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As her car’s brake lights flashed on and off, then disappeared into the nearby parking garage, a spear of paralyzing fear shot down Muriel Stewart’s spine and into her legs, anchoring her four-inch Jimmy Choos to the sidewalk like lag bolts.
With her only method of escape out of sight, she turned her gaze to the broad steps and heavy wooden doors in front of her, opened her mouth, and drew in a deep breath of cool evening air. She’d gotten used to flying solo over the last year, but the tightness in her chest and the lack of oxygen reaching her lungs proved there were still a few things she wasn’t comfortable doing alone.
Visiting Pandora’s Playground was apparently one of them.
“Oh, c’mon, Muriel,” she growled through clenched teeth as she fisted her hands at her sides. “This is ridiculous.”
Pandora’s Playground had been a second home to Ian and her over the past three years. Even longer if she counted all the nights and weekends they’d spent transforming the old live-performance theater into one of the most exclusive kink clubs in the southeast.
All their closest friends were members, and there wasn’t any place she felt more comfortable, or loved, than at the club.
However, at the moment, she felt like a wild animal: frightened and cornered with no means of escape—even though she stood at the edge of a wide open street.
She brushed away a piece of hair tickling the corner of her eye and futilely wished the suffocating panic closing in on her could be so easily swept away.
Dammit, why did I agree to come here tonight?
Because rather than using his concerned-friend voice to initiate the invitation, Master Lucas had spoken to her like a Dom commanding a sub. “Be at the club Friday night, eight sharp.”
Before her brain cells established a defensive position and declined the invitation, her compliant, submissive soul spoke up with a resounding, “Yes, Sir.”
Following his command, she’d arrived precisely at eight. But her resident scaredy-cat was well aware he hadn’t been specific about her actually entering the building.
The overhead canopy loomed like an ominous dark cloud, but the embedded lights casting a glow over her no doubt illuminated every fear and worry line creasing her face, an exclamation point to her obvious hesitation.
She lifted her gaze to the security camera mounted in the corner and stared at it like she could see through the lens and into the eyes of the man she knew was watching.
If she continued to stand there looking desperate and pathetic, would he take pity on her and come to her rescue?
No, probably not. Lucas Steele was the most patient man, as well as the most disciplined Dom, she’d ever met. Even if it took her hours to make up her mind, he would patiently stand in front of the monitor, watching and protecting her from a distance, just as he’d done for the past year.
The problem was, even though she was physically safe and sound, she was an emotional mess. She huffed at the notion that would matter to him. He was a Dom… He thrived on keeping submissives in a state of upheaval. Her emotional earthquake sure as hell wouldn’t spur him into action.
She chewed her bottom lip and returned her attention to the doors—the ones she’d never walked through alone. The prospect of doing so tonight threw a wash of sadness over her, burning her eyes and causing her to sway on the stilettos Ian loved so much. Without his warm, loving hands to steady her, she had no choice but to grab hold of the cold, brass handrail and support herself.
The sight of her bare ring finger intensified the burn in her eyes and forced her to clamp down on her lip to stop the trembling.
“You’re not here to play, Muriel… You’re here to visit with friends, see the new addition Lucas mentioned… and maybe… possibly… if it feels right… start gently moving forward with your life.”
Which meant she needed to start moving in the direction of those damned doors before she got ticketed for loitering. Having Lucas play witness to her chicken-skinned approach was bad enough. She didn’t need the added embarrassment of the valet finding her rooted where he’d left her.
With a deep breath, she concentrated on the toes of her shoes as she lifted first one foot, then the other, slowly… cautiously… climbing the red-carpeted steps to the club’s grand entrance.
The vertical brass handles were icy under her fingers and the heavy door seemed to pull against her as she tugged it open, then slipped into the warm and inviting lobby.
The theater’s original entryway had been a large, open space that allowed show-goers to congregate and visit before the performance. Ian, Lucas, and Mathew had reduced the size of the room to create a more intimate setting, as well as creating more space in the interior of the club for playrooms. However, even though they’d redistributed the space, they’d excelled at preserving the original ambiance.
Heavy red velvet drapes hung on either side of the ticket window, which now functioned as the reception area and coat closet. Reproduction wallpaper lined the walls, beautifully absorbing, then reflecting the warm light from the original gas wall sconces. If one closed their eyes, they could almost hear the laughter and chatter of all those who passed through here before.
To the left of the coatroom was a modern office, which housed the security monitors covering every inch of the club, including the sidewalk out front. She found Lucas exactly where she’d expected—leaning against the doorway of the office, watching the monitor, positioned to act if necessary.
His tender smile and the pride shimmering in his green eyes warmed her heart and smoothed the sharp edges of her nerves. “You’re such a brave girl.”
She laughed and dropped her chin to her chest, hiding her embarrassment at having been caught flat-footed… well, as flat-footed as a girl could get in four-inch heels. “I don’t feel very brave.” She slid her toe through the thick-pile carpeting and twisted her mouth into a pout. “You could’ve come out and gotten me.”
“I could have,” he said, shoving off the doorway to envelop her in a tight, welcoming hug.
His arms wrapped protectively around her, as well as the press of his solid body against hers, made her glad she found the guts to shuffle her butt through the door. As a massage therapist, she touched people on a daily basis. But no one ever touched her.
It’d been a year since anyone held her close, and until this moment, she hadn’t realized how much she missed the physical connection.
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Coming this fall - "Coveted - Book #1 in the Pandora's Playground series"
People ask me all the time which book has been the hardest to write. I've always had a sense that I hadn't gotten to that one yet, and boy was I right!!
I can't tell you how many times I've started this story, how many sleepless nights I've spent because I had no idea where it was supposed to go, and how many heart-to-heart talks I had with Mathew before he finally broke loose and started giving me the information I needed in order to move forward.
I had originally planned on doing this as a short story, but after Mathew came clean and filled me in on his life, I realized he was too complex for that and decided to make this a full-length story.
I wish I could give you an exact release date, but it's still a work-in-progress, so all I can say is that I'm writing as fast as I can. Visit my website and sign up for my newsletter to stay up to date with release information! Not only for this series, but for the next installment in the Heat Wave Series, as well.
Congratulations, Angel, on another fantastic release. Thanks for letting me come play!!!
2 ecopies of "Coveted" as soon as it releases (within the next 4-6 weeks). Just comment below and fill out the rafflcopter to be entered.