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Authors: Elle Kennedy

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Series

One Night of Trouble (15 page)

BOOK: One Night of Trouble
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Despite the small victory, Brett got the unsettling feeling that it was going to be a
very
long hour.


“You okay?” AJ studied Brett’s face as they entered her apartment.

He’d had to cancel their dinner reservations because Brett had changed her mind about going out. She’d suggested they order in instead, winking as if to imply that it was for sex purposes, but he’d seen right through her.

“I’m fine,” she said, the epitome of noncommittal.

She was lying. He knew she wasn’t fine. And he knew why.

“Bull,” he said softly. “You’re upset, and I don’t blame you. Darcy was acting…” He trailed off, unsure how to phrase it.

“I think the word you’re looking for is
bitchy
.”

She bent over to unzip one boot, which caused her dress to ride up her thighs. Her koi fish tattoo peeked out enticingly, but he forced himself to stay focused. He watched as she kicked each boot onto the mat in the front hall, her previously casual body language stiffening to reveal the hurt she’d been trying to hide.

“I don’t know what got into her,” AJ admitted. “She’s not usually so…”

“Bitchy?” Brett supplied.

Fine. He’d call a spade a spade. Darcy had been bitchier than he’d ever seen her, and for a woman who was usually sweeter than cherry pie, AJ had been shocked by the sudden personality shift. Darcy’s hostility toward Brett had been palpable, so much so that Reed had even apologized to AJ in private before he and Brett had left Sin.

Was Darcy jealous?

The thought had occurred to him somewhere between the first and last barbed remark she’d tossed in Brett’s direction, but it made no fucking sense to him. He and Darcy had only dated for five months, and any idiot could see that she was madly in love with Reed. Since she’d started dating his best friend, she’d given AJ no indication that she still had feelings for him. Which made her antagonism of Brett completely baffling.

“God, you can’t be
that
clueless.”

Brett’s grumble interrupted his train of thought, making him frown. “What do you mean?”

“Your ex-girlfriend doesn’t think I’m good enough for you.”

His brow creased even harder. “That’s not true.”

“Yes, it is. That’s why she was glaring at me the whole time like I was robbing her house or something. And all those comments about what a good guy you are, directly followed by snippy jabs about my tats or my job or the fact that I’m
three whole years
younger than you? She might as well have paid for a billboard and pasted it all over the city. In neon pink.”

Although her blunt evaluation of the evening disturbed him, AJ couldn’t deny it was pretty much how things had gone down.

“I get it. She’s your ex, and she’s protective of you.” Brett shrugged. “But with that said, don’t blame me when I say I’m not interested in hanging out with her again.”

Guilt dripped down his spine, along with a hefty dose of indignation on Brett’s behalf. She hadn’t deserved to be treated like an unwanted intruder, and he definitely planned on having a talk with Darcy the next time he saw her.

“C’mere.” He opened his arms, beckoning at her. “Forget about Darcy. It doesn’t matter what she thinks or why she decided to act like a dick. All that matters is what I think.”

Brett stepped into his waiting embrace and wrapped her slender arms around his waist. A pleading note—shocking and unexpected—wobbled in her voice. “And what
do
you think?”

“I think you’re beautiful.” He stroked her hair, then grazed his fingers over the angel on her upper arm. “I think you’re smart. And strong. And confident.”

He moved his hands lower, cupping her ass. “I think you’re sexy.” He angled her body into his groin so she could feel his hard-on. “I think you turn me on like no other woman ever has.”

“Including Darcy?” The question was muffled against his chest.

“Including Darcy.” He kissed her neck, inhaling the scent of body lotion and a fragrance that was uniquely Brett. Spicy and hot and addictive. “Everything about you gets me hard. The sound of your voice, the way you smell. You’re perfect.”

“I’m not perfect.”

“Oh, but you are.” AJ slipped his hand beneath her dress and delicately pushed aside the crotch of her panties. When he felt the moisture pooled at her opening, he groaned. “Perfect,” he repeated.

Brett rocked into his touch, a breathless sound leaving her lips. He loved the noises she made when he put his hands on her. Loved knowing that he had the power to make her tremble, moan, beg.

He swept his fingers upward and sought out her clit, finding it hot and swollen to the touch. As he tickled the taut bud, Brett’s eyelids fluttered, and she let out a dreamy sigh.

“So good,” she whispered. “Keep doing that.”

“Only gonna get better, baby.”

AJ slid down to his knees and circled her shapely ankles with his hands, rubbing his thumbs over her smooth skin. She shivered, then yelped when he tugged one leg and lifted it up to his shoulder, fully exposing her to him.

“Oh yeah,” he rasped. “So much better.”

His pulse raced as he placed a tender kiss on her pretty pink folds, tasting her, exploring. He went down on her right there in the hallway, using his tongue and fingers to make her come apart, which took no time at all. And even as her body continued to tremble from the orgasm, he scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bedroom. Screw dinner. He had more pressing matters on his mind right now.

He stripped off her dress, followed by every stitch of clothing covering him. Then he laid her down on the bed, and for the next hour, proceeded to kiss every inch of her body. Her tattoos. Her nipples. Her pussy again. The hurt look on Brett’s face had been branded into his memory, and he was desperate to erase it, desperate to show her that she
was
important. That she deserved to be adored and appreciated and worshipped, damn it.

“Oh God, what are you
doing
to me?” she choked out when his tongue yet again circled her clit.

“Everything,” he said simply.

Slipping two fingers into her tight channel, he resumed his single-minded objective to make her come again. Christ, she really was perfect. Soft and warm and beautiful, melting into the mattress as he gently coaxed her back to the edge.

His cock was rock hard and raring to go, and when he finally climbed up her body and slid inside her, he almost lost it on the first thrust.

“I love this,” Brett whispered. Her arms looped around his neck and her legs circled his waist, the heels of her feet digging into his buttocks.

She arched her hips, and a shock of pleasure raced down his spine and tingled in his balls. Slow. He had to go slow. Make it last. Make it
good
.

But Brett had clearly had enough of the painstaking pace he’d set. Her ass rose off the bed to meet his thrusts, her legs trapping him against her, giving him no choice but to thrust back. To wildly grind into her and make both of them moan with abandon.

Ecstasy twisted in his gut, spilling over before he could stop it. AJ came with a groan, burying his face in her neck as release barreled through him in pulsing waves and stole every coherent thought from his head.

Later, after they’d devoured fifty dollars worth of Chinese takeout, they nestled together in each other’s arms, Brett’s cheek pressed to his bare chest as he lazily twined a strand of her hair between his fingers.

Her warm breath fanned over his pecs. “Why don’t you ever want to hang out at your place?”

AJ was surprised it had taken her this long to voice the question, but he supposed there was no avoiding it now that they were dating.

Dating. Man, the concept still felt so foreign to him. He hadn’t expected to get attached to this woman. Hadn’t expected the gut-wrenching stab he’d felt last week when he’d imagined saying good-bye to her.

“I like it better here,” he answered, absently stroking her back.

“Why?”

“I don’t know… Your place feels…lived in, I guess. Welcoming. It has personality—
your
personality.”

“And yours doesn’t?”

“Not really.” He paused. “My mother decorated it, and honestly, it’s never felt like home to me.”

Brett sounded upset. “Didn’t you have any say? You didn’t pick out furniture or colors or artwork?”

“Nope. She did it all.”

“You could have said no,” she pointed out.

“I could’ve, but I didn’t. I guess I didn’t see the harm in letting her have her way. I’d already let her down about so many other things. If decorating my apartment made her happy, then I figured, why not.”

“But it’s
your
home.” Brett raised herself up on her elbow. “You should have done it your way.”

“Maybe, but I didn’t, and now I’ve gotta live with it. Or
in
it. Whatever.”

He shrugged, ready to change the subject, but he didn’t get the chance, because loud knocking suddenly blasted through the apartment, causing him and Brett to exchange startled looks.

“What the hell?” she muttered, with a quick glance at the bedside clock.

He followed her gaze, noting that it was nearly midnight. What the hell, indeed.

Brett sat up uneasily and pulled the sheet over her naked breasts. The pounding on the front door didn’t let up. It only got louder and more persistent as the door remained unanswered.

And then a muffled male voice reached their ears.

“Brett! Let me in!”

AJ’s chest stiffened at the same time Brett’s eyes went as wide as Frisbees. “Shit,” she blurted out. “
Shit
.”

AJ was out of bed in a heartbeat. “Who is it?” he demanded, his protective urges roaring to life as the voice continued to scream Brett’s name.

She met his gaze, anger and horror flashing on her face. “My ex-boyfriend.”

Chapter Fifteen

Brett flew off the bed in a frenzied search for something to wear. AJ’s T-shirt was the first item her panicked fingers collided with, and she slipped it on in a hurry, only realizing afterward that commandeering his shirt left him with nothing to wear. But she was too panicked to care. Troy’s voice continued to reverberate in the apartment, growing more and more desperate by the second.

“Brett! I know you’re in there! I saw your car outside! Open the damn door!”

As the pounding on the door escalated, honest-to-God fear pricked at Brett’s flesh. Troy hadn’t gotten violent with her when they’d been together, but she’d never heard him sound like this before.

“Stay here.” AJ’s low command penetrated the shrieking alarms going off in her head.

She turned to see him buttoning his black trousers, his blond hair tousled and mouth carved in a deadly line.

Her faculties swiftly returned to her. “No,” she blurted out. “You stay here. I’ll deal with him.”

“If you honestly think I’m going to let you handle this alone, then you’re…” He didn’t even finish the sentence.

He was already marching out the door.

Brett hurried after him, her panic intensifying when she glimpsed the inflexible set of his broad shoulders. Bare-chested and barefoot, he painted an imposing picture that would go over like a sack of bricks with Troy. Her ex might not have been violent, but he was possessive as hell, and Brett was suddenly terrified of what he’d do when he found another man in her apartment.

AJ, however, didn’t seem at all concerned. Once he reached the front hall, he threw open the door and took an intimidating step toward her ex.

So much for rehab—Troy was drunk. Very, very drunk. Brett had borne witness to those bloodshot eyes and stumbling posture countless times before.

But the fury was new.

Red-hot and palpable, blazing hotter when Troy looked from AJ’s bare chest to Brett’s oversized and very masculine T-shirt.

“What the hell!” he roared. “You’re screwing around with some loser while I’m standing outside your door trying to talk to you!”

“What are you doing here?” she shot back. “I already told you—I have no interest in seeing you.”

“I don’t give a
shit
what you want! Tell this loser to go. We need to talk.”

Brett’s heart stopped when Troy tried to elbow his way inside, but she’d underestimated AJ’s reflexes. In the blink of an eye, he’d shoved the slurring man into the hallway, every muscle in his body flexing with power as he pushed Troy against the wall and jammed his forearm into the man’s throat.

“You heard the lady,” AJ hissed. “She doesn’t want you here.” He dug his arm harder, making Troy gasp. “Which means you have five seconds to get your ass out of here before we call the cops.”

“Screw you!” was the hoarse response.

Brett lunged at AJ, grabbing onto his waist in an attempt to pull him back. “AJ. Stop,” she pleaded. “Let him go.”

At the feel of her hands on his skin, his torso relaxed. Slightly. He looked over, and the menacing gleam in his green eyes sent a ripple of shock through her. She’d never seen that look on his face. Lethal and enraged, with a hard glint of protectiveness that evoked an untimely burst of pleasure. He would protect her to his last breath, she realized. Do any damn thing he needed in order to keep her safe.

But there was no way she was letting him.

“He’s not worth it,” she murmured against his shoulder blades. “Let him go.”

AJ’s body was straining again, his breathing labored as he twisted his head to meet her gaze. But it was a costly mistake, taking his attention off Troy. Brett’s drunken ex was as tall and broad as AJ, and he took advantage of the other man’s distraction, wiggling out of AJ’s iron grip and unleashing his fist.

Brett cried out as AJ’s head was thrown back from the blow. The next thing she knew, she was being manhandled, pushed to the side as AJ sprang to action. Troy was ready for the attack this time, fists swinging wildly as Brett watched in horror.

A crack sliced the air when AJ landed an uppercut on Troy’s jaw. Brett had never seen anyone move so fast, and it was hard not to picture that same lethal speed in a fighting cage, those same precise jabs and right hooks as AJ took down an opponent.

The fight was over before it even began. After that first punch, Troy didn’t stand a chance in the face of AJ’s deadly domination.

With an agonized whimper, Troy raised one hand in surrender, using the other one to frantically swipe at the blood pouring from the lip AJ had just split.

“Get your phone, Brett,” AJ said ominously. “It’s time to call the police.”

“No!” Troy burst out. He stumbled backward, until his shoulders connected with the wall. “Don’t call the cops. I’m going. I swear.” His rattled eyes darted in Brett’s direction, sheer misery making his voice crack. “I just wanted to talk to you, damn it. You can’t take this job away from me, baby. Please.”

Confusion joined the adrenaline coursing in her blood. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Her ex ignored her, stammering wildly. “You can’t do this to me. I get it—I hurt you. But you can’t go around telling every studio in town not to hire me. I’m a good artist, goddamn it! I’m
good
! You can’t—”

“I haven’t done a damn thing,” she interrupted coldly. “I know you tried to apply at our new place, but you’re cuckoo-frickin’-crazy if you think my dad would ever hire you. As for the other studios in Boston, did you ever stop to think that maybe the reason nobody’s hiring you is because they know what a pathetic screwup you are?”

Troy’s entire face collapsed. “I got fired from Razor’s, Brett. I
need
this job.”

“There is no job. Not at my shop, and clearly nowhere else, either.” She inhaled slowly. “You need to go now.”

“Or what?” He cast a petulant look at AJ. “You’ll sic this crazy mofo on me again?”

“No.” She set her jaw. “I’ll beat the crap out of you myself.”

AJ’s faint snicker made Troy’s nostrils flare.

“You know what?” he muttered. “Screw you, Brett. Screw
both
of you. I’m not putting up with your BS anymore.” His whole body swayed as he stumbled toward the staircase. “Have a nice life.”

Unsteady footsteps echoed down the stairs, followed by the deafening slam of the door below them. As her ex-boyfriend once again walked out of her life, Brett looked over at AJ, unsure of what to say.

She wanted to apologize to him for Troy. She wanted to yell at him for putting himself in harm’s way. She wanted to kiss him for sticking up for her.

But then she glimpsed the swollen red mark beneath his cheekbone, and all she wanted to do was take care of him.

“Come on, we should put some ice on that.”

Neither of them spoke as they walked inside. In the kitchen, Brett grabbed a bag of frozen peas from the freezer, then pressed it to AJ’s cheek.

God, she hated that he’d gotten hurt defending her, but she knew she’d never forget the lightning speed with which he’d moved, or the waves of danger that had rippled in his roped muscles.

And yet she wasn’t surprised when he voiced a quick, shame-laced apology.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have wailed on him like that.”

Frustration clamped around Brett’s throat as he once again apologized for who he was. As he once again ducked behind the mask and hid another part of himself from the world.

He’d done it earlier too, when they’d been around his friends. Darcy’s coldness had been annoying, but that wasn’t the sole reason Brett had been upset when they’d gotten home. She hadn’t liked the way AJ had acted at the club. Mr. Good Guy, pouring drinks for everyone, bending over backward to make up for Darcy’s hostility, biting back the raunchy remarks he usually had no problem saying to her.

She understood why he felt the need to project that image, but damn it, she didn’t like it. She liked AJ exactly the way he was, every complicated facet to him. Sweet and tender. Bold and reckless. Strong and deadly. Indecent and dirty.

“Don’t apologize,” she said quietly. “He had it coming.”

“Oh, a hundred percent. But…” A beat of hesitation. “But I wish you hadn’t seen me like that. So out of control.”

“You looked very in control to me.”

“Yes, but…” He visibly gulped. “I don’t want you to be scared of me.”

“Scared of you? God, AJ. I could never be scared of you.” She dropped the bag of peas on the counter and reached up to cup his strong jaw. “I don’t think you realize how good you’ve been for me.”

A tentative smile lifted the corner of his mouth. “Really?”

“This is the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in. I’m…” She chewed her lip as she tried to put her emotions into words. “I’m not a pushover when I’m with you, and you don’t demand that I devote every second of my time to you. I mean, I see you almost every day, but I’m still focused on work and able to do my job. It’s like I’ve finally found a way to balance life and a relationship.” She offered a little grin. “And watching you kick Troy’s ass tonight was a major turn-on. Now I’m dying to track down footage of your old fights so I can see some more ass-kicking.”

“Yeah?” he murmured.

“Oh yeah.” She brushed a kiss on his lips. “You defended me tonight, and I’m very grateful for that.
Troy
was the one who was out of control. I thought I could handle it myself, but now I’m not so sure. I’m glad you were here.”

The confession seemed to drain the remaining tension from his body. He sagged into her touch, rubbing his cheeks against her palms. “I’m glad I was here, too.”

Brett rested her head on his bare chest. The thump of his heartbeat vibrated against her ear, soothing her.

Let me show you who I am
.

The husky words he’d said to her at Sin floated into her mind. He’d kept that promise. He’d shown her exactly who he was that first night, and she found comfort in the knowledge that AJ didn’t hide himself from her. But he hid from everyone else. His friends, his family…

Brett didn’t like it. She wanted AJ to be as proud of himself as she was of him.

Now she just had to convince him.

BOOK: One Night of Trouble
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