make sure we’re taping as soon as possible.  Don’t be surprised if you get a call to begin this afternoon.”

“Tomorrow is soon enough for taping.  Use Mal to help you get the resources you need, and if either of you have problems, call me.  A few scenes at Silken will be fine, but see if Mal can get creative with a set here.  I’d prefer to spend as little time at the club as possible.”

“All right.  Anything else?”

“Stop by this evening around seven o’clock and fill me in on where everything is.  I live here in the penthouse, and I’ll tell Léon to let you in.”  

He could see the conflicting thoughts flickering in her eyes: a rush of raw lust that she might get him alone in his home warred against uncertainty about another man.  He didn’t fault her for being wary—she couldn’t possibly know his sexual preferences.  Something he hoped to correct very, very soon.  “Léon is my personal assistant and chef.  He’s a friend and employee, nothing more.”

“Sorry, I don’t have any right to question you.”

“Yes, you do.  I have no intention of sharing you, Shiloh, not with another man, not with another Dominant, no one.  I warned you I was a selfish bastard.”

Relaxing, she laughed.  “That kind of selfishness I approve of.”

She paused at the door, her teasing laughter fading to something much more serious.  In a slow, sensuous perusal, she ran her gaze over him.  He could feel the passing of her chocolate gaze like a flaming physical touch, lingering on his throat, shoulders, biceps, and hands.  He knew exactly what she was doing: Assessing the strength of his arm, his ability to deliver a blow exactly where he wanted it, and the formidable might of his will.  He squared his shoulders, widening his stance and shifting his weight back on his heels so the heavy bulge in his pants was prominent and obvious.

With her eyes locked on his groin, she asked in a husky voice, “What if I don’t win top sub for you?” 

“You will, or I’m no Master.”

She jerked her gaze up to his face, her eyes smoldering, her lips as soft and full as though she’d been kissed thoroughly—or had put her mouth to good use.  “To the Victor belong the spoils.” 

Friday Snippet: #Victor

Continuing from last week’s section, first draft, etc.

Hauled up and tossed into a chair, Shiloh sat shaken and confused, staring at Mr. Connagher as he paced back and forth.  She cradled her throbbing hand in her lap.  Each thud of her heart spread that pain like a pulse through her body, melting her bones and priming her for his full attention.

What did I do wrong?

“When we’re alone, then you can call me Victor, a mean sonofabitch, or a low-down dirty bastard, anything you want.”  He jerked to a halt and whirled to face her, his eyes blazing.  “But we need to take care that you’re alone with me as little as possible.”

“I don’t understand,” she said carefully.  “Are you not…available?”

He jerked his hair tighter, and she winced in sympathy for his tortured scalp.  He must have one hell of a headache.  “I’m so available I’m about to tear the seams in my pants.”

Studying his hair kept her gaze from wandering lower to see just how available he might be.   He hadn’t made any outright claims on her, so she didn’t feel like she had the right to ogle him.  Yet.  

“It will be safer for us both if we limit our interaction to the show, at least until I’ve been able to take some of the edge off.”

He looked so glum, then, that she started to rise so she could wrap her arms around him.  Throwing up his hand to ward her off, he resumed his furious pacing while he slapped his right thigh aimlessly.  Her skin heated, tingling with longing.  She wanted those slaps on her body, not his.

The longer he paced, the more he began to favor his left knee, until his limp was pronounced. Victor Connagher had been a college football star on the verge of the NFL when he’d blown his knee in the championship game.  Pictures from his glory days were in the case downstairs.  By all accounts, he would have been a star for any professional team. 

Tears burned her eyes.  Until now, she’d never seen him display any weakness, any hint that the old injury still pained him.

Finally he growled out, “I don’t want to go too fast for you.”

“Too fast?”  She laughed, but it came out harsh to her ears.  “I’ve been planning this show for months, hoping, praying you might…”

That you might need me as badly as I need you. 

Although she’d often seen him around VCONN Tower, she didn’t know how to approach him while at work.  It was just too sleazy for her to come on to him as she’d joked. She’d even gone to a mixer hosted by the bondage club to get an introduction, but the frenzied feeding-ground atmosphere just wasn’t her style.  Besides, he hadn’t been there, neither.  During her research, she’d scanned Silken’s current membership roster, but it hadn’t included his name, which didn’t really surprise her.  Many prominent members would rather keep their names secret or at least low key, which was one of the reasons she’d devised a show where everyone could wear masks. 

Fantasizing about him had only made her attraction worse.  Nothing could touch the aching black hole that expanded day by day deep in her belly.  The pain in her hand only served to wake up that miserable, ravenous monster.  She wanted him with that riding crop in his hand, wicked and hard and wild.  After he’d put that image in her mind, nothing and nobody else would do.

 “How else was I supposed to introduce myself as an interested submissive, a f–” self-censoring in mid-word, she changed to, “freakin’ letter?”  [inside joke for Dear Sir, I’m Yours fans.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.]

He gripped her chin and tilted her face back up to him.  A smile softened his face, but not his grip.  “I’d much rather have this show than a letter.  I’m pleased, Shiloh, more than I can say.”  Shadowed desire flickered in his eyes despite his encouragement and his fingers dug into her cheeks.  Even in trying to comfort her, he wasn’t—couldn’t be—gentle.  “I am available, I promise you, and so attracted that I don’t trust myself right now.  It’s been a long time since I did a scene, and I never…”

His jaws worked back and forth as though it took all his concentration to soften his grip on her face.  Sighing, he released her and turned away.  “I don’t want to seriously hurt you.”

Incredulous, she stared at him, her mind whirling in a frenzy. 

Victor Connagher, the fiercest, most incredible Master she’d ever hoped to meet in her life…was afraid.

Friday Snippet: #Victor

I skipped a few pages since last Friday’s post, both to keep some of the show’s details secret and to get to the juicier stuff.  *winks*  First draft, subject to revision, the cutting floor, etc.  Enjoy!  (Don’t forget to enter the Halloween giveaway to win a copy of The Sweetest Kiss, Ravishing Vampire Erotica!)

Smiling, Victor stood and reached out to take Shiloh’s hand.  “You’ve sold us, Ms. Holmes.  Mal and I will co-produce the show, but I’d like for you to be the showrunner.”

Her eyes gleamed, shimmering with unshed tears.  “Thank you so much, Mr. Connagher.  It’s an honor to work with you.”

He didn’t release her hand and she made no move to pull away.  “Mal, get to work on the contracts for our in-house people.  For sure, lock Georgia into the host position if she’s interested.  We need to be taping by the end of the week.  Preferably tomorrow if we can swing the set.  Make sure every single person down to the lowest gaffer on set signs the confidentiality agreement.  I don’t want a single word of this leaking before we’re ready.”

“I’m on it.”  Mal gave Shiloh a knowing smile and headed for the door.  “Welcome to the team, Ms. Holmes.”

“Just Shiloh, please,” she said, smiling.

The door shut.  Victor watched the emotions flaring in her eyes and across her face.  Pure, sunny excitement, lip-biting anticipation, growing warmth in her eyes the longer she stared back at him.  Slowly, he tightened his fingers.  Her breathing caught, quickened, and her eyes turned smoky and heavy-lidded without a single hint of fear.

“If I must be one of the judges competing for the title of Master, then you must be a,” barely, he managed to avoid saying my, “submissive for the show.”

She rolled her bottom lip between her teeth and it was all he could do not to lean down and place his own teeth on that tender flesh.  “I hope it’s not too presumptuous of me to admit that’s exactly what I planned.”

He squeezed harder, waiting for that little gasp of pain that said he’d gone far enough…so he could go just a little bit further.  “There were easier ways to approach me than to devise an entire show to lure yourself into my clutches.”

She laughed out a low groan that was music to his ears.  God, it had been entirely too long since he’d worked a responsive sub over and enjoyed that symphony of pain and pleasure.  “It wouldn’t have been very professional of me to prance into your office stark naked.”

“Not professional,” he agreed, drawing her closer.  “But a damned pretty sight.  Are you going to be able to handle showrunner duties as well as putting up with me on set?”

“Of course.”  She blinked away some of the haze darkening her eyes.  “I’ve dreamed of nothing else for months.  I can do it, Mr. Connagher.”

He squeezed harder, his grip brutal, he knew, crushing her delicate hand in his own big palm that could still throw a football in a perfect spiral at fifty yards.  Greedy, starved, he felt as crazed as an addict who’d fallen off the wagon after years of abstinence.

She whimpered, a cry that sliced his heart into ribbons even while lighting a fire in his blood that wanted her writhing and screaming, begging him to stop.

It’s better to know now, he tried to console himself, waiting for her to jerk away.  Maybe she’d slap him and stomp out of VCONN entirely.  It would be the best for both of them.  Certainly safer than putting herself into his hands, hoping he’d have the mercy and decency to control himself without committing serious harm.

Knees crumpling, she fell against him, sliding down his legs so she knelt at his feet.  Rubbing her cheek against his stomach, she twisted her head so she could look up at him.  “What may I call you, sir?”

Samhain Free Reads

If you’re looking for free Halloween reads — and other holiday stories in the upcoming months — check out Samhellion!  They’ve been giving away stories the last few weeks and will continue through Christmas.  Today, my free sequel “Take Me” to Dear Sir, I’m Yours, is available for download.

(You can always find my free stories on the Free Reads page or at Scribd.)

I’ll post about a Halloween giveaway here later today, so stay tuned!

Friday Snippet: Victor

Continuing from last week’s post.  First draft, subject to the cutting floor and massive revisions, etc.

Mal waited until the other woman left the room as asked, carefully pulling the door shut behind her.  “Did you see the look on her face when you said you prefer the crop?”

Victor took a moment to respond.  Indeed he had seen the flare of darkness in Shiloh’s eyes, the softening of her luscious mouth, and the pink flash of her tongue across those tempting lips.  She hadn’t been repulsed by his admission, not at all.  When he’d regained control of his voice, he answered, “Yes.”

“And did you notice her likeness in the–”

“Of course I did,” he snapped, jerking his legs down off the table so he could pace.

“So what’s the problem?”

“It’s complicated.”

“She wasn’t on my staff for Internet Secrets, so it’s highly unlikely that she’s your spy. Her entire body screams submission when she looks at you, she’s perky, creative, and well liked by everyone on her team.  Her instincts are dead on and she’s developed an incredible show that’s perfect for you and VCONN.  If you snapped your fingers and ordered her to heel, she’d be at your feet in a heartbeat.”

He made himself halt in front of the window and jerked the blinds open.  Blindly, he stared out at downtown Dallas, blinking his eyes against the light.  “That’s not what I want.”

“I’m worried about you.”  Mal joined him at the window but he couldn’t bear to see the sympathy in her gaze, so he pretended extreme interest in the skyline.  “You haven’t been serious about anyone in years.”

Since Kimberly, echoed in the silence.  Despite his friend’s care not to mention his ex-fiancée’s name, he still winced.  “I’ve dated.”

“You’ve taken women to charity events,” Mal said in a flat, careful voice.  “You may have even taken them to your bed.  But you haven’t taken a woman who knows your true needs and makes damned sure you’re satisfied.”

He couldn’t help the twitch of his mouth into a grim, sad smile that matched the emotions he kept buried in his heart.  “No one can satisfy me.”

With a growl, she thumped him on the back.  “Don’t give me that crap.  You and I share many of those darker urges and you know I’m more than happy with Andy.  He needs me as much as I need him.  He likes me mean and nasty with a flail in my hands.”

“Kimberly knew what kind of man I am.”  Each word sliced Victor’s throat like razorblades.  “We met at Silken.  She still couldn’t deal with the truth.”

“She liked you well enough to accept your engagement ring and enjoy your money for months.”  Mal didn’t bother keeping the disdain out of her voice.  “She used you.  She wanted a top who would tie her up and dedicate hours to her enjoyment, without demanding anything from her in return.  She acted like it was a privilege for you to devote hours to her pleasure.  She never took care of you.  She never loved you.”

“That’s unfair.  I know she loved me.”  Victor closed his eyes.  Kimberly’s delicate face blazed in his mind, an image from the night she’d left him.  Tears streaked her face, her eyes wide, white, rolling with terror while she babbled her safeword over and over, a litany to save her from the nightmare.  She’d sobbed in his arms for an hour before leaving for good, and he’d never forget her parting accusation.  You hurt me.  “She couldn’t handle heavy edge play.”

And I’m always on the edge.  He shook his head ruefully.  The sad fact was that the longer he denied himself, the sharper and more vicious that edge became.

“She couldn’t have loved you, not the way you deserve,” Mal insisted.  “Not if she couldn’t handle your kink.  You’re punishing yourself, V, and I hate it.  I hate seeing you close yourself behind prison bars just because one sub couldn’t deal with the full Master.”

“It’s not just one and you know it.  I’ve trained dozens of bottoms over the years, introduced them to the scene, and time after time, they leave me and move on to another top.  Someone safer.  And I can’t say that I blame them.”

He finally met his friend’s gaze and let all the disappointments and failures of his thirty-six years weigh in his gaze.  “I’m tired, Mal.  I’m tired of breaking in the young ones while knowing full well that they’ll never be able to handle my kind of needs.  I’m too old for this shit.”

“You’re burned out.”

“No.  Far from it.”  Victor smiled and even the strongest, proudest Mistress in Dallas flinched and dropped her gaze.  It took constant control to keep that vicious clawing need buried deeply enough for him to function like a normal human being.  “I’m a sadist in the truest sense of the word.   Why do you think I didn’t make a play for Shiloh months ago?  My brief meet-and-greet interview with her after she was hired almost set my desk on fire.  It’s been pure hell to know she’s been under my power here at VCONN this entire time, close, available, as attracted to me as I am to her, but there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.  All it takes is one phone call to the police, one trip to the hospital, and I won’t have to worry about this season’s ratings.  I’ll be in prison.”

“I know the risks all too well, but that’s why it’s important not to shut yourself off from the people who understand.  You quit going to Silken—”

“For good reason,” Victor said dryly.  “My ex-fiancée married the owner.”

“Which is why I started hosting my own parties, but you always refuse to come.  You can’t just turn off being a Master no matter how much you want to.  Why else do you think Shiloh picked up on your vibe?  You can’t help broadcasting your power, and she’s not afraid of you.”

“Yet.”  He destroyed the small hope that threatened to sprout.  “The green ones always start out interested, but a little bondage and spanking are typically all they want.  Anything heavier sends them running for the hills.  I can’t do the light stuff any more and pretend that’s enough.  I just can’t.  I need…”

He jerked his ponytail tight enough his eyes watered.  He relished the small pain.  It sharpened him, woke him up, made him feel alive and in control.  He needed pain, and if he couldn’t give it to somebody else, then he’d at least give it to himself.

“In her storyboards, did that whip in your hand look like a toy?  What about those stripes on her back?  She knows, V.  She’s offering you a blatant invitation to try her out under the guise of this show.  This is your chance to approach her in a safe, controlled environment.”

“If she freaks out, the show is ruined and the season goes down the shitter.”

“We can do nothing and the season still goes down the shitter.  Or,” Mal drawled out, “Master V and his new sub melt everyone’s socks off and the show is the biggest hit in Dallas history.”

He took a deep breath and let the big picture form in his mind.  He’d always had the ability to scan the field of play in an instant, evaluate the defense, and guess which receiver was most likely going to break free for the big play.  His competitive senses vibrated with excitement.  Win it all and go home with the trophy, or lose and cry in the mud, at least he’d never been afraid to play the game.

He’d been The Victor, the leader who took his team to victory, no matter the cost.

This was the biggest game he’d ever played in his life.  This game was for his heart, and he always played to win.

“Well then.  I guess we have ourselves a new show.”

A Victor Snippet

I’ll try to get back into the habit of posting Friday Snippets.  Since it’s Victor all October, November, and December (if needed) until this book is done, you’re stuck with him.  You might get something else briefly, but only if I get an alien vampire bunny idea by the end of the month, and not all snippets will be as long as this one.  Eventually, I’ll get far enough into the book that you’ll only get a few paragraphs at a time so I don’t give away the farm.

This section follows the one I posted a few days ago and is the first planned section in Shiloh’s POV (although I may or may not end up with blog entries eventually).  What I absolutely love about this section is how Shiloh plays Victor, leading him exactly where she wants him to go.  She might be submissive in the bedroom, but she’s a determined little fireball!

“Thank you so much for the opportunity, Mr. Connagher.”  Nerves made Shiloh talk faster than usual.  “I’ve been working on this idea for months.”

For you.

Standing at the head of the conference table–just inches from Victor Connagher himself–she found herself practically babbling.  From a distance, he commanded an aura of impressive power.  Up close and personal, she felt his presence like an thunderstorm tearing the sky with constant lightning.

With his sleek suit and ostentatious cowboy boots, he played the part of the wealthy Texan CEO impeccably.  Yet no matter how hard he tried to appear civilized and suave, there was something barbarous hidden behind his corporate shields.  His hair, for one, was highly rebellious, falling in a glossy black tail down his back.  He kept it pulled back tightly, accentuating the harsh planes of his face, but her fingers itched to tug that hair loose and muss it up.

She wanted to muss him up.

Her instincts insisted that the expensive suit and business-like demeanor were merely a front.  Beneath his calm, controlled façade hid the star quarterback she knew he’d been years ago before an injury forced him to quit.  That man liked to be sweaty, dirty, and just a bit bloody as he battled toward the endzone.

Now if he only likes his sex the same way.

As their sexy lineup implied, everyone at VCONN was open in their sexuality.  Everyone except the CEO.  His incredible charisma and sex appeal screamed make-me-whimper Dominant, but she couldn’t be sure.  It wasn’t like she could simply walk up before her boss’s desk, strip off her clothes, and–

Shuddering, she pushed that favorite night-time fantasy into the back corner of her mind and concentrated on her pitch.  “VCONN has already established a reputation for envelope-pushing programming about sexuality, while managing to portray alternative sexual practices in a positive and healthy light.  It’s a fine line between edgy sex and porn, but VCONN has succeeded.”  Deliberately, she paused and met his hooded gaze.  “For the most part.”

His left eyebrow shot up but otherwise he remained implacable.

She’d used the past months to study Victor Connagher with the single-minded dedication of the most besotted submissive.  It only took one glance at the trophy case in the lobby displaying all his awards and championships to realize that he hated to lose.  She needed to bait him into accepting her challenge—without squashing her like a bug.

“One area where VCONN could stand to improve is education.  Obviously, no one wants to watch a sex ed class, but with some high-interest reality TV and titillating challenges to balance the educational information about BDSM, I think America’s Next Top sub could take VCONN to the next level.”

“Reality TV’s been done to death.”  He dusted invisible lint off his trousers in a careless slapping swipe of his palm that made every muscle in her body go on high alert.  He had big, powerful hands that would torture–or please–exquisitely.  With those magnificent hands, he could break her into little pieces like kindling and she’d go with a smile on her face.

“Not a BDSM reality show.  Nobody’s risked it.”

“It’s a hot idea.”  Ms. Kannes’ rich, exotic voice matched her coppery skin perfectly.  Shiloh hadn’t needed to see Malinda’s pictures all over the Dallas bondage club to recognize a formidable Mistress.  With her unusual amber eyes that pierced to the bone, she could make anyone, man or woman, scurry to do her will.  Anyone except Victor Connagher.  “My worry is getting contestants in quickly enough.  And what about the set?  We’re on an extremely tight timeframe.  To be frank, the only reason you’re getting a shot at this season at all is because we had a last-minute cancellation.”

“I’ve already worked through the contestant angle,” Shiloh added quickly.  “Part of my research and planning stage was to meet with the local BDSM club’s director.  We could easily make use of Silken’s facilities and their more experienced staff, as well as ours.”

Mr. Connagher’s eyebrow climbed even higher, at odds with the subtle rumble of intensity building in his voice.  “Do you mean we should ask VCONN employees to participate as contestants?”

Reality show is a misnomer,” Shiloh replied calmly, even though every nerve in her body was humming.  She had his attention.  The hook was baited and he was nibbling.  She couldn’t haul him in too quickly or she’d lose him entirely.  “Even long-running reality shows control their settings and select their contestants very carefully.  We know our goal is positive education combined with the entertainment factor of a reality show, so we pick contestants we already know portray the right attitudes and knowledge about BDSM.  It’ll be much easier if we take volunteers from your staff.”

“You’re suggesting we stack the deck.”  Ms. Kannes was unable to hide the gleam of interest in her eyes, but Mr. Connagher was impossible to read.  His eyes were too dark, solemn and intent—the better to see her every weakness.  “I’m assuming you’ll have some sort of prize for the winning contestant.  How do we keep everyone happy when only one person wins?”

“It’s a BDSM show.”  Shiloh let a sultry smile curve her lips, but she didn’t look directly at him.  She didn’t trust herself not to plop down into his lap.  “If we set up the correct challenges, everyone will go home extremely happy regardless of who wins.”

He checked his watch, warning that his patience was almost gone.  “Either this is a reality show or it’s not.  There has to be a winner, and I won’t stand for cheating among my own employees.”

“It’s a dual competition.”  Shiloh fought not to blurt out her response in a desperation plea.  “We’ll have submissives competing to win the Dominants’ favor, but also a single Dominant could win the title of Master, if he selects the correct submissive to win it all.”

Ms. Kannes laughed. “By God, Victor, it’s brilliant.  I could compete as one of the Dominants, with my submissive as one of the contestants.  Patrick could compete too, and that would give us another two or three submissives, depending on who’s in his stable right now.  If we can get another couple from Silken, then we’d have an interesting mix of newbies and experienced players.  The experienced ones would be teaching the rest, as well as having a little friendly competition among us all.”

Frowning, Mr. Connagher shook his head.  “There’s not going to be much drama between you and Patrick–you’re too evenly matched and know each other too well.”

Shiloh let out her breath and took a step closer to him, waiting until his gaze swung to her.  “That’s why you should compete.”

His eyes narrowed to slits, his mouth flattened into a hard slant, and his shoulders squared, chest broad and muscular in a universal signal of male dominance that his suit couldn’t conceal.

Her heart froze a moment and then exploded into a rapid, thunderous pace that made her ears roar.  He didn’t refuse outright, though, which gave her the courage to continue.  “The show needs a Master with a capital M.  Someone who’ll really bring the competition to a peak.  Based on our demographics, it should be a male, and preferably, his submissive should be female.  It will be even more exciting if he’s unattached, so the unowned submissives all feel like they have a chance of winning his attention.  The ultimate prize, then, will be the Master’s collar, not money like the typical reality show.”

Evidently he didn’t like that idea at all.  Silence stretched out, painful and heavy, his midnight eyes locked on her.  Her mouth went dry and her heart hammered, but she stood her ground without blinking or flinching in the wake of his intensity.  She didn’t even dare breathe.

“You presume, then, that I’m not only a Dominant, but also a man who’d be interested in a giggling, immature submissive who’s incapable of any sort of serious play.”  He blew out his breath in a low snort and turned to the other woman.  “As though I’d give my collar to someone just because they thought they’d won a television show that we set up from the very beginning.”

Sucking in a deep breath, Shiloh squeezed her hands together so hard she felt her nails digging into her skin.  She fought to hide the fierce elation burning through her.  He might be dismissive, but she’d been right all along.  He did have a collar, he was a Dominant, and if she played this right, it’d be impossible for him to back out.  The competitor in him demanded excellence in all things, even a reality show.

Feigning indifference, she shrugged and turned away from the table.  “Then perhaps you can recommend another Master.”

Shuffling through her carefully researched boards, she moved the most important one to the front.  Her best friend and roommate—who just happened to be a graphic design artist—had helped with the artwork.  A masked man stood on a dais, dressed like an English riding master with a wicked-looking whip in his right hand.  Despite the costume, the man bore a marked resemblance to VCONN’s CEO.

Contestants knelt in an arc before him, all in submissive positions, head down, some stretched out prostrate before him.  Two others stood on the steps to the dais but lower than him, a man and woman, also in Victorian riding wear.  Despite their higher position than the contestants, they inclined their heads to the man above.

In bold letters across the top, the board read: One Master to rule them all.

“V,” Ms. Kannes breathed out, her eyes bright.  “You’re perfect!”

“I don’t want to do it.”  Yet he stared at the board, his right hand opening and closing into a fist, as though he ached to reach out and grab that whip.  “There’s no way in hell I’m unleashing that side of me on a bunch of–”

Shiloh pulled out the next storyboard and his voice fell off.  In this sketch, a woman knelt at the Master’s feet and leaned against his legs.  One hand was wrapped around his thigh, the other fisted in his shirt as though she was trying to climb his body.  Her face was pressed against him with her hair pulled aside to bare her back.  Long red stripes marked her skin and the Master’s whip curled around her vulnerable body with the heading: One sub to please the Master — in any way he wishes.

He ground out, “It’s all wrong.”

Shiloh’s heart plummeted and her shoulders slumped with defeat.  She’d gambled everything on this show.  If he didn’t like it, then she’d totally misunderstood every single signal she’d picked up from him. She’d even had her friend stylize the winner after her, a deliberate message to him, if only he were paying attention.

She’d planned this stupid show down to the smallest detail, dreaming about winning it all.  Wrapping herself around him.  Learning to please him in every single possible way he’d ever dreamed.  Winning him.

Her eyes felt hot and dry, and her bottom lip trembled.  It was ridiculous to be heartbroken over a man who’d never touched her.  Never looked into her eyes and burned with need.  Never taken her on a long, hard ride to a sweetly painful submission they’d never forget.

“You came very close, Ms. Holmes.”

She whipped her head up.

Victor Connagher gave her a hard smile of teeth and dominance that wound her heart into knots and sent icy chills dripping down her spine.  “I can live with the English riding style.”  He kicked back in his chair and propped his limited edition Lucchese boots on the edge of the conference table.  “But this Master only uses a riding crop.”

A Victor Snippet

To be honest, I think some of my difficulties with Victor’s story lie in my uncertainty about he’ll be perceived.  He’s not an easy, likeable man to write.  One of the first clues:  I didn’t know what kind of clothes he wore, but I knew from the very beginning that he prefers a riding crop.  *wince*  So I’m going to have to work hard to make sure he comes across as wickedly sexy and not cruel.

In many ways, I know him much better than I know Shiloh.  I know what his hang-ups are.  I know his deep dark fears and they’re very real and play a huge part in the story.  I’m beginning to fall into the rhythm of his story — and it is his story — so I think it’s time to crack open the door and let you have a sneak peek.

This snippet is from Chapter One as of today but may be revised or even end up on the cutting floor before I’m finished.  First draft only, you know the deal.  I’m playing around with the title, too.  I was going to call this story Gifted, but that’s not feeling right.  I think a play on the saying “to the victor belong the spoils” might be fun.  Belong to The Victor, maybe?  Oh, hell if I know.  We went through probably 50 titles or more for Dear Sir, I’m Yours, before we got it right.  Anyway, this snippet gives you a clue to why I first called this story “ANTs.”

Without further ado, Victor.

“We have a spy.”  Victor Connagher, CEO of Dallas cable channel VCONN, paused the show playing on the large flat-screen television hung on the wall behind him.

Secret Fantasies blazed in neon across the screen with the tagline “On the internet, any secret fantasy can be a dream come true.”

“It’s certainly no coincidence that KDSX is running a spot announcing a new show remarkably like our new fall lineup, down to the same idea of secret identities and baring all secrets online.  What’s the name of our show still in production?”

Internet Secrets,” Malinda Kannes bit off each word.  As the show’s producer, she was taking the leak the hardest.  “I’m sorry, Victor.  We’ve kept the show very quiet, even inside VCONN.  It had to be someone on my production staff or the show itself.”

He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers, projecting a calm and controlled attitude.  Inside, though, he burned.  He’d built VCONN up from a third-rate cable channel running Grandma’s Cooking and Bob the Garage Guy to a smoldering, risqué adult show that everyone in Dallas tittered about–and tuned in eagerly each night to be shocked, appalled, and yes, aroused.  Internet Secrets was supposed to be their premier fall show to conquer KDSX, their number one copycat competitor.

Evidently copycat wasn’t good enough for them any longer; they had to steal his shows outright.

Internet Secrets is scrapped,” Victor announced.

Mal didn’t argue, although two red blotches blazed on her cheeks.  After years of friendship, he knew that she’d be working her boyfriend over hard tonight, much to his enjoyment.  There was a reason that VCONN aired such politically incorrect and sexy shows: Just about every single one of VCONN’s employees enjoyed a secret kink, starting with the CEO.

Victor leaned forward and pinned each of his employees with his gaze one by one.  Mal met his gaze evenly, but the others paled and dropped their gazes after just a few seconds of his intensity.  Out of guilt?  Or simple respect to the years of power he’d built here as CEO?  He couldn’t be sure.

“We need a new show,” he said softly.  “Only a handful of people will work on it.  That way it’ll be very easy for me to identify our spy.”  He couldn’t help but smile, then, even though he knew it betrayed the consummate businessman mask he wore.  He’d relish punishing their leak with his own hands.  “And we need this new show in production today.”

“What a coincidence,” Mal drawled, some of her ire at losing her pet project fading.  “I have someone waiting outside to pitch her latest idea.  I thought it was pretty hot myself.”

“Excellent.  The rest of you are dismissed.”

Unspoken, his distrust hung in the close, tight air of the conference room like a discordant note.  VCONN was a small but prosperous company, and he hated not being able to trust his own employees.  His gut protested that his management team was solid, but at this point, he couldn’t risk it.  He refused to throw away their fall season, even if he must hurt a few kind souls who were innocent.

However, his resolve weakened as soon as he saw the person who’d come to pitch the new show idea.

Shiloh Holmes shook Mal’s hand and with a bright smile, turned to him.  He felt the impact like a quarterback sack from his blind spot.  She was one of those people who managed to brighten up the room as soon as she entered.  Literally, it felt as though someone had yanked open the blinds and let the Texas sun come pouring into the darkened cavernous room.

Meeting his gaze head on with a saucy little grin that tightened his groin, Shiloh took his hand and it was all he could do not to squeeze his fingers incrementally until she cried out.  He had a feeling it wouldn’t be a whimper of pain, but a welcoming purr of desire.

He forced himself to release her and shot a dark gaze at Mal, who wore a particularly smug little Cheshire smile.  Why all these cat metaphors? He growled at himself, but he knew, oh, he knew.  From her very first interview at VCONN nearly a year ago, Shiloh had reminded him of a purring, tawny kitten winding around his ankles.  A kitten that simply begged him to pick her up by the scruff of her neck and carry her home.

Frustrated, he reached back and jerked the ponytail holding his shoulder-length hair tighter.  The CEO of the company could not come onto one of his employees without opening himself up for sexual harassment charges, let alone a boss with his particular proclivities.

Watching her set up her storyboards, he tried to pinpoint exactly what attracted him so strongly.  It was more than her honey-brown hair that curled and bounced about her face, her dark chocolate eyes, and her lush, curvy body.  She was attractive, yes, but he’d known or worked with many other beautiful women who’d never tempted him like Shiloh.

No, it was the way she managed to meet his gaze directly, even with her head tilted slightly in come-hither shyness–or a position of unconscious surrender.  Her bubbly personality was warm, open, and charming, yet she also managed to throw down an unspoken challenge at him.

Try to break me.  I can take whatever you give me.

Surrender and challenge at the same time–a dichotomy that compelled him to investigate.  Clenching his jaws, he breathed deeply, forcing that thought away.  She couldn’t possibly know about…

He read the title of her proposed show and caught himself tapping his fingers on his right thigh.  Maybe she did know after all.

America’s Next Top sub: Submit to the Master.

Free Read Take Me: The Finale

I hope you’ve enjoyed Rae’s first Halloween at Beulah Land.  Here’s the final snippet of “Take Me.”  I’ll get a pdf up on the Free Reads page in a few days.   Warning:  explicit sex, spanking, and a sappy sweet ending!

How could she be lost?  Rae had made the five-minute trek from his cottage on the edge of Miss Belle’s property to her house every day for weeks.  At night with ghostly fog blanketing the trees and hills into an unrecognizable landscape, nothing looked familiar.

Wheezing for breath, she stumbled and slipped through the darkness.  Trees crowded the endless path, branches snagging at her hair that had long ago tumbled loose.   Her headdress was tangled up in a thorny patch at least a hundred yards back. The air was so damp and heavy she couldn’t pull it into her compressed lungs.  Light-headed, she didn’t dare slow, not with the heavy crashing thuds behind her.  He didn’t have to run to keep up with her panicked flight hampered by the unfamiliar clothing. 

The steady thwack of the sheath against the tree trunks directly behind her sent a fresh flood of delicious anxiety flooding through her veins. The leather sheath bit much deeper than his hand ever did.  She could still feel the burning marks he’d managed to land: White-hot fire spread to a melting heat that threatened to liquefy her bones.  If she slowed, she knew what she’d get.

So why do I want him to catch me?

Rae searched for a place to hide, some wall or door she could fling up to block his path.  Nothing would stop him for long, but she needed a minute to gather her wits, calm her knotted stomach, and catch her breath before she passed out.

Her ankle turned on a stone.  The plain leather shoe slipped off, tripping her even worse.  She felt herself falling and flung out her bound hands, flailing for something to catch. Nothing would break her fall into the jagged stones and mud. 

The chemise, she sobbed silently.  It’ll be ruined.  Mom worked so hard on it!

A powerful arm snaked around her waist and whirled her around.  A hard shoulder slammed into her stomach.  She hung down his back, dizzy and upside down, but that didn’t stop her from fighting.  She drummed her fists against his back and kicked and squirmed against his grip, until he clamped his hand on her buttocks—beneath the chemise.  Those powerful fingers squeezed hard and then pushed between her thighs in a rough caress.  And damn her traitorous body, but her thighs fell open and a ragged moan escaped her lips.

He laughed, a low, wicked chuckle that sent fury whipping through her.  She reached lower, grabbed his leather-clad ass for leverage, and sank her teeth into his flank.

Hissing beneath his breath, he jerked her off his shoulder and tossed her backward.  She tried to shriek, but the corset made it sound more like a squawk as she landed in a pile of hay. 

Lying tumbled on her back, looking up at the grim-faced warrior who stood with feet braced wide apart and eyes dark with lust, Rae swallowed hard and tried not to whimper.

Hurry, please hurry.

He yanked his shirt over his head.  His hands settled on the enclosure of his pants, and she broke.  Rolling, she scrambled to her knees, skidding and wading through hay.

He slammed into her, carrying her back down into the straw with his full body weight.  Hay dug into her cheek and stabbed through the linen.  For long agonizing moments, he simply lay on top of her, his breath hot and heavy against her face, the raw scent of sweaty, aroused warrior filling her nose.

In a low voice more like the professor’s and not the barbarian’s, he whispered, “’In mind a slave to every vicious joy;/ From every sense of shame and virtue wean’d.’”

He was testing her, waiting to see if she would give her safe word and call the whole thing off.  If she were so terrified she couldn’t manage to quote something back to him, he’d take that instead of Ozymandias.  This was her last chance to wave the white flag—or snap the red one directly on the bull’s nose. 

He despised his first name, so…

“I always knew you were a fiend, Verrill Connagher.  ‘Fickle as wind, of inclinations wild.’”

He sighed out her name against her cheek, his lips tender, and then his fingers tightened incrementally on her hair until her eyes burned.  Leisurely, he shifted to his knees, straddling her thighs.  He worked the chemise out from beneath his knees so he could flip the skirt up.  Air chilled the backs of her thighs and buttocks, but the heat of his gaze made her flesh burn.

“Very good, darlin’,” he purred, kneading both cheeks in his big hands.  “I commend you on your historical accuracy.  But first–”  He tossed his shirt down by her head.  “–Put this under your face.”  

She couldn’t help but laugh then, albeit raggedly, for even while playing the role of the bezerker who would ravish the helpless maiden, he still remained in control—and cared—enough to make sure she didn’t end up looking like a pincushion with hay sticking out of her face.  Deep down, he feared he was a very, very bad man who might hurt her beyond her tolerance for pain, but his tenderness even in the midst of his “forbidden” fantasy confirmed the truth she already knew in her heart.

Conn was a wickedly passionate, fiercely dominant man who loved her too much to ever really hurt her.

Burying her face in the damp linen, she moaned deep in her throat, grateful the sound was muffled by the cloth.  The shirt smelled like him and was almost as good as having her face tucked against his throat.

Fisting a hand in her hair to ensure she stayed put, he kneed her thighs apart.  Leather rubbed against the tender inner skin of her thighs.  He rammed his knee up higher, grinding against her, while he trailed the sheath along her hip, the small of her back, her ribcage.  He let her think about it long and hard, how that sheath had cut across her skin, sharp and intense.  The harmless implement could be oh so vicious on her tender skin if he chose to be brutal. 

Her muscles coiled and flinched, trying to anticipate where he’d land the first blow.  Leather stroked higher, teasing a path of trembling fire along the curve of her breast, her shoulder, her cheek, even across her lips.  Then it whistled backward and cracked across her ass.

Crying out, she jerked away from the blow, from him, ignoring the pull on her scalp.  It burned, too much, surely too much—but he rubbed his thigh against her and the pain blurred to something else.  Molten heat curled within her.  He fed that fire, expertly landing scattered blows to her backside and outer thighs, keeping the pressure against her groin until she sobbed out his name and shuddered beneath him. 

He wrapped his left hand around her nape and it was like he’d cut the puppet strings commanding her body.  Something about his hand on her neck always turned her body into mush.  She burned, inside and out, a throbbing, stinging mess of tears and sweat and longing, but she couldn’t move a muscle.

“Next time, wear my collar.  It matches your costume perfectly.”

She shifted her head in as much of a nod as he allowed, but that wasn’t enough for him, not in this mood.  He gripped her right hip and jerked her back to her knees, keeping her head pinned low.  “I gave you an order, Rae.”

“Yes, sir,” she gasped out, digging her fingers into his shirt beneath her cheek.

He lowered his chest against her back and his heat seared her through the thin linen.  “Why do you wear my collar?”

“Yours,” she panted, pushing her hips back as hard as she could.  He rubbed against her folds, letting her feel his thickness, but he didn’t slide inside.  Her heart pounded, her ears roared, and she ached so badly it hurt more than any blow he’d ever thought to deliver.  “I need you, Conn, please!”

“For centuries, women were chattel,” he growled out against her ear.  “A man saw what he wanted, and he took it.  He ran her down, slung her to the ground, threw up her skirts, and took his pleasure.  Just like I’m going to take you now.”

He slammed deep, so deep, without any hesitation.  He knew she was ready.  He knew what she wanted.  And she wanted him out of control, reckless, taking his pleasure.

Taking her pinned, helpless, willing body as hard as he wanted.

Why on earth would he think she might be afraid of this?  Of him?  A strange sense of power welled within her, fueled by his deep, pounding thrusts and the low, guttural sounds from his chest. 

Only I could ever give him this fantasy. 

This time it was his turn to groan out her name on a shuddering cry of pleasure.  “Rae, my Rae, my love.”

#

Conn cradled her in his arms, and she nuzzled deep into his throat, her arms around his neck.  She made a delicious hum of contentment against his skin.

“Where are we, anyway?”

“The old barn.”  He scanned the hay to make sure they’d gotten everything.  She was still missing at least a shoe and her kirtle, while he needed to go back and fetch his sword.  All before his noisy grandma noticed half of Rae’s clothing scattered all over the property.

He frowned, noting the condition of the hay.  It was fresh and golden yellow, not dried out and musty.  Nobody had used this barn for years; all the livestock had been sold ages ago because the Healys had been overseas for most of his adult life.  So why would there be fresh hay in this old ramshackle building?

He carried Rae home and all he could think about was the day he would carry her across the threshold as Mrs. Connagher.  He hadn’t formally asked her yet, although she knew very well what he wanted.  Once she’d come into his bed he had absolutely every intention of getting his ring on her finger and his name on hers.

But the timing had to be right.  He’d only ask when he was assured of her answer.  He knew she loved him, but was she ready to marry him?  Could she put up with his bossy, demanding ways for the rest of her life?  Had she enjoyed letting him ravish her senseless as much as he thought—or days from now, would she lie awake, alone and scared, and wish that she’d escaped him before it was too late?

She squirmed in his arms so he set her on her feet.  “Look!  Who did that?”

He’d been so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn’t even notice the strange stack of items on his doorstep.  His sword was propped in the doorframe, her shoe hooked over the hilt, her kerchief tied around the pommel, and her red gown carefully folded into a neat package.

“Your sword weighs a ton,” Rae said.  “Surely Miss Belle didn’t carry it all the way down here.”

“I wouldn’t put it past her.”  He stroked her cheek, searching her gaze for any regrets or hesitation.  “You all right?”

“Mmmm,” she stretched up and brushed her mouth against his.  “There’s just one thing troubling me.”

He narrowed his eyes, braced to hear the worst.  Dear God above, don’t leave me, not now.  It’ll kill me to lose you.

“If I’m going to occasionally wear your collar in public, then don’t you think it only fair that I wear your ring too?”

“Rae, darlin’, are you…”  He swallowed and cupped her face in both shaking hands.  “Are you asking me to marry you?”

“Yes, I believe I am.  On one condition,” she said firmly, pulling her head back and glaring up into his eyes.  “If you tell Miss Belle—or God forbid, your mother—before I’m ready, then I will chase you with your sword this time.”

“They’re going to know when they see my ring on your hand.”  Conn hooked his arms beneath her ass and lifted her up high in his arms.  It was all he could do not to whoop like an idiot at the top of his lungs.  “’Damaetas ran through all the maze of sin,/ And found the goal when others just begin.’  You’re my goal, darlin’.  You always have been.  Do you have any idea how much I love you?”

Laughing, she stroked her fingers over his face.  “I think you just showed me out in that old barn.”

Her laughter cut off and she stiffened in his arms.  “Rae?  What is it?”

“I thought…”  She searched the shadows, so he turned and scanned the trees, too, but he didn’t see anything.  “They were just there.  Two people, walking hand-in-hand up the path.  I could have sworn it was Miss Belle, but whose hand would she be holding?”

Only Colonel Healy’s, and he’d been dead for a decade.  Chills rippled down Conn’s spine but he threw open the door and carried Rae inside.  “Happy Halloween, darlin’.”