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And Axe let her do the walking, staying where he’d planted his boots.

When she was standing in front of him, he purred deep in his throat. “How was dinner,” he asked in a growl. “Did you like it?”

Her lips parted, her breath coming hard. “He was good company.”

“I wasn’t asking about him. How was the steak.”

With that, he reached out and locked his hand on the back of her neck. Pulling her up against him, he arched his hips into her so she felt exactly what he was about.

Elise gasped, her eyes closing as she went limp.

He pushed her against the building and held her there with his body as he freed her hair, the gusts whipping it around him. Planting his palms on the cold stone on either side of her head, he leaned in and put his mouth right at her ear.

“So how was he …,” he drawled.

Before she could answer, he took her earlobe between his lips and sucked on it, ending with a nip from his fang.

“Hmm?” He extended his tongue and licked at her. “How was he?”

Her reply was her hands coming up to his shoulders and latching on so hard he could feel her nails through the leather of his jacket. Oh … fuck, he wanted to be naked and have her do that, so that she left little half-moons of blood in his flesh. And then he wanted her to bite him hard at his throat and take from his vein.

Axe ran his lips over her jawline and then hovered a millimeter from her mouth. “You’re not answering the question, Elise.”

She was panting as hard as he was, her body his for the taking, her sex fully aroused for him. And you want to talk about satisfaction? That Mr. Perfect human in his precious little Merrells and his scarf, who’d gotten to sit across from her at dinner, and charm her with his wit and his intellectual savvy, was never going to get this kind of reaction out of her.

Never. Fucking. Ever.

“Are you going to see him again?” he drawled. “Because I think you should.”

She recoiled at that, pulling away. “What …?”

“I like to watch you with him.”

“Why?”

“Because it hurts. Now, give me what I want,” he growled as he closed the distance between their mouths and kissed her hard.

The bar counter in the club was long, crowded and noisy, and a total waste of time—except for the alcohol. And as Novo motioned for the bartender to bring her another Scotch, she looked down the stretch of men and women, the lot of them crowding in like they were cows at a trough.

She would have been seriously disdainful of them.

But for the fact that she was one of the herd.

“Here,” the server said. “On the house.”

The guy was tall, on the thin side for what she liked in males, but the shaved head, tattoos across his chest, and gauges in his ears were right up her alley.

“Thanks.” She saluted him with the squat glass. “What time do you get off?”

“Four.”

“Good to know.”

She walked off, heading back for a place she didn’t want to be and couldn’t get away from.

As usual, Peyton had engineered the meet-up at Ice Blue, a techno club he couldn’t seem to live without. And also as usual, he’d gotten them a seating pit in the VIP section, behind a velvet rope that kept out the riffraff.

As she came up to the bouncer, he let her in. “Back so soon?”

“Got my drink. I’m good.”

He gave her a confused look, but she left him to chew on the reasons why she might have gone independent, when there was top-shelf bottle service in Peyton’s velvet-seated sunken sex pit.

Not that there was any sex going on.

Boone was nursing the same Grey Goose and cranberry he’d started the night off with, his eyes scanning the human crowd with a detachment akin to an entomologist in his lab. Paradise and Craeg were relaxed and not in big hurry to come or go—which was what happened when two people were free to bang anytime they wanted. And Peyton? He was hanging with a couple versions of himself, the defensively heterosexual males dressed in expensive, tight-legged suits.

That collection of arched brows, laconic hand motions, and airs of entitlement were denser than their saturated colognes.

Definitely not her kind.

Resettling next to Boone, she crossed her legs and leaned back in the slick, padded wraparound. Why in the hell anyone would put greased-pig fabric on something drunk people were supposed to sit on was a mystery. Then again, like Peyton, this particular club was more about appearances than anything else. The wait line had been like tryouts for The Bachelor—not that they’d had to bother with it thanks to Peyton—and there had been a Manhattan dealership’s worth of Mercedes in the lot out back, and if she saw one more Scott Disick wannabe hitting on a fake tan with DDs, she was going to—

Holy shit.

She was boring herself with her own internal conversation. So why didn’t she leave?

The answer to that was just across the shallow, carpeted pit. And of course, Peyton wasn’t looking at her.

No, Peyton was leaning forward, and looking around one of his silk-suited buddies—and in spite of the fact that he was wearing his blue-tinted glasses, and even with the laser beams spearing through the fogged-out air, it was obvious who he was staring at.

Obvious what he wanted.

Paradise.

And the longer Novo watched the male look at their fellow trainee, the more Novo had to own up to the fact that that obsession was part of the fucker’s appeal. After all, he was everything she didn’t find attractive, and yet she always ended up knowing when he came into a room and when he left it. Knew what clothes he was wearing. How he was fighting. What mood he was in, and whether he was eating or drinking, and anytime he was on his phone. She noticed when he’d had his hair cut and when it was getting shaggy. When he was injured, tired, or hadn’t slept.

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