Exquisite Innocence(Iron Horse MC, #5)

Short Novel

Coming August 21st, 2017

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 I've spent my entire life on my parent's isolated religious compound, sheltered and cut off from the rest of the world. It left me ill prepared to face the evil that invaded my home, and after a horrific encounter with demons masquerading as men, I fled. Some might say that my refuge is even worse than the prison I grew up in, but the men and women of the Iron Horse MC have been better to me than my own family. Unfortunately, the trouble I thought I left behind is still hunting me for reasons I don’t understand. Hustler has been assigned to be my guardian, but to my foolish heart he may be the biggest threat of all. Everything inside of me tells me we belong together, that I’ve been put on this earth to be his, but he insists we’ll never be anything more than friends.


For as long as I can remember the Iron Horse MC has been my family. I've fought, bled, and sacrificed a piece of my soul for my brothers, but I've been set up, labeled a traitor by those I trusted most. My only hope comes in the form of a naive young girl I've been tasked with protecting, a woman who’s haunted both my heart and dreams. She’s everything good and beautiful in this world, and while I shouldn't allow her to tarnish herself by loving me, I’ll do everything I can to make sure she survives. 

Exquisite Innocence is a 55,000 word short novel and book 1 of 2 for Hustler and Lyric's story. Book 2, the conclusion of their story in the Iron Horse MC saga, will be out before Christmas. (This unconventional MC series is one that SHOULD be read in order, starting with Exquisite Trouble)

Chapter 1


Lyric Ashton

Humming to myself, I washed my hands in the tepid water at the row of sinks in the “women’s” tent situated near the line of really nice portable bathrooms. Thank goodness those restrooms were close to the reception, because of the couple glasses of crisp champagne I’d indulged in tonight was going right through me. Purple and cream flower arrangements were placed strategically around the open space, and the white fabric walls billowed and moved with a light breeze. Fairy lights and antique looking lanterns had been strung around the ceiling of the tent, and I marveled that Sarah could make even the temporary restrooms of the wedding reception elegant and pretty.  
An older woman with short gray-streaked brown hair stood next to me at the sink, the faint scent of cigarette smoke mixing with her perfume. I was pretty sure I’d met her at the big barbeque the Andersons had hosted last night, but I couldn’t remember who she was. Catching me looking at her, she smiled, the lines in her tanned skin deepening.
“You’re Lyric, right?”
Her smile was so friendly that my normal anxiety around strangers vanished. “Yes, I am.”
“You probably don’t remember me, but my name is Mouse. I’m Beach’s mom—Sarah’s mother-in-law.”
I remembered meeting her, a born-and-bred biker lady who wore her “Support Your Local Iron Horse MC” t-shirt proudly. Yesterday, she’d had a faded black bandanna tied over her hair and had blended in with the rest of the biker crowd with her bright pink lipstick and larger-than-life persona. Today she wore a lovely blue chiffon dress that flattered her small figure and her makeup was subtle and perfectly done. Her short cap of hair had been carefully styled and she wore a lovely set of pearls that glowed in the soft light.
“Oh…oh yes, of course. Wow, you look different.” I placed a horrified hand over my mouth when her eyes widened. “I mean, different in a good way. Not that you looked bad before. Oh no, I’m not making this any better, am I?”
Laughing, Mouse patted my bare shoulder exposed by my silvery bridesmaid dress. “Honey, you’re fine. I imagine I do look different. But, you know, every once in a while, I like to get all gussied up. Reminds me I’m a woman, not just a mom.”
“Well, you look beautiful.”
“Aren’t you sweet. Are you having fun?”
“Yes. I’ve never been to a party like this. Everything is so wonderful.” I dried my hands as I smiled.
We walked out together, the cool evening air feeling good on my skin. Tiki torches lined the way between the massive main tent where the reception was being held, and the various smaller tents off to the side. It still made me do a double take to see the Anderson’s property transformed for the night from a working ranch to this elegant and lovely party.
“Shit on toast,” Mouse muttered as we neared the main tent. “I think I left my purse in the lady’s lounge. It’s so dark out, I’m afraid I’ll fall and bust my hip trying to make it back there. Do you think you could be a dear and fetch it for me? It’s sparkly blue with a lily clasp.”
“Of course.”
“Thank you so much. My eyes aren’t what they used to be and I feel like I’m as blind as a bat out here.”
Glad to be able to help someone, I smiled. “Really, it’s not a problem.”
“I’ll wait for you inside at the groom’s table.”
Most of the crowd was partying it up at the reception, and the staging area where everyone had gotten ready was deserted. The torches had been blown out and most of the tents, where all the food and drink prep had taken place, were closed and dark. From here, the roar of hundreds of people having a good time was muted, and the thump of the music blended into the wind whispering through the trees. My dress sparkled in the moonlight, and I felt kind of like I was living in a dream.
It didn’t take me long to reach the women’s tent, and it was easy to spot Mouse’s purse twinkling on the edge of the couch in the low light of an electric lantern.
As I ducked back out of the tent, I paused, a familiar male voice catching my ear from somewhere around the other side.
“I’m glad we could meet. My dad has been waiting for an opportunity to strike back at those thieving spic and nigger bastards. And what they did to Red…to your family…they need to pay. We’re more than happy to offer you any support we can.”
My heart gave a hard lurch. Shoot, it was Clint. He was the only son of Pastor Middleton, the disgraceful man that now headed my church after my father’s death. Clint was a jerk, mean and spiteful, even though he tried to pretend to be charming around me. Then again, his dad was dating my mom, so maybe he thought he had to be nice to me. The idea of Clint someday being my stepbrother made me shiver. He treated pretty much everyone like they were beneath him, and he had a wicked temper. I can still remember him beating the crud out of one of his father’s followers for scratching the paint on his motorcycle while washing it.
He also seemed to view himself as my personal jailer. No matter where I went or what I did, either Clint or one of his minions would always be there. It was probably on the orders of his dad, Pastor Middleton; he firmly believed a woman was too dumb to live her life without a man running it. Still, it chafed. My life in the church had always been restricted, but now I couldn’t leave the house without someone shadowing me. The only time I had any peace was when I was tending the orchard or at my grandmother’s home.
A tiny spark of anger flared to life in me. Clint wasn’t supposed to be here. He’d tried to invite himself as my guest, but thankfully, Mike and Mimi Anderson nixed that idea. They knew I didn’t like him and Mike thought Clint was a slimy, shifty piece of crap. I didn’t disagree with him. Though handsome with his dark hair and blue eyes, there was something about Clint that set me on edge from the moment I met him.
Moving quietly, I crept around the side of the tent, making sure my shimmering dress was out of sight. A quick glance around the corner showed two men talking, but I glimpsed enough of Clint’s profile to know for sure it was him. He was dressed in his usual dress pants and button-down shirt, his black cowboy hat shading most of his face in the moonlight. I recognized the big silver cross buckle on his belt, the heavy gold nugget ring on his hand, and the way that he stood with his nose in the air. The guy he was talking to was turned away from me, and partially obscured by a stack of folded tables. All I could make out was a hint of dark hair, and that he was taller than Clint.
The other man murmured in a low voice I had to strain to hear, “Thank you. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him.”
“Bunch of fuckin’ shit, what happened with the club. You should be the president, Chief, not that wetback motherfucker. Red always meant for you to take over. Don’t know how you’ve managed to keep from killing them. I’d have snapped and gunned the fuckers down a long time ago.”
The anger in the strange man’s muffled voice made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. “Patience and planning. Their days are coming to an end, and when they do, I’ll need men like you and Jeb at my side.”
“Anything you need, Chief. We’ve enjoyed working with you in the past, you always have the best merchandise. But I got a favor I need to ask you. There’s a woman at the party. Long brown hair, one of the bridesmaids.”
“Your woman?”
Clint’s laugh was low and unkind. “That homely bitch? Fuck, no.”
Their voices grew lower, nothing more than a hum, and I tried to listen, but it was impossible to make out what they were saying. The curious part of me wanted to scoot closer, to try and overhear whatever they were talking about, but I didn’t want to risk getting caught. I had no doubt if Clint saw me, he’d try to take me back to the church, and I didn’t want to leave. This party was my one chance to be wild and free before returning to the depressing chains of my life. Moving faster, I practically sprinted to the big white tent. Once I was inside, surrounded by all those people, there was no way Clint could grab me without causing a scene.
My breath came out in little puffs as I made it through the floral-covered archway leading into the reception, my gaze searching out friendly faces. It didn’t take me long to find Mouse sitting at a table loaded with old bikers, and I quickly handed her the purse. She was sitting close to the entrance and I wanted to be somewhere further away, so after a little bit of small talk I wandered off into the crowd. There had to be close to three hundred people filling the tent and I kept at the edges of the gathering, careful not to make eye contact or draw attention to myself.
Music pounded into the night, the bass strong enough that I could feel it thumping through the ground from the giant speakers that surrounded the crowded dance floor. No doubt, the wedding reception was the loudest thing for a hundred miles in every direction. In honor of his twin daughters both getting married, Mike Anderson’s normally quiet compound was overrun by wild bikers and their equally wild ladies with a party to end all parties. On the bride’s side was a massive Italian family that was heavily involved in the mafia, and assorted contract killers and assassins that were friends of Mike’s.
Not your usual family, but Swan and Sarah Anderson aren’t your usual women. They weren’t just beautiful on the outside, though they both looked like Kate Upton, absolutely stunning blondes with the kind of bodies that made men do triple takes, but on the inside as well. Swan and Sarah were smart, funny, kind, and among my best friends. I missed them immensely. They’d both moved away from their father’s home like normal adult women a few years ago, while I’d remained behind on my family’s religious compound, due to circumstances beyond my control.
Moving among the chairs, I picked an empty table at the back of the room to sit at, hoping to blend in. A circulating server offered me a glass of champagne, and I positioned myself at the table so I could see the main entrance, but still kind of hidden behind a large floral centerpiece. Peering between the white orchids and purple lilacs, I relaxed when, after fifteen minutes, there was no sign of Clint.
Laughter rang out nearby and I watched out of the corner of my eye as a group of rowdy strangers did shots. I wanted to openly stare at them, but figured that probably wasn’t a good idea. So instead my gaze darted around the room, landing here and there for a minute or so to observe. And there was so much to look at. We were in a huge white tent in the middle of Hill Country, Texas and it looked like something out of a movie. Little twinkle lights were twined around bundles of lilac branches, their sweet scent blending with the fresh scents of grass and clean air.
The bridesmaid dress I wore was starting to pinch at the side of my breasts and I tugged at it, busy people watching.
See, growing up on the isolated religious compound adjacent to the Anderson’s property didn’t give me very many opportunities to see “normal” people. The only time I’ve left the compound was for a funeral for my great-grandfather, so I was always hungry for a glimpse at how everyone in the real world looked and acted. Oh, I’d spent a good chunk of my life growing up with either the Andersons or my friend Indigo’s family, the Yazukis, so it wasn’t like I was totally clueless. Indigo’s family lived on a hippy commune populated by two hundred hippy families that believed in free love.
My church didn’t believe in free anything.
Shaking off the dark feelings trying to drag me down, I lifted my heavy hair off my neck and began to expertly twist it up into a bun. It was so long I could literally tie a knot in my hair and be done with it. Despite the cool evening air, inside the tent it was getting steamy, as more and more people filled the large wooden dance floor. The DJ was playing music that made me wiggle in my seat, but the dance floor was crowded and I was short. That meant I’d get squished between backs and chests, and that was no fun.
A couple, all wrapped up in each other and kissing heavily, bumped into my chair as they stumbled past me with an apology and a smile.
My cheeks flushed and I didn’t say anything as they quickly made their way outdoors. As they left the tent, my imagination took over, and in my mind’s eye I pictured them finding a quiet place in the darkness to enjoy each other. I wondered what that would be like, to steal kisses with someone you loved. My hormones kicked in and I could all too easily imagine some stranger licking at my lips, his firm grip holding the back of my neck. A flutter of heat went through me and I looked away from the now-empty exit leading out of the tent then turned my attention back to the increasingly raucous crowd.
Never in my life had I been to a party like this. It blew my mind on every level, and not just because of the lush, perfectly romantic floral arrangements decorating the big white tent. Nor was it how there had to be a thousand balloons filling the arched ceiling with long, silvery ribbons tied to them. No, I was excited because this wedding was like a visual buffet for me, an exotic feast for my starved senses. I haven’t been around this many…different people before. If my life was an ice cream flavor, it wouldn’t even be flavorful enough to call it vanilla.
I was more like…skim milk-flavored ice cream.
But this wedding reception…it was a million different flavors of ice cream, each more interesting than the last.
To my left, one of the young Italian male wedding guests—I think from the bride’s side of the family—laughed as the older and elegant brunette Mimi Anderson, the bride’s mother, pulled a knife out of his jacket pocket, then held it to his throat at the speed of lightning. She then gave him his knife back and a kiss on the cheek while he laughed, and hugged her with obvious affection.
I loved Mimi like my own mother, in many ways—God forgive me—more than my own mother. Before he passed, my dad was very stern and ruled my life with an iron fist, but he was affectionate in his own way, while my mother seemed to barely tolerate my presence. When I was growing up, my parents went on missions for our church for months, returning only briefly before leaving again. I’d often spend the majority of the time they were away on Mike and Mimi’s compound. Even though it was underground in some crazy bomb shelter, it was filled with all the warmth and love I wasn’t getting at home. I always felt cherished by the Andersons, and Mike’s protectiveness over me never failed to warm my heart.
Next to Mimi’s family, and a few massive round tables back, the bikers held court with wild abandon. Swan, with her long blonde hair pulled back in an elegant twist, smiled up at her handsome, and a bit scary, Latino husband, Smoke. He wore a black leather vest over his white tuxedo shirt, like all the biker guys did, and the patch on his back said “Iron Horse MC” and below it, “National Master-at-Arms.”
At first, I’d been startled by the sight of the vests, but relaxed when I realized it wasn’t the bikers that had started visiting my compound. The new pastor, who took over after my father died, was friends with a white power biker group. They came to visit every once in a while, but I avoided them after I learned they believed the white race should rule the world, and everyone else should be their slaves. They’d treated the ethnic families that were part of the church like dirt, and I know that had to be one of the main reasons those families had left the compound over the past few months.
When I complained about the bikers’ racist behavior, Pastor Middleton said that the church was open to everyone seeking God, but I’d never seen the bikers attend one church meeting. All their prayer was done with Pastor Middleton in private. Without a doubt, something bad was going on behind closed doors, but I had no one I could share my suspicions with. Most of the original church members and their families had fled, leaving me behind with the church members too elderly to travel—like my grandmother—or too poor to seek a new life. For many of us the church was the only world we’d ever known, and we were ill-equipped to seek a life outside of the walls of our compound.
A sense of helplessness tried to overcome me, and I did what I always do when I’m stressed; I prayed:
Dear God, please give me the strength to do your will. And if it pleases you, I wouldn’t mind a miracle thrown my way. I know you help those that help themselves, but I’m backed into a corner by the lions, and I pray for your mercy.
Slowly, peace settled over me, and I let my connection with God soothe me. While my relationship with the Lord wasn’t conventional, it was solid and my faith had withstood many challenges. I might not believe a lot of what my church says—the dumb and vicious rules they made up in the name of God—but I never doubted His existence or love for me. I just think He’s a lot more relaxed and loving than most Christian religions portray Him. People seem so eager to claim that God hated this or that, but I always thought they were wrong. If God was love, and in loving others we loved Him, then the Devil was hate and when we hated, we only made the Devil stronger.
“Hey girlie, you doing okay over here?”
My good friend Indigo took a seat in the empty chair next to me. With her long black hair and bombshell body, Indigo drew attention everywhere she went. She was half Japanese, half American, and had full sleeve tattoos on both arms. Growing up, Indigo had been the one to encourage me to step outside of my comfort zone, to help me learn how to be brave, and I loved her for it.
“Earth to Lyric.” She snapped her fingers in my face, her pouty red lips bowing down. “Are you spacing out on me again?”
“No, I’m sorry. I just have a lot on my mind.”
She took a big swig of champagne. “I hear you on that one. What are you doing by yourself over here?”
“Just watching.”
Clucking her tongue, she tossed her silky dark hair over her shoulder.
“Don’t watch, indulge. Live in the moment. You need to experience life a little, darling girl.” She nodded and hefted a half-full bottle of champagne onto the table. “Drink up, my love. This is the good stuff.”
I smiled and let her top my glass off. “Thanks.”
“So, you think you’ll get brave enough to actually talk to anyone tonight? You know, since you told me earlier you planned on having your first one-night stand. Gotta say, you have the choice of some prime men out there. Those Russians? Out of this world sex appeal. They’re like a pack of hungry bears. Very up front and in your face with their dominance. And those accents…my lady bits are on fire.”
Flushing, I placed my hand over her laughing mouth. “Shush.”
“Fine, fine.” Her almond-shaped eyes gleamed with amusement.
“What about you? Anyone catch your interest?”
Indigo’s attention drifted across the room to one of the biker tables. “The girl sitting next to Sarah—the redhead. She’s Beach’s cousin, runs a motorcycle repair shop outside of Austin. She wants to eat my pussy.”
“Indigo,” I hissed again, embarrassed even though no one was close enough to hear my friend. “We’re at a wedding. Behave.”
“Darling…” She took a sip of champagne straight from the bottle. “We’re at a biker wedding. Mimi and Mike, along with all the old folks and kids, are gone. Shit’s about to get really fun.”
My imagination went into overdrive. “What kind of fun?”
Laughing, Indigo lifted her bottle to me in a mock salute. “The good kind that results in me riding someone’s face like a jockey on a race horse. Yee-haw!”
“For the love of goodness, Indigo! Keep your voice down.”
Her long dark hair gleamed in the lights as she shook her head. “Embrace your inner freak, Lyric. You’ve gotten drunk with me enough that I know what a dirty girl you are on the inside. Let her out to play tonight. Find some hot guy and fuck his brains out, but use protection. Got it?”
“You are unbelievable.”
“Unbelievably awesome, you mean.” She grinned at me over her shoulder as she headed toward Swan’s table. “Stop hiding, live a little, okay?”
I sighed, but couldn’t hide my smile. “Fine.”
“Love ya!” She blew me a kiss as she sauntered off.
Sipping at my champagne, I squeezed my toes in my sandals and watched the crowd out of the corner of my eye.
The older people and the kids had all left, and those who remained partied how I imagined Vikings celebrating a successful raid would celebrate. Lots of drinking, roaring, and women. And it wasn’t just bikers. Mimi Anderson’s family, who were big in the Italian mafia scene, were here as well. They weren’t really mixing with the bikers, acting more like panthers lazing to the side, watching with amusement, but still that underlying sense of danger.
One thing was certain, they were wary of the Russians. Not scared, just…aware. Energy pulsed in the air and the champagne I’d downed made my blood fizz. There was a feeling pressing against my skin, pressure similar to the humid oppression of a storm when thunderheads boil in the distance and faint rumbles vibrate the earth. I’ve never been around so many fundamentally powerful people before, and it was a bit overwhelming.
I was so engrossed with people watching that I failed to notice a man approaching my table. I swear, a prickle of harsh energy sparked along my skin, and my instincts went on high alert. After spending a lifetime trying to make others happy, I’ve become hyperaware of other’s moods, and the vibe coming off this guy made the hair on my arms stand up.
A quick glance up revealed a guy in his late forties, a hard life etched into the planes of his face. His skin was tanned, but his eyes were blue and hard beneath a deep brow. Tattoos covered him, but they were poorly done and not attractive. Despite his rough looks, his suit jacket that he tossed over the back of an empty chair was top of the line, and the gold watch he wore looked really expensive.
“Hey. Name’s Vance. Who’re you?”
I wondered if I should shake his hand, but my palms were sweaty, so I settled for clenching them tightly together on my lap. “Lyric…Lyric Ashton.”
“Pretty name for a pretty girl.”
“Um, thank you.”
His tone was teasing, but I sensed an underlying tension to his words. “What’s a sweet little girl like you doing hiding over here all by herself?”
I shrugged, uncomfortable beneath his intent gaze. “Nothing.”
He leaned forward, capturing me with his gaze, and I could smell the alcohol and cigarettes on his breath. I felt like a bird mesmerized by a snake and leaned back as he narrowed the distance between us. My skin prickled as he invaded my personal space, and my mouth went dry when he placed his hand on the back of my chair, almost touching me.
I visibly trembled and he smiled.
“How ’bout you and me go someplace quiet and…talk.”
“No, thank you.” I drew farther away from him, my internal alarms going off like the clanging of church bells.
“I insist.” He leaned closer still and my heart thundered. “In fact, I won’t take no for an answer.”
Thankfully, I was saved from my inability to speak by a strong, tanned hand grasping mine and a velvety deep voice saying, “Come on, sweetheart, you promised me a dance.”
I most certainly hadn’t promised anyone anything, but I was thankful for the excuse to get away from the older man, the vibe coming off of him making the skin along my back prickle with apprehension.
Vance flexed his hands, his knuckles audibly cracking. “Go away, Hustler. This ain’t none of your business. We’re talking, so fuck off.”
Wanting to avoid a scene—the last thing I needed was the attention a fight would attract—I stood so quickly my chair almost toppled over. “I’m sorry, but I did promise him a dance.”
Vance’s upper lip started to curl in a snarl before he caught himself and gave me a smooth smile. The way he could change moods so quickly made me leery. He was like an actor playing a role, his smile as empty as that of a puppet’s, eyes as glassy as those of a doll. Everything about him screamed fake, and despite his best efforts to mask it, I could feel his rage pouring off of him like a sub-Arctic wind.
“Come on, darlin’…” A smooth male voice purred behind me, sinful enough to persuade an angel to flirt with evil. “Let’s dance.”
When I faced him, I had to hold back a gasp—because it was the groomsman who’d been devouring me with his gaze as I’d walked down the aisle in Swan’s wedding. Just the memory of his burning, light hazel-green eyes staring into mine had my heartbeat picking up. I’d been slightly disappointed he’d ignored me after the ceremony, but now, with his body close enough to touch, I grew slightly lightheaded. Little sparkles of sexual awareness raced over my skin and I swear my heart skipped a beat as something powerful, primal, and seductive moved through me.
What in the world was wrong with me? I was swooning like one of those ladies I liked to read about in naughty historical romances. Thank goodness for the invention of the e-book, because I could read my tawdry novels without being judged as a sinner. As if reading about people falling in love somehow made me tainted. Please.
Pastor Middleton was big on chastity and virtue, and on clean bloodlines…whatever the heck that meant.
I didn’t say anything as Hustler led me away from Vance and onto the dance floor.
He placed one hand on my waist, then used the other to lift my arms around his neck. While he wasn’t as tall as Smoke or Beach, he was perfect for my shorter height. He still towered over me, but it wasn’t like my face was at his belly button.
I had no idea what music was playing as I wound my fingers together behind his thick neck, the silk of his black hair brushing my skin and making it tingle. A pencil-thin goatee lined his perfectly full lips and my gaze returned to his pretty eyes again and again, a little spark racing through me each time that settled between my legs in a low throb.
“Thank you for rescuing me, Mister…Hustler, was it?”
The corner of his sensual mouth turned up. “No mister, just Hustler.”
I stopped swaying against him, unaware that I’d even been moving, and tilted my head in confusion. “Your name is Hustler?”
Amusement sparked in his gaze and his big hands rested on my full hips. “Yep.”
I flushed, remembering Swan telling me about road names. “Oh, yes, I see. It’s your club name, correct?”
“Hustler…yeah, it suits you. Sexy.”
Now his lips curved in a smile that made a dimple pop out in his cheek.
Goodness, he was extremely handsome.
“Glad you think so, sweetheart.”
I stumbled when I realized I’d said that aloud, thinking I might have had a little too much alcohol. “I didn’t—”
The music changed, became a deeper and faster beat, and I found myself pressed fully against Hustler as he grew tense against me. “My real name is Lorenzo.”
His words held an interesting accent as he said that and I repeated him, rolling my R like he did. “Lorenzo.”
“Mmm, like it when you say my name like that. You have the sexiest voice I’ve ever heard. Makes me wonder what your throaty moans would sound like if I kissed you.”
Blushing, I looked down, and became aware that my breasts were pressed to his hard chest, that his thigh was close to brushing between my legs. The cologne he wore reminded me of oranges and spice, a very masculine smell that made a woman wonder if it smelled even better closer to his skin. Everywhere he touched on my body heated and grew sensitive and needy.
Despite the fact that I grew up in a church which highly discouraged dirty dancing, I’d learned how to do it over the years while visiting my friends on other compounds. I was by no means good at it, but I knew enough that I could move easily with Lorenzo. No—Hustler. My body relaxed into his and he was very, very good at showing me what he wanted, and how he wanted it. There was something thrilling about a man so confident and controlling, at least for me. I know it's probably a result of my upbringing, but I’ve been raised to follow a man’s lead and I found it…comforting. And arousing.
I felt the distinct bulge of a rather large erection pressed into the softness of my stomach and shivered, that ache back between my legs. The song beat through my blood and the crowd around us was filled with people dancing way closer than we were. In fact, people were making out with drunken abandon as they ground against each other. It was a wild crowd, and normally I’d be freaked out by being in the middle of them, but with Hustler’s strong arms around me I felt safe. He was so big, broad, and even though he wasn’t the tallest man in the room, the hard pressure of his muscled frame against my much softer one had me panting.
Curious to know if he was feeling the same intense arousal that I was experiencing, I looked up at Hustler through my lashes and internally combusted at the heat in his gaze.
In a completely seductive purr, he murmured, “Fuck, why’d I have to meet you now? Perfect, so sweet I got a toothache, so hot you make me burn. And the way you melt for me…shit.”
His look was almost sad as he cupped my cheek with one rough hand, stroking his thumb over my lower lip. “Soft, like peach skin. Love havin’ you pressed up against me. Makes a man wonder what it would be like to own a sweet beauty like you. Bet you don’t know how irresistible you are, how many men are wishin’ they were in my place. You walk through the room and men can’t help but follow the sway of your round hips and full ass. So, so pretty.”
The deep timbre of his voice had my nipples stiffening as I soaked up his praise—even if it was dirty praise. I’d had men compliment me before, but nothing this raw, this visceral. A little pang of guilt went through me that I was allowing a man to speak to me like this in public, but the dirty girl who lived in my heart secretly loved it. The alcohol I’d consumed gave me a false confidence, one that kept me in his arms instead of stammering and running away.
I didn’t know what to say to him, didn’t have his way with words, so I settled for, “Thank you.”
His face dipped down next to mine, the tip of his nose running over my ear and making me want to straddle his leg and seek some relief from the ache he started inside of me.
“Look at you, that pretty pink blush. Those freckles…” In one smooth move, he lifted my skirt high enough that he could slide his thigh between mine, only my panties and the thin fabric of his tuxedo pants protecting my heat from his flesh. “Damn, sugar, I can feel how hot you are, how wet.”
That embarrassed me, pulled me out of my arousal a bit, but Hustler wasn’t letting me put any space between our bodies. He grasped my hips and rocked me up and down his thigh, rubbing me against him in a way that had me seeing stars. His erection thrilled me, proof that he found me attractive, and he let out a groan of his own as I sank my fingers into his hair and pulled lightly. His soft moan had me making an almost matching sound of desire.
“What do you like, sugar? If I could fulfill any fantasy for you, what would it be?”
“I don’t know?” My voice squeaked as I lied.
He cocked his head at me, his brow furrowed. “You don’t know?”
Ducking my head, I focused on his throat, and the tattoo of what I thought was a raven peeking out of the stiff white collar. “No. I—well, I haven’t had a lot of experience. My boyfriend was very conservative and the other guy I dated, we only had sex once and it was over quick. We’d both had a little too much to drink and the whole affair was rather…not satisfying.”
Curious, I traced his tattoo with my fingertips and he moaned softly, turning me on even more. “Damn, you have the gentlest hands, softest body. Makes me want to do things to you I have no right doin’. I want to teach you all the dirty things you’re gonna love, but it’s too dangerous.”
He licked the side of my neck and I rubbed myself on his leg. “Dangerous, you make me want things I can’t have right now, not with that asshole gunnin’ for me.”
“I don’t understand.” My voice came out all deep and breathy, and I swore I was turned on enough to climax if he kept grinding my clit against his thick thigh. “Someone’s trying to hurt you? What can I do to help?”
“Such a generous heart.” He examined my face then cupped it gently, his thumb sweeping over the walnut of my cheek.
The strong thump of his pulse met my fingertip as I traced my way from his throat to his jaw, unable to stop touching him. With the music, the low lights, the crowd of strangers around us, I felt like I was living in a dream where my actions didn’t have consequences. Fascinated by his plush lips, I traced my fingertip over the bow of his mouth, dipping it lightly inside when he parted his lips on a soft snarl.
I should have realized the risk of teasing a man like Hustler.
I should have run away from him that instant.
I should have paid attention to Vance, staring at us with pure loathing in his gaze from the edge of the dance floor as he talked into his phone.
All of these warning signs should have caught my attention, but I was completely lost in the overwhelming physical attraction this charismatic man stirred to life within me.

Copyright Ann Mayburn . All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduce, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author.