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$1.99 Deal on Collected Authors EBook


Get lost in these sensual tales that combine gritty fantasy with lustful seduction. A must-read erotica collection that will take you to dark, disturbing, and sexy places.
Featuring my edgiest story (and personal favorite), Red House, about a priest and a vampire with a shared past.
Limited time. Grab your copy today.
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"Because Beards" Anthology Donates Proceeds to Prostate Cancer Research


November 1st e-book Launch

The Because Beards anthology will raise money for the Movember Foundation. Each story features a beautifully bearded man.


We want to keep our men healthy, and the Movember Foundation can help achieve that with our support. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this anthology go toward supporting prostate cancer research and treatment, and other critical men’s health initiatives.


Twenty-one authors donated stories for this sizzling collection (priced at just 99p/99c).

You can feel good about donating to this great cause and also receive a 500+ page e-book in the bargain.


One of the authors donating a story to this fantastic project is Emmanuelle de Maupassant (whose excellent work I've applauded in the past).

Emmanuelle’s short story Highland Pursuits is set in the 1920s and follows the defiant debutante, Ophelia, as she navigates life, love, and lust in the wild highlands of Scotland.


Everyone involved in Because Beards donated their time, resources, and talent free of charge. The team behind this anthology includes twenty-one authors, cover designer Jessica Hildreth, photographer Wander Aguiar, model Jacob Rodney, book bloggers spreading the word about this anthology, and PR experts Heather Roberts and Jenny Flores.


Goodreads fans, please add the anthology to your "To Be Read List" here. Your support (and reviews wherever you purchase the book) will help make this project a success and keep our guys healthy. 

PRE-ORDER NOW (and donate to this worthy cause) via these links:
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iBooks

Please support the cause by sharing this post wherever you can.


Book Review - "Blue" by LN Bey

Book Review - Blue (an erotic novel) by LN Bey - 4 stars


First, you should know I hated “FSOG”. I tell you this early, so if “FSOG” is your idea of BDSM erotica, Blue might not ring your bell. Why? Because Blue is realistic, offering more than someone’s ideal fantasy of an abusive relationship. It shows BDSM’s good, bad, ugly, and everything in between. Most of the people in the book are normal(ish), almost intentionally so. This serves for a slightly disarming experience (Wait...what? My dentist is into whips?), but it works to ground the story in reality.

Few writers concentrating on BDSM do the lifestyle justice or have experience living it. To these writers, it’s a fantasy. And that’s fine if you, the reader, are looking for fluffy sexual exploits. But anyone who has been involved in any type of BDSM relationship, or wants a glimpse into what really goes on, usually wants—demands—more. Because there is so much more to explore than the shallow fantasyland most authors give us.

In Blue, the author does a fine job introducing us to Janet, a recently divorced suburban woman who enjoys the types of BDSM fantasy novels I just described. When she learns a friend belongs to an exclusive club of kinksters (surprisingly, right in the neighborhood), she jumps at the chance to try what she’s only read about before.

At her kinky and demeaning “initiation” into the club, Janet learns reality isn’t fantasy and fluctuates between enjoyment, fear, worry, arousal, and disappointment. Yet, she sees glimpses of what might be, if only she can learn and give herself over in ways she’s never done before but longs to do. She struggles with the unsettling realization that she was turned on despite the humiliation she did not expect and did not enjoy, contrasted with delight as she feels—for the first time in her life—that she belongs. That she may find her place in this strange, new world she’s only dreamed of before.

In some ways, Blue reminded me of The Story of O (if reset in American suburbia), yet the players seem less experienced and not as concerned with Janet’s “shaping” or wellbeing. They are far more focused on their own pleasures. And Janet is much less sure of herself than O as she hops from scene to scene, experience to experience, never quite knowing what to expect. Sometimes enjoying it, sometimes not so much.

Soon, she’s in the thick of things, sometimes in ways that are difficult to read (like the time she’s beaten so badly, she cannot go to work for days) or is treated poorly by a sadistic woman whose only goal seems to be to hurt Janet as much as she can. While these interactions were not pleasant to read, they did show a side to the lifestyle that does exist and serves as a caution for anyone picking play partners.

When Janet meets the mysterious Dimitri, a filmmaker noted for avant-garde BDSM movies, she is intrigued after months of playing with average Joes (at one point staying in a cheap motel with another submissive, awaiting the pleasure of a man who, for the most part, ignores her...far from the romantic portrayals she’s read about and longed for). I admired the author for including many elements like this one—the not-so arousing and glamorous side and people who use the lifestyle and title of Dom/Domme as a lure to get people to have sex with them or for purely psychotic reasons. In Dimitri, Janet sees something more and agrees to star in one of his films. Like most of the book, she isn’t told what will happen, so the reader gets to experience it right along with Janet. A very effective way to keep one reading.

Janet’s interactions with Dimitri were the most satisfying for me. The writer seemed to lose herself in this world of a man I imaged as a David Lynch type of visionary. The descriptions were lush and mind-bending. I longed for more as it was a welcome respite from the sometimes predictable patterns of power exchanges, sex play, and repetitious inner dialog as Janet continues to question and rehash her self-doubt and feelings of non-worth.

There are parallel stories I could have done without, though they do add different viewpoints and enable the book to wrap in a satisfying way. Though there could be a sequel, none is needed. The story stands alone.

Readers should know Blue contains explicit material and very adult situations throughout.

BUY Blue HERE

Book Review - "Havoc After Dark" by Robert Fleming

Book Review - Robert Fleming's Havoc After Dark


Dark and Excellent Short Horror Story Collection


To say Havoc After Dark is a collection of fourteen short stories makes it sound so...normal. Just a few stories in a book, like any other book. But this isn’t any ordinary collection, and these stories are like nothing you’ve ever read. 

Though billed as a collection of stories in the horror genre, the horror comes at you from so many directions that people looking for typical monsters and mayhem might not get it.

Individually, these stories shine as startling gems of originality. Together? They are a masterpiece. A perfect illustration in words of why the short-story format can do so much more than longer fiction. It has to. In the hands of a master writer like Robert Fleming (whose work has appeared in literary magazines, newspapers, and collections), words have the power to move. To change minds. To chill and to haunt. And to spark intense feelings (as illustrated by reader reviews, both good and bad, appreciative and hateful).

I loved this book for the following reasons:

Usually, writers work from the outside in—they observe the world and find ways to describe people, situations, and settings so readers relate, recognizing the world they know or seeing it in a different way. Writers often write to express ideas or feelings, to elicit emotion. Mr. Fleming does this exceptionally well. But what sets him apart, is the way he also writes from the inside...out. He seems to channel voices as disparate as a woman come back from the dead, a paid killer, racists, troubled children in impossible circumstances, a dying man, Edgar Allen Poe, Nazis, a haunted blues musician, lawyers, priests, and voodoo queens.

He writes as if he’s lived a thousand lives and walked every city on earth. Witnessed history from all sides. Has been the oppressor and the oppressed. Been whispered to by ghosts, vampires, murderers, and the devil himself.

Each story is unique. Some are hard to read. The horror so real it punches you in the gut. Each piece is written in a voice so different from the last it’s mind boggling that one person could create such unique tales. Yet, they all contain lush descriptions, making their settings as rich and real as the characters, and this too is a hallmark of Mr. Fleming's work.

From the shortest to the longest, these stories grab you by the throat, drag you into strange worlds, and into the minds of those living the tale, for that’s the way it feels reading this book—as if you step into the story and live it right along with Mr. Fleming’s characters. 

The thread tying them together is the “horror”. The hatred. The loss of hope. The fighting against a world gone mad. And yes...against monsters, both human and otherworldly.

It's difficult to pick favorites, but I particularly enjoyed Life After Bas, The Inhuman Condition, Punish the Young Seed of Satan, and The Wisdom of the Serpents. I won’t tell you what they are about, but instead, encourage you to treat yourself to this collection.

This book is special. This writer is awe-inspiring. These stories will stick with you, and if you are a writer, they will inspire you to reach deeper the next time you set out to write a story.

My rating - 5-stars


Preview "Tales of a Vampire Hunter"

Click to buy, share, or preview the first few chapters of Tales of a Vampire Hunter - Omnibus Edition (the Collected Works of the Tales of a Vampire Series, Books 1 - 3).


For a full-length preview, download IMMORAL: Tales of a Vampire Hunter Book One FREE from these booksellers:

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Emmanuelle de Maupassant and "Cautionary Tales: Voices from the Edges"

Book Review - Cautionary Tales: Voices from the Edges by Emmanuelle de Maupassant


Every once in awhile, I stumble across a writer who seems to come from another time, a time before Fifty Shades of Grey and the endless stream of imitators that followed. Back to the days when strong, intelligent women with darkly-woven souls wrote thought-provoking, deep, and literary works of fiction. 

Women like Sylvia Plath, Anais Nin, and Mary Shelley. The kind of women men feared and desired, repelled and attracted. Women who often wrote in secrecy, many of whom are still put down today by those who fear the power of their original voices screaming out into what remains largely a man's literary world. The kind of voice you cannot help but notice, penning prose that makes you shiver, think about your inner landscape and demons, and inspires writers to be better themselves.

Most of you know I have been fighting a medical condition for the past several years, one that has prevented me from writing as I once did. I've filled the gap, and my craving for words, by reading and listening to audiobooks when my vision will not allow written words to be seen.

So, though I may be late to the party, I want to introduce you to Emmanuelle de Maupassant, author of Cautionary Tales.

“We are the voices in the shadows …”

Inspired by Eastern European and Russian superstitions and folklore, here are twelve tales. Darkly delicious imaginings for the adult connoisseur of bedtime stories.

Listen,
Listen with your eyes,
and your lips.

Be drawn into a world where the boundaries between the everyday and the unearthly are snakeskin-thin, where the trees have eyes and the night has talons, where demons, drawn by the perfume of human vice and wickedness, lurk with intents malicious and capricious.

Listen with your skin
and your blood.

Here, the touching of your coat button as you pass through a graveyard can mean the difference between great fortune or eternal misfortune.

We’re here,
at the edges.

Tread carefully, for here the dark things best left behind in the forest may seep under your door and sup with you; the lover at your window or in your bed may have the scent of your death already on their breath.

We are the shiver on your uneasy flesh,
The creep of the unknown on your skin.

Whispered to you from the edges, from the haunted mouths of those who see more than you or I, here are twelve tales of lust and rivalry, of envy and deceit, and of secrets gouged from of the darkest depths of the human heart.

Is your shadow on the wall,
really yours, after all?

Emmanuelle de Maupassant strikes the pitch-perfect balance between rapacious sexuality and moral justice by using one to feed the other. She has done something unique with Cautionary Tales. She’s taken a literary tradition and transcribed it for the sexual landscape of the present day. – Malin James

Read more on  Emmanuelle de Maupassant's website, or purchase Cautionary Tales now.

The stories in this collection could have been written long ago by the Grimm brother's darker sister. The one they locked in a shed with a box full of dusty nursery books and only let out when the moon was full.

They are loosely connected in tone and their morality based sentiments. Despite that (which, I admit, initially turned me off), they are sexy little tales one can imagine pouring from a feverish mind, filled with demons and sex, fantasy and horror of the best kind.

*Disclaimer. My opinions are my own. I never accept monetary compensation for book reviews, nor am I in any way affiliated with AMAZON. I receive nothing from them, or anyone else when I recommend a book or writer, other than the pleasure of sharing good books with other readers.

Excerpt from "Tales of a Vampire Hunter" - Omnibus Edition: The Collected Works of the Tales of a Vampire Hunter Books 1 - 3

Author's Favorite Excerpt from Tales of a Vampire Hunter - Omnibus Edition: The Collected Works of Tales of a Vampire Hunter 1 - 3 

From Book 3 (Bespelled)


Bangkok, Thailand

Oliver Ripley exited the limo and stepped into another world, a place peaceful and serene. A winding brook babbled over rocks, and fragrant white flowers bloomed along a stone pathway. Sculptured faces of ancient Asian Gods gazed at him from jungle-lush foliage. Silver chimes tinkled, and exotic birds chirped. Oliver did not let the Zen-like calm shake his resolve to do the violence he’d come to do.

“They are ready for you.” A delicate Thai woman met him where the stone walkway widened and became a patio. Tonight, she wore a ruby-red silk, traditional Chakkri dress shot through with gold thread. Her black hair glistened, coiled low on her neck.

She walked briskly down a wood-planked dock, over the gently rippling turquoise-blue sea to a large pavilion flanked by two more just like it, filled with people. His audience. The ones who paid his rent with their twisted desires. He wondered what it cost them to indulge their morbid cravings. Judging from his cut, it had to be a pretty penny. And what of their souls? Did they carry what they witnessed with them, like a dark secret, or did they manage to leave it behind in a way Oliver never could?

The nameless Thai woman left Oliver in the empty center pavilion and backed away from him, bowing low out of respect and maybe a touch of fear.

The party had been going on for a while. Some people were already naked. Others lounged fully clothed and intent on Oliver’s every move.

Oliver waited until the sun had gone down, and that twilight time had come when the clouds were dark purple, black and blue. Under a bruised sky, he would do what he’d come to do. He hoped, as he did every time, this would be the last.

He lifted his hand, calling for silence, which came swiftly. The crowd was eager for the show to begin.

“Bring me the girl,” he said.

A woman in the audience yelped, setting off the nervous laughter of others in the audience. All eyes were on him and the girl who walked slowly toward him, like a bride, down the narrow dock and over the water that sparkled now in the moonlight.

She was young and very lovely. Shades of brown. Autumn. Shaggy, red-brown hair, cocoa skin, doe eyes. Naked, and unbound, she walked to him, stopping a respectful distance away, meeting his eyes. On her finger, she wore a large ruby ring marking her a Vladula clan vampire. Her breasts were tiny and her legs long. Hair formed a triangular thicket between her thighs. In the black coils, bits of red caught the light of the oil lamps lining the edge of the pavilion.

“Why are you here?” he asked, not speaking the words aloud, but pushing the question into her head as they gazed at one another for the first time—vampire and vampire slayer, hunted and hunter, instantly connected.

The audience need not hear this part, the truth they had not paid to witness. But Oliver had to. “Are you prepared to die?” he asked, when she did not answer, speaking aloud this time.

A woman in the audience shrieked. This was part of what they paid for—the sense of danger, being so close to a real, live, honest-to-goodness vampire and vampire slayer, facing death made palpable and entertaining because it wasn’t their own. Aware they were in the presence of creatures capable of taking their lives, quickly and efficiently, had they the desire. Sex and death and danger formed a wicked cocktail, an addictive drug. Most, of course, thought it was an act. A snuff film performed live for their twisted enjoyment. Made more interesting by the roles played—creature-feature monsters come to real, sexual, and deadly life.

“I want to die.” The girl’s voice rang out in his head and then repeated out loud, soft and sure.

The crowd cheered.

Oliver looked away from the sadness in the girl’s eyes and watched as a middle-aged white man with a huge cock shoved a small blonde woman to her knees and pushed himself into her mouth, gripping her long hair, his shifty eyes glued to Oliver.

“Why?” Oliver looked once more at the girl, pushing his voice into her mind where no one else could hear.

“I didn’t ask for this. I’m scared.” Tears spilled from her eyes as she spoke the words aloud.

In the audience, clothes were shed, tops lifted, nipples sucked, cocks stroked. This was what they’d come to see. This was what they’d paid for. This was what they wanted. Sex and danger and death.

“Fuck her,” someone said, their tone that of one already in the throes of pleasure, impatient for their climax.

“Kill her,” another shouted, their voice gruff with a darker excitement.

Oliver spoke aloud as the vampire girl had. “You desire it fast and hard. Quick.” He leaned closer to the girl, his lips almost brushing hers.

The audience’s collective excitement hung heavy and alive in the air, like an electrical storm. Flesh slapping on flesh sounded a drum-like beat that seemed to echo the pounding in Oliver’s heart.

The girl trembled. Her eyelashes swept down as she looked away, but she stayed in place, standing before him begging him to kill her, save her. Pushing the words into his head.

Oliver sighed. She was another too weak to free him from his curse. Another who only begged him to put her out of her misery, with no idea of his. Weak she was, afraid and suicidal. A victim of the vampires, a fledgling with no Master. A Vladula.

He slipped his hand under her hair, his thumb resting on the frantic pulse fluttering in her neck. The hairs on his arms rose.

“Please. End it.” She opened her eyes. They were dry now, determined.

“Would that I could end it for us both,” Oliver said softly, too softly for anyone else to hear.

His hands on her shoulders told her what to do. She sank to her knees, mouth open before him, those huge eyes still begging him. Her voice was silent, but in his head, her thoughts flowed as his slayer soul reached out and easily snared her newly-made vampire essence and the small nugget that remained of the girl she once had been.

He saw into her mind as if watching a movie. She showed him how they’d come for her in a dark, underground parking garage. Arms loaded with books, fumbling for her keys, she had been an easy victim, lost before she hit the ground. And then, the man with a black Mohawk, who wore a leather collar studded with silver spikes. Spike Vladula. Blood. Voices as she lay dying. “The key. The doorway…” as the vampire took her over, brought her to the brink of death and then eased her back. In the end, dying, afraid, she’d drank the blood, heard the strange, senseless words. I don’t want to die, she’d thought then as she did now. But I can’t live like this.

“Why?” Anger and sadness flooded him. He yanked her head back with a fistful of her hair.

“If I have to live like this, I’m already dead.” Her voice was a scream in his head.

She answered the wrong question, telling him why she wanted to die as if he didn’t know the gut-wrenching torment one such as she felt trapped by abilities she never asked for and didn’t want. She did not know why Vladula had picked her, why she was here, or why she was about to die.

Guiding her hands to his cock, he held her fingers in his, showing her how to do it. His anger, her fear, their shock and confusion, on stage before people who now fucked all around them, eyes glassy, drunk on forbidden pleasures, had quickened his breath and hers. His flesh surged upward, driving into her seeking fingers. His fury adding to the tension.

Her lips appeared bruised, swollen like her nipples, sweet buds tight and high despite the balmy ocean breeze. Her thighs parted. She looked up at him as if no one watched them. Her eyes locked to his fingers as he slipped buttons free of leather and wrapped his fingers around his cock.

The memories running through her mind as his soul enveloped hers like a cocoon could be nothing but truth. She could not hide anything from him in the throes of death as he took her life. But what did it mean? Why would Vladula send a messenger with no message? Or a message that made no sense? If she had been able to lead him to Spike, Oliver wouldn’t have been so irritated. He’d simply kill Spike and anyone stupid enough to be with him. As it was, being tipped off about his cover being blown just meant he’d have to leave Bangkok so he’d be free to hunt without the distraction of dealing with Vladulas. Though killing them was enjoyable, he preferred to do it on his terms and on his schedule.

Distracted, Oliver watched a man shoot a thick stream of white over a curvaceous woman’s breasts as the dying vampire girl worked Oliver’s own hard flesh as if the thick appendage she sucked was her lifeline. Her moans vibrated along his shaft.

Pleasure peaked, and around them, the air began to glow and spin. Energy whipped the colors into a rainbow swirling around them. A cloud of pure life-force shimmered around vampire and vampire hunter.

A collective gasp swelled from those who watched. Could they see it? Feel it? Oliver thought they must, on some level, though most convinced themselves it was an elaborate, very expensive show.

“Beautiful,” someone said, wonder in their voice.

Inside, where none could see, and only Oliver and the girl could feel, their souls spun together. Oliver’s dipped inside, finding her essence fresh and young, innocent and blameless. A life too soon taken away, condemned. His heart contracted. Pity flooded him. As tears flowed from her eyes, and his seed filled her mouth, he felt her at her core. He knew her as if he’d been with her always. From her first steps to the ones that had led her here. And he cared. He cared enough to free her.

Gratitude shone in her eyes as she realized what was happening to her, even as the light within them dimmed, and his slayer soul began to extinguish the faint light still clinging to life within her.

The crowd roared its satisfaction when the girl slumped to the stage.

As the last spark of her life began to fade, and Oliver waited for the cold, dead stare he knew well, a frisson split off from the cyclone of their combined energy, as if seeking to escape death, untethering itself and fleeing the girl, spitting and stinging as it slammed into Oliver like a fist punch to the chest. Hunters absorbed energy from the vamps they killed, but Oliver had never felt anything like this before.

At his feet, the girl jerked as if shocked by jolts of electricity. Her chest lifted, back arching, breath gasping. Her eyes flew open, and her scream seemed to shove the foreign, contaminated thing deeper into Oliver.

His slayer energy swelled, a hurricane circling the vampire curse—for surely, that’s what the crackling thing was—smoothing it, containing it, and absorbing it until it winked out, not even a smolder remaining.

The girl stirred and opened her eyes. She blinked. Confusion furrowed her brow, her thoughts as jumbled as his, and still

Despite his confused astonishment, Oliver scooped the girl up, tossed her over his shoulder and left the stage. His long legs made quick time up the dock.
The tiny Asian woman met him, passing him the usual small pouch containing his pay. She bowed low, not meeting his eyes, not remarking on the limp girl he carried.

In the driveway, the limo waited as it always did. The breeze fluttered perfumed flowers, and night sounds whirred. The noise of the crowd, dressing, whispering in low voices, seemed far away, soon locked beyond the insulating world of the limo. Driving down streets clogged with cars, red and white lights streaking by, it was silent. Oliver was left alone with his jumbled and raw emotions, the strange girl sleeping on his lap, nestled under his jacket, her face peaceful. She’d passed out.

For Oliver, the torment over the night’s unprecedented events was quieted by the shrieking of awakened inner demons. Closing his eyes, he let the memories consume him.

READ MORE . . . BUY Tales of a Vampire Hunter now ($2.99 for a limited time)

"Tales of a Vampire Hunter" Omnibus Edition - Coming Friday!

Tales of a Vampire Hunter - e-Book Out July 29th

Finally! The e-Book version of Tales of a Vampire Hunter is coming out July 29th.

Tales of a Vampire Hunter has been a labor of love spanning one short story and three novellas (and countless rewrites). As a thank you to the fans who urged me on and turned me into a best-selling author, I let them pick this hot new cover.


M.L. Doyle Review

M.L. Doyle highlights Tales of a Vampire Hunter here, in her provocative blog post about genres and books we "refuse to read" based on preconceived notions. I love a good vampire or zombie novel that breaks with convention and tells a good story (and I am not ashamed to admit it). My sales tell me that many of you agree.

M.L. writes in several genres. I love her work, but if she doesn't have anything new, I can count on her to highlight someone else with a new release I will love. Her new release, Hidden Designs, based in the Lei Crime Kindle World, features FBI Special Agent, Ken Yamada and Army Major, Chuck Mathews, two men who (in the past) were forced to make a choice between career and love. Now, ten-years later, they don’t have to choose one over the other because they don’t have to hide anymore. I can't wait to read it!


I Love Vampire Novels

I Love Vampire Novels is featuring Tales of a Vampire Hunter on their website and in their newsletter on release day (sweet!), and several reviews are in the works from authors and fans of the genre that refuses to die (pun totally intended ;>)


To celebrate, I'll be scheduling giveaways and other fun stuff in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

If you haven't already preordered your copy, get it today (FREE for Kindleunlimited or for a special release price of only $2.99 for a limited time).


BUY NOW ON AMAZON (universal Amazon link)




"Break Glass if Broken"

I should have known better. I should have stayed home, remained alone. I should have known better.

Once you are an adult, every story begins in the middle. Mine is no different. The unpleasant details of what had come before do not need sharing, though they had brought me to New York where I could hide.

My job allowed me to disappear. A copy editor’s work is essential, yet never as important as that of the writer. This suited me.

In a gray, padded cubicle, reliable words and rules of usage occupied my monitor or filled the space on rectangular pages. Boxed in, I was invisible. Safe. Alone.

Weeknights, I rode the subway to a tiny square apartment with metal bars on the windows and sealed myself behind a door fitted with five deadbolts. I watched the world on television or read about it online. I ate my frozen meals from plastic or cardboard containers and owned no silverware or china, no knives to cut. No glass or china to break. I possessed nothing I did not consider disposable.

Weekends, I wandered museums where I could lose myself in the crowds. Walking beside handsome students, listening to docent lectures, I took notes as if I belonged in their cozy, boisterous groups. I fell into step beside family units, close enough to smell the baby-fresh scent of the shampoo mothers used on children’s hair. So close that, when the crowd swelled along with my need for contact, my hand could drift over a father’s fingers as he held his child’s hand upon an escalator or railing.

I reached for elevator buttons at the same time others did, on purpose, knowing my shrugged and smiled apology would be accepted. Knowing those I accosted would not suspect my longing for the touch of another’s hand on mine, however fleeting, or unwanted.

Listening to strangers’ conversations, I would pretend they spoke to me, composing witty replies no one ever heard.

“So, like, the thing about acting is that, like, you can be anyone, you know? Like, I could be a warrior princess, or like a vampire and shit. Clothes, makeup, and attitude are everything, you know? I took dance too, so my coach says I have a really good shot at getting a part real soon.”

“Does he say that when you’re sucking his dick, or after?” her friend replied, as I applauded, silently.

I could blame drama girl for what happened, but I would know it had been my idea, my fault. What if I acted, I had thought. What if instead of acting like one of these vapid young girls, or pretending to be a doctor on a television show, or a cat in a play, I acted as if I was normal? As if I was not damaged. As if I was not afraid.

Though at first, I comforted myself pretending I had carefully thought the scheme over for weeks, I actually began formulating plans even then, noting the shabby hooker-like clothing these girls sported, casting my gaze around with newfound interest in what others wore, how others acted.

Would I be a woman who wore crisp, black suits or one who wore dark-washed, pressed jeans? Did I wish to be no-nonsense in kick-ass leather boots, or flirty in sandals with sky-high heels? Was I the sort of woman who wore dresses with no panties, or one who never carried a purse? Would I be bright as sunshine, cool as spring rain or would I have a metallic tang, like a penny on the tongue?

“Excuse me?” I said, to a woman at my office soon after.

Only Botox, I suspected, kept her brow from furrowing at me for bothering her. “Yes? What?”

“I love that suit, and your shoes, and scarf and, well, just everything you have on.” My palms sweat.

It was the most I had said to anyone, anywhere, since suffering through the interview required to land my job. “Where do you shop?” I forged on, braver now that the words were out, though she stared at me as if I had lost my mind. Maybe I had.

“SoHo or the Lower East has the best boutiques for accessories. Fifth Avenue for serious clothes and shoes. I don’t remember where I bought everything, but the suit’s Ann Taylor.”

I watched her, and others like her, until I had a list. Until I knew just who I wanted to be.

Suit – gray, skirt just above the knee, slim fitted jacket, pants with no pleats, low on the hips, falling just so (tailoring a must for correct length with shoes)

Shoes – sling-back, heels (not too high or too short), leather, expensive, pointy

T-shirts – cut simply but made of really good cotton or silk, snug fitting, boat neck

Belt – wide or skinny (I still couldn’t figure that one out), expensive, metal clasp

Bag – red or another color, expensive

Simple, gold jewelry

Trench coat – black, good material, not too heavy

Scarves – the only patterns allowed. Nothing loud or flashy

Very sexy lingerie under it all (this I guessed), expensive

It was not easy or pleasurable, finding these items, but soon I had them all. I ate Top Ramen and hot dogs for a month, but now I owned something sharp. Heels.

At work, I continued to wear shapeless shift dresses and cardigans, pants that sagged at the knees and sensible flats. No one commented on the new blonde highlights in my hair, worn in my customary, messy bun; maybe no one noticed. Nor did anyone notice the injections that plumped my lips and smoothed my frown lines, or my skin, tinted self-tanner gold.

I remained invisible, or so I thought.

This was my first mistake, but mistakes are like lies; they always multiply. The first ones are easy and often go unnoticed.

“Hello, my name is Susan. Hello, my name is Frances. Hello, I’m Briana,” I practiced in front of my bathroom mirror. “Yes, I’d love a drink. No, I am waiting for someone. Why don’t you just fuck off? Fuck me.”

The more I practiced, the more I realized it was true; I could be anyone I wanted to be, anyone I wanted people to think I was.

“I’m a writer. I write erotica. I write romance novels. I am an editor, a doctor, a lawyer. I head up an investment firm in Paris. I live in Tribeca. I am from Milan, Japan, Italy, here on business. No, I don’t want to talk about it. I want you to fuck me.”

A woman who wants to get laid, and presents herself as someone without baggage, without strings attached, can find a man to do the deed just about anywhere.

I wasn’t stupid. I knew better than to go into singles bars or bad parts of town. I avoided places sure to attract the despondent, the alcoholic, motorcycle riders, or those with prison records, tattoos, or facial piercings. I was in the market for a very specific type of man. I needed a man too nice to come looking for me later, too nice to hurt me, too nice to say no. The sort of man who was clean and carried condoms with him.

The bar at The Ritz Carlton, near Wall Street, the Stock Exchange, and Battery Park was perfect. The restaurant made a nice cover. The setting meant I didn’t have to be from New York, yet many people who frequented the place lived in the up- and-coming neighborhood or were tourists themselves.

Drinking from a martini glass, I tipped the bartender generously. He knew, no matter what I ordered, to fill my glass with nothing more than water. A twist of lemon rind completed the illusion. All night, that first time, I sat and picked at a Blackberry, frowned at galley proofs, and fended off would-be suitors.

I tried all my stories, all my names, but told all the men (and a few women), “No,” until he walked in.

He was the Ken to my Barbie, the scratch to my itch. I knew it, and he knew it. Watching us, anyone would have thought we’d arranged to meet there, were husband and wife, lovers, friends. My knees parted slightly in welcome.

He slid into the spot I created for him as if he belonged. “Hello, pretty.”

“Hi, handsome,” I replied.

“Say you have a room.” He did not touch me with his hands, but his strong thighs eased my knees wider apart, and his eyes caressed the newly exposed expanse of my legs.

“I will, once you check in.”

“Perfect. I’ll be right back.” Before he left, he turned his shoulder to the room, slid his hand under my skirt, and cupped my cunt through soaked silk panties.

The bartender looked away.

My heart pounded. It was happening. He had touched me. I had been cool, calm, a woman of the world. I didn’t even know his name! He didn’t know mine. No stories had been required. We would fuck. I would leave. Perfect.

~****~

“You don’t have to do that, you know,” the friendly bartender said, many weeks later.

By now, I’d grown into my power, and my autonomy. I’d relaxed. My second mistake or maybe my third. I’m losing count.

Giving the bartender only the coolness of my gaze as a reply, I turned back to the room, and that’s when it happened. My make-believe world turned into a house of cards, and I knew I had made a terrible error.

“Vera,” my boss said, briskly, as if we had arranged to meet.

Alarm fluttered against my ribs, as violent as the wings of a dying bird trapped in a cage. “Mr. Blunt.”

Under his stern brows, steely blue eyes watched as I gathered my trappings of confidence and returned them to my bag. I chewed my bottom lip until his frown stopped me.

He tossed a large bill onto the bar top. Shame flooded my stomach until I realized it was meant for the bartender, not for what was to come. What I would do.

I followed him, swallowing my questions. What did it matter how he knew, how long he had known or why he’d come for me now? We both knew what I pretended to be was, at heart, no act. We both knew I wanted it.

In the elevator, he pushed me to my knees and let me nuzzle my cheek to his custom tailored, wool-suit-covered cock. Before my eyes closed, his wedding band winked at me.

Of course, no one else boarded the elevator, and the hallway was empty when we alighted.

“Crawl,” he said.

The carpet bit my nylon covered knees, and I felt the burn of scrapes as they formed. There would be blood. As there should be.

The spacious gold-and-green room behind the door he opened boasted a sweeping view of the water surrounding the Statue of Liberty. Harbor-view rooms came with their own telescopes. Handy for the voyeur and stargazer alike, I imaged the marketing copy boasting.

Though he did not pay me, I was his whore. Though he did not ask it of me, I gave him everything left of that girl in the bar. He kissed the tears I wept for her away and held my hands above my head as he grunted over me.

~****~

I should have known better, stayed home, and remained alone. I should have known better, and now, I do.

Every story should begin at the end; the unpleasant details of what came before do not need sharing. Mine had brought me to the mountains of Colorado, where I could hide.

Working from home, in an office with walls painted uncertain gray, reliable words and rules of usage occupy my monitor. Boxed in, I am invisible. Safe. Alone.

From Amaranthine Rain (a Short-Story Collection) 

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