Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Here's the third free chapter for HOUSE OF THE SATIN GLOVE on the Radish app. Be sure you read my previous entries with chapters one and two before you start this one. I hope you're enjoying this "steamy billionaire romance with a touch of mystery," because I'm loving it!

If you'd like to subscribe to the story, plus read other great ones like Hannah Hunter's paranormal ALPHA WARS: CLAN FAOLADH, go on over to the Radish reading app!



I’d met Ms. only once so far, and that was when I’d moved into the House.
Mrs. Banks was the one who’d interviewed me. She also ran the residence, leaving Ms. to herself on the top floor. When I’d been introduced to the big boss, it’d been brief. Ms. hadn’t even bothered to turn entirely around to acknowledge me, just kind of glanced at me over her shoulder in a quiet and imperious way, showing half of her face, but that’d been enough for me to get an impression of her.
She was youngish, not more than thirty-five, and she had tea-brown hair that she kept in a low ponytail. She looked Japanese, yet she was also Latina, and she was small and slender. But underneath the tight pants and shirt she’d worn, I could tell that she was in shape, that she worked out in the House gym. I knew that for a fact, because the room was off-limits during the day so she could get her workout on. I had no idea what else she did while the rest of us girls usually slept morning through afternoon. Did she rule the world with conference calls? Make a million dollars a second with the stroke of a cyber pen? Who knew with this woman who didn’t have a full name? I couldn’t even get a bead on her with a cyber search, but I’m sure she spent plenty of her money on erasing her digital footprints, as well as decorating this pricy residence.
Now, as I stood in the doorway of her office, she kept her back to me, looking out the window at the sun peeking over Central Park. Her straight hair rained down her back in her trademark ponytail over the vest of a black jumpsuit. Posh, put-together, petite, and intimidating.
Without glancing at me, she gestured toward a fine leather seat that matched the rest of the modern décor.
“Sit, please.”
I felt odd, still decked out in my gown like a leftover party favor, but I closed the door and made my way to the chair. Gingerly, I sat. The room was so silent that all I could hear was my breathing and my heartbeat in my ears.
She looked partway over her shoulder, exposing a delicate profile. “Milton Tillman was pleased tonight. He praised you and Ebony, said you were like a golden age movie magazine come to life. He doesn’t give out kudos lightly.”
But, I thought, what about the shadow man? Had she checked in with him, too? Had Ebony been wrong about who he was? Was he actually one of her employees who’d been sent to measure me up and see if I was ready for my gloves?
That didn’t explain his scar, though, and that’s what I was mainly curious about.
If I’d had any balls whatsoever, I would have asked Ms. about him, but this was the boss. She held my future in her hands—she could either make getting my life back easier or harder.
I chose easier. “Thank you. Tonight was enjoyable.”
This time, she turned only enough to meet my gaze with a sidelong glance. Actually, it was more like she peered into me with an eye for detail, seeing if I was merely blowing smoke at her or if I was truly in to the life of a companion. And in that eye, I saw a world of color: a light brown glint of intelligence and experiences that she was careful to keep to herself. She might as well have been another shadow.
“I believe you,” she finally said, folding her hands behind her back. “Ebony vouches for you, as well. She sings your attributes and says you’re a natural.”
At pleasing men? My ex would’ve agreed with that. I’d been so busy pleasing him that I hadn’t seen the real Darius, King Asshole of Manhattan.
“Ebony,” I said, “is the best mentor I could have hoped for.”
“She’d like you to improve your musical skills but admires your talent for languages. We’ll have to put that to better use someday.”
Did she mean when I could actually talk to the clients?
I smiled, just as I would have for one of the men. I was a good gloved one, a willing student.
When Ms. motioned to the other side of the room, I saw a wardrobe rack filled with gowns that were much fancier and richer than the one I was wearing. They had something in common—they all featured the color red in some way. Incandescent flashes in the material, tasteful prints, solids with crimson belts and bows and panels.
Holding my breath, I glanced at Ms. Did she know that, after Darius had worked me over, I’d been holding together some of my clothing with staples and safety pines? Was she here to rescue my fashion sense by giving me more to wear and that was all?
From what I could see of her face, she was smiling. “As always, our House seamstress will fit these to your specifications, although the designers already had your measurements.” She held out her hand, indicating her desk. “And the finishing touch is right there. Go ahead, see what it is.”
As I rose to my feet, my knees wobbled, but I got myself together enough to walk to the desk. On its shiny surface was a long box wrapped in a tied ribbon that resembled the viney pattern on my ingénue gloves. I reached out with shaky hands to undo the bow.
Could she be promoting me? Was she?
“Your gloves,” she said, as if she was even more eager than I was. Her level voice didn’t expose that, but there was something else there. Something I couldn’t put my finger on.
Yet I wasn’t about to analyze her tone as I opened the box to find my prize, the symbols I’d been working so hard for.
My gloves were red. A beautiful rose red, wine red, luscious red that made me itch to run my fingers over the satin.
Once again, Ms.’s voice barely changed. It became as scratchy as one of those old-fashioned records that Grandma used to play for me on rainy days.
“The color will bring out the auburn in your hair,” Ms. said. “And the green of your eyes.”
“Thank you,” I whispered, because all I felt right now was gratitude. Such gratitude that I’d stumbled on a chance to recover after being stabbed in the back by Darius. I had fallen into a world of satin and red and decadence, and the farther I descended, the more I wallowed.
“Put them on,” Ms. said in that quieter voice that might have even held a note of fascination. I didn’t ask myself why. “See how they feel, Scarlet.”
That was me, the new me, the me that was going to rise from the ashes more powerful than I’d ever been.
Scarlet, like fire, like a fierce heroine from a timeless novel, except with one less “t” to my name.
Bad-ass Scarlet.
Enchanted, I picked up one glove and indulged myself, pressing it against my cheek. I thought I heard a small sound from Ms., but I was too busy loving the smoothness and the unexpected scent of the material: something old and vintage, as if I were taking the place of a Scarlet who’d once worn these gloves in nights past.
I went further, sliding it up my arm, marveling at how perfectly it fit.
“Scarlet,” Ms. whispered, almost as if I wasn’t even in the room.
I looked behind me, one glove on, the other in the box. Ms. was gripping a lapel on her jumpsuit, near her heart. She was still staring out the window as if there was another view out there, one nobody else could see.
“I love the name,” I said.
She stared a moment more, then blinked, straightening her posture and lowering her hand to her side. “It’s a name that hasn’t been used in years. The woman who had it loved wearing her gloves. She loved this life.”
Confusion settled over me. “How long have you been running the House? You don’t seem old enough to have been in charge of the other Scarl…”
Shut up.
As I clamped down on my words, Ms. got that vague smile again.
“I haven’t been running it all that long, but the House goes back decades. It’s stayed in the family.”
I knew that was all the storytelling I’d be getting from her even before she paused, then found her business voice again.
“There’s a special gathering coming up, and that’s part of the reason you’ve been promoted. I want you to attend as a full-fledged companion. The other ingénues still have more to learn, but you’re ready, and as you discovered when you were first invited into the House, this comes with an increase in pay.”
Yes! I thought.
But I wanted to know more about this gathering. My mouth started running before I could stop it.
“This wouldn’t happen to be a supper club, would it?” Because hadn’t Ebony told me that Mystery Man put on extreme ones, and wasn’t it a huge coincidence that he’d come back on the scene in time for this “special” gathering?
Ms. narrowed her eyes, even as she looked out the window. “I wondered if your sharp NYU-scholarship mind would catch on. I don’t like you girls to talk, but this is a rumor I can’t seem to put to rest.” She swallowed. “You saw him at tonight’s gathering.”
It wasn’t a question. “Yes, I did.”
“And seeing him led to questions about the stranger in the room. What was he doing there, and why weren’t you told about him? Why did he hang back from everyone else?”
I obviously wasn’t the only one who could figure things out. She’d nailed me.
Ms. sauntered away from me a few steps, presenting me with her back again. “His name is Sebastian Bendt. His few friends—and many enemies—call him Bash. The first group thinks the nickname is easier to say than his given name, but the second group? They say he bashes anyone who crosses him before they see it coming.”
Sebastian. Bash. A thrill rolled through me, tumbling and scratching, and I imagined him again: dark hair brushing his collar, the sheer size of him that made me wonder just how tall he was, the flare of his cigar, the crack of light providing enough illumination to make me think I’d seen a scar running across his face.
Had someone bashed him at some point?
Ms. had stopped where the wall met the window, and she reached for something that was sitting in a holder. It was a remote.
“What would you say if I told you he noticed you, too, Scarlet?”
I’d figured that much out, but hearing her say it… l burned. I ached. I was one pulsing heartbeat, my body booming and taking my breath away.
Ms. aimed the remote at a huge flat screen TV perched in an upper corner near the ceiling. The screen flickered to life, showing an icon that symbolized a video that was queued up.
“He sent this earlier. Watch it, Scarlet, then tell me what you think afterward.”
If her tone held a sense of warning, I didn’t want to hear it. I was going to see him, hear him, solve the mystery of him. His voice, his face…his scar.
But when Ms. finally turned all the way around and the light from the window bathed her, I flinched, steeped in an even deeper mystery.

And it was because there was a scar slashing across the upper right side of her face—one that seemed to continue where Sebastian Bendt’s had left off.

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