Tempted by Pleasure (Secret Invitation #1)

BOOK: Tempted by Pleasure (Secret Invitation #1)
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Table of Contents

TEMPTED BY PLEASURE

Secret Invitation Part One

DEVON HART

SOUL MATE PUBLISHING

New York

TEMPTED BY PLEASURE

Copyright©2015

DEVON HART

Cover Design by Ramona Lockwood

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

All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher.  The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law.  Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.

Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Published in the United States of America by

Soul Mate Publishing

P.O. Box 24

Macedon, New York, 14502

ISBN: 978-1-61935-
816-4

www.SoulMatePublishing.com

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

To Debbie McCreary—

thanks for all the help.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Debby Gilbert, editor/publisher extraordinaire.

Supersized hugs for Karen Lord, B.J. Scott, Jessica Jefferson, and Barbi Davis. 

Prologue

Erin

I often sit in my living room with a pile of old scrapbooks and photo albums reminiscing, dreaming my life turned out different. Not that I have a bad one, I’m privileged to have parents who love me and great friends. I attended a private high school, graduated with honors, and pursued a college degree I chose. Everything in my life fits perfectly into a nice package, wrapped in pretty paper and a bow.

Social media is buzzing with gossip, but that’s never held my interest for long. I’m too immersed in my little claustrophobic corner that’s filled with repetition. I get up at the same time every morning, eat the same breakfast, wear the same clothes, drive the same car, and report to the same office. My family considers it a respectable existence.

Not me. I crave more.

I turn the page in my album focusing on Foster Wagner, my high school sweetheart—the one who some say got away. They don’t know the truth about what happened between us, why I left Corpus Christi eight years ago. There’s too many bad memories mixed in with the good. But it doesn’t dissuade me from admiring his handsome face or appreciating the warmth of his smile. Parts of him stayed with me that I’m sure will remain forever.

I close the album and pick up an old yearbook, thumbing through the pages in search of another specific face. “Thomas Kingsley,” I mutter while gazing at his picture.

The man my parents suddenly expect me to marry.

The mere mention of that name makes me want to throw up. I don’t like Thomas, but in order to inherit my father’s fortune, I have to marry him? Very clearly something has changed in my parents’ lives. Is Father sick? Or is my mother just desperate for grandchildren? I understand the ‘I’m getting older’ thing, all parents want grandbabies. I even understand them trying to set me up with Thomas. Our parents have been friends for years. My parents and I have always been close, and I’ve remained loyal and obedient. That’s how I was raised. But what transpired at dinner the other night just doesn’t make sense.

“Did you hear me, Erin?” Mother asks.

“Perfectly.” Loud and clear. “When did you decide? High school? Or let me guess, Dad lost at poker again and I’m his payoff.”

“Don’t be dramatic,” Mom says, taking a slow sip of herbal tea. “Mergers happen all the time in the business world. Why should marriage be different? The Kingsleys are a fine family.”

“If you’re into toilets and plumbing supplies.”

Mother rolls her eyes. “Never insult a man’s living.”

“That’s a double standard if I ever heard one. You’d insult my intelligence by burdening me with a husband I’ll hate.”

“Hate is a very bold word.”

I twist around as my father strolls into the living room wearing stylish golf apparel.

“You’ll get accustomed to each other,” he continues.

“You get accustomed to canker sores or foot fungus. Not Thomas.”

Father quickly banishes his grin. “This isn’t open for negotiation. Take some time to think it over. Weigh your options very carefully, Erin. You’re my sole heir, and I don’t want to deprive you of the life you should have. But so help me, if you fight me on this one, you won’t get a dime.”

I cross my arms over my chest and lean back on the sofa. My parents worship money. If it weren’t for my mother’s pregnancy stories, I’d swear I was adopted. Our DNA can’t possibly be the same. “Don’t I get choice?”

“There’re always two answers,” my father says nonchalantly. “Yes or no.”

I can’t give in or think clearly in their shadows. I need time to recover from this head-on collision. “And what does Thomas think?”

“He’s enthusiastic.” Mother flashes me a smile.

I picture Kingsley when we were teenagers, fumbling with my blouse buttons. I rejected him a dozen times, maybe more. Some people make your skin crawl, and although he’s aesthetically pleasing, there’s something inside, marrow-deep, that repulses me.

I jump up. “I can’t stay for dinner tonight. I apologize for any inconvenience it causes, but I need to be alone.”

“Under the circumstances”

my dad looks up from the clubs he’s polishing

“I think some alone time is good.”

Really? That’s a first. I dig my car keys out of my purse, then peck Mom’s cheek. “I’ll call you in a few days. Okay?”

She shakes her head. “I’ll call at lunchtime, like I always do.”

And I’ll consider answering, if I haven’t driven off the nearest cliff first.

Chapter 1

Erin

“I know it’s unconventional.” My mother hasn’t quit calling since I left her house angry last week. “Arranged marriages are still very common in certain circles.”

“Who does that anymore, Mom?”
What’s in it for me? Money?
I don’t want their assets if it means sacrificing my happiness. I stare out the closest window, the fall breeze and warm sunshine beckoning me.

“If you only knew why.”

“Tell me.”

“I’m sorry, that’s something your father will have to discuss with you.”

“I refuse to pick china patterns with Thomas Kingsley. Did you see the T-shirt he was sporting the other day?
I’m a porcelain god
. And his fingers are always stained with flux and soldering debris.”

She chuckles.

“I’m trying to understand,” I say. “But if you won’t give me an explanation, I’m afraid I might say something I’ll regret.”

“Life is full of difficult choices,” she says. “And if I were you, I’d heed your father’s warning. I can’t sway him this time.”

A glimmer of hope? She must not support his decision. “Are you on my side?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Now I’m more confused.”

“Follow your heart, Erin.”

I disconnect, wondering what the point of our conversation was. Apparently there’s some big secret that she’s not willing to share.

I’ve never been in a serious relationship. The closest I’ve come in my adult life: a date massaging my breasts while we made out. I have an overwhelming fight or flight instinct, and once a guy’s hands wander below the belt, I run.

Determined to pretend none of this is happening, I step outside and lift my head, letting the heat envelope me. Seventy degrees in October. That’s why I stay in South Texas. I gaze down the street where I can see waves rolling in on the beach. I love Padre Island, the sand dunes and palm trees, the jack rabbits and coyotes, the wind whipping through my hair, the constant quiet.

I live in a two-bedroom condo that reminds me of a cottage in Nantucket, with handcrafted cedar shingles and mint-green paint. I enjoy my wood-burning fireplace a few times a year, host dinners, and read books until my eyes cross. That’s my life.

I follow the cobblestone footpath to my mailbox and find a letter inside.

A Game of Pleasure.

That’s the only thing printed on the envelope. There’s no return address or postmark. I look around, searching for the asshole that left it. I’m sure dropping a letter in a random mailbox is a crime. Shrugging, I go back inside, tempted to throw it away. I stare at the gold-embossed letters again. The words naturally capture my interest.

I tear the envelope open and sit on the edge of the sofa. It’s an invitation.

Erin, Welcome to a game of risk and indiscretion. The prize: a night of passion. The price: your silence.

There’s no sender’s name on the card. I flip it over.

Text your acceptance to #886. Instructions will follow.

A joke. That’s the first thing that crosses my mind. Perhaps my sorority sisters or the ladies I work with decided to prank me. Halloween is only three weeks away. I drop the strange invitation on the coffee table and stretch my legs out. My life could use a little excitement.

Okay, it needs a complete overhaul.

It’s pretty pathetic the most memorable event in my life is my own college graduation two and a half years ago. Afterward, half my friends relocated or got married. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look for a job. I opened a book store with inheritance money from my grandmother.

That’s it, no bars, sex, or spontaneity. I’m as parched as the Sahara, bored and facing a wedding with a man I don’t want. He’s rude and arrogant, and never fails to remind people that he was born with a silver spoon shoved so far up his privileged ass that he walks with a limp.

My cell rings and I rush across the living room to answer. “Katie?”

“Hey girl,” she says.

I sigh with relief, appreciative of the diversion. “You’re never going to believe what happened today.”

“Thomas chose another victim?”

I giggle. We’re always on the same wavelength. “Can you stop over?”

“On my way now. Need anything from the store?”

“Ambien and a bottle of wine?”

She laughs. “Not sleeping again?”

“Four hours last night.”

“I know what you need.”

“Don’t start.” I get the
you-need-to-get-laid
speech every other day.

“Just a suggestion. There’s no side effects, you know,” she teases. “And you don’t even have to swallow.”

“Katie!”


Pills
, dirty bird.”

“Oh.” It’s her fault I think the way I do. Like Pavlov’s dogs, I’ve been conditioned to think naughty around my BFF.

“Always sex.”

“There’s a reason for that.”

“You can tell me all about it when I get there.” She disconnects.

We attended college together, both majoring in literary studies and history. She teaches part-time at Carroll High School and works ten hours a week in my store. Whenever we get together, it’s crazy-fun. Unfortunately, I live vicariously through her, sucking up every detail of her personal life like a line of coke. I head to the kitchen and make a vegetable and cracker platter to go with the chardonnay I know she’ll bring.

Half an hour later she’s at the door. “Can I come in?” she calls through the screen.

I meet her halfway across the living room. “You look beautiful.” She’s wearing a long-sleeve notch-collar pantsuit in stark white with black heels.

She does a catwalk strut, then hands me a bottle of Bouchard Pere & Fils.

“Getting a little sassy, aren’t you?”

She follows me to the kitchen. “Blame it on Jack.”

“Jack?” I grab the corkscrew from a shelf above the sink and look at her.

“Jack Karr.”

“That’s not much to go on.” I pour two glasses.

She takes a long sip, then smiles. “Football coach.”

“At Carroll?”

She grins like the cat who ate the canary. “Hot as hell.”

“And?”

“We had dinner last night, then went to his place for a drink.”

“Quit feeding me bits and pieces.” I sit on a stool at the breakfast bar.

“I think I’m in love. The man knows his way between a woman’s legs.”

“You’re incorrigible.”

She reaches for a carrot stick, sucking on the end of it likes she’s giving head. “You need to follow my example.”

The invitation, I nearly forgot!
For once I have exciting news. I grab it off the coffee table, happy to share. “Check this out.”

She snatches it out of my hand. “What kind of crazy shit is this?”

“My kind of crazy.”

“A one-night stand with a hottie you pick up in a bar is one thing.” She taps the paper. “This is another.”

“It’s probably a hoax.”

“No. I’ve heard about this before, I just can’t remember where.”

I hold my hand out. “Give it back, I don’t want to lose it.”

“You’re seriously considering going?”

“What part of
a night of pleasure
doesn’t appeal to you?”

“Let me think . . .”

“After nagging me to get out there, you’re really going to disapprove?”

“You don’t even know who’s hosting the party. What if it’s a psycho?”

“Didn’t you just say it’s legitimate?”

She rolls her eyes. “Let me take you to Ropers or downtown. Pick a hot cowboy and fuck his brains out.”

“Boots and Wranglers don’t cut it for me.” I need more refinement if I’m going to live out my one sexual fantasy—tall, dark, and all business. “I won’t risk getting caught by someone who knows my family.”

“Since when do the Covingtons hang out in night clubs?”

“That’s a silly question.” She knows how closely my parents watch me. They’ve sent friends to my bookstore posing as customers and even went so far as to hire a private detective to follow me around for a month last year. “Remember those pictures my mother showed us last year? Close-ups of us at the concert and drinking in a restaurant downtown?”

“How could I forget? I like your mother, but she’s a little crazy, Erin.”

“All the more reason for me to avoid the night clubs.”

“Maybe, but how can you say yes to an invitation you received in the mail?”

“I don’t know. Something sparked inside of me when I read it. Nothing exciting
ever
happens to me. And it did have my name on it.”

“That’s because you spend too much time at work or tea houses. At this point, picking up a hottie in the grocery store would be a major step.”

“My mother probably has access to H.E.B.’s surveillance cameras.”

She laughs. “Okay-okay. But before you do anything, let’s do some research. Maybe take this invitation and get it dusted for fingerprints.”

“Still have that hot cop’s phone number?”

“Sure do.”

“Maybe there’s something on the Internet.”

“Google?” She nibbles on a cracker. “I’m thinking major recon. Though I do remember a club in college . . . rumors about elaborate sex parties. I believe some of our sorority sisters were involved.”

“Really?”

“Come on. I know you kept your nose in the books, but didn’t you ever pay attention to anything the girls gossiped about?”

I put my hand on waist and thrust my hip out. “Katie, what time did I go to bed every night?”

“Ten.”

“What was my GPA?”


Summa cum laude
.”

“I didn’t have time.”

“Point taken.” She slaps my ass. “Always surprised me you didn’t get writer’s spread from sitting at that desk so long.” She ogles my rear.

“Pilates.”

“Wouldn’t have to do that if you rode a cowboy every night.”

“I can’t. If Thomas . . .”

She edges close. “Thomas is a selfish piece of crap for even considering something so stupid. You can’t marry him. I won’t let you. I know your parents attached a lot of terms to that inheritance, but you’ve lived without it this long. The store is doing great.”

I cough. “Fair.”

“Well . . .” She looks around my condo. “You have a great place to live and a nice car. I don’t care if millions are involved. Walk away before it’s too late.”

Katie comes from a nice middle-class family on the South Side. Understanding the kind of wealth my parents have is almost impossible for anyone to understand, even myself. But if I do as my father wishes, my future is set. With so much financial uncertainty in the world, am I wrong for wanting that kind of security? But Katie is right. I’ve never even kissed Thomas. How can we contemplate marriage? He’s tried to get intimate with me at dinner parties lately, but he couldn’t turn me on if I were a light switch.

“I won’t marry him.” But deep inside I wonder if I’m brave enough to defy my parents. The stakes are high. Every day I mentally wrestle with their ultimatum, convincing myself to forget about money, but I also love my mother and father.

“Good.” Katie crunches on a piece of cauliflower dipped in ranch dressing. “Now’s the time to settle your differences with them. The longer you wait, the greater their expectations.”

“Nope.” I shake my head, reaching for my cell phone. “I’m responding to the invitation right now.”

BOOK: Tempted by Pleasure (Secret Invitation #1)
5.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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