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Deathless Love by Renee Rose – Sample

Deathless Love by Renee Rose (Post 200x300)Chapter One

The figurative roof was on fire by the time the Morphs finished their last set at the house party. Kate sang the last note while watching a huge throng of people jumping up and down, cheering. It was amazing that the cops hadn’t shown up to shut them down for noise.

Kate gave Fox a satisfied grin as he unplugged his guitar from the amp. “That was good, eh?”

“You rocked it,” he said in his faint British accent. “You okay to hang for a while?”

“Ah…” she bit her lip. Unlike most of the general population, she was actually more comfortable on stage than off, and she didn’t really know anyone at the party. But she knew Fox had been flirting with a guy all night and she didn’t want to cock-block him. He deserved a good wing-man for once, considering how much he always did for her.

“Yeah, that’s cool,” she said.

She helped the rest of the band pack up their equipment as Fox disappeared into the house. She wandered inside and found herself cornered by a rough-looking guy with a tattoo sleeve. He was nice enough, but she definitely wasn’t interested. Her eyes darted around the room, looking for Fox or her other band-mates. “I gotta go find my friend,” she muttered to the guy and slipped away without making eye contact.

“Has anyone seen Fox?” she asked the crowd of people standing in the dark kitchen. She pushed through the drugged-out crowd in the living room and made her way down the hallway. She tapped on a bedroom door, and hearing music, pushed it open.

“There you are!” she exclaimed.

Fox was making out with the guy he’d been flirting with earlier. He had him pushed up against the wall and was sucking on his neck. He whirled around when he heard her—and her heart stopped. Fox had blood dripping from his mouth—from his fangs, actually—and more was running down his neck.

Vampire! Oh my fucking God!

She let out a blood-curdling scream and suddenly Fox was right in front of her with a hand over her mouth.

“Shut up!” he hissed. She stumbled backward, her eyes popping out of her head, trying to get away from him and his bloody fangs. He lunged forward to keep his hand on her mouth and kept following until she slammed into the wall behind her. “Shhh. Shut up, Kate.” He looked into her eyes and she suddenly found she couldn’t make a sound. He disappeared and reappeared in front of the unlucky guy, who had whirled around in confusion and was staring at Kate stupidly.

She wanted to run, but she was rooted to the spot, horrified and transfixed, waiting to watch the guy she had thought of as her best friend kill the boy-toy he had picked up. He grasped the guy’s neck and bent his head down again, but instead of fangs, his tongue extended from his mouth and he licked the blood from the man’s neck, as if he were cleaning the wound. The blood stopped trickling out and soon she could hardly see where he had been bitten. Fox murmured something to the guy, who smiled dazedly, gave him a kiss and turned to walk out. Fox gave him a slap on the butt as he left. Then he turned back to her.

She was crying, silently. She felt as though she must certainly be in a nightmare, because vampires didn’t exist, especially not in her world. Not her best friend. He flashed back in front of her again.

“Shh, Kate, it’s all right. But no screaming, okay?”

She just stared at him, but her voice came back and her cries were no longer silent.

“Did I hurt you? Are you okay?” He was grasping her shoulders, but his touch was gentle. The fangs had retracted and he looked like he always did. She shook her head, confused enough to wonder if she had really witnessed what she thought she had just witnessed.

“Where’s Fox?” she asked between sobs. It was a stupid question, since he clearly was Fox, but her mind couldn’t wrap around what was happening.

“Shh… I’m Fox, baby. I’m the same guy you’ve known for the past three years. I just have a secret, that’s all.”

She shook her head.

“Calm down.” He tipped her chin up to his face and when she met his eyes, she felt a wave of calm spread through her body. Except it felt all wrong, because her mind was still frantic.

She tried to shove him away, but it was like trying to push a bus. “Don’t do that!”

He held up his hands, palms out. “Okay, I won’t. Look at me and I’ll undo it.”

She didn’t trust him. She looked at his pierced earlobe instead of his eyes.

“Kate, it’s me. It’s Fox. Have I ever hurt you? I haven’t, have I?”

That was true. Fox had been nothing but a friend to her since the day he asked her to be in his band. And if he had been a vampire for the past three years and had never harmed her, she probably was safe with him. She met his eyes and felt the adrenaline return to her body, her heart pumping double-time. She took several deep breaths to calm herself.

“Come on,” Fox said, grabbing her hand. “Let’s get out of here.”

Fear surged through her again and she dug her heels in. “Where are we going?” she asked suspiciously.

“I’m taking you home.” When she still resisted him, he turned and took hold of her shoulders again. He peered at her with sympathy. “Kate,” he said gently. “Do you want me to erase it from your memory?”

She blinked at him, then shook her head vehemently.

“You’ve seen this before.”

She felt dizzy at that. “I… I have?”

He nodded, soberly. “I’ve erased your memories. But it’s getting to the point where I’ve erased too much. I don’t want to cause any psychological damage.”

It was an odd mixture of relief and fear that washed through her. To know that she had seen this before was proof that she was safe with him. And yet knowing that he’d tampered with her mind was profoundly disturbing. She started walking, willing at least to let him take her home.

When they were in his car, she asked, “So were you going to turn him?”

Fox chuckled. “No, love,” he answered with the charming British accent that helped keep him in boy toys. “We don’t turn people and we don’t kill for blood. I was just feeding. It didn’t harm him a bit and he won’t remember a thing.”

“We…?” Her mind raced ahead. “Oh. Stella and Dom. Right?” Fox lived with the owner and manager of one of the nightclubs where their band played. She had always thought it was strange that three adults—none of whom were in a relationship with each other—would live together when they all could clearly afford their own places.

He nodded.

“Wait… are you telling me that vampires don’t turn people?”

“No. I’m telling you that we don’t. You can think of us as rogue vampires. That’s why we’re in Tucson, Arizona—it’s the last place most vampires would want to be.”

“Because of the sun?” She knew she was being slow on the uptake, but her mind couldn’t process all this at once.


“So there aren’t other vampires here?”

“Nope.” Pulling up in front of her place, he turned in his seat to look at her. “So, listen, Kate. I’m going to make it so that you can’t tell anyone about this. It’s for your own good. Mortals who know about vampires usually either get turned or sucked dry.”

She felt like she was going to cry again. He tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear. “Kate, I promise you’re safe with me. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Can you believe me?”

Call her crazy, but she did believe him. She nodded.

“Good. Look at me,” he commanded softly. She felt a little wave of something, or perhaps she just imagined it because she knew he was hypnotizing her.

“Do you want to just leave your keyboard in my trunk until tomorrow?”

She nodded.

“Okay, good night. Call me if you need to talk more about it, okay?”

“Okay, goodnight,” she said.

She went into her little adobe casita and made a cup of chamomile tea to calm her nerves.

As the fear wore off, she felt little shivers of thrill running through her. Dom was a vampire. Dom—the extremely good-looking nightclub owner who was the object of almost all of her fantasies—got even hotter in her mind.

* * *

“Mmm, yummy,” said Stella, Dom’s bar manager and fellow fang, lifting her eyes toward the door. Kate Strand, the lead singer of the Morphs, had just come swinging through it. She was dressed tonight as Marilyn Monroe—complete with a 50’s style dress and platinum curls. Kate’s look changed from week to week and she could pretty much rock every look she tried.

“I’ll say,” Dom agreed, watching her approach the bar in her black stilettos. She was a lithe little thing—slender with small breasts and hips and more presence than three women combined.

“Oh yeah, she’s retro this week,” Fox said absently. It was Fox who had “discovered” Kate and invited her to sing for his band, the Morphs. He was the third vampire in their Tucson nest, and his interests didn’t lie with the female sex. Otherwise, he too would surely have been gawking. Pretty much everyone in the bar was rubbernecking her right now. Although she could have been wearing her Spiderman shirt and jean shorts and they’d still be looking.

“Hey, Kate,” Dom said, filling a glass of ginger ale with lime for her.

“Hey,” she said breathily, swinging onto the bar stool next to Fox and beaming at Dom for the drink. “Thanks.”

“Hi gorgeous,” Stella said, sidling over and leaning across the bar to kiss Kate’s cheek. “I like the Marilyn thing.”

“Do you? I wasn’t sure,” Kate said doubtfully, her personality as enigmatic as her look. To watch her, you’d think she was full of confidence, but when you actually spoke to her she was completely unassuming.

“No, you look hellagood,” Stella said, making a show of licking her lips. Stella went both ways and made no bones about her interest in Kate. Kate laughed. “Thanks.”

“Looks like a good crowd you have here tonight.” She was talking to him, looking nervous about making small talk.

“They come for you, sweetheart. They come for you,” he said easily.

She looked up at him and he could have sworn her eyes went straight to his canines. “Ha. Yeah, right. Thanks for the drink,” she said, not meeting his eyes before she slid off the stool and headed toward the back. It would be an hour or two before the Morphs went on stage.

“She wants you,” Stella said. “And you want her back. Why don’t you jump on that?”

“I don’t do mortals.”

“You don’t do anybody, and that’s your problem. If you don’t go for her, I will.”

“Yeah, you’ve been trying for her since the day she started singing here. Look how far it’s gotten you,” Fox muttered. “She doesn’t really do anybody, so back off of her.”

“She knows, doesn’t she?” Dom asked Fox, a serious edge in his voice.

Fox whipped his head up to meet Dom’s eyes. Guiltily. He nodded slowly. “Yeah, but I didn’t tell her.”

“You didn’t clear it from her mind, either.”

“Look, I’ve cleared her too many times already. But I made it so she can’t tell anyone, so it’s cool. And Stella, she’s totally afraid of the fangs, so drop any ideas you have for her.”

Stella shrugged.

“I don’t like it. I’m holding you responsible for her,” Dom said. Fox had broken one of his important codes: laying low with the mortals. He didn’t want any more needless deaths. He had left that life behind him.

“I know, I will absolutely take the check on this.”

Raised voices and an increased throng of bodies alerted him to a skirmish in the middle of the club. Dom called over to the bouncer at the end of the bar. “Jim.”

“I’m on it,” his bouncer said.

“Get them out. But don’t make a scene.”

“I know, I know, Jedi mind trick, right?” Jim grinned at him, tapping his temple.

“That’s right.”

He didn’t like to have any kind of drama go down in his club. He’d taught the bouncers to treat offenders suavely, giving them the greatest possible chance to leave with dignity, even if they did have their arms held by two huge ex-military guys while they walked out. He watched as Jim and James—yes, his two regular bouncers had the same name—cut through the crowd, separated the two belligerents and led them out, one through the front door and one out the back. He could only hope they’d wait to be sure a fight didn’t pick back up in the parking lot. The last thing he needed was the kind of trouble a drive by cop car would spot.

* * *

The stilettos were driving her nuts. What had she been she thinking? Standing in the women’s bathroom, putting lipstick on before her first set, Kate was having a hard time balancing. Stressed out with writing the proposal for her master’s thesis, she’d ingested three Starbuck’s Venti Lattes earlier in the day and now she was having a near panic attack from all the caffeine.

She rubbed lipstick off her canine tooth. Her fang. She shivered, remembering seeing Fox’s bloody fangs last week. She had ended up calling him several times that week, firing questions at him like, “How old are you?” (179 years old) and “How old were you when you were turned?” (20) and “Why are the three of you rogue vampires?”

That was the most interesting answer. “Dom had a spiritual crisis in the 1970’s and swore off killing,” Fox had said. “Then he packed up and moved to Tucson.”

“And you and Stella followed?” she’d asked.

“Yeah. I like the way I feel when I’m with Dom. I feel more like my mortal self. Less soul-less,” Fox had explained.

She wanted to grill him more about Dom, but didn’t want to make her interest that obvious. Now that she knew, she could see how all the clues had been there: Stella, Dom and Fox’s relationship was so odd for one thing, with all three living together in one compound like a family. Tighter than family, really. They had pale faces and felt cooler to the touch. And Fox could never rehearse before dark.

The main clue was their pointy canine teeth, and now that she thought about it, she remembered that sometimes those teeth had seemed longer than at other times. Last night she’d been paying attention and had seen Fox’s grow before her eyes when he saw a guy he was digging on. And all three were drop dead gorgeous, especially Dom. He was all lean muscle and not too tall, which made sense since he was born in a different century. He had wavy brown hair that fell just to his shoulders, and black-lashed hazel eyes—the kind that popped against his darker features. Looking into his beautiful face was an almost unsettling experience, which was why she was most often tongue-tied around him.

She’d told Fox the idea of being bitten creeped her out, but the truth was, there was something extremely intoxicating about the idea of vampires. She’d spent the entire week imagining Dom biting her neck. He was the fodder for most of her fantasies, although she would never act on them. God, she couldn’t even look him in the eye when she talked to him.

Someone grabbed both of her breasts from behind and she shrieked and whirled around. Stella was grinning a toothy grin at her. Kate had never been with a woman, but if she could pick one, it would be Stella—especially now that she knew Stella was a vampire. She could just picture her dressed up as a dominatrix, spanking her with a riding crop. She shook her head and pushed that crazy thought out of her head. Stella stepped past her into a stall, blowing her a kiss.

Kate went to the bar and ordered a shot of Herradura, to take the edge off the caffeine buzz she had going. She threw it back and bit into the lime as a shudder ran through her, then took her place on stage, kicking off the damned stilettos. The caffeine/alcohol mix made her want to jump around, so she veered from their agreed upon set and called for some of the punkier songs they knew. The great thing about the Morphs was that the guys could usually pull any cover song she named out of their asses.

The first set went well, and the effects of the shot seemed to have taken the edge off. The bar was way too crowded now for her to squeeze in there to get a drink, but Nanette, one of the cocktail waitresses, came right to the stage as they finished to take their orders. “Ginger ale and lime?” she smiled.

“Yes. And another shot of Herradura.”

“You got it. You were great, by the way. As usual!”

Kate smiled her thanks and hunted for the stilettos. There was no way she was walking through the bar in her bare feet. Fox had waited for her at the edge of the stage and he took her hand to help her through the throng. He was good like that. Sometimes she got overwhelmed by people trying to get her attention when she came off the set, and lord knows drunk people weren’t good about picking up on her subtle cues to back off. She wasn’t good at being rude. Or even firm, really. On-stage, Kate was a rock-star—a sassy, confident bad-ass—but once she was done with the set, she was only good at smiling and saying the things she thought people wanted to hear.

She gripped Fox’s hand tighter when she was groped by some random person while she was squeezing through the crowd. Fox pulled her in closer to him and gave the throng behind her the stink eye. She gave him a peck on the cheek. He really was her best friend. She loved that he was not even slightly “vagiphobic” as some of her gay friends called themselves. He had no problem fronting as her boyfriend to take the pressure off her and she had no doubt he would defend her with his fists (or fangs?) if it ever came down to it.

Dom was in a booth with a couple of regulars and Fox pulled her over that way. “Can we squeeze in?” he asked. The regulars bumped fists with Dom and got up to make room for them.

“You’re on fire tonight,” Dom said.

She grinned and her face went warm. She met his eyes for a brief moment.

“That was more like a second set kind of pace. I wasn’t sure if they would go there with you at first.”

Shit. He hadn’t liked it. “I’m sorry—it was too fast for ten at night, wasn’t it? Do you think it was okay?”

He shrugged. “You pulled it off.” He waved out at the audience. “They were dancing.”

She felt like crawling under the table or crying or both. She was always fragile when she first came off stage. To open herself up and perform with her whole heart made her feel both euphoric and vulnerable. For an hour or two afterward as she came off the high of it all, she could easily plummet into depression if she felt like she’d screwed it up.

She looked up and was dismayed to see that Dom was studying her with what suspiciously looked like comprehension. He covered her hand with his own—it was cooler in temperature, like Fox’s. “That wasn’t a criticism. You were great.”

Her eyes filled with tears then—because it was Dom and she was embarrassed. She was saved by Nanette, who arrived with the tequila shot. She immediately threw it back and sunk her teeth into the lime. “One more, please.”

Dom frowned.

“I’ll pay for it,” she said quickly. Everyone got a free shift drink, but maybe he thought she was abusing his generosity.

He shook his head. “No, it’s on the house. You sure you can handle two shots in a row like that?”

She shrugged. But he was right to doubt her drinking capacity. She was a lightweight—five feet, three inches, 115 pounds. One drink usually had her tipsy, two and she’d be drunk. The fire of the Herradura was relaxing her limbs, and it helped her forget the awkward moment with Dom. She sneaked a look at him and felt that thrill of danger imagining what it would be like to be with him.

“Let’s keep rockin’ it,” she said when they were back on stage. She kept the vibe up at a fevered pace again—giving everything she had to her performance, trying to make up to Dom for the shortcomings of the last set. The mixture of the alcohol and caffeine now had her in an anything-goes kind of mood and she was going to use it to its full extent.

The Marilyn dress wasn’t working for her, though, especially not in this mood. She was wearing spanky shorts on underneath in case the audience looked up her dress while she was on stage, so she made a big show of ripping the dress off and twirling it overhead like she was a member of the US Women’s Soccer team and just won the title. She threw the dress out to the cheering audience and then posed in her black and hot pink bra and spankies, throwing her arms up in the air. The crowd screamed. Her all-male band-mates were laughing.

“How about ‘Tainted Love?’” she asked, standing behind her keyboard and adjusting the mic. Fox grinned, plucking the melody on his electric guitar. The rest of the band got on board after trying out a few bars and she gave a nod and started in for real.

She sang it strong and sultry. “Sometimes I feel I’ve got to…” she snapped her head from side to side for the accent beats of the keyboard: bong-bong, “…run away, I’ve got to…” snappy head: bong-bong “get away from the pain you drive into the heart of me…”

* * *

Dom was all about women ripping off their clothes whenever they felt like it, but this particular time didn’t feel right to him. And it wasn’t because he didn’t love to look at Kate Strand’s hot little body. Watching her now, he could see the pulse of her heart beat under her pale skin, the veins looking plump with oxygen. His eyes traced the blue lines, following the one that plunged down into her bra, then moving to the one at her inner thigh, watching the quiver of that lush femoral artery that was exposed by her short shorts. He shook his head to clear it.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want everyone else looking at her hot little body, either. Well, maybe some of that. But this wasn’t really like her. She always gave a good show, but didn’t usually drink that much and he didn’t want her to do something she’d regret. He felt like she was somehow inviting danger by getting so wild up there. He felt protective of her. But then, every employee at No Return felt the same way and Fox was right there next to her. Just to be safe, he would make sure Fox accompanied her home or to her car when she left.

What the—?” The singing stopped with a yelp mid-note and there was a series of loud crashes. Oh shit. He couldn’t see Kate at all, which meant she must have fallen off the front of the stage. How was that possible?

“I’m on it!” Stella yelled, pushing her way toward the stage. He pushed his own way through the crowd, which had naturally tightened into an unnavigable knot as everyone tried to either figure out what happened or gawk. He could see Stella by the stage, cradling Kate in her arms and carrying her toward the stairs. She appeared to be conscious. Thank God. Stella met his eyes across the crowd and she nodded, which he took to mean that Kate was okay, relatively speaking. He redirected his efforts toward getting the DJ going and reassuring the crowd before he went upstairs.

* * *

In the lounge of his windowless office, he smelled blood—Kate’s. And arousal: Stella’s. Stella held Kate cradled in her lap, licking the blood from her forehead. Her fangs were fully extended and Kate was staring up at them with fascination.

“Uh-uh, Stella. You heard what Fox said– she’s not into it.”

“She looks like she might be persuaded,” Stella said thickly.

He had to laugh– the thought of Stella and Kate getting it on was pretty hot. “No, Stella. Let her go or you’ll get a spanking,” he teased.

The smell of female arousal increased– this time he would swear it was Kate’s. He peered at her as he offered a hand and helped her off Stella’s lap.

“Unless I’m interrupting?” he asked.

She blushed and shook her head quickly. “No.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, it’s just a bump,” she said, rubbing her head.

“What happened, exactly?”

She looked embarrassed. “I just lost track of where the end of the stage was. I guess I was a little tipsy.”

“Kate, may I speak with you for a second?” Dom asked, beckoning her into his office. He left the door to the lounge open and leaned against his desk, folding his arms across his chest. “Listen. I think you had too much to drink tonight. I understand that you might need to get your buzz on to enhance your performance, but you need to be in control when you go on my stage. You should know your own limits.”

Kate looked stricken. “I’m sorry—I didn’t think it would be a big deal. It was just a couple of shots.”

“Well it was obviously too many and that makes it a big deal. When you’re working for me, I need you to be consistent. Okay?”

Too late, he realized she was going to cry.

“I understand. I’m sorry.” She held her eyes wide so the tears wouldn’t spill.

He hooked his hand around her waist and pulled her a step closer to him. “It’s alright,” he said gently. “The spanking’s over.”

Then he paused. He detected the fresh scent of her arousal. Interesting. That was the second time she’d been turned on by the word spanking. He tested it out. “Unless you need me to bend you over my desk and spank you for real?” He waggled his eyebrows for effect.

Yep, that definitely lit her up.

“Be careful, Kate, he spanks hard,” Stella called in from where she was picking up in the lounge. She gave him a wink, obviously smelling it too. Too intrigued to let a moment like this pass, he stood up from where he’d been perched on the desktop and pulled her gently in to bend her over it, moving slowly to give her time to process what was going to happen. Very slowly, he pulled her tiny shorts and panties halfway down her thighs.

He turned to wink back at Stella as she slipped quietly out the door, mouthing the words, “Have fun!”

He ran his hand along Kate’s beautiful little butt, which was as firm as a ripe peach and baby soft. He squeezed it a little and murmured approvingly. Kate didn’t seem to be breathing at all, but her pussy was glistening with moisture. He drew his hand back and brought it sharply down on one of her cheeks.

She jumped and exclaimed, “Ahh!”

He rubbed the offended cheek a few times before he struck her other cheek. She whimpered. He rubbed again. Then he brought his hand down for several quick hard slaps, holding her in place with his left hand on her low back. “Ow! Uh! Oh!” She was trying to get away from him now and he figured she’d had enough. He dipped his fingers between her legs and was not at all surprised to find she was beyond wet. And he was hard. She moaned as he moved his fingers along her slickness. “Please?” her voice was a tiny squeak.

“How do you want it?” he said, his voice low and gravelly, his fangs long. She tried to turn around and he released her so that she could. She let her shorts and panties drop to the floor and slid back on the desk, spreading her legs and drawing her knees up. The sight of her spread open to him like that was more than he could take. He normally wasn’t a fan of the neatly trimmed bush look that was so popular these days, but on her it was the most erotic thing he had ever seen. He growled and pulled off his pants, grabbing a condom from a box on his desk.

It was better than he could have imagined. Her pussy was so swollen with desire that she felt as tight as a virgin when he slid into her. His body temperature ran low and she was on fire—her heat engulfed him, heating his blood, making him half lose his mind with hunger. Within minutes, they had knocked everything off of the top of his desk and her torso was laid back fully with her ankles hanging up over his shoulders. He pumped into her, watching her face as it moved through pleasure into fierce desire and finally the flicker of panic that precedes a female orgasm.

“Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes!” Kate called out as she came, her head thrown back and her eyes rolling.

Her orgasm spurred his, and he came hard, groaning and gripping her well-toned thighs. Keeping their hips connected, he pulled her up to sit and tilted her head back to expose her vein. “May I?” His voice was hoarse with desire.

“Yessss,” she said breathily. He struck quickly and savored the taste of her—warm, delicious, erotic, with the tang of alcohol. He came again and she squeezed her legs around his waist, drawing him in tighter. She was smiling. When he finished, he sealed the little holes with the blood-clotting and healing properties of his saliva and kissed her nape.

“Thank you,” he whispered in her ear.


Of course Fox picked that moment to barge in, as locks were completely ineffectual at keeping vampires out. His fangs shot out and he hissed. “What the fuck are you doing to her?”

He pulled out of Kate and held up his hands as Kate jumped off the desk in search of her panties and shorts. “It was consensual,” he said quickly, pulling his own pants back up. A vampire with his fangs out is nothing to mess with—even if he is your friend. “You can ask her.”

Kate nodded. “Absolutely.”

“You took advantage of her.” The fangs had retracted a little but Fox was still pissed, and Dom couldn’t blame him. He would feel the same way if he knew someone hijacked Kate while she was in an obvious state of intoxication.

Fortunately, Kate spoke up. “Do I look like I didn’t like it? It’s totally cool,” she said firmly.

Fox looked doubtfully from one to another, but his fangs were back where they belonged. “I came up to make sure you were okay,” he mumbled.

Kate rubbed her head where it had been bleeding. “Yeah, just a cut and bruise, I think. No real harm done.”

“You want to go to the after-party at Andrew’s?”

“Sure. I’ll meet you downstairs,” she said.

Fox left, throwing one last doubtful look over his shoulder and Dom reached into his pocket for his cash. He paid almost everyone under the table at No Return. It saved him money and they all appreciated it. “Here’s your pay for tonight. I ought to dock it because you didn’t finish the last set, but…” he stroked and then gently slapped her firm little butt, “I feel like we’re even.”

She flushed, clearly not sure how to take that.

He ran his finger over the bump on her forehead, feeling like it was absolutely tragic that her perfect face would be shadowed with a bruise. Something about her made him feel protective. “Be careful tonight, okay?”

“I will,” she promised.

“All right. Good night, Kate,” he said, giving her soft lips a quick kiss.

“Okay, yeah. Bye.” She seemed a little flustered. Sobering up, maybe.

When she had left he sat down in his chair and closed his eyes. Oh hell. That was a mistake. He had enjoyed every moment of it, but from start to finish—on every level—it had been a colossal mistake.

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