By: Jade Chandler

Tension stretched every muscle tight. “If I—”

Oh damn, not good. “Fred, let me call you in five, then we can find time for the back—”

He grabbed the phone from my hand and flipped the calendar to him before pointing to the office. I hurried to grab the report, almost running back to him. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde. Why was he so pissed off? He’d said no paper, I guess he meant it.

“Yeah, Zayn will be here Sunday, nine in the morning. He has the whole day, whatever time it takes.” Dare hung up, glaring at me with his foot tapping and his lips pressed in a tight line.

“Okay, we’re up twenty-two percent from this time last year, this week’s revenue is $6,359 leaving $4,211 profit after expenses. Ledger is updated and ready for pickup, um, whenever.” I bit my lip. “I’m, uh, sorry...”

In two huge strides he moved into my space, bent his head and captured my lips. Hard. Bruising. The kiss demanded surrender.

I released the pent-up sexual need, feeding it into my kiss. He stepped back before he wrapped his arms around me, dragging me into him. I tangled my fingers in his long hair.

I sucked his lower lip, worrying it between my teeth.

His lips left mine but I held onto his hair.

“We’re not done here.” He squeezed my hands. “But I gotta jet. Be back in two hours. Then we talk.”

His scent surrounded me, and ripples of desire ran down my spine. I released his hair when he stepped away, the corn silk—soft strands slipping through my fingers.

His gaze bore into me for a long moment, and I read an entire love story in mere seconds. The fiery attraction, all-consuming lust and eventual heartbreak—always my love story.

With a twist of his lips, he turned and left the shop.

If I was smart, I’d walk away from temptation before I relived my mistakes. And I would be smart—just because I had one weak moment didn’t mean I should go rogue. I was worth more than a three-day dance.

Zayn strode in minutes after Dare left, interrupting my creation of a mental list of all the reasons I wouldn’t sleep with Dare. The number-one reason—he’d swallow me whole, and my fragile independence would be gone.

“Hey.” He gave me the nod. “What’s up, gorgeous?”

“I bet you melt girls’ hearts all over the state, don’t you?”

The cocky smile added to his dark charm. “When I find the time, hell yeah. It’s what makes life fun—the girl part anyway. I try not to stick around long enough for the heart stuff.”

I shook my head at his attitude and saw the appointment book. “Oh yeah, Dare signed you up to do Fred’s back tat all day Sunday.” I glanced at the book for the time. “At nine in the morning. You even awake?”

“That ruins the party plans on Saturday.” Anger simmered in him.

“I can push it back, change it?” I couldn’t believe Dare had booked it without consulting him.

“You don’t understand our life, do you?” His chuckle released the anger.

“Not a clue.” I reminded myself I didn’t want to know.

Zayn hopped up on the counter. “I’m a prospect, the Brotherhood’s property, until I patch in.”

“When does that happen? And what’s property?”

“I am property. Any club member can tell me to do anything, like tat a guy at 9 a.m. the day after a club party. I do it.” He scratched behind his ear.

“Why?” I didn’t understand the appeal.

“They’re your brothers, have your back. Have you ever wanted to belong without reservation?” Zayn’s expression turned dark.

“I get it.” It’s what made me fall for loser after loser.

Zayn’s client walked in, and they disappeared to the back of the shop. Less than an hour later he was back, which was quick for any work.

Once the guy left, Zayn turned to me. “Dare called and told me to lock up. He won’t be back today.” He leaned against the counter. “Get out of here, take a break while the getting’s good.”

I deflated, not realizing a bubble of anticipation had built inside me. Dare not coming back left me frustrated but thankful. A reprieve to rebuild my defenses.

“I have a question about hours and I hoped he’d give me some advice.”

“Work until the job’s done.” He shrugged. “You’re overdoing it—you should stop or you’ll burn out.”

“Not very helpful.”

Zayn laughed and slapped my back. “Perfectly understandable, you need a tutorial.” He cracked open a pop from the mini-fridge under the counter. “Be here to do your manager shit and during our busiest times. Also, never leave if Dare or Weasel are here alone. The rest of us, it’s fine to go. One of us will always stay.” He nodded like his words made sense.

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