The Secret in Room 823

They have a standing appointment…

Lady Hamilton-Smyth is releasing her inner sex goddess with sinfully hot Hayes—real name unknown! But when the young socialite’s case of naughty toys goes missing in The Chatsfield, her reputation is at stake! Only Hayes can help, but will revealing their identities ruin the fantasy?

"I wasn't sure if you'd be up for what I brought, but I can see you are."
— Hayes, The Secret In Room 823

When I was invited to write The Secret In Room 823, I was shopping with my  sister. We were between the bra shop (my weakness) and the shoe store (hers.) I picked up an email from my editor explaining the concept of The Chatsfield, suggesting the premise they wanted me to tackle, and advised that the deadline was tight. Would I like to participate?

First of all, you really do feel like the biggest deal when you’re walking between the shop that sells lingerie for a hundred dollars a piece to the shoe shop where you need your full two week paycheck to even look around, then pick up an email from your editor, in London, and she’s asking you to write for her. (As opposed to begging for her to take whatever hack stories you manage to scribble into existence.) Right there I was living the dream.

Then I read the concept to my sister and the eavesdropping shoe salesgirl lifted her brows. I mean, bondage? That just made your eyebrows go up, didn’t it?

It was a fairly short novella, I was already down to three days a week at my day job, but it was still going to be tight. Nevertheless, I couldn’t say, ‘No.’ (Another weakness of mine, if you want the truth.) I replied YES! to my editor. Then I turned to my sister and said, “I have to quit my job, don’t I?” and she said, “Yes,” in the way a sister does when she’s been telling you something all along and then you act like it just occurred to you.

So The Secret In Room 823 will always be special to me because it was the reason I decided to walk through a proverbial door from one life (working stiff) into another (fulltime writer.)

The Secret in Room 823

Excerpt

Chapter One

Gwen loved this walk from the elevator, when the slippery lining of her trench coat caressed her bare skin and the only sound was the crush of carpet beneath her heels in the quiet hallway. Occasionally she passed another guest, but this time of evening most had already left for their dinner and entertainment.

Her senses sharpened as she drew closer to her own entertainment. Her deep inhalation caused warmed satin to shift against her nipples. Tingles of anticipation flowed down behind her navel into the place already heating between her thighs.

This was becoming an addiction, she knew that, and like every addict, she didn’t care about anything except getting her fix. She knocked on the door.

He didn’t keep her waiting. He never did. Not for the opening of the door, at least. Once they were into it, he could be a complete bastard and torture the hell out of her with making her wait, but she was always on time for their appointment and so was he.

Which a part of her wanted to interpret as him looking forward to their sessions as much as she did, but she was a realist, not a romantic. Her life was about rules and protocol and being polite instead of revealing your true feelings. Therefore, she found herself fighting the beaming grin that wanted to break across her face and offering him her cool Lady Hamilton-Smythe barely-there smile.

That was, after all, the bitch who was meant to be exorcised tonight.

But appearing aloof was hard when his mouth pulled into a sneer of dismay at her white wig with its prism of color streaked over her left eyebrow.

Call me Hayes, he’d said at their first meeting. She didn’t know if that was because of the deceptive color of his eyes, shifting between brown and green with his level of arousal, or whether it was his real name, first or last. She only knew that she’d looked into those clear, steady eyes at their initial meeting and trusted, blindly and probably very stupidly, but here she was. Again.

He was only wearing his jeans, as if he’d thrown off his shirt in a fit of overheating. Another hint that she affected him as strongly as he affected her, but she squelched the yearning for an emotional connection and focused on the physical. Tanned skin stretched taut over gorgeous shoulders, hard pecs and washboard abs as he hooked one disgusted hand at his waist, the other continuing to hold the door open.

Behind his fly, he was hard, making her pulse lunge into a gallop.

‘No,’ he said flatly, demanding that she lift her gaze to his uncompromising stare. She took in the whole of his face with his stubbled jaw set in displeasure, his black hair getting long again and messy, as if he’d run his fingers through it. His mouth, dear God that erotic mouth with the stern peaks on his upper lip and the wide thick line of his lower, shortened at this moment into a statement of dictatorship.

He almost always treated her like this, like he was one of the many arrogant, titled SOBs who ran her life, only occasionally softening into something that was so warm and melting and dangerous, she refused to dwell on it.

‘I can do what I like,’ she scoffed, saying exactly what she always wanted to say to all those aristocrats and traditionalists. She walked past him into the room, deliberately leaving her case in the hall.

She liked to do that sometimes, treat him like a stable hand. When she wanted to provoke him. After the hellish week she’d had, she was looking for not just a fight, but a war.

He released the door and let it slam shut without retrieving the case.

Her stomach plummeted in dread. Wrong day to take this stand. Her whole life was in that case at the moment. Not just new toys, but a personal item she’d retrieved from her anonymous post box here in London. She hadn’t had the nerve to open it, but she hadn’t felt comfortable leaving it in the boot of her car either. The paparazzi were on her badly enough as it was. If they got hold of that secret, she’d be destroyed.

‘We’re not doing this then?’ she asked testily, fighting panic as she heard herself issue an ultimatum she couldn’t live with. She needed this.

Him.

Oh God, what a lowering admission. She prayed he didn’t realise how much.

His eyes narrowed in a small flinch and she thought he stopped breathing a moment as he debated his response.

‘Take off the wig,’ he finally said, and folded his arms.

A flood of relief went through her. His demand for payment before he’d fetch her case told her he didn’t want to end this either. That was good, but she didn’t obey him. Her attention was splintered, half of it screaming with urgency that the case be brought inside the locked door for safety, but she refused to give in to any sort of weakness in herself. Plus, she hadn’t even brought out her best weapon yet.

Calmly unbuckling the belt on her coat, she opened it and slid it down her arms, then threw it on the foot of the bed. She spent hours on her fitness beyond her daily rides. She was as well-honed as her mount when she went into the ring. Aside from the occasional bruise, there wasn’t a flaw on her long limbs or a badly proportioned curve from her full breasts to her firm backside. Men responded very well to this body.

She cocked herself into a Wonder Woman pose, shoes set apart, hands on hips, spine proud and chin up, giving him a What now lift of her brows.

Without taking his eyes off her, not even adjusting himself even though he seemed ready to burst through his fly, he reached to open the door and held it that way, saying, ‘Get it yourself.’

Oh he was a bastard and she love-hated him for it, the same way she love-hated Black Satin for his stubborn, fierce spirit that challenged her every second if she wanted to stay in the saddle.

She was glad to see the case still there, however, and nodded at it. ‘I brought some new things that interested me.’

‘So did I,’ he responded, making a fear-laced excitement curl in the pit of her belly.

She searched for a clue in his expression, but he only held that confident look of being entirely in control of the moment.

That was the source of his power over her, she realised. She held onto her control twenty-nine days out of thirty and this was her time of release, when she let go and relaxed. She only did it here, though. Behind this door, where he was the only witness. She abandoned her tense grip on her control and after complete collapse, she slowly found herself, gathered her strength and took up the load again.

His holding of the door was a dare to take that beyond this room. She wouldn’t. Couldn’t. It stayed here. Just between the two of them.

So even though she loathed him to the core for forcing her into submission, she peeled the wig off her head and threw it towards his bare feet.

‘Good girl,’ he said with a patronising smile, making her grit back a scream from aggravation. She hated those words, but the case was picked up and set inside the door.

The door slammed and locked. He flicked the extra catch, something he’d started doing since housekeeping had almost walked in on them three months ago.

‘Want to tell me why you’re so bitchy today?’ he asked, crossing his arms and giving her his full attention.

‘Want to tell me why you are?’

A flicker of surprise went across his tough face. ‘I didn’t think you ever noticed how I felt, milady.’

‘I notice,’ she said with a deliberate look at the bulge in his jeans. But a spiral of guilt and longing went through her. It took everything in her to resist asking him about himself, to curb the desire to see more of him. That’s not what this was and it could never be anything more than this. ‘And don’t call me that.’

The first time he had, she had blurted out her safe word, insisting, That’s not what I am here.

No? he’d questioned after a considering pause. Why not?

Do I look like one? She’d been tied to the headboard, ass in the air, knees spread. Drawing his attention to her position had been a suitable distraction from his delving into her bent psyche. It hadn’t come up again, until just now.

‘I thought we were playing commoner and Lady of the Manor,’ he said, adding broadness to his normal Irish accent.

He was eating her up with his eyes, despite his belligerent stillness, which was the kind of reassurance she needed right now. Nevertheless, she could tell he was as wound up as she was and she had to curb the impulse to insist he tell her why.

‘No,’ she replied instead, unable to help that she sounded like an Earl’s daughter with all the privilege that entailed. Running her hands through her brunette waves, she fluffed it from being flattened by the wig. ‘We’ll play what we always play.’

‘The shrew who needs taming?’ he said with a tight smile, coming towards her so the sting of fight or flight released in her arteries. They were nearly eye to eye when she wore heels like this, but he was so layered with muscle and radiated such mental power, he was always intimidating.

He stood close enough for the heat of his chest to warm the cooled skin of her naked breasts. She felt branded, aching with need to be crushed hard to his chest, but he only tangled a hand in her hair and pulled her head back so her lips were offered to him and her throat exposed. ‘The bitch who thinks she’s in charge and isn’t?’

Her answer was a scratch of her nails down the sides of his rib cage.

He quickly caught her wrists and pinned them behind her back. ‘You are in a mood.’

She pushed her tender mons against rough denim, delighting in the small catch of his breath before he controlled her with a hand on her hip, his other hand tightening with deliciously tested discipline over her crushed hands behind her back.

‘I wasn’t sure if you’d be up for what I brought, but I can see you are.’

Kiss me, she thought. Throw me on the bed and have me hard and fast. Sometimes she thought that might be enough for her, but she needed the other, too.

As if he could hear her thoughts, his pupils flared and his breath released in a humid warmth against her lips. His hands tightened again on her, making her nipples prickle in reaction and wetness release between her thighs.

But a shadow passed behind his eyes, a kind of helpless inevitableness that made her think, He needs this too.

‘But since you’ve annoyed me,’ he said with an edge of sandpapery roughness on his tone, ‘You’re going to stand in the naughty corner a few minutes while I get ready.’

She told him what she thought of that idea in two stark words.

‘Now, now,’ he taunted, forcibly walking her towards the corner with a grip of threatening pain on her arms. ‘You know I like the look of a red arse and talk like that will get you one. Is that what you’re after today?’

No. They’d dabbled in paddles and crops and she didn’t like it. He’d never spanked her again after the first try, but he wasn’t afraid to bring up the prospect when he was in a terse mood. She knew him well enough not to push when he did. Hayes never threatened. He promised.

They knew each other’s limits so well it was frightening, considering they only came together once a month. But he always seemed to bring her right to the edge of her endurance, instilling a frisson of fear right before he drew her back. That skill of his had built trust between them, brick upon brick, so even though waves of apprehension went over her as he planted her hands against the wall and nudged her feet open so she was spread like a criminal awaiting frisking, she let him do it to her.

He rewarded her with a little fondle of her ass, taking a proprietary feel of each cheek in turn, his palm so hot and possessive she couldn’t help pushing into his caress.

He trailed his touch lower, searching out the dampness painting a line down her inner thigh. His fingertips strolled, teasing lightly so she clenched with need, her sex calling for his attentive fingers to rise into her hot waiting depths, but he didn’t appease her and she ached deep between her legs, hurting with being ignored.

‘I hate you,’ she told him in a whisper.

‘I hate you too, love.’ And there was that softer tone, the tender one that made her shut her eyes tight and fight the need to turn into his arms and beg him to be everything to her, not just an escape. Not just the wall she had to batter herself against so she knew it was strong enough to protect her.

He walked away and she hung her head. A distant voice inside her wondered what the hell she was doing. They were nearing a year of these monthly assignations and she didn’t even know how it had started or continued or would finish.

Well, she rather knew how it would finish. This week had been a fresh assault from her family, from Great Granny on down to her young cousin, all asking when she would marry. I’m twenty-three, she wanted to scream. Ask in another ten years.

But eligible men would be paraded before her and she would choose one, sooner rather than later if her parents had anything to do with it.

And this would be over.

A pang of deep anguish opened in her centre, making her fight a wrenching sob of loss.


As Hayes drew the nylon rope across the room, his hand trembled and he missed the hook twice, gaze too fixed on Lady Hamilton-Smythe’s ass to look away and see what he was doing. Male hunger—desperation really—had his attention returning again and again to the shadow where he knew she was wet and sweet and hot. For him.

His head swam with the knowledge, weakening his knees and making him want to worship at her feet. On that level, he was a slave to her and the only solace to his pride was the fact she wasn’t aware of how much power she held over him. His days and weeks revolved around the moment when he would book into this room and wait for her.

The way her head hung and her spine bowed between her shoulder blades bothered him, though. She was a complete bitch most of the time, so high on her horse he felt absolutely no compunction in bringing her down a few notches with these little games she enjoyed so much. Really enjoyed. She screamed into a pillow or the palm of his hand every single time.

That’s all she was here for, he reminded himself. Mind-blowing orgasms.

Not that he’d started out wanting anything more than a bit of experimentation himself. Hell, at twenty-five he was a man with acres of wild oats. He’d been intrigued enough to go along with her outrageous suggestion for the thrill alone. How many other men could say they’d had such an offer, from a Lady no less?

Not that he could tell a soul. The sorts of play they engaged in were the kind you only revealed in a memoir to be published a hundred years after both parties’ deaths.

A frustrating extra thing had crept into their scenes, though. Curiosity had become concern. Amusement was now affection, even though, he reminded himself again and again, she was a total bitch.

He really shouldn’t have any craving to see more of her, but once a month was not enough. Not anymore.

That was the real source of his irritation today. That’s what had had him pacing in front of the hotel room door, tempted to watch down the hallway to ensure she was coming. He hated this four week waiting period, hated that he was her dirty little secret, hated that she had summed him up as not good enough for her without knowing everything about who he was.

Most of all, he hated that she was seeing other men. Did she imagine he didn’t read the papers? He wrote for them, for Christ’s sake.

But that was his burden to carry and apparently she had her own, one so heavy on her slender shoulders they looked ready to buckle under the weight.

Poor little rich girl, he thought, wishing he could dismiss her so easily, but from the first call in her posh accent, when he’d half-expected he was about to be blackmailed, he’d been unable to be anything but intrigued and enthralled.

And insanely aroused.

He forced himself to finish clipping the hooks properly, thinking a wry, safety first. Then he said in a voice that came from entirely too deep a place in his chest, ‘Come here, Gwen.’

She pushed herself off the wall and turned, looked at him through the nylon lines of a spider web that he’d strung across the room. Her gaze followed the supports to the bolts in the walls and didn’t miss the shavings on the floor below each end. Yes, he’d vandalised the hotel room, drilling into the studs with weight bearing screws and bolts. He’d actually made a special trip into this room mid-month to plan and measure everything out. It had been tricky, given the layout of the room and the proximity of the bed, but once he’d seen the contraption at the BDSM shop, he’d been determined to try it.

She eyed it with apprehension and excitement quivering her lashes. Her thighs twitched together, like she was capturing a release of her honeyed wetness, reacting in that deliciously uncontrolled way that threatened to kill him every time they came together.

He fought a grin of pleasure that she was as titillated as he was.

As was her way, she tried to hide her reaction with a droll, ‘How do you intend to explain the damage to the walls?’

‘I have paste to cover them. Now come here.’

She obeyed, but with her snootiest look in place, which told him how good a choice this was, especially today. There were times when they played like children as they examined new toys, making jokes and teasing each other, as amused as they were aroused. Tonight was going to be a rough one, he sensed, which suited his mood too, although he’d have to remember to be careful with her. She was tough enough to be dismissive about a black bruise on her thigh because a horse had kicked at her, but he hated when he left so much as stubble burn on the inside of her breast. She was perfect and should stay that way.

Her gray eyes, stormy today with the pent-up passion she worked so hard to hide, met his in a defiant glare through the thick black strings of the web.

‘Turn around,’ he commanded softly and jerked his chin to indicate something over her shoulder. ‘Look.’

She set her chin, waiting a beat before she complied. Then she sucked in a surprised gasp.

He couldn’t help grinning at her startled reflection in the closet doors.

‘We’ve talked about how aroused I get when I look at you tied up and at my mercy,’ he said, reaching through to pull her into the web. ‘Today we’ll see if you’re as stimulated by the sight.’

‘I don’t—’

He paused in drawing her wrist above her shoulder where he’d already attached the Velcro cuff in readiness.

When her safe word didn’t manifest, he closed the fabric snugly around her forearm and reached for her other elbow. ‘Don’t what?’ he prompted.

‘I don’t know that I want to see myself like that.’

‘Tied up?’ he asked, surprised. She always grew incredibly aroused when he told her in the filthiest terms what he saw and why he liked it. If she was blindfolded, he could almost make her lose it just by talking to her about what he wanted to do to her. The more he painted pictures in her mind, the more she begged him to do it. Do it.

She didn’t answer.

He glanced to her reflection, seeing hesitation, but she still let him reach through the webbing and slide his hand between her thighs. He couldn’t resist working light fingertips into the wet seam of her folds, strumming so she gasped and arched taut against his touch.

His head swam, wanting her now, but he only cruised his damp touch to the inside of her thigh and lifted, opening her and cuffing her thigh in place so she couldn’t close her legs.

She took a sobbing breath, turning her face from the sight.

‘You don’t like seeing how aroused you are? I do,’ he assured her, hooking his arm across her belly to pull her off her feet, testing the strength of the webbing as he let it take her weight, ready to catch her if it failed.

She squeaked in surprise, then bounced lightly, held in the hammock, eyes wide in trepidation.

Assured it was holding as guaranteed, he forced her other leg, twitching with resistance, into the cuff he’d readied for it. She was tied open, her entire body trembling in the vibrating strings of the web. It was the hottest thing he’d ever seen and she kept her face averted.

‘Look,’ he commanded, standing behind her so he felt the cut of the ropes between his hot chest and her hot back. He reached through to stroke his hands over her breasts and inner thighs. He was teasing, inciting, letting her know he was completely in charge. Catching her chin, he tried to force it forward.

She refused, her entire body a tight muscle of resistance.

The old saw about catching more bees with honey came to him and he fingered her again, both of them making little noises of pleasure at how slippery and excited she was. He didn’t stay long, moving up to roll her nipple between his wet finger and his thumb, then catching her hair—that glorious hair she had tried to hide from him when she freaking loved it when he pulled it. He pulled her head back as far as she could bear, then pushed his wet fingertip into her mouth.

It was the kind of roughness that had resulted in a bite more than once, but he had her head too far back for her to close her teeth with anything more than a threat of pain.

He had her chin forward now, though and demanded, ‘Look,’ as he released her.

As if she did it reflexively, not really meaning to, she glanced at herself in the mirror. The look on her face was starkly vulnerable, an expression he’d seen at different times when they’d been deep into play and things were really intense.

The way she flinched away from her own eyes, however, told him she’d never seen herself like that. Not often. It wasn’t something she wanted to see and it gave him a tight feeling of forcing her past a limit. For a moment, as she averted her face again and her jaw worked, he half expected to hear her safe word. Apology and regret began dampening his arousal.

Instead, she said a bitchy, ‘Is this it?’

And the fire of challenge roared awake in him.

Okay, he thought. They were okay. She was going to play and she wanted it mean. She wanted to be angry, not susceptible.

Fetching a facecloth from the bathroom, he set it where she could see it. She knew what it meant and she gave a wriggling test of the ropes in protest. She hated being muzzled. Hated it. But he had a feeling they were going to need it. Whatever was eating milady today was liable to come out in piercing, blue language of the dirtiest kind. The energy she contained in that tight body of hers was astounding. He didn’t doubt she would destroy him and herself if she wasn’t tied down when she let it take over. Today, he could practically smell the cordite as she prepared to let loose with both barrels.

He went back through the wires and took the chair he’d set so she could see it behind her own reflection.

Opening his jeans, he sighed with relief as his pulsing wood finally felt air. With a well-practised hand, he smoothed a light touch up and down, careful to keep it slow when he was ready to pop just at the sight of his beautiful butterfly strung open like that.

Her struggles increased as she realised what he meant to do.

‘That’s mine,’ she said with delightfully vicious possessiveness.

The pressure of a triumphant laugh built in his chest. ‘Come and get it, love,’ he told her, and closed a tight fist around himself, losing himself in ecstasy as he watched her detonate.

The Secret in Room 823

is available in the following formats:
Harlequin
June 1, 2014