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Authors: Diane Anderson-Minshall

Punishment with Kisses

BOOK: Punishment with Kisses
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Synopsis

Home from college, Megan spends her days in her east-wing room of her parents’ palatial estate overlooking the pool house where her sister has taken up residence. Her sister Ashley spends her days wildly bucking convention, bringing home a bevy of female lovers, each one more dangerous than the last, and making love to them by the pool—in plain view of her sister, their conservative parents, and their bewildered staff. Ashley stays out all hours, goes places that she doesn’t tell anyone about, and keeps secrets that only she knows. Then one night, Ashley is murdered, and when the case grows cold, Megan immerses herself in her sister’s underground life in order to find out who killed her and why. She starts by finding Ashley’s diary and begins a sexual odyssey of her own. Will she find the answers she seeks, or will her growing relationship with one of Ash’s exes blind her to the real truth?

Punishment with Kisses

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Punishment with Kisses

© 2009 By Diane Anderson-Minshall. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN 13: 978-1-60282-409-6

This Electronic Book is published by

Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

P.O. Box 249

Valley Falls, New York 12185

First Edition: June 2009

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Credits

Editor: Cindy Cresap

Production Design: Stacia Seaman

Cover Design By Sheri ([email protected])

By the Author

Punishment with Kisses

With Jacob Anderson-Minshall

Blind Curve

Blind Leap

Blind Faith

Acknowledgments

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention William Bayer, author of the great psychosexual thriller Punish Me With Kisses. I read that book in eighth grade, out loud, to my new classmates at Payette Junior High, in Payette, Idaho. The kids loved my little dime store novel, so much so that Mr. Nelson, our generally laid-back English teacher, had me and the book removed from class. It was my first trip to the principal, but it was so worth it. The book got terrible reviews, though Bayer went on to write others, including the Lambda Award–winning gay mystery The Magician’s Tale (under pen name David Hunt). Ever since I read Punish in the early ’80s, I dreamed of a lesbian revisioning—and thankfully I got the chance here, with Punishment with Kisses. There is very little in common with the original but inspiration, born from my hormone-fueled adolescent fantasies and Bayer’s warped words.

I get so much help with my books that I need to get better at starting a giant list at the outset, so I can note everyone along the way. Instead, here I am at the end, exhausted and mindless, trying to remember the dozens of folks who provided fabulous assistance. Thanks first, to my editors, Jennifer Knight and Cindy Cresap, and my publisher Len Barot, for sticking with me and guiding me through this publishing process yet again. All of the Bold Strokes team deserves nods from the support folks (Lori Anderson, Connie Ward) to the consultants (Paula Tighe—thanks for the Everglades) to the creatives (Sheri, Stacia Seaman) to the authors and their spouses (JLee Meyer and Cheryl Craig— thanks for many great meals!). I’ve forgotten more than I’ve remembered, so just know I owe you many thanks!

Much love and thanks to my Curve colleagues, who put up with my endless absences when I’m on tour, and my shameless self-promotion almost all the other times, especially my boss and friend Frances Stevens and my faithful editorial team: Katie Peoples, Rachel Beebe, Rachel Shatto, and Flo Enriquez, Ondine Kilker, Stefanie Liang, and Diana Berry.

Thanks to Kina Williams and Sossity Chiricuzio for orchestrating my awesome author pictures yet again, and to Stacy Bias, Dustina Haas, and Lipstick and Dipstick for your creative friendships. Jeff, Corey, Tina, Athena, Erica, and anyone else I’ve forgotten get so much thanks—even when we go months between calls, your friendship sustains me.

Lastly, my family deserves mucho recognition (though I sincerely hope none of you are reading this book—I may wither with embarrassment). Thanks to Keith Jr. for challenging me to remember what’s important; to Tanya, Jaime, and Wendy for giving me four adorable nieces and nephew; to Keith Sr., Marlene, Luanne, and Paula, for raising me; to Wayne, Judy, Michele, and Jennye for welcoming me into your family. Thanks to you all, especially Jacob.

Oh, and thanks to Playboy magazine circa 1979, for helping instill a sexual curiosity in my tween soul that clearly landed me a book deal twenty years later.

Dedication

To my co-pilot, the only person who knows the real me, and married me anyway. Thank you, babe, from the bottom of my heart.

Chapter One

I thought that summer was all about my sister’s murder, but looking back I realize it was all about me. It has always been all about me. I just didn’t realize it back then. When I was driving home from Tulane, I had no idea of the journey I was about to embark on. And while that voyage would take place internally, it was still far more arduous than my meandering return from college, when I was crisscrossing state lines and binge eating at truck stops and fantasizing about being ravished by lady truckers, all as a sort of psycho-celebration of my four years of fruition that came with my English degree. Back then, I was a brand spankin’ new graduate with a cascading sense of self that seemed to dissolve and reappear at inappropriate times, like when I was naked or hitting on high school boys just to toy with them. I knew nothing.

Standing on Father’s property five years later, knee deep in a colorful pile of leaves, the final vestiges of fall clinging to bare branches of the trees overhead, my days of college partying are distant memories. And the concerns I had then I now realize were utterly trivial. How selfish and immature I was that summer. As the final days of my sister’s life trickled away, I allowed my own insecurities and petty sibling rivalry to keep me from sharing those days with her.

If I had only taken the time then to get to know her, I might have prevented her murder. I certainly would never have needed to descend into the darkness myself, spelunking like a cave explorer into my sister’s secret life, and nearly getting trapped in the dank and shadowy fissures I stumbled into in search of her murderer. The truth is, I lost my way in that labyrinth and I might have lost my very soul if I hadn’t discovered the one thing I least expected—true love.

Now, as I peered inside the pool house, my eyes prickled with the sting of tears. Though it’s been unused since the night Ash was killed—and any trace of her has long since been removed—it still looks exactly as it did before she died. The fluid lines of the antique Queen Anne table were an ironic juxtaposition next to the Ikea Tylösand couch—the combo my sister used to jokingly call my stepmother Tabitha’s Swedish-Amish-Americana design style.

In those days, I was so caught up in my own jealous anxiety I failed to notice that even while she was still alive Ash never seemed to be a part of her surroundings. It was as if she were floating atop them, moving through everything—furniture, people, life—as if she were a mere ghostly apparition. And yet, while she was living on the surface, never embracing us, it was as though life couldn’t help but absorb her. Everyone she met seemed to be changed somehow by the experience, by her very presence.

Though it’s drained for the oncoming winter and littered with piles of withered crimson and gold leaves, the pool still reminds me of Ash, too. One squint of my eyes and I can still imagine her next to it, sprawled on a lounge chair, slathered in Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil, the scent of evaporating coconut wafting through the air, admirers and margaritas by her side. She was all coy smiles and forced laughter, swimming in a sea of sex, sun, and pulchritude. No one, least of all me, seemed to notice she was drowning.

I was tempted to dip my hand in the pool, to scoop up a handful of damp leaves, no doubt coated on the underside with a fine mist of sludge, and play a modern version of “loves me not.” Except I’d replace
love
with
forgive.
In the last five years, I’ve thought of nothing more than whether my sister would forgive me for failing her in her final days. I was so green, like the delicate buds that emerge from the tree limbs in the warm days of spring. I was so fresh from college and so riddled with my own baggage that I could never see Ash for who she was, only who I imagined her to be. Even now, I don’t know that I understand entirely what happened, or why. How culpable was I in her death? I don’t know that I will ever know for certain. I don’t know if I want to.

What I do know is that I’ve spent the last half decade mourning a sister I was too selfish to really know and feeling nothing but regret about how I treated her. This shame and guilt was a logjam in my life, stalling my personal relationships and my career. I had pissed off employers and lovers with equal casualness, and until I hit my stride in therapy it looked like I was going to die an angry, two-timing coffee jockey instead of becoming the person I am.

Closure.
It’s a mythical word. And almost impossible to find.

“Megan!” Our housekeeper Maria woke me from my reverie. She must have spied me through the greenhouse doors. “I didn’t know you’d be home today. Are you here for the weekend? Come inside. Do you need help with your bags?” Maria gushed with questions, lobbing each out rapid fire like a dart on a barroom wall before I even had a chance to open my mouth. She didn’t know the full story. How could she? I was barely able to understand it myself. I do know, like many tragedies, it all started with sex—which meant different things to Ash and me.

*

That summer I came home, I wasn’t a virgin, but I certainly wasn’t the woman around town my sister Ash was. I’d spent most of college with my nose in a book, save for those few nights with Terra Moscowitz, which began innocently enough with us in her dorm room dry humping each other after a Take Back the Night rally that devolved into so much more. I’m not sure what it was about anti-rape rallies, but they certainly seemed to make Terra horny. Sadly, her girlfriend was around half the time, which meant I got leftover, hand-me-down sex—but I was happy to have it.

BOOK: Punishment with Kisses
2.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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