I try to resist him, but soon we’re stealing forbidden hours of lust when no one’s watching. It could cost us both our careers, but I can’t help myself. He’s broken, and I want to be his salvation.
In return, he says he wants to protect me, to love me. But can he save me when my new job puts me directly in the path of danger?
I smiled when I stepped into the seedy dive bar. It was definitely my kind of place, and this would be my last night to let loose for a while. I would start training for my dream job at Quantico tomorrow, and I wouldn’t be able to party. I didn’t really drink much, but it would be nice to have a night to celebrate my accomplishments.
I’d checked into a motel near Quantico for the night, and The Community Tap had beckoned from across the street. The bar might be a bit sketchy, but I wasn’t at all nervous entering by myself. I’d been taking mixed martial arts classes for two years, ever since I’d started my Master’s degree in Psychology. I’d known I was preparing to apply for a job with the FBI, and I wanted to be physically equipped as well as mentally sharp. I was determined to graduate the academy and join the Bureau.
As I crossed the threshold, I registered several male gazes swinging my way. I ignored them and headed for the bar. I wasn’t here to hook up. I just wanted a beer and a little atmosphere. I’d intentionally selected a conservative sweater with jeans, and I’d applied minimal makeup. I definitely wasn’t dressed to impress, but I knew men found me attractive. It wasn’t a vain thing; I was physically fit from training, and years of male attention let me know I was pretty enough. I could find some company for the night if I wanted to, but that wasn’t part of the plan. I didn’t do casual fucks, anyway.
“What can I get you, sweetheart?” The bald, bulky bartender smiled at me.
I didn’t care for the casual endearment, but I brushed it off. “What craft beers do you have on draft?” I asked.
He handed me a list, and I quickly made my selection. A good IPA would hit the spot.
Taking my beer with a smile and a tip, I turned to face the rest of the bar. I grinned when I saw people—mostly men—signing up for a darts tournament.
I was so down for this. I had excellent aim, and it would be fun to compete with the heavily muscled, macho men who were putting their names on the chalkboard and paying the entry fee. Men like that often underestimated me, and I liked proving my worth. It would be a good confidence boost before facing the fierce competition at Quantico.
I crossed the room to the sign up area and confidently wrote my name on the chalkboard, handing the bouncer the five dollars required to compete. He informed me that the tournament would start in fifteen minutes, so I decided I would people watch for a little while and size up my competition.
As I settled back in at the bar, a cluster of hard-faced men in leather jackets caught me looking in their direction. The tallest, biggest one leered and winked at me. Keeping my expression impassive and disinterested, I broke from his gaze. I didn’t want to imply any sort of physical invitation.
“You any good?” A deep, masculine voice rumbled through me. I jolted and turned to face the man who had approached me soundlessly. Even though the bar was fairly noisy, it wasn’t often that someone was able to encroach on my personal space without my realizing it.
As soon as his stunning green eyes locked on mine, I became very aware of his nearness. My breath caught in my throat, and my body reacted with instant attraction, the pull toward the stranger more visceral and immediate than anything I’d ever experienced. He was easily the most beautiful man I’d ever seen.
No. Beautiful wasn’t the right word. He was far too ruggedly masculine for that term. With a strong, clean-shaven jaw and high cheekbones, he could have been a male model. His glossy black hair was meticulously styled, and his sharp black suit managed to convey an air of elegant power. The teasing tilt to his full lips was cocky and sexy as hell.
“What?” I managed to release the air that had been trapped in my chest. I couldn’t remember what he’d just said to me. His nearness scrambled my brain and heated my insides. The sensation was utterly foreign and darkly delicious.
“I saw you entered the tournament.” He gestured at the chalkboard, but his sparkling emerald eyes didn’t leave mine. “Are you any good?”
I straightened my shoulders, struggling to collect myself. It wasn’t at all like me to fumble like this over an attractive man.
“Yeah,” I asserted with most of my usual confidence.
One corner of his lips ticked up farther, and my gaze riveted on his mouth.
“I’ll enjoy the competition, then,” he said, his voice lilting with amusement. “I’m Jason.” He extended his hand.
I shook it firmly, finally collecting myself. “Natalie,” I introduced.
“It’s nice to meet you, Natalie.” His voice caressed my name, and I suppressed a shiver. Lust had never hit me so hard. The air seemed to crackle between us, and the way his eyes darkened with hunger as he held my hand told me that I wasn’t the only one who felt it. He squeezed gently, and my sex contracted in response.
Slightly disconcerted, I extricated myself from his grip. He smirked. It should have irritated me, but his arrogant confidence was undeniably stoking my lust.
“I’d buy you a drink, but you seem to have that covered,” he continued smoothly, flicking his long fingers toward where my beer sat mostly untouched on the bar top. “The next one’s on me.”
I shook my head. “I don’t need to get tipsy. I plan on winning this tournament.”
“Competitive,” he remarked. His sharp grin dazzled me. “I like that.” He tipped his head in the direction of the leather-clad men, but he still didn’t take his eyes off my face. “I don’t know if your admirers will appreciate it if you beat them.”
I shrugged. “That’s their problem.”
His grin widened. “Then I look forward to watching you kick their asses.” He cocked his head at me. “Although I don’t intend to lose, I’ll warn you now.”
I returned his smile, helplessly charmed by his cockiness. “I’ll try not to bruise your ego too badly, then,” I teased, slightly surprised at my husky, flirtatious tone. I hadn’t been planning on hooking up with anyone, but I certainly wouldn’t say no to a hot night with Jason. The physical chemistry between us was electric, and we’d barely touched.
Images of his powerful, sweat-slicked body sliding against mine as he fucked me hard flitted across my mind, and my cheeks heated.
His eyes flashed, and his lips curved in satisfaction. “Are you a betting woman, Natalie?” he asked.
“I…” I fumbled again. I took a shaky breath and tried to gather my wits. “Not really.”
“I like games,” he told me, his voice dropping to a deeper register. The words rolled through me, vibrating down to my core. My inner muscles fluttered, and my panties grew damp with the beginnings of arousal. “Play with me.” It wasn’t a question; it was a command.
My tongue darted out to wet my lips. His gaze flicked to my mouth before finding my eyes again, keeping me captured in his steady stare.
“If I win, you’re mine for the night.”
My heart skipped a beat. The possessive declaration set my body on fire. Suddenly, I wanted very badly to lose to this man.
“And if I win?” I managed to ask, but there was no challenge in the breathy words.
He leaned in, almost as though he was going to kiss me. He stopped when he was close enough that I could feel the heat of his words teasing across my lips. “Then I’ll still make you come so hard you’ll scream my name and beg for mercy by the time I’m finished with you.”
My mouth went dry, and I swallowed. His sexy smirk told me he had me exactly where he wanted me. His easy confidence and commanding aura were intoxicating.
“But not yet,” he murmured, dipping his head closer to mine. “Time to play.” His lips brushed across my mouth in the lightest teasing contact.
Abruptly, he stepped back. I swayed toward him, and his hands closed around my shoulders to steady me. My sex throbbed with need, and he’d barely touched me.
“Let’s get out of here.” I urged breathily, deciding I didn’t want to play darts. I wanted more time with Jason; one hot, carefree night before I committed myself to my career. “I’m staying across the street. We can go back to—”
“Not yet,” he refused, his rich voice colored with amusement. “We still have a wager to settle.” He gave me a crooked grin and released me, drawing away completely. He stepped back and waved toward the dartboards. “Ladies first.”
Shaking myself, I struggled to find my composure. My entire body felt oddly weak, and I wasn’t at all certain I’d be able to aim straight. I didn’t mind losing to Jason, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the whole bar.
That thought helped me still my trembling fingers. Now that Jason had given me some space, I could feel the other men’s eyes on me again. The huge guy in the leather jacket watched me with undisguised interest, and he sized up Jason. He was clearly ready to challenge the man who’d captivated all my senses.
I wasn’t remotely interested. I spared him a single cold glance before finding the confidence to saunter over to the dartboard. Jason chuckled beside me, keeping pace. Even though he was no longer touching me, I could feel the raw sensuality rolling off him. It kissed my skin like a palpable touch, and my sex pulsed.
He picked up the darts and pressed them into my hand, allowing his fingers to linger for a few seconds longer than necessary. The strange weakness flooded my system again, and I struggled to keep my legs from sagging beneath me. All my instincts urged me to fall to my knees before him.
“Don’t disappoint me now,” he ordered sternly. “I want a proper challenge. I know you’re good.” He positioned his body behind mine, his hard chest pressing against my back. He gripped my wrist and lifted my arm to the proper height to aim at the target. “Focus,” he commanded evenly.
The world fell away around me, and I honed in completely on my task. My hand steadied, and the target was clear before me. He released my wrist, and I delivered a perfect shot, the dart embedding itself in the bullseye.
“Good girl,” he rumbled.
My body felt oddly light, my mind blank except for the pleasure at his praise and the goal set out before me. I threw the darts in rapid succession. Within seconds, I’d managed a perfect score.
“Impressive,” he remarked. “Maybe we’ll tie.”
His hands closed around my shoulders again, and he guided me away from my stance in front of the target, placing me at a high table near the competition area.
“My turn,” he said. His fingers curled into my flesh briefly. “Stay.”
Compelled by his command, I remained where he left me, watching him move toward the target with predatory grace. He removed my darts from the board and took his place to make his shots.
My focus was ripped from him when a large hand settled on my hip.
“Nice shots, gorgeous.”
I blinked and looked up—way up—at the man who touched me. It was the guy in the leather jacket who’d been watching me since I’d come in. His thin lips were drawn back in a lustful smile, and his dark brown eyes were sharp with hunger.
“Lose the suit and hang with me,” he urged. Unlike Jason’s commands, the order left me cold. My skin crawled where he touched me. I took a step back, and his hand instantly shot out to grip my upper arm. “Come on, baby. I know you’re friendlier than that.”
I fixed him with my most glacial stare. “Take your hands off me,” I demanded levelly. “Now.”
He didn’t release me. “Don’t be like that, sweetness. I’ll show you a good time.”
“I’ll give you three seconds to let me go,” I warned.
A dark brow rose. “Or what?” he challenged.
“Or I’ll break your nose,” I said, a simple declaration of fact.
He threw his head back and laughed. Fuck three seconds, this asshole was going down.
He evidently didn’t expect a woman half his size to strike, so he didn’t even flinch when my fist flew at his face, landing squarely on his nose with a satisfying crunch. Blood instantly poured down over his lips.
“Fucking bitch!” he shouted, clutching at his ruined nose. He lunged for me, his fist swinging.
Before I could react, Jason appeared between us. He caught the man’s fist easily, bending his arm back at unnatural angle and forcing him to his knees.
“Do you yield, or do I need to break your arm?” Jason asked, coldly controlled.
“Jason!” I exclaimed in warning. My assailant’s three large friends had decided to join the fight. They barreled toward Jason, and I stepped in just in time.
My body moved without thought, my muscles remembering how to fight after hours of training. I heard the man with the bloody nose cry out again, and the dull crack let me know Jason had broken his arm, just as he’d promised.
But the sound was periphery. I focused on the first of the three men rushing at us. He lunged for me, and I sidestepped, landing a vicious kick to his knee as I moved. He went down with an agonized shout. I didn’t take a moment to think about the damage I’d done; I needed to focus on the other two men coming at me.
But it turned out I didn’t need to. When I looked past the fallen man, I watched as Jason took down the last attacker with a brutal blow to his throat. The other man was already on the ground, clutching his stomach and moaning.
“Get the fuck out of my bar.” The bouncer’s roar called my attention away from the fight. He slapped a baseball bat against his palm menacingly.
Jason held up his hands and took a step back from the bleeding men strewn out on the ground at our feet.
“We were just leaving.” He ensnared my hand in his and pulled me along in his wake as we rushed out of the bar.