Read an Excerpt
'Challenge to Him' by Lisabet Sarai
"Andy! Come play with us!"
Andrew MacIntyre peered over the edge of his newspaper. A diminutive, pastel-clad figure gazed up at him from the foot of the terrace where he was finishing his breakfast. Flaxen curls framed her fair, conventionally pretty face. At the moment, her rosebud mouth was twisted into an exaggerated pout that he found distinctly unappealing.
"Iâ€™m sorry, Miss Linton. Did you say something?"
"Come play croquet, wonâ€™t you? You so rarely join us. And youâ€™re so very good at the game."
He surveyed the vast expanse of lawn sweeping down towards the sea. A bevy of female forms attired in ankle-length summer frocks ambled about on the lush green backdrop, chattering and lazily swinging their mallets. They were far enough away that he could barely discern their features under their hats, but he knew who they were. Henrietta Linton, Mary Bethâ€™s younger sister. Louise Vanderbilt and her cousin Thelma. Cynthia Belmont. Selena Astor. Plus his own sisters, Letty and Ann. Aside from his siblings, all were guests whom his mother had invited to Wavecrest for a festive week leading up to Independence Dayâ€”all unmarried daughters of wealthy bankers and industrialists.
"Perhaps after I finish my coffee and the business pages." He favoured her with a slight smile. Her ecstatic expression improved her looks considerably. "Maybe another ten minutes. Will that do, Miss Linton?"
"Oh, yes! Thank you, sir!" She added the honorific in an unconscious response to his formality. Andrew grinned wryly as she scampered away, back to her giggling friends. Indeed, he wouldnâ€™t mind playing with them, but not the sort of game they had in mind.
Closing his eyes, he summoned an image of Mary Beth and Henrietta, naked save for their chemises, bound to two of his motherâ€™s ghastly mahogany dining chairs. Their wrists fastened behind their backs, their thighs strapped open, their blonde tresses loosed and tumbling around their worried facesâ€¦the vision was delicious. He preferred his women dark-haired, but the Linton girlsâ€™ pale skin would mark nicely, either with the rope or the crop. If he married one of them, sheâ€™d have to submit to her husbandâ€™s desires, wouldnâ€™t she? Still, it would be far more entertaining to have the two of them together.
'Hot for Him' by Amy Armstrong
<span style="line-height: 1.6em;">With a low, drawn-out groan, Elena reached out and whacked the button on her alarm clock before burrowing deeper under the toasty duvet with a satisfied grunt. The blasted thing continued to buzz.</span>
"Leave me alone," she moaned hoarsely. "It isnâ€™t time to get up yet."
The buzzing increased until it was so loud the noise was like a physical thing inside her head, as if her brain was thrashing around in there, trying to beat its way out of her skull with a claw hammer. With a silent curse, she threw off the covers and sat up.
Whoa. Bad decision. When the room began to spin and a hot flush erupted, her entire body got so hot she thought it was trying to solve the worldâ€™s energy problem. She made a grab for the bedside table and gripped it tightly, trying to breathe through the sudden nausea while she waited for the woozy feeling to pass.
The good news was that the incessant buzzing had quit. But why was she so parched? She must have taken up astral projection in her sleep because eight hours of crawling through the Sahara without so much as a sip of water was the only possible explanation for her indescribable thirst. Well, that or the six tequila shots sheâ€™d knocked back in The Salsa Bar the night before. Oh, and that bottle of red wine sheâ€™d polished off in All Bar One might have contributed.
When images of dancing with a five-foot-nothing Ricky Martin wannabe ran through her mind, Elena put her head in hands and leant back against the headboard. She couldnâ€™t remember much about the night, but she did recall slapping the guy when heâ€™d tried to cop a feel. Made sense. Elena hated men who got all up in her faceâ€”or arse as the case might be. What the hell gave them the right to treat women like sex objects? Consenting to a dance did not give him the right to grope her like she was his for the takingâ€”nothing more than a possession. Elena belonged to no one but herself.
The damn buzzing started up again.
"No, no, no, no!" She reached for the alarm clock and squinted at it in the dim light of the room, but the evil thing was silent. Ah, it wasnâ€™t the alarm, it was her mobile phone. Who the hell would be calling her in the middle of the night? Okay, it was nearly six, but what the hell?
'Belonging to Him' by Sam Crescent
<span style="line-height: 1.6em;">"Be my wife," Simon Allen said to the woman bound to his bed.</span>
Hope Pattern bit her lip to stop herself from crying out. He pressed a finger on her clit, making it hard for her not to beg him to continue. She wanted him to give her the orgasm heâ€™d been denying her. Simon had been tormenting her for the past few hours. Every single time he touched her, he only made her want him more.
She knew what he was trying to do. For the past few weeks heâ€™d constantly asked her to be his wife and every time he asked she gave him the same answer. Theyâ€™d been together for a year, but she refused to give in to his one final demand.
"No," she said.
He glared at her before moving away from the bed. Hope lay back on the sheets, happy for the small reprieve on her body. Heâ€™d not done anything to hurt her. Simon was not the type of man to harm a woman, but a rest from the sexual teasing was a welcome break. She closed her eyes while taking deep breaths to calm her erratic heartbeat.
"Iâ€™ll be back shortly. I mean it, Hope. By the end of this weekend youâ€™ll consent to be my wife and that will be the end of it." Simon slammed out of his bedroom, leaving her tied to his bed.
The bed was luxurious. The Egyptian cotton sheets were a pleasure to have under her naked skin. The rope that tied her wrists and ankles to the bed was soft against her skin. Simon was a dominant, not a sadist. He loved bringing her pleasure and the pain he used was only ever intended to heighten her arousal.
Sheâ€™d never known a man like him. The moment Simon entered a room he commanded attention and respect from everyone present.
Hope opened her eyes and gazed at the mirror on the ceiling. She stared at her body, seeing the red marks from his lips on the tops of her breasts. Simon had forgotten to shave before kissing, licking and sucking her body. It was unlike Simon to forget even such a minute detail.
Since the moment sheâ€™d met Simon heâ€™d taken over her whole world. Their meeting had been unique to say the least. The start of their relationship would stick with her always.
'Devoted to Him' by Cheryl Dragon
<span style="line-height: 1.6em;">Surveying his Malibu compound as the limo pulled up the long horseshoe drive, Jason Abbot smiled. Heâ€™d hated being away from the calm order of his California life. With the wedding only a week off, he needed to keep his fiancÃ©e free of jitters.</span>
Sheâ€™d never show a hint of panic or stress, and his sub was eager to please in bed. There he could work out all of her nerves, because weddings were stressful times, whether she admitted it or not.
There she stood, poised on the porch waiting for him. Fiona Brandonâ€™s curves couldnâ€™t be missed in the proper skirt suits she wore. Her wavy reddish brown hair was pulled back but he could see her inquisitive brown eyes on him. Over a year ago, sheâ€™d been hired to provide his chain of luxury tourist bed-and-breakfasts with custom flower arrangements. Back then sheâ€™d worked for a place in Beverly Hills. Now she had her own company. The work and vision had been hers, heâ€™d only encouraged her.
The woman to thank for the match was their housekeeper, whoâ€™d originally picked Fiâ€™s flowers for the compound. Mrs Caster stepped out onto the porch and waved as the limo stopped. The round woman took no crap and made no fuss about any kinky games played in private.
The driver opened the door as the staff of maids unloaded the luggage. Jason had two sealed boxes in the car with him. Carrying them out carefully, he glanced back at his friend, who said, "Have a good one."
Jason nodded to the driver. "Take Teddy home so he can freshen up and settle in. Heâ€™ll be back for dinner in a few hours."
"Later, Jas." Teddy waved.
"Go rest," Jason replied.
Fiona waved at Teddy as well. When the limo was gone, Jason followed Fiona into the house and she hugged him tight. Without fail, her mouth found his. "I missed you. Did you have a good trip?"
"Profitable, in the end. Donâ€™t make me drop these packages," he warned.
She grabbed one box and set it safely on the entry hall marble table, which was graced with a gorgeous creation of hers. Only she could make cactus so dazzling.
"What are they?" she asked.
"Gifts for you. Be careful with them." He set the other box down and hugged her from behind. Her flared hips and round ass pressed back against him.
"May I open them here or are they private gifts?" she asked.
'Ready for Him' by Tanith Davenport
<span style="line-height: 1.6em;">Looking at each of her friends in turn, Jade Bleecker raised her glass of champagne and smiled. "A toast, everyone. Piper, you first."</span>
Piper tucked her brown hair behind her ear and thought for a moment. "To marriage."
Beside her, Shaundra giggled. "Oh God, I canâ€™t think of one. You guys go ahead of me, Iâ€™ll get one in a minute."
"To Vegas, baby," Leonie announced, pressing a red-lipped kiss to her glass before raising it, capping the gesture with an exaggerated wink.
"To us," Jade added, lifting her glass higher with mock solemnity.
"Ooh, ooh, ooh, I got one!" Shaundra cried. "To fucking!"
Their glasses clinked together and all four let out a cheer.
Ten p.m., and the bar at the Bellagio was buzzing with life. Jade sat back in her chair and observed her friends as they drank, all three in their own way thrumming with excitement. All three ready to get married in four daysâ€™ time, with her as their joint maid of honour.
Three times a bridesmaid, never the bride...
It had already been quite the upheaval. Jade had moved out of the New York apartment she had shared with Piper a month earlier. Joey had moved himself in immediately, ready for married life. Leonie would be uprooting herself completely to live in her fiancÃ© Darrenâ€™s home state of Iowa. As for Shaundra, no one knew what she would end up doing. She and Andrew were already sharing a studio apartment, spending money on the funkiest fashions and eating beans on toast for dinner.
Jade took a mouthful of champagne and scanned the bar, careful not to let her eyes linger on anybody for too long. The slightest hint that she might be man-hunting and sheâ€™d never hear the end of it.
"See anyone you like?" Piper murmured in her ear.
"Nope," Jade murmured back, restraining an eye roll. "These arenâ€™t my kind of men, you know?"
Piper shrugged airily. "You never know."
Well, maybe. Maybe opposites did attract. But Jade knew her appearance set a lot of these menâ€”rich men, businessmen, professional gamblersâ€”on edge. With a modern mohawk in black and green, her tattooed arms and her nose and brow piercings, she made most men quail at the sight. They looked at her as though she was going to either punch them or stab them.
'Working for Him' by Willa Edwards
<span style="line-height: 1.6em;">"Merlot, please," Serena ordered from the bartender, handing him the single paper ticket parcelled out so no one got drunk on the company dime. From the animated conversations around her, a few had already done so at their own expense at the hotel bar.</span>
The Vertical Aeronautics annual all-people meeting had got off to the same start as last year, reminding Serena why sheâ€™d chosen to become an engineer. Sheâ€™d much rather spend the day with gears and equations than people. Plus it was the closest she could get to flying, due to her horrible vision and flat feet.
Subtly, she looked down at her watch, trying to gauge how much longer she had to stand around the banquet hall and make nice with the other employees. The day had already been a long one, and the night continued to drone on. All she wanted to do was get out of this uncomfortable suit and too-tight shoes and relax for what remained of the evening.
"Ms Carter, how are you doing tonight?"
Serena turned and smiled at the man whoâ€™d slid up to the bar beside her, even though her cheeks were already tired from so many forced smiles today. "Iâ€™m doing well, Larry, how are you?"
He nodded. "Good, good." He smiled at the bartender and ordered a whiskey sour. "Though my department didnâ€™t perform quite as well as yours did last year."
Serena nodded. "Thank you. We were very lucky."
Luck had nothing to do with it. It was damn hard work to keep her staff motivated, most of them still begrudging that sheâ€™d got the promotion to vice president over many of the more senior team members. But sheâ€™d learned long ago that modesty worked better at these work functions than the truth.
"I hope weâ€™re so lucky next year."
Serena smiled and took another sip of her drink. Sure he did. But that would require him to get off his ass and spend less time between his secretaryâ€™s legs. "I hope so, too."
"How are you liking the conference this year?" Larry continued talking, and Serena fought back a groan at being forced to continue with such pleasantries. How does he not get the hint? "The foodâ€™s not as good as last year, but Iâ€™m enjoying the location. Vegas is a fun time."
She smiled, wondering exactly what kind of good time he was having in Vegas. "Itâ€™s nice to travel somewhere warmer this time of year, but Vegas isnâ€™t my kind of town. Too much activity, too many lights." Too many co-workers.