The kinkier the sex, the higher the price tag…
Ryan Black has admired Celestina Sala from afar for years, her lush body and sensual nature calling to the dominant in him. For just as many years, Celestina was off-limits—married, proud and self-sufficient. But all that has changed, and now Celestina is in debt and in need…and available. Ryan proposes a contract: he’ll pay off her debt if she gives herself to him in bed, yielding control in exchange for the pain and pleasure he’ll bring them both.
There are words for women who take money for sex, and none of them are nice ones. Celestina never thought she’d have to sink this low, but giving up control sounds more enticing than ever before. And suddenly it’s not about having to give in to Ryan. It’s about wanting to.
But when Ryan’s dark past comes to light, they may both be in over their heads. The terms of his contract say her body is his…but her heart may be another story.
One thing is for sure—now that Ryan has Celestina, he can never let her go.
Here’s an excerpt:
She arrived late and flustered, speaking to the maître d’ as she scanned the room, hesitant, as if she expected to be thrown out. The man led her across the room and Ryan caught the moment she spotted him, that enticing blush heightening her aristocratic cheekbones even as she kept her spine erect and head high. He’d expected something considerably farther south of his heart to ping at the sight of her and her unique combination of pride and timidity. She drew a sort of affectionate protectiveness out of him. The other face of wanting to possess her entirely, perhaps.
He stood as she reached the table, took her warm hands—damp from nerves?—and brushed her cheek with a kiss, which made her blush harder. “You look beautiful,” he murmured, wondering what discomfited her so about the gesture.
Nodding away the maître d’, he seated Celestina himself, enjoying the glimpse of the dip between her breasts as the boat neck of her black sheath dress sagged when she scooted the chair forward. He sat across from her and poured them both wine. At least she didn’t argue this time, though she frowned at it ever so slightly.
“I haven’t been here before,” she said. “Lunch must cost as much as you’re paying me.”
“Not quite.” He kept his voice smooth, refusing to rise to her bait just yet. Holding up his wineglass, he waited for her to lift hers. “To a delicious meal on a beautiful day with scintillating company,” he said, before she could suggest toasting to whatever bill she intended to pay with today’s fee.
Though she clinked her glass to his and sipped, she regarded him with suspicion over the rim. When he reached over the table to take her hand, she startled enough that he lost some of his patience. She’d better not be planning to break up with him. “Good Lord! I’m not going to yank you over the table and turn you over my knee—why are you so tense?”
She fired at that. Better than looking like a cat about to take off running. “I don’t understand what I’m doing here.”
He didn’t grind his teeth, through great force of will. “I wanted to see you. Talk to you. It occurred to me that it’s not balanced to see each other only when we’re enacting a scene, because you might not communicate with me freely under those circumstances. Don’t worry—” he added when she looked askance at the other diners “—no one can overhear, that’s why I asked for this table. So I added in opportunities for us to spend time talking. Besides which, I enjoy your company.”
If he hoped to hear her offer the same, she disappointed him. Instead of replying, she picked up the menu and studied it as if it were the most fascinating thing she’d ever seen. A complex and layered woman, his Celestina. Skittish and going to lengths to protect herself. Perhaps the ex had treated her worse than she let on. He liked that option—not about him in that case.
Giving her the time to decide—on her menu selection and what tack she’d take next—he soothed himself by savoring how lovely she looked, with the sun glinting off her shining dark hair, just a hint of red in the black. The simple dress should have been demure, but on her lush curves became as voluptuous as the red dress had been. An orderly soul, she’d likely be wearing black lingerie under it. Maybe thong panties, to prevent a line in the closely clinging material.
“When you look at me like that,” she muttered at the menu, “I feel like I’m the one being served up for lunch.”
He relaxed at her words, relieved of a worry he hadn’t fully formed. It shouldn’t matter that she was as aware of him as he was of her, but it did. More, it meant something that she offered the observation. A kind of gift, telling him how she felt without him dragging it out of her.
“Yes. I could devour you whole,” he said softly.
She set the menu aside and met his gaze. Then she shook her head, as if clearing it, and sighed out a sharp breath. “And then you say things like that…I really can’t decide how I feel about any of this, Ryan.”
She’d called him by his name—the only other time since he’d had his hand buried in her and she’d been nearly beyond reason. Offering him another kind of intimacy. Or signaling her intent to break it off with him. He marshaled the many arguments he’d prepared to convince her otherwise. “Tell me about it.”
She glanced around at the other diners again, all too far away and too involved in their own loud conversations to overhear, but still hesitated. “I don’t know how to handle things like…what happened last night.”
“Be more specific. Was there one part you found it more difficult to handle than another?”
She tilted her head, the precise wing of hair brushing the similar line of her jaw, giving him a bemused look. “It’s amazing to me the way you just discuss this stuff. At a public restaurant.” She gestured to the other diners, as if he might have forgotten their presence.
“We’ll have our food boxed up and go somewhere more private to talk.”
“No,” she said, hastily enough to make him raise his eyebrows. “That is, it’s better for me to be in public with you for now.”
That irked him. “I would never do anything with you that you don’t agree to. That’s why you have a safeword and everything is spelled out in the tablet.”
“It’s not that—though I could argue the Mrs. Matthews thing crossed that line—it’s more that…” She trailed off, looking so distressed he wanted to pull her across the table, indeed, but to kiss and caress her senseless so she’d stop thinking so damn much.
The waiter arrived to take their order and she had to fumble with her menu, seeming to have forgotten what she’d chosen, if she’d truly picked anything before. After the waiter left, Ryan reached for her hand again and this time she at least let him take it. “It’s more—” he prompted.
She wouldn’t look at him, though she squeezed his fingers. “I don’t think I trust myself to stop you.”
Her voice had gone quiet enough that he had to strain to hear her, then the import of her words sank in. Not attempting to break it off at all. Instead acknowledging her submission to his will. The tremendous sense of relief nearly made him smile, which would be all wrong. Manfully, he swallowed it down, along with the surge of lust her confession caused.
“Celestina—that’s why we set the parameters ahead of time. So you don’t have to worry about stopping me in the throes of passion. We won’t go past what you decide ahead of time.”
She narrowed her eyes, darkly accusing. “One word—loopholes.”