I've invited Ashe Barker to visit my blog today with her newest release in the Hard Lessons trilogy, The Hardest Word. I first read Ashe's work via the Saturday Spankings blog hop. She's one talented lady and she's not afraid to take on a heroine with a disability. Here's Ashe to talk some more on this...
I’m delighted to be here at the wonderful Natasha Knight’s blog today. Natasha is one of my favourite authors so I’m honoured to be in such good company – thanks Natasha for inviting me over.
Today is a big day for me as it sees the release of Hard Lessons, the second book in my trilogy The Hardest Word. The story features Freya Stone, a multi-millionaire courtesy of a rollover lottery win, who is also unable to speak following a childhood illness. A natural submissive, Freya’s condition, aphonia, makes it impossible for her to negotiate her needs with a Dom, or even to use a safe word. Her attempt to purchase tuition from the most experienced Dom at her BDSM club ends in her being subjected to a harsh punishment at his hands, and he drives his own hard bargain regarding her future training. The second book in the series details that training, and shall we just say Nick Hardisty’s methods are exacting. But will they be what Freya is looking for?
When I decided to take the plunge and write about a heroine with a disability I pondered long and hard about it. I wanted to explore her specific difficulties, but without presenting her as weak or a victim. She certainly does not consider herself in any way disadvantaged, even before the lottery win which put enormous wealth at her disposal. She has her own unique way of communicating with those closest to her, and in time this could come to include Nick. Freya certainly hopes so.
Freya is clear what she wants, and is both determined and assertive in pursuing her goals. Things don’t always go her way, but her natural optimism gives her the resilience to stick at it. I like her, she’s tenacious and brave, but with an underlying vulnerability that appeals to Nick on levels perhaps he did not anticipate. I came to admire her more and more as I wrote her story so I hope readers will take to her too.
The Hardest Word charts the sensual journey of Freya North and Nick Hardisty. Unable to speak since early childhood Freya’s fortunes change dramatically when she finds herself holding the winning Euromillions Lottery ticket. Over forty million pounds richer, she still can’t buy the one thing she really wants—a skilled Master to train her in the fine art of submission.
Her first ill-fated approach to Nick Hardisty, a Dom who comes highly recommended, earns her a punishment spanking at his BDSM club. From the outset Nick is able to find ways around and beyond Freya’s communication issues to release her innermost submissive instincts. Fascinated, intrigued, and hopelessly attracted to Freya, Nick does agree to train her, but on his terms not hers.
Freya moves into his home for one month. The deal is total obedience, and absolute submission. But while her body, and her emotions, are an open book, she doesn’t reveal to him the true extent of her wealth.
As their relationship develops and deepens, how long can Freya keep her secret from the powerful Dom who insists on total honesty from her in every respect? As her two separate lives threaten to collide, Freya is torn between the stern Master she has come to adore, and the opportunities her wealth provides, to grow into the strong, independent woman she longs to become.
Once her body and her emotions have been laid bare, what other secrets is she keeping?
Freya’s chosen Master has agreed to train her, but only on his terms. He demands that she spend one month alone with him, at his home, her body his to control. He demands total obedience and absolute honesty from her. He is hard, demanding and committed to training Freya in every aspect of submission.
Nick is a tough and uncompromising Dom, but he’s also a master of his craft. From the very beginning he is able to get beyond Freya’s inability to speak to him, to release her innermost submissive instincts. She feels safe with Nick, she trusts him to take care of her, and as she willingly submits to his hard lessons, and slowly unfurls in his hands, he is more and more captivated by his silent pupil. But although her body and her emotions are an open book, Freya has not revealed to him the full extent of her wealth. And as their relationship deepens it becomes more and more difficult for her to confess her deception. How will Nick react to the news that his exquisite submissive is rich enough to buy anything she wants? Except him.
And will just a month with Nick be enough? Freya knows the Dom she wants. Can she convince the Master she adores to claim her?
A faint footfall on the corridor outside breaks my reverie and I scoot quickly back across to the mat, only just managing to position myself on my knees, as the door opens. Nick Hardisty steps inside and I glance up at him. He closes the door behind him with a deliberate click. I left the key in the keyhole on the inside when I came in, and I half expect him to turn it in the lock. But he doesn’t. I suppose he knows I’ve no intention of going anywhere. And in any case, I’m free to leave whenever I want to. That’s clearly understood. Instead he strolls casually over towards the mat, and positions himself in a nonchalant lean against the one unadorned side of the central column. This places him about three feet to my left, towering over me as I kneel on the floor.
Remembering his instructions about eye contact I’m straining my neck to keep him in sight. He watches, lets me struggle for a few moments before relenting and stepping around, bending to crouch in front of me. He reaches out, slips two fingers experimentally under the chain. Seemingly satisfied that it’s not too tight, he withdraws his hand with a curt nod. My hands are laid loosely on my thighs, my palms facing upwards, and I concentrate on remaining still as he continues to explore and test. He slowly trails the backs of his knuckles down my jaw and across my shoulder before dropping them to my left breast. His eyes follow the progress of his fingers as he continues his journey south, but snap back up to meet mine as he feels the tautness in my nipple. He knows. I know he knows, and I shiver involuntarily as I wonder if this too will have consequences for me. I chew my lip nervously, silently berating myself for not simply obeying his instructions to the letter.
He shakes his head sadly, but his murmured, “Not this time, girl, you’re already in enough trouble, but watch that in future,” comes as welcome relief.
I let out my breath, only now realising I’d been holding it. He takes my nipple, rolls it between his fingers as he tugs sharply. I gasp as he uses his other hand to deliver the same harsh treatment to my right nipple. The pain is approaching unbearable when he leans in, whispers in my ear, “Where are your wristbands, girl?”
He straightens, releasing my nipples in order to allow me to sign my answer. “In my bag. I forgot to put them on. I’m sorry, Sir. Shall I go fetch them?”
“No. You’ll stay in this room until I tell you it’s time to leave. Do you remember the clicking safe signal?”
“Good. Use that if you need to. But later I expect you to put those wristbands on, and then you do not remove them for any reason. Is that clear, girl?”
I nod once more, grateful to be getting off lightly. What was I thinking? Of course I need to be wearing my wristbands.
His returns to his sport with my nipples, and a few seconds later I’m clicking in desperation as the pain bites just slightly too hard, too fierce for me to bear it. He responds, releases the pressure, instead lightly stroking and flicking the sensitive buds until my eyelids droop in delighted satisfaction as I arch into him, silently asking for more.
It seems I’m to be denied, though, as he ignores my writhing to slide his fingertips down my sides, tracing the shape of my hips. He pauses, as if contemplating where next, then trails across my thigh to lightly scrape them over my smooth mound.
“Very pretty, girl. Truly naked. You will keep it like this as long as you bottom for me, is that understood?”
Again I nod, inwardly groaning at the endless prospect of painful waxing on a regular basis.
He smiles wryly as he continues. “I will be checking carefully later and will remove any remaining hairs with tweezers. You won’t like that much either, but Mike knows his job so you should be okay.”
I nod slowly, subconsciously easing my knees apart in readiness for his fingers to sink lower, to slide between my legs and touch me where I need it most. The moisture is gathering, building, pooling, and I’m sure when I stand up there’ll be a wet patch on the yellow mat. Not that I care, not really. I just want him to touch me. Please.
Until 2010 I was a director of a regeneration company in Leeds, in the UK, before becoming convinced there must be more to life. So I left, and at last I’ve been able to realise my dream of writing erotic romance. I’ve been an avid reader of fiction for many years, erotic and other genres, and I still love reading historical and contemporary romances – the hotter the better. But now I have a good excuse for my guilty pleasure – research.
In my own writing I tend to draw on settings and anecdotes from my own experience to lend colour, detail and realism to my plots and characters. An incident here, a chance remark there, a bizarre event or quirky character, any of these can spark a story idea. But ultimately my tales of love, challenge, resilience and compassion are the conjurings of my own lurid and smutty imagination.
When not writing – which is not very often these days - my time is divided between my role as resident taxi driver for my teenage daughter, and caring for a menagerie of dogs, rabbits, tortoises. And most recently a very grumpy cockatiel. I’m a rural parish councillor, and I’m passionate about evolving rural traditions and values to suit twenty first century lifestyles.
I write for Totally Bound and now have eleven titles on general release, with several more in the pipeline. I’ve completed a fourth trilogy in the Black Combe ‘family’ which is due for release later this year. I also have a ‘May to September’ style novella out and a short story in the Paramour collection, as well as a stand-alone novel in the ‘What’s Her secret?’ imprint. Another short story in the Jolly Rogered anthology is due for publication in July 2014.
I have a pile of story ideas still to work through, and keep thinking of new ones at the most unlikely moments, so you can expect to see a lot more from me.
You can get your hands on The Hardest Word trilogy from all the usual places: