1AlishaRai_Prestige1_coverWhen she was good, she was good…

Elizabeth Harding, the perfect, polished daughter of politicians, plays by all the rules. Or so it seems. Tired of a lifetime of denying her passionate nature, she’s created an alter ego. As Tess, Elizabeth is able to safely and secretly indulge all of her wild fantasies—even if that fantasy is financing a private club of pleasure.

Driven and ambitious, Luca Santos has clawed his way from rags to riches. His boss’s daughter has tempted him for what seems like forever, but he’s known that the pampered princess probably wouldn’t be down with his dirty ways. Elizabeth is sweet, innocent, demure…so what’s she doing sneaking around a place that revels in sexual abandon?

One night. So many ways to ruin a person.

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Note: This is a novella. Elizabeth and Luca’s story will conclude in Stay My Fantasy coming in June.

If you’re curious about Elizabeth/Tess, she made a brief appearance in A Gentleman in the Street. You do not need to have read A Gentleman to read this book. If you want to refresh your memory, Tess is in Chapter Seventeen of that book. On the stage.  😉

Excerpt:

A sigh punctured the silence. Elizabeth Harding picked up her glass with a shaking hand and took a sip of her scotch, letting the smoky liquid linger on her tongue. She didn’t bother to glance around the dark place. She wouldn’t be able to see who had made the noise, which was exactly how it should be. Six booths were constructed around the raised dais in the center of the room, high privacy screens concealing the identities of other guests.

Club Prestige, the newest, most exclusive and expensive private club in the District of Columbia, had already gained a reputation for discretion. This room, reserved only for a select, vetted few who desired something extra? Well. It was a cone of silence up in here.

Elizabeth crossed her legs, snug denim restricting her movement. She hadn’t been able to sneak away to the club for a while, and she was so accustomed to her usual garb of modest dresses and skirts that the compression of skinny jeans felt foreign. Oh, but so damn good.

A couple stood on the stage. The man was conventionally attractive, his boxer’s build dressed in a tailored black suit. The delicate brunette in front of him wore only a gossamer-thin shift that fell to the top of her thighs, the white cotton so sheer, Elizabeth could see the woman’s light pink nipples as well as the triangle of her thong.

The woman was docile as the man slowly slid the straps off her shoulders, revealing pert, round breasts. His fingers were large and powerful, clenching the fragile fabric. The spotlight gleamed on his shaved head as he lowered it. The kiss on her neck was loving. Sweet, even. Perhaps oddly sweet, given that the man was baring her body to an enraptured audience.

Elizabeth took another drink of her scotch, though it couldn’t satisfy her thirst. Not for the first time, she was grateful that there was always a booth reserved for her in this room.

It was the least the club could do for her, seeing as how it was her money that had financed the place.

When her old childhood friend, Olivia Reyes, had come to her and said she and some friends were looking for a silent investor, Elizabeth had been wary. So many people were constantly asking her for money. She’d always liked Olivia, though, which was a rarity in the wealthy circles they’d grown up in. Plus, once Olivia had explained the concept—a private club of decadence, run exclusively by women—Elizabeth hadn’t been able to whip out her checkbook fast enough.

She didn’t care about the day-to-day business of the enterprise, though she kept tabs on the bottom line and everyone involved, the way a good investor should. She’d only asked for this: a room where fantasies could be explored. The fantasies of the people watching and the people performing.

Elizabeth cradled her glass. The woman on the stage cried out as the man ran his fingers over one nipple, then the other. She was at his mercy. That was the theme of the Fantasy Room tonight: At His Mercy.

The performer’s names were Ken and Angel. They both stripped in the club regularly, casually dated each other, and had requested to star in shows in this room.

Elizabeth stared, choosing to let herself forget all about their true identities. For now, they were an anonymous couple, ready to be objectified for her visual pleasure. That was their fantasy, and hers as well.

The man on the stage pressed his hand against the woman’s belly, then, in a swift move, shoved the shift down over her hips. She held still for him so the audience could look their fill of her sculpted legs and high breasts, her thong covering her vagina from view.

Her hands fluttered, like delicate birds, one finally resting over her breast. He knocked her hand aside in a swift, decisive movement, making her and Elizabeth inhale.

Elizabeth sat forward, her breathing increased, her nipples hard, the place between her legs wet with need, but it would take an observant person to know anything was amiss with her. She was that good at creating a façade. Smokescreens were her specialty.

“Only I pleasure you,” said the man in a menacing whisper.

At her nod, the man returned to fondling her. He pressed his knee between her legs, widening them, and slid his hand inside her tiny panties. His hand moved under the fabric, his fingers fucking her lazily, the small scrap not hiding anything.

Elizabeth crossed her arms over her chest and squeezed, an ache rising deep inside her, a familiar restlessness. Christ, it had been too long since she’d felt anyone’s hands on her. Like a pressure cooker left on high, her valve had to be occasionally released.

Elizabeth grimaced. Finding someone to release it wasn’t always simple, especially here in her hometown. Her satisfaction was usually found in secretive affairs. Life was easier that way.

The man wrapped his hand around the woman’s hair and pulled her head back, pressing his lips to her neck. “Who do you belong to?” he breathed.

“You,” she responded.

The muscles in his arm flexed, and she cried out, standing on her tiptoes. Despite her dismayed noise, he withdrew his hand from her panties. From where she sat, Elizabeth imagined she could see the wetness on his fingers.

He spun the woman around so she faced him. His thumb traced the crease of her buttocks, where the string of her thong did little to hide her firm ass. “Show me,” he demanded. “On your knees.”

The lights went out, and a rustle came from one of the other guests, like he might be gathering his belongings to leave. Elizabeth smirked, assuming it  must be the new guy she’d approved on Monday, a widowed neurologist who might become Surgeon General someday. Oh the sweet summer child. Did he not know? The show was hardly over.

Weak flashlight beams flickered on and off quickly, coasting over the bodies, giving snapshots of sin.

Plausible deniability. They didn’t run sex shows. They were performers performing. Except the performers dictated what they’d do and not do. Most of them did whatever the hell they wanted under the cover of darkness.

Flash.

The curve of the woman’s spine and ass as she knelt in her heels.

Flash.

The man’s hand, clenched tight in her curly hair.

Flash.

Her head bobbing over his lap.

Flash.

The tendons of his neck standing out in relief.

Elizabeth ran her hand over the back of her mouth as he whispered filthy, dirty orders to the woman on her knees in front of him. Words like harder, faster, take me deeper. Words that told her exactly what to do and took away all decision-making.

Words that freed her.

The sound of flesh moving over wet flesh came from the stage, and his groans grew louder, captured by the walls of the soundproofed room.

The flashlight beams went out completely as he climaxed, taking the couple out of view. There was a slight beat, and then the woman cried out in pleasure.

“Such a good girl,” the man rasped. “Now open your legs and let me give you your reward.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes, because she knew this would be in utter darkness. Angel preferred not to orgasm in front of viewers, but she loved it when everyone heard her.

She drew in the sounds of ripping fabric—the thong torn away, she assumed—and the woman’s escalating cries as the man saw to her pleasure. With his fingers? His tongue?

He groaned, the sound muffled. Probably by the woman’s sex.

Elizabeth imagined the scene. His tongue buried deep inside, flicking against her clit, rubbing against that spot that made her want to die from pleasure.

Elizabeth crossed her legs tighter, the throbbing ache in her pussy killing her. If she wanted, she knew she could have Ken take care of her. Ken had a particular reputation for happily hooking up with any person who wanted him, anonymously and safely.

But she had no specific need for Ken, and it wasn’t worth calling attention to herself by fraternizing with an employee. She’d ring up some friends soon, maybe on the West Coast.

The woman was climaxing, and the man growled against her flesh like an animal. She gave a high-pitched scream, and Elizabeth inhaled, drawing the sound into her soul, letting it fill her darkest desires.

How she loved it.

Silence reigned, the pitch black of the room complete. There was no indication that the performers had left, but she knew when they’d slipped away.

The other people in the booths shuffled out, enough space between them to make sure they didn’t run into each other in the hallway. She waited.

The knock came on the back of her booth, and she took a deep breath, wrapping the tattered remains of her composure around her. She checked that her wig was on properly and stood, drawing her massive sunglasses over her face. They made it almost impossible to see, but a bouncer stood just outside her booth to guide her, a weak flashlight pointed politely at the floor.

Tyler. That was his name. Tyler probably knew she was the mysterious financial backer of the club. Everyone involved with this room was aware that it was hers, that those who worked it enjoyed certain perks and financial incentives other performers didn’t receive.

She doubted he knew who she was though. Elizabeth Harding, enormously wealthy only daughter of a powerful former senator and a mother who could trace her lineage back to Plymouth Rock. The Elizabeth Harding who spent her days sitting on various charitable boards, barely using the English  degree she’d received from Harvard, where she’d been a legacy. The Elizabeth Harding who all the world saw as a pleasant hostess, a forgettable mouse, a politician’s prop.

No, if Tyler knew her name at all, it was as Tess, her usual pseudo-anonymous aka. Tess funneled money into an elite club of pleasure. Tess was friends with people who considered orgies an acceptable house party. Tess had been to those orgies. Once or twice, Tess had even participated in more carnal sex shows than the one she’d watched tonight.

Yeah. Tess was a fucking badass. She needed Tess, though she was aware that she risked everything as Elizabeth in order to be Tess: her friends, her family, her very way of life.

Worth it. Elizabeth had been slowly drowning in a sea of country clubs and board meetings and expectations until Tess was born. Her alter ego allowed her to take a gasping breath of air, enough to fill her starved lungs so she could survive when she had to go back underwater.

Dramatic, yes. Tess was dramatic. It was delightful to be dramatic.

“Madam,” Tyler said in a half-whisper, and crooked his arm. Even the feel of his strong, muscular forearm under her fingertips was a little too much contact for her revved up libido.

She averted her gaze, thankful for the sunglasses. Uh, she really needed that release, lest she start eyeing every attractive man like a cat eyeing a bowl of cream.

Pull yourself together. Get home, and you can at least take care of yourself.

Good plan.

He led her to the exit and solicitously opened the door for her. She slipped outside to the abandoned hallway, head lowered. Usually she went through the basement kitchens, but she always did her homework before coming here, and tonight there was a party that had required the hiring of temporary waitstaff.

If she didn’t have a file on them, she didn’t know them. If she didn’t know them, she couldn’t trust them.

The old-fashioned elevator dinged, and she exited to the ground-floor lobby. The staff had standing orders to clear the path to the exits before and after the Fantasy Room shows ended, so she wasn’t too worried. Sure enough, nobody occupied the tastefully decorated, luxurious lobby save for a single employee. The sexy silver fox knew exactly when to fawn all over guests and when to ignore them. He pretended total absorption and interest in his computer screen as her heels tapped on the marble.

The sounds of the bustling city nightlife slapped her in the face when she walked outside, and she instinctively hunched her shoulders, hiding herself from any prying eyes. The sunglasses at night deal might make her a little too conspicuous, but she was too paranoid to take them off until she had walked further away.

She had this down to a science now. She wasn’t about to ask her driver to bring her here, and she didn’t trust cab drivers. Her little townhouse was close enough to walk.

She’d quick change along the way by ducking behind bus stops and cars—ditching her wig, swiping a makeup-remover pad over her heavily stained lips, removing her tight jacket, and popping on the baggy button-down shirt in her large bag. By the time she got home, she’d be back to her usual boring self, in case anyone did notice her circling the home and entering through the back door.

Fine, so she enjoyed the process of sneaking around a little too much. Did anyone ever really outgrow playing spy? If she could have her way, she’d totally rappel into her house from the roof, Mission Impossible style.

She had a bodyguard right now, an occasional nuisance she had to deal with whenever her still-high-profile father received a threatening email or letter, but the man would be sitting in his car at her curb, drinking cold coffee and complaining bitterly in his cell phone about how unfair it was that he didn’t get an exciting asset to watch.

He needed to be better about talking with his windows down. Sound carried.

Though she’d been mildly insulted when she’d first heard him bitching a couple of weeks ago, she’d quickly realized it was a blessing. Better a watchdog lulled into complacency. Then she could continue to do whatever the hell she wanted with no one the wiser.

Her feet picked up speed. Home, home, home…

“Elizabeth?”

The problem with being raised to be an obedient, mindless automaton was that those instincts were almost impossible to deny, even though she’d woken from deep sleep years ago. So impossible that when she heard her name, she momentarily forgot she wasn’t Elizabeth. Not when she wore a red wig, a skintight black leather jacket, jeans she’d had to lay down to zip, and knee-high boots. Especially when she was exiting from her most carefully guarded secret.

She pivoted and froze, comprehending her error immediately.

Too late.

Not ten feet separated her from the man who had called her name. He’d placed a question mark at the end. Unusual, for him, to ever question anything. He’d always said her name in a perfunctory manner, as a statement.

Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, I hope dinner is acceptable.

Elizabeth, you look lovely.

Elizabeth, I’d like to kiss you.

She swallowed, her gaze helplessly meeting Luca Santos’s eyes. They were beautiful eyes, dark and piercing. Beautiful like the rest of him: high cheekbones, thin lips, slashing eyebrows, smooth tanned skin. He was tall, with wide shoulders and narrow hips, the proper balance of muscular and lean. His black hair had grown longer since the last time she’d seen him, and a natural curl had invaded the usually ruthlessly cut strands.

A lock fell across his forehead, and her fingers curled. She’d been tempted to touch him from the second she’d laid eyes on him, when she was nineteen. Her grandfather’s protege had been distant to her though, at least until he’d asked her out out of the blue three years ago. She’d stammered and blushed and accepted, unsure of what he’d suddenly seen in her.

His kisses had made her head spin, but she’d figured out quickly it was a one-sided sensation. He’d always held himself carefully removed. Respectful, she thought, at first. It had taken her a couple of infatuated months to understand exactly what it was that had caught his attention.

Her last name. Her breeding. Her connections. Not her.

Fuck that shit had been her conclusion, one she stood by. Back then, she’d barely started to scratch the surface of her needs, had still been working through her feelings of shame and guilt. She couldn’t risk hooking up with another man who might be repulsed by them, or her.

That didn’t mean she hadn’t lusted after him, though she’d done a pretty good job of hiding it. It wasn’t easy. He’d always been a major player in her family’s company, but more so since her grandpa had died last year. Parties, family functions, holidays: they bumped into each other far too often.

What weird twist of fate had brought him here, though, to this particular street on this particular night?

Her brain, shocked in horror, simply could not respond, merely cataloguing every inch of this man, who was dressed, for once, not in the uniform of a suit he wore to work, but in relaxed, battered jeans and a white T-shirt, his only indication of wealth the thick gold Rolex on his wrist. A gift from her grandfather.

It was his single, faltering step toward her, brow furrowed in confusion, that snapped her out of the spell. The confusion was as out of place on him as the questioning lilt to her name. Luca always knew what he was saying and doing.

Slowly, hoping the sunglasses had hid her swift recognition, she turned away.

“Elizabeth?”

No Elizabeth here.

One foot, in front of another. She kept her stride steady as she walked away. Like she hadn’t just potentially blown her cover.

It was fine. Her disguise would hold. If it didn’t, if he questioned her about why she was prancing around downtown DC in a wig and clothes that looked like they came from a teen store in the mall, she’d give him a plausible explanation.

Like…

Like…

Oh, damn it. A costume party was reasonable, right? Haha. Silly, bored, blue-blooded socialites. Holding costume parties in May.

He’s going to ask why you didn’t talk to him.

Because…she was overwhelmed at his masculine presence?

She huffed out a sigh. Damn it. Trying to hide an alter ego required she sound like a complete imbecile, it seemed.

When she was almost at the corner, she permitted herself a backward glance to see if he was still there. He was, one hand steadying the pizza balanced on the roof of the car she hadn’t noticed parked at the curb. A phone was in his other hand.

He wasn’t looking at her. That would have been bad enough.

Oh shit.

She swiftly faced forward, her blood running cold. No. No, no, no, no.

Worry seeped into her heart, so heavy she forgot all about ditching her disguise. She barely managed to keep herself together until she got inside her back door. Then she collapsed on the floor of her living room, agonizing over all the ways her life could crumble around her if her carefully constructed façade was blown to smithereens.

Because Luca Santos, cold bastard, fantastic kisser, once her grandfather and now her father’s protege, and one of the most clever, ruthless minds she’d ever known, had been taking a picture of the deceptively unassuming door she’d exited.