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Ready for another XOXO Connects exclusive?! We’re making the prologue and first two chapters of Emma Hart’s Dirty Tricks available to you three whole months before it goes on sale! Dirty Tricks is the final installment of the Burke Brothers series and it features Kye, the most mysterious of the brothers. Keep reading for this exclusive and sexy sneak peek!


 

Prologue
Kye
Five weeks earlier

 

Chelsey slams the door of her apartment and turns to me, her blue eyes blaring in the low light  from the lamp on the side table. “Take off your clothes.”

I raise one eyebrow. I’ve had the hots for this girl for at least four years, and she thinks that she can tell me what to do? Hell fucking no. I take two steps toward her, closing the distance between us. “No, babe. That isn’t how we do this.”

She shakes her head, her giggle a little drunken. “No, it is. We take off our clothes and then we fuck. And then you fuck off.” She giggles again.

At least we’re agreed on that point.

“Then why,” I whisper into her ear, ghosting my lips across her cheek. “Are you still dressed?”

She shoves me away and bends forward. She grabs the hem of her dress and pulls it up her body, over her head. It flies across the room and lands on the arm of the sofa. “I’m not.”

The words have barely left her lips when she grabs the front of my shirt and yanks me toward her, hesitating for a second before kissing me. She tastes like the cranberry vodka she’s been drinking all night, and the kiss is a useless distraction from her attempt to remove my shirt.

I break the kiss, tug off my shirt, then with my eyes burning into her, I wrap my hands around the back of her neck and pull her into me. She melts under the force of my mouth, her nails digging into my arms as I push her back against the door.

My cock strains against my zipper, begging me to set it free. She gasps as it pushes against her lower stomach. Hell, I gasp, too. She feels so soft compared to me. Her skin is so smooth, and when I’m done with her, every inch of it will be slicked with sweat.

She nips my lower lip and grins. I swing her around and yank her across the spacious apartment to where I assume her bedroom is. She guides me toward the right door and reaches behind her to open it, keeping her eyes on me. She’s surprisingly focused, and when she runs her tongue along her lower lip, there’s no more time for playing.

I throw her back onto her bed and kiss her feverishly. I guess this is what happens when you’ve lusted after a chick for a long fucking time and finally get her under you in nothing but lacy black underwear.

Underwear that’s about to be gone.

I kiss, lick, and nip my way down her body, exploring the curvature of her neck with my tongue, teasing her nipples with my lips, until my mouth is level with the waistband of her panties. She gasps as I remove them, sliding them down her long, smooth legs and dropping them to the floor.

Her lips part in a gasp as mine make contact with her wet pussy. She writhes beneath me as my tongue explores the heart of her. Her hands scratch at the bedding, grabbing desperately, her moans getting louder and louder as I edge her closer and closer to her orgasm.

Fuck, those little moans are driving me insane. I’ve looked at her so many damn times and wondered how she’d sound with her body at my mercy. So many times I’ve wanted to hear the sweet yet desperate cries fall from between those lips because of me.

I’m certain she’s on the brink of her pleasure when she abruptly jerks away from me and slides down the bed. Her fingers are at my pants and undoing the fly before I’ve had a chance to comprehend what happening.

I can’t hold in my sigh of relief as she frees my cock from the restraint of my clothing.

I sigh even fucking harder when she closes her sweet mouth around it and sucks.

My hands go to her head as she swivels her tongue around the tip of my cock. Fuck, if I’d known this was how my night would end when I approached her in the bar, all brooding and angry, I wouldn’t have spent half an hour weighing up the pros and cons. If I knew a blow job was guaranteed, I’d have gone to her sooner..

Not that I have a single fucking clue why she was pissed off, mind you. Just figured she needed some cheering up. So here I am. Cheering her up while she sucks my cock like a little champ.

Her hand wraps around the base of it, and I close my eyes as pleasure weaves its way through my body. My dick throbs in her mouth, and I let her continue until my every muscle is tight and I can’t take it anymore.

I pull her mouth away and reach into my pocket for a condom. Once I’ve got it from my wallet, I roll it on, kick my pants off all the way, and push Chelsey back up the bed. I knee open her legs as she moans “finally” and position myself against her wet pussy.

I look into her eyes as I push into her.

She’s so fucking tight and wet, and I know this: the way it feels to be hugged by her is like nothing I’ve ever felt.

And as I pound into her with my jaw tight and she grabs at me as her back arches, I know this is the kind of fuck that’ll haunt my dreams.

 

Chapter One

Chelsey

 

“Johnny, I swear to God, I don’t give a shit if you’re shipping off to the Middle East or to your nana’s backyard, you make one more comment about my tits and I’m going to shove your beer bottle so far up your ass you’re gonna be shitting it out next week.”

The black-haired marine holds his hands up and laughs. “Now, Chels, you know me, darlin’.”

I give him a pointed look and pause while wiping off the glass. “Exactly. Now y’all take your beers and behave.”

Like Johnny Evans and Co. could ever behave themselves. I’m almost certain that he deliberately screws around when he’s on leave to make up for how disciplined he has to be in his job.

“Behave . . .” Leila Burke muses, taking a seat on the stool just in front of me. I glance up, and her eyes flit from Johnny to me. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

I hold my hands up to signal my agreement, then reach for a wine glass. “Yeah, I know. But if he’s a prick later, I can remind everyone that I warned him.”

If he’s a prick?” She raises a dark eyebrow. “When he’s a prick. The guy gives Tate a run for his money.”

Now it’s my turn to raise an eyebrow. “Leila, no one gives Tate a run for his money. Not even your other brothers.” I pour her a glass of wine and set it in front of her.

“Yeah, I don’t know. Right now, Mom might be winning. She seems to be struggling with the fact that her last baby is looking for a place to live that isn’t his current bedroom.”

“Her last baby? Did she forget you?”

“Apparently,” she says dryly. “When I left, Mom had Kye cornered and was touting all the perks of living at home. Including home-cooked meals nightly, getting his laundry done, and not having to worry about all the bills. I think she’s trying to scare him into staying.”

“Even though Conner can live with Sofie, Ella and Tate can buy their cute little beachside house, and Aidan and Jessie can pretend they’re not living together in the house he’s making an offer on?”

“And I can spend three months in Europe. Alone.”

I bite down on my bottom lip in a fight to hide my smile. And I know exactly what happened in Europe. . . . “What’s your Dad saying?”

“As long as Kye doesn’t knock someone up, he couldn’t give a crap. According to him, Mila is enough baby Burke for a while.”

I see his logic. “You didn’t bring Kye with you, did you?” I glance at the door.

Leila’s smile is slow and sly. “No. . . . Should I have?”

“No,” I burst out. Wait. No. That sounded desperate. “No,” I repeat, much calmer this time. I grab the cleaning spray from under the bar and squirt the shiny, wooden surface. “Why would you bring him?”

“I don’t know, Chelsey. Why would I?”

I don’t need to look at her to know she’s basically silently peeing herself with laughter. She’s the only person I can’t beat into submission over this whole thing. Sofie, Ella, Jessie. . . . None of them will talk about him to me, but as soon as Leila enters the room. . . . Boom. There’s no living that night down.

“Because you’re a sadistic bitch and you take pleasure in my uncomfortableness around him?”

“You missed a spot,” she says with glee. “Oh, not on the bar,” she adds when I drop my eyes, “You missed the extremeness of my pleasure.”

I roll my eyes and briefly consider throwing the wet cloth at her face. Just for my own amusement. “One-night stands aren’t a crime.”

“I know. I had a very fun one with a hot Italian waiter.”

“And the Spanish tour guide,” I remind her. “And the English singer . . .”

“You make it sound like I whored my way around Europe.” She sniffs, lifting her wine glass. “I went to four countries and slept with only one guy in each. It was a total bucket-list item.”

Oh yeah. There was also the French “artist” who she suspected was actually a taxi driver.

“Whatever.” I choose to drop the cloth back where it belongs in the sink. “I’m just sayin’ that it’s awkward to talk about it.”

“Chels, you fucked my brother. It’s awkward even when we don’t talk about it.”

I sigh heavily. I’m not going to tell her that the reason it’s awkward isn’t just because I slept with Kye, but because of the way the whole thing went down. Like, seriously. I don’t plan on sharing with everyone I know that the night he and I did the horizontal tango, I was on a mission to get totally wasted because my father had just informed me he’d knocked up his twenty-six-year-old groupie “girlfriend.” His girlfriend who happens to be eighteen months older than me. And he wonders why I have so little respect for him.

Long story short, I was already well on my way to my goal when Kye turned up and distracted me. I wish I could say that was the worst part about it, but I’m a really forgetful drunk. I can have three glasses of wine and be hazy the next morning. So…

Holy shit. It’s embarrassing to even admit to myself.

The whole me-and-Kye-bumping-uglies thing is awkward because, well, I can’t totally, completely remember it all. The only thing I have full recollection of is the fact that Kye Burke can lick pussy like a champ. I’m assuming he can probably fuck like one, too, but my vagina and brain are conspiring to withhold this information from me right now.

“Earth to Chelsey?” Leila bangs on the bar. “You have a customer.”

I blink harshly and escape from my own head, then turn to the woman watching me expectantly. “Sorry, I spaced out there for a moment. What can I get you?”

“Are you still serving food?”

I glance at my watch. “If you order in the next thirty minutes we are.”

“Perfect.” She lays the menu down and proceeds to reel off a food order. I write it down, nodding, and she also gives me her drink order. A few minutes later, her drinks are in her hands and I’ve taken her order through to the kitchen.

“You know,” Leila says, shoving her empty glass toward me. “It’s always bugged me how the media never picked up on who you were.”

I shudder at the thought. Since I had to spend my senior year of high school on the road after my mom died, my face is familiar to most national media outlets and all of the local ones. Sometimes a non-story about me buying coffee or something will pop up, even now, especially when I look a mess. “They never admitted that it wasn’t Aidan cheating on Jessie when they ran that article. At least I don’t think they did.”

Something I’m kinda thankful for.

“I don’t think Marc knew it was you,” Leila responds, referring to Dirty B.’s ex-manager as she takes back her now-full glass. “If he did, he would have played off your dad’s name until there was a nationwide ink shortage.”

I shudder again—except this time, it’s worse. “Don’t even joke. I’ve had a shitstorm of calls ever since he announced the baby he’s having with that whore. I don’t even know how these idiots got my number.”

“Well, for one, your number is on your Facebook page.”

My head whips around at the sound of his warm, husky voice. The laughter laced through his words sends an involuntary shiver cascading its way down my spine. I pause before I respond, my eyes flitting across his face.

Scruffy dark hair like he just got out of bed. Baby blue eyes glimmering with amusement. Curved pink lips, set just above a chiseled jaw that’s lightly dusted with two days’ worth of stubble.

He looks like he just walked straight off a magazine cover.

My stomach flips.

“My old number is on my Facebook,” I correct him. I reach for my glass of lemonade and knock it over. Somehow I manage to catch the glass before it hits the floor, but lemonade spills everywhere. “Shit!”

Leila snorts, and her brother chuckles. The sound of a stool scraping against the tiled floor tells me he’s fixing to stay, and I can’t avoid him like I have for the past month. It’s surprisingly easy to stay out of someone’s way in this town, even with how small it is. Mostly because you know they’re coming to find you before they’ve left their house, thanks to the Shelton Bay Gossip Grapevine.

Obviously, Leila was in charge of this run-in.

I put the mop back in the corner and take a deep breath to steady myself before I approach them again. Ignoring Leila’s eyes on me, I look at him. “Can I get you a drink?”

Kye Burke meets my eyes and studies me for a second that feels like a lifetime. I lick my lips and his gaze drops for a second. “Dr Pepper,” he answers, bringing his eyes back up again. “That’s her second, and she can’t drive now,” he explains, nodding toward Leila. “Lucky for her, I walked down here.”

“Not planned,” Leila deadpans, lifting her glass and finishing it. “But, hell. I’ll have another if he’s offering.”

I roll my eyes and grab her glass. Once I’ve filled it, I pull down a pint glass and, at Kye’s nod, fill it with Dr Pepper.

He hands me his card. “Her tab, too.”

Leila shrugs like the baby sister she is, so I run the transaction through and hand him the receipt to sign. He scribbles on the line, and I shove it into the register without a second thought.

“You know, most chicks are thrilled when I give them my autograph.”

“And most girls don’t realize that rock stars are all arrogant bastards.” I smile sweetly.

His autograph my ass. Every business owner and bartender in Shelton Bay knows the Burke boys have two ways of signing their name—one is their actual signature, and the other is all fancy for their rabid little fangirls.

“And the cell number on your Facebook is your current one,” he shoots back, holding the screen of his phone in my direction.

I frown and grab it out of his hand, focusing in on the details. Fuck. He’s right. How the hell did that happen? I’d swear I haven’t updated that for months. “Crap,” I mutter, handing the phone back to him. His fingers touch mine with a warm brush as he takes it.

“Internet,” Leila snorts. “Log in once and it knows your life story.”

Kye raises an eyebrow and looks at her. “After your walk of shame through Europe, you should make a point to avoid it.”

“Look, just because I got laid more than you . . .”

He turns his attention back to me. “You can refuse to serve her, right?”

“I can, but I’m not gonna lie, I wanna see where she’s going with this.” I lean forward and rest my forearms on the bar. “Lei?”

She winks. “Kye, just because I got laid more than you while I was away doesn’t mean I’m ashamed. Maybe I should write about it. I could see doing a book, actually. Young Southern girl travels to Europe and meets sexy European men, then proceeds to get brains screwed out of—”

“Please refuse to serve her,” Kye interrupts. “I’m gonna have a fuckin’ aneurysm if I have to listen to more of this shit.”

Leila sits up straight, clearly affronted. “What, because I’m a girl, I can’t sleep with people and not care? If I were you, I’d be celebrated for it. Hell, all y’all have been celebrated for it just because you have a cock. If I had one, you’d be high-fiving me.”

I purse my lips and slide my eyes to Kye. She has a point.

“Sis, you can sleep with who you want. But the idea of some asshole having, ugh, sex with my little sister makes me want to chase him down and rip his balls off.”

My gaze travels back to Leila. Good answer.

“So? Maybe I’ve wanted to slice the nipples off every chick you’ve ever slept with.” She looks at me. “No offense, Chels.”

My cheeks burn.

“But I’ve never called you on it,” Leila continues.

“Actually,” Kye responds, “You have. A lot. You called me on it after . . . well, Chels.”

“That’s because she’s my friend.”

“You didn’t call Aidan on Jessie.”

“Maybe I like Chels more.”

“When did I become the focal point of your fight?” I raise my eyebrows. “Can you take me out of it, please? I’d rather my private life not be common knowledge in town. Because, you know, some of us value our privacy.”

That and we’ve managed to keep our little . . . encounter . . . relatively private for a month. Which is unheard of in Shelton Bay.

I don’t have the words to express how much I’d like to keep it that way. Private. Secret. Unheard of except by his family and my best friend. Who is, oddly, probably closer to being my family than my actual family at this point.

The hottest rock star of the eighties and nineties, Lukas Young, is my father. Everyone expected me to be someone. To do something amazing.

I work behind the bar in small-town South Carolina. I’m a simple girl with simple dreams. I just happen to have a complicated past. . . . One I’d prefer to stay there.

If it were to become common knowledge that I had my way with Kye Burke one night . . . It doesn’t bear thinking about. I’d be pushed to . . .

Well.

Do things I don’t want to do. Like . . . be in the public eye. Maybe even follow in my father’s footsteps and sing. God only knows there’s been enough speculation over what my future would hold, especially since I was thrust into his limelight several years ago.

“Chelsey?”

I snap out of yet another trance at the sound of my coworker, Clarissa. If she’s here, my shift is over. “Sorry. What?”

“You can go,” she says slowly, her eyes dancing between me and the two Burke siblings sitting at the bar. Both of their glasses are empty.

“You need a ride?” Kye asks, pushing his stool back but not getting up.

“Nah, I’m good. It isn’t raining or snowing. I can walk.”

“It’s freezing out there,” Clarissa offers. “Icy as hell.”

“I’m good,” I reassure her, tugging my shirt down self-consciously. I glance at Leila. She’s grinning, but it’s a knowing, shit-eating, determined grin. The kind of smile that only a best friend can get away with.

Instead of reacting to it, I shake my head, take my register drawer, and disappear into the back room. I sit and count it out carefully, record it, then put the cash in the safe. My coat and scarf are hanging on the peg with my purse where I left them when I arrived, and I wrap up warmly, pulling my gloves from my purse before stepping back out into the bar. Shelton Bay rarely gets snow, but the temperature drops low enough over the winter that you definitely notice it. If it weren’t for the lack-of-snow thing, I’d wonder if the whole town was teleported to the Northeast every winter. Usually you can at least forgo the scarf by late February, but this year the sea breeze is bitingly cold, and leaving the scarf at home is a mere dream.

I wave to Clarissa and adjust my scarf so it covers my chin. My purse slips down from my shoulder as I push open the thick, wooden door to the bar. The cold air hits me with what seems like a punch, and I wince at its ferocity.

So. It really is cold.

“Get in the truck,” a voice murmurs, oddly strong.

“I’m fine,” I tell Kye, opening my purse and pulling out the gloves.

“Come on, Chels,” he groans. “Leila forgot how to handle her wine and is already asleep.”

“She’s still jet-lagged,” I say in her defense.

“Whatever. I don’t give a shit. It’s freezing and it’s pitch black out here. Just get in and let me take you home.”

I sigh and finally look at him. As our eyes meet, flashes of our night together play through my mind. “No, really. I’m okay. This is Shelton Bay, not the South Bronx. I can walk home by myself. Besides, I live on the other side of town from you.”

Kye looks at me flatly. “Don’t make me drag you into my truck, woman.”

“I’d like to see you try.” I yank the gloves over my wrists and turn away. The streetlight illuminates my path, but I’ve taken all of five steps before a hand grabs the back of my coat and drags me backward.

A quiet shriek leaves me, especially as I turn and collide with a solid wall of coat and man.

“Get. In. The. Fuckin’. Truck,” he growls, pulling me close to him. My heart thuds. “It’s cold and dark, and I don’t feel right about you walking across town by yourself.”

“I’m a big girl—”

“Trust me, babe, I remember well just how fuckin’ grown up you are. Now, two choices: Get in the damn truck, or I throw you into it. Are you gonna come quietly or no?”

Asshole.

I inhale deeply, purse my lips, and meet his eyes in the dim light emanating from the bar’s neon-illuminated front window. “If you think I’m gonna come quietly, you don’t remember a thing, do you?”

He smiles sexily. It’s so fucking lazy, and I kind of want to rip it from his face. “There’s nothing quiet about you, Chels. Although if you’re up for a challenge . . .”

“Take me home,” I demand. “Preferably before you drop your sister off.”

I shove his arm off me and stalk to his sleek, charcoal-colored truck. The engine is purring lightly, and Leila’s face is pressed against a window in the back. Her jaw has dropped, and I’m pretty sure the smear on the glass is from her drool. Adorable.

My fingers itch for all of a second before I pull out my phone and snap a pic of Sleeping Beauty.

Kye laughs quietly as he opens the driver’s side door and gets in. I shrug as I hoist myself into the giant vehicle, making sure to tuck my phone back into my purse before closing the door. On second thought, maybe I should keep it in my hand. . . . I all but curl into a ball as he puts the truck into gear and reverses. Leila breathes heavily in the backseat, and I look out of the window. It’s nothing more than a flash, but the heat of Kye’s mouth on mine is searing into my memory like it’s happening right now.

I steal a glance at him as he drives. His arms are taut, his inked biceps bulging with every gear-change or twist of the steering wheel. He barely seems to notice me as my gaze travels from his shoulders to his fingertips. Every inch of his defined arms are colored in—and of course, I already know each shade.

I’ve seen him naked, for the love of God.

Kye pulls up onto the Burke family driveway, putting the truck into park behind his dad’s. Without a word, he gets out and opens Leila’s door. “Hey, asshole.” He jabs her arm. “Bedtime, you drunk fool.”

Leila yawns as her brother lifts her out of the backseat and carries her toward the door. “Not drunk,” I hear her protest.

She’s been back from Spain a week. I’m gonna agree that she’s drunk, but there’s a definite layer of jet lag, too.

Meanwhile, I’m pretty pissed that Kye ignored my protests and I’m sitting outside his house.

He comes back within a couple of minutes and gets in without another word. I suck my bottom lip into my mouth.

One. Night.

That’s it.

One I can barely remember.

For all I know, Kye Burke has the oral skills of a champion but the actual sex skills of a hunk of granite.

If only I weren’t curious to find out if that’s true.

Hot damn.

Breathe, Chelsey. Just breathe and remember every reason why he’s everything that’s bad for you.

“I hear your dad is having a baby.”

“Hmm,” I reply, focused on the blackness outside of the window.

“Hmm?”

“Hmm.”

Kye exhales a laugh and doesn’t respond. I don’t care. I’m not sure what kind of ridiculous conversation he’s trying to start, but I refuse to discuss my father and my unborn sibling.

I hug my purse to my chest until he pulls up into the small parking lot of my apartment building. There are just enough spaces for one car per tenant, so when I say he “pulls up,” I mean he drives up outside the front door.

“Thank you,” I offer, darting my eyes to him. “For the ride. It was unnecessary. Especially the whole taking-Leila-home-before-me thing. You know how ridiculous that was?”

“Nothing about keeping you safe is unnecessary,” he replies quietly, his eyes never quite meeting mine. “And yes. I realize now how fucked up my gentlemanly efforts are.”

“Well. Thanks.” I add it awkwardly, fighting the tinge of amusement at his admission, then undo my seat belt and push the door open. The cold air, once again, hits me in a rush, and I clamp my jaw tightly as I step into the sudden chill. Damn you, stubborn South Carolinian winter. I keep my head down and scurry toward the warmth of my apartment building.

“Chelsey?” Kye steps out of his truck.

I stop just as I reach for the handle of the main door. “What?”

The steps he takes toward me are long and confident. Each stride is full of purpose and certainty until he’s barely inches away for me. From here, his movements are momentarily jittery. “That night.”

“What night?”

His eyes narrow. “We spent together.”

“We spent four hours together. That doesn’t constitute a night, Kye,” I snap. “You should forget about it. I have.”

I curl my fingers around the handle as his make contact with my arm. I breathe in sharply and turn to face him.

“That’s it,” he says in a low voice. “I can’t. Forget it.”

“Then try,” I hiss, tugging on my arm.

He tightens his grip and steps into me. His body is a breath away from mine, and I can feel the twitching of his fingers. “I have.” Kye sucks in a breath through his clamped jaw, and his free hand raises. His fingertips brush across my cheek, the fleeting touch a burst of heat across my chilled skin. “I’ve tried. Fuck, I’ve tried. But I want you as badly as I did then. It’s fuckin’ insane, isn’t it? It’s been weeks, but I remember the way you responded to me and I crave that.”

“You’re insane,” I confirm. I won’t tell him that my skin is sizzling beneath the layers of this coat or that my lungs are burning their demand for the oxygen my pounding heart is pleading for.

He pulls me so close that our mouths . . . God. Right there. They’re right there. One twitch and I’d kiss him. I want to move. Pull back. Shift to the side. Do whatever. Get away.

Run. Hide.

“That I am,” Kye breathes, his gentle fingertips on my cheek becoming a solid touch of his palm. “I’m totally fuckin’ insane, and I know you hate everythin’ about me, but shit, babe, I want to fuck the hell outta you again.”

Everything. Burns. “Keep wanting.” The words are barely a raspy whisper before I tug myself away from him and grab the door handle for real this time, hearing his footsteps retreating. I pull my key from the inner pocket of my purse and unlock the door, stopping when I sense him looking at me. He is. He’s standing by his truck, the light from inside the vehicle and the dull security lights from the apartment parking lot illuminating his distinct yet familiar features. Not sure why, but I call out, “Wanting is all you’re gonna get.”

I punctuate my words by storming through the door. The simple move is strengthened by the final bash and click of the door swinging shut. I hold onto that barrier mentally as I drop my purse on the hall table.

But I don’t feel safe from his sudden desire.

Kye Burke.

Wanting me, still.

Despite what I said, insanity doesn’t cover it.

 

 

Chapter Two

Kye

 

Suspended in the odd area between sleep and awake, the skin-crawling sensation of being watched creeps over me. I do my best to ignore it, but it becomes too much after only seconds. Slowly, I pry open one eye and spy a tiny bright blue pair gazing right at me. Combined with the suspicious weight on my stomach, I know exactly who my alarm clock is today. Being woken up by a silent two-year-old is the freakiest shit ever.

“Uncy Kye!”

I open the other eye and yawn. “Mila. What are you doin’?”

“Mama paint! My play. With you!” She claps her hands and bounces. I wince at the extra pressure on my gut as she comes down.

“Sure. Can we play later, though?”

She shakes her head, her dark curls flying. “Nonono. Pop now!”

I’m gonna put salt in his coffee. Thanks, Dad.

“’Kay,” I groan. “How about you go downstairs, and I’ll be down after a shower?”

Mila pouts and considers this for a moment. Finally, she sighs, nods once, and clambers down off of me. Not without an elbow jab in my thigh that necessitates a strategic move to protect my manhood, though. She stalks in her little toddler wobble to my bedroom door and stops. “Kick,” she demands.

I assume she means “quick.”

I nod in agreement. Damn, she got her mom’s attitude. No doubt about it.

Either I’ve slept in really late or Sofie has had enough of Mila’s “help” repainting the kitchen already.

A roll to my side and a glance at the alarm clock confirm the latter. It’s not even nine yet. I open my messages and text Conner.

What did she do?

He’s replied before I get out of bed. The side of the fridge is now blue.

Oops.

I snort and pull my bedroom door closed behind me. One perk of my brothers not living here: I can get the shower without rock-paper-scissors to determine the pecking order. I also no longer get stuck with the fucking Star Wars towel.

I lock the bathroom door behind me and immediately start the shower. The hot water rushes out, and the steam fills the room quickly. My mind drifts to last night when I step under the pounding water.

After convincing Mom I won’t be moving out until we get back from L.A. in a few months—or  before we go, just days before Christmas—I followed Leila to the bar. I knew exactly how it’d go down, that Chelsey would do everything she could to avoid being around me, just like she has since last month, but this way she’d have to talk to me.

Jessie warned me, too. Told me I was dreaming if I thought Chels would give me even a second of her day.

I reminded Jessie that she once said the same thing about my twin brother . . . and now she’s getting her mail delivered to his house.

And even if Chelsey isn’t interested—a point I’m gonna argue, since she blushed like hell last night—I at least want to know why. She couldn’t jump into bed with me quick enough last month, but not in the way any of our fangirls would.

No, she called the shots. She told me when, where, how hard, what position . . .

At least she tried to.

She was putty in my fucking hands the second my lips touched her.

My cock twitches with the memory of our one night together. How easily she responded to my movements, how tightly her pussy clenched around me, how hard she grabbed me, how deeply she took my cock into her mouth . . .

Fuck. This isn’t helping me.

I scrub my hair harshly, wash out the shampoo, and kill the water. My cock is only semihard, but it’s noticeable when I wrap a towel around my waist.

My brothers might not live here, but my sister does.

And this ain’t something she needs to see.

I brush my teeth, staring at myself intently in the mirror to avoid thinking about . . .

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bangbangbang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bangbangbang.

“Uncy Kyeeeeeee!”

Thank you, Mila.

“What?” I yell around my toothbrush, for the first time maybe ever thankful to be interrupted by her.

Toddlers might be creepy alarm clocks, but clearly they have their uses, like interrupting dirty thoughts and bringing you back to Earth.

“My pay!” she demands. “You so!”

I spit out frothy toothpaste. “Okay, I’ll hurry up. Ask Pops to make me coffee.”

“No,” she huffs. “Do a-self.”

Guess I’m doing it myself, then.

I wait until the tiny steps clunking against the hardwood floor have disappeared down the stairs and silence reigns, dart back into my room, and get dressed. I know for a fact that Aidan planned on doing nothing but listen to Jessie brainstorm color schemes for the front room today, so if I’m on uncle babysitting duty, his lazy ass is joining me.

 

***

 

I grab my keys off the side table and run downstairs. Mila is sitting in the middle of the living room floor with Dad, absently grabbing at a bowl of grapes while scribbling on some paper.

“Ah, Pop. Noooo! Ed! Ed!”

“Hey, Mila!” I call, immediately drawing her attention. “You wanna go see Uncle Ads?”

“Uncy Ads?” she gasps, dropping both the crayon and grape she was just holding. “Yeahyeahyeah!”

I glance at Dad. “We’ve got her seat, right?”

Dad nods. “In the garage.” He gets up, and when Mila sees him pause to catch his breath, she runs over and hugs his leg.

“’Mon, Pop.” She smacks a kiss against his knee and runs to the garage.

Dad smiles and pats her head by the door, his wrinkled hand resting on the top of her head as she looks up at him adoringly.

When did my dad get this old?

He disappears into the garage with her and I shake off the last thought. He isn’t old. He’s getting there—but he isn’t there yet. Another ten years and I’ll give him the “old” button for his birthday.

I wait by my truck until Dad carries the seat out. We’re all pros at installing them by now, so Mila’s sitting snug in the backseat with her bunny within minutes. Dad waves, knowing I’m deliberately heading to Aidan’s place.

Surprisingly, he’s outside when I get there.

“Dad called,” he grunts, dropping the trash can outside the driveway, as I pull up to the curb and pause. “Said you had Mila.” He nods toward the house.

I turn my truck into his driveway and inch up until I’m just behind his. “Yeah. Sofie and Conner had a blue fridge by eight,” I explain.

He laughs and opens the back door. “Been busy, Mila?”

“My paint!” she shrieks, grinning. “My lub boo paint.”

Aidan glances at me, pausing before he unbuckles her. “You didn’t bring paint, right?”

I shake my head. “None here. Unless you already got some inside.”

His inhale is sharp, and twin intuition tells me he wants to run into a brick wall repeatedly. “Don’t,” he mutters. “Just fuckin’ don’t.”

“Dollar!” Mila yells.

“Go ask Jessie.” He points at the house, and Mila runs through the open front door. He turns to me. “Who the fuck knows the difference between scarlet and fire engine? Or coral and salmon?”

“That’s red and pink, right?”

“Precisely. It’s fucking red or it’s fucking pink. Get whatever shade of that shit you want. I don’t care.” He takes another deep breath. “Chelsey has been here for two hours and what was formerly my living room is now a goddamn DIY paint store swatch wall.”

I pause. “Chelsey’s here?”

“Yep.” Aidan smirks. “And she ain’t happy with you.”

“Take a chick home, and she hates your guts,” I mutter. “Fucking women.”

“Dunno. I stopped listening when she told Jessie you wanna fuck her again.”

“I do.”

Ads stops, his eyes flashing with laughter. “So fuck her.”

Twin brothers: pains in the ass, but always good for a moment of understanding.

“You wanna chat with your girlfriend so she’s on the same wavelength?”

Jessie steps out of the front door, the sun glinting off of her bright red hair. She narrows her eyes as she looks between us. “The same wavelength for what?”

My brother turns to her. “The wavelength where you get to pick between powder blue and teal, sunshine.”

“It was turquoise and teal.”

Ads holds his arms out. “See? I’m fuckin’ useless.”

“Hmm.” Her eyes flick to me, her lips twisting. “Kye, what do you think? Teal or turquoise?”

Yeah, I’m busted.

“Isn’t that a trick question?” I answer.

She crooks her finger in my direction. Aw, shit. That’s never good. “C’mere.”

“Nah, I like it here.”

“Pussy.”

Aidan snorts, so I give in and walk toward her. Jessie Law is a force unto herself, and I’m not afraid to admit that I’m slightly scared of her.

She hooks her finger around the neck of my shirt and leans forward. “You wanna fuck my best friend?” she asks.

“That was to the point,” I mutter.

“Kye.”

I remove her finger from my neck and step back. “What’s it gotta do with you?”

“Absolutely nothing.” She grins. “I’m just damn nosy.”

I shake my head and push her to the side so I can enter the house. Faintly, I can hear Mila chattering about Bunna the rabbit and the dolly she had to leave at home. She swiftly moves onto Doc McStuffins and Squeakers’s latest adventure in the bathtub.

I lean against the doorframe and watch as she regales Chelsey with tales of her fictional friends. None of the words make a lot of sense if you’re not familiar with her babble, but I follow her perfectly. Something about Goofy mixes in with Jake, and my lips twitch.

Chelsey, for her part, is leaning forward and listening intently. She nods and gives an “uh-huh” at the appropriate moment. Her smile is wide, and as Mila gets too excited and throws her arms up, Chelsey reaches forward to stop her from falling backward. Mila pauses, then bursts into laughter when she realizes she’s safe.

Her tiny blue eyes find mine. “Uncy Kye!” she exclaims. “My ’kay.”

I sweep her up, much to her amusement. “Well, ain’t that good?”

“Uh-huh,” she agrees. “My pay?”

“Outside?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Sure.” I put her down and she runs back toward the front door. I watch her for a second and hear Jessie pretend to chase her down the path that leads to Aidan’s spacious backyard. Chelsey’s eyes burn into the side of my head, and I turn to her. Sweet fuck, I wanna grin just to piss her off. “What?”

“What are you doing here?” Her voice cracks halfway through the sentence, and she clears her throat.

“My brother lives here,” I say simply. “What are you doing here?”

“My best friend lives here.” Her jaw clamps shut, and her eyes harden.

“We’re at an impasse.” I wanna laugh, but I fight it. Fucking hell.

Chelsey takes a deep breath and looks away. “How much longer until I move about this town freely and don’t have to worry about you?”

Now I let myself laugh. “Until last night, you hadn’t seen me for a month.”

“It was the best month of my life.” She gets up and attempts to walks around me.

I shoot an arm out toward her.

“Do you mind?” she asks softly, glancing at my fingers wrapped around her slender arm. “I have to get ready for work.”

“What’d I do to you, Chels?”

She hesitates for a moment, her fingers twitching where they’re resting against my elbow. Slowly, she brings her eyes up to meet mine. They’re hard but hesitant, the reluctant glint in them oddly softening. It goes against her general demeanor. “Nothing,” she whispers, the word slicing though the tight silence lingering between us. “Nothing.”

With that final word, she shakes me off of her and turns away without a backward glance. The chill she leaves in the air is stronger than the wind filtering through the front door toward me. Fucking damn.

Of course my cock would stir at the mention of her name. It never was very damn sensible.

A heavy sigh sounds from behind me. “Oh, Kye.” Jessie touches my arm. “What’d you do?”

I hold my hands up, shrugging. “I don’t know. I was me?”

Her lips twist to one side. “Could be better, could be worse.”

“Thanks. I think.”

“You’re welcome.” She laughs. “I don’t know what to suggest to you.”

“Isn’t she your best friend?” I raise one eyebrow and focus on her. “Aren’t you supposed to know everything about her? That’s how chicks work, right?”

“Kind of,” she hedges. “But I’m not her only best friend, you know? She has three others.”

“In other words, I’m on my fuckin’ own.”

A tiny cough echoes from the doorway, and we both turn to Mila. Her hand is outstretched, and she makes a gimme motion with her fingers. One I’m very familiar with. “Dollar,” she demands, deadly serious.

I sigh, pull my wallet out, and hand her a one-dollar bill.

“Tankoo,” she says, grabbing the crinkled bill in her fist and twirling away back outside. Who knows what she actually does with those things? All I know is that the kid must be the richest two-year-old in the state. Hell, the country.

“What are you gonna do?” Jessie asks, smoothing her bright hair away from her face.

“About Chelsey?” I shrug a shoulder. “I was kinda hoping you could get her drunk as soon as possible, because when she’s drunk, she likes me. Not to mention that she—”

“Please stop talking. I don’t want to know what she does drunk.”

I laugh. “Guess I’m gonna go piss her off until she finally agrees to a date. How hard could it be?”

Jessie half-grins, a knowing glint in her eye. “Take what you think and times it by ten,” she says dryly, moving back toward the front door. “You’re halfway there. She has a heart of stone.”

“Like you, then?” I call as she disappears.

“Fuck you, Kye!”

I laugh as the littlest has the final word. And, yep, it’s “Dollar!”

 

***

 

I pull up outside TJ’s Tavern, the bar Chelsey works at, and walk toward the door, glancing to the side as Tate falls into step beside me.

“Man, I tell you, Ella realizes I’m here and not getting Mila’s Christmas present like I promised I would and she’s gonna twist my balls into fuckin’ next week.”

“Someone’s gotta be my wingman.” I push the door open. “And since my twin’s girlfriend has his balls in an iron vice, it’s you.”

Tate groans. “In my next life, I better be an only damn child.”

He leans against the bar and turns his eyes toward me. “Hey, hasn’t Chelsey been avoiding you?”

“Avoidin’ is a real strong word.”

“And entirely accurate,” Chelsey interrupts, a dry tone to her voice. I offer her a slow smile as I turn my attention fully to her. Her long, blond hair is pulled back from her face in a ponytail, although her bangs are escaping in wispy tendrils that she pushes out of her eyes. “What can I get you, gentlemen?”

“Gentlemen?” Tate drawls. “Now, Chelsey, darlin’, you had your chance with this gentleman . . .”

Chelsey leans forward, flattening her hands on the bar, and grins. “I see you already found Mila a Christmas present.”

Tate returns her grin. “All right, all right. It’s only December fifth. The damn tree ain’t even up yet. I’m not buying shit until that happens. But I’ll take a Bud, thanks.”

She rolls her eyes then turns away. She bends to the low fridge and pulls out the deep-brown bottle of beer. Fuck, that’s a nice ass. “Tate Burke, you’re lucky I’m best friends with your girlfriend or your balls would be her next plaything—and not in a good way.” She deposits the bottle in front of him to the tune of his chuckle and turns her attention to me. “Kye? What do you want?”

“A date?”

Tate snorts.

“December fifth,” she shoots back. “There. Now what to drink?”

Smartass. “Bud, I guess.”

“You guess?” She raises an eyebrow but turns anyway. She’s bent down and has just opened the fridge door when she stops and peeks over her shoulder at me. “You only said that so you could look at my ass, didn’t you?”

Double smartass. “Nope. Didn’t notice it.”

She slams the fridge door, pops off the bottle top, then slams the bottle down in front of me. “That’s four dollars, please.”

I give her my card. She snatches it out of my hand and turns to the register.

“Good effort, bro,” Tate offers, and I can’t decide if he’s serious or not. “Few more of those conversations and she’ll be begging you for another night together.”

Chelsey smacks the card onto the bar along with a receipt and a pen. She cuts her eyes to Tate as she says to me, “Sign. Thank you.”

I take the pen with a sigh and scrawl on the line. “Thanks, asshole.”

Tate shrugs, lifting the bottle to his lips. “You made me wingman. Never promised I’d be a good one. I’m still gonna get laid at the end of the evening.”

“And Mila’s Christmas present?”

“Didn’t have it in stock.”

I shake my head. Last fucking time I bring my big brother for some goddamn moral support. I’ll come alone next time.

In all honesty, I didn’t expect a date out of it. I just I wanted to see if she’d be as much of a bitch to me as she claimed she’d be. She has been, but shit, I thought she’d be a little nice, considering the time I showed her.

No, I’m lying. After her hellish response to me at Aidan’s, I knew she’d be like this. She’s deliberately standing at the opposite end of the bar, her back to me. The end of her ponytail is swept over her shoulder, but a few light strands of her hair are glinting off the back of her black shirt. She jerks her head up and laughs at something the middle-age guy she’s serving has said to her.

Her laughter is bright and slightly wild.

Fuck me. I’m jealous of the way a fifty-something man can make her laugh.

“Is it too early to say you’ve got it bad?” Tate asks, setting his empty bottle on the bar. “’Cause you’ve been starin’ at her for at least five minutes, and she’s looked at you at least ten times.”

I grab my beer and finish the last of it in one mouthful. “Yeah, way too early.”

“You’re still fuckin’ lookin’ at her.” His hand connects with the back of my head. “Let me guess, you’re gonna leave without another word, aren’t you?”

“You bet.” I stand, sliding my empty bottle across the bar, eyes still on her. “And I’ll be right back tomorrow.”

He shakes his head as he follows me out, but as I leave, I feel her eyes on me, and the loud scrape as she removes our bottles lets me know she’s been fully aware of every move I’ve made.

And I will see her tomorrow.

We’re not done with this yet.

DIRTY TRICKS will be available from Gallery Books in January 2016!