by Stacey Espino
eBook ISBN: 1-60601-261-4
Grace is thrust deep into cattle country with dozens of sex starved cowboys. Her modest, timid nature soon fizzles away to make room for her raging lust. From one night stands to a ménage a cinq, her body won’t allow her to refuse the muscled ranch hands that seem desperate to pleasure her.
Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.
The sun beat down without mercy and reflected off the private jet in blinding rays. Grace stood on the runway squinting against the bright light and trying to catch a breath in the thick, humid air. She wore the pink skirt suit Ken picked out for her. He insisted that they keep up appearances, the future of his career at stake.
Grace hated being there, hated where she was going, and hated Ken more than ever for subjecting her to such humiliation. She wanted to slip on a pair of her favorite worn jeans, run home to her mother, and lock herself in a childhood long forgotten. But no, she was here, about to travel across the country alone to meet a complete stranger, a stranger she’d be spending an entire month with as part of Ken’s wife swap.
Some old bag had the hots for him and had suggested the swap. Ken had agreed without even consulting her. His defense: Mrs. Wagner could make him a very rich man. If he kept her happy, she’d agree to give him one of the largest accounts in the state. He repeatedly said that it was for their future. Bullshit. Everything revolved around power and status for Ken. The most materialistic bastard she’d ever come across.
After three years of marriage, his true colors became brighter than ever, and she didn’t like any of them. She had to give him credit for putting on the best act in town, enough to convince her that she was special and had made the right choice in choosing him as a life mate. With her parents beyond thrilled with their union, she had nowhere to run when things had turned ugly. Ken didn’t allow her to have friends, so her isolated life kept her dependent on him for everything, just the way he wanted.
“Grace!” Ken waved her over, his voice patronizing and flustered as usual.
She left the shadow of the hangar and walked toward the jet, her suede heels clicking against the asphalt runway. He grabbed her by the upper arm and jerked her forward, his fingers digging deep as a warning. “It’s time to go. Don’t fucking embarrass me, Grace. Goddamn it, if you ruin this for me…” His jaw clenched, and his lips pursed.
Her heart rate picked up on cue, because he alone had the power to evoke fear and anxiety in her. That she had once loved him amazed her.
“Ken, you can’t expect me to…you know.” Ken had been her first and only sexual partner, and the whole wife swap implied intimacy. She saved herself for him and couldn’t imagine he’d so willingly share her with another man.
“He’s over fifty fucking years old. He probably can’t even get it up anymore. We’ve been through this a thousand times already. Why must you make things so difficult? For one month, it’s not cheating. Not. Cheating. I’ve explained this how many times?” He clawed his fingers into his own hair and looked off into the distance before forcing an exaggerated breath out his nose. His hair was in disarray, his nostrils flared, and spittle came out of his mouth when he spoke. “Stop being such a selfish little bitch, and think about me for once in your life. Do you think I want to push pencils for the next twenty years?” He shoved her up the metal steps so forcibly she nearly fell to her knees. “Get your fat ass in the plane.”
He clapped his hands in the air after she stumbled inside. One of the flight crew closed the hatch on command, and her fate was sealed. She half expected him to pull out at the last minute, be unwilling to share his wife with another. Her fairy-tale dreams came crashing down around her.
The crew had heard every word. She was too humiliated to cry, too numb to care. Ken hadn’t exactly been trying to be discreet. In fact, he seemed to enjoy publicly disgracing her. She dreaded going out to restaurants because he’d always make a scene. He thrived at making himself look good at the cost of her humiliation. A public flirt, and she knew damn well he had women on the side.
“You’ll have to buckle up, miss. We’re taking off now.”
The copilot looked sympathetic when he motioned Grace to her seat. No other passengers were on the plane besides the pilots and one crew member. With a silent nod, she took her spot by the window. In the distance, she saw Ken arguing with someone, arms flailing, his cell phone in an outstretched hand. She exhaled and slunk into her seat, secure that he couldn’t take out his rage on her from the safety of the jet.
The engines powering up drowned out sound and made her muscles tense. She couldn’t believe this was happening to her. A wife swap. Ken would probably be fucking that old bitch tonight without an ounce of remorse or regard for his marriage vows. But, what would come easy for him would be detrimental for her. How did he expect her to sleep with a complete stranger? Have another man’s dick inside her? The thought made her nauseous.
She fell asleep during the long flight and woke up only as the plane began descending. The darkened evening sky made her reality that much more indigestible. No city lights highlighted the landscape. Deep in cattle country, she was entering a different world. The private runway was only a small part of the vast Wagner estate.
Grace sat up straight and rolled out her stiff shoulders. Because of the earlier heat back home, she had her hair braided, but the humidity no longer persisted, and a chill crept up her spine.
The engines wound down to a whine, and the pilots began to shuffle up front behind the closed door of the cockpit. Holding her breath, she forced down the huge frog in her throat. Did she ever feel small and alone.
How had her life come to this? Always a hopeless romantic, she realized that her knight in shining armor had turned out to be her worst nightmare, and nobody had come to her rescue. She was on her own and growing thoroughly pissed off now that Ken’s violent temper remained thousands of miles away.
The crew of three burst out of their cabin, still in the middle of conversation, one laughing at some unheard joke. The hatch dropped, and a head poked into the jet.
“Howdy! You have a Ms. Grace in here I’m supposed to pick up?”
The dirty-blond man had a couple days’ worth of stubble on his face and brilliant blue eyes. The moment after he spoke, his gaze locked with Grace’s.
“Oh…well, you must be her.” He boarded the jet and moved down the aisle with awkward steps, as if he’d never seen modern technology in his life. He gripped the headrests, acting like the plane was rocking on waves while, in fact, it stayed motionless.
Grace nodded, making no attempt to stand up or introduce herself properly. She felt like a spectacle, some whore for hire. Bile rose up in the back of her throat. She was going to be sick. Gripping the chair in front of her, she bolted out of her seat and swatted the man in front of her out of the way. She only made it about ten feet away from the plane before she braced her hands on her knees and retched. At least she didn’t have an audience. Out here, she was night-blind. She couldn’t focus a few feet in front of her even with the glow from the aircraft providing illumination.
A hand to her shoulder made her jerk in surprise.
The blond from the plane handed her a cloth handkerchief. She dabbed at the corners of her mouth and stood up straight.
“That’s why I never fly, no good for the nerves or the stomach,” he said.
He had no idea.
“My name’s Trevor, by the way. My truck isn’t far. I’m supposed to take you home to Mr. Wagner.”
He held her bent elbow and led her through the thick grass bordering the runway. She barely saw her next step, but he seemed confident in his stride. The reality of her destination had her stomach doing flips again. She wanted nothing to do with old Mr. Wagner.
Once they left the murmur of conversation behind, she noticed how alive the night sounded. Insects offered a symphony, one she had loved to fall asleep to as a child when visiting the cottage. But the sound of steps creeping in the nearby underbrush and heavy-breathing animals had her nerves firing off like faulty spark plugs.
After Trevor opened the passenger door for her like a gentleman, Grace sat up in the quad cab of the white pickup truck. It smelled like leather and musk, all male. A worn pair of tan work gloves and a coil of yellow rope lay on the bench, separating her from Trevor. Glad to be safe from any wildlife threat, she let out the breath she had been holding.
She wondered if Trevor would drive her elsewhere if she asked. Maybe he’d run away with her and she could forget about Ken, Mr. Wagner, and the disgusting wife swap ordeal. As she spun impossible fairy tales in her head, the truck turned around sharply on the bumpy earth toward a dirt road. The headlight beams bounced up and down with every dip in the path. She expected Bambi and his family to cut across the light ahead of them. The life she left behind was the pinnacle of modern technology in a city that never slept.
Trevor cleared his throat. “So, how long you on with us?”
She wondered exactly how much he knew about the whole deal. “It’s supposed to be for a month.”
He nodded, driving with just his left hand as he fingered through an assortment of papers on the dashboard. His shoulder, broad and toned under his T-shirt, nearly brushed her. His hair fell in thick waves, dirty blond and shaggy. She had the urge to touch him, to reach out and squeeze his arms and feel those taut muscles for herself. Ken was the Pillsbury Doughboy. Fattening foods and a complete lack of exercise did that to a person. Trevor was the opposite. His golden skin and toned muscles came from good old-fashioned hard work under the sun.
She started to think that a wife swap with him wouldn’t have been so bad.
“Take a look.” He held out a folder smudged with engine grease.
She opened it and found pictures of herself. Pictures for Ken’s eyes only. The bastard! He had sold her out like some high-priced hooker. Pictures, her resume, current medical records, and some legal contract stared back at her. She studied the contract she barely remembered signing last week. Ken told her it had something to do with a vacation property he bought in both their names, but instead, it detailed the basics of the wife swap. Any thoughts she had of escaping fizzled when she read the computer printout. Could the law actually force someone to comply with this freak show? The fact that the form seemed standard issue made her wonder how many couples participated in this wife-swapping lifestyle.
“Why you showing me this?”
“Mr. Wagner said to give it to you. He wants you to know you’re not his prisoner.”
“Oh.” She bit on her lip. If he didn’t want her as a prisoner, then why the legal route?
“What about you? What do you think of all this?”
“It’s not my place to say.” He watched her rather than the road. “If you’re worried about Mr. Wagner, don’t be. He’s a reasonable man, nothing to fear.”
She only nodded, her eyes locked on the cone-shaped beams of light ahead of them. Without a glance, she felt the heat of his stare on her face, his assessing her, taking in every detail.
The fact that Mr. Wagner had given her the file with the contract meant that she could leave at any time she wanted. Legally. It also meant that he couldn’t be as bad as she’d made him out to be in her head. The least she could do was meet the guy and spend the night. It was late. She had no way to get to civilization and didn’t have a clue where she was, regardless. One thing she knew for sure was that she wouldn’t be warming his bed. If it would hurt Ken or break his heart to know she could go through with it, she might give it a go. But the truth was he didn’t give a shit about her and never would. She was on her own in every way.