Christa Barnes is baffled when the man of her dreams – or should that be her wildest fantasies? – turns up at her sleepy little flower shop and insists she has something he would like to purchase. But Johan Klaas is an international diamond dealer and he is not remotely interested in acquiring a bunch of geraniums, preferring instead to discuss gemstones.
Christa’s next unexpected caller is a motorcycle courier clad in black leather and bearing a package for her. She opens it, expecting the latest seed catalogue, and finds instead a fortune in uncut diamonds and a note.
For Services Rendered. See what you can make of these.
Johan Klaas works at the heart of the global diamond trade based in Antwerp, and he agrees to use his contacts and knowledge to help trace the origins of these particular stones. For a price.
As the relationship between Christa and Johan deepens, so does her understanding of the way in which a natural, artless act of kindness years before can start an amazing chain of events.
- Who or what was the inspiration for Christa? Is she anything like you?
Well, I’ve never entertained a desire to sell flowers, but the mystery at the heart of Rough Diamonds is based on my experience working in the care system in the UK some thirty years ago so I suppose Christa does draw on something of me.
- So, tell us a bit more about Johan. He’s stern and sexy, and obviously successful in his career, but what else is there to know?
Well, I think you just about covered the basics there. Johan is driven and successful, but he is also honest in his dealings with a strong sense of duty, and of justice. He wants Christa from the beginning, but he’s willing to work for it and takes nothing for granted. He’s kind to her and generous, and he shares her sense of adventure and curiosity about the origins of her surprise windfall.
- How many books have you written? Are they all erotic fiction?
I think I have about forty titles out now, and yes, they are all erotic stories. Some are more BDSM themed and some are spanking/domestic discipline. At first, I wrote just contemporary stories, then I started adding a few historicals and more recently I started writing sci-fi too.
- What advice would you have for writers who decide to try their hand at erotica?
I’d tell them to have a go, but to have a decent thesaurus to hand. And an internet connection. Youtube and Google are the erotica writer’s friend, and Wikipedia of course, the fount of all wisdom and knowledge.
- Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. I try to be fairly ordered about it. I like to be at my desk (well, more accurately the kitchen table) laptop fired up and coffee to hand, by nine in the morning and I tend to write for most of the day then. There are also a lot of related tasks to keep on top of, mainly to do with promo or research, or keeping in touch with readers and other authors. It’s definitely a full-time job for me.
- Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think it was always there, though I only started writing properly about three years ago. I have always tended to plot stories in my head, though, often when sitting in traffic jams on my daily commute. I now work at home so all that time spent inhaling exhaust fumes is finally paying off.
- If you could have been told one thing that you weren’t told when you were a teenager, what would you like to have heard?
I was given lots of advice as a teenager, much of it unsolicited and not especially good. I think we all have to make our own mistakes, but hopefully, I haven’t made the same mistake to many times. That would be sad.
Looking back, I think the most important thing I picked up along the way was that we all have choices, all the time. We’re entitled to choose our own way in life, but we should also be ready to own and accept the consequences of our decisions.
Someone once invited me to cast my mind forward to a time perhaps sixty years from now when I’ll be long-gone and my daughter (currently eighteen) is herself entering old age. Imagine she’s talking to her grandchildren, telling them about me. What would I like her to be saying? My actions now, today, will dictate what those obituaries might be so don’t leave it until later to be the sort of person you want to be remembered as.
- If you had to describe yourself using three words, it would be…
Resilient. Creative. Calm.
- What would you do if you were the last person on this earth?
Turn out the lights.
- If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it?
I think at some level or other they are all a little bit about me. I could never write a book about a heroine I didn’t actually like or identify with in some way. Maybe I’d call my autobiography Made a Difference, because I hope that would be true. Perhaps that should be on my gravestone rather than a book cover, come the day.
- What’s your favorite love story? (movie or book)
I adore Love Actually and I can’t count how many times I’ve seen that movie. It has lots of love stories all rolled up and woven into each other, but I think perhaps my favourite is the one featuring Hugh Grant.
I also remember reading Katherine by Anya Seton many years ago, and I’ve never forgotten the magic that shimmers between Katherine and her hero, John of Gaunt. Their lifetime love affair is set against the dramatic backdrop of medieval England, a period I also like to write about.
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About Ashe Barker
USA Today Bestselling author Ashe Barker writes erotic romance and spanking romance in a variety of genres including contemporary, BDSM, paranormal, historical. ménage, gay romance and time travel. She is a #1 Amazon Bestseller and all her stories feature hot alpha males and sassy submissives, often with a lot to learn. Kink abounds, and there’s enough dirty talk to satisfy the most demanding smut lover. However dark and dirty the setting, love always emerges triumphant, and her stories never fail to deliver a satisfying happy ever after.
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EXCERPT 1 (PG Rated)
Anniversary, probably. Or an apology.
From her vantage point in the store room, Christa eyed the customer entering her small shop. Tall, rather better attired than many of the clients who would pop in to grab a bunch of daffodils or a spray of geraniums, the blond-haired stranger paused to peruse a display of bright orange and red marigolds. The arrangement was in celebration of Halloween, not a particularly lucrative festival for a florist as a rule, but Christa took the view that every little bit helps. The man did not select a bouquet, though. Instead, he abandoned the bright array to pick his cautious way through the clutter of scented blooms and approach her counter. He was careful to avoid brushing against her stock, which Christa appreciated. Flowers are delicate creatures, fragile; they do not respond well to careless handling. Not unlike me, she thought, as she stepped out into her shop to greet him.
Christa wiped her damp fingers down the green cotton of her apron and smiled a polite welcome at the man. He was really very attractive, she acknowledged. She might even go so far as to describe him as stunning. The woman on the receiving end of his floral generosity was lucky, indeed.
The object of her attention wore an expensive dark grey overcoat, which did little to conceal the perfection of the tailored black suit and pristine white shirt beneath. His tie was a subtle mix of reds and purples, which put her in mind of moorland heathers, and the brilliant sheen of his black leather shoes had caught her eye as he came through her door. He carried a dark brown briefcase, the small attaché type, and his horn-rimmed glasses gave him an air of wisdom and experience, though he could not have been much more than thirty. Thirty-five at the most. Dark brown and just slightly wavy hair reached almost to his crisp collar, but was expertly styled to ensure it lay smooth and neat against his neck. It was, in Christa’s opinion, just the right length.
She had a thing about grooming, though rarely indulged in much of it herself. There wasn’t much call for cut and blow dries in her line of work, still less manicures or eyelash tinting. Even so, she liked her men to be neat and well turned out – not that this man was hers in any but a business sense, and only then if she could manage to part him from some cash in exchange for a bunch of pretty blooms. He reeked of money, and class, and was just the sort of client she liked to cultivate. She hoped his wife had the good sense to properly appreciate an artfully-crafted bouquet.
“How can I help you?” Christa raised her eyebrows, expectantly. She was taking mental bets on the occasion to be marked, a private game she liked to play, and her money was on an anniversary. She was already mentally appraising her stock of red roses.
“Good morning.” He bowed his head slightly. “I believe you may have items I would like to purchase.”
He had an accent. It was slight, but definitely there. His English, so far, was perfect, though. Christa wondered where he was from.
“Of course. What do you have in mind? Is it for a special occasion, perhaps?” Some customers needed advice on what was appropriate. Christa was always happy to oblige.
“Occasion?” He stressed the first syllable. It sounded divine.
“The flowers? Are they for a special occasion? A birthday, perhaps?”
“Flowers? No, I do not wish to purchase flowers.”
“I see.” Perhaps he had something else in mind. A pot plant, possibly, or maybe just a card. Beyond, that his choices here were limited. “What are you looking for, then? I do have some lovely winter-flowering cyclamen in just now…”
He shook his head and bestowed a slight smile on her. “I am sure they are all quite beautiful, but no. I do not require flowers or plants, thank you. I desire diamonds.”
Christa huffed out a wry snort. “You and me both, sir. I’m sorry, but you need a jewellers’ for that.”