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Training His Pet by Measha Stone – Sample

Chapter One

“Don’t look so intense. You’re going to scare away the guests.” Corbin stepped off the last step with a sarcastic grin playing on his lips.

Dax eyed his younger brother. “That’s sort of the idea. I keep the bad guys away.”

Corbin tugged on the sleeve of his shirt, pulling it free of his jacket, and surveyed the dance floor. Dax and his brother had opened Velvet two years ago. Corbin took well to being the face of the club, dealing with the media and the financial assholes, which left Dax to do what he did best. Keeping the place safe.

Velvet wasn’t open to the general public, but that didn’t mean they didn’t want in. They did, badly. Nothing made something more appealing than making it exclusive. A year’s membership to the Velvet came at a hefty price.

“Some of the guests are the bad guys, Dax.” Corbin gestured toward Joseph Persuccio walking through the crowd toward his private section in the back of the club.

Dax watched the head of the Persuccio family maneuver through the crowd, much like Moses parting the Red Sea. No one got in his way. Smooth path from the front door to his seat. He wouldn’t be detected, and he wouldn’t be disturbed. And it was up to Dax to make sure it stayed that way.

No matter how he actually felt about the situation.

“I still don’t understand why you wanted to open the doors to men like him.” Dax kept his eyes on the men following their leader. They wouldn’t cause trouble, not if they enjoyed the sanctuary they were given in the club, but Dax made sure they kept their hands to themselves when he was around.

“Because men like him own this town.” Corbin slapped Dax on the back. “I’m going to make my rounds. Maybe a little less scowl on your part. You’re not in the military anymore, Dax. This isn’t a war zone.”

Dax moved his gaze to his brother. He’d been sheltered. Dax made certain Corbin never had to see the shit Dax had seen or knew the horror Dax knew. Dax, being nearly ten years older, didn’t have the luxury of not knowing the face of evil. And it had cost him plenty.

“Why don’t you get off the clock for the night.” Corbin smiled at a small group of women walking toward them. Three women, all blondes, and all dressed with purpose. To get undressed with the most eligible man, and with the most money, they could latch onto. And Corbin would help them.

“Hey, Corbin.” The tallest of the group bit down on her bottom lip, tilting her head and twirling her finger in her hair. “I was hoping to see you tonight, Dax.” Her gaze traveled up from Dax’s boots over his jeans, to his t-shirt.

“Nice to see you, Jessica.” Dax wouldn’t be rude, but he wasn’t playing games either. His job was to keep the club secure. No fights, no drama, no fucking deaths. And with men like Joseph Persuccio in attendance, he had plenty of work to do.

“I was just telling Dax to take the night off,” Corbin said.

Jessica stepped closer.

“And I was just saying no.” Dax set his jaw and gave Jessica a firm shake of his head. “I’m sure Corbin can keep you ladies entertained.”

Jessica’s smile dropped, but she was smart enough not to comment. Being brushed off probably pissed her off, but if she gave in to the feeling, Corbin might not let her latch on to him for the night.

“Maybe some other time,” Jessica said, the bitterness not completely eliminated from her tone.

Dax moved his gaze back to the crowds while Corbin gathered up his ladies and moved through the club.

The music kicked up into a frantic beat, dragging along the pounding headache behind Dax’s eyes with it. Glancing at his watch, he sighed. He’d wait another hour until the second wave of men showed up, then he’d get home to his bed.

He felt his phone vibrating in his back pocket and grabbed it, moving up the stairs to the private office overlooking the club.

“Hey, Dax,” Trevor spoke before Dax even got out a hello.

“Trevor? Everything okay?”

“Yeah, of course,” he laughed. “Always assuming the worst.”

Dax looked through the window at the movement below, his eyes settled on the Persuccio crew. Three servers circled the table with trays of drinks and appetizers. A bit overkill for four men.

“Well, history does tend to repeat itself. What’s going on?”

“Just wondering when you were coming back up here.” Trevor’s brother owned a resort in Michigan. Hell of a lot more peaceful than the Chicago nightlife.

“I don’t know, man. Business has grown. Been busy as hell down here.”

“Yeah, nothing like burying yourself in work to completely avoid reality,” Trevor said.

“I’m not avoiding anything,” Dax countered, swinging his eyes over the crowd toward the entrance.

Robert, the bouncer, was shaking his head and pointing back at the door. Dax leaned closer to the glass to see who he was rejecting entrance.

“It’s been years. Come on back up here. You’ll have a good time,” Trevor pushed.

“I’m sure I would, man, but I’m not looking for a good time right now.” Dax watched the woman being denied entrance pointing toward the bar, but Robert blocked her way when she tried to step inside. “How’s the wife?”

“You could see for yourself if you came up here,” Trevor pressed.

Dax laughed. “Man, you’re like a teenage girl. What’s so important about me coming up there? You bored?”

“With Addison around? Never. It’s just, well, I know this time of year is, well, shitty for you.”

Dax pulled away from the window, satisfied Robert had the trouble under control.

“It’s just another summer day, Trevor.” Dax rounded the desk and flipped the security system into view on the desktop.

“Yeah. Right. Well, if you change your mind, invite’s open. Any cabin you want.” Trevor’s voice flattened. He’d finally realized it was a losing battle.

Dax put a lot of energy into ignoring the dates on the calendar during this time of year. Running up to Michigan wasn’t any better than burying himself with work in Chicago. But at least when he kept busy with the club there came a sense of accomplishment and not a longing for something he would never have. And going up to the resort would show him what he’d lost, and what he wouldn’t find again.

“Got it, man. Thanks.” Dax sank into the chair and pulled up the feed from the front door. The woman who’d been arguing with Robert a few minutes ago stood outside the club watching the door.

Calculating. She wasn’t done attempting entrance.

Chapter Two

Erika slammed her apartment door and threw her purse on the couch. The evening had been a complete waste of time.

Velvet was locked down tight to outsiders, and until she had a contact to help her, she’d never see the inside. Joey Persuccio had walked in minutes before she’d gotten to the front of the line, and she only wanted to watch him in his habitat. But the damn bouncer wouldn’t let her through. She wasn’t on the list.

Erika had gotten into more exclusive clubs than Velvet, and she’d get into this one as well. Her story depended on it.

Flicking on her computer, she popped open a bottle of beer and sipped while reading the first email. Her cousin had sent another list of apartments for rent in her town.

“Delete.” Erika clicked the mouse. Living in the burbs wasn’t for her. She liked the city. The rough edges, the corruption, the crime running amok—it all made for great headlines. And that’s what she needed. A solid headline. Something to get her off page fifteen and into a permanent column.

And Velvet would be just the place to find that story. The Persuccio crew didn’t own any part of the club, but they had made it one of their permanent hangouts.

Why?

They owned plenty of their own bars and restaurants around the city, why spend so much time held up in a night club? Maybe they didn’t trust their own properties to keep the open ears of the cops away? There was something there, something special about Velvet.

“Erika?” Christy walked out of the bathroom, rubbing her eyes. “Did you just get home?” she asked before succumbing to a yawn.

“Yeah, sorry, did I wake you?” Erika swiveled her chair to face her roommate.

“No, I had to pee. Then I heard you come in. Any luck?” Christy pulled her hair up and maneuvered an elastic band around the messy strands of hair.

“Of course not.” Erika drummed her fingers on the arm of her chair. “I need a connection. Someone on the inside that can get me on that list.”

“Bribery didn’t work?” Christy smiled.

“Unfortunately, no.” Erika frowned. It had been a long shot, offering money in exchange for entry. The bouncer had all but laughed in her face. “I need to work on it.”

“On what? Being sneaky and underhanded?” Christy leaned a hip against the wall and crossed her arms over her chest. “I don’t think you want to go down that road, Erika.”

Christy had moved in with Erika after finishing nursing school and needing an apartment closer to the train station. Erika needed someone who would pay their half of the rent on time, and not be bothered by her all hours work environment. It had taken one week for them to fully sync and become each other’s lifelines.

“I don’t think slipping a big bill to a bouncer is going to alter any plans my soul has for the hereafter.” Erika leaned her head back and closed her eyes. “I just don’t want to be writing fluff and garbage for the next twenty years. I need something good, something solid.”

“You mean something juicy?” Christy added.

Erika’s eyes snapped open. “No, not juicy. Not tabloid stuff. Real stuff. Front page stuff.”

Christy shook her head and pushed off the wall. “What are you going to do if you find out something about this family? They aren’t exactly new news, right? And it could be dangerous.”

Christy, the beacon that called Erika home when she became too lost in her ambitions to see the danger lurking in front of her.

“It probably can be, but these guys don’t go after journalists. It’s bad for business.” Erika swiveled back to her computer.

“Yeah, but you’re not a journalist yet. You’re a girl poking around their business,” Christy noted. Without a permanent column, a secure byline in the paper, Erika wasn’t much more than how Christy described.

“How was your shift?” Erika turned the tables. Thinking about everything that could go wrong with her story wouldn’t give her the confidence she needed to actually get the story.

“Exhausting.” Christy yawned again and wrapped her slender arms around herself. The summer heat was on full blast, and Christy still wore flannel pajamas at night. “I have a double tomorrow, so I won’t be able to join you for dinner.”

Friday nights were their night to double down on serious nachos from their favorite takeout joint on the corner. A celebration for getting through another week while at the same time mourning their single lives.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we had to cancel because one of us had a date?” Erika sighed. Other than a few one-night stands along the way, she had been flying solo for the past year and half.

“Yeah, well, with my schedule that may never happen.” Christy stretched her arms over her head. “I’m going back to bed. Six o’clock comes too fast. Don’t stay up all night.” She waggled her fingers at Erika and retreated back to her room.

“Night!” Erika called and wiggled her mouse to bring her screen back to life. A new email had come in.

Finally, a break.

She had made her contact.

Chapter Three

“Joey wants the back room tonight,” Corbin informed Dax.

“It’s Friday.” Dax raised an eyebrow. “That room is rented out, has been for the last three months. The waitlist is as long as my arm.” And considering the amount of privacy given to the room, it would continue to be a sold-out feature of the Velvet. Dax didn’t need to see the security footage to have a good idea of what went on behind those closed doors. And after having checked in on the room once, he wished he hadn’t. He’d left the security of the private parties to a member of his team. He had little desire to watch a bunch of assholes with too much money to burn and their purchased dates for the night. Apparently, hotel rooms weren’t good enough for their sexcapades—or too easily found on a credit card statement.

“So, cancel the private party. I’m not telling Joey no.” Corbin tugged at his sleeves and checked the collar of his shirt.

“What sort of arrangement do you have with him anyway?” Dax forced the accusation out of his tone. Corbin wouldn’t talk if he felt backed into a corner.

“The sort that makes us a shit ton of money.” Corbin tapped his knuckles on the top of his desk. “You just handle security. Make sure only the best of the best gets into the club, and everyone stays away from the private room tonight.”

“You gonna be in there with him?” Dax crossed his arms over his chest.

“I’m gonna be doing my job.” Corbin shot him a soft look. “And you do the same but leave them be.”

“I don’t like them hanging around here so much,” Dax pushed. They’d had the same argument several times, and each time Dax gave in.

“They do business here and they pay top dollar for the inconvenience it gives us. No fights, no problems, and no drama, right?” Corbin checked his phone.

“I’m giving free service to the cancelled party. They’ll get the night on us, and they won’t be paying their room fee for their rebooking,” Dax stated.

Corbin nodded. “Yeah, fine. Whatever.” He stood from his desk and walked over to the window, looking down at the wait staff getting ready for the evening event.

“Corbin.” Dax cleared his throat. “When you said you wanted to open this place up, I wasn’t exactly on board.” He’d been dead set against it, but he’d heard out his little brother before completely dashing his dream. “But you swore to me, this would be a legit business.”

Corbin turned away from the window, pressing his hands against the window frame, and smiled warmly. “It is legit.”

“Not with men like Joseph Persuccio waltzing in here every night.” Dax stood his ground. Corbin was taking too many risks, too many chances of bringing heat down on their business. “What is it with you and him anyway? Are you hoping he’ll take you in? Make you one of his guys?” Dax would see him dead before the ceremony even began. No way Dax dragged them out of the trailer park on the south side of the city to see him fall into the evil pits of criminals.

“You’re too worried. You really need to take a break, get some vacation time in.” Corbin moved across the room toward the door, but Dax grabbed his arm.

“I don’t like all the attention they’re getting and I don’t like them here. This is our business, our club, not theirs. If you wanna get in bed with them, little brother, you’ll need to take that shit somewhere else.”

Corbin pulled free of Dax’s grip and leveled a glare. “It doesn’t matter what you want or what you like. People like Joey Persuccio don’t ask permission. He wants to hang here, he hangs here. I’m not throwing them out. That would be a death sentence to this place.”

“Tell me you don’t like this any more than I do.” Dax eyed his younger brother, taking in the tailored suit, the gold cross hanging around his neck.

“I really don’t, Dax, you know that.” Corbin rolled his shoulders back. “But these aren’t guys you tell no.”

Dax held his stare for a long pause then nodded. “I’ll find another way, then.”

“You’re going to insult them—”

Dax cut Corbin off with a wave of his hand. “I may not rub elbows with those assholes, but I know how to handle myself. I won’t insult anyone. I’ll figure out a way.”

The tension in Corbin’s neck eased. “I have to get down there.”

“Yeah.” Dax nodded. “I’ll see you later,” he said as Corbin left the office.

He’d let Corbin be the face of the club for so long, he’d become the only recognizable face. Not that Dax cared; he didn’t want the attention. He enjoyed doing his part. Keeping everyone safe. Keeping the club up and running and legit. Not letting his little brother slide them into bed with the slime of the city. That was his job, and he would keep doing it.

“Dax.” Robert wrapped his knuckles on the door frame of the office before stepping in.

“Hey, Robert.” Dax let out a breath. Corbin wasn’t a kid anymore. He was a grown man who could handle himself.

“Quick question on the invite list.” Robert pointed out a name. “Saw her here yesterday. Tried to pay me off to get in. She had no invite and no voucher, but today she’s on the list.”

“Who vouched for her?” Dax asked.

“No one that I know.” Robert raised his eyebrows. “I asked Corbin, but he said he didn’t know the name.”

“And he didn’t care who she might be?”

“He cared about how she looked.”

Dax scoffed. “I thought he wanted to keep this place exclusive.”

“What should I do?”

“Let her in.” Dax waved a hand and went to the desk. “I’ll talk to Caitlyn about the list.” Caitlyn Reynolds worked part time for Dax. A retired detective, she was in charge of compiling the VIP list every night. The club allowed members in without question, and a select few were put on a guest list that could enter without membership. The rest of the population waited in line outside hoping to be granted random entry—that rarely came.

Corbin had insisted it was the fastest way to build the business, and he’d been right. Make something out of reach and everyone wanted to try for it.

Dax grabbed his phone and pocketed it.

“You got it.” Robert gave a curt nod and excused himself from the room.

Dax headed down the back stairwell to the offices on the first floor.

“Hey, Dax. I need you, man. The camera setup in the alley is fucked,” Brenden called to Dax from the security room. Dax would talk to Caitlyn next. First he’d get the security cameras back online.

Chapter Four

“Ah, you’re back.” The bouncer’s white teeth flashed as he grinned down at Erika. Several men standing in the impossible line along the building groaned when she bypassed the roped section and headed straight for the entrance. The bouncer vocalizing his recognition of her earned a few more grunts of disapproval.

Not wanting to squash the only chance she had of getting into the club and a closer view at the Persuccio family, she gave him a warm smile.

“Yep. Erika Devore. I should be on the guest list.” She pointed to the clipboard in his hands.

“I noticed.” He clicked his pen into action and scribbled on the paper. “Seems you found the right palm to grease.”

Erika pushed her hair back and moved her gaze over his shoulder, looking further into the club. Last night she’d made it inside before getting rejected; it seemed she would actually get all the way in tonight. She let him have his jab; she hadn’t paid off anyone, but he could think what he wanted.

“May I?” she asked, pointing toward the door.

His grin morphed into a flat smirk. “Yeah. Third floor is closed tonight, but there’s a new DJ on the second floor.” He recited what must have been his script for the evening and turned to the side to let her pass.

For a bouncer, he didn’t carry much bulk, but she figured the thick white scar slashed across his face worked well enough to scare people into falling in line.

“Thanks.” She stepped past him and over the threshold of the club.

Eardrum-damaging thumping surrounded her as the tempo of the music picked up. House music. She’d avoided it successfully during her stint in college, but she would have to endure it for the evening if she wanted to get close to the Persuccios.

The club had an electric feel to it. Aside from the beat of the music, the energy of the crowd livened the place. Unlike the few clubs she’d been dragged to over her college years, Velvet had a higher level of patrons. Men weren’t gawking over the female customers. They didn’t need to; the waitresses provided enough jaw-dropping entertainment with their short gold skirts and shiny matching halter tops.

She maneuvered her way to the bar. So far, she hadn’t found any sign of the Persuccio crew, but it wasn’t too late into the evening. One glass of wine wouldn’t hurt, and she could use the numbing effect on her nerves.

“What can I get you?” the bartender asked, leaning over the bar toward her.

“Glass of Pinot,” she called back at him. He nodded and reached below to grab a glass.

“Whatever you want, Mr. Nichols, just order and it will be taken care of.” A deep voice caught Erika’s attention. She glanced beside her, at the corner of the bar, to where the sound came from.

Her heart skidded a beat when her eyes locked on him. Dark hair, combed back but not slicked, matched the black stubble across his jaw. His firm, steady jaw.

“And my room fee?” Mr. Nichols, a stout man who was wearing an oversized suit and had a balding head, asked pointedly.

“Waived.”

Mr. Nichols’ lips screwed up in a grin, like he’d just unwrapped the last Wonka bar.

“Any chance Melissa will be our server?”

She assumed Mr. Nichols was bargaining with the manager of the club, so Erika slid herself and her wine down a few stools to hear better. The manager’s jaw clenched at Mr. Nichols’ request.

“Unfortunately, I can’t do that. She’s needed in the back room. But you’ll have two servers all night.”

“You mean she’s needed in the room I rented for the night.” He waved a hand in the air. “No, ignore me, I’m being rude. It’s fine. We’ll take the back tables.”

“Good. Again, I apologize for the inconvenience.” The manager’s eyes lifted, catching Erika in her stare. She swallowed and jerked her gaze away, busying herself in downing her wine.

It had only been a glimpse, but when his eyes had met hers, her insides jolted. The manager gave instructions to the bartender to keep Nichols’ tab open but not charged to his account. The club would be picking it up.

His voice, dark and sultry, carried over to her. A soft warmth built in her chest at the firmness of his tone. He may have been catering to an unhappy customer, but he still seemed to possess the power. Through a side glance she noticed his jaw was still set, not as clenched as before, but still firm. Whatever transpired for him to have to give away a night of liquor to Mr. Nichols irritated him.

“Have a round of tequila shots brought over, and some of those wings we had last time. The girls really liked those.” Mr. Nichols tapped the bar, gaining the bartender’s attention after the manager walked away.

Erika watched the manager’s movements through the crowd. He didn’t sidestep or wiggle through the customers. He didn’t need to; they all simply moved out of his way as he walked.

“It’ll be right over, Mr. Nichols. Tammy and Lucinda will be your servers tonight,” the bartender announced.

Erika eyed Mr. Nichols once the manager got lost behind the crush of people. Sliding over one more stool, she found herself seated directly beside him.

“Sounds like you got the shaft tonight, huh?” Erika said with a grin.

Mr. Nichols eyed her, his gaze dragging up and down her face while he seemed to determine if she was worthy of his conversation.

She must have passed.

“Yes. The private room was overbooked, so my party has been moved out here.” He licked his bottom lip. “Annoying to not have the privacy, but if the liquor is free, we’ll stick around for a bit.”

“How can they make a profit if they give away an entire party tab?” Erika asked.

“That’s not my problem.” Mr. Nichols lifted a shoulder. “But I suspect they’d rather lose money tonight and not my business.” He turned so his elbow perched on the bar, and he made no effort to hide his appraisal of her dress.

She’d borrowed one of Christy’s black hip- and boob-hugging dresses. Though Christy had been gifted a bit more in the boob department, the dress fit well enough that Mr. Nichols seemed to like what he saw.

“I bring my party here every other weekend. The room rate isn’t bad, but they make a killing on my bar tab. You’re welcome to join us if you’d like.” He made a show of looking over her shoulder and returning his focus to her with a slimy grin. “It would be a shame for you to spend all night alone.”

A cold chill ran over Erika’s skin. She had a good picture in her mind of what an evening with his friends looked like. Her goal was a groundbreaking news story, not something worthy of the tabloids.

“Maybe I’ll stop over later? Where are you?” She casually looked over his shoulder, seeing his little group of men leering at the pretty young things doing their best not to show their own repulsion at being manhandled by their escorts.

“Don’t be too late. We’ll be moving the party somewhere a bit more private soon.” Nichols licked his lips and winked. Who the hell was this guy? Not a single woman in all of the world would think that was an appealing offer.

“Okay.” She nodded with a smile, but her attention was already focused on the door to the private room swinging open as a waitress exited the room with an empty tray.

Joey Persuccio. Her mouth dried. He was there. He must have been the overbooking.

Leaving Nichols to his party, Erika made her way toward the private room. Unlike the manager who everyone watched out for, she needed to maneuver through the dancing crowd to get to her destination. If they were in the back room, she wouldn’t be able to overhear anything. She needed to get inside.

As she came up to the door marked private party, she moved to the side, still thinking. She couldn’t just walk in and strike up a conversation, and even in Christy’s dress she didn’t look like someone who would be a guest of the Persuccio men.

“Can I help you?” The dark voice from the bar returned.

“Uh, hi.” Erika turned to face him, pushing her lips into a wide smile. “You’re the manager, right?”

Holy hell, he was taller than she’d originally thought. Even in her heels, the top of her head only reached his chin. The dark lighting of the bar didn’t let her see much of his physique, but she was getting a clear view now. His tight black t-shirt stretched over his broad chest. Black ink ran down his left arm, and she could make out some on his chest, too.

She cleared her throat, jerking her thoughts away from the strong body in front of her and putting them back on trying to get her story.

“Owner, yes. Is something wrong?” He folded his arms over his chest, like he knew she was fishing for a lie to tell him. She hadn’t even said more than a sentence. How could he know anything about her?

“Of course not.” She threw in a soft chuckle, like the idea of anything being wrong was just ludicrous. Obviously, she needed to work on her undercover skills.

“This room is for private parties only.” He gestured with his chin toward the door behind her.

She looked over her shoulder, already knowing what he said was true, then gave him her best surprised look. “So it is.”

He narrowed his eyes.

“You’re Erika Devore,” he accused.

A black ball of dread sank into her stomach. “Guilty.” She tried to smile wider, but when she met his glare it faltered.

“You’re a journalist for the Chicago Evening Post.” Another accusation.

“Again. Guilty.” She pressed her lips into a flat line. “Didn’t think many people knew my work.” She hadn’t had a permanent byline yet and the fluff pieces she’d been putting out weren’t exactly memorable.

“I don’t,” he said. If he was attempting to hurt her feelings, he’d have to dig a little deeper. No one knew her work. And she was fine with that. She wanted her name to be attached to something bigger than socialite birthday parties before people remembered her.

“You’re the owner?” She decided to change course.

“One of them, yes.” He wasn’t much of a talker. Okay, she could still work with it. She didn’t need his life story; she just needed him to go away.

“If you’ve never seen my articles, how did you know me?” she asked, acutely aware of the door opening behind her and more men walking in and out of the room.

“Your name was on the guest list.” He leaned over, bringing his face closer to hers. Probably so he wouldn’t have to yell over the music. “I approve the list.”

“Right. Of course. I’m sorry, what’s your name?”

He smiled. Not a soft, welcoming smile, but a knowing grin that let her know he knew exactly what she was up to.

“Dax Adams. Head of all things security here. And you’re blocking the door for the private party. You’ll have to move.” He unfolded his arms and gestured for her to get going.

She hadn’t gotten into the room yet!

“This club hasn’t been open long, what… a year?” She shuffled to the side, but not as far away as he clearly wanted her.

His dark eyebrow arched. “Nearly two.”

“I think it would be a great opportunity for you to have an article done on the place.” Straws grasped from every angle.

“Really?” His lips twitched.

“Yes. You cater to some high-end clientele. Maybe a little more publicity could bring in even more?” Considering the line of people practically begging at the front door to be let in, she was really stretching.

“The point here is to be exclusive.” He leaned down again. “And being exclusive wouldn’t work as well if we opened the door and let everyone in.”

“Right.” She pointed her finger at him. She scanned his arm. “That’s an army tattoo.” Pushing his sleeve up to his shoulder, she inspected the detailed tattoo. Inside the intricate designed sleeve of the American flag were three peaked stripes, the image of a skull filled in the stripes making it another piece of work altogether. “Sergeant.” She ran her fingers over the design and looked up at him.

His eyes were wide, staring down at her with surprise. Maybe no one had noticed before. The lighting wasn’t great, but she recognized the rank stripes. She let go of his arm and stepped back.

“You really shouldn’t be around here,” he said again.

“You were in the military, and now you own an exclusive club in Chicago. There’s a story here, I think,” she said with a smile. He had a backstory, and the writer in her wanted to hear it. But first she needed to get information on the Persuccio family.

“Why don’t you come back some other time, and we’ll answer some questions.” He reached behind her and pressed his hand flat against her back, effectively pushing her away from the door.

“Come back?” she asked, watching the private party room get further away from her grasp.

“Yes, back. As in later. Not now. Not tonight.”

She stopped walking and maneuvered out of his grasp. “Okay, we’ll set something up. But I’m not really ready to leave right now.”

His jaw set. He dragged in a deep breath through his nose and looked past her. Either trying collect his patience or come up with a way to effectively eject her from the club.

After a moment, his brows furrowed together. “You need to go. Now,” he said.

“I’m not—”

“I said now.” Dax grabbed the arm of a man who was walking by. “Justin, please take Ms. Erika Devore to the door. She’s leaving for the night. Make sure she gets a cab.”

“I just said—” Her words cut off when he swung his angry glare down at her.

“Leave your card with Justin, and I’ll call to schedule an interview. But right now, you need to go.” He gave Justin another direct order to be sure she got in a cab and rushed past her toward the party room.

She tried to watch him, to see what he was running toward, but Justin blocked her view. Without touching her, he managed to shove her out of the club.

“Going so soon?” the bouncer laughed as she was escorted past him.

“I’ll be back, don’t worry.” She waved with a grin and shot her escort a glare before ducking into the cab he’d hailed for her.

Something was happening in that party room. Something Dax didn’t want her to see.

“Here.” She shoved her business card at Justin. “Make sure Dax gets this and let him know if I don’t hear from him, I’ll contact him.”

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