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Hard Daddy by Megan Michaels – Sample

Chapter One

Mace waved to his night security guard. “Have a quiet night, Joshua.”

“Thank you, sir. I plan on it.”

He walked through the turnstile into the muggy, stifling New York City street. In most cities the loud honking horns and whirring of vehicles would be unusually busy and out of the ordinary, but not for this city.

Mace’s black Escalade limo was parked out front; his driver nodded, opening the door for him.

“Mace, hope you were productive tonight.”

“I was, Quinton, thanks.” Mace felt the cool air conditioning blow across his sweaty brow as he slid across the leather seats. Muttering to himself, he said, “Why is it so fucking hot.” Tossing his briefcase onto the small shelf, he reached into the refrigerated area and pulled out a cold bottle of water, guzzling it, before pouring himself a shot of Jack. Tossing the amber liquid back, it burned down to his stomach. Sighing, he didn’t waste any time pouring another, gulping it quickly.

As he leaned back, the squealing of brakes and honking of horns, a characteristically familiar sound, actually soothed him. He’d been born and raised here, and been part of the infamous mafia Cardelli family, and even though he’d distanced himself from the family business when it came time to settle down, starting his own career, it was New York that called to him. Like a homing pigeon, he came back to where he was comfortable… and close to his family.

Mace pressed a silver button on a console, and the shiny metallic cover slowly opened, displaying several hand-rolled Cuban cigars. He pulled one out, sniffing the length, closing his eyes in ecstasy. The warm tones of the strong tobacco from Cuba filled his nostrils. Lighting it, he took a long, slow drag, the smoke filling his lungs. He savored the taste before releasing it incrementally.

God, I love ending my day like this.

It sure beat the fuck out of being a hitman, walking the city streets, sweating and convincing yourself that you’re doing the world a favor.

He’d been unable to find work after the incident in the Middle East, and his resultant and unfortunate incarceration in a military prison. Coming home after a couple of years in the brig, Mace decided to become an enforcer for a bit. But he drew a line. Having watched more than his share of tragedies as a kid, he vowed he would never kill innocents. Ever. No women. No children.

Mace would only eliminate killers—known and confirmed thugs and pieces of shit—those who deserved to die, those criminals who had in some sense asked to be killed. He’d destroy them, removing all trace of their existence, protecting society—his small part of New York City, and his family—as well as other families from these scum.

As an ex-Navy SEAL, he was methodical and thorough. Once given an assignment, Mace would plan his every move, taking into account every detail, and covering his tracks.

He was good. Maybe too good at his previous job. His skill set was in high demand by the Cardellis and other mafia families. Mace worked on many cases.

But the time came for him to leave. The emotional wear and tear had been more than he’d anticipated. The money had been fantastic for the few years he’d been involved. He became debt free and stocked up on his savings.

He’d acquired enough to invest in a startup IT business, fixing computer issues and programming for small business and personal users.

Cardelli IT had become a well-known name, and he’d branched out into five offices in the bustling Manhattan area. Not too shabby for someone who had started the business out of desperation.

It didn’t seem to take long for his driver to pull up in front of his building, even though it was easily thirty minutes from work. Although he could have a posh flat in Manhattan, Mace preferred his own place, not far from the neighborhood he grew up in. The community was a bit rougher than someone of his wealth would typically have preferred, but Mace didn’t mind. The familiarity reminded him of his youth.

“Sir, we’re here.”

“Thanks, Quinton. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He opened the door, popping his cigar between his teeth, grasping his briefcase before shutting the door. Quinton would park the vehicle in a nearby garage protected by guards.

Routinely he had Quinton drop him off five blocks away so he could walk to his house. Today, a girl shouted in a nearby alley, catching his attention. Waving to Quinton, Mace opened the door. “Stay here a minute, Quinton. Something is up in that alley. I may need your help.”

“Okay, sir. You want me to come with you?”

“No, I’ll be all right. Just stay here, in case.” Shutting the door, Mace listened for a bit longer before moving toward the alley.

“You can’t go, can’t break up with me. I won’t allow it.” A deep voice carried through the breeze, the words growled more than spoken.

The girl laughed mockingly. “Allow it? You must be crazy! I’ll leave when I want… which is now.”

“Maybe I’ll force you. I can force you to do anything I want; I have contacts. Contacts that will take care of you.” His deep chuckle had Mace shaking his head. He held a finger up to his driver to continue waiting; this was going to get ugly. Soon.

“You crazy fucker. I’m not going to stay in a situation like this!” Her voice was almost hysterical, high pitched and screechy. Enough panic laced her words that Mace eased closer to the alley.

“Bitch, you don’t get to tell me what you will and won’t do.”


A hand meeting flesh had Mace’s hackles rising. Nobody hit a woman. Not within his hearing or sight. The scuffle of clothing and a hard thud to the ground had Mace walking toward the scene.

The girl shouted even louder; soon there would be a crowd. Mace needed to intervene now, or it would be a spectacle. “Get off of me. I’ll scream! I swear, you fucking bastard, I’ll fucking kill you in your sleep!”

The man slapped her again. “You fucking cunt! You ain’t goin’ to do nothing! I’ll finish you off now.”

Rounding the corner undetected, Mace broke into a run, snatched the gun from the man’s hand, and held it to the slime ball’s chest.

Startled, the man spun his head around, still sitting on top of the girl. “Mace?”

“Fuck you, Giorgio. You picked the wrong day and place to screw with this woman. You’re not killing her.” Pulling the trigger, Mace finished him off.

Mace had run across this piece of shit before. He wouldn’t be missed on these streets. Many in the business wanted nothing to do with him, and would only hire him if no one else was available. The asshole was underhanded, which in some respects was a good thing here in New York City working for the crime bosses, but there came a time when the family couldn’t trust someone like this. This business was all about trust.

“Oh, fuck! Get him off of me.” The girl’s green eyes were wide with fear, and panic had set in while she clawed at the lummox lying on top of her.

Giorgio had fallen forward, covering the poor girl’s upper body, and by the looks of her, breathing had become an enormous struggle.

Mace dragged the vile scum off, tossing him aside, and he pulled her to stand. “What’s your name, sweetheart?” He brushed away blood from her face with his thumbs.

“Kyleigh. Kyleigh Pizzulo.” Her dark brown hair draped over her shoulders, the waves of curls framing her face, and tears glistened in her green eyes. “He’s in the mafia.” Her wide eyes searched Mace’s face.

“I know, baby.” He grasped a curl, tucking it behind her ear. She only came to the middle of his chest—she was so petite and tiny. That fucking idiot had tried to rape her, and if Mace hadn’t intervened he would have, more than likely, killed her as well.

“I told him… I couldn’t… I wouldn’t have anything to do with him. I wanted out, and he said he’d kill me first.”

Tilting her chin up with his forefinger, he kept his voice measured. “Kyleigh, we need to get out of here. The gunshot will alarm people, and his mafia family will come after you since you were the last one with him. I need to bring you to my house and keep you safe.”

“Nuh-uh. I’m going home. I’ll be fine.” She turned to leave, obviously thinking she’d just walk home.

“No, baby. I have to get you to my house. They won’t suspect me or my house as being involved. I have to work on my alibi. But you? They’ll search for you immediately. This discussion is over, and you’re coming with me.” Mace grasped her petite upper arm in his hand, easily encircling the girth, and dragged her from the alley.

“Fuck you!” She kicked her legs out, catching his shin.

“Goddammit!” He placed his hand over the crown of her head, keeping her easily in his grip but far enough away to lessen any further damage.

Kyleigh kicked and swung her arms, her fists barely missing him. Her face turned red with her efforts, and he swore the air must be blue with the invectives spewing from her mouth.

“You fucking sonofabitch! I’ll cut your pansy ass.”

Chuckling at her feisty nature, he shook his head in amazement. He had to give her credit; she was a fighter.

“You shut your whore mouth, you goddamn cunt!” She screeched her response, doubling down on her efforts, turning her upper body into a veritable whirlwind.

“That’s it.” He whistled loudly for Quinton. Mace then grabbed the tie from his neck, wadding it up and jamming it into her mouth. “This will keep the swearing down. And the noise.” Then undoing his belt, he tied her hands behind her back.

“Sorry about this but you’re not cooperating, and I need to get you to safety. It’d be nice if you would show a bit of appreciation for my efforts and realize I’m saving your ass.”

She groaned, screeching behind the gag, and he tossed her up onto his shoulder. She grunted with the force of his shoulder jamming into her belly.

“You and I are going to tussle, girl. I don’t tolerate such behavior… not well, at least. I’m in charge, no matter who it is and who’s around. You’ll be no different.”

Rounding the corner, leaving the alley, Mace jogged to his vehicle, dumping her into the backseat of the limo and slamming the door shut. “Quinton, go home!”

“Fuck.” Pulling into traffic, Quinton drove the short few blocks to Mace’s house. Looking over his shoulder, he asked, “What the fuck happened over there? And who is she?”

Mace looked over at Kyleigh, whose green eyes were huge, darting, taking in both Quinton and him. She had tucked herself into the corner of the seat, and for all intents and purposes was nothing more than a cornered animal. “You’re better off not knowing, my friend. Let me get this girl into my place. Call me tomorrow; I may not be going into work. Might just work at home. Thanks for holding the car for me.”

“Of course, sir.” Quinton’s dark eyes watched both of them through the rearview mirror, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

Mace opened his door and exited the car. Bending over, he grasped Kyleigh’s hips in an attempt to pull her out.

She pulled her foot back and came within a fraction of an inch from kicking him square in the face.

In reaction, Mace snatched her ankle, twisting her a bit sideways and smacked the back of her right thigh several times—hard. “You. Will. Not. Kick me in the. Face. Clear?”

Narrowing her gaze, she let loose with a bunch of shit that thankfully he couldn’t understand due to the temporary gag.

“We’re going, Kyleigh. You can walk, or I’ll carry you. The choice is yours.” He grabbed her ankle, and blessedly she didn’t kick this time.

At least she learned.

Dragging her across the seat, he placed both feet on the ground, helping her out, but when her legs began kicking at him once again, he tossed her recklessly over his shoulder, doing his best to keep the chaos—and noise—to a minimum.

It would have been nice if she stayed still. But, no. Instead, she thrashed her body around, flopping like a fish out of water. It was a good thing he’d been trained as a Navy SEAL. There wasn’t much he wasn’t prepared for and dealing with this brat was nothing. Still, his patience was wearing thin.

“When we get inside, we’re having a long discussion.” Fumbling in his pocket, Mace found his keys, and for the hundredth time in an hour was thankful Kyleigh had a gag in her mouth. Her keening was annoying enough, but at least it wouldn’t be easily heard.

The door flung open, and he quickly walked in, shutting and dead-bolting the door, engaging the security system so he’d know if a door opened, alerting him if she tried to escape.

It was then her foot caught him in the shin—in the exact same spot as the kick before—and if he were asked later, he’d admit it was when he decided a lesson needed to be learned. Now.

“Just remember you asked for this.” Mace grabbed her by the hand, yanking her forward, and bent her over, bracing her hips with his leg with an arm around her waist. He spanked her jeans-covered backside several times. “You will not kick me again, or these pants come down. Clear?”

He stood her up, taking the gag out of her mouth, and with his forefinger pointed at her in a warning he said, “Don’t even think about it.”

Both of her hands cupped her backside, her lips pursed in an adorable pout. “You… you spanked me.”

The shock lacing her words had him chuckling in response, and he nodded slowly. “Yes. Yes, I did, and we can discuss it again, any time of your choosing. You’ll keep your hands and feet to yourself.”

“Fucker.” She grit her teeth, and if she had been blessed with magical powers, she would have smitten him already with laser beams from her eyes.

“And that mouth?” He grabbed her by the elbow, taking a bit of satisfaction that she backed up in fear when he approached her. Every sassy girl needed a healthy dose of fear. He dragged the reluctant brat with him into the living room, depositing her onto the couch. “Sit. Stay.”

Chapter Two

He sat next to her, and although Kyleigh refused to make eye contact, Mace stayed silent long enough, it ended up forcing her to look at him. He narrowed his black eyes at her, his deep voice gravelly… and frightening. “We’ll take care of your mouth next. I just saved your fucking life; a little respect is due me. And I don’t allow anyone to talk to me in the manner you have thus far. It ends here… and now.”

Kyleigh had the common sense God had given her and decided to use it by keeping her mouth shut.

She’d never been shoved into a vehicle with a gag in her mouth and a man’s belt restraining her hands before—that was a first. Then add to it, being brought to his house against her will, to do God only knows what. Kyleigh wondered if she actually had been kidnapped.

Will he kill me?

It seemed possible, especially since he’d killed Giorgio. And she hadn’t forgotten that this man somehow, someway knew Gio.

None of this boded well for her.

Kyleigh looked at the giant man next to her. He was definitely over six feet tall, and seemed closer to six and a half, and with his height and solid muscle, he must weigh close to two hundred and fifty pounds.

But she could probably out-manipulate him and even squeak through and around him. She was wiry and quick, not to mention she’d been told on more than one occasion that her fiery personality was something people always underestimated. Most people saw her petite stature and assumed she was a weakling as well. With her turned-up nose, graced with a smattering of freckles on the bridge and her green eyes, similar those of a Persian cat, she presented as sweet and angelic, innocent even.

She had fooled more than one person, and if she played her cards right this guy would be tricked as well.

Come to think of it, she didn’t even know the fucking asshole’s name. He had just grabbed her, stuffed a gag in her mouth, belted her hands, and tossed her into his vehicle and here she was. Waiting to be killed or attacked.

He said he was saving her, and in all honesty, the man had killed Gio; if he hadn’t, Kyleigh would be dead by now. This monster next to her—or was he her savior—must be in the mafia. Right? He knew Gio, and Occam’s razor pointed to this fact.

She needed to determine who he was, his name, and what he did for a living.

But she couldn’t focus. Her ass was so sore, and it hadn’t been a long spanking either. Kyleigh couldn’t remember the last time someone had given her a spanking, even a short hard one like she had just received, and she had forgotten how they stung like fucking hell.

Oh, well. No big deal.

She’d grit her way past it and find a way to get the fuck out of this house.

“It’s time for us to talk. You need to listen and listen well.” His huge hand, the size of a dinner plate, grasped her hand tightly, forcing her to raise her gaze to his. “This is important, Kyleigh. I need you to be quiet until I’ve finished speaking.”

I’ll be quiet whenever I feel like it. Who the hell does he think he is anyway? My father?

He wasn’t somebody who could just walk into a room and tell her what to do and kidnap her. Well, of course, he already had done that, but that was neither here nor there. She would show him that she wasn’t pliable.

“My name is Mason Cardelli; everyone calls me Mace.”

“Cardelli? Of the infamous New York City mafia? The Cardelli family?”

Mace rolled his eyes dramatically, exhaling loudly. “I just fucking said you needed to keep your mouth shut until I’m done talking. Yes, I’m from the Cardelli family. The one and only Cardelli family. I’m not part of the mafia any longer; I’m an ex-Navy SEAL who owns the Cardelli computer businesses in Manhattan.”

“Oh, man, you people fixed my computer. It was so fucked up, you have no idea. I don’t know what the hell I did, someone said I downloaded some crazy program, and so the guy just kind of took it off and fixed it and, Jesus Christ, my computer hadn’t worked that well even when I bought it brand new—”

Mace grabbed her face in his hand, squeezing her jaws tightly, her lips pursing. “If I have to tell you one more time to be quiet, it will be with my hand on your bare ass. Do you hear me?”

Well, holy fuck! Didn’t that go downhill fast?

She wisely nodded her head, not wanting to push him into spanking her bare bottom. The thought of it had her squirming and shifting on the couch.

Mace dared to smirk, the corners of his mouth kicking up with a grin. He nodded at her. “Smart girl. I used to work for the family when I first got out of the Navy. I need to keep you safe. Giorgio Ricco’s family will be looking for the killer, and since you were the last known person to be with him, they’ll be looking high and low for you. That’s where I come in. I’ll keep you here and safe from the mafia. I have contacts and there’s no need to leave the house, so I can stay here watching you at all times. Give me some time to come up with an idea. Something which will appease them, keeping them from killing you. I’m not sure what yet, but I promise I’ll keep you from harm. But in the meantime, you need to listen to me, mind me, and know if you don’t do either of those, I’ll be using my hand or belt on your hind end.”

Mace paused, watching her face, and to be honest Kyleigh had no idea how to respond. It was a lot of information to take in at one time. He was a Navy SEAL who worked for the Cardelli mafia family. And now Kyleigh was expected to stay with him, minding him, and she didn’t even fucking know him?

“On past job assignments, I’ve run into Giorgio. I’m not going to ask now because I don’t have time, but at some point, you’re going to explain to me how somebody as smart as you ended up with a fucking douchebag like him. You two seem about as different as day and night, and it’s none of my business, but I’m curious as fuck.”

Kyleigh found her tongue and spat her acerbic response. “I’m glad you said it isn’t any of your fucking business, because it isn’t. And I don’t plan on telling you anything about me or my life. I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but you seem like just as much of a douchebag as Giorgio. I don’t know you from a pile of shit. And right now? I’ll trust the pile of shit before I trust you.” She leaped up, charging out of the room for the front door, undoing the deadbolt, her belly flipping with her nerves, and she kept murmuring under her breath, “Oh, fuck! Oh, fuck! Shit. Oh, God. Shit, shit!”

His heavy footfalls quickly approached and looking over her shoulder, she saw his tree trunk arm wrapping around her waist, and he carried her like a football, bracing her against his hip like one would an impudent brat who refused to walk.

“Hey… what the hell? Put me down! You goddamn idiot! You’re nothing but a goon; that’s what you are.” She flailed her arms, hitting him in the chest.

His deep rumbling voice vibrated through her core, rattling her insides. “Tonight when you’re lying in bed, thinking about your sore ass, wondering what happened—I want you to remember it was your foul mouth and defiance which caused your blistered ass.” Flipping her like a toy doll, Mace tossed her onto her belly over his knees, the muscled, rock-hard thighs knocking the wind out of her and she grunted with the force.

Kyleigh rocked to and fro over his lap only to find her hands restrained to the middle of her back. He held her immobile, and with an experienced skill that frightened her, Mace dragged her jeans unceremoniously down over her backside. He left the wadded material between her knees and ankles and with no lecture or fanfare, he yanked her teal and white striped panties down to meet them.

“You lousy son of a bitch, you can’t leave me half naked like this.”

“Oh, I can’t, can’t I? I guess you’re about to find out, young lady, that I do whatever I want, and right now, I want to spank this bare bottom until you’re screaming and crying pathetically.”

She would have said something very sarcastic and nasty in response, but the crack of his hand hit her backside and she lay immobile from the shock. The loud smacking had her screeching in pain, just as he predicted.

The burn and sting went past the surface, thudding to the muscle and although she clenched her buttocks, hoping to alleviate the intense agony, it was to no avail.

“Do you think maybe your sore fanny will remind you to stop swearing at me?” He focused the next swats on the crest of her ass, keeping the blows to one central location, smacking the same spot over and over, the pain overwhelming her.

“Yes!” She screamed her answer, hoping it would make him stop. Stat!

“Try again.” He crashed his hand onto her simmering flesh, her legs stiffening behind her.

“Oh, shit! I mean… ow! Yes, Sir. Yessss. Y-yes, S-sir.”

Not pausing even the slightest, he continued to march his hard hand up and down her backside, over her thighs, the sting unbearable. She dropped her head, sobbing hysterically, feeling afraid and worried that this may never end and what was yet to come might be even worse.

His knee lifted, jackknifing her body and she had no doubt her pussy was on full display.

Fuck my life.

But that concern waned behind the excruciating pain permeating every fiber of her being because he had begun to spank her sit spots with a fervor unparalleled.

Kyleigh coughed and sputtered, speaking indecipherable pleas between the loud wails of remorse. Her tears puddled on the floor, and she believed her spanking would never end.

The only reason she knew the spanking ceased was because she felt Mace’s warm hand rubbing her abraded flesh while he murmured words she couldn’t comprehend, but the soothing tone calmed her. Kyleigh’s hiccups racked her body, and even though she no longer screamed in misery, the tears flowed profusely from her eyes.

One of his meaty fingers slid between her labia, and she jumped. “What the fuck?”

And even though he had only inserted his finger into her sex briefly, she missed the sensation upon his exit.

With a loud sigh, he growled, “Come along. It’s time for the next part of your punishment.” He unceremoniously lifted her off his lap, her feet not even touching the floor.

Immediately she became aware of the fact she had lost her pants and panties in the skirmish and was standing half naked before this stranger. Quickly she placed her hand over her pussy, hiding it from his view.

“Oh, I’ve seen more than that during your spanking.” He stalked up the staircase with her in tow, walking at such a hurried pace Kyleigh tripped to keep up with him. Her ass was sore enough, however, that she didn’t bitch at him like she would have.

Curious, she peered into bedrooms as she was in almost a full jog keeping up with his long strides. The rooms seemed average, none of them overly expansive, and each neatly decorated and cleaned. He must have staff who kept up with this many bedrooms. If she were to guess, they had passed easily six rooms down this long hallway.

Where the fuck was he lugging her?

Maybe this is when he’ll assault me.

At the end of the hall, as he pushed a door open to probably the hugest bedroom she’d ever seen in her lifetime, she noticed there was a sitting room to one side with a large enclosed patio and a custom-made bed up on a pedestal. Truthfully this bed appeared to be the width of two king-sized beds; it could fit six people. The room was decorated in white and navy blue—it was bright with an open porch and floor-to-ceiling windows as well as recessed lighting everywhere. Kyleigh looked around the room over her shoulder as he pulled her into a stark white marble bathroom.

Mace shut the door behind them before washing his hands thoroughly and then pressing on the lever for the pump soap; a generous amount of the blue goo landed on his fingers. He turned, approaching her with the dripping soap-covered fingers outstretched toward her. “Open your mouth. And don’t you fucking dare bite me, or it’s the last thing you’ll do tonight.”

She blinked furiously at him, refusing to comply.

He pressed his thumbs onto her cheeks, way in the back, propping her jaw open and crammed his soapy fingers in, scrubbing along her teeth, not missing one area of her mouth.

“You. Will. Not. Swear at me. I don’t like it. You’ll learn respect or eat a bottle of this soap.”

Gagging, she started to cry again, her fate seeming to become worse and worse by the passing minute. How could she survive with this Neanderthal? How?

She held her breath for as long as possible and then gasped, choking and gagging on the soap, crying and crestfallen.

How will I get out of here? Will I die in this house?

“Rinse.” Mace thrust a cup toward her, leaning against the counter with his arms crossed, a deep scowl on his face, his eyebrows furrowed angrily.

She filled it with cool water, gagging, rinsing, spitting, and repeating the process. Over and over and over.

Snatching the cup from her grip, he said with a raspy voice, “Enough.” She looked at him, and he was staring at her ass, his pupils enlarged. The man was definitely turned on, his cheeks turning red with his arousal.

Letting her gaze lower, she roved over his massive, muscled frame, the tailored shirt hugging his chest and flat stomach, and then her ogling came to a dead stop at his crotch. His pants fit tightly over a prominent bulge, his hard cock visible.

Oh, shit!

“That’s right, girl. My hard-as-a-rock cock is needing someplace soft and wet to plunge into. We’ll handle that soon. Time for you to jump into the shower and clean yourself up for the night. I’ll gather some clean clothes for you or at a minimum find a robe.” Opening the linen closet door, he pulled out a couple of fluffy white towels, putting them on the counter along with a hand towel and washcloth.

“All the soap and shampoo you need are in the shower, help yourself. I’ll be right back.” He opened the shower doors to what appeared to be a triple shower. There were two showerheads and controls on the left and the right with a vast open space in the middle. The wall had a stone bench. Kyleigh had never seen such a colossal shower.

Holding the hem of her shirt, Mace pulled it off, leaving her completely naked to his view. Kyleigh attempted to cover her breasts and genitals with her hands, but instead he ushered her to the showers. One hand held her elbow, and the other hand cupped a sore, freshly spanked buttock, guiding her into the shower and turning the water on.

Pointing a finger, he said, “Behave! Don’t do anything foolish; I’m still here.”

Kyleigh didn’t wet her hair. Instead, she stood quietly waiting for him to exit and then leaving the water running, she eased out of the cubicle, running a fluffy towel over her body, drying herself off, and then she wrapped the towel around her body, hooking the end inside, hoping it would stay. That’s when she realized no she couldn’t grab her clothes; Mace had taken them out of the room.

The lousy son of a bitch.

A gentle breeze came through an open window situated just above the toilet, and although it was narrow, not even tall either, this was where the benefits of being short came in handy. Kyleigh knew she could fit through it, no problem.

A cursory glance toward the bedroom showed Mace hadn’t returned with any clothes. She could only hope he was distracted or couldn’t remember where they were, and he’d be gone long enough for her to escape.

The butterflies in her belly had her shaking, and she reached around, touching her ass. She took a deep cleansing breath. If Mace caught her, it would be more than likely mean another paddling, but if he didn’t, it meant she could go home.

All that talk of the mafia coming to kill her, blaming her for Giorgio’s death seemed ludicrous. She could convince the Ricco family that Gio was going to rape her. For that matter, Mace had given her his name; she could turn him in to the Riccos, telling the mafia, the police, or both.

Kyleigh stood on the toilet seat cover, slowly snaking her body through the narrow window. Looking around, she found the drainage pipe close enough to grab. Getting her upper body out of the window wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as she had anticipated. Leaning to the left, she wrapped her hands around the cold, wet pipe.

Of course, it has to be raining!

She encircled her hands around the metal pipe and pulled her body forward with her arms, her hips easily slipping out. With a splat she smashed into the brick wall; grunting loudly, she regained her breath and hand over hand quickly slid down the pipe.

Her heart raced within her chest, and Kyleigh swore she could barely breathe, gasping as she finally hit the squishy groundwater and mud crept up between her toes. And although running wearing only a towel in New York City wasn’t the best choice of action, when given the alternative, right now, it was her only option.

Goddammit, Kyleigh!

She flattened herself against the wall, hoping Mace wouldn’t notice her absence and look out the window and find her. Straining her head around, she looked up to discover his angry, dark countenance glaring at her from the still open window. He narrowed his eyes and growled, the tic in his jaw noticeable. “Don’t you dare move!”

Screeching loudly, Kyleigh ran as fast as she could through the backyard, leaping the fence around his property and the one behind it.

Of course, Kyleigh hadn’t taken into account that being a Navy SEAL he’d be able to outrun and outmaneuver her, even though she swore she had never run faster in her life.

However, even with all her efforts, Mace caught her in short order. “I’m not taking the time to paddle your fucking ass here. But you’re in for a hell of a one when we get back to the house.” He tossed her over his shoulder.

Kyleigh pounded her fists onto his back and couldn’t help but notice the rippling muscles through his now drenched dress shirt, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to beat the hell out of him. “Put me down, you goddamn oaf! I don’t belong here. Let me go.”

Mace groaned. “Why I’m putting myself through this kind of hell to save your scrawny ass is beyond me. But I’m going to keep you safe no matter what. These men won’t hesitate to kill you, and regardless of what you think of me right now, I’m the only person who is going to keep you alive.” He stomped through the front yard with her, quickly approaching the fence.

“How do I know that? How do I know you’re not going to assault me and kill me before the night is over?” Kyleigh’s voice trembled with genuine fear.

“Because I killed the fucker who was attacking and attempting to shoot you. Doesn’t that mean something?” The incredulity of it all laced every word.

Kyleigh paused. It definitely should mean something. Mace had shot Giorgio. He’d pulled the gun from Gio’s hand, saving her, preventing the probability of rape as well.

Mace climbed the fence with her over his back as if she weighed no more than a backpack. And, with a few long strides, they were back in the house.

Mace wrapped a blanket from the back of the couch around her trembling body and with a soft kiss to her forehead he sat her down in front of the fireplace, getting to work at building a fire to warm her up.

“I know it’s warm out but not warm enough to run around with only a towel on at night. What were you thinking? The Riccos are out looking for you.” He looked over his shoulder ad saw her eyes were wide with fear. Impulsive. She obviously hadn’t thought about that fact, she was so intent on going home.

And Mace understood that. Knew what it was like to just react during a situation, trusting your instincts for survival. That’s where working as a team came in. Whether with the mafia or the Navy SEALs—it was important to listen to the counsel of a team.

Using a long match he lit the starter log, and within minutes the dry wood began to crackle as well, and a steady fire warmed the area.

“You stay here. I’ll get you some leftover pizza and something to drink. You must be hungry.”

Kyleigh nodded silently, her eyes brimming with tears.

“Hey, hey. What’s wrong, baby.” He sat down next to her, pulling her to his chest. He hadn’t seen her anxiousness until now. Only her fire. Her tears and the slight pout of her lips tugged on his heart. He ran his hands over her hair, shushing her while she sobbed into his chest.

“I’m… afraid. I don’t know what to do.”

Mace let her cry it out. Rational words wouldn’t help right now. She needed his silence and comfort more than any philosophical meanderings.

Once her cries had ceased and only her hiccups and sighs were left, he pulled away only enough to see her face. “Hey… look at me.”

She lifted her gaze, her eyes and nose red, and he swore she was the most adorable girl he’d seen. Pathetic and worried, but adorable.

“You’re going to be okay. Just trust me on this, I’ll work it all out for you. You’ll see. Part of what’s happening right now is the adrenalin rush, hunger, and exhaustion. The fire will help, as well as some food and juice. I’ll be right back with your food. Just watch the fire until I come back.” He stood, chucking her under the chin. “That’s my girl. Now don’t move.”

Rushing to the kitchen, Mace opened the fridge, the blast of cool air brushing along his wet shirt, wet with her tears. Kyleigh’s tears. Mace swallowed past the lump in his throat and wondered how he could feel such a connectedness to this slight little lady he’d only met a couple of hours ago.

Is this what they mean by love at first sight?

Shaking his head, he did his best to clear the thought away. Nothing this good ever happened to him, and he wouldn’t start daydreaming about it now. No need to set himself up for disappointment. Better to see this as a temporary situation than end up with a broken heart.

Tossing the pizza onto a plate and into the microwave, he watched the carousel turn and within seconds the cheese was melting and then bubbling. He pulled it out, the scalding ceramic burning his fingertips, and the plate clattered on the counter when he dropped it unceremoniously, shaking his hand to take the sting away.

“Fucking microwave.”

He opened the fridge and pulled out some white grape juice, filling a small glass tumbler with the yellow liquid. Picking them both up, he carefully carried them to the living room, and exhaled in relief at the sight of her still sitting where he’d placed her.

Nothing was certain when it came to Kyleigh; he’d learned that much in this short exposure.

“Here you go. Now eat, but be careful. It’s hot.” He put the plate on her blanket-covered lap and her long, slender fingers picked up the pizza, cautiously taking a bite.

Kyleigh closed her eyes, moaning softly.

Mace’s cock jerked in response, and he swore he could see her soft lips gripping him, sucking him off.

Stop thinking like this!

“Are you enjoying it?”

“Yes… Sir. It’s good.” She devoured another two consecutive bites. The poor girl hadn’t eaten in a while apparently.

Within short order the pizza was gone and she had guzzled the juice as well. She rested her head against the back of the couch and with her hands over her flat, muscled belly, she sighed, satisfied and full. Mace’s Italian mother would have been pleased, and more than likely would be gathering a plate of cookies to fill her to overflowing. But… Mace had no cookies in his house, so Kyleigh would have to be satisfied with fruit or more pizza.

“Is there anything else you would like to eat?”

“Oh, God, no. I’m done. It was just what I needed and really good too. Thank you.”

“Absolutely. You let me know if you need anything, I can order it if I don’t have it.”

She nodded, smiling at him, her lids growing heavy. Mace cleared his throat. “We need to talk, girl.”

She opened her eyes, sitting up straighter. “Okay.” Her voice was tentative, and the word dragged out more in a question than a statement.

“I really feel there needs to be consequences for what happened.”

“What happened?” Her eyebrows furrowed, her nose scrunched up in confusion.

“With you climbing out of the window.”

“Oh, that.”

“Yeah, oh, that. Actions have consequences and this is something you need correction on, girl.”

Her eyes quickly brightened with her tears. “But… I don’t want to… do we have to?”

“Yes. We do. And besides you need to get some sleep. Let’s get this over with and get you into bed.” He stood and held out his hand, wondering how she’d react.

She stared at it for a moment, then looked up at him, her chin quivering, and with a nod of her head said, “I guess you’re right, I could’ve been hurt.”

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