4 STARS: "This is a hardcore BDSM book, one of the most intense I’ve read, but also features an intricate plot and well drawn characters. Askel (Kel) a rigger and photographer of some renown, likes playing with various submissives, but has no desire to settle down with one-until Mallory’s best friend, Chelbie, literally throws Mallory into Kel’s way. The scene that follows connects the two of them in ways neither had expected but there are some major obstacles to a relationship. Kel is afraid to tell Mallory about his dark side, and Mallory doesn’t want to deal with her uncle’s strange insistence that she attend graduate school in spite of her desire to graduate and go to work. As the two learn that they meld together even better than expected, can they overcome the obstacles? Kel’s darker side includes knife play, cutting, branding, cell popping (temporary scaring), and other more extreme forms of BDSM. Mallory doesn’t just accept these activities, she loves them. Be aware the two indulge in some of these activities in the book. Overall, this was a good read and a fine addition to the author’s Suncoast Society series, but is just a bit too extreme for my taste." -- Shadow, Guilty Pleasure Book Reviews
As they watched Scrye work, Mallory snuck glances at Kel. Now that he was actively photographing the rigger, his focus apparently lay totally on the job at hand. His short brown hair had tousled slightly as he worked, his brown gaze intent. He was around six feet tall, built lanky with lean muscles and long, nimble fingers she supposed knew their job very well, regardless of what he was doing.
He exuded a quiet calm, in direct contradiction to the boisterous rigger the audience raptly watched.
Chelbie poked her in the side and grinned, sending a flush of heat straight to Mallory’s face. She recognized that sneaky look her friend wore.
Like it or not, Mallory would end up talking to the rigger if it was the last thing Chelbie did. Mallory knew she might as well come to grips with the idea now.
Maybe it won’t sting as much if he shoots me down with Chelbie standing right there.
It would sting regardless, but an embarrassment shared with her best friend was an embarrassment more easily gotten over, she supposed.
* * * *
When Scrye and June took their first break, Kel used that opportunity to swap out camera batteries. He’d stupidly forgotten to recharge them the night before. That was one reason he always carried plenty of extras. Some of the attendees crowded around Scrye and June, asking questions about the ties he’d used, putting Kel’s friend firmly in his element as the center of attention and praise.
Kel was focused on one of his cameras when he heard a woman clear her throat behind him. He turned to see the young woman with the red pixie cut. Just behind her, her friend, the gorgeous woman who’d captured his attention earlier.
He straightened and smiled. “Hi.”
Pixie Cut grinned. “Hiya. I’m Chelbie.” She hooked a thumb over her shoulder at her friend. “This is my bestie, Mallory. I’m that annoying kind of friend who will force you to get over whatever you’re embarrassed about. She would really like to experience rope, but she’s been too chickenshit to approach any of the riggers about it.”
He glanced over her shoulder to see Mallory’s face now practically glowing red. In fact, it looked like she was about to turn and run, but Chelbie’s right hand shot out behind her and unerringly captured her friend’s left wrist, preventing her escape.
He offered up a smile. “You’ve never been tied before?”
Mallory’s gaze dropped to the floor. He took the barely perceptible movement of her head as a negatory.
Okay, so my way to her is through the friend.
He wasn’t an idiot.
“Are you two coming back here tonight for the play session?” he asked.
Chelbie’s grin broadened. “Oh, absolutely. Can’t wait.”
“Good. Why don’t you two come to dinner with us, and while we’re eating, we can talk about it and decide what you’d like to try?”
Mallory looked up at him, her eyes as wide as dessert plates before her gaze dropped to the floor again.
Chelbie yanked Mallory forward so she stood next to her. “Thank you! We’d love to.”
“It’s at Sigalo’s. My treat,” he added before Mallory could object. “And it won’t be just the three of us. There will probably be about ten of us or so. If that’s all right?”
“That sounds mahhhvelous,” Chelbie said, pumping Mallory’s arm as if trying to work a recalcitrant ventriloquist dummy. “And I know where that is, too. What time?”
“Egggcellent,” Chelbie said. He couldn’t decide if she was normally that upbeat and gregarious, or putting on a show to try to get her obviously mortified friend to smile.
He extended his hand to Mallory, his gaze focused solely on her, mentally willing her to look up at him again. “I’d be honored to pop your rope cherry,” he joked, hoping she took it in the playful way he’d meant it.
“Mal,” Chelbie said. “This is where you take his hand and shake with him, babe.”
Mallory slowly raised her head just enough that she could cover the rest of the distance by glancing up at him with those gorgeous blue eyes of hers. Her grip felt cool and the slightest bit trembly in his.
“Thank you,” she quietly said.
* * * *
Mallory hoped she didn’t puke all over the guy’s sneakers.
I. Am. Going. To. Fucking. Kill. Her.
She knew it. She just knew Chelbie wouldn’t leave it alone.
Kel didn’t release her hand, apparently waiting for something. When she forced herself to look up at him again, he said, “I mean it. If I’d known you were interested in being tied, I would have approached you a long time ago.”
She didn’t know if he was humoring her or not, then decided she didn’t want to know. At least for tonight, it would seem, she might get to have one damn good thing happen.
“I know I’m not exactly your type,” she said before thinking about it.
Chelbie’s fingers painfully dug into her left wrist, but Kel still didn’t let go of her right hand.
“What do you think my ‘type’ is?” he asked, no trace of sarcasm in his tone.
She took a deep breath and, low enough others around them couldn’t hear, she said, “I know you usually tie skinny girls.”
Now his grip grew a little firmer. “My type,” he said, “is anyone willing to be tied, whom I can do so safely. Do you have any issues, like a back injury, that would prevent me from tying you in any particular way?”
She shook her head. “I’m just, you know, fat.”
She’d glanced away but he still didn’t release her hand. He seemed to be waiting for her to look up at him again.
She finally did. Something about the intensity of his brown gaze pierced right through her. “I see you as a beautiful, blank canvas that I can’t wait to take control of.”
Her mouth went dry. Chelbie leaned in and sotto voce said, “If you don’t let him tie you tonight, I will beat you myself in the bad way for committing acts of terminal stupidity.”
He leaned in and kissed her, slowly, gently, savoring it. He wanted to cherish every second of this with her. “If you change your mind at any point, just say red, and I’ll stop. About anything. Promise me. Just like any other time we play. You won’t disappoint me if you call it.”
“I promise.” She unfastened the belt of her robe and shrugged it off, letting it fall to the floor behind her. “I want this, and I want you. I want all of you, the real you. I want to be the person you can let go with, just like I want you to be the person I can let go to. I want to play in the shadows with you.”
He cupped her cheek in his hand and kissed her, a little harder, nipping her lower lip and sucking on it before lifting his head again and staring into her eyes. “I’m going to put my marks on you,” he whispered. “I’m going to paint my feelings onto your flesh.” He reached down and rested his hands on her hips, trailing his fingers lightly over and up her rounded tummy, to her breasts, and down her sides until they settled on her ass.
He dug his fingers in, mindful not to mark her yet, wanting the before and after clearly delineated in the photos. “I mark what’s mine,” he said. “And if we’re going to do this, that means we’re going to be monogamous to each other. And more, it means we both get veto power over anyone the other plays with. You don’t want to do that, you don’t screw around behind my back. You talk to me and we deal with it. I won’t screw around behind your back, either. We’re adults. You want to be in a relationship with me, it means we communicate our needs. I ever catch you breaking that trust, that’s it. Not saying you have to pledge undying love to me, but I will give you one hundred percent of my trust and respect, and I promise in return to respect you and not to break your trust. Deal?”
She nodded, her beautiful smile melting his soul. “I don’t want anyone but you.” She reached down and grabbed the bulge pressing against the front of his jeans, squeezing just a little. “I’m more than happy to take what I can get and be happy for it.”
He barely managed to hold back his needy moan. It would be too easy to throw her down on the mats and fuck her silly right then.
Who was he kidding? He knew he loved her. He just couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud yet. The last time he’d thought he was in love, he’d ended up with a woman who was five gallons of crazy in a two-gallon bucket.
But he’d meant every word he said. He wouldn’t screw around on her, and maybe she’d put up with him long enough for him to finally feel secure saying those three little words to her.
Meanwhile, if nothing else, he’d show her how he felt. He led her over to the pillows and arranged her how he wanted on her back, getting the cameras ready and focused. He’d use a remote to trigger them, and then a hand-held camera for the close-ups he wanted.
Already, the thought of going through post to edit the photos had him hard and throbbing.
He started by using royal blue rope on her lower arms, tying gauntlets around her wrists and then raising her arms over her head and tying them together.
Her focus never left him. Every time he looked, her blue gaze lay upon him like a sensual cloud.
Then he tied gauntlets around her feet and ankles, bringing up first her right foot, then her left, bending her legs at the knees and tying her feet to her thighs as closely as he knew her muscles could stand.
He pushed her legs apart, propped up by pillows so she could hold the pose longer.
His heart pounded in his chest at how open, vulnerable she looked.
Beautiful. A perfect goddess with flaming red hair, ready for him to take her.
Wanting him to take her.
He took several close-up shots of how the rope pressed into the flesh of her upper thighs before setting the camera aside and kneeling between her legs.
“Green,” she whispered.
He slid his fingers up her body, to her breasts, grabbing and squeezing, his gaze never leaving hers, watching, gauging.
Only when she bit down on her lower lip did he stop applying pressure, holding it there, watching as her flesh started changing color under his fingers from creamy white to pink. Her nipples stood out, hard and peaked, inviting.
He leaned in and flicked his tongue over first one, then the other, before releasing her and sitting up again. The soft gasps she made sent throbbing agony through his cock and balls. He wanted to fuck her. He wanted to fuck her hard and fast and make her his, with his fingers digging into her flesh and leaving his fingerprints all over her even as he made her come.
He grabbed the camera and took pictures of her breasts before the imprints of his fingers there faded.
Putting it aside again, he scooted back just enough he could lean in and kiss her pussy.
The louder moan he drew from her nearly made him come in his jeans.