Cassandra Walters has always followed the rules…until now. Introduced to the erotic pleasures of total submission, she spends her nights in the company of her master, doing as she’s told and surrendering to exquisite ecstasy. But indulging in her newly discovered passion is a problem for Cass. She’s caught in a drug smuggling ring with no way out and nowhere to turn. Cass is not just running scared. She’s running for her life…
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By KATANA COLLINS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Katana Collins
All rights reserved.
William Holtz rubbed at the wrinkles along his aging brow. His hair was almost entirely white, and Cass had no doubt she could lay claim to at least a few of those gray hairs. "We've been through this. You are not in charge of setting up trials. We have sales teams who go around finding hospitals willing to participate—"
"Fine. I respect that my job is to create the drugs. But, sir, please ... look at the studies that have come out of Canada. This drug is a miracle worker with heart disease. With a little funding, this could be the medicine that puts us—"
Holtz snatched the paper from her hands, dropping it in the out-box teetering on the edge of his desk. "I'll send your research to the sales team."
Cassandra pressed her lips together and took a deep breath. Rage filled her, heating to a boiling point like a too-full teakettle. She took a second breath, inhaling deeply through her nose and releasing it slowly on a count to five ... just as she'd been taught to do when that temper of hers would flare. "Thank you, sir. But with all due respect, we both know they're just going to sit on it—"
"Well, Cass, they know the market research. They know the trials that are highest in media priority, and at the moment, heart disease isn't it. That's what they're paid for—to follow the trends and find what will gain the most sales and funding."
Cass's heart sank and her stomach lurched with the imminent failure. She needed this to be legalized. Needed it to be readily available to anyone with a prescription pad handy—then maybe she'd be free of this burden. A simple law of supply and demand ... if it was readily available, nobody would pressure her to bring the goods in illegally.
"That'll be all, Cassandra," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. She pushed off the arms of her chair, heat flooding her chest along with just enough courage to be brave for a few more seconds. And a few seconds was all she needed, right?
"When I joined this company, it was to make a difference." Snatching her research from his out-box, she slapped it onto the desk in front of him once more, pointing to it with a stiff finger. "And this can make a difference."
She pushed off his desk, ignoring her name being called from behind her, and slammed the door on her way out. In a huff, she fell into her cubicle chair, opening her work e-mail. Well, crap. That probably could have been handled better. She dropped her head into her hands, resting her elbows on her desk. So much for what she'd been taught, remaining calm. Being in charge—dominating a room requires that you keep your cool. An emotional reaction is never a reaction based out of dominance. Her master's voice echoed in her mind and Cass hated that dropped feeling in the pit of her stomach. If he had seen her in there, he would have been disappointed. Being in control of a situation means being in control of your own anger—and she had lost that control.
"Hey, Cass ... Cass? Cassandra!"
She shook herself from her daze, her mother's pearls clicking with the movement. Oh, boy. She had done such a good job at zoning out Holtz, she hadn't noticed her colleague calling out to her. She looked up to catch Zooey's eyes on her, her eyebrows furrowed.
"You all right over there?" Zooey asked.
"I'm great. Just tired." She offered her a shaky smile. "Holtz's being a grade-A jerk, of course."
Zooey snickered and resumed typing, clicking the keyboard. "As if that's anything new." She pushed her plastic, black-rimmed glasses higher onto her nose, her eyes flickering to Cass's, narrowed in thought. Cass shifted her weight in the desk chair, suddenly feeling as though everything about her was a flashing, warning sign. Her skin was too tight, her makeup too heavy, the pearls she wore every day quickly turning into dozens of boulders bogging her down. She pressed a hand against her cardigan, feeling the weight of the skeleton key she wore beneath her shirt every day on a thin silver chain.
"You sure that's it?" Zooey repeated. "You don't seem like yourself these days."
After a pause, Cass nodded. "I'm fine. Just stayed up too late reading." Her throat was tight as the lie slipped out. When did she get so good at lying? She smoothed her lab coat with a sweaty palm as she stood, empty coffee mug in the other hand. "Need a refill?" She wiggled the cup and Zooey shook her head no, her gaze returning to the computer screen.
Just as she stood to make her way down the hall to her private lab, there was a ding from the elevators. Through the glass partition she saw Dr. Brown step off the elevator and into their little lobby. A smile spread across her face. "Dr. Brown!" Cass moved to the front desk, buzzing him through the front doors. "What are you doing here?" she asked, tucking her iPad under her arm.
He smiled back at her, his clean-cut hair recently trimmed around his ears. "Oh, you know me." He grinned. "Any excuse to come talk to a couple of pretty ladies." He shot a wink to Zooey, who blushed, giving him a small wave. The two held eye contact for a heady moment before Zooey ducked her head back to the computer screen.
Cass rolled her eyes. The clean-cut doctor was probably every woman's ideal man. He was the boy next door: wholesome, or at least seemingly so. He probably spent weekends mowing his lawn and watching football games. "Cute," she said and raised an eyebrow. "Now, what can I really do for you?"
He laughed and dipped a hand into the front pocket of his trousers. "Dr. Moore and I ran out of samples. We have a few uninsured clients we wanted to make sure can get some meds. Can we get a few more samples? Just until Marcy comes back with the next shipment." He held up two hands in a Boy Scouts' honor sort of promise.
Cass walked off to the side to a small storage center, unlocking it with her master key. "Of course. How is Dr. Moore doing?"
"He's great. I heard you two had a meeting about some new Canadian drug, right?"
Cass froze, looking over her shoulder for any sign of Holtz. "Informally, yes," she said quietly. She handed him a plastic bag of samples. "There you go." She did her best to offer him a smile, though it wobbled right along with her stomach.
"Thanks, Cass," he said and moved for the door, pausing, hand hovering at the doorknob. Flicking a glance over her shoulder to Zooey, he lowered his voice to a whisper. "Hey, if you ever want to do lunch or something," he flicked a hand into his lapel pocket, pulling out a business card, and handed it to her, "let me know, okay?"
She nodded, unsure of how long she stood there looking at his card. Was he asking her out? "Um, sure. Thanks." Thanks? She was a moron.
He smiled one more time before popping onto the elevator with a final wave.
As Cass strolled back to her desk, she turned the card over in her hands. Call me was scribbled on the back, with Richard Brown's initials signed after. She slid the card into her top drawer, slamming it shut a little too loudly, and Zooey caught her eyes with a raised brow.
Cass ignored her and slipped down the hall into her lab. Her personal space, where she would immerse herself in the latest chemical compounds. Sitting down, she pushed aside a microscope, turned her iPad on, and flipped open the e-mail account that had been specifically made just for her master. Her stomach tightened as she saw his return address in bold print in her in-box. It was the only return address ever in this mailbox, but all the same, flutters of anxiety and longing never failed to surface with each new correspondence.
A trembling finger hovered over the screen and Cass paused for all of a second before she clicked open the new e-mail. It wasn't a long e-mail by the standards he had set, but even his words typed out were demanding. Bold. And sent shockwaves through her body.
Did I not ask you to clean your plate this morning? Did I not say to you that you must finish every morsel of scrambled egg white and grapefruit I set out for you?
Cassandra froze—she had finished her entire breakfast. That was one of the basics, even though she gritted her teeth at every ridiculous rule he created. Rule number one in Master's home was to finish all meals. A nervous warmth spread through her core and she hugged her arms into her torso, setting the iPad on the table in front of her. She certainly didn't like disappointing him—and yet those punishments. Those delicious punishments. Her eyes fluttered closed and she ran a finger over the tender flesh around her wrists where she had been bound to his bed a mere nine hours earlier. There was a dampness between her legs that hadn't been there moments before and a tiny whimper escaped her lips at the recollection.
A door shut somewhere down the hall and Cass's eyes snapped back open. Jeez. She needed to get a grip; the office wasn't the place for fantasies. Which, considering this man owned the dang office building she worked in, made it that much more difficult to keep her fantasies in check. Everything here was a reminder of the man she loved.
She knew she should shut down the iPad. Read the rest of the e-mail over her lunch break. But as always with this man, reason and logic took a backseat to desire. With a quick glance over her shoulder, she leaned in, opening an image attachment. She wet her lips, readying her throbbing body for some sort of naughty depiction of that chiseled body sitting in his private penthouse office, his hard cock in hand. Instead, the image was of her breakfast: two minuscule remnants of egg white and some juice from the grapefruit were all that was on the plate. She practically had to squint even to see what he was talking about.
Rosa sent me this image of your breakfast. Does this look like every morsel to you? If a fork will not pick up the last crumbs, I expect you to lick your plate clean with that skillful tongue of yours. While I am disappointed that you failed in such a simple task, I do look forward to having you over my knee, watching your skin redden beneath my flattened palm. As you did finish the majority of your breakfast, your punishment will not be grave. However, since I have other plans for your lesson this evening at the masquerade, I will be collecting you for lunch today at noon sharp, when you will receive your punishment.
Your assignment, to be finished before the end of day, is to send me a description of what you would do to me if our situations were reversed. What would you do—make me do, ask of me, and do for me if I was your submissive and you my dominant? I want details with none of that frilly "down there" shit. Be bold. Be graphic. For this assignment, since you are the dominant in the scenario, there is no punishment. Just pure fantasy. I want to know it all. And I want to help make your fantasies reality.
Oh, God. He was coming for her at noon? She shifted her glance to the clock. That was in less than fifteen minutes. And there wasn't a doubt in her mind that during the hour lunch break, very little time would be spent eating. Her chest heaved with an excited breath. God, she wanted him. Every night. Her body craved his; even pressed flush against him, it was never enough.
Was he saying that the roles would be reversed tonight? Would he actually allow her to dominate him? When they had discussed the possibility of her being a dominant, not a submissive, she'd actually laughed in his face—but his had remained perfectly stoic. Sure, she wasn't exactly taking to the submissive lifestyle easily, but that didn't automatically mean she was a dominant. Did it? She enjoyed the punishments that were on the lighter side: being tied up, blindfolds, spanking. It was the ball gags, nipple clamps, and ordering her around in her daily life that she took issue with. Honestly; who makes someone lick every damn crumb from a plate? The thought was ludicrous. She wouldn't make a three-year-old do that, let alone a thirty-three-year-old!
Christ, she hadn't had a parent—or anyone for that matter—telling her what to do in thirteen years. Thirteen years of being in charge. And here she was in her early thirties, getting chastised for leaving crumbs on her goddamn plate—and worst of all, giddy and giggly over what he would do to her because of them! She smoothed her hair back with her palms, even though she could tell from the taut pull on her scalp that the tight, low bun still held every hair in place.
Could she be more fucked up? Shit ... or more of a hypocrite, for that matter? How many times had she scolded her little sister for lewd behavior? She constantly preached to Jessie to stay safe, be independent, be strong-willed ... an exhalation blew through her pressed lips like a leak in a tire. As if Jess needed any push at all to be strong-willed. That girl was downright stubborn.
Cass pinched the small buttons of her cardigan, rolling them around between her fingers as the lapel of her lab coat brushed the back of her hand. All her life, she had been a prep: cardigans, pearls, Keds ... but inside? On the inside, she was leather and silk. And when she was with her master, she was no longer Cassandra Walters, the girl whose parents died when she was in college. She wasn't the girl who had to come home and finish raising her teenage sister. No, with him, she was a sex goddess. She fisted her hands around the cardigan tighter, the buttons suddenly feeling like bars in a cage. She wanted them off. All off.
All those years of scolding her sister, sacrificing friendships and lovers—and for what? After everything Cass went through to make sure Jess grew up in a safe environment, in the end it was Cass who had put Jess in danger. A lump settled in Cass's throat as she remembered the package that had arrived late last night. Whatever she did—wherever she went—Cass could feel eyes on her. People watched every step she made, and if even one was out of line, she'd be dead or jailed in seconds. But those eyes—was it the DEA? Were they Master's? Or were they—
"Cass." The sound of her name made her jump, nearly falling out of her seat as she slammed her iPad cover shut and released her hold on the cardigan. "A messenger just dropped this off for you."
Zooey held out a small envelope, her foot propping Cass's laboratory door open. With a shaky hand and a gulp, Cass reached for it, turning it over in her hands. A lobster-claw seal was over the flap and she swallowed. Her blood slowed to an icy crawl in her veins and that warmth—that tingly feeling she had experienced with the e-mail—receded into a frozen tundra.
She cleared her throat, and though she didn't quite trust her voice yet, she did her best to keep it steady. "Thanks, Zooey." Cass waited a few moments after the door shut before she peeled the envelope open, careful not to tear the seal.
The note had been written on a plain notecard embossed with the same seal and inside was the cleanest cursive Cass had ever seen. A feat, since she had always considered her own cursive to be the most meticulous. It was addressed to no one and the words were simple, straight to the point:
Changed Location. Will not meet in the tunnel, but outside near the docks at the wharf.
Cass's jaw twitched and her mouth set in a hard line. Why would he change the drop-off point? They had a system going and it was working beautifully. Or so she thought. At the very bottom of the note, she noticed another line in even smaller script:
PS – We expect the whole shipment this time.
She paused and her lungs constricted as though they were in a vice grip. She dipped her hand into her purse and pulled out the cheap lighter she kept on her at all times. She rolled it in her hands, feeling the lighter fluid slosh around inside the cheap plastic casing. Her head told her she needed to save the letter, get it to Sam down at the precinct for evidence, especially so that she'd have someone who knew where she would be tonight in case things went bad.
She needed the detective's help; she knew that. She knew it. And yet she was in too deep. Sam couldn't help her now. No one could.
Excerpted from Wicked Shots by KATANA COLLINS. Copyright © 2015 Katana Collins. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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