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Only for Your Touch
By Naima Simone, Tracy Montoya
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Naima Simone
All rights reserved.
Sasha Merchant knew trouble.
In his very checkered lifetime, he'd been the cause of it, been balls-deep in it, and had escaped it. So yeah, he and trouble were intimate partners, a match made in hell. And even though it now walked through the doors of Lick in the form of a stunning redhead with curves that demanded a man take them hard and fast, he wasn't fooled by the pretty wrapping.
Or as his mother used to say: Volk v ovech'yey shkurye. Wolf in sheep's pelt.
Maybe he should say fox's pelt. Because with her bright hair and petite frame, she reminded him of his Russian homeland's small, red fox. Didn't matter in the end though. Fox or sheep, the woman was an ill wind that needed to be monitored ... and blown back out the door, if necessary.
"You see who just came in?" The deep, gravel-rough voice that belonged to his best friend, Killian Vincent, rumbled in his ear from the discreet piece notched there.
Sasha once more glanced toward the front of the club where more people streamed in through the steel doors. Though he, Killian, and Rion Ward, the third member of their unholy trio, owned Lick equally, Killian often oversaw security. All of them had control issues — as in, needing to have it — but Killian even more so. But when someone else decided what you wore and ate, and when you fucking took a shit, for two years, yeah, control became important. So they let him supervise that aspect of their club. Hell, having a huge, scowling hulk on the premises was often a better deterrent to troublemakers than their many cameras.
"Yeah, I got eyes on her," Sasha said, tracking the slow progress of the redhead and her friend through the thick crowd. It might've been eleven o'clock on a Thursday, but that didn't matter. If the night ended in "y" then they were packed. It'd been that way since they'd opened their doors a year earlier. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to drink, dance, and find their next hookup in Boston's newest and most exclusive aphrodisiac club.
Including Corrine Salvaggi, aka The Mob Princess.
"What the hell do you think she's doing here?" Killian asked as Rion approached the end of the bar where Sasha stood. "Considering the shitstorm that's circling her, you'd think her family would have her on lockdown."
"I don't know," Sasha rumbled. "But it seems her breaking out of the castle is now our problem, if anyone recognizes her. Goddamn."
"Exactly." Rion nodded his thanks at the bartender who slid a tumbler in front of him. Kentucky bourbon, his favorite. "The last thing we need is the Salvaggi family sniffing around here, searching for their wayward royalty. Or worse, having the press associate Lick with them. Even if it's just in a byline."
Sasha understood what Rion meant. Perfectly.
Lick was the public face of their business. With its two bustling bars and top-shelf alcohol, dancing, and VIP lounges, the nightclub had quickly become one of the hottest spots to party in Boston. And then there was the aura of sex they deliberately cultivated. From the sensual photographs on the walls to barely and sexily clad men and women dancing on raised platforms to the shadowed alcoves where people kissed and slipped hands under clothes, to the private VIP rooms ... sex permeated the atmosphere.
But while the nightclub teased with sex, the private, upper level of Lick — The Loft — delivered on that promise. And catered to more ... exotic tastes. Of the sexual variety. Whatever their members desired, they supplied. And in exchange for the admittedly excessive prices people paid for membership, The Loft's clientele expected discretion and a safe, secure, and protected place to indulge in their sexual fantasies and preferences. So having reporters snooping around trying to catch pictures of Carmine Salvaggi's daughter partying it up would understandably make them a bit antsy.
Lick was more than income to the men. The three of them had been to hell and back to reach where they were today. Free of the Irish mob. Escapees from the criminal world. Business owners with a modicum of respectability. Of legitimacy. This club represented their new life. Their freedom.
For Sasha, it was his promise to a dying woman.
His parents had left Moscow when Sasha was six, after the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union dissolved. They'd immigrated to America, specifically Boston, seeking a better life and more opportunity. An academic in Russia, his proud father had only been able to find work as a janitor at the local elementary school. But to Val Merchant, it'd still been honest work. And having a son who'd willingly chosen a life of crime — even if it'd been the impulsive decision of a youth who hadn't felt he'd belonged anywhere else — had been unforgiveable. But two years ago, before dying from complications of COPD, Anna Merchant had come to him and extracted a vow from Sasha: to become the respectable man she'd raised him to be.
He'd sacrificed everything to honor that promise. And even though some days this new life itched like a too-tight, uncomfortable shirt, he wouldn't allow a pampered, rebelling mob socialite to fuck it up.
"I'll watch her," he volunteered, voice grim.
Rion shot him a sharp glance, and Sasha clenched his jaw, easily interpreting the look. Worry. Indecision. Yeah, he got his friend's doubt. It irritated the fuck out of him, but he got it. Because underneath the annoyance — and in spite of his resentment of Corrine Salvaggi's presence in their club — a curl of anticipation whispered through him. And Rion probably knew it.
Of the three of them, Sasha still struggled with the life they left behind the most, walking that fine line between legitimacy and craving the thrill, the pure adrenaline rush, of breaking the law. While Rion had never wanted it, and Killian feared it with an animalistic, whites-of-their-eyes terror, Sasha had only walked away because of a promise and his love for his friends. So putting him on someone who had ties to an organized crime family was like waving a bottle of water in front of a man who'd just crawled in from the desert.
"I'll be fine," Sasha assured him. "I'm just keeping eyes on her. And considering who she is, Killian won't do it." Two years out of jail and still on probation, Killian couldn't risk being associated with even the daughter of a criminal.
That left Sasha.
Rion's mouth flattened into a grim line as he nodded then tossed back the rest of his whiskey.
"Maybe she's just here to drink and dance like everyone else," Sasha said. Rion didn't reply, just arched a dark eyebrow.
Yeah, Sasha didn't believe it either. Not with his gut tightening like a damn noose. That sixth sense had never failed him on a job, and right now it was affirming what he'd thought when he'd first laid eyes on the Mob Princess.
* * *
When Corrine Salvaggi decided to rebel, she rebelled.
Of course, her idea of rebellion had been turning off her cell phone and hiding out at her friend Tara's house. Or sneaking past the relentless, greedy-ass reporters parked outside her parents' home before speeding off to find an out-of-the-way bar to watch Big Papi and her beloved Sox.
But never had dressing up in her underwear — or rather, Tara's underwear — and partying in a sex club entered her mind. Jesus, an honest-to-God sex club. And right here in Boston, not twenty minutes from her house. She'd thought they only existed in pay-per-view movies and books about paddle-wielding millionaires. Apparently, she was more naïve than the press reported. Although, she wasn't rebelling as much as escaping from the crapfest her life had transformed into. Still, partying in a place that would have her mother clutching her rosary was pretty much perfect for escape and mutiny.
Damp with sweat, Corrine followed Tara off the crowded dance floor, tugging on the bottom of the borrowed green-and-black lace corset, trying to cover her belly without exposing her damn nipples to the entire place. When Tara had thrust the Frederick's of Hollywood garment in her hands earlier, Corrine should've just said hell-to-the-no and found that sports bar. This get-up — the corset that nearly shoved her breasts up to her damn chin, the painted-on black jeans, and knee-high leather boots — wasn't her. Hell, her bras and panties weren't this damn revealing. Or ... sexual. With every breath, she feared her breasts were going to make an unscheduled appearance. She skimmed her palms over her hips, not accustomed to them being so blatantly ... displayed.
"Stop fidgeting." Tara teasingly slapped her hand.
"I can't help it," Corrine grumbled. "I still feel naked."
"Shit, if I had your tits and ass, I'd go around with no clothes on all the time," Tara shouted over her shoulder as she weaved her way through the heavy throngs of people. "And then throw in all that red hair and the 'I'm just a babe in the woods' innocence? I'd have to duck and dodge all the dick that would come my way."
"Uh ... Thanks?"
Her friend laughed, and moments later maneuvered into a tight, open spot at the packed bar. "What you need is a drink. I don't know what I was thinking. If we'd had one before heading to the dance floor, you wouldn't have minded having that hottie's hands on your ass."
"Oh, I'm sure I would've still minded," Corrine drawled. "And for the record, I don't ever want to be that drunk. He didn't even say hello first."
Tara snickered before turning and flagging down the bartender. Propping her elbows on the chrome railing, Corrine surveyed Lick. Just the name was erotic and shiver-inducing. She still hadn't managed to say it without whispering.
The huge converted warehouse pulsed with the heavy bass of the music, while people writhed and twisted with abandon on the dance floor and stage. More than a few kissed and groped each other as they ground their bodies together, providing a sexual show. Men and women in outfits straight out of the Bondage 'R' Us catalogue danced on spotlighted platforms and paraded around in leather and latex. She blinked as a woman in a shiny, black catsuit and a head covering that revealed her face and a high, blond ponytail strolled past, a bare-chested man in blue jeans following behind her ... on a leash.
Wow. Just ... wow. She shook her head, her survey moving on to the evenly spaced halogen lights revealing more people partying in the glass-enclosed balconies, crowding around the wide, long bars that dominated each side of the building, and drinking on the chairs at the high tables dotting the area around the dance floor. And tucked in the shadowed corners ...
Corrine swallowed, a ball of heat swirling low in her belly. She exhaled, trying to expel even a little of the tension pulling tight inside her. People occupied low couches and booths along the exposed brick walls. Even in the dim lighting, she could make out the couples kissing, the sensual sweep of hands over exposed skin. She couldn't hear words or groans or sighs over the pounding of the music, but her imagination supplied them. Vividly. The heat inside her expanded and stretched until it congregated in the flesh between her legs. They didn't care who saw them. Didn't worry about decorum or reputation, or being proper and pure. Didn't go behind the door marked "Private" and guarded by bodyguards, which, rumor had it, led to an area where they could do a lot more than kissing. No, they probably knew eyes were on them and welcomed it. Enjoyed it.
God. What did that kind of freedom feel like? Again, she had only her imagination to provide the answer because she'd never experienced it. Being the only daughter of Carmine Salvaggi had meant growing up in the most beautiful, luxurious, and loving of cages. Yes, she'd executed a prison break or two, but she'd never experienced the kind of utter liberation the people on the couches did ... But she'd always wanted to.
In the last week, that cage had become more stifling and confusing, and frightening. Because up until seven days ago, she'd believed her father had been a successful businessman with a thriving and growing chain of dry-cleaning stores throughout Boston. Definitely not the boss of the Salvaggi family, one of the oldest, most vicious, and notorious mob organizations in the city.
Closing her eyes, she braced herself for the stab of pain that stole her breath. She should be used to it by now. But how could a person become accustomed to having her soul ripped out over and over like a really fucked-up version of Prometheus and his liver-eating eagle? How could she come to grips with comprehending that the same man who had tucked her in at night, had held and comforted her while she'd cried, had raised her to be honest and respectful, was the same who had run drugs throughout the city, extorted hardworking people ... ordered hits. Her life was a lie, and she'd never guessed, never seen ...
"Stop it." Tara wagged a finger in Corrine's face, and she reeled back, startled.
"Tara, damn. I know I have another eye, but I'd like to keep that one," she grumbled.
"Don't deflect," her friend ordered, propping her hands on her slim hips. "Your thoughts are all over your face. We came here to forget and have a good time. And that's what you're going to do, damn it."
"Um. Yes, sir." She blinked. "Ma'am."
Tara smirked, dropping her hand. "Smart ass." Accepting the Fuzzy Navels she'd ordered from the bartender, who wouldn't have been out of place lounging around Hefner's mansion, she pressed one into Corrine's hand. "Drink. Loosen up."
"I'm in a sex club where people are ..." Corrine nodded in the direction of the couches with the tangle of bodies. Fully clothed, but still ... "I believe I'm loosened up."
"Pfft. That's nothing. This" — Tara swept out an arm, narrowly missing the woman standing next to her — "is the public section of the club. The nightclub. Rumor is there's a whole 'nother part upstairs — the real sex club — that is downright kinky. We're talking stuff that would make Christian Gray and his Red Room look like a kindergartener in a sandbox."
Corrine had never read the book or seen the movie about the BDSM-loving millionaire, but she got the gist of Tara's comment. Unbidden, she lifted her gaze to the ceiling and the supposed "upstairs." Her active and rich imagination supplied images of what could be taking place at that very moment above their heads.
A woman, blindfolded and naked, spread-eagle and bound on a bed. Her head tipped back, lips parted on a silent scream, fingers jerking on the ties at her wrists as a man buried his head between her trembling thighs.
A woman, arms captured behind her back, kneeling on the floor before her man, mouth opened wide as he slowly fed her his cock.
A woman, breasts pressed to a leather-padded bench, her bared ass propped in the air, quivering in anticipation and lust from the caress of a paddle over reddened flesh ... and from the eyes fixed on her, eagerly watching her submission and pleasure.
Corrine briefly closed her eyes. Oh yes, she had a very active and vivid imagination. One that sent hot swirls of arousal curling through her.
"I'll be right back," she said, setting her drink down behind her. "Bathroom break." As if the hounds of hell snapped at her heels, she forged a path through the horde toward the rear of the club, where she remembered seeing the sign for the restrooms.
For twenty-four years, she'd hidden her desires, her dreams, her needs, behind this good-girl image that reflected who her parents, with their often rigid expectations, wanted her to be. Demanded she be. But since her father had been arrested and indicted, and the truth of who he was — who she was — had emerged, the cuffs of their standards had started to chafe. The urges, thoughts, and impulses she'd tried to ignore or deny had been rearing their heads more often. Why should she twist and contort to fit this ideal of perfection when all of them were far from it? Why was she still hiding a perfectly respectable career as a sports columnist from them when her job didn't include extorting, cheating, or killing people?
And why did she sound like a pouting sixteen-year-old angry at her parents' hypocrisy?
Maybe because she was a brooding twenty-four-year-old angry at her parents' hypocrisy.
Sighing, she pushed into the dim hallway that housed the bathrooms.
And promptly slammed into someone exiting the corridor. The impact propelled the breath out of her, and a dull throbbing set up in the bridge of her nose. Damn. Awkward much?
"Oh God, I'm so sorry." A firm grip circled her upper arm, preventing her from stumbling backward. "Are you hurt? This is my fault. I should've been watching where I was going." The babbling accompanied a tad-too-hard pat on the shoulder. "I'm sorry," the guy who'd nearly sent her falling on her ass apologized again.
Excerpted from Only for Your Touch by Naima Simone, Tracy Montoya. Copyright © 2016 Naima Simone. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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