Hey, lady Smutters. Who’s in the mood for Friday fun? How about an excerpt from my next novella, Shakedown, which will launch the brand, spanking new series, The Shakedown Series. Like motorcycle club reads? Gangsters? Cons? Burlesque? This series will have All Of That and more. Read on for an excerpt of Shakedown.
Rachel’s Uber driver had looked at her like she was crazy when she gave him the address to Shakedown. He asked her twice if he should wait for her when she stepped out of his minivan onto the crumbling pavement of the club’s parking lot. Over an old warehouse, an obnoxiously large sign lit up by Broadway lights read Shakedown.
Against her better judgment, she was here—at the club Trick insisted was not a strip joint. She didn’t know how long this confrontation would take so she sent the driver on his way. She charged up to the door powered by the tornado that had been whirling inside her over the last few days. In fact, her anger had grown into an F5. She’d emptied her mental warehouse of stop signs. Every time she’d raised one up, she punched it back down. It was time for Trick to make restitution and return the trust fund that she and Jay were to use for school.
Old movie poster shadow boxes were tacked to the brick walls by the entrance. She took a moment to look at the depictions of dancing girls and Vaudeville acts behind the scratched glass. Not a strip club, huh?
Rachel slung open the door and stepped into the blackness. The large, glass front door hadn’t been easy to yank open, but that was the thing about rage—it gave you strength. She paused just inside the empty club to let her eyes adjust. As the interior’s details crystallized, her first thought was that she’d stepped onto a movie set.
“Well, this is way nicer than I imagined,” she muttered. White tablecloths draped dozens of small tables crammed into the center of the room. Half moon–shaped booths in dark green, tufted velvet lined the far left wall. A long, polished oak bar with a brass rail ran the length of the club to her right.
“Applications are at the end of the bar. Auditions start tomorrow.”
She turned. A man with a goatee, a scar riding high on his right cheek, and poured into a gray Henley leaned on the bar over a newspaper spread across the surface. The paper crackled as he turned a page.
“Audition? No, I’m looking for Trick Masters.”
He eyed her suspiciously. “Who’s asking?”
She crossed her arms. “The woman he stole three million dollars from.”
The man straightened and laughed. “I’ll get him for you, Rachel.”
“How did you know my name?”
“He said if the most beautiful woman in the world walks in and demands money her name is Rachel.”
Great. So Trick believed she was a foregone conclusion? Think again, buddy.
While the guy ducked behind a curtain near the bar, ostensibly to find Trick, she pulled out her cell phone to see if Jay had returned any of the dozen messages she’d left in the last two days. He hadn’t.
She hit his number again and again went straight to voice mail. “Jay, are you ever going to call me back? The Betrayer is in Baltimore. Don’t they ever let you make calls? A text at least?”
Jay’s oil rig tour had to be up soon. Nothing like having your trust fund-slash-tuition money disappear to make you take any job that pays well. Too bad waitressing at the fanciest restaurant in Baltimore didn’t turn out as well for her.
She looked around the room. “And, you will not believe where I am,” she said into the silence on the other end of the phone. Jay needed to come back and see where Trick—once the darling of the Washington, D.C. investment scene—had landed—for shits, grins, and giggles if nothing else. She shook her head as she took in the stage framed in heavy, red velvet drapes, empty except for a tall microphone stand in the center. Lights aimed at the stage hung from girders in the ceiling. At least no dance cages or stripper poles were in view, and the scent of orange blossoms and cedar wafted in the air rather than the usual stale beer and sweat smell of most “gentleman’s clubs”—or what she’d imagined they’d smelled like. A rustling behind her caused her to kill the one-sided call.
Stupid shivers ran up her spine from hearing Trick’s baritone. She swiveled to come face to face with the man, the Betrayer, ready to do battle, something she should have done long ago. Hell, she should have started the day he left the courtroom in handcuffs. Instead, she’d hidden in the back, watching and crying like a baby. No more tears now, she told herself. She put as much steel into her backbone as possible. “How dare you offer me a job.”
He had the nerve to raise an eyebrow. “Pretty generous on my part, I’d say.”
“Generous?” She chuffed. “You stole my money and then want me to work for it? You humiliated me once. You won’t do it again.” She strode forward until there were just six inches between them and jabbed her finger on his hard pec. “How did you find me anyway?”
No way was Trick’s presence at Talman’s a coincidence. Trick did nothing accidentally.
She didn’t know how he found her as she and Jay had changed their mobile phone numbers and left no forwarding address when they fled Washington and their creditors. Then, when she thought she couldn’t be shamed anymore, Trick Masters shows up at Talman’s, gets her demoted to hostess and has the unbelievable nerve to offer her a job. Did he expect her to work to get back the money he stole? He accused her of being afraid. Afraid my ass. She jabbed him with her finger again for good measure.
He grabbed her wrist. “Since you can’t stop touching me,” he said, cocking his head, “let’s make this private. Office.”
“Office?” she sputtered as he pulled her into a long hallway, plush carpeting muffling their footfalls.
“Desk and everything.” He opened a door and gestured her inside.
“Nice digs.” She surveyed the large mahogany desk and oil paintings on the wall. “This Oriental carpet real? Probably. You can obviously afford to pay restitution.”
He closed the door behind them, strode to his desk and perched on the edge. “I was wrongly convicted. I don’t have your money. I never did.” He scratched his chin, the sound of fingers on stubble sounding masculine, if such a thing were possible.
“Bullshit.” She stepped closer and slapped him on the pec. He still wore that woodsy aftershave. Damn, he smelled good, which she should not be noticing.
He gave a snort of cynical amusement. “Stop poking me. Try being a grownup.” He grasped her wrist—hard.
“You find this funny? Screw you.”
“If you are offering, I might consider it. You always did excel in that area.”
She did a double take. “Forget about it.”
“Gladly. I make a habit of avoiding women who set me up and then abandon me, sweetheart.” He stood, and his grip turned vicious, backing her up a step.
“Abandon you? You were convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to jail, and don’t call me sweetheart.”
“I told you I didn’t take your money.” He backed her up until her shoulder blades pressed the door.
“A judge felt otherwise.”
“I was set up, but you already know all that.”
“Ha! And you say I’m good at fantasy. Who took it then? The fairies?” She jabbed him with her other hand. He grasped that wrist, and lifted both her arms above her head, not gently, but not enough to leave bruises.
“Stop jabbing me. Or perhaps you’re doing it on purpose simply to make me mad. You always did like make-up sex.” He leaned toward her so close she could feel his warm breath on her face, smell his woodsy cologne.
“Coming on to me?” She tried to yank her wrists free but he held them fast.
“I’m impervious to your come-ons, Rachel.”
“You couldn’t handle me anyway.” When she tried to push forward, her crotch met a semi-hard cock trapped behind those pants.
“Keep pushing, Rachel . . . you already left me once—”
“You left me.”
“I wouldn’t call incarceration voluntary ‘leaving’.”
“You almost put me out on the street. Proud of that?” she spat. Memories flooded her brain and swamped her with a cocktail of emotions she’d been working for years to neutralize. Weeks after Trick’s incarceration for embezzlement, the fancy apartment she and Trick shared overlooking the Potomac was the first to go. The same week, with no tuition money, she’d had to leave school—in her freakin’ fourth year! The Audi he’d given her? Ha! Not paid off. If she thought getting a bikini wax humiliating, the degradation bar undoubtedly had been raised the day her car was lifted up onto a flatbed tow truck, a man with a substantial pot belly leering at her and mumbling tough break, lady.
“I’m sorry your life went to hell, Princess,” he said. “But prison isn’t exactly the Four Seasons.”
“Did you think about me in jail?” she taunted. She lifted one leg and wrapped it around his calf. She rubbed it up and down. “Or did you get a new boyfriend there?”
He’d once called her legs God’s gift to mankind. She’d get the truth out of him one way or the other, even if she had to use herself as bait. She wasn’t leaving until he confessed he’d taken the $3 million.
“I hocked your ring, by the way,” she said.
“Get a good price?”
“The diamond was real. Paid rent for a bit.”
“Everything I ever gave you was real, Rachel.” He ground his pelvis into hers, his cock growing harder and thicker.
He stared at her mouth as if he were mesmerized, like he couldn’t decide what to do next. He used to do that when he was about to kiss her.
“See something you like?” she breathed with a sneer. He scowled when she pulled him closer to her with her leg. One thing about waitressing, it built strong leg muscles.
“You wish,” he circled his pelvis to match her moving hips.
Jesus, she was getting wet, and her hips would not stay still. Well, she started this, and she wasn’t a quitter. She glided her leg higher on his hip. The perfect fit of their bodies felt good—too damned good. Man, it’d been a long time since she’d had sex.
He pulled his head back and stared down at her. Suspicion flashed across his eyes.
“Now who’s afraid?” she asked.
His lips came down on hers—hard and possessive. His tongue mapped her mouth with the ease of an explorer upon familiar territory. Oh, God, she’d forgotten how good he was at this, but she had to remember. She was kissing a con man.
Elizabeth SaFleur writes contemporary romance that dares to “go there.” Expect alpha males (and females), seductive encounters, and love. Learn more about her steamy and sexy stories by following her on Amazon and Bookbub.