The Pleasure Contract

Book 1 in the Summer Seductions Series
HEAT LEVEL:
Down & Dirty

It’s a contract that promises unbelievably sinful pleasures. But will she survive the dangerous fine print? Find out in USA Today bestselling author Caitlin Crews’s deliciously hot novel about signing on the dotted line… for sex!

It was like a reality show — one that academic Bristol March would never watch. “Tune in as mind-numbingly hot, New York glitterati billionaire Lachlan Drummond hires his next new girlfriend.” What woman in her right mind would sign up to be a man’s sex object? Which is exactly when Bristol learns that her sister has submitted her as one of Lachlan Drummond’s girlfriend candidates… and he wants her.

She never intended to consider it. But one glimpse of those gleaming, predatory blue eyes and that rangy athletic body, the truth is achingly clear. Bristol wants Lachlan Drummond with the same voraciously hungry need.

Now Bristol’s been thrust into Lachlan’s world of luxurious travel, high society, and unimaginable wealth. It’s a deal with a deliriously sexy devil who kisses her the way she’d always wanted to be kissed. Who consumes her. And all Bristol has to do is abide by the contract—and keep her heart locked down.

But what Lachland Drummond wants, Lachlan Drummond gets. And Bristol’s body is only the beginning…

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Bristol March wished her younger sister was a little less messy, a whole lot less languid, and maybe the tiniest bit less free-spirited, while she was at it—but she wasn’t.

Never had been and probably never would be.

Indy was two and a half years younger, liked to claim she had a bohemian flair in all things, and was underemployed as a deliberate life choice. This allowed her to have sex with all the pretty people she wanted without worrying overmuch about getting to work the next morning. Or paying rent. Or even cleaning up after herself when she was seized with the occasional cooking bug—but Bristol knew if she let herself start thinking like that, Indy would only laugh at her.

You don’t have to be the mom of me, she would say, rolling her eyes. We already have a mom, remember?

Bristol did not plan to have that fight for the trillionth time. Not today. She eyed her sister, currently draped over the love seat in their tiny apartment on the border of the most hipster part of Brooklyn—Indy claimed that made them more hipster—texting her many lovers and friends, taking the odd selfie, and also painting her toenails a shockingly bright yellow. All at the same time.

Since Indy couldn’t possibly be paying attention to what she was doing or saying with so much going on, Bristol decided that she must have misheard what her sister had said.

“If your boss wants a new secretary, I’m sure there are agencies for that,” she said, trying her best not to sound too academic. Indy laughed at her for hours when she got stuffy and worse, did things to snap her out of it. Even if it had sounded like Indy had said the man was looking for a new woman. “Especially at his level.”

“Bristol. I despair of you.” Indy lifted her gaze from her banana-yellow toes. She tossed her phone aside. The spring sunshine filled their puny living room, making their long-dead plants seem almost alive again. Bristol made a mental note to get rid of the withered things and also to not forget, the way she did every single year, that she was made entirely of black thumbs. “Two things. One, Lachlan Drummond is not my boss. He is the boss. I’ve been temping in that building for two months and I’ve never laid eyes on him. I think he comes and goes in a rainbow of his own incredible wealth and hotness. Or possibly by helicopter.”

“Fine. Your boss’s boss.”

“There are at least twelve more boss layers. I’m a temp. The man owns half of New York.”

Bristol never paid that much attention to the New York glitterati who were forever flinging themselves in and out of taxis and town cars up and down Fifth Avenue or swanning about at famous functions like the Met Ball. She’d been far too busy lost in the archives and libraries she’d basically been living in over the last few years while finishing up her doctorate. But even she knew who Lachlan Drummond was.

Everyone knew who Lachlan Drummond was. Notorious for walking away from the hedge fund he’d run, giving at least three fortunes away to charity in what the papers called his penance—though not the fortune or four he’d inherited from his blue-blooded parents—and now famous all over again for his brand of guerilla philanthropy. Not to mention his commanding presence in otherwise deadly boring global summits filled with ancient diplomats.

Also, he was astonishingly good-looking. The kind of good-looking that made even serious-minded lifetime students like Bristol stop dead and stare from the recesses of her study carrel.

So good-looking that, actually, mind-numbingly hot was a far better way to describe him. Thick blond hair and serious blue eyes, an unsmiling mouth in a great many of his pictures though those eyes always seemed to gleam, a rangy athlete’s body that was always showing up in magazines that liked to feature him while he was engaged in sweaty, sporty things that often inspired him to rip off his shirt, and, of course, the intense problem that was Lachlan Drummond in formal attire.

But this was not the time to get swoony over a famous man she would never meet.

“Two,” Indy was saying, “he’s not looking for a secretary. He has floors of secretaries at his disposal. He’s looking for a new girlfriend.”

“Why do you know this if you’ve never even laid eyes on the man?”

It would be very like her sister to casually announce that oh, by the way, last month when she’d said she was camping upstate she’d actually been hooking up with Lachlan Drummond, no big deal.

Indy waved a hand. “You know people tell me things.”

“Okay. Is there a reason you’re telling me?”

Indy’s gaze stayed steady on Bristol. “I’ve been working on a theory about Lachlan Drummond and I found out from one of his personal assistants that it’s true.”

Bristol could tell that Indy wanted her to be on the edge of her seat, so, as the older sister, she was required by all known laws to sigh and look bored instead. “It’s going to be very disappointing if he’s a furry.”

“He is not.” Indy laughed. “But he doesn’t have relationships in the classic sense. He hires his girlfriends.”

There was no rational reason that a notion like that should wind around inside Bristol the way it did, making her feel suddenly breathless.

And suddenly, shockingly wet between her legs.

You have spent way too much time lost in your books, she chided herself. When was the last time she’d gotten naked with someone? That she couldn’t remember offhand was…worrying. Surely she should know.

“You mean escorts?” she asked.

“I wouldn’t call them that. They’re more long term.” Indy shrugged. “He prefers to hire a woman so he gets exactly what he wants, when he wants it. No trawling around in bars. No swiping left or right. It’s not like he can go out like a regular person anyway. How is he supposed to get laid?”

“So he buys it?” That did not fit with Bristol’s image of Lachlan Drummond. “I wonder if there’s an agency for that.”

“I’m glad you asked,” Indy said smugly. And there was a light in her eyes, then, that made Bristol frown. “There is. It’s not an agency so much as a panel of three of Lachlan’s personal assistants. They narrow down the applicants—and my friend tells me there are always way too many applicants—and then put the finalists through. Meaning, the finalists actually get to meet him.”

“This sounds like the kind of reality show I don’t watch.”

“You watch. You just pretend you don’t.” Indy rolled her eyes. “He’s looking for a very particular woman. She has to be beautiful, obviously, but she also has to be smart, because he doesn’t want to be bored. Or embarrassed when he’s out there chitchatting with kings and statesmen, like he does.”

“This woman sounds like quite the paragon,” Bristol muttered.

“She has to be able to travel with him and keep up with his crazy schedule. And she has to understand that while he doesn’t want a doormat, he makes the rules. All the rules. In bed and out.”

“Do you really expect me to believe that people apply for this?”

“A lot of people. All it takes for the first round is a few pictures and a résumé. They weed all that down before offering interviews with the panel. And then there’s even more weeding from there.”

Bristol started to feel okay about how overwhelming she’d found the very idea of dating or dating apps or setups or anything else lately. At least she didn’t have to resort to panels or weeding like poor Lachlan Drummond.

“Well,” Bristol said philosophically, “if anyone can not only meet that questionable list of requirements, but actually find them exciting, it’s you.”

Indy laughed again, this time so hard that the silky dark hair she’d piled on top of her head fell down around her shoulders. Looking gorgeous and deliberately tousled, naturally.

“I didn’t apply,” she said. She smiled innocently, which set off alarm bells immediately. Bristol scowled, but that only made Indy look more holy. “But you did. I submitted your photos and résumé myself. You’re welcome.”

Bristol was outraged. Incandescent with it.

Because it was all well and good for Indy to waft through her life from party to party, sexual partner to sexual partner. Her sister had spent two years backpacking around Europe after college, had only returned after what she darkly called her one night in Budapest, not Bangkok, but it was humbling all the same, and liked to claim that her current lifestyle was basically still backpacking, but without the trouble of a pack.

Bristol admired her sister in many ways. Truly she did. But she’d taken an entirely different approach to life.

Their parents, Margie and Bill March—who still lived in the deeply boring Ohio town where they’d met, married, and raised their girls—had used up whatever spontaneity they possessed in naming their daughters. Though Indy liked to argue that a pair of Midwesterners naming a child Indiana was perhaps less an act of spontaneity than a cry of abiding sadness.

A comment their mother had never found amusing, no matter how many times Indy said it over the years.

Margie and Bill had not exactly approved of Indy’s quest to do as little as possible with herself and her life, though neither one of them was much for confrontation. Bill quietly sent a weekly clippings packet to his youngest daughter, filled with job listings from all over the country, which Indy called his pistols at dawn.

They did not send Bristol any clippings collections, but they’d never been entirely thrilled with her obsessive need for academic achievement, either.

They were supportive, but…befuddled, really, at this child of theirs with so much drive to achieve, achieve, achieve. They’d never stood in her way, but Bristol knew that if she’d woken up one morning and announced that she was tossing it all in to live in her hometown and find a nice guy to marry, they would have found that much more understandable. But Bristol had no intention of living like that. She wanted a life of ideas, not Ohio. She’d gotten her scholarship to the school of her choice, had gone straight on into her master’s, and had zipped through her PhD in record time. As if she had a race to win.

Now she had decisions to make. She’d been offered a postdoctoral position, which would be very prestigious and allow her to lean further into her research. Or she could pursue a position at one of the universities she’d been interviewing with.

For the first time in her life, the way forward wasn’t clear.

Bristol March had no idea what to do with herself.

Something she kept trying to think her way through, though for once, thinking didn’t seem to work. She’d finished up teaching the last of the classes that she was a teaching assistant for last week. Now there was nothing left but exam grading, and she’d long ago developed a system for that.

She was done and she didn’t want to be, but that didn’t make her any less done.

So when her phone rang a few days after Indy’s announcement in the cluttered office she shared with two other TAs in the social science building on campus, she didn’t do what she normally did—which was scowl at the offending call and switch it off. The office was empty, she still had no idea what to do with her life now that she couldn’t continue on being a student as she preferred, and the loud ring jolted her out of the same old circles she was tired of traipsing around, over and over, in her head.

“Ms. March?” came the smooth voice on the other end, with the hint of a British accent.

“Dr. March,” she corrected automatically, because she, by God, had earned her title.

“My apologies,” came the voice with no hint of any disruption in all that smoothness. “I’m calling on behalf of Lachlan Drummond. I’m pleased to tell you that your application has been accepted.”

Bristol had forgotten all about Lachlan Drummond and his pussy panel. Dismissed it, more like. Because it was ridiculous, and anyway, there was no possibility that a grubby, newly minted PhD would attract the attention of… a man like him, who routinely fended off the advances of gorgeous celebrities.

“I beg your pardon?” was all she could manage to get out, sounding squeaky and silly and not like herself at all.

“Interviews will take place this week,” the voice on the other end of the line continued, smoothly male and confident in ways Bristol imagined she would never be. And this had to be one of Lachlan Drummond’s assistants. “I’m going to text you a link to the interview calendar. We ask that you choose a time that works for you from the available options. This link is specifically coded to your cell phone and cannot be transferred. It is location sensitive and will work for exactly seven minutes after I terminate this phone call. Do you have any questions?”

“Does Lachlan Drummond think he’s in Mission Impossible?” Bristol asked drily. “Is that a rich-guy thing?”

“If you choose not to pick a time,” the voice continued on, plummy and still smooth, as if she hadn’t spoken, “the link will expire and you will have no opportunity to reapply. Once again, do you have any questions? Do you need me to repeat anything I’ve just told you?”

Bristol opened her mouth, because she had nothing but questions, but nothing seemed to come out.

“Seven minutes,” the voice advised. “If you miss this window, there will be no possibility of reopening it. When Mr. Drummond makes rules, he expects those rules to be followed.”

“I’ll bet he does,” Bristol muttered, but by then, the line was already dead.

The mysterious, unidentified assistant had already hung up.

Bristol found herself staring down at her mobile. Her first response was a rush of clarifying outrage. As if it wasn’t bad enough that this famous man employed hordes to do his bidding, he had to take it to truly cloak-and-dagger level. Who did he think he was?

One minute passed.

Then, against her will, Bristol found herself daydreaming about the last picture she’d accidentally seen of Lachlan Drummond. She’d been minding her own business, walking down Amsterdam on the Upper West Side, and there he’d been all over some magazine at a newsstand. It had been a typical tabloid exploration of a relationship they believed he was having with some or other famous woman, possibly a European royal, though Bristol couldn’t remember which one. She’d been far too consumed with the sight of Lachlan Drummond shirtless, gleaming golden and absurdly hot on the deck of an oversize boat in a glittering bay off the coast of what looked like Italy.

She’d felt as if she could taste his abs. She’d wanted to taste them.

When she checked her phone again, a solid three minutes had gone by.

Bristol could hear her sister’s voice in her head. What do you have to lose? Indy had demanded the night she’d brought up Lachlan in the first place. Worst-case scenario, nothing happens.

Or, worse-case scenario, I prostitute myself to a man who would rather hire an employee than attempt to have a relationship, Bristol had retorted.

How is that any different from being an adjunct professor? Indy had asked archly. At least Lachlan Drummond pays well.

That one still stung, Bristol could admit.

She heaved out a sigh and looked around the tiny little office that once upon a time, when she’d been new, she’d been delighted to call hers. Or partly hers, since it was shared. There were times when she’d loved everything about this life. Working closely with her favorite professor. The professional relationships she had with her fellow TAs and PhD students, many of whom she anticipated would be her colleagues for the rest of their careers. She loved the energy and excitement of teaching, finding that the enthusiastic students more than made up for the disenchanted or disengaged, if she made certain to concentrate on them.

But it didn’t matter how much she loved it here. It was ending. She’d done it. She’d aced her oral arguments, passed her exams, logged all necessary hours, and had taken a short walk in a funny hat to collect her degree.

Whatever she chose to do next, she couldn’t stay here. The academic year was winding down and one way or another, she was going to have to leave.

Two more minutes.

Without thinking it through, Bristol swiped up her cell phone, clicked that link, and entered her name into the first available time slot.

Tomorrow afternoon. Four o’clock.

And, naturally, she regretted it instantly.

But it wasn’t until she was back home that night, eating a bowl of cereal as her dinner on the love seat with Indy off on some or other adventure, that she allowed herself to think about what she’d done. And more, allowed herself to look at the texts that had come in from that same number.

She only did it because Indy was out. If her sister had been there, there was no way Bristol would have let herself look. Indy would have made too much of it. Grabbed the phone, then started ordering Bristol around about what she should wear and what she should do.

“I’m not even going to go,” Bristol assured herself, out loud.

But the following morning, she couldn’t deny that she took a little extra time and care with her appearance. Just in case.

Nothing crazy, but instead of piling her hair on the back of her head, she blew it out. Instead of the usual carelessly tossed-on clothes from the part of her closet she considered professional, she chose a business-casual dress she had last worn to a department cocktail party. The time before that, she’d worn it out to dinner with a colleague when she hadn’t been sure if it was a date or not, so had decided to shoot straight up the middle.

Not that she was going to keep her appointment, because of course she wasn’t going to keep her appointment, but it seemed like the appropriate garment to wear for a panel meeting to decide whether or not she planned to hire herself out for billionaire sex.

A notion that made her actually giggle to herself as she caught the uptown bus to work. She usually preferred to walk, but all the extra fussing had eaten into her walking time. A dour-faced older woman stared at her and she coughed, then assumed her usual blank stare.

Bristol lost herself in her usual routine. Teaching, meetings, and attempts to avoid conversations about who was on which interview circuit with her fellow PhDs. She told herself she wasn’t thinking about the silly appointment, but when her phone chimed at her to remind her, it was a relief to get away from the university.

Because everyone else was so sure about what they wanted and how to go about getting it, and Bristol wasn’t. She still wasn’t.

Her goal had been getting her PhD. And now that was done, she just couldn’t seem to settle on a direction. The truth was, what she liked was being a student. A little bit of teaching. A lot of research. But no expectations or faculty meetings.

On the other hand, there was also no tenure or job security.

That postdoc was looking better and better, though Bristol was well aware that if she took it she would only be postponing this very same crisis for a year.

She followed the instructions she had gotten by text both the night before and this morning. The interviews were taking place in a studiously discreet brownstone on a leafy, quiet street in Murray Hill. No doubt one of the Drummond family’s numerous properties, and, if she had to guess, nowhere near where Lachlan Drummond himself might be today.

Or what would be the purpose of this exercise?

She presented herself at the door, was buzzed in, and found herself in a hushed, offhandedly opulent front hall. A polite staff member ushered her into what looked to her eyes as a perfectly preserved drawing room from another time. She half expected characters from BBC costume dramas to sweep in behind her, but before she could register that she was on her own, she noticed the three immaculately dressed and obviously fashionable people in corporate business attire along one wall, studying her as she came in.

The reality of what she was doing walloped Bristol then.

She stopped dead, looking from one person to the next, waiting for… something. Any hint that they understood the magnitude of what it was they were doing.

Which was, unless she was mistaken, soliciting women for their boss.

She couldn’t seem to move.

“Why don’t you take a seat?” one of the assistants said, in a voice of studied blandness that she recognized from her phone call.

“You can start us off by telling us why you think Mr. Drummond should consider you,” the woman next to him chimed in.

The third assistant only stared at her, stone-faced.

And it all seemed to coalesce inside her then. It rolled over her like a terrible heat. A great big flash. She thought of the pictures she’d seen of Lachlan Drummond. Of her brisk march across the stage to grab the diploma that declared her a doctor, and also that she’d done the thing she’d spent her entire adult life working toward.

She thought of her sister, draping herself across the furniture and acting as if what Bristol really needed, after all her years of study and hard work, was this.

And she couldn’t help herself. She laughed.

“I’m sorry,” she said when she was done, pleased despite herself that her outburst had elicited some kind of response in the wall of assistants in front of her. Even if it was clearly a negative response. “My sister signed me up for this and I don’t know why I’m here. But I’m a PhD, not a prostitute, so I’ll find my own way out. And I look forward to seeing who wins the opportunity to trail about after Mr. Drummond. At least until her contract runs out.”

Bristol laughed again, though no one in front of her seemed to think it was amusing, and she figured that was as good a time as any to remove herself.

She started for the front door, waving off the butler who loomed there, and gulped in deep breaths when she hit the street.

One way or another, she would figure out what to do. One way or another, she would find herself and her new direction. She would. But surely selling herself was the nuclear option. There had to be a middle ground, surely.

She just had to find it.

Bristol debated whether to flag a cab—a luxury she rarely allowed herself—or let herself wander until she figured out where to go. Preferably to one of her preferred bookstores, like the Strand.

When her phone rang, she glared at it, not recognizing the number.

“This is Lachlan Drummond,” came the rich, dark voice when she answered. “I’d like to meet you for dinner.”

Bristol didn’t ask him to prove who he was. She knew.

She could feel all that power, all that inarguable magnetism, pouring over the phone line. It rooted its way into her, making her as breathless and melting as she’d been when Indy had started this whole thing.

She ducked out of the flow of pedestrian traffic and stood there, her back against the wall of the nearest building. Maybe it was the only thing holding her up.

“Whatever for?” she managed to ask.

“I saw your video, and I—”

“My video?” She was outraged. And more than that, embarrassed. “I never consented to any recordings!”

“As a matter fact, you did.” He sounded amused, and Bristol had no idea why she was clutching her mobile even tighter, pressing it against her ear as if trying to get closer to him. “I think you’ll find it was in the fine print when you signed up for an interview slot.”

“Oh.” Now that she thought about it, there had been a rather long paragraph of legalese on that page. She’d been too busy pretending she wasn’t doing what she was doing to read it. “Still.”

“Dinner tonight,” he said, as if it was settled. He named an excruciatingly cutting-edge new restaurant. “Eight o’clock.”

Then he hung up.

And no matter how many times Bristol told herself that she obviously wasn’t going to go, she also couldn’t seem to put her phone away, or push off from the wall where she stood.

She was unable to do anything but stand there, holding her phone like a talisman.

Like it was her very last hope.

By the time she moved on, at least an hour had passed.

And she was already planning what she was going to wear for the dinner date she absolutely wasn’t going to keep.

End of excerpt

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Apr 1, 2021

ISBN: 9780369702463

The Pleasure Contract

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