Connelly James moved with her trainer, Kenny, punching his hands as hard as she could.
“One. Two,” he said, then moved one hand lower. “Three.”
Connelly followed and hit his hand hard, getting a slight bit of satisfaction as the material of her gloves pounded against Kenny’s padded palms. The aggravation of the last few days exited her body in a wave, leaving her more energized than she’d felt in a while.
“Nice job, sweetheart,” Kenny said with a smile.
Connelly put both gloved hands on her hips and breathed heavily. “That’ll wear you out,” she said with a laugh.
Kenny chuckled. “You’re doing great, Connie. Looking good too.”
She turned slightly sideways and smiled. “All thanks to you.”
She had to admit she liked the way she looked now, how she felt, how strong she’d become. Nightmares of her husband’s murder still plagued her, but she wasn’t quite as scared as she used to be. Thanks to Kenny’s help, she felt she could actually take care of herself now and not be a helpless victim. Not like before. If she’d been able to do this four years ago, her husband might still be alive.
“Keep this up, and you won’t be able to keep the guys off you.”
Connelly scrunched her nose. She didn’t want guys. She’d already been married. Although she’d loved her husband very much, she’d always felt as though there was something missing from their relationship--like exciting sex. It had been dull and at times boring, but her husband had been the conservative type who just couldn’t bring himself to do some of the kinky stuff she’d asked of him. So she’d stopped and just accepted things the way they were. Maybe she was a bit off to want a spanking or for him to pinch her nipples really hard. He cared for her, did his best to make her smile, and that should’ve been enough.
“How’s the book coming?” Kenny asked as she removed her gloves and handed them back to him.
She was grateful for the diversion from the direction her thoughts were taking. “Slow. I have an appointment later with the man who owns Club Fetish.”
“That BDSM club outside Atlanta?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yeah. I think his name is Nathan Delacroix.”
“I would love to be a fly on the wall during that conversation,” Kenny drawled.
Connelly giggled. “I think it’s going to be a bit interesting for me as well.”
Also a bit uncomfortable. Granted her next mystery was going to take place in a BDSM environment, but if she were honest with herself, she would admit that her interest had more to do with her own desires than research for her book.
“Speaking of appointments,” her assistant called from the doorway of the basement into Connelly’s workout room. “You have exactly three hours to get cleaned up and make the drive out there.”
Connelly smiled over her shoulder at Peter. He was six feet with jet-black hair and eyes, and a smile which, if he were straight, would make her weak in the knees. Sometimes it still did. He also had an uncanny ability to keep her life in order. He’d been doing it for years, and she had no idea what she would do without him.
“Fine,” she whined, then turned back to Kenny. “He’s such a taskmaster.”
Peter gave her a cheeky grin before turning his gaze to Kenny. Good-looking, muscular men were Peter’s weakness. “If I didn’t crack the whip, she’d never get anything done.”
“That’s the truth,” she said drily, making Kenny chuckle. “Thank you,” she said as she stepped forward and kissed Kenny on the cheek. “Same time tomorrow?”
“Same time,” he said with a nod.
She headed up to the main level, then through the entry hall to the main stairs, Peter close on her heels. “I haven’t answered those conference requests yet. Are you sure you don’t want to do them?”
“I’m sure,” she said.
Ever since the night her husband died and she was left for dead, she just hadn’t been able to bring herself to go to any of that stuff. Marvin had always gone with her, stood by her side, and handed out goodies while she signed books. “You know I don’t mind going with you,” Peter said softly.
Connelly came to a stop at the bedroom door and, with her hand on the knob, turned to smile at him. “I know you don’t. It’s just something Marvin and I always did together.” Her smile faded. “I’m afraid it would be too hard to do it without him.”
Peter rubbed her arm. “I understand. I’ll respectfully decline.” He dropped his hand and grinned. “I’ll say you’re attending a party at the Playboy Mansion or something.”
Connelly laughed. “Sounds good to me. I’m going to get ready for that meeting. Did you ever find anything out about him on the Internet?”
Peter snickered drily. “Oh yeah. Lots. He has a PhD in psychology and worked for the FBI for several years before opening his club. I haven’t been able to find any pictures, though.”
“Wow, impressive,” she said. “But so long as he’s nice and not creepy, we should be all right.”
Peter frowned. “Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you?”
She waved a hand. “No. I’ll be fine. Besides, you have your rehearsal for that drag show you’re doing this weekend.”
Peter tightened his lips and reluctantly nodded. Connelly could tell he was worried about her, but one thing she’d gained over the last few years was the ability to take better care of herself.
“Go,” she said with a smile and a wave of her hand.
Peter narrowed his eyes at her but leaned in to kiss her on the cheek. “Call me later,” he said firmly before turning to leave.
“Yes, Daddy,” she teased.
He grinned at her over his shoulder, then headed down the stairs. Chuckling softly, Connelly opened the bedroom door and headed to the master bath.
* * * *
Nathan downed two more acetaminophen along with a long sip of scotch. He’d had the exact same vision again, painful headache and all. What the hell was this? It was starting to make him uncomfortable.
For the most part, when he received a vision or impression, it was like watching a movie. This was different. It felt like it was happening to him, not someone else.
A knock sounded at his office door just before Dee opened it and walked in, a strange grin on her face that made Nathan frown. “James Connelly is here to see you,” she said.
“Send him in,” Nathan said with a nod.
Dee turned to allow his guest to enter the office while Nathan began walking back to his desk. He lifted his face to his guest just in time to meet the stunned blue eyes of a woman.
a female voice whispered.
Her words sounded in his head as clearly as if she’d spoken them out loud. So loud, in fact, he almost let the glass he was holding slip out of his fingers. He caught it quickly, then set it on his desk.
“James Connelly?” he asked.
She quickly composed herself. “I’m sorry,” she began. “James Connelly is my pen name. I’m actually Connelly James. Most people call me Connie.”
Nathan blinked, surprised that one of his favorite authors was a woman. He held his hand out as she approached. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Nathan Delacroix.”
She smiled as she took his hand, and her eyes crinkled at the corners. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Delacroix.”
Her fingers were soft, her handshake firm. She was an older woman, late thirties, maybe, with shoulder-length curly red hair and striking blue eyes. She had an athletic build but also had curves. She was a woman who obviously took very good care of herself. Not gorgeous but pretty, she had a way about her that kept him interested, but there was also a wariness inside her. He intimidated her, and she wanted to keep him at a distance.
“Call me Nathan,” he said, still holding on to her hand.
She licked her lips nervously, and he released her fingers, allowing her to step back. “Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
Dee poked her head into the office. “I’ve had the sunroom set up with coffee and tea if the two of you would like to move this conversation in there. It would probably be more comfortable.”
He gave Dee a look of disbelief. Knowing her, it was more likely not comfort she was going for but intimacy. A pretty woman stepped into his office, and Dee immediately moved into matchmaker mode.
“Coffee would be wonderful. Thank you,” Connelly said.
“Follow me,” Dee said with a smile.
Connelly walked out, and Nathan followed close behind. Her figure from the back was just as nice as the front. Her jeans hugged her curvy but firm behind. Her legs were long; her toenails were painted a deep purple to match her summer turtleneck. Even her heels were purple.
There was something about her he couldn’t quite put his finger on. His empathic connection to her was strong. Much stronger than usual. He could sense her confidence, her excitement, as well as her nervousness, but he also had a nagging in the back of his mind that she was different.
Other than holy shit
, he hadn’t picked up on anything else. He normally couldn’t read minds, not like that anyway, so it must’ve been a fluke. Her shock, perhaps. But what would’ve shocked her?
They headed down the hall and into the sunroom. The wicker table in the center had coffee and tea as well as several small cakes that the chef had made up for later tonight in the playroom.
“I’ll leave you two to talk,” Dee said, smiling.
Nathan swatted her lightly on the ass with the back of his hand, while Connelly took the seat at the table. Nathan sat as well, then reached out and poured her some coffee from the carafe.
“Thank you,” she said.
He poured himself some, then set the carafe back on the table. “Cream or sugar?” he asked.
“Neither. Thank you.”
He smiled slightly. “A no-fuss girl.”
She snickered. “I don’t know that I would exactly go that far.”
CONNELLY LIFTED HER cup and took a sip of coffee. She swallowed and moaned her approval. “This is good. What kind is it?”
Nathan gave a slight shrug. “To be honest, I don’t know. The chef orders it from somewhere in the Caribbean, I think. I could ask him, if you like...or are you just stalling?”
Connelly licked her lips and stared in shock at how easily he’d read her. The man was too gorgeous for words. Shoulder-length, shaggy black hair, eyes the color of dark brandy, and a body made for sin. A thin, closely shaved beard and mustache that more resembled thick stubble covered a strong jaw. Those wide shoulders made her feel small. His looks and obvious confidence intimidated the hell out of her. How in God’s name was she going to ask him questions about sex?
“Well,” she said. “This is a bit of an unusual interview.”
Nathan chuckled, and the deep sound made her whole body vibrate. “True. I have to admit your request took me by surprise.”
“You don’t get a lot of these requests?” she asked, genuinely curious. She would’ve thought a man with his reputation as a Master would get requests like this all the time.
“I’ve been asked to train Doms but never answered questions for a book.”
She smiled. “Ah. Do you train Doms?”
“I’ve helped a few learn how to wield a whip, but other than that, no.”
Every part of her body heated with the thought of this man with a whip in his hands. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Wield a whip?”
“Some Doms use whips. Some don’t.”
She shivered, but she wasn’t sure if it was from revulsion or excitement. “Doesn’t that hurt?”
His lips twitched, and Connelly got the impression that maybe he was teasing her. “Yes.”
His serious reply made her believe otherwise.
“Well, I suppose that is the goal of a sadist, right? To hurt women?”
Nathan’s lips twisted before he answered. “My goal is not to hurt women. My goal is to give them pleasure. For some women, that comes in the form of pain.”
Connelly thought back to all the times she’d wanted a little bite of pain with sex. If her husband had actually gone through with it, would it have really felt as good as she believed it might?
“How do you...know how far to go?”
“It’s up to the woman.”
“You say woman, but shouldn’t it be submissive?”
He took another sip of his coffee. “Not all masochists are submissives.”
Connelly frowned. “So this isn’t all lumped in together? Submissive, masochist, Dom, sadist?”
He smiled slightly. “No.” He set his cup down and tried to explain. “I am probably more dominant than sadist. I want to be the one in control. I don’t necessarily have the desire to hurt, but I do enjoy bringing women pleasure through pain, if that’s what they want.”
She had a sudden image in her head of him spanking her. Shaking it loose mentally, she continued. “My bad guy in the story I’m working on is a sadist. He lacks that internal ability to stop. Does that sound about right?”
“Aren’t you worried that over time, what you do won’t be enough to satisfy you and you have to hurt them more to get the same rush?”
“No, because I don’t get my satisfaction from their pain. I get my satisfaction from getting them off.”
Connelly’s insides suddenly went warm. How long had it been since she’d gotten off? Forever. She needed to keep her head on task and stop fantasizing about having sex with the man. Just looking at him made her wet. How did any woman ever tell him no?
She doubted she could.
“Have you ever been to a BDSM club, Connelly?” he asked.
The sound of her name coming from his mouth made her want to melt. “No. I’m afraid I haven’t. Mostly I’m just gathering information from the Internet. Would you be willing to take a look at some of the stuff I’ve written from the villain’s point of view? Maybe offer some suggestions?”
“I would love to,” he replied. “On one condition.”
She tensed slightly. “Okay. What’s the condition?”
“That you visit the club as my guest. I would like for you to see how BDSM works firsthand.”
She opened her mouth, then closed it, then opened it again. The invitation excited her and at the same time scared the hell out of her. “I don’t know about sex with perfect strangers,” she said slowly, unsure if she wanted to do this or not.
“You will be my guest and under my protection. No one will touch you unless you want them to.”
What if I want you to?
It would definitely add a spark of realness to her story that no amount of online research could ever get her. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, and maybe she could find out if this spark of interest in pain during sex was something she was really interested in or just a fluke.
“Oh, what the hell?” she murmured.
Nathan laughed. His smile made her stomach flutter with butterflies. God, why did he have to be so damn gorgeous?
Trista Ann Michaels