Authors: Jayne Rylon
Tags: #Short Novel, #Menage a Trois (m/f/m), #Cougar Challenge, #Erotica
A standalone story in the Cougar Challenge series.
Mark envies his friend Bastian and the Cougar who tamed him. For years he’s had his eye on a sexy, older,
woman. Despite his and Bastian’s sharing women, he refuses to poach outside his steamy fantasies.
Sloan travels with the race car drivers as the league’s publicist. Living abroad can be lonely, especially when touring somewhere like China—where beautiful landscapes surround them but language and cultural barriers are high. Until she meets Lynn, who shares her love of erotic romances. In Lynn, she gains more than a friend—because sexy-as-sin navigator Mark is never far from the Cougar and her fiancé, making Sloan wonder if it’s time rejoin the dating scene after a nasty divorce.
When Lynn notices the chemistry between Mark and Sloan, she issues the Cougar Challenge. Sloan expected fantastic sex. But she never imagined her relationship with Mark would empower him to explore the sexual tension building between him and Bastian…
Four friends, two couples…one night none of them will forget.
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Shifting Gears Copyright © 2010 Jayne Rylon
Edited by Mary Moran
Cover art by Syneca
Electronic book publication October 2010
The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
To the RAW Readers group for always making my day with compliments, talk of our favorite books and lots of laughs. Can’t wait to see you again!
You’ll find the women of Cougar Challenge and the
Tempt the Cougar
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Angels and Airwaves: DeLonge, Thomas
iPod: Apple, Inc.
Kindle: Amazon Technologies, Inc.
: National Geographic Society Corporation
Netflix: Netflix, Inc.
Pop-Tarts: Kellogg North America Company Corporation
U-Haul: U-Haul International, Inc.
“Oh my God!”
The woman on the corrugated aluminum bleacher several rows in front of Sloan turned with wide eyes when Sloan shouted. She caught Sloan’s stare on the sexy cover of her erotic romance novel and flipped it closed—cover side down—discretely.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” Sloan smiled. “I know how it is when you’re lost in a good book. And
book is fan-fucking-tastic! I love Mari Carr. Her stories are smoking hot. Especially the ménages. Yum.”
The woman grinned and nodded. “I’ve read almost all of hers. My reading group back in the US mailed me this one. It arrived last night and I’m halfway done already. I tried to ration it out—a chapter a day—but it’s impossible.”
“Thank God for ebook readers, huh? I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have access to all the new releases from this side of the globe.” Sloan stepped into the stands then picked her way down the incline, closer to the woman, careful not to slip in her three-inch heels.
At least she’d worn jeans to the race site today instead of her usual skirted suit. “I hear that. It can get lonely being a foreigner in a country where you don’t speak the language. Especially one as difficult to pick up as Mandarin or Cantonese. Reading keeps me from getting too homesick, though it leads to other…complications.”
When the woman laughed, her entire face brightened. Around Sloan’s age, close to forty, she seemed carefree and infectiously happy. “I know what you mean. Or at least I used to. Now I have a young stud to keep me occupied when I get revved up. I’m engaged to Sebastian Fiori. The driver for—”
“Oh! Don’t worry, I know who he is. Sexy as sin and a four-time world champion rally car racer to boot. So you must be Lynn Madison, you bitch.”
The humongous diamond flashing on the woman’s finger had confirmed Sloan’s suspicions.
Talk of Bastian and the alluring cougar who’d tamed him had run rampant this season. Scores of young sex goddesses mourned their loss. Many had tried for years to snag him or his luscious navigator Mark Rossi, but none had succeeded in tempting either guy into more than a one-night stand.
Until Sebastian fell head over heels in love on first sight last season. Everyone agreed he’d never performed better. Lynn must be good for the man.
What was good for the driver was good for the sport.
was good for Sloan.
“It’s true.” Lynn sighed and her eyes took on a faraway look. “I’m the luckiest woman alive.”
“I’m Sloan Desai, by the way.” She held out her hand, but Lynn hugged her instead of shaking it.
“Sorry, but after two minutes I feel like I’ve known you forever. Have a seat.” Lynn gestured with the spine of her novel toward the racetrack, which snaked past the base of the stadium they sat in. “You know, Bastian’s mentioned you before. I think we might’ve even talked on the phone once when you scheduled some of his interviews. You’re the publicist for the league, right?”
“Yep. That’s me.” Sloan winked. “In charge of keeping the boys out of trouble with the media, managing their images and bringing fans in by the truckload.”
“Seems like you’re doing a great job. I heard the first couple days of the exhibition are sold out.”
“They are. Thanks.”
“So how do you like China so far?”
The event would take place in Guangdong province, about a half-hour outside Guangzhou, in a few weeks—a great chance for the teams to tune up or experiment in the off-season. The crews had arrived early to acclimate, which meant Sloan had to be on-site to defuse any…situations…that could cause trouble with the local hosts.
Full of testosterone and daring, the guys in the league sometimes crossed the line.
“I haven’t been able to do much sightseeing. I have to stick fairly close-by.” Sloan shrugged.
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Lynn grimaced. “The teams do tend to get rowdy on occasion. Maybe you can take a day trip or two with me. I write travel guides for a living, so I like to check out as much as I can in the areas we visit. Sebastian gets nervous when I’m out on my own though. Especially in locations a little more exotic.”
“You don’t seem like the kind of woman to sit around and wait for a man simply to ease his mind. A woman after my own heart, by the way.”
“You’re right, I’m no shrinking violet.” Lynn grinned. “But I worry that if
worried, he’ll be distracted. The sport is dangerous enough as it is. Plus, I miss him if I stray too far.”
“I hope ‘him’ is me.” A deep growl sounded from behind their spot on the bench. Sitting side by side, neither woman had heard the soft soles of Sebastian’s racing sneakers on the concrete as he approached. “Or I’ll have to kick some ass and those days are supposed to be behind me.”
Sloan swallowed hard at the jibe from the other guy who strode toward them—Mark Rossi. It was either that or moan aloud at his spectacular build. Thick muscles filled out his racing jumpsuit to perfection. She wished she’d seen him going instead of coming so she could check out his killer ass, but the bulge at his crotch and the humor in his warm eyes made for scrumptious consolation prizes.
She’d spied him from across the room at events she’d arranged, but usually she had a job to do while in attendance. Of course she’d found herself staring at promo shots of him on more occasions than she cared to admit, but never before had she been able to take her time and study his legendary features in person—bold cheekbones, olive skin and glossy, sandy hair.
And, shit, now she was staring.
Maybe her imagination played tricks on her, but it seemed as if he might be gawking in return.
Sebastian coughed, the sound camouflaging something suspiciously close to a laugh when he clapped Mark between the shoulders, shoving him forward. The men ate up the remaining distance separating them from the ladies with two long strides.
“I think you all know each other. Bastian, Mark, this is Sloan Desai—the league’s publicist.”
“Oh yeah. Thanks for all the times you’ve covered my ass.
asses.” Sebastian shook her hand, firm but polite, before moving toward his woman. “It’s nice to see you again.”
Close enough to get a very adequate view, Sloan was singed by the fire in the driver’s gaze when it locked with Lynn’s. Collateral damage had never felt so good. What would it be like to have that kind of intensity, sexual awareness and hunger focused on her?
The couple embraced, sharing a kiss worthy of the silver screen. Sebastian tangled his fingers in Lynn’s hair then devoured her lips with eager abandon. Sloan’s heart ached, her nipples tightened and a tingle ran through her body. She tore her attention from the exchange, afraid to come off like a total lecher.
Mark grinned when she spun.
“I can’t take them anywhere.” He shook his head, but the curve of his delectable mouth belied his chagrin. “It’s always like this. You’d think they’d been apart for months instead of two and a half hours.”
“Must be nice,” Sloan whispered under her breath.
After her promotion to head of the division, she’d begun touring the circuit. Instead of missing her, her husband seemed to enjoy his time alone. He’d acted inconvenienced when she returned to the States from long stretches abroad. Turned out, having her home made scheduling trysts with his slutty girlfriends troublesome. Once she’d realized the score, she divorced the loser then buried herself in work so she didn’t have to admit all her childhood assumptions about romance had turned out to be false.
Hopefully Lynn and Sebastian could beat the odds.
Sloan blinked, praying Mark didn’t notice the tears stinging her eyes. She peeked up at him, flinching when he canted his head and reached for her.
“I guess I’d better get going.” She hustled along the concrete ramp beside the bleachers. The clicking of her heels ricocheted in the quiet space. “Really nice to meet you all. Lynn, maybe we can catch up soon. I have a stash of books in my suitcase. I finished a fabulous one by Nicole Austin last night. You’re welcome to borrow it.”
“Oh! You’re leaving?” The other woman shook her head as she emerged from the cocoon of desire her lover had woven around them. “Why don’t you come out to dinner with us?”
“No.” Panic sent her heart rate skyrocketing. When the trio leveled curious stares in her direction, she softened her instinctive denial. “I have some…things…to attend to. I really can’t.”
“Damn. I miss having friends to chat with.” Lynn seemed genuinely disappointed. “Most of the women who travel with the drivers have bigger boobs than brains and aren’t very mature, if you know what I mean.”
Sloan laughed. Did she ever. Constant youth and beauty surrounded the racing scene. Just one more reason she must be crazy for thinking Mark still regarded her with interest. If only she could convince her pussy to stop clenching at the idea. “Maybe we’ll run into each other again soon.”
Preferably sometime when the two studs didn’t incite her hormones to rampage and the palpable love in the air didn’t aggravate her bruised heart.
“Wait!” Lynn stopped Sloan again when she would have bolted in a dignified yet hasty escape. “Here, take this.”
The woman dug through her purse, scribbled something on the back of a receipt then handed the slip of paper to Sebastian who passed it to Mark. His warm fingers grazed hers when he pressed the note into her palm. Holy crap. She had to get out of there before she melted. The tropical sun and the Italian stallion scorched her insides.
“What is it?” Sloan glanced at the bubbly script.
“A web address. For a blog my friends and I keep to talk about our favorite books. You know, the juicy ones. Hop online and chat with us.”
“Ah, sure. I’ll do that.” Her face flamed when she realized Lynn had outed her love of erotic romance to two of the hottest men on earth. “I’ll check it out tonight. Nice to meet you all.”
“You too.” Sebastian graced her with one of his infamous smiles.
She intended to settle for a finger wave before she spun on her heel, but Mark snatched her hand in his and raised it to his lips. Moist warmth bussed her knuckles, weakening her knees.
“The pleasure was mine.” He winked to offset some of his stuffy formality.
She had to laugh at his audacity and cheesy imitation of seduction that somehow still managed to unleash butterflies in her stomach. At least she didn’t have to pretend to take him seriously.
“See you soon.” He held Sloan’s gaze long enough that she thought she might drown in his deep chocolate eyes before returning to his friends with one last glimpse over his sturdy shoulder.
* * * * *
Sloan used one long red fingernail to click the X in the top corner of her mail program, work complete for the night. So what if it was after midnight local time? She often put in ridiculous hours.
What else did she have to do these days?
Maybe she’d download a new book to read before bed, something sexy and a little naughty—a novel about an older woman and a younger man sounded fantastic.
Who was she kidding?
Ever since she’d run into Mark Rossi, he was all she could think about. When she’d found herself accessing the crew bio files earlier, she’d checked his birthday. At forty-one to his twenty-nine, there was a significant gap between them.
Insane. But his friends made the disparity work for them. Watching the pair interact had left her no doubt of their true, undying love for each other—a rare thing in the world today. No way could Sloan muster that kind of luck.
Still, it wouldn’t hurt anything to take Lynn up on the offer to join her book club. It
been fun to discuss the stories they both enjoyed. Most of the time Sloan kept them out of sight. The racy covers wouldn’t have helped her obtain or maintain her position in a man’s sport. She even made sure to lock her Kindle when she finished sneaking a chapter or two during her lunch breaks or while waiting for an evening event, although none of her clients had ever expressed interest in her pastime other than to tease her for her bookworm tendencies. They probably thought she read biographies, poignant nonfiction or trendy economic postulations.
Hell, if nothing else, Lynn’s friends could probably give Sloan a suggestion or two on her late-night purchase—ensure she bought a book she’d really enjoy.
She reached across the stylish bamboo desk in her apartment for her briefcase. It still awed her that a modest monthly rent bought such a lavish living space, complete with daily maid service, in this area. Parquet floors, marble counters and air conditioning in every room made this one of the most luxurious places she’d stayed abroad since recent budget cuts had scaled back on executive frivolity. Even the lush bed spoke of decadence in a country where thin, stiff pallets were preferred to squishy mattresses capped with feather pillow-tops.
Sloan dug the scrap of paper from the outside pocket of her bag then typed in the URL Lynn had scribbled.
Holy Hannah. She hadn’t looked at the address closely enough. This was no ordinary group of friends who shared reading recommendations and mooned over their favorite heroes.
No, this was a collection of women who’d taken things to the next level.
Sloan scanned their homepage. From the tantalizing man splayed across the blog’s header, through the confessional posts of older women on the prowl, past scores of erotic romance novel reviews and photos of sexy men, to the appreciative thanks of friends who’d gotten support on their personal adventures, the revelations inspired her.
She felt as though she’d invaded these women’s diaries, but she couldn’t pry her stare from the screen of her laptop.
From what she pieced together, the original friends had met at a romance readers’ convention then made a pact to each hunt up a willing younger partner—or two—for a wild affair. They called it the Cougar Challenge. And fuck if it didn’t look as if most had gotten more than they bargained for.
Love along with lust.