A sexy category romance from Entangled's Brazen imprint...
This time, all bets are off...
Penelope Carson loves to steal clients from Will Reaver. Yet something in her business nemesis's icy blue eyes makes Penelope...nervous. It certainly doesn't help that the man is the living embodiment of a Norse god. A controlled, powerful Norse god. Which she really should have remembered before she made a bet with him—because losing means becoming Will's personal submissive for a week.
There's nothing Will would like more than to have Penelope kneeling before him in complicit submission, her fiery dark eyes inviting him in. Challenging him. But their bet takes Will and Penelope deeper than either of them have ever been. Where control is an illusion, and boundaries are pushed aside. And where hearts become the stakes in a game that neither Dominant nor submissive can win...
About the Author
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell stories at her grandpa's knee. She discovered romance novels and never looked back. When not writing sexy contemporary and speculative fiction romance novels, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her wee ones, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
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Read an Excerpt
Betting on Fate
A Serve Novel
By Katee Robert, Heather Howland, Jenn LeBlanc
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Katee Robert
All rights reserved.
Penelope Carson smiled at the man across the desk. She'd nailed her presentation, and John actually looked really excited about the plans she had for the Falcon Bar. She all but had this deal signed. "Thank you for your time."
He stood and shook her hand, and she tried not to hold his limp handshake against him. Her father had always told her that a handshake was the best way to get a read on a man, and John Starker was coming across as a weak-willed follower.
She took a deep breath, and dialed her smile up a notch. Business was different now than it had been a decade ago. She was bringing Carson & Associates into the future. That meant letting go of some of the assumptions of the past—and making a significant amount of personal sacrifices along the way.
It didn't mean she had to enjoy his sweaty palms, though.
"When can I expect to hear from you?" she asked.
"I have a few more interviews today, but the decision will be made before tomorrow evening."
It would have been nice if he told her he was sending the other consultants away, but she understood. Manhattan might have enough failing businesses to keep her living in luxury until she was an old woman, but word got around. John was covering his ass, and she could appreciate that even if she didn't particularly like it. "Wonderful."
"I look forward to working with you."
She left the room with a bounce in her step. He'd all but confirmed his choice, other consultants or not. Tonight, she was celebrating. Penelope nodded at John's secretary, Rochelle, but the woman didn't greet her like she expected. Instead, she raised her eyebrows and motioned somewhat frantically. Weird. Penelope followed the motion and froze.
Will Reaver stood with his back to her, his attention apparently on the announcement board near the door. Damn it, what was he doing here? Even as the thought crossed her mind, she kicked herself for asking it. Of course he'd be here. They often crossed paths in competition for accounts, and it looked like this was just another in a long list she'd snatched out from beneath his nose. She put a little more weight into her steps, her heels clicking over the wood floors.
She didn't flinch when he turned, but only because she'd had a chance to prepare herself. Will's face always made her miss a step. It didn't seem to matter how much she despised him or how often they shared vicious little conversations—one look into those icy blue eyes and her stomach started doing somersaults. It started again now, her nerves increasing as the distance between them decreased. He looked like some sort of Norse god who had decided to throw on a suit and play at being a respectable human being. Except that wasn't right. He wore that suit like he'd been born in it, his wide shoulders filling it out to perfection and his slacks hinting at equally massive thighs beneath the fabric.
Crap. She jerked her gaze up, but it was too late. He'd caught her checking him out. One of his eyebrows inched up, his painfully perfect mouth twitching into something that on another person would be a smile. On Will's face, it was a smirk. "Penelope."
She stopped just out of reach. Not that his touching her was really a concern—he seemed to go out of his way to avoid even the smallest chance of brushing against her. "Will."
As she stood there, it was an effort not to count the paces between them. She felt like a gunslinger in the Old West, meeting this man at high noon, ready to duel to the death. It was a silly notion, but she couldn't shake it.
He looked her up and down. "My twin told me the strangest story a while back. Apparently while speaking to him, you insinuated that you and I had an intimate history."
"Did I?" She most definitely had. It was too much fun to pull at Will's whiskers, and doing it via his twin had been an added bonus.
"You did. Don't do it again."
Annoyance flared that he thought he could dole out commands and she'd automatically obey.
"Will Reaver." Rochelle's voice saved her from saying something unforgivable in front of witnesses.
They glanced at the secretary and then Will turned back to Penelope, all expression gone from his face. "I'll be seeing you."
She hated how he could do that, could rile her with a few choice words and then walk away as if none of it really mattered. She made herself stand there and wait for him to disappear through the office door. To do anything else would reek of running away, and she refused to give him the satisfaction. As soon as the door closed behind him, she turned a smile on the secretary. "Thank you so much for calling me, Rochelle."
"Sure thing, Pen." The older woman grinned right back. "Your father was one of the best, so of course I'd make sure his daughter was on the list when John needed a business consultant for the bar."
She kept her smile from becoming strained through sheer force of will. Her reputation was growing, but her father had over a decade to make a name for himself. If she wanted to surpass that—and she very much did—she'd have to set aside any possible distractions and put all she had into getting new accounts and making them successful. As amusing as she found poking at Will Reaver, in the long run it didn't matter what he thought of her.
The only thing that mattered was she had that contract all but signed, and as a result, was one step closer to her goal of being New York's premier business consultant.
She fished her phone out of her purse and dialed Addison. The best way to get over how much Will unsettled her was to start the celebrations. She checked her watch as the phone rang. Four in the afternoon. If she moved now, she shouldn't have a problem securing a reservation at the newest up and coming restaurant—courtesy of Carson & Associates.
Addison finally answered, sounding out of breath. "Pen! I didn't expect to hear from you."
"I know we have plans next week, but I just landed a huge account. Meet me for drinks?"
"I wish I could. I have plans with Caine tonight." A murmur in the background. "Okay, fine. Technically, I have plans with him right this second."
Heat rushed to Penelope's face as she realized there was a decent chance she'd just interrupted something intimate. "Oh lord, I'm sorry. Just pretend I didn't call."
Addison laughed. "Don't worry about it. I'll see you next Monday, though?"
"Perfect. Talk to you then."
Penelope hung up, feeling curiously adrift. She and Addison had been good friends for the last few years—they got together for a drink whenever they could in between pursuing their own careers—but ever since her best friend had gone down to Tennessee to match a CEO and come back with him as her boyfriend instead, it seemed like things had shifted. It was only a matter of time before he proposed, and they were already talking about a family and a life that was completely foreign to Penelope. She loved seeing Addison happy and wouldn't change that for the world, but she couldn't help feeling ... left out.
She turned down the street and started walking. Having a family and children was everything Addison had ever wanted—and had never let herself believe she'd have a chance at again. It was wonderful to see her finally on the cusp of realizing her dreams.
Those things weren't on Penelope's horizon now, and she wasn't sure they ever would be. She liked the way things were. She loved her job, loved taking a business on the brink of ruin and turning it into something else—something successful. She'd single-handedly taken her father's dream and brought it to the next level, and the pride in his eyes when she filled him in on each new account was worth more than gold. How could a relationship or new family compare to that?
Dad had tried to have both, and it almost ruined Carson & Associates. If that wasn't an argument to shelve thoughts of wasting time in her personal life on some relationship that wouldn't last, she didn't know what was. There were no guarantees once you brought another person into your world. She'd seen how her mother undermined everything her father was trying to do with his consultant business. She couldn't afford to end up with someone who would do that same thing.
She shoved the thought away. It was all a moot point, anyway. She'd had nothing even resembling a relationship, and that was just the way she liked it. Penelope ignored the pang inside her at the thought and resolutely turned to planning her celebration for one. If Addison was busy, there was really only one place to go.
She'd have a drink and head up to one of the upper floors and see if there was a submissive in need of a good time. She grinned. Yes, this was even better than drinks. She'd play for a bit, and head home to sleep and wait for the call confirming that she'd secured the Falcon account.
Penelope pictured the look on Will's face when he found out that she'd won yet another account away from him and grinned. Tonight was looking up.
* * *
Will Reaver walked out of his meeting with John Starker feeling on top of the world. He'd had a flicker of consternation when he realized Penelope Carson had presented before him—she had the nasty habit of stealing his prospective clients—but that quickly disappeared when he realized how attentively John was listening. Then the man had gone and all but promised the account to Will.
He permitted himself a smile as he strode onto the street and hailed a cab. What to do to celebrate? His twin, Garrett, was out of town on some mission or other, so partying with him wasn't an option. Will briefly considered calling Uncle Rodger or his father or even his little sister, Sara, but discarded the idea almost before it'd taken form. Ever since Garrett had finally settled down with the electrifying Ridley, they had turned their fledgling matchmaker sights on Will. Sara wasn't as bad in some ways, but she was also sneakier, and the fact that she'd had a hand in orchestrating Garrett and Ridley's relationship only made her ego that much larger. Five minutes in their presence and Will would already be hearing about how the neighbor down the street was a really nice lady, and so was Rodger's client's daughter and so on. It never ended. Then he'd be fielding questions about when he was going to bring a nice girl home and move on into that next stage of life.
Will had an easy enough answer for them—never.
There were plenty of excuses for why he'd stay single until kingdom come—he was too busy, he liked a very specific brand of sex that most people couldn't handle, he didn't particularly like children—but they were just that. Excuses. The reality ...
The reality was that he wasn't meant for marriage or fatherhood or anything of that nature. A serious relationship—any relationship beyond a few nights—meant a loss of control that was unforgivable. Relationships changed people, made them unrecognizable. Quite frankly, the reward wasn't anywhere near compelling enough to withstand the risk. He'd leave that up to Garrett or, heaven forbid, their little sister, Sara. He shook his head and rattled off to the cabbie the address of the one place he could go and slip free from the mundane aspects of his life.
The cab fought through evening traffic towards the meatpacking district, but Will tuned it out, focusing instead on his encounter with Penelope. He'd caught her ogling him again, but that moment had quickly gone the way of all their encounters. He didn't know what it was about her that got under his skin so effectively, but he found himself speaking without thinking when he spent too much time in her presence.
Being a business consultant was a cutthroat way of life, but she wasn't any more mercenary than the rest of the people in their field. And he could almost—almost—admire her for using that southern belle persona to her advantage. But ever since she stole Hell's Belles out from beneath him, they'd been butting heads whenever they got too close. It would be significantly easier to avoid her if they weren't in constant competition for the same accounts.
He paid the cabbie and stopped on the sidewalk to look at the building in front of him. Serve. He'd been going there on regular basis since it opened, grateful to have a place to scratch his itch—so to speak—without having to worry about the lines blurring. There were plenty of unattached subs who enjoyed a few hours of his time and were content with that. He was content with that. Will scrubbed a hand over his face. Well, he had been. Something had changed in the last few months, something he couldn't quite put his finger on. The relief he usually felt after a satisfying scene wasn't anywhere near as strong as it had once been. No matter how often he went there, he was losing that contentment he'd prized so highly.
But tonight wasn't the time to worry about that. He had a lucrative deal that would be signed tomorrow and would catapult his company to the next level. Tonight was for celebrating.
Will pushed through the doors, nodded to the bouncer, and headed straight for the gaping mouth that framed the elevator to the upper floors. He wasn't opposed to a drink or two before playing, but right then all he wanted was to be surrounded by his people and sink himself into a scene with one of his regulars. Afterward, maybe he'd celebrate with a glass of the good scotch the establishment had stocked down in the bar.
The elevator doors opened on the second floor and Will had barely made it three steps into the room when his gaze landed on Penelope. He almost froze, but he'd had nine years of practice at hiding what he was feeling, so he managed to keep going with only the slightest hitch in his stride. She stood talking to a Dom he'd seen her speaking with some regularity, her tight curls pulled back into a cloud around her head. She must have found time to change because she wore a deceptively simple white dress that set off her dark skin to perfection. It was always white with her, which never ceased to put him in mind of a sacrificial virgin.
A joke if ever there was one because, as far as he knew, she only played Dominant.
There was something about her, though, something that called to him on an instinctive level. He'd never been able to put his finger on exactly what it was about her that never failed to drive him up the wall, and tonight wouldn't be the night that changed. Will was only on her radar as an obstacle, the same way she was a thorn in his paw. Usually. Right then he was having a hard time remembering why he avoided her.
Before he had a chance to decide what he was going to do, she turned and saw him. The front of her dress dipped down between her breasts, the material following their curve and leaving no doubt that she wore nothing beneath it.
She smiled—he'd seen that expression enough times to know she was about to go in for the kill—and sauntered over to him. "Fancy meeting you here." Her southern accent was dialed up to an eleven, a sure sign that she was about to insult him. "I was sure you'd be at home, crying into your whiskey bottle about losing another account to me."
What was she talking about? "You've gotten your wires crossed. The Falcon account is mine."
Instead of looking worried, she only smiled wider. "You're so adorable when you're being dense."
"I'm not the dense one in this conversation. John's going with my company." A flicker of doubt tried to worm its way through him, but he smashed it. It didn't matter what information she thought she had—that account belonged to him.
"Are you confident enough to bet on it?"
He wasn't a betting man. Bets left things up to chance, and Will despised chance and everything else he couldn't control. He might have John's assurance that he had this deal, but John must also have said something to Penelope to make her this self assured. What did she know that Will didn't?
He opened his mouth to make a sharp comment and change the subject, but what came out was, "Of course I am."
Excerpted from Betting on Fate by Katee Robert, Heather Howland, Jenn LeBlanc. Copyright © 2015 Katee Robert. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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