A Taste of Winter: 1 (Red Masks)

BOOK: A Taste of Winter: 1 (Red Masks)
7.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
A Taste of Winter



Red Masks, Book One


For the ladies of the Red Masks pleasure waits behind every
door…and no one is ever who they seem to be.

When Alaina accepts an invitation to Charleston’s premier
sex club, she has no idea the stranger who makes her scream with pleasure is
her micromanaging ex-boss Ryan. But while she couldn’t stand his domination on
the job, his mastery in the bedroom takes her to whole new levels of pleasure. He
forces her to submit to his every decadent demand—including a threesome with
his old friend and her new employer, Zayne.

While Ryan knows Alaina’s true identity, she remains unaware
of his deception until the masks come off and she is faced with a decision. Can
she continue to submit to his will now that she knows who he really is?


Inside scoop
: Alaina enjoys a blistering-hot ménage
and light bondage in her explorations—lucky girl!


contemporary erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave

A Taste of Winter
Gia Dawn



To my son Wes and his amazing partner Velvet.

When Wes was diagnosed with type one young adult onset
juvenile diabetes in May of 2013, I did what any good mother and author would
do. I cried for days, begged whatever God might be listening that I would take
his place if they could somehow transmit his disease to me…then went
immediately to Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research. I bid on
and won a three-chapter critique donated by Ellora’s Cave, then pitched to the
fabulous Julie Naughton who made the Red Masks series a reality. Thank you
Julie!!! And a very special thank-you to Brenda Novak and her dedication to
diabetes research.

I hope you enjoy.



Chapter One


Alaina Winter knew who was calling the instant her cell
phone rang. The sun grew darker and the air grew colder as if the man had the
same dimming effect on the rest of the world as he did on her. Even the ocean
on the other side of the Battery, Charleston’s premier waterfront street, took
on a gray and choppy cast under the overcast winter sky, while her coffee
turned cold and bitter on her tongue.

Ryan Marquis…who also could be known as the Marquis de Sade.

He put the O in obsessive.

The C in control.

And the F in freak, fanatic, fascist and fuc—

“Good morning, Mr. Marquis. How can I help you today?” she
answered, pleased her voice didn’t betray an inkling of the tension that
immediately crushed her chest.

“Miss Winter,” came the clipped response, “how nice of you
to answer.” She couldn’t miss the sarcasm that dripped like venom across the

The tightness in her chest threatened to cut off all her
breath but somehow she managed to keep her voice nearly as cold as his. “I do
apologize. We seem to have been on different schedules as of late.”

Different schedules meaning she hadn’t answered a single one
of his calls for the past three days, sending him only terse text messages in
return. But at least she hadn’t had to deal with any of his micromanagement for
seventy-two hours, giving her the brief respite she needed. If she talked to
him on a daily basis she would have already imploded from his incessant demands
and last-minute alterations.

Since she’d contracted with Marquis Development over two
years ago the man managed to turn Winter Restorations—the business she’d once
loved with an unlimited passion—into a chore that sucked her very life away. Spectacularly
wealthy with a sharp eye for real estate, Ryan had hired her to renovate the
properties he’d purchased and paid her an exorbitant sum for her exclusive

On the major downside he required her to fill out a desk
full of contracts for every building she began work on, fined her outrageously
every day she was late with the paperwork and refused to accept a single
proposal without questioning the color of the rooms, the type of wood for the
flooring or the shape of the chandeliers she’d picked out.

On one project, he delayed completion for several days while
he did some research on the height of the wrought iron fence she planned to
install on the second-floor balconies. Today he obviously had some insightful
opinion on the LaRue House, their latest restoration project, or she wouldn’t
have a huge list of missed calls from his number.

“At any rate,” she continued, actually managing to draw
breath, “if you give me your latest list of changes, I’ll be happy to implement
them immediately.”

Her only defense against his constant meddling was to remain
aloof and accommodating, refusing to let him goad her into an argument. He’d
wanted a fight from their very first conversation but she’d steadfastly refused
to rise to his bait, gaining a decided satisfaction in the knowledge she made
him furious with her false politeness. She could tell by the pause of silence
on the other end of the line that he struggled to keep his tone as neutral as

But he was a constant challenge, both to her normally outgoing
personality and her professional vision. In a city of vibrant music, exquisite
food and flowers of every color imaginable, the man was a study in fifty shades
of gray.

Dull gray. Nothing like the sexy book she’d read last

“Mr. Marquis?” she prompted into his continued silence.

“I did want to make a small change to the exterior color of
the LaRue House. Pine green as opposed to forest green. I sent you a link to
the sample.”

Alaina rolled her eyes to the heavens. She doubted there was
any difference at all between the hues, just one company naming the color
different from the other. But as she opened her mouth to agree as she’d always
done before, some too-long repressed rebellious urge surfaced and she found
herself saying, “Lime green? What an interesting change from your usual ideas.
I was actually thinking the same thing myself. And may I compliment you on such
a bold color choice. Excellently done.”

“I said pi—”

“Have to run,” she deliberately interrupted. “The building
permits are due by five.” She clicked off with a decided snap, not giving him a
chance to interrupt her.

Lime green.

The thought struck so suddenly she almost choked on her
coffee, the brew regaining some of its wonderful taste as the idea took hold.

Granted it would cost her a couple thousand dollars in paint,
labor and whatever fines he decided to inflict but it would be worth every
penny to see the look on his meddling face when he saw what she had done. And
it would be a spectacular color for the building. Well, maybe not
lime green but some vibrant shade of the color, toned down with darker trim on
the veranda and windows.

She frowned as her phone rang, too excited now to worry
about the consequences as she let his latest message go to voice mail. Instead,
she found exactly what she wanted online and forwarded the information to her
construction supervisor.

That done, she turned her attention to a new and exciting
prospect. Her contract with Ryan was nearing its end and she’d learned that
Zayne Saladar, a wealthy foreign investor, was planning to purchase the
derelict Gravers’ Orphanage and completely renovate the building.

Alaina wanted that job. Badly. She already had some
preliminary designs drawn up and planned to spend Sunday making sketches of the
gardens with the intent of garnering an interview with Mr. Saladar for the job.
At long last, she would be free from Ryan’s intervention.

That thought alone sent a trickle of excitement up her back.
Free at last from the servitude she’d been forced into for the last two years.

Then…after she’d finished for the day…Alaina planned to do
something so wicked, so decadent, so completely out of character, just the
thought of it sent shivers of need across her skin. She was finally going to
accept the invitation she’d received several weeks ago from the notorious Red
Mask Society, the best-kept secret in South Carolina history.

Started by the notorious Monique Gaston well before the
Civil War, the Red Mask Society was housed in a massive old plantation just
minutes east of the city. Originally a brothel, it had morphed through the
years into an exclusive sex club where the men were gorgeous, rich and highly
skilled in the bedroom, and the women were admitted by invitation only…ostensibly
at the request of one or more of the male members of the club.

That someone had singled her out for decadent pleasure gave
her a shiver of delight she could barely control. After months of not having a
single date due to Ryan’s 24/7 work schedule, Alaina was more than ready for
some sorely needed physical release.

Her hand trembled as she dialed the number, but she was
determined not to chicken out as she heard the exotic female voice answer on
the other end.

* * * * *

Ryan stared in displeasure as his cell phone rang. He had a
strict policy of no business between the hours of six on Saturday night and
noon Sunday, that brief block of time set aside every week to satisfy his need
for rest and relaxation—along with some decadent indulgence when the need

He frowned as the phone rang again, noting it was now three
minutes after the hour, before picking it up to see who dared break into his
personal time, his frown twisting into a semi-smile as he noted the number and

Bon nuit, mon cher
,” came a husky voice across the
line. “I have someone for you tonight. Someone you have been waiting for.”

His heart pounded in uncharacteristic excitement, his
fingers tightening around the phone, a weakness he stifled in an instant. But
his body proved a traitor to his discipline, every nerve buzzing, every muscle
tightening in anticipation as thoughts of the night ahead wove dark and
dangerous pleasures through his mind.

Was it her? Finally after all this time, had she accepted
his invitation?

Alaina Winter.

He’d been unduly fascinated with the frosty blonde ever since
he’d hired her two years before. Not only was her work exceptional, the woman
had an unnatural ability to match him on a professional level, her wall of
politeness so thick she’d refused to break no matter what he’d thrown at her.
And every time he heard her precise Southern voice across the phone, agreeing
to his every ridiculous demand without a single hesitation, he became more and
more obsessed with finding a way to make the ice queen melt.

It wasn’t a thing he was proud of in any manner. He deplored
his need to feel her tremble in his arms, hear her cries of pleasure as he
stroked his teeth across her skin…drive his flesh so far between her legs she’d
beg him to stop while he kept her bound and still beneath him. His need had
grown so distracting he’d finally taken action. He’d petitioned Madame Manette
Brisson, the proprietor of the Red Mask Society, to issue Miss Winter an
invitation to come and play—an invitation she’d ignored for so long he thought
she would never send a reply.

So what had fueled her sudden acceptance? The lady was up to
something, he understood in a heartbeat, remembering their last conversation.
And whatever she was up to, he planned to enjoy the ride.

“Monsieur? If you are unavailable, I will find someone else
to keep the lady occupied.” The woman on the other end of the line sniffed, her
voice chill with censure.

“Not if you value your life,” he finally answered, his own
voice throaty with rising excitement.

“Then I expect you here at eight o’clock sharp. Don’t
disappoint either of us by your absence.”

Ryan’s laughter rumbled from his throat. “I never
disappoint, Madame. Is my room cleaned and ready?”

Mais certainment
. Do you have any special requests
for the evening?”

This time he didn’t bother to try to control the surge of
want that throbbed between his legs, spreading them to make room for his
growing erection, his hand dropping to rest on the lengthening mass of flesh.

What instruments did he need to make her scream in pleasure?

“Leather,” he answered with grunt of satisfaction. “Black.
New. Enough to bind her to my will.”

“I will see it done,” said the woman in a whisper before the
line went dead.

Lime green my ass
, he thought with uncharacteristic
delight as he pocketed his phone and headed home, the taste of winter already
tantalizing on his tongue.

* * * * *

Alaina stared out the window at the sleek sliver of moon
high above the moss-draped trees, sipping a glass of the best champagne she’d
ever had…and wondered how much lower she could fall. Not even the slow motion
of the leaves in the chilly breeze could calm the nervous hammer of her heart.

What had seemed fun and flirtatious in the full light of day
now loomed dark and dangerous as night settled down, sealing her in to an act
she wasn’t so certain she could go through with.

Her fingers smoothed across the satin finish of the
invitation, clutching it tighter as she turned to study her immediate
surroundings. No handcuffs or riding crops hung from the walls. No toys or
lubricants were left out for inspection.

The only nod to the sensual nature of the business was the
nude portrait hanging above a fireplace mantel, an elegant piece of artwork she
guessed was both original and expensive. The room boasted polished wood floors
and antique furniture that more resembled a Victorian home than a front for the
infamous Red Mask Society.

The sharp click of heels headed in her direction interrupted
her thoughts and Alaina whirled to face Manette Brisson, self-proclaimed Madame
of the Masks. From the tip of her stiletto heels to the line of her black
pencil skirt and the perfect bob of her matching black hair, Manette was the
epitome of elegant sexuality.

And intimidating in her monochromatic perfection.

Despite her best effort, Alaina felt her smile falter as Manette
stopped to pour herself a glass of champagne and raised the crystal in a toast,
her own expression as carefully groomed as her clothes.

“I hope the invitation is still good?” Alaina blurted out,
hearing the trill of uncertainty in her voice. Before she could squeak out
something even more stupid or turned to run screaming for the door, Alaina took
another sip of champagne. “I mean…I really don’t know what I am doing here.”

Madame Brisson arched one manicured brow. Then she smiled,
the expression making her seem human for the first time. Taking Alaina’s hand,
she led them to a couch covered in maroon velvet. “Of course my invitations are
always good, Miss Winter. And you are here because something is lacking in your
life.” She paused and reached out to smooth her hand down Alaina’s pale-blonde
hair. “So you shall call me Manette and I shall call you Alaina, yes?” When
Alaina nodded, the other woman continued, “Shall I explain the rules of the

“Please.” Feeling more assured, Alaina took another sip of
champagne and enjoyed the way it tingled down her throat. “This is like heaven
in a bottle.”

Manette’s smile grew as she raised her own glass and emptied
it, closing her eyes as she swallowed—a woman who appreciated the sensual
pleasures of life and wasn’t afraid to let go and enjoy them. Her other hand
reached out to pet the sleek black cat that jumped to the couch between them.

“It is excellent, is it not?” Manette swiped her tongue
across her lips as if to catch the very last drop. “Dom Ruinart. I can have a
bottle ready for you whenever you decide to return. And you will return,
, once you have tasted what other pleasures the Red Mask Society has
to offer.”

BOOK: A Taste of Winter: 1 (Red Masks)
7.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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