Cover Reveal: Twist by #TheEroticCollective #WIPITUP

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I love release week!!  Several other talented authors and I have been working together on an upcoming anthology boxed set that we hope is going to knock your socks off.    The title of the anthology is Twist because all of the stories have one thing in common… a surprise twist at the end.    We have a collection of contemporary, sci-fi and fantasy in there so there is something for everyone.  I am so happy with how the story I wrote, Blessed Betrayal, turned out and I’m sharing an excerpt from that story below.

Check out this beautiful cover!!  Release day is Friday, May 15th.

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Excerpt from early in Blessed Betrayal:

Nick pulled his BMW into the cramped carport of The Jefferson Hotel. Just a few blocks north of the White House, the hotel was one of the most prestigious in the city.   The stately doorman opened his door, welcoming them to the historic property. Nick looked over the employee’s shoulder to see a homeless man propped up against the building across the street. The man was shivering in the freezing cold January evening. The dichotomy of wealth and poverty were never far from each other in this part of town.

Nick circled the car, stopping to assist his wife from the low riding vehicle. He had offered to drive the family van so she would be more comfortable, but she’d looked at him as if he were from Mars.

We can’t show up to a Bennett, Bennett and Moore event in a van, Nicholas.

He took his wife’s elbow as he moved them to the door held wide by yet another employee. Only now did he recognize Veronica was in a fur coat he had never seen before. Between the coat, designer dress and new shoes, he wondered how much tonight’s free dinner was costing him.

They made their way through the elegant lobby and past cozy seating areas where some of the country’s numerous back-door business deals had been cut over a cocktail and cigar.

The overt opulence turned Nick’s stomach. It was an in-his-face reminder of the cultural philosophy of the law firm he had been employed at for the eight years he had been a lawyer. Now was not the time for him to reflect on how he had ended up at this point in his career, questioning everything he had been fighting for.   He had mistakenly thought working for the largest international law firm in the nation’s capital might afford him the chance to help those less fortunate around the globe. Instead, he more often found himself representing those who would exploit the most helpless of the world.

If it weren’t for his wife, he would have left years before. Appearances and status symbols ruled Veronica’s life and he was under no disillusion. If he left BB&M to work at one of the many non-profit global organizations he longed to represent, he was certain his marriage would be over. If he only had himself to worry about, he might take the chance of going it alone. He didn’t want to put his baby girl through an ugly divorce. Although, if things kept on the declining trajectory at the firm, he might not have a choice soon.

Veronica managed to keep her profile regal while whispering excitedly under her breath so only he could hear her. “Oh my God, look at the chandeliers! They are amazing. I think one of them would look good above our dining room table.”

“You would like them. I’m sure just one would cost a fortune.”

She didn’t let the smile slip from her lips, but he saw the ice in her eyes as she responded. “If you’d press harder for that promotion to partner, Nicholas, we could afford a hell of a lot more than just a chandelier.”

“Roni, this is not the time or the place for this discussion. I told you there are extenuating circumstances. There is no chance I’ll be offered an associate partnership and honestly, even if they offered, I’d turn it down and you know it.”

Her polished exterior was cracking as she spat her reply. “For the thousandth time, stop calling me Roni in public. I hate it and you know it.”

Nick sighed. Not that ridiculous argument again. They approached the entrance to the prestigious dining room where the sixty employees of the firm and their significant others were about to have their annual holiday party. The room was barely large enough to seat the group. Round-tops were arranged in a too-close pattern. They stopped at a table with tented seating assignment cards arranged in alphabetical order. He moved to the M’s for Mikos, expecting to find a high number.   After the argument they’d had just yesterday, he was sure George Bennett would want him seated as far away from the head partner’s table as possible.

Veronica found the card first. “Oh how exciting! They have us seated at table two. We’re almost seated at the head table!”

She was practically dragging him behind her as she weaved them through the packed tables towards the front of the room. They were almost there when Nick recognized who else would be seated at their table.   He pulled his wife to a stop.

“Hold on, Veronica. There has to be a mistake. That can’t be our table. Let’s go back to the door and see if there’s another table we can take.”

She trained her angry eyes on him. “Are you kidding me? You are finally moving up the ladder and you’re gonna screw it up.   We always get stuck at the back. It’s our turn to sit at the front of the room, Nicholas.”

Unwilling to make a scene, he allowed his wife to pull him along behind her. There were two couples already seated at table two. He recognized one as George Bennett’s attractive personal assistant, Tamara and her husband. It was the other couple that had Nick wishing he could sit at the back of the room. The farther he could sit away from George Bennett’s blow-hard son, Kevin, the better.

From the minute they’d met, there had been no love lost between the men. The youngest Bennett to join the firm was the worst of them all. At least his two older brothers attempted to earn their seat at the family table. Kevin had only been out of law school a year and already treated every person he met at the firm like gum stuck to the bottom of his shoe.

“Mikos. How’d you end up sitting way up here? I’d of thought you’d be more comfortable sitting with the wait staff in the employee cafeteria.   Maybe you could help them negotiate for a dime an hour raise.”

“Sounds like more fun than spending the next few hours with you, Bennett. Looks like your father has a sense of humor putting us together.”

Tamara started to speak, “But Mr. Bennett I thought…”

She didn’t get to finish her sentence. Her words froze under the icy stare sent her way by the youngest Bennett. She actually shuddered under his glare. Tamara’s husband hugged her to comfort her silently.

Veronica moved in to take the open seat next to Kevin before Nick could move them to the back of the room. She acted as if she was oblivious to the chill in the air between the men. Nick weighed his options. Deciding not to make a scene, he took the last seat at the table.

Once seated, he couldn’t help but notice the beautiful woman sitting directly across the small table from him. By process of elimination, she had to be with Kevin, yet he hadn’t bothered to introduce her. Typical.

Turning first to Tamara, he reached out to shake hands with her husband. “Nicholas Mikos. This is my wife Veronica.”

“Nice to meet you Nicholas. James, Tamara’s husband.”

“You as well.” Nick moved his gaze around the table until he was looking into the most exquisite amber-brown eyes he had ever seen. He momentarily lost the ability to speak as he took in the natural beauty of the olive skinned woman who looked so uncomfortable. It seemed that she would like to be seated at the back of the room as well.

“It would appear Kevin has forgotten his manners. I’m going to assume you are his wife. As you heard, I’m Nicholas Mikos and this is my wife, Veronica. I work with your husband.”

“For.”

It was the only word Kevin had injected into the introduction process. Nick turned to question him when he got his answer. “You work for me, not with me.”

What a pretentious prick. Nick did the only thing he could do under the circumstances. Laugh his ass off. By the time he got his laughter under control, he could feel the grip of Veronica’s hand squeezing his thigh under the table and could see the steam rolling out of the ears of the young blow-hard to their left. “Thanks for the laugh, Bennett.   You’re so green, you don’t even know how ridiculous you sound going around making stupid statements like that.”

“Green? We’ll see how green I am when I get your ass fired. You’re already on thin ice with my father.”

“You’re digging yourself deeper every time you open your mouth. Let me help you out. You’re right that your father and I often bump heads on the right course of action for our clients, but I know for a fact your father respects me for my conviction.   Even if he didn’t, the fact that I’ve billed high six-figures for the last three years in a row is making him… and unfortunately you… a very rich man.”

“I think we should change the subject. It’s nice to meet you Nicholas and Veronica. I’m Kevin’s wife, Calista, but you can call me Cali.”

Nick had almost forgotten the woman he had been addressing until she quietly tried to interject. No doubt, she was trying to save her husband from looking like more of an asshole than he already had.

It didn’t work. “How many times have I told you I hate when you shorten your name? You are Calista. Period. Cali sounds like a name for someone’s cat.”

Veronica globbed on. “Oh thank goodness, someone else who has some sense. Nicholas insists on calling me Roni and I hate it.”

An anger he hadn’t felt in a long time flared up in Nick. It was bad enough he had to put up with shit from the prick at the table, but not his wife, too.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you Cali. I’d love it if you’d call me Nick.” She managed to squelch the smile playing at her lips, but she couldn’t hide the humor in her eyes at his barb at their spouses.

*****
Look for this release on Friday, May 15th!!    Sign up for my newsletter here to get an email when the buy links are available.  Be sure to check out these other talented authors!

Way to go Troy! #WIPITUP #CorbinsBend

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If you’ve been following along the last few weeks, I’ve been highlighing the beginning scene of my next Corbin’s Bend book, Psychology of Submission.   If you haven’t read the start of the scene, you might want to start here first.   I’m sharing the end of that first scene today as Troy convinces Traci she needs to get on a plane to Chicago.  I know my opinion doesn’t count (since I’m the author) but I just love Troy so much in this scene.  Would his argument persuade you to get on the plane if you were in Traci’s shoes?

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Excerpt from Psychology of Submission:

They were at the heart of her lie. The reason she’d avoided this discussion for months. If she couldn’t even talk about this with her brother, the man who loved her most in the world and who lived in Corbin’s Bend as the head of household in his domestic discipline marriage, how in the world could she get up in front of a bunch of professionals and talk about it?

Again, he waited patiently. The silence between them finally forced the words from her. “I just don’t think they want to hear about the kind of relationships I’ve studied.”

“Marriages?”

“A bit more specific.”

“Sexual relationships?”

“A bit more specific.”

“Rather than playing this guessing game, why not tell me the title of your work?”

Traci took a deep breath before continuing. “The Intimacy of Dominance and Submission. I study the psychology behind what makes Doms and HoH’s need to dominate and protect. I also study the psychology of why some people long to be submissive, both sexually and domestically.”

Troy whistled softly. “Well, you certainly have a hot-bed of test subjects here in Corbin’s Bend. At least that explains in part what made you want to move here, to live your research.”

Traci snorted an unladylike sound. “Researching others, yes. I wouldn’t say I’m living my research.” Traci had to push down the now familiar self-pity she’d been fighting since last year’s conference.

Troy didn’t seem to notice and pressed on. “But, I don’t understand. This seems like a very legitimate topic to present on.”

“If I stopped with the psychology of D/s, it might be. I dig a bit deeper.”

“And?”

“And, the heart of my research revolves around corporal punishment and the need for delivering and receiving discipline.”

“You mean spanking.”

“Among other things. I delve into everything from the psychology behind DD relationships to hard-core BDSM master/slave relationships and everything in between. I’ve focused a lot on defining the difference between abuse and discipline. How humiliation and pain factor into the dynamics of D/s. It’s actually very interesting stuff. I’ve developed several screenings to help couples understand their deepest drivers to better predict long term compatibility in relationships.”

Troy took time to internalize her words before he continued. “Honestly, learning this only makes me admire you all the more, Trace. More than ever, I don’t understand why you don’t want to go and represent your hard work?”

“Let’s just say many people choose to live here in Corbin’s Bend to escape the judgmental crap from people outside our community who don’t want to understand. The topic makes them uncomfortable and instead of studying it to learn more, they decide to act like immature jerks, ridiculing me and my research.”

“I bet you’re just being paranoid.”

Traci’s anger flared. “My nickname at the last conference was the ‘Spanko Shrink’. Some of the worst offenders were kind enough to have an official name-tag created for me and had it in large letters on the name plate that sat in front of me as I sat at the head table last year. I couldn’t figure out why people seemed to be pointing and snickering. Thankfully, an acquaintance of mine was kind enough to walk up and take it down.”

“Oh for Christ’s sake. I’ve never heard of such immature behavior. These were actual psychologists?”

“Yes, Troy. That’s what I’m trying to say. These are the same peers who will be sitting in the ballroom to listen to my keynote speech this year. Waiting to laugh and ridicule. Waiting to do who knows what to humiliate me. In my personal relationships, I may admit to living closer to the submissive end of the continuum, but I’d prefer not to be humiliated in public in front of professional peers.”

Troy pondered her words before speaking again. “Traci, do you use your research to help the residents you see here in Corbin’s Bend?”

“Of course. Every day.”

“So then I guess the question is, is that enough for you? Are you willing to turn your back on the millions of people living outside of Corbin’s Bend who might benefit from the knowledge you can pass along? Because that’s what you’d be doing. Your peers at the conference can learn from you. They can go back and help their own patients. Your research can influence them. You have the opportunity to impact many outside of this small town. The question is, are you willing to risk personal ridicule to help them? You have something important to share. You’ve worked hard at it and deserve your time at the podium. If you stay home, those small-minded bigots have won and you’ll be making the most submissive decision of your life. The decision to submit to their immature scare tactics.”

Traci’s heart raced. Her brother had a way of cutting through all the crap in just a few minutes on topics she’d wasted endless hours worrying about over the last twelve months. Could she face her fears and go to the conference?

“I’d like to make a date with you, Trace, for one week from today. I’ll meet you here on this very bench and we’ll talk about how your week went. I’ll want to hear every detail from you. Now here’s the million-dollar question. What will make you feel better one week from now? Having stayed home to safely go about your daily life without fear of ridicule? Or, will you feel better sitting here telling me about your week in Chicago? Even if some people act like idiots, I suspect you’ll feel better by proving you can hold your head up high, by not letting them stop you from doing what you’ve earned the right to do: present as an expert in your field.”

His words were a direct hit. He knew her so well. Finally, all of the self-doubt started to fall away. She knew it was probably going to be the hardest week of her life, but her brother had helped her understand the only thing worse than going to the conference was… not going to the conference.

Traci tried to smile. “I guess I’d better hurry up and finish eating. I have to get home to pack.”

Troy pulled her into a big hug. “That’s my girl. I’m so very proud of you.”

*****

Blurb:
Traci Jackson has been a therapist in Corbin’s Bend for several years. She’s helped many residents navigate their own D/s and DD relationships, but she hasn’t found her own HoH. Through her patients, she’s been researching and writing about the dynamics of dominance and submission in relationships for years. She loves her field, but she hates attending professional conventions where she’s treated like her specialty isn’t valid.

Sean Campbell is juggling raising his teenage daughter alone in Chicago while running a large convention hotel. When the annual psychologist convention comes to town, he literally bumps into the most beautiful and intelligent woman he’s met in a long time. He gets the surprise of his life when he finds out her specialty is D/s with an emphasis on corporal punishment.

They may find sparks from the minute they meet, but Traci and Sean have more than just the long distance between Chicago and Corbin’s Bend separating them. Sean has never heard of domestic discipline before. Will Traci pack up and leave Corbin’s Bend to be with the man she’s falling in love with, even if he can never be her true HoH?

Mark your calendar for June 4th!

Thanks for dropping by.  Don’t miss these other fine authors!

Traci dreads her conference #WIPITUP

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Since Having it All is technically no longer a work in progress but is instead a NEW RELEASE any time now (yippy!)  I’m sharing an excerpt from my next Corbin’s Bend book instead for #WIPITUP this week.   We are joining Traci and Troy just after the last snippet I posted of this opening scene of Psychology of Submission.  Let’s see what Traci and Troy are talking about after he drags her away from the picnic area.

Excerpt:

“Then tell me why you decided not to go to the conference. You’ve been working so hard on your research. You just got another article published in Psychology Today. I’m so proud of you, Trace. Why wouldn’t you want to go and enjoy talking about your research with other psychologists?”

“Conferences are boring. It’s no big deal.” Traci shrugged.

Troy turned his body to face his sister, pulling her hands until she had to shift to face him. Traci was careful not to look him in the eye. She was unprepared when he lifted her chin with his finger. The love and concern she saw warmed her.

“You’ve been hiding things from me and now you’re lying to me, Trace. I’ve been reluctant to push you before now, but that was a mistake. You’ve worked too hard on your research to just walk away from it now. That tells me something big is going on in that beautiful head of yours and I want you to share it with me.”

“Really, Troy. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s nothing. Let it go.”

His hands moved to her upper arms, gripping her tightly. “I asked you to stop lying to me. If you recall, there are consequences for lying in our relationship.”

Traci’s heart rate jumped as she remembered clearly what those consequences were. “Oh, for crying out loud. You wouldn’t dare spank me again.”

“I never dreamed I’d need to, but I will if I think it will help. Please, Trace. I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong. I love you. Let me in.”

Traci looked away, calming herself by watching children playing on the enormous jungle gym several hundred feet away. Sounds of joyful play filled the air. She felt the familiar tug of submission, reminding her of her natural desire to submit to a stronger man. She’d spent thousands of hours studying the psychology behind dominance and submission. It was her specialty. Still, resentment flared within that she couldn’t stop it from happening within her own mind. She was an intelligent, strong woman. Understanding the reasons why she still yearned to submit to the will of a man didn’t make her any less pissed when she couldn’t stop it from happening.

All of the damn research, and I’m still no closer to being able to stop my own mind from betraying me. Life would be so much easier if I could just settle for a vanilla relationship.

Her inner anger flared, making it harder to hold up her protective shield. Her brother waited her out, seeming to understand she was waging an internal emotional struggle.

“Fine. I don’t want to go because my area of specialization isn’t well received in the psychological community. It’s easier to just stay home than to go and feel like everyone around me is ridiculing me.”

She detected disbelief as her brother answered. “I bet you’re just being paranoid, Trace. You’re a published professional. Why wouldn’t they want to hear what you have to say? Are you sure this isn’t more about fear of public speaking?”

“I’m sure. Public speaking makes me a little nervous on its own, but it’s the fear of getting rotten tomatoes thrown at me that has me dreading it.”

He laughed at her. Too bad she hadn’t been exaggerating. “Now you’re being ridiculous, but I’ll play along. What about your study of relationship dynamics do you think they don’t respect?”

They were at the heart of her lie. The reason she’d avoided this discussion for months. If she couldn’t even talk about this with her brother, the man who loved her most in the world and who lived in Corbin’s Bend as the head of household in his domestic discipline marriage, how in the world could she get up in front of a bunch of professionals and talk about it?

Again, he waited patiently. The silence between them finally forced the words from her. “I just don’t think they want to hear about the kind of relationships I’ve studied.”

“Marriages?”

“A bit more specific.”

“Sexual relationships?”

“A bit more specific.”

“Rather than playing this guessing game, why not tell me the title of your work?”

Traci took a deep breath before continuing. “The Intimacy of Dominance and Submission. I study the psychology behind what makes Doms and HoH’s need to dominate and protect. I also study the psychology of why some people long to be submissive, both sexually and domestically.”

Troy whistled softly. “Well, you certainly have a hot-bed of test subjects here in Corbin’s Bend. At least that explains in part what made you want to move here, to live your research.”

Traci snorted an unladylike sound. “Researching others, yes. I wouldn’t say I’m living my research.” Traci had to push down the now familiar self-pity she’d been fighting since last year’s conference.

*****

Psychology of Submission will be released on June 4th!   Don’t forget to check out these other great authors!

Even Lukus Can Lose his Shit #WIPITUP

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This will most likely be the last week I’ll be sharing excerpts from my work in progress Having it All, book three in the Passion Series on #WIPITUP because God willing, by this time next week it will be released and all you lovely people who have been encouraging me to get it out to you will be too busy reading it to come check out my blog anyway!   (Hey, a girl can hope).  Watch for a coming cover reveal this week.   Now check out this fun excerpt from early in the book.   You gotta love Derek, the voice of reason, guiding Lukus through his first meltdown.

Excerpt:

For the first time since she got there, Lukus smiles. The surprised look on her beautiful tear-stained face is adorable. The thought that he’s about to lose her is a sucker punch to the gut. She finally looks his way. He can see her confusion and that’s when it hits him. She’s floundering right along with him.

He forces down the emotions rumbling through him. “Derek is right. Go back and splash your face, then lay down for a bit. I’ll be back in a while.”

Tiffany looks conflicted. Derek spins her around and smacks her ass. “Go on. Get going.” She finally shuffles off with one last pitiful look over her shoulder at Lukus.

The second she’s out of sight, Lukus is up in Derek’s face. “What the fuck? Don’t touch her ass. Who the hell do you think you are?”

In typical Derek fashion, he doesn’t back down. “I’m the asshole who just stopped you from making the biggest mistake of your life, that’s who. I’ve been waiting for this. I thought we’d have a little more time, but hey, no time like the present.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“You. Losing your shit. I knew it was coming. So let’s deal with it.”

Lukus has had enough. He moves around Derek to beeline it to the bar and pour himself a tall shot of whiskey. The burn flames on the way down. He downs one more before walking to the floor-to-ceiling wall of windows facing east.   The familiar Chicago skyline greets him like an old friend. He’s relieved. Finally, something in his life that is steady, that isn’t out of control.

He doesn’t know how long he stands there before Derek joins him, handing him a cold beer. They stand silently looking out on the city together until Derek senses Lukus feels more like himself again.

“So, you ready to talk about it yet?”

“No.”

“Too fucking bad.”

“Fine. What the hell just happened?”

“You lost your shit. That’s what happened.”

“I don’t lose my shit.”

“No. You never used to lose your shit. Now, I have a feeling you’re going to lose your shit regularly. It goes with the territory.”

“Like hell it does. You’ve been married for years. You don’t lose your shit.”

Derek’s rolling belly laugh surprises Lukus. “Damn. I guess I’m a better actor than I thought I was. First of all, I lose my shit all the time. It’s worse than ever these last few weeks with Rachel pregnant. I’m constantly worrying if I’m doing the right thing by her, and now the kid.”

“Maybe, but at least she doesn’t look you in the face and say fuck off. That’s what Tiffany did tonight. Less than five minutes after I told her not to go into the club, she went into the club.   She might as well called me and told me to fuck off.”

“I know you see it like that, but you’re not being rational.”

“Now it’s me saying it loud and clear to you. Fuck off.”

Derek ignores the insult. “Second, and most importantly, I married a woman who is submissive to her core. In fact, I’m worried about how Rachel is going to be authoritative enough to be a mom to the kid. She was submissive when I met her and I’ve had years to train her. You have a bit of a different situation going on here.”

“I’ll tell you, this is my fault. All week I’ve been playing it slow. Trying not to freak her out, knowing she was a newbie. I gave her too much freedom. I should have been laying down the rules harder from the start.” Derek laughs again. It’s really starting to piss Lukus off. “So glad I can provide you with comic relief.”

Getting his laughter under control, Derek pushes for answers. “What did you say to me in the alley on Sunday right after Tiffany left?” When Lukus doesn’t answer, he barges ahead. “You told me that you wanted it all. More accurately, you told me that Tiffany was going to give it all to you. Remember that?”

“I was obviously delusional. All she’s gonna give to me is a fucking nervous breakdown.”

“She may do that, yes, but she’s the one, Lukus.”

“What one?”

“The one you’ve been looking for.”

“She’s not a sub, Derek. I can’t do this. What the fuck do I know about being in a vanilla relationship? No, it’s better that we found this out now before we get hooked on each other.”

“Wow. So you’re gonna quit that easy. I never in a million years thought of you as a quitter.”

“Fuck you. I’ll just end up hurting her.   I’m not too proud to say thank you for coming up here tonight. I was about to really screw up. I could have hurt her. She’d never forgive me. Hell, I’d never forgive myself.   She makes me…” his voice trails off.

“She makes you lose your shit.”

“Stop saying that, will ya? I hate it.”

*****

Want to know more? You don’t have long to wait now.  Mark your calendar for April 21st!

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Who is worried about Traci? #WIPITUP #CorbinsBend

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So I heard from more than one of you who read Life’s Unexpected Gifts that you were worried about what was going to happen to Traci, Troy’s sister.  I did kind of leave her hanging at the end of last season’s book, but I wanted to make sure Traci got her own story in season three.  Psychology of Submission will be released on June 4th.  I thought it would be fun to share the opening scene of the book with you this week.  It is a nice long excerpt chock full of some of your favorite Corbin’s Bend residents.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Excerpt from Psychology of Submission

“Oh my fucking God! This cheesecake is to die for!”

The words were still hanging in the air when the crack of a large hand connecting with a bikini-clad bottom could be heard from across the pool. Hallie’s surprised squeal was drowned out by the fits of laughter from the dozen or so other couples already gathered for the Corbin’s Bend annual Summer’s Here picnic.

“Troy! I can’t believe you just did that!”

“Hallie, I can’t believe you continue to talk like a truck driver.”

Traci’s heart physically contracted with love as she watched her brother and new sister- in-law bantering playfully. Seeing Troy happily married was bittersweet for her. She honestly couldn’t be happier for Troy and Hallie. Still, it was ironic that the siblings had gone years living far apart while Troy had been deployed across the globe, yet now that they lived a few blocks from each other, Traci had never felt more alone.

The time since her brother’s wedding had brought her a much-loved sister-in-law. In fact, Hallie was more than her new sister; she was her close friend. But in watching the couple embrace across the pool, Traci was keenly reminded that she was no longer the most important person in her brother’s life.

Correction. I am no longer the most important person in anyone’s life.

Traci tried to shake herself out of her funk. She despised feeling sorry for herself, and refused to allow feelings of jealously to come between her and the two people she loved most in the world. Yet, the couple wasn’t helping.

The newlyweds had just returned from their honeymoon two weeks earlier and were still in that sickly-sweet romantic mode where they were rarely more than a few feet from each other. They’d come to dinner at Traci’s the night before and had even had to excuse themselves to go to the guest bedroom. Troy had made it sound like it was to punish Hallie for her continued potty- mouth, but Traci was no fool. The walls in her Corbin’s Bend home were not thick enough to camouflage the sounds of sex. Passionate… hot… naughty… sex.

At least they’d had the decency to blush when they’d returned to the kitchen twenty minutes later with Hallie’s hair sex-mussed and Troy’s shirt untucked. Just because Traci’s love life was non-existent didn’t mean the people around her needed to suffer the same affliction.

Troy and Hallie returned to the long picnic table where Traci had been sitting, observing. They plopped down next to their sister. Zach and Erin Cunningham tagged along to sit across the table. Traci had gotten to know the married couple pretty well since they served as Troy and Hallie’s mentors. She’d begun to count them among her close friends these days.

“I don’t know what I’m gonna to do with you, Hallie. I think your cursing is getting worse, not better.”

Zachary cut in before Hallie could reply. “What punishments have you established to help her stop?”

Traci hid her smile as she listened to a conversation that outside of Corbin’s Bend would seem barbaric. Here, it’s just another Saturday afternoon.

“I always give her a crack to the bottom right away to let her know I noticed and didn’t let it pass, but I don’t think it’s enough.”

“It’s not, if you’re trying to get her to stop. One swat isn’t enough of a deterrent, is it, Erin?”

Erin’s blush told Traci she wasn’t comfortable with the topic. “No, sir, and I’d like to thank you for pointing that out in front of our friends.”

Zach reached to hold his wife’s hand while sharing their experience. “Erin’s language has never been too bad, but she would let a 4-letter bomb slip at times. I didn’t really care until Avery was a toddler and started repeating the words she learned from her mommy. I’ll never forget how embarrassed I was when Avery called my mother a ‘damn busy-body.’ That was the night Erin got her first real punishment for her language choices. It only took a few intense sessions and the problem was solved, wasn’t it, baby?”

“It felt like more than a few to me, thank-you-very-much.”

“Hey, it worked, didn’t it?”

“Unfortunately.”

Hallie had been listening silently, her eyes growing larger by the minute. She glanced sideways at Traci as if to look for moral support. Traci had to chuckle. “Don’t look at me. I still can’t believe Adam didn’t set you straight when you lived with them.”

“Some sister you are. I thought you’d back me up that there are way worse things than having a colorful vocabulary.”

They were joined by several new couples at the table next to them. Dr. Marcus Devon must have been close enough to catch their earlier conversation when he weighed in. “Troy, I’d suggest using those bars of soap I gave you as part of your wedding present. Those work wonders for naughty language slips.”

Before Troy could respond, the next alpha male to join the group, Vance Foster, shared his own opinion on how Troy should handle this particular problem. “A paddle. That’s all you need. One nice, hard, wooden paddle. I guarantee it does wonders for helping make behavior changes, wouldn’t you say, Ettie?”

The pretty young woman with the studious glasses waited until she’d gingerly lowered herself to the hard wooden bench, shifting to try to find a comfortable position, before answering. “You seem to think the wooden paddle is the answer for everything.”

Vance grinned at her. “It helped us arrive here on time today, didn’t it?”

“Yes, sir, although now the paper will be released late since you didn’t let me finish the story I was working on.”

“Somehow, I think your subscribers will understand. They’d rather have the pleasure of your company here at the picnic. Not to mention, you wouldn’t want to release the next edition without a report of how today’s festivities went.”

“Of course not. Honestly, I’m an article or two short this week. I hope something really juicy happens today so I have a good story to add this week.”

Traci smiled across at Ettie. Traci read Ettie’s paper faithfully, in part to enjoy the author’s creative exaggerations of the demise of several of the prominent town figures. More importantly, Traci loved to read the erotic serial stories she printed at the end of each edition. The current tale about a Dom cowboy who spanked his naughty horse trainer was one of Ettie’s hottest stories to date.

Traci must have zoned out thinking of hot cowboys because she was suddenly aware that all eyes had turned to her, waiting expectantly. She blushed under everyone’s scrutiny. “I’m sorry. I think I missed something.”

Ettie responded, her voice high pitched with excitement. “Would you really give me an interview? That would be so awesome.”

Traci had a bad feeling. “Why would you want to interview me?”

Ettie sighed, exasperated. “Chicago. The conference. Weren’t you listening just now when Troy told us about your big conference coming up this week? How impressive that you’re going to deliver one of the keynote speeches! What’s your topic?”

A wave of dread washed over Traci. She’d been doing her best to push down her rising panic over the last few weeks, but the mere mention of the conference she dreaded had her stomach churning. She stumbled through her answer.

“Well… honestly, I’m not sure… I’ve been reconsidering and…” She hated the quaver in her voice. Her eyes connected with Troy’s and she saw concern etched on his face. Traci took a cleansing breath before answering more calmly. “There really isn’t a story here, Ettie. I’ve decided I’m not going to go this year.”

Troy’s brown eyes sparked with anger. The siblings were caught in a stare-down before Troy abruptly stood. “Trace, I’d like to speak with you privately, please.” He was already stepping away from the picnic table, his hand reaching for her own.

“I don’t think so. We just got our food.”

“Traci. Now, please.” It was his HoH voice.

Hallie sent her sister-in-law a supportive smile, although Traci suspected the new bride was relieved to have the conversation swing away from her own potty mouth. Recognizing the firm set of Troy’s jaw, Traci knew it was futile to argue.

*****

Blurb:
Traci Jackson has been a therapist in Corbin’s Bend for several years. She’s helped many residents navigate their own D/s and DD relationships, but she hasn’t found her own HoH. Through her patients, she’s been researching and writing about the dynamics of dominance and submission in relationships for years. She loves her field, but she hates attending professional conventions where she’s treated like her specialty isn’t valid.

Sean Campbell is juggling raising his teenage daughter alone in Chicago while running a large convention hotel. When the annual psychologist convention comes to town, he literally bumps into the most beautiful and intelligent woman he’s met in a long time. He gets the surprise of his life when he finds out her specialty is D/s with an emphasis on corporal punishment.

They may find sparks from the minute they meet, but Traci and Sean have more than just the long distance between Chicago and Corbin’s Bend separating them. Sean has never heard of domestic discipline before. Will Traci pack up and leave Corbin’s Bend to be with the man she’s falling in love with, even if he can never be her true HoH?

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