Marcy is hesitant to give her kink life a fresh start after an accident, but a triple-caramel cupcake may hold the answer.
Marcy Townsend is the new girl in town, according to the book club she’s joined. The friendships she has formed are growing, her new job is fulfilling and the new house is beginning to feel like home. Those new friends, though, don’t know what brought Marcy here. An accident that left Marcy injured—maybe permanently—has kept her from opening up to this new crowd. When the blind dates start, Marcy smiles and goes along, not expecting to be attracted to a man she meets on one.
Aaron Derrick lost his submissive to ambition. In the months since she left to find bigger things in her career, Aaron has fallen off the radar and kept to himself. But after he meets a mystery woman in a café, Aaron finds himself wondering if he could be missing out on something by avoiding the friendships he had before.
At the Sanctuary, a play space for the local kink community, Aaron and Marcy discover the wide web woven between them. Among friends, old and new, they try to discover if the two of them, despite their pasts, can develop something real.
Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of public sexual play and flogging.
Claire Wallace left town ten years ago. She hasn’t looked back at small town life—or Matt Brannon—until now.
When Claire Wallace grew up in West Haven, it was a sleepy town she wanted to escape. A job offer right out of high school was her ticket. Ten years later when she returns for a class reunion, Claire sees that the town she left is not the same place where she grew up.
Even Matt Brannon has changed. Back then he was good old Matty—good for a laugh and good on his word. He’d even been really good that night in the back of his truck. But now? He’s still a good guy, good at his job and doing good deeds all over town—but some things have definitely changed for the better.
Small town romances and high school reunions just aren’t the same after a trip to the Sanctuary. In a truly binding embrace, Claire and Matt may find that their something old may become something more.
Reader Advisory: This book contains some scenes of rope play.
General Release Date: 18th October 2016
Excerpt from Something Real
Marcy Townsend smiled tightly, holding her cell phone to her ear. “I swear, Jen, if you’ve set me up with another of those guys you talked to at some event you were at…”
On the other end, she heard the exasperated sigh. “Marcy, you never come out with us. How else are you supposed to meet people?”
Taking a deep, reviving breath, Marcy reminded her friend, “Jen, I work with people. I work for people. I have our book club. I have volunteer work. I am not lacking for people.”
“Then why did you say ‘yes’, Marce?”
Marcy’s perpetually pursed lips made their appearance as she bit the inside of her lower lip. She really hated Jen Brannon sometimes. The woman was far too insightful for her own good. The leader of their women’s literature book club was a self-admitted caretaker, and it seemed to come naturally. Marcy could have hated her if the tone had been anything but soft and caring. Jen had the talent of hitting hard with the tough questions but the compassion to not push the issue.
Marcy turned, pacing the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop. “At least tell me he doesn’t have a computer screen tan.”
“I can’t promise that, Marce. You know how it is. Summer break doesn’t exist for grown-ups.” Jen chuckled. “He has better hair than the last one, though. I promise.”
Marcy groaned. “Oh, God, Jen. Could it have been worse?” At the silence on the end of the line, Marcy stopped dead. “You mean it could have been worse? You seriously considered worse?” Marcy shuddered at the thought of what would have trumped the permed mullet from Jen’s last matchmaking attempt.
“I didn’t say I considered it,” Jen hedged. “And Troy was a perfectly nice guy. Great hands.”
“He took me to get chili dogs, Jen. I wore a dress. And heels. He was so obviously not my type.” Marcy sighed, followed by silence on both ends. Marcy cringed, feeling Jen’s disappointment through the phone line.
“Jen, I need to go. He’s probably inside and I’m standing out here like an idiot. What was his name again?”
“Nathan. And you wore the cute blue dress, right? I told him you’d be wearing blue.” Jen sounded truly hopeful, so Marcy confirmed she was, only feeling a little guilty as she looked down at the modest blue blouse she wore with her pencil skirt and pumps. She said goodbye, taking a few more deep breaths as she hung up her cell phone, carefully placing it into the dedicated pocket of her attaché-sized purse.
Jen couldn’t help her optimism. Having found the man she would marry when she was in college, she wanted the same kind of love and enjoyment they still got from each other, almost twenty years later, for everyone…everywhere…that she had ever met. Whether she met them at events for her gallery or at the bi-weekly book club meetings or, like Marcy, in the checkout lane at their local grocery. Marcy knew, from her own experience, that the relationship Jen and her husband had was a one-in-a-million chance. After watching marriages from every side of her fall apart—from her best friends’ to her co-workers’ to her parents’—she had resigned herself to the theory that things like open communication, true love and complete monogamy were things of legend and myth.
She opened the door of the café, making her way to the counter to order. She schooled herself to look solely at the menu or the décor and not look curiously around for the man she was scheduled to meet.
The café seemed clean—something she was pleasantly surprised by. This area near the college in town was notorious for dark storefronts, kept that way to disguise the owners’ disdain for cleanliness. The clientele in those delis and bars seemed to echo their surroundings. The unwashed hair and torn jeans set was such a contrast to the crowd of professionals that were currently populating the tables around her.
Excerpt from Something Old
The old neighborhood was nearly unrecognizable. Claire crept down the residential streets in her BMW rental. The sunglasses covering her eyes masked furrowed brows as her view took in the run-down houses and the weeds decorating the cracks of the sidewalks. She didn’t even have to think about the left turn, then right and right again onto the block that would take her to the address where her childhood home should have been.
She’d heard about the fires that had destroyed most of the houses. Had it been two years now or three since she’d taken the stilted call, distant in more than physical miles? She tried to recall, picturing the moment.
The shock took her back a step. It had been seven years. She’d been wearing her Betsey Johnson herringbone suit, a perfect choice for closing the condo deal with the music industry couple. He had been flamboyantly straight, enthusiastically creative and gushed constantly about the ‘feel of the space’. The woman had been buttoned up in a bold plaid print pantsuit, on her brand-new smartphone. Claire remembered envying the flashy phone from the panel-driven commercials. The sale had gone through the wife, clearly the more business-minded half of the couple, and Claire had been briefly, joyously, celebrating the incoming commission when she’d gotten the call from her once-home.
Matty was still a good old boy, the small town hero of the community volunteer response team. Claire knew it had likely been injury and a hospital stay that had kept him from calling her immediately, but he hadn’t mentioned it. Smoke inhalation or having crawled into some collapsed building to haul a helpless creature out… That was Matty all the way.
Allison Parker’s house was gone. That great big corner lot, once with the gorgeous white Victorian house, stood desolate and empty now. Claire pulled over across the sleepy street then opened her door. As she stared, unfolding herself from the seat of her BMW Z4, the memories came flying back.
The retaining wall remained, where they had all practiced their balance. Lines of kids would crowd that corner in the summer, tiptoeing along the narrow concrete, chanting nonsensical rhymes as they skipped rope, hopscotched and cartwheeled over the sidewalks at the wall’s base. They had been a mix of boys and girls at ages six, seven and ten, all dressed in the ragtag play clothes of summer—cutoff shorts and T-shirts from camp. The bikes would be crashed together, piled at the edge of the yard in the haste to get their turn to swordfight across the precarious perch. In her memories, Claire could see all their faces—red-haired Ted Monroe, trailed by his toddling little sister, Sara Dawson and her giant blue eyes, and Matty, always bandaged.
Allison had been queen of the neighborhood then, preening every day her mother would come outside with lemonade or popsicles for every kid gathered in their yard. The other mothers would sometimes join Mrs. Parker up on that wide wraparound porch, all of them perfectly attired in their chinos and silk-shell sleeveless tops.
As they’d gotten older, the wall had become the hangout for the girls. Allison, Marissa, Sara, Kayla and Claire would perch on the concrete discussing fashion, giggling over movies and watching the boys speed by on their bikes. But now the house was gone.
Surrounding the lot stood broken pieces of the neighboring houses. She’d been invited inside every one of them in those years past. She’d babysat for the Grants, had snuck into Matty’s bedroom after the senior bonfire, had sleepovers at Marissa’s all through middle school. Wouldn’t they all be surprised to see her now?
Claire pulled out of the neighborhood with its closely built homes and tragic past, turning toward town. The feeling of misery clung to her and she longed to shake free of it. The hotel had been a lucky find—something resembling luxury, even here, in small town scarcity. She could get checked in there before having to endure the inevitable trips down long-repressed memory lanes. No reason to hurry.
* * * *
Standing impatiently in the hotel lobby, Clair clicked her thumbnails against the screen of her smartphone. She typed out a quick email to the prospective buyers of her latest location. The condo had been an amazing find, just off the main shopping district in Chicago. The building was tall, adding the feel of stature to what would otherwise be an unremarkable apartment with its two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Claire could appreciate the clean lines of the structure and expected the sterile white walls to sell well to the old-monied crone who had tied up all her time lately with her endless questions about the property. This email left Claire feeling unsettled, tendrils of doubt about the woman’s decision creeping in.
The family of four in front of her finished the process of getting keys to their standard two-queen bedroom. Mommy and Daddy would likely end up regretting bringing the brats on vacation once they were both crowded in one bed, Claire thought as she put her phone aside.
The attendant seemed pleasant, giving a former-high-school-cheerleader grin of welcome as Claire advanced the few steps closer to the counter, the click of her stilettos sharp on the tile floor.
“Are we here for the reunion this weekend?” the smiley girl chirped.
Claire let her lips curl in a tight, grimacing sort of smile. “I am. Reservation for Wallace, please.”
The girl pressed a brochure over the counter, rather than pulling up the information in the computer as Claire expected. “Oh, you’ll have so much fun! The city sure has changed since graduation, hasn’t it?” Pointing to an itinerary that Claire had already received in her email, Smiley began describing the new banquet hall, the ballroom in their hotel, the businesses that had opened and the tours of the school Claire had attended. Claire’s attempt at pleasantry disappeared.
“I’m sorry. I said, reservation for Wallace, please.” The stare pinned the girl’s smile in place stiffly. Claire looked pointedly at her phone and armful of luggage. “I’d like to just get to my room, thank you.”
“Right.” The girl’s manner became clipped. With minimal further interaction, Claire was in possession of a key to one of the single king-bed suites. In her room, which was thankfully quiet, Claire swiftly unpacked the few items she needed and hung her wardrobe in the tiny closet.
The time prior to the opening dinner passed quickly for Claire, a flurry of emails and phone calls that would hopefully lead to some new showing appointments being made in the weeks to come. It satisfied her to know that she could still work remotely during this trip. There was really no reason for her to be present since the traffic to the condo had lessened drastically in the last week, but the knowledge that she could still communicate with potential clients helped to soothe that anxiety. Her alarm softly ‘pinged’ to tell her it was time to complete her work. The dress she’d worn to travel would have been sufficient for the evening, but she chose to change anyway.
The classic cut of the other dress emphasized the figure she worked hard for. In gunmetal gray, it couldn’t officially be called a ‘little black dress’ but was versatile enough for its purpose. The shantung silk from Zac Posen had closed more than one sale for her, personal and professional alike.
Claire had learned quickly that in sales, appearance was everything. Luxury was all about the look and feel, a hard-learned lesson for a girl who’d grown up in comfort and not privilege. After her first failing attempts—two years of trying to break into the market of luxury property management—Claire had been determined to change. The pitying looks from her clients who wore Hugo, Versace, de la Renta and Gucci, had made her hyperaware of her own out-of-season, knockoff wardrobe. Determined to make the adjustments, Claire had done exhaustive research, gathered a small fortune—or so it had felt to her—and had bought her first designer suit. Donna Karan had transformed her, and her next sale went to the image improvement. She wore labels now, bought designer accessories, worked to the bone and had the growing reputation to prove it. She went to sleep alone, but that was preferable to the alternative, wasn’t it? No need to complicate her life with something messy.