Middle management executive Victoria Renard works for a large insurance firm that has just been bought out by the mysterious and reclusive business tycoon F.W. Shanley the Third. Vicki and her colleagues are all concerned about their future, in the wake of the takeover, and into this tension-fraught situation, walks devilishly attractive freelance photographer Red Webster on assignment to take photos for a new company profile.
Vicki finds Red attractive but his sexy teasing rubs her the wrong way. Red in turn is turned on by Vicki's feisty, challenging personality and her undeniable beauty. He also senses a kindred spirit, a woman who shares his sexual preference for BDSM pleasure, and his hopes are confirmed when he discovers her reading a copy of "The Story of O" on her Kindle.
But unknown to Vicki, Red has a secret...
Intimate Exposure is published by Carina Press
“Watch the birdie!”
Caught in the act of reaching over to retrieve her e-reader Vicki jumped, her heart thudding hard as half the blood in her body seemed to flow into her face and turn it bright blushing pink.
Why, oh why did F. W. Shanley’s tame paparazzo—and her own personal devil—choose this very moment to play his candid camera games? She’d been to a meeting first thing and was rushing through the main office, laden with shoulder bag, briefcase and newspaper, and her nemesis had happened upon her at the exact instant her beloved e-reader had fallen out of the outer pocket of her bag on to the carpet. He seemed to have appeared from nowhere and popped up right behind her as she’d swooped down for the e-reader, presenting her bottom, in her slim gray skirt, as a prime target.
Might as well have pasted a Check Me Out sign on my arse.
Snatching up her prize, Vicki straightened up, squared her shoulders and spun around as gracefully as she could, blending the look of unruffled calm on her face with just a smidge of cool disdain. Pretty effectively, to her mind, apart from the still-raging blush.
“Would you be kind enough to delete that one, Mr. Webster? I’m sure it won’t be any good at all for your brochure. I can’t imagine your exalted master and his board of directors will be in the least bit interested in my…my rear end.”
Oh, that wicked, arrogant, mocking face. Oh, that grin, that devilish knowing grin. And oh hell, those eyes, those strange piercing eyes. Their color was like fire seen through brandy and they noticed everything. Not just her arse, but the object in her hand. The amused glitter behind the lenses of his elegant metal-framed glasses told her he obviously knew what a e-reader was, and what it was for.
“Oh, I don’t know. They might love it. I do. And I bet F. W. would too—might be just his thing.” Red Webster’s voice was deep and husky, and it always sounded as if he was just about to laugh. Well, it did whenever he spoke to her, anyway. Letting his large and elaborate camera drop on its retaining strap, he reached like a flash to whisk the e-reader out of her hand. Hampered by her other belongings, she was powerless to stop him. “I’ve got one of these. Great, aren’t they? What are you reading?”
But before she could stop him, he’d flicked the power slider, and the secret of her current reading choice was revealed.
Red Webster’s dark eyebrows shot up, and his weird eyes glittered. He whistled.
“Outstanding. One of my favorites.” He paused, clicking onto the next page, his tongue sweeping his lower lip as if savoring the taste of her embarrassment. “I might have known you were a Story of O girl.”
“Give me that!” she snapped, losing her cool despite all her best intentions not to. Others in the open-plan office were now watching their little drama, always happy to be diverted from minutiae of insurance policies and clauses. Lunging forward, shoulder bag swinging dangerously, Vicki grabbed for the reader—but got empty air while the infuriating Red Webster swerved gracefully to one side like a tango king and swept it from her grasp.
“You’ve got to ask nicely,” he replied, a smirk of pure mirth on his bearded face as he clicked through the pages as if speed-reading. His curious eyes gleamed. “Or perhaps you could get down on your knees and beg me for it? Judging by your choice of downloads, it looks like you might actually enjoy a bit of groveling.”
Vicki took a shallow calming breath. “Don’t be absurd, Mr. Webster,” she said as lightly as she could, fabricating that unconcerned smile again. She must not let him rattle her.
But something in her tone gave her away. His eyes had been bright before but now they were ablaze, their heat immobilizing her as he stared down at her. Vicki felt sweat pop out along her hairline—and elsewhere—as the moment stretched between them like a tightening wire. More interested faces turned towards them in their immediate area and beyond.
In a very short space of time it’d become common knowledge that she and the visiting photographer didn’t exactly get on, and it seemed that everyone was hoping for a ruckus. People at Wickham-Drake loved such confrontations. Even the smallest spat broke up the routine of office life, with its hours of staring at their PCs, hammering out reports and dealing with the never-ending succession of phone calls.
“But I’m not being absurd. Why else would you own a book like The Story of O if the subject material didn’t interest you?”
Look, you, why don’t you just descend into your fiery lair…or alternatively, just go away?
The words were silent but she had no doubt that the dark, imposing man in front of her still heard them.
“I read all sorts of books, Mr. Webster, and this one just happened to be at a special low price at the moment.” The effort of looking serene made her skin feel tight, as if she’d had a face pack on too long, but when she reached out again for the e-reader, he finally returned it to her. Their fingertips touched for split second and a sizzle of raw electricity seemed to spit at the point of contact.
Vicki suppressed a gasp, hastily stuffing the e-reader and the paper into her shoulder bag, then sliding both that and her briefcase in front of herself protectively.
But she couldn’t protect herself from her imagination. It was as if Red Webster’s touch had triggered a slide show. On the screen of her mind, she saw images. Of herself with this perverse man, kneeling before him as he towered over her, immensely tall and powerful. Kissing his hand, abasing herself even lower, her lips pressed to the surface of his polished riding boot.
Even as the preposterous image flicked out of existence, her sex quickened, hot and full of need.
“Are you all right, Vicki?”
His low and already familiar voice was teasing, yet at the same time he sounded concerned. As if he was worried by her sudden fugue and was a kind man beneath all the flirtation. When she dropped back into the real world again, Red Webster was still staring at her, those fiendish, almost unnatural lights dancing in his eyes. Once again, it seemed he could see what she saw, read her thoughts.
“I’m perfectly fine, thank you, Mr. Webster.” She gave him another firm look. “Have you deleted that shot yet?”
Solid black-clad shoulders shrugged, and he gave her a wide admiring smile, clearly enjoying her badly disguised antagonism.
For God’s sake, don’t do that, she thought, alarmed all over again at the effect that even white teeth and firm sensual lips framed in a neat, dark, piratical beard seemed to have on her. Even when he was faking being nice to her, he was a goad and a challenge.
Get lost, you’re not my type. Leave me alone.
She got hotter and hotter as he pressed a series of deft commands on the camera’s control panel. His hands were elegant, but they were large, and he was barely looking at what he was doing. He knew his equipment by pure instinct.
What else came instinctively to those clever, sturdy fingertips?
Panic assailed her along with new mind pictures. She had to get away from Red Webster right now. Or make him get away from her. And yet she moved closer as he held out the camera for her inspection and flicked through the last series of shots on its bright LCD screen.
All was routine. Just photos of the room they were standing in and others much like it. Some shots of architectural features, the unnoticed beauties of the fine old building, hinting at what it had been before it’d been converted to offices. Shots of people busy in their cubicles. People chatting. People using their computers, maybe a bit fed up of the humdrum routine, but basically fairly content with their lots. Which she was, usually, when she wasn’t fending off the attentions of a large, sexy and distinctly mischievous man who seemed to have taken a fancy to her.
“Okay.” She gave him a curt nod, hoping it would dismiss him and she could be off to her own office at the end of the room—the little box that was her perk as a section leader. But Red Webster remained where he stood, lifting the camera to his eyes, making an adjustment, and firing off a run of shots of the general work area around them.
She was compelled to speak, even though she knew it would just encourage him to linger.
“Why do you need so many pictures, anyway? How many illustrations does one simple little review need? You don’t think Shanley’s planning to sell the company on again when he’s only just bought it, do you?” What precisely did Red Webster know about F. W. Shanley III, the new owner of Wickham-Drake, the insurance company for which she worked? After all, he must have met the big cheese when he’d been given his photographic brief. “Or maybe he’s planning to shift us all to some glass-and-concrete block on a commercial estate and remodel this building as his own personal palace?”
Those dark-bright eyes that plagued her so much took on a sudden shuttered look.
The bastard, he does know something.
And yet when the answer came it was bland, noncommittal.
“I couldn’t say. I’m only here to take photographs of the people and the building and do the art design for the report. F. W. likes to have something informative to show the global board when he makes an acquisition, with plenty of pretty pictures in case they can’t read.” He dropped her a wink behind his spectacles, suggesting that he held exactly the same views she did about plutocratic business mandarins.
“Well, maybe if you didn’t loiter around here as much and took photographs elsewhere, you’d have a more representative selection to amuse them. And you wouldn’t be interrupting those of us who have more worthwhile things to do.”
No, why did I say that? Goddamn it.
“Worthwhile?” His eyes narrowed, and there was nothing at all bland about his expression now. It was intense, complex, challenging. He seemed to be asking questions of her on some level that was way beyond verbal. Beyond conscious thought, even. But her body knew, and she was horrified to find it answering.
No! she cried again, but silently, as everything about her stirred. The tips of her breasts prickled against the lace of her bra, and down below, her pussy seemed to ready itself to receive Red Webster’s cock. His decidedly sizable cock. She knew he was big because she’d surreptitiously checked him out when he’d been chatting up someone else at the entrance to a nearby cubicle. His black jeans fit a snugly as sin and didn’t leave a lot to the imagination.
No, no…don’t do this.
Yet her own eyes no longer seemed to be under the control of her brain, and her gaze drifted down towards the crotch area of his jeans.
His package looked solid and promising. Dear God, he might even be semierect right now. In the split second while she waited for him to continue his verbal goading, her head filled with pictures again. Pictures of herself kneeling before him and waiting for permission to uncover his magnificent penis and take it respectfully into her mouth.
“Yes, worthwhile,” she answered crisply, exerting a stringent effort of self-control to banish the outrageous images. “Everyone here is committed to hard work on behalf of our sections and divisions and the invisible control freak. He might be a new boss to us, but we’re all still working just as hard as ever.”
Red Webster didn’t answer for a few seconds but just looked at her, his glowing eyes steady behind his elegant glasses. His face was straight and his body calm, but Vicki knew without a doubt that everything else about him was laughing. Because somehow—inexplicably—he’d seen everything she’d seen in her imagination.
He shrugged, the action causing his broad chest to lift beneath his fine cotton roll-neck sweater. The action only accentuated the graceful, massive power of his body.
“Well, if you can call shuffling papers and policies about in an attempt to make some obscenely rich man you don’t know from Adam even richer ‘worthwhile.’” The disdain was on his side of the equation now, and it made Vicki’s hackles rise. Who was he to pooh-pooh wealth? He obviously wasn’t short of money himself. His unrelievedly black clothing might be casual and lived-in, but it was also obviously expensive, as was the deceptively tousled styling of his dark curly hair. And what little she knew about cameras told her that the one slung around his neck was the top of a very exclusive and high-end line. “And old F. W. is your boss as well as mine, you know.”
“How could I forget it?”
A shiver of unease slithered in amongst the hot brew of unwanted sexual feelings. All jobs, including hers, could well be on the line now. The company’s new owner was known for radical shakeups of his new acquisitions. Although to be fair to him, he was also noted for better company pensions and health schemes than many other employers, even in these troubled times. Not to mention generous severance packages and an innovative outreach program to help workers secure new employment.
A benevolent despot was better than an asset-stripping hyena any day, she had to admit.
“Don’t worry,” Red murmured, letting his precious camera swing on its retaining strap as he leaned against her desk, one arm wrapped around his middle while he stroked his bearded chin thoughtfully. “Our glorious leader sees all, hears all and knows all. And he’d never let a beautiful woman like you slip through his clutches. Especially one with such esoteric tastes.”
He nodded towards her bag and the e-reader within. “Your job is safe, Vicki. You’ll be staying here indefinitely.” Something about the way he said that made her feel that her staying at Wickham-Drake indefinitely was a disappointment to him somehow, but that notion faded as he rubbed his hand slowly over his jaw. What would the texture of that soft black beard feel like against her skin? Especially the skin of her inner thigh, for instance, if he were to press his handsome face in between her legs?
“That is, if you want to?”
Zoning back into Red’s voice, Vicki mentally shook herself. What was the matter with her? The bastard was turning her into a raving fantasist. “My career plans are none of your business, Mr. Webster. Now kindly move on and employ your photographic brilliance elsewhere, so I can get to my office and my workload.”
For a moment she thought he was going to ignore her and just loaf there against the desk, his long legs partially obstructing her path while his disturbing eyes monitored her every move. But instead, after a teasing moment, he straightened up.
“As you wish, Vicki.” He turned to move away, then glanced back over his shoulder. “And the name is Red, don’t forget that. Catch you later.”
The words were casual, a throwaway. And yet, instead of stalking off in the direction of her office, Vicki stood there watching his tall form stride away amongst the cubicles, still hearing that strange note in his voice that seemed to reverberate through her body, playing excitingly in the pit of her belly.
When he’d said “don’t forget that,” it had rung like a command, albeit a soft-spoken one. And in the depths of her psyche, the woman who’d read The Story of O, and who’d found herself almost reluctantly entranced by dozens of other BDSM stories and novels, found herself imagining her nemesis as the perfect dominant master.
Frederick Webster Shanley III—the man known as Red by his friends and intimates, and who also used the same alias amongst virtual strangers—walked slowly and with apparent calm to the cubicle he’d been assigned in Wickham-Drake’s PR department. Reaching his desk, he sat down, placed his favorite camera carefully to one side, closed his eyes and smiled.
Inside he wasn’t calm at all.
Dear God in heaven, she’s adorable.
Still silent, still smiling, he set his hands flat on the desk, focusing on the pattern made by his fingers as kind of thought exercise. He had to do something to settle himself. It was all he could do not to groan out loud and clutch at his groin, his cock was so stiff and aching. He genuinely couldn’t remember the last time he’d wanted a woman quite this badly, and wanted to do so many wonderful and terribly beautiful things with her.
He’d wanted to shout with exultation when The Story of O had flashed into life on her e_reader, and he thanked his lucky stars that the e-reader had been tucked so precariously in her bag and fallen out. He’d run up against Vicki Renard as many times as was feasibly possible during the course of his little reconnoiter—as he liked to call these maverick undercover fact-finding adventures of his —and each time, something deep inside him cried out that she was special. His gut instinct had told him she was on his sexual wavelength, either latently or actively, but to have it confirmed had made his blood surge in triumph.
If he was lucky, she could be yin to his yang, moon to his sun, submissive to his dominant. Her needs called irresistibly to his, and the image of her classic oval face, her dark blond hair and her large lustrous eyes seemed to float in his consciousness.
While taking photographs for his fictional report, he’d found himself sidetracked again and again from his investigation and assessment of this satisfactorily prosperous insurance company he’d added to his vast array of holdings. He knew he should be formulating the managerial changes he was going to make and the new initiatives he was going to introduce. Initiatives like ensuring that talented, capable women like Vicki Renard were given the advancement they deserved and weren’t held back by the prehistoric male cronyism that still held sway in the conservative business world.
But instead of his usual pragmatism in observing his new employees off guard, he’d spent most of his time here so far reviewing strategies of a very different kind. Such as what might be the best way to acquaint a woman who probably knew nothing of practicalities of sexual dominance and submission with all its rainbow of bright pleasures and dark practices.
But she knows…she knows… We’re halfway there already.
He might not have to do much acquainting at all. She might be ready and eager to submit. Their edgy exchanges and little office tiffs might well just be her way of letting him know she wasn’t going to be a pushover.
The pleasure in BDSM meant even more to him when the submissive woman was powerful too. Irrational, somehow, but when the yielding was only temporary, to him it was sweeter and finer.
His fingernails dug into the blotter on his desk as his vivid imagination presented him with the picture of Vicki reading on her e-reader in bed.
There she was, covers thrown back, her thin silk robe gaping wide to reveal her wonderful body and her legs akimbo. Her lush mouth was parted on a sigh, and she cradled the reader with one hand while the other was firmly lodged between her thighs. Pale, elegant fingers worked furiously amongst the pretty tawny curls down there.
Red looked down at his own hands again, imagining what they could do to a woman like Vicki. Especially if he found her masturbating without his permission. He studied his nails, which he liked to keep immaculately manicured. Hands were important in games of pain and pleasure. They were the most crucial tools. He stared at his short nails and imagined dragging them lightly, or perhaps quite firmly, across the reddened skin of Vicki’s freshly spanked bottom.
What would she feel like across his lap? She was a beautifully proportioned woman. Not skinny. Not fat. She had curves, but her toned shape said she took good care of herself. He could almost feel her writhing against him, jostling his cock as he alternately caressed her and struck her. Because he was satisfying her fetish, she would be heavily aroused, with silky moisture seeping out from between her legs and anointing his jeans. She might even climax spontaneously if his blows were delivered with the right degree of force and precision. He imagined spanking her right across her anus and hearing her cry out both in pleasure and in pain.
What the flaming hell is the matter with me?
Pulling off his virtually redundant spectacles, Red gazed ceilingwards instead, almost appalled by the intensity of his own response, never mind the imagined response of Vicki. His cock was rigid, agonizingly so, and right now it would be a serious embarrassment for him even just to stand up. Never mind make his way to the men’s room so he could masturbate and ease his acute discomfort.
No, he was going to have to tough it out. Do more mental exercises. Thought-clearing meditation. Maybe even check in with his PA on the sly to see if there was anything requiring his immediate attention or a decision. And maybe when he’d done all those things, he’d be able to sneak away and bring himself off. He took a deep breath and began the secret invisible ritual.
But focus and detachment, which had always been so easy for him, proved elusive. The meditation didn’t work. He could only think of Vicki, a woman who seemed to have affected him in an almost—no, completely—unprecedented way.
If I don’t move things forward, I’ll go crazy.
So instead he set his mind to solving his problem. The problem of how to bring himself and Vicki Renard into close proximity without her realizing how she’d got there and who’d brought it about.
After a few moments he smiled and reached for his BlackBerry as the perfect plan materialized.
Intimate Exposure is published by Carina Press