“So you’re a pilot as well as an assassin.” Lady Wyre had traded in the slightly scorched gown for a high-waisted spotlessly delicate linen that made Sig shake his head. “What other talents do you possess?”
The linen was so fine and thin he could see the darker hint of her thighs despite the petticoats she wore. The hem and bodice were thickly covered with silver embroidery and pearls. On Britannia, she’d be the perfect picture of a genteel lady heading to her country house. She’s got a lot to learn about living on the run.
They slipped through the heavily armed Britannia shields using a tiny backdoor loophole he’d paid a small fortune to open. Breathing a little easier, he initiated the illegal contraband engine he’d acquired from a desperate Razari. It’d need a bit to warm up, but once charged, they’d hit Kali Kata in a matter of hours.
If one of Her Majesty’s ships happened to board him, they’d take one glance at that tiny crystal powering the ship to unheard-of speeds and throw him into the Tower before finding his female partner aboard. Luckily they won’t be able to catch us once we hit Razari speed. “Do you have any gowns a little less conspicuous?”
Up went her nose and she gave him that delightfully regal stare that somehow made him appear shorter than her slight five foot height. “A Duchess has a duty to always look her absolute best.”
As gently as possible, he pointed out the obvious. “You can’t be the Duchess of Wyre any longer, sweetheart.”
She sniffed and a sudden bolt of terror struck his heart at the thought that she might burst into tears. He hated crying. He’d actually botched a few marks in the past because he hurried up to silence all the moaning and messy sobbing. If she was a crier, it’d be damned tempting to slit her pretty throat and toss her into deep space.
“I hope you stocked tea on this miserable little boat. I need a cup. Badly.”
Suspicious, he risked a glance at her and thankfully found her eyes completely dry. “I’ve got a nice black from Zijin. Just whirl your chair around one eighty degrees and hit the replicator.”
She didn’t fuss about having to make her own tea or complain that a replicator’s brew wasn’t as good as the real thing, a pleasant surprise. After leading a life of privilege, she couldn’t be faulted for snobbish ways, as long as she wasn’t a bloody prig at the same time. That he couldn’t abide.
She surprised him yet again by handing him a cup, too and also asking—instead of ordering. “Where are we going?”
“It’s going to be hard to disappear off the grid, unless you leave Britannian space entirely. We’ll have to fuel up somewhere, so I planned to stop at the Colony. Then beyond, wherever you want to go.”
“Britannia space grows wider day by day. The Razari certainly didn’t expect a warship to show up on their front door.” She sipped her tea in silence for a few moments. “I’m not afraid of correcting my mistakes, Sig. As long as you’re not afraid to point them out to me.” She chuckled at whatever she saw on his face. “Besides, now I have a reason to go shopping again. What do you recommend?”
“Dark colors, simple utilitarian materials. No embellishments.”
When she pouted, he couldn’t help but laugh. “No silk?”
“Absolutely not. Only a woman of a blooded House would wear silk outside of Britannia. If you look like a lady, there will be questions.”
She blew out a long breath. “This is going to be harder than I imagined. I expected to live without servants, high fashion, and the tedium of Society. In fact, I relished the opportunity to live on my own for once in my life. But no silk? Oh dear. That might…” She sniffed and damned if her bottom lip didn’t quiver. “Break me.”
Dread chilled Sig’s stomach. Don’t cry. Please don’t cry. “Don’t make me toss you out the airlock, Charlie.”
She burst into laughter. “You should see the look on your face. Why, Lord Regret, I do believe you’re queasy. Are you by chance air sick?”
An alarm blared, cutting through her teasing. Instantly calm and alert, she set the cup of tea aside and took up position beside him.
He scanned the readings. “Unknown ship.”
Sig shook his head. “Not a warship. I’m also not detecting a merchant signal. Not good, not good at all. Someone was waiting for us to lift out of port, probably a bounty hunter. I need another five minutes before the Razari crystal is fully powered.”
“What kind of cannon do we have?”
He flashed a smile of appreciation at her. No questions, no panic. She leaped straight to the heart of the issue and prepared to blow them out of the sky. “Henry might be little, but our ship is loaded for bear.” He reached over and pulled up the armament program on her display. “Fire at will. We have plenty of ammunition.”
Concentrating on the controls, she still managed to quip. “You named your ship Henry?”
“Be nice to him,” Sig warned as he programmed in a zig-zag flight pattern with a little more zig than zag to hopefully buy them time. “He’s your ticket out of the Tower of Londonium.”
“Good boy.” She patted the dashboard and winked at Sig. “Fly faster, dear Henry.”
Taking return fire as quickly as she managed to get off a shot, the ship shimmied. Sig kept a wary eye on the shields, which were dropping at an alarming rate. Another hit and they might lose their port engine. Come on, Henry. Fire up that blasted engine so we can get out of here!
Lady Wyre whirled her seat around. “Where are my trunks?”
“You don’t have time to change your gown,” he gritted out. “I’m pushing the engines as hard as I dare to get us some breathing room, but I need you to keep them off my tail as long as possible!”
“Oh for goodness sakes.” She left her chair, stumbling against the panel when they took another shot that rocked the ship sideways. Fortunately, the panel she accidentally knocked open contained her precious trunk. She rummaged in it and quickly returned to her seat. “I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, so to speak, Lord Regret. I can help with the shields and possibly…”
She plugged a slim stick into the panel and her dainty hands flew over the keyboard. “There. I can’t wait to get my hands on Henry’s nether regions to fully explore that Razari engine. All they brought to me to study was the crystal.”
Amazingly, the shields increased back to eighty percent capacity.
“You should have a bit more horses under the hood, too.”
Shaking his head, he increased the throttle and Henry leaped ahead like a charger taking the next fence. “My dear Lady Wyre, if we weren’t getting chased by a bounty hunter, I’m afraid I might have to kiss you.”
“Bloody hell,” she muttered, slamming her fist down on the panel.
Taken aback, Sig kept his gaze straight ahead. Stupid tongue. Too familiar by half and me out of Society for years. No wonder she’s offended.
“Oh don’t be a mamby-pamby. If you dare to steal a kiss, give me your very best effort and I may reward you with a bedding you’ll not soon forget. I’m frustrated because evidently I’m a wretched shot. If we survive, I want your solemn word of honor that you’ll see to it that I receive proper training on marksmanship.”
“Done and done.” Another blast rocked the ship, and this time poor Henry didn’t recover. He wallowed to the port side. Cursing beneath his breath, Sig hauled on the controls but the ship was sluggish to respond. “Damnation, we’re sitting ducks here. Don’t do this to me, Henry!”
“Incoming.” Her voice was tight and low but not panicked. “I’m trying to intercept. Hold on…”
The explosion sent the ship rolling back to starboard. Shrapnel splintered off the hull, jabbing into his left side and chest. He fought to bring the ship out of the roll, but pain choked him.
No. That was blood.
“The hull is compromised.” If anything, Lady Wyre’s voice became even more measured and calm as their situation worsened. “Redirecting shields with my device. Hold on, Henry…”
Sig glanced down. A long piece of twisted metal protruded from his chest. Once he pulled it out, he’d probably die in minutes. I have to find a place to land and fast. A place where we won’t fall into Britannian hands as soon as we try to dock.
There was only one blip on the radar that was settled but not firmly in Britannian control. Whatever she’d done with the shields had settled the ship’s roll, but the controls were still sluggish. He tried to plot the new course, but his fingers were numb. His hands felt like blocks of ice.
“Tell me what to do.”
“New course.” He tried to breathe shallowly to ease the pain. “Americus.” She said something, but pain blanketed him in a gray daze that words couldn’t penetrate. He couldn’t help but laugh, even though it sent shards of agony through his heart. I never thought I’d die in a shipwreck at the hands of a bounty hunter.
There were a million and one details to planning one’s own assassination and Charlotte daren’t miss a single one, else find herself locked in the Tower of Londonium for the rest of her long and miserable life. While planting bribes all over Town to keep the Queen’s Ravens busy for months if not years attempting to track down her so-called assassin, she endured countless fittings on what would surely be the gown of the century. My death will be a remarkable spectacle, so naturally my gown must be as memorable.
With a critical eye, she examined her reflection in the tall mirrors, twirling slowly so she might see the fall of fabric from all angles. She’d chosen an eye-popping scarlet silk that would be scandalous in its own right. Combined with the severely tight corset and plunging neckline, she’d catch everyone’s attention from the moment she stepped outside her door.
The white feather accents were a touch too eccentric and ostentatious for her personal taste, but she intended to make a statement. If red represented the Razari blood, then white would remind the queen of House Wyre’s dove. The Queen’s Ravens might…would…tear Wyre apart, but Britannia would only see snowy pure white splattered with blood.
I’m far from innocent. My technology made all this possible. She forced herself to keep staring at her reflection, even though the sight made her throat burn with bile. I have to find a way to make this right. To stop Majel once and for all. But how?
Something jabbed into her side hard enough she stiffened.
“Lady Wyre, I presume?”
She recognized the man’s smooth, cultured voice and her heart beat ramped into deep-space full throttle. Since she intended to give Britannia a solstice eclipse celebration they’d not soon forget, she’d chosen the flashiest, most well-known assassin she could find. Lord Sigmund Regret was renowned throughout the galaxy as much for his impeccable manners and taste in clothing as for his murdering ability.
Even more importantly, he specialized in accepting detailed requirements in his contract for how the death should occur. Supposedly, he’d once killed a lady with her very own corset at her disgruntled lover’s request.
She stiffened her spine and stared coolly back at his reflection solidifying behind her. If he tries to kill me with my corset, he’ll be sorely surprised.
“You’re early, sir.”
As if she’d managed to surprise him, a small smile hovered on his lips but the pressure didn’t lessen against her ribcage. “Indeed, since this is a challenging assignment, I thought I’d best slip inside the Britannian grid early. I’m still not sure whether we’ll be able to slip out entirely undetected.”
She arched a brow at him. “That’s your concern, for which I’m paying you most handsomely.”
“You’re paying me to make it look like you’re dead, Your Grace.” He matched her arrogant, high-bred tone perfectly. “Sneaking you out of Britannia under Queen Majel’s nose is not my usual sort of job.”
“Well, it’s a very good thing you’re the best assassin for hire, then, yes?”
He chuckled, his bright blue eyes gleaming in the mirror with amusement, but his left hand casually wrapped around her throat. He didn’t apply pressure to her windpipe, but he made it very clear he could snuff her life out before she could open her mouth to scream.
Little does he know that screaming for help is not my forte.
“Perhaps I’m thinking the queen might pay me even more if I take care of her problem instead of helping you escape her wrath. It would certainly make it easier for me to escape Britannia intact.”
“If escape,” she said with a deliberate curl of distaste on her lips, “is your only concern, then perhaps you shouldn’t have been so foolish as to accept my payment, which enabled my sniffer to locate your private bank account.”
He opened his mouth, no doubt to retort that he had numerous such bank accounts, so she pushed on without giving him the chance.
“If you’d done your research on me beforehand, then you would know that I have a penchant for being extremely nosy and plotting with deliberate forethought to ensure my desired outcome. Of course, my sniffer has been busy backtracking to your other personal accounts as well. I’ve already located six such accounts scattered throughout the galaxy. If I don’t transmit the all-clear signal to my sniffer within twenty four hours, every single account you possess will suddenly be flagged for Britannian investigation. No doubt news of Lord Regret’s cowardly failure to uphold his contract as promised will be the talk of the galaxy for years to come.”
His jaws worked, his face darkened, and his eyes glittered with malice. “Maybe I’d simply enjoy killing you.”
She let a careless—if slightly breathy—laugh escape. “You’re welcome to try, sir, but I think you’ll find that you chose a most unlikely entrance for your knife.” He poked hard enough she grunted, but the blade couldn’t penetrate her corset. “Again, even modest research would have confirmed that I also enjoy experiments and inventions, especially ones that might save my life. I knew this event would be risky and so reinforced my corset with steel plating to protect my vital organs.”
He stepped close enough behind her that his heat penetrated the thin silk of her gown. His breath caressed her bared neck and ear. “Aren’t you afraid of me at all?”
“Yes, I am.” A frisson of awareness zinged down her spine. Danger, excitement, she wasn’t sure. As finely dressed as any Britannian lord, this man could be her contemporary in Society. If they’d met a few years ago, he might have been the one to convince her to surrender to matrimony. He certainly intrigued her like no one else she’d ever known. “But I’m more afraid of Queen Majel. I shan’t allow her to win. Fear makes me sharper, smarter, and all the more dangerous, Lord Regret.”
“Sigmund,” he sighed against her ear. His grip on her throat turned to a caress, a gentle glide of fingers that made her skin tingle. “You’re one hell of a woman, Your Grace.”
“Please call me Charlotte.” Holding his gaze in the mirror, she gave him a slow, sensuous smile that made his brilliant eyes flare. “I regret so many things. Saving Queen Majel’s life. The wretched things for which she’s allowing my research to be used. The millions of deaths on Razar. I don’t know how I’ll ever sleep again, worrying how many more planets will suffer the same demise. Once I’m free of Britannia, I’ll never be the Duchess of Wyre again, which I won’t regret in the slightest.”
“Call me Sig, and I’ll call you Charlie.” Winking at her in the mirror, he settled his palm lower on the creamy expanse of skin bared by her gown. “Your invention has a most regrettable design flaw. This corset fails to protect your heart.”
She laughed and stepped out of his embrace. “My heart needs no such protection. Come, then, Sig, and allow me to share the plans I’ve made thus far. I agree wholeheartedly that escape from Britannia will be the most challenging contract you’ve ever accepted. You won’t regret taking my case, will you?”
“I’ll have no regrets with you.”
“I’ve watched several of VCONN’s shows,” she said in a husky purr that tightened things low in his gut. “But I have to admit that my favorite is Erotic Tales from the Crypt.”
He couldn’t have been more surprised if she’d pulled out a gun and shot him dead. “That was our premiere. It hasn’t been on the air in years. How did you…”
That show had made Dallas history, earning more via Pay-Per-View than the biggest boxing match of the year. It had shocked the mostly conservative community, yet they’d gobbled it up and begged for more shows about the Dungeon Master’s exclusive torture chamber.
His hand convulsed on his thigh and a small grunt of pain escaped his mouth. If that show had been her favorite…
She had to be leading him on. Maybe she’d been to Silken and picked up some of the nastier gossip about him. Maybe Kimberly had been spreading malicious lies about him.
But they wouldn’t be lies, now, would they?
“When I saw that VCONN was hiring, I called the information desk and asked if I could watch several archived shows. I ended up watching them all.”
“All?” He winced at the roughness in his voice. The stomach-twisting throb of his bad knee had begun feeding the darker, erotic pain that he’d given himself. Pain compounded with pain turning into desire. If he wasn’t careful, he wouldn’t be able to stand up at the end of this interview without embarrassing himself. “That’s several years’ worth.”
“All of them.” She tipped her head to the side, deliberately showing him the curve of her neck. Making herself vulnerable. Her hands were quiescent in her lap, but she shifted slightly in her chair and he swore her skirt snuck up her thigh an inch. No, two. “I’m very thorough.”
He suddenly wished he kept his crop in his desk drawer instead of hidden in the depths of his closet or beneath the seat of his car. If he brought it out and smacked it on his desk, would she leap from her chair and flee the building? Or would she hike up that skirt just a bit more as she bent over his desk?
The image was all too easy to build in his mind after last night’s fantasy. However, he still had enough blood flowing to his brain to continue that little farce…all the way to her screams of terror. The look of revulsion on her face. The police sirens and the slamming of prison bars when she pressed charges.
His intercom beeped again and he barely suppressed the sigh of relief. He’d been saved from committing a monumental error.
“Mr. Connagher? You have a meeting in five minutes?”
It took all his control to reach out with a hand that didn’t tremble in order to respond. “Thank you, Lisa.” He took a deep breath and concentrated on putting his corporate face back on. Not the desperate Master in need of a flirtatious submissive who just might not be afraid of a little dungeon play. “And thank you, Ms. Holmes. I hope you have a very successful career here at VCONN.”
Disappointment made her bite her luscious lip, sending another surge of lust through his body that he refused to show.
A little dungeon play in a controlled environment was one thing. When you were a woman dating a much larger, stronger man in a position of authority who also had a lust for pain and one vicious crop, it was entirely different. This wasn’t a show. No one was going to call time-out and let her walk away, because once the sadist had her in his grasp, he wouldn’t unchain her until he’d drained every last scream of pain.
Standing, she held her hand out to him again. “I look forward to working with you, sir.”
He deliberately shifted his weight to his bad knee as he stood. His face stiffened with pain, and he saw the flicker in her eyes that registered his withdrawal with resignation. Hopefully she would take the hint and stay far, far away from him. He gave her a brief, entirely professional handshake. “Unfortunately, I rarely deal with the day-to-day duties of handling employees any longer. Ms. Kannes will see to any questions you may have.”
“Maybe we’ll run into each other on set,” she said with a hopeful gleam in her dark eyes.
Coldly, he forced himself to snuff out that flame before it could scorch them both beyond recognition. “I doubt it, Ms. Holmes. Good day.”
He watched her walk toward the door, letting his hungry gaze travel down her spine to her nicely rounded buttocks and hips. Perfect for his crop. She gave him one last glance over her shoulder, her mouth soft, her eyes shimmering, whether with hurt or regret he couldn’t say. It didn’t matter.
Would I lie to you, Ms. Holmes? So dangerous, this attraction, making every muscle in his body tense with the urge to chase her down and drag her screaming to his bed. Absolutely.
Victor’s story HURT ME SO GOOD will be released Oct. 5th from Samhain Publishing.
Edited to add Victor’s cover, in case you haven’t seen it yet. Continuing the free read Lie to You, Victor’s prequel. (Part 1)
Warning: BDSM and sexual content.
After last night’s activities, his bad knee hurt worse than usual, compounded by an assortment of bruises and marks on both thighs. Scowling, Victor straightened his legs out beneath his desk. Tendons torn years ago pulled and burned almost as badly as the day he’d blown his knee. The steady ache did little to improve his mood, which admittedly was always bad the morning after he indulged his sadist.
The intercom lit up and made an annoying chime. He stabbed the button. “Yes?”
His secretary had a hesitant squeak of a voice that made him think she was asking questions every time she spoke. “Mr. Connagher?”
He was so not in the mood for timid creatures today. If he wasn’t careful, his VCONN partner would yell at him for scaring off another worthy office manager, but good God, couldn’t he find someone with just a little backbone? He fought for a gentler approach rather than throwing open his door and bellowing. “What is it?”
“A new hire is here to see you? Shiloh Holmes? Ms. Kannes sent her to meet you?”
Rubbing his knee, he tried not to sigh like a martyr. “Send her in.” I’ll try not to scare her off on her first day at VCONN.
He stood to round his desk in welcome, but his damned knee was stiff and fragile, as though too much weight on it would make the whole joint shatter. He settled for at least standing politely in front of his desk as the door opened and the new hire walked in.
She marched straight up to him and held out her hand. “Pleased to meet you, sir.”
Surprised by her bold manner, he shook her hand, taking in her wide smile and warm brown eyes. She met his gaze unflinchingly, which he knew was no small feat. He decided to push just a little and see how much it would take to make her drop her gaze. He kept his fingers firm on hers, his gaze as steady and deep as though he sought her deepest secrets.
One brow quirked. Then the other, her eyes widening with surprise. The corners of her eyes crinkled and he suspected she might be laughing silently at him, but he didn’t look down at her mouth to find out. Her eyes warmed to molten chocolate, sparkling like she had a dozen secrets all bottled up just waiting for him to yank them out one by one.
She made a soft little sound, barely more than an indrawn breath, but it made his inner demon perk up with interest. It was all he could do not to step forward, bury his hand in her tawny hair, and jerk her mouth to his so he could punish her lips for that delicious little moan.
Too late, he remembered that this woman was supposed to be his new employee. The CEO of the company had no business testing his female employees, and for what? To see if he could break her? He already knew he could. He always did sooner or later.
Abruptly, he released her hand and whirled away. “Welcome to VCONN, Ms…”
Damn it, he couldn’t remember her name and pain knifed through his knee at the sudden movement. He was forced to limp the few steps back to his chair and sat down heavier than usual.
“Holmes, sir.” She replied evenly, not upset in the least by his macho dramatics. “Shiloh Holmes. Are you hurt?”
He jerked his gaze up to her face, but saw only open and honest concern, not ridicule or speculative interest. “Old college football injury. I tweaked it last night and it’s hurting today.”
“Ah, that explains all the trophies I saw downstairs.” She gave him a little chuckle of admiration and interest that tightened a fist in his chest where his heart used to reside. Dressed in a velvety suit that matched her eyes, she sat in front of his desk, alert and eager as new employees usually were, but without any hint of nerves or shyness. “Are they all yours?”
“From my glory days. But that was a long time ago.”
“Where did you play?”
He settled back in his chair, amused at how easily she’d turned the tables on him. Who’s interviewing who? “Texas A&M for four years. What position do you think I played?”
Her lips quirked. “Definitely quarterback. You’re the kind of man who’d lead the whole team down the field, refusing to settle for someone else calling the plays.”
“Oh, I always call the plays.” Damned if her eyes didn’t smolder. Didn’t she have any idea what sort of man she was playing with? “But I think you must have taken notice of the photographs, too. Maybe you even had time to read one of the clippings in the case.”
Her left eyebrow arched. “Not at all.”
She lied and she knew that he knew that she lied and she didn’t care, not by the widening smile she gave him. “Really?”
“Would I lie to you, Mr. Connagher?”
Polite flirting had turned much too serious. He couldn’t do this. Had he learned nothing all those months, pretending to be safe and normal for Kimberly? Who’s lying now?
Furious at himself and yes, at her for tempting him, he jerked his hair tighter in the ponytail. The small pain sharpened his control, but not enough, not with this saucy morsel staring at him with those big chocolate eyes. He gripped his right thigh and squeezed that bruised muscle until his cheek ticked.
“So what position have I given you here at VCONN?” Deliberately, he chose rather insulting language to see if he could goad her. Maybe he’d get lucky and she’d quit. Today.
“Associate Producer,” Shiloh answered, adjusting to his professional switch seamlessly without rising to his bait.
“It’s an entry level position.” He tried to guess her age without asking for her file, and he put her mid to late twenties. She wasn’t a young woman fresh out of college.
As though she knew his line of thought, she explained, “I worked my way through college, so it took longer than usual, and I’ve had other jobs.”
“Why are you starting over?”
“I wanted something new.” For the first time, she lowered her eyes, but it was a deceptive move. She still looked at him through her lashes. “I like a challenge.”
Unfortunately, so did he, and she was giving off all kinds of submissive invitation vibes, whether she knew it or not. Giving his leg another painful squeeze, he cautiously waded into more treacherous waters. In a job interview, it wasn’t customary to ask about a person’s sexual preferences, even if the company was an erotic cable television channel. “Are you aware of the kind of programming that has made VCONN famous?”
“Of course. I did my research before applying.”
He wanted to ask if she’d researched him. Maybe that would explain her familiarity and lack of fear…although if she knew more about him, surely she’d be afraid. More, though, he wanted to ask if she was submissive or merely a damned good actress. If she was as attracted as him.
But he didn’t dare. It was too late. From the first moment his secretary informed him of the new hire, Shiloh Holmes had been off limits. The CEO could not dally with female employees without opening himself up for sexual harassment charges. Especially when said CEO is a sadist.
Victor’s story HURT ME SO GOOD will be released Oct. 5th from Samhain Publishing.
(I know it’s not Friday my time yet…but it is Friday somewhere. Right? I didn’t want to torment my Twitter buds until tomorrow!)
When the beta readers replied back after reading Victor’s story Hurt Me So Good, several people mentioned wanting to know more about how he and Shiloh first met. There’s a reference in the opening chapter about how that interview “set his desk on fire.” That sounds like a great free read, right?
Luckily, Victor agreed, so he’s here to tell you all about that first meeting in a short story “Lie to You.” Over the next week or two, I’ll serialize it for you here, and then you’ll be able to download it in pdf or epub.
Warning: BDSM and sexual content.
Victor Connagher stared at the nearly nude woman squirming against her bonds and felt nothing but boredom.
Silken, Dallas’s exclusive bondage club, was packed with eager, fawning submissives and spectators alike. A few Dominants mingled in the crowd, but only two that he knew, and they were both already involved. Oh, there were posers who flapped around and crowed like roosters in the hen house, but if they obviously couldn’t control themselves, they wouldn’t be getting too serious with anyone.
The owner would be desperate for an unattached Dominant to give a real show tonight.
Victor knew he ought to leave, no matter how much he needed to do something, anything, to ease this brutal need. There was no way in hell he’d play it cool enough to pull off a demonstrative scene, not when he felt this raw and out of control.
Once upon a time, he’d been able to put on a pretty good show. He’d drawn out every sweet cry of his submissive, taunted the audience to a fevered pitch, and endured the torment of his own unanswered needs. Even that denial had been a secret pain that he’d enjoyed.
Nobody had known he’d been playing a game. Lying. To himself and everyone.
A pained gasp drew his gaze back to the bound woman. Her lover—because if that moron fumbling with a velvet flail was a Dominant with a capital D, then Victor would eat his own crop—landed a blow to her buttocks that wouldn’t have killed a fly. She squealed dramatically, and Victor clenched his jaws to keep from letting out a derisive laugh.
So fake. So scripted. So boring.
He glanced at the sweating, eager faces watching so avidly and he wanted to scatter them with a few well-placed blows. Bored out of his skull and pissed that he’d lied this game for years, he turned around to leave but jerked up short.
His ex-fiancée, Kimberly, stood in front of him, twisting her delicate hands together with anxiety, as beautiful and fragile as he remembered. She’d never kindled any true passion in him, which is exactly why he’d chosen her. Another lie, that he could pretend long and well enough that she’d never find out what he hid beneath the constant mask he wore.
I can’t believe I was stupid enough to date her so long, let alone ask her to marry me.
The man she was with wrapped an arm around her waist. Victor tracked that male arm up to his face and bit back a curse. Ryan, the owner of the club, boomed a welcome. “Victor! It’s so great to see you again! We’ve been wondering where you’d been lately.”
At least Victor’s boredom was gone, but his stomach churned with a multitude of emotions, shame and regret leading the charge. He tried to think of something he could say that didn’t make him sound like a jealous asshole, because he really wasn’t jealous. Not even when Kimberly turned more into the other man’s embrace, clutching him frantically like she thought the big bad wolf was going to eat her whole.
Eyes bright with hope, Ryan asked, “Could you do a scene for us tonight? You’d bring the house down!”
For the briefest moment, blinding terror flashed in her eyes, and Victor knew she must be remembering their last night together. The illusion that he could be a loving, protective husband had been shattered that night, when he’d hurt her so badly that she’d fled, still babbling her safeword.
He felt his face freeze into a cold, empty, and terribly familiar mask. “No.”
Ryan said something else in that jovial blustering way of his but Victor didn’t hear him. Without another word, he turned away. He strode to the exit, his pace measured but determined to get out of there as quickly as possible. He didn’t let them see the terrifying need hammering away inside his body, or the disgusted shame burning like acid up his throat. He didn’t let them see him run. Another lie, because he fled into the night.
Only when he made it to the privacy of his car did he let the rage bubble free. He trembled with the force of it. God, he’d been such a fool. He’d deliberately hidden his true nature from the woman he professed to love and honor. He’d lied to everyone, especially himself. There was no way in hell he could ever step foot back in that club and pretend to be a normal, sane Dominant having a little fun with a willing submissive.
Not with this darkness clawing inside him.
He reached beneath his seat, fumbling a bit until he found what he was looking for. In the shadowed parking lot, he couldn’t see the details of the crop, but the leather wrapped around the shaft bit into his palm. He cast a furtive glance to make sure no one was around, and then he brought the crop down across his thighs. The steering wheel and close quarters hampered his blow, but blissful pain still cut across his skin.
The sharp crack dissolved some of the desperation shrieking inside him. So sweet. It’d been so long since he’d indulged. Since Kimberly dumped me months ago.
He laid the crop in his lap, started his car, and drove home, fingering that leather with anticipation. In record time, he stood in his bedroom. He forced himself to methodically strip and put away his clothes. He yanked out the band holding his shoulder-length hair back so tight from his face and he felt his control falter.
Some days the only thing holding him back was that fiercely tightened hair, the constant dull ache on his scalp reminding him to keep the monster at bay. Tonight, the beast refused to be denied. Yet he still made himself wait, letting his need build in intensity.
He tried to imagine a submissive waiting for him to begin. A woman, bent over the side of his bed, every sweet curve of her body begging for the crop to fall.
He brought the crop down on his right thigh in a whistling blow that made his entire body jolt, but it was her scream he heard. She’d be loud, rewarding him with every cry, curse, and shout. She would be afraid of him…but not terrified. Not disgusted. She would endure the pain because he willed it, because he needed it, and she needed and wanted to please him above anything else in this world.
If he were incredibly lucky—and since this was a fantasy, he might as well enjoy it fully—she’d even get off on the pain, too. No silly games, no bondage or role play to distract him, only the ecstasy of pain.
He brought the crop down again. He didn’t need to slowly build intensity, because the need was always there, digging vicious claws into his spine. He knew exactly how hard he could strike without cutting his skin wide open, but tonight, he did it anyway. He bled. He cursed. And he came with such intensity that his bad knee gave out and he nearly planted his face on the carpet.
He’d punished himself because he had to have pain, and without a willing submissive, his own would have to do. Most of all, he’d punished himself for the greatest lie of all.
There was no submissive out there somewhere, waiting for him, his pain, and his love.
Victor’s story HURT ME SO GOOD will be released Oct. 5th from Samhain Publishing.
In the next six months, I plan to release 3 new free reads to help build your anticipation for various releases. I planned to finish Shadowed for Return to Shanhasson first, but Victor had other ideas. In the past 24 hours or so, he’s given me a really nice spicy but short prequel to share with you before his book Hurt Me So Good releases in Oct. You’ll get a taste of him tomorrow. *winks*
I’m still working on Shadowed, and I’m also planning a prequel to Lady Wyre’s story in March. I know what the event is, I just have to figure out the details. Faking one’s death and hiring a renowned assassin requires delicate precision!
All short stories will be posted as Friday Snippets and then collected into pdf and epub for easy download. I plan to upload them to Scribd too. If you have any other ideas of place to advertise free reads, let me know!
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.
I’ll post about a Halloween giveaway here later today, so stay tuned!
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?”
“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.”
You may not have noticed, but Drollerie Press has several different imprints, including Pen Flourish, the romance/erotica line. We plan to begin posting some spicier excerpts and free reads on the site. Since these posts will be adult, you’ll be asked to register and declare your age. Stop by and register — I plan to post some spicy excerpts soon! Who knows, maybe it’ll be a new free read. *winks*
This is another snippet of a Dear Sir, I’m Yours prequel (set five years prior). I’ll be writing out several scenes over the next few weeks, alternating with more letters, and when the whole thing is done, I’ll package it all together as a pdf on the Free Reads page. For now, I’m calling this prequel “Letters” since I haven’t come up with another title. I’ll accumulate the links here in reverse chronological order if you need to catch up!
Snippet Five – The Final Exam
Miss Rae Jackson sauntered into Conn’s classroom one last time, wearing that slip of a skirt that bared every inch of her incredible legs to what had to be just below her ass. The top she’d paired with it wasn’t much better: a heart-stopping red fitted tank that hugged her body and lifted her breasts like an offering for him. Everything fit well–it wasn’t too tight, slutty, or slinky–and it was certainly blazing hot outside. It might be only June, but summer had come early with ninety-degree heat and miserable humidity.
A quick glance confirmed that the other students wore similar clothes. Hell, one student even wore a bikini top which made Rae look overdressed. The other student’s tanned skin already gleamed with oil, making it very clear that as soon as she turned in his final, she was headed to the lake. However, none of them sent a fist of lust tearing through his stomach like Rae.
She took her seat, crossed her legs demurely at the ankle, and flickered a quick look up at him to judge his reaction. She’d worn her hair loose too, another temptation with all that bare skin. And that damned skirt. She knew very well what it did to him. What he’d promised.
While his students wrote their final letters into their composition books and turned them in to him at the front of the room, he forced himself to read their papers instead of tormenting himself about what she might have on beneath that skirt. He would not think about it.
Damn it, I have more control than this!
An hour crept by until she was the last student remaining. He watched her flip back through what she’d written, absently gnawing on her lip. I’m going to have that lip in my teeth before she leaves this room.
When Dean Strobel stuck her head in, he very nearly cursed out loud. Rae scribbled a few more lines and then quickly brought him her final. The dean didn’t even let him get a finger on it–she took it directly from Rae’s hand.
“And her paper,” Dean Strobel demanded. She eyed the impressive stack of pages in Rae’s essay and gave her a considering look. “I’ll have my decision by the end of the day, Dr. Connagher, and then you can read and grade everything to see if we agree. I must admit, young lady, that you surprised me, and him, I dare say. I saw you at the lecture a few months ago, so quote me something from Burns, and it’d better be something other than ‘A Red, Red Rose.’”
Rae paled, shooting him an imploring look of panic. Neither of them had expected the dean to interrogate her in person. He tried to think of a way to help her, even opened his mouth to start a quote for her, but Dean Strobel silenced him with a fierce look.
Staring at his mouth, though, Rae must have suddenly remembered a Burns poem, although Conn couldn’t say that he cared for her choice. At all.
“’Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!/ Ae farewell, alas for ever!/ Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee/’.” She hesitated, a hint of color darkening her cheeks, but she finished the phrase, granted in a slightly ragged voice. “’Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee!’”
Conn let his pride glow in his eyes, and hopefully a hint of the warring sighs and groans he was going to give her as soon as they were able to slip away.
The dean smiled widely, slapped Conn on the arm with the bundled pages, and headed toward the door. “I can’t wait to read her final essay. Excellent work, you two.”
He waited until the dean was surely well on her way to her office, and then he leaned in close to Rae. Her eyes locked on his mouth, her teeth flashing against her lip again, and it was all he could do not to haul her beneath him here and now.
His control felt ragged and frayed, like a rope which she’d been sawing away at day by day. They weren’t safe yet, far from it. He certainly couldn’t kiss her here where anyone could walk by. Until final grades were posted for the class, he’d continue to be under the dean’s scrutiny.
Grimly, he turned away and began shoving all the blue books and essays into his satchel. He had to have a taste of her, soon, before he lost his mind entirely. “Do you remember what I said I was going to do if you wore that skirt again, Miss Jackson?”
Wide eyed, she nodded, her breathing loud in the empty room.
He cupped her elbow in his hand to get her moving quicker.
“Are you…were you…serious?”
“Hell yeah, darlin’.” He squeezed her arm, watching her eyes darken, her lips part on a soft little sound that sent his blood pumping. “That’s one thing you should know about me already,” he growled out against her ear. “I always keep my promises. Now I expect you to report to my office immediately for the real final exam.”