Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Shelby by Mandy Harbin

Title: Shelby
Series: The Bang Shift #4
Author: Mandy Harbin
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Release Date: June 23, 2020


one likes being played…

FBI agent
Shelby Landry knows what it means to be a team player. She reluctantly
investigated the Bang Shift out of duty, but the government now needs her in a
way that doesn’t involve torque wrenches or transmissions. The fed's mark?
Mason Showalter, a newly promoted executive who is the key to unlocking this
case. The FBI knows this businessman's dark side extends beyond the boardroom
into the bedroom, and it’s his sexual appetite that’ll be used to their Shelby’s expense.

Showalter is the type to always chase the thrill, no matter the cost. He’s a
new senior vice president of capital management and part owner of an exclusive
club, yet he still isn't satisfied. When he meets Shelby, he’s immediately
drawn to her, curious if the beautiful woman will present the real challenge he
craves. He’ll play with her and put her to the test, but he isn’t prepared when
she rocks his world in more ways than one.
What starts
out as an assignment becomes a shocking path of self-discovery rooted in unbridled
passion and deceit so deep that no one is prepared when secrets come out.

It’s easy
to forget who’s playing by the rules, and who’s being played.

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Mason stood
inside his plush new office and grabbed his tablet off his custom walnut desk.
The leather of his executive chair still had that new luxurious smell, one he
would never tire of. When he’d been promoted to senior vice president of
capital management a couple of weeks ago, he knew all his hard work over the
years had finally paid off.  Being in his
mid-thirties, Mason was the youngest VP at the company, but he was also the
only one who didn’t have a wife and children at home who demanded some of his
time. He’d climbed each rung of the corporate ladder with eighty-hour
workweeks, new clients, and the appropriate amount of ass-kissing—though he
loathed to look at it that way. He knew when to stand strong and when to
schmooze. It was the nature of the business. He didn’t make the rules, but he
knew how to play by them.
when they got him something he wanted.
He deserved
to be where he was at today. He’d earned his position the blood-sweat-and-tears
way, unlike his boss, who could only claim blood as his method. Not because
he’d spilled any of his own. William Baxter was one of the founding members’
great-nephew. He’d coasted into his position simply because of what coursed
through his veins.  The man was senior
executive director of private clients and managed the funds of some of the
wealthiest people in the world—a position Mason would do anything to get.
He would
probably never become the CEO of Fieldstein and Baxter since he hadn’t been
born into the family like William, but Mason was content with his track to one
day take over his new boss’s position. Even if that meant he’d have to ruin the
man’s career in the process. It wasn’t personal. Mason would never indulge in
something as weak as emotion in his career. It was business, plain and simple.
He took the
elevator up to the floor where the executive staff primarily worked since he
was scheduled to meet with his new direct boss in five minutes for a conference
call with some brokers. He knew how to play the game—come too early and William
would think he wasn’t busy enough, but come too late and William would be
insulted by Mason wasting his precious time. It was a tune he’d danced to way
too many times, and he never missed a step.
He was a
shark when it came to business and knew the game so well he could go through
the motions of his job, saying all the right things without even really having
to think much about it. But that also afforded him the opportunity to be
someplace else mentally…whether it was intentional or not.
As he
walked into William’s office, took the seat offered, and began to listen in on
the call, his mind strayed to the place it had often sought since meeting the
beautiful Shelby. On the outside, he listened to the execution of securities
transactions, but in his mind, he was undressing Shelby, touching every inch of
her body, kissing every exposed part of her, and bringing her to orgasm over
and over while the voices of his colleagues droned on in the background. He’d
envisioned paddling her bottom until it was rosy and hot to the touch, hearing
her cry out as the confusion of pain as pleasure set in, and picturing her
reaching subspace as euphoria took over her body and mind.
“That’s an
interesting point, Carl, but not why we’re meeting. Mason will look into the
hedge fund issue,” William said toward the speakerphone.
thing,” Mason replied easily. This wasn’t the first time he’d mentally played
out the scenes he’d planned for Shelby, but that didn’t mean he liked her
controlling his thoughts. He’d fantasized to the point of obsession, and that
bothered him. He was a master at domination, yet could easily detach himself
emotionally when it came to harmless play. For some reason, this one woman had
perplexed him. He didn’t know her, had never met her before that night, but he
was already attached to her on a primal level. He’d found himself dreaming
about her at night, moaning her name when he took himself in hand in the
mornings, and getting lost in the pools of emeralds that graced her lovely face
whenever he blinked longer than a second.
And he
hadn’t even seen her naked, had only held her and very briefly kissed her. That
was all. And apparently, that was all it had taken to hook him.
He’d told
himself it was just because he’d been bored lately and she was a new distraction,
but even that felt false. He couldn’t explain his reaction to her, but one
thing was becoming painfully clear—he needed to get a handle on this sudden
fascination. He didn’t like it when he wasn’t in control of anything, and that
included his own emotions. He preferred things tightly tethered in all matters
of his life, and when he thought of that woman, he felt frayed at the ends.
No, he
didn’t like that at all.
She’d come
to him for guidance, and his sense of duty had swelled. With any sub he’d have had
a hard time rejecting such a request, but with Shelby, he could not have turned
her away even if he tried. It was that connection he did not understand but
couldn’t deny.
As a Dom,
he’d easily put her needs before his. There was no doubt about that. However,
as the man he was, he needed a dose of self-preservation. Hell, he’d wanted her
to wait to be sure she was ready to submit, but instead, he was giving himself
the time he apparently needed to control whatever connection he’d felt toward
her. He could not let normal male weaknesses deter him.
As a
powerful businessman, however, he really didn’t need the distraction of Shelby
right now. His plan for William had already been put into play, things already
in motion, and he couldn’t stop the momentum even if he wanted, which he
didn’t. He’d worked too fucking hard on his plan. It wasn’t a good time to get
involved with a woman on any emotional level. He glanced over at William and
watched as the man continued with the meeting. Yes, bad fucking timing.
was going to have to change.
He clenched
his jaw. He’d made an agreement with Shelby, so he couldn’t back out. It wasn’t
that he was a man of his word. It was his role within the community that
solidified his resolve to help once he’d agreed to. Only now, he’d have to
switch gears. He would still guide her on her discovery as he’d promised, but
there really was only one option for him now.
And he
couldn’t fucking stand the idea that had formed. It did not sit will with him.
At. All. But he saw no other choice.
Mason would
be in control, but he was going to have to let another Dom experience what he’d
been dreaming about for almost a week. It wasn’t something he and Shelby had
talked about specifically, but he couldn’t see this working out any other way.
If she wanted him as her Dom, even temporarily, she’d do as he instructed. This
would be her first lesson—and a test for himself he hadn’t expected. He’d never
let another Dom top his sub before he got the privilege of doing so himself. He
would have to watch as another man showed her the pleasure of the lifestyle.
thought sickened him, which only strengthened his resolve. He could not, would
not, allow himself to become attached to Shelby any more than he’d already
become. This sudden bond wasn’t healthy, and he was too powerful of a man to
fall victim to it. Shelby was just another woman who wanted to experience
submission. Period.
He was
taking control of this situation, so it would not get out of hand. As soon as
the meeting was over, he’d call Rafe before he had a chance to change his mind,
not that he would. He knew what he had to do, and he was going to do it.
really was no other option.

* * *

“We have new information from a source within Fieldstein and Baxter,”
Rick announced in the impromptu meeting scheduled late Friday afternoon.
Shelby was
too nervous to focus on facts that were peripheral to the night’s upcoming
events. She’d entered Mason’s phone number into her cell a hundred different
times since she’d met him with the intention of canceling their plans. No way
could she do that. She’d be in serious trouble if she did anything to
jeopardize this assignment. She was a nervous wreck who knew the score. She had
to find a way to remain focused on her task and work her mark for
information…somehow. One step at a time. If she concentrated on the immediate
responsibility of the night, then maybe she’d be able to get through it. This
was, after all, her mission.
And her job
was important, even if she was picked for this assignment because of her looks.
She had to be successful, so next time she’d be chosen because of her track
record, not her bra size. Shelby had a lot to prove if she wanted to come out
from under the protective shadow of her mentor, Darrell, and make a name for herself.
“Who’s the
source?” Darrell asked as he folded his arms and stared at their boss. “I hope
the SEC isn’t running around shouting to all the employees of F and B that
they’re looking for info. Kinda makes our job to help not necessary, don’t cha
chuckled. “Yeah, not to mention flashing neon signs for the executives. If they
get wind of this investigation, they’d lock themselves up tighter than a hooker
with a poor man.”
such a sleaze,” Viola said.
than Fort Knox. Is that better?” he asked with a wink.
“Too little
too late.” Viola rolled her eyes at Carson. The man never missed an opportunity
to flirt. “Anyway, his name is Carl O’Brian. He called his contact with the SEC
to discuss some discrepancies he’d found within a hedge fund. He couldn’t get
the returns paid out to calculate based on the figures they were reporting.
Since F and B is flagged in the computer, the contact reported this to our
liaison, Jerome Parker, who then spent the last couple of days running the numbers.
He couldn’t make heads or tails on just how F and B reached the reported
amounts either. Jerome called with the info a couple of hours ago.”
“Viola then
told me, which is why I called this meeting.” Rick looked at Shelby, and she
forced her knee to stop bouncing erratically under the table. “According to
O’Brian, Mason has been assigned to work on the fund.”
swallowed. “So Mason just went from someone who might know something to someone who does know something.” Her heart pounded at this turn of events.
She’d have to be extra careful. If it had been confirmed he was in on the
crime, then being alone with him would make her extremely vulnerable. Under
normal circumstances, she’d have major backup, but they already knew she
couldn’t wear a wire, and it wasn’t open to the public tonight, which meant
there would be no eyes inside the place besides hers.
“I think
that’s still iffy,” Rick said, dragging Shelby out of her thoughts. “We only
know he has a link to a fund that could be fraudulent. He might not even
realize he knows anything yet.”
It seemed
too convenient to Shelby, though. She got the vibe he was very methodical, as
if nothing got past him.
“What’s the
fund?” Carson asked as he clasped his hands on top of the table.
“It’s the
Culpeper Hedge Fund, named for founding member Edward Baxter’s mother-in-law,
Margaret Culpeper.”
“That’s one
of the firm’s elite funds. Mrs. Culpeper spent the last years of her life
giving all kinds of money to charities. Society loved her, and F and B has been
offering that fund in her honor for decades,” Darrell said. “Always giving a
percent of profits to her favorite charities.”
So the damage could go way back. When O’Brian made contact with Mason, our new
mark was vague enough not to answer any questions outright while managing to
sound as if O’Brian’s concerns were overstated. According to O’Brian, Mason
wasn’t even fazed by the conflicts he’d found.”
“He must be
in on it,” Carson said, sitting up. “He’s trying to sweep the con under the
agreed, but she kept her mouth shut. She knew that look in their boss’s eyes.
He wasn’t going to make any assumptions. He would want concrete proof one way
or the other before making an assessment. Normally, she’d concur with going
that route, but normally, her ass
wasn’t the one on the line. An ass that might end up naked tonight.
“It’s still
too early to jump to that conclusion, Carson,” Rick said, just as Shelby had
predicted. Then he turned toward her. “But you’re right. Before, Mason was just
a possible way to get information since he was recently promoted, but now he’s
a link to busting this case wide open. We need to know what he knows. If he’s
innocent, we need to secure his help quickly. If he’s guilty, we need to gather
as much evidence on him and F and B as we can just as fast. There’s going to be
a lag time between the info you get and when we can analyze it. You’ll have to
make judgment calls as you learn things from him. Be smart about it.”
As if there
wasn’t enough pressure already.
couldn’t afford to be nervous about this anymore. She needed to pull up her
big-girl panties and do her job. It wasn’t as if she wasn’t used to being in a
testosterone-ridden room. She’d heard dirty jokes going up at her dad’s car
shop before she even understood them. She worked in a male-heavy career. Hell,
her last assignment was working at the Bang Shift garage with mercenaries who
had no clue why she’d really been put there. She could do this. She had to.
This case meant F and B had swindled people out of hundreds of millions of
dollars, but until now, she hadn’t fully grasped how important it was for her
to get Mason to talk. Shelby looked at her watch and stood. She was wasting
precious time.
“I’ll text
Viola when I leave the club and report back on Monday. Right now, I have a date
to get ready for.”
She had
every eye in the room on her. Some displayed hope while others sympathy, except
for Darrell. He looked pissed, and if she didn’t know the man was seriously
dedicated to his career, she was pretty sure he would toss her over his
shoulder and make a run for it to keep her from having to go through with this.
But none of
that mattered. It was time for her to do the job she’d been selected for and
see just what she could get out of Mason.
And hope
Mason wouldn’t take too much of her in return.

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Author Bio

Harbin is a USA Today Bestselling author who loves creating
stories that explore the complexities of everyday relationships…with some
kissing thrown in. She is a Superstar Award recipient, Reader’s Crown and Passionate
Plume finalist, and has achieved Night Owl Reviews Top Pick distinction many
times. She also writes young adult romance as M.W. Muse because teens like
kissing, too.

graduating college and working many years in technology, she threw caution to
the wind and began studying writing at the UALR. Years of trashed manuscripts
and rejections eventually led to contracts and representation. With over thirty
books published, she now serves on the board of her local writing chapter.

Mandy lives
in a small, Arkansas town with her husband and their bossy dog, enjoying her
own happily ever after…with some kissing thrown in.

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