In 1927 the laws are different…
Orphaned at nineteen Eleanor cannot act as her own guardian. Her plea for help, to a prominent Boston family, lands her an ultimatum: 30 days to marry a handsome heir.
The only problem…her new fiance is a roaring 20s bad boy. He’s used to getting everything he wants, no matter the cost.
She would be grateful that what he now wants is her, if she can just surrender to the wicked and kinky desires he has for her.
Underneath his gorgeous facade, decadent billionaire James Parkman has a secret that has gotten him into trouble with some very seedy characters.
As much as he wants to possess the innocent young woman who has fallen into his arms, he doesn’t think she has what it takes to fulfill his sinful appetites.
Even more than that, he doesn’t want to put her life at risk. Maybe there really is a man under all that brash privilege? Has he finally found something worth fighting for, or will she be his weakness?
This 49k word jazz age romance novel explores themes of dominance, submission, and steamy, kinky sex. It is intended for mature readers.[expand title=”Click here for a steamy excerpt!“]
James’ study was quiet. The quietest place in the house. It smelt of leather, cigars, and the faint smell of his exotic cologne.
Ellie was standing there, just inside the doorway, stock still, and too afraid to take another step.
James closed the door with a quiet click and then Ellie heard another noise that told her he’d locked the door.
Locked them together. It sent a chill through her breast.
She lain awake crying last night, thinking of how lonely she would be in this perfect mansion of isolation.
Of course, she’d spent the day socializing with her prospective mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, and sister-in-law. The only members of James immediate family she hadn’t met was his younger brother George Howard, who was fourteen and away at boarding school.
His younger sister, Florence Elizabeth, was seventeen and attended a local private school. She was exactly what you’d expect from a teenager raised in the Parkman household.
Effortless, graceful, beautiful, hopelessly well-read, and so well-mannered she made you feel like a peasant sometimes. She had dark hair and a darker version of her brother’s blue eyes, hers more piercing and his more deep.
She dressed herself just this side of the line of propriety, and seemed to love getting into heated discussions and pouting, both in equal measure. At brunch before visiting a new art gallery that some of the family money had paid for, Florence started loud discussions about whether or not eyeliner was appropriate for wearing during the day, a horrible tragedy at the school in Bath, Michigan, trying to convince her Grandmother to send money to aid the victims of the terrible flooding along the Mississippi River, and the need for international support for socialist Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles in his war against the Cristeros rebellion, all of which she seemed to be devoted to with her entire being, until she had moved on to the next.
It made lunch very amusing and let Ellie keep herself out of the spotlight, which was all for the best, because she could tell that Mrs. Coffin-Parkman had not yet come to peace with what her mother-in-law seemed to have decided for her.
She also said very little during our meal, and Ellie couldn’t help but feel that she was silently watching and evaluating her.
Mrs. Peabody-Parkman, on the other hand, seemed like she already loved her like a granddaughter. She mercifully let Ellie keep quiet and observe her arguments with Florence, and discussions of all the latest news in Boston society with Mrs. Coffin-Parkman. She would reach over and give Ellie’s hand a squeeze every once in awhile, her expensive glove doing little to mask the papery fragility of her aging hand.
It was a disarming contrast between her physical presence and her actual presence. Age was slowly stooping her back smaller and smaller, but it was easy to tell that she was only growing more daring and audacious with every passing day.
Everywhere she went, she commanded court around her. Even strangers would speak to her with a natural deference. For her part, she seemed to have no problem taking the lead.
Strangely, it reminded Ellie of her grandson, and it left her wondering about the other member of James’ family she hadn’t, and would never, meet: His father Captain Walter Peabody Parkman, the war hero Ellie’s father had carried home.
Did he have the same naturally commanding air? The same bright blue eyes? The same narrow build as his son?
She looked at James where he’d moved to stand behind his desk, expertly trimming a cigar to prepare it for smoking.
“Are you going to sit down?” He asked with a laugh. “You’re more than welcome to.”
Ellie looked at the stuffed leather club chairs that were arranged in front of his desk and slowly moved over to lower herself down to sit, her body wooden.
A man’s study was no place for a woman. Even if that woman was his wife.
Yes, he’d told his valet to make sure that she knew to come to his study this evening, but she didn’t feel right being here.
“Would you like a drink, Ellie? You seem terribly worried.” He said, his voice gentle and firm.
“Just a little one.”
“Scotch or brandy?”
“Brandy.” Ellie felt like she was talking through someone else’s body, a million miles removed from her own.
It was such a normal conversation.
It was the first normal conversation the two of them had shared.
But he’d already touched her…intimately. Made her feel things that made her want things she didn’t even fully understand.
He was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. A sort of golden boy that made her think of allusions to Apollo and Helios and a million other fine Greek heroes.
It made her blush when she thought of all the hard, muscled nude male torsos she’d seen in all the galleries of plaster statue copies.
Was that what he looked like underneath all his clothes?
She certainly knew there were men who were nothing to look at naked, but James seemed so good to look at it made her blush.
When James slipped a small snifter of brandy into her hand she looked up and mustered a smile, hoping he didn’t notice that she was blushing.
Instead she found herself confused again. Before he’d been smiling, open, now he was scowling again.
Had she done something wrong?
Purposefully he strode back behind his large, dark wooden desk and had a seat, eyes pointedly fixed on the papers neatly arranged on his desktop.
“I believe apologies are in order.” He said, then cleared his throat and left the words hanging in the air.
“Oh?” Ellie said, sipping at her brandy a little more deeply than she probably should. The heat of the liquor left her feeling a little bit dizzy.
“Yes, Eleanor. My behavior yesterday when I escorted you to your room was unacceptable. I apologize.”
She sighed very quietly, an aching opening up in her chest. He hadn’t actually been interested, he just wanted to have…intercourse.
But why pull back when she protested that she was a virgin? When Ellie had heard men being vulgar, that certainly seemed to be the sort of thing that would encourage their predatory instincts, not diminish them.
“I-” She immediately stopped talking because James held up his hand, waving her words away as if by magic.
“It was inexcusable. I have too much respect for both your family and mine to behave that way. Moreover,” he paused and it seemed he was carefully considering his words. “I like you, Eleanor, and I’d rather not see you brought to some low end, especially not if I in some way contributed to your descent.”
“Descent?” Ellie mouthed the word but clearly hadn’t the faintest idea what James meant by it.
“I’m not…I’m not like other men. I have particular desires, and the resources to see them met without despoiling something so beautiful and innocent.”
“I thought perhaps,” Ellie looked down at her brandy and swirled it slowly, pausing for a very long time to get her tumbled thoughts in order. “I thought perhaps you were interested in carrying through with your Grandmother’s wishes.”
“That’s far beside the point, Eleanor. I wouldn’t trap you in a loveless marriage.”
His words stung, possibly more than a physical blow would. Ellie turned her face aside, closing her eyes to hold back the tiny pricks of tears she could feel behind her eyelids.
“You, don’t think that you could love me?” She asked, her voice small and ragged.
“What? No, Eleanor, I don’t think that you could love me, and if you did, I don’t think it could withstand my…desires.”
With a sudden burst of courage, probably propelled by the brandy burning in her belly, Ellie leaned forward and briefly fixed James’ eyes with her own.
“Isn’t that what marriage is about, James? I’m…I don’t have any experience with men, but I think that if you were gentle with me I could learn to withstand anything for you.”
His eyes flared and he quickly looked back to the things on his desk. He laid his hands palm down on the desk blotter and seemed to take a moment to calm himself.
“You should be careful what you say, Eleanor, you might get what you ask for.” He hissed, a surprising note of hostility in his tone.
Ellie blinked. He was the only one to call her Eleanor, and he called her that all the time. The way he said it sounded different from anyone else who’d ever called her by her full name, which included her parents and few others.
The way he said it sent a bolt of heat arcing through her body, collecting between her thighs and leaving her pulsing with desire.
“I don’t think you’re unlovable, Mr. Parkman.” She said, very quietly, and after a very long pause.
“You would come to think so.” He said bitterly. “I must apologize once again. There have been…concerns…affecting work and also my ability to see to some personal matters…at any rate, it’s left me with quite a temper and a foul disposition. I should think it would be best to leave, Eleanor, lest I impinge further on your modesty.”
Ellie stared at him, blinking at the abruptness of his dismissal.
“What if I’d rather stay and lighten your mood?” She asked carefully.
“Eleanor!” He said sharply, rising from his desk and leaning forward on his hands, “You’re nothing but a distraction to me with things in their current state. And every moment makes it harder and harder to resist you.” His lips curled in disdain.
“You’re one of the richest men, in one of the richest families, in one of the richest cities in this country. You can have anything you want. Why do you feel you have to resist? Let me show you that I can be a good wife to you.”
“Eleanor…you don’t even know what you’re saying.”
“Then enlighten me, and let me decide for myself.”
His face clouded, and his brow furrowed deeply. He straightened, and walked to sit at a piano in a corner of his study.
He opened the cover and his fingertips caressed at the keys within, savoring the feel of the ivory. Slowly, softly, he started to play a low, haunting sort of melody.
When he spoke again there was a detachment in his voice that had been absent a few moments earlier.
“It’s complicated Eleanor. Complicated enough for someone like me who does have experience.”
Impulsively, Ellie tipped back the last of the brandy and set the cup carefully on the blotter paper on James’ desk and moved to sit next to him on the piano bench, facing away from the piano so she could watch him while he played.
“Why? Eleanor, you’re a lovely young girl. I understand you need a husband, but you can find a better match than me.”
“I’m afraid.” I blurted out unsteadily.
“Of me?” His fingers stopped abruptly, and he turned his face to mine.
“No, but I am afraid of having a husband.”
“Why? Just chose one who’s gentle and wants to take care of you. You’re smart, you’ll pick a good one.”
“What if I pick you?” He frowned immediately and resumed his meandering, melancholy song.
“That wouldn’t be smart.”
“Why not? You’re rich. You’re handsome. You do seem awfully worried about my well-being. By your own standards, I think you’re quite a catch.”
“If I was a catch, don’t you think some enterprising Boston Brahmin would’ve thrown his daughter at me a long time ago?”
“Did you say no to all of them for the same reason you’re saying no to me?”
“No, I wasn’t trying to protect them. I just didn’t fancy any of them.”
“But you do fancy me, which is why you want to protect me?”
The tempo of his playing stuttered for a moment, but he didn’t stop playing. She knew it was true.
“So tell me why I shouldn’t marry you, James.”
“I read during dinner and you apparently find that appalling.”
Ellie shook her head, brushing his comment aside.
“I see to a great many business concerns, all over the world. Sometimes I leave for long stretches of time without coming home. I get called away in the middle of the night and I get calls I have to take during dinner.” He mentioned the call last night like it left a well-remembered sour taste in his mouth.
“That’s what it’s like for every man who’s devoted to his work. My father was the same way.”
His fingers hesitated over the keys, stopping the song to flutter his fingertips over the keys as he thought.
“Tell me why I shouldn’t marry you, James.”
“What do you know about sex, Eleanor?” He changed the topic abruptly, or at least seemed to.
“Not a great deal? I’ve certainly read about it in plays and novels and things. Not ladies magazines, but well, you know, I’ve seen Shakespeare.”
He looked up into the air above the piano, trying to remember something. He shifted his hands and started to play again, a different melody, but no less mournful sounding.
“You shouldn’t marry me because I’m a cruel person, Eleanor. Like Richard III, I’d do horrible things to you. Lady Anne didn’t deserve that, and neither do you.”
“Alright, James, if you are going to compare yourself to the most villainous of all villains ever written, at least in English, you are going to have give me reasons to believe that characterization is accurate at all.”
There was a long, pregnant silence, then James shifted his hands again, playing a soft seeming song that nevertheless thrummed with controlled rage.
“There are things I like to do, sexually, that are perverse.”
“Do you know what that word means?”
“I’m assuming you mean the ‘wicked’ definition and not the one where it means ‘contrary’?”
“Yes.” He clipped. “Though it is a little contrary to what most people think of during intercourse.”
“You are going to have to explain.”
“Of course I am.” He sighed, heavily. “I have particular appetites. They can’t be sated with normal sex, the way that most men can. I require my partner’s complete submission in order to enjoy myself.”
“Submission.” He repeated the word, his fingers starting to thrust hard against the keys as the melody became more strident. His foot moved on the pedal and she could feel the deeper notes reverberating through the wood in the room, including the piano bench they were sitting on.
“Yes. My partner has to give me total control over her body, and mind.” Ellie’s breath caught in her throat. She didn’t know enough to know how deviant it was. At least when it came to men with women other than their wives, or if the men were villainous, they might do horrible things to their wives.
“Would you- does it…hurt?”
“Yes.” Ellie nodded.
“Sometimes.” he said flatly.
“Oh.” She felt a deeper flush that started very low on her body but spread up quickly, a bright pink cloud of embarrassment and smothered inside it, excitement.
Not the pain, but the control. It seemed so…natural. All her life she’d dreamt of being swept up, swept away. Wasn’t this the same thing? Wasn’t someone who wanted to tell you what to do perfect for someone who had no idea what to do?
“I can give you complete submission.” Ellie said quietly.
James’ hands came down hard on the piano keys, sounding a loud, discordant note.
Slowly, he turned to face her.
“You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“I know enough.”
“As a virgin, I don’t think that’s possible.”
“You said there are things you need that aren’t sex. Could we do those things so that I can show you that I can give you what you need?”
“Possibly. Could I trust you to keep my secrets?”
“I already trust you not to tell anyone about…yesterday.” Ellie felt a heat rising in her just thinking about the way he’d touched her yesterday.
“I suppose so.” He said darkly, staring down at his hands on the piano keys.
“I would like it if you’d give me a chance to at least decide for myself.”
“I suppose so.” He said again, the darkness in his voice spreading to his eyes and his entire demeanor, making him immediately more intimidating.
He turned to Ellie and looked her directly in the eye.
“Total submission.” He said the words in a low, rasping voice. A short, brutal command.
“Yes, Sir.” She breathed, amazed by the abruptness of his transformation.
“On your feet then, pet.”
She nodded and quietly moved to stand next to the piano bench.
He swung a leg over the bench so that he was straddling it, looking directly at Ellie where she was standing, waiting for his instructions.
“Take off your dress.” He ordered. Ellie breathed in sharply and James arched an eyebrow. Did she really have the guts to go through with this?
Ellie’s pale hazel eyes found James’ gaze and held it steadily while she undid the fastenings on her demure white dress and let it fall to the floor around her feet.
A shiver ran through her voluptuous frame, both from the cold, and from James’ eyes skimming their way over every curve of her body.
Under the dress was a white silk bra with ties on the sides, a thin white silk camisole and a pair of loose white silk tap pants, though he’d gotten a peek at another pair of those before.
She was even sexier than he’d imagined, and he hadn’t even gotten all her clothes off, yet. This girl might be trouble.