Authors: Raven McAllan
Copyright© 2013 Raven
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this
copyrighted work is illegal.
No part of
this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written
permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are
fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
To Paul and Doris for chocolate, virtual chocolate, hugs and nags.
for starting it all, and to all at
and Sour Cherry for their hard work.
for not throwing darts at me when she saw
it, and to everyone who reads my work. Thank you, all.
TO YOUR PARTNER
Dance Studio, 3
Mason dragged a brush through her unruly hair, and
winced at each tangle. No two ways about it, an hour to shower away the grime
and aches, and make herself half presentable was nowhere near long enough. She
glared at the clock and wondered, for goodness knows how often, if she'd done
the right thing. The pesky habitual thought irritated the hell out of her.
However, arguing with her cousin was equally as counter-productive. It wasn't
worth the time and effort it wasted because Marco always got his own way. Just
like the water torture, drip-nag, nag-drip until you gave in to save your
So Mason had
grumbled her way into stockings and suspenders, added a deep red thong and
matching bustier, and painted her nails. If she had to go out, then the war
paint would be fixed firmly in place. A mask was essential. With armor on, she'd
hopefully be able to play the part of confident, successful, businesswoman even
if inside she did feel a fraud.
In some ways, yes.
now, not since—
shut that thought down with a
mental snap. No more. Not now. No time.
Mason checked her black hair was tied back neatly,
and no smudges of paint still decorated her cheeks. Under her fingernails were
a different matter, but she hoped the varnish hid them. Trust her to have used
Mediterranean Blue gloss all day. Satisfied she'd scrubbed the signs of her
work, and a layer of skin away, she put on her jacket over the severe grey
dress she'd chosen to wear. With a grimace at her hands which needed a manicure,
she stood in front of the mirror, and twisted around to see her profile. She
really had to do something with her hair.
the rest of you,
a tiny voice niggled at her.
True she'd lost weight over the past year, but she
still retained her hour glass figure. If she did put on any weight, her Italian
genes would no doubt change hour glass into voluptuous. Mason had no wish for that,
not now. She liked her less ample, more manageable, physique. The bustier might
not be necessary for her figure, but it didn't half help her confidence, though
she didn’t know why. Ever since her stick-insect-shaped body developed curves, Mason
played them down. No cleavage enhancing bras in her wardrobe, just silk and
satin sexy, unpadded ones.
Maybe I really do see
it as armor?
I bet a psychiatrist would
have a field day with that admission.
do you feel the need to be protected? Why armor?
Shut up and get on with
Sometimes wished Marco to
Older than Mason by a month, her cousin made it his purpose in life to look
after her. It didn't matter how often Mason said she was fine, happy, and didn't
need his help, Marco ignored her.
Which explained why, on
this Thursday night, instead of a curry on a tray with her eReader, she was off
to have dinner with an unknown man in her cousin's restaurant.
A client, he's a
Though why we have to discuss paint selections over
dinner, I’ll never know.
The toot of a horn warned
taxi she'd ordered waited outside. Mason slipped her feet into killer heels—she
did love a good pair of
fuck me, if you
shoes, and freely admitted to being a mass of contradictions. With a last
look around, she picked up her shoulder bag, made sure she had keys, money,
rape alarm, and spray deodorant, and went outside. She checked she'd locked the
door then walked down the path to the road. Late spring in this part of
Scotland brought soft weather.
Soft gentle sunshine, soft
breezes, and all too often, soft rain.
At least it wasn’t raining now,
and Mason didn't have the added annoyance of frizzy hair. She might have her
dad's hair color, but it frizzed like her mum's did. One hint of damp and they
both looked like they'd been wired to the mains. Thank goodness for
The taxi firm was one she used a lot, and the driver
a typical dour Scot. Thankful for no inane chatter, Mason gave him the address
of the restaurant and sat back, letting the football commentary from the radio
wash over her. A few shouts and “you effin ref” told her the driver wasn't a
fan of the team who seemingly scored. He lapsed into silence, only to mutter
again as the traffic snarled up around the one-way system in the center of the
The cab lurched to a halt and Mason shot forward,
almost onto her knees. The last thing she needed was laddered stockings, and
she had no intention of dropping to her knees for anyone. Those days were long
gone. With a groan, Mason forced
nibbling her nails. Chipped polish wasn't a good look. Seriously, all she
wanted was a quiet life. She'd had the excitement, the love, and the
partnership with Michael. As she'd said to Marco to no avail, she'd been there,
done that and got the T-shirt. It’d been so perfect, it couldn't be equaled,
and she harbored no wish to try.
"You're thirty going on fifty,
, and I'm not
having it. Zia and Zio would be horrified to see what you're like.
Let alone Michael.
Do you think he'd want to see you like
He had a point.
Mason accepted Michael might be horrified, but it was
all too much effort. If she were honest, she was too darned scared to open
herself up again. When it all went pear-shaped, it hurt.
Worn down by Marco's
and knowing he spoke out of love, in the end Mason did as her cousin asked. Now
she found herself en route to meet a client who wanted something painted. As to
what and where, Marco had been somewhat unusually reticent.
"He does know I'm a painter and decorator now,
doesn't he?" Mason asked Marco as they drank cappuccinos in the sunshine
of her garden one morning. They'd grabbed an hour together before he went off
to the restaurant, and she spent a rare day off in her garden. Weeds would soon
overwhelm her seedlings if she didn’t attack them. "You know, Marco.
Walls, windows and doors.
"He knows exactly what you are," Marco said.
He'd refused to be drawn on the subject, and just said the client would discuss
it with her. Somehow his choice of words didn't reassure her, but Marco could
be tighter than a clam when he chose to be.
Therefore in—she checked her watch—ten minutes she was
due to meet a Callan Mackie to discuss a commission.
Mason wished it had been during the day, and she wore
in her painting get-up.
A what-you-see-is-what-you-get scenario.
This dressed up, made up woman was a strictly a once only, and then back to the
casuals occasion. Hell, she'd had to delve to the back of the wardrobe for her
bustier and just about brush the cobwebs of it. She wasn't going to think about
the last time she'd worn it. It had been perfect, and probably never to be
replicated. Mason pushed the memories of that hot and exciting evening away. How
the color of her ass matched her bustier and both set of lips, and she'd spent
the following day sitting gingerly. It wasn't long afterwards her world caved
in, the corset consigned to the darkness of the back of the wardrobe, and she'd
eschewed her fuck-me clothes.
She ignored the fact her shoes were at the front.
Mason freely admitted to being a shoe whore. She’d been known to wear heels to
work with her painting overalls before shucking them for steel toecaps. Hot,
sexy shoes were a necessity.
That's eleven twenty,
She bit her lip at the Glaswegian nickname,
refraining from saying
she usually did when someone referred to her that way. She'd been so wrapped up
in her thoughts Mason hadn't realized they'd driven across town, and the taxi
had pulled up outside her cousin's very up-market restaurant. She took out a
twenty pound note and handed it to the driver. He passed a fiver back. She
waited, until with a few muttered swear words he gave her the rest of the