Dodge Sager entered the Copper Cup, his favorite hangout, highly alert and ready for action. Not his usual action, but work action. He was itching to find Mangus Santarino and follow him to his hiding place. He had an enormous gleaming pink diamond to retrieve from Mangus, the damned thief. Big Three Bounty Hunting’s client, Guardwell, wanted the diamond back before its client raised all sorts of holy hell about it. That would ruin its reputation as being the only security transport company to never have anything stolen from them.
Glancing around he noted briefly the smattering of people in the bar. It wouldn't get busy til later which is probably why his informant told him Mangus would be here early. Taking a seat at the bar, the bartender, who was also his friend, Derek, jerked his head to the right but kept on wiping the bar down. "Usual?"
"Yeah." His eyes traveled in the direction of Derek's nod. In the back of the bar, where the booths were lined up along the wall for diners, sat a man wearing a baseball cap that boasted "Dodgers.” Derek set his drink, which in reality was tea poured in a bourbon glass, in front of him on a napkin. Dodge met Derek's gaze and listened as his friend said, "Back booth, baseball cap, sexy brunette with him."
Lifting his drink to his lips, his eyes sought out the brunette with Mangus. Since Mangus was a married man, and this was not his wife according to the photographs he'd seen, he wondered what this was all about.
The dark-haired beauty threw her head back and laughed and Dodge was mesmerized by the sound. Damn woman had no idea what she was getting herself into.
Derek came back around after delivering drinks to other customers and laid a menu on the bar.
"Did the brunette come in with him?"
"Nope, she was here by herself. Began shooting pool with those guys in the back, kicked their asses, and then made her way to your friend."
Women! It was difficult to trust them in the best of circumstances. He'd learned that a long time ago.
The brunette stood from the booth and jutted her spectacular breasts out which not only got Mangus' attention but his, too. He may not trust women, but he sure did love to look, touch, and feel them. She picked up Mangus' glass and sauntered her sexy ass to the bar.
His eyes darted to Mangus and noted that he watched her ass as she walked away from him. Then he locked eyes with her. Dark shiny eyes pierced his. Her long dark lashes perfectly framed her almond shaped eyes and her full pink lips curved up slightly.
She set both hers and Mangus' glasses on the bar and purred, "Refill please."
She turned her head, her dark hair held hints of auburn and shined under the lights above the bar. "Little Mama, you have no idea what you're getting into with that man over there."
She laughed, then glared at him, which made the hair on the back of his neck stand-up, "Baby, you have no idea who I am or what I'm capable of."
Something plummeted into the bottom of his stomach at her look and the tone of her voice. Alarm bells rang in his head, then she interrupted his dark thoughts. "Mind your own business, Tarzan."
Derek set her drinks on the wooden bar top. She reached into her back pocket, pulled out a twenty-dollar bill, and handed it to him. "Keep it, I'll be back for more." She picked up her drinks, and without another glance in Dodge’s direction her sexy ass moved away from him and back to Mangus.
Derek's chuckle caught his attention, the stupid dimple in his cheek that the women swooned over practically pointed at him and mocked him. "Man, she burned you good."
"She didn't burn me."
Derek laughed out loud then. "She so did, bro."
He walked to the other end of the bar to tend to customers leaving the view open to watch Mangus and the hot little mama with the sassy mouth.
Having Derek refill his "tea", he continued to look like a bored patron and tried not to stare at Mangus and his date. Suddenly, Mangus reached across the table and grabbed a handful of her gorgeous hair jerking her head back. He leaned forward and said something to her, jerked again on her hair, then released her. He sat back, the snarl on his face disgusting. The hot little mama frowned, then quick as the flip of a switch she smiled.
Dodge stood and made his way to the back of the bar and to Mangus. She didn’t know what she was getting into. "That is no way to treat a lady."
The slow deliberate turn of Mangus’ head almost turned his stomach. This was not a man who was used to being told what to do. "That so?" The question hung in the air like a thick cloud.
"Yes. That's so." He turned to the dark-haired woman and locked eyes with her. "You can leave here and I'll make sure he doesn't follow you."
She scoffed, then in a low measured tone said, "Mind. Your. Own. Business."
His brows furrowed and his back straightened. "Seriously?"
"Yes." Her lips barely moved.
Mangus took that moment to further her comments. "You need to go back to the bar and wallow in your pity party. You have no idea what we're all about.”
Locking eyes with Mangus, he waited a beat, neither man looking away and neither one giving in to say anything further. The size up continued until the hot little mama broke the silence. "Go on and drown your sorrows, Tarzan, we're all good here."
His eyes slid to hers, held a beat, then he turned and stalked to the bar. Resuming his position, he lay his phone on the top of the bar in front of him and tapped his microphone button. Recording a message to himself for later, when he wrote up his report, his eyes scanned the room and noted two things. The men in the back that had been shooting pool with the crazy ass woman with Mangus had all left. And the bar began filling up with the after-work crowd.
Noting the time on his phone as 5:30 p.m., he prepared to settle in for a long night.
Then an opportunity presented itself. The hot little mama sauntered past the bar and toward the pool tables. The Copper Cup was shaped like an L with the booth Mangus occupied on one end and the pool table in the back at the other end. The bathrooms were also just past the pool table and then the backdoor. Once she was around the bend and out of sight to Mangus, and close to the backdoor, she stopped, looked over her right shoulder, and the come hither look she landed on him sent his libido into hyperdrive. Damn. Turning so quickly he half doubted she'd even looked at him, she proceeded out the backdoor.
His curiosity piqued, he glanced at his phone just as Derek stopped in front of him. "He looking at me?" He asked his friend. "Nope." Derek replied as he continued wiping the bar.
Nodding once, he pocketed his phone, stood, and followed the woman out the door to see where she'd gone.
The sun was still shining brightly in the sky, though sunset would be in three hours or so. Twisting the handle on the backdoor, he barely stepped completely out the door when he was hit in the stomach with an excruciating blow. Before his mind could comprehend what was happening, a leg wrapped around his and pulled knocking him on his ass. The air whooshed from his lungs and before he could catch his breath, the lovely woman with Mangus jumped on him, straddled his chest, and her small but strong hand gripped his throat and squeezed.
"I told you, twice, to back off. You need to leave me alone. Got it?"
Struggling to suck air into his lungs and assess the situation, she tightened her hold on his throat. "Hear me?"
Without enough air all he could muster was a weak, "Yeah," which wheezed from his lips in a futile attempt to answer. Her iron grip loosened, but her eyes continued to bore into his.