Mona Lisa St. James made a deathbed promise that she would do anything to save her mother's art gallery, The Red. Just as she realizes she has no choice but to sell it, a handsome stranger makes her an offer: He will save The Red if she submits to him for the period of one year. Surely her mother didn't mean for Mona to sell herself. Then again, she did promise to do anything to save The Red…
“Better?” Malcolm asked. She gave him a tired smile. He dipped the linen into the water again, pressed it to another welt where it quieted the screaming of her skin. For a long time, he ministered to her wounds. Not a single one was missed. She felt spoiled as an only child, treasured as a prized possession, doted on like a king’s most favored concubine. What magic was it, what sorcery that could turn an act of violence and pain into an act of adoration and affection? It was alchemy, the art of turning base things into gold.
“Would you give me permission to love you, sir?” she asked Malcolm.
“You may tonight,” he said, the slightest smile on his lips to show how secretly pleased he was. “You won’t love me next time I come to you, so enjoy it while you can.”
She laughed softly into the pillow. Hard to take such a threat seriously from a man who was using his own linen cravat to tend to her wounds.
“You only love me tonight because of the beating. You understand that, don’t you?” Before tonight, she would have said “no,” that made no sense, there was no logic to it.
He’d done something to her mind as well as to her body. By the end of her beating, she couldn’t tell the riding crop apart from his kindnesses. They were one and the same to her so that every strike of the crop was tender as a kiss and every word of tenderness made her crave the crop.
“Now I understand,” she said, because now she did.
When he’d finished with the water, he brought out a clear glass bottle of golden oil. It smelled like crushed wildflowers and warmed her skin even more as he rubbed it into her sore flesh. He massaged her entire body—back and legs, shoulders and arms—then bade her roll onto her back again so he could do the same to her front. He lingered long over her breasts, using both of his hands on each one. She gave herself up to his hands, let him mold her like clay. She had no will over her own body. She willed only that Malcolm’s will be done.
Malcolm slicked the warm oil all over her stomach and hips and thighs. He brought his hand between her legs and nudged her thighs open.
“Do you have children?” she asked.
He laughed softly. “I have four fingers in you and you’re asking me if I have children. Do you think I’m checking to see if there’s room for one?”
She grinned broadly, too tired and aroused to laugh. “I only wondered,” she said.
“Does it matter to you?” he asked.
“I’m nosy. And you’re a mystery.”
“I have children, yes. Though not so young anymore.”
“Do you love them?”
“I love them though they’ve disappointed me.”
“They’re...respectable,” he said. “Respectable and well-behaved. Good citizens of the realm. They’re boring. Except the youngest. He takes after me.” His words made her grin drunkenly. “Are you happy to know that?”
“I am,” she said. “Although...I don’t know why.”
“It’s the intimacy of captor and captive,” Malcolm. “There’s nothing like it.”
“Am I your captive?”
“You are tonight.”
About the Author
Tiffany Reisz is the international bestselling author of the Original Sinners series for Mira Books and Mills & Boon, including the RT Book Reviews Best Erotic Romance 2012 winner The Siren and the LAMBDA Literary Award-winning The King. Her novel The Saint won the Romance Writers of America RITA® for best Erotic Romance in 2015.