Series: Madame X #1
My name is Madame X.
I’m the best at what I do.
And you’d do well to follow my rules...
Hired to transform the uncultured, inept sons of the wealthy and powerful into decisive, confident men, Madame X is a master of the art of control. With a single glance she can cut you down to nothing, or make you feel like a king.
But there is only one man who can claim her body—and her soul.
Undone time and again by his exquisite dominance, X craves and fears his desire in equal measure. And while she longs for a different path, X has never known anything or anyone else—until now...
A provocative, titillating erotic romance that’s rife with intrigue and tension to make one squirm. I didn’t know right from wrong with this one, and I loved every conflicted, dirty emotion that was evoked.
I think this was Jasinda Wilder’s best-written work and one of her most evocative and boundary pushing stories. Madame X was a violent mix of lust, love, and twisted devotion, and this beautifully taboo romance was totally addicting.
“There is a space within me, a deep, deep, deep well where truths I do not even dare think live hidden and always buried. Down there, where those truths reside, I know I crave…absolution, freedom…”
Madame X was more than she seemed. When I was introduced to her she seemed like a completely controlled, poised, and removed woman who had a tight rein on her life and the men she worked with. Wilder’s interesting prose lent to this assumption, because her style made X seem arrogant, aloof, and kind of hard. Then I got to know her and I saw the layers of complex feeling under the indifference.
X’s life is her job (she reminded me a bit of Olivia Pope from Scandal), and because of her job she encounters many powerful men and she’s earned a reputation for being totally successful and flawless. But really, her life is Caleb – the man who is her true strength and her weakness, and he has complete control of her. He gave her a life and a future and her loyalty to him is unfailing.
“And I…need that physical comfort, that carnal reassurance…and I also loathe it.”
X’s days have been the same for six years until one day a client of hers changes her perspective. He causes her to look at her life and start questioning everything and she starts to wonder what if. Everything changes once X starts seeing the world differently. Her relationship with Caleb grows darker and more dangerous, and the book just gets better and better. Caleb is cold marble and searing heat, and his chemistry with X is awesome. He’s completely maniacal in his control and his twisted possessiveness is simultaneously hot and disturbing.
“The beasts in your dreams? I am like those beasts. Always hungry. Never sated, never satisfied.”
I have to say that I loved the writing. It’s very different than anything else Jasinda Wilder has written, and I love that she was willing to step away from her norm. There are parts of X’s point of view that are expressed in second person, which is odd if you’re not used to it, but I was able to adjust to quickly and loved the added dimension the story. Once I saw how the prose was an extension of the plot, I got even more caught up in the web that was Madame X.
I saw parallels to a few fairytales, as well as imagined Madame X playing on a screen (Shondaland, anyone?), while I was reading. It thrilled me. This was very much a fantasy, and I loved the escapism, but it still had realness (although there were one or two times when fairytale was too sweet), and the characters had depth. I loved that it made me think. I loved that each layer was slowly revealed (while maintaining a great pace, mind you), and the suspense was not only in finding out what would happen next but discovering who everyone was and what they’re hiding.
“I need you…I don’t want to need you, but I do.”
Madame X was beautiful and ugly at the same time. It was also smart. It’s not something that I should enjoy on a personal, philosophical level, but something that I loved and couldn’t stay away from (I had similar feelings while I was reading Tears of Tess – if you liked that one, then I think you’ll like this). I felt a bit uncomfortable sometimes when I was reading this, because I like to consider myself a feminist, but I couldn’t control how I felt and the conflicting emotions just made the story even more enjoyable for me.
Jasinda Wilder’s debut into the world of traditional publishing was brilliantly new and creative, yet still had her mark. This striking novel had the emotionality that I’ve come to expect as well as a new chord that I really enjoyed. All these aspects had me turning this book over in my mind days later. I recommend Madame X to anyone who likes new tastes on their tongue, some stain on their skin, and enjoys a little kink in their Disney.
“We all have a motivation for letting others control us, though, don’t we?”
A knock on the door, the silent swing of hinges, and then heat and hardness behind me, a faint but intoxicating hint of cologne, the creak of leather. Hands on my waist, lips at my neck. Breath on my skin.
I don’t dare tense, don’t dare suck in a sharp breath of fear. I don’t dare pull away.
Strong, hard, powerful hands twist me in place, and an index finger touches my chin, lifts my face, tilts my gaze. I cannot breathe, don’t dare, haven’t been given permission.
“You are lovelier than ever, X.” A deep, smooth, cultured voice, like the purr of a finely tuned engine.
“Thank you, Caleb.” My own voice is quiet, careful, my words chosen and precise.
“Scotch.” The command is a murmur, barely audible.
I know how to prepare it: a cut-crystal tumbler, a single ice cube, thick amber liquid an inch from the top. I offer the tumbler and wait, keep my eyes downcast, hands behind my back.
“You were too harsh on Jonathan.”
“I must respectfully disagree.”
“His father expects results.”
I bristle, and it does not go unnoticed. “Have I ever failed to produce results?”
“You sent him away after less than an hour.”
“He wasn’t ready. He needed to be shown his faults. He needs to understand how much he has to learn.”
“Perhaps you’re right.” Ice clinks, and I take the empty tumbler, set it aside, and force myself to remain in place, force myself to keep breathing and remind myself that I must obey. “I didn’t come here to discuss Jonathan Cartwright, however.”
“I suppose not.” I shouldn’t have said that. I regret it as soon as the words tumble free.
My wrist bones scrape together under a crushing grip. Hard dark eyes find mine, piercing and frightening. “You suppose not?”
I should beg forgiveness, but I know better. I lift my chin and meet those cold, cruel, intelligent dark eyes. “You know I will fulfill the contract. That’s all I meant.”
“No, that isn’t all you meant.” A hand passes through artfully messy black hair. “Tell me what you really meant, X.”
I swallow hard. “You’re here for what you always want when you visit me.”
“Which is?” A warm finger touches my breastbone, slides into the valley of my cleavage. “Tell me what I want.”
“Me.” I whisper it, so not even the walls can hear.
“All too true.” My skin burns where that strong finger with its manicured nail traces a cutting line up to my shoulder. “You test my patience, at times.”
I stand stock-still, not even breathing. Breath whispers across my neck, huffs hot on my nape, and fingers toy with the zipper of my dress.
“I know,” I say.
And then, just when I expect to feel the zipper slide down my spine, body heat recedes and that hot breath now laced with hints of scotch is gone, and a single word sears my soul:
My tongue scrapes over dry lips, and my lungs constrict, protesting my inability to breathe. My hands tremble. I know this is expected of me, and I cannot, dare not resist, or protest. And . . . part of me doesn’t want to. But I wish . . . I wish for the freedom to choose what I want.
I have hesitated too long.
“X. I said . . . strip.” The zipper slides down to between my shoulder blades. “Show me your skin.”
Reaching behind my back, I lower the zipper to its nesting place at the base of my spine. Hard, insistent hands assist me in brushing the sleeves from my shoulders, down my arms, and then the dress is floating to the floor at my feet. That’s all the help I’ll get. I know from long experience that I must make a show of what comes next.
I turn my head, and see tanned skin and the perpetual two-day stubble on a refined, powerful jawline, sharp cheekbones, firm, thin lips, black eyes like voids, eyes that drip desire. My hair drapes over one shoulder. I lift one knee so my now-bare toes touch the gleaming teak, curl my shoulders in, let my gaze show my vulnerability. With a deep breath, I unhook my bra, let the garment fall away.
I reach for my underwear.
“No,” comes the purr, “leave them. Let me.”
I let my fingers graze my thighs, wait. My underwear slides down slowly, and where fingers touch, so too do lips, hot and damp, touching my skin, and I cannot flinch, cannot pull away or express how badly I want only to be alone, to even once have the right to want something else.
But I do not have that right.
Hands blaze over my bared skin and ignite my desire against my will. I know all too well the heat of this touch, the fires of climax, the moments of afterglow when dark eyes drowse and powerful hands are stilled and I am allowed to let my guard down. I stand still, knees shaking, as lips scour and slide over trembling skin. My thighs are nosed open, and lightning strikes with the touch of a tongue to my slick skin.
I gasp, but a single look silences me.
“Don’t breathe, don’t speak, don’t make a sound.” I feel the whisper on my hip, feel the vibrations in my bones, and I nod my assent. “Don’t come until I tell you.”
I have no choice but to stand and accept silently the assault on my senses: down-soft hair against my belly, stubble on my thighs, hands cupping my backside, fury blooming within me. I hold it back, keep it tamped down, bite my tongue to silence the moans, fist my hands at my sides, because I haven’t been given permission to touch.
“Good. Let go now, X. Give me your voice.” A finger pierces me, curls, finds my need and sets it free, and I loose my voice, let moans and whimpers escape. “Good, very good. So beautiful, so sexy. Now show me your room.”
I lead the way to my bedroom, push open the door to reveal the white bedspread, plumped black pillows, all tucked and arranged, as required. I lie down, setting aside pillows, and wait. Eyes rake over my nude form, examine me, assess me.
“I think an extra twenty minutes in the gym would do you well.” This criticism is delivered clinically, meant to remind me of my place. “Trim down, just a touch.”
I hide the clutch in my gut, the ache in my heart, the burn in my eyes. Hide it, bury it, because it is not allowed. I blink, nod. “Of course, Caleb.”
“You are lovely, X. Don’t mistake me.”
“I know. And thank you.”
“It’s just that our clients expect perfection.” A lifted eyebrow indicates that I should finish the statement.
“And so do you.”
“Exactly. And you, X, I know you can deliver. You are perfect, or very nearly, at least.” A smile now, blazing and brilliant and blinding, excruciatingly beautiful, meant to soothe. A finger touches my lips and then traces favorite locations on my anatomy: lips, throat, breasts, hips. “Roll over.”
I move to my stomach.
“On your knees.”
I draw my knees beneath my stomach.
“Give me your hands.”
I reach back with both hands, and my wrists are pinioned in one large, brutally powerful hand. My shoulder blades touch each other as my arms are drawn together, and my face is pressed into the mattress. I swallow hard, brace, breathe.
Oh, the ache, the fierce throb as I’m penetrated. I’m rocked forward and my shoulders twinge and the grip on my wrists holds me in place.
I have no choice but to feel the burgeoning blaze, no choice but let it push through me and make me breathless, and I want to cry, want to cry, want to cry.
But I don’t.
I let myself go when I’m told to do so: “Come for me, X.”
And then it’s over, and I’m turned to lie on my back, gasping, and whispers bathe over me. “So good, X. So beautiful.” A finger to my chin, lifting my gaze. “Did you enjoy that?”
“Yes.” It’s not a lie. Not entirely, at least.
Physically, I am rocked to trembling. Physically, aftershocks still seize me and touch makes me shiver and I am breathless. Physically, yes, I enjoyed it. I cannot help but enjoy it.
Yet . . . there is a space within me, a deep, deep, deep well where truths I do not even dare think live hidden and always buried. Down there, where those truths reside, I know I crave . . . absolution, freedom, a breath taken in privacy, a word spoken without ulterior motive.
But I cannot let those thoughts bubble up. Cannot, and do not. I am a master of self-control, after all. I could hold off orgasm indefinitely. I could go without breathing until told to breathe or pass out. I could remain sitting motionless for hours, until told to move. I know I can do these things, because I have. I learned total control in the harshest of schools.
And so it is child’s play to let my body drape loosely in the guise of intimacy on a hard, taut, muscular body until a chime from discarded slacks demands attention.
“I have to take this.” A pause, a breath, a tap of finger on a cell phone screen. “This is Caleb. Yes. Yes. Sure, give me twenty minutes. Of course. No, don’t let him in until I get there.”
A kiss to my temple, a finger tracing my body from shoulder to hip to foot. “I have to go.”
“All right.” I don’t ask when to expect a return, because I don’t want to know, and because I wouldn’t get an answer.
“Will you miss me?”
“Of course.” This is a lie, and we both know it.
“Good. Your next client is in two hours, so you have time to shower, dress, and prepare. His name is William Colin Drake, and he’s the heir to a technology development company worth fifty billion. Usual terms and conditions apply. The file on William will arrive in the usual manner.”
“Should I expect as much trouble with William as with Jonathan?”
A quirk of a smile, amusement. “No, I should think not. William is a much different animal, from what I’ve observed.” A pause, and a speculative glance at me. “But, X?”
“Watch yourself with William. He’s got a mean streak.”
“Thank you for the warning.”
“He needs to learn to control it, so you’ll have to draw it out of him and make him aware of it. But be careful.”
Draw out his mean streak. Poke a snake, prod a sleeping bear. Risk injury. It won’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last. Hopefully I won’t need medical attention like I did last time. That’s not covered in the contract, of course, but it’s understood: Never, ever harm the property of Caleb Indigo; it’s just not smart business.
When the door closes behind a broad, suit-swathed back, I shower the sex-stink off. I scrub harder and longer than I have to and fight the boil of forbidden emotions. When my skin is rubbed raw, I force myself out of the shower and dress, apply makeup, remake the bed, prepare tea.
And then I seat myself on the couch and breathe, compose myself, push down the vulnerability, put away the fear and the desire. Once again, I am Madame X.