Where the hell was everybody?
For a Friday night at Murphy’s, it was sort of quiet. I leaned back in my barstool, the wood creaking as I glanced over my shoulder. Most of the booths were occupied with a skeleton crowd at least, the jovial sound of laughter still ringing off the rafters above my head even for a night as slow as this.
My brothers had gone home about an hour ago. When Caitlin had arrived, she had practically dragged Cormac through the doorway, and he’d leveled her with a look that only made her smirk as if she were daring him to do something about it. The two of them were pretty cute together. The big ol’ lug deserved to be happy, and I was glad to see he’d found that with her.
My eldest brother Kieran and his wife Leah had come in for a while, and he’d serenaded her with one of his favorite Irish jigs, which was a sweet thing to witness. He had a really nice voice, so much so that the entire pub went into a hushed silence as soon as he opened his mouth. It was always special when someone else recognized it too.
I wasn’t sure where the twins and Aidan were tonight. They were typically my drinking buddies on the weekends.
Slackers. Here I was putting in work all by myself.
I turned back to the bar and swirled my drink unhurriedly in my hand, listening to the soft clink of the ice bouncing off the side of the glass. I took a small sip, enjoying the smooth, smoky burn of one of my favorite whiskies, the Midleton Very Rare collection. Its exceptional flavor spread across my tongue, slowly revealing the richly nuanced complexities of spiced apples, pears, and a hint of aged oak barrels.
I deserved nothing less than the best.
The small bell over the door chimed as I took another sip, my ears well-attuned to the soft, musical melody. I glanced back over my shoulder, catching sight of a very broad, tall man walking through the door.
His bright green eyes captured my attention in an instant. His gaze was striking; a golden brown surrounded the inner ring of his irises, with a deep forest green lining the outer rim. The color combination sparkled as he stepped into the light, giving off an aura of radiant energy and mysterious power.
It made me want to figure him out.
I felt a vaguely weird sense of déjà vu, but I couldn’t quite place it. I studied the rest of him, taking note of his designer suit, Tom Ford by the looks of it. Such an elegant selection spoke to his sophistication, exuding a sleek, modern style that gave him an air of confidence, or even arrogance maybe. I couldn’t be sure.
His cheekbones were sharp, setting off the broadness of his tense jawline. There was a thick, closely trimmed beard that covered his chin. In the darkness, it appeared to be a deep brown, but when he stepped inside and caught the light of the streetlamp outside, I could see the twinge of a much richer burgundy shade shining through.
His hair was swept to one side, like he’d run his fingers through it when he first stepped out of bed this morning, giving him a carefree edge that I had to admit was more tempting than I wanted it to be.
His gaze leveled with mine for a long moment, a bit ominous and broody, with just the tiniest hint of the threat of danger. It was curiously mesmerizing.
I cocked my head and scrutinized him as he walked across the room. His trajectory headed in my direction, and I lifted my chin as he took the bar seat next to me.
Bold. Very bold.
Not many men would dare get this close to me. My name meant something in this city. I had a reputation, one I’d carefully cultivated over a number of years, and I was damn proud of it.
I was Ada Murphy.
My brothers and I belonged to one of the most powerful, well-known organized crime families in Boston, especially in Southie. We had our fair share of questionably legal gambling dens, restaurants, and various other establishments that lined our pockets. Our family was closely involved in horse races and shipping in and out of ports. We had contacts all over the world, which meant we could smuggle in whatever you wanted for the right price. For some, we provided protection, if that was what they needed.
I had been the one that had brought several top tier designer establishments under our umbrella too, not just for the profit and opportunity these places presented for smuggling, but as a respected front for us to launder our money should we need it.
I was just as much a Murphy as Kieran or Cormac, equally powerful in my own right. I operated in a world ruled by men, carving my own place in it each and every day. I’d made a name for myself. It was rare for someone not to know it. There was no spark of recognition in his eyes. As much as that annoyed me, it was also refreshing in a strange sort of way.
Dating had always been especially difficult for me, so much so that I think my last excuse for one had been more than a year ago. Most men couldn’t handle a powerful woman, especially if she had more than he did. I’d gone on a great many dates where they’d obviously resented my position, not able to deal with feelings of emasculation and weakness and whatever other nonsense I wouldn’t stand for in a relationship.
It didn’t help that I was a really good shot, too. Men didn’t like it when a woman could outshoot them. In my later dating life, I sometimes planned a first date at the shooting range just so I could weed out the ones that were simply wasting my time that much faster.
Fuck them. I deserved a man that worshipped the ground I walked on.
The mystery man’s proximity was electrifying. I licked my lips, swirling my drink and noticing that it was almost empty. As much as I was comfortable being single, I was still a woman, and I enjoyed sex. I had a very healthy libido that I took care of myself most of the time, but it had been such a long time since I’d had real sex of any kind that this new prospect was seriously tempting.
I was probably getting ahead of myself. Chances were that he was just like the rest of them; a selfish, insecure momma’s boy that needed someone to hold their hand through life.
I was never going to stoop that low, not ever.
“I’d like to buy you a drink,” he purred, his voice a soft, husky rumble with a hint of an Irish accent. It sounded exactly as I’d imagined it would, only better. I was so taken that I found myself hanging onto every syllable with bated breath before I remembered myself. I’d always been a sucker for Irish men. In the past, I’d considered it a weakness. Right now, though, it wasn’t my head I was thinking with.
“You’d like to buy me a drink?” I repeated, raising my brow. I wanted to see if he knew me, or knew of my name since he was the one that had come into my family’s pub.
“Yes,” he replied, his voice as smooth and as luxurious as silk.
“I guess I can allow that,” I replied.
His gaze never wavered from mine, challengingly direct in an invigorating sort of way.
I knew the persona I gave off to strangers, and to be honest, I didn’t give a shit. In the days where we were first establishing ourselves here in the city, people used to whisper behind my back, thinking I couldn’t hear them, but I had listened to every word. They’d called me an ice queen, bitch, Murphy cunt, the works. It didn’t matter, because at the end of the day, they would answer to me, either with respect or a well-placed bullet from my weapon.
I didn’t prefer either one.
Over the years, those whispered comments were uttered less and less, my position in the family more well-known and much better understood. I was proud of myself for that.
“What do you like to drink?”
“A martini. Angus knows how I like them,” I answered, smirking.
The bartender, Angus, was Scottish, but I didn’t hold that against him. He made a good drink, and that more than made up for it. He’d been working for us for a long time, and he’d grown to know the family so well that we usually didn’t have to tell him what we wanted anymore. He could generally figure it out just by the look on our faces.
It was a nice perk of coming here to have a drink. Plus, we were already buying the booze anyway. Why not enjoy it?
“And how do you like them?” the stranger pressed.
“Top shelf. Seriously shaken. Downright filthy,” I said smugly.
If my flirty response surprised him, he had enough self-control to keep it in check, which was extraordinary, really. I hadn’t had the chance to verbally spar with a man who could keep up in a long time.
So far, he was checking several of my boxes. Time would tell if he could fill them all, but I didn’t have much hope for that.
Angus’ brown eyes slid from mine to the stranger sitting next to me. He raised a single eyebrow, wanting to make sure this was acceptable behavior, and that this man wasn’t making me uncomfortable.
“Make it extra filthy tonight, Angus.” I winked and he smirked, getting the message loud and clear.
His protective vibe was sweet, but I was more than capable of taking care of myself. I watched as he got to work, pulling a bottle of Ciroq off the top shelf, dry vermouth, and a heaping amount of olive brine. He poured it all in a metal shaker, then shook it over his shoulder until the metal turned cool and frosty. He strained the liquid into a martini glass and prepped a garnish of five delicious green olives.
He slid it in front of me and I wrapped my fingers around the glass, taking a small sip.
“I think you outdid yourself this time, Angus,” I said with a grin.
“Just for you, Ada,” he replied curtly. He bowed his head and quickly turned away to serve another customer, leaving me to my own devices.
“That’s a pretty name,” the man beside me purred.
“You haven’t told me yours,” I replied, my tone frigidly calculating.
“Shane,” he answered simply. His confidence shone as he stared me down. I swallowed at his muted challenge, not knowing how to handle his apparent boldness in competition with my own. I wasn’t yet certain he could handle mine.
“Are you new in town?” I asked. It would explain why he didn’t know me. Maybe it was by chance that he’d walked in here and sat down next to one of the owners of the cool pub he’d walked by tonight. Maybe he was bored and had a flight out the next day, and his sole mission was to get laid before he left for the airport in the morning.
Who knows. It was sort of fun to try to figure it out, though.
“I know Boston, or at least I used to. I’ve been away for a long while, a good seven years now at least, so it’s a little bit different than I remember,” he answered.
“Is this home for you now, or are you just here for travel?”
“This will be my home now,” he answered. He raised a finger expectantly to catch Angus’ attention. The bartender finished the drink he was making with a flourish, served it, and then slid over to us in an impressively short amount of time.
We paid him well for his talent.
“I’ll have a glass of Tullamore Dew, from the eighteen-year-old bottle.”
“You have good taste, sir,” Angus replied.
“Thank you,” Shane replied. He smiled, watching as Angus reached to the upper shelf to grab the dusty bottle. He poured a double shot into a glass and slid it over to Shane, who nodded with respect. Angus smiled politely and moved on to serve someone else once again.
“The Midleton Very Rare is better,” I said, testing him a little with my typical brashness.
“It is very good, I agree, but the notes of vanilla and honey in the Tullamore Dew 18-Year-Old brings out a very interesting flavor. You can even catch a hint of the bourbon, sherry, and the Madeira casks they use in the aging process.”
The man knew his whiskey. That was a good sign.
“Where did you say that you spent the last seven years?”
“I didn’t, but I was staying with family back in Ireland. We have a plot of land on the border of Don Laoghire, right on the coastline.”
“I’ve been to that area. It’s really beautiful,” I murmured.
“Have you now?”
“Yes. I even remember walking along the beach, listening to the water. I had my first kiss on that beach, a few minutes down the way from Claremont House,” I replied wistfully.
“Is that lucky boy still in the picture?” he asked, raising his eyebrow just the tiniest bit. Was that a hint of jealously? I didn’t know him well enough to tell.
“No. I’m a bit much for most men, him included,” I said bluntly, making no effort to hide my sense of pride.
“I see.” He sipped his whiskey. This time, I saw a glimmer of a grin, and I took that as a sign that he wasn’t afraid of my confidence.
Maybe there was hope after all.
“I grew up near there, but to the north, in Dublin,” I offered.
“Is your family still there?”
“No. My parents died ten years ago, and I moved here after that,” I replied.
“Do you ever think of going back?”
“I’ve gone back a few times since then, more for business than pleasure, though.”
“What kind of business?”
“Shipping,” I answered, being vague on purpose. I wasn’t really worried about giving away our family’s illegal activities to the cops or the feds. We’d had our hands in their pockets for years now. They needed us as much as we needed them.
I wanted Shane to figure out I was someone to fear all on his own.
“I deal in shipments, too,” he replied, his own answer equally ambiguous.
“Why did you spend so long in Ireland? Were you doing business with your family?” I leveled him with a glare as I spoke, assessing his reaction more carefully now.
“I needed to get out of the States for a little while. There was a little too much heat for me to stay here,” he answered.
“Too much heat? A woman, I take it?”
“No, the much less exciting kind of legal heat,” he chuckled.
I glanced at him with keen interest, giving him a quick once over. Had he been on the run from the law for something illegal? Had I happened upon a psycho serial killer in my own bar? The more he alluded to, the more I wanted to know about him. I had a knack for figuring people out, especially if I was going into business with them. It paid to get a leg up on potential associates like that. Men were particularly susceptible to my strategy, and I used it to my advantage whenever I could.
“I see,” I murmured as I sipped on my martini. I’d been here at Murphy’s for several hours, and I was starting to feel the few drinks I’d had. I was only slightly tipsy, but it felt good.
Maybe this night would turn out better than I’d expected after all.
I’d come out tonight because I’d needed to be around people. It was nice to have a night in by myself at home on occasion, but my social battery required being around people more often than not. Angus was usually good company, and the nights when my family were around were especially great. My brothers—Aiden and the twins Connor and Caden—were usually the ones that brought the party, at least these days.
The three of them were still single, just like me.
“So, what brings you into Murphy’s tonight?”
“I saw the place had good reviews. If I hadn’t already eaten dinner, I would have definitely given the apparently world-famous sweet potato waffle fries a try,” he replied, grinning.
“The waffle fries are really good, but the fish and chips are my favorite. The Irish soda bread is always really fresh, too. They’re actually my favorite things here, underrated, but especially delicious. Both dishes remind me of Ireland in the best way,” I suggested.
“I’ll have to keep those in mind,” he said, his voice light.
I sipped my martini, enjoying the feel of the buzz beneath my skin. I plucked the olive garnish out and popped one into my mouth, enjoying the salty, briny flavor. I had a second one before finishing off my drink. I lifted my hand and waved Angus over.
Shane cleared his throat, and I turned my head to see that his expression had hardened. One of his eyebrows lifted sternly and I half expected him to start scolding me.
No one had the balls to do that.
“Another martini, Angus. Just like the last one,” I ordered plainly.
This was my bar, and I would do what I wanted in my bar. I knew my limits. I could outdrink most men. That was just a part of my Irish blood. I could more than handle myself.
Angus chuckled to himself, reading the situation between me and Shane in an instant. He shook his head, likely picturing how this might end for Shane, and began pouring the vodka, dry vermouth, and olive brine into a shaker. Within moments, I had a freshly made dirty vodka martini sitting in front of me, just waiting for me to drink it.
I pulled it closer to me and leveled my gaze with Shane’s, brashly daring him to get the nerve to scold me. We stared at each other for several long moments, the tension between us escalating to an all-time high.
It was invigorating, really.
I cocked my head to the side, smirking a little as his eyes narrowed. The glint of green in his eyes darkened visibly as he leaned in close to me. I cleared my throat, keeping still as I waited for something to happen.
In the past, I’d stood up to countless criminals. They’d tried everything with me, from buttering me up with sweet words to trying to force themselves on me because that was the world that we lived in.
My brothers had taught me how to protect myself.
But why was my heart racing? Why was there the tiniest inkling of nerves brewing in my belly from this mysterious stranger?
I didn’t want to understand it, so I pushed it away.
The scent of his cologne hit me next, making my blood surge with heated ferocity. There was a hint of Tahitian vanilla to it, but the more I concentrated, the more the scent of Indian sandalwood and Sicilian mandarin shone through. It was bold and distinctive. I wasn’t as familiar with colognes as I was with perfumes, but I could tell that it was likely pretty expensive.
That said he had good taste.
I glanced down, observing the gold cufflinks on his wrists. They were studded with diamond chips. He flexed his hand, noticing the direction of my gaze.
“You may drink your cocktail if you like, but if you do, I won’t be able to fuck you tonight because I’m not going to take you when you’re drunk, especially since it would be your first time.”
Fucking hell. The absolute audacity of men in this city. I knew he was too good to be true.
I sat back, tempering my response for a long moment. Who the fuck did he think he was? At first, my shock at being spoken to so recklessly reigned at the forefront. It was as though he thought he had access to my body without having to ask, like he assumed I’d go home with him and spread my legs for him just because he’d bought me a drink.
Fat fucking chance he was going to get anything now.
My furious irritation blazed, flickering red across my gaze as I leveled him with a glare. Now I was annoyed at myself, too, for even considering him in any sort of romantic light.
I loathed that my body responded to him regardless of what I was thinking. Why was his expectation making my clit pulse? Why did a tiny part of me want to test him to see what he would do?
His eyes sparkled with a challenge of his own, and for the briefest of seconds, I worried that I might have found a man capable of standing toe-to-toe with me.
No. That was fucking ridiculous. I was worlds better than him.
I cleared my throat. Wisely, he stayed silent.
“Even if I let you fuck me—which wasn’t going to happen before, and it sure as hell isn’t going to now—it wouldn’t be my first time,” I spat, sputtering a little with my fury. His grin only grew wider, his eyes glinting with some deeper meaning that I wasn’t able to identify.
He didn’t know me, and he wasn’t ever going to.
Even in my barely restrained state of rage, I was captivated by him, and I hated it. With my mouth set in a firm line, I glared at him as my vehemence escalated that much further.
My expectation was that he would be furious in return. I searched his expression, looking for the telltale furrowing of his brow, the angry wrinkling of his nose, and the narrowing of his glare, but I saw none of those things.
Instead, he leaned closer, only scant inches between us now. I knew I should push him away or slap him across the face, but I didn’t do any of those things. In some twisted way, I was enjoying the standoff between us. I wasn’t going to be the one to back off first, and it didn’t appear that he would either.
“I didn’t specify that it would be your first-time having sex, Ada. What I said is that it would be your first time getting fucked.”
His voice was low and husky, making me catch my breath as his meaning hit me. I swallowed furiously, gritting my teeth and narrowing my gaze in his direction. He didn’t back down.
Fuming, I reached for my drink, wrapped my fingers around the glass stem, and threw the entire thing right in his face. The scent of olives and alcohol permeated the air between us as the liquid dripped down his face and dribbled onto his suit. He stared me down for a tense moment, before reaching for his own and taking a long sip.
In a show of authority, I signaled Angus for another. Without a word, he started making a fresh cocktail, shaking it vigorously as Shane and I sat in edgy silence. Once a fresh martini was presented in front of me, I casually lifted it off the bar and took a sip, leveling Shane with a defiant scowl.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, dabbing his face clean. After that, I watched as he patted at his white, button-up shirt and his jacket, knowing it was going to cost him a pretty penny to have the fancy suit dry cleaned.
Such were the consequences for speaking to me like that. He deserved to pay the price.
To my surprise, he stayed seated and continued sipping his whiskey as I enjoyed the rest of my drink.
He stood up, and I was just about to grin with my victory when he leaned in close to me. The hair on the back of my neck prickled and at the same time my nipples pebbled, safely encased within my bra and covered by my own flawless designer pant suit.
“I really like this pub. You don’t need to worry, though. I’ll be back tomorrow, and if you’re a very good girl, you’ll get another chance to ask nicely for your fucking,” he whispered, his voice sultry and irritatingly seductive.
“Do you know who I am, asshole?” I spat, unable to keep my fury from spiraling that much higher.
“Yes, little girl. I know this is your pub, and I also know that you’ve never been properly fucked. There’s no need to tell me I’m right.”
“Get out before I have my men throw you out,” I snarled, glaring daggers at him. If looks could kill, he would have dropped dead right there in the middle of the pub.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he winked, before he tossed back the rest of his whiskey, slid it across the bar, and turned on his heel. He walked out of the pub without looking back over his shoulder at me.
It infuriated me that he did that.
“Who the fuck was that?” Angus questioned.
“You didn’t recognize him either?” I growled.
“Nope. He’s a new face in town or something. Are you alright? Should I let anyone know about him?” he asked curtly.
“No. I’m fine. I’ll handle this one,” I exclaimed, trying to come to terms with my anger, pride, and the way my body was pulsing with emotion and unwanted desire. I didn’t want to admit it, but there was a small part of me that had been aroused by his arrogance.
Feeling flustered, I finished my martini much more quickly than I meant to. I slid my feet to the ground and climbed out of the bar stool.
“You good for the night?” I asked.
“Yeah. I got this. Have a good night, boss,” he answered.
I nodded curtly and gathered my coat in my arms, feeling a bit too warm to put it on.
When I walked out of the pub, my driver was waiting for me. After a quick ride, he dropped me off in front of my corner townhome on Shawmut Avenue.
I gazed down the block. My brothers lived a few houses down. Kieran had been buying several different rowhouses along this street. Many of them had been renovated for our own devices and I had chosen one for myself. With the nearly endless supply of Murphy money, the neighborhood was quickly gentrifying into something far nicer than it had been just a few years ago.
I’d chosen a corner unit with more square footage and curb appeal than any of the other houses. It also carried with it the highest retail price, but my older brother hadn’t even batted an eye when I’d settled on it. He indulged me sometimes and I knew it. All my brothers did, but I’d more than earned it. They knew I deserved it, too.
I unlocked the door and walked into the silver and violet wallpapered entryway, then flicked on the light. My gorgeous crystal chandelier sparkled overhead, catching my gaze like it always did. Decorating this place had been ridiculously fun. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I knew that there were a few other townhomes locked in the purchasing process, so I was hopeful that I would soon get another chance to do the interior designing for one of them so I could run a bed and breakfast or ritzy hotel to add even more revenue to the Murphy bank account.
It never hurt to diversify your businesses.
Shane’s hazel green eyes flashed before mine, and I groaned out loud as I shut the door behind me. For a second, I’d let myself be distracted by the memory of him, and his smooth arrogance had come right back to the forefront of my mind.
I climbed up the stairs to my luxurious master suite, peeled off my clothes, and hopped into my spa-inspired rain shower, switching on all the showerheads so that water pelted my skin from every direction.
It felt good.
His hands on you would probably feel better, though.
Fuck me sideways. I refused to think about him anymore. I wouldn’t let myself. In a feat of defiance, I washed my face and shampooed my hair. When I was done, I slathered my long, red locks in deep moisturizing conditioner, and I didn’t think about him once.
Did telling myself I wasn’t thinking about him count?
With increasing annoyance, I started to wash my body. I started with light pressure, but I found my arousal already at a dangerous level, so I started cleansing myself a bit more firmly to avoid turning myself on any further. I used my loofah so I could avoid touching my flesh with my bare fingers.
There wasn’t a single part of me that wanted to face the fact that the whole exchange had aroused me, so I stayed completely in the lane of denial as best I could. I wouldn’t admit that he’d made me wet, not to myself and especially not to him.
I was Ada fucking Murphy.
I’d go back to the pub tomorrow and I would show him that my name meant something.
Here in Southie, it meant everything.
The next morning, I woke up in my own bed, feeling refreshed and reinvigorated. I made myself a steaming cup of coffee, topping it off with sweet cream and vanilla foam. I sipped it slowly, readying myself for the day.
There were several shipments arriving at my various retail stores, some of them designer clothes, others bootleg liquor, and a few of them knockoffs. I’d gotten word that one of the crates contained an expected batch of handguns and bullets meant to bolster the Murphy armory, and I wanted to see to it that I retrieved it in person.
My phone rang and I answered it. It was Aidan.
“Word around town is some stranger was giving you grief,” he said quietly. Aidan came off as the quiet, moody type, but he was fiercely protective, more so than any of my other brothers. There had been several times I’d gotten myself into scrapes when I was young and Aidan had been the one to bail me out. Sometimes that meant that he had to use his fists.
“Some rich asshole thinking he’s hot shit, is all. You don’t need to worry about me,” I sighed.
“All you need to do is say the word, Ada. You know me,” he added.
“I can handle this guy. I’m not worried. I’ve dealt with much worse. This guy just needs to be reminded who runs this town.” I grinned, chuckling softly to myself.
“That’s the spirit,” he said with a chuckle.
“Hopefully he learns his lesson before he has to find out what a good shot I am,” I replied with a lighthearted laugh.
“It won’t be the first body I’ve had to get rid of for my baby sister,” he teased.
“True enough. Listen, want to meet me down at the docks in about an hour? The weapons shipment is due to arrive, and I’d like at least two of us to be there.”
“Yeah. I’ll see you there,” he answered. His tone was light, but back to business.
“Cool. See you in a bit,” I replied.
“Later, sis,” he said, and I hung up. I finished my cup of coffee and meandered into my closet. My eyes perused the racks of clothes, organized by designer label and then by color. I had devised it to rival some of the biggest celebrities out there, and I was one hundred percent certain that I had succeeded. Paris Hilton would probably be jealous, and that thought made me exceptionally proud.
For today, I choose a black pinstriped pant suit. The angles were strong, and it would present a powerful image to those I needed to deal with, including, but not limited to, Shane whoever-the-fuck-he-was.
I lifted my chin, snarling under my breath at the memory of his words. Shrugging off my aggravation, I got dressed and put on some makeup, playing up my eyes with a smoky, natural look and painting on my signature red lip. When I was done, I was the picture of money, glamor, and power.
I pulled my shoulders back and went about my business for the day. As much as I tried not to, Shane’s dark gaze flashed before my eyes unbidden, time and time again. Needing to keep things professional, I was able to hide my distracted thoughts for the most part. Having Aidan’s company was comforting for much of it, but he had to leave early in the evening for a trip to New York for a meeting with one of the leading Italian mafia families centered there, which left my evening open.
Without really even intending to, I found myself standing in front of the pub that night. I hadn’t planned on coming here, but I was vaguely curious at the prospect of verbally sparring with Shane again tonight. I didn’t know why I was so captivated by him. Maybe I just wanted to reign victorious over him like I’d done with every other man in my life.
With a deep, empowering breath, I straightened my shoulders and walked through the door with my head held high. Angus was at the bar again tonight, and he grinned when he saw me. I strode forward and took my usual seat, looking over the crowd. It was much livelier than last night.
There was a man singing to a woman on the dance floor, his Irish accent ringing off the walls quite beautifully. The acoustics of this place had been one of the main draws. I smiled, remembering the first time Kieran had stood in the center of the room and belted out a raunchy jig that left the rest of us rolling in laughter.
That had been a really good day, truly the start of the Murphy legacy here in Boston.
Angus lifted a brow, glancing towards me and then back over my shoulder, silently communicating that my opponent had arrived.
I didn’t look, choosing instead to nod towards my favorite whiskey. He smirked as he poured me a double. The chair next to me creaked and I sighed, hardening my expression into my token resting bitch face.
I had been told that I had one of the best on more than one occasion.
“Good evening, Ada. It’s nice to see you again,” Shane rumbled, his voice like a glass of water on a piping hot day. I swallowed, shaking off that feeling before I slid my eyes over to his. To my surprise, his eyes were soft, showcasing none of the animosity from last night.
I sat back, appraising him with a calculated look. I wanted him to know that I hadn’t forgotten what he’d said, and I wasn’t going to allow him to either.
Angus slid my whiskey in front of me, and I wrapped my fingers around the glass, taking a sip as I coldly assessed Shane. If he was intimidated at all by my icy demeanor, he didn’t show it. It was beyond frustrating, but I’d cracked harder men than him before.
He smiled. “I’d like to buy you a drink, Ada.”
“I already have one,” I sassed.
“Have you eaten dinner?”
“Not yet,” I said thoughtfully. I hadn’t had the time. The arraignment at the docks had taken longer than I’d anticipated. There had been an issue with one of my European shipments that I’d had to contend with. Thankfully, the crate of weapons had come in as expected. After we finally got out of there, Aidan and I had brought the contents to our local storage warehouse. Kieran and Cormac had taken over the sorting and itemizing after that.
“Two orders of the fish and chips and a basket of your Irish soda bread,” Shane said confidently. I wanted to speak up and tell him I could order for myself, that I didn’t need a man to do it for me, but there was something that gave me pause. He’d remembered what I’d said last night. That was sweet in a way I didn’t really want to recognize. Not many men were capable of that. In fact, there were startlingly few.
“I’ll also take a double of the Tullamore Dew 18 Year,” he added.
Angus gave him a curt nod. He elected to pour the whiskey first, before entering our orders into the register.
Why was I even here tonight? Sure, this was my family’s pub, but I could have stayed home. I didn’t need to oversee the daily happenings here. Our family had hired good people to do their jobs without needing much direction, and they did them well.
Had I actually wanted to see him tonight? Was that what he would think?
I shook my head, staring into the amber liquid of my drink like it held all the answers. Not surprisingly, I found none. Feeling slightly irritated, I cleared my throat.
Why not choose violence? I liked violence… Maybe he did too.
“So how many drinks am I allowed to have tonight?” I asked as sarcastically as I could. I leveled him with a steady glare that said that I would have as many as I wanted no matter what he said.
He chuckled softly, swirling his whiskey as he stared into my eyes with his charismatic, forest green ones. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down visibly, giving him an ominous aura that made me feel alive.
“Two, if you want your fucking tonight.”
His enigmatic arrogance set off my anger in a flash. I sipped my whiskey, using the mundane task to delay my reaction so that I could strategize the best move going forward.
“You’re awfully confident,” I mused, my voice revealing just a hair of irritation.
“I’m just a man that knows what he wants,” he countered. His smile was warm and enticing, and I didn’t want to face the fact that even in my fury, I was drawn to him. And not in a platonic way.
I really didn’t want to admit that.
I shifted in my seat, trying to ignore the way my body was pulsing with heat. I flexed my stomach muscles, noticing that my core was squeezing with desire. With a hard swallow, I took stock of the rest of my body, furiously realizing that I was soaking wet, too.
I glared at him, blaming him entirely for this whole fucked up situation.
“You couldn’t handle a woman like me, big boy,” I challenged him.
“Let me be the judge of what I can handle, little girl.”
An answer for everything, this one. I sort of loathed it and enjoyed it at the same time. I sat back, taking a long draw of whiskey and enjoying the smooth, spicy burn as it slid down my throat. He watched me with increasingly seductive interest.
It felt good to be desired.
None of this changed the fact that it was infuriating that my body was reacting to him even a little bit. He was nothing more than an arrogant rich guy who hadn’t been properly put in his place by any woman in his life. He was probably used to meek, shy girls that knelt and opened their mouths to suck his cock whenever he said the word.
I would never be that kind of woman.
I downed my drink and slid my gaze to his.
“She’ll have another,” Shane called out, and Angus nodded. He was just rounding the corner with our dinner. My mouth watered at the sight of the plate, noticing that steam was still rising off it. In no time at all, I had a meal and a fresh drink sitting in front of me.
The deep-fried, beer battered cod was golden and crunchy. Beside it was a bed of crispy, golden potato wedges seasoned with salt, pepper, and whatever other spices our chef had come up with to make it the perfect dish. I drizzled the plate with malt vinegar and dug in, humming with contentment when the refreshing flavor of the light, flaky cod bloomed over my tongue.
I picked up a piece of bread and slathered it with butter. I took a big bite, sighing happily at the slightly sweet, nutty taste. It was a little bitter, but it tasted like home. It had been my mother’s recipe, one of the many things we did in establishing this place to pay homage to our ancestral heritage.
“This is fantastic. You were right,” Shane murmured beside me. I popped a potato wedge in my mouth, smirking.
Of course I was. It was my pub, after all.
I ate with a certain modicum of politeness, simply because I was out in public. I finished every bite of that meal without feeling even the slightest bit of shame. I worked hard, and I deserved to enjoy the fruits of my labor, even if that meant something as simple as a freshly cooked meal in one of my own establishments.
I was worth it.
“The chef we hired is straight out of Dublin. He honed his skills there and we allow him to shine in our kitchen,” I explained bluntly.
“That was a wise choice,” he murmured, his eyes dancing.
I took a large swig of whiskey, enjoying the taste of the fine flavors melding together in a beautifully delicious harmony. When I noticed that his interested gaze had settled on me, I downed the rest of it in a show of unabashed satisfaction. His lips turned up at the corners, exposing his restrained amusement.
His eyes didn’t leave me as I waved Angus down and ordered a third. The tenuous string between us tightened as I openly challenged him. By the time I had a new drink in my hands, the threads were stretched so tight that it was simply a matter of time before one of us snapped.
I didn’t yet know if it was going to be me or him.
I smiled coolly. He did the same, his expression nonchalant and confident. There wasn’t even a hint of disappointment in those glittering irises, which threw me for a loop. Maybe this man was different from all the others, after all.
My clit throbbed, its gentle, steady beat like a drum.
My face heated and I sat back, sipping my drink in order to cover up how flustered this whole exchange was making me right now.
“I enjoyed this,” he said, his voice threateningly husky. He dabbed at his lips with a napkin and threw back the rest of his whiskey in one big swallow. I took a deep breath as he stood up, the scent of his now familiar cologne catching my attention. I looked up, his proximity imposing and annoyingly exciting.
I considered just how much bigger he was than me for the first time. He stood a few inches over six foot by my estimation. His broad physique filled out his grey Tom Ford suit well. He obviously spent time taking care of himself, whether that meant he lived at the gym or he took very expensive custom designer steroid cocktails, I couldn’t be sure. Physical strength was one thing, though.
I knew that good strategy won out each and every time. I especially loved coming out victorious when anyone was foolish enough to underestimate me.
Without any warning, he leaned close, gripped my chin, and forcefully yanked my face up to peer back at his. I opened my lips to protest, but his mouth was on mine before I could say a single word.
Without asking my permission, he just went and kissed me.
It wasn’t the sort of chaste kiss shared between lovers or even two people that had crushes on one another, but the sort of rough kiss that told me he wasn’t interested in simply making love to me. It was a conquering with nothing other than his mouth as his fingers gripped my chin hard enough to ache. I shouldn’t have reacted. I should have pushed him away, but the electric pull between us was like gravity, and I couldn’t turn away.
Without meaning to, I kissed him back.
I lost myself in his rough dominance, allowing him to take over for the briefest of moments. Heat burned through my veins, my nerves igniting like a molten, sputtering volcano. I only just kept myself silent, biting back a moan at the last possible second.
I didn’t want to reveal how much I was actually enjoying this, not to the likes of him, or anyone that might be watching.
When he finally pulled away, he let go of my chin, and I could feel the lasting presence of his fingertips aching along my jawline for a good long while. My chest rose and fell at his audacity, and I finally remembered that it should be making me very angry.
“I’ll see you tomorrow night, Ada,” he assumed, and the fury I was holding back exploded.
This was my bar and he’d kissed me without permission.
It didn’t matter that I’d enjoyed it. All that was beside the point.
In a fraction of a second, I had drawn my hand back and slapped him as hard as I could across his face. I watched with pleasure as the mark from my hand glowed white for a brief moment before it turned a pleasing pink and then a remarkably satisfying red. I saw his nostrils flare for the briefest of seconds, but he lifted his chin and leveled me with a steady, cool look.
“If you come back tomorrow, I’ll send you home with a bullet,” I snarled. The bastard was lucky he didn’t get my backhand too.
His lips curled up in a slow, confident smile. With an increasing air of arrogance, he cocked his head and grinned even wider, reacting like I hadn’t just smacked him across the face.
“You wouldn’t do that, little girl. Do you know why?”
I didn’t gratify that with a response. I just glared back at him with fiery vehemence.
“Because then you wouldn’t get your fucking, would you?”
Immediately, I tensed, wrapping my fingers around my empty glass in an effort to keep my rage contained. I seethed as he turned to walk away, but I only let him get a few steps away from me before I reacted. Using all my strength, I hurled the glass directly at him. As if he had eyes in the back of his head, he turned and shot his hand up, catching it before it connected with his forehead. The dickhead met my eyes and lowered his hand, my glass safely encased within his fingers.
I glared, scowling as fiercely as I could manage at his foiling of my perfectly aimed assassination attempt. The whole thing might as well have been rehearsed, like he’d known I was going to throw it before I even thought to do it.
It was exceedingly frustrating.
He walked back over to the bar and set the empty glass back down before he slid close to me. I kept my chin held high, standing my ground as he leaned towards me.
I hated that he stood above me, but there was nothing I could do about it. Even if I pushed myself to my feet, I’d be forced to touch him. There wasn’t enough room to step aside without brushing my breasts against his chest. Like he could read my mind, he took another step closer and closed the distance between us.
The scent of his cologne along with the top shelf whiskey on his breath took me by surprise. As I stared into his eyes, I noticed copper flecks hidden among the gold and green of his irises. It was as if there were a ring of fire surrounding his pupils that was flickering with heat.
Just like the fire raging inside your veins.
“I’ll be here tomorrow night, little girl, but you’ve been such a naughty girl that you’re going to have to ask for something else before your fucking,” he purred, and I hated the way I enjoyed how the syllables rolled off his tongue. His voice was low enough that only I could hear, but that didn’t take away the fact that we were surrounded by people. Any one of them could turn the right way and overhear his words.
I took a deep breath, trying to figure him out before it was too late. His expression was full of supreme confidence, like he knew something I didn’t.
What kind of man was he? Did he just need to hear himself talk? Was he going to mansplain my own needs to me? What the fuck did he want?
Needing more intel, I decided to give him a chance to speak. The worst-case scenario was that I called Aidan in the morning and arranged for my own personal protection to drag him out of the pub and into the back ally so I could put a bullet directly between those arrogantly enticing eyes tomorrow night.
“And what’s that?”
He chuckled, the sound dark, and the sudden impression that I was soon going to regret asking in the first place washed over me.
“You’ve been so naughty that you’re going to ask for a spanking before I give you what you really need, little girl.”
I recoiled as if he had struck me, opening and closing my mouth in shock. Before I had time to react or even respond, he gathered his things and swept out of the pub in a silent flourish. There was no time to decide whether to give him flat out denial, an annoyed rejection, or anything in between.
Everything in me wanted to tell him off.
The ringing of the bell over the door careened throughout the room like a toll bell. I watched him disappear as he turned the corner, and I swallowed hard, turning back to the bar.
Angus slid another whiskey in front of me.
“Good man,” I muttered in his direction.
“Don’t let him get to you. He’s not worth it.”
“I know.” Scowling, I dragged the tip of my finger around the rim of the glass, trying to figure out how I felt about the whole exchange, and failing entirely.
I should hate every bit of the things he’d said, but there was a tiny part of me that was intrigued. No man in Boston had ever dared to stand up to me the way he did, and I chewed my lip, wondering if that confidence would extend to the bedroom.
Sure, maybe it was all talk, but maybe it wasn’t.
What if he was actually a man that could stand his ground against me? Passive men got old very quickly. It was extraordinarily boring to tell them what to do, where to touch, how to kiss, the whole shebang. Shane appeared to be the kind of guy that took charge in life and with his woman. As aggressive as he appeared to be, I did recognize that he hadn’t tried to control me.
It hadn’t been like that in the slightest.
I’d been around men that were the polar opposite of him, using fear, violence, money, and brute strength to rule over those they considered weaker. Unfortunately, in my world, most of them considered women to be second class citizens.
That’s what made my brothers so special, and me that much more powerful. I was everything the criminal underground didn’t expect, and I used that position to my advantage every chance I got.
I sat back and slowly sipped away my confusion, enjoying the soft buzz tingling beneath my heated flesh. I breathed in deeply, trying to steady myself even though his threat played over and over in my mind as if it was stuck on repeat.
I didn’t know what to do.
My mind certainly wanted to fight it, but my body had a flurry of more sordid ideas. Frankly, it was the most annoying thing I’d ever experienced in my life.
By all rights, I should shut the door in his face. I should keep him at a distance solely based on his arrogance alone, but a very deep part of me didn’t want to. I couldn’t tell if it was curiosity, lust, or just a simple infatuation because he was unlike anyone I’d ever had the chance to meet before.
Did I risk letting this drag out just so that I could find out?
Maybe it wouldn’t be worth it, and he was the kind of man that was just far too confident about his abilities to seduce a woman into his bed.
But… maybe it would all turn out to be true…
I tipped back my glass and downed every drop of that deliciously spicy whiskey and swiftly slid it across the bar top. Angus reached out and caught it in a quick movement that still impressed me just as much as it had the first time I’d seen him do it. I stood up and he grinned in my direction.
“See you tomorrow, Ada?”
“Jury’s still out,” I replied tersely. His answering smirk told me that he knew I was coming back tomorrow.
The only one still questioning it was me.