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Cover Envy: Shuffle Up and Deal by Susan DiPlacido

Cover Envy is a weekly feature posted on Mondays at As the Pages Turn where we find only the most beautiful, spectacular jaw-dropping covers in the world of books. Today’s Cover Envy Spotlight goes to Shuffle Up and Deal by Susan DiPlacido and this is why I think it is so deserving.

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Shuffle Up and Deal

  • File Size: 744 KB
  • Print Length: 427 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 145058859X
  • Publisher: Neon Fiction (March 3, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English

Meet Izzy Santillo. She’s a charming-but-lonely thirty-four year old woman who loves poker and harbors a secret crush on the reigning king of Hold ‘em.

Meet Nick Nolan, the reigning king of Hold ‘em. On the tables, he’s fast and loose and almost always wins. But when it comes to women, playboy Nick holds his cards too close and always loses.

When Izzy and Nick meet in embarrassing fashion at a Las Vegas poker tournament, Izzy’s secret dreams turn into a public nightmare. But despite her humiliation, she may have finally sparked Nick’s interest in something other than cards. Before long, Nick takes a gamble on Izzy and raises the stakes when he offers to help her sharpen her game. But Izzy’s convinced that Nick is bluffing and will fold his hand after he’s had her on the flop. But a string of outrageous proposition bets and steamy trips on the poker tour, from Los Angeles to Miami, make these two fierce competitors realize that it may be time to put all their chips on the table. Will Izzy and Nick pair up? Or will they lose it all if they go all-in for each other? Sit down, ante up, and hang on, as Nick and Izzy get ready to Shuffle Up and Deal.

Isn’t this the most fun cover you’ve ever seen?  I talked to the author about how it was made and she gave me some delicious pointers!  For one thing, I chose this cover to be featured today because it had the wow factor for me.  The colors just pop right off the page, don’t they?  And second, I love illustrated  covers.  It all goes to prove that even self-pubbed books have fantastic covers.  WTG, Susan!

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Read-a-Chapter: Shuffle Up and Deal by Susan DiPlacido

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the erotica romance/romantic comedy, Shuffle Up and Deal by Susan DiPlacido. Enjoy!


Shuffle Up and Deal

    • Print Length: 427 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 145058859X
    • Publisher: Neon Fiction (March 3, 2010)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Meet Izzy Santillo. She’s a charming-but-lonely thirty-four year old woman who loves poker and harbors a secret crush on the reigning king of Hold ‘em.

Meet Nick Nolan, the reigning king of Hold ‘em. On the tables, he’s fast and loose and almost always wins. But when it comes to women, playboy Nick holds his cards too close and always loses.

When Izzy and Nick meet in embarrassing fashion at a Las Vegas poker tournament, Izzy’s secret dreams turn into a public nightmare. But despite her humiliation, she may have finally sparked Nick’s interest in something other than cards. Before long, Nick takes a gamble on Izzy and raises the stakes when he offers to help her sharpen her game. But Izzy’s convinced that Nick is bluffing and will fold his hand after he’s had her on the flop. But a string of outrageous proposition bets and steamy trips on the poker tour, from Los Angeles to Miami, make these two fierce competitors realize that it may be time to put all their chips on the table. Will Izzy and Nick pair up? Or will they lose it all if they go all-in for each other? Sit down, ante up, and hang on, as Nick and Izzy get ready to Shuffle Up and Deal.


Chapter One

“Izzy,” he whispers in my ear as he nudges me from behind.  It’s gentle, but I was in a deep sleep, so I’m groggy and slow to respond.

I had forgotten he was even here.  My boyfriend du-jour.  It’s an on and off relationship that, for tonight at least, is on.

He pushes his body closer, spooning me, wrapping an arm around my waist.  His breath is warm and sultry in my ear.  His erection is pressed against my thigh.  “You awake, Iz?”

“Mmm,” I mumble, slowly swimming back up from the depths of sleep to regain conscious thought.
His hand moves under the covers, caresses the front of my thigh and starts pulling up my nightgown.  His hand is sure and soft, the fabric silky as it glides across my skin.  “Wake up,” he urges as his hand moves back down, between my legs.

“Sleepy,” I murmur.  I could easily go back to sleep.  But the sad fact is that since we’re more “off” than “on,” I really don’t get much fun in the sack, so I’m happy to forego sleep for sex tonight.

“I’ll make it worth your while,” he says as he gently but firmly coaxes my thighs apart.  I’m mostly awake, but still hovering on the brink, too lazy to engage with him, but also lacking the will to resist, mostly just content to wait a few seconds and see if I’ll wake up enough or doze back off.  He moves back from me slightly, his hand holding my inner thigh, leveraging to pull that leg back as he agilely shimmies himself between my legs and rolls me on my back.  He’s warm and I like the weight of him on top of me, the warmth of his groin pressed against mine.  Awake enough now that I could engage, I still play it lazy and just sigh and keep my eyes closed.

“I know you’re awake,” he says, calling my bluff.  He kisses the side of my cheek, uses one elbow for support as he reaches between us to tug at my nightgown again.  Quickly, it’s up over my hips, so we’re skin on skin contact below the waist.  I grin, realizing he must not have just rolled over and started in on me.  He must’ve been horny enough and taken the time to pull off his boxers and pull on the condom before waking me up.

I decide to tease him a bit for it.  Asking, “What would you have done if I hadn’t woken up?”  What I’m hoping for is a little bit of dirty talk.

“I knew you were awake,” is all he says as he goes for the top of my nightgown, pushing the skinny strap to the side and then gliding his whole hand beneath the silk to cup my breast.  He gives a firm squeeze as the heat of his palm makes my nipple react as I keep my eyes closed in blind surrender, heightening the other sensations.  As my nipple hardens, he rubs and squeezes again, grinds his hips to press his erection right up against me.

A sigh escapes me.

“You ready?” he asks me.


He goes to work kissing me.  He really is an excellent kisser.  He slips me some tongue as his fingers playfully pinch around my nipple.  He slides down, kisses my neck, warming me inside and out.

I’m getting tuned up, definitely.  Flushed skin, those wonderful quivery feelings running through my blood as he dips down and catches my nipple in his mouth.  No fooling around taunting me, he sucks.  And sucks.  It rocks me.

Taking a breath, he asks me again, “You ready?”
Eyes still closed, reveling in the dreaminess mixing with the rushes, I say, “Go ahead and check.”  That’s what I’m longing for now, for his hand to reach down and stroke me, build the heat right there.

But he declines.  Instead answering, “You’re ready.”  He scootches back up, reaching down and taking hold of himself instead of pleasuring me.  His skin is fevered, his shoulders taut under my hands, and already there’s a trace of humidity and salt in the air between us.  Though I can’t see it, I can feel his hand moving as he strokes himself a few times.  It drives me crazy with heat and I lift my hips in offering.

Wordless, he aligns himself and thrusts inside of me.  I was ready, and he glides in, filling me up, making me sigh again.

“Good to go?” he asks as he pumps a few times.

“Go,” I tell him, pulling his shoulders down closer to me so I get the full heat of his body.

“Going,” he says, picking up the pace quickly.  He props himself on his elbows for more leverage so I release his shoulders and raise my knees, wrapping my legs around his waist.  “Going harder,” he tells me as he pumps more furiously.

I still don’t open my eyes, instead reveling in the physical sensations and conjuring images of what we look like.  Hot.  We look hot.  It feels so good, him jacking away inside me, the heat between us.  Instead of watching, I imagine Nick’s face this way.  I’m fantasizing about him watching me.  I can feel beads of sweat forming at my hairline, I know my mouth tightens and muscles twitch when he suddenly goes harder, quite hard, quite deep.

I moan and then bite my lower lip as he starts panting above me.  I can imagine his face perfectly like this.  His deep blue eyes staring rapt as he makes me react beneath his control.  His well chiseled jaw, his normally serene, unreadable face betraying him now.  There’s no way he’d be able to keep that mask in place as he drives into me with power, as I clench tight around him and thrust back against him.

“Izzy,” he pants.

“Keep going,” I encourage him, but I can tell this late-night round won’t last much longer because he’s straining and panting, giving it to me with all he’s got.  So I take matters into my own hands.  I reach between us, the heat palpable to my hand, and slide a few fingers across my clit.  No fooling around, I press hard and rub furiously, already sensitive and responding.

“So hot,” he says, and I know he’s watching me.  He barely loses a pump but I know he’s watching me work myself into a frenzy beneath him.

God, imagining Nick watching me and getting off on it just prods me along.  Shameless, I’m utterly shameless about it.  I know just what he’d look like, hovering over me, his long, lanky frame, his buttocks clenching with each and every delicious pump.  His face betraying every ripple of intense pleasure.  “Oh,” I moan as I feel him tense, know he’s close.

I’m right on the edge, but I need a little more, just a little more time.  My hand strokes furiously, I buck against him.  “Keep going,” I plead with him.

“Close,” he says, and I know it’s my warning.

“Please.  Please!  Keep going,” I tell him again, setting myself on edge.  “Keep going, Nick!”

“Oh, no,” he grunts, then rasps my name.  Pained sounding, but still frantically pumping.

“Oh Nick!”

“No! Izzy!” he howls again, but his hips thrust, seemingly involuntarily.

“No,” I tell him, but I’m so close now it might not matter.  “Not yet, Nick!  Keep going!”

“Coming.” He says that quietly and the pumping stops, but my hand doesn’t.  Luckily, I’m there.  Just a couple more rough rubs and I erupt, coming with him still buried inside me, clenching around him, the mental image of his face watching me egging me on to milk every last aftershock.

Rapt in the hazy glow, I’m catching my breath as he pulls out and climbs off of me and rolls to the other side of the bed.  A harsh edge to his voice as he says, “You did it again.”

“Mmm?”  I ask distantly, still sprawled out and pleasantly holding my hand to crotch.

Over his shoulder, he hisses, “You said his name again!”

My eyes snap open and the glow evaporates.  Ashamed now, I close my legs and wiggle upright as I arrange the nightgown to hurriedly cover myself up.  Softly, I say, “I’m sorry.”  I reach out a hand but he moves away and sits up and gets off the bed.  He stalks over to the chair in the corner where his clothes are neatly folded and grabs his pants.

“Andy,” I say.  “Don’t go.  I really am sorry.”

“Hmph.  At least you do know my name.”

“Don’t be silly.”

“Silly!” He shouts it.  “You think it’s silly of me to be upset that my girlfriend called another man’s name while we were making love?”

I know he’s pissed, and I don’t blame him.  I feel guilty and deserve his anger.  And I will gladly grovel and make it up to him.  But right now it’s the middle of the night and I just want to defuse the situation, so I try to cajole him and lighten him up.  Coyly asking, “Would you rather I called his name while I was having sex with you?  Or would you rather I call your name while I have sex with him?”

He gives his shirt a snap in the air but doesn’t miss a beat.  Says, “That’s a flawed question, Isabella, and you know it.”


He does stop fiddling with his clothes as he looks at me and says, “It’s flawed because it’s unrealistic.  You can’t sleep with him.”

“I know!” I say cheerily.  “So it’s not like I’m cheating on you.”

Exasperated, “Please,” is all he says as he starts pulling the shirt on.  “I just don’t understand it.  You don’t even know this person.  What could you possibly be so attracted to?”

I know that this is not the place for me to respond honestly.  His tall, lanky body, his penetrating eyes, his beautiful little mouth, but, mostly, how incredibly sexy it is to watch him at the poker tables.  How, with just a glance, he can seemingly see and understand everything the other players are thinking.  And yet, I can never see the machinery in his mind working.  He’s completely unreadable.  Like the most glassy-surfaced lake that plunges to unknown depths.  All that intelligence and intuition are just…

Andy is staring at me, and I wonder if he can tell what I was just thinking about.  He looks cross. “You’re unbelievable,” he says, buttoning up.

Shit.  He could tell.

“Andy, please.  You’re right.  You’re absolutely right.  It was terrible of me and I’m so sorry.  But please don’t leave.  It’s the middle of the night and it’s cold and rainy out there.  Tomorrow is Easter!  Just come back to bed and I’ll make it up to you.”

He picks up his socks and shoes and takes a seat in the chair, but he stops dressing.  Says, “I just don’t even have a fundamental understanding of what you’re attracted to.  You don’t know him, Izzy!”

“I know,” I say with a shrug.  Then, “What attracts you to Jessica Simpson?”

“Stop it,” he says.  “There’s a basic difference between men and women and how we process attraction.  Men are visually stimulated.  Women intellectually.”

“Well, maybe I just have some male tendencies is all,” I say, lying.

“I don’t call out the name Jessica when we’re making love!”

“So you’d prefer I call out the name of someone I know, then?  Perhaps it’d be better if I’d fantasize about one of your friends?”

“Perhaps I’d prefer if you’d fantasize about me and call out my name!”

He’s got me there.  If I wanted to turn this around on him, I could start a real brawl by pointing out that it hasn’t escaped my attention how much attention he lavishes on Jennifer every time she’s around.  I could point out how I’ve caught him being visually stimulated by her while I was sitting right next to him.  But I don’t want to do that, because what I have done is wrong.  It’s not about winning this fight so much as about reassuring him and making it up to him.  I’ve hurt him.  Worse, maybe he’s worried because next week I’m going to Vegas, and there is a small chance I could run into Nick.

Realizing that, I feel even worse, and even somewhat flattered.  Maybe Andy’s just worried and jealous.  But I’d never cheat on him.  I just need to reassure him.  So I bite my tongue and measure my words and say, “Andy.  I am really sorry.  And you’re right about all this.  I promise I’ll stop thinking about him.  But for right now, you don’t need to worry anyhow.  Like you said, I don’t know him, so there’s no chance we’d ever be together.”

“Oh, don’t flatter yourself, Iz.”  With that, he starts pulling on his socks.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, darling, that even if you did know him, you wouldn’t be sleeping with him.”  He pauses to pull on a shoe, then looks me in the face as he says, “Don’t get your hopes about that trip to Vegas.  Sure, you might meet him.  But remember, men are stimulated visually, Iz.”

I drop my gaze and pull the blanket up to cover myself, twice as ashamed of myself now.  Andy’s right, of course.  That’s why the comment stings.  There’s nothing Nick Nolan would ever see in geeky me.

Across the room, Andy rises, and I realize how badly I’ve screwed up.  He’s a decent, good-looking, smart guy, and I’ve alienated him by not appreciating what I have.  Worse, I’ve hurt him.  “I’m really sorry,” I whisper.

“And do you really have to be so slutty all the time?”

“Sorry,” I say, knowing what he means.

“I know we’re familiar and all, and it’s hot in a pornographic way that you like to get off.  But you’re just so selfish and slutty about it.  It’s pretty off-putting afterward.”

“You woke me up,” I say.

“I woke you up.  You got yourself off, though.”

“Someone had to do it,” I mutter under my breath.

“You know, babe, you should try appreciating me more.  I’m a great guy, Izzy, and I’ve been good to you over the years.”

“I know,” I answer.

“Sweet dreams, Isabelle,” he hisses as he walks out the door.

But that just sparks my anger.  He knows I hate that.  I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself.  “Isabella!” I shout after him, just before the back door slams shut.

I stew in it a minute.  I’m a shit, without question.  But he does oogle Jennifer in front of me. I flop back on the bed and close my eyes and indulge myself with visions of Nick Nolan.  Sweet dreams, indeed.


Reprinted with permission from Shuffle Up and Deal by Susan DiPlacido. © 2010 by Neon Fiction

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Read a Chapter: Erotica Fiction ‘Fem Dom’ by Tony Cane-Honeysett

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the erotica fiction, Fem Dom,by Tony Cane-Honeysett. Enjoy!


  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Chardonnay Press (August 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 098584762X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0985847623

When faithful wife Tara Drew suspects her advertising executive husband is seeing a Dominatrix, she sets out to trap him in the act. She pays the Dominatrix to teach her how to please men by dominating them and inflicting pain. But her plan to snare her husband has very bizarre consequences. Way out of her comfort zone as an undercover Fem Dom, Tara discovers a kinky world that both intrigues and disgusts her. But now she is the one with a secret life that she doesn’t want her husband to find out about. A sexually fueled, fast-paced story about women who want to control men.



It was 10.00 a.m. and the hell months were over. The bitter, biting, bastard of winter had faded into a brief spring and now the very welcome beginnings of summer. The sleepy, upscale suburb of Eden Prairie was as pretty as it sounded. And so was one of its imported residents, 34 year-old Tara Drew.

Tara didn’t have a job. Not a real paying job anyway. She didn’t need to work as Clem’s fat monthly paycheck more than provided for the two of them. But she wanted to do something to make herself feel useful instead of merely cleaning house and waiting for Clem to come home to a hot meal every night. To alleviate the boredom of her Groundhog Day existence, Tara played Good Samaritan, feeding those less fortunate than herself, because if there was one thing Tara could do well, it was bake. The lucky recipient of her culinary prowess was the Saint Augustine’s homeless shelter in Bloomington and her twice-weekly deliveries there gave her a sense of purpose.

“Very nice,” Tara said softly to no one in particular as she pulled a tray of piping hot banana and walnut muffins out of the oven. While they cooled, Tara finished wiping down the dark granite countertops in her perfectly color-coordinated designer kitchen. The brushed chrome Viking stove and matching cooktop beautifully complimented the vast Sub Zero refrigerator, which seemed to take up half a wall. Sure, she was house proud and why not? It was a house worthy of pride. What’s more, keeping six thousand square.

feet of real estate tidy and clean kept her busy. This was Tara’s world but she was going quietly crazy.

Downtown, the imposing glass façade of the Kemp building on Nicollet Avenue housed the opulent offices of the Bergenson & Adler Advertising Agency located on the forty-second, forty-third and forty-fourth floors.

Clem Drew swiveled around in his Herman Miller Aeron chair, kicked up both feet on the glass-topped desk and cupped his hands behind his head. Staring out of the floor-to-ceiling windows at the other faceless steel and glass monoliths, Clem was feeling very content about his life right now and he had good reason. The phone on his desk rang. Clem leaned back and grabbed it.

“This is Clem.”

“You lucky bastard!”


“Damn! How’d you pull that off?”

“What can I say?” Clem smiled, smugly.

“Let’s go start our own agency. Bring that account with you.”

“Very funny. Go into business with an old hack like you?”

“Fuck you. Hey, let’s grab lunch this week.”

“Love to.”

Somewhere else in the Kemp building, a man wearing headphones listened.

Clem hung up and chuckled then resumed his view. The downtown skyline could’ve been any big city in North America. But it wasn’t anywhere: it was Minneapolis, slap bang in the heartland. Yes, the land of ten thousand lakes and more Fortune 500 companies per capita than New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Handsome Clem Drew was senior VP and executive account director at Bergenson & Adler, the highest grossing advertising agency in the mid-west. He was forty-three years old with over twenty years experience in the ad biz and nearing the pinnacle of his profession.

Clem’s sky-high office was modern and minimal. With its clean white lines, it could be said there was a touch of that German zeitgeist about it, though the only thing Clem had in common with Germany was his company-paid silver Mercedes S600. The week had been particularly rewarding for the hard working ad man. Thanks to his marketing savvy and strategic planning ability, Clem’s team of creatives and account managers had landed a whopping account  – the $200 million Rebakor business. The sports clothing and running shoe manufacturer was a global brand and this was a huge win for Clem’s agency. And there it was in print on the cover of the trade magazine Advertising Age  – ‘Bergenson Runs Off With Rebakor Account.’ 

They had indeed and Clem Drew was quoted throughout the article. It was a serious chunk of change for the company coffers but also terrific PR for the agency and for Clem. The kudos belonged to him. His agency had beaten out some tough competition from BBDO in San Francisco, Saatchi’s in New York and Chiat Day in Los Angeles. Those agencies were heavy hitters but Clem’s pitch for the Minneapolis agency had hit it out of the ballpark.

He was now clearly the heir-apparent to succeed the old man; ageing advertising supremo and CEO, Frank Bergenson. Frank was about to retire and he had yet to choose his successor. This win had put Clem in pole position ahead of the only man who could pip him at the post, Kurt Fitzgerald.

“Congratulations, Clem! You sonofamofo!” Earl Chambliss bellowed, as he walked into Clem’s office. Earl was CFO and handled all the contracts. “They’ve signed all the paperwork. We are now officially the agency of record.” Clem winked as Earl shook his hand.

“Thanks, Earl.”

“Frank is pissing his pants he’s so happy. What a way for him to go out, huh? Biggest fish he’s ever landed. You’re gonna enjoy that big office of his upstairs.” Earl chuckled loudly as he wandered off down the corridor.

Clem Drew looked the personification of the successful business executive in his bespoke suits from Barney’s, crisp white Brooks Brothers shirts and snappy silk ties. Look sharp. Think sharp. That was the Drew philosophy.

“Justine? Who’s next?” Clem spoke into his desk intercom.

“Internal with media buyers. One o’clock,” a young female voice replied through the speakerphone.

“Can you move them to noon? I have a two o’clock pre-pro downstairs.”

“Sure. But that reporter from the Star Tribune is coming in at eleven to interview you, remember?”

“Reschedule that. Too busy.”

Tara hurried back to her shiny black Lexus SUV still wearing her spandex yoga pants. Clem would be home in two hours and she hadn’t put the lamb chops in the oven yet. She’d collected his three freshly dry-cleaned shirts, bought him some new socks from the Von Maur department store and had even remembered to pick up more of the frozen coconut lollipops she knew he loved from Kowalski’s grocery store. All in a day’s work for the man she loved.

As Tara drove from Bodyworks Fitness back to her home on Dunkirk Crescent, she planned the evening in her head. A nice dinner, accompanied by a 2009 bottle of Robert Mondavi merlot and then maybe a little ‘hootchie-coo’ as she liked to call it. It was yet another attempt to try and rekindle the flame that seemed to have gotten down to the candlewick for her and Clem. He’d been so obsessed over the past four months with winning the Rebakor business that their relationship and, particularly, their sex life had taken a back seat. Tara was putting on a brave face but inside she was not happy and her frustration was starting to show. The more she did to support her husband, it seemed the less he appreciated it. But she understood the pressure Clem had been under and, anyway, it was not in Tara’s nature to mope. So, here she was once again doing her best to make him happy and perhaps he might start to pay her some much-needed attention. They just weren’t communicating they way they used to. Clem was working late most nights and was too exhausted at the weekends to do anything with Tara.

The two had started their relationship in Los Angeles nine years earlier. Tara was just a few years out of UCLA and Clem was working his way up the corporate ladder at Ogilvy & Mather on Wilshire Boulevard. They’d met when Tara had interviewed at the agency to be an account planner. She didn’t land the job but she landed Clem. They were a good match for each other and spent most of their free time outdoors, planning tennis and cycling along the beaches, from Malibu to Redondo.

Nowadays, southern California seemed a lifetime away. Tara had grown up in in the sleepy town of San Luis Obispo, just north of Santa Barbara and south of Big Sur. Those wonderful childhood summers in Morro Bay and Pismo Beach were now but a distant memory. She had good, traditional parents who both worked honest jobs but she remembered how her Dad never lifted a finger when it came to helping her mom around the house. But then he never really needed to. Tara’s mom ran his life for him: cooking, cleaning, and waiting on him hand and foot. Funny thing was, her mom seemed to enjoy it and her dad certainly never complained. It often crossed Tara’s mind that she might be turning into a carbon copy of her mother the way she doted on her father. No, Tara didn’t want to be like that but in truth, she already was.

“Jesus, Clem. Are you allergic to art or something?” Silver-haired CEO Frank Bergenson huffed as he walked into Clem’s stark office and looked around at the bare white walls. Clem swung around in his chair and smiled.

​“Hi, Frank. You never come down to this floor.”

“Now I know why. It’s damn boring. Maybe I could lend you a Vermeer or a Brueghel to liven up this place. I don’t like bland.” Clem smiled at his boss.

“Clear walls keep a clear mind.”

“Don’t bullshit a bullshitter, Clem.”

The Bergenson & Adler CEO carefully lowered himself on the stylish but patently uncomfortable Le Corbusier black leather chaise.

“Crap, this thing’s not butt friendly, is it? Guess this must be a piece of art after all because it certainly isn’t a goddamn chair,” Frank bitched, almost falling off. Clem stifled a laugh as Frank smoothed out his slightly crumpled dark brown suit jacket so it faced front again.

“I assume this rare visit is because you want to thank me for making you even more stinking rich than you are already,” Clem winked as he stood up and walked over towards his boss.

“It is, it is. Thank you, Clem. You did the agency proud.” Frank rolled off the Le Corbusier and stood up. “They just signed off on all the contracts, so now it’s ‘officially’ official. We got the entire business. The whole kit and caboodle — TV, print, all outdoor, radio, cinema, point of sale, even stupid fucking hats if they want them.”

“Yeah, Earl just dropped by to tell me.”

“Good. Because you’re going to run the entire account….” Frank paused. Clem beamed the smile of a man who just be given two free tickets to the Superbowl on the fifty yard line.

“It’s going to be a pleasure, Frank,” Clem butted in exuberantly.

“…with Kurt Fitzgerald,” Frank finished.

Clem’s feeling of elation just got hijacked.

“What? Fitz? Why Fitz? He had absolutely nothing to do with winning the business. Fitz has his accounts, I have mine! That’s how we work, Frank. You know that.”

Frank put a hand on his shoulder. “Clem. You know how much I think of you. But this is a two hundred million dollar account. Even the brilliant Clem Drew can’t handle all that.”

“Try me,” Clem said flatly as he took a step back and retreated back behind his desk.

“Clem. I want you to suck it up and work with Fitz. Put your ego to one side and consider the greater good – the agency.”

Clem felt like he’d just been punched in the gut. He’d toiled for four months on the huge Rebakor presentation. This was his baby. Sure, it had been a team effort but Fitz’s role had been zero. Clem’s team had won them the business. But now it seemed like Frank didn’t have faith in Clem’s ability to handle the day to day running of the account. It was more than just ego on Clem’s part. He didn’t like Fitz and trusted him just about as far as he could throw him.

“Give me two months and I’ll have the entire campaign buttoned down,” Clem said with his usual gung-ho spirit. The Rebakor account would need graphic designers, web designers, copywriters and art directors working on it full-time to produce advertising campaigns from direct mail inserts and radio spots to television commercials and billboards nationwide. A group of IT guys would need to be hired to create a powerful interactive bulletproof website and to get webvertising campaigns rolling out. It certainly was a mammoth task.

“Clem, you’re smart. Very smart. Jesus, I wouldn’t have hired you if I didn’t think that. But I also hired Kurt Fitzgerald and he’s a different kinda smart.” Clem wasn’t buying Frank’s argument. “When I retire next month, you two are just gonna have to learn to work together, so you might as well start now. If you want my job, Clem, you’re going to have to be a leader and a team player. Learn how to manage Fitz and you two will get along fine.”

“Fitz is too impetuous,” Clem muttered as he walked back to his desk.

“And he thinks you’re too conservative,” Frank snapped back as he started to head for the door of Clem’s office.

“Too conservative, my ass!” Clem frowned.

“Look. You have four other accounts to run, Clem. Have you forgotten that? You’ve been so focused on Rebakor for the past four months you’ve been ignoring them. Do you even know the status of those guys?”

“I’m working on the marketing plan for Best Buy and I’ve just briefed creative on Zell Travel. I have a meeting with the Delfry client on Thursday and Arkitrade are coming in for a meeting this afternoon,” Clem said confidently, knowing he was totally up on everything. Frank smiled.

“Okay, okay. I know you can lead, Clem. Show me you can work with people who don’t see eye to eye with you. Put on your Obama hat.”

“I thought you were a Republican,” Clem quipped.

“I am,” Frank said. “And thanks again for all your hard work. The agency really needed that business. See you later.” Frank walked out of Clem’s office and down the corridor towards the elevator and back to the sanctity of his opulent corner office upstairs.

Clem banged his hand down on his desk in annoyance. It was no secret amongst the rank and file that he and Kurt Fitzgerald were rivals, now his boss was expecting the two of them to partner up. This didn’t make any sense. Fitz was not a man to be trusted. Frank Bergenson had deliberately split his agency right down the middle and, in effect, created two ad agencies in one with their own separate accounts. It was a shrewd move on Frank’s part. He knew the competitive nature of the two: Clem and Fitz were like two pit bulls, straining on their corporate leashes to continually out-do each other. And that meant bigger bonuses for the better team. The winner in all this was Frank, of course, as he saw his agency’s billings grow and grow.

Clem was a west coast Pepperdine boy while Fitz was a Madison Avenue hard ass who’d worked his way up the corporate ladder more by Machiavellian shenanigans than any brilliant marketing know-how. That’s how he’d ended up in the mid-west. He’d pissed off enough people in Manhattan to reach his sell-by date earlier than his ego had anticipated. Kurt Fitzgerald was smart but not that smart. He’d gotten headhunted to Bergenson & Adler two years earlier and coming from the big New York shop Doyle Dane Bernbach, he pulled in a great salary package. But he was here for more than the money – it was about the opportunity to run his own shop and get back at the boys on Madison Avenue that’d thwarted his ambitions there. What Fitz didn’t know, or what his ego would never admit to, was that his last boss at DDB had paid a headhunter to find Fitz a job as far away as possible. Minneapolis was in the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere from a New York perspective and Fitz had taken the bait.

Whether Frank knew that or not, or whether he cared in the slightest, was anybody’s guess. But anytime he got a chance to bring in an employee from either coast, he saw it as an image boost for his mid-west located ad agency. Anyway, one thing was certain, Frank was a wily old fox who knew exactly what he was doing. His agency had quadrupled in size over the past decade and was showing no signs of slowing down even in the struggling economy. The Rebakor win was proof of that. But he was also smart enough to know it was time for him to get out of the business. It was a young man’s game nowadays with the impact of the Internet and web advertising really kicking into gear.

Frank was seventy-four years old and too set in the traditional business model of advertising to embrace these new ways. He didn’t know how to Google, Tweet, send an email or what a URL happened to be. Fact was, he should have retired years ago but the agency was his baby, his life’s work, and he wanted to make sure his legacy was in safe hands. The question was, in whose hands?

As long as he could keep his two generals vying to become his successor, the agency would be fine. Trouble was, what would they do to each other once he was gone? Only one of them could sit on his coveted throne. And while Clem was seemingly the man who would be king in everyone’s eyes, the only eyes that mattered were Frank Bergenson’s.

The lamb was roasting, the potatoes were simmering and the peas were just coming to the boil. In fifteen minutes, her husband would walk through the door from the garage and dinner would be waiting. It was all about timing, as any half decent cook will tell you and Tara’s timing was right on the button. She glanced up at the kitchen clock. Five minutes to seven.

Clem’s silver Mercedes sped along Shady Oak Road and turned left into Cherry Lane. He was tired. It’d been a long day and he was still very irritated about the whole Fitz thing. It just didn’t feel right. Something was going on and he didn’t like it. Fitz hadn’t put in the graft Clem had. Why should he now be on equal terms with him? Clem wondered. None of it made any sense.

Tara took the sizzling lamp chops out of the oven just as she heard the garage doors open. The island counter was set for two and culinary aromas floated tantalizingly around the kitchen to intoxicate anyone with even the faintest appetite. Clem walked in carrying his laptop in a shoulder bag and talking on his cell phone.

“Yes, Justine, I know but we need the final layouts ready to take to the client tomorrow. And no, I’m not doing a dog and pony show on Skype. No way. There’s never enough damn bandwidth anyway.”

Tara smiled to her husband as he walked through the kitchen towards the stairs. He acknowledged her with a raised eyebrow. She wasn’t going to interrupt what sounded like an important call. Clem continued his phone conversation as he went up to their bedroom. It was obvious her husband was not in the best of moods but a glass of vino would soon fix that, or so Tara thought. She poured the Mondavi.

Moments later, Clem appeared from upstairs, minus jacket and with his tie loosened. Tara handed him a glass of the velvety smooth red nectar. She enjoyed working out and had a lean and toned body to prove it but boy, did she love a glass of wine in the evening.

“It’s your favorite. Lamb chops with all the trimmings!” Tara announced with a proud smile as she placed the lamb chops with rosemary on two warm dinner plates. Clem took a gulp of wine and walked into the living room.

“Maybe later. Sorry, honey. I’m not remotely hungry.”

Tara stared at the two perfectly prepared meals. She’d gone to a lot of trouble once again but this was not the first time this had happened over the past four months. Tara gritted her teeth. She wasn’t going to make a big deal of it. After all, Clem had been under a lot of stress at work and if the guy wasn’t hungry, he wasn’t hungry. Tara walked into the living room and over to Clem who was now slumped on the couch with his feet up, shoes off and TV remote in hand flipping channels. He stared at the changing TV screen without any trace of emotion.

“Honey, you have to eat,” Tara said, hoping he’d magically change his mind and suddenly develop an appetite.

“I’ll heat it up later,” Clem said, not bothering to look away from the television.

“How was work?” Tara asked, sitting down beside him and trying to hide her own frustrations. “You seem very annoyed about something.”

“Same old bullshit.” Clem hit the remote again, in no mood to engage in conversation. Getting Clem’s attention when he was in one of these moods was an exercise in futility so Tara walked back into the kitchen. Clem continued to stare mindlessly at the plasma screen.

“I’ll put both the plates back in the oven. We can eat later.”

If Clem didn’t want to talk, he didn’t want to talk and she wasn’t going to try and force a conversation out of him. He looked pretty wiped as it was. Tara opened the warming drawer of the oven and carefully slid the two plates onto the rack. She knew the chops would be tough as old boots and she was not a happy camper. Tara walked back into the living room and sat down beside her distracted husband.

“They work you too hard, honey. I thought all the pressure was off now that you’ve won the business.”

“It’s not the work, it’s the fucking politics. Frank Bergenson’s playing mind games with me and Kurt Fitzgerald.”

“Oh, just enjoy your wine and chill,” said Tara, as she topped up Clem’s glass, hoping to lighten his mood.

“The old man is loving watching us both duke it out for his job. After everything I’ve done for his agency, I deserve his damn job.”

“Well, I appreciate you. I know how smart you are. You should be their next CEO. That Frank’s an idiot.”

Now that the Rebakor pitch was over, she’d been expecting Clem to be back to his jolly old self. Tara was a good wife and she had a deep love for her husband but it was getting increasingly hard emotionally for her to be supportive. Clem was putting so much energy and effort into getting the impending CEO position that he had nothing left for her. He was coming home a spent force. It was like he was turning into a different person.

While Clem was living his life in the fast lane, Tara’s was plodding along. Every day was the same old same old for her, like  Groundhog Day. She was tired of living her life vicariously through Clem. And where was the affection? Tara couldn’t remember when they’d last had sex. It was time to get their marriage back where it had been before Clem had become so blindingly ambitious. Hell, maybe Clem just needed a blowjob to get him to unwind.

While Clem stared silently at two boxers beating the crap out of each other on ESPN, a seductive smile crossed Tara’s face as her hands slid over his stomach and then down to the zipper of his pants. She slowly pulled at the zipper tab.

Clem flinched. “No, I’m shot.”

He grabbed her hand and pushed it away. Tara pulled back from him feeling totally rejected. What man turns down a blowjob? Clem flipped the remote and the fighters were instantly replaced with a re-run of The Honeymooners and annoying canned laughter. It was in stark contrast to the mood in their living room at that very moment. Tara stared at Clem with an expression of anger and frustration. She got up, walked over to the television and yanked the power cable out of the wall socket. The screen turned black, so did Tara’s mood. She stood defiantly in front of the TV with her arms crossed tightly. Clem took a very deep breath then puffed it out like a party balloon slowly deflating.

“It’s all work, work, work with you, Clem. There’s never any time for us anymore,” Tara complained.

“Look, it’s not you, Tara. That’s the ad business. It’s never been a nine to five gig, you know that.”

“Come on, Clem. Do you work to live or live to work?”

Clem looked at Tara for the first time that night. “I’ve been in this damn business long enough to know when someone’s fucking with me,” snapped Clem. “If I don’t make CEO then Fitz will. And the first thing that prick will do is fire me. Then what? Well, I’ll tell you what. We’ll have to up sticks and move. I got hired right before the recession hit and I’m on a big stick, you know that and there aren’t a ton of jobs out there.”

Tara felt a bolt of emotion shoot through her but she knew that arguing about her needs seemed useless and trivial when Clem was on a rant like this.

“I thought as you climbed the corporate ladder your working life would get easier,” Tara said, getting a little choked up.

“That’s funny,” Clem said sarcastically. “I want CEO. And I deserve it. Jesus, I’ve earned it, dammit! It’s my inheritance after reeling in Rebakor. Biggest account that agency has ever won.”

Clem got up from the sofa and plugged the TV back into the wall. He sat back down and flipped it on again.

Tara spent the rest of the evening busying herself around the house rather then try to engage her husband who was obviously not even interested in talking let alone having an orgasm. Clem went to bed early that night after finishing off the bottle of merlot all by himself and popping a couple of pills. By the time Tara climbed into bed, Clem was asleep. She felt bad about their earlier confrontation that evening so she snuggled up against his warm, naked body and gently stroked his shoulder. She felt a lump on Clem’s back. She studied it as best she could in the dark. It looked like a painful red welt.

Strange that Clem hadn’t mentioned it.


Reprinted from Fem Dom by Tony Cane-Honeysett. © 2012 by Chardonnay Press.


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