When a friend invites her for a weekend vacation in New York City, Caroline Grace jumps at the chance. She meets the handsome and sensual Wren Calder, and is immediately swept off her feet by the powerful attraction she feels toward him. She doesn't hesitate to indulge in a one-night-stand, but Wren has other ideas. He proposes a no-strings weekend fling and Caroline decides it's just what she needs to get over her divorce. By night, Wren slowly frees her inhibitions, opening her to a sexuality Caroline has long denied herself. He shows her a world of voyeurism, the thrill of sex in public, and how she loves to be dominated.
Overshadowed by the mistake she made in the past, Caroline leaves at the end of the weekend vowing to forget him. But she soon comes to the conclusion that getting over Wren is going to be a little more difficult than she thought, because she realizes just how much she's fallen in love.
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Loose Id, LLC
January 11, 2011
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Excerpt from A Man after Midnight by Beth D. Carter
Caroline heard Wren tell the taxi driver an address, and as he settled into the seat next to her, doubts started to play through her mind. She'd just met the man, for heaven's sake! Was he married? Was he an ax murderer? Did he have an STD?
She sent a quick text to Aldy, letting her know who she was with and where they were going. But it became harder to concentrate the more his body pressed against hers. Though she was barely touching him, her heart beat with painful excitement, and she almost had an orgasm by just picturing them in bed together, his body thrusting into hers.
She took a deep breath to steady her pulse when he turned toward her with a wicked little smile.
"What's running through that pretty head of yours?" he asked in a husky voice.
"Are you married? Are you an ax murderer? Do you have an STD?" She spoke in a low tone, repeating the questions that streamed through her brain, ticking them off her fingers.
"No, no, and no." He lifted his left eyebrow. "You?"
"Not anymore, no, and no."
He raised her left hand, his thumb rubbing the indented skin on the back of her ring finger. She knew he couldn't see it, but a tiny scar lingered from when her engagement ring cut her once. Long ago. "Not anymore, huh? How long?"
"Four years, but we'd been drifting apart for some time before the actual breakup." She pulled her hand away and gave him a dismissive smile. "But you don't want to hear about that. Why don't you tell me where we're going?"
Even though he allowed her to drop the subject, he gave her a searching look. "It's called Big Band Dance Hall -- seventeen men and women on a tiered stage, playing all the classics of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie."
Caroline's mouth dropped a bit. "My favorite piece of music is 'Moonlight Serenade.'"
"I had a feeling you'd like it."
She eyed him up and down. "You don't look like the type of man who enjoys that era."
"Oh? What type of man do I look like?"
She folded her arms in front of her. "I'm not a fashionista, but I'm assuming that suit is something like Armani or Gucci. So I would have to say classical, perhaps Bach or Beethoven."
"I do like Bach and Beethoven," he admitted. "But my grandmother brought me up, and she was a regular swinger who taught me all she knew."
"She sounds like a fun lady."
"She was," he said softly.
"Oh," Caroline said, laying her hand on his arm. "I'm sorry."
"Thank you. Me too."
The outside of the building reflected the style of the 1930s, with art deco lamps rising from the side of the brick building, an awning covering the opening, and a suited doorman who held the door open as they entered. The foyer held a bar, where various people stood mingling and talking. The bartender was dressed similarly to the doorman, with a small bow tie, hat, and suspenders. Deep red carpet lined the floor and contrasted nicely with the dark wooden tones of the walls. The lighting was subdued, alluding to the intimacy of the hall.
Several people waved to Wren, and he greeted back with casual familiarity, showing he often frequented.
"Come here often?" Caroline asked, and a hint of sarcasm could be heard in her tone.
He nodded, placing a hand on the lumbar curve of her back and guiding her toward the closed double doors that led to the dance hall. "I've only brought one other date here, and we left ten minutes after we arrived. I've never brought anyone else."
"I find that hard to believe."
"It's true. Not many women are into the old classics like big band. Usually I take my date to one of the uptown clubs or one of the numerous bars. Someplace not as formal or as fun, in my opinion."
Two additional doormen opened the entrance, allowing Caroline to see the awe-inspiring dance hall. It was as if she stepped back in time to the heyday of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. The stage was laid out at the farthermost point, with three tiers of chairs and empty music stands with instruments idling, waiting for the owners to return. A nice-size dance floor separated the orchestra pit from the small tables, where couples sat with drinks and appetizers. The dim lighting allowed a spotlight to focus on the musicians, while the tables had candles to provide the intimacy the era invoked.
Wren guided her through the throng of small tables to one down front and held out the chair for her as she sat. Immediately, a waiter dressed in a white formal suit appeared to take their drink order. Caroline looked all around, loving the atmosphere of the starched white tablecloths, the shimmering chandelier overhead, and the heavy scent of lilies resting in wall sconces throughout the dance hall.
As the waiter returned with their drinks -- both had ordered coffee with cream -- the musicians returned under a smattering of applause from the audience. The conductor came out with a bow. It took a few minutes for the performers to settle and listen to their instruments to make sure they were still in tune. With a tap of his baton, the spotlight came on, and the conductor brought his players to attention. With a swipe of his hand, the strains of "Stardust"started.
The acoustics of the dance hall blended perfectly with the decor. The music washed over Caroline as she watched couples pile onto the dance floor.
"I feel as if I'm in a time warp." She rested her chin in her palm as she listened to the band. She swayed slightly, back and forth, to the slow tempo.
"I'm glad you like it."
After the song ended, a petite woman came out to stand by the conductor. The music to "I'll Be Seeing You"started.
"Come on," Wren said, grabbing her free hand. "This is my favorite."
As the woman, dressed in bright red with a red lily in her dark hair, started singing, Wren took Caroline in his arms.
Under the slow rhythm of the music, they started dancing, his cheek resting on the top of her head. They were caught in the twinkling light of the chandelier, which wove them deeper into the magical moment.
With his body pressed against hers, Caroline felt the firmness of his thighs. She heard his heartbeat thudding strongly in his chest. He moved with the grace of someone who danced often. Images of Wren holding other women just like this flashed through her head. Jealousy reared its head, making her blink at the unwanted emotion. Wren Calder was nothing more than a soon-to-be one-night stand. She had no business feeling anything more toward him.
"This is amazing," she said, partly in an attempt to erase the thoughts in her head.
He pulled back only far enough to gaze down into her dark eyes. "The minute I saw you, I knew you'd love it here. I can picture you dressed in crepe de chine or chiffon, with your hair piled up and your lips painted red."
"My mother loved big band," she said. "I grew up listening to it. I always thought the '30s were a romantic era, despite the economic troubles the world faced."
"Yes," he agreed. "It's amazing to think about the glamour and glitz alongside pictures of men and women standing in lines for food. The Grapes of Wrath verses Twentieth Century." Wren narrowed his eyes. "That's not a bad idea."
Caroline blinked. "What?"
"Troublemaker Cosmetics," he elaborated. "This is our annual meeting. We discuss everything from fiscal information to finding the next idea, coming up with planned cosmetic lines to carry into an emerging market. The theme of mythic urban crossed with Gothic dark colors and rhinestone glitter has been driving the industry."
"But every non-haute couture line out there has that," Caroline replied. "I may not be an expert on the cosmetics industry, but I do like reading all the fashion magazines."
He nodded. "Troublemaker has always gone with the tide of fashion, keeping an eye and ear on the industry's leaders in Milan and Paris. And we've always done okay. But I've been trying to come up with something that will separate us from the other cosmetic companies."
Caroline smiled and felt the groove of her dimples. "I think it's time romance came back."
"That's a great tagline," he admitted with a smile.
The singer came to the last line in the song, her hypnotic voice rising. The couples stopped dancing to applaud. She thanked the crowd before nodding to the conductor, who immediately started in on another song. Wren pulled her in close again to resume dancing. This song mostly featured a piano accompaniment to "Baby."
"Do you play any instruments?" Caroline asked.
"Some piano," he answered. "You?"
"My father thought music lessons were a waste of money. I regret the only thing I know how to play is a stereo."
He laughed, and their gazes clashed, held, and all amusement faded. The moments stretched, even past the current song and into the next. As their bodies moved together, his arms tightened around her, pulling her in close. His body heat enveloped her, and her heart pounded again in anticipation. His gaze fell to her lips. She wet them with the tip of her tongue and felt his body instantly go rigid. They stopped dancing.
"Come with me," he said in a deep, guttural tone, taking her hand and leading her from the dance floor.