|Publisher:||Ninestar Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.62(d)|
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Parker snapped her head back to her lawyer.
She still had her name, thank God for that. Amanda hadn't wanted to go through the trouble of changing her medical license after they married, and transitioning from Professor Freeman to Professor Miller had just seemed like too much work.
"Doctor Miller has proposed that you keep the house in South Beach, and she will keep the condo downtown. Is that agreeable?"
Of course she wanted the condo. God, this is happening.
Her reply was terse, and she tried to look anywhere but at Amanda, perfectly put together in her usual designer slacks and jacket. The resident she had been having an affair with for years — early thirties and gorgeous — waited for her in the hall. Parker felt frumpy, plain in comparison in her blue jeans and politely heeled boots, and forty years old.
She cried on the way home, still lost and furious. Deep down she'd known Amanda was having an affair for some time, but their life had been so comfortably routine, and the loss of that comfort scared her, so she'd adhered to the routine blindly.
Monday through Wednesday Amanda was on call and stayed at the hospital — or so she'd said — Thursday they went out for dinner, Friday Parker finished late after her office hours, and Saturday morning they had sex before Amanda disappeared to a conference, or a clinic, or some other work-related necessity. She'd resurface for her token appearance Sunday night, before it all began again.
Her mind still grappled with it all. How the hell she'd come to accept this as her life. The cheating, the lying, the regularly scheduled sex for God's sake? She'd been so scared to lose the status quo, the only life she'd known for years, she'd just let it happen, and then she'd lost it all anyway. How is that fair?
The house was empty, which was nothing new. Amanda's schedule left her alone a lot of the time before, but somehow, Parker noticed it more now.
She kicked off her boots, poured herself a glass of wine, and sat down with her laptop. Miserable, she resigned herself to answering emails.
Somewhere between recommending chapter nine and a review of last month's lectures for the third time, she drifted out onto the internet. It had become a guilty not-quite-pleasure of late. Browsing divorce forums, searching in the sea of dissatisfied women behind keyboards for something, anything, to make her feel like any of this was going to be okay.
Part of her liked the bitterness of these women, and part of her was left desolate by it. Her brown eyes tracked line after line, post after post, before a thread caught her eye. Moving On and Rebuilding?
She clicked and began to read. Even on these forums among hundreds of others in her situation, she felt alienated, alone. Most of the posters had been scorned by ex-husbands. Very rarely did she find a woman trying to figure things out after the loss of her cheating, lying wife. The responses ranged from funny to sad. She didn't want to go clothes shopping, her wardrobe was ... fine, and although slashing Amanda's tires had a certain appeal, she knew she would never go through with it.
Frustrated, left empty again, she was about to click off. A response caught her eye and made her pause.
If you are open minded and serious about rediscovering yourself, I highly recommend the Pandora Agency. Through them I transformed my life and my views on my situation and myself.
The link took her to a website, dark and sophisticated with a definite erotic aura. She almost clicked away, but her eyes caught the first line and then she was reading.
Find yourself through submission. A professional and discreet agency, dedicated to connecting searching souls to their perfect counterpart to facilitate personal growth and groundbreaking life change.
Licking her suddenly dry lips, she carried on reading. The site was certainly convincing, and the testimonials were glowing.
Could I do that? Let someone dominate me?
She blushed at the thought. Of course she'd read the books — who doesn't like a racy story every now and then — but that was honestly as much as she knew about ... this. She was surprised to read testimonials from lawyers, CEOs, teachers, people with professional careers, people who sounded more like her than any of the tire-slashers had.
She told herself the agency probably had a line-up of controlling, chauvinistic men to choose from, though the idea was totally at odds with all the comments from women who felt empowered and in control after using it. She didn't understand it.
Opening a new tab before she could think about it any harder, she did a quick Google search for "the Pandora Agency." She was surprised to find more well written, articulate, and genuine rave reviews.
Am I seriously considering this?
The shrill ringing of her phone sounded. Jumping guiltily, she knocked it off the coffee table while trying to grab it. She scrambled to pick it back up and swiped to accept the call.
She sounded breathless, flushed, heat on her chest and her cheeks as she snapped her laptop closed.
"SO, WE WERE right then, she wanted the condo?"
Marion squeezed her hand, and Parker nodded, trying not to let her feelings show on her face.
"She wants the condo, the division of funds was better than I was expecting, and as predicted, she brought Emily."
Her best friend hissed.
They were quiet for a moment, both snapping on smiles and waving enthusiastically when Marion's son called to them from the swings.
"I know you're hurting right now, and everything feels upside down, but maybe you dodged a bullet."
Parker laughed, soft and sad. It was the nicest thing Marion could have said. She had pretty much hated Amanda by the time their marriage was over, and who could blame her? All the missed birthdays, broken promises, and the multiple affairs that by the end were so shoddily hidden, half the hospital had known, as well as Parker herself.
"Maybe." Have I? "I just ... I'm almost forty-one and I haven't been single for fourteen years, and we dated two before that. Starting over just seems ..."
Daunting, overwhelming, impossible.
"Sweetie." Marion's dark eyes, sad and kind, found her. "What choice do you have? You've always deserved better, I know you know that on some level. Now's your chance to find it."
Sometimes it was hard not to hate Marion, with her faithful wife, her beautiful son, and great career as a pathologist — her perfect life. They had been college roommates and best friends, almost like sisters, ever since.
"I just ..." Parker didn't even know how to finish the sentence. All she had were a million more excuses, complaints.
"You need to get off those sad divorcee forums or whatever, and start working on yourself. Drowning in pity won't do you any good. I love you, but it's been three months."
Three months since she was served divorce papers, out of the blue, in front of a class of two hundred students she was guest lecturing for.
"The forums aren't all that bad. Some of the advice is okay."
Marion eyed her sideways.
"It is! Like today I was reading about one woman who transformed her whole life after her divorce. She found herself and got all her confidence back, and became so empowered and so in charge of her own happiness."
She hadn't meant to talk about it.
"And pray tell, how did she achieve this magical life transformation?" Parker laughed. It sounded pitchy, nervous, even to her own ears.
"That's where it gets a little crazy. She recommended this agency that has some sort of ... domination program ... Find yourself through submission." She dropped her voice, low and skeptical. "I mean how does that even work? How do you become empowered by giving up all your power? Sounds insane, right?"
Marion was watching her, her eyes reading between every stumbled line. Parker tried to keep the blush from showing on her face. Why did she feel so caught?
"Yeah, no." She seemed to collect herself. "Sounds nuts, totally nuts."
A soft breath of relief left her.
Roland waved from atop the slide, and on cue they both raised their hands, Parker to wave, Marion to blow him a kiss, until he slid down with a squeal.
"So, when are you going to call them?" Marion asked.
"What?" Parker shrieked. She couldn't help herself.
"Oh come on, Parker. You would never have brought it up if you weren't interested. Honestly, you need to get laid and actually get off for once. How could it hurt?"
She choked on her reply, and Marion bumped her shoulder, taking the sting out of her words.
"Really though, what do you have to lose? You looked into it, right, and it's safe and not a scam or some sort of trap."
God, can I admit this?
"I mean ... I did research, but that doesn't mean I'm actually going to ..."
"Do they cater to women loving women, as well as men?"
Damn Marion and how well she knows me.
"I'm not sure."
The admission was quiet, and she felt like she had admitted far more with the words. She glanced around, licking her lips, a flush in full bloom across her cheeks. They were discussing this here, in the playground at the park.
"I know you," Marion said. "You're going to torture yourself for days and finally, after considering it and overthinking it and making it excruciating not only for yourself, but for me to watch, you're gonna call them anyway."
Am I going to do that?
"In the spirit of starting over, why not skip a step and just call?"
Parker swallowed, shaking her head, a smile tugging at her lips.
"I can't believe you're encouraging me to sign up for freaking ... kinky sex therapy."
"Sweetie, I'm encouraging you to go forward, to move, to do anything other than wait and stagnate and let that bitch ruin one more day for you. You wouldn't have brought this up if you didn't want to try it, or at least get more information. For once, Parker, just give yourself permission to be a little wild."
SHE HAD CALLED. Twice. Both times she'd hung up the phone before anyone could answer. Walking back to her car, another heavy stack of papers in her bag, another day of classes done, she had almost convinced herself to put the idea out of her mind.
She could be wild, before 9:00 p.m. and as long as she didn't have to leave her house ... Damn Marion.
She slung her bookbag and briefcase into the trunk and slid into her car, waving at the anthropology professor across the lot. Her phone rang and she answered quickly, half expecting it to be her lawyer telling her Amanda had changed her mind about settling out of court.
"Hi, this is Melanie from the Pandora Agency returning your call."
Adrenaline exploded in her chest. Panic made her lips numb.
"Yes, sorry, I'm here."
"What can I help you with today? Are you a current client or seeking more information?"
I can be wild.
"I'm not a client. I just ..." Her heart raced, thundering, battering her rib cage. Screw Amanda, screw this.
"I have a few questions. Mainly, do you cater to women who might want to um, work with another woman?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am. We do have a few female Dominants on staff. Let me check if anyone is available for a new partner right now ..."
Parker almost balked because somehow, this was happening, and it was becoming real frighteningly fast.
Melanie came back to her after a moment. "Yes, Miss Diaz looks to have a vacancy. If you do decide you're interested, I would have to confirm."
Miss Diaz. She sounded like a principal. A hot brunette, maybe a few years older than me, great body, beautiful smile ... Would she use a riding crop like the woman in that book?
"Yes, sorry, we must have a bad connection. Could you tell me more about how this works?"
"Of course. Pandora Agency will match you to a suitable Dominant to achieve your goals. At the time the match is made, you will pay the service fee in full, twelve hundred and twenty-nine dollars, and then an initial meeting will be scheduled with your Domme."
Parker swallowed hard.
"We don't get involved in the individual details made between partners, but more than likely your Domme will have a contract for you to sign in the event that after spending some time together you both decide you're compatible."
"And what if we're not ... compatible?"
She wasn't even compatible with her wife after the first two years of marriage. How could a total stranger be any different?
"Then the agency offers two free reassigns, all covered by your initial enrollment, and if after completing the program you decide to return as a customer to be matched through us again, there's a 50 percent discount on the service fee."
That sounded reasonable.
"Okay. I need to um, check my schedule and think on it a little more. Would it be okay if I called you back?"
"Yes, ma'am. You have our office number. Call anytime."
They said goodbye politely and hung up. She stared out of the windscreen, the car thankfully not too hot in the cooler fall weather.
The woman had seemed nice; everything was clear, professional, and nothing like she had expected. Maybe there was something to this? The reviews were so good; she liked the service. It seemed legitimate and discreet, and most importantly as if it could actually work.
Since discovering the website she had dug out and reread a certain novel, trying to imagine herself in any of the scenarios the protagonist found herself in, surprised and embarrassed by how much she enjoyed the thought of being dominated now she was really considering it.
She thought of Amanda, of their scheduled sex and the way it had all become so rote, mechanical, a means to an end. Some of the scenes in the book scared her, yet it was undeniably exciting, erotic. She felt more sexual, sensual, just for having read it, just for considering this, than she had in years.
I can be wild. I can move forward.
On impulse, she unlocked her cell, finger hovering over the Pandora Agency's phone number. Her heart beat hard, a million reasons why she couldn't and shouldn't repeating in her head. The reality was, she could afford it. Her career paid well, and she had been smart with her money over the years, not to mention Amanda was practically paying for it after the settlement. That thought gratified her somehow.
She took a deep breath and tapped the number to call. Melanie answered on the third ring.
"Hi, I just called a moment ago. We talked about a booking with Miss Diaz?"
"Yes, ma'am, how can I help you?"
"I, um ..." She took a deep breath. The moment felt heavy, important, but she told herself she was reading too much into things. "I wanted to go ahead and get it set up."CHAPTER 2
THE SUN SHONE through the clouds, and Parker's stomach was full of lead as she climbed the steps to the front door. The expensive-looking town house was gorgeous, set right off South Beach, all smooth glass and pale stone.
Everything had happened quickly. After she had signed up with the agency on Wednesday, her meeting had been set for Saturday. She'd hardly slept, hardly eaten, since.
Despite Marion's reassurances that it would be okay, she was horribly nervous. She'd been up with the sun, digging in the deepest recesses of her closet, trying not to notice the empty wall where what little of Amanda's clothes had lived at home were once kept.
The good jeans she had originally planned on wearing, once her sexy jeans, were a little too tight now. So she'd settled for the second best that still hugged her legs pleasingly, pairing them with a smooth silk blouse and high boots. With her golden hair blown out and softly curled and a little heavier makeup replacing her usual quick dash, she admittedly felt better about herself than she had in months.
Swallowing hard, she pressed the doorbell, studying the little metal box, waiting for someone to speak over the intercom. Who is this woman?
The door swung open. Her breath caught.
"Hi, can I help you?"
The young woman staring at her expectantly couldn't be more than twenty-five years old. Parker's heart plummeted. Does Miss Diaz live with her daughter?
Color and heat leaked onto her cheeks, and oh God, what am I doing?
"I'm here to see Miss Diaz ... Maybe I got the address wrong?"
She gestured over her shoulder, offering what she hoped was a polite smile as she half turned to leave. I can't do this.
"You're in the right place. Come in."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Never Knew Until You"
Copyright © 2019 L.E. Royal.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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