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  • Melissa Morgan

First Three Chapters of Something to Hold Onto by M.K. Oien

Chapter One

Mick

There’s a saying in life that good things come to those who wait. That doesn’t work for me since I’m one of the most impatient people on the planet. Don’t mistake that for not having good things. I’ve got more than my fair share of desirable assets and then some. Patience may be a virtue but I’ve never been known for my morality.

Do you know why good things happen for me? It isn’t luck or fate or some random philosophical bullshit. I make it happen. I work my ass off for what I want. That’s how it’s always been.

Being the prodigal son of Jack Silver, lead drug kingpin for the Pacific Northwest since 1985, I had no other choice. He was my father, my teacher, my boss. If I didn’t strive to reach his level of success I’d be useless. That’s why I take what I want or die trying and I’m not dead yet so I’d say I’m a success.

People call me a workaholic or an asshole who’s selfish and ruthless. They’re probably right so I’ll take it. Just like I take everything else I want. I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of me because I’ve soared higher than most people including all the druggies I know.

There’s only one person who’s ever been able to slow me down and she’s sitting in the chair opposite my desk ringing her fingers together so tightly I’m afraid she’ll break them. She’s been my best friend for years, almost like a sister to me.

I frowned as I crossed my arms over my chest. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her this quiet.

“Mackaela talk to me.” I urged softly.

Her amber eyes flicked up to mine with the faintest smile ghosting her lips. It’s nice to see her smile after all these years. She’s been doing that a lot more lately thanks to my brother Simon. He had a way of bringing her out of the depths of brokenness. A way that I didn’t because as much as I loved this woman, she needed someone stable, someone comfortable enough to walk away from this business without glancing back.

I was working on that myself although there were still a few loose ends to tie up.

She inhaled a deep breath her shoulders rising. “Okay, here it goes…” I arched a brow at her. “Mickey I have something to tell you. I don’t want you to freak out. I was talking to Sadie yesterday and she mentioned Ricky Delgado. I know you’ve been looking for him since…well since what happened with Simon. There’s a rumor he’s picking some of your guys off.”

Freak out? Nah that wasn’t my style. Blood boil with pent up rage? Hell yeah. I wasn’t sure what to say that didn’t result in several expletives so I kept my mouth shut biting back on my molars as she continued.

“I think Simon would look into it himself even though he’s not really interested. You know he doesn’t want to get involved if he doesn’t have to.” I did know that. I helped him get out of this brutal life right along with Mackaela. “She heard his name and another at work the other day. Some strung out junkie came into the ER. She overheard a call he made to Cory Wilson.”

I uncrossed my arms gripping the edge of my desk, nearly splintering the wood. “So we have a traitor do we?” My voice was hard as steel. “In fact I haven’t seen him in a few days.”

Mackaela’s eyes widened. “You think he’s working for Ricky?”

“Possibly. It was clear nearly a year ago that he was trying to steal clients so why not employees? Who’s this junkie, did Sadie get a name?”

Her dark brows crumpled. “Sadie said the guy took off after a while refusing treatment. He was yelling at Cory, claiming he got screwed on some molly he’d bought and that it was laced with meth or something. He then mentioned Ricky’s name accusing him of mixing product.”

A dull ache formed behind my eyes. I probably shouldn’t have drank so much last night. I didn’t think Cory Wilson was capable of going behind my back, but at this point I was running low on information so any lead was a hot one when it came to Delgado. He’d been caught down in Portland months ago yet managed to get away and hide like the coward he was.

Wilson was a decent dealer for me, although I’d always pegged him as an opportunist. It was possible he was offered a new position. While normally that wouldn’t bother me, if he were working for an enemy on top of stealing my merchandise he’d be in big trouble. I didn’t lace our product and certainly didn’t sell anything apart from the purest forms. The fact something else was being sold in my territory meant all signs pointed to disloyalty.

“Sounds like I need to find this guy and pay him a visit.” I said. “There shouldn’t be anyone else in town or surrounding areas manufacturing or selling.”

She nodded. “That’s what I thought. I’m trying to stay out of this as much as I can, however you needed to know. Sadie refuses to communicate with anyone other than me and Dom since the baby’s been born.”

“I appreciate the info. It’d be pretty ballsy for Ricky Delgado to come back on my turf. I’ll get in touch with Hawks to see if he’s heard anything. Is there something else you wanted to talk to me about?” I zeroed in on the big ass diamond ring that sat on her left finger.

My fucking brother. He’d fallen for Mackaela so hard and fast that at first I was worried it wouldn’t last. Yet seeing them together, how much better they both were now, made me believe he really loved her. He did take a bullet for her after all.

Her cheeks turned a shade of pink as she tucked her hair behind her ear. “Simon proposed.”

I couldn’t help the grin that spread across my lips. “I’m happy for you.”

I noticed tears threatening to escape as she nodded. “It’s weird though. I mean a year ago I was…so different.”

“Yeah, you’re not the same person. None of us are. That’s a good thing Mackaela. You deserve to be happy.”

She blew out a breath as she stood. “I should get going. Simon wants to go out to dinner to celebrate.” She said, wrapping her arms around my waist in a hug.

I pulled her into me, dipping my chin to kiss her forehead. “Don’t worry about Ricky. I’ll take care of him. It’s the last thing I have to do before walking away.”

She stepped back. “I know. Mickey?”

“Yeah?”

“Be safe please. I’m going to need you to walk me down the aisle.”

I chuckled, “Deal.”

She punched my arm. “I love you Mickey Silver.”

“I know.”

As soon as Mackaela was gone I called up Randall Hawks, my new business associate who’d be taking over my side of the business. I’d sold my half of the business to him already but was still very much involved until I got Delgado. Hawks was now part owner of Silver Enterprises. Why my father was still running things at his age was beyond me. Most people would be retired by now, living on a beach somewhere. Truth be told I wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to do anything else with his life. He’d been supplying and running drugs longer than I’d been alive.

“Hey Silver, what’s up?”

“Heard any news lately regarding Ricky the snake Delgado?” I plopped down in my desk chair rubbing my forehead.

“Not a thing. Why, have you?”

“I just had someone inform me a junkie called our boy Cory Wilson to bitch him out over some laced MDMA. As far as I know we’re still selling pure product.”

He grunted. “Damn right we are. We have a monopoly of the entire coast from here through Oregon. If he got bad stuff it wasn’t from us.”

“You think that stupid fuck would sell on our turf?” I asked, undoing the top two buttons of my shirt.

“I thought I gave him a good enough warning down south last year before he ran. Scared the piss out of him with the business end of my Glock. It sounds like he’s trying to start up his own business or something.”

“That’s never going to happen. Whether it’s him or someone else, we need to get to the bottom of it. Have you heard from Wilson lately?”

“Negative Mick. Last I saw him was a week ago when he brought cash in from dealing.”

I let out a breath. “See if you can’t figure out where he is or someone who might know. I’m gonna track down this junkie to get some answers.”

“You’ve got it boss.”

I scoffed. “Not for much longer man. Once Ricky’s dealt with I’m out.” I ended the call, tossing my phone on top of the desk.

A lot of people thought Seattle was a big city. However when you knew the streets like I did and a good majority of the people, tracking someone wasn’t extremely hard. Questioning a guy to get information would be like taking candy from a baby and if my fists didn’t convince him, my 9mm would.

Claire

Seriously fuck Friday night traffic. I was so sick of living in Seattle, Washington. Besides the traffic, the noise and the amount of people that squeezed together in tight spaces like the monorail drove me crazy. The only reason I hadn’t left yet was because up until a week ago, I thought I’d stick around awhile.

I hailed from an incredibly small town in Washington state on the other side of the Cascades called Winthrop. There was literally nothing other than farm land with open fields as far as the eye could see. Sure we had a cute little Main Street area chock-full of tourist attractions along with camping and cute little hotels. However for a twenty one year old woman it didn’t offer much in the way of adventure or social interaction.

My mom and step dad were less than thrilled to let me go. I tried to explain to them that I was growing restless at home, that I was tired of living a simple life. I’d always felt more like an outsider. I was sure I got that trait from my father. He was long gone now but that didn’t mean I didn’t inherit certain qualities from him.

I was definitely jaded when I first got here nearly two years ago. The cost of living turned out to be a lot higher than I expected, forcing me to have a roommate. I’d found an ad on Craigslist seeking a tenant to rent a room which is how I met Bianca Rogers.

Bianca was successful with a good paying career and a ton of friends because she’d grown up in Seattle her whole life. Not only did she rectify my housing situation, she got me a job where she worked. Thanks to my temporary career, I was well on my way to a decent savings account.

While I normally appreciated my newfound friend, I was sorry I’d met her at the moment. She was the one that introduced me to Cory Wilson who was my least favorite person in the world as of last Friday. When I first met him I thought he was cute, funny, charming, the total package. What a nice package he had too, which made staying with him worth it for a while. That was up until he started caring more about slinging drugs than he did me. The occupation didn’t bother me at first but I got tired of being second to his constant “working” and running errands for his boss.

He worked for Mickey Silver who I hated almost as much as Cory. We met a few times when Cory begged me to come to some of the party’s with him. When Cory said we were going to a party at his bosses house, a man who ran the Seattle underground drug ring, I expected some sleazy looking guy who lived in a bad part of town.

Imagine my surprise when I was introduced to a perfectly sculpted twenty something with eyes that reminded me of the rolling fields back home and a square jaw that looked like it could cut glass. His hair was the color of honey, falling almost to his chin. It irritated me that he was always brushing it back with his long fingers. Most of all I hated the arrogance that exuded from him like he was God’s gift. It was obvious the world totally revolved around him, that he took what he wanted without having to ask. After a handful of times I’d opted out of attending the parties anymore.

The last time I saw Cory was a week ago because he’d received a job offer in Portland, Oregon from another guy starting up his own business. He supposedly couldn’t pass up the opportunity for more money. He asked me to go, claiming he’d be making double what he was now but I declined. I may be a little off my rocker to pack up and leave home by myself for the big city, but I wasn’t naïve enough to travel to another new city with a man who I’d recently found out cheated on me. That information revealed a series of escapades he’d had which solidified my decision. After over a year together we’d finally called it quits.

I really hoped I wouldn’t get fired for being late tonight. It was ten minutes to seven and I still had a few blocks to get through before I made it to the parking lot of Rosie’s which was one of Seattle’s top strip clubs. Initially I was apprehensive about being a stripper. I had years of dance experience from middle school and high school though, plus Bianca promised good money.

This particular establishment catered to higher end clientele, so most of them were prominent members of the city. There were business owners, politicians, and also musicians. We always had larger crowds on the weekends, which was my favorite time to work because of the tips. That was precisely why I was driving like a mad woman to get there on time.

Growing impatient, I cut a guy off by merging my gently used Volkswagen Jetta in front of him with ease. He blared on his horn and I lifted my middle finger in the rear-view mirror.

“Speed limit’s thirty asshole.” I shouted though he’d never hear me.

My gaze darted between the car ahead of me to the stop lights and the clock on my dash. Time was passing way too quickly right now. I was able to get through two yellow lights before coming to a dead stop one block from the club. I could see the flashing crimson sign ahead beckoning me closer. Situated just outside the downtown area, Rosie’s was an ideal location for its patrons. For tardy employees it was absolute hell.

Growling, I rode the ass end of the truck in front of me, barely making it through yet another light. At exactly seven I was pulling into a parking spot at the back of the building. I grabbed the oversized bag in the passenger seat, slinging it over my shoulder as I slammed my car door shut and bolted to the side of the otherwise non-descript navy colored building. Harvey was standing at the door with massive arms crossed against his brood chest making the white t-shirt he wore stretch like it’d tear off at any moment.

“Just in time.” He winked as I flew past him.

“Hey Harvey, thanks.” I mumbled before racing down the narrow hall toward the staging room.

I slowed my pace as I casually strolled into the room brushing by a couple newbies to my assigned vanity. Bianca was sitting at the one next to mine applying a heavy amount of eyeliner to showcase her whisky colored eyes.

“You’re late, Harlow.” She smirked at me.

Huffing out a breath, I pulled out my stage outfit before placing it on the couch behind me. “Yeah, damn traffic.”

“Where’d you come from? You weren’t home this afternoon.”

I pulled out my makeup bag, placing all my items on the small space in front of the mirror before plugging in my curling iron. “I had a doctor’s appointment.” After pulling my hair up into a top knot I began applying my makeup.

“That’s right, how’d it go?” She asked puckering her glossed up cherry lips in the mirror.

“As good as it can when a guy has his fingers all up in your vagina.” I rolled my eyes.

Bianca threw her head back in laughter. “Girl, you are too much. You sure don’t sugar coat do you?”

Shrugging I said, “What’s the point in stifling the truth?”

“True.” She stripped off her sweater and bra before grabbing the skimpy lingerie on the back of her chair. “What time are you on tonight?”

Now that my face looked totally flawless I undid my hair to curl the ends. “Eight.”

“Did you eat something?”

“No.”

Exhaling soundly, Bianca began digging in her bag, tossing a package of peanut butter crackers in my lap. “Eat something please. If you faint on stage Clint’s going to flip out.”

“Thanks.” I muttered. Bianca was a good friend, always making sure I ate properly or had enough water.

“Jade you’re on in ten!” Kiley, our stage manager hollered from the doorway.

“Coming!” Bianca said, fastening the tiny bra that barely covered her chest.

We never used our real names when in the building. It was an anonymity we maintained for our protection. I choked down the crackers then grabbed a bottled water from the mini fridge across the room. After donning my stage outfit I painted my lips up a dark shade of burgundy and inspected myself in the mirror.

I was no longer Claire Evans, newly twenty three year old woman from a small town. I was Harlow the dominating temptress. Like every other night I was working I’d zone out, play nice, and earn my money. I’d do my dance, flirt with clients, and daydream about a different life where I could finally be content. Where I wouldn’t struggle with chasing something I couldn’t even see.

Chapter Two

Mick

The junkie kid from the hospital ended up being Roy Smith, an eighteen year old who liked to party more than work. He still lived with his parents in their basement, getting high most nights and sleeping all day. It wasn’t challenging to track him down. I got the information I needed and learned it was definitely Cory Wilson that sold him the drugs. The kid still had some of it left so I was able to do an inspection. Lo and behold, it wasn’t my supply. No shocker there. However that meant my fear of someone stepping in on our territory was true. I was able to confirm Delgado’s name from him as well so just like that I was on my way to vengeance and freedom.

I was so close to being out of the business that I could taste it. I hadn’t really thought much about what I’d do after all was said and done but was more than ready to walk away. The line of work simply didn’t have the same appeal now that I had my brother in my life again. Seeing my best friend take back her life while also finding companionship in Simon gave me hope for a better future. I grew more attached to the idea of separating myself from illegal activities and becoming a law abiding citizen. For the most part.

The moment I had my information, I dialed up Hawks to find out what he learned about Cory’s disappearance. Unfortunately, a lot of Cory’s acquaintances didn’t get too personal. However there was one woman who might know his whereabouts. Claire Evans, his girlfriend as well as the only person he’d trust enough to tell all of his deep dark secrets to was our best bet. It’d been a while since I’d seen her around with him. I wasn’t entirely certain she’d be willing to chat. Nevertheless we had to try.

He’d received word that she worked at Rosie’s downtown as a dancer so he suggested we pay her a visit at work in hopes of getting her to talk. Initially I wasn’t down for disrupting a place of business. However the only other option was showing up at her home and something told me that wouldn’t go over well. I wasn’t in the mood to add breaking and entering to my resumé anymore which would likely happen if she slammed the door in my face.

We found a small round table with two chairs in a dark corner to wait for the right moment. Hawks stared at the stage where a curvy brunette was finishing her set. I got the feeling he’d wanted to come here for reasons other than work. I cleared my throat. “So what’s the plan here?”

“As soon as she’s available we’ll invite her to talk. Worst case scenario I ask for a VIP room with her.” He shrugged.

Irritation took root in my gut. Typical Hawks to turn an interrogation into a reason to chase pussy. Dude had women around him all the damn time. Not that I could really speak against it considering I had my own track record of hookups. I wasn’t mixing business with pleasure tonight. In fact lately I’d cut back on women because I was busy cutting ties with the business and helping things run smoothly at the shop with Simon. It’s not like I’d taken up a vow of celibacy or anything. Although it had been about two weeks since I slept with a woman. That had to be some kind of record for me.

“You think she’ll talk to us?” I asked taking a sip of scotch.

He took a long pull of his beer. “Probably not. Although for the right amount of money…” He trailed off as he reached into his pocket before producing a large wad of cash.

“You’re going to bribe her to tell us what she knows.” It honestly wasn’t too bad of a plan. She was most likely working here because she needed the money. With a stack of bills taunting her she may just spill.

Hawks smiled. “Your dad’s not an idiot Mick. I’m a great negotiator.”

“I don’t doubt that.”

I’d heard he ran his old business in Olympia similar to ours here in Seattle. Our personalities as well as work ethic weren’t far off from each other either. It was the reason I trusted him to take over the business for me, although we hadn’t gotten off on the best foot last year when I heard about him.

I thought he was trying to impede on my turf because Delgado had gone behind my back to sell for him here. Kind of like what the asshole was doing now with Cory. It turned out that Delgado had stolen a decent supply from Hawks who didn’t realize it until after the fact. Or at least that’s what was claimed. I had no reason not to believe it knowing what Ricky Delgado was capable of. We kind of bonded after that so I figured with his northern territory added to ours we’d make a much larger profit. It was a win for all of us. It also hadn’t taken much to convince him.

The rock music the brunette was dancing to faded out as the MC guy stepped up to the stage.

“Give it up for our girl Kitten. Awesome job as always right?” There was a series of cat calls. “Now you’re in for a real treat. Say hello to a crowd favorite, our dirty little dominatrix, the blonde bombshell Harlow!”

The lights on the stage dimmed again as loud rock music began playing through the speakers.

“This is our girl.” Hawks said knocking back his beer.

She sauntered out into the spotlight swaying her narrow hips to the music. The first thing I noticed was her pale creamy skin peeking through thigh high fishnet stockings that covered her long legs. My gaze wandered up to the black leather mini skirt that did little to hide the red panties underneath.

“She’s drop dead gorgeous if you ask me. I don’t know what she’s doing with a simple dealer like Cory Wilson.”

Her flat stomach was bare and a black bra covered her perfectly round tits. I took a swig of my scotch, totally fascinated by this woman. Her long blonde hair was curled at the ends adding to the tantalizing getup. I licked my lips, watching her mouth the lyrics to the song playing as she scanned the crowd with those piercing violet eyes.

She turned around and bent over showcasing her fine ass before removing the skirt. I thought I remembered her from a year ago yet the girl from the past was more innocent looking than this. This version was like a sexy little fantasy I’d somehow conjured up. She was unreal, working that stage like she owned it.

Her tall black heels clacked off the platform as she worked the pole in the center, flipping her hair while stalking the crowd with bedroom eyes. I shifted in my seat taking another drink.

“Dude you look uncomfortable. What’s the deal?” Hawks asked glancing at me.

I rolled the glass between my hands, staring at the table top. “It’s weird seeing her up there. Any time I ever saw her before she seemed like the good girl type.”

He winked with a sly grin. “Everyone has their secrets Mick. You of all people know that.”

I grunted in agreement before shifting my attention back to the stage. She wrapped her hands around the pole as she slithered up higher. Once she was close to the top, she released her grip before leaning back using only her legs to hold herself up.

Fuck Me.

She expertly removed the bra as she hung there showing off her full chest. Claire grabbed the pole again, sliding down slowly. She knelt down in front of the crowd moving to the music as she scanned the room again, running her hands down her body. My gaze drifted up to her face to those stunning eyes that were now locked on me.

Her brow crumpled briefly before turning her attention elsewhere. Claire didn’t look at me again as she exited the stage to the back once the song ended. There was no doubt she remembered me. Based on the glare she’d given me I knew she wasn’t going to answer our questions easily.

The room erupted in applause as the MC encouraged them before introducing yet another dancer. I finished off my scotch.

“She’ll be making the rounds in about ten minutes. When she comes over I’ll see what info we can get.”

A waitress came by to drop off two new drinks for us. I handed her some money, waiting until she walked away before speaking.

“I think she recognized me. What if she refuses to talk? She could be protecting Cory.”

Hawks placed his elbow on the table leaning forward. “She can’t refuse a paying customer.” A devilish smirk appeared across his face.

I glared at him. The thought of him touching her made my skin crawl. I liked the guy well enough but the look on his face told me he’d use whatever means possible to get her to talk. Knowing what he was capable of might have me leaving this place in the back of a cop car if he laid a single finger on her. Rumor had it he “trained” his girls in Olympia personally and he liked it rough. Not really my style. Besides the women in my business weren’t dainty damsels. They certainly didn’t need training so I never got into that. I didn’t need to sample the merchandise when I had a line of women willing to give themselves to me.

“Maybe you just tell her why we’re here. We can gauge her reaction first. Scaring her isn’t going to work.” I bit out.

Hawks barked out a laugh shaking his head. “Sounds like you’ve got a soft spot for the little tramp Silver.”

“I told you she seemed like the innocent type the few times I was around her. Maybe we should tread lightly instead of going in for the kill. Patience is important in business.” I said giving him a hard look. “Make waves and you can kiss your stake in Silver Enterprises goodbye.”

He grimaced. “Alright Mick we’ll try it your way first. If she doesn’t comply I’m moving on to my idea.”

Sure enough about ten minutes later Claire appeared on the floor, making rounds to the patrons. Her long blonde hair was pulled back now. She wore a low cut purple tank top with the shortest denim shorts I’d ever seen. She was still wearing those high heels that looked like they could do some damage if she stepped on you.

I studied her as she moved around the dimly lit seating area talking with different men. As she drew closer to our table I turned my attention back to Hawks.

“Be cool.” I reminded him with a hard stare.

“Yeah Mick. Got it.” He growled.

For all we knew Cory was lurking in the shadows or Claire would run off to tell him we’d tried to get information from her later. It’s not that I was worried about Cory Wilson. The guy was as stacked as Dom but I was sure I could take him down if necessary. I simply didn’t want to risk losing my chance at revenge on Ricky Delgado.

I glanced at her as she approached. Her eyes quickly shifted to Hawks instead of me. “How’s it going handsome?” She asked in a sultry tone, angling her body toward him as he took in every inch of her.

“Better now.” He shot her a wink. I clenched my hand into a fist under the table.

“Can I do anything for you?”

He raised a brow at her then flicked his gaze to me. “Yeah. Actually you can do something for us.”

Her shoulders tensed. Those violet eyes full of fury gave me a once over. “What do you want?” She gritted out.

“Easy tigress.” I pointed my finger at Hawks. “Seems he’s having a little trouble with something that your boy might be in the middle of.” I didn’t care about the supply being tainted. I just wanted info on Delgado.

Claire pinned me with a look of contempt. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I arched a brow keeping my focus on her. “Come on Harlow, you and I both know Cory likes trouble.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know what Cory’s gotten himself into. Both of you need to leave. Now.” She turned to walk away. Hawks grabbed her wrist.

Holding up a stack of bills he shot her an expectant look. “I’m not done.” He spoke calmly. “There’s a lot of money here. Besides you’re the perfect little piece for me tonight.”

She yanked her wrist free. “I’m not doing a damn thing for you and I don’t need your money.” She seethed.

“You’ll give me a private dance and tell me what you know about your boyfriend working for Ricky Delgado.”

“I told you, I wouldn’t know anything about that.”

“You better quit playing us girl or you’re going to be sorry.”

I shot my arm out gripping his shoulder. “Ease up man. She said she doesn’t know.”

He turned his glare to me. “She’s full of shit Mick.”

“I am not, asshole. Who are you anyway?” Claire asked taking a step toward him.

I glanced up toward the bouncer who was staked out near the bar watching the crowd. “Best we don’t make a scene.” I gritted out through clenched teeth.

Hawks was turning this around to go bad for us. I wasn’t totally sure if Claire had been telling the truth. However if we had any chance of getting answers I’d need to take matters into my own hands. Being kicked out would kill the opportunity which he was close to making happen.

“I’m the guy running things now. Cory works for me.” His lips pulled back in a sneer. “As if you didn’t know that, slut.”

“That’s it.” I growled as I stood abruptly nearly knocking the table over. I lay my hands flat on the table.

Claire took a step back while Hawks snapped his attention to me. I tried to suppress my anger as I glanced between the both of them.

“You’re being a dick which isn’t helping so now you can shut the hell up.” I said to Hawks before pinning Claire with a hard look. “You’re going to take me back to the VIP room. I’ve got a lot of cash on me. I intend to use every bit of it while I’m in there with you.”

Claire opened her mouth to object. I cut her off. “No. This isn’t a negotiation. I’m two seconds away from punching this fucker’s lights out followed by getting you fired. You want that darlin’?” I raised a brow at her.

Gaping at me she shook her head.

Turning back to Hawks I said, “Stay here. Be cool or I’ll make sure your ass is out. You act like a dick you can kiss your promotion goodbye. Got it?”

He tipped his beer toward me before taking a long tug. “Got it Mick.” He said with a cocky grin.

I straightened, meeting her eyes again. As I swept my arm in front of me I said, “Lead the way.”

“I hate you.” She muttered before heading for the private area toward the back of the club.

I didn’t need her to like me anyway. All I wanted was whatever answers she could give me then I’d never have to speak to her or see her again.

Claire

First I was late for work and now I’m taking Mickey Silver to the VIP room for a private dance. Clearly I’d pissed off the gods to be dealt such a fate. Clint had been watching me from the bar during the little exchange so there was no doubt he’d seen the stack of cash that idiot flashed at me. Turning down a paying customer was likely to get me fired. I couldn’t afford that yet.

I didn’t know anything about Cory’s current whereabouts or who he worked for. It pissed me off that barely a week had gone by yet here I was still dealing with his baggage. I’d never even heard the name Ricky Delgado before. It might have been the guy he’d been going to work for, but I had no specifics and I sure as hell didn’t want to be involved.

The VIP rooms were down a long hallway tucked near the back of the building. There were four of them total. The time spent in here could be as quick as five minutes or last hours depending on the girl. I’d heard rumors that some girls actually had sex with the clients which was something I’d never done, nor did I want to. I’d been a crowd favorite since I started, however no amount of money was worth selling my body like that. Bianca always said that’s what made me appealing to the customers. They thought I was a tease when in reality I simply had standards.

I chose the furthest room at the end of the hall deciding to play it safe in the event I ended up screaming at Mick. Hopefully, no one would hear me over the loud music out in the main area. The space wasn’t excessively big, more like a large closet with one oversized leather chair in the center. As I wandered in I glanced back to see Mick standing just inside the entry way. He was completely stoic with arms crossed over his broad chest, pinning me with those hazel eyes that I hated. I nodded my head toward the chair.

“Have a seat.” I said in an overly sweet voice, the one I used on normal customers.

He wanted to bring me back here? I’d play the perfect little part of accommodating hostess. Maybe I’d even have a little fun at his expense by giving him blue balls. I knew he wasn’t bluffing about getting me fired. I needed this job for just a little while longer. I’d be damned if he ruined that for me over something dumb ass Cory did.

His throat rolled in a swallow as he glanced at the chair before approaching, all the while studying me as if I might attack him. When he brushed by me I caught his scent. It was like cinnamon mixed with whatever distinct musk that was all him. I hated the way my body responded to it.

Once in the chair he spread his arms before placing his hands at the end of each armrest. I found myself wondering if he’d been in a room like this before based on how easily he’d sat down. It wasn’t a secret that he liked to sample different girls. Most of the women at his parties flocked to him like flies to a dead carcass. He’d probably gotten more lap dances than any other man in Seattle.

I took in his athletic build and the length of his fingers as they curled over the leather chair. He was wearing dark jeans with a white button down that showcased what was likely a full sleeve tattoo on his left arm. Multiple designs began on the back of his hand before traveling up into a rolled up sleeve.

Mick kept his gaze glued to mine. I bit down on the inside of my cheek as I sauntered over, placing my hands on his thighs as I bent forward. My face was mere inches from his with my lips at his ear. I could feel the heat emanating off him. His breath on my bare shoulder gave me goosebumps.

“You have five minutes to ask me whatever it is you want Mick.” I whispered in his ear.

He angled his head slightly so that his cheek was against mine. Heat flooded my belly. “How does Cory know Ricky?”

Sliding my hands to his chest I said, “I really don’t know. I’ve never heard the name before.”

I stepped away from him, turning around while swinging my hips as I played with the hem of my tank top. I glanced back over my shoulder noting the way his eyes slowly lifted from my ass to my face. Typical, he was already becoming distracted. Giving him a coy smile, I removed my top before facing him again.

“Jesus,” He murmured staring at my naked chest. “Where’s Cory right now?”

I stalked forward, lowering myself to his lap before grinding my ass against him. I tensed when I felt his hard length against me, snapping my gaze to his. He raised a brow.

“Surprised?” He asked with the hint of a smirk ghosting his lips.

I narrowed my eyes. “I thought you came in to talk.”

He widened the smirk, chuckling softly. “You’re a beautiful woman. I can’t really help the reaction when you’re grinding on me right now.”

I didn’t like the way his eyes sparkled in the dim room. Letting out an exasperated sigh I said, “I don’t know where Cory is.”

Mick glowered at me. “You’re lying.”

This was the last place I wanted to be right now which had me growing angrier by the second. Who did he think he was to come to my work and start demanding things of me? I needed to get him to leave.

Pinning him with a glare I continued shimmying against his lap. His hips lifted slightly taking me by surprise yet again. With any other client it was common to have that reaction. However never in a million years did I think I’d be giving Mickey silver a lap dance, that he’d be enjoying it this much. Glancing back at him over my shoulder I met his stare. “I’m not lying. All I know is he moved to Oregon for a new job.”

I turned in his lap placing my knee between his legs hovering above him. I ran my hands over my chest down to my hips noticing how he followed the movement. I couldn’t help my smile as I stared down at him, watching that square jaw pulse. The muscles in his arms flexed as he held tight to the armrests. Did he want to touch me?

His head fell back against the chair as he looked up at me with hooded eyes and his lips parted slightly. “Oregon. Did he say who he was working for?” He asked in a husky voice.

I slid my hand over his shoulder behind his neck as I angled forward until my breasts lingered inches from his face. His eyes closed and I felt him tense. When he opened them again he pinned me with a dark look.

“Answer me, Harlow.” He demanded.

His breath warmed my skin, sending a current of electricity through me. I bit my bottom lip as I leaned back, running my other hand along his chest, gliding it down to where I felt a strong solid set of abs.

“He didn’t tell me anything.” My voice was weaker than I anticipated. “Why are you doing this?”

My fingers inched closer to the bulge in his jeans. A spark of curiosity got the better of me and I slid my palm over him causing him to suck in a sharp breath.

“Why are you doing that?” He asked through gritted teeth.

“This?” I asked innocently as I continued moving my hand.

I wasn’t answering any more questions. The only way to get him to stop talking was to continue my diversion tactic. My head grew cloudy as each second passed. Licking my lips I studied his face as I stroked him through his jeans. His chin dipped to watch me as I worked him. Okay, that was pretty hot.

Mickey let out a low groan before muttering a curse. His head snapped up, nostrils flaring.

“Claire…Stop.” He growled. “Please, stop.” Inhaling a shaky breath I stood on wobbling legs.

God, what was I doing? I couldn’t stand him yet I was touching him like…like I didn’t hate him at all. Irritation prickled my scalp. I needed to get away from him.

“I have no idea where Cory is, that’s the truth. If you want more information go ask one of the other dealers. Your five minutes are up Mick. Don’t come back here ever again.” I didn’t give him a chance to question me anymore after that. Grabbing my discarded top I marched out of the room.

I kept my composure as I walked out to the floor, away from the other customers and into the back room. As soon as I reached the staging area I sunk down on the couch in front of my vanity, covering my face with my hands. I didn’t like that I enjoyed touching Mickey Silver. It was so stupid. I was so stupid. Embarrassment rushed through me for acting like I wanted him when I knew I could never have him. Hopefully, I’d never have to see him again.

Chapter Three

Mick

“I’m going down to Portland.” I tucked my gun into the side of my duffel bag before zipping it up.

“Can’t you have Jack look out for Ricky?” Simon asked. He was bent over the front of a 72′ Chevelle installing the battery.

“Nah, he’s out of town. Besides Ricky got away from him and Hawks last time. I question their ability to capture deadbeats. Plus I’m not looking for Ricky anyway.”

Simon lifted his head to look at me. “Mackaela mentioned your dealer Cory might be double timing. He down there too?”

“According to his girlfriend he bounced just over a week ago. She claims she doesn’t know who he’s working for though all signs point to Delgado. I don’t know why anyone else would suddenly mess with us.”

He nodded. “Just be careful. Things are really busy here so I don’t have time to drive down there to avenge your ass.” His lips kicked up.

Scoffing I said, “I’m invincible bro.” I slung the duffel bag over my shoulder. “I’ll check in later tonight.”

I tried pressing some of the other dealers for information on Cory or Ricky yet came up empty. If anyone else knew anything they weren’t talking which would be a massive mistake on their part if I found out they’d lied to me. I was known for being a fairly reasonable guy although anyone who’d witnessed my bad side would strongly disagree.

The drive to Portland was just over two hours so I’d decided to leave early, hoping to catch Cory off guard. That was if I could track him down. I wasn’t positive he was in the city. However I had no other leads right now other than what Claire told me. I was an hour into the trip when the music cut off on my stereo as my phone started ringing through the speakers. I frowned at the unknown number that flashed on the screen. Pressing the answer button, I started to speak but was immediately cut off.

“I hear you’re looking for me.” Cory’s voice boomed through the cab.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t yet another traitor. How much is he paying you?”

He chuckled darkly. “More than you Mick. There won’t be anything left once we’re done with you.”

In spite of myself, I laughed. “That’s a nice little dream you have prick. Too bad you don’t have the man power or resources to make it a reality.”

“That’s what you think. I’ve got something you want, something you’d do anything for.”

Clenching my jaw I asked, “What would that be?”

“Freedom. I’ve got an in with your guy Ken Watson. You know the one you manipulated into steering clear from Ricky because your stupid skank has a big mouth.”

I gripped the steering wheel inhaling through my nose. “What are you talking about?”

“He’s going to give you up to the feds Mick. Your freedom depends on how much you’re willing to help us out here in Oregon. Back off or Watson’s gonna turn you over just like that.”

That stupid fucking lawyer. I knew I shouldn’t have trusted he’d keep his mouth shut, to ride off into the sunset after Simon kicked his ass. He’d been distant over the last year and I figured it was due to the fact he couldn’t have Mackaela anymore as his mistress. I had video evidence of his favorite past time so screwing with me wasn’t in his best interest. Wilson had to be bluffing.

“I’m not signing my business over to you or Delgado. I’m not giving you a single thing!”

I glanced in the rear-view mirror, spying an inconspicuous black sedan with tinted windows coming up fast on me. The second the red and blues flashed I knew I’d underestimated their capabilities.

“We’ve got important people on the inside too Silver. Had a little favor called in so you’d think twice about pursuing this. Do you see our surprise yet?”

“What did you do?” I growled.

Cory laughed now, the sound sending a sinking feeling to the pit of my stomach. “Had to buy ourselves a little bit of time.”

Did Claire tell him I’d questioned her? I started veering off the highway toward an exit.

“They won’t hold me long.” I said, knowing full well the cops had nothing on me to keep me in jail. I had a clean record thanks to hiring multiple guys to do the dirty work for me. Money as well as power could make you damn near invincible with the law.

“Not this time.” Cory replied. “It’ll slow you down for sure though. Perhaps it will give you time to figure out if you want to help us out or not.”

“What do you want?” I rolled into a near empty parking lot putting my car in park. I sent a quick text to Simon letting him know where to pick up my car. The undercover cop pulled to a stop behind me.

“The south. We’ve got men preparing to deal down here already. Your dear old dad’s getting older so he’ll be gone soon. Rumor has it you’re out the door anyway.”

“You want the whole state of Oregon?” I snorted. “Good luck with that dipshit.”

“Clock’s ticking Mick. Next time I call you, you better have an answer for me. If I don’t like what you have to say Watson’s just itching to turn you in to the feds.” The call disconnected.

Dragging a hand through my hair I muttered a curse as I rolled down my window for the officer approaching.

It was a routine traffic stop up until the guy told me to step out of the vehicle before patting me down. After that he claimed an excuse to search my car. I could have fought back or ran but it wouldn’t matter. He found the gun which was clean because I had a concealed weapons permit. Somehow he still needed to detain me “just to be sure”. I didn’t know who the prick was that pulled me over. He looked younger than me. Probably new on the payroll or trying to get an in as a dirty cop. Poor kid didn’t realize the people I dealt with were much higher up so this little incident was nothing for me.

I’d been cuffed before. Dom had family in the local precinct which basically gave me immunity as well as keeping my name off records. I also had a top notch lawyer that made every ounce of wrongdoing disappear. I’d never been arrested for something as trivial as a traffic stop though which fucking irritated me. Usually it was for something like fighting or pistol whipping a degenerate when I was out with one of my girls or mouthing off to the wrong guy while threatening to kill him.

Once we were at the station, I let them do the whole intake thing while sitting in a chair across from the officer as he asked me questions. This was all unnecessary since I’d be out in a few hours so he was wasting his time.

“Alright I’ve got all the info I need. You get one call before I take you to a cell.”

“Yeah I’d like to take advantage of that.”

He tipped his head toward the far wall. “Phone’s over there. Make it quick.”

Oh I’d make it quick. I knew exactly who I was calling. She’d better answer. Cory Wilson and Ricky Delgado thought they could back me into a corner, thought they could blackmail me? That they could take my freedom in order to sway my decisions?

Well two could play at that game.

Claire

After the awkward lap dance and composing myself I mustered up the courage to get back out on the floor to do my job. Each night since then when I was working, I’d grow anxious, afraid they’d come back or try to talk to me again. I hadn’t heard anything from Cory since the incident. I also decided to refrain from contacting him about it. The less I was involved in whatever situation this was the better.

Today was my day off so I’d been able to relax a little bit. I was sitting pool side with Bianca, soaking up some sun while trying to let whatever was going on with Cory go. I’d told her about what happened with Mick because I needed to talk to someone and she’d found me in the staging area that night. Bianca said not to worry about it, that he’d probably move on to questioning other people. I hoped that was true because I never wanted to see him again.

Although my stupid mind wasn’t helping alleviate my stresses. I found myself playing back what happened in that VIP room. The way his raspy voice sent a blazing fire of awareness through me when I realized how turned on he was. How he’d felt beneath my palm as I touched him. Instead of being repulsed by his attention, I enjoyed it. That didn’t sit well with me. Even now my skin buzzed and I felt a warmth pooling between my legs at the memory. I had serious issues to be crushing on Mickey Silver.

Thankfully, the shrill sound of my phone snapped me out of my ridiculous thoughts. I grabbed it off the small table between us, frowning.

“Are you going to answer that?” Bianca asked as she got up to grab a drink.

I thought about letting the unknown number go to voicemail as the ringing continued, but then it might be my mom. She’d mentioned looking into getting a new phone when I talked to her last weekend.

“Hello?”

“Afternoon darlin’.” My throat tightened at the sound of Mick’s deep voice.

“How’d you get my number?” My voice squeaked. Clearing my throat, I tried again. “Why are you calling me?”

A low chuckle sounded on the other end. “I’m a resourceful man sweet Claire. Now tell me, why did you lie?”

Shaking my head I released an unsteady breath. “What are you talking about?”

“I don’t have much time so stop being evasive.” He growled. “You told your boyfriend I was asking after him.” I opened my mouth to speak yet nothing came out. Was he for real? “You’re working with him to screw me over. Ringing any bells yet?”

“I told you we don’t speak.” I snapped.

“It’s a shame that pretty mouth of yours spits fabrications.”

I bit back on my molars. “I don’t know anything.”

He released a breath into the phone. “Yeah? Prove it.”

Bianca came back to sit down, staring at me with a questioning brow. I lifted my hand before letting it fall to slap against my bare thigh. “How am I supposed to do that?”

“You’re going to help me-“

“Like Hell-“

“Do. Not. Interrupt me again.” His voice was ominous, frighteningly low. “You’re going to help me take down your piece of shit boyfriend.”

“How…I…What can I do?” I stammered as my heart thumped against my ribs.

“I have to go. I’ll be in touch soon. Oh by the way, Claire?”

“Yeah?” I tried to swallow the lump in my throat.

“Breathe a word of this to anyone and I’ll cut that lovely tongue out.”

Some sort of strangled squeak escaped my throat as the line disconnected. A shudder of fear rolled through me when I set my phone down on the side table.

“Who was that?” Bianca asked, placing a hand on my shoulder. “Claire you look like you’re going to have a heart attack or something.”

I rested my palm against my chest as I inhaled a deep breath before letting it out slowly. ‘Breathe a word of this to anyone and I’ll cut that lovely tongue out.’ Would he really do that? I didn’t know Mick well, but something told me he didn’t have a single problem with bringing harm to others. Especially snitches. Raking my fingers through my hair I felt sweat gather at my temples.

“Nothing.” I managed in a low voice. “Just um…my brother. He wants me to come back home.”

Bianca frowned. “You sure?”

Nodding, I took another steadying breath. “Yeah it’s nothing. I’m fine.”

I wasn’t sure if she believed me or not but she didn’t press it. I wandered to the edge of the pool staring at the serene blue water. I didn’t want to be involved in this and here I was getting drawn in unwillingly.

One thing was certain, if I ever saw Cory Wilson again I’d punch his lights out before kicking him in the junk. The punch for wasting my time the last year, followed by the kick for introducing me to the biggest asshole on the planet. I wasn’t sure what Mick had planned or how he thought I’d help. I only knew I wasn’t going to make it easy for him. Powerful or not, nobody talked to me that way. Nobody told me what to do.

I had no idea when Mick would be getting in touch with me. It was beginning to make me paranoid. Three days went by without hearing anything. I was constantly glancing over my shoulder whenever I was out in public or at work. Thursday nights I worked the mid shift at Rosie’s which meant I was off at nine instead of working until midnight. I was looking forward to getting home to hopefully relax for the rest of the night.

I threw my hair up in a messy bun before wiping my face clean of the dark makeup I’d donned for the evening. Bianca wandered into the staging room as I packed up my bag, her brows tilting down as she let out a soft sigh.

“You out of here?” She asked.

I heaved my bag over my shoulder. “Yeah,”

She’d picked up on my mood the last few days, asking again what the phone call was about. I told her the same thing I had before, that it was nothing. Although my cautious attitude was more than a little obvious. Especially when I’d double check the doors and windows in our apartment because I had this irrational fear that Mick would barge in demanding more answers.

“You sure you’re okay? You seem off.”

“Yeah I’m fine.” I shrugged. “I’m tired. Maybe I’m coming down with something.”

Nodding, Bianca pulled me in for a hug. “I’ll be home around one. You should take it easy tonight. I got these new lavender bath bombs you can try.”

I plastered a smile on my face as I pulled away from her. “That sounds good. I’ll see you later.” I gave her a small wave as I left, heading toward the back door that led to the parking lot.

Harvey wished me a good night after I pushed the door open. I barely glanced at him as I booked it to my car which was parked around the corner. Pulling my keys from my bag I peeked up at my car, freezing in place. I blinked at the man leaning against the trunk with his arms crossed. A small smile played on full lips. There was a light on the side of the building that cast a soft buttery glow on his too handsome face, making his hazel eyes sparkle as they narrowed at me.

“Shit,” I muttered.

“Told you I’d be in touch.” Mick said, pushing off the back of the car before stopping within a foot of me. “How was work?”

“Um, what?”

His head cocked to the side, scanning the length of me. “Work. How was it tonight? Did you have a good day?”

“Sure,” I replied, my brows inching up my forehead.

He dragged his bottom lip between his teeth, searching my face. My attention drifted to his mouth. “Are you ready to tell me where your boyfriend is?”

God he just wouldn’t let up! I heaved an exasperated sigh. “Are you stupid? Honestly, for a supposed business man I thought you’d be a bit more intelligent.”

His jaw muscle twitched as he glowered at me. “Careful now darlin’.”

“I told you I don’t know anything. I don’t know why you think I’m lying, why you think I care about you or your stupid business.”

“The only other person I’ve been able to question besides you is a strung out tweaker. I talked to him already. Guess what? He had zero information so that leaves you and you alone.” He seethed, stepping closer to me. His chest brushed mine and I inhaled a sharp breath. “You don’t care? Great. Then you’re going to help me out.”

I stood straighter not wanting him to think he could intimidate me. “What if I don’t want to?”

His lips curled up in a sneer. “You’ll do what I say.”

I snorted. “Or?” I countered. “Are you going to make me? Force me against my will? Is that how you’ve had so many women?” I gave him a once over.

A low growl rumbled from his chest. “What do you know about Wilson?” His hands fell to his sides, clenching into fists.

“What are you gonna do to me Mick?” So over his harassment and empty threats I leaned forward invading his space. “Bring it on. I dare you.”

His nostrils flared which told me I hit a nerve. Good.

“You’re making this incredibly difficult.” He scowled.

Shrugging, I played it cool even though I was totally afraid he might actually hurt me. Although I wouldn’t let him know that. “Go ahead, do your worst. Just so you know I’m enrolled in boxing classes for fun.” I shook my head with a smirk. “I’m sure I can take you.”

Before I could register what was happening his fingers curled around my biceps. His chest bumped mine, forcing me backward until my back smacked against the side of the building. His head lowered, lips hovering dangerously close to mine stealing the air from my lungs.

“You sure about that?” He pinned me with a dark look that made my knees weak. “Want me to show you exactly how I’d take you.”

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