My story in the Naughty Reunions anthology is actually a prequel to a novel I'm currently working on. The story in the anthology features Brad and Dani Carpenter, who find a way to resolve a sexual incompatibility with some help from their employer/friend Drew Robertson. The novel currently in process (tentatively titled Judith's Challenge) is set a few years later, and is the story of Judith Delaney, another employee of Drew's who becomes much more to him than a business assistant. But before they can get there, they have a lot of baggage to overcome and things to work out. Right now, this story is about two-thirds done and I haven't decided yet whether to self-publish or submit it to a publisher.
But I decided to give you a sneak peak at it. If you'd like more information about the progress of the story, please go to my website at http://katherinekingston.com and sign up for my brand new newsletter. I hope to start sending out newsletters no more than once a month.
Without further ado, here's the excerpt:
Enormous, forbidding iron gates blocked the entrance to the estate, forcing Judith Delaney to stop the car. Their grand presence revived all her doubts about whether she should have come. Graceful scrollwork curled around on itself densely enough to prevent anyone from squeezing through, and a crown of lethal picket spear-points along the top threatened anyone foolish enough to try to climb over it. Andrew Robertson guarded his privacy.
Drawing a deep breath, she reached out to the box nearby and entered the numeric code the agency had given her, pressing the buttons on a keypad sheltered in what looked like a miniature Japanese pagoda. For a moment, nothing happened. Then the intimidating gates swung open, quietly and with surprising speed.
A winding drive meandered through forested land until the house itself came into view. No, not a house. Mansion. It sprawled out ahead, three long stories of brick, fronted by an enormous columned front porch. She counted a dozen windows across each of the two upper levels. The façade’s blank, incessant symmetry struck her as unfriendly, almost brooding. All the windows appeared to have drawn shades or closed blinds shuttering the. Privet hedge clipped into rigid box shape lined the foundation on either side, marching in a straight row to either corner of the building. Only the front porch which held an array of white-painted wicker rockers interspersed with planters bearing brilliant red geraniums softened the forbidding look.
The estate sat in a narrow valley not far from the city of Asheville, but the North Carolina hills on either side and the high, spiked fence surrounding it lent an air of greater isolation.
She parked in front of the main door and waited a moment, fighting the nervous flutters in her stomach. Finally she got out, climbed three steps to the porch, and rang the doorbell.
Moments later, the door swung open and a man stood there, his face set in grim, harsh lines. Arched, sandy eyebrows rose as he stared at her. “Yes?”
“I’m Judith Delaney,” she managed with only a slight stammer. She’d seen one grainy picture of the reclusive owner of the estate, and there was a resemblance… Surely he wouldn’t be answering his own doorbell. “I had an appointment with Mr. Robertson. The Seabolt Agency sent me.”
“Oh, yes.” The stern expression relaxed a fraction. He nodded and stepped back, letting her enter a grand, spacious hall. White painted walls, classic mahogany furniture and expensively framed paintings screamed elegance. The crystal chandelier hanging from two stories above likely cost more than her entire last year’s salary.
“Andrew Robertson,” the man said, drawing her attention away from the magnificence of the surroundings and confirming her unlikely suspicion. “I hope you had a safe and pleasant trip here. Let’s go back to my office.”
But first, he extended a hand.
Judith had to make herself reach out and take it. His palm was warm and a little rough. For a moment she was fine, then the feel of the strong, masculine fingers against hers sent a wave of memory crashing over her.
Hands clamped around her wrists and ankles, holding her in place despite her struggles, while someone lay atop her and forced…
No! She pushed the memory away, recovering control, hoping he hadn’t noted her momentary lapse. To cover it, she said, “You answer the door yourself?”
He shrugged. “The butler gets every other Thursday off.”
“He keeps losing his calendar.”
“I hope he doesn’t lose too many other things.”
Nothing changed in his expression when he answered, “Last time I counted the spoons were all there. But he does sometimes forget which side of the plate they go on.”
“Isn’t that a cardinal sin for a butler?”
“Actually it’s probably the least among this butler’s sins.”
“Should that give me hope?”
“Are you applying for the butler’s job? I don’t remember advertising for one.” A sudden laugh broke up the severe expression. Mischievous lights danced in blue-gray eyes. “But in fact, keeping track of my calendar is part of the position I’m looking to fill. You don’t lose them, do you?”
“No, but I’m not perfect either, and I don’t know that anything less would do for this place.”
The man’s expression turned grim again in an instant. “Believe me, there are no perfect beings in residence here.”