Title: Passion and Penance
Author: Lana Cordova
Publisher: Torquere Press
Cover Artist: Kris Norris
Release Date: 5-18-16
Heat Level: 4.5
Length: 52,700 words
Genre/Tags: Erotica, Romance, BDSM, Fantasy, Contemporary
Emily Jordan’s life as an English major is about to take an unexpected erogenous turn. In a critical financial pinch, she takes a year off from the university to work as a domestic for the billionaire Blackwood brothers in their lavish Kenilworth estate. She hopes to earn enough money to finish her master’s degree.
She barely arrives when she meets the twin Blackwood brothers who are both instantly attracted to her. Joel relishes in Emily’s every breath. Jackson is the tortured soul for whom passion and penance are synonymous. Joel is a tantric mystic who wants nothing more than to achieve nirvana. Jackson is the dominant brother who shoulders all responsibility for the family’s international industrial contracting and engineering firm. With Joel and Jackson, Emily explores two very different worlds of sensuality under the watchful eye of the abusive head housekeeper who condemns Emily’s every move.
Both brothers have their charms, and Emily finds them attractive, each in his own way. Will she choose passion or penance?
Previously published by Turquoise Morning Press.
I turned to find an attractive man with collar-length, sandy blond hair leaning out of a doorway down the hall. He buttoned his starched white shirt, slowly covering up a well-chiseled chest, and what must have been the remnant of summer’s tan. He flashed a roguish smile and stepped toward me, closing the door behind him.
“Mrs. Parsons as much as promised I wouldn’t last long here,” I answered.
“Don’t worry about Parsons,” he suggested. “You haven’t been here long enough to make a terminable mistake.” He emphasized the word terminable with a spot-on imitation of Mrs. Parsons’s stern voice.
For the first time since I’d accepted the job, I felt a little tension leaving my shoulders. I brushed away a stray spiral that had fallen from my ponytail and smiled back. “Oh, I don’t know,” I mused. “It seems I forgot to bring my uniform with me.”
“Well, I suspect you’ll be working in the nude, then.” His smile flashed with wicked delight as he laughed. Apparently, the thought of me working while naked aroused him.
The gleam in his teasing eyes held me transfixed. I yanked my attention away once I realized I stared like an awkward schoolgirl gawking at the team quarterback. “You realize you’re laughing at my certain demise.” I was only halfway teasing.
“You’ll be fine,” he assured me as he opened a door in the hallway. “This is the staff supply room. They keep uniforms in here.”
The room was a sizeable walk-in closet stocked with fresh linens, towels, and uniforms. “Thanks,” I offered gratefully as I searched the rack for a housekeeper’s black blouse and skirt in my size. Frowning, I glanced at him as I withdrew the uniform parts. “I don’t even know your name.” I looked around and found a starched white apron and cap on a nearby shelf.
“I’m Joel,” he answered and extended his hand.
His grip was warm and strong, making me realize how cold I still was.
“You’re freezing,” he noted with a scant suggestion of concern in his voice.
“No, I’m Emily,” I quipped.
“Oh, I see you’re a feisty one.” He smirked. “I like that in a woman.” He visually assessed me, slowly scanning me from head to toe.
I fought the flush I felt rising up my neck. Don’t blush, I told myself. I walked past him and out of the closet to make my way back toward my room. “Thank you, Joel,” I said in a more collegial tone. “I have to go now. Mrs. Parsons will be waiting.”
“You break my heart, princess,” he cried dramatically, clutching his chest and backing down the hallway.
“I think you’ll survive.” I shot him a forced I’m not buying it for one minute look.
He walked past the door from which he had come.
“You seem to have missed your room.” I remarked with a laugh.
“That’s not my room.” He gave a flirtatious smile and swaggered off as a woman’s muffled laughter came from behind the door. Another woman’s laugh joined from within the same room.
Back in my quarters, I fumed. Why am I always attracted to the bad boys? I was so annoyed with myself. It was as if I wore the romantic equivalent of a Kick Me sign everywhere I went. It was the main reason I’d sworn off relationships for the last couple of years to focus on my studies. The only drama I wanted in my life came from the pens of writers like Hugo, Dumas, and Yeats. I shoved thoughts of Joel’s perfect chest out of my mind as I quickly found my stockings and comfortable black work shoes in my bag. I put on the blouse and skirt. The stiffly starched fabric crackled like sails in the wind as I adjusted the uniform and tried to make it fit more comfortably. At least the knee-length skirt had kick pleats that would enable me to bend and move around quickly and easily to clean and dust.
Checking my appearance in the bathroom mirror, I couldn’t say I cared much for the overall look of the somber traditional housekeeper black outfit with French maid undertones, but it didn’t clash too wildly with my auburn hair. Using my fingers, I combed my stubborn curls into a bun and secured the puffy white cap over it with hairpins. Surveying myself one last time to prepare for Mrs. Parsons’s inspection, I noticed my eyes confessed my sleepless night and early trip this morning. I’d tossed and turned most of the night, apprehension about the new job interrupting my brief moments of rest. Overall, though, I felt I looked reasonably presentable. Mrs. Parsons already had low expectations for me after all.
I hurried back to the foyer where I found Mrs. Parsons waiting with an impatient expression on her face. She scowled at her watch, and I avoided meeting her face. By some means, it felt safer than encountering her head-on.
Beside Mrs. Parsons stood two other uniformed housekeepers and a man whom I presumed to be a butler, complete with black pants, white shirt, vest, and a towel over his arm. Nothing could have prepared me for the jolt I would feel upon seeing the other man with windswept-looking dark brown hair who stood with them. He wore a button down denim shirt, a professorial tweed jacket with elbow patches, and dark brown khakis.
“This is Mr. Jackson Blackwood, the master of the house,” Mrs. Parsons explained.
I looked up to greet Mr. Blackwood, and my breath caught in my throat as the air around us crackled. The attraction I felt for him was instant and undeniable. I noticed familiarity in the piercing green eyes behind his Wayfarer glasses. A flicker of sternness gave way to a softer gaze as he smiled and politely reached for my hand. Our fingertips touched, and I felt my pulse quicken, throbbing loud in my ear. It wasn’t only his strikingly sculpted features that made my throat go suddenly dry and my ears become deaf to anything but the sound of his voice. There was a tangible air of hypnotic virility about him I found irresistible. Something connected deep inside my chest, and I felt as though I finally belonged.
“Welcome, Miss Jordan,” he said. A palpable almost magnetic sensation drew me toward him and at the same time made me feel oddly exposed, as if he knew my thoughts. Our eyes met, and for a fleeting moment, I thought I saw a hint of awareness, a silent communication between us that said he had felt it too. His dark complexion and well-groomed stubble gave him the air of someone who spent much of his downtime outdoors. Though I wasn’t sure why, I somehow felt safer in his presence.
Suddenly, an arm reached around my shoulders from behind and startled me to attention. I turned to see that Joel had quietly sneaked up from the corridor.
“Sorry, Jackson old boy,” Joel addressed Mr. Blackwood, as he squeezed my shoulders. “I saw this one first.” His hand slid down my back and groped my bottom.
Angry and embarrassed beyond words, I almost slapped him. It took all of my resolve to keep from smacking him, but I was determined not to give him the satisfaction of a reaction. I could only imagine what his actions made them think about me. My imagination taunted me. Almost certainly, they would be thinking I was a prick tease, a fool, or both. I struggled to contain my frustration with Joel’s behavior. I dared to glance at the other staff. The butler looked away, tactfully avoiding the scene. The two housekeepers, however, looked at Joel with disapproving stares that seemed to also show a trace of something else. Was it jealousy?
“Mr. Blackwood!” Mrs. Parsons barked with an angry huff. “Do control yourself, sir.”
Confused, I looked from Joel to Jackson. Did she just call Joel Mr. Blackwood?
“I see you’ve met my baby brother Joel,” Jackson Blackwood groaned in an apologetic tone.
“Baby my ass!” Joel snickered. “I can take you any day, and I’m only an hour younger than you.”
I looked questioningly at Jackson.
Lana Cordova is a devotee or all things erotic, and she enjoys putting her lovers through their paces conducting research for her books. She enjoys nothing more than bringing sensual escapes to her readers or perhaps raising her neighbors’ eyebrows.
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