BY ELISE HAPNER
RELEASED SEPT 30, 2014
Warning: This book contains a geeky, secretly insecure but overly cocky handy-man with a penchant for pleasing, a dominatrix in training who’son the rebound, and enough smut to strip a couple layers off your soul. Plus there’s mac n’ cheese with a smattering of self-actualization for good measure.
After Chloe Barrons’ fiancé cheats on her via webcam, she begrudgingly accepts her Type-A mother’s offer of a spur of the moment luxury spa weekend. But things don’t play out quite from point A to point Bwhen she arrives drunk and disoriented on the front porch of a deserted North Carolina beach house.From the very start she’s caught off guard by Noah Knightly, a sinfully sexy, self-proclaimed commitment-phobe who’s a handyman for his sister’s relationship rehabilitation center—a rehab where Chloe is the sole guest during off-season.
But faced with temptation, to stay guarded she’ll have to call the shots.
Noah shouldn’t have taken Chloe’s reservation. But in need of a second pair of hands to fix up the beach house, he throws all his sister’s rules out the window. Soon he worries that maybe he’s bitten off more than he can chew: each day Chloecracks more of his cocky façade bringing down his guards to reveala stuttering geek who has a hidden will to please her in any way possible.
With no way to ignore her pain, Noah sets himself up as a guniea pig to prove to Chloe that not all men are created equal—in or out of the bedroom.As Chloe comes into her own through every sexual session, Noah needs to decide if he’s man enough to accept the one thing he never thought he wanted—love.
With an invigorating deep breath, she popped up from her chair, and snagged his forearm in an iron grip. Slightly drunk and completely sloppy with her thoughts, Chloe’s fingers tightened around his smooth forearm. Beneath her grip his muscles tensed. His eyes widened. Before she could take back her mistake—he probably didn’t want to be touched after their near miss of a kiss—he yanked her down into his lap.
“Cripes!” She tumbled to the side, half angled on and off his jean clad lap with both of her hands resting on his chest.
Against her palms his heart catapulted beneath his muscles. As if someone had pressed pause, they lingered, his gaze half-lidded. His arms moved to curl her up closer into his body. Adrenaline twisted to the toes of her feet. Her stomach nearly bottomed out as awareness twitched through her nerve endings. The fantasy of his skin beneath her fingers became her sole focus as the rest of the world dropped away.
Were there still complications? Always. But as her measured breaths brought in more oxygen to her lungs, she didn’t find herself getting any smarter.
“What are you…”Almost touching lips. A small divide—but one she wasn’t willing to breach again.
Their noses almost touched. A random image of Noah giving her an eskimo kiss flitted through her mind and she smiled while trying to measure his quiet, closed off silence. When his hand shifted up her spine and into her hair she gasped, taking in a quick drag of his citrus scent.
Though her mind fed her questions, her mouth refused to work. She wouldn’t start it—but she couldn’t stop him. Not with his body heat flaring up through his jeans and their limbs snug together like they’d always belonged intertwined.
Either way, when his lips tightened and resolve slipped over her. Chloe got ready to spring from his lap, tuck tail, and run to the phone to call a cab. Men only got one chance at rejection. There was no amount of groveling that would open her heart once she’d closed it. His thumb slipped across the side of her jaw. A shaky caress that left her throat tight and aching. This was—more. So much more.
The last thing Chloe expected was for Noah to separate the last inch between them. From the tip of her toes she was poised to bolt. But he didn’t move so much as a muscle. He nodded once as if waiting for permission. Before he took the last inch between them and smashed it into oblivion by taking her mouth quick enough she didn’t have time to draw breath.
An instant moan leapt from her lips. He matched the strokes of his thumb to the ease of his tongue along her bottom lip. She opened to him like she’d been longing to do for longer than she cared to admit. His whole body vibrated. Engulfed by his strength and anchored by his gentle slow, exploratory touch, she was lost to it all in a tide of contrasts.
The soothing murmur of waves became a dull ringing in her ears. She kissed him, matching the slow, steady thrust of his tongue while her hands explored the firm planes of his chest and shoulders. Noah groaned low in his mouth, nibbling on her bottom lip. Beneath the back of her upper thigh she sensed his cock—hard and oh, so promising. His hand smoothed into her hair, tilting her head back for a deeper kiss. She was…awakened.
“I shouldn’t—but I couldn’t—I can’t get enough of you,” he whispered against her lips.
How could her body be so tight and yet she remained mellow at her core? God, it’d been so long since she gave herself license to explore! Explore anyone. Explore herself and what she was feeling. If she’d stayed too long on any one aspect of her relationship she might have been confronted with the horrible truth that she hadn’t been happy in a long time.
But wrapped in his firm embrace with the will being kissed out of her—she was bliss incarnate.He made a low, maddening noise in the back of his throat and his hips lifted against her ass. It was a feat that she managed to stay still. Her mind was screaming for her to react and grind back down on him while the rest of her loved the aching tease winding through her limbs. Noah’s lips eased away only a fraction and her eyes slit open to catch him watching her with a humbled, easy grin.
As his hand dropped away from her head she curled back into the touch. For the moment, unafraid to meet him stride for stride in their weird little ditty of a romance dance. Noah’s pleased noise only encouraged her as she bent forward and kissed his cheek. When was the last time she’d used so shy a move? Not even in second grade had she displayed any kind of wariness toward boys.
As her nipples hardened, a blush made her cheeks burn.
“Why didn’t we do that before?” she ventured figuring she could always claim the question was asked under tipsy circumstances later and leave it at that. Already the moonlight on his face shimmered too brightly and the world tilted. She took her first big deep breath in a bit.
“This is g-g-going to sound fucking psychotic to put-put-put it lightly. Bu-but, I made a promise to my-myse-myself that I’d consider myself abstinent while I’m at my sister’s place out of respect. Earlier, I was worried that once we got going—I didn’t know if I could stop.”
“There are other places to occupy ourselves than in the house, you know.”
It slipped from her lips before she could shut her big, fat trap.
“Good to know you’re thinking ahead.” He said with raised brows and a very masculine, very pleased with himself smile. “Shall we go get dinner?”
“Sure, but, um…” Chloe looked in the direction of his lap.
“It’s a hard on, not debilitating. It’ll just make me walk a little gingerly and awkward for a bit,” he dryly remarked.
His heart was still leaping in his chest, her small kiss on his cheek a blazing heat that he wore like a proud brand. Sheer relief made his erection barely a blip on his radar.
He glanced guiltily up from watching her ass, back to her slightly closed off expression when she looked at him over her shoulder. He grunted, not trusting his vocal chords. There wasn’t an inch of him that wasn’t shaky with an odd concoction of emotions.
“What’s going on with the stutter? I mean, obviously, it’s totally cool and endearing…I just…I wanted to know…” She turned away from him right as he looked down at the fresh stain on the deck and took a step backward. “It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it. I get it.”
She backtracked with every single second he kept quiet and each second seemed like a year to his scrambled brain. As if he’d been dumped in the ocean at it’s coldest, Noah shook and sputtered. No, he didn’t want to answer. It was a simple answer, he’d been stuttering since he learned how to talk, since he’d first opened his mouth and tried to imitate a sound his mother made to him. It had only gotten worse underneath his pretentious father’s guiding hands.
Noah turned his back on Chloe taking a few quick steps away. He blinked, chest tight. Time to fight off the memories. Even as he rose to do exactly what he’d done for years, shoving everything into a tiny box, he sensed her sharp gaze on him. She didn’t move closer. She didn’t have to when he sensed her intentions as clearly as if she’d spoken them.
“Don’t come closer or don’t make you answer, Noah?” Her voice was so soft, her compassion made him hate himself for not answering her simple question.
He shook his head. Once.Twice. So fiercely he thought his brain might have detached from his skull.
“I’m sorry…” There it was, the pity. His constant companion.
Noah didn’t think as his fist came down on the banister with enough force to make his teeth rattle even though they were set on edge. He barely caught Chloe’s gasp through the chaos of his own thoughts.
The door slamming shut twisting dust mites up his nose. The twist of the key being turned in the lock while the darkness reached for him and he curled into a small ball. Couldn’t apologize.Couldn’t beg.Couldn’t move as the blood in his veins turned to ice. Defeat and shame ate at him until he pinched himself, one for every time he’d screwed up. The sharp pain was better than the endless drills, the ruler that even now burned across his back.
He never showed any mercy. The day he did was the day Noah was cured.
Endless, expensive doctors knew nothing. Not when his son would someday take his place, be his right hand. Had he not saved them from poverty? From a whore of a mother too drugged up to crawl out of bed to get them formula or diapers? He deserved perfection. Compensation for the seven years of crap he’d had to put up with from Noah.
Drop the act. Stop playing dumb. I’ll do it again, don’t try me.
After six months his mother stopped trying to intervene and emptied out the basement closet for Noah’s personal use. Before then he could still recall the press of endless heels against his chapped ass. The scent of leather as he fought to breathe past his sniveling.
Rich eloquent people bred rich elegant children. Noah would man up or they would take him back where he belonged, in the gutter, while Polly sat on her pink throne and ate frosting from a spoon. Polly who would spend any free time she could get away from them sneaking down into the basement to knock on the closet door, carrying on small conversations through the beats on the wood.
Silence wasn’t an option. It wasn’t golden either. No, everything had been red.
“Noah…” A voice whispered through his conciouness. “Noah, are you okay? Talk to me, please.”
As if emerging from a deep pool he gasped searching for air and the oxygen burned in his lungs. He blinked past the fear that crushed him until he felt two feet tall. There was nothing in that story, nothing is his story, that he could say out loud.
“Tell me.” Her voice was thick with emotion, strained, and on the edge of an order.
Pain lanced across his shoulders from holding the weight of so many memories for so many years.
“For…fore…forget it.” He stumbled and struck out again knowing the pain would at least eclipse the humiliation.
“No, I’m not going to forget about it, Noah. You clearly need to talk about this. Tell. Me.”
He made an incoherent rage filled noise. At his back he sensed her hand, warm and tiny through the dirty fabric of his worn t-shirt. Noah closed his eyes. Air pulsed out of his nostrils and came in long sips into his lungs. There wasn’t enough, would never be enough. Chloe’s no nonsense tone washed over his exhausted bones and opened a flood gate of crap he’d kept at bay. Everything wanted to come flowing out. Practically choking him with the pain of it.
“I’m not giving you the option.” Her hand squeezed against his shoulder blade and he shook his head, balling his fists, hating the well of helplessness that dragged him deeper into darkness.“
“No…” He bit off the word. Time to get old school. He pivoted.
Without missing a beat he mimed scribbling on a piece of paper with a pen.
“Right, you can’t talk right now. I can’t believe I would expect you to…” That last part seemed to be directed at herself as she mumbled before holding up a finger and going into the house.
Noah leaned against the railing letting his weight sag with the pure fear that soured the back of his tongue. He didn’t even know if he’d be able to write. Let alone write it all. Pieces. He would do pieces. Chloe was back with a pen and paper that sat in the kitchen. She shoved them at him as if they were on fire.
“Take as long as you need.” She snatched his hand and brought it to her lips. “I’ll be here.”
“Talk to me. What’s going on in that headspace?”
“Well, we don’t have to cover everything. Just the reasons you studied verbal evasion techniques with the monk’s in the Himalayans for years.”
“I thought monks lived in Tibet?”
Five (5) eBook copies of Ex-Retreat
Bio: Elise Hepner lives with two spastic cats and a very supportive, slightly crazy husband. There is never a dull moment in the house, unless the caffeine runs out, which it never does. She’s a multi-published erotica author with Cleis Press, Ellora’s Cave, Xcite, and Secret Cravings Publishing.
She’s driven by her tea addiction and a tiny stuffed turtle her husband picked up from Disney World that sits on her desk and “supervises” her work.
When not writing (which is rare), she’s watching countless hours of reality television, playing the Sims or shopping online. Plus there’s that odd obsession with the color purple. Everything is purple. Visit Elise at her website http://www.elisehepner.com to keep up with her naughty ramblings, random tidbits and future work.
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