Yes, only 2 weeks left until ROGUE is published. I can hardly wait for you to see and hear it! But for now, want to read the first part RIGHT HERE?
PRE-ORDER HERE: Rogue (Maxence #1)
Don't forget to check back for Chapter 2 soon!
Dree raised her shot glass high above her head to toast the gilded Buddha towering over the nightclub. She shoved all the air from her lungs through her throat and screamed with her whole body at the people yammering over the techno music and each other, “I’m gonna screw every man in this bar tonight!”
The crowd roared its approval amid laughter and raised cocktail glasses that glinted in the dark nightclub’s spinning lights. Their faces and gaping, open mouths swam through the air as Dree bobbled where she was standing on top of the chair.
Dree tossed the remaining tequila into her mouth to seal the deal, and the liquor sent acrid fumes up her nose to mix with the aromas of roasting meat, sizzling ginger, beer, wine, cocktails, and people becoming sweaty from dancing in an overheated nightclub. She swallowed the tequila hard because her stomach was already raw from three earlier shots of tequila plus even more cocktails.
Dree raised both her arms and screamed, “Woo!” Thus, becoming a “woo-girl” for the first time since college.
Dozens of men and women woo’d back at her, so she waved her arms and woo’d some more.
It felt great.
Yeah, she was a frickin’ woo-girl tonight. Goddammit, she totally was.
She had, literally, nothing left to lose.
Two waitstaff came over and scolded her in French too rapid for Dree to comprehend, both because she was drunk and because college French had been a few years before. They were definitely wagging their fingers at her and pointing at the floor, though.
The seat of the bar chair she was standing on slid sideways under her feet, tilting her. She caught the back of the seat right before she fell off.
One of the servers grabbed Dree’s hand as she stumbled, and she allowed herself to be helped down from her perch. The seat jittered and swiveled as she held onto the back and found the floor with her toes, trying not to drop the shot glass she held in her left hand. The last thing she needed was to add broken glass to the mix.
As she held onto the barstool and eased herself down to standing on the wobbling floor, she thanked the waiters, who sighed visibly at her but walked away, letting her stay in the club.
Good. The point of the evening was not to get thrown out of the Buddha Bar in Paris. The point of the evening was—
—Well, she’d just proclaimed it to the room.
Dree plunked her butt back on the bar chair and glanced around. Lights spinning in time with the techno dance music dazzled her eyes. The crowd had already forgotten about Dree’s statement of purpose and gone back to yammering and yelling over the music and each other as they tried to talk their way into each other’s pants.
The petite woman who had helped Dree stand up on the barstool seconds before rolled her eyes. “Déchirée.”
When your nickname is Dree and you take college French, you learn real quick that déchirée means plastered drunk.
Yeah, she was wasted and had just announced her sordid intentions to the bar.
And why not?
Quite literally, Dree had nothing in the world left to lose.
Dree shook the last few drops of tequila from the shot glass into her mouth and set it on a cocktail napkin that was covered with black, feminine handwriting, only some of it her own.
Right away, she realized her mistake and moved the shot glass back onto the wooden presentation tray, and she shook out the napkin and blew on it, drying the one dot of liquid blurring a line that formed the bottom of the P in Nepal.
Ruining that napkin would be a disaster. Dree folded it carefully and tucked it into her tiny clutch purse because it was her bucket list, her guiding light for the rest of her life that she had screwed up so badly because she’d trusted the wrong guy.
The so-wrong guy.
The wrongiest of all the wronginator guys.
She was so screwed.
But tonight, she was having one last drink in the Buddha Bar in Paris, and then she was going to do all the guys in the nightclub.
Or at least a fair number of them.
It said right there on that napkin that was now safely in her purse that she needed to have a one-night stand with a beautiful man whom she’d never see again, or to have a threesome, or to have a foursome with three guys, or a gang bang.
All those debaucheries were listed right there on the napkin, so she pretty much had to do them, right?
Yes, she did.
Maybe she should write a book about that someday, The Guidance of the Napkin. It could be about how people could change their lives by meeting random people in bars and following their drunken advice written on a napkin instead of following what they were “supposed to do.”
Doing what you were “supposed to do” in life led to pathetic betrayals from people who were supposed to love you and complete destitution, so that couldn’t be right.
Dree was living proof of that. She had lost everything she’d owned, absolutely everything, because she’d loved and trusted the wrong guy.
Because Dree had no frickin’ judgment when it came to people.
So, she needed to stop being such an idiot and screwing up her life.
Following the list on the napkin sounded like a great idea.
Lots of ideas sounded great when Dree was déchirée, drunk off her ass.
But she was going to do at least one of those things on the napkin tonight.
Rivulets of men trickled through the thick crowd, edging toward her.
That’s what she damn well wanted, wasn’t it?
All the many, many menny men.
Dree glanced down the bar in the direction of the enormous Buddha statue that loomed over the partying crowd and saw the man who was leaning against the bar two seats away from her. The woman who had pronounced Dree déchirée and one other guy separated him from Dree.
That gorgeous man whom Dree had noticed a few minutes earlier looked up at her as if he had felt her eyes on him. He hadn’t yelled with the rest of the guys when she’d announced her challenge. Even now, his expression wasn’t precisely startled, but a tight wariness had entered his dark eyes and his athletic stance as he leaned on the bar, holding an amber drink with ice in a highball glass.
When the man had arrived a few minutes earlier, Dree had noticed him as soon as he’d touched the bar, a few people away from where she’d been sitting. She was pretty sure half the people in the Buddha Bar had watched him cross the room and order a drink before they broke his spell and went back to their own, now-troubled conversations, but they were still sneaking glances at him.
The tall man had smiled easily while he ordered a drink, his gaze serene while he surveyed the crowd. He was really tall, too. His head stuck up above everyone else’s like they were a black-and-blond ocean and he was swimming with his head held high out of the waves, lest he soak his dark, curling hair that swayed over his forehead and neck. He looked like he was a white guy with a tan, or he might be olive-skinned, like from somewhere near the Mediterranean Sea. Something about him made her feel like a fish drawn to an irresistible lure.
When he twisted, turning toward Dree, his white tee shirt pulled taut over his broad, muscular chest and shoulders. The pristine cotton clung to the rounds of his massive pectorals, the ripples of his abdominal muscles, and his obliques that cut diagonal slices from his ribs to the waistband of his trousers.
Oh, somebody worked out.
Dree had to respect the time in the gym, even though she did not go to the gym nearly as much as he obviously did.
Or ever, really. The hospital where she worked had a gym, and she had been meaning to start going there for three years.
The man’s dark dress pants contrasted oddly with his plain white tee, which looked like it might be an undershirt. If it had clung to his skin any more tightly, she would have thought he had just won a wet-tee-shirt contest. She could see every one of his eight-pack of abdominal muscles, even those top ones nestled under his pecs.
When Dree leaned back to observe the guy’s backside, his legs were long and thick with muscle.
Between his incongruous clothes, tousled black curls, and sleepy blinks, the guy looked like he’d left his suit jacket, shirt, and tie on someone’s bedroom floor and sauntered into the bar for a drink.
That man could throw his clothes on Déchirée Dree’s floor anytime.
She was so drunk. This was not like her, but tonight, anything seemed possible. Everything seemed possible.
She wanted to touch him. The tequila shots she’d sucked down made her body feel languorous and heavy, and she wanted a tall, strong, sexy man to touch her, drive her backward with the warmth of his male body, and move above her and inside her with slow, sinuous thrusts, his faint masculine musk surrounding her and driving her out of her mind.
The deliberate way that man lifted his drink to his mouth—when he touched the highball glass to his full, lower lip before he tilted it, the liquid flowed in, and he swallowed—made Dree think he would be incredible in bed, that he’d take his time, that he’d know what he was doing to her.
The inside of her mouth watered like she wanted to lick him.
And he was still staring back at her, his dark eyes serious and almost wary.
He took the glass away from his mouth like he was stripping off his shirt for her to see his naked flesh.
Dree was leaning so far toward him that she nearly fell off her chair.
A new guy inserted himself into her view, jamming himself into the narrow space between Dree and the petite, judgey woman sitting next to her.
Dree looked up.
The new guy’s red silk shirt was unbuttoned to his waist, exposing a thatch of black chest hair. “Bonsoir.”
“Uh, yeah. Hi,” Dree said.
“You called for volunteers?” the guy asked with a strong French accent.
“Uh, about that,” Dree said, leaning back in her seat in retreat and gripping an empty shot glass.
She should not have stood on her bar chair and announced that. The napkin said to do something that she might regret later, but she regretted yelling that right now.
Another guy moved up to stand beside the first. “I heard you say you were going to screw every guy in the bar.”
She examined the shot glass in front of her instead of meeting his eyes. “I sure did say that.”
“So, you didn’t mean it when you announced that you wanted to screw every guy in the bar?”
“Maybe announcing it was a bad decision,” she admitted.
Two more guys crowded around her chair. “‘Allo, my sweet. Is this party full, or am I just in time?”
Another guy with a New York accent said, “I’m not taking sloppy seconds. I want her mouth, and I want to go first.”
“Whoa,” Dree said, leaning back, her feet scrambling for the foot-rest bar to shove herself backward in her chair. “Slow down, dudes.”
More men stepped up, forming a knot around where she sat, boxing her in.
A gravelly voice asked, “Is this where I redeem my one-free-chick coupon?”
Another said, “She’s fatter than she looked.”
“Hey!” Dree said, getting pissed.
Another man reached for her as he said, “I want to do her tits. I get off on tits. You want to be un chou à la crème?”
He was asking if she wanted to be a cream pie.
She slapped his encroaching hand. “Ew!”
“You didn’t seem so finicky before,” an American guy said. “Sounded like you wanted to be the slimy center of a circle jerk.”
“Yuck! Jeez, you guys. Back off!”
“You said you wanted all the men,” another guy said in halting English.
The group tightened around her. Their heat reached her, making the air damp with their sweat. Tremors filled her arms.
A strong hand grabbed her boob. “Nice tits.”
She shoved at the man’s arm, knocking him back, but more hands were reaching for her. She clutched her little purse to her chest like the tiny scrap of pink leather could shield her, “Stop it!”
“Are we going to do this here or outside in the alley?” one of them asked.
Another hand dove between Dree’s thighs, and she clamped her legs together and punched at the arm and face connected to it.
The shaking in her arms wracked her whole body.
There were too many of them.
Too many hands, and all were too big and too strong.
“Leave me alone,” she begged them. More hands, more leering faces, more hands and bodies coming at her and trapping her. “Stop! Jesus Christ, just leave me alone!”
Movement from behind the guys.
A few of the guys’ heads swiveled left as something drew their attention, and their eyes widened.
Large, strong hands appeared over the wall of her attackers and grasped their shoulders. Their attached bodies flailed and flopped aside.
The cluster of men fragmented like a rotting sea wall broken apart by a rogue wave.
Men’s voices yelled as the barrier they’d made themselves into was ripped apart.
A tower of white cotton and muscled flesh breached the ring of guys and rose in front of her. Scents of mild soap and a fresh, masculine aftershave emanated from the white tee shirt and the mountain of a man standing there and facing away from her. One of his arms reached back to shield her, and the other shoved outward, pushing the guys’ shoulders and forcing them to stumble backward.
The man’s deep voice said in British-accented English, “Back away. The lady said she wanted to be left alone.”
The other men crowded around them shrank backward like they were melting wax in the hot sun.
Dree’s heart thrashed in her chest. She was struggling to suck air because the room seemed to have fallen on her. The only thing holding back the wreckage was the huge man looming in front of her, protecting her from those men intent on—
Intent on rape.
Dree knew what would have happened to her, and people would have said that she deserved it because she’d yelled such a thing and the whole bar had heard it.
But the man was holding them back.
Her heart fluttered as it settled.
She was still shaking from her skeleton to her skin.
The man twisted, looked down at her, and asked, “Are you all right?”
Up close and looking down at her like that, his chiseled cheekbones and jaw seemed more pronounced, and his large, dark eyes had grown more intense and filled with points of light. He had a straight, masculine nose, and his dark curls swept forward and framed his face as he bent. He looked like a statue of a Roman god or a sculpture by Michelangelo that had come to life and twisted to stare down at her. Shock at his pure male beauty flooded her, and it felt like something between a tremor of magic and abject worship of a divinity that had materialized in front of her.
“Are you all right?” he asked again.
By all the saints, the man had a refined British accent, too.
That was just not fair. It was like he’d scooped up all the masculine perfection in the world and left none at all for the other guys. Dree was pretty sure that every man she met for the rest of her life would seem watery, weak, and spineless, and they would talk funny, too.
The man turned a little more toward her, peering at her face. “You’re not all right. Let’s get you out of here.”
He grabbed her hand and tugged, and she stumbled off the bar chair. The flesh of his hand was hard around her fingers, like he had thick calluses on his palm and fingers. Her legs wouldn’t hold her, and she felt like a newborn lamb trying to not fall on its face in the straw and failing.
His firm grip on her arm hauled her up, and she knew her stupid face was slack with numb confusion at the squawking of the people crowding around her and the whirling disco lights and beeping techno music. When she breathed, the tequila from her mouth mixed with the exhaled breath of too many people packed into the room, and she was suffocating.
The man held her up by her upper arm and half-dragged her a few steps. She was trying to follow him, but her legs would not cooperate. Her limbs tripped and splayed at bizarre angles as the music and screaming beat on her ears.
The man wrapped one arm around her, holding her up around her back. She frog-flopped one foot in front of the other, staring at her white ballet-flat shoes, and he hustled her out of the Buddha Bar’s front doors.
She stumbled out of the bar and into a wall of ice.
Freezing air slapped her face and sweaty skin. Clammy cold crawled under the red fabric of her skin-tight dress and sucked the heat out of her. “Oh!”
“What is it?” the man asked.
The cold stung her cheeks and arms, rousing her from her drunkenness. “It’s so cold,” she said. “I left my coat in there.”
“We’re not going back in,” he said, his deep voice spreading out in the night air.
“But my coat—”
“You can get it tomorrow.”
“Someone will take it,” she said.
“You’ll be fine.”
The icy air sucked the heat out of her flesh and chilled her to the core. “It’s December, and I need a coat.”
The man whirled something black through the air that had been hanging over his arm. He said, “It’s not even that cold out here.”
The air stung the inside of her nose, and it hurt to breathe. “It totally is! It’s freezing! How do you Europeans stand it?”
He looked down at her as he settled his black leather jacket around her shoulders. “Where are you from?”
One corner of his mouth turned up in a half-smile as he adjusted the jacket’s collar.
One of his fingertips brushed her neck, and a shiver flew through her.
“That explains it,” he said. “This is a chilly fall evening for Paris. It’s a little fresh.”
Dree shoved her arms into his jacket, pushing her small purse down the sleeve. Of course, his coat must be roomy to accommodate his thick, muscular arms and broad chest. The inside of his jacket was still warm, and the lining was smooth on her bare arms like it might be silk.
She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered as a hint of the warm spice and dark scent of his cologne rose out of the collar and brushed her face. “Thanks. I do need to get my coat, though.”
“That bar isn’t a safe place for you right now. You can see if it’s still there tomorrow.”
She blurted, “I can’t afford to buy another one. I have to go back and get it.”
One of his shoulders twitched, a gesture of dismissal, and he blinked and glanced off to the side from under his thick eyelashes. “If you promise not to go back in there tonight, I will buy you any coat you want.”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that.” Her instinctive pushback to anyone helping her popped out of her mouth before she could even think. She didn’t want to be a bother.
“I promise,” he said, his smile becoming easier. “Any other problems I can solve for you?”
She wasn’t going to tell him. She was a grown woman of twenty-five years old and didn’t need anyone to solve her problems for her. “No.”
“Then smile for me.”
“Before you made that ridiculous pronouncement that you were going to have every man in the bar—”
“Screw. I said I was going to screw every man in the bar.” She was supposed to have sex with somebody tonight. There was a reason she was supposed to do that, if only she could remember why.
“Yes, you did say that. But before you announced it at the top of your lungs whilst standing on a chair, you had the funniest, most joyous smile I’d seen in a long time. You kept giggling to yourself as you looked at a piece of paper.”
“It’s a cocktail napkin,” Dree said. Some of the silly insanity of that napkin crept back, and she smiled. Yeah, the napkin had told her to do that. She needed to check the napkin for what else she needed to do, but she needed to sleep with at least one guy tonight or else she would never get even halfway through the bucket list on that napkin before she left Paris.
“That’s better,” the man said, and his smile grew, too, and reached his eyes.
She had been amazed by his looks and his eyes in the club, but his smile was even more dazzling.
He lifted her chin with one finger, still smiling. “More.”
“More what?” Her eyelids felt heavy, and her lips seemed clumsy and swollen.
His voice dropped to a more seductive octave, and a hint of breathiness crept in. “More smile. Give me more.”
It was such a silly request that she laughed at him. The tequila that was still in her stomach was flowing into her blood. They called that crap liquid courage for a reason.
“That’s better. Now, let’s take you back to your hotel.” He steered her toward the street.
“Hotel?” But, wait. She was supposed to be in a bar, living an awesome life. That woman had told her to. “How did you know I’m a tourist?”
His chuckle was an explosion, like, “Hah!”
“No, seriously. How’d y’all know I’m not a worldly Parisienne?”
He glanced down at her. “Just a hunch. Come on, let’s get you a cab.”
She tried to follow him as he walked away, but her toes dragged because she was still dead-ass drunk. He caught her as she flopped forward and set her back on her feet. She said, “I could totally be a worldly Parisienne if I wanted to.”
“Of course, you could. What cab service did you use? Or maybe one of the ride-sharing ones?”
She told him, “I rode the subway here.”
“It’s late, and I don’t think you should take the Métro. I don’t trust you to get off at your stop.”
“I’m fine. I’ll be fine.”
“Come. What taxi service should I call?”
“I can’t afford a taxi!” she blurted.
He stopped and frowned with confusion, peering at her, but then shook his head. “All right, then I’ll send for a taxi for you. It’ll take you back to your hotel.”
“I’m staying at a B and B, not a hotel.”
His shoulders drooped, and he closed his eyes. “So there isn’t a concierge who would help you up to your room?”
“No. It’s an apartment I rented by the night.”
His chin dropped, and he heaved a sigh. His phone was in his hand, and he tapped the screen a few times. “I’ll drop you off and make sure you’re inside all right. Come on. Let’s not dawdle. I’ve got places to go, or I should have places to go. What’s the address?”
She fished a slip of paper out of her clutch purse. “Here.”
He blinked at it. “That’s in Seine-Saint-Denis.”
“Yeah, that’s it. That’s what the ad said.”
He paused again, his lips tightening. “It’s far into the northeast districts. It’s probably better that I escort you, nevertheless.”
The sidewalk undulated under her feet, and she bobbled sideways. He caught her again. “Why? It seemed fine.”
“It’s unusual to see tourists there. I would be concerned that you might be taken advantage of or accosted.”
“Bah,” Dree said, her hand flailing around to show her disdain at his wussiness. He side-stepped as her forearm whizzed past his shoulder. “I live and work in the Alhambra district in Phoenix, dude. Nothing in Paris scares me. That B and B just kinda reminds me of home, but fancier.”
The man waved his phone in the air, and a black car cruised to a stop in front of them. “Right, then let’s get you locked up tight, shall we?”
“You don’t have to take me home,” she told him. The sidewalk still crested under her feet like fluffy ocean waves bobbing a small boat. “I don’t wanna go home. I haven’t accomplished anything on that napkin. That napkin is going to change my life. I’ma do everything on it, starting tonight. I’m going back in there to get a guy and bang his brains out tonight.”
Dree handed his coat back to him and stalked off, trying not to fall over because the sidewalk kept rolling like ocean waves when she walked.
PRE-ORDER ROGUE HERE: Rogue (Maxence #1)
CHAPTER TWO WILL BE POSTED SOON!