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One Night of Sin

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Categories:
Year:
2014
Publisher:
Entangled Publishing, LLC
Language:
english
ISBN 10:
1633750485
ISBN 13:
9781633750487
Series:
After Hours 1; An After Hours Novella; Entangled Brazen; Entangled Brazen
File:
EPUB, 271 KB
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english
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A Season of Change

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2014
Language:
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Sometimes it’s good to be bad…

When it comes to sex, good girl Skyler Thompson always plays it safe, choosing stable and sedate over wild and thrilling. She doesn’t do one-night-stands, but one look at sinfully sexy Gage Holt and she’s willing to reconsider. He makes her want to be bad for once in her life, and she’s prepared to take what she wants.

Danger follows former MMA fighter Gage Holt like a shadow. Despite his successes as part owner of Sin, an exclusive nightclub in Boston, Gage can’t risk getting involved with a woman, especially one as sweet as Skyler. Still, he can’t resist a taste—and it’s so damn good he has to see her again.

As addicted as he is to her, Gage knows there’s no future for him and Skyler—not with his past lurking in the dark corners of an MMA cage. But Skylar’s tougher than she looks, and she’s ready to fight for her man.



dpgroup.org





an After Hours novella





Table of Contents

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

About the Author

If you love sexy romance, one-click these steamy Brazen releases… Take Me if You Dare

Two Week Seduction

Wrong Bed, Right Guy

Dare to Resist

Protecting What’s His

Down for the Count

Tempting the Best Man

Private Practice

Meeting His Match

Fiancée for Hire

Tempting Her Best Friend

Tell Me Something Good

Sleeping with the Boss





This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2014 by Elle Kennedy. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins; , CO 80525

Visit our website at www.entangledpublishing.com.

Brazen is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC. For more information on our titles, visit www.brazenbooks.com.

Edited by Gwen Hayes

Cover design by Heather Howland

ISBN 978-1-63375-048-7

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition* August 2014





This one’s for Viv.



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Chapter One

She was staring at him again.

Gage felt those big blue eyes burning a hole in his back, and when he turned around, there she was. Still seated in the velvet booth across the room, half listening to her male companion while her curious gaze remained focused on another man. On him.

It had been two years since the club’s grand opening, which meant two years’ worth of shifts, but Gage could honestly say this was the first time he’d gotten hard on the job. Although beautiful women poured into Sin on a nightly basis, not one had ever triggered such a visceral response in him.

Forget about it. Too young, too sweet, and too out of your league.

Yup, the cynical voice in his head was right on the money. Little black dress and fuck-me red heels aside, the brunette in the booth exuded a good-girl vibe that almost made him feel guilty for checking her out. A man like him would corrupt her in a heartbeat. Taint her. Lead her down a path of damnation to a wicked place where girls like her didn’t belong.

And bad idea, thinking about all the wicked things they could do together, not when he was already semi-erect. Now there was nothing semi about it—his cock was at full salute and pushing against his fly.

Gritting his teeth, he turned away and swept his gaze over the VIP lounge. It was crowded tonight, more than usual for a Thursday, but things had been tame so far. Granted, it was only midnight. In his experience, Asshole Hour didn’t start until closer to 1:00 a.m., after too much booze or drugs or sexual tension tipped a customer’s conduct scale from harmlessly wild to dangerously stupid. As head of security, Gage was tasked with making sure that didn’t happen—or stepping in if it did.

He edged toward the railing and studied the cavernous main room ten feet below. The dance floor was packed, every table and booth occupied, and the intermittent strobe lighting illuminated a sea of flushed, euphoric faces. Gage spotted several couples making out in the shadows, and those who weren’t into PDA were probably getting into all sorts of trouble in the curtained alcoves situated throughout the club. Sin always drew a wild crowd—folks of all ages flocked to the club for a night of boozing, dancing, and even screwing if they didn’t make a spectacle out of it.

Everything on the floor looked fine, and Gage knew his bouncers would notify him over the comm if that changed. For now, no problems seemed to be brewing in the air.

“BMOC over there just asked if we offer party favors.” Carla sidled up to Gage, her red-painted lips close to his ear as she gave him the heads-up.

His eyes narrowed at the pretty waitress. “What kind of party favors? And which big man on campus are we talking about?”

“I’m pretty sure he’s looking for pussy. The expensive kind.” The blonde gave a discreet tilt of the head. Right in the direction of the back booth.

Gage turned, expecting his gaze to collide with a pair of hungry blue eyes, but the brunette was gone. Only her date remained, tapping his fingers on the tabletop, a smug look pasted on his chiseled face. The kid couldn’t have been older than twenty-two or twenty-three, but he exuded an air of entitlement that was impossible to miss. He was a Very Important Person, at least in his own eyes.

“Who is he?” Gage asked.

“Kat said he’s some big shot’s kid. That’s how he got up here.”

The younger guy’s dark eyes were checking out every woman in the lounge. He made no attempt to hide it, either, as if it was his right to leer.

Gage felt vindicated by the knowledge that the kid’s beautiful date had ditched him.

“Tell him we don’t sell skin here,” he said coolly. “If he can’t find a girl who’ll fuck him for free, he can go out on the street corner like any other john.”

Carla snorted. “Gotcha.”

Man, he really hated some of the clientele that frequented Sin. Every night he encountered at least one rich, pretentious ass who thought the world owed him something. Case in point—this smug-faced creep inquiring about procuring the services of a whore.

As part owner, Gage supposed he had the right to throw the guy out, but Reed and AJ would tear him a new one if they found out he was sending away big spenders.

And big spender, indeed. Gage glanced back in time to see Carla delivering a six-hundred-dollar bottle of whiskey to the table. And the douche bag was now making eyes at the cute, not-a-prostitute redhead seated at the VIP bar. Good. She ought to occupy him for a while.

Gage touched his earpiece. “Yo, Jesse, get up here and take over. Gonna pop out for a cigarette.”

The bouncer’s baritone voice crackled in his ear. “Got it, boss.”

He waited until he spotted Jesse’s close-cropped head weaving through the crowd. In between flashes of strobe, Gage saw the crowd part without delay for the muscular man, which made him smile. He’d handpicked all the bouncers himself, with only two required traits in the hiring process: reliable and intimidating as fuck. Jesse fit both of those to a T.

As the other bouncer ascended the steps up to the lounge, Gage headed for the emergency exit on the other side of the room. He strode down the narrow staircase, emerging a moment later in the alley behind the building.

He rummaged in his pocket for his e-cigarette, lifted his head—and froze.

His blue-eyed angel sat eight feet away. Slender body up on the wooden crate next to the staff door, chestnut-brown hair falling over one shoulder, dress riding up her thighs to reveal long, silky legs.

He sucked in a breath. Lord, she was even more appealing up close. Not beautiful in the Hollywood sense, but intriguingly attractive in a very real way. The enormous blue eyes were her best feature, and her mouth was just pouty enough to conjure up the image of plump lips wrapped around his dick.

Gage cleared his throat. “You shouldn’t be out here.”

She jumped at the sound of his voice, head swiveling and gaze flying to his. She instantly hopped off the crate, smoothing out the front of her dress as a frown creased her lips. “Why not?”

“A pretty girl all alone in an alley at midnight—I don’t think it needs much more explanation than that.” He inhaled a quick drag of the e-cigarette. The mint-flavored vapor was no substitute for a real smoke, and he wasn’t sure why he even bothered with it.

“I just needed some air.” Her voice was huskier than he’d imagined it would be. Sexier. “I’ll go back inside soon.”

Wait—she’d only come outside for air? And her date had been asking about prostitutes in her absence? Wow. Real stand-up guy.

“It’s so crowded in there,” she added.

“Nightclubs usually are,” he said dryly.

“Yeah, I guess they are. I’m not much of a clubber, but Mick wouldn’t take no for an answer. He said I haven’t lived until I’ve gone to Sin.” A sigh slipped out. “It’s our first date…”

Gage waited for her to continue. When she didn’t, he filled in the rest. “And you’re not at all into him.”

“Why do you say that?”

His gaze slid back to hers, slow and purposeful. “Because if you were, you wouldn’t have been eye-fucking me all night.”

Her breath hitched, cheeks growing the most appealing shade of pink.

He had to laugh. “Am I wrong?”

The denial he’d expected didn’t come. “No, you’re not wrong.”

Christ. There were so many things he could say to that, so many things he could do. Dirty, dirty words and dirty, dirty acts. But he reined in every single wicked urge. Just because her mere proximity had turned his lower body into a raging inferno didn’t mean he would give in to the burn. He was a grown man. More than capable of controlling his base impulses.

“I’m Skyler,” she said, after his silence had dragged on for far too long.

He nodded.

“Maybe you’re new to civilized society, but normally when people introduce themselves, you reply by providing your own name.” She arched one perfectly defined eyebrow.

“Is that right?” His lips twitched. “Well, what makes you think I’m at all civilized, Skyler?”

That made her falter. She bit her lower lip. Tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and the scent of her shampoo floated his way. She smelled like green apples. A sweet and feminine fragrance, serving as a reminder that he shouldn’t be out here talking to her.

“How old are you, sweetheart?” His voice came out rough.

“Well, my ID held up at the door, so I’m over twenty-one if that’s what you’re worried about. Twenty-four, actually. In some cultures that would make me a spinster.”

Gage swallowed a laugh. There was something truly refreshing about her sarcasm, especially when contrasted with the flush of her cheeks and the way she fidgeted with her hands. She didn’t belong here. Not at this club, not even in this neighborhood. She should be nestled between crisp white sheets right about now, snuggled next to a wholesome man while the two of them watched late-night talk shows before bed.

“Go back inside,” he said gruffly. “Your date’s probably wondering where you are.”

That made her snicker. “I doubt it. I think he wrote me off the second he realized I wasn’t going to fuck him tonight.”

Gage’s cock jerked in his pants. Jesus. That angel mouth wasn’t allowed to say things like that. Not in front of him, a man whose inner devil could be summoned at the drop of a hat.

“Go back inside,” he repeated.

“Why? You don’t like talking to me?” Hands planted on her slim hips, she moved closer, a pensive look on her face.

He shrugged. “I don’t like talking, period.”

“Huh. So what do you like to do?”

Gage met her eyes in another long, deliberate stare. Leaving no question as to what he enjoyed doing.

She visibly swallowed. And then she startled the hell out of him.

“So maybe that’s what we should do.”

A laugh rumbled out of his chest. “You’re playing with fire, baby.”

“Am I?”

She had the nerve to lick her lips. He didn’t think she’d done it as an intentional taunt, but damn, the response to seeing her tongue dart out was instantaneous. His erection pulsed against his zipper, hard and persistent, like it was trying to tunnel its way out of his pants and into her pussy.

Gage took a breath, trying to ease the ache down south. Nope, he wasn’t giving in, wasn’t going to acknowledge the awareness prickling over his flesh. He was fighting in two days, and he didn’t like to screw before a match. The frustration fueled him, gave him the edge he needed to send an opponent to his knees.

But at the moment, he wanted to be the one on his knees. With his head underneath Skyler’s skimpy dress, his face buried between her legs as he licked her up until she screamed.

“Yes,” he rasped. “You’re definitely playing with fire.”

“Maybe I like fire, did you ever think of that? Maybe I want to get burned.”

God help him. The defiance in her voice was almost as big of a turn-on as the heat in her eyes. She was looking at him like she wanted to eat him up. Like he was already naked and pumping inside her.

“You don’t even know me,” he muttered.

Her voice never wavered. “I don’t care.”

Gage stared at her again. He couldn’t figure her out. She was young, just as he’d suspected. Sweet, too. But there was no mistaking the passion heating her gaze.

He took a step toward her. “You don’t care that you don’t know my name.”

“No.” One word, low and breathy.

He moved in closer, slowly backing her up into the brick wall. She let him. Her heels clicked softly on the pavement as she walked backward, until her body connected with the hard surface and she had nowhere else to go.

“You don’t care that you’ve only known me for five minutes.”

“No.”

Gage kept a solid five inches between them, but at the rate his dick was thickening, it would find a way to breach the distance sooner rather than later.

He brought his lips close to her ear and enjoyed the way she shivered. “Why not, Skyler? Why don’t you care?”

“Because…” She had to tip her head back to meet his gaze. “Because I like how this feels.”

“How what feels?”

“This. Being bad. I’ve never done anything like this before.”

No, he doubted she had. Yet nothing in her expression told him she didn’t want it. Her face held a combination of heat, lust, and fascination. Her breathing came out labored, breasts practically spilling out of her dress with the rise and fall of her chest, and he certainly didn’t miss the blush on her creamy skin or the insistent throb of her pulse at the base of her throat.

“You’re turned on,” he said softly.

“Yes.” She squeezed her lips together, and from the way her whole body clenched, he suspected she’d squeezed her thighs together, too.

Fucking hell. He wanted to pry her legs open and slip his fingers inside her, discover just how turned on she really was.

As if she’d read his mind, her body relaxed, and his gaze dropped in time to see her stance widen, those red stilettos gleaming in the moonlight slicing into the alley. God. She’d spread her legs, blatantly giving him permission to take what he wanted.

“Why aren’t you scared of me?” he murmured.

“Should I be?”

“Maybe.” Unable to help himself, he touched her face, rubbing her bottom lip with his thumb.

She gasped quietly, then leaned into his touch.

Son of a bitch. This woman was liable to kill him. He’d never met anyone who was so ready to be fucked. Her arousal surrounded him like an enticing haze, quickening his pulse and fogging his mind.

“Don’t act like you don’t want it.” Big blue eyes, gleaming with challenge, peered up at him. “Earlier when I was looking at you…you were looking right back. You liked what you saw.”

Without breaking eye contact, he erased those five inches of distance by thrusting his thigh between her legs. He knew the second she felt his erection pressing into her, because she gave another sharp intake of breath.

“Tell me your name,” she whispered.

Gage rotated his hips and fought a groan as a rush of heat flowed through him. What the hell was happening to him? He couldn’t remember the last time he’d wanted someone this bad.

“Why should I?” His lips traveled to her ear, tongue slipping out to lick the delicate lobe. He chuckled when her hands shot up to cling to his shoulders. She tried pulling him closer, but he didn’t let her. “I don’t think you want to know my name,” he mocked. “I think it would ruin the fantasy.”

Skyler wrinkled her forehead. “What’s the fantasy?”

He rubbed his aching cock over her pelvis, loving the way her eyes widened with pleasure. He grasped one long leg and propped it on his hip, deepening the contact, ignoring the voice in the back of his head. The one shouting for him to stop. Dry-humping a stranger outside his place of business was a stupid idea, but this woman had unleashed his carnal caveman.

“What’s the fantasy?” she repeated, a twinge of anxiety in her voice.

He shoved a hand in her hair, yanking hard on one thick strand before lazily twining it around his fingers. “Getting fucked by a stranger. That’s what you want, isn’t it? For me to fuck you right here, right now, against this wall. Isn’t that what you want, Skyler?”

The anguished noise she made was the sexiest thing he’d ever heard. “Y-yes. That’s what I want.”

A dark laugh slid out. He licked a path from her ear down to her neck, latching his mouth on her hot flesh. Lord, she was burning up. And she’d started grinding her lower body against him, rocking hard, each desperate glide over his cock sending him closer to the edge. Hell, at this rate, he’d come in his pants before he even took his dick out.

But no. No. He may have boarded this bad idea train, but now it was time to derail it.

Except he couldn’t stop, couldn’t think straight, couldn’t concentrate on anything but the warm, willing woman in his arms. He trailed kisses up her throat, paused briefly to nibble on her jaw, then zeroed in on that pouty mouth. Screw it. One kiss. Just to find out if she tasted as sweet as he suspected.

But holy hell, it was even better than he could’ve ever imagined. The moment their mouths met, every shred of common sense flew out the window. Her lips were warm and pliant and eager as hell as she kissed him back like a woman starved. Her body melted against him like hot butter, slender arms wrapping around his neck as her tongue greedily slid into his mouth. Gage slicked his tongue over hers, groaning when a shock wave of lust roared through him.

He tugged on her hair, angling her head so he could drive the kiss deeper. He was a fucking goner. Maybe he could’ve stopped it—if she didn’t taste so good, if her body wasn’t so soft and warm, if her throaty moans weren’t vibrating against his lips. But stopping was impossible now, not when she kept swirling her hungry little tongue over his and riding his thigh with zero abandon.

His mouth stayed locked with hers, even as he lowered his hand to his zipper. Goddamn it, he had to be inside her. Right fucking now—

“Uh, boss?”

The male voice sliced into his ear like an electric current and promptly jump-started his brain.

He tore his lips away from Skyler’s. Breathing hard, trying to recover from that mind-blowing kiss.

“Shit,” he mumbled, then sucked in another breath and touched his ear. “What is it, Jerry?”

Skyler blinked. “Huh?”

He gestured to his earpiece, then focused on the amused voice of the man who monitored the club’s security booth. “Reed wants to know if we should shut off camera two. You know, for privacy.”

Aw hell.

Gage stifled a curse, his gaze moving to the camera mounted right above the staff entrance. The blinking red light was practically waving at him, a reminder that even though they were alone in the alley, they weren’t actually alone.

“We don’t mind watching, though,” another voice piped up, this one belonging to Reed Miller, Gage’s best friend and one of Sin’s co-owners.

Rather than answer, Gage shifted around and gave his audience the finger.

Then he shut off the feed and turned to Skyler, whose face still held the flush of arousal. “Go inside and find your date. Get him to drive you home.”

“No.”

The fortitude in her eyes was dangerous. And she still hadn’t fixed her dress. It was bunched around her waist, revealing firm thighs and pale skin and a perfect view of her panties. They were red, just like the shoes, and so skimpy his mouth went dry, because he knew it would take no effort at all to rip them off her. With his teeth.

He fought to speak past the lust clogging his throat. “The fantasy isn’t gonna play out, Skyler. I’m not the right man for the job.”

She stepped close and pressed her palm over his groin, cupping his erection with a boldness that surprised him. “I don’t know…I think you might be exactly the right man.”

He thrust into her hand. Just once, just one second of contact, before he eased out of her grip and tipped his head at the camera. “Do you really want to put on a show for my partners? Because that’s what we’re doing.”

“Partners?”

“I’m co-owner of this joint. And even though my behavior these last ten minutes might say otherwise, I don’t make it a habit of screwing around on the job.” He paused meaningfully. “And you don’t strike me as the kind of girl who screws around at all.”

She had the nerve to smirk at him. “I’m not a virgin, if that’s what you’re implying.”

“I’m not implying anything.” He smothered his growing aggravation. Christ, the one time he tried acting like a gentleman, and look where it got him. “I don’t know you, but I’m pretty sure you don’t go around doing strangers in public. I have no clue why you decided to do it tonight—maybe it’s that asshole Mick, maybe you had too much to drink. But the best thing for you to do right now is go home, Skyler.”

“Why do men always assume they know what’s best for a woman?” she demanded. “And FYI? I didn’t drink anything but water tonight, and I was over Mick about five minutes after he picked me up. You want to know why I’m out here with you? Because I was attracted to you and decided to act on it. For once in my life I was acting on impulse, not thinking about consequences or overanalyzing things.” Her gaze sharpened as she studied him. “You, on the other hand, you’re all about impulse, aren’t you? You strike me as a man of action.” There was a beat. “I’m kind of surprised you wimped out at the thought of getting busy in front of a camera.”

He clenched his teeth. “I didn’t wimp out.”

“Really? Are we having sex right now?” Another beat. “Nope, I didn’t think so.”

She finally straightened her dress, much to his overwhelming relief. Those red panties had come dangerously close to stealing his common sense again.

Gage sighed. “You really should go.”

“Oh, I will. The moment’s over, anyway.” Her blue eyes flickered with something that made him uneasy. “What would you do if I came back tomorrow night?”

A groan lodged in his throat. He was trying to do the honorable thing, to save her from the regrets she’d undoubtedly have after sleeping with a total stranger, but the infuriating woman didn’t seem at all appreciative of his caution.

“You shouldn’t do that,” he said in a low voice.

“Why not?”

“Because you’re right. I’m impulsive, and I don’t usually show much restraint. No matter what you think, stopping this, stopping what we were about to do, was damn hard for me.”

She glanced at the bulge in his pants. “I can see that.”

Gage grasped her chin, forcing her gaze away from his aching cock and up at his face. “Don’t tempt me, all right? You’re beautiful, Skyler. Beautiful and sexy and so goddamn tempting. If you come back, I won’t be able to control myself next time.”

“Is that a promise?”

Oh hell. He released her, taking a hasty step backward. “Go,” he muttered. “I mean it.”

He waited for an argument, but miraculously, she didn’t give him one. Instead, she smirked again before sauntering away, hips swaying with each step she took.

His gaze followed her all the way to the door, staying glued to her slender form as she walked back into the club. And then the door swung shut and she was gone.

But Gage had the unnerving feeling that he hadn’t seen the last of her.





Chapter Two

“I did something crazy last night,” Skyler announced.

Lacey snickered. “Yeah, you went out with Mick the Dick. We know.”

“No, not that. I did something even crazier.” She dragged her tired body to the kitchen counter, poured herself a cup of coffee, and took a much-needed sip.

She hadn’t slept a wink after Mick had dropped her off last night. Instead, she’d spent a solid hour on the computer, followed by several more lying in bed and thinking about the gorgeous sex god who’d made her feel honest-to-God lust for the first time in her life.

Gage Holt.

Yep, she’d Googled him. It hadn’t been too difficult to find him after he’d let it slip that he owned the club. Two minutes was all it took to pull up a newspaper feature about the grand opening of Sin, with a picture of Gage and his two partners underneath the headline. Another search, and she’d discovered that he was a former fighter. He’d fought on the professional mixed martial arts circuit since the age of eighteen, winning a ton of matches before retiring a few years back. She hadn’t found any online footage of his fights, so she’d had to satisfy herself by staring at his picture from the newspaper article.

And seeing his face, even in grainy black and white, had only reignited the fire of lust he’d set inside her.

“Sky?”

May’s voice snapped her from her thoughts. She gulped down some more coffee, the caffeine successfully turning her brain from muddled to alert.

“Sorry, what?” She turned to face her roommates.

“I asked what could possibly be crazier than going out with Mick,” May said dryly.

Skyler drifted to one of the stools around the cedar work island and flopped down next to Lacey. She was kind of surprised that all three of them were even in the same room. She’d shared the old Victorian house with Lacey and May for four years, but their hectic schedules didn’t usually align to allow them to spend much time together. Still, no matter how busy they all were, the two women were Skyler’s closest friends.

And they always gave her damn good advice.

“I made out with a total stranger at the club,” she confessed.

Two jaws hit the kitchen floor.

“You’re shitting me.” Lacey started to laugh. “You had an anonymous hookup? That’s so not your style.”

“I know.” She wrapped her fingers around her mug. “It just sort of…happened. Somehow.”

“Uh-huh. You just opened your mouth and somehow a dude’s tongue slipped inside it,” May teased.

She offered a sheepish grin. “Fine, there was more to it than that. I went outside for some air—Mick was acting like a total ass, by the way. I was dying to get away from him.”

“I told you not to go out with him,” Lacey grumbled. “Didn’t you learn anything from my experience in freshman year? The asshole forgot he asked me out on the same night he asked someone else, and when the other chick and I showed up at the restaurant at the same time, he tried to convince us to have a threesome!”

“Seriously, why did you even agree to go on a date with that jerk?” May sighed.

Because he asked.

Skyler bit back the words, not wanting to admit just how dismal her love life had become. School and work kept her so busy she didn’t have time to meet many men, and all the ones who did hit on her? No thank you. The guys in her psychology classes just tried to “analyze” her, and the male customers who flirted with her at the restaurant were usually creeps.

Sad as it was, Mick the Dick was the first viable candidate she’d come across in months. When they’d bumped into each other at the university library and he’d asked her out, the thought of actually leaving the house had eclipsed her memories of Mick’s douche bag college days. She’d wanted so badly to crawl out of the work-and-school rut and have some fun.

No, it was more than that, she realized. She’d wanted a change. She’d wanted new and exciting instead of old and boring. Mick might have been a jerk in college, but he’d also been impulsive and larger than life. A part of her had hoped that maybe those traits would rub off on her.

And boy, had they. She’d all but thrown herself at a complete stranger—it didn’t get more impulsive than that.

“I was hoping Mick might have grown up since then,” she answered. “But you were right. He’s still the same cocky, self-absorbed jerk.”

“And your mystery man?” May prompted, her blue eyes twinkling. “Was he, um, cocky?”

Skyler’s thighs clenched as the memory of last night floated through her head. God. She’d almost melted into a puddle of mindless need when Gage had started grinding his rock-hard erection into her.

“He was…intense,” she admitted. “One minute we were talking in the alley—I don’t even remember what about—and the next we were up against the wall pawing at each other.”

Her roommates exchanged wide grins. “About time,” Lacey declared. “I keep telling you, celibacy isn’t healthy.”

“I’m not celibate. It’s just been a while since I met anyone I wanted to sleep with.”

May frowned. “Why didn’t you sleep with Mystery Man?”

Annoyance rose in her throat. “Because he said no! He stopped it before things got too hot.”

After a long pause, both women were laughing again.

“So he was perfectly cool with playing tonsil hockey in an alley but then refused to take it further?” May said.

“Pretty much.”

May looked even more bewildered. “But you, you, Skyler Thompson, wanted it to go further?”

Her friends were right. Casual hookups weren’t her style—hell, she didn’t even put out on the first date—and yet she couldn’t muster up a single regret about last night.

Gage Holt… Oh boy, everything about him turned her on. His smoldering gray eyes. That ruggedly handsome face. The dark stubble dotting his strong jaw. And his body…holy moly. He’d towered over her, every inch of him deliciously hard and rippled. Broad shoulders, muscular chest, long legs.

But she’d been attracted to more than his looks. It was also his…presence. When he’d trapped her against the wall with his massive body, the most incredible thrill had shot through her. She’d never been dominated like that before, and it embarrassed her to admit just how badly she’d liked it.

“I know, it’s totally unlike me,” she confessed.

Lacey snickered. “Big time.”

“But it was so…exciting.” She sighed. “These past couple months I started noticing how boring my life has become, and I just wanted to try something different, step out of my comfort zone, you know? And then my stranger came along and he was so…God, he was…” She couldn’t even come up with any more adjectives to describe how incredible the man was. “Honestly, in that moment? I would have gotten naked in a heartbeat. I would have done anything that man wanted.” The confession heated her cheeks, and she had to avert her eyes.

“Aw, she’s blushing,” Lacey teased. “It was that hot, huh?”

“Yes.” Skyler released a glum breath. “I think he was trying to do the ‘right thing’”—she used air quotes—“by stopping. He pretty much said I was a ‘good girl’”—air quotes again—“and that I’d end up regretting it if I did anything with him, which is pure and total bullshit.”

She punctuated the last word with more quotes, which made Lacey roll her eyes. “You have no idea how to use air quotes, babe.”

“And was he really that far off the mark?” May chimed in. “Face it, Sky. You are a good girl. And that’s not a bad thing. I mean, you’re nice, funny as hell, crazy-protective of the people you care about. You’re frickin’ awesome. But you’re not the one-night-stand type. He probably saved you a whole bunch of postcoital regrets by not doing you.”

“Just because I haven’t had a one-night stand before doesn’t mean I’m not the type for it. What if I try it and end up loving it? What if I discover I really like the whole wham-bam-thank-you-dude aspect of it?” Skyler suddenly stuck out her chin. “You know what? You guys have convinced me. I’m going back there tonight.”

May groaned. “That wasn’t what I was advising at all. I think it’s a good thing you didn’t sleep with the guy.”

“Actually…” Lacey grinned. “I’m with Sky on this. She never does anything fun. It’s always work and school, school and work. Be a little wild, babe. I fully support your decision to go out and bang your stranger.”

A laugh popped out. “Thank you. And you”—she turned to May—“I give you permission to say I told you so if it all blows up in my face.”

“Deal.” May scraped her chair back. “Okay, gals, it’s been fun, but I’ve gotta get ready for work.”

“Me too.” Lacey hopped off the stool, chugging the rest of her coffee on her way to the sink. “I’m doing a forty-eight-hour shift at the hospital, so you won’t see me for a couple days.”

Skyler glanced over in concern. “Try to squeeze in some sleep, will you? Last time you worked a shift that long, you were a zombie for weeks afterward.”

“Yes, Mom.”

A moment later, Skyler found herself alone in the kitchen. She didn’t mind it, though. Her arrangement with May and Lacey suited her just fine. They each did their own thing—Lacey had her residency at Boston General, May was finishing her art history master’s and did restorations at the museum, and Skyler was halfway through with her master’s in psychology. But despite their chaotic schedules, the friendship they’d formed during freshman year of college had remained strong.

As she went to grab another cup of coffee, her mind drifted back to Gage. The entire encounter had been exhilarating and terrifying, and she wanted to see him again, damn it. To hear his gruff voice tickling her ear, feel those big hands on her body.

Was she crazy to chase after a man she didn’t know? A man who hadn’t even told her his name?

Yeah, probably. But she didn’t care. She’d thought she’d known what arousal felt like. She’d thought she’d known what it was like to be attracted to someone.

And last night revealed that she’d had no frickin’ clue.

Every spark of desire she’d ever experienced in her life—they were nothing compared to the wicked sensations Gage Holt had evoked in her.

If you come back, I won’t be able to control myself next time.

His deep voice rasped in her head, making a shiver dance up her spine. She really hoped he’d meant every word.

Because she was definitely holding him to that.

…

“Where’s AJ?” Gage glanced around Reed’s office, confused by AJ Walsh’s absence. Their third partner never missed a Friday night briefing.

“He took the night off,” Reed answered. “He’s got plans with the girlfriend.”

Gage rolled his eyes. “You can say her name, man. She’s not Voldemort, you know.”

“Christ. Your boy-wizard references freak me out, bro. Cage fighters aren’t allowed to read Harry Potter.”

“I’m a bouncer, not a cage fighter.” He couldn’t mask his frustration, but rerouted the subject before his friend dived into another lecture about how he was the one who’d willingly put himself in his current predicament. “Anyway, her name is Darcy, and one of these days you’re gonna have to suck it up and be nice to her.”

Reed looked hurt. “I am nice to her.” His dark blue eyes flickered with worry. “Why, did she say I wasn’t?”

“No, but I’m sure she’s noticed you never string together more than a sentence or two when she’s around.”

Reed’s body language revealed discomfort, and Gage glimpsed something in his friend’s eyes that he couldn’t quite decipher. Before he could say anything more, Reed promptly shifted gears.

“Let’s get the business shit out of the way—do you have a lead on who’s pushing E in the club?”

“Nope. You?”

Reed rounded the desk and flopped down in his leather chair, raking both hands through his messy black hair. “No clue. Are the guys keeping their eyes open?”

Gage nodded. “Nobody’s seen a thing.”

“And yet we’ve talked to dozens of people who claim they bought the stuff right here in the club.” Reed ground out an expletive. “We need to find this asshole.”

Gage shared his partner’s anger. With the number of people who packed the club on a nightly basis, it was impossible to stop customers from coming in with a few lines of coke or some tablets of E, not unless they thoroughly searched everyone at the door. Which meant they had no choice but to tolerate some drugs floating around Sin. But someone selling the stuff directly from the club was a big fat no-no. The cops would shut them down in a heartbeat, and Gage wasn’t about to lose the hefty profits the club brought in.

“I’ll tell the guys to be extra alert tonight,” he said, sinking into the armchair across from the desk. “Once we figure out who the dealer is, it’ll be easy to put him out of commission.”

“Good.” Reed grabbed a pack of Camels from the desk and lit a cigarette, then proceeded to blow a cloud of smoke in Gage’s direction.

He winced, trying not to inhale. “You just have to flaunt it in my face, don’t you? I’m trying to quit, asshole.”

“You’ve been trying to quit for two years.”

“This time it’ll stick.”

“Ha. Sure.” His friend suddenly broke out in a grin. “Hey, so when can I expect the deets about your lady friend? You know, the one you almost boned in the alley yesterday?”

He stifled a sigh. It had been too much to hope that Reed wouldn’t bring it up. “It was nothing,” he mumbled.

Reed smirked. “Didn’t look like nothing.”

“Well, it was.”

Liar.

All right, so maybe it had been the furthest thing from nothing. Maybe he’d stayed awake half the night thinking about Skyler. Maybe he’d jerked off three times before the arousal had finally dissipated, and even then, it still lingered under the surface, waiting for any opportunity to rear up again.

But he didn’t regret sending her away. If she didn’t have the word “relationship” written on her forehead in huge block letters, he might’ve given in and taken her to bed, but he got the feeling she was the kind of girl who wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than a commitment. Well, Gage didn’t do commitments. He wasn’t cut out for relationships—past experience had proved that—and he wasn’t about to risk breaking another heart.

Women like Skyler deserved better than a breathless, hurried screw outside a nightclub, and besides, she was only twenty-four, which made her way too young for him. Not that he was an old man at the ripe age of thirty, but Lord, he felt that way sometimes. Felt like he’d lived ten lifetimes already.

“Fine, I’ll drop it,” Reed said. “Just know that I wholeheartedly approve of last night or any future nights you might spend with your mystery girl. It was kinda hard to tell from a security feed, but she looked hot.”

Gage rolled his eyes again. Of course Reed approved. Hot was the only requirement the guy had for hooking up, with temporary coming in at a close second. Reed was a player to the core, and had been from the moment Gage met him, back when they were two punk-ass teenagers growing up in South Boston. They’d both dreamed of becoming professional MMA fighters, though Gage’s style leaned toward boxing while Reed was an out-and-out brawler, not above fighting dirty. And they’d both retired at the same time, taking the cash they’d earned over the years to open the club.

“Are you fighting tomorrow?”

The abrupt demand summoned an inward groan. “Yeah.” He kept his tone vague.

“Only one more after that, right?” Reed asked carefully.

“Two more.”

“And then you and Mitch are square?”

“Yep.”

“You sure about that?”

He met Reed’s uneasy expression head-on. “Damn sure.”

After a beat of silence, his friend heaved out a breath. “I sincerely hope Denny appreciates what you do for him, bro.”

“He does.”

“Yeah? ’Cause I don’t see a lot of gratitude coming your way.” Reed took a quick drag, this time polite enough to exhale in the opposite direction. “Look, you and I go way back. Which means Denny and I go way back too. And in all these years, not once have I heard a thank you leave that little bastard’s mouth.”

Gage stiffened. “Watch it, man. He’s my brother.”

“Doesn’t make him any less of a bastard.” Reed leaned forward and snuffed out his cigarette in the ashtray. “The way I see it, a real man cleans up his own messes.”

He didn’t answer. Couldn’t answer. Because Reed was right. Denny always took the easy way out, and for Denny, the easy way meant handing his problems over to his big brother to fix.

Gage wasn’t stupid, though. He knew he was fully to blame for Denny’s dependence on him. His fault for cutting his kid brother too much slack. But Denny wasn’t as strong as him. He wouldn’t have survived their childhood if Gage hadn’t been around to protect him.

It hadn’t come as much of a surprise when Denny grew up to be an addict. Gage’s little brother was too weak to deal with real-life problems. He preferred to hide behind the high and let Gage bail him out whenever he messed up.

But Reed was right about another thing—Gage couldn’t keep rescuing his brother. He might’ve signed up for three months’ worth of bruises, cuts, and broken ribs to keep Denny out of danger, but after he paid off his brother’s debt, he was done. Cutting him loose for good this time.

Un-fucking-likely. You’ll never stop protecting him.

He ignored the internal accusation. Mostly because it was too depressing to dwell on.

“Anyway, I’d wish you luck for tomorrow, but we both know you don’t need it.” Reed looked ready to say more, but the loud buzzing of his phone interrupted the conversation. He swiped the handset off the desk and answered with a quick, “Yeah?” Then he paused, and the shit-eating grin that stretched across his face raised Gage’s hackles—especially since it was directed at him.

“Take her up to Gage’s office. He’s on his way.” Reed hung up, the smile widening. “Guess what, bro? You’ve got a visitor.”

His pulse sped up at the same time an exasperated breath flew out of his mouth.

Goddamn her. He’d told her not to come back.

“So…it was nothing, huh?” Reed’s expression conveyed sheer and total enjoyment.

Gage bit back a curse, then left the office without another word.





Chapter Three

Skyler paced the small office, already second-guessing her decision to show up tonight…until the door swung open and her nerves evaporated like a puff of steam.

The man who appeared in the doorway was even sexier than she remembered. Decked out in all black, he lingered for a beat before stepping inside and shutting the door behind him.

The closer he got, the faster her heart raced. She devoured the sight of him, the form-fitting pants hugging his long, muscular legs, the snug T-shirt molded to his sculpted chest. Her mouth ran dry when she spotted the tattoos curling out from his sleeves. No color, just black flames and curved designs inked into his tanned flesh, making him look dangerous and badass and really, really hot.

“Why did you come back?” A deep rasp, his eyes glimmering with equal doses of irritation and desire.

“You know why.”

Skyler had never felt more brazen as she met him halfway. She didn’t touch him or lean in to kiss him, but you’d think she had with the way his gaze flooded with heat.

“I meant what I said last night, Skyler—you don’t need or want a man like me in your life.”

So resigned, which only heightened her curiosity, her need to get to know this man. “You act like I’m here to propose marriage.” She smiled faintly. “But we both know I came for something else. Gage.”

His eyes narrowed. “You asked around about me.”

“Actually, I Googled you.”

“Yeah, and what’d you find out?” He didn’t look angry, just intrigued.

“That you really do own this club. That you used to be a professional fighter. And as far as I can tell, you’ve never been arrested for a crime.”

“I see.” He slanted his head. “And that’s good enough for you, huh? You’re still prepared to let a total stranger fuck you? To spread your legs and let me shove my cock inside you?”

Her breath caught. “Are you always so blunt?”

“Yes.”

“I…like it.”

He sighed. “Figures.”

Skyler had to grin. “Oh, I get it, you’re trying to turn me off. You think graphic dirty talk will send me running in the other direction. Well, guess what, big guy, I’m not going anywhere.”

“You’re a stubborn little thing, aren’t you?”

“Yep.”

A muscle on his face twitched in evident frustration, much to her amusement. And God, now that her gaze was focused on his strong jaw, she wanted nothing more than to reach up and touch it.

So she did.

He jerked when her fingers swept over the dark stubble on his chin, but he didn’t push her hand away. That was a start, at least. He stood there, eyes shuttered, shoulders rigid, as she stroked his jaw, but she knew her touch affected him because his breathing had gone labored.

The bristly hair on his face scratched her fingertips. A shiver skipped through her as she imagined it scratching other parts of her body. Her neck, breasts, inner thighs. Holy hell, she couldn’t wait.

“You were right,” she murmured.

He blinked. “About what?”

“I’m not impulsive or free-spirited and I don’t go around sleeping with men I’ve just met. I’m a good girl, okay? I’m doing my master’s in psychology. I wait tables at a steakhouse on Charles Street to make rent and put myself through school. I pay my bills on time. I don’t jaywalk. My grand total of past lovers is a whopping two. I’d rather stay home and watch Top Chef than go out.” She offered a sheepish shrug. “So yes, good girl is my middle name. But…” Skyler rubbed her index finger over his bottom lip, and was rewarded by his sharp intake of breath. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t be bad.”

“Is that really what you want?” he said roughly. “To be bad with me?”

God, yes. There was no doubt in her mind that Gage was exactly what she needed right now. He was her chance to break free of this annoying rut and let loose for a change.

“Yes, that’s what I want,” she answered, her tone firm. “So stop worrying about taking advantage of me, or that I’ll wake up tomorrow with regrets. I want this.”

She saw the resistance in his eyes chipping away, but wasn’t surprised when he voiced one final protest. “I’m too old for you.”

She mock gasped. “Oh my God. You’re fifty years old. I knew it.”

“Thirty,” he said tersely.

“Holy shit. You’re six years older than me?” Now she pretended to gag. “Gross. I feel violated.”

“Very funny.”

“Any more objections, or will you just kiss me already?”

Gage stared at her for what seemed like an eternity.

And then his mouth came crashing down on hers.

She gasped in delight, grabbing the front of his shirt and holding on for dear life. He was as dominating as she remembered, slipping his tongue between her parted lips with such skill and confidence she couldn’t help but be impressed. As his tongue teased hers in a hungry circle, he shoved one hand in her hair, and suddenly she was incredibly glad she’d worn it loose. She liked the way his long fingers threaded through it, the rough pull on her scalp as he grasped the back of her head to control the kiss. His other hand traveled down her body, curling over her hip and yanking her closer to him.

It was impossible not to moan at the feel of his massive erection. She wiggled her pelvis over it, drawing a strangled groan from his lips. He tore his mouth away, breathing hard as he met her eyes. “You are goddamn addictive.” His fingers dug into her hip. “You shouldn’t be here.”

“Well, I am, and you’re not going to send me away, are you, Gage?” The taunt slipped out before she could stop it. Maybe it was the wild gleam in his eyes fueling her boldness. The desperation, the hunger. No man had ever looked at her like that before, and it made her realize just how much power she had. She had put that look on his face. She had caused that bulge in his pants.

“I would if I was smart, but I’m not,” he muttered. “I’m stupid and horny and I want you too damn much.” His mouth found her neck, hot and insistent as he sucked hard enough to make her gasp.

Her hands were shaking like branches in a windstorm, so she flattened them against his chest and was floored by the rock-hard mass beneath her palms. His muscles were carved out of stone, his chest so broad she felt tiny in comparison.

He kissed his way back to her mouth, capturing it in a blistering kiss that made her see stars. She registered the sensation of motion; her legs were moving somehow—no, Gage was moving her, backing her into the desk. She squeaked when her butt connected with something solid, and suddenly she wasn’t on her feet anymore. He’d lifted her up on the desk, sinking to his knees before she could blink.

“You want to be bad?” His tone was low, dangerous, thrilling. “Well, you came to the right place.”

She’d worn a dress again, filmy green material that hung to her knees, but now it was caught between his fingers. He slowly dragged the fabric up her legs, nostrils flaring when her bikini panties were revealed.

“Pink panties,” he mumbled.

She could barely speak past the arousal tightening her throat. “Is there something wrong with that?”

He laughed harshly. “Makes perfect sense. Good-girl panties. Because you’re a good girl, aren’t you, Skyler?”

She swallowed. “Not tonight.”

“No. Not tonight.”

Callused fingers glided up her legs, leaving shivers in their wake. He swept his thumbs over her thighs, then parted her legs in one fluid, deliberate motion.

Skyler peered down at him, mesmerized. She couldn’t believe she had a big, commanding man kneeling in front of her, his features taut with hunger and passion and…something else. Wonder, she realized. His gray eyes shone with wonder, like he’d discovered an unimaginable treasure he’d never expected to find.

He went motionless, palms flat on her thighs, his chest rising as he drew a breath.

“Do something,” she whispered.

Slowly, his gaze met hers. “What do you want me to do?”

“Anything. Everything.”

His hand moved over her thigh in an infinitesimal caress.

She trembled. “Please.”

He stroked his way between her legs. Circled his thumb over her clit before cupping her sex over her panties.

Her core clenched, aching so hard it hurt. She knew he’d felt how damp her panties were, because he chuckled softly. “So wet,” he remarked. “Is it all for me?”

“You know it is.”

Still chuckling, he pushed aside the crotch of her underwear and dipped one finger in the moisture pooling at her entrance. “Hell. You’re wetter than I thought.” She watched with wide eyes as he brought that wicked finger to his lips and sucked it, licking off her juices with a groan of approval. “And you taste as sweet as I knew you would.” He popped his finger out of his mouth. “Do you want me to make you come, Skyler?”

“God. Why are you even asking?” She couldn’t believe the infuriating man. She was sprawled on his desk, panting, shaking, legs wide open. Couldn’t he see she was starving for him?

“I need to hear you say it.” A command, low and seductive.

She swallowed again. “I want you to make me come.”

His lips curved as he hooked his fingers under her waistband and peeled her panties off. She should have felt vulnerable with his gaze fixed on her most intimate place. But she didn’t. The anticipation was too distracting, the ache too strong. She held her breath, waiting, needing, but he didn’t move. Didn’t touch her. She was seconds away from begging when he slid closer and pressed his mouth directly on her clit.

“Oh.”

The jolt of pleasure nearly knocked her off the desk, and she grabbed on to the edge to steady herself. Gage’s mouth was hot against her sensitive flesh, the pressure of his lips almost unbearable, but then his tongue darted out and licked her so gently her eyes blinked open in surprise. She hadn’t expected the tenderness. The slow, sweet glide of his tongue.

And then he did it again. And again. One leisurely, torturous lick after another, until she was squirming uncontrollably, every inch of skin tight and hot and prickling with frustration.

“I need more,” she choked out.

Gage lifted his head and licked his glossy lips. “You want me to suck on your clit?”

The explicit suggestion made her moan. “Yes.”

“You want my fingers inside you?”

Her head jerked in a nod. She knew she was broadcasting her need for release loud and clear, but Gage seemed unfazed. He actually had the nerve to grin. An evil, filthy grin that sent her heart rate into overdrive. “Pity. You’re just gonna have to wait.”

The gentle assault continued. The tiniest licks. The sweetest kisses. The barely there thrust of his tongue as its tip teased her opening. Sweat broke out on her forehead when he parted her folds with his fingers and nuzzled her with his cheek, releasing a groan of pure contentment that vibrated through her body. The man was killing her. Killing her.

She brought her hands to his head, trying to pull him closer, but his dark hair was too short to grip, and he ducked out of her hold with a smug laugh. She arched her hips next, tried to bring her pussy to his face instead, but that only earned her another burst of laughter, another teasing kiss.

“Please.” The chord of desperation in her voice startled her. “Please, Gage. Please.”

“That’s it, bad girl. I just needed to hear you beg.” Growling softly, he wrapped his lips around her clit and pushed two fingers inside her.

The orgasm swept through her like a flash flood. She cried out and fell back on her elbows, rocking her hips with each pulsing wave of pleasure. When his mouth and fingers abruptly disappeared, she moaned in disappointment, but he didn’t leave her for long. He stood up and stepped into the cradle of her thighs, grinding his pelvis into her throbbing sex as he bent down to kiss her.

She tasted herself on his lips, which was new and foreign but didn’t stop her from hungrily kissing him back. The mind-blowing release had only heightened her excitement. She wanted more. So much more. Her hands moved between them, fumbling with his belt, somehow managing to unbuckle it and unzip his pants despite her shaky fingers. They both groaned when she reached into his pants and grasped his cock.

“Fuuuuck.” Gage’s forehead dropped on her shoulder as he thrust into her hand. “That’s it, baby. Keep doing that.”

She pumped him tentatively, slightly unnerved by his size, his thickness. He was bigger than she was used to, and she couldn’t wait for him to fill her. She stroked his shaft, rubbing the blunt head with her thumb on each upstroke, squeezing and fondling while she studied his expression to find out what he liked. He made a tortured noise when she quickened the pace, his hips driving forward.

“Hell, that feels fantastic.” He lifted his head, a glint of humor in his eyes. “Do I even want to know how you got so damn good at giving hand jobs?”

“Practice. I’m a good girl, remember? I’m also a perfectionist. If I don’t know how to do something, I won’t quit until I’ve mastered it.” She batted her eyelashes. “My last boyfriend didn’t mind me practicing on him.”

Gage choked out a laugh. “I’m sure he didn’t.”

“Wait until you experience my blow jobs…”

“Oh Jesus. I’m already close to coming and that’s from your hand. If you bring that sexy mouth anywhere near my dick, I won’t last more than a second.”

“Hmmm. Right, and you’re thirty, which means you’ll never be able to get it up again. Old men only come once a night, right?”

More husky laughter escaped his mouth. It sounded almost rusty, like it was a sound he didn’t make often, and she was pleased that she’d managed to get so many laughs out of him.

“Trust me, I can get it up again. But in case you forgot, we’re in my office and I have a club to run, which means I’m only getting off once tonight.” A cocky grin tugged his lips up. “And it’s gonna be in your pussy.”

A fresh jolt of arousal shot through her. Gosh, she loved his dirty talk. And the fact that they were in his office only made the whole encounter a million times dirtier. Hotter.

As anticipation once again gathered in her core, she gave his cock another leisurely stroke and said, “What are you waiting for, then?”

…

Gage couldn’t look away from Skyler’s big blue eyes. The woman had hypnotized him. With her beauty, her humor, the way she jacked his cock like a pro.

Practice, she’d said. Jesus. He would’ve cut off his own arm to be her sexual guinea pig.

“You sure that’s what you want?” he asked, giving her one last chance to back out. “Me inside you?”

There was nothing sexier than the coy little smile that lifted her lips. “Condom,” she murmured. “Inner pocket of my purse.”

Nodding, he went to retrieve her khaki-colored canvas bag, unzipped the inside pocket, and found what he was looking for. As he rolled the condom on, he swept his gaze over Skyler, unable to fathom how she could possibly be real.

She was like a feast laid out just for him. Dark hair spilling over one shoulder, legs wide open, pussy swollen and glistening from the orgasm he’d just given her. He’d be lucky if he lasted five measly strokes before he shot off like a rocket.

“Something’s not right,” he mused.

Confusion filled her eyes. “What do you mean?”

He strode toward her and tugged on the bodice of her dress to reveal her breasts—and oh sweet Lord, she wasn’t wearing a bra. His mouth turned to dust as he admired her tits. Her gorgeous fucking tits with puckered cherry-red nipples practically screaming to be sucked.

“There. Everything’s just fine now.” He bent his head and captured one nipple between his lips, sucking hard enough to draw a tortured moan from her throat. He flicked his tongue over the rigid bud before moving to lick the other one, chuckling when her impatient voice echoed in the air.

“For Pete’s sake, get inside me already.”

Deciding to have mercy on her, he positioned his cock between her legs and guided it to her opening. He slid inside, just an inch, and black spots promptly swam in his vision when her inner muscles tightened around him. Oh hell. She was tight. Deliciously tight.

“I haven’t done this in a while,” she confessed.

Gage smoothed strands of hair out of her face and planted a reassuring kiss on her lips. “I’ll be gentle.”

The promise got him a glare he didn’t expect. “Where’s the fun in that?”

Despite her grumbling, he kept going slow, working another inch into her, then another, and another. Heat surrounded his cock, and the grip of her pussy was so unbearably tight he shuddered in pleasure. He was seconds away from coming and he hadn’t even started to move yet.

“I mean it, Gage, don’t you dare hold back.”

A curse flew out of his mouth. “I’m not holding back for you, baby. I’m doing it for me.”

“It’s okay if it’s fast,” she said helpfully. “I don’t usually come from intercourse anyway. Not without extra stimulation.”

Damned if he didn’t take that as a challenge.

“Extra stimulation?” he echoed. “You mean like this?” He shoved his hand between her legs and pressed his thumb directly over her clit.

She gasped so loudly he grinned.

“Yes. Like that.”

“Now be a good girl and get close again.” He leaned in and kissed her neck, teasing her feverish flesh with his tongue. “I’m not moving until you’re ready.”

“Seriously?”

“One thing you should know about me—I don’t make idle threats.” He nipped the side of her jaw, continuing to strum her clit while his cock stayed lodged inside her.

Every muscle in his body strained, his brain shouting for him to move. To slide out of her tight channel and plunge back in and ease the agonizing ache in his groin. But he didn’t. He refused to let go until he saw that look of ecstasy flood her eyes again. Until he watched her come apart in his arms and heard her scream his name.

“You’re just torturing yourself,” she wheezed out. “It will take me longer to come the second time.”

“Maybe, but it’ll be worth the wait.” He drew lazy circles over her clit, watching her face as he teased the swollen bud. When her eyelids fluttered closed, he grasped her chin with his free hand. “Look at me, Skyler. Watch me as I get you off.”

Her eyes popped open, cheeks flushed and lips parted as she focused on him.

He applied more pressure on her clit, heard her answering moan, and decided he deserved a goddamn medal for his restraint. Any other man might have given in. Thrown control into the wind and screwed her brains out, but he didn’t move an inch. Beads of sweat rose on his forehead, his dick aching so bad it was starting to get seriously painful.

He suddenly saw stars when Skyler abruptly rocked into him.

“No,” he commanded, grasping her hip to keep her still. “You don’t move until I tell you to. You’re going to sit there like the good girl you are while I play with you.”

Her breathing grew more unstable by the moment. “You’re so evil.”

“You love it, baby.”

“I do,” she moaned. “I really do.”

Chuckling, he continued to work her clit with fingers.

Waited. Watched.

Gage had no clue how much time passed. Several minutes at least. Long enough that his balls drew up in agony, his cock screaming for release, for friction, for anything.

“I…oh…I’m almost there.” Desperation creased her face. “Oh, Gage. Now.”

Thank God.

His hips shot back like a cannonball, then thrust forward with so much force it knocked the computer keyboard right off the desk. He slammed into her hard, groaning when he felt her pussy spasm around his cock. Every sense came alive, pleasure prickling over his skin, surging through his blood. Three more thrusts and he came as violently as she was, panting for air as the orgasm sizzled through his body in hot, pulsing waves.

It took a while to crash back to earth. His hands shook as he cupped her face. “You good, baby?”

She nodded wordlessly, eyes hazy with satisfaction.

Christ, he wanted to stay inside her forever, and it was with extreme reluctance that he withdrew from her tight sheath. Skyler straightened her dress while he disposed of the condom, and as he zipped up his pants, he noticed the displeased frown marring her lips.

“I didn’t get to see you naked.” She pouted. “I really wanted to see you naked.”

He laughed hoarsely. “I’m sorry?”

She slid off the desk and marched right into his personal space, leaning up to kiss him before speaking in a firm voice. “We’re going to see each other again, by the way.”

Wariness rose in his throat. “Skyler…”

“I intended for tonight to be a onetime thing, but I’ve changed my mind. This was way too good not to do again.”

He couldn’t argue with her there. Hands down, the best sex of his life.

But it hadn’t changed his mind, either. His life was too screwed up, too damn dark. Skyler, on the other hand…she radiated light and goodness. He refused to drag her down with him.

Besides, even if he didn’t have a shit-ton of headaches on his plate right now, he still wouldn’t be able to give her what she needed. What every woman needed.

He’d figured out a long time ago that he sucked at relationships. Too many of his exes had accused him of being a cold bastard, and who could forget his last serious relationship four years ago, when Lisa had burst into tears and wailed about how she wanted him to need her. She’d insisted that he held a part of himself back, refused to lean on her or accept her support, and he supposed there was some truth to that.

Gage had never been able to rely on a single person in his life, except for his mom, who’d died when he was too damn young. After her death, he’d been truly alone, forced to take care not only of himself, but of his kid brother. At fourteen he’d worked two after-school jobs to pay the rent because his old man spent all their money on alcohol. He’d relied on himself, the only person he trusted to get shit done.

So yeah, he didn’t need anyone, not when he was perfectly capable of going at it alone, but none of the women he’d dated seemed to understand or accept that.

Gage opened his mouth, but Skyler silenced him with another fleeting kiss. “Don’t you dare tell me it won’t happen again. Because it will.”

Indecision flashed through him.

“Look me in the eye and tell me you don’t want to have sex with me again,” she challenged.

A groan slipped out. “God. Of course I do. But…”

“But nothing. You can’t deprive either one of us of something this good. It would be a grave injustice.”

His lips twitched in a smile, and damn it, but he could feel his resolve crumbling. “If we see each other again—”

“When we see each other again.”

“Before we do,” he corrected, “we need to lay down a few ground rules.”

“What kind of rules?”

“Actually, there’s only one. This thing between us…it’ll just be sex. That’s all I can give you.”

“Fine, great, I’ll take six more orgasms.” She blinked. “Wait, that number is too low. I’ll take…twenty?”

His lips twitched. “I’m being serious. I’m not looking for a relationship—I want to be clear about that right off the bat.”

“Gotcha. Sex only.” She went back to the desk, found a notepad and pen, and quickly scribbled something down. “That’s my number. I’m leaving it right here on your desk.” She found her purse and promptly pulled out her phone. “What’s yours?”

Gage hesitated.

“If you don’t give it to me yourself, I’ll just get it some other way. I’m very resourceful.”

A sigh escaped. “Yeah, I bet you are,” he said, before reciting his digits.

She punched the number in with a broad smile. “There. Was that so hard?” She tucked her cell back in her purse. “Okay, I’m going now. You’re at work, and I don’t want to keep you.”

Before Skyler could move for the door, he grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him, his mouth capturing hers in a kiss that left her wide-eyed and breathless.

“Do you need me to call you a cab?” he said roughly.

She looked touched. “No, that’s okay. I drove.” There was a beat. “PS—if I don’t hear from you in a reasonable amount of time, I’m calling you myself. Got it?”

Gage fought hard not to grin. Shit, he really liked her. The no-nonsense attitude, the confidence.

God help him, but he really did want to see her again.

“Got it,” he said dutifully.





Chapter Four

“Sex,” Lacey said the next morning, her skeptical tone revealing her exact thoughts on the matter.

Skyler nodded.

“Just sex.”

“Yep. Just sex.” She popped the last bite of fruit salad in her mouth as she awaited a response.

From the moment she’d gotten home last night, Skyler had been dying to tell her friends about her visit to Gage, but since they were never around, she’d had no choice but to go to them. May was too busy at the museum to sneak away for a chat, but luckily Lacey had been able to squeeze in a quick breakfast in the hospital cafeteria.

“I give you a week,” Lacey finally said. “Actually, forget that. I give you a weekend.”

Skyler furrowed her brow. “Before what?”

“Before you either (a) break it off with him because sex isn’t enough, or (b) convince him to officially date you because sex isn’t enough. Common denominator? Sex won’t be enough.” With a smug look, Lacey sipped her coffee and watched Skyler over the rim of her cup.

“That’s not necessarily true,” she protested. “I’m really liking this arrangement so far.”

“You only hooked up once!” Lacey said with a laugh. “Twice if you count that first night. Of course you like it now. It’s new and exciting and who has time for conversations with a guy when you’re too busy sexing him up? But once the shine wears off and the sex stops being oh-my-God-new, you’ll want to get to know him. Suddenly you’re asking him questions like where did you grow up and what’s your deepest, darkest fear? And before long it’ll be take me to the farmers’ market, Gage, or let’s go on a picnic! And then bam! You’ve fallen for him and now you’re in a relationship.” Lacey’s tone softened. “Or even worse, you fall for him and he breaks your heart.”

“I don’t think that will happen. I mean, he’s not my usual type at all. I think that’s why it’s so exciting, you know?” Skyler absently traced the edge of her coffee cup with her index finger. “But he’s not someone I picture myself with in the long run.”

“Right. I forgot. Because you’re more interested in men of the boring and stable variety,” Lacey teased.

She stuck out her tongue, which was pretty much the only suitable response considering her friend was absolutely right. Skyler had only had two long-term relationships in her life, both with nice, dependable guys who, depressing as it was to admit, really had been kind of boring.

And yet given the choice, she’d still pick dependable and boring over wild and exciting any day. Wild and exciting didn’t pay the bills, or keep a roof over your head, or raise children with you.

She couldn’t deny that Gage made her heart pound like no man ever had, but she didn’t know much about him except that he was rough around the edges and owned a nightclub. It was way too premature to think about any sort of future with the guy.

“We’ll see what happens,” she said with a shrug. “Right now, I’m not thinking past the out-of-this-world sex.” She grinned. “Aren’t you even a teeny bit happy that I’m having fun for a change?”

“Oh, for sure,” Lacey answered. “I was starting to worry about you. Seriously. It’s not normal for someone as young and hot as you to not have a life.”

Skyler snickered. She gestured around the cafeteria, then at Lacey’s bright pink scrubs. “Look who’s talking. You practically live at this hospital.”

“Babe, you’ve seen Grey’s Anatomy—there’s a lot more than medicine and life-saving going on around here.” With a wink, the brunette nodded toward the buffet line. “For example. See that fine-assed man over there?”

Skyler followed her friend’s gaze, raising a brow when she noticed the incredibly handsome blond. “Yeah?” She turned back with a knowing look.

“Oh yeah. Dr. Josh Lewis. We have regularly scheduled hookup sessions in the on-call lounge.” Lacey wiggled her eyebrows. “Trust me. I most certainly have a life. A very, very active one.”

Skyler’s phone buzzed, putting a halt to the conversation. When she glanced at the screen, a frown immediately puckered her lips.

Her friend snorted. “Trouble in just-sex-paradise already?”

“Naah, it’s not Gage.” She paused. “Clay.”

Lacey’s expression went serious. “What does he want?”

Skyler skimmed the message again, then stifled a sigh. “Same old. Just to see how I’m doing and ask if I want to pop in for dinner this week.”

“Let me guess, you’ll reply with your usual I’m-too-busy bullshit.”

She shrugged, fighting her rising discomfort. Which only got worse when she noticed the disapproval glittering in her friend’s brown eyes.

“What?” she said defensively.

After a beat, Lacey shook her head. “Nothing. I just feel sorry for him sometimes. He’s trying so hard.”

The uncomfortable feeling transformed into a knot of guilt. It was true—her stepfather really did make an effort to reach out to her. No matter how many times she blew him off, he still kept calling, texting, and emailing every few weeks. Like clockwork.

But his attempts to connect with her only seemed to make Skyler withdraw even more. It didn’t matter how many years had passed, or how hard she tried to move past it—she still viewed Clay Rivers as the man who’d broken up her parents’ marriage, and being around him was just a bleak reminder of her mom’s betrayal and her dad’s heartache.

“I’m a real hypocrite, huh?” Skyler let out a heavy breath. “Here I am, studying to become a therapist, and yet I totally refuse to deal with my own issues. In my head I know Clay’s not fully to blame for everything that happened, but every time I see him, I can’t help but feel it.”

“I know, babe. Your whole life was turned upside down because of him. But…” Lacey sighed too. “Eventually you’ll have to make a decision. Whether to deal with this Clay stuff head-on, or just cut him off completely.”

“Eventually,” she echoed, keeping her tone light. She took a last sip of coffee before pushing her chair back. “All right. I’ve gotta hit the library. I still need to finish up my conclusion for that abuse victims paper.”

“Any big plans for tonight?” Lacey grinned as they picked up their trays and headed for the row of trash cans across the cafeteria.

“Probably not. I haven’t heard from Gage.”

“Well, I hope you do. You need to make the most of the sexy times while they’re still deliciously new.” Lacey put on a strict face. “But remember—don’t fall in love with him.”

Skyler rolled her eyes. “I’ll try not to.”

…

The warehouse was filled to the rafters. Gage swallowed a tired sigh as he maneuvered through the throng of people, wishing he were anywhere but here. The crowd was more boisterous than usual, releasing cheers, jeers, and deafening screams as the two fighters in the cage beat the crap out of each other. And the air was sweltering hot, thanks to the hundreds of bodies crammed in the large space. He was already sweating, and he hadn’t even gotten in the cage yet.

He ignored the wave of hellos and back slaps he encountered on his way to the roped-off area on one side of the room, where three rows of “elite” seats offered an unobstructed view of the cage. Several shady characters occupied the VIP seats, although on paper, everything about the arena was legal. Permits, liquor licenses, vendors—all aboveboard. And yet there was nothing aboveboard about the man who ran the fights.

Mitch O’Donnell rose at Gage’s approach, looking pleased as punch to see him. He was a big man, six five to Gage’s six two, but lanky rather than built. He had pale skin and red hair tied back in a ponytail, and an unlit cigar dangling from the corner of his mouth. “Glad you made it, Holt.”

He said it as if Gage actually had a choice in the matter.

“Any instructions for tonight?” he asked after he’d nodded in greeting.

Mitch raised one reddish eyebrow, waiting for clarification.

“Do you want me to win or lose?” Gage said in a curt voice.

The other man looked annoyed. “Why the hell do you gotta ask me that every time? Have I ever ordered you to throw a fight?”

Gage shrugged.

“You know what I want, brother. Beat the shit outta your opponent and make us some goddamn money.”

“Gotcha.” He had to admit, he thoroughly enjoyed seeing the aggravation clouding the other man’s eyes. Gage always made a point to inquire whether he should throw the fight, just because he knew that the implication that Mitch fixed matches pissed the guy off. He also knew it was the truth—more often than not, Mitch did arrange the outcome of the fights.

But Gage had never lost or thrown a match. Not once during his professional days, and not once in the seven fights he’d already given Mitch.

“How’s my man Denny doing these days?” Mitch asked.

His shoulders stiffened. “He’s good. Clean as a whistle.”

“Good. Good for him.” The man clucked his tongue. “It was such a bloody shame, seeing him fall off the wagon again.”

“I bet it was,” Gage murmured, not believing a word of it.

Mitch had relished having Denny under his thumb. Dealing drugs for him, doing his dirty work in Southie. The bastard had probably come in his pants after Denny’s royal screw up, because now he had Denny’s big brother under his thumb, too.

“Tell him to stop by and see me one of these days,” Mitch said. “I know he’s out of the drug business, but we’re still buds, no?”

“Sure, I’ll tell him.” Yeah, fucking right.

A bone-jarring crunch had them both cocking their heads at the cage in time to see one of the fighters stumble backward, fist pressed to his nose as blood poured down his chin.

“Damn right!” Mitch shouted, clapping his hands in delight. “That’s it, Colin! Show that mofo who’s boss!”

“I’ll find you after the match,” Gage muttered, edging away from O’Donnell.

He stalked toward the locker rooms, desperate for some peace and quiet. It didn’t take him long to get ready. He was already wearing his boxing shorts, so all he had to do was strip off his hoodie and wifebeater, kick off his sneakers, and he was almost ready to go.

He sank onto the splintered wooden bench and taped up his hands, grateful that nobody was around to chat him up. Christ. He was so sick of this shit. He’d quit fighting for a reason: because he was tired. Tired of walking around black-and-blue all the time, tired of the ache in his bones. His nose had been broken so many times it was a miracle it’d stayed on his face, and he’d dealt with so many fractured ribs he was surprised he’d never punctured a lung.

Three more.

He took a breath, clinging to the reminder. Three more matches, and he and Mitch would be square, Mitch and Denny would be square. And he had a good thing going over at Sin. The club had turned a profit in its first year of business, which meant he had a ton of cash in his bank account. He didn’t need to fight anymore. He didn’t want to fight anymore.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat in the locker room. Other men wandered in and out, changing into fighter gear, shooting the shit with each other, but Gage just sat there, shoulders tense, gaze downcast, until a male voice finally called his name from the doorway.

“Holt, you’re up.” One of Mitch’s people entered the locker room. LeSean something or other.

Gage got to his feet. “Who am I facing?”

The beefy black man actually cracked a smile, something Gage had never seen him do. “Robbie O’Reilly.”

He blew out a curse. “Seriously? That crazy fucker from Dorchester? Why does he keep coming back?”

At least it made sense now, why Mitch had looked so annoyed at the thought of Gage losing. Mitch was no doubt eager for him to kick O’Reilly’s ass like he’d done last month. During their previous meeting, O’Reilly had fought so dirty Gage had no choice but to go apeshit on him, and the results had been a damn bloodbath.

“I guess he likes getting his ass whupped,” LeSean answered. “Watch yourself out there, white boy. I saw O’Reilly fight at that gym in Roxbury last week and it looks like he’s added biting to his li’l bag of tricks.”

“Wonderful.”

LeSean clapped him on the back. “Don’t sweat it. You’ll tap him out.”

Yeah, but how bad of a beating would he take before that happened?





Chapter Five

Skyler’s cell phone rang just past midnight. She’d been watching a Top Chef marathon in bed, so she was fully alert as she reached for the phone. Her heart jumped when she glimpsed Gage’s number on the screen, and she wasted no time picking up with a quick, “Hello?”

“Hey.” His deep voice slid into her ear and rippled through her body. “Can I see you tonight?”

Wow. Okay. She hadn’t expected to hear from him tonight, and she frowned when she glanced at the clock on the bedside table. In her very limited experience, anything after 11 p.m. equaled a booty call. That was just Sex Etiquette 101.

On the other hand, hadn’t they agreed this arrangement was 100 percent sex-centered?

On the other other hand, just because she’d agreed to a casual fling didn’t mean midnight booty calls were okay. Did she really want to give him the impression that he could call her at any hour of the day and she’d be like, Sure! Come over and fuck me!

Except…the word no got stuck in her mouth. Because darn it, she wanted him to come over and fuck her.

Gage must have sensed her internal dilemma because he laughed softly. “I know it’s late, but I just finished…work.” The stilted pause between the words raised her guard, but he hurried on before she could question it. “I would’ve called earlier if I could. But if you’re too tired or don’t feel like it, then that’s fine. We can just see each other another ti—”

“Would you just get here already?” she interrupted.

Oh boy. Her voice sounded breathy to her ears. She had it bad.

“What’s the address?” He paused as she recited it, then said, “I’m on my way.”

Skyler flew out of bed the second he hung up, self-consciously examining her bedroom. It was messier than usual, which prompted her to run around like a madwoman in an attempt to tidy up. Thank God her room was on the third floor and had its own private bath—if she’d shared a floor with Lacey and May, they might have witnessed her cleaning frenzy and teased her mercilessly about it.

Luckily, her roommates weren’t even home tonight. Lacey was still at the hospital, and May had left a note on the fridge about spending the night at her boyfriend’s.

She and Gage would be completely alone.

Nervous excitement scampered down her body and flew into her stomach in the form of butterflies. She was dying to see him again, but at the same time, she wasn’t sure why she was so taken with the guy. He was a man who’d once made his living with his fists, who now owned a club called Sin. Sin, of all things.

The only sin she’d ever committed was…well, having sex in a nightclub with a man she barely knew. Unless smoking pot qualified as sinful—she’d done a bunch of that during freshman year when the stress of college had gotten too overwhelming.

Damn, girl, you’re so wild.

Skyler laughed out loud. Yep, she sure was wild—it was Saturday night and she was at home watching a cooking competition on TV.

No, it’s Saturday night and you’re about to have a sexy late-night visitor.

Hmmm. Fair point. Maybe she was broadening her wild horizons, after all.

It felt like an eternity before the doorbell finally rang, though in reality, only ten minutes had passed since Gage’s call.

The first thing she did after she’d opened the door was gasp. “Oh my God! What happened?”

Genuine confusion filled Gage’s expression. “What are you talking about?”

She touched his face without thinking, and he winced when her fingers skimmed the bruise marring his left cheekbone. “Oh, right. That. Don’t worry about it. Just a bruise.”

“Did you get in a fight?” Her concern levels remained on high as she grabbed his hand and ushered him into the living room.

He spared a glance at his surroundings, unfazed by the sparse amount of furniture. “I fought in a match tonight.” He shrugged. “My opponent was kind of a dick.”

She furrowed her eyebrows. “I thought you retired.”

“Not really.” He didn’t offer any more details.

Jeez. She’d probably have better luck extracting answers from a CIA operative.

“You’re wearing pink again.”

The gruff observation made her grin. “Sharp as a tack, aren’t you, big guy?”

Amusement twinkled in his gray eyes, but they darkened seductively as he examined her pink tank top and matching boxer shorts. “I’ve never hung out with a girl in pink PJs before.”

“No? What do the women you know usually wear to bed?”

He smirked. “Nothing at all.”

“They’re lucky, then. I can’t sleep naked. My butt and boobs get too cold.”

Gage barked out a laugh, then stepped forward and pulled her in for a kiss.

Shock waves hit her the moment their lips met. God, she loved kissing him. Loved that he didn’t try to drown her in saliva or gnash her with his teeth. Everything he did was deliberate and skillful, from the firm press of his lips to the sensual swirl of his tongue. She moaned against his mouth, sucking on his bottom lip as heat spread through her and settled in her core.

“Fuck.” He jerked them apart. “Bedroom?”

“Upstairs.” Smiling impishly, she moved toward the doorway. “Coming?”

The predatory gleam in his eyes sparked a flurry of shivers. He followed her to the hall, his muscular frame towering over her. The man radiated pure power and potent masculinity, and the bruise on his face only added to the dangerous vibes he was emitting.

They didn’t speak as they climbed the stairs. Skyler felt his breath tickling the nape of her neck, but he didn’t touch her, not even when they entered her bedroom. Though they were alone in the house, she still closed the door out of habit, and then sank down on the edge of the mattress.

Gage didn’t join her. He lingered at the foot of the bed, his smoky eyes containing a hint of hesitation, as if he was waiting for her to direct him.

“Take off your clothes,” she told him.

The corners of his mouth crinkled in a smile. “You really want to see me naked, huh?”

“I’m dying to.” She flashed him her sweetest look. “Pretty please?”

She half expected him to make her beg—he seemed to enjoy doing that—but before she could blink, he pulled his hoodie right over his head. That left him in a wifebeater and jeans, though it didn’t take long for those to disappear too, right along with his sneakers, socks, and boxers.

Her jaw dropped as sleek golden skin and sculpted muscles assaulted her vision. His body was incredible, long limbs and hard sinew and not a single ounce of fat anywhere on him. Her gaze lowered to his cock, which jutted out enticingly, so long and thick it made her heart pound, the loud drumming drowning out the sound of the TV.

“You shouldn’t be allowed to wear clothes,” she sputtered. “I’m serious. There needs to be a law against it.”

He chuckled. “You’re liable to give me an ego.”

“You’re liable to make me come just from looking at you.”

“That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me, baby.” His hand drifted down his chest, palm splaying over his rippled abs, perilously close to his cock. “Now what? You want me to stand here naked? Put on a show for you?”

A strangled sound escaped her lips.

“Oh yeah. You like that idea.” Smirking, he curled his large fist around his erection and gave it a slow pump.

Heat suffused Skyler’s body. God, was this actually happening? Was she seriously watching the sexiest man in the world touch himself in front of her?

Yep, she was, because no way did she have the kind of dirty imagination required to make something like this up.

Her gaze followed the erotic movement of his hand, noting the way he squeezed the head of his cock on each upward stroke, the rough grip he kept around his shaft.

“Can I…” Her throat bobbed in a desperate swallow, mouth so dry it was like talking through a wad of sand. “Can I suck your cock?”

A groan ripped out of his throat.

“Is that a yes?”

“C’mere,” he growled.

She slid off the bed and scrambled to her knees in front of him. Her mouth wasn’t dry anymore. It had filled with moisture, lips tingling with anticipation as she rested both hands on his muscular thighs. The wiry hairs there tickled her palms, and his erection seemed to thicken right before her eyes, a pearly drop forming at the tip.

Shivering, she leaned in and swiped her tongue over his engorged head.

His whole body shuddered from the tiny, barely there lick. “I don’t deserve this,” he mumbled.

Her brow furrowed as she looked up at him. “What do you mean?”

“An hour ago I was beating the crap out of some guy, and now the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met is on her knees about to suck me off. It doesn’t seem right.”

“Stop being so melodramatic,” she chided.

“Skyler—”

She didn’t let him finish. She simply took his cock in her mouth and sucked all the way down to the root.

Gage jerked as if he’d been shot. “Oh fuck. Oh hell. That feels so good.”

Laughing, she released him with a pop, then explored his shaft with her tongue, licking and tasting and memorizing every inch of him. Her lazy exploration drew tortured noises from him, so she began alternating between soft licks followed by tight suction, until his hands tangled in her hair and his hips moved in a restless rhythm.

“You were right,” he choked out. “This is even better than your hand job.”

She smiled, then swiped her tongue around his head in teasing circles. The floor beneath her knees was cold, but she barely noticed because flames had engulfed her body and turned her into a hot mess. Her nipples tightened painfully, sex tingling as pressure coiled inside her. She loved the taste of him, the way his cock throbbed against her tongue and filled her mouth.

Her gag reflex was nonexistent, which made it possible to scarf down the inedible food her roommates prepared—and made it easy to swallow Gage’s cock effortlessly until his tip hit the back of her throat. She sucked hard and fast, relishing the husky sounds that left his mouth and heated the air.

“Jesus, did you take a fucking workshop on deep-throating?” Agony and pleasure mingled in his voice. When she looked up, his features were stretched taut, eyes glittering with pleasure.

All she could do was smile again, a rush of female satisfaction coursing through her veins. He was getting close. She heard it in his labored breathing, felt it in the erratic thrust of his hips. She couldn’t wait to taste him, but he didn’t give her the chance. With a low groan, he pulled her up by the hair, then grinned when her disappointed grumble echoed between them.

“Look at that sad face,” he teased. “You like sucking my dick that much, huh?”

“Mmm-hmm, and you’re a jerk for taking it away from me.”

The accusation didn’t faze him. He was too busy leading her to the bed, hurriedly tugging at her pajamas before curling his body over hers until she lay on the mattress, flat on her back with his heavy chest crushing her bare breasts.

“Maybe, but I’m giving you something in return,” he rasped, then inched lower and closed his mouth over her nipple.

Skyler’s hips shot off the bed. When he gently bit the sensitive bud, the sensation was so intense she cried out and clasped her hands on his head, begging for more.

“These are the prettiest tits I’ve ever seen.” His hot breath fanned over her tingling flesh. “I never want to stop playing with them.”

God, she didn’t want him to stop. Everything he did to her was pure heaven. The deep pulls on her nipples, the roughness of his hands as he stroked and squeezed her breasts. He moved one hand between her thighs, callused fingers seeking her clit, finding it, and rubbing so expertly her vision became hazy.

“You gonna come for me if I keep doing this?”

She rocked wildly into his hand, but it wasn’t enough. “No,” she wheezed. “I need more than your hand.”

“Do you want my mouth?” He peered down at her with heavy-lidded eyes, painting the most appealing sight. The bruise on his cheek, the dark stubble slashing his jaw, the nose that had clearly been broken more than once—every yummy detail combined to create a sexy, masculine package that thrilled her to the core.

“No,” she blurted out, the pressure too painful to handle. “I want your cock. I want you inside me while you touch my clit. The way you did yesterday.”

His mouth found hers in a hot kiss, that wicked tongue doing the most amazing things to hers. Skyler couldn’t breathe. She’d forgotten how. Gage had reduced her entire world to one thing—need. She needed him, damn it.

“Don’t. Move.” He uttered the husky command as he went to get a condom, returning to the bed a moment later, fully sheathed.

Anticipation rippled through her. She parted her legs in a blatant invitation, but he didn’t take it. Instead, he stretched out on his back beside her, hooded eyes locking with hers. “Ride me,” he ordered.

He didn’t have to ask her twice. Skyler’s pulse raced as she climbed on top of his long, sleek body. A fighter’s body with the scars to prove it, though she was careful not to jostle his torso when she glimpsed another bruise forming beneath his rib cage.

His tattoos fascinated her. Neither of the guys she’d slept with had been tattooed, and if she’d known how frickin’ hot an inked man was, she would’ve started stalking tattoo parlors years ago. But this time it wasn’t the intricate flames on his biceps that captured her attention, but the set of initials above his left pectoral.

S.J.H.

She wanted to ask him what the letters stood for, but now wasn’t the time. Not when she was dripping wet and his cock was standing upright, waiting for her to ride it.

“Don’t be shy, baby,” he taunted. “Sit on my dick.”

She swallowed hard, too turned on to move, which was damn ironic because the only way to ease the ache was to move.

“C’mon, bad girl, what are you waiting for? I was wrestling with a sweaty dude before I got here, and sinking into your hot pussy is my reward. Give it to me.”

She slammed down on his cock, then collapsed on his chest. “You say the filthiest things,” she moaned.

His warm lips grazed her cheek. “That’s ’cause I’m a filthy boy. A very filthy boy who needs to be punished. So now ride me until I can’t see straight.”

Sitting up took a serious amount of effort; she was trembling too hard. She laid her hands flat on his tight abdomen, needing an anchor, something solid to hold on to. She rose up and sank down again, her inner muscles clamping around his shaft as pleasure bolted through her.

“Why does it feel so good?” she whispered. “I’ve never felt anything like this before.”

“Me neither,” he said hoarsely.

Something hot and sweet and unfamiliar sizzled between them. A sense of connection, maybe. She tried to cling to the feeling, but Gage’s fingers had found her clit again and the sensation of dizzying pleasure distracted her.

“Come on, baby,” he muttered. “Make us feel even better.”

The knot of urgency snapped like a bungee cord, propelling Skyler into a frenzied rhythm that left her breathless. Her hair flew in her face as she bounced on his cock, over and over again, until the pressure became too much, the arousal too painful, sending her falling against him again. She moaned with each flick of his fingers on her clit, and eventually stopped moving altogether and let him take over.

He thrust upward, hard and merciless, his rugged features straining as his chest rose and fell rapidly. Fast, deep thrusts, filling her again and again until she came in a blinding rush of bliss. Gage wasn’t far behind. As he groaned in release, he held her so tightly she could barely draw a breath.

Once the pleasure abated, they lay there in silence, his large hands stroking her back, his breath tickling her forehead. Then, with a pained look, he gently eased her off him and left the bed to dispose of the condom.

He was back a moment later, sliding in behind her. One muscular arm wrapped around her to pull her flush against his body, and she practically melted into him, wiggling her bare butt until she found a comfortable position. She became aware of the voices murmuring on the TV, but she was too sated and drowsy to pay much attention. And still very naked, she realized.

“I should find my PJs,” she mumbled.

Gage tightened his hold on her. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep you warm.”

He wasn’t lying. His body was like a furnace, making her feel warm and safe and utterly contented. The first night they’d met, she never would have dreamed she’d be snuggling in bed with this man, and yet…here they were.

“He’s using too much garlic.”

Skyler pried her eyes open. She hadn’t realized she’d closed them. “Hmmm?”

“The dude on TV. He put too much garlic in that dish.”

A soft laugh slipped out. “Yeah? You think you know better than a professional chef, is that it?”

But then to her sheer amazement, after the judges tasted the chef’s dish, all three of them staunchly declared that waaaaay too much garlic had been used.

“I told you.” Gage’s smug voice heated the back of her neck.

“Fine, clearly you do know better.” She paused, then gave in to the spark of curiosity. “Do you like to cook?”

“I don’t mind it, I guess.”

“What else do you like to do? You know, in your free time?”

“I read.”

She twisted her head and grinned at him. “Your monosyllabic responses are adorable. Okay. What kind of stuff do you read?”

“Fantasy. Sci-fi. Some true crime.” He sounded so completely unenthused about the conversation that she wasn’t surprised when he turned the tables on her. “What do you like to do?”

“Uh-uh. We’re not discussing me right now. In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m trying to get to know you better.”

His heavy sigh echoed behind her. “I don’t like talking. Especially about myself.”

The wave of laughter that hit her would have knocked her off her feet if she hadn’t been lying down. “Are you kidding me? When we’re having sex, you talk so much you could script an entire porno movie.” The giggles kept coming, until she had to curl into herself to ease the stitch in her side.

“Sex talk has nothing to do with me. It’s about all the dirty things I want to do to you.” His defensive grumble only made her laugh harder.

“Uh-huh, whatever you say.” Her eyelids started to droop again, probably because the heat of his body made her feel like she’d stepped into a sauna. “Gosh, I’m really sleepy.”

His palm grazed her hip before settling on her belly. “Go to sleep then.”

She snuggled closer and tucked her feet between his, cocooned in his warmth. She was just drifting off when she felt him trying to slip away.

“This was a bad idea.” Uneasiness clung to his voice. “I should go.”

She answered in a fierce whisper. “Don’t you dare. I’m too warm and cozy. You can’t leave.”

After a beat of silence, he smoothed his hand over her hair. “All right. I won’t.”

Skyler gave a little sigh of satisfaction and closed her eyes again.

When she woke up the next morning, Gage was gone.





Chapter Six

“You know what sucks about saying I told you so? You don’t even get to enjoy it! I mean, you’re right about something, which means you should be stoked, but at the same time, it means having to see your BFF bummed out, and that’s no fun at all.” May blew a strand of blond hair out of her eyes while maintaining an awkward-looking downward dog.

On her bright pink yoga mat, Skyler held the same pose, but craned her head to look at her friend. “You don’t get to say I told you so yet. Not until I know for sure if it’s over.”

“He’s been avoiding you for a week,” Lacey grumbled from the neighboring mat. “I think that means it’s over.”

On the television screen, the perky blond yoga instructor finally broke the position and hopped to her feet. All three women sighed in relief and followed suit.

Lacey had found the Yoga for Beginners DVD in a grocery-store bargain bin, and after months of putting it off, the three roommates had finally found the time to watch it. Being on her feet at the restaurant every night and walking across campus on a daily basis, Skyler got enough of a workout, but she’d promised her friends she’d try yoga, and now they were holding her to it.

Didn’t mean she had to enjoy it, though. Because she wasn’t, not in the slightest. Yoga was hard. And it was too slow and motionless, which made it difficult to expend all her pent-up energy. She’d much rather run her frustrations off on a treadmill.

God, it wasn’t really over with Gage, was it?

Sure, he hadn’t responded to the three texts and two voicemails she’d left him, but maybe he was just…busy.

Oh, you silly, pathetic girl. Face the facts.

She bit her lip and moved her gaze back to the TV, hoping the next pose would distract her from the rush of disappointment that flooded her belly. It didn’t. Nope, her mind stayed focused on the intense, sexy man who’d rocked her world and then disappeared like Houdini from her life.

“I don’t know…I just don’t get it,” she blurted out. “I know he was into me.”

“You sure about that?” Lacey asked in a careful tone.

Skyler thought about the urgency of Gage’s kisses, his rough touch, the way his eyes burned when he’d moved inside her. Then she nodded. “I know it.” Her teeth dug into her lip again. “I think I scared him off by asking him about his life. I was trying to get to know him and—”

“Aha!” Lacey cut in triumphantly. “I told you you’d end up doing that! See? No-strings sex is impossible.”

“I guess it is,” she said glumly.

“Guys, mountain pose!” May chided. “You’re falling behind.”

Skyler and Lacey quickly refocused their attention on the yoga at hand. For the next five minutes, they dutifully followed instructions, but it was obvious none of them had a clue what they were doing.

“Now we’re going to transition into the pigeon pose,” the female instructor said serenely.

“I don’t know what that is!” Lacey yelled at the TV. “Why don’t you ever explain it to us?”

With that, yoga was over.

As a wave of laughter overtook her, Skyler collapsed on her back and waved her hand in surrender. “Screw this. I hate it. Let’s just buy a treadmill.”

“Deal,” Lacey chimed in.

“Yeah, I don’t have the discipline for yoga,” May grumbled. “Treadmill it is.”

Lacey shut off the TV, then flopped on the couch and glanced at the others. “You guys wanna order takeout and watch a movie or something?”

May was quick to nod, but Skyler hesitated.

“Uh-uh,” Lacey said instantly, wagging a finger. “You can’t go see him.”

“But I need closure,” she protested.

May sighed. “So you want to get dumped in person? Is that it?”

“If that’s what it takes, then yes.” Skyler undid her ponytail and ran her fingers through her hair. “I just want to know why he changed his mind, okay?”

She didn’t miss the concerned look her roommates exchanged. “What?” she muttered.

“Is this guy really worth it?” May asked in a gentle voice.

Skyler swallowed. She pictured Gage’s deep gray eyes, trying to pinpoint exactly what it was about him that fascinated her so damn much. What drew her to him like a moth to a flame. The night they’d met he’d told her she was playing with fire, acted like he was some scary, dangerous monster who would burn her alive.

But she wasn’t afraid of him, and she didn’t sense a lick of danger coming from him. If anything, his intensity only fueled the attraction.

It might have started out as a desperate need for change, for fun, but spending time with Gage had turned into something more than simply stepping out of her tedious rut. She liked the bold, confident woman she was when he was around, and she wasn’t ready to stop exploring that part of herself yet.

“Sky?” Lacey prompted. “So is he worth it?”

She exhaled in a slow rush. “I guess I’ll find out tonight.”

…

“If I catch one more motherfucker snorting coke in the bathroom, I’m going to lose my shit,” Gage snapped as he stormed into Reed’s office.

Two sets of eyebrows shot up, accompanied by a low curse of amazement from AJ. “Jeez. What the hell is up your ass?”

Gage scowled at his friends and made a beeline for the mini-fridge in the corner of the office. He yanked open the door and grabbed a beer, angrily twisting off the cap.

“And now you’re drinking on the job?” Reed piped up, equally astonished. “Seriously, man. What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” he mumbled.

Everything, a voice corrected.

Fine, not everything. Just one thing. One person.

Skyler.

He hadn’t seen her in a week. One very long, very frustrating week, an