Out of work and on the verge of being homeless, Sylvie Jenkins takes a job with reclusive writer Connor Hudson. He’s a bestselling author and billionaire entrepreneur. Sparks fly when the demanding dom decides his feisty new employee needs taming. She eventually succumbs to his charms, but he’s keeping secrets. The women in his past keep turning up dead. Is this dom capable of murder?
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Two things! First, my daughter who kept pushing me to write an erotic romance. She’d read the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy and complained about the writing style. She told me that I could do better and should start writing steamy romances. So…I gave it a try. The second thing was happening on the Westport, NY railroad station on the banks of Lake Champlain in the Adirondack Mts. while my husband and I were out taking a ride. It’s so quaint and off the beaten track that it gave me an idea for a story. About a young woman, down on her luck, who’s so desperate that she takes a train up from the city to work for a man she’s never met and live with him in his remote mountain mansion. That was the beginning of the IN HIS KEEPING series. I saw the station and the story just started coming to me.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I knew that I wanted my heroine to be nerdy and smart. I met a woman whose name was Sylvie and it just clicked. The name sounded spunky and sassy just like the character I envisioned. The girl in my story is poor but proud. She’s an innocent and grew up on a farm in western NY and came to the big city to work in publishing. But things didn’t work out the way she’d planned. She’s unemployed, days away from being homeless and on the verge of starvation. She needs a job and she’ll take anything she can get. I knew I wanted a billionaire alpha male hero for the story, one who was dark and dangerous. And I wanted him to be a writer. On that same ride through the Adirondacks, we saw some remote log mansions and I could visualize my guy living like a recluse in one of them. I picked his last name first-Hudson. I named him after the Hudson River which is only about 5 miles from my house, but which originates in the Adirondacks. I came up with the first name Connor a few days later.
“Next station stop is Westport,” the conductor called out. “Station stop Westport. Five minutes. Exit at the rear of the car.”
Sylvie looked out the window, trying to calm herself. She was nervous. Her hands were shaking. Palms sweating. Her mind was spinning. What the hell was she doing? Two weeks ago she had a job. A place to live. Now she was heading to God knows where. To do God knows what!
It had been a lifelong dream to leave the backwater burg she’d been raised in. She’d grown up on a small dairy farm on the outskirts of Wyoming, a little village in Wyoming County, the dairy capital of New York. Life there was boring and lonely for someone like her.
She was shy as a teenager. The kind of girl you see, but never remember. She wasn’t homely, just plain. Not pretty like the other girls. Petite and skinny, she lacked the poise and social graces of her female classmates. She’d only attended one dance in her life and it was a disaster. She didn’t dance. She spent the whole night hiding in the locker room praying for the evening to end. Sylvie was a quiet girl. No one took notice of her except to make her the butt of their cruelty. The boys said she was “geeky.” They called her “Sylvie the nerd!” “Sylvie the dweeb!” The girls snickered and called her “unibrow” and “pimple tits.” College hadn’t been any better than high school. Sylvie never went out. Never dated. She didn’t pledge a sorority or go on spring break. The world was a pretty girl’s oyster. Not so for the plain ones like Sylvie.
She thought New York City would be different, but it wasn’t. She tweezed her eyebrows, styled her hair, and wore push up bras; but it was no use. No one noticed. Once a loser always a loser. A Summa Cum Laude graduate with a degree in English, she felt sure she’d be able to score an entry-level job in a publishing house in the big city. Unfortunately, they began to downsize just as she was entering the workforce. Instead, she became a waitress. A very educated waitress who could quote Steinbeck, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Updike. No one was impressed. She thought living in New York would be exciting. It wasn’t. Her every waking hour was devoted to worrying about how to make enough money to pay the rent and buy food. She’d lived in New York three years and had never visited a single tourist sight. She hadn’t visited the Met or the Museum of Natural History, or the Bronx Zoo, or the Cloisters. She couldn’t afford to. She needed every penny she made. You couldn’t piss your money away when starvation and homelessness loomed just around the corner. Sylvie had been barely able to afford her share of the rent on the little Alphabet City walk-up she shared with her cousin Meagan. Things took a decided turn for the worse when Meagan’s best friend from college decided to move to the city. Sylvie was asked to move out.
“No hard feelings,” Meagan had said. Yeah, right! Water in this case was thicker than blood.
Sylvie had no sooner had that bomb drop on her than a second one hit. The restaurant she worked at was closed for health code violations! Specifically roaches and rat droppings. The Health Department tended to frown on that. She couldn’t even qualify for unemployment because the owner had been paying her under the table. Looking for another job in a recession was no easy task. She didn’t care what the politicians said. This was no recovery. It was a double-dip recession; maybe even a depression! She’d been offered a couple of part-time jobs, but was unable to find anything that would pay her enough to get her own apartment and allow her to continue to live in the city. Her rent was paid up until the 1st. After that she’d be out on her ass in the street. She didn’t want to return to Wyoming as a failure. It would just confirm everyone’s worst suspicions about her.
She was out of money and at her wit’s end when she got the call from Carlene Mays. She owned an employment agency. Sylvie had registered with her when she first moved to the city. She’d placed a lot of people with publishing houses and media companies. At least she said she had. Sylvie called her every week the first year she lived in New York. And every month the second year. But Carlene never found her a position. Never even sent her out on an interview. Last year Sylvie had checked in with her maybe three times. She’d lost hope of ever finding her dream job. That’s why Carlene’s call was a shock.
She had the perfect job for Sylvie: Editorial and Research Assistant to writer Connor Hudson.
Sylvie’s first reaction was “Who the hell is Connor Hudson?” She followed the New York Times bestseller list like it was her job. She hit the local library every week to read their newest books. She’d never heard of him.
Carlene said she was sure he’d been published and believed he wrote “under a pseudonym,” though she had no idea what it was. The important thing, she told Sylvie, was that he was successful and very rich. He was offering her an annual starting salary of $90,000, including paid health benefits, room, board, and use of one of his vehicles.
Sylvie nearly fainted.
“This isn’t a 9 to 5 job,” Carlene cautioned. Sylvie would be expected to work around his schedule and that might mean rising at dawn to proof read a chapter and then working until 3 AM researching a topic for him. She’d be required to travel with him. At his expense of course and with a generous clothing stipend thrown in if the climate or locale warranted it. Carlene said she was told to make sure she had a passport. Did she?
Yes, yes she did! She’d never been out of the country. Hell, she’d never even been out of New York State except when she’d visited distant relatives in Ohio.
“Do you think you’d be interested?” Carlene asked.
Was she kidding? Sylvie had eaten her last package of ramen noodles yesterday. All she had for today was a can of peas. That was the end of her food. Tomorrow she’d either starve or have to go to a soup kitchen. Of course she was interested!
“Just one thing,” Carlene said, sounding a somber note. “He doesn’t live in the city.”
“Where does he live?”
“Saranac Lake. Upstate in the Adirondacks.”
Sylvie wasn’t pleased at the news. She’d moved to New York City for the glamour and excitement. She was from upstate. Upstate New York was neither glamorous nor exciting. Sylvie tried to look at the bright side…it was a good way to escape the sweltering summer heat of the city. Who knew that upstate would mean 6 hours by train from New York and then who knows how far by car? It was in the middle of nowhere.
“Look Sylvie, this is the perfect opportunity for you. Mr. Hudson wants someone who isn’t the party type. Someone who’ll concentrate on work, who’ll stay close to home, who doesn’t date or run around.”
“Sounds like he wants a nun!”
“The other girls we sent for interviews didn’t work out,” she confessed. “He specifically told me not to send someone too flashy. He doesn’t want a girl who’ll distract him from his work.”
“How kind of you to think of me.” Sylvie said, gritting her teeth. She understood now why Carlene thought she’d be perfect for the job. Wow! Someone actually wanted to pay her for being plain! How bizarre was that? “When does he want to schedule an interview?”
“Oh, there’s no interview. I sent him a copy of your resume. He was very impressed with your credentials. If you want it, the job is yours. He wants you to start as soon as possible. Is that a problem? Do you have to sublet your apartment or give notice to your employer?”
Sylvie didn’t have much choice in the matter. It was either the Adirondacks or the street. She accepted and told her she could start immediately. There was only one problem: she had no money for the ticket north. Carlene called Mr. Hudson’s office and he’d generously arranged to have a ticket waiting for her at Penn Station. She wished she’d told Carlene about not having any money for food either. She hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday and she was sick to her stomach with hunger.
“Station stop is Westport. Westport. All passengers leaving the train please exit to the rear of the car.”
The train slowed down and lurched to a stop. Sylvie quickly grabbed her bags from the overhead rack. She only had two suitcases. Not much in the way of personal possessions. She’d yet to step off the train, but already she was sure this was a mistake. Unfortunately, she’d have to live with it for a while. She hoped this guy was on the up and up; that he wasn’t a pervert, or an ax murderer. That he wasn’t going to sell her to white slavers. Carlene said he had a household staff, so at least Sylvie wouldn’t be living in the house alone with him.
She kept telling herself to think of it as a grand adventure. But if her experiences in NYC were any indication, her attempts at adventure had an uncanny way of turning to shit.
She stepped out on the platform and was surprised to see a gray-haired man in khaki pants and a lightweight blue sweater holding a sign up with her name on it. He looked to be in his late forties or early fifties. Sylvie gingerly lifted her hand and wiggled her fingers, to wave at him.
“Miss Jenkins?” the man asked. “Miss Sylvie Jenkins?”
“I’m Tom Brady. I work for Mr. Hudson. I’m to take you to the house. We’ve got an hour and a half drive ahead of us, so if you don’t mind I’d like to get started. Do you need to use the facilities before we leave?”
“No thank you. I’m fine.” she answered.
With that he grabbed her bags and led her out to the car.
And some car it was! Her eyes nearly popped from her head when she saw the Bentley Mulsanne sitting in the parking lot among the rusted pickups and dented junkers and clunkers. Holy crap! She’d seen them around New York, but never in her wildest dreams did she ever think she’d be riding in one. Carlene hadn’t lied. If the car was any indication, Mr. Hudson was successful. Very successful indeed!
Mia Frances is the pen name of author Mary Vigliante Szydlowski. She writes across several genres under this pseudonym and others. Her published Science Fiction/Fantasy works include novels: The Ark, The Colony, The Land, and Source of Evil, and a novella, The Hand of My Enemy. In addition to her erotic romance murder mystery thriller series In His Keeping: Taken, Banished, and Claimed, she’s also the author of Worship the Night, a tale of horror and the occult, mainstream novel Silent Song, and four children’s books.
Her short stories, articles, children’s stories, essays, and poems have appeared in anthologies, books, magazines, newspapers, and on the web.
She is a member of the Authors Guild, RWA (Romance Writers of America), SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and SFWA (Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America).
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