It Stings So Sweet

They vibrated with incendiary Jazz. They teemed with sexual abandon. The Twenties were roaring and the women–young, open, rebellious, and willing–set the pace and pushed the limits with every man they met…

In the aftermath of a wild, liquor-soaked party, three women from very different social classes are about to live out their forbidden desires.

Society girl, Nora Richardson’s passionate nature has always been a challenge to her ever-patient husband. Now he wants out of the marriage and she has just this one night to win him back. The catch? He wants to punish her for her bad behavior. Nora is offended by her husband’s increasingly depraved demands, but as the night unfolds, she discovers her own true nature and that the line between pain and pleasure is very thin indeed.

Meanwhile, Clara Cartwright, sultry siren of the silent screen, is introduced to a mysterious WWI Flying Ace. If Clara, darling of the scandal sheets, knows anything, it’s men. And she’s known plenty. But none of them push her boundaries like the aviator, who lures her into a ménage with a stranger in a darkened cinema then steals her jaded heart.

Working class girl Sophie O’Brien has more important things on her mind than pleasures of the flesh. But when her playboy boss, the wealthy heir to the Aster family fortune, confronts her with her diary of secret sex fantasies, she could die of shame. To her surprise, he doesn’t fire her; instead, he dares her to re-enact her boldest fantasies and Sophie is utterly seduced.

One party serves as a catalyst of sexual awakening. And in an age when anything goes, three women discover that anything is possible…

Reviews

“Sweet, sexy, angsty, lovely. It Stings So Sweet paints a vivid picture of twenties-era lust. Stephanie Draven is the cat’s pajamas and the bee’s knees. I loved it!”

 – Megan Hart, New York Times Bestselling author

 

“Nuanced, complex characters who are both strikingly modern and very much of their time…The balance of sin and sweetness is as perfect as a Prohibition cocktail.”

– RTBookReviews, Top Pick!

 

Excerpt

“Are you having an affair with him?” asks the stranger as he stoops to light my cigarette.

In the chaos of the party it would be easy to ignore him. After all, there has already been a drunken fistfight and a couple caught having sex on the desktop in the parlor. Now the ragtime piano player is hammering at the keys with feigned gaiety while the guests talk too loudly, clinking their glasses of illegal liquor as if to banish the unpleasantness.

If I want to turn my back on the handsome and impertinent stranger, no one would blame me, but I’m intrigued. “Am I having an affair? That’s not the kind of question someone normally asks before a formal introduction.”

The stranger smirks and snaps his lighter shut. “You don’t need an introduction. Everybody who reads the scandal sheets knows who you are. Clara Cartwright. Box Office Gold.”

“Then you have me at a disadvantage. I didn’t catch your name, Mr.—”

“Vanderberg,” he says. “Leo Vanderberg.”

It sounds familiar, but I can’t place it. “German?”

“Dutch,” he says quickly, exhaling a long ribbon of smoke from the corner of his mouth.

I like his mouth. Firm lips beneath a shadow of stubble he ought to have shaved for this party. Lips that part in a narrow expression of vague amusement at our obvious instant attraction. I feel it, too. The inexplicable tug between us. “Well, Mr. Vanderberg, exactly whom do you think I’m having an affair with?”

He grins leaning against the wood-paneled wall, priceless artwork framing his square shoulders. He holds an icy glass of bourbon at a precarious angle, and yet his hand is steady. Then his eyes motion to the host of the party. “I want to know if you’re sleeping with Big Teddy Morgan. He’s the fat cat throwing this bash in your honor, isn’t he?”

“This party is for the studio . . . or didn’t you read the invitation?”

His heated gaze slips over my silver sequined gown in apparent appreciation of the way it hugs my hips. “Maybe I don’t need an invitation.”

He’s bold but I’ve managed bold men since I was fourteen. I let the smoke at the long end of my cigarette holder encircle my head like a wreath, then turn to my best angle to give him a better view. “Do you always go where you’re not wanted?”

He smiles with those dark dangerous eyes. “Oh, I’m wanted wherever I go . . .”

This makes me laugh. “That’s a good line. I should steal it for my movies . . .”

“Do they let you write your own lines now?”

“Nobody lets me do anything, Mr. Vanderberg. I’ve scraped and clawed for everything I’ve got.”

He nods, sipping from his crystal glass and I see that he’s not wearing a wedding ring. There’s a lean hungry look about him from the shine of his neatly barbered Valentino-style hair to his polished wing-tip shoes.

“So are you?” he asks. “Having an affair with Teddy Morgan, I mean?”

I don’t see the point in denying it. “What’s it to you if I am?”

He leans in, close and predatory. I catch a whiff of the spicy scent of his aftershave. “I like to know the field before I make a battle plan. I like to know who I’m up against.”

He’s so sure of himself that I have to knock him down a peg or two. “I’m a fight you can’t win, I’m afraid.”

He glances over at my sugar daddy. “Why? Are you in love with him?”

“I don’t fall in love, Mr. Vanderberg. When I take a man to bed, it’s got everything to do with the size of his bank account and what he’s got between his legs.”

I say it to shock him. Possibly to offend him. But he just kicks up a brow in wry amusement, the sparkle of the chandeliers overhead reflected in his eyes. The ritzy glitter and glam of this party is getting to me and if he asks me to dance, I decide that I’ll say yes.

But before he can, our host ambles over and throws one meaty arm around my waist. I don’t mind terribly; Big Teddy is just one more man in a long string of them who thought they were using me, and he’s not the worst of them by far. “Clara, I see you’ve run into our resident war hero! This is Leo Vanderberg. Flying ace.”

I’ve met plenty of soldiers before but never a genuine flying ace. That explains the boldness. It takes a special kind of man to brave impossible heights in nothing but a little box. And that’s to say nothing of the kind of man who can shoot another person out of the sky. I look at Mr. Vanderberg with a trifle more wariness than before, then extend my hand as if we hadn’t already been introduced. “How nice to meet you, Mr. Vanderberg.”

The aviator takes my hand. He kisses it. His lips linger too long. “Call me Leo.”

Big Teddy doesn’t seem to notice the spark that crackles between us. “So, how many German aircraft did you shoot down in the Great War, Leo? Seven?”

“Seventeen,” Leo murmurs.

I blow a perfect ring of smoke. “Goodness! And what does a flying ace like you do with himself now that the war is over?”

“I’m a test pilot,” Leo replies, his gaze steady on me. “I take the finest pieces of equipment available and push them as far as they’ll go.”

Oh, my. Now I know where I’ve heard his name before. He’s not the most famous American aviator . . . but just about.

Big Teddy snorts. “Sometimes you push too far, Leo. You wrecked the last plane my engineers designed. You may have walked away with your life, but you lost your chance to make that first transatlantic flight. You let Lucky Lindy beat you to it and it serves you right.”

The mood abruptly changes and Leo sets his jaw. “Lucky Fucking Lindy.”

His bitterness amuses me, and I can’t resist getting in a dig. “It usually is the rich or lucky who get to do the fucking.”

Teddy Morgan roars with laughter, yanking me tight against his fleshy side. The big man pawing at me is a collector. He collects priceless items and unusual people. A silent screen starlet. A war hero. It makes his parties interesting. But he also expects us all to be at his beck and call. “I’ve got a new plane for you, Leo. She’s state of the art. A masterpiece.”

“I heard you haven’t been able to get her off the ground,” Leo replies coolly.

“That’s where you come in. This plane is an advance . . . we’ll make aviation history if you can get her into the air.”

Leo’s eyes lock with mine. “Can’t wait to get my hands on her.”

“Can you be ready next week?” Teddy asks, oblivious to our flirtation.

“I’m always ready,” Leo replies with a smirk.

Across the room, a well-heeled guest waves to our host. “I’d better mingle,” Big Teddy says. “But you’ll stay for a nightcap, Clara, won’t you?”

I smile. “Of course.”

Then the tycoon releases me and wanders off.

Leo finishes his drink in silence. He’s all angles and shadows. The camera would love him, and I don’t mind the looks of him, either.

“Come home with me,” Leo finally says.

My sigh is one of regret. “I’m afraid Big Teddy and I have an understanding. He’s bankrolled my last three films . . .”

“Because he makes money off them. When Clara Cartwright stars in a motion picture, odds of a safe return are almost two-to-one. You don’t owe him more than your name in lights on the marquee.”

I’ve never let myself think about it that way before and I might be grateful to Mr. Vanderberg for pointing it out, were it not for his self-serving motive. “Even so, you’re not likely to offer me a better deal, are you?”

Leo laughs. “Why are you so determined to convince me you’re that kind of girl?”

I feel a spark of mischief heat my blood. “Maybe because I am that kind of girl.”

“So, you’re jaded,” he says, stubbing out his cigarette into a crystal ashtray.

“A true cynic.”

“You’ve done it all . . .”

I grin. “At least twice.”

“Then level with me,” he begins, leaning in close. “How do you fuck him?”

My smile dies away. “I beg your pardon—”

“Did I shock you already? What happened to the jaded girl, the true cynic who has done it all twice? You’re not getting a case of the vapors just because of a lurid question, are you?”

My pulse quickens, my blood rising to his bait. “You surprised me, that’s all. Ask again.”

He circles behind me, coming close enough that I feel his hot breath on the back of my neck. “So, how do you take him? On your back? On your hands and knees?”

“I straddle him,” I say, bold and sultry. “It’s easier that way. There’s a reason they call him Big Teddy, you know.”

I wonder what kind of suitor Leo Vanderberg really is that this kind of talk doesn’t run him off. Instead, he trails his warm lips over the back of my neck. I shiver and give a little toss of my head, but I can’t shake him. “Why, Miss Cartwright, that’s a nice picture you paint. I can see it in my mind. You straddling his lap, riding him, sweat dripping down your spine. It excites me.”

Flushing with heat, I stare off at the dance floor where flappers dance the Charleston and a few couples pair off into quiet corners. “You’re a strange man to get excited by the idea of a woman having sex with someone else.”

“Is it strange? I don’t have to be the only man to lift a plane off the ground to appreciate its capabilities. Anyone with eyes can see you’re a perfectly built vessel. You weren’t made to sit idle in the hangar, were you?”

I want to get a little sore at him for comparing me to a cold hunk of machine, but he’s got me running so hot I don’t care. “You’re right about that. I do believe I was made to fly.”

“That makes two of us then, doesn’t it? Now, about that deal . . .”

“What deal?”

His voice is a purr. “You said I wasn’t about to offer you a better deal, but I am. I’m about to give you something for nothing.”

“There’s no such thing.”

He laughs. “This is a gift. No strings attached. I’m going to make you come tonight without laying a hand on you.”

My eyes go slanted and sleepy to make it seem as if I’m bored, but we both know I’m wide awake. “Is that so?”

“Tonight, when you’re in bed with him, working those hips of yours, close your eyes. Imagine my breath on the back of your neck, like it is now. Imagine my hands cupping your breasts . . .”

I feign a yawn. “Oh, how droll. You want me to pretend that I’m with you instead of him.”

“No, I want you to pretend that my cock is buried in you from behind and that I’m grinding you against him. Pretend that I’m making you take him deeper. Trapping you between us so you’ve got nowhere to go but where I tell you to. Pretend that I’m pushing you to see how much you can take. It’s going to drive you right over the edge.”

Another woman would probably slap him, but my knees turn to jelly. And when he withdraws, and I’m left to grasp the ornately carved wooden back of an upholstered wing chair for balance.

Satisfaction spreads across his face. “And now I’ll be going, unless you’d like to give me a kiss good-bye?”

I finally find my voice. “Sorry Ace, the bank is closed.”

“Then have a pleasurable evening, Miss Cartwright.”

When the party is finally over and the mansion is quiet, I sit at the abandoned piano in the alcove. My mother used to play organ at church but I never picked up more than a few notes. Still, I can’t resist plunking at the keys. The maidservant finishes sweeping up some confetti and broken glass, then quietly withdraws when the master of the house returns.

“Sorry to keep you waiting.” Teddy stumbles in, having abandoned his waistcoat somewhere along the way. “I just needed to make sure my wife is asleep.”

His wife is barking mad, as everyone well knows. Mrs. Morgan hasn’t left her room for more than a decade. Sometimes she awakens the household late at night with incoherent rages, and when she does, he always goes to her. Other men of his social standing would have institutionalized or divorced her, but I think Teddy Morgan would give up all his fortune—and any mistress—just to have his wife back the way she was before.

Which is why I chose him.

You see, these days, every mogul keeps a starlet for a mistress. Joe Kennedy has Gloria Swanson. William Randolph Hearst has Marion Davies. William S. Paley has Louise Brooks. I figured I’d better pick a big shot before one picked me. And as far as fat cats go, Theodore “Big Teddy” Morgan isn’t a bad egg. He’s lonely but he won’t fall in love or demand more from me than I’m willing to give.

Dropping heavily onto the high-backed leather sofa, he pats the seat beside him. “Take a load off, you’ve been on your feet all night. But you charmed them all, doll. They’ll be lining up on the street to see the film.”

“At least until the reviews come in,” I say, slipping out of my shoes and joining him. “The producer was a fool. I can make a better picture. I know I can.”

He’s already pulling me into his lap, hands fumbling for the fastenings of my dress. “Clara, you’re a fine actress, but I’ve already told you. I’m not about to finance a film produced by a woman.”

I pull away. “Don’t be so old-fashioned. Mary Pickford’s been producing films for almost ten years.”

“But she’s America’s Sweetheart,” he says, moving my hand onto the growing hardness beneath his pants. “Whereas you warm people up somewhere far south of the heart . . .”

My eyes narrow at the challenge. “I bet I can get you excited in more ways than one. Why don’t you drop by the little studio I’ve been renting and take a peek at some of my projects? I think you’ll agree that I should have control over the production of my films.”

“Behave yourself, Clara.”

“I didn’t get anywhere in life by behaving.”

His voice lowers an octave. “Then, by all means, let’s misbehave . . .”

He unfastens his pants and I take a good look. Teddy Morgan drinks too much and he’s going a little soft in the middle—but his giant erection is a thing of wonder. He’s wide, thick, and dangerous. He could hurt a woman if he isn’t careful. I don’t mind though, because I’ve always wanted the best and biggest of everything.

I know what he wants and I find that I want it, too. I shimmy out of my drawers and kick them onto the floor. My body is already pulsing in anticipation when I hike my sparkly gown up around my waist and climb on him. I like to to feel the width of him between my thighs. My bracelets jingle as I grasp the back of the couch, gasping a little when I feel his bare flesh press against mine.

“You’re not the first woman to rub against me tonight, you know. That vamp, Mrs. Richardson, was like a cat in heat on the dance floor before her husband took her on my desk like a common strumpet.”

It surprises me that he seems genuinely angry. “Why are you so upset about having caught a woman having sex with her own husband? Who was it that got slugged, anyway?”

“Only the most eligible bachelor in the country,” he says, fleshy hands caressing my hips. “The ambassador’s son.”

Robert Aster, he means. The youngest of the Aster brothers, heir to a fabulous fortune. I caught a glimpse of him earlier in the evening and thought he had boyish good looks. “Well, I hope he wasn’t hurt too badly. I’d hate to think of that face being bloodied.”

“I’m just sorry the incident nearly ruined your party.”

“Oh, I had a grand time. Everyone will be talking about this party for a while to come.”

Teddy chuckles. “I suppose you’re right. You know, I got an eyeful of Mrs. Richardson spread out under her husband . . . does that make you jealous?”

I can’t afford to be jealous. Men can be possessive of their mistresses, but if you turn it around on them you’re a shrew. Worse, he might use my jealousy as an excuse to take the relationship more seriously, and I’m not the serious kind. Not about any man. So I smirk and say what we both know is a lie. “Of course I am.”

Our entire relationship is built upon such polite lies. Like the lie that he bankrolls my movies because he’s a great appreciator of the arts and not simply because the more money he sinks into my career, the more often I let him fuck me. I’m going to let him fuck me tonight. He knows it. I know it.

But we both pretend it isn’t a foregone conclusion.

I tease him, pulling back like I’m having second thoughts. “I can’t say that I approve of Mrs. Richardson’s behavior.”

“I’m surprised,” he says, sliding the strap of my gown down over one shoulder to nip me there. “After all, I’m told you’ve been caught having sex on film.”

“No one’s ever produced the reel to prove it,” I say, but it’s not a denial.

“Good thing, too. It would ruin you. So you’re hardly in a position to judge Mrs. Richardson.”

“Oh, I’m not judging her; I just don’t approve of anyone causing more of a scandal at a party than I do.”

“You caused plenty. Your dress is cut so far down in the back you can see where the lord split you. The gents couldn’t tear their eyes away. Leo Vanderberg was like a hound on the scent . . .”

So he did notice our flirtation. Now that he mentions the dashing pilot, I flush with heat. I said I was jaded, that I’d done it all, twice. And that’s true, for the most part. I’ve been sleeping with men since I was fourteen and the landlord forced me to do it or be kicked out into the street. I decided then and there if a man thought he was gonna use me, I was gonna use him right back. I learned to like it. I learned to love it. I did whatever I wanted . . . every position. Every taboo. But Leo Vanderberg somehow latched on to the one thing I haven’t done. Now his words swirl deliciously in my mind.

Pretend that my cock is buried in you from behind and that I’m grinding you against him.

As I lower myself onto my lover’s erection, I hiss. It always hurts a little at first, no matter how wet I am, but soon, the pain will turn to pleasure, so I screw up my courage. Teddy’s eyes go heavy-lidded when I’ve got only an inch of him inside me. He likes to watch me work at it.

Sometimes we do it in front of a mirror so I can watch, too.

Tonight, it’s easier.

While Big Teddy squeezes my breasts, I’m imagining another man’s hands on my hips. I’m imagining Leo Vanderberg behind me. Yet, how is it possible that there’d be room inside me for two men? There’s not even room enough for this one. But the fantasy makes me slick with arousal. I can feel the flutter of my heartbeat as if it’s dropped between my legs.

I get another inch into me. Maybe two. I moan at the feeling of fullness.

“Good god, woman, I love the way you move your hips,” Teddy says, while I perform for him.

Pretend that I’m making you take him deeper. Trapping you between us so you’ve got nowhere to go but where I tell you to..

I work myself on his cock, but get only halfway down the shaft. I hold back; I tease. This is usually as far as I can take him, and it’s usually enough to bring Teddy off. In fact, I’m near the edge now myself. His thickness presses deliciously in every direction.

Pretend that I’m pushing you to see how much you can take.

I want more. Tonight, I want to take my lover deeper. Letting gravity pull me down, I fill myself. His big throbbing erection stretches me to the limit. “Oh god, you’re so big . . .,” I moan, but it isn’t a complaint.

Teddy’s red in the face with arousal, his hips making awkward little jerks off the sofa. He palms my ass cheeks as he looks down between us. His voice is husky. “Do you think you can take it?”

It’s a matter of pride now. “Yes. I want it all.”

My words force a shudder of arousal from him, his eyes suddenly burning with lust. I worry that he’ll finish too fast. Instead, he flips me onto my back. I grab the arm of the sofa for balance as the big man rouses himself to pump into me. He’s not used to this kind of work and the sweat beads on his brow, but he’s like a man possessed. I won’t deny him. God, I don’t want to deny him.

He uses his tool to open me and I cry out. Again and again, I’m impaled until the pain melts into pleasure. I’m stretched so wide now that he’s gliding in and out of my pussy with ease. I look down between us, quivering with the thought that his belly might touch mine. He’s fucking me with a strange jerking rhythm, as if he were afraid I’ll ask him to stop at any moment. But he can’t stop. Not now. “Please take it all, Clara . . .”

The start of his orgasm robs him of all self-control and he slams home.

I scream fearing that he’s torn me in two, but when I feel his thatch of pubic hair wet against mine, when I feel it scratch my thighs, and the press of his sweaty belly against my own, joined together so tightly that we’d have to be pried apart . . . my screams turn into something else. I’ve done it. I’ve taken all of him and the filthy satisfaction with myself makes me come.

 It’s going to drive you right over the edge.

I don’t care that I owe it to Leo Vanderberg; I’ve never been one to turn down a free gift.

I clutch at my lover while waves of orgasm wash over me, my muscles contracting then giving out with fatigue. I’m aware of Teddy grunting over me, driving his seed into me with wild strokes and spasms. We’re locked together for several minutes afterward, until he’s soft enough to withdraw from my aching body.

He grunts, then pants, rolling to the side to stroke my hair with unexpected tenderness. “If I weren’t already married, Clara, I’d be down on one knee.”

“Horsefeathers,” I pant. “Wouldn’t you rather marry a nice girl?”

“You are a nice girl, Clara. You just don’t want anyone to know it.”

“Don’t be sweet.” I give his shoulders an affectionate squeeze as I’m fonder of him than I’d ever admit.

Which means it might be time for me to start thinking about moving on.