Author: Meghan March
Series: Beneath #3
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance
More Info: Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon US
Purchase: Amazon UK
I was raised on the streets, so I know things are rarely as simple as they appear—especially this rich girl showing up at my pawnshop demanding a job.
She’s the most tempting thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ll be damned if I can make her leave.
Shit just got complicated … but when it comes to her, I want complicated.
We’re both fighting our own demons, and our only chance at a future is to let go of the past.
But will we be strong enough to break free from beneath these chains?
I fucking hated people who stole from me. Which was ironic, considering the only thing that had kept me from starving as a kid had been picking pockets and snatching purses. I dropped my elbows to the desk and rubbed a hand over my buzzed head.
“Goddamn, karma’s a bitch.”
“She the bitch you fucked last night, bro?” The leather of my office couch creaked as Mathieu sank his tall, lanky frame into it.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to call women ‘bitches,’ boy?”
My words were met with a long sigh from Mathieu. Ever since he’d walked into Chains and tried to grab a guitar and run back out the door—only to be tackled to the ground by yours truly—he’d been a fixture in my life. To be fair, his choices had been to work off the price of what he’d attempted to steal, or go directly to the nearest cop shop. The entire situation had been such a blast from the past, I’d caught myself smiling when I should’ve been glaring and scaring the piss out of the kid. But apparently I’d done an okay job of it because he’d decided starting a rap sheet at seventeen wasn’t a good plan. Thank fuck. Almost two years later, the kid was my right hand.
And now that Chains was mine, someone was stealing from me—but not just someone. An employee. Someone I should’ve been able to trust. The cameras I had installed on her day off had already paid for themselves.
I rolled my head from side to side, cracking my neck. I hated firing people. It never got easier. And this time? This time it was going to be even worse … because there would be tears. And quite possibly claws.
Pushing up from the chair, I strode to the door without looking at Mathieu. Over my shoulder, I tossed, “You might want to stay here; Brianna’s ass is about to get canned.”
“For real?” His words followed me out, but I didn’t bother to reply.
Every time I stepped foot onto the shop floor, a feeling of pride surged through me—pride that I’d helped build this business into one that was not only honest, but profitable. At least, it was profitable when one of my employees wasn’t skimming off the till and messing with my bank deposits.
Finger twirling in her long, dark extensions and gum snapping between her teeth, Brianna flipped the pages of a magazine with a giant black Sharpie in one hand, circling shit. Probably shit she wanted to buy with the money she’d been stealing from me. The store was empty, which made what I was about to do a little easier.
“Bree, need a few minutes.”
Her head popped up, lips pursing as she took me in. “You can have all the time you need, boss.” Her gaudy fake eyelashes batted at me in what I assumed was supposed to be a sexy move. I stowed the urge to tell her to save it for someone whose dick got hard at the sight of her … but since I was about to fire her, why add insult to injury? The woman had been unsuccessfully trying to add her notch to my bedpost since I’d hired her. Bringing her on had been a mistake, and I’d known it from the minute she’d walked in the door, but a friend had called in a favor.
“Boss? You had something to say?” she prompted.
I watched her, not speaking.
She stopped the hair twirling and capped the Sharpie, resituating herself on the stool and folding her hands in her lap.
Bree’s dark eyes flew wide. “Done? You mean done for the day?”
“Done. For good. Get your shit and get out.”
Bree lost the innocent pose as she crossed her arms and stared me down. “Not until you tell me why.”
In two long strides, I closed the distance between the register and me and pressed my hands to the counter.
“I gave you a job. Gave you a paycheck you didn’t have to suck a dick to get. But that wasn’t enough for you. You had to have more, and instead of coming to me and asking for a raise, you decided to make it happen yourself.”
The color faded from her face, leaving her mocha-colored skin sallow. “Wh-what?”
“Get your shit.”
“I swear, I didn’t—”
“Don’t fucking lie to me. I can show you the tape if you want to see what I saw.”
Her lower lip started to wobble. It wasn’t going to work. I’d given her the benefit of the doubt, hoped I was wrong or it was just a one-time thing. But she’d gotten too bold.
“But I need this—”
I cut her off. She wasn’t even going to deny it. Not that she could. We both knew she’d done it, and I wasn’t in the mood to listen to her beg or justify her actions. Even though she didn’t know it, I’d already given her a second chance. And all that had done was cost me even more than I could afford to lose. “I needed someone to work the shop—someone who wasn’t going to fuck me over and steal from me. You weren’t capable of that, so you’re out. Now get your shit.”
“Save your breath, Bree. I ain’t listening unless you’re here to tell me you’ve got all the money you’ve taken, and you’re putting it right back where it belongs.”
Her face twisted into an angry glare even as the tears started falling. “You … you don’t understand.”
“No, I really don’t understand.” I crossed my arms and waited her out. When she realized the water works weren’t changing my decision, she spun off the stool, grabbed her giant purple purse from behind the counter, and stalked toward the door.
“You get all self-righteous with me about a little cash while you basically steal from people? Giving ‘em twenty dollars for their shit? Like you’re one to judge.”
A little cash? She’d skimmed enough to buy a nice used car, and I’d been too trusting to even realize it until the numbers hadn’t added up in a big way.
She slowed near the guitars at the front of the store and malicious glee lit her eyes.
Oh, but she did.
Bree grabbed a guitar and swung it toward the rack as the chimes above the front door jangled. Wood crashed against wood, and two female screeches erupted.
Shit … if she injured a customer…
I charged Bree and ripped the guitar from her hands before she could swing again. A swirl of red hair caught my attention as the other woman dodged out of the strike zone.
Bree struggled against my hold, and I wondered if I was going to end up with a face full of the acrylic claws tearing at my arms. “Let go of me, you asshole!”
“Whoa, boss. Getting the door for ya.” Mathieu bolted across the shop and yanked the door open again. I hustled Bree out and set her free on the sidewalk.
She spun to face Mathieu and me. “You’re gonna regret this,” she hissed. “I swear, you will.”
A soft laugh came from the open door. “From what I’ve seen, I highly doubt it.”
Bree opened her mouth to spew something else, but I shut her down. “Get gone. I don’t ever wanna see you near my shop again.”
Bree’s flinty eyes narrowed as she shouldered her purse. “Fuck you, Lord. You think you’re better than me? Not a chance. You’re just thievin’ street scum. Fuck you.”
“And now she’s getting repetitious,” the husky female voice commented from behind me.
Lip curling in disgust, Bree turned and marched toward the corner, never looking back.
“Her exit could totally use some work, but all-in-all, that was one hell of a welcome.”
I turned to survey the woman standing in the doorway of Chains. Even without a photographic memory, I didn’t think I’d ever forget this particular pose: one arm braced on the doorframe and the other propped on her hip, a green dress hugging curves that had my entire body sitting up and taking notice. Matched with her long, curling red hair, she was a goddamn knockout. What the hell is she doing here?
“You lost, sweet thing?”
She stepped onto the sidewalk and tore the HELP WANTED sign off the bottom corner of the front window. Holding it between two fingers, she smiled. “Nope. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m your newest employee.”
He loves me, and he doesn’t even know my real name.
The limelight that follows him could expose everything I’m hiding. But even knowing the risks, I can’t force myself to stay away.
I’m going to break his heart, but mine will shatter right along with it.
Will we lose it all when I reveal what’s beneath this mask?
I’ve always known she was too good for me, but that never stopped me from wanting her.
And then I finally had her for one night.
A night I don’t remember.
I figured I’d blown my shot.
But now she’s walked back into my life, and this time, I have the upper hand. I want my second chance.
Will she be able to see the man beneath this ink?