The Pleasure Masterby Nina Bangs
Suddenly transported to sixteenth-century Scotland, Kathy vows to keep cool by avoiding a notorious rake, but finds things heating up faster than she can control.
- Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
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The Pleasure Master
By Nina Bangs
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2004 Dorchester Publishing
All right reserved.
Chapter OneArnold Schwarzenegger? Big bad voice for cute little toy? Poor marketing decision. No wonder good old Peter was left warming the shelf. What parents would want their kid to have a two-foot-high tin Terminator?
"Ye must prove yer worthiness, Ian. 'Tis the only fair way. What say ye, Neil?"
Kathy winced. Talking about big bad voices ... The tow truck driver? She knelt on the ground, still clutching her things.
"Aye. Ye're the eldest, Ian, but that doesna mean ye're the best. Neil Ross has satisfied many a lass."
Well, cheers for Neil Ross. At least satisfied customers meant he knew which end of her car to hook up to.
Letting everything slide from her grasp, Kathy held her head. Maybe if it would stop spinning she'd make a stab at opening her eyes.
"Ye must let us choose, Ian, if 'tis to be a true test. Do ye agree, Colin?"
What? What test? All they had to do was hook up her car and tow it to Mel's, where for the nominal fee of her firstborn child, she could get it back in running order.
"Aye. We will find one wi' a heart that canna be touched."
Yep, that was Mel. Cash or credit card. No personal checks. Against her better judgment, she opened her eyes. She blinked.
Uh-oh. No busy highway, no sexy car. No city. Only stark green hills and the morning mist rising from a small stream. Morning? What had happened to the night? And silence. A silence so intense it terrified her.
Had she passed out? No, she'd fainted once when old PMS had decided that aroma therapy would loosen her up. He'd said the scent was discovered in an ancient Egyptian tomb. She believed him. It smelled like Essence of Mummy. Anyway, she didn't remember having any strange hallucinations then. She pulled her wool coat tightly around her, warding off the chill, an unspeakable fear tapping on her shoulder.
"I dinna know where we might find such a cold creature, Colin."
Here. Here. She'd never felt so cold in her life, and the brisk wind numbing her ears had nothing to do with it. Still on her knees, she turned toward the welcome human voice. "Please, you've got to ..." She stared.
Two male behinds stared back at her. Bare behinds. A Playgirl chorus line. She resisted the urge to rub her eyes. Two guys mooning her wouldn't be that strange in New York. ... New York? Where in New York?
"Mayhap we will find one in England, Neil. English lasses can freeze a man's ..."
England? Suddenly, she realized what they were wearing. The wool thingees, belted at the waist, didn't quite reach their knees, and from what she could see, the question of boxers or briefs would never be a burning issue with these guys.
Kilts? She had to be dreaming. Nothing else made sense. Okay, dreams were symbolic, so she'd just figure this baby out. The empty landscape probably meant she needed some inner peace and tranquility, an escape from the frenzy her life had become. The bare buns? Easy. She thought of her ex as a butthead on a daily basis, so here he was in duplicate.
The rocks she knelt on dug into her knees through her long skirt, and she shifted uncomfortably. Funny, but she couldn't remember feeling anything physical in dreams before.
"Aye, Colin. But even though an English lass may have a cold nature, it matters not to a Ross. 'Tis hot enough she'll be in bed wi' ..."
She shivered as the chilly wind whipped around her and lifted the kilts of the leaning men.... Wait a minute. There was another man sitting on the ground, his back braced against a large boulder.
"Ye have reason to fear us, Ian. We will beat ye and take what we want."
Beat? Ohmigod, a mugging. At last, something familiar. She couldn't see enough of the man on the ground to know how badly he was injured, but she knew she had to do something to save him and probably herself because any second now the muggers were bound to notice her.
Her logical self reminded her this was a dream, so she didn't have to do anything.
Her logical self could take a hike. She needed a weapon.
Reaching inside her purse, she fumbled around for something she could use. Nothing. No handy little gun, no pepper spray. Rats.
Her can of mousse? Right. That would certainly scare the pants off ... Okay, no pants to worry about. Maybe if she wrapped both hands around the can she could bluff them into believing she had a can of Mace. She drew a deep breath. She had to go for it.
Pulling the mousse from her purse, she shook it, then climbed shakily to her feet. Her whole world seemed out of kilter, but she could only focus on one thing right now: saving the man on the ground.
She tried to clear her throat, but her voice still came out in a wavery croak. "Get lost, scumbags, before I Mace you. The cops are on their way."
As one, the two men straightened, then swung to face her. She gulped. Large. Very large. And hairy. With dry split ends that would challenge even her expertise.
"A lass." Translation: yum-yum.
Her heart pounded madly. The Three Little Pigs would've been laying bricks like crazy at the sound of that voice.
They moved toward her. Forget trying to hit them in the eyes. They were too tall. While she was jumping into the air trying to get one in the eyes, the other would tear her apart. She needed a lower target.
The wind whipped and swirled, lifting their kilts high enough to offer a more accessible body part. Without hesitation, she moussed each of their love guns with a defiant squirt. Hey, one patch of voluminous and shiny body hair was better than none.
Staring down in horror at the fluffy globs of mousse sticking to them, the men stumbled away from her.
Strange. Against all reason, Kathy had the feeling neither of them knew the mousse was harmless. Well, she recognized an advantage when she saw one. "Hmm. I wonder if they'll fall off now or later."
With wild bellows, the kilted giants turned and fled.
She watched them disappear as she let the mousse slip from her fingers.
The man on the ground. But by the time she turned back to him, the mist had closed in. A flowing sea of gray created shifting shapes of fear, twining like skeletal fingers around the dark silhouettes of trees and shrubs. Kathy could almost believe the mist was alive-feel it breathing, waiting.
She swallowed past throat muscles that refused to work, fighting the terror of knowing she was the only person on earth.
"Come to me."
His voice. She could taste it. Hot chocolate, smooth brandy, and sex. She recognized it. All the forbidden things Mom had warned her against-going out in public without panties, talking to strangers who tempted you with pictures you'd never forget, touching yourself in the darkness of your room while you imagined unimaginable acts.
Crazy thoughts. Whatever this was, it was affecting her mental balance.
"Are you okay?" Her words echoed in the cold gray void, while her mind warned she'd never be okay again. She stumbled in the general direction of his voice.
Just as she was losing her battle with hysteria, she saw him.
He sat relaxed against the boulder, one leg bent at the knee, his head turned from her as if watching something only he could see.
Then, he looked at her. And as much as she wanted to forget the rest of the dream, this moment she'd remember. Always.
"Ye must need me badly, lass." His husky murmur warmed the damp chill of the mist, made her remember needs she'd vowed not to think of again.
His face was harsh beauty and raw sensuality. Half hidden by a wild tangle of dark wind-blown hair, his eyes held secrets, his smile pure sin.
"Yer heart is cold and alone. Ye must think of all things warm, all that would make yer heart pound, all the feelings and scents that have brought ye pleasure. Live them now to bring ye peace."
"No." She rubbed her eyes with a shaking hand. Come to me. The image. A hot summer night. This man and her. Their naked bodies, sweat-sheened skin, and stark white cotton sheets tangled at the foot of a brass bed. Her bed. And the scent of honeysuckle drifting in the open window, moving the sheer curtains in a lazy rhythm. She could see the heat, touch the scent, taste the passion.
"I ... I have to get back to my car." She'd never been so frightened in her life. Where had the image come from? The last time she'd smelled honeysuckle had been on Grandpa's farm when she'd been about sixteen. And ... the other things. They weren't connected to her life with Peter and his love gun. And they'd felt ... real. Too real.
Wake up. "I don't understand...? How ...?" Her trembling legs couldn't support her as she sank to her knees in front of him. "Why honeysuckle, the brass bed?"
"What'er yer thoughts, they brought ye pleasure for the moment. Hold them tightly to ye." Effortlessly, he reached out and pulled her onto his lap. "Let me warm ye."
"Have you seen New York around here anywhere? I ..." She was ice flung into his flame. The helpless melting, the absorption, the sizzle and spark, the steam as the two met. She felt him, through her heavy coat, through the rough wool of his clothing. Sinew, muscle. His sharp exhalation hot against the side of her neck, his heat touching her everywhere.
"This isn't a dream, is it?" The intensity of a dream like this would have brought her to sweating, shaking, heart-pounding-awareness. Then what was happening? "Are you familiar with out- of-body experiences?"
"Out of body?" He wiped a tear from her cheek with his finger.
Crying? When had she started crying? She sniffed. She wouldn't resort to tears. Old PMS had taught her that criers were losers.
"'Twould be passing strange to want to be out of yer body when ye're wi' a bonny lass. 'Tis the body that makes it so wondrous."
What about the heart? What about love? "Sure. Stupid comment." Who was she to dis the senses when they seemed to be the only things working right now?
Reaching down, she braced herself against his hip, fixed her attention on the checked pattern of the cloth. Her legs were wedged between his thighs, but she had no strength to move, could barely concentrate.... "All of you are wearing kilts. Just what New York needs, another street gang. Guess you don't need guns and knives. You just moon anyone you don't like. I bet grossed-out enemies keel over by the hundreds at the fanny display put on by those two I chased away."
She felt his deep exhalation. "'Tis the cold making you blather so."
"Right." She didn't even make sense to herself. Not a dream? Then what?
When she finally managed to lift her gaze, she looked into eyes as gray as the mist surrounding them. A midnight tangle of hair framed a face meant for a dark god or fallen angel. And something so explosive it took her breath away passed between them.
She'd imagined it. Nothing explosive had ever passed between a man and her. After her failed marriage, that's the way she liked it, that's the way she meant to keep it.
"Are ye feeling a wee bit better?"
"No." Too much. Her confused mind could make no sense of what she saw, felt. And so she focused on just one thing. His hair. She reached out with fingers as icy as the dread building in her soul, then slid her hand the length of his hair, past his shoulders to where dark strands spread across his chest.
Fascinated, she watched the rapid rise and fall of his broad chest, a rise and fall matching the beat of her heart.
With all her questions fighting for supremacy, she could only force one comment through her lips. "You have virgin hair."
"I dinna think so. I havena had any virgin parts for a verra long time."
She felt his deep chuckle shudder through her and raised her gaze once again to his face. The white flash of his wicked smile fixed her attention on his lips. It was a full lower lip, sensual, but somehow it did not soften the hard angles of his jaw and cheekbone.
His gaze slid the length of her body, and the caress was as real as though he'd touched her with his fingers, his mouth.
A dangerous man. Perhaps the two she'd chased away were the ones who'd needed saving.
His smile turned wolfish. "Ye wouldna enjoy a man who hadna lain wi' a lass."
Panic clattered around in her mind, frantically trying to get her attention. It finally succeeded. She tried to push away from him, but he simply closed his thighs on her legs. She might as well have been shackled in iron.
Even as she raised her fists to pound whatever part of him became available first, she sensed the uselessness of her effort. He wrapped his arms around her and held her still.
"Dinna be so quick to run." His breath fanned against her cheek, heating her senses, her anger. "Ye must have been fair desperate to gain my advice. I've ne'er seen Colin and Neil bested before. But ye took unfair advantage of their fear for their manhoods. 'Twasn't needed. I would have asked my brothers to speak wi' me later." He drew his finger along the line of her clenched jaw.
"Your brothers?" Jerking her head from his touch, she looked frantically around for help. She'd kill for the sight of a golden arch or even a New York cabby offering her a friendly finger signal because she'd cut him off. "Those two are your brothers?"
"Aye. We were born together. Still we dinna resemble each other overmuch."
"Born together ...? Oh, triplets." Hard to believe. The other two were lumbering bears, while this man ... this man was a dark jungle predator.
Where was she? Had she taken a wrong turn in Central Park and landed in Oz?
"Even though we were born together, I came first. They dinna want to accept me as the eldest."
"Hey, I feel for them. Who came out first is important." Horse pooky. She had really important things to worry about.
She drew in a deep breath to hold her panic in check. He hadn't hurt her, and already his faded red plaid was growing sort of familiar. No. She couldn't let anything in this nowhere land get familiar.
She shivered as the mist's damp fingers touched her with an unspoken promise that nothing in her life would ever be the same again.
Some women might still think they were dreaming. Not her. She recognized dreams. She'd certainly had enough nightmares after the collapse of her marriage. This wasn't a dream.
Then what? Amnesia? Could she have lost her memory, wandered to a different place?
Stop shaking. You're New York tough. New Yorkers are survivors. This time when she pushed at him, he let her go. Scrambling away from the man on the ground, she reached her purse and yanked out her cell phone.
Breathlessly, she pushed 911, then waited until a male voice answered.
"Please, I need help." Her teeth chattered. With cold or fear? Probably both. "My name is Kathy Bartlett and I-"
The voice interrupted.
"No, I'm not hurt. I don't know about the imminent danger part. I'm-"
"Where am I? Some Braveheart, I think."
The voice wasn't amused.
"Okay, okay, I'm ..." She turned to the man, who still sat leaning against the rock. "Where am I?"
He wasn't smiling. A frown creased his forehead as he stared at her phone. "Ye're betwixt Cromarty and Dornoch Firths."
"Firth? What the heck is a firth? Firth doesn't sound like a New York name." He didn't sound like a New York man. She fought to control the nauseous fear trembling in the pit of her stomach and faithfully repeated what he'd said.
"What do you mean there're no streets with those names? Sure there are. I bet you could find dozens of Cromarty and Dornoch streets. I bet there're two named after Dominic Cromarty and Christine Dornoch."
The voice had no sense of humor.
"Fine, so I'm not hurt, so I'm not in imminent danger, but ... Why do I have to call my local authorities?" She glared at the man on the ground, then glared at her cell phone.
"Emergencies? You think this emergency? You'd better ..." Damn! He'd hung up. Carefully, she returned the phone to her purse, afraid she'd drop it from her shaking fingers. Save the power until you figure out the right person to call.
She was in deep doo-doo, but she'd calmly and logically reason things out. Hah! She was so scared that any minute the fright fairy would swoop down and crown her Queen of Queasy Stomachs.
Excerpted from The Pleasure Master by Nina Bangs Copyright © 2004 by Dorchester Publishing. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I liked the book. The ending could have been more developed. It left me wanting.
I got this book because I read the previous reviews and this book's title turned up when I was looking for steamy romances. okay, my idea of steamy is Lori Foster's 'Too much Temptation'. I suppose that after reading that book, I was spoiled, and when It came to reading 'The pleasure master' I was expecting a lot more steam. It was practically the half way point when finally a teaser of a steamy appeal came. It was short and brief. So needless to say, I was dissappointed. Not that this book isn't a good story, it is, but not for someone looking for some real heat. As far as a story goes...It was difficult for me to keep up with Ian's accent. 'me dus na loove words wi accent written in' I'm not into reading the same sentence over and over until I figure out what the word is he's trying to say. It loses it's finesse that way. But I suppose if you know the era, then this book would be great. I'm sorry, I did not enjoy reading this book. However I won't give up on the author, surely something more up to date in the story line will spark my interest and keep me reading! Die hard steamy romance readers...Don't bother with this book.;)
I never expected to find a witty tone when I picked up this book but I was pleasantly surprised. Kathy is a strong, fiercely independent New Yorker who finds herself in Scotland in the 16th century confronted with a charming and breathtaking Pleasure Master. Ian is a man who lives for his title and has never tasted love, until... This novel made me laugh, cry and fall in love. The story is a journey of magic and a time travel adventure. Kathy is a unique heroine who has a great sense of humor, and this story is a paranormal delight. The pacing is fast and fun. The ending is sweet and makes you ache for more of these lively characters and their special story filled with magical toys and a loyal cat. I'm so glad I found this novel and decided to read it. Once you pick this book up, be ready to suspend your disbelief and go on a witty ride through Scotland with the Pleasure Master.
By far one of the best romance novels I have ever read. This book caught me on the first page and never stopped, a must read!
While Christmas shopping, Kathy Bartlett¿s car overheats along an isolated stretch of I-95 in New York. The hairdresser concludes that cars and men are alike as both overheat at the wrong time. As she starts to freeze, she grabs a toy she dubbed Peter and wishes she was somewhere else, preferably warm. The next thing Kathy realizes is that two men in Kilts speaking with deep Scottish accents are argueing their sexual prowess. Afraid they may accost her to settle their debate, Kathy takes a can of mousse out of her bag and sprays the duo on their love guns. As the twosome flee from their attacker, a third Scot appears who is not afraid of the mousse because he noticed that some safely landed on Kathy. Ian Ross introduces himself as THE PLEASURE MASTER. He explains he is in competition with his two brothers, who just fled from Kathy¿s wrath, over who is The King of Sex. Kathy is even more stunned when he proves to her that it is 1542. As Ian turns up the seduction, Kathy begins to fall in love, but to his amazement so does Ian because for the time since he began pleasuring women, a female cares how he feels. THE PLEASURE MASTER is a wild, amusing and often-satirical time travel romance that stars two wonderful lovers and a fabulous magical matchmaker. The story line is hilarious as the competition between the brothers heats up the pages almost as much as the relationship between Kathy and Ian does. As she did with AN ORIGINAL SIN, Nina Bangs commits sub-genre heresy by adding humor and irony to a torrid historical romance. Harriet Klausner