Sweet Persuasion, p.1Part #2 of Sweet series by Maya Banks
“Do you know of anyone who fulfills sexual fantasies?” Serena James asked.
Quiet descended. The hands massaging her tense shoulders stopped. Serena cracked one eye open to glance over at Faith Malone, who was lying on the next massage table, and then she craned her head to look over her shoulder at her masseuse, Julie Stanford, who owned the all-inclusive beauty salon Serena and Faith went to on a weekly basis.
“Uh, honey, you’re the fantasy fulfiller,” Julie remarked in a dry voice. “And do you have to talk about sexual fantasies while I’m giving you a rubdown?”
“Quit your bitching and keep massaging,” Serena grumbled.
She closed her eyes and relaxed back onto the table. She should have known better than to bring up what was occupying her mind lately. A quiet sigh escaped her lips when Julie began kneading her muscles again.
“The time to talk sexual fantasies is when I’m giving Nathan Tucker a massage,” Julie said in a dreamy tone.
Faith laughed next to Serena. “Is he a regular now?”
“Yep. Twice a month,” Julie said cheerfully. “Now that is a job I’d do for free. I have to be careful not to drool on his back. ”
“Not the front?” Serena mumbled.
Julie chuckled. “He only lets me do his back. Pity. I’d pay him to massage that chest. ”
“Only his chest, huh?” Faith said.
“Why only his back?” Serena asked.
Julie’s hands shook as she laughed. “He’s embarrassed, I think. Doesn’t want me to see his hard-on. ”
Her hands moved more firmly over Serena’s back, and Serena groaned in pleasure.
“But enough about my obsession with Nathan Tucker. I want to know why you’re asking about sexual fantasies. ”
“Yeah, me too,” Faith piped up. “Thinking of expanding Fantasy Incorporated?”
Serena chuckled. “Uh, no. Paying people to fulfill other people’s sexual fantasies is called prostitution, no?”
“Then why do you want to know about it?” Julie persisted. She patted Serena’s shoulder to let her know she was finished and then moved over to Faith.
Serena sat up and reached for a bathrobe, wrapping it around herself as she perched on the edge of the massage table. She stared over at Faith as Julie started her massage. Why was she asking about it?
It was a slip of the tongue, one made by her ever increasing frustration that her life’s work was all about fulfilling other people’s fantasies—some frivolous, some the culmination of lifetimes of hope.
She was proud of her work. She made other people happy. And maybe that was why she was frustrated by her own lack of contentment.
“Maybe I just need to get laid,” Serena muttered.
An amused grin split Julie’s lips. “Don’t we all. Well, except Faith here. I’m sure Gray is giving her all she needs in that quarter. ”
“Hey, no hating,” Faith protested. “I can’t help it if I’m irresistible. ”
Serena threw a hand towel at Faith’s head, and Faith reached up, snagged it from her hair and threw it back.
“When are you getting married anyway?” Serena asked Faith.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” Faith said as she cracked her eyes open to stare at Serena. “We were talking about your sexual fantasy question. ”
“Yeah, we were,” Julie said pointedly.
Serena let out an exasperated breath. “You two are worse than a dog with a bone. ”
“Yep,” Julie said with a grin. “I have no life, remember? I have to live vicariously through my clients. Now spill. ”
Serena bit her bottom lip then shrugged her shoulders. What the hell. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
“I have some pretty . . . interesting fantasies. ”
Julie snorted. “Don’t we all. ”
Serena could see Faith’s blush start at her feet and creep up her body. She grinned. “Apparently Faith does, judging by that blush. ”
Faith gave a mortified squeak and hid her face. “We’re not talking about me,” she said in a muffled voice.
“No, but I wish we were,” Julie muttered. “I bet that sweet, innocent exterior shields a twisted mind. ”
“Serena. We’re talking about Serena,” Faith pointed out.
Julie turned back to look at Serena. “So spill, honey. What’s so interesting about your sexual fantasies, and why would you want to know if someone we knew could fulfill them? As gorgeous as you are, you wouldn’t have to walk far to find any number of men more than willing to take directions. ”
Serena gave her a dark look. “I haven’t told you what my fantasies are. ”
“Ooohhh,” Faith exclaimed. “Hurry up, Julie. This sounds like it’ll be good. ”
“My magic hands are being dumped for her demented fantasies?” Julie asked in an exaggerated hurt tone.
“Like you aren’t every bit as eager to hear as she is,” Serena drawled.
Julie grinned. “True. Okay, Faith, all done. Better get dressed. You have no idea what Serena’s fantasies involve, and I have to think Gray would object to a lesbian threesome. ”
Faith blushed bright red, and it looked like her insides were squeezed to the bursting point.
Serena rolled her eyes. “You’re way too easy, Faith. ”
“You only think I’m all sweet and innocent,” Faith mumbled as she pulled on a robe.
“What was that?” Julie asked, pouncing on Faith’s statement.
“Serena. We’re talking about Serena. Remember?”
The phone rang, and Julie held up a finger for them to wait as she walked over to answer. Serena sat there with her feet dangling down the side of the table. In the weeks the women had been meeting for massages and then lunch, they’d discussed a lot of outlandish topics, but never had those included the personal details of Serena’s deep, dark fantasies, and she honestly wasn’t sure she was prepared to unveil them. Even to her two closest friends.
But if not them, then who?
She sighed. Maybe she should just forget about them and continue on fulfilling other people’s hokey fantasies.
Julie returned, a look of apology darkening her pretty features. “I’m sorry, guys. I can’t do lunch today. That was one of my clients in need of an emergency overhaul. ”
“That’s too bad,” Faith said with an unhappy grimace.
“Overhaul? That doesn’t sound good,” Serena remarked.
Julie grinned. “It’s her own fault. She went to another stylist to get her hair done, and now she’s ten sorts of sorry and is crawling back to me. ”
“Just like you like them,” Faith said as she hopped off the table.
“You two go on without me. But,” she said, pinning them both with a glare, “I’ll expect a full report later. As in nothing left out. Don’t make me hurt you. ”
Serena rolled her eyes and got down off the table to go dress. “Trust me. It’s not that juicy, Julie. As if anything in my boring-ass life would be. ”
Julie studied her with a speculative stare. “Oh, I don’t know, Serena. It’s always the boring ones who turn out to have the most shocking secrets. ”
Again, a rosy blush stained Faith’s face, and Serena and Julie both burst out laughing.
“Obviously we haven’t been pressing Faith enough for hers,” Serena said dryly.
“Make her tell you at lunch,” Julie suggested. “Then you can call me later with the dirt. ”
“Oh, she won’t do that,” Faith said innocently. “Because then I’d have to give you the dirt on her. ”
“Somebody had better give me the scoop on both you deviants,” Julie w
“Crap,” Faith grumbled.
Serena linked her arms through Faith’s and started to drag her toward the dressing room. “We could always find a new salon, you know. ”
Julie snorted. “Sure, if you want to look like a scarecrow. ”
“She’s arrogant, isn’t she?” Serena said in a loud whisper as they exited the room.
Julie’s laughter followed them into the changing area.
Serena veered off into her cubicle to dress, and a few minutes later she met Faith out front where Julie was already soothing her distraught client. As Serena and Faith headed for the door, Julie caught their gaze and rolled her eyes heavenward. Serena blew her a kiss.
“The usual?” Serena asked as she and Faith walked out to the parking lot.
Faith shook her head. “If we’re going to have a down and dirty conversation, I don’t want to go to Cattleman’s. ”
Serena lifted her brow. “Why not?”
“Because any one of the guys might be there,” Faith said.
“Good point,” Serena mumbled. The men that Faith worked with, gorgeous specimens of men all of them, regularly haunted Cattleman’s, a local pub and grill. The last thing Serena wanted was an audience. Although if one of them wanted to step up and volunteer to man her fantasies, she wouldn’t complain.
“Where to, then?” she asked as they stopped at their cars.
“How about my apartment?” Faith suggested. “It isn’t far, and I can warm up some leftovers. ”
Serena sighed. “And there’s plenty of privacy for the juicy conversation you’re going to make me have. ”
Faith grinned impishly. “Exactly. ”
Serena followed Faith into her apartment. She’d only been inside Faith’s home once before, right after Faith’s fiancé, Gray Montgomery, had moved the majority of his things in.
“Excuse the mess,” Faith said as she stepped around a box on the floor.
“Moving?” Serena asked.
Faith’s smile lit up her entire face. “Gray and I are buying a house. We hope to move in as soon as we get married. ”
“Julie is still mortally offended that you aren’t having a huge church wedding so she can make you look like a million dollars for the occasion,” Serena said as she settled onto a stool at the bar in the kitchen.
Faith made a face. “Neither Gray nor I was crazy about a big fuss. Not after everything that happened. ” Her smile faltered as pain flitted across her brow. “Pop wanted a big wedding too so he could give me away, but honestly, Gray and I just want to be together. The sooner, the better. ”
Serena smiled. “I think that’s great, Faith. You deserve to be happy after all you went through. ”
“Enough about me,” Faith said brightly as she began taking containers out of the refrigerator. “We’re here to talk about you and these deviant fantasies of yours. ”
Serena groaned. “Who the hell says they’re deviant?”
Faith chuckled. “The best ones always are. So what gives, Serena?” Faith’s expression became more somber as she gazed at her friend. “You haven’t been yourself lately. You seem withdrawn, like you’re unhappy about something. ”
Serena plunked her elbows on the counter and cupped her jaw in her palm. “I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking. ”
“The fact that I put so much time and effort into making other people’s fantasies come to life, but I ignore my own. And then I realized that I wouldn’t have the first clue how to make them come true anyway. Other people’s fantasies are so . . . normal compared to mine. My mother would have heart failure if she knew the girl she’d raised to be a self-sufficient, depend-on-no-man-for-your-security, successful businesswoman secretly fantasized about being a man’s sex slave. ”
Faith choked then coughed delicately to mask her reaction. “Sex slave?” she squeaked.
“Yeah, knew you’d get a real kick out of that one,” Serena said glumly.
“Uh, no. I mean it’s just that’s the last thing I expected you to say. ”
“Go ahead and say it. I’m crazy as a bat. ”
Faith set a plate of lasagna in front of Serena then settled onto the stool across the bar. “You’re not crazy, Serena,” she said calmly. “But sex slave? Are you talking one night of hot sex where you play the slave to the master, or is this something else entirely?”
Serena felt warmth invade her cheeks. Damn it. Unlike Faith, she was not a blusher.
“Well, preferably it would be longer than one night, but not permanent or anything. I mean, I think I’d like it. The idea turns me on, but I might hate it too. ”
Faith was silent for a long moment, and Serena fidgeted uncomfortably as she picked at her food.
“You’re wondering where on earth I came up with this, aren’t you?” Serena mumbled.
“Quit being defensive, and don’t apologize for your desires,” Faith scolded. “God, don’t women do that enough? I’m just trying to figure out how serious you are about this. I mean if you just want to play out a fantasy, you could always hire a . . . What do they call a male prostitute anyway?” Faith asked with a giggle.
Sweet Persuasion by Maya Banks / Romance & Love have rating 4.3 out of 5 / Based on43 votes