My latest novel, ‘One Hot Wynter’s Night’, is available on Amazon at a reduced pre-order price now. The title is officially released in a few days, on Thursday 9th April. Here are the first two chapters for you to enjoy:
Maggie flicked aimlessly through her post, wondering what unexpected delights she would encounter today. She had studiously managed to ignore the red-inked envelopes all morning. Now, half way through the afternoon, those final demands which had recently become her unwelcome, unloved, yet constant companion, necessitated dealing with. With a sigh, she tucked the correspondence under a newspaper, at the last moment; she would deal with them, once she felt strong enough. Flicking on the kettle, her attention was instead directed towards making a super-strong coffee, in the vague hope that it would knock her out of an imminent melancholy.
Basic existence hadn’t always been such a definitive uphill struggle, she mused, selecting one of her favourite mugs. Indeed, Maggie only had to think back a couple of summers ago, when life was good and the going was relatively easy. It was depressing to find herself in her mid-thirties and in financial distress; she really should have her shit together by this age! Shaking her head irritably, Maggie returned her attention to pouring steaming water into her coffee cup. Taking a deep breath, she allowed the delicious aroma to disperse her anger. With all this reminiscing, memories of her ex-boyfriend had dared to seep their way into her consciousness. And given that he was the entire reason she was in such a mess in the first place, his presence in her head was both unwelcome and the very last thing she needed.
Fortunately at that moment, her mobile phone rang. Maggie grabbed it, like a drowning woman being offered a life ring. Glancing at the display, she smiled at Suzie’s perfect timing.
‘Good afternoon!’ grinned Maggie.
‘Is it?’ grumbled the dulcet tones of her best friend. ‘I really need you to come out with me. You’re not busy tonight, are you?’ she asked, her voice raising hopefully.
‘I can’t, Suze,’ explained Maggie, rolling her eyes dramatically. ‘I’m poorer than a church mouse that’s just found out his in-laws are planning on moving in. I literally don’t have a bean. Actually,’ she added with a shudder. ‘It’s even worse than that. I owe beans!’
‘I wasn’t suggesting we go out on the razzle,’ her caller teased gently. ‘I’m offering you the chance to earn some decent cashola.’
‘Doing what, exactly?’ asked Maggie, with a healthy portion of cynicism.
‘We just have to try and crash a party.’
‘I’ve got no idea. It’s something that’s being organised at work. Very hush-hush. But it’s cash in hand, to partake in an activity we were extremely well practiced at, throughout our teens and a good portion of our twenties,’ smiled her friend. ‘Easy money.’
Maggie pondered for a short while. She was quite used to random requests from her best friend, who worked as a journalist at a divisional office of one of the less salubrious national newspapers. Consequently, employees were occasionally offered cash inducements to take part in reccies, typically requiring a somewhat dubious moral code.
‘Is it illegal?’ asked Maggie, her intense green eyes narrowing with concern.
‘Gate-crashing a party? How can it be? All they need to do is turn us away at the door, if they don’t want us to enter. We’ll still get paid.’
‘Okay, thanks for thinking of me, I guess,’ conceded Maggie. She had an electricity bill which simply had to be paid in the next three days. With absolutely no idea how to lay her hands on the couple of hundred pounds required, this was certainly a very timely offer, as well as a welcome one. ‘Where’s the party?’
‘Fuck knows!’ giggled Suzie, lowering her voice. ‘Godzilla’s told us to be back at the office tonight, wearing our best ballgowns and dancing shoes. Transport is being arranged. That’s all I know. It’s tip top secret!’
‘It sounds dodgy,’ sighed Maggie, wishing she was in a position to be able to turn down the offer.
‘Course it does. But we’ll be together and they’ll pay you five hundred quid to turn out. Come on, please? How many times did we voluntarily crash parties when we were younger, for no payment at all?’
‘I’m guessing this isn’t a teenager’s birthday party though, where the highlight is spin the bottle?’
‘Probably not,’ giggled Suzie. ‘Worst luck! But if you’re that desperately in need of a big, wet kiss, I know exactly the man to oblige you!’
‘My gorgeous godson?’ grinned Maggie. ‘How is Teddy? I need to come round soon for a humongous cuddle!’
‘He’s a delight,’ agreed Suzie, thinking fondly of her delicious baby. She’d only recently returned from six months of maternity leave, where she’d spent every minute with him. Consequently, Suzie was missing her son more than she would ever admit, particularly to her Editor-In-Chief, who had barely stopped querying why she had needed any time off at all. ‘Hubby’s looking after him today.’
‘Don’t forget, I’ll babysit wheneveryou want to go out.’
‘Don’t you have enough of children during working hours,’ teased Suzie.
‘I could never have enough of Teddy!’ argued Maggie. ‘Besides, it’s the school summer holidays so my resistance has been built back up again.’ Suzie laughed.
‘Glutton for punishment! Right, any questions before I disappear?’
‘Yeah,’ grinned Maggie impishly. ‘Do you think it’s possible for women’s bodies to close up completely without sex?’
‘I meant questions about tonight,’ exclaimed Suzie, bursting out laughing.
‘I know,’ said Maggie, laughing along with her.
‘It hasn’t been that long, has it?’ asked her friend.
‘Suze! It’s been nearly two fucking years!’
‘Look, I’d better go,’ Suzie replied, suddenly in a much more professional tone. Clearly, she was at work and could now be overheard. ‘We can discuss this later, but be at my office at seven o’clock tonight. Okay?’
‘Sure, see you then.’
Carefully, Maggie ended the call and placed her telephone down on the counter beside the ever-increasing pile of bills. Apparently, it was time to dust off her one and only ballgown.
‘You look amazing!’ said Maggie, gazing in wonder at her best friend’s blonde hair, elegantly piled up onto the top of her head. Gratefully, she accepted a glass of champagne and took a large swig for Dutch Courage.
‘So do you!’ grinned Suzie, hugging her. As they made their way into a large boardroom with framed front pages of their publication gazing down at them, Maggie glanced around at the surprisingly large number of people gathered. They were all dressed up in their finery, causing Maggie to suddenly feel much less self-conscious. In a short, black, lacy dress and high heels, which displayed her long legs to perfection, she had been concerned she might be somewhat overdressed. Now, based on the other potential gate-crashers, she was pleased to have made the effort.
‘Right!’ ordered Juliet Masters, clapping her hands as she bustled into the room. The Editor-In-Chief was fondly referred to as Godzilla by her staff, although never to her face. Juliet was a striking, rather than attractive woman but nonetheless, clearly a force to be reckoned with. ‘Thank you for joining us on this auspicious Friday night, to undertake what is fast becoming an annual rite of passage. Can I have the lights turned off please?’
A mutter of excitement traversed the group, as the room descended into darkness. Everyone’s attention was immediately drawn to a large, lit screen.
‘Quick warning,’ Suzie whispered under her breath, in Maggie’s direction. ‘Don’t argue with this woman. She’s a ballbuster. So whatever you do, don’t piss her off.’
‘Britain no longer has a population of wolves,’ Godzilla announced dramatically. ‘With one notable exception.’
At that moment, a photograph of the most handsome man Maggie had ever laid eyes on, filled the screen. With a sharp inhale, she allowed the image to fill her up. Dark, terrifyingly brooding and radiating an unharnessed power, she felt a shiver of lust pass straight down her spine. The guy was gorgeous; or as her teenage self would have said… seriously shaggable.
‘Sir Kristoff de Wynter,’ continued Juliet dramatically. ‘That’s Kristoff spelt with two F’s, for those of you who are interested. Stands for Fearsome Fucker.’
‘Phew!’ exclaimed Suzie, fanning her face, much to the delight of her colleagues. ‘It’s a pity this isn’t going to be a teenager’s party. I wouldn’t mind spinning the bottle with him!’
‘You’re a married woman!’ called out one of them.
‘Yeah, I know! So I’ll just have to live vicariously through you lot.’
‘Be careful what you wish for, girls,’ warned Juliet ominously. ‘He’s a wolf in the very worst sense of the word; dangerous, ruthless, unrelenting and savage.’
‘Is it wrong that hearing that description only makes me fancy him more?’ whispered Suzie. Maggie stifled her giggle, lest she get reprimanded by the terrifying Godzilla.
‘I’m so out of practice, I probably wouldn’t have a clue what to do with him,’ she murmured in response.
‘As I previously alluded to,’ continued Godzilla in her booming voice, forcing the rest of the room to immediately fall silent once more. ‘Tonight won’t be the first time we’ve tried to infiltrate Kristoff’s residence, although I anticipate it will be the first time we succeed. That’s because tonight, we are going in numbers. A masked ball is being held there this evening, to be attended by dignitaries…and even, so I’m reliably informed, some members of the royal family. Oh yes, I also ought to mention…he’s immorally rich.’
Glancing towards one of her staff, she nodded abruptly. At that moment, everybody in the room received a new email on their phone. Maggie glanced down at hers, noting that the message had a number of attachments.
‘You’ve all just been sent a floor plan of Kristoff de Wynter’s residence, plus a list of six-digit numbers. Your task tonight is to infiltrate the party, before making your way to the master bedroom on the second floor. Inside that room, behind the door, you will find a safe. It is our best guess that one of those numbers is likely to open the safe. Kristoff is a heartless, powerful, some would say ruthless businessman, but I’m not interested in any money or secret commercial documents that might be inside. The only thing I want taken from that safe is a bundle of memory cards.’
‘Don’t say a word,’ hissed Suzie, with a warning shake of her head. She was well aware that her best friend had very strong, morally-grounded beliefs about right and wrong. Indeed, she could practically feel Maggie priming herself to refuse to take part. Clearly agitated, Maggie did as she’d been told. Silencing her argument, which was clamouring to be heard, she instead focussed on downing the remainder of her champagne.
‘Get turned away at the entrance by security and earn yourself five hundred pounds,’ explained Juliet silkily. ‘Get inside the property itself and earn yourself two thousand pounds. Retrieve the memory cards from Sir Kristoff de Wynter’s safe and deliver them to me. You will be rewarded with fifty thousand pounds.’
A gasp went around the room in response to the astronomical sums being offered. This was clearly a story she was going all out for.
‘One last thing,’ she added, puffing out her chest in determination. ‘If any of you do happen to get inside his safe, I want you to leave it wide open so the fucker knows we’ve been there, the moment he steps foot in his room. Good luck and don’t get caught. The man is very aptly named; his heart is as cold as any winter. Dismissed,’ she announced, immediately marching out of the room without a backward glance.
‘Holy Fuck,’ breathed Suzie.
‘I know I need the money,’ began Maggie, alcohol threatening to cloud her normally very clear moral judgement. ‘But this is wrong. I can’t do this.’
‘Oh come on!’ chivvied Suzie. ‘Do you seriously think any of us are going to make it past the front door, with the levels of security they’ll be employing tonight? We’re scarcely James Bond material! Personally, I’m happy just to take my five hundred pounds for being turned away at the door, and then go home. Aren’t you?’
‘I guess,’ murmured a pained Maggie. Damn her wanker of an ex, for getting her into such a financial hole that this was the only way to dig herself out. She hated not having the luxury of being able to choose between right and wrong; for being forced into taking weak decisions, against her will. This whole scheme was dishonest and she knew it. Yet, to her eternal shame, Maggie accepted one of the masquerade masks which were being handed out to all participants and followed the group towards the vehicles.
Squashed up tightly on the back seat of an ancient, off-road Landrover, Suzie on one side and a lanky, ginger-haired bloke called Dave on the other, this wasn’t quite the transport service Maggie had been expecting.
‘Remind me,’ she groaned with heavy sarcasm, subtly supporting her chest as the track they were travelling along became increasingly bumpy. ‘Why did we get this level of luxury, instead of the Bentley? Which I’d obviously have hated…’
‘Luck?’ replied Suzie, with a grimace.
Doubling their chance of success, the party-goers had been divided into two sets. One group of four people were due to arrive in a highly polished, black Bentley; the aristocrats’ car of choice. They would daringly be driven straight through the front gate of the property, in full view of all security personnel. A second group of nine were travelling in two Landrovers, taking the off-road approach, through the enormous forty-thousand acre estate that helped form Sir Kristoff de Wynter’s property. To their dismay, Maggie and Suzie had drawn the short straw, making them wish they’d worn more supportive undergarments.
‘Why is Godzilla so interested in this guy?’ asked Dave. ‘What’s the angle?’
‘No idea,’ came a voice from the front passenger seat. ‘But then, the boss has always played her cards pretty close to her chest, hasn’t she?’
For a brief moment, the only noise was the rich, throaty roar of the Landrover, as it began to traverse along a dirt track.
‘I know,’ admitted Suzie in a pained voice, as though the pressure of the secret was crushing her.
‘Don’t hold out on us now, Suze,’ her compatriots urged. ‘Spill!’
‘I’m not supposed to know…don’t ask how I doknow,’ she grumbled. ‘But Kristoff de Wynter is a well-known ladies’ man. He’s a serious player.’
Maggie felt her stomach drop unexpectedly. Her reaction had nothing to do with an unexpected bump in the track, and everything to do with disappointment. In the photo which had flashed up on the screen, Kristoff had looked like her perfect man. Suzie’s disclosure immediately confirmed that he was no such thing. Suddenly, Maggie had an urge to laugh at herself. She was responding emotionally to the actions of a man she had never met, had next to no chance of ever meeting, and who would have no interest in her if ever they did meet. Sometimes, she needed a serious reality check.
‘He’s rumoured to record the women he fucks, which incidentally, he does with more than a moderate level of kink. The images aren’t the kinds of scenarios you’d want your husband, friends, colleagues or kids ever seeing. I’m guessing that’s what’s on the memory cards. The recordings are then retained and have, on occasion, been used for blackmail purposes, either against the women themselves, or their subsequently powerful husbands…allegedly,’ explained Suzie to her colleagues, who were listening in rapt silence. ‘In short, Godzilla is sending us in to steal the sexual blackmail chronicles of Kristoff de Wynter,’ she concluded significantly.
‘Fuck!’ breathed Dave. ‘That would be one hell of a story!’
‘Priceless to a newspaper editor,’ agreed another. ‘All provided by the classic “anonymous source”, which she will never have to reveal.’
‘Hence the pay-out she’s offering,’ explained Suzie. ‘Plus, he’s renowned for never doing press interviews. She’d make her initial outlay back a hundred times over. Hell! A thousand times over!’
At that moment, a crackle came over the CB radio, which was lodged on the dashboard at the front.
‘We’re screwed,’ exclaimed an urgent voice, which Suzie recognised as one of her colleagues. From his rapid breathing and heavy footfall, it sounded as though he was running. Fast. ‘We didn’t make it through the gates. You’re on your own.’
‘Christ!’ whistled Dave. ‘The Bentley didn’t make it in.’
‘It’s down to us now, then,’ said the driver, immediately slowing down and turning off the headlights. Carefully, he continued to drive forwards in a low gear, navigating solely by the dappled moonlight.
Holding on tightly to the seat in front, Maggie took in a deep breath and tried to steady her gathering pulse. It was a surreal experience to be driven in the pitch black, without any lights, through a woodland they were clearly trespassing in. A short while later, under the cover of darkness, they pulled up close to a huge, stone wall. Peering over it, Maggie could see an enormous, honey-coloured castle, illuminated by spotlights. Through the many floor-to-ceiling windows, she could make out quite a party going on inside, with waiters sashaying around hundreds of beautifully-attired guests.
‘Right, masks on,’ instructed the driver, as he killed the engine. With the help of her shaking hands, Maggie fitted the black lace Masquerade mask carefully around her face. Starting at her forehead and ending on the bridge of her nose, it surrounded her eyes entirely. Complementing her dress perfectly, the accessory provided her with an unexpected confidence, to go ahead with this truly insane plan. She needed the money, she reminded herself strictly, as they exited the vehicle. Shortly, she’d be heading back home again, having undoubtedly failed to make it inside, five hundred pounds the richer.
Arm in arm with Suzie, the two women trotted through a small gate and onto a wide, sweeping lawn. Most of the women had their long dresses gathered up in front of them, as they made a dash towards the car parking area. Maggie however, had no such need. The dress she wore was thigh length; her only focus was trying to pull it down slightly, in order to cover herself up. Instead, she held on tight to the small clutch bag which contained her mobile phone and some makeup. Having taken a brief breather, surprised to have made it this far without being challenged, the group split up, as per their pre-agreed plan. They were to head towards the front door either in pairs or singles, as opposed to en masse.
Dave and Suzie, who had linked arms for the purposes of trying to blend in, headed confidently towards the door. Maggie followed a short distance behind them; she was on her own and felt a lot less confident as a result. Glancing down, as the surface upon which she was walking momentarily changed, she was astounded to find herself crossing a short expanse of water; there was only a goddam moat around the residence! Who the hell was this man?
Maggie’s sense of discomfort exploded as she drew closer to the front door and became fully aware of the level of security employed. There were a huge number of uniformed men present who, she realised with a growing sense of dread, were armed. An ice-cold chill traversed her spine. The property was enormous and in the middle of nowhere. If they realised she was an imposter, there was no way she could escape. There was no way any of them could.
‘Excuse me, Sir, Madam. Your invitations, please?’
Maggie glanced ahead in horror, as Dave and Suzie were pulled to one side and asked to provide their formal invitations. Stuttering incoherently, Maggie hoped Dave was a better journalist than he was an actor. He’d already given them away, before Suzie had managed to open her mouth.
‘If you’ll come with us, please?’ ordered the guard, leading the pair of them back down the steps towards Maggie.
The two girls exchange an urgent eye meet, which said so much, without saying anything at all. With a strengthened resolve, Maggie nodded slightly to Suzie’s unspoken encouragement, and continued striding forwards. However, her progress was impeded by a grey-haired lady in an exquisite dress, clearly struggling along in her unfamiliar heels. Just as Maggie caught up with her, the lady stumbled on the uneven ground.
‘Oh my goodness!’ squeaked Maggie, immediately throwing her arms out to catch the lady before she hit the cobbled path. ‘Are you alright?’ Holding on firmly to her arm, she gave the older woman a little time to regain her balance and her bearings. Maggie couldn’t help but silently admire her jewellery; she was positively dripping with diamonds.
‘I am, thanks to you,’ she breathed, placing a wrinkled hand over Maggie’s arm. ‘Would you be so kind as to help me inside?’
‘Of course,’ agreed Maggie, all of her focus now on helping the lady, rather than worrying about her own illegal activity. As they approached the main door, instead of being quizzed, as Maggie had expected, the armed guards stood back with respect.
‘Lady Cynthia Pemberton,’ said one respectfully. ‘Good evening.’
With a nod, the woman continued forwards and an astonished Maggie simply followed. And just like that, she was inside the party, and two thousand pounds richer.
‘What’s your name, Dearie?’
‘Maggie,’ she replied breathlessly, as they made their way across a lavishly decorated entrance hall, uplit silk flames flickering in each corner. ‘Maggie Matthews.’ Immediately, she kicked herself; given her purpose for being at the party, anyone with half a brain would have given a false name.
‘It’s lovely to meet you,’ she replied. ‘You’re very welcome to sit with me, if you wish?’
‘I’d love to,’ Maggie admitted. ‘Thank you.’ Besides, how the hell was she going to look like she belonged here otherwise?
Maggie couldn’t help but acknowledge that the main banqueting hall was an impressive thing to behold, as the two ladies made their careful way to a table near the dance floor. Decorated extravagantly, the enormous, chandelier-lit room was filled with perhaps twenty large tables. Each was draped in white linen and perfectly laid with flowers, silver, crystal and Wedgewood. It took all of Maggie’s efforts to scrape her chin off the floor, as household name after household name strolled casually past them, occasionally greeting Lady Pemberton warmly. Members of Parliament, the Mayor of London, television presenters, a businessman that Maggie had only been reading about in the Sunday papers last week, Hollywood actors, models, music idols, the seventh in line to the throne…they were all in attendance.
As Maggie helped the older lady into her chair, a well-known celebrity chef appeared.
‘Cynthia!’ he crooned, dropping his head to kiss her on the cheek. ‘Lovely to see you.’
‘And you, James,’ she smiled demurely. ‘May I introduce Maggie Matthews?’
‘Charmed,’ he nodded. Taking Maggie’s hand, he kissed the back of it gently. Maggie could do no more than execute a controlled fall into the chair beside Cynthia.
‘Likewise,’ she croaked. If her mother were here, she would literally be having a coronary; this man was considered a God in their family. Although, if her mother were here, she might also be having a coronary, due to her daughter’s apparent lack of morals. Swallowing noisily, Maggie tried to push that uncomfortable thought to the very back of her mind.
Taking a quick glance around the room, whilst James and Cynthia caught up, Maggie tried to calm her fast-paced breathing. There were precious few signs that anybody from the newspaper had succeeded in making it inside the building. She recognised a huge number of party attendees, but only because she’d seen them on television, as opposed to spent an uncomfortable journey with them. For the hundredth time, her mind flashed to Suzie; she hoped she was okay. Suddenly, all logical thought evaporated, as Kristoff de Wynter stalked across the dancefloor, just meters from where she was sitting.
With a loud gasp, an open-mouthed Maggie simply breathed in the sight of him. The man was glorious; there was nothing anybody could tell her about his shady personal life that would make her opinion change either. Tall and brooding, with dark hair and what looked like a well-muscled body, he radiated intense power and phenomenal sexuality. This was probably assisted by the fact he was dressed as a Highwayman. Donning dark boots, trousers and tails, plus a long cloak which billowed out behind him, the outfit had been chosen as an ironic nod to a recent newspaper article, describing him as the Highwayman of British Industry. Just to finish off the ensemble, he wore a dark hat and mask. The mask surrounded his coal-black eyes, leaving only his full lips and chiselled, slightly stubbled jawline showing. Without a backward glance, he disappeared into an adjacent room, leaving Maggie reeling in his wake.
Sometime later, Maggie excused herself from the table. Making her way to the facilities, it had to be acknowledged that, against all odds, she was actually starting to enjoy herself. Cynthia and her group of friends were enormous fun; hideously indiscrete and clearly of an age that they were past caring who they might insult, even if that person was sitting a mere table away. Consequently, Maggie had scarcely stopped giggling since her arrival.
As she anticipated, the cloakrooms were the height of luxury, containing an array of high-quality products available for the guests. Having washed her hands, Maggie pleasurably massaged cream into her skin, a bottle of which would probably have gone a long way to paying her annual car tax bill. With green eyes glancing critically back at her in the mirror, she sighed, before restyling her long, black hair over one shoulder. Wishing she was classically beautiful, Maggie had always felt tall and gangly, rather than svelte and compact. She was certainly nothing, in comparison to some of the beauties at this party. But then, she acknowledged in an attempt to comfort herself, how could a primary school teacher possibly compete with a supermodel? And why would she even want to try?
When she tentatively began to navigate her way back across the banqueting hall, Maggie’s arm was tapped by the famous chef she had previously been introduced to.
‘James!’ she gasped. It felt surreal to be in the same room as him, yet alone directly conversing.
‘Maggie,’ he smiled, linking his arm through hers. ‘Come and do me a favour, will you?’ he asked, leading her towards an enormous set of tables, each brimming with the most exquisite food known to man. Picking up two plates, he handed one across to her. ‘I’m considering hiring this chef; tell me what you think?’
‘Oh! Gosh! I…’ stuttered Maggie. As an uninvited guest, it somehow felt very wrong for her to eat the party food, particularly given the purpose of her visit.
‘Well?’ he prompted, offering up a plate of langoustines which were positively dripping with butter. Accepting one, she cautiously took a bite, a small moan escaping her lips as her senses kicked in.
‘That is amazing,’ she sighed, quickly consuming the remainder.
‘Yeah, it is good, isn’t it?’ agreed James. ‘Sorry, would you just excuse me for one moment?’ he muttered, as a nearby woman caught his attention with an excited squeal.
‘Of course,’ smiled Maggie, before grabbing a second langoustine, all thoughts of what was morally correct, flying straight out of the window.
Closing her eyes in ecstasy, she savoured the delicate morsel, failing to suppress a small groan in the base of her throat. With a wide smile on her face, Maggie slowly relished the exquisite taste. Yet, despite it, she found herself being distracted by an altogether more interesting scent. Masculine, almost illegally sexy, whoever it was smelt utterly divine. Driven to discover more, she cautiously opened her eyes. To her utter horror, Kristoff de Wynter was standing directly in front of her, gazing inquisitively. As her jaw slackened, Maggie dropped a hand behind, reaching for the table which provided very necessary support. Every hair on the back of her neck stood to attention as she drank him in. Up close, the guy was absolutely divine. In his left hand, he held two full glasses of ice-cold champagne. Raising them towards Maggie, he offered one across to her in a very practiced manner. In astonishment, she shakily accepted it.
‘I understand you’re Lady Pemberton’s plus one?’ he queried, in little more than a growl. The mere timbre of his voice shot bolts of pleasure throughout Maggie’s entire body, goosebumps visibly erupting over her arms and chest. She was desperately trying to read him, yet failing miserably. Other than estimating that he was probably in his early forties, so perhaps five years older than herself, she was drawing a blank.
‘Mmmm,’ she agreed noncommittally. Maggie’s vague response was partly due to not wishing to share a mistruth with him, but mostly because the power of speech had momentarily deserted her. To cover up her discomfort, she quickly took a large mouthful of her beverage, the bubbles bouncing enticingly across her tongue. No connoisseur herself, even she could appreciate this was a very fine, ridiculously expensive refreshment. As a waiter passed close by, she managed to sneak a peek at the label on the bottle he was holding. Yep. They were talking crazy money. With her mouth threatening to hang open even wider, Maggie returned her attention back to Kristoff. Hooking her gaze, his almost black eyes trapped her in an eye meet that lasted an unnecessarily long time. It was a gaze from which Maggie was entirely unable to escape.
‘Kristoff de Wynter,’ he said at last, holding out his hand in introduction.
‘Spelt with a double F,’ Maggie blurted out stupidly, before her brain had a chance to stop her. Hypnotically, she placed a small hand into his much larger one. As they joined, Maggie found herself captured within a warm, firm grip which sent a strong pulse beating across her clit and made her internal muscles clamp down hard. The perfect pressure and control of his touch informed Maggie, in no uncertain terms, that this man would be an intuitive, resourceful and phenomenally skilled lover. Her pussy clenched even more tightly, at the mere thought of it.
‘That’s right,’ he confirmed in a gruff voice. ‘And your name?’
‘Maggie Matthews,’ she replied with a dry croak, quite impressed to be able to speak at all. It turned out that devastating good looks, coupled with an unarguable power, were a killer combination. She was further unnerved, as he marginally closed the gap between their two bodies, peering curiously into her green, cat-like eyes.
‘I’d love to see what’s under that mask of yours, Maggie,’ he murmured seductively.
‘I’m sure you would,’ she replied with a half-smile. This man was clearly used to getting his own way. Perhaps, if she treated him as though he were a small child in one of her classes at school, he might not be quite so intimidating. ‘Alas, the clue is in the use of the description; maskedball.’
‘Only until midnight,’ he replied confidently. ‘After which, all can be revealed.’
‘All?’ she queried. The slight wobble in her voice betrayed the fact that he overwhelmed her, despite her attempts to display otherwise.
‘All,’ he confirmed, satisfied to note a flush spread across her cheeks and neck, in response to his implication.
Lifting his hand to hers, Kristoff gathered up her glass. As he did so, his fingers grazed lightly against Maggie’s, causing a slight shiver to pass unimpeded across her body. Depositing their glasses on the tray of a loitering waiter, he held out his arm, which she tentatively accepted.
‘Dance with me,’ he murmured. It was an instruction, more than an offer. Knowing he would be unlikely to take “no” for an answer, and remembering the delicate situation in which she found herself regarding the legality of her position, Maggie submitted and allowed herself to be led to the centre of the dance floor.
The live band was playing a smooth, low tempo number which fortunately wasn’t going to overly tax her dancing abilities. Yet, to her surprise, Kristoff decisively took hold of her hand and waist. His finger placement was just this side of decent and Maggie had a feeling it had been very purposefully done. Despite that, she was grateful for all the support being offered; keeping her balance, whilst in such close proximity to him, was proving challenging.
As he pulled Maggie closer, the scent of vanilla from her warm, over-excited body wafted into his nostrils; the sweet smell of innocence. With a long, slow, pained exhale, he looked down at her. Maggie was no slouch in the height department, but still she had to tilt her head upwards to observe him. As their eyes locked, Kristoff began to move. Guiding their steps, he waltzed them easily around the floor. Both unwilling and unable to break the contact, Maggie surrendered, lost in his gaze. At that moment, they could have been the only two people on earth.
Held safe in his powerful arms, she could feel the sinews in his back moving beneath her fingertips and experienced a powerful need to discover what lay beneath his clothing. Almost against her own will, her fingers began to drift up over his shoulders, circling tentatively. Feeling Maggie relax in his arms, Kristoff very subtly began to caress his hands in circular movements across her back and sides, yet never once creeping towards the side of breasts, which were pulsing, almost painfully, in need of his touch.
With her flushed cheeks, full lips parted and long hair flying wildly, Maggie was dancing with more skill than she thought she even possessed. It was as though, between them, they were greater than the sum of their parts, each encouraging the best out of each other. Only when the band reached a natural break, did Kristoff finally seem willing to leave the dance floor, still with Maggie clamped firmly by his side.
‘I need you to follow me,’ he stated, albeit in a gentler tone than Maggie had previously heard.
As they left the room, Maggie felt her stomach drop dramatically. The driver of the Landrover, who she had a feeling was called Jim, was standing to one side of the room, doing his best to fit in. So somebody else had managed to infiltrate the building, in addition to her, then? Thank goodness she wasn’t alone. As Maggie passed him, they exchanged a desperate eye meet. Her comrade was clearly shocked to observe her being led away by the host of the party they were crashing…and the very man they were planning to steal from.
Under Kristoff’s guidance, Maggie was taken out of the main body of the party, towards a little used corridor. The security staff positioned there simply melted away, no questions asked, before returning to their station, once the couple had passed through.
‘Why do I need to follow you?’ she stuttered, feeling more than a little uncomfortable. In the ballroom, there had been relative safety in numbers, but Kristoff seemed intent on isolating her from the rest of the partygoers.
‘You ask too many questions,’ he growled, as they passed through a heavy, oak door, which he closed firmly behind them.
‘I’d argue that I ask the perfect number of questions,’ she immediately responded. ‘So?’
‘Because I want to engage in a specific activity with you. And believe me when I say, you would not appreciate it being done in a very public location. Now, follow me, Lady Pemberton’s plus one.’
A cold drip of fear suddenly trickled down Maggie’s spine, despite the surrounding warmth. Continuing to follow him through enormous, empty rooms, her mind was whirring. He’d worked out she was a fraud. His final comment as good as nailed it in her mind. She was done for.
‘Where are we going?’ she stuttered, trying not to show her fear.
Making their way down a set of stone stairs, a single dim light illuminating their way, the air grew cooler with every step. A dungeon. That was the only thing Maggie’s overactive imagination could deduce. By the time Kristoff had opened and firmly closed the heavy door behind them, Maggie’s breath was advancing fast and shallow. But, to her surprise, they arrived in a cavernous wine cellar. Illuminated only with dim uplighters, there were no windows; just rows upon rows of vintage bottles lining the walls, each one covered with a thick layer of dust.
‘What’s happening?’ stumbled Maggie. Her heart was pumping so ferociously now that Kristoff must have been able to hear it. The sound had taken over her entire body, like the stealthy drum beat from an approaching, hostile jungle tribe.
‘I’m going to kiss you,’ he murmured, taking a step towards her.
‘You are?’ she gasped, finding herself backed against the heavy oak door they had just entered through.
‘I am,’ he confirmed.
Taking a final step forward, his formidable body trapping her perfectly in place, Kristoff raised his hands. Running his fingers tenderly through her hair, he gathered it expertly in his grasp. Tugging gently to tilt her head, he slowly exposed the long length of her neck. Maggie could only exhale noisily. Leaning into her, he simply paused, breathing against her sensitive skin.
‘What are you doing?’ she croaked, eyes rolling backwards with desire. The heavy throbbing in her core was practically the only thing of which she was aware.
‘What do you think I’m doing?’ he replied, with a small smirk, dropping his hand to lock the door behind her.
‘I have no idea.’
‘I’m seducing you,’ he explained, the words bouncing along her neck, like a caress from the devil himself.
‘What?’ she yelped.
‘You heard me.’
‘But you can’t!’ she spluttered, the hold upon her hair tightening, as Maggie tried to straighten her head.
‘Tell me I can,’ he growled above her quiet whimpers. ‘Tell me!’
‘Oh God! I guess you can…’ she murmured, disappointed at how readily she had caved.
‘Good. Besides, I literally can’t help myself,’ he admitted. Teasingly, his moist lips impacted Maggie’s neck, sending a powerful electrical charge straight through her.
‘Fuck!’ gasped Maggie. Collapsing back, she was mightily grateful that her weight was being supported, pressed between the door and Kristoff’s powerful form. There was no way she would be capable of staying upright otherwise. The man was lethal.
With her eyes squeezed tightly shut, Maggie was aware of every touch point of their bodies; his lips on her neck, heavy thighs pressing firmly against hers and now his clearly gifted hands. With the softest touch Maggie had ever known, he started to tickle gently across her hips, slowly circling his way to her tummy, which spasmed uncontrollably with every stroke of his talented fingers.
‘Mmmm, you’re perfect, Ms Matthews,’ groaned an enchanted Kristoff, dropping his mouth lower, to nuzzle against her exposed collar bone. Muttering endearments, he continued to thoroughly explore the ample amount of bare skin that her low-cut dress permitted. In her dizzy state, Maggie heard words such as “beautiful”, “enchanting” and “innocent”, when his mouth wasn’t otherwise engaged. It was the strangest sensation; Kristoff had taken full control of her quivering body, owning her… possessing her. And yet, he never touched her anywhere which would satisfy the burning hunger that he’d unleashed within.
‘God!’ she growled, her abdomen suddenly flooding with heat, whilst a strong pulse ricocheted across her pussy. ‘What the fuck are you doing?’
Maggie’s pained question was directed towards the light, teasing touches now being directed across her lower back.
‘Was that a rhetorical question, or do you really want to know?’ he breathed against her exposed shoulder. For a brief moment, his teeth sank against her skin, making all logical thought impossible. Once he’d chosen to release her, Maggie was able to respond at last.
‘Want to know,’ she panted. Whilst his hands continued to work their magic, she became unbearably conscious of her arousal, pooling generously in her panties. It was terrifying, that her mind and body were already submitting to his desires, before they’d even kissed.
‘Your lower back is where the sacral nerves are located,’ he explained, in deep tones that spoke their own language, direct to her soul. ‘Those nerves shoot straight through to your pussy. Taking advantage of that fact makes intensifying your pleasure extremely… achievable.’
‘I want you,’ he groaned, his hands shifting to trail across her ass and thighs. This turned into a deep hungry growl as he suddenly became aware of the outline of Maggie’s suspenders beneath his exploring hands; clearly, he liked what he was discovering. ‘I want to fuck you tonight.’
‘Wh…what?’ stammered Maggie, as his mouth moved adjacent to hers, breathing in the same air, sharing the same heat.
‘You heard me. Tonight, I need you in my bed. I need you to become mine.’
‘The truth is, I want you, right this second. But we must wait until the guests have gone. Then, I’m going to dedicate the entire night, solely to drawing out your pleasure and becoming an expert in your desires.’
Unable to respond with words, Maggie’s lower jaw simply dropped slightly with shock. Kristoff reminded her of a domesticated wolf; capable of acting the part of the cultured, polite gentleman; sophisticated, educated, erudite. But, scratch away the gossamer-thin veneer of social respectability and the raw, untrustworthy, animalistic predator was waiting, ready to pounce.
Slowly, he dragged one hand back up Maggie’s body, gently cupping her cheek. His movement slightly changed their body positions, allowing his swollen length to rest against her pelvis for the first time. Maggie was surprised to find herself taking some consolation from the fact that she wasn’t the only one affected by their coupling. Running his fingers through her hair, his hand captured the back of her head and pulled her mouth slowly towards his.
Whimpering, Maggie’s eyes closed as his soft, warm lips made first contact. The sensation was overwhelming and completely different to what she’d been expecting; the experience was all-consuming. Put simply, his mouth claimed hers; tenderly, yet with passionate intent. It was as though they were having a wordless conversation, as their lips, and later their tongues, danced in perfect synchronicity. Maggie was blown away, left wondering how a man known to be ruthless and uncaring could possibly be capable of making her heart sing so absolutely. She had literally never experienced such an instant yet powerful physical attraction to anyone before; it was both exhilarating and terrifying.
With a pained groan, Kristoff finally broke away, leaving Maggie bereft without his warm, comforting touch.
‘Meet me on the dancefloor at midnight, when everybody removes their masks,’ he instructed, circling a single index finger around her bare shoulder, making it shudder uncontrollably.
‘I’m not sure that’s a good idea,’ gasped Maggie. She mustn’t get carried away. He might seem like the perfect man now, but if he knew the purpose of her visit, that persona would disappear in an instant; she had no doubt of that.
‘It’s a fucking amazing idea and you know it!’ he stated with complete certainty. ‘Sometimes you just have to take risks in life. For you, tonight is one of those times.’
‘I’m not good at risk taking,’ she admitted, dropping her eyes momentarily to the floor.
Having straightened out their clothes, Kristoff unlocked the door and, taking Maggie’s hand, led her back towards the noisy, pounding heart of the party. Just before they reached the entrance hall, Maggie detached herself.
‘Excuse me, I must go to the Ladies.’
Under the spotlight of one of his long, hard, appraising looks, Maggie felt all the sensations she’d experienced kissing him suddenly bubble back up to the surface. She locked her knees to stop them wobbling and stared back defiantly. This man was obviously used to ruling the roost. The mere thought made Maggie determined not to let him have everything his own way.
‘I’ll see you at midnight,’ he affirmed, an eyebrow raising in question.
Without responding, Maggie turned and walked towards the cloakroom, dreading the moment she dared to glance in the mirror, and discover quite how ravished she looked.
For the remainder of the evening, Maggie and Kristoff barely spoke; they didn’t need to. Their bodies and expressions, coupled with some serious eye meets, were doing all the talking. Thanks to occasional half-glances across the huge room, Maggie found herself constantly aware of him.
Mixing with so many household names, it was taking all of Maggie’s efforts not to look utterly star struck. However, the fact that Kristoff had already knocked her for six, somehow helped. For the next hour, she chatted with stars of screen and stage, attempting not to look like a primary school teacher completely out of her depth. Which, of course, was exactly what she was.
At one point, when Maggie was giggling with some of Cynthia’s friends, Kristoff walked directly up behind her, exuding raw sexuality.
‘In a matter of hours, I’m gonna make you fucking scream,’ he whispered through her dark hair, to ensure he wasn’t overheard. Mischievously, he allowed a lazy hand to gently brush her ass.
With her face blushing almost puce, Maggie spun around in disbelief, ready to confront him. But all she saw was his departing back; he had already walked away.
‘You’ve made quite a conquest there,’ observed one of Cynthia’s companions with a smile.
‘I’m sure that’s not true!’ denied Maggie, smoothing back her hair, whilst trying to regain her equilibrium.
It was only when the midnight hour was almost upon them, that Maggie truly lost her nerve. Carefully monitoring Kristoff’s whereabouts, much as you would a large, circling predator, she was horrified to observe him approaching Lady Pemberton. Fearing her cover would be blown within seconds of their conversation starting, Maggie subtly collected her clutch bag from a nearby table. Carefully edging her way out of the banqueting room, she somehow made it into the main entrance hall, without attracting Kristoff’s attention. It was imperative she escaped, whilst she was still capable of doing so.
Unfortunately, before Maggie reached the front door, her only other compatriot raced towards her.
‘Hide it,’ Jim growled desperately, passing across a black velvet pouch. Hesitating for only a second, Maggie immediately thrust the package down her cleavage. Moments later, a number of security guards dashed past her and wrestled the struggling imposter to the ground. Bustling away, Maggie headed straight towards the Ladies. Panting heavily, she locked herself into a cubicle and sat down on the closed toilet seat, trying to steady her rapidly fraying nerves. Even though she still wasn’t entirely convinced she knew his name, the man she thought was called Jim had been her only ally in this crazy situation. Now, she was entirely alone.
‘Fuck!’ she silently exhaled. That was far too close for comfort.
Reaching inside her dress, she pulled out the pouch, opening it carefully. Sure enough, neatly wrapped inside, she found at least ten memory cards; the blackmail chronicles of Kristoff de Wynter, if Suzie’s intel was to be believed. It was only in that moment, that Maggie fully understood what she was holding. How many people, perhaps even some of the rich and famous she’d spoken to and admired tonight, might be detrimentally damaged by her next actions? And possibly most importantly, what about the implication that sharing this private data might have on Kristoff himself; a man who had done nothing but pay her compliments and make her feel like the sexiest, most important woman on the planet. And selling his stolen secrets was how she intended to repay him? No! This was so wrong!
With renewed determination, Maggie replaced the package carefully inside her cleavage and retrieved her mobile phone from her bag. Having studied the floor plan, of which she had previously been provided, she stood up with confidence. Everything she had done so far tonight had been morally questionable. Screw Godzilla; it was time to make amends. She would return the memory cards to Kristoff’s safe, before he even realised they were missing, and then get the hell away from this dangerous place.
Fenella Ashworth is a British author of contemporary erotic fiction. All of her stories are available from Amazon and free for those with Kindle Unlimited access. Her bestselling novels are ‘To Love, Honour and Oh Pay’ and the Daniel Lawson series.
Fenella also releases stories on BooksieSilk, Booksie, Lush Stories and Literotica, and is often visible in the Literotica ‘Erotic Couplings’ Hall of Fame (Top Rated).
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