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Veronica McGinnis is a single mom, more concerned with her son's homework than dating. She lives quietly on the Scottish coast, writing articles for the local newspaper and raising her child. When her cousin Declan asks her to attend his huge wedding, she doesn't hesitate to accept the invitation. Veronica needs to escape her humdrum existence, if only for a while. She loves being a mother, but most days, it feels as though that's all she is. As a submissive member of The Dungeon Fantasy Club, she's been feeling achy and needy and downright ready to jump the mailman's bones – which, in her small town, is the epitome of desperation.
Hunter Clarke is a famous Hollywood movie star, appearing in several of the latest blockbuster films. His name and face, as well as his potential love interests, are constantly splashed across the news, right alongside politics and the latest baseball stats. One of the founding Dom members of The Dungeon Fantasy Club, he walks a tightrope, with salacious reporters just waiting to uncover the tawdry side of his life in return for a huge payday.
Hunter has to make amends with Zoey, his best friend's fiancée, especially if he wants to remain a member of the club, so it's with his hat in his hands that he accepts Declan's invitation to be one of the ushers at what promises to be the wedding of the century. Hunter couldn't be more shocked when he enters Mullardoch Manor only to discover that one of the other guests is none other than Veronica, the first love of his life, and the woman who broke his heart.
When Hunter discovers that Veronica is a submissive club member, he tempts her into a private scene. Her sweet cries as she submits to his fervent demands make him wonder how he could ever have convinced himself that he could live without her.
Veronica's only thought, however, is how much she needs to keep the secret she's kept hidden for ten years. When the truth is revealed, she moves heaven and earth to shield the most precious person in her life from the fallout – even if it means leaving the one Dom she knows she could give her whole heart to.
Will Hunter be able to convince Veronica to submit to him for more than just one night?
Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual scenes including anal, as well as bondage and spanking. Though it is part of a series, it can, like the others, be read and enjoyed as a standalone.
If he'd been wearing a hat, it would have been in his hands as he entered the Mullardoch Manor proper by way of the Dungeon Level and Dungeon Fantasy Club. He exited the elevator which opened into a grand foyer. Spying the pristine marble floors and wood paneling made some of his tension ease at the familiar sight.
Hunter had prepared himself for a boatload of groveling. When you pissed off your best friend's bride-to-be, it came with the territory. He and Zoey—aka Declan McDougal's fiancée—had gotten off to a rocky start, due to some misinformation of rather epic proportions that he'd bought courtesy of the media. And yes, after all his years in Hollywood, he should have known better than to trust a story without verifying it first before he repeated it. In his defense, the story had included a data leak that had published his home address for every crazy fan with a camera to stalk him, which had forced him to put his place on the market. Normally he loved his fans and enjoyed meeting them, but he also valued his privacy when he was at home.
For the record, he never groveled. Quite the opposite, in fact—usually the shoe appeared on the other foot, and it was, 'Yes, Mr. Clarke,' or 'Right away, Mr. Clarke.' So the fact that he was here and prepared to make amends already made him uncomfortable about the upcoming weekend. The last thing he wanted to do was drive a rift between himself and Declan over a simple misunderstanding. They'd been friends far too long, and Hunter valued the relationship more than his own self-righteous pride.
"Declan it's so wonderful to see you," a feminine voice murmured, sounding like heather and peat smoke.
That voice brought him up short. He silently skidded to a halt with his rolling suitcase.
Memories of that voice, of the way it sounded in laughter, filled with tears, or as she gasped when she climaxed, hit him like a tidal wave. It decimated his system. He knew he should do something. As to what, he wasn't positive. Leave the manor? Make a joke? As confident as he had always been, that voice and the woman attached to it had been the only thing to ever truly rattle his cage. If this were a film, the hero would rise to the challenge and act like it didn't affect him.
But real life had a funny way of not living up to the idyllic picture presented on the silver screen.
Hearing that voice made every nerve ending in Hunter's body stand at attention, his heart thumped madly in his chest, and he cursed its effect on him.
Waltzing into Mullardoch Manor—one of his last few, safe bastions on the planet due to the data breach earlier this fall, a place where he didn't have to mind his every word or gesture for fear of feeding a media frenzy—only to hear the voice that visited him in his dreams, made Hunter unable to believe his rotten damn luck. She was here in Declan's home. Never in a million years would he have thought he'd run into her here.
He'd avoided parts of Scotland in the last ten years to ensure they never crossed paths.
Knocked completely off kilter, he, Hunter Clarke, recently named a Hollywood Icon for his work in film, stood rooted to the spot and watched the tableau unfold.
"I'm so glad you could make it, Veronica. It's been far too long." Declan's back was to him, hiding most of the woman's form with his larger frame. As it was, Hunter could only see her set of smaller, womanly shaped legs on the other side of him. He'd always loved her legs; the lithe shape had always fit around his waist just right.
Christ! Even seeing her legs made him remember how they had felt wrapped around his waist.
"I wanted to be here. It's a day for family, and since your mom… well, I don't want to get all maudlin on ye. She'd be happy for you, though, and I'm here to make sure you have family to witness it. Thank you for inviting me, cousin."
What the hell? In all the years Hunter had known Declan, he'd never mentioned her. Hunter knew his friend had some distant relatives in Scotland that he didn't see all that often. But Veronica was his cousin? His Veronica?
Fuck. He wiped a hand over his face to make sure to hide his astonishment. She wasn't his, not anymore. And she hadn't been for a long, long time.
Declan retreated a step and all the oxygen in Hunter's lungs evaporated. He could barely breathe. How was it possible? She'd grown impossibly lovelier in the intervening years. Gone was the girlish undertone to her smile and face, in its place was a maturity and graceful strength that hadn't been present ten years ago. Her burnished auburn hair fell loose about her delicate shoulders. Hunter knew how those strands felt in his hands; like the finest spun silk imaginable. It fell in lush waves past her shoulders, caressing her full cleavage, which was covered in a periwinkle sweater that hugged her curves. The color of her top made the indigo of her eyes appear even more vibrant.
Shock riddled his body, compounded by an unexpected—and not wholly desired—surge of lust wracking his system. The lust made Hunter grimace. Finding Veronica here was the last fucking thing he needed this weekend.
Christ, nowhere was safe. Hunter understood just how lucky he was to have had lightning strike his fate, to get that huge break in Hollywood and enjoy success beyond his wildest imaginings. But could a guy get some peace in his god damn life?
How could she be here? Like a wolf scenting its mate, everything in his body responded to the fact that she was near him once again. Then again, she'd always had that effect on him. Whenever she had been in his vicinity, his body, and now his Dom nature, trumpeted: mine.
In all of two seconds, Hunter understood that this weekend was one to be endured. Maybe, when all the festivities of the wedding had subsided, he'd get a chance to enjoy himself. As it was, it seemed he had to tango with ghosts of his past first.
He schooled his features, just like he did before sauntering onto the red carpet, and addressed his buddy. "Declan, Happy Holidays, bro! Where is the beautiful bride-to-be?" Hunter's gaze was trained on Veronica. The way her head snapped around and landed on him gave him a small, peevish satisfaction. Her eyes flashed in shock and a look of abject terror sprinted over her face before she replaced it with a mask of indifference. At least she hadn't forgotten about him, or not recognized him. That was something.
"Hunter, good of you to come. Zoey's with the dressmaker for a final fitting." Declan, who always seemed to have a grin on his face these days, clasped him in a quick bro hug, slapping a hand on his back.
"I can't believe you're getting hitched!"
"I wish I could have done this sooner, but she nixed a Vegas wedding. And what can I say; I'm putty in her hands." Declan shrugged nonchalantly, with a bemused expression on his face. It made Hunter wonder what it would be like to have the one submissive you'd give up everything else for, just for a chance to be with them.
His gaze shot to Veronica's tension-riddled frame. Something told him she hadn't been expecting him, either—nor was she apparently pleased with the turn of events. And why would she be, when during their last conversation she'd said she never wanted to see him again?
It seemed they were both stuck in each other's company this weekend whether they wanted to be or not. Veronica had begun a silent, nonchalant retreat toward the stairs.
Not so fast, sweetheart.
Where did she think she could possibly escape to in the manor where they wouldn't run into each other? With all the wedding events, they were bound to—continually, and all blasted weekend long—practically be in each other's pockets. Not to mention, he wouldn't let her off the hook that easily, not when seeing her had reawakened a bevy of emotional scars Hunter thought he'd long since buried.
"It's good to see you, Roni. How long has it been?"
Her face whipped to his. With the miles and distance between them, her glance clearly stated that if they were alone, she'd tell him to get lost. Call him perverse or a moron, he'd been called much worse in his day, but he was glad she had to play nice for her cousin's sake. A shared look of simmering defensive understanding passed between them. She always could get under his skin like no other.
"About ten years or so, give or take," Veronica replied, holding herself impossibly still while a storm raged in her eyes as she returned his assessing stare.
"Wait, you two know each other?" Declan interceded, glancing between them. Hunter masked the turbulent boiling seas wreaking havoc on his heart and soul, making sure he appeared to be happy as a clam.
"We did, a long time ago," Veronica said, but it was what she didn't say that spoke volumes. And she was clearly having a more difficult time corralling her features into a composed, unaffected façade.
"When I was doing that period piece on the coast for the History Channel, I'd head into town and McGinnis's pub," Hunter filled the blanks for Declan, for the most part. He couldn't bring himself to tell his best bud that they'd been young and enamored with each other to the point where he could still recall the sounds she emitted as she climaxed, or how snug and blissful she'd felt clasped around him.
"I'll be damned. What a small world," Declan murmured, his attention rapt on the interplay between Hunter and Veronica with her 'fuck-off' vibe directed at him.
"Indeed it is," Hunter conceded, lacing his voice with suggestive undertones just to rile her.
He stifled a laugh when she clenched her piano player fingers into a tight ball. Veronica had always been this feisty ball of energy, willing to throw down and thumb her nose at the world in general. It was one of the traits he had loved most about her.
A small army of staff descended into the grand foyer, turning the uncomfortable space into a flurry of activity. Hunter could have rolled his own damn luggage, but he wasn't going to fight with the maid, either. He surrendered control of his bag over to the tiny woman, who had to be near seventy if she was a day, who rolled it to the elevator, apparently expecting him to follow her.
"Matilda will see you to your room, Hunter, and then if you don't mind joining me in my office, we have some business to attend to——wedding and otherwise. In fact," Declan checked his watch, "I was supposed to meet the tailor there ten minutes ago for my tuxedo fitting."
"Sure. Give me a few minutes to get settled and I'll be down," Hunter said.
Declan gripped his cousin's shoulder in a friendly manner. "Go on up with Sherry, lass, and she'll get you settled. We'll catch up more at dinner."
Veronica gave Declan a swift kiss on the check. "Don't worry about me. I know my way around the place, and consider this a lovely little holiday."
Declan took the stairs, too impatient to wait for the elevator. Hunter lingered behind until Sherry had Veronica firmly in tow toward the elevator before he headed in their direction. The doors slid open and they filed on. Tension consumed the confined space. Veronica wouldn't even look his way, no longer pretending that there was an ounce of civility between them.
It was probably for the best.
What type of small talk could the two of them make with each other, anyway? Something along the lines of, 'So, how's it been since you told me never to contact you again?' Hunter could see that going over real well. It'd give Matilda and Sherry fodder for the gossip mill, too.
And he didn't feed the Hollywood gossip mill. Ever. If there was one aspect to his career that he considered himself flawless in, it was his lack of scandal. Even with his preference for the BDSM lifestyle, he kept his dominant needs, his tastes, strictly to the club. They never went outside the walls of the DFC. Tobias had even had a back entrance built into Dungeon Pleasures especially for Hunter so he could be free to satisfy his needs in the Dungeon without the press being aware he was even in the vicinity.
It didn't mean Hunter didn't have sex. He did, and often. The perfunctory releases relieved pressure in the dam, that was all.
When the elevator opened onto the fourth floor, he couldn't help but watch as Sherry led Veronica to her room. His damn rotten luck wasn't improving much, as her room wound up being the one smack dab next to his on the right. Once inside, he felt like he was the Grinch when he smiled over his devious plan to rob the Whos of their Christmas. It gave Hunter a singular delight to know Veronica would be as uncomfortable as him for the next few days.
Hunter contained his laugh, barely, at the accusatory glance she tossed his way as she entered her room, with Sherry following behind her. At least the next few days were going to be anything but dull.
Would they survive the wedding without killing one another?