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Strange Attractions (Berkley Sensation) Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 2005

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About the Author

Emma Holly lives in Minnesota where the winters are long and people will use any excuse to warm up. According to Emma, humanity’s best inventions are hot showers, the printing press, coffee, chocolate, and bicycle shorts for men. She can be reached at emmah@wavetech.net or P.O. Box 2591, Minneapolis, MN 55402-0591.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

One

"Come closer,” B.G. Grantham said to his employee.

Though Eric Berne was dressed, his boss was not. The notoriously reclusive physicist lay face down on a black leather massage table—his long, lean body gleaming with oil. Eric knew it didn’t bother B.G. to be naked. His employer’s reserve had never been physical. It didn’t need to be. From his broad, straight shoulders to his narrow feet, his every sinew was perfectly conformed. Had B.G. wished, his image could have been used to hawk men’s cologne.

He’s the Greek ideal, Eric thought, flashing back to his days at U.C. Berkeley—mind and muscle both at their peak.

Because he was an avid swimmer, B.G. had taken to removing his body hair. As Sylvia, the pretty blonde masseuse, pushed her hands slowly down his spine, nothing spoiled his sleek, athletic lines.

Eric fought an urge to lick his lips.

“Yes?” he said, shaking himself from his fugue and stepping within arm’s reach. “You have an assignment for me?”

“Of a sort,” B.G. said, then groaned as Sylvia took his butt in her hands and squeezed.

The masseuse was his latest find, hired away from an exclusive spa in nearby Victoria. Though B.G.’s staff usually went through a longer vetting process than Sylvia had, Eric could understand why he’d made an exception for her. Her hands were magic, her gift for intuiting what sort of touch would spur the greatest pleasure formidable. It was as if she’d been born to please. Naturally, this fascinated B.G., whose lifelong study of pleasure—what caused it, what heightened it—neared obsession.

Now his legs shifted slightly, languorously, betraying his enjoyment as much as his groan. The change in position bared the lower bulge of his balls, full and sexually flushed. For the last three months, B.G. had withdrawn from everyone on his staff, devoting himself to mental labors until he had to be reminded to eat and sleep. Eric could tell that phase was over and that B.G.’s appetite for sensual indulgence—always considerable—had been heightened by abstinence.

Once again, B.G. was taking his place as the erotic fulcrum around which Mosswood revolved. Once again, he’d decide who would be pleasured and who would not. Sylvia seemed to sense the change, her body humming softly with interest. She stood at the head of the table, and her front brushed B.G.’s back as she reached down.

She was a lovely woman—naked, of course—with slight, high breasts and nipples as tight as pencil erasers. Her hair was so short it clung to her head like a feathered platinum cap. Eric had reason to know those locks were just as soft as they appeared. She was an odd creature in bed, more comfortable with giving pleasure than in taking it. The few times they’d had sex—while B.G. was caught up in work—she’d given the impression that she wasn’t completely there, as if she were perpetually waiting for someone else to appear. The effect was disconcerting, and explained why her status had been so quickly changed from plaything to staff. Competence was what B.G. valued most in an employee. In a sexual partner, however, a desire for the rewards he meted out was all important. Ironically, Sylvia wasn’t greedy enough to suit B.G.—a problem Eric suspected he’d never have to worry about.

He did wonder, though, if he’d ever get used to being able to desire a woman even as his mouth was watering for a man.

Eric had been attracted to both sexes since he was young, a quirk in his makeup he’d been lucky enough to accept almost as soon as he’d figured out what it was. His parents had been open-minded, his circle of friends liberal. Before taking this job as B.G.’s sexual major domo, he’d thought attraction ought to be a one-gender-at-a-time affair. Serial mono-sexuality, so he thought, would keep his feet on the ground.

He should have guessed his old friend would be beyond any rules at all. The world of the quantum, B.G.’s favorite playground, knew few limits. Consequently, B.G. saw no reason why he should invent limits for himself.

“You’ve been here, what, three years now?” B.G. asked, his voice altered by a combination of sensual enjoyment and the pressure of stroking hands.

“About that,” Eric agreed.

“And we’ve met in this chamber at least twice a year.”

Reflexively, Eric looked around. The room in which he stood was shaped like a pyramid, great blocks of softly polished graywacke narrowing rank by rank to a central point. Blue pinprick lights underlit each level, enhancing the impression that this place was both old and new, a juxtaposition B.G. loved.

The quantum realm, he liked to say, can’t tell the difference between all times and none at all.

Then again, since some of his employer’s beliefs verged on the crankish, he might have been trying to test the validity of “pyramid power.”

“Yes,” Eric said, fighting a smile, “we always start our adventures here.”

Despite the chamber’s familiarity, or perhaps because of it, merely opening its heavy door had the ability to disengage Eric from his normal self. His inhibitions fell away, along with his preconceived ideas of what sensible people did. Here, where each new round of play began, his desires spoke to him in the clearest possible tones.

Though it disturbed him sometimes, he was beginning to think the person he became within these walls was the real him. Regardless of whether that was true, his skin tightened in anticipation as his employer drew breath to speak.

“I want you to choose,” B.G. said, startling Eric enough to rock him back on his heels.

Abruptly, he was aware of what hung beneath the lining of his trousers: the thickening weight of his cock, the tensing power of his legs. Eric was bigger and stronger than B.G., not stupid, but more of an athlete than a brain. B.G.’s mental charisma was the force that kept him in check. On his own, Eric wouldn’t have had a fraction of the experiences B.G. made possible. Because of this, as well as his debt of loyalty, Eric chose to indulge the other man’s whims, to wait however long it took for permission to sate his desires—which didn’t mean the reins never chafed.

That was the idea, of course: that no one around B.G. be able to predict when release would come, that the possibility it would be withheld would make them desperate. In that state of suspended frustration, the smallest erotic reward gained intensity.

Blinking sleepily, B.G. turned his head on his folded arms. His face was as attention-grabbing as the rest of him—quirkier perhaps, narrow and olive-skinned, with a long, curving nose and a mobile mouth. His hair was straight and black, cut short except for a shock that hung over his dark-brown eyes. On anyone else, these features would have been expressive. On B.G., they gave away virtually nothing. His emotions were hidden, as was usual, behind a wall of lazy calm.

Only a long-time associate like Eric could tell how jazzed he was.

“Did you hear me?” B.G. asked patiently. “I said I want you to choose our next candidate.”

The candidates’ files sat open on the granite tiles beneath the table where B.G. lay. One candidate was male, the other female. These reports were part psychological profile, part personal history. Eric had not only directed their compilation, he had summarized them for his boss. It wasn’t standard procedure, but Eric himself had taken the long-lense photos for one. That being the case, he knew the files' contents intimately.

“I heard you,” he said to B.G. “I’m just not sure which option you’d enjoy more.”

This spurred a reaction. Like a leopard waking from a nap, B.G. rolled onto his back and pushed up on his elbows. His chest bore creases from the table's leather seams. Though the marks cut enticingly across his nipples, Eric’s eyes drifted farther down. B.G.’s cock was swollen and straight, flushed like his scrotum but not lifted yet. Because his hips were slender, his shaft seemed larger by comparison. With painful clarity, Eric recalled the silkiness of its skin.

As B.G. undoubtedly intended, remembering the pleasure they could share made the waiting worse.

B.G. and Eric had known each other since they were boys, thrown together by well-meaning parents who thought the odd-ball genius needed a friend his own age. Eric sometimes wondered if the Granthams and the Bernes had suspected what they’d begun. From the time he and B.G. were teens, it had been like this between them, a game of do-we-dare and Lord-I-can’t-resist. Losing touch for a while hadn’t changed their chemistry. B.G. was still the partner Eric couldn’t get out from under his skin.

Similarly drawn, if not for the same reasons, Sylvia reached for her client’s burgeoning erection. To see a need and not satisfy it went against her nature. B.G. held her off by spreading his hand across her diaphragm. Though his touch was gentle, it made her flinch. No more than that was needed to make her stop. Sylvia might believe in instant gratification, but like everyone at Mosswood, she knew who was boss.

“I want you to choose the candidate you would enjoy,” B.G. said, his gaze intent on Eric’s face. “I want you to consider no one’s desires but your own.”

“My desires?” Eric repeated. The hair at his nape prickled in a wave. He had to take a step to keep his footing, more off balance than he could account for by the surprise. Without exception, B.G. always set the rules. He bore the ultimate responsibility for the end result. Changing that seemed vaguely dangerous, as if the haven Eric had found here could be threatened by what he chose.

Why B.G. would want to do this was beyond him.

Watching him, B.G.’s fingers played idly across the shaven skin of his own abdomen. “Yes,” he said. “I want to know which of these people you could get most enthused about having. Who would frustrate you more to be deprived of? Who do you wish to help me drive to their brink?”

Eric knew the answer, and had known it even before he passed the name to their investigator to start the file. He’d never had such a strong reaction to a candidate. The thought of having this person here, at B.G.’s estate, under their conjoined control, thrust through his body like a velvet hammer blow. Goose bumps swept his scalp as he hardened with a swiftness B.G. seemed mysteriously able to suppress.

“You know you can’t lie to me,” B.G. said at his hesitation. “I’ve known you too long, and I’m too good at reading how you feel.”

The knowledge that this was true freed him to respond.

“This one,” he said, stooping to pull a picture out of the pile. His hand shook slightly as he held it out.

B.G. nodded, smiling faintly as if the decision was expected. “Good,” he said, settling back against the table. “I appreciate your honesty.”

B.G. beckoned to Sylvia, who moved eagerly forward and took his shaft between her well-oiled fingers. B.G. was human enough to shudder at the first contact. Given her personal predilection, the reaction encouraged her to even more exquisite care. She stroked him hand over hand, from root to rim, the rhythm slow and hypnotic while his cock wavered back and forth at each pull—the tides of his blood a force both Eric and she could see.

This time B.G. didn’t stop her, though his eyes, glittering within the spikes of his dark lashes, remained on Eric. As if he’d given himself permission to be aroused, he rose to full erection, his veins filling darkly, his untouched crown as taut as a drum.

The visual he presented was tempting in the extreme—and not only to Eric.

“Do you want me to suck you?” Sylvia asked breathlessly.

B.G. reached out but not toward her, the back of his hand brushing the front of Eric’s thigh. Trembling now, Eric tried to breathe as steadily as his friend. His own erection felt like a club, hot behind the cloth B.G.’s feather-light caresses tugged. His employer was always gentle, always careful not to hurt. It was the only complaint Eric ever had. Right now, Eric wanted a good firm grip so desperately he could have screamed.

Images streaked through his mind of taking someone against a wall, of pounding recklessly into them until he came. Who it was he hardly cared, though he couldn’t deny the phantom had a face.

The guilt this specificity inspired didn’t weaken the fantasy.

“What do you think?” his old friend asked. “Shall I have her take me in her mouth?”

Eric shivered, his inner vision seeing someone besides the masseuse performing the task. Unused to having the power to choose, he took a moment to decide. He had no doubt what Sylvia wanted the answer to be. “Yes,” he said, “but don’t let her bring you to climax.”

B.G.’s hand shifted sideways, his palm closing gently over Eric’s crotch. “If I can’t come, neither can you.”

Eric gritted his teeth. B.G. was already rubbing his erection, probing for vulnerabilities, stretching him impossibly inside his skin. When his longest finger dragged toward the nerve-rich flare, Eric couldn’t repress an anticipatory twitch.

His zipper was a barrier he wished his heat could melt.

“Agreed,” he gasped, knowing his employer—his rescuer, truth be told—would make it as difficult as possible to comply.

“I want us all to wait,” Eric added impulsively. “Nobody gets off until our candidate arrives.”

B.G.’s brows quirked in surprise—this edict more his style than Eric’s—then relaxed as his eyes briefly closed. Sylvia had bent to surround the upper half of him in her mouth. She held him for a moment, her tongue working against the cap, before beginning to move up and down. As before, her pace was languid, her suction strong. A sheen of sweat broke out on B.G.’s face as his now-rigid cock grew wet.

Sylvia would get him off if he wasn’t careful. Then again, “Careful” was pretty much B.G.’s middle name.

Despite the battle for control he must be going through, when he spoke, his voice was only a little husky. To Eric’s relief, he did not seem angry at his demand. “This,” B.G. said, “should prove more entertaining than usual.”

Eric got the distinct and somewhat unnerving impression that, in addition to making his own choice, he had vindicated B.G.'s.

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Product Details

  • Series: Berkley Sensation
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425205037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425205037
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,561,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Emma Holly is the USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty very hot romantic books, featuring werewolves, faeries, and just plain extraordinary ordinary folks. Her favorite things are reading, coffee, long daydreamy walks, plus whatever show she's currently infatuated with on tv. She loves sinking into the worlds of her stories and hopes you do too!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

153 of 160 people found the following review helpful By Deborah MacGillivray HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 25, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You never quite know what to expect from Emma Holly, which is obviously her intent. She is a writer that continually fascinates me. I don't choose erotic fiction as a matter of routine, because honestly, most of it fails to deliver on the one level I want most - makes me care about the characters. Recently in a debate about the levels of sexuality in Romance in general, some came down on the side of sizzling hot, some for chaste Regency Romances. I said, "Frankly, I don't care which road you ask me to travel; tell a good story, and I will enjoy it." And for me, that is so true. I enjoy Sandra Heath Regency tales as much as I enjoy Angela Knight or Emma Holly, two of the red-hot sizzling writers of today. Why Holly continually leads me down roads I'd travel less is she starts with the most important ingredient: characters. She creates very human, very alive people, reaches in and grabs your heart, and then proceeds to push emotional and physical boundaries like no other writer around.

Once again, with her newest work, Strange Attractions, Holly delivers up a spicy, but emotional dish. An O.T.T. scientist is obsessed with knowing the why of everything. And the most elusive why to him is emotional response and feelings. When he is not being this era's Albert Einstein, Grantham unwinds by playing games with people - his very own human Kens and Barbies, trying to figure out what makes them react as they do. A one man Think Tank, B.G. Grantham very selectively chooses his candidates, looking for people that are strong willed, but flawed. His right hand is Eric Berne - Grantham's Man Friday and Ken doll rolled into one. It's time for Grantham to unwind from his more earth-saving pursuits, so he sends Eric out to find a new subject.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By CoffeeGurl HALL OF FAME on October 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have always been an Emma Holly fan. She and MaryJanice Davidson rank highest priority whenever I'm in the bargain for a good romantica. Everyone who has read Holly's novels, especially her Black Lace offerings, is familiar with her uninhibited, no-holds-barred approach to erotica, and said approach is evident in Strange Attractions. Charity Wills is a man-eating high school dropout who jumps from one dead end, boring job to another. But things take an interesting twist when she is approached by the gorgeous Eric Berne. He's noticed her sharp intelligence and great potential, so he makes an offer she cannot refuse: the opportunity to get an Ivy League education in exchange to being the plaything of one B.G. Grantham -- an eccentric physicist with a penchant for exotic sexual games. Eric and B.G. have a rather close relationship, so to speak, and things take a delicious turn when intense feelings between Eric and Charity ensue. What transpires is a delectable story of the most sensual, erotic, mind and body games ever imagined...

This is Emma Holly's most interesting novel to date and the most daring one since Menage. This novel is not unlike the books she used to write for Black Lace. The plot is rather strange, but it works well with the sexual dynamics within the story. My favorite scene is the one with Eric, Maurice the chauffer and Charity and their little "stop" before arriving to B.G.'s mansion. I also like the encounter with Eric and Charity. There is of course a menage a trois in this novel. I can't help but notice that the men in Holly's novels are bisexual. The only novels that didn't have bisexual males in them were the paranormal ones with the word "Midnight" in their titles.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Gemini on January 16, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There's something about Strange Attractions that leaves you with a slightly gloomy feeling. Maybe it's because I prefer a real element of romance in my books, which I thought this book lacked. In spite of its categorization as an erotic romance, the book seems to suffer from a complete lack of emotion. The storyline is virtually non-existent, which is okay, I suppose, because we generally don't pick books of this genre for their intellectual complexity, but it bothered me that the main protagonists didn't at any point of time, act in a way that leads us to believe that they were in love. The sex scenes were very well written - Holly never suffers from a lack of imagination in this department - but it got boring after a while because that was all there was to the book - sex. The three main characters was incredibly drawn to each other sexually, but their relationship lacked emotional depth, which makes the ending hard to buy.

All in all, this book is pure erotica, and nothing more. If erotica is all that you're looking for, then Strange Attractions is definitely worth reading, but if you prefer a believable romance to go with the sex, you might give this book a miss.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Monday morning blues on February 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
Having read Emma Holly in the past I was fully expecting this to be a great read as well. What a disappointment!!

Charity Wills is selected to become the latest plaything of an eccentric loner with a fascination for the pleasures of the flesh. B.G., the brooding genius with too much time and money, develops a game wherein the selected female or male agrees to come to his mansion in the mountains to experience...well, hot erotic, mind blowing sex. All for his desire to discover the sensual lengths a person can be pushed before their passion consumes them. Eric is the handler who is employed by B.G., and often the implement device used to "torture", tempt, and tease the love starved guests. Everything from threesomes to bondage is promised....then you get to page 50...

Ready to hear more? Well too bad because the erotica...and game play promised to keep you awake at night with longing...ends right there. Literally you are on one page just waiting for the "game" to really get started and by the next page it's never mentioned again.

Charity is just completely unlikable. I realize Charity was uneducated, unsofisticated, and out of her league but Emma Holly chose to convey all those traits by making her the a dumb, white-trash flake with a vocabulary straight out of the '80s movie "Valley Girl". The first time I read "Oh Boy" during a moment of passion I just winced a little, by the 20th time I had cringed so much my jaw ached. It wasn't just the oh boys it was the cools, oh mans, and neats that had me wanting to crawl out of my skin. Even the men were talking like that! What woman submissive, dominant or in between has EVER gotten off by a guy exclaiming "OH BOY!" just as he's about to perform the most intimate acts imaginable??
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