This sizzling story combines a mystery that follows machinations in the business world and a slowly evolving sensual relationship between two individuals who vacillate between showing their true desires and acting according to conventional rules. I initially was frustrated with the time progression as little scenes are presented showing encounters between the main characters over a series of years but I did like watching the shift in dynamics between them. There are deliciously spicy scenes depicted but sometimes it felt like being given a glimpse through a keyhole as the sensuality intensifies vividly and suddenly dials back to the pragmatic. The wonderfully comedic scenes counteract some of the intense emotionalism (the vision of three Doms in costume comes to mind). I confess to still being a bit confused about what was truly going on in the company and would have liked a little more comeuppance for one particular character, as well as a better explanation for the exceedingly extravagant purchase at the end of the story other than as a very expensive carrot. This was an entertaining and sexy story that is part of a series yet can be read as a stand alone.
“Stare Him Down” by Riley Murphy is part of the ‘Stare Down’ erotic romance series and follows the interactions between Michaela Donovan and James Barrington, the man who becomes a significant player at her father’s company. Michaela’s interest in James is complicated by their respective relationships with her father, Bran, not to mention James’ proclivities toward BDSM. It turns out that James is not the only one holding secrets, and the ones that Michaela is hiding may be too much for him to accept, particularly in the one woman who appeals so strongly to the Dom in him.
When he agreed to walk away from the lifestyle for her, he never expected she’d subversively push him back into it. Until she did…
After tragedy stole the only man James Barrington looked up to, his perfect and orderly life hit a brick wall. One minute he was the right-hand man to the owner of the company, and in the next he was the boss fighting to stop a hostile takeover the only way he knew how. He needed to marry his late mentor’s over-protected daughter, Michaela Donavan, and stay married to her until the threat to the company was averted.
While they were together, James had no intention of disrespecting his in-name-only wife by remaining entrenched in the lifestyle. For the time being, he was prepared to walk away from his Dom-like pursuits. He had to. Michaela was the opposite of everything he embodied. She was soft, where he was hard. Gentle, when he favored rough. She was refined and elegant. The epitome of a virtuous woman, and he wasn’t going to do anything to change that.
Circumstances may have forced them to enter into a marriage of convenience in order to keep her father’s legacy alive, but the moment that legacy was secured they’d both be free to go their separate ways.
Michaela knew this may be her only opportunity to finally get the one man she has always fantasized about. She’s spent years studying him. Idolizing him. Wanting him in a way she wanted no other. And now? Well, her father always told her to seize whatever good came out of the bad, and Michaela was ready to do just that. Heartbroken over what happened, and faced with the task of saving the company, she sees James’ sensible offer as the perfect solution. A way to achieve two things she desired most at one time. James may consider this a marriage of convenience, but she’s determined to covertly change his mind on the matter.
One submissive tease at a time.
Maybe if James had been a different man he wouldn’t have noticed her subtle actions. Maybe if he was any other guy he could have overlooked them. Truth be told, he might have had a fighting chance if each “accidental” midnight encounter didn’t fire his blood and call to the Dom in him to come out and master this beautiful woman.
He couldn’t do that. This was Michaela Donavan. The innocent vanilla who had no idea what her sultry actions were doing to a seasoned Dom like him. This was no time to let desire get in the way. He had to maintain control and stay focused in order to save the company. Surely, once this happened he’d able to put aside the wicked thoughts her unintentional actions inspired in him before it was too late and he acted on them.
Michaela wasn’t going to give up. But with the prospect of their arrangement coming to an end before she succeeded to re-Dom him in her direction, she knew what she had to do.
She had to go submissive on him.
A Dom's vanilla marriage of convenience is anything but convenient the second he discovers the truth about his hot little wife.
***This book can be read as a standalone. It contains NO cliffhanger.***