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Thursday, 19 September 2013

Review, Interview & GIVEAWAY - Tears of Tess by Pepper Winters

Tears of Tess

Tears of Tess (Tears of Tess, #1)
Pepper Winters

*Don't Forget to Enter the Giveaway Below!!*


“My life was complete. Happy, content, everything neat and perfect.
Then it all changed.
I was sold.”

Tess Snow has everything she ever wanted: one more semester before a career in property development, a loving boyfriend, and a future dazzling bright with possibility.

For their two year anniversary, Brax surprises Tess with a romantic trip to Mexico. Sandy beaches, delicious cocktails, and soul-connecting sex set the mood for a wonderful holiday. With a full heart, and looking forward to a passion filled week, Tess is on top of the world.

But lusty paradise is shattered.

Kidnapped. Drugged. Stolen. Tess is forced into a world full of darkness and terror.

Captive and alone with no savior, no lover, no faith, no future, Tess evolves from terrified girl to fierce fighter. But no matter her strength, it can’t save her from the horror of being sold.

Can Brax find Tess before she’s broken and ruined, or will Tess’s new owner change her life forever?

If you didn’t know yet, this book has sex. Lots of it. It dances with grief, slavery, and has a whole bunch of mind-fuckery. If you’re looking for a sweet, Young Adult romance, do not read, this will make your eyeballs bleed.

For all of you who love dark, erotic tales with tortured alpha males, read on…
This book is Dark - like sick and twisted dark. It takes BDSM + Dom/Sub to the top level. It is pain inflicted for pleasure but on top of this there is also just straight abuse, rape, torture and depravity.
Do not go into this with your eyes closed - please read the warnings and take heed before jumping in.
Having said that - If you like this sort of thing, you will LOVE this book - it is so beautifuly written!


"Three little words.

If anyone asked what I was most afraid of, what terrified me, stole my breath, and made my life flicker before my eyes, I would say three little words."

This is the hardest book I've ever had to review. It is the darkest, most depraved novel I've jumped head first into and I honestly don't know how to untangle my feelings about it to do a review justice.
I was asked to review this for a BlogTour (for the Lovely Lori at SheReadsNewAdults) - I didn't think I'd have time to fit it in my reading schedule but I decided to have a sneaky read at work meaning I had to find a novel I had on PDF format. That novel happened to be Tears of Tess.
We meet Tess right at the beginning of this book. Her partner Brax has surprised her with a trip to Mexico and she is thrilled at the prospect of spending time alone with him. Their sex life is somewhat lacking oomph and she plans on telling him exactly what she wants from him.
"I blinked, putting the impossible together. I needed Brax to be rough because I needed to be
Oh, my God, am I that screwed up?"
Brax is too Goody Goody for her in the bedroom but she loves him regardless. Their trip gets off to a rocky start. On their first day, they take a scooter ride around remote Cancun and stop at an isolated bar for some water.

Que your heart to be beating out of your chest because you can see, hear, feel and just sense the impending doom that lies ahead. Brax is beaten and Tess is kidnapped.

"His eyes fell on mine; I froze.
It was like looking into a predators gaze: empty, hungry, black, and evil. It sucked my soul, amping my fear to a full forest fire."

She is beaten, left to starve, forced naked and "tagged" - all through pure brutality. It is horrible to read about because somewhere in the back of my head, I know it is happening for real somewhere.

Then she is sold.

"This was it. My new beginning. My new ending."

At first, she is unaware who she has been sold to. She was taken there under the cover of darkness. But she is determined to fight.
 "I tried. I failed. I tried. I failed.

It repeated, over and over.

Don’t give up. Next time, you could win. Next time, it might work."

I can't go into much more of the story without giving too much away so, instead, I'll tell you what words spring to mind when I try to describe the story to someone.
I could go on and on but I'm guessing by now that you have got the picture.
This book tore me apart, and to be honest, didn't put me back together again. It was a Stunningly written novel, truly, I don't think I've read such a wonderful collection of words from the one person. If I was rating on the writing alone, it would get 5+++++ Stars. Unfortunately as I have to rate on the story as well as the writing, I have to bring it down a bit.
It was just too dark for me. I had to take so many breaks reading this as it was just too much. Please, please take the warning seriously - this book made me feel sick on occasion. I have quite a strong stomach and can read most things but Tears of Tess made me feel like a little kid who needed comforted.
5++++++ Star Writing
4 Star Story
Levelling out at...
**4.5 Dark, Captivating, Erotic Stars**

Author Info:

Pepper Winters wears many roles. Some of them include writer, reader, sometimes wife. She loves dark, taboo stories that twist with your head. The more tortured the hero the better and she constantly thinks up ways to break and fix her characters. Oh, and sex… her books have sex.

She loves to travel and has an amazing, fabulous hubby (who speaks French—hot!) who puts up with her love affair with her book boyfriends.

Her debut book
Tears of Tess will be followed with Quintessentially Q. You didn’t think Q could stop so soon, did you?

Author Interview!!

What inspired you to start writing?
I've always been an avid reader (I used to get grounded when I was younger for reading TOO much) but I suppose I started writing seriously about 4 years ago. Up till then I'd only played around with the idea :) Words are a true passion of mine.

Who is your favourite author/what are your favourite books? Both of all time and of the moment.
Liani Taylor is my fav author for her writing style. I love it.

Do you have a writing ritual? If so, what is it?
Write as much as possible and to set myself crazy hard deadlines lol. I need to stop doing that though as writing Tears of Tess in 7 weeks meant I ignored my hubby completely.

What writing support network do you have?
Hubby keeps me fed and I have beta readers that I trust. I know my stories wouldn't be as strong without their input.

What are your most loved and loathed moments of writing/publishing?
I love writing, hate editing. I love good reviews, try and ignore the bad. As much as I love being online, I also need to back away as it's a time sucker lol

Tears of Tess Questions:


Where did the story come from?
No particular place. I just had an idea for Tess but she constantly surprised me and grew into a character a lot stronger than I thought she would be. And Q kept popping into my head until I started to write so I suppose they inspired me :)

How did you pick Tess & Q as your lead character names?
I've always liked the name Tess and Q was chosen as it's mysterious and so simple, but a strong name at the same time

How did you go about researching for the story?
A lot of reading on the slave trade--which was hard to read. There is so much in the world it's sick. I also had fun reseraching the BDSM lifestyle :) That was fun.

Were you able to disconnect from the story whilst writing or were you immersed in rape, torture etc for the entirity of writing it?
Yes, I'm fairly good with keeping my mind in the story but the moment I finish it's over. I distance myself quite well, which is good as I don't know if I could've written this if I couldn't.

Why did you choose France as the setting for the latter part of the story?
I LOVE France. I just love that Q is french and I felt it fit him perfectly :) No other reason :)

Quick Fire Round:


Tea, Coffee or Hot Chocolate?
None. Coke Zero

Real Book or Kindle/EReader?
Both. I devour books on my kindle but if a book really connects with me I have to own it in paperback

Thriller or Romance?
Romance with thriller aspects :)

SciFi or Drama?

Love or Money?

Beach Holiday or Action Holiday?

Summer or Winter?

Dogs or Cats?

Vanilla or Chocolate?
Vanilla (creme brulee. YUM)


Purchasing Link(s)


  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Interview - Kylie Scott

Author Interview and Giveaway!

Kylie Scott

Lick (Stage Dive, #1)

About Kylie:

Kylie is a long time fan of erotic love stories and B-grade horror films. She demands a happy ending and if blood and carnage occur along the way then all the better. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and one delightful husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet.


Twitter - GoodReads - Email




What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve pretty much always written. About six years ago I decided to get serious about it, took some classes and got a mentor.

What is your writing ritual (if you have one)?

Three coffees, some messing around on the internet, catching up with emails etc, and then getting my word count down for the day. Or that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Who is your Favourite Author?

Probably Stephen King. I love “The Stand”.

What are your favourite books? All time and book-of-the-moment.

My all timers would be: Pride and Prejudice, Gone with the Wind, and Betty Blue. My books of the moment are: Uncommon Pleasure by Anne Calhoun, Left Drowning by Jessica Park and The Kathleen Turner series by Tiffany Snow.

What writing support network do you have?

I have some great writer friends who help me with feedback and also kick my butt whenever they deem that necessary.

What are your most loved and most loathed moments of writing/publishing?

Getting good reviews and hearing from people who loved your book, that rocks. I’m also very grateful for the friends I’ve made since I started writing. Bad reviews will always suck and so do deadlines.

What do your fans mean to you?

Everything. That they bother to take the time to read something I wrote is huge. That they enjoy my stories? Wow. I can’t thank them enough.
Where did the idea for Lick come from?

The opening scene popped into my head one day, a girl waking up hung-over to hell and back with no recollection of what had happened the night before. So of course, she would have needed a hot guy to hold her hair for her while she hurled. And we all know, only people who adore you will do that. To further mess with her, I decided he needed to be someone fabulous and famous. The story just sort of went from there...

How did you go about choosing the names for your lead characters?

I’m into old fashioned names lately for my heroines. I’ve also written about a Roslyn and a Violet in the past year. For my men, I like simple and strong names.

Who was your favourite character to write about?

Mal is a hoot. He has no filter and his sense of humour can be quite random.

Did you always know Mal was going to have a story to tell?

I tend to write with a series in mind. Once I’ve created a world I like to spend some time there and really get to know the characters. And Mal badly needs to be smacked upside the head by love. I can’t say that enough. HE NEEDS IT.

Where did the name for the Band come from?

I think one of the guys in at my original small digital publisher, Momentum, came up with it as a series name. Then we held a competition to name the band because I couldn’t think of anything I was happy to go with. A lovely blogger by the name of Kaetrin suggested we use Stage Dive for the band also. It was a bit of “duh” moment for all of us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour - Mid Life Love at Last by Witney G


 Mid Life Love: At Last (Mid Life Love, #2)


Whitney Gracia Williams


Mid Life Love (Mid Life Love, #1)

If you'd asked me what love was two years ago, I probably would've said, 'It's this amazing feeling that obsesses and possesses you; it's what me and my husband currently have.' If you ask me that same question today, I'll say, 'Please get the hell out of my face.’

Claire Gracen's life is picture perfect. Her career as a marketing director is on the brink of being
legendary, and her marriage to her high school sweetheart has never been stronger. No, wait. It has.
It used to be amazing and fulfilling, but one day Claire realizes that she's been living a lie and her best friend and husband have committed the ultimate betrayal.

Broken and depressed, Claire is in need of something new—new city, new job, new friends.
When she happens to attract the interest of the sexiest man she's ever met, a man significantly younger than her, she immediately turns him down—only to later discover that this man is Jonathan Statham, self-made billionaire and CEO of Statham Industries. Her boss.

Jonathan Statham is unlike any man she's met before. He's used to getting whatever he wants— whenever he wants, and he isn't about to take no for an answer.

Mid Life Love: At Last (Mid Life Love, #2)

If you ask me if Jonathan Statham makes me happy, I’ll say ‘Absolutely. He’s the man of my dreams and I can’t wait to marry him.’ If you ask me why my ex-husband Ryan is currently one inch away from me— staring into my eyes and pressing his hand against my cheek, I’ll say, ‘I have no fucking idea…’

Claire Gracen finally has the life she’s always wanted: A career she loves, a man who’s willing to do any and everything for her, and friends that show her the true meaning of the word ‘friendship.’
As she and Jonathan prepare to make the ultimate commitment to one another and plan the wedding of her dreams, she quickly realizes that the hurtful past she left behind in Pittsburgh is a lot closer than she thought.

Sexy, unpredictable, and as charmingly clever as ‘Mid Life Love,’ ‘At Last’ will captivate you from the first page and never let you go.

**This is a companion novel to Mid Life Love**

Goodreads Link

Purchase Links

Mid Life Love – Amazon (Paperback)
Mid Life Love – Amazon (Kindle)
Mid Life Love – Barnes and Nobel

Author’s Bio

A self-diagnosed candy addict, travel junkie, and hypochondriac, Whitney Gracia Williams LOVES to write about characters that make you laugh, cry, and want to (in the case of Selena Ross) reach through your Kindle and slap them.

She is the "imaginary bestselling" author of the Jilted Bride Series, Mid Life Love, Wasted Love, and
Captain of My Soul.

She also loves getting emails from her readers, so if you want to tell her how much you loved (or hated) her stories e-mail her - >

Contact Links


Author Interview

1. What inspired you to start writing?

I've been writing since I was a little girl, but I think all the encouragement I received from my English teachers inspired me to continue working on it.

2. What is your writing ritual (if you have one)?

HA! Write as much as I can, edit, stress myself out over every sentence, delete half of the draft, repeat until perfect lol.

3. Who is your Favourite Author?

I have sooo many, but right now it's Tracy Garvis Graves.

4. What are your favourite books? All time and book-of-the-moment.

All time??? I read a book a day, come on!!! This year, my all time faves are On the Island and Fifty Shades, and my book of the moment is Desperation of Love by Alice Tribue.

5. What writing support network do you have?

I have my friends, two fantastically awesome bloggers at Two Crazy Girls with a Passion for Books, a group of great new authors/bloggers that I've met recently, and most importantly, my mom and my sister :-)

6. What is your most loved and most loathed moments of writing/publishing?

Most loved is definitely having readers read my work (whether they hate it or love it lol) and most loathed? The editing! Hands down!

7. What do your fans mean to you?

My fans mean the WORLD to me!! Just one message or nice email from them makes any day of mine ten times better! I have the best fans in the world!

Excerpt - Chapter One



“We don’t need pre-marital counseling, Claire.” Jonathan looked over at me as the elevator doors closed. “This is a waste of time.”

“I didn’t say we needed it. I said we should try it—to make sure we both have honest expectations about being married.”

“And what expectations are those?”

“You’ll find out when we get there.” I smiled at him and he rolled his eyes.

I’d told him I wanted to attend a few sessions before we got married—something Ryan and I didn’t do, just to make sure we were on the same page about a few things. Of course, he was one hundred percent against the idea, but after I told him it would make me “happy,” he slowly gave in.

We were scheduled for a two hour session with the top counseling firm in San Francisco—Waldo and Emerson Associates. The doctors had assured me that it would be a light and easy process and that Jonathan and I would come out of it feeling closer than before.

As our elevator came to a stop and the doors glided open, I realized that there was nothing ahead of us. There was no secretary’s desk, no simple sign that read “Waldo & Emerson,” nor was there anything that resembled any sort of professional counseling business. Instead, the entire floor was covered in white sand, the few clear columns that stood ten feet apart were filled with colorful fish, and there were three beige beanbags that surrounded a small makeshift fire-pit.

Before I could accuse Jonathan of tampering with our session, a man dressed in an all-white tunic stepped in front of us.

“Ahhhh,” he said, smiling. “The future Mr. and Mrs. Statham. Welcome to Waldo pre-marital counseling. I’m Dr. Choate and I’ll be assisting you through the first stage of unity today.”

“Wait a minute. I’m sorry.” I shook my head. “We’re supposed to be meeting a Dr. Fleming. Is this the wrong floor?”

“No. You’re in the right place. This is it.”

“Then where is Dr. Fleming?”

“He retired last week. He didn’t send you an email?”

I shook my head.

“Oh, well sorry about that. The company decided to hire me in his place the same day that he left. After all my success with the Zen rituals at Statham Industries, they thought I was the best choice.” He reached out to shake Jonathan’s hand. “That’s why it’s an absolute honor to bestow my new and exclusive Zen practices with the man who made me a household name.”

Oh god…

He instructed for us to take our shoes off and then he led us over to the bean bags.

“So…” He put on a pair of glasses and looked at a sheet of paper. “Miss Gracen, I see that you’ve signed up for the two hour session. Is that correct?”


“And when asked what you wanted the main focus to be on…” He flipped the paper over. “You said that you two are having problems in the intimacy department?”

Jonathan quickly turned his head to face me, raising his eyebrow.

“NO. I never said that. I said that—”

“Ah, ah, ah. It’s right here. My secretary never makes a mistake.”

“You don’t even have a—”

“Shhh.” He leaned forward and pressed a black pen against my lips. “Don’t be ashamed of your bedroom problems, Miss Gracen. Every couple has them in some form or another. That’s what today’s all about.”

I could feel Jonathan glaring at me, begging me to look his way so he could say something, but I kept my eyes straight ahead.

“If you’re hurting about something—anything at all, no matter how small it is, these next two hours are the perfect time to let it out.” He took a deep breath. Then he shut his eyes and slowly exhaled. “Let it all out.”

He sat like that for at least two minutes—shut eyes, Indian style, head tilted up to the ceiling, and I prepared to signal to Jonathan so we could just leave and end this joke of a session, but Dr. Choate’s eyes suddenly flew open.

“Now that that’s done,” he said. “Let’s get down to business. Why are you here today, Mr. Statham?”

“To help fix my fiancée’s intimacy problems.”

“See that, Miss Gracen?” Dr. Choate nodded. “He wants to fix things too! So, on a scale of one to ten, how satisfied are you with your current sex life, Mr. Statham?”


“Okay, that’s great. Miss Gracen, how about you?”

“Twenty,” I whispered.

“Hmmm. I see…” He wrote something down and handed us both a notecard. “I want you to write down your honest expectations for sex after marriage. Is it going to be the same as it is now? More? Less—well, definitely not less because Miss Gracen clearly isn’t satisfied but—”

“Thank you, Dr. Choate.” I snatched my notecard from him, still avoiding the intense glare that was coming from Jonathan’s eyes.

I wrote down “same” on my notecard and waited for him to speak again.

“Okay, now toss your cards into the fire pit.”

What? We both crumpled them up and threw them into the small fire.

“Now,” he said as he handed us two more. “This time I want you to answer the question that is printed on the notecard and be as honest as possible. And actually, could you address them as ‘Dear Future Husband’ and ‘Dear Future Wife’? We’re going to toss them into the fire again as soon as we’re done, but make sure you take this seriously.”

He reached behind him and turned on a small radio—a radio that played the sound of ocean waves, and then he shut his eyes again.

There was only one question on the card: What’s one thing you wish you could change about your current intimacy exchanges?

I looked over and saw Jonathan scribbling away, but I couldn’t think of anything. And I suddenly felt guilty for suggesting this session in the first place. Whether I wanted to believe in my current fairy tale or not, there was nothing I would change. Not a damn thing.

Sure, he and I argued about things from time to time—me working late so often, him being so damn controlling, me redecorating every room in his house, but for the most part we were great. More than great.

As a matter of fact, last night he’d held me in his arms and told me everything he loved about me, assuring me that our marriage would be the greatest accomplishment of his life.

“Miss Gracen?” Dr. Choate snapped me out of my thoughts. “You’re not writing anything down. Don’t be afraid to unleash your honesty. You have to let him know exactly how you feel. How else can you expect your bad intimacy to change to good intimacy? Unless you want to experience bad sex for the rest of your life that is. I know you only said ‘twenty’ because he said it first.” He winked at me and then whispered, “It’s okay. We’re going to fix this.”


I rolled my eyes and wrote down a few words so it would seem like I was trying. When I looked over at Jonathan again, I realized he was still writing.

He has that much to say?!

“Time’s up!” Dr. Choate beamed. “Now, before we feed the fire, we’re going to exchange the cards and read them out loud.”

What?! “No…I can’t.” I started to crumple mine in my hand. “I didn’t know that was going to happen. I would’ve written something else…”

“What’s wrong, dear?” Jonathan smirked and held his card out to me. “I thought we were working on having honest expectations for our marriage.”

I sighed and handed him my crumpled card, taking his into my hands, not bothering to look at it.

“Mr. Statham, you first.” Doctor Choate smiled. “What’s the one thing your future wife would change about your current intimacy?”

Jonathan looked down at the card, then he looked back up at me—smiling with his eyebrow raised.

Please don’t read it out loud…Please don’t read it out loud...

“She says better communication.” He smiled even wider and I exhaled, relieved.

“And what about you, future wife? What did your future husband have to say about you?

I flipped the card over and forced myself to look at it: Dear Future Wife, the only thing I wish I could change was letting you wake up late this morning because I should’ve woken you up early, taken you in the shower, and made you forget about this dumb ass meeting. However, now that we’re here, I want you to be fully aware that right after this is over, I’m going to make sure the words “marriage counseling” and “intimacy problems” never come out of your mouth again. :-)

I blushed. “He says the same thing.”

“Okay, well great. Now we’re getting somewhere. Communication is very key in having a successful intimate relationship. Moving on… In an average week, how many times do you currently have sex now, future wife? And in all honesty, is it fulfilling?”

Is he fucking serious? “A few times,” I said, hoping he would move on to something else.

“A few times?” Jonathan looked into my eyes. “That’s what you honestly think?”

Stop it…I knew he was reading my mind right now and could sense that I wanted him to stop, but he was clearly enjoying my embarrassment.

“Doctor, what classifies as a few times?” Jonathan kept his eyes locked on mine.

“Two or three times a week, Mr. Statham.”

“Hmmm…And a lot?”

“Well, I guess I would say eight to ten times a week.”

“Interesting.” He leaned forward and ran his fingers across my golden anchor necklace. “So Claire, having heard that, you think a few times is accurate for what we do?”

“Yes. I do.” I didn’t want the doctor in our sex life. At all. When I’d made this appointment, I’d been assured that the focus would be on us discussing our expectations for the long term—our goals and our dreams; there was no mention of dissecting what we did in the bedroom and I was damn sure I never said anything about “intimacy problems.”

“I am so hurt by these claims, Doctor.” Jonathan put his hand over his chest. “I mean, to have the love of my life tell me that she feels like we only have sex a few times a week is just…Is this the part where I’m allowed to cry?”

“Yes, Mr. Statham. Let out all of your pain.”

He smirked. “Is our sex not memorable to you, Claire? It must not be if you think we only have sex two to three times a week. I want an honest marriage as well, so if you think we have intimacy problems and that our sex is that terrible—”

“We have sex every day.” I nearly lost it. “Every. Day. Sometimes more than once. Sometimes more than twice. And every time is fucking memorable. Happy?” I narrowed my eyes at him and he kissed my cheek.

“Um…” The doctor adjusted the sleeves of his tunic. “Well…I….Very good for both of you. Let’s move away from intimacy then shall we?”

“Thank you.” We both said in unison.

Once the counseling session finally came to an end, we both shook Dr. Choate’s hand and said we’d be “in touch” about scheduling part two. As soon as the elevator doors opened, I rushed inside and pressed the “door close” button over and over—anxious to get far away from white sand and invasive notecards.

“What’s the rush, future wife?” Jonathan stepped directly in front of me and pressed my back against the wall. “Do you have another meeting to go to right now? Somewhere else where you plan on discussing our intimacy problems?”

“I never said we had intimacy problems…That was a mistake and you know it.”

“Hmmm.” He brushed his fingers against my necklace.

“I can’t believe you pushed me into telling him about our sex life.”

“He asked.”

“You didn’t have to tell him the truth.”

“I thought you wanted me to be honest.” He ran his fingers through my hair. “I’ve told you a million times that I don’t lie.”

“Well, why didn’t you tell him what I wrote down on that card?”

He slipped his hand underneath my skirt. “If you would like, we can go back up and I’ll happily tell him that my future wife wishes that my head was between her legs right now.”

I blushed and shook my head.

“Are you sure?” He tugged at my panties. “I’m not opposed to telling him that.”

“That’s okay…”

He lowered his mouth to my neck, taking his time to press gentle kisses into my skin as he wrapped his arms around my waist.

I looked up at the floor numbers that were flashing above the doors as we passed them by—Eleven, Ten, Nine, and pushed him away from me.

“We’re almost back in the lobby,” I murmured as I stepped to the other side.

“No. We’re not.” He hit the stop button and walked over to me, pressing me against the wall again. “I actually think we do have one huge intimacy problem, Claire.”


“Why is it that you can only be open with me about sex in text messages and notecards?”

“What are you talking about? That’s not—”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about.” He cut me off with a kiss and slowly hiked my skirt up to my stomach. “I always have to try and read your mind, or read between your little smart-ass comments when it comes to what you want…Why is that, Claire?”

“I…” I couldn’t focus when he looked at me like this, when he locked his eyes on mine and demanded answers that I didn’t have.

“If you like when I fuck you with my mouth, why don’t you ever say that when we’re at home?”

I bit my lip as he slipped a finger inside of me, as he held me steady with his other arm.

“Hmmm, Claire? I’m standing right here...Tell me what you want…”

“Jonathan…” I moaned; he was pressing his thumb against my clit, punishing it with slow, sensuous circles.

“You can’t tell me right now because you’d rather wait until you get to work and tell me in a text message?”


“Then tell me what you like…”


He closed the little space that was left between us, keeping his thumb busy, bringing his mouth close to my ear. “Tell me you love it when I fuck you with my mouth.”

“I do.”

“Say. It.”

I swallowed. “I love when you go down on me…”

He sighed and slowly pulled away from me, and I thought he was going to step over to the other side and hit the start button, but he spun me around so that I was facing the corner and gripped my waist. “You were right…We do need better communication.”

“Jonathan, there are federal offices in here. The fire department is going to—” I stopped once I felt him sliding into me, once I felt him forcing himself deeper and deeper.

“If you think that I’m going to be happy in a marriage where my own wife can’t tell me what she wants, you’re sadly mistaken, Claire…” He held me completely still once he was entirely inside of me. Kissing the back of my neck, he whispered once again, “Tell. Me. What. You. Like.”

I couldn’t think. I was too pre-occupied with thoughts of the fire department calling the elevator to check on us, thoughts about how my standing in a corner with Jonathan buried deep inside of me would look.

Before I could snap back into reality and answer him, he pulled out and quickly thrust himself back in—over and over, making me scream louder than ever.

“I asked you a question, Claire.” He gripped my breasts and squeezed them, slamming into me with each moan I let escape from my mouth.

“I…I like…” I stuttered. “I like when you…”

“Yes?” He moved one of his hands down to my clit and started rubbing it in a rhythm he knew all too well.

“When you…”

“Fuck me with your mouth…” He was speeding up his thrusts now, making it harder and harder for me to talk straight. “Finish. The .Sentence.”

“Wait…I…I like when…when you—”


“Elevator car number 510 at Waldo and Emerson Associates, This is responding unit 861.” A voice came over the speakers. “Speaking to you right now is fire chief Brennan Marshall. We’ve noticed the current cart has stalled for over six minutes. Are there any persons inside?”


“You know I don’t care if they see us like this,” Jonathan whispered and reached down for my hands, pulling them up over my head and pressing them against the wall. “And I won’t stop when they open the doors if you haven’t answered me.”

“Are there any persons inside?” The fire chief repeated. “Hmmm. Might be an empty cart gentlemen…” He said in a lowered voice.

“There are persons inside.” Jonathan answered calmly, but his thrusts inside of me were the exact opposite. I was doing my best to hold my breath and bite my lip to prevent myself from screaming again.

“Okay, hold tight. We’ll send a team over now.”

There was another series of beeps to end the conversation, and then everything around me went hazy—blurred. I was suddenly screaming at the top of my lungs as he pushed me to the verge of an orgasm, as he demanded that I answer him one last time.

“I love when you…” I let my head fall back against his shoulder, let my body completely go. “When you fuck me with your mouth…” I shut my eyes as my knees gave in beneath me, as he slowly slid out of me and let me fall down to the floor.

I wanted to sit like that forever—on a high, in bliss, but Jonathan pulled me up and held me against his side, hitting the stop button and pressing the level that was right above the lobby.

When we stepped off the elevator, he kept me tucked by his side and led me down the emergency stairwell and outside. As soon as the first whiff of fresh air hit my face, I took a deep breath. “Do you always have to do that to me? Is it impossible for you to wait?”

“It’s the only way to get you to tell me the truth…” He released me. “And I think you like it…”

I rolled my eyes and tried not to smile.

“I love you, Claire.” He kissed my forehead and adjusted my necklace. “I don’t know why you’re still so reserved about discussing sex with me, but you shouldn’t be. You should be able to tell me what you want, whenever you want, and I’ll make sure it gets done.” He kissed me again and wrapped his arms around my waist, leading me over to the parking lot.

As we approached our cars—town car for me, Bugatti for him, he spun me around to face him.

“Do you still think we need pre-marital counseling? Are there any other intimacy issues we need to discuss?”


“Hmmm…” He pressed his lips against mine. “You are so lucky that I have a flight to catch right now,” he said as he slowly pulled his mouth away from me, as he pressed my crumpled notecard into my hand. “Be home by six.”

Days later, I stood in my office and stared at the newest set of family photos I’d hung on my wall: pictures of me, Ashley, Caroline, and Jonathan hanging out at a private lake.

In one photo, the four of us were flying our kites high into the wind, laughing at how long it’d had taken us to put them together. In another we were rowing four small kayaks across the water.

Ever since Ashley and Caroline had gone off to college in Arizona, my days at home were a lot less noisy. They were actually quite boring.

I missed the two of them lying around on the couch—talking about absolutely nothing, laughing at my terrible jokes, and ultimately getting on my nerves from time to time. I missed that.

Now, instead of family dinners on Sunday and Thursday nights, Jonathan and I simply went over to his little sister Hayley’s condo and ate dinner with her. Although he never admitted it, Jonathan was missing family dinners too; I was pretty sure that was why he’d already planned a week of meals for their Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.

“Miss Gracen?” My assistant interrupted my thoughts.

“Yes, Rita?”

“Your daily flowers from Mr. Statham have just arrived. Would you like them in here?”

“Yes, please.” I leaned back and watched as she pulled a small cart of flowers—orchids, Baby’s Breath, and white carnations, into my office.

As usual, there was a silver card with a note on top:

Dear Future Wife,

Do I need to start picking you up from work to get you home in time to eat dinner with me? You’ve been late all week.

Stop Testing Me.Love,

Your Future Husband

I laughed. I was about to pick up my phone and call him, but Rita stepped inside my office again.

“Your three o’ clock is here now,” she said. “I’m going to go ahead and bring her back before my lunch break.”

“Thank you, Rita.” I stood up and smoothed my dress, ready to seal another deal, blocking everything else out.

As soon as the client walked inside my office, my mind was focused on white columns, framed cabinets, and stained wood necessary to create a brand new space. She and I talked for hours, negotiating the timeline, the best materials, and of course—the cost for everything.

When I handed her the final contract, she nodded her head and grabbed a pen to sign it. “Everything looks really good, Miss Gracen. These dates work well for me.”

“Great. I’m really looking forward to designing your new living room, Mrs. Klein.” I shook her hand and stood up.

“Thank you.” She smiled. “I’m sure it’ll be just as fabulous as all your other work.”

“I guarantee it.” I led her out of my office and back inside the storefront, pulling all the drapes closed once she walked outside.

I’ll finally get to make it home on time today…

I started straightening the pillow display that was over by the far window, making sure all the tags were tightly tucked underneath. I was tempted to lay across them and relax, but my phone rang. Jonathan.


“Hello, Claire.” His deep voice still had the power to make me melt. “What are you doing right now?”

“I’m…I’m closing the store. You?”

“I’m driving. Are you tired?”


“Answer the question.”

“Yes.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m too tired to have sex with you right now.”

He laughed. “Would you like me to reschedule our meeting with the wedding planner then?”

“No!” I’d been looking forward to that meeting for weeks. “Not at all.”

“Good. I’m on my way to pick you up. I’ll be there in five minutes.”

“See you soon.” I hung up and started swiping a mini-duster over all the candle shelves. I was halfway done when I heard the bell over the door ring.

“I’ll be right there.” I sighed and didn’t bother turning around. “Let me finish this last shelf and—”


My blood boiled at the very sound of that voice.

I shook my head, knowing that I couldn’t be standing in my store. I had to be at home and asleep in my bed. I had to be dreaming. I had to be having a nightmare.

“Claire?” He asked again, and I pinched myself before slowly turning around.

I wasn’t at home. I wasn’t dreaming.

It was Ryan. 

“What are you doing here?” I hissed.

“I almost didn’t recognize you when I walked in. You look good, really good...” He looked me up and down. “Life must be treating you well.”

“What. Are. You. Doing. Here?” I narrowed my eyes at him.

“Look. I know I’m the last person you want to see right now, but since I’m in town, I thought I would—”

“Invite me out to dinner? Catch up on life? I don’t have shit to say to you.”

“I beg to differ. We need to talk.”

“No thanks. Not interested.”

“It’s important.” He sighed.

“No. It’s not.”

“Claire, it’s been five years now. We can at least be cordial to one another.”

“Cordial? How cordial do you think I should be to the lying sack of shit who got my ex best friend pregnant?” I shook my head. “Actually, don’t even answer that. I’ve already used up my ‘pointless conversation’ minutes for the day. Please get the fuck out of my store.”

“You’re going to listen to me, Claire.” He took a step forward and looked directly into my eyes. “Whether you like it or not, you’re going to stand there and listen to every fucking word that I have to say.”

I crossed my arms. “If I were you, I would leave right now. My fiancée will be here any minute and he won’t be as nice as I’m being to you.”

His face suddenly fell—or at least it looked like it did. “You’re…You’re engaged now? To who?”

“Please leave, Ryan.” I felt an ache in my chest—a painful, burning ache. “I don’t want you here. Ever.”

He stared at me—shaking his head as he slowly backed away. Before he opened the door, he looked over his shoulder. “I’m only leaving right now because you’re closing and I have somewhere to be. I was just stopping by to make sure it was true that you worked here. Trust me, I’ll be back. And you and I are going to talk.”

It took every ounce of strength in my body not to run over and stab him with the sharp edge of my dust wand, but I just stood there. Paralyzed. Livid.

As soon as he was gone, I gained mobility again and threw my dust-wand down on the floor. I headed behind the counter, pressing the button that made the glass panel drop down and block anyone from coming any further; I didn’t want to take any chances on him returning minutes later.

I locked myself in the bathroom and ran cold water in the sink, splashing my face over and over again.

The mere thought of Ryan could still light a bitter flame within me, but seeing him? In person? That was a damn wildfire, and I wasn’t sure how long it would take to put it out.

I couldn’t believe his audacity—to actually show up and attempt to have a regular conversation with me, to act like I would give him the time of day.

What the fuck does he even want?

There was a knock at the door, but I didn’t answer it. I couldn’t. My body was shaking and my thoughts were consumed with rage and anger.

Why would he even show up here? He knows I HATE him…

“Claire?” Jonathan’s voice was on the other side of the door.

“Yes?” I snapped out of my trance and unlocked it.

“Why are you in here? And why is your face wet?” He grabbed a towel off the rack and softly pressed it against my cheeks. “Are you hot?”

“No…I’m…” I hesitated.

“We can reschedule the appointment.” He wrapped his arm around my waist and walked me back out front.

“I’ll let her know we can come another day. You don’t look like you’re feeling well.”

“I’m not…Ryan was just here.”

His body suddenly stiffened, and he looked down at me with his jaw clenched. “Your ex-husband Ryan?”

I nodded.

“What did he want?”

“I don’t know…I told him to leave. I didn’t want to talk to him.”

“Good.” His eyes softened a bit, but I could tell he was upset. “How does he know where you work?”

“I don’t know…” Caroline and Ashley knew better than to discuss me with Ryan, just like they knew better than to discuss him with me. The few mutual friends we shared back in Pittsburgh only knew tidbits of my new life—nothing major, and they would never share any information with him.

“Do you know why he would bother coming to San Francisco?”I shook my head. There was nothing here for him.

“Hmmm.” He pulled me close and kissed my hair. “I’ll make sure he never bothers you again.”

I wanted to ask, “How?” but I knew he would handle it. I leaned against him and sighed as he led me over to the passenger side of his car.

“Since you’re finally leaving work on time today, what would you like for dinner?” He revved up the engine and looked over at me.


“That’s implied.” He grinned. “We can order something in.”

He pulled off and sped onto the highway, making me smile at how perfect my life seemed right now, how everything I wanted and needed was sitting right next to me in this car.

As I looked out my window and watched the city disappear in the distance, I tried not to think about Ryan’s visit, but I couldn’t help it.

Outside of scheduling time to see our daughters, Ryan hadn’t bothered me any other year that I’d been living here. He knew not to, and I didn’t need my painful past colliding with my perfect present. At all.

It has to be something really serious for him to come here…No, fuck him. It doesn’t matter what it is…