Authors: Tiffany Snow
“Looking for a date tonight, tall-dark-and-dangerous?” I smiled seductively, sliding my hand over Kade’s shoulder.
Whatever else Kade had been about to say died on his lips when he turned to look at me, a flash of startled recognition crossing his face. I smiled prettily and batted my eyelashes. The look of surprise was quickly wiped away and his eyes narrowed.
“On second thought, I’d like nothing more than a night with you.” Snagging me around the waist, he pulled me between his knees, turning me so I faced the other guy. Kade’s hands rested possessively on the bare skin of my midriff, my back pressed against his chest.
Now that I was close enough to get a good look at his companion, I could see he was in his early thirties, with brown eyes and brown hair. While attractive enough, he wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. If I passed him on the street and then had to describe him, I’d be hard-pressed to do so. I thought perhaps that might be by design.
“You were saying?” Kade prompted the man.
The guy looked me over and rolled his eyes. “Really?” he asked Kade, quirking an eyebrow.
“I’m not dead yet,” Kade countered.
“You will be, you keep barking up this tree.”
I stiffened. What did he mean, Kade would be dead?
“Have a drink, princess.” Kade held his glass up for me and I automatically took it, swallowing a mouthful of ice-cold vodka and tonic.
“You find out anything more on Sheffield?”
The guy shook his head, taking a sip of his own drink. “Nah, man, only that the dude was into some fucked-up shit. The people pulling his strings are impossible to find, much less fight.”
“Any word on who rigged the building to blow?”
“Nope. I asked around, but no one’s talking. But it was a good move. Anybody got close enough to find that guy’s place wouldn’t live to tell the tale.”
“Did he have any friends? Partners?”
“Only name I came across was Parker. Supposedly they’d hang together at that club down on Fifth.”
“I’ll check it out. Thanks.”
“Seriously, man,” he said. “I’d leave it alone, drop it now, while you can. You get on these guys’ radar and you’re dead. They’ll smoke you before you even know what hit you.”
“I’ll take that chance,” Kade said. “Thanks for the warning, Garrett.”
I took note of the name as Garrett downed the rest of his drink, nodded at Kade, and disappeared into the crowd.
“Interesting disguise,” Kade said, his lips by my ear. His hands caressed my abdomen, the pads of his thumbs drifting to the skin at the bottom edge of the tube top. I watched the crowd, a shiver running through me. I told myself it was from the chill in the air.
“You left me behind,” I said stiffly. “I had little choice.”
“I left you behind for a reason.”
I felt him move my hair to the side, then the lightest brush of his lips on my shoulder.
I abruptly turned so we were facing each other. With him sitting on a stool and me wearing heels, we were roughly eye to eye. “I can hold my own,” I said evenly. “So don’t leave me behind again.”
He studied me, then gave a slight nod. “Understood.”
His gaze drifted down to my mouth and he frowned. Reaching behind me, he dabbed his cocktail napkin into his drink, then swiped it across my lips, removing the thick black lipstick.
Surprised, I didn’t move as he worked assiduously.
My lips felt a bit raw when he was done; the cheap lipstick had chapped the tender skin. My tongue darted out, licking the residual sheen of vodka left behind. Kade was rapt as he watched my mouth. His hands had drifted down and now stroked the backs of my thighs. Trapped as I was between his knees with the table at my back, I couldn’t move away.
“Don’t,” I warned, afraid he was going to kiss me.
“What is it with you and the barely-there clothes?” His voice was bitter. “I’m a man, Kathleen. What do you expect?”
“I expect you not to do something you’d regret,” I said stiffly, stung at the veiled accusation that I was deliberately tempting him.
“I’m the wrong brother for those kind of expectations.”
Before I could retort, he’d risen to his feet and grabbed my hand. “Let’s go.”
“Where are we going?”
“To find Parker.”
I followed him through the club out into the street. It was a relief to be in the fresh air, and I gratefully filled my lungs. The next moment, I wished I were back in the bar as a gust of icy wind hit me and I began shivering.
“So where exactly did you come by the clothes?” Kade asked, removing his leather jacket and swinging it over my shoulders.
“I can’t divulge my sources,” I replied, pushing my arms into the sleeves.
Kade’s lips twitched.
I jumped when he let out a piercing whistle. A taxi pulled to the curb, and Kade held the door while I got in. He slid onto the seat next to me, giving the driver the name of another bar.
I settled back in the seat, noticing that though the jacket helped cover me up top, now that I was sitting, the skirt left almost nothing to the imagination. I tried to tug it down, to no avail. The backs of my thighs and more were bare to cold vinyl.
I glanced up to see Kade’s blue eyes watching me, a smirk playing about his lips.
“I’m fine,” I said archly. His gaze traveled down to my thighs, pale against the dark seat and pressed tightly together. “Don’t look at me like that.”
“If I can’t touch, then I sure as hell am going to look,” Kade replied matter-of-factly.
I averted my eyes, though I could feel the weight of his stare. I restlessly shifted in my seat. I nearly jumped out of my skin when Kade suddenly touched my leg, hooking his
hand underneath my knee and drawing it up until my foot rested on his lap.
“Killer shoes,” he observed, ignoring my scramble for modesty as I pulled his jacket down as far as it would go. Removing my shoe, he began massaging my foot, his strong fingers digging into my instep. It felt so good I bit back a moan, tentatively relaxing back against the car door.
“Who was that guy?” I asked.
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, that much I got. Who is he to you?”
“Garrett and I go back a ways. Met him at the Academy.”
“The FBI Academy?”
Kade gave me his that’s-a-dumb-question look. “He left the FBI before I did. Saved my life once, and I’ve returned the favor. We help each other out occasionally. He has good street contacts in a lot of places.”
Tucking my foot between his body and the seat, Kade reached for my other leg, removing the shoe and giving my aching arch the same treatment. I tried to tug my other foot loose so I wouldn’t be sitting with my legs spread, but Kade kept it wedged tightly.
“Wish it wasn’t so dark in here,” Kade mused. His eyes glittered in the passing streetlights.
The feel of his calloused fingers on my skin, even in this fashion, felt like seduction. He massaged the ball of my foot, easing the nerves knotted there, before cupping my heel in his palm. I’d never considered a foot massage as sexual, but then again, I’d never before been on the receiving end of one of Kade’s foot massages.
I leaned my head against the seat, closed my eyes, and tried to pretend what I was doing was okay. But even I couldn’t ignore Kade’s hand moving from my foot to my calf.
“Kade,” I warned, trying unsuccessfully to pull my leg out of his grip.
He slid closer to me, his fingers brushing the tender skin behind my knee, the rough pad of his thumb sliding up the inside of my thigh.
The touch sent a spiral of lust into my veins, making me gasp. Kade watched me, his gaze unrelenting.
Ruthlessly, I tamped down my desire, a bitter note of shame welling inside as I thought of Blane. He and I were trying to patch up our relationship, build something again, and here I was thinking impure thoughts about his brother. It made me embarrassed, angry at myself, and angry at Kade.
“Knock it off, Kade!” My tone was sharp as I pushed away his wandering hand.
“Tell me you don’t want me,” he demanded. “Look me in the eye and say you don’t feel the heat between us. Do that, and I’ll stop.”
“It has nothing to do with that and you know it,” I retorted. “Even if Blane and I don’t work out, and I’m not saying we won’t, that doesn’t mean I’m going to hop into bed with you.”
“I never said anything about a bed.”
I rolled my eyes. This time he let go of my limb when I tugged, and I righted myself in the seat, turning toward the window so I wouldn’t have to look at him.
“Blane excels at making women fall in love with him. Now ask me how many times he’s been in love.”
His words stung, hitting me in my most vulnerable spot—doubt in what Blane truly felt for me. I turned and asked, “And you’re a much better option than Blane?”
“I never said I was a better option, just an alternate one. One you should consider.”
“And how do you think Blane would feel about you offering to be plan B?” I asked derisively.
Kade’s lips thinned and I knew I’d hit my mark. “Neither Blane nor I are your happily-ever-after, princess. Blane will break your heart, and I’m the guy your mom warned you about. Don’t kid yourself about that.”
I couldn’t have spoken even if I’d known what to say.
Fortunately, the cab slowed to a stop just then. Kade sat up and passed some money to the front while I scrambled to find my shoes and my equilibrium. I had one stiletto on and was searching for the other when Kade grabbed my ankle and slipped the shoe on my foot. Then he was hauling me out of the cab and onto the sidewalk. His jacket reached farther down my thighs than the skirt, but not by much.
We stood in front of another bar, though this one looked smaller than Bar Sinister and if I hadn’t known what it was, I would have passed it up. I could hear music from where we stood. Kade headed inside and I hurried after him.
Kade handed the man at the door a fifty for the cover charge. I snagged a finger through one of Kade’s belt loops so I wouldn’t lose him, a shot of nerves hitting me as we snaked our way through the crowd.
We stopped at the bar, and Kade motioned me to an empty stool. I scowled, but my hostility toward stools was lost on him and I had no choice but to squirm onto the thing.
Kade ordered drinks, and when the bartender set them in front of us, Kade slid out a hundred-dollar bill.
“I’m looking for a guy called Parker,” he said.
The bartender smoothly pocketed the money before saying, “Might be in the back room. Blond hair. Scar on his left cheek. Likes to watch.” He moved away.
Kade turned toward me, resting his back against the bar. “You should stay here.”
I glanced around. The patrons of this place had a different vibe, and I could feel eyes on me. I wet my lips nervously. “Please don’t leave me,” I said in an undertone, hating the fact that I was afraid.
Kade leaned closer. “What’s back there isn’t pretty, Kathleen, and I’m positive it’s nothing you’ve ever experienced before. Listen to me. Stay out here or go back to the motel.”
I hesitated, then shook my head. “I’m coming with you.” Being with Kade, no matter the situation, was preferable at the moment than being on my own.
Kade sighed. “Fine. Finish your drink. And do what I say. No questions.”
I picked up the cold glass, taking several healthy swallows before sliding off the stool. Kade took a firm grip on my hand and we headed toward the back of the club.
We reached a long, darkened hallway guarded by another bouncer. Kade slipped him some money, and the two spoke quietly, then we were allowed to pass.
The hallway turned sharply and our way was blocked by red velvet curtains. Kade pushed them aside and we stepped through. What I saw made me stumble in shock. Kade had to grab me to keep me from falling.
The room was set up to focus on a stage, music pulsing in the background. There were two rows of chairs, the top row set on a raised platform. The chairs themselves were red velvet, large and plush, set several feet apart. About half of them were occupied, but it was difficult to make out faces in the darkness, which contrasted sharply with the well-lit stage. That was where everyone was looking and that was what had shocked me.
On stage, behind glass, were two men and one woman. The woman was completely naked except for a chain hanging between her breasts, held in place with clamps on her nipples. Her wrists were bound and hanging from a hook above her head. One of the men, dressed in leather pants, held a crop. His wrist flicked and I heard the slap of the leather against the woman’s buttocks. Judging by the red marks on her skin, that wasn’t the first time he’d struck her. She moaned, but she didn’t seem to be in pain. Or perhaps if she was, she liked it.
The other man wore leather chaps, and that was all. He stroked himself while he watched, fully aroused.
I was too stunned and appalled to move. Kade’s firm grip on my waist pulled me forward, jerking my attention away from the show. He carefully looked over the room, then chose an empty chair. I remained standing, wondering what I was supposed to do.
“Kneel down,” he hissed quietly.
I hesitated, then let out a tiny cry as he yanked me down, my knees hitting the floor hard. I glanced reproachfully at him.
Leaning down, he whispered in my ear, “Look around.”
So I looked around, and understood.
The people I hadn’t been able to see clearly earlier were more visible now that my eyes had adjusted, and I saw that most of them weren’t alone. A few seats down was a woman with a man at her feet. Squinting, I saw an actual leash attached to his neck, the other end held in her hand. So the guy earlier hadn’t been joking about the leash thing.
I looked farther into the darkness. In the far corner, a woman was kneeling in front of a man, her head bobbing up and down between his legs. Flushing red, I hastily averted my gaze, only to see a man masturbating in the front row.
My eyes were drawn unwillingly back to the stage. Again, I was stunned at what I saw. The woman was now unbound, but on her knees. The man with the whip stood in front of her, though the whip had been discarded and she was giving him a blow job. He held her head in place while he thrust into her mouth, a grimace of pleasure and pain on his face.