by Nicole Tillman
Feb 9th - Feb 19th
Claire has made her fair share of mistakes, her biggest being the fling she shared with her best friend's older brother, Rush. Lucky for her, Rush hopped on a plane the next day bound for California, leaving her to sweep their chemistry under the rug in her run-down apartment in the Ozarks. Claire is more than okay with that arrangement. She's happy with the life she's living and doesn't need any of the complications that come with a man like Rush.
However, when Claire loses her cushy job at the Early Rise Diner, she finds that scoring a decent job in her backwoods town isn't going to be as easy as she had anticipated.
When Rush gets an invitation to return home for his best friend's bachelor party, the first thing he imagines is a spicy reunion with the one girl he hasn't been able to forget. He can't wait to ditch his buddies and slink off to her apartment. So, when he walks through the door of the one-and-only strip joint within a five hour radius of his hometown, the last person he expects to see is Claire.
Scantily-clad in bedazzled leather, he's stunned to see her wild blonde hair flipping back and forth as she serves up rum and whiskey sours.
Disappointed, and more than a little enraged, he makes her an offer she can't refuse.
Before she knows it, Claire is on her way to California, ready to put her culinary degree to work in a big city. Grateful for Rush's connections, she throws caution to the wind in order to make something of herself. She's entrusted her future security to Rush, but in no way intends to entrust him with anything else; not her body and especially not her heart.
Claire blossoms on the West Coast. Life is everything she expected it to be. That is, until she discovers that Rush hasn't been completely up front about their arrangement. In an instant, she's ready to hop on a plane and head home, giving up the glamor and fast-paced life she's been salivating over for years in exchange for the sleepy, backwoods town she finally managed to escape.
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While I'm dancing?
How dare he...
I flung my legs over the edge of the stage, barely missing one of the men attempting to shove a one dollar bill in my bra. I didn't stop, didn't collect. I just continued on my way to the man scowling at his friends, like a titty bar was the worst place in the world to be. I wanted to change his mind. No- I needed to.
He didn't fight me as I pushed him back into his chair. His friends quickly found their seats, scooting as close as possible to the action. Still, his expression didn't waiver and I wondered why the spotlight hadn't followed me out onto the floor. This stranger's face was shadowed, and I hated that I couldn't get a read on him.
Slinging my legs over his lap, I straddled him, grinding to the music as I performed my very first lap dance. All the men at his table leaned forward to shove bills into the top of my stockings and my thong; the only two items of clothing I had left.
Without as much as a warning, the man behind the glasses slapped at their arms, bringing them to a halt with just one swing.
Suddenly, I didn't like it. I didn't like it one bit and I wanted to get out of there. I leaned back, lowering my legs to stand, but the stranger clutched onto my thighs with a force I hadn't expected, crushing me against the bulge in his pants.
A tiny shriek left my mouth and I saw Ian advance in an instant. I shook my head, gesturing for him to back off, and he surprisingly listened. Still, he crept just a few feet closer.
I could handle the shady douchebag. He was just another guy. Another faceless dick in the crowd. I was in control. He was in my territory.
With one last roll of my hips, I pried his fingers off and moved them to my chest, hoping to distract him enough to skitter out from under his grip. Only then did I get a reaction.
Actually freaking growled.
For the first time in all the days I'd been working at The Captain, I felt off my game. My job was to entertain, to turn on the customers. I wasn't supposed to be turned on bythem. But that's exactly what was happening. I felt everything south of my navel contract at the dominating noise escaping his throat.
I had to see his eyes.
Quickly, so he couldn't stop me, I jerked his glasses from his face. As soon as they hit the table behind him, I wished I hadn't. I wished I hadn't gotten off the stage. I wished I hadn't even went into work.
The cold rolling through my bones froze me to the spot as the angry blue of his eyes threatened to knock me on my ass. They were so bright, so intense, so very, very familiar.
I'd misread the man.
He wasn't bored. He was pissed.
Nicole Tillman is an author who hasn't always had a love of reading. As a child, she struggled to string words together and would hide in the back of the classroom with her head down in hopes that the teacher would forget she existed. Eventually, she was introduced to a young adult series by a family friend and her love of reading bloomed.
Nicole now weaves her own stories, content to lose sleep in order to write both contemporary romance and thriller/suspense novels. She lives in the Ozarks of Missouri with her husband, two sons, and two dogs.
Nicole has an Associate’s Degree in General Studies though Missouri State University and was on her way to completing her Bachelors in Creative Writing when she decided to take a sabbatical to focus on work and her family. Now a stay at home mother, she dedicates her time to her boys, writing, and photography.
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