By: Jade Chandler

His eyes closed for a second too long before he removed his hand from my arm. I squeezed past him out of the closet, waiting for him in the hall unsure if my instruction was done and I could ask my questions.

He moved past me, so I hurried to catch up.

“What else should I do?” A lame question but it had burst out over all my more intelligent questions.

He stopped and turned to me. “I told you. Do the paperwork shit, don’t keep me waiting and make sure shit runs smooth.” He started walking again.

While not the most eloquent answer, I understood the bottom line—don’t bother him with small stuff and keep the rest quick and simple. This job was the same as the one I’d left when I kicked my no-good ex in the balls and stormed out of his tattoo shop. This time, I wouldn’t make the same mistake of falling right into the arms of the first guy I stumbled across.

“I like oral reports Red, so don’t hand me any fucking papers. Also, call me, never text, I hate that shit.” He continued moving to the front.

Good thing he didn’t look at me then. My cheeks heated and I’m sure I blushed, not from embarrassment, at least not embarrassment from the comment, but definitely from imagining my mouth on his cock—a pleasurable fantasy.

No, Lila. Stop falling before you’ve even landed on your feet. New start, no old mistakes.

I heard laughter before I walked into the reception area.

Dare slapped the back of a young guy, who couldn’t be twenty-one, in the same leather vest with floppy black hair.

“Zayn meet Lila.” Dare’s attention felt like a physical force to me.

Oh my god, he’d finally used my name, we were making progress. “Hi, I’m the new office manager.” I held out a hand, but the enthusiastic guy pressed me into a hug.

“Thank God, I’m so glad you’re here.” He smiled wide. “They’ve been making me straighten up and shit so you wouldn’t run away in the first hour.” He cocked his head at me. “I must’ve succeeded.”

I laughed. He was too cute, like a puppy you knew would grow up into one of those huge scary dogs. “Yeah, things are in great shape.”

With a nod, he moved to the appointment book. “We’re busy today. Shit, I got two, and you have three appointments at one, six and eight.”

Was I supposed to tell Dare his appointments when he came in? Was I supposed to tell everyone? I needed to start a list of questions because my brain turned to lust-filled goo near Dare.

“Yeah.” He nodded to Zayn. “Come back and see the art I created for Mark. He’s my first customer.” Dare strolled down the hall beside Zayn without a glance my way.

I straightened and pulled my shit together. I never picked good men, I think the part that picks out the right man was broken in me. How could it not be after all the years with my horror-show father? Tony, my ex, had taught me the dangers of dating the boss. He was the owner, and with our breakup, I’d ended the job I loved. Worse, I’d had to pretend for weeks he wasn’t a cheating bastard, until I could line up a new job. Funny how he could control me, put me down, make fun of me, but cheating pushed me over the edge. I guess I should be glad he did, but it still stung that he went somewhere else for the one thing no one ever complained about.

My body purred in a familiar way—the hum of attraction lit me up. Goddammit, my sense always flew out the window when my body voted for sex. Whatever inside my head controlled my sex drive had declared it was in charge, but not this time. I’d sworn to take charge of my own life without the aid of a man.

The front door jingled and a guy strode inside “Hey.” He flashed a boy-next-door smile. “I’m Mark, here for—”

“You’re scheduled for Dare. Nice to meet you. I’m Lila.”

He gave me the nod.

“He’s here, head on back.”

Less than thirty minutes after Mark disappeared down the hall, I resumed obsessing about Dare and the day, which led to thinking about his club, the Jericho Brotherhood.

When Jericho interviewed me, he’d made it clear Dare would be my boss. But he hadn’t made clear who he was. Was he Dare’s boss?

I’d been ecstatic when Jericho offered me the job during the middle of the interview. So ready to leave Tony, I’d gushed out my acceptance.

Then things turned strange. Part of managing a shop was doing the bookwork, paying invoices, depositing the day’s earnings and making sure the accountant had all the information needed, plus a hundred other small jobs. When Jericho explained my office work duties, a chill had run down my back; they were nothing like what I did at Ink Masters in Texarkana. I remember wondering why he even called the job an office manager. The duties were simple but made me slightly skeptical of the club’s legality. I paid myself in cash or check, taxes optional. I opted for the legal tax version of payroll. I did the bookwork, entering expenses, revenue and profit, but I did it in an old ledger, all by hand. Nobody did business that way in the twenty-first century.

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