The first time a flicker of my new release, A Little Slap and Tickle, tripped a writing wire in my brain, my husband was fondly admiring a hand-tooled leather armor set in one of the wooden booths at our yearly visit to the Maryland Renaissance Faire. Meanwhile, I had my eye on the leather, sheep-lined four cuff set and leather paddles. My kind of instruments. Next my eyes drifted over the super smoking leather worker who was manning the booth—and a book was born.
I knew the second I got home that Flynn was going to disfigured, sarcastic, and self-confident while Eliza was going to have her whole life shot to hell. For a normally all together person, Eliza was royally panicking—which worked to our hero’s advantage. Flynn opened her up, sent her spinning in a million different directions, and proved that chaos can be a happy state too, if only you let someone else take the reins. What once had been a sexy idea born of a hot guy and some leather cuffs I couldn’t afford morphed into an exhibitionist freak show wonderland where one floundering woman relearns how to find herself again.
Frankly, it was fun making the faire sexy when every time I go I witness all sorts of luscious, seductive costumes. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen some woman leading a man on an leather o-ring leash or a goth couple letting their freak flag fly high. More than anything I wanted my characters to embrace their setting, embrace all the little things that might make them flawed and freaky. Celebrate their uniqueness during epic, no-holds-barred sex that leaves both of them vulnerable.
While Eliza is a BDSM newbie, she’s not immune to the delicious ache that Flynn twines around her body and into her bones. What once seemed clandestine and off limits becomes a way of coping, a method of release. Until Eliza has no choice but to accept what she enjoys without looking back.
Eliza’s stuck in a lacklustre, dead-end slump after coming home with her graduate degree to a slippery job market and her brother’s fold out couch. Unable to circle newspaper ads for another second and desperately crawling into sexual fantasy to escape her dismal reality—Eliza takes her escapism a step further when she agrees to go to the Renaissance Faire with her best friend, Dru.
Her whole world shifts when Eliza meets Hunter, a quirky, mysterious leather worker who runs a booth at the faire. He’s been a platonic friend of Dru’s for ages and supplies her with homemade BDSM bedroom toys—toys that he’s more than willing to demonstrate with Eliza once the faire closes. But can Eliza give up control in order to trust that one of her biggest fantasies will live up to her expectations?
Hunter’s skills as a dominant force Eliza to trust herself again and Hunter finds himself with a feisty submissive that pushes more of his buttons than he ever thought possible. Together they push themselves farther than any fantasy, until their lives are never the same again.
“I can’t say I’ve ever…participated…in an event like this one before, Dru.”
“Is that a bad thing? Don’t you think you should expand your boundaries outside of your brother’s fold-out couch and a newspaper full of wanted ads? Come on, have a little fun, Eliza.”
Eliza glanced sideways at her best friend’s elfin, petite face speckled with sunlight from the gorgeous afternoon in the woods. Dru’s light blond eyebrows were raised in question, rose lips pursed. The dare for Eliza to question her hung unsaid in the air. A wisp of wind picked up Dru’s red, cork-screw curls and pushed them across her face. But Eliza only cleared her throat—unfocused on Dru’s warm, whisky colored eyes, and refocused onto the crowd in front of them amidst the trees.
At least she wouldn’t feel out of place in her Indian maiden leather get up straight out of some weird S&M store that she’d borrowed from Dru. The skirt brushed mid-thigh with leather tassels that didn’t exactly cover—anything. While the corseted halter top ended at an abrupt triangle showing the whole world that it’d been awhile since she’d hit a gym. What topped the whole ensemble off were more tassels threaded beneath her breasts in a weird attempt at an Empire waist effect. The outfit was an experience unto itself, even without everything to see and do unraveling before her eyes.
For a second it was hard for Eliza to think of their little adventure into unwashed bodies, crowds, and medieval costumes as fun per se. But damn if the food wasn’t out of this world. And her best friend was right. Her status as Master’s degree holding, library science geek hadn’t earned her points on any of her less than minimum wage job interviews this week. Most people in their small town were snug as a bug in their day jobs and there wasn’t much room for more work with positions being pre-filled by family and friends.
She’d been away too long at college. Long enough to lose favor when it came down to a townie and a girl with too much school experience. No matter where she looked, she was overqualified. Facts were facts—libraries were closing like mad. Not to mention they only had one in the area filled with employees who held onto their positions with their last dying breath.
There was proving to be no room for Eliza here. But there weren’t any options in the outside world with no savings and no one to lean on if she continued on her job losing streak. Until she got lucky, she was beholden to her big brother and a nine-to-five job pursuit. Better to get out of the house for a little while. Besides, she’d worn out her traditional red pen circling the newspaper ads in the back of the paper and couldn’t afford to buy another one until Monday.
Two months of moping was enough to fry anyone’s brain and she needed to leave her problems behind. So this trip back in time better offer up merriment and wonder soon. Or at least some free booze. Just because she was out of college didn’t mean she couldn’t indulge in a pint or two.
“At least it’s free exercise,” Eliza chimed in with an easy smile.
Okay, so all the men in kilts and shiny chainmail were a bit distracting and she hadn’t seen this many boobs since Christmas at her sister Cheri’s divorce celebration. But the atmosphere wasn’t that bad. As they circled all the vendor booths with creative, painted signs and traveled beneath the charming forest of old oaks, Eliza could almost forget about, well, everything. Her complete lack of independent direction and purpose in life. As well as the fact that her dreams of an easy life were more than dashed. But this was nice—a swell of happiness.
A light breeze shifted through her A-line, brunette bob and she took a long, deep breath of carboliciousness. Her mouth watered and she continued following close behind Dru.
“Whoa, did you see that?”
“What? Oh, the woman holding the man on a leash in full bondage gear? They’re here every year. That’s old news, honey. People come to this place to let their freak flag fly high and for the most part no one gives a shit.”
She shifted her gaze away from the treacherous roots embedded into the earthen floor and watched Dru’s retreating—and fully corseted—back. Where was she going? What could be so important that they needed to rush through the crowds? Eliza was positive she’d brushed up against her hundredth stranger in only a half hour of being in the gates.
Several people must have gotten an up-close and personal brush of her bra-less breasts in her confining, leather get-up. Dru had lent Eliza her costume from last year and as they struggled through the crush of the food court crowds she wished there was a little more of it. Not only was her outfit tiny and skin tight, but the mid-summer air kept wafting up the skirt until Eliza was positive she was flashing the whole park.
“Um, could you—”
Before Eliza could finish the sentence, she glanced up and Dru had alighted two wooden steps into an open air shop front. She was talking to a man in a long leather duster with delicious abs similar to the covers of the romance novels Eliza was so fond of reading in her spare—alone—time. He wore a wide brimmed leather black cowboy hat that obscured his face and matching black leather pants.
Was Dru seriously waving her over there to talk to him?
No, there had to be some mistake. There was no way she was prepared for any kind of social interaction, let alone a handsome stranger. Christ, they hadn’t even hit the bar yet. Not one drop of liquid courage had passed her chapped lips and her stomach plummeted down to her feet faster than when she’d been stood up by her date right before prom pictures. But Dru frantically waved her over and laughed with her head back so her red curls cascaded down her back in a manner Eliza imagined was seductive.
Well, no turning back now. Where exactly would she go? It wasn’t as though she knew the lay of the land. Besides, the minute the man shed his long leather duster to point to a tattoo on his bicep, smiling down at Dru, there was no longer a choice. She had to see him closer. Her mouth watered at the expanse of all that beautiful, almost naked, man flesh.
There was more to him than an intimidating, tight physique. His every movement exuded thinly veiled grace while his smile lit up his sharply masculine face. A contrast of good cheer mixed with a concentration on whatever subject interested him. Until he became riveted, obsessed, with a possessive awareness of his subject. As she got closer, she sensed his gaze snap to her face, expression unchanged. But in that split second Eliza sensed his acute judgment.
He measured her with his shadowed stare while his small quirk of a smile never wavered.
The friends continued to talk but their voices were drowned out by the heavy pulse at Eliza’s temples. All of her flesh seized with goose bumps. This stranger stood as if all the world was his to explore, with a brightness in his eyes that dared nature to defy his dominant curiosity over what he claimed was his by right. He looked as if the whole world would bow down to him. And he wouldn’t be surprised. But nothing about him screamed arrogance—only a self-certainty and a quiet sense of inner peace.
Weird that she should read someone so quickly, but he was an open book. Both hands on his hips, lean muscles stretched in his arms and back until her knees were weak. Dru spoke and he laughed, head tipped forward while one strong hand rubbed the center of his chest. The dark shadow from his hat brim obscured everything but the clean, model-esque lines of his face so she couldn’t see his joy.
But his bark of gravelly laughter hit her as a punch in the gut while her chest tightened. There were enough trees in this place that she should have never lost oxygen. There wasn’t enough air in the world right at that moment. As Eliza fought for composure she focused only on his tattoo.
Yield to life—there is only threat of tomorrow.
His tattoo was inked in thin filigree with woven rope knots all around the words. One breath. Another. Each one became easier even as she grew closer, knowing she had to hide all her ruffled feathers. There wasn’t a single nuance Dru wouldn’t pick up on and exploit.
One step after another landed her front and center next to Dru as her best friend slung her arm around Eliza’s waist.
“Took you long enough,” Dru whispered in mock chastisement.
Before she could get a good look at the man, he turned and rummaged behind his counter, giving them both an all-access pass to perfect ass land. Eliza knew she should keep her eyes closed, but they were glued to the tight, sculpted muscles on the wicked stranger. The faire didn’t seem that bad anymore.
Dru squeezed Eliza’s torso until she met her best friend’s shining eyes, lit up with nothing but pure mischief. These were moments Dru lived for—any opportunity to tease. But it never bothered Eliza, it was all in good fun and her best friend meant well. She remained oddly silent. Despite the fact that Eliza all but flinched while she waited for whatever whispered barb her best friend would deliver on behalf of her less than subtle reaction to the intriguing man.
How could she not have a reaction when his damn presence practically demanded one?
“Ah, here it is.”
His voice rushed over her tingling down her back and she had to stop herself from taking an automatic step back. Irish, too? Oh, no. No, no, no. He was more than perfect and she hadn’t even said a thing to him yet. Why was she even there? So Dru could lord this man over her head—the perfect romance hero—or so they could be set up together for an awkward date and never see each other again?
Hell, maybe she was taking this whole thing too seriously, but their history of set-ups was long and varied. Even throughout college Dru wasn’t satisfied until they each had at least two dates a week.
This had to be some kind of evil set-up because clearly Dru knew the guy. They must be pulling this to screw with her head because poor little Eliza hadn’t been on a date in forever and who knows if there are cobwebs down there. This guy was some actor from Dru’s troop of players for sure. She’d done theater every summer for as long as Eliza could remember.
He came back up from his crouch behind the counter and turned back to them with something hidden behind his back. One long finger tipped up his hat. Eliza got her first straight on look at the man that she suspiciously regarded with every ounce of her petite frame.
His nose was slightly crooked. An old wound that hadn’t been set, maybe? A five o’clock shadow roughened the strong, square jaw and lips that were better suited on a female than the masculine portrait that acted as if he had nothing to hide. It took every last ounce of her will to gaze up below the brim of his hat.
He wore an eye patch. Whether or not it was for the faire or an actual problem, she couldn’t resist the edge of danger. His good eye—light brown with amber flecks—was bright with unreadable heat fixed solely on her face. She swallowed despite the lump in her throat. Nothing he did betrayed anything of how he was feeling or thinking—only the sharp look that pinned her to the floor.
And whatever he held behind his back.
For a long blink it was hard for Eliza to even remember that Dru’s hand rested around her waist. All she could focus on was the knowing twist of the stranger’s lips. The unwelcome and unexpected blush that seared against her skin when they hadn’t even spoken to each other made her fingers twitch at her side.
How could she resist him when he fit the caricature of an ideal man she’d been reading about in romances all her life? She was only stupidly comparing him to a man that didn’t exist. A string of perfections that couldn’t be real in one man. Left in the dust of her overwhelming horniness, well, she was being an idiot.
There wasn’t any other explanation for the way her hormones were skyrocketing off into different directions. He looked down into her eyes and she couldn’t help it—she giggled. That broke whatever fake connection she nursed in her mind. He plunked an item down onto the counter and shrugged back into his leather duster that had lain on the counter.
Without thinking, she blurted out the first sentence that flew across her scattered brain. An old habit that refused to die. And often led her to want to be buried in the same grave, instead of suffering the mortifying consequences.
“An eye patch, really? Aren’t you mixing genres with a cowboy and a pirate?”
Elise Hepner lives with her husband and two eccentric cats in Maryland. She spends the majority of her free time in her basement office concocting smutty characters and sinful situations that leaves readers satisfied. When not writing, she researches everything from automatons in the 18th century to gladiatorial rules in Ancient Rome. She prides herself on being an avid information hound as well as a blog reading addict–which is her favorite way to procrastinate. Her previous publications include books and stories with Excessica, Xcite, Ellora’s Cave, Secret Cravings Publishing and Cleis Press.