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Sadie and Simon are ready to exchange vows. Finally. Almost. But Sadie wants to start fresh, in a place free of ghosts from Simon's past. Finding the perfect house is easy enough. Once it's theirs, she promises she'll plan the wedding of their dreams.
Getting their hands on the title proves a bit more… complicated. An ex-girlfriend. An unpaid tax lien. A winter storm. Now Simon's the one who seems to have cold feet. Suddenly his old life of international travel, nomadic and carefree, is calling again.
For her part, Sadie wants to carve out a life, a daily routine that includes resuming volunteer work at the homeless shelter. She promises to be careful while frequenting such a rough neighborhood, but Sadie being Sadie—well, she can be a bit headstrong. Her misadventures put her in danger of being over Simon's knee even more than usual, especially when outside perils lead to an almost tragic loss.
Simon says that it's time for Sadie to submit and obey. Sadie says she's ready and willing, but they both wonder: will she ever really be able?
Publisher's Note: While this is the third in the Simon In Charge series, it can be read as a standalone. This love story includes domestic discipline, explicit sex scenes and more. If such material offends you, please do not buy this book.
*** Currently available exclusively at Amazon ***
On a sunny Sunday afternoon in mid-July, an elevator delivered two women to the fortieth floor of a Vancouver office building. With their straight blond hair, sky blue eyes, and similar sheath dresses, one navy, one deep purple, they could have been sisters. They had pleasant faces and the overt friendliness of professional salespeople. The taller woman stepped forward to greet their clients.
Simon Jacobson smiled at Beverly Rosati, principal agent and majority owner of Lancaster Realty. His sister had recommended Beverly's firm to help with a real estate search because of its reputation for efficiency and discretion.
"Welcome to Fenshaw International," he said.
"I haven't seen you in ages, Mr. Jacobson, where have you been hiding?" Beverly craned her neck to look up at the handsome, athletic man who beamed down at her from his six-foot three-inch height.
"I don't socialize much." Simon shook her outstretched hand firmly but briefly. "Thank you for coming."
When he looked past Beverly to the other woman, icy dread settled in his pit of his belly. How long had it been since he'd seen Ingrid Nickel?
Beverly smoothed her blonde bob, noticing nothing. "Congratulations on your engagement." She nodded at Simon's companion.
"This is my fiancée, Sadie Donohue," he said, wrapping his arm around Sadie's waist, a little more tightly than he intended, hoping she hadn't noticed his reaction to the second woman. "Sadie this is Beverly Rosati, one of Tracy's good friends."
Beverly raised her eyebrows in an appraising way, softened with an amiable smile. "Tracy has been very tight-lipped about the two of you. A pleasure to meet you at last, Sadie. Thanks for letting us help."
Sadie shook herself free of Simon's embrace to take Beverly's hand. "It's always nice to meet another friend of Tracy's."
Sadie addressed Beverly but her eyes kept cutting to the second realtor. Beverly may not have seen Simon's reaction to Ingrid, but Sadie had read it as clearly as a headline on a news feed. She fidgeted with her earring and steadied her breathing.
Beverly grinned, motioning to the other woman to step forward. "Simon, Sadie, this is Ingrid Karlsson, the new co-owner of Lancaster. Ingrid has a sixth sense for matching people to their dream homes."
"So pleased to meet our mystery clients." Ingrid beamed a toothpaste-ad smile. "Beverly was all very hush hush about who we were working for until we got on the elevator to come up here." Her eyes danced when she looked at Simon. "Mr. Jacobson and I go way back, don't we, Si?"
A muscle in Simon's chiseled cheek twitched. "Nice to see you again, Ingrid. Only it was Ingrid Nickel when I knew you."
"Ah yes, I got married a while back. Since I couldn't have you, I had to settle for second best. I followed him to Sweden for a couple of years but I missed Vancouver. So I came back here and bought into Beverly's company." She grinned at Sadie with open amusement. "I guess Simon's told you all about me?"
Sadie lifted her chin. "Actually, no. He hasn't said a word." She turned to Simon, her voice light and seemingly playful. "Is there something I should know?"
"Not much." He shot a sharp look at Ingrid. "That was another time, another world."
Ingrid gave an airy laugh, clasping Sadie's hand in a vicelike handshake. "Maybe you and I should have a drink some time, share a few stories, tell a few lies?"
This was just like Ingrid, Simon thought, to blurt out whatever was on her mind and to bulldoze people into intimacies they weren't ready for. If Sadie said yes to drinks with this woman, he would insist on joining them.
He had fallen into Ingrid's clutches once, almost a year after his first wife, Shannon, had died. Ingrid had been selling high end real estate at the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. After helping Simon sell the chalet he vowed never to use again, she'd wormed her way into his life. Until then, Shannon had been the only women he'd ever slept with and he craved the intimacy of a loving partner again.
Ingrid had love for only one person, herself, and he'd quickly realized another body in his bed, one that he didn't feel attached to, underscored his grief instead of offering comfort.
The day she handed him a key to her apartment, he pushed it back across the table to her.
"No, Ingrid, that's not where this is heading," he'd said. "You are an amazing woman, beautiful, talented, and passionate." He left out tenacious, grasping, and egocentric because he wanted to sever things as peacefully as possible. "I don't know whether it's too early in my life as a widower or if I only have love for one woman, but this isn't working for me." He sighed and rubbed his temples. "We've had some great times together but now I need space. I'm sorry, but it's time for us to go our separate ways."
He'd braced himself for tears, for an outpouring of a broken heart, but Ingrid finished her macchiato wordlessly. Her eyes shone as hard and bright as diamonds and her mouth knitted into a razor-sharp line. After she'd dabbed a microdot of milk foam from her blood red lips, she said, "You're a fool, Simon. I could help you in so many ways if you'd let me. I know people, important people, who could be valuable to you. But you blew it, didn't you? You're going to regret the day you let me go."
Her words hit him like a sucker punch. He knew she wasn't the most sentimental of women, but he hadn't expected such a ferocious response. With a brittle, angry smile, she picked up her purse and walked out of the restaurant, head high and shoulders held stiffly back.
For months after that, he saw her name around in ads for high-priced homes in tony West Vancouver and in the ski resort areas. Every time her name and face jumped out at him in a glossy real estate supplement, it was like a wasp-sting reminder of his bad judgment. Then all traces of her stopped and he fooled himself into thinking she must have found someone else to smother with her manic intensity and he didn't need to worry about her any longer.
Here she was again, a long forgotten curse, standing in front of him, trying to insinuate herself into his life.
Sadie smiled at Ingrid as though going for drinks with her was the best invitation she'd had all year. "Sure, that would be good."
Ingrid tossed her head dismissively, her precision-cut blond hair fanning out in a halo around her. She hoisted her bag in front of her. "I think I've found the perfect home for you lovebirds. I understand there is some urgency involved?"
Simon drew Sadie back to his side, trying to shield her from the barracuda. "As I told Beverly yesterday, Sadie and I have put our wedding on hold until we can find a home to call our own. We'd like to move in and get a bit settled before our big day. We don't want to be house hunting on our honeymoon." He spoke with crisp, frosty consonants.
Sensing the growing tension, Beverly moved a little closer to Simon. "I wonder if I might have a glass of water?" she asked.
"Coffee? Tea? Something stronger?" Simon offered, looking first at Beverly and then at Ingrid with studied indifference.
"No, just water," Beverly said emphatically.
"Water would be lovely," said Ingrid, directing her request to Sadie without looking at her, as though giving orders to a maid.
"May we have some water please, my love." Simon said.
Sadie turned, showing only him the spark of temper that flared over her face. She hesitated just long enough to indicate to Ingrid and Beverly that the decision was hers and hers alone, before shrugging with a slight frown. "Won't be a minute."
Simon guided the realtors to the seats in the boardroom that faced the expansive view of the harbor and mountains. While they waited for Sadie, the three of them talked about Vancouver's hot real estate market, a safe topic on which they all agreed. With substantial property investments in many neighborhoods, Simon enjoyed the women's enthusiastic certainty that the record prices showed no signs of softening.
As Sadie walked back, carrying a tray with four glasses of filtered ice water and a large pitcher for refills, Simon watched the movement of her hips hungrily. She was a perfect mix of gentleness and strength. The vulnerable, soft-hearted part of her made him want to protect and defend her almost as much as her strong, irreverent side made him want to conquer and possess her. All other women paled in comparison, particularly this too-thin blond across from him. Her carnivore smile reflected her predatory heart. He wanted to get Sadie far away from her as soon as he could.
As if she could read his hostile thoughts, Ingrid said in a teasing voice, "Do you still have your penthouse in Kitsilano?"
Sadie slapped the tray down on the boardroom table with a bang and glanced up sharply.
Simon waited until everyone had their drinks before answering. "I do. I own the building and won't be selling any of my holdings in that area for a long time."
"You're smart to hang on to that primo place. I have fond memories of the gorgeous Jacuzzi in the ensuite." Ingrid's voice was sultry. "Thinking about renting it out?" She placed a perfectly manicured finger on her lips, a gesture that Simon knew she intended to be suggestive. With Sadie sitting next to him, it annoyed and embarrassed him.
He coughed once and reached for his water glass. Sadie reached for hers at the same time, glaring at Ingrid slightly.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Beverly said, brushing Ingrid's arm.
"True. First you need to find a home to make new memories in." Ingrid's coy smile implied that she had very special memories from the penthouse but her tone quickly changed to a professional neutrality. "Thanks again for giving us the chance to help you find it. Let's go over your wish list, to ensure we clearly understand your preferences."
Sadie flipped open her own computer and looked at the list she had sent Beverly the night before. She played with her earring as Simon read over her shoulder.
If not waterfront, very close to the water.
Good view or outlook.
Minimum of three bedrooms, two and a half baths.
A den or library.
No more than a fifteen-minute drive from Fenshaw Tower.
3,000-4,000 sq. feet.
Preferably with some eco features in the construction, at least silver LEED
When Ingrid read out the final bullet point, Simon snorted with laughter. "What's this last one?"
His looked at Sadie, his dark eyes flashing. She studied her screen, letting her long brown hair shield her face from his.
"Eco features, LEED rated," Ingrid summarized.
"LEED as in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design?" Simon said.
"Yes," Ingrid said, glancing from Simon's face to Sadie's. "This is a pretty short list but that last one narrows the market a lot."
"I bet it does." Simon said. "And probably adds a nice premium to its price."
Sadie tapped something on her keyboard, still ignoring him. Under the table he ran his fingers up her leg, lifted the silky skirt of her sundress, and touched the soft flesh of her inner thigh. He squeezed gently once and released, bringing his hand back to the table.
"My lovely bride-to-be has strong ideas about what she wants," he said. He leaned and whispered in Sadie's ear. "We'll talk about that later."
Ingrid stared at her screen with an intensity that told Simon she was reading his and Sadie's intimacy perfectly. Years ago Ingrid wanted to be Mrs. Jacobson but the pallid romance he'd shared with her had faded before it even started, like a Roman candle that never ignited.
For a moment he would have sworn Ingrid's eyes glowed bright green but she cleared her throat and eased herself into full sales mode. "I have good news and bad news. The good news is there is one Platinum-certified LEED house that meets all your criteria. The bad news is there is only one. It's a take it over leave it situation."
"I'm listening," Simon said and leaned back in his chair, running his hands through his thick, wavy hair.
"It's on the magnificent Golden Mile on Point Grey Road. You want to be close to the water? Well we couldn't find anything close to your office with its own dock but this beauty is just a few minutes away from the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. If that's not enough, it has a private beach, four bedrooms, a den, four and a half baths, a three car garage."
"If it has its own beach, could I build a dock?" Simon interrupted.
"Sorry, no. Technically the beach at low tide is public property. You own up to the edge of the beach only. But it does have spectacular views back to downtown, Stanley Park, and the mountains." She spun her laptop around so Simon and Sadie could see the photos taken from the living room. "Construction was completed a year ago but it has been empty ever since because the owners are tied up in an acrimonious divorce. Now they want to sell fast. It has a kitchen to die for, radiant heat in all the marble floors, and a state of the art security system. It's a brand new listing that was only signed on Friday. The For Sale sign isn't even up yet but it won't last long because not only does it have the LEED creds, it's an unusually large lot for that neighborhood. It's a home fit for a king," Ingrid concluded with a meaningful look at Simon.
"How large is unusually large?" Simon's voice was curious, warm even. He'd forgotten all about Ingrid as he watched the video tour of the house.
"About a half an acre."
"That interests me." Simon draped his hand over the back of Sadie's chair. She responded by nestling against his arm which satisfied him. "What's the damage?" he said.
"Twenty-eight million, eight hundred and eighty-eight thousand." Ingrid didn't bat an eye.
"When can we see it?" Simon squeezed Sadie's shoulder. If the house was empty, that meant they could move in soon. Being married by Christmas was looking more possible every minute.
And the sooner they found a property, brand new to them, the sooner they could forge a life together. A side benefit would be that his association with Ingrid could be severed once and for all.
While the video tour of the house was playing, I tracked Ingrid with my peripheral vision. She was good-looking in a clinical sort of way: large eyes, a straight nose, full lips, good teeth. With perfect blond hair that hung a smooth curtain around her neck, she had a way of punctuating her sentences with a little toss of her head as if she were advertising shampoo. Slender, far slimmer than I could ever hope to be, she moved with feline grace. But she had something more than that, something special that could never be caught on camera, a bold sassiness that was captivating. Even as she was baiting Simon, and I sat there stewing in furious resentment, I had to admit that her reckless courage was intriguing. I didn't doubt for a second that Simon had been involved with her, far deeper than he'd ever admit to me.
Her familiarity with him disturbed me greatly because he'd never been fully open with me about the women who'd shared his bed after Shannon's death. He liked to say that past was a different country and the ports of entry were closed.
As far I was concerned, the past had just landed in the present and I wanted to know more about Ingrid and any other former love who might impose herself on our lives. I didn't want to know intimate details, like where he learned to polish a woman's pearl until she was ready to scream. But maybe it was time, as a simple matter of self-defense, to find out how many women had shared his bed and bath before I did. He'd underplayed his previous relationships so much, I thought they'd been inconsequential. Yet here was at least one ex-girlfriend who still carried some kind of torch for him.
It was true we had other things to talk about. There was that small matter of the LEED requirement that he said we'd discuss later, in his hushed, deliciously threatening tone. At those words, my bottom tingled at the thought of his large hands warming it.
Only this time he didn't get to be the only judge and jury. I'd bring up the subject of him and Ingrid Nickel-Karlsson whether he liked it or not.
Besides the LEED requirement was an inspired thought on my part. I'd added it to the list because I wanted whatever house Simon and I bought to be perfect the day we moved in. Our home had to be something we could be proud of, not just because of an outrageous cost or a swanky address.
As soon as Ingrid read that last wish from the list, I felt Simon's eyes burn into me. He rubbed the scar on his right thumb which said he was annoyed and I was in trouble. It shouldn't be big trouble because I hadn't committed us to anything. Certainly spanking trouble though, but we were both in that kind of mood lately so that was no surprise. Still, I tried not to think about what was coming later.
Before we had time for any sort of deep and meaningful conversation, we were going to see the property. The realtors had only looked at it that morning for the first time. We dropped our car back at the apartment, both of us saying very little as there was no time to open a full discussion about anything.
We piled into Beverly's big Mercedes and the sedan crawled through the Sunday afternoon beach traffic to Point Grey Road. The rare jewel we were going to look at was on that part of the West side where we'd be rubbing neighborly shoulders with some of the richest people in Vancouver, maybe even all of Canada. Vancouver is known as a world class city, which translates to stratospheric real estate prices. An average sort of house that might cost $300,000 or $400,000 in other cities sets a person back well over a million in Vancouver.
I had my own apartment, bought early enough and in a good enough neighborhood, to have benefitted from the rising prices. But I wasn't selling it to contribute to our marital home. That was another story for another day. Simon was going to pay for this house without my help. Good thing he didn't need it.
Beverly maneuvered the big car through the jaywalkers, cyclists, and skateboarders without incident. As we approached a large stone wall with a thick wooden gate, she pressed a remote control and the gate slid sideways, letting us into a front yard with a paved, courtyard style garden. A weeping cherry tree grew in the corner and all around it, small garden beds were planted with California lilac bushes. We emerged from the car and the gate whispered shut, muffling the sound of the traffic behind the fortified walls.
The house loomed two stories above us, its windows reflecting the sun and revealing nothing. Sprawling stone steps led to a covered front porch as wide as the house. Twenty-eight million. The number flashed through my mind. What was I doing in this fantasy world?
Beverly ushered us in and I froze in my tracks as if someone had hollered stop. The ground floor was open plan with floor to ceiling windows on two sides. Seeing the city from this aspect was like stepping into a magic land. In front of us the mountains rose like sentinels from the bright blue sea, a picture-perfect back drop for the green canopy of Stanley Park, high rise apartment buildings and the office towers of the city. The ocean stretched from the edge of the garden all the way to the beaches of the West End. My heart pounded with joy. Simon squeezed my hand in his and I prayed he felt the same.
"The marble floors all are radiant heated," Ingrid reminded us, her stilettos clicking on the stone. She continued to list the details of the building's eco credentials and I was aware of her eyes tracking Simon and me, but I didn't hear much. I was hypnotized by the vision outside the window, where sailboats dotted the blue-green sea, as if they'd been placed there to show us how fairytale-perfect life could be in this house. My anger and hostility toward Ingrid fell away as I lost myself in the fantasy of life on the Golden Mile.
Ignoring both realtors, Simon took my hand and the two of us explored the ground floor, murmuring admiration over the big open kitchen and touching the cool stones of the broad fireplace.
"This is a wood-burning fireplace?" Simon asked. "I didn't realize they were allowed in LEED houses."
Ingrid consulted her laptop. "It's a Rumford fireplace." Her fingers raced over the keys. "I'm unsure what that means but it says here they are EPA certified. I hope so because there's another one in the master bedroom."
Simon grinned at me and we trotted upstairs to inspect the second fireplace. The master bedroom overlooked a paved patio that was fringed with a drought-resistant garden. From that, a stone path led to a private beach. The view from upstairs was as stunning as it was from the great room.
Simon eased me in front of him and wrapped his arms around my waist, his hands snaking up toward my breasts. His fingers played with my nipples through my thin dress. My body began to pulse with desire and I felt his cock pushing against me through our clothes.
"Imagine waking up to this view every morning." His breath was warm on my neck.
"I could learn to live with that," I panted, dropping my hands behind me and rubbing the front of his shorts, enjoying the strength of his hard-on.
"Imagine looking at that view when you're standing in that corner," he pointed to where the wall of the bedroom met the towering windows.
I shivered at his words and waltzed away from him, through a dressing room that was as big as the living room in my apartment. Beyond that was the ensuite with a huge soaker tub in front of its own view window.
"I can't wait to make love to you in this bathtub," Simon said, pinning me against the wall of the bathroom and pressing his knee between my legs.
"You're going to make me wet myself," I whispered hoarsely and wriggled away. "And it's not ours yet."
I walked down the hall to see the other bedrooms, smoothing my dress as I went. The smallest two bedrooms shared a Jack and Jill bathroom. The third had its own ensuite. I returned to the very smallest bedroom, which was the size of the master bedroom in my apartment, and imagined it as my office. It was flooded with natural light with an outlook over the manicured garden in the front yard. Plants shimmered in the summer sun, a couple of hummingbirds buzzed around the branches of the cherry tree, and a black and orange butterfly landed on the flowers of a California lilac bush.
Simon came up beside me. "That's a Compton Tortoiseshell," he said.
"Isn't that what you're looking at?"
"It is, but how do you know that?"
"I have many undiscovered talents. Like from ages eight until ten I was a keen butterfly collector. I used to have dozens of them in display cases in my room. They grossed Tracy out and she refused to come in past my door."
"Do you still have them?" I marveled at this new dimension to him. He was full of surprises: angry ex-girlfriends one minute, butterfly collections the next.
"No. I sold them in a garage sale when I discovered the stock market at age eleven. Other kids went to hockey practice at five in the morning. I got up and reviewed price-earnings ratios and planned my day's trades."
I leaned into him and watched the butterfly flit over the bright blue flowers. He held me close and for a minute, neither of us said anything. Finally, he spoke. "It's an excellent location."
"It has the type of features I'd be proud of," I said.
"And we haven't even seen the basement cinema yet. It's probably soundproof." He grinned broadly.
"But it's wildly above our budget," I added, trying to bring us both back to earth.
The night before, we'd sat down and talked about how much we should spend. Simon said he didn't think we could get a place he'd want to call home under fifteen million. I said I wasn't interested in living in a mausoleum, which is what I pictured that much money would buy.
No, Simon said, if we wanted waterfront near downtown and he did, adamantly, fifteen million would pretty much be land value for a tiny lot. So we'd made our small list and agreed to wait and see if Beverly could find us anything. Here it was a day later, and we had one that seemed almost custom made for us. I couldn't think of a thing I would change.
Simon thought for a minute, maybe remembering the same things I did. After a while he spoke, "Budgets are only targets. Sometimes you have to see beyond self-imposed limits. This may be one of those times. Let's go see that main floor den again."
I followed him downstairs and we scoped out the den with its built in bookshelves and fireproof safe hidden behind a false panel. Then we went back to the kitchen and looked again at the large curved island, the three sinks, the top end European appliances. We admired the stone floors and opened and closed cupboards as if expecting to see fine dishes and an assortment of gourmet foods in the empty house.
When we finished looking at the spacious garage, basement cinema, exercise room, and fourth bathroom, we returned to the main room where Beverly and Ingrid were bent over Ingrid's laptop.
"We have two more properties for you to consider," Beverly said.
"They're right here on Point Grey Road," Ingrid added.
Beverly stepped away, letting us lean over Ingrid's shoulder to peer at the screen and inhale her sandalwood-based perfume. I tried to ignore her appealing scent, and not wonder if that was what she'd worn when she stayed at the penthouse so long ago.
"If this one isn't right," Ingrid said, unapologetically, "either of these might be a good starting point. I didn't mention them earlier because they're both tear downs. You'd have to get an architect and start from the ground up."
A couple of old houses that were built back in the 1960s appeared side by side on her screen. There was so little to recommend them, the selling agents had only posted pictures of the outside of both houses. The major parts of the listings were devoted to maps of the lots, showing the locations, one of which was slightly closer to downtown than the house we were standing in.
Simon barely glanced at them. "How much land?' he stared at the sailboats gliding past the north-facing beach.
Ingrid peered at the screen. "They're both about thirty-three by one hundred thirty."
"Ten and twelve. The one closer to town is a little bit more expensive."
Two million dollars more expensive, I thought. Petty cash.
"So they're half the size and we'd have to go through demolition, design, permits and all that?" Simon phrased it like a question although I was certain he wasn't really after an answer.
"That's about it," Ingrid said.
He ignored her and folded back the glass doors to the outside, showing how the room opened seamlessly to a wide patio. Half the patio closest to the house was covered with an outdoor cooking and eating area that included a barbecue, sink and fridge.
"Sadie." He held out his hand and I slid mine into it.
Wordlessly we walked down the garden path. At the sea's edge, there was a four-foot high rock wall for erosion control with a wide set of steps in the middle of it that gave access to the beach. The sun burned bright but a gentle breeze blew off the water and a cool, briny smell rose around us. Well-behaved waves made a gentle slurping sound as they licked the shore. I sat on the edge of the wall while Simon searched the rocky beach for flat stones. He crouched low and skipped one three times. On his next tries he managed four skips and then five.
He came and stood beside me, his arm around my waist. "This is it. This is exactly where I want to live. How do you like it?"
"Like it? I love it. But it's so much money, almost twice what I thought was your upper limit," I said, my hands suddenly clammy.
"Not quite twice. But it has the right vibe. It's as though it was put here for us to find. It's right and it even has those all-important green credentials." He touched his forehead to mine, his skin cool as he looked me in the eye. "I hope you're ready for a serious discussion when we get home."