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Summer stared at the row of penises laid out in front of her—seven inches tall, standing straight up, and made of chocolate. Some dark chocolate, some milk chocolate, a couple of white chocolate, and a few where she’d experimented and created a pale flesh tone made from a combination of white and milk chocolate with a dab of red.
There was a constant thrum of voices in the large convention hall. Several people streamed by the table, some glancing at the erotic chocolates she had neatly arranged on the table, but most heading straight to the stack of books to Summer’s right. Tanya’s books. Summer glanced at Tanya, her friend the erotic romance author. Tanya smiled and closed the book she’d just finished signing, then handed it to the eager couple standing in front of her.
"I loved your last book," the young woman said. "I hope this one is just as sexy."
Tanya grinned, with a glint in her eye. "If anything, it’s even sexier. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed."
Tanya wasn’t kidding. Summer had read it, red-cheeked through the whole thing, but totally engrossed. She’d never read a book about submission and bondage before, and she’d had no idea her friend knew so much about it, but then Tanya had always been full of surprises.
She glanced at the scintillating cover of Tanya’s latest book, showing a leather-clad man with tight abs and a muscular chest. The hero of the book—well, the main one—was very well-endowed. Summer had had more than a few intensely sexy dreams with him as the star since reading this particular book.
She glanced at Tanya, signing another book. She wondered about the type of life Tanya lived now. Did she go off with multiple men and actually experience the threesomes and moresomes she detailed in her stories? Summer couldn’t imagine doing that, but she admired Tanya for having the guts to do it or even just to write about it. Summer had read in the acknowledgments that a particular man, whom she referred to simply as M, had helped her with her research. Just how in-depth had that research been?
Tanya closed the book and handed it to the woman in front of her. The woman smiled broadly and clutched the book to her chest, then grasped her husband’s hand and led him away, further into the "den of iniquity," as Shane had teasingly called it when he heard Summer was going to Chicago, two hours from her home in Port Smith, to attend this trade show dedicated to adult entertainment.
She glanced around the dimly lit convention hall at the neat rows of booths lining the aisleways—booths with brightly colored, penis-shaped vibrators, glass dildos, skimpy lingerie, leather boots, feathers, ropes . . . and, of course, the booth she and Tanya shared, bursting with erotic chocolate and stacks of erotic romance books. But it sure was a long way from her little chocolate shop in an upscale hotel in a small town.
Summer adjusted the chocolate suckers in front of her—cocksuckers, which were small chocolate penises on a stick—into neat rows, then shifted her attention to the stacks of Tanya’s books and straightened them into neat piles.
The people gathered around her booth were no longer looking at the goods on the tables. They were watching the stage and the two women on it. One was the flamboyant mistress of ceremonies, who wore a slinky, low-cut red velvet dress with a feather boa coiled around her neck and introduced herself as Mistress Cassie. The other woman wore . . . well, nothing, really. She did have a G-string . . . maybe . . . but mostly a few leather straps and links of metal draped around her rib cage from a harness over her shoulders. They did nothing to hide her small but pert breasts—which was odd because the show guidelines had stated no nudity. She also wore a bridle on her head with a bright-colored feather on top.
The MC had a small riding crop, and she commanded the feathered woman to prance around the stage with light slaps across her behind. Summer dragged her gaze from the stage and glanced around at the people watching with interest.
She felt a prickle down the back of her neck and glanced up to see a tall, devastatingly handsome man staring at her. He had dark eyes and black hair, cropped short and spiky. His square jaw, shadowed lightly, framed full lips, and a diamond glittered in one earlobe, making her think of a pirate prince.
Her gaze jerked away, then rested on the chocolates in front of her, only to realize she was staring at a life-size chocolate erection. She glanced back at the man to find him grinning at her, as if to say, It doesn’t measure up to mine. The very thought made her flush.
He smiled at her again, his eyes twinkling. She just gaped at him, totally blown away by his astounding, raw male magnetism. He wore a black leather jacket in a blazer style, which was rugged yet at the same time elegant. His dark eyes held her mesmerized, until the focus of those eyes strayed down her body, lingering on her breasts—setting a fire within her that threatened to blaze out of control. The rest of her was hidden from sight by the table, but her nipples hardened at his frank male interest, and she felt her insides melt, liquid heat gathering between her legs. She allowed her gaze to stray past his muscular shoulders to his broad chest and down to his narrow waist, then flicker over the front of his pants, wondering at the size of the male member he was hiding in those black jeans.
Good heavens, that wasn’t like her. She glanced back to his face. To her horror, he smiled knowingly, and her cheeks flushed in embarrassment.
He stepped toward the table, and her breath caught. Was he going to talk to her? Maybe proposition her as several men had Tanya already? What would she possibly say to him?
Tanya glanced his way, and her lips turned up in a huge smile.
The gorgeous hunk took Tanya’s hand and kissed it. A pang of jealousy lanced through Summer. Which was insane.
"I see your book is doing well," he said.
The women in the line waiting to meet Tanya watched Max with wide eyes. He could have passed for a cover model.
Tanya winked. "Thanks to you."
Max? Was he M from the acknowledgments?
Her gaze shifted to his crotch, which had seemed to have become an obsession with her, and after a lingering perusal shifted away again and locked on to his dark eyes, glittering with amusement.
"So who’s your friend?" Max asked.
Tanya held out her hand to Summer and drew her forward.
"Max Delaney, I’d like you to meet my very best friend, Summer Anderson. We’ve known each other since kindergarten. Unfortunately, since I’ve moved away from Port Smith, I hardly ever see her anymore." She smiled warmly at Summer. "Listen, honey, keep Max company while I finish signing books for these nice people, will you?"
There were about five people waiting in line.
"Sure." Summer smiled at Max as she moved to the edge of the table to give Tanya more room in the small space. Max moved with her. She glanced at him, unsure what to say. It was hard enough to hear over the constant din in the huge convention hall.
"You’re just in Chicago for the weekend?"
She nodded. "Tanya invited me for the show."
"You make chocolates?"
She nodded again, feeling a bit like a bobble-head doll.
He picked up one of the full-size penises and gazed at it. Her cheeks heated.
"I don’t usually make . . . uh . . . this kind of thing."
"They look very good. I especially like the flesh-toned ones. They look very real."
It was an odd sight, him standing there holding a penis in his hand.
"Would you like one?" Oh, man, what was she thinking? Why would he want one? "Uh . . . to give to your girlfriend." Oh, great. Now it sounded like she was trying to find out if he was available.
He pulled his wallet from his back pocket.
"Oh, no. I didn’t mean . . . ," she stuttered.
He pulled out three tens and laid them on the table.
"You’re a friend of Tanya’s, so . . . please just consider it a gift," Summer said.
Oh, God, first she got caught staring at his crotch and now she was giving him chocolate penises. He must think her a complete nut job.
"How can I refuse small-town hospitality?" He smiled and put away his money.
"So, you two seem to be getting along." Tanya glanced at the penis in Max’s hand. "Aren’t they gorgeous? I told her she should charge more than fifteen dollars."
Tanya had suggested twenty-five or thirty, but Summer had been afraid people wouldn’t pay that much, and she didn’t want to take them home again. They weren’t the kind of thing she’d sell in her store. This certainly wasn’t the kind of thing she normally did, but when Tanya invited her along to the convention, Summer figured, What the heck? She might as well have fun with it.
"She wouldn’t let me pay her at all." Max turned to Summer. "The least you can do is let me buy you both a drink after the show."
Summer hesitated. She glanced at Tanya.
"Of course we’ll join you for drinks," Tanya said. "It might be pretty late, though."
He shrugged, then took Tanya’s hand and kissed it. "I don’t mind waiting for two beautiful ladies."
Tanya laughed, and Summer noticed a slight flush on her cheeks. She’s just as affected by him as I am. The realization sliced through her. Maybe her friend wanted to have some alone time with Max. Disappointment trickled through her. She’d have one drink with them, then excuse herself. She didn’t intend to be a third wheel.
Tanya glanced at her watch. "Oh, I’ve got to go. My talk is in five minutes."
"Good luck," Summer said.
Tanya rested her hand on Max’s forearm. "You coming to give me moral support?"
"Absolutely." Max followed her, and they disappeared into the crowd.
"Do you make these?"
Summer glanced up from giving change to the woman who’d just bought three cocksuckers and one of Tanya’s books to see Mistress Cassie, the MC from the stage show, in her long—and very low-cut—red velvet dress, holding one of the cellophane-wrapped dark chocolate penises in her satin-gloved hand. It was difficult not to stare at the huge portion of her large, round breasts revealed by the neckline that plunged to her waist.
"I . . . uh . . . yes," she said, keeping her gaze firmly on Mistress Cassie’s face, not the overflow of breasts spilling from her dress. Summer felt dwarfed beside this woman.
"They’re very good. Great details."
Summer glanced around, a little embarrassed at how the woman was scrutinizing the penis.
"And these . . ." Mistress Cassie picked up one of the flesh-toned ones. "The color is awesome. It looks so real."
Mistress Cassie opened her small, beaded bag and drew out a twenty-dollar bill, then handed it to Summer.
"And they’re a steal at that price. Oh, I’ll take a couple of these, too." She picked up two milk chocolate cocksuckers and handed Summer another five to make up the difference. "Listen, I’ve decided to interview a few of the vendors onstage . . . you know, to let people know what’s available at the show. I’d like to do you." She smiled. "We could do it right now."
"Oh, I don’t think so. Maybe you want to interview Tanya. She’s an author, and it’s her booth."
Summer turned around to see Tanya stepping behind the table.
"You go. I’ll watch the booth." Tanya nudged Summer forward.
"I’m not really comfortable—"
"Don’t worry, honey," Mistress Cassie said. "I’ll do most of the talking, and people will be dying for your chocolate once I’m done."
She took Summer’s hand, and Summer felt herself propelled through the convention hall, then up onto the stage. Mistress Cassie waved over a stagehand, dressed in black jeans and T-shirt, and handed him the full-size chocolate penis, then murmured some instructions and rejoined Summer.
"Go ahead and sit down." Mistress Cassie pointed to a set of three tall stools in the middle of the stage as she picked up a microphone.
"Hello, everyone," she said into the mike. "I’m Mistress Cassie, and I’m your mistress of ceremonies for the show." She gestured to the opposite side of the stage, and Summer noticed pony-girl, now dressed in a skimpy black leather-and-chain outfit—but with all the main bits covered—approaching center stage. "And this is Vex."
Vex bowed, then sat on the free stool to their right. Summer wondered what she’d gotten herself into. The chocolate penises had been just for fun. She’d never intended to end up onstage in some crazy sex show.
"Vex, do you know who I have here?" Mistress Cassie indicated Summer. She felt her cheeks flush as faces in the crowd turned to her.
"No, Mistress. Who is this lovely woman?"
"Her name is Summer Anderson, and she sells chocolates at the show. And not just ordinary chocolates." She held out one of the suckers to Vex, and the other woman took it.
Vex smiled devilishly. "They look . . . delicious."
"Summer, what do you call these?"
"Uh . . ." She felt her pulse pounding past her temples. "Those are . . . cocksuckers."
Mistress Cassie smiled. "Really?"
She plucked the ribbon from around the stick and peeled away the cellophane, then wrapped her lips around the sucker. Vex did the same. Both women made a big show of pulsing up and down on the suckers, and the crowd watched avidly.
Vex drew the sucker from her mouth and flicked her tongue over the tip. "Mmm. It is delicious."
Excerpted from Secret Ties by Opal Carew.
Copyright 2009 by Elizabeth Batten-Carew.
Published in July 2009 by St. Martin's Griffin.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.