Ida Mayfield had dedicated her life to opera. She'd worked hard, clawing her way up through the ranks to become a world-renowned Diva... Until a horrible car accident brought her whole world crashing down.
It took a full year of rehab and sheer stubborn grit just to walk again, but whatever she had to do, Ida did it, working through pain, sweat and tears; through long days of near-nonstop rehearsals until she once more reached the top. If it took a Vicodin or two to help her through the worst of it...well, she was in pain, so where was the harm? Except that it was taking more and more just to get her through the day, though nobody knew it. Not even Lucian de Averley, the most infuriatingly high-handed man any diva ever had to work with.
Try though she might, it was getting increasingly harder to hide her secrets from him - both those of a medical nature and those infinitely more personal ones that left her hot, flustered and blushing every time he came near her. It was really too bad that he seemed much more inclined to paddle her bottom raw than to kiss and hold her. No, keeping him at arm's length was really the best decision that Ida could make. Unfortunately, like everything else in her life right now, Lucian was doing his best to make sure it didn't turn out quite the way she wanted.
A six chapter, 27,000 word spanking romance drama from fan-favorite Maren Smith! If you object to heroes who are unaffected by political correctness and unafraid to turn their lady loves bottom-up, then please don't buy this book.
�Get out!� Ida Mayfield barely looked at the vase of fresh rosebuds before she grabbed and threw it. Water sloshed all the way from her dressing table to the door. The short flight abruptly ended when the vase shattered against the wall, spraying shards of glass crystal everywhere and sending the two objects of her fury ducking back out of the room to avoid being cut. One was her manager, Harvey, who had over the past year or so grown woefully accustomed to dodging missiles. The other was Lucian d�Averley, the new male lead the Board had flown in just yesterday, and he wasn�t. But, Ida noted, his reflexes were still every bit as quick as she remembered them being.
�Ida,� Harvey wheedled. �Come on. We need to talk!�
Talking was the last thing on Ida�s mental �To Do� list. At the moment, it was all she could do just to keep from throwing up all over her dressing table. Her shaking hands fumbled to catch the steady corner of it, her knuckles whitening, as she sagged just a little against the smooth oak. Her knees buckled weakly in and out. She had to fight not to wilt, swallowing convulsively even as she muttered, �Need to talk, my big toe.�
Her stomach roiled, both from the minor exertion of throwing that crystal vase and from the pain that never fully left her anymore. When she�d awakened this morning, it had been just a low, throbbing knot perched under the back of her skull. Throughout the course of the day, that ache had spread, creeping down her spine until it crouched between her shoulder blades. Now, even the slightest movement of her head sent pitchfork-like jabs shooting into the core of her back and down the length of her limbs. Her eyes hurt. Her head hurt. It felt like she had a whole causeway of ants running just under the top layer of her skin.
And they wanted to talk.
�Fine.� Teeth gritted against the pain of just turning to look at him, she fixed her sky-blue eyes on her manager, who visibly winced. �Let�s talk about the piss-poor rehearsal we just had out on that stage. Let�s talk about how no one can remember their lines, or about how Jackson can just up and quit for no damn reason and about how you replace him with... with...� she flung out one hand, gesturing wildly at Lucian, �...him!�
�Ida...� Harvey tried again.
Her temper erupted, and she shouted back, �I�d sooner play opposite a monkey!�
As softly as it was spoken, it nonetheless captured Ida�s full attention. She swiveled her head to stare at Lucian, who glared right back at her with eyes so brooding and so dark that any other woman might have cringed. At the very least, she might have shut her mouth.
But Ida wasn�t �any other woman.� She was a star, and she knew exactly what she was worth. She made ten times Lucian�s salary. People had been known to camp in front of Ticketmaster for days just to ensure they got a seat at one of her performances. She had more front page headlines in more newspapers than she had any desire to count.
�Put a monkey in a suit and give me the choice; I�ll take the monkey any day.� Her lip curled into a well-practiced sneer that betrayed nothing of what she truly felt when she looked him up and down. Thankfully, the pain in her head helped keep her perspective firmly grounded because just looking at him made her heart ache almost as fiercely.
Of all the talented singers in the world, why would the Board choose Lucian and expect her to partner to him as if nothing had ever happened?
Well, it had happened. Three years ago, in fact. The first international tour she�d embarked on after her accident. In the pit of Ida�s belly played that same tiny, thrilling spark that had so beguiled her the night she�d first laid eyes on him. Tall, blond and beautiful Lucian d�Averley. That miserable spark had given more credence to �love at first sight� than any sonnet she could think of, Shakespearean or otherwise. For eight passionate months, she was Cleopatra to his Antony, Desdemona to his Othello, Juliet to his Romeo. Hindsight being what it was, she should have known their relationship would end in tragedy.
But at the time, she had been so deliriously happy, and he had been so damned bewitching... right up until the night a minor disagreement... she couldn�t even remember what had started it anymore... had ended in assault. Oh, but she still remembered in vivid detail just how it had ended: with her face down across Lucian�s hard lap, her costumed skirts thrown up over her head and his hand positively blistering a real-life �Kiss Me, Kate� moment all over her panty-clad behind...
Well, all right. Maybe not actual blisters, but there were marks! Marks that had looked suspiciously like finger-shaped bruises. Marks that had, every single time she�d tried to sit down, hurt and burned. And yet, as horrible as that discomfort had been, it had definitely played second seat to the humiliation. Oh, the things she�d done just to keep those marks hidden from her doctors and the wardrobe staff, not to mention the ever-present backstage eyes! Never in all her life had Ida felt so maltreated, and all by the very man she had so passionately loved.
That very night, she�d packed her bags and had caught the first flight back to the States. She might not remember what had started the altercation, but that hard and uncomfortable first-class airline seat had left a lasting impression. For thirteen hours straight, she�d struggled to find a position that didn�t aggravate either her bottom or the leftover pain from the car accident. Twice, she�d broken down completely and cried.
And now, three years later, here he was again: Lucian d�Averley, in the scowling, high-handed flesh. Brought all the way from London and across the pond by special request of the Board of Investors, and looking fit to strangle her. His dark eyes flashed with a vaguely familiar and stunningly ominous warning.
�There,� she said thickly, ignoring both the warning and him. �We�ve talked. Now get out.�
Conversation over, she turned her back on both of them. Leaning heavily on the edge of her dressing table, Ida realized that if she didn�t sit down pretty soon, she was going to fall. Her head was throbbing so badly, she could barely make out her reflection in the mirror, but she did her best to collapse as gracefully as possible into her chair. Just inches from her left hand, her meds were buried in the bottom of her make-up bag. All she needed was half a glass of water and a few minutes alone, and she�d all right again, but neither Harvey nor Lucian knew how to take a hint, and she�d be damned if she�d let her frailties become public knowledge. She was Ida Mayfield, and as far as her public and her company was concerned, she was hard as steel.
In short, angry motions, she pulled her make-up bag to her. Like a little shot of aspirin, her fingers found the outline of one pill bottle through the cloth and she gripped it. The sheer relief of just finding her medicine was almost as good as taking it. Almost.
�Ida, please,� Harvey tried again.
�Ida, please!� she mimicked in high falsetto. In the mirror, her eyes couldn�t help but find Lucian�s again, and her cheeks flushed. With anger, she told herself. Only with anger. �The janitorial staff could do this play better than half my supporting cast. We should cancel before we embarrass ourselves completely.�
�There will be no cancellation!� Lucian interrupted sharply, and Ida�s frustration erupted all over again.
�Get out!� Grabbing a tin of stage powder, she turned in her chair and flung it as hard as she could, nearly falling out of her chair in the process and sending a shock of sheer agony like a lightning bolt down her back.
Lucian ducked back out the doorway, but this time Harvey wasn�t fast enough. The tin fell open midair, dousing him in a cloud of thick white. Coughing and hacking, he choked on each breath, as he staggered from the room. He waved his hands in a futile effort to clear the air. Lucian, when he finally peered back around the wall, looked ready to explode.
Rising heavily to stand on shaky legs, Ida managed to walk to the door. Chin held high, her blue eyes flashing and all trace of her pain held in check inside her, Ida slammed it in his face.
�Go back to England,� she grumbled. She returned to her dressing table with its stash of hidden pills. Avoiding her reflection�s gaze in the well-lit glass, she again collapsed into her chair. Hands trembling, she quickly emptied the contents of her make-up bag in front of her, spilling several medicine bottles amongst the rolling tubes of lipstick and mascara. God bless the creators of Oxycontin.
The child-proof cap was almost Ida-proof as well, but sheer desperation finally got it open. She took three. Bracing her elbows on the edge of the table, she held her aching head in both hands and stubbornly fought back the urge to cry. It took time, but it was a fight that she ultimately won. She always won.
* * * * *
�Here.� Lucian dipped his handkerchief in a glass of water and handed it to Harvey, who thanked him softly before swiping at the cake of powder on his face.
Hands on his hips, Lucian walked a short distance away. He stared at the wall, his whole body shaking from the effort it took just to control his temper. He couldn�t believe it. He just could not believe it! The woman in that dressing room was nothing like the Ida Mayfield he had fallen in love with three years ago. Certainly, he had met a lot of spoiled opera brats in his time, and certainly Ida with her baby-sweet face and three-million-dollars-to-sing-but-angels-would-weep voice was right up there at the top of the list. But even she had never been like this!
Lucian ran both hands through his short blond hair. Interlocking his fingers behind his head, he glared holes at the ceiling in angry disbelief.
�I know it�s asking a lot,� Harvey finally said, his shoulders slumping as he gestured to the closed dressing room. �Please, Mr. d�Averley, you are quite literally our last hope.�
Slowly, Lucian turned around to look at him.
�We have the highest turnover rate of any opera company in the States, probably even the world. The director is one tantrum away from quitting; I almost couldn�t bring him back yesterday. If she says one word to him, I promise you, just�� Harvey sighed, looking broken, ��just one word, then we will have no director at all on opening night. Words cannot describe the disaster we are facing, and we�ve already sold every seat in the house for the next three months. To be perfectly honest, to let her go is fast becoming our only option.�
Harvey stared morosely at the handkerchief in his hands, absently folding and unfolding corners of the cloth as if trying to find a section not already caked with powder. �It will cost us half again her annual salary, if we break the contract, but we�ve long reached that point where the financial ruin would almost be worth it. The Board of Investors is torn, you see. The public adores her. She fills the seats better than anyone I can think of: Domingo, Morris... Pavarotti, when he was alive. That�s why you�re here, Mr. d�Averley. Please understand. A certain amount of pettiness is entirely appropriate�almost expected, even�to one of her renown and stage power, but... but my God! You cannot imagine how petty, or how temperamental!�
�Oh, I think I can,� Lucian quietly disagreed. He seemed to recall getting a broad taste of both back in England. He shook his head again. Hands flopping back down at his sides, he faced Harvey fully. �But that was a long time ago, and she has changed. Not for the better, either.�
�We... we heard... rumors. They say...� Harvey glanced again at her door before lowering his voice even more, almost whispering, �They say you made Ida manageable once before. If you can do that again, Mr. d�Averley, you will have been worth every penny we paid to buy out your contract. Please, please tell me there�s something you can do!�
Lucian turned his dark eyes from Ida�s gold plaque to Harvey�s sad stare. Finally, he sighed. �Did you get the papers signed?�
A glimmer of hope dispelled some of the gloom from the older man�s face. �Yes. Everyone from the night security guard to the extras in the chorus line, we�ve all contracted ourselves to absolute secrecy regarding your methods; real, imagined, or otherwise. Exactly as you requested. They�re in my office if you�d like to verify��
�I�m interested in verifying only one right now: Hers.� Taking off his coat, Lucian handed it to the powder-doused manager. Fortunately, when he heard that he�d be singing with Ida again, he�d had the foresight to come prepared. �Where is my carry-on?�
From the back of the hall, well out of range of Ida�s throwing arm, the same young stagehand that had picked him up at the airport immediately brought Lucian�s overnight bag forward. Having been on the receiving end of Ida�s increasingly infamous temper more times than he cared to recount, the young man was at once both skeptical and impressed. �Are you really going back in there? Want me to bring you a shield and sword from wardrobe?�
�Thanks, but I�ve got everything our diva needs right here.� Lucian opened his bag and dug past his shirt and socks until he found what he wanted, packed carefully near the bottom: a wooden-backed hairbrush. �One newly-reformed Ida coming right up.�
�Good heavens,� Harvey said, stepping out of Lucian�s way, but stopped when he saw the hairbrush. His eyes widened. �What in the world are you going to do with that?�
Skepticism growing, the stagehand snorted. �He�s going to brush her hair.�
�I�m going to make things better,� Lucian corrected. Then he turned a stern gaze back on his assembled co-workers. �Every one of you needs to find someplace else to be. Right now.�
Lucian d�Averley rarely ever let his temper get the best of him, but in this instance he very nearly kicked Ida�s door in. Still seated at her dressing table with her head in her hands, Ida jumped. Startled was a good start, he thought as she whipped around in her seat, her blue eyes widening and her jaw gaping, but in a few minutes, �startled� was going to take a sharp backstage seat to one of the biggest surprises of her entirely too-spoiled life.
�Hello, my love,� he growled as he walked inside. �So nice to see you again.�
Vaulting to her feet, Ida snapped her most authoritative finger back the way he�d come. �Get out! I did not give you permission��
Grabbing the edge of the door, Lucian slammed it shut behind him again, locking them into the privacy of her dressing room even as Ida jumped all over again. �I seem to recall we had this discussion once already.�
When he advanced, already rolling up his right shirtsleeve, Ida stumbled backward. She bumped into her dressing table instead, rattling the bottles and knocking a handheld mirror to the floor. The glass broke, but neither of them paid attention. �D-don�t you come any closer!�
But closer was exactly what he came.
�I mean it, Luc. This isn�t England. Your Neanderthal ways don�t work here.� She gestured back at the door with every ounce of authority that she could muster. �Get out!�
Lucian caught hold of her arm instead. Jerking her dressing stool out into the middle of the small room, he sat down.
Shaking all the way to the soul of her, Ida tried to pry his fingers from her arm. �Don�t. Not again! No!� Eyes locked first on his lap and then on the hairbrush clutched tight in his other hand, she shook her head. �You can�t do this! Let me go!�
�Not this time, princess.� Though she dug in her heels, one hard jerk toppled her belly-down across his thighs.
Any semblance of compliancy vanished the instant her stomach met his lap. She kicked and flailed and screamed, putting him through a brief but furious fight born of self-preserving panic. �Let me go! Harvey!�
Lucian didn�t bother baring her�he�d get to that once he had her undivided attention. He also didn�t bother with a lecture. Any singer worth his salary knew better than to waste his breath.
�Harvey!� Ida bellowed again, louder this time. A touch of panic had crept into her voice. She kicked and shoved at his leg, alternating between trying to roll off his lap and run off. It made her a handful to hold onto, but it didn�t delay his intentions one whit.
Wrapping his arm tight around her waist, Lucian brought that hairbrush down for the first solid crack. The sound of it snapped through the enclosed dressing room with a firecracker-like pop, even as the impact jolted Ida into a half second of utter immobility. The shock of it consumed her reflection in the mirror, rounding her already wide blue eyes and dropping her jaw, as she sucked a ragged gasp into suddenly breathless lungs.
�The rules have just changed,� Lucian told her. He pressed the hairbrush to that aspect of her anatomy that was, in just a few seconds, about to feel the hard sting of it a whole lot more intensely. �I want you to remember, Ida, you brought this on yourself.�
She sucked another quick breath and promptly bellowed it out again. �You heavy-handed bastard! LET ME GO!�
He brought the hairbrush down for a second good swat just as she drew back her elbow and jabbed him viciously in the ribs. She erupted into such a fury of struggling that he almost dropped her, but at last he got his leg locked around one of hers enough to let the hairbrush fly. If keeping Ida �manageable� was going to be part and parcel of his contract here, Lucian was as determined to make the most of it as Ida was to make him work for his money. She kicked, she screamed, and she clawed back at him in an attempt to scratch his face. And when that failed, she wiggled around until she could sink her teeth into his hip. She bit hard.
Three years ago in London. I to and Lucas were in love, but after an argument he spanked her and she left him and came home to the states. Now the temperamental diva has everyone in such an uproar her costar has quit and the company buys out Lucian's contract and hires him to come star with her and keep her in line. In physical pain all the time she has become a drug addict and that is the first problem they have to solve. Love these characters and this book.
One of her best! Lucian and Idea are a memorable couple for this modern day tale of drug abuse and a love that is willing to end the pain and suffering that is not just physically taking over Idas form but mentally and emotionally as well. Lucian will turn any woman on to french men, which is a first for me but will become an expectant out of all other readers! I fall in love every time with her historical characters that's really all I read but Martens modern day characters in this fic will touch your heart and quickly make room in it for a permanent stay. Two thumbs way up
I really enjoyed this one. I think I did not mind the shortness as much as I usually was because I was looking for something light for a car trip. :-) I really liked the depth and difference this story had. Instead of being disobedient woman gets spanked/falls in love it had a lot more to it. Her drug addiction because of the pain really hit me hard. I don't know why. I would have liked more after the HEA too I guess, like someone said before me, but I really enjoyed the story. :)
3.5 stars out of 5. This was a decent story, and the ending is happily ever after (HEA) but it came too quick. Ida was in a bad accident, as a result she is an addict. Lucian is someone she ran away from because he spanked her, and now he is back and spanking the misbehaving IDA once more. Great build up explainig IDA, and Lucien is wonderful, but I just wish there had been a little more before th HEA, so only 3.5 stars.
The Diva is a very nice story to read, although I wish it were a little bit longer. Ida is a very touching tormented character and I really enjoyed her interaction with Lucian.
There are many nice spanking scenes though the story is quite short!
Maren Smith is becoming one of my favourite authors
There is lots of pain and self-destruction going on in her life. Lucian has his work cut out to help her recover. I like that this story shows there is no easy answers when recovering from addiction and pain. What I didn't like was so much build up to the crisis point and then a short epilogue to wrap it up. I think I would have like to see a bit more of Lucian helping her through her recovery.