Hello, fellow book nerds!
Wow, it’s really hard to believe that the three-week countdown to the release date of Whip Smart is already here. For those of you who’ve been following me on Twitter, you may recall that this book has been in the works for a long time now, and even though it’s been a labor of love, the road leading up to this point has been full of ups and downs. There was a point when I didn’t even believe I would make it this far, due to all the self-doubt and external life problems holding me back from finishing my manuscript. But at long last, here I am, and I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who encouraged me every step of the way, as well as all of you who’ve been patiently waiting for me to finally finish this damn book I keep talking about already.
So, in honor of this almost-milestone, let’s kick off this countdown to Whip Smart‘s October 22nd release with a reveal of it’s sweet new cover, shall we?
After freeing herself from her controlling, manipulative, and so-called “dominant” ex-fiancé, 24-year-old Teresa Bodnar returns to her hometown of Pittsburgh to try and put the pieces of her shattered life back together. Stuck in a rut and determined to prove herself capable of moving on with her life, Tera makes a bold move: founding the city’s first BDSM club.
But opening a club for business proves to be no small task, especially where unexpected romantic entanglements are concerned. Since first meeting at a kinky costume party, the magnetic attraction between Tera and easy-going Dominant Eric Yun has been undeniable, and yet Tera finds herself denying it at every turn. She knows she has baggage to spare, and the high-strung submissive is taking no chances when it comes to her budding friendship with the sweet and seductive Eric, no matter how tempting he may be.
Eric Yun has baggage of his own. No one knows better than he does how to hide pain behind a joke and smile. He’s spent years learning to take life in stride, and just when he thinks he has it all figured out, Tera Bodnar sweeps into his life with her big dreams, stubborn determination, and soft submissive side. He’s wanted her more than anything since they met, and now it’s impossible to get her out of his head. But he can tell she’s hiding painful secrets of her own, and the more he learns about this beautifully complicated woman, the more he finds himself revealing to her about the Eric behind the smile…
As Eric chips away at her walls, Tera learns that there is much more to this man than his mouth-watering good looks and effortless charm. She’s falling for him hard and fast, but if life has taught her anything, it’s that the harder the fall, the worse the damage, and the risk of Eric becoming a casualty in the process is just too great. But how can she hope to resist him when she can’t even escape him in her dreams?
Add in some meddling best friends, the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship, and the return of her high school sweetheart, and it’s starting to look like Tera’s bitten off more than she can chew…
And, as an added bonus, you can read chapter one below. (Note: the following excerpt is from a partially-edited draft and does not necessarily represent the final version of the book. Minor errors and differences from the published version may be present).
“Sure you don’t need a hand with that?” I watched skeptically as Megan adjusted the massive duffel bag on her shoulder yet again. Her “goodie bag”, as she called it, was stuffed full with more floggers, handcrafted instruments of torture, and various “pervertables” than I thought any sane person should carry with them to every kink event they went to, let alone someone as tiny as Megan. Yet stubbornly carry it with her to every event she did; she liked to keep her options open, she said, and I’d long given up trying to argue with her. After all, I was the last person who should have been criticizing her for needing some variety.
She snorted at my question. “It’s my stuff, I can manage it. But did you really have to park so damn far, though?”
I rolled my eyes. “No, you’re right, I should’ve just pulled right up to the curb and given my keys to the valet. It’s the Strip on a Saturday night, what’d you expect?”
I dodged the punch she aimed at my arm, then steadied her when her playful attack caused her to lose her already precarious balance. Even though I knew my friend and roommate would be the last person on Earth to give two shits about my frequent sarcasm, I still couldn’t help but worry about taking it too far. But it had been so long since I’d felt truly free to express that side of myself without repercussion that in the last couple months I couldn’t help but let my inner “Snark Queen” nature shine through in all its glory.
“Still, though,” she muttered, shifting her goodie bag once again. “Might as well have taken the bus.”
“Oh, I bet that would’ve been pretty amusing to everyone else. How scandalizing! They’d probably think I was just trying for the naughty schoolgirl look and that you’d been in some kind of horrible accident. And Lord knows what you’d be hiding in that bag…”
“I thought you were a naughty schoolgirl, Tera. And for the record, I figured it was pretty fucking obvious that I was going for ‘sexy zombie nurse’, thank you very much.” She gestured at her costume, an extra large scrub top which had been modified into a more form-fitting mini-dress and splattered with a generous helping of fake blood. Personally, I thought most people would assume she was a sexy open heart surgeon, but being a nurse in real life, Megan was insistent on wearing scrubs instead of the stereotypical naughty nurse costume, despite the fact that going without pants hardly made it more accurate.
I gaped at her in mock offense. “I am not just any schoolgirl, I’m a Hogwarts student,” I corrected her. “A Ravenclaw student, thank you very much.” I tugged on my black cardigan in a show of pride, but I couldn’t help but feel that my costume looked a bit shabbily thrown together compared to hers. I did somewhat pride myself on having managed to find a tie online in the book-accurate house colors of blue and bronze, though. All together it didn’t look half-bad, though I was sure any non-Harry Potter fan might have raised an eyebrow at my outfit.
Not that our clothing of choice particularly stood out on this occasion. It was nine o’clock on Halloween night in the Strip District, and Smallman Street was bustling with people in costumes and clubwear, all of them making their way to the Strip’s various nightlife hotspots. Our own destination was Dirty Dan’s, Pittsburgh’s hottest gay-friendly bar, nightclub, and frequent drag burlesque venue. By all accounts, an average Saturday night at Dirty Dan’s was a pretty wild time, but I imagined nothing could quite compare to what went on there three Saturdays a year. Every four months, the club opened its doors to the local BDSM community to host the Pittsburgh Bound Party. One part play-party and one part fetish ball, no two Pittsburgh Bound events were quite the same, although I’d only ever had the chance to attend two of them before myself. As luck would have it, this one happened to fall right on Halloween, and I was excited to see what sort of holiday-themed debauchery was in store.
I pulled my cardigan closer around me, not so much to protect myself from the chilly breeze as it was to hide my currently bra-less state. Of course, there would be no hiding it once we got inside the club. My nipples strained against the thin cotton of my shirt, and a pleasurable shiver spread throughout my body at my sudden awareness of how hard they were. I loved this feeling, of being covered yet exposed at the same time. Already my body was thrumming with energy, highly attuned to the sexually charged atmosphere that grew thicker in the air as we approached the club.
The line outside Dirty Dan’s was mercifully short, and in no time Megan and I were flashing our ID’s at the bouncer and being ushered inside. We paid the $15 cover fee to the smiling pink-haired woman behind the check-in desk and made our way to the main room of the club. It was like stepping into a very twisted alternate reality, where bursts of laughter harmonized with moans of pleasure and cries of pain, and men and women lashed to columns with glow-in-the-dark rope served as decoration. The air pulsated with energy, though unlike the last two times I’d been there, there was no music playing. However, the lack of pounding house music was more than made up for by The Rocky Horror Picture Show being projected on the back wall. A row of St. Andrew’s crosses were lined up against the wall to our right, all of them occupied. A small crowd gathered near them, some to watch and admire, others to eagerly wait their turn. Just beyond the crosses was the spanking booth, where nervous newbies and hardcore painsluts alike lined up to sample the impressive array of canes, whips, and paddles. At the far end of the room, a makeshift catwalk had been set up for the costume fashion show later in the night, though at the moment it was being used for a wax play demonstration.
But it was the people more so than the bizarre surroundings that really set the tone. Their attire ran the entire costuming gamut, from cheap Halloween store costumes to the most hardcore fetish wear. The people were just as varied as their costumes; everyone from giggling first-timers to the ones who had lived as Master and slave for years had come out to be part of this gathering of freaks and geeks. Some stood in clusters, drinks in hand as they watched the movie or the various scenes going on around the room. Others sat at the scattered groupings of plush couches and chairs, casually conversing as if their surroundings were no more unusual than a dinner party. At one, a Dom spanked his gothic lolita-dressed girl over his knee; at another, a sub kneeled dutifully at his Mistress’ feet; and at yet another, a half-naked woman bound to a coffee table carefully balanced on her back the drinks of the two couples seated on either side of her.
It was the most surreal and exciting thing, to feel both right at home and yet still slightly out of my element. Adrenaline pumped through my system as I took it all in. I’d left Teresa Bodnar at the door; Tera the submissive had waited trembling just below the surface for too long, and now it was her time to shine.
But was it really? I took a deep breath and let it out in a loud huff. Fantasies were nice and play was fun, but there was no way I was ready to fully play the part of the submissive again yet. Hell, I doubted I’d end up playing with anyone that night at all; unlike Megan, I didn’t really have any long-standing play partners I could call up whenever I was itching for a nice beating, and most of the guys here were probably strangers. But it had been a couple months since that house party where I’d taken a chance and let one of Megan’s more “domly” acquaintances spank me, and I really was feeling an itch. To be bound and subdued, to simply let go… but it seemed as though simply watching a hot scene or lining up for the spanking booth would be my best options, and I would take what I could get, so long as it took the edge off.
I was so lost in my own thoughts that I’d hardly noticed Megan had made a beeline to the bar. Quickly, I followed her over.
“God, what’s taking Mike so long?” she said as she dropped her goodie bag next to her barstool. “Hey! Bartender guy! Two margaritas over here!”
I rolled my eyes again. “Nice of you to order for me, buddy. Could I actually get a strawberry mojito, please? Thanks,” I added to the harried-looking bartender. “Well, did you tell him to meet you at the bar?”
“Yeah, but he’s always late. Don’t even know why I bother with him sometimes…”
Our drinks arrived, and I stroked my chin as I took a contemplative sip. “Hmmm… because he gives you orgasms and isn’t afraid to leave bruises?”
I smirked when she playfully punched my arm, secretly thinking her hostile attitude meant she liked her frequent play partner and occasional fuck-buddy a little more than she was willing to admit. But, that was her business. I sipped my mojito as I scanned the club under the pretext of looking for Mike, but my gaze was immediately drawn to the shibari area just beyond the catwalk. I’d always been fascinated by rope work; the endless variety, the precise intricacy of the knots, the strict yet comforting feel of rope on bare skin. There was nothing I craved more than bondage and I loved it in all its forms, but I hadn’t experienced nearly enough rope bondage in my life.
I took in the sight hungrily. My eyes roamed from one scene to the next, until one scene brought my roaming eyes to an abrupt halt. No, it wasn’t the scene; it was him.
What was it that had drawn me to him so intensely? Was it the flash of what looked like another Ravenclaw tie? The way the multicolored lights shone off his dark hair? Or had it simply been sensual confidence with which he moved? Whatever it was, I was utterly spellbound from the moment I laid eyes on him. He was young; there was no way he could have been much older than me, yet he moved with the practiced ease of someone who’d been at this for a long time. He was working with an older man–in his late thirties, I guessed–to bind a woman, although it was clear from the way he paused to point things out to the other man that Mr. Hot Twenty-Something Bondage Pro was the one who really knew his way around a piece of rope. I imagined the woman and older man were probably a couple, although, for all I knew, all three of them could be in some kind of poly relationship.
The thought of that sent a sudden jolt of jealousy through me. Please let that not be the case! I shook my head. What had gotten into me? I had no business wishing that this guy was single; it’s not like anything would be happening between us either way. But just because I was resolved not to touch, didn’t mean I couldn’t look. Although to be honest, I wasn’t so much looking as I was shamelessly ogling. I watched him work as if he were putting on a show just for me. His skilled hands moved in fluid motions as he tied the woman’s hands behind her back in a simple yet elegant takate kote box tie. Desire rippled through me as I imagined those same hands brushing my own skin as he wrapped me in his ropes, those talented fingers teasing pleasure out of my bound and helpless body. How could I be so turned on just from watching his hands? I managed to tear my eyes away from them and let my hungry gaze travel all over his body, finally coming to rest on his achingly beautiful face. Life was so unfair for not letting me have a closer look at that face. He smiled slightly as he worked, though his eyes were intently focused on what his hands were doing.
He looked up suddenly, seemingly distracted by something on my side of the room, and our eyes met. I think I might have gasped out loud; there was no way he was actually looking at me, right? But his gaze lingered on me for too long for it to be mere coincidence. For a second he looked as stunned as I felt, But his expression quickly morphed into a smile that could only rightly be described as “panty melting”. Holy Shit, he’s smiling at me! Instinctively I pressed my thighs together, suddenly aware of how wet I was. Somehow I managed to smile back, mortified to realize that my mouth had been hanging open slightly. Good Lord, two minutes of staring at Mr. Pro and I was losing control of my own body. That couldn’t be a good sign. And yet I couldn’t stop staring, watching as he tugged on his tie and gave me an approving wink.
“Tera. Tera. Teeeeeerrrraaaaa!” Megan’s shouting abruptly yanked me out of my fantasies. I blinked, trying to get my bearings after being caught up in Mr. Pro’s spell.
“Yes?” I asked, hoping to sound as nonchalant as possible.
“I said, ‘Are you going to share that man-candy, or are you going to eat it all yourself?’”
I narrowed my eyes at her, answering her knowing smirk with the dirtiest look I could muster. “‘Man-candy’, really? God, I hate that word.” Calmly, I turned my attention back to my drink. “Besides… I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Megan raised an eyebrow, fixing me with her no-bullshit stare. “Please, I saw you eye-banging your Potterhead soulmate over there. I mean, it was cute Asian guy you were looking at, right? Not total-noob middle-aged white guy?”
“I’m… pretty sure he has a name besides ‘cute Asian guy’… little insensitive, don’t you think?”
“Ha! I knew you were staring at him!” she jabbed her finger at my face in triumph and I swatted it away. “And come on, I called the other dude ‘white guy’, didn’t I? Not like I said it to his face or anything…”
Already my insides were knotting up in anxiety. As great of a friend Megan was, once she latched onto something, there was no getting her to let go of it. She’d be on my case about Mr. Pro all night if I couldn’t find a way to distract her. Luckily, at that very moment, my ears pricked up at the sound of the opening notes of the “Time Warp”. Oh, right, the movie. I didn’t even have to say anything before Megan was dragging me onto the dance floor. I cast a quick glance back the shibari area, hoping for another smile from Mr. Pro before permanently putting that fantasy away in my masturbation material archive, but he’d already turned his attention back to the bound woman in front of him.
Eric breathed deeply, taking in as much of the electrifying atmosphere of the club as he could in one breath, and letting out as much of the bad shit he’d been carrying around as he exhaled. Maybe it was a mistake to come here tonight. He looked around him. Everyone was with someone else: friends, play partners, obnoxiously happy couples, groups of giggling college girls here for a cheap thrill and a “weird” story to tell their friends. He was probably one of the few people there alone, besides a few sleazy older guys who probably thought submissive girls were easy targets.
I have to fucking stop assuming the worst of people. He scowled at himself internally. But really, if anyone had been through what he had been over the past few weeks, could they really blame him for thinking that way?
His younger sister’s snide remarks echoed in his head. That’s what you get for dating another white chick. Well, if Rachel wanted to be irrationally cynical about it, that was her problem. Being a “nice Korean boy” hadn’t actually made her last boyfriend any nicer–not that she’d listen to him about that–and being any less white wouldn’t have made Nicole any less of a cheating bitch.
He rolled his eyes at himself. Who’s being a cynic now? He took another deep breath. He was there to forget all that crap for one night. Inhale, exhale… fake it until you make it. Slowly but surely, the Eric who’d had his heart ripped out less than a month ago retreated into his imaginary crawlspace to brood; Eric the Dominant was in the building, and he had no patience for brooding assholes. Hoisting his rope bag onto his shoulder, he allowed himself a cocky grin as he strode over to the shibari and suspension area. Each step drew him deeper and deeper into his element, power and confidence pulsing through his veins.
There were a couple people he knew already there throwing some rope, although no one he was particularly close to. Getting back into the public play scene after being away from it for a year was a lot more awkward than he’d expected. He joked around with them for a while, trying to ignore the creeping loneliness. Of course, Amy and Steve would be there soon, but tying up his 40-year-old boss while teaching her husband how to do it wasn’t exactly the stuff of his sexual fantasies. Still, the computer repair shop owners were a pretty chill couple, and Eric wasn’t about to pass up a chance to brush up on his skills.
“Hey, ya little punk. What the Hell are you doing here?”
Eric turned around. Sure enough, there was Amy, dressed like a wild west showgirl in a bustle skirt and a tight corset which practically demanded that attention be paid to her breasts. He couldn’t help that his eyes went straight to them. As a rule, Eric wasn’t particularly into older women–and certainly not Amy–but even he had to admit she looked pretty damn good in that costume. Jesus, Eric, that’s your boss you’re ogling. Amy clearly didn’t mind being ogled, though.
He crossed his arms and smirked a little. “Can’t I have a life outside of work? I thought you guys would never show up.”
Steve, dressed as a pirate, came up behind Amy and draped an arm across his wife’s shoulders. “I see you eyeing up my wife, Yun,” he said with a wink. “She’s quite the, uh… MILF, that’s it. Quite the MILF, huh?”
Eric raised an eyebrow at the pair but said nothing, quickly forcing his initial cringe into a smile. Yeah, they were a chill couple, alright, but maybe a little too friendly at times. That, or they were a little too overeager in regard to their newfound interest in kink. It had only been a week since the initial shock of running into them at a rope workshop, and he was still getting used to it. Thank God they like to pretend none of this ever happens while we’re at work, he thought. But awkward as it was, Eric was the one with more experience, and he was happy to help, so long as they weren’t about to proposition him for a threesome.
The three of them got down to business right away. Amy was eager to try suspension, but they needed to start small first, with Steve learning to tie a proper box tie. He took his time, explaining the process as he went, doing his best to ignore the growing feeling of restlessness in his limbs. He focused on the knots, felt the familiar power coursing through him as the rope became an extension of himself. And yet something was missing, like the fizz gone out of a bottle of pop. It was all too clinical. He wanted to feel that crackle of energy between himself and a beautiful girl as he rendered her helpless. He wanted to shape her body into a work of art with his ropes. Hell, he just wanted a woman who wanted him, one who could make him feel like a real Dom again.
He took another deep breath, hoping to clear his head, but couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very much off. His scalp prickled; was she here? He looked around the room, mentally cursing himself for being so paranoid. There was no sign of Nicole, but as he scanned the bar, the world came to a screeching halt around him for a split second all the same.
Well hello, Ms. Sexy Nerd…
He felt himself stiffen almost immediately as he drank her in. Sweet Baby Jesus, she was almost too much to handle. Dark brown hair fell around her in soft waves, framing her beautiful face and brushing the top of her mouth-watering breasts. Every inch of her was perfect, from her full lips and cute-as-hell nose to her long, luscious legs. Dear Lord, how he wanted to sink his teeth into those thighs. And those knee-high socks with those heels… she couldn’t possibly have any idea how fucking wild that drove him. And of course, she just so happened to be a Potterhead, too, and a Ravenclaw. It was like this woman had been designed specifically to drive him insane with desire… and she was staring right at him.
Their eyes locked, and there it was: that crackle of electricity, and he didn’t even have his ropes around her. But oh, the magic he could work once he did… He was almost painfully hard just thinking about it, and for one insane moment all he wanted to do was drop what he was doing and march straight over to her. She clearly wanted him, and after the past few weeks, the intensity of the inexplicable connection between them was almost too much. The thought of this total stranger, in his bonds, at his command, writhing with pleasure…
Slow your roll, Eric. He felt like a horny teenager perving on his first crush. How long had they been staring at each other? The last thing he wanted to do was creep this girl out. Fueled by the heady rush of her obvious desire, he busted out his most charmingly devious smile. The effect it had was incredible; she squirmed in her seat, that tantalizing mouth popping open in surprise before settling into a shy grin.
Feeling almost giddy, he winked at her as he tugged on his own blue-and-silver-striped tie, but before she could react, the girl sitting next to her at the bar managed to steal her attention. He gazed at her for a second longer, before suddenly remembering what he was doing: tying up his boss… only now with a huge boner. Perfect. Well, better just pretend it’s not there.
He finished off the box tie halfway through the “Time Warp”, and looked up to find that Ms. Sexy Nerd’s seat at the bar was empty. Had she left already? Probably scared her off, ya creeper, he groaned inwardly, annoyed at his own sudden dismay.
But she wasn’t gone, just out on the dance floor with her friend. He watched her for a while, telling himself repeatedly that it didn’t make him a pervert. She looked so carefree, so inviting… A pang of loneliness shot through his lust. Goddamnit. He had to have her in his ropes, just for one night. He didn’t have any toys in his bag, Hell, he’d only really brought the rope out of wishful thinking, since Steve had his own. But it was all he needed. He just needed someone to lose himself in for one night, someone to feel that spark of connection with… and there was only one woman he had in mind.
And again, slow your roll, Eric. He leaned against the nearby couch to think. Wasn’t this just a pathetic attempt to shake off his feelings about Nicole? Even if they never saw each other again, would that really be fair to mystery girl? He’d just be using her. Or would he? She wanted him, too, and if it turned out he’d misread that, then he’d just laugh it off as usual and no harm would be done. And if it turned out that she really did… well, he wouldn’t be the only one getting pleasure out of this deal. Far from it.
“What’s life without risks?” as his Uncle Dan would say. Screw it; he had to talk to her. He just had to figure out what to say. He turned and began to walk toward the dance floor. Already he felt more like his dominant self again, his system flooding with a potent rush of confidence. Could she feel his determination to have her from across the room?
Apparently she could, because before Eric knew it, Ms. Sexy Nerd was walking straight toward him.