Mastering Elodie – Chapter 1 (BDSM Cowboy Romance)

Elodie Banner 3

 

Bookstrand    Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Kobo    iTunes

Chapter One

Elodie Mitchell cursed her rotten luck. If she believed in God, she’d think He had it out for her. First, the refrigerator had gone out, ruining the groceries she’d just bought with the last of her money. Then the light in her bedroom had blown out, and she was out of bulbs. You’d think that would be bad enough, but, no, obviously not. She stared at the paper in her hand, the red stamp glaring at her. Eviction Notice. She had one week to pay the rent she owed, or she would be out on the street. Where was she going to come up with eight hundred dollars in one week? She didn’t make much more than that in a whole month! So much for a thirty-day notice.

She pressed the phone closer to her ear.

“Eight hundred dollars?” She snorted. “Might as well be eight thousand. How do they expect people to survive in this economy?”

“You can do so much more with your life than work at that stupid diner,” her somewhat friend, Jasmine, said. “When are you going to get off your ass and go look for an office job? Something cushy with decent pay and benefits?”

She’d made friends with Jasmine Archer in the first grade, but her friend had moved away two years later. They’d kept in touch via phone, but seldom talked these days. Elodie felt more alone than she ever had, as she realized that she really didn’t have any friends or family in her life.

“I’ll get around to it, Jas.”

She looked around the tiny apartment and sighed. On the plus side, she’d rented the place furnished, so she didn’t have to worry about moving anything heavy. She had just enough clothes to fill a suitcase, and enough odds and ends for maybe two or three boxes. Everything she owned would fit into the trunk of her car. How sad was that? She’d never had much though. She couldn’t miss what she’d never had. At least, that’s what she told herself. It didn’t stop her from wondering though.

“Pathetic. That’s what it is. My life is pathetic. A joke, really.”

“Elodie, you’re life is not a joke! Don’t talk like that. You sound so…I don’t know. Defeated.”

“I feel defeated, Jas. Where am I supposed to come up with that kind of money in such a short amount of time?”

“You’ll think of something. You always do. Listen, I have to run, but call me if you need to talk. Okay?”

“Yeah. I’ll ring you sometime later in the week. If you don’t hear from me, it means life overwhelmed me. Or I ran out of minutes on my phone. I’ll be in touch sooner or later though.”

“Chin up, El. Things will turn around. You’ll see.”

Elodie refrained from rolling her eyes at her chipper friend and ended the call.

Setting the paper down on the kitchen counter, she checked on the ramen noodles cooking on the stove. This would be the fifth day she’d had them for dinner, but she couldn’t be picky. The way she looked at it was that she had food to eat. Things could be worse. If she hadn’t picked up a bunch of the cheap fare when she went shopping, she’d be stuck with peanut butter sandwiches for every lunch and dinner. At least she could mix things up a bit.

She tapped her fingers on the counter. What to do. She could always ask for another shift at the diner where she worked, but business had been sadly lacking these days. Her tips were few and far between. Everyone always asked to be seated in Carrie’s section, and she couldn’t really blame them. The young woman was every man’s wet dream. With her rounded figure, Elodie couldn’t compete. Hey, another thing to look forward to. Weight loss! She huffed. With her luck, she’d still manage to gain weight. At a size twenty-two, she was far from slim.

Elodie turned off the burner and stirred in the packet of seasoning before dumping the noodles into one of her last clean bowls. She really should get around to doing the dishes. And vacuuming. Maybe dusting a little. All right, she needed to clean the place from top to bottom, but dammit, she’d just been too tired. She knew it was from worrying so much. Her shift at the diner wasn’t any more taxing than it had been before things started falling apart around her.

“Come on, Elodie. Think! There has to be a way out of this,” she mumbled to herself.

Carrying her bowl to the rickety table in the middle of the kitchen, she sat on one of two remaining chairs. The other two had gone to chair heaven the month before. Not that these two were anything to brag about. The stuffing was pretty much gone in one and the vinyl was ripped on the other. The jagged tear in the seat scraped against the back of her thigh, pinching her a little. She winced and blew on a forkful of noodles before stuffing them in her mouth.

Her stomach rumbled, in appreciation or complaint of starvation she wasn’t sure. She’d been skipping breakfast in order to stretch out her food supplies and she’d missed lunch earlier because she’d spent her lunch hour trying to find a second job. No one was hiring, or at least no one had offered her a job. Whether that was because they really didn’t have work available for her or because she was the white trash from the wrong side of the tracks, she’d never know. Sometimes, living in a small town sucked.

She crammed the last bite of noodles into her mouth and carried her bowl to the sink, where she rinsed it and added it to the growing pile of dishes. Elodie pulled a glass out of the cupboard and filled it with water. She downed the contents and set the glass aside. Drumming her fingers on the countertop once more, she contemplated her options.

One thing was for certain, worrying about it wasn’t going to change anything. What she needed to do was relax. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d enjoyed a bit of pampering. Maybe she’d take a hot bath, paint her nails, and curl up in bed with a good book. The only thing that would make the night better would be having a girls’ night out or having some hot, young stud in her bed. Maybe not too young. She didn’t think she was cut out to be a cougar.

She snickered to herself. Her? A cougar? “I suppose I’d have to go after the younger crowd to get a date in this town. They’re the only ones who don’t seem to have a problem with me.”

She began stripping off her clothes on the way to the bathroom. After tossing them in the overflowing hamper, she put the stopper in the tub and started the water. She was almost certain she still had some bubble bath and dug around under the sink to find it. When she located the bottle, she realized there was only a drop or two left, so she filled it halfway with water, shook the bottle then upended it into the tub. The scent of roses filled the room and she sighed in pleasure.

Elodie secured her hair with a ponytail holder then climbed into the porcelain tub, turned off the water and leaned back. At her size, she was rather cramped in the tiny tub, but the hot water was already working miracles. She felt her muscles begin to relax and she stretched her aching feet. She shifted and her lower back popped twice. God, what she would give for a massage! Being short of funds, and having no boyfriend, meant she was out of luck in that department. As if being single wasn’t bad enough, the batteries in her vibrator had died the other night and she couldn’t afford new ones. Now that was a crime! She could go without lights, she could make do without a fridge, but for her vibrator to die was just uncalled for.

Closing her eyes, she tried to quiet the noise in her head, shut everything off and just drift. It was easier said than done, but eventually she succeeded. Perhaps a little too well. The next time she opened her eyes, the water had turned cold and her fingers and toes were pruning. Pulling the plug, she rose from the water and grabbed the towel hanging by the door. She dried off quickly, hung the towel back up, and hurried into her bedroom. There was just enough of a chill in the air that her skin erupted in goose bumps and her nipples hardened. She pulled out her favorite pajamas and a comfortable pair of white cotton briefs. Elodie slipped on her clothes and climbed under the covers.

Her favorite book was on the nightstand, along with her book light. She clipped the light to the back of her novel and turned it on. Opening to the dog-eared page, she began to read. It didn’t take her long to get lost in the tale. In her mind, she saw herself as the heroine, a curvy spitfire who had not one but two men chasing after her. What would that be like? Elodie had never had men running after her, had only been on a few dates, but she could dream. She would give anything to experience that once in a lifetime kind of love. Hell, she’d settle for a good case of lust right about now.

The downside of living in a small town was that everyone knew you. It also meant that when certain families in town decided you weren’t worth a damn, everyone else believed it, too. It wasn’t her fault her deadbeat dad had run off and left them, or that her mom had fallen into a downward spiral that ended in a life of prostitution and drugs. Just because her parents had been screw-ups, it didn’t mean she was, too. Elodie had worked hard in school, had tried to make something of herself, but when she was seventeen her mom had passed away. Elodie hadn’t had a choice but to go to work, either that or go into foster care. She’d managed to get a job at the diner and made just enough for her small apartment and the essentials.

She hadn’t expected to still be working at the diner ten years later, or that she’d still be living in the same rundown apartment. Things hadn’t turned out quite the way she’d hoped all those years ago. Before her mom’s death, she’d had big plans. She was going to graduate high school and put herself through college, taking out loans and doing whatever she had to in order to succeed. She’d wanted to make something of herself.

Elodie knew there were ways for her to turn her life around. She could get her GED and attend the community college nearby. But somehow, she’d never had time for something like that. She knew she should have made time, but instead, she’d allowed herself to be pigeonholed as a waitress trying to make ends meet. She’d always told herself that one day she’d get out of this small town and change her life, but it had never happened. Now, she was twenty-seven and nearly homeless.

She turned off her book light and set the novel down on the nightstand. Drawing the covers up to her chin, she sighed and closed her eyes. She’d worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Surely things would look better after a good night’s sleep.

 

* * * *

 

At the diner the next morning, Elodie was stuffing the napkin holders when their first customers walked in. She hadn’t seen them around town before, and she certainly would’ve remembered such handsome men. She’d heard the Sawyers had sold their ranch a week or two ago and she figured these must be the new owners. At a glance, she could tell the women in town were going to go nuts over them. Both topping six feet, with broad shoulders and tapered waists, they were quite a sight. Elodie felt her panties dampen at the mere thought of such fine specimens holding her, caressing her, kissing her senseless. She gave herself a mental shake, blaming the countless romance novels she’d read, and her lack of a love life, on her wayward hormones.

She waved a hand. “Sit anywhere you like. I’ll be with you in just a moment.”

The blond flashed her a smile and moved further into the diner, selecting a booth near the window. His dark haired friend followed. Or were they brothers? The idea was intriguing. She’d read enough ménage romances to be curious as to what it would be like to be sandwiched between the two. Then again, no one said they shared. Just because they’d gone in together on the Sawyer place, which was still speculation on her part, didn’t mean they went in together on everything. Of course, there was always the possibility they were gay and in a relationship together. Now there was a depressing thought.

She made her way over to their table, two menus in her hand. She set them down in front of them and smiled.

“I’ll give you a few minutes with the menus. In the meantime, what can I get you to drink?” she asked.

“I’ll take water and a coffee,” the dark haired one answered.

“Same for me,” said the blond. He smiled at her once more, but she figured he was just being friendly. No way was he flirting with her. Men just didn’t flirt with Elodie. Ever.

She hurried away to get their drinks, returning a few minutes later.

“Have you had time to decide on your meal?” she asked.

“I’ll take the special,” the blond answered.

“Eggs, bacon and biscuits for me,” said the dark haired one. She really needed to get their names so she could quit referring to them by hair color in her mind.

“I’m Elodie. Just holler if you need anything.”

“I’m Beau and my brother is Beck.” The blond smiled again.

“It’s nice to meet you,” she said with a smile. “I’ll get those orders to you shortly.”

“Have you eaten yet?” Beau asked.

She shook her head. “I don’t really eat breakfast.”

Beck frowned. “You’re not on one of those weird diets, are you?”

She felt her cheeks warm. “No, but I should be.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you, sweet thing,” Beau said.

Elodie frowned, not sure if he was serious or making fun of her. She couldn’t remember ever receiving a compliment from a guy before. Not even the ones she’d dated in the past, all two of them. Guys like these two should be seen with skinny, busty women. Not someone who looked eight months pregnant. She didn’t even have the sexy, curvy figure of a plus-sized model. She was just round. When her ample breasts weren’t bound, they rested on top of her stomach; her ass had more cushion than she’d like.

Some would ask why she didn’t diet and exercise to get rid of the extra weight. Truth was, as much as she hated being fat, the thought of counting calories and watching what she ate just didn’t appeal to her. Yes, she was a large woman, but at least she enjoyed life. That was more than she could say for some.

Without another word, she turned and walked away. She didn’t know what to make of the men. She turned in their order and poured herself a glass of sweet tea. The diner might charge their waitresses for any food they consumed, but the drinks were free. She tried to fill up on tea so she wouldn’t be quite so hungry. She was amazed her stomach hadn’t growled when Beau had asked if she’d eaten yet.

It didn’t take long for their order to be ready and she picked up the plates. She briskly walked across the room and set the food down in front of Beau and Beck. Beau smiled at her again and nodded toward the kitchen.

“Why don’t you fetch a plate and join us?”

“I’m on the clock. It wouldn’t be right for me to sit and eat with you. What if other customers came in?”

Beau looked around. “I don’t see anyone in here right now.”

How did she decline without admitting she couldn’t afford to eat at the diner? It was one thing for the townspeople to know of her circumstances, but another to admit it to these two hunky men. The last thing she wanted was to see pity or disgust in their eyes.

“Come on, our treat.” Beau smiled again. The man really needed to stop doing that. It was doing strange things to her, making her heart race, her breath quicken, and her pussy quiver.

She opened her mouth to respond when Elliot yelled out from the kitchen. “Elodie, get your lazy ass to work. Quit bothering the customers.”

She felt her cheeks heat and murmured an apology before turning and hurrying away. She couldn’t afford to anger the boss, not when she needed this job so desperately. He’d just agreed to allow her to work the night shift so she could earn some extra money. It meant working sixteen hours straight, five days a week, but she’d do what she must to survive. She doubted she would earn enough in time to save her apartment, but maybe she could save some money and find another place to live. Maybe she’d even drive out of town one day and never look back. There really wasn’t anything for her in Grizzly Pines, nothing but pain anyway.

Elodie finished stuffing the napkin holders then moved on to the ketchup bottles. She’d just finished her task when more customers walked in. With an inward groan, she realized it was the Brubaker twins. They’d delighted in tormenting her ever since grade school. She’d always been on the pudgy side and they’d made fun of her daily. You’d think they’d outgrow such childish tendencies, but if anything it seemed to get worse with each passing year.

She watched as they seated themselves at a table in the middle of the diner and she carried menus over to them. Not that they needed them. They always ordered the same thing for breakfast—eggs, grits, and toast.

She set the menus in front of them and gave them a forced smile. “The usual?”

Jim Brubaker eyed her up and down. “You know, I thought they served cows here, not hired them.”

She bit her tongue. It wasn’t his most creative insult, but it hurt just the same. She heard a growl from behind her and looked over her shoulder. Beau and Beck stared at the Brubakers with narrowed eyes.

“Take that back,” Beau demanded.

Jim smirked at him. “Well, well. It looks like Elodie has found some knights in shining armor. Wonder what she did to get them to champion her. Been spreading your legs like your whore mother?”

Elodie shook from the control it took not to lash out at him. She’d love nothing more than to slap him across his arrogant face. She’d made that mistake once and had almost lost her job over it. Never again. It wasn’t worth it, he wasn’t worth it. She felt a hand on her arm and then she was tugged behind Beck as Beau wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

Beck leaned over, bracing his hands on the table between Jim and his brother Eddie. He looked back and forth between the two, his jaw set, his eyes flashing anger.

“You will apologize to her, or we’ll take this outside.”

Eddie visibly swallowed and glanced at his brother. “Jim, maybe you should just apologize. You know the sheriff is still sore over that incident at the Golden Buckle. He wouldn’t take too kindly to finding you brawling in the streets.”

Jim scowled. “Fine. I’m sorry.”

“Not to me.” Beck nodded in Elodie’s direction. “To her.”

Jim’s lips turned down. “Elodie, I’m sorry.”

She nodded. “Thank you.”

“Now,” Beck continued. “Why don’t you boys head home for breakfast. I don’t much care to be looking at you while I eat.”

Eddie stood so fast his chair nearly tipped over. Under other circumstances, it might have been funny. It was obvious that he was intimidated by the tall cowboy. Jim rose slowly, scowled at them, and followed his brother out of the diner. It wasn’t much of a loss. They never tipped her. Beau squeezed her shoulders and Beck turned to face them.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“I’m fine. I appreciate you helping me, but it really wasn’t necessary.”

“You certainly weren’t doing anything about it,” Beck said.

“It doesn’t do any good. They’ll be back tomorrow with the same insults. It’s not that big a deal. They’ve had something to say to me every day for the past twenty years.”

Beau gave her an incredulous look. “They’ve been tormenting you that long?”

Elodie flushed in embarrassment and shrugged.

“This isn’t over, Elodie,” Beck said. “I don’t know why you’ve let them run roughshod over you all this time, but it ends now. If you won’t stand up for yourself, we’ll just have to make sure they understand you’re off limits. The people in this town need to find a new punching bag.”

Were they serious? They planned to protect her? No one had ever cared what happened to her, not even her mother. She’d almost run away from home once, when one of her mother’s customers had decided she was available to sample as well. Why on Earth would these two hunks want to stand between her and the rest of the town? She wasn’t anything special. Besides, they’d just met! They knew nothing about her.

She stood clenching and unclenching her hands at her sides, unsure of what to say to them. The Brubakers had called them her knights in shining armor. They were more like cowboy heroes. Her cowboy heroes. Beau gave her a squeeze again before he and Beck returned to their table. Not knowing what else to do, she returned to her duties, thankful her boss hadn’t noticed the altercation. He would surely blame her for it.

When Beau and Beck finished their meal, they dropped some money on the table and headed out the door. Elodie admired the view before going to collect the money to pay their check. She hadn’t even given it to them, but she knew they wouldn’t shortchange her. She might have just met them, but they seemed like kind, decent men. Not the kind to skip out on a check or not leave a tip.

She stopped at their table and picked up two twenties, staring at them, dumbfounded. Their two meals together had only been around fifteen dollars. They’d left her a twenty-five dollar tip! No one had ever done such a thing before. Usually she collected two, maybe three dollars for a group of two or more. A dollar for singles. The town wasn’t known for its generosity, not toward her anyway.

Elodie finished her shift, working hard the rest of the day and night, feeling like she was going to drop at any moment. Her feet had never been so sore before. And she wasn’t going to think about how much her back ached. She doubted even a hot bath would cure what ailed her tonight. But as ready as she was to put her feet up, she didn’t really relish going home to her empty apartment. When she’d woken this morning, she’d discovered that her cable had been shut off. Apparently she was farther behind in payments than she’d thought. Thank God, she had one of those pay-as-you-go cell phones, or she’d be without a phone by now too. Couldn’t anything go right for her? It seemed if it could go wrong, it did.

After clocking out, she gathered her things and headed out to her car. She’d had to park around the corner in back of the diner. It wasn’t an ideal place to be at night, in the dark, because there weren’t any lights back there. The light over the rear entrance had a short in it and never worked properly, so the owner just quit turning it on.

The door slammed shut behind her and she dug blindly through her purse in an attempt to find her keys. If she’d been smart, she’d have pulled them out before she stepped into the blackness of the alley, but she was just too damn tired to think clearly. Finally, her hand closed around the cold metal of her keychain and she pulled it out, keys jangling. She walked briskly down the side of the building toward her car, one hand gripping her purse.

A shadow stepped away from the building, directly into her path. She froze, aware that she’d have to go through him to get to her car, and the door to the diner was too far away. The shadow moved closer until she could make out his features. Casey Woods, mayor Woods’ illegitimate son, and known troublemaker. What he could want with her, she had no idea. She’d seen him around town, but they’d never really talked before. He’d been two years behind her in school.

“Give me your purse,” he said, his voice raspy like he was getting over a cold. As he drew nearer, she saw his eyes were bloodshot and his skin was pale. She quickly assessed him, saw his jittery hands and determined that he was in need of a fix.

All of the money she’d earned today was in her purse. If she gave it to him, she’d have nothing. Even her phone was in the purse, along with her license and her favorite lipstick. Something told her he wouldn’t allow her to remove any of the items, especially not the hard earned cash that she so desperately needed. With a hand that was steadier than she’d have thought possible, she held the purse out to him.

He stepped closer and jerked it from her grasp. “Now the keys.”

She swallowed hard and clenched her hand around the keys. That damn car was the only thing she had left, she couldn’t part with it willingly. Maybe if she refused, he’d decide it wasn’t worth the hassle and just leave.

“You can’t have my car. I need it.”

“So do I, bitch. Now give me the keys.”

She shook her head and backed up a step. With wide eyes, she watched as he pulled a gun from behind his back and pointed it at her. As if in slow motion, she saw him pull the trigger, watched the gun kick, and a moment later felt the bullet slam into her. Either he was a lousy shot, or he didn’t intend to kill her. Blood blossomed on her shirt near her left shoulder and the world spun. She pressed her hand over the wound and sank to the ground, her knees hitting the unforgiving pavement. The heat of the day seeped through her jeans and burned her skin. Even though it had been hours since the sun went down, it was still a hot and humid night. Sweat beaded on the back of her neck and drenched the cups of her bra.

The metallic scent of her blood filled her nose as dots swam before her eyes. Casey stepped closer and wrenched the keys from her hand, pulling on her shoulder. She cried out in pain and watched, helpless, as he ran to her car. He jumped inside, started it, and peeled out of the alley. As the taillights disappeared around the corner, she called out for help, hoping someone would hear her.

Lightheaded and dizzy, she sucked in a lungful of the balmy air before sinking into oblivion, her body slumping to the ground. Lying face down on the pavement, blood began to pool under her shoulder.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s