After overhearing two crooked Chicago cops plotting against her, Avery Pierce goes on the run, not knowing who she can trust. When her low finances force her to take a job as a sex phone operator, she struggles, so when a caller senses her desperation and inexperience and offers assistance, she’s tempted to agree.

As soon as Sheriff Grayson Monroe meets the new waitress at his favorite diner, something about her strikes a familiar chord. When he sees her enter The Barn, his lifestyle club, the desire to get to the bottom of her evasive eyes and answers to his probing questions takes hold. He’s determined to find out who she really is and what is troubling her.

After an icy mishap, Master Grayson has finally run out of patience. One way or another, Avery will tell him the truth. But is it too late? Has danger already found her? Can Grayson come to her rescue or will she lose everything she has just gained?

Publisher’s Note: This is book two in the Cowboy Doms series but can be read as a standalone. This steamy contemporary Western romance contains elements of power exchange, sensual scenes, danger, mystery and suspense.

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Chapter One

The flashing outline of the neon red motel sign bled through the curtained window, shedding an eerie glow into the darkened room and distracting Avery Pierce from glaring at the cell phone she’d tossed onto the bed beside her. Propped against the headboard, she tightened her clasped hands, trying not to panic over her current destitute circumstances, which had just worsened after her first attempt at this new job ended in such a failed, embarrassing fiasco. With a mental headshake, she wondered why she’d ever thought she could pull this off. Relax, would you? You’re so fucking uptight you’re as rigid as a fucking virgin. She could still recall Darren’s comments the first time they’d had sex, and how they’d made her feel inept and unappealing, the same as her first caller had just made her feel. 

A phone sex operator. What the heck had she been thinking? Her lack of experience with both sex and men in general had been glaringly obvious to her ex as well as to the man who hung up on her after less than a minute. At that rate, the extraordinary high hourly pay she’d been promised would take weeks to earn instead of the day or two she’d been hoping for. Heck, she bemoaned on a sigh, if her next caller ended their conversation that fast, she might not get a third chance, and then how would she get out of Springfield and continue with putting as much distance as possible between herself and Darren?

Avery’s minimal college dating experiences had taught her most guys didn’t go for brainy geeks with mousy brown hair best left worn in a braid and wearing black-framed glasses, and those who did didn’t stick around. By the time she’d reached the age of twenty-nine, the only man she’d let herself trust after those depressing break-ups had been Detective Darren Lancaster, and her chest tightened against the instant up kick of her heart rate just thinking about him caused.

The phone pealed again and she jumped, her palm growing clammy as she picked it up. With less than a hundred dollars left of her meager savings and not knowing whom she could trust, she needed enough cash to get out of Illinois altogether. Two weeks and the two hundred miles she’d put between her and Chicago and the corrupt cop who had played her for a fool wasn’t nearly enough. As sleazy as this job was, it was the only thing she’d found that would pay in cash and that she could do quickly without having to fill out traceable paperwork. Between being an avid connoisseur of suspense novels and working at the police department, she at least knew of a few things to do, and not to do, to stay hidden for as long as possible. She also knew nothing was failsafe or could last forever.

Taking a deep breath, Avery followed a tip Esmerelda passed on when she hired her and draped the thin scarf intended to disguise her voice as huskier than it really was over the phone given to her by the agency. Pressing the green button, she answered, praying she could do a better job keeping this person on the line longer than she had with her first attempt at seducing a stranger over the phone.

“Midnight Whispers. How can I pl… please you?” Avery winced at her stutter, those words tripping her up the same as with the first call. She chilled at the slight pause, but when the voice finally came through, the deep, amused rumble sent an unexpected wave of warmth through her.

“Excuse me, sugar. I must have dialed wrong.”

“Wait!” Panic and desperation turned her voice reed thin as she tried to stop him from hanging up. “Please, can you just… talk to me for a minute?” How stupid, she moaned, knocking her head against the headboard. At the price per minute they would charge him why would he stay on the line? He paused again and then asked her a question that threw her for a loop with his astuteness.

“You in some kind of trouble, sugar?”

“I… why do you ask that?” Was the man a mind reader?

“Let’s say I’m good at listening to women, hearing what they need without them saying so. It can help to talk, even to a stranger,” he offered, surprising her yet again.

Not in this case. If only she could. Confiding in someone, anyone would be such a relief. But telling anyone how Darren had used her and ensured she would fall under suspicion should his evidence stealing ever be discovered was not an option, at least not until she could find a way to keep her name clear.

“N… no, there’s nothing I need to… talk about.” She sighed in despondency. “I… I’m just desperate for money,” she admitted. Why not? At least that much was true, and at this point she had nothing to lose by revealing that personal tidbit to a stranger. Damn it, there he went with another pregnant pause, leaving her struggling to swallow past the lump of dread lodged in her throat as she waited for the buzz of a disconnected call to ring in her ear.

“And this was your only option?” Doubt colored the rich tenor of his voice before turning to one of regret. “I’m sorry. I’ll let you get back to work then.”

“Wait!” she gasped again, not believing she was about to do this. Given how nice he’d been so far, what could it hurt? It wasn’t like they would ever meet. And what other choice did she have? “Would you mind giving me… some pointers? You know, on what I could say that might…” Avery winced, gripped the phone tighter and rushed to say, “make you want to keep talking to me?”

Amusement crept back into his voice as he returned in a dry tone, “You really are desperate and out of your depth, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” she breathed. There was no point in denying the obvious.

“I’m much better at telling and showing women what they want, what turns them on. Let’s go with that and then you can turn it around for your next caller. Are you somewhere private?”

He wanted to turn her on? Good luck with that. Her responses to sex had always been lukewarm, at best, and ever since discovering Darren’s shocking betrayal, the thought of any kind of intimacy left her cold. But Avery was so thrilled with his willingness to stay on the line, she didn’t hesitate to go along with him. What he didn’t know about her couldn’t hurt either of them. “I’m alone, at my place.” She fudged the location but figured the motel room where she’d stayed holed up for the last twelve days was her place as long as she paid the rate.

“Good. One thing,” he cautioned with a hard edge to his voice that drew a shiver. “I insist on honesty. Deal?”

“Deal,” she readily agreed, deciding it wouldn’t be her fault if he failed to get anywhere with her. The closest she’d come to relaxing enough to let go with a pleasurable release were the times Darren’s frustration with her in the bedroom had brought out his take-charge attitude. His succinct ‘flip over’ or ‘ride me’ commands had enabled her to shove aside worries over whether she was pleasing him or doing something he didn’t like. Those few times always left her wondering if her orgasm would have been stronger if his focus hadn’t then switched to himself and his pleasure.

“Then we’ll start with something simple. Tell me what you’re wearing.”

She glanced down with a grimace at her baggy jeans and plain pink tee shirt. Well, he did insist on honesty. “Nothing exciting, I’m afraid. Just jeans and a tee.”

“Clothes don’t need to be sexy or tantalizing. It’s how you obey my instructions on getting out of them that will please me. Are you wearing a bra, panties? You didn’t mention those.”

Avery frowned at the light note of censure behind his last statement. “I wasn’t aware you wanted every item.”

“And now you are. If I were there with you, you would have earned five swats for the sarcasm I heard in your defensive voice.”

Swats? “As in spanking?” she squeaked, a sudden rise of heat covering her face. He must have been joking.  

“As in.”

“You can’t be serious,” she returned, still unsure over whether or not he was putting her on.

“As a heart attack, sugar. But since I don’t have that discipline option, watch your tone if you want this to continue,” he warned, his tone now lacking all humor.

Oh, wow. She was more out of her depth now than when she’d first taken his call, only in a better way financially, she mused, surprised at how much time she’d already clocked on this call. Doing the math in her head, she figured she could get through anything he ordered without balking as long as he was willing to stay on the line.

“Sorry,” she replied. “This is all so… strange.” That truth was an easy admittance.

“Good girl. Your honesty pleases me.” Warm approval softened his tone, but her delicate shiver in response to his voice remained the same. “Now, finish telling me what you’re wearing.”

“A bra and panties. No shoes or socks, no jewelry.” There, that should cover all possibilities.

“Excellent. Remove your top without setting the phone down.”

Even knowing she was alone, Avery couldn’t keep from casting a quick glance around the room and then toward the curtain-covered window. “I’ll try,” she stated, cocking her head until the phone sat pressed between her shoulder and ear. Pulling her arms through the sleeves, she maneuvered the shirt over the right side of her head and then grabbed the phone with her right hand before shaking the tee down and off her left arm. “There! I did it!” she exclaimed with a pant, rather proud of herself.

His low chuckle drew goosebumps of pleasure along her arms. “You have potential, sugar. That also pleases me. Describe your bra.”

The inherent demand in his voice kept her from asking what he meant by the word potential. Since she didn’t want to risk him hanging up, she shoved aside her curiosity to keep him talking. Remembering his insistence on the truth, she replied, “I hate to disappoint you, but it’s plain white, nothing fancy, no padding.” She injected humor behind her next words. “That’s what you get for demanding honesty.”

“Your ceding to my demands turns me on more than what you’re wearing. Remove it and describe your breasts.”

“You want me to talk about my own breasts?” Avery never imagined herself doing such a thing, but then, she also never dreamed she would be conversing like this with a stranger.

“Since I can’t see them, yes.” When she hesitated, he added, “Remember, your job is to excite me.”

Avery blew out a breath and shrugged out of her bra. Her nipples beaded from the brush of cool exposure, or maybe because of the tremors his deep voice induced. She’d never experienced such a strong effect from a man, let alone from the deep timbre of his voice. Add in his air of authority and sex-backed demands that seemed to stir something new, exciting and a touch unnerving deep inside her and was it any wonder her body perked up and took notice?

“I’m waiting.”

Guilt sluiced through Avery. He was kind enough to instruct her at a high financial cost to him, she shouldn’t push her luck or his generosity. “Sorry. I’m not sure what to say. I’m a size thirty-four C, and fair skinned.”

“Very good. Is your skin pale all over, or do you never sunbathe topless?”

A giggle burst free. She would have to gain a ton of courage before she’d ever be brave enough to parade outside showing more than a hint of cleavage. “Both, and since I don’t draw a lot of male appreciation, I’ve never imagined doing anything so risqué. Besides, it’s too cold outside.”

“Don’t bring practicality into it; that’s a sure way to lose your caller’s interest.” He grew quiet again, and she held her breath. When he spoke, his next instruction cut off her sigh of relief. “And your nipples? Describe them, please.” Despite the polite phrasing, his words still came through as a command.

“Uh, they’re pale pink, not small but not big either.” Damn, this wasn’t easy, she thought, wondering about his reaction to that vague description.

Avery quit worrying when he said, “I would enjoy fucking your breasts, stroking between the fleshy mounds as you held them together. Tug on your nipples.”

The erotic image he’d implanted in her head sent another rush of heat over her face, only this time the warmth invaded her pussy, leaving her with another surprising response to question later. As she reached up to pluck her right nub, the stimulating touch added to the cocoon of intimacy he’d drawn around her with his smooth, deep voice. Avery no longer heard the night traffic outside the window or the loud voices coming from the adjoining room, only the deep timbre of his voice and the staccato thumping of her heart.

“Feel good, sugar?” he crooned, leaving her to wonder if he’d caught the shallow sound of her increased breathing as she toyed with her nipple.

“Y… yes. But what about you?” How mortifying it would be if he were completely unaffected by this conversation.

“I like that you think of me as you’re playing with yourself,” he returned without answering her question. “Now, grasp your nipple between thumb and forefinger and pinch until I tell you to stop.”

“Why?” she asked even as she obeyed the order. Her nipple warmed and pulsed under her grip, the sensation soon repeating itself deep inside her core.

“Because I want to test your threshold for discomfort, and your response to something alternative. A little tighter. Your breathing hasn’t turned to shallow pants yet.”

That astuteness shook Avery as much as the pinch of pain she delivered to her tender bud. To her shock, instead of turning her off, the sharp, needle prick induced a surge of pleasure that engulfed her entire breast and tickled her pussy into quivering. “Oh,” she breathed, startled at the exalted sensations.

“Oh good or bad?” he insisted on knowing.

“Good, in a strange way.” Very strange. Who would have thought?

“I’ll take that,” he said, his voice laced with satisfaction. “Let go and we’ll move on.”

Avery released her nipple and gasped as blood rushed to the engorged tip, adding to her discomfort with sharp pinpricks of stabbing pain. “You could’ve warned me,” she snapped, disconcerted by her immediate reaction to the pulsating ache. Clamping a hand over the throbbing, tortured bud, she rotated her palm to ease the soreness. She wasn’t sure what would alleviate the reciprocating palpitations between her legs.

“I could do a lot of things, sugar, like hang up. Apologize for your tone.”

The hard-edged, stern rebuke reminded Avery of the huge favor he was doing her and drew her attention to her escalated aroused state, a result of that tight grip on such a tender part of her body. “I… I’m sorry. That was… unexpected.”

“I’m guessing all your responses to this conversation have been unlike anything you’ve felt before. It excites me to know I’ve gifted you with a new experience and opened your eyes and mind to new possibilities. If you want to continue, remove your jeans and panties.”

Did she want to go further? She was much more relaxed and comfortable having a sex-charged conversation with a stranger, but now there was more going on with her than just insecurity over her ability to entice a man over the phone. Her body clamored for something she couldn’t define, her mind awash with a need to grasp whatever relief and pleasure she could now because tomorrow wavered with uncertainty. The thought of losing the deep rumble of his voice in her ear or talking to anyone else tonight turned her cold, and she knew both need and curiosity demanded she continue.

“I want to keep going, if you do.” Her conscience and gratitude demanded she at least warn him about the financial cost he was incurring. “But in case you don’t already know, you’re being charged by the minute. A lot.” Avery held her breath, praying that wouldn’t matter.

“I do, and yes, I know that, sugar.”

***

Sheriff Grayson Monroe leaned back in his home office desk chair and shifted his hips to ease the tight press of his erection against his zipper. With the phone to his ear, he glanced at the time and winced, wondering what the hell he was doing. What started as a good deed would leave him with a hefty financial price to pay, as she’d just cautioned him. Still, there had been something in the woman’s frantic voice when she’d asked him to hang on that had alerted him to trouble, and the longer he spoke with her the more her soft, breathy tone of uncertainty and fear tugged at his dominant instincts. The sparks of irritation with his instructions she let slip out tickled him and he was glad she hadn’t allowed whatever trouble she was in to beat her down completely.

The rustle of clothing and her increased breathing whispered through the phone. Pressing one wrong digit on the toll free number he’d been dialing was proving to be an entertaining, if costly mistake.

“Okay. They’re off.”

“So, you’re naked?” He tried picturing her body and wondered if the rest of her was as lush as her description of her breasts sounded.

“Yes.” That small catch in her voice stirred him again. Fuck, but that sound got to him.

“Excellent. Now, since it’s your job to excite your caller, you’ll want to entice him, or her to touch themselves with the goal of getting them off. But, not too fast since your pay depends on you keeping them on the line as long as possible.”

“What do you mean ‘or her’?”

Grayson rubbed his brow in bemusement at the surprise in her tone. Phone sex with a newbieWho would have thought? He had figured this outlet of sexual diversion had gone out with the internet, but here he was, trying to use his knowledge as an experienced Dom to give a scared stranger instructions on the job. He didn’t mind and was enjoying himself even if the whole scenario would have sounded incongruous before tonight.

“Men aren’t the only perverts out there, sugar,” he drawled with a touch of humorous sarcasm. Imagining what he would order her to do if she were a sub at his club, he stated, “Bend your knees and widen them. Your position should leave your labia spread and display your pretty pussy.”

“Okay, done,” she breathed.

“Excellent. Now, bend over and name a fruit that best describes what you’re eyeing between your folds.”

Sheesh.” Her muttered shock came through the line loud and clear.

“That and your delay would earn you another few swats. I’m waiting.” He loved those small gasps that hinted her body was on board even if her mind wasn’t. Those little signs of submissiveness would be a delight to explore under different circumstances.

“Fine, uh, watermelon. How’s that?”

The whispered need for approval made Grayson wish he could give it to her in person. “Good girl. Your words have my cock hardening as I picture your juicy, dark pink flesh. Putting an image into your caller’s head will egg them on. Now, using one finger on the inside of your thigh, up by your knee, start making small circles.”

“Why?” she questioned him again, her breathlessness leaving Grayson to wonder if she was imagining the erection she caused.

“Because I said to.” She huffed, but the sigh that followed told him she liked the light teasing touch. “Since your knee is bent, move downward, widening your circles with each shift toward your crotch. Does that feel good?” He spoke without pause to keep her from questioning herself too much. The time for introspection could come later, after they hung up.

“Yes, but sort of tickles. I’m… there with the next circle.”

“Excellent. Once you hit the crease where your bent leg meets your pussy, your circle should be wide enough your finger will glide up your spread labia. Do it.”

Jesus. That little catch in her voice was enough to turn his cock into a steel rod that threatened to bust through his fucking zipper. Biting back a groan of self-inflicted frustration, Grayson decided to reward her before turning her loose to fend for herself with the next caller. Although, after checking the time again, she may have just made enough with him to call it a night.

“Circle your clit next, pressing a little harder. Pretend I’m watching you and your main goal is to please and excite me. I want to hear you climax.”

“Oh, God,” she moaned, her low voice carrying a tortured undertone that tore at his composure and had him questioning, again, what trouble had landed her in such a desperate state.

“Harder now, sugar. A little faster.” Her breath caught again, a small sound that ripped through him before her cry resonated in his ear, ringing of both surprise and relief. He gave her a few more minutes to come down from the pleasure, to clear her head and remember he was there with her.

“I…” She sucked in a gasping breath. “I… never… thank you,” she ended on a long sigh.

“You’re welcome.” He paused a moment before asking, “Are you sure you don’t want to tell me what happened that you ended up with this as your only option?”

“I’m sure.” She didn’t hesitate over that answer, and he’d done all he could to help her but couldn’t resist offering one more boon before hanging up. “Look, if you’re ever near Willow Springs, Montana, stop and ask for Grayson Monroe. I might be able to help you.”

***

With her body still shuddering from small aftershocks of pleasure she’d never achieved before, Avery gasped at his generous, unexpected offer. “Are you serious?” He couldn’t be, she decided. He was just being nice. But his parting words gave her pause.

“As a heart attack, sugar. You take care.”

The sudden dial tone buzzing in her ear cleared the remaining euphoric fog clouding her head. When she saw how long they’d been talking, a different kind of warmth spread through her sated, quivering body. Dialing the number Esmerelda gave her to both check in and sign off, she took her number off the list for the night before they put any more calls through to her phone. Even if she hadn’t made enough with his call, after that experience, there was no way she could concentrate enough to talk with anyone else right now. Not only was she still reeling from a stranger’s generosity of time, money and concern, but her limited and disappointing sexual past hadn’t prepared her for such an explosive response to a deep, commanding voice giving erotic instructions.

He’d left her with just one burning question waiting for an answer. Where did she go from here?