Taming Lucinda by Normandie Alleman


Chapter 1


It all started when my long-time gardener retired. When I called for a replacement, I never expected the agency to send me someone who looked like Cole Jordan. He had the kind of looks that put most of Hollywood's leading men to shame, so naturally, I was skeptical.

"You're not going to quit as soon as you land your first movie role, are you?" I'd asked while trying not to admire his tanned, muscular physique. With his long dark hair flowing free, he was like a modern-day Fabio on my doorstep.

His face lit up with a million-dollar grin. "Hardly. This is my full-time gig. I'm all about the plants."

I didn't believe him, of course. Who in this town was all about plants? Everyone was hoping to be a movie star or a rock star; everyone had a headshot or a demo tape to pass along in hopes of finding their fame.

Cole might have been able to hide it at first, but I knew eventually the truth would come out.

In the meantime, Momma deserved a little eye candy.

Most parents longed for the day when all of their children left home and they had an empty nest, but not me. I missed the days when they were younger, when we were all still a family. Now my children were all over the globe, pursuing their dreams and passions just like I’d always encouraged them to.

With only my household staff to keep me company, things could get lonely. And Cole was easy on the eyes. So one day, I invited him inside for some shade, air conditioning, and a drink.

"Esther's not going to like me tracking in all this dirt," Cole said, frowning down at his feet.

I shrugged, leaning against the kitchen island with a cocktail in hand. "She'll manage."

"Thanks for letting me cool off in here, Mrs. Barnes, but I should probably be getting back to work," he said, wiping traces of ice water from his upper lip. His skin glistened with a diamond sheen of sweat, and I fought the urge to lick my lips.

"Lucinda," I corrected.


"Call me Lucinda." If I were the type of woman to have any shame, I might have been embarrassed by the way I purred those words at him, but my last scraps of shame had flown the coop eons ago. At this point, I was just trying not to scare him off.

"Anything else?" he asked, flashing that winning grin my way.

I started to shake my head, then reconsidered. "Do you do ... interior work?" I asked, my words dripping with unintentional innuendo. I couldn't help it with Cole so close, radiating all his pheromones. I was a woman with needs, and those needs hadn't been met in a very long time.

Not after my last boyfriend cheated on me and humiliated me in a very public break-up.

The tabloids sure had a field day with that.

But sometimes that was the price we had to pay to be a Barnes. For all the fame and fortune, the near-royalty status, there was a trade-off—no privacy, no secrets, and a whole lot of hurtful comments from people who would never meet you. It wasn't always as easy and glamorous as people assumed. I had to be careful about everything I did. I had to calculate every move I made.

Which was exactly why I knew better than to get involved with the help. But he was so hot.

And at least a decade too young for me.

"Interior work?" he asked, trying to hide how easily he’d picked up on the innuendo.

"My indoor plants," I amended. "I'm always forgetting to take care of them. I'd include it with Esther's duties, but she has such a brown thumb that they do better with neglect than her care."

He chuckled, his eyes crinkling at the corners. For a moment, he didn't look quite so young. He looked like someone with more life experience than I'd given him credit for.

"All right, sure. I can do that. But you're going to have to show me where they all are."

I bit my tongue, forcing myself to keep things professional. It was hard enough to find an agency willing to deal with the film crews; I didn't need to burn that bridge because I couldn't keep it in my pants around my new hot gardener.

Instead of any more innuendo, I gave Cole a very chaste tour of my Beverly Hills home, pointing out all the plants he'd be tending to. At the end of the tour, we stopped at the back door.

"I'll have Esther get you a key so you can come in whenever you need to. And please, feel free to come cool off or grab a drink whenever you'd like."

"Thank you, Lucinda. I appreciate your generosity."

Well, that was a first. No one had ever accused me of being generous before.

Before too long, Cole had become a feature in my house, rummaging through my fridge, walking around without a shirt on, hair unfurled, muscles glistening—he had to know what he was doing. Even if he did, he never came onto me. Sure, we chatted now and then—he was surprisingly easy to talk to—but he was never flirtatious. I wasn't either. After my last heartbreak, I wasn't eager to be humiliated by a younger man again.

Of course, there was no telling that to my girls when they were over.

"Mom," Dynassy hissed the moment I entered the room. She and Ivy shared a look between them that set off my mom alarms. Always outnumbered, I had to be on the defensive with my children. It was too easy for them to gang up on me. "That gardener is hot." She said it in an accusatory way, one hand on her hip. Ivy looked torn between shock and amusement.

"Why didn't you tell us you have a new boy toy?" Ivy asked.

I rolled my eyes, scoffing, "You two have no idea what you're talking about. He's an employee, and nothing more."

"Uh-huh," Dynassy said, unconvinced.

"Is he doing an adequate job trimming your bush?" Ivy asked, fighting off laughter. Dynassy snickered too, and I could feel the heat creeping up the back of my neck. I didn't want them to see me actually blush.

"That's incredibly immature, Ivy. Even for you," I answered, satisfied when her jaw dropped, all the laughter gone.

"Are you both coming to my launch party next week?" I asked. My jewelry line was getting an expanded distribution to tens of thousands of stores across the globe, and I was still trying to get used to being the one in the spotlight. For the last thirty years, my whole life had been about the fame and reputation of others. First, with Ziggy, my rock star husband, and then with my kids—getting Nick on the best teams, booking Dynassy the most prestigious fashion shows, making sure the twins only played the biggest arenas—and even though I'd spent a lot of time pulling the strings to make other peoples' careers happen, I'd never really taken the time to focus on my own brand.

Now that there was no more Barnes Bunch, it was time for Lucinda to carve her own path. But for once in my life, I wasn't sure exactly what that path should be. It was always so easy when it was for my children.

"Bridger and I already have plans with the surrogate," Dynassy said, giving me the fake pout she reserved for the times she wasn't sorry at all.

"And Russ and I are taking Jaci fishing—"

I looked at Ivy like she'd grown an extra head.

"There's this big tournament that she's never gotten to join because of her health. It's this whole three-day thing," she said, waving her hand dismissively.

I shook my head. I didn't think I'd ever understand Ivy's attraction to the rugged lifestyle of her mountain man. I could understand being attracted to Russ—I was the one who'd hired him back in the day, after all—but spending her off-tour time in Utah? That was beyond comprehension.

"Really? Neither one of you are coming?" I asked, trying not to show how heartbroken I was. All the times I was there to celebrate their every achievement, and they couldn't show up for my one? "There won't be any camera crews. Just a small, private affair," I said, hoping to sway them. If I showed my disappointment, they'd only accuse me of trying to manipulate them. They always thought the worst of me.

"Sorry, Mom," Dynassy said, her pout only marginally more sincere.

"There will be plenty of people there," Ivy assured me. "You won't even notice we're missing."

As confident as she sounded, it was almost easy to fall for it, but I was in for a rude awakening the day of the party.

Or what should've been my party.

One sad old woman alone in her mansion hardly made for a party. There was a champagne bottle from the jewelry company I was collaborating with, but it seemed like a cruel joke now. I was supposed to be celebrating, but I had no one to celebrate with.

No one who cared about me enough to even share in my high points.

How had things gotten this bad?

I perked up at the sound of the door opening—maybe one of my kids had decided to join me after all—but instead of any of the Barnes kids, it was Cole approaching through my dining room.

He stopped at the doorway, eyes going from my designer gown to the bottle of champagne sitting in front of me.

"Celebrating something?" he asked, arching one unruly eyebrow.

"I thought I was." I sighed, sinking down onto the chaise. Everything I'd worked for, and not a single person appreciated it. I eyed the bottle of champagne, then my gorgeous gardener. I could ask him to join me for a glass, but that seemed too pathetic, even for me right now. This night had been humiliating enough without adding rejection to the mix.

"Did you change your mind?" he asked.

"No. But as you can see, no one else has deigned it worth celebrating."

Cole crossed his arms over his chest, frowning while his biceps bulged, calling out to me, begging me to touch them. I felt like Sleeping Beauty being drawn toward the cursed spinning wheel. I knew it was a bad idea, but my fingers had a mind of their own, and they didn't want to listen to reason.

"Since when do you let what other people think stop you?" he asked.

A humorless laugh escaped, and I shook my head. "You have no idea."

His frown deepened. "Maybe I don't, but you're strong as hell—and impressive as hell—and you don't let anything keep you down."

"Do you want to join me?" I asked, reaching for the champagne bottle.

"I'm a little underdressed." He looked down at his dirty jeans and t-shirt with cut-off sleeves.

I was sorely tempted to tell him to just lose all the clothes, but I did still possess some self-control. I might not be able to stop myself from looking at him like a piece of meat on display in a butcher's case, but I could stop myself from licking the glass.

"I could change if it would make you more comfortable," I offered.

He looked me over, and it was my turn to feel like the prize steak on display. Especially in the silk gown that was tailored to my every curve. It had a modest neckline, but a low back and a high slit. There was more than enough on display for Cole to admire, and it certainly seemed like he was admiring it.

"Lucinda, I think I'd feel underdressed next to anything from your closet," he said. "How about a compromise? It's a nice night; want to go for a swim?"

It was a bold move on his part, but it was hard to resist the charm of his smile.

"Oh, I don't know about that," I deflected. I've put a lot of work into maintaining my figure, but what woman isn't a little insecure about an attractive man seeing her in a bathing suit? Especially when that attractive man was much younger than her. I doubted the women Cole typically went for had stretch marks, wrinkles, or even cellulite.

I'd be a fool to try to peacock around him.

Cole responded by pulling his dirty t-shirt over his head, his taut muscles glistening in the warm, dimmed light. He'd been shirtless in my home many times, but typically he was just passing through, looking for a cold drink. And always during daylight hours.

Having him half-naked in my house after dark certainly made things more interesting.

"Come on," he said, firm, insistent. "Keep me company." He grinned, then headed toward the glass doors which led to the pool. In the doorway, he dropped his jeans, leaving only a pair of firetruck red boxer briefs hugging his tight ass.

I bit back a groan, all my insecurities forgotten.

Mama needed a piece of that.

Halfway out of my evening gown, I heard him splash into the pool, and my heart stuttered. I didn't want to give myself time to back out—I'd certainly done wilder things than this in my youth—but even in my rush, I grabbed a sheer cover-up to hide my 'problem areas.'

Watching him emerge from the surface of the water, his hair slicked back from his rugged face, I nearly stumbled, my knees weak. And then he smiled at me, and I started searching for that bottle of champagne.

"Join me, the water's fine," he said after I popped the cork and poured us both a glass.

I hesitated long enough that he swam up to the edge of the pool, looking up at me with mischief in his eyes.

"You're not stalling, are you?"

"Why would I do that?"

His grin never faltered. "Good. Get in here with me."

There was a commanding edge to his tone that I didn't entirely mind. I was always the one in charge, always the one making every decision for everyone. My immediate reaction was wondering who the hell he thought he was, bossing me around—that was my brain's response, at least. My body had a different answer, warmth trickling through me and settling in a warm knot of desire in my lower belly.

I took a steadying breath, slowly undid the tie on my cover-up, and then slipped it over my shoulders, letting it puddle at my feet.

Cole didn't cringe or look away.

"I hope you don't mind me saying so, but you look incredible in that suit." There was a hungry look in his eyes that was hard to mistake, but I couldn't help but think about how much better a woman his age would look. No matter how many hours I'd put into the gym or how much I’d spent at the plastic surgeon's office, there was no real way to turn back time. There were some signs of aging that no amount of expensive creams could mask.

But in the water, I would be far less exposed.

"I didn't realize you can actually see some stars out here," he said as I slipped into the water.

When was the last time I paid any attention to the sky? The lights of L.A. drowned out everything else, but up here in the hills, there were some pinpricks of light, whether stars or satellites, I couldn't say.

"You're not normally here after dark," I answered, again hearing that unintentional innuendo in my voice. Though, with the two of us alone in my swimming pool, could I really still call it unintentional?

"No," he agreed. "I set up some new lights in the front garden and wanted to make sure they were all aimed in the right places."

"I'm glad you were here," I admitted, swimming a little closer. There was a lot of open water around us, but not much between us.

"Me too. I'm sorry no one came to your party."

I shrugged. "I think I prefer that they don't pretend to care. I wish my children could be genuinely happy for me, but I'll take their absence over their fakery any day."

He nodded his understanding. "Still, it can't be easy having no one to celebrate your big milestones with."

"Thank goodness for you," I said, lifting my champagne to him. When he climbed out of the pool to pour us both a refill, there was no mistaking the bulge in his boxer briefs.

Not just a bulge. A very solid outline of his erection.

I tried to avert my eyes, to look anywhere else around my sprawling grounds which he'd so masterfully designed and planted, but I couldn't. My gaze was glued to his crotch, and before I could snap myself out of my stupefied daze, he caught me staring.

"You're an incredibly attractive woman, Lucinda," he said, unashamed. We were both adults. Why play coy or beat around the bush?

I climbed out of the pool, dripping with every step.

"You're not so bad yourself," I answered, taking the champagne flute he’d offered and setting it aside. "You know, when my daughters saw you, they were convinced we were sleeping together."

"Is that right?" he asked, smirking, his voice low and warm. Rumbly. It vibrated through me to my very bones.

"Yes," I answered, a little breathless, a little dizzy. Despite me having a decade or two on him, Cole made me feel vulnerable, nervous, like a young virgin not sure what to do with herself.

But I was far from a virgin.

"They refused to believe otherwise."

He nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe they could sense the tension between us."

My breath hitched, and I licked my lips, nodding along. This was dangerous territory, but we were past the point of no return. It was too late to worry about the ramifications when I was in my bathing suit and his erection was only two inches and two layers of wet fabric away from being pressed against me.

"Well, if everyone's going to assume anyway..." I said, my voice hardly more than a whisper.

"We might as well do what they're accusing us of," he finished.

He'd read my mind.

Or my body.

Either way, those two inches were gone in a moment, and Cole was pressed tight against me, his strong, calloused hand on the back of my neck, his lips descending, warm breath coming a moment before the fireworks.

His hand was firm on the back of my head, his kiss assertive and in-charge. This was a man without any doubts, without any hesitation or worries.

I let myself melt into him, my hands sliding over his slick skin, touching parts of him that had taunted me from afar. He was an Adonis, but not in the juiced-up way of most muscly guys in Hollywood. Cole's muscles were from moving heavy loads of dirt, from wrangling trees and rocks into place, and as a result, he was far more solid than the guys who’d built muscle for show. He was practically made of stone himself.

And it felt so good to let him support me when my knees finally buckled. He groaned and pulled me up against him closer, one hand gripped tight on the crease where my butt and thigh met. There was one part of this marble statue that was even harder than the rest, and I couldn't resist sliding my hand between us. He froze the moment my fingers slipped around him, then he let out a guttural growl that sent shivers all the way to my toes.

"Inside," he said. Not a question.

I grinned, pulling free of his grip, practically skipping into the house, my heart doing a tap-dance the whole time. I peeled my bathing suit off, leaving it in a wet heap that Esther would have to take care of in the morning. I wasn't thinking about the morning or Esther, though. I was entirely focused on Cole as he stalked toward me, stunningly gorgeous in his nakedness.

"Sit," he commanded, walking me back toward a plush chair in the living room. I nearly protested—I was still soaking wet, and I didn't want to ruin the upholstery—but I didn't. The fiercely hungry look in his eyes stopped every last one of my protests. Screw the upholstery.

"Lay back," he added, almost impatient that I was perched on the edge of the seat with my knees primly pressed together. I wanted to throw myself at him, to give him everything he desired and more—but there was a game here. A chase we both wanted.

I took a deep breath, trying to keep my whole body from trembling as I laid back on the chaise, completely nude, fully exposed. All the interior lights were warm and soft, as flattering as possible—of course—but I still had a moment of pause. What if he found wrinkles or spots I didn't know about?

It was hard to think any of that mattered with the way he stared at me. He was a chef, and I was A5 Wagyu—he was ready to create a masterpiece, and I was just begging to be devoured.

"Do you have any idea how stunning you are?" he asked, taking it all in. He wasn't focusing on the old standards either. His eyes traveled over my face, my shoulders, and down my arms to my hands. He looked straight down at my toes in front of him, then he worked his way up my calves, his hands following suit.

"You don't have to say things like that," I told him. "You already have me naked." As beautiful and desirable as I felt under his appreciative gaze, I couldn't help but focus on how young and attractive he was. I knew he could have his pick of women.

But he's here with you, a voice chimed in.

"I know," he groaned. "Which is why I can't help telling you how sexy you are." His gaze fell back to his hands on my ankles, both traveling upward, his rough hands making me squirm with anticipation. They moved up to my knees, pushing them apart. To my thighs, spreading them further. He got down between them and gingerly slid his hand to the junction of my thighs.

"Why can't I resist having a taste," he purred, his tongue darting out, just the tip touching my sensitive, heated flesh. Just enough to get a bit of my wetness on his tastebuds. His tongue touched me again, and a jolt of pleasure shot straight to my toes before boomeranging through the rest of my body.

I threaded my fingers through his hair, holding him between my legs, grinding against his tongue, all my shyness and minor insecurities forgotten in search of the ecstasy his tongue promised.

Cole wasn't just good with his hands. He was an expert with that tongue, and I could've let him stay between my legs for hours and hours—I might have, if I wasn't so eager for more. His hands slid up over my stomach, calloused fingers closed in on my nipples, pinching, twisting, making me gasp and grind against him harder.

He turned me into a thoughtless creature, only seeking out more of the delicious pleasure he had to offer. My legs shook, my toes curled, and for a brief moment, I hoped he was able to breathe, but that thought was short-lived, chased away by the tidal wave of my orgasm. I moaned and writhed; I might've even cried out his name—it was all a blur. A haze of intense euphoria that I'd never reached without the help of two lovers and some illicit substances.

And Cole kept going. He didn't stop just because I came. He dragged it out, stretching the aftershocks out with his dancing fingers and persistent tongue.

I struggled to catch my breath, to find my voice again, but finally I was able to tap him on the shoulder.

"Cole...You have to ... stop," I gasped, each lick another bolt of electricity through my overly sensitive nerves.

He looked up from between my thighs, grinning. "Do I?"

I nodded. "Too much. Let me cool down." I let out a heavy breath, slowly sinking back down to Earth.

"Let's go upstairs," he suggested.

There was no doubt in my mind what 'upstairs' meant, and it took everything in my power to not rush up there, dragging him behind me. I couldn't remember the last time I was this turned on, this horny. By the time we’d reached the master bedroom, it was too much to take. Kissing the whole time, I nudged him back toward the bed, guiding him down to the mattress, letting my hands explore every bit of his nakedness.

I'd waited long enough to enjoy this. I wasn't going to deprive myself any longer. I climbed astride him, flattening my palms on his granite chest, leaning forward to kiss him again as I shifted my body into position.

He was an incredible kisser. Gentle, yet firm, sensual, but not too much tongue. Part of me felt like a teenager again, wanting to make out with him for hours on end. But I wasn't a teenager anymore, and the things I’d wanted to do with Cole were far more adult.

I held myself in place, poised just a breath away. Cole's eyes mirrored all the need and anticipation that I felt. His hands rested on my hips, and every so often, his fingers twitched, like he wanted to squeeze much harder and pull me down onto him. That look was all I needed. No words. No questions.

I made a slight adjustment, and suddenly we were together. He was buried inside me, and everything was warm and wonderful.

"Oh God," he groaned.

I couldn't answer, but I agreed with the sentiment.

From that point, my body had a mind of its own. It knew what to do, and my brain completely shut off to give in to the moment. To the rush of sensations and the joy of being with Cole. I took it slow at first, but it wasn't long before his hands started guiding me. Then his hips were thrusting up into me, harder and harder.

Cole's patience only lasted so long. He flipped us over, pinning me to the bed, manifesting all the youthful vigor I'd expect from a man his age. It was hard, fast, and intense, and I found myself wrapping my legs around him, trying to draw him in closer, trying to keep him trapped there. I'd lost count of the orgasms because they didn't seem to slow him down, and my brain was turning to mush from it. He kissed me hard, right before his body shuddered, his release sending a whole new wave of bliss through me.

"Wow," he exhaled, flopping next to me, his chest heaving and shiny from sweat.

"Mhm," I agreed, panting right alongside him.

He rolled onto his side, propping up on his elbow to kiss me. "You're incredible."

"Likewise," I answered, trying to push away the butterflies in my stomach. Why did he have to look so sincere when he said things like that?

"I don't know about you, but I could use a glass of water," he said after another moment of recovery.

"I could go for a drink," I agreed, struggling to get my jellied limbs to respond. My throat was feeling rough, though, and I didn't want to have a dry mouth if we started kissing again...

The 'if' was most certainly a 'when,' and by the time we got down to the kitchen, we'd already taken a couple of kissing breaks along the way. It was a big house.

There was something else I’d realized by the time we got to the kitchen: Cole was already hard again. I finished half my glass of water before commenting on it.

"Didn't get enough?" I teased, licking my lips while I eyed him.

"Of you? Definitely not," he answered, unashamed. He had no reason to be bashful after the performance he’d put on. "Have you had enough?"

"Oh, I'm thoroughly satisfied, if that's what you're asking. But if you're wondering if I want more..."

He grinned, stepping toward me. "I'm ready when you are, Lucinda." His voice was low and rumbly. Almost dangerous.

It made me want him so bad I was dizzy.

"Now is good," I answered, breathless.

"Oh yeah?"

Before I could respond, he had me turned around, facing the counter. I tried to brace myself with my hands, but he grabbed my wrists, forcing me all the way down, holding onto both of my wrists with one of his big hands.

"Spread those pretty thighs for me," he said, more of a command than a request. Desire shot through me, throbbing in my veins, my skin practically on fire.

I widened my stance, and Cole used his free hand to reach around my front, circling my clit, and driving me insane. Being trapped like that, unable to see what he was doing next, it was maddening for the part of me that wanted to control everything.

But I knew there was no getting out of it. Not without putting an end to everything that was going on. And I didn't want to end it.

I didn't even want to get out of his firm grip.

Truth was, I liked letting him manhandle me and take charge. I liked him having this complete control of me. For once, I got to turn off that controlling part of my brain because there was nothing I could do. That was a freedom like I'd never had.

Bent over my kitchen counter, my face against the cold granite, my arms completely trapped and helpless—that was where I’d felt freest. That had to say something about me, but I didn't care. All I cared about was how good Cole felt, how much I wanted him. Needed him. Every inch. Every breath. Until we were both crying out together, our bodies completely in tune.

As he released my wrists, he bent down to kiss the tender spots, the warmth of his breath sending goose bumps racing up my arms and down my legs.

"That was..." I breathed, slowly picking myself up.

"Really hot?" he offered, helping me to my feet as he pulled me in for a kiss.


"You're really hot," he said, sliding his hands over my hips, back to my butt, then squeezing. "Let me put you on the counter. I need a snack."

I laughed, but he didn't. He was serious.

"Do you ever get tired?" I asked, incredulous.

He grinned. "Wanna find out?"

By the time I'd cried uncle on the countertop, Cole was hard and ready to go again. This was what I got for being with a young, healthy guy.

Good God, it was nice. Not just the many, many orgasms but feeling desirable. Beautiful. Wanted. I couldn't get enough of it because I didn't know when I'd get it again. I had to soak it all up while I could.

Eventually, even the Energizer Bunny ran out of juice; I was actually grateful for the break when Cole finally passed out in bed next to me. He still had a bit of my hair wrapped around one of his fingers while he slept, a dreamy, peaceful expression tugging at my heartstrings.

Once the afterglow of all those orgasms wore off, though, the reality of the situation hit me.

This was bad.

Cole could ruin me if he’d wanted. I didn't need another tabloid scandal right now, and he had plenty to blackmail me with.

Watching him sleep, it was hard to imagine him stooping so low.

I had been fooled before, though.

I felt the beginnings of a migraine coming on as I slipped out of bed and headed to the shower.

"Oh, Lucinda," I sighed, my wrinkles much more prominent in the harsh light over my bathroom mirror. "You've really done it this time."