Monday, August 18, 2014

Preview the First Chapter of MASQUERADE by Lace Daltyn

Masquerade (Secrets, 1)
by Lace Daltyn


The world is full of secrets...

Drea Fortier, a reclusive philanthropist whose painful past influences her belief that there can be no happily ever after for her, reaches out to help others in the hope she can transform their pain and give them hope for the future. Drea’s own story, as well as that of her assistant, Michael Smith, is slowly revealed throughout the Secrets series.

Book One: Masquerade

Frigid bitch. The words seep into Beth Ritmour's soul, no matter how hard she tries to deny them. A year after her divorce, they still haunt her. So when a mysterious benefactor offers a solution to her problem, Beth takes a vacation from her job as a dental hygienist and follows a cryptic note to Chicago, where she’s soon ensconced as a waitress at Club Masquerade. Although how she’s going to prove she’s not frigid is hard to figure out when the boss makes it very clear that sex, or any precursors to sex, with patrons or employees is strictly taboo. It’s not an easy rule to follow, especially when one deliciously hot bartender keeps very, very close tabs on her.


Secrets, 1

Lace Daltyn

Copyright © 2014


Michael Smith walked off the elevator of the New York high-rise, vigilant as always as he strode down the taupe-shaded hall. Two exceptions spoiled the pretense that this hallway was like any other.

First, only two doors were visible. One, he knew, opened to a secure stairwell that led up to a rooftop helipad or down twenty floors to the underground garage. The second door, which he stood in front of now, led to what he’d come to think of as the inner sanctum.

The other big difference about this hallway was the sophisticated security system that guarded each door. Michael glanced up at the camera following his movements. He’d worked enough protection details to know the PIN and thumbprint pad beside the door was top notch.

A wariness bred by too many back-door ops made him glance over his shoulder before entering the access code. No one was ever behind him. Michael rubbed the back of his neck, recognizing that his employer’s paranoia had rubbed off on him. That wasn’t the only thing, either. A memory of lips tinted with ruby-colored disdain caused him to botch the code, and he endured the required wait time before trying again, knowing she watched him. Knowing she waited for him.

Knowing she knew his thoughts had been of her.

Fuck. How much crap would he tolerate? This struggle of wills was making him say and do things completely against his nature. He’d found out the hard way that being submissive only got him screwed. The promise he’d made himself to never take orders again was sitting like a lump of acid in his throat.

It’s worth it he told himself. She’s worth it.

The room he entered looked like a hybrid living area. A neat, uncluttered modular desk shared space with the futon he’d used more than once as a bed. A small fridge with a combination coffee and water station on top and a low table under the sole window in the room, completed the furnishings.
Michael stowed his duffle and crossed to the table. Grabbing the spray bottle, he lifted the plastic that kept several different species of orchids thriving and misted the dirt. Orchids very much like his boss, both fragile and tough at the same time.

After making tea, he knocked on the door to her office. Entering, Michael reached for the light switch, then pulled his hand back as he remembered.

No lights.

Only a computer screen and one single, shroud-shielded lamp behind the desk provided what little illumination the room held. The rest remained in shadow, swirled in whispers of un-divulged sorrows Michael could only guess at.

He knew his employer was young. Mid-twenties at the most. Slender, unlined fingers as yet untouched by time moved with delicate precision across the keyboard. These were his only indication of her age.

His employer sat behind a black desk, its finish dulled to swallow any light that touched its surface. Even the chrome edges, polished to perfection, found little to reflect.

Though she sat with a posture that only comes with much training, Michael had yet to see her face. Each time he entered, she pulled the ever-present hooded cloak tighter, hiding all but the tip of her alabaster nose and lips that made his balls tighten with each glimpse. Painted blood-red, they were full and lush as if designed for the sole purpose of sucking a guy’s cock.

What enticed him just as much, though, was her voice. Low and sultry, it called to him like a siren. It was as if she had been trained as a courtesan. What little he could see and hear was designed to please, to draw him closer.

Michael felt the familiar hardening of his cock and repressed the desire to indulge the fantasies that had invaded his nights. Her lips, quirked at the edges, reminded him she knew the effect she had on him and Michael tried to bury his arousal deep. He wanted her, needed her like he needed air to breathe. Had ever since starting this gig three months ago. But not for some one-night roll in the hay, glorious as that would be.

For now, he would have to settle for assisting her in other ways.

“Your tea, Drea,” he said, setting the cup at the edge of her desk.

Those lips tightened for the briefest moment. “I have asked you repeatedly to call me Ms. Fortier.”

Michael fought the urge to close his eyes and let her words settle around him like his own cloak. Instead, he slid into the cocky grin he knew annoyed her. “I know.”

“Then why do you not comply? And jeans? Really, Michael. What sort of secretary wears jeans to the office?”

“The sort that doesn’t have normal hours. The sort that works in his boss’s home and got hired because he could maintain and fly that fancy helicopter.” He pointed toward the ceiling. “The sort that does everything from research to security to unclogging drains.”

He wanted to lean toward her, get closer. To smell the elusive spice that defined Drea Fortier. A quick intake of breath warned him he must have shifted in her direction. Her hand shot up to ward off any contact, and the sleeve of her cloak fell back.

Too late, she pulled it down. Too late, he saw the jagged, puckered dots on her forearm. Scars he knew only the hot end of a cigarette could make, and at an angle that was obviously not self-inflicted. Scars that exposed a past even nightmares could not do justice to. Scars he could not erase for her, no matter how much he wished for exactly that.

Michael stepped back, his fists tight against his sides to keep him from pounding a thousand holes in the wall with his bare hands. He knew about pain, both good and bad. This was very bad. Drea had seen violence in her life. When and how he didn’t know, but he intended to find out.

For now, he suppressed the questions, and his libido, and allowed her the rigid control she clung to like a lifeline. Some day in the near future, he would help Drea move beyond her past. First, though, she must learn to trust him. Michael quieted his breathing, focused on lips now pulled in a tight line, and uncurled his fingers.

“I apologize—”

“Don’t.” Sultry gave way to steel as she spoke. Arms clutched across her stomach stretched out as she placed her palms on the desk. No one would notice the slight tremor in her hands or the almost nonexistent hitch to her voice.

No one except him.

“We will not speak of this again.”

It took a granite will to acquiesce to her demand. He nodded, certain that if he spoke, he’d say enough to get an instant pink slip. He couldn’t leave her. Not now.

Maybe not ever.

Drea turned to her computer. “I’ve selected an applicant and would like you to do the usual research and background check.”

Finding the switch back to business difficult to match, Michael grunted his consent, executed a military about-face, and closed the office door behind him with quiet precision.

Sitting at his desk, he stared at the application on his screen. Another lost soul his employer chose to help. He’d thought her crazy when she first had him run the obscure advertisement, but this was the third one they’d worked on together. Helping others to heal seemed to feed her soul. And it proved to him that Drea knew what hope was. That, and that alone, provided the momentum for Michael’s belief that he could, in turn, help her. What had she gone through that she’d shut herself in this dark box? Michael meant to find the key.

One of these days, he’d unlock the secrets that had turned Drea into a recluse who trusted no one. One of these days, he’d find out who had scarred her, both physically and mentally.

And God help that person when he did.

 Masquerade (Secrets, 1) is available here:
B&N / AllRomance / Bookstrand

Other books in the Secrets series:
Ivory Tower (Secrets, 2)
Perception (Secrets, 3)
Coming Soon: Pandora's Shame (Secrets, 4)

Lace will choose one commenter to receive a free eCopy of Masquerade! Leave a comment or question below. Be sure to include your email address.


  1. Ooh, awesome excerpt, Lace!! Gave me chills. :) Thanks for sharing!