Unbound, The Entwined Series: #1

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Synopsis

Recently divorced romance novelist, Charity McCormick, has just met the Man of her Dreams. An alpha male with a heart of gold and a body of steel, Drew could easily slip between the covers of one of her romance novels—or any woman’s bed. But is it too soon for Charity? After the divorce, she vowed to take a full year off from serious relationships, giving herself the freedom to not just write about crazy, raunchy hot sex, but to live it.

In Unbound, volume 1 of the Entwined series, one award-winning romance novelist contributes the opening to Charity’s story. But when our heroine finds herself at a crossroads in JFK airport, the narrative fractures into four wildly different pathways, each written by a different award-winning erotica author in her own genre. With shades of BDSM, paranormal fantasy, same-sex, and multiple partners, Entwined: Unbound is designed to help you explore the best of modern erotica.

The series is also supported by a robust, interactive community site (www.entwinederotica.com) which includes elements of fan fiction, contests, and voting. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead. Choose your own happy ending, and get Entwined. Again. And again.

Excerpt

Chapter One

John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, May 2011

The Blackberry buzzing inside my bag alerted me that my vacation to Ireland was officially over. I didn’t need to give him a signature ring tone. I knew it was Drew. I just knew.

Drew, my personal Prince Charming; the man I’ve dreamt of since I cracked the cover of my first romance novel at the age of twelve; the man I’ve been writing andrewriting in my own published romance novels for six years. Kind and funny, smart and successful, ruggedly handsome, and hands-down hot, Drew is pretty much perfect. He may have grown up outside of Dallas being driven to school in a pickup with a gun rack, but don’t be fooled by the Lone Star alpha male shtick. He’d run into my burning apartment building to rescue the old lady next door and her deaf and blind dog without a second thought. And unlike my all-talk beta ex-husband, who I dated through college and married after graduation more or less by default, Drew actually listens to me.

If only we hadn’t met as I was writing the end to the sad but true story of my sexless, decade-long marriage. If only we’d met a year from now, or better yet, two.

Stepping aside to avoid the stampede of passengers en route to baggage claim, I fished my phone out and maneuvered it open too late. Even though I’d known it was him, when I saw his name on my voice mail, my heart and stomach lurched guiltily.

“Charity, baby, I know your plane just landed. Honey, I wish you’d let me pick you up. I almost said to hell with it and showed up anyway, but…well, what we talked about before you left. I’m not looking to crowd you or own you or…I just…I just miss you, baby. I can’t wait to see you, hear your voice at least. And I want to hear how your trip went. Call me when you get in. We can go out and get some supper, or if you’re too tired, I can pick up carryout, that Asian fusion vegan crap from Gobo you like so much, and we can stay in and watch a movie—your call. Either way, call me.”

I snapped the phone closed fast, too fast, catching my fingernail. Rummaging in my bag for a file, I asked myself how I could feel so freaking choked up and gooey and yet cheated, all at more or less the same time. Fuck it, this first year of single life, of freedom, was supposed to be about me–my time and no one else’s. I didn’t want to be in a relationship. I didn’t want to want to be in a relationship. Not when I was working so hard to figure out who Charity McCormick is and what she wants.

Charity McCormick, multi-published romance fiction author of respectable if not yet bestseller acclaim, lover of hiking and running, black-and-white films, and small furry creatures packaged in feline form. Recent transplant from Virginia to Manhattan, though I already feel like a native. Wannabe world traveler, though the recent stamps on my passport seem like a solid start. The rest of my “resume” had less to recommend me—thirty-three (okay, almost thirty-four), childless by choice (or so I tell myself), and divorced as of six months ago.

I met Drew at an art gallery opening in Soho a month after I moved. In the midst of covertly snickering over one particularly grotesque piece of installation art, we somehow ended up sharing the last plastic cup of boxed white wine. It was crazy to meet someone, let alone someone so great, that fast. I hadn’t even finished unpacking. Though it’s a sweet “how we met” story, I don’t tell it all that much. Other thirty-something single women would surely hate me. The forty-somethings would dispatch death squads. Who meets the man of their dreams with moving boxes still in their bedroom? And Drew is from Dallas, for Chrissake. Who moves to New York to hook up with a Texan?

Despite four months of dating, Drew and I had never hooked up, not metaphorically and not literally, either. Though he has enough machismo for ten men, all of them clones of Chuck Norris, I’d always managed to freeze up at the final moment.

“Easy, honey, you’re just afraid of getting hurt again is all.” He always assured me. “But you don’t have to worry about that with me, no ma’am, because I will never hurt you, Charity.”

Looking up into his warm hazel eyes I knew it was true. Drew would never hurt me. It was him I was afraid of hurting and disappointing. Given that I’m a romance writer, and my novels fall somewhere between steamy and erotic, he was bound to expect hitting the sheets with me would be mind blowing, or at least over-the-top terrific.

He would be wrong.

If I harbored an inner porn star, she was still awaiting discovery. Most of my “moves” are ones I’ve conjured in my mind and then somehow translated onto the printed page, a sorcerer’s trick. Even though I’d read a lot about sex, everything from The Kama Sutra to hardcore fetish literature, I realized sex isn’t meant to be an esoteric science. Sooner or later, as sexually healthy adults, we’re supposed to stop sticking toe after testing toe into the waters. Sooner or later it comes time to shuck off our inhibitions, dive in, and do.

While I was stuck in a sexless marriage for the past ten years, Drew’d had the equivalent of sexual carte blanche. A political correspondent for a major television news network, until his recent sabbatical, he’d spent the past dozen or so years globetrotting, hooking up with any number of exotic, cultured women, women who unlike Yours Truly knew what they were about in bed. That he wanted to be with me—a woman who’d done little more than let him play in her panties—both humbled and terrified me.

Beyond that, sleeping with Drew would mean something. And that scared me. Shitless.

So I did what I always do when I’m scared. I planned a vacation. To Western Ireland.

In fairness, I’d wanted to go to the Emerald Isle for no fewer than fifteen years. I’d even kept copies of travel magazines, which I periodically pulled out to drool over photos of crumbling stone castles and rolling hills of impossibly lush green. When I booked a weeklong walking trip with a well-known tour company, I’d joked to friends that it would be my “Under the Tuscan Sun” moment. Unlike the Diane Lane character, I would be on a bus with predominantly senior citizens, not gays. Still, Lane hadn’t gotten laid and neither would I.

Or so I’d assumed.

Patrick was one of two guides assigned to our group. From the time he’d lifted his gray-blue gaze to mine while his long-fingered hand locked onto my luggage handle, I’d known he wanted me. “Staying for a while, are you?” he’d asked, not really a question, his gaze dropping to my overstuffed suitcase, one of a pair.

Our group of twelve spent the next six days hiking cliffs and fields and bogs by day and savoring the refined pleasures of five-star dining by night, the latter at three breathtaking manor house inns in the rocky region of The Burren, Connemara, and Galway Bay. On our walks, Patrick always maneuvered himself to my side. During dinners, he wooed me with his eyes and lovely lilting voice. When, on the third night, he brought out his guitar and sang for us, me, in the hotel’s taproom, I was smitten. Later, I let him into my room. In the midst of making out, he’d confessed he was married.

I didn’t have intercourse with him, but I didn’t kick him out, either. I let him stay in my big four-poster overlooking the rain-soaked quay, and then I let him come and stay the remaining nights, too. We made out like teenagers, mostly innocent stuff, or so I told myself. It wasn’t like Drew and I had an exclusive commitment. He might have had some twenty-something reporter bent forward over a desk at that very moment; only in my heart I knew he didn’t. Unlike me, Drew had sown his wild oats. Mine had yet to be reaped.

Any guilt over canoodling with a married man, I set aside for later. Who knows, I might have been doing Patrick’s wife a favor. He swore they hadn’t had sex in more than a year. Only he didn’t have trouble with me, not nearly. Just looking at my naked body seemed to bring him extraordinary delight. “You’re so perfectly formed,” he said on our first night together, tracing the outline of each of my small, slender fingers and then sucking them one by one into his mouth.

After a decade of being made to feel like a dead-eyed doll, the rawness with which Patrick wanted me was as intoxicating as any drug. I felt irrational jealousy toward his wife, Meg, about whom he was disconcertingly open. So far I’d learned she was a painter of abstract landscapes, the mother of his two adult sons, and “a lovely person.” And of course, she was the one he would go home to at the end of the week.

That last day had rolled around all too soon. Giving him a very public goodbye hug in the parking lot of Shannon Airport in the midst of our disassembling group, tears formed. “I’ll miss you,” I said against his ear, hugging him hard.

Smiling sadly down at me, he whispered back, “I’ll never forget you.”

There was no time or place for either of us to say more.

But now I was home, and there was a great deal more I had to say to Drew, starting with, “I’m not ready for you. Get on with your life.”

Decency demanded I at least send him a text message. That he knew I’d landed was beside the point. Admittedly, a text message would be a coward’s course, but I was tired and jet lagged, cranky and confused. Putting off the inevitable phone call until morning seemed a forgivable failing, small potatoes compared to the sins I’d racked up over the last week.

I gave up the hunt for the emery board in favor of taking out the phone. Flipping it open, it occurred to me I had another message to send: the promised email to Patrick. Prior to parting, we’d agreed to each send one farewell email once we were safely back in our respective homes: he in Cork and me in New York.

Still, seeing his email in my inbox felt like a sucker punch. I should experience this poignant moment, his final goodbye, not in a crowded, fluorescent-lit airport but at home, preferably in the bathtub with a glass of wine and appropriately melancholy music playing.

My dearest, darling Charity, he began. I’ve told Meg about us.

He’d told his…wife! Sucker punch number two had me dropping my carry-on luggage and sinking into a plastic seat.

I couldn’t live with the guilt…

Live with the guilt! He must have been home all of five minutes?

She cried. I cried. We sat for an hour talking and crying. But in the end it all came out to the good. She wants to meet you. She wants you to stay with us. I asked if she was certain, and she swears on her Da’s grave that she is. My dearest Charity, I don’t know if this is something you would consider. I’m not certain I’ve the right to even ask, but would you consider…sharing me?

Would you be Meg’s and my lover?

The sound of my Blackberry bouncing onto the carpet had me mumbling apologies to my seatmate and squatting to save it from shuffling feet. Holding the salvaged phone between shaking hands, it struck me that for years now I’d been all but praying for a sexual adventure, a deliciously indecent proposal to crack open the shell of my sexual numbness. How ironic that when the opportunity finally appeared it did so not in the form of my virile Texan boyfriend but in that of a sweetly hippie-styled forty-something Irishman and his painter wife.

A wife. Jesus—or Jaysus, as Patrick would say—what was I thinking to even consider turning around and going back?

But, I was tired of thinking, tired of talking myself out of doing all the many things I’d always wanted to do. And even though I’d yet to make a single call or send a single email, let alone walk over to the airline ticket counter to book a one-way flight to Cork International, my mind was as good as made up.

I was going back to Ireland, back to Patrick, back to sleep with not only him, but his wife. I’d chickened out on having sex with him the week before, and to be honest, I regretted it. Back on my home turf, I was over being scared, over feeling guilty, and above all, over regretting those many roads yet untraveled.

I stood. Shaky as my legs felt, still they held me.

Going forward I am going to be brave. No more wimping out, no more second guessing. I am going to be brave and bold and yes, sexual.

I am going back to Ireland.

Authors

Debra Hyde, Hers — Debra Hyde has four erotic novels and dozens of erotic short stories to her publishing credits. Her lesbian BDSM novel, Story of L, won the 2011 Lambda Literary Award for lesbian erotica. A modern retelling of the classic Story of O, it updates the original tale to reflect the contemporary lesbian leather world and the women in it. Romantic Times BOOK Reviews magazine named it and her heterosexual novel, Blind Seduction, to its Fifty Hot Reads beyond 50 Shades of Grey, calling Blind Seduction “a story about what happens after the BDSM seduction.” When not writing, Debra co-curates the monthly NYC reading series, Between the Covers, bringing erotic storytelling to curious and avid audience goers alike.

Lacey Michaels, Eight Days in May — Lacey Michaels is the pseudonym for an award-winning author of nearly twenty historical and contemporary romances for multiple publishers including Penguin. Lacey has been writing works of romantic fiction since she picked up her first crayon. Visit her online at www.LaceyMichaels.com.

Cecilia Tan, Dear Girl — She is “simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature,” according to Susie Bright. Cecilia is the author of the ground-breaking erotic short story collections Black Feathers (HarperCollins), White Flames (Running Press), and Edge Plays (Circlet Press), and the erotica romances Mind Games, The Prince’s Boy, The Hot Streak, and the Magic University series.

Forthcoming she has a three-book BDSM erotic romance series from Grand Central Publishing entitled Face the Strange. Her short stories have appeared in Ms. Magazine, Nerve and Best American Erotica, to name a few. She was inducted into the Saints & Sinners Hall of Fame for GLBT writers in 2010, was a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Leather Association in 2001, and won the inaugural Rose & Bay Awards for crowd-funded fiction in 2010 for Daron’s Guitar Chronicles. She lives in the Boston area with her lifelong partner corwin and three cats.

Lissa Trevor, Wild Oats — Lissa Trevor is a busty, six-foot redhead who writes smutty, smutty sex and drinks pink champagne even though it clashes with her hair. She still would like to call her followers “Dahlings!” Because it reminds her of Zsa Zsa Gabor.