Jared and Sugar That Never Happened. Part 2.
All the disclaimers. ???? Here we go. The unedited version in three, two, one…
Jared Westin’s Titan Group’s headquarters was locked down tight and finding the place was by invitation only. It wasn’t marked on a map. It wasn’t labeled with some big sign. But it was his sanctuary. His office was a war room. Literally and figuratively.
And now Sugar was set to walk through the door, and he didn’t know how the hell to feel about that. But he did know he needed to go for a run. Well, if he could go for a run, damn the gunshot wound in his calf that healed as a glacier’s pace. It’d been two long weeks, and he was tired of doctor’s orders. No major exercise or operations for a month.
He wasn’t one to listen to the docs, but the bullet nicked the tibia bone and scrambled some nerves. Messing with his health meant messing with his livelihood, so he’d sit on his ass for two more weeks. Begrudgingly.
One minute until Sugar was due to arrive. He watched the seconds tick when the desk phone rang. Punctuality. That was a good quality in another person.
Jared swiped the phone off his desk, didn’t listen, and grumbled. “Let her in.”
Two clicks later, the secure door swung open and Sugar stood there. Intense eyes that distracted him. Lips that gave him wet dreams. And one hell of a killer body. From tits to ass, that woman had it going on. But besides that funland of a figure, she nipped at his pissed off personality, tossing grenade-style sass and a smile that knocked him senseless. He fucking hated it. Sugar was IED-dangerous. One misstep and ka-fuckin-boom.
“Jared.” She teased him with glossy lips, making his name purr. God was she a sight. Every part of his body readied for her presence. Even the hair at the nape of his neck ignored orders to stand down.
“Sugar,” he tossed back, nothing telling in his voice, only a dead evenness.
“What’s with the black eye?”
“What’s with the request to meet?” Two could play conversation volleyball.
“J-dawg, you look tense. You’re sitting behind your big, bad desk, overseeing your empire and minions. I’d think you’d be able to relax the tiniest bit. But no?”
J-dawg? Goddamn her, she looked ready to call out his saccharine-laden fantasy. He had no time or inclination to deal with that headache. Healing from field wounds frustrated him enough. Sugar wouldn’t make anything better. He had to follow the same logic as don’t shit where you sleep and not try to cross the line with her. Screwing on the job never ended well.
“Your email said it was important.” Jared tried to relax his shoulders and failed. She stood in the middle of his office, the center of his attention. “If you’re having a problem with the ATF assholes, I can’t help you. And if you want to sell me some guns and ammo, you didn’t need to come here in person to make the pitch. I’ll buy. You know that. You’ve been good to us.” But hell if he wasn’t thrilled she was a rifle’s reach away. “That hand-cannon worked wonders, by the way. Nice kick back on that honey.”
She took a step forward, somehow drawing even more attention to the black leather boots that bent over her knees. The woman had an affinity for melted-to-her-body skirts. How the hell did she walk around and not have to beat men away?
He had a feeling, despite the distractingly obvious attire, the apparent wasn’t the real deal. And ah, shit. He’d thought about her too much. That was out of character. He knew it. She might’ve even known it.
“I need help on a project.” She blew a pink bubble and let the gum explode. “ATF is forcing me to work with someone, and I thought I’d pop over here, check the Titan break room, and post a signup sheet. Something like that.”
“You want to work with one of my guys?” He leaned back in his leather chair, admiring the knock-out view and ignoring his tore-up muscles. Sweet Jesus, she was hot. Pissed off for whatever reason, but without a doubt, molten lava hot. Maybe it was her I-don’t-care-just-try-me attitude. Or maybe his don’t-touch-her rule.
“Actually, Mister CEO, I’d prefer if you checked your calendar. But if you’re busy, I get it. Though you look a little busted up. Maybe you need a vacation instead.”
His eyes narrowed, surprised for a hot second. Not used to anyone speaking to him like that, a grin cracked across his face. “Why me?”
“You’ll have to give me a little more than that to clear a couple days off my schedule. Sorry, baby cakes, I don’t take vacations.”
“Baby cakes?” Her bottom lip fell open, cute, in an I-want-to-bite-it kind of way.
“What was that earlier? J-dawg?” he asked. She’d smack him if he called her Sugar tits, but he’d love the sting. Baby cakes. Sugar tits. Baby cakes. Sugar tits. Stick with it or go for another reaction? He decided to stick with it. “Baby cakes suits you.”
“Oh, go to hell, Jared.” Sugar shifted, hands on hips. “I don’t need this, and I don’t need you.”
“A little name calling upsets you? Bullshit. I don’t buy it.” He leaned forward, placing his elbows on the desk, his shoulder aching. “What’s going on with you? My favorite brassy broad is—”
“Did you just groan?” Her hardened exterior flashed soft.
He blinked, but it was gone. “Of course not.”
“Now that I’m thinking this out, it was a bad idea to ask you. You’re busy. This will take a bit longer—”
“Sugar.” Ignoring him, she yabbered excuse after excuse. “Sugar,” he growled.
She stopped and shook her head. “It was nice seeing you, J-dawg. Check ya later.”
Would she stop calling him that?
Sugar turned on an ice pick of a heel and pivoted toward the door. Hell, no. She wasn’t going anywhere. He rushed out of his chair, every muscle complaining, but intent on cutting off her exit. “Wait a damn second.”
One hand landed high on the door, holding it closed. The other caged around her, pinning her in. Her hand rested on the door knob, and they stood the closest they’d ever been. Warmth radiated from her body. Holy hell, she smelled sweet. Delicious and mouthwatering. Bubble gum and vanilla.
He swallowed away an immediate urge to breathe her in, and drove home the memory she was a buddy’s old flame. “You’re here. You’re not leaving. Explain yourself.” Since he was all but pressed against her, he’d make her talk. By any means necessary, though he suspected it wouldn’t take much. Not with the way her eyelashes fluttered. Hell, not with the way that he noticed shit like eyelashes fluttering. He needed to get himself in check, fast.
“I gotta go. Scoot your caboose, boss man.”
The toughness in her voice did nothing to move him out of the way. Jared cleared his throat. Calling her baby cakes didn’t warrant this reaction. He knew that much of her personality. Something else bubbled under all that dark hair and feisty façade. “Something’s wrong. Got it. You need help or else you wouldn’t be here. All bullshit aside, speak. Now.”
“It’s nothing. You mind moving your macho self out of my way?”
Little pistol earrings dangled from her ears. Only Sugar. “I don’t take well to my directives being ignored.”
“And I don’t take well to being held against my will.” She nailed him with a glare that shivered down to his boots.
This woman was a challenge. Enough to make him crazy, but there were too many reasons not to go there. They worked together. She had a past with Cash Garrison, one of his men. Long term, or even more than one night, never happened.
“I’m not moving. Hell, I’ll stand here all day. All night. Is that how you want it to go?” The steady thump of his pulse ticked faster.
“Fine.” She huffed, struggling for more room that he again denied her. “I need an undercover partner for a few weeks. It’s a lot to ask and—”
Partner? Weeks? “Doing what, where?”
“New York. There’s a new wave of gang activity. High powered weapons and cop killers are moving hands faster than anyone can track. And mixed in that mess, there’s a prick slicing up dancers. Burlesque dancers. Which are not strippers, so I’ve learned. Look, I’ve got it handled.” She tried to nudge away from him. Not happening.
“Simple enough. So why are your cheeks hot, baby cakes?”
They went from pink to fuchsia. Maybe that was something he should’ve kept to himself.
“Jared, you’re a dick. I thought it’d be fun, but I must’ve huffed fumes because partnering with you is the worst idea I’ve had in a long time.” This time, she tried to elbow her exit. Hard. His caging arm moved to grip it, holding her in place against him. She was stronger than she looked, sending another ripple of awareness through him.
“Still doesn’t explain why you’re acting…unlike the Sugar I know. Strip joints and burlesque shows make you uncomfortable? Nah, not believing that.”
What the fuck was the difference anyway? Watching one set of tits on stage was like watching another set of tits on stage. It sounded like an easy gig. He could kick back and watch the show alongside Sugar. No problem.
She pushed her shoulders back and a pissed off gleam burned in her eyes. “You don’t understand. They want me to be a burlesque dancer. To dance and strut, not strip.” She glared at him. “And whoever my poor partner is, he’ll be my manager, boyfriend, backup. Look, I’ve had issued with a partners in the past. I spook easy and wanted someone…safe. But like I said, never mind. Feathers and sequins are going to be a helluva good look on me, and I’ll spare you the heart attack.”
Feathers and sequins.
Are you kidding me? He’d risk the heart attack.
His arm dropped from the door and hung dead at his side. Numb. Just like the rest of him. “Where will you stash your piece?” Guns. It was the only thing his mind could think to say after feathers and sequins made his imagination take over.
“Well, Einstein, I won’t have a place for a concealed weapon, judging by the costume options shown to me. Not a knife. Seriously, not even a razor blade. Forget I said anything. This is embarrassing.”
Hell, if she only knew his thoughts. That’d be embarrassing. “You can use any resource I have. Jets, technology—”
“Pretty sure the ATF is going to stick me with your bill, so let’s keep things like private jets to a minimum, considering you probably charge a grand an hour.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you’re important. Expensive. Time is mon—”
“No. Why’s ATF making you foot the bill?”
“Because I wouldn’t pick one of their stupid agents to partner with. I asked to work with you.”
“Me? Specifically?” he asked, feeling warm under the collar. He wanted this op so bad. Too bad. He needed to back the hell away.
“Well, God, cocky. More or less, yes. You. Specifically. Did you need an ego boost today?”
And, shit, he was useless in the field right now. At least for another week or two. She hadn’t noticed his hobble, but his calf remembered there was deep GSW trying its best to heal. And what was her hold up with partners? Sugar seemed like a control freak. Those never partnered well. He should know, considering his men thought him as the control-freak-in-charge.
Wanting in on this op had some to do with the costume selection, but more with the woman pressed up against him. Red flags waved, crying for his attention. Injured, he couldn’t be adequate backup, and interested, he needed to keep his dick in his pants.
“Sugar…I can’t.” But goddamn I want too. And that was the problem.
She paused. “That’s fine. I already said never mind. Didn’t you hear me, J-dawg?” The pink in her cheeks was gone, replaced by a challenging smirk, Sugar’s classic look. She was back on her game, whatever flustered her before disappeared with a deep exhale. “You mind backing off me? Or do I need to push against this brick wall again?” She flicked her finger against his chest.
“It’s not that I—”
“Nice digs here. Looks very Titan. I’ll see myself out.”
She pushed under his arm and out the door, leaving him alone and angry. Pure male pride and hot blooded desire would make him a detriment on any op with her, and this was a woman he’d never put in danger.
(CHAPTER TWO ISN’T FINISHED YET. STAY TUNED…)