A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
They say when you assume that you make an ass out of you and me. Kenton Mayson learned this lesson firsthand when he made assumptions about Autumn Freeman and the kind of woman she is based on what little information he had. What he finds out is she’s not only beautiful, but also smart, funny, a fighter, and exactly the kind of woman he wants to share his life with. Autumn made assumptions of her own about Kenton, and now he needs to prove her wrong in order to protect her and their future.
Aurora Rose Reynolds knows how to write an alpha male story. I love her heroes. Her heroes know how to grovel and I love it. Kenton made assumptions about Autumn Freeman when he first met her. He assumed that she was a just a dumb stripper who just needed somewhere to hide while some mob men want to see her dead after she witnessed a crime.
There were some scenes in this book where I found myself tearing. Autumn story was sad and beautiful. She is such a great heroine and Kenton, well after he saw Autumn’s beauty inside and out like everyone did, there was not stopping him. However, Autumn was not so quick to accept Kenton’s apology. He had to earn her friendship and trust. Autumn has had a difficult life. She already suffered enough hardship and she did not allow anyone to treat her poorly.
The story had me from page one. I loved seeing how this relationship unfolded. I loved the banter, I loved that Autumn did not take any crap from anyone. This relationship had some bumps and I loved reading the angst and how the characters handled all the situations together.
Prologue & Chapter 1
The Underground Kings series
Aurora Rose Reynolds
I see you judging me. I know what you’re thinking. She has to be a slut; she works at a strip club and takes off her clothes for money. Yes! I work at a strip club, and you may think I’m a whore for showing off my body, but this is a talent that has been forced down my throat since I was a young child. Look pretty and smile. I put on a show for those who choose to watch. However long I’m on stage, I’m not even me. It’s what I imagine an out of body experience would be like—a performance, nothing more, nothing less. The people watching make assumptions about who they think I am, or cook up a story in their heads of whom they want me to be. I’m just another beautiful face.
Beautiful. I hate that fucking word. Who gives a crap if someone is attractive on the outside if they are dying inside? My whole life has been about what I look like. I swear, the only reason my mother kept me was to have a real-life, living, breathing doll she could dress up and control, which is the exact reason why as soon as I became eighteen, I got as far away from her special brand of crazy as I could. That’s also why I don’t date. The first thing guys do is look at me and see a pretty face, a nice body, and an empty space where my brain’s supposed to be. They have no interest in getting to know the person I am on the inside. They don’t care I volunteer my spare time, and they couldn’t care less I’m going to school to be an RN. They don’t ask about my hopes, my dreams, or about where I see my life in twenty years. They don’t care about me at all.
They just want someone pretty to follow them around and tell them how handsome they are, how special they are, while agreeing with everything they say. Fuck that! I did that for too many years. That’s why I live inside books. At least there I can choose where I want to be—from the highlands of Scotland, to a king’s bed in a faraway land—and even if it’s pretend, sometimes that’s a lot better than reality.
I look out the plane window, my finger going to the glass, feeling the cold on my fingertips as I look out at the land moving quickly below me. It’s funny how from up here, everything looks so small. I never traveled in a plane before today; just the idea of being trapped inside a tin can while flying at six hundred miles an hour never appealed to me. I take a breath and look at the TV monitor that’s in the seat in front of me. The small, animated plane on the screen shows we’re over halfway to Tennessee.
“Are you traveling for business or pleasure?”
I turn my head and look at the guy sitting next to me. He’s slightly overweight and balding, but he also has wrinkles around his eyes, giving him the appearance of someone who smiles often. I debate with myself on whether or not to answer before replying, “Business.”
His eyes drop to my mouth, then to my chest as I fight the urge to punch him in the throat. I hate when men go from nice to creepy. I shake my head, turning away from him. I don’t know why I even try. I feel a hand on my bare leg and my head swings around quickly. “Touch me again and I will rip off your balls and feed them to you,” I tell him in a soft tone, trying not to bring attention to us. He quickly removes his hand before swallowing hard.
I shake my head before turning my body away from his. I feel tears sting my nose, but I fight them back. No way am I going to cry now—not when just six hours ago, my whole world exploded and I didn’t shed one single tear. I lay my forehead to the glass, closing my eyes. I still can’t believe how fast my life changed…
I got up that morning and went to the hospital like I always do. I work at one of the busiest ERs in Vegas. I’ve been working there since I finished school, and was required to get my clinical hours for my RN certification. As soon as I walked into the building, I was loaded down with work. Weekends are always crazy in Sin City, but yesterday seemed worse than normal—two drug overdoses, three stomach pumps, and one gun shot victim. Later, I was leaving the hospital exhausted, only to head to my real job—well, the one that pays me the money I need to live.
“Hey, Sid.” I gave him a half-smile as I walked into The Lions Den, the gentlemen’s club I worked at. Do I like to strip? No. Does it pay my bills? Yes. The second I get on stage, I’m no longer me; my brain shuts off and my body takes over, the same way it used to when I was growing up and my mom forced me into pageants. I’m accustomed to being on display and used for my appearance. I wish life was different, but it is what it is. Some people complain about being overweight or having acne; for me, I hate being beautiful. I know it sounds stupid; I mean, why would anyone complain about being attractive, right? Here’s why: men see me as an object, and women see me as competition. No one is ever willing to give me a chance; they all judge me by what’s on the outside, never taking a second to find out even the smallest detail about who I am. I know I’m a walking cliché; I hate being beautiful, yet I work in a business where I put myself front and center to be viewed and judged.
The difference? For the first time in my life, when I get on stage, it’s my choice; no one is forcing me to do it. I get up there to earn the money so I can change my life in a way that will make it where I never have to be objectified again.
“Tired?” Sid questioned, following me. I had worked for Sid for the last three years. He was a friend of sorts; he’s also my boss.
“Yeah, I can’t wait until my clinical hours are over and I can start working at the hospital full-time, instead of having two jobs.”
“I don’t like that I won’t see your face all the time, but I know you need to move on,” he conceded.
“Some other girl will come in and you will forget all about me.”
“Never, Angel.” His eyes move over my face and he shakes his head. “You’re working VIP tonight.” He followed me down the hall towards the dressing rooms.
“Sure,” I agreed, already exhausted. I needed a shower and a bed, but knew I was going to be there for at least eight hours, so I might as well suck it up.
“The guys coming in are important, so you need to make sure they’re happy the whole time they’re here.”
“I have done this before,” I reminded him, stopping outside the dressing room door to frown at him.
“Normally, I wouldn’t say anything—you know that—but I gotta go get on a plane, so I won’t be here to check on them.”
“I’ll make sure they’re taken care of,” I assured him.
“Thanks, Angel.” He kissed my forehead like he often did before walking away. I watched him go for a second before pulling myself together.
“Oh! Look who’s here,” Tessa said as soon as I entered the dressing room. I ignored her and tossed my bag into my locker before pulling my scrubs off. Tessa is a bitch; she is just like the girls I used to compete against in pageants. To her, life is a competition, and she is determine to come out the winner, even if she has to throw everyone else under the bus on her way to the top. “Mick said I could work VIP tonight,” she said to one of the other girls in the room. I ignored her, knowing better than to tell her it wasn’t happening. I was sure Mick did tell her that…after she took him in the backroom and gave him something to convince him. “Pixie said the guys coming in are some big-time land developers, so you know the tips are going to be outrageous. Thank God, because I need to have my tits redone, and that shit is not cheap.” I rolled my eyes and headed for the shower room. I had met a couple nice girls during my time here, but most were just like Tessa—a whole lot of hair, tits, ass, and not much else.
I stood in front of the mirror and put on a coat of red lipstick before standing back, looking myself over. The VIP dress code is different than the rest of the club. The required outfit consists of a sheer, black overlay bra, black silk panties, a black garter belt with sheer hose, and black heels. My long, naturally red hair was pulled back on one side by a large flower; the rest was loose and wavy, flowing down my back and one shoulder. My creamy white skin, red lips, and smoky eyes made me look almost like a sexy vamp.
“You ready, Angel?” Sid asked, pounding on the door.
“Showtime,” I whispered before opening the door.
“You look beautiful; I’m going to take you in there and introduce you before heading out.”
“Sure.” I followed him down the hall to the club. The Lion’s Den is well-known in the area for its exclusivity. The walls are painted a dark brown, and the booths are designed into the walls, making the space feel intimate. The stage is in the center of the room, with a single spotlight shining down on it. Every booth has a girl assigned to it, and VIP has two girls. We aren’t allowed to interact with the customers without being asked directly to do so.
The club is less of a strip club, and more of a place for men to hangout and drink while having beautiful women tend to them. If they choose to, they can watch the girl in the center of the room put on a show. I had been on stage several times in the three years I’ve worked here. I never told Sid I didn’t like it up there, but he normally put me in VIP, or assigned me to a booth for the night.
“Why are you so worried about these guys?”
“They’re thinking about opening up a Lion’s Den in one of the new casinos they’re building.”
“That’s huge! Congrats, honey.” I squeezed his bicep and gave him a smile.
“One day, Angel, I’m gonna take you away from this place and show you happiness. I wanna see that smile everyday.” My heart did a little thud. Sid is a very attractive man, but he’s not for me. I don’t want or need a man; they get you all discombobulated, filling your head with a bunch of lies then expect you to follow them around. I did that once. I thought a man was going to save me from the hell I was living in. I gave him my virginity and my heart, and he gave me a child I wasn’t allowed to keep and a heart so broken nothing or no one would ever put it back together again.
I looked through the two-way mirror at the men around the table in the VIP room.
“All right,” Sid says from beside me, “the man in the center at the table is John Barbato; he is the owner of three of the largest clubs in the city. The guy there on his left is Steven Creo; he’s some big wig on Wall Street and has backed more than half the new clubs and casinos opening on The Strip. The guy to the right of John has a location they’re interested in purchasing.”
“Got it. Who’s working with me?” I asked him.
“Tessa, Mick said she would be the best out of the girls we’ve got on the schedule tonight.”
“I’m sure he did,” I mumbled, looking back into the room. “What other bouncers are on tonight?” I hated when Mick and Craig worked together; they were both more concerned about hooking up with the girls than what was going on out on the floor.
“Link’s here now.”
“Good.” Link was a good guy and a close friend. He also took his job seriously.
“All right, let me introduce you quickly before I head out.”
“Sure.” I followed him into the room; the men’s heads turned in our direction smiling.
“Guys, I want you to meet Angel. She’s gonna be your girl for the night. You need anything, you ask her, and she will make sure you’re taken care of,” Sid tells them, gesturing to me.
“Nice to meet you,” one of the men said, smiling while the others nodded.
“Nice to meet you.” I smiled back.
“Angel will be right back; give me a minute guys.”
“Sure,” the one that spoke before said. As Sid and I stepped away, I heard from behind me, “Do you think the curtains match the drapes?” and they all laughed. I hated that saying, and I swore once I was free of this lifestyle, I would kick the next man in the nuts who said it.
“Okay, I gotta head out. I won’t be back for two weeks,” Sid said once we were standing in the hall.
“Have a safe trip.”
His eyes searched my face. His mouth opened and closed like he was going to say something, but instead, he shook his head, kissed my cheek, and walked off down the hall muttering something under his breath.
Tessa came around the corner a couple seconds later with a smug smile on her face. I hate to admit it, but she is beautiful. Her skin has a natural glow that makes her look healthy and youthful. Her hair is black and thick, reaching the top of her ass. Her eyes curve out at the corners, showing off her Asian-American heritage. “You ready?” she asked, looking at me from head to toe. I avoided rolling my eyes at her before stepping into the room behind her.
After we took the first orders, we stood back while the men talked. I learned a long time ago to zone myself out. We were there as eye candy and nothing else. There was a knock on the door, and I knew the drinks had arrived. Tessa answered it, opening the door wide, and the man who brought the tray in was someone I had never seen before. He looked to be mid-thirties, had long, shaggy black hair, and brown eyes. When he set the tray down on the table in the corner, he turned and did something odd that had me watching him more closely. His hand went to his back as he looked over at the men who were still busy talking. When his eyes came to me, he smiled before walking out of the room. I looked at Tessa to see if she had noticed anything strange, but she was busy handing out the drinks and flirting with the men at the table.
We stood to the side again once the men had their drinks; every once in a while, they would ask me a question about the club, and I told them what I knew. About thirty minutes after they had their first drinks, I called and had more ordered. This time, when the guy came in, he did the same thing—hand at his back, looking at the table. I had no idea who he was, but planned to find out as soon as the men left. One of the men received a phone call and stepped out of the room, and when he returned, he had another man with him. They all sat down, and this time when they called me over, they wanted a bottle of Chives Regal Royal Salute Scotch. One glass of the stuff cost close to six hundred dollars, making it over ten thousand dollars for a bottle. I placed the order and waited for it to be delivered. When the knock sounded on the door, I opened it up, and the same man from earlier came in and set the tray down. I watched to see if he would do the same thing he had done the previous times.
Sure enough, his head turned towards the table and his hand lifted behind his back, but this time, he lifted his jacket, pulling out something black. It took a second for me to realize what it was, and by that time, it was too late. He let off four rounds in rapid succession, then turned and fired a round, hitting Tessa. I screamed as he turned the gun on me, and before I could think, I ducked down and ran as fast as I could out of the room. I felt a bullet whiz past me as I turned the corner, and another as I entered the main part of the club. I spotted Mick; right away his eyes got wide and I yelled at the top of my lungs, “HE HAS A GUN!”
Everyone started screaming and running in every direction. I ran into a solid wall, and when I looked up to see it was Link, he wrapped an arm around my waist, turned, and pushed me behind the bar. I stumbled in my heels, falling to my knees and hitting the ground hard. I crawled under the counter and curled myself into a ball, shaking out of fear for my life. I listened as people screamed, but didn’t hear anymore gunshots. I don’t know how long I stayed like that, but it felt like forever until I heard police sirens.
“Autumn,” Link called my real name, snapping me out of my terrified huddle. I peeked out from behind my hands as he crouched down in front of me.
“Did you get him?” He shook his head, putting out his hand for me to take. I shook my head no—I was safe; I didn’t want to move from that spot.
“Come on, Angel, he’s gone.” I shook my head again. “Nothing is going to happen to you. I promise you’re safe.” I swallowed against the lump in my throat, squeezing my eyes closed.
“Tessa?” I asked him. His eyes closed and his head dropped forward. “No,” I whispered, shaking my head. “No.”
“Sorry, Angel,” he said quietly.
“Not sure, but the cops are here. I need you to come out of there so you can talk to them,” he told me gently, holding out his hand again. I nodded, reluctantly taking it. Even though I didn’t like Tessa, she didn’t deserve what happened to her. None of the people in the room deserved what happened to them.
“I should have tried to help her.”
“Nothing you could have done,” Link said, and my eyes went from to the floor to his. He shook his head, wrapped his beefy arm around my shoulders, and walked me over to a barstool. I sat there until the cops came up a few minutes later and told me they needed to talk to me at the station.
“Can she get some clothes on?” Link—who had given me the shirt off his back and hadn’t left my side—asked one of the detectives.
“Sure,” the guy mumbled.
I slid off the barstool and dazedly walked to the dressing room. When I walked in, all the girls were there, huddled together and crying. I didn’t know what to say to them; most of them had been friends with Tessa. I felt horrible they had lost their friend, but was unsure if they would want me to express my condolences. I walked to my locker and started to pull off my stockings when one of the girls came up to me, wrapping her arms around me. Shocked, I hugged her back, and more of the girls gathered around me. We all stood there silently for a few minutes; most of the girls were crying while a couple mumbled about how everything would be okay. I wasn’t sure anything would ever be okay again; I just watched five people die and was lucky to still be alive.
“I have to go with the police,” I told the girls when it didn’t seem like they were going to let me go. After a second, they all started breaking away from me one-by-one, giving me reassuring hugs.
“Call me if you want to talk,” one of the girls, Elsa, said, handing me a business card with her personal information on it. I looked at it for a long second before nodding. I had never really been friends with any of them. Maybe that needed to change. I went to my locker, pulling off my clothes before slipping on a pair of jean shorts, a black tank top, a large, oversized grey sweater, and a pair of black flip-flops. I grabbed my bag, shoved everything into it from my locker, and left the room without a backwards glance.
Link was waiting for me outside the dressing room door, his back against the wall, his head tilted back, looking at the ceiling. I had known Link since I started working at The Lion’s Den. He was a nice guy, blonde hair cut low to his head, tan skin, blue eyes, and a southern drawl that made women fall to their knees. He used to flirt with me when I first started, but when I didn’t return any of the banter, he laid off and became a friend. He’s one of the only people who knows about my past and the things I’ve gone through. “You didn’t have to wait for me,” I told him, pulling my bag across my body.
“I’m not letting you go through this alone.” He pulled me into his side. I could feel tears sting my eyes, and I fought them back. I wasn’t going to cry until this was all over, when I could do it alone, hiding under my covers with my face stuffed into a pillow…like I always did.
He gave me a squeeze, and I felt his lips at the top of my head.
“I don’t understand why I have to leave the state,” I told Link, putting another pair of shoes in my bag. I had no idea how long I would be gone, and Link made it sound like I wouldn’t be able to come back to Vegas for a long while.
“Angel, I hate to remind you, but you’re the only witness, and from what the cops said, the guy is a killer paid by the mob to do hits on people.”
I sighed, looking around my house. I hated I was leaving, but knew it was for the best. I was at the police station for over eight hours going over what happened then sitting with a sketch artist. Somehow, the guy who had shot Tessa and those men had avoided every camera in the club. The cops informed me I needed to be extra cautious. I was the only witness, and they were concerned he would come after me. When Link found out what they said, he made a call to one of his friends from back home in Tennessee and asked if he would be willing to let me stay with him until the police caught the guy. The man, Kenton, agreed, telling Link I would be safe. I hated I was leaving my home, but if my only options were either death or moving, the choice was begrudgingly clear.
“I hope they get the guy fast,” I mumbled.
“Me too, but until then, you will be far away from here where your safe.”
“Are you sure it’s a good idea to have me stay with this guy? I mean, how well do you really know him?”
“We were best friends growing up. He’s a good guy; you’ll be safe with him.”
I bit the inside of my cheek and nodded before going into the closet to get another suitcase. Might as well pack enough stuff to last me. Once I was all packed and ready to go, we got into Link’s SUV and headed for the airport. I was nervous the whole way, feeling like something crazy was about to happen…
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re about twenty minutes out from our arrival destination. The weather in Nashville is mostly clear and sunny; the temperature is eighty-five degrees. The pilot has now turned on the fasten seatbelt sign. Flight crew, please prepare for landing,” I hear through my sleep-ridden state and lift my head from the wall where I had rested it. I wipe my mouth with the sleeve of my sweater before looking around to see everyone is putting their belongings away. I make sure my seatbelt is secure before sitting back. My leg starts bouncing up and down quickly, and I rub the tattoo behind my ear, trying to think about something other than the plane landing.
Once we are on the ground, I wait until everyone is off the plane to make my way out into the terminal. I go to baggage claim and look around, but I have no clue what this guy looks like. All I know is that his name is Kenton, and he is supposed to be picking me up.
I don’t see anyone who looks like they’re searching for someone, so I go to the conveyer belt and spot one of my bags as soon as I get there. I pull it off, stumbling back slightly from the weight, as every guy here just watches me without offering to help. I look around again, wondering if I’m supposed to call someone to tell them I landed. I pull my phone out, click it off airplane mode, and send a text to Link letting him know I had arrived. He sends me a message back letting me know Kenton had called and told him he couldn’t make it to pick me up, and I should just catch a cab to his house; the door would be unlocked.
I shake my head, cursing under my breath, and almost miss one of my other bags going around the belt. Luckily, I catch it at the last second. I carry it over to my other bag, and turn around just in time to see my last bag about to go through the tunnel. I run as fast as I can in my flip flops, and land half-on the conveyor belt, my bottom-half being dragged along the floor as I grab the handle of my bag, pulling it back so hard it flies over my head, causing me to land on my back with my hands over my head.
“You must be Autumn,” I hear rumbled from above me. I tilt my head back and look up at the man standing over me. He’s upside-down, but even from my awkward position, he is good looking. His chuckle makes me grit my teeth though, and I stand up, putting my bag on its wheels before turning back to face him.
He raises a brow to me, shaking his head, looking me over from head to toe. My body heats immediately under his gaze. I take my sweater off, wrapping it around my waist and clearing my throat. “You are?” I ask him again, getting annoyed that he’s obviously finding this so funny if the smirk on his face is anything to go by.
“Kenton.” He smiles. “Those bags yours?” He nods towards my other two bags.
“Yes.” I blow some hair out of my face, looking into his blue eyes and wondering why the hell I feel so hot all of a sudden. He looks away, going over to my bags while I take the time to look him over.
He’s tall—much taller than my five-five. His hair touches the edge of the black t-shirt he has on. He needed a cut a while ago, but judging by the dark scruff along his jaw, I can tell he doesn’t care much about grooming. His shoulders are broad, tapering down to a lean waist; his thighs are thick, incased in a pair of dark jeans that have shredded around the bottom by his heels, and his wallet is imprinted in the back pocket like he wears them often. I look at his ass as he leans over. I can’t believe I’m checking a man out; I’m not one to be the slightest bit sexually interested in anyone. My eyes travel lower, looking at his feet, which are enclosed in a very large pair of black boots. I wonder absently if what they say is true about shoe size. I shake my head at my thoughts, dragging my bag with me towards him. “I thought you couldn’t make it,” I tell him when I reach his side. My head tilts back to look up into his eyes.
“Yeah, change of plans,” he mutters, looking at me. I wait to see if he’s going to say anything else. Apparently, he isn’t going to, so I shake my head again and lower my face towards the ground. “You tired?” His voice is dark and rich, and does something crazy to my insides. I nod, lifting my head. “Let’s roll; you can sleep when we reach the house.”
I don’t say anything else. Something is wrong with me; maybe I’m getting sick. I follow him out of the terminal into the car park. When we reach the parking lot, he stops and pulls a set of keys from his pocket. I hear the beep and look around, expecting him to be driving a large truck, a Hummer, or maybe even a tank. I never expected him to be driving a Dodge Viper, the black-on-black of the car only making it look hotter. I look at my bags, wondering how we will get them in the car.
“It’ll be tight, but they’ll fit,” he mumbles, pulling my other two bags with him. I can’t help noticing the flex of his muscles as he gets my bags into the car, or the fact even his fingers are attractive. It takes some maneuvering, but he does get my bags to fit. I sigh, sitting down on the warm leather once we’re done. “I’m just gonna drop you off at the house. I gotta head out for a bit, but you have free rein. Just make yourself at home; there’s food in the fridge, and fresh sheets on the bed in the guest room.”
“Thank you for doing this,” I tell him, looking at his profile. He is seriously good looking, and the butterflies in my stomach are making me feel anxious about staying with him.
“Don’t mention it. So…you and Link?” It took a second to decipher his words between the thickness of his accent, his smell, and the nervous energy I was feeling. Being in his presence, my brain seemed to have shut down.
“He’s a friend.” Shit, maybe I should have said he was my boyfriend. I looked over at him again; he didn’t seem to be as on edge as I was. He was probably used to women swooning over him. My gut tightened with something, and it took a second to realize what it was. My body froze. Jealousy, really? I must be going into shock or something—I don’t get jealous.
“How’d you two meet?”
“We work at the same club,” I murmured, squirming in my seat.
“Oh yeah,” he mumbled, his knuckles turning white from his grip on the steering wheel. I didn’t know what that meant, but the energy in the car changed, making me want to get away from him.
We drove in silence for the next half-hour, the car winding its way through one small town after another until we went up what seemed like the side of a mountain. The area was surrounded by forest on either side of the road. We drove for about five minutes more before turning onto a dirt road that took us deeper into the forest. I wanted to ask if he lived out here and about where he worked, and a million other questions, but my mouth had gone dry, and the energy in his car hadn’t gotten any better, so I decided to keep my mouth shut.
I was going to be stuck with him for a while, so I figured there would be time for all of that later. I looked ahead of us, and squinted as the image of a large house came into view. It was a very large brick house; the front had two porches, one on the first floor, one on the second, and both wrapped around the front of the house. It was beautiful and expansive. I looked over at Kenton again, gaging if I should ask him if this was his house. His jaw was ticking, and the vein in his neck was pulsing wildly. I had no idea what had set him off, but figured my best bet was to sit there quietly until he calmed down.
We parked in front of the house, where there was no real designated parking place. He unfolded himself out of the car without saying anything, and I took that as my cue to follow him. By the time I made it to the back of the car, he had both of my bags out and was back on the driver’s side, sliding his seat forward so he could get to the bag in the backseat. Without a word, he carried two of my bags up the front porch and right into the house. I dragged my last bag with me, following close behind him.
He set my bags down at the bottom of the staircase, then turned to look at me. “Your room is at the top of the stairs to the right. There’s a bathroom across the hall you can use; I have my own.” He ran a hand through his hair and looked me over again, anger apparent on his face. “I don’t want random men in my house, so if you need to get off, take care of yourself.” I blinked at him as he continued. “The code for the alarm is 4593; don’t forget to set it when you’re in the house. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but you’ll be safe here.” Before I even had a chance to form a complete thought, he was closing the door behind him, shouting, “Set the alarm.”
I stood there for a few minutes, just looking at the door, then I looked around for an alarm, but didn’t see one. Tears stung my nose again as I recalled the look of disgust on his face when he told me to get myself off. I said a silent, “Fuck you,” and looked at my bags then the stairs, shaking my head—I could cry once I got settled in the room. I carried my bags up the stairs one at a time, and by the time I was done, I was so exhausted that I laid face first on the bed, put my head under the pillow, and cried until I fell asleep.
There was a pounding on the door, and I rolled, falling off the bed and onto the floor. “You didn’t set the alarm,” I heard growled. I stood up, pushing my hair out of my face, glaring at Kenton, who stood in the doorway with his arms crossed over his chest.
“I looked and didn’t see the alarm to set it.” I copied his posture, crossing my arms over my chest.
“You should have called and asked me where it was.”
I scoffed. “With what magic? I don’t have your number.”
“You could have asked Link for it.” He shook his head.
“I’m sorry, but if you wanted me to have your number, I figured you would have given it to me,” I retorted.
“Did you eat?” he asked, changing the subject suddenly and throwing me off-guard.
“Did you eat something?”
“No, and I’m not hungry; I’m just really tired,” I told him, rubbing my face. All I wanted to do was go to sleep and forget about the last forty-eight hours.
“You need to eat something,” he chided, uncrossing his arms and placing his hands on his hips.
“Okay, don’t get me wrong; I’m really thankful for you looking out for me, but I have been taking care of myself for a very long time. I don’t want nor need a babysitter.”
“Suit yourself.” He shrugged then looked me over again, his eyes lingering on my chest. I glanced down and groaned. Seriously? My boobs were in my bra, hanging over the top of my tank-top. I quickly adjusted my shirt before narrowing my eyes on him. He smirked, looking up into my face. “Make sure you set the alarm from now on. The panel is inside the room off the entry, first door to the right.”
“Got it.” My body was doing that hot thing again, and I wondered why it kept happening when he was around.
“All right, doll, get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He let his eyes linger on me for a few moments more, and then shook his head, stepping out of the room. I went to the side of the bed and turned on the light before walking to the door and shutting it. I leaned my head back, closing my eyes and breathing in deeply. I ran a finger across my tattoo behind my ear before opening my eyes and looking around. I could do this; I had lived through much worse and came out on top. I just needed to get a plan in place.