Layla Palmer is starting over in New York City with a new job at Hot Shots, an agency that specializes in hiring talent for jobs with an erotic bent. Happily engaged, she writes off the changes in her relationship with her fiancé, Aidan, as growing pains. But that all comes into question when her beloved fiancé comes up with a startling suggestion: he wants to watch her have sex with another man.
Aidan's a man on the edge, fighting demons he won't name for fear of losing the woman he loves forever. But the game he's playing can only continue for so long, especially when the man they decide to invite into their bed turns out to be Layla’s newest prospective model, Sawyer Blake.
Passion explodes between them, threatening to spill over and burn them all. Soon Aidan and Layla's already incendiary relationship hits the boiling point. Now she's fighting her own battles, including the conflicted feelings of lust and love she harbors for both men. But how can she figure out who to trust when everything she ever knew is changing, including herself?
[toggle title="EXCERPT"] Curled up in her bed, she stared down at the magazine she held. She was pretty sure she’d found the one.
Layla had snagged Sawyer Blake’s résumé as soon as it had come in a few days ago, and she’d tucked it away while she did her due diligence. A list of references were all well and good, but nothing beat seeing the model on the job. Online searches were first, followed up by an exhaustive investigation into his body of work.
He had a lot of work to investigate too. By the time she’d finished, she’d become intimately acquainted with every part of Sawyer revealed by his photos, including the starfish-shaped tattoo of freckles on his upper left hip.
And what a hip it was.
As an agent trainee with Hot Shots, Brooklyn, New York’s erotic hub for talent in the tri-state area, she spent a lot of time trolling for hot men. Hot women too. Anyone she believed might crank the gears of her clients and, in turn, their viewership. Hot Shots provided talent for a variety of different jobs, everything from sensual book covers to adult movies. As a junior agent still building her list, she kept her eyes on both the e-mail inbox at Hot Shots and on the magazines and look books that crossed her desk, always searching for their next big star. Her intuition told her it would be Sawyer, assuming he didn’t bail when they asked him to strip.
He didn’t do risqué jobs. In fact, the closest he’d come to baring all were a couple of underwear-modeling shoots. Still, his photos demonstrated his potential. He had a generous mouth, the kind more prone to smile than frown. His golden hair slid into eyes that were the cerulean blue of a perfect summer sky. As for the rest of him…all hard lines, rippling muscles, and smooth, tanned skin.
They’d talked on the phone, and they’d set up an appointment to meet tomorrow. Now she couldn’t get him off her mind. His voice. His body. His cock, one of the few parts of him she’d yet to see.
Right or wrong, he was going to make her come tonight.
She set aside the magazine with its pictures of Sawyer’s sulky stare and withdrew her vibrator from her nightstand drawer.
Guiltily, she glanced over her shoulder at her sleeping fiancé. Nothing ever woke him from his peaceful slumber. Not the buzz from a sex toy nor the moans she fought to suppress.
Aidan’s dark hair waved back from a face almost as striking as Sawyer’s. Cleft chin, slashing nose, strong cheekbones. His eyes were green, his mouth rarely given to an impulsive grin as Sawyer’s seemed to be. For four years, he’d been her sunrise and sunset, her own happy ending packaged with the glittering diamond on her left hand and the words of love he never failed to offer her when they curled up in bed.
And it had been over a month since they’d had sex.
Longer if she didn’t count the furtive handjob she’d given him in the movie theater during an action-movie double feature or the night she’d sucked him off as he’d discussed an assignment with one of his college students over the phone. He’d barely even groaned while he shot his release down her throat.
If she hadn’t been so used to their extremely active sex life, maybe she wouldn’t have noticed the change since they’d left Nebraska. Maybe she wouldn’t have quietly accepted the sex toys he bought for her on an increasingly regular basis, as if he couldn’t resist visiting the shops in Times Square when he ventured into the city. Even though he rarely seemed behooved to join her when she used them.
It was his latest acquisition, a long curved dildo with a rabbit attachment, that got her off while her fiancé slept at her side.
And it was that purple dildo that had roused her from her dream of Sawyer—and his deliciously cut body—when Aidan slipped it inside her in the middle of the night.
She hadn’t been fully asleep. Aidan often commented she dozed like a cat, eyelids twitching as if she’d spring awake at any time. She’d been on her stomach, face smushed into the pillow, when he shifted beside her, pinning her down with his weight while her exhausted mind tried to decipher what was happening.
She didn’t fight him when he spread her thighs and probed her still-damp slit with the toy. Barely even flinched when he pushed inside and commanded her body. She liked it rough, always had, and right then she was content to straddle the middle ground between sleep and wakefulness if it meant she’d get another orgasm out of the deal.
Aidan’s breath heated her ear, and his stubbled jaw branded her cheek. “You made yourself come thinking about him, didn’t you?”
Reflexively, she squeezed the dildo lodged inside her. A soft whimper escaped her throat when he yanked it back.
“None of that. If you want to come again, answer me.”
Her mind replayed his question, but somehow it still didn’t seem real. Was this really happening? Had Aidan really awakened early just to taunt her about masturbating in bed, something he knew she now did fairly often?
And how did he know there was a him? How did he know about Sawyer?
“Jus’ a picture,” she mumbled, every fiber of her being centered on his arousing weight and the toy that hovered just beyond the grip of her pussy. Its cool pressure tormented her, sliding up against her flesh like the ultimate tease. If he flicked it on, she’d combust before he even got it back inside her. She was that wet, that ready.
“Aidan,” she whispered. “You know I want you. It’s been so long.” She hated the plea in her voice. Hated more that she could tell from the grind of his erection against her hip that he liked making her beg. “You know you’re the only one for me.”
“I didn’t ask that.” Even aroused, his perfect diction never suffered. She wanted to make his control splinter the way he did so easily with her, but lately she couldn’t figure out the right key to turn. “I asked if you were fantasizing about him when you pushed this inside you”—he rotated the dildo against her, so gently that she wriggled for more—“and made yourself come.”
Her cheeks heated. Who could blame her? Tired and sex-deprived equaled a little too horny. And yeah, maybe her job of selecting the hottest men willing to bare their assets didn’t help with her overactive libido. But she was marrying Aidan, and she loved him. She would never cheat. Never.
Everyone fantasized. Every woman imagined someone other than their man now and then. What was the harm? And what was the harm in admitting it?
“Yes.” She bucked her hips, and he drove the dildo inside her, one pathetic inch. A paltry consolation prize. “Yes, I was fantasizing about him.”
“What was he doing to you?”
“God, Aidan.” She pressed her face into her folded arms. “Just—”
He slapped her ass, hard enough to make her whimper again. She got off on that too. He knew her damn triggers, and now he was using them against her. “Answer me.”
“Fucking me. From behind. Like you are now, but it wasn’t a toy; it was him. His cock moving inside me, deep and hard.” She bit her arm when he gave her more of the dildo, enough to make her squirm and moan. “God, yes.”
He was breathing harder, proof positive her monologue had affected him. At least something had. “Have you seen his cock?”
“Are you going to?”
“Mi>Is he one of your clients, Layla?”
“No, not yet. I called him.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “We have a meeting tomorrow.”
“I saw you looking at him in that magazine last night too. Did you make yourself come then as well? Did you pretend it was his fingers in your pussy when you pushed them in deep?”
Tonight had been the first night she’d fantasized about anyone since she’d been engaged to Aidan. If she hadn’t been so tired, so needy, if she hadn’t spent so long looking at Sawyer’s pictures and remembering how sexy he’d sounded on the phone…
Maybe she wouldn’t have touched herself with him on her mind. But God, that voice. Anyone else wouldn’t have heard the sounds of home in it, but she did. She missed Nebraska so much. Knowing they came from the same place drew her too, as much as his innocuous blue eyes and devilish smile.
“Yes,” she murmured, moaning when Aidan slid the vibrator inside.
He’d wanted her to agree, and she wanted the toy. Something to fill her, to take away the ache that never left anymore. Most of all, she wanted Aidan.
“Do you want him in our bed? His dick inside you instead of this?” He flicked it on, and she jolted, digging her nails into the pillows. She rocked back and forth, her pussy clutching hungrily while her nipples skewered the bed beneath her. So close. She wanted to tell him to fuck her harder, to make her come, but the words weren’t there. She had no breath left. Just blinding need.
“God, yes,” she gasped, barely cognizant of what she’d agreed to until the orgasm hit her and she was left shaking in its aftermath, her body quivering and her mind in chaos.
“That’s my Lala,” Aidan said, using her nickname. His sister thought it sounded like a baby’s nonsense word, but she loved the way it rolled off his tongue. He tossed aside the toy, and it clattered onto the floor while he smoothed kisses up the line of her back. “So eager to do whatever it takes to feel good.”
She didn’t speak. Still quaking, she turned her head to look at him in the darkness. Surely it had been sex talk. Excitement goading him on, maybe, though he’d made no move to slide inside her and take some relief himself. No, she’d probably catch him in the shower rubbing one out as she had several times recently. Why that was better than being with her, she didn’t know.
Didn’t want to know.
“You weren’t serious. You can’t want another guy in our bed.”
“I asked if you wanted him. You said yes.”
“I wasn’t in my right mind.” His chuckle made her press her lips together. “You hoped I’d say yes,” she said, shocked it could be true.
They’d done a lot over the years. From mild experimentation with toys and bondage to more serious power games. From spanking to sense deprivation. He’d blazed the path in bed for them to follow, and follow she had. She trusted Aidan implicitly. But this…
Even in the semidarkness, she saw him smile as he ran his fingers lightly up and down her spine. She shuddered, and his smile grew before flicking out like someone shutting off a light. “It’s not time to get up yet.” He brushed a gentle kiss over her forehead. “Get some sleep.”
Yeah, right. As if she could. But Aidan didn’t suffer the same problem. Within moments, his breathing slowed.
She turned to face the window and rubbed her sore ass. One slap from him, and she hurt. He had amazing hands, patient sometimes, demanding and ruthless at others. Right now, she’d give anything to feel them on her skin.
When it became obvious sleep wouldn’t come, Layla crawled out of bed and went downstairs for a drink. Though she’d planned on grabbing a glass of water, she went straight to the bottle of chardonnay. She rarely drank, but tonight she needed to.
Something was wrong with her fiancé.
What, she had no clue. She’d ascribed a lot to the pressures he’d faced as a trauma surgeon, part of why she’d agreed to move to New York from Nebraska when Aidan had first broached the suggestion six months ago. It had been so easy to convince herself their life in their hometown had gotten staid, not their relationship. Never that. Besides, only their sex life was suffering. Everything else seemed fine. Mostly.
Deciding to move had been a no-brainer. As much as she’d loved their hometown of Lincoln, she didn’t love it more than Aidan. He was her best friend, the person she’d happily envisioned spending her life with. Growing old beside. Until a few months ago, she’d been certain he wanted the same thing. The change had sneaked in as insidiously as carbon monoxide, just a little at a time. She could no longer tell if she was breathing clean air or if she’d wake up in a room with sterile white walls.
Still sipping, she wandered over to the kitchen window and lifted her hand to the glass. Her diamond caught the moonlight, and her throat tightened. Why was she getting so upset? Just because Aidan hadn’t wanted to touch her as much lately didn’t mean anything other than he was tired. True, he’d once had a drive to rival any sex god’s, but classes and his students required a lot of his energy. New home, new city, new job. She was his constant, always there for him. No matter what. Maybe they were just going through growing pains as a couple.
It had been four years, after all, since they’d bonded over textured paint at a hardware store. Four years since he’d offered to stop by her new apartment to help her redo her living room. She’d ignored her concerns about inviting over a stranger and followed her gut, giving him her address before they’d even left the store.
He’d come by that night. They’d painted, then made love until dawn. He’d moved in two months later.
She curled her fingers into a fist so she could feel the press of her engagement ring. Since then, they’d lived in a romantic haze that had gradually become less of a dream and more of a reality. Aidan had had a demanding career, first as a doctor and now as a professor. She’d had her own busy career in advertising and an active social life with her lifelong friends. Coming to the East Coast had been a huge adjustment for them both. She’d wait out this rough patch, and they’d get through it stronger than before. Whatever it took to get to the other side, she’d do it.
Even if it meant indulging his wishes to bring someone else into their bed.
Aidan might want to see her have sex with another guy, but that guy couldn’t be Sawyer. Because if she signed him, there couldn’t be anything more to their association than business. She didn’t work that way. Besides, Aidan wouldn’t expect her to put her professional reputation on the line. Would he?
The subject had come up before. They hadn’t talked about it in a while, and even when they had, the conversation had stayed strictly in the fantasy realm. Or so she’d thought. She’d chalked it up to his devotion to pleasing her, in bed and out. Before these last few months, Aidan had never left her unsatisfied. In any way. He always sent flowers for anniversaries and birthdays and often called just to say that he loved her. Aidan McMurray was the kind of man other women wished they had. Now she did too, because it sure didn’t feel like he was hers anymore.
And that could very well be the problem. He might’ve found someone else.
She refused to consider that possibility, as she had every time the thought reared its insistent, mole-like head. Aidan wouldn’t do that to her. They’d been so much more than soon-to-be spouses for so long. If he was cheating, she’d know it.
Her gaze drifted across the expansive kitchen to the granite counter, offset with gleaming copper pans. Their townhouse in Park Slope wouldn’t be their forever home, but she liked it a lot. There was a good amount of space, plenty of light.
Lots of room for them to hide from each other.
Her attention dropped to the cell phone lying on the counter, and she squeezed her hand tighter. No. She wasn’t a spy, and she wasn’t about to start now. She’d never looked at Aidan’s cell, had never poked into his e-mail account. There had been no reason to.
She crossed the room before she could stop herself and picked up his phone. Keeping hold of her almost empty glass, she scrolled through his recent calls and texts, both made and received. Nothing unusual. Relief drenched her, and she let out a long breath. Thank God. Everything was as it should be.
And she’d violated Aidan’s privacy. God, what had she become?
Just before she closed the phone, she saw the message for an unread text. It had come in earlier, and she’d somehow flipped right past it. The message was from a Dr. Kilmartin.
I miss you.
She set the phone down and swallowed the sudden rush of fear. Innocuous, really. Aidan had plenty of friends back home. Of course they missed him. And why wouldn’t they text him past midnight to tell him so?
Besides, she knew Dr. Kilmartin. Both of them. Husband and wife, both physicians, both friends of Aidan. Tricia was beautiful, but Layla had never seen sparks between her and Aidan. As for Josh—
She stopped short. As for Josh what? He was Aidan’s friend. Just his friend. Aidan didn’t swing both ways. He wouldn’t touch a colleague, male or female.
But he’s not in Nebraska anymore. Josh and Tricia are no longer his colleagues.
Biting her lip, she rinsed out her glass and set it in the dishwasher. Put away the bottle of wine, closed the curtains she’d opened to let in the moonlight. And climbed the stairs to crawl in bed beside the man she loved with all her heart.
She slipped into bed and smiled at the soft “Lala,” he murmured before slipping away into dreamland again.
But the last thought she had before dropping off into an exhausted sleep wasn’t of nicknames. It was of what she’d do to keep the man she loved.
Copyright © Cari Quinn
I've read every incarnation of this story and believe me, I'm still fanning my face over it. I'll be putting my review up this weekend. (Stupid deadlines) But I wanted to make sure people knew about this book. Cari excels at angst driven tales that can sometimes make you uncomfortable. This book will push your boundaries about love and what it means. Also, it shows just how brave you need to be to take what you need even if it could cost you everything.
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