Celeste Anwar


“Hold it, bitch.”

Kaeli Jackson stopped instantly at the mouth of the dark, narrow alley, a chill creeping up her spine at the mugger’s high, nasal voice. The door to Inferno was only thirty odd feet away, but she’d never make the run in her heels. She hadn’t gotten decked out in a year, and she’d break something if she tried it. The bass from the music pounded outside--there was no chance they’d hear her scream or anything else. She was on her own.

The mugger moved up behind her. “Damn you’re phat, bitch.” ‘PH’ phat he meant by the tone of his voice-- he damn well wasn’t commenting on the size of her ass. She didn’t want to tell him phat went out a year ago. He pinched an ass cheek and she gritted her teeth, biding her time, hands clenching.

He snickered and released her. “Gimme your purse.” He wrenched at it on her shoulder and she slipped it off, dropping it on the sidewalk from his grasp.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to,” she babbled like a helpless female, glancing down and watching him stoop to grab the purse. His hand snaked out, and she lifted her foot to grind her heel into the back of his hand--the meaty part near the thumb. Blood welled instantly. His high pitched scream rattled her eardrums. She twisted, grinding him into the rough pavement, knocking him back on his ass with a shin kick she’d learned in KardioKick.

He sat back, clutching his hand to his chest, crimson rivulets streaming down his arm. Kaeli got her first look at her would-be attacker.

A damn punk ass kid. Why were they always kids? Quick perusal of the pavement confirmed he didn’t even have a weapon--stupid damn kid. Hell, even she packed in these neighborhoods, not that it had done her any good.

“What the hell are you doin’ robbin’ people when you ain’t even got your pubes yet, brat?”

He glared at her. “For the hell of it, bitch.”

Kaeli crossed her arms over her chest, narrowing her eyes. Should have known it by looking at his gear-- baggy britches and tight, long sleeved shirt, a chain on his waist. He had skater extremist written all over him.

Just like a damn extremist--it was getting to where they’d do just about anything for a rush. “Fair enough.”

She bent and snatched his wallet off the chain. He didn’t try to stop her--still nursing his wound. He’d live, that was sure.

“You can’t rob me! That’s not fair,” he said in a whiny voice.

A sure sign of immaturity. “Insurance, brat. Now get out of here.

You’re damn lucky you wasn’t brandishing or I’d sic the cops on your ass right now.”

He continued glaring but scrambled to his feet and backed away until it was safe to run.

As he disappeared around the block, Kaeli sighed, wondering if it had been a wise move. She knew he was priming for prison, but she’d put enough fear in him maybe he wouldn’t do anything else tonight. She’d make a call to the cops once she got inside and turn his wallet in--not that the cops would do anything more than spoil an already marvelous night.

As it was, she wouldn’t be surprised if he was taken in and sued her for hurting him in the mugging--it was the American way, after all.

Kaeli had just turned back toward the club when clapping came from near the dark alley’s entrance. She halted and tensed, expecting renewed attack. Maybe she had gone crazy....

“That was an entertaining show, petite,” a deep, rumbling voice spoke from the shadows. Gooseflesh raced over her skin just listening to it.

“Who the hell are you?” She couldn’t help being defensive. She’d just been attacked, after all. She put the kid’s wallet into her purse, slipping her hand on the butt of her gun.

“You don’ need a pea shooter for me.”

She startled inside, tightened her hand on the butt. How the hell did he know that? Lucky guess was all. Had to be.

He chuckled and moved into the light. Kaeli’s breath hitched, and if she hadn’t been frozen in place, she’d surely have melted at the smoky look the stranger passed over her. Thought became chaotic, sluggish as she did a once over and went back for more.

Blond. Golden. Adonis. He looked like some bad ass metal band member--a lead bass guitarist. Long, wavy hair trailed down to his chest, muscles but not breadth hidden beneath a tight black T-shirt that tormented her. He had classical features: squared jaw, dimpled chin, straight nose, and smiling, full lips--but the combination tantalized when Grecian statues left her cold as the marble used to carve them. The man oozed bad boy like people expelled carbon dioxide--and he was definitely just as dangerous in too great a quantity.

Tribal tattoos twirled about his muscled arms, and painted on leather pants completed his ensemble. She tried to look away, but her eyes stayed rooted to his groin. Couldn’t go any farther than that bulge, thumbs ... thumbs hooked in his pockets, framing his groin like a picture. It was one of those subtle moves all guys did but few could pull off because they didn’t have the package. This one definitely had it goin’ on.

He sauntered toward her, that cocky stride that couldn’t help but garner any straight woman’s attention. “Navarre Lyssandro.”

Kaeli gaped at him. “Huh?” Once she’d seen him, her mind had blanked beyond the need to procreate--fast. NOW.

Someone that damn sexy was nothing but trouble.

Navarre chuckled, standing just inside her comfort zone, crowding her until she took a step back. He leaned against the lip of the alley, leisurely running his gaze down her body. She shivered, the tips of her breasts tingling with imagined contact.

“You asked who I was, I tell you. Navarre Lyssandro.”

He had an accent. Damn his hide, he had an accent! French and Southern rolled into one tantalizing package that had her near salivating.

She shouldn’t lust after a stranger like this--it was completely foreign to her.

Kaeli glared at him, unwilling to concede defeat to a damn Cajun. “What are you doing here?”

“Meetin’ a friend, chere. You goin’ tell me your name, pretty lady?”

Never in her life had anyone accused her of being a lady. “Kaeli Jackson.”

“Kaeli,” he said, savoring her name like choice wine. It sounded so much better on those lips.

She swallowed and offered her hand like an automaton. He shook it, his hand warm, callused ... lingering. She withdrew quickly, palm itching to know more of him than that brief contact allowed. She never drank, but tonight she needed something cold and hard to quench her libido.

Anger was good. It kept her head vaguely clear of confusing thoughts when she concentrated on being outraged. “Why the hell didn’t you help me when that kid attacked? Or call someone?”

He cocked one dark, golden brow. “I walked up after you’d already taken him down, petite. After that, I jus’ enjoyed the show.”

“Excuses, excuses.” Kaeli grunted. “Wouldn’t want to hurt that purty hide of yours, eh?” And it was a purty one, but not girlish in any way.

She couldn’t stop looking at him. Trouble. Keep telling yourself that.


“I couldn’t chance you gettin’ hurt if I came up and distracted you.”

“Very heroic of you.” She was being an asshole but couldn’t help herself. Hell, the guy said he hadn’t been there from the start. She was always like this around hunks. No damn wonder she hadn’t been laid in forty forevers. Prickly bitches just didn’t seem to hold much appeal for men for some unfathomable reason. It spoiled

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