A sexy category romance from Entangled's Brazen imprint...
The first rule is obey... and she already broke it.
Francesca "Frankie" De Luca always pays her debts. Even when it means stepping inside Serve, the sensuous Manhattan club that caters to particular adult desires. For Frankie, it's a taste of something she's always wanted—and never received. Until a sharply dressed Brit orders her into his room, and instructs her to undress before delivering the carnal punishment she so desperately needs...
She wasn't the woman Porter Evans was expecting. Not this wild thing with the pale, silvery eyes. And such cheek. But she violates Porter's strict rules of control. Temptation is a dangerous thing indeed. Yet everything about Frankie cries out for schooling about the tantalizing interplay of pleasure and pain. So Porter offers Frankie a deal she can't refuse—and the only thing she owes him is submission...
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About the Author
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Tessa Bailey lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and young daughter. When she isn't writing or reading romance, she enjoys a good argument and thirty-minute recipes.
Read an Excerpt
Driven by Fate
A Serve Novel
By Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Tessa Bailey
All rights reserved.
Toto, I don't think we're in Queens anymore.
Frankie De Luca stepped back just in time to avoid a dancing couple that certainly hadn't left enough room for Jesus between their writhing bodies. They stumbled toward an elevator located along the back of the dance floor, drawing Frankie's attention to the massive, golden mouth framing the doors. Welcome to hell? A man sporting an earpiece pressed the button just in time for the doors to open and swallow the couple whole, taking them upstairs to join in the revelry that went on at Serve, Manhattan's exclusive club for the adventurous. Upstairs was where Frankie was supposed to be headed, but her reflection in the steel doors of the elevator kept her rooted to the spot as the party raged on around her. She'd worn Converse and ripped jeans to a BDSM club. Was she serious?
Two stylishly dressed women brushed past her, giving her curious looks. Frankie's chin automatically lifted even though she could feel the holes in her jeans widening by the second. No one gave a shit about her clothes during her day job. Hell, her customers couldn't even see her attire from the other side of the plastic partition. Driving a cab had its perks. A keen fashion sense might not be one of them, but the job paid the bills.
Or most of them, anyway. There was one behemoth expense accumulating over head with way too many zeroes attached. Frankie didn't do debts. Or charity. Which was what had brought her to Serve that night. She'd come to pay it back.
Okay. That was one reason. The other wasn't so easily summed up.
Tonight, she'd get some clarification.
Forcing her features into an expression that said I'm supposed to be here, she went toward earpiece-guy, who, upon closer inspection, proved to be just as eye-catching as his surroundings. He lifted a lazy eyebrow at her approach, but she didn't let his lack of verbal greeting faze her. "My name is Frankie De Luca. I have a meeting with Jonah Briggs."
"Really." The man consulted his clipboard. "He doesn't usually take meetings."
"Believe me. I know."
The owner of Serve was notoriously private, despite the recent media circus surrounding his relationship with notable financial journalist, Caroline Preston. It had taken Frankie months to get Jonah to agree to this meeting. In the end, her loose connection to the Preston family had gotten her a fifteen-minute time window, one she planned to use wisely.
"It appears you've breached the inner sanctum." Earpiece-guy punched the elevator's call button and stepped back. "Congratulations."
"I'm honored," she mumbled, doing her best not to stare at the man as she stepped though the doors. When they bumped closed behind her, she jumped a little, then rolled her eyes. Compared to picking up passengers in her cab at three o'clock in the morning, this meeting would be a piece of cake. It was what could come afterward that had her nerves expanding beneath her skin, twisting and crackling. Anticipation or dread? Guess she'd find out.
When the elevator doors opened, she peered into the darkened space, expecting to see an orgy in full swing. Instead, she saw a sprawling, tastefully decorated floor, complete with a lounge area. Several couples were speaking in hushed tones, hands roaming, but nothing she hadn't seen before in her rearview mirror. How disappointing. With a shrug, she turned down a hallway with several doors on either side. One swung open to reveal Jonah Briggs. Arms crossed over his chest, he looked about as inviting as the subway after New Year's Eve. Too bad the red licorice scent that wafted off him was a comfort whether he liked it or not.
"I don't have much time," he told her.
"Me either," she returned, bypassing him into his office. An oversized, carved mahogany desk took up most of the space in the first room, covered in neat stacks of paperwork and several framed photos of Caroline Preston, interspersed with others of a young girl. His daughter? There was a second door across the room, and an electric blue glow coming from beneath it suggested monitors or televisions on the other side. "Quiet night out there."
"Give it an hour." Jonah took a seat behind his desk, thoughtful eyes flicking over the pictures of his girlfriend, as if it were an unconscious action. "You mentioned over the phone that this had something to do with my daughter."
Frankie nodded, refusing to let her gaze dip. She hadn't liked using another person's weakness to secure the meeting, but desperate times had called for it. This debt of hers would be repaid by fair means or foul. "You wouldn't have agreed to see me without knowing everything about me." No reaction. "So you already know that your girlfriend's family is responsible for sending me to Columbia University. I'm the first beneficiary of the scholarship they set up in their mother's name."
Jonah leaned back in his chair. "I might know something about it."
"Right." Her response was dry. "I've met the Prestons enough times to know they won't accept repayment from me."
"A grant doesn't require repayment."
"Maybe for some people. But I boned up on you, too, and I know you're not the type to accept something for free, either." She gave him a meaningful look. "I never could have done this without them and I'm grateful. But when I graduate, it'll be on my own dime."
"What does this have to do with my daughter?"
Frankie glanced at the photo on his desk depicting a young girl dangling off a jungle gym. "I want to make the payments to you. The Prestons don't need to know about it." She forced herself not to play with the fringe on her jeans. "I'd like it set aside for your daughter to use when she's my age. Kind of an indirect way of paying back the Prestons by sending someone they care about to school."
Jonah didn't speak for a moment. She'd surprised him. Good. "I don't need your money to send my daughter to school. In fact, that's a privilege I'd prefer to keep."
"Understood." Damn. She should have anticipated that. "Your daughter can donate it to a charity of her choice when she turns eighteen, then. Or send another poor unfortunate to college with the money." She secured her poker face. "Take the payment from me or I'll drop out."
"You're that serious about it." It wasn't a question. Again his gaze flicked toward the pictures on his desk. Over a smiling Caroline Preston who would probably be upset if she returned the grant money. For all their newsworthy shenanigans, the Prestons were good people. They had taken a chance on her, changed her life, really. But she already owed too many people in this world.
Jonah rubbed his knuckles over his jaw. "I'll put aside these payments for you on one condition."
Frankie raised an eyebrow, not ready to commit until she heard the terms.
Jonah's lips twitched. "If you need the money, you come back and get it." He stood and extended his hand. "And Ms. De Luca? I'll know if you need it."
"I appreciate your concern." She shook his hand, sealing the deal. "But I won't."
As soon as he released her hand, she dug in her pocket and took out a white envelope, sliding it across the desk. "Here's my first payment. It's not much. The business classes I'm taking make it difficult to drive my cab, but I'll make sure I match it down to the penny."
"Something tells me not to doubt you."
Frankie felt her own smile threaten, but it faded when she remembered her other purpose for the night. Her relief over having Jonah accept her terms allowed for anticipation to trickle through her midsection, blending with fear of the unknown. A significant part of her wanted to take her victory and run, but she'd come there tonight to kill two birds with one stone and that's what she would do. No backing out now.
When Jonah sat back down at his desk instead of heading right for the second room, Frankie predicted she'd have about two minutes to appease her curiosity just beyond the door of his office, curiosity she'd been harboring for two years. Before attending Columbia had gone from pipe dream to reality, night classes had been all she could afford. One night, after missing a lecture due to an overtime shift at work, she'd stopped by a classmate's apartment to copy her notes. Instead, Frankie walked in on her having sex with her boyfriend. Not just any sex, though. The woman's legs and hands had been bound to the bed while the guy gripped her chin, telling her who she belonged to. Pumping in and out of her. Hard. At the time, Frankie had ordered herself to move. Get away before they caught her. Eventually, she'd managed it, but there had been no mistaking one fact. She'd been turned on to an almost embarrassing degree. In fact, she hadn't stopped being turned on since that day, but there'd been no appeasement. Where did one go for an experience like the one she'd witnessed?
Frankie backed out of Jonah's office, returning his wave as he answered a phone call. Her stomach felt like it had been pumped full of helium as she closed the door behind her, finding herself alone in the darkened hallway. To her right, a sliver of light caught her eye—movement behind a slightly ajar door. She squared her shoulders and eased toward it, hoping for a peek of what lay on the other side. Just a peek.
What she saw through the crack woke up her hormones and twisted them into a pretzel.
A man dressed in all black, right down to his leather gloves, was visible in profile. But it was enough to daze her. Not just darkly, criminally handsome ... intriguing, to boot. Every line of his body was tension-filled. His jaw, his shoulders, his thighs. Powerful chest muscles flexed beneath the expensive material of his shirt. He was pulling items out of a leather bag and laying them neatly on an elevated table, every single movement precise. Almost angry. This was a private moment she was seeing, but she couldn't look away. His energy was hypnotic.
If he was in one of these rooms, did that mean he was here to meet someone? To do those things she'd fantasized about since the day she'd walked in on her friend? Jealousy summersaulted inside her ribcage. Ridiculous. He hadn't even looked at her. She didn't even know him. It remained there, anyway, turning faster and faster.
When he spoke in a taut, yet smoky, British accent, the tumbling stilled instantly.
Everything inside her went still.
"If you choose to stand there much longer, you will be punished for your lateness." Golden eyes locked on her. "Choose wisely."CHAPTER 2
This ... girl is not my partner for the night.
Porter Evans paused in the act of removing tools from his leather bag to watch her enter the room. It was impossible not to watch her. Her expression spoke of a readiness to take on the world but her fingers were fiddling with a string hanging from her jeans. For the love of God, the sodding jeans alone were going to be the death of him. Had she purchased them in such a disheveled state or done it herself with a pair of scissors? Either method baffled him, but he couldn't help noticing the skin each hole in the denim revealed. Soft, olive-colored skin. Italian skin. Marked skin. But not from the kinds of pursuits he engaged in. Her knees appeared to be scratched up from a fall of some kind.
Soothe her. Porter was so surprised by the uncharacteristic urge, he dropped the flogger he'd been holding, immediately reaching down to straighten it without taking his gaze off the girl. His eyes tracked downward to light on her ancient pair of runners, enough dirt on them to suggest she'd earned those toned legs from physical activity. It didn't excuse their hideousness.
What did excuse it? Big silver eyes. Yes, silver. They were the lightest shade of blue he'd ever seen. Not even enough to be categorized as blue. The contrast they created against her tanned skin was extraordinary, exotic, at total odds with her tomboy appearance. If she'd walked into Serve wearing leather, she never would have made it to this room, not if any other man in the building had a say in it. As it was, though, this ragamuffin—who couldn't be older than twenty-two—had shown up in his room.
And she wasn't his arranged partner. There was protocol that he always followed when arranging this type of thing and it included knowing what the woman looked like. Her limits. This was not that woman.
Was she attempting to pretend otherwise? Allowing this situation to go on any longer went entirely against his personality. He liked terms stated up front. Keeping an airtight schedule. Yet there was an insistent, undeniable need to let the charade play out, if she was indeed trying to fool him. Even if he didn't quite understand why the need existed, it pulled at him with compelling force. The words that would break the spell refused to come.
"Do you need a reminder to remove your clothing?" He lifted his leather bag off the bed and set it down carefully on a nearby chair. "I can't imagine why. It was very clearly stated in the terms that the clothes come off immediately."
Her confidence wavered a moment before that stubborn chin lifted once more, sending long brown hair—in desperate need of a brush—sliding over her shoulders. Lust pooled low and heavy in his groin at that show of mettle. It only increased when she clutched the edge of her shirt and tossed it over her head. Onto the ground. Any other time, he would order his submissive to pick up the discarded garment and fold it neatly. He needed everything in its place, goddammit. But he couldn't—could not—tear his eyes away from the breasts she'd revealed. A groan even managed to slip from his mouth before he could catch it.
She was golden all over, everywhere but the pink tips of her nipples. An image of her arms stretched and bound above her head while he sucked those peaks made his cock rise in his pants. This had been a mistake, going through with the ruse. He was supposed to be appreciative, aroused, but never ... tempted. These encounters were a healthy environment to exercise control over himself. Another person. But at that moment, his thoughts were anything but in control. There were ... the beginnings of chaos.
"Man. Are you always this tense?" She swaggered toward the bed and hopped up onto the padded surface, making her breasts jiggle. "Seems like that should be my job considering you just picked up a horsewhip."
He had? Porter looked down to find the leather object wrapped tightly in his fist. "It's called a crop," he enunciated. "And I don't recall giving you permission to get on the bed."
"Should I get off?" She reclined back, supporting herself with her hands. "Because that actually does seem like your job."
Porter's restraint caved in on itself, causing reality to blur. In that moment, he forgot this wasn't the person he'd arranged to see, but someone else entirely. Someone who obviously didn't know what the hell she'd gotten herself into. The beautiful temptation that had chosen to defy him, to seek punishment. He was all too willing to oblige her.
He gripped her knees and yanked her off the bed, and a slight tremor passing through those limbs knocked some sense into him. Just not enough. He whirled her around until she faced the bed, aligning himself flush with her back. Fuck, she curved right into his lap. "I don't think you heard me. You couldn't have, since your ass if still being hidden from my eyes by these jeans." He unsnapped the top button, savoring the way she gasped with awareness of who was in charge. Finally. "Maybe I should just rip them off you. Put them out of their misery."
"Fine." She sagged onto the table. "Just put me out of mine, too, please."
She came into sharp focus then. Not just her physical attributes, which were more than enough to keep his attention. It was the plaintiveness in her voice, though, that captivated him. He'd only been in her presence for minutes and he knew this wasn't someone who begged, or revealed weakness if she could damn well help it. Not unless she sorely fucking needed it. That need demolished him. For so long, he'd been playing out scenes, but they never felt real. She was real. She was happening to him.
Excerpted from Driven by Fate by Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2015 Tessa Bailey. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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