My name is Madame X.
My life is not my own.
But it could be...
Everything Madame X has ever known is contained within the four walls of the penthouse owned by her lover—the man who controls her every move and desire.
While Caleb owns her body, someone else has touched her soul. X’s awakening at the hands of Logan’s raw, honest masculinity has led her down a new path, one that is as exciting as it is terrifying.
But Caleb’s need to own X completely knows no bounds, and he isn’t about to let her go. Not without a fight that could destroy them all...
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I am naked; you are clothed.
The way it always is, it seems. Do you keep me naked merely because you enjoy the sight of my nude body? Or is it another form of control, of manipulation? A way of keeping me contained, keeping me captive? Some of both, I think. When I am naked—which is often, now that I live with you in your cavernous tower-top home—your eyes flit and float to me, rake over me, absorb my dusky flesh and athletic curves. Your eyes are always on me, even when you are working. Your eyes move from your laptop to me, pause on the elegant column of my throat, slip and slide down to the valley between my heavy breasts, to the flat plain of my belly, the juncture between my thighs, and then you, somewhat reluctantly, it sometimes seems, force your gaze back to your work.
Life with Caleb Indigo: a concerto of keyboard keys clicking and clacking, an overture of gazes and glances. You are always working. Always. I wake at midnight in the morning to the sound of your phone ringing—your ringer is a plain, old-fashioned bleating of a rotary-style phone—and you answer it with a curt “Indigo,” and you listen carefully, intently, and then respond in as few syllables as possible, end the call, toss the phone onto the nightstand close to hand, and tug me roughly up against your chest. Four a.m.: you jab your legs into slacks, shrug into a button-down, fingers nimble on the buttons, announce that you have business to see to, and then you do not return till three in the morning or four or even six, when you appear looking haggard and unshaven with dark circles under your eyes. But then, I, anticipating your return, am awake. And you know this.
And you stand at my side of the bed, staring down at me, waiting. I roll over, gaze up at you. Slowly, you divest yourself of your clothing. Your gaze will not leave me, and perhaps you slide the flat sheet away to bare my form. I cannot help but notice the way the zipper of your slacks tents and tautens as you gaze at me. And I am, in that moment, flushed with desire.
I cannot help it.
And I do try. Just to see if I have found some new source of self-control where you are concerned.
But the result is always the same: I see you, watch you peel the shirt off, unbutton it quickly, swing your arms back to pinch your shoulder blades together, and the shirt falls away. Your torso is bare, magnificent, a sculpture of tanned, muscled perfection. My throat will tighten and I am compelled to swallow again and again, as if I could swallow down my need for you. And then my gaze will rake down your furrowed eight-pack abdomen to your groin, to your bulging zipper, and my thighs clench around the gush of heated need. My breath comes in panting gasps.
I don’t need to say anything.
You unhook the clasp of your trousers, pinch the zipper tab in your big thumb and long forefinger, slowly draw it down. Free your erection. It will sway in front of my face, tall and hard and perfect.
And I am undone.
Any will I possess is eradicated.
Your hands will be rough on my flesh, scraping, teasing, possessing. And I will revel in that roughness, in the clutch of hard hands on my buttocks, tugging me to the end of the bed and holding me aloft as you plunge into me, eliciting a whimper.
And I will come apart for you, watching the tendons in your neck pulse and tighten, watching your abdomen flex, watching your hips drive, watching your biceps ripple as you keep me held effortlessly where you want me.
And you will come, too, but never quickly. Never until I have reached my own climax. And sometimes not until I have reached it twice. If I do not find that release with the driving and thrust of your body, you press that big thumb to my clitoris and force me to it with gentle, skillful, insistent circles as if you somehow just know precisely how to pleasure me.
When you do find your own release, it is quiet, an intense groan, perhaps a bead of sweat trickling down your temple, as if even your sweat obeys the rule of artfulness that seems to dictate your existence.
And then, done with me, you will brush a thumb over my temple, sweep flyaway locks of raven-black hair aside, grant me a moment of eye contact, a moment of personal connection. Just a moment, only a fragment of time. But something, at least. As if you know I need those moments to continue this . . . game.
This faux-domestic relationship.
Without those moments of intimacy granted in that postcoital gaze, I would combust. Detonate.
And even with them, I am discontent. Disturbed.
You know it.
I know it.
But we do not speak of it. I try, and you brush it aside, sweep the conversation away like so much dust from a corner. Answer a phone call, claim to have a meeting to scurry off to, an e-mail to answer, a deal to broker.
An apprentice to train. Although you are smart enough to not ever mention your “apprentices” to me.
But I know you go to them. I know you “examine” them and “train” them, when you leave me.
I wish I didn’t, but I do. And I cannot un-know it. I’ve tried that too.
You slip the second-from-the-top button of your crisp, never-wrinkled button-down shirt through the loop, tuck and blouse it just so, align the silver buckle of your slim black leather belt with the line of buttons and the zipper. You roll the sleeves to your elbow in precise fourths, brush your hand through your dark hair, and then you leave. Not a word of good-bye, not a hint of where you’re going or when you might return.
Just a glance at me, a moment of intimacy, that thumb through my hair, sweeping it back around my ear. And then you’re gone.
And I know where you go.
You don’t go to broker a deal. You don’t go to negotiate terms with other businessmen. You don’t go to sign a contract, or to scout a new location, or investigate potential real estate investments. These are all things a businessman would do—I know, I’ve researched it. You’re president, CEO, and chairman of the board of Indigo Services, LLC, as well as a dozen other businesses both private and publicly traded. You should be sitting in a corner office, with a landline phone pressed to your ear, a computer monitor in front of you, discussing P-and-L statements—profit and loss, that means—and quarterly returns, and who isn’t performing up to par.
Par is a golf term, meaning minimum number of strokes to complete a hole, but it often is used colloquially to mean a minimum standard; I’m always learning new things, now that I have access to the Internet.
You should be doing these things. I’ve learned what a CEO does, what a businessman does. From TV, from books, from the Internet.
And I don’t think you do any of those things. Or, at least, not when I would expect you to do them.
You answer e-mails at four in the morning. You wake me at six for sex, exercise from six thirty or so until eight thirty, shower, eat a quick breakfast, and then you go to sleep at nine and wake at noon. Wake, answer e-mails, return phone calls, do things involving spreadsheets and graphs, and then you leave.
Or, sometimes, after sex with me in the morning, you skip the shower, and just leave.
And when you return, you avoid me. You work out. Shower. Avoid me. Work. Avoid me.
Finally, you might sit with me, eat with me, take me to dinner or to the theater.
I know what you do when you leave, why you avoid me.
You’re “training” your “apprentices.”
Translated, that means fucking.
Teaching ex-prostitutes and ex–drug addicts and ex-homeless girls how to pleasure a man. How to give a proper blow job. How to take anal. How to take a come-shot to the face and look sexy and grateful and seductive while doing it. How to beg for sex without actually saying a word.
You teach them this by showing them.
By fucking them.
They put their mouths on your cock, and you instruct them on proper fellatio technique.
You bend them forward over the bed and put your cock in their bottom, and you tell them how to make sure they don’t get hurt in the process, how to make sure it feels good for them.
You pull your cock out of their mouths and you come all over their faces, and claim it’s for their sake, because some clients like that, although you don’t. Oh no.
How do I know all this?
I am friends with Rachel. Down on the third floor, in apartment three. Rachel, formerly known as Apprentice Number Six-nine-seven-one-three, or just Three for short. An apprentice in your street-to-Bride program. After you’ve left for the day, after your three hours of sleep, after I watch your sleek white Maybach slide elegantly toward Fifth Avenue, I take the elevator to the third floor and knock on door number three, a bottle of white wine in one hand.
Rachel pours the entire bottle into two glasses—not wineglasses, because she doesn’t own any of those, but rather into large cylindrical juice glasses—and we drink it sitting on her bed, and we talk. She tells me things. About her former life, which she isn’t allowed to talk about but does with me for some reason. About her current life as a Bride-in-training. She tells me everything. Sometimes too much.
“Sorry, TMI?” she often asks.
TMI: too much information.
Yes, I tell her. That you were just there—in the very bed upon which I sit—fucking her in the ass, that is too much information. That you pulled out and came on her back is also too much information.
Yet still she tells me. As if I am her priest, her confessor. It’s girl talk, I think she thinks.
Education for me, is how I see it. It’s how I learn terms like come-shot, which I probably would have been better off not knowing.
I find it strange, however, that you do none of these things with me. That you never have.
You don’t fuck me in the ass. You don’t come on my back, or my face.
I try to imagine how I would feel if you did. Would I like it? Would I hate it? Would I feel degraded…or turned on? Some days I think one way, some days the other. I don’t have the courage to ask you about this. I don’t think I want to find out how I feel about it.
Rachel likes pain with her sex. She likes to be spanked. Hard. She likes it when you tie her hands behind her back with a necktie and fuck her from behind and spank her with your belt while you’re balls-deep inside her. That’s verbatim what she tells me.
I don’t want to know that.
I also can’t stop going down to talk to her, knowing that she’ll tell me all these things.
I want to know, and I hate that I want to know.
She also tells me about her fellow apprentices’ predilections. Four has a thing for having a vibrator in her anus while you have sex with her. Five is a blow job aficionado and does actually like taking come-shots to the face. Seven, Eight, and Nine don’t like any one thing in particular that Rachel knows about, and Two likes autoerotic asphyxiation, meaning she likes it when you choke her while fucking her.
I know more about the sexual goings-on of Floor Three than I think is healthy.
It also tells me that you have an unnatural and possibly superhuman sex drive. At least once a day with me. Rachel claims you visit her once a week, usually. Plus girls Two, and Four through Nine. Including me, that’s ten women. A different woman every day, with an extra three you can rotate to have more than one a day. Which, honestly, is just one possible permutation based on the available information, variables, and my skill with mathematics.
Your life is sex, I think.
You sleep with me, though. Like, actually sleep. Three hours in the morning, from nine to noon, and usually, unless “work” intervenes, another three hours from ten at night to one in the morning. Strange hours. You’re always on the move, always going. You wake suddenly, completely, and immediately. Your eyes flick open, you blink twice, and then you get up and dress. No stretching, no rubbing of your eyes, no yawning. No hesitating on the edge of the bed, rubbing your stubbled jaw with a palm. Just . . . awake, totally. It’s eerie.
Living with you is bizarre, that’s what I’m learning.
I’m never bored anymore.
I still work. But now I go down to what was once my apartment, which has been converted in an office, and meet my clients there. My bedroom now has a computer, and there’s a large flat screen TV in the living room. It is my space. If I have a “home,” it is there, not really the penthouse with you.
There is no evidence, visually, that I live with you. I do not know if this unusual or not. I have not changed any of the decor. I have a section of your closet for my clothes; by “closet” I mean two thousand square feet dedicated to clothing storage. Your home—which is the entire upper floor of the building—is open plan, certain areas sectioned off with movable screens. The closet, then, is a very cleverly designed area, screened off so as to be invisible from anywhere else in the apartment, built-in racks to hang suits, slacks, and button-downs, shelves for T-shirts and underwear and socks. And my clothes. But apart from the shelves and hangers of my clothing, a casual visitor—of which there are none, not ever—wouldn’t know I’m a resident. There are no pictures of you, of me, of your family, of anyone. Just abstract art by unknown artists. Macro photographs of a leaf or an insect head, the surface of a lake so still it could be a mirror, splotches and swaths of color, textured paintings using glops of paint an inch thick, an elaborate line drawing of tree. Weird, impersonal, beautiful.
Like you, in many ways.
My space is my old apartment. I still stand at my window and make up stories for passersby on the sidewalk below.
My life is the same, really. Except now I live in the penthouse, and I watch TV and surf the Internet and you have access to my body whenever you are home. Ostensibly, I suppose I could leave the building if I wanted.
But I still have no money of my own. I never see a check or a single dollar bill. I have no identification.
I still have no control over my clientele.
I have no name but Madame X.
No further knowledge of my past, other than that I’m Spanish . . . or so you say.
They sniff a tumbler of scotch, nostrils flaring, eyes narrowed, lips pursed. Assessing.
“What kind of whisky is this?” comes the question.
“It’s scotch, actually,” I answer. “Macallan 1939.”
Their hands clutch the crystal tumbler, thin lips touch the rim, golden liquid slides. Tongue tastes, a pink smear visible through the distortion of the crystal. “Damn. That’s fuckin’ amazing.”
“For ten thousand dollars a bottle, it had better be very good,” I answer.
They do not flinch at the number. Of course not. Today they are a rich boy of the highest caliber. Family homes in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, in the south of France, even a ranch on the pampas of Argentina. They are used to absurdly expensive goods, watches, liquors, cars, private jets. A ten-thousand-dollar bottle of scotch is de rigueur.
This does not, however, mean they are possessed of a refined palate or discerning taste.
Of course not.
I struggle to remember the name from the dossier; this is their first appointment.
Clint? Flint? Something like that. Bland. Like them. Tall, but not too tall. Flat brown eyes. Average brown hair, albeit expensively cut and coiffured. High, sharp cheekbones, at least. Not too well muscled or defined, no extravagant amounts of time in the gym for them, it would seem. A kind of throaty voice, as if they speak through a bubble of phlegm. It is maddening, actually.
Clint. That’s their name.
“So, Madame X.” Doc Martens rest on my coffee table, rudely, barbarically. “How’s this work, exactly?”
I inhale sharply, for patience and for effect. “First, Clint, you remove your feet from my furniture. Then, you tell me whether you read the pamphlet and the contract.”
“I skimmed the pamphlet. Sounds like a modern version of Emily Post etiquette lessons for men, except you charge a grand an hour.” A sip of the scotch. “And yeah, I read the contract. I mean, no shit. Who doesn’t read a contract like that before signing it? It’s not like online terms and conditions or whatever. So I get it. No touching you, no hitting on you. Whatever. I’ve got a girlfriend, and I don’t cheat, so that’s not a problem. I just want to get this bullshit over with, to be honest.”
“Why are you here, Clint?”
“’Cause Daddy holds the purse strings for now, and Daddy says I need my edges smoothed out.” This is said with extreme sarcasm, virulent bitterness.
“And you disagree?”
A shrug. “No shit. I mean, I don’t see the point. What are you gonna do, tell me to stop swearing and teach me which fork to use at black-tie dinners? Fuck that.”
I am very tired of this whole ruse, suddenly.
“That’s precisely what I’m supposed to do. Tell you to clean up your language. Tell you to keep your stupid, dirty boots off other people’s furniture when you’re in their home. And yes, I’m supposed to smooth out your edges, teach you how to behave in polite society as if you have a single well-mannered bone in your entire uncouth, barbaric body.” I let out a breath, rub the bridge of my nose. “But, honestly, Clint, I don’t see the point. You are probably irredeemable.”
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“It means you are a grotesque barbarian with no manners whatsoever. It means that you have no charm. No poise. It means, furthermore, that I don’t really believe you even have the potential to learn any of that. It means, Clint, that you are a waste of my time.”
“Well Jesus, you’re a real bitch, you know that?” They stand up, brown eyes blazing with hate. “Fuck you. I don’t have to take this from you.”
“Indeed you do not.” I gesture at the door. “How does that phrase go? Oh yes: don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
They leave, and I am relieved.
I really don’t know how much longer I can do this.
Pretend that what I do is “work.” That it holds any value. That I like it. That it means anything whatsoever. To me, to the clients, to Caleb. To anyone. It’s just . . . emptiness. Time wasted. A game. All of us playing pretend.
I can’t do it anymore.
I am suddenly overwhelmed, overcome. Anxious. Restless.
I have this feeling inside me that defies description. A yawning chasm, a metaphysical hunger. A need to go somewhere, to do something, but I don’t know where, or what. A need for an intangible something. The need borders on panic, a feeling as if I don’t leave this condo, leave this building right now I might explode, might devolve into arm-flapping, screaming, gibbering insanity.
I stand up suddenly, try to force a measure of calm into myself by smoothing my white Valentino Crepe Couture dress over my hips. Wiggle my foot in my lavender Manolo Blahnik sandals. As if such physical gestures could soothe the disquiet within me.
I’m in the elevator, suddenly, and the ding of the car arriving drags with it a host of memories. I have the key now. Or a copy of it, at least. I can insert the key myself, turn it to whichever floor I want. The doors slide open and I’m shaking as I step into the elevator car. Fighting hyperventilation.
I need to go.
I need out.
I need to breathe.
I clench my fists and squeeze my eyes shut and stand in the center of the elevator and force my lungs to expand and contract. Compel my hand to extend and my fingers to fit the key to the slot, compel my fingers to twist the key. I don’t pay attention to which floor I have chosen. It doesn’t matter. Anywhere but here.
Ground floor. The lobby. Hushed conversation between a man in a suit and a woman behind a massive marble desk. The lobby is an expanse of black marble, three-foot-by-three-foot tiles veined with gold streaks. Soaring ceilings, easily fifty feet high. Thirty-foot-tall cypress trees rooted under the floor itself lining the walls on either side of the lobby. It is a space designed to intimidate. The reception desk is a continent unto itself, the receptionists on pedestals behind it, literally looking down at visitors. It reminds me of a judge’s podium from centuries past, when the judge literally sat several feet above you, thus engendering the phrase “to look down upon” someone in arrogance.
My heels click-clack-click-clack across the floor, each step echoing like the report of a rifle. Stares follow me. Eyes watch me.
I am beautiful.
I look expensive.
Because I am.
I did not know this, before.
Before I made the naked journey from my condo prison up to the penthouse, thus making a choice for my life.
After that, I began learning.
That my beloved crimson Jimmy Choo stilettos cost two thousand dollars. That my Valentino dress, the one I have on right now, cost nearly three thousand dollars. That each article of clothing I own, down to my underwear, is the most expensive of its kind there could be.
I discovered this, and didn’t know what to do with the knowledge. I still don’t. I didn’t pay for them. I didn’t choose them.
I allow my thoughts to wander as I cross the vast lobby, forcing myself to walk as if I am confident, arrogant. I let my hips sway and keep my shoulders back and my chin high. Focus my gaze on the revolving doors miles and miles in the distance, across acres of black marble. Acknowledge none of the stares. In the center of the lobby there are twelve large black leather couches arranged in a wide square, three couches to a side, each separated by small tables. People wait and converse and perhaps do business deals, and they all watch me cross the lobby. Surreptitiously, I count them. Fourteen.
Fourteen people watch me cross the lobby, as if I am utterly unexpected, a rare sighting.
A leopard stalking down Fifth Avenue, perhaps.
I try to capture that essence, pretend that I am a predator rather than prey.
It gets me through the revolving glass doors and outside. It is late August, hot, the air thick. The sun bright, beating down on me from between skyscrapers. The noise of Manhattan assaults me in a physical wave: sirens, a police car zipping past me, howling. An ambulance in pursuit. A garbage truck groaning around a corner, engine grumbling. Dozens of motors revving as the light turns green twenty feet to my right.
I force myself to walk. Refuse to let my knees fold in, refuse to let my lungs seize. The panic is a knife in my throat, a blade in my chest, hot wires constricting my breath. I am clutched by talons of panic. The sirens did it, the sounds of sirens howling like wild beasts, howling in my ear.
Tires squeal somewhere and I cannot see, my eyes are squeezed shut, and hot dark marble burns my bicep as I lean against the side of the building, succumbing to panic.
I hear questions, someone asking I’m all right.
Clearly I am not, but I am beyond answering.
Until I feel a hand on my shoulder.
Hear a voice in my ear.
Heat from a big body crowding against me, blocking the world and the noises and the questions.
“Hey. Breathe, okay? Breathe. Breathe, X.” That voice, like the warmth of the sun made sonic. “It’s me. I’ve got you.”
No. It cannot be.
I look up.
“What—what are you—” I cough, clear my throat, try again. “What are you doing here, Logan?”
His palm touches my cheek, and I can breathe. “Stalking you, obviously.”
“Logan.” I manage to sound scolding. It is a feat of will.
I hear the grin in his voice, but also the strain. “Actually, I wasn’t kidding. I really am stalking you. I mean, I’ve been looking for you. Hoping to get a glimpse of you. Talk to you, even just for a second.”
“Why?” This is weak, small, confused.
“Because I can’t stop thinking about you, X. I’ve tried, and I suck at it. I’m really good at thinking about you, it seems, and not so good at not thinking about you.”
This brings a smile to my lips. “You must be a glutton for punishment then.”
“I am, though. I love punishment.” His hands weave into mine, help me to my feet. “The real truth is, I have business on this end of town, the next building over. I couldn’t help passing by this building and wondering if you were up there. If you’re happy. I never thought I’d actually get to see you, though.”
Now I’m confused. Which of his statements is the truth? “You’re contradicting yourself, Logan.”
“I know. I’m trying to obfuscate how debilitated I am at running into you like this.”
“Obfuscate. That’s a wonderful word.” What I don’t ask is why he’s so debilitated. I don’t think the answer would do me good.
“Are you obfuscated, X?”
“Completely.” Am I gazing up at him?
I am. Very much so. I am faint. My heart is pitter-pattering. I want to feel his hands in mine again.
“Good,” he says. “Then my work here is done.”
“Jokes do not suit this situation, Logan.”
“No?” he sounds serious, suddenly. His voice smooth, too smooth. Too featureless. A little cold. “What am I supposed to say then? That I’m still absurdly, childishly hurt by the fact that you chose him over me? Or that I legit just cannot stop thinking about you? Wanting you? That I keep wanting to show up at your door again and literally carry you off over my shoulder like a fucking Viking? What is the right etiquette for a situation like this, Madame X?”
“Don’t, Logan. Please don’t.” I don’t mind begging.
“I can still feel you, your bare legs around my waist.” His voice is in my ear, murmuring. Intimate. Sensuous. “I can feel the heat from your tight pussy against my stomach. I can smell you. I can feel how wet you are for me. For me. You wanted me, X. I could have done anything I wanted with you. I had you naked, in my arms. Wet and wanting and desperate and all over me. I could have laid you down on the carpet right there in the hallway and fucked you senseless, and I guarantee you, if I had, you wouldn’t have walked away from me.”
“Then why didn’t you?” Oh, I am damned.
“Because you weren’t ready, and you still aren’t. You were scared, and you still are. You were like a frightened little rabbit out of its hole for the first time, blinking in the sunlight. There’s a lioness inside you, X, you just have to find it and become it.”
“I didn’t even make it ten feet from the door on my own, Logan,” I whisper against the soft cotton of his T-shirt.
“But you walked out, didn’t you? Baby steps to the elevator, Bob.”
“What about Bob?” he asks, expectant. “No? Nothing? Okay, never mind. It’s a movie reference.”
I sigh. “Total amnesia, remember? Movies are not exactly a common feature in my life, Logan.”
“Well, that’ll be the first thing I’ll rectify. You and me, we’ll stay naked in my bed for a month, having hot, wild monkey sex and watching movies. Catch you up on all the great cinema you’re missing out on. What About Bob? is a classic. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Goodfellas, The Godfather, shit, I’ll even throw in some rom-com for you. Notting Hill is a great one, or How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. Or, wait, wait, Love Actually. God, that movie is awesome, although I know some people hate it. I love it. It’s real.”
“Hot and wild monkey sex, Logan? Really?”
He laughs in my ear, pulling me to his chest, arms wrapping around me. “Yes, X. Hot and wild monkey sex. It’s the greatest thing on earth. No inhibitions, no time, no responsibilities, nothing but both of us taking as much pleasure from each other as we can, for hours and hours and hours until we’re too exhausted to even move.”
“And watching movies.”
“And watching movies. And drinking beer by the case, and ordering pizza and Chinese takeout.”
“I’ve never had either,” I admit.
“You’re not for real, are you?” He is utterly incredulous.
“And you’re not still surprised at my lack of experience with things you deem normal, are you?”
“It just seems wrong,” he says. “Beer and pizza . . . it’s like—a basic, elemental part of life. Seriously. Without beer and pizza and movies, you’re not really living.”
“I certainly feel alive.”
“X . . . you are alive, yes, but are you living? Not just existing, not just continuing to be physically present in the world day by day, but . . . enjoying life. Making a difference. Being totally you. Owning who you are and choosing a life that fulfills you. Because from where I’m standing . . . it doesn’t seem that way.”
“And beer, pizza, and movies is a part of that, is it?” His words hit too close to bull’s-eye, and my defenses are engaging.
A sigh. “No, X. It is for me, yes. But in the context of this conversation, beer, pizza, and movies are a stand-in for you having the freedom to make your own choices. You’re still wearing designer clothes, I notice. Probably designer lingerie underneath, too. When I took you shopping, I bought you basic clothes. Basic comfortable jeans, a T-shirt, basic bra and underwear. Nothing fancy. And you seemed . . . I don’t know, more you in them. This is still you, this designer-clothes-fancy Madame X. But that’s Madame X. Not X, just X. And I don’t think you’re free to choose that. Not while you’re with him.”
“All I’m going to say here is that to me, you deserve more. More than just fancy clothes and a penthouse prison.”
“It’s not a prison, Logan.” I say this because something inside me insists I do, even though his words yet again strike hard and accurate.
“I want you to leave him and be with me,” he murmurs. “I have absolutely no problem saying it in so many words, right here, right now. That’s what I want. I want you. I want us. But I also want you to have a choice. I want you to be able to decide what you want out of life. Even if that isn’t me. Which means I’ll help you find what you want, regardless of the outcome for me.”
We’re standing in the middle of the sidewalk not ten feet from the front door of Caleb’s tower. This feels dangerous, somehow.
“Logan . . . why?” I really do not understand. “Why do you care so much?”
He shrugs. “I honestly don’t know, X. I wish I did. It’d be a fuck of a lot easier for me if I could just walk away, if I could stay away. But I can’t. I’ve tried.” He gestures up at the tower. “He’s not what you think, X. You have to see that much, at least.”
“Then what is he, Logan?”
A frustrated groan. “Not a good person. Not who you think.”
“What proof do you have, Logan?” I hear myself ask.
Do I need proof? More than the evidence of the third floor? Yet still I persist. I do not know why.
I do, though. Don’t I?
Because Logan scares me. He challenges my conceptions, my worldview. Makes me want things I’m not sure I can have. Things I never thought I could have. He makes me feel like choices I never even knew existed are suddenly possible.
Logan turns away, stares into nothingness, scrubs his hand through his hair. “None. Not yet, at least.”
A long, low, sleek, white vehicle slides up to the curb. It is a Maybach Landaulet 62. Worth somewhere between half a million and a million dollars. I’ve ridden in that exact vehicle. I know who is about to emerge.
“Shit,” Logan murmurs. He glances at me, eyes searching mine. Whatever he finds leaves him unhappy. “I’ll find proof, X. I’ll show you.”
I have no words; there is nothing to say. I can only watch him turn away, and feel a pang of sadness, a spear of distress. Something in him calls to me, speaks to my soul. The intensity of it frightens me. I do not know how to handle the power of what merely being near Logan does to me.
The rear passenger-side door of the Maybach opens, disgorging a god of the tall, dark, and handsome variety.
A displeased god. “Logan.” This, in a deep, cold voice. “She made her choice.”
“Yeah. Doesn’t mean it was the right one, though.” Logan walks away then. Doesn’t turn back.
Something in me fractures.
“Why were you speaking to him, X? And what are you doing out here?” Your voice is low and calm. Too low, too calm.
“He was passing by. I ran into him.”
“What are you doing out here, X?” You repeat the question.
I find a seed of courage. “Am I not allowed outside, Caleb?”
Your eyes narrow. “Of course you are. You’re not a prisoner. I just worry for you. The streets are unsafe, and you’re prone to panic attacks.”
Prone to panic attacks. Yes. I am. But something about Logan soothes me. Makes me forget my panic. Makes it all okay.
I do not say this, of course.
“Sometimes I wonder if perhaps you don’t want me to really get over them, though,” I find myself saying. Unwisely. Foolishly. Courageously—the seed has germinated, perhaps. “I wonder if perhaps you just want me to stay up there in your tower, at your disposal.”
Your hand closes around my arm. “I’m not having this discussion with you out here.”
You pull me through the revolving door, back across the expansive marble lobby, and for some reason, I let you. I am outside myself, watching as I allow you to haul me into the private elevator, up and up and up back to the penthouse. Watching as you release my arm and pace in circles around me. You are, suddenly, a lion pacing in its cage, feral and furious, and I am a little lamb somehow stuck in the cage with the predator.
“I worry for you, X,” you repeat.
“I know you do.” I stand my ground, watch you pace. “Perhaps you don’t need to. Not as much.”
“Of course I do,” you insist. “Your understanding of the world beyond these walls is . . . limited.”
“And perhaps that is something I wish to rectify.”
“Why?” you ask. You cease pacing, stand inches from me, staring down at me, dark eyes icy with suspicion. “Why the sudden change?”
“It’s not sudden, Caleb—”
“It’s him, isn’t it?” This from you sounds almost . . . petulant.
Jealousy? It is unbecoming, Caleb. It does not suit you.
“It isn’t about Logan.” I pause, blink, thinking, and then take a breath to nudge the seedling of courage to grow a little stronger. “Or, not entirely.”
“What does that mean, X? ‘Not entirely’?”
I hesitate, seeking a neutral but true answer. “It means . . . the brief time I spent with Logan did make me curious about the outside world. It didn’t start with him, though, and it doesn’t end with him.” I try a placation. “You can’t keep me locked in here forever, Caleb. I am not a possession. I am woman. A person.”
“I’m just trying to protect you.” You are closer, your hard chest pressing against my breasts, your hands coming to rest on my hips.
“You may not be a possession, X,” you say, your voice a buzzing rumble, “but you are mine.”
This statement twists me up. Part of me knows it’s true, and likes it. And part of me hates it. Part of me knows as long as I am yours, I will never be my own.
My thoughts are smashed by your lips on mine, sudden and crushing. A little clumsy. Impulsive, even. Not with the usual mastery of your body over mine.
As you kiss me, I am struck by a question: how often do you kiss me?
The answer is immediate: not often. Almost never. Not your mouth on mine, not your lips against mine. Not like this, not with this intimacy. You kiss my body, my breasts, between my thighs, but my lips? Never.
I do not know what that means.
You kiss me slowly, and as you kiss, your skill grows.
It isn’t until your hands begin scouring my body, however, that my will is swept away as it usually is. It isn’t until your hands are tugging at the zipper of my dress and nudging it off my shoulders that heat suffuses me, that my stomach tenses and my core tightens. When I am standing before you in nothing but lingerie—and yes, the lingerie is Carine Gilson, and you told me when you gave it to me that it was handmade by the designer herself specifically for me—that is when my heart rate spikes to a frantic hammering and my hands shake and I am weak in the knees.
Your eyes rake over me. “You look ravishing, X. That set really suits you. Carine outdid herself when she made it for me.”
A brief, uncharacteristic smile. “Well, yes. Lingerie, at the heart of it, is about the viewer rather than the wearer, isn’t it?”
This tolls within me, a truth I do not like. It is not just true for lingerie, I think. But for all of my clothes.
It is true about me, as an entity.
I would say “individual,” but I fear I am not an individual so much as an entity. A possession. Like a fine vase, or an original painting.
A piece in your collection.
You somehow have placed me on a couch, sitting down on the edge. Your fingers are brushing across the delicate Lyon silk over my core. I cannot help but feel the rush of heat at your touch. I watch, and part of me feels disconnected. Impartial, somehow.
As when you hauled me up here, I watched almost as if from above, as if I could see myself and you, see us. Me, on the black leather couch nearest the elevator. I am leaned back, my shoulders touching the upright part of the couch. My knees are splayed wide. Pale peach silk covers my core, Chantilly lace demi-cup bra over my breasts, propping them up, making what are already large appear even larger. For you.
Not for me, but for you.
You kneel on the glistening dark hardwood floor, broad shoulders between my knees. Still in your suit. Dark pinstripes stretched across perfect muscles, crisp white button-down, a thin gray tie. Two-tone oxford dress shoes. Your hands on the insides of my thighs, your mouth now brushing over my skin, over my hip, across my stomach. I watch as your hands tug down the silk, and I watch as my bottom lifts, allowing you to slide the underwear away, leaving me bare.
I watch as your fingers brush over me. Thick fingers, strong. Hard. Not quite gentle as they stroke between my nether lips. Insistent, knowing. Familiar.
My body is utterly known by you.
The passive grammatical construction of my thoughts seems apropos.
I am curious, in a strange way. My voice responds to your touch, my body rises and writhes as your tongue laps at me and sends thrills of pleasure through me. It feels good. Of course it does. You are a master of pleasure. I am curious, though. What will you do? What will you want from me? And will I give it to you?
When I have spasmed, spine straight, backside lifting off the couch cushions, you finally reach to my back and unclasp the bra, set it aside, and I am, once again, naked while you are clothed.
You will remain clothed until the last possible moment. I know this, from experience.
But somehow I’m just now realizing it.
You lift me in your arms and turn me so I face the back of the couch, kneeling upright. I feel your weight on the couch behind me. I feel you lower your zipper. You won’t even disrobe for this. Just unbutton, unzip, lower your slacks and black Armani briefs.
Slide into me.
I gasp, of course. Because you fill me and strike within me just so, and know how to thrust so I feel it perfectly, so I cannot help but gasp, and your fingers pinch my nipples and reach around to touch my clitoris and I am undone. Undone.
Watching, numb within.
Gasping, aching, coming apart.
How is this possible?
What is happening to me?
When you have finished, you step away. Button and zip. Presentable within seconds, unruffled. Not a hair out of place.
You lean over me. I am still bent forward over the back of the couch, thighs quaking with the effort of holding myself upright while you take your pleasure in me. I felt it too, oh yes. I must give you your due: You do not take without giving as well. But now, finished, with your essence still inside me, still warm, you lean over me, chin brushing the top of my left shoulder, stubble scratching.
Your voice is distant thunder in my ear. “Mine, X. Don’t forget it.”
Ah. That’s what this was about. Reminding me.
Don’t worry, Caleb. I am reminded.
I think of Rachel then. Of the things you do to her. The things that should be degrading, but somehow aren’t.
And yet, I do not have the courage to ask you to do any of them to me.
And then you’re gone. Just like that.
I shower, again. Scrub your touch and your essence away.
I still feel as if I am outside myself, and I do not like it.
I watch as I dress again, this time in the plainest lingerie I own—you own, really—and the least sexy, least revealing dress. Flat shoes, no jewelry. Hair in simple twist, pinned up.
Once again, take the elevator down. I think I am going to the lobby, but for reasons I do not understand, I am on the third floor.
Knocking on the door marked 3.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jasinda has done it again. This book was absolutely amazing! I definitely cannot wait for the final book.
Loving every word of it
I love all three books . I could not put them down I have to say Jasinda wilder is my favorite writer the Alpha one security book all I can say I want more . If you have never read Jasinda wilder books bring your Kleenex box and clean panties you are in for a wild ride. Highly recommended
Following her journey, feeling her story, aching for more....it was so hard to put down. I felt every emotion, understood her so clearly. Jasinda Wilder does not disappoint! Anxiously waiting the next installment!
This was just as good as the first book. Such a complex story and charaters. I couldn't put it down. I can't wait untill the last book!
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Exposed by Jasinda Wilder Book Two of the Madame X series Publisher: Berkley Publication Date: March 1, 2016 Rating: 4 stars Source: eARC from NetGalley ***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers*** Summary (from Goodreads): New York Times bestselling author Jasinda Wilder presents the second darkly seductive novel starring the mysterious Madame X. Everything Madame X has ever known is contained within the four walls of the penthouse owned by her lover, her keeper, the man who controls her every move and dominates her desires. While Caleb owns her body, someone else has touched her soul. X’s awakening at the hands of Logan’s raw, honest masculinity has led her down a new path, one that is as exciting as it is terrifying. But Caleb’s need to own her completely knows no bounds, and he isn’t about to let her go. Not without a fight that could destroy them all… What I Liked: This series is SO not what I expected. When I picked up Madame X, it was mostly because the publisher sent a copy, and I've enjoyed Jasinda Wilder's books before. This series is heartbreaking to read, and very difficult to read. Your average romance reader (like myself) may not necessarily enjoy the books. But the story is so heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, and I love following X's story, no matter how shocking and terrible it can be. X is still in Caleb's clutches, though she no longer wants to be owned and controlled by him. She can tell that he doesn't care about her, and that he keeps her around because she's beautiful and he wants sex from her whenever he wants. But she hates it. She has nowhere to go, so she stays. He has all the answers about her past (which she can't remember, due to amnesia), so she stays. But she can't forget Logan, from whom she walked away. But as X continues to question her life at Caleb's building, she'll become less and less convinced that she is where she needs - and wants - to be. This series is so emotionally charged, and in so many ways. It's heartbreaking to follow X's thoughts, her feelings and doubts and insecurities. I wanted to scream at her and shake her so many times - especially when she kept going back to Caleb. She kept letting him use her (you know what I mean), but she was starting to see how wrong it was. Here's the thing - while this was difficult to read, it was SO well-written by the author. X's conflicting thoughts, her indecision, her struggle against Caleb... all of these internal and external issues are really explored. X is weak, but she is becoming stronger. Caleb is a drug she doesn't want to depend on, and she is now seeing how much she wants to be free of him, and find her own way. Like I said, I wanted to shake X at times. There were times in this book when I thought she was pathetic. But what stops me from hating this book is that she knows it too. She feels just as pathetic and weak and disgusting. Every time he touches her, she can't stand it. And at the very end of this book, I wanted to give her a hug and a fist-bump. While I don't agree with X's lifestyle and choices she made earlier in this book and the series, I LOVE how far she's come. Read the rest of my review on my blog, The Eater of Books! - eaterofbooks DOT blogspot DOT com :)
4.25 stars---- EXPOSED is the second installment in Jasinda Wilder’s contemporary, adult MADAME X erotic, dark romantic suspense series focusing on a woman known only as Madame X. The continuing story finds our heroine caught between the only life that she knows, and the man who calls to her heart. EXPOSED should not be read as a stand alone as the story line continues upon the events of book one –Madame X. Some background: X is a woman who has no memory and no knowledge except for the previous six years, and in this, she relies on billionaire Caleb Indigo-a man whose control over Madame X is virtually master to a slave. Caleb is X's rescuer, her confident, her protector, her master, and the darkness to her light. Told from first and second person points of view (Madame X) EXPOSED follows X as she endeavors to break free from the only lifestyle she has known for the previous six years. Caleb Indigo is a man who controls every aspect of X’s life, but X has discovered that there is more outside of the four walls that have held her prisoner –there is freedom, and there is Logan-the man that will open her eyes and her heart to her past, her present and her possible future; and there is the truth. EXPOSED is a startling, raw, twisted and revealing look at one woman’s struggle to set herself free from a man who regulates and holds dominion over her life. The tragedy that is X finds our heroine caught between two worlds, and two men who both profess their need for a woman who knows nothing about herself. The ‘love triangle’ aspect of the story line is a bit disconcerting as X is unable to let go of the ‘safety net’ Caleb has provided. The intriguing aspect of the unknown begins to build as X slowly recovers some of the memories from her past, and the darkness that lies behind the man who claims to have saved her life. Caleb’s control over X is methodical and relentless; there is evil behind his pursuit of X. EXPOSED follows Logan and X’s developing relationship; a path towards a future that holds the truth of what was and what can be but Logan’s love for X may never be enough if X is unable to get free of the man who dominates every aspect of her life. Caleb’s capture, control and mastery of X’s life goes more than skin deep but into the heart and soul. Logan’s love may never be enough. Jasinda Wilder’s EXPOSED is disturbing, aggressive, frightening and dramatic. The premise is incensing, stimulating and intoxicating; the characters are damaged, provocative, and charismatic; the $ex scenes are erotic, impassioned and intense. Jasinda Wilder will entertain the darkest recesses of your mind.