No Second Chances
Courtesans Tales, Book 9
© 2016 Jasmine Haynes
Originally published in the 2010 the anthology Mine Until Morning
All the Courtesans Tales are standalone romances
“Readers will love the complicated characters and smoking romances.”
“…hot, dirty, sexy, fun also filled with enough emotion that I found myself dabbing my eyes a few times.”
“…eroticism that steamed off the pages…Joyfully Recommended as an erotic must read.”
Romances to make you blush set in a glitzy, sensual world of powerful people and the courtesans they’ll pay anything to have.
Every courtesan has secrets…
But when those secrets get out, sometimes there’s hell to pay...or heaven to find.
Isabel of Courtesans has a story she’s never told. Born on the wrong side of the tracks, she fell in love with the son of the richest family in town. He loved her just as much, but tragedy tore them apart.
Years later, Royce Harmon has come to San Francisco to open a satellite office for the family company. Now he’s back in her life looking for the happily ever after they didn’t get when they were teenagers.
But there’s one big stumbling block to bliss. Royce has no clue that not only is Isabel the Madam of Courtesans, she’s also a courtesan herself for a select few. And she has no intention of giving up her life’s work at Courtesans. Not even for love. Can Royce accept her lifestyle or is it really true that there are no second chances?
The Courtesans Tales in order
The Girlfriend Experience
Three’s a Crowd
Surrender to Me
The Only Way Out
The Wrong Kind of Man
No Second Chances
No Second Chances
Courtesans Tales, Book 9
© 2017 Jasmine Haynes
Six months ago
Her breath caught halfway into her lungs.
Time had wrought changes, but she knew him instantly. At forty-eight, he was more handsome than she could have imagined. His jaw chiseled, his body bigger, six feet of hard muscle, his dark hair heavily salted with a gray that seemed to match the color of his eyes, a shade that had haunted her. The last time she’d seen him, he’d been a mere boy of eighteen compared to the man he’d become.
The memories she’d managed to bury slammed her chest so hard she was surprised she didn’t crumple to her knees. Love, hate, joy, anger, ecstasy, pain, wonder, anguish, and fear. All the emotions that she’d thought were long gone, dead and buried. He was the best of her memories and the worst of them. He’d been a part of her hopes, then a piece of her nightmares.
If her muscles had cooperated, she would have run. Instead, she could only watch him cross the room. To her.
“Isabel.” His smile was brilliant, devastating, but his silver gaze was guarded. “You’ve done well for yourself.”
For a long time, she’d believed she would have another chance. Now, thirty years later, she knew there were no second chances.
Royce Harmon lay in the dark on the fragile antique sofa in the front room of Isabel’s Pacific Heights flat. It wasn’t made for a man’s six-foot frame, and if she saw him abusing it like this, Isabel would freak. But at three in the morning, she wasn’t home to see him do it.
He’d arrived on a late Friday-evening flight, taken a taxi, let himself in with the key she’d given him. Now he waited. If he’d called ahead, would she have been there to greet him?
Royce stacked his hands beneath his head and stared out the picture window. In the day, one could see the streets sloping down to the water, Alcatraz, the bay dotted with sailboats. Right now, all he could see were stars, the heavens lit from below by the city’s nighttime glow. Despite its legendary fog, the San Francisco sky was clear tonight, even in late October.
The three-bedroom flat was worth well into the millions even after the housing crisis. Isabel told him she’d inherited it. She’d never said from whom.
She cut off any discussion regarding the past. She refused any overtures about the future. As for the present, he was sure he wasn’t the only man in her life. They’d made no commitment, never declared exclusivity, though he believed he was the only one with a key to her flat. No matter what time he arrived, whether she was home or out, he never found evidence of anyone else having been there, and she always seemed glad to see him.
He’d loved the seventeen-year-old girl she’d been with every last cell in his body. The woman she’d become? He couldn’t say. He didn’t know her. They fucked, but they weren’t intimate. They didn’t date. Occasionally they’d dine at restaurants down along the Peninsula or Marin or the East Bay, but never San Francisco. She chose out-of-the-way places and always asked for a table tucked in a dim corner. As if she were afraid of being recognized or seen with him.
All he knew about her was what he observed. She dressed expensively and elegantly. She had a BMW garaged beneath the building, but for the most part she used a limo service to get around town. Her jewels were real. She belonged to an exclusive club where she worked out daily. She never revealed what she did for a living, but when her cell phone rang, she always took the call in another room. She said she’d never married, so whom had she inherited from? And exactly what? Just the flat, or all the money, too?
Her secrets drove him crazy, but she wasn’t telling, and if he couldn’t live with that, the only alternative was to walk away. Royce couldn’t do that. Thirty years ago, he’d made love to her with all his heart. He’d never truly reclaimed it. Bare-bones, their story was a stereotype. Her family was trailer trash, his, community pillars. He’d forced their love into hiding; she’d accused him of being ashamed. Maybe he was, but not of her, never her. Prosperity, Oklahoma, was like any other small town; the gossip was merciless. He’d refused to subject her to it. They’d fought regularly over the issue. One day those fights got the better of them. She’d run away. Two months later, he’d received an apology card from L.A. He couldn’t argue with her reasons; everything she said was true. Their worlds were too disparate. Still, though he was about to start university, he’d boarded the first flight west. By the time he arrived in L.A., she’d already moved on. There were no more cards, no letters, no calls. If he’d been older, more savvy, he might have hired a private detective. But he wasn’t. Royce was forced to move on, but he’d never forgotten. He’d married, raised a family, divorced, sent his girls off to college, expanded the family business, opened satellite offices, the last one in San Francisco.
Then six months ago, he’d seen her. A benefit at the symphony hall. His life had turned upside down. He still hadn’t righted it.
In the quiet of the flat, the front door lock clicked.
Her high heels tip-tapped lightly from hardwood floor to Persian carpet to hardwood again as she strolled to the front window. She didn’t turn to see him nor had he left his overnight bag in the hall, but taken it straight to the bedroom.
The starlight bathing her form showcased the slender lines of her body in a skintight costume, Wonder Woman or Supergirl or some other comic-book heroine.
She stretched like a cat kneading its paws, one arm straight up, fingers flexing, then the other, her hips swaying with each move as if she were dancing to music in her head. His cock rose to attention just as it did whenever she was near.
In the dark of the night, even when he was married, he’d jerked off to fantasies of her. He’d had her once, and despite the fumbling of virginity and youth, no other experience had ever compared.
Until he saw her again.
She unzipped the red boots, unsnapped the gold cloth belt shimmering at her waist, and wriggled out of the blue and red star-spangled bodysuit. She wore no bra or panties beneath. No lines to mar the costume.
Gloriously naked but for the golden Wonder Woman wristbands, she stood before the window. High on a San Francisco hill with only the darkness behind her, he doubted any peeper could have seen much, yet she wouldn’t have cared. Raising her arms, she tugged off the costume tiara, tossed it carelessly, and pulled her hair from the knot on her head, letting the silky blonde tresses tumble down past her shoulders. She fluffed her hair. She was a sensual creature. She enjoyed touch. Her own, someone else’s, even the stroke of the night air.
Royce couldn’t stand another moment without touching her, too. As much as he enjoyed watching her, the smoothness of her skin was infinitely better. Rising, padding across the expensive carpet, he trailed a finger down her spine.
“You didn’t tell me you were coming.” She didn’t startle or even turn. She knew the stillness of her house, had probably felt his breath disturbing it.
“I thought I’d surprise you.”
“How long have you been waiting?”
Thirty years. “Since midnight.”
She didn’t apologize. “Ah well, now I’m here.”
He bent to the curve of her neck, kissing the creamy skin. Another scent rose, the musk of come, salty male flesh, her own unique scent of arousal.
She’d been with a man. His stomach clenched, yet at the same time his cock surged and his balls filled to aching. He closed his eyes, breathed her in, and, in his mind, saw her stretched wide on a bed, fucking hard, coming hard.
He wanted her now, like this, in front of the window, for anyone to see. For everyone to know she was his.
Wrapping one arm beneath her breasts, he hauled her up against him and tunneled between her legs. “You’re wet,” he whispered.
“You’re hard,” she replied.
He rubbed, sliding in the moisture, and a fresh draft of her sweet sexual fragrance rose to his nose. Her scent intoxicated him; her wetness enflamed him. He hated that she’d been with someone else, yet it made him insane with lust.
“Those wristbands make me fucking hot.” Bending at the knees, he rubbed his jeans and the bulge of his erection along the crease of her ass. “Put your hands on the table.”
The long table beneath the window was thigh-high. Leaning down thrust her ass in the air. Royce went to his knees behind her and speared her with his tongue. She moaned. Her taste was sweet yet slightly acrid with the flavor of latex. She’d fucked with a condom, yet her ass cheeks were smeared with the scent of semen. He backed off to lick her flesh and a burst of come shot across his tongue. She hadn’t showered it off.
He wanted to ask who, didn’t dare to find out, wasn’t sure he could bear it, and yet, the smell drove him mad with desire. The man had fucked her, withdrawn, ripped off the condom, and shot his load across her ass. He fucking hated it, yet he couldn’t draw away from the taste and aroma of sex all over her. Fingering her clit, he took her with his tongue, drinking her juice, making her tremble.
“Royce, oh God.”
Did she cry out her other lover’s name with the same breathy lilt?
He licked and sucked, savored and owned, and tried to drive every thought of the other man from her mind.
“Fuck me, Royce, fuck me now.” She begged and commanded.
He rose, fished the condom packet from his pocket. With Isabel, he made sure always to be prepared. No condom, no ride, but with a condom, she’d do it anywhere. He relished the risks they’d taken as much as she did. His favorite had been the top deck of the ferry, his long coat wrapped around them both. The risk made it fucking amazing.
She made it amazing now, the silk of her skin, the musk of sex rising off her, her sounds, the stars laid out before them. Rolling on the condom, he plunged deep, burying himself all the way to her womb. She cried out, her body tensing around him, holding him, and for the longest moment, they were silent, still, one being with two heartbeats. Royce covered her with his body. He wished now he’d removed his clothes, but there would be time enough for that later. He would have her more than once tonight, in the morning, all weekend. He had yet to get enough of her before he had to return home.
Reaching behind, she curled her fingers through his hair, pulled lightly. “Fuck me hard, Royce.”
They didn’t make love; they fucked. It was the only word she used. Yet deep in the core of him, he knew it was more, knew she felt it, too.
So he made love to her, driving deep with long, slow strokes until his mind stopped thinking and there was just sensation; the rasp of his jeans against his thighs, the ache in his balls, the throb rising in his cock, and her pussy contracting around him. He exploded inside her. At the last moment, as her orgasm dragged him into oblivion, he exercised one last vestige of control to pull out, tear off the condom, and spray her ass with his come, erasing the taste and scent of the other man. Now she was his.
Minutes later, he was naked on the Persian carpet with her ass pressed to his groin, her body plastered along his. He’d ditched the clothing in favor of feeling her every inch against him. Ruminating about all the ways he could say what he wanted, he realized there were none that wouldn’t piss her off.
“That was a pleasant surprise,” she murmured, holding his hand to her breast.
Had she snuggled like this with her other partner, the lazy post-coital moments?
“I need more than this.” Oh yeah, that would piss her off.
“Sex doesn’t get better than this, Royce.”
His heart thumped against her shoulder blades. He knew that. “More time. More things besides sex. A stroll in Golden Gate Park. A cappuccino on Union Square. Shopping at Neiman Marcus. Dinner in Chinatown.” You all to myself, no sharing.
“You’re not here often enough for that. I don’t want to waste a minute of time we could be fucking.”
And that was a fucking excuse. She was avoiding. “We need to make some sort of commitment here.”
She stilled in his arms. As he’d known she would. “Don’t ruin what we already have, Royce.”
“I’m ready for more.”
Fuck. He wasn’t ready for an ultimatum, either. He’d already lost thirty years, half a goddamn lifetime. He couldn’t see the rest ahead without her.
“Let’s go to bed,” she said.
It was on the tip of his tongue to ask how many men had slept in her bed. Yet just as he sensed he was the only one with a key to her flat, he believed he was the only one she allowed into her bed. For now he would take what he could get while he plotted how to breach her defenses. “All right.”
She spoke before she moved. “I haven’t been to the new Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Maybe you could take me sometime.”
His breath left him too quickly, yet he closed his eyes to savor the small gift. There was a flicker of hope.
* * *
Lying on his back, he snored lightly. When he was gone, she missed the sound. She missed his scent on the sheets. Sometimes after he left, she didn’t let Neala change the linens right away. It was pathetic, but she liked to fall asleep smelling him.
She loved it when he surprised her with a visit. The sex was fantastic, and yes, she realized it was made better by the emotion between them. But her belly was also in knots of tension most of the time, too. Tonight, Royce’s timing had sucked.
The prince had called a couple of weeks ago. His son had reached his majority, and it was time for his initiation. She’d long ago versed herself on the customs of the prince’s small fiefdom. She didn’t quite know why they were all princes and never kings even though they ruled, but that was the way it worked. The sons were virgins until eighteen; then they were initiated by a courtesan, a woman versed in the sexual arts. A courtesan in general, not necessarily one of Isabel’s.
Her personal client list had dwindled over the last six months, but the prince was special. It never occurred to her to turn him down, though honestly she couldn’t say she’d been dying to fulfill his request. Royce’s return had changed things for her. She, however, was the most familiar with all the prince’s customs, and he would accept no one else for his son’s coming-of-age. There were rituals to be performed; everything had to be just so. The prince was there to make sure. A witness was required, an important part of the ceremony.
Yet she had to laugh. He’d wanted the ceremony “Americanized.” Something typically American to start off the festivities. Like baseball and apple pie. Considering the time of year, a Halloween costume ball seemed like a perfect kickoff. Dressed in their ceremonial robes, the prince and his son fit right in.
Isabel curled against Royce’s back, steeping herself in the feel of him. She tongued the nape of his neck, licking away the salt of his skin. She savored these moments where she stored his scent, his taste, his feel for the days and weeks when he was gone.
Tonight, she’d done her job to perfection. Both princes were pleased beyond their wildest imaginings.
In their fiefdom, it was considered bad form for a man to enter the marriage bed without first learning how to properly satisfy his wife. In addition to taking his virginity, her job had been to teach the young prince how to pleasure a woman. While it had been physically satisfying, it was nothing compared to the feel of Royce’s cock inside her, his tongue on her, his fingers stroking her. Yes, Royce had certainly brought changes to her life. She no longer relished a new date or looked forward to a regular. None of them compared with what she felt when she was with Royce. The emotions added so much to the physical act.
She nuzzled Royce’s hair. When he was young, his hair had been thick and dark, the texture of silk. Shot with gray, it was coarser now. His body was thicker, his muscles honed; his cock stayed harder longer. He was like fine wine, better with age.
She didn’t think about all the years they’d missed, the things he’d had with another woman, like children. She ached thinking of him with sweet little dark-haired girls. She had only that one regret, but motherhood was never meant to be for her. Except for that one hole in her life, she loved who she was and what she was.
Even as she’d been dreading the day Royce finally asked for more. He wasn’t going to let her hide him away for much longer. It was actually rather amusing—or karma—considering how he’d hidden their relationship from his family and the entire town of Prosperity when they were teens. One day soon, though, there would be a reckoning. She’d felt his increasing withdrawal when she refused to commit or even talk about the future.
There was a possibility he might be able to forgive her for the things she’d kept from him all those years ago. She might be able to make him understand why she’d done what she had, why she’d disappeared. But he wasn’t going to forgive the secrets she was keeping from him now.