Authors: Cleo Peitsche
, Legal Notice and Disclaimer:
© 2016 by Cleo Peitsche. All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without permission in writing from the author. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, events, locations and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental. This book is for entertainment purposes only.
This book contains mature content and is solely for adults.
Cover Photo ©2016 by Cormar Covers. Ebook created with Vellum.
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Coming Soon (partial list)
Her Demanding Bisexual Alphas (Trilogy)
The Shark’s Double Secret (PNR Trilogy)
Destroyed by a Dangerous Man (Suspense)
After Forever/Bisexual Billionaire Trilogy (Threesome Romance)
Office Toy Series (BDSM Gang Bang Romance)
Executive Toy Series (BDSM Gang Bang Romance)
Lawyers Behaving Badly (Office Menage)
Triple Jeopardy (coming soon!)
Willful Violation (coming soon!)
Private Chambers (coming soon!)
Morality Clause (coming soon!)
By a Dangerous Man (BDSM Erotic Romantic Suspense)
Dangerous Man Standalone
The Shark Shifter Paranormal Romance
Take Me Hard Series (BDSM Romance)
Fantasy Playland Series (BDSM)
Mistress Moi Series (Femdom)
Bad Boyfriend Series (Femdom Romance)
Luring the Pack
(PNR Menage Novel)
Melted and Whipped
aisie can’t hide
her shock the first time she sees Ethan Brennbach’s scarred, mask-like face.
Ethan. Gorgeous except for… yeah.
Ethan, her new boss.
He’s not impressed by her lack of tact. Neither are Raphael Lattimore and Trent Banno, the handsome partners at the prestigious LB&B law firm, where gossiping about Ethan’s appearance is grounds for termination.
The whole office is brimming with secrets, some downright dangerous. Soon the secrets include Maisie herself, the illegal activities she discovers…
And the filthy things all three of her dominant bosses expect of her.
in front of the gleaming skyscraper and looked up, up, up. She was only vaguely aware of the morning crowd and the aromas of coffee and fried egg sandwiches from the street carts.
Far below the sidewalk, the subway rumbled.
She tugged her purse higher on her shoulder, then her fingers blindly sought out the long necklace dangling between her breasts.
The tower seemed to pierce the sky. Very phallic, Maisie thought, though lately everything seemed to have sexual undertones.
Too much job hunting, not enough dating.
LB&B Law was on the sixtieth floor—was that even visible from down here?
She took a tiny step back and wobbled on her four-inch heels. Then her free hand was windmilling through the air while the other gripped the necklace, as if it could keep her from crashing to the pavement.
The men and women nearby shrank back, but then strong arms caught her, cradled her against a hard chest.
“Easy there,” a deep voice said. “You’re all right—I’ve got you.”
She couldn’t see the man speaking, but his voice was deep and smooth like honey. Like whiskey licked with fire. Something seductive and forbidden.
Something comforting yet dangerous.
As the stranger released her, the silk of his suit brushed against her bare forearms. She almost shivered with delight.
“Thank you,” she murmured. Her heel had gotten temporarily caught in a subway grate, she saw now. The hem of her form-fitting dark skirt had ridden up to mid-thigh, revealing her curvy legs.
Tugging at the bottom of her skirt, she slowly turned toward him. Because she was partially bent over, she had the perfect excuse to scope him out.
The elegant navy blue suit camouflaged his muscles somewhat. But Maisie had felt them, and she definitely approved. His hands were large and strong, and the nails were neither too long nor chewed to the quick. With a little sigh, she took in his broad chest and shoulders.
His head was tilted up, like he was trying to figure out what she’d been staring at.
Then he looked at her.
Maisie’s entire world crashed to a stop.
A whimper of surprise and fear escaped her lips. The man—he was wearing a stiff Halloween mask—
Except it wasn’t fake.
The right half of his face was an artificial caricature, frozen in place, from sharp cheekbone to taut jaw. Strangely masculine but wholly terrifying.
What the hell could even do that to someone? Fire? Acid?
But the skin was too smooth, and the color, while several shades paler than the rest of his tanned face, was too even.
She shouldn’t stare, but he was only inches away; if she suddenly became interested in the passers-by or the guy hawking newspapers on the corner, the reason would be obvious.
So she fixed on his eyes, stormy like a troubled sea, and felt herself sinking into their gray depths.
But how many people even noticed how mesmerizing they were?
Her gaze skated upward, to his dark-blond hair, thick and cut conservatively. He was about six inches taller than she was in heels. So, six-two or six-three.
The guy was perfect, right down to the trappings of considerable wealth: expensive watch and exquisitely tailored suit, a flash of gold cufflinks.
But that scar…
She tried not to stare, but it didn’t seem real. It couldn’t be. But now she saw the knotty seams along his jaw and below his eye, where it connected to healthy skin.
It kept pulling her gaze back.
His lips pressed together in a humorless little smile as he took a step back and straightened his dark blue tie.
What the hell was
with her, evaluating this kind stranger?
“Thank you. For stopping. For helping me.” The stammered sentences were scarcely coherent.
He had to know why she was flummoxed.
And now he was the one staring rudely, as if to make a point. It threw her off.
She blinked quickly, but it didn’t help her shorted-out brain to function. “What happened to…” She flattened her hands over her mouth. She’d meant to say,
Do you always catch falling women?
Except she’d been thinking about what had happened to his face.
The hard look in his eyes said he knew it, too. His lips thinned even further, though not as much on the right side.
“You’re welcome.” The coldness in his voice made her shiver despite the mild spring weather
He wasn’t looking at her now.
He walked away without another word, continuing to his job or wherever he’d been heading.
Even now, she couldn’t stop staring.
He looked damned good from behind. It was impossible to ignore his powerful shoulders and muscles under those expensive clothes. He walked like he owned the world.
She tilted her head. Ok, so maybe he was hot. Or… His confidence was hot. Women were staring in appreciation… at least the women who didn’t see the right side of his face.
The others? They did double takes, their eyes widening in alarm.
Maisie knew because she watched until he turned the corner.
fifteen minutes for someone to come collect Maisie from the lobby.
After being shown to her desk and introduced to a few harried coworkers, she was shipped down to the first floor for processing, which sounded like a euphemism for something involving bolt stunners and meat grinders.
“You might want to fix your hair.” The woman taking the identification photo leaned out from behind her camera to point. Tiny white stones were embedded in her long fingernails. “It’s flat there.”
“Curly hair is such a hassle,” Maisie said, laughing, but she didn’t mean it. She’d paid a lot of money for these nice curls, which were thick spirals that cascaded to her elbows. She liked her hair a little messy, a little wild; it made up for the mousy brown color.
She fluffed up her hair, and when she did, a faint masculine scent reached her nose.
Hot swirls of arousal stirred up inside her and coursed through her veins like a drug.
A heartbeat later, she understood why. The man from the street—some of his aftershave must have gotten on her when he caught her. It hadn’t quite registered in the moment. Bergamot and citrus, pine and wood-smoke. Subtle and expensive. It made her think of private jets, penthouses, and power.
It made her heart pound.
She shoved away the memory of his face and focused on the moment when his arms had wrapped around her. Holy hell, that had been hot.
“Guess I don’t have to tell you to smile,” the photographer said. “I’ve never seen someone so happy to start a new job. Ok. You’re done.”
Maisie hopped down from the high wooden stool to retrieve her purse, then joined the photographer by the machine that would print out the security pass.
She found herself tugging at her chain. Toying with the puffy silver heart pendant was a habit she’d developed at her last job, a call center. She’d been the CEO’s assistant, a position that maybe sounded glamorous but had mostly consisted of running interference between stressed-out employees and her jerk of a boss.
“What’s it like at LB&B Law?” she asked. “I haven’t heard much.” Because it was impossible to get former employees on
to answer questions about the firm.
The woman smiled cautiously. “They pay well.”
Maisie already knew that. Once she’d successfully completed her trial period, she’d go from hourly to salary—and receive a bonus larger than the yearly wages of most of the poor guys at the call center. But LB&B wouldn’t pay so well unless they had to, right?
So why did they have to?
When she arrived back on the top floor, a well-dressed woman in her early fifties intercepted her en route to her desk. “I’m Mrs. Donahue, and I’ll be giving you the tour,” she said.
“I already got one, but had to leave for this.” Maisie held up her badge.
The woman smiled as if Maisie were an idiot. “So you know where the bathrooms are. Congratulations. I’m going to give you the
tour. The one you need if you hope to survive your probationary period.”
“I appreciate that,” Maisie said, suspecting that she was either going to adore or despise Mrs. Donahue.
“You aren’t to handle any files that aren’t given to you. Not until you’re a full employee, which will take hard work. The founding partners are exacting. They’re three bachelors who are married to their jobs. They sacrifice, and you will have to as well. Late nights are the norm here.”
“Understood. I’m a perfectionist, so—”
“That will serve you well, no doubt. Come.”
Gulping, Maisie fixed a smile to her face and followed the dour woman.
Lush, silver-tipped ivy potted in gleaming silver planters lined the corridor. Overhead, skylights at regular intervals let in a flood of warm yellow light.
“This is Raphael Lattimore’s office,” Mrs. Donahue said, turning left. They passed through a small but elegant seating area, then through a door. “You’ll be part of his support team.”
Which Maisie already knew—she’d interviewed for the position, after all. Still, she kept her mouth shut.
She drank in the decor, starting with the tall grandfather clock to her right. It was clearly an antique, with a beveled front glass panel. Fifteen feet beyond it was a large marble-slab coffee table surrounded by two sofas and two chairs.
The executive desk sat halfway across the room, facing the door. It was an imposing, solid-looking piece of furniture, with thick fluted columns dividing the panels. A powerful desk for a powerful man. A curved monitor and a telephone sat on a matching riser to the right, and there was a sturdy credenza, too. The contrast of modern and antique was well executed.
A dozen plants sat around the office in small groups. Maisie would have put some of them on the massive legal bookshelf built into the wall on her left, to break up the overbearing rows of gilded-paged books, but she supposed the plants were happier in the open, where they could get light.
Through the windows straight ahead, Maisie could see miles of clear blue sky dotted with puffy clouds.
Yeah, this was far nicer than the gloomy CEO’s office at the call center, which had reeked of stale cigarette smoke and human desperation.
The sexy stranger from the street popped back into her mind.
What was it like where he worked? Who was he?
Too bad she hadn’t twisted an ankle. He might have carried her to a bench and stroked her leg with those strong hands of his.
Your body is perfect
, he might have said, sliding his hand to her knee, then under her skirt—
“As you see,” Mrs. Donahue said, “Mr. Lattimore is tidy. He can be very old-fashioned.” As she spoke, she walked to the credenza and gestured at the newspapers on it. “He only reads print, not digital. Every morning, he must have the
Wall Street Journal
The New York Times
, and the
. Once a week, you’ll replace the old editions of
“Beautiful Blooms?” She hadn’t actually gotten to meet Mr. Lattimore; the job interviews had been conducted at the employment agency. Somehow, she’d come away thinking he was young, or maybe middle-aged. Certainly not old-fashioned, heading for retirement, and tottering around his garden on the weekends.
Mrs. Donahue gave her a piercing look. “Whatever you think you’ve understood about Mr. Lattimore, forget it. Whatever you’re imagining is likely wrong.” Shaking her head, she turned her attention back to the elegant office. “He wants his shades drawn up in the mornings. There’s a light meter in your desk along with instructions.”
Mrs. Donahue nodded. “His plants are expensive and require a precise amount of light. If you get it wrong, he’ll fire you.”
“But I’m an executive assistant, not a gardner.”
“It might seem beneath you, but bungle this and you’ll be out of a job. Think of yourself as a horticulturist.” She smiled cruelly.
Maisie remembered a joke her mother had told her.
You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.
She crossed her arms. For the first time since waking up that morning, she was more worried than excited.
“I’ll email a longer list of specifications: how he takes his coffee, when he wants his dry cleaning picked up—”
“He expects me to pick up his dry cleaning?” Maisie asked, crestfallen.
Mrs. Donahue ignored the interruption. “Next, Mr. Banno. He has a full-time personal assistant who handles most of his needs, but occasionally you’ll have to step in. To that end, I recommend spending a few hours with Gladys, letting her show you the ropes. Mr. Banno will require your assistance less often than Mr. Lattimore, but he can be quite demanding.”
She paused as if for dramatic effect. “A previous employee served him cold coffee. That man ended up wearing it.”
Maisie’s stomach curdled. “That’s terrible!”
“Instead of constantly interjecting your opinions, you might want to consider the warning I’m giving you. Assuming you’re smart enough to take a not-so-subtle hint.”
The temptation to match Mrs. Donahue’s rudeness was almost overwhelming. Gritting her teeth, Maisie said evenly, “I graduated from Penn, you know. Same as Ethan Brennbach.” She’d read it in an article about the firm.
“Did you? Then I imagine you have a lot of student loans to pay back and need this job more than we need you.”
Maisie felt her face heating with anger. People were usually impressed when they heard where she’d gone to school. “Well, I read some general books about law practices in preparation for working here. I’ve also got a good memory and speak three languages.”
“Look around you, Ms. Novau. Do I look like HR? Does this look like a Broadway audition? Here we’re all drones, stacking up billable hours. That’s the only language you need to concern yourself with. Since you brought up Mr. Brennbach…” She gestured Maisie closer and glanced around even though there wasn’t anyone near them.
Maisie leaned in. She could see the unevenness of Mrs. Donahue’s foundation and the bloodshot veins in her eyes.
And was that the sweet grape scent of wine on her breath? First thing in the morning? Maisie chanced a quick sniff. It sure was.
“Mr. Brennbach suffers from… an embarrassing affliction.”
A million possibilities raced through Maisie’s mind. She had an uncle with IBS, but he didn’t seem particularly embarrassed about it. If anything, he thought it was funny, or at least pretended to.
Mrs. Donahue drew a finger around her own face. “His countenance,” she said. “The right side. It happened two years ago, and it didn’t improve his disposition any.”
Prickling crawled along Maisie’s skin. With each passing second, it burrowed deeper, permeating her with cold dread.
“His face? I think… I think I saw him on the street, but he was heading—”
“If you think you saw him, then you did. He doesn’t like being reminded of his disfigurement, for obvious reasons. Don’t stare, don’t gossip. In fact, the best advice I can give you is to pretend you don’t notice at all.”
Too fuckin’ late.
A nervous, choked giggle escaped Maisie’s pursed lips.
“Honestly,” Mrs. Donahue said, flustered. “Don’t do
when you see him.”
Maisie pressed her fingertips against her mouth. She could smell a trace of that intoxicating aftershave, or maybe she was imagining it. She remembered the solidity of his body as he caught her. “What happened to him?”
“That’s none of your business, so don’t go asking. It’s not spoken of.”
Mrs. Donahue snapped her fingers. “It’s not discussed here. If you gossip and he finds out, he won’t just fire you. He’ll sue you for creating a hostile work environment. He’ll win, and you’ll be selling your blood plasma and collecting cans for the next thirty years. That man never loses a case, and he never forgets a slight.”
Maisie nodded, but the blood had drained out of her face, leaving her woozy.