January 31 in 2014 marks the celebration of the Chinese New Year in Australia. The lunar year of 2014 is all about the horse and, just by coincidence, one of the characters in Risk is hung like a horse. Just kidding.
Risk is, however, set in Shanghai and during the Chinese New Year there, Mike and Jane would no doubt be attending dragon boat races, enjoying the week-long evening fireworks, and digging into a lunar feast of Shengjian mantou and washing it down with Qingdao beer, possibly at a table with their Russian friends-with-benefits Lena and Vlad Orlov.
If you’d like to win a free copy of Risk, leave a comment beneath the excerpt below before the 7th of February.
The Russians are coming…
All his life, corporate risk analyst Mike Ransom has struggled to keep a lid on his love of risk in all its glorious forms—complex megaprojects, gambling and kinky sex with a cast of other players. Add a healthy dash of Catholic guilt to his zeal for hell-raising and Mike’s one conflicted man.
While he may have briefly enjoyed a three-way relationship in Moscow hot enough to melt the icicles off the Kremlin, since relocating to Shanghai he’s put all that behind him. So he certainly doesn’t want quirky IT über-babe and fiancée Jane finding out about the edgy submission and dominance games he played with Vlad and Lena Orlov, Moscow’s most enthusiastic swingers.
But his plan to distance himself from his past comes undone when the Orlovs, unaware of his new relationship status, arrive in town ready to pick up with Mike right where they left off.
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An Excerpt From: RISK
Copyright © RHYLL BIEST, 2013
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
“Hey, gorgeous, rough day in the risk-analysis saddle?”
Mike Ransom leaned back in his swivel chair and smiled. He let the cool of his fiancée’s voice wash from the phone down his spine, her sweet, soft tones tempered by just the right amount of wickedness.
“Long. And hard.” He rubbed his smirk with the receiver.
There was a pause at the other end. “We are still talking about your day, aren’t we?”
“Get over here and find out for yourself. You still at work?”
“Nuh-uh, I left early in case the rain caused a traffic hellmouth from Pudong to Zhongshan. Had to patch a whole bunch of ports against a Trojan but got it done superfast so I’d beat the peak hour.”
He loved it when she talked geek, but the only port he was interested in patching was hers, preferably as he rubbed his face in her breasts and stroked the strawberry birthmark on her hip. And did his best not to imagine another pair of hands on her.
“How very cunning of you, wife-to-be.”
“Why thank you, husband-to-be.”
“There’s so much more to you than just a pretty face and a way with an egg beater.”
Jane’s sigh drowned out the sound of the photocopier down the hallway. “Those political correctness classes aren’t working, are they? I’m going to have to sit you down with a copy of The Female Eunuch again, aren’t I?”
He scanned the corridor outside his office and lowered his voice. “Keep that tone up and I’ll paddle your behind with it. Or is that what you’re hoping for?”
Thick silence. The air seemed to hold its breath along with him as he waited for her answer, his heart wadded thick and tight in his chest with uncertainty. Had he crossed a line?
“Only if you promise to fuck me like you mean it afterward.”
Ohhhhh. He let out a breath and retrieved the file in his brain marked Hot of Jane’s world-class ass. His cock’s imagination was miles ahead, tearing down the street, doing wheelies, his brain opening the throttle on visions of faxing a photo of Jane’s rosy buttocks to his entire department. Every straight guy in the office would succumb to an awe-induced embolism. And a few lesbians.
Ah fuck, when was his brain going to give up on such thoughts? ’Bout the same time he quit drinking those “few quick beers” on the way home. And then drinking a few more once he got there. Jane hadn’t said anything, but whether she’d noticed was another question…
“By the way, don’t bother coming home.”
His spine stiffened. “What?”
“A friend of yours called to invite us to dinner. Call me when you guys work out the details and I’ll pick you up from work. Give me an hour or so to wash my hair and change though, okay?”
“Yeah, okay.” He allowed himself to picture her getting dressed at their Pudong apartment, looking eminently fuckable as she slid her favorite black dress over black silk stockings, the suspenders framing to perfection her deliciously pale, smooth thighs. Who gave a shit about dinner?
“Who called?” he asked.
“Vlad. You got his number to call him back? Or you want me to read it out?”
“Sorry, someone was talking to me.” He stared at his empty office doorway and ran a hand down his face.
“One of your Moscow friends, right?”
“Yeah. I’ve got his number. Did he leave any other message?”
“Said he had some news but he’d tell you over dinner. You’re okay to go to dinner, aren’t you? I know you kind of pulled up rough this morning.”
Ah, so she had noticed the six beers he’d had after dinner. And his hangover. “Your relentless sexual appetite is wearing me out.”
“Wiseass,” she said.
“Okay, I’ve got no comeback to that. Call me and I’ll pick you up.”
“Yeah, all right, thanks. Bye.”
In the dead fluorescent glare of his office, he stared at his computer screen and rubbed his neck. The risk-assessment matrix on the screen wove red and green lines into eye-bleeding complexity, casting red and green shadows on the desk varnish.
The tangle on the screen mirrored his feelings. Vlad.
Vladimir Semyonovich Orlov, to be precise. Vlad to his friends, Orlov to his acquaintances, Semya to his wife, and “that big motherfucker” to everyone else.
And wherever Vlad went, Lena was bound to follow. No pun intended. Well, maybe some. Damn. He looked at his risk-assessment matrix. He had two more pages to write on his milestone report. He’d finish the last figures on his chart and then call Vlad.
His fingers hovered over the keyboard. How long since he’d seen them? A year? Though see was a pale euphemism for their last get-together. His cock twitched.
“Don’t start,” he muttered.
No, he’d left that life behind. They’d figure that out when they met Jane. He’d have to tread a conversational minefield to keep Jane from working out their exact former relationship. But he owed the Orlovs dinner, at least. And he’d attended enough business lunches to perfect the art of hiding behind a curtain of smiles and half-truths between entrée, main and dessert.
He focused on his screen with renewed determination.
July, August, September. October, November, December. He traced the red ribbons of his matrix model to risks, but under his eyes the ribbons thickened and changed, a fat rope worming its way into the linear matrix. He blinked and looked away but it was too late. Bondage paraphernalia in the guts of his risk calculations. Fuck. He slumped back in his swivel chair, pushing away from the screen to run an unsteady hand over his face, grimacing at the prickle of five o’clock shadow.
The rope flashed before his eyes again and he winced, reached for his coffee to block out the image and his stupidity. It was a lot to ask of instant coffee, to smother such a thick sediment of unwanted memory. He drained his mug and squinted at the intricate strands of the risk matrix.
Twelve legislative risks, fourteen capital risks and four supply chain risks. For one project. Whoever the project manager was on this one would need balls of steel. Oh, that was him. Right. He plotted the eighteen crosses on the risk matrix skein. How tempting to add another ten and then wait for the whole house of cards to come crashing down. Watch the whole thing devolve into an unholy shitstorm. How satisfying would that be? To watch the company flagship project turn Titanic? A shiver wound its way down his spine and excitement left an acid taste in his mouth.
That kind of fucked-up thinking had been crawling out of his subconscious to the fore far too frequently lately.
The demon creeper of anarchy that lived in his spine was unfurling new shoots. Some days he woke thinking about Vlad and Lena, all the edgy games they’d played, and the more he pushed the memories down, tried to put a lid on his longings, the bigger his sense of worthlessness and thirst. Not just any thirst, but a burning, epic craving that told him to drink himself unconscious with whatever spirits were on hand and then drink some more, preferably while betting on a horse or two or over a card game. Sad what could happen to a man when you took away his favorite fuck buddies.
He’d resisted a full-on drinking or gambling binge so far, but more and more often he found himself planning grotesquely elaborate complex projects and fantasizing about how they might come undone and take the company down with them. As if he needed to see the corporation unravel as spectacularly as he felt himself unraveling. Some days he nearly suffocated from the effort of holding himself under his self-imposed blanket of restraint. Hard to say whether Jane noticed the cracks in his facade. Like him, she didn’t always share what she was thinking.
Putting the thought aside, he listed mitigation strategies for each risk in the Notes field. A little sad to see all those beautiful risks diminished by forward planning. He frowned at the third supply chain risk. That one was tricky.
One of Lena’s porno-queen screams interrupted his train of thought, the breathy moan reaching a crescendo that sang through his veins and tingled in his balls.
Un-fucking-believable. He sighed and shut the file down. No use kidding himself that he could focus, he’d have to finish it tomorrow.
He looked at the phone on his desk.
Vlad meeting Jane. Or worse, Vlad and Lena meeting Jane. Not something he’d ever pictured. Not outside of his brain’s endless filthy scenarios, anyway.
What brought them to Shanghai? Respite from summer tourists in Moscow?
He shuffled the papers on his desk, moved them around into better piles then rearranged his paperclips and straightened his pens and pencils.
He hadn’t been in contact with either of them since he’d met Jane. Vlad hadn’t commented on his silence. Lena had sent rude emails. Fear kept him mute.
Vlad and Lena. What had they been doing with themselves? He’d bet any men’s magazine would be happy to publish the details. A grin split his unwary face.
If they had dinner he’d keep a tight rein on himself and limit himself to two drinks. Then nothing could go wrong.
Fingers moving by memory, he dialed Vlad’s number.