Kat doesn't know whether or how to end her six-night-a-week party habit, not to mention her unhealthy addiction to meaningless sex. Then an accident lands her in the hospital. She wakes to find a menagerie of origami figures--and a gorgeous neurosurgeon--beside her bed. The complexity of the paper creations is nothing compared to the complexity of dark-eyed, authoritative Ryan, who seems determined to give her life some direction. Trouble is, Kat's just as determined to resist his efforts to tame her wild side.
With persistence, Ryan draws Kat into his world of dominance and submission, where quiet commands and lengths of rope awaken needs and desires she never knew she possessed. But Ryan's intimate, erotic shibari sessions frighten Kat as much as they excite her, for each simple knot requires infinite trust and inspires complicated emotions.
Then a family crisis tests their love and threatens to snap the fragile ties that bind them. Will fortune ever smile on this unlikely couple, or will fate tear them apart?
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Fortune by Annabel Joseph
Kat looked back at the bouncer by the stairs and found him looking at her. Not just looking at her. He and his friend were talking about her. The bouncer looked away, caught, but the friend kept on staring. She didn't like the way he stared, as if he were judging her. Kat pulled the lollipop out of her mouth and made some suggestive licking motions before plunging it back between her lips. If he was going to stare, she would give him a show for shits and giggles. She could still feel him watching even though she'd looked away.
Kat had seen the guy here many times actually, hanging out with the bouncers. He always looked at her in that same reproachful way. She supposed he knew what she got up to every week, not that it was any of his business. Since she didn't sleep with bouncers or their bouncer-wannabe friends, she didn't really care if he thought her slutty or undesirable. He was nice to look at though. Tall, bronze, dark-haired like her. He was muscular, not in a beefy-bouncer way, but in the way of a guy you knew would prevail in a fight just because he was so alpha. She looked back to find him still staring. I know why you're here. I don't approve of it. Somehow Kat knew he was the one in one hundred who would turn her down if she propositioned him.
She looked away, lifting her chin, sucking on her lollipop. Stare all you want, fucker. I don't give a fuck. Stupid eye-contact games. She could play them too. Whatever. She came here to have fun, not get all bent out of shape over the one guy in the bar who put her off her game.
But she still watched him out of the corner of her eye, so she knew the moment he headed toward her. He took the stairs two at a time. Broad shoulders, long thigh muscles flexing as he ascended. She looked away, pretending total disinterest. He was probably coming upstairs to see someone else. A moment passed and then she felt a touch, featherlight, on the small of her back. Just light fleeting contact, but she almost shivered. He leaned next to her on the banister, not close like he was hitting on her, nor too far away. He leaned over a perfect distance from her and pinned her with dark brown eyes.
"Candy will rot your teeth, you know."
His smile was breathtaking. He was all tan healthiness, white, straight teeth and sensual lips. She slowly pulled the lollipop out of her mouth, determined not to react to his hotness or his proximity.
"I like candy. It's an addiction."
He pointed to her glass of ice water. "But you never drink."
"How do you know I don't drink?"
"Because I see you here every week and you never drink anything but water."
"You're monitoring my vices?"
"Should I be?"
He raised his eyebrows. She didn't know whether to laugh or run away. He was flirting with her and as much as she liked it, she had a panicked sense of the tables being turned. He was in control right now, not her. She sucked the cherry-red lollipop back into her mouth and chose not to reply, trying to gain the upper hand.
"What's your name?" he asked. "Why do you come here so much?"
"What's your name, and why do you come here so much?"
"I asked first."
She stared into his eyes, saw the corners of his lips quirk. Then he totally caved.
"Okay. My name is Ryan." He held out his hand and she shook it. He was a big man. It was so much more apparent close up than when he was standing beside an equally large bouncer at the bottom of the stairs. His hand completely engulfed hers. "And I am here a lot because I do training for the bouncers now and again."
"What kind of training?"
"Martial arts. Safe takedown. Things like that." "Safe takedown." Why did that sound so sexy when he said it? She pictured him rolling on a condom before he pulled her to the floor. Probably not what he meant by safe takedown. She ran her gaze up and down his body. He was fit all right. Maybe early thirties. God, his eyes... They were killing her. They were such a rich, deep brown, fringed by dark lashes, but that wasn't what really captivated her. It was the alert intelligence in his gaze. It was ten times more seductive than his biceps. And ten times more threatening to her. She rolled the lollipop around on her tongue, pretending polite indifference.
"So you're like, one of those karate sensei guys?"
He laughed. "No. I'm a brain surgeon, but I do karate too."
She rolled her eyes. "A brain surgeon. Right."
His crooked, easy smile unnerved her. He was so damn...healthy. So solid and nonrandom. She didn't really know how to relate to that or how to deal with the feelings he aroused in her. No. No bouncers. Or bouncer trainers.
"So I told you my name and why I'm here so much," he said. "Your turn."
"My name is Kat and I come here to watch people." She threw him a flirty glance and smacked suggestively on the lollipop, only to receive another one of those reproachful looks.
Whatever. She decided to head back to the dance floor. She didn't come to Masquerade to get the third degree from a fine man who didn't approve of her. Where was that fucking idiot earnest-faced pretty boy when she needed him? Stupid brain-surgeon-bullshitter with his huge warm hands and his creepy stare. She infused as much flounce as she possibly could into her "well, bye" and started down the steps before he could say anything else.
"Hey, baby." A gruff voice and clammy hand stopped her near the bottom. Arms fastened around her waist, pulling her against a pudgy torso. She pushed away, rolling her eyes at the drunk guy, but he didn't take the hint. He tightened his arms.
"Hey, gorgeous. I've been watching you all night. Come dance with me."
"No. I don't want to dance. Let go of me. I was just leaving."
"You don't have to leave here all alone."
"Believe me, I want to."
"Oh, baby, come on. Don't be like that. I can put a smile on those lips. I'll give you something really sweet to suck on."
Then he leaned in so fast that she didn't have time to stop him, otherwise she would have punched him in the face. He laid a kiss on her, stabbing his tongue between her lips. She pushed him away with all the strength she had.
"Ewww!" she said in a voice loud enough to shame him. She put the lollipop back in her mouth to take the sour alcohol taste of his kiss away. Blech, no kissing. No. She didn't even kiss the ones she liked. She wouldn't even have kissed tall, dark and handsome karate guy, staring down at her from the top of the stairs. Okay? his expression seemed to ask. Everything okay?
No, everything's not okay. Everything's so fucking sucky I can barely stand it.
She wiped off her lips and pushed past the kiss-stealer. She was done for the night. "Just fucking leave me alone," she yelled back over her shoulder. She didn't know if she yelled it at dark eyes or icky lips.
As she stormed off, she wondered if Ryan was watching her go.