In the sexually charged world of Cirque du Monde, CEO Michel Lemaitre reigns as king of depravity. He’s a stringent, brutal Master who selects his slaves based on their ability to cope with strict handling and pain. He exerts rigid control over his chosen partners and they submit to him in all things—that is, until fiery Italian acrobat Valentina Sancia enters his life. Valentina’s known as la Vampa, the flame of Napoli, and her tempestuous personality and wild libido soar as high as her circus tricks. To his chagrin, she wants nothing more than to be his slave. Michel finds himself drawn to the red-headed firebrand even as he tries his hardest to resist her. It doesn’t help that the sensual beauty idolizes him and tempts him at every turn. He finally engages her in a one-month, no-holds-barred Master-slave relationship to prove their incompatibility. And that’s when the circus really begins. The two become wrapped up in bondage, cages, physical ordeals…and an emotionally fraught battle of wills. He’s never had a slave burn so bright, and Valentina’s heart is set on pleasing her Master, no matter the torment and trials she must endure. Is there such a thing as too much passion? Michel’s convinced there is, and he’s determined to tame a billowing love on the verge of blazing out of control.
“Make love to me. Just once,” she begged. “Touch me just once so I can know the feeling of your...your magic.”
“My magic?” He shook his head. “Jason’s right. You don’t live in the real world.” He stood and paced away from her.
“Mr. Lemaitre, I would do anything to have you.”
He turned back, holding up a finger. “Don’t. Don’t say you would do anything, especially to someone like me, because I’ll take you up on that offer and you won’t like it.”
“I would like it. I’d do anything for you. Anything, anything, anything.” She yelled the word at him, her heart pounding. “You know how I feel, I know you do. I only have this one life and I want to experience everything I desire.”
“Everything you desire?” The question was a warning, one she didn’t heed.
“Yes, and you are keeping me from doing it.”
“And you need this to be fulfilled in life? You need to be mine? To be taken by me, used by me? Possessed by me, as you so dramatically put it?”
“Yes,” she cried. “That’s what I need.”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “What will you offer in return? What will I get out of this possession, besides a recurrent headache?”
Valentina’s face flushed red, because she hadn’t once, not once, considered his side of things.
“Ah, but you see, my dear, that’s the rub,” he said quietly. “I’m not a service top. I take slaves for my pleasure, not theirs. I have less than no interest in your needs, Valentina, except as they intersect with what I desire.”
She swallowed hard. “Well...what do you desire?”
His piercing gaze transformed from something reproachful to something more speculative. It scared her a little, the assessment in his expression.
“I think you’re a selfish hedonist who wants what she wants,” he said. “That’s not slavery, you know. It isn’t even power exchange. It’s topping from the bottom and I don’t tolerate it in those I ‘possess.’”
Valentina tried not to be distracted by the growing tent in his robe.
“You...you would have to teach me to be better. I need control.”
“You would have to. I need. You’re still not listening, Valentina,” he said, coming back to the bed. “The only one having their needs met in a relationship between us would be me.”
There had to be some flaw in his thinking, because she was sure he would meet her needs. His mastery would fulfill her as no one ever had. “What can I give you?” she asked. “How can I prove that I’ll do anything for you?”
“There you go with the ‘I’ll do anything’ again.”
“Mr. Lemaitre, please! What can I offer that would satisfy your desires? What would make it worthwhile for you?”
Again, that slow, almost threatening gaze of consideration. His eyes traveled over her, his lips drawn into a contemplative line. “You’ll do anything?”
“Anything, I swear. There’s nothing you could ask for that I wouldn’t gladly do.” The air seemed to grow heavy between them. She knew she was being impulsive again, butshe didn’t care. Everything she’d said was true. After a moment, he made a small motion of annoyance. His expression hardened to something like stone.
“If that’s how you feel,” he said, “then I want a no-limits arrangement. Complete and utter ownership, no holds barred. No negotiation, no contracts, no release clauses. Your body is mine for one month, for whatever I desire.”
Whatever I desire. The idea excited her so much she could barely breathe, but she forced herself to stop, to clarify his terms. “So I would have no rights in this relationship?”
“You could do whatever you wanted to me, and I couldn’t stop you? What if you decided you wanted to kill me?”
“Then I get to kill you. Honestly, the way you perturb me, I would put the odds of a murder at 2 to 1.”
She decided he was kidding, although he didn’t have the slightest hint of humor in his demeanor. “Do you really want that?” she asked. “You really want...me...for a month? Does that mean...” She could barely say the words. “Does that mean I would become your slave?”
Some wary expression flitted across his face. His voice was light, almost a whisper, when he answered. “You have been my slave for some time now, haven’t you? You might think on whether it’s what you really want.”
Annabel Joseph is a multi-published BDSM erotic romance author. She writes mainly contemporary romance, although she has been known to dabble in the medieval and Regency eras. She is recognized for writing emotionally intense BDSM storylines, and strives to create characters that seem real–even flawed–so readers are better able to relate to them. Annabel publishes with Ellora’s Cave and Loose Id in addition to her own imprint, Scarlet Rose Press. She also writes non-BDSM erotic romance under the name Molly Joseph. You can sign up to receive Annabel’s newsletter at her website annabeljoseph.com.
Two winners will each receive ebooks of Cirque de Minuit and Bound in Blue, the first two books in the Cirque Master's Series.