What if you could have everything you've always wanted, but it cost you the life you've always known?
Rafe Ranier was my boss and secret crush. A rock musician by night and head of a billion dollar empire by day, Rafe could have any woman he wanted. But I was just the shy secretary he never noticed. For years I obsessed over him, until I finally realized I had to walk away. I needed to leave my secure life behind to discover who I really was.
I never expected Rafe to follow me.
Now I'm on the road with his band, Savage Kiss, and all my secret fantasies are coming true. But I fear I've made a huge mistake, because if I get any more attached to a man I can never truly have, my heart will be broken beyond all repair.
"Utterly hot, intense, fierce, and passionate, Opal Carew's writing is amazing. Top pick!" –The Romance Reviews
First published as a six-part erotic serial, His to Claim is the intoxicating tale of a woman torn between a tattooed, bad boy rock musician and the life she's always know. Now available for the first time as a complete book, this edition features sizzling new bonus material.
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His to Claim
By Opal Carew
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Opal Carew
All rights reserved.
Melanie's heart stopped as the bell over the door rang and she glanced up to see a tall man in a dark gray suit walk in. Something about his tall, broad-shouldered form and expensive suit reminded her of Rafe for a moment. But it was just one of her regulars.
"Hey, beautiful. The usual."
They chatted while she fixed him his typical latte, then she handed it to him with a smile. He winked and then headed for the door. She knew he was flirting with her. It had been going on all week, and although he was a very attractive man, she wasn't interested.
She glanced around the store. The few customers were happily chatting over their coffees and there was no sign of a new customer coming into the shop.
"I'm going in the back to grab some more sugar," she said to her friend Sue, the other barista on duty, who was currently refilling the thermoses of milk after their recent rush.
The fast-paced influx of customers had left Melanie a little drained. She wasn't used to being on her feet for eight hours a day. But it was better than the intense attraction to her former boss, Rafe, driving her mad every day.
"Okay. Then, if you don't mind, I'll take my break," Sue said.
Melanie opened the storage cupboard and grabbed a pack of raw sugar, another of white sugar, and some artificial sweetener, then carried them to the lobby and started filling the condiment stand with the small packets. Once done, she returned to the bar and tucked the leftover sugar packets under the counter.
The bell over the door rang, signaling a new customer. Melanie stood up and glanced toward the door to see a man in a charcoal suit talking to Sue. She sighed. It looked like her admirer was back, and she knew Sue would do what she could to play matchmaker. Sue pointed in Melanie's direction and the man turned.
Melanie's heart stopped when she saw his face. This was not the customer who'd been flirting with her all week.
As soon as he saw her, his lips turned up in a sexy, crooked smile—the one that always melted her heart—and he walked toward the bar.
He was a striking figure in his expensive, well-tailored suit that accentuated his tall physique and broad shoulders. His dark, glossy hair was combed back and his stunning sky blue eyes ringed in navy were locked on her.
He chuckled. "Haven't I always told you to call me Rafe?"
She nodded. His authoritative brother, Dane, had insisted on being called Mr. Ranier, but Rafe had always preferred a more casual address.
"Rafe, what are you doing here?"
"Getting a coffee, for starters." He glanced up at the board. "What do you suggest?"
"Iced coffees are quite popular right now. We have one with a hint of cinnamon and orange." She knew his brother would want a regular coffee, but Rafe was always willing to try something new.
"To take with you?" she asked as she reached for a takeout cup.
"Actually, that depends. Can you join me?"
"Of course she can." Sue smiled as she returned to the bar. "In fact, Melanie was just about to go on break."
Melanie glanced at Sue. "I thought you were going now."
"I'll go later." She glanced at Rafe and smiled. "In fact, you go sit and I'll make you both something."
"But if the manager sees ..." Melanie said under her breath.
"She's gone for the day, and I'm not going to tell."
Melanie walked to a table in the back corner, wanting to be discreet.
"This is cozy," Rafe said as he sat down across from her.
"So why are you here?" Melanie asked with a smile. "Besides the coffee."
"Does there have to be a reason?"
"This isn't anywhere near where you work or where you live."
"Why don't you think I was at a meeting nearby?"
Her eyebrows arched. "Were you?"
He shook his head. "No, I came here to see you."
Her stomach clenched at the admission. She didn't work for him anymore. They had been friendly in the office, but they hadn't been friends. He'd been her boss. There was only one reason she could think of for why he'd be here. The one reason she'd been dreading, and hoping she wouldn't have to deal with.
He wanted to know why she'd quit.
Even though Jessica had ultimately chosen Rafe's brother, Melanie had finally come to terms with the fact that she would never have a chance with Rafe. And she didn't want to tell him.
She'd worked for him for over two years and ... she'd fallen in love with him. But in all that time, he'd never given her a second look. Then when he'd fallen in love with her best friend, Jessica, it had broken Melanie's heart. It had just been too painful to keep working with him, and to watch the two of them together.
That's why she'd quit.
And she couldn't tell him any of that.
Sue came to the table with two iced coffees, then returned to the bar.
"I was surprised to find you were working as a barista. It's quite a change from an office environment." He sipped his coffee.
"How did you find out where I was?"
He shrugged. "I checked your personnel file. Someone from this location called for a reference."
"So you just came by to see if I was here?"
She shook her head. "I still don't understand why."
He leaned forward, his sky blue eyes intent. "I just want to make sure you're okay."
She straightened her back. "Of course. Why wouldn't I be?"
"You up and left a good job ... a job you seemed to be happy at ... for no good reason. And here you are working at a job for probably minimum wage. I don't get it."
"I needed a change. I like the freedom I have here." And it was true. She might have left to free herself from her obsessive love for Rafe but she'd come to realize that she was seeking an even bigger freedom from the rules she always bound herself by.
"I'm not tied to a nine-to-five existence. I'm not tied to a desk. I don't have a boss hovering over me." As soon as she said it, she realized he'd take it the wrong way.
"Did I hover over you? Is that why you left?"
"No, I don't mean that. It was the nature of the job. I couldn't leave my desk without getting someone to cover for me and handle phone calls. I needed to keep on top of both your schedule and your brother's. What I did was totally driven by what other people needed."
"Isn't that true here?"
"People come in for coffee, and maybe something to eat. It's not a big commitment."
He frowned. "I'm sorry, Melanie. I didn't realize you were unhappy."
"No, it's not that. I wasn't really unhappy."
"If I had known, I could have found something else for you. Something you'd enjoy doing. It's a big company." He leaned toward her. "We still could. Say the word and I'll call personnel."
Sweet, helpful Rafe. "No, thanks. I'm happy here." She finished her iced coffee and stood up. "I should get back to work."
"Wait, Melanie. Just give me another minute."
She sank back into the chair.
"Please tell me one thing."
She stared at him, dreading whatever question he was about to ask.
"Did I do something?"
"No, Rafe. You didn't do a thing."
In fact, that was the whole problem.
* * *
As soon as her shift was over, Melanie changed and grabbed the bottle of nail polish she'd stashed in her purse this morning. She couldn't wear polish to work, and she was a real fanatic, so she carried it with her and put it on after her shift if she was going out. She was meeting Jessica after work and she hated going out with naked nails.
She rolled the bottle between her hands to mix it up without creating air bubbles. It was actually part of a collection of polishes Rafe had given her to thank her for helping him pick out a gift for Jessica. He was always so thoughtful.
She brushed on the polish. A simple two-coater in turquoise, but with trendy black speckles for interest. She finished with her favorite fast-dry topcoat.
She didn't see her former roommate, Jessica, much these days. Jessica had moved into Mr. Ranier's place. And who wouldn't? Not only was she staying with the man of her dreams, who happened to be beyond gorgeous, he was also a billionaire who lived at the Ritz-Carlton residence, where his luxury apartment had a spectacular view of the Philadelphia skyline.
Melanie grabbed a bus to the great little deli she and Jessica had discovered a month ago.
When Melanie stepped into the restaurant, she saw Jessica at a table by the window, a drink in front of her.
"Hey, how's it going?" Melanie asked as she tossed her purse on a chair, then sat down across from Jessica. But she didn't need to ask because the glow in Jessica's face said it all. Now there was a woman in love!
"We picked out the flowers today," Jessica said. "It was so funny being in a florist shop with Dane. The two women who worked there stared at him in awe, and they seemed intimidated by him, even though he was as charming as could be."
"Well, he does have a very commanding presence. You know that." She leaned in close. "I'm not surprised he brings that quality into the bedroom," she said with a grin.
"Does he ever." Jessica laughed, not at all embarrassed.
That's one of the things Melanie loved about her friend. Jessica was willing to jump into an exciting situation and run with it.
Jessica had also told her about the exciting Dominance/submission relationship she had going with Mr. Ranier, which made Melanie weak in the knees just thinking about.
"You're really lucky, you know that?" She smiled. "You found the right guy and now you're getting married."
Jessica nodded. "I know it. But as you recall, it wasn't easy."
"Nothing ever is."
Jessica reached out and placed her hand over Melanie's. "You know, there's no reason you and Rafe—"
"Jessica, forget it. It'll never happen."
"No. It didn't happen after two years of working together. Most of that time was before he met you. But he was attracted to you right off." She shook her head sadly. "I have to face it. The guy just isn't into me."
"It's all in the context. You were his secretary—"
"And you were Mr. Ranier's personal assistant."
Jessica squeezed Melanie's hand. "If you gave Rafe a chance to get to know you outside the office, I'm sure everything would change."
"Look, can we just change the subject?" Melanie had been intending to tell Jessica about Rafe coming into the store today, but not now. Jessica meant well, but Melanie just didn't want to think about what might have been. More like, what couldn't be. "Are you going to tell me what the surprise is you told me about?"
Jessica smiled broadly. "Okay. Well, I know that your birthday isn't until next week, but I want to give you your gift now."
She handed Melanie a lilac envelope with her name written in Jessica's lovely script on the front. Melanie opened it and inside found a gift certificate for a tattoo studio. She'd once told Jessica that she'd always wanted a tattoo, but they were expensive and she couldn't justify it on her budget.
Melanie stared at the certificate. "This is so generous of you. I really shouldn't accept."
"It's from Dane, too, and he insisted. We all miss you at Ranier Industries, and we hope your tattoo gives you a little reminder every day of how much we care about you."
"Okay, I'm not going to argue. You two are ..." Her voice quavered a little, so she just nodded while she drew in a deep breath. She shrugged. "... terrific."
She'd never had a friend as sweet and considerate as Jessica. The two women had taken to each other instantly—it was like they'd known each other for years. Melanie believed this could be a lifetime friendship.
"So how did you pick the place?" Melanie had been asking around for recommendations. If she was going to have something inked onto her body she wanted to ensure that the place was reputable, high quality, and that the artist was talented.
"I asked a friend who is very discerning. The artist you'll be seeing is Charlie. He came highly recommended and the online samples of his work are gorgeous. He books up pretty fast, so I called last week and made an appointment for you on Saturday, since I know that's your day off, and I also knew you'd be anxious to get it. You can move it if it's not convenient, but it'll probably mean waiting a couple of weeks."
"No way. I want to do this as soon as possible. Of course you'll go with me, right?"
Jessica frowned. "I'm afraid not. I already have plans and I can't change them."
Jessica smiled. "I promise, I'll try to be there for the next, brand new, wild and crazy thing you do."
Melanie nodded. "It's a deal."
* * *
As Melanie opened the door to Devil's Ink, she was greeted by the cheerful tinkle of a bell. She stepped into the clean, brightly lit studio. The walls were a warm brick red and covered with framed artwork of large, detailed tattoo designs.
There was a glass reception counter on one side and black chairs along two walls with a coffee table covered with magazines and binders. A large tropical plant stood in one corner.
"Can I help you?" A tall, lanky woman in a navy tank top and jeans, with several face piercings and her arms sleeved with tattoos, stood up from her chair behind the counter.
"I have an appointment with Charlie at three o'clock. I just wanted to be here ahead of time."
"Sure. There's some design books on the table there. Coffee machine's over there. Help yourself."
"Thanks." Melanie sat in one of the waiting chairs and leaned forward to riffle through the black binders laid out on the low, square table in front of her. She grabbed one and opened it, then scanned through it. There were a broad range of designs, sorted into categories. The shading on the designs was very well done, something she'd been told to watch for.
The bell over the door tinkled and in her peripheral vision, she saw a man in well-worn jeans, a chain dangling from his belt loop into his pocket, walk past her.
The man walked to the counter. Melanie glanced over the book at his back and couldn't help but admire his broad shoulders and thick, muscular arms, showcased by the black tank top he wore.
Two men stepped into the room from a hallway, one a tall, bald man with a beard, his solid chest, arms, and neck covered with tattoos, and the other a man with white gauze on his bicep.
"I'll be right with you," the bald man said to the newcomer. "Hey, Rika. Bob's done."
"Be right there, Charlie," the tall, lanky woman called from the other side of a doorway, then she walked back to the counter and smiled at the man with the gauze.
The bald man, who seemed to be the artist Melanie was here to see, turned to his next client and said, "Okay, now let me see what I'm working with."
The new client pulled off his tank top and walked toward him. Melanie's gaze landed on the hard, rippling muscles.
"So, you're sure you don't want me to alter the moth now that the chick has dumped you? Maybe change it to an angel?"
This man had a moth tattoo? Rafe had gotten a moth tattoo when he'd been dating Jessica.
"Naw. An angel's not my style."
The sound of the man's familiar voice stunned Melanie.
The artist chuckled. "Yeah, until a chick asks you for it, right?"
She raised her gaze up the broad, tattoo-covered chest, to the man's face.
She put down the book she'd been scanning and stared at him with wide eyes. She never would have believed Rafe would ever look like this. Muscle bound, inked, and breathtakingly hunky in a sexy bad-boy way. He was gorgeous beyond belief in his designer suits but, man, that was nothing compared to what lay underneath.
Rafe turned to her. "Melanie?" His lips turned up in that wide smile of his, paired with the warmth in his eyes that always made her feel special. "What are you doing here?"
Rafe gazed at Melanie. Her dark blonde hair hung loose, rather than tied back like she usually wore it at the office and the coffee shop she worked at now. It cascaded past her smooth, bare shoulders in soft waves, gleaming in the sunlight flowing through the big window.
She shrugged. "Same as you. Getting a tattoo."
His lips turned up in a grin. "Really?"
Charlie grabbed a piece of paper Rika handed him, probably the artwork Charlie had worked up from the basic design Rafe had sent him.
Rafe watched as Melanie walked toward him.
"I'm afraid I'm a virgin," she said.
Suddenly, Rafe saw her differently. Not as his sweet, innocent secretary, who wore demure suits and conservative flats. In those jeans and that lace-edged, black camisole top that showed off her shapely form, she looked anything but virginal.
Her cheeks heated. "As far as tattoos, I mean."
Her gaze gliding over his broad shoulders, then down to his abs heated him like the caress of the noonday sun.
"You're obviously very experienced," she said.
Charlie chuckled again.
Rafe found himself tightening at her words, his mind filled with images of her, wide-eyed and vulnerable, lying in his bed. Fuck, what was wrong with him? This was Melanie.
"It's just that, I'm kind of nervous about this. I've always wanted one, but it's so permanent—and I know it's going to hurt."
He quirked his head. "Would you like me to stay with you?" He grinned. "Maybe hold your hand."
She just nodded, and a need to be there for her, and protect her, washed through him.
"Could I watch while you get yours done?"
"You don't have any problem with that, do you, Charlie?"
Charlie grunted. "The more the merrier."
Excerpted from His to Claim by Opal Carew. Copyright © 2014 Opal Carew. 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I also have to say that $10 for a 162 page book on my nook is a little too much.
I did not like this book. Rafe it's a push over and Melanie is boring and can't seem to make up her mind.
Sexy and Steamy with Great Characters but the Story Left Me Unsatisfied... 3 Sexy Yet Wavering Stars! The Review: This is a six part serial combined into one full length novel. I’m not a huge fan of serials so I was excited when I saw this was a combined book and I wouldn’t have to wait for any of the story parts to be published before being able to read it in full. I jumped all over it because the blurb sounded awesome and I’m a fan of this author. And honestly, there were many parts in this story that I really enjoyed. It was sexy, supremely hot in some places and it deliciously sweet in others. I also liked the idea of Melanie getting in touch with her inner bad girl and living out her fantasies. I also really enjoyed the band, Savage Kiss, and their members. I loved Rafe/Storm. He was steamy and his possessive yet open mind blew me away. Here’s where my disappointment comes in. The whole situation was confusing and sticky. Melanie leaves her corporate lifestyle to work as a barista because she’s in love with her boss who sees her as nothing more than an employee. She also wants to become an artist and shy away from the structured life her parents mapped out for her. But she goes about this in a bad way. She’s broke, she’s drifting and she seems lost. She doesn’t seem to have any control and she’s floundering. She might be living out some of her sexual fantasies but her life has taken a downward turn. She just had no direction. Rafe comes to visit her at her new work place to find out why she left, in hopes of reconnecting with her as they were good friends when she was working for him. Suddenly he sees her in a new light and recognizes feelings he thought didn’t exist. But Melanie gets an opportunity to go on the road with Storm’s band, Savage Kiss... without Storm! She goes, even though her long time crush has suddenly found her interesting and he lets her go. She finds an attraction to two other men and then there’s a yummy foursome involved. All the while, Rafe/Storm is getting past the loss of his ex who’s marrying his brother. See, sticky! Maybe I missed something, but it felt like all the characters were drifting. No one knew where they were going. Rafe/Storm’s name changes kept me wondering which guy I was going to get in which scene. And Melanie not being able to hold her panties up kind of grated on my nerves because she longed for Rafe for years and the moment she gets him, she leaves to “find herself”, which I totally understand but she can’t be on the road with two hot guys paying her loads of attention without subcoming to their charms and sultry kisses? Yeah, ok, I probably wouldn’t have either, but I expected more from my heroine. I love angsty books. I love characters who believe “sharing is caring” because lets face it. Three guys and one girl is effing hot. But what I don’t like are characters who are indecisive and who are still floundering when the story ends and I felt Melanie was that kind of heroine. And much like Melanie, this story had very little direction. I guess I just wanted more from the actual story itself. If I was to base this on the steam factor alone, it would rate a solid four stars! But with such a distracting story that left me unsatisfied, I had to come down in my rating. I still enjoyed it but again, I wanted more. I still very much love this author and I’ll be going on to read more of her work because she’s awesome and her stories give me the happies! This one just didn’t do it for me. NOTE: *Written for Craves the Angst Book Reviews* I was gifted this book from publisher and author in exchange for an honest review.
I paid 10.00 for a NOVEL that's 164 pages long. What a rip off. On top of that couldn't get past page 25, worst writing I've every tried to read.
While Rafe/Storm and Melanie are both very likable characters, this story seems a bit stiff. I didn't really feel/understand how the characters first became attracted to each other, and while the story moves along at a nice pace, sometimes the writing is lacking in the respect that the story is just stated, not really going into the heads of the characters enough while something is happening.
I love this series a lot, Rafe and Melanie . hot hot hot
Once again the author has made characters that I could relate to and connect with. Opal Carew never lets me down.
This book was OK. The characters LACKED........ I did not get a good feeling for them. The first book, His To Posses kept me very interested and the characters were both very interesting and HOT!!!
We all remember Melanie from the first book - His To Possess - and how she was so unhappily in love with her sexy boss Rafe. And now that she's not working for him anymore, she thinks she can finally move on. But then they meet again and it turns out that he's not only this sexy billionaire businessman, nope - he's also the smoking hot guitar player in a famous rock band - tattoos, Harley and all!!! ¿ Rafe can now admit to himself that he was always attracted to her, but he didn't want to start something while she was still working for him. That would've made it a bit uncomfortable at work once he broke it off. Because that's what he does. He doesn't have time for anything serious. But he can't get Melanie out of his head. And now she's going on tour with his band????? Well, if he can't stay away from her - or she from him - they have to make the best of the situation ¿ And they do - but Melanie doesn't want to get her hopes up - Rafe, or Storm as he's called when he's with the band, wants nothing serious! WHAT WiLL HAPPEN TO MELANiE & RAFE??? WiLL THE TWO OF THEM GET THEiR HEA??? WiLL THERE BE A HORRiBLE CLiFFHANGER??? NOPE . . . I'M NOT TELLiNG YOU ¿ I don't want to spoil anything!!! (OK, there's no cliffhanger, of course - but that's all I'm telling you!) ______________________________________ I REALLY LOVED THE BOOK!!! You HAVE to love a book that not only has a sexy bad boy rock star, but also a sexy billionaire businessman.¿ And here we have those two things in ONE SINGLE GUY!!! *fangirl-swoon* The only thing that could top this for me would be if Rafe was also a former Navy SEAL ;))) I really enjoyed this book! I was looking forward to reading Melanie & Rafe's story. I was so sad for her in the first book - she was soo unhappily in love with Rafe and he was in love with her friend Jessica :( But now Jessica is getting married to Rafe's brother and Melanie finally gets her chance! It was really adorable to see how they finally got together - it takes them a while - it takes Rafe a while to get over his problems....but it's sooo worth it - and it was reallllly hot too!!!! Phew! Very very sexy! HiS TO CLAiM: Hot bad boy biker rockstar aka sexy billionaire businessman = the perfect erotic Romance!
3.75 stars-- HIS TO CLAIM is the latest adult, contemporary, erotic romance release from author Opal Carew. Originally released as a six part erotic serial, HIS TO CLAIM follows Melanie and Rafe as they struggle with their attraction to one another-one that began for Melanie when she worked for Rafe at Ranier Enterprises. When Rafe fell in love with Melanie’s best friend, Melanie knew it was time to walk away from the job that she had loved but more so, from the man with whom she had fallen in love. HIS TO CLAIM is an erotic storyline with M/M/F/M situations. The storyline follows Rafe and Melanie as they uncover one another’s most intimate secrets. Rafe is a man who leads a double life-billionaire CEO by day and rock god by night but Melanie fell in love with Rafe the man. As Rafe continues to pursue Melanie, Melanie pursues a different lifestyle-one that Rafe is reluctant to explore. Opal Carew pulls the reader into an erotic tale of two people who struggle with what they want both inside and outside of the bedroom. While Rafe fights the demons of his childhood, Melanie will fight with her fantasies about sex and love. The secondary characters include the members of Rafe’s aka Storm’s rock band-man whores who want nothing better than to get the girl –including Melanie. In this, there is a situation growing as Melanie is attracted to the other members of the band and Rafe is battling his inner demons about control. HIS TO CLAIM is a hopeful and passionate storyline about discovery, letting go and falling in love.