Playing the Game: Neighborly Affection Book 1 by M.Q. Barber

USA Today bestselling romance

Playing the Game

Neighborly Affection Book 1

When Alice accepts her neighbors’ unusual offer, sizzling chemistry and emotional insecurities collide. Can the three of them find the path to true love? In the scene below, meet Alice, Henry, and (in absentia) Jay.

Playing the Game

She expects dinner with neighbors—but gets sex with a side of safewords.

Fantasies about her sexy neighbors spice up Alice’s nights, even a year after she’s moved in. She can’t decide whether the men are roommates or partners, but either way, they spark a wanton desire in this mechanical engineer that has her imagination—and vibrator—working overtime.

Henry, director of everything around him, studies human nature and applies philosophies to his paintings as well as his relationships. Quirky and polite to a fault, he follows his own code of honor even when it means denying himself.

Charming and playful, Jay craves stability, guidance, and the chance to please others. His antics counterbalance Henry’s formal ways and bring vulnerability and fun to the trio’s adventures.

BDSM play with the enigmatic artist and flirtatious joker across the hall allows Alice to quiet the too-logical mind that has kept her unsatisfied and distant with other lovers. She must reconsider her notions of love, submission, and independence if she’s to find a permanent place in their bed and hearts.

A USA Today bestseller. Named a top read of 2013 by reviewers for Red Hot Books and Satin Sheets Romance.

MMF Menage | intro to BDSM | Friends to lovers

Playing the Game, Neighborly Affection Book 1, by M.Q. Barber

Playing the Game

Read an Excerpt

Henry opened the door at her knock, casually dressed, for him, in khakis and a short-sleeved green polo shirt that matched his eyes. She let her gaze roam, flirtatiously, because it was Henry, and he was as safe and harmless as they came.

“Looking sharp. Testing out new date threads?” She circled him as he closed the door.

Exquisite. The slacks hugged him enough to remind her of his masculinity but not enough to feel obscene. The shirt draped just so across the breadth of his shoulders. Yum.

Not that his attractiveness surprised her.

No, the only surprising thing was that he’d opened the door himself. Usually that task fell to Jay while Henry cooked.

“Jay on strike tonight? Or busy sampling the food while your back is turned?”

Henry smiled. His gaze skated over her own form, lingering on the scoop neck of her top, presumably because the view wasn’t one Jay’s lanky body offered. She hid her smirk.

“You’re looking lovely this evening as well, Alice. Perhaps you’re intending to test your date-appropriate clothing out on me? I deem it a smashing success.” He gestured her toward the kitchen. “Although I wouldn’t put it past Jay to sample the food behind my back, he is not doing so at the moment. It’s rather difficult to do when one is not present.”

Jay wasn’t here? That couldn’t be right. She’d shared meals with just Jay or just Henry before, but never at their apartment and always while they were out doing friend stuff.

“What, you ran out of wine and sent him for a bottle?”

“No, I have a delightful bottle of wine for us right here, a Chablis, to complement the cream sauce for the scallops and linguine.”

Henry raised the heat beneath a saucepan simmering on the stove, drained pasta water in the sink and added the noodles to the sauce. He was quick and competent, with elegant motions that always made her wonder if he’d taken dance lessons, though she still hadn’t asked.

“There’s a bit of the wine in the sauce, actually. If you’ll open the refrigerator, you’ll find our salads. Would you mind bringing them to the table?”

“As long as you don’t tell Jay I’m usurping his role as waiter.”

She opened the refrigerator and scooped up two salad plates. No third, not on any shelf. She closed the door, carried the plates to the table, and attempted a casual tone. “So where is he tonight, anyway?”

“Help yourself to some cutlery, Alice. You know where everything is.”

She carried forks. Napkins. Wine and glasses.

Henry sliced bread fresh from the oven and plated their pasta. He seated her formally, holding her chair for her, and followed up by pouring the wine before seating himself.

They’d both had a few bites, and she’d expressed her appreciation for the rich sauce and the wine’s tart citrus before she asked again.

“So Jay’s not watching the fireworks with us?”

“I’m beginning to think you’re unhappy to be dining with me, Alice.”

His smile told her he was joking, though she cringed at her own rudeness.

“No, sorry, not at all. I’m just intensely nosy. When you invited me over for the Fourth, I assumed…”

“That Jay and I were joined at the hip?”

Literally. She sipped her wine to stop the laughter bubbling in her gut.

“Something like that, I guess.”

“Ah. Well. As it happens, Jay will be taking in the fireworks picnic-style in the park with a young woman he met while kayaking last month. I packed them a superb supper, if I do say so myself.”

“He’s on a date?” Fuck. She hadn’t meant to sound quite so disbelieving.

But Jay? On a date? With a woman? Okay, he flirted with every woman he saw, but he was with Henry, wasn’t he?

Praise for Playing the Game


It’s steamy and sexy enough, and doesn’t hold back on the BDSM angle, but this erotic romance has so much more to offer than titillation or fantasy.

– author D.B. Sieders


The writing is quick, smart and witty. The character development, especially of the heroine, and plot progression work well with this trio.

– Red Hot Books review


I will read this one again. The sex scenes were off the charts hot. The characters were amazing. Henry melted me.

– Author Jessi Gage


Ms. Barber delves into the culture of Dominance and submission with compelling grace, introducing us to Alice, Henry, and Jay and all of their delightful emotional and sexual complexities.

– author Sophia Jones


Chapter after chapter, I was captivated by the very real process of a woman that discovers her submissive self and how a man tamed her, day after day, week after week, month after month. … It is the kind of book that make you think: yeah, that makes sense. If I was in her shoes, I would act like this.

– Mary’s Menage Whispers review