This is the story of Claire Ryan and Evan Lang. 35-year-old Claire joins a local book club for romance readers in order to get over the breakdown of her 10-year relationship, there she meets book shop owner Evan, a dominant man who has never recovered from the sudden death of his submissive wife.
As their relationship develops and they embark on the path of Claire’s submission, it becomes harder and harder for Evan to keep his emotional distance. Claire is open and responsive and he wants her badly, but refuses to let himself go.
As Claire falls deeper in love with Evan, she realises that he is holding back and decides to end their relationship, forcing Evan to confront his own past and his feelings in order to save his new love.
Winner of the New Writing Competition at the Festival of Romance 2011
‘I feel safe here.’ She waved a hand around to encompass the bookstore. ‘You make me feel safe. Despite your attitude, I don’t believe you would hurt me.’ Claire flushed such a sweet shade of pink as she spoke, her hazel gaze roaming the store as she looked everywhere but at him.
Safe. She thought she was safe with him. That he wouldn’t hurt her. Evan sat in stunned silence for the briefest moment before a red tide of fury suffused his body. Fury at Marianne for dying and leaving him alone when she had been the centre of his life. Fury at Claire for tempting him and reviving desires that he’d believed were dead and buried with his love. Fury at himself for being so damned foolish and afraid in the face of his temptation. In that moment, he knew himself for a coward and he snapped.
‘Safe. You think you’re safe with me?’ he all but sneered at her. ‘You know nothing.’ He spit the words at Claire as he leant, forward his hands clenched into fists on his knees. She shrank away from him, pushing so far back into the leather club chair her feet no longer touched the floor. Her eyes were wide with shock and the beginnings of fear. Shame crawled over his skin and he reached for self-control, only to lose it all over again when her small, white teeth bit into her trembling lower lip.
‘Damn you!’ He slammed a fist down on the arm of his chair, causing her to jump at the violence of his action. ‘You are anything but safe with me. Every time you walk through that door all I can think about is bending you over my lap and spanking that pretty little ass until it is shiny, red, and stinging. Then fucking you from behind so that the sting feeds the orgasm I give you. I fantasise about binding you and whipping those sweet little tits, your pussy, and your ass. Marking you everywhere so that each time you look in the mirror you remember me and how I put them there, and then beg me to put more on you when they heal. I want to drench you in my come, fuck you in every goddamn hole, and make you scream until you can’t speak.’
As the words died on his lips, he dragged in a breath and took Claire in, really saw her now that the apex of his anger had passed somewhat. She was glassy-eyed and panting. The knuckles of her slim, elegant fingers were white and she gripped the arms of her chair as if her life depended on it. She looked like she was having a panic attack.
Fear and shame overrode his anger and he lurched forward, coming around and sitting on the table before her. He took her face between his palms. She was so tiny, his hands seems to swallow her up.
‘Claire.’ He spoke softly, soothingly, as he rubbed his thumb over her cheeks. ‘Claire, please. Look at me.’
She turned just a fraction, closing her eyes and refusing to look at him. Her motion brought his thumb to rest on her lower lip. Quickly, so quickly he almost missed it, she licked his thumb. It was the barest touch, but the sight of her pink tongue against his skin was more than he could take. What control remained to him was lost.
‘Damn you,’ he repeated, but this time it was the hoarse whisper of a drowning man. ‘Suck it,’ he demanded as he thrust his thumb between her full, rosy lips. She obeyed instantly, enveloping the digit in wet, velvet heat. A shudder coursed through him at the silken feel of her mouth on his skin. She sucked gently in slow draws that he felt all the way to his cock, which surged violently to life.
With his other hand he untied the bow that held the halter of her dress together and yanked the barrier from her body so that it pooled at her waist in a lake of red silk. She faltered briefly, but continued to suck on his thumb as he squeezed her breast, massaging and shaping it in his large palm. She was small, tiny even; the entire globe barely filled his palm, but his mouth watered to taste her. He pulled his thumb from her mouth and trailed damp circles around each nipple before leaning down to suck the puckered tips into his mouth. He sucked hard, eliciting a cry of pained pleasure from her as she arched into his mouth.
He squeezed and pulled, sucked and bit at her nipples furiously, his mind blank except for the driving urge to mark her, claim her. Only when they were red and swollen, jutting out from the cream of her skin, did he leave her breasts. But he was far from done with her. He yanked her hips forward and roughly pushed the skirt of her dress up to her hips. She wore a brief, black silk thong which disappeared in a savage yank as he tore it from her. The fragile elastic snapped as easily as if it were an errant thread. He dropped the offending silk to the floor and threw her legs over the arms of the chair so that she was spread and open to him.
He didn’t stop to appreciate the sight she made, though the memory would haunt him later. Her eyes were half-closed and glazed with desire. Her rosy lips were parted and damp from her tongue. Her small, tight breasts were swollen and tipped with hard, berry-red pebbles from his earlier feasting. The scarlet silk pooled at her waist, framing and showcasing her plump hips and drenched pussy. The damp curls were trimmed close, just a shade darker than the honeyed brown of her tousled hair. No, in that moment, he only took in the sandpaper dryness of his throat and the need to taste her.
Welcome Elene Sallinger! Please start off by telling us a little about yourself.
Thank you so much for hosting me today. It’s a pleasure to be here.
As for me, I’m a mother of a young daughter and the human to two Pitbulls. I’ve been writing since 2004 and have recently released my debut novel, Awakening through Xcite Books. I love to knit, hate to cook, and go out of my way to avoid driving whenever possible.
Is Awakening a single title, or part of a series?
Well, Awakening started out as a single title and I guess technically it still is. It’s a self-contained story. However, my next book expands on a character we met in Awakening and the third book will follow a character introduced in the second, so I’m seeing this becoming a series tentatively The Chrysalis Series.
What were your inspirations for the story?
That’s a bit harder to nail down. I began writing this story after seeing how many people were introduced into the BDSM lifestyle in a negative fashion. I’d been researching the lifestyle for almost a year and had interacted with a group of lovely people who opened my eyes both to the positives and the negatives of that life. With so many people leaping on the BDSM bandwagon with very little real information it just made sense to write a more “cautionary” tale and show that there was more to the life than kinky sex.
Please share your setting for Awakening. Have you ever lived or visited there? If so, what did you like most?
Awakening is set in the fictitious town of River Rock, Vermont. The town is a composite of Washington, DC – my hometown – and Old Town Alexandria in Virginia where I spent many years as an adult. I wanted it to be an artsy, eclectic enclave that housed a lot of great characters. Bibliophile, the primary setting of the book, is the bookstore of my dreams. I wish it were real.
When did the writing bug first bite?
I’ve written off and on since I was a child, but the real bug didn’t bite until 2004. My daughter wanted me to make up bed time stories and tell them again and again. I didn’t want to forget them so I wrote them down and illustrated them. Her dad encouraged me to get some formal training and though I hemmed and hawed for a while, I eventually got off my patootie and took some classes. The rest as they say, is history.
What was the first creative piece you remember writing?
When I was eight, I wrote a play about the water cycle. My main character was a raindrop and he did lots of lovely things like surfing, skydiving and hot air ballooning as he progressed through the cycle.
Another favorite of mine from my youth was in high school where we had to write our own version of Dante’s Inferno. My re-imagined Hell was populated exclusively with Disney characters. Maleficent, the queen in Sleeping Beauty, was my Satan. I had Arthur from The Sword in the Stone as my main character, Merlin as his guide. I even illustrated it. If you can’t tell, I was a Disney junkie growing up!
Who are you favorite authors, book/series?
Goodness, I’m not sure there’s enough time to cover that. My favorite authors are Garfield Reeves-Stevens, George RR Martin, JR Ward, Patricia Briggs and the blogger Theo Black. My favorite books are (I can’t limit this to one book):
Vampire Novel: Bloodshift by Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Zombie Novel: World War Z by Max Brooks
Fantasy Novel: Dragondoom by Dennis McKiernan
Romance Novel: Sundays at Tiffany’s by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
Non-Fiction: Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog
My favorite series:
The Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin
The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward
The Mercedes Thompson & The Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs
If you could have an author roundtable discussion with any authors, who would you invite?
Wow, that’s a hard one. Over the years my tastes and focus have changed and not all of the authors I’d want to sit down with are necessarily ones I read a lot of. That being said, if I had to choose it would be:
Remittance Girl – her unflinching commitment to transgressive erotica makes me want to pick her brain.
Garfield Reeves-Stevens – the level of detail he puts in his books is off the scale and yet you never lose interest.
E.L. James – I just really want to know why she wrote the book the way she wrote it and what makes her think BDSM is something that needs to be “cured.”
Mary Crow Dog – I want to understand more of her experience as a Native American in this country.
Do you have any hobbies or special things you like to do in your spare time?
Lots, I just never have the time to do any of them! I love to knit and listen to music. I adore dancing and walking with my dogs. I love art museums and swimming. I also love to make woven jewelry.
This is how a BDSM novel should be written when one of the characters is mourning the loss of their submissive/wife and the other character is learning to trust someone all over again and find her self-worth. Its more about the emotional journey towards a D/s relationship than the sex. More on that later…
Claire and Evan are two very emotional damaged people and for very different reasons. Evan is mourning the loss of his submissive wife, Marianne and doesn’t want to ever love again. Claire was a submissive but didn’t know it. After dealing with an abusive mother and sister, her self-worth was next to nothing. Finding solace in the book club and then with Evan was a revelation for her.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Claire and Evan getting to know one other and learning to trust each other before the actual sex acts came into play. Most authors don’t deal with the emotional journey when it comes to a newbie in the lifestyle. They make assumptions that the newbie understands the lifestyle, the situations that they will have and what is expected of them. Ms. Sallinger takes her time with Claire and Evan. Was it frustrating sometimes? To me it wasn’t but to some it might be. I’m one of those weird readers that doesn’t need a bunch of sex in her books and appreciates that sexual tension that builds between the characters. Read the excerpt again…O.M.G. That alone is panty wetting and it was just words/feelings coming out of Evan’s mouth at first. Beautifully written I must say.
Their journey together was slow and while I enjoyed it, some might not. I love it when an author, regardless of the genre, takes their time with the characters. Claire and Evan regardless of their “kink/lifestyle” were two relatable and realistic people. The loss of spouse is numbing and being abused by people that were supposed to love and support you.
I could go on about the sex scenes (hot when they happened) but you will need to read the book to enjoy them as Claire and Evan finally did. Again, this book isn’t about the sexual relationship that a D/s couple have together but the emotional journey to GET to the sexual part of the relationship.
The only thing that disappointed me was the epilogue. I love my epilogues but I felt like it was a little vague but since I hear this is another book coming out, hopefully Ms. Sallinger will revisit Claire and Evan.
If you are looking for a BDSM novel where the Dom meets the sub, finds insta love/lust, ties her to a spanking bench/St. Andrews cross, brings the crop/cat o’ nine tails, nipple clamps, delays her orgasm has punishment and gets off before she does…this book isn’t for you. There are books are there that are like that for sure, but I like my BDSM books with the emotional depth and healing that Ms. Sallinger has written. For that, here’s my sincere thanks and gratitude.
About the author:
Hailing from Washington, DC, Elene Sallinger first caught the writing bug in 2004 after writing and illustrating several stories for her then four-year-old daughter. Her writing career has encompassed two award-winning childrens stories, a stint as a consumer-education advocate, as well as writing her debut novel, Awakening – a novel of erotic fiction that won the New Writing Competition at the Festival of Romance 2011.