Here's a sneak peek of an excerpt:
Mia felt like she was in a fairytale as she was ushered up the wide, curving staircase by Prince Charming himself. It crossed her mind to wonder if the guy was hitting on her—using the excuse that the carriage house wasn’t ready so he could get her into his bed. She dismissed the idea before it even had time to fully form. No way would a guy like Ellis Hughes ever be interested in a girl like her. He probably had dozens of model and movie star girl friends with perfect bodies draped in designer clothes all lined up and desperate to be with him. He would never notice a girl like Mia outside of an office setting.
Which is fine, she told herself firmly. Never mix business with pleasure.
At the top of the stairs was a wide expanse of gleaming hardwood beneath a shimmering crystal chandelier. There were four closed doors set in a semicircle around the landing. Stepping in front of her, Ellis led Mia to one of them and pushed the door open. Turning, he gestured for her to enter.
“Oh,” Mia murmured in awe as she took in the room, really more of a suite. In an L-shape, it contained a large four-poster bed and an armoire on one side across from a huge walk-in closet, and a set of chairs and a sofa grouped around a stone fireplace with a marble mantle on the other. There were thick, brightly colored rugs scattered over the floor and tasteful abstract paintings hung on the walls between the floor-to-ceiling windows.
“Does it suit you?” Ellis had moved behind her, so close she could feel the warmth of his body against her back. Startled by his closeness, she stepped away involuntarily but was stopped by his hands suddenly closing over her upper arms.
“Excuse me,” she said reflexively, trying to pull away. She was confused. Had her earlier fleeting assessment been correct? Was he trying to hit on her? Did she tell him to cut it out, or just go with the flow? She needed this job, damn it. She’d staked everything on it. She didn’t want to alienate the guy, but what the hell did he think he was doing?
His grip tightened and Mia felt the first spurt of real fear rush through her bloodstream. Her heart began to pound. “Ellis. You’re hurting me.”
“Am I? Do forgive me.”
He let her go with one hand, but kept a tight hold on her with the other. She tried to twist back to see what he was doing. He was reaching for something in his pocket. She saw the glint of metal but before she could react, he grabbed both her wrists, jerking them roughly behind her back.
“Hey! Stop it! Let go! You’re hurting me!” A wave of panic crashed over Mia, leaving her gasping and breathless. She felt cold metal closing over her wrists with a click. She jerked hard against the cuffs, but this only resulted in them tightening painfully and cutting into her skin.
Her hands cuffed behind her, Ellis propelled Mia toward the bed and threw her roughly down. “What’re you doing! Let me up! Let me go!” she cried as she struggled to right herself. Ellis sat on the bed beside her and pulled her roughly so her head was resting on his muscular thighs, her arms caught painfully behind her. He clamped a heavy hand over her mouth and nose.
This couldn’t be real. This couldn’t be happening.
Mia struggled in the man’s grip, panic and terror giving her strength, but Ellis was stronger, much stronger. He held her down with apparent ease, his hand still covering her face. She couldn’t breathe. She was going to die. How had this happened? After years of loss, loneliness and dead ends, she’d thought her life had finally taken a good turn. It had seemed too good to be true—and now she realized as her head began to swim from lack of air—it had been.
Through the roaring in her ears, Mia realized Ellis was speaking. She strained to make out the words, desperate for the chance to breathe. “I’m going to let go of your mouth, Mia, but when I do, you need to stay quiet. If you start to scream again, it won’t go well for you. Understand?”
She tried to nod and apparently succeeded because suddenly the hard, heavy hand was gone. Mia gasped like a fish out of water as she sucked in the life-giving oxygen. Tears were streaming down her cheeks and her heart was smacking like a hammer against her ribcage.
“Please,” she begged, still gasping. “What are you doing? Why are you doing this? I don’t understand what’s happening.”
“Shh. I didn’t give you permission to speak, Mia. From now on you will only speak when given express permission to do so.”
What the hell?
Ellis was leaning over her, his gaze intent. He was smiling, but there was a cruel curve to his lips she hadn’t noticed before, and his eyes were glinting like polished stone. Keeping one hand firmly on her arm, he reached into the neck of his shirt and pulled out a long, thin gold chain with a small metal key dangling from it. He leaned over her, tugging at the cuffs as he inserted the key. It was a relief when the tightly ratcheted cuffs were released, but the relief was short lived as Ellis pushed her onto her back. He grabbed her left arm, pulling it toward one of the bedposts at the head of the bed.
While she thrashed helplessly against him, he held her arm and wrapped something tight around her wrist. Straining to see what he was doing, she realized he’d bound her into a Velcro cuff that was attached to the post. He grabbed her other wrist, pulling it toward the other post and attaching it to a cuff that was secured there.
Mia began to scream again as she jerked ineffectually against the restraints, a rising wail of panic that she couldn’t have quelled even if she’d wanted to. Ellis raised his hand as if to strike her. Instinctively Mia turned her head, squeezing her eyes shut as she waited for the blow. “Don’t hit me, don’t hit me,” she whimpered.
“Don’t give me cause,” he rejoined, his tone hard, but mercifully he didn’t strike her.
Mia felt the lift in the mattress as Ellis stood. She opened her eyes in time to see him pull something from beneath the bed. She saw he was holding rope, which he uncoiled and wound around her ankles one at a time as she watched in helpless terror. He forced her legs wide apart and secured them to the posts at the end of the bed.
“Please, Ellis. Please,” she tried again. “I don’t understand what’s happening. You’re really scaring me. Please, please, please—” Her words were cut off by the sudden, stinging blow of the back of his hand against her mouth. Stunned by the shock and the pain, Mia hiccupped into silence.
“That’s better.” Ellis sat again, his eyes boring into Mia’s. “You really need to calm down, Mia. I’m not going to kill you. Have a little patience, and all will be revealed. All you need to do right now is lie quiet and still while I inspect my new property.”
Property? What was he talking about? Did he mean her?
Help me, help me, help me, help me.
Mia didn’t know who she was asking, or if there was anyone to hear her silent prayer, but the words continued to play in her head in a desperate, pleading loop. She watched in horror as Ellis reached into his pants pocket and withdrew a pocket knife.
Oh god, help me, help me, help me, help me…
He flicked the knife open and gripped the neck of her new dress with his other hand. Mia felt as if someone had removed the blood from her veins and replaced it with ice water. She watched in silent terror as he pressed the point of the knife into the fabric and drew it down, easily cutting the flimsy fabric until the dress fell away from her body.
She began to tremble violently as Ellis slid the edge of the knife between her breasts. She was, she knew, going to die. But instead of plunging the sharp blade into her pounding heart, Ellis pulled it upward, neatly cutting her bra in two. Before she could process the fact she was still alive, he slipped the blade beneath the elastic waist of her panties and ripped them from her body.
Ellis eyes were moving in a slow, appraising sweep over her body, adding a hot layer of shame over Mia’s terror. Though a part of her knew this was crazy thinking given the fact she probably had only seconds to live, she hated for anyone to see her naked, even her prospective killer.
But instead of ending it all, Ellis sat down beside her and reached for her face. Mia flinched and cried out in anticipation of another blow, but he only drew his thumb along her cheek and said softly, “Hey, stop crying. It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you, Mia. Not like this. As long as you obey and do as you’re told, you’ll be okay, I promise.”
He spoke so kindly, as if comforting a child, but Mia just cried harder. Ellis continued to stroke her cheek, his touch light, almost soothing. “Shh,” he urged again, placing his other hand on her chest. “You need to stop crying now. Your heart is beating way too fast. Slow your breathing. Calm down, Mia. You’re okay.”
When Mia could finally catch her breath she begged, “Please. I don’t know what’s happening. What are you doing? Why are you doing this?”
Ellis gazed at her without answering. His hand moved from her face, along her throat and then closed over one breast. His touch was light, even sensual, if such a thing was possible in the circumstance. “You have a beautiful body, Mia. It’s a shame you carry this extra weight. It indicates a lack of self-worth. We’ll need to work on that.”
Mia felt her face heat with humiliation and she tried to turn her head, but Ellis stopped her, catching her chin between his forefinger and thumb. “Hey,” he said, his voice still gentle. “You don’t need to blush. You belong to me now. I’m going to fix all your imperfections. I’m going to mold you into the perfect woman.”