"4 1/2 Stars!Steamy, occasionally shocking, and relentlessly intense, this book isn't for the faint of heart. But with fiery, emotional characters and their blisteringly passionate relationship, it is also one that isn't easily forgotten." --RT Book Reviews magazine
FALL INTO YOU
Book 3 - Loving on the Edge
He’ll do anything for you. But you’d better say please.
When tomboy sports reporter Charli Beaumonde loses a dream TV job because she’s not girly enough for primetime, she’s determined to land a big scoop and prove her boss made a mistake. But when she gets too close to a football scandal and finds her life threatened, Charli accepts an offer from family friend Grant Waters to hide out at his place—even if Grant predicts nothing but trouble from his buddy’s hard-headed, uncompromising, irrepressible, younger sister. There’s one more problem…
Grant’s “place” is The Ranch, a BDSM resort in Texas, and he’s used to being in charge —even if that means trying to keep Charli in line. But much to Grant’s surprise, she’s intrigued—even envious—of his trainees. They’re the epitome of what she’s never been: sexy, beguiling, and totally irresistible to a man. Still, Grant doesn’t believe for a minute that the sharp-tongued Charli has it in her to be anyone’s submissive. But Charli’s already on her knees vying for the chance to prove that even the Master can be wrong sometimes.
Released: January 2013
READ CHAPTER 1
Copyrighted Material Roni Loren 2012 - All Rights Reserved Berkley Publishing Group
*18 and over only*
Come on, baby, don’t give up on me now. Charli Beaumonde gripped the steering wheel tighter as her eight-year-old Toyota’s headlights flickered for the second time in ten minutes. She adjusted her rearview mirror, wondering, not for the first time, if she should’ve stopped in one of the small-town motels she’d passed thirty miles back. The deserted highway hadn’t seemed quite so jeepers creepers this morning on her way out of the city as it did now.
But then again, those motels had looked more Norman Bates than bed-and-breakfast. She was probably better off taking her chances with her on-its-last-wheel car.
She hadn’t planned to be out in boondocks Texas this late at night, but the chance to see who was coming and going from the family home of Dallas University’s top quarterback recruit had been too good to pass up. Who knew so many men in suits had business in such a podunk Texas town?
She hadn’t gathered enough damning evidence to put together a story for the station yet, but she was getting there. If she could get one of the players to slip up and talk, give her some names, she could blow the cheating scandal wide open and virtually secure her promotion to the on-air sidelines reporter for the Texas Sports Network.
Her boss had already told her she was one of the final candidates. Charli didn’t know how many other people she was up against, but she knew that she could go toe-to-toe with anyone on sports knowledge. Plus, she felt like her screen test had gone well. All she needed now was the one big story under her belt to show that she had the reporter chops as well.
She smiled, picturing herself on the sidelines of the college football games—microphone in hand, the smell of fresh-cut grass and sweaty athletes, the deafening roar of the crowd cheering for their teams. She couldn’t think of anything that would make her happier or any place she’d rather be. The years of working her ass off behind the scenes would finally pay off. She may even get enough of a salary boost to be able to spring for a new car.
She adjusted in her seat, but the faint flash of light in her rearview had her glancing in the mirror again. Distant headlights pierced the black vortex behind her. Her shoulders loosened a bit, her grip on the wheel easing. For some reason, knowing she wasn’t the only person on this lonely road gave her a weird sense of comfort. She pressed a button on her radio to tune into her favorite sports talk station and settled in for the last hour of her drive back to Dallas.
But right when one of the hosts started bitching about the Cowboys offense, the glare of headlights became blinding in her rearview as the driver flashed his high beams on and off. Squinting, Charli grabbed the mirror and turned it away from her. “What the hell?”
She slowed down a bit, thinking the driver must have some emergency and wanted to get past her. But when she eased up on the gas, he didn’t go around, he just got closer. Flash. Flash. Flash. The lights created a strobe effect in her car, disorienting her. She grabbed the steering wheel and jerked it to the left to move into the other lane, but the other car stayed on her rear as if it were tied to her bumper with rope.
“Shit.” She tried again, going back to the right lane, but the car followed, nearly clipping her rear bumper. The creeping unease she’d been fighting since she’d pulled onto this highway morphed into a hot flood of panic.
Whoever was in the car wasn’t trying to get past her—he was trying to get to her.
She slammed on her gas pedal in an attempt to put some distance between them and regain her vision, but her four-cylinder Toyota was no match for whatever was behind her. The rumble of a bigger, more powerful engine drowned out the quiet hum of her own.
She felt around for her cell phone, but the damn thing had tumbled to the floorboard when she’d made the hard lane change. Keeping her hands firmly on the wheel and knowing her speedometer was sliding into a zone it’d never ventured to, she tried to bump the phone closer with her left foot. Once it was within reach, she took one hand off the wheel and attempted to make a grab for the cell. Come on, come on, just another inch. But as soon as her fingers closed around her only lifeline, a hard jolt rocked the vehicle, knocking her head hard into the steering wheel and sending her world into a spin.
The sound of squealing tires was the last thing Charli heard before everything went black.
Grant liked the quiet cocoon of the night. His resort, The Ranch, didn’t slow down until three a.m. most evenings. So after spending his time over there, supervising and making sure everything was running smoothly, he relished the walk over from the main resort area to his private cabin on the far corner of the property.
Not many things could match the calming effect of the breeze blowing through the fields of grapevine, the night bugs singing, and the kind of rich silence that could only be had this far out of the city. In fact, there was only one other thing that could trump it—having a beautiful woman fully surrendering under his hand.
That’s what he’d really been hoping to find tonight. And every night for the last four months since he’d handed off his last trainee to her new dom. But even with The Ranch at his fingertips, finding a woman that appealed to him and his particular wants was proving near impossible. His tastes had grown refined, specific. He had no shortage of applicants for his monthlong immersion training. But the submissives he came across were either not ready for the level of commitment he required during training or were secretly hoping he’d take them on long term. And long term wasn’t his game.
The one-off, uncommitted play sessions could sometimes meet his immediate needs in between trainees. But it was like a carnivore living on a vegetarian diet. He was never truly satisfied. He craved the intensity that could only be reached when a sub fully gave herself to him for weeks at a time.
So instead of a clearing his mind with the all-encompassing experience of D/s, he was left to rely on the sound of the crickets and the blanket of the night to soften the edges of his thoughts. It was really the only time of the day his brain would shut down and simply be.
But when he made the turn around the last bend in the path toward his home, a faint screeching sound sliced through the thick night air. He stilled, his ears and body going on full alert—a skill he’d never shaken from his years in the army and CIA. The distant sound of a revving engine followed the screech and then faded.
He frowned. Probably a driver stopping suddenly to avoid an animal in the road or something. The car had sounded like it’d driven off, but Grant didn’t want to assume everything was okay. The highway his ranch sat off of wasn’t heavily traveled. So if someone had gotten in an accident, the coyotes and bobcats would probably find them before help did.
He jogged the rest of the way to his cabin and headed straight for his pickup truck. He pulled his keys from his pocket and his boot hit the gas before he’d even shut the door completely. The drive up to the main road only took a few minutes at a normal pace, but when Grant saw twin beams of light in the distance, he kicked into overdrive, his truck bouncing along the dirt road like an off-road racer.
By the time he got to the main gate, he could see the front end of a car peeking out the ditch on the opposite side of the road. The soft whine of the dying horn filled his ears. “Shit.”
He threw the gear into park and jumped out of the truck. The gate was chained with a padlock, but he didn’t want to waste time getting it unfastened, so he planted a foot on one of the bars and vaulted over it.
“Hello?” he called out after landing with a thud on the other side. Only the fading horn and the smell of burnt rubber greeted him. He hurried across the road and peered down into what appeared to be a wrecked Toyota. The tail end had slid into the ditch, the runoff rainwater from yesterday’s storm rushing past the back tires. Grant squinted, trying to see into the front seat. The headlights were the only illumination besides the moon, and all he could make out was the outline of a person in the front seat.
“Hello?” he called again. “If you can hear me, I’m here to help you.”
Grant hurried around to the other side of the car and carefully worked his way down the muddy embankment to get closer to the driver. His boots hit the bottom of the gully and water sluiced over his feet. Even this close, it was still too dark to see much. He grabbed his cell phone out of his jeans pocket and hit the button to illuminate the screen, holding the phone out toward the closed driver’s side window. The faint light from the phone spilled onto the profile of a woman, head slumped against the head rest, eyes closed.
His stomach flipped—a familiar sick feeling that never failed to show up no matter how much injury or death he’d seen in his life.No. Come on. Be okay. He wedged open the door, the soft earth only allowing him to get it halfway open, and leaned into the car to put fingers against the woman’s neck. The strong thump, thump, thump of her pulse touched his fingers.
“Thank you, God.” He touched her clammy cheek. “Ma’am, can you hear me? You’ve been in an accident. We’re going to get you some help.”
Though, with the nearest hospital forty-five minutes away, he wasn’t exactly sure when said help might get there. He hit another button on his cell phone.
Marc, one of his managers, answered on the first ring. “Hey, Grant, what’s up?”
“I need you to find Dr. Montgomery. I think he was playing with Janessa tonight in a cabin on the west side.”
“You want me to interrupt a scene?” Marc asked, the surprise in his voice evident. “Is everything okay?”
Grant quickly explained what was going on and told him to also put in a call to 911 to get an ambulance headed this way. Once he’d given Marc his marching orders, Grant returned his focus to the woman in the car. He’d learned first-aid skills in the military so knew not to move her neck or try to get her out of the car. But he checked her breathing to make sure nothing was obstructed.
Her seat belt was on, so she’d had some protection in the crash. But based on the swelling knot on her forehead, she’d hit her head on something—most likely the steering wheel. With gentle fingers, he brushed her hair away from the tender spot to examine it closer and make sure it wasn’t bleeding. He leaned in to get a better look, but a low moan had him halting.
He turned his head and the woman’s eyelashes fluttered. Another garbled sound passed her lips.
“Shh, easy now,” he soothed, using the tone he employed when dealing with skittish horses. “Try not to move, darlin’. We’re going to get you some help.”
Her entire body went rigid, and her lids flew open, her eyes going wide with fear.
He backed out of the car a bit, so as not to freak her out more, but put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay. You’re okay. You’ve been in an accident. I need you to stay still until the doctor gets here to check you.”
She blinked, her lips parted as if to say something, but then she winced and her hand went to her head. “Dizzy.”
“You’ve hit your head. Try to take some nice, slow breaths.” Grant kept his voice coaxing as he watched her follow his directions. “Can you tell me your name, darlin’?”
She squeezed her eyes shut, continuing to take deep breaths. “Uh . . . Charlotte, no . . . Charli.”
“Okay, good, Charli,” Grant said, relieved to hear she still knew her name. “Do you know where you are or what happened to you?”
“I’m, I . . .” A crease appeared between her brows as if she were trying hard to locate the information. “I can’t remember.”
He squeezed her shoulder. “That’s all right. We’ll worry about that later.”
The sucking sound of feet hitting wet earth drew Grant’s attention back toward the ditch’s embankment. Dr. Theo Montgomery, was making his way down, wearing a pair of pajama bottoms and an open oxford shirt, and holding one of the well-stocked first aid kits from The Ranch. Red marks, no doubt from Janessa’s flogger, marked his bare chest.
“Status,” Theo said, all business.
“Name is Charli. She just woke up. Breathing is fine. Probably concussed—can remember her name but nothing about what happened. Contusion on her forehead. I haven’t moved her.”
“Good.” Theo moved in when Grant stepped out of the way. He introduced himself with the short, quick style of an ER doctor and started his examination. Charli would be in good hands.
An hour and a half later, the sun was starting to peek over the horizon as an EMT checked Charli over one last time and discussed the situation with Theo. Grant stood off to the side, watching as the beautiful redhead tried to stay focused on the conversation these people were having about her.
“Looks like it’s only a mild concussion. We can bring her back to Graham Regional and keep her for observation,” the EMT told Theo.
“I don’t want to go to the hospital,” Charli said, her voice low and hoarse. “I just want to go home and rest.”
The young guy frowned down at her. “Ma’am, do you have someone at home that can keep an eye on you for the next twenty-four hours?”
She closed her eyes, rubbing the bridge of her nose, like it hurt to think. “Uh, Tom Brady.”
The EMT’s head tilted. “The quarterback?”
The ever-serious Theo smiled a bit at that. “Charli, I don’t think your cat can call 911 if you go unconscious again.”
“He’s very smart,” she said, not opening her eyes, but her mouth twitching at the corner. “Could probably . . . figure it out.”
Her voice was fading a bit, her exhaustion evident.
“No, I think you better let them take you in,” Theo said. “You need to have someone with you for a little while. And you can’t drive home right now, anyway. It’s not safe and your car is trashed.”
She raised her gaze then, a flicker of fight-or-flight passing through those green eyes. “Please, don’t make me. I hate hospitals.”
The underlying quiver in her voice hit Grant square in the sternum. He prided himself on being able to read even the subtlest of clues in others. It had served him well when extracting information from people in his days in the CIA and made him quite the formidable dominant now. And what he was sensing was honest fear in this woman. It was more than not wanting the inconvenience of a hospital—she was genuinely freaked out at the thought.
Before he could think it through, he stepped forward. “If the lady doesn’t object, she can stay here for the day. I have unoccupied cabins at my vineyard. She’s more than welcome to use one, and I can check on her every few hours.”
Charli’s attention slid to him, her eyebrow lifting beneath the knot on her forehead. “You have a vineyard?”
He chuckled. No doubt his muddy jeans and plaid work shirt didn’t scream that in addition to his covert side business, he ran one of the most successful wineries in Texas. He held out his hand. “Grant Waters, owner and operator of Water’s Edge Wines.”
She took his offered hand, and Grant felt the slight tremor go through her fingers, caught the quick-as-lightening glance at the open collar of his shirt, the slight hitch in her breathing. Well, well. His body warmed in a wholly inappropriate way at her subtle signs of interest. He quickly dropped the handshake and stepped back. She’s had a blow to the head, horn dog. Reel it in.
Theo crossed his arms and nodded in Grant’s direction. “I can vouch for Mr. Waters. I’m a guest at his . . . vineyard cabins all the time. You’ll be comfortable and safe here.”
“And I can drive you back to town tomorrow,” Grant offered, trying not to sound as eager as he felt. “I have to go into Dallas for a business meeting anyway.”
She smirked and the faint freckles on her nose twitched. “You’re not some serial killer rapist, right? Because I’ve had a shitty enough night already.”
The unexpected comment made him laugh. No, he wasn’t a serial killer rapist. But the way she bit her lip after making that comment had his less-than-pure thoughts driving up to an NC-17 rating.
“Nope. Just a rancher and winemaker.” And owner of the most elite BDSM resort this side of the Mason-Dixon. But that wasn’t something she needed to know about him.
At least not while she was concussed.
But later . . . well, later was ripe with possibilities.
He’d always had a thing for freckles.