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1537217763 (ISBN13: 9781537217765)
Mona Lisa St. James made a deathbed promise that she would do anything to save her mother’s art gallery. Unfortunately, not only is The Red painted red, but it’s in the red. She soon realizes she has no choice but to sell it.
Just as she realizes she has no choice but to sell it, a mysterious man comes in after closing time and makes her an offer: He will save The Red if she agrees to submit to him for the period of one year.
The man is handsome, English, and terribly tempting…but surely her mother didn’t mean for Mona to sell herself to a stranger. Then again, she did promise to do anything to save The Red…
The Red is a standalone novel of erotic fantasy from Tiffany Reisz, international bestselling author of The Bourbon Thief and the Original Sinners series.
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The Fox Hunt
It had always been called The Red Gallery, even before the gallery was red.
Originally it was called Red’s because a man named Red owned the place and for no other reason. Mona’s mother, however, said the name came from the 1920s when The Red was a speakeasy. So many people were killed during bloody gangster shootouts, she said, that the place had been nicknamed The Little Red Shooting Gallery. None of that was true, of course, but Mona’s mother had been the sort of woman who valued beauty over truth. She loved The Red Gallery and thought it deserved the very best origin story. Mona never passed on that fiction herself, but she never denied it either. She also kept the brick painted crimson and her own brown hair colored candy apple red.
It’s what her mother would have wanted.
Her mother had loved The Red Gallery so very much that her last words to Mona had been, “Do anything you have to, but save The Red.” And for that reason alone Mona sat at her desk in The Red Gallery long past closing time, adding up numbers again and again in the hopes of finding a misplaced zero somewhere, a zero that would turn assets of fifty thousand dollars into five hundred thousand dollars. She’d robbed Peter to pay Paul and now Peter was at the door and pounding. There was no one left to rob to pay him.
Unless she sold the gallery.
Why her mother loved this place so much Mona might never know. Oh, Mona loved The Red too, their little gallery on Savoy Street. She loved its painted red brick and glass storefront, the ebony-stained hardwood, the red velvet curtains along the walls that made the colors of the canvases pop like balloons. She loved the little office off the main gallery that had once been her mother’s but was now hers. She loved the storage room in the back where all the paintings and sculptures not currently on display were safely kept—a second private art gallery. What she didn’t love was the debt. If her mother had died a quick death, Mona might have been able to save the gallery. But she hadn’t. She’d been sick and had lingered for two years, getting a little better and then a little worse, better, then worse, a step forward, a fall back. In the end, all she could leave Mona was the deed to the gallery and a fortune in medical debt that her mother’s life insurance barely touched.
And no one gave a damn about art anymore.
She knew that wasn’t true, but all attempts to revitalize the gallery had failed. Up and coming artists had drawn young hip crowds. But while the hip young crowds were happy to drink the free wine and eat the free crackers and cheese, they didn’t buy the paintings. Older artists had flooded the markets with their works and were selling for peanuts, if they were selling at all. She’d tried to entice the estate of a recently deceased painter to give her the exhibition of his collection, but they’d gone with a bigger gallery uptown. She didn’t blame them. She might not have picked The Red Gallery either.
Today, she’d let go the very last member of her staff.
Except for Tou-Tou, of course. She’d never let go of Tou-Tou.
“Don’t worry,” she said to the little black cat curled up in the corner of her office in his bed. “If I sell the gallery, you won’t be homeless. You can come live with me.”
Tou-Tou—short for Toulouse-Lautrec—merely glanced in her direction, blinking his luminescent green eyes before returning to the task at hand, namely licking his right paw for the next ten minutes. Tou-Tou had been the gallery cat for ten years. Her mother had found the malnourished black kitten in an alley two streets away and had brought him here to nurse him back to health. He’d never gotten very big, but his coat was glossy and soft, his eyes bright, and his purrs loud enough to wake the dead. She wasn’t allowed pets in her apartment, but what her landlady didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. Ten years. Mona had been fifteen when they found Tou-Tou. Ten years. Ten years ago the gallery had been the apple of Savoy Street, the darling of the art district. But rents had gotten too high and the galleries, one by one, had shut their doors or moved. Only The Red was left behind.
And now it would close its doors too.
Mona rose from her desk and walked to Tou-Tou’s bed. She stroked his head, his chin, pressed her hand to his side to feel that marvelous diesel engine purr. It comforted her. She whispered promises to Tou-Tou, that he would like it at her apartment. That she wasn’t firing him, she was selling the gallery. She told him to tell her mother—her mother had been certain cats could communicate with the dead—that Mona had done all she could to save The Red. No banks would loan her money. The credit cards were maxed. Bankruptcy was imminent. Art for art’s sake was a lovely idea in theory.