After escaping her sexually dominant husband, dating coach Charlotte is ready to play it safe. But when her client, Gail, disappears after visiting a fetish-oriented club called Subspace, Charlotte must enter the erotic underworld to find out what happened to her.
Club owner Master Martin is willing to help Charlotte—as long as she agrees to a little role-playing. As Charlotte slowly surrenders to Martin's sensual enticements, she finds that her penchant for submission is more intense than ever. But at the same time, as her search for Gail leads her deep inside Subspace's catacombs, Charlotte fears it may already be too late to save Gail. . .or herself.
Praise for Sweet and Dirty
"The author has clearly done her research. . .which makes the stories that much more real. Fans who like a BDSM twist to their happily ever after should be completely satisfied." –Romantic Times
"Will make your toes curl." –Romance Reviews Today
"Wonderfully stimulating, titillating." –Night Owl Romance
"Classy and spanky, Christina Crooks's characters light up the pages." --Lucinda Betts, author of What She Wants
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By CHRISTINA CROOKS
APHRODISIA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Christina Crooks
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe noise sounded a little like a mouse scratching behind a wall. The strangeness of it pulled Charlotte's gaze from her budget calculations. Daytime was when the apartment's mice should have the sense to sleep instead of scratching loudly enough to draw a predator's attention.
Charlotte looked back at her white plastic laptop. She frowned at the clicking-whirling noise it made. Maybe the computer had made the scratching noise? She hoped it wasn't about to break. She relied on the old laptop for her struggling matchmaking business.
The sound again. A metallic scratching.
The fish tank? She looked at it with a frown. No, the noise wasn't coming from her cloudy freshwater aquarium or its quiet motor. She needed to clean the water again, she noticed.
Her door rattled slightly.
The front door.
Someone was messing with the lock. Not the landlord. He had a key. Besides, he'd knock.
Charlotte's hearing zeroed in on the tiny scrapes, the metallic jiggling. Picking the lock? Breaking in to her second-floor home.
Her heart sped into a staccato beat and she leapt silently to her feet. She paced the tiny living room in a tight circle, trying to prevent adrenaline from fogging her thinking. What to do? "Okay," she whispered to herself. "Okay. Yell for a neighbor, call a friend, a boyfriend, anyone. No. There's nobody."
The realization stopped her steps. Half a year after her divorce finalized, and she was still solitary. She knew she should've forced herself to get out more, to meet people. To date. The solitude now impaired her options. She didn't know her neighbors, and aside from the ex himself, there was no one to call.
"Okay, okay, okay. No, it's not okay. Shit."
She started pacing again, and her mind started working again. "Gotta do something. Call the police, of course."
Following her own advice, she dove for the small flip phone next to her notebook. Its rounded edges squirted from her sweat-slicked grasp, falling to the hardwood floor. The crack of plastic, then the clatter of the battery projecting out across the room sounded calamitous.
The scratching sounds stopped.
Charlotte held her breath until small black dots swam before her vision.
She strained to hear. When she couldn't stand it anymore, she tiptoed to the door. She brushed it ever so lightly with the pads of her fingertips, leaned toward the peephole.
The door shuddered under a blow, jerking a scream from her. Charlotte stumbled back without having seen the pounder. The fist-slam against the door told her he was strong. She hoped her door held under that level of assault.
What if it didn't hold?
She curved into the same pacing circle, passing the broken phone. She braced herself against the next loud noise, but it didn't come. She whispered to herself in the ominous silence, "Okay. Okay. Dead phone. Lunatic outside door. Go out the back sliding doors, jump. Crap. Go." Obedient to her own instructions, she'd half climbed over the balcony's wrought-iron railing when she heard the sound of knocking on the front door.
Polite knocking, not pounding.
Was it a trick? As if she'd be stupid enough to just open the door.
Still she paused, with a reluctant glance down. It was a long way to a hard landing.
Another polite knock.
It wouldn't hurt to look.
This time she didn't tiptoe to the door, but stomped. "I own a gun! And my boyfriend'll be back any minute! And I have a vicious attack dog!"
She peered through the peephole.
"Dogs aren't allowed," her landlord said. He waited, lanky and familiar, his lean body propped against the iron railing on the concrete balcony. It was the exact same type of railing she'd just been climbing over in the back.
The guy couldn't be more than thirty, but his frown made him look old and mean. She hoped he wasn't feeling mean. She didn't have the full month's rent.
She also didn't have a boyfriend, gun, or an attack dog. Hoagie, her little brown and yellow mutt, wouldn't dream of biting anything but his toys and bones. He lived at Cory's anyway.
Her ex got the sweet little dog. She got the goldfish.
"Oh, man. Okay." Charlotte calmed her breathing, smoothed the front of her shirt. It clung to her sweaty skin and revealed more than she wanted to show her landlord, so she peeled it away and fanned the material to cool herself down. Her hands stopped for a moment. "Can I ask you something? Were you pounding on the door a couple of minutes ago?"
"No." He sounded impatient. His impatience convinced her he wasn't the same guy.
"Okay, just a sec." She walked toward her desk, stepping over the phone pieces, and quickly wrote out a check.
She opened the door with caution, looking past the landlord. "Did you by any chance see anyone? A man running away?"
"No," he repeated. He stared pointedly at the check.
"Because someone was trying to pick my lock," she continued, not to be deterred. "Whoever it was tried to break down my door." She held her check folded in one hand. "Could you please look at the lock?"
He sighed. He examined the lock. "Scratches. Could be from keys." He gave a cursory glance at the door. "The lock's intact. The door's undamaged. Seems fine now. Did you call the police?"
She bit back a number of replies. The police weren't high on her list of good guys lately. They hadn't managed to find her stolen car in the past months, and their swaggering presence while writing traffic tickets or sprawled in uniformed groups inside that donut shop down the road didn't do much to deter the brisk local drug trade. She often heard gunshots at night.
She frowned unhappily. Other than Cory, cops were the only lifeline she had. She really needed to get out more. It was past time.
At the moment, she shifted from one foot to another, wondering how to manage the landlord situation. "Yeah, I was about to call the police. But then, you showed up." She smiled brightly.
"Uh-huh." He held out his hand. His left hand. She noticed he wore no ring.
A man of few words. She could work with that. "The check is short. I'm sorry. The thing is, I have a small business I'm growing, and I can make it up to you in service. It's a matchmaking business. To help people locate dates and true love. I have many happy clients." A slight exaggeration. She'd had many happy clients. Now they were happily paired-off former clients.
His scowl deepened, but he withdrew his hand.
"So, what do you think of that kind of service?" she prompted. She offered him the check, a gesture of goodwill.
He glanced at it without taking it, then transferred his gaze to her. His scowl faded to a look of speculation. His thin hair hung in limp, unwashed straggles over his broad forehead. Nice eyes, though. And he had the body of a man who did some physical labor.
He suddenly closed his calloused fingers over the insufficient rent check as if afraid she might attempt to snatch it back.
He looked at her in a way she didn't like.
She spoke quickly. "Or, if you prefer, I'll just get the rest of the money to you in two weeks. That's when Burger Town pays me. Things have been tight, hours have been cut. And you know my car was stolen. Right out of the parking lot down there."
He didn't even look. Were thoughts of eviction crossing his mind? "Think about what I'm offering. Just consider it. I mean, you're not wearing a wedding ring. You're single, right?"
She noticed his slow smile and tried to ignore the glances at her body. "I'm a fabulous dating coach. Dating coach," she repeated when she saw the gleam in his eyes. "I help people meet people. I'm good at it. I charge a reasonable fee. Very reasonable."
"You're good at it, eh?" His nice smile turned into a leer. "In exchange for the rest of rent?" He eyed her apartment's door again, and she knew he wasn't thinking about her intruder. "Sounds like fun."
"Dating coach," she said again. "Nothing more. I don't do sex stuff. You seem like the kind of guy who could use a good woman." As his scowl returned, apprehension fluttered in her belly. "Okay, a not-so-good woman? An easygoing and fun one. Hmm."
"What, I look desperate?" "Of course not! I just want to help—"
"I never need help when it comes to women." He pocketed her check. "I ain't interested. Besides, if you were any good at your business, what're you doing living here and working in fast food?" He gave her a pointed look, then turned his back. "Two weeks, then I get the rest of it. No excuses."
She felt her lips tighten into a grimace. He was definitely feeling mean. Too bad for him.
Too bad for her. Flipping burgers, even part-time, bummed her out. Though it was only until her business caught on. She had a gift for matchmaking. A real, honest-to-God gift.
She spent every spare penny on advertising her matchmaking business. But people didn't believe her when she claimed a 99 percent success rate of making matches that resulted in permanent relationships. They surely wouldn't believe her if she told them how she did it.
Nothing excited her as much as using her special skill. Nothing felt as satisfying as trusting her instincts and her prescient visions. Nothing thrilled her like consulting her X-rated imagination to hook up her clients. Well, almost nothing.
Her dangerous personal fantasies with always-faceless ravishers didn't count, she told herself. They didn't count at all. Those were strictly and permanently for fantasyland only.
She gave a brief shake of her head, dismissing the thoughts.
She watched the landlord's departure with a professional's assessing stare. He descended the worn steps of the fourplex with a furtive but muscular grace. Lower blue-collar. Very single. Probably frequented Riverport's numerous strip clubs. But he had a nice gruff voice, broad shoulders, tapered hips, and the smudged jeans and easy gait of a man who spent a bit of time outdoors. Not bad. Not her thing, but not bad. Who'd be into him?
Like images on a jackpot's spinning wheel, faces of women she'd known and counseled turned over in her mind. Jill, Vickie, Tina. All taken now, thanks to her. Tamara had moved to Southern California. But she could've totally seen Tamara being into him.
She asked the question of her special intuition, then watched the answer: Tamara getting it on with the landlord.
Charlotte stared into the stairway's handrail, its metal imperfections coalescing into the magic visions.
In her mind, Tamara rubbed against the landlord's strong body, clawing his jeans off with only a little less desperation than his own feral dive for her nipples as he shoved her shirt up over her breasts, jammed her bra up, too, and took first one breast then the other into his mouth. No finesse. But Tamara liked it. Rough and straightforward, a little dirty but nothing too kinky.
Charlotte leaned against the rough stucco of her building with a sigh and made the movie in her head stop.
Tamara was gone and the landlord didn't want to pay Charlotte for her matchmaking services. That was a problem. No one was currently paying her. She'd hooked up all the clients.
Well, all but the last woman. The difficult woman who represented Charlotte's only failure.
Charlotte pushed herself from the apartment building's rough stucco wall, ducked inside to grab her mailbox keys and outgoing mail. Maybe a check or a client referral would be waiting in the box.
Her maiden name listed on her mailbox still had the power to bemuse her. She should never have married Cory. His face had never appeared in any of her visions.
Nobody's had, for her.
A breeze gusted, propelling a chill that lifted the hairs on her arms. Sweat cooled under her shirt. The wind probably heralded another of Riverport's frequent fall rainstorms, though the sun still beat down with noontime vigor.
Who'd dared to attempt to break into her apartment in broad daylight?
Would they have succeeded if she hadn't switched shifts at the last moment with a coworker? What if she hadn't been home? She supposed she'd have returned to find her few remaining belongings stolen. The divorce hadn't left her with much—she hadn't wanted much, just the dog, her exotic fish, and a little money to start her business.
Cory gave her the money and fish but convinced her to let him keep Hoagie at the house. Said the little dog they'd both raised from a puppy would be happier with his own backyard. He offered visiting privileges on weekends.
To her surprise, he'd honored her wish to stop by for a brief visit every weekend. Even more to her surprise, they got along better as friends than spouses. They'd never be close, though. Not after what he'd done to her.
Today she could've used Hoagie in her home. The little pup's barking might've scared off the lock picker.
She shivered again when she realized she might've returned home to find the intruder already inside, waiting for her.
She looked around with a careful, vigilant gaze. Nobody.
Freaking herself out over nothing. The lock picker was long gone.
She opened the mailbox quickly. Bills, bills, ads, bills ... aha, a big card.
Charlotte pushed in the outgoing mail—bills plus a wedding card to her latest satisfied client.
She returned to her apartment. She dumped everything with the keys and ripped open the big envelope eagerly. Another thank-you card. It came with wedding photos from some exotic island with lots of sand and palm trees. Charlotte grinned at the sight of the former client wearing nothing but a bikini bottom and a big smile. The card's handwritten message waxed eloquent with gratitude. The woman promised referrals. The clients usually did. Sometimes they even remembered to do it.
Charlotte gnawed her knuckle with the ongoing worry even as she enjoyed Tina's clear happiness in the photo. She remembered watching the couple's first movie. The woman's expression had stretched into sexual ecstasy as that very same smiling gentleman, now wearing colorful swim trunks as he posed casually next to her, had screwed her enthusiastically.
Some women had all the X-rated movie luck.
Chapter TwoAfter locking the front door behind her, then checking to make sure it still felt like a solid and secure barrier, Charlotte bent to scoop up cell phone parts.
Battery, plastic backing, triangular chip of plastic, phone. She inserted the battery in its slot. It stuck out a little and the plastic battery cover wouldn't go back on.
She tested the phone. At least it worked.
Which was a good thing since her last client would call any minute. An "urgent" session.
Charlotte snorted. Everything was urgent to Gail. Despite providing full-service phone sessions to the woman for months, mostly on Gail's fickle schedule, no prospects for a match had presented themselves. Charlotte had to respect Gail's urgency. The failure was embarrassing and a little baffling to Charlotte.
So much so that Charlotte had rearranged her burger-flipping job schedule to accommodate Gail's call.
She checked the time again. Any minute.
Charlotte sank onto her old couch, one of the few pieces of furniture that had made it onto the moving truck with the many boxes of her hastily packed stuff.
Her right hand slid over her thigh, hesitated, then crept to her leg's outer edge. Through the denim, her fingers read the lumpy old scar like a strange Braille communication. It said nothing good.
Charlotte shuddered, forced her hand away from her thigh.
She thought of her decrepit neighborhood and shabby apartment. She'd expected more success in her business after the divorce. Her matchmaking skill was unique.
She had to grow her business. Her ads, her networking and fliers, nothing worked well enough. Word of mouth had netted her a steady trickle of clients, but even that was drying up.
The good news: All her other clients were deliriously happy, and the fact delighted her. The bad news: Gail was the one who remained unmatched.
Charlotte peered at her phone. Late again. C'mon, Gail. Let's get it over with.
In the near future, she promised herself, she'd have so many clients she'd have to beat them away with a stick. Nicer clients than Gail. Which wouldn't be difficult.
As if conjured, the phone rang, flashing Gail's too-familiar number.
Too many months, too few repeat dates.
Excerpted from Rough Play by CHRISTINA CROOKS Copyright © 2011 by Christina Crooks. Excerpted by permission of APHRODISIA BOOKS. 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
Welcome to the dark side of BDSM! For awhile now I've enjoyed erotic romance novels set in the BDSM lifestyle. Rough Play just blew my comfort zone out of the water, but in a good way! Get ready to learn what the SM in BDSM really stands for! Charlotte has dark passions, but is too afraid to let them out. Her ex husband destroyed her yearning to be dominated. With her past behind her, she is starting a new life as a dating coach. Problem is she has a challenging client who wants to dip her uneducated toes into the BDSM scene. One missed safety call later, Charlotte is forced back into a world she secretly craves. Martin is an unconventional man; a loving son, business owner, inventor and sadist. Not to mention he is also being blackmailed. Unable to find a way out of his predicament, he is dismayed that a as a Master Dominate, he is being forced to submit. At least he can still be in control when dealing with Charlotte and her needs, or so he thinks. First off, there is no mystery here. You know who the villain is right off, but it really is okay. You get to sit back and cringe how he is manipulating the situation, making his eventual downfall all the sweeter. There were so many new terms, toys and experiences in Rough Play that I had to do internet searches to understand what I was reading. If I would have just been patient with Ms. Crooks, she explained it all. She did a fabulous job educating the reader without feeling like you are in a classroom. Bravo My Dear! Rough Play is not your normal BDSM romance novel. I would label it hardcore for the romance genre. Most BDSM in the erotic romance genre has mild to strong D/s relationships, mild spanking to the point of pink/red bottoms, light bondage and possibly a flogger or two. That is so not the case in this book. This book should have come with a warning label: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!! Definitely leave these lifestyle practices to the professionals. The BDSM scenes were extreme in context; punishing spankings, nipple clamps with teeth (yes teeth), consensual non-consenting sex (simulated rape), whippings, needle play, strong sadistic / masochistic undertones, and a whole new lifestyle term I have never heard of before - Gorean. Don't let the fear of the violent sex play scare you away from this book though. If you are remotely interested in the BDSM scene and enjoy reading about it, take a walk on this side of the street. Ms. Crooks does a spectacular job with the romance and the realism in regards to the passionate pull of the characters. They both fulfilled each other's needs and desires skillfully. While mainstream romance readers may not be familiar with this take of literary BDSM, it doesn't make it any less beautiful. Rough Play is a extremely gratifying. The subject matter is darkly compelling and sensually invigorating. This is a very mature adult read. The plot is dangerous and gripping, while the love story is dominating. This book really had me sitting back and thinking. It is NOT a light read. So come on over to the dark side, we are waiting for you. You won't be disappointed!
Gail might be a pain-in-the-butt client, but she¿s Charlotte¿s only client currently utilizing her floundering dating service. Realizing after a long discussion that dissuading Gail from meeting a known Dominant at the BDSM club Subspace is an exercise in futility, Charlotte agrees to be her ¿safety¿ call. At the appropriate time, Gail calls Charlotte but the call gets cut off leaving her with an uneasy feeling. When Charlotte goes to Subspace to search for Gail, will she find much more than she bargained for? Christina Crooks writes a very intriguing BDSM novel ramping up the sexual tension and variety of dangerous sex in Rough Play. Ms. Crooks¿s Rough Play is much more than a BDSM romp¿instead it is a novel depicting what can happen when the sex gets too rough. I immediately identified and found myself rooting for its main character Charlotte who¿s just trying to keep afloat after a bad divorce. Parlaying a gift of being able to ¿read¿ when two people are a perfect match, she¿s started up a dating agency but right now she only has one client, Gail. Gail is a real pill, insisting after vanilla matches, she needs a Dom. Charlotte knows all about the D/s scene having suffered under her ex-husband¿s cruel hands. He¿s part of a sect which follows the Gorean community¿s rules and devalues women believing they are nothing except mindless slaves to serve their Masters unconditionally. Too soon into their conversation, Charlotte arrives at the conclusion that headstrong Gail will go to Subspace to find a Master and agrees to be her backup that night. Settling down for a quiet night, Charlotte knows something has gone horribly wrong when Gail¿s call drops. Reluctantly she travels to Subspace, where she runs smack into Max, the dominant owner of the club. OMG...she gets an instantaneous heat rush letting her know he¿s her perfect match! Max is intrigued with Charlotte, turning up their sexual heat and states unequivocally he desires her to be his kinky play partner. Can Charlotte put one awful D/s relationship into perspective and reach out for her perfect match? If you¿re looking for a kinky romp, light on plot, Rough Play is not your book. Ms. Crooks¿s novel is cautionary tale as one woman discovers her worst nightmare while another finds fulfillment on the other side of the D/s coin. Christina Crooks is not afraid to explore extreme BDSM play, incorporating it into novels which linger in your mind way beyond the final page. I can only wonder and eagerly pant in anticipation to read Ms. Crooks¿s next offering as she delves deeper into my beloved genre. Victoria from TwoLips Reviews
Charlotte left her now ex-husband Corey aka Kartane because he took their dominant-submissive relationship to abusive extremes. Planning to avoid any SM relationship, she opens up a consulting business the Dating Coach. A client Gail considers joining a popular Subspace BDSM club. Gail meets the owner Master Martin and Kartane. Charlotte becomes concerned when she fails to hear from Gail. She reluctantly goes to the club. Although she vowed to stay away from the underground fetish community, Charlotte feels she owes it to Gail to learn what happened to her. At Subspace, Charlotte meets Master Martin and sees her former spouse. As she falls under Martin's dominating spell, Charlotte fears for Gail and for herself. This is an engaging BDSM romance in which Martin must prove to Charlotte that a dom-sub relationship does not have to become abusive. However, their changing relationship is not explored deep enough for readers to accept her trying again with a new master while her client may be in peril. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy the erotic adventures in Subspace. Harriet Klausner
Wow. Kudos on the cover.
I could not get into this book at all. It was slow starting and just did not grab my attention. I could not get past the first 25 pages. Disappointed.