If he would only tell me he loves me, he would become my god, my Vishnu who swallowed my world.
Stop thinking, just feel …
Nell Harper’s got her life all figured out – build a successful law career, find Mr. Right, then have 2.3 kids and a white picket fence. Everything is going to plan until a handsome stranger stops her from stepping in front of a speeding car.
Vincent Mason, rising politician, not only rescues Nell from death but from her safe but predictable life as he introduces her to the darker pleasures of domination and submission. What starts as a six month arrangement of sexual liberation turns into a deeper emotional exploration and Nell soon finds herself letting go of preconceived ideas of love and lust.
But can Nell trust Vincent enough to truly surrender herself? And can she trust herself enough to listen to what her heart truly wants?
“The interplay between them (Nell & Vincent), even the non-sexual scenes, is deliciously poetic. “ – Under the Covers Book Blog
“Hugo writes exciting sensual novels of sex and bondage. She doesn’t shy away from the lifestyle and writes BDSM with a graceful brutality that will make you wince and then beg for more.” – Books and Lesser Evils
“It doesn’t bite,” he smiles.
The pages don’t; the man definitely does.
I stare at Vincent across the table, and then at the pages in front of me. This is where the girl my mother raised would run. But I’m not that sensible girl today. I left her stuck on pause the night I cheated death and fell into the arms of … I look up.
Dark and dangerous.
A corruption I’m not sure I want to resist.
A month ago I wouldn’t be here.
I’d be sitting at my desk proving why I’m the fastest rising associate in my law firm. My milestones are mapped out; you don’t succeed without a plan. Right schools, right connections, right clients. At thirty-two, the right man is three years away. I’m going to have it all, the whole damn fairy tale.
But then I attended a business dinner. I’m on the board of a small not-for-profit that is both personally and professionally rewarding. It’s all part of the game plan.
As I rushed for a taxi afterwards, I was lost in thought. Work, shopping, it doesn’t matter; there’s always a list. I was about to dash across the road when I heard a barked command. “Stop.”
I don’t know why I paid attention to his voice; the sounds of the city could have easily drowned him out. But its deep, rich timbre riveted me to the spot.
There was a rush of wind as an unnoticed car sped past and clipped my bag, slamming it into my thigh. That voice had just saved my life. When I turned around, I came face to face with Vincent Mason.
Whether it was the impact of the near miss or Vincent is anyone’s guess, but my knees buckled. His strong hands reached out to grab me. He saved me again.
I stare into Vincent’s captivating blue-green eyes. I’ve given up trying to guess their true color. They change with the light, his clothes, his mood. Black is the only color that matters; when his pupils dilate, swallowing the blue-green of the sea. A mood stirred with lust and darker things.
Vincent saved me, but he is not my prince come to rescue me. If this were my fairy tale, he’d be the wolf.
“Tell me again,” I say.
I was listening the first time, but the man is distracting. My gaze traces the contours of his face. His square jaw, the five o’clock shadow exaggerating the sharp planes that can make his face look more stern than handsome. Full lips that are deeper in color than you’d expect on a man, as if already bruised from a kiss. My focus is drawn to them as he speaks. We are in a public place, but no one exists outside the intimacy of our conversation.
“Please,” Vincent corrects before taking a sip of his Chivas.
“Tell me again. Please.”
He says nothing for a moment, only measures me. My heart skips a beat. What if he reconsiders? What if he realizes how foolish the whole idea is? What if …
“The contract outlines a formal arrangement. Basically, you agree to submit to me sexually for six months. I know what I like … we’ll explore what you like.”
I breathe and lean forward as a ripple of pleasure shivers through me at his words.
“So far you’ve responded to pain.” His eyes darken. “Maybe you have masochistic tendencies, maybe you don’t. The spectrum of pain is broader than you think.”
I have found out so is his spectrum of pleasure.
“So … uh … I get to choose what we try?” My mouth is dry. Temptation turns you inside out.
He nods and smiles, as if there is nothing I can choose that he doesn’t already intimately know, nothing he won’t enjoy.
“What do you get to choose?”
My body responds in heat. I have to swallow and wet my lips before I can say anything.
“I don’t know what kind of things …”
“There’s a list to help you,” Vincent gestures at the contract. “Pain for pleasure is just one of the –”
“Am I really a masochist?” I whisper the question I thought I’d never ask, seeking an answer I’m not sure I want to hear.
“I hope so … you show a lot of promise.” He breaks the tension by taking another sip of his drink.
I pull back a little and laugh off the idea. Take a sip of my caprioska. “You make it sound like a good thing.”
“Nellie, I’m a sadist. It is a good thing.”
“I’m a feminist.”
He laughs, the sound touching things inside me, down low. “Fine. Be a feminist masochist then.” Genuine amusement glints in his eyes.
God help me, wanting to amuse and please this man could become consuming.
Vincent sobers and leans forward, looks me straight in the eye. “How you fuck doesn’t change who you are.”
Everything about this man is too much. And yet I feel as if I can’t get enough.
I break from his stare and look around to flag down a waiter. I need another drink. Vincent watches me as I fiddle with the neckline of my red dress. I’m stalling. I want to agree so badly, stalling seems sane.
“Nellie, you asked for this.” Vincent’s voice softens, but he leans back. He won’t entice me to agree. He made this clear when I mentioned the whole crazy idea.
I come willingly, or not at all.
I remember the first time with his flogger. I came harder than I ever had before. Who knew? One hit, and you’re addicted.
I take the last sip of my flagging drink and make my peace with what I’m about to do.
“You’re right. I did ask for this.”
I look down at the papers in front of us. I understand contracts, it’s my job, and I understand negotiation, it’s my niche. I know you do the latter with a cool head, and that you always, always read the contract.
I already have a pen out my bag. “I’ll sign.”
“Nellie.” Vincent stills my hand. “You haven’t read the contract.”
“You’ve told me what I need to know. Six months, weekends at your house, weekdays by arrangement.” I haven’t totally parked my brain. For once I just want to be a little … reckless.
“Not just weekends, Nell. I expect you to accompany me when needed.” Vincent takes the pen from me and puts it down on the table. There will be a lot of functions. Vincent is an environmentalist consulting on government policy, but for all intents and purposes, he is a politician on the rise.
“Ditto.” See? I am negotiating with a level head.
He shakes his head. “I’m not your boyfriend, Nellie. We’re not dating.”
“Boyfriend? I was just proposing quid pro pro, a fair exchange.”
He smiles as if savoring an inside joke.
“It doesn’t quite work like that Nell, a fair exchange. You don’t get that right now, but you will.”
“I think I’m getting some of it now. Sex for me. Sex and escort for you.”
“Is that going to be a problem?”
I know the question is rhetorical.
“Not really. I’m all good. If something important comes up, we’ll just discuss it again.” The truth is this works well for me. Our arrangement is nothing more than a short side project to my game plan. Like a holiday … a Contiki tour for singles. With lots of sex. Lots of wicked sex.
Vincent smiles, as if he’s just read my mind and I stare back innocently.
“Anything else?” I pat the contract brining us back to business.
“If you go to a function, you go alone. I don’t play well with others.” He pauses to find my gaze again. “If you meet someone you want to spend time with, I’ll wish you well and we’ll call off the arrangement.”
“Fine.” I rack my brain for more questions to ask, but I am so new to all this, I don’t know what I don’t know. Despite the kinky sex, we’ve kept things BDSM-lite.
“Do I have to call you Sir or Master?”
“This is more about sexual submission than full BDSM. And it’s temporary. I’m not your Dom in the true sense of the word. Even if I was, I don’t need that.” He shrugs. “Vincent is fine.”
“Just calling you by your name doesn’t sound very … bossy.”
“Would you prefer o’ my captain then?”
Given Vincent is insisting I read the arrangement, I make a show of turning the pages. I’m actually impressed, this is no half though-out proposition. Everything is clear and unambiguous. What time I am to arrive on Fridays and leave on Sundays. Personal grooming requirements and so on. I keep paging and find his medical records – STD-free. We’ve been having protected sex up until now.
“Are you on birth control?” He notices the page I am on.
“Yes, injection. I’ll include it in my medical records.”
The last page has space for me to fill in what I want to explore. My limits, soft and hard.
My safe word.
The whole thing is a clinical transaction for a carnal pact. It is equally bizarre and refreshing. I like negotiating the rules of a relationship; everyone should do it. We both know where we stand. Vincent wants uncomplicated. Someone intelligent on his arm when needed and willing in his bed when wanted.
As for me, I want to drown in his pleasure until I have to break the surface to catch my breath. To get drunk on him until I can’t stand another taste of what he offers. I want to walk away satiated and impervious to his temptation.
In six months, I want to get right back to my plan.
“Read the document.” Vincent stands to leave. “If you are comfortable with the arrangement, sign it. It’s not as if it’s not retractable. Either one of us can break the arrangement at any time … but I’d rather not start if that is where we will end up.”
“Will I be seeing you tomorrow, then?”
He steps closer to me and leans down, slips a finger under my chin, lifting my gaze to his. “Courier it. I’ll pay the charges. If you sign, I’ll see you on the weekend. Remember Nell, this is about fucking, nothing more. Essentially nothing changes from what we’ve been doing, we’ve just added the rules.”
His lips fall on mine, his kiss a dark, wicked invitation. He doesn’t kiss me as if we are in a cocktail bar surrounded by people. He kisses me as if we are alone, and I am his. I am left burning as he walks away.