Like the night.
Like the man she was meeting.
A dark-haired Jax Teller, with smoldering brown eyes, a body that could stop a Mack truck, and a single raised eyebrow that could turn her knees to jelly.
The Harley-riding, tough-talking biker, who had made her insanely happy.
Then broke her heart.
Into a thousand excruciating pieces.
“What the hell am I doing here?” she muttered under her breath. “I must be out of my mind.” But she loved the adrenalin rush.
Though the streetlamps provided a glimmer of light, it was her powerful flashlight beam that revealed two dumpsters and a few empty crates.
Sucking in a nervous breath, Portia Perry, an aspiring investigative journalist, moved slowly forward. Walk to the end and wait. The texted instruction flashed through her head. Though she found danger thrilling and very little fazed her, a frightening chill rippled down her spine. Her fingers tightened around the can of mace in her pocket.
“Hey there, sweetheart. What’s a classy dame like you doin’ in a shithole like this? Looks like I’m gonna have me some pussy tonight.”
Pausing her step and trying to control her panic, she rested her finger on the flashlight’s power button, then spun around and flashed the beam directly into the face of a grizzled, ugly man with missing teeth and long, stringy hair.
“Whatta ya tryin’ ta do, bitch?” he yelled, throwing his hand in front of his eyes. “Gimme that!”
He lunged at her, but pressing the button she pitched them into darkness and ducked away.
“I’m counting to three.”
As Dakota’s deep voice echoed through the alley, his leather-covered, powerful frame appeared from the shadows.
“If you’re not running by the time I finish,” he continued, striding past Portia, all six-foot-three inches of him towering over the vagrant, “you’ll lose whatever teeth you have left. One—two—”
The would-be assailant staggered backwards, then turned and scurried away.
“Jeez, Koda!” Portia exclaimed, turning her flashlight back on. “Why the hell did you want to meet me here? We could be sitting in a nice warm bar someplace.”
“You’re welcome!” he retorted, his voice tinged with sarcasm.
“Thank you? You want me to thank you? For what, exactly? If you hadn’t—”
“Asked you to come here,” he said, cutting her off, “that freak wouldn’t even know you’re alive.”
“You know I’d never let anything happen to you, and hey, it’s good to see you too.”
“Why the hell did you drag me to this godforsaken place? Can we please go somewhere civilized?”
“We both know I didn’t drag you anywhere. I asked you to come and you agreed.”
She let out a breath.
He was right.
She’d wanted to turn him down, but the thought of seeing him again had been a magnet impossible to resist.
“Are you taking me somewhere on your bike?”
“Come with me,” he replied, unexpectedly placing an arm around her shoulders.
She caught her breath.
His muscled body was tantalizingly, perilously close.
The sexy smell of his leather jacket tickled her nostrils.
A hot lump burned her throat.
He would always own her heart.
That was a given.
But they’d never be together.
That was a given too.
She’d been unable to adapt to his life, just as he couldn’t fit into hers.
Suddenly stopping at a weathered wooden door, he pushed down the handle and gave it a shove. The hinges squeaked in protest.
“After you,” he declared, ushering her inside.
In spite of the Harley on its kickstand making it awkward to move into the room, she found the smallish space surprisingly comfortable. A caramel rug lay over a dark hardwood floor, and beneath a curtain-covered window sat a tufted brown leather couch. Against the opposite wall was a decent-sized desk with a green banker’s lamp, a small refrigerator, and a table offering a coffeemaker and condiments. She assumed the door beside it led to a bathroom.
“What is this place?”
“A private escape,” he replied, moving across to the refrigerator. “Is it warm enough for you? I turned the heat on.”
He waved toward a small fan heater in a corner.
“Uh, yeah, I’m fine,” she replied, slipping off her coat. “How did you find it?”
“A friend of mine is letting me use it,” he muttered vaguely. “Do you want a beer? Coffee? Soda? Something stronger?”
“I want to know what I’m doing here!”
“Hey, have a little patience!” he scolded, opening the fridge and grabbing a bottle of Miller Lite. “You need to chill.”
Popping the top and placing the beer on the desk, he pulled off his leather jacket and draped it around the back of the chair.
Her heart skipped.
His long-sleeved T-shirt did nothing to hide his bulging biceps.
As he raised his hand and ran his fingers through the shaggy mop on top of his head, she ached to sink against his hard chest, and feel the power of his arms around her.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” she suddenly snapped. “After all these months you send a cryptic message asking me to meet you in this crappy part of town in a creepy alley where I was almost assaulted, and you expect me to chill?”
“I always loved that about you,” he remarked, tilting his head to the side and grinning at her. “You’re so tough, but you’re still so girlie.”
“Girlie? The hell with this. I’m leaving! You can walk me to my car.”
“Car? I told you to take a cab!” His smile vanished and a frown crossed his brow. “Are you saying you drove here?”
“No, sorry,” she muttered sheepishly. “I was just so mad I forgot.”
He paused for a moment, then throwing back his head he laughed out loud. It was contagious, and though she wanted to keep her guard up, she began to giggle.
“That’s better,” he said, still chuckling. “Now do us both a favor. Drop the attitude and plant your ass.”
“You don’t get to boss me around anymore. I’m sitting down, but because I want to, not because you told me to.”
Taking another beer from the fridge and removing the cap, he ambled toward her.
“I never bossed you around,” he said softly, leaning over her and raising an eyebrow. “You did as you were told because it turned you the fuck on, and because you knew if you didn’t I’d whip your ass.”
He paused, his eyes narrowing.
“That turned you the fuck on too. Now do you wanna know why I asked you here, or do you wanna keep trying to push my buttons.”
Her face flamed.
He saw right through her.
But he always had.
It was one of the things she’d loved about him.
“Do you want to know, or don’t you?” he pressed. “If you don’t, then yeah, you should leave.”
“I want to know why I had to meet you here, and why all the cloak and dagger?” she replied testily, though she was silently screaming, I want your arms around me, your lips crushing mine, and your hard hand swatting my backside.
“That’s better,” he declared, flopping on the couch next to her. “When I said it’s good to see you, I meant it. You’re still sexy as hell.”
“Good grief,” she mumbled, rolling her eyes. “And you’re just as—”
Her tummy tumbled.
No man had ever made her stomach do cartwheels like he did—ever.
“You’re just as sexy as you always were too,” she admitted, tired of the battle. “How’s that?”
“That,” he said, handing her the beer with a wink, “was the right answer. Tell me—do you still want to be a crime reporter?”
She let out a sigh.
“Not exactly. It’s just—I’m beginning to think it’s just a pipe dream. I’m getting nowhere.”
“But you’ve got a column in the local rag. That’s a start.”
“You saw that?”
“Sure. It’s good. Better than good.”
“Thanks, Koda, but it’s not even the bottom rung of a two-story ladder.”
“We might be able to help each other.”
“Seriously? How could I possibly help you?”
“As you know, numbers aren’t my thing.”
“Yeah, Koda, but you have other talents,” she quipped with a sassy grin, then immediately regretted it. “Sorry.”
“Why are you sorry? I’m glad you remember.”
“Just keep going,” she muttered, hating the fresh blush crossing her face.
He studied her for a moment, then took a swig of his beer.
“You can read numbers like I can read people. I’d be grateful if you’d take a look at my books.”
“Oh, my gosh. Do you think someone’s stealing from you?”
“I don’t know,” he replied, his forehead creasing. “Maybe. Both the bar and repair shop are doing great. I mean, really great, but the bar—I seem to be spending a lot more too. More than I should. I can’t wrap my brain around it.”
“Is Bebe still doing your accounts?”
“Yeah, and I’d trust that woman with my life, but in my gut I know something’s not right.”
“Koda… this isn’t good.”
“Sure as hell isn’t,” he grunted. “I know it’s not the same as solving some big murder mystery, but if I’m right and there’s something going on, maybe when we figure it out, you could write an article and sell it to a newspaper.”
“Story or no story, of course I’ll take a look for you, but I still don’t understand why you wanted me to take a cab and come here.”
Rising to his feet, he took a long drink. “I’m probably being totally paranoid, but it’s no secret you’re a trained accountant. If someone is managing to screw me and we’re seen together, that person could hear about it. He—or she—might do something unpleasant.”
“That’s a stretch. What’s wrong with two old friends hanging out for a drink? You’re right. You are being paranoid.”
“Maybe, but sometimes being paranoid is being smart. Portia, everybody at the tavern knows you—knows about you. About us. What if one of them is involved in screwing me somehow, then gets wind of us having a drink?”
“Koda, I really don’t think—”
“Hey. I’ve gotta follow my gut on this,” he said solemnly, “and my gut says to keep you outta sight. I’m sorry, princess, that’s how I need to play it.”
Unexpected emotion seized her heart.
Heat burned the back of her throat.
“That’s why I have this place,” he continued. “Just in case I need it one day. No one knows about it—and I don’t want anyone to know we’re back in touch. Portia? Are you listening?”
“Of course,” she said hastily. “When did you start noticing something might be wrong?”
“A few weeks ago,” he replied, finishing his beer and sitting back down, “though when I looked more closely it was obvious it’s been going on quite a bit longer. Bebe isn’t concerned, but I don’t understand why so much more money is coming in, and the bottom line has barely moved.”
“Can you give me an example of the extra expenses?”
“Like… booze from new suppliers. That’s Sam’s department. I made him the manager and I totally trust him, but now I find myself wondering. I’m building a patio out back, but it’s taking forever and the costs are through the roof. I just don’t have time to follow up on everything. The repair shop is kickin’ ass. We’re crazy busy, which is great, but the whole thing is making me fucking nuts.”
“I’m sorry, Koda. I know how hard you’ve worked to get where you are.”
Wordlessly placing the empty bottle on the side table, he shifted closer to her.
“Enough about my stuff,” he said, his caramel eyes softening. “How are you? What’s happening in your life? Anyone new and exciting?”
“No, and I’m fine,” she lied, though she wasn’t fine at all, and she wished he’d throw his arms around her and hug her like he’d never let her go.
“Fine? If you’re going to use a weather report to answer my question be specific.”
She took a breath.
“Fine with a chance of rain,” she admitted, looking away as the unwanted emotion pulsed through her veins.
“I’ve missed you, princess,” he murmured, his voice soft, hoarse, compelling, inviting her to… “more than I can say.”
“Spit it out. You’ll feel better.”
“I’m an idiot,” she said breathlessly, dropping her gaze. “I shouldn’t have come.”
“But you did. Tell me why.”
“You know why.”
“Tell me,” he insisted, abruptly sliding his hand into her hair.
She wanted to pull back—protest—do something to prevent her hungry need taking control.
“You miss me—us—what we had,” he growled, tightening his grip and jerking back her head.
His lips suddenly devoured hers, feeding her desperate desire.
His arm came around her waist.
He fell backwards.
She suddenly found herself lying on top of him, pinned against his hard body.
“That was a lie, princess,” he declared, his free hand clutching her backside through her thin slacks. “Guilty or innocent?”
“Guilty, Sir,” she gasped. “I miss everything.”
His palm landed a stinging slap.
“You miss me.”
It wasn’t a question.
He delivered a second, hot smack.
“Ow! Yes, Sir,” she bleated, squirming in his hold. “I miss you every day, but that doesn’t mean—”
With a swift, deft movement, he flipped them over.
She was beneath him, his helpless captive. As one rough hand pinned her wrists above her head, the other kneaded her breasts.
“I’m gonna count to three,” he breathed, fixing her with a piercing gaze. “If you don’t speak up, you know what’s gonna happen. One, two…”
Portia didn’t give Koda the chance to finish. Managing to yank her wrists from his hold, she threw her arms around his neck and planted her lips on his with pent-up, ferocious need.
“Take me,” she whispered fervently as she pulled back. “Take me wearing your leathers the way you used to.”
“Get your hands back where they belong!”
The deep timbre of his voice evoked an erotic shiver, and hastily moving her arms above her head, she held her breath as he slid her long-sleeved T-shirt over her head.
“Naked tits… was this on purpose?”
Any response would have sounded feeble. She wasn’t even sure herself why she’d chosen not to wear a bra, but her thoughts were quickly vanquished. Pinching her nipples until she squealed, he unzipped her slacks and whisked them down her legs.
“What do we have here?” he muttered, snapping the elastic waistband of her panties. “Remember what I do if I find lacy—”
“Uh-huh,” she gasped, cutting him off as his broad, callused hands ripped them apart.
Dropping the shreds on the floor, he slowly leaned in. A thousand butterflies fluttered in her stomach, her breath came in short, sharp gasps, and closing her eyes, she waited.
His tongue traced her mouth.
“Kiss me again?”
He bit her lower lip, the bristles from his five o’clock shadow grazing her skin. His callused hands moved across her naked breasts, squeezing the plump flesh, evoking muffled moans, then abruptly straightening up, he pulled a condom from his pocket.
Panting as she opened her eyes, she watched him lower his fly and sheathe his abundant member. An unwanted thought flashed through her brain. Had he stuffed a condom in his pocket for her, or did he always have one at the ready, but his fingers thrust into her pussy.
“Drenched,” he muttered, “but you always were ready for it.”
“For you, Koda,” she mewled, wondering why she was letting her guard down. “Only for you.”
A devilish smile his only response, he stretched out on top of her and placed his rigid cock against her slick entrance.
“If you want it, you know what you have to say.”
“Sir, please will you fuck me?”
“As hard as you want, Sir.”
She’d spent endless hours aching to utter the words, and with his mouth nuzzling her neck, she submerged herself in the intense waves of pleasure as his rampant member thrust inside her. Suddenly the chorus of the Phil Collins hit song, ‘That’s All,’ began floating through her mind. As tears sprang from her eyes, she whispered,
“There’s no one who makes me feel like you do.”
“Back at ya, baby,” he panted, his breath hot against her ear.
Wrapping her legs around his waist, she lifted her pelvis, but he abruptly paused his vigorous pumping, and moving his head to her breasts he voraciously drew in her nipples.
She couldn’t suppress her wild cry.
“It’s okay, princess,” he murmured, raising his head and catching her eyes. “I know what you need.”
“I need everything…”
“Everything might have to wait, but for now…”
Withdrawing from her depths, he swiftly straightened up, flipped her over, and jerked her hips into his pelvis.
“Your ass is way too pale,” he growled, his hard palm slapping from cheek to cheek. “I’m waiting!”
“Ow, ooh, Koda, Sir, please spank me harder?”
Though yelping loudly as he increased the force of his blows, she arched her back and thrust out her bottom to meet them.
“Sir, please spank me harder?”
His flattened palm whisked across her sit spot, then landed a volley of smarting swats to the center of her backside. The keen sting evoked squeals of pain, and though her fingers were balled into fists, the hot, prickling burn fed her starving, submissive soul.
“Much better,” he grunted, plunging back inside her. “What do you say?”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Do you remember the rules?”
“My orgasm belongs to you. I can’t climax until you say.”
“Are you ready?”
She knew what was coming, and as she whimpered through his slow, skillful tease, she silently gave thanks.
Koda had promised himself he wouldn’t fall under Portia’s seductive spell. He wouldn’t clutch her hair and kiss her full, delicious mouth, or surrender to the prurient pleasure of her glorious pussy. He swore he wouldn’t spank her perfect ass when she gave him attitude, which he knew she would, and when he’d stuffed the condoms in his pocket, he’d told himself it was because he might swing by a late night haunt after she left.
But his heart had thumped waiting for her arrival, and when he’d seen her start down the alley, the intense yearning had surged to the surface. Though determined to keep his distance, he’d been unable to resist placing a protective arm around her shoulders after he’d chased away the derelict.
Surrounded by the cold, dark damp of the alley, her subtle Jasmine perfume had teased his nostrils. He’d wanted to wrap her up, tell her how much he’d missed her, and engulf her lips in a never-ending, time-stopping kiss.
Somehow he’d managed to make it back inside.
Now driving in and out of her luscious, succulent sex, he had none of those thoughts. There was only her perfectly reddened cheeks below him, and the determination to fuck her until he knew she was utterly his—again.
But his steel rod had its own agenda.
Moments after plunging into her divine depths it wanted to explode. Control had never been an issue with him—except with her—and they’d been apart for months.
Too many months.
Purposefully slowing, he drew in a long, deep breath.
“Sir… you’re driving me crazy.”
The feeling was mutual, but he couldn’t say so, and if he ramped up he wouldn’t be able to hold back. Releasing one of her hips and sliding his hand beneath her, he found her clit and rubbed. Immediately throwing back her head and squirming against his provocative touch, she let out a grateful cry. “Sir, please, Sir.”
“Please, Sir, what?”
His voice had sounded harsh.
He hadn’t meant it to.
“Take a breath,” he continued, softening his tone, “then tell me.”
“Fuck me and let me come?” she mewled. “Please, Sir, please. I’m so close.”
Her desperate request reflected his own urgent need. Returning his hand to her hip, he resumed his thrusting, slowly at first, then increasing the force and speed of his thrusts as waves of hot tingles rippled through his loins.
It was too soon, way too soon, but…
“Now,” he commanded, unable to stop his looming eruption.
As her body grew taut and she cried out his name, her long, auburn hair spilling down her back was suddenly in his hand. As he yanked back her head, his cock mercilessly pummeled her pussy in a series of zealous strokes catapulting him into the explosive release. His deep groans filled the room, but he heard her euphoric cries as she writhed below him.
Abruptly it was over.
She flopped on her stomach.
He slipped out, and with his heart pounding, and having trouble catching his breath, he fell on his back. Still on her stomach, she moved to rest her head in the crook of his shoulder, and without thought his arm came around her.
The bliss of the orgasmic afterglow began to fade, but Portia felt no regret, not for a moment, and knowing he’d wanted her as urgently as she’d wanted him sent waves of joy through her heart.
The tough, take-no-prisoners biker with the unwavering brown eyes and commanding presence had been unable to resist her, just as she’d been unable to resist him.
A chill unexpectedly pricked her skin.
Seconds later, he let out a long breath.
“I’m cold,” she murmured. “I need my—”
Taking hold of a throw lying across the back of the couch, he laid it over them. Why hadn’t she seen it earlier? The simple question barely flitted through her mind.
“Much. Thanks, Koda.”
“You’re welcome, princess.”
A wave of fatigue washed over her. It surprised her. She was used to staying up late. Crime novels were her passion, and she’d often read until the early hours of the morning. Closing her eyes and listening to the sure, steady beating of his heart, she knew she was about to drift off.
The conflict began.
The part of her that said get dressed and leave without any drama was quickly losing to stay here and relish this moment for as long as you possibly can. Melting into him, she marveled at their connection. In spite of their separation, their white-hot chemistry hadn’t diminished.
“No running off,” Koda muttered, suddenly rolling onto his side and pulling her into his arms.
He’d read her mind.
He was good at that.
Too good… except… the one time it had really mattered.
When she’d stormed off threatening never to return, she’d been silently screaming at him to stop her.
He hadn’t heard her then.
As she recalled the traumatic, heartbreaking moment, it occurred to her maybe he had, but chose to let her go. Before she could give it much thought she had surrendered to sleep.
Portia had been blessed with a rare gift, one Koda envied. She could sleep through anything anywhere. He could feel her drifting off to the land of nod, but even if he could have dozed off he didn’t want to.
He’d missed having her soft, naked body snuggled next to his. He’d missed their sparring too, and while their differences had caused problems, making up had been worth every angry word. In a few minutes her breathing would deepen and he’d be able to extricate himself from her limbs, peel off his leathers, and slip back under the blanket without waking her, but was it wise?
He’d like nothing better than to sleep with her through the night, and wake her with his cock buried inside her warm, welcoming pussy, but how would they feel in the cold light of day staring at each other over a cup of coffee?
He let out a sigh.
Portia was the only female he’d met capable of confounding him.
He had ached for her more than he’d thought it possible to ache for anyone, and in the months they’d been apart, when he’d find himself in the arms of another woman, it hadn’t felt right. He was almost grateful for the serious problem facing him. He really did need her expertise, and though he could have taken the issue to an anonymous accounting firm, she was truly brilliant. More important, he could trust her.
But now they’d crossed a line, and if they did find their way back together, there was still Benny.
His best friend and Portia couldn’t stand the sight of each other.
That was a problem.
A big one.