Underground Kings - Book cover

Underground Kings

Skye Warren

2: Chapter One

There’s a certain sultry walk a woman has when she’s bare that can’t be faked. No hose and no panties. The nakedness under my skirt was as much about keeping me aroused as it was about easy access.

I’d perfected the art of fuck-me clothes. A surprising number of men asked me out, even at a grungy club on a Saturday night. Cute little college girl, they thought, out for a good time. I saved us all time by dressing my part.

Tonight’s ensemble consisted of a tight halter and short skirt with cheap, high-heeled sandals, bouncing hair, and bloodred toenails. The scornful looks of the other women didn’t escape me, but I wasn’t so different from them. I wanted to be desired, held, touched. The groping fingers might be a cheap imitation of intimacy, its patina cracked with rust and likely to turn my skin green, but they were all I deserved.

My gaze panned to the man at the bar, the one I’d been watching all night. He nursed a beer, his profile harsh against the fluid backdrop of writhing bodies. His gray T-shirt hung loose on his abs but snug around thick arms, covering part of his tattoo.

Dark eyes tracked me the way mine tracked him.

His expression was unreadable, but I knew what he wanted. What else was there?

He was hot in a scary way, and that was perfect. Not that I was discerning. I needed sex, not a life partner. There were plenty of men here, men whose blackened pasts matched my own, who’d give it to me hard.

A woman approached him. Something dark and decidedly feminine roiled up inside me.

She was gorgeous. If he wanted to score, he probably couldn’t do better, even with me.

I tried not to stare. She walked away a minute later—rejected. I felt unaccountably smug. Which was stupid, since I didn’t have him either. Maybe no one had a chance with this guy. I was pretty enough, in a girl-next-door kind of way. Common, though, underneath my slutty trappings—brown hair and brown eyes were standard issue around here.

“Hey, beautiful.”

I glanced up to see a cute guy wearing a sharp dress shirt checking me out. Probably an investment banker or something upstanding like that. Grinning and hopeful. Had I ever been that young? No, I was probably younger. At nineteen I had seen it all. The world had already crumbled around me and been rebuilt, brick by brick.

“Sorry, man,” I said. “Keep moving.”

“Aww, not even one dance?”

His puppy-dog eyes cajoled a smile from me. How nice it might feel to be one of the girls with nothing to worry about except whether this guy would call tomorrow morning. But I was too broken for his easy smile. I’d only end up hurting him.

“I am sorry,” I said, wistfulness seeping into my voice. “You’ll thank me later.”

Regret panged in my chest as the crowd sucked him back in, but I’d done the right thing. Even if he were only interested in a one-night hookup, my type of sex was too toxic for the likes of him.

I turned back to the guy at the bar. He caught my eye, looking—if possible—surlier. Cold and mean. Perfect. I wouldn’t taint him, and he could give me what I craved. Since Tall, Dark, and Stoic hadn’t deigned to make a move on me, I would do the pursuing. A surprising little twist for the night, but I could go with it.

I squeezed in beside him at the bar. Up close his size was impressive and a little intimidating, but that only strengthened my resolve. He could give me what I needed.

“Hey, tough guy,” I shouted over the din.

He looked up at me from his beer. I faltered a bit at the total lack of emotion in his face and fought an automatic instinct to retreat. His eyes were a deep brown, almost pretty, but remote and flat. Dark hair was cut short, bristly. His nose was prominent and slightly crooked, like it had been broken. Maybe more than once.

He looked mean, which was a good thing, but I was used to a little more effort. Even assholes provided a fake smile or smarmy line for the sake of the pickup. There was a script to these things, but he wasn’t playing his part.

My club persona and beer from earlier lent me confidence. Whatever was bothering him—a bad day at the construction site or maybe a fight with the old lady—I didn’t care. He was here, so he needed this as much as I did.

I planted my elbow on the bar. “I saw you looking at me earlier.”

He raised an eyebrow. I shrugged. He was making me work for it, but I found myself more amused than annoyed.

“Buy me a drink?” I asked.

He considered me, then nodded and signaled the bartender.

The beat of the club reverberated as I took a sip. “So do you talk?”

His lips twitched. “Yeah, I talk.”

“Okay.” I leaned in close to hear him better. “What do you talk about?”

He ignored my question—or maybe answered it—by asking, “What are you doing here?” Almost like he was asking something deeper, but that had to be the alcohol talking.

“I’m trying to get laid, that’s what I’m doing here.” I pulled off a breathy laugh I was pretty proud of.

He didn’t react, didn’t appear surprised or even interested, the bastard. He just looked at me. “Why?”

I decided on honesty. “Because I need it.”

He seemed to weigh the truth of my words, then nodded toward the exit. “All right, let’s go.” He got up and threw some cash on the bar.

His easy acceptance caught me off guard, just for a moment. But it shouldn’t have surprised me, because…well, because men always wanted sex. That’s what I liked about them—they didn’t even bother trying to hide it. It was worse when I hadn’t seen it coming, when it had sneaked up on me— Now wasn’t the time to think of that. It was never the right time to think of that.

He tucked his hand under my elbow, guiding me. He used his body to maneuver us through the crowd, almost as a shield. The whole thing was so gentlemanly, given what we were about to do, that I wondered if he’d heard me right. Maybe he’d want to get coffee or something, and wouldn’t that be awkward all around?

But he was a man, and I was a woman wearing fuck-me clothes—this could only end one way.

When we exited the club, I couldn’t help sucking in several deep breaths. Even the faint smell of street sewage was refreshing, washing the stench of smoke, alcohol, and countless perfumes from my lungs. I never liked the crowds. The press of bodies, the mingling smell of sweat, the small bumps from all around. Tiny violations that were somehow okay since everyone did it.

As my heart rate settled, he inspected me as if he could read me. He couldn’t. “What’s your name?” I asked to distract him.

“Colin. Yours?”

“Allie.”

“Nice to meet you, Allie. Your place or mine?”

I was comfortable again. I knew this play: horny girl who can’t wait to get naked.

“We don’t need to go anywhere. Let’s get started right here.” I let a soft moan escape me and clasped myself to the brick wall named Colin. Never mind that I was dry as a bone. He wouldn’t notice. They never did.

He raised his eyebrows. “In the parking lot?”

“Or in my car. Whatever. I just want you to do me.”

“I’m not fucking you in a car. It’s forty degrees out.”

I was hardly in this for comfort. I’d done it in colder weather just this past winter. “I don’t mind.”

“Well, I do.”

“Fine.” I was willing to give him so much. Why couldn’t he take it the way I wanted? “Then we can go to the motel over there. You’re paying.”

He didn’t look happy. I wasn’t either, but I couldn’t budge on this. Going to an apartment might be the norm for hookups, but my hookups weren’t normal.

Going to their houses where they might do God knows what was out of the question. And I wasn’t about to bring one of these guys home.

“Not there,” he said. “I’ll pick the place.”

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