Authors: Lynda Aicher
Tags: #Romance, #Erotica, #Contemporary, #Fiction
Bonds of Trust
By Lynda Aicher
After ending her passionless marriage, Cali Reynolds is eager to live out her forbidden fantasies. Her first step is attending new members’ night at The Den, the most exclusive sex club in town. Perhaps here she can find a man who understands her desire to be dominated…
At first, Jake McCallister thinks Cali has come to his club for the wrong reasons. But when he discovers she is seeking fulfillment after years of denial, he’s intrigued—and takes it upon himself to initiate her into the pleasures she’s been missing.
Her first encounter with Jake is everything Cali has always craved, and more; she’s not prepared for the feelings he inspires in her. And Jake is just as surprised by his overwhelming attraction to Cali. As their play intensifies, so does their bond. Now, Jake doesn’t want anyone but Cali—but is he ready to officially claim her? And will she submit to being his forever?
Exciting things happen in November. It’s the month we first
announced the creation of Carina Press, the month of my Harlequin employment
anniversary and it’s the month when we in the U.S. get
gorge-yourself-on-bad-carbs-and-turkey day (otherwise known as Thanksgiving). We
also get Black Friday (I think they call it that because of the color of your
bruises after you’ve been run over by crazy shoppers).
This November, we’re excited to release our first Carina
Press book in trade print format.
The Theory of
an erotic BDSM romance collection featuring novellas from
Delphine Dryden, Christine d’Abo and Jodie Griffin, is on shelves and available
for order online.
We also have fourteen new stories in digital for you to enjoy
post-turkey coma, in that long, long line outside the mall on Black Friday or,
if neither of those is your thing, to enjoy just because you like a good book!
Try to avoid the crime and violence of some of those crazy holiday shoppers and
enjoy some on-page suspense instead. Marie Force is back with her popular Fatal
series and ongoing protagonists Nick and Sam, in her next romantic suspense,
Also returning is author Shirley
the next Dylan Scott
I’m happy to introduce debut author Jax Garren’s new trilogy,
which kicks off this month with
How Beauty Met the
This novella grabbed my attention when I read it on
submission, with off-the-charts sexual tension, a wonderful, character-driven
futuristic world, a smart, sassy heroine and a tortured, scarred hero who yearns
for nothing more than to keep the woman he’s secretly falling in love with
Looking for something out-of-this-world to take you away from
the pre-holiday madness? J.L. Hilton offers up her next cyberpunk
continuing the adventures of futuristic blogger extraordinaire Genny. Meanwhile,
Now You See It
gives a paranormal
edge to a thrilling romantic suspense, while erotic fantasy romance
by Kim Knox is guaranteed to give you
that “take me away” feeling.
Joining Kim with erotic romance releases this month are Jodie
Griffin with her next Bondage & Breakfast novella,
and Lynda Aicher’s first of a BDSM trilogy,
Bonds of Trust.
All three books in this trilogy are
both smokin’ hot, while delivering a wonderful, captivating story.
We have two authors with male/male releases this month,
including L.B. Gregg’s contemporary romance
Smithfield: Adam and Holden.
Also in the male/male niche, author
Libby Drew has her first Carina Press release, paranormal male/male
40 Souls to Keep.
is our lone historical romance offering this month, but one
that won’t disappoint. Anchoring us in the here and now are several
contemporary romance titles. Jeanette Murray’s
aims to get you into a holiday mood and
December Gephart bursts onto the publishing scene with her debut, the witty, fun
And don’t miss the upcoming conclusion of Shannon Stacey’s
second Kowalski family trilogy,
All He Ever
Wherever your reading pleasure takes you, enjoy this month’s
variety of releases as we gear up for the holiday season.
We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your
thoughts, comments and questions to
You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter
stream and Facebook fan page.
Executive Editor, Carina Press
This one goes out with a special thanks to my faithful Beta Readers, Lori, Val and Cindy, who gave me the confidence boost when I needed it the most. My friends and critique partners, Sue, Paula, Jenna and Kim, for the support, feedback and brainstorming that helped the story evolve. To my editor, Rhonda, for loving the book, making the story stronger and teaching me so much along the way. And as always, to my family, for understanding my distractions, dealing with late dinners and cheering me on the whole time.
“Do you like bondage?”
“I don’t know.”
“Spankings? Whips? Floggings?”
“I don’t know.”
“Exhibitionism, being a slave, serving a Master?”
“Again, I don’t know.”
“Golden showers, enemas or any other classification of water sports?”
“What?” Cali Reynolds gasped then shuddered. Water sports? “God, no.”
The long-haired co-owner of The Den paused in his barrage of questions to eye her intently. He braced an elbow on the desk and leaned in, assessing her, the blue polo shirt tugging across his shoulders, his muscled biceps flexing. Seth Mathews was the last obstacle she had to pass before she could be granted membership to the exclusive club. He gave a half smile at the expression of pure disgust that had to be on her face.
“There are members here who do enjoy those activities, Ms. Reynolds,” the man said. “These are standard interview questions. I hope your opinions wouldn’t be so blatantly displayed in the presence of those who do like those things.”
She winced. Her hands clenched in her lap and she hoped the large desk between them hid the action. “I didn’t mean any disrespect. It’s just not for me.”
He nodded then glanced at the paper on his desk, making a mark on the page. He appeared younger than she’d expected, maybe late thirties, but his age didn’t hinder the authority he exuded. “What
you looking for, then?” He studied her, missing nothing.
She swallowed, her stomach knotting into a state of sickly pain. “I don’t know, exactly,” she answered, her face heating with embarrassment. She tore her gaze from his and stared at her lap. She picked uncharacteristically at the small hangnail on her thumb, wondering if the straight-cut black slacks and purple sweater set had been too conservative for this interview.
He sighed, the pen clattering against the desk as he tossed it down and leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest. “Then why are you here? The Den is the most exclusive BDSM club in the Twin Cities. If you don’t know what you want or like, then why come here?”
She snapped her chin up, desperation snaking into her voice. “Because you
the most exclusive club. I have to get in here.”
Cali ducked her head, tucking her hair behind her ear, using the habitual move to calm herself. Why, indeed. “I’ll never try this anywhere else.” She waited for him to respond, but he didn’t. So she continued, filling in the silence with the truth. “It’s taken me a very long time to understand what I desire. Just as long to
that what I crave sexually is way outside the box of normal. And even longer to do something about it. This isn’t a game for me, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
He picked up the pen, letting the object flip absently between his fingers. “Why now?”
“If not now, then it’s never.” She took a deep breath and hoped he believed her, because it was true. This was her one and only chance of safely getting what she secretly fantasized about. She couldn’t risk the exposure by going anywhere else.
He sat forward. “Why do you think you’re a submissive if you’ve never participated in any submissive activities?”
“How did you know you were a dominant?” she fired back. He obviously was and she was tired of his game. Of the questions and disbelief. She wasn’t going to be intimidated into walking out because he doubted her intentions. “How did you discover what you liked and wanted without experiencing them? I bet you didn’t know for sure. No one can. So if inexperience is the only thing keeping me from getting into this club, then I ask you, how else am I supposed to learn?”
He stared at her and this time, she didn’t flinch away. She’d thrown down the challenge and she wasn’t backing down. Maybe he’d toss her out or maybe, just maybe, he’d throw her over the desk and spank her for her defiance. Her gut dropped at that thought as a wave of heat flashed through her.
Either way, she’d have an answer.
After a minute of tense silence, a slow smile curled over his sensual lips. He stood, his large frame towering over her as he extended his hand. “Welcome to The Den, Ms. Reynolds.”
Inhale, exhale. Two simple, reflexive actions that seemed almost impossible for Cali to execute. Breathe. She had to forcibly remind herself oxygen was necessary. But then, she could hardly hear her own thoughts over the pounding of her heart.
It’d been four days since her final interview. Four days to digest and stew on the fact that she’d been granted membership to the exclusive sex club. She’d be mortified if anyone ever found out she was here. Just the thought of it had her swallowing back her dinner.
They won’t, she reminded herself. She could fulfill this side of her life without anyone knowing.
She forced herself to look around the small room in an attempt to focus on something besides her increasing anxiety. The space was tastefully decorated in deep burgundies and greens. The black leather love seat where she sat was positioned across from two matching chairs. A waiting room that with its warm tones and expensive furniture was more suited for a corporate office than a sex club.
What was she waiting for?
Had the club decided to revoke her membership before she’d even started? Then why did she spend the last half hour listening to all of the rules being repeated to the small group of new members like herself? It didn’t make sense. No one else had been excluded, pulled aside and singled out.
She’d gone through the interviews, both on paper and in person. Paid the exorbitant membership fee. Completed the new member checklist filled with questions that made her cheeks flame and her heart race at the images they conjured. Submission, spanking, bondage, anal play, voyeurism, exhibitionism—
, she had to think of something else.
She forced another slow exhale, the breathing technique doing little to instill the calm she sought. The utter silence of the room was an added torture. No piped in music or even the insistent ticking of a clock to distract her mind. She’d been left alone with her thoughts, nerves and a barely restrained instinct to flee.
Abruptly she stood, hesitated then immediately sat back down. She cursed silently, berating herself for the show of nerves. Shifting, she moved to tuck the strands of her sleek bob behind her ear, but her hand stilled when she touched the unfamiliar tumble of curls instead. Like the mini-skirt and low-cut blouse she wore, the loose curls flowing untamed around her head were an extension of this other side of herself. The side that seemed so very, very dirty. So wrong.
But desperately ached to be free.
She dropped her hand and clasped it tightly with the other, refusing to fidget. Refusing to run or panic or any of the other things they were probably hoping she’d do. If this was a test, she wasn’t failing.
Determination reasserted, she breathed a little easier. She would get through this. It might have taken her forty-four years, two grown kids and a divorce to get here, but she wasn’t turning back now.
Tonight, she would once again have sex with a man.
* * *
Jake McCallister leaned back in his chair and kicked his boots up to rest on the edge of the desk. The silent action felt off, missing the persistent creak he was accustomed to hearing. Shifting against the shiny leather for a comfortable spot, he wished for his old eyesore of a chair that had fit his body perfectly.
Too bad the garbage truck came that morning.
Sighing, he closed his eyes for a quick break before the night began. Before the crowds arrived and forced their expectations on him. Two minutes. That’s all he wanted. Two minutes of silence to rest his mind.
The door to his office swung open, the booming rock music from the main floor pulsing into the room. “Hey, Jake,” Seth called out as he strode into the office. “Do you have the file with tonight’s newbie info?”
So much for two minutes. Jake opened his eyes and sat up, his boots thumping on the wood floor. He shuffled some papers around on his desk until he found the folder his business partner was searching for. It was First Friday, the one night a month new members were officially introduced to the club. “Here,” he said, holding the folder out to Seth. “Do you have the assignments done?”
All newbies were paired with an employee their first night to show them around and answer any questions. It was both a courtesy and a precaution, with no obligation from either party. Still, they took care in assigning the member escort, as those matches often ended the night together—in one fashion or another.
“For the most part,” Seth answered as he glanced at the list. “There’s one I’m having a hard time with. I was hoping you would do another interview and verify my choice before we send her out.”
Internally, Jake groaned. “When?”
“In fifteen minutes.”
“Let me guess,” Jake said as he leaned back in his chair and thought about the new client list he’d just handed to Seth. “It’s the forty-four-year-old divorcee looking for a little adventure but having no idea what she’s getting into. Desperate to hang on to her youth after her husband dumped her for a younger woman, she thinks our club will validate her desirability and boost her self-esteem.”
Seth shut the door cutting off the music and took a seat. Not a good sign. “You know I would have denied her membership if there was any indication she wasn’t serious about the lifestyle.” He shot Jake a reproachful glare before continuing. “On the surface, it seems a lot like what you just described, but I can’t pin this one down. There’s an element of almost virginal curiosity about her that doesn’t fit with her age.”
“So do the interview yourself.”
“Can’t. I have an appointment at ten and I’ve already done the prelims. I want a second opinion.”
“What about Dek?” Deklan Winters was their third business partner. The three men had started The Den five years ago on an idea, a desire and barely enough cash to open the doors.
Seth leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees. “You’re the ‘people person,’ Jake. You can figure her out faster than either Dek or I can.” He furrowed his brow and tilted his head in consideration. “Why are you dodging this?”
“Why did you wait until now to let me know?”
Seth sat up. “We always get a second opinion when in doubt.”
Jake’s gaze darted to the wall of video screens. Every room in the club had a security camera. No exceptions. The club had a reputation to uphold. The three men had worked hard to establish The Den in the BDSM scene and it was currently on the top of the Twin Cities list. But they all knew the list was as fluid and quick to change as a river bed during the spring thaw.
Discretion, safety and exclusivity kept them on top.
“Fine,” Jake responded as he scanned each screen in a practiced rhythm, absorbing every action, from the clients playing in the private rooms to the Scenes taking place in the Dungeon. “Give me her information and I’ll take care of it.” He glanced back to Seth. “Who have you matched her with so far?”
Seth extracted a sheet from the file and handed it over before he leaned back, his shoulders relaxing at Jake’s agreement. Seth ran a hand through his hair, the straight, brown locks combing through his fingers before they fell back to brush over his shoulders. Jake noted the telling actions. For some reason, this client had Seth flustered.
“Marcus,” Seth replied in answer to Jake’s question, his knee bouncing in a rapid beat of contained energy. “But it’s not feeling right. Nothing against Marcus, he’s one of our best Dom’s, but my gut tells me I’m missing something.”
Seth’s lips compressed in a brief line of frustration. “Shit,” he exhaled. “I don’t know. That’s why I want you to meet her.” He stood abruptly and paced across the room to the mini-fridge, yanked the door open and stared inside before slamming it closed and turning back to Jake empty-handed. “She’s not typical. The interviews I’ve had with her just don’t fit with the divorced cougar looking to feel better about herself.”
Intrigued now, Jake examined the details outlined in the client dossier. The puzzle of one Ms. Cali Reynolds was becoming more attractive than he wanted it to be.
Over the last few months, he’d felt the restlessness returning. That inescapable, persistent itch to move on. His five-year commitment was up at the end of December, and he knew he’d be leaving. Seth and Dek, his de facto brothers since they’d bonded dodging fists and abuse in a foster home together, had made him promise he’d stick with the club for five years. Knowing him and his wanderlust a little too well, it was the only way they’d agree to go into business with him.
He didn’t need to be pulled into client issues when he was quietly trying to disentangle himself from the club. Hence, his reluctance to do the interview. But he couldn’t dodge the task without making Seth suspicious.
Not when both Dek and Seth were already looking for departure signs.
Jake picked up the head shot then studied at the full-body shot. “She’s very attractive.” He glanced up at Seth, who was watching him a bit too intently. “Are you sure her age is correct?”
Seth frowned, crossing his arm over his chest. “Like Dek would mess that up. Everything in her file has been validated. Like always.” Membership was strictly monitored and all applicants had to pass a rigorous interview and background check before membership was granted.
Jake flashed an apologetic smile. “Right. I’d place her at least ten years younger by her photos.” The blonde in the pictures had the face and figure of a woman in her early thirties. Hell, she looked better than a lot of women did in their twenties.
“And you look like you’re crowding forty?” Seth scoffed. “Come on, Jake. You, of all people, should know how deceiving appearances can be.”
“Touché.” People constantly assumed Jake was younger than he was. He pulled his attention from the soulful green eyes in the picture and tossed the papers back on the desk. “Is Marcus doing the meet and greet then?”
Seth nodded. “I told him to take Ms. Reynolds to Lounge One when he was done with the basics.” He turned to leave but paused before he opened the door. His lips quirked in a mischievous smile. “Let me know how it goes with the cougar.”
Jake laughed, a reflexive bark that burst from his gut. “Right. She looks and sounds more like a kitten. I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t run from the club in blind fear once she sees the action up close and personal.”
“Don’t be so sure.” Seth opened the door, letting the noise enter in a smooth rhythm of drums. “I told you, there’s something about this one.”
He left before Jake could respond. A quick exit was the only way Seth could leave and still get in the last word.
Jake picked up the headshot once again. A submissive? She had the doe eyes, but they were sharp and filled with intelligence. Not that subs were stupid, but most had that eager, need-to-please expression when they were at The Den. Her hair was styled in an efficient bob that grazed her shoulders. Not a strand out of place. Pale pink lipstick complimented her creamy skin and highlighted the cupids-bow arch of her upper lip that was curled in an almost shy smile, contradicting the edge in her eyes.
His turned to the security screens, his gaze hunting down the mystery woman. A lone blonde sat in Lounge One, her back to the camera, showing her stiff spine and a tumble of curls that moved softly as she swiveled her head to look around the room. Her face was hidden from view and he leaned to the side in an unconscious move to get a glimpse of her features.
He jerked away when he realized what he was doing.
What the fuck?
Jake tossed the photo on the desk and stood. He flexed his fingers, working out the residual ache left over from his earlier appointment. A regular who enjoyed being spanked after work before she headed home to her boyfriend. Her end-of-the-work-week tension release.
He chuckled under his breath. Too bad she couldn’t have an honest conversation with her boyfriend about what she desired. But then, the stigma around BDSM prevented a lot of people from openly admitting what they wanted, needed in their lives. It wasn’t just about sex, either.
Not that most people understood that.
It wasn’t his problem. Half the draw of The Den was the forbidden aspects of what it offered. Aspects he enjoyed both exploiting and encouraging.
He ran a hand over what he thought of as his Dom outfit. The expected black leather pants and black shirt that most Doms wore at the club. It was part of the image, another expectation he fulfilled, even though a truly dominant nature did not require specific clothing.
The facade was just one more thing he was tiring of.
A tight smile curved over his lips as he left the room, the persona of the Dom settling comfortably on his shoulders.
It was time to perform.