Welcome to The Castle.
Hannah Alder used to know who she was. She used to be strong, have confidence… then the thing happened, and suddenly Hannah seems to have lost everything… including herself.
Freshly-released from her father’s hospital, she is banished from home, sent to live with an uncle who puts her to work for the summer, interning under the chief building inspector in a small Ohio town. No one knows her, yet – somehow – everyone seems to know exactly why she’s there.
It’s while on the job that Hannah first discovers The Castle, a massive stone structure set in the wheat fields of Ohio. It’s soon-to-be THE vacation destination for the kink-inclined… if the Doms who run it can ever get it properly permitted and licensed, but Hannah’s nasty boss is determined that that will never happen. While on an inspection visit, one Dom in particular catches Hannah’s eye: Master Sam–strong, dark, wickedly-attractive, every inch of him the very last thing someone like Hannah needs in her life.
Sam Cooper sees Hannah coming a mile away, tripping on her high-heels in a poorly-fitted business suit, Girl Friday to the building inspector who’s determined to shut them down before they even open. Sam is experienced in the BDSM world, a partner in a major kink-friendly resort… definitely not his first rodeo. Yet what he sees in Hannah’s astonished eyes as he gives her a private tour of The Castle makes him do something he can’t believe: he slips her his business card.
Will Hannah call? Of course not. Not when she’s working so hard to get back everything she’s lost. She’s getting better after all…
Sometimes what you fight the hardest, is what you need the most.
?Shit,? Sam said as soon as he was close enough for Marshall to hear him over the cacophony of hammers, saws, coordinated shouting and all the cursing that went along with sixty workers and a fully operational re-construction site. ?It?s Goodson again.?
?Yeah, I recognized the car.? Passing the building plans to his foreman, Marshall turned to watch the car park. Sam looked up at the castle?their castle?a fifteenth century monstrosity of cool gray stone, lovingly shipped block by block from its native Scottish soil on three different boats before finally meandering its way, first by train and then by truck, into this long-abandoned Ohio wheat field. The outside was almost complete. Only the outer walls and towers (and a smattering of outbuildings, but they?d get to those when they could) were still under construction. The interior renovations had started, but there was still a lot left to do. The stairs had gone up just last night and over half the marble had yet to be laid, but give it another month?just one more month of sixty hard-working men, most of them future guests and volunteers?and the Castle, Marshall?s life-long ambition and Sam?s fondest daydream (first, at age six because he was just nerdy enough to want to be a knight when he grew up, and then later on in early manhood, when his kink had grown in and all he could think about was wanton maidens being spanked and deflowered in the most deliciously depraved ways) would be ready for play.
That is?if they could somehow convince Inspector Goodson to sign their remaining operating licenses and permits.
Zoning and construction had been embarrassingly easy to get by comparison. Those inspectors were all business, making their tours of the site, checking off all concerns on their clipboards with minimal interest in the end game. Hell, not only had the Fire Marshall passed them, but he and his wife had already quietly signed on as guests during the Castle?s opening weekend.
But not Goodson. Oh no. Not Goodson.
This was his third visit to the partially completed Castle and their first appeal. Apparently, Goodson had a problem with BDSM and now, if Marshall couldn?t convince the county inspector to grant all their licensing and use permits, the Castle would not be opening for business.
Sam took a deep and calming breath, swallowed back the urge just to walk out there and punch the sanctimonious prick. Instead, he let Marshall walk out ahead of him to greet the man who had made it his single-minded goal to destroy not only the two of them, but every one of the six core members who had risked their entire financial futures to make this dream a reality.
Having parked, Goodson was just getting out of his car. Noticing he was being watched, the inspector smiled broadly?a crocodile smile if Sam ever saw one?and raised his hand in greeting.
?Who?s that with him?? Sam asked, suddenly noticing the woman trailing along in Goodson?s shadow.
?I don?t know.? Marshall raised his hand in turn. He even managed to smile, albeit through gritted teeth (something Goodson wouldn?t be able to see from there) and his sharp blue gaze drifted past the inspector to the slender brunette. She was small, barely coming to the top of Goodson?s shoulder. She must be familiar with job sites. Although she wore a dress suit (pants would have been better), at least she had the sense to wear flat shoes. The parking lot hadn?t yet been graded and graveled; heels would have sunk all the way in and could have resulted in a broken ankle within steps.
?Just say the word,? Sam growled into his best friend?s ear. ?I can have Casey and that big-ass strap-on of hers down here in ten minutes. Another ten after that, I guarantee we?ll have our permits.?
Marshall almost laughed. ?Not if he enjoys it.?
?Ha. Twelve ounces of jalapeno lube says he doesn?t enjoy anything for days.?
Now Marshall did laugh. ?And the brunette??
Sam looked at her, turning her ear to something Goodson was saying and tugging at the sleeve of her business jacket as if she were trying to hide her arm from view. There was a story there, and his Dom?s curiosity perked to know it. He looked her over, as if seeing her for the first time all over again. She was a pretty little thing. He was a great admirer of pretty little things. Too bad she worked for the enemy. He smirked. ?We?ll tag-team her.?
?Ha. But now you?re thinking about it too, aren?t you?? Sam lowered his voice because both Goodson and the woman were close enough now to overhear them. His dark eyes roved her one last time, but then he snorted. ?Heaven help us if she?s anything like Goodson. I?d probably need an icepick just to crack those pretty legs open.?
Marshall grunted, a non-committal sound, and Sam, burly arms folded across his chest and one finger stroking idly back and forth across his lip, found himself wondering if it might not be worth the effort.