"If you’re looking to dip your foot into the erotic romance genre, then MY BEST FRIEND’S STEPFATHER is a good place to start. Just enough heat to make you break a sweat but not enough to overwhelm your senses." - Romance Junkies
When Ash is assigned her first feature as a reporter, it should have been simple: interview a real life Dominant for an article about BDSM. But her subject is none other than Darien Gallagher, her best friend’s stepfather…and it’ll be an interview she never forgets.
What started for Dare as a lesson in sensual domination suddenly has become so much more. He can't deny the spark between them, even though he knows she’s completely off limits. With every seductive word, every lesson, Dare tests Ash's resolve and pushes her boundaries. But at the same time, her boss Adam has her craving things she shouldn’t.
While Ash finds herself dreaming of both men, a dark secret threatens to destroy everything. But how can she hold onto a relationship that isn’t even real?
The newest romance from Opal Carew, My Best Friend's Stepfather is everything fans desire!
Read an Excerpt
My Best Friend's Stepfather
By Opal Carew
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Opal Carew
All rights reserved.
"Did you just say you want to be a Domme?" Adam asked in disbelief. His feet hit the ground at a steady pace as they ran along the paved path in the park.
Of course he knew that couldn't possibly be what Ashley had said. Not Ash.
"I didn't say I want to be a Domme," Ash said, her breathing a bit labored.
He slowed down and she kept pace beside him. Usually she could easily do this pace, but she seemed a little off today. Nervous.
"I said that I'm going to meet with a Dom."
Adam's chest tightened. Why would Ashley want to see a Dom? Was she going to get into some kinky sexual thing? His heart thumped louder than the running accounted for.
"The man is only in town for a couple of months on business. Apparently he's active in the BDSM lifestyle. I heard about him through a friend," she went on to say. "She said he's a little intense, but I'll be in good hands."
Adam held back a scowl. He didn't want her in anyone's hands but his own. Fuck, he should pull her into a sweltering kiss right now, then show her exactly what it would be like to be dominated — by him.
He'd been attracted to Ash for a long time, but he'd met her when she was sixteen and he was in his twenties, and she was his friend's younger sister, so he'd never pursued a relationship with her. When she'd returned from college looking for a job, he'd hired her at the magazine and they'd become friends. But the fact that he was her boss had kept him from asking her out.
But that didn't stop him from getting jealous when she was with someone else.
And protective. Her seeing someone who would dominate her didn't sit well with him.
"Why are you telling me this?"
"You told me I could do a special-interest piece for the magazine and I've been looking for something different. I thought I'd talk about the popularity of BDSM in romance novels. Discuss what really happens in this type of relationship. And I thought it would be a fun angle to ... you know, talk to a real-life Christian Grey about the whole lifestyle. This man is a wealthy guy, owns a huge corporation, and he's into domination. I think our readers would love it."
His chest constricted. The guy reminded him of someone from his past. Someone he did not want to think about. He frowned.
* * *
Ashley glanced at her friend Adam. She had bungled this conversation.
Maybe she'd become too relaxed about their friendship versus their work relationship. Would he be more amenable to the idea if she'd pitched it in the office, not running through the park? Or did he really not like the idea?
She really did think it was a great idea that their readers would enjoy. And she was excited about researching it. Her heart pounded at the thought of seeing Darien Gallagher and talking about kinky sexual stuff. It would be strange and awkward, but at the same time exciting.
She hoped she could convince Adam to let her go forward with it.
She gazed at Adam's profile. His perfect, straight nose, the curve of his full lips, his strong chin. A lock of his chestnut brown hair had fallen on his forehead, as it often did, and he pushed it back. A familiar ache filled her. She'd had a longtime crush on him. Ever since she was a teenager. He was her brother Brad's hot friend. Of course, he'd paid no attention to her back then. He'd been friendly and polite — and sometimes she would imagine she'd see a spark in his eyes when he glanced her way — but she'd convinced herself that it was just her imagination. Seeing what she wanted to see.
Now, years later, since they'd started working together, they'd become close friends. But that hadn't stopped the attraction she felt for him from growing.
He slowed his pace, then headed toward an empty bench facing the river. She followed him. He must have noticed her breathing was a little heavy. He always watched out for her like that. That was one of the things she loved about him.
Adam sat down and she sat beside him.
"Don't you like the idea?"
"Of you going to see some guy who might handcuff you and get rough with you?"
"Just to make it clear. It's not a sexual thing," she explained. "It's just research for an article. Look, I know you worry about me, but I can handle myself and I know he's safe."
His piercing brown eyes locked on hers. "How do you know that?"
"I told you. My friend knows him very well."
"Is this friend Jessica?" he asked.
She raised a brow. "Don't you trust Jessica's judgment?"
Her question was an evasive maneuver. Jessica didn't know Mr. Gallagher very well at all, but she wasn't going to say too much. Adam had worked for Darien Gallagher on an internship one summer when he was in college and whenever she'd asked him about it afterward, he'd closed up. He avoided talking about the internship or Mr. Gallagher, a mystery that one day she'd like to solve.
But for now, she would not mention his name because she didn't want Adam to turn down this project.
Adam leaned back on the bench. "I know Jessica looks out for you."
He stared at the trees across the path from them, clearly thinking. He didn't seem happy and, other than his protectiveness of her, she wasn't sure why. He was usually right on board to try something edgy.
She gazed at him with wide eyes. "You said you'd give me a chance to do something new. To broaden my horizons. Please, Adam. Let me do this."
* * *
Ashley pulled into the driveway of the stately, gray brick house. An immaculate garden lined the curved walkway leading from the interlock brick driveway to the entrance.
She pulled down the visor and glanced in the mirror. Her dark auburn hair was a bit mussed, so she grabbed the brush from her purse and ran it through the long waves that flowed past her shoulders. She reapplied her burgundy lipstick, too. Then she opened the car door and got out.
As she followed the walkway her stomach fluttered. She shifted her purse to her other hand. She was more than a little nervous about this meeting with Darien Gallagher. What she hadn't told Adam was that the friend that knew Mr. Gallagher very well was her and Jessica's best friend, Helen. Because he was her stepfather.
At least, he used to be. When she and Jessica and Helen were in high school, Helen's mother had remarried. The man, who was quite a bit younger than Helen's mother, was rich, mysterious, and intensely sexy. He had this air of authority that sent quivers along her spine, and his aloofness made her long to uncover his secrets.
When he and Helen's mother had come to their graduation, every girl in school had drooled over him. His devastating good looks and air of authority had made Ash's heart somersault every time she'd seen him. Even though he was older, Ash had had inappropriate fantasies about the man.
The thought of him made her even more nervous now.
She walked up the three steps to the front door. The entrance was stunning, with a stained-glass door and matching sidelights in a simple diamond pattern.
When she used to go over to Helen's to hang out, she'd always been conscious of his presence. He was usually working in his den, but sometimes she'd see him when he went to get a drink, or he'd be reading the paper in the living room. Sometimes when Helen's mom would invite her over for dinner, she'd feel his gaze on her, sending quivers down her spine.
Once she caught sight of him taking a swim in the pool and she'd been astonished at his hard, muscular body. To her shock, she'd had hot dreams of him that night.
She'd always felt self-conscious around him. He was Jessica's stepfather. Tall, gorgeous, and intimidating. Not that he'd ever tried to intimidate her. Her heart thumped as she remembered how he would look at her with those dark, unreadable midnight blue eyes and smile. In those instants, she'd always felt like the most special person in the world.
She knew it had just been her fantasizing. She was just a friend of his stepdaughter's. He was polite, but she was barely of notice to him.
Now he'd agreed to help her with her article and she was thankful for that.
She sighed and knocked on the door.
* * *
The door opened and Ashley found herself gazing into Mr. Gallagher's deep midnight blue eyes. The sight of him took her breath away. His dark wavy hair gleamed in the light from the entryway. He wore black jeans and a blue-and-white-striped shirt, yet his attire did not feel casual. Something about the way it hung on his large frame. Neat, streamlined, almost as if the clothes had been tailored to his body. Which they probably were. He was a very wealthy man. This house — which she could tell from the grounds and the elegant entryway behind, with the sparkling chandelier and marble floor — was clearly very expensive, and it was just one of many he owned.
But what affected her the most, standing here in front of him, was the sheer power of his presence. There was a natural air of authority about him that had nothing to do with the age difference between them.
"Thank you." She barely stopped herself from stammering the words. She hadn't realized she'd been gritting her teeth until she opened her mouth to speak, so she concentrated on relaxing her jaw.
"May I take your coat?"
She slipped off her short leather jacket and handed it to him. He opened the closet door and hung it up, then turned to her again. His gaze settled on her face, then perused lower, down her body. God, she felt underdressed in her faded jeans and lace-trimmed T-shirt. She could feel her shoulders stiffening as he examined her.
Then he smiled and some of that tension eased.
"Please, come in." He moved aside and she stepped into the large foyer.
A curved staircase led to the second story. Up there would be the bedrooms. Heat sizzled through her at thoughts of him carrying her up the stairs and tossing her onto his big bed, then stripping the clothes from her body. Her gaze darted to Mr. Gallagher and his lips curled up in amusement, as if he could read her lustful thoughts about him. A man who looked like him probably had that happen all the time.
"Would you like a tour of the house?" he asked.
She glanced back at the staircase and shook her head. "I'd love to see it, but maybe we could just talk about ... uh ..."
She froze. Oh, God, it was too weird to talk about this.
She'd never actually talked to him about the article. She hadn't had to because Jessica had asked a longtime friend of hers who worked at a BDSM club in town if she knew someone whom Ash could interview. Surprisingly, she'd told Jessica confidentially that Helen's stepfather, who'd just come back into town for business, frequented the club. Jessica's friend had contacted Mr. Gallagher to see if he'd be interested in being interviewed by Ashley and he'd sent her an e-mail agreeing to the interview and setting the time.
The word, even coming casually from his lips, sent her insides quivering. He was a Dominant. Dom, for short. He commanded women to do as he bid. They became his sex slaves, doing whatever he wanted them to do. Her breath caught and she felt her insides melting. What would it be like to be controlled by him? For him to tell her to strip off her clothes, then get down on her knees in front of him and ...
"Relax, Ashley. I'm not going to chain you up or anything." He smiled. "Unless you want me to."
His words evoked images of her chained to the wall, naked, his hot gaze gliding over her body. Her skin began to tingle and she felt weak-kneed.
Oh, God, this had been a terrible idea. She'd had no idea this would have such a potent effect on her.
Instead of turning to the large living room off the foyer, he led her down the hallway past a formal dining room, into a casual living room off the kitchen. He sat down in a large, black leather chair. She glanced around, uncertain what to do. A bottle of red wine stood on the table, already open, and one empty stemmed glass stood beside it.
Her gaze flicked to his at the tone of his words. With a slight commanding edge.
She glanced at the couch in front of him and then at the chair angled toward it.
"On the couch."
His tone brooked no argument.
She walked toward the couch and sat down.
"Thank you for agreeing to help me, Mr. Gallagher."
"You can call me Dare for now." He sat back in his chair. "I understand that you want me to teach you about Domination and submission."
"Yes, I'm doing an article for the magazine and —"
He raised his hand in a stop gesture. "A yes or no will suffice."
She stared at him, a little taken aback. His face hadn't changed at all yet somehow it seemed stern.
"I want you to understand," he said, "that we're going to do this my way."
Nervousness prickled through her. "But I have questions prepared that —"
His hard gaze stopped her flow of words instantly.
"What I intend to do is show you what a Dominant-submissive relationship is like. That's the only way you'll really understand the play of power. And the excitement."
"Um ... but you know this is not ... uh, I mean ... I'd just like to clarify that ..."
Oh, no, how did she broach this?
"Are you trying to say that you're not here for a sexual relationship?"
"Yes, that's right."
"I understand." But the twinkle in his eye didn't set her at ease.
He sat back in his chair.
"You and I have known each other for a long time," he continued, "but we don't know each other well. Still, I believe because of our shared history and the fact you and my ex-stepdaughter are good friends that you trust me."
"Yes, that's —" At his sharp expression, she stopped talking, punctuating the partial sentence with a nod.
The almost imperceptible sternness in his face softened and she felt a rush of pleasure at his approval.
"Good. That trust is very important and we're going to build on it. As we move forward you will follow my commands instantly and without question. Do you understand?"
Her chest tightened. "Yes, but ..." Before his expression could turn to disapproval she blurted, "I mean, no." She did understand his words but she didn't agree with them.
He raised an eyebrow. "What is it you don't understand?"
"Well, uh ..." She felt out of her depth. Like he was the general of a great invading force and she was a lowly peasant woman. "I need to ask questions about how things work and get background about the lifestyle and such."
"You don't learn about Domination and submission by discussing it. I think it's important that you experience it directly. So while we work on this project, you will be my sub, but we can leave out the sexual aspect, if that's what you want." He smiled, his eyes twinkling. "Personally, I think it would be better for you to have the complete experience, but you're an intelligent, perceptive and creative woman, so I am confident you can do your research to fill in that part of it."
His words of praise elated her, but the idea of being his submissive, even in a role-playing scenario meant to help her, made her insides quiver. She suspected it was as much from a blatant desire to submit to him totally as it was a resistance to being controlled. The thought of being totally under Darien Gallagher's control ... submitting to his every whim — her heart skipped a beat — especially sexually, sent her hormones into a spin.
But that's not why she was here. She needed to stay focused on her goal and leave these disturbing urges to be examined another time.
"I don't know about this."
He gazed at her, and his inscrutable midnight eyes seemed to glow with warmth.
"You do trust me, don't you?"
When he looked at her like that — the same way he had in the past — she felt like the most important person in the world.
"Yes, of course," she replied instantly.
"Then think about why you're afraid. Is it that you're afraid of giving up your power?" He paused for a moment, watching her. "Or is it that you're afraid of coming into your power?"
She realized her jaw had clenched again and she concentrated on releasing it. Damn, how did he know her so well? Her philosophy of life was that the choices we make are often based on fear of success rather than fear of failure and we will often make choices that will sabotage what we believe we want.
She pursed her lips. She wanted to do this project. It would help her move ahead in her career. If that meant playacting with Darien Gallagher, then fine. She could do that.
"Okay. I'll do it your way."
His lips turned up in a smile. "Good."
* * *
Ashley gazed at herself in the mirror. She'd escaped to the bathroom for a few moments to collect herself. This wasn't at all what she'd expected. The intense feelings she'd had when he'd controlled how she responded to him ... God, his authoritative tone ... and his stern expression ... it all took her breath away. He was so powerful and masculine.
Right now she felt like her world had turned upside down.
Dare had made a powerful case. To write an effective article about the Dominant-submissive relationship, she needed to experience it directly.
It made sense he'd show her by example, and it wouldn't have to lead to sex. But the thought of him commanding her ... taking control ...
Her heart stammered.
As much as she'd insisted there would be no sexual relationship between them, she knew that she was in danger of falling under his masculine spell. That she would lose herself completely to the role of being Dare's submissive was an option that felt all too attractive right now.
Once he started to command her ... she knew in her heart she would do anything he said. She stared at herself in the mirror. She was thinking crazy thoughts. This was role-playing. She wasn't just going to fall into bed with him.
Excerpted from My Best Friend's Stepfather by Opal Carew. Copyright © 2015 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.
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