The Struck by Lightning Series

Welcome to the page of everything about the Struck by Lightning BDSM romance series by Cecilia Tan: Slow Surrender, Slow Seduction, and Slow Satisfaction.


Slow Surrender (#1)

ISBN 9781455529278 • 304 pages • $10 paperback/$3.99 ebook

Slow Surrender is the first novel in the Struck by Lightning erotic romance series. Karina is a working her way through grad school as a waitress when she meets a mysterious man. From the first moment they meet, an intense game of sex and control begins between them, as James kindles desires in her and pushes her sexual boundaries far beyond any previous man she’s known. As captivated as Karina is by James’s BDSM games, James is equally captivated by her, the woman who flings herself headlong into any adventure he devises for her. The bond between them grows, blossoming into a love that Karina can almost believe in, if only James will trust her with his secrets. More info: Hachette’s web site
Slow Surrender won the 2013 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Erotic Romance, and is a finalist in the Maggie Awards for Excellence (given by the Magnolia Chapter of RWA) and the NLA Writing Awards (given by the National Leather Association).
BUY SLOW SURRENDER: Indiebound: independent bookstores | B&N Nookstore | iTunes/iBooks|Google Play | Kobo | Powells | | and many other places books and ebooks are sold
SLOW SURRENDER AUDIOBOOK: Tantor Audio | Audible | | iTunes | and many other places audiobooks are sold. The audiobooks are produced by Tantor Media and narrated by Lucy Rivers.
Hear a hefty sample chapter of the Slow Surrender audiobook, featured as an episode of the Nobilis Erotica Podcast! Nobilis Erotica is also listenable through their iPhone app, bringing out fresh erotic fiction audio every week.

Slow Seduction (#2)

ISBN 9781455529254 • 272 pages • $10 paperback/$4.99 ebook

Two months have passed since James went into hiding. Karina finds herself in England, working at a major museum while searching for any lead on James’s whereabouts. There she meets the enigmatic Damon George, a dominant man with clues to James’s past… and to James’s desires. Damon is rich, gorgeous, and a member of a secret society that caters to the sensual thrills of the wealthy and powerful. And he’ll help Karina lure James in, while teaching her how to please a dominant man. By the time she finds James, Karina has been “trained” to please another. Will James reject her, or find her more irresistible than ever? Karina is determined to confront him and she will not be denied. More Info: Hachette web site
Buy SLOW SEDUCTION: Barnes & Noble | iBookstore | Google Play | IndieBound | Powell’s and many other places ebooks and books are sold.
Buy the Slow Seduction Audiobook: Tantor Audio | Amazon Audio | iTunes | Audible | and many more places audiobooks are sold. The audiobooks are produced by Tantor Media and narrated by Lucy Rivers.

Slow Satisfaction (#3)

ISBN 9781455529285 • $10 paperback/$4.99 ebook
Released on August 26, 2014!

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The conclusion of the saga of Karina and James! James has finally pushed Karina beyond her limit–not her limit for kinky sex play, but for his extreme secrecy. She has had enough and breaks things off. But James won’t give up on Karina and he will do whatever it takes to get her back. He’s ready to share his deepest, darkest secrets, but is Karina ready to hear them? When James is blackmailed by an unscrupulous music industry executive, he must give in to unreasonable demands or risk exposure of his and Karina’s secret sex life… a sex life that keeps getting hotter! Will Karina and James’s love be strong enough to withstand the many obstacles being thrown their way?
More info: Hachette (publisher)
Buy SLOW SATISFACTION: Apple iBookstore | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | Indiebound

January 17-20: Arisia SF Convention, Boston
January 28: Release date of Slow Seduction – online chat
February 3: Between the Covers Uptown Reading, An Beal Bocht Cafe/Bar, NYC
March 7-9: Fetish Fair Fleamarket, Warwick, RI
March 19-23: ICFA (Int’l Conf. on the Fantastic in the Arts), Orlando
April 4-6: Transcending Boundaries, Windsor Locks, CT – tentative
April 17-20: Frolicon, Atlanta – tentative
May 13-18: RT Booklovers Convention, New Orleans
May 23-26: Wiscon, Madison, WI
May 29-31: BookExpo America, NYC
July 10-13: Readercon 25, Burlington, MA
July 23-26: Romance Writers of America (RWA), San Antonio
July 30-Aug 3: Society for American Baseball Research, Houston
Aug 6-10: Authors After Dark, Charlotte, NC
Aug 15-17: Geeky Kink Event New England, Warwick, RI
Aug 28: Release date for Slow Satisfaction – online chat
Sep 4: Book Launch Party: Good Vibrations in-store event, Brookline, Mass.
Oct 10-12: Moonlight & Magnolias RWA Conference, Atlanta, GA
Oct 26: Geek Central, Circlet Press Erotic Reading, Cambridge, MA
Nov 7-9: Geeky Kink Event “Classic”, Piscataway, NJ
Nov 15-16: Alternicon, Boston
Dec 18: Literary Roast, Club Oberon, Cambridge, MA

(Warning: It’s impossible to excerpt from this book without giving spoilers for either book 1 or other elements in book 2. You have been warned! Spoiler alert! Excerpted from Chapter Four:)
We took the short walk from the office building to the museum where I would be meeting the rich donor and giving him a private tour of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. The weather was lovely, cooling a little as the afternoon turned to evening, and there was a breeze from the direction of the river.
As we approached the back entrance, I saw a limousine sitting at the curb, and as the driver got smoothly out of the car I thought instantly of Stefan, and by extension, James.
A moment later the driver had opened the passenger door, and a man in a sleek-looking suit with artfully tossed black hair stepped out. He was runway-model gorgeous, with the flat, disdainful look in his eye you see on the covers of magazines. Two women with the same look about them followed, one blonde, one brunette.
I did a double take when Martindale led me right to them. I had been expecting rich art donors to be older, more like Martindale himself.
Instead, the man reminded me of James, and the two statuesque women of Lucinda, with their cool beauty. I had only met her once, at that kinky party, but she had made an impression, poised and sexy, like so many of the people there. Self-possessed and confident, yet exuding a sort of erotic vibe—or maybe at this point for me that kind of self-possession was an erotic vibe. That was James all over, completely in control, knowing that he turned heads and left people drooling in his wake. That cool exterior hid a passionate, wicked core. I remembered the exacting efficiency with which he tied me up with ropes as well as the way he had trembled against me, barely able to stop himself from fucking me before I was ready…
Martindale brought me back to reality. “Mr. Damon George, this is Karina Casper. She’ll be showing you around the exhibit.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Ms. Casper.” The man took my hand briefly.
Martindale seemed to be waiting for him to introduce his companions, but he said nothing about them and they hung back, silent. Martindale cleared his throat. “Yes, well, let’s go in.”
A security guard met us at the doors to allow us inside. Martindale then led us through the back-entrance access hallways I had not been in before and into the galleries. The two women were wearing heels that seemed impossibly high, and we walked somewhat slowly, the sounds of their heels and our shoes loud in the empty museum.
“Pardon the dust from the construction,” he said, as we went past one of the areas where the major renovations were taking place.
“Why should I mind it?” Damon George said. “I’m paying for a lot of it, aren’t I?”
“Ha-ha, true,” Martindale agreed. “Now, here we are. I’ll leave you in Ms. Casper’s hands. Karina, when you’re done, pick up the phone here to let security know.”
“Yes, Mr. Martindale,” I said, wondering if I should curtsy. I didn’t. He gave me a little wave good-bye and then left.
The lights were already on full brightness as we stepped into the first gallery.
I took a deep breath, preparing to launch into a speech about the founding of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, but he stopped me before I could start.
“Karina Casper,” he said. “May I call you Karina? You can call me Damon instead of Mr. George.”
“Um, sure.” I tried to guess his age. Thirty, maybe? “Is there something in particular you want to know about the pre-Raphaelites?”
“Perhaps. Or perhaps I merely wish to commune with the art.” He clucked his tongue and walked down the first row of paintings, the two women trailing behind him like obedient pets.
Given that they reminded me of the people I’d seen and met at that kinky ball, I wondered if they were under an order of silence.
Maybe I was too after his comment about communing with the art. He was clearly as arrogant as they came. I reminded myself that he was a major donor and kissing his ass was my job.
So I followed along like one of his pets. He said nothing until we came to the famous image of Ophelia drowning herself. “Surely you see that this painting is about violence against women,” he said. “How dare they show it in public?”
I nearly rose to the bait, except that it was so obvious he was saying something outrageous to get a rise out of me, and I didn’t want to give him that satisfaction. “Our mission is to preserve and display the art,” I said in my best tour guide voice. “Not to condone any particular interpretation of it. Any work of great art will have multiple interpretations. In fact, I’d say the greater the art, the more interpretations there will be.”
He sniggered. “Very politically correct, my dear.”
What wouldn’t have been politic would be to say what I was really thinking, which is that I didn’t give a damn what his opinions were on art. Or anything. Arrogant prick. But I gave him my “waitress” smile and we moved on. He didn’t linger over many of the paintings, skimming along until we came to the final gallery.
“Now, here are the really sexy ones,” he said, opening his arms wide as if he were going to give the nudes of Andromeda a hug.
I should have known those would be his favorite paintings. Andromeda was the only nude in the whole exhibit. Depicted in three large paintings by Burne-Jones, Andromeda is rescued by Perseus from the sea serpent that is about to eat her. In the first, there’s a kind of love-at-first-sight moment, where she’s naked against the rocks and he takes off his helmet to look at her. In the second, we see her back turned while Perseus wrestles with the black coils of the sea serpent. In the last, she is clothed and they are bending over a font together so Perseus may show her the head of Medusa in the reflection.
It struck me suddenly that Andromeda’s dress in the final painting was strikingly similar to the one worn by the Beggar Maid. I stepped closer to examine it.
“You have it backwards, you know,” Damon said, stepping close and talking quietly into my ear, the way you would if the gallery were crowded with people. Since it wasn’t, I stepped aside, but he kept going. “You read it right to left, but the real story is the other direction.”
“What are you talking about?” I frowned, wondering what nonsense he was spouting this time. Was he trying to get a rise out of me again? “It follows the mythical tale.”
“Ah, but that’s the thing. You’re supposed to see it as the great and mighty Perseus is tamed and domesticated by the beautiful girl. The first thing he does? Uncover his head, then cut off the head of a snake, and then in the end show her how safe and tame the snake-head of Medusa is. In other words, he emasculates himself for her—the snake, the head, and the sword all being phallic symbols.”
“So? That’s still reading it left to right.”
“I know. That was the acceptable story to Victorians. But the real story is the other way. It’s that he begins tame, fools her into thinking he’s safe, and by the end is about to put his helmet on and ravish her.”
“That’s ridiculous.”
“Ancient Greek was read from right to left, not left to right,” he said smugly.
I racked my brain, trying to remember everything I knew about the paintings. I was fairly sure that Burne-Jones had painted three or four more of Perseus, and if only I knew the dates I could probably prove him wrong, but since these hadn’t figured into my thesis, I didn’t know the dates off the top of my head. “How do you know so much about Greek culture anyway?”
He laughed and turned to face me in front of the painting. “Don’t you think there’s a resemblance?”
The crazy thing is, there was. He could have been Perseus come to life, but with a much more annoying smirk. I still didn’t make the connection, though.
“George is anglicized from Georgiades,” he said. “So let’s just say…I know my Greek.”
Fine. “A very interesting theory, Mr. Georgiades.”
“Damon, please.” His eyebrow arched with mischief, and I knew he was about to say something else designed to get a rise out of me. “I only enjoy formality with those I’m fucking.”
I knew it! Well, if he thought he was going to shock me, he was wrong. “Is that why your companions don’t speak?” I asked. “And don’t have names?”
His grin widened with delight. “You’re very perceptive, Karina! I wouldn’t have guessed you for the type, but then…people never do. I suppose you went through the whole slap and tickle nightclub scene in New York?”
“No,” I said coldly. “Not really.”
“Hmm.” He merely gave me a nod and then turned back to the painting behind him.
He snapped his fingers, and the two women fell into a sudden embrace, kissing each other. I took a step back.
“You’re welcome to stay and watch, Karina, but if it’s too much for you, all I ask is for, oh, about seven minutes of privacy.”
“Are you kidding me? I can’t leave you alone with these paintings!” That was a much more shocking idea than that he had two sex slaves following him around. Oh. It dawned on me then that he’d brought them to the gallery specifically to get off. No wonder he paid a huge sum to have a private, after-hours viewing of the art.
“Even if I promise we won’t touch them?” At the word touch, he rubbed the length of his cock through his trousers.
I wasn’t about to let that distract me. “I’m sorry, Mr. George, but I don’t know you well enough to trust your promise. Just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you’re honorable.”
He bowed his head. “All too true. I suppose you’ll have to stay, then.” Before I could argue further, he snapped his fingers again and said, “Present.”
The two women disengaged instantly and struck poses with almost military precision, feet apart, hands behind their backs, thrusting their chests forward. Damon circled them, examining their bodies first with his eyes, then running his hands over the breast of one, feeling the hardness of her nipples where they stood out against her blouse. He then ran his hand down the other one’s mound and hiked up her skirt. From where I was standing behind them I couldn’t quite see, but I was betting she had no panties on. She made a sound as—I guessed—he put his finger inside her.
“So ripe, so ready,” he murmured, as he lifted his hand to her face. She licked his finger.
He stood facing me, then, one hand up the skirt of each woman. They struggled to stay silent as he played with their privates. I remembered struggling like that, trying to hide the fact that James was getting me off under a restaurant table. Damon’s grin was wicked, his eyes locked on me as he tormented and pleasured the two women. I couldn’t help but try to guess what he was doing. When one of them stifled a yelp, had he pinched her clit? Put a second finger into her? When the other bent her knees to steady herself and caught her breath, was she close to coming? I could hear the wet sucking sound of one of his hands penetrating her over and over.
I tried not to move, but I wanted to press my own legs together and tamp down the arousal I was feeling at the sight.
Both women were barely staying balanced on their high heels as they shook with desire. I wondered if he was going to get them off right there in front of me.
No, he was crueler than that. He cleared his throat, pulled his hands free, and held them out for the women to lick clean. As their tongues went to work, he said, “We have scandalized Karina enough. I’ll finish with you two in the car. To the ladies washroom with you now, neaten up, and no touching each other.
He snapped his fingers again, and the two flushed, panting women straightened up, neatened their clothes, and then sauntered off toward the restroom, one of them smirking with glee.
Damon turned to me. “You look much more intrigued than scandalized, actually, Karina.”
I tried to arrange a properly offended look on my face, but failed.
“Were you aroused by what you saw? Or by the idea of it?” he asked.
I was aroused by the memory of James touching me that way, I thought. That was all. “Mr. George,” I said. “What are you getting at?”
He grinned. “So formal. I told you I only like to be formal with those I’m fucking. If I didn’t know better I’d say you were flirting with me.”
He was infuriating. I was about to tell him to fuck off when he reached into his jacket. He pulled out a business card from the inner pocket, but that wasn’t all. With the card was a red satin glove.
I stared at it. The “Crimson Glove Society?” Wasn’t that what Renault had called the secret group of rich kinksters James was part of? James had told me they had started in the UK. Damon tucked the glove away and handed me the card.
All that was printed on it was a phone number. Déjà vu. It was exactly like the card James had given me once with his own number on the back.
I held the card between two fingers and sneered. “And I suppose you expect me to call you when I can’t stand it anymore and need Daddy to come spank me?”
“Oh no, Karina. That’s not my number. That’s a much more intriguing proposition.”
I looked at him skeptically.
He stuck his hands in his pockets and shrugged, as if trying to take his arrogance down a notch. “It’s a private club here in London. I’m a recruiter of sorts.”
“You recruit new members?”
He huffed a little laugh. “Not members. S-type trainees.”
“Slaves, servants, submissives,” he said with a small smile. “There’s a training program. The two women with me? They’re trainees, nearly ready to graduate into full service at the club.”
My mind raced. It was one more lead, one more thing that could take me to James. If he really was here in England, whether he was looking for a new Cinderella or trying to forget the old one, wouldn’t the Crimson Glove Society be where he’d go? I felt sure of it.
I took a deep breath. “Are you inviting me to…to become a trainee?”
He seemed very serious now, very sober and unlike the cocky playboy he had been. “I am inviting you to entertain the idea. If you’d like to talk with these two about their experiences, I’ll give them permission to. If you are interested after that, I will sponsor you for training.”
“And if I call this number and say ‘Damon sent me’ what happens?”
“You’ll be interviewed and auditioned. There are no guarantees you’d be accepted, of course, but I am intrigued. Intrigued enough that I would also consider training you personally to prep you for the audition…” A hint of that cocksure tone crept back into his voice. “If you were interested.”
The sound of two pairs of high heels clicking reached my ears. His companions were returning.
“I’m really not interested in you personally, Damon,” I said, “but I am intrigued by the club.”
“Good. Did you want to talk to them?” He gestured to the women.
“That seems like a good idea.”
“If you’re free now, I think you should go for coffee.”
“Right now? I thought you were about to, um…”
He laughed. “I know what you thought. You thought if I couldn’t fuck them right here in the gallery, I was going to do it the second we got into the limo. It’s tempting, of course. But part of being a handler is not giving in to temptation. Or, at least, knowing when to. I see a much greater opportunity in front of me here, to bring you into our midst.”
“And then maybe in the future I’ll get to fuck all three of you here in the gallery and in the back of the car, who knows?” The mischievous grin was back. “I am willing to raise the stakes on my bet.”
Part of me was saying “no way, buddy,” but the offer was intriguing as a way to search for James. And maybe it was time to find out if what I was craving in James’s absence was really James, or just the sexual domination he’d addicted me to. “All right, fine. Me and the girls will have coffee, and you should go have a cold shower or whatever it is you do.”
He laughed a delighted laugh. “Excellent. Call the guard to lock up and we’ll get out of here.”
* * *
The two women were named Nadia and Juniper, who told me to call her Juney. I would have bet money on them being Scandinavian fashion models or something, but once they started talking, they magically transformed into hardworking women from Manchester. Damon ensconced us in a booth at the very back of a dimly lit cafe and then left us alone.
“He’s trying to recruit you. Exciting!” Juney enthused.
“Is it? I mean, tell me about this training program. How long have you been doing it?”
“About six months for me. Nadia, you?”
“Around eight,” the brunette said. “That doesn’t count the first three months with Damon, though.”
“So you took him up on the—how did he put it—personal training offer first?” I asked.
“Well, more like we had a wild fling for three months, at the end of which he foisted me onto the club,” she said with a chuckle. “Being with him for three months was fun. Training for the club is more exciting, though.”
“Is it? What sorts of things do you have to do?”
“Well, it starts with basic stuff like waitressing at the club itself,” Nadia said.
“I should be able to breeze through that…”
“Some trainees provide specialty services, like massage or barbering.”
Juney slapped her lightly on the shoulder. “She doesn’t want to hear about the boring stuff. She wants to hear about the S-E-X.” She leaned forward and cradled her coffee mug. “The sex is amayyyyyy-zing.”
“Okay, that’s what I’m trying to figure out though.” I leaned forward myself. “Are you getting paid for this? Is it…prostitution?”
They both laughed like I was being ridiculous. “The whole point is that we aren’t paid,” Juney said, “because if we were, it would be. We’re doing it because it’s exciting and fun and a fantastic way to meet ridiculously rich men.”
“And women,” Nadia added. “Maybe once upon a time the club members were gentlemen, but these days, it’s equal opportunity for tops and trainees. We’re the eye candy at the club and the practice dummies for tops in training, too. Kinky rich people need play partners who aren’t always other kinky rich people, or it gets complicated.”
“But then sometimes you want it to get complicated,” Juney said. “I’m kinky as fuck, I know that, but I’ve had it with the dumb-ass doms at the nightclubs. They don’t know how to treat a submissive right. And the online dating thing? Ugh. They look real kinky online, but then you meet them and it’s the same old thing, they want to spank you a couple of times and then: ‘hey dearie, make me a sandwich so I can watch Manchester United on the telly.’”
“Wait, so, you won’t make your boyfriend a sandwich, but you don’t mind waitressing for rich people?”
Juney rolled her eyes. “It’s not the same. Nadi, you explain it.”
Nadia cleared her throat and took a sip of her tea. “Training has some specific steps. You have to learn general service, a specialty skill, and show progress in sexual uses. But there are rules.”
“I assume everyone’s sworn to secrecy?”
“Naturally. What I mean is there are rules regarding what they can and can’t do to trainees.” Nadia glanced around before continuing. “Some are obvious, I mean, they can’t hurt you or make any permanent marks, for example.”
“The big one, though, is you get to pick something you won’t do,” Juney said, eyes alight. “So, you know, if you’re afraid of fire you could say no fire play.”
Fire play?”
Nadia clucked her tongue. “It’s not as bad as it sounds. But you know, the whole thing is about limits and rules. And honor, personal honor. That’s the real basis of this lifestyle. It’s all about who can be trusted. If you can’t be trusted, you’re out.”
I wondered if that was part of James’s hang-up about honesty. “Okay, and Damon’s in charge of your training?”
“No, we’re actually mostly working under a woman named Vanette. Mr. George is testing us tonight, though.” Juney giggled. “I can’t wait!”
“I’m keeping you from him, then,” I said, taking a gulp of my coffee.
“Oh, he would have come up with some other diabolical delay, I’m sure,” Juney answered. “I’m hoping the wait has made him randy as a horse. He’s the best lay I’ve ever had by far.”
Nadia smirked. “He is good. And pretty, too.”
I couldn’t help but smirk back. Sounded like “handler” Damon George was going to have his hands full keeping a rein on these two frisky fillies. “Thank you for talking with me.”
“You’re welcome!” Juney jumped up and gave me a kiss on the cheek before stepping back to put her blazer back on. “I hope we’ll see you there. You’ll see. It’s a blast. If you’ve got any masochistic or submissive tendencies at all, it’s the best.”
Nadia stood and patted me on the arm. “And of course, you’ll keep this all private. Strictly.”
“Of course.”
“Let’s exchange phone numbers, in case you want to call us with any other questions,” Juney said, jotting hers down on a piece of paper. Nadia added her number as well.
I hesitated for a moment. I’d never given the “James” phone number to anyone before. But it was the phone I had to rely on here in London. I wrote the number down, tore it off, and gave it to them.
They hurried to the front of the cafe, where I saw Damon standing. He paid the cashier and all three of them waved to me as they went out the door.
Well, that was quite a different evening than I expected. I walked around a little, looking at the sights while I went in the direction I thought the Underground was. I ended up browsing in a bookshop, then meandering along the edge of a park where a band was playing.
I had just come to the Underground when my phone rang from an unknown number.
My immediate thought was: James?
Surprisingly, it was Damon George. One of the girls must have given him my number. “Where are you, Karina? Do you need a ride?”
“I can find my own way home, thanks,” I said. “Are you done with Nadia and Juney already?”
“Ha. It’s been well over an hour, more than enough to finish their night’s lesson. Let me come get you in the car.”
“Damon. My mother always told me not to get in cars with strange men.”
“Even if I promise I won’t touch you?”
He couldn’t have known that saying so would send goose bumps all over my arms and across my neck, as I thought about the things James could do to me in the back of a limo without ever touching me. “I said ‘no,’ Damon.”
“Ahem. Actually, Karina, you didn’t say no. You said your mother told you not to get into cars.”
“You’re maddening! All right. I meant no, then. And I’m saying it now.” I looked around the street, wondering if he knew where I was, if he was nearby.
But he wasn’t James, and that sort of thing only happened with him. “Okay. I understand. I do want to talk to you about my offer, though.”
“Your girls convinced me. I’ll call the number on the card you gave me.”
“All right. I think I can help you, Karina.”
“Help me pass the audition, you mean?”
“No. I mean help you understand your interest in dominance and submission.”
“Well, if I pass the audition, you’ll have plenty of chances for that.”
“True. All right, Karina, if you’re really not interested in talking to me, hang up on me now.”
“I will! Ahhh!” He was so infuriating! If I didn’t hang up, that meant I kept talking to him, and if I did hang up, it was like I was following his orders. I hung up and resisted the urge to throw the phone at the ground.
The truth was I did want to talk about it with someone who understood it all. But not him, I told myself. Not like that!

• • •

Here is the opening chapter of Slow Surrender, as well as a good chunk of chapter two!
Chapter One: Out of the Blue
The night of Lord Lightning’s good-bye concert was a crazy night to say the least. I was doing one last waitress shift at the bar my sister managed in Midtown, the concert having taken place at Madison Square Garden, just a few blocks away. The bar was packed with “Lord’s Ladies,” who were inconsolable and tearing their hair out (or wigs, actually) while smearing their face paint with tears. My roommate Becky was at home crying about the same thing. Me? I couldn’t care less what some self-absorbed rock-star asshole was doing as his latest publicity stunt, but it was all over the big-screen TVs: his masked face projected sixty inches wide along with footage of the screaming fans at his supposedly last public performance. The whole city was turned upside down, and I remember so clearly the Lord’s Ladies because they were such a royal pain in the arse! Ordering as little as possible, taking up the best tables all night long, and I could already tell they were going to be lousy tippers.
I’d even had one table dine-and-dash on me. I didn’t think the night could get any worse until I got to the hostess station and caught a glimpse of my thesis advisor walking through the front door. The same advisor I’d told I couldn’t meet tonight because I was “too sick to leave my apartment, cough cough” when my sister Jill had convinced me she was desperate and needed me to work. She had promised a great night for cash tips, which was the only reason I agreed to this madness. Even worse, on top of it all was the fact that he’d come in with the man I’d had a job interview with that afternoon, a project manager at a design firm where I hoped to work as soon as I graduated, if not sooner. Theo Renault’s approval of my thesis was the main thing standing between me and graduation, and I knew from department talk he wasn’t one who would casually accept being lied to.
In other words, I was fucked, and all because I was doing Jill a favor. I forced myself to stop looking at Renault and the guy—Philip Hale was his name—as they fought their way through the crowded room toward the bar. Maybe they would have a quick nightcap and get out of here. I tried to focus on the customer stepping up to the stand now, a tall man in a hat and a bittersweet-chocolate-brown suit that was clearly tailored to perfectly fit his lean frame, like something out of a fashion magazine.
Not the kind of guy who was alone, usually, but I hurried to seat him. If I took him upstairs, maybe Renault wouldn’t see me. “Table for one?” I chirped as I thought, Please don’t be waiting for someone.
“Yes, plea—”
“Great! Follow me!” I practically grabbed him by the arm and led him quickly to the stairs. “Kind of a busy night in here. It’s a bit quieter on the second floor. I’ll get you away from these crazies.” I waved the menu in the general direction of the Lord’s Ladies, who were starting a group sing-along of some kind.
“I’d like that,” he said, his voice deep. He sounded faintly amused.
Probably because I was acting so flustered. “It’s not always like this in here,” I assured him, as if it mattered. The second floor, unlike the crowded, chaotic first floor, was devoid of both TVs and singing fans and had only a few customers scattered throughout. A group of four women in one corner had already cashed out but had been lingering for an hour. A couple sat near the top of the stairs.
I led him all the way to a table by the windows, overlooking the street, desperate to kill as much time as possible. I had the funny urge to pull out his chair for him, as if this were a white-tablecloth kind of place, but I hung back until he seated himself. He had a topcoat folded over his arm, and he hung it over the back of his chair, put his hat on the wide sill of the window, then sat. I set the menu down in front of him.
“The kitchen is already closed,” I said, going into my automatic “after 10:00 p.m.” patter, “but the full list of cocktails is of course available, as are the selections on the dessert menu.” I turned the menu over to the list of desserts. “Today’s sorbet is passion fruit.”
“Passion fruit?” he asked, one eyebrow raised like he was skeptical of it.
“Nah,” I joked. “That’s the name of my Lord Lightning cover band.”
That made him laugh. In the streetlamps that shone through the window, I couldn’t tell the color of his eyes, blue, hazel, green? The light from outside was stark and bluish compared to the soft amber lights in the bar, making his cheekbones look impossibly sharp. His hair was dangerously blond, almost white, and cropped close to his head. His age was impossible to gauge; he could’ve been a young forty or a haunted twenty. He was gorgeous and striking and his voice had a slight British tinge to it as he said, “Oh, just try to work it into every conversation, do you?”
“Yes, exactly.” I grinned. Normally, flirting while waitressing was asking for trouble and I avoided it at all costs. I didn’t like men thinking just because I was female it was okay to treat me like something on the menu. But I was on a mission to waste as much time as I could. Besides, he was quite attractive and that was an understatement. “Actually, I think the sorbet is lemon with a little orange food color. It all tastes the same.”
He chuckled. “So, you don’t recommend the sorbet?”
I chewed my lip a moment. “I lied,” I said. “I’ve never actually had it.”
“Well, at least one of us should embrace new experiences,” he said. “Bring me a dish of the sorbet, and a bourbon. Something better than Maker’s Mark.” His eyes were on me, very intent, as if he had no intention of actually opening the menu.
I collected it from him.
“Coming right up.” I couldn’t resist making a fake little curtsy and then hurrying away.
That worked out perfectly, I thought. I punched in the drink order from the upstairs server station, then went down to the kitchen to dish the sorbet myself, completely out of the view of Renault and his friend. I picked up the bourbon from the back station, added it to the round tray with the sorbet, and headed right back upstairs.
“Here you are,” I said as I set down the napkin and the drink, then the small metal dish of sorbet and a spoon.
“Thank you,” he said, and sounded sincere about it.
I busied myself for a little while, refilling the water glasses for the four-top and checking that the couple didn’t want a round of dessert. They didn’t, which was just as well, because the sugary sweetness coming from the two of them cooing at each other was enough to hospitalize a diabetic. I guess they were having each other for dessert. It was hard not to feel bitter watching them when I’d never met a guy who could act like that and actually mean it. While I wiped down some of the empty tables, I glanced over at my solo customer. He was sipping the whisky very slowly and looking out the window. Maybe it was that a man drinking alone always looks melancholy, but I got the feeling he was a little sad about something. Wistful, maybe.
I also noticed he wasn’t eating the sorbet. I went back to his table. “Was it not to your liking? I can take it away and bring you something else you might like.”
He settled back in his chair and gave me a thoughtful look. “Actually, there is something I’d like.”
“Name it.” I gave him my waitress smile.
“I’d like you to try the sorbet.” He picked up the spoon, which was still resting exactly where I’d left it, and cut into the perfect scoop that had clearly been untouched.
“Me?” I asked, as if he could have meant anyone else. “Why? To make sure it’s okay?”
“No, no. Because you said you hadn’t had it before. I thought, what a shame, she works so hard in a place like this, and she’s never tasted the sweetness right in front of her?” He held up the spoon, waving it enticingly.
I glanced behind me to make sure Jill or some other server wasn’t watching. Normally one didn’t do this sort of thing with customers, but I wanted to see what would happen if I did. “All right.”
He held the spoon still, then up toward my chin. I leaned forward, my hands on my apron, and I slowly closed my mouth over it. The spoon was cold and the sorbet tart at first, then sweet as it melted in my mouth. “Mmmm.”
His gaze never left my face and he smiled as I straightened up. Attention from guys often felt slimy to me, but from him all I felt was warmth, his eyes like hot spotlights.
I wanted to shine in that light. “Anything else I can get for you?” I asked, one of my standard lines.
He ran his finger along his chin, as if I had proposed a question requiring deep thought.
“Er, you know, I can have the bartender pour you something else, if you don’t like this,” I blathered.
“Oh, I like this,” he said, a half-smile coming onto his face, and I felt he wasn’t talking about what was in his glass. His neck was long and graceful, and he had not the slightest bit of slouch in his posture, like a male figure skater. Or a model. He seemed more gorgeous the longer I looked at him, with high cheekbones and a luscious-looking mouth. He tilted his face up at me. “Your name tag says Ashley. Is that your name?”
“Yes, of course,” I answered. It was a lie, actually. Ashley was the girl I was filling in for tonight, the one who was actually too sick to come in. I’d quit working here a few months ago to concentrate on my thesis; the “Karina” name tag had been lost or repurposed by now. For a second I wondered if Ashley was really sick or if she’d lied just like me, while she covered the ass of someone else, and so on and so on. Sadly, there was no one who could cover for me if Professor Renault caught me.
“Ashley, Ashley, gray as a cat, as you drift to the floor from the end of my cigarette,” he said, as if reciting a poem. His voice was cultured and smoky like a deep jazz saxophone, making me feel melty inside. There was something charming about him, even if what he said made no sense.
“Ashley, tell me something,” he said, angling his head as if to see me better. “Would you like to try something else new?”
“Something else?” I echoed. “What do you mean?”
“Are you bored? Tired of the rat race? Looking for a little adventure?”
“Well sure, who isn’t?” I said.
He nodded at my automatic response. “Indeed. Ashley, I’m bored. I would like to play a game. And I would like someone to play it with me.”
“I bet you say that to all the girls,” I joked.
His expression darkened, surprising me. “Actually, it takes a very special person to pique my interest.”
He thinks I’m special? I thought.
“If you don’t want to play, that’s fine,” he added. “I’ll leave and never come back if you say no.”
Right about then, my weirdo meter should have been pinging hard. But my inner alarm bells were silent. Maybe because he wasn’t giving off a weird vibe and he seemed sincere about leaving me alone if I didn’t want to play along. And maybe because it was hard to say no to such an attractive man. I decided to test him out a little, though. “I’ll play if you’ll answer a question.”
He smiled. “Name it,” he said, imitating me perfectly.
“Tell me why a wealthy, well-dressed man like yourself is drinking alone.”
“You mean, am I here fleeing a harridan wife or escaping my supermodel girlfriend?”
I shook a finger at him. “No answering a question with a question, mister. That’s rude.”
He flattened a hand against his lapels. “I beg your pardon. You’re right. An honest question deserves an honest answer. The truth is I’ve come to the end of a very long and tiring episode in my business. I’m at loose ends for the first time in a long time, and to celebrate, I wanted to be alone for a while, something I haven’t had a chance to do recently.” He glanced out the window, then turned his full attention back to me. “In fact, I was just working myself up to a promise to spend more time by myself”—he paused and swirled the bourbon in his glass—“when you came along. There, was that a satisfactory answer?”
I smiled. He seemed confident, sophisticated, and imminently reasonable. He seemed real. “Yes, it was. Okay, so what’s the game?”
“The game is very simple. I ask you to do something, and you do it.”
“Something like what?”
“Something like this: I have a marble in my jacket pocket. I’d like you to reach into the pocket, take out the marble, and put it in your mouth. I’ll also have another bourbon and a glass of water, and when you bring me back the drinks, put the marble into the glass of bourbon. That’s how you’ll return it to me.” His voice deepened and it felt like silk sliding over my skin. “Would you do that, Ashley?”
No one had ever said something like that to me before. It was like a dare, like a secret, like something private just the two of us were getting away with, exciting and a little bit illicit. “If this is a game,” I said, “what do I win if I play?”
His full smile was like a prize itself. “I’m a genie. I’ll grant you a wish,” he said with a laugh. His voice was as rich as melted chocolate, even when he lightened it playfully.
“Okay.” I gave him a goofy little curtsy. “I get it.” Playing the game and sharing a secret was the prize.
I stepped closer to him, glanced back to make sure Jill or someone wasn’t watching me from the stairs or server station across the room, and then bent over to reach into the pocket nearest to me. The jacket was a surprisingly soft fabric that felt almost like suede, a stylish cut, but it still had pockets like a traditional suit.
The pocket was empty. His eyebrows twitched with amusement. Okay, other pocket. Now I had to lean across him.
As I did so, he probably got an eyeful down my white, button-down shirt and I kind of liked that thought. My nipples tightened as I wondered if he liked the view. I slid my hand into the pocket and found it empty also. “Hey—”
Before I could voice my protest, he spoke. “There is one more pocket.”
Oh. The exterior breast pocket was clearly a fake one, which meant the real pocket was inside the jacket. The expression on his face was bemused. Well, what did I know? I’d never played this game before. Maybe I should have thought of that first. Whatever. I gave him the old eyebrow right back, and slid my hand inside the jacket.
As I did, I caught a whiff of a spicy, masculine scent, not quite strong enough to be cologne. It was as if I could feel his body heat with my nose.
Intoxicated by his scent, I finally felt something square and hard. I pulled it free: a ring box? Now I really wondered why he was drinking alone, if this was an engagement ring or something like that…
I glanced at him before I opened the box only to find a marble perched on a bed of velvet. I plucked it free.
The marble felt warm from being kept close to his heart. Just a round, glass marble with a swirl in it.
So, what were the instructions again? Put it in my mouth? I shared a look with him as I held the marble between two fingers. The request was a little bit dirty and a little intimate without being overtly sexual, and I think he knew that. It was a dare.
Did I dare?
I did. I made a show of dropping the marble into the alcohol he had left, swirling the glass around with a clinking sound, and then fishing the marble out and popping it into my mouth.
“Don’t swallow,” he warned.
I smiled, took up his glass, and went to fill his order.
Thankfully I didn’t have to speak to send his drink order to the bar. I typed it on the upstairs order station, and then went down to put the glass in the bus bin.
Then what? I couldn’t chance going into the main section of the bar, and I had to keep busy or it’d be obvious I was slacking off.
The ladies’ room. I’d take a quick “powder” and then see if the drinks were up.
In the employee restroom, I straightened my hair and my shirt. Normally I wouldn’t give a damn about what a customer thought of my appearance. In fact, normally I hoped they didn’t even notice me. But he was so impeccable and smooth! I wished I could seem even half that sophisticated, and since I couldn’t, usually being invisible was better. I’d gotten some ketchup on the cuff of one sleeve at some point during the night. Sloppy. And this was my last unstained shirt. I made a note to ask Jill if she could cover that, too, at least a thrift store one. I hated being broke. I needed to get the hell out of grad school and start making some money. I had to find something to do with my life other than staring at pre-Raphaelite art and writing pretentious analyses of it. My mother told me endlessly that grad school was a waste of time, except for the fact that I might meet a well-educated guy to marry. I hadn’t even gotten that part right.
A knock on the door jolted me. I hoped it wasn’t anyone I would have to say much to. I tucked the marble into my cheek. “One sec!” I ran the water and washed my hands.
When I came out, Jill was standing there, her beefy arms crossed. “You okay in there? I’ve been waiting.”
Well, nothing like the truth at a time like that, right? “I’m hiding because the advisor I blew off tonight to cover your ass is out there right now!” The marble clicked against my teeth as I tried to make myself understandable. Hopefully she would think it was a cough drop or an ice cube.
“What advisor? You didn’t tell me you blew someone off!”
“Would it have mattered? ‘Karina’”—it came out “Kawina” with the marble in the way—“‘I’m desperate. You’re the only one who can do this. I need you,’” I hissed, imitating the way she had wheedled me on the phone.
“Of course it would have mattered.”
I shook my head. “Last time I told you I had plans and didn’t drop everything to work for you, you got Mom all pissed off at me and made my life a living hell for months.”
“You had ‘plans’ with stupid Brad, who was no good for you anyway! I really did need you, and that night blew chunks without you.” Jill had just turned thirty and was a good deal heavier than me. When she smacked the door frame next to my head, I swear the door felt it.
“Well, this is it, the last time. Now excuse me, my order’s up.” I pushed past her. I loved Jill, but she thought because she was the oldest that my brother Troy and I were her lord- and lady-in-waiting or something. Troy was only a year younger than me, but he might as well have lived on another planet for all I saw of him or understood of him. And that was a cheap shot bringing up Brad. He was a failure in every sense of the word. I had thought dating an older, more distinguished guy was a good idea for someone about to leave grad school. He was thirty-three, seven years older than me, and I’d made the mistake of thinking that meant he was a functioning adult. Instead, he’d bounced between acting like he was fifty-three and in need of a geriatric nurse and acting like he was three and in need of a time-out. Worst of all, he was already trying to get a prescription for Viagra.
I meant it when I said failure in every way.
Thankfully, the order was up. I took the glass of water and the bourbon up the stairs, thinking, So far, so good.
The four-top of women had left, and the couple was holding hands and had their faces close together. I could see the tatters of wrapping paper on the table from the gifts they’d exchanged. I’m sure they were perfectly nice people, but all I wanted was to tell them to get a room.
As I approached my mystery man’s table, I realized I had no idea how I was going to get the marble out of my mouth.
It was too late to go in the back and drop it into the glass there. He’d already seen me, and his gaze seemed to be drawing me toward him. His eyes never left mine as I crossed the floor, feeling like each step was getting heavier and heavier.
At last I stopped in front of his table, drew in a deep breath, and set down the glass of water. I then held up the shot glass of bourbon as if I were smelling it, brought the marble out until I held it with just my lips in an O shape, and let it go, almost like I was blowing him a kiss. The marble fell with a plop and I set the bourbon on the table, resisting the urge to wipe my lips. I settled for licking them.
He ignored the glass on the table, his eyes never leaving my face, and I saw his gaze sharpen at the momentary appearance of my tongue. I wondered if he was as turned on as I was. I had never flirted with a customer. Not like this.
He lifted his drink and smelled the bourbon, waving the glass under his nose and then closing his eyes for a moment as if savoring the scent. I nearly sighed when he did, as if I’d been released from a magic spell. A moment later he stared at me again as he took his first sip.
He nodded, as if satisfied, and set the glass down. “How did you choose which bourbon to give me this time? This isn’t the same one.”
“Well, you seem in the mood to try new things tonight,” I explained. “Plus I figured you for the type that wouldn’t go down in quality, so I went up.”
He nodded again, approvingly, as if I’d answered a particularly tricky test question.
“Do I get my wish now?” I asked jokingly.
His face remained stern as he laid his hand on the tabletop, fingers curled as if he were holding a live moth. “Think very hard about what you want, then close your eyes.”
I did as he asked, without hesitating. Well, I closed my eyes, anyway. But what did I want? What should I wish for? I supposed this was like making a birthday wish before blowing out the candles. Wishing for happiness seemed way too general. Wishing for money felt wrong. Wishing to graduate…I shouldn’t have to wish for that, damn it. I deserved to finish and move on with my life. Wishing for that job I’d interviewed for? That was like wishing for money. And I wasn’t even sure I wanted to work for Philip Hale. Something about him creeped me out a little.
“Make your wish,” he whispered, and yet I heard him perfectly clearly. “Then take the wish out of my hand.”
I want to know what love is, I thought, and opened my eyes. He was grinning as he opened his hand and there was nothing there, but I played along by snatching up a bit of air and pretending to shove it into the breast pocket on my button-down shirt.
He startled me then by standing up, very close to me. I didn’t back away. Instead, I looked up at him wondering if he was feeling the effects of the alcohol. He was tall and he looked down to meet my eyes, his now shadowed, hawkish and intense.
“Thank you for playing this game with me,” he said, voice low. I heard glass clink as he held up the marble, glistening with booze. He licked it clean, his tongue long and sinuous like a cat’s, and I imagined what it would feel like licking me instead of the piece of glass. “You’re very rare, Ashley. I would like to play another round with you sometime.”
“I, um, okay,” I said, hardly able to speak. I felt more like I was the one who had downed a shot, fueled with liquid courage.
He handed me a card with his other hand. “Call the number on that card if you’re interested.”
“Could we, um, play another round right now?” I heard myself ask. He was mesmerizing. He was different. I’d never met a man who made me feel like this: turned on and intrigued and challenged, and yet I felt safe, like he was someone I could trust.
He chuckled very low in his throat. “Desire is good,” he said. “Being pushy is not.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
He closed his eyes a moment, as if he were thinking it over, and that helped. We were still standing far too close for far too long in a public place. I wanted to lick the shine of bourbon from the edge of his lip. He’d used the word desire, which made it clear what we were talking about, didn’t it?
What he said next surely did. “Very well. One more round. Take the marble, and put it into your panties. You’ll keep it there the rest of your shift. When you get off, call the number on the card to get your next instructions.”
My heart was beating in triple time. “Okay,” I said, sounding a bit breathless.
He handed me the marble and then raised his eyebrow.
“Right now?” I squeaked.
He nodded. The couple had stood to leave and were paying us no mind.
Under the front knot of my apron, I reached inside the waistband of my jeans, sucking in my stomach to make room for my hand. From there I dug my fingertips under the elastic of my panties and let the marble drop. I held in a gasp as it slid straight down the seam of my body, to where it found a pool of dampness I hadn’t realized had gathered there.
I hadn’t been this turned on in months. Possibly I hadn’t been this turned on ever.
He leaned in to whisper, “Good girl,” and I felt like I had won another prize. The feeling only deepened when he ran one finger along my jaw, such a light touch I barely felt it. “If you don’t call, I’ll know you decided you didn’t want to play after all. I won’t be— No, that’s a lie. I will be disappointed if you don’t. However, I’ll respect your wishes.”
“I’ll earn another wish from you,” I said in return. In the back of my head I was already thinking that if I wanted to back out, it would be easy. My name wasn’t even Ashley, and this wasn’t my actual job. But in the front of my mind all I could think of was how much I wanted to keep playing…with him.
He grinned. “Excellent.” He nodded, then stepped back to put his topcoat on and walked out without looking back at me.
I stood there for a few more breathless seconds, until he was out of sight. Then I looked down and saw that the two twenty-dollar bills I thought he’d left on the table to cover his tab were actually fifties.
I shoved them into my apron pocket and collected the glasses from all the tables before heading down the stairs, carrying the tray over my shoulder. With each step I took, the marble rubbed back and forth in my panties, inflaming me. I wondered if anyone would be able to tell how turned on I was and was thankful for the amber and red lights in the place.
This was by far the kinkiest thing I had ever done. If Jill knew I had flirted with a customer like that, or with anyone for that matter, she’d freak. So it was imperative that I keep our secret. I suddenly realized I didn’t even know his name. I looked at the card. All it had on it was a phone number. I slipped it into the back pocket of my jeans, wondering what his hand would feel like there.
I was so wrapped up in thinking about him that I almost dropped the glasses I was holding when someone grabbed me by the arm.
“Karina Casper! You told me you were too sick to get out of bed! What do you have to say for yourself?”
It was Professor Renault. And I was plain caught.
Chapter Two: In the Back of a Dream Car
Professor Renault would have launched into a lecture right there, I’m sure, except that the throngs of Lord’s Ladies picked that moment to break into song. The HD TVs were all showing a video from the concert earlier in which the singer flew over the audience while riding a giant white swan. I could see Renault’s mouth moving but couldn’t hear a word he said. I pointed to my ear and shook my head. He made a frustrated noise. Hale stood behind him looking boozy and amused.
Renault took my arm again, this time to pull me close enough to say directly into my ear, “You will be at my office first thing in the morning. Bah, no, I have another appointment. Come to my house at eight.”
“In the morning?” I protested. “Professor…”
“You are the one who lied and inconvenienced me, so now you must make it up to me. Eight o’clock.” He let me go again with a sneer on his face so spiteful he might as well have said, “Or else.”
He rattled off his address before he turned to leave, and Hale kind of leered at me and gave a wave of his pudgy fingers, then followed Renault through the crowd of outlandishly dressed fan girls (and a few boys). Maybe Hale was too drunk to recognize me, though he’d probably heard my name. Whatever. I’d had enough. I didn’t care that there were still two hours to go until closing time.
I went directly to the back room, took off my apron, and flung it into the laundry. Then I remembered the cash in the pocket and had to pull it back out of the bin. I went to clock out and then remembered I wasn’t actually a clocked-in employee. Right. That was how I got into this mess in the first place.
I didn’t see Jill anywhere to tell her good-bye, which was just as well since I was so angry I might have said something I would regret. I grabbed my coat and stormed out the back, half thinking I should stand in the alley until I cooled off and then go back in and finish the shift after all. But there were people out back, a busboy having a smoke and getting an eyeful of two LL fans whose genders I couldn’t even determine making out against the wall. They were dressed identically, with purple wigs, electric-blue jackets, and thigh-high red boots. At any other time I would have found it comical. Right now I was just pissed.
I hugged my jacket around me and hurried out of the alley. The Seventh Avenue sidewalk was crowded with concertgoers and roving packs of glam rockers, even though the concert was long over. Normally I’d go over to 34th to walk on the busier—and therefore safer—road, but right then I was too mad to care. I turned and stalked for half a block on 32nd Street, fuming, about my advisor, about my ketchup-stained shirt, about everything, but then something very insistent caught my attention. The slippery, round nub of glass in my panties.
Remembering it suddenly brought back the lust and attraction in a rush and my cheeks heated up, even in the chilly March wind. I sagged against a building, but that caused the sensation of the marble to stop. I started walking again, imagining it was his finger moving back and forth. Teasing.
I felt in my coat pocket for my phone. Should I call now? Or wait until I got home? He wasn’t expecting me to call so soon, was he? He probably thought I didn’t get off until two in the morning. I glanced at the time on the cell’s screen. It was barely midnight.
I was almost to Sixth Avenue, almost to Herald Square where I normally caught my train, but now I wasn’t sure. Maybe I should go home and forget all about him. I mean, seriously, what if he turned out to be a psycho?
Who was I kidding? What we’d done at the bar was far from normal and yet that was what was so interesting about him. I couldn’t help but think about what else he had up his sleeve…or better yet, in his pockets.
I sucked in a deep breath and dialed the number on the card. I heard a ring, then what sounded like a connection. “Hello?” I said when I didn’t hear anything else. “Ah, piece of crap phone, did you drop the call? If anyone’s there, I’ll try you again. I need a new phone.”
I hung up and tried again.
This time a male voice, deep even through the phone, answered. “Hello?”
“Hi, it’s me. K—um, Ashley. Is this…? Ha-ha, I don’t even know what to call you. I mean, that is, I’m calling for my next instructions.” Why was I always such a dork on the phone? I felt pretty good for having put together a nice full sentence at the end, though.
I heard his amused chuckle. “Your shift is over?”
“Very over,” I said with some vehemence. “I quit.”
“I see. Well, where are you now? Sounds like you’re outdoors.”
“I am. Thirty-Second Street, just west of Sixth.”
“The north side of the street?”
“Yeah, the mall side.”
“Say yes instead.”
“Instead of yeah. Say yes.”
“Okay. Yes.” I held on to the s a little too long. Yes had a kind of sexy hiss to it.
“Lean against the wall, like you’re waiting for a bus,” he said. “I’ll be there in a moment. Stay on the phone.”
“Yes, I will.” I did as he asked, leaning one shoulder against the wall and cradling the phone to my ear. In a moment? I guess he hadn’t gone far after leaving the bar. Had he been expecting my call? I looked around the sidewalk, expecting to see him walk around the corner at any moment.
Instead, a long black limousine pulled up in front of me.
“Stay against the wall,” he said, but the window rolled down a crack, just enough for me to see his eyes. That was all I needed to see to know it was him.
“Reach into your jeans and pull up your panties until I can see the edge.”
He clucked his tongue. “Say yes.”
“Right. Yesss.” I did as he asked, tugging on the waistband, which had the effect of bunching my panties between my lower lips, in addition to pulling the marble against the center of my pleasure. I gasped out another “Yes!”
“Very good,” came his voice. “Keep tugging like that.”
“Yes, I will.” I wondered with some disbelief whether a total stranger was about to make me come right there on a New York City street.
“Not very lacy, are they?”
“Excuse me?”
“Your panties.”
“Oh, um, no.” My cheeks flushed. I was wearing plain white cotton, the kind I bought in a pack of ten. “I’m not much of a girly-girl, really.” My breath caught.
His voice was a whisper. “Don’t come.”
“But I’m so close.”
“What did I say about being pushy?”
Oh. Oh. “Isn’t desire good?” I asked.
“Yes. Very good.”
“What do I have to do to come?”
“Be patient,” he said, with another chuckle.
I squeezed my legs together. “Damn it, how did I know you were going to say something like that?”
His chuckle turned into a laugh loud enough that I heard it through the cracked window. “Because your instincts are good, that’s why. How about this? What would you do to earn an orgasm? And don’t say anything. I can’t stand clichés.”
That made me laugh. “All right. Besides, I wouldn’t do ‘anything.’ I’m not that kind of girl.”
“No, indeed you aren’t. I can tell you’re a good girl, and that’s one reason why I like you,” he said softly, and it made me feel warm and tingly inside. “Now, answer the question.”
I looked at him, those eagle eyes staring out from the slit in the window. “It’s hard to say what I’d do when I don’t know the rules of the game,” I said.
“Oh, but learning the rules is part of the game,” he answered. “Indeed, your answer will help make the rules.”
“Oh.” I racked my brains, but it was hard to think when I was so turned on. “Well, I should do something that you’ll like so that you’ll let me come. But I don’t know you well enough to guess.”
He laughed again. “Learning what will please me is nearly the same thing as learning the rules.”
“I see. Well, I think two things please you,” I said, tugging on my panties again. “One is watching me obey, and the other is watching me squirm.”
“Both are correct.”
“If you don’t tell me what to do, I can’t obey, and, well, I sure as hell am squirming now.”
“That you are, and it is lovely.”
I felt the flush creep up my face again. “Thank you.” No one had ever called me lovely before. And meant it.
“Do one more thing for me, and then you may come only if you can do so without reaching into your jeans.”
“One more thing?”
“Yes. Walk around the block.”
“Which direction?”
“So that the car may follow you, of course. Go up to Sixth and turn left.”
Of course. “Okay, I mean yes.”
“Very good.”
I started to walk. I was wearing a stained shirt, black jeans, and my clunky black work shoes, but I felt like I was in stilettos and a miniskirt. I was completely slippery down below, and I could feel his eyes on me as I walked.
After midnight there weren’t a lot of people on Sixth Avenue, but in New York the streets are never completely empty. There were small crowds waiting for the bus, loitering, doing whatever the hell people do…None of them paying any attention to me, but the thought that they might look up, might wonder why my face was so red, why my steps were so slow…
I turned the next corner heading back toward the Garden and could hear the engine hum as the car followed around the turn.
Suddenly his voice was sharp. “No, don’t.” The car and I both stopped where we were. “Too many people in the street at the other end.” I heard him curse away from the phone and say something I couldn’t make out, possibly in some other language. He must have been talking to the limo driver.
“It’s the crowd from the Lightning concert,” I said while I waited for him to tell me what to do. “New York is infested with roving gangs in platform glitter boots.”
He chuckled nervously. “Indeed. Well, judging from the look of things in this direction, we won’t be getting through there.”
“What should I do?”
There was silence. I guess he was thinking about it.
“Get in,” he finally said.
(End of sample! I hope you enjoyed it!)

Here’s a slideshow of photos I took of the blocks of 32nd Street, Sixth Avenue, and 33rd street Karina walks along!

If you’d like to see my little narrated video tour of the area, I’ve put the video snippets up in this post:


“This is the BDSM novel all the other millionaire Dom heroes want to star in. Tan takes an overused trope and turns it into a dreamy, erotic fantasy that draws the reader down the rabbit hole…”
RT Book Reviews
“Finally — finally! — we’re given a heroine without the Nervous Nellie nail-biting and hair-twirling the [BDSM] genre seems to be plagued with… and James escapes the confines of the controlling Dom construct that has so many of these ‘heroes’ veering from Domination into downright abuse.”
-RT Book Reviews “extended review”
“Cecilia Tan’s Slow Surrender is billionaire erotica without any borderline abuse, unrealistic sex scenes or BDSM-shaming.”
RT Book Reviews “Seal of Excellence” Nomination
“Loved, loved Slow Surrender and am waiting on pins and needles for book two, Slow Seduction to come out . . . another brilliant outing from Cecelia Tan . . . her characters are full of life and emotion, and so believable. Definitely a keeper!”
-Night Owl Reviews
“One of my favorite aspects of this book is the care with which Tan details the BDSM aspects of James and Karina’s developing relationship, especially the psychological aspects. In several of the sex scenes, James pushes Karina’s boundaries, but in a way that worked. I believed that Karina enjoyed James’ domination, and it deepened their growing relationship.”
Romance Novel News
“5 Incredible Stars”
“I absolutely loved this book. Cecilia has a way to make the sex (or no sex) scenes work that is so different from what I’ve read in other BDSM books. It all starts with a game involving a marble, yes you read that right, a marble. You will not be able to look at a marble the same way again after reading this book.”
Book Babes Unite
“This book was interesting, erotic, and steamy….I’ll never look at pearls the same way again!”
Sugar and Spice Book Reviews
“It is absolutely steamy, sexy, fun, erotic. Lots of different ways to play and this book explores them.”
The Sweet Escape
“This is the first book by Cecilia Tan that I’ve read and I am impressed. She managed to bring together two complex characters with hot-as-hell chemistry and made them seen real.”
LeAnn’s Book Reviews
“I loved this book. I was so into it, I didn’t even turn my WiFi on for my eReader so I could read uninterrupted. That is pretty huge for me.”
Nonsensical Thoughts and Ramblings
“Looking for that edgy dark seduction that we fell for in 50 Shades of Grey? Slow Surrender slips seductively into sensation and holds a dark promise of passion. Just like the promise of a slow seduction Ms Tan seduces the reader as well. She does not offer us closure in this book rather takes up right to the edge of the cliff… then stops. Take the time to be seduced and read Slow Seduction.”
Tea and Book
“Get comfy in your glass slippers and enjoy, ladies! This book from beginning to end was an excitingly erotic ride. Cecilia Tan captivated us right from the start with her different and enticing book, Slow Surrender. The Divas give this book 4 out of 5 champagne glasses!”
Diva’s Daily Book Blog
“It was well written, it was hot, the characters were interesting, it was hot. Oh, and did I mention it was HOT? I was a little surprised at how much Karina went along with no questions asked, but good for her for being so adventurous. Seriously, who doesn’t want to be more adventurous? The Foreshadowing was a little obvious so that it was pretty clear what his secret identity was (or one of them, anyway) but there’s still so much mystery to him that it doesn’t really matter. I’ll say it again, I LOVE cliffhangers!”
Jenna Calmers on Books
Slow Surrender is the kind of seductive page turner that keeps you wondering not only will she or won’t she, but when that next step in erotic enticement will occur. Cecilia Tan knows sex, knows power, and knows a how a real woman can get caught up in the drama of power, pain, pleasure and mystery — without losing herself in the process. This is 50 shades of genuine heat, from a master of the game.” –Laura Antoniou, bestselling author of The Marketplace Series and The Killer Wore Leather
“Seductive fun not to be missed! Cecilia Tan will make all your sexy wishes come true!” –Lisa Renee Jones, bestselling author of If I Were You
“Move over EL James. Cecilia Tan’s SLOW SURRENDER is sinfully sweet and sublimely erotic. As with sipping a superb single-malt scotch served neat, you’ll savor the slow burn as it builds to a deliciously unanticipated … climax. At turns witty and poignant, meltingly tender and darkly erotic, this is a must-read for lovers of erotic romance, and Cecilia Tan is an automatic buy for me.”
–Hope Tarr, author of Tempting and Vanquished


    1. I just got the release date from the publisher! January 28, 2014. It will be called Slow Seduction. The publisher seems to be taking the “slow” part of the title seriously! 😉 They’ll release the ebook and the print book of Book 2 at the same time, at least.

      1. I just read Slow Surrender – I picked it up thinking it would be a fun read for my long weekend. I couldn’t put it down and now I realize it’s part of a series and #2 doesn’t come out for two more months! I have something to look forward to….but I still have most of my weekend left. lol

    1. I know! I thought the publisher would do the same thing with book 2 they did with book 1, where the ebook came out 5 months ahead of the paperback. But they decided to do them both together in January 2014.
      What do you think, should I do a short story or two in the summer/fall to tide people over? Maybe I’ll put up a poll about that…

      1. Oh please do – it will be so difficult to wait until January. Would you consider something from James’ point of view so we understand a little of what is going on in his head or would that spoil the mystery?

        1. I seriously considered in an early draft having a few chapters from James’s point of view, so that’s a definite possibility. I must ponder it somewhat…!

  1. I just started and finished your book today.
    OMG ! I loved it.
    January 2014? That is soooooo far away.

  2. So is this series a three book trilogy? If so, when will the next one be after that? I’m totally hooked. I got to the end of Slow Surrender and realized that there was going to be another book. I read it in two days. I like to slow it down so I don’t miss anything. I can’t wait for the next one. I know it seems so far away, but know that it will be here sooner than we think!

    1. Renee, thanks for asking. Yes, it’s planned out as three books:
      Slow Surrender (paperback forthcoming August 2013)
      Slow Seduction (ebook and paperback January 2014)
      Slow Satisfaction (summer 2014–the publisher hasn’t set exact date yet)

    1. I REALLY enjoyed Slow Surrender and am anxiously awaiting Slow Seduction. You definitely know how to write a VERY steamy scene. My husband thanks you!
      I realize it is after the deadline to receive a bonus chapter but is there any way I can convince you to swap it for 2 fabulous reviews?
      Waiting with baited breath,
      Kelly (and husband)

  3. i wrote my comment twice i am getting tired of these things you have to dg to get a few chips especialy with the amount of money i spend with ddc

  4. This story’s description really reminds me of the Fifty Shades of Gray series. It’s just an impression.

    1. It’s a very valid impression. Publishers are pushing hard to capture the “what should I read after 50 Shades of Grey?” audience. I see my book on reader lists and recommendation lists with about a dozen others that stem from the same style of pairing: a BDSM male dom billionaire with an inexperienced woman partner.
      I read 50 SHADES because I wanted to make sure my book went in a different direction, even if I had a similar starting place. I’ve read a few others in the “BDSM billionaire” genre now, too (like ALL HE WANTS by CC Gibbs) and although they all start with a similar premise, they all go different places. (Well, so far, Gibbs’ series is still in progress, so is Sylvia Day’s…)

  5. And another fanfiction writer gives up on writing a “real” book and settles for writing smut. Hope it makes you some money.

    1. Hate to break it to you, but I’ve written pretty much nothing BUT “smut” my entire professional writing career, which dates back to 1992. So much for settling? Oh yeah, now I’m “settling” for the fact that the mainstream will actually BUY the BDSM fiction I’ve been writing and publishing professionally for 21 years!

      1. I think that “submissive and coerced” are a pretty fair assessment of the E. L. James character (who is raped repeatedly throughout the course of that particular book) and pretty close to Karina based on what’s written here.
        Hardly trolling.

  6. I’ve never read a romance book like this!! It’s so seductive and it pulls you in!! I’m definitely buying this book

  7. Love Slow Surrender so much I have read it twice and will re-read right before Slow Seduction comes out. Read the sample chapter of Slow Seduction and now wished I had not because it makes it more difficult to wait until 1/28/2014. Just from the small bit of Damon in the same chapter, I don’t know if I want James to be found…just yet.Looking forward to its release.

    1. Oh dear, did I post it too soon? I’m a wicked top getting people all excited and then making them wait, I guess!
      Damon is wicked. As if you couldn’t tell. 🙂

  8. After listening to the excerpt in Nobilis’ podcast I would love to buy the audiobook but it seems none of the providers (Audible/Tantor/iTunes) has the right to do so to Switzerland 🙁 Any idea when it is available? (I prefer Audible)
    Thanks Roman

    1. Roman, I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble! I have no idea what’s up with the sales territory of the audiobooks. All I can do is ask my publisher. I don’t know if some other entity holds the non-US rights or what. Sorry: we authors have almost no contact, much less control, with the subsidiary rights stuff!

    2. Roman, sorry to say it appears the audiobooks territory is only certain English-speaking countries. To get it from Audible you’ll have to spoof your IP address to make them think you’re in the US, Canada, or the Philippines.

      1. Hi Cecilia, thanks for asking around. Spoofing shouldn’t be a big problem, but in the mean time I got a book dealer to order the first two directly from Tantor.
        Loving it 🙂

  9. i have to say slow seduction is one of the best i couldn’t put it down…so sensual and hot….i loved it and can’t wait to read the second and was one of the best.i loved all the teasing and mystery between the karina and james.thanks for the amazing fantasy’s!!!

    1. You’re so welcome! Book three will be out in 12 weeks! I’m counting it down, can’t wait for everyone to see what Karina and james get up to. 🙂

  10. I don’t know if I can wait til the end of August for Slow Satisfaction….. now I wish I had read book 2 more slooooowly.

  11. Hi. Im extremely interesting in reading this trilogy. But there are not on spanish. My question, are you going to publish the trilogy in spanish?

    1. Charlene — my publisher, Hachette/Grand Central Publishing, is trying to sell all languages, but it would be up to a Spanish-language publisher to buy the rights for that language to happen. So far they have sold French, Dutch, and (I think) Hungarian, but no Spanish yet.

  12. I am in love with this book trilogy! I was wondering if the third book will be coming to audiobook soon? I really enjoyed listening to the first and second in the house, car, gym and work shhhhh 🙂

    1. Kirstin, I checked into it and for mysterious reasons unknown Tantor Media only bought the rights to books one and two and didn’t commit to doing book three. And apparently they feel the “BDSM craze” is over and it doesn’t look like they’re going to pick up the third one! I’m kinda crushed, as you can imagine. Maybe it would help if you contacted Tantor Media to say you’re eagerly awaiting the third installment? The only contact I have for them is customer service at or the phone number 877-7-TANTOR. (The series listing is here:
      My agent will try to get the rights to the third book placed elsewhere but it’ll take a while.

  13. Sent to Tantor via their website contact page today, as well as part of my review at Audible:
    “It’s really crummy to only take 2 books of a trilogy. Those of us who LOVED the first two and WANT the same narration, etc, are really disappointed to race to buy the third book on audio, only to find IT’S NOT THERE. Then to research and find there’s NO PLANS FOR IT. Case in point – Struck by Lightning series by Cecilia Tan. Doesn’t make me happy. So, I AM a customer. I am NOT a happy one at the moment. Can you explain? Or better yet, let me know when the third book in the series, hopefully with the same narrator, will be out?”
    That said, I am willing to SIT and read if I have to, but I REALLY loved the audiobook. I wasn’t sure about the narration at first, but it was actually very good. I’m not “into” BDSM, I’d probably smack anyone who told me to kiss their shoe and I never read FSOG, but lots of erotica goes there, so for me it’s about the story and the relationship. A great alpha male and lots of smexy scenes are a must too. I loved James and aside from all the secrecy, I’d totally be his sub! LOL As for the negative comments above, you write REALLY GOOD “SMUT”! And I hope you make a lot of money too! 😀 Maybe GB needs a BJ…or a spanking.

  14. Just received from Tantor: “Thank you for your interest in Tantor Media. Unfortunately, we will not be producing the third book in the Struck by lightning series. Please let me know if you have further questions.”
    My reply: “Wow. I guess I will have to look at who produces the audiobooks I buy beforehand, so I’m not left hanging. No point in committing to a company who doesn’t commit to it’s customers. I’ll be letting Audible know as well.”
    Tantor is a crappy, irresponsible company. I hope your agent can find another to produce this audio, and with the same narrator. So rude. I am offended FOR you, but I am beyond pissed that they’d leave ME hanging. Jerks.

    1. I’m so sorry about the Tantor stuff. My publisher and I assumed they’d contract the third book, as well, and it’s baffling they’ve just shrugged and decided not to pick it up. It almost makes me want to do a chapter by chapter podcast of it or something. But since my publisher owns the rights I’d need to get their okay for that, first. I know I don’t sound like Lucy Rivers, but I am a good reader and I simply hate the thought you’ve been left hanging! Of all the series to abandon, one with serious cliffhangers… it’s, well, sadistic. And not in the good way!
      I wonder if Tantor will let me contact the narrator directly. I will look into it.

  15. What a great series! My wife and I just finished book 2 in audio format and after a search found out it was not out in audio form and were disappointed. I will download the e-book and we will just have to read it together in bed every night. 😘 Not a bad way to end the day I guess. Thanks Cecilia for the stories.

    1. You’re welcome, Dennis! I’m so sorry there was no audio done of book three: that was totally out of my control. But sounds like you came up with a very enticing alternative! <3 <3 <3

  16. I’m a little late to this party, but… Wow!! I couldn’t put these books down and am about to read them a second time!! Do you think you’ll ever tell the story from a different prospective or tell a different characters story like you did with the Rockstar series? I’m super curious about what James told Damon when he asked him to temp Katrina, and what he did when he found out Damon was playing him!! Aaaggg, It’s a love hate feeling when a series you fall in love with ends!! Lol Thank you for writing the stories you do, they are a delicious escape. 😉

    1. Never too late to enjoy a good book! 🙂 Thank you so much for coming by to say so! You know, I do have a bonus story from James’s point of view that I sent to my newsletter subscribers a couple of years ago. Let me see if I can find it and email it to you. 🙂

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