Masters and Mercenaries: Topped Book 3
By Lexi Blake
Coming November 29, 2016
A table for two
Waitress Tiffany Hayes knows what she wants and she wants Sebastian. Top’s grumpy sommelier calls to her in a way no man has before. She simply needs to show him that they belong together. Finding an opportunity to spend some quality time with him turns out to be the easy part. Convincing Sebastian to look beyond his damaged heart and soul is far more difficult.
A thirst he can’t deny
After losing everything he held dear, Sebastian Lowe has finally rebuilt his life and the walls around his heart. Tiffany is a sweet temptation he struggles to resist. She’s bright and complex, but he’s sure she can’t handle his dark desires. When they’re thrown together on an assignment, he can’t help himself.
A perfect pairing
As passion builds, the new lovers are both forced to face their pasts. To have a future, they must find a way to heal the wounds they thought would haunt them forever.
* * *
Sebastian Lowe may be a skilled sommelier, pairing the perfect wine with every dish Top’s chef creates, but when it comes to finding his perfect submissive, one he feels can meet his “exacting standards” and participate in an array of “unsavory” acts, he won’t allow himself to top the woman he truly wants and does his best to keep her at a distance, convincing himself that she doesn’t meet his standards or his controlled and orderly lifestyle.
Tiffany Haynes would be more than happy to call Sebastian her Master, and she’d give anything to enter into a loving and lasting D/s relationship with him because, despite his prickly nature and his prim and proper personality, she knows he’s the Dom for her, and she’ll do just about anything to make her fantasy a reality, even if it means topping from the bottom and plotting and scheming to allow her a chance to prove to Sebastian just how right they are for one another.
I have to admit that I was torn between wanting to wrap my arms around Sebastian and attempt to ease his pain and wanting to strangle him, knocking some sense into him and forcing him to truly see how much he needs Tiffany and the Top family to heal and move on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to understand why Sebastian is the way he is and the fear behind the walls and chilly demeanor he’s perfected to keep people at a comfortable distance, but it was so frustrating to witness him shut down and treat Tiffany the way he does because it’s clear that Tiffany would do anything to make Sebastian hers, even when he acts like a stubborn ass.
Sometimes I find the third person perspective difficult to truly understand and see the multiple layers of the main characters, but because Lexi Blake shows her readers exactly who Sebastian and Tiffany are at their most basic levels, we’re able to see their growth, their conflicted feelings, and their true desires, and because Blake does such a fantastic job of illustrating why Sebastian is as emotionally damaged as he is and how much his “skewed perception” of himself prevents him from taking what and who he truly wants, readers may get impatient with him, but they can’t deny that he has ever right to feel as he does given the hellish situations he had to endure.
Tiffany is a free-spirited, sweet, and giving heroine – one who may love to be dominated but also one who has the ability to challenge and push her Dom in any number of ways that allow her to get what she wants while still giving her Master what he needs.
Tiffany is Sebastian’s perfect match…they make a great team both in business and in pleasure, and while Sebastian may have his work cut out for him when it comes to teaching his bratty sub the necessary knowledge about what he requires of his submissive, he also realizes that Tiffany’s affectionate demeanor and her caring ways just might be what helps Sebastian to trust her and give them a chance at agreeing to a D/s contract that is mutually beneficial in all the ways that matter.
Perfectly Paired is an emotional and passionate journey for both Sebastian and Tiffany. As they work together and realize that their feelings for each other are something they want to explore, readers are privy to their tortured and conflicted emotions as well as what their D/s relationship helps them to understand about themselves as well as what they could be as a committed couple. Neither Sebastian nor Tiffany are perfect, but they are perfectly imperfect together, which is proof that what they have is something that just might save them both.
4.5 Poison Apples
Damn but she was a beautiful woman. She was also something he needed to keep his hands off of. No matter what Big Tag said, he did not date women he worked with.
He didn’t really date anyone. He played with subs. When the need got too great, he found a partner for a brief time. He didn’t sleep with anyone. He fucked, and that was starting to get very old. Empty.
“So you said something about house rules?” Tiffany leaned forward, her elbows on the bar. “Are these housekeeping rules or like big bad Dom rules?”
“I don’t suppose I differentiate.” He couldn’t let those big eyes of hers soften him up. It had almost happened at her apartment. When she’d stood up after he’d spanked her and there had been tears running down her face, his impulse had been to reach for her. He’d wanted to draw her in the way he had that night when she was drunk and she’d cried on his shoulder. He’d wanted to smooth back her hair and promise her everything was going to be all right, that he could fix things for her. It was a path that was sure to lead to discomfort for her and humiliation for him. “I prefer a clean living space. I don’t like for things to be messy. I expect that you will keep your things in their proper place.”
Because no matter how hard he tried, he could still trip. The legs he now walked on were only a year old. He’d spent the first two years in a wheelchair.
The Garden’s Wheelchair Dom.
He still wasn’t completely comfortable in the prosthetics.
“I can try,” she said with a frown. “I’ll be honest, I’m not the world’s biggest neat freak.”
He’d been able to tell that from the state of her apartment. It had been cluttered, a bit dusty. With the exception of her easel. That had been perfectly taken care of. He rather wished he’d taken the time to ask to see her art.
He’d seen one painting that night he’d taken her home. It had been a painting of three laughing girls, the swirling colors so vibrant he could hear them giggling as they splashed in a puddle on a rainy day. The figures had been more impressions than photographic reality, but he’d known what she was trying to convey.
“If you cook I’ll clean, and the other way around.” He’d started a list in his head on the long drive. The drive that would have been considerably shorter had they left at the proper time. As she’d sung along to sugary pop songs after she’d changed his radio, he’d sat and considered how to proceed.
With caution. Lots and lots of caution.
“I’m not the best cook in the world,” he continued, “but I can manage. Most nights, of course, we’ll be eating at Top as our training sessions for the new restaurant will last long hours, but I would prefer to eat breakfast here rather than skipping the meal or picking up fast food. Eric made sure the fridge was stocked with a few items I requested.”
“Breakfast.” She gave him a little salute with her free hand. “I can manage that.”
“In addition to our duties at Top, we will now be taking on the additional task of appearing to be a long-term D/s couple, and we need to talk about what that should look like.” Another thing he’d been thinking about ever since that moment the trap had closed around him. “You know you probably could have gotten us out of this assignment. It’s much more difficult for the Dom to say no. The sub always holds the power. Is there a reason you didn’t use yours today?”
“I didn’t want to,” she replied simply. “I don’t have a full-time Dom and I thought it would be interesting to see what that’s like.”
Was she thinking at all? “You know nothing about how I function as a dominant partner.”
“And now I do,” she replied. “You like rules and schedules and you tend to be very fair.”
“I can be quite exacting in my standards.”
“I can be quite flexible,” she shot back as the sexiest smile crossed her face. “I’m serious about that. I can still do the splits and everything.”
“You’re far too reckless, Tiffany.” He didn’t appreciate recklessness so why was she like a siren calling to him? If he listened, he would end up wrecked.
“You’re far too uptight, Sebastian.”
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog int eh world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem.