Dare Darker - Pepper North Page 0,1

with a jolt of anger, had captured his attention instead of her. She hadn’t even met him. They weren’t in a committed relationship. Mia just felt like she belonged with him.

Mia didn’t understand it, but her heart beat faster each time he called her “my sweet.” Something in him called to her, and she couldn’t resist.


Pushing back from his computer, Rafael knew it was time to train Mia for her new role in his life. She responded eagerly to his guidance online. The anonymity of interacting through the chat room had allowed her to be honest and open about her fantasies. As he had suspected, she longed for the type of care he desired to lavish on his love. They were a perfect match.

He began plotting. A phone call to his ancestral home was at the top of his list. “Good morning, Anthony. Please begin preparations for me to return to the estate for an extended time. Expand the staff as needed to prepare for a guest in the downstairs residence as well as myself.”

Smiling at the enthusiastic caretaker’s response, Rafael knew Anthony understood his request completely. “Discretion should be the key factor in selecting staff, of course. I leave the decisions in your hands.”

“It has been my pleasure to serve your family for many years. If you will forgive an old man’s familiarity, I am glad that you have found her, sir.”

“Thank you, Anthony.”

“When can we expect your arrival?”

“Next week.”

“Then I will get started today.”


Arriving at her door on a Tuesday evening, Mia juggled the wet umbrella, her purse, and her lunch tote as she searched for her keys. She paused and looked around curiously. There was a scent lingering in the doorway. Her mind dismissed the fact that the aroma grew stronger as she leaned toward the door. Smelling of sandalwood, the cologne captured her attention as she inhaled. It was masculine and virile.

Shaking the silliness out of her head, Mia thrust her key into the lock and opened the door. She stepped inside and dropped everything onto the bench next to the door. Turning back to face into the apartment, she froze in place as something white caught her attention on the fashionable gray carpet.

An engraved invitation lay on the floor right inside the door. Just as if someone had stepped into her apartment and placed the crisp white envelope on the floor where she couldn’t help but find it. She sniffed automatically. Her nose reacted once again to that scent that had tantalized her in the hallway. He came in here! The thought had her heart rate quickening.

Snatching her umbrella from the tumbled pile of belongings as a weapon, Mia raced through the apartment searching in every possible hiding spot for an intruder who had invaded her home. Nothing. Nothing was missing. Nothing was out of place. No one was there.

Slowly, she returned to the entryway to stare at that white envelope. Gathering her bravery around her like an impermeable cloak, she leaned over to pick it up with two fingers. That now familiar scent wafted up to her. “Okay! I’m really weirded out!” she muttered aloud to herself.

Mia turned and carried the envelope to the kitchen table where she dropped it. The impact slightly crumpled one corner. Instantly, she regretted the imperfection, and her fingers pressed the envelope as straight as possible. Once she touched it, she couldn’t resist. Opening it carefully so as not to wrinkle or tear the thick paper again, Mia pulled out a single note card with one word written in a bold masculine script—SOON!

For the next three days, Mia tried to forget the card and not think about what it meant. To distract herself, she tried to busy herself with work and connecting with friends. Mia shared her plans to go on vacation next week and that she was planning to take time away from all the electronics that ruled her life. Her home laptop would remain turned off and waiting on her desk.

Mia had won the reservations at the swanky resort escape through a drawing. She couldn’t remember entering, but she always purchased raffle tickets from all her coworkers with children. Suspicious that this could be a scam, she’d researched the resort and contacted them directly to confirm everything. It was just what she needed. A getaway that promised no electronics or connections with the outside world. A place to recharge and just enjoy the beautiful area.

Blinking into the predawn darkness on the first Saturday morning of her time