“That’s not me. I work hard. Hell, I worked hard for you for three months.”
His brows shot up, and he stepped back as if she’d clocked him. So, he didn’t know every fucking thing. “Here at the Desert Fox? You don’t look old enough. What did you do?”
“I’m twenty, and I was a valet runner.”
“And how did you go from being a valet runner to a would-be prostitute?”
“I told you it was…”
“Only one time I got it. Tell me what happened? Not enough tips in valet running? Need to pay for classes at the university?”
“I’m not a college student. Well, not really.”
He wiped his loosened hands over his face. His eyes looked tired. Maybe she caught him at a bad time. He had just returned from out of town. His exhale did funny things to her chest. Definitely tired. “Most girls tell me they want to dance to pay for college.”
“College isn’t for everyone.”
He arched his brow. “And neither is hooking.” He held up his hand when she opened her mouth. “Yes, I know. It was only going to be one time. Look, just because it’s legal doesn’t make it any easier. It’s hard as hell to lie under a man you have no feelings for, who you’re not even attracted to, who doesn’t give a shit about giving you pleasure. He only wants to get his fucking kicks by making you do the things his wife won’t. Then he’ll return home to her when the weekend is over and give her flowers and candy while you lay there for the next man. Hooking is the hardest job on the strip.”
“How many men have you laid under?”
His eyes flew open, but he wasn’t more shocked than she was. What was she doing? He shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You go too far, little one, and I’m over this bullshit. I tried to help you. Give you some great advice. But fuck it. I’m done.” He walked back around to his desk and sat down. Sucking the air with him in the wake of his withdrawal. The dismissal had her eyes welling again. He looked at the stack of papers on his desk. “Take my advice and go back to whatever hick town you came from. Farm country, no doubt. Find some guy to get rocks in his head, gaga over you. Marry him, have his babies and live your fucking life like an episode of Little House on the Prairie. That’s my best fucking advice, and I don’t give it often. Take it or leave it but get the fuck out. I’m done.” The chocolate brown of his irises hardened like chocolate chip cookies left in a fiery oven. Harder than bricks.
She watched the hard bricks for a moment until he arched his brow and said, “Shall I call security, after all?”
She opened her mouth but slammed it shut. Backing away until the doorknob pressed into her spine. She gave a quick nod and only then turned her back on the predator and fled.
Rurik’s gravel and rock-pitched voice disrupted Ven’s brooding. The black cloud surrounding him had silenced even Rand’s jokes and jibes. His trigger finger twitched, still ready to shoot Rand for the girl-ambush. A girl, he repeated for the thousandth time. Off-limits. Who gave a fuck if her body shouted, ‘all woman’?
He growled at his brother, “What?”
Rurik paused whatever greeting he’d been about to utter and waited. Was he waiting for Venedikt to address him with the proper respect? Fuck that. Today he wasn’t a captain reporting to his pakhan. Today he was the middle brother with a shitload of things to do. With a bossy ass, big brother calling on a day when he didn’t have time for the fucking middle management bull shit. “I see you rose on the opposite side of the bed today.”
Ven rolled his eyes. His brother came to America at eighteen. Paving the way for the rest of them. He’d been young enough to learn the phrases and nuances of English. But he’d never put in the effort, even though he hated to be corrected. Yes, he got out of bed on the wrong side. Haunted by Sasha’s pouty red lips, huge stormy eyes, and outrageous proposition. A fucking witch. She had to be… How else had she possessed him for two damn days?
“What do you want, Rurik?”
Rurik returned Ven’s push, only a little stonier. If you shoved Rurik, he shoved back. Harder, much harder. He’d started when they were kids and never stopped. Ven pinched the bridge of his nose when Rurik bellowed, “Don’t fucking ‘what’ me? Where is Baranov? What is taking so fucking long? I know why Sanyet is dragging his fucking feet. His new wife has dulled his killing mood. But what the fuck excuse do you have? Unless you also have a new wife, I know nothing about?”
Sasha Velle’s face flashed in a fiery blast. Damn witch. Ved’ma. He growled. “No excuse. Yuri has tried to reach Baranov daily. But so far, nothing. As soon as he responds, we’ll have him.”
“Is Yuri still trying to sell women on our property?”
“Yes, but he’s staying quiet about it. We still don’t know who these women are or where they’re coming from.”
“How about your sale of women?”
Ven growled and rubbed his hand around his neck. Was there nothing Rurik could not find out? And if he knew fucking everything, why ask? “I’m not selling any women. You know we don’t cross that line.”
“But you had a recent offer. Did I not hear correctly?”
“A woman came here and said she heard about the auction and wanted to enter. She said she was a virgin and wanted to be sold as a one-timer.”
“What did you say?”
“What do you think I said? I told her hell the fuck no.”