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Ellis eyed the woman hungrily, his cock throbbing, his whip arm tingling with anticipation. She was suspended by her wrists, naked save for her shiny black six-inch heels. The clamps gleamed silver against the red of her nipples and the creamy white of her skin, which was shiny with perspiration. He could smell her fear, and the primal scent stirred something dark and feral deep inside him.
He smiled, savoring his power. He could see the realization dawning on her face that he wasn’t one of her usual partners, one of those bullshit posers who proliferated the BDSM scene, giving real sadists a bad name.
Ellis moved closer to the bound and gagged girl, lifting his hand to stroke her cheek with two fingers. She stared at him, pleading with her eyes.
“What’s the matter? Having second thoughts? Or did you lie on your profile, hmm? When you wrote that stuff about what a dirty girl you are, and how you like it rough—was that just bullshit? A come on?” He withdrew his hand, but only to reposition it so he could slap her. She squealed behind the leather gag and jerked her head away, but she wasn’t going anywhere. He stroked the hot, red mark he’d left on her overly made-up face.
She’d claimed she was twenty-seven on her online profile, but he wouldn’t be surprised if she was on the far side of thirty-five. He slapped her on the other cheek, just to keep things symmetrical.
Ellis reached into his trousers pocket and withdrew his pocket knife. She’d listed edge play as one of her sexual triggers in her profile. Maybe a little knife play would get her engine revving. He touched the release button and the blade snicked out of its casing. He brought the tip of the blade to her throat.
The woman began to tremble, tears flooding her eyes. She was shaking so hard the point of the knife grazed her skin. Ellis pulled back the blade. He hadn’t meant to prick her skin. It was her fault, really, jerking like that.
“Hey,” he said, “sorry, babe.” His eye was drawn to the droplet of blood, which beaded at the hollow of her throat and then rolled in a slender red line between her augmented, gravity-defying breasts. His cock was so hard he could hammer nails with it and his balls were aching.
All at once he became aware of the pungent smell of urine and he took an involuntary step back as he glanced down between the woman’s spread legs. “Damn it,” he growled. “That’s a priceless oriental carpet you’re pissing on.”
She began to wail behind the gag, a horrible sound like a cat being murdered, and her eyes were bugging from her head.
“Christ,” Ellis swore. Talk about overreacting. She was ruining his fun.
He wiped the knife against her shoulder and then closed it and replaced it in his pocket. When he pulled the gag from her mouth, she began to babble. “Red light! Red light! Redlightredlightredlight!”
It took Ellis a second to figure out what the hell the woman was jabbering on about. Then he realized—it was her safeword. He shook his head in disgust. “Are you fucking kidding me? You’re using your safeword when we haven’t even gotten started yet?”
“You fucking bastard. You cut me. You cut me,” she cried, jerking hard at the chains that held her arms aloft. “Let me down this instant. I’m so not into this. Take off these fucking cuffs!”
It was tempting to replace the gag and ignore her. Maybe that was what she wanted. Maybe she was protesting too much as part of the game. He could continue with the evening as planned, caning her bottom to a hot, cherry red before he fucked her, all the while keeping her suspended from the bondage bar. After all, he’d spent more money wining and dining her at a very fancy restaurant than she probably earned in a week at her pathetic job.
And it wasn’t as if he had gotten her there under duress. She’d been plenty eager to climb into his BMW M6 convertible for the ride out of the city. She’d barely shut up the whole way home about how into BDSM she was, and how she craved the erotic pain and submission a real man could give her. She’d told him he was the handsomest guy she’d ever met, in the scene or out of it. Funny how the richer you were, the better looking you became.
She’d gone wide-eyed, her mouth gaping open when he’d pulled into the circular driveway in front of his Scarsdale home. When she found her tongue again, all too soon in his estimation, she’d gushed about how she’d been longing to find a good man to serve and obey.
“Ooooo,” she’d cooed like a kid in a candy store as she’d eyed the broad assortment of BDSM gear and restraining devices in his well-equipped dungeon. She’d stripped willingly enough, quickly shedding everything except those stiletto fuck-me heels. She’d assumed her position as ordered beneath the bondage bar and held up her wrists for the cuffs and chains, giggling nervously all the while.
“Please, Master,” she’d begged breathlessly. “I am yours to use as you please. Do with me what you will.” So much for that lie. For a woman who advertised herself as a pain slut in constant heat, it turned out she was nothing but a prick tease.
His cock flagging, Ellis reached for the woman’s wrist cuffs and jerked the Velcro closures open. She stumbled forward in her high heels and lurched toward the pile of clothing she’d been so eager to get out of a half hour ago. Ellis tossed a hand towel toward her. Her legs still damp with piss, she first dabbed at her throat and stared with horrified expectation at the towel, though the nick had already stopped bleeding.
As Ellis watched her dress, the worst of his anger and irritation eased away. It was his own damn fault. He never should have advertised on that stupid BDSM personals site, even if it was the most exclusive of its kind. He should have just brought home a prostitute who understood clearly what was expected of her. At least then he would have gotten what he paid for.
Still, it wouldn’t do to have the girl spreading rumors in the BDSM community, or worse, rushing off to the cops with some cock and bull story about how he’d held her against her will. Sure, he would be able to eventually make the problem go away, but did he really need the hassle?
“I guess we got our signals crossed,” he offered, modulating his voice into a calm, soothing tone. “I apologize.” He smiled, aware of the effect the deep dimple in his left cheek and the gleaming white of his perfect teeth had on women.
She didn’t smile back. “I want to go home,” she said in a petulant tone. “Call me a taxi.”
Man, he was so damned tired of all the posers and pretenders in the scene. Maybe he should just take what he wanted and fuck the consequences. The seed of an idea sprouted suddenly in his mind, and Ellis had to force himself to focus on the moment, this woman already half-forgotten, though she still stood in front of him clutching her black beaded purse to her breast like a shield.
“My driver will take you home.” Ellis reached into his pocket and withdrew his billfold. He removed five crisp hundred-dollar bills. “No hard feelings, right?” He held out the money, and surprise, surprise, she took it.
“I worked for six years as an executive secretary at Shaw & Brunner and before that I was with Stanford, Cheney and Swenson. I’m extremely organized and not afraid of hard work. I’m ready to get out of the city. And I want something more hands-on and personal. The position sounds like exactly what I’m looking for.”
She was maybe thirty, a little older than he was going for, but lovely nonetheless. Her shapely legs were long and bare, lightly tanned beneath the narrow skirt that stopped just above her knees. From what he could see beneath her crisp white blouse and blue blazer, her breasts were on the smallish size, but at least they looked real. Her mouth was wide and sensual, perfect for sucking cock.
Ellis realized she was waiting for him to say something, and he resumed his role as interviewer. He’d placed ads in the New York Times and on Monster.com, as well as in the local papers. He claimed he was seeking an administrative assistant with starting salary in the six figure range.
“I’m looking for someone willing to devote themselves full time to my enterprises. It’s not a nine-to-five job. I need someone on call twenty-four/seven, ready to take off with me in my private jet at a moment’s notice, whether it’s to Dubai to attend the wedding of a wealthy sheik or to China to oversee my factories or to Munich to close a deal. I need someone who’s comfortable around the very wealthy, at home on a yacht, but not above typing and doing data entry when I need it, or even taking my suits to the dry cleaners. While the salary starts at two hundred thousand, what you could earn in bonuses would more than double that amount.”
He could see the greed spark in her eyes and the excitement parting her lips. She leaned forward, her expression earnest. “I’m a very hard worker, Mr. Hughes. I have no problem putting in sixteen-hour days, or longer if need be.” She shifted, crossing her legs and causing the skirt to hike up along her slender thigh.
Forcing his gaze back to her face, Ellis said, “What about holidays? Family…?”
“Well, I do have a large family.” She offered an apologetic shrug. “I’m Greek Orthodox. Our timing is a bit off from the traditional Christian calendar, but my family’s all local, so as long as I put in an appearance…”
He tuned out the rest of her spiel. Looking down at his chart, he drew a line through her name. When he’d gauged that enough time had passed, he stood. “Thank you, Ms. Hart. You’re a very promising candidate. I’ll be touch.”
She stood as well, smoothing her skirt. “I type one-hundred-ten words per minute. I have a lot of experience with Excel and Access—”
“I’ll let you know.” Ellis cut her off. He extended his hand. “It was a pleasure. Let me show you to the door. I’ll be in touch.”
He watched the play of emotions on her face. Clearly she hadn’t finished selling herself, but he’d given her a clear dismissal. She took a deep breath, a mask of calm dropping over her features. She probably thought he was putting her through a test. “Very good,” she said, extending a slim hand. “I look forward to hearing from you, Mr. Hughes.”
It was too bad, because she was a hot little number. But she didn’t fit his profile, the underlying profile, the real qualifications he was seeking. He closed the massive oak front door behind her and watched through the window as she climbed into her car and drove slowly away. He glanced at his Rolex. Thirty minutes until the next candidate.
Eight days and twenty-two interviews later, Ellis was beyond frustrated. While he knew it would be difficult to find the perfect woman for his scheme, he hadn’t realized just how daunting the task would be. He looked at the last name on his list: Mia Roberts. He pulled out the single sheet of good quality stationary on which she’d printed her résumé. Five years experience as an office manager. He scanned the page, not particularly interested in the details. Willing to relocate. He glanced at her address - Bangor, Maine. So far, so good.
The doorbell rang and Ellis moved toward it. He looked through the peephole. The woman on the other side of the door was in her mid-twenties. She was chubby but she had a pretty face, with dark blue eyes, sweet pouty lips and dark brown hair that fell in soft waves to her shoulders. She was dressed in a hideously patterned dress that looked like it came off the rack at Walmart. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, he reminded himself. The promised salary would definitely turn her head, even though she’d never actually see a dime. Besides, she wouldn’t be wearing that dress for long, not if she got the “job.”
It’s show time, folks.
Ellis pulled open the door and flashed a winning smile at the young woman. “Good afternoon. You must be Mia.”
Mia stood frozen for a beat, staring up at the Greek god who appeared before her. He had thick golden blond hair, rich brown eyes, a long, straight nose and a movie star smile. He was a couple of inches over six feet, with broad shoulders and long legs. His snowy white shirt was rolled up to his forearms, which were tan and muscular, and dappled with golden hairs. A thin, gold watch gleamed on his wrist and she couldn’t help it—her eye was drawn to his left hand. No evidence of a wedding ring.
Probably gay. Stop it. You’re looking for a job, not a husband.
Mia took a deep, cleansing breath, reminding herself to stay cool, calm and collected. She thought about the affirmation that had been on her kitchen calendar this morning. If you can imagine it, you can bring it to pass. Imagine getting a job working for this gorgeous guy? Imagine if he were single and straight? Imagine earning a six figure salary after years of being underpaid and underappreciated?
“I’m Ellis Hughes.”
She took the man’s offered hand. His grip was firm but not crushing, and he stared into her eyes as he held her hand in his. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she managed, relieved her voice came out steady. She sucked in her gut, as if that would hide the extra thirty pounds. Again she told herself to cut it out. This wasn’t a prospective date. It was a job interview.
She expected him to walk to the desk, and she would sit on one of the chairs in front of it and launch into her practiced speech about why she would be his ideal candidate. Instead, he waved her toward the sofa and sat on a chair, his knee only inches from hers.
They talked for a while about the job and its requirements, and why her particular skill set and experience would make her a good fit. Mia found herself beginning to relax as they talked. He was friendly and charming. She loved the dimple in his cheek, and the way his hair kept flopping over onto his forehead, and his big hands.
Stop it. Focus.
“This isn’t a nine-to-five job,” he continued. “Sometimes we’ll be working around the clock to close a deal, or we’ll need to take off to China or England at a moment’s notice. Is that a problem for you? Family obligations, children…?” He trailed off, his eyebrows lifting in question.
“Oh, don’t worry about that, Mr. Hughes.”
“Please, call me Ellis.”
“Yes, okay. Ellis.” Mia cheeks heated and she prayed she wasn’t blushing. She pushed on. “I have no family to speak of. I am—was—an only child. Both of my parents passed away a few years back.” She forced herself to ignore the sudden, sharp pain that pronouncement still engendered inside her. “No kids, no husband, not even a boyfriend.” She heard her own nervous titter and silently cursed herself. She sounded like a total loser.
She reminded herself of her affirmation when she was feeling insecure: I am more than good enough and I get better every day. She smiled brightly at her prospective employer. “By choice. I’m too young to get tied down right now. I’m only twenty-five.”
“Too young to get tied down,” Ellis repeated, his mouth quirking slightly, as if she’d made a joke of some kind. “I’m sorry to hear of your loss,” he added kindly. “But I have to stress, a requirement of the job is your being able to work late without worrying about other obligations, and being ready to jet off to Asia or Europe at the drop of a hat.” He interrupted himself to ask, “You do have a current passport, correct?”
“I do,” Mia replied, though she didn’t mention she’d never used it. It had sat unused in the small strongbox she kept on a shelf in her bedroom closet, along with her car title and her parents’ passports, death certificates and wedding rings. They were going to take her to Europe to celebrate her graduation from college. Instead, only two days before the three of them were scheduled to travel, her parents had been killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Stop focusing on the past. Don’t blow this, Mia. “I love to travel.” She leaned forward, wondering what other candidates she was up against, praying she had at least a shot at working with this handsome, sexy man.
“Excellent.” Ellis looked down at her résumé. “I see you’re from Maine?”
“Yes. But the lease is up on my apartment and I’m ready to make a move. The small company I’ve been working for has just merged with a larger firm, and it’s a perfect time to seek new opportunities.” Interview-speak for I’ve become redundant, but hopefully he won’t make me say it.
To her relief, he didn’t press the issue. Instead, he said, “It can be tough to find affordable housing around here. There’s a carriage house on the back of this property. You could stay there rent free, at least until you find something more suitable. It’s small but perfectly serviceable.”
“Oh!” Mia’s heart began to beat fast. “Does this mean you’re offering me the job? Don’t you want to check out references or whatever?” She bit her lip, furious with herself. Shut up, Mia. He’s going to think you don’t want it. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. This is the chance of a lifetime.
To her relief, Ellis just smiled. What a nice man! “I tend to go by my gut, and my gut’s telling me you would be perfect for the job. You’re young, eager, unattached, bright and ready to work hard. From your résumé and our discussions, I believe you have the skills necessary to serve as my assistant. Of course, I’ll check your references, but I have a good feeling about you, Ms. Roberts.”
“Mia,” she blurted, and again felt herself coloring.
But he just nodded. “So, assuming your references work out, when would you be ready to start?”
Just that morning, her desk calendar had advised: expect the unexpected. Yes!
“Next week? I just need time to pack up my stuff. Oh, Mr. Hughes, uh, Ellis, I’m so excited! Thank you for this chance. I promise you won’t regret it.”
He stood and so she did too. “I’m sure I won’t.” He smiled again, his cheek dimpling, his brown eyes gazing deeply into hers.
They kept in touch via email over the next week. Ellis was careful during the exchange, keeping up the façade that he was in fact hiring this young woman to be his personal assistant. He pretended to check her references, and gently probed into her personal life, which, he was delighted to discover, was basically nonexistent. He flirted a little, but only a very little, just enough to let her entertain the glimmer of a possibility that maybe someday, somehow… Women liked that, he’d found. They liked to feel desired from a distance in the workplace, but respected at the same time. He knew just how to play her.
She had a Facebook page, but she only had five Facebook friends, and she didn’t seem to be active at all on that or any other social media. In this age of constant and instant communication, Mia was refreshingly unconnected.
She confided in Ellis that she’d been in a relationship with some guy named Greg, but he’d been out of the picture for several months, and had apparently moved to California. She didn’t have close friends, and no family to speak of, other than some great aunt off in North Dakota or somewhere. She was more than eager to avail herself of the offer of free lodging, though she didn’t yet know it wouldn’t be in the carriage house.
In fact, Mike, his driver, had been living there, but in preparation for Mia’s arrival Ellis had let Mike go with six months’ severance to soften the blow, explaining he was going to be spending the year abroad and would no longer be in need of a driver’s services. He’d also stopped the maid service and let the cook go. It wouldn’t do to have employees nosing around the place, not with what he had in mind.
The front doorbell rang. Ellis jumped up from his desk and hurried to answer it. Mia stood on the stoop, dressed in another Walmart special. She broke into a broad smile when he pulled open the door. “Hi!” she said brightly. “I left my stuff in the car.” She jerked her head in the direction of an old Volvo. “All my worldly possessions.”
“You drove straight from Maine?” Ellis stepped back to let her in. He closed the door and slipped his hand into his pocket. His fingers closed around the remote that silently locked all the doors and windows in the house from both inside and out.
“Yeah.” She shrugged, offering an apologetic smile. “I hope I’m not too early. I left before dawn.”
“Not at all. You’re right on time. Welcome to New York, and the start of a new life.” Ellis smiled.
Mia smiled back, coyly ducking her head. She was hooked. Perfect. “I really appreciate this extra day to get myself settled in the carriage house, Ellis. Should I drive the car around back or…?”
“There’s been something of a change in plans,” Ellis said smoothly. When her brow furrowed, he hastened to add, “Don’t worry. It’s just a minor setback in getting the carriage house ready for you. There was a wiring problem they found when doing some touch ups. It should be fixed in a day or two. Meanwhile, I had one of the guest bedrooms made up for you. You’d have your own bathroom, of course. Unless you’d rather stay at a hotel?”
“Oh, no. No, that’s fine,” she interjected quickly. Given the state of her ancient car and the quality of her clothing, he doubted she could afford a hotel room even for one night. “As long as you’re sure it’s not a problem? I wouldn’t want to put you out.”
“Please, I have more rooms in this house than I know what to do with. It’s no trouble, I assure you. No trouble at all.” Ellis’ heart was beating hard with anticipation. He still couldn’t quite believe he was really going to go through with this. It had been his favorite masturbation fantasy since he was teenager, and now it was about to become reality.
For the hundredth time since he’d conceived of the plan, he asked himself if he was absolutely insane. Maybe he was, but he felt more alive than he had in years. He was ready for this. He wanted it. He deserved it. After a lifetime of doing what everyone else wanted and expected of him, he was going to bring his darkest sexual fantasies to life.
He’d thought about his scheme from a dozen different angles and planned for every contingency. But what if he couldn’t pull it off? What if he got caught? He doubted he’d be able to buy his way out of this one, if it came down to that.
The answer was simple—don’t get caught.
He’d almost given up finding a woman with no connections who was or could be molded into the fantasy of his dreams. And then Mia had appeared—the last name on his list, no less. Though not yet his physical ideal, she had excellent potential with the right motivation and training. Even more importantly, she had left nothing behind. She was single, orphaned and had relocated to a new state. If and when someone did discover she was missing, they wouldn’t have the first clue where to look. Mia Roberts would simply disappear from the grid, hopefully without a trace.
“Let me show you your room and then we can get your things.” He walked her to the staircase and waved her ahead, ever the gentleman. “After you.”