Regarding Clean Reader

Regarding the new Clean Reader app, Chuck Wendig puts into words better than I ever could: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/03/25/fuck-you-clean-reader-authorial-consent-matters/

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Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a free read and the guys from the In the Kitchen Series

Valentine’s Day can be a happy day for some. But for the rest of the world, being single on the most commercialized day of love can be rough.

Join my fabulous co-writer, Eileen Griffin, and I for a free short story of how two of our characters from our In The Kitchen series – Ethan and Jamie – celebrated Valentine’s Day: in the past and the present.

*****

“Be Mine: Part One

An In The Kitchen Valentine’s Day Story

By Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels

Jamie

New York:  February 13th – Five Years Ago

“And that’s a wrap, folks!”

Jamie leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath. The stress of the last few days had finally hit him. Trevor had been working hard on building Jamie’s brand within the foodie circle in New York with the hope of going beyond his head chef status at Cielo. Today marked the fifth appearance on TV he’d made this week alone. Valentine’s Day was huge in the food and restaurant industry, and his best friend and manager, Trevor, had made sure to capitalize on it. Jamie still felt like a total dork on the talk show sets, but if he helped his career, he was willing to suck it up.

“Hey, you okay?”

Jamie felt his first real smile of the day cross his face when he turned to look behind him.

“Hey there. Long day. Scratch that. Long week, but yeah, I’m okay. I’ll be much better once we’re finally out of here and on our way to dinner.”

“Oh, yeah. About that.”

Jamie’s gut clenched when he saw Riley’s smile tighten just before turning away to busy himself with a non-existent prop. They’d met on the set of “Good Morning New York” three months ago, giving Jamie the first real feeling of hope for a relationship since moving to New York. It had been rough finding any time to spend together since Riley worked early mornings and Jamie frequently worked until well past midnight. They’d worked around it by spending their free time together at Jamie’s new condo, but Jamie wanted more than a few stolen moments behind the confines of his condo. For too many years, he’d hidden his sexuality. After he’d come out, with Ethan’s help, he’d sworn never to go back in that proverbial closet.

Jamie watched Riley straighten and re-straighten the fake plant next to the desk Jamie sat at. The more Jamie pushed for them to go out on a real date, the more excuses Riley made as to why he couldn’t make it.

“Riley, is there something I should know?”

Jamie sighed when Riley turned back around to face him. If Jamie hadn’t known better, he totally would have bought the fake regret in Riley’s eyes.

“Sorry, Jamie. You know how much I wanted to go out tonight, but Donna’s been out sick all week, and the tapes from today have to be edited before I can even think about stepping foot outside this building. It shouldn’t take all night, but I’m pretty sure I’ll miss our seven o’clock reservation time. You understand, don’t you?

Jamie understood. He understood all too well. He understood that in all the time he’d known Riley, they’d never gone on a real date. When they’d first met on the set of “Good Morning New York” three months ago, they’d decided to take things slow. Funny how that word had meant something different to Jamie than it had to Riley. Sure they’d hung out with Trevor and his flavor du jour at either Jamie or Trevor’s condo, but every time Jamie suggested any plans that included anywhere public, Riley conveniently balked. Not once had Riley come to visit Jamie at Cielo. Not once had he introduced Jamie to any of his friends. And not once had Riley invited Jamie back to his place.

Not once.

Jamie hated to think the worst of people, but even he had to admit it was pretty shady he’d never once seen, let alone stepped inside Riley’s apartment. After three months without even so much as an invitation, Jamie didn’t know what to believe anymore and was exhausted just by simply thinking about it.

As if on cue, Trevor appeared behind Jamie, his strong, confident hands resting on Jamie’s shoulders. Drawing on his best friend’s strength, Jamie squared his shoulders and met Riley’s guilty gaze.

“You know what, Riley? I don’t understand. In fact, I’m pretty sure the lack of understanding is all on you. I don’t think you understand it takes months, not weeks, to secure a reservation at Alegretti, but I managed to snag one in exchange for helping the head chef with a training session for his new line crew on one of my rare days off. You also don’t seem to understand that in the six months we’ve been dating, and trust me I’m using that term lightly, we’ve never once had a proper date outside the confines of my condo. And I’m sorry, but a proper date – outside of my goddamn condo – is a non-negotiable in any relationship I have. Most importantly, though, I don’t think you understand I’m not some vapid blond who got where he is by blowing the big wigs in New York’s food industry and is so clueless I don’t see the fear in my supposed boyfriend’s eyes every time a public outing is suggested.”

Jamie leaned forward and added, “Even though an outing is obviously what you need the most.”

He heard Trevor snort behind him and whisper, “Please, please tell me you’re about to fire him like Donald Trump on ‘The Apprentice.”

Jamie bit his lip to keep from laughing and kept his attention directly on the pale man in front of him.

“Jamie, you know how much I was looking forward to dinner tonight, but between both of our schedules, there hasn’t been time for anything more than a few hours here and there.”

Jamie sighed and settled back in his chair, Trevor’s hands still keeping him grounded. “I need more than that, Riley. No, I deserve more than that.”

Riley opened his mouth to argue some more, but Jamie cut him off. “Have fun editing tonight. Don’t bother calling or coming by later. I won’t be home. Not tonight. Not for a few stolen hours safely tucked away from the public eye. Not ever.”

Riley didn’t say a word. He simply turned and left.

It stung like hell to watch Riley nod and walk away without a backward glance, but Jamie had made a promise to himself a long time ago never to deny who he was or who he wanted. Being with Ethan had been a roller coaster of ups and downs, but during the year they’d been together, he’d learned there was nothing more important than being true to himself.

“Thank fucking God.”

Jamie couldn’t help it, he laughed. Only Trevor could ease the tension of the last few minutes, softening the blow of Jamie, once again, being single on a holiday meant for couples.

“Admit it, Trev. You never did like Riley.”

Trevor squeezed Jamie’s shoulders one last time, chuckling as he bent down to mock whisper in Jamie’s ear, “That dude is so deep in the closet, he has Aslan on speed dial.”

“You’re awful.”

Trevor walked around to face Jamie, his expression softening. “That’s why you love me.”

Trevor had saved Jamie too many times to count over the past four years. First, as a friend and confident in Paris when Jamie had felt so alone and overwhelmed. Then, as a shoulder to lean on when he’d moved to New York for the job opportunity of a lifetime, all the time mourning the first and only real relationship he’d ever had. And now, as the one person who picked Jamie up and believed in him unconditionally, even when Jamie didn’t always believe in himself.

“I have no idea why, but I do.”

Trevor winked and held out his hand, pulling Jamie up from his chair.

“Luckily for you, we have just enough time to change before our reservation at Alegretti.”

“Trevor, you don’t have to babysit me tonight. I’ll be fine.”

Trevor was already pulling Jamie toward the exit, his ‘I’m in charge here and don’t you forget it’ expression firmly in place.

“I’m not babysitting you. I’m being treated to an awesome dinner at an incredible restaurant by my best friend. And it’s the day before Valentine’s Day, not the day itself. Did you really think I’d babysit your ass on the one day the bars are packed with very single, very horny men?”

Jamie wrapped his arm around his best friend, smiling as Trevor tugged him closer.

“Of course not. Even I wouldn’t do that to you.”

Trevor mocked sighed as they made their way out of the studio.

“I’d let you, you know. I’d do anything for you.”

Jamie looked at Trevor and knew Trevor meant every word. But no matter how good Trevor was to him or how hard Jamie tried to move on, his heart just wouldn’t give up the past and Ethan that easily. Jamie still had hope, though. One day, he’d celebrate this sappy holiday with the right person. Flowers. Maybe even a candlelit dinner he didn’t have to make himself. All the while knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he was right where he was supposed to be.

One day.

*****

Ethan

Seattle:  Early Morning Hours: February 14th – Five Years Ago

Ethan groaned and rolled over, a warm hand sliding from his hip and back onto the bed. He should have been out of here hours ago. It was the one rule he’d followed religiously for the past four years: Thou shalt make a speedy and drama-free exodus once the horizontal calisthenics were officially over. He’d never broken it. Until tonight. It wasn’t his fault, really. The exhaustion of pulling doubles the past few weeks coupled with the “couple” at Sharpe’s tonight who kept calling him to their table over the course of their dinner to fawn over every dish he’d prepared had finally caught up with him, making it all too easy to succumb to falling asleep amongst the mountain of pillows and tangled limbs.

A quick glance at the clock did nothing to quell the pit in his stomach. He had less than four hours to make it home, catch what little sleep he could in his own bed, then drive over to Sharpe’s to open up for the morning shift.

“Fucking hell.”

Ethan sat on the edge of the bed and scrubbed a hand down his face. He needed more than a shower. His five o’clock shadow was steadily approaching a ten o’clock hedge, and even he didn’t need Claire to tell him the new lumbersexual look wasn’t one that would work for him. One look in the mirror after not shaving for a week had been enough to convince him he didn’t look sexy. Instead, it made him look like a serial killer. And despite some of the current TV shows, serial killers just weren’t sexy.

After fumbling his way through a pile of plaid boxers, a lacy bra, some skinny jeans, and a skimpy tank top, Ethan found his clothes, slipping them on as quickly as he could. Just as he’d pulled his hoodie over his head, a warm hand encircled his hip, pulling him back toward the bed.

“Dude, where’s the fire? It’s three in the fucking morning. Just come back to bed. I promise I won’t bite. That is, unless you want me to. Then I’ll be more than happy to oblige.”

Ethan turned to face the voice, the warm hand finding its way to his belt loop to tug him forward. The darkness of the room made it difficult to see much more than a mess of dark brown hair that covered deep brown eyes and plump, kissable lips. Just beyond him, Ethan could barely make out long, blonde tresses against the dark silky sheets. Normally blonds were off the menu. Sure, this blonde had a rockin’ body and a pair of tits that he’d thoroughly enjoyed feasting on last night, but it was still too close to home. Another tug on his belt loop sealed the deal.

Yep. Time to get the fuck out.

With a quick scoop of his fingers, Ethan unhooked the hand from his jeans and took a step back from the bed.

“Can’t. I’ve got an early morning at the restaurant.”

“Early shift, huh? So you’re free tonight? Jenny’s here for one more night before heading out of town. We could eat in this time.”

Could Brown Eyes have smirked any wider when he offered to be on the menu for their dine in? And Jenny? For fuck’s sake? How many fucking rules was Ethan going to break before this night was over? J names were strictly verboten. How the fuck did he not know the chick’s name was Jenny?

Too many fucking shots at the bar after closing, that’s how. Time to nip this shit in the bud, right the fuck now.

Ethan took another step back, creating as much distance as he could between himself and Brown Eyes.

“No can do. We’re short-staffed, so I’ll be pulling another double.”

Brown Eyes propped himself up on his elbow, no doubt smelling the bullshit Ethan was serving.

“What about next weekend?”

Okaaaaay. Last night had been just what the doctor ordered. The long ass shifts at Sharpe’s were a necessary evil to get through this month, but they’d been hell on his body and sanity. Sure, the train with Brown Eyes and Jenny had been an awesome sexcapade, but it was time to get the fuck out.

Ethan took another step away from the bed.

“I’ll text you if I’m free.” Which will be never seeing as how I don’t have, or want, your number.

Brown Eyes tilted his head, again, leaving no doubt this time he smelled the bullshit that was so thick even Ethan could cut it with a knife. After a few seconds, Brown Eyes nodded once, then lay back down, pulling his pillow over his head.

“Twist the lock on the door before you leave.”

In other words, ‘It was fun. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’

Without another word, Ethan hightailed it out of the room and through the apartment to the front door. As soon as the door shut behind him, he leaned back against the door and closed his eyes.

“Fuck a goddamn duck and call me George.”

Too fucking close. There was a reason for the rules Ethan he’d set for himself four years ago. If he stayed within the parameters of the rules, no one got close. No one got hurt. Last night had been the first time he’d not only broken some of his rules, but he’d done it in a spectacular fucking fashion.

February had always been a hard month. In fact, he’d never actually fucking celebrated it. He and Jamie hadn’t been officially together to celebrate it during their junior year in school. Then, the following year, they’d been “together” only to be separated by five thousand of the most miserable miles known to man. After that, Ethan refused to give it a second thought. It was a huge date night, giving Ethan more of an excuse to lose himself in creating masterpieces that would garner bigger tips and paychecks for Cal’s employees. Valentine’s Day was for saps who allowed themselves to get sucked into the fairytale of red hearts filled with overpriced chocolates given by someone who was probably cheating on them with the guy next door. Well, fuck that and fuck St. Valentine.

And fuck Ethan for losing his shit because he couldn’t deal with one fucking little holiday. He headed toward the stairwell, each step strengthening his resolve. No matter what else happened, he refused to get sucked into the drama and faux fantasy of the mega-million dollar industry a greeting card company created to boost their profits. Spending a crapload on cards, pink bears, and chocolate hearts might be okay for some people, but Ethan was smarter than that. He might have broken some rules tonight, but that was one he wouldn’t break.

There would be no sappy ass Valentine’s sentiments in Ethan’s future.

Not tonight. Not Ever.

© Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels, 2015

*****

Part Two of “Be Mine” can be found on Eileen Griffin’s blog.

We hope you enjoy it and Happy Valentine’s Day 🙂

 

New from Jewel Quinlan and Evernight Publishing: Man Candy

mancandy

New Release: Man Candy

The Cougar Journals Book 1

by Jewel Quinlan from Evernight Publishing

Commercial real estate agent, Ava Baldassari, is done with being a good girl. Recently having revamped her self-image, home and wardrobe she finds there is one thing left that needs updating; her sex life. She runs into her friend and running partner, Cole, one night when she is out with a friend. A bit drunk she flirts with him and is surprised by the enthusiastic response he gives back. Things reach a point where she has to make a decision whether or not to cross a line she never has before. Ava is forty and Cole is twenty-five, is she really ready to become a cougar?

editorspick

Where you can buy Man Candy:

Evernight Publishing | Amazon | All Romance e-Books | Barnes and Noble | BookStrand | iTunes or add it to your shelf on Goodreads

Enjoy this excerpt from Man Candy:

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a while,” he whispered in my ear, still pressed against me as he unzipped my dress.

Me too, I wanted to say. But I didn’t. I was adrift in the onslaught of sensation as he slid the fabric from me, trailing kisses down my back as it went. Making me aware as I never had been of how sensitive the skin there could be. When he reached the small of my back, he lingered, kneading my skin with his tongue and teeth. His hands ran down my legs and then back up to my breasts, and I savored the feel of his fingers. My breaths came heavier. I had been needing this for too long.

He rose and turned me toward him, towering over me. His cap was gone and his dark hair was askew, as though he had run his fingers through it, giving him that sexy just-woke-up look. I slid my fingers from the waist of his jeans, underneath his shirt, to his muscled back. The ridges of strength there were too tempting beneath my fingertips. How did he find the time to work out that much? I had to see with my own eyes. Fisting the hem of his shirt in my hands, I pulled his t-shirt up to remove it. Why should I be the only one standing here naked? With a chuckle, he complied, lifting the shirt over his head and flinging it away in the casual manner of an underwear model on TV.

Sure, I had imagined what he looked like with his shirt off, but the reality was ten times better. He had a runner build, but that was filled out with muscle. The planes of his chest were topped by strong shoulders and arms, which seemed to blossom over the lean ridges of his abdominals, creating a definite contrast. I couldn’t help reaching out and touching him. I ran my hands over his skin, tracing my way upward to the light coating of black hair on his pectorals. He leaned his pelvis into me, forehead on mine, his erection pressing into me, making me shiver with anticipation.

We were on the brink of something oh-so-good, and I was dying to plunge ahead. Yet, I hesitated. Questions burned in my mind. I tried to hold them back, knowing serious talk would ruin the moment. That lasted about two seconds before I gave in.

“Um…” I said.

He lifted his head from mine and looked at me.

I cocked my head at him. “Did you just say you’ve been wanting to do this for a while?” Had he been scoping me out all this time, as I had him?

He nodded. “Who wouldn’t? Look at you. You’re gorgeous.”

I glanced down at myself. My ample buxom looked perfect in the black, lace push-up bra I wore, and the matching thong sat just right, low on my hips. I still had on my red heels, which added a lady-killer effect.

Then I glanced at him. The smoldering look he gave me trumped anything I observed on the physical plane. The messages coming from him on a subliminal level promised pleasure that made me squirm with heat.

“You know it’s going to be good between us, Ava,” Cole said.

jewel

About the Author:

Restless by nature, Jewel Quinlan is an avid traveler and has visited 16 countries so far. Lover of ice cream, beer and red wine she tries to stay fit when she’s not typing madly on her computer concocting another tale. In her spare time she likes to do yoga, hike, learn German and play with her spoiled Chihuahua; Penny. It is Penny’s mission in life to keep Jewel from the keyboard. But, with the help of dog-chew-making-companies, Jewel has been able to distract her canine companion and continues to get thousands of words on the page for your enjoyment.

**Jewel will be attending RomCon 2015 in Denver CO September 25-27. Readers can get tickets to sit with her at the reader luncheon event.

For more information about Jewel Quinlan

Website | Facebook | Twitter  | Tumblr | Goodreads | Amazon | Instagram

Or join Jewel’s newsletter if you just want to get the most important updates

An In the Kitchen Series Free Read: An Unexpected Happy Ending

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This story involves Ethan Martin and Jamie Lassiter and takes place after In the Fire. You may encounter spoilers if you haven’t read In the Raw and In the Fire first.

*****

Ethan’s POV

An Unexpected Happy Ending

“Are you sure this is the place?”

Jamie nodded as he locked the car.

I glanced at the sign over of the door of the storefront, and sighed. I’d been to the International District to eat too many times to count over the years. I prided myself on being able to cook a wide variety of dishes, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t recreate hand pulled noodles like at the shop down the street. But Jamie hadn’t brought me to a restaurant. In front of me, the storefront had a faded green and white sign that read “Lotus Foot Massage: 蓮花足部按摩” with a beat up poster of foot reflexology in the window.

I looked at Jamie again, trying not to sound critical. “Are you extra positive sure this is the right place? The windows are all covered and stuff, and I can’t see anything. You sure they haven’t moved?”

Jamie chuckled and pulled me in for a quick kiss. “For the tenth time, yes I’m sure this is the right place. There are no signs in the window saying they’ve moved—”

“Not that you’d be able to tell since all the signs are in Cantonese.”

He laughed and kissed me again. “Yes, but I’m pretty sure that kind of sign would be hard to miss.”

I took another look at the storefront over his shoulder.

“We don’t have to go in, E. I know you hate other people invading your space, much less touching you. It’s just that you’ve been working such long hours to cover my recent publicity gigs. I thought it would be a fun way for both of us to relax on our one day off together.”

I turned my attention back to him and rested my forehead against his. No matter how hard I worked or what I did, I would never be worthy of Jamie Lassiter. I’d offered to fly back to New York with him for the holidays. It had been his home for eight and a half years before he’d finally made the cross country trek for us to be back in the same city again. But it had been the only place he’d known as an adult and I knew that the decorations and festivities in Seattle couldn’t hold a candle to Christmas in the Big Apple. Yet, he’d chosen to spend our first Christmas officially together, in Seattle. And this was how I repaid him. By throwing his gift to me back in his face without even giving it a try.

“Sorry. You know I get antsy when people touch me.”

His soft snort made me laugh, so I added, “Okay, most people. More like ninety-nine point nine percent of the people out there. Maybe higher than that.” I sighed. “Okay, everyone except you.”

“E, we don’t have to do this. I thought it would help you relax, but if it’s a problem, we don’t have to do it.”

I pulled back and looked into Jamie’s gorgeous blue eyes. Those eyes had seen me at my best and worst. They were the ones I’d lost for too many years and had finally gotten back after we’d both pulled our heads out of our asses and accepted we were meant to be together. The first ones I wanted to see when I woke up each morning and the last ones I wanted to watch close at the end of every night. He’d done this because he loved me and had wanted to do something nice for me. And instead of being grateful, I was being a dick. Again.

“Nah, I’m good. But promise me one thing.”

He tugged me tighter against him. “Anything.”

I closed my eyes and buried my face against his neck. “Promise me you won’t leave me in there alone. I swear J, I’m not a wuss. But the thought of people touching my feet … yeah, just promise me you won’t leave me in the hands of some acupuncture sadist.”

“You realize you have ink, right?”

I shuddered. “Yeah, but that’s a different kind of needle. Plus, there’s ink at the end of the session.”

Jamie shook with laughter, but he kissed the side of my head and murmured, “I’ll never leave you again, E. Promise.”

After everything we’d been through together, it was the one promise I knew he’d never break.

I pulled back and took in a deep breath. Jamie grinned and said, “Let’s get that massage.”

We pushed through the glass door into the tiny waiting room. There were a few chairs against the bank of shuttered windows, the scent of burning incense and a small, battered, wooden desk that held a cash register that looked like it had been around longer than I’d been alive.

A younger woman pushed through a gap in the curtain, and asked, “Two?”

Jamie nodded, already pulling out his credit card. I wasn’t sure what I expected since I’d never actually paid for a massage before. I’d been on the receiving end of numerous massages from Jamie, but most of those had been short-lived once his hands got anywhere below my waist. From that moment on, they became a different kind of massage, one that usually ended with a decidedly happy ending. As I watched the woman swipe Jamie’s card, then part the curtain and wave us back, a happy ending was the last thing on my agenda while we were here. Truthfully, just getting out of here alive would have made my top five. Okay, top one.

Jamie and I were led over to two empty chairs, each with a person standing next to them. The chairs weren’t exactly chairs. Instead they looked like fully reclined wooden lounge chairs that been covered with thick towels.

“Um, Jamie?” I whispered.

He either didn’t hear me or was ignoring me, because he proceeded to sit down at the chair monitored by a young lady, attractive and in her early twenties, and began taking off his shoes. A young man of equal age tapped me on my shoulder nearly startling me out of my own skin.

“Your shoes.”

He held out a square wicker basket with an expectant expression on his face. Catching on, I sat down on the chair and slipped off my Chucks and placed them in the basket. Jamie had already settled himself on his chair, a look of pure calm on his beautiful face. When the young man returned, he indicated for me to lay back. I could do this. Jamie said he’d done this before and he was alive and well next to me. Nothing bad would happen, right? Just a way to work out the kinks of long days and even longer nights at Bistro 30.

The chair should have been hard, but there was padding underneath the towels making it comfortable. No more than a few seconds passed when the young man placed a dry, warm towel over my eyes. I immediately tensed at the loss of sight. I hated giving up control. The only person who I’d ever willingly given up control to was Jamie. But he was the only person, besides Claire, I truly trusted in this world. After taking a deep breath in, I tried to will my body to relax. I could do this.

Fucking hell. I’m going to kill Jamie for this.

A scrape of chair legs across the floor. The subtle chime of the metal chimes over the door. Nothing dangerous or threatening. I could do this. And then I felt strong hands in my hair, massaging my scalp.

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

Had anything ever felt as good as this? I stifled a chuckle as an image of Jamie writhing underneath me popped into my head. Yeah. There were definitely things that had felt better than this, but this was … yeah. Maybe Jamie was right. I needed this. We both did.

I banished thoughts of Jamie and focused on those strong fingers on my scalp. No matter how enjoyable this was, it would be difficult to explain sporting wood over Jamie while I was being worked over by some stranger.

The hands slipped down to my temples and slowly rubbed away the tension I’d been carrying. Over and over those strong hands massaged and rubbed and circled over my skin. I’d have to remember all this for later when Jamie and I were alone.

I nearly choked on my yelp when those strong hands moved to my earlobes and tugged. Hard.

What? In? The? Actual? Fuck?

Hell, I loved it when Jamie got rough with me. But as the masseur’s hands moved down to my shoulders, I felt those fingers not just on my skin, but deep down into the muscles underneath as they pulled and stretched with bruising force.

Okay. So maybe this was just a way to get the knots out. I could take it. I wasn’t a fucking wimp who couldn’t take pain. I’d been stupid when I was younger, getting into the occasional fight here and there. I could take this shit.

Then the pressure lightened and then pulled away all together. I heard the scrape of a chair again then hands rested on my biceps.

Hey, that wasn’t so bad.

Or so I thought. Blinding pain radiated through my right arm as fingers gripped my bicep and twisted. Over. And over. And over. What in the fuck was this guy doing? Trying to twist my goddamn arm off? And who the fuck thought this felt good? The scalp thing? Yeah, I could totally get off on that. But this?

The hands moved down to my forearm with that same brutal twisting motion. I wanted to scream. I wanted to tell the guy tearing my arm off to back the off. But the absence of screams from anyone else made me wonder if was just a wimp.

As suddenly as it began, the pain lessened and the pressure lifted. Long strokes up and down my arm had my mind reeling. Had I imagined the pain? Maybe I was more stressed out than I thought I was. Maybe my muscles were so knotted up the pain was just my body’s way of releasing the tension. That had to be it, because soon I was floating on a sea of pleasure. No more twisting. No more bruising strength digging down into my bone. Just a steady movement up and down my arm, finally resting on the palm of my hand.

Back and forth. Small circles. Every finger stroked from base to tip.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

Are you fucking kidding me? I almost laughed.

Every fiber of me wanted to laugh. But this wasn’t a fucking laughing matter. The dude was stretching every one of my goddamn fingers until he popped the tip – popping them with an audible fucking pop – then yanked them all so hard I was sure my joints would never be the same. I used my hands every goddamn day for my job. And to work Jamie over. If he broke my fingers, I couldn’t cook. If I couldn’t cook, what the fuck else was I going to do?

This had to be a fucking joke. Jamie was pranking my ass, I just knew it. Any moment now, I’d hear his voice saying, “Surprise!” and we’d have a good laugh and we’d both have a funny story to tell everyone once I recovered feeling in my fucking hands.

I waited. Off to the side I heard the same scrape of a chair over the floor. I waited some more. Nothing, until…

Mother fucking son of a bitch!

Without warning, hands dug into my left bicep, twisting and turning and burning and tearing me open. Fucking hell, Jamie was going to fucking pay for this sick idea of a joke. As the hands shifted down to my left forearm, the pain moving from blinding to absofucking-out-of-control-unendurable agony, I knew no simple revenge would do it. With each fucking pop of my fingers, I went through every thrash metal band I loved and resolved to find which one was coming to Seattle soon. No matter how much money it took, I was buying two fucking tickets on the front fucking row. Jamie hated my music. Loathed it. Constantly complained about it. Even through the agony I was enduring right now, I smiled thinking of how miserable he was going to be at a two, hopefully three hour concert filled with screeching guitar solos and lyrics that were screamed and grunted at an ear-splitting volume.

Without warning, my arm was placed back against my side as a shit ton of weight rocked it into my body.

Creak. Creak. Creak.

Despite the pain, I snickered at the sound that reminded me of how my old bed used to creak when Jamie and I were going at it. Before we’d replaced it for one of those fancy ass foam mattress beds.

A few seconds later, I heard the same telltale creak next to me. And this time it wasn’t fucking funny, as the image of someone banging Jamie on the chair popped into my head. I shuddered and hoped this shit would be over soon.

Until, the sadist moved to my calves, grinding and mashing them with more violence than he’d seen fit to put my arms through.

Fucking great. I’ll need a fucking walker or a goddamn wheelchair to get my sorry ass out of here.

Each leg ended with the same fucking ritual he’d put my hands through. First, some light touches and rotations that lulled me into a false sense of security. Then, his fingers eviscerated me.

Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

As if it wasn’t enough for him to twist my skin into a motherfucking pretzel, he was no beating – no, pounding – the ever loving shit out of the soles of my feet.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

I shivered as I felt his fingers on my feet. I didn’t even know toe joints could pop like this. But this guy did. And even though I couldn’t see his face, I wondered if he wore a twisted, malevolent grin as he beat my poor body into a bruised and battered mess.

Then, nothing.

The hands lifted from my body and there was … nothing. I took a deep breath and thanked whatever deity I hadn’t pissed off lately for seeing me through this nightmare. Suddenly, the cloth was pulled away from my face and I had to blink a few times to adjust my eyes to the dim lighting.

Okay. So it’s over. Jamie and I can go the fuck home. I can kick his ass for making me endure this shit. Then I’ll get my laptop and search for the soonest available concert. And I’ll smile like an asshole the entire time.

I looked around, expecting Jamie to be standing there waiting for me, but his chair was empty. Okaaaaaay. So the asshole hadn’t waited for me like he’d promised.

Pissed, I looked around for my shoes, startling when someone tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at an open doorway.

“My shoes?”

The new lady smiled and pointed at the doorway. “No. Now you go through there.”

What? The? Fuck?

I’d heard of erotic massage places. I’d never had the urge to go to one since I’d had no problem getting off on my own, but everyone knew they existed.

Thank you very much, but hell to the fucking no.

Jamie wasn’t kinky. Adventurous, yes. Kinky? No. There were a lot of things about Jamie that would surprise people if they only knew what he did behind closed doors, but he most definitely wasn’t into chicks.

With a renewed purpose, I headed down the dark hallway past several rooms – all with the doors closed – until I saw a guy standing at the doorway of an empty room. Inside there was a massage table covered by more towels.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

I’d already endured the pain fest in the main room. I was going to fucking kill Jamie for this.

Sending up one last prayer that I would make it out of here without murdering this guy, I climbed onto the table and lay face down. Again, strong fingers massaged my neck and scalp. The touch was lighter, gentler than it had been in the main room, and slowly I felt some of the frustration and tension bleed away. Okay, so maybe their goal was to beat the shit out of you until you were fucking crying, only to reward you for having the balls to endure it by giving you a decent massage.

I sighed in relief and relaxed into the table.

The fingers worked out the knots on the back of my neck, then traveled across each shoulder blade, thoroughly turning me into a puddle of goo.

Until I felt his hands leave my body and the table slightly shift under a new weight. Then pain. Blinding, unadulterated pain lanced every cell in my body. This dude had to be putting his entire fucking weight on my back as he shoved me into the table, each vertebra snapping as he worked his way down my back.

Goddammitfuckinghellsonofabitch!

I knew, with more certainty than I’d ever known anything before in my life, he was going to crack my spine. I was going to be trapped in this inner sanctum of hell forever because he was going to sever my spine and I’d have to stay here, being beaten and slapped and thwacked and popped every fucking day for eternity.

Then, suddenly, his hands and weight lifted, and there was nothing. A gentle hand rested on my shoulder.

Sure, now you want to cuddle? Sorry asshole.

“Please follow me.”

I rolled over and laid my arm over my eyes, wondering what gravity was going to do to my ass once I hopped off the table. I sat up and swung my legs over the table. The guy/sadist/motherfucker just stood there smiling pleasantly, with my shoes held out in front of him.

I hurriedly put on my Chucks and on wobbly legs, followed him down the dark hallway and through the tattered mauve curtain.

“Hey, E. How’d it go? Feeling better?”

Jamie’s handsome face was more relaxed than I’d seen it lately with a smile that spread from ear to ear. I loved this man. More than I’d ever thought it was humanly possible to love another person. But I also, just for a brief second, wanted to kick his ass.

“You’re kidding, right? Did you sneak out and get a peppermint mocha latte without me? Because I know you did not just endure the same shit I did.”

His relaxed expression dimmed, then was replaced with concern.

“You didn’t enjoy it?”

I sighed and reined in my emotions long enough to think before I spoke. Thinking before speaking wasn’t my forte. But this was Jamie, who I’d happily sell my left nut for if I knew it would make him happy.

So instead of spewing all my rage and frustration onto him, I stepped forward and threw my arms around his waist, burying my face in his neck. Trying not to sound like the fucking wuss I was, I muttered, “I thought I was going to die.”

He pulled back and looked at me, his face shifting from concern to outright alarm.

“E? What happened?”

I buried my face back in the crook of his neck and whined, “That guy beat the shit out of me Jamie. I swear I’m going to have bruises. And not the fun kind.”

Jamie’s body shook with his quiet chuckle as his arms tightened around me.

“I’m sorry. I guess I should have warned you. You have to tell the masseur when it’s too rough. Deep tissue massage is supposed to work out all the stress. Why didn’t you say anything?”

I shrugged, but didn’t release my death grip. A Jamie hug was the best feeling in the world. A million times better than that scalp massage, and that had felt pretty fucking good.

Jamie sighed and pulled away only enough to reach down and lace his fingers with mine. He waved to the woman at the front of the shop as we left and I didn’t say a word as he towed me toward our car.

“I wanted to do something nice for you since you’ve been working so hard. I’m sorry, E.”

At his worried look, I felt horrible. Bruises or no bruises, I was being a dick. Oh, I was still taking his ass to a death metal concert, but I needed to man the fuck up.

“Nah. I’ll survive. But I might need a little TLC later. Just sayin’.”

He paused by my door and leaned in close enough to whisper in my ear, “How about a nice, long, hot bath, then I’ll give you your Christmas present.”

His breath against my skin made me shiver in all the right ways. I smirked and turned to look at him. “Does it involve you naked wearing only a red bow in a strategically placed area under the enormous fucking tree you made us get?”

Too quickly for me to reciprocate, he nipped my bottom lip and gave me a smirk of his own, one that never failed to have an immediate effect on my cock.

“I guess we’ll have to get home so you can find out.”

Before I could answer, Jamie moved away and walked around to his side of the car. I stole one last glance at the Lotus Massage Foot Chamber of Torture before getting in the car and grinned. Maybe there was a happy ending in my future.

© 2014 Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels. Please excuse 
any typos and errors since this is not a professionally 
edited piece of work.

*****

Whatever you celebrate, we wish you a bright and happy holiday season filled with good food, laughter, loved ones and friends, and peace.

~Eileen and Nikka

Today Eileen and I are hanging out with Prism Book Alliance: Check out our interview and exclusive giveaway!

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We’re talking collaborations, food, writing habits and views on handcuffs and rope. Check out the interview here. You can enter to win an ebook copy of Stripped Bare, so stop by and say hello.

Stripped Bare