It was the never-ending shift from hell.

Usually I didn’t mind bartending for my rent money. It was a decent job with great tips and had a super flexible schedule which fit around my pastry classes.

But not tonight… tonight it was a nightmare.

I was only an hour into my shift, and I’d already cut my finger slicing lemons, and some asshole who tipped his beer over on the bar ruined my favorite pair of black leather leggings. It certainly didn’t help that I was wearing the most uncomfortable and revealing leather corset top ever made. I placed my hands on either side of my boobs and yanked it up. What had I been thinking? I needed tips, but not bad enough to display the girls on a silver platter for the idiots who came to this bar.

I glanced at the cash register clock.

Just six more hours to go.

Thankfully, I wasn’t closing tonight, so I could clock out at midnight.

The moment I got home, I was taking this torture trap of a top off and getting a nice, long, hot shower. The thought of my favorite author’s latest fabulously smutty book uploaded on my Kindle waiting for me made me smile. Yep, a dark and kinky read was the closest I had gotten to having a boyfriend over the last four hundred and thirty-two days, but who was counting? Besides, boyfriends were a nuisance. I was already in my mid-twenties and I’d yet to meet a guy who wasn’t just a glorified man-baby. They usually needed constant attention, not to mention teaching them how to dress and act properly so they didn’t embarrass you in front of your friends. The worst ones barely knew how to feed themselves, let alone enough to appreciate dining in a fine restaurant. Nope, I was better off staying in a committed relationship with my Kindle bad boy toys.

Thinking of bad boys brought to mind Maxim, the man who confronted me and my best friend Dylan outside my apartment earlier today.
The man practically screamed dirty, sexy, hot.

I had opened my apartment door to find a wall of muscle in an Armani suit blocking the way. He’d had the audacity to inform Dylan he had changed the locks without her permission. He’d then had the arrogance to chastise us both for our attire. Dylan for being wrapped in a towel and me for wearing a T-shirt and silk sleep shorts.

He turned to me. “You as well. You should know better than to walk around naked.” He motioned toward my apartment door with his head. “Get back inside and cover yourself.”

Placing my fists on my hips, I fired back, “Who the hell do you think you are? And I am not naked!”

Maxim placed a hand high on the wall and leaned over me. “I’m the man who is going to strip that skimpy piece of fabric you call an outfit off your body and spank your ass red if you don’t obey me this instant.”

Every inch of my skin prickled with awareness. It was as if he were standing behind me, instead of just being a heated memory. His breath on my neck. His fingertips running up and down my exposed arms. His mouth on my— holy hell, I needed to stop thinking about him!
It didn’t take a genius to tell he was the type of man who would bend a girl over a table, flip her skirt up and pound into her till she screamed in ecstasy, giving her the best sex of her life. But fortunately, I could also tell he was the kind of man who would give a girl a quick caress on the cheek and a seductive wink afterward before he casually walked away, forgetting her name. If he had bothered to remember it in the first place.

Yep, there was practically a halo of red flags flapping all around him and I was going to stay far, far away. Not that there was ever a chance in hell I’d see him again.

“Hey! You! Gimme a beer!”

I glanced at the customer who’d just shouted at me. He was poorly dressed in a stained T-shirt and an incorrectly buttoned flannel. I could practically smell the stale beer on his breath. Usually he wouldn’t have gotten past the front door, but our bouncer was out sick tonight. The assistant manager was paying more attention to the blonde with the big rack than he was to who was strolling into the bar.

He was useless.

I nodded in Flannel Guy’s direction. “One sec.” Then I motioned with my head for my bar back, Timmy, to come over.
He approached, carrying a trash can full of empty beer bottles and discarded cocktail napkins. “What’s up, Carinna?”
Reaching for a cocktail shaker, I filled it with ice while I kept my gaze straight ahead. “Grab the GM. I think that guy who just arrived has been over-served. There’s no way I’m giving him a beer.”

Timmy handed me a bottle of Belvedere Vodka for the martini I was making as he also kept his gaze averted. We knew better than to alert a customer we were discussing them. “The guy in the flannel?”

I capped the cocktail shaker and held it aloft over my right shoulder as I shook it vigorously while reaching for a martini glass with my left hand. “Yup. That’s the one.”

“On it.” He held the trash can high as he exited the bar area and made his way to the back of the house to find the general manager.
It would be my job to keep Flannel Guy calm and occupied until help arrived.

I placed the martini in front of the woman I was serving and took her credit card to start a tab.

Flannel Guy slammed his flat palm on the bar. “Hey, bitch! I said I want a beer.”

I printed out the receipt for the martini and placed it in a pint glass with the credit card and put it on a shelf over the cash register. Ignoring his slur, I kept my voice calm and upbeat. “Sorry for the wait. I have a few customers ahead of you, sir. It will be
just a moment.”

Where the hell was the manager?

I filled a rocks glass with ice and snatched the Tanqueray Gin from the back bar. Picking up the soda gun, I hit the tonic button as I counted out an ounce and a half of gin as I poured. After a quick scan of the bar, I realized my cut limes were in a container by Flannel Guy. Damn.

Dealing with unruly customers as part of the job, but it always made me nervous. Especially when I was dressed like I should be holding a whip and a bottle of lube. Again, I yanked on my leather corset top, pulling it as high over my boobs as I could before I approached that end of the bar. Flannel Guy’s head was turned in the other direction, so the timing was perfect.

I extended my arm and grabbed the small plastic container of limes. Just as I was making a clean getaway, a hard grip wrapped around my wrist. Before I could react, Flannel Guy jerked hard on my arm. My upper body slammed forward as my stomach crashed into the sharp edge of the bar, knocking the breath out of my lungs. I opened my mouth to scream for help, but nothing came out.
Terrified, I looked up to see Flannel Guy raise his arm into the air, fist closed. “Bitch, I’m gonna—”

I squeezed my eyes shut and braced for the punch I knew was coming.

But no punch came.

I opened my eyes in time to see Flannel Guy’s head get slammed down onto the bar by a large hand covered in tattoos. Blood gushed from the guy’s now-broken nose. He cried out in pain as he released my wrist.

I staggered backward to safety. Lifting my head, I opened my mouth to thank my rescuer and froze. For the second time that day, all the breath left my body.

My gaze clashed with a pair of furious emerald eyes.

Maxim had found me.