FEATURE: M.W. Benjamin

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MW Benjamin is the author of the upcoming erotic suspense novel, First Watch. She enjoys reading and writing romance stories, snuggling with her cat Julius, a nice glass of red wine, and all things pumpkin.

Excerpt from First Watch

“Good afternoon, detective,” he greeted me. “You know, it’s not nice to badger a group of mourning friends for information about a murder.”

He saw right through my little act.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lied.

Sam replied by raising his eyebrows disbelievingly.

“Is there something I can help you with, Mr. Sutherland?” like taking off your pants, I finished in my head. The thought appeared unbidden, and I scolded myself for letting it happen. I had to get my dirty mind under control with this guy or it was going to get me in trouble.

He shrugged nonchalantly. “I was just curious if you’d like to step outside with me and get some fresh air.”

I shouldn’t. I knew that immediately. The captain brought me along to gather information. Running off with Sam was exactly the opposite of what I was supposed to be doing. The problem was I couldn’t get my mouth to form the word ‘no’. It was a simple one syllable, two letter word that barely took any effort to speak, and it was caught in my throat. Sam stood there, his deep green eyes drilling into mine, and I just broke down. What the fuck was wrong with me?

“Sure,” I answered him. The words left my mouth before I could stop them. I had to at least attempt to appear hard to get, so I added, “but just for a minute. I’m kind of working.”

Sam straightened himself out and smiled. “You’ll be back before you know it.” He held out his arm for me to take. “Shall we?”

I pretended to wipe something invisible off my face to hide the blushing. I reached out and took hold of his arm. My fingers wrapped around his bicep, which I was not surprised in the least to feel was well toned and solid. I slid my fingers down to the nook of his elbow to keep my mind from wandering, but it didn’t really work. I couldn’t help but picture us walking arm in arm into some fancy restaurant or theater, all eyes on us like we were the hottest, latest celebrity couple that graced the front of every gossip rag in circulation.

Jesus, I had a wild imagination.

I had never been like this before with anyone. He was just some guy, right? Sure, he was a billionaire that could give me everything I’ve ever wanted including amazing sex, I’m sure. But what did that count for? And, yes, he was the modern day equivalent to a god in the looks department, but looks aren’t everything. I hadn’t spent enough time with him to know what he was really like personally. He always had a cocky air to him, but something told me that was just an act. There was a silent hope in me somewhere that he was a real dick, just to make it easier to separate myself from him.

Sam led me down the hall and into an enormous kitchen at the back of the house. The room was filled with stainless steel and dark cherry wood. Other than that, I didn’t recognize much. There could have been a chimpanzee in the corner dressed like a clown and juggling chainsaws and I wouldn’t have noticed. We moved quickly out the back door and my eyes were locked hopelessly on Sam’s chiseled profile. Just outside the back door of the house was a garden. Now that summer was over, the flowers that had once bloomed there were gone, leaving behind a blank patch of dirt with a lifeless fountain at its center. Past the garden was a high hedge that stretched off for several yards in either direction, broken only by the opening directly in front of us. Inside that opening was another hedge identical to the one in front of it.

“Is that what I think it is?” I asked, not really sure why I thought Sam would know the answer.

“The Hutchinson Hedge Maze is quite well known around here,” answered Sam. “Every Halloween they would hire actors to dress up and prowl the maze, scaring anyone who entered. The most amazing Easter egg hunts took place here as well. The Hutchinson’s always allowed people in to wander the maze. Only a handful of people have ever actually found the true path to the center. Most end up coming back out the way they came in out of confusion.”

“Have you ever tried it?” I asked. Having a massive hedge maze in your backyard was pretty peculiar, even for a rich person.

Sam looked at me and flashed me another devilish grin. “I’m one of that handful.”

He took me by the hand and led me to the entrance of the maze. The hedges loomed overhead. He stepped forward into the maze and turned around to face me. He reached up and loosened his tie a bit and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt.

“Find me in the center, Detective Thomas,” Sam said in a cocky tone, “and I’ll let you in on a little secret that you may find quite useful in your investigation.”

Without another word, Sam turned and disappeared into the maze. I was left standing at the entrance, more than a little annoyed. But there was something else that was overcoming that annoyance, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. Playfulness. I wanted to run after him. I wanted to disappear into the maze and only come out when I’d found him. I wanted to be young and free again, just for a moment. I looked back at the house where everyone was still milling about, talking or crying to their heart’s content. Then I caught sight of the captain in the window in the kitchen. He appeared to have noticed me as well. Before he could get a chance to confirm his suspicion, I dashed into the hedge maze after Sam.

I went to my right first because that’s the way Sam had gone, and ran immediately into another turn, this time to the left. I took it and a short path led me to another intersection. I looked forward, to the left, and to the right. Sam was nowhere in sight. He wasn’t going to make this easy on me. Or was he? Before I made a choice of which path to take, something caught my eye. Down the path to the right lay a single bread crumb, which I figured was taken off one of the pieces of bread inside the house. I stepped toward it to find another a little further down the path. Sam was leaving me a trail. He wanted me to find him.

With another second of hesitation, I took off down the path. My eyes were glued to the ground so I could spot the bread crumbs. I slowed only for a moment at each intersection so I could find the next piece of the trail. I felt like it was running forever, making turn after turn. I kept going, the anticipation of reaching the middle building with each new path. I could picture Sam waiting for me next to a fountain or some hedge statue, his devilish grin and deep green eyes congratulating me on a job well done.

Only that’s not what I found. I reached the middle of the maze to find quite a beautiful fountain, although there was no water in it at the time. Four stone benches were situated around the fountain, and three new paths branched off the area back into the maze. Sam, however, was nowhere to be seen. I walked around the statue and poked my head down each path, hoping to find more bread crumbs or at least some sign of Sam, but there was nothing. I went back to one of the stone benches and sat down, resigning myself to wait for him to show since that was clearly what he wanted.

After a moment of waiting, the world went black. I could feel a pair of hands deliberately tying a knot behind my head. I couldn’t see a thing, but it wasn’t panic that rose inside me. It was, for lack of a better word, glee. I felt the smile creep across my face.

“Guess who?” Sam asked from in front of me.

“Ryan Reynolds?” I joked.

“Close,” replied Sam, “but not quite. Guess again.”

“Why are we doing this?” I giggled. Oh Jesus, he’d made me giggle. The man had reduced me to a giggling girl.

“Because it’s fun,” said Sam good-naturedly. His hands ran delicately up my thighs and I could feel his warm breath on my face. I couldn’t see him, but I could sense how close he was to me. Was he going to kiss me? Everything inside of me screamed for him to close the distance between us and press his lips to mine, but he didn’t. He simply hovered there for a moment. I was practically squirming with the desire to kiss him, but I refused to make that move first. If he wanted to kiss me, he had to be the one to lean in.

“Are you not having fun, detective?” he whispered. I could almost feel his lips brushing against mine as he spoke.

“Sarah,” I told him. “Call me Sarah.”

“Very well.” I could hear the smile in his voice. “Are you not having fun, Sarah?”

I knew that if I said yes he’d lean in and kiss me. It might even progress to something a little more physical. I don’t know how I knew that, but I did. I could just feel it. I had to be strong though. I’m not the kind of girl who sleeps with someone they’ve only known for a few days, let alone kiss them. I had to play hard to get, make him want me as much as I wanted him…if that was even possible.

“I’m waiting to hear this secret, Mr. Sutherland,” I said playfully, but refusing to move back.

Sam let out a short laugh, and one of his hands lifted off my thigh. I could hear him open up my purse, rummage for a moment, and close it. If any other man had touched my purse without permission, I’d have ripped the blindfold off and broken his finger. But Sam had gotten me so deep into this moment that may hands stayed still. I could hear him doing something with what I assumed was my phone or his phone, and then he handed mine back to me. It wasn’t until I heard his feet moving through the grass away from me that I reached up and pushed the blindfold off my eyes.

Sam was standing in the same entrance I’d come through only a few minutes before. His feet were bare, his shoes hanging loosely in one hand. I assume that’s how he could have snuck up on me so easily. That or he was lighter than air. His tie was missing, so I knew that’s what he had used as a blindfold. He was looking at me with a gleam of amusement in his eye.

“Always the professional, Detective,” he said slyly, flashing his devilish grin. “You’ll find my number in your phone. Since you managed to find the center of the maze, your secret will be given at a time of my choosing. Feel free to call me in the meantime,” he winked, and added. “You can keep the tie.”

Sam gave me one last devilish grin, and disappeared into the maze again. I looked at the new contact he’d added to my phone, feeling slightly giddy to have his number programmed into my phone. I hadn’t had the opportunity to be in a relationship with a man for a long time. I was pretty certain normal ones weren’t anything like this. He was very secretive and aloof. Most girls would have hated it, not have given him the time of day. As soon as he started dodging questions, they would have kicked him to the curb.

Me? Surprisingly enough, I was into it.

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