Hellfire by Meg Silver
Information and excerpt(s) for Hellfire: Episode 12 of Meg Silver’s Fantasy Heights erotic suspense serial.
Episode 12: Sophie employs old tricks to investigate a risky target. Glimpses into Prescott East and Ben Oliver’s private life make her feel more like an outsider than ever before while the enemy ramps up the threat to Thomas Bishop, Amanda Tate and Josh Taylor.
Release Date: January, 2015
Length: 40,000 words
ISBN: (Smashwords Version only) 9781310850608
Edited by: Emma Reynolds
Cover by: Joy Warrender
Hellfire Purchase Launchpad
UNEDITED EXCERPT: complimentary excerpt has not been through final edits
Fantasy Heights Episode 12: Hellfire
Rylie Vaughn held a finger to her own eyelid, mouth open, while the chaos of the wardrobe department whirled and churned. Hair-and-makeup minions darted from station to station, narrowly avoiding collisions with costumers and performers.
Beside her stood Sophie. “What’s wrong?”
“I glued myself to my eyelid. If I move, I’ll tear the stupid lashes off.”
“Dork.” Sophie placed her finger alongside Rylie’s and held on while the glued finger peeled free. “Hold still a second. I’ll fix.”
She picked up the tiny glue tube, prepared to help while wariness simmered in the background. Last week it seemed Rylie had forgiven her for the investigation, but today she sensed an upswing in distrust.
Wishing the distance between them would stop bothering her so much, Sophie made a neat job of dabbing a dot of glue onto the lash strip and tapping it into place.
Rylie blinked and fluttered her lashes. “Much better. Thank you. I wish I could go back to wearing masks so I wouldn’t have to stick things to my face all the time.”
Sophie, who would be masked today, gave her a semi-sympathetic shrug. She could only hope to look so glamorous. Rylie’s black and gold genie getup with the gauzy pants and bare midriff beat the heck out of any mask. She would host another special-edition fantasy in the Zoo while Sophie worked with a private client.
Rylie asked, “You’re with Ben today?”
“Sort of. He’s filling in for Max.”
“Oh, man, poor Max. How’s Olivia doing?”
Olivia was Max’s wife. “Last I heard, she had another ultrasound this morning. The baby’s okay, but the doctor’s threatening them with bed-rest if this previa-whatever-it-is doesn’t sort itself out.”
Grimacing, Rylie said, “Scary. What will Ben do if Max has to take a leave of absence from the protective detail?”
“I’m sure Ben made plans to do without Max once the baby was born. Maybe they can deploy reinforcements a few weeks early.”
“I vote we finish Andrew West so we don’t have to worry anymore.”
“That would work, too.”
“And what about you?” Rylie asked. “Any chance the Reaper would let you take a shift on the detail?”
“After last week, I wouldn’t dare ask.”
“You’re in trouble for that, huh?”
“You have no idea.”
Thin ice. Very thin ice after her encounter with the local authorities. Director Cornell had made herself clear: Sophie had to ace the Whitney Franklin investigation. She also had to show true progress at Fantasy Heights, or she would go back to Prescott West at the end of the week. Nothing and no one could save her this time.
Examining herself in the mirror—hair in long waves, smoky eye makeup and a stretchy white lace body-stocking dress—she stole a moment to combat against annoyance. She had grown thoroughly tired of the doom hanging over her head.
Too much uncertainty. She had never minded ambiguity in investigations, but when it came to her career, she had zero patience for suspense. With Director Cornell concealing her plans and the reason for bringing Sophie to Fantasy Heights in the first place, who could say what would happen?
Sophie hated allowing anyone such complete control over her fate. She had set her sights on paramour status for that very reason. Working as a police officer wouldn’t suck, but every instructor at the academy had made sure to point out her difficulties and discomfort working with the public at large. Director Cornell had promised a dream alternative. As a paramour, Sophie could maintain a small, stable cocoon of safety around a single client. A more perfect arrangement she couldn’t imagine.
Rylie complained, “I still can’t believe you want to work with Director Cornell. I can’t believe you lied to me about it, either.”
“I’m not the only one who lies. You lied to me about Oscar.”
Oscar, a client, had nearly been shot to death a few days ago. Sophie watched Rylie frown, sifting memories, trying to recall when she might have lied.
Sophie explained, “My first week, when Hector was showing me how to look up my schedule, you said you’d never heard of a client named Oscar. But at the hospital after the shooting, you sure seemed to know him, and now Scott Milazzo told me you’ve known Oscar for three years or more.”
Rylie, guileless, leaned toward the mirror to dab at her lipstick with a blotting cloth. “When did you talk to Scott?”
“He called, earlier. He said Oscar wants me to visit him after work tonight. And don’t change the subject. You’ve lied, too.”
Dab, dab, dab while calculating a response. Finally, Rylie said, “I fibbed about Oscar because I didn’t know you, then. I thought maybe you might ask personal questions about him or something. But of course I didn’t realize at the time that if you wanted to find out about someone, you’d sneak around and find out for yourself.”
“How long do you plan to resent me for investigating you? It wasn’t my idea, you know. It wasn’t personal, either. If it was personal, I would ask why you attacked your neighbor and tore up his house. And whether I need to worry about you throwing more shoes at Andrew West.”
Rylie stopped dabbing to turn around and glare firsthand instead of through the mirror. “Why do you pretend I even matter? Mostly you live in a private, epic death match against some omnipotent evil where everyone’s a victim waiting to happen. You lose points if a villain overtakes someone, and you suspect I’m easy pickings for the dark side. That’s the only reason you’re interested in me.”
Sophie could do nothing but stare, unsure whether that was the meanest or truest accusation ever hurled at her head.
Showing herself as the most mature human being in all of history, Sophie made a face at Rylie in the mirror.
Rylie burst out laughing. “Sassy little shit. Maybe there’s hope for you after all.”
Sophie shrugged at her again, just in time to catch sight of Ben headed their direction.
Have mercy. Thoroughbred Ben. Her eyes latched onto the blond, blue-eyed former paramour. Tall, strong and so vitally masculine she could study him for hours like a Seurat, seeking out all the smaller fascinations contributing to the whole. Instead, she only had a moment to appreciate how he looked in observer gear: dark button-down shirt, security jacket with dark slacks beneath.
All of her wanted to respond with a happy rawr, but a deeper, stronger radar shoved the hormonal joy aside. An angry tension blighted Ben’s usual, confident calm.
Rylie seemed oblivious. “Hey, gorgeous. You’re playing observer? Just for today, or for good?”
“I don’t know yet. It’s one day at a time for now.”
“You should think about it. I mean, you’ll have to add more people to the protective detail, anyway. Add a couple extra so you can work with us again.”
“I’ll take that under advisement.”
“Hey, don’t ignore me if you want Sophie to earn a spot at Prescott East. She needs a decent trainer. She’s disengaged and timid on set, and you”—Rylie prodded him in the chest—“need someone to force you to relax. God, you make me tense just looking at you.”
Sophie could see Ben’s discomfort ratcheting higher and higher, the longer Rylie’s well-meant scolding continued.
“I’m fine,” he said. “And I need to talk to Sophie, so we need to get moving. Later, Riles.”
Mindful of Ben’s upset, Sophie followed him in silence as they wove their way through the building to the tunnel doors.
Only there, in complete privacy, did she speak. “What’s the matter?”
“You are. Who’s your investigation target this week?”
Not a good way to start things off. Director Cornell had forbidden her to reveal this week’s target. Ben and the Accord would not approve if they knew she would investigate Whitney Franklin, Oscar’s former love. The target’s alleged boyfriend, Dylan Moore, had a central role in Andrew West’s criminal organization. Any mishaps while investigating such a sensitive target could have dangerous consequences.
She lied. “I don’t have investigation targets anymore. We’re focusing on other things.”
“Liar,” Ben said.
“What else can I say? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t get mad at me for not following orders, and then get mad because I’m following orders. If you need details, ask Director Cornell.”
“I did. She lied, too, and I hate this secretive crap. Secrets serve no purpose inside a circle this tight. Your boss has a hell of a way of thanking a guy for playing coach this week.”
Sophie’s brain snagged on a single word. “Coach?”
“Yes. You need to be trained on anal play this week, and that’s not something you leave to a client or day-player. We’ll have to plan it for my night off. Wednesday. And before you get stiff with me about it, remember that I’ve gone from performing four times a week to not at all. I need the R-and-R worse than you need the training.”
Ouch. In the two weeks she’d been at Fantasy Heights, adding regular sex to her regimen, she had noticed a change for the better in both her physical and mental performance. She hated to think what a sudden deprivation might feel like. “Is there anything else I can do to help?”
“Yes. Think this through. I stand to lose Max earlier than planned. Part of his job is to keep the peace between Fantasy Heights, the Accord and the Institute. I can’t prevent any fireworks if no one will tell me who you’re investigating this week.”
She couldn’t tell him. She absolutely couldn’t. But she could do something else.
Sophie shifted her weight, yanking Ben to a stop. “Have you forgotten how to delegate, Atlas?”
Ben’s mouth tightened, and she could see him put effort into not barking her head off. “You’re right, but I could do without being made fun of right now.”
“I’m not making fun. You’re clenched up like a fist. It’s bad for your health, and even worse for the people you need to protect. Put Hector on peacekeeper duty. Or Amanda Tate.”
“I can’t. They both have their own responsibilities.”
“Really? Have you tried asking whether they’re willing to help you compensate for Max’s absence?”
His mouth tightened again for a moment before he raised his hands to his eyes, rubbing. “Stop being right. It’s annoying.”
“Well, brace yourself, because I’m not done yet. You’re either too proud or too controlling to realize just how bad things have gotten. Don’t you have a support staff brave enough to stand up to you?”
Ben groaned and lowered his hands. “Stop, already. Just… don’t let me down this week. Neither of us can afford a repeat of last week.”
She wondered, later, if she would have proceeded the same way if he hadn’t said that. Maybe it was a combination of Rylie using the words ‘disengaged and timid’, teamed with Ben’s red-zone stress and need for sexual release.
Whatever imp took over had a devious imagination. Instead of staying put in the greenroom, she followed Ben through to the observation booth. The darkened, five-by-seven booth featured a wide window onto the set. Equipped to accommodate the occasional voyeurism client, the booth had a treasure chest full of toys near a wooden chair at the center of the room. A padded bench sat against the far wall. Multiple fixtures for mooring restraints peppered the walls, ceiling and floors.
Ben used one of them to hang his jacket. “Why are you in here?”
“Looking for something.”
She went into the treasure chest for a pair of handcuffs.
Ben frowned. “Your client will have the cuffs. You don’t need to—”
She moved fast. She secured his dominant-hand wrist and trapped his left arm behind his back before he quite understood what was happening. By the time he began to struggle, she had the other bracelet locked tight.
“Sit down,” she told him.
Several moments passed in a tense silence as Ben stepped away and turned to face her.
She watched anger and arousal jockey for pole position.
Wariness, a surprise entrant, won in the end. Even his tone was cautious. He wasn’t angry, but not a hundred-percent on board with having his hands cuffed behind his back, either. “What are you doing?”
“Multi-tasking. You need to relax for a while, and since you won’t do it yourself, I’ll make you.”
Ben shook his head. “We can’t do this. Do you have any idea how much trouble we’d be in if anyone found out you went onto that set without an observer?”
“Oh, I’ll have an observer. He’ll just be handcuffed while he watches. Technicality.”
The look in Ben’s eyes when she began to work on his belt made her breath catch. Sudden, intense desire. Something softer, too, like gratitude or fondness, but all of it fleeting. His positive response disappeared behind caution and defiance. He did not like having control taken away.
Before she could lose him to a lengthy, pointless argument, she pulled his belt free and unbuttoned his pants. Easing the zipper down and making sure she touched him as much as possible in the process, she said, “My client is a bean-counter who scored a zero on the violence predictive scale. Plus he weighs maybe a hundred-seventy, and despite my crappy sparring performance against Thomas the other day, I got perfect marks in every combat category at the police academy. If I can incapacitate former Marines to earn those grades, I think I can handle this guy. Plus his whole script only takes what… fifteen minutes?”
“That’s not the point. There are rules.”
Looking up at him, she made no apologies or excuses. “Rules can’t help you right now. I can.” She slipped her hands inside his briefs at his flanks, easing them over his hardening penis, down to his thighs. For good measure, she knelt to kiss the heated tip of his cock.
“Sit,” she ordered.
She pulled the chair up behind him, situating him so he faced the window.
His sigh as he capitulated and sat down made her stifle a smile.
“This is crazy,” he said.
“I promise everything will be all right.” Her toe caught on a restraint anchor built into the floor, which gave her an idea. She went back to the treasure chest for an extension chain with a d-ring on both ends. She snapped one d-ring around his cuffs chain, and connected the other end to the floor anchor.
Ben would not escape before she returned.
He warned, “There will be consequences for this.”
“Maybe, but they don’t all have to be bad.” She circled around to pull off his shoes and socks before stripping away his pants and boxer-briefs. He didn’t struggle or argue, but watching his face and the combustion going on behind those blue, blue eyes promised he would reclaim control the moment she let him go.