Title: Heart of Stone
Release Date: November 27, 2015
Donnella Stone is as her name describes, cold, powerful and rich. She is a true Manhattan Blue Blood. This has left her with a problem, the men in her life have often only come for what they can take form her, and it has never been her heart.
To protect herself she has rules and a non-disclosure agreement for all of her relationships with men, she gets what she needs, and promises opportunity, means and her silence once the length of the arrangement ends. It has worked for a decade.
Until she meets Matthew Mayfield, an adorable, awkward artist from Connecticut whose work and passionate attitude instantly intrigue her. The problem? He takes more of an interest in her, than any man she has met before.
Can he get past the dragon and heal her heart of stone or will her past be too much for him to handle, leaving them both on the wayside?
Shannon (S. I.) Hayes has been telling tales for so long as she has been able to talk, and began writing them down shortly thereafter. She is the singular author of the In Dreams… Series, and a Paranormal Historical Romance called Centuries Of Blood: Becoming. Shannon is the Co-Author to Awakenings: The Wrath Saga, a Paranormal Drama likened to Big Brother meets The Real World of the Preternatural, as well as several blogs and host to her own website. S.I.Hayes.com.
In her own words… I have a mind that is easily distracted and prone to wandering. Tangents are my forte, and if you think my characters are going to fit a cookie cutter shape of any kind, think again. They live, they love, they eat, sleep and f***. I believe that people are inherently sexual creatures and my characters be they human or something altogether else are no exception.
I don’t adhere to a single genera, I toe the line on several and wouldn’t presume to be a master of any. So I suppose you could call me jack-of-all-trade-paperbacks.
I am a truth seeker, in my life, in my work. I’d apologize for it, but I kinda cannot help m’self. It is my best and worst personality trait, well mostly, being Bi-Polar I guess you could say that is the worse. But I believe that the disorder has made me, well… Me.
I have taken this life and twisted, carved, shaped and molded it in to the worlds of my characters. Albeit with a chainsaw, and it has made all the difference
“Just make it happen, God damn it! I don’t care how, bribe someone for all I care! Just get me my fucking paintings!” Donnella Stone slammed the phone into its cradle, collapsing back into her chair. It spun a half turn, facing her toward the glass windows. She stared at the Manhattan skyline through tinted glass. Loving how it looked as the sun peeked through the late morning clouds over the Empire State Building. She exhaled deeply, trying to remember her anger management training. “One… Two… Three… Deep breaths…” She pushed a long red tendril of hair from her face as it fell from her usually well maintained up do. She pulled the octopus clamp from her hair letting the curls fall down her porcelain back and shoulders, releasing some of the tension brewing in her now pounding head. “Better.” She whispered more calmly, rubbing the back of her neck. She heard a small squeak behind her and turned back in her chair, to see her administrative assistant Harold still sitting in the chair opposite her desk, pen in hand waiting for her notes for the morning.
He did not seem to be miffed in any way by her outburst or her need to take a few moments to rejoin him in reality. In fact he rather liked seeing Donnella taking a moment to unwind and let her hair down. As she so infrequently did either. A small smile crossed his lips as she cleared her throat, putting her hair back up.
“Okay, Harold, where was I before we were so rudely interrupted by rubbish?” She asked her pale green eyes settling on him and his Brooks Brothers suit once more. She loved that he dressed so well for the office. It said something about how he felt about his job. Not to mention how well she paid him and the rest of the staff. She knew she could be a bit of a dragon, and paid to the effect, it kept lawsuits for psychological scarring to a minimum.
“You were saying that you didn’t want to go to the Governor’s Christmas Party stag this year. Which means picking from the pool, or finding a new suitor within a month, Miss Stone.”
Donnella blew air through her vermillion lips. “Let’s see what I can find. I’m bored with Samuel and Claude. See if Wyden is available. ”
“Need I remind you his contract ran out two weeks ago so you sent him to Florence for good behavior?”
“Ahh… That’s right.” She smiled standing up, sliding her French manicured toes into a pair of four and one half inch black leather heels with fire engine red soles.
“Are those the Louboutin’s?” Harold asked as she rounded the desk, with a smirk.
“They are. So eat your heart out.”
“The Dorothy’s would be all over you.” He smiled. “You have a meeting downtown in forty-five. Should I have the car brought around now or will you be driving your self today?”
“Bring the car, and you can come too, I’m stopping by the Studio before lunch, I want to make sure that those paintings have the right lighting. Can’t be too careful with Rembrandt.”
Matthew Mayfield opened his eyes, and climbed out of bed, scratching his ribs he looked bleary eyed at the clock. 9:07 A.M.
“Shit.” He spat getting up tripping over his stonewashed jeans on the floor. Falling to the ground he watched as his pit bull terrier mix Pepper cocked her head at him in confusion as she gnawed on his sneaker. “Pepper! No!” He lamented crawling across the floor reaching out for the shoe and the rapidly growing twelve week old puppy. She picked up and ran, shoe in mouth out the bedroom door. He got up, pulling on his jeans. “I don’t have time for this.” He mumbled, looking for his work boots, his standby shoes. They were covered in paint and cement from work, but at least they weren’t slimed and chewed.
Pulling on a moderately clean shirt, he grabbed his jacket and portfolio, hoping that the Listerine wisp would take care of his breath. “Janet? Can you walk her! I’m already gonna be late!” He pleaded to the thin brunette sitting on the couch in their shared apartment watching the cartoon network, smoking a clove cigarette with a beer in the other hand.
“Yeah, sure. Hey where you headed, anyhow?”
“I got that meeting at that gallery in the Village remember?”
“Awe, yeah, man, good luck. You better hurry or you’ll miss the train.”
“I know!” He ran out the door, hearing Pepper whine, he stopped and turned back picking the puppy up. “Daddy’s gotta go. But I promise I’ll take you to the park after. If this goes well, we’ll have a lot to celebrate.” He kissed her on her pink little nose, putting her down and was out the door.
“No, you don’t understand.” Matthew insisted. “I had an appointment. Matthew Mayfield, for one thirty. I came all the way from Connecticut for this!”
“Sir keep your voice down. Show a modicum of decorum would you? Even if you’d had, this appointment.” The receptionist looked him up and down. Paint covered tan work boots, long legs covered by dingy stonewashed jeans, a sweater tucked haphazardly into them, covered by a long leather jacket. The only thing appealing about him was his face, but even that was absconded by dark horned rimmed glasses. “It’s well passed two now. Neither Mr. Walsh nor Miss. Stone have the time for you if you cannot make the time for them. So if you please.”
“If I could just leave this with you.” He pulled out his portfolio, nervously, as the clattering of doors swinging open assaulted his ears followed by shouts.
“Get it done!” A woman’s voice demanded. The power and the echo, caused Matthew to lose his grip on the portfolio and the contents of it fell to the floor.
The receptionist, sighed heavily, and got up quickly seeing Donnella, as she came from the showroom. “You idiot. Are you trying to get me fired?” The receptionist barked. Trying to help him pick up the photos splayed across the floor.
Matthew ignored the irate girl, as he was for the second time that day crawling across a floor. “Fuck me.” He whispered under his breath. As he reached for a photo, only to have his hand nearly stomped on by a black heel with a red sole. He drew his eyes trailing up the curves of the leg to a black flounced hem. He pushed himself backward, embarrassed, and stuttering an apology as the woman bent down to pick up the photo under foot.
Donnella’s eyes surveyed the photo, it was of an African American woman, nude, arms crossed plumping the high points of her chest but hiding the nipples, the rest was turned so the shadows fell to mask her lower region, which accentuated the curve of her hip, down to the metal and plastic prosthetic that was her foreleg. Behind her in the distance was a torn and tattered American flag, and the message Remember Us…
She looked over the top of the photo to the young man still sitting on the ground. “Is this yours?” She raised an uncertain eyebrow.
“Y-Yes ma’am.” He sputtered, as he was helped to his feet by two very large men in dark suits, who did not unhand him.
Donnella waved her hand at them lightly and they released him. “Do you have more like this?”
He nodded. “Stephanie? Pencil him in. I’m taking my lunch now, I’ll see him after I’ve finished. Harold, clear my afternoon.” She looked at the young man again. Not completely unfortunate.
Harold glanced over his shoulder with a nod. “Yes, Ma’am. Right on it.”
“Who was that?” Matthew asked stunned as he pushed the last of his photos back into the portfolio.
“That? That was Donnella Stone.”
Matthew’s eyes widened, and his mouth dropped open, “I thought she’d be older.”
“Everyone always does…” Stephanie grumbled. “You can have a seat over there. When she comes back, she’ll let me know if she hasn’t forgotten you.”
THREE HOURS LATER…
“I don’t understand, what’s taking so long? I saw her get out of that Towncar hours ago. She said she’d see me when she got back.” Matthew whispered into the phone. “Maybe I should just leave, Janet.”
“Naw, man. You’ve been there this long, show some resolve.”
“I feel like I’m showing desperation.”
“Show some of that too, man. You need the money. Cold weather means less work.”
“I know that!” His voice rose causing Stephanie to clear her throat annoyed. “I know that, listen I’m gonna give it a few more then I’m outta here.”
“Thatta boy!” Janet hollered before hanging up the phone.
Matthew turned back to the desk, seeing Stephanie as she took out her pocketbook and closed up the laptop in front of her. “Going somewhere?”
She looked him up and down again. “Home actually, my shift is over. Security handles the night shift.” She pointed over her shoulder at the all too familiar men in dark suits who had helped him to his feet earlier that day. “Good luck with them.” She grinned smugly as she walked around the desk, past him and through the glass doors.
“Fuck this.” Having had enough waiting around Matthew picked up his portfolio and headed for the exit himself just as he was to go through the door he was grasped by the arm. He turned to see one of the guards. “Hey, I’m leaving.”
“Miss Stone will see you now.” His voice resonated deeply in the doorway, making Matthew follow without a struggle or word.
Where the front of the gallery was simple, open glass windows and some abstract art, beyond was a feast for they eyes. Especially the eyes of an artist. A few key pieces from well knowns drew in the high paying patrons, but the Keynote Gallery was famous for showcasing new talent, making names for the unknown artists of the city. It strived to bring a voice to its community through art.
“This way, Sir.” The guard directed him to a twisted floating metal and glass staircase. The planks reflecting off of the somber lights of the large open floor. Around the top were photographs from Michael Keats a photographer Matthew had studied under at Yale only three years prior. Here he was met by the one called Harold who smiled at him genuinely.
“Glad to see you stuck around. Mister?”
“Mayfield, Matthew, Mayfield.”
Harold nodded, extending his hand, and reaching for the portfolio. “Pleased to meet you, Mister Mayfield. I am Harold Worthington, Miss Stone’s Administrative Assistant. If you need anything, I am here to assist you. Right this way, please.”
Matthew was led to a set of bright cherry wood doors surrounded by glass with the blinds drawn closed on either side. The doors were opened and he was ushered inside.
The office was modern, with clean lines and little in the way of decoration. Wood paneling on the walls the same color as the doors, and chrome accents from the shelves to the furniture. The desk was cherry and black, housing a computer monitor, phone and little else. To the far wall was a fully stocked bar.
“Make yourself a drink. Miss Stone will be with you in a moment.” Harold placed the portfolio on the desk and promptly left the room closing the doors behind him.
Matthew walked over to the bar looking over the many bottles, knowing he had a long train ride home and that he was already tired he went instead for the sparkling water, taking a bottle he opened it, drinking half down greedily before exhaling, his abominable thirst barely satiated. Just has he felt the burp push up into his chest he heard a door open to his right, he swallowed it down painfully. The woman he now knew to be Donnella Stone emerging from what he assumed to be a washroom, from the cloth in her well-manicured hands.
“Excuse me, I- Harold said…”
“It’s quite alright.” She smiled. Her opalescent green eyes locked on him, surveying him as he pushed his glasses up and back on to his face. “Would you mind pouring me a Brandy?” She watched as he looked at the crystal bottles lifting one then another. Her smiled broadened. “It’s the darkest one…Turns reddish purple in the light. Three fingers deep.” Adorable. She thought to herself suddenly, as she held her fingers sideway to show him how much to fill the glass.
He poured the brandy, and brought it to her, she took it with and arch of her brow up at him. He stood a good seven inches taller than her even in her four and a half inch heels. He couldn’t help from his angle but notice that the top three buttons of her crisp white blouse were undone and he could just make out the outline of a white camisole beneath before she turned from him toward her desk, hips swaying in the tight skirt he had spied her in earlier. It hugged her back end perfectly and from the look of it she didn’t appear to be wearing any panties underneath. He clicked his jaw at the thought. Trying to change the subject in his mind as his heart beat increased.
“So…” She looked down at the portfolio, seeing his name typed neatly upon it. “Matthew? Is it?”
He nodded still standing with the bottle of water in his hands.
She gestured for him to have a seat. He sat down the depth of the chair overwhelming him at first as his legs had not realized the lowness of it. He pulled up before she had time to take notice, bringing himself to the edge of the seat. Trepidation filled him as she flipped through the photos without sitting down, sipping the brandy. She let out a deep sigh and suddenly her height changed by several inches, he looked to the floor realizing she had slipped off what he now deemed to be her ridiculously high heels. His attention was now off of her flippant turning and on her perfect little toes, as she rubbed the instep of one foot gently up her own ankle to relieve what must have been all of her daily tension. Matthew found himself imagining having her in the bath, rubbing those insteps, helping her get rid of all of her stress. Then moving up her toned calves, to her knees. He wondered if she were ticklish there.
“Did you find something of interest under my desk Mr. Mayfield?” Donnella asked abruptly, bringing him back from his sudden daydream.
“I’m sorry, Miss Stone. But have you perchance ever wanted to be in front of the lens?”
“Well there’s one I haven’t heard before.” She mocked, putting her shoes back on to come back around the desk.
“I mean it. I was distracted by you, by the curves of your foot, the length of your leg. I wanted to photograph you before I knew you were who you are. The moment you stepped on the photograph, it was like a bell went Ding!” Matthew couldn’t believe what he was saying. Sure he meant it. He just wasn’t the type to come out and say such things. That was Janet’s job. She procured his models for him. He was the one behind the lens, behind the scenes. He could make the art, he could see the beauty. Speaking to a woman as sexy as the one in front of him, typically left him in knots with a wet dream for later. Now here he was standing in this woman’s office demanding that she let him photograph her.
“Easy, there. I don’t like photographs of me. So you can slow your roll on that. But I do like that you’re passionate about it.” She pushed him back down into the chair once more. “I like these wounded soldier photos, especially the women. There’s something about the vulnerability and the bravery intermingled…”
“Yes, That’s where I was going, I-”
“Shh…” She put her finger to his lips and he could smell the lotion she used on her skin. It reminded him of lilies after a rainstorm, when their scent would waft through his mother’s garden back home, how he loved that smell. He took a steady breath, as she looked at him, pulling her finger away, abruptly.
“Sorry, just when I get on a tangent I don’t like to be interrupted.”
He nodded. She leaned up against the desk in front of him. “I also noticed that you then paint them as well… Why?”
“It’s what I want to do. I take the photos because they sell, and frankly I need the money. But the painting is what I want to do. I use my photos as my guides, rather than having to continuously pay the models. But when I sell the photos, I hope to make donations to the funds they are a part of, they need the help, especially now that we’re not really over anywhere, but everywhere you know?”
“Mmm… I think I could get behind something like that.” She strummed her fingers on the table. “But you’re not there yet, and I’m not really taking on photographers right now.”
Matthew blinked at her, the stunned look on his face apparent. “You kept me out there for three hours to tell me, no.” The words dripped from his lips with a tremble of anger he could not hold back. “You could have let me leave with my pride intact.” He stood his fist balled, hands shaking. “Instead you give me hope, you ply me with complements. What kind of heartless bitch does something like that to another human being?”
“Easy there, I’m the kind that can make or break you, everywhere. One call form me and no one will touch you. Like I said, I like your passion.” She scrawled something on a post- it note, tacking it to one of the photographs. “Be at this address, tomorrow night, after having seen a razor and a clean shirt for Christ’s sake. We’ll see just what you’re made of, shall we?”
a Rafflecopter giveaway