Emma, a free-spirited bookstore owner in Orlando, keeps her business afloat with innovative ideas. Her most popular evening event is Story Brothel, where customers can pay writers to read aloud to them in a story-time for two, complete with cocktails. Despite the name, the event is usually tame.
But things take a steamy turn when a handsome, urbane businessman hires Emma for a session in a private cabana. Daringly, she shares with him a reading of her erotica. Soon both of them are feeling the effects … and Emma’s wondering what kind of lover is underneath his expensive suit.
Caleb may be a billionaire real estate mogul, but he’s never been captivated by a woman as he is by the lovely, quirky Emma. Her rockabilly vintage dresses make him long to strip them off and do very wicked things to her. And her refusal to share her personal life only makes him more curious.
Soon the couple are spending every available moment together. But Emma’s building is in danger of being razed out from under her bookstore … and worse, Caleb may be behind her problems. Can she trust him with her life as she does with her body? Or will the prickly walls built during her harsh past keep them apart?
“How much?” he asked. It was a sexy voice, a deep voice, and I smiled—a smile that alluded to everything but promised nothing, aware of appearing coy and knowing and not-too-eager.
I was in the mood to flirt.
Before I could answer, my friend Sarah broke in. “It’s two dollars a minute. Two dollars, one minute of reading. Half goes to charity, half goes to the writer. But you can negotiate with the writer, if you know what I mean.”
The man smiled and ran a thumb over his full bottom lip as he looked me up and down.
Sarah laughed and wiggled her dark brows. “That’s why I called it Story Brothel. It’s between the reader—” she clapped him on the shoulder “—and the writer. God, I love this. I feel like a madam. Like the Heidi Fleiss of Florida fiction.”
She reached to squeeze my arm, then leaned into me and lowered her voice playfully. “Remember: half for charity. No skimming.”
I rolled my eyes. “Like I’d do that.” Sarah stood on her tiptoes and kissed me on the cheek.
“He looks rich. Maybe he’ll pay you extra so you can save the bookstore,” she whispered.
I scowled, not wanting a reminder of work. This was my rare night out, a time when I wasn’t buried in orders or paperwork or my writing. It was when I transformed myself from serious shop owner into romance writer, like some pulp fiction superheroine. Glasses off; wild, curly hair down; blood-red lipstick staining every napkin and cocktail rim in my path.
And maybe this man’s mouth in a short while. I was long overdue for male attention. At least, that’s what I told myself as I took in his charcoal suit, his crisp white shirt, and the platinum glint of a wristwatch dial. I hadn’t been kissed in a long time—not well, at least. And not by a man this interesting looking.
An unfamiliar song came on, some Arabic-lounge groove with strong, heavy drums. It was how my heart felt against my ribcage. Sarah moved into the crowd. I kept smiling. So did he.
“Story Brothel,” he murmured in a voice so low I could barely hear the words. Because he was tall, he had to tilt his face and his gunmetal-blue eyes downward to look at me.
I shook my head dramatically and clicked my tongue against the roof of my mouth. “You don’t seem like the type of man who’d come to an event like this.”
“I don’t?” His eyes glittered and teased. They were such a gorgeous hue that popped against his long, dark lashes. He wasn’t the most handsome man I’d ever seen, but he radiated confidence and sensuality. His features—high cheekbones, a slightly big nose, a strong jaw—wouldn’t have stood out on their own, but the combination was irresistibly masculine. Intriguing. Fuckable.
“No. And I’ve never seen you here before.”
“This isn’t a one-time only thing?”
“It’s a monthly thing, for the Orlando Literacy Council.”
“So you’re an experienced…story…?” He motioned in a half-circle with his hand, and a salacious grin crept on his face.
“Whore?” I offered with mock innocence.
“You said it. I didn’t.”
That made me giggle.
“What’s that quote about writing and prostitution?” he asked.
I tilted my head, and a grin the size of the Everglades stretched across my face. It was impossible not to react because his question surprised me. Even though I owned a bookstore, meeting well-read, hot men was a rare event in my central Florida city, which was better known as the home of a giant cartoon mouse.
“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love…”He chimed in. “…then you do it for your friends, and then for money.”
During the day, Tamara Lush writes news as a journalist with The Associated Press. At night, she writes fictional romance tales about complicated, sexy men and the women who love them.
Her first full-length novel, HOT SHADE, was published in September 2015 with Boroughs Publishing Group. INTO THE HEAT is her second full-length novel and it’s also with Boroughs.
TELL ME A STORY is Tamara’s first novella. It’s a stand-alone story with a happy-for-now ending, and more stories about the characters are in the works.
When Tamara isn’t reporting, writing or reading, she’s doing yoga, cooking for her Italian husband or chasing her dogs on a beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast. She loves connecting with people on social media.