I eased off the bike, slowly removing my shades. Six of the club members stood in a semi-circle, all remaining quiet.
The only noise was the crackling of the fire in the beat-up oil drum. And the whining from the son of a bitch who’d made the bad decision to steal from me. Today I would make an example out of Salvator Rivera, a top enforcer. A message would be sent to the son of a bitch cartel leader who’d sent him to do his dirty work. The Los Zetas had become an issue as of late, their last attempt at sabotaging our inventory the last straw. Salvator was nothing but a piece of scum, his penchant for hurting women well known.
Now I had the chance to ‘discuss’ with him how reprehensible his behavior was in my way. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be able to recite the lessons learned when I was finished.
The other members backed off except for Cage, the president and the man who’d convinced me that I’d find my sense of peace by riding with the boys.
He’d been right; the Silent Kings were more like family than a club. I’d learned quickly that honor was everything, something I’d almost forgotten about.
Cage snapped his hand on my shoulder, an evil grin crossing his face. “He’s all yours, Savage. I thought you might wanna have a little fun.” I’d earned my patch shortly after I’d finished doing Cage a huge favor, finally earning the respect of every member.
“I appreciate that, Cage. I’ve been feeling anxious lately,” I answered, staring at the piece of shit tied to the two pieces of railroad ties.
“Nothin’ a good beat down won’t cure. When you’re finished, one of the boys will take out the trash for you. I have dinner with my old lady. I don’t want to be late. You know how she gets.”
Laughing, I gave him a nod. I’d been over to their house a half dozen times. The woman was one hell of a cook. I swaggered closer, noticing the asshole flinched with every step I took. He should be scared. I’d given him a single warning when I’d caught him dipping his hand into my pockets. But the asshole hadn’t listened. The fact he’d attempted to raid the warehouse with a few of his buddies, stealing the fresh shipment of weapons I’d brought to the club couldn’t go unpunished.
I wasn’t known as ‘the savage’ for nothing.
The other members backed away even further, giving me plenty of room. “Cut him down for me, Jethro. Will ya?”
“Sure thing, Savage,” Jethro barked. The dude was the biggest and roughest of the group, but a teddy bear inside. As the secretary, he’d been the one to ensure I memorized the bylaws.
I didn’t need a soul to teach me how to hand myself in any form of combat. I had years of experience in the Army.
As Salvator dropped to the gravel, he remained where he was, trying to catch his breath. As I approached, he jerked to his feet, trying to take a swing. The boys had spent some time with him, taking out their personal disgust for his choice of entertainment. There was nothing worse than sex traffickers and men who used their old ladies as punching bags.
I wasn’t in the mood to make this thing last longer than necessary. Tonight, I had a longing for a tall cold one. Maybe two. It had been a long week. I threw a hard punch then another, catching him in the jaw both times. He struggled to remain on his feet, able to shake it off then lunged for me.
Salvator managed to connect with my kidney, but the punch was weak. I immediately grabbed him by the throat, lifting him by several inches. Then I tossed him against the fence, shaking my head as he slowly slid all the way down.
“Way to go, Savage,” Jethro said, whistling several times.
I was angrier than I’d anticipated being, immediately yanking him from the ground, issuing several brutal punches. When I grabbed him around the throat again, I squeezed as he slapped at my arm. “You like hurting women and little girls. That shit doesn’t fly with me or any of the boys. Does it?”
They all growled in unison.
“And lastly, you made a very poor decision attempting to steal from this organization.” I dropped him a second time, moving around him in a full circle.
“Fuck you,” he snarled.
“That wasn’t very nice. Now, was it?” I threw several more hard punches, one coming right after the other until Salvator dropped of his own accord to his knees.
“Savage,” Cage called. “Hold up, man.”
I rubbed my arm across my forehead, catching the sweat as I stared at the prez. He had a cellphone in his hand. “Keep the asshole occupied,” I told Jethro as I moved toward Cage, narrowing my eyes.
“There’s some dude on the phone for you. He says it’s important. It’s about your brother.”
I cocked my head, trying to figure out how in the hell anyone had a fucking clue where I was, including my brother.
But I took the call.
As the man spoke, I took several deep breaths, finding it unnecessary to interrupt him. When he was finally finished, all I could do was acknowledge the call. “I understand. I’ll do what’s necessary.” After handing Cage his phone, I took long strides toward Salvator, rage forming in my gut.
I backhanded the son of a bitch several times until he was flat on the ground, his breathing ragged. Then I pulled out my weapon, straddling the man. With zero hesitation or remorse, I fired a single shot right between the eyes.
Seconds later, I threw a look at the other members before turning away. As Cage had mentioned, they could handle the fucking trash from here. I had a goddamn life to shut down.
I took long strides toward my bike, unable to feel anything.
Let the man rot in hell.
“We need to talk.”
Talk? I didn’t like the smugness in his voice or the fact he remained standing. Christopher was wearing his perfectly tailored suit he’d ordered directly from Italy after jetting there for the sole purpose of the fitting.
Not for the gorgeous scenery.
Not for the fabulous wine.
Only for a two-piece suit that cost more than six months of my salary. Then again, Christopher Martin could afford anything he wanted. Yachts. Vacation homes. Cases of Dom Perignon.
“What do we need to talk about?”
Hopefully this formal meeting was all about the promotion. I had to admit I was hopeful after spending eighty-hour weeks for two solid months. Every single ad I’d created had not only been accepted by our growing list of clients, they’d praised the entire firm for such outstanding work.
The bastard had better offer me the role or I wasn’t certain what I’d do. Visions of skewering him for a barbeque feast came to mind. Granted, I had other reasons to fork his ass.
“Why don’t you sit down?”
“I’m dandy standing.”
He was quiet.
I started fuming.
While his gaze was stern, that didn’t dampen his handsome exterior, the coiffed linen suit unable to hide his muscular physique. Every woman in the office swooned over him. Considered the most eligible bachelor on the East Coast, he’d graced a half-dozen magazine covers in the last year alone.
I’d managed to keep my cool and my dignity.
“This is difficult,” he finally said, suddenly acting as if this was the most devastating moment of his career.
“Just say it, Christopher.”
What was he getting at?
“Ms. Fox. We’re going to have to let you go.”
Hold up. What? What the hell did he just say?
It took everything I had not to launch myself across his desk, clawing his baby blues right out of his head. I took a deep breath, trying to remain calm. However, the bastard had gone too far this time. To think I’d once believed he could be my happily ever after. I’d clearly been out of my freaking mind.
I stared at Christopher, trying to process what he’d just said. “I’m sorry. What did you say? There’s no way I heard you correctly.” This was crazy for two reasons. One—he hadn’t called me Ms. Fox after the second day I’d been on the job. Two—there was no ‘we’ in the Martin Agency. Just him. One arrogant prick who’d just fired me. Thirty days ago, I’d been given a raise, albeit a small one. Now he had the nerve to fire me?
He wore the same expression I’d seen a number of times, although it was usually reserved for when one of the new members of the advertising team presented an idea that he loathed.
“I think I made myself clear. I am prepared to offer you two weeks of severance, but on the condition that you leave quietly.”
Was he fucking kidding me? He was terrified I’d call him on the carpet for the real reason why I’d been given the pink slip. I had integrity, which he refused to understand, especially the other night when I’d had to pry him off me. And that had been for the third time. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have threatened him with a teeny, tiny lawsuit, but that was no reason to fire me. I’d brought in significantly more business than he had during the last twelve months. I never should have gone on the two dates with him. Never.
Maybe I’d been fooling myself to think he was offering me the promotion to junior vice president, but I’d worked hard to obtain the raise and he knew it. How many times had he stroked me with compliments?
“You’re my best employee, Harlow.”
“I couldn’t do this without you, Harlow.”
I want to fuck your brains out, Harlow.
I was flabbergasted. I was sick to my stomach. I was… pissed off.
I thought about his offer and sashayed closer to his desk, slamming my palms on his five-thousand-dollar desk. “Let me guess. You’re doing the nasty with good ole Sassy. Right?” Who the hell used a name like Sassy in business? It screamed of sexual innuendos, admitting that she would be happy and eager to perform a little after-hours therapy in order to get ahead.
“I beg your pardon. I am doing no such thing. The truth is that your work has been slipping as of late.”
“The truth is that I refused to sleep with you, Chrissy.” I hadn’t been able to rein in the nasty girl.
His face turned beet red, which made me grin.
“I suggest you gather your things before you say something you regret.”
“Regret?” I glared at him with all the hatred I could muster. “Let me guess. Sassy got my promotion. Didn’t she?”
The nervous tic returned.
“I knew it. If I’d known all a girl had to do to get ahead in this unscrupulous business was to crawl under your desk once a day, then I’d…” Oh, hell, no, I couldn’t finish the sentence.
“Let’s face it, you’re a hopeless romantic. You want the fairytale.”
“I don’t give a shit about fairytales, Christopher, but I do care about a lying, cheating son of a bitch.”
“You were the one who wanted more.”
“I know. You just wanted sex. Guess what? I didn’t find you attractive in the least. That’s why I didn’t sleep with you.” Way to go salvaging what was left of my humility.
By the expression on his face, I could tell I’d bruised his huge ego. At least something about him was large. It certainly wasn’t the cock between his legs.
“Don’t lie to yourself, Harlow. I made it clear I wanted nothing to do with you, but you kept pressing the point.”
The man was delusional.
At least I could easily tell I’d hit the nail on the head. He turned six shades of crimson, turning his head so I couldn’t see the shame crossing his face.
I backed away, laughing. “Did you know Sassy spent ten thousand dollars on those boobs you ogle every day?” The volume of my voice was getting louder. What did I care? I was out of a job. One day, so help me God, I’d get even where it counted.
His nostrils flared. The nervous tic I’d seen before was growing.
Ruining his company. That was my intention.
For now, I’d do my best to walk out of this hellhole with my head held high.
“Have fun with your Barbie doll.” I pointed to his receding hairline. “By the way, I’d consider hair plugs very soon, Chrissy boy. I heard Sassy doesn’t sleep with older men.” I turned around before I really would regret words bursting from my mouth. I flung open the door and lo and behold, at least six associates were all gawking, running like rats the second I crossed the threshold.
I headed to my meager office, yanking a copier box out of the production room along the way. It took me precisely four minutes to gather my things. At least no one had rushed into my office to bug me. I lifted my middle finger before walking out.
Somehow, I should have known my day would go from bad to a bottomless pit. As I walked by the once empty office waiting for the new VP, I dared to glance inside. Sassy had already taken up residence. She turned her head, swishing her fake bottled blonde hair and blew me a kiss.
I hated my life.
My life hadn’t just thrown me a wicked pitch ending in a strikeout, it had gutted me. But I’d regrouped. Yes, I had.
Which is why you ran away with your tail between your legs.
That wasn’t true. I’d obtained a fabulous position.
In a city you’ve never been to.
That was true enough, but I couldn’t think about that any longer. I was exhausted from the arduous trip and still had several hundred miles to go. I glanced at my meager food and treat supply. I’d done everything I could to stretch what money I’d brought with me, but I was starving. Just a few items would tide me through the remainder of the trip.
I’d watched for signs for a gas station or a small town for what seemed like hours, finally noticing a faded sign on the side of the road. Perfect. I could fill up with gas and grab a few snacks. As I pulled into the mostly dirt parking lot, I wasn’t surprised by the garish look of the façade.
I’d passed more than a few establishments that had obviously used the same decorator, preferring shades of pink and turquoise. Granted, I was taking what the last store clerk had insisted was a shortcut, which accounted for the lack of typical chain gas stations.
I rolled the car next to a pump, cringing as I noticed the price of gas. As I stepped out, the heat of the day blasted against me like a furnace. Virginia had its share of blazing days, summers filled with excessive humidity, but this part of the country was like standing in a broiler twenty-four hours a day.
As I slipped my card into the slot on the pump, I heard the rumble of an engine, a huge motorcycle pulling up to the store. After a few seconds, the rider lowered his boots to the ground, yanking off his helmet. As long hair flowed past broad shoulders, I dragged my tongue across my lips. A little eye candy was a real treat and so deserved. He was wearing jeans tight enough the material molded against his skin like a glove. As the gas flowed, so did my wicked imagination.
I wouldn’t mind taking as much time as needed to peel away those sweaty jeans, revealing the prize underneath. Then I’d slide my tongue around his thick shaft like a Tootsie Roll Pop, savoring every. Single. Lick.
Whew. It was getting hotter by the second. Sighing, I allowed my gaze to roam his muscular arms, biting my lower lip as I concentrated on the ink covering both. If only I could see his face. Oh, what the hell did that matter? I could fuck him in the dark and it wouldn’t matter.
Whoever the dreamboat was, he turned his head, allowing me a delicious if not brief glance at his silhouette. If half his face was any indication, the man was gorgeous. When he disappeared into the store, I glared at the pump, which was still spewing gas. “Come on, you old piece of shit. Get moving.”
After another gallon, I cut it off prematurely. After everything I’d been through, I deserved a better peek at biker boy. Leaving my car where it was, I headed for the store, gasping from the blast of cold air. Where the hell was he? The store wasn’t that large and from what I’d been able to tell, the mystery man was huge, much taller than the racks. After scanning the entire place, I rolled my eyes. Get what you came for. As usual, my inner voice nagged me to keep going before I chickened out.
I grabbed a bag of Doritos, two candy bars, some gummy bears, and a can of Pringles. That should do it. To top it off, I yanked a huge bottle of Diet Pepsi from the cooler. I had to watch calories where I could. Then I heard boots, heavy ones. Freezing, I slowly stood to my full height, moving onto my toes until I was able to catch a glimpse of him, the hulking mass of a man. His back was turned. Damn it.
I hurried along, dropping the Pringles can twice before making it to the counter. There were two people in front, neither of them sexy on any level. And the one at the counter was arguing with the kid trying to help him.
Sighing, I struggled to keep holding everything, shifting from foot to foot, trying not to be too obvious I wanted to see Mr. Sex-on-Wheels. When I felt a heated presence behind me, I froze. With a single whiff of his aftershave my legs felt like noodles. I hadn’t responded to any man this way in my life, including good ole Christopher. Maybe the tasty thought of the forbidden had awakened my senses.
Of course, I couldn’t turn around, but I would linger by the counter, finding a reason to shift in his direction. Just for a look. That was it.
Finally, the first person grabbed his bag of items and moved on, allowing me to take a step closer.
Then I heard a chuckle. Not just any chuckle but a deep, husky one that sent quivers down both legs.
Until the bastard spoke what was on his mind.
“That shit’s gonna kill you. I’d think a pretty young chick would know better.”
His voice matched his rough and tumble personality, so deep and velvety that for a few seconds I was riding high on a cloud of bliss. Then I came crashing down as I realized he was admonishing me. “I beg your pardon?” I snapped, immediately jerking around to face him. Two things struck me right away.
One: He had to be perhaps the most gorgeous man I’d set my eyes on.
Two: He was purchasing everything healthy they had in the damn store. Nuts. Berries. Granola bars. Water. Was he kidding me?
Then the unthinkable happened. Several items slipped out of my hands, falling on and around his feet. My day had just turned to shit.
When he chuckled again, the bad girl inside of me reared her head. I was working on adrenaline and little else, the motel I’d stayed in devoid of a working air conditioner. I was also still reeling from the events a few days before, furious that I hadn’t stood my ground. Now this… gorgeous asshole was making fun of me.
“You heard me, sunshine. If you want to live past forty, you should consider better eating habits.”
Now he’d crossed a line. I left the items on the floor, inching closer, planting my hands on my hips. “Look, boy toy. I’ve had a shitty past couple of weeks. I’m driving halfway across the freaking country in search of a new life. I’m hot. I’m tired. I’m obviously very cranky so I don’t need your shit. K?”
I’d be damned if he didn’t have a grin on his face a mile wide. And why did he have to smell so damn good, like fresh-cut timber and a hint of exotic spices? I felt a wave of intoxication hitting my system.
He backed away, taking his sweet time picking up my items. Then he gave me a stern look, as if the dude was my master. Fat chance in hell. “Just friendly advice, sunshine. You’re far too beautiful to fall victim to the effects of junk food.”
I narrowed my eyes, allowing every minute of rage I’d felt to rise to the surface. “Mind your own business, sweet cheeks.” I grabbed the items out of his hands with enough force I almost lost the soda, but I recovered, moving with about as much grace as a broken gazelle toward the counter, tossing the items with a little too much force. And damn it if he wasn’t laughing as I checked out. When I was able to grab the bag, I took long strides toward the door, turning around once and giving him a sneer. “And don’t call me sunshine.”
I managed to keep my head held high as I moved toward my car, tossing the items inside. Then I realized a restroom stop was a good idea since I’d seen next to nothing for the last three hours. I stomped back inside, keeping the look of hatred on my face as I headed for the bathroom.
The entire time I’d crossed the parking lot, I’d felt his heated gaze staring at me through the window. Okay, so I’d also taken another good look at his insanely handsome body, but with an attitude like that, he’d never be involved with any woman.
I took a deep breath after walking inside the restroom, slouching against the wall for a few seconds. Who was I kidding? I couldn’t continue to hate every man who came my way because of what happened.
After finishing my business, I took several deep breaths of the cool air then headed for my car, stopping short when I noticed his bike parked in front of my car. He slowly turned his head as I approached, his dark sunglasses hiding eyes I hadn’t paid enough attention to. I started to say something to him, but all I could think of were either nasty retorts or a suggestion that we find the closest motel.
Time to get back on the road. After climbing inside, I expected he’d turn his attention to what he was doing. Oh, hell, no. He kept the same smug look on his face, peering into my windshield as if he’d already undressed me with his eyes. Damn him for creating a wave of heat between my legs.
I started the engine, trying to turn the wheel and slide past. Then I chewed on my lower lip, shoving the gear into reverse, backing up by at least twenty feet. After that, I hauled ass, the tires squealing as I slammed my foot on the accelerator, whizzing by him with just enough speed that the tires kicked up dust. As soon as I glanced into the rearview mirror, I slapped my hand over my mouth.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
The hulk was covered in dust.
As I hurried onto the road, I continued to glance in the rearview, certain he would come after me. Five miles later and the excessive speed I was going, I finally took a deep breath.
What a shame. He was one hell of a man.
Five miles turned into twenty, then forty and I was suddenly hating the drive. The road was as desolate as they came, nothing but desert on both sides, a few cacti in the distance, and mountains as the background.
As I drove, the loneliness started to settle in. I’d never done anything this impulsive in my life. I’d reacted instead of planning, the anxiety of what I was doing changing my personality. Maybe that’s what I’d needed all along. Instead of being the nice girl, which had only brought me heartache, I’d turned into the bitch. It was nice in thought. Let’s see how far I could take it.
Laughing, I switched the radio station and cranked up the air conditioning.
“Love… I won’t… ever if…” The country singer chirped like some freaking bird. Sputter. His voice faded in and out.
What the hell was wrong with the damn radio? I should have indulged in satellite, but I was trying to save money.
“Goddamn piece of shit!” The grueling twenty-five-hour trip had finally ripped what little patience I had from my mind. I slammed my hand on the dashboard, as if that would help the radio start functioning again. I’d made it all the way from Richmond, Virginia without any issues. Now this. Beads of perspiration trickled down both sides of my face as if the car was trying to get even with me for saying bad things about her.
I cranked up the air, only to realize the blower was slowly dying.
“Fuck, no. This can’t happen. I hate you, car. I freaking hate you.”
My car’s revenge continued, the engine suddenly cutting off. I did my best coasting it to the side of the road, laughing maniacally because even the steering was on the fritz. This was ridiculous. When I finally managed to roll it onto the shoulder, I smashed my hands against the steering wheel several times. After taking gulping breaths, I tried to restart the engine only to hear several clicking sounds.
My insides felt like they were being stewed and the air had been off for only a few seconds. After checking the rearview mirror for any approaching traffic, I opened the door and popped the hood, trying to remember when I’d seen the last road sign of any kind. A long time. I moved onto the hot pavement, the sun scorching my skin even though it was past five in the afternoon.
I stood exactly where I was for a few seconds. Even though I was wearing my darkest shades, I was forced to shield my eyes given the cloudless day. Someone had to come along soon. Right?
No, that wasn’t true. That’s because I’d taken the advice of a snazzy hottie at my second to last stop, pestering him for a shortcut. He’d promised me this would cut off a full two hours. He neglected to tell me that nobody traveled the damn road.
Sadly, it reminded me of one of those moments in Deliverance, a movie my first Neanderthal ex-boyfriend had forced me to watch a half dozen times. There wasn’t a car in sight, and I hadn’t seen a single vehicle for at least forty-five minutes. While my cellphone still had a charge, I wasn’t entirely certain where the hell I was other than in New Mexico. Every mile for the last hundred and fifty had looked exactly the same.
Boring as hell.
Except for the single gas station a bazillion miles away.
I rubbed my arm across my forehead before heading toward the front of the car. Right now, all I wanted to do was bash the hood with the baseball bat located in my trunk. Don’t act like a prima donna. You need your car. My little voice could go straight to hell. No amount of her being right made me feel any better.
As I shifted around the front, sliding my fingers underneath the hood, I said a silent prayer that it was something simple. Like you know how to fix cars.
“Shut up.” I jerked it open, glaring at the engine as if I was actually going to figure out what the hell was wrong.
Somehow, I didn’t think that prayer was going to work. Nothing appeared out of place, but something was very wrong. Then it dawned on me. The alternator. Freaking fantastic. That would cost me a pretty penny and I barely had two copper coins to rub together. Every dollar I had left was precious. After all, it wasn’t every day a girl like me had the opportunity to start over again in a new city.
Anger swept through me at the reason why I’d had to leave the city that had been home for so long. I even had vivid images to go with the wretched memory. Groovy. This was turning out to be a shit day after an even shittier ten days.
I tried not to replay the scenario all over again as I stood back, but I could still see the same smug look on Christopher’s face. Damn it!
A noise in the distance grabbed my attention. Maybe I could thumb a ride to the closest gas station. If I ate peanut butter and jelly sammies until I got my first paycheck, I’d be okay. At least I’d worn a skirt. I shifted into a provocative pose and stuck out my thumb, planting a plastic smile on my face.
The rumble increased, the sound reverberating in my core. As I stared down the lonely road, I could swear there were heat vibrations dancing across the horizon. The powerful engine drew closer.
Oh, no. There was no chance in hell my luck was that bad. The rumble was coming from a motorcycle. Where else did you think he was going to go?
“Just shut up.”
Finally, I was able to catch a glimpse of the approaching vehicle. I was right. The same motorcycle. I was certain of it. I took a deep breath, trying to figure out how to apologize.
A split second before I was pitched to the ground as the asshole blew by.
And the cretin of a man kept going.
Jarred, I shook my head as a cloud of dust settled over me. The bastard had not just knocked me down then left. He’d done it for payback. Really? I’d been playing. This was…
You deserved it.
Now my little voice was being harsh. But truthful. Would the sexy hunk really leave me out here all alone?
My butt hurt, the palm of one hand killing me, but I jumped to my feet, using my middle finger as a sign of exactly how I felt about his less than gentlemanly display. I should just get used to it. There wasn’t a decent man around.
Especially in the middle of the desert.
I stared at him, the same heat vibrations encapsulating his bike. A sinking feeling pitted my stomach. I was stuck. Alone. Then just as he started to slide from my vision, the loud rumble changed. Within seconds, I could tell he’d turned around, heading in my direction.
At this point I wasn’t certain whether to be grateful or get ready to punch out his lights. I smoothed my hands down my skirt, grabbing the hem on both sides to make certain my butt was covered by material.
The rider slowed as he neared, almost idling for a few seconds before he pulled over to the side. Was he still debating whether he’d help me out? Biker boy eased off the Harley, yanking the helmet from his head. Long strands of honeyed chestnut hair fell down his back, the light breeze swishing it back and forth across broad shoulders. I’d be damned if he didn’t look even hotter than he had before. That wasn’t possible. I was melting in the heat, and he was cool as a cucumber.
I took a step back, smacking my aching butt against the front of my car, watching as he slowly turned, making his approach.
He took long strides, but everything seemed to be in slow motion. The waning sun spun a golden glow around his massive body, highlighting his structured frame. In my mind the man was a monster, at least seven feet tall with muscles so large he could kill a man with his index finger.
Get a grip. He’s just a man.
Blinking, when I took another good look, I realized I was half right. He reminded me of the reason God made man in the first place, every muscle constructed as if molded from steel. The snug muscle shirt accentuated rippling muscles, his ruddy complexion lightly sun kissed. Given the excessive heat, my filthy mind imagined licking pure vanilla ice cream off his six-pack abs, savoring the way the melted cream trickled down his chest. His jeans were well worn, snug enough there was no doubt about the package between his legs. My imagination worked overtime, filling in the blanks and I was almost embarrassed to admit my mouth was watering. Almost. What intrigued me the most was the way the light stubble covering half his face created such a dangerous persona. With the glow of sun surrounding him, the otherworldliness of him presented a powerful draw.
“Whew,” I whispered, taking several deep breaths. He was definitely the perfect hero. Tall, built, and reeking of danger. However, I was determined not to like him, especially after purposely knocking me down.
As he closed the distance, I concentrated on the thick cords in his neck leading to a strong, angular jaw. By the time he was standing directly in front of me, he still hadn’t removed his sunglasses. When I noticed his scar, the mottled skin jutting down from his right eye, disappearing into the three-day shadow, he pursed his lips. A sore point.
“You could have killed me,” I blurted out. “You did that on purpose.” There was no remaining evidence of the spray of dirt I’d covered his body with.
“But I didn’t.” His tone was husky, sensual, as if he hadn’t slept in several nights, his only libation whiskey. The sound tickled my skin, sliding ever so slowly straight into my explosive core. My pussy throbbed, juice already dampening my panties. I was terrified he could tell how aroused I’d become. No amount of chastising would ease the ache in my nipples or erase the anxiety coursing through me.
Get a grip.
“That’s not the point.” After he didn’t acknowledge me, I huffed. “At least you might be a decent human being.”
“Don’t count on it.”
“Like I said, you did it on purpose.”
The same sneer shifted ever so slowly into the corner of his mouth. “A decent human being wouldn’t do that. Now, would they?”
“You are…” There were several nasty words lingering in my mind, but I couldn’t deny I needed help, even from Mr. Know-it-All.
He glared at me for what felt like a lifetime before bypassing me altogether, placing his huge, rough hands on my car, peering down at the engine. I forced myself to back away by a few feet, realizing that I had no weapon other than the baseball bat in my trunk. He could do anything he wanted to me, and no one would be the wiser. I glanced at his bike, noticing he had two duffle bags attached to the back. He could be a damn drug dealer. The thought sent a single trickle of fear straight down my spine.
The mystery hunk tinkered around for a few minutes then stood back, wiping his hands. “Busted alternator.”
“I could have told you that.”
I’d never known how hard a glare could be through sunglasses until now. He continued studying me for a few seconds then nodded to the bike. “Jump on.”
“What? With you? I don’t think so. Triple A is looking better and better.”
He moved closer until we were only a few inches apart. I did my best to hold my own, but he had to legitimately be at least six foot four, towering over me like a god. My nerves got the better of me and I dragged my tongue across my lips. Damn, the man was hot as Hades. I shifted my gaze to his arms, the creative ink scrolled on both impressive. He certainly didn’t get the tats in some fleabag shop.
“I can just walk,” I added, immediately my little voice screaming inside my head how stupid I sounded.
“It’s several miles to the nearest gas station. Sure, you can walk but given night will be falling soon, beware of the coyotes and snakes. Maybe a few tarantulas.”
“Probably less painful than being with you.”
Stupid girl. Stupid!
When he started to turn around, I dared to touch him on the arm. He stopped moving altogether, lowering his head so slowly I wasn’t certain he had. I curled my fingers, lowering my arm, but the electricity shooting all the way to my toes left me breathless. I’d never had this kind of reaction with anyone.
“That was rude,” I managed. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No, you shouldn’t have.”
The seconds ticked by. What was this, a standoff? “I can’t have any trouble. I’m starting a new life.” Why the hell did I say that to him?
“Yeah, so am I. What kind of trouble you thinking about?”
I had to cover with something. “Like drugs.” I moved quickly, heading toward his bike.
What are you doing? Are you out of your mind?
Ignoring the inner voice and what was left of my rational mind, I did the unthinkable. I messed with his stuff, opening the smaller duffle on top. “Like drugs. You could be a drug dealer,” I called. Then I realized he was standing right behind me, his musky scent so potent it took my breath away.
When I pulled out a stuffed pink bunny then a bag of puppy food, I was thrown into an abyss. “Kibbles and bits and bits and bits.”
“Do you always mimic commercials?”
“Only when I’m nervous.”
“Do I make you nervous?” Lordy, the man shifted until he was so close that I panted like some dog. I turned around quickly, forced to slam my hands against his chest. Fortunately, the items dropped into the bag, or I’d be in so much trouble. He was an unmovable force. The same jolt of current smacked me in the face, my mind a sudden blur of dirty, nasty images.
“Let’s just say you are… formidable.” And dangerous. And sexy as hell.
“Do you want a ride or not? I ain’t got all day.”
There were really no other choices, at least not ones I was willing to undertake. “Let me grab my purse.”
He backed away, his shaded eyes never leaving me. The throb between my legs was driving me to the point of such arousal I thought for certain I would have an orgasm.
I scampered back to my car, cursing my ridiculous behavior. What did I grab first? My beloved Twizzlers and the two candy bars. The sugar rush might help me get through this ordeal. Then I grabbed my purse and keys, yanking my jacket from the passenger seat. The days were boiling hot, but the nights were still chilly. Nights. How long did I think I would be with this hulk?
As I closed the hood, I laughed softly to myself.
I wouldn’t mind several nights of unbridled passion.
But that was for other girls, not me.
What the fuck did I think I was doing?
I was no savior, no hero. I’d proven that time and time again. I had a place to get to and time was ticking away. The last thing I needed was to be stuck with some broad with an attitude. Granted, she was a looker with hair the color of freshly minted pennies kissed by the sun, her scent driving a longing straight into my cock. With an hourglass figure and the softest looking lips I’d ever seen, the girl could be the perfect package for one rocking night.
If only she could keep her mouth shut.
She was a feisty one, her behavior at the gas station providing entertainment as well as some dirty fantasies right up to the point when she created the dirt storm. I’d wanted to track her down, yanking her over my lap for a hard spanking. If I had a little more time on my hands, I’d take care of that right now.
Filthy thoughts raced through my mind as she grabbed her things. I stared down at the contents of my duffle, hissing under my breath. Life was just shit. I zipped it shut then glowered at her as she made her way toward me. I’d mapped out a few locations, realizing I’d be forced to stop one more night. At least the town appeared large enough they should have a repair shop. What the hell would I do with her until then? Hell, I didn’t even know her name. Maybe I didn’t want to. Learning anything about a member of the opposite sex usually led to complications that I didn’t need.
And I certainly couldn’t handle them right now.
Not since everything had changed. Fuck. I didn’t want this shit but there was no other choice.
She squinted as she moved behind the bike, gazing down to my boots as she’d done a few times before. “What’s your name? I mean if we’re going to be riding together, I should at least know who the hell you are.”
She obviously had no clue what riding on the back of a Harley meant.
“People call me Savage.”
“Savage. So catchy and it suits you. Dare I ask why?”
I glared at her, finally realizing she was waiting for me to ask about hers. “People have their reasons. And yours?”
“You can call me… Sassy. How about that?”
Snorting, I reached inside the compartment, grabbing a second helmet and tossing it to her. “Put this on. We wouldn’t want that pretty head of yours to get smashed on the pavement.” At least she’d be forced to shut up for the remainder of the ride. She was obviously running from her previous life. While that made me curious, I had to shut down my desires. The next few days would be arduous, forcing a level of change I’d never wanted.
“So gentlemanly of you.”
Her mouth was caustic, but the fire in her eyes was undeniable. My cock twitched at the thoughts of what I could do to her voluptuous body. After shoving the few things she’d brought with her into the compartment, I climbed on the Harley, revving the engine. I could see my pep talk about shutting down my physical needs wasn’t going to stick.
“I’m supposed to crawl on behind you?”
“Like I said before, unless you would enjoy a nice long walk.”
“You’re not a nice man.”
“Nobody ever said I was. Wrap your arms around me. I ain’t wasting any time.”
“I have on a miniskirt.”
“Ain’t nothin’ I haven’t seen before. Hike it up.”
She grumbled, her flow of curse words rivaling a sailor’s. The girl needed to be taught manners.
Every move around me was tentative, but as soon as she followed my orders, settling in behind me, another raging wave of desire slammed into my system. I powered down on the accelerator, rolling onto the highway. The girl was going to be in for a bumpy ride.
It had been a long time since any woman had ridden with me. I was a loner, preferring it that way. The thought of helping a damsel in distress didn’t improve my mood. At this point, I doubted anything could.
The call in the middle of the afternoon had changed everything, including plans for my future. Maybe some deity above had intervened before I’d tossed my entire life off a tall precipice. Whatever the case, I’d soon be forced to comprehend the full weight of responsibility.
Sassy. That suited her personality, especially her caustic mouth. It was obvious she didn’t want to share her real identity with a stranger. I didn’t blame her. I’d been called terrifying more than once. Another thing I liked about solitude. I didn’t need to hear shit or take orders from anyone. Fuck the rest of the world.
“Oh, God! Can you slow down?” Her angry words managed to filter into my ears.
“Just hold on, sweet cheeks.”
If she reacted with her usual nasty retort, I couldn’t hear it, revving the engine again as I cruised down the stretch of lonely highway. Sassy was lucky I’d come along. Snickering, I felt pretty good about myself until she rested her head against my back. Between the heat of her body, the explosive nature clawing at the surface, and the arid wind whipping across the bike, I remained fully aroused. The moment she slid her hands to my waist, I stiffened.
“Be careful, sweetheart. You might grab something you can’t handle.”
Her laugh was lilting, echoing in my ears. If for any reason I hadn’t thought I was a very bad man prior to meeting her, the images of tying her arms and legs to my bed confirmed it. Days. That’s how long I could spend exploring every inch of her body.
After a few minutes she quieted down, but her long fingers remained dangerously close to my crotch. I shifted on the seat, my balls tightening. I had to find something else to think about or I’d ravage the girl. Wouldn’t that be something? The start of a new life and all I could think about was fucking a woman I didn’t even know.
I concentrated on driving, thirty minutes turning into forty-five until I noticed a sign. Twilight had settled in, the stars already bright in the sky. I had a feeling this was going to be one hell of a long night. There damn well better be a mechanic in the small town. Being saddled with her any longer than necessary might push all my indifference with her aside. As I slowed, I could feel her tensing, somehow able to lean her head over my shoulder.
“What are we doing?”
“Stopping for the night,” I grunted.
“Here? In this two-bit town?”
“Honey, I’d be careful condemning something you don’t know anything about.”
“I’m not your honey. Or your sweet cheeks. Find a mechanic.”
I shook my head, about ready to toss her over my lap and provide the firm hand she obviously needed. “I ain’t your servant.”
“I thought saviors provided full service.”
“As I told you before. I’m nobody’s savior.” I could hear her grumbling about how she needed to be somewhere in a couple of days. Well, so the hell did I. As I passed by an automobile repair shop, I pointed it out. Shit. I was hoping they’d still be open. If not I would need to put up with her for a little while longer.
As I rode by, she grabbed my arm. “Why the hell didn’t you stop?”
“They’re closed, sweet cheeks. You can try in the morning.”
“And how in the hell am I supposed to get there?”
Sighing, I noticed a motel up ahead, happy to also find what looked like a bar and restaurant within walking distance. At least I could grab a beer or two, washing down the long drive and sickening anticipation.
I pulled in and her grip around me tightened even more. I’d be damned if she didn’t slide her fingers across my cock. Instantly hard, I sucked in my breath to keep from saying a damn word. We were fire and ice, but God help me, I wanted to peel off the tiny miniskirt. After finding a parking spot, I yanked off my helmet, waiting for her to crawl off first. She didn’t move.
“Are you getting off?” I huffed.
“This doesn’t look safe.”
I finally had to roll my eyes. What was the girl used to? “It’s a small town and there doesn’t appear to be many options.”
“Oh, okay, fine.”
My patience was reaching the breaking point.
She tossed her helmet back to me then promptly fingered her hair before slapping her hands on her hips. “I’m getting a room. And I’m starving.”
All I could do was laugh as she strutted toward the front office. I took my time, getting off the bike and scanning the area. I’d seen dozens of small towns in the last few days, parts of the country I’d never wanted to visit. At least the long ride had done me some good, enabling me to put a few things into perspective. Then I took a few deep breaths. My gut told me I was going to need to if I spent another ten minutes around the little firefly. I glanced at the road, trying to figure out her story. With her crap two thousand and ten Chevy Malibu, the alternator was just the beginning of her problems.
She wasn’t from the south. Then again, I couldn’t detect a northern accent either.
Why was I bothering to even try to figure it out?
A few minutes later, I casually walked into the small lobby, immediately feeling sorry for the man behind the counter. While he’d managed to keep an ‘aw shucks’ smile on his face as she berated him, I had the distinct feeling that wasn’t going to last for long.
Then he lifted his gaze, his expression shifting into horror. I got that lot these days, but that was just fine by me. I wasn’t looking to be friends with anybody.
“Run it again. It’s obvious you made a mistake,” Sassy snapped.
“There’s been no mistake,” he countered. “Your two credit cards were declined, and your ATM card appears to be damaged. We do take cash.” He threw me a look, his eyes imploring. The dude was asking me for help.
“What seems to be the problem?” I asked, pretending I cared at this point. As I walked closer, I could clearly see the flush of embarrassment on her face.
“Nothing I can’t handle. Let me see what I have.” As she yanked her wallet off the counter, I could clearly see how distraught she was. As the small clutch tumbled from her fingers, her purse immediately after, the agonizing cry slipping past her lips was an indication she was in way over her head.
I crouched down to help her, noticing it seemed she only had a few twenties in her purse.
And fucking candy.
She had very little to her name, but she’d made certain to bring licorice and stale candy bars with her. Things with her were more desperate than I’d thought. I knew how to pick them.
“I got it,” she snapped, yanking it from my hand.
“Tell you what, sweet cheeks. This one’s on me. I need a second room and I’m paying for hers.”
“Yes, sir. One night?” the clerk asked.
“No! I can’t let you do that. I don’t even know you.” Her insistence could almost be considered endearing. “This person is obviously inept. That’s all that’s happening here.”
I gave her a hard look, crowding closer. “I think you need to calm down. We can figure it out in the morning.”
“I don’t want to calm down.”
I yanked out my wallet. Yeah, the woman needed one hard spanking.
As I handed off my credit card, she continued glaring at me with hateful eyes. Then she stormed out of the office, issuing another string of curse words.
“Whew,” the clerk said.
“Tell me about it.” I shifted my gaze to the oversized window, watching her pacing back and forth like a wild mustang. Taming her would take far too much time.
“Here you are, Mr. Masters.”
“How’s the barbeque joint?”
He grinned. “The best in the state. You won’t be disappointed.”
I grabbed my card, shoving into my wallet, amused the place still used keys. “I’ll keep that in mind.” As I walked outside, I could hear her nasty comments several yards away. It was time to teach her a valuable lesson about how to treat strangers. When I grabbed her arm, she yelped.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Taking you to your room where you and I are gonna have a talk.” I dragged her toward the set of stairs, tuning her out as I headed toward the rooms. Which of course had to be side by side. Growling, I stuck the key into the first one, immediately pushing her inside.
“We don’t have anything to talk about.”
I flicked on the light then closed the door behind me. While a huge part of me wanted to discipline her in front of poor man she’d chastised, maybe there were some gentleman aspects inside of me after all. I yanked the drapes closed then wasted no time, dragging her with me toward the bed.
“What is this?” she demanded, struggling with everything she had to get away from me.
“This is an intervention, one I think you needed a long time ago, and I’m not talking about your piss poor attitude in the convenience store.” I decided talking was highly overrated. There wasn’t a single person who could talk over her, let alone get through the stubborn streak she’d perfected. Grabbing her purse out of her hand, I tossed it onto the table. Then I sat down, dragging her over my lap, immediately jerking her skirt up as far as it would go. Shit, man. She was wearing a thong. Didn’t women know that tempting a very bad man with skimpy lingerie wasn’t in their best interest? My mouth watered all over again.
“Oh, my God. You’re a bastard. A son of a bitch.”
“You need to watch that mouth of yours or someone is going to wash it out with soap.” That someone might just be me. The woman was stronger than she looked, almost managing to free herself. I threw one legs over hers, yanking her close to my body. The immediate friction as her stomach brushed across my aching cock brought another wave of hunger.
“No. Don’t you dare! I’ll get you for this.”
I brought my hand down several times, amazed she was still fighting me. Sassy was one tough girl.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. Just take your punishment like a good girl. You know you deserve it.”
“No such thing, you bastard.”
“I think I’ll add a dozen extra just for that.” While her thong offered no protection, she deserved to be completely bare given her bad behavior. As I yanked them over her bottom, rolling the thin lace down her thighs, she cursed me under her breath, continuing to wiggle.
“Oh!” she squealed and shifted back and forth, only causing me to suck in my breath as my shaft was driven against the hard zipper.
Hard. Yeah, I wanted to fuck her long and hard. That wasn’t going to happen. I tried to concentrate on the spanking. I managed to block out every squeal, but I was about ready to lose my mind from seeing a hint of her swollen pussy peeking around the thin lace.
Red lace, no less.
I looked away, bringing my hand down on the top of one thigh then the other.
Somehow, Sassy managed to buck hard enough against me that before I knew it, she smacked me in the face. The girl even had a powerful right swing.
“That hurts!” Her yelp was mixed with the most rebellious tone I’d heard yet.
She was like fighting a wildcat as I tried to grab her arm, finally yanking it behind her back. Damn. I was sweating from the exertion.
“Ten more but you better calm down or I’ll be forced to take off my belt.”
Twisting her head, she took several gulps of air, issuing the meanest glare yet. I brushed my fingers across her bottom, appreciating the building heat. She might be a little bit uncomfortable sitting for the rest of the night.
“You gonna behave?”
Her thoughtful nod made me want to lock my motel room that night to avoid her attempt at getting even. She lowered her head, planting her hand on the floor. When I started again in earnest, the damn girl started grinding against me.
I walloped her hard and fast, realizing that if I didn’t, I’d dip my hand between her legs, and it would be all over. While I’d already tried to remind myself I wasn’t that kind of man, it had been long enough since I’d enjoyed the company of a woman in any capacity that she was able to push all my buttons.
I didn’t need to remind myself that I had walls around my emotions as thick as any chunk of concrete. Even if I allowed it, all I could do at best was fuck her. There’d be no conversation, no thought of romance. Just hard, cold fucking. And I could tell Sassy needed the whole shebang.
Attachments were dangerous.
But I was the one to fear.