Strip You Bare

By: Maisey Yates

Those hinted at a job history that didn’t begin and end with banking. Otherwise, she just didn’t see biker.

He had short dark hair, his jaw mostly clean, only a bit of shadow visible, as though it had been a little more than twenty-four hours since he’d shaved. Not that she was an expert in the pattern of the growth of men’s facial hair. She doubted Charlie could even grow a full beard.

But they had never spent the night together, so she didn’t know what he looked like when he woke up in the morning.

Because he “respected” her. Which meant he wouldn’t breach her nether regions but would in fact allow her to suck his. And, it turned out, his respect also meant that he could stick it in other women.

And still, without that level of detail, her friends had encouraged her to go ahead with the wedding. Because Charlie was from such a great family. She had pointed out to her friends with no small amount of firmness that it was in fact Charlie she had to share a bed with every night, and not his hallowed ancestors.

And so she wasn’t planning a wedding anymore, because her fiancé had proven to be a cheating asshole. She had cost her grandfather thousands in lost deposits, and had been forced to explain to their guests just why she had canceled the most anticipated society wedding of the past few years.

But now she was revitalizing this house. This legacy. Infusing life back into this place that had been left here after the storm. Cold and empty. Lifeless.

She would fix this. Maybe to some people it was only a Christmas party, but to her, it had become symbolic. Of redemption. Atoning for her mistakes. Giving her grandfather something back after taking the wedding away.

Trying desperately to feel like she was part of this life when it was starting to feel too small, too tight around her skin.

And she would.

She just needed to move this big, tattooed mountain out of her way. “Are you? Are you really overqualified? Because I’m more than happy to hand you a cloth and let you do a little dusting. Offer a demonstration.”

If anything, he sank more deeply into the settee, one leg outstretched in front of him, his expression one of near boredom. “I’ll pass.”

“I expect you to make yourself useful if you’re going to stay in my house. You can’t loll around like a corpse all day.”

“This is my house, Ms. Delacroix,” he said, his tone shot through with steel. He stood, and that semblance of relaxation, of lazy, laid-back southern banker, was gone. “I think you’re under some sort of delusion that you have a claim here. Let me make something very clear. I don’t give a fuck what your family name is. I don’t care if your blood is in the brick. My name, my club’s name, is on the deed. I could boot your pretty little ass out onto the street if I wanted to.”

He advanced on her and her chest froze. Her heart, the air in her lungs. Everything. It was like watching a predator advancing. Knowing you were going to get your throat torn out. Being unable to move. What a stupid, useless reaction. And yet, it was her reaction.

Nice to know that were she an antelope on the Serengeti, she’d get herself chomped on by a lion almost immediately. It wouldn’t just happen. She would allow it to happen.

“Is that what you want?” he asked, his tone dropping. Soft. Deadly. “You want me to throw you out of here? You could conduct your party on Bourbon Street, baby, but you would have to show a lot more of that hot little body of yours. You don’t get beads if you don’t pay the fee.”

Somehow words formed on Sarah’s numb lips. And a lifetime practicing controlled, calculated comebacks came to the rescue. “I’m the Mardi Gras princess,” she said. “I don’t stand on the ground begging for beads. I throw the damn things.”

He chuckled, the sound a slow roll of bayou smoke that covered her like a blanket. “In that case, I think I’m going to make it my mission to teach you to beg, Sarah Delacroix.”

His words sent an unexpected rush of heat over her body.

That didn’t make sense. Not any more than freezing in her tracks had just done. She couldn’t even quite untangle the meaning of his statement, though she knew it was layered with more than just a simple definition. Still, her brain felt fuzzy, and she also had the feeling he might be talking about things, secrets, mysteries of the world she was not privy to.

She had a feeling the man himself contained whole mysteries she had never fathomed existed.

Which was entirely too fanciful a thought for the hard-cut, inked guy standing in front of her, looking like he was going to take a bite out of her neck.

“That might be a problem,” she said, holding her whole body stiff. “Because I don’t beg.”

“I assume you know the way out,” he said. “It’s the way you came in.”

Shock hit her like an anvil. “Are you kicking me out of my own house?”

“I hope you’re good at other things, Ms. Delacroix, because taking instruction isn’t one of them. Neither is listening. This isn’t your house. If I called the police right now, you would be the one found to be trespassing.” A feral smile curved his lips. “Of course, I’m not going to call the police because I have less use for them than I do for you. And make no mistake I can think of very few uses for you.” His gaze swept over her curves. “Though, the uses I can think of seem like they’d be a lot of fun.”

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