Authors: Elle Christensen,K Webster
I’VE GONE STRAIGHT to Hell. I know my soul is black, but now, the damn reaper has put me in the fiery pits of Hell.
Stop looking at me.”
She just uttered the words and scampered off to help Delia. Left me standing here fighting the urge to haul her sexy ass back to my office, where I’m the only one she’ll wiggle it for. But no—
Instead, I make my way to the bar.
After I lift the heavy countertop that parts for entrance, I step behind it. Niki, the full-time bartender, is pouring tequila shots for a couple of sorority girls who are practically falling out of their dresses. Behind them is a line of three more guys waiting on drinks. Once the girls stumble off with their drinks, the guys clamber over each other to be served by Niki. She’s a pro. The last owner hired her, and she is a major reason I was able to . . . do my other job.
Niki is exactly the kind of woman I’d normally take to bed. All luscious curves and—best of all—an aversion to commitment. She’s recently divorced, and her ex did a real number on her. She’s made no attempt to hide her blatant interest in me every time I was in town but I didn’t like the idea of messing around with my employees, so I never took her up on her offer.
But I watch her now as she brushes her long, blond bangs back behind her ear. Then she leans over the bar to hand out beers to new customers. My eyes stray directly to her sweet, rounded ass so flagrantly on display. I wait for the rush of desire to hit me. Maybe, I’ll ignore that stupid rule and finally relieve some of this damn tension.
However, I find myself being drawn to the pair of never-ending legs across the room. Now, my blood is pumping and I can’t seem to look away. The little hellcat is bouncing between tables and bestowing that Miss America smile on every man but me. My jaw clenches as the guy she is currently serving can’t seem to lift his eyes from her chest, and I’m about to go over there and rip his fucking balls off for staring at my girl when I feel a hand on my arm.
I glance down to find Niki standing next to me, skimming her hand up my bicep and over my shoulder, kneading the muscles in my neck. Damn. Some of my rage melts as the muscles begin to relax.
“I’m here until close, Slade, but I’m off tomorrow. Maybe you should let me help you relax.” Her hazel eyes are looking up at me in mock coyness.
A smirk starts to form on my lips. This is what I need. It’s not J; I just need a woman.
“Sure, Nik. Sounds good.”
Her smile widens as she gives my neck one last squeeze. Then her hand slides to my ass for a parting smack before she heads over to serve customers who just sat down.
I lift my head to do another brief sweep of the place and stop when I see J watching me from a table just across the left side of the bar. The sparkle in her blue eyes has dimmed and a frown is playing around the corners of her sweet mouth. Her eyes flit over to look at Niki then dart back to me.
If my taunt from earlier didn’t make it clear that she should stay away from me, this should effectively drive it home. She needs to know what I am. I don’t do sweet and innocent, I don’t do commitment, and I don’t cross that line with someone I need to protect. I continue to hold her gaze unapologetically until she finally looks away. As she walks away, lead settles over my chest and the tension in my shoulders notches up. I am so damn tired.
I turn my attention back to Niki and she throws me a wink.
Yeah. Just what I need.
There’s a mountain of paperwork in my office that needs to be done, but for the rest of the night, I stay at the bar and help Niki serve. It’s a weeknight, so it’s not as busy, but we normally have two people manning the bar. Not that she can’t handle it alone, but I need to be out front.
I need be able to see my girl.
I shake my head at that thought. What the hell is up with that? She’s not my damn girl! It’s my responsibility to protect her, not fuck her. I grind my teeth together every time I see some son of a bitch leering at her. I’m not a killer, but I know how to make a man scream in agony. These fuckers are just asking for it.
When one in the morning rolls around, I catch Delia’s eye and lift my chin to let her know that she needs to make her way back here. She nods in acknowledgment before finishing wiping up her table. Delia signals to J, who is wiping up the next table, and they head back to the bar. Now that she’s in front of me, I can see the utter exhaustion that’s taking her over. She isn’t used to this kind of work. I have to tamp down the guilt and rising sympathy I feel for not having realized this would be so hard on her.
Life isn’t all roses and glitter.
She’s going have to suck it up and—Really? My mind went there? Yeah, it did.
“You’re done for the night,” I growl. I’m talking to them both, but my eyes never leave hers.
Delia murmurs her thanks then grabs J’s arm to lead her to the back.
“Wait.” The fire is back in J’s eyes, turning them to a deep sapphire. “We don’t close until two.”
“You’re done for the night,” I repeat, my voice hard and unyielding.
Delia seems to sense a brewing storm and scampers off to the back room, calling out a quick goodbye on her way.
Our stares are locked until J finally breaks our gaze. I hear a light curse come from under her breath and almost crack a smile. Then I do something completely insane. Something I never do. I justify my decision.
“The kitchen is closed. You’ve cleaned most of the tables. Simon can handle the lockdown tonight.”
I see indecision wavering in her eyes. Her complete exhaustion is warring with the need to defy. But I don’t wait for her to decide. Grabbing her shoulders, I steer her toward the hall and the stairs up to her room. Then I give her a tiny shove. She gets moving, but she throws a mutinous glare back at me. I smirk at her just because I know it will piss her off.
I’m about to turn back to the bar and help close it out when I see her change direction and head to the back cabinet. Curious, I stop and watch as she grabs a stack of the skirts—
what the fuck was I thinking when I approved those for the uniform?
—and starts for the stairs.
“What exactly do you think you’re doing?” I ask quietly.
“I just want to make sure that I can change into my
in my room rather than having to change down here.” She shrugs innocently with wide eyes.
I’m no fool though. She still isn’t masking the sass behind her act.
“You won’t need those. I’ll have a different uniform for you tomorrow.” I already called the company and had a rush order put in for some women’s slacks.
Her lips turn down in a slight pout. On any other woman, that would have driven me right out the door in the opposite direction. But not with her. Instead, my eyes drop to that plump bottom lip and all I can think about is sucking it into my mouth. When I drag my eyes back up, the attitude has returned. Then she is marching up the stairs with the skirts. At the landing, I watch as she glances at the exit and hesitates.
Oh, hell no.
Bounding up the stairs, I grab her by the waist and toss her over my shoulder. She gasps in outrage and hits me in the back, her fist just missing my kidney. A full-blown grin breaks out on my face when I give her a resounding slap on the sweet little ass bouncing on my shoulder.
“What the fuck?” she yells.
Damn, she really is a little hellcat.
“I’d think before you hit me, kitten. I’ll just have to spank you again.”
When we reach her door, I give the knob a twist, easily opening it. We’ll have a chat about that unlocked door tomorrow. For now, she stops struggling after my threat, but I can hear her taking deep, calming breaths. I drop her abruptly on the bed and lean down, placing an arm on either side of her torso to cage her in.
“Let me be very clear, Cupcake. I make the rules here. You follow them. It’s as simple as that. If you run, I’ll drag your ass back and you’ll find yourself under lock and key. Got it?” I threaten.
If I were a lesser man and had smaller balls—
—they’d be shriveling under the venom in her gaze. Instead, before I can think better of it, I close the distance between us and lightly brush my lips against hers. Then I pull away and lick my lips. Damn, she even tastes like a cupcake. I want to dive in for more, but I force myself to back away. The fog begins to clear from her face, and I anticipate the storm as I walk to the door. However, there is silence. And when I turn back, I see her softly touching her lips and looking at me in confusion.
Don’t expect answers from me, Cupcake. Hell if I know what’s going on.
“Don’t you have a date tonight?” she questions, glaring at me.
Anger I can handle. Anger I understand.
I grab the door handle, walk out, and then turn back, my eyes giving her a once-over. “Jealous, baby?”
Then I slam the door.
I head into my office, shut everything down, and lock it up. I don’t keep anything associated with my other jobs in that office, but it goes against my nature to not protect what’s mine.
My thoughts drift to the room above me.
Don’t go there.
When I leave, Niki is waiting for me in the hallway. She walks up to me, her hips swaying with each step, desire burning in her eyes. I let her back me up against the wall, where she presses her breasts against my chest, then uses a low, sultry voice in my ear and says, “I’ve been dying to get you naked all night.”
I push her away a little. Whispering in my ear isn’t the way to turn me on.
Of course not, jackass. That’s not why your dick could’ve cut glass when Cupcake’s hot breath was caressing your ear.
Enough of this shit. I grab Niki’s neck and slam my lips down on hers. When my tongue plunges into her mouth, she emits a moan of pleasure and I deepen the kiss. Her hands fist in my shirt, and I spin us around until she pressed against the wall. Then her hands unclench from my shirt before moving up to grip my shoulders. She moans again and I fight the niggling annoyance at the sound. Upon breaking my lips from hers, I place hot, wet, openmouthed kisses along her neck as I bend at the knee and grab her ass, lifting her up. Her legs go around my waist before I slam her back against the wall, my cock grinding against her. When she groans, the prickling irritation cools my blood. Opening my eyes, I see hooded, hazel eyes staring back at me.
I’ve stopped moving, so Niki is staring at me questioningly.
“Slade? What’s wrong?”
Shaking my head, I try to get back to the heated moment, but I can already feel myself softening. What the hell is wrong with me?
Niki’s not the one I want.
My eyes drift to the ceiling, thinking about the woman upstairs once again.
Niki looks to where my eyes have landed and sighs. “It’s Jill, right?”
“What? No,” I state emphatically. Definitely not
I suddenly realize I’m still holding Niki, so I let her legs drop, slowly lowering her down.
“Don’t worry about it, Slade.” She presses a kiss to my lips and says, “You know where to find me if you change your mind.”
Then she leans down and grabs her purse from where she’d dropped it on the floor. Her short skirt rides up, and even though I get a full view of her black thong, my dick continues to lie limp.