Drake Hanson has it all—success, wealth and the freedom to experience every sexual indulgence imaginable in the Boardroom. The open, uninhibited sex with anonymous partners suited him just fine—until he got a taste of something better.
Shelly Carrigan revels in the freedom of the Boardroom. It’s her escape—a place she can indulge her sexual needs without judgment. But her attraction to Drake is starting to affect her experience. No matter her partner, the only hands she feels on her body are his.
Tonight, when names are drawn, Drake will make a trade. He’ll break the rules of the Boardroom to get what he wants.
One way or another, he’ll have Shelly—this time for more than a night.
This book is approximately 13,000 words
About the Author
LYNDA AICHER is a USA Today Bestselling Author, an RWA RITA award finalist, RT Reviewers’ Choice winner and two-time Golden Flogger award winner who loves to write emotional romances. She spent years traveling weekly as a consultant implementing software into global companies, now her imagination is her only limitation on where she goes. Writing lets her escape the daily duties of being a mom, wife, chauffeur, scheduler, cook, teacher, cleaner and mediator.
Read an Excerpt
Shelly Carrigan tossed her name into the bowl with a flick of her wrist, the roulette of possible partners an added enticement to the sensual game. Who would she get tonight?
A scan of the boardroom provided a number of interesting possibilities. Each one could give her something different. Yes, a fuck was a fuck, but no fuck was the same. She'd been with every man in the room at least once, a few of the women too. She wasn't picky when it came to sexual pleasure, just as long as she left satisfied.
That was the whole point of the Boardroom. The private sex group had been her primary source of sexual release over the last few years as she focused on building her name in the competitive San Francisco real estate market. The proven "not what you know but who" had landed her more deals and exclusive advantages than she could count, including entry into the Boardroom.
Networking, charm and street smarts had pulled her from the scrap pile of wasted potential. Her smile grew as she thought of how far her determination had gotten her. She rubbed elbows with the Bay Area elite, along with the inconspicuously wealthy, on a daily basis. She could name-drop like a pro — if she chose to be that crass, which she didn't.
The secret of amplifying connections was to keep every single one private. She had a treasure trove of knowledge locked tight behind her lips. Like how the handsome guy across the room had a BDSM dungeon in his basement that he rented out to people in the lifestyle. Or how the studious-looking man at the end of the table had a rooftop fuck nest in Pacific Heights.
"Hey," Lori said at her side, her smirk containing secrets of her own. "Cute dress."
Shelly glanced down at the silky baby-doll number she'd purchased for nights like these. "Easy on and off."
She shrugged off the compliment. Her appearance was part of the image that kept her at the top in a field based on first impressions. Platitudes never reached beneath her insulating shell since she'd learned how fleeting they could be, a life lesson she'd acquired in grade school.
"You look ready to attack," she commented. Lori possessed a predatory air that could be attributed to her legal profession. Could be, but Shelly doubted it.
Lori flashed a devious grin, which pulled a chuckle from Shelly. "Looks don't lie." She had a rougher charm that worked for her. "Truthfully, I have an urge to give a lucky guy the blow job of his life tonight."
Her voice carried through the room, attracting the interest of many as she folded a piece of paper and dropped it into the bowl. Her sultry appraisal of the men backed up her bold declaration.
Shelly watched the display with a mix of envy and appreciation. She knew how to scramble for what she wanted. She could negotiate amazing deals for her clients and work sixty-hour weeks finding the best properties. She was a master in the art of persuasion, spin and biting her tongue, but stating her sexual wants was outside her skill set. She could smile, react, encourage, even beg, but that was as close as she could come.
There was no explanation for it. She'd tried to be everything Lori was, only to choke on the words. Some would see it as a weakness, and she had a hard time disagreeing with them, especially given the very nature of the Boardroom. She owned her sexuality, and in doing so, she accepted her desire to be ... controlled. No, that wasn't it.
She didn't want to be told what to do or forced to accept whatever the guy wanted. That wasn't her kink. Maybe she'd simply never been comfortable enough to make her wishes known. Or maybe she just wanted a man who could read her mind and give her what she wanted without her having to say it.
A sexual mind reader.
She muffled her laugh behind her hand and quickly cleared her throat. God, she really needed the night to start if only to distract her from wishes that were impossible to fulfill.
The Boardroom gave her control over the scenes she signed up for. She could say no to anything, which provided the freedom to explore. After years of discovery, she'd fine-tuned her desires to a range of good, great and outstanding, and there was only one man who consistently reached the outstanding scale without a single direction from her: Drake Hanson.
The air seemed to drain from the room a moment later when Drake strode in on the same intent he tackled life with. Hard by some standards, gruff by others, he took what he wanted, gave where he needed, all while playing by his own rules. A self-made man who'd ridden to success on the internet startup wave by being three steps ahead of his competitors, he continued to challenge norms, staying relevant in a saturated technology market.
She respected that, respected him. Everything he had was due to his own hard work. He wasn't that different from her on that point.
He greeted the men with firm handshakes, the women with nods accompanied by a side smile. Her breath stuck when he got to her. His chin lifted a notch, his smile falling as a dark heat took over, one that seared her from across the room and left her struggling to respond.
She swallowed the longing that never failed to hit when he was around. He was just another partner. A Boardroom member who came to scenes for a fuck and nothing more. Just like her. Just like everyone in the room.
And she wanted him to fuck her so badly.
He was the reason she'd signed up for the scene tonight. He was the reason she'd participated in so many Boardroom scenes lately. Had he noticed? Caught on to her subtle stalking?
She looked away, unable to play the coy flirtation game so many had mastered, especially within this domain. It wasn't in her, not with Drake. There was no point, when it would only fuel fantasies she couldn't embrace.
Sex was on the table, literally. It was illicit, daring and just wrong enough to entice. There was nothing romantic about it, which was another major attraction to most members. She couldn't allow herself to get caught up in something that would never be.
"Shall we get started?" Trevor James asked as he closed the door to the boardroom. His quick scan took in every player without inflicting a hint of question. As the Boardroom founder, he ran the group as equal parts authoritarian and watchdog. He emptied the contents of the bowl into a black cloth bag. "Each guy draws one name and that's your partner for the evening. All activities take place in the room, limits are defined between the couples. Interaction with others is up to each person but must be consensual."
She focused on Trevor, ignoring the presence of Drake in her peripheral vision. Her pussy contracted at the thought of him fucking her hard, fast and with that perfect mix of rough and tender. Could she handle being that close to what she truly wanted and then walking away?
She'd been doing it for months, and each time it was getting harder and harder to keep her distance. Why had she come back?
Because he was the only one who truly satisfied her.
The knot in her stomach mocked her over-simplification of the situation.
They mingled in the same circles, which had allowed them to become friends. His sharp wit was refreshing in the often-boring settings. He'd uncovered her favorite drink, food, sport and getaway as they'd morphed into each other's social wingmen. He sought nothing in return, except her company, a laugh and a break from expectations. Beneath his abrasive front, he really was charming and kind and ... not hers.
Closing in on forty, Drake was the epitome of the eligible bachelor. His reputation as an employer was exemplary, his businesses thriving. He could have any woman he wanted, but he was here instead of married with two kids, a dog and a mansion. Why?
The question was irrelevant and could be applied to every member of the Boardroom, including herself. It still circled her thoughts, setting land mines around her own intentions. What did she want? When had the enticement of the Boardroom faded and the desire for something deeper grown?
Something long-term and exclusive with Drake?
She shoved the pointless thoughts aside. Tonight was about nothing more than sex. The odds of being paired with Drake were long, and that was fine. Good, actually. She could keep her distance while getting off on watching him. It didn't matter if he was physically fucking someone else, in her mind each hard thrust he made would be filling her.
She would come for Drake — even if he wasn't the one fucking her.CHAPTER 2
The room bubbled with sexual tension. It prickled over Drake and teased at the longing he couldn't shake. No amount of random fucking had shoved the beautiful Shelly Carrigan from his thoughts. How could it when every other woman failed to draw him in the way she did?
"May all your fantasies come true tonight," Trevor said before he held out the bag of names to the man closest to him.
Drake almost snorted at that, and not because of the bad-porn quality of the words. His fantasies would only be fulfilled if he pulled Shelly's name. Correction — his fantasies would only be fulfilled if he managed to make Shelly his partner. The blind draw was supposed to be random, and it was. But there was nothing in the rules that said he couldn't make a trade before the games began.
He hadn't gotten to where he was by holding to the strict definition of the rules. He'd discovered early that for every insistence on how things were supposed to be done, there were multiple other ways to accomplish the same task. Quick thinking went hand in hand with staying ahead of the game.
Shelly checked him out from beneath her lashes in a move that most wouldn't have noticed. He did, though. He noticed everything about her. She was more than one of the gorgeous, sophisticated brunettes that numbered in the hundreds in this city. A passion burned within her that came out in one of two ways, as far as he'd seen: in her work or in the Boardroom.
Unlocking that secret side of her was relatively easy in the Boardroom. Truly unleashing it, though, was something to marvel at.
Something he'd become addicted to.
Shelly presented a mystery to him — one he hadn't fully solved, but wanted to keep trying. He looked forward to seeing her both in and out of the Boardroom. He knew her triggers, understood her silent signals, could read her body language to decipher every unspoken wish, sexual or otherwise.
He didn't need or want to know the life details about the people in the Boardroom. He liked the directness the sex group provided. No pre- games were required when everyone entered with the same intention and known outcome.
And then there was Shelly. Somewhat quiet. Unassuming in a courteous way. A smile that could stun when she applied it, but softened into something warm and gentle when she let her guard down. Everything always in place, even in here. The little slip dress she wore hugged her breasts with just the right amount of tease. Blatant wasn't her style.
She brushed her hair over her shoulder, tracking Trevor as he moved around the room. Did she have a preference tonight? Would she welcome him like she had so many times over the last months? Give him that sultry but shy smile? Let that throaty laugh roll out? Touch him like he mattered? Kiss him like she couldn't get enough?
Did she think he hadn't noticed the way she kept turning up in the same scenes as him? The group wasn't that large, which meant overlap was inevitable if you enjoyed the same kink. He'd been in scenes with every person in this room, but this repetition with Shelly was more than simply coincidence.
"Drake." Trevor held out the bag to him.
There were only two names left. What were the odds of him pulling Shelly? He flipped the paper open, disappointment hitting when saw another woman's name. He flicked his focus to Shelly and caught her watching him. Her lips parted, hunger openly displayed. The look was perfect on her. Lust coiled in his groin and pushed him to act.
He had to have her tonight. The thought of another man fucking her gnawed at him, igniting a possessive jealousy he'd never experienced, especially in regards to sex.
But how did he maneuver this without making it obvious?
"That's it," Trevor said to the room. "We could call out names and go for it, but that feels crass." His brow arched in a look that dared anyone to contradict him. No one did. "I'm proposing the women stand facing the wall. The men will come to you."
The six women lined up on the interior wall without a single hesitation. The extended build was part of the game.
Drake nudged the man beside him, flashed the name he had and raised his brow in question. The guy showed him the paper he'd drawn. Shelly. Luck was with him. He motioned to switch the names, grateful when the guy complied.
Satisfaction smoldered beneath the relief before it switched to intent. Shelly was his. A hundred dirty thoughts of what he could do to her flashed in quick succession. Fuck her against the wall, over the table, a chair — any of them would work.
But he had something special planned for her. Something he'd brought along just in case ... No, he'd brought it for Shelly. He'd intended to have her tonight. There was no point in lying to himself about that.
Drake waited as the men moved in one by one to collect their partner until only Shelly remained along the wall. Her shoulders lifted with her inhalation, fell. Her eyes were closed, hands lax at her sides. Her quiet calm was so typical of her, but he knew how to change that. How to toss it aside with the barest touch or driving thrust.
He went to her, each step feeding his anticipation. She sucked in a quick breath when he stopped behind her, but she didn't turn around. He dipped to graze his lips over the tempting curve of her shoulder and up the side of her neck. Her sexy scent incited fantasies, ones of holding her right here, with his nose nuzzling the sweet spot below her ear until she fell asleep in his arms.
Her breath hitched, held. He slid his hand around her waist and drew her to him. "Shelly." Her name came out on a whisper that held every dark desire he harbored for her.
She sighed, relaxing into him. "Drake."
Was that longing he heard? Desire? Whatever it was, it drew him in and encouraged him to take everything she offered. How could he not?
The little slip dress was silky beneath his palm, her stomach at once soft and firm. He teased her earlobe with the tip of his tongue before nipping it. Her throaty moan encouraged him to do it again. She tilted her head, exposing the tempting line of her neck. The slightly salty taste of her skin enticed him to suck, nibble and kiss his way down to the sensitive juncture of her shoulder.
She squirmed against him, her hand on the back of his head urging him to continue. Her breast lifted with the arch of her back, hips grinding into his groin. His semi shifted into a full hard-on, and he pressed his hand against her pelvis to keep her right there. Passion tore through him so quickly he had no chance of holding back his groan.
"You are so dangerous." The truth tumbled out before he could stop it. She made him want things he never thought he'd want. Things that'd never crossed his mind in all the years he'd spent striving to get ahead.
Her soft chuckle came out on a tease of air. "I'm nothing compared to you."
"I disagree." He ground his erection into her lower back to prove his point. "See what you do to me?"
"Every woman in here does that to you." Her dismissal was meant to be light, but there was something else in her tone. Something ... sad.
"You're wrong." Drake shifted forward. "Put your hands on the wall." Her compliance came with a smoldering glance over her shoulder and a throaty purr that hit him in the groin.
Yeah, he knew her. She was never one to ask for anything sexual, but she wasn't submissive. Not exactly. Maybe that was what had first attracted him to her. There was something intriguing about finding the specific things that made a woman shatter beneath her passion, and that captivated him when it came to Shelly.
He drew his palms down her arms, savoring her slight tremble. "You're so damn beautiful." He spoke the words just for her. "But you're more than that." So much more.
Her soft laugh held a deprecating edge. She turned her head, her cheek grazing his. "I don't need to be more than that in here."
Her words chilled him, but they weren't wrong. The Boardroom was for sex, and mutual attraction enhanced that. "Maybe," he countered as he drew his hands beneath the hem of her dress. "But you are, even in here."
Her skin was so damn soft, smooth. He caressed every inch of her abdomen before he dipped a finger beneath the strip of material masking as a thong. Her breath hitched, stomach contracting. Her desire simmered so close to the surface he swore he could feel it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Free Trade"
Copyright © 2018 Lynda Aicher.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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
This story was meh. When you have a short story like this, you need more personality from your characters, and Shelly and Drake were just very blah.
4 Stars Review by Lisa Late Night Reviewer Up All Night w/ Books Blog If you want to see steam jump off the pages, this is the book for you. Free Trade by Lynda Aicher is approximately 54 pages and is book 3.5 in The Boardroom series and packs a whole lot into those few pages. We are taken back to the Boardroom for Shelly and Drake. In this next installment, you have the two individual power business types that use the Boardroom to let go. But what happens when lines seem a little blurry? A whole lot of intense chemistry, steam coming off the pages and a well-written story. Ms. Aicher has done it again with her incredible writing to bring this Boardroom world alive and thriving.
Smoking hot as always and I loved this, despite the brevity Lynda can pack a great story into a short space. Loved Drake with Shelly. I did feel like I wanted more from this story but nonetheless well done as always! I love this series and as long as she's writing them, I will be reading them!! arc from NetGalley and Carina for an honest review.
Before I knew it, I was reading the epilogue from Free Trade by Lynda Aicher. This is a hot and sexy novella about two people who prefer sex with no strings attached. They are members of the Boardroom, an exclusive sex club for very successful people looking for an evening of play. Shelly and Drake have been partners in the past and overtime time their lust has evolved into much more. If you are looking for a quick read full of steam, heat and discovery, pick up a copy of this little gem. Complimentary copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.