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First published by Heat, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, April 2009
Copyright © Maya Reynolds, 2009
All rights reserved
HEAT is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:
Bad boy/Maya Reynolds.
eISBN : 978-1-101-02902-2
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As always, it takes a village to produce a book. I owe special thanks to my marvelous editor, Tracy Bernstein, who stuck with me through this project—even when I was making life tough for her. Thanks, too, to Jacky Sach, my ever-patient agent.
Thanks to everyone who critiqued this book for me. Huge baskets of flowers to Linda Lovely, who did yeoman’s labor when I was in a time crunch. And to Red Garnier for being a great cheerleader when I needed one.
And, finally, thanks to my mother. She is slipping away from us now and will never get to read this book, which is probably a very good thing .
Mom did not drive when I was a child, but I can remember her putting my brother and me into a red wagon and heading down the hills of Atlantic Highlands, NJ, to the local library, piling that wagon full of children’s books and lugging it back up the hills. She read to us every day, communicating her love of books and reading. I love you, Mom.
The naked girl danced on the twelve-foot-square stage, her only accessory a length of red satin. She twisted it around her twirling body, teasing the audience with momentary glimpses of her gleaming skin. A single breast, her flat stomach, a lightly muscled leg—all appeared and then vanished behind the flashing strip of red.
Klieg lights surrounded the stage, creating the illusion of a bright island floating on a sea of shifting shadows. Beneath the lights’ glare, the dancer’s body glowed.
Word had spread among the regulars that Katya would be performing this Wednesday night, and the 69 Club was packed. Patrons sat at small tables or in easy chairs scattered around the large room and watched her with hot, predatory eyes.
The well-dressed crowd included a few couples but was primarily composed of single men, nursing their drinks and their fantasies. They paid little attention to the scantily costumed waitresses who moved among the tables. Katya’s spell was too strong; no other woman stood a chance while she was onstage.
In a private box against the rear wall, fifteen feet above the floor, Leah Reece looked down at the crowded room and shivered. How can she bear to have all those men ogling her—naked and alone?
At the same time, she coveted the caress of that flashing red satin. I wonder how it feels to be the focus of so much desire?
Her nipples tightened, rubbing against her green silk blouse. She’s like a slave girl dancing for a sultan’s court. But does she feel powerful or powerless?
Leah pressed her thighs together and tilted her upper body a few inches forward. The tiny movement shifted her center of gravity so that her pussy pressed against the seat’s cushion and the cloth of her panties rubbed against her labia. The light friction sent shards of pleasure through her. She bit down on her lower lip. It’s been too long.
Ten months, to be exact. Over three hundred days since she’d had sex with anything but her vibrator. I need a nice no-strings-attached hookup. And I don’t need to be watching the floor show in a sex club.
She’d rented a six-seat box at the 69 Club for herself and her two guests. It had been worth the extra money to have the privacy in which to scribble notes. She doubted the club’s management would welcome the news that their cabaret was soon to be featured in Heat magazine.
Leah glanced at her best friend. Sandy Prada’s face was inches from the window that separated their box from the open club below. Sandy was clearly mesmerized by Katya’s performance.
When Leah first announced her plan to write about the secretive Dallas sex club, Sandy tried to talk her out of doing the story. Sandy’s husband, Zeke, a Dallas cop, agreed with his wife. Then when Craig, the reporter who was going to accompany Leah, backed out at the last minute because of a stomach bug, Sandy and Zeke nominated themselves as her escorts. Leah yielded, reasoning that a threesome would stick out less in a sex club than a single woman.
Sandy’s profile, sweetly curved in the final month of pregnancy, made Leah smile. She looks so happy.
Leah noticed the vacant seat beside Sandy and blinked in surprise.
Zeke was gone. He must be in the restroom. Damn, that man can move quietly. I didn’t even notice him leave.
She stole a surreptitious peek at her watch. Nine thirty. According to her informant, the real action started in another hour. And she needed to get Sandy and Zeke out of the club and on their way home before then.
Too restless to sit still, Leah slid her pad and pen into her bag, stood and moved toward the door. Time to check in. Aggie Curtis should have arrived by now. Leah was anxious to learn whether Heat’s guest art director for the next issue had made her flight in from Los Angeles.
Still absorbed in Katya’s performance, Sandy didn’t react to her friend leaving the box.
Outside in the hall, Leah fished her cell phone out of her jacket pocket and punched in the number for the front desk at Heat. Mike, one of the two security guards on duty, answered on the first ring. “Heat. May I help you?”
“Hi, Mike, it’s Leah. Has Aggie—”
To her right, the door to the next box opened, and a middle-aged man scowled at her, clearly unhappy to have his enjoyment of Katya’s performance interrupted by a telephone call.
“Hold on a second,” she said to Mike while signaling an apology to the annoyed patron. She moved down the hall and entered the stairwell.
The 69 Club was located in a restored mansion located in Oak Cliff, a suburb to the south of Dallas. Built by an industrialist in the late nineteenth century, the palatial residence had fallen on hard times during the Depression. Too expensive to maintain as a single-family dwelling, the Mediterranean-style mansion had been subdivided into apartments. Years later, when the building could no longer pass inspection, the owner abandoned it.
Rumor had it that the club’s owner had paid less than thirty thousand dollars for the property, and then spent more than a quarter of a million to renovate it for his special needs.
“Has Aggie Curtis checked in yet?” Leah stopped on the landing and rested her back against the stuccoed wall. She kept one arm outstretched on the fire door to prevent anyone from opening it and banging into her.
“Yes, ma’am. Felix carried her stuff up to her room and he’s helping her settle in.”
A murmur of voices below suggested she wasn’t alone in the stairwell. Leah dropped her voice. “Great. Anything I need to know?”
“Only that the lady had five big boxes she said were filled with sex toys. Felix took them to the studio.”
Leah grinned. Heat held its spot as the number-one e-zine— electronic magazine—by staying on top of the latest trends. Aggie Curtis had contracted to do a spread on “How to Spice Up Your Sex Life.”
“Make sure Felix locks the studio. We don’t want the staff walking off with the merchandise before the story’s finished.”
“Yes, ma’am, I surely will.” She could hear the smile in Mike’s voice.
Leah snapped her cell shut and was about to return to the hallway when she heard a familiar voice. Zeke. He was below, talking with another man.
Although she couldn’t make out the words, the hushed conversation aroused her journalistic instincts. She moved quietly down the stairs. When she was ten steps above the two men, she cleared her throat.
“Hey, Zeke, I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”
The two men had been so intent on their conversation they hadn’t heard her approach, and they looked up, startled.
As her gaze rested on Zeke’s companion, Leah’s breath caught in her throat. Damn, he’s hot.
The stranger looked Latino; he had a dusky complexion and high, sharp cheekbones. A thin scar ran down his left cheek from temple to jaw. That’s a knife scar, a tiny voice inside her brain whispered.
His black hair was combed straight back from his forehead, and he had a five o’clock shadow that made him look disreputable and a little dangerous.
Great! A bad boy. Just my type. While Leah’s brain screamed warnings, her pussy twitched with approval. After all, it had been over three hundred days. And he looked so damn sexy.
Although she had difficulty judging his height from her position, he appeared to be as tall as Zeke, which would make him at least six feet two.
A black T-shirt and dark jeans emphasized his broad pecs, tight stomach and narrow hips. Tattoos decorated the muscles on both arms.
Mr. Sex-on-a-Stick stared at her, his gaze intense, penetrating and . . . hungry.
The breath she had been holding since first seeing him whooshed out in a soft exhalation. Hold it together, girl. Don’t drool right in front of him. Embarrassed by her thoughts, she glanced at Sandy’s husband.
Zeke frowned, not pleased by her sudden appearance. “Leah, this is Quin,” he offered in a grudging tone, giving the name a Hispanic pronunciation so that it sounded more like “Queen” than the English Quinn.
Leah moved closer. “Hi. I’m Le—”
The stranger interrupted. “Leah Reece. I know. I read your column in Heat. Your picture runs above it.” His voice was dark and husky. But he didn’t seem to be trying to match her face with the head shot from her e-zine. His gaze roamed up and down her body, and he didn’t appear to care that she knew it.
Leah felt warmth flood her cheeks, but she refused to look away. Instead, she challenged him, staring boldly at the bulge at the juncture between his legs. “I’m so glad to hear you read Heat,” she said. “I hope you enjoy it.”
She raised her gaze to his face, and his smile turned her legs to rubber. Gleaming white teeth raised his sexiness quotient from a ten to a fifteen . . . minimum. She grabbed the banister with one hand to steady herself.
Quin smirked as if he understood his impact on her. “I enjoy Heat, all right. You’ve got a great imagination.”
She swallowed to clear the lump clogging her throat. When she was certain her voice was under control, she said, “Oh, all that imagination isn’t mine. The credit goes to the writers and editors.”
He quirked one eyebrow. “I said I read your column, not your whole magazine. After I finish with you, I’m not interested in anyone else.”
The innuendo rocked her. She moistened her suddenly dry lips with the tip of her tongue. Realizing the gesture might signal nerves—something she’d be damned if she’d show him—Leah transformed the act into a come-on. Slowly and deliberately, she licked her lips like a cat tasting cream.
His eyes darkened and his torso stiffened, making him stand a tad straighter.
Her turn to smile. A direct hit.
He shifted his feet, spreading his legs a bit farther apart, as though his jeans were suddenly too tight.
She flicked another glance at the juncture between his legs. Let’s see how Mr. Macho likes being treated like a sex object.
Now that she’d made her point, she looked at the man beside him. “Where do you know Quin from, Zeke?”