I’d heard the word more than once when describing my business tactics. I was neither amused nor put off by the distinction. I enjoyed the brutality of taking what I wanted. That was my right, or so my father had taught me years before. Right now? My hunger was all about a woman, but not just any beautiful female, the one who’d embezzled almost one hundred thousand dollars from Steele Enterprises.
No one stole from my family without damning consequences.
The striking redhead was no exception.
She would face my wrath.
I’d been called to the corporate office immediately after landing, the high-rise building overlooking the Pacific Ocean. My office had often been complimented for its stunning views.
But I couldn’t care less about the cloudless day or the sun shimmering over the electric blue waters. I only had eyes for the thief. I chuckled at the thought, the poor girl having no idea the enemy she’d just secured.
“Brooklyn Daniels,” I said more casually than any of my other employees would have expected. They knew my caustic anger quite well and my refusal to allow disobedience of any kind. I suspected the majority of them had vanished from the outer offices, fearful of what would occur. I allowed her to see my actions as I removed my shoulder holster, carefully placing it in one of my desk drawers.
I never went anywhere without a weapon.
Brooklyn didn’t bother acknowledging me in any manner, at least vocally, although the near hatred in her eyes drew me to her even more.
As if I was to blame for her crime.
The sight of the weapon didn’t seem to faze her.
While I’d caught a whiff of her perfume, the kind of exotic fragrance that filled my nostrils and excited my cock from time to time, I’d never bothered to give her more than a second look.
Well, if I had to admit the truth, perhaps a third and fourth. She was beautiful in an unassuming manner. Not the coiffed females who adorned the office like glamor queens. She’d taken her job seriously, working long hours slaving away while feasting on cheap grocery store salads.
Now I knew why.
Not a single person in either my or my father’s employ had never dared, let alone managed to extort or steal anything from us without one of us learning immediately. My soldiers had eyes everywhere. There was always an unspoken threat, the innate knowledge that we were a dangerous family.
After all, we owned half of San Diego.
Yet, here she was, remaining unmoving as she glared at me with her holier than thou gaze and a pursed mouth that had tightened my balls. I leaned over my desk, studying her employee file. She’d worked for us for almost three years, but from what I’d learned, she’d been stealing for almost eighteen months. Hiding in plain sight. I chuckled at the understanding of how cunning she truly was.
Now I needed to figure out which one of our enemies she was working for.
And she wouldn’t leave this office without telling me.
Or without punishment.
There were no glaring details about why she’d dared to undertake such an egregious act. She was simply a single woman living in a shitty part of town, making a lousy wage in her effort to make something of herself. But I knew there was more to her. I could feel it in my bones.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” I bothered to ask, as if I gave a shit. There was no acceptable excuse.
She took a long and very deep breath before bothering to answer. “Will anything matter to you, Mr. Steele?”
Even her inflection was both challenging and sexy as fuck. I imagined her pert little lips wrapped around my cock, licking and sucking. My shaft ached to the point my throat was tight, the hunger clawing at the surface like some freaking beast. I could have any woman I desired, although none had ever sparked an interest other than for an occasional tryst. Hell, that hadn’t occurred in almost two years.
My father said I was working too hard, chastising me for never arriving at one of his infamous soirees with a date.
“Anything regarding money and my company matters, Ms. Daniels.” I moved around the desk, sitting on the edge. “I suggest you tell me who you’re working for or I will have no choice but to make certain you receive the stiffest of penalties, spending years behind cold. Hard. Steel.” When her eyes finally reflected fear, I continued. “I assure you that my father has secured very loyal friends in high places, including the DA’s office.”
I allowed the words to sink in.
“What do you want?” she finally asked, the hint of a nervous tic appearing in the corner of her mouth.
“As I said. Who are you working for?” I drew out the words, making certain she understood the severity of her actions.
She swallowed twice, darting her gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows. “I’m not working for anyone.”
I thought about the evidence I’d been shown, the expertise of the manner used to kite money from several accounts. I was impressed as hell, as long as that was the truth, although I doubted she had either the courage or the knowledge to handle an undertaking of this magnitude on her own. Then again, I’d been known to be wrong.
Once or twice.
“Then what the hell did you think you were doing and why?” I leveled the question with a husky tone.
Brooklyn chewed on her bottom lip, obviously weighing her answer. “I have my reasons.”
Which she didn’t seem eager to tell me.
I allowed a full minute then two to pass by, deliberating the choices I had. By all rights, I should call the police, but there was something far too enticing about the girl. There were certainly other choices I could make.
“Do you fully understand who I am?” I asked, curious as to her answer.
“I know your reputation quite well, Mr. Steele. You’re brutal and merciless, more like a king than an executive.”
A king. Perhaps I did have a sick desire to be king of the world.
“You are exactly correct. Then you’re aware that you require punishment for your actions. Pain is a vital part of learning. Don’t you agree, Ms. Daniels?”
She paled, her lovely porcelain skin now a blossoming shade of rose. She was hiding something, but I gathered the reason was very personal. “I’m… sorry. Okay? I needed the money. I will pay it back. Every bloodstained cent. I swear to God. Please, don’t have me arrested. People are… counting on me.”
People. Her answer was honest and heartfelt, but I wasn’t a kind man in any regard. I also refused to take any excuses. I closed my eyes briefly, able to envision her luscious naked body. I resisted snickering at the thought. I was truly an evil bastard. However, I’d grown weary of the very bloodshed she’d accused me of, eliminating those who betrayed the organization. Even though I had a team of soldiers, men without a conscience, I preferred to handle business myself.
The thought of harming a gorgeous inch on her exquisite body held no appeal.
Unless caused by a thick leather strap.
“I’m going to make a deal with you, Brooklyn, and this is a one-time offer. If you refuse, I’ll have no choice but to have you arrested.”
Her look of defiance returned, her head held high. Maybe I even admired this woman for her tenacity. “What’s the deal? If the terms are acceptable, I might agree to them.”
“Don’t fool yourself, Ms. Daniels. You have no other choice. I suggest you keep that in mind.”
The way her eyes flashed drew me further into the most vile and filthy thoughts that a man could have about a woman.
“All right. What are you suggesting?” she asked, her tone finally somewhat demure.
I formulated my answer, partially based on the ridiculous phone call I’d received on my way into the office. My father had been insistent that I bring a date on tonight’s… adventure. He wanted to make certain the target of our latest acquisition didn’t make a scene. As if Jasper Carter had any other choice but to sell out to us. Still, why the fuck not have a delicious treat of my own? “I’m going to punish you right now. Right here.”
“I’m going to give you a very hard spanking. Severe. And. Long.”
Her mouth twisted in surprise as well as frustration. “Are you insane? You can’t do that.”
“I’m one of the owners of this company and yes, I can do anything I damn well please. However, that’s only the first part of your… penalty phase.”
She huffed, taking a step closer and the vile look of hatred in her eyes only fueled the fire burning deep within. “And what else could there be, Mr. Steele?”
“You’re going to be attending a function with me tonight and you will behave like a good little girl.”
Blinking several times, she was more confused than anything else. “A function? What the hell are you talking about?”
Her defiance remained. Fascinating but I would need to tame her before anything else.
“Yes, an important business function and your attendance could prove to be useful. Of course, I’ll make certain my secretary provides the details and I’ll send appropriate clothing. This is a catered affair, black tie to be exact. A car will pick you up at seven.” I smiled, envisioning my father’s face when I presented my prize.
“You’re sick,” she whispered, her lower lip quivering.
I locked eyes with her, curling my upper lip. “You will soon learn that you crossed the wrong man.”
As she mulled over my proposal, I kept my eyes locked on her. What in the hell had caused her to make the kind of decision she had? The woman was obviously intelligent and had likely read all the wretched newspaper articles on what so many called the West Coast mafia. Her bravado rivaled several enemies I’d come up against over the years.
Another reason I wanted to taste her.
“I need your decision, Brooklyn. I do have other business to attend to today.” I kept my tone even, without any emotion, even though my hunger was becoming insatiable.
“I’ll agree to your terms as long as we draw up a contract,” she said quickly, interrupting.
“You’re in no position to make demands.”
“And I believe you’re in need of a woman to hide behind, someone who will happily do your bidding.” She actually smiled as if she’d gained the upper hand.
Only making me want her that much more.
I laughed, shaking my head. “Nicely done, Brooklyn. You have a tiger hiding behind that lovely face. I appreciate that and will happily draw up a contract, but there will be additional conditions.”
“I would expect no less from you,” she said between clenched teeth.
I held out my hand and the moment she accepted the handshake, I could swear the electricity soaring between us was more like a live wire. Every blood cell exploded, desire bursting at the seams. “Then I suggest you undress.”
“What?” Reality had hit home.
“I only handle spankings when the mischievous woman is fully naked. And I assure you that you will be receiving punishment on a regular basis.”
She laughed bitterly. “That means you do this often, your mechanism of keeping obedience within the office?”
I was almost shocked by her audacity, but her attitude further fueled the beast dwelling within me.
An unforgiving man.
Someone who refused to take a back seat.
A man searching for the right partner.
I resisted snarling at the last thought. I enjoyed business and planned on increasing our firm’s superiority up and down the West Coast as well as Las Vegas. I had no time for a relationship of any kind, no matter how enjoyable tonight might end up being.
“It hasn’t been required before, but that’s something to think about. Now, undress or I’ll simply pick up the phone.”
Brooklyn curled her upper lip, turning away from me. “Such a bastard.”
She had no idea.
I watched as she kicked off her shoes first, her entire body shaking as she fumbled to unbutton her lovely emerald-green silk blouse. The vivid color highlighted the shimmer of gold in her copper-colored hair. I crossed my arms, waiting even as my cock pressed hard against my trousers. I’d never been this aroused or had the desire to spank a woman as much as I did this… vixen. The word suited her.
When she finally managed to remove her blouse, she took several steps away, carefully placing the material over the back of the leather chair positioned toward the expanse of windows. Everything about my office was supposed to be intimidating, but she handled her actions with grace.
As she shimmied the thin skirt past her hips, I heard the single gasp she’d attempted to hide. There was no doubt by her trembling body that she was completely embarrassed. That only fueled the fire.
She repeated the move, carefully folding and placing her skirt on top of her blouse before taking several deep breaths. I couldn’t take my eyes off the long length of her beautiful neck or the swell between her voluptuous breasts. Even the way her thin waist expanding into rounded hips and long legs managed to steal my breath. I forced myself to look away, still hearing the slight rustle of clothing.
“Fine. Let’s get this over with,” she hissed.
I took a deep breath of my own as I stood, taking my time to release my belt. When I finally looked at her, seeing the apprehension in her eyes, the way her mouth pursed was endearing in a crazy manner. I was a sadistic man, incapable of caring about anything but my own needs. I’d been taught well by a father who’d married four times, his last wife barely a year older than I was.
Our family values had been warped since inception.
The way she placed one hand over her breasts and the other covering what I could easily tell was her bare mound forced me to stop moving altogether. I wanted to exclaim that she was incredible, stunning in both body and spirit, but she was still an enemy of sorts and I needed to remember that. She’d noticed the strap in my hand, her eyes registering more than just apprehension.
“Lean over my desk,” I instructed, pointing to the surface.
She gazed down the length of me before walking in a stilted fashion in my direction. The way she draped her body across the very expensive teak was almost provocative, telling me that she still believed she was in charge. The vile thoughts I had about taking her in filthy and debasing ways kept me on edge, an adrenaline rush shooting through me like wildfire.
I folded the belt, running my hands across the coarse grain of leather. Every nerve was standing on end as I pressed my hand against the small of her back. “You fucked up, Brooklyn, and messed with the wrong people.”
“So I’ve gathered.”
Her words were biting and as she slapped both hands on the edge of the desk, clamping with a white-knuckled hold, I rolled the tips of my fingers across her bottom. The touch of her was still exhilarating, my mouth watering as I gathered a scent of the same perfume she’d worn for months. Damn it, I wanted nothing more than to sink my teeth into her then lap up every drop of her sweet cream.
I smacked her rounded ass with my hand, moving from one side to the other. She didn’t bother reacting in any manner. As I took a step back, I noticed she dared to dart a glance in my direction.
“One hundred thousand dollars is a hell of a lot of money,” I said gruffly. She remained as quiet as before. Whoever she was protecting must be worth the wrath she had to know was a possibility. “Thirty strikes should be a reminder that stealing from someone is a horrific crime.”
I could swear she muttered words of hatred under her breath even as I snapped my wrist, issuing two solid strikes of the belt directly across her sit spot.
Other than her beautiful bottom jiggling from the force, she gave no reaction. I smacked her four additional times, each one harder than the one before.
And still, there was no indication she was even uncomfortable.
What in the hell was this woman about?
“An exemplary record for the first half of three years, or were you stealing from me the entire time?” I asked, knowing there would be no answer.
While her breathing became ragged, she didn’t whimper or move in any way. The only indication that she was in pain to any degree were her white knuckles from gripping the edge of the desk.
“No defense for yourself?” I asked one last time.
“We had a deal. It doesn’t mean I will allow you into my life,” she spat.
I continued the spanking, moving slowly and deliberately, enjoying the warm blush creeping along her bottom as well as the sensual scent of her feminine wiles.
She was excited, aroused from her punishment.
“You’re wet, Brooklyn, a sign of your dark desires,” I managed, my voice little more than a husky whisper.
“No. Never.” The moment she pressed her legs together I knew I was right.
Unable to resist, I brushed my fingers down the length of her spine. This time, there was a reaction, a slight moan slipping past her lips. I followed the trail, sliding them down the crack of her ass then forcing her legs to open wide. “You don’t move unless I command you. You don’t talk at all unless I ask you a question. And you will not fight me in any manner. Do I make myself clear?”
The simple silence finally created a hint of anger rushing to the surface. I had no idea who this girl thought she was, but she would learn to obey me.
“Do. I. Make. Myself. Clear?” I asked again, dragging the strap between her legs.
“And you will learn respect.”
“Then yes. Sir.” Her tone was filled with disdain.
“If you’re a very obedient girl, I might allow you pleasure.” Seeing her pretty pink pussy was enough to yank out the dominating side of me. I slipped my fingers past her swollen folds, flexing them open and thrusting deep inside in hard and pulsing actions.
Goosebumps popped along her arms and legs, and she pressed her face against the desk, but I heard her scattered breathing.
“I’m a harsh man, Brooklyn. I refuse to tolerate bullshit or lies, but I can be caring. To a point. I also take infractions very seriously and I will not hesitate to punish you for a single one. Something for you to keep in mind.” I adored the way her pussy juice slickened my fingers. All I wanted to do was shove my cock deep inside.
That would come soon enough and by my choice.
While her muscles remained rigid, she was extremely controlled.
“Five more,” I said without hesitation.
Brooklyn wiggled as I delivered the harshest batch, finally pushing up from my desk, a single whimper leaving her lovely mouth. It was almost a reward.
Seconds later, I took a giant step backwards, admiring my work. “You did well.”
Cursing under her breath, she took a few seconds before moving to a sitting position, once again covering her breasts. I could tell she restrained herself from wincing, yet her nasty glare was back in full force.
“Now, just remember what I said. You will follow the rules from now on. Anything otherwise and you will face the consequences.” The scent of her covering my fingers was far too powerful, the draw an intoxicating aphrodisiac. I slid them into my mouth, sucking in an exaggerated fashion.
“You’re a disgusting pig disguised as a suave man. What a fool all the other women are.” Her head held high once again, she jumped off my desk, almost swaggering toward her clothes.
Through the years, I’d been required to ‘deal’ with infractions that were even more heinous, mostly men who refused to abide by the Steele laws. In the end, every one of them had broken down like a fractured child, whimpering and begging. I had the distinct feeling that Brooklyn Daniels wouldn’t be so easy to break.
But I knew as I watched her dress that I would make certain that happened.
I wanted her.
I craved her.
And within thirty days, she would belong to me in every way.
Twelve hours earlier
I sniffed the air, hissing from the stench of whatever freaking seafood was being fried for the litany of tourists flocking to one of the garish hotels. I loathed the city; the stink and neon lights, the gluttony that occurred every day, and the families crowding the streets. I avoided coming to the city at all costs, but my trip was necessary, a lesson needing to be learned.
Steele Enterprises had flourished over the course of the last twenty years, building a land development empire that included several Vegas hotels and casinos. Our acquisitions had been well planned, buyouts highlighted in Forbes on more than one occasion. The tactics used were brutal but effective. And still, my father continued to push me into developing additional business. He was the one who wanted to be king of the world.
The city of sin had its share of kings and fools, some even working for the Steele organization. As my father liked to say, ‘when the cat’s away, the mouse will steal everything.’ I understood the thought more than most. On this day, one of the casino managers had forgotten about his oath to the family. Greed was the culprit.
As I strolled through the lavishly decorated foyer, my eyes never stopped scanning. I’d brought two of my best men, a security detail who were often more brutal than I was when dealing with scammers and assholes. Markus and Wally had been with me for years, their penchant for violence even more intense than my own. They also knew my methods well, only offering a hand if absolutely necessary.
Or taking a hand or two.
I snickered at the thought.
They remained twenty feet behind, carefully searching for any sign of trouble. My arrival hadn’t been announced, the fucker likely to shit when he saw me walking into his office.
I was responsible for the employees, their actions reflecting on my ability to lead. Given the evidence on the traitor, there would be no rehabilitation efforts afforded him. A sentence had already been handed down and I was responsible for levying his punishment. I adjusted my suit jacket and the cuffs of my shirt before raking my hands through my hair.
“Wait here,” I told my men. Without hesitation, they moved to the opposite sides of the door and would prevent any unnecessary interruptions.
I hesitated, the sound from inside was disgusting.
“That’s it, baby. Suck it. Suck that big, fat cock of mine.” Kyle’s gravelly voice was easily recognizable.
After rubbing my hand over the barrel of my Glock, I stormed inside.
The gasp was instantaneous, the female inside instantly terrified.
“Gregory. I mean Mr. Steele. I didn’t expect you.” He shoved the girl away from where she’d been nestled between his legs, struggling to shove his cock back in his expensive trousers. He nearly stumbled as he attempted to stand, brushing both hands through his sweaty hair.
Kyle Santoro was a pompous pig, his philandering ways likely the reason he’d dipped into the well more than once. He enjoyed expensive cars and jewelry, both for himself. His gift of choice for the various women he tasted were the finest chinchilla furs, the acquisitions taken from a hardworking man who owed the casino copious amounts of money. Gambling. Another aspect of life I considered a true weakness.
I snapped my head in the direction of the latest squeeze, barely giving her anything other than a curt nod. She was half naked, the rapid rise and fall of her chest an indication of her fear. Everyone knew my reputation in this town. “Get out.” If she disobeyed, she would face the same wrath as the asshole scuttling back from me like a rat.
She wasted no time, whimpering as she jerked her clothes off the floor, racing toward the door.
I moved toward the expansive window overlooking the strip, the view actually quite beautiful. I’d never taken the time to enjoy the bright lights.
“Would… would you like a drink?” Kyle stuttered.
“I’ll take a whiskey.” What the hell. This was going to be a long night. I could tell his hands were shaking as he poured two drinks, dropping several ice cubes onto the floor in the process.
“Business is up twenty-eight percent this month,” he said, the lilt in his voice as fake as the care he pretended to have for the organization.
When he handed me the drink, I merely accepted, my eyes remaining locked on the closest flashing neon light. A damn pink flamingo. Jesus. I took a sip, closing my eyes as I savored the rich flavor. Nothing but the best for the little weasel.
“Would you like a cigar?” he asked tentatively.
“You know how I feel about smoke,” I said casually.
“Oh, that’s right. You’re one of those California boys.” His laugh pissed me off more than his words. He was either stupid as a rock or prepared to die.
I slowly turned my head after a full minute, remaining unblinking. I finally looked in his direction, shoving one hand into my pocket. “It’s come to my attention that you’ve been stealing from us, Kyle.” I waited to see his reaction, simply sipping on my drink. “This really is an excellent blend. I applaud your tastes.”
Kyle took a deep breath, the sound strangled. He adjusted his tie then shook his head. “No way. I would never steal anything from you, Mr. Steele. I’m loyal as they come.”
Loyal. I almost laughed at the thought. “So you’re not going to tell me about the very expensive poker game you’ve had going on for six months?”
He said nothing, but I could see the beads of sweat trickling down both sides of his face even from where I stood.
“I have to admit, you were clever in how you managed to pull several people together, playing them just like you played the cards. They had no idea you were cheating them. The idea is brilliant and if you’d come to me with the concept, I’d likely be here today to congratulate you on a job well done.” I took a long pull on the liquor, lifting the glass and studying the crystal facets in the dim lighting. “You must have believed that we’d be fools, looking the other way while you… fucked with us.” My last three words were riddled with anger.
He moved against his desk, shaking his head several times. “That’s not how it is. I swear to God.”
“Then why don’t you tell me just how it is, Kyle? I’m all ears. I actually came here tonight to see you, only you.” While only part of the crap I was spewing was the truth, I needed to make certain no one else was in on the operation with him.
“I just… It was a couple of games. Nothing more.” He wiped his brow, his hand shaking.
“And who was helping you with this amazing opportunity?”
“No one! I just… I got in a little over my head. You know, with the alimony and all.”
I nodded several times before tipping my drink, smiling after polishing it off. “I really do appreciate a good whiskey. It occurs to me that you actually need a vacation.” I kept my grin until one crossed his face.
“Oh, that would be… amazing,” he half whispered.
“A good vacation is always refreshing,” I said just seconds before I eased the Glock from my pocket, the silencer already in place. A single shot was all that was needed. “Especially if it’s permanent.”
As I walked out, I nodded to my soldiers. “Take out the trash, boys. I’m going to enjoy a show for a change.”