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Authors: Lynda Aicher

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary

Bonds of Courage

BOOK: Bonds of Courage
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Bonds of Courage
Lynda
Aicher

Book Six of Wicked Play

Pro hockey player Holden Hauke has kept his sexual needs
buried for years. After a near miss over a picture of him bound to a spanking
bench resulted in a mid-season trade, he’s kept his image clean. But with the
season over, he’s ready to surrender control. And he’s found just the woman to
help him—if only he can convince her to give him a chance.

Bending men to her will is nothing new for Vanessa Delcour,
aka Mistress V—she’s a full-time rep for pro athletes, a part-time owner of
exclusive sex club The Den, and an experienced Domme. But when Holden Hauke
comes looking for a discreet partner, Vanessa’s concerned about his motives.
Touching his training-toned body during a scene wouldn’t exactly be a hardship,
but taking him on crosses barriers between work and play that she’s had in place
for years.

From their first intense encounter in Mistress V’s playroom,
Hauke knows he can’t let this chance slip away; he’s found the woman he’s always
needed. Submissive or not, he’s willing to push her every limit to prove how
good they can be together.

98,000 words

Dear Reader,

June seems to be a time of both magical beginnings and wishful thinking, as we combine the wedding season with the last month of school. Here at Carina, our jobs are filled with a combination of both magical beginnings and wishful thinking, as we work in the land of fiction and allow ourselves to drift through fantastic worlds, happily ever afters and action-filled stories. Okay, maybe our jobs are a lot more rooted in reality than that, but the books we publish do allow us a brief escape and I hope they’ll do the same for you this month.

Powerhouse erotic romance author Lynda Aicher is back with
Bonds of Courage
, in which an alpha professional hockey player finds himself the one bound and at her mercy. Joining Lynda in the erotic category is Samantha Ann King with another fantastic ménage,
Tempting Meredith
. One man is risky, but two might teach her to trust and love again.

June brings quite a lineup of male/male romances. Ava March always stands out for me because not only does she write a fantastic male/male erotic romance, but she sets it in historical times, when it was even harder for two men to be in love, lending even more delicious romantic tension. Don’t miss
Sharp Love
, followed by
The Viscount’s Wager
releasing in December 2014.

And speaking of magical beginnings, we have two debut authors in the male/male category. This month we’re pleased to introduce Tyler Flynn and
Chasing the Rebel.
One man is fleeing the French Revolution, the other sympathizes with the Revolution. How can they fall for each other when they can’t even trust each other?

Also debuting with Carina Press this month is G.B. Lindsey, who leads off a three-part anthology,
Secrets of Neverwood
, which includes novellas from returning Carina Press authors Diana Copland and Libby Drew. As three foster brothers renovate a stately mansion to reopen it as a home for troubled gay youth, their love lives are complicated by the whimsical ghost of their foster mother in
One Door Closes
,
The Growing Season
, and
The Lost Year
.

Rounding out our male/male selections for the month is returning author L.B. Gregg with her popular Men of Smithfield series. In
Men of Smithfield:
Sam and Aaron
, Sam’s in a rut and looking to break out of it, so he’s thrilled when a newcomer to town introduces more than an edge of naughty nights and risky days into his life.

There are so many more incredible books coming in June, it’s hard to know which world to lead you to next. How about some angels and demons in
The Fire Within
by Dana Marie Bell? Or why not take a trip on the high seas on a pirate ship—only this one captained by a woman in
Mutiny of the Heart
by Jennifer Bray-Weber. Danube Adele isn’t shy about taking new adult to a whole new level in her paranormal romance
Dark Summer Dreams
, in which Shandria is forced to rescue a sworn enemy of her people, only to find herself kidnapped by that same rugged warrior who promises retribution of his own. And who wouldn’t want to spend time with an outlaw witch, a society ice queen, and illicit magic that lights up the night in the tense futuristic world of the Magic Born in Sonya Clark’s
Witchlight.

In another twist on the new adult genre, Anne Tibbets joins Carina Press and introduces
The Line Book One:
Carrier
and her dystopian world. In a futuristic society, sex slave Naya is released and given a choice—find someone willing to take her place, or fight against the ruling corporation to save her unborn children.

Amylynn Bright also joins Carina Press, bringing contemporary romance
Cooking Up Love
to our virtual shelves. When anonymous food critic and lousy chef Holly signed up for cooking classes, she didn’t realize that she and her yummy instructor would be whipping up more than dinner in the kitchen—or that he’d blame her bad review for closing his restaurant and killing his career.

We have two additional debut authors to introduce this month, both writing contemporary new adult romance, but in two freshly original and very different stories. In
Hate to Love You
by Elise Alden, hatred and guilt battle love and desire as Paisley and James confront the past, each other, and the unwanted attraction that sparked between them the night she ruined his wedding. This is one book that will have people firmly on either side of a line: hate Paisley, or love her?

And we welcome Sybil Bartel and her new adult romance,
No Apologies.
No heart, questionable morals, one hundred percent attitude, Graham Allen is the perfect rocker; nothing can break him—except her.

Last, this month we introduce a new trilogy, Shore Secrets, from Carina Press author Christi Barth. A hard-nosed businessman with contempt for small-town America is forever changed by the love of a sexy hotel owner and a quirky but tight-knit community famous for its anonymous journal by the lakeshore. Don’t miss
Up to Me
, the first of this trilogy featuring three strong heroes, fighting for the love and trust of three even stronger heroines on the shores of Seneca Lake.

I hope your month of June is as wonderful as ours, spending it among our reader friends at different conventions and getting to gab about the books we love. Maybe we’ll see you at one of them! And if you do, we hope you’ll stop us and tell us your favorite Carina Press book. There just might be some Carina swag in it for you if we have any on us!

Coming in July:
Falling for Max
by Shannon Stacey; a debut author, Caroline Kimberly, brings us a historical romance pitched as “Regency
Romancing the Stone
”; and Jeffe Kennedy offers up a hot new BDSM novel.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

Dedication

To Lori C. Hugs and love and a big thank you for everything.

Chapter One

Vanessa Delcour winced in disbelief. “You have got to be shitting me.”

“I’m not.”

“Great,” she mumbled into her phone, rubbing her brow. She sank back in her office chair and stared at the pitted sections of the drop ceiling, ones she knew by heart after eight years of running her own PR business. This really wasn’t her problem, but by extension it could become her publicity nightmare if she didn’t intervene. “When did it come through?”

“Last week.” Seth’s reply was crisp and efficient. “Rock finished the background check and everything cleared. My call to the club he listed on his app was also fine.”

“So this is a courtesy call.” She didn’t need Seth’s response to know that was true. She’d been a partner at the exclusive BDSM club, The Den, for the last nine months, but the membership decisions were primarily Seth’s territory. “Have you scheduled the interview yet?”

“No.”

In a quick moment of calculation, she ran through both scenarios. One if she got involved and one if she didn’t. Damn it. “Schedule it for tomorrow. At five. Your office. I’ll do it alone.”

“I didn’t think he was one of your clients.”

“He’s not. But you know his history.”

There was a short pause where she didn’t expand on that statement before Seth agreed, promising to email the man’s files to her. “And don’t forget the other meeting at six tomorrow night,” he reminded her.

“I won’t.” That was precisely why she’d scheduled the interview before it.

Vanessa set her phone down and spared only a second to rub at the tension in her neck before she was on her computer typing in the name of one Holden Hauke. With a click of her mouse, the professional life of the twenty-nine-year-old right winger for the Minnesota Glaciers professional hockey team was displayed before her—teams, stats, injuries, ranking. She was familiar with his skating career, but she skimmed the data to refresh her memory.

He wasn’t the standout player his potential had claimed he’d be in his early twenties. His game was still good enough to make him a starter, yet his stats were just short of being outstanding. Somewhere during his career, he’d settled into the comfortable zone of slightly above average for a pro hockey player.

She took a moment to study the series of pictures that also popped up with the data. He was handsome in a rugged way. The close-ups of him sweat-soaked behind his mask showed the concentration in his eyes, the drive that required years and hours of dedication to achieve his level of success. Focus like that was always a lure for her.

One click, and she pulled up the database containing the information she really wanted. The custom-built program was her personal goldmine. As a public relations rep for professional athletes, she knew that the game numbers were the smallest piece in the publicity equation.

She typed in his name and a list of links appeared, displaying his public image. It was better than a Google search as her program sorted out the data, separating the sports sites from the gossip and general news sites. It was the second bunch that held the majority weight when it came to public opinion.

Another scan told her Hauke’s connection to the BDSM club in North Carolina hadn’t become general knowledge. That was in spite of the widespread gossip that had traveled through the industry underground regarding the reason for his last-minute, mid-season trade to Minnesota the previous season. She could give him kudos for being smart, but it was probably pure luck and the fancy footwork of the Carolina team publicist that kept the information from leaking.

Or bribes. Those worked too.

But she knew that. An inkling of gossip on a topic that juicy would’ve spread like wildfire and been the headline on every station, sports related and otherwise. Sex scandals always made the news. The unwritten code within the public relations profession meant people didn’t leak information that wasn’t theirs to share. In general, no one wanted to tank a career—the athlete’s or their own. The source was always discovered no matter how anonymous the informer tried to be.

She switched over to her club email account and found the message from Seth. A scan of Hauke’s application pulled a single interesting fact. A quick recheck of the name on the application verified Seth hadn’t sent the wrong file.

The chair groaned as she sat back once again. She studied the computer screen, almost daring it to change. It didn’t. Not even when she narrowed her eyes, concentrating on rifling through the catalogue of information stored in her head.

It didn’t jive, no matter how she shifted and filtered what she knew.

A smile crept over her lips as a slow sense of purpose loosened her tight muscles. It explained so much.

The big pro hockey player claimed to be a Dom. Of course he would. It was what everyone expected. The general misconceptions of the lifestyle said a submissive was weak, and a professional athlete couldn’t be weak. It didn’t fit the stereotype.

The quiet scandal that had forced Hauke’s trade hadn’t been solely because he’d been caught at a BDSM club, even though that had tested the conservative nature of the team owner. The real kicker had been the picture showing him bound on a spanking bench with a Domme paddling him. That single image could’ve killed his career quicker than an injury.

Fighting, fucking around, being an arrogant ass—those behaviors were more publicly accepted. But a male submissive? Stop the presses and gather the pitchforks. Society at large wasn’t prepared to condone that. Especially for a male athlete.

Hauke didn’t know it, but it was her input to the Glaciers’s owner, Vincent Segar, that had gotten him the trade and another chance. And to Hauke’s credit, he’d kept his nose clean since arriving in Minnesota.

So what had changed? That was a serious need he was trying to scratch if he was willing to risk exposure a second time. She understood that. For a lot of people in the BDSM lifestyle, it wasn’t so much a choice as a part of who and what they were. The need could be suppressed, even denied for a while, but it never went away.

At least he’d had the sense to apply for membership to The Den. Their exclusivity helped ensure the privacy of its members, but they couldn’t guarantee anything no matter how hard they tried. No one could in a public setting. The debacle with actress Quinn Andrews’s picture being plastered all over the gossip magazines last year was proof of that.

When the opportunity to buy into the club had been presented to Vanessa, the prospect of having an interest in the profitable business had been worth the potential risk of her family and colleagues discovering her private desires. If she couldn’t keep her own secrets safe, then she really did suck at her job.

Plus, she hadn’t become one of the best PR reps in a testosterone-overloaded, ball-scratching business—not to mention one of the most respected Dommes in the area—by being skittish or stupid.

A knock on her door jarred her out of her ponderings. She jerked up, called out for the person to enter and quickly clicked her programs closed.

Vanessa’s assistant poked her head in. “Mr. Ramsey is here to see you.”

Angie was an efficient, no-nonsense savior who came with multiple guarantees that she’d never be swayed by the bevy of famous and handsome men who passed through the doors. More than her age, which she kept hidden behind expensive salon trips and good genes, was the firm knowledge that she was deeply in love with her partner of over fifteen years, Sandy.

“Thank you.” Vanessa raised a brow—a silent communication they’d mastered within weeks of working together—as she cleared her desk. Angie wrinkled her nose. Great. The Minnesota Flash baseball player was in a mood then. Vanessa exhaled. “Send him in.”

She pasted on a smile and stood to greet her client. Her brain switched over, pushing her private matters back to focus on business. Baseball season was in full swing, and Ramsey had more ambition than most athletes, which was saying something. If only he had the common sense to go with it.

Her list of potential clients grew as more and more athletes strove to reach past the accolades that came from excelling in their sport. The drive to be famous was the biggest reason an athlete sought out someone to manage his or her public image. Stupidity and the need for someone to cover mistakes came in at a close second.

Her life was about making others look good. Stroking egos, playing games and trading favors was all part of the job, and after twelve years in the business, she was an expert at taking care of her clients. All of them—professional and personal.

Handling men was her specialty. Something Mr. Hauke would soon find out.

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