Kat sat in the office while Dax looked over the estimate that she had brought him. She was spoiling for the fight she expected to come, so when he chuckled, she straightened her spine and said:
“I’m sorry, what’s so funny?”
He looked up at her with those gorgeous blue eyes. Damn, every time she saw him lately she needed a fresh pair of panties. When they were younger all Kat could think about was getting the hell out of the Southside and making a real life for herself that had nothing to do with crappy bars or motorcycle clubs. There was a brief, fleeting moment when she might have had a chance with Dax. Hindsight made her wish she had taken it. Who would have thought he’d end up with Angel Brady? She almost rolled her eyes at the thought. He interrupted it by saying, “A new, industrial-sized convection oven? We shot your oven?”
She narrowed her big almond-shaped eyes. Dax’s men had been involved in a shoot-out with a local street gang in the bar her father owned. Dax promised her that he’d not only pay for damages, but renovations as well. Now, it sounded like he was trying to renege. “No,” she said in a sarcastic tone of voice. “My oven was not shot. But if I heard you right, when you came by the other day to beg my forgiveness, you said you would not only replace what was damaged, but also pay for the renovations.”
Still with a smile tugging at his way too sexy lips he said, “I did say that. I’m just surprised that a…an establishment like Brownie’s would have a need for an oven that would make Gordon Ramsey proud.”
She folded her arms across her chest. “You know my situation, Dax, right?”
“Some. I know you gave up your job in Hollywood to come home and take care of Dillon. He didn’t tell me what was going on with him, exactly.”
Kat left for Hollywood when she was twenty-one years old. She wasn’t aspiring to be an actress like a lot of young women that headed out west. Kat went there to become a stuntwoman. Five years later, she was finally getting noticed by some of Hollywood’s biggest directors…and that’s where she made her mistake. She told everyone she’d come home to take care of Dillon and the bar, but the truth was, she came home because there was nowhere else to go.
“He has cirrhosis of the liver. He’s drunk himself to death already; we’re just waiting for his heart to stop now.” Dax gave her a look that said he didn’t believe she was as callous about it as she tried to pretend she was. She ignored it and went on, “In the meantime, he’s let the bar go to shit and he can’t afford to pay his utility bills, much less the medical ones. I gave up a high-paying job to come home, and that’s okay. He’s an asshole and a drunk, but he’s my father, so he’s my asshole and drunk. But that bar is not going to ever support us. When I was in California, my roommate was a chef. He owned a catering service that brought food out to the movie lots. He taught me a lot and before I left, he gave me some of his best recipes.” He didn’t “give” them to her, but it wasn’t like she’d be competing with him 3000 miles away. “I want to start catering. I have Dillon’s van, and it’s something I can do and still run the bar.”
Dax’s lips twitched again. “So what were you planning on doing for equipment before we shot up your bar?”
She narrowed her eyes again. “I was going to empty out my savings account. If you’re going to be this way, I still can.”
He chuckled again. “I’m not being any ‘way,’ Kat. I’m just trying to make sure we reach an agreement here that we can both live with. I agree with the numbers for the inside of the bar and again, I apologize to you for the damage and inconvenience. The kitchen, however…well, that kind of cash is going to have to be run by the executive board. I’m just not sure they’ll agree to it, unless…”
“I could put it in front of them as a business proposition.”
She cocked an eyebrow and leaned forward in her chair. “What kind of ‘business’ are you suggesting?”
“What if we were silent partners?”
“Silent as in you give me money and keep your mouth shut about how I run things?”
Dax shook his head at her. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. Kat licked her lips before she realized what she was doing. Damn. It should be fucking illegal to be that hot. How is a red-blooded female supposed to not want to rip off that kutte and t-shirt he’s wearing, climb up into his lap, and rub her naked body up against his rock-hard, tattooed one? He’s sex, dipped in ink with crystal blue eyes and a smile to die for…and fucking Angel Brady ended up with him. How fucking fair is that? “I’ll present it to them as a silent partnership that we keep out of as long as you’re turning a profit and paying us the amount we agree to every month…how does that sound?”
“Like you’re screwing me in the ass with your big dick,” she said. She stood up, knowing she wasn’t in a position to turn down whatever offer he presented, but not willing to let him know that. “We’ll decide if this is going to work once I see those numbers.”
He didn’t try to hide his smile then. It kind of pissed her off that he was so amused by her. “The board meets tomorrow afternoon. How about you make something for us for lunch…something easy, but good, so the guys can see what kind of catering talent you have?”
“Fine…but I’ll need half upfront.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Half of what?”
“Half of my fee. You don’t think I’m making you shit for free, do you?”
“Katrina, you are a piece of work,” Dax said, but still with a smile on his face. “Go talk to Gunner, tell him how much you need for your supplies and after we get our delivery tomorrow, I’ll pay the catering fees…deal?”
“Sure,” she said. Her body was burning up as she looked at him. It pissed her off that she wanted him so badly. She never wanted a guy she couldn’t have. Kat didn’t have any hang-ups about sex, or her body. That had earned her a reputation on the Southside as a slut before she left home for California. But she didn’t see the difference between her and all the man whores in town, especially the ones in the MC. The double standard pissed her off, and she’d enjoyed the anonymity of living in Hollywood where she could fuck whoever she wanted and it was nobody’s business but her own. She had standards, and she didn’t fuck another woman’s man…most of the time. Dax Marshall would be the one exception she’d be willing to make, if she could get him to realize what he was missing. Maybe once they became business partners…she licked her lips again. Damn, I need to get laid. “What time tomorrow?” she asked him.
“How many people?”
“Nah, we got that.”
Yeah, me dipped in hot chocolate sauce, and whipped cream in every orifice. “I could do chocolate.”
“Sounds good then. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Just like that, she was dismissed. She wondered just for a second what he would do if she pulled off her shirt. It was just a fantasy, she’d never do it. Too bad for him though; her tits were real, and they were fabulous. She wondered if Angel Brady could say the same.
She left Dax, picked up her money from Gunner, and fended off a few creepy bikers before getting on her own Harley and heading back to the bar. Kat didn’t grow up in an MC, but she and Dillon moved back to the Southside, where her parents had grown up and the Skulls ran the streets, when she was twelve years old. She knew the first time she saw the Skulls roll by that she wanted to learn how to ride a Harley. She was thirteen the first time she rode one. Unfortunately, it was one that she’d “borrowed” from her friend’s uncle and she dumped it before she even got it out of the lot…but with just that one taste, she was addicted.
When Kat got back to Brownie’s, Dillon was sitting on a stool, talking to their one and only customer. Bill Hardy was an old friend of Dillon’s from high school. They’d played football together. Dillon was something of a legend on the Southside back in those days. He was a running back with 11,232 career rushing yards. It was a record for any high school running back, anywhere. Thirty years later, his record was still holding strong; unfortunately, Dillon wasn’t.
“Hey, Bill,” Kat said as she walked behind the bar.
“Hey there, Hurricane. How goes it?” Kat earned the name Hurricane from her classmates in school when she was just a kid and Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. It might not have stuck if not for the fact that her personality and her temper were as unpredictable and volatile as a Category 5.
“Hangin’, Bill. What’s new with you?”
“Not a damned thing. You know the wife left me, right?” Kat had only been back home for a month and she’d already heard the story twice.
She nodded. “Yeah, Bill, that sucks.”
“For one of them bikers. Bastards. Cocksuckers. First they take over this town and then just about the time us respectable citizens thought we were going to be able to claim it back, that Marshall kid marries a cop. What the fuck is that?”
Katrina chuckled. She had the same thought herself when she came back and found out who Dax had married. Unfortunately, Kat and Angel had a history before Angel ever met Dax, and that made it even harder for Kat to take. “Yeah, who would’ve thought?” she said. “Hey, Dillon, I need the van tomorrow.”
“What do you care? You using it?” Her dad had gotten his license taken away the last time he’d been picked up on a DUI. It was his fifth, and his final chance with the motor vehicle department. When he called Kat, sobbing over that, she’d told him he was lucky the cops stopped him each time before he killed anyone. He’d told her that she was “cold and uncaring.” That conversation had ended up much the same as most between them did, with a lot of yelling and him hanging up on her.
He narrowed his own almond-shaped eyes at her. Kat looked just like her father. Sometimes when she looked at him she found it strange to see her own eyes staring back at her. “Why you always have to be such a smart-ass?”
She sighed. “I don’t know, Dillon. I don’t have time for analysis tonight, though; I have some cooking to do.”
“What are you cooking?” Bill asked her.
“I have to bake a cake or two.” She smiled proudly and said, “I have my first catering job tomorrow.”
“Catering job? Why would you do that? Who’s going to take care of the bar while you’re out catering?” Dillon asked.
“Seriously?” she said. “You can’t handle it for a few hours at a time without me? I mean, I know Bill here can knock ’em back pretty quickly, but since he’ll probably be our only customer, I think you’ll be okay.”
Dillon’s eyes took on that sad, nostalgic quality they got when he was sliding toward inebriation and he said, “You know, it used to be standing room only back in the day when we first came back here. People dropped in just to look at my memorabilia.” Kat sighed. He was about to go off on a tangent about his lost opportunity. He could have been the greatest running back the NFL had ever seen. One fateful night of poor decisions changed all that when he injured his knee and lost his place in the draft. Kat didn’t believe he ever really got over that. He might have, if that had been the worst that ever happened.
Early on, Dillon masked his pain with an artificial smile because it was all about keeping up appearances. He married his high school sweetheart, the captain of the cheerleading squad, and the cliché couple that would eventually be Kat’s parents moved to New Orleans.
Dillon got a job there, working for Katrina’s mother’s uncle in a bar in the French Quarter. Her mother worked at a popular bed and breakfast on Bourbon Street. Katrina was born in a hospital overlooking the Mississippi River and from the outside looking in, for the first seven years of Katrina’s life, the little family looked perfect.
From the inside, however, Katrina was an innocent, unwilling witness to the destruction that would ultimately tear them apart. Dillon couldn’t adjust from being the local golden boy on the Southside of Massachusetts to being a nobody in the French Quarter…or at least that was what Kat heard her mother say repeatedly. Her mother Cora was beautiful. She had long, dark hair, lavender eyes, and the body that went along with being the captain of the cheer team. Her job as a concierge at the B & B afforded her the opportunity to meet a lot of people…a lot of men…and she liked to flaunt those assets of hers, or so Kat heard Dillon say repeatedly.
There were passionate fights and although Kat was too young to know what was happening then, she eventually figured out that there were also passionate make-up sessions. Kat spent the time that she wasn’t at the gymnastics classes, the ones her mother pushed her to take, hiding in her room so that she didn’t have to listen to them. When they fought and when they made up, she’d turn the sound up on the TV in her room to try to drown them out. Kat was seven years old when they had their last fight. She was in her room as usual watching TV and trying to ignore the ugly things they were saying to each other. That fight seemed to last forever, finally ending with the slamming of the front door.
Kat would be woken up the next morning by the sound of the doorbell…and the detective that walked through the door when Dillon opened it would bring news that would forever change both of their lives.