What happens when two opposites realise they have more in common than expected?
I'm a dancer…and a damn good one. I work at the Silver Steel Gentlemen's Club. My hard and fast rule? No freebies and no office dating. Except for Slade. Hard, fast, slow, gentle…I don't care. I'll take him any way possible. But he's not that into me.
Or so she thinks. I'm a bouncer at the Silver Steel. Astra doesn't realise I see her—I can't help myself. She captivates me every time she's on the stage. I want her, but I have a…problem. I'm not at the Steel to pick up chicks or even work the room. I'm there to stop the influx of drugs into the community. Yeah, I'm a cop. But if the job means sampling the dancers… Well, as long as I keep my heart out of it, I'll be fine.
Reader Advisory: This book has a kick ass hero, a dancer with all the right moves, hot sex, a little mutual anal play for good measure and mention of drug use.
Publisher's Note: Other books in this world include Please Remember Me and When You're With Me.
|Publisher:||Totally Entwined Group|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||195 KB|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
I earned a BA in education at Kent State University and currently hold a Masters in Education with Nova Southeastern University.
I love NASCAR, romance, books in general, Ohio farmland, dirt racing, and my menagerie of animals.
Read an Excerpt
Too God damned cold.
Sergeant Randy McCall blew warm air into his hands and waited for the heater to bring the temperature in the car to a liveable level. Damned force could've given him a car that had a working heater. He bounced his feet in a vain attempt to jumpstart his circulation. A break — he needed a fucking break and his Corvette. The 'vette had a sweet heater, but like the rest of his life, it sat in storage. He'd been undercover for more than six months and still hadn't made any headway.
"Slade, my man, you are so fucked," he murmured to himself in the idling car. He glanced around the parking lot. The rest of the girls had gone home. Good. He hated to see them straggling. He'd been in the area long enough to know the Silver Steel Gentlemen's Club was in the worst part of town. The worst. If he hadn't been on the drug case, he'd more than likely be investigating the latest murder in the red light district — back doing the normal cop stuff.
Was there a normal anymore?
Randy shifted and twiddled with the radio knobs. It wasn't much of a consolation, but his best friend, Drew Alwyn, had wandered through the club. Malsam probably had him preparing to go under, too. Randy shook his head. They should just close down the damned club.
He tipped his head back and ran his hand over his face as the warmth from the heater finally cut through the chill in the car. A vision of his dream girl formed in his mind. The honey blonde hair curling past her shoulders. Her creamy skin shimmering with glitter or a fine sheen of sweat. And then there were those eyes. The colour of good brandy as she stared up at him, taking him deep into her mouth.
A knock on his window brought him out of his fantasy. Shit. Randy cleared his throat and reminded himself he wasn't Randy, he was Slade McMann — bouncer and hard ass. He then chastised himself for slipping into a daydream. Too fucking close to getting himself into trouble.
I am Slade.
The knocking grew louder. "You okay?"
Slade turned. The eyes he'd been fantasising about stared back at him from the other side of the fogged glass. Part of him wanted to be irritated. The rest of him rejoiced silently. Astra Lee. He rolled the window down an inch, cursing that he'd fogged the glass.
"Are you okay? I thought you were dead." Astra shivered. "Slade? I need you."
Now those were words he hadn't expected to hear. Sure, she winked at him all the time and gave him occasional free lap dances, but wasn't that the job of the dancers — tantalise without getting too close?
He shook the thoughts from his head. "Get in. We can talk in the warmth." He rolled his window back up, careful not to lose too much precious heat.
Astra slid into the passenger seat and rubbed her arms. "Colder than the Arctic, isn't it?"
Slade glanced at her bare hands. "Where are your gloves, little girl?" He took both her hands in his. "You're going to freeze."
"My gloves grew legs and walked out while I was onstage." She shivered next to him. "Sorry. The car died and I need a ride."
"I didn't see your car in the lot." He squeezed her hands, working the circulation back into them. "Mine's the only one here."
"I know." She averted her whisky gaze. "I walked here."
"What?" Slade forced himself to remain calm. "You should've said something." Astra danced as 'Sexyback' and had been in a relationship with the club owner, Salazar 'Tiny' Balthazar. He shouldn't care who she fucked, but the thought of her lying down with the tattooed man churned his stomach.
Why it mattered to him, Slade didn't know. Wasn't like she'd sleep with him. He wasn't even who he claimed to be.
"Because it's at my brother-in-law's garage. Wouldn't start and my brother-in-law said it was the starter ... I don't know."
"I can look at it tomorrow, if you want." Slade clamped his lips together. If he talked to her much longer, he'd say something foolish.
"You can't do any worse." She laughed, a low, throaty laugh that sent sizzles through his veins. "How about you just take me home? I'm pooped and those damned heels hurt after an hour or two."
"You got it."
He wasn't thrilled he'd have to let her go when then got there, but hell — if he said he thought about her late at night surely Astra would thank him ... and take off. He put the car into gear. He missed her touch even though he barely knew her. He pulled out of the lot and into the street, careful not to skid on the freshly fallen snow.
Astra folded her hands over her purse and settled herself more comfortably into Slade's car seat. Just a ride. All she needed was a simple ride home. The moment she'd climbed into his car, she felt much warmer and she knew sure as shit it wasn't from the measly car heater. The streetlights and blackened buildings flew by in a rush. The twenty minute drive across town seemed to take no time at all. Then again, with company like Slade, she'd rather the ride last forever.
Knocking on his window and being seen with him could get her into trouble. Slade McMann wasn't just a man or good-looking muscle. He loomed large at the club. The other bouncers weren't scared of him, but if he was in charge of removing a drunk or troublemaker, the other bouncers gave him a wide berth.
She wanted a man like him, one who would take care of her. The kind of man who knew what was going instead of her having to look over her shoulder or worry if someone had an unseen eye on her.
Unless Slade proved to be another bad card in the deck.
She guessed not. Slade McMann didn't strike her as being like the other thugs at the club. He didn't hang out with Tiny and never seemed to buy the merchandise. He barely seemed to pay attention to the crap going on at the club — like it was all beneath him.
She'd put her faith in others only to have them screw her over. Unlike the men in her past, though, something deep in her belly screamed that she could trust Slade. Odd, too, since her gut instincts never panned out. The men she tended to trust only ever proved to be untrustworthy. Abe had used his fists, Tiny used drugs. Dennison ... well, that was a wound she'd gladly give away.
She gulped. He'd used her given name. Most of the bouncers didn't even know the girls had names other than their stage names or descriptions like 'the one with huge knockers'. She turned towards him. Slade wasn't traditionally handsome. His face was a little too long and his black hair a tad too unruly. His grey eyes flashed whenever he looked at her and the simple act always sent shivers up her spine. It was as though her physical attributes weren't important because he saw the woman inside. But to have him really see her as a human, not a set of breasts, seemed to be too much to ask.
"We're here." Slade pulled into what was evidently his assigned parking spot at the Sanborn Building. "It's three in the morning and damned icy. Give me a moment and I'll come around to get you."
"I'm not going to break," she chuffed, although she appreciated his gesture. Astra waited a heartbeat for him to round the hood of the car.
Slade opened the door and offered his gloves. "Put these on."
She considered arguing with him and capitulated. Gloves were so much better than frozen fingers. She shivered again. "Thanks."
He looped one arm around her back and placed his hand on her elbow.
"Are you for real?" She looked away, embarrassed by her own question.
"I hope so," he murmured in her ear. "I had a mother who insisted I have manners as well as learn how to put a man in his place."
She paused and stared at him.
"What, little girl?"
"Your girlfriend is a lucky woman." Her heart beat loud in her ears. Had she just blurted out something about his girlfriend? Shit.
Slade urged her forward again and laughed. "I am as single as single can be." Arm tight around her, he whispered, "Are you applying?"
Astra bit her tongue, waiting until they stood in the lobby to respond. "You don't want to date me. I mean, come on ... a stripper girlfriend? That's out of some sappy romance novel or something." She turned away from Slade to hide her emotions. Okay, so she had a soft spot for romance novels and happy endings. "Walk me to my door?"
"I am what I am." He shrugged and followed her up the steps. "I'm in two-twelve if you get lonely, by the way."
"Then we're just about neighbours. I'm in two-twenty-six." She came to a stop in front of her door. As much as she wanted to stretch out in bed, the enticing idea of stretching out next to him in bed sounded so much more fun ... more sinful. She shook the thought from her head. He hadn't asked her over for sex, just issued a simple invitation for whenever she was bored.
"I guess this is goodnight." Slade smoothed a lock of hair off her cheek. Something akin to a dreamy look filled his eyes for a moment. He inched closer to her. Flecks of gold and green shimmered in his irises.
Was he going to kiss her? Her body screamed hello, yes! But her heart remained guarded. Too much faith in the wrong person could be deadly. Still, she wanted that kiss ... his kiss. The heat in the hallway kicked up to somewhere in the oh baby range and sent prickles along her skin. Yes, she needed his kiss.
Slade smiled then strolled down the hallway, leaving her alone with her thoughts. Damn. She had thought for sure he was going to kiss her. Astra fitted her key into her lock and nudged the door open.
A rush of cold air swirled around her. Odd. The apartment shouldn't be cold. It should be hotter than the hallway. Astra rubbed her arms. Snow lay glistening on the windowsills and window seat. She tipped her head. Who had opened the window? She shivered and glanced at her things. The couch remained in its place, but the cushions were askew, some on the floor. Her plants — a collection of spider plants and ferns — weren't in their pots. Dirt splattered around where they had once sat.
Occasionally sloppy, she never left the apartment a total shambles. Who else had a key? Her stomach clenched and she couldn't breathe. Tiny.
She needed to get out. Needed to run. She turned on her heel and ran smack into a wall of solid flesh. The person grabbed her by the arms — a man based on his size and the tangy scent of his thick cologne and body odour. She couldn't see his face because of the stocking cap over his eyes.
"Remember the rules," the man growled. "Quiet girls are safe girls."
She nodded, afraid to do anything else. The man raised a gun and aimed the weapon at her. The blood drained from her face and pounded through her veins. Now she needed to run and hide, but hell ... her feet wouldn't move. A strangled cry ripped from her throat and the thunder of gunfire ricocheted through the apartment.
Astra dropped to her knees.
"Don't fuck with Tiny or I'll do more than destroy your shit." The man slapped the butt of the gun against her cheek.
She closed her eyes as the room faded to black.
All I wanted to do was be home ...CHAPTER 2
Slade had just turned the key to unlock his apartment door when the shots rang out. He glanced down the hallway, not seeing anyone. Where the fuck had the gunfire come from? His heart hammered ... Astra? Oh fuck.
He broke into a sprint, scared for what he might find. Her door, now partially open, swung on its hinges. Slade palmed the gun in his coat pocket and cocked the hammer, ready to fire.
"Astra? Hon?" Slade inched inside. He took in every detail of the apartment. No other doors stood ajar, but that didn't mean she was alone. He hadn't noticed anyone leave.
"Astra?" His foot caught on something and he looked down. Astra lay crumpled in a heap on the floor. His cop training kicked into high gear as he crept through the tiny apartment, sweeping the space. No one. He kicked the door closed then knelt beside her, feeling for a pulse. No blood, just a blossoming bruise on her arm and a matching one on her cheek. Damn. He should've invited her to his apartment. Lascivious maybe, but it would've saved her from the attack.
Slade scooped her into his arms. God, she barely weighed anything. Her head lolled on her shoulders as he broke into a run back down the hallway. Could he call the EMTs? "Let me take you to the hospital. They can look you over and make sure you don't have a concussion."
"No." She struggled in his grasp. "I'll be okay. I don't want to draw any more attention."
More attention? He doubted she knew anything about his cover, but still. "Fine, but if you start feeling more than a dull ache, tell me and we're going. I don't give a fuck whose attention we draw."
Back at his place, he placed her on the couch then returned to the door and slid the locks into place. A quick sweep of his apartment yielded no intruders. Good. He grabbed a blanket from the bed and swathed her in it.
He sat at her feet and scrubbed both hands over his face. Talk about the case taking a turn for the crazy and unexpected. Wallace would never believe what Slade would have for the next debriefing.
"My head." Astra shifted. "God, am I dead?"
Slade fell to his knees at the head of the couch and smoothed her hair from her face. The bruise wasn't going to get any smaller or lighter any time soon.
She stared up at him through glazed eyes. "He hit me, didn't he?"
"Who, babe?" They weren't really on lovey, cuddly terms, but fuck it. Slade didn't care. "Who hurt you?"
"Doesn't matter." A tear slipped down her cheek. "Really."
"Matters to me." The broken look in her eyes, combined with the bruises and the situation he'd found her in, clenched tight around his heart. Women deserved to be treated like goddesses, not beaten. "Let me get you some aspirin. I'll get my coat and take you to the emergency room. You were knocked out cold."
He stood and strode into the bathroom. When he returned, aspirins and glass of water in hand, she'd sat up.
"Don't fight me on this Astra. You could have a concussion."
"I'm a fighter. Give me the meds and forget what you saw." She waved her hand in the air. "It's no big deal and not something to go to the ER for."
"Don't hon me. I know what I want and it's to lay here."
Why was it that that idea didn't sound so terrible? Because more than he'd care to admit, she'd wrapped herself around his heart. She'd got past the one place he swore he'd never let anyone go beyond.
Slade forked his fingers through his hair. She'd be the death of him.
He sighed. If she was going to be stubborn ... fine. He'd be stubborn, too.
"Then you're coming to bed with me." He scooped her into his arms and carried her into the bedroom.
"I'm not sleeping with you."
Gingerly, Slade placed her on the bed. "No, you're going to sleep with me."
"Isn't that what I said I wasn't going to do?" She clutched her head. "Why are you being so bull-headed?"
Slade grabbed the hem of her shirt and slid the soft cotton over her head. "Lay down." Frowning, she did as he asked. He then slid her jeans from her body and tossed the discarded denim with the T-shirt. "I'm trying to take care of you."
He grabbed a fresh T-shirt from the worn bureau and shook the rumpled fabric out. "Arms."
Astra sat up and offered her arms, unwilling to argue. He wasn't trying to hurt her and was the one man in her life wanting to help. She had to force a smile to her lips. Not because she wasn't grateful, but because the simple action hurt like a motherfucker.
"There. Was that so awful?" He nabbed a pair of sleep pants and another T-shirt from the bureau. "I'm going to change and get you some ice."
Astra settled onto his sheets. The scent of detergent and flowers wafted around him. Slade didn't strike her as a floral-scented laundry soap kind of guy, but then again, she wasn't really sure how to think of him other than hot as hell and sweet beyond belief.
She pulled the blankets up to her chin. Once she got the headache to subside, she'd make things up to him. She'd explain everything and let go of her past. Yes, that's what she'd do. After sleep ...
* * *
Astra awoke with a jolt and stared through sleep-laden eyes at her surroundings. The sickening, dingy blue walls looked the same as her apartment's, but the scent — the flowery, comforting scent — wasn't familiar. A thick arm was wrapped around her midsection and held her against something equally hard.
Excerpted from "Over My Head"
Copyright © 2012 Wendi Zwaduk.
Excerpted by permission of Totally Entwined Group Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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