Binding Her Heart (in Wedding Favors anthology)
Mouse over the cover to see
the hero, Shay Ducheyne
Binding Her Heart
in: Wedding Favors anthology
Sultry days, sinful nights and a magic fountain… What
more could a nice-turned-naughty bridesmaid wish for…?
For Tessa Kittredge, standing up at her good friend’s New Orleans society wedding is the last thing she wants to do. Love? She long ago stopped believing in that myth. But a very special bachelorette party, a golden mask, and a carelessly tossed coin all bespell Tessa into fulfilling her deepest fantasies… with a dark and powerfully sensual stranger.
Treves “Shay” Ducheyne is a Louisiana aristocrat with a problem. None of the prissy women in his social circle like the kind of sex he enjoys most—edgy, gritty and controlling. But when he secretly watches a beautiful innocent cast a coin into the cursed Jaillissement de Plaisir fountain, his predatory instincts awaken. She has no idea she’s playing with fire—New Orleans style.
But as easily as Shay commands Tessa’s body, it is a far more difficult task to win her trust…and her heart. It will take all his considerable prowess…and a much stronger force than rope…to tie her to him forever…
The bond of love.
June, present day
New Orleans, Louisiana
“This is a brothel?”
Tessa Kittredge could not believe she’d let her friend Laura talk her into this . . . this . . . insane idea.
A bachelorette party at a brothel.
“I keep telling you. It’s not a brothel, it’s a private sex club. Here in the Quarter it’s known as a maison.” Laura—the bride—corrected her choice of nomenclature with a mischievous wink. “Not brothel. Maison.”
Oh, excuse me. Maison. Like there was a difference?
Seriously. Not only was the party to be held at this house of ill repute—however upscale—but the bride had actually arranged for her bridesmaids to become part of the evening’s activities—as merchandise!
Oh. My. God.
“Let’s see. The guy at the door took my bank information not just to pay for drinks, but to receive payment for my sexual favors. What part of that isn’t a brothel?” If Tessa weren’t so appalled, she’d have to admit there was a certain cosmic humor to the situation. After all, what was marriage but an elaborate, lifelong contract for sex? Well. At least until one of the partners got tired of the other.
Not that she was cynical or anything.
“Possible sexual favors,” Laura corrected again. “Just one option on the menu.”
“How do they even get around the law? Last I heard, prostitution was illegal.”
“This is a private club, members only, where sexual fantasies are fulfi lled. All completely legal. Being paid for sex is just one of the many scenarios you can choose. Though seriously, when was the last time you made a thousand bucks for a few hours’ work? Well . . . pleasure.”
“Of course, it’s not called that on the invoice. The rooms here are called pleasure chambers, which is technically what the patron pays for, and your remuneration is a consultant’s fee.”
“Consultant, eh.” Tessa tugged at the short skirt of the slinky blue strapless dress Laura had provided for her to wear and glanced nervously around the main floor of the maison, Chez Duchesne. Once you got through the strict security check, the bar and reception area appeared completely normal, like those of any other luxurious boutique hotel. Except for the part where some of the guests were walking around wearing nothing but sexy underwear—and some not even that much. Along with the golden masks most of the women and some of the men wore to hide their identities.
Which meant they were available. Available.
For purchase. Or any number of other sexual diversions.
Oh. My. God.
Tessa had been stunned when the other two bridesmaids donned their masks with alacrity and disappeared within seconds of the guard letting them inside.
“This is crazy. Even for you,” Tessa murmured to Laura.
Her friend looped arms with her and urged her farther into the sumptuously appointed room. Music pulsed in the background, punctuated by bursts of coy laughter and the tinkle of crystal glasses. The exotic scent of jasmine filled the air. “Darling, every woman fantasizes about being a whore at one time or another,” Laura said. “Don’t tell me you never have, because I know better.”
“Fantasies are one thing,” Tessa pointed out, her cheeks warming at the candid insight. She had to remember that Laura knew her better than anyone else did. Being college roommates first time away from a repressive home tended to bring out one’s most well-kept secrets. “Even schoolgirl fantasies. That doesn’t mean I’d actually do it in real life. Especially now that I know better.”
Laura smiled meaningfully. “Tell me, how many one-night stands have you had in the past ten years?”
There was no use prevaricating. “One or two,” Tessa grudgingly admitted. “But that was different.”
“True. Play your cards right, and tonight you’ll walk away with a nice fat paycheck instead of shattered illusions.”
A thousand dollars for an hour, fi ve grand for the night—which was only half the full charge. Outrageous what men were willing to pay for no strings. Not that she was terribly surprised. Bitter? Hell, not her. It was actually better this way. More honest. In theory, she had no problem with the arrangement. Just not for her.
“I don’t need the money,” she said fi rmly. She had a great job as a landscape architect. Admittedly, not for a thousand dollars an hour.
“After that last nasty breakup, you could use a little fun,” Laura pointed out, steering her toward the bar. “A night of unreserved sexual fantasy. Trust me, it’ll be amazing.”
Easy for her to say. Laura had always been the impetuous, spontaneous, wild-child friend. The one that careful, orderly, good-girl Tessa had always envied just a little. Okay, a lot. But she had already spotted the groom among the guests, so she knew very well what fantasy they were playing at tonight, and it wasn’t sex for money. She, however, had no one waiting in the wings to make the scenario less . . . alarming. Not here. Not back home. Hell, not ever again, if she had anything to say
“You know I’m not into sex with strangers,” she said over the pulsing throb of the music. “I’m not eighteen and naïve anymore. Besides, I’m done with men for a while.” She was tired of being unfulfilled and then bearing the blame for being too hard to please. Could she help it if the guys she’d met sucked at turning her on?
The men around them were glancing over now, openly interested. The heat in Tessa’s cheeks intensified. It made her feel . . . exposed. On display. And surprisingly, a little excited. She couldn’t deny the fantasy of selling oneself to a stranger was a powerful one. Heck, doing anything sexual with a complete stranger was, for that matter.
“You don’t have to sell yourself,” Laura assured her, her eyes flirting openly with one of the lookers. “Not unless you want to. Hell, you could even pay one of these guys to please you. No rules, Tessa. No requirements, other than to have a good time.”
Yeah, they’d already been through all of this. Outside, in that eerie, overgrown courtyard next door, where she, Laura, and the other two bridesmaids had stopped to make a wish at an unnervingly evocative voodoo fountain. The fountain, called the Jaillissement de Plaisir—a more than suggestive name, if her high school French served her—was supposed to bring immense sexual pleasure and everlasting love to all who made an offering to it. After giggling through their wishes and tossing their coins—which Tessa had palmed rather than let fly into the water—they’d sat down on the crumbling fountain wall and Laura had revealed the shocking details of the bachelorette party.
But to be honest, Tessa hadn’t been able to concentrate on the explanation. Chills kept running up and down her spine. That deserted courtyard had seemed so strangely, spookily familiar. Like she’d been there before. And the three half-nude muses holding up the fountain all seemed to be dancing just for her, gazing at her with alluring eyes, beckoning her to join them in their wantonness. Not to mention the unnerving feeling that someone had been watching her the whole time. Someone male
and hidden from view, with a powerful aura she could almost taste in the sultry night air.
All day she’d been feeling restless, like she was waiting for something to happen. Something that would change her life forever.
Could this be it?
“Come on,” Laura said, leading her deeper into the decadence. “Let yourself go. If you don’t want to have sex with anyone, don’t. Just indulge yourself and enjoy the possibilities. You decide how far things go.”
“I don’t know if I can do this,” Tessa murmured, torn between the temptation of the fantasy and fear of the reality.
Laura handed her a golden mask. “Of course you can. Darling, for one night, give yourself permission to become whomever you want, to do whatever you wish.” She smiled mysteriously. “Who knows what erotic, sensual spell the Jaillissement de Plaisir has already cast upon you? You might just find you like it.”