Thanks so much to Nikki for hosting me today! I’m touring the blogesphere in honor of my latest Ellora’s Cave taboo line book, Collar Me in Paris. In short, it’s the story of a husband and wife figuring out what it means to be family – in the midst of an Amazing Race like challenge against the heroine’s family.
I chose Paris because I got the opportunity to go to France and spend the majority of that time in the namesake city of the book, touring the very spots my characters race through. That, and what better foreign location to set a romance book than the most romantic city in the world?
You can’t go to Paris without seeing the Tower. The Eiffel Tower, in case you aren’t following me. It’s one of the most recognizable monuments in the world. Even as Americans we put it on our clothing, monogram it on trinkets, and purchase statues of it to decorate our homes. It embodies the idea of romance and the romantic ideal.
I remember traveling from the airport to where we were staying in the western part of the city. Our bus driver took the scenic route, circling around the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, down the Champs-Élysées and straight for the Eiffel Tower. I think you can use the Tower as a point of reference anywhere in the city. I know I used it more than a few times to tell the cardinal directions to get myself un-lost!
One thing I didn’t know when I went to see the Tower was that every night at sunset there is a lighting ceremony. At set time, just as the sun is beginning to dip below the horizon, people gather up and down the lawn stretching between the Tower. It’s pretty popular to get a picnic dinner, a bottle of wine and set up for a show. The Tower goes from being a metal monolith to lighting up the Paris sky. Thousands of tiny lights running along the lines of the Tower sparkle for about sixty seconds, making the tower look like one, huge sparkler. It’s crazy, and beautiful and something I’ve never seen anywhere else.
I couldn’t write about Paris and not talk about the Tower. I didn’t want it to factor too much into the story, but I couldn’t write about France, the characters experiences all over the city – and not even touch on one of the most important monuments in the world! I won’t tell you when, where or why the Tower factors into Collar Me in Paris, but only that I was pretty excited to fold some of my experiences into the book. I think that’s one of the secret joys of writing, putting little bits of yourself into what people are going to read and enjoy. This time I got to share my vacation and experiences losing myself in this beautiful city. Next time, who knows what I’ll get to share?
Paris was the last, big vacation for me. What was yours? Any one memory stick with you more than others?
It can never be said that Sidney Bristol has had a ‘normal’ life. She is a recovering roller derby queen, former missionary, and tattoo addict. She grew up in a motor-home on the US highways (with an occasional jaunt into Canada and Mexico), traveling the rodeo circuit with her parents. Sidney has lived abroad in both Russia and Thailand, working with children and teenagers. She now lives in Texas where she splits her time between a job she loves, writing, reading and belly dancing.
What begins as Clay’s first family vacation with his new wife quickly dives into disaster. He may be the submissive in their relationship, but he’s no shy violet. Bianca has taught him the quickest way to turn her on is a challenge, so he’s throwing down the gauntlet.
Bianca butts heads with not just her brothers but her husband when the family torturing begins. But the joke is on him. She’s ready to put him through the most erotic misery of all. In public, at a night club and all over the city, she’ll show him who is Dominant in their relationship until he’s screaming for more.
Their relaxing Paris vacation turns into a mad dash through the ancient streets, a competition of wills and a new exploration of what it takes to make their relationship work. From bondage, discipline and very public orgasms to navigating the Métro, family feuds and overcoming the language barrier, they’re going to redefine the word fun.
Clay’s feet squicked inside his tennis shoes. For all of a second he felt guilty for tracking mud and God only knew what else into the apartment, but someone had thoughtfully laid out newspaper and cardboard. Other, equally filthy shoes were lined up, as well as a few articles of clothing too soiled to wear any farther. He toed his shoes off and left them in the foyer. Bianca slammed the door shut and didn’t bother with removing her sneakers. She stomped down the hall to the tune of her family’s laughter and ignored their calls.
Today had not gone well.
That was an understatement.
It had been a wreck.
“There you are!”
“Hey, thought you guys would never make it in.”
“About time you showed up.”
The teasing jibes kept coming as Bianca passed the living room and stormed to their suite.
She was beyond angry.
Angry was a fire ant army out to take a pound of flesh.
Bianca was beyond that. Furious, enraged, those words fit her better, and he didn’t think he had it in him to care anymore. He’d changed from the sub he’d been three years ago who had no limits. He had them now, and being used as an emotional punching bag all day was a yard too far.
Clay paced slowly into the fray. The scent of stale water and excrement clung to his clothing. The sense of accomplishment from having completed the day’s challenges was dampened by the knowledge the rest of her family had finished in half the time and probably with a lot more cooperation from their spouses.
Kevin glanced up from the TV where the brothers were currently engaged in what appeared to be the latest multiplayer shooter game. “You look like shit.”
“Thanks.” Unlike his wife, their razing didn’t bother him. Who were they to him? Her family. Not his.
“Seriously, what took you guys so long?” Michael didn’t divert his attention from the action. He even managed to snag a handful of popcorn and shove it in his mouth without breaking stride.
A random assortment of snack foods littered the coffee table—cheese, crackers, chips, some cookies and even a bottle of wine. The empty plates attested to there being even more to offer at one time.
There was enough there to feed several people. Despite being exhausted, he itched to pack some of the food away.
Jason’s voice broke his concentration. “We missed you guys at dinner. Everything okay?” Unlike his brothers, Jason had paused the game and turned toward him. Michael and Kevin grumbled, but took the opportunity to shovel yet more food in their mouths.
“Yeah, took us longer than you guys. Where are the girls?” He glanced at the kitchen, but still no one.
“They went out shopping or to a show or something,” Michael replied and restarted the game.
The game ramped up and the three brothers began a flurry of attacking something. He’d never understood the appeal of video games, but he hadn’t been exposed to them until he was in high school, and by then other things had taken on more importance. Like finding an after-school job so he could have shoes without holes and jeans that fit.
He shuddered as a chill crept down his spine from the clinging, cold clothing and shook off the nervous tic as well. He’d left those days behind. “How did you guys get into the catacombs so fast? We waited almost two hours.”
Kevin snorted. “Oh fuck waiting.”
“We don’t wait, man. We offer the first people in line fifty bucks and skip the wait.” Michael glanced at him. “You didn’t seriously wait, did you?”
He grimaced. “Yeah, yeah we did.”
“Sucks to be you.” Michael laughed and focused on the game.
“Hey, do you want join in? We probably have a spare controller around here somewhere,” Jason offered.
“No thanks. I’m going to clean up. Tromping through those sewers was gross.”
He left the living room to a chorus of laughter, maybe directed at him or the game, he didn’t care.
Bianca had known her brothers would bribe and do whatever it took to win. That was their way and she hadn’t told him. He’d waited in line for two fucking hours while she gave him the silent treatment. They could have been strategizing, discussing how they wanted to play, learning the rules. But no. He had no way of playing with a full deck if she didn’t confide in him.
They were supposed to be a team.
A fucking team.
He pushed the door to the suite open and slammed it behind him. If she could slam doors, so could he.
Bianca jumped but did not turn around from where she stood at the foot of the bed. This was not the way things were supposed to be between them. Sure, B called the shots and he was comfortable in his role as her husband and submissive. He did not play the role of a carpet to be walked upon.
He ignored the instinct to kneel at the door, to wait for Bianca to present the collar and slip his necklace off. His knees tried to buckle, but he locked them in place. Instead he began removing his jacket and peeling off his shirt.
“I didn’t give you permission to undress,” Bianca snapped. Waspish behavior was unlike her. Even when she gave him pain she laughed and smiled.
“I don’t want your permission.” His voice was cold, foreign to his own ears. He wadded up his shirt and tossed it through the bathroom door where it plopped onto the tile.
Bianca turned to face him. She’d stripped down to her navy boyshort panties and matching camisole. The set was old, relatively speaking, but one of his favorites. The material had a silky sheen to it, and the lace was soft to the touch, not rough. Her firm breasts filled out the top and her nipples were visible through the fabric. Goose bumps rose on her flesh, and her damp, shoulder-length hair stuck to her face and hung in clumps.
She was beautiful, but not when her face was drawn and tight. Anger didn’t become her. Her makeup was smudged, streaked across her cheeks or completely gone, giving her something of a sad clown look. It ruined the ferocity of her flashing gaze and tight lips.
“What’s wrong with you? Is this some twisted plea for punishment? Because I’m not amused.”
He fisted his hands. He would never lay a finger on her in anger, but he wanted to do something to work the frustration out. “No, this is about you and your family, and keeping me in the dark.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You knew they would pay to cut in line and cheat.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah. They do. And where do you think that money comes from? My brothers spend months preparing and saving bribe money. We had one night. What are you willing to forgo to pay for this? Club membership? Wine club? Hockey tickets? Because to me, those are a lot more important than cutting in line.”
He pitched his voice to match her volume. “Why do you get to make that decision?”
“I thought I was the Dominant here.”
He stared at her, not seeing her but everything that was wrong with this situation. The lack of communication, their attitudes and most of all, the missing fun. They laughed and enjoyed themselves.
The years had built a level of intimacy between them, and now it was as if all that work had disappeared. “This, this isn’t like us. I don’t want this.”
Bianca’s gaze widened, glistening with sudden tears. Her lower lip trembled though she fought to hide it. Sorrow speared him. He didn’t want his wife to cry.
She threw up her hand when he took a step toward her. “What are you saying?”
“Christ, B, I don’t want to do this damn race if it’s going to fuck with our heads.”
She sank down on the edge of the bed, her shoulders slumped, and stared at the ground, or maybe her toes. He could hear her trembling breath, see the tension in the cords of her neck. Clay slid between her and the wardrobe to kneel in front of her and took her hands in his. She stared at the carpet, her face twisted into a painful mask.
Her fingers were cold to the touch. The stench still clung to their hair and skin, disgusting reminders of the failure of a day they’d had.
He pushed to his feet, Bianca’s gaze tracking him under the cover of her lashes. She might bust his balls, literally, for this whole fiasco, but he was her husband. He could bend the rules a little.
He scooped her up and settled her slight weight against his chest. The silky material was ice cold, her skin clammy.
She began to wiggle in his grasp. “What are—?”
“Let me take care of you. Please?” Though he spoke in an almost whisper, she stilled.
She didn’t respond, but she relaxed in his hold, leaning against his shoulder and curling her hand over his heart, not one protest on her lips.
He breathed a sigh of relief and edged around the bed, careful not to bang her knee on the wardrobe or clock her head against the bedpost. He set her down on the miniscule counter space in the bathroom and turned the shower on.
Bianca watched him, worry lining her brow and pinching her lips. Her green eyes appeared so much larger than normal. She was always so put together, the quintessential modern woman, and he admired her for all of her feminism and femininity.
“Let’s get you out of these clothes. They smell.” He ran his fingers along the lacy edge of her camisole covering her hips. “May I?”
She lifted her arms in silent permission. The stretchy fabric clung to her skin and had to be peeled off. She shivered and gripped the edge of the counter. She didn’t often allow him to undress her. He wished the circumstances were different, that he could enjoy the privilege.
When they’d first played within the confines of the club, he hadn’t understood how intimate the process of taking off this woman’s garments could be. In those first months she’d never allowed him to so much as remove her shoes.
“Do you remember the first time you gave me permission to undress you?” He studied her face as he lowered to his knees.
Her brows lifted and a crackle of lust zipped between them. Their relationship had still been new, going on barely five months officially when they took that first weekend trip. Before that, he’d been under her protection for close to a year and was elated they were finally at a more intimate place in their relationship. Though they’d checked in at a bed and breakfast, they’d snuck into a nearby hotel pool.
Under the cover of starlight, she’d instructed him to remove every stitch of her clothing.
She sucked in a breath. “Of course.”
He slid his hands into her silky panties. When they’d been at the pool, she’d leaned against a low wall.
He’d removed her underwear much like this, caressing her with his palms as he pushed them off. Like that long-ago night, she kept her legs closed and her pussy unavailable. Instead he kissed her knee and rested his chin against her while he knelt on the ground.
“That’s when I fell in love with you.”
She snorted. “I thought you fell in love with me the first time I locked up your balls?”
He laughed against her skin. “Okay, I fell in love with the Mistress then, but the woman later.”