“Raspberry and vodka, thanks. And in a tall glass this time.”
Shay Porter acknowledged the order with a nod and prepared the guy’s drink with the last shot of vodka in the bottle. The man was a loner. Three nights a week, every week, he came to Shot of Sin. He ordered the same girlie beverage, chatted up the same high-class women and then went home sulking, as if he was the only one here who hadn’t anticipated the rejection.
“Do you want a straw with that?” she called over the heavy club music, her smile insincere.
His hazel eyes narrowed. “The drink is for me,” he snarled and handed her the correct change.
She turned her back with a shrug and placed the money in the register. “Still a legitimate question, asshole,” she muttered, retrieving the empty liquor bottle from the overhead dispenser.
“Taunting the customers again, Shay?”
Her spine tingled at the gravel-rich tone. Leo Petrova, aka Mr. Boss Man, was one sexy hunk of masculinity. Skin tanned from an unending kiss of the Beaumont, Texas sun, hair long enough to be pulled into a short ponytail with wisps falling around his face to highlight intense blue-green eyes.
Change of panties needed at the main bar, please.
“He can’t expect to score when he orders girlie drinks like that.” She dumped the empty bottle in the bin beside his sexy muscled legs covered in coal Chino’s. When she lifted her gaze over his white buttoned shirt and met his focus, she subtly licked her lips, inwardly rejoicing at his narrowed gaze. She had to do these little things—smile seductively, plump her breasts, accidentally trip over invisible objects and find herself plastered against his body. How else could she weaken his defenses? “The single women think he’s gay. I can’t stand to watch the carnage anymore.”
She turned on her heel and headed for the storeroom, hoping Leo would follow. As she flicked on the light in the darkened room behind the bar, she smiled, sensing his dominant presence at her back.
“Then quit.” He slid the door closed behind them, lessening the harsh thrum of music.
Under the thick layers of his hard-ass bravado, he was joking. She knew that. And he knew she would never leave. She loved working at Shot of Sin and the adjoining restaurant, Taste of Sin. This place was her second home. The bar staff she managed might not always appreciate her temperamental attitude, but her three bosses valued her contributions… Well, most of the time.
More importantly, they listened to her suggestions on improving the business. After five years of hopping from one employer to the next, she’d finally found a place worth sticking to. The eye candy her boss provided was an added bonus.
She glanced over her shoulder with a raised brow. Her body hummed with his proximity. What she wouldn’t give for him to push her against the side of the shelves and make her whimper in pleasure.
He leaned against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. “We’ve spoken about your sassy mouth before. Either stop it, or take a walk.”
She cleared her throat to cover a chuckle. “Is that how you plan to work around the no-sleeping-with-staff policy?” She turned to the shelves in search of another vodka bottle. “Fire me so you can have your way with me? ’Cause I’m okay with that, as long as I’m a kept woman.”
His growl reverberated off the walls, making her nipples burn.
“Don’t push me tonight, Shayna.”
No nickname? Two points for getting under his skin.
“Or what?” She retrieved a bottle from the high shelf and faced him. “You know you won’t fire me. I’m the hardest worker you’ve got.” And hopefully the only one he was attracted to.
She stepped forward, bringing them toe-to-toe. His gaze held her captive, staring her down. She knew he wouldn’t break the connection. One, because Mr. Dominant would never heel to a woman. And two, because she had the impression his aversion to kissing her weakened if he glanced lower to her lips. Or better still, to the cleavage he liked to eye-fuck whenever he thought she wasn’t watching. “I’m sure you could shut this sassy mouth without the threat of sacking me.”
His nostrils flared. There was attraction in those ocean eyes, no doubt about it. Only she knew he wouldn’t act upon it. Not yet, anyway. He’d made it clear their first heated interlude had been a mistake. It wouldn’t stop her from taunting him with something she was more than willing to give, though. One day she’d break through his no-relationships barrier, she just had to be patient.
He leaned in, positioning his mouth deliciously close to her ear, making her skin prickle with awareness. “I could shut you up, little girl, but I’d be scared of choking you with this big dick of mine.”
Shay pressed her lips together, fighting the burst of laughter threatening to break free. “I’ve got an exceptional gag reflex.” She let the vodka bottle fall between them, the heavy weight brushing his crotch.
Voices echoed from the bar and Leo stiffened, moving out of reach moments before the second boss in the trio of broodish men slid the door open. T.J. frowned as he cautiously entered the room. His brown-eyed gaze narrowed on Leo before turning Shay’s way.
“This doesn’t look inappropriate at all,” he drawled. “What are you two doing back here?”
Shay held up the liquor bottle in her hand. “I came to get a refill. I’m not entirely sure why he followed.”
Leo rolled his eyes. “What do you want?”
T.J. shook his head with a knowing grin and turned his attention to Leo. “Tracy broke her arm. She’s going to be out of action for a while.”
“Tracy?” Shay frowned.
“She works downstairs.”
Ahh. The illusive VIP lounge she’d never been allowed to step foot in. Apparently, being the most valued employee upstairs didn’t hold enough merit to see where all the beautiful people went each Saturday night.
“We don’t have anyone to replace her shift next week when Travis is away,” T.J. continued. “Bryan and I thought Shay could take her place.”
Shay’s eyes widened, not only at the new opportunity, but more shockingly that Bryan, aka Brute, would suggest she was capable of such a highly-coveted role. He’d earned his nickname because of the harsh way he dealt with life. He was merciless, clinical, and rarely showed emotion. Most of the time, he was an accomplished grump who liked to hide any enthusiasm under snarky insults. This suggestion proved her theory that underneath all the angst, he truly was a soft, cuddly bear.
Like hell she was going to point out the uncharacteristic comment though. Downstairs intrigued her. She’d already spent months in the adjoining Taste of Sin restaurant earning their respect before they’d let her work in the dance club part of the business. Now she wanted to hit the big time. The door leading to the private part of the club was always protected each Saturday by a security guard. Not even long-term Shot of Sin staff could enter, and she’d never met anyone who worked behind the sacred walls.
“No.” Leo’s tone brooked no argument.
“Excuse me?” She straightened her shoulders and raised a brow. She wasn’t a daddy’s girl or a wealthy socialite who expected her every whim to be adhered to, but when it came to devaluing her, in any way, her hackles immediately rose.
“I said no.” He turned his focus to T.J. “I don’t want her down there.”
“What’s your problem?” she snapped. Yes, he was her stubborn, slightly nauseatingly gorgeous boss, but they were meant to be friends. Even more if he’d finally lower his guard and allow it. And now he was treating her as if she couldn’t handle a simple night’s work at a different bar.
“She isn’t trained to work in that environment.” He no longer acknowledging her presence. “We’ll find someone else.”
T.J.’s brow furrowed. “Shay, can you give us a sec?”
She held tight to the liquor bottle in her fist. “Fine.” Clenching her teeth together, she fixed her arrogant fantasy with a glare and then pushed past him to the open doorway. “Convince him, T.J. Otherwise, you might find yourself looking to replace more than one staff member.”
* * *
Leo watched Shay’s ass storm from the storeroom and then winced when she slammed the sliding door. The woman drove him crazy. She was wild and sassy with a delectable body capable of making his cock twitch on a hair-trigger. She was also predictable. Now that she was sporting a mammoth case of fury, he knew she’d go back to work and bat her lashes at every pretentious asshole in the building just to piss him off.
In other words, she was trouble. And as drawn to her as he was, he didn’t need another complication in his life. The restaurant and bar kept him, T.J. and Brute busy, and with the private club downstairs increasing its clientele, none of them needed a distraction. Especially one with pretty light-brown eyes and dark wavy hair.
“Give me one good reason why she can’t work down there,” T.J. muttered, the shadowed smudges under his eyes more prominent than earlier in the evening.
“Like I said, she hasn’t been trained.”
“And like I said, give me one good reason.”
Fuck. Leo let out a heavy breath and wiped a hand down his face. “I just don’t want her down there, okay?”
T.J. and Brute weren’t aware he’d once succumbed to her sassy charm. He’d practically dry-humped her in this very room—his tongue down her throat, his fingers in her panties, sliding through her slick juices. He’d strode away soon after she’d climaxed around his digits, his jaw tight with regret. Unbeknown to Shay, she’d proven she wasn’t what he needed, no matter how much she thought she was. His sexual appetite was raw, demanding, and not suitable for someone with a narrow scope on pleasure.
In the few moments they’d shared, he’d seen her innocence. She wasn’t a virgin by any means, but neither was she a female equipped to handle his desires. She’d gasped at his ferocity, stared at him like he was an entirely different man, and he’d learned long ago to back away when his needs didn’t match those of the woman he was interested in. Things would only become complicated later. Been there, done that.
He had the emotional scars to prove it.
So, he’d run, and hoped T.J. and Brute didn’t hear about his fuck up. For weeks, he’d distanced himself from the hope of commitment in her eyes. He’d hated fracturing the defenses of such a strong-willed woman, only he hadn’t had a choice. With her penchant for tantrums, he’d had to snap out of the attraction in an instant. Or at least pretend to.
“Unfortunately, with the limited staff employed downstairs, we don’t have any other options. Travis has already scheduled annual leave and I’m not going back on my word when it’s the anniversary of his dad’s death.” T.J. huffed in frustration. “Look, I know you have a thing for her, but you’ve gotta decide—are you her manager or the guy who wants to get in her pants?”
Leo scowled. “I don’t want to get in her pants.” Been there, done that, too.
“Then why is it a hard decision?”
Sadly, when it came to the sassy wench, things were always hard. For Leo, anyway. Problem was he didn’t have a legitimate excuse to stop her from getting them out of the staffing issue.
“Fine.” He stabbed his fingers through his hair, loosening his ponytail. “But I’ll be the one to show her around. Brute can take my shift up here next Saturday and I’ll take his downstairs.”
T.J. shrugged. “I’m cool with that. You could take her down tonight if you wanted. We aren’t likely to get overrun up here.”
Leo’s palms began to sweat. “Yeah, okay.”
He closed his eyes and rubbed the back of his lids. Shay didn’t have a good track record of reacting with professional calm when surprised. And the contrasting environment downstairs would definitely be a bombshell.
One of his pet peeves was judgement from others, especially friends and family. Yes, it was human nature for every fucker to have an opinion, even when the situations they were criticizing were none of their goddamn business. He was just sick to death of narrow-minded people opening their mouths and spewing hatred about shit they didn’t understand. He didn’t know how he’d handle that type of commentary from Shay. And she’d definitely have an opinion about the activities in the downstairs area.
“You sure this doesn’t have anything to do with you wanting to slam your cock down her throat?”
“Christ, T.J.” Leo scowled. “Don’t you think downstairs would be the first place I’d take her if I did?”
“Just askin’.” He held up his hands in surrender and backtracked to the door.
“Well, don’t.” Leo jerked his head toward the hall and hoped T.J. would leave him the hell alone so he could think shit through. “Look after the main floor tonight. Leave Shay to me.”