by Rosanna Leo
Damn performance reviews.
That was the thought echoing in Declan Murphy’s mind as he watched his boss sort through his personnel file. Luckily, his boss, Angela Dillon, had long, sexy legs. They distracted him from his mental catalogue of “things I can improve.”
Declan raked his gaze from Angela’s ankle to knee, lingering on her shapely calf. While he should be considering all the ways he could help his firm’s bottom line, all he could envision was Angela’s legs wrapped around his waist as he pumped into her with all his might.
He silently expelled the breath he’d been holding. His obsession with his hot manager? Not good for the peace of mind.
Angela finally finished shuffling her papers and looked up with a smile. Her gaze dropped to his lips and lingered a tad too long to be appropriate for a manager/ subordinate relationship.
Nice. Declan smiled back.
“You’ve had a successful year here at Lyon Findley, Declan,” she began. She licked her rouged lips. “It was a pleasure working on your review. The executive team is impressed with your contributions. You worked hard to get the Mighty Cola and Happy Pet accounts. I can see you taking the advertising world by storm one day.”
“One day?” he asked.
Angela walked out from behind her desk and came to stand in front of it, leaning back on the bulky piece of furniture. Her movements brought him closer to her gorgeous legs which danced through his every daydream. Declan clenched his jaw and felt a thin bead of sweat break out on his upper lip. He struggled to keep his gaze on her dark eyes.
“I’ll be blunt,” she replied. “Declan, we’ve worked closely together for a while now. I respect you. There’s only one thing holding you back, and that is your confidence level.”
“I don’t lack confidence, Angela.”
“Not one-on-one, but I’ve seen you waver in groups. Big presentations are your downfall.” She crossed one stiletto-clad foot over the other. “I know you have the killer instinct. We just need to hone it.”
“How do you propose we do that, boss?” He allowed his gaze to drop momentarily to her knee, as if pondering a thought, while he contemplated dragging his tongue up that leg. Focus, man. “I want to get to the next level, Angela. I’ll do what it takes.”
She smiled again. “As it happens, I do have a suggestion. Have you ever considered taking improv classes?”
Declan gawked, not even trying to hide his surprise. He forced his eyebrows back to their normal position. “You want me to take acting classes?”
“A friend of mine has a studio not far from here that caters to executives. They do role playing and exercises to sharpen the instincts and free you from inhibition.”
Declan passed a hand over his face. He respected Angela, liked her. A lot. She’d given him a job when no one else had. And God only knew, he wanted to fuck her like it was nobody’s business. Hell, he’d do anything for her. But acting? “I don’t know, boss. I’m not really a Shakespeare kinda guy.”
Angela leaned forward. He breathed in her sweet perfume, the one that made her smell like a tasty sugar cookie. She placed a soft hand on his, and he grew hard at her touch. “Won’t you try, Declan? You’ll thank me later. I promise.”
Declan sat in the coffee shop across from the World’s A Stage Acting Studio. He sucked back some more of his black coffee, noting how quickly it had grown cold. Of course, he had been sitting there for a while trying to convince himself to play Kenneth fucking Branagh.
He just couldn’t. Somehow, he didn’t believe pretending to be a train with a pack of loony execs would help sharpen his “killer instinct.” Not that Angela was wrong. He did need to work on his presentation skills. He knew how to work an account on the phone, but didn’t have the first clue how to work a crowd. Every time he so much as thought of PowerPoint, he got weak in the knees.
He needed to do something more drastic, not recite poetry about flowers and shit.
He gulped back some more coffee and his attention was caught by the neon lights of the strip joint next door to the acting studio. Lucky’s Bar and Strip Club. Where the neon green lights boldly asked if he’d gotten lucky tonight. Declan smirked. And then he noticed the small sign on the strip club’s door.
Interviewing male dancers.
A niggling sensation tugged at his gut. Declan considered the sorts of acts Lucky’s must showcase. He’d bet his prick those dudes had confidence in spades.
He had done a little bit of hip-hop dancing in college to keep his former girlfriend Allie company. Allie had said he had a flair for dancing.
No effing way.
Yet even as the thought sounded in his head, Declan was already tossing his empty coffee cup in the trash. Within seconds, he headed across the street to Lucky’s.
“Height?” asked the man himself. Lucky O’Reilly’s gaze traveled over Declan’s frame with what looked to be a lecherous languor.
“Six three” answered Declan.
Lucky cocked an eyebrow and looked pointedly at Declan’s bare chest. “All muscle, I see. You work out, kid?”
“Five times a week.”
“Good. Keep it up. You’ll need your stamina in this place.” Lucky paused and grinned, clearly wondering when Declan would run out with his tail between his legs. “I’ll need to see you shake your money maker. You dance?”
“A bit of hip-hop.”
“A bit’s all you need. The rest is attitude.” Lucky looked at Declan’s face, taking in every detail. “The ladies’ll love you with those green eyes and blond hair. You look like the boy next door … the type to climb into my daughter’s bedroom window.”
Declan laughed. Lucky might be a horny old toad, and he was pretty sure the man swung both ways, but he liked him nevertheless.
“Now the real audition,” intoned the bar owner. “And the part most boys fail. I need you to drop your drawers, kid.”
Declan hesitated a second, thought of Angela, and then did Lucky’s bidding. He stood, undid his belt and button, and let his dress pants fall to his ankles. Lucky’s eyes widened as Declan stood there in his fitted briefs.
“Mother of God, kid. What are you packing in there? Nine inches?”
Declan got hot in the face. “More or less.”
Lucky looked up, his cheeks pale. Poor guy looked winded, and a bit too curious for Declan’s peace of mind. “Welcome to Lucky’s. Can you start tonight?”
A month later.
Angela stared at Declan through the glass pane that separated their working spaces. When he glanced up and caught her in the act of eyeing his bulging biceps, his lips curled into a sexy smile.
She quickly looked away. She stared at him a lot, and he always caught her … and he always smiled.
Declan was a sexy guy, easily the best-looking she’d ever known. She’d always been a sucker for the roguish types who could make your panties drop with a twitch of their eyebrow. She bet he received a lot of hungry stares from women. Why, half the women in the office had thrown themselves at him in one way or another. And yet she never heard stories of his conquests. If he had slept with any of them, no one talked about it, which led her to believe he didn’t sleep around. Any woman in her right mind would brag to the sky and back if she’d managed to get Declan Murphy into her bed.
No, for some reason, her heated glances were the only ones she’d ever seen him acknowledge with a sly smile. Those smiles set her heart to racing and made her feel swollen and wet in all the right places.
Could it be he felt the same way she did? Could it be her presence sent him into a tailspin of hot desire, just as his did to her?
In her thirty-two years, years spent clawing her way up corporate ladders, she’d never managed to attract anyone as sinfully sexy as Declan.
Besides, she reminded herself with an audible groan, he was off-limits. Declan reported to her. At Lyon Findley, there were strict policies forbidding fraternization between managers and subordinates.
Of course, she had just heard of an opening at Stanton, Margolies and Turner. The firm was just as reputable as hers was. If she took a job there, she could fraternize with Declan all she wanted.
“What are you thinking?” she mumbled. “Planning a career change just so you can sleep with someone. Don’t be ridiculous.”
But she wasn’t just thinking of sleeping with him. She wanted to do all sorts of things with him. Meet his family, eat ice cream with him, fall asleep in his arms. Oh man, she had it bad.
Dismissing the idea as insanity, she returned to her work, but within seconds, her thoughts strayed to Declan again. He’d made some great strides with his presentation skills lately. In his last presentation to the upper echelon of Lyon Findley, he’d taken the room by storm. In fact, he’d exuded so much easy confidence, the execs had become his willing hostages.
She was thrilled with his progress, but curious. Her friend Larry from the acting studio had let it slip that Declan hadn’t shown up for even one single improv class. And yet she could swear there were dark circles under Declan’s eyes, as if he were tired. And he ran out of work most evenings in a rush. If he wasn’t going to Larry’s studio, where was he going?
And how had he drummed up the ability to ensnare an audience in a few weeks’ time?
Once again, she watched him pack up his things for the night and grab his leather jacket and briefcase. He turned and headed to her office. He knocked on the door and poked his head around the glass door.
“Good night, boss.”
The sound of his velvety deep voice caressed her eardrums and made her want so badly it hurt. She swallowed the saliva pooling in her mouth. Stay professional. “Good night, Declan.”
He lingered for a moment and stared at her with such intensity she wanted to take off all her clothes. Then his lips firmed, he turned around and hurried out of the office.
Damn. Tonight she was determined to find out exactly how Declan was spending his evenings, and with whom.
Angela quickly tossed her belongings into her briefcase, grabbed her purse and insulated lunch bag, and followed him out the door.
Feeling like a stalker, Angela followed Declan toward Larry’s acting studio, and wondered where he was headed since she knew he hadn’t joined the classes. He walked at a good clip, and with his long legs, it was hard for her to keep up. Her Jimmy Choo’s with the strappy heel, precious as they were to her, didn’t help either. She struggled to keep pace while balancing her various bags and attempting not to give herself away.
“Why am I doing this?” she grumbled.
“Why are any of us doing this shit?” a homeless guy answered back as he ambled past.
Ignoring the man, Angela continued to wonder, but she knew the answer. She was doing this because she could no longer deny how much she wanted Declan and wanted to know everything about him. Because she wanted to find out what made him tick.
Because she was so hungry for him, her desire manifested like rumbling hunger pangs. It was a needy ache inside her.
When Angela saw Declan enter the next building on the block, she stopped in her tracks. Lucky’s? A male strip joint? She waited, frozen to her spot for a moment, and was sure Declan had made a mistake and he’d be right out.
He didn’t emerge from the doorway, no matter how much she wished for it to happen. After a few more moments, groups of women and men, who she suspected were gay, began to flood inside the club.
Angela’s heart bottomed out. Surely not.
Declan was a beautiful man. One any woman would pay to see naked.
A ripple of nervous energy, and something akin to excitement, tickled her spine. Angela realized her panties were drenched at the mere thought of Declan in his skivvies, shaking his parts at a horde of nameless women and men.
The good girl in her was shocked and appalled. A newly-discovered bad girl wanted to see more. On shaky legs, she joined the line at the door.
Maybe he’s just the bartender.
And maybe she wasn’t a dateless, former class valedictorian who’d spent her formative years in braces, and who now worked so hard she didn’t have time for a social life.
Steeling herself, Angela entered her first strip club.
As Declan slid on his Emerald Isle-inspired G-string, a manly hand patted his bare ass cheek. Without looking, he brushed the hand away and addressed his assailant. “Still hazing the newbie, Seamus?”
Seamus, clad in a matching G-string, sashayed in front of him. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”
“If I ever switch teams,” Declan chuckled, “you’ll be the first to know.” He drew on his tearaway pants and joined Seamus in the wings where the other man eyed the gathering audience. “What kinda crowd have we got tonight?”
Seamus poked his head around for a better view. “Looks like the usual. Some gays. Couple of bridal parties. Ooh, and look, a virgin. Haven’t seen one of those in a while.”
“Yeah. Strip club virgin. Look at the poor thing shivering in the corner with her briefcase.” Seamus turned away, disinterested. “Someone get the frightened dear a drink.”
Declan looked out and felt the air constrict in his windpipe as he observed Angela standing in the corner. “Holy shit. It’s my boss.”
Seamus’s eyebrows grazed his hairline. He launched into a bad Ricky Ricardo impersonation. “Someone’s got some ‘splainin’ to do!” He walked off, laughing.
Declan stared, horrified and strangely intrigued. What on earth would possess Angela to visit a place like Lucky’s? She was the last woman he’d expect to see here.
Was she one of the horny multitude looking for a not-so-cheap thrill? Was she secretly a freak?
No, he listened to the office gossip. Angela was a good girl. He wasn’t even sure she dated much—which was a damn shame. And he’d be the first to admit that enticing her out of her shell and peeling her out of her clothes were topics that fascinated him to no end.
She took a chair at a small table, her feet shuffling with unsure steps like a frightened bird. She looked terrified. As a swell of protective emotion coursed through him, Declan fought the urge to rush into the crowd and enfold her in his arms. Dammit, he wanted to be her fucking knight in shining armor.
He had to do something. If he didn’t, his boss would soon witness him in all his glory. And from the paleness of her cheeks, she was liable to have a heart attack while doing so.
Declan gritted his teeth, stood up straight, and walked into the bar area. He mustered up all the dignity and bravado he could while wearing a green thong under his pants. Ignoring the hoots and catcalls from other customers, Declan made a beeline for Angela’s table. She turned and met his gaze; her pretty mouth fell open as she stared at his bare chest.
He sat down in front of her. “Hello, boss.”
The little puff of air that escaped from her lips carried his name. “Declan.”
She sounded astonished, and if he didn’t know any better, Declan would’ve thought he heard a hint of frustrated sensuality as she said his name. That whisper of yearning shook him more than the guttural cry of any other woman’s orgasm. For a split second, he denied what he’d heard. But as he watched her gaze drop and travel along each ridge of his ab muscles, he knew Angela wanted him.
He wanted her. And dammit, tonight he could care less about his job or his professional reputation.
He just wanted her.
“Declan.” She reached for his hand as if trying to run away with him, as if she wanted to rescue him. “What are you doing in this place?”
“’Honing my killer instinct.’ Isn’t that what you called it?” Try as he might, he couldn’t keep his voice from cracking. He’d held back the need for her for so long. He was ready to explode.
Her eyes watered, ever so slightly. Fuck, the last thing he needed was for her to feel sorry for him.
“I didn’t send you to this place.”
His lips quirked in a wry smile. “This place has a name, Angela. And they’ve been good to me. No one is holding me here against my will. And as you’ve seen, performing here has actually helped me in the delivery of my last few presentations.”
“I know, but…”
“But nothing,” he interrupted her, “I made the choice to strip. Sure, my Catholic parents would burst a gasket if they saw me. My mom would never leave the confessional again. Despite that, I’ve been having fun. And it’s not affecting my work, other than in a positive way.”
Her adorable face twisted into something between a pout and a frown. “What will people say?”
“I could give a flying fuck what anyone says, Angela. I wasn’t planning on staying here forever. And besides, the only opinion that ever mattered to me was yours.”
There. He’d said it. Let her chew on that for a while.
Her brown eyes widened and seemed to turn to black under the dim club lights. “I … I’m glad my opinion matters, but don’t you feel like a sex object?”
Okay. It was time to reel in this stubborn fish.
Declan leaned forward until his face was mere inches from hers. Before she could react, he brought a hand to her cheek and stroked it. He then let his thumb graze her bottom lip and allowed it to linger there, pressing the lush fullness. “I can see you’re upset. Don’t be. Stay for the show, Angela. I wanna dance for you tonight. Please? We can talk later.”
Angela blushed. He hardened. And then he pulled her close and kissed her as he’d always wanted to kiss her. Full on the mouth. Demanding.
She didn’t pull away; his proper, professional Angela yielded to his kiss, met him with urgency. She threw her arms around his neck, and for a moment, he didn’t know who was reeling in whom.
Nipping at her bottom lip, sucking on it none too gently, Declan demanded entrance, and she opened to him. He slid his tongue inside the sanctuary of her mouth, savoring her sweet taste. He thought his heart would pound out of his chest.
And as she let her tongue glide against his, he knew she was his.
Some minutes later, when they broke apart on a breath, he rested his forehead against hers. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that.”
“I think I might have an idea,” she whispered into his ear.
He gazed into her eyes. “You’ll stay, right?”
She nodded. “I’ll stay.”
As Declan walked away, disappearing into the mysterious world that was backstage at a male review, Angela struggled to regulate her erratic heartbeat.
Declan Murphy had kissed her. She’d kissed him back. And neither of them had been banished to some sort of magical, professional purgatory. Not yet anyway.
He’d tasted so good. She touched a finger to her lips and gently pressed spots that already felt bruised from their mutual lust. And now he was about to strip for her. Unreal. She’d already passed boundaries she’d never dreamed of crossing. That one searing kiss was already so inappropriate considering their work relationship, but she knew there was no going back.
She didn’t want to go back.
Angela barely registered the pounding music in the background. She didn’t really hear the announcer as he introduced the upcoming acts, so consumed was she with thoughts of her wayward … delicious … employee.
But when the announcer said the words “Dirty Declan,” she was all ears, her gaze pinned to the stage. As the host cracked a couple of rude jokes about the newest addition to the Lucky’s family, the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” blared over the speakers. Angela expelled the breath that had caught in her throat.
Declan strode onstage, as sexy and cocky as a professional football player entering a sports bar after the big game. He wasn’t dressed in a fancy costume, just tight, faded jeans and a white T-shirt that accentuated every muscle. Smiling, he rotated his hips, and the audience responded. He waggled his eyebrows at a couple of women sitting in front of the runway, and those women swooned. He turned around and flexed his perfect ass in front of the crowd, and Angela heard gasps.
He owned the room.
He jumped off the stage and danced toward her little table, using moves she’d never dreamed he knew. Heat rushed into her face. Moisture pooled between her legs. Declan stopped at her table, reached for her hand, and kissed it. She felt as cherished as a queen. The secret smile he offered her set her heart racing.
When he mouthed the word, “later,” it was all Angela could do not to come right there in her seat.
He raced back to the runway, jumped up, and back flipped to the center of the stage. The crowd responded with excited hoots. Once he reached center stage, Declan ripped at his T-shirt; it fell off him. Most of the audience members jumped to their feet, cheering and waving bills at him. He ran down the runway and pointed at two matronly ladies, who blushed in response. When he stepped down into the crowd and grinded against each one in turn, their blushes turned into hot smiles. Before the song reached its end, he took the stage again, reached down, pulled at his pants, and tore them away.
The crowd went wild at the sight of his packed, green G-string. Declan prowled downstage; his muscles flexed like those of a panther on the hunt. Women ran forward to stuff his G-string with twenties.
They loved him. And Angela realized she did, too.
At the end of the stage show, when all the dancers mingled with the audience in hopes of soliciting private dances upstairs, Declan headed straight for Angela. He’d given his last dance tonight and didn’t need any additional tips.
She still sat demurely at her table, sipping a piña colada out of an enormous coconut. Good. She’d have to be a bit drunk to go with him to a private room.
What was she thinking?
She looked up as he approached; her face lit up with a shy smile. She took a breath as if about to launch into a speech. “Declan…”
“No, don’t,” he said. “Don’t talk. Don’t think. Just come with me.” He grabbed her hand and her bags and then led her upstairs into one of the rooms designated for private lap dances.
She started to speak as they entered the room. He didn’t give her a chance. He locked the door, backed her against the nearest wall, and kissed her as if his life depended on it. As if they’d only ever have this moment.
Angela responded—thank God—throwing herself against him with abandon.
He tore at her blazer and blouse. She ripped at his tearaways and G-string.
Declan kissed a trail down her neck to her white bra, then peeled away the lacy garment. He cupped her breasts, awed by their beauty.
He looked into her eyes. “I wanted our first time to be special. Maybe this isn’t the right place. You deserve better.”
She put a finger to his lips. “Declan. Fuck me already.”
He sucked her finger into his mouth, nipped it gently, and then released it. He grinned. “If you insist, boss.”
He leaned down and took one dusky nipple into his mouth while working hard to rid her of the rest of her clothes. Skirt. Heels. Panties. They flew across the room.
Declan reached a hand between her legs, and the feel of her sopping wetness caused a bead of perspiration to break out on his lip. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. He’d make it his personal mission to make her this wet every day for the rest of their lives. As he made the vow, she stroked the length of his cock and he moaned in pleasure. “God, Angela, I need to be inside you so badly.”
“Take me,” she whispered and then licked his neck.
He bent down, shoved his hand in the pocket of his discarded pants, and found one of the condoms he’d stored. He rolled it on and reached for her. “C’mere.”
Declan picked her up, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. He grunted as he prodded her slick opening. With a kiss, he impaled her on his hungry cock.
“Oh, dear God,” she cried. “I knew you were big, I mean, I saw almost everything. But this? Oh, sweet Lord.”
He cursed himself for being so eager. “Shit. Am I hurting you?”
“Fuck, no!” She let out a strangled shout. “Don’t stop.”
He took her against the wall, hard and fast, revelling in the tight feel of her. And the whole time she clung to him, her nails scraping his back, her fingers plunging into his hair. He held her tightly, desperate to plumb her depths, to touch her soul. They were perfect together, just as he’d always known they would be. In his heart, he wasn’t simply fucking Angela; he was making love, making her his.
And he’d never let her go. They’d wasted too much time already.
Declan thrust into her until she quivered around him and then he shouted her name. Even as their orgasms wound down, he was coming up with ways to make love to her again. This quick fuck in the back room of a strip club took care of immediate needs, but the next time he wanted to show her how much he cared. Hell, he’d shower her with rose petals and recite some goddamned Shakespeare if she wanted.
As the most potent orgasm of his life faded away with its last violent spasms, Declan sagged against her. He squeezed her and buried his face in the crook of her soft neck. She smelled so good, he wanted to stay there forever. He danced his tongue along her shoulder, licking the groove of her collar bone, nibbling at her earlobe. “Oh, sweetheart, I don’t want to put you down. Ever.”
Angela lifted her head from his shoulder.
Jesus Murphy, she was gorgeous with her lipstick smeared and her hair tousled.
Her brows creased in a tiny frown. “Oh, Declan. What are we going to do?”
He brushed her lips with his. “Do about what, angel?”
“Work. Yours and mine.”
He smiled, so taken by her concern. “I’ve taken care of it. I promise.”
“What do you mean?”
He pulled out slowly and set her down. God, he hated pulling out of her. He quickly disposed of the condom in the adjoining bathroom trash and then walked over to her and pulled her into his arms. “I know what I’m going to do. What I’ve already done. Tonight was my last dance at Lucky’s.”
Her brown eyes widened. “Really?”
“Yup.” He kissed her on the lips, letting his tongue trace her mouth. “And I’ll tell you what else I’ve done. I’ve accepted a new job at Stanton, Margolies and Turner. I start in two weeks.”
She gazed at him, as the beginnings of a heartbreaking smile teased the corners of her eyes.
He ran two fingers gently along her cheek. “I don’t want to compromise your job. You’ve worked hard to get where you are. And I don’t want to have to hide what I feel for you anymore. You’re too special to me.”
Tears formed in her eyes, which she didn’t bother to blink away. Her lips curled into a beautiful smile and made his spirit soar. “You did that for me?”
“I love you.” His voice cracked. “I’d do anything for you.”
She hugged him tightly, pressing her breasts against his chest and then sighed. “I love you, too.”
He picked her up, carried her to the couch, sat down, and cradled her in his arms. He stroked his fingers through her hair and kissed her face over and over again.
Tonight, he really was lucky.