100 Shades of Sin...
Dane captivated Ari from the first moment their eyes locked. Every second thereafter proved they were either fated for love...or devastation.
It was a little scary how my body trembled and my breathing wouldn't return to normal. But I couldn't escape the intensity of our desire for each otherand how vibrant and alive he made me feel. Like I'd merely existed before. Gotten by. Now I was acutely aware of my surroundings. Of myself. Of him. Of every sensation blazing inside me...
Ari DeMille has spent her life focusing on the details and planning down to the minute. Haunted by her parents' ugly divorce, Ari believes the only way to prevent emotional scars is to always maintain control. But when the devastatingly handsome-and powerfully dominant-Dane Bax, her new boss, pushes Ari's boundaries, she must learn to shatter the ties that bind her if she is to sate her newfound desires... But giving into insatiable lust comes with a price. Dane's luxury hotel business is threatened by a consortium of dangerous men who threaten everything Ari holds close. And as the stakes are raised, Ari is treacherously close to losing all control of her life...and her heart.
Get lost in the passion of Burned Deep by Calista Fox
About the Author
Calista Fox is a former PR professional, now writing fast-paced, steamy books to set your pulse racing! She has won Reviewer's and Reader's Choice Awards, as well as a Best Book Award and competitions with publication as the prize. Calista is a college graduate and teaches online writing classes. She has crossed the country many times over by corporate jet with her PR job and travels internationally, always with her laptop in tow to capture intriguing story elements and exotic locales.
Read an Excerpt
By Calista Fox
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Calista Fox
All rights reserved.
"Where's my groom?" I muttered under my breath.
Tamera Fenmore tore her gaze from the dark clouds rolling in — the same ones I kept my eye on. "Just saw him a few minutes ago." The tension in her voice mirrored mine.
She was the officiant I'd subcontracted for this extravagant creekside wedding at a renowned resort in the intimate upscale community of Sedona, Arizona. Unfortunately, our unpredictable monsoons made late summer a sketchy time of year for outdoor events. A torrential downpour could obliterate this ceremony with very little warning.
That was only one of my worries. We were surrounded by lush green grass, full sycamore trees, and breathtaking red-rock canyons, yet all was not right with this scene — and it wasn't just the crackle of electricity and the scent of rain hanging in the air that set me on edge.
Keeping my voice low, between us, I said, "My groomsmen are missing, too."
I'd only turned my back briefly to mend the strap that had pulled too tight and snapped on the maid of honor's dress. Suddenly I was missing half of my bridal party.
Tamera frowned. "Now would be a good time to panic." Even her lovely British accent couldn't mask her dread.
"This can't be happening." My stomach knotted.
Sure, I'd dealt with MIA grooms before. Ones who'd had their bachelor parties on the eve of the big day — never a good idea — and ended up in the emergency room after a barroom brawl, passed out in a back alley or on a great escape to Sin City.
I hadn't considered Sean Aldridge a flight risk. My bad, because he and his buds were nowhere in sight. While two hundred guests waited for the nuptials to begin, nervously stealing glances at the increasingly ominous sky.
Tamera was all set to head to the front of the event lawn just before the sun started its gradual descent, hopefully breaking through the cloud cover to splash radiant color across the white caps of the flowing rapids. The sound of water rushing over smooth rocks filtered through the trees, mingling with the rustle of leaves as a breeze picked up. Another bad sign. If a storm hit, microbursts and downdrafts could rip through the partially covered east patio where the cocktail reception was to be held, effectively destroying that portion of the evening as well.
Inclement weather had posed a threat for me before, but this was my biggest event thus far and the last thing I needed was drenched and disgruntled guests glaring at the wedding planner — even if it was the bride who'd waved a dismissive hand when I'd repeatedly warned her of the dangers of monsoon season. For fear tents would mar the scenery she'd insisted none be erected.
Meghan Delfino currently paced the polished wooden floor of the elegantly rustic cottage the resort had comped her, so no one caught a glimpse of her stunning one-of-a-kind Carolina Herrera gown. Not until that precious moment when Meghan stepped out of the thicket and paused at the top of the short set of stone steps built into the grassy knoll above the lawn.
Even the steel-nerved father of the bride was ready to walk his pride and joy down the aisle that was lit by ornate lanterns and accented with dozens of elaborate sterling silver and white rose bouquets. Though his patience crept toward agitation, if the darting of his alert hazel eyes was any indication. And they kept landing on me.
Tamera consulted her platinum boyfriend watch. "We're straight-up seven o'clock, Ari. Sun'll be on the move in eleven minutes."
"Damn it. They must be in the bar." I whirled around and marched off. My low heels crunched the underbrush of the nature trail woven through the heavily wooded property and I dodged wayward branches that jutted out onto the path. The wind whispered through the trees, taunting me with its potential to become a menacing howl. Deep-vibrato, rust-colored chimes hanging from limbs added a ghostly effect to the overcast evening, bringing on a razor-sharp vibe. Or maybe that was just my nerves getting the best of me.
I reached the outdoor dining area along the water's edge, the servers already cranking down the tall umbrellas to keep them from toppling over if a violent gust whipped along the creek.
I required less than forty-five minutes of tame weather — the ceremony was to be a quick one. I could move the predinner reception inside if need be, but I desperately wanted the vows to be as Meghan had envisioned.
Not to mention, I needed referrals from this wedding. Bridal consulting wasn't exactly a lucrative business in such a small town, especially when you were an independent planner. And rent didn't come cheap in Sedona.
I blew into the bar with a stiff draft that sent cocktail napkins flying from tables. Gazes snapped to me, but I ignored them, due to my current tunnel vision.
As I'd suspected, I found the rest of my wedding party congregated around two high tops they'd pushed together in the middle of the bar, slamming shots of tequila.
My pulse racing, I simply said, "Gentlemen, tick-tock."
"Hold up. I've got one more round coming," the groom told me before sucking a wedge of lime between his teeth. As though time were not of the essence here.
"You've got a bride ready to say I do," I pointed out, trying to keep the anxiety from my voice. "And a storm brewing."
Sean seemed like a good kid. At twenty-two, he was four years younger than me. Fresh out of college. A bit too early in his adult life to tie the knot, in my opinion, but with his twenty-year-old girlfriend of eight months in her first trimester, it was no surprise a shotgun wedding had been in his immediate future. Especially when said girlfriend was the former Valedictorian of a legendary all-girls Catholic school and the only child of a global communications tycoon.
"Join us, Ari," insisted Kyle Jenns, the best man. He was an easygoing sort, with sandy-brown hair, sky-blue eyes, an athletic build, and a gorgeous smile, all pearly white and vibrant. A college friend of Sean's whom I'd just met when the whirlwind planning had begun. They'd both attended Arizona State University in Phoenix, played football together, and belonged to the same fraternity.
Today was the first time I'd seen Kyle in something other than a tight T- shirt that showed off all of his muscles, the hems of the sleeves always straining against his bulging biceps. Even wearing a tuxedo now did little to conceal his solid frame. Obviously, he hadn't quit the gym after his last season as quarterback.
"You look like you could use a drink," he said in his amiable tone. "One for her, too," he told Grace Hart, the bartender setting out the shot glasses.
"Nice to see you, Grace." She and I had gone through senior year of high school together. Like me, Grace was one of the very few who'd stuck around after graduation, despite the sparse career opportunities a community of eleven thousand offered. Some of us just couldn't shake the allure of what USA Today called the most beautiful place in America.
"You sure you want one?" she asked.
"If it'll get them closer to the altar, bring it on."
Kyle's grin widened. "Now that's a wedding planner, people. One who'll do a shot with the groomsmen."
Sean nodded. "Give Ari three weeks and you, too, can be on your way to wedded bliss — in first-class style from start to finish." He didn't bother hiding the grimace — not at all directed at me. I couldn't fathom the pressure he was under with his new Forbes list in-laws and a baby on the way. I empathized with Sean, having high hopes for this marriage.
I had high hopes for every marriage. An inherent dream following the horrific parental breakup and subsequent financial fallout I'd lived through years ago. The exact reason why I wouldn't be escorted down an aisle anytime soon. As in never.
"How many has he had?" I asked Kyle.
"Going on his second one. Sean won't slur his vows, I promise. Just needed a little fortification so he doesn't sphincter up when the I now pronounce you husband and wife part comes." He winked. "Couple of wedding-day jitters, that's all. Nothing to worry about."
"Hey, I love Meghan," Sean assured us. "But, come on — she's only two months pregnant. What's the rush?"
Kyle snickered. "You're a lucky SOB and you know it. Meg's a knockout and you're marrying into a crazy-rich family. Too bad she doesn't have a sister. But, hey, if I catch the garter, that means I'll find my own pretty little love slave, right?" His gaze swept over me.
"Use a condom," Sean lamented. "That's all I'm saying, man."
Kyle leaned in close — too close for comfort, making me flinch. I didn't like anyone invading my personal space unless invited.
Despite being good-natured, Kyle exuded enough self-confidence to convince me he had a way with the ladies — and wasn't the least bit hesitant to use that particular gift to his full advantage.
So my nerves jumped to attention when he gave me a suggestive look.
"I'd be your love slave," he said in a low tone. "You can tie me to the bedposts, if you want."
"That's, um ... not really my thing."
"You're not married, are you, Ari? Or otherwise spoken for? 'Cause there's a whole night of dancing ahead of us —"
"Dude." Sean fake-punched his best man in the arm. "She's my wedding planner. Don't hit on her. At. My. Wedding."
Kyle said, "Weddings are the perfect place to meet new women, amigo. And this one's beautiful, smart, possibly single. So why wouldn't I find out if there's something to pursue here?"
I suddenly felt another set of eyes on me. From behind. It was an eerie yet unmistakable feeling.
As Sean and Kyle bantered like I wasn't standing next to them in earshot, I glanced over my shoulder. And lost my breath.
The argument faded into oblivion as my pulse echoed through me, drowning out all other sounds, thoughts, everything.
In the corner up front sat two men, paperwork sprawled across their table. One salt-and-pepper-haired, distinguished looking, older. The other dark-haired and dressed all in black — jeans, boots, and a button- down shirt with sleeves rolled up to reveal impressive forearms. Late twenties, maybe thirty. He had a very mysterious air about him, and he was staring at me.
Right at me.
His onyx hair was sexily tousled, as though he'd just rolled out of bed with a woman who'd enjoyed mussing the thick, silky-looking strands. His piercing green eyes held a hint of intrigue and a hell of a lot of don't mess with me. Contradictory signals that sparked my interest.
His face was a chiseled masterpiece. He had strong features with a stone-set jaw, balanced brows, not too thick, not too thin, and a nose that might have been punched a time or two, given the slight bump close to the eyes, but which still managed to look specially crafted to keep harmony with all the sculpted angles. A mouth that easily drew my attention, my gaze lingering on it until I caught myself.
All in all, he was devilishly handsome. Darkly beautiful.
It struck me that I would never consider a man beautiful, thinking it would undermine his masculinity. Not so with this one. He was beautiful and virile. Downright heart-stopping.
I felt a peculiar stirring deep within me. An innate reaction to his edgy perfection.
It seemed as though the blood moved a bit slower through my veins. Thicker, warmer. Molten.
My gaze lifted, our eyes locked, and I was riveted. I still couldn't breathe.
Something flickered in those hypnotic emerald pools of his. Something curious, like a warning to be heeded. Not menacing, but ... definitely intimidating.
Unnerved and surprisingly, intensely aroused, I tore my gaze from the sexy stranger just as Grace brought my shot.
"So, bottoms up," I said as I reached for the tequila, my voice a bit shaky from the unexpected encounter. I finally pulled in a long breath, then gave a quick toast, brevity being the order of the moment. "May the new Aldridge family be blessed with a lifetime of health and happiness." We all touched rims and threw back the booze. Even the burn of alcohol couldn't compete with the simmering inside me created by that heated gaze. But I had business to focus on and resisted the temptation to look over my shoulder again. "Okay, guys. Showtime."
"Damn, you love to crack the whip," Kyle said. "Maybe you ought to rethink your stance on bondage." He raised a hand as though to rest it at the small of my back and escort me out. I instinctively leapt a bit too far out of his reach — and stumbled into a trio of men just coming through the door.
One of them caught me around the waist and held on tight. "Hey, hey there, pretty lady."
Behind us, I heard the scrape on the stone floor as a chair shoved back. A powerful sense of awareness jolted me. I knew exactly who was about to intervene if anyone got too touchy-feely.
Mumbling an apology, I wrenched free from the semi-embrace of a twenty something with spiky blond hair and an intricately designed diamondback snake tattoo slithering up his neck. A lascivious glint lit his brown eyes, pricking my nerves. He spared a glimpse at Kyle and the others, then asked me, "Looking for real men to party with, sweetheart?"
The entire atmosphere turned tense and everything that followed happened quickly.
Kyle came immediately to my defense, saying in a suddenly sharp tone, "Back off, pal." His chin lifted, his chest puffed out.
Snake-tat guy grabbed me again, more forcefully than I thought he'd intended. I winced as he tugged me to him. "Doesn't look like she was interested in leaving with you, pal."
Three groomsmen instantly threw off their jackets, fueled by tequila.
"No fighting!" I cried out, panic shooting through me. I'd never get another planning gig in this town if I delivered a bloodied bridal party to the event lawn — the Delfinos would make sure of it.
The darkly handsome stranger swooped in, pushing Kyle to the side with a solid palm to the pecs — clearly agitating Kyle further, because his fists balled at his sides. A breath later, the stranger had the spiky-haired blond by the forearm.
"Hands off," he all but growled.
Alarm flashed in the blond's eyes at the sudden and vehement reaction from the intruder — and likely his commanding presence. Snake-tat guy released me instantly. Even his friends backed off.
The stranger twisted the blond's arm and jerked it behind his back before slamming his shoulder to the table, as if freeing me wasn't justice enough.
"Jesus, Bax," the salt-and-pepper-haired companion grumbled, a hint of admiration mixing with his shock as he scrambled to collect the papers getting crinkled.
In a deep, rough voice, the man called Bax said, "Doesn't look like she's interested in leaving with you, either."
Air rushed from my lungs. I stood so close to him, I felt his heat, inhaled his expensive-smelling cologne, absorbed his raw intensity. He glanced my way, his green eyes entrancing, though something foreboding edged the rims of those brilliant irises.
A scowl darkened his visage even more, turning him dangerous in a recklessly thrilling way. I wasn't the reckless sort, yet a scintillating sensation flared within me.
His gaze remained connected with mine as he spoke to the spiky-haired guy. "I think you owe the lady an apology."
"I didn't know she came with a bodyguard," the blond ground out. Craning his neck to look around the broad-shouldered man caging him, he acridly added, "Sorry, sweetheart." The stranger released him and stepped away. The blond skulked off with his friends, muttering "Asshole" under his breath.
"Come on, Ari," Sean said as he gently took my hand — the first wholly innocent gesture in this incident.
Yet I recoiled again, breaking the trancelike gaze with emerald eyes I would never forget, and hissed out, "Everybody stop touching me." My heart thundered as anxiety mounted.
I sidestepped the group. A concerned Grace asked, "Are you okay? I called Security."
"We're good — I'm good," I told her. "Sorry for the trouble. That was all my fault."
"No, it wasn't. I called Security on Tattoo Guy," she said. "He shouldn't have grabbed you. Looked like it hurt."
"It's fine," I lied. My arm smarted.
She whispered, "Who's Dark and Dangerous?"
Clearly, she meant the gorgeous green-eyed stranger. "I don't know."
"Interesting," she murmured. "He's been watching you since you made your grand entrance. He is smokin' hot. The best man is damn good-looking, too. Lucky you, all the way around."
Heat burst on my cheeks. "Not interested," I said, trying to compose myself as the groomsmen paid up and I herded them toward the door.
My pulse still jumped. Not just from the sexy stranger — and the way he'd put an immediate stop to what could have been a disastrous altercation. Competing with the excitement he elicited was a bit of apprehension, because I didn't like anyone moving in too close. These guys bumped against my boundaries. Only one of them hadn't touched me, or tried to.
Excerpted from Burned Deep by Calista Fox. Copyright © 2015 Calista Fox. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 star I was pulled right into this story. The story has laughs, secrets, suspense, and twists & turns, and heartbreak. This is Ari and Dane’s story. Ari is a planner. She is now working at Dane’s hotel. He wants to keep her close. The chemistry with these two is off the charts. Things are about to get crazy. With Dane’s past coming for him can he prove his love to Ari while also protecting her from the threats? Will Ari put up with Dane’s protectiveness? Or will she fight him on it? When Ari seems like she is against Dane’s way will he be able to get her to see things like he does? The epilogue of this book leads you wo believe there is more to come with this story. I felt I was able to connect with the characters and the story was a great read. I recommend this book.
Ari was a wedding planner. When at one of her weddings, a man made unwanted advances. Another man came to Ari's rescue. His name was Dane. This was an excellent plot and overall story. I loved the characters. I couldn't put the book down until I finished it. The twists and turns for Dane, as well as Ari, were just so perfectly orchestrated and overcome. I highly recommend. **I received an ARC of this story in exchange for an honest review**
Dane captivated Ari from the first moment their eyes locked. Every second thereafter proved they were either fated for love...or devastation. It was a little scary how my body trembled and my breathing wouldn't return to normal. But I couldn't escape the intensity of our desire for each other--and how vibrant and alive he made me feel. Like I'd merely existed before. Gotten by. Now I was acutely aware of my surroundings. Of myself. Of him. Of every sensation blazing inside me... Ari DeMille has spent her life focusing on the details and planning down to the minute. Haunted by her parents' ugly divorce, Ari believes the only way to prevent emotional scars is to always maintain control. But when the devastatingly handsome-and powerfully dominant-Dane Bax, her new boss, pushes Ari's boundaries, she must learn to shatter the ties that bind her if she is to sate her new found desires... But giving into insatiable lust comes with a price. Dane's luxury hotel business is threatened by a consortium of dangerous men who threaten everything Ari holds close. And as the stakes are raised, Ari is treacherously close to losing all control of her life...and her heart. Review: This book is not what I expected, and in a good way. There is a lot more going on in this story than just an alpha male and his young ingenue. What I expected was straight-up just a guy getting through a girls defenses and he does do that, but there is mystery and intrigue going on in this story too. I think that if it did not have that added mystery to the story it could have fallen flat really soon. After Ari lets down her defenses (a little too quickly, but what the hey) you think the story will be wrapping up, but then things start happening to Ari and 10,000 Lux and the mystery takes off. I have to say I did find it a little goofy that Dane is part of an "Illuminati" like group, though it is done in the context of the story and propels some of the tension. The last 25% of the book is full of action and drama. The story is told from a single POV, Ari's and it was kind of nice since all the books I have read lately have multi-POV's. I liked Dane but with it being from Ari's POV, it did not seem like we got to know him well enough since it was Ari's POV. But, what is not to like? He is rich, smart and attractive. This is seemingly a one and done story until you read the epilogue and then that flies out the window. So look for another book because after that, this cannot be the end. Well, now I will definitely be looking for the next book. 4Stars *Received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
5 Stars are not enough! This is an amazing love story with all the excitement of a mystery/suspense thriller. Dane and Ari both fall in love in a breath-taking moment. No matter how much Ari fights it, she is "burned deep" by the passion and mind boggling emotions they both share. Neither one has ever felt this way about someone. As Dane tries to protect Ari from harm, they both fall irrevocably in love. All that is left is to admit their love, forge a deeper understanding and move ahead fighting the forces that will stop at nothing to get Dane's newest project. The opening of the private membership resort 10,000 LUX has been Dane's dream. There is a lot of money riding on this wonder of the world resort and greedy hands cannot stand they are not part of it. As Dane and Ari prepare for the grand opening, a series of expensive and life-threatening incidents keep occurring. In the midst of all this turmoil, Dane steps up his courtship of Ari and the love scenes between these two are like a five-alarm fire! I loved the writing, the plotline, the characters... I loved everything about this book! The story does not end at the end of this book. There is more to come and I do not how I will be able to hold on until then!
This was a sizzling hot story that grabbed me early in and didn't let go! Dane Bax is power, dominance, influence, and sexy as hell. When he sets his sights on Ari DeMille both professionally and personally she doesn't stand a chance. He offers her the opportunity of a lifetime, event manager for the new highly luxurious hotel he is opening. He also let's her know in no uncertain terms that he wants her too. Should she turn down one or both of his offers??? When it seems someone is sabotaging the project, will Dane be able to keep her safe?? This book is filled with mystery, excitement, and a whole lot of sexy times. I highly recommend it!