Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Wicked Hearts by Claire Thompson

Wicked Hearts #1
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave..."

Reese and Hank are used to taking what they want, just because they can. They set their sights on the office geek, a painfully shy whiz kid named Jeff. Hank bets Reese he can't get the guy in bed within a week - he makes the pot very sweet with an offer of $5,000, if Reese can do the job - on tape.

Reese, usually so cocky and sure, is completely disarmed by the quiet but intense Jeff.

What begins as a cynical seduction rapidly heats into flames of dangerous desire. Reese finds himself falling, hard, but disentangling himself from Hank is even harder. Jealousy, lust and unraveling lies threaten to shatter more than one heart in this tale of love and betrayal.

Safe in His Arms #2
In Wicked Hearts, Hank Seeley, Reese’s controlling ex-lover, did his best to come between Reese and Jeff. Still bitter over Reese’s desertion, Hank continues to use anger and sex to cover the shards of his broken heart. Not even bothering to pick up guys at bars, Hank orders in, calling for young rent boys to service him until he grows tired of them. When Russell Evans, a big bear of a man, shows up one night instead of the ordered twink, Hank ends up getting more than he bargained for.

Russell is a sex worker with issues of his own. He’s also a Dom with lots of heart, who sees a glimmer of the real man trapped beneath the cold faΓ§ade Hank presents to the world. Russell is used to comforting the lonely men who seek out his services, but he doesn’t count on his own powerful reaction to the handsome, difficult Hank Seeley.

On this tough road to redemption, Hank will fall hard before he can hope to rise. The erotic exploration of dominance and submission is enough to draw the two men into a passionate connection, but in the end, it may not be enough. Unless Hank can face his own demons, he will lose the one thing worth fighting for - love.

Wicked Hearts #1
"I'm bored. Whose life can we destroy today?"

Reese laughed, aware Hank was only half kidding.

"Can I get you anything else, Mr. Seeley?" The waiter wore the white shorts and dark blue polo shirt that were the staff uniform at the exclusive Denver country club. Hank eyed the young man for a few seconds before responding, and Reese knew he was assessing the guy's orientation and potential in bed.

"No, thanks. We're done." Hank stood, tossing his linen napkin to the table. When the waiter had gone, Hank said, "Let's go back to my place." This was code for, "Let's have sex." Reese wasn't in the mood.

"Sorry, I have to swing by the office and pick up some stuff for my call on Monday."

Reese was a salesman for Strata Systems, a Denver software company that designed applications for computerized robots used in the manufacturing industry. He'd only been there a few months, and it was the first job he'd had where he showered before work instead of after.

Hank grunted, clearly annoyed. "I liked your old job better. You had predictable hours."

And you had more control. Aloud Reese said, "You kidding me? I'd way rather be sitting in nice restaurants schmoozing guys in suits than sweating my ass off on a construction site. And I don't miss being forced to listen to a bunch of macho assholes trying to one-up each other on how much pussy they got that weekend."

"Just don't let me catch you blowing the boss for that promotion. You know I'm a very jealous guy."

"I'll remember that when he offers me the promotion." For all their easy banter, Hank really was a jealous guy, or at least a possessive one. Since the beginning, the pattern had been established—Hank had claims on Reese he'd yet to shake off.

It wasn't the first time Hank had complained about Reese's new job, but Reese knew there was a lot more to it than just a career change. Hank resented Reese's efforts to better himself without any help from the Seeley family. Since Reese was seventeen, he'd been beholden in one way or another to Hank's family. Now things were changing. Reese was making them change.

For the first time he felt like he had a career, instead of just a job. He liked working at Strata Systems. No one in the small, progressive company had a fixed schedule. He could come and go as he pleased and the business was an interesting one. Not to mention, the owner, Bob Sanchez, was openly gay.

In fact, that was how Reese had got the job, or at least a shot at an interview. He'd met Bob at the party of a mutual friend. Reese had mentioned he was looking to find a new career, something with more potential for advancement, and the rest, as they say, was history.

It wasn't all smooth sailing. He worked on commission and had yet to build up much of a clientele. As a result, the money he'd saved while working in construction had steadily dwindled, leaving him nearly broke, though he'd be damned if he admitted this to Hank.

"You can just drop me at my place. I'll take the bike."

"No. I'll go with you," Hank announced.

Reese's impulse was to refuse. He didn't want Hank horning in on this new thing in his life. But he knew if he protested, Hank would only become more determined. The inevitable power struggle wasn't worth it, Reese decided with an inward sigh.

Hank's driver was waiting outside the club in his Mercedes Benz SL65 AMG. Reese would have much rather been on his motorcycle—alone. Once they were settled in the backseat, Hank returned to his earlier theme. "We haven't made a good bet in a while. I'm in the mood for something nasty."

Reese responded out of habit more than interest. "Oh yeah? What's in it for me?"

Hank appraised Reese, lifting the corner of his mouth in a sardonic smile. "What's always in it for you? The power of the conquest, the knowledge you can get any guy you set your sights on. Oh, and of course, I'll make the pot sweet."

Despite himself, Reese found himself asking, "How sweet?"

"Depends what we come up with. It's been a while. You need a challenge."

It was a game they had played for years. It turned Hank on to watch Reese seduce other men, not because he cared for them, but because he could. It was understood between them that Reese was always the one to make the play. It was beneath Hank, in a twisted way. He controlled the strings and Reese danced to his tune. That was the real crux of the matter—power.

For years Reese had gone along, caught in the net of obligation, debt and desire that had formed the framework of their relationship these many years. He couldn't deny that their sex was infused with an added intensity after Reese had hunted and captured his query for Hank's cold amusement.

But lately Reese was growing tired of the game. The glitter of seducing and then discarding guys, just because he could, had begun to tarnish. But it was more than that. He was trying to make something new—something that didn't include, or at least wasn't controlled by this man who had been the one constant in his life over the past twelve years.

He glanced at Hank, who was regarding him from beneath his lashes, his strong, cruel mouth pursed in thought. He was handsome, with even features and a firm jaw, but his eyes were like dark, wet stones, flat and cold.

In spite of himself, as he always did, Reese felt the power of Hank's gaze. He forced himself to look away. "Count me out on this one, Hank. I'm getting too old for that shit."

Hank laughed. "Twenty-nine is too old to get someone into bed? Last I checked, you were in perfect working order, my friend." He squeezed Reese's thigh with thick, blunt fingers, his hand edging toward Reese's crotch. Reese shifted, turning toward the window.

As if sensing Reese's resistance, Hank added, "I'm feeling expansive. But you'll have to earn it, my friend. Five thousand bucks."

"What?" Reese turned from the window to stare at Hank. The bets always carried a monetary prize for Reese, but usually only a few hundred bucks, a thousand at the most. Five thousand dollars sure would come in handy, with the rent due and Reese's bike in desperate need of new tires. It would give him the cushion he needed while he built up his clientele at Strata.

"You heard me. Five thousand bucks to do what you do best."

"What's your twisted brain up to now?" Reese asked, trying to keep his voice light. If only Hank hadn't dangled that kind of money in front of him, damn him.

"You know," Hank said, staring out the window with studied nonchalance. "The old offer still stands. You could move in with me while you're getting yourself established in your so-called career. Better yet, you could quit that lousy day job and spend your time devoting yourself to me 24/7. I've always wanted a live-in sex slave." Hank laughed to show he was kidding, but Reese knew he wasn't.

"Yeah, that's just what I want to be when I grow up, your personal whore. Me and the houseboy could share the servants quarters."

"Oh no," Hank said, lifting an eyebrow. "As personal whore, you'd sleep in my bed." Again the outward joke continued, but in fact Reese knew that was just how it would be. Hank had asked Reese to move in with him several times over the years, assuring him a life of luxury and ease, but the price was far too high.

"Not gonna happen," Reese said with finality.

"Whatever," Hank shrugged with practiced nonchalance. "Back to the wager at hand. I want to come in and see what we've got to work with at this job of yours."

"Oh, no you don't." Reese interrupted. "This bet will not involve anyone I work with. I just got this job. I'm not going to fuck it up." Inwardly he sighed, watching the proffered five thousand dollars rapidly receding.

"Relax. I'm not gonna make a scene or anything. Just a casual stroll around the place. I'll pick the guy, you get him in bed and you win the money. Easy as pie for a stud like you."

"And if I lose?"

Hank cocked an eyebrow and offered a small, cruel smile. "You lose, I get your ass. You agree to be my personal sex slave for a solid week." Reese was silent, appraising the offer. When Hank said sex slave, he meant it. Hank had a thing for whips and chains. He'd tried over the years to get Reese involved, but Reese wasn't hardwired that way. Occasionally he'd let Hank tie him up, but it had never turned him on. Hank found other guys for that kind of play, which suited Reese fine.

Was the bet worth the price? Easy money, if he could pull it off. The odds were good he'd win. Reese knew he was good looking. He knew how to turn on the charm, too. He could be what others wanted him to be. He could reflect them back at themselves, even if there was nothing behind his smile or his words.

He scanned the men in his office in his mind, trying to think who Hank might pick. He might choose Gary, who was over fifty and had grandkids. The odds had to be somewhat reasonable or it wasn't worth the risk. Jesus, you're going to do it. Quashing any lingering hesitation, he said, "No one over fifty and no women."

"Deal." Hank's grin was sly and Reese knew in that moment he'd lost whatever edge he'd had. Nothing had changed between them. Maybe nothing ever would. "The usual rules apply—you provide me with the recorded proof of the deed, with the guy's face clear enough to identify."

Reese nodded, thinking of the hidden camera Hank had bought him a few years back to record just such a scene for their shared amusement. It no longer seemed quite so amusing to Reese, but he shrugged. Worst came to worst, he would lose the bet. He could deal with a little bondage for a few days.

They entered the large, one-story building, with its high ceilings and huge skylights. Reese glanced across the open room, looking from space to space. Bob didn't have offices in his building, but rather what he termed "creative spaces" set along the perimeter of the room for the programmers and marketers, with a large central area in the middle for hanging out and brainstorming. The building was always open in case a creative urge or sudden breakthrough propelled one of the developers to their computer.

Reese moved toward his space, Hank behind him. Once Reese had collected the files he needed, Hank said, "Take me on a tour. Let's see what's out there." Some people glanced up at Hank as they passed, but, as he'd come in with Reese, they simply nodded or smiled and went back to their business.

Reese followed him through the room, apprehension prickling his skin. Hank walked slowly, casting his appraising eye over the twenty or so guys at their desks, clustered in the free space or playing pool in the game area. When he got to the farthest corner of the building, Hank pointed toward a desk that was partially obscured by a silk screen. Hank moved closer. The guy didn't look up.

"Who's that?"

"Jeff somebody." Reese scanned his memory for the guy's last name. "Hartman. Jeff Hartman."

Not him, Reese silently prayed. Jeff Hartman was geek extraordinaire. He'd never said a word in Reese's presence, except to stammer painfully when asked some technical question by another developer. Reese had him pegged as one of those idiot savants who could barely put two words together, but could write the code to program a robot to do anything from building a car from the ground up to designing a telescope for use on a space shuttle. He was the kid in junior high whose lunch money you stole.

They stepped away and Hank asked, "Straight or gay?"

"No idea. He probably doesn't know either."

They headed around the rest of the building, moving slowly toward the front door. As they walked, Hank asked questions about a few of the other men, and Reese answered them as best he could. He could still say no, he told himself, he could always say no.

Neither spoke as they climbed into Hank's car and Hank directed the driver to Reese's place. As they eased into traffic, Hank said, "I choose that geek in the corner with the long hair. You have until Saturday. That should be plenty of time to get even the shyest social misfit into the sack."

Reese didn't respond. For the first time, he considered Jeff Hartman as a potential conquest. He supposed he wasn't hard on the eyes, with longish dark hair and a slender build. He dressed in old T-shirts and holey blue jeans that made him look like a college kid. He didn't have a clear read on Jeff's sexual orientation, but that wouldn't be too hard to figure out, if he took the bet, that was.

They pulled up to Reese's small rental house in a modest neighborhood. "So, we have a deal?" Hank said, as Reese started to climb out.

Five thousand dollars... "Yeah. What the hell."

As he started to close the door, Hank called out, "Oh, and Reese?"


"Don't fall in love."

"No chance of that. I don't even know what the word means."

The sad thing was, he really didn't.

Safe in His Arms #2
He walked through the house toward the front door, his cock twitching at the thought of meeting the new call boy. He licked his lips in anticipation and pulled open the door.

He stared, speechless, at the man standing before him.

He was easily six-three and maybe two hundred fifty pounds, too much of it in his gut. There was solid muscle beneath it though, as evidenced by his thickly muscled arms and massive shoulders. He had ginger red hair, cut short, and a ginger mustache and goatee, trimmed close. His nose looked like it had been broken at least once and his skin was the sunburned, ruddy color of someone who'd spent much of their lives outdoors.

He was wearing a black muscle T-shirt that revealed lots of chest hair, and his arms were covered in a thick down of golden-red fuzz. The man was the antithesis of Hank's standing profile at the escort service. What the hell was he doing here?

Hank finally found his voice. "I didn't call for you. Jesus, how old are you, anyway? Forty?"

The man lifted his eyebrows and had the gall to laugh. Hank saw nothing funny in the question. His profile specifically stated no one over twenty-five, and the younger the better. "Getting there," the guy said, still smiling. "Thirty-eight."

Hank waited for some kind of excuse or explanation, but he said nothing more.

"I ordered Troy. You're not Troy," Hank said, increasingly annoyed.

"My name is Russell. I got a call from the service and they gave me your name and directions to your place. Apparently Troy got sick at the last minute and there's some kind of emergency over there so Jacob was unavailable. From your reaction, I would venture to guess the guy on call screwed up." Russell's voice was a deep rumbling bass.

"Huh," Hank said, feeling for some reason on uncertain ground around the tall, imposing man standing before him. "I've been using the service for over a year and they never messed up like this before."

"My apologies. I'm sure it can be straightened out. Unless you'd like me to..." Russell let the sentence hang.

Why didn't Hank just dismiss the guy out of hand and slam the door? What kept him staring into those very blue eyes? He never went for the big hairy types. He liked his boys young and smooth, and very much in his thrall. But he couldn't deny his cock had come to attention in this guy's presence.

Without consciously making the decision, Hank stepped back and waved a hand. "What the hell. You give good head, Russell?"

Russell entered the hall, allowing Hank to close the door behind him. "So I'm told. How about you?"

"Pardon?" Hank was taken aback by the question from a guy who was nothing more than a hooker.

"I asked if you give good head," Russell repeated.

"Yeah, well, I'll ask the questions. You're on my dime, don't forget. This isn't a social call." The question rankled. The fact of the matter was, he rarely sucked another man's cock, except when he was very drunk, and even then not often. He was a pitcher, not a catcher.

"Okay," Russell said slowly. "I'm guessing by your tone that you don't have many social calls. No friends to speak of."

Hank whirled on him. "What the fuck is your problem? I'm not paying you to talk. I'm paying you to get on your knees and suck my dick. Got it?"

Instead of contrition or even anger, Hank saw pity in Russell's expression. What a joke that a common whore would pity him! Who the fuck did this guy think he was?

"Hey," Russell said in a maddeningly gentle tone, "sorry if I offended you with the comment about no friends. It's rough when you're all alone. I understand that. Even with all this," he waved his hand around the large elegantly furnished living room, "that old adage is true, huh? Money can't buy happiness. I'd venture to guess you are one very unhappy man."

"Jesus Christ!" Hank shouted, anger exploding through him. "Who the fuck do you think you are? Is this how you treat all your customers? What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"You're not my customer, Hank."

"What? You work for Gentleman's Elite. You're here because they sent you. For this hour I own your ass."

"Nope, sorry." Russell shook his head. "I've changed my mind. I don't want to be with you any longer. I thought at first you were my type, but I see I was mistaken." Russell moved toward the door.

Hank felt his face heat and he clenched his fists, reflexively starting toward the bigger man. Russell put his hands up, palms outward. "Calm down, Hank. I'm not your type either, remember? I'll be on my way, and you can figure this out with the service."

Hank couldn't believe he was the one being dismissed. The whole thing seemed surreal. "I'm not your type? You're a hooker, for god's sake! Your type is whoever's handing out the money."

"I prefer the term sex worker. And yes, while I offer sexual services in exchange for money, I actually do have preferences, and standards. Common civility is one of those. I will not be treated as less than, simply to satisfy your insecurities. To put it another way, I won't allow someone to stand on my neck so they can feel a little taller. No amount of money is worth that."

Yes, the money, Hank thought, narrowing his eyes as he appraised the tall, enigmatic stranger. Russell was already bought and paid for. How dare he refuse to deliver the goods - in this case his own ass? Even as this thought occurred to Hank, he knew it would hold no sway with this guy.

For some reason, though the man was beyond insulting, Hank realized he didn't want him to go. The fact that Russell had refused to have sex with him was challenge enough, but it went beyond that. In spite of his fury at being treated like this, Hank found himself intrigued. Who the hell was this guy? He certainly wasn't anything like the usual boys Hank purchased on a regular basis. There was something very collected about him. Put together. He was nobody's fool, that was for sure.

Hank found himself saying, "Look, I've - I've had a bad month. Would you, um, would you like a drink or something?"

Hank couldn't figure out what had happened. Since he'd broken away from his suffocating parents, Hank had always been the one in control - the one in charge. It was his way or the highway. Though a part of him knew he should send this uppity "sex worker" packing, he couldn't quite bring himself to let him go. At least not until he reestablished the balance of power in his own favor.

"Please," he tried again, not sure suddenly if the humility in his tone was real or feigned. "Can we maybe start over?"

Russell tilted his head, seeming to weigh the offer. Finally he nodded. He stuck out his hand, and Hank found himself clasping it. Russell's handshake was firm and warm.

"I believe in second chances," Russell added with a smile.

Author Bio:
I have published erotic fiction and romance since 1996. My work includes the sensual exploration of D/s and erotic romance, as well as the darker side of BDSM. My work includes in-depth exploration of both m/f and m/m relationships, in the context of romance and D/s. I have published over fifty novels and short stories, both in print and ebook format.

It is important to me to write about real people, characters I and my readers come to care about. I don't want to simply provide an erotic thrill or evocative description. With my D/s romances I seek not only to tell a story, but to come to grips with, and ultimately exalt in the true beauty and spirituality of a loving exchange of power. My darker works press the envelope of what is erotic and what can be a sometimes dangerous slide into the world of sadomasochism. I strive to write about the timeless themes of sexuality and romance, with twists and curves to examine the romantic side of the human psyche. Ultimately my work deals with the human condition, and our constant search for love and intensity of experience.


Wicked Hearts #1

Safe in His Arms #2

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