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By Cecilia Tan
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 28, 2014. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Two months have passed since Karina’s painful departure from James, the mysterious lover who awakened her darkest desires, and she’ll do anything-anything-to locate him and win him back. Her search takes her to London, where she finds herself immersed in the world of fine art and forbidden pleasures. And soon, Karina meets another enigmatic man who promises to help her find James . . . for a price.
Unexpected pleasure . . .
Damon George is rich, gorgeous, and a member of a secret society that caters to the sensual thrills of the wealthy and powerful. Though Karina insists her heart will always belong to James, Damon is determined to have her, body and soul. By the time she finds James, Karina has been “trained” to please another. Will James reject her again . . . or find her more irresistible than ever?
Love is art.
Love is the greatest pleasure of all.
Thanks go to Lori Perkins, my tireless agent, who always believed that someday my BDSM fantasies would be publishable, once the rest of the world caught up to me. Lori, thanks for being so patient and for being right!
I should also thank two real-life glass artists. One, Josh Simpson, is mentioned in the story as the man who makes miniature planets and hides them all around the world for future archaeologists to find. The other is the one whose work inspired me to imagine James’s “Great Wave” sculpture in Slow Seduction: Paedra Bramhall. In 2001 or so I saw an installation of her work that represented the female womb, which included immense jagged stalactites of red glass.
Thanks to the New England Leather Alliance (nelaonline.org) for carrying the torch of BDSM community education. They’re the opposite of a secret society, and I recommend anyone who wants to know more about BDSM to contact them or join!
And apologies to Tate Britain. The pre-Raphaelite exhibition really happened, but everything else about the museum is the invention of my fevered imagination.
Break the Sky in Two
I stepped off the plane in London, already tired and sleep deprived. By the time I got through customs it was even worse. Martindale had said I should tell them I was there on vacation and not to mention work, but the customs agent seemed so friendly, inquiring about my visit, it hadn’t occurred to me it was anything more than idle chitchat. In the course of the conversation I mentioned I was looking forward to the show at the Tate. His questions got more and more pointed until I finally had to say I was there for a job interview—just an interview!—and that if I got a job, the Tate would be handling the paperwork. He glowered at me after that and grumbled about letting me in. I guess there was a terrible glut of art historians looking for work in the UK if they were out to protect their jobs so fiercely. Ha.
Either way, it was a lie. I wasn’t there for an interview. I had a job waiting for me. Reginald Martindale, the museum curator James had introduced me to, wanted me as a tour guide for special groups through the pre-Raphaelite exhibit they were opening in a week. Only a temporary job, but it was still a job of sorts, as well as a good excuse to leave New York.
I still didn’t have my degree. After I’d reported my thesis advisor for sexual harassment, all hell had broken loose. I told the truth: he’d said he’d approve my dissertation if I granted him sexual favors. He lied and said that I was the one who came on to him, trying to get him to pass me in exchange for favors instead of rewriting my thesis. The full inquest period was sixty days, which made me miss graduation anyway. At this point my thesis draft was in the hands of the department for evaluation, and Renault was being forced to take academic leave until the inquest was over. I wasn’t hopeful about the thesis. It was a first draft—I’d expected to work on it after he read it—and I knew I had cut corners in it. On top of that, he had friends and allies in the department and the dean’s office who defended him and didn’t believe me. Some had called for a misconduct investigation of me. Others had called me a slut.
Right now, I had done all I could do, and had taken all I could take. It was a good time to get away from school for a while.
As soon as I got through customs, I sat down on a bench with my suitcase and texted a number I’d memorized. I told a lie today, but it was sort of a necessary one. You know I try not to tell them at all, but it was a customs officer at Heathrow giving me “the what for.” I was afraid he’d send me right back to New York City. I’m in London.
When I sent the text, it made a pleasant whooshing sound, as if it were flying through the ether directly to James’s ear.
James Byron LeStrange. I had no idea if I would ever see him again. I clung to a few ragged hopes that I would. For one, the phone he had given me kept working. Someone was still paying for it. Maybe he hadn’t even noticed, in his vast riches, that the account was still being paid? Would international roaming charges finally be the thing that brought the phone to his attention and made him cut it off? I clung to the slim hope that the phone’s continued life was a sign, a crack in an otherwise closed door. I had hurt him badly the last time we saw each other. I knew that now. And yet in the months that had passed since that fateful night, I had not stopped loving him.
I sent him a text every time I told a lie. Sticking to the rules. Being a good girl. Even if Stefan, his driver, was the only person who saw the texts, since he was the last person with that phone, I hoped he’d relay the messages. The texts never bounced, anyway. And Stefan knew all about me and how James had abandoned me, so I didn’t mind him seeing the messages if he still had the phone in his possession.
I hoped they weren’t breaking Stefan’s heart. He was a nice guy and a friend when I needed one.
I figured out how to get a transit card and then caught the Underground to King’s Cross, where I had booked two nights in a cheap hotel with shared bathrooms. The place was barely a step above a hostel, but at least I would have a private sleeping room.
It was the beginning of June. I hadn’t seen James since the beginning of April.
The clerk at the hotel was a young Indian man, unfailingly polite, with his shirt buttoned all the way up the collar but not wearing a tie. He explained what time breakfast was, apologized that the water pressure in the shower was not very good, and handed me a card with the Wi-Fi password on it. When I got up to my room, I found it was so small the door didn’t open all the way and I literally could not get in without crawling across the bed.
The window was open and I could see the towers of St. Pancras train station at the end of the block.
I turned on my phone again and found the hotel’s Wi-Fi signal. Well, that was one way to avoid huge roaming charges.
I texted: I got called a slut and a whore for reporting sexual harassment at the hands of my thesis advisor. Yet when I rode naked in the back of a limousine and screamed from orgasm as we drove through the streets, I was cherished and praised. I know which world I’d rather live in.
The next morning I made my way to Martindale’s office, which was in an unassuming building a few blocks from the actual museum. Here’s where I confess I told another lie. I had told Martindale I was coming for the job. It was true that I had jumped at the chance to see this major exhibit of one hundred and fifty paintings and to get out of New York. But I had one more ulterior motive. I was there to pump him for information about James. Rumors were swirling through the Lord Lightning fan community that he was in England and that he might not be retired after all. If he was here, maybe I had a chance. And if Martindale knew anything, maybe that furthered my chances.
I had to find out.
I was in my best clothes, a cream-colored interview suit, rumpled from being crammed in my bag on a transatlantic flight. Martindale was polite and didn’t mention the wrinkles. He sat behind a desk strewn with objets d’art, and I recognized a paperweight as James’s work. I waited until we had gone through all the formalities and I’d given him the briefest sketch of how strife in the art history department had led to my leaving the university without my degree in hand.
“You think you’ll have it eventually?” he asked.
“It’s mostly a matter of paperwork,” I said. At least, that was what I hoped. “I may have to go back to defend, if they’ll let me. It’s very political.”
“Well, I certainly understand how political both the art world and the university system can be. For what it’s worth, I thought your doctoral dissertation to be top notch. You wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
“Thank you.” I blushed a little from the praise. “I have a favor to ask, though, if I could?”
“Of course, my dear. What is it?”
“Our mutual friend, the man who introduced us…I’ve…fallen out of touch with him. I would love to at least know how he’s doing. If that’s not too much to ask.”
Martindale folded his hands on his stomach. “Yes, the enigmatic J. B. Lester. Well, you know, he can be a bit of a recluse.”
“He’s been impossible to reach lately. And he owes me a piece.”
“Oh,” I said, since I didn’t know what else to say.
He stared at his hands for a long moment. “It’s funny you should ask about him today, as I did get a small package in this morning’s post. It contained no letter, no explanation, just some photographs.”
“Photographs? You mean, like actually printed on photo paper?”
He barked with laughter. “Yes, dear, actual photos. Take a look and tell me if you think they look like his work.”
He handed me the envelope, and I shook out a small stack of four or five pictures. My breath caught the moment I saw them. I had no doubt they were from him.
The pictures were of a shoe. A slipper. A glass slipper.
Martindale took me to tea. We rode the Underground not very far and came up in yet another bustling aboveground train station, and then walked to a hotel a few blocks over. There were signs everywhere pointing tourists to Buckingham Palace.
“Indeed, now you can say you’ve been to tea at the one and only Buckingham Palace…Hotel,” he said with an impish twinkle in his eye as we sat down to a luxurious meal that was like having a tiny bit of lunch followed by copious desserts. And pot after pot of tea. He said it was his custom to not only take new hires here, but also anyone visiting from the U.S., to help them get over jet lag. Several pots of heavily caffeinated tea later, I certainly didn’t feel sleepy.
When we parted, he handed me a pass to get into the museum in the morning. “I expect to have a group of donors for you to show around Wednesday afternoon, so you have a few days to get to know the exhibit,” he said. “I meant to bring a copy of the catalog with me for you as well, but you’ll have to pick that up tomorrow when I’ll have your badge ready. Forgive an old man for growing forgetful!”
“Oh, tomorrow would be great,” I told him. “I really look forward to it. I can’t thank you enough.”
We went our separate ways at the Underground, and I felt like I’d just spent the afternoon with a long-lost uncle.
When I got back to my almost-hostel, I logged on and checked in with Becky. My apartment-mate back in New York was online, as usual; I could see her chat avatar when I opened up the laptop she was lending me. I pinged her and immediately the video chat window on the screen opened and I could see her wide grin, the wall of her bedroom behind her and the corner of a Lord Lightning poster.
“You made it!” she said. Her hand showed up as a sketchy blur as she waved hello to me. Her long black hair was loose around her face and, even with the low-resolution video, I could see she had the smudges of last night’s eyeliner under her eyes. “You’re there!”
“I’m here. I’m at this ridiculous little hotel. I mean, really little! Can you see the room behind me? It’s like I’m in a closet. I can’t afford to stay here very long, though. I’ll have to move to a hostel or find someone who will lend me a spare room or something.”
“I told you Paulina and Michel offered, right?”
“You did.” They were friends of Becky’s she’d never met but knew through an online Lord Lightning fan club. I was skeptical of going to live with total strangers for three months.
I must’ve looked as skeptical as I felt, because Becky said, “Oh, come on, Karina. Just meet them for coffee…or tea! They drink tea there, right? If you don’t like them it’s not like you made a commitment or anything. Maybe they’d have more advice about where to look or at least a reliable hostel. Some of the places I’ve seen on the Internet look so sketchy.”
“You sound like my mother.”
“But they do! Look, I can see Paulina’s online right now. Let me connect you and you two can talk to each other.” She was silent a moment, but I could see she was typing. Then she said, “She can’t get on audio or video right now, but she says they’d totally love to have you over for tea tomorrow. I’m sending you the address.”
“All right, fine. Tell her I’ll be there.” I supposed she was right. It couldn’t hurt to at least meet them.
Becky typed on her keyboard for a few seconds more, then looked up at me. “So, I should tell you that Professor RantyPants was here today.”
“What? You mean Renault?”
“Yes. He got drunk and came down here and pushed the buzzer in the vestibule and then wouldn’t believe I wasn’t you.”
“Becks! That’s terrible! That’s…that’s stalking!”
“Oh, I know. I had the campus police come and roust him, and, well, I can’t imagine that will look too good for his reputation.”
“Holy shit, no, I wouldn’t think so. Still, I’m scared for you.” And very glad that I wasn’t there. “Why now, though? Why didn’t he do that when I first accused him?”
“Well, what he was saying didn’t make much sense. I figured it was too much booze talking.”
“Why? What did he say?”
“Aside from calling you every name in the book? This was the weird part. He went on about how you got him banned from the Crimson Glove Society.”
“The what?” I asked. As I said it, my jet-lagged mind caught up. Renault had been at the party James had taken me to. He mentioned to me that if I accused Renault of sexual harassment, it would probably scuttle his chances to become a member. James had never said the name of the group, but that had to be what it was about.
James never said a lot of things.
I hadn’t told Becky that part, so James wasn’t the only one guilty of not telling the whole story. I didn’t want to go into that now. “Probably some exclusive club he wanted into,” I said, “and didn’t get because now he’s got a black mark on his record.” That was the truth, if not the whole truth. I decided I didn’t want to talk about Renault anymore. Not when we could talk about James instead. Angry and hurt as I was, thinking about that night and James stirred my blood, reawakening the aroused longing I felt. “Now, I have news.”
“News? What kind of news? About him?” When Becky said “him,” she meant him. Yes, it was kind of weird that the man I was so desperately in love with, she worshipped as a pop idol, but at least I had someone I could talk to about him. No one else knew his secret.
“About him,” I agreed. “You know the museum curator he introduced me to? The guy who convinced me to come here in the first place? He got some mystery photos in the mail.”
“I love a good mystery!” Becky leaned in close and her eyes looked huge.
“They were of glass sculptures, and someone had sent them to Martindale. He suspected they were from him. I’m sure they were.”
“What made you so sure?”
“Not only did it look like his work, but the sculptures are of glass slippers.”
Becky gasped. “And you guys have that whole Cinderella thing going on. He’s as obsessed with you as you are with him, Karina.”
“Are you sure? What if he’s obsessed with playing God to poor little girls? What if he wants to be Prince Charming but doesn’t give a fuck who Cinderella is?”
“Rina, seriously, did he ever give you that impression?”
“No, but he also never gave me the impression he was going to run off and abandon me, either!” I’d spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was going through James’s head since the night he had left me in the middle of a sex party for millionaires. Becky had helped, speculating and sympathizing. She listened to me cry and had heard these complaints from me before. “Maybe he’s looking for another Cinderella.”
“You don’t know that,” she insisted. “I think you have to keep looking for him. Was there a postmark on the photos?”
“Martindale said there was no return address.”
“Yes, but do the envelopes there get stamped like they do here? Some clue as to where it was mailed from?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, find out! Every clue helps when you’re trying to solve a mystery, Rina. Seriously.”
“I’m bad at this cloak-and-dagger stuff, Becks.” I also didn’t think it was going to be as simple as putting together a string of clues like some Agatha Christie novel. “I’ll ask Martindale tomorrow.”
“Don’t look so down, Karina,” she said. “It’s a good sign. I know it is. The latest rumors are that he’s in England. I’ll see if I can find out anything more specific. I sent you those links for discussion boards and websites, didn’t I?”
“You did. Thanks, Becky. I wish you were here.” I looked around the room. “Except there wouldn’t be space for another person in this closet.”
She chuckled at my joke. “Maybe I’ll come visit at the break in July. Oh, speaking of which! Eek! I better get dressed. I’m supposed to be at class by two o’clock.”
“Ooh, okay, I’ll let you go.” I wanted to hear about her class. She was teaching a summer session literature seminar and had been stressing majorly over it. I was sure I’d hear all about it later. “Bye, Becks.”
“Bye, Rina. Don’t forget! Tea with Paul and Michel tomorrow.” She waved one last time and then her screen went dark when she closed her laptop.
The tiny room felt very empty then. I sent an e-mail to my sister, Jill, telling her about tea at the Buckingham Palace Hotel.
The sun was setting on this warm summer evening as I stared out of the open hotel window. The sky was alight with streaks of rose and magenta. The towers of the train station really looked more like a castle than a transit hub. Two children ran down the cobbled street toward the park, laughing, their father following behind, unhurried. I wanted to imagine that it was a castle, that I had come to a fairy-tale land, but reality was holding me in a very firm grip.
I sat back down on the bed. I wanted to walk around but I didn’t know the neighborhood. Was it safe? Maybe it was at the moment, but once the sun went down, would it be? I remembered all the warnings my mother had given me, first when I went to college, then when I moved to New York City for grad school. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t go out at night. Don’t walk alone. They all applied suddenly. I was in a foreign country and out of my element.
The e-mail Becky had sent with the links to the LL fan sites beckoned me. Well, that would be one way to keep myself busy for a while…
I had avoided looking at the sites up until now. It was weird enough that the man I had fallen in love with, the man with whom I had done some of the most intimate and outrageous sexual things, was secretly an international rock star, but it was even weirder to realize that millions of women, my own roommate included, spent their days lusting after him.
I clicked on the first link somewhat hesitantly. A fan site popped up, and a song of his began to play. Headings on the site beckoned me to sections: News, Photo Gallery, Your Stories, Meetups.
The News page appeared to be a mix of blog posts and links to news stories about anything and everything remotely related to Lord Lightning. Some guy who had once played guitar on one of his albums had a solo record out now, and so most of the recent articles were about him. The Photo Gallery contained promo photos, concert shots, and occasional fan photos where people had uploaded pictures of themselves meeting him. Most of them were women, grinning wide-eyed in excitement and disbelief at standing next to their idol. None of those were more recent than several months ago, the last time he appeared.
The night we met.
I had to stop looking at the pictures. He always appeared wearing a mask or so heavily made up he was unrecognizable, but the comments people left freaked me out a little. “So beautiful! The most beautiful man alive!” read one. “Yummy. I could nibble those abs like ears of corn,” read another. Others were more graphic. It wasn’t that I didn’t agree with them, but the flare of jealousy I felt was so hot my cheeks burned. Jealousy and arousal, too, triggered by the frank erotic thoughts these fans had about him, about the little bit of skin he showed in a photo shoot or the suggestive pose on an album cover. Some guys get up there, sing, and get famous, I know that. But Lord Lightning wasn’t just a musician. He was a Sex Symbol with a capital S. He was made of sex.
The Your Stories section was even worse. One section was meant to be true stories like “The Day I Met Lord Lightning for Winning a Radio Contest,” but there were only a few postings there. The fiction section, on the other hand, was huge, with thousands of stories. And I couldn’t help but notice that many of them were rated “R” or “X,” like movies.
One of them, entitled “Limo Ride,” caught my eye. I couldn’t help myself. Against my better judgment, my curiosity got the better of me, and I clicked on it.
Ever since the day I became my lord’s personal makeup and costume artist, my life has never been the same. I’ll never forget the day we were on our way to a public appearance. He’d chosen spandex to show off his incredibly well-toned body. I was in the best shape of my life, too, since he had me join him for workouts with his personal trainer. I knew every inch of his body, of course, since it was my job to fit him for costumes, and as you know, many of them fit him perfectly. When I say every inch, of course I also mean every inch of the magnificence of his love rod. Even flaccid, it was one of his most prominent and desirable features, and I was forever designing clothes to accentuate that delicious moose knuckle.
But of course when not flaccid it could be a problem. A very embarrassing problem, not to mention it would ruin the line of the costume. So taking care of that became my job, too. So there we were in the limousine, from which he would emerge into a thousand camera flashbulbs and videos. “Caramel,” he said to me, gesturing to the raging boner so prominent that the reddened tip protruded from under his waistband, “this is a problem. Fix it.”
“Right away, my lord,” I said, pulling the boner free with one hand and then straddling him. I never wore underwear anymore under my skirts, not when this kind of “problem” was prone to pop up a few times a day.
“The problem,” he growled into my ear as he thrust hard into me, “is that you are so damn sexy, I can’t help but get hard every time you’re near.”
“So, fire me,” I said, squeezing him with my love muscles.
“Not on your life,” he said, thrusting harder and deeper. “I can’t live without you.”
I couldn’t read any more of it. For one thing, it was ridiculous and laughable, but on the other hand, I found myself turned on by it at the same time. Oh my God, I thought, these are the kinds of fantasies these women have about him every day.
I couldn’t really be offended by it. After all, they had no idea what he was really like. Everyone wants to think there’s something perfect out there, or someone.
Sometimes it’s not a fantasy, though. I had my Prince Charming and I fucked things up. I drove him away.
- "4 1/2 stars! This is the BDSM novel all the other millionaire Dom heroes want to star in. Tan takes an overused trope and turns it into a dreamy, erotic fantasy that draws the reader down the rabbit hole along with Karina. The sex scenes are lush and erotic without attempting to outdo the last BDSM novel out there, and James' struggle to trust Karina enough to give up even an iota of his rigid control is palpable. Readers will be clamoring for the next book in the series."—RT Book Reviews on SLOW SURRENDER
"Loved, loved Slow Surrender and am waiting on pins and needles for book two, Slow Seduction to come out...another brilliant outing from Cecelia Tan...her characters are full of life and emotion, and so believable. Definitely a keeper!"
—Night Owl Reviews on SLOW SURRENDER
- "Seductive fun not to be missed! Cecilia Tan will make all your sexy wishes come true!"—Lisa Renee Jones, bestselling author of If I Were You on SLOW SURRENDER
- "Move over EL James. Cecilia Tan's Slow Surrender is sinfully sweet and sublimely erotic. As with sipping a superb single-malt scotch served neat, you'll savor the slow burn as it builds to a deliciously unanticipated ... climax."—Hope Tarr, award-winning author on SLOW SURRENDER
- "If you are a fan of the Billionaire Dom, you should not miss Slow Surrender. Cecilia Tan weaves a compelling and red-hot tale that will have readers eager for more."—http://www.romancenovelnews.com/ on SLOW SURRENDER
- "Slow Surrender is the kind of seductive page turner that keeps you wondering not only will she or won't she, but when that next step in erotic enticement will occur. Cecilia Tan knows sex, knows power, and knows a how a real woman can get caught up in the drama of power, pain, pleasure and mystery - without losing herself in the process. This is 50 shades of genuine heat, from a master of the game."—Laura Antoniou, bestselling author on SLOW SURRENDER
- On Sale
- Jan 28, 2014
- Page Count
- 272 pages