The sexy King brothers own a successful bachelor-party-planning business and a string of upscale clubs across the country. What could be better than living the single life in some of the world's most glamorous cities?
Finding a woman worth giving it up for...
A promise of ecstasy...
Bartender Cheryl Shepherd has just done the unthinkable—she has shot down Xavier King. Repeatedly. Now the handsome club owner is on a mission to seduce her. And when he finally succeeds, he's blown away by their wild chemistry.
For a notorious player, a sexy, confident woman like Cheryl is a risky proposition.
Xavier has no idea how right he is. An undercover cop, Cheryl is really investigating alleged criminal activity in his club. Yet every time she's alone with her boss, Cheryl starts to lose her head along with all her inhibitions. But when the case grows dangerous, can Xavier be trusted with her heart...and her life?
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National bestselling author Adrianne Byrd has been featured in many publications, including Today’s Black Woman, Upscale, and Heart and Soul. She has also won local awards for screenwriting. For the future, she looks forward to continuing to create characters that make people smile, laugh, and fall in love. She currently calls Georgia home.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"Welcome to The Dollhouse Atlanta," Xavier King exclaimed, sweeping his huge, muscular biceps toward the newly renovated club. The enormous white stone building looked more like a high-end shopping mall than a gentlemen's club smack dab in the middle of downtown Atlanta. "So what do you think?"
This latest renovation of the Atlanta club started off as a small-scale repair project, much of which resulted from the damage done by an old-fashioned bar fight involving a patron who had tried his best to permanently rearrange his cousin Q's face. But once Xavier got started, the project got bigger and bigger, to the point that the once modest-size club now rivaled the infamous Cheetah Lounge in square footage.
A little-known fact was that Atlanta was the strip-club capital of America. So Xavier took the attitude that The Dollhouse needed to go big or go home. He went big.
Quentin Hinton, Xavier's best friend and cousin, stepped out of his black Mercedes and cocked his head so that he could get a better view of the exterior. "Hmm."
Climbing out of the backseat of the car, Xavier's younger brother Jeremy took one look at the place and declared, "I love it!"
Xavier's chest swelled with pride as his pearly white smile stretched from ear to ear. "I knew you would. C'mon inside. Let me show you what else I've done." He waved for them to follow him.
Once they entered through the glass doors, they walked across the black marble floors of the lobby.
"Niiiice," Quentin finally said, bobbing his head as he took in some of the erotic artwork hanging on the walls in gilded frames. "Took it old school, did you?"
"Just a little bit." Xavier winked and then turned. "Here is where the club's concierge/hostess will be," he said, pointing to a matte-gold podium. "This will also be where the limo service will check in or out when bringing in clients from Bachelors Adventures or patrons from any of the surrounding hotels." He waved them on to follow him through the lobby and through the club's main arched entryway.
There, both Quentin and Jeremy gave a low whistle of approval. The first thing that caught their eyes was the long U-shaped runway in the middle of the main floor with elevated seating along the side. The next thing that drew their attention was the two forty-five-foot-long bars surrounded by cushioned leather bar stools that flanked two lighted side-by-side dance stages. The rest of the seating on the main floor consisted of stationary counter-height tables with chairs.
"You're a genius," Q praised as a smile crept up his face. "If you tell me that you've added a loft upstairs, then you've just built my fantasy dream house."
Cocky as ever, Xavier raised his hand to his lips, blew on his nails and then buffed them on his chest. "Well, I don't like bragging. But—yes, I am a bit of a genius."
"And the head swells bigger," Jeremy joked with the appropriate eye roll.
They all laughed as the three continued to tour the redesigned club.
"See, the way I figure it, every evening the girls will descend the staircase leading to the main runway stage. That way, they can fill the room for a showcase revue and a two-for-one dance special. Off to the far right, we have a mini VIP area, which is where the customers can have a more private lap dance. And of course upstairs we have the main VIP room for private parties like Bachelors Adventures."
Xavier watched the two take it all in. Their opinions were important. Not only because they were family, they were business partners, as well. Until recently, there had been four owners. Quentin, the initial investor, and the three King brothers: Eamon, Xavier and Jeremy.
Eamon jumped ship after falling in love with billionaire heiress Victoria Gregory. It was a love that had almost fell apart after Xavier put his foot in his mouth by mentioning how much Victoria looked like Eamon's first love, Karen, who'd been killed by a drunk driver. It was definitely the wrong thing to say to a woman. The hardest part for Xavier was having to come clean to his older brother, and telling him what he had done. It was a good thing he had a strong bond with his brothers. Eamon never once blamed him for being dumped by Victoria and hightailing it back to New York. That was when Eamon made the decision that he wanted the rest of them to buy him out of the business.
Ever since then, guilt gnawed at Xavier. He couldn't shake the idea that somehow he was responsible for his brother tossing in the towel to become a full-time restaurateur... and husband. Turned out that chasing after Victoria was just the thing he needed to do in order to win her back. But the four musketeers were now down to three.
"Well. I gotta hand it to you, cuz. You outdid yourself on this one," Q said, patting him on the back. "This calls for a celebration."
Xavier's forehead wrinkled as he folded his arms. "Who are you kidding? Your getting out of bed is cause for celebration."
Quentin held up a finger. "This is true. But seeing as how this swanky new shindig is going to make us a whole lot more money, I'm going to take you two out for dinner."
Jeremy's brows hiked. "You paying?"
"No. I was just going to drive."
"Figures. You cheap bastard."
Feigning shock, Q pressed a hand over his heart. "I'm offended."
Jeremy rubbed his index finger and thumb together. "I've got the world's smallest violin playing for you right now." Xavier shook his head while he listened to them carry on.
"Excuse me?" a soft voice floated from behind them. The men spun around.
Xavier experienced a Mike Tyson punch to the gut when his eyes landed on a maple-brown sister with jaw-dropping Jessica Rabbit curves. How he managed to keep his tongue inside his mouth while his gaze roamed over her ripe cantaloupes that were posing as breasts and stretching the hell out of a black T-shirt with a decal that said Got Milk was a Sherlock Holmes mystery. Equally mystifying was how she managed to get her painted-on jeans over a red-beans-and-rice booty that at the right angle looked like an upside-down question mark.
All in all, those were just a few of the questions that he was more than happy to get to the bottom of.
"I'm sorry," she said, pushing up her designer shades and flashing a smile that would make a Hollywood starlet green with envy. "I didn't mean to interrupt, but is this where I apply for the bartending position that was listed?"
Xavier was struck by the way her voice seemed a little older than she appeared, mainly because it had a sexy huskiness to it and a slight Caribbean lilt. His lips widened. It had been a while since he'd had an island girl.
Jeremy stepped forward first. "Actually—"
Xavier grabbed him by the arm and pulled him back. "Yes. This is the place, but I'm afraid the interviews are tomorrow from four to seven. Not today."
The woman looked down at the folded newspaper and read the classified ad again. When she saw that she did indeed have the wrong day her shoulders collapsed and she huffed out a frustrated breath. "Just great! I went through all that trouble to arrange a makeup lab test to come here today." She slapped her forehead with the newspaper and then turned around. "All right, thanks! I guess it's a sign that it just wasn't meant to be."
It was the sight of that thick butt walking away and possibly never returning that sprung Xavier into action.
"Whoa! Wait," he called after her.
She stopped and turned back around. "Yes?"
Again, he felt that punch to the gut, and when he caught his breath he smiled. "Well, since you're already here, why don't you let me see that resume?"
"Great!" She quickly reached into the bag dangling off of her shoulder and handed over a single piece of paper. "I really appreciate this. It's crazy trying to rearrange my schedule during the day—I'm in school. Med school, actually. Over at Emory, which is why working nights really fits my schedule."
Xavier bobbed his head while she rambled on nervously.
"Cheryl Shepherd," he read. "Twenty-seven... You're clearly a med student like you said...but I don't see a lot of bartending experience."
"Well, I usually do a lot of small parties. Plus, I have an uncle who has a bar in Alabama. I used to help out there during the summers when I was in college." She tossed in. "I probably should've added that."
Xavier smiled, his gaze still caressing her curves. "Maybe we should give you a little audition behind the bar? See if you really know your stuff?"
"All right." She nodded her head. "I'm down with that."
He stepped back and extended his arm. "Right this way."
Cheryl looked in the direction of the bar and strolled ahead of him, giving him a bird's-eye view of all that her mama blessed her with.
Q leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Any chance we can talk her into putting all that into a thong?"
Jeremy shook his head. "I don't know if even the three of us together can handle all of that. Humph. Humph. Humph."
"Speak for yourself," Q said, moving Jeremy out of the way and straightening his shoulders. But before he could activate his pimp walk, Xavier cut his stride off by stepping in front of him and taking the lead behind Cheryl.
In her immediate wake, Xavier recognized the sweet raspberry nectar and magnolia scent of Givenchy's Hot Couture and his interest climbed a few more degrees. For some time now, it had been an abstraction of Xavier's to pair women's personalities with their choice of fragrance. What popped into his head as he followed her down the club's new staircase was...sophisticated, sensual and bewitching. Those were his favorite qualities—for now, anyway.
"Wow. This is nice," Cheryl praised, walking behind the bar and running her hand across the mahogany top. "Paid a lot of money for this baby."
"And you're going to be the first to try her out," Xavier said, settling onto one of the stools. There was so much to marvel about her curvy body that his gaze kept darting around, trying to decide what was his favorite part. It was a three-way tie between her face, breasts and butt.
Jeremy and Quentin caught up and flanked his sides.
"All right, boys," Cheryl said, flashing her Hollywood smile. "What will it be?"
"I'll have a Slow Comfortable Screw Up Against the Bedpost Mexican Doggy Style," Xavier ordered with a sly smirk. It was pretty much a frat-boy drink, but he wanted to see if this dime diva could handle a curveball.
Cheryl met his twinkling gaze and fired an imaginary gun at him. "You got it!" She immediate reached for the vodka, two different rums, Tequila Gold, Midori and gin, and threw in the appropriate mixers, and in less than a minute she set Xavier's drink on a cocktail napkin in front of him. "Enjoy your screw."
It took everything in Xavier's power not to lower himself into the gutter even more by responding to the pun. Instead, he reached for the drink and took a sip. "Mmm. This is a good screw." Okay, so he couldn't help himself.
"I'll have a Voodoo Sunrise," Jeremy said, seeing if he could stump the hopeful bartender. Her hands flew to the vodka, white rum, grenadine and orange juice, and a few seconds later, she sat his drink down.
"My turn. My turn," Q announced, and then clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "I have to make this one a good one to see if you got the right stuff. I mean...clearly you got the right stuff, I mean, damn. Look at you."
Xavier reached over and popped Quentin on the back of the head.
"Just order a damn drink." Xavier cut him a look that told him to knock it off.
"All right. Damn. There's no reason for all this black-on-black crime." He pumped his fist to his chest. "We're family."
Xavier rolled his eyes at his cousin's nonsense. Cheryl snickered. "Take your time."
Q turned and hit her with his dimpled smile, but before he could get his mack mojo going, Xavier elbowed him. It wasn't like him to cock-block this hard. But he instinctively felt the alpha-male impulse to mark his territory.
"I'll just have a Singapore Sling." Q looked over at Xavier. "If that's all right with you."
Cheryl hopped right to it, while Xavier and Q exchanged looks. No words were exchanged between the cousins, but their ESP battle went something like this...
Xavier: Cuz, back the hell off. She's mine.
Quentin: I don't see any rings on her fingers. She's fair game.
Xavier: Family be damned, if you don'tpump the brakes I' ll take you out back and break your face.
Quentin: A 'ight. A 'ight. Stop the violence.
"Your drink," Cheryl said, setting the third drink on the counter with a flourish and settling her hands on her hips.
Q picked up his glass, sipped, smacked his lips together while pretending to be in deep thought and then sipped again.
"Well?" Cheryl asked.
"Not bad. Not bad," Q said. "But I'm concerned about your presentation."
Xavier groaned and then propped an elbow on the bar so that he could massage the bridge of his nose.
"I'm sorry," Cheryl said. "I'm not sure I know what you mean."
"Entertainment." Q threw up his hands. "I know a little bit about being behind the bar and it's been my experience that people really like it if a bartender...you know, entertains a bit."
"Like hop on the bar and start dancing like Coyote Ugly" Quentin tapped his nose. "Do you dance?"
"Uh, no. I'm not interested in being a dancer. I just want to tend bar."
"The job doesn't entail dancing." Xavier elbowed Q.
"What?" Q hissed. "Closed mouths don't get fed."
"Please ignore him," Xavier said.
Cheryl held her smile. "Aw. He seems harmless."
Quentin settled both his elbows on the bar and cradled his head in his hands. "I am completely harmless. Are you married?"
"Q," Xavier warned.
"No. I'm not," Cheryl answered.
"Boyfriend?" Quentin pressed.
"No boyfriend, unfortunately," she said. Her gaze cut over to Xavier.
He felt another gut punch and wondered how much longer it would take before he suffered a knockout.
"But if you're looking for more entertaining bartending..." She flipped the bottle of rum over her shoulder and then dipped her knees and caught the bottle with one hand behind her back. "I can do that, too."
"You're hired," Quentin said, grinning.
"Q!" Xavier snapped.
Xavier jerked his head around toward his cousin, a look of annoyance plastered on his face. "You're a silent partner. That means be quiet."
"Touche." Q shifted in his seat and straightened an invisible tie. "I'm sorry, Ms. Shepherd. Apparently, I don't have the power to hire you. But I want you to know that I would hire you if I could."
"Me, too," Jeremy tossed in, draining his drink. "This is a really good Voodoo Sunrise."
Now three sets of eyes turned toward Xavier.
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Book Description Harlequin Kimani, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110373534477
Book Description Harlequin Kimani. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0373534477 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1046362