Authors: Ava Argent
by Ava Argent
copyrighted October 2013
All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is entirely coincidental. All sexually active characters in this work are 18 years of age or older.
This book is intended for Adult Audiences. It features graphic language and sexual encounters that may be considered offensive. Please keep your files in a location inaccessible to minors.
copyright 2013 Saranna DeWylde
First Edition October 2013
Warning: the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
To Saranna DeWylde: You encouraged, cheered, threatened, and supported me even when any other sane being would have given up. This is for you.
To my parents: You never thought it was weird when I daydreamed and you thought it was funny when I told you some off the wall story. You raised me to reach beyond conventional borders. You have my eternal gratitude.
I used to think that all a couple needed to make love work was poetry and promises.
I was wrong.
I've had plenty of both. Badly ripped off sonnets from old Will Shakespeare (seriously, the man wrote way more than
Romeo and Juliet.
Take a hint.). Guarantees that ranged from turning my library books in on time for me to allusions to marriage. None of that worked out.
Instead I have a bar and more ex boyfriends in my past than I care to admit.
Oh. I also have an ex girlfriend. It was an experiment that worked for a while. She was great. Me? Not so much.
The bar is more like a pub. I traveled a little instead of going to college full time. One thing I could nearly always count on was an Irish pub to hang out at, no matter what city I happened to be in. Don't ask me why that is. It just happens.
I liked that warm, living room feel you could get in a pub. If you stay in one long enough you'll walk out with a friend. A big difference from the hooking up I was becoming bored with in bars.
So here's what happened. I was with a few people. Okay, a lot of people. Don't judge—it's the 21
century. Then I got burned out. Burned out led to jaded. Jaded led to cynical. You get the idea.
Now I'm back in the good old US of A, and it's not so bad. I've got friends, a business, and a past. I make money enough to live and I've taken a break from romance. I think the guys in my age group need to mature a little before I dip my toe back into the waters.
Or I could go for an older guy, if I could ever find one that wanted more than a one night stand or a substitute daughter. Kind of over the one night stand thing and my father is very much alive.
Dad is the promises and poetry type. The difference is that he makes it work. Sets a pretty high bar for his kid, if you know what I mean.
Which reminds me. I have to Skype him. I'll do it when I'm closing up for the night. It would be one in the morning my time, but he'd be up and he likes to keep me company via video chat. It's good.
It's Tuesday night and the regulars have done their rounds. Mostly working class and retired guys who want a beer and a chance to shoot the breeze. A couple of the ones who work odd hours will probably head out to karaoke later. Have to keep themselves entertained somehow in the wee hours of the dawn, right? I am already gathering the glasses and getting the computer tablet set up and ready to go.
My name is Jules, by the way. Judith A. Jenner. Don't ask me what the A stands for—if I told you I'd have to kill you.
Because my mom is kind of important. Dad's your average fifty-something American joe. Mom is a little bit more complicated than that. Let's just say that even if I don't whack you, there are more than a few people who can—and will.
I know. I try not to think about it either. 'Mom's gonna kill me' is not a phrase lightly uttered in my family.
I wipe down the counter and call out the hour to let the customers know it's time to be moseying on. I'm known for letting one or two stay over past closing time, but tonight I'm just not into it. I want to get the metal shutters rolled down over the windows and the place put to rights. After I talk to Dad I am going to surf the internet or watch a movie. You know, single girl stuff. There might even be ice cream involved.
Whoa mama, am I a hot-to-trot lady.
I shake my head at my own thoughts and wave at the last few guys that meander their way out. I grab the keys from the hook next to my mini fridge and follow Dobs, one of my regulars, keeping up the small talk while I'm at it. These are good people. I get a crazy or a drunk here and there, but mostly I've got a decent clientele who just want to hang out for a while and socialize.
I lock up quickly. I'm not one of those people who leaves things to chance. When I say I lock up, I mean it. There are two deadbolts, a chain, and a key pad in addition to your standard door lock. Those kinds of precautions have been drilled into me since I was old enough to talk. My first word was 'careful'.
You laugh, but it's true. That's how often my dad said it. I was kind of a handful as a kid.
I'm keying in the last of the activation sequence when my mobile starts to ring. Elvis and his “Big Boss Man”. Dad's always been impatient when it comes to me. It's kinda cute.
I dig the phone out of my jeans' pocket and look at the display with my father's handsome mug flashing on the screen. I accept the call and hold the phone to my ear. “Hey Dad. I was just about to get online--”
Where are you?”
My brows shoot up to my hairline. “At the pub. What's wrong?”
Are you closed up for the night?”
I haven't heard him sound this stressed since—a cold trickle drips down my spine. “What's going on, Dad?”
There's a new bounty on your head.”
Shit. This is what happens when your mom is a badass. Everybody wants a piece of the action. I stride out of the small foyer, slamming the inner door shut and hitting the button on the wall next to it without even looking. The faint whirring of triple-enforced shutters rolling down fills the air. “How much?”
Enough to give me nightmares,” my father barks. “Get the hell out of there and follow the plan.”
There is always a plan. There has always been a plan. There are plans for plans for other plans that go wrong. It's a fucked up universe I have to deal with sometimes.
I kick a chair that's half out from under a table, pissed that my internet surfing is going to take a backseat. Is one night ogling Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon too much to ask? Exactly.
The chair jumps and there's a cracking sound followed by a skitter, and the chair collapses, missing a leg.
Frick. I guess I forgot to temper my strength.
Another thing that my mom passed along.
I'm on it,” I tell Dad briskly, still glaring at the remnants of my chair. “Are we going to rendezvous?”
Not this time. This shit is blowing up bigger than an implant on a Playboy Bunny.”
Dad's a little crusty. Ex military. It happens.
I'm doing containment before your mom finds out what's going on and it really hits the fan.” I can Dad huffing a little and the faint echo of footsteps. “Goddamn stairs,” he mutters under his breath. Then, “Betty's got your detail.”
Betty is my third oldest sister. I've got nine. Nine crazy, sociopathic sisters, and Betty's the meanest one of them all. Think shoot first, shoot again, shoot a third time for fun, then maybe thinking about asking a question before changing her mind.
She loves me like a rabid chihuahua on steroids. If I hadn't learned to beat her up when I was eleven, I'd be literally stuck in a harness and a leash so I don't get lost on the way to the bathroom.
Is it my fault I was born the baby? Nope, but I am reaping the benefits and the misfortunes all the same.
It occurs to me that if Betty's on my six, this is a lot more serious than anything I've dealt with in the past. “Who did what and when?”
Just follow the plan, Jules.”
I turn—my pub is an L shape—ready to head to the back and grab my purse—and I freeze.
Yeah, Dad,” I say through lips that suddenly feel cold. “I'm on it.” I slowly lower the phone and slide my thumb over the disconnect button.
He's standing just inside the wide doorway that leads to my very expensive pool table. He's watching me without blinking, the kind of gaze you see on a predator that knows he's a lot bigger and stronger than you. Even in the mood lighting I can see that his eyes are a supernatural shade of blue. It's deep and dark, which is not unusual in itself, but the gold flakes that shimmer in the pupil sure as hell are. Looking into his eyes is like looking into deep space.
If space was blue.
He's pretty. He's got the kind of face that should be delicate but isn't. It's just...finely formed. Stone-cut jaw. No facial hair on his cheeks, not even a hint that it can grow. He has a straight nose and full lips.
I think this is what Romans are supposed to have looked like. I don't think Romans would have had short hair and long, sideswept bangs with
streaks in the black, though.
He tilts his head, still not blinking, as if he's interested in the fact that I'm checking him out. What, like I'm not going to? There is no way he's a forgotten patron. I would have noticed him walking in.
Or maybe he assumed I was going to run screaming for the hills. Like there's anywhere to really go.
I'm not going to ask how he got in. I already have a pretty good idea.
He's just so still. It's like he's not really breathing. He's standing with his arms at his sides, his hips more narrow than his shoulders, legs spread apart just so. He's a runner and, unless I miss my guess, he's used to taking people on in a fight if he needs to.
He's covered from chest to toe in black, the kind of suit somebody in an action movie would wear if he was about to blow a place up.
You didn't cry for help.”
Holy mother of god, was that his
It was freakin' deeper than Alan Rickman's!
I lift my chin and wet my lips. Hey, I'm calm, not stupid. He's not here to stack chairs. “I don't think I'll need to.”
He blinks for the first time, his lips quirking in a kind of nonsmile. “Oh?”