Chapter 1

“The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.”

― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus


“You drinking?”

I gave Burro a short nod, not bothering to remove my jacket. I had no plans to stay. “The usual.”

He didn’t move. When I glanced up, I found the bartender studying me. “What’s the news? Are Romeo’s boys finally going to cooperate? Did Christine get to Beau?”

Peeling off my leather gloves, I stuffed them in my pocket and reached for a napkin. “None of your business.”

“So, that’s a no.” Finally, he moved, reaching for the whiskey bottle reserved for me and filling a tumbler. He then grabbed a different bottle—his preferred brand of gin reserved for him—and filled a shot glass, clinking the two together before handing my tumbler over. “Merry Christmas. Looks like things are about to get tight around here.”

“No,” I ground out. “We’ve known for a while Beau was a long shot. We have other leads.” Beau Winston had turned Christine down weeks ago, this was old news.

Burro tossed back his drink. “All the same, Merry Christmas.”

I lifted an eyebrow. “Is it?”

“Yep. Christmas Eve today.” He filled his shot glass again and tucked the gin back under the counter. “Twenty-fourth of December. Comes around once a year.”

A ruckus sounded near the entrance followed by an odd hush. I ignored it. I’d noticed upon walking in that the bar seemed more crowded than usual for 5:00 PM, even for a Saturday. For whatever reason, the younger guys gathered in droves on holidays, preferring the Dragon to The Plank, or one of the strip clubs. Christmas in particular was a hard time for recruits who came from families with traditions.

I hadn’t come from a family. I had no traditions. Holidays were just another day. But with so many boys crowded in the room, seeking festivities, it’d be a good day to catch up on paperwork.

Stepping back from the bar, intent on vacating the main room before more Wraiths wandered in, I grabbed my drink and pointed at the whiskey bottle still out on the bar top. “Hide that, please. Don’t let Wolf see it out. He’ll drink the whole thing.”

Again, Burro didn’t move. His eyes, which had grown wide and round, appeared to be preoccupied by something behind me. Oh well. I had another bottle in my room. Time to go.

Banks were closed on Christmas and the Monday after. If I sent my emails tonight, I couldn’t expect any answers until Tuesday. But at least it would be—

“It’s you.”

I glanced over my shoulder at the feminine voice, and then did a double take.

What the—?

The last person, the very last person I’d ever expect to be standing inside the Dragon Biker Bar, watching me like she knew me—or was looking for me?—was Diane Donner Sylvester, local businesswoman, socialite, and church-going glitterati.

What. The. Hell?

Her lips curved in a small smile and she waited, still watching, still looking up at me like we knew each other. For the record, we did not know each other. Everyone knew who she was, sure. She was basically famous in these parts. It was impossible to not know who Diane Donner Sylvester—wait, no. Just Donner. She’s divorced, or is about to be.

Eventually, because Diane Donner didn’t disappear after several seconds of confused staring, I said, “It’s me,” like an inane fool.

The woman blinked, rocking back on her heels, looking at the floor for a moment before taking a deep breath and lifting her chin, jaw set, eyes forward. I watched in complete disbelief as Diane Donner pulled off her jacket, revealing an outfit more commonly seen on teenagers going through a rebellious phase than a pillar of society and mother of two adult children.

Hanging the coat and a little purse on the back of the stool nearest to me, she smiled at Burro. “Good evening. What do y’all serve?”

“Whatever you want,” he said, openly gawking.

So was I.

And I made no attempt to hide my astonishment. Meanwhile, a different kind of shock, one of profound interest, headed south. I stiffened, sobered by the stab of visceral attraction. Frowning, I searched the room, just to be sure she wasn’t a figment of my imagination and this wasn’t some joke. But no. Most eyes were on her. Well, technically, most eyes were on her body and most everyone seemed just as stunned as me by her sudden presence.

Her sweet but firm voice said, “Let me think on it for a minute.”

“Take your time,” came Burro’s bemused reply. “I got all night.”

I inhaled a deep breath, returning my attention to her, not quite sure what to make of the woman being here, at the Dragon Biker Bar. She was the implicit sovereign of Green Valley and top of the food chain, apparently out for a night with the bottom feeders. And—wait. Is that a . . . mini skirt? That’s a mini skirt.

Stifling a groan by gritting my teeth, I tore my gaze away. In my bafflement, I rubbed my eyes, but then abruptly stopped. This moment was akin to a dream I’d had too often, but we’d never been here and she’d never been dressed . . . like that.

“I thought I might find you here,” she muttered. To me.

I slid my eyes her way, wary for obvious reasons, and then to Burro. He’d mostly recovered and was now grinning in a toothy display at the woman, placing his hands wide on the bar top and trailing his eyes over her body with unveiled admiration.

Instinct had me snapping my fingers at him. “Hey. Burro. She’ll have what I’m having.”

“No, I won’t.” She said, all high and mighty, not looking at me. I studied her profile, still mired in my disbelief. Her cheeks were high in color, her lips fighting a smile. “I think I’ll have vodka. Neat. And two olives if you have them.”

Burro smirked and then bowed. “Of course, m’lady.”

She smiled sweetly at his slimy show of deference, which he returned with an appreciative raking of his eyes over her breasts. That was, until his attention came to me. I placed my hand on the back of Ms. Donner’s stool.

Don’t even fucking think about it.

Burro’s attention dropped and he mumbled something about getting clean glasses from the back. Then he left because he wasn’t as dumb as he looked. I wasn’t sure what was happening, why she was here, or what she’d meant by, There you are, or I thought I might find you here, like she’d been looking for me in particular, but I would put my boot in Burro’s face before he laid a hand on her.

“What’s your name?” she asked, pulling me out of violent thoughts.

Clearing my throat, I worked to keep my eyes forward. I failed. “You can call me Repo.”

Damn. Damn. This had been a crap year and the last thing we needed was this woman coming in here and stirring up shit. We didn’t need the attention. No one is going to touch her. No one. But that was easier said than done. I loved these guys like most folks loved their dogs. A pack of good soldiers when it came to business. Otherwise, mostly feral, often chaotic.

It didn’t matter if she was twenty or fifty, a socialite or a whore or both. Walking in here, looking as fine as she did and dressed to show it off was a language my brethren interpreted as a tacit invitation to do whatever the fuck they wanted. The hour may still have been early. The party hadn’t yet officially started. But when it did, Diane Donner needed to be long gone.

“Mr. Repo,” she said, testing my club name and looking at me like the word Repo had given her the answer to a long-pondered question. “Nice to meet you, I’m Diane.” She extended her hand.

I looked at it and then at her, glaring.

When I didn’t take her offering, her pretty smile grew tight and she withdrew her hand, using it to tuck a few waves of blonde hair behind her ear. She had it down tonight, loose and long and wavy. She usually wore it like a helmet, stiff and big and mostly straight.

“I’ve never been inside here before, but I’ve driven past.” She glanced around us, her focus never seeming to settle. “I always wondered what it was like. I guess now I know.”

“Lady, what are you doing here?” I asked the most obvious question, not caring I sounded argumentative. She shouldn’t be here. If she stayed, she’d be mistreated. And if she was mistreated, she’d go to the police. And if she went to the police, well that was a headache I didn’t have time for.

Diane Donner gave me an inscrutable once over. “Getting a drink. What are you doing here?”

“A drink?” Slowly, cautiously, I settled on the stood next to hers, staring with open hostility, hoping to unnerve her.

I wanted to say, Leave. It’s not safe. Go. But we had too many eyes on us, too many ears listening for me to reason with her. Besides, knowing what I did about the woman, I doubted she’d listen to reason.

“Yes, a drink. That’s what I said.” She didn’t look at me this time, her voice had grown impatient, and she wore a frustrated frown. “Why? Is that hard to believe?”

“Yes,” I answered honestly, my attention shifting over her shoulder to Gears and Wolf. They—like most everyone else—were watching us, making no attempt to hide their curiosity or lewd, appreciative stares. I set my jaw, waiting until they noticed my fuck off face. A tightness, a discomfort wrapped itself around my chest and squeezed.


“Pardon?” My eyes came back to the woman next to me and I found hers searching my features, as though looking for something.

“Why is it so hard to believe I’m here for a drink? This is a bar, isn’t it?”

“You don’t belong here.”

She didn’t like my answer, I knew this for a fact because in the next moment her minor frown became a severe scowl, what looked like disappointment and irritation making her lovely blue eyes burn hot and angry. Damn, but she was sexy when she was angry, flushed and breathing ragged.

“Well, Mr. Repo. You’re kind of ruining my night. So, if you don’t mind . . .” she flicked her wrist, as though dismissing me. And fuck me, her dismissiveness sent another shock of interest straight south.

I didn’t leave, I couldn’t. If I did, someone would take my place and that was unthinkable. Her being here might result in a headache for me, but it would result in a hell of a lot more for someone like her. Shame. Terror. Maybe scars.

Damn. It.

I used the ensuing silence to take a second measure of the woman, this time slower, working through my options. If hostility wouldn’t drive her out, I had to find another way.

Her lips were painted bright pink, as were her fingernails, and if I could see her toes, I bet they’d match. Despite the freezing cold outside, she wore a black, low-cut tank top. The neckline plunged deep enough that the edge of her pink lacy bra flirted with anyone looking. The tops of her tits were on display, round and pushed up like two scoops of peaches and vanilla ice cream.

I licked my lips.

“Aren’t you gone yet?” She crossed her legs, drawing my eyes there. She didn’t have long legs, but they were proportionate to her hourglass body and the black miniskirt rode high up her shapely thigh. Her shoes were also black and looked expensive, four inches at least with a pointed toe. I bet she wore them with business suits during the week and I couldn’t help but think I’d like to see that.


“You can call me Ms. Donner.”

Her teasing tone had me lifting my eyes in surprise and I found her watching me watching her, her face slightly turned in my direction, her pink lips pressed together primly, but her gaze held a challenge.

A smile I couldn’t stop tugged on my lips. “You’re in my bar. I’ll call you whatever I want.”

She swiveled in the stool to face me, her calves bumping against my knees. “Oh? Is that so?”

“That is so.”

“And if you could call me anything, what would that be?” Diane Donner crossed her arms, her posture like that of a dancer, her back perfectly straight. The action pushed the swells of her breasts higher, showing me a little more of that lace bra, and my attention flicked there reflexively. Another shock of interest, this one more powerful and therefore alarming, made concentrating difficult.

This was the very first time we’d spoken, but I’d seen this woman around town for years. For years. At Jess’s softball games, at the Piggly Wiggly, at the Church, downtown, the community center, once or twice at the Lodge when she’d been in her element. No matter the place, Diane Donner was in full command of herself as well as whatever room she entered. She was impressive, driven, brilliant, and assertive. And she was gorgeous. I mean, goddamn stunning. Always dolled up and dressed for the occasion in a way that screamed high maintenance, but so very worth it.

Which was why her choice in husband had never made sense.

Point was, this was a quality woman. Don’t misunderstand, there are many types of quality women. It was a spectrum, I reckoned. A recipe. This town had had its fair share, from the low maintenance, sweet natured kind like Bethany Winston and Janet James to the high maintenance, ambitious, cut-throat kind like Dolly Payton and Diane Donner, with the latter being precisely my type. Very, very much my type.

I, being an intelligent man, had learned to avoid my type decades ago.

Rubbing the beard on my chin, I considered this high-quality woman who checked all my boxes like she’d been custom ordered just for me. This was a respectable woman acting not at all respectable. Again, don’t misunderstand. I liked what she had on tonight. If we’d been alone instead of in this room with my compatriots in crime, I’d have thoroughly enjoyed the moment. But with so many eyes looking their fill (and making plans should she lose interest in my company), I would’ve preferred her in a pantsuit and wool coat.

She also happened to be the mother of our most promising recruit in a decade. Thankfully, he was gone on assignment for a few weeks. He might be gone, but I do not want him hearing about this later. Not just that, but her daughter was involved with Cletus Winston, not someone I ever looked forward to tangling with, but who would definitely consider any interaction between me and Diane Donner a tangle.

So, what did I want to call her?

“How about . . .”

“What?” she pressed when I didn’t finish the thought, scooting to the edge of her seat.

I poked my tongue at the corner of my mouth, admiring the color on hers. I couldn’t call her Gorgeous, not if I wanted her to leave soon. Which I did.

Her smile widened slowly, showcasing a row of perfect, pretty teeth, and she leaned forward, uncrossing her arms to place a hand on my thigh. “Don’t be shy.”

Despite myself, I chuckled. “I’m not shy.” The heat of her palm an impossible temptation.

“You’re acting shy.” Her eyes danced.

Is Diane Donner. . . flirting? With me? The thought struck me as absurd, but it still struck me.

Half lidded, I gazed at her, irritated with myself for grinning, but unable to stop. She was. . . wish fulfilment. That’s what she was. A fantasy, like she’d stepped out of my dreams. And believe me, over the last twenty years, catching glimpses of Diane Donner from afar, I’d had plenty. But I’d never made the mistake of entertaining any of them. I knew my place.

Except, here she is. The noise of crude conversation around us faded, the smell of beer and smoke, the sight of my brothers.

I also leaned forward, whispering conspiratorially, “I guess I’m a little shy.”

Now she laughed, looking delighted and her pleasure cast a spell. “Mr. Repo, what can I do to put you at ease? You know, contrary to what people say about me, I don’t bite.”

I clicked my tongue, acting mock disappointed. “That’s too bad.”

She laughed again, her hand moving higher up my leg. I glanced down at her pink fingernails on the black fabric. She had such small hands, and they looked soft, delicate. If this had truly been one of my fantasies, we’d be at an expensive restaurant, or a penthouse apartment. Not this shit bar surrounded by lost boys. You used to be a lost boy, not so long ago.

When I looked up, her eyes were on me and she held a drink. A large, sparkling clean glass of clear liquid with two olives on a toothpick. A toothpick was as fancy as Burro got. Usually, he offered a shot glass of dubious cleanliness, a bottle of cheap liquor, and that’s it.

She took a gulp—not a sip, a gulp—watching me over the rim, her eyes warm with interest. “You know—” she licked her lips of the liquor, not wincing at the burn as she swallowed, which made me wonder if Burro had given her water instead of vodka or if she’d already been drinking before walking in “—I’ve always wondered something about you.”

“What’s that?” I leaned my elbow on the bar next to us, drawing my index finger along my bottom lip as I stared at hers, ignoring the voice in the back of my head screaming at me to get her out of the bar. She was already here, a rare opportunity, what could be the harm in another few minutes? Then, I’ll make her leave.

“I know who you are. I’ve seen you around town lots of times,” she said, angling her chin again. “I came in here tonight looking for you.”

“Is that so?” I inclined my head, surprised. Louisa, my daughter’s birth mother, had always said people like me were invisible to people like her, and her family, and the society she kept. People like Diane Donner, with her fine manners and big houses and legitimate bank accounts.

“That is so,” she said, parroting my earlier words, her gaze growing intense, determined. “You’re hard to ignore, Mr. Repo, even though you do your best to hide in plain sight. You’re too tall, your features too striking. And, you know, every time I see you, I wonder—” after a moment of hesitation, her gaze firmed with what looked like resolve. Using her grip on my thigh to leverage herself, Diane leaned forward until her lips were against my ear “—I’ve always wondered what it would be like to fuck you.”

Her words sent a spike of heat straight down my spine and I needed a moment. Automatically, my hand lifted to the curve of her lower back, keeping her in place. My blood pumped hot and thick as the scent of her expensive perfume mixed with the meaning and implied invitation of her statement. She lifted just her head, her lips maybe two inches away, her eyes coming to mine and holding a prideful dare as she waited for me to respond.

I studied her, smelling no alcohol on her breath. Her eyes were bright and she was steady. She looked sober, she was here for me, this was premeditated, and I’d be lying if I said every instinct didn’t tell me to toss her over my shoulder, take her to one of my rooms, and give her exactly what she was asking for. She was thirsty for my cock? I’d be happy to feed it to her all night.

Except . . .

Despite the thrill of such filthy words coming from her respectable mouth, despite the fact that this was a woman I’d often fantasized about and this moment was every one of those fantasies come true, better judgement had me pausing. Thinking. Considering. Weighing.

I would have absolutely no regrets in the morning. I’d happily take this one night and I’d make damn sure she had no complaints. She’d roll out of here with a smile on her face.

But after leaving with a smile, I suspected this moment and everything that might come after would be a source of shame for her. Women like Diane weren’t raised to enjoy sex. They were raised feel shame if they did. Fact was, she probably came in the bar hoping for mistreatment, wanting to be used. Otherwise, why would she be here? Why seek out someone like me?

I wouldn’t mistreat her, ever. I’d be a gentle as a saint—a horny saint, yet still a saint—but it wouldn’t matter. I’d be a dark stain on her glowing record of perfect choices. A regret. I’d sworn long ago to never be a regret for another woman ever again.

My tunnel vision receded as I shoved away the intensely carnal, but ultimately futile longing. Our surroundings came into sharp focus once more. Gears still watched me—us. So did Catfish and Drill. In fact, most of my brethren were sneaking glances, some more obvious and bold with their inspections than others. Behind Diane, King and Grizz were checking out her ass, and Chuck seemed like he was working himself up to come over, should the lady shoot me down or vice versa.

Eventually, I swallowed down temptation and guided her back to her stool as I stood. “Come on.” I grabbed her jacket and purse with one hand and her arm with the other.

She batted her eyelashes at me, excitement and a fair amount of fear sparking behind her eyes. “Where are we going?”

I bent close and said, “I’m taking you home.”

She stiffened immediately and hissed, “I don’t wish to go home.”

Diane twisted her arm out of my grip, her smile gone, and she picked up her drink again. I saw and felt the shift in the room, predators pressing closer.

I took her drink out of her grip, setting it down on the bar top and whispering in her ear harshly, “You need to leave. Now. I’ll walk you to your car.”

“You’re not my father, Mr. Repo.” She leaned away, her cheeks flushing red and her lips forming a bitter twist. “If you don’t want me, fine. Once I’m drunk enough, any one of these reprobates will do.”  She picked up her drink again, took another gulp. “I am quite content where I am.”

I caged her in, one hand on the bar in front of her, the other on the back of her seat, still gripping her jacket and bag while I glared at the men watching us. I knew them all. I’d recruited many of them. They were loyal to me. But they’d also been taught to take what they wanted, when they wanted it. Judging by the restless shift in the mood, the sooner I removed her as a source of contention, the better.

Just get her out of here.

Leaning down to whisper in her ear once more, I growled, “You want to fuck? Fine. Come with me.”

She straightened, her eyes daring to mine like I’d shocked her, but in the next second she slipped off the stool. I stepped around her seat, placing a heavy arm over her shoulders and staring down Gears and Wolf as we strolled unhurriedly out of the bar. Making a left toward the hall instead of a right toward the parking lot, I cursed my bad luck with every step.

There was no away around it now. One way or the other, Diane Donner was going to be a headache tomorrow.


Merry Christmas to me.



Chapter 2

“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.”

― Chuck Palahniuk, Diary


“Do you think we could, uh, talk for a bit?” Her voice sounded higher pitched than it had in the bar. Squeaky. Scared.

I didn’t like that.

I didn’t want her scared, not now that we were alone. Back in the bar when she had every reason to be? Yes. Absolutely. But not now. I needed to say something to set her mind at ease and it couldn’t be, Don’t worry, I’m not going to touch you, because that was liable to send her storming out of the room and back into the dragon’s lair.

Thinking over my options, I shut and bolted the door, blocking out most of the noise from the main room. I then turned to study the woman. She stood in profile, her hands pressed flat and stiff against her thighs, giving me the sense she was trying not to fidget.

When I said nothing, her gaze flickered over me. “Can we talk before we get down to business?”

Here she was scared and still thinking we were going to get down to business? Unlike sociopaths, I did not find anything exciting about fearful women.

“Sure,” I drawled, making no attempt to disguise my incredulity or my sarcasm.

Both went over her head and when she spoke next she sounded relieved. “Oh! Good. So, um . . .” She slowly spun in a circle, glancing around at the room. “Is this—is this your room?”

I hesitated, placing her coat, purse, and my keys on the tall dresser by the door. This wasn’t my room in the way I suspected she meant. I didn’t sleep here and it held few of my personal effects. But it was my room in that it had been earmarked for my use, I was the only one allowed to access it, and I was the only person with a key.

She peeked at me, her forehead wrinkling. “It’s not your room?”

“Not really,” I finally said, not wanting to explain its purpose.

“Then whose room is it?”

Again, I hesitated, removing my jacket as I stalled. The last person to use this room had been my old lady twelve years ago. I’d only ever had the one, we’d lasted for just three months, and the whole thing had been one giant clusterfuck in the end. It had been a valuable lesson: the only kind of loneliness worse than being alone was being with someone who felt more for me than I did for her.

Margaret hadn’t been my type, but she had been quality. She’d deserved more, and so I’d cut her loose. Unfortunately, she hadn’t taken it well.

“What I mean is, do I need to worry about someone else coming in?” Diane asked, now facing me fully and twisting her fingers.

“No. No one will bother us,” I answered quietly, allowing myself an uninhibited moment to admire the woman starting at her shoes and moving up.

Everything about Diane Donner was tempting, which was likely why everything about her also struck me as extremely calculated. Her expensive high heels, the choice to keep her toned and shapely legs bare instead of stockinged, the shortness of her leather skirt, the thinness of her tank top, the color of the lingerie visible beneath. Even the color of her lipstick, nail polish, and the natural waves of her unnatural blonde hair. Each selection carefully made to both shock and awe. She’d had a goal. This was a woman who never failed to reach her goals. And so, I shouldn’t have been surprised by how calculated and thorough she’d been with her appearance tonight. I was surprised, and I was impressed. But I shouldn’t have been surprised by that either.

“Well, I suppose that’s good at least.” Her eyes drifted to the bed. It was just a bed. No blankets, no sheets except the fitted one, no pillows. Her shoulders pulled back and she glanced at me. “What did you say this room is used for again?”

“I didn’t.” Leaning against the door, I crossed my arms, unable to stop the small curve of my mouth as I watched her mind work.

“Is it—” Diane watched me as well, and she winced a little, her nose wrinkling in plain distaste “—is it where y’all bring those women? To have intercourse?”

I pressed my lips together to keep from laughing. There was no mistaking the judgement in her tone, which I found both adorable and painfully ironic. “Those women?” I asked, working and likely failing to sound honestly perplexed.

“You know what I’m talking about.”

“I assure you, I do not.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Are you poking fun at me?”

My smile broke free. “I would never.”

Despite her squint, she also smiled. But she also wagged a finger, like I was a naughty boy. “You’re teasing me, Mr. Repo. But I know how things work around here. I know what y’all do to pass the time.”

I rubbed the beard on my chin in mock-thoughtfulness. “You mean our parcheesi tournaments?”

She laughed, a good one, straight from the belly, and therefore so did I.

“Oh yeah, right. Parcheesi. That’s what y’all are doing with all those strippers,” she said, her laughter tapering.

One of my eyebrows lifted, but I said nothing. Despite what folks like Diane Donner thought, most of the club women weren’t strippers. Sure, a few—a very few—were or had been at one time. Most were lost, looking for a home, looking to be part of a family, just like the male recruits. They didn’t mind the violence, they were used to brutality, they understood it. They just wanted consistency, stability, and permanence. And I definitely understood that.

Huffing though still grinning, she surveyed the room again like she planned to redecorate. “It shouldn’t matter.”

“What’s that?” I lifted my elbow to the dresser and propped my chin in a hand.

She gestured to the floor lamp in the corner, and then to the bed. “Our surroundings. They shouldn’t matter. Not for—you know.”

For talking? “They don’t.”

Her eyes cut to mine, then moved lower to my chin, neck, chest. Her smile lessened though it persisted, and an edge of nervousness clung to the corners of her mouth. “No. I suppose they don’t.” When her eyes made it to my belt she sucked in an audible breath and turned away. “So, uh, why don’t you tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from?”

My attention dropped to the generous curve of her backside. “No where in particular.” I wasn’t going to touch her, but I’d look enough to last a lifetime.

“No-where-in-particular is an odd name for a city. Or is that the name of the county?” She was peeking at me again, this time over her shoulder, and had caught me staring at her ass.

I gave her a rueful smile, not caring I’d been caught. Afterall, she wanted me to look. “Fine. Texas.”

“Texas.” She parroted, nodding. “Texas is a big place. You were born in Texas?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She wrinkled her nose again, giving her head a little shake. “Don’t call me that.”

“You don’t like it when us lesser folk address you properly?”

That question earned me a full, long look, one completely devoid of nerves. I had the suspicion I was being examined by the shrewd, business-focused portion of Diane Donner’s brain, the one she used when assessing applicants for job positions or vendors for partnerships.

“I didn’t come here to be proper, Repo,” she said, her smile also devoid of nervousness this time. “So, no. Please don’t call me ma’am. And don’t call me Ms. Donner, either. Diane will do just fine.”

I nodded. “Okay. Diane.”

“Good.” Her chest rose with another large inhale and she also nodded. “So, why do they call you Repo?”

“Because, in the early days, I was the repo-man. The one sent to repossess property.”

“Like what? Motorcycles? Appliances?”

I shrugged. “Anything we considered ours.”

Diane crossed her arms, one of her hips cocking to the side as she shifted her weight. “Were you good at it?”

“They wouldn’t have given me the nickname if I wasn’t.”

“Makes sense.” Her head tilted to the side, her attention moving over me once more. “You said ‘in the early days.’ You don’t repossess anymore?”

“Not so much.”

“What do you do now?”

“A little bit of everything.”

“That’s vague.”


She grinned. “You know, you’re a lot cleverer than I thought you’d be.”

“I find nothing surprising about that other than the fact that you thought about me at all,” I said, not allowing myself to absorb the compliment. No good could come of desiring this woman’s good opinion.

“I already told you, in the bar, I thought about you plenty.” She said this while crossing to the bed. Once there, she gave it a quick inspection, and then sat. Crossing her legs, she met my gaze steadily. “And I really don’t know why you’d be surprised. You’re the topic of much conversation in town.”

That had me straightening away from the dresser. “Pardon me?”

“You heard me. I’m not the only unhappily married woman in Green Valley. You don’t think hoity toity women objectify handsome strangers? Especially ones who look—” she waved her hand toward my body “—like they’d know what to do in most situations. I bet you know how to change a tire and how a sink is plumbed.”

“And you don’t?”

“Oh, I do. My grandfather taught me all that stuff. But my husband didn’t.” Unmistakable bitterness coated her words and she uncrossed her arms. Studying her fingers, she mumbled, “He didn’t know much. Which, I guess, is the real reason I’m here.”

He didn’t know much.

I turned this statement over in my mind a few times, looking at the words from all possible angles. I’d been certain her aim in coming to the Dragon tonight had everything to do with her pending divorce, and she’d just confirmed as much. But—

. . . the real reason I’m here.

“You want me to teach you advanced plumbing?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.” Attention still on her fingers, she huffed a laugh and grinned. It looked sharp, menacing, and if I’d been anyone else, I might’ve been unsettled. “More precisely, I want you to prove something to me.”

“What’s that?”

Her eyes lifted and I was surprised to see how much anger had bubbled to the surface, the flash behind her glare, the resentful twist of her lips. I knew anger, I knew resentment. I recognized a bit of myself in the hard look.

“I want you to prove that men aren’t worthless.”

A new smile curved my lips even as I allowed my eyes to betray confusion. “Then, Diane, you’ve come to the wrong guy.”

“I don’t think so.” She placed her hands flat on bed behind her, leaning back as her eyes conducted a survey of my body again. “I think you’re exactly the right guy. Because if you can’t make a woman orgasm, then no one can.”

Forgetting myself, my mouth dropped open and my eyebrows jumped high on my forehead. She’d surprised me again—not because she wanted me to have sex with her, that much I’d understood well and good in the bar, but because, if I understood her right, she’d never had a—

“You’ve never . . . ?” I hadn’t meant to ask, but damn. That was a—well, that was—that’s criminal.

She shrugged, still glaring at me.

“But you have two kids.”

Her menacing smile returned. “A female orgasm isn’t required for impregnation, Mr. Repo. Just a man’s.”

Wiping a hand over my face, I grit my teeth. “Yes. I know that, but—” my hand dropped to my thigh and I returned her glare.

“Mr. Repo, if I’m right, if you’ve never given a woman an orgasm, if all men are perpetuating this myth of mutual orgasms during sex as a way to dupe women into a pipe dream—pun intended—just say so and I will leave right now.” She flung her hand toward the door. “I will let you escort me to my car and you’ll never have to hear from me again.”

For some unknown reason, I was also now angry “How is it possible to be married for over twenty years and never—you know.”

Her eyebrow quirked and she stood. “Orgasm? Do you have a problem saying that word?”

“No,” I ground out. “Why the hell didn’t you leave him before now if he couldn’t give you a—uh—”

She ignored my question and bellowed, “Orgasm. Orgasm. Orgasm.”

I stepped further in the room, lifting my hand for her to hush. “Yes. Thank you. I am familiar with the word.”

“But are you familiar with providing orgasms?” Standing from the bed, she pointed at me, her eyes narrowing with hostility, and all traces of her earlier nerves and fear long gone. “See, I can say it just fine, and I can do it to myself, but the reason I’m here—the real reason—is my doubt that any man ever successfully contributed to one. And by ‘one,’ I mean a female orgasm.”

A frustrated chuckle spilled out of me. “Are you getting paid every time you say it?”

“Does the word make you uncomfortable because you know I’m right? That men are incapable of giving women an—”

I crossed the room in two steps, grabbed a fistful of hair at the back of her head, and brought her mouth to mine to shut her up. Or, at least, at first it was to shut her up. But then her softness melted and molded against my body and her lips parted with a sweet sigh. My tongue was in her mouth and her tongue was hot and wet and delicious, and fuck but she smelled and tasted like heaven.

Diane’s hands were suddenly everywhere, grabbing at my shirt, lifting it, sliding against my skin, grabbing, massaging. I’d been half hard since she’d slid into the stool at the bar. But now, with her body arching, rocking against mine, seeking, all the blood in my system traveled south and desire wrestled with reason.

I’d reasoned she’d come here to be used by me, but perhaps I’d had it backward. Diane Donner came here to use me. She’d come here to exploit me. In the moment, I was perfectly okay with being used by Diane Donner. Her mouth open and willing, her hands cupping me over my jeans, I couldn’t think of a single reason why being used by this woman was a bad idea.

She wanted proof? I’ll give her proof. But first—

I tore my mouth from hers, held her body away so I could think enough to speak, “How many men have you tested this theory with?”

“I’ve only been with my ex,” she said, the words breathless, her eyes hazy. She lifted her chin and her nails scored into my sides, her attention on my lips. “Why aren’t you kissing me? I told you I don’t bite.”

“Well, maybe that’s the problem.”

“What?” Her eyebrows pulled together. “That I don’t bite?”

I fought another smile. “No, gorgeous. Maybe the problem is that you’ve only been with one man and that man was a selfish piece of shit.” Even as I said the words I knew they weren’t for her benefit. I was talking myself into this.

Maybe the club didn’t need the kind of trouble and complications someone like Diane might bring. I didn’t need the complications. But, goddammit, I wanted this.

I deserve this.

She was speaking again, her words clearly meant to taunt, “Or maybe men giving women orgasms is a myth. Maybe all men are just disappointing bags of flesh with nothing to offer the world but their dirty socks and uncleaned dishes in the sink. Maybe you know I’m right and that’s why you’re talking instead of—”

“Shut up, Diane,” I growled, kissing her again, loving the feel of her, loving the excited beat of her heart, loving the slippery heat of her mouth. Promising myself I’d see her lips wrapped around my cock before the night was over, I walked her backward the short distance to the bed and paused to kiss her as much and as hard as I damn well pleased before shoving her away and to the mattress.

She fell to the bed, her eyes opening with surprise, her gaze still hazy.

“Take off your shirt.” I stepped between her legs, using my knee to spread them. “And your bra.”

Diane swallowed and nodded, her expression interested and eager. Good. I knew what I needed to do first.

Watching me, the woman tugged off the tank top and reached behind to unclasp the bra. Meanwhile, I assumed the position, surrendering, kneeling on the floor between her legs. This was not something I did often, but not because I didn’t enjoy eating pussy. I liked it fine. But I didn’t kneel. Ever.

This is a special occasion, Repo. You’re dining on champagne pussy tonight.

My lips twisted sardonically at the thought and I pushed the hem of her skirt higher, fitting my hands between the back of her thighs and the mattress to achieve my aim.

But then I was distracted by the sight of her magnificent breasts as she slipped her arms out of the straps almost shyly, and a new shock of white, hot arousal pounded through me. Saliva filled my mouth and I fit my hands in the curve of her back, pulling her forward, and sliding her backside to the edge of the bed.

God, I wanted to taste her. I’d never felt so hungry for another person’s skin. And hers was so damn smooth and soft, like the petals of a flower, like velvet and silk, like chocolate mousse. My mouth closed over the peak of one breast while I filled my hand with the generous weight of the other and I groaned, mindlessly pressing my painful erection into the side of the mattress.

I sucked and tugged at her nipple, nipping and twisting the center with my lips, eliciting sexy and soft hitching moans and helpless sounding sighs from this brilliant woman. Her legs opened wider, the apex of her thighs moving searchingly against the fly of my jeans. Using a mental crowbar, I forced myself to slow down, lifting my chin and blowing a cool stream of air against the wet spot and watching the little pink bead tighten and strain.

Fuck. I needed to be inside her. Many times. Many, many times. If I dropped trou right now, she’d have her orgasm, but I would only have her once. I hadn’t even begun and I already knew once would not be enough. She wanted orgasms? I’d give her ten. Twenty. I’d make up for a lifetime without. I no longer minded that I was on my knees. She deserved adoration. Her body deserved to be worshipped.

Trailing biting kisses up to her neck, I returned a palm to the curve of her lower back and smoothed my other hand down her torso, her stomach, her leather clad bottom, to her naked thigh. The skirt had lifted high on her hips and I leaned away to admire the sight. Diane Donner, legs open, shirtless, braless, chest heaving, red marks from my mouth dotting her skin, eyes closed, lips swollen and parted.

With certainty, I knew I’d think of this moment often. I knew I’d bring it forth on cold, lonely nights, I’d hold it in freeze frame, try to remember her taste, her scent, the restlessness of her body. Watching her face carefully, memorizing her features, I brought the knuckle of my middle finger between her thighs and stroked teasingly against the lace covering her pussy.

She shivered, a trembling breath leaving her on an unsteady exhale.

“Open your eyes,” I said, fighting to give sound to my voice. I didn’t want to talk, but I did want her to see me. I wanted her to watch me. I never wanted her to forget who’d made her feel this way.

Her pretty eyes blinked open, cloudy and a little confused. I could tell at once this—arousal by someone else’s hands—was new territory for her and I fought a curse. Kip Sylvester deserved to burn in hell for squandering the gifts he’d been given and neglected.

Lifting my hand at her waist to the back of her neck, I squeezed, making sure I had her focus and attention. “Keep your eyes open. Watch me or I’ll stop. Do you understand?”

She swallowed thickly and nodded, her gaze wide and breathtakingly trusting, and I wanted to curse again. This woman shouldn’t trust me, but she did, because I was the first man to make her feel good, and that royally pissed me off.

Gritting my teeth against a swelling sense of something I deeply resented—Protectiveness? Possessiveness? Who fucking knows—I took her mouth again in a rough kiss, pulling aside the lace barrier between my fingers and her body. She sucked in a breath, her hands coming to my shoulders and grabbing at my shirt as I slid my knuckle between the folds around her clit, circling it, swallowing my own groan when I felt how wet and ready she was.

More than once.

Pulling away, I opened my eyes to glare into hers, making sure she’d taken my command seriously. She did. Her stare was on me, foggy with arousal. Good.

Licking my lips, I released her neck and set both my hands on her thighs. She whimpered at the loss of my fingers as hers twisted into the fabric of my shirt.

“Please,” she said, the gentle imploring sending a renewed spike of heat to the base of my spine and straight to my dick.

I hushed her, lowering my lips to her neck, kissing the skin just below her ear, and whispering, “Before I fuck you, I’m going to taste you.”

A nonsensical sound tumbled out of her, her body stiffening, her breath hitching then panting as I took my time trailing wet, reverent kisses over her breasts, stomach, using the tip of my tongue to lick the soft skin of her inner thigh.

Another shudder wracked her, followed by a breathless, “Oh God,” and I looked at her. She’d closed her eyes, her head lolling back, her lips parted as she gulped for air.

I settled between her legs, not moving, waiting for her attention to come back to me. After a protracted moment, she blinked, shaking herself. And just as our gazes met, I laved my tongue into her pussy, licking her as though she was the most delicious scoop of ice cream, and then I sucked her clit into my mouth.

And, ladies and gentleman, apparently, that’s all it took.

She came against my mouth in an instant. A squeaking cry tore from her chest and her fingers twisted in my hair while she pivoted her hips, rocking them against my tongue with unpracticed, needful movements. Her blue eyes were fire as confusion and understanding twisted her features. Bliss mixed with bitterness, tears springing to the corners of her eyelids as her climax went on and on until, eventually she flopped back on the bed, gasping for breath as the echo of her tremors receded.

I didn’t fill her with my fingers to draw out her pleasure out. No. No. I wanted her sensitive, aching and empty, ready for round two of hopefully ten. But first, I wanted Diane naked.

Straightening, I hooked my hands into the waistband of her panties and pulled them down her legs, removing her shoes as well. She didn’t help, but she didn’t stop me either. And when I tugged at her skirt, saying, “Take this off,” she lifted trembling hands to the leather and obeyed at once, her eyes on me.

While she removed the last of her clothes, I made quick work of mine, pulling a condom from the top drawer of the nightstand by the bed. I didn’t miss how her gaze strayed to my chest and stomach as I removed my shirt, nor how her eyes widened when I stepped out of my pants and briefs.

Fisting myself to roll on a condom, I watched as her eyes shot to mine and she sat up, her hands reaching for me. “Wait—wait—”

My movements stilled and I spoke through gritted teeth, “You changed your mind?” If she had, I wouldn’t try to persuade her. I wanted this woman with a ferocity that unnerved me. Without a doubt, this—what we’d already done, what we were about to do—was not a good idea. It would be better for her to walk away now. I’d deal with the disappointment. I had a lot of practice.

If disappointment had been a major in college, I’d have several honorary degrees.

But Diane shook her head quickly, her hands at my hips, her eyes never leaving mine. “No, no. I definitely haven’t changed my mind, not even a little, but—” her attention moved to my chest and stomach again, lower. She covered my hands. “I’d like to touch you.”

I flinched, blinking like she’d tossed dust in my eyes. “That’s not a good idea.” God, if she touched me? I wouldn’t last a minute. And I wanted to be inside her, not blow my shot all over her hands.

Her forehead wrinkled and her gaze turned beseeching. “Mr. Repo, like I said, I’ve only been with—with one other person. And I’ve never had the opportunity to—”

“Diane—” I finished rolling the condom on with one hand and grabbed her chin with the other to keep her quiet; she was too damn sexy when she argued, especially while naked “—now is not the time. If you want me to stop, if you’ve changed your mind, I will stop. No problem. Just say the word. But now is not the time for a fucking debate. Do you understand?”

She nodded and lifted her chin from my grip, her jaw set, a hard glint in her eyes. I fought a wry smile because I could see her submission was surface deep and only temporary. She wanted to touch me, and she wasn’t going to take no for an answer without a fight. We’d be discussing this matter again before the evening ended, I was sure of that.

Placing a knee next to her hip, I guided her back and to the center of the bed. And because I’m a bossy asshole, I grabbed her chin again, liking the flash of defiance in her gaze. I captured her lips in another kiss, one which she tried to take over. But as I climbed over her body, stroking my dick where my tongue had been moments prior, she relaxed.

Actually, she surrendered, and this vision of Diane—naked, completely vulnerable, with stars in her eyes as they locked with mine—made my throat tight and something uncomfortable and hot settle in my chest. I didn’t want to dwell on what it might be, so I redirected my gaze elsewhere and my hand followed. Palming her breast, weighing it, I told myself to enjoy this new view of her.

“You have great tits,” I said gruffly, stupidly. I didn’t want to talk, so I don’t know why I said it.

“You have great everything,” she replied on a sigh, her hips lifting searchingly. She began to pant.

Avoiding her eyes, I slid my hand from her breast to her hip, giving her more of my weight as I positioned myself at her entrance. Pushing inside, slow and gentle, I also began to pant.

“Fuck.” I spoke against her neck, my lungs scorching, my blood heavy in my veins, my heart beating like a drum between my ears, urging me to move, to thrust, to push and take.

I couldn’t, not yet. I had something to prove . She wasn’t there yet. It would be slow and steady torture until I rebuilt the fire inside her. But, damn, she felt so perfect beneath me. Her body fit my body, like she was made for me, or I was made for her—

“Fuck,” I said again, pushing that last sentiment away. I couldn’t be having those kinds of thoughts, not when we only had one night.

“I’m trying to,” she said, wriggling, her hands sliding down my sides. “But you’re not moving.”

Bracing my elbows on either side of her head, careful not to catch her hair, I lifted myself up, separating our chests and stomachs while withdrawing and rolling my hips as I returned.

Another of those nonsensical sounds slipped passed her lips and her head pressed back against the mattress, her eyes on mine, half lidded. “Oh God. You are . . .” She didn’t finish. Or maybe she couldn’t.

I continued to flex and roll, making each stroke slow, methodical, purposeful; making sure to touch but also tease; making sure to hit just the right spot at just the right angle.

Her gaze tore from mine and she glanced down at the space between us where we joined. More confusion and understanding behind her gaze as she lifted her hips to meet mine. She said something unintelligible on a whimper, her eyebrows pulling together.

“What?” I asked, angling my head to recupture her gaze. “What did you say?”

“How are you so—so g—good at this?” The words were unsteady and I could see the tension building inside her, that same trusting snare as before making her eyes bright and glassy. “God, it feels so good. How do you make it feel so good?”

Moving one hand to her knee, I brought it up higher, pushing it against the mattress next to her shoulder and increased the force of my thrusts, but not the speed. She sucked in a startled breath and her eyes closed for just a second before they flew open again, as though remembering my earlier threat to stop if she looked away.

I thought about telling her to help herself. I considered asking her to help me by touching that sweet button between her legs. But no. Not this time. Maybe stubbornly, but I was determined she do nothing but enjoy herself. Plus, I liked seeing her like this, struggling, aching, wanting.

“I’m so close,” she moaned, her fingers flexing on my sides, her body restless beneath me. “Repo, I’m—”

“Call me Jason,” I blurted, dipping my hips and rocking as I entered her.

Her gaze sharpened. “Jason?” she asked softly, almost lovingly, and her eyes searched mine.

My heart gave a painful squeeze and I near choked on a sudden flood of something unidentified. Damn. Damn. I liked that too much, my name on her lips, her knowing me, and the delicious tension building at the base of my spine threatened to release.

She should not say my name. That’s it. We’re done. Playtime was over.


I kissed her again, shutting her up and increasing the speed of my invasion. Fitting a hand between us, I tapped her clit, quick and light, another tease, and her whole body tensed just before I felt the spasm of her release clench and release around my cock. Tearing her mouth away to gasp and cry out, her legs lifted and locked around my back.

I gave my body permission to take over, take her how I’d wanted. To fuck the fuck out of her.

Inexplicably, it didn’t. I didn’t. Instead, I made certain to drive deep and careful, hit the tender, essential spot within her body. My hand caught between us still toying with her clit to prolong her cresting gratification.

She came again, a strangled moan of surprise and chants of Oh God and Oh fuck wrest out of her. Diane’s legs unlocked and her feet slammed on the bed, her hips pistoning in a careless, greedy rhythm. Then I told myself again to surrender to need. But even as my vision blinded and the coiling tension became an explosion of erotic fulfilment and primal satisfaction, something in my subconscious demanded that I persist in maintaining her pleasure.

Diane’s moan seemed to go on and on until it became an uninhibited cry that slowly, slowly tapered. And I kept moving, wanting to give her every last second, wanting her to enjoy every last quake and tremor. And when the last of her cries abated, I yielded to the impulse to kiss her again.

My heartbeat now thunder instead of a drum, I took her mouth over and over, my hands greedy for the feel of her body, frantic for it, for her. And with each press of her welcoming lips, I couldn’t help but fear each kiss might be our last.


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