Authors: Cecile Tellier
EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ®
Copyright© 2016 Cecile Tellier
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
Editor: Melissa Hosack
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
As always, this book is dedicated to my family who supports me through every deadline, convention, and project without question. Mike, Avery, and Autumn, Mom, and Dad…I couldn’t do it without you all.
This book is also dedicated to those who have and continue to help me hone my craft and learn the business. So many great people but I will mention Fae Harlow, the Round Robins, and the many other author, model, blogger, and reader friends who I have met at conventions and online. Much love!
Copyright © 2016
When Maxx Robertson thought about the saying “something would be the death of him”, he had no true concept of what it meant. That was, until he met
. All of four foot nothing and lighter than his duffel bag on an easy gear day, he knew his battleship was sunk the minute those too-big-for-her-face brown eyes focused on him.
Being an all-around prick most of the time on top of being in great shape meant he didn’t have a lack of female attention, yet nothing made him feel more uneasy than nearly walking into Zowie James that day at the club. He visited daily to ensure the place was running smoothly, and to make sure no one was trying to fuck him out of anything. The club had been the first purchase he made after he’d begun making serious money.
She had been walking straight for the door to the club the same time he was, but neither had looked up until she bumped into his arm.
“Excuse me,” muttered the mousy, blonde haired Lilliputian staring back at him.
She made no move to skirt around him and he found he was pretty stunned in his own right. “Yeah, sure.”
Pressing back against the wall, he let her pass through the door ahead of him. Following her, he sat down at the bar and watched as she took her coat off and hung it up before heading behind the bar.
“You new here? I’m Maxx. Sorry I almost took you out. You must just be too low to the ground for me to have heard…” He made a grin to the side at his attempt at humor.
Lifting her head, she simply watched him without expression for a moment before nodding. “I’m used to it. I’m Zowie.” She watched him as if expecting something.
“Hey … that’s a cool name. Do you get teased or something?” He found himself immediately wanting to throttle anyone who ever gave her so much as a stink eye.
“Let’s just say people have been known to yell “Wowie” when I enter the bar,” she said before looking back down.
“Well, maybe that’s because they’re impressed. Or maybe they want to be.” Maxx tried to lighten the suddenly somber mood to no avail. She patently ignored him and began serving the regulars who came in for happy hour. The club was quiet, but he knew soon that the DJ would start playing and the masses would come to dance. He also knew that upstairs in the VIP rooms there would be more personal activities going on behind closed doors. He didn’t provide the entertainment, merely a place where those with a penchant for kink could come and be discreet.
He wondered if his new bartender knew what went on beyond those large and ornate closed doors. Deciding to find out, he leaned over the bar and yelled, “Have you been given a tour yet?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but yes,” she responded, while tossing her hair back and pouring a mixed drink with some flair he didn’t think she had.
Realizing she had no idea he was the owner, he grinned and stood from the bar. As he turned around, his assistant, Jerald, came in and rushed over.“Did you know that Rick and his gang of douchebags are brewing something again? I swear they keep trying and one of these days something bad is gonna happen. We gotta make a deal with them.”
Instantly feeling his mood go dark, Maxx growled. “I will not ‘make a deal’ with the scumbag mafia. I refuse to give them money they are not entitled to just because they want control over any competition in the area. Fuck them. They want problems, they can bring whatever they got brewing and I’ll stuff it up slick Rick’s ass like I always do.” He had intercepted and thwarted many attempts to burn his club down, pay off officials to close it over bogus health code and permit violations, and the most recent offer to become partners. He didn’t need their financial help and he would be damned if he gave them money to leave him alone.
“Okay, man, but shit’s getting out of hand already.”
Maxx shook his head and gave Jerald a look that had the man wisely backing up. “We do not fucking give them so much as a dime. We also don’t discuss this in the middle of the bar. You know better. Next time you do that will be the last time you’re employed here, and you’ll be lucky to be able to walk out the door without being carried.” He knew that came across as brutal, but he also knew that his inner beast was not appreciating an underling telling him how to do things. Alphas didn’t appreciate ultimatums.
“Yeah, I get it … I’m just worried.” Jerald didn’t wait for a response and instead walked back to the security office.
Maxx hated the predicament he was in with Rick, but he refused to cower or pay the man off when he wouldn’t benefit in any way from a deal or partnership with the lowlife. As someone who was always in control out of necessity, he did not like the idea of someone attempting to take over his territory. The other side of him liked it even less and wanted to respond with haste and in the bloodiest of ways. Looking back at the bar, he noticed Zowie’s eyes on him before she returned to the customers. He didn’t have any doubts she had figured out he was the owner or someone in charge now, and that she was frightened if the expression on her face was to be believed. She had no idea how right she was to be scared, and even less of an idea of what he really was. The smell of fear had him fighting off the urge to change, and Maxx knew he was too close to the surface to hang out around her or other potential triggers for long.
Walking back to his office, he spent the next few hours doing books and paperwork while he waited for the club to get busy. He had a bunch of side projects brewing. He hoped that eventually the club would be more of a hobby than full-time business, but he had to eliminate the threats to it first. While all of his businesses were legal, he would not hesitate to defend them in any way he had to.
Looking at the pile of paper on his desk did nothing to improve his current state of mind. He had identified that there was some money leaking out somehow, and he was in the process of finding out where. Sometimes letting people think he was just the dumb muscle who happened upon good luck went to his benefit. If his enemies didn’t underestimate him he would have to work harder at finding them. He knew he was close though, as he had tracked the money that was going missing in small amounts and had tallied up the total thus far. Now he would go back and identify those working in the club and look for other identifying information and patterns. Stopping the leak had been simple. He did all the accounting himself, even closing now, and no longer paid a bookkeeper to do it There had been no reason to pay someone who was allowing his money to go missing every night. His blood pressure and the feeling of something banging around against his skin had eventually subsided despite the treachery he was investigating. Being away from the temptation of Zowie obviously made the difference in his ability to control not only his temper but also his inner self.
A crash and loud scream erupted from the bar and had him immediately reaching for the pistol in his drawer. The scent of fear coming from many directions had his gut churning as much as the sounds alerted him to something going down. Storming out to the bar, Maxx was greeted with the sight of his new bartender held by the throat and pinned to the bar by one of Rick’s thugs. That accounted for the fear he smelled. It was coming off of her and the patrons in the bar who were in various stages of shock and panic. Zowie’s blonde hair was strewn around her head and her eyes were wide with fright as she gripped the man’s much larger wrists.
The oaf was apparently squeezing her throat while making demands that she talk, which only went to show the intelligence the men Rick hired were armed with. The smell he exuded was an oily pervasive odor that instantly had rage simmering under the surface of Maxx’s skin.
“Where the fuck is your boss? If I wanted a fucking smart mouth from you I’d put it where I wanted it, bitch!” The man was now leaning over her face.
“I’m assuming you’re looking for me, though how you think she would answer you while you’re choking the damn girl is beyond me. Let her go, you stupid fuck.” Maxx growled. He didn’t like the effect watching the caveman with his hands on Zowie had on him, but he also didn’t dare acknowledge it. Shifting in front of an entire club of regulars and happy hour patrons—never mind his own staff—was out of the question.
The gasp that came from Zowie alerted him that the fool had let her go. The minute he heard her exhale, Maxx brought his hand back and punched him in the face. As the man went down with a scream, Maxx grabbed him by the back of the neck and kneed him in the face again before walking him to the door, but not before slamming him face first into the doorjamb. The satisfactory sound of bones crunching in the bastard’s nose did make him feel warm and fuzzy inside. It didn’t appease his wolf however, who wanted nothing more than to grip the bastard’s neck with his teeth and tear flesh.
Throwing him to the concrete outside of the club, Maxx spoke through gritted teeth. “Come near my club, my staff, or any woman in my club again and I will kill you. The only reason I didn’t fucking shoot you in your empty head, or worse, was that someone would have to clean that shit up and you’re not worth the extra wages. Tell Rick I said to get fucked and to leave me alone. He’s not getting a goddamned thing from me.”
Turning around, he heard the scramble of the worthless lump on the ground as he ran away. Maxx stormed back into the club and went right for Zowie, who was now standing behind the bar holding a bag of ice to the dark purple bruises on her neck. He had to give it to her, she had kept her cool and was even now returning his glare with one to rival it. If her hands weren’t shaking, and were he not able to smell the fear still radiating from her pores, he would be hard pressed to notice she was affected in the slightest.
“You get choked out often? You seem pretty calm for someone who was having their neck readjusted on the bar there.” He couldn’t help the tone or the remarks. He didn’t like that he felt thrown off kilter by seeing her being abused by that moron, but he’d be damned if he looked weak in front of his employees or the patrons of his club.
A croak that sounded like a laugh came out of her mouth unexpectedly in reaction to his words. “I assure you this is my first and last chiropractor appointment.” She nodded toward the crowd of customers and walked closer to the bar to murmur softly, “I heard one of them call the police. You might want to get an idea of what I’m supposed to tell them.”
Rolling his eyes, he spoke out the side of his mouth with a laugh of his own. “The truth will work, since we weren’t the ones breaking the law. What I did to him was in your defense so I frankly don’t give a damn.”
Nodding, she pulled out two shot glasses, which she then filled with whiskey. Taking a shot, she pushed the other toward him. Coughing as her eyes watered, she sputtered out, “Sorry, I don’t normally drink on the job, but I need to keep from losing my mind here.”
Knocking back the shot she handed him, he shrugged with a smile. “Nothing wrong with that right now. Just don’t make it a habit.” He winked.
Shaking her head, Zowie rested her hands on her hips. “I’ll try not to make being choked a habit. Didn’t do it for me, that’s for sure. Not sure what all the crazed hostility is about.”
Before he could respond with a saucy innuendo, the police were piling into his club like they were the SWAT team, guns out and badges flashing. “We got a call about a man attacking someone in here?”
Walking toward the officer asking, Maxx kept his hands loosely at his side and nodded. “Yes, I removed him from the club and ran him off after I caught him choking my bartender on the bar over there. We’ve many witnesses if you need statements, and I could get you the security footage.”
The man nodded and made a hand motion to the other officers who put their weapons away. “We shouldn’t be too long. We’ll just get everyone’s statements and the footage and enter that into evidence. I’ll need your statement and possibly for you and the bartender to identify him if we find him.”
Nodding, he looked back at Zowie. To the officer, he said, “I want to be present when you get her statement. She was shaken up and I don’t want her to be more scared than she already is.”
The officer looked like he wanted to argue, but in the end he just nodded once. “Understood.” He then walked away to collect statements.
Maxx wasn’t certain what had prompted him to make that demand, but he felt somewhat responsible for what happened to Zowie. Maybe that was creating a caveman need to protect her. He wasn’t one to ignore his instincts, however and that was why he had no intention of leaving her alone with the police.