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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Dream Cast, Quotes, and Information from RICARDO

THE SANTINI BROTHERS SERIES


The Santini brothers belong to one of the most powerful mafia families on their island. This is Ricardo Santini's story, the oldest of the brothers who has lost his lover to the mafia war that is plaguing his land. Due to his grief, he unleashes his violent nature upon anyone who dares cross him, his need to punish his enemies all encompassing. But what he doesn't count on is Bianca D'Angelo walking back into his life, the only other woman he has ever loved.

Bianca had once loved Ricardo, but left him due to his violent nature. After an abusive marriage to another man, she vows off all relationships, just wanting to be left alone. But when she accidentally kills one of the most powerful men on the island, she is forced to stay with the Santini brothers for her own protection. Upon seeing Ricardo again, she attempts to deny her feelings for him, terrified of falling into another violent relationship.

But Ricardo isn't one to be denied a second time, Bianca not knowing what hit her.


The Dream Cast, Quotes, and Information
from 
RICARDO
(The Santini Brothers #1)



RICARDO SANTINI
He was six-foot-four inches of violence dressed in Armani.

The Leading Man:
Ricardo becomes the Don of his gunrunning family in this book. He's 37 years old and unmarried. Due to taking an experimental drug eight years ago for his Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), he damaged his nervous system, losing ninety percent of the feeling in his body. Because of it, he has trouble forming relationships since he can barely feel. However, Bianca changes that, the chemistry between them off the charts.


BIANCA D'ANGELO
“Tu sei un dono del cielo,” he said, telling her she was a gift from the heavens.
Ricardo speaking to Bianca.


The Leading Lady:
Bianca D'Angelo is a widower. During her marriage, she was abused by her husband. She's also had a disastrous affair, which left her scared of commitment. But when she sees Ricardo again, her first love, she finds it hard to resist him, the man a force to be reckoned with.


SALVATORE SANTINI
Rosa walked over and sat down on Salvatore’s lap, pulling his attention away from Ricardo. A large smile lit up Salvatore’s face, the love in his eyes clear. He worshiped the ground his wife walked on, the two inseparable. They’d met at the age of ten, gotten married at twenty, and were now living a happy-ever-after Ricardo knew he would never have.


Salvatore is the second oldest of the Santini siblings. There are eight brothers and two sisters He's 36 and is married to his childhood sweetheart, Rosa.
They have two young children. He is Ricardo’s right-hand man and is very loyal to him.


BRANDO SANTINI
His brother’s beauty was only on the outside, Brando’s soul an endless pit of hate.
Ricardo's thoughts on Brando.


Brando is the only golden-eyed Santini. The rest of his family have violet or blue eyes. He bears an uncanny resemblance to the D’Angelo family, in particular Jagger D’Angelo, a man famous for his beauty. Brando is a hitman and is in constant conflict with Ricardo, due to wanting to be the Don. He also has severe scarring on his back from being brutally whipped.


THE TWINS

DOMINIC
Dominic never cared about looks, saying it was the eyes that held true beauty. And Ricardo believed him after seeing his brother turn down a gorgeous model, choosing her ugly friend instead.

VINNIE (Vincenzo)
He punched the soldier in the face, then moved behind him, wrapping an arm around the man’s neck. Bianca heard the crack, shocked she’d just witnessed Vinnie kill someone before her eyes. 


The rocker twins are 29. They are singers and guitarists in a hard rock band, which has a cult following. They are single. Dominic is also a “finder”, someone who locates people who don’t want to be found. He’s also very good with electronics and is fond of tattoos and piercings. Vinnie is an explosives expert and only has tattoos, not sharing his twin’s piercing fetish.


CONCETTA SANTINI
The woman was fiercer than any man he knew, a tyrant in a dress.


Concetta is the matriarch of the Santini household. She had nine children in ten years, and will protect them any means she can, whether its unethical or not. She has a fiery temper and constantly clashes with her eldest son, who she doesn't want to be Don due to his medical condition. She's also very controlling of her other children, often bullying them into doing what she wants.


ALLESANDRO SANTINI
...a man-whore who did porn for kicks.



Although he isn't in RICARDO's book a lot, he is still worth a mention since he's a very popular character from My Masters' Nightmare (The serial that spawned The Santini Brothers' series). He will also get his own book in this series. At 27, he is the youngest of the Santini brothers. He was born prematurely and wasn’t expected to survive, but is now one of the strongest men on his island. He became famous after working as a porn star, his muscular body and sexual prowess gaining him a legion of fanatical female fans. He is also famous for his tattoos, which cover more than half of his body. His back ones were done to hide bad scars, which were inflicted upon him by kidnappers when he was fourteen. He also has multiple piercings, his Prince Albert and huge sexual appetite gaining him notoriety amongst the mafia community. He is currently working as a sex slave trainer for the D’Angelo family.
PEDRO LANDI
The convoy stopped next to Ricardo. The window of the middle vehicle wound down. The face of his enemy appeared: Pedro Landi, the man who had murdered his woman. The fat fuck pointed two fingers at Ricardo and cocked them, as though he was shooting a gun.

The Don of the biggest military might on the island. He holds a vendetta against the Donatelli and Rosso families for their part in his youngest daughters’ deaths. He is also raging a war against the Santini, who are defending the Rossos due to intermarriage.


THE BLACK VIPERS


IVY
The Black Vipers were a sisterhood of assassins and spies, mercenaries who hired out their skills for an exorbitant rate. They were also renowned for their beauty, and the one before him certainly lived up to expectations. Although she was of average height for a woman, five-seven at the most, her features and physique were anything but average. The shape of her face was chiseled to perfection, her kohl-rimmed eyes smoldering, and those lips ... they spoke of hot nights and ecstasy under the sheets. His gaze lowered down her body. She exuded raw power in every line and curve of her toned physique. Sì, she made his mouth water, but he also knew a Viper had a nasty sting, and this one looked fatal.


Ivy gets a point of view in RICARDO. She's second in command of the Vipers and often influences/manipulates the leader (her older sister) into doing what she wants, and in this case it's the Santini brothers. The Vipers were created by the Black Russian, an evil figlio di puttana. They broke away from him, losing fourteen Vipers in the battle, leaving them with only twelve. They want vengeance on the Black Russian and because of that they need an alliance as well as to pull in new members to their sisterhood. In RICARDO, Ivy is already eyeing up two new recruits to join their ranks.
Ivy has very little morals, and will do almost anything to get what she wants.

MENNA
She loved her sister with all her heart, but it didn’t mean she liked her.
Menna thinking about Ivy.


Menna is Ivy's older sister and the leader of the Black Vipers. She's cautious, whereas Ivy is all about action. She has to control her sister or Ivy would run in guns blazing and get everyone killed. And although Menna is soft on Ivy, she's also hard when it's needed.
Menna and Ivy are of Egyptian descent. Menna is pregnant with the Black Russian's baby.


KENNEDY
His head whipped around as motorbikes shot past his car, two leather-clad women riding each one.
One of them slowed down beside his window. “Hope your Santini women are hot!” the blonde at the back yelled. The driver laughed, then rammed the throttle, sending exhaust smoke billowing in their wake.


Kennedy is one of two Americans in the Black Vipers. She's blonde and angelic looking, until she smiles or opens her mouth. She's extremely cocky and is the only lesbian viper. She's in constant conflict with Ivy, the two rarely agreeing on what's best for the Vipers. She has no interest in the Santini, and is angry that Ivy is steering the Vipers towards them. She thinks the men are dangerous and it'll be a huge mistake.
Kennedy is a sniper.

DAPHNE 
but everyone calls her D
Vinnie’s gaze landed on D. The woman blew him a kiss, getting a grin in return, but instead of flirting back, he sniggered at what Dominic was doing. His twin was waggling his tongue at the Viper. The woman flicked him the finger, not looking impressed.

D is Kennedy's best friend, and is the other American. She's also Kennedy's spotter (a sniper cell) on assignments. She's the one who gives the sniper instructions on how to hit a target.
She likes bad boy rockers and has her eyes set on Vinnie Santini, which Ivy uses to her advantage.


Put RICARDO on your to-read list.
Below is the link to its Goodreads page.


Click on the book links to purchase the series that spawned The Santini Brothers

MMN Episodes 1-5                 MMN Episodes 6-10

 WARNING: Unlike RICARDO, My Masters' Nightmare is about the D'Angelo family, who are human traffickers. It has graphic non consent and dub consent scenes. It is also a soap opera serial. If this isn't for you, you should wait for RICARDO (The Santini Brothers #1).

About the Author

NATIONALITY AND CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: I'm a true blue Aucklander, born and bred in New Zealand. I tend to write about cultures I have connections to, such as Croatian and Maori. However, in My Masters' Nightmare and RICARDO, I have started writing about Italians . My husband is part Italian and I also have a degree in Italian.
SPORTS: As a teen my favorite sports were karate, badminton, and running. I also did unarmed combat and played in a touch rugby team (my gym teacher made me do the last one!) Now, I stick to coaching soccer and running. I have completed two marathons, numerous half-marathons and one 30K run.
CAREER PATH: I started off as a Graphic Designer, then went to Auckland University, where I got a BA degree in Art History and Italian Studies and a post-graduate Honors degree in Art History. I worked in the Art History field, then became a full-time artist, doing commissions. I eventually lost all of my senses and gave it up to be a poor, starving writer, smh.
FAVORITE FOODS: I'm vegetarian. I love pasta based foods, tofu, chocolate mousse, and golden queen peaches.
BAD HABITS: I'm a major procrastinator that can't seem to earn money to save myself! I'm also obsessed with writing.
STATUS: Married to my high school sweetheart (which he hates me calling him). We have two kids.




Wednesday, June 11, 2014

THE BLACK VIPERS named in RICARDO (The Santini Brothers #1):

THE BLACK VIPERS ARE A SISTERHOOD OF ASSASSINS AND SPIES
from
RICARDO (The Santini Brothers #1)

IVY

She gets a point of view in RICARDO. She's second in command of the Vipers and often influences/manipulates the leader (her older sister) into doing what she wants, and in this case it's the Santini brothers. The Vipers were created by the Black Russian, an evil figlio di puttana. They broke away from him, losing fourteen Vipers in the battle, leaving them with only twelve. They want vengeance on the Black Russian and because of that they need an alliance as well as to pull in new members to their sisterhood. In RICARDO, Ivy is already eyeing up two new recruits to join their ranks.
Ivy has very little morals, and will do almost anything to get what she wants.

MENNA

Menna is Ivy's older sister and the leader of the Black Vipers. She's cautious, whereas Ivy is all about action. She has to control her sister or Ivy would run in guns blazing and get everyone killed. And although Menna is soft on Ivy, she's also hard when it's needed.
Menna and Ivy are of Egyptian descent. Menna is pregnant with the Black Russian's baby.

FARAH
Deceased - No picture.
She is only mentioned in RICARDO. She was killed in the battle against the Black Russian, which is why Ivy is hell bent on finding an alliance so she can reap vengeance against the Black Russian. Farah was the oldest of the sisters and the previous leader.

KENNEDY

Is one of two Americans in the Black Vipers. She's blonde and angelic looking, until she smiles or opens her mouth. She's extremely cocky and is the only lesbian viper. She's in constant conflict with Ivy, the two rarely agreeing on what's best for the Vipers. She has no interest in the Santini, and is angry that Ivy is steering the Vipers towards them. She thinks the men are dangerous and it'll be a huge mistake.
Kennedy is a sniper.

DAPHNE 
but everyone calls her D

She's Kennedy's best friend, and is the other American. She's also Kennedy's spotter (a sniper cell) on assignments. She's the one who gives the sniper instructions on how to hit their target.
She likes bad boy rockers and has her eyes set on Vinnie Santini, which Ivy uses to her advantage.



Put RICARDO on your to-read list.
Below is the link to its Goodreads page.

Due to be published late July/early August. Date yet to be set.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

RICARDO's Cover Reveal Sign Up



Please sign up to have RICARDO's Cover Reveal on your blog page! Click on the link below.

OVERWHELMED FREE SAMPLE: The First 5 Chapters.


OVERWHELMED


Copyright 2014 © Marita A. Hansen

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the author, nor circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. For subsidiary rights inquiries email: marita.a.hansen@hotmail.com
All characters, names, places, and incidents in this book are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events, locales, or real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.



Overwhelmed
It was a chance meeting
That changed everything
Before only one man loved me
Now two do
One is my husband
The other a lover
I didn’t cheat
We had a threesome
But the problem was what followed
My lover wanted more than one night
My husband got angry
My lover got dirty
And I got overwhelmed





1
The sound of my husband getting out of the shower caught my attention, the loud clunk of the water being turned off, a clear warning to hide the laptop. I quickly closed it and stuffed it under the bed, then turned over, pretending I was still asleep. The bedroom door opened and closed with a bang, Tom not knowing the meaning of being quiet.
His footsteps padded around the bedroom floor, stopping in front of me. “Kelly, you awake?”
How could I not be after that entrance? I opened my eyes and looked up at him. He was standing over me, wearing only a towel, his body glistening from not being dried properly. A line of water ran down the curving Maori tattoo on his right arm, dripping onto the carpet. He had the type of body made from a construction site—powerfully built and tanned, his muscular biceps and six-pack not from a gym. He pushed a hand through his wet brown hair, the stubble from last night gone. He was delicious, but all I wanted was for him to get dressed and go to work, so I could get back to the countless messages I had to answer. There were too many to deal with, all to do with my writing. My thoughts made me feel guilty, even more so since Tom was staring down at me with need in his eyes, the proof pushing at his towel. But, I was overwhelmed with work, overwhelmed with stress, and I really didn’t need him adding to it.
Tom’s lips pulled up at the corners, giving me a cheeky smile I used to love seeing in the morning. His blue-green eyes sparkled with mischief, which meant he was going to pester me until he got sex, something I really didn’t want to deal with right now. Guilt instantly hit me. When did my career become more important than my husband?
“Kelly?” he said, waving his hand in front of me. “I know I have a big cock, but my face is up here.”
I looked up at him, not having realised I’d been staring at his towel. I hadn’t been focusing on anything, just lost in thought. He started talking, his words barely registering. I attempted to listen, but my mind kept wandering back to my work. I had two interviews to complete and send out, edits to do, and the next lot of chapters from my current book to email by tonight. Thank God my sister had given me the day off from work, because this was turning my hair grey.
“Are you listening to me?” Tom asked.
I snapped out of my damn thoughts again and rubbed my temples, feeling a headache coming on. “Sorry, I’m still half asleep.”
He frowned. “I told you not to go to bed so late. What time was it? One?”
I nodded, even though it had been three in the morning. He’d wanted me to go to bed with him last night, practically begged me for sex, but I had a deadline to meet. One of my editors needed the first chapters for my new book, something that probably would lose me money, like all the others did. But, writing was an addiction I couldn’t give up, plus the hope that I could make a living from it spurred me on. It was an overwhelming need that took over me: my thoughts—my life. I wished I had never started it, because it was a harsh career to choose, one that ate away at me. The criticism at times was nasty, leaving me wondering why I was putting myself through it all, and even more since Tom hated me spending so much time on writing. Regardless, I still couldn’t give it up.
“You can’t keep staying up so late,” Tom said. “You’re exhausting yourself.”
“I know, but I finished what I needed to do, so it’s all good.” I touched Tom’s hip, smiling up at him apologetically.
His cheeky grin returned, probably because I had touched him. All it took was a smile or a touch, and he thought I was hot for sex. He was as horny as a teenager, while I resembled a tired old grandmother walking up a steep hill.
He whipped his towel off. “Give it a kiss.”
Amused, I leaned forward and kissed his very hard cock, relieved that he wasn’t pressing the point about me going to bed late.
“Now, suck it,” he said.
I flopped back onto the bed. “You’ll be late for work.”
“I don’t care.” He climbed on top of me, making me squeal, the man not as light as he thought he was.
“You’re squashing me,” I said, trying to push him off.
He rolled to the side and whipped the covers off me. I was wearing a T-shirt and knickers, PJs not my thing. Sometimes I fell into bed fully dressed, too tired to take my clothes off.
He leaned his head forward and kissed me, not taking no for an answer. I kissed him back, allowing his tongue to enter my mouth, my man tasting of minty toothpaste. I felt a hand sneak under my shirt, tickling the underside of my breasts, his calloused fingertips adding to the pleasure. They moved over my stomach, burrowing their way into my knickers, his talented finger rubbing my clit, making me gasp into his kiss.
He pulled back. “I think I need to call in sick today, because, Mrs. Hamlin, your pussy needs a thorough seeing to.”
I breathed out, wishing he hadn’t stopped, the break making me see sense. “You can’t, we both have to go to work.”
“All I hear is blah, blah, blah.” He leaned down and nibbled my ear, still muttering, “Blah, blah, blah.” His fingers slipped back into my knickers, one of them pushing inside of me.
“Tom…” I gasped, knowing my protests were a lost cause.
His lips moved to my throat as he removed his finger from my pussy and pulled down my knickers. He flung them to the side and ran his finger in between my folds.
“So wet,” he murmured into my ear. He climbed between my legs and took a hold of his cock, penetrating me with it. All thoughts of work disappeared, my attention wholly on Tom filling my body as well as my heart.
He pushed up onto his hands. “What do you want me to do to you?” he asked, staring down at me, his pupils widening.
“A quickie,” I answered, knowing we couldn’t take long or he’d be late. Although I wished he wouldn’t ask, because I wanted to be taken, not to have to think, his words distracting me from the pleasure.
He smiled and bent down to kiss my lips, then without another word he started thrusting again. I angled my arse so he could hit me just right, wanting to come quick. My body was still exhausted from the late night, but I wasn’t willing to stop until I got my release. He thrust again, hitting my pussy perfectly. Biting my bottom lip to stop from groaning, I wrapped my legs around his waist. He lifted them over his shoulders, his expression telling me he also wanted to come quick. I looked down at his cock as it plunged in and out of my pussy, the sight entrancing.
I could hear a soft rumbling start in Tom’s chest, making me look up at his face. He looked so damned erotic with his flushed cheeks, hooded eyes, and those perfectly curved lips, parted and panting. The sight was a slap to my face, reminding me of how sexy he was—something I took for granted, everyday life grinding down my appreciation of him.
Without warning, he pulled out and flipped me onto my stomach. His cock probed below for a second, then he thrust inside of me again, making me gasp, the angle intense. He grabbed my hips and pulled me to my hands and knees, then started driving inside of me to the point of pain. But I loved it, loved everything about Tom taking me from behind.
I groaned as he picked up speed, the pressure within me building rapidly. His grip tightened on my hips, almost bruising them, but I was past caring. He slammed into me again, fulfilling my wish to come quick. I gasped, going rigid as the pressure let loose, radiating through my body. Only the sound of his balls slapping against my thighs and the waves crashing in my ears were comprehensible in my state of bliss. With my name on his lips, I felt his cock pulsating inside of me, filling me with his seed.
I waited in a dreamy state for him to finish. After a few moments, he pulled out. I turned over as he grabbed his towel, the post-orgasmic expression on his face delicious, making me want to freeze that moment, so that all the other facets of my life didn’t destroy my lust for him.
He leaned down to steal another kiss before pushing off the bed. He gave me a grumpy look, although I knew it was fake. “You evil woman,” he said. “Now I need another shower.”
“You’re the one who wanted sex.”
“Oh, you wanted what I have, so don’t give me that,” he laughed, all pretence gone. “Not that I can blame you with all this,” he said, pointing at his body.
I rolled my eyes, but still smiled, finding his cockiness adorable.
His smirk disappeared, a serious expression now in its place. “I do love you, you know, even though you drive me crazy.”
My smile dropped. “Why can’t you just say you love me without the rest?” I already knew I drove him nuts, not only with my writing, but resisting his suggestions of getting full-time work. He wanted to get a nicer house, go on holidays, and save for when we retired—as well as pay the bills without getting into further debt, our credit card a constant stress. The latter concerned me the most, but I still couldn’t give up my writing. Instead, I wanted to prove to him that I could earn from it, because if I went into a nine-to-five job he might as well send me to a loony bin and bypass the pain it would cause me. I just couldn’t sit in an office for eight hours, five days a week. My part-time job as a tax assistant was torturous enough, and if I didn’t work for my sister, I was sure I would have quit a long time ago.
Tom wrinkled his nose. “You do drive me crazy, but I still love you.” He sat down on the edge of the bed and ran his fingers over my stomach, his expression still serious. “So, is your mum still okay with looking after the kids tonight?”
Now it was my turn to wrinkle my nose. “Yeah.”
He stopped stroking my stomach. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m really nervous about tonight,” I said, his idea of going to the sex club scary.
“You do know we can leave if you don’t like it? And, we don’t have to do anything with anyone if you’re not comfortable. It’s just for you and me, something we can experience together, see if we like it.”
“I’m still not sure,” I said.
He’d suggested going to a sex club a year ago for his thirty-seventh birthday, saying it could spice up our sex life, but I’d dismissed it, the idea making me feel uneasy. I’d only been with Tom. We were high school sweethearts, our friends all saying we were living the happily-ever-after dream. Only if they knew the truth: all the stress that we went through with our daughter and our busy careers as well as our differences. If this was what they thought a happily-ever-after consisted of, I didn’t even want to know what their lives were like behind closed doors. Anyway, I had eventually relented and gone to the sex club with him, one that he’d said was supposed to be tame, and thankfully it was. Couples went off into rooms or quiet corners to kiss or have sex: nothing out in the open or in your face. We ended up playing pool with a group of people, and if it wasn’t for the porn on the large TV screen, it would’ve been like a pub. Overall, we enjoyed the night, although the second time we visited the place, it had been empty and a disappointment. Which was why Tom had suggested another club—the one he wanted to take me to tonight, this one supposedly far from tame. A few of the people we’d met at the first club had mentioned having gone there, all of them saying it was explicit.
“This isn’t just for me.” Tom frowned. “I don’t want to hold you back. I’ve experienced plenty before we met, but I’m worried you need more than me, and…” his frown deepened, “…that I’m not enough for you anymore.” He dropped his gaze, the cockiness from before now completely gone. It was as though I was looking at a different person. Tom knew I wasn’t happy. Maybe it was a mid-life crisis, I didn’t know, but the lustre in life had disappeared for me.
He looked back up. “I still think you… no, we both need something more.” He ran his hand over my stomach again. “It’s great when we’re in the moment, but outside of it, things are hard,” he breathed out. “I want that spark back, I want excitement, and Dillon said this place fired his and Julie’s relationship up.”
I scowled at the mention of his best mate and business partner. “You should stop listening to him, he’s sex-crazed.”
“No, he’s not, and he said this club was fun, and that Julie loved it too. Only couples are allowed in, and there’s absolutely no pressure to do anything you don’t want. He also said if you don’t like it you can just leave,” he repeated, his long babble again showing how much he wanted this. “And we need to do something just for us.”
It was true. I did need to do something with Tom since I often neglected him, which was mostly due to my writing. One night, that was all, one night couldn’t hurt. I refocused on Tom and nodded. “I’ll go,” I said, hoping I wasn’t going to regret my decision.





2
PAST
20 Years Earlier
I utterly … absolutely … unequivocally, hated, loathed, detested, and despised mathematics. So, guess where I was? In maths class, staring blankly at my book, all the numbers in a jumble. My sister had dyslexia, where words didn’t make sense, and right now I was dead certain I had the maths version. I really didn’t want to take maths, after all I should’ve gotten to choose my own subjects for my last year of high school, but my mother wanted me to be an accountant, and what my mum wanted, she got.
I looked wistfully out of the window at the English department, which was across a strip of concrete and an expanse of grass, the trees partially blocking my view. When I’d told my mother I wanted to be a writer, she’d retorted that it was a waste of time, and that no one ever made a living from being an author, except for a lucky few.
A group of boys walked into sight and sat down on the benches outside my classroom. I recognized a few of them. They were seniors like me, and were the type of boys my mother told me to stay away from, which I had no problem in doing, since I was totally clueless when it came to boys. Unfortunately, when I’d finally diagnosed why I never got dates, the boys had learned to stay away from me, unless they wanted to be humiliated. I never turned them down on purpose, and most of the time, I didn’t even realise I had turned them down. Once, while I was at a cafe, a guy stopped by my table and started talking, asking my friend out, so I ignored him. It wasn’t until he’d left that I realised he was asking me out, not my friend, and if my friend hadn’t hit me for it, telling me off for being rude, I still wouldn’t have known he’d been talking to me.
The boys on the other side of the window started nudging each other, being a bit rough like boys normally are. I wondered why they weren’t in class. My maths teacher, Mr. Blake, a stick thin mannequin, appeared to be wondering the same thing, since he was giving them suspicious glances. I focused on him, because he really did look quite comical trying to teach the class while keeping an eye on the boys. His eyes kept flicking between us and them as though he was watching a tennis match.
Someone tapped on the window, drawing my attention back to the boys. I jolted in my seat, taken aback by what the boy on the other side was doing. He was blowing a raspberry on the window right next to me like some ten-year-old kid, though this boy was probably seventeen or eighteen. If anything, he actually looked quite funny with his nose and mouth squished up against the glass, but I was still embarrassed that he was doing it to me. The boys surrounding him started laughing their heads off as well as a few students in my class who had also seen it.
My teacher yelled at the boy, then took off out of the classroom. As he rounded the corner of the building, the boys scattered. The one who’d done the glass raspberry blew me a kiss, then ran after his mates.
“Tom Hamlin!” Mr. Blake yelled. “Office. Now!”
Tom spun around and gave him the finger before running off again.
My friend next to me giggled. “Tom is so hot.”
I turned to her. “How do you know him?” I asked, the guy obviously new to our school.
“He’s in one of my classes. I heard he was living on some island last year.” She sighed. “Isn’t he hot?”
I rolled my eyes. My friend Phillipa didn’t know any other word to describe boys other than hot. She was totally boy mad, but unlike me, she got numerous dates. It wasn’t like she was better looking, if anything I thought I was prettier out of the two of us. I had a slim body with big breasts and long black hair, while she had curly poofed-up brown hair that made her head look too big for her tiny body. But she had loads of personality, and knew how to flirt with boys, often getting dates with really good-looking guys.
Mr. Blake re-entered the classroom, red-faced and pissed off. I turned to look out of the window again, wondering why Tom had lived on an island. My mind went to a novel I’d read about castaways. I smiled, imagining Tom wearing ripped shorts, no top, and drinking from a coconut. I wondered whether I could write a story about him.
I dropped my gaze to the empty pages in front of me, and started jotting down my ideas for the story, only stopping when the bell rang. All the students piled out of the class, Phillipa and I the last to leave, since we’d been right at the back. Plus, I wasn’t in a hurry since I had economics next, another class my mother had enrolled me in without my consent, which was why I was struggling to pass the year.
We exited the classroom and merged into the student body now clogging up the hallway. Phillipa and I made our way through the crowd. She started talking about how ‘hot’ Tom was, not allowing me to get a word in edgewise, which was precisely why we got on. I was the listener and she was the talker and, man, could she talk, so much so that it was a medical miracle she hadn’t lost her voice.
I stopped in front of my locker and opened it, pulling out my books for economics, nodding occasionally so that Phillipa knew I was listening, although all the ‘hot’ talk was starting to get on my nerves.
I stuffed most of my economics books into my bag and closed my locker, carrying the large one in my arms. I said bye to Phillipa, then turned to leave, walking smack bang into a guy. I dropped my book, barely missing my foot. Cursing silently, I bent down to pick it up, almost banging my head against the boy who’d made me drop it in the first place. I looked up to tell him he was a…
My irate thoughts instantly evaporated, my words vanishing with them, along with a few brain cells. Bright blue-green eyes stared back at me, the glint of amusement in them matching Tom Hamlin’s grin. I knew I should say something, like telling him he was an idiot, but I couldn’t utter a word. I didn’t even know him an hour ago, yet now he was going to be impossible to forget.
He picked up the book I’d left lying on the floor and pushed up. I followed his lead. He held the book out for me, but instead of taking it, I continued to stare like a deer caught in headlights, or the brilliant shine of his smile. Yeah, it was an over the top description, but he really did have perfect teeth ... and face ... and hair. Okay, his brown hair wasn’t perfect, because it was messy. Still, it just made him look even more appealing, especially since I ached to comb my fingers through his hair. He flexed his biceps, making me forget all about his hair. I’d never seen a student with arms so muscular. If anything, he looked like he’d walked off a construction site. My eyes went to the tattoo on his right bicep. He had one of those curving Maori ones, although he didn’t look Maori, except for maybe his full lips. I focused on them, wondering what they tasted like.
He laughed. “I know I’m great to look at, but are you going to take the book or stare at me all day?”
Oh God, just shoot me now! “Ah … yeah, sorry, thanks,” I said, horrified I was acting like a moron.
He held the book out further. “You’re still not taking it.” He glanced down at the cover and pulled a face. “But, then again, I wouldn’t either. Economics suck.”
I grabbed the book off him quickly, feeling my cheeks burn. I let my hair fall forward, using it to shield my face.
He brushed it aside, doubling my embarrassment. “I thought I recognised you,” he said. “You’re Kelly Botica.”
I tucked my hair behind my ear, feeling self-conscious that he’d touched it, and even more that he knew who I was. “How do you know my name?” I asked.
“I saw you running at the Eastern Zones on Saturday. You beat my sister Anna. She wouldn’t stop telling me that you only won because you’re a skinny bitch on steroids,” he said, grinning wide.
I gaped at him, not believing he’d actually said that. I now knew exactly who his sister was, someone who truly deserved the title of ‘bitch’ - the only thing she could beat me at. I’d overheard her talking to a fellow competitor once, telling them that I stole every regional title from her because I was a drug cheat, but I wasn’t. I hadn’t even smoked let alone taken drugs, and the only reason I beat her was because I was faster—plain and simple.
Tom started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” I snapped, not appreciating him mocking me.
“It’ll piss my sister off even more if she knew I thought you were the hottest chick I’d ever seen.”
I blinked at him, not expecting that reply.
He stopped laughing and leaned his face closer to mine. “But, do you want to know what will piss her off even more?”
“What?” I asked, moving my head back, the guy not knowing the meaning of ‘personal space’.
“If you go out with me.”
I pulled a face. “I’m not going out with you just so you can piss off your sister.”
“No, you’ll be going out with me, because I plan on falling in love with you.”
I grimaced. “Are you mocking me?”
He smiled, but this time it wasn’t cheeky, his eyes serious. “No. I just really want to go out with you. I noticed you in that class and couldn’t stop staring at you. My mates dared me to blow that raspberry, which I did so you would notice me. Though, I just hope you say yes, so when I’m in detention I’ll know it was worth it.”
I blinked again, thinking I must be dreaming.
“So … will you go out with me?” he asked.
I nodded, now really hoping this wasn’t a dream, because I was finally getting asked out on a date without ruining it.
His smile widened. “You won’t regret it.” He pulled out a pen from his bag and grabbed my hand. Instead of yanking it back, I watched as he wrote his number on it. Goose bumps rose at his touch. He ran a thumb over them, then let go and placed the pen’s tip to his own hand. “What’s your number?” he asked.
I rattled it off without thought, my mind still on the fact he’d touched me—and asked me out.
He finished writing then put his pen away. “Is Friday at seven alright?” he asked, refocusing on me.
I nodded, lost for words. His whole face lit up as though I’d made his day. Then before I realised what he was doing, he leaned forward and kissed my cheek, the touch of his lips freezing me, BUT most of all, sending shivers down my spine. For that one moment, there was only me and Tom in the hallway, all the other students disappearing with the touch of his lips against my skin.
He pulled back, and stared at me for a moment, his eyes roaming my face as though he was drinking in every detail. Both of us remained silent, then he raised a hand in farewell, saying, “See ya.”
I turned to watch him disappear into the mash of students, not sure what to think or whether this was all real. What had happened was better than any book I’d read, and Tom was better than all my book-boyfriends put together.
A girl walked past me, muttering, “Lucky cow.”
I smiled, knowing I was.




3
PRESENT
My mobile phone beeped. I walked to my bedroom cabinet and pulled it out of my bag, opening the message.
I’m lookin 4ward to 2night. <3 Tom.
I sighed, not feeling the same way, my nerves returning. I still couldn’t believe I’d agreed to go to the Top Hat. The only sex I’d had was with Tom, and for me to go to a place where couples thrived on exhibitionism and voyeurism … it scared the hell out of me. I really felt like texting Tom back and calling it all off, although I knew I couldn’t. I didn’t want to drown his excitement, plus he’d said we could leave if I didn’t like it.
I replied with a white lie that I was excited too. Once the text was sent, I pocketed the phone and moved to the wardrobe mirror, using my fingers to tame my long black hair.
The phone went off again, but this time it was a call. I grabbed it, noticing Tom’s number. I clicked it on and answered with a “Yeah.”
“Hi, honey,” he said. He often called me, which I used to love, but now it just interrupted my day. I hated phone calls, not because of Tom, but because I was usually busy, and worse, I hated small talk. It wasted time, which I usually didn’t have enough of. Though, right now, I was actually happy he was calling, because I needed him to reassure me that the club wasn’t going to be a bad experience.
“Are you there, Kelly?” Tom asked.
“Um, yeah. Why are you calling? You just texted.”
“I needed to hear your voice.”
Probably because he expected me to back out, my text to him not enough proof that I was as excited as he was—which I obviously wasn’t. Instead, I was scared and nervous, even more so that we were going to this place, because it made me wonder whether it was an excuse for him to be with another woman. Maybe he wasn’t happy with our sex life anymore, because I’d been far from attentive of late, my kisses only in response to his. I also wondered whether he imagined other women while we had sex. I thought about other men, not during sex, but in my breaks from writing when I wanted to see some hot guys. They were just pictures on the internet, many of them usually from online friends who sent the images through to me or put them up on the book website I frequented. I didn’t imagine having sex with these men, but I still looked. Tom looked at other women too, but again, it was just looking. We weren’t a jealous couple, and Tom often made comments about other women, such as on TV. He would say something like “I’d do her,” and I’d reply back with “Nah, she’s average.” Or I’d turn my head if a good-looking guy walked past and he’d laugh, making fun of me for doing it. Or he’d mention something about a woman having a good pair of tits and I’d laugh back. We didn’t mean anything by it, it was just joking and noting that someone was attractive, not that we would actually have sex with them.
God, I needed to stop thinking about this. The thought of going to the club was winding me up and making me second guess everything.
“Kelly, are you going to say something?” Tom said, making me realise I hadn’t answered him.
“Yeah, sorry, I got distracted. You know how it is.”
“Are you really alright about tonight?”
“Yeah, don’t worry, I still want to go.” Not!
“Cool, but you know if you’re uncomfortable in any way we can leave.”
You already said that like a million times. “I’m sure I’ll be fine. Anyway, I’ve got to go and take the kids to my mum’s.”
“Okay, see you soon,” he said.
I hung up and headed for Nicky’s room first. As usual the door was shut. I knocked on it and turned the handle, only opening it a fraction. My fifteen-year-old daughter was sitting on the floor with her back against the door, stopping me from entering.
“Open up,” I said.
She shuffled away, letting me in. It was school holidays, but instead of finding a job to earn money, she was role-playing on the internet. I didn’t mind it as much as Tom did, since it was teaching her writing skills, which was most notable in her English results. She had gotten nothing but excellences last year, even though she didn’t get along with her English teacher. My girl was rather opinionated, but passionate about what she did and didn’t like. But … and there was always a but with Nicky ... the amount of time she was spending on the internet was turning her into a recluse. She also often slept half the day away if I let her, rarely getting up the motivation to do anything, even the things she used to love.
“Time to go to Baba’s,” I said, using the Croatian term for grandmother.
She looked up at me with her computer still on her lap, though it was closed, because God help me if I ever saw what she was writing. “Can’t I stay home?” she asked.
“No.” Although she was old enough to babysit her eleven-year-old brother, I wasn’t comfortable with it after what had happened the last time. While at my tax job, I’d called home at lunchtime to see if everything was good, but no one had answered. I had continued to call every few minutes, until I finally rang my mother, asking if she could check to see what was wrong, my imagination running wild. My mother had found my son watching TV and Nicky still in bed, Remy having been too caught up in his programme to answer the phone. Since then, I hadn’t felt comfortable leaving him alone with Nicky.
“Get your stuff, we have to go now,” I said. “And leave your computer behind.”
A determined expression crossed Nicky’s face. “I won’t go without it.”
“Okay, take it, but you will have to deal with Baba’s reaction. You know she thinks you’re on the computer too much,” which Nicky was.
“I don’t care. If I have to go, I’m taking it,” she said, pushing to her feet. She was a fraction taller than me, and instead of having straight black hair like mine, hers was a wild mane of brown. She was a gorgeous looking girl, with her father’s stunning blue-green eyes, although my opinion didn’t mean squat with her, since she thought she was unattractive because of her weight.
“Fine, bring it,” I said, already having known she would refuse to leave the damn thing behind.
We headed out into the lounge, finding my eleven-year-old son glued to the TV watching The Simpsons, something he would watch excessively if I didn’t stop him.
“Time to go, Remy,” I said. “Get your shoes on.”
“It’s not finished yet,” he replied, continuing to stare at the TV.
I walked over to it and switched it off, getting a yell in response. “Shoes on now,” I snapped.
Complaining, he pushed off the couch and walked around the coffee table to the messy pile of shoes by the front door. He looked similar to his sister facially, but was much paler, with lighter brown hair and more blue-grey eyes. He slipped his feet into his favourite yellow pair of Crocs, muttering, “They’re not shoes, they’re Crocs.”
His sister called him a dumbarse as she walked through the front door. Remy took off after her, yelling so loud I was sure the next road could hear him. Sighing, I locked up and followed them to the car, the two now arguing over the front passenger seat.
I told Remy to get into the back, my son already knowing the deal that he got the front seat on the way home. After we all piled in, I backed the Alfa Romeo down the thin driveway. Tom’s expensive midlife crisis had ended up becoming my car, the repayments adding to my stress. But I could never say no to Tom when he wanted to buy something, especially since he worked so hard for the money—while I contributed very little.
I swung the car onto the road. The houses that framed it belonged to middle class suburbia, a step up from where we used to live in South Auckland. We’d bought the property a couple of years ago, wanting to get Nicky away from the bullying of her last school. Like at home, she didn’t back down which had led to a number of run-ins with other kids, especially on our old road. I had to step in a few times when the kids had gotten rough, not something we had to deal with in East Auckland.
I glanced at our home, which was nestled on a slight slope. The brick and tile cottage was one of the prettiest houses on the street, although the others were all nice too, the properties well-cared for.
Nicky changed the CD, putting on her Little Mix album as we headed up the road. Barely five minutes later, I pulled into my parents’ driveway, their large tan-coloured house overlooking a panorama of our town. The view of the Hauraki Gulf, with its glistening blue water and the twin peaks of Rangitoto Island, was stunning. My parents’ property was worth considerably more than mine and three times the size.
The kids and I headed up to the front door, walking under the balcony. A line of ceramic pots framed the pathway, a mixture of cactuses and brightly coloured flowers filling them. I used the key my mother had given me to let us in, saving her from having to answer the door.
I stepped inside. “Hi, Mum!” I called out, knowing that my dad was probably still at bowls.
“I’m upstairs,” she replied.
The kids and I took off our shoes, then headed up the L-shaped staircase to the second floor. Remy raced for the sitting room, no doubt to watch TV, while Nicky and I entered the kitchen.
My mother turned around and smiled, which disappeared as her eyes dropped to the black computer bag Nicky was holding. “Can’t you spend one night without a computer?” she said, giving Nicky a stern look of disapproval.
“I have to bring it,” Nicky replied. “If I miss any posts I could get kicked out of the group I’m in.”
My mother exhaled loudly, but instead of telling her off more, she turned to me. “What time will you be here tomorrow to pick the kids up?”
“Around twelve.”
She nodded then turned to Nicky. “Go put your computer into the back room and come help me make dinner.”
As soon as Nicky disappeared out of the kitchen, my mother turned to me, giving me the stern look she’d previously directed at Nicky. “I’m not happy with the amount of time she spends on the computer. It’s not healthy for her, she needs to get out of the house more and find a job; after all she’s almost sixteen.”
“I know,” I said, not wanting to point out that Nicky was terrified of applying for jobs. God, she wouldn’t even go up to a counter to order food, let alone ask for a job. But if I mentioned this to my mother, she would get upset, especially after all the issues she had with my sister. Even worse, Nicky was starting to do some of the same things her aunty had, her psychological problems scarily close. And there was no way I wanted my mother treating Nicky like she did with my sister, now barely tolerating Lauren. So, I hid Nicky’s problems, knowing it was just better to deal with everything myself.
Nicky re-entered the kitchen, stopping my mother from giving me further advice. I gave Nicky a kiss goodbye, then went into the sitting room to give Remy one. A few minutes later, I was back in my car and setting off to get Tom from his work.
***
After a half an hour drive, I turned into Remuera, one of the wealthiest suburbs in Auckland. A mixture of older-styled brick and wooden houses populated the landscape along with more modern buildings made up of steel, plaster, and stone, all of them worth over a million dollars.
I turned into a large property and headed down a long driveway, the trees surrounding it tall and majestic. Once the trees cleared, a large wood and brick building came into view. Scaffolding surrounded the structure with jean-clad men working on it. I pulled over to a blue and white caravan—Tom’s portable office. I got out, spotting my husband standing in front of the house’s entrance, talking to a couple of men, all of them wearing hardhats. He was no longer dressed in the suit that he’d left home in, since his meeting with the new client would’ve finished in the morning. Instead, he was bare-chested and wearing worn-out jeans, the heat no doubt the reason for his half-undressed state, the sweat on his biceps glistening under the sun. He preferred the hands-on side of the job, most of the time leaving the paperwork to his business partner while he sorted out the builders.
One of the men he was talking to looked my way. He indicated to me with his head. Tom turned, a large smile brightening up his face as he saw me.
Smiling back, I stopped in front of them, saying hello to the other two men. They excused themselves, leaving me alone with Tom.
“No hello for me?” he said, holding his arms out.
I took a step back. “A hello, but no hug.”
With a cheeky grin, he went to embrace me.
I held out a hand, stopping him from getting closer. “Don’t! You’ll get me sweaty.” Although I wasn’t dressed up yet, I still didn’t want his sweat plastered all over my shirt and wraparound skirt.
“I’m barely sweating,” he lied.
I stepped back again. “Like hell you are, and your workers are watching,” I said, growing uncomfortable with all the stares thrown our way.
Tom turned to look at the builders, who were sitting on the scaffolding. The men had stopped whatever they were doing to watch us. An employee who’d been working for Tom a number of years, yelled out, “I’d never come to work if I had a wife like yours, boss!”
“Then why are you always later than me?” Tom replied back.
“Because I’m too busy dreaming of your wife, and you were late today.”
A grin split Tom’s face. “Because I was doing more than dreaming about her.” He thrust out his groin, setting the labourers off laughing.
I smacked his arm, getting sweat on my hand. “I’m standing right here!”
He grinned at me. “What’s the use of having a gorgeous wife if I can’t brag about it?”
I wiped my hand on my skirt. “It’s embarrassing, and not to mention inappropriate. You’re their boss.”
“So?”
“You’re impossible.”
“No, sexy is a better description. Now, give your husband a hug,” he said, holding his arms out wide again.
I extended my hand and started walking backwards. “Go take a shower; I’ll meet you at the car.”
He pulled a face at me, then headed for the caravan, disappearing inside it. Ten minutes later, he emerged with wet hair and wearing a fresh pair of jeans and a button-down shirt, the top few buttons left open. He got into the front passenger seat of our car. “You got all of my stuff?” he asked, clicking on his seatbelt.
“It’s in the boot.” I’d put it in there an hour ago, making sure I didn’t forget anything.
“Everything go good with your mum?”
“Yeah.” I started the engine and turned the car around, steering it down the driveway.
Tom began talking about the meeting, telling me that he’d gotten the job to build a house in Mission Bay. He continued to talk about it as we headed into town, the thin, spiky building of the Sky Tower coming into view. It stood tall and proud amongst the central business district of Auckland, the other buildings around it a mix of brick, plaster, glass, metal, and concrete.
I pulled into the hotel’s car park and got out. Tom grabbed our bags from the boot, then went to check in at the reception. A sea of grey carpeted the floor, the place affordable, but still nice.
Tom put his bag down in front of the desk, capturing the receptionist’s attention. Giving me a frown, he leaned his head towards mine. “You sure your husband won’t find out about this?” he asked.
I cast a glance at the receptionist. “He’s teasing, he’s my husband. He always says that to embarrass me.”
The receptionist smiled as Tom feigned innocence. She had auburn hair and a dusting of freckles across a small nose, the woman probably in her early twenties. “Name, please?” she asked.
“Mr. and Mrs. Hamlin,” I answered. “We’re here for one night.”
The woman looked at her computer, then pulled out two key cards from under the desk. She held them out with a smile. “You have Room 142. I hope you have a nice stay.”
Thanking her, I took the cards, then quickly ran after Tom, who was already heading for the elevator with our bags. I caught up to him as the elevator door opened, and followed him inside. As soon as the door closed, he let go of the bags and backed me up into the wall, kissing me hard as his hands moved to my breasts.
I jerked my head to the side and hit his hands away. “Not here, they have cameras.”
“Then let’s give them a show.” He grabbed my arse and pressed his body up against mine.
The elevator stopped, sending me into a panic. “Tom!” I said, trying to get his hands off me.
He let go and stepped back as the door opened. A fifty-something couple went to enter, but stopped, the man’s eyes going to my breasts. I looked down at them, horrified that Tom had popped open a few buttons, my bra now showing. I quickly did them up as Tom grabbed our bags and slipped past the couple. I followed, moving in between the man and a stern looking woman, who stepped into the elevator. As the door closed, the woman’s hand whipped out, slapping the man across the back of the head, no doubt for looking at my breasts. Tom sniggered behind me.
I turned to him. “You’re an arsehole for doing that.”
“I didn’t realise your tits were showing, they interrupted us.”
“Then stop smirking like you think it’s funny.”
“But, it is funny.” He turned and headed down the corridor, dragging the bags along the floor, their wheels bumping over the grey carpet.
I followed, wishing he wouldn’t embarrass me in public. He didn’t care what strangers thought of him, but I did, especially when he did crap like that.
He stopped in front of Room 142 and took one of the cards off me. He opened the door and slotted it into its holder, which switched on the lights. I followed him inside. He put the bags by the foot of the bed and unzipped one, pulling out his smart trousers and button-down shirt. He laid them on the bed, then got the iron and ironing board from the cupboard. I watched him as he started ironing, something he’d gotten into the habit of doing while in the Naval Reserves.
He stopped ironing and looked up at me with a quizzical expression. “What?”
“Nothing.” I unzipped my bag and pulled out my dress along with my fancy lingerie. I slipped into the bathroom with them, hanging the dress up on the back of the door. I quickly changed into the lingerie, not so impressed with the G-string. I hated it, but Tom had bought the matching set for a special occasion. Still, I didn’t know why anyone would want to wear something that went up the crack of their arse.
I wiggled about in it to make it at least semi-comfortable, then slipped on my dress, smiling at the effect. The pink, white, and tan slip of a dress made me look slim and my breasts huge. Although it looked gorgeous, it was low cut, not something that could be worn just anywhere.
I tied the straps behind my neck, then went back into the main part of the hotel room to get my makeup bag. Tom stopped ironing and looked up, his eyes instantly going to my breasts. He put the iron down. Knowing what he was going to do, I grabbed my makeup bag and ran back into the bathroom before he could mess up my clothes.
Once my makeup was on, I left the bathroom, finding Tom dressed in the trousers and white shirt he’d been ironing. The top few buttons were left open, revealing his muscular, tanned chest. He was sitting on the bed, tying his shoelaces.
He looked up at me and whistled. “Give me a twirl,” he said.
Smiling, I twirled around, feeling as though things might just turn out alright; that this could be fun, like at the other club.
“You are gorgeous,” he said.
“You’re not so bad yourself, Mr. Hamlin.” I stopped twirling and bent down to slip on my high heels.
Tom pushed to his feet. “You ready to go?” he asked, once I’d done up the last strap.
“Yup. Just let me grab some makeup.” I went back into the bathroom and put the makeup I wanted into my bag, then headed back out. I smiled at him as he held the door open for me. I stepped out into the corridor, again thinking that maybe tonight wouldn’t be so bad.





4
PAST
I was sitting at the dinner table, barely eating my pasta, too caught up with being asked out by Tom.
“Kelly, stop playing with your food,” my mum said.
I looked up at her. She was staring at me with a quizzical expression, probably knowing something was different: maybe because I couldn’t stop smiling. Like me, she had black hair, but hers was much shorter and thicker. She also had a darker complexion, her olive-brown skin and dark-brown eyes often getting her mistaken for a Maori. But she was full Croatian, just born and bred in New Zealand.
My sister, who was fourteen, reached across the table. Lauren grabbed a piece of bread from the plate, knocking over my glass of cordial in the process. I swore as it spilled over my food. My father also cursed, his angry gaze directed at Lauren.
“You stupid idiot!” he snapped, his Croatian accent strong. “Clean it up now!”
Lauren went to get up, but I moved faster. “I’ll do it,” I said, pushing out of my chair. I strode into the kitchen, not wanting my father to ruin how happy I was. I returned to a quiet table, and quickly wiped up the mess. My father was still glaring at my sister, who had her head down, eating without snapping back. Lauren was usually the troublemaker, often yelling back at our father until he slapped her. It wasn’t like my father was a bad dad, he wasn’t, he just worked all hours of the day and when he came home he was exhausted, which didn’t help since he had a fiery temper.
I picked up my plate, definitely not interested in eating cordial soaked pasta. Anyway, I wasn’t hungry since my mind was still on Tom.
“You haven’t eaten anything,” my mother piped up.
I showed her the plate. “It’s ruined, plus I’m not really hungry.”
“Okay, put it in the disposal unit.”
As I walked off, my mum got up and followed me into the kitchen, which overlooked our neighbour’s two-storied house. The wooden farm-styled building had a gorgeous garden, which was filled with trees and brightly coloured plants.
I dumped the pasta into the food disposal unit.
“Why are you so happy?” my mother asked. “Did something happen at school today?”
I considered lying to her. No, I didn’t lie; I omitted the truth, talking about anything that wouldn’t get me in trouble. But, I was desperate to go out with Tom, and although she wanted me to have a boyfriend, I knew she wouldn’t let me go out at night with a guy, which was absurd considering I was seventeen.
So, for the second time I could remember, I lied to her. “Phillipa asked me if I wanted to go to the pictures,” I said, feeling bad about lying. “Can I go?”
“Sure,” Mum said, although she continued to stare at me, probably knowing that going out with Phillipa wouldn’t put me in such a good mood. “Anything else happen?”
“I passed my economics test,” I replied, getting a smile in return.
“See, I told you if you applied yourself you’d do well. What about your mathematics class?”
I grimaced, though instantly perked up at the memory of Tom blowing the raspberry against the window.
Mum placed a hand on my arm. “Does that smile mean everything is good with maths too?”
I nodded. “It went well today,” I said, and meaning it, just not in relation to the lesson. “Anyway, I have to call Phillipa about some homework. Can I do the dishes later?”
Mum smiled. “Don’t worry about them tonight. You go deal with homework, while I’ll share them with Lauren.”
Counting myself lucky, I grabbed the phone and went to my bedroom, closing the door behind me. The mirror on the back of it made me stop, my reflection catching my attention. I stared at my face, trying to see why Tom had called me beautiful. I was okay looking, nothing special. My nose was slightly too big, no thanks to Dad, while my eyes were hazel, although they looked brown most of the time, unless I was crying, then they turned an olive-green. Pity, because they looked prettier then, but at least my hair was nice, well, the majority of the time. It was long, black, and shiny. I also had olive skin, although my cheeks were a bit rosy right now, which was either from lying to my mum or the fact I was ecstatic over getting a date. A big grin spread across my face. Definitely getting a date! I jumped up and down, then did a little dance. I was seventeen and finally going out on a date, and with a gorgeous guy! I still couldn’t believe it, even more so that I hadn’t told anyone, not even Phillipa. I thought I’d be screaming it at her and she’d be screaming back at me, both of us ecstatic. It was probably because I was afraid she would try to double-date with us, which was a distinct possibility. And worse, she would probably flirt with Tom right in front of her boyfriend, which she’d done to another friend. She wasn’t the type to steal a boyfriend, she was just a Grade A flirt who needed to be the centre of attention. But on Friday, the only person I wanted Tom to look at was me.
I went to call Phillipa. The phone rang before I could press the digits. I answered it, hearing a male voice asking for me. I paused for a second, wondering who it was, then my stupid brain clicked on: it was Tom.
“It’s me,” I said.
“Hi.” He paused for a moment. “I know I shouldn’t be calling,” he said, making me nervous that he was going to back out of the date, “but my sister was talking about you tonight, complaining as usual. By the way, congrats on beating her at your club meet. She totally bitched about it over dinner.”
“Thanks,” I replied, still waiting for the: ‘Sorry, I can’t make it on Friday now. How about a rain check?’ then not hearing from him again, like what had happened with a boy from badminton, although it had been me who’d asked him out.
“Anyway, I told her that I’m going out with you on Friday.” He laughed. “You should have seen her face, she was so livid.”
I gripped onto the phone tighter, still wondering where this was going.
He continued, “She called me a traitor, then insisted that I get you drunk before the Saturday track meet.”
“I don’t drink.”
He laughed again. “I wouldn’t get you drunk. I want to take you to see the new Bruce Willis film. We can get a seat in the back and...” He stopped talking.
“And, what?”
He laughed louder. “I like you, you’ve got a good sense of humour,” he said, making me wonder what he was talking about. “So, what’s your address? I’ll pick you up in my car.”
“Um... can I meet you at the bus stop?”
“There’s no need to walk, I can come to your house.”
“My parents are kind of ... um ... strict. They will probably give you the third degree, so I’d prefer to avoid that.”
“Parents love me!”
I paused, not wanting him to know I probably wouldn’t be allowed to go out at night if they knew. “You can meet them the next time.”
“Does that means you want to go out with me again?”
My face dropped, not realising that the date could be a one-off. “Yeah.”
“Cool. You’re really nice to look at.”
Relieved, I smiled. “How about you pick me up at Steepleton Park at seven?”
“Sure, no problem.”
We chatted for another hour. Tom talked about the detention he got for annoying the maths teacher. I laughed as he gave me an impression of Mr. Blake’s droll voice, the man having been the one who’d held the detention. I told him more about my race against his sister, and he cracked up at the mention of his sister kicking a cone after losing to me. I smiled while talking, the conversation between us not awkward like it had been at school. It felt as though I was talking to a friend.
It felt right.
***
Friday night was finally here, and I was a bundle of nerves. Unable to keep still, I swung back and forth on one of the swings at Steepleton Park. I hadn’t eaten, because I was sure I would throw up. My stomach was all in a twist at the thought of what would happen during the date. I didn’t have a clue what to do. Would he expect a kiss? And if he did, how would I kiss him? I’d never kissed a boy on the lips before, and was afraid I’d stuff things up.
A bird flew past, landing on the seesaw across from the swings. It was a hot summer’s night, the slight breeze cooling me down a little without ruining my hair, which I had put in a half-up, half-down style. I was wearing a denim skirt that stopped above my knees and a sleeveless light pink blouse, the buttons left open to reveal a hot pink crop top underneath. It was nothing too showy that my mother would’ve looked at me twice, but still nice enough, plus if I wanted to, I could remove the blouse. I didn’t know whether Tom would like it, but I hoped so.
I opened my purse and pulled out my compact mirror, checking my makeup. A mix of black and green liner rimmed my eyes, the colours making the green part of my irises more noticeable, which was normally drowned out by the brown.
I applied another coat of black mascara, then checked my lipstick, or more accurately lip gloss, since I could never put on lipstick to save myself, always smudging the stuff. Once satisfied that I looked fine, I put the mirror away and glanced at my watch, a bit worried about the time. Tom was ten minutes late, making me wonder whether he was backing out.
A beep behind me made me jump. I looked over my shoulder, finding Tom leaning out of a red car, grinning at me. I pushed off the swing and walked over to him, Tom’s wolf-whistle causing my cheeks to heat, though it made me happy that he liked how I looked. Smiling shyly, I moved around to the passenger door and got in.
“Hi,” I said, closing the door.
He didn’t answer, just stared at me, doubling my nerves. I was in a drop-dead gorgeous guy’s car and he was looking at me as though he thought I was the most beautiful girl in the world. It shook me.
A smile curved his lips, heating the inside of his car up a couple of degrees. “I’m not usually lost for words,” he said, “but with you looking like that, my brain has gone to mush. Again, you are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.”
My face heated even more, making me doubly glad that he didn’t pick me up at home, because my father would’ve soaked me down with a hose then chased Tom off the property with a shovel, ready to knock him out and bury him.
“Thanks,” I said, the only word I could get out with Tom looking at me like that. His expression was sincere, which I didn’t get. I wasn’t beautiful; I was okay looking—nothing special. But what was special was the way he was looking at me.
He glanced down for a moment, a soft rose tint staining his cheeks. Was he blushing? His gaze moved to my lips, then back to my eyes. “I’d like to ask you one thing so I can get through this date without pushing myself onto you,” he said.
“Yes,” I breathed out.
“Normally people kiss at the end of the night, but if you want me to function and not keep staring at your lips, I would like to kiss you now, if that’s okay with you.”
I felt like my face had frozen. The fact he wanted to kiss me ... no, that a real live boy was going to kiss me left me speechless. His lips turned down, giving me the impression he thought I was rejecting him through my silence.
“You can kiss me,” I croaked out, happy as his lips curved back up again, his smile causing me to smile as well. A second later it was wiped off my face as he leaned forward, the anticipation of Tom kissing me kicking my heart rate up a thousand notches.
His hand moved to the back of my head, his touch paralysing me. He pulled me towards him and kissed me gently, his lips so soft, yet thrilling. I had imagined so many times what it would feel like to kiss a boy, but nothing compared to how Tom’s lips moulded perfectly to mine. Phillipa had said it was awkward and clumsy at first, but this was the opposite. Tom knew how to kiss and he was sucking all the air out of me, especially as his kiss grew rougher, his hold on the back of my head almost hurting. But I wouldn’t have changed it for the world, everything absolutely breathtakingly perfect.
He pulled back suddenly. He was breathing heavily, his cheeks were flushed, and those blue-green eyes of his were fixated on me. I couldn’t believe I was affecting him like this. I knew he’d have me kissing his feet eventually, but for him to be looking at me as though I was all he wanted was amazing.
A soft smile parted his lips. “I don’t think that worked.”
I frowned, wondering whether I’d totally misread him, because it sure as hell worked for me. “What do you mean?” I asked, hoping he didn’t think I was a bad kisser. Or maybe my breath stunk. But, I had brushed before I’d left home.
“I thought if I kissed you I could get through tonight without wanting to kiss you all through the movie, but now,” his eyes lowered to my lips, “all I want to do is to kiss you again and again.” His eyes lowered further to my chest. “And not to mention other things.” He chuckled softly, shaking his head. “You’re going to be the death of me, Kelly,” he said, raising his gaze, a sheepish grin taking over his face.
“Why?”
“I’m thunderstruck by you.”
“What’s thunderstruck mean?”
“Haven’t you seen The Godfather?”
I shook my head.
“Well, one of the main characters sees a girl and is thunderstruck by her.” He turned to the steering wheel and started up the engine, pulling out onto the street without another word.
“You still didn’t explain what it means.”
“It means I like you a lot,” he answered.
I smiled, although I was sure he wasn’t telling the whole truth, because his eyes were twinkling, suggesting there was more to it. Still, I got the feeling it was good thing.
“I like you too,” I said back.
“Thunderstruck,” he muttered, making me want to see The Godfather now.
***
The date was zipping by far too quickly, as though God was pressing the fast forward button on the video player, afraid that we would end up kissing again, or committing some sort of sin that would get me more than the usual Hail Marys from the priest at confession.
Tom’s hand hadn’t left my knee since the start of the movie, except for the occasional itch. I’d wanted him to kiss me again, like he’d said he would, but he just watched the film, which I could hardly concentrate on. Anyway, Bruce Willis’ movies didn’t require much concentration, the explosions happening more and more as the credits neared.
After it finished, we headed for his car. Tom nodded at some girls who waved at him, making me wonder who they were. One of them, a tall model-like girl in a painted on black dress that I wouldn’t dream of wearing, walked up to him.
“Hi, Tom,” she said, flicking her long blonde hair. “You want to come to a party?”
“No, I’m taking Kelly home.”
She smiled wide. “Perfect! You can come over after you do that.”
He exhaled loudly. “Look, I’ve tried to be nice, but you won’t get the hint. I’m not interested in going anywhere with you ever again, especially to some shit party when all I want is right here,” he said, pulling me into his arms.
The girl’s eyes flashed angrily. “Why would you choose her over me? I’m prettier than that plain bitch.”
“You’re the only bitch here!” Tom snapped, directing me past the girl.
“He’s a manwhore!” the girl hollered. “As soon as he fucks you, he’ll be gone.”
Tom’s hand squeezed my arm, almost hurting it. I walked with him past a row of shops, not knowing what to think. Earlier in the day, I’d caved in and told Phillipa about going out with Tom, begging her not to tell my mother. And she’d said the same thing as that bitch: Tom was a manwhore. She had heard from some girls that, even though he’d only been at our school for a short time, he’d been fucking his way through the female population at an abnormal rate. I’d chosen to ignore her, because I really didn’t want it to be true, especially since I now had the biggest crush on him.
He let go of me as we neared his car. He unlocked it and got in, firing up the engine while I slipped into the passenger seat. As I clicked on my seatbelt, he turned the ignition off and placed his arms on the steering wheel, resting his forehead on them.
“You alright?” I asked.
He shook his head.
“Ignore that girl, she was just being jealous.”
He glanced to the side, looking at me with a surprised expression. “Really?”
“Of course.”
He continued to look at me, still appearing surprised by my words.
I shifted about in my seat. “What?”
“No one gives me half a chance. Everyone always believes the rumours about me.”
“I don’t know much about you,” I said, not wanting to mention what Phillipa had found out.
“Jessika just told you I was a manwhore.”
“She was being nasty. Is she your ex-girlfriend?”
“Not really. I went out with her once. She jumped me, and we had...” he grimaced, “...you know what.”
“No, what?”
His eyebrows pulled together. “Is this an act?”
“What act?”
“Your innocence.”
I frowned. “Are you insulting me?”
His face dropped. “No, no, I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just you’re really sweet and I haven’t met anyone like you. All the girls I know are basically dropping their knickers before I say hello.”
I burst out laughing. “Seriously?”
A small smile pulled at his lips, although his eyes still appeared upset. “Unfortunately. Apparently, I’m the new neighbourhood stud, or if you listen to Jessika’s friends: manwhore, but ignore those bitc... I mean girls, because I haven’t slept with half of them.”
I stopped laughing. “Which means you’ve slept with the other half.”
He bit his bottom lip. “I better shut up before you run screaming from my car.” He dropped his gaze, the shyness again not something I’d expected from him. “I like you a lot.” He looked back up. “I don’t want to ruin things with you. Let’s just take things as they come and see where it leads us.”
“I’d like that,” I said, smiling at him.
He smiled back, the worry in his eyes now gone. “You’re so nice.”
I shifted about in my seat at the compliment. “You are too.”
His smile widened into a grin. “Thunderstruck.”
“I really need to see that movie.”
“No, don’t.”
“Why?”
“Because you’ll think I’m a total sap.”
“You’re not a sap.”
“I am when I’m with you.” He leaned forward and kissed me.
I kissed him back, thinking if he was a sap, then I was a bigger one, because right now, I didn’t think anything could ever put me off him.




5
PRESENT
We stopped outside the iron gate of the sex club. Tom pressed the button on the intercom. I slipped my heels back on as we waited for an answer. The walk here had been a bit too long to do in high heels, so I had walked in bare feet. Tom pressed the button again, appearing impatient, or perhaps he was cold, because he was moving about on the toes of his feet.
“Maybe they don’t like the look of me,” Tom said, staring at the small screen on the gate.
I wondered whether they were eyeing us up, judging if we were good enough to get into their club. “I doubt it, you look gorgeous,” I said, focusing on him. He really did look nice tonight. He rarely dressed up, unless it was in his officer’s uniform, something he wore when he went to the Naval Reserves every Wednesday night. So, it was a change to see him actually making an effort, and although his tattoo was partially visible through his white shirt, it didn’t detract from what he was wearing. If anything it made him appear even sexier, giving me a tantalising glimpse of what was underneath his clothes.
He grinned at me. “You look gorgeous too.”
Smiling at the compliment, my eyes went to the two-storey brick building twenty or so metres behind the fence. At one stage it was probably someone’s home, but now it was surrounded by businesses, a pocket of hedonism lost in a landscape of drudgery.
The gate finally opened, again making me wonder whether they let people in based on their appearance. As we headed for the front door, my gaze swept a few of the cars parked along the far fence. A Ferrari, a BMW, and an Audi sat side by side, giving me the impression that this was an upmarket club. Well, the price sure reflected it, because Tom had said the door fee cost one-hundred and twenty dollars per couple.
Tom pressed the buzzer next to the front door. A few seconds later, the door pulled open, the tall man appearing before us taking me by surprise. Not who he was, but what he was wearing, which wasn’t much. He had on a black top hat, matching the name of the club, as well as leather underwear and boots.
And nothing else.
He smiled at us, his expression genuinely friendly. “Nice to meet you,” he said, sounding Dutch. “Please come in.” He stepped aside for us to enter.
Tom placed his hand on the small of my back, directing me inside.
“Have you been here before?” the man asked.
“No,” I said, keeping my eyes on his face.
“Well, it costs a hundred and twenty dollars per couple.”
I opened my purse and pulled out the money, handing it over to him. He took it and put it into a till, then refocused on us. “May I ask your names?”
“I’m Kelly and this is Tom,” I said, indicating to my husband.
“Well, I’m Fritz and I’ll give you a tour of the Top Hat. Please follow me.”
He pushed through a red curtain, the man again making my eyes pop. He wasn’t wearing underwear; it was a G-string, his arse almost as bare as the day he was born. Tom glanced at me with a smirk on his face, probably noticing where my eyes had travelled to.
We followed Fritz into a normal enough looking bar. European techno music was playing, luckily not too loud, because I really wasn’t a fan. There was a room on our left and a bar with a woman serving a drink to a patron. She had short brown hair and was wearing a half-cup bra, which didn’t cover much. I couldn’t see her lower-half since the bar was hiding it, but unlike the lanky man, she was matronly looking, despite her half-undressed state.
Fritz indicated to her. “This is my wife Anja.”
She smiled at us. Like her husband, she was probably in her early fifties. “It’s very nice to meet you,” she said with a similar Dutch accent. “Please allow me to put your belongings in a locker.”
Taking out some money for drinks, I handed over my bag while Tom gave her his jacket. She put them away, then asked us whether we wanted a drink.
“I’ll give them a tour first,” Fritz said.
My eyes went to the long seat by the wall. A couple in their thirties were sitting there, holding wine glasses and talking. Unlike the hosts, they were fully clothed, looking like they were in a normal bar, contrary to their surroundings.
On our right was a fireplace, which didn’t appear to be functional, the seats in front of it proof enough. It had intricate dragon patterns surrounding it in dark red and rich wood tones. A few feet from it was a large birdcage with a pole in the middle of it, giving me the impression that the only birds that went in there were of the human variety.
“Please follow me,” Fritz said.
We walked across the floor, passing the birdcage. Fritz stopped in front of a door next to the entrance. “This is the smoking room. Do either of you smoke?”
We shook our heads.
“Then let’s continue.”
We followed him up a few steps. He stopped next to a wide U-shaped couch, which curved around a tent-like room, the one we’d been told about at the other club. It had holes in it and stretched from floor to ceiling. He pointed to a shelf behind me, which held a stack of towels, wipes, and a container of condoms. “This is all for your use. Once finished, please dispose of them appropriately,” he said, indicating to a basket. He then turned to the tent-like room with a smile. Despite his attire, his friendly tone relaxed me a little. Plus, there was no one having sex on the couches like I had imagined there would be, the couple kissing there keeping it PG.
Fritz held the curtain open for us to enter the room. Tom and I stepped inside, followed by Fritz. He indicated to the holes in the curtain. “If you enter this room, be aware that people will peer through the holes or put their hands through to touch you. So, by entering here, you will be giving them permission. But if you don’t like what is happening, you should instantly leave the enclosure.”
Tom slipped out of the room, surprising me. He’d appeared keen when we’d been told about it at the other club, stating that he was definitely going to give it a try. Fritz continued to talk, telling me that the room wasn’t for everybody, obviously thinking Tom didn’t approve of it. A second later, a hand slapped my arse, causing me to let out a startled yelp. I spun around, catching the offending hand disappearing through one of the holes. Tom’s snigger followed, giving him away.
“Looks like your husband’s a toucher,” Fritz said, appearing amused.
“He certainly is.” I left the room, finding my grinning husband on the other side.
Fritz moved around me, indicating to a small staircase leading to a dark passage. “Let’s continue with the tour.”
We followed him down the steps, stopping as he pointed to a wall, which contained leather constraints. “If you’re interested, you can tie up your wife or husband here and have some fun with them,” he said with a smile. He took a few steps past us and indicated to a swing-like contraption on our right. “Would you like to have a try?” he asked, looking at me.
I shook my head.
“Oh, come on, Kelly,” Tom said. “Just give it a go.”
I sat down, the angle I was forced into no doubt giving the men a flash of my G-string. I placed a hand on the skirt of my dress, unable to stop the blush from heating my cheeks.
Fritz pointed to straps on the side of the rope. “This is where you can put your feet up, tying you in. Would you like to try it?”
“No, thank you,” I said, holding a hand out for Tom to take, keen to get off quickly.
Tom helped me out as Fritz indicated to a cushioned table by the wall. “You can make love here too,” he said, then headed past us.
Tom wriggled his eyebrows at me. “I’m definitely getting you back in that swing.”
“In your dreams,” I replied, following him and Fritz into another room.
Fritz indicated to some toilets and a shower, which all had doors. “This is a unisex bathroom. After you use the shower, please put the towels in the basket and make sure the water on the floor is wiped up, so no one slips.”
Nodding, Tom and I followed Fritz out of the room. We headed back up the tiny staircase. My eyes flicked to the couple, who’d been kissing on the couch earlier. They were doing more than kissing now, going from PG to R18 within minutes. Naked and moaning, the woman was writhing underneath the man, telling him to fuck her harder. He picked up speed, his bare arse clenching every time he thrust inside of her, his muscular body a sight to behold. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing, the display before me leaving my mouth hanging open and my face blazing.
Looking amused, Tom flicked me a grin, then headed down the other staircase with Fritz. I quickly raced after them as they cut through the main room and entered a smaller one on the other side of the front door. A large television was on the wall with a porno playing on it, the actress groaning loud.
Fritz pointed to more towels and condoms, as well as a round bed on our right, then his gaze zeroed in on me. “We have a rule here. If you say no, it means no. If someone becomes pushy or tries to take liberties without permission they will be made to leave. We want our patrons to feel that they are safe.”
Comforted by his words, I nodded in approval, giving the man a smile.
He smiled back. “I’ll leave you to it now. Have fun.” He turned and left the room.
We followed him out, heading for the bar. Tom asked for a rum and coke, while I got a lemon, lime, and bitters. After paying, we sat down next to the same couple who’d been sitting there prior to our tour. They were nursing their drinks and talking.
A bell went off. Fritz’s wife moved to a monitor, looking at the black and white image of people on the screen. They were standing by the fence where we had been. She pressed a buzzer, then went back to the bar as the man next to us got up to order another drink. Fritz disappeared through the red curtain, probably going to welcome the people arriving.
Tom turned to me. “What do you think of the place?”
“It’s not bad,” I replied, and meaning it. Despite the couple in the other room, it wasn’t as shocking as I had thought it would be. Plus, they hadn’t been out in the open, only off in a corner.
“I want you back on that swing,” Tom said. “Butt naked.”
I smiled. “Not happening.”
He grumbled, “Spoilsport,” although it sounded half-hearted, more jokingly. “What about the curtain area?”
“Maybe later,” I said, taking a sip of my drink as a couple in their late forties entered with Fritz. The man was wearing leather pants and a black button-down shirt. He was slim and good-looking, his wife not as much. She was wearing a short black dress and had her long brown hair poofed up, reminding me of my high school friend Phillipa. They headed to the bar, talking amicably with Fritz’s wife, who appeared to know them well.
The bell went off again. Fritz’s wife excused herself from the couple and let in more people. Minutes later they appeared through the curtain. The first couple were ordinary looking and overweight, while the second pair were drop-dead gorgeous. The blonde model-like woman appeared to be in her late twenties while the man was much older, probably in his mid-forties, although he was more than a match for her. His chiselled face and sultry looks resembled the male models women talked about on Facebook and Goodreads. He had a few grey streaks in his black hair, giving him both a distinguished and sexy air at the same time. He also had stunning pale eyes, the lighting making it hard to tell whether they were green or hazel. His gaze moved to me. He smiled, his expression telling me he knew I had been staring at him. His eyes lowered down my body, stripping me bare with just one look.
A feeling of foreboding told me to look away, but I couldn’t, the man too entrancing. He slowly licked his lips, the gesture an invitation to kiss them, something I wished I could do. The thought shocked me, kick starting my conscience. I forced my gaze to Tom. He was talking to the man next to him, totally unaware of what had just happened.
I glanced down at my wedding ring, mentally cursing myself for even looking at the man. Appreciating someone’s looks was fine, but he made me feel guilty and dirty. Not in the sense that he was sleazy, no, he was far from that. Instead, he made me feel dirty like a cheat.
I cleared my throat, wishing I could clear my head as well, getting rid of all those strange feelings of guilt. I took a sip of my drink, willing myself not to look back at the man, because he was definitely trouble.
Laughter came from the bar, drawing my attention to it. The couple in their late forties picked up their drinks and walked over to where I was sitting, saying hello to the thirty-something couple on my left.
The woman’s attention moved to me, her gaze appreciative. “I love your dress,” she said, her accent Australian. “Where did you buy it?”
I sat up, happy that someone was talking to me, because Tom was now jabbering nonstop about his construction business to the man next to him. “The Gold Coast,” I replied, relieved by the diversion from David Gandy’s older, better-looking brother. I smiled at my description of him, because who was better looking than David Gandy?
The woman smiled back, probably thinking I was smiling because of her. “Well, your dress is gorgeous. I wish I had your figure,” she said, although I didn’t know why, because she was slim, just not as top heavy as I was. Maybe she was meaning that, because the dress did accentuate my double-Ds.
“By the way, I’m Fiona and this is Damian,” she added, indicating to the man beside her, the one dressed in leather pants.
He turned to me and held out a hand. Up close he was even more attractive, with dark blond hair and chocolate brown eyes. I wondered why he was with Fiona, because they looked like a mismatched pair. “Nice to meet you,” he said, his eyes flicking to my breasts. I shook his hand. Tom stopped talking to the man next to him and focused on Leather Pants, who instantly reached across me to shake Tom’s hand. “Gidday, I’m Damian. What’s your name?” he asked, seemingly not interested in me anymore.
Tom shook his hand, giving Damian his name. The man moved past me and started talking to Tom. He was distinctly masculine, but his walk was a touch effeminate, giving me the impression of an aging rock star.
Fiona frowned. “Looks like he won’t be dancing with me anytime soon. Would you be a sweetheart and join me instead? I don’t want to make a fool of myself dancing alone.”
“Sure,” I said, getting to my feet. My eyes went to Gandy’s brother again, making me wish I knew his name. He was leaning against the bar, openly staring at me. He lifted his glass, a ghost of a smile playing across his lips. Feeling embarrassed, I gave him a half-hearted smile, then refocused on Fiona, who had started to dance.
Fiona’s eyes lowered to my chest. “You have great tits.”
“Thank you,” I replied, not knowing what else to say, her compliment embarrassing me.
“I’m jealous.” She touched her own. “I’m not exactly endowed up here, but if I was, I’d definitely be flaunting them.”
I nodded politely.
People laughed behind us, drawing my attention to them. It was a couple standing to the side of the man who was staring at me. I wished he would stop, because he was far too sexy for my conscience to handle. Once more, I forced myself to look away.
Fiona clicked her tongue. “You lucky thing. I’d love for Eric to look at me like that. He may fuck every woman in this room, but he never looks at them with true desire.” Her gaze flicked past me. “He’s still staring. By the way, I’m hoping to have some fun with him tonight, so don’t hog him.”
My face heated. “I’m not going to do anything with him.”
Her gaze shot back to me. “You’re going to turn him down?” she said, appearing shocked.
“I’m married.”
“So am I, but this is a sex club, where you can fuck whoever you want without cheating.”
“I’m not sure about that.”
“Is this your first time here?”
“Yes, though I went to another club with my husband, but we didn’t really do anything there.”
“Tatum’s Place?”
“Yes.”
“That’s because it’s boring with no hot guys to fuck. The gorgeous, wealthy guys all come here, not to that dump.”
“It was alright, I had fun.”
“No doubt playing pool. Well, you’re in for an eyeful tonight. This is a real sex club, not that dead-end other one.” She nodded at Eric. “You want me to introduce you to him?”
I shook my head.
Her eyes flicked to Tom. “Well, I guess your husband would be enough for me too: very sexy. If you’re interested in group sex, you two won’t have any problems hooking up here. Or if you’re into swapping, I’m sure you’ll get plenty of interested couples.” She winked at me. “I know I am. Would you like to do a swap? Damian’s fun in bed.”
“No, we’re just experiencing tonight,” I said, my nerves returning in a second.
“Well, when you’re ready to move to the next stage, keep us in mind.”
I nodded out of politeness.
Her attention moved to her husband. The man was doing a funny shimmer in front of Tom and a woman who had sidled up to them. Fiona shook her head. “My man really can’t dance, but he still looks great in those leathers.” Her gaze shifted to Tom. “Yours would too. Is that a tattoo under his shirt?”
“Yes,” I said, surprised by Tom’s expression. He was looking at me hungrily, with an intensity I hadn’t seen in years. It was almost as though he’d noticed me looking at Eric and was competing with him. Or maybe it was just a trick of the light, or more likely my imagination, which was running wild right now.
I excused myself from Fiona and went to sit next to him.
Tom smiled at me. “You alright?”
I nodded, then froze as Eric walked over to us.
He stopped next to Fiona’s husband and placed an arm around his shoulders. “Hello, Damian,” he said, sounding British. It had a touch of posh in there, but was deep and sexy as hell.
Derek stopped his funny shimmer and gave Eric a hug. “I haven’t seen you here for a few weeks, been busy?”
“Yes, I had some authors taking up way too much of my time.” His gaze flicked to me, his mention of authors making me wonder whether it was a coincidence or if he knew who I was. But he couldn’t. I was self-published, with most of my small fan base outside of New Zealand. My books weren’t even in the shops here, which irritated me to no end, considering a lot of my novels were about New Zealand. Though, it was mostly my fault, since I was too shy to approach the booksellers.
Eric’s gaze moved to Tom, who was staring at him with an expressionless look. He held out his hand. “I’m Eric Firth. And you are?”
“Tom Hamlin,” my husband replied, shaking his hand. I could imagine Tom criticising Eric’s posh accent in his head, calling him a wanker. I almost smiled at the thought.
Eric’s gaze moved to me. “And what is your name?”
“Kelly Hamlin. I’m Tom’s wife.”
He smiled, displaying a set of perfect pearly whites. I was finding him more attractive by the second, the man heating me up far too fast. Yet again, guilt flowed through me, my thoughts causing me to feel as though I was betraying Tom.
“I haven’t seen you here before,” Eric said, flicking his gaze to Tom. Up close, I could see his eyes more clearly. They were a pale green with a hint of gold. He refocused on me, entrapping me with his stare. I wanted to look away, even more so with Tom sitting right next to me, but I couldn’t, the man far too enthralling.
Eric broke the stare. His attention moved to the main floor, where Damian was now lewdly dancing with his wife. Eric laughed, his whole face lighting up in amusement.
I picked up my drink, relieved that he wasn’t looking at me anymore. I almost wished I had a stiff drink, something that could knock the embarrassment out of me. Though, I wasn’t much of a drinker, alcohol not really to my taste, plus some red wines made me feel sick, my allergy to tannin a nuisance.
A woman walked up to Eric. He turned to her, his tall frame facing away from me.
Tom placed his hand on my back. “Do you want to go to another part of the club?” he asked, the techno music soft enough for me to hear him clearly.
Nodding, I rose to my feet, focusing fully on Tom. He took my glass and placed it on the bar, then directed me past Eric. I kept my eyes straight ahead, refusing to allow the man to affect me anymore. I was here for my husband, not some British man I didn’t even know.


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