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Kama Su utra, Tantra, Ménage…a are you readyy to blush? Hanna Laane wishes she s could sheed her inhibiitions and unnleash her w wild side in thhe bedroom m. When she meets J. M.--a Kama Su utra and Tanntra master---they embarkk on a sizzlinng path of discovery, d ex xploring the ancient a sensual arts and discoveringg new techniqques that allow Hanna to o unlock her naughtiest fantasies f and d make them m a red-hot reeality. But w when Hanna’’s exboyfrieend Grey re--enters her liife determineed to win heer back, Hannna longs to sshare herselff with both h men. But can c she tell J.M. J and Greey her most taboo fantassy? And whho will win hher for keepss?


To Matthew, who inspires me with his intelligence, compassion, and desire to make the world a better place. You make my world a better place just by being in it!

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. blush. Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth Batten-Carew. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010. www.stmartins.com Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Carew, Opal. Blush / Opal Carew.—1st ed. p. cm. ISBN-13: 978-0-312-36779-4 ISBN-10: 0-312-36779-1 1. Sex (Psychology)—Fiction. I. Title. PR9199.4.C367 B58 2008 813'.6—dc22

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First Edition: July 2008 10

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one

“I want an orgasm.” Hanna Lane’s hands clenched in her lap as she stared at her sister across the table. Grace cleared her throat. “I think the drink is called a Screaming Orgasm,” Grace said, loud enough for the people around them to hear. They both knew that wasn’t what Hanna had meant. Hanna glanced around the restaurant and noticed people staring at them, and her cheeks flushed hotly. She lowered her voice. “I’m sorry, I’m just a tad frustrated.” “I’ll bet. Have you tried one of those vibrators with the thing—” “Yes, it doesn’t work. Nothing works,” Hanna answered shortly, not wanting to talk sex toys with her older sister. Hanna didn’t want to have this conversation at all, but she didn’t know who else to turn to. Grace patted Hanna’s hand. “You’ll find someone soon. When you’re in a relationship again—”

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Opal Carew “No, it won’t matter.” “Honey, I know what you and Grey had was very special, but you’ll find someone special again, and with him—” “No, you don’t understand. Grey and I never . . .” She stared into Grace’s intense gaze. “I mean, I’ve never . . .” “Ever?” Hanna shook her head, her gaze fi xed on the water glass in front of her and the condensation beading on the crystal surface. “Even with Grey? But he was so sexy. And considerate, and patient.” Hanna nodded. “I know. It wasn’t his fault.” Grace nodded. “That’s true. The only person who can give you an orgasm is you. You have to let it happen.” “You’re not going to tell me just to relax, are you? If I hear that one more time, I’m going to scream.” She’d read every book she could find on the subject, and they all insisted that the woman just had to relax and allow it to come. But it wasn’t that simple. Grace’s lips pursed as she watched Hanna. “Why haven’t you told me about this before?” “It isn’t exactly the kind of thing you want to go running to your big sister about.” Grace squeezed Hanna’s hand. “It is exactly the kind of thing you can come running to me about, honey.” She paused. “Is that why you broke up with Grey?”

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blush Hanna had known her sister would ask that. After all, Hanna and Grey had seemed perfect for each other. In fact, they were perfect for each other, except for one thing. In the year they’d been together, he had never once told her he loved her. Which had hurt all the more because she loved him so much. There was a time she’d dreamed of happily-ever-after in Grey’s arms. She’d even convinced herself that he was just one of those guys who found it hard to say the words. But she needed to hear them. She had to know he actually loved her. Finally, she’d thought if she said the words first, he would reciprocate. One day, in their favorite restaurant, she had taken his hand in hers and gazed into his warm green eyes glimmering in the candlelight. “Grey, I love you,” she’d said. His fingers stiffened within her grip and his smile faded. “Grey,” she’d prompted him. “Did you hear me?” “Yes, of course. I just have to . . .” He’d glanced around, as if seeking an escape, then stood up. “I have to call the office.” He’d rushed away from the table like a man pursued by a demon, then returned a few minutes later and continued with dinner as if their previous conversation had never happened.

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Opal Carew She’d gotten the message loud and clear. A week later, after a lot of soul-searching, she had broken up with him. She’d told him that she loved him, but he clearly didn’t love her. A part of her, even at that point, had hoped he’d deny it, then sweep her into his arms and proclaim his love for her. Instead, he’d only looked shocked. Then she’d asked him outright, “Do you love me?” He’d drawn in a deep breath and taken her hand in his. “The way I feel about you is different from what I’ve felt for any other woman. Deeper. I love having you in my life.” “But do you love me?” His mouth had tightened into a flat line and he’d said no more. She’d simply nodded at that point, knowing she had lost. Pain lanced through her at the memory. She still loved him and she missed him every single day . . . and night. She’d always felt loved and cherished, snuggled in his arms in bed. Tears welled in her eyes and she dashed them away. “Oh, honey.” Grace pulled her into a warm embrace and patted her back. Hanna accepted her big sister’s hug, then slowly drew away, still thinking about Grey. “We just weren’t right for each other.” How could she settle for less than love? How could she ask Grey to settle for less?

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blush Grace looked skeptical, but she let the subject drop. “Okay, honey, what are you doing to solve the problem?” Hanna’s sister, who was a holistic healer, was a firm believer that everyone was responsible for their own problems . . . and solutions. “I’ve been reading books.” Hanna gazed at Grace. “And I’m talking to you.” Grace’s eyes glowed with warmth and she smiled. “There’s a ten-week course at the university, in the evenings. I believe it starts next week. I know the guy who’s teaching it, and he’s exceptional.” Hanna’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of course?” “It’s called ‘Kama Sutra for the Beginner,’ but he discusses different sexual issues, and one of the things he talks about is female orgasm and the fact that a lot of women have trouble achieving it. I know the instructor and I’ve recommended a couple of my patients take the workshop.” “I’m already signed up.” “You are?” Grace’s eyebrows rose. Obviously, she didn’t believe her. Grey had signed them up for that course, hoping it would help her with her problem. Now that they’d broken up, though, she couldn’t bear to take the course alone. Not that she would tell Grace that. Taking the course would remind Hanna of the frustration she and Grey had both shared. It would remind

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Opal Carew her how hard he had tried to make sex enjoyable for her, despite her problem. It would remind her that she no longer had Grey in her life. “You know . . .” Grace stared at Hanna over the frosty water glass she held in her hand. “The instructor’s single. . . .” “Forget it.” Grace sipped her water, then placed her glass on the table. “Okay, so why don’t you do something wild and different? Something you’ve never done before?” “Like what?” “Well, maybe find some sexy guy—someone you don’t even know—and make wild, passionate love with him. If you don’t know him, you can act differently. You don’t have to be yourself. You can be wild and uninhibited. Maybe then you can let go of what’s holding you back.” Wild and uninhibited. Hanna’s stomach tightened. “Oh, no, I don’t think so.” “Why not?” “A complete stranger? That’s crazy.” “Sometimes you need to let loose. Do something crazy. But it doesn’t have to be a complete stranger. It could be someone you’ve seen a few times. Maybe been attracted to. You could even form a relationship after . . . or not. The point is not to worry about it. That’s where the freedom lies.”

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blush Goose bumps shivered down her spine. The thought actually excited her. How insane was that? In fact, she thought about the tall, sexy man who’d started coming to the Hot Spot Café, the coffee shop she owned, about a month ago. He had eyes the color of espresso and a deep, melodic voice that sent tingles down her spine every time he spoke. And he was exceptionally good-looking, with a strong, straight nose and a square jaw softened by the waves of dark curls that caressed his collar. She had found herself making an excuse to help out behind the counter whenever he came in so that she could serve him. Organic Earl Grey tea with milk and natural cane sugar. He was always warm and friendly, and he exuded a sexual magnetism that sent her senses whirling and had triggered some exciting and embarrassingly erotic dreams. Maybe her sister’s suggestion wasn’t so crazy after all. J.M. walked along the stone path through the campus, lit by the streetlights and the soft glow of an almost full moon. A light, warm breeze rustled through the trees as he stepped toward the traffic light on the corner of Stevens Street and Main, Brock University campus behind him. He liked it here in Spring Falls, a quaint university town where the people were friendly, the pace was easy, and the scenery was stunning. The Shannonista River

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Opal Carew meandered through town, banked by bike paths and parks fi lled with flowering shrubs and bright gardens. Ordinarily, he would head straight home at this hour, but he had a craving for an Earl Grey tea, the special blend with bergamot oil they served in the coffee shop across from the campus. Or, really, a craving to see the attractive woman who frequently served him. He smiled at the thought of her midnight blue eyes twinkling as her soft, rose lips curled up in a smile, which happened every time she turned and saw him at the front of her line. She wore her long, blond hair tied back, but soft wisps swirled around her heart-shaped face and caressed her cheeks. There was a sweet innocence about her, but he sensed a smoldering sexuality beneath the surface. The light turned and he crossed the street. It was unlikely she’d be on duty now, since he usually saw her there in the late afternoon, but it didn’t really matter. All they’d ever done was exchange a few friendly words while he’d waited for his tea. Of course, if the shop was still open, which he doubted on a Thursday night at nine thirty . . . and if she was there . . . and if the opportunity presented itself . . . then maybe he’d ask her out. His intuition told him this could be his lucky night. The bell over the door rang and Hanna hurried to finish clearing the tray of dishes, wishing she’d locked the door after the last customer had left a few moments ago. “I’ll be with you in a moment,” she said over her

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blush shoulder as she wiped the tray and placed it on the stack of clean ones. She was still here forty minutes after closing. There had been a rush of people about a quarter to nine, and they’d just kept coming in. Someone had mentioned there’d been a special speaker at the psychology building tonight and the talk had ended at eight thirty. She turned around and stopped cold as she found herself facing the tall, dark-haired man she’d been dreaming about even before her sister suggested she jump a stranger. Her cheeks flushed and a tremor of awareness quivered through her body. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He smiled. “I’m glad you’re still open.” “Well, actually, we aren’t.” Oh, damn, why had she said that? “I mean, I can still get you something, but . . . I’m just closing up now.” “You’re sure?” “Of course. I haven’t turned off the machine yet, and there’s still plenty of hot water.” She smiled but glanced toward the door, hoping no one else would come in. “An Earl Grey? I have decaf if you’d like. Naturally decaffeinated.” “That would be great.” Her gaze strayed to the large front window and a couple walking by, gazing into the shop. Hanna grabbed the key from the drawer under the till. “Look, would you mind locking the door for me?” She placed the key with the brass cup-and-saucer key chain on

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Opal Carew the counter. “It’s actually past closing time and I don’t want any more customers tonight.” “Absolutely.” She grabbed a tall mug from the shelf and fi lled it with hot water, then ripped open the foil pouch on the tea bag as he walked across the store. When she heard the click of the lock, she realized she was in the shop all alone at night with a sexy, attractive man. One she’d been having hot dreams about. Dreams where they’d done intimate, erotic things together. She dipped the bag in the steaming water until it reached the darkness she knew he liked and fi lled the mug with milk and one packet of cane sugar, then placed it on the maple counter. He placed the key beside it, along with a couple of bills to pay for the tea. “I was going to take it to go so I wouldn’t keep you.” She stared at the ceramic mug she’d given him. “Oh, sorry. I can put it in a takeout cup . . . or . . . you’re welcome to enjoy it here, if you like. I’ve . . . uh . . . got some leftover banana walnut muffins I can’t serve tomorrow.” Great, she’d just offered him what sounded like stale muffins. “On the house.” She lifted the glass cover from the decorative plate containing three muffins, picked up the tongs, and placed the biggest, fattest muffin on a plate and handed it to him. He smiled. “Thank you. These are my favorite.” She knew that. He ordered them every time they had

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blush some, so she’d added them to the menu more often, just in case he came by. She dropped the rest in a paper bag and curled the top. “Actually, take the rest, too. I’d just wind up taking them home, and I don’t need any more muffins.” As he took the bag, his hand brushed hers and an explosion of sensation burst along her arm. She had to work at not snatching her hand away. “Are you this generous with all your customers?” “No, not really. I . . . uh . . .” She paused, worried he would think she was flirting with him, then realized that’s exactly what she was doing. She just wasn’t very good at it. “I just hate to see them go to waste.” She really wasn’t good at this! “Here’s to finding myself locked in a coffee shop with a cup of tea, a muffin . . . and a beautiful woman.” He held up his mug. “Would you join me?” His warm, inviting smile chased away any thoughts of refusal. She smiled shyly. “Okay.” Someone tried the doorknob, rattling the door a little. When the man peered in, she shook her head, mouthing, We’re closed. “I . . . uh . . . need to turn down the lights so people know we’re closed, otherwise that’ll keep happening.” She dimmed the lights, then grabbed a bottle of water

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Opal Carew from the cooler and followed him to the table with the two love seats in the far corner. It was in the back of the seating area and people couldn’t see them from the window. “This is nice,” she said as she sat across from him. She watched him as he sipped his tea, her gaze straying to his lips. Full and sexy. She could imagine them pressed against the back of her hand, playing along her knuckles. Goose bumps blossomed along her arm as she thought of those lips taking a long, leisurely stroll up her arm, then nuzzling her collarbone. He would stroke behind her ear, then tip her chin up and capture her lips in a firm, passionate kiss. Oh, man, she wanted him. Maybe her sister was right. Maybe Hanna should just jump him here and now. Have a sexual romp totally devoid of relationship or baggage. Just consume each other’s bodies in a hot, wicked fl ight of fancy. But how could she be so bold? Her gaze shifted from his lips to his hot, simmering eyes and her breasts swelled with the need to feel his hands on them. His lips. She wanted him. Here. Now. “Exactly what are you thinking?” he asked. “I was thinking that . . .” She drew in a deep breath, seeking the courage to say what she wanted to say. J.M. watched her as she licked her lips. This sweet, innocent nymph clearly had passion on her mind. He

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blush could feel the desire radiating from her. But he could see she was struggling with how to act on her desire. The hot look of lust in her eyes sent his blood boiling and his cock straining. She needed a little help getting over her inhibitions —clearly she’d never done this before—and he was determined to help her get what she wanted. Because it was exactly what he wanted, too. He leaned over the table toward her. “I’ll tell you what I’m thinking.” His gaze shifted to her lips and lingered, just as hers had on his. “Yes?” She seemed mesmerized. “I’m thinking how lovely it would be to kiss your luscious lips. To feel their softness against mine.” Her eyes glittered in the dim light. “Me, too.”

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two

Hanna pushed herself to her feet and slid beside him on the love seat. All kinds of bells rang in her head, trying to prevent her from continuing, but the heat inside her, swelling inside her breasts and melting through her core, wouldn’t let her. She sat beside him, staring into his eyes. Her nostrils fi lled with his spicy, masculine scent. She breathed deeply, fi lling her lungs with his male aroma. Filling her with need. He made no move toward her. He just watched her, his dark eyes encouraging. Courage built within her and she raised her hand to touch his cheek. Raspy. Oh, so masculine. She stroked his other cheek, loving the maleness of stubby whiskers under her fingertips. He was so sexy . . . so incredibly attractive. Yet so comfortable to be with. Most sexy men seemed arrogant, making her self-conscious. Grey, too, had been easy to be

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blush around right from the beginning. But she didn’t want to think about Grey right now. At this instant, she wanted to lose herself in this man’s simmering espresso-colored eyes. She could melt from the heat of his gaze. He made her feel attractive and desirable. Sexy and feminine. Slowly, she eased forward, approaching those full, masculine lips, anticipating the feel of them on hers. He eased forward just a little. Offering his mouth. Encouraging her. Simply sitting still used a great deal of J.M.’s considerable discipline. He had to still the lustful desire to pull her into his arms and devour her lips. Loving a woman should be long and slow, but with her he wanted it now. Fast and furious. His cock stirred at the thought, pushing against its black denim prison. But J.M. took a deep breath and calmed his mind and his body. He would wait for her. Her lips settled on his, lightly, like the touch of a butterfly’s wing. He let out a shuddering breath at the delicate feel of her. She smelled like roses and jasmine, with a tantalizing trace of vanilla. Why this delightful woman, who his intuition told him had never done anything like this before, had decided to pursue a sensual experience with him, a virtual stranger, he didn’t know. He also sensed she was seeking more than an illicit sexual romp.

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Opal Carew Her lips began to move on his—slowly, seductively—as she stroked her fingers along his cheeks, then over his temples. She made a tiny strangled sound in her throat, then her fi ngers tangled in his hair, and she pulled his face tighter to hers, her tongue pulsing against his lips, then slipping inside his mouth. He greeted her with a gentle stroke of his tongue, while hers darted inside and undulated against him. His pulse increased and he felt his base chakra energy rise to his sacral chakra, sending heat cycling between them, charging him with sweet, sexual energy. He hadn’t even touched her body yet and his cock, in full, hard erection, ached for her. She drew back, their lips parting, and she stared at him with wide, innocent eyes. “I’ve never done anything like this before. I—” He touched a fingertip to her lips. “I know.” He cupped her cheeks within his palms and tilted her chin up as he stared into her midnight blue eyes. His lips captured hers in a sweet, lingering kiss. “You are a very special, sexy woman and I am honored you have chosen me to explore this side of your sexuality. It is exciting and sensual.” He kissed her palm. “Thank you.” Hanna stared at him in astonishment. How sexy is that? She fl icked open her top button, then the next. His gaze followed her fingers down the button placket with

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blush great interest. When she reached her skirt waistband, she tugged her blouse free, then continued. After she unfastened the last button, she hesitated. She didn’t know this man. How could she do this? His searing gaze met hers, and beyond the clear sexual desire she saw in those eyes she felt warmth. An appreciation for her as a woman and as a person. She could tell this was a very compassionate man with a loving attitude toward others. Maybe she just saw what she wanted to see, but that was enough for now. She drew open her white silk blouse, revealing her lace-clad breasts. His gaze grew hotter and more intense. Thank heaven she’d worn her favorite sexy black lace bra and thong today. She grasped his hand and drew it to her breast, anxious for his touch. The feel of his big, masculine hand cupping her soft flesh sent a thrill rushing through her. Her nipples hardened and her sex clenched in anticipation, desire melting through her. She dropped her blouse over her shoulders, letting it slip to the floor. In a moment, he would see her naked breasts. A tremor quivered through her as she reached around behind her to unfasten her bra, but he stilled her movements. “Let me.” She nodded. He caressed her ribs as his hands slid around her, then worked at the hooks. The garment loosened and he drew the cups forward, freeing her breasts.

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Opal Carew As the cool air washed across them, the nipples tightened even more. He smiled as his tender gaze caressed her nipples, tormenting them with sweet pleasure. She longed for his physical touch—almost moaned with the need. He leaned forward and stroked his cheek against one nipple, the burn of raspy whiskers sending hot need blazing through her. He caressed the other with a light brush of his fingertips and she moaned as she clutched his head against her chest. He turned his head and captured one nipple in his hot, wet mouth. “Oh, yes,” she whispered. She couldn’t believe she sat here, in the dim light of her coffee shop, her breast being suckled by a complete stranger. And one so sweet and tender as this. She didn’t even know his name, yet his tongue swirled over her nipple and a need burned deep inside her to feel his body pressed tight against her while his cock slid into her, then thrust over and over again. Her hand slid down his shirt. She could feel his tight, muscular chest, then the solid ridges of his fi rm abdomen. Her fi ngers found his belt buckle and, as she fumbled with it, he took her other nipple in his mouth and sucked. At the thrilling sensations spiking through her, her fi ngers fell slack, so he unlatched his belt and drew the zipper down, leaving him open to her seeking hands. At the thought of his hot, hard shaft waiting for her, she slid her fi ngers inside his pants and stroked over the soft

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blush cotton of his briefs, feeling the solid length of his cock. She wanted it inside her. She wanted to ride it hard, to feel it invading her deepest, most private places. She stood up, her gaze locking on his, and unzipped her skirt, then dropped it to the floor. She hooked her fingers in the elastic waist of her black lace thong and rolled it down her legs, then kicked it aside. Now, she stood totally naked in front of him, except for her black patent high heels. He smiled and stood up. He kicked off his shoes, then dropped his pants and unfastened his shirt buttons. She watched in excitement as his shirt slid away, revealing more of his tanned, masculine flesh. Tight, well-sculpted muscles defined his chest and abs. His charcoal briefs barely contained his growing erection. He tugged those down, too, and tossed them aside, revealing a long, thick cock pointing toward her like a divining rod. He skimmed his hands down her sides, then wrapped them around her waist and drew her forward. Her breasts tingled as they came into contact with his hard, masculine chest, the coarse, curly hair brushing across her sensitive nipples, arousing them more. He hugged her close, capturing her lips, taking them with a passion matching her own. She melted against him, loving the feel of his body pressed against the length of hers, his hard cock tight against her belly. “I can’t believe how sexy you are,” he murmured against her ear. “I’m a very lucky man.” His words calmed and excited her at the same time.

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Opal Carew Her hands stroked over his tight, hard butt, her fingertips pressing into his flesh. She drew her hands over his hips, then eased him backward, onto one of the armless wooden chairs next to the love seat. She knelt in front of him and admired his long, steel-hard cock standing straight up in front of her. She wrapped one hand around it and stroked. It was amazingly tall and thick. The bulbous head called to her and she leaned forward and licked it. His eyes drifted closed as she drew it into her mouth and licked around the crown. It was glorious feeling his big, thick cock head in her mouth. She sucked and licked like it was a delicious lollipop, then dove downward, taking him as deep as she could. She slid up and down several times, to his groans of appreciation, then slipped off and licked his shaft, from base to tip. His hands cupped her face and he drew her forward, then kissed her lips. He stood up, drawing her to her feet, and eased her backward. She felt the love seat behind her calves and sat down. When he knelt in front of her and parted her legs, she felt a bit panicky. She didn’t think she could allow him to do that. Not this stranger. As he lowered his head, his gaze intent on her glistening slit, she tucked her hands under his chin and lifted. “No. I’m not comfortable with . . .” Her words trailed off. What could she say? She knew it was strange that she was ready to make love with him—wanted to feel his

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blush cock drive deep into her—but she wouldn’t allow him this. It was just too intimate. But he nodded and smiled. “Whatever you want.” She nodded, then held out her hand. He grasped it, then stood up and eased her to her feet. She kissed him, then guided him to the chair again. He sat down and she straddled his thighs, then leaned toward him. He captured first one needy nipple, then the other in his mouth and suckled until they throbbed. She wrapped her hand around his cock and pointed it toward her vagina. She eased downward a little and stroked her wet slit with his cock head. Oh, God, it felt incredible. She dripped with need. Slowly, she sank down. His steel-hard cock stretched her as he ascended into her heated body, stroking her inner walls. She sat facing him, eye to eye, his im mense cock embedded inside her. “Wow.” Her breathy word made J.M.’s head spin. Her hot, wet body surrounded him and, even with his years of Tantric training, giving him the ability to hold off ejaculation over hours and hours of lovemaking, he felt he might erupt inside her at any moment. She was that sexy. He wrapped his arms around her and drew her against him, their chakras aligned. He pulled in a deep breath. As

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Opal Carew the air washed through his body he imagined beautiful golden light washing through his chakras, calming his body, yet fi lling him with wonderful energy. Sitting still, his cock jutting into her, he nuzzled the side of her neck. She sighed, then stroked his shoulders. The delicate sensation of her touch danced across his senses, filling him with a sense of wonder. Her energy, so light, so joyous, filled him with bliss. He kissed across her jawbone, then nibbled her lower lip. Her tongue stroked his lips, then dove inside his mouth, and he sucked it gently, then kissed her earnestly, his tongue dancing with hers as their lips pulsed against each other. She began to move, pivoting her hips to drive him deeper. Back and forth. A sensual rhythm that stroked his cock, building heat between them. Hanna felt light-headed as his long, hard cock stroked her sex. What an incredible feeling. And his lips—first nuzzling her neck and lighting a fire within her, now caressing hers with a blazing passion. Pleasure pulsed within her, building higher and higher. The gentle pressure of his hands, first on her shoulders, then gliding down her sides and over her hips, heated her body even more, sending goose bumps dancing across her flesh. He tightened his hands on her hips, stilling her movements. His lips parted from hers, then he traveled down her body, kissing and licking his way to her breasts. When he drew one nipple into his hot mouth, she gasped. His cock

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blush twitched inside her, and her intimate muscles contracted around it. It felt like a hot, hard marble shaft within her. She squeezed and released, squeezed and released, gripping his cock, cheered on by its fervent twitching. She felt the upsurge of sexual energy within her again, a mounting pleasure coiling through her cells. He stroked her other breast and his fingers slid to her hard nipple, then toyed with it, sending an aching need spiraling through her. She began to move again, rocking on his cock. It thrust within her, stroking her deep inside. So hard. So full. Pleasure built higher. Her muscles tightened. She clutched his shoulders. So sweet, so good. His cock stroked her insides. She squeezed him again. Waves of blissful sensations washed through her. She sucked in a deep breath as she realized the prize drew nearer. Just beyond reach. She could almost touch it. Oh, God, she wanted this orgasm. The pleasure built to a pounding crescendo. Closer. And closer. Her muscles tightened, her whole body taut as a fully wound spring. So close. His cock—hard and masculine—pounding into her. The pleasure building. She wanted it so bad. Maybe this would work. Maybe this sexy stranger would give her what she needed. That all-elusive orgasm.

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Opal Carew Oh, God, she hoped so. He stroked her back, then grasped her hips, trying to still her movements again, but she pulled free, pounding down on him, racing toward her goal. Tightening her muscles around him as though she could milk it from him. The pleasure climbed . . . climbed . . . Then slowed . . . hovering so close but . . . She wailed in frustration. Not close enough. “Oh, please,” she gasped on a long breath. “I’m so close. Make me come.” She clutched his shoulders tightly as she rode him mercilessly, grinding his pelvis beneath her own. “Please!” she wailed to the universe in general. He cupped her behind and kneaded as she continued to ride him. His caresses sent warmth through her, nudging the pleasure up, starting the race again . . . But it was only a sprint and she started to lose it again. She could feel the orgasm slipping from her grasp, disappearing into a black hole in the distance. Gone. Exhausted, her muscles taut and aching, she slowed. His cock remained long and hard within her. He hadn’t come yet. She kissed his cheek and pushed her stressed muscles further as she began to move again, determined to take him to his climax. “Sweetheart. It’s okay. You don’t have to keep going.”

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blush She kissed him soundly on the lips. “I want you to come.” As J.M. stared into her eyes, he realized she didn’t just want him to . . . she needed him to. Ordinarily, he would hold off his orgasm until she came, but it was clear that she wasn’t going to. She was coiled far too tightly. He had tried to slow her down, tried to get her to relax so he could help her build her pleasure slowly, but she had resisted. He had a great deal of experience helping women who had trouble coming to orgasm—enough to know she would not orgasm tonight. She was too tense and too frustrated. If he could take her somewhere quiet and comfortable and spend time relaxing her and building her pleasure over time, he could probably get her there, but that’s not what this encounter was about. She had wanted a forbidden joining of strangers and he didn’t think she’d take well to him inviting her home. So even though she hadn’t come, she needed him to come. It was a matter of self-esteem, written clearly in her wide midnight blue eyes. He cupped her round ass and stood up, lifting her with him. He leaned her against the wall and thrust forward. This would fit her sex-witha-stranger fantasy. Hard and fast against a wall. He took care to keep them in the shadows, blocked from the main window by a pillar. He thrust again and again, releasing his sexual energy to flow free and easy.

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Opal Carew “You are so incredibly sexy,” he murmured against her ear. She gasped as he plunged deep inside her and her legs tightened around him in a death grip. She didn’t seem to realize that her tension only pushed her orgasm further away. Or maybe she did but was helpless to stop it. He continued thrusting, luxuriating in the astounding pleasure of his cock gliding along the walls of her vagina. So hot. So wet. So tremendously sensual. His balls tightened and he pushed aside the automatic reaction to hold off his ejaculation. Her soft breasts pulsed against his chest as he drove into her in short, deep thrusts. The energy built, filling his chakras with intense, cosmic energy, flooding his body with bliss. The sexual energy he had built up over the past few weeks overflowed and his cock swelled, then erupted within her. His body shuddered in orgasm, accompanied by his long, rumbling groan. He held her close and tight within his arms, his muscles aching from supporting her weight, but not wanting to let her go. Finally, she shifted, then eased her legs down so her feet touched the floor. “Hanna, you are an incredible woman. Thank you.” He kissed her, enjoying her warm, naked body pressed against him, his cock still embedded in the warmth of her body. Hanna stared into his dark eyes, embarrassment rising within her. She could feel the heat of a blush stain her cheeks.

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blush “How do you know my name?” She had not introduced herself. He smiled. “You usually wear a name badge.” Oh, damn. So much for anonymity. What had she done? Hanna cradled her knees against her chest as she stared at the streetlights visible through the sheer curtains covering the large picture window in her living room. Her big, comfy chair wrapped around her as she rocked her body slightly, remembering the handsome stranger who had risen to her challenge, so to speak. He had risen quite nicely, in fact. Her cheeks burned at the thought. She sucked in a breath. How could she have been so wanton? She didn’t even know his name. Which made the whole situation even hotter. She had to admit, it had been extremely sexy stripping off her clothes in front of him, watching his eyes darken with lust. Then he’d pulled off his shirt, revealing his taut, muscle-ridged abdomen. Her fingers tensed at the memory, wanting to stroke over his hot, masculine flesh once again. Her stomach churned. Sex with a total stranger. She couldn’t believe she’d actually done such a thing. What would people think if they knew? The memory still haunted her. The feel of his long, hard cock sliding inside her still made her hot. A stolen

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Opal Carew moment in time. A hot, hard stranger thrusting into her. The phone rang and she snatched it from its cradle. “Hello?” Her voice came out hoarse, so she cleared her throat. “Hanna? You okay?” It was Grey’s voice.

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It was su upposed to bee simple. Alll Navy SEAL Nathan M Malone had too do was rescue three yooung girls from m a Colombiia drug carteel, then allow w himself to be captured just long ennough to draw w out a governm ment spy. Th hat was befo ore his mission went disaastrously wrrong…and beefore his wiffe, Bella, waas told that Nathan N was never n comin ng home. Bella’s mourned m her husband’s death d for threee long yearss. But she haas no idea hee’s still alivee. Forced to o assume a new n identity,, the man Naathan was is now dead. IIf he can get back to his wife, can he keeep the secreet of who he really is…eeven as desirre threatens tto consume tthem? And aas danger th hreatens to teear Bella fro om Nathan’s arms once m more?


NOTE: If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

wild card Copyright © 2008 by Lora Leigh. Cover photograph © Shirley Green All rights reserved. For information address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. ISBN: 0-312-94579-5 EAN: 978-0-312-94579-4 Printed in the United States of America St. Martin’s Paperbacks edition / September 2008 St. Martin’s Paperbacks are published by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


CHAPTER ONE Nine months later

Nathan Malone stood in the clinical white office he had been brought to. He was six months past the most horrific nightmare he could have imagined enduring. Six months. He knew how many days, how many hours, how many minutes and seconds had passed since he had “died.” Since the day he walked out his front door and headed into hell. The mission was supposed to be simple. Rescue three young girls from a cartel drug lord in Colombia and allow himself to be captured just long enough to draw out the government spy working with the cartel lord, Diego Fuentes. There had been an electronic tracker in his heel that he could activate the moment he saw the spy. Unfortunately, the spy had known that. His heel had been sliced open before the spy ever appeared. Before Nathan could realize the danger he was in, he had been strapped to a hardwood table and the first of a series of synthetic drugs pumped into him. Whore’s dust. A powerful, blinding aphrodisiac. Hell. Because there had been no relief. Because Nathan, enraged, crazed, animalistic, had been unable to break the vows he had made to his wife. No matter the amount of drugs. No matter the provocation. He stared back now at the small group of men who had rescued him from Diego Fuentes’s hell. Three doctors, an


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admiral, some scowling bastard in a suit, supposedly a JAG representative, and his uncle Jordan Malone. Jordan wasn’t in uniform. That was telling enough. His resignation from the SEALs three months before had surprised Nathan when he’d heard about it. Of course, there wasn’t much left to do but listen to rumor in the highly secured, specialized private clinic he had been recovering in. Surgery after surgery to repair his body and his face. They’d fixed what had been damaged. They’d rebuilt what couldn’t be reset. But his mind still felt broken. The man he had once been was no more than a dream. He was still a SEAL. He hadn’t resigned. But he had a feeling he wouldn’t be one for long. “Lieutenant Malone.” The admiral nodded back at him, his lined, weathered face drawn in worry and concern. “You’re doing well.” Like hell he was. He stood to attention, but this was fucking shit. He felt like he was being stretched on a rack of fire. The three doctors watched silently. The psychologist assigned to him made a few notes. Damned bastard was always making notes. “Thank you, sir,” he finally managed to say. Hell, he just wanted to get back to the exercises he’d been doing. The ones that pushed his body to exhaustion, that made the hellacious arousal that still cursed him lessen. The admiral frowned back at him. “Are you in pain, son?” he asked him. Nathan forced patience. Forced patience didn’t sit well right now. “Yes, sir, I am.” He wasn’t going to lie about it either. The admiral nodded. “That explains your borderline disrespect. Maybe.” Nathan gritted his teeth. “Sorry, sir, protocol isn’t my strong suit these days.” He expected a snap in the admiral’s reply; he didn’t expect the old man’s face to smooth out or the understanding that lit his gaze.


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Admiral Holloran had once been not just his superior officer, but a man he respected. “Sit down, Nathan.” The admiral nodded to the chair behind him before taking his own seat. Nathan glanced at Jordan. His uncle was sitting, all protocol pretty much abolished where he was concerned. But it wasn’t disrespect, it was an arrogance, a confidence that had only been thinly veiled until now. Nathan sat down gingerly. He was still having trouble with one leg, but it was strengthening. As were the muscles in his back that he had worked to rebuild. The admiral finally sighed as silence filled the room. “I attended your funeral,” he stated then. “I grieved, Nathan. Seeing you now”—he shook his head—“makes me wonder sometimes at the decisions that are made behind my back. I wouldn’t have approved that mission.” “I agreed to it.” Simple. It was supposed to have been so simple. He still had the hole in his heel to prove it hadn’t been. “We’ll discuss that another day,” the admiral growled. “We’re facing another problem.” “Has my wife been informed I’m alive yet?” The words felt torn from his ruined vocal chords. His voice was rougher, darker than it had been, but hell, at least he could talk. “Not yet,” the admiral answered. “I still prefer she not be told.” Nathan stared straight ahead now. He was aware of the bandages that still covered his face, the wounds that were still healing on his body. But even more, he was very much aware of the effects of that fucking whore’s dust those bastards Fuentes and Jansen Clay had pumped into his body. Eighteen months of it. He had been the guinea pig. The SEAL to break with the black evil they forced into him. But he hadn’t broken. He’d become a monster instead. “Sabella’s been grieving, Nathan,” Jordan said then. “She’s still grieving. She still cries for you.” “She’ll stop crying. Sabella’s tough.” He shrugged as


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though it didn’t matter and glimpsed the admiral and Jordan’s exchanged look from his periphery. He was lying. His Bella wasn’t tough. She was soft and sweet and he swore he heard her cries in his dreams, in his nightmares. The ragged wound that was his soul would never heal, because he couldn’t get the sounds of her screams out of his head. How much worse would her screams be if she saw him now? His gentle little Bella had loved his body. When he had walked out the door that last day he had been strong, powerful, but even more, he’d been a man who knew how to be gentle. That man didn’t exist anymore. There was nothing gentle in the dark, twisted dreams he had now. Dreams of death. And dreams of Bella. And a hunger he knew he would never restrain if she came to him. “I’m dead,” he told them, his voice cold as he thought of the consequences of trying to return to her. “I’ll stay dead.” The psychologist was scribbling furiously on his pad. Nathan’s gaze jerked to him. As though he could feel the spikes of fury aimed his way, the balding little man lifted his head. His shoulders shifted beneath his ill-fitting suit jacket, and behind his plain glasses, his brown eyes flickered nervously. Nathan’s eyes jerked back to the admiral. “Would you get him the hell out of my sight, sir.” Admiral Holloran stared back at him for long seconds before nodding to the doctors and jerking his head to the door. They all filed out quickly. None of them were comfortable in his presence. They never had been. Of course, they’d had to deal with an animal for the first three months that he had been under their care. Admiral Holloran sighed wearily and stared back at him. “Last chance, son,” he said softly. “Let us call your wife. Send someone for her.” He bared his teeth in fury. “No, sir.” The “sir” was habitual, the growling rage in his voice wasn’t. It was pumping through him, numbing his mind, filling his senses with the echoed images of his nightmares.


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“Enough.” Jordan spoke into the silence. “I warned you he wouldn’t change his mind.” “Your respect has gone to hell, Jordan,” Holloran snapped. “So has my patience,” Jordan bit out. “I was given complete control of this unit, Admiral, and that supersedes even your rank.” “If he changes his mind then he can’t go back,” the admiral argued. “Is that what you want for your nephew, Jordan?” “If he changes his mind then that decision is mine to make, not yours or anyone else’s.” There was a hardness to Jordan, a bleak anger Nathan had never seen in him before. “He’ll be transferred to the command center tomorrow and the doctors there will work him with the others.” “You haven’t even asked him if he’s willing!” The admiral was in Jordan’s face now. The two men nose to nose, two incredible wills clashing. It would have been amusing if Nathan had been in the mood for it. He wasn’t. He rose to his feet and headed to the door. “Nathan.” Nathan paused before turning back to face his uncle. Jordan had once been not just family, but a superior officer, when they had both been SEALs, when Nathan had been a man rather than the animal he had turned into. He stared back at Jordan. “Make it quick. I have exercises to finish this evening.” Jordan got to his feet. “There are other options than the SEALs.” “Oh yeah?” Nathan arched his brows. “What’s better than the SEALs, Uncle? Hell? Been there, still take trips.” Jordan nodded slowly. His brilliant blue eyes, wild Irish eyes, his grandpop had called them, stared back at him. “There are other options, Nathan.” “Really?” Nathan stared between Jordan and the admiral. “Yeah.” Jordan nodded. “You walk out of here as a SEAL and you walk out as Nathan Malone. You walk out with me, and Nathan Malone ceases to exist.”


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The admiral moved from his chair with a jerky movement and paced to the other side of the room. “You leave with him and the SEALs won’t exist for you anymore, Nathan. The only men you’ll have contact with are those in your old team under Commander Chavez, to retrain. You’ll be dead forever. Nathan Malone will no longer exist. Not for you. And not for your wife.” Nathan stared back at him, but it was Bella he saw. She hated a broken nail, she worried about wrinkles. How would she handle a husband who was little more than a monster? He turned to Jordan. “So where do I sign up?”

Three years later Jordan Malone stood in his office and stared through the privacy glass at the exercise room. His hands were shoved in the pockets of his jeans, a scowl on his face as he watched his nephew. Nathan, now known as Noah Blake to the world, was only five years younger than he was. Jordan had been a surprise to his parents, a shock to his older siblings. And he had been more like a brother to the man pouring with sweat beneath the weights in the other room. The change in Nathan over the past years was nothing short of miraculous. Hell, the first six months, the very fact that he had survived had been miraculous. It had been the first three years that had been the hardest though. The nightmares and effects of the whore’s dust in his system had nearly driven Noah insane. But had he survived? Sometimes, Jordan wondered if the man who had taken that final SEAL assignment was the same one he was staring at now. His face was different. The plastic surgery had made it leaner, the bone and muscle more defined. Fuentes had done a job on Nathan’s face while he was a captive. Bones had been shattered, the repairs had been extensive. The change drastic. No one who knew Nathan Malone before would guess at his identity now. His build was different. His body


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was leaner but more powerful, rock hard, and his will was steel. He was a cold, icy-eyed killer. He wasn’t Nathan Malone anymore. He was truly Noah Blake, because Noah had made certain nothing of Nathan existed. Noah’s training with Reno Chavez’s unit in the past years had worried Jordan. Where once the Navy SEAL Nathan Malone had pulled his punches and killed only when he had to, now . . . Jordan shook his head. Noah killed with deadly, silent efficiency. Jordan remembered the night they had rescued the man who had been Nathan from Fuentes’s hold. Nearly every bone in his body had been broken at some point. He had been wasted away, nearly starved, and pumped so high on whore’s dust his eyes had glowed like a demon’s. And he had fought. He had fought not to rape the girl locked in the cell with him, he had fought to protect her. And he had fought to walk out rather than be carried out. Jordan had been certain his nephew would never survive the withdrawal of the drug and the effects to his brain. He’d never imagined Nathan would come back, stronger than ever rather than broken. Darker than ever, and so different that his identity change rarely blipped Jordan’s radar anymore. “He’s never going to be the same, is he?” Lieutenant Ian Richards said somberly, admitting what none of them had dared say aloud over the years. Ian was part of that SEAL team, had stood with the other men who had spent the past years with the man they called Noah. It had been harder on Ian in some ways, because he had been closer to Nathan than even Jordan had been. Nathan had only been ten when he heard young Ian’s screams echoing through the desert landscape of their ranch. He had awakened his father, harassed that mean-assed Grant Malone out of the house, and found the young boy whose mother was dying in his arms. Grant, in a surprising display of compassion, had helped the young woman and her child. Grant had his moments, Jordan thought, they were just few and far between.


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“No, he’s never going to be same.” He admitted the truth to Ian, as well as to himself. “This man isn’t Nathan Malone anymore, Ian. He’s truly Noah Blake. We may as well accept that.” “He’s a machine now,” Ian stated heavily, his expression saddened as he watched Nathan work out. “He’s the best damned killer I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Silent as a thought.” Jordan turned to Reno Chavez, the commander of the group. Reno shook his black head. “He’s not a SEAL any longer. He questions orders continuously, lays in backup plans out the ass, and always has a plan if that one goes bad. If he feels he needs to deviate, then he deviates. He’s not insubordinate, but he’s a leader now. He won’t follow easily unless he’s assured the plan is the only way to go. He’s a wild card, Jordan, but he’s a damned efficient one. Like a shark. Cold-blooded. Focused. And deadly.” Jordan nodded. “Thank you, Reno. I appreciate the report.” “You have my written report as well.” Reno nodded to the file that had been laid on Jordan’s desk. The monthly reports hadn’t deviated in years. Nathan was barely a man any longer. He often reminded Jordan of a robot, little more. “Jordan, he’s not going to survive like this,” Ian said quietly, turning back to the window, watching the man that had once been his friend. “He’ll self-destruct. One of these days, he’ll put a bullet in his own head.” As though Noah had heard him, sensed him, he sat up on the weight bench and grabbed a towel. His gaze sliced past the two-way mirror and stared back at them. His eyes were darker, wilder than Nathan Malone’s had been. Searing navy blue in a dark, sharply defined face. His black hair was thick, long, nearly to his shoulders now. He refused to cut it. As he turned his back Jordan glimpsed the black sun pierced by a red sword that had been tattooed on the left shoulder blade of Noah’s back. The emblem of the Elite Operational Unit was another re-


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minder of how Noah had shed his past as Nathan Malone. He had signed his life over to a unit that at times could be little more than a suicide mission. “He’ll survive.” Jordan kept his response cool, but what he felt inside was anything but cool. “He’s not finished yet. He just thinks he is.” Nathan hadn’t returned to his wife yet, and Noah, the man he was, hadn’t forgotten that woman. He wouldn’t find himself until he did. Jordan had pulled his nephew into this unit because he knew the man he loved like a brother would have never survived intact if he’d had to face the world after his release from the clinic. Or if he’d had to face his wife. The psychologist had agreed. Nathan would have taken a walk one day and just never returned. He hadn’t been ready. Noah might still not be ready either. But Jordan was going to end up testing him anyway.

Three years later “It won’t be easy to get him to agree to it,” Ian Richards warned Jordan as they watched the six-man unit of the Elite Ops working out in the gym through the two-way mirror that looked into it. Noah was stronger than ever. Lean. Powerful. Cold. “He’ll go,” Jordan said softly. “He’ll not let her remain in danger.” Ian blew out a hard breath as they stared at the man they all knew as Noah now. “Would she want him back like this?” he asked. Jordan had questioned that one himself. For six years Sabella Malone had been without her husband. In the past three years, she had finally begun living again. Dating again. There was a chance Noah could lose the wife he never admitted he had, very soon, to another man’s arms. “We’ll find out, won’t we,” Jordan mused. “We’ll be your backup in the Alpine mission,” Reno told him then. This small group of men had been assigned to the


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Elite Ops; partly privately funded, partly government backed, the unit was a test unit, a group of dead men, of rogues. In the past years they had become a highly advanced, specialized unit dealing in operations that other agencies couldn’t touch either because of political sensitivity, or the level of danger involved. Jordan nodded slowly before watching Noah once more. “We’ll meet up at the command center set up in Big Bend National Park,” he told them. “You’ll receive your orders within the next day or so.” Ian and Reno nodded and left quickly, heading out to prepare for the coming operation. All that was left was getting Noah Blake to go along with it. Jordan sat down at his desk, picked up the file he had on the mission, and called Noah into his office. Noah made him wait. When he walked into Jordan’s office, his hair was still damp from his shower, his blue eyes cold, no emotion, no life flickering within them. “Are we ready?” Noah took the seat in front of the desk that Jordan indicated. “Almost.” Jordan nodded. “Command center will be broken down tonight and flown to the new location. We should be set up within forty-eight hours.” Noah didn’t say anything, he just stared back at Jordan, waiting. His patience was seemingly endless now. But when he erupted into action there was no one faster. No one deadlier. “You’re delaying,” Noah finally drawled, that ruined voice scraping. That voice had once been flowing, deep. Now, it was guttural, almost raw. “First mission is in Texas,” Jordan stated. Noah didn’t respond. His gaze didn’t even flicker. As though nothing in Texas concerned him. No family, no grandfather, brother, or father. No wife. “Command center will based forty miles out of Alpine.” “No.” Noah’s tone was icy.


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Jordan lifted the file and slapped it down in front of him. “Read the file. You don’t want the mission, then the hell with it. You can head to Siberia for all I give a damn and babysit that scientist they had us kidnap last month, in the cold. But you will read the file first.” Jordan stomped from the office, slammed the door behind him, and left Noah to the information they had gathered. Noah, he never thought of himself as Nathan anymore, stared at the file as though it were a rattler. He didn’t want to read it. He didn’t want to know. Siberia suited him just fine. Hell, that scientist was a quiet little thing, she just liked working on her projects, she didn’t like company. She would do. He got to his feet, then stopped. He stared at the file and almost turned away. Almost. A picture had slid from just inside the file, and he knew that chin. He picked it up slowly. The center of his chest was a hard, searing knot of agony as he pulled the picture free and frowned. And there it was. That familiar curve of the brow, those pretty, soft gray eyes. But he’d be damned if he knew the woman they belonged to. She looked like Sabella. His Sabella. It was his Sabella. But she was so different. Her sun-streaked blond tresses were darker, almost brown in some places. And her hair was longer now. Well past her shoulders, thick and heavy. Her face was thinner, her expression was quieter. There was no smile on her lips. Unless she was angry, Nathan had never seen Sabella without a smile. The thought of her smiles, her laughter, her joy, followed him into his dreams sometimes. Sometimes, they held the nightmares at bay. What would he hold on to now that he saw that smile was gone? He held the picture in one hand, staring at her. He had refused to read any of the reports he knew Jordan kept on her. Refused to hear anything about her in the past six years.


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He had only two questions if her name came up. Was she alive? Was she safe? Jordan had always nodded, and Noah had always walked away. He opened the mission file. It didn’t take long to read it. Even less time for him to have to fight the howl of pure rage that burned in his throat. Sabella was smack in the middle of an operation that had already killed three FBI agents and the wife of a prominent politician. Son of a bitch. He’d asked his father for one thing in his entire life. If anything ever happened to him, to watch out for Sabella, and that lying bastard had sworn he would. But he hadn’t. Sabella was undefended. Only his bastard half brother was trying to help at this point. The mission file was peppered with information on Sabella, his half brother, Rory, his grandfather, Riordan, and the father he could feel himself beginning to hate now. And it was filled with danger. That danger could touch Sabella. He could see it. He could see the threads that, if pulled just the right way, would tighten around his wife’s neck and put her in harm’s way. Nathan’s wife, he reminded himself bitterly, not Noah’s. Noah Blake had no wife. But he couldn’t erase the past that had once belonged to him, or the dreams of a wife that had been his, no matter how hard he tried. And now she was in danger. Because he hadn’t watched out for her. He sat down and stared at the picture. It was bad enough the man she had loved had died, but the haunted shell that was left hadn’t even been able to watch out for her. He ran his finger over the picture, down the curve of her cheek, as he closed his eyes and remembered her smile. Remembered touching her. As he let himself remember, outside his dreams, of loving her.


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“Go síoraí,” he whispered, breathing in the scent of those memories. “Forever, Sabella. I’ll love you forever.” And the first crack in Noah Blake’s shell appeared. athan.” His name was breathed into the darkness as N Sabella came awake. As though the past six years had never happened, as though she had never lost him. She heard his voice in the darkness. Those words. The ones she had never asked the meaning of. Go síoraí. She stared into the dimly lit room. No Nathan. Nathan wasn’t there. Dry eyed, aching, she lay back down and closed her eyes. “Goodbye, Nathan,” she whispered back, wishing she could still cry. Wishing the pain could be shed so easily. “I miss you.”


CHAPTER TWO

The little shack that sat in the middle of the sprawling Rocking M Ranch looked just as weathered, just as faded and familiar, as it ever had even in the dark, beneath a bleak, black night. Noah moved through the darkness like a wraith. He jumped the little wrought-iron fence and moved to his grandmother’s grave. Erin Malone. Go síoraí. Forever. They were the only words on her granite tombstone. His grandfather had chiseled them in himself. Kneeling by the tombstone, Noah stretched out his left hand, touched the stone, and lowered his head. His grandfather had always paid homage to their grandmother in this fashion. All her children had except Grant Malone. And Noah did now. He wondered if his brother Rory did as well. He lifted his head and stared at the shack. It was dark, shadowed, but he knew his half brother was there. He eased back from the grave then and bounded back over the fence before moving to the cabin. Rory was quick. He was suspicious. He had known throughout the day that someone was watching the cabin, but Noah hadn’t tried to hide it. He moved around the shack on silent feet. He flowed with


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the shadows, became a part of them, used them to his advantage until he stood at the end of the back porch and stared at the young man who sat in the aged rocker. Rory was twenty-five, a man grown, and he looked too much like Nathan had at that age. He was broader in the shoulders and his muscles were heavier, but not as effective. Rory sat silently, his rifle resting across his thighs, his body tense. “I know you’re here,” his brother muttered. “If I haven’t scoped you by now, I’m not going to. You might as well take the shot.” Disgust lined his voice, filled his expression as his head lifted. Rory thought he was dead, just as everyone else did. And Noah needed to ensure no one else suspected. Except Rory. Nathan would need his help. As silent as moonlight he was over the banister of the porch, the rifle pulled from Rory’s grip, the barrel across his brother’s neck as the rocker tilted back to the wall. It wasn’t a harsh grip, it was a warning one. He didn’t want to wake the old man. He didn’t want to add to Rory’s grief, or to his own shame. “Stay silent,” Noah hissed in Rory’s dark face. “I’m not here to hurt you.” Rory’s expression was frankly disbelieving. But Noah would have been surprised if he’d reacted any other way. “You have one chance to know what I know about your brother,” Noah warned him quietly. “One chance. Blow it, and it will never return.” Rory’s eyes narrowed. Startling blue eyes, true Malone eyes. “My brother’s dead,” he bit out quietly. “What could you tell me about him that my uncle couldn’t?” Noah leaned closer. “Bràthair, what could I tell you that you want to know?” Then Noah leaned back again slowly. Rory was shaking. His dark face, Gaelic dark, paled as he stared back at the shadow hovering in front of his vision. Noah moved back slowly, still gripping the rifle. “Come


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with me.” He jerked his head to the shed at the edge of the house yard. “Does he still keep the shed lit?” There was no answer, but Rory was following. They stepped into the shed and Noah closed the door carefully before flipping the light on. Rory collapsed on the old chair in the corner and stared back at him. His gaze was dark with pain, anger. “I thought you were my brother,” he whispered. “Hell, I hoped you were.” Noah watched as his brother rubbed his hands over his face and shook his black head. Noah removed the night vision glasses he wore. A new toy the unit was playing with. One he had taken advantage of. He stared back at Rory, realizing the color of the eyes he saw every morning in the mirror was wilder, bleaker, much darker and more dangerous than his brother’s. Rory blinked. “Do you still sneak in here to smoke?” Noah asked, remembering how his brother used to slip a cigarette when he thought no one would catch him. Only he and Rory had known that. Rory’s hand shook. He gripped the arms of the old chair and stared at Noah as though he could force himself to see what he needed to see. “Who are you?” Rory finally breathed out painfully, his voice filled with more disappointment than Noah had expected. “And what the hell do you want?” Noah shook his head. “I don’t have time for games, Rory.” “You’re not Nathan,” Rory whispered. “I’m not the Nathan you remember.” He moved to the wardrobe in the back of the shed, opened the small door in the bottom and extracted the bottle of whiskey he knew his grandfather kept there. He hid his spirits from his Erin, he would always grin when he slipped a sip. Even though his Erin was dead, his grandfather continued the tradition. Uncorking the fine imported Irish spirit, he tipped the bottle to his lips and took a healthy drink. He didn’t grimace


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as it went down, he savored it. Recapping it, he returned it to the drawer and turned back to Rory. The boy was staring at him now as though he had seen a ghost. “No one knows about Grandpop’s stash,” he whispered. Noah nodded shortly. “You knew. I knew. Grant never knew.” Rory breathed out roughly. “You stopped calling Grant dad after you found out about me.” Noah lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “He couldn’t be your dad, then he was no dad of mine.” Rory shook his head as though to shake the confusion clear. Nathan almost felt sorry for him. He didn’t have time for pity though. He grabbed an old wooden chair and pulled it to him. Straddling it, he stared back at his brother. “You’re not making sense,” Rory said, his voice forceful. “You’re not Nathan, but you know the things only he knew.” The younger man’s gaze looked him over desperately. “Who are you?” “Nathan’s ghost.” He sighed. “I’m Noah Blake, Rory, and you can’t ever forget that. From this second on, believe Nathan is dead, because that man is long gone. Only Noah exists.” And still Rory was trying to find Nathan within him. Noah watched the desperation in his brother’s gaze, felt it lashing at his soul. “I need your help, Rory.” “My help?” Rory shook his head again. “Hell, I don’t even know who you are.” “You wouldn’t have known me even five years ago,” he told him. “Hell happened. Death happened.” “Sabella?” “Doesn’t know.” Noah’s voice hardened. “And no one’s telling her. I wasn’t joking, kid. Nathan Malone stays dead.” Rory stared everywhere but at him for long, tense moments. “Damn you!” The boy got to his feet, anger churning in


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his face now. “You son of a bitch! You’re not Nathan. And you know how I know you’re not Nathan?” Noah stared back at him remotely. Pushing the emotion back was the killer. Hell, he’d thought it would be easier than this. He had told Jordan, a walk in the park. This wasn’t the park, it was a bleak nightmare. “I’ll tell you,” Rory snarled. “You’re not Nathan because Nathan wouldn’t be here.” He stabbed his finger at the floor of the shed. “He wouldn’t be here with me right now, he’d be taking care of his wife before someone else decided to do the job for him.” Before Noah realized the lack of control festering inside him, before Rory could guess his intent, Noah lifted him by the throat from the chair and threw him against the wall. Pinning him there he snarled back in Rory’s face. Rory looked as Nathan had once looked. He was built as Nathan had once been built. Or as Noah had. They could have been twins at one time. They could have been born of the same mother and father, rather than different mothers. Rory was a younger Nathan. And Noah bet he remembered how to laugh. “Have you touched her?” Ice seeped inside him. It filled his voice, filled his soul. “Did you comfort her?” His hands tightened around Rory’s throat. He could see it. Rory touching her, holding her, as Sabella whispered Nathan’s name, whispered forever. His hold became tighter. His Sabella. Sweet, soft, warm. Forever whispering in his ear. She had promised him forever. Was she giving it to Rory instead? “Nathan?” Rory was choking as he stared back at him in shock. Tears filled the boy’s eyes, darkened them. “Nathan,” he wheezed. “Oh God. Oh God. You’re alive. You bastard!” Noah deflected the kick, the fists to the kidneys, and the younger man’s choked curses. He released the hold on his neck, twisted his arm behind his back and flattened his face to the table next to the wall. “Did. You. Touch. My wife?”


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“I should have,” Rory cried, half sob, half enraged bellow. “I should have. You son of a bitch. You son of a bitch. You’re just like him. Just like that heartless little bastard that made you.” Rory laid his head on the table as Noah released him and his shoulders shook. He kept his forehead pressed into the wood, and a sob tore from his throat. Noah flexed his hand, staring at it, his jaw tightening until he felt it would crack as he stretched his fingers and realized, they had been wrapped around his brother’s throat. “Get out of here!” Rory straightened, keeping his back to him. “Get out.” “I can’t do that, Rory.” He turned furiously, his eyes blazing as he sneered back at Nathan. “Granddad cries when he talks about you. When he sees Sabella struggling with that fucking garage. Trying to survive. He tried to help her and that son of a bitch father of yours took damned near everything he had. And here you are.” He flipped his hand back to Nathan, fury filling his face. “The big tough warrior the old man had such pride in. Six years, Nathan. Six years and where the hell have you been?” Noah lashed out, pushing him back in the chair as he glared back at him. “Watch it, boy,” he bit out. “Keep pushing and you’ll get more than you want.” “I got more than I wanted when I felt you watching the place this afternoon,” he snarled, anger pushing past fear. “I’m back, that’s all that matters.” Noah rubbed his hand over his short beard. “This isn’t as simple as why I didn’t come back. It’s not even as simple as having the option to come back for a damned long time. I’m here now, and I need information.” “That’s what they make computers for.” Rory was three seconds from attacking him again and Noah knew it. The boy had that damned Irish pride and temper. “Listen to me, you little shit!” He moved over him vengefully. “Look at my face. My body. Do you think this shit happened because I wanted to be someone else? Because I


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wanted my life fucked up the ass and back? Look, Rory. Look at the scars. You want to see my back? How about my legs? You want to see the hole they cut in my foot? Will that help?” He jerked back, furious, enraged. So much for control. He hadn’t let his control snap in more than five years. He inhaled roughly. He wasn’t going to let it snap now, not any further than it had already. He turned back to his brother and pushed back the emotion. The horror in his brother’s eyes wasn’t what he’d wanted to see. “Belle’s not the same without you,” Rory whispered. “She’s sad all the time. All she does is work. All she does is close herself off. She’s not even the same girl anymore. Any more than you’re the same man.” Noah clenched his jaw, his fists. He couldn’t talk about Sabella. Not now. Not yet. “Tell me about the Black Collar Militia.” Rory blinked. “BC?” He snorted. “I stay outta that shit. I remember the whipping you gave me before you left, okay?” “I didn’t ask if you were still stupid,” he growled. “Tell me what you’ve heard.” Rory licked his lips and looked away for a second. “Two of Belle’s mechanics are BC. Low level mostly. No one knows what’s high level. The little twits like to brag sometimes. Mostly they run errands, crap like that.” Noah straddled the chair again. “When did they start working for Sabella?” Rory narrowed his eyes at him. “You always called her Bella, Nate.” “Rory, don’t piss me off again.” He sighed. “Answer my questions. And you call me by that name again and I’ll bust your head. My name is Noah Blake.” Rory flinched before tensing and shaking his head. “Hell.” He breathed out roughly. “A year or so ago maybe. All the guys working for you left that first year. Belle was in bad shape for a long time. When she finally came out of it, she was on the verge of losing the house and the garage. I couldn’t keep it running.” His expression twisted painfully as he stared


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back at Noah. “I tried,” he whispered. “But I couldn’t keep it going.” He shrugged. “And Belle, she’s a hell of a mechanic, but she doesn’t have good people skills, ya know? Getting things back up and running has taken all our time.” Sabella, a mechanic? Noah held back his total disbelief. That one he would have to see to believe. And no people skills? Who had kidnapped his wife and replaced her? “Just tell me about the militia,” Noah growled. Rory pushed his fingers through his hair. “I simply don’t know much.” He shook his head. “I’m pretty sure Mike Conrad associates with them. I know he’s hot for the garage since news came you were dead. He’s made Belle an offer a few times, but she refuses to sell. Sometimes Mike gets a little drunk, and when he does, he’ll run his mouth, but he hasn’t spouted off about anything dangerous yet. Sheriff is a badass, he could be in it, but with him who the hell knows. There’s rumors the BC are involved in some of those deaths in the National Park, but, like I said, rumors. Hell, Noah, I’ve been so damned busy just trying to keep the wolves away from Belle that I don’t have time for that crap.” Noah nodded. He hadn’t expected Rory to know a lot. “You’re giving me a job at the garage. You hired me tonight. You met me last month when you were at that bar in Odessa.” Rory gave him a surprised look. “You know about the bar?” “And the barmaid,” Noah grunted. “I showed up this afternoon, found you heading back here and stopped. We chatted. You offered me a job.” Rory stared back at him confusion. “And Belle?” “Won’t know who I am,” he told Rory quietly. “And if you tell her, Rory, if you even hint it to her, you’ll disappear until all this is over, you understand me?” He stared back at his brother. There was no anger now, no emotion. The ice was falling back into place. “But Bella’s your wife,” Rory whispered painfully. “You almost stayed away too long, man.” “I’ll take care of Sabella, my way.” He rose from the chair,


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staring down at Rory with hard eyes. “Do you understand me, Rory? My way.” Rory nodded hesitantly. “Stay here tomorrow. Sleep off that drunk you’re going to tie on tonight. Don’t show up until you can get a handle on this.” Rory grunted. “Then I guess I’ll see you next lifetime.” Noah stared back at him silently for long moments. “Fine. Day or two.” His brother shrugged. “And you don’t tell Grandpop either,” Noah warned him. Rory shrugged. “I won’t tell, doesn’t mean he won’t know. You know Granddad.” Unfortunately he did. Riordan Malone always seemed to just know things. It had been creepy as hell when he was a kid, comforting as he grew older. And now, now it was just worrisome. “Why Noah?” Rory asked the question Noah couldn’t answer. “Why the name, and why are you back here for the BC and not your family?” Bitterness filled his brother’s voice, his expression, and Nathan was damned if he could blame him. “I’m back because the BC threatens my family,” he stated, his grating voice harsher, darker than it should have been. “As for the name.” His lips quirked. “It’s Irish. Now keep your eyes and ears open. I’ll tell you more as I can.” Rory gave him a mocking sneer. “Fuck you, man. You know, you’re right, Belle doesn’t need to know who you are. She has a second chance now; maybe this time, she’ll get a man that will stay home a while.” Noah froze, he didn’t even blink. “Meaning?” “You should have checked things out a little before you came back and accused me of touching what’s yours. It’s not me you have to worry about, Noah. Try worrying about your good friend Duncan Sykes. She’s been seeing him since his divorce a year ago.” Rory’s smile was mocking. “If I were a betting man, I’d bet she’ll be letting him drive your truck soon.” Noah pushed back the demon rising inside him. Long of


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fang, sharp of claw, it tore at his brain, threatened his control, his ability to think. Duncan Sykes. No. It hadn’t happened. Bella hadn’t been with another man. No other man had touched her. No other man would dare. Because he would kill him. And he would have known. Noah slipped back into the night as silently as he had come in. He made his way back around the house, moving quickly, staying in the shadows until he reached the canyon where he’d left the Harley, more than a mile away. He was aware of Rory trying to track him, but the kid wasn’t experienced enough. He’d lost sight of Nathan seconds after he left. But there were other eyes, old eyes, tear-filled eyes, that watched every stride he took with pride, love, and fierce exultant joy. awn wasn’t far way, but rather than returning to the comD mand center to catch a few hours’ sleep and report to Jordan, Noah pointed the Harley home instead. He couldn’t get it out of his head. Sabella was seeing someone? Was she sleeping with his old friend Duncan Sykes? He had to know. He had to see her for himself, feel her, know she belonged to him even though he knew he couldn’t have her. Six years. He couldn’t be reborn. Nathan Malone was dead in more than just name. The man he had been was dead. The man Sabella had loved was dead. Had she found someone to replace him? He couldn’t consider it. Over six years without her touch, without the soft scent of her. He couldn’t take another woman. He couldn’t bear the thought of it. His vows held him. Sabella’s soul held him. He couldn’t have her, but he couldn’t have anyone else either. Could he bear to know she was in another man’s arms? He turned down an old back road and pulled the Harley into a shelter of trees, turned the ignition key, and swung off. He began the short hike that would take him to the back of


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the house. The two-story brick house sat at the edge of town. There were no neighbors close enough to see him if he came in on the lower edge of the property. He just wanted to stay a minute, he told himself as he moved through the predawn light, keeping to the shelter of trees that bordered the backyard. He had nearly stepped into the yard before he stopped. Came to a hard, freezing stop and just stared at the vision that stepped out on the back porch. His reaction was like a fist to the gut, threatening to double him up. It was the immediate, violent erection in his jeans. It was his heart rate increasing, the blood rushing through his veins hard and fast. His breathing felt restricted, locked in his throat. His fingers curled against his palms, forming fists so tight the bones ached. He stared at the woman, the man’s long white shirt falling past her thighs, gaping open to reveal the white tank top and boyshort panties she wore beneath. She lifted a cup of coffee, the steam curling against her face as dawn edged in, lighting the yard, the porch, and the woman with gold and violet rays. “Sabella.” He whispered her name. Rory had noticed his slip. He had always called her Bella, unless he wanted her. Unless the need to be buried inside the velvet-soft, rich warmth of her body had been overwhelming. And it had never been as overwhelming as it was now. He imagined he could smell her scent in the air, a blend of honeysuckle and feminine warmth. Against his palm he imagined he felt the heat of her flesh, silken and giving, lifting to him, her lips whispering his name. He remembered several times, many in fact, that he had taken her on that back porch. He’d lifted her astride him as he sat on that swing. He’d bent her over the railing and buried into her from behind. Agony pierced his chest and bit into his soul like an animal’s fangs. And that was how he wanted to bite her. He wanted to grip her neck between his teeth and hold her in place like an animal. He wanted to pound inside her and hear her scream for more.


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But her screams would be far different than when she cried for more, he thought. The man he was now, the dark hungers that filled him, would terrify her. But still, he watched her. Watched as she enjoyed that first cup of coffee. The almost sensual pleasure in her face as the heated liquid passed her lips, and he let himself remember when that sensuality had once flowed over him as well. He remembered her laughter and her smile. He remembered touching her, holding her, and he had to restrain the need to remember sharing dreams with her. Once, they had had such dreams. Simple dreams. A dog and a kid. Maybe a pool in the backyard. And now here he was, hidden from view, watching as his wife’s too somber face lifted to the dawn, and he swore he felt her whisper his name. A few more hours, he thought. He would check in with Jordan, shower, and change clothes before heading to the garage. When he had first gone back to Texas with the other members of the Elite Operational Unit he had joined, Noah had told himself he would do the job and leave. That simple. As he stood staring at his wife, he had a feeling it wasn’t going to be that simple at all. Today, he would step back into her life as another man. A man whose hungers were so dark, ran so deep, that sometimes they made him pause. A renegade. A wild card. He would come to her, not as Nathan Malone, but as Noah Blake. And he would come into her life as nothing she could ever imagine.


How far would you g go to reach the ultimate pleasure? 

Max Delaaney is a master of bond dage and sub bmission…annd Summer Anderson’s most decadent  dream co ome true.  Frrom the moment she meets him, shhe yearns forr him to dom minate her‐‐body  and soul..  As Max initiates her in nto his world d of scorchin g BDSM sexx, he shows SSummer whaat’s  possible when she ab bandons herr inhibitions and loses heerself in purre sensation.  Soon Summ mer  urrender to her wickede est desire yeet: to share h herself with three men aat  wonders if she can su ut once she’ss lived out her most forb bidden fantaasy, can she go back to h her ordinaryy  once.  Bu life?  And d will she ever want to?   


This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

secret ties. Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Batten- Carew. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010. www.stmartins.com Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Carew, Opal. Secret ties / Opal Carew.—1st ed. p. cm. ISBN-13: 978- 0-312-38480-7 ISBN-10: 0-312-38480-7 1. Sexual dominance and submission—Fiction. I. Title. PR9199.4.C367S43 2009 813'.6—dc22 2009007372 First Edition: July 2009 10

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Opal Carew what it felt like to be kissed by him. To feel those lips against hers, his tongue delving into her mouth with controlled confidence. “People seemed to like what you had to offer.” He fi lled her glass again, and she realized she’d drained it. She took a sip of the bubbly liquid and felt it warm her throat. She wasn’t used to champagne, and she could feel it relaxing her. “You helped Tanya with her research on this book.” Summer watched those full, masculine lips turn up in a smile again. She really liked his smile. “So you must know a lot about bondage.” “Not just bondage, honey,” Tanya said. “BDSM.” Summer pursed her lips. “I don’t really know a lot about . . . BDSM. People talk about whips and pain. The S and M stands for sado-masochism, doesn’t it?” She couldn’t imagine Tanya writing about people hurting other people. “BDSM actually stands for a number of subdivisions of what used to be known as sado-masochism,” Max explained. “This includes bondage, bondage and discipline, and Dominance and submission.” “Max is a very talented Dominant.” Tanya winked at Summer. “That’s Dominant with a capital D.” Max chuckled. “Dominant is always spelled with a capital D by those in the lifestyle.” “And submissive with a small s. I know.” Tanya stroked his hand. “So I’ll say you’re Talented with a capital T.” He tipped his head in acknowledg ment of the compliment. Summer gazed at him, wondering if Tanya had played the game of submission and Dominance with Max.

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Secret Ties The thought of Max, commanding and masculine, playing the role of the Dominant sent a quiver down her spine. What would it be like to be dominated by him? The very thought sent her pulse racing. Her vivid imagination conjured an image of her standing before him naked, him fully clothed, and her kneeling in front of him and unzipping his pants, then reaching inside to draw out a long, hard cock, then wrapping her lips around it— “Are we making you uncomfortable, Summer?” Tanya asked. Summer’s gaze jerked to her friend’s face. “Uh . . . no, I just . . . don’t really get it.” As much as the discussion triggered thoughts of hot, illicit sex with Max, she was sure that was more because of his strong masculine aura. “Why would any woman want to be submissive to a man when we’ve fought so long to be recognized as strong and independent?” “Summer, come here.” At Max’s tone, Summer’s gaze flew to his face. His dark eyes cut through her uncertainty as he spoke again. “Stand up and come over here.” His commanding tone was irresistible. She stood up and stepped toward him before she realized what she was doing. She stopped in front of him, feeling a bit foolish, yet a part of her wanted to obey him. He seemed so utterly masculine, and that thrilled her. “Fill my glass with champagne.” She drew in a deep breath, realizing she’d been worried— yet excited at the prospect—that he would order her to do something . . . illicit . . . even if just a kiss.

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Opal Carew She turned toward the table, picked up the cold black bottle, and fi lled Max’s glass. “Now Tanya’s,” Max commanded. She fi lled it, then stood there holding the bottle. “Now put the bottle down and return to your seat.” She replaced the bottle on the table. Why had she waited for him to tell her to do that? She’d stood there holding it like a mindless idiot. It was as if she’d gone into a mode where she just waited for his commands, with no mind of her own. She returned to her seat. “You were just a submissive,” Max said. She nodded, not risking saying anything, afraid her voice would quaver. “The Dominant-submissive relationship is all about the exchange of power. The submissive chooses to be controlled by the Dominant. The Dominant does not take away the rights of the submissive, she gives them freely. “A submissive never has to do anything she doesn’t want to do. You could have chosen at any time not to follow my commands.” Summer shrugged. “But they were innocuous. It didn’t matter.” “Excuse me,” Tanya interjected. “As fascinating as all this is, I need to use the little girls’ room.” As soon as Tanya had disappeared down the hall, Max said, “And if I had ordered you to kneel down and perform oral sex on me, you wouldn’t have done it.” “That’s right.” Of course she wouldn’t have. Tanya had been sitting there and . . . Shock permeated her body. Was it only because Tanya

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Secret Ties had been a witness that she wouldn’t have? If she had been alone with Max . . . if he had ordered her to . . . Waves of need washed through her. Could it be that she wanted him to order her to do something unseemly? Something she wouldn’t ordinarily consider? She sucked in a deep breath. If Tanya had not been sitting there, how far would she have gone? As Max watched her, interest fl ickered in his eyes. “Summer. Come here.” Immediately, she obeyed him. “Now, crouch down in front of me.” Her heart thumped loudly in her chest. Oh, God, he’d looked into her eyes and seen everything she’d been thinking. Was he going to tell her to pull out his cock and suck it? She wouldn’t do it. She couldn’t. She crouched down, their gazes locked. The thought of his long, hard cock in her hand, pulsing with desire, overwhelmed her with need. She imagined the feel of it in her mouth, imagined running the tip of her tongue under the rim of his cock head. They were eye to eye now. He leaned forward, bringing his face closer to her own until his mouth was a mere inch from hers. Her lips tingled with longing, wanting to be kissed by him. He stroked his hand along her neck, his touch powerful and overwhelming in its intensity. Her pulse accelerated as they stayed like that several long, intense moments. Her nipples hardened, and liquid heat settled between her thighs. She wanted to feel his full, masculine lips on hers again. She wanted to scream at him to make her kiss him.

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Opal Carew Why don’t I just do it? But she waited. Wanting him to command her. Wanting him to control her. Finally, he closed the distance, capturing her mouth with his. His fingers stroked through her hair and curled around the back of her head as his tongue brushed her lips, then eased into her mouth in a gentle, coaxing caress. He explored her mouth with an assertive expertise that left her quivering. “Well, I see I missed the fun stuff.” Max’s fingers tightened around Summer’s head, preventing her from jerking away at the sound of Tanya’s voice. He continued the kiss, taking her breath away as his lips devoured hers with heady, erotic hunger. When he released her, she gazed into his dark eyes, knowing he saw more than she wanted him to. “Well, I have some things I need to get done before morning, so I’ll just leave the two of you alone.” Tanya grabbed her purse from the side table by the couch and walked toward the door. “I’ll come, too,” Summer said, standing up. “Summer, stay.” Max smiled, his eyes warm and inviting. It had been a request rather than a command, but she froze. Should she stay here alone with this stranger? If she did, she would start down a path she wasn’t sure she wanted to follow, despite the curiosity and desire that stabbed through her. Tanya grabbed Summer’s arm and dragged her across the room. “Give us a second, Max.” Tanya smiled, then tugged Summer into the bedroom and closed the door.

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Secret Ties “Honey, you two obviously have strong chemistry,” Tanya said. “You should stay.” “But I don’t even know him.” “It’s not like he’s a total stranger. He’s a great guy—you can trust me on that. You’ll have a fabulous time.” Summer’s heart pounded in her chest as she stared at Tanya, torn between common sense and a strange yearning to do something totally out of character . . . like staying to see just where things might lead with Max Delaney. “You’re curious about this Dominant-submissive thing, I can tell . . . and believe me, Max will be the best one to show you the ropes, so to speak. What better way to explore something new and exciting than a weekend fl ing? Monday you go back to Port Smith and your usual life with no one the wiser. You can stash this away as an exciting memory.” Summer stared at the big bed and quivered at the thought of Max overwhelming her senses with his intense masculinity. She could imagine his lips caressing her body, his hard body possessing hers as she surrendered to him. A weekend fling. No one at home will ever know. It had been a long time since she’d had any kind of sex, let alone kinky, exciting sex that involved her submitting to the whims of another. Especially someone as potently sexy as Max Delaney. Domination. Her heart pounded. She wondered if Max had handcuffs somewhere around here. The thought of cold steel cuffs gripping her wrists, holding her down, sent her pulse skyrocketing. “So what do you say?” Tanya asked. Summer took a deep breath, then nodded.

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Three

“Summer, do you have a man back home?” Max sat on the couch across from her. She stared at her lap as she dragged her fi nger along her knee. “Actually, there are two. . . .” He smiled as his eyebrow arched upward. “Really?” “No . . . I mean, I’m not involved with both of them . . . neither of them, actually . . . I just . . .” “Would like to be?” She glanced at him and nodded. He picked up his glass and swirled it around. “Then why aren’t you?” “It’s complicated. They’re best friends, and . . . I’m friends with both of them. If I go out with one . . .” She shrugged. “You’re afraid you’ll break up their friendship?” He took a sip of his drink. She nodded. “And I wouldn’t know how to choose between them anyway.” “Why not go out with both?” “Both?”


Secret Ties He leaned forward. “So we’re clear, I mean have a threesome. Then you don’t have to choose.” Her cheeks flushed. “Oh, no. I couldn’t do that.” He smiled. “Really? I think there are a great many things you might do that you don’t think you could . . . in the right circumstances.” His dark gaze bored into her until she found herself squirming in her seat. He placed his drink on the glass table. “Summer, come sit over here.” He didn’t say it in his authoritative voice, but she obeyed anyway, standing up and moving to the couch, then sitting beside him. She gazed at him and felt overwhelmed by the intense scrutiny of his dark eyes. She felt as though, at this moment, she were the entire focus of his world. As if he could see everything about her . . . knew everything there was to know about her. Even things she didn’t know about herself. He stroked his finger along her cheek, and exciting tingles danced through her body like fi refl ies on a summer’s night. His fingers glided through her long auburn hair, and he drew her forward. When his mouth met hers in a soft brush of lips, then moved with a delicate pressure, she drew in a breath and melted against him. His tongue moved inside her mouth in long, sexy strokes . . . exploring . . . caressing. He wrapped his arms around her and drew her close to his hard, rigid body. Her nipples blossomed into tight nubs, pressing into his muscular chest. His lips brushed against her ear. “You are a sexy, beautiful

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Opal Carew woman, Summer. I want to make love to you. To release the passion within you.” She gazed at him, a prisoner to his sinfully sexy charcoal eyes. Her lips longed for his again. “I know you don’t really know me,” he said, “but if you’ll give in to your desires and trust me, I’ll take you on a journey you’ll never forget.” He pressed his fingertip to her lips, then traced the lower curve. “Just remember, you decide.” “I decide?” His lips captured hers again, and she melted against him. Her arms encircled his neck, and she clung to him. He was so strong. So masculine. So sexy! “Are you ready?” Was she? A part of her wanted to race to the door and run back to the security of her room. To flee the sudden urges turning her into a raging mass of desire. She nodded, then cleared her throat. “Yes. I’m ready.” His smile broadened. “Good.” Then his smile faded and his gaze sharpened. “Stand up.” She pushed herself to her feet and stood before him. “Turn around.” Slowly, she turned around, continuing until she faced him again, aware of his gaze gliding over her body, searing her with his frank male scrutiny. “Unbutton your blouse.” Oh, God, can I really do this? But her fingers, with a mind of their own, fl icked open the top button, then the next. As her blouse parted to reveal the swell of her breasts beneath, she sucked in a breath. She

28


Secret Ties felt the heat of a flush start down her neck and across her chest. Still her fingers moved downward until all the buttons were undone and the blouse fell open, revealing her breasts encased in black lace. “Take off the blouse and fold it neatly, then put it on the chair.” She slid the garment off her shoulders, then folded it, the ordinary act keeping her mind off the fact that she had just stripped off her top at a stranger’s command. An intensely sexy stranger. “Now unbutton your skirt and drop it to the floor.” She reached behind her and unfastened the button and dragged down the zipper, then glided the waistband past her hips and let the skirt fall to the floor. Tanya had talked her into wearing a garter belt and black stockings, in keeping with the theme of the show. Seeing the simmering heat in Max’s eyes as he stared at the naked white skin at the tops of her thighs, she was glad she had. “Now step out of the skirt.” Summer took a step forward, out of the ring of fabric. “Turn around and pick up the skirt.” She turned around, then leaned over, intensely aware that the pose gave Max a sexy view of her derrière, almost totally bare in the black lace thong she wore. Her fingers grasped the black fabric of her skirt, but she waited a few seconds before she stood up, surprised at her own wantonness. She rose, holding the skirt in her hand, awaiting his next order. “Fold it, and put it on top of your blouse, then come over here.” Once she’d disposed of the skirt, she walked toward

29


Opal Carew him. Would he ask her to take off her bra now? Then her panties? He poured some champagne into the two flute glasses in front of him and held one out to her. She took the glass and raised it to her lips, took a sip, then another. The bubbly liquid fi lled her mouth and tickled her throat. She was still feeling the effects from the two glasses she’d had earlier, but she knew that had nothing to do with her actions. When she finished the glass, she glanced at the table, wanting to put down the flute. He nodded and she placed it on the table. “Summer, you can decide the small things, or leave them to me. It’s up to you. What’s important is following my direct orders.” She nodded, wondering what his next direct order would be. “Go to the chair behind you and sit down.” Once she was sitting comfortably, he said, “Now stroke your breasts.” A quiver ran through her as she leaned back in the chair and stroked her fingers over her breasts. They felt warm and round. It felt so strange doing this in front of someone. Max’s gaze seared her. “Take off the bra.” She flicked the strap at the back, and the hooks unlatched. She dropped the straps from her shoulders, then drew in a deep breath, feeling sinfully naughty as she slid the lace garment forward. Cool air brushed her sensitive skin as she freed her naked breasts to his hot and hungry view. Her nipples strained forward, hard and needy. “Now touch the nipples. Show me what you like.” She stroked a fingertip over one, then dabbed at it. Mol-

30


Secret Ties ten heat jolted through her . . . straight to her vagina. She stroked the other breast, then glided over the hard nipple. His heated gaze followed every movement of her fingers, driving her excitement to a sizzling level. She licked her fi ngertips and stroked over one hard nub, then the other, wishing the dampness were from Max’s tongue. “Very nice. Take off your panties.” Summer stood up and tucked her thumbs under the elastic of her panties, but she hesitated. Could she really do this? Get totally naked in front of this man while he sat there fully clothed and watched her? “Take them off,” he said firmly. Her fingers worked the panties down her legs to her ankles without waiting for her brain to catch up, then she kicked the fl imsy garment away. Now she stood practically naked in front of him. In fact, she felt more exposed wearing just the black garter belt and stockings. Her cheeks began to burn as his gaze stroked over her auburn pubic curls, framed in lace and silk, then meandered over her breasts again. “Good girl. You have an exceptionally beautiful body, Summer. I love looking at it.” She flushed again, this time in delight because she’d pleased him. “Come kneel in front of me.” She stepped toward him, aware of his simmering gaze taking in every part of her, then knelt in front of him, wondering what he would do next. Wanting him to touch her hard, needy nipples. She had to stop herself from leaning forward.

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Opal Carew “Touch my face, Summer.” She reached forward and stroked his cheek. The raspy heat of him excited her. “Kiss me. Passionately. Show me how much you want me.” She slid her arms around his neck and matched her mouth to his. She licked his lips, then eased her tongue between them, into his mouth. Her lips moved on his as she explored his moist heat. His tongue coiled with hers, and her breath escaped as a primal need built within her. She tightened her arms around him, her mouth moving frantically on his. Her naked breasts pressed against his hard chest. The leather of his jacket rasped against her nipples. Her hand stroked down his chest, past his belt, to the bulge straining in his pants. She stroked over it, amazed at the length of the hardness. His hand grasped hers. “You are a naughty girl. I didn’t give you permission to do that.” Her gaze locked with his. “Now, I will have to punish you.” She sucked in a breath. Punishment? She drew back a little, and the anxiety must have shown in her eyes because he drew her forward for a kiss. “It’s all right, sweetheart. Remember, this is play. The punishment I’m talking about isn’t whips or chains . . . though if you want that, let me know.” He grinned wickedly. “I think now is a good time to mention safe words. You will pick a word that will tell me you want me to stop immediately. It shouldn’t be a word like ‘no’ or ‘stop.’ In our roles, you might want to struggle or pretend to want something to stop. The safe word allows us to explore interesting

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Secret Ties scenarios and play our roles to the fullest, while assuring you that you can stop things at any time. Understand?” She nodded. “So pick a word. Something easy to remember.” “I don’t know . . . I . . . uh . . .” “What’s the first word that comes to mind?” Her blank mind thrust a word forward. “Cat.” “Okay.” He smiled. “Cat it is. Now, I want you to use that word within the next few minutes, just to assure yourself it works.” She nodded. “Okay. From now on, you will call me Master. Understood?” Her eyes widened, but she nodded again. “I want to hear you say it.” “Yes, Master.” “Good.” He patted his lap. “Now about that punishment. Stretch over my knee.” She drew in air, which suddenly felt scarce, but she did as she was told. Her naked behind exposed to him . . . excited her. His hand stroked over the curve of her buttocks, from her thigh to her lower back, then down the other side. Her skin tingled, wanting to feel his hand stroke . . . wanting to feel it slap against her. Shock careened through her at the realization. He lifted his hand and his palm connected with her hot skin with a light smacking sound. Her vagina clenched at the tingling sensation across her ass. His hand smacked against her skin again, and she held back a moan. “Summer, remember the safe word?”

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Opal Carew His hand connected with her backside again, and heat surged through her. If she said the safe word, he would stop. But she didn’t want him to stop. His hand came down a little harder this time, smarting more than tingling. “Summer?” Moisture pooled in her vagina, and she was afraid it would begin to drip down her thighs. He smacked again. “Cat,” she murmured. He stroked over her heated buttock. Soothing. His hands slid around her shoulders and he helped her up. “Good girl.” He smiled as his finger stroked under her chin and tipped it up, then he kissed her. Gentle and affectionate. “Now that I’ve punished you, shall we continue?” She’d said the safe word, so this was his way of offering to continue their roles or stop entirely. “Continue, Master.” He smiled. “Now that deserves a reward.” He patted the seat beside him. “Sit down.” She sat down and he shifted to his knees. For the first time, he stroked her breast, then cupped it in his big, warm hand. She sighed, her eyelids drooping downward . . . then they popped open again as something hot and moist covered her other nipple. His tongue teased her hard nub, then he sucked lightly. She moaned at the exquisite pleasure. He shifted to her other breast. His tongue twirled around her nipple, then he sucked it hard.

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Secret Ties Her fingers raked through his hair as she pulled him tighter to her breast. “What would you like right now?” he asked. She stared at him, still wearing his black leather jacket, black striped shirt, and jeans. Her gaze ran down his chest, then rested on his ever growing bulge. “I want to see you naked.” He smiled. “Then undress me.” He stood up, and so did she. She grasped the soft leather and eased his jacket off his shoulders, then pushed it down his arms until it dropped away. She reached for the top button of his shirt, then fl icked it open. As she moved to the next, she licked her lips, anxious to see his hard, male chest. Her heart thumped while she revealed more hard flesh as she released button after button. She ran her hand over his hard pecs, then down his chiseled abs. She stopped at his belt, then tugged his shirt free and released the last button, then thrust the shirt over his shoulders . . . realizing at the last minute that his cuffs were still fastened. He chuckled and released them himself, then tugged his arms from the sleeves and tossed the shirt aside. She unfastened his belt buckle, then tugged down his zipper. In a moment, she would see the large cock he hid within. The outline she glimpsed was very impressive. Once she unhooked the waistband, the pants fell to the floor with a thump. He stepped out of them and divested himself of his socks with two quick movements. Now he stood before her in only his black briefs. She grasped the elastic of his waistband and pulled it forward. The biggest, longest cock she’d ever seen fell forward. It had a bulbous head and a long, thick shaft with prominent veins

35


Opal Carew that seemed to pulse with life. She slid the briefs down past his ankles. He lifted one foot at a time to allow her to pull the cotton garment free. She knelt in front of him and reached for his hard cock, longing to feel it. “Summer, stop.” She stared up at him in amazement. “You’ve had your reward. Now stand up.” She obeyed. “You want to touch me?” She nodded. “You’re forgetting already. How do you respond?” “Yes, Master.” Excitement tingled through her at the words. “Do you want me to touch you?” It became difficult to breathe. “Yes, Master.” He smiled. “Sit down on the couch.” She did so immediately. “Summer, are you wet?” Her cheeks flamed with heat, but she nodded, then caught herself. “Yes, Master.” “Show me.” Show me? The only way to do that would be . . . Slowly, she spread her knees, exposing her naked labia. He stared at her, and her insides seemed to melt. His hand wrapped around his huge, rigid cock, and he stroked it. Jealousy surged through her. She wanted to stroke it. To suck it. “I don’t see wet,” he said. How could he not?

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Secret Ties “Show me,” he insisted. She slid her fingers along her lower lips and drew them apart, exposing her wet opening. Max could see the light glistening from her wet slit, and his cock nearly drove him crazy wanting to thrust into her. “I don’t see it.” He wondered how she would respond. She lowered her lids in a most enticing way. “Maybe you should feel it, Master.” Oh, man, hearing her call him Master was a thrill. Hearing her ask him to touch her wet pussy made his pulse accelerate. “You are getting very bold. I might have to gag you if you speak out of turn.” It was a playful warning. He wouldn’t gag her . . . tonight. Tomorrow . . . maybe. Except then he wouldn’t hear her call him Master. Of course, the thought of a ball gag—or better yet, a gag with a cock head filling her mouth—made his cock expand. Or a gag with a hole that held her mouth open so he could slide his cock into it . . . and fuck her delicious mouth. He had to hold back a groan. “Slide your fi ngers into your pussy.” He watched as she dipped her index and middle fi ngers into her wet slit. “Stroke inside.” He had to hold himself rigid against his cock’s urgent plea. “Deeper.” Her fingers thrust deeper into her hot pussy. “Stroke over your clit.” She obeyed, and soon her fi ngertips glided over her little button in a rhythmic movement. Her breathing, heavy now, clearly showed her heightened arousal. She was getting close.

37


Opal Carew “Pull them out. Now.” She groaned at his command but obeyed. He knelt in front of her and wrapped his hand around her wrist. When Summer felt Max’s mouth surround her wet fingers, she nearly lost it. She’d been so close to orgasm when he’d stopped her. “Do not come unless I tell you to. Do you understand?” No. “Yes, Master.” Could she really stop herself from coming? Could she come on command? He knelt on the floor in front of her and kissed first one breast, then the other. She clung to his head and murmured softly. Would he punish her for being so bold? Maybe. She remembered the sting of his hand on her ass. It had been . . . erotic. Not the pain—his playful slaps hadn’t been hard enough to cause pain—but they had caused an exciting, stimulating tingle across her flesh. She pulled his head tighter against her breast. “Suck harder, Master.” At the sudden tug against her nipple, she gasped. “Yes.” She moaned as his tongue swirled over her sensitive, aroused aureole. “Oh, Master, I want to suck your cock. I want you to fuck me. Hard and fast.” She couldn’t believe the words coming from her mouth. He lifted his head from her breast. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you want to be punished again.”

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Everyone is familiar with Charlotte Brontë's passionate, but restrained novel in which the plain, yet spirited governess Jane Eyre falls for the arrogant Mr. Rochester. It’s a novel that simmers with sexual tension but never quite reaches the boiling point. Which is to be expected. After all, the original was written in 1847. That was then. This is now. And in JANE EYRE LAID BARE, author Eve Sinclair writes between the lines to chart the smoldering sexual chemistry between the long-suffering governess and her brooding employer. When an eager and curious Jane Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall her sexual desires are awakened. Who is the enigmatic Rochester and why is she attracted to him? What are the strange, yet captivating noises coming from the attic, and why does the very air she breathes feel heavy with passion? Only one thing is certain. Jane Eyre may have arrived at Thornfield an unfulfilled and tentative woman, but she will leave a very different person…


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First published 2012 by Pan Books an imprint of Pan Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR Basingstoke and Oxford Associated companies throughout the world www.panmacmillan.com ISBN 978-1-4472-2928-5 Copyright © Eve Sinclair 2012 The right of Eve Sinclair to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. The Macmillan Group has no responsibility for the information provided by any author websites whose address you obtain from this book (‘author websites’). The inclusion of author website addresses in this book does not constitute an endorsement by or association with us of such sites or the content, products, advertising or other materials presented on such sites. 135798642 A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Typeset by Ellipsis Digital Limited, Glasgow Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Visit www.panmacmillan.com to read more about all our books and to buy them. You will also find features, author interviews and news of any author events, and you can sign up for e-newsletters so that you’re always first to hear about our new releases.


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ONE

A new chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play, and when I draw up the curtain this time, reader, you must fancy you see a room in the George Inn at Millcote, with such large figured papering on the walls as many inn rooms have, such a carpet, such furniture, such ornaments on the mantelpiece, such prints, including a portrait of George the Third, and another of the Prince of Wales, and a representation of the death of Wolfe. All this is visible to you by the light of an oil lamp hanging from the ceiling, and by that of an excellent fire, near which I sit in my cloak and bonnet. My muff and umbrella lie on the table and I am warming away the numbness and chill contracted by sixteen hours’ exposure to the rawness of this October day. I left Lowton at four o’clock this morning and the Millcote town clock is now just striking eight. Reader, though I look comfortably accommodated, I am not very tranquil in my mind. I thought when the coach stopped here there would be someone to meet me. I looked anxiously round as I descended the wooden steps, expecting 1


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to hear my name pronounced and to see a carriage waiting to convey me to Thornfield Hall. Nothing of the sort was visible and when I asked a waiter if anyone had been to inquire after a Miss Eyre, I was answered in the negative. So I had no resource but to request to be shown into a private room. And here I am waiting, while all sorts of doubts and fears are troubling my thoughts. It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itself quite alone in the world, cut adrift from every connection, uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has quitted. The charm of adventure sweetens that sensation, the glow of pride warms it, but then the throb of fear disturbs it. And fear with me became predominant when half an hour elapsed and still I was alone. I bethought myself to ring the bell. ‘Is there a place in this neighbourhood called Thornfield?’ I asked of the waiter who answered the summons. ‘Thornfield? I don’t know, ma’am. I’ll inquire at the bar.’ He vanished, but reappeared instantly. ‘Is your name Eyre, Miss?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Person here waiting for you.’ I jumped up, took my muff and umbrella, and hastened into the inn-passage. A man was standing by the open door, and in the lamplit street I dimly saw a one-horse conveyance. ‘This will be your luggage, I suppose?’ said the man rather abruptly when he saw me, pointing to my trunk in the passage. ‘Yes.’ He hoisted it onto the vehicle, which was a sort of 2


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car, and then I got in. Before he shut me up, I asked him how far it was to Thornfield. ‘A matter of six miles.’ ‘How long shall we be before we get there?’ ‘Happen an hour and a half.’ He fastened the car door, climbed to his own seat outside, and we set off. Our progress was leisurely, and gave me ample time to reflect. I was content to be at length so near the end of my journey, and as I leaned back in the comfortable though not elegant conveyance, I pulled the woollen blanket around me. Before long, in a half doze, as the light faded, the gentle rhythm of the carriage awoke my senses and I found, having slipped downwards on the leather seat, that the underneath seam of my drawers was tugging at me in such a way that I latched onto the familiar sensation which so often had been a prelude to sleep in the dark dormitory at Lowood. In the privacy of the carriage, quite alone for the first time in as long as I could remember, and still on the very verge of sleep, my mind wandered back to the girls at the boarding school that I had just left and their soft embraces. And as I reflected further, I remembered Bessie and how she had taught me her secret remedy to alleviate the disquiet of the mind, and how her swift fingers and thumb had massaged my young body into its first delight. I shifted beneath the blanket, half asleep and, arching my spine, braced myself against the narrow arm rests, pressing down against the hard leather ridge of the seat. Presently, as we entered a 3


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straight stretch of the road, the horse sped up and the carriage jiggled beneath me at such an agreeable speed, that I was brought quickly to a pleasurable release. Afterwards, feeling more relaxed and quite refreshed from this unexpected turn of events, I rearranged myself and meditated much at my ease. ‘I suppose,’ I thought, ‘judging from the plainness of the servant and carriage, Mrs Fairfax is not a very dashing person. So much the better, for I never lived amongst fine people but once, and I was very miserable with them. I wonder if she lives alone except this little girl, and if so, whether she is in any degree amiable and I will be able to get on with her. I will do my best, although it is a pity that doing one’s best does not always answer. At Lowood, indeed, I took that resolution, kept it, and succeeded in pleasing those around me in all manner of ways, but with Mrs Reed, I remember my best was always spurned with scorn and spanking. ‘I pray God Mrs Fairfax may not turn out a second Mrs Reed, but if she does, I am not bound to stay with her. Let the worst come to the worst, I can advertise for the position of a governess again. How far are we on our road now, I wonder?’ I let down the window and looked out. Millcote was behind us, and judging by the number of its lights, it seemed a place of considerable magnitude, much larger than Lowton. We were now, as far as I could see, on a sort of common, but there were houses scattered all over the district. I felt we were in a different region to Lowood, more populous, less picturesque and certainly less romantic. 4


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The roads were heavy, the night misty and when my conductor let his horse walk all the way, the hour and a half extended, I verily believe, to two hours. At last he turned in his seat and, knocking on the car, said, ‘You’re noan so far fro’ Thornfield now.’ About ten minutes after, the driver got down and opened a pair of gates. We passed through, and they clashed to behind us. We now slowly ascended a drive, and came upon the long front of a house. Candlelight gleamed from one curtained bow window, but all the rest were dark. The car stopped at the front door. It was opened by a maidservant. I alighted and went in. ‘Will you walk this way, ma’am?’ said the girl and I followed her across a square hall with high doors all round. She ushered me into a room whose double illumination of fire and candle at first dazzled me, contrasting as it did with the darkness to which my eyes had been for two hours inured. When I could see, however, a cosy and agreeable picture presented itself to my view. A snug small room, a round table by a cheerful fire and an armchair, wherein sat the neatest imaginable little elderly lady, in widow’s cap, black silk gown and snowy muslin apron. Exactly like I had fancied Mrs Fairfax, only less stately and milder looking. She was occupied in knitting, whilst a large cat purred loudly at her feet. Nothing in short was wanting to complete the idyll of domestic comfort. A more reassuring introduction for a new governess could scarcely be conceived. There was no grandeur to overwhelm, no 5


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stateliness to embarrass. As I entered, the old lady got up and promptly and kindly came forward to meet me. ‘How do you do, my dear? I am afraid you have had a tedious ride. John drives so slowly. You must be cold. Come over to the fire.’ ‘Not at all. Mrs Fairfax, I suppose?’ I said. ‘Yes, you are right. Do sit down.’ She conducted me to her own chair, and then began to remove my shawl and untie my bonnet strings. I begged she would not give herself so much trouble. ‘Oh, it is no trouble. I daresay your own hands are almost numbed with cold. Leah, make a little hot drink and cut a sandwich or two. Here are the keys of the storeroom.’ And she produced from her pocket a most housewifely bunch of keys, and delivered them to the servant. ‘She treats me like a visitor,’ I thought. ‘I little expected such a reception. I anticipated only coldness and stiffness. This is not at all how I have heard governesses are usually addressed.’ She returned and with her own hands cleared her knitting apparatus and a book or two from the table, to make room for the tray which Leah now brought, and then herself handed me the refreshments. ‘Shall I have the pleasure of seeing Miss Fairfax tonight?’ I asked, when I had partaken of what she offered me. ‘What did you say, my dear? I am a little deaf,’ returned the good lady, approaching her ear to my mouth. I repeated the question more distinctly. 6


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‘Miss Fairfax? Oh, you mean Miss Varens! Varens is the name of your future pupil.’ ‘Indeed! Then she is not your daughter?’ ‘No, no. I have no family.’ I should have followed up my first inquiry, by asking in what way Miss Varens was connected with her, but I recollected it was not polite to ask too many questions. Besides, I was sure to hear in time. ‘I am so glad,’ she continued, as she sat down opposite to me, and took the cat on her knee, ‘I am so glad you have come. It will be quite pleasant living here now with a companion. To be sure it is pleasant at any time, for Thornfield is a fine old hall, rather neglected of late years perhaps, but still it is a respectable place. Yet you know, in wintertime one feels dreary quite alone in the best quarters. I say alone – Leah is a nice girl to be sure, and John and his wife are very decent people, but then you see they are only servants, and one can’t converse with them on terms of equality. One must keep them at due distance, for fear of losing one’s authority. It was only at the commencement of this autumn that little Adela Varens came with her nurse. A child makes a house alive all at once, and now you are here I shall be quite gay.’ My heart really warmed to the worthy lady as I heard her talk. I drew my chair a little nearer to her, and expressed my sincere wish that she might find my company as agreeable as she anticipated. ‘But I’ll not keep you sitting up late tonight. It is on the 7


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stroke of twelve now, and you have been travelling all day. You must feel tired. If you have got your feet well warmed, I’ll show you your bedroom. I’ve had the room next to mine prepared for you. It is only a small apartment, but I thought you would like it better than one of the large front chambers. To be sure they have finer furniture, but they are so dreary and solitary, I never sleep in them myself.’ I thanked her for her considerate choice, and as I really felt fatigued with my long journey, expressed my readiness to retire. She took her candle, and I followed her from the room. First she went to see if the hall door was fastened. Having taken the key from the lock, she led the way upstairs. The steps and banisters were of oak and the staircase window was high and latticed. Both it and the long gallery into which the bedroom doors opened looked as if they belonged to a church rather than a house. A very chill and vault-like air pervaded the stairs and gallery, suggesting cheerless ideas of space and solitude. I was glad, when finally ushered into my chamber, to find it of small dimensions, and furnished in ordinary, modern style. When Mrs Fairfax had bidden me a kind goodnight, and I had fastened my door, I gazed upon the cheerful aspect of my little room and I remembered that, after a day of bodily fatigue and mental anxiety, I was now at last in safe haven. The impulse of gratitude swelled my heart and I knelt down at the bedside, and offered up thanks where thanks were due, not forgetting, ere I rose, to implore aid on my further path, and the power of meriting the kindness which 8


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seemed so frankly offered me before it was earned. At once weary and content, I slept soon and soundly. When I awoke it was broad day. The chamber looked such a bright little place to me as the sun shone in between the gay blue chintz window curtains, showing papered walls and a carpeted floor, so unlike the bare planks and stained plaster of Lowood, that my spirits rose at the view. Externals have a great effect on the young and I thought that a fairer era of life was beginning for me. One that was to have its flowers and pleasures, as well as its thorns and toils and faculties. Roused by the change of scene, my senses seemed all astir. I stretched, feeling a new delight awaken in my body. So long accustomed to sleeping in the company of others, the soft silence of the room, the trill of birdsong faint beyond the window, made my excitement mount. I threw back the counterpane, letting the sunlight fall on the thin muslin cloth of my nightgown, and I spread my limbs, sunbathing like a cat. As the steady warmth increased, I felt my hand falling to the soft pillow of my inner thigh. Unlike yesterday in the carriage, I knew this morning that I had time at my disposal, and with this in mind, I closed my eyes, and found myself remembering Emma Wilby. After my dearest friend, Helen Burns, had died, it had been Emma with whom I had formed a deep attachment and I now reflected on how Emma would have loved this room, this space and solitude. Yet, at the same time I couldn’t help remembering how our exploration of one another had only 9


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been heightened by the illicitness of our encounters in the public spaces of Lowood. Now I heard a gentle moan escape unbidden from my lips, as I remembered that first far distant day in the library, Emma’s face still etched in my mind, as she’d looked up at me from between my legs, her eyes glittering, as they’d dared me to command her to stop. I’d sat on the edge of that hard teacher’s desk, my skirt hitched up around me, naked above my stocking tops, Emma’s long red hair tickling my thighs, hardly daring to breathe, knowing how close we were to being caught, but unable to move away. How I had trembled against her like a fluttering bird, but she’d only assured me not to be afraid. I felt my hand languidly lifting my gown and straying to the place Emma had caressed so often, my fingers feeling my silken wet crevasse, remembering that first flicker of her tongue against my bud. I felt my sex warm in the sunlight through the window, opening like a flower, and my memory pulled me back to Emma and how I had braced against the desk, terrified and yet delighted in the shimmering dart of pleasure that she had ignited within me. How she’d spread me with her fingertips, holding back my damp, coiled pubic hair and lapped at me, and how the sound of my juices against her mouth had excited me beyond all measure, until I had implored her and, grabbing my hips, she’d pressed her mouth against me, sucking me harder, pulling me into her. In the sunlight now, I pushed my finger inside my sex, feeling the warm, wet opening yielding, then pulling it out again to rub my engorged bud. Bucking up, my thighs tensing, 10


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I gasped, as with the memory of Emma’s flickering tongue, my head seemed to explode like a shattered mirror, shards of pleasure spinning with light. Sated, I rose, my sex still throbbing in the aftermath of my pleasure. I dressed myself with care, although I was obliged to be plain, for I had no article of attire that was not made with extreme simplicity. Even so, I was still by nature solicitous to be neat. It was not my habit to be disregardful of appearance or careless of the impression I made. On the contrary, I wished to look as well as I could, and to please as much as my want of beauty would permit. I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer and I sometimes wished to have rosy cheeks, a straight nose and small cherry mouth. I desired to be tall, stately and finely developed in figure, with the kind of buxom full breasts that Emma had so proudly possessed. I felt it a misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so irregular and so marked, although the pertness of my nipples and my buttocks had been held in high regard at Lowood by the other girls. Why had I these aspirations and these regrets about my womanly faculties? It would be difficult to say. I could not then distinctly say it to myself, yet I had a reason, and a logical, natural reason too. My experience at Lowood was over. Helen, Emma, all the others had gone and I would never be in the company of those girls who had comforted me. I wondered how long I could sustain myself on their memory, for already they seemed to be slipping away like ghosts, leaving me with a new kind of yearning, but for 11


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what, I knew not. Cast out into this new adventure, with no experience other than those pale-limbed innocents, I felt unsure of the future and of this adult world to which I now belonged. I felt confused, too. The bodily pleasures in which we girls had all delighted in the dormitory had been so commonplace as to indicate normalcy, yet in the two moments I alone had enjoyed since my departure from Lowood, the solitary secretiveness of my self-pleasure appeared, in retrospect, more shameful than I expected, and a creeping and unfamiliar sense of wrongdoing came upon me. However, when I had brushed my hair very smooth, and smoothed the black frock over my slim waist – which, Quakerlike as it was, at least had the merit of fitting to a nicety – and adjusted my clean white tucker, I thought I should do respectably enough to appear before Mrs Fairfax, and that neither she nor my new pupil would ever guess my secret, or recoil from me with antipathy. Having opened my chamber window, and seen that I left all things straight and neat on the toilet table, I ventured forth.

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50 Shades Hotter - Excerpts from the Anything Goes Room  

A collection of HOT excerpts from bestselling authors.