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At His Mercy
By Shelly Bell
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- Trade Paperback $15.99 $21.99 CAD
- ebook $4.99 $6.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 20, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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One last, no-strings night of indulgence. That’s all Tristan wants before he begins a much-needed new chapter in his life. Instead he finds an innocent angel in pink who brings him to his knees.
Isabella is done hiding from the world . . . and her haunting memories. Discovering courage in the arms of a perfect stranger, she finally lets go and sheds her inhibitions.
To Isabella’s shock, she soon learns that Tristan is more than her mystery man-he’s her professor. But Tristan isn’t the only person who’s found Isabella on campus. A dark figure from her past has come back for her. Now Tristan will risk anything to protect Isabella . . . even if it costs him his life.
“I was at Shelly Bell’s mercy from page one. This novel sucked me in, and didn’t let me go until the very last sexy page. This book had some of the hottest scenes I’ve ever read. 10 stars!” — New York Times bestselling author Alessandra Torre
First, I have to thank my wonderful husband. We’ve weathered a lot of changes this year, and through it all, you’ve shown tremendous strength and patience. You’ve taught me that together, there’s nothing we can’t face. Thank you for continuing to encourage the voices in my head. I can’t wait to spend the next sixty years with you.
To my parents, thank you for never reading my books but buying them anyway, and for being two of my greatest supporters. I hope you know how much I love you.
To Jessica Alvarez and the team at BookEnds, thank you for always going above and beyond for me. I couldn’t have asked for better champions, and I’m so glad to have you all in my corner.
To Megha, who saw the potential in Tristan and Isabella, thank you for making my dreams come true. I’m thrilled to be working with such a gifted editor.
To all the bloggers, reviewers, and readers, thank you from the bottom of my heart for not only reading my books but for telling your friends to read them too. Word of mouth means everything to an author, and I’m grateful to have the most passionate readers. I couldn’t do this without all your support and, more importantly, I wouldn’t want to. I hope you love Tristan and Isabella as much as I do.
And last but never least, to Patty, Meghan, Heather, and Reem. Without you, there’d be no Tristan and Isabella. You’re an amazing group of women, and I’m proud to call you my friends.
18 months ago…
Consciousness came slowly, creeping into Isabella’s mind like the first rays at dawn. A steady drum pounded in her temples, pain banding around her head as tight as a noose squeezing a neck. She tried to swallow, but her throat proved useless.
Still, she could breathe, which meant she wasn’t dead.
At least not yet.
But death felt imminent, hanging over her like the blade of a guillotine.
Why couldn’t she move?
Her eyes wouldn’t open. No. They couldn’t open, sealed shut by an unidentifiable glue. Her heart banged a staccato beat against her breastbone, panic surging.
There was something wrong.
Something she should remember…
“Shh, Izzy.” A gentle hand patted the top of her head like her father used to do when she had a bad dream. “Don’t cry. I’m here now.”
She was crying?
Rather than soothe her, the voice, soft and sweet as a lullaby, sent her pulse racing into overdrive. It was as if she was stuck in that place between asleep and awake, unable to escape the violent nightmare that chased her. That voice was hauntingly familiar. At one time it had brought her such joy to hear it. Then it had brought only tears. Now, it brought something else…
Memories of the last few weeks slammed into her.
She remembered everything…
Everything but how she had gotten here.
The breakup. The hundreds of calls and texts that had followed.
“Leave me alone,” she said.
“I don’t know how,” he responded, his eyes filled with tears.
“Then pretend I died.”
Words had power, didn’t they? She’d known from the moment she threw those words out into the universe that they would come back to haunt her.
With every ounce of strength she had, she concentrated on getting her lids open. If she didn’t do it soon, she might never get the chance again. She needed to look into the eyes of the boy she’d once loved.
The boy who decided it wasn’t enough to pretend she had died.
She knew it in her bones.
He was planning on making it a reality.
Her eyes opened. The rays from the setting sun gleamed through the window, bathing her captor in light. He looked down at her with undeniable affection even as he held a butcher knife to her throat. “Hello, beautiful. I missed you while you were asleep.” He leaned down and pressed his lips to hers, a long, chaste kiss that caused her stomach to revolt. “I thought maybe I gave you too much ketofol and you wouldn’t wake up in time.”
In time for what?
She tried to move, but it was as if her body was encased in concrete.
What had he done to her?
A whimper of fear escaped her throat.
He lifted her limp wrist. “I decided you were right. There’s no way I’ll ever be able to live without you. But I don’t have to. I figured out a way we can be together forever.”
The sun caught the blade of his knife as it arched through the dusty air.
A silent scream shrilled in her head.
Without control of her limbs or the power of voice, she couldn’t escape the inevitable.
She was at his mercy.
Sharp pain exploded up her arm as her blood spilled down her wrist onto the pristine white sheets.
She didn’t want to die.
But as the world spun around her and the sun began to set once more, she realized…
She didn’t have a choice.
If there ever was an unassuming location for a sex party, the quaint Tudor-style house in front of her definitely fit the bill. For Pete’s sake, there were children’s bicycles on the neighbor’s lawn.
Her cousin, Dreama, must have given her the wrong address.
Isabella Lawson rifled through her purse, cursing the starless night and wishing for the umpteenth time that someone would invent a purse that lit up when you opened it. After digging her way to the bottom, she finally located her cell.
A black screen.
Of course it was dead.
She leaned on her grandfather’s old Buick and growled in frustration. Would anything go right?
Tonight’s event was going to be her first sex party. And probably her last. But since Isabella couldn’t call Dreama for the right address, her plans to screw were screwed.
“What are you wearing?” asked her cousin.
Startled, Isabella spun around and pressed a palm to her chest as if trying to keep her racing heart from flying out. Her cousin had scared the stuffing out of her. She glanced down at her outfit. “What I’ve worn all summer.” Even she could admit that black stretch pants and a pink T-shirt with her family bakery’s logo probably wasn’t standard sex party wear.
Dreama blew a ring of smoke into the humid air, then took another puff of her cigarette. “That isn’t what I meant. I’m wondering why the hell you’re still wearing it.”
Fanning away the smoke, Isabella fake coughed. “I came straight from work. I didn’t have time to change. Not to mention, everything I own is in boxes.” About to leave for her freshman year of college, she’d packed up the majority of her clothes. “And I wasn’t about to ask Mom to borrow something of hers. She would’ve grilled me for information until I told her the truth.” Isabella plucked the cigarette from her cousin’s mouth, dropped it on the concrete, and ground it out with her shoe. “Would you have preferred if I’d told your aunt that you’re taking me to my first sex party?”
Dreama shook her head, a little laugh escaping her lips. “That’s all I need. Aunt Maria not only blaming me for corrupting her innocent daughter, but hauling my ass to church to confess my many sins.” She jumped up onto the hood of Isabella’s car and fished through her purse. “And I didn’t bring you to a sex party. It’s a play party.”
Isabella raised a brow in both confusion and at the fact that her cousin had just added another dent to the car’s collection. “There’s a difference?”
Dangling a cigarette between her fingers and rolling her thumb over her lighter, Dreama smiled. “Yes. Intercourse isn’t permitted at a play party.”
“You didn’t tell me that.”
“Sure I did,” Dreama said, bending to light her cigarette.
What was the point of being here then? She could’ve not had sex anywhere. The idea of coming to this thing was to experience BDSM in a relatively safe environment.
Isabella snatched the cigarette from her cousin and stomped on it. “No, I think I’d remember a detail like not getting laid at a sex party.” If the party wound her up, how would she get any relief? She’d already packed away her vibrator.
“Play party,” Dreama repeated, jumping off the hood of the car with a pop. “And don’t worry. There are other ways of getting off than intercourse.” Cracking up, she lewdly wiggled her fingers and stuck out her tongue.
Isabella’s cheeks heated. “Oh.”
Dreama placed a hand on her hip. “Maybe I shouldn’t have brought you here. You’re so innocent.”
She ran her fingertip along the pink scar on her left forearm. She’d always thought innocence referred to the status of your virginity. How wrong she’d been. Innocence was a state of mind, and she’d lost hers the hard way. Her scars would always remind her of that. “I’m not innocent,” she said quietly. “Not anymore.”
As her cousin was one of the few who knew the truth about what had happened to Isabella last year, her eyes clouded over with sympathy. “No, I suppose you’re not.” She curled her hands around Isabella’s shoulders, concern etched on her face. “Are you ready to go in and get a firsthand look, or would you rather go get a drink somewhere? I’m good either way.”
“Isn’t your Dom in there waiting for you?” Isabella asked.
Dreama’s lips tilted up in a smile. “Master Jamie is inside, but he’ll understand if I go get a drink with you. He knows you and I won’t get to see each other for a while.”
“I want to go inside,” she said. And she did, despite her racing heart and her sweaty palms. “I need to do it. You know I do.”
After surviving what she and her parents referred to as “the incident,” Isabella found that she’d lost her ability to trust anyone, especially herself. As a result, instead of having gone away to college as planned, she’d allowed her parents to convince her to stay at home and work in their bakery full-time. Her life in limbo, she’d spent her days at the bakery and her nights either in therapy or at home, hiding away in her bedroom.
But everything changed the night she’d hung out at Dreama’s and stumbled upon her huge collection of BDSM books.
After a long conversation with her cousin, Isabella realized she wanted to learn more about BDSM and borrowed a few of the books. Something about the lifestyle had resonated with her. Warmth permeated throughout her limbs at the idea of a man giving her structured rules to follow and at knowing there were established boundaries neither of them could cross. The sensation was so foreign, she almost didn’t recognize it.
Until she realized it was peace.
The unsettling feelings she’d harbored since puberty didn’t mean there was something wrong with her. Other people fantasized about being restrained and punished by a lover too. Of course, things like that weren’t spoken about in her large Italian-Irish Catholic family. No, she was expected to do her duty for her husband with her legs spread and her eyes shut tight without complaint. Husbands weren’t supposed to tie their wives to the bedpost and take them every way imaginable while she cried “no” and thrashed beneath him, all the while violently coming over and over.
She’d spent the following six months researching BDSM and discussing it with her therapist. At first, she hadn’t understood how she could want to be dominated or why she craved a little pain with her pleasure. Shouldn’t her past have turned her off to those yearnings?
For days, she’d walked around feeling both shame and guilt until she’d finally accepted that her sexual inclinations had little to do with what had happened to her. Yes, she was submissive. That didn’t mean she was weak or asking to be a victim.
Now, with eight weeks of her local BDSM group’s introductory class under her belt, she was ready to participate in her first real power exchange with an experienced Dominant. Dreama had assured her that she knew almost all of the Doms at the party, and with rules in place, Isabella would be perfectly safe.
In Isabella’s opinion, giving up her power to a Dom tonight would help her reclaim control over her life. Tonight, she’d take back what she’d lost and become whole again. And damn it, if it went as she suspected it would, and she got off on being dominated, then she’d accept that her sexuality was different. But it was hers, and she’d own it.
Dreama released her hold on her. “Yes, I know all the reasons you need to do this, but once you get a taste, you may develop a particular palate. Life will become a lot more complicated.”
Isabella shrugged. After tonight, her particular “palate” would have to wait four years for another taste. It wasn’t as if she would have time for a Dom/sub relationship in college, even if she did manage to find a compatible partner in the Michigan Upper Peninsula’s small college town of Edison. “I’m not worried, but thanks for the warning. I’ll be sure to take that into consideration.”
Scrutinizing her, Dreama pursed her lips. “Before we go in, we need to do something about your outfit.”
Spoken like a true fashion maven. Dreama was wearing one of her own creations, a black bustier with metallic blue ribbons and an attached lace skirt. No one would ever guess from her clothes tonight that during business hours she was a buttoned-up, by-the-book parole officer.
But even with her cousin’s skills, Isabella’s outfit was hopeless.
Isabella pulled her shirt taut, showing off the logo for her family’s bakery. “Unless you have something in your car, I think I’m stuck with what I’m wearing.”
Dreama scanned her up and down, smiling. “We’ll make it work. Slide your arms out of the sleeves.” When Isabella did what she was told, Dreama folded and tucked the sleeves into the opening at her neck. “Now take off your pants.”
She raised a brow. “When I thought about attending my first play party, somehow it wasn’t you I pictured ordering me to remove my clothes.” Giggling, she shimmied out of her black pants and twirled around wearing nothing but a shirt made into a dress and white cotton boy shorts. “What do you think?”
Her cousin whistled. “You look hot.”
She laughed as she picked up her pants and tossed them into the backseat of her car before locking it. “I look like a stripper.”
“You’ll fit right in.” Dreama winked and threw her arm around Isabella’s shoulders, leading her to the front door. “Ready to play?”
Play. An innocuous word for such decadence. Was she ready to become part of it?
Smiling, she turned to her cousin. “Hell, yeah.”
* * *
With his dungeon gear bag slung over his shoulder, Tristan Kelley sidestepped Yvette, the blonde sub headed his way, and made a beeline for the exit. There wasn’t a sub here worth staying for, and while his dick hadn’t seen much action lately, other than some lube and his palm, nothing had raised his interest tonight.
“Leaving already?” asked the amused voice from behind him.
Only a few feet from the door, he pivoted toward his best friend and business partner, Ryder. “I’ve got some stuff to do before the move upstate.”
Debating whether he was making the right decision, he’d put off packing until the very last minute, but now that he had finalized his contract, there was no changing his mind.
“I call bullshit, Tristan. What’s the real reason?”
He scrubbed a hand over the two-day-old stubble on his cheek. “I meet the same single women at every play party, and at one time or another, each has expressed an interest in becoming my permanent sub. Why can’t I find someone who just wants a night or two of kinky fucking without expecting more?”
At twenty-eight years old, he wasn’t looking for a long-term relationship, vanilla or otherwise. Every sub he’d played with this year had thought she’d be the one to tame him, but he’d done the whole commitment deal once with disastrous results. Because of his ex-wife, Morgan, he’d lost everything that had mattered to him. There was no way he would go down that road again with a woman.
“Don’t look at me. I’m with you.” Ryder grinned. “At least I don’t have to worry about that with Maggie. Gotta love open marriages. We single men reap all the benefits while the poor married saps have to deal with all the day-to-day bullshit that goes into a relationship. Speaking of which, I’d be happy to tag team her with you. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.”
Ryder had an even bigger aversion to commitment than he did, never fucking the same woman twice. Someday, Ryder would meet someone who would knock him on his ass, and when that happened, Tristan was going to make sure he had a front row seat.
Tristan shook his head. “No thanks. Not in the mood.”
The ménage thing was sexy as hell, and he’d certainly participated in his fair share, but there wasn’t a woman here who could make his dick stir from its slumber tonight.
Besides, it didn’t matter to him that Maggie was in an open marriage. Maybe it was because of his past, but in his opinion, having sex with someone other than your spouse, even with their consent, was infidelity. But he didn’t judge others, just as he didn’t want someone else to judge him for his sexual preferences.
Ryder shrugged. “Suit yourself. She’s waiting for me in the master bedroom.”
“Thought you abided by the no-sex rules at your parties.”
“It’s my house. If I can’t fuck here, where am I supposed to do it?” Ryder asked, his gaze glued to Yvette, who’d yet to become a notch on his bedpost. Leave it to his best friend to line up his next conquest while having a naked woman waiting for him in bed. Compared to Ryder, Tristan was a prude. “If you change your mind and stay, the other bedroom is open and available. Just like all the subs.” He snagged a bottled water off the bar and winked at Yvette before returning his attention to Tristan.
“That’s the problem. I just want someone for one night. Someone I’m not going to see again.”
“You’ve certainly made that easier, considering you’re moving this week.”
“Not permanently. And I’ll occasionally come back to the city. Lord knows I’m not going to find anyone in the lifestyle up there.” Although with the women he’d met lately, he’d been thinking he might go vanilla for a year. It certainly couldn’t be any less fulfilling.
“Maybe you should’ve thought about that before you agreed to the job,” Ryder said, his brows knitted into a frown. “Hey, there are kinky people everywhere. And you did have your first real experience with BDSM there.”
“Somehow, I think the chances of finding another Olivia in that one-horse town is slim to none.” Olivia had been four years older than he was and the first to show him the ropes. Literally. “You sure you’ll be okay without me?”
Ryder folded his arms across his chest. “Don’t worry about leaving me to run everything. I’ve already got phone calls into my contacts about the expansion into the southwest.”
Shit. He and Ryder had discussed that they needed testimonials for the long-term success of their products before they’d expand into other territories. “Tell me you’re joking. We don’t have the capital—” At Ryder’s smirk, Tristan realized he’d been played. “You dick.”
“Give me a little credit. I wouldn’t make any major decisions without your consent.” Ryder pounded him on the back hard enough to make his teeth chatter. “Have fun and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
Tristan punched him in the arm. “There isn’t anything you wouldn’t do.”
“True that. Speaking of which, I’d better go meet Maggie before she starts without me.” On a laugh, Ryder walked off with the swagger of a man who was about to get laid.
Meanwhile, Tristan had a date with his right hand.
As he inched his way through the crowd to the front door, Dreama, a sub he’d met but never played with, came in. She gave him a little smile, careful not to make eye contact, and forged a path toward the basement. She was a sweet girl, but there had never been any sparks between them, and she was now in a collared relationship.
Seeing the opportunity to sneak out before someone else stopped him, he stepped to the door.
And there she was.
Tristan’s breath caught in his chest as if he’d been kicked in the ribs. She was a vision in pink, her long red hair flowing down her shoulders and pale skin that was just begging for him to mark. He could practically see his pink handprint on her ass and the way the flogger would make it appear as though her entire body blushed.
Along with several of the Doms in the room, his eyes tracked her as she entered the house with her gaze lowered, her blatant innocence calling to him…to all of them. She was new blood, a little lamb who had stumbled into a den of hungry wolves. It was only a matter of time before they’d be circling her, eager to get a taste.
He hesitated to leave, his curiosity roused by this angel in pink. Had she come with Dreama? Who the hell was she?
He hungered to harness that innocence for himself. To have her kneel at his feet in submission and to feel her silky skin against his rough palms. He stood rooted to his spot as she passed by him, leaving the scent of vanilla behind.
His whole body thrummed with anticipation, as if it was prepared for something momentous. The cock that had been hibernating all night suddenly blazed to life and began throbbing mercilessly against the front of his pants. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d felt this way. If he’d ever felt this way. He’d been numb for so long, nothing exciting him beyond a momentary thrill from domination. Now it was as if every part of him was awake.
There was no reason to stay, and yet he couldn’t make himself walk out the door. Not until he learned more about this mysterious beauty, and why the hell she affected him this way.
For a few minutes, he leaned against the wall and observed her. It was clear from the way she moved tentatively into the house that this wasn’t her typical scene. She tugged at her hair, curling it around her finger, and repetitively pulled at the hem of her odd dress, seemingly uncomfortable in it. Hell, it was so short it barely covered her ass, but that wasn’t unusual at a play party. In fact, she was still wearing more than half the women here.
Dreama stopped to put her arm around the mystery woman, whispering in her ear. She steered her over to the far side of the room, where a man in black leather waited with obvious eagerness.
Tristan crossed his arms and frowned. He didn’t know the guy well, but he knew he was relatively new to the BDSM lifestyle. She should be with someone with more experienced, especially if his gut was correct and she was as innocent as she looked.
But it wasn’t his business.
His redheaded angel shifted her weight from foot to foot as Dreama appeared to introduce the two of them before sauntering off and leaving her on her own. I should go.
By all accounts, she’d already been claimed for the night. There was no point in watching her scene with another man. Voyeurism wasn’t his kink, especially when he craved to be the one doing the dominating.
His feet moved, only rather than taking him in the direction of the exit, he found himself standing just inches away from her, angling himself so that he appeared to be admiring the garish painting on the wall as he listened in on their conversation.
“I know Dreama meant well, but I have to be honest. I don’t think I’m ready yet to play with someone who doesn’t have any experience,” the guy said, surprising Tristan with his accurate assessment.
At least now he didn’t have to worry about her sceneing with someone who didn’t know what he was doing. There were plenty of qualified Doms here tonight who would just love to get their hands on her.
- "I had to constantly remind myself to breathe. Shelly Bell packs a powerful punch with her flawless writing and suspenseful, passionate love story."—#1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Ellen Malpas
- "I was at Shelly Bell's mercy from page one. This novel sucked me in, and didn't let me go until the very last sexy page. This book had some of the hottest scenes I've ever read. 10 stars!"—New York Times bestselling author Alessandra Torre
- "Bell opens the Forbidden Lovers series with a sexy thriller that will leave readers breathless. This novel is sultry and hot in all the right places, with just enough plot to keep the pages turning."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
- "4 1/2 Stars! Top Pick! With a liberal dose of suspense and mega-hot sex, Bell's compelling first novel in the Forbidden Lovers series is exciting right through to the epilogue...absolutely nothing is wasted in this taut tale."—RT Book Reviews
- "A rollercoaster ride of jaw-dropping sex, heated anticipation, and a perfect dash of suspense, all tied together with flawless writing. When I wasn't clenching my thighs, I was frantically flipping pages to find out what would happen next! I can't recommend this series enough. Buy it. Devour it."—Alessandra Torre (A. R. Torre), New York Times bestselling author on White Collared
- "If you love romantic suspense novels and like your stories with a little edge to them on the passion side, you will want to check out White Collared. Think of it as a cross between a thriller like Gone Girl and one of the hugely popular BDSM billionaire stories like the Fifty Shades of Gray or the Crossfire Trilogies."—The Romance Reviews
- "4 1/2 stars! TOP PICK! This is a bona fide page-turner laced with political intrigue, thrilling action and steamy sex scenes. The main characters' chemistry sizzles as they search for the truth behind a gruesome murder and encounter a plot with deadly consequences."—RT Book Reviews on Blue Blooded
- "Shelly Bell is a fresh new voice in erotic romance. She brings the heat!"—Lexi Blake, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author
- "White Collared takes you on a thrill ride of danger, murder and lust, leaving you hungry for the next installment."—Stacey Kennedy, USA Today Bestselling Author of Bared
- On Sale
- Jun 20, 2017
- Page Count
- 352 pages