By: Jayne Blue

“It’s a long story,” she said. Yep. They always were. Except they always ended the same way. “Doug’s in trouble. The bad kind. He’s a good guy who’s made a lot of mistakes. Look, Brax. I swear to you. I wouldn’t have come here if I had anywhere else to go.”

“Scraping the bottom of the barrel, are you?” It was a dick thing to say. I know that. I was about to tell her to go to the cops and leave me out of whatever the hell little Dougie got himself into. But the way she glared at me and got her back straight. In that instant, I could see what this cost her. She expected me to say something like that and she was ready for it.

“I can pay you.” She fumbled in her purse, pulled out a thick wad of hundreds and set it on the desk. It was a bit of an insult.

I shook my head. “Nicole, look around. That’s not the racket I run anymore. I don’t need your money or the headache of what your brother has probably gotten himself into. It’s been my experience if it’s the bad kind of trouble like you say, he’ll only end up right back there in less than a year.”

She crumbled a little; her lip quivered. But her eyes flashed steel and she took a breath and straightened her back again, ready to fire at me with both barrels. I wasn’t dealing with a sweet little cheerleader anymore looking for a walk on the wild side. This right here was a grown woman filled with fire and fury. And she wasn’t done with me.

“You were right. I do remember what you told me all those years ago. And I do need something. I wish to God I didn’t. I’ve heard a lot of things about you over the years, Brax. But no one’s ever said you weren’t a man of your word. I need something from you. I need help. And I’m not stupid. I know you don’t give anything away for free. If you don’t want money, maybe there’s something else you do want.”

She licked her lips. That little blush spread across her chest and deepened to red. Her breasts heaved as her breath hitched. Nicole Ridley might be a lot of things, but like she said, stupid wasn’t one of them. She uncrossed her legs and recrossed them. It wasn’t a blatant invitation. No. But with the subtle shift in her posture and the glint in her eyes, her meaning was clear. Whatever my price, she was willing to pay it. Slowly, with steady fingers, she opened another button on her blouse. I got a flash of silk, lace, and the snow-white slope of flesh and tan lines.

“Baby, you sure you want to be in a position to owe me that much?”

She kept her eyes locked with mine and didn’t move. I’d issued a challenge and she wasn’t afraid to rise to it. Fuck, if I didn’t feel my own need rising against my jeans. I couldn’t help it.

Was I still the kind of guy who could take it from her like that? Again, my mind flashed to that single night. Nicole had been wild, reckless, and I still remembered the sound of my name on her lips as she cried out and begged me not to stop.

Yeah. I could be that guy.

This wasn’t fifteen years ago. Back then, we could both afford to be a little reckless. Now, though? We were grown-ups. I didn’t know her story anymore. She’d been Daddy’s little princess. Got all the good grades and the scholarships. Nothing bad ever happened to people like Nicole Ridley. I was the baddest thing she’d ever tangled with. Neither of us had lived long enough to have strings attached yet. Now we did.

Was it worth it to see how far she meant to go with this? I didn’t see a ring on her finger, but that didn’t mean shit. She could have all kinds of baggage besides an old man who didn’t pay attention to her enough. I rose slowly and stepped around the desk, perching myself on the edge of it. From this angle, I towered over her. She craned her neck far back to keep eye contact with me. A tiny pulse in her throat quickened.

I reached out and slid my hand to the nape of her neck, letting my thumb trail along her bottom lip. She parted them for me; her eyelids grew heavy and her breath caught. No matter what else went on in her mind, some switch turned on inside of her. I think her memory flashed like mine did. I’d given her something that night and she hadn’t forgotten it. Neither had I.

I leaned down and tasted her. She was bolder than me, darting her quick little tongue along my lower lip. I think it startled her how fast she responded to me. The pulse in her neck beat even faster. God, I wanted to slide my hands beneath her thin blouse and feel her swelling breast beneath my palm. Roll her pert little nipple under my thumb and see how hard I could make it.

I kept one hand on the desk though. I didn’t know what this was for sure. As far as I knew, this was all some game she played. That suited me fine, but I’d make the rules, not her.

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