Who gets to be the boss when they're both used to being in charge?
Frankie Stevens has always preferred dirt and trucks to dresses and dolls. Wear a pair of heels? Never. Construction boots are as comfortable as a pair of slippers. Her dream is to make a name for herself in the construction industry, the world she grew up in, by running the company she inherited after her father's death. Unfortunately, somebody is willing to sabotage her business to make sure she doesn’t succeed. Looks as if she needs a security professional to protect her assets. Too bad that professional turns out to be the devilishly handsome Gabe McBride. How can she be expected to get any work done with that dominant, infuriating man around?
Gabe McBride has some old-fashioned beliefs. Being "man of the house" after his father passed away and now part-owner of The Vault, an upscale BDSM club, he takes his role as protector very seriously. When he meets Frankie, he expects a hard-edged, been-around-the-block-a-few-times owner of a construction company. Instead he finds himself toe-to-toe with a feisty sprite, who swears like one her men and smells like lilacs and sawdust. Gabe feels like he's stumbled across a fault line and is precariously straddling both sides. She may not fit any of the boxes on his perfect-woman checklist, but his head is jammed full of erotic images of her. He's determined to protect her and uncover who is out to ruin her business, but she's clearly a woman used to being in charge. Now he must get this beautiful, fiery woman to submit to him for both her safety and her pleasure...
Reader note: Contains explicit sexual language and situations, light BDSM, public scenes in a club/dungeon environment, including scenes with bondage, spanking, and voyeurism
“Jimmy! What did I tell you just last week, for like the third freaking day in a row?”Gabe McBride winced. It sounded like the boss wasn’t too happy with poor Jimmy. Gabe had shut the door of his black Porsche and rounded the front of the car just in time to catch the tail end of the tongue-lashing some poor soul had the misfortune to receive.“But−”“No buts. You need to wear your fucking hardhat and your fucking safety glasses when you’re on the fucking job site. Goddamn it, Jimmy. The whole purpose of personal protective equipment is to protect you from personal injury. How many times do we have to go through this?” Exasperation laced the boss’s words.“I’ll do better, Frankie.”“Yes, you will. If an inspector shows up and catches you without the proper gear, again, we’ll get written up, and then I’ll have to take action. Last warning. Please go to your truck, put your PPE on, and then get back to work.”“Yes, boss.”Based on the number of curse words interjected as adjectives, the boss was fed up with warning Jimmy. Did that raspy voice of command belong to the construction company’s owner Frank Stevens?The growl of frustration that followed reached Gabe’s ears and made him chuckle. A rare occurrence these days. But he sobered quick enough. If the man in trouble wasn’t following protocol, then he deserved the reprimand, though Gabe personally would have handled it with less colorful wording.Gabe was a firm believer in rules. When people didn’t follow instructions, orders, or rules, accidents happened. Expectations had to be clearly articulated and understood. Consequences were a definite possibility. His goal, like the guy dishing out the directive to Jimmy, was to ensure nobody got hurt while under his watch.Gabe paused on the sidewalk in front of what appeared to be the renovation of an old restaurant that had run its course. Years old dust and grime coated the windows. Yellow construction tape wrapped the facing and brick like a bow. Sawhorses, toolboxes, two by fours, and sheets of drywall littered the interior. A sign in the window implied the new owners would be ready for business in two months’ time and were currently recruiting for wait staff. Judging by the amount of work still to be done, the contactor had better pick up his schedule.Gabe had stopped at the office to invite his brothers to breakfast, but they’d both been heading out the door in opposite directions, both frazzled and rushed. Gabe overheard Kyle’s end of a conversation with a client who needed assistance, but Kyle had been too busy. So Gabe offered to help out.Gabe guessed the work crew had propped open the front door, and hiked up the windows to allow the slight breeze to filter though. He didn’t envy them. He remembered too many months of working night and day, through extreme hot and bitter cold, to get The Vault ready for business. He decided to take a stroll around the building and look at what they might be dealing with before announcing his presence and meeting Mr. Stevens.Around back, he discovered a parking lot large enough to accommodate about twenty vehicles. Not too bad for a private business in the downtown core. The building itself was two stories of aged red brick, with a rickety fire escape up the back to the second level. Stained cracked windows with boxes stacked in front of them was all he could see. It looked like perhaps an apartment turned storage area existed up there. A door at ground level, probably to the kitchen, stood braced open with a brick.Gabe surveyed the area around his feet. The pavement required work. Poor patch jobs, weeds growing through open cracks and heaved asphalt made for a very uneven surface. The pressure-treated fence surrounding the lot needed replacement boards and was in dire need of a fresh coat of stain. The whole place, in its current state, created an eyesore for the neighborhood.On closer inspection Gabe noticed the windows at ground level had no visible locking mechanisms and broken panes of glass jutted out at every angle. The door itself looked like a five-year-old child could kick it in. Security enhancements were definitely in order.Gabe made his way back to the front of the building. He stopped at the main entrance, his path blocked by the tape across the opening. He could easily step over it, but remained beyond the barrier, respectful of its purpose. He made eye contact with one of the men, and waved him over.“Can I help you?” the man asked. Obviously he’d been doing hard-labor for some time—he had no need for a gym—but years in the sun had weathered his skin making him appear older than his birth certificated probably stated.“I’m looking for Frank Stevens.” Gabe’s gaze swept across the open space. He tried to visualize it filled with diners as staff bustled between tables, and a crowd waiting to be seated, perhaps even lined up down the street.He looked for a man befitting the name Frank. He pictured an older guy, maybe of Italian heritage, and grizzled around the edges. Years of supervising a construction crew wearing on him, maybe the beginnings of a beer gut stretching his waistband. The man probably grew up in this world, working with generations of family members all doing the same thing to make ends meet.“You mean Frankie.”Frank, Frankie, was there a difference? Gabe nodded.“What for?” The older man’s eyes changed from friendly to suspicious. He glared at Gabe. “You an inspector or something?”“No. My brothers and I own a security firm. I came by to discuss some issue Mr. Stevens has been having with vandalism.” He probably should have found out a bit more about the job, but Kyle had already been running late. So whatever it was Kyle had yelled out to Gabe as he settled behind the wheel of his car had drifted away in the breeze. “Mr. Stevens should be expecting me.”“Mr. Stevens?”“That’s what I said.” Had they not already confirmed that? Why was this man giving him such a strange look? Maybe he couldn’t hear well.The guy started to chuckle, but quickly covered it with a fake cough. “Sure. Um. Mr. Stevens is just in the back at the moment. Why don’t you wait right where you are? I’ll let Frankie know you’re here.” He shot Gabe one final look, barked out a sharp snort of laughter, and shook his head before he turned away.Gabe watched him meander his way through the space, avoiding dangerous areas, stepping over tools and chunks of wood in his path.“Hey, Mr. Stevens,” he called to somebody out of sight. “There’s somebody here to see you.”A couple of other workers stopped what they were doing and glanced in Gabe’s direction. There was a response, but from where Gabe stood, he couldn’t make it out over the start-up of a saw.The man he’d spoken with spun on his heel and headed back, taking his time as he retraced his steps. He reached the doorway where Gabe waited, and offered that not-so friendly glare again. Apparently all remnants of humor vanished somewhere between the back of the room and the front of the store. “Frankie will be here in a few minutes. You’d better behave yourself. I’ll be paying attention.”After that bizarre warning, the man shuffled over to his workstation and picked up where he’d left off, casting the occasional watchful glance Gabe’s way.Gabe strode over to and leaned against his car. He checked the time and watched a city bus drive by, belching a cloud of noxious exhaust fumes as it passed. It rolled to a stop at the corner, brakes squealing, let off a handful of passengers, and picked up a few more. Inside, the buzz and whirl of tools continued amid shouts back and forth between the construction crew. He pulled out his cell phone to skim through his e-mail.“You’re looking for me?”Gabe paused, his finger hovering over the screen, but he didn’t look up. From afar, the voice had been deep and gravelly, immediately conjuring an image of what he assumed Frank Stevens would look like.But from a couple of feet away, its texture softened and the smoky quality rolled over him, doing something funky to his insides. His cock stirred. It was the first time, in a very long time, that Gabe reacted to a few simple words. Words that offered no sexual inflection, no offer to please, no request for dominance.Gabe swallowed, and willed his body to regain control. That voice definitely did not belong to a man. He raised his head, and his breath caught in his throat.Before him stood a petite woman. A fucking beautiful-as-hell, petite woman. The top of her head probably only reached the middle of his chest when he was standing. In his current relaxed pose, she looked straight at his neck area. She wore her dark hair tucked up under her construction hat. A few long tendrils had escaped, and those she’d wrapped behind her ears. Ears that held simple gold studs. Man, he hoped her hair, when lose, cascaded down to the middle of her back in glorious waves.She’d removed her safety glasses and had them dangling from the fingers of her right hand, leaving him with nothing to do but stare into a pair of exotic eyes, the most amazing shade of green. Some might call them plain old hazel eyes. But they made him think of colors he’d find deep in the rain forest. A jungle he’d happily get lost in.Her waist indented just the right amount. His fingers itched to span it and see if they could meet. He didn’t think so, and that unconfirmed guess sent a spike of desire rushing though him because he preferred a woman he could hold without digging his fingertips into her rib cage. One he could grip around the middle while she rode him hard and fast. Then agonizingly slow.The perfect-sized waist was currently emphasized by a button-down plaid shirt she’d tucked into her dusty jeans and closed off with a light brown leather tool belt. His gaze raked her from head to toe and back again before drifting down to her feet, which were covered in well-worn scuffed work boots. He dragged his eyes back up to her face and zeroed in on those stunning eyes, currently shaded by the brim of her white construction hat.Holy shit. He must have stumbled across a fault line and precariously straddled both sides.“You’re wasting my time, mister.” She rubbed her forehead leaving a smudge of dirt behind. “Who are you? And what do you want? Make it quick because I have work to do.”“Frankie Stevens?” This pretty little thing with the raw, sexy voice and bedroom eyes couldn’t be the guy who’d called Kyle.“Look, I don’t have time for this shit.”And the mouth. His mother would have a field day washing this beauty’s mouth out with the dreaded soap she’d threatened him and his brothers with every time she heard them utter a curse word. Hell, he’d love the opportunity to do it.But Gabe had a better alternative. He pictured those luscious lips wrapped around his cock as she knelt before him, her hands braced against his thighs as she worked up and down his length, over and over, until she learned her lesson. He envisioned plenty of learning opportunities in her future.“You’re Frankie Stevens?” His big head already acknowledged the truth of the situation. His little head stood at attention, anxious for some playtime with this sexy, mouthy, sprite.She straightened her spine and frowned, but there was a hint of caution in her expression. “I am.” She dipped her chin and turned her head slightly, giving him a side-on look. “Who wants to know?”He finally found his manners and stuck out his hand. “Gabe McBride. My brother Kyle was supposed to let you know that I was coming today. He’s tied up with another client.” Oh Christ, now he had a vision of her bound to his bed with a scarf of green silk to match her eyes.Her shoulders sagged, her posture relaxed, and the scowl she’d been wearing disappeared, replaced with a look of relief. His sexual side took a step back and his protective side reared up. She took his hand, surprising him yet again with a firm grip and strong handshake. She had calluses on her palm. Somehow that turned him on even more.“Thank you for coming. I really hoped to handle this myself, but I’m running into a wall with deadlines looming. I could really use your help.”Gabe, usually a man in control, found he needed to forcibly stop staring directly at her if he wanted to gain any leverage in this situation. But that was no easy task. He cleared his throat and took a physical step out from her personal space. He immediately wanted to move right back into position and force her to look up at him. He imagined her eyes round and begging for his command. He shook it off.“My brother didn’t have time to give me any details. But I did take a walk around the back of the building. I noticed a few areas that will need to be addressed.” Although he was an owner in the security business, his brothers were the true experts in the field. But maybe it was time he stepped up to the plate and took a healthier interest in that part of his revenue stream.She waved away his remarks. “My men have that under control.”Now he was confused. “I don’t understand. I assumed you were having security problems here at the job site.”She shook her head. “Not here. At my construction trailer mostly. I’m hoping it’s just some kids playing around, figuring it would be fun to screw with me.”Although he was totally on board for his version of screwing with her, he straightened and tensed, finally getting his head—the proper one this time—back into the game. “I hear a ‘but’ on the end of that statement.”She sighed and sidled closer to him.He smelled a mixture of lilac and sawdust and it became his new favorite combination. He barely restrained himself from closing his eyes and leaning forward for a good sniff.She glanced over her shoulder.He followed her lead, but not before he let his wandering eyes drop to where her shirt stretched tight. He caught a glimpse of lace underneath. All boyish on the outside, but feminine underneath? What he wouldn’t do to get a closer look at the package underneath the wrapping.Most of her workers were in the shop and hard at work, not paying them any attention whatsoever. That one guy, however, the one who he’d spoken to, watched them with an eagle eye.She stepped closer.Gabe could see the pink lacy edge of her bra resting along her ample cleavage bared by the white T-shirt she wore under her button-up shirt. He could smell her shampoo now. That’s where the lilac smell came from.She wore not a speck of makeup, but her eyes, framed by thick, dark lashes, popped and sparkled. Not with fear, or even annoyance, as he would have expected. But good old-fashioned anger.“I think somebody is trying to put me out of business.”