Authors: Riley Murphy
Things take a sizzling turn when
Rene Tanner finds himself neck-deep in marital unbliss. He’s fully prepared to
do whatever it takes to reclaim his wife’s surrender. The way he sees it? He’s
been putting her on a pedestal when all she really wanted—
Rene to put her on her knees.
Alexis Tanner has felt alone and
unfulfilled for quite a while. So when her marriage counselor suggests a week
of “As You Wish” therapy, she’s expecting to be wooed with chocolates and
flowers. Instead she winds up in leather restraints and a silver collar. Now
she must surrender to her darkest desires—or be forced to let Rene go forever.
Ellora’s Cave Publishing
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Reclaimed Surrender Copyright © 2012 Riley Murphy
Edited by Grace Bradley
Cover design by Kendra Egert
Photography: istockphoto.com & CGtextures.com
Electronic book publication February 2012
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To my honey. For all those times you made me laugh when all
I wanted to do was cry.
To Kyle and Brooke, for always being there when I needed a
pep talk. Bet you thought I wasn’t listening.
To my CP, Christine Bell, who gave me the courage to put all
my words down on paper (especially the dirty ones), and to my most awesome
editor, Grace Bradley, who gave me the opportunity to realize a dream.
You guys rock!
She tipped the driver and rather than wait for his
assistance, Alexis Tanner opened the car, momentarily thankful for the
blistering-cold air that greeted her. The airport limo was stuffy, which did
nothing to improve her mood. She got out of the cab and silently groaned. Her
feet were killing her, her head ached, and now to top it all off she suspected
her husband might be awake at this late hour waiting for her. The heavy bar of
light shooting out of their living room window left a patch of sparkling
crystals winking across the snowy lawn. The effect was a cozy greeting until
the frosty temperature pierced her to the bone.
“Damn.” Crossing her arms, she drew in her shoulders and
examined the two-story brick and stone Tudor, while she waited for the driver
to retrieve her bag. She loved their house. The sharply pitched roof lines, the
earthy tone of the brick combined with the various shades of stone were
inviting and yet austere. Welcoming and yet commanding all at the same time,
like her husband. Well, the way he used to be.
“Do you want me to help you with this?”
Blinking, she realized she still held the car door open. The
icy winds made the loose advertising stickers plastered on the glass partition
flutter and snap. “I’ve got it.” She slammed the door shut. “Thanks.”
That seemed to be her standard answer lately. Ever since
she’d taken back full control of her life. With a flick, she extended the
handle of her tidy Samsonite suitcase and let it bump along behind her as she
carefully made her way up the walk. Despite the light drenching the outside in
certain places it was still dark and treacherous, given that she was wearing
three-inch stilettos and there was frost scattered across the interlocking
brick, which she and Rene had installed last year. She pulled her keys from of
her pocket. Yep, better to be vigilant than risk breaking an ankle. She might
be at the point in her career where she could take time off from work when she
wanted to. Problem was, she didn’t want to, because then she’d be stuck in the
one place she dreaded being these days.
Turning the key in the lock and hearing the familiar clunk
as the deadbolt tumbled, she automatically stiffened. Great, here came the
stress. It usually landed somewhere between her shoulder blades and mid-back.
How had her life become so complicated? She used to arrive at her door and
breathe a sigh of relief, knowing her responsibilities to the outside world
were over, but not anymore. Now she had to brace herself before she entered. It
was as if everything in her life was turned upside down. Her home with Rene,
which had always been her sanctuary, had become a battlefield. Worse, the only
place she seemed to find any refuge these days was at work.
How messed up was that?
Yanking her suitcase forward, she swore under her breath
when it hit the doorjamb. There was always the slim possibility that Rene was
in bed. With that in mind, rather than tossing her keys into the Tiffany bowl
they’d gotten as a wedding gift, she quietly placed the set on top of her
husband’s, and froze. Right there beside the bowl were the aligned sticky notes
she’d left for him on Thursday telling him about her impromptu business trip.
She put her keys down and did the mental equivalent of a head scratch.
Rene hadn’t called, nor had he responded to her two text
messages in the three days she’d been gone.
That fact alone was shocking enough because he always
communicated. But more worrisome was that she hadn’t noticed he wasn’t in touch
until now. Clearly she wouldn’t be winning any wife of the year award.
Maybe he’d left her.
That lit a fire under her butt. Kicking off her shoes, she
was halfway up the stairs in her panic before she spotted him. His large,
unmoving silhouette eclipsed the blazing fire in their living room. His back
was to the entranceway while the front of him faced the flames.
“Rene?” She came down the stairs. “Are you all right?”
Absently she unwound her scarf and began unbuttoning her
coat, waiting for him to turn around, but he didn’t move. He remained completely
still, which instantly triggered a desire in her to stop fidgeting and look
down at the floor. Every fiber of her being wanted to do this, yet she fought
it. He didn’t deserve that kind of respect from her. Not anymore. Not after
what he’d done. But crap, his huge form owned the space around him as if even
the molecules in the air were his to command.
“Yes, Alexis, I’m fine.”
Her fingers tripped over the action of undoing the last
button on her three-quarter-length navy peacoat. It wasn’t so much the words
that gave her pause as the tone he used to speak them. She remembered that
domineering tone of his as clearly as she’d remembered the special times he
invoked it to make her comply, and fought back a shiver that had nothing to do
with the cold.
“Take off your coat.”
There was an implied “or else” attached to that short
sentence and it caused a delicious thrill to race up her spine and tickle her
neck. Closing her eyes, she savored it for a moment until she remembered how
seductive and dangerous responding to that kind of assertiveness could be with
him. With a mental shake, she refocused and as usual steeled herself against
Shrugging out of the warm wool garment, she laid it, with
her scarf, over the arm of the chintz couch. “Is something wrong? Didn’t you
get my note?”
“I waited for you.”
Now he turned and the dark expression on his gorgeous face
spoke to her more clearly than any words uttered between them over the past
year in couple’s counseling had. Was this it? Was this the moment he was going
to ask for a separation? Funny, she always imagined they’d be grown up about
it. Discuss it civilly, maybe over a bottle of wine in an elegant restaurant as
they made the necessary arrangements.
“I waited for you on Thursday at The Devonsleigh. You never
Slowly, she let out the breath she’d been holding and
relaxed. Smoothing her palms down the sides of her skirt, she was drawing a
blank as to why he was angry. It wasn’t as if this were the first time she’d
had to cancel plans with him recently. Business was business and they both knew
only too well it always came first. There was something else going on here.
There was an aura around him. That lethal magnetism was back. Had he gotten a
new haircut or something, because he looked hot. Really hot.
When that possibility occurred to her, she narrowed her eyes
and examined him. His thick hair was swept off his forehead and fell to his
shoulders in a series of blue-black waves that deliciously framed his
cheekbones. The straight line of his nose set off one of his best assets, his
jaw. It was strong, squarely cut and split with the sexiest cleft imaginable.
It didn’t hurt that it was shadowed at the moment, with a sooty layer of
stubble. That phenomenon always got her thinking of morning and bed and not in
that order. God, she didn’t want to look up into his eyes. It was too
dangerous. She knew if she let her guard down she’d drown in those
sherry-colored depths. Instead, she studied the generous breadth of his
shoulders, thinking it was safer terrain, but where Rene was concerned, it
wasn’t. His big body literally oozed testosterone and if she weren’t careful,
that powerful lure of his might snag her in…again.
Too late. It was only a matter of seconds and she vividly
recalled how she used to sink her teeth into the hard muscles of his shoulders
when he had her trapped between his solid weight and the mattress. Pounding
into her with a force that…darn, what was she doing? Focus. Taking a deep
breath, she pushed aside the erotic visuals until he held up his hand and
purposely flexed it.
Oh. My. God.
“I forgot our anniversary dinner.”
“You didn’t forget it, you abandoned it.”
“No, I…” His penetrating look silenced the excuse she was
going to make. With that off the table what else could she offer besides, “I’m
He didn’t say anything to that, only turned away. Which was
worse than if he’d yelled at her. If he’d just say what needed to be said
between them. Lord knew she didn’t have the courage. She was too afraid to
bring it up again. If she did, she feared she’d risk losing the little bit of
him she still held on to.
“I bet you are.” He raked a hand through his hair and the
unconscious action got her heart pumping and then it skipped a beat when he
added, “I wish it were different. It isn’t. The way I see it, we’re at a
She was nauseated and lightheaded all at once.
comes. The words you’ve been waiting for.
She held on to the back of the
couch for support, not saying anything, just watching him as he paced. Trying
to keep herself together before she fell apart.
Abruptly he stopped and swung around. “You have nothing to
Yes. I do. I want to be able to trust you.
“No?” The fire popped and crackled several times until he
let out a weary breath. A deep release of air, as if he’d been holding it in
for a lifetime. A year that seemed a lifetime. “You’re cheating.”
“No. No! I swear. I—”
He cut her off. “You’re not cheating
cheating me, period.”
The dark look he gave her shot through her like an electric
charge. Touching all her sensitive places, especially when he ordered, “Sit
He pointed to the couch and she was happy to comply, because
her legs were like jelly. Relief warred with guilt and she contemplated telling
him everything. She wobbled and tried to hide her nerves by shifting her feet
and that’s when her toe knocked against something. Looking down, she hesitated.
What were her journals doing here? The whole stack of them, not just the few
she’d given him at the therapist’s suggestion.
“Wh-what are all of these doing here?” She tapped the one
closest to her with her stocking foot and boldly held his gaze.
He didn’t blink, but his expression softened. “What happened
to us, Alex? Where did the girl go who tackled me in flag-football games, beat
me in bowling and cheated when we played cards? Where is she? Why isn’t she
happy anymore? Where’s her laughter?” His voice dropped down husky and low as
he whispered, “Where’s that submissive woman who opened up to me completely and
shared all her secrets? Don’t tell me a foolish misunderstanding scared her
away and closed her up. I thought she was braver than that.”
Alexis forgot about her journals. She swallowed, her nose
burned, and her eyes stung with gathering tears. He wasn’t supposed to bring
this up. He was supposed to say he hated her for changing the plan. For
changing her mind.
Too late now. Say it.
“We’ve grown apart. We want different things.” And with that
truth her heart shattered. The upside? It made enough room in her chest so she
could finally breathe. It was over.
She swiped at her tears with the back of her hand, feeling
like a coward and then a hypocrite the moment he’d sworn, because deep down she
wanted all the buried feelings to be bullshit in the worst possible way. They
Something broke inside her and she burst out crying. She
didn’t care how pathetic she looked or sounded. This was too big. Too awful.
Too overwhelming to make logical sense.
And then suddenly he was there, tilting her chin up and
brushing her tears away with his thumb. This gentle action only made her cry
“Shh, shh.” He cupped the side of her face in his hand and
leaned down to whisper, “It may be true today, Alex, but there’s always a
tomorrow. Go upstairs and wait for me.”
She took a deep and steadying breath, trying to stem the
waterworks while she thought about what he’d said.
His look was angry yet there was a brutal tenderness there
as well. A measure of control that had nothing to do with the emotions he was
feeling. At least she didn’t think so, because he seemed totally together. So
much like the powerful man she’d been able to trust and had fallen in love with
that her response to his command was automatic.
The second he let go and stepped back she watched her
journals topple and fan out like fallen dominoes across the carpet at their
feet. She hiccupped once and sniffled. “Rene?”
“What were you doing with all my journals?”
He didn’t blink or make any kind of excuse when he answered.
* * * * *
There were few times in Rene Tanner’s life when he was
powerless. This last year, while he watched his marriage tank, was one of those
times. He’d run through the cycle and even when they started out talking, it
seemed as if they always ended up yelling. Eventually, the quiet months
followed and he wasn’t prepared for silence. It was crushing. All this led to
counseling, but that didn’t help either. How could it when Alexis refused to be
honest with the counselor about the depths of the intimacy in their
He thought about the latest “therapy exercise” gone awry and
frowned. Even if they were an average couple, Alex’s behavior and the way she’d
chosen to squander her chance to try to change things between them had to be
addressed. Her opting to take on another work assignment instead of facing the
problems they had at home was something that needed to be dealt with. She may
be content hiding her head in the sand, but he wasn’t. They were both equally
responsible for the current situation, yet it was clear there was only one of
them strong enough to do anything about it. The bottom line? The thought of how
close he was to losing her was tearing him up inside and he was prepared to use
anything at his disposal to stop that from happening.