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Authors: Sophie Jordan

Tease

 

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Tease

 

UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

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Also by Sophie Jordan

The Ivy Chronicles

Foreplay

Historical Romance

How to Lose a Bride in One Night

The Earl in My Bed (Novella)

Lessons from a Scandalous Bride

Wicked in Your Arms

Wicked Nights with a Lover

In Scandal They Wed

Sins of a Wicked Duke

Surrender to Me

One Night with You

Too Wicked to Tame

Once upon a Wedding Night

The Firelight Series

Breathless (Novella)

Hidden

Vanish

Firelight

 

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This is an advance reader’s e-proof made from digital files of the uncorrected proofs. Readers are reminded that changes may be made prior to publication, including to the type, design, layout, or content, that are not reflected in this e-proof, and that this e-pub may not reflect the final edition. Any material to be quoted or excerpted in a review should be checked against the final published edition. Dates, prices, and manufacturing details are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

 

Tease

The Ivy Chronicles

Sophie Jordan

WILLIAM MORROW

An Imprint of
HarperCollins
Publishers

 

Copyright

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

TEASE
. Copyright © 2014 by Sharie Kohler. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

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first edition

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for.

ISBN 978-0-06-227989-7

13 14 15 16
OV/RRD
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

 

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Dedication

For Lily Dalton and Kerrelyn Sparks, my road trip compatriots

 

UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

HarperCollins
Publishers

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UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

HarperCollins
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Tease

 

UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

HarperCollins
Publishers

....................................

Chapter 1

A
re you sure this
is the place?” I stepped out of Annie’s car into the cold January night. My hand lingered on the passenger door as though I might suddenly pull it wide open again and dive back inside.

The bar looked more like a dockside warehouse than a building. A stiff wind could blow it over. More motorcycles than cars sat parked in front of the tin-walled structure. The place was crowded. There was no real rhyme or reason to the parking situation. No lines or curbs marked where to park. It was just a massive free-for-all.

“Yep,” she answered. “This is it. Maisie’s.” She waved to the red neon sign positioned at a crooked angle. Despite the sweet-sounding name, the bar looked about as innocent as . . . well. Not me.

“You sure there’s not another Maisie’s?” One that didn’t look like it could give you tetanus just by walking through the door.

“Look.” She motioned to a nearby Lexus parked between a pickup and a rusted Pinto, her breath puffing like fog from her lips. The luxury vehicle was about as out of place in the lot as we were in our skinny jeans and designer coats. She walked a few steps closer to the vehicle, her boot heels crunching over the snow-covered gravel. “It’s Noah’s car.” Noah. Annie’s latest obsession and the reason we were even here.

Nodding, I buried my hands in my coat pockets and fell into step beside her, trying to pretend that I wasn’t totally out of my element. I was all about a good time, after all. That was my rep. Nothing too wild for me. Not even a biker bar.

Still, I tried to imagine my two best friends coming here with me. It would never happen. Even if Georgia and Pepper didn’t have boyfriends who kept them occupied, this wasn’t their scene.

It’s not really yours either
.

True. I wouldn’t find my type here. No one to flirt with. Definitely no one to take back to the dorm. Maybe one of the guys in Noah’s fledgling band would qualify.

Sighing, I looked over at Annie just as she parted the front of her coat and seized both of her enormous breasts and adjusted them, making sure her cleavage was optimally displayed within the deep V of her too-small sweater. I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel with her, but there wasn’t anyone else to hang out with tonight. Georgia was out with Harris. Pepper and Reece invited me to stay in and watch a movie with them, but that always made me feel a little lonely. Isolated even though I was among friends. They were in love and it was in everything they did. Every word. Every touch. And yes. They were constantly touching each other—my presence the only thing stopping them from getting naked. It was enough to turn my stomach. But hey. Better them than me.

Love was losing control. And I never lost control. I just made it look like I did—hooking up with different guys every week—but I was always fully cognizant of my actions. In charge every moment along the way.

Sighing, I tucked a short strand of hair behind my ear. Even Suzanne, my go-to wing-girl of late, had a date tonight. All my friends had—or were close to having—boyfriends. Considering that was the last thing I wanted, I was stuck with the likes of Annie. Not the nicest girl I’d met in my two years at Dartford but she was the only one available. Since I wasn’t the kind of person to stay in and stare at the walls or watch reruns of
Glee,
that left me here. At a biker bar.

The moment we stepped inside, I decided I might have miscalculated what I could handle, because as bad as Maisie’s looked on the outside it was way worse inside.

Apparently the smoking ban was ignored here because the air was thick with the stuff. My virgin lungs seized and I coughed. As wild as I got, I didn’t smoke. Cigarettes or anything else. The worst thing I put in my body was a Taco Bell burrito. My tearing eyes squinted into the haze.

The average patron was male, over thirty, and sporting a beard and tats that didn’t especially smack of quality. Patches that looked gang related decorated their denim jackets and vests. Not that I could vouch for the authenticity of said patches, but I once watched a special on the History Channel about biker gangs and these looked legit to me.

“Annie,” I murmured, hovering in the doorway. “Are you sure about this?”

“What?” She blinked. “This is the kind of place all the great bands get their start.”

I shook my head, and said in a deceptively casual voice, all the while my eyes scanning the room, “This is the kind of placed you get knifed.”

I always did this. Watched. Assessed. I might appear carefree, but my mind was always working, always weighing and considering. I had to be this way. It’s how I made sure I never ended up in a situation that I couldn’t escape. Like before.

She rolled her eyes. “I never thought you would be such a wimp. C’mon. Let’s get a table.”

I wasn’t a wimp, but every move, every decision I made was calculated. I partied at places I knew. Mulvaney’s, Freemont’s, the familiar frat houses. I only fooled around with guys I knew, too. Even if they were strangers, I knew them. Because I knew their type. They were all the same. Easy to read. Easy to control.

Weaving through tables after Annie, it was clear there weren’t guys like that here. No. These guys looked like they’d just been released from the penitentiary. Burly and tattooed with eyes that followed us like hungry wolves. Nobody controlled them.

I stared straight ahead as if I didn’t see them. Didn’t feel their stares.

We took a table near the stage, sliding off our coats and hanging them on the backs of our chairs. Noah and his band were already performing. They weren’t very good, but I didn’t think the bar was set very high here. Just the same, I think Noah and his guys would have been better off performing something other than an old Depeche Mode song. The patrons who did pay attention didn’t look impressed.

Annie clapped loudly—the only person—as they finished one song and slid into the next. Noah winked down at her.

“Isn’t he great?” she called over to me.

“Yeah.” I winced as his voice cracked midsong. Even if I could forget that he was singing Depeche Mode in a biker bar, he was dressed in a striped button-down polo and looked like he’d just rolled out of the Gap.

“So how did he get this gig, anyway?”

Annie didn’t answer. She clasped her hands together and swayed in her seat. I rolled my eyes and searched for the waitress, hoping she would be making her way to us soon. Mind-numbing alcohol sounded like a good plan.

Tonight was one of those nights I couldn’t handle being alone. If I had stayed in, I would just be stewing over Mom and our phone call this afternoon. It happened every time we talked. Fortunately those calls were few and far between. She would heap on the guilt, remind me of what a very bad daughter I was. The only thing that made me feel any better was slamming back a few shots and wrapping myself around a cute guy who knew what to do with his lips—and it wasn’t talk.

“I need a drink,” I announced, renewing my efforts to spot a waitress.

As the song ended, I managed to snag the waitress’s attention and place an order. She didn’t even card me. Scanning the room, I was reminded of how I wasn’t going to find a cute guy here. “How long is he on for?”

She shrugged. “Dunno.”

Discouraged, I slumped in my seat, perking up when the waitress returned with our pitcher. Fortification was in order if I was going to sit through her mooning over Noah. I poured into a clear plastic cup and quickly gulped down the beer, instantly feeling warmer and more relaxed. As I drank a second cup, I squinted at the stage, checking out Noah’s drummer. Not bad. A little on the skinny side, but he had good hair. He grinned at me and I smiled back, holding up my cup in salute as he did a less than stellar job on the drums.

I scanned the room surreptitiously throughout the next few songs, nursing my third beer. I’d learned long ago if you made eye contact a guy took it as an invitation. So I didn’t make eye contact unless I was issuing an invitation, and there wouldn’t be any of that tonight. Not here anyway.

Not even when I spotted
him
.

Holy hotness
. A little shiver blew through me as I watched him from under my lashes, careful not to ogle. I drank more, as if that would kill the sudden awareness that shot through me. He was one of the youngest guys in the place, but still older than me. Probably early twenties. He greeted several people with nods and waves, a couple of slaps on the back. My gaze slid over him appreciatively as I drank. The alcohol wasn’t helping. I squirmed a little in my chair, everything inside me suddenly humming and alive.

I couldn’t stop myself. Couldn’t look away. He was
too
good-looking. In an edgy-can’t-be-tamed kind of way. In other words—not my type. Still. Looking never hurt. As long as he didn’t know I was checking him out.

Propping my chin in my palm, I lifted my drink and finished off another cup. I was definitely feeling good now. A heady euphoria wrapped around me as I checked him out.

He wore a leather biker’s jacket, slim-lined and well worn at the seams and elbows. Denim covered his long legs, a chain looping from the front of his jeans around to the back. Biker boots carried him across the bar. Even in all that clothing, he looked built.

His face was flushed and wind-chapped from the cold. His hair looked deliciously windblown. The kind of artfully wild mess—longer on the top and cropped shorter on the sides—so many guys on campus spent a long time trying to perfect. And yet I doubted he did more than run his hands through his hair when he got out of bed. He looked at home here as he settled on a stool in front of the long stretch of bar.

The bartender, an older woman with implausible red hair that bordered on purple, leaned across the counter and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. Yeah. A definite regular. Just further confirmation that I should stop staring before he noticed me.

Annie elbowed me. “Take a picture, why don’t you?”

I tore my attention away and shrugged. “He’s cute.” I hiccupped. Ugh. Beer always gave me hiccups. An unfortunate side effect.

Did I say cute?
Not cute.
Sexy hot
.

“So what are you waiting for?”

I arched an eyebrow at her.

“C’mon. It wouldn’t be a Friday night without you hooking up with someone, right?”

I glared at her. Even if there was some truth to what she was saying. Her lip was curled like she was looking at something gross on the bottom of her shoe. Funny considering she was hardly an example of sexual restraint.

“I need to use the restroom.” I hesitated, expecting her to stand and join me. I didn’t really want to walk around alone in here, but she didn’t move. Of course not. She wasn’t like Georgia or Pepper, who would insist on sticking together in a place like this. Hell, they would stick close to me in one of our usual hangouts. They were good girls. The best friends I’ve ever had. I was lucky to have them. Stuck with Annie tonight, that was painfully clear.

I pushed up from the table with a sigh. The room swayed for a bit and I steadied my hands on the table to get my balance “I’ll be back.”

Focusing on the neon restroom sign, I tried to walk in a straight line. I mostly achieved this. I think. Ignoring crude catcalls, I made it to the restroom without incident. Two other women stood in front of the mirror applying lipstick.

One froze as I entered, holding the red tube over her lips. “Oh, honey. I think you’re lost. You shouldn’t be here.”

That about summed it up. I nodded and the action made me dizzy, so I stopped and closed my eyes in a long blink. Opening my eyes, I admitted, “I might have taken a wrong turn.” A wrong turn that started with getting into Annie’s car tonight.

The second woman turned to assess me in my skinny jeans and sweater. “If I were you I’d get back in your car and find the nearest TGI Friday’s.” She wagged a finger. “This is no place for you. It gets pretty rowdy as the night wears on.” She glanced at the invisible watch on her wrist. “You got maybe one more hour.”

“Thanks. I’m not staying much longer.” At least I hoped not. Determined to convince Annie that we really should go, I used the restroom and washed my hands.

Emerging from the bathroom, I jerked to a stop at the sight of a couple stumbling down the narrow hall. The guy had one hand buried under the woman’s skirt, exposing her thong.

I blinked several times as if the action would clear my vision. The man hefted her against him, wrapping one of her legs around his waist as they fell into the wall. Her leg jutted out into the narrow hall, blocking me.
My God.
They were going to have sex right here outside the bathrooms.

They were flailing around so much, her legs scissoring the air. I couldn’t pass them. Not without risking getting crushed into the wall or impaled by one of her lethal-looking heels. And my reflexes probably weren’t the best right now. Not after four beers. Or was it five?

I eyed the pair, contemplating my move. And that’s when I noticed him on the other side of the couple. To be accurate, that’s when I noticed him noticing
me
.

He didn’t seem aware of the couple between us. He was looking directly at me. His gaze slid over me. There was nothing subtle about it. He surveyed me thoroughly, from head to toe. Like he didn’t quite know what to make of me. And I’m sure he didn’t. I wasn’t one of the typical Maisie’s clientele. Not in my black knee-high boots, jeans, and purple cashmere sweater. And not with the diamond studs in my ears that Dad bought me because he felt guilty about leaving me alone for Christmas while he took his girlfriend to Barbados.
At least he spent New Year’s with me.
I ignored the whisper reminding me that he only did that because he broke up with his girlfriend the moment they got back from Barbados.

The guy’s eyes settled on my face, and I could see they were a warm, deep brown. He looked even hotter up close. And taller than he had from across the room. Just barely over five feet, it didn’t take much for me to feel smaller than everyone else—especially guys—but the top of my head would barely reach Biker Boy’s shoulder.

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