A Fine Line

A Fine Line

by Sue Horsford

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No one would understand that my submission empowered me, that I felt stronger kneeling at Gabriel’s feet than I ever had standing at Paul’s side.

Faye Austin seems to have it all—a fulfilling career, a successful husband, a beautiful home. But appearances can be deceptive and sometimes Faye can’t help thinking she’s living the wrong life. A lifetime of being compared to her beautiful younger sister, Ginny, has left her feeling second best, and a chance discovery while looking at her husband’s laptop has led her to realize that her marriage is not all it seems.

Then she meets the handsome Gabriel Scott, a man who likes to play sexual games of power and control, and suddenly everything makes sense. Gabriel’s natural dominance is so compelling that Faye feels her own submissiveness awakening in response, a reaction that both horrifies and excites her. She works with victims of domestic abuse and is adamant that no man will ever tell her what to do. But there’s something about Gabriel that draws her in and gives her a glimpse of who she really wants to be.

Can Gabriel give her what she needs? Or will Ginny get there first?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781786510914
Publisher: Totally Entwined Group Ltd
Publication date: 11/22/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 277
File size: 907 KB

About the Author

I am a qualified hypnotherapist and Reiki practitioner living in the North of England with my husband and soul mate. Over the years I must have started and abandoned over fifty novels before I decided to try my hand at writing erotica. Finally I had a finished novel and a new hobby all in one. I never realized writing could be so much fun!

Read an Excerpt

Copyright © Sue Horsford 2016. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Totally Bound Publishing.

If I’d known it was going to be so hot, I wouldn’t have agreed to cook dinner in the first place. I should have been sitting in the shade with a cold drink and a good book, not cooped up in a stuffy kitchen, cooking pasta, and, besides, I didn’t feel very well. My forehead and cheeks were radiating heat and my stomach kept flipping over as if something awful was about to happen.

Paul came into the kitchen wearing shorts and a too tight Liverpool shirt. I tried not to notice the sweat patches under his arms and the way his shirt clung to the beginnings of a paunch.

He frowned at me and pressed a hand to my forehead. “You don’t look well, Faye. Do you want me to phone Gabriel and rearrange?” He was trying to play the part of the concerned husband, but there was a faint undertone of impatience in his voice. There was nothing he wanted less than to cancel this evening.

Gabriel was Paul’s new client. He’d bought a derelict farmhouse and was planning to rip everything out and start again and he wanted Paul to help him with the design, draw up the plans and oversee the whole project. With the economy in a slump, Paul hadn’t had a major project for over two years and he was bored with drawing up plans for kitchen extensions and loft conversions, so Gabriel was his new best friend.

I shook my head, and Paul shrugged as if he didn’t care either way. He poured himself a beer and went out into the garden with the paper, while I chopped onions and tried to distract myself from my feelings of impending doom by wondering whether Gabriel would be Ginny’s type.

The men she went out with never lasted very long, but I’d met quite a few of them. They all seemed to have come from the same mold, like an assembly line of Ken dolls, young, blandly good-looking and all smitten with Ginny, their very own Barbie. Paul had told me that Gabriel was forty so she’d probably think he was a bit old for her, but, on the other hand, he had money, which was bound to be a point in his favor.

I’d been annoyed when Paul had suggested we invite her. It was as if he was using her as bait, something extra to sweeten the deal, and I didn’t relish the thought of sitting there with two men slavering over my sister, especially when one of them was my husband.

* * * *

“It’s still too hot in here,” Paul complained when I asked him to set the table. “I don’t know how we’re going to manage.”

“Well, we’ll eat in the garden, then.” I tried to hide the irritation that came so easily nowadays. I’d spent the whole day cleaning the house and making dinner. Did I have to make all the decisions, too?

We set up a table and chairs outside, then Ginny arrived, so I left her and Paul to put out hurricane lamps and candles while I had a cool shower. The cold water refreshed me, but I still had that vague feeling of nausea that had been hanging over me all day. Maybe I was just nervous about tonight.

It had been a long time since I’d hosted a dinner for one of Paul’s clients, and, although the contract had already been agreed upon, I couldn’t help but feel I was going to mess it up in some way. My confidence had taken a bit of a knock since finding those photos and I was painfully aware that Paul would much rather it was Ginny he was introducing to clients as his wife.

Her voice drifted up the stairs as she chattered away to him. What would she think if she knew he was stalking her on Facebook, collecting images of her to drool over while I was in bed?

Suddenly I couldn’t breathe and I went over to the bedroom window and leaned out just in time to see a tall, dark-haired man striding up the path. I turned and rushed out of the room, almost falling down the stairs in my haste to get to the front door. I was the lady of the house, so I should be the one to greet our guest. I couldn’t bear the indignity of him meeting Ginny first and thinking she was Paul’s wife.

I reached the door and threw it open and my heart lurched in my chest as if I could tell straight away that he was going to turn my world upside down.

Gabriel was what my mother would call a fine-looking man, tan and athletic without seeming like he tried too hard, and his face with its strong jaw line and high cheekbones was strikingly handsome.

He smiled and I opened my mouth to say something, but then my eyes met his and the words went right out of my head. His eyes were beautiful, a deep, warm brown shot through with flecks of gold so that in the evening sun they were almost amber, and the way they gazed into mine, intimate, inviting, piercingly intense, held me captive and refused to let me go.

It was as if I was standing before him naked, all my weaknesses and insecurities stripped bare for his scrutiny, leaving me exposed and vulnerable. Yet the feeling was not unpleasant. There was something about him that inspired absolute trust, which made me want to put myself in his hands. I’d always scoffed at those romantic novels with their blushing maidens and masterful heroes, but suddenly I longed to be seized in a pair of strong arms and ravished by a tall, dark handsome hero with amber eyes. Gabriel made every man I’d ever met seem like a boy in comparison.

I was saved from throwing myself at his feet by the arrival of Paul. “Gabriel, come in.” He threw me an irritated glance, no doubt wondering why I was keeping our guest waiting on the doorstep.

“Thank you,” Gabriel said. He spoke softly with the merest hint of a Scottish accent and I thrilled at the sound.

I noticed for the first time that he was holding a bunch of flowers, and as if he’d only just remembered, he held them out to me.

“These are for you.”

“Oh, thank you.” My voice was rusty, as if I hadn’t used it before and I cleared my throat. “They’re lovely. I’ll just go and put them in water.”

In the safety of the kitchen, I tried to collect my thoughts. What was I thinking, letting him affect me like that? Masterful hero, indeed!

I took a glass vase from the cupboard and started arranging the flowers. They were beautiful—fat, white camellias and pale pink peonies. I bent my face to inhale their scent. It was so intense I was overwhelmed and I stepped back. Suddenly I was trembling, my forehead damp with sweat, and the sickness that had been niggling at me all day threatened to overwhelm me. I grabbed the side of the worktop, breathing deeply and willing the feeling to pass, just as Ginny came into the kitchen.

“Oh, my God, he’s gorgeous,” she said, letting her mouth fall open. Obviously the fourteen-year age gap wasn’t going to be a problem.

I turned and stared at her. She was talking, but I couldn’t take in what she was saying. A hissing sound drowned out her words and beads of cold sweat gathered on my burning forehead.

I caught hold of her arm. “Help me into the living room. I need to sit down for a minute.”

I barely made it through the living room door before my knees began to give way.

Paul was on the other side of the room putting on a Stereophonics CD, but Gabriel immediately rushed forward, and the last thing I was aware of as I tumbled into oblivion was the warm, unfamiliar smell of his body as he caught me easily in his arms.

* * * *

I opened my eyes to find I was lying on the couch with Paul and Ginny leaning over me. Gabriel was sitting in an armchair to my left, his long legs stretched out in front of him.

“Are you all right, Faye?” Paul said. He seemed genuinely worried and I felt mean for thinking his earlier concern had been pretense.

I struggled to sit up. I was still a bit shaky but at least the nausea had passed. “I’m okay.”

“Should I call a doctor?”

“No, I’m feeling much better now. It was probably just the heat.”

“Well, you’d better stay there while I finish dinner. I’m sorry about this, Gabriel. Can you make sure she stays put? Ginny, will you give me a hand?” He went off into the kitchen, Ginny dawdling after him, loath to be dragged away from ogling Gabriel.

Left alone with Gabriel, I was mortified. What on earth must he think of me? Not content with gazing into his eyes like some love-struck teenager, I had then literally fainted at his feet. This was not the image I wanted to portray as the capable wife of a successful architect. On the other hand, if I was trying to come across as a total imbecile, then I was doing a sterling job. I couldn’t think of anything to say, and the silence seemed to stretch out between us until I felt that anything I said would come across as forced and unnatural.

“I think I’d better just go and make sure they don’t burn down the kitchen,” I joked, starting to swing my legs around to stand up, desperate to escape.

“No, you don’t,” Gabriel answered. He shifted forward in his chair, as if he was about to push me back down. “I have my orders to keep you here.” He smiled and his eyes sparkled with mischief. “If you don’t do as you’re told, I may have to restrain you.”

I froze for a second, then I forced myself to smile back. He was joking of course. Surely he wouldn’t say something like that if he realized the effect his words would have on me.

I lay back and closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see him. What made him think he could talk to me like that? And why had I just let him tell me what to do? I tried to shut him out, but even with my eyes closed, I was painfully aware of him and I was sure he was looking at me. Every sense seemed to come alive in his presence and my awareness of everything was heightened, the warm air caressing my skin, the stickiness of the leather beneath my bare legs and a trickle of sweat which was making its way lazily down my cleavage.

Gabriel got up from his seat, and I stopped breathing for a moment, but then he left the room and went into the kitchen. I couldn’t blame him. I wasn’t about to win any awards for my hostess skills.

A moment later, he returned and his voice was so close I swear I could feel his breath on my face. “Drink this, Faye.”

I kept my eyes closed. Maybe if I ignored him he’d go away.

“Faye,” he said again. His voice caressed me. It was seductive, beguiling, a voice that belonged in the bedroom. I could imagine him murmuring into my ear in the darkness, could almost feel the heat from his naked body pressed hard against mine, and I clenched my thighs together.

“Faye, drink this water, please.”

I opened my eyes to see him kneeling beside me with a glass. He was holding it toward me, eyebrows raised and a stern look in his eyes which told me he had no intention of taking no for an answer. I sat up and took the glass from him, dropping my gaze from his. I couldn’t begin to understand why obeying him felt so natural and so satisfying. But it did and he knew it, too.

He remained on his knees beside me, watching me intently while I drank, making sure I did as I was told.

The cold water soothed my thirst but did nothing to assuage the restless hunger that was growing by the second, and, for a moment, I ignored the voice of reason in my head and dared to imagine him lying me back on the couch, unbuttoning my blouse and easing me out of my skirt, soothing my burning flesh everywhere he touched. My cheeks grew warm at my thoughts. Could he read my mind? Could he tell that I wanted to clench my fingers in his hair while he kissed me until my lips were swollen and sore, that I wanted to feel him moving inside me while I lost myself in those gorgeous, mesmerizing eyes?

Ginny came back into the living room just then and stood staring at us, an expression of annoyance on her lovely face, as though she’d already staked him out as her property.

How wonderful to be able to do that, to be so beautiful you knew every man you met was bound to want you. A sudden surge of anger coursed through me at the unfairness of it all.

“Is everything all right in here?” she asked.

I forced myself to smile. I’d been feeling hypnotized, as if Gabriel had woven some strange erotic spell over me, but the sight of Ginny revived me like a sharp slap across the face. “I’m fine now. Shall we go out into the garden?”

* * * *

We took our places at the table, and Paul poured everyone wine. He hesitated as he came to my glass. “Do you want to drink tonight?”

“Of course I do. I’ve told you, I’m fine.”

My earlier conviction that Paul’s concern was genuine had melted away. He just didn’t want me to embarrass him again in front of Gabriel. I mean, falling into our guest’s arms in a dead faint. I’d never hear the end of it.

“Well, just take it easy, okay? We don’t want you blacking out again.” He spoke as if I’d fainted on purpose.

“This looks delicious,” said Gabriel.

I smiled, willing myself to relax around him. What the hell, he was just a sexy man who would probably end the night going home with my sister, and I was a married woman. The feelings I’d been having were a moment of madness, that was all. It must have been the heat.

We turned our attention to the lasagna, then Paul said, “Did you see the game on Sunday, Gabriel?”

“I didn’t, no. I don’t really follow football.”

“Oh.” Paul’s tone was polite, but this was tantamount to heresy in his eyes. “What do you watch? Rugby? Cricket?”

“I like rugby, but, to be honest, I don’t watch any sport on TV. Don’t watch much TV at all, actually.”

Oh, God. Was he one of those intellectual snobs who wanted everyone to think television was beneath them? What a relief to find something negative about him. Maybe now I could stop having silly fantasies.

“Television not intellectual enough for you, then?” I said. It came out as a sneer and I caught a shocked look from Ginny out of the corner of my eye.

“It’s not that,” Gabriel said. “There’s some brilliant stuff on TV. It’s just that I never seem to have time to watch it. I always feel there’s something else I should be doing.” He smiled, showing perfect white teeth, but, as well as amusement in his eyes, I saw the light of battle. “Believe me, I’m not at all high-brow. I watched The X Factor once, all the way through.”

“Did you?” said Paul in mock horror. “I don’t think I could sit through the whole thing.” He passed the basket of home-made bread to Gabriel. “Did you enjoy the sob stories?”

“I did. I thought it was so moving when the girl in a coma turned out to have an amazing voice,” Gabriel said, grinning at Paul.

“Oh, was she the one who said she was inspired to sing by the death of her third cousin, twice removed?” Paul asked, with every appearance of seriousness.

Ginny was glancing from one to the other, her lovely brow furrowed in confusion. Honestly, I sometimes thought, God had been so busy working on getting her face perfect, he’d run out of time and had to give her the brain of a gibbon.

“It’s funny that you think it’s so silly, yet you watched it all the way through,” I said. I’d meant to sound playful, but, somehow, it came out as sarcasm.

If Gabriel noticed, he didn’t let on. “My girlfriend loved it and I was trying to keep her happy,” he said, smiling in apology.

“And do you still watch it with her?” Ginny asked him. I couldn’t help blushing for her. Could she be any more obvious?

“We’re not together anymore,” he said.

“So what do you do to relax now that you don’t watch The X Factor?” she wanted to know, her voice lingering over the word ‘relax’, as if the two of them were alone.

Gabriel didn’t seem to realize he was being chatted up. “I’m happiest when I’m being creative. The farmhouse is my pet project at the moment. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I’m a photographer by trade. In my spare time—what there is of it—I like to draw and paint and I play a bit of piano.”

“Really?” Ginny’s eyes were as wide as she could make them.

I noticed she wasn’t eating, just pushing the food around on her plate as if it hadn’t taken me all day to make it.

“A man of many talents,” I said, curling my lip. “Is there anything you can’t do, Gabriel?”

He smiled at me but didn’t answer.

“More wine, Gabriel?” Paul said. He shot me a glance of annoyance as he picked up the bottle.

“Thank you,” said Gabriel. He turned to Ginny. “And what do you enjoy doing?”

Ginny hesitated. Gabriel had put her on the spot. “I… I like reading,” she said. That wasn’t strictly a lie. She did like celebrity and glamor mags.

“Read any good books lately?” Paul put in, trying to give her a chance to shine. Idiot. Had he met my sister?

Ginny put one perfectly manicured finger to her lips in an attitude of deep thought. “I’ve been reading a book about cat behavior,” she said eventually.

I knew the book she was talking about. I’d bought it for her five years ago when she’d got her cat, Nicholas. Ginny had named him after our father, which I thought was an odd thing to do, but then my relationship with Dad had been nothing like Ginny’s.

“Did you know cats only ever meow to humans, never to each other?” she said.

“I didn’t, no.” Gabriel wore the earnest expression of someone who was trying to appear interested, and I winced in sympathy for Ginny. Gabriel didn’t seem to be the sort of man to be captivated by a pretty face. She was going to have to try a bit harder.

“Do you have any pets, Gabriel?” she asked.

“Yes, a pet rat.”

“Is he black and called Satan?” I asked him.

“No, he’s white and he’s called Hamelin.”

“Oh, that’s from The Pied Piper,” said Ginny.

“Yes, we understood the literary allusion,” I said. This earned me a hurt look from my sister. What was wrong with me tonight?

Gabriel’s lips twitched. “Why would I have a black rat called Satan?”

Damn the man. The more I tried to rile him, the funnier he seemed to find it. And why was I trying to rile him, anyway? He seemed a perfectly nice man and yet, there was something about him that unsettled me, something that seemed to draw me in and the more I tried to pull away, the stronger his hold on me became.

Perhaps more wine would help. I noticed I seemed to have finished before everyone else and I picked up another bottle. “Top-up, anyone?”

“Don’t you think you should take it easy, love?” Paul asked me. He was smiling, but the stiffness at the corners of his mouth betrayed his tension. He was not happy with me at all.

I smiled back and topped up my own glass. I was damned if I was going to play the part of the perfect supportive little wife. Not anymore.

Ginny gave a sigh and pushed her plate away.

“Not hungry?” said Paul, his voice full of sympathy.

She smiled and patted her stomach. “I have to watch my figure, you know.”

“Well, I don’t know how you can leave any of this lasagna,” said Gabriel. “It’s the best I’ve ever tasted, Faye.”

“Careful,” Paul said. “Too many compliments and you’ll turn her head.”

I smiled at Gabriel. “Thank you.”

He took another mouthful and chewed thoughtfully then, after he’d swallowed, he said, “So, what’s the secret ingredient?”

“I’m afraid you’ll never get that out of her,” said Paul. “It’s a closely guarded family secret.”

I smiled sweetly. “A dash of cumin.”

“Wow, you didn’t even need to twist her arm,” said Ginny. “You must have secret powers of persuasion,” she added, a coquettish smile upon her face.

“They could’ve done with you in the Spanish Inquisition,” said Paul.

I had a sudden image of Gabriel, dark and enigmatic in a hooded cape, leading me away in chains to his torture chamber, and I choked on my wine.

“Careful, Faye,” Paul warned me.

He was frowning at me and I knew it wasn’t my digestion he was concerned with.

Suddenly, I’d had enough of my husband and my sister sucking up to Gabriel and I’d had more than enough of trying to play happy families. Maybe I should just leave the three of them to get on with it. They obviously didn’t need me.

My face grew hot and tears seared my eyes as I stood and started clearing plates away.

Paul jumped up. “I’ll help you.” In the kitchen, he turned to me. “What the hell is up with you tonight?”

“What’s the matter?” I said. “Am I not being a dutiful wife? Perhaps you should trade me in for a newer model.”

I lifted the cheesecake out of the fridge, pausing for a moment to let the cold air take the heat out of my burning cheeks then I turned round.

Paul was staring at me. “I don’t know what you’re on about, but you’re making a right bloody show of yourself. And slow down on the wine, for God’s sake.”

I stared at him for a long moment. There was so much I wanted to say but I wasn’t sure I was ready.

We took the cheesecake into the garden along with another bottle of wine, and for the rest of the evening, I tried to remember that whatever was going on in my marriage, Gabriel was our guest, and I did my best to play the perfect hostess.

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