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A tabloid scandal unites a powerful mogul and a woman from the wrong side of the tracks in this tantalizing novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Bound Beneath His Pain and the Club Sin series.
The multimillionaire owner of a chain of successful Irish pubs, Gabe O’Keefe loves being in the spotlight almost as much as he loves women. But when all his secrets are exposed in a shameless tabloid, his glistening reputation takes a hit. What hurts most is learning who sold him out: sweet and sensual McKenna Archer, his own employee. Gabe thought he could trust her. But now he’s got bigger problems than keeping his hands off McKenna.
After putting a difficult past behind her, McKenna would never betray Gabe. But she knows someone who would: her brother, a compulsive gambler who owes money all over town. To make things right, McKenna will have to set aside her feelings for her boss. Easier said than done. Gabe oozes pure temptation. But when they team up, McKenna sees that he isn’t the manwhore she always thought. He’s strong. He’s real. And the heat between them is the only thing that makes sense anymore.
Ladies, whips and chains better be your thing if Gabe O’Keefe is your current crush. Our sources tell us that not only is he a big player at Afterglow—he’s the sex club’s owner!
Years I’d spent ensuring my sex life stayed out of the tabloids. I’d been careful, cautious, and inconspicuous. Now not only is my sex life detailed in the grocery store tabloid Gotcha! but the world also knows that I own a sex club.
The tabloid’s sudden interest in me had been a long time coming. It all began with an article in Gotcha! a little over a month ago, and as each successive week ticked by, tabloid reporter Penelope Burke did her best to rip apart the lives of my longtime friends. First, the magazine attacked my Harvard roommate, billionaire real estate mogul Micah Holt, printing stories that held a ring of truth to them. Next, the magazine focused on business-savvy billionaire Darius Bennett and printed stories detailing private conversations we’d had at my bar, O’Keefe’s Pub. That’s when we realized that someone had planted a recording device in the one place we’d thought we were safe. But that wasn’t the end of our trouble with the tabloid. In fact, things only got worse.
When Gotcha! turned the spotlight onto Ryder Blackwood, owner of Blackwood Security, a private security detail company, he dug deep into who could be our mole. When he discovered the truth, it was even worse than anyone had imagined. What we learned was that the governor of California, Tobias Harrington, was trying to bury—literally—one of Ryder’s clients, Senator Gary Winters. Tobias was using the bugs in my pub to get intel from Ryder’s private conversations. But the greedy sons of bitches who planted those bugs weren’t only taking money from the governor. They were also selling the things they’d heard on the recordings to a trash magazine. And the person whose betrayal ran that deep is the only person on my mind today.
I grit my teeth against the rage burning inside and shift the gears of my MV Agusta F4 sports bike, the engine roaring beneath me; the power is a much-needed comfort as the control I’ve kept on my life spins away from me. Determined to get that control back, I tear through the streets of San Francisco, weaving my bike in and out of traffic. Last night I slept a total of two hours, and this morning I’d spent hours at the gym, trying to piece together my next steps.
An hour ago, on this gloomy Friday morning, a plan solidified.
I breeze through the T-intersection, and then I stop at the curb in front of the original location of what is now my chain of Irish pubs across North America. Pushing out the kickstand of my bike, I slide my leg over the seat as I remove my helmet. To the right is an alleyway that leads to the back lot where my Audi is parked, and where there are stairs that lead to my apartment above the pub. There’s a lot on my mind as I walk around my bike and then enter my pub.
The most important thought is finally putting this tabloid shitshow behind me and moving on with life. Usually, I don’t mind a little attention. I enjoy the way women openly gawk at me. What I don’t like is people knowing about my private life and ripping it apart as if it’s something to (a) talk about around the water cooler and (b) laugh at. Some things are private, and who I fuck and how I fuck them are most definitely in that category.
The pub is empty as the door shuts behind me, not that I’m surprised. It’s ten o’clock in the morning, and we don’t open for another two hours. Wood-paneled walls surround me, with the bar off to the right and tables scattered throughout. There’s a good reason I’m here today, and that reason is standing behind the bar in a pair of skinny jeans and a tight black T-shirt with O’Keefe’s burgundy Celtic knot logo across her great pair of tits.
My body reacts instantly to her nearness, swelling my cock and kicking up my heart rate. She’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a woman and more. She’s beyond beautiful, with long blond hair, captivating amber eyes, and she’s got just the right amount of curves to remind me how much I hunger for her. Though if she just had her looks I could have easily walked away from her, but she’s so much more than a pretty face. She’s clever and witty and strong when she needs to be, but she’s soft the rest of the time, making me yearn to protect her.
For the entire year that she’s worked for me, I’ve battled against breaking my one rule: Don’t date employees. In fact, the push-and-pull game between us has built so heavily over the past three months that, before this tabloid shit happened, I was days away from helping her find employment elsewhere so we could finally date. Because if I’m sure about anything in my life, it’s how I feel about this woman before me.
That’s why my life is suddenly complicated. Because McKenna is the woman selling me out.
She hasn’t noticed me yet, and heat roars through my body, tightening my muscles. Maybe it’s my anger at her betrayal, but my cock is hard and throbbing. I jerked off twice last night, and it did nothing to ease the hardness, driving me mad. In fact, with McKenna on my mind so much, I’ve had a hard-on for days, ever since finding out she was our mole. Which is all the more confusing. I want to hate her, but I still want to be inside her.
Even now as I approach her, watching her wipe down the top of the bar, she still feels like mine. My affection toward her was not instant but has built up slowly over the year she’s worked for me. She’s gotten into places in my heart no one has reached before, and I let her in there because I could not refuse this woman anything. Because I implicitly trusted her.
I’m not blind any longer. She is a liar.
My boots scuff against the hardwood floors as I move farther into the pub, watching her take the beer bottles out of their box and restock the fridge. She notices me then and gives me a little smile, but I won’t fall for her innocent act now. She’s the reason my world’s being ripped apart.
“Come here, McKenna,” I call, striding by her, approaching the back room where the local folk band plays on the weekends.
She silently follows behind me, but when I turn around to face her, she’s giving me a puzzled look.
“What’s up?” she asks.
I place my helmet down on the table next to me, take a deep stabilizing breath, and then I look at her. How can someone so perfect be so evil? I feel deeply burned as I stare into the warmth of her eyes. I want to disbelieve she could do this to me, but there is no doubt she planted the bug. Ryder assured me that only McKenna could be behind this. She’d been the only employee to come in and out of O’Keefe’s during the hours when the security cameras had been taken down, which was likely when the bugs had been placed. And Ryder knew that as a fact because McKenna had used her passcode to get inside O’Keefe’s server room, where the vault was also kept.
She can’t hide behind her lies any longer.
“I want you,” I tell her, watching her eyes widen.
Now that she’s burned what we had into ashes, betrayal simmers through me just as hot. I will take what I want, and that is my cock owning her before I let her go, showing her that the weakened guy she’d made me into no longer exists. That my gentleness toward her hadn’t been weakness but rather affection, and now I’m taking back that power she stole through deceit.
“I want you right here, right now, McKenna.” I step toward her, watching her step back until she hits the pool table. My balls ache at the way her eyes widen and dilate, how her lips part, her face flushes. Maybe she knows that I’m no longer shielding my lust. Perhaps she understands what’s about to happen between us. “I want to fuck the goddamn living shit out of you.” I’m shaking, barely able to control the desire and adrenaline pulsing through my veins.
Her breath hitches, but there’s no refusal, as I knew there wouldn’t be.
I’ve teased her, and she’s teased me back. We’ve never allowed each other to cross that line. It’s been playful between us, but not anymore. I’m standing here broken, and I will take back all the shattered pieces until I am the man I was before her. Strong. Dominant. Demanding. Not a fucking fool.
I step in closer, pressing the hard planes of my body against the softness of hers. “If you don’t want this, tell me now.”
Her hands lift to my face, squeezing tight, and then she seals her mouth across mine, as if to strip more control from me.
There are no more barriers between us, only lust in the rawest form, with my red-hot anger fueling the kiss. It’s dangerous and deadly, and she doesn’t know how close I am to losing all control.
We’re both breathless when my tongue explores her mouth. She’s keeping up, melting beneath my touch, just the way I want her. But it’s not enough. I want everything she’s got to give me . . . and then I want to demand more. Today she’s mine to take until I’m the man I was before she walked into my life and fucked it up.
With a growl voicing all my frustration, I shove my hand up her T-shirt and grasp her breast, massaging it with a fierce grip. This isn’t about her, it’s about me, I tell myself. It’s about laying bare my need for her and absolving myself of it.
She moans against me, and the sound ripples across me, warming me in ways I hate. With a growl, I flick the button of her pants open, yanking her skinny jeans down to her knees before turning her around. I bend her over the pool table, pressing her chest down, staring at the ass that has teased me for many long months. She’s breathless, gasping her desire when I reach for a condom that I left in my back pocket. Once I get my jeans down, I sheathe my throbbing cock, determined to shed myself of this damn erection that won’t soften.
I thrust my hand into her hair, and she moans as I find her slit with the tip of my cock. Whether she’s ready or not, I thrust forward right to the hilt. She arches against me, and I find she’s indeed wet for me and then some. My other hand goes to her hip and I hold her tight against me. I get the leverage I need to shed my frustrations and to fuck this woman from my mind.
There’s nothing pretty about how I take her. It’s ravenous and rough and messy, her screams of pleasure echoing in my ears. I yearn to embrace the lovely sounds she makes and to enjoy the way she’s quivering against me. I’m so tempted to revel in how wet she is, and I do want to be pleased that I’m getting her off so easily and her cum is soaking my sac.
But I can’t enjoy this.
I growl again and yank myself out from her tight heat; she whimpers in disapproval when I spin her around, grabbing her waist and lifting her onto the pool table. I’m there a second later, in between her thighs, and I thrust back in without letting her even breathe.
I own you. You don’t control me.
I slam forward, fisting my hands in her hair, pinning her just where I want her.
She moans, her eyes rolling back into her head.
I want to hate you . . . Why are you so goddamn beautiful?
Roaring against the unfairness of what she’s done to me, I pump into her, sweat slicking my flesh and sticking my T-shirt to my back. Pleasure sweeps across me, bringing more and more rage alongside it. Emotion tightens my throat. I want to scream against her betrayal. I want to loathe her with everything inside me, but even now . . . I can’t.
She’s everything. She’s the reason that, for months, I’ve been excited to come in to work. She’s the very thing I look forward to seeing every day, and she’s the last thing I think about before falling asleep. I had been waiting for the right time to claim her as mine, making sure things between us were good before we took that final step where she’d have to stop working for me. I didn’t want to fuck up a good thing.
How could you do this to me . . .? How could you do this to us?
She opens her eyes then, and I’m not sure what she sees on my face, but suddenly her hands are on my cheeks, eyes concerned. “Gabe,” she whispers.
I shake off her hands and stop the conversation by thrusting harder, ensuring no words come out of her mouth. I can’t let her fool me with that sweet act. Not again. Not after all she’s done to ruin me.
Her eyes pinch shut now, not by choice but by the hardness of my cock driving into her soaked heat. I feel the quivering of her legs before her inner walls convulse against me, and then there’s no going back.
I can’t fight my orgasm. She’s thrashing wildly in my arms, screaming out a climax, pulling me right over the edge with her. She’s draining me more and more, and I’m roaring against the rage inside that I’ve let her, fighting against the unfairness of what she’s done to me . . . against the deception.
I could have loved you . . .
Was that what drove her to betray me? Had she given up hope on us and then sold me out because of her anger? Did she hate me like I hate her now? Was her lust filled with the same rage I endured?
Her inner muscles milk every last drop from me, and the fury inside banks for a moment, making me realize that McKenna hasn’t hurt only me, she’s caused chaos in the lives of my longtime friends. Men who would move the world for me if I asked them to, and that is what I can’t forgive.
I hang my head, catching my breath, feeling empty right down to my bones.
“Gabe,” she says softly.
When I lift my head, I find her hair a mess, her makeup running, and confusion in her eyes. Before, I would have loved this view, now I feel like I’m standing in a world that I don’t control.
“What’s wrong?” she whispers, cupping my face.
I withdraw from her, getting away from the comfortable warmth of her touch, and pull my pants up over the condom, not worrying about that now. Only then, with distance between us, do I look at her. “That was me taking what I’ve wanted to take before I force myself to fire you.”
Her eyes widen, lips part, a soft gasp escapes.
I lean forward, staring into gorgeous eyes that lie. “Tell me why you sold me out to the fucking tabloids.”