My newest release, Victims of Obsession, comes out on August 4th. It's my first attempt at a mystery, but of course it's still full of my typical fare - romance, dominance and spankings!
What kind of mystery, you ask? Well...
Juliette’s lost her passion for working in long term care and her life’s as stale as old croutons, so when the opportunity arises to care for the disabled brother of Archer MacCaleb (a man she’s been fantasizing about for over a year), she jumps at it.
Archer’s everything she’s never wanted to admit she needs and his sweet, child-like, brother steals her heart the moment they meet. As Juliette learns to understand Archer’s fiercely over-protective nature and begins to embrace her deepest desires, she discovers the MacCaleb’s are shrouded by mysterious deaths. Could one of the mercurial men she’s taken into her heart be responsible?
With disturbing and sinister threats suddenly aimed at her, she must decide… will she flee to avoid becoming the next victim or will she trust Archer with not only her heart and body, but her life as well?
Was that enough to interest you in a teaser?
She screamed, sputtering and choking on the water that flowed into her open mouth. Struggling against her attacker, she slipped from his grip and splashed back into the tub. Stinging seared her skin where he'd lost grip, and his nails scratched her. Her head went under, and she started to panic, clawing at whatever her hands touched. He was shouting something at her, but she couldn't make out his words under water. Was he going to drown her? She grabbed at the shower curtain, surfacing, but pulling so hard she heard the ping of the curtain clips breaking and flying to the floor. Soap and oil stung her eyes as she fought. The room was blurry, and she clawed and swiped at her eyes. Water poured onto the floor, and she saw a blurred scene of the man skidding and fighting for balance. It was her chance for escape. And then, he was reaching for her again. She swung at him, her instinct for survival kicking in. The slippery floor lessened his advantage, but she needed to act fast. She got her leg up and out of the water and kicked at him. He started to speak but she connected, and an 'oomph' replaced his words. Her success gave her a burst of energy, and she climbed from the tub, managing to half crawl past him.
"Juliette! Calm down! It's okay!" The man grabbed at her as her mind registered that he knew her name. She was still trying to decipher what that meant when she slid out of his reach. He managed to wrap a towel and his arm around her in a tackle, only seconds later. He pulled her upright trapping her arms down against her body. She screamed, immobilized, while he bent them both forward. She heard the drain gurgle as he pulled the plug. He straightened them and yanked another towel off the rack, tossing it onto the wet floor.
"I'm going to let you go. You're okay." She clutched the towel to her chest tightly and stumbled back, almost falling back into the tub as soon as he released her. She swiped again at the oily water dripping in her eyes. If only she could see!
"Juliette!" The man grabbed her shoulders. "It's okay. It's me, Archer."
"Archer?" she blurted and scrambled to cover herself better. He gently took a hand towel and started drying her eyes. "What the hell are you doing in here?" she demanded. Her wet hair was plastered to her face and her half-covered breasts. She blinked repeatedly, and her focus began to return. He pulled her tightly against him. She was too confused and embarrassed to struggle. She was naked, but for a towel, and fully naked at one point—oh gawd! How much had he seen? Don't be an idiot, she told herself, they'd been rolling around for several minutes, and he didn't have oily water affecting his focus either—Archer had definitely seen his fill.
"I'm so glad you're okay," he murmured into her hair. "I thought you'd drowned."
Her shoulders shook, and he hugged her tighter. Emotionally and physically spent, her body had no choice but to react. She started laughing so hard that tears leaked from her eyes. She
quivered with laughter even harder when Archer began shushing her like a child. He thought she was crying! He thought he'd saved her from drowning! When all he really saved her from was—her fantasy and quite likely a really good orgasm!
Archer wrapped a thick housecoat around her and tossed the wet towel to the floor. He continued to mumble sweet, reassuring words to her, and by then she had begun to shiver. It was her body's reaction to the adrenalin rush. It was no longer funny. He shushed her every time she opened her mouth to explain so she gave up and let him take care of her. He guided her to the dressing table and sat her in the chair. She watched him through the mirror as he dried her hair with a fresh towel and combed it.
"I'll have someone put better grips on the bottom of the tub," he said, holding her hair off her back. "You're lucky I heard you scream and fall when I came to see if you had settled in okay." He pulled open the drawer and grabbed the hair dryer. He put it on low and dried her hair slowly as she sat numbly and watched. His hands moved efficiently, taking small handfuls of her hair and holding it under the stream of hot air. The gentle tugs on her scalp made her lids heavy—reminded her of being a child and her mother combing her hair before bed. His hands were large, and it seemed odd that they could do such gentle work.
When he finished, he set the dryer down and put both of his big hands on her shoulder. Their eyes met in the mirror. Her stomach dropped and clenched. It was something about his eyes. Their intensity maybe, but she knew he was about to scold her.
"The door was unlocked." It was just a statement—he didn't raise his voice or change his tone, but it was heavy with disapproval. She swallowed.
"It was?" she whispered.
"Did you read the entire contract I gave you?" Her sheepish look was answer enough. His mouth tightened.
"I figured you hadn't. I expected some questions about the employee discipline section."
"Employee discipline?" the words tumbled from her mouth. Was he planning on writing her up for leaving her door unlocked? That was a bit much, wasn't it? When she said what was on her mind, Archer bit his lip and closed his eyes.
"Taking careless chances with yourself doesn't just affect you, Miss Gibbons. Elijah has gone through too much as it is. His mental state is precarious at best. That is why this job probably seemed to be too good to be true. I have ridiculous expectations." He pulled her hair back into a ponytail. "And odd ways of dealing with breaches of the contract." He moved to her side and crouched so they were eye level. "Juliette, I've done my research on you. I know enough about you to write a book." His words were barely a whisper between the two of them. His eyes held a passion that she could feel deep in the pit of her stomach.
Breath escaped her mouth, and she resisted the urge to shiver at his words. What did he mean? Her instincts were heightened, and even though he was cryptic, her gut told her things—warned her.
"Your parents were both very loving but strict—you grew up knowing the feel of their disapproval on your bare bottom."
"What are you saying, Archer?" she asked, her voice strong, hiding her trembling insides.
"I'm saying I will spank you whenever I see fit—including when you take unnecessary risks with yourself. It's written in the contract you agreed to by signing."
"You're going to what?" the words shook this time when they came out. He tucked a bit of hair that slipped loose behind her ear. He was so gentle in his touch. How could someone so gentle and caring be threatening violence against her?
"You heard right." He took her chin lightly between his thumb and finger when she looked away. "Even though it was your negligence that has gotten us into this situation, I'm going to let you think about this tonight. If you don't agree to my terms of employment, I'll let you go—no hard feelings, but if you decide to stay, then you will be spanked." He stood swiftly, but gracefully, releasing her hair. It fell like a blanket over her shoulders. He smoothed his hand down it in a sweet gesture. "I hope you'll stay, but I'll understand if you don't."
"Archer—" He put his finger to her lips to silence her.
"Tell me tomorrow." He took her hand and helped her up. "Are you going to be okay? Do you want me to stay and tuck you in?"
She was confused. How does a man tell you one second he plans on spanking you, and in the next breath, asks you if you need to be tucked in? She shook her head weakly. Although, somewhere deep inside her, she wanted to beg him to stay—to let him take care of her. All the way into her core, she felt something so right it was wrong. It had been so long since someone had taken care of her. She had always taken care of others.
She was suddenly so exhausted, she didn't think she'd be able to walk. Her lids closed, and she drew in a shaky breath. He touched her face again. She felt the trembling take over for a moment.
"Let me take you to the bed," he whispered and didn't wait for her answer. He scooped her up and carried her to her room. She set her head on his shoulder and didn't fight. Was this part of her fantasy? Maybe she'd fallen asleep in the tub and was dreaming. The situation seemed as ridiculous as a dream. Her limbs felt weak as if she had been carrying sandbags around. He released her legs, so she was standing but still held her against him. He pulled back the duvet and guided her to sit on the sheets. He laid her back, taking a moment to kiss her temple.
"I'll come back in the morning so we can talk." He pulled the covers up and tucked them under her chin and around her body. She felt safe, warm, and comfortable. They were odd feelings to have after being told you'd be spanked in the morning if you kept your job. Her stomach twisted at the thought.
"Why do you want to hurt me?" Her voice sounded small and childlike to her. It annoyed her.
"I don't want to hurt you." He sat his hip on the bed beside her. "I already care about you, and I want you to remember to be safe—I want to take care of you." His eyes were so full of emotion. How was that even possible? She was a stranger. "Did you consider how your parents disciplined you abuse?"
"Of course not, but they loved me. They did it to teach not to harm. They did it out of concern and care." Her lids had fluttered closed both from exhaustion and to avoid his penetrating look.
"How? You don't know me."
"Because my family is the most important thing in the world to me, and I have spent a lot of time getting to know you by watching you at Park Hill and through other people's eyes. What I've seen makes you very special."
"Okay," she murmured. In her tired brain, that made sense. "I'll stay." He ran his thumb across her cheek.
"Tell me again in the morning."
One is just never enough, is it? Here's another!
"Have a seat." He motioned to the chair across from him at the tiny bistro style table. She swallowed a dry patch in her throat and did as he requested, almost jumping out of her skin when the chair scraped the floor. She looked sheepish until he smiled at her warmly.
"Juliette, I think you need to relax." His face took on the nurturing look from the previous night, and she felt her nerves ease a bit.
"I know, I'm sorry, it's just this is a rather odd and embarrassing situation," she answered.
"I'll give you that." He folded his hands in front of him. "But no one is forcing you to agree to my terms, Juliette."
"I know." She repeated her earlier words. "It's just I already gave up my other job, and my circumstances have forced me to agree, ya know?"
"Everything in life is a choice, and if you look at things honestly, you'll probably realize you'd be okay if we part ways here. You don't have to do this." His gentle words unnerved her.
"Are you trying to convince me to quit?"
"Of course not. I invested a significant amount of time researching you as an appropriate candidate for the interview alone. I think you'd be a wonderful fit as a caretaker for my brother. We both like you, and believe me, Elijah doesn't approve of many." He chuckled. "Although, most of the interviewees didn't make it to even meeting him." He reached across the table and took her wrist. She wondered if he could feel her pulse racing beneath his thumb as it stroked her. "I want this to work, Juliette." His eyes went a few degrees warmer. "I don't want to have to do this, but I also know I need to be able to." She bit her lip.
"Can't I just tell you now that I'll be careful?"
"Tell me you didn't think before you opened that door this morning." She lowered her face. He knew she did. "This works, and you know it." He stood and pulled her up from her chair. "It works because of who you are and who I am." He took her to him and held her a moment. His fingers kneaded the tension from her back.
"You're right, Archer. I completely agree, but last night, forgetting the door, it was an honest mistake. I would never think I'd need to lock up, knowing we are in the middle of nowhere behind huge fences and guarded gates."
"I would think you'd realize if I have the need for such security, there must be a serious risk being associated with me." He released her, sat on the chair she'd been occupying and pulled her bottom onto his lap. It was odd, but she was in such a submissive state of mind, she did whatever he wanted.
"We're going to deal with this and then, if you're willing, I want to spend the day getting to know you, from you. Elijah has gone with his therapist to a car show. They've had it planned for months. We have the whole day."
"But why? I don't understand any of this. I really don't." Her chest burst with happiness at the thought of spending the day with him, and it confused her. She hated the effect he had on her. "I don't feel like your employee, and I'm not your family—I don't know you—yet you treat me like we're something else. There aren't any normal boundaries between us, and I don't know how to deal with it. It's confusing." It was the truth, but she couldn't believe she said it aloud. Archer had a way of loosening her lips.
"You're not just my employee, Juliette." He turned her head with a single strong finger, so their eyes met. "I don't let employees past my gates." His words were firm. "Once you took my offer, you became my family—my responsibility. That's the only way I do this. I will rely on you heavily—it's not going to be easy. You have no regular hours, and besides your holidays, you can be called anytime." He smiled then and tapped her nose. "You really should have read
that contract," he said with a softer playful tone. "But I will also be more than any boss you've ever had. You can confide in me. You can trust me to be there when you need me. I am just as committed to you and your welfare as anyone else in my family. When you screw up, I'll be there to reprimand you, yes, but when you do something amazing, I'll be there to cheer." His head cocked to the side, and he ran his hand along her face, gliding it down gently, following the slope of her jaw. "I will take care of you," he whispered. "I promise to protect you."
She felt herself choking up at the passion in his eyes and words. She had been without a family so long. He guided her off his lap, and as she stood before him, his face turned serious again. This was it.
"Yes," she said, in answer to his questioning look. He smiled but not in his usual warm way. It was his serious 'you made the right choice, now let's get down to business' smile. He patted her hip and stood.
And the last but not least... a final taste of Victims of Obsession!
She heard Archer ask Eli to set the table and within moments, she felt Archer behind her. Her neck prickled. Her body seemed attuned to him. It recognized when he was close, and as if he was a magnet and she metal, she felt a pull to him.
"I tried phoning you on the way home."
"I didn't hear it ring," she answered, breaking the leaves up now that they were dry.
"I wanted to see if you needed anything for dinner, but you didn't answer your cell." She turned, sensing his comments weren't merely made in passing.
His face was serious. It made her stomach dip. There was the danger again. The thought made her remember the phone call from Glen Stratton. She shivered. He felt much more dangerous than Archer, but then again, Archer exuded a completely different type of danger.
"Is your cell turned off?" He placed his arms on the counter on either side of her. There was no escape. Did she want to escape, though?
"No, I'm sure it rang, but since I left it at the cottage, there was no one to hear it."
"You're going to read that contract tonight, after dinner, young lady," he stated firmly. "Even if I have to sit and watch you read it with the hairbrush in my hand." There was something that fluttered in her when he called her that. "I want you to have your cell on you at all times." He looked intently at her in his way, from eye to eye, as if he was scanning her mind. "It's a rule." His voice was smooth, steady and even – laced with some hidden, heat-inducing magic. Her insides swirled.
"A rule?" she repeated numbly. Her limbs felt weak. One of those rules, if broken, would get her across his lap again. She suddenly didn't know how she felt about that. The way his mouth looked soft and pliable reminded her how it tasted. His hard chest and strong arms called to her to touch them. His fun and flirty humour and sexy dimpled smirk, along with his stern and no-nonsense manner, mingled and danced in her mind. Separate, the two were nothing special she supposed, but together, they made him something mysterious, intriguing and hot.
"A big rule. One for yours and Eli's safety. One that will definitely get you spanked if broken."
She swallowed hard, and he ran his hands down her arms. There was seriousness in his words, yes, but something else as well. There was a hint of promise that electrified her, but there was deep concern and care in it too. He wasn't a cruel man. He didn't seem to get off on his threats, but if she read him correctly, he felt excitement in the prospect of the intimacy it brought them or maybe she was projecting her feelings on him. She didn't think she wanted to feel one of his spankings again, but to be entwined with him after, the glow of his touch still lingering on her skin. Something about the way he took care of her after almost made it seem worth every stinging bite. It made her feel like his.
He leaned closer to her. The spicy scent of him reminded her of being in his shower earlier. Her heart thudded deeply in places she knew the beating organ didn't belong.
"I don't want a spanking, Archer." Her words were only whispers because he was so close—close enough to lean just a smidgeon forward and kiss.
"Then remember to read the contract and follow the rules. I think we can arrange some reading time over my lap if you need motivation." He very quickly gave her a peck on the cheek and backed off. "I didn't mean to frighten you," he said and tipped her chin so he could look her in the eye again. "Sometimes, when I speak the colour drains from your face."
"You do frighten me at times," she admitted, but she knew the truth was it was his mere proximately that drained her, and it had nothing to do with fear.
"I'd never hurt you."
"I'm pretty sure the last time I broke a rule you did."
"Did I really?"
"Yes. It hurt quite a lot." She stuck out her lip in a pout.
"Hurt more than someone breaking in and doing serious lasting damage and scars?"
"Of course not."
"Did you learn something from it?"
"Yes." Again, it was only a whisper. "Don't break Archer's rules. And never, ever break one and get naked in the tub." A grin spread on her face. He shook his head but couldn't hold back his own chuckle.
"Well, there is that."
She touched his arm. It sent a jolt through her gut. She looked at him through her lashes, not to be coy or sexy, but because he was like looking at the sun sometimes. It almost burned to look at him full on, especially the way she felt like he read her mind.
"I learned to be safe and lock the doors and check the peephole." A slow grin spread on his face, and it made her tingle with pleasure. She loved pleasing him.
"That's my good girl." He ran a piece of her hair through his thumb and forefinger slowly, the pleasure of its silky texture between the pads of his fingers showing on his face. The touch was gentle, and the light tugging on her scalp made her close her eyes. She wanted to be his good girl.
The oven timer chirped, and Eli slid into the room on his sock feet.
"Oh yeah!" He pumped the air. "I'm starved!" Archer moved away, and they both laughed at his goofy dance.
"I've never seen him like this before. He's happy." Archer looked at her, catching her eye. "We both are."
So there you are, friends, and well tempted I hope!
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