Authors: Jenika Snow
It had only been a couple of days since she had seen Brick. Aside from that one phone call she had made to him after he left her place, Darra hadn’t spoken to him since. But that didn’t mean he hadn’t been on her mind. And she did think about him, constantly, and to the point that she was embarrassed with herself for how ridiculous she was acting. If he knew how her childhood and adolescent years had been, what she had done to herself, and to stay alive, he would be disgusted. Oh, she had no doubts Brick was far from innocent, or had experienced a +perfect life. Chances were he had his own skeletons in his closet, but that didn’t mean he’d want to be saddled with someone else’s, and a stripper’s no less. Darra hated relating herself to that term because it held so many bad connotations, but it was what it was, and until she could actually find a place willing to hire her with her “professional” background in pole grinding, she was going to have to suck it up.
She shoved the bills in her wallet and grabbed her purse. Going to that dump, as Brick had so eloquently put it, was not something that she looked forward to, but anyplace was better than here. Fortunately, no one bothered her on her way out, and right as she unlocked her car her cell started ringing. Her heart jumped a little at the thought that it might be Brick, but she quickly pushed that away and looked at her phone. The number that popped up was one she saw occasionally given the fact it was the guy that lived two apartments down from her, and one she related to the most since she moved to this town.
“Hello?” She held the cell between her ear and shoulder and opened her car door. After sliding in she immediately locked the door—a habit, but a smart one—and shoved the key in the ignition. “Hello?” she asked again. There was a bunch of people talking in the background.
Jake’s voice was static filled when it came through the receiver.
“I can barely hear you. Where are you?” She pulled out and headed home. Although Jake was in his early thirties, he had led a pretty bad life. He had been the one and only person to come and “welcome” her into their crappy complex, and ever since then they had been cool. But Jake worked nights somewhere, a place he would never talk about, and one she didn’t question, so when they did see each other it was mainly in passing. And the few times when they had eaten take-out on the floor of her apartment, and shooting the shit, Darra didn’t feel so alone.
“I just went to grab a drink with some buddies. I got out of work early, thought maybe you’d want me to bring over some pizza and beer?”
“I think you are my favorite person in the world right now.”
He chuckled. “Cool. I’ll be over in an hour or so?”
They hung up, and she rested the back of her head on the seat. For as fucked-up a childhood as Jake had, he was a very decent guy. He told her about the molestation he had endured at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend for years, and talked about the drugs and alcohol that had been a constant presence in his house while growing up. But after all of that, and the empathy and pain she felt for him because his life held a lot of the same things hers did, she hadn’t opened up. Although Jake was the only person she trusted in this town, it just hadn’t felt right to talk about her shit and add to their already crummy existence. It was just too hard to talk about, too painful to bring up even if it had been so long ago, and she was finally moving on in her life—albeit slowly—but she still was moving forward.
This new life in Steel Corner wasn’t about trying to forget the past, but of accepting it and making sure she rose above it.
Brick leaned against one of the wooden beams in the barn and watched as the two shifters went at in the center of the room. A cheetah and leopard were currently going at it, and as interesting as this kind of blood spill was, Brick was tired and had other things on his mind. Of course those other things had never left his mind since
house two days ago. But he pushed everything else away that didn’t have to do with the violence right in front of him.
The cheetah was a bloody mess with several chunks of flesh taken from its body. Splatters of red covered the dirt and hay covered floor, and the noise was deafening as guys made a loose circle around the shifters fighting it out. Yeah, this was far from fucking
legitimate work, but the pay was good, they weren’t hauling coke any longer, and all the club had to do—aside from the partner aspect of it all—was come here on shifts and make sure no one started their own unapproved fight. But normally things ran smoothly, especially when the Grizzly MC was known well in Steel Corner, and if someone wanted to mess with them than they either weren’t from around here, had never heard of their take no shit reputation, or were just plain dumb fucks.
The fight ended with the leopard taking down the cheetah, leaving it a lifeless body on the ground. Each fighter had a guy that coached them, and those males pushed people back in order to get to the animals. The leopard had already shifted back into his human form, but the cheetah had to be carried out by a couple of guys. A trail of blood followed in his wake. Money started being exchanged between the bidders, and Sticks, the guy who was a partner with the Grizzlies Jace, the Lion MC President, collected handfuls of money. Guys started heading out since the next fight wouldn’t begin for about half an
and Brick pushed away from the beam and followed Sticks into a backroom.
“We made out good tonight.” Sticks spoke to Brick but kept his back to him and went over to the desk that they put in here for such transactions.
Brick slid the door shut and leaned against it. He watched Sticks count out money and create stacks, and then he shoved each stack into a manila envelope.
He handed Brick two of the envelopes and grinned. “It was a really good night, man, and we still got two more fighters lined up for tonight, but I want to give you the club’s half now.”
Brick nodded and took them and put them in the inner pocket of his cut.
“You staying to watch the fights or heading out?”
“Court is bringing a few prospects to use as back-up tonight. I think he just wants to dick around and place bets.”
Sticks laughed. “It’s addictive, man. I mean look at the turn-out every fucking weekend? It’s like these assholes can’t get enough of watching shifters kill each other.” Yeah, violence did have the ability to cause pleasure in some. “Catch you later.”
Brick tilted his chin, opened the door, and headed back out to his bike. It was already after midnight, and although the smart thing to do would have been to go home, that wasn’t what he was going to do. After mounting his Harley, putting on his helmet, and taking the long, winding road down the mountain and back into town, there was only one place he wanted to go, and one person he wanted to see, despite knowing it was a dumb-ass move.
With the wind blowing over his face and his tires eating up the pavement, Brick could imagine that he didn’t have to worry about everything that was going through his head, and all the things he was starting to question himself about concerning one small human female. He could talk to the other members about this, maybe even speak to Jagger since he was newly involved with Sonya, but Brick had never been any good with trying to explain
in an emotional sense. And to be honest he didn’t even know what he would say. He had just met her, and although the connection he felt to her was insanely strong—if not insane in and of itself—he didn’t even know how to really handle what he felt.
Despite his better judgment Brick found himself pulling into her apartment complex’s parking lot. It was the same setup as last time: people loitering outside and music blasting from open doorways. He didn’t even know if Darra would be here, but then he saw her car and parked next to it. His bear was already pacing inside of him before he dismounted the bike. Just knowing she was here alone had his skin tightening, and every protective instinct inside of him roared out. But before he could make his way toward her apartment he stilled and watched as a male carrying a six-pack of beer and a box of pizza strode toward his female’s place.
Fuck, Brick was losing it, certifiably so, but even knowing that didn’t mean he was going to get his ass back on the bike and forget all about Darra. The guy stopped in front of her door, knocked on it, and when she opened it and her smile lit up, Brick curled his hands into fists and growled low and deep. Dammit, he should just turn around and head back to his bike and never look back. She didn’t need the likes of him in her life. But he didn’t turn around, and instead found himself walking toward her place. He didn’t give a fuck who heard the low animalistic sounds that left him with every step he took. He was barely restraining himself as it was, but when he saw the guy wrap his free hand around her waist and pulled her in for a hug, that was when he felt his bear flash across his body with the need to shift.
He quickened his pace with purposeful strides, ones filled with rage, jealousy, and all of the animal need that was burning inside of his bear. There was no more confusion on what he felt, or the need to leave her alone because that was the right thing to do. All that he cared about, and focused on right now was getting to Darra.
Fuckers moved out of his way, and the smell of their fear at knowing who he was and where he was from had a sadistic smile curving his lips. He stopped in front of Darra’s door, knowing he needed to get his shit together before he did anything that could ruin whatever he was trying to have with Darra.
Damn, what are you trying to have with her?
This wasn’t like him, and he didn’t know if he liked this new need to be so protective and territorial of a female he hardly knew. There was the sound of something breaking on the other side of the door, and his bear reacted first. He gripped the handle and twisted it while pushing it forward. The wood was weak and old, and his shifter strength had the wood and cheap locks breaking away easily. He heard Darra gasp r and turned to train his eyes on her. She stood in the kitchen with nothing but a pair of too small shorts on, and a shirt that hung off one of her shoulders. Thank fuck she was at least wearing a bra as the strap was visible. His jealousy at seeing what she wore, and then snapping his head toward the male only standing a few feet from her, had that unaccustomed emotion pumping even harder and fiercer inside of him. The sound of something breaking was clearly from a broken plate as he could see shards of it around her feet.
The surprise and a touch of fear in her voice had him trying to relax, but it was no use. His bear was the one in control now.
The guy looked between them and then lowered his eyes to scan Brick’s cut. He swallowed loud enough that Brick heard it, and the scent of his uneasiness intensified. “You two know each other?”
Brick let out a low grumble.
Darra exhaled and said, “Yeah, we know each other … kind of.”
“And you two are cool?” The guy’s voice wavered.
“We were until he broke my door when he came in here unannounced.” Brick would have smiled at the fieriness in Darra’s voice, because no one had ever dared talk to him that way. And if they did, well they never fucking did it again. But hearing it come from Darra was almost … cute.
The guy looked between them again, and his uneasiness mounted. “Maybe I uh, yeah, I’m just going to go.” He made a move toward the front door, but Brick was blocking it and the other man hesitated. The guy looked familiar, but it was most likely just the fact Brick had seen him around town at some point.
“You don’t have to go, Jake.” Darra’s surprise soon turned to annoyance and anger. “What the hell, Brick?”
He stared at her for several seconds, and the tension in the room increased. “What?” He said that one word without any emotion, but then again the only thing he felt right now was the need to kick someone’s ass and draw blood.
Her eyes widened slightly and then promptly narrowed. Jake was easing his way around Brick and toward the front door. Brick turned and looked at him, bared his teeth, and got satisfaction when Jake made a noise and hauled ass out of there. Good, maybe the fucker would think twice about trying anything on with what was Brick’s.
Yeah, Darra was his, and his bear was making that pretty damn clear. He looked down and gritted his teeth, knowing that there was going to be repercussions for his actions when it came to Darra, but there hadn’t been anyway for him to stop himself from doing this. His bear took control, and when it concerned this female, the one he wanted more than he had ever wanted anything before, then his animal did whatever the fuck it wanted to do. “If you choose a male…” He lifted just his eyes so he was staring at her. “Then make sure it is one that won’t piss himself and leave you here with a male that just broke down your front door.” He growled out the last word, because even if Darra had told Jake she knew Brick, that asshole shouldn’t have left her alone. Fuck, she was hot when she was pissed, and what he imagined was having her pull at his hair, bite at his flesh, and claw at his back as he fucked her good and hard. He’d make her realize that he was for her, and she was his.
“You … I just can’t believe you.” She threw her hands up in the air, and he could see the way they shook from her emotions. “You can’t just come into someone’s house and go all
, like I’m your piece of property or something.”
He smirked, a twinge of humor filling him at the fire that came from her. “I don’t even know you, but you’re acting like,” she looked away for a second, and although he knew what she was going to say, everything inside of him tightened at the idea that she was going to say it.
“Say it.” He growled out those two words. At that moment he needed to hear her say it more than he needed to
She snapped her head toward him, and she clenched her jaw.
“Like I’m yours.”
He took a step toward her, and he watched as she inhaled deeply and held her breath. “This thing that I feel for you,” he took another step toward, “doesn’t make any sense.” He moved closer and closer, until the shattered plate crunched beneath his boots and he was only inches from her. She had to crane her head back in order to look at his face, and Brick tightened his hands against his outer thighs in order to stop himself from reaching out and touching her.
“What?” Her voice was so low and soft that it was nothing but a mere whisper.
He heard her regardless, and felt his dick harden over the fact this female tried to act so strong, but had him adoring her even more. She grew visibly pliant in front of him, and the sweet scent of the arousal she was so desperately trying to keep in check made its way out of her and filled his nose. He closed the distance between them, and she retreated one step back. They did this dance of steps until the counter in her kitchen stopped her from moving away from him. Brick leaned forward, rested his hands on the counter on either side of her, caging her in, and lowered his eyes so he could stare at her parted lips.
“You heard me, female, and know that you also feel these things,” Brick stated low and deep, and couldn’t help the growl that was laced in his words. He lifted his gaze up the smooth column of her throat, watched as her pulse beat erratically right below her ear, and then continued to lift his eyes so he was staring into her bright blue ones. “I can smell it on you. You want me, yet fight it, the same way I do.” His chest brushed against hers when he inhaled deeply, and the big, soft mounds of her breasts had him curling his fingers into the cheap and cracked Formica countertop. “Does this make any sense?” He didn’t wait for her to respond. “No, it sure as fuck doesn’t.” He moved his hands closer to her until they brushed lightly against her hips and he held back the need to groan at that light brush against her. “Have I ever felt this possessive of a female?” He shook his head slowly. “No. But what I do know is that I have no plans on turning my back from this, whatever the fuck this is. I’ve never felt this way before about anything.” He leaned in even more so there was hardly any space that separated their lips. A possessive thrill raced through him at the fact she didn’t move her head away and that the scent of her desire for him intensified.