Quinn Whiteeagle, Nerdvana co-owner and burlesque performer, is falling for Jonah Stavropoulos, and that’s a huge problem. Not just because Jonah’s a customer and is developing the bar’s app. There’s something else about Jonah that makes a future with him a non-negotiable. It’s his dominant nature.
When it comes to Quinn, Jonah can’t help himself. He’ll forgo his safety, put himself in harm’s way, and make any sacrifice in order to have her in his life. Quinn resists his pursuit and that just makes him more determined to win her over.
After several dangerous encounters with a stalker, Quinn puts her pride and reservations aside and runs to Jonah’s waiting arms. He offers Quinn a safe place to stay, but makes no qualms about wanting to give her more than just temporary safety and shelter. Every protective instinct he has is activated and Jonah will fight like hell to keep Quinn in his life and in his care forever.
“I read lips.”
Why had those three words made me gaze at his mouth and think about all the wicked things I wanted to do to him? And the naughty things I wanted his mouth to do to me? His revelations had only reminded me that I found him so damned attractive. I leaned against the door and waited until I heard Jonah’s footsteps retreat down the noisy, decrepit wooden stairs outside. Involuntarily, my fingertips came up to my lips. I hadn’t meant to ask him for a kiss. The last thing I need right now is more shit to muddle my already complicated life.
Kissing Jonah fell under that category. Still, the heat I’d felt under his gaze had been too hard to resist. Not only was being attracted to him not a good idea, since he was a regular at the bar I co-owned, getting caught up in him wasn’t smart for another reason. I’d made a promise to myself that I’d remain single and celibate until I knew for sure I could break old habits. Being attracted to Jonah was just proof that I was unable to get free of the destructive behavior that had gotten me in my current situation. I wasn’t naïve enough to think Jonah and Lance were the same, but there were enough similarities to make me want to run. Maybe I was wrong about that, but that was only another reason why I shouldn’t have kissed Jonah. Plus, somehow, Lance continued to keep a hold on me and until I could figure out how to break free from that hold, I didn’t need to make things worse by dragging someone else into the fold.
I dropped my duffle bag and purse on the floor. Turning, I engaged the deadbolt and then headed to my couch. I flopped down on the sagging piece of furniture. It creaked under my weight and I shifted around, trying to get comfortable, despite the springs gauging into my hip. I could probably afford to buy a new one, but I didn’t keep nice things here. Or anywhere, really. It was an old habit I couldn’t force myself to break.
My phone vibrated in my shirt pocket. After my performance and Lance storming the stage, I’d changed into black leggings and a long sleeveless tunic before leaving the club. I dug into the breast pocket and fished out my iPhone. After my stage costumes and clothes, my phone was one of my only indulgences in life. I checked the screen and saw the notification was a text from my brother.
Zeek: Bitch, I just killed it on stage! How did your performance go tonight?
I giggled. Rehashing my evening wasn’t high on my priority list, but as long as I didn’t mention Lance, or kissing Jonah, maybe I’d be okay.
Quinn: I performed to that song by The Weeknd, like you suggested. The crowd seemed to dig it.
Zeek didn’t reply, which was odd, especially since I’d just admitted that I’d used one of his ideas in my act and it was a success. My brother rarely missed an opportunity to bask in praise. His face appeared on my screen. He wanted to video chat. Damn. It would be a lot harder to hide all the things I was dealing with if he saw my face. Yet, I couldn’t ignore the call. He already knew I was awake and had my phone in hand. Zeek knew I had no life outside of my two jobs, so I couldn’t even make up an excuse like I was out with friends or that I had someone over to my apartment. I pressed the button and connected the video call.
“Hey, girl, heeeeey.” Zeek’s expressive, almost supernaturally beautiful face filled the screen.
Out of both my siblings, Zeek and I had always been the closest, despite our nearly ten year age difference. My brother and I had both felt the pull of performing on a stage. It had been our saving grace against resisting the addictions that ran rampant in our family. And, for Zeek, it had also been the place for him to find solace when our mom and mostly absent dad had given him shit for being gay.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing. My performance was…sort of angsty. Plus, I’m tired. It’s been a busy week at the bar.”
“Mmm-hmm.” Zeek pursed his lips and squinted his eyes at me. I stared into the dark almond shaped eyes rimmed in ebony liner that looked so much like my own. “Wait a mothafuckin’ minute.” He pointed an index finger at me. I spied some silver glittery polish on the nail. Shit, I knew that look, that tone. “You kissed someone.”
Damn it. The squeaky cry was as good as admitting he was right. How the hell did he know things like that? I’d always sworn that Zeek was psychic, but it wasn’t really that. He was just super perceptive and picked up on things. He’d had to be that way, always on his toes and watching himself, around our parents. At least, he’d had to be that way until he’d reached an age where he felt comfortable enough to tell them to take their homophobic views, roll them up, and shove them neatly up their asses.
“Your lips are swollen.”
“Nah, it’s just the camera angle.” I moved my phone around and hoped it would de-emphasize my puffy, well-kissed mouth.
“Well, then how do you explain your smudged lipstick? ‘Cause I know my sister and that fire-engine red is always on point.” He quirked a perfectly arched black brow at me, his expression full of smug self-satisfaction.
“Fuck. You should’ve been a private investigator instead of a dancer.”
“There’s way too many cute boys on the stage to ever do anything else with my life. Don’t try to change the subject.”
“Maybe I might’ve kissed someone.” I sat up on the couch and averted my gaze.
“Who is he? And I swear to Gucci if you say Lance, I will make the long-ass drive from Vegas to Cascade Falls with the specific purpose of throat punching you.”
“No, not Lance.” Despite that he’d brought up my pain in the ass ex, I laughed. Only Zeek could threaten me in a way that could make me smile. “It’s a guy who saw me perform tonight.”
“Oooooh, and he just, what, came up to you afterwards and y’all tongue-wrestled? Give me alllllll the dirty details.” He propped his chin on fist and peered at me.
“First, the details aren’t dirty.” Zeek scoffed. “Second, I kind of know him…from the bar.” I did a face-palm at the admission. Shit, was I crazy to have kissed Jonah? I didn’t see how things wouldn’t be super awkward the next time he came into the bar.
“Well, since I know that the only man that works at Nerdvana is Dustin, and there’s no way in hell you’re hittin’ that, this can only mean your dude is a customer.” He popped his neck in time to a rhythm only he could hear, his happy dance both annoying and hilarious. “You and a customer getting it on. That’s hot in a sort of forbidden way. Come on, details.”
“He was at the show and we talked for a bit afterward. He gave me a ride home.”
“Oh, I can just bet what kind of ride he gave you.” Zeek mimicked cheesy bom-chicka-bow-wow porn music.
“No, I’m still celibate.”
“Ugh. I’ll never understand you. Anyway, continue.”
“He walked me to my door and…we kissed.”
Zeek gave me a withering glare. He opened his laptop and propped his phone on some sort of knickknack on his coffee table. He angled the phone so I could still see his face while he pecked at his keyboard. Fuck, I knew what my nosy brother was going to ask next. Despite his pushy demeanor, and me being uncomfortable about where this conversation was going, there was one thing about Zeek that might come in handy. His internet stalking skills were legendary. If there was some skeleton in Jonah’s closet, Zeek would find it.
“What’s his name?”
Because he was working on an app for the bar, I knew Jonah’s last name. I’d drafted checks to him as he’d hit different milestones while working on the app. Despite his Greek surname, I remembered how to spell the vowel-filled last name.
“Yeah, you’re gonna have to spell that last name for me.”
I let out a giggle and gave him the spelling. Zeek’s fingers flew across the keyboard. Then he let out a whoop.
“Well, hel-lo, Jonah. Looking like a hot as hell nerd with those glasses.” He popped his index finger in his mouth and made goo-goo eyes at his laptop.
“I guess you’ve found his social media?”
“Yep. Wow. He’s at your bar a lot. Like, a lot.”
“He works just a few doors down, so he and his coworkers come in for happy hour. Plus, he’s designing the app we’re creating for the bar.”
“Why does a bar need an app?” Zeek twisted his face in puzzlement.
“I don’t know. It’s techy and goes with our brand. This is something that Jonah and Dustin cooked up together. Honestly, Dustin could probably create it on his own, he just doesn’t have the time.” I waved my hand. “Anyway. I’m beat. It’s been a long, crazy day.”
“I honestly don’t know how you just stopped at a kiss with this dude.”
“Oh. My. God. You’re still creeping on his pictures? Stop, dude. That’s kind of stalkerish.”
“I gotta make sure he’s not insane. Plus, he’s so easy on the eyes.”
“And his social media pics tell you his level of insanity?”
“Well, yeah. I mean, there’s no pictures that show him holding up a dead kitty with, like, a caption that reads, gotta rid the world of kittens.”
“Um, pretty sure no one is that stupid. In my experience, the crazier they are, the better they are at hiding it.”
“Lance still coming around?”
I bit my lip, debating on whether or not I should admit that he’d been legitimately harassing me for months now. Although, Zeek kind of already knew. His damned psychic abilities and all that.
“Yeah. He showed up at Lettie’s Juke Joint tonight. That’s why Jonah gave me a ride home. He didn’t want me to be alone and possibly face Lance.”
“I’m liking this Jonah more and more. Don’t chase this one off. They’re not all like Lance’s crazy ass, you know.”
“I know. It’s…more than that. Look, I really need to go. Talk to you later.”
“Okay. Bye, sis.”
I ended the call and clutched my phone, staring at the screen for a few moments. Despite it being stalkerish and all kinds of wrong, I opened one of my social media apps. I went to the search option. My fingers tapped out the letters on the on-screen keyboard, typing in Jonah’s first and last name. I scrolled through his pictures and got an idea of what he was interested in. Beer. Video games. Technology. And being outside, which was kind of surprising, since it didn’t really go with his other three interests. Feeling like an absolute creep, I cleared my search and exited out of the app. I needed to take my stalker ass to bed.