It was the never-ending shift from hell.
Usually I didn’t mind bartending for my rent money. It was a decent job with great tips and had a super flexible schedule which fit around my pastry classes.
But not tonight… tonight it was a nightmare.
I was only an hour into my shift, and I’d already cut my finger slicing lemons, and some asshole who tipped his beer over on the bar ruined my favorite pair of black leather leggings. It certainly didn’t help that I was wearing the most uncomfortable and revealing leather corset top ever made. I placed my hands on either side of my boobs and yanked it up. What had I been thinking? I needed tips, but not bad enough to display the girls on a silver platter for the idiots who came to this bar.
I glanced at the cash register clock.
Just six more hours to go.
Thankfully, I wasn’t closing tonight, so I could clock out at midnight.
The moment I got home, I was taking this torture trap of a top off and getting a nice, long, hot shower. The thought of my favorite author’s latest fabulously smutty book uploaded on my Kindle waiting for me made me smile. Yep, a dark and kinky read was the closest I had gotten to having a boyfriend over the last four hundred and thirty-two days, but who was counting? Besides, boyfriends were a nuisance. I was already in my mid-twenties and I’d yet to meet a guy who wasn’t just a glorified man-baby. They usually needed constant attention, not to mention teaching them how to dress and act properly so they didn’t embarrass you in front of your friends. The worst ones barely knew how to feed themselves, let alone enough to appreciate dining in a fine restaurant. Nope, I was better off staying in a committed relationship with my Kindle bad boy toys.
Thinking of bad boys brought to mind Maxim, the man who confronted me and my best friend Dylan outside my apartment earlier today.
The man practically screamed dirty, sexy, hot.
I had opened my apartment door to find a wall of muscle in an Armani suit blocking the way. He’d had the audacity to inform Dylan he had changed the locks without her permission. He’d then had the arrogance to chastise us both for our attire. Dylan for being wrapped in a towel and me for wearing a T-shirt and silk sleep shorts.
He turned to me. “You as well. You should know better than to walk around naked.” He motioned toward my apartment door with his head. “Get back inside and cover yourself.”
Placing my fists on my hips, I fired back, “Who the hell do you think you are? And I am not naked!”
Maxim placed a hand high on the wall and leaned over me. “I’m the man who is going to strip that skimpy piece of fabric you call an outfit off your body and spank your ass red if you don’t obey me this instant.”
Every inch of my skin prickled with awareness. It was as if he were standing behind me, instead of just being a heated memory. His breath on my neck. His fingertips running up and down my exposed arms. His mouth on my— holy hell, I needed to stop thinking about him!
It didn’t take a genius to tell he was the type of man who would bend a girl over a table, flip her skirt up and pound into her till she screamed in ecstasy, giving her the best sex of her life. But fortunately, I could also tell he was the kind of man who would give a girl a quick caress on the cheek and a seductive wink afterward before he casually walked away, forgetting her name. If he had bothered to remember it in the first place.
Yep, there was practically a halo of red flags flapping all around him and I was going to stay far, far away. Not that there was ever a chance in hell I’d see him again.
“Hey! You! Gimme a beer!”
I glanced at the customer who’d just shouted at me. He was poorly dressed in a stained T-shirt and an incorrectly buttoned flannel. I could practically smell the stale beer on his breath. Usually he wouldn’t have gotten past the front door, but our bouncer was out sick tonight. The assistant manager was paying more attention to the blonde with the big rack than he was to who was strolling into the bar. He was useless.
I nodded in Flannel Guy’s direction. “One sec.” Then I motioned with my head for my bar back, Timmy, to come over.
He approached, carrying a trash can full of empty beer bottles and discarded cocktail napkins. “What’s up, Carinna?”
Reaching for a cocktail shaker, I filled it with ice while I kept my gaze straight ahead. “Grab the GM. I think that guy who just arrived has been over-served. There’s no way I’m giving him a beer.”
Timmy handed me a bottle of Belvedere Vodka for the martini I was making as he also kept his gaze averted. We knew better than to alert a customer we were discussing them. “The guy in the flannel?”
I capped the cocktail shaker and held it aloft over my right shoulder as I shook it vigorously while reaching for a martini glass with my left hand. “Yup. That’s the one.”
“On it.” He held the trash can high as he exited the bar area and made his way to the back of the house to find the general manager.
It would be my job to keep Flannel Guy calm and occupied until help arrived.
I placed the martini in front of the woman I was serving and took her credit card to start a tab.
Flannel Guy slammed his flat palm on the bar. “Hey, bitch! I said I want a beer.”
I printed out the receipt for the martini and placed it in a pint glass with the credit card and put it on a shelf over the cash register. Ignoring his slur, I kept my voice calm and upbeat. “Sorry for the wait. I have a few customers ahead of you, sir. It will be just a moment.”
Where the hell was the manager?
I filled a rocks glass with ice and snatched the Tanqueray Gin from the back bar. Picking up the soda gun, I hit the tonic button as I counted out an ounce and a half of gin as I poured. After a quick scan of the bar, I realized my cut limes were in a container by Flannel Guy. Damn.
Dealing with unruly customers was part of the job, but it always made me nervous. Especially when I was dressed like I should be holding a whip and a bottle of lube. Again, I yanked on my leather corset top, pulling it as high over my boobs as I could before I approached that end of the bar. Flannel Guy’s head was turned in the other direction, so the timing was perfect.
I extended my arm and grabbed the small plastic container of limes. Just as I was making a clean getaway, a hard grip wrapped around my wrist. Before I could react, Flannel Guy jerked hard on my arm. My upper body slammed forward as my stomach crashed into the sharp edge of the bar, knocking the breath out of my lungs. I opened my mouth to scream for help, but nothing came out.
Terrified, I looked up to see Flannel Guy raise his arm into the air, fist closed. “Bitch, I’m gonna—”
I squeezed my eyes shut and braced for the punch I knew was coming.
But no punch came.
I opened my eyes in time to see Flannel Guy’s head get slammed down onto the bar by a large hand covered in tattoos. Blood gushed from the guy’s now-broken nose. He cried out in pain as he released my wrist.
I staggered backward to safety. Lifting my head, I opened my mouth to thank my rescuer and froze. For the second time that day, all the breath left my body.
My gaze clashed with a pair of furious emerald eyes.
Maxim had found me.
The shouts and cries of all the bar patrons receded to nothing more than a dull drumming in the back of my mind as I stared at Maxim.
He had changed out of his dark Armani suit but still looked intimidating as fuck, dressed in a black cashmere sweater and jeans. His sleeves were rolled up, exposing muscular forearms covered in bright tattoos. They were a macabre collection of skulls, daggers, drops of blood, and religious themes. My gaze then traveled down to his hands, which were also covered in evil-looking ink, as they still pinned drunk Flannel Guy’s face to the bar.
Seeing the manager approach from over Maxim’s shoulder with a furious scowl on his face, I raised a placating hand. “Stop. You can’t do that!”
Maxim’s eyes narrowed as his upper lip lifted in a snarl. Ignoring my plea, he twisted his hand in Flannel Guy’s hair and wrenched him upward. Blood flowed from the man’s broken nose down the front of his dirty T-shirt. Maxim then gave the man a ruthless shake. “Apologize to the lady.”
The man ran his shirtsleeve under his nose, smearing blood across his unshaven cheek. He muttered something unintelligible.
Choosing to assume the man apologized, I nodded my head vigorously as I waved both hands in front of me. “Fine. It’s fine. I accept your apology.”
My general manager was now standing behind Maxim. His neck stretched all the way back as he tried to reconcile his small five foot four, slightly pudgy, frame to Maxim’s clearly well over six-foot frame of hard muscle. Choosing an easier target, his beady eyes swung my way. “Carinna! If you don’t get control of your friend now, you’re fired.”
The man is like a junkyard dog off his leash.
How the hell am I supposed to control him?
Before I could respond to the GM’s threat, Maxim pivoted. Still holding Flannel Guy by the hair like some soiled rag doll, Maxim’s head tilted to the right as he surveyed my GM. One eyebrow lifted. His voice was dark honey as he asked, “Do you want to be next?”
Despite Maxim’s heavy Russian accent, there was no doubt my manager understood the threat. His mouth opened and closed several times without making a sound. Finally he shook his head, his double chin wobbling with the effort. “No… no.”
Maxim tightened his grip on Flannel Guy. “If I ever lay eyes on you again, I’ll rip your heart out through your mouth. Do you understand me?”
The man’s sputtered reply sent droplets of blood flying over the GM’s suit. “Yes! I’m sorry. I’ll leave. You’ll never see me again.”
Maxim nodded before releasing his grip and allowing the man to stumble over the GM. Both men weaved and stumbled before being helped by my bar back, Timmy. “You should not have let this garbage into your bar. Take care of it.”
Both Timmy and my GM struggled to lead Flannel Guy away.
My relief at the situation being diffused was short-lived.
Maxim turned to face me.
I took a step back, then another, retreating to the far end of the bar.
He raised his arm and pointed to the spot in front of him. “Carinna, get over here.”
With his accent, he rolled the harsh C in my name till it sounded like the purr of a lion. A very dangerous lion who looked like he could swallow me in one bite and not even choke on my bones.
I snatched up a bar towel and wiped the already clean bar surface near me. “Sorry, I can’t. I have customers,” I called over my shoulder, refusing to make eye contact with him. I raised my chin in a curt nod to the customer nearest me. “What can I get you?”
The customer looked from me to Maxim and back again. “Nothing. I’m good.”
Doing everything in my power to try to ignore the pillar of furious rage standing a few feet away, I tried again. “How about you?” I asked, nodding to another nearby customer.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Maxim tilt his head to the right in what I was fast learning was a sign of trouble. “Carinna.” His voice held more than a hint of warning.
I tapped a rapid staccato on the bar with the tips of my fingers. “Come on, buddy. I don’t have all day. What can I get you? A beer? Whiskey? What?”
Just like the last one, this customer glanced from me to Maxim, before backing away from the bar. One by one my customers drifted away.
I inhaled deeply through my nose. A vain attempt to gather my courage before turning to face Maxim.
He had crossed his arms over his chest. His brow lowered as his lips tightened in a thin line. “I am out of patience.”
Out of patience?
At what part of this had he been showing patience?
I twisted the bar towel between my fists. “Look, thanks for your help, but I have to get back to work.”
Maxim stood near the service entrance to the bar. Keeping his hard gaze on me, he reached down and swung the heavy bar top upward. There was a crash, then the tinkle of broken glass as the bar top slammed against the wall, sending several martini glasses on a nearby shelf crashing to the floor.
He stepped forward, allowing the bar top to fall back into place with a deafening clatter, caging us both in behind the bar.
My eyes widened as he approached, knowing there was no escape.
He placed both hands on the bar on either side of me. He leaned down. The stubble on his jaw brushed my cheek as he whispered into my ear. “In the future, if you make me call your name twice, I will take you over my knee. Do you understand me?”
I blinked several times. This was the second time today this man had threatened to spank me. The fact my stomach flipped at the thought each time meant there was something seriously wrong with me. Still, that was a thought for later, when I was safe in my bed under the covers with my Kindle. Not now when I was face-to-face with a tattooed monster of a man who seemed to be following me.
The bar glassware stored just below the bar rattled as I shifted, trying to put at least a few inches between us. “What are you doing here?” I demanded.
Without answering my question, he motioned with his hand and ordered, “Get your things. We’re leaving.”
Both my eyebrows rose as I crossed my arms under my chest. “The hell we are. I’m not going anywhere with you.”
His eyes sparked viridian fire as they focused on my cleavage.
With a gasp, I realized the motion had pushed my breasts up till my nipples were practically popping out over the top of the corset. I yanked on my top, trying to pull it as high as I could over my boobs. Stupid corset was going straight into the trash when I got home. I lifted the hand holding the bar towel up to my chest for good measure.
Maxim wrapped his fingers around my wrist and jerked me against his chest. He then speared his fingers into my hair and pulled my head back, holding it tight so I couldn’t turn away. “You have played the whore long enough tonight. You’re leaving with me. Now.” The last word was ground out through clenched teeth.
Did he just freaking call me a whore?
Without a thought for the repercussions, I drew back my free hand and slapped him hard across the cheek.
Maxim’s head turned to the side as he absorbed the strike. When he turned back to face me, a ghost of a smile teased his lips.
It was terrifying.
He leaned down and said nothing for what felt like a full minute. His lips skimmed mine, breathing in my air, like a demon stealing the breath from my body. He opened his mouth and pulled my lower lip in, then sunk his sharp teeth into the soft flesh. His hard grip on my head prevented me from pulling away. I whimpered as I tasted the coppery tang of blood.
Finally, he released my lip. He licked the wound he had created then rasped against my mouth, “You’ll learn what a mistake that was later—when I get you alone.”
I couldn’t be certain, but I honestly thought I blacked out, just for a second, from pure fear. He sounded like an angry father admonishing a misbehaving child about the punishment they would receive when they got home.
In a last-ditch effort to extricate myself from this mess, I insisted, “You can’t just drag me out of here in front of all these people.”
“Someone will stop you.”
His lips lifted at the corner. “No—they won’t.”
“I’ll call the police.”
His eyebrow rose. “You think I’m afraid of American police?”
This was insane. He couldn’t honestly think to get away with just kidnapping me out of a public bar. Then I remembered, this was the man who had changed my friend’s locks without even asking her permission. Clearly, these Russian men didn’t think the rules applied to them.
Feeling lightheaded, I tried to stand my ground. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
He took a step back.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
Then he pulled his sweater over his head.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
The man wasn’t just inked over every inch of hard muscle; he was pierced, as in PIERCED. He had a barbell piercing through each nipple and three more barbells going up each pectoral. At the base of his neck, there was a heavy-looking silver captive bead ring. As if it were a hook for a damn leash.
I opened my mouth to—what? Cry out? Scream? Moan? All I could do was utter a helpless squeak.
Maxim stepped close and pulled the sweater over my head, covering my practically exposed breasts. I closed my eyes and inhaled the scent of his cologne as the warmth from his body, still trapped within the cashmere, caressed my own.
Before I could object or, at the very least, put my arms through the sleeves, he bent low and tossed me over his shoulder. With my arms trapped, all I could do was cry out in vain. “Put me down!”
Maxim gave my ass a sharp, stinging slap. “No.”
I called out to Timmy, who was standing nearby. “Are you just going to let him carry me away?”
Timmy gestured to Maxim. “Do you see the size of him?”
Maxim gestured to the area under the cash register. “Is that her purse?”
Timmy rushed to grab it and handed it to Maxim.
Well, isn’t he just the fucking helpful friend?
Maxim carried me with ease through the bar. The patrons actually moved aside to create a pathway for him. No one raised so much as a pinky to help me despite my cries and pleas. So much for chivalry.
There was a rush of cold air as Maxim kicked the exit door open. It slammed shut after us with a startling finality. The dark winter night closed around me.
I was alone with the Russian monster.
I let out a long, frosty breath, but the chilled air did nothing to cool my rage.
To see her parading in front of those men with barely anything covering her tits made me want to murder each and every man in that bar. There was no excuse for putting herself on display like that, none at all. Obviously, whatever shit excuse for a man she belonged to wasn’t doing his job to keep her in line. I didn’t give a fuck if she belonged to someone else. A man who couldn’t rein in his woman deserved to lose her. And this woman clearly needed the firm hand of a man’s protection. My hand.
I dug into my jeans pocket for the car keys as I marched over to the Mercedes-Benz I had borrowed from Dimitri while I was in town, with Carinna still squirming and protesting on my shoulder. I had deliberately parked on the far side of the lot, in an area partially concealed by trees. An old habit. I didn’t want to make it easy for anyone to see my license plate or exact car model.
“Put me down, you bastard degenerate bastard!”
I chuckled. “You called me bastard twice.”
“That’s because you’re twice the bastard!” she fired back without hesitation.
Damn, I loved a woman with a little fire in her belly.
“I’ll scream,” she warned.
I scanned the dark and desolate parking lot as I walked around my metallic silver car and popped the trunk. “Go ahead.”
Carinna shifted. Her chin bumped the side of my head as she maneuvered to see behind her. “Don’t you even fucking think about putting me in that trunk!”
If I wanted to put her in the trunk, I would put her curvy ass in the trunk and there was nothing she could do about it. As it so happened, I didn’t want to be deprived of her colorful rhetoric. So I had no intention of forcing her to ride in the trunk. I placed her on her feet.
Carinna reached for the hem of my sweater.
My eyes narrowed. “Take it off and see what happens.”
She paused before her eyes also narrowed. Tightening her lips into a scowl, she drew the sweater over her head and tossed it onto the muddy parking lot tarmac.
I ran the tip of my tongue over the front of my teeth as I met her defiant stare. “And that’s three.”
She crossed her arms under her breasts before seeing my sharpened gaze and realizing her error. She placed one arm over her chest and crossed the other to rest her hand on her shoulder. “Three what?”
Carinna let out a huff of air. It hung heavily before her in a misty cloud, reminding me I needed to get her inside and warm… preferably in a bed. My bed.
Carinna then scowled at me as she hoisted the top by the sides in a fruitless effort to cover her more than ample charms. Staring at the deep V of her cleavage, I wondered if her nipples were pierced. Probably not. That would be something I would need to rectify soon. Pierced nipples were way more sensitive to the touch. Perhaps I would make her get tiny hoops I could attach a small leash to. I shifted as I ran the base of my palm over my growing cock as it strained against the tight denim of my jeans. Later.
“Punishments? You can’t be serious. I’m not some child you can take over your knee! I’m a grown-ass woman!”
I grabbed her chin and tilted her head back. It was becoming harder and harder to keep my temper with her. “A grown-ass woman would know not to parade around naked in front of a bunch of grown-ass men.”
She stamped her foot as she tossed her head to the side, breaking my grip. “For the last time, I am not parading around naked! Just because you don’t like how I dress doesn’t give you the right to—”
“Enough,” I roared as I slammed the trunk lid down.
Her eyes widened. Turning, she tried to bolt.
I snatched at the crimson corset ribbons which trailed down the middle of her back. She jerked to a halt. I dragged her toward me for a few steps before roughly turning her around. Without saying a word, I wrapped my hands around her waist and lifted her onto the top of the trunk.
Placing my palms on the inside of her knees, I forced her legs open and stepped between them. Spearing my fingers into her hair, I pulled her head forward. “You want to dress like a little whore? I’ll treat you like one.”
I swallowed her outraged protest as my mouth claimed hers. My tongue pushed inside her sweet mouth as I forced my hand down the inside of her corset. I ruthlessly pulled down, exposing both of her breasts. Breaking free of our kiss, I yanked on her hair. Her head fell back as her chest pushed out. Her dusty pink nipples were pebble hard from the cool night air. I used the top bead of my silver barbell tongue piercing to tease the sensitive flesh.
Her small hands pushed at my shoulders as she pleaded, “Stop! Let me go!”
I licked the inside curve of one heavy breast. “What’s the matter? Don’t like the consequences of baring your tits to a room full of men?”
“Fuck you!” she fired back as she raised her leg to try to use her heel against my hip to dislodge me.
I grabbed her knee and held it high as I sunk my teeth into the soft flesh of the top of her breast. Not enough to break the skin, but just enough to mark her. “Gladly. How much for a quick fuck in the parking lot?”
Carinna screamed in outrage as she struggled to evade my grasp. It was useless. There wasn’t a power on this Earth that could pry my hands off her.
Using my grip on her hair, I wrenched her off the car and positioned her facedown over the back of the trunk. I caressed my palm over her hip to cup her ass. She rose up on her toes as I gave her right cheek a hard squeeze through the flimsy fabric of her leggings. Placing my fingers into the waistband, I yanked the leggings down, baring her ass.
“Please!” begged Carinna as her arms stretched over the cold metal of the car as if she were trying to claw away from me.
I moved my hand in a circle over her exposed flesh before raising it high to deliver a single stinging slap.
Carinna cried out.
I watched as her chilled, pale skin blossomed into a beautiful shade of dark pink in the shape of my hand. “What’s the matter, baby? Don’t like being treated like a dirty little whore?”
Her dark brown eyes looked like hard chips of black diamond as she flashed an angry look over her shoulder. “No, damn you!”
Using the side of my boot, I kicked her legs open wider. I ran two fingers along the thin seam of her purple thong panties before tracing the outline of her pussy lips. The stillness of the winter’s night allowed me easily to hear Carinna’s harsh inhale. I pushed one fingertip inside of her wet warmth.
I ran my lips over the top of her shoulder to flick the tip of my tongue against her earlobe. “I think you’re a liar.” I thrust my finger in deeper.
Fuck, she was tight, almost virginal tight.
My cock thickened at the thought of sinking deep inside her hot, tight sheath. “Say it,” I demanded as I added a second finger inside of her. “Say you’re my naughty little whore.”
She pounded her fist on the car. “Fuck you.”
I reached for my belt buckle, brushing my knuckles against her bare ass. “That can be arranged.”
I had no intention of fucking her in a cold parking lot. I would wait till I got her home. Right now, she needed to be taught a lesson.
“Wait!” cried out Carinna.
“No, say it. Say you’re my little whore,” I demanded as I thrust my fingers in and out of her grasping pussy. A dark and twisted emotion sprang to life inside of me. I’d never been into degradation kink, but there was just something about this woman that made me want to slap her ass and call her my own little whore as I plowed into her. That wasn’t nearly as startling as another driving need to cradle her in my arms and call her my sweet babygirl.
In my line of work, you had to be a quick judge of character. It was immediately apparent when I first met her in the hallway of her apartment building that Carinna was an innocent playing at being tough and in control. What else explained her foolish attempt to protect her friend against someone like me?
I still remembered my primal reaction to her standing in that hallway earlier today, daring to defy me. A little mouse challenging a lion. I had wanted to pick her up and put her in my pocket. She was so adorably indignant. While I’d had business to attend to in that moment, it was a foregone conclusion I would track her down later. I had wanted to see those golden sparks fly out of her velvet brown eyes again.
Truth be told, I wanted to provoke her into an argument, just to give myself an excuse to put her over my knee and bare that cute, curvy ass of hers. Never had I imagined she would give me such cause as to be wearing next to nothing as she traipsed from one end of the bar to the other, baring herself for paltry beer tips. It was no wonder that drunken buffoon attacked her. She had been practically begging for someone to take advantage. She was fortunate that someone was me. And I planned to take full advantage of her.
I flicked open the button and lowered the zipper to my jeans. I know she heard the muffled metallic clicks because her breathing stopped. I pushed my fingers in deep as I used the pad of my thumb to tease her tightly puckered asshole. A hint of dark deeds to come. “Admit you like this.”
Her head lolled from side to side. “I don’t.”
“Your body tells me otherwise.”
I scissored my fingers deep inside of her. Carinna raised up on her toes and groaned.
“Admit you like it rough and dirty, and I’ll let you go.” For now.
She glared at me through the tangled strands of her honey-brown hair. “I hate you.”
“Good. Hold on to that hate. I want you to grasp it tightly till you can feel the heat of your own wrath warming your heart. I want you to seethe with hatred. I want your blood to boil within your veins at the mere thought of me. I want your fingers to curl into claws at the sight of me.” I fisted her hair and turned her head to the side so she could feel the full power of my gaze. “You know why, babygirl?”
Her eyes scanned my face. She wet her full lips before choking out a whispered, “No, why?”
“Because I’m going to enjoy throwing you down onto a bed and hate fucking you till you don’t know your own name. I want to feel your heated blood pulse around my cock. I want your claws to tear down my back as I drive into you over and over and over again until you beg me for mercy.”
She gasped as her eyes filled with tears. “Oh my God.”
I released her hair and smoothed it back over her skull. “God can’t save you now.”
Her pussy clenched around my fingers, letting me know she craved the sensual dark side of passion as much as I did. Maybe I had finally met my match. What man didn’t want a sweet innocent they could turn into their own personal little whore in the bedroom?
Her bottom lip was still swollen from where I had bitten it. I ran my tongue over it. “Don’t make me ask you again. Tell me what I want to hear, or I’ll show you just what a heartless bastard I can be.”
I applied more pressure on the pad of my thumb, pushing into her reluctant asshole to the first knuckle as I leaned the weight of my body over hers.
“I’m your dirty little whore,” she whispered.
And with those words, she sealed her fate.