The Company of Fools


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Author's Note

This is my first book, published in 2010 by Loose Id as Annemarie Hartnett. I haven't changed any of the text or updated it, so little dated things like Mike having a Blackberry instead of a phone people actually use today remain.

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Chapter One

The work on the lower level of MacNab's had been going on for two months. No matter where Kate Doucette was in the bar, whether it be setting up her tables or sitting in Mike MacNab's office trying to solve his latest computer dilemma for him, when the hammering or sawing stopped, she would whip out her cell phone, check the time, and then she would bask in the quiet.

Today it was three minutes. Just three beautiful, blessed minutes of silence were all she got. When it started up again, she left the plastic basin she was filling with dirty dishes on the table, threw her hands in the air and marched to the bar.

“I can't take any more. Weren't they supposed to be done three weeks ago?” She ran her hand through her red curls.

“Four, but you know Mike. He's fickle,” replied the bartender.

Kate scowled at Chris, her usual reaction at the mention of their boss since these renovations had begun. When the drilling was joined by a series of bangs, she calmly slid onto the nearest stool, lowered her head onto the polished surface of the bar, and whimpered. After a moment she sucked in a deep breath. “Mmmm, lemony.”

“I just cleaned it, and if your forehead left a stain, I'll make you lick it clean.”

She lifted her head and propped her chin up on the heel of her hand. “How can he stand it?”

“If it makes you feel better, he's been sucking Tylenol down like they were Skittles.”

“Good. I hope his eyes cross and he can't get them back to normal again,” she said and watched him as he patted himself down and produced his car keys. “Crap, are you leaving already?”

“I gotta pick the kidlets up at three. Why are you still here? Aren't you working until close?”

“I told our fearless leader I would try and figure out the new payroll software so he doesn't accidentally pay us fifty cents an hour. I just finished at two o'clock. I figured I might as well stay instead of going home only to turn around and come back. Besides, I could use the money, and Mike says it's okay.”

“It's a good thing Mike is so needy.”

“I'll try to remember that it's a good thing after his frozen corpse is found wedged between the hamburgers and the chicken fingers, and I'm looking at life in prison.”

She followed Chris's gaze as the double doors leading to the work space downstairs swung open and two carpenters breezed through, leaving a cloud of dust billowing in their wake. They took a table in the farthest corner of the bar.

Kate narrowed her eyes as she watched them. “I thought Mike told them not to come up here.”

“Multiple times, and in some very strong language. That's why they're here now. They're going to order some coffee and sit there for fifteen minutes brushing themselves off until the place is filthy, and then dare him to say a word as long as they're paying customers.”

“Oh yeah? We'll see about that.”

Kate walked Chris to the exit and glared at the men as they craned their necks to make sure they had her attention. “See you on Monday, huh?”

She sauntered back behind the bar and pulled out a full MacNab's menu and a beverage list. She wore her biggest smile as she approached.

“Gosh, you guys must be starved after working so hard all day. Can I tell you about our specials? Today we have a Montreal smoked meat on rye with homemade mustard, served with your choice of—”

“Actually, love, we're on a fifteen. Just coffee, thanks.”

“Are you sure? You're missing out on Nova Scotia's finest pub food. The haddock is fresh off the boat.”

The older of the two shook his head. “Just coffee.”

“Would you like to see our specialty coffee menu?”

“Just black, thanks.”

“Sure. Two black coffees to go.”

“Not to go, dear. We'll drink it here.”

“No, you'll take it back downstairs.” She dropped her cheery-waitress routine and placed her hands on her hips. “You've been told countless times that you're not to come into the bar while you're on the job. That smart-assed look you're wearing might work on the newbies, but I've been here for five years, and you're not taking up one of my tables on coffee and leaving me a mess to clean up. You get your coffee for free from now on, and you take it to go. Got it?”

The one who had placed the order raised his overgrown brows and opened his mouth.

She held up her hand. “Don't even start. I've got a mean fucking headache, and I know for a fact that you were supposed to finish working on the bar almost a month ago but have been trying to bullshit my boss. The way I see it, I've got you to thank for my migraine, so I'd think twice before I came smirking through those doors if I were you.”

Mike waited for her at the bar, wearing his widest grin. It had been an elusive sight over the past few weeks. When the work had begun on the bottom floor of the old building, Mike had been like a little kid with a new toy, but with each passing day, his jolly persona soured a little more. He'd been on the verge of losing his temper once or twice, but anyone who knew Mike as well as Kate did knew that it had less to do with the constant noise than the pace with which the crew he had contracted worked. He'd told Kate on a couple of occasions that he thought he was being taken for a ride, but with the construction halfway finished, he was determined to stick it out, even if it did leave him with an ulcer.

“How long have you been there?”

“I was right behind you when you grabbed the menus.”

“Good, now watch me make my point by brewing a fresh pot so they only get a few scalding sips before they have to go back.”

She disappeared long enough to dump the half pot and rinse it. When she came back, Mike was hunched over his BlackBerry with his thumbs flying over the keys.

In her experience, trying to break through the wireless voodoo spell that came over him whenever he touched the glossy red face of his phone required an electric prod designed for poking circus lions into submission. She waited until he put his phone aside before speaking.

“You're not going to make me pay for the coffee I'm giving them, are you?”

His green eyes shone as his lopsided smirk reappeared. He leaned forward on one tanned and toned forearm. It pissed her off a little to know he hadn't gotten it the artificial way but from the two weeks in Mexico he'd just returned from. Of course, it was his first vacation in two years, and he did deserve it, but she was still entitled to her jealousy. It made her week at a local ski lodge look like a shitty vacation, which it kind of had been, even without the comparison to Mexico.

“How much does that coffee cost, a few cents a cup?” he asked, his voice cricking with that Cape Breton lilt: a drawl that centuries after the settlers had first arrived in the province still maintained a bit of a Scottish burr. Even his years of globe-trotting hadn't watered it down. It rolled off Mike's tongue like a tickle. “I'll call it a good investment if it keeps them out of the bar, although I will miss your angry little wiggle when you're wiping down the tables and chairs after they've left.”

“Keep it up, Mike. All the more fodder for my lawsuit.”

His was the best and most infectious raspy and rumbling laugh she had ever heard, and his entire body showed it. She bit down on her bottom lip to keep back the giggle as his laughter rolled over her.

“Listen, you bullshitter,” he said. “You've been talking about this lawsuit since the week I hired you, and nothing has ever come of it. In fact, you seem to be digging yourself in deeper and deeper every month. I'm going to have one hell of a countersuit, honey.”

“I don't know what you're talking about.”

Mike's brows gave a “bitch, please” tilt, and his grin widened.

She didn't know whether it was because on Boss Appreciation Day she had set his screen saver to a video of the entire staff mooning the camera, or because on his fortieth birthday he had opened his office door to find forty jelly dildos in perfectly erect formation around his desk.

It had all started during her job interview. What an abysmal episode that had been. Mike had been less than impressed with her lack of experience in anything that didn't involve changing diapers or mowing lawns. He'd kept one eye on his computer screen while she rambled on through her merits as the best would-be waitress ever to come into MacNab's. While she had suspected that the impression she was leaving on him was less than stellar, she had caught him discreetly taking a peek at her chest once or twice, and so giving up the attempt to wow him, she just went for it.

Look, if you hire me, I'll wear one of those shirts you've got in a size too small, and I won't sue you for staring at my tits when they jiggle.”

It was the first time she'd heard someone actually snort when they laughed, and he had hired her on the spot. In the first month he would stare at her breasts with his eyes narrowed, “because I want to see if I can make them bounce with a Jedi mind trick,” and she'd shimmy around until he went into hysterics.

She loved working for him. It was only because she liked him that she was putting in so much extra these past few months while he was preoccupied with getting his latest project off the ground: the soon-to-be Wit Cracker, a pub with live music and dancing.

She shrugged. “When I'm driving your nice car around town, you'll see what a great bullshitter I am. I'll be sure to wave to you while you're waiting for the bus.”

He scrunched up his face. “Do you make happy sounds while you're gnawing on a man's balls?”

“I would never gnaw on your balls, Mike. I prefer to squish them like cherry tomatoes.”

“Yeesh.” He winced and then winced again as the buzz saw started up. “Ah Christ! I was hoping they'd give it a rest so I could have an hour to myself before the supper crowd comes in and I have to get behind the bar. It's bad enough this place is dead all afternoon.”

Kate rubbed her temples. “When all this is over, you owe your entire staff a big bonus for having to listen to this all day. I personally deserve something special for sitting down there for four hours with my finger jammed in my ear.”

“It'll be worth it. The place is going to look great, and you're going to get rich on tips.”

“Uh-huh.” She placed a polished fingernail at the corner of her eye. “This is the eyeball that has been twitching for three weeks. Behind this eyeball is a tumour that gets a little bigger every day. When it finally pushes my eyeball out of my head, I hope you're there and you get my brain juice all over you.”

“That hurts, Katie.”

She poured fresh coffee into a tall MacNab's mug and added a splash of cream before filling two paper cups for the workmen. She slid the mug towards Mike. “Trust me. When I finally snap, I'm taking you with me.”

She left him chuckling and marched over to the workmen. She stood with a cup in each hand and stared them down until they stood up. “Remember what I said. The coffee is free if you stay out of the bar.”

“Fair enough, love.”

“And don't call me love, you old fart.”

“Fair enough, Miss.”

She eyed the twin butt-prints of dust left behind. “I hate those guys.”

Mike appeared at her side and held out a wet rag. “On days like this, I feel sorry for Joe. It must keep him up all hours of the night knowing that at any moment you could wake up and snap his neck.”

She gritted her teeth at the mention of her boyfriend and slapped the rag down on the tabletop. “I'm starting to talk to myself, Mike. All day I'm cleaning up after men, and this voice starts in my head. That voice sounds just like my mother right after my father started to go deaf in one ear and she would walk around muttering to herself. I'm twenty-five years old, and I'm turning into my mother.”

She leaned down and began wiping the chairs. A prickle started at the back of her neck and zipped between her toes. She peeked over her shoulder and found him ogling her backside.

She gave a little wiggle.

He grinned, tucked his phone into its holster, grabbed his coffee, and headed for the double doors leading to the basement. “Thanks. That'll get me through the next hour without killing myself.”

“It's a shame you can't see my ass-floss in these shorts.”

“No offense, Katie, but when you call it ass-floss, it becomes the last thing I want to see.”

She turned just in time to see his backside disappear and bit down on her smile before it could turn into a leer. Mike wasn't the only one who had been taking a peek here and there over the past few years. He was tall and broad with the build of someone who didn't work at keeping fit but who simply played hard. He was a fiendish outdoorsman who preferred the uncultivated outskirts to the manicured parks and city streets, and he bore the scars of countless scrapes over rocks and slippery forest floors. After he'd returned from Mexico, he'd gone to Newfoundland to climb the mountain at Gros Morne Park but his pack-a-day habit had made the challenge too much. So he'd quit smoking just so he could go back next year and try again. Every adventure he conjured up in his head became a reality, no matter what it cost him.

MacNab's had been no different. Halifax had been a drinking town since its founding. Mike would have been a flash in the pan without something to make his bar stand out: that something was Mike MacNab himself. He'd used his bartending background to host a segment on the evening news magazine, and from the bar at MacNab's, he would show folks how to mix drinks; he'd sponsored a cable-access show about Halifax's nightlife. People poured into MacNab's, and he took to the bar himself, telling raunchy jokes and performing stupid magic tricks, sharing whoppers with the men and flirting with the women. Kate and the rest of the staff reaped the rewards of the mood he set. Her tips on a busy night made her regular pay seem like a tiny amount.

She stood on her toes and stretched and then took a long look around the bar. There was one old man sitting at a table just beneath the big-screen, perfectly content with his bottle of beer and the curling match on the television, seemingly oblivious to the racket coming from downstairs.

She swung around the bar and collected the remote for the smaller television closest to her, then settled on the preschool channel. She couldn't hear the dialogue but found a tiny bit of comfort in watching a sixty-year-old man dressed like a train conductor instruct two puppets on how to make a paper airplane.

When the next break in the noise came, she whipped out her phone and set it next to her, but didn't have an opportunity to enjoy the silence before Mike flew through the double doors with a wild look.

“They cut through the Internet cable.”

“So? Get a new one.”

“The Internet cable connected to the wall, which is connected to the pole outside, which is connected via a series of—”

“Mike, I'll call the cable company.”

“Thank you.” He slouched and hung his head back, blinking at the ceiling as he heaved a sigh. “Can I look at your ass-floss now?”

“Oh, so now that you want something from me it's okay to call it ass-floss.” She picked up the phone and dialed the number she knew by heart, pressed a few buttons until she reached business services, and then leaned on the counter and waited her turn in the queue. “Have you eaten today?”

“I had a coffee and a bagel this morning.” He moved away from the wall and looked around. “I'd murder my own mother for a cigarette, though.”

“You need to eat. And sleep. And you know, blink occasionally.”

“I don't have time to do any of those things.”

“You'll make time. As a matter of fact, as soon as John and Donald come in, you're taking me out for Chinese.”

He shook his head as he slid onto a stool. “Why do I have to buy?”

“You make more money than I do, and you owe me for Monday. I could have slept in, but instead I was here interviewing for waitstaff—Oh, hello? Hello?” She held the phone in front of her and rolled her eyes. “You know, I don't mind being put on hold, but honestly, do they have to keep breaking into the music to tell me what a great deal I'd get on wireless?”

“Yes, that's tragic. Now, you were saying how I owed you?”

She sighed and tucked the phone back against her ear. “Even Dr. Frankenstein bought Igor a nice meal every once in a while.”

“All right, fine.” He threw his hands up and bobbed his head in agreement. “Chinese it is. Maybe my fortune cookie will tell me I'll get lucky.”

Kate raised her brows in mock horror. “Michael Allan MacNab, are you suggesting that you're having some difficulties in that department?”

“Let's just say blinking isn't the only thing I don't have time to do lately,” he said and pouted at her. “I almost bought a Studglove last week.”

Kate frowned. “What's a Studglove?”

“It's a—” His gaze slid sideways and he cleared his throat. “It's a sleeve that goes over your dick. You turn it on. It vibrates.”

“Oh my God,” she managed to say before dissolving into a fit of giggles that doubled her over. “Please, tell me that was a joke.”

“I wish it were. I wake up and I go to work and when I'm done working I go to sleep. The next day I do it all over again. I haven't had any kind of fun lately.”

She shifted the phone from one ear to the other. “Then take a night off. Stay as far away from this place as possible. Go somewhere and do something to take your mind off of things, preferably with a date that's not battery operated. My mother gave me that advice, you know.” She snapped to attention as a voice garbled at the other end of the line. “Hello? Yes, this is Kate Doucette calling from MacNab's. We need an emergency service call. Someone sawed through our Internet cable. Yes, I'll hold.”

Mike pulled out his phone and tapped one of the buttons. Immediately Kate grabbed it from him and tucked it behind her back. “Absolutely not. Relaxing doesn't involve e-mail unless there are pictures of bunnies and kittens involved.”

“Is that what you look at when you're alone in my office?”

“Don't be silly. I look at bunnies at the library. I look at naked men in your office.”

Mike stretched his bare arms in front of him and laced his fingers together. Kate couldn't take her eyes off him. Her mouth watered as she watched muscle shudder and flex beneath his skin.

Her perverted little moment came to an end when he cracked his knuckles, sending a horrible shiver up and down Kate's spine. He slouched over the bar and sighed. “I want mashed potatoes. Let's go to the hotel restaurant across the street.”

“You can have mashed potatoes here.”

“I want mashed potatoes somewhere else. If you're going to give me crap, you might as well give me back my cell and let me work on my ulcer.” He held his hand out and narrowed his eyes at her.

Kate shook her head and once again moved the cordless phone from one side of her head to the other. “Fine. I'll buy dessert if you promise to lick the plate when you're done.”

“I'll get it.”

“No, I will. Sometimes Igor wants to do something nice for Dr. Frankenstein.”

“Aww.” Mike smiled as he placed both hands over his heart. “You do have a soul!”

Kate tried to stifle her giggle, but it came out as a snort just as the technician came back on the line. “Yes, I'm still here. One hour? Good.” She replaced the phone in its cradle and blew out a puff of air. “Crisis averted.”

“My hero.”

They both winced as the saw started up again.

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Chapter Two

Four hours later the carpentry crew was gone, and Mike had her by the elbow as he admonished her.

“You could have just thrown a drink in his face. You didn't have to try and stab him.”

“It was just a swizzle stick.”

“When you try to jam it in someone's eyeball, it ceases to be just a swizzle stick.”

The incident hadn't been her first, and she doubted it would be her last. She'd had a good meal and even better company at her dinner with Mike, but it didn't take long for her mood to shift once she got back to work. She could have taken a time-out when she felt the bad mood burning at the back of her throat and the I-hate-all-mankind fever start to come on.

MacNab's on Saturday night drew one kind of clientele: sweaty, twentysomething hockey fans so pumped with testosterone and beer, they were filled with a misguided sense of immortality. She should have known that tonight someone would want to play grab-ass. They always did on nights when Toronto took the ice. Mike had been at the bar when the guy had decided that it would be a good idea to saunter on over to her and give her rump a squeeze.

She supposed she should have let Mike handle it. A word and the guy would have been facedown on the pavement, but her body clock was raging against being awake since eight o'clock and demanded an outlet. She'd snapped, throwing herself on the guy with a growl, and yes, trying to stab him in the eye with a plastic swizzle stick…with the cherry still skewered at the end.

The door staff had ejected the man and his entire party, and Mike had led Kate through the double doors leading to the shell of the Wit Cracker. At the moment it looked more like a World War II-era bomb shelter with one wall completely torn out to open up the main space. At the back was Mike's tiny office. From the little thirteen-by-nine room, he ran the bar and a small company, M&M Security, or the Gorilla Mafia as Kate had taken to calling them, a collection of enormous men who could probably uproot a tree if they really wanted to.

It was to his office that he led her, and with the same sigh she used to expel when she had been sent to the principal's office in junior high school, she sank down in the seat opposite his desk.

“Beer?” He dipped into the bar fridge he kept next to his chair. She shook her head and drooped, elbows on her knees and chin on the heels of her hands. Mike popped the tab on a soda and placed it in front of her.

At the last moment, the corners of his mouth quirked. He tore off the tab and tossed it in the trash can. “Just in case you think about slitting my throat with it.”

After taking a loud slurp, she burped into her hand, then managed to conjure up what she hoped passed for a contrite look as he sank into his chair. “Sorry. Again.”

He ran his fingers through his thick brown hair, and she held back a smile. He badly needed a haircut, but he wouldn't get one until she made fun of the puffiness that was developing. Like Kate, he was cursed with naturally unruly hair. Unlike Kate, who had to go through an hour of gelling, spritzing, tugging, and flattening to make her red curls manageable, all he needed to do was clip his off.

The extra length suited him, giving him the look of a man who had just rolled out of a warm bed. She, on the other hand, looked deranged when she gave her tresses an ounce of independence.

His mouth twisted up to one side, and he shrugged. “Next time can you try a gentler approach?” He sighed and leaned forward. “What's up? Usually you just scream until the guy pisses himself.”

“I'm having a bad day.” She took another sip of her soda, and her head fell forward a little more. “I kicked Joe out last week.”

He uttered, “Good,” under his breath, and she didn't blame him. Joe wasn't exactly level with the rest of humanity on the evolutionary chart.

She couldn't even recall how Joe had managed to worm his way into her life. One day he was just lingering on the outskirts of her social circle, and then the next he was living in her apartment. Bad hair, bad smells, and bad sex had crept into her life, and she hadn't even noticed. Thirteen months later, she came home to discover her sofa had been broken in half after what Joe insisted was a casualty of Resident Evil, and she suddenly realized she was starting to get apathetic about her entire life, starting with love and sex.

She explained all this to Mike, who listened in silence and rubbed the nicotine patch peeking out from beneath the cuff of his grey MacNab's T-shirt. When she'd finished she found herself staring expectantly back at him, waiting for some kind of acknowledgement.

“I have an old futon I can give you,” he said.

She buried her face in her hands. “A whole year, Mike! Why?”

“I don't know. I asked myself the same question every time he dragged his fat ass in here.”

“So what do I do now?”

“I'm afraid suicide is your only option at this point.”


“What do you want me to say? Are you sorry you got rid of him?”

“God no.”

“Then you get a new sofa, a can of Lysol, some new sheets, and maybe some mood enhancers.” He chuckled when she shot him a dirty look. “Why don't you head home? It's not so busy that the rest can't handle it. Get a pizza, watch some television, and zonk out until Monday morning.”

“I can't. If I go home, I'll do what I always do when I'm bummed. I'll start dragging out everything I own and laying it on the bed, flip through old photos and journals, and then I'll end up on the bedroom floor trying to figure out how my life went down the toilet.”

“Katie, your life is not down the toilet,” he said quietly.

She rolled her eyes towards a tower of plastic file bins piled in the corner, but his conviction made her feel a little better.

He was right. For the first time in years she had everything in perfect order: a nice apartment close to both work and school, she'd finally dropped those twenty pounds that had dogged her since puberty, and she had cool coworkers and a boss who wasn't disturbed. Crappy ex-boyfriend aside, things were pretty good.

She regarded him from the corner of her eye. Mike leaned back in his chair with his hands folded behind his head, affording her a good look at his thick arms. Even as he watched her with a sympathetic look, there was still the hint of a smile that was never far from appearing.

No matter how hairy the clientele got, Mike was always so laid-back. He never lost his temper, though there had been times when she had seen that smile get a little tighter and his nostrils flare when he was pushed a little too hard by some drunk. Even then he would give a cue to the Gorilla Mafia at the door to take over, and he would maintain that calm that was his trademark.

He was quick to flirt, which was always a bonus when she was bored, and also why any attractive woman who meandered into MacNab's usually became a regular both at the bar and in his bed. True, he was a bit of a man whore, but he wasn't a douche about it. In spite of crinkling her nose in disdain when he was on a roll with some half-naked, titless bitch who'd parked her ass crack at the bar, she genuinely liked Mike. He was one of the good guys.

“I know I'm okay, but don't I deserve a couple of days a year to feel sorry for myself?” She yanked her hair from her ponytail, and as it spilled over her shoulders, she noticed Mike watching her movements carefully, like a man watching a woman undress for him. It wasn't the first time he'd turned that hot look on her, and she felt a little tickle run through her belly and lower. She was reminded again that she wasn't immune to his looks, which were sometimes so scorching, she couldn't help it if her panties got a little damp. Or a lot damp.

“If you could try not to impale any more of my paying customers, I'd appreciate it.” He grinned. “Is there anything I can do, Katie? You won't take the futon, but you might have heard that I mix a mean mojito.”

“Eew, no. I appreciate it, though. That, and not firing me. Again.” She got to her feet and smoothed the tiny black apron over her thighs. Mike's gaze followed the motion so fast, she almost missed the flicker of his attention along the length of her bare legs and back up again. She lifted her chin and gave him a smile.

“Anytime,” he said with a wink and stretched out. Muscles flexed, and the hem of his T-shirt pulled up to reveal a strip of flat belly and the waist of his black briefs.

Her toes curled in her sneakers. She hadn't realized until that flash of skin just how good he looked tonight.

Mike frowned when she hesitated at the entrance. “What?”

“Nothing, it's just…” She poked her head into the hall and listened a moment. No one had meandered down to the stockroom.

Don't even think about it, her warning voice chimed in.

She mentally flipped it the bird.

“I might be way out of line here, but there is something you could do for me.”


Her words did somersaults at the tip of her tongue, and she bit down to force them out. “Would you take me home?”

“Change your mind, eh? Give me a second to call upstairs.”

“No, that's not what I meant,” she said quickly when he reached for the phone. “I mean, will you take me home?”

Kate shuffled back into the office, and for a few seconds he just stared at her, and she could see him trying to decipher what she was asking. When he did, only his mouth changed, his lips pulling in and pursing together like any other time he was presented with a puzzle.

“Are you asking me if I want to…?”

“Yup.” She gave a definite bob of her head and slid back into the chair. “The thing is, Mike, I'm not really into that whole casual-sex thing, but it's been a year since I've had a really good screw. I'd have to go through the whole nice-to-meet-ya phase and then keep things cool for a while, and even then there's no guarantee I'd be getting anything too spectacular. I had to pretty much do all the work myself when I was with Joe, and now that he's gone, I could still do the work myself, but it's just not the same. I want someone I know. I want you.”

“Now. Tonight.”

“From what I've heard, you're pretty good at it.” She couldn't believe how she was prattling on, but there seemed to be no stopping it. “Not that I'm asking for pity sex, because asking for pity sex is as sad as getting it.” She squeezed her knees together and kept her gaze at the level of his chin. “We're closed tomorrow because of the holiday, so I'm thinking that between now and Monday morning ought to do it.”


“I—Well, I'm not just looking to get off. Mike, I want to break a sweat. I want to do things I haven't done in years or at all. I want to come out of seclusion on Monday looking and feeling like I've been fucked for hours, and well, frankly a big guy like you could probably fuck me through a wall. Twice.”


“I won't get weird about it afterward. I swear. Not like that crazy Lisa bitch who set the men's room on fire. This would be a onetime thing.”

He raised one eyebrow. It was joined by the other in another second.

Kate curled her fingers into her apron.


He straightened when the door to the basement creaked open. “Mike, you down here?”


“I need some change.” One of the waiters appeared behind Kate and gave her a greeting smile.

“Yeah, sure. Kate.”


“Can you get him what he needs from the safe?”

She looked from Mike to John and back again, and she nodded. “No problem.”

Once John's apron was loaded up with change, she stood in the darkened hall and felt the full impact of her dismissal. She almost fled back upstairs, determined to never speak of it again, when Mike called her back.

He was still behind the desk, now leaning forward with his arms crossed.

“Thanks. I couldn't exactly get up with a hard-on.”

Oh. So…”

“So I think you ought to cash out and meet me at the back door in ten minutes.”

“Okay.” She spun on her heel, biting back a smile the length of her entire face.



“Your place or mine?”

“Oh—Um, mine. I have…things we can play with.”

“So do I.” He got to his feet. He wasn't kidding. His erection tented his black slacks. He stopped directly in front of her, waiting for her eyes to move back up, and he cuffed her chin. His grin was back, and he cocked his head. “And I'll bet mine are better than yours.”

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Chapter Three

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Chapter Four

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Chapter Five

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Chapter Six

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Chapter Seven

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Chapter Eight

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Chapter Nine

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