Strip You Bare

By: Maisey Yates

“That might put a slight damper on my Christmas party,” she said, patting her hair, not a lock shifting out of place.

“I can see how it might. The Deacons are known for a lot of things. Their rousing rendition of ‘Silent Night’ is not one of them.”

“You will have to forgive me as I’m not overly familiar with the organization to which you’re referring. I’m not certain what you are or aren’t known for.”

“Well, it isn’t Christmas fucking cheer.”

“If you say so. You will have to fill me in just a bit,” she said, her voice clear, cutting.

He had not expected that. He had expected her to scurry out of here as soon as she’d spoken two words to him, kicking up clouds of dust with her five-inch heels as she went. Instead, she was standing her ground, arms crossed beneath her damn fine breasts, her hip cocked out to the side.

“You don’t know who the Deacons are, sweetheart?”

“I do know several of the deacons at my church. However, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you there on a Sunday.” There was something in her tone that he found amusing. Something that hinted at a whole ocean’s worth of depth beneath that smooth, seemingly shallow surface.

He laughed, shifting position in the chair, stretching his legs out in front of him. “My version of religion is best practiced outside the sanctuary.”

“I don’t feel any more informed than I did a second ago.”

“You weren’t meant to. I don’t have anywhere else to be. Scoping out the Delacroix mansion was the only thing on my list for the day. Lucky you, baby.”

“So lucky I’m thinking of buying a lottery ticket after this.”

She smiled, lips a perfect matching pink to her dress, nothing in her expression ringing false at all. She was good. Damn good.

He laughed again. He had the feeling that she wanted to either run away in a panic, or slap him across the face and tell him to get the hell out. But her training prevented her from doing either of those things.

Instead she remained standing there, stiff, still. Perfect posture, perfect everything. It was like she had invisible ropes wrapped tight around her, binding her, keeping her restrained.

If there was one thing he missed about being a part of the MC, it was that he’d never had to give a fuck what anybody thought. He’d had to modify that a little bit in the business world.

After he’d been banished by Priest, he’d had two options: jail or another MC. He’d had no interest in either. So he’d spent his time carving out a third option while he’d made his way to the West Coast. Eventually landed in San Francisco where he’d gotten involved in real estate development. Right place, right time, and a willingness to cut throats—metaphorically—had built his personal empire into an impenetrable fortress.

He owned several hotels in San Francisco—a city where hotels were scarce and rooms were priced at a premium. But Micah hadn’t stopped there. He’d been expanding, moving into different cities, different countries.

He was a man in a high-powered position, and his version of well behaved was very different from Sarah Delacroix’s. He could still call a spade a spade. She had to wrap it up in a pink ribbon and call it something fancy.

Though, she was doing a decent job of getting some verbal nettles beneath his skin.

“You may want to hold off on choosing your lottery numbers,” he said.

Her lips twitched, almost imperceptibly. He couldn’t tell if he’d successfully amused her or if she was pondering bludgeoning him to death with her handbag.

He had no issue with her knowing who the Deacons were. He could just tell her. But it was just so damn entertaining to string her along. And he had been short on entertainment since his return to New Orleans. What he’d had instead was a lot of verbal barbs from the men who had once considered themselves his brothers, and a whole lot of alcohol.

This was a hell of a lot more invigorating.

“I won’t be rushing out anytime soon. I had one thing on my list today, too. And it was to begin taking inventory of the more minor things that need to be done to the house. I am restoring it for a Christmas party in a couple of months.”

“As it is now, you could open up the doors and have a Halloween party.”

She looked up, and his gaze followed hers, to the cobweb-laden chandelier that hung in the center of the ceiling like a big tree ornament wrapped in ghostly tinsel. “Yes, perhaps.” She looked back at him, her expression expectant.

“You still hoping for story time?”

“Unless the option of you signing the property back over to me and vacating the premises is on the table.” For the first time, she flashed a bit of the true depth of her annoyance.

“Sorry, not an option.”

She moved closer to him, high heels clicking on the floor, dust moving around her, a little bit ethereal. A little bit dirty. A whole lot sexy. She took a seat in the armchair that sat slightly angled toward his, and crossed her legs at the ankles. “Story time it is, then.”

Sarah Delacroix was not easily ruffled. She was a New Orleans debutante, onetime princess of the Mardi Gras parade, consummate hostess, and perfect daughter. The responsibility involved in being each one of those things was weighty, indeed, and she had never once bowed beneath it.

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