"Hi, Daddy." Kitty Velvet balanced the phone between her ear and shoulder and tried to keep her voice light. Her father, the famous CEO Clint Velvet, would only lecture her if he had any idea what she was up to.
"Kate, where are you?"
"Kitty, Dad. My name is Kitty." She jammed her foot into her fishnet stocking. "The name Kate is used only at work, remember?"
"Like hell it is. I never would have let your mother name you after an animal. It's uncouth. Besides, this is about work. "
Kitty rolled her eyes and adjusted her position on the limo seat. The name Kate was fine when they were in the boardroom, but this was Friday night, her night. The first night off she'd had in a long time. As far as she was concerned, she was off the clock. There was no need to be so formal. She rolled the stocking up her thigh. "Is there something I can do for you, Daddy? I'm sort of busy right now."
"You were supposed to be at the office ten minutes ago."
There he went again. Ever since the problems began with the company, her father had worked overtime, spending nights and weekends at the office. He was such a workaholic and expected the same of his daughter. Most of the time she'd agree with him, but not tonight. She needed a night off.
Kitty glanced at her watch. "I got Rita to cover for me. She's there, isn't she?"
"Yes, but it would be better if you were here. Sending in your assistant--"
"Daddy, we've discussed this already. Everything is in order for the meeting on Wednesday with S&N Steel. There's nothing more we can do." There was no way she was going in to work tonight. She'd worked nights and weekends too many times in the past year and had almost suffered a nervous breakdown from the stress. One thing she had learned since she started working in the family business was that she needed time away from her father. She loved him to pieces, but he frustrated her too. She needed time to relax, let loose, and put things in perspective. Her sanity depended on it.
A heavy sigh ran through the line. "Whatever it is you're doing can wait. This is important," her father said.
Kitty hooked her thigh-high stocking to her belt and slipped on her black heel. "I've run the numbers many times over, Daddy. You know that. Velvet Steel is hemorrhaging money every day we leave the doors open."
"We'll tap into our personal accounts, like a loan--"
"It won't do any good this time. The debt is too high."
"I can't lay off all those people."
"And if we sell the company, they'll all be out of work before the year's end."
"We have to do something, though. If things stay the same, then we'll run out of money." Kitty felt sick every time she thought about those workers and their families. She didn't want them to lose their jobs, but there was nothing else she could do. If Velvet Steel remained autonomous like her father wanted, they'd all be out of a job within the next year anyway. By selling Velvet Steel to S&N, at least they could negotiate and end things on their own terms instead of leaving everything to chance.
"Any ideas you come up with can be left with Rita," she said. "She'll give them to me on Monday."
"But Rita won't be in the meeting with S&N. She won't be signing the papers and ensuring the best for those workers. You have to be there."
"She's very capable, and I trust her." Kitty pulled out her compact and pursed her lips at the small mirror. "Daddy, you know it's important for me to take some time off. We've been working around the clock on this, and I need to take a break."
"But the meeting is this coming Wednesday--"
"And it's necessary for me to spend time away from the situation so I can look at it with fresh eyes." For the past year, she had tried everything to keep Velvet Steel afloat. The sad fact was steel manufacturing was on the decline. Automation, consolidation, and increasing foreign competition had hit Velvet Steel's bottom line hard. They didn't have the money to upgrade equipment or compete with their more tech-savvy competitors. S&N Steel in particular had been very aggressive in underpricing and taking away their distributors.
When Velvet Steel couldn't compete, S&N had offered to buy them out. At first Kitty had balked at the idea of selling the company. Now however... Well, there just was no other choice. She had spent countless hours arguing with her father, who didn't want to let go of his legacy. The only way she could convince him to sell was if he remained on as an active board member and if no one got laid off. Unfortunately the only people who showed interest in buying Velvet Steel were people with a reputation of buying a company for its patents, then shutting it down and moving operations to their headquarters overseas. On Wednesday, Kitty's job would be to convince S&N Steel to keep Velvet Steel autonomous, with her father at the head--or at least an active member of the board. Otherwise her father wouldn't sign the papers, and there would be no deal. Then they'd be right back where they started: in a downward spiral toward bankruptcy.
Velvet Steel had been in the family for generations, and her father wasn't about to sell it to a couple of high-tech know-it-alls who didn't care about the blue-collar workers who'd made the business great. He treated that company like a baby, and Kitty secretly wondered if some of his stubbornness came from the fact that he wouldn't know what to do with himself if he retired. Velvet Steel was his whole life. It was Kitty's life too. That's what made everything so hard.
Her father had insisted on remaining autonomous, but every month they were running more and more in the red. As much as it pained her, there was no choice but to sell the company.
Kitty had never met the mysterious partners behind S&N Steel, working instead through the lawyers and assistants, but she knew they were ruthless. They had been eating up smaller steel manufacturers left and right to expand their domain and secure their position. They didn't care who they hurt in the process. Just last year they had bought out Jameson Steel, took all its patents, transferred its technologies to other sites, then closed the company and laid off hundreds of workers.
It was sad that Kitty and her father would have to hand their precious company over to a couple of heartless bastards, but she didn't see any viable alternative. It seemed like those workers would be out of a job within a year no matter what she did.
"Kitty." Kitty shook off her sadness, pulled out her deep red lipstick, and applied it to her lips.
"Those workers at that plant depend on us doing this right."
"We need to go over the numbers one more time--together. I want to be sure this is the right decision."
"Daddy, please. I don't see how anything is going to change between now and Wednesday, and we have been working every night for the past ten nights. I need this weekend off for my sanity."
"No. This is too important. I've worked too hard my whole life for this company. I won't give it over so that it could be torn apart within a matter of months."
"I know, Daddy. I don't want that either."
"Really? Because I was beginning to wonder."
Kitty sighed. "Please don't do this. I've gone through the numbers at least a hundred times. We have no money, and we're in such high debt that no bank will lend us more. We're out of options."
"I know, it's just... I don't know what I'm going to do without Velvet Steel. Did you know I stood and watched them lay the foundation?" His voice hitched, and tears stung Kitty's eyes.
"Don't you see?" she said. "That's why I need this time away. I've been staring at the numbers for so long that everything is starting to blend together. If I can leave it for a couple of days, then come back and look at it with fresh eyes, a new option might present itself." Kitty wiped away a tear with the back of her hand. "Look, I'll go over the numbers again Monday morning and then meet with you that afternoon. I promise we can talk all you want then."
"I don't know..."
"It's just that we have been under all of this stress, working day and night. I can't seem to think clearly anymore. I need a break from this to clear my head. You should take a break too, Daddy. It's been a very long week for both of us. A couple of days off would do us both some good." The limo pulled up in front of her favorite nightclub, and Kitty saw a long line of people standing out on the sidewalk, waiting to get inside. It had been a while since she had been out partying, but a quick phone call and some smooth talking had gotten the management to save her favorite table. "It's Friday night, Daddy, and after the week we had, I think we've both earned a night off." Her limo driver, Cain, opened the door, and she stepped out onto the sidewalk. Her gaze drifted up to the large sign over the entrance. Taboo. A tendril of heat slid down her center at the familiar sight. It was like seeing an old friend she'd had been out of touch with for a while--a very sexy friend.
"Maybe. What do I hear in the background?" her father asked.
"It's the TV, Daddy. A movie. Once it's done, I'm going to call it an early night." She didn't want her father to know what she was about to do. He'd probably have a fit. Something about keeping up appearances and it being uncouth for a CEO's daughter to run around at nightclubs. Before the downward spiral at Velvet Steel, she had come here every Friday night. For the past year, she had only been there three or four times. She needed this. Kitty needed a couple of days to blow off a little steam and do what she wanted to do. Then come Monday she'd be back at her father's side, and they could go over those blasted numbers all he wanted.
Kitty caught the bouncer's gaze and smiled. Her heart leaped when he nodded in her direction. Even though it had been a while, he still recognized her. Good. The city had been in the middle of a heat wave, and Kitty didn't want to waste any more time outside than was necessary.
"I suppose this could wait until Monday, but--"
"Thanks, Daddy. I love you." Kitty disconnected the call and shut off her phone. She couldn't risk having her father interrupt her again tonight. There were too many men to flirt with and too many martinis to drink. She slipped her phone into her purse and walked to the front of the line.
"Evening, Ms. Velvet." The bouncer inclined his head once more and let her pass. "Your table is waiting."
Kitty nodded and stepped into the darkened building. Finally. She walked down the long hall and through the doors to the club's interior. Just inside, she stopped and waited for her vision to adjust to the scene before her.
Techno music blared from large speakers strategically placed around the room. Bright beams of light speared the darkness and highlighted the bodies dancing in various stages of undress on a center floor. Erotic tension bubbled up like champagne from a bottle. Kitty inhaled and savored the aroma of booze and incense. Secluded tables outlined the dance area, giving privacy to those who could afford the hefty price tag to reserve them. There, sex and booze flowed freely until the wee hours of the morning. She'd join them soon, but for now Kitty was content to savor the moment.
All week Kitty had been waiting for this night. A chance to forget all her problems and stress. A chance to have fun like most women her age. At Taboo no questions were asked, and everyone had smiles on their faces. It was an intoxicating alternative to her regimented life. Here, Kitty could shed her good-girl image and let her hair down. What happened at Taboo stayed at Taboo. No one would ever speak of Clint Velvet's daughter dancing on tables or drinking one too many appletinis. Here, she was safe to be herself.
As Kitty made her way through the crowd, she mentally shook off her guilt and insecurities. It was officially the weekend, and she was going to have fun if it killed her.
When she reached her table, she slapped her purse down and slid into the familiar booth. Tonight wasn't about feeling sorry for herself. It was about finding an able-bodied male who could make her feel like a queen for an hour or two. Kitty placed her martini order and scanned the crowd.
"Hello there, lass."
She turned and focused on the auburn-haired Adonis. "Hello."
"May I have a seat?"
Kitty waved her hand in the air. "Please." She studied him as he slid next to her. He was large, and Kitty guessed he might have been a football player in a former life. Broad shoulders tapered to a small waist, forming the perfect triangle of a GQ cover model. Green eyes peered at her from beneath a tangle of wavy hair, giving him a youthful appearance despite the hard lines around the eyes and mouth. A small hoop earring hung from his left ear. Kitty found her gaze drawn to it as she considered whether this man could live up to her expectations. There was something rugged and mysterious about him that spoke to Kitty's libido.
He nodded toward the dance floor. "It's starting to get crowded out there."
"This is nothing. Give this place another hour and you won't be able to walk around."
"Guess I should stay here, then." His dimpled smile stirred something in Kitty's lower abdomen. He was handsome, very handsome. She wondered if he was into one-night stands. He looked like the perfect man to help her forget her troubles.
"Funny, I haven't seen you around these parts." And yet there was something vaguely familiar about him. Had she seen him somewhere before? She touched his forearm and was pleased to find it hard and muscular--just as a man's arm should be. Nice.
The stranger covered her hand with his "I--"
"What do we have here, Shane?" A tall man, much thinner than his friend, slipped into the booth on the other side of Kitty. "Don't tell me you were going to keep this little one all to yourself." He smiled as he took her hand and pressed it to her lips. "I'm Noah." He nodded to the auburn-haired man. "And this is my friend, Shane."
"Noah." She turned to Shane friend, focusing on his deep green eyes. "And Shane. Nice names."
"And you are?" Shane slid his hand under the table and placed it on her thigh. Her breath caught as desire sprang from his touch and darted between her legs.
"Kitty." She shifted in her seat to relieve some of the pressure building in her core. It didn't help. The movement only pushed Shane's hand underneath her short skirt. He curled his fingers around the edge of her thigh-high stocking and ran his fingernails over her skin. Kitty flushed under his gaze.
"Kitty." Shane repeated her name, testing it with his sexy Irish brogue. Kitty found she liked the way it rolled off his tongue. She had always appreciated foreign accents, and this one was no exception.
"Such a lovely name." Noah's accent was softer, more cultured. She guessed it had been smoothed out by city living, whereas his friend's retained its country roughness.
"Thank you." She wanted to turn and acknowledge Noah but found she couldn't quite tear herself away from the Irish god before her.
"Well, Ms. Kitty, would you like to dance?" Shane asked.
"Don't be silly, Shane, of course the lady would like to dance." Noah stood, blocking her view of the dance floor. "She wouldn't be here otherwise, would she?"
Kitty agreed. "You want me to dance with both of you?"
"Would you prefer only one of us?" Shane's eyes twinkled with mischief.
"I--" She shifted her gaze between the men. While Shane was broad and rugged, Noah was long and lean. Black hair, cut on the short side, curled around his ears and gave him a scholarly appearance. There was nothing scholarly about his body, however. Hard and chiseled, Noah looked like one of those international soccer players she liked to watch during the World Cup.
"I've heard dancing with two men can be more...stimulating." Noah's voice trickled over her like a caress. "Isn't that right, Shane?"
Kitty noticed how Noah's voice hardened on his friend's name and stifled a wince. How could she be such an idiot? She had probably offended them. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"
Shane glanced at his friend and frowned. "No, we are the ones who are sorry." He removed his fingers from her thigh and smiled. "A beautiful lass like you probably has a man waiting for her."
"No, no man."
"Good." Shane's features softened as he brushed her cheek with his knuckle. "Then you have no excuse not to dance"--he flicked his gaze to Noah--"with both of us." He returned his attention to her. "Come on." He stood and held out his hand.
This was so sudden. Kitty had a ritual. First she'd have her martini and evaluate the crowd; then she'd pick out someone who seemed nonthreatening. Then she'd approach him and offer to buy him a drink.
"Come on." Shane winked and tugged her to her feet. "I promise you won't regret it."
Kitty stared at Shane's back as the men led her away from the table. This whole thing seemed surreal. Taboo was infamous for its sexually charged atmosphere. Stepping on the dance floor was like taking part in an orgy without actually having sex. No, sex was saved for the reserved areas and VIP rooms upstairs. The dance floor was for displaying a person's sexual prowess and for capturing a lover for the evening.
Soon she would be joining the erotic fray--with two dance partners. The thought of the three of them pressed close together caused her skin to tingle with anticipation. It would be different. Exciting. Just what she needed to forget about her father and Velvet Steel.
Shane dropped her hand and started to move. Kitty stood, stunned at the large man's gracefulness. Shane seemed like he had been born on the dance floor.
Noah stepped up from behind and touched her shoulder. "Go on, don't be shy."
Kitty closed her eyes and concentrated on the techno beat, letting it infuse her body. Gradually the weight of the world fell away, and she became light-headed. She tilted her head back and lifted her arms in silent salutation to the strobe lights above.
First she swayed her hips. When she found the rhythm, she swished her arms in time to the music. It was divine. She let the music lift her spirit up into the rafters and blank her mind to all but the steady thrum of the beat.
Shane snaked his arm around her waist and pulled her close. She could tell it was Shane because his broad chest surrounded her in heat and sexual energy. Noah's thinner frame could never pull off such a feat. She felt good in Shane's arms. Safe. Her position as the CEO's daughter had forced her to have a tough-as-nails attitude, but now, with these men close to her, Kitty felt herself letting go, becoming more malleable, submissive. She wanted to lean into all that hard muscle and cocoon herself away from the world, if only for a little while. Kitty molded her body against his and let herself become lost in the music.
Shane's grip tightened. "You smell like cherries." He slipped his knee between her legs.
"My shampoo." What made her say that? It didn't matter. She pressed her breasts harder against his chest. She could feel the rise and fall of his chest. It felt so intimate. Their hips began to move as one. Heat poured through her body as she rubbed her thighs against the rough fabric of his jeans. She imagined herself, legs spread, his hard cock thrusting deep inside her body. Would he be gentle like the man she'd found the last time she was in the club? She hoped not. All week Kitty had had to make tough decisions for work. Tonight she wanted to be controlled and dominated. She didn't want to have to think.
Shane leaned forward and traced the rim of her earlobe with his tongue. "You taste good enough to eat."
Another hard body pressed against her back. "Let me try, Shane." Noah kissed the base of her neck. Kitty moaned as liquid heat shot through her center and settled between her thighs. How did these men know just what she wanted? Kitty's skin tingled as every inch came into contact with hard, male muscle. She felt as if she were drowning in testosterone, and God help her, she loved it.
"You're right. She is sweet." Noah repeated the kiss, this time letting his tongue linger on her skin. "She purrs just like a kitten too."
Kitty's lower abdomen clenched, and her thighs became damp with need. She closed her eyes and bit back a groan as Noah's lips once again brushed her skin.
"How interesting." Shane inched his hand down until it rested on her hip. "I wonder if you can make her purr louder so I can hear it better over the music."
"It would be my pleasure." Noah wrapped his hand around her middle and slid his fingers under her top.
Kitty opened her eyes in surprise. His touch felt warm, much warmer than she'd expected in the air-conditioned club. She held her breath as Noah eased his hand under her bra.
"Oh, Shane, you need to feel this," he said.
Shane arched his brow and leaned back to study her face. "Too much for you, lass?"
Kitty slowly shook her head. It wasn't too much to have these two men surrounding her. In fact, it felt just right.
Shane smiled. "Good, because Noah and I are just beginning." He trailed his fingers down her back and slipped them between Noah's hips and her ass. There he squeezed her cheek, as if testing its size in his hand. "Nice." He loosened his grip and then moved to her other cheek. "Very nice."
Kitty opened her mouth to speak, but Noah cupped her breast. Desire shot through her core and stole her breath. She moistened her lips and concentrated on the erotic sensations ricocheting throughout her body.
Shane shifted his fingers just under the hem of her skirt. "I think this little kitten wants to be petted, Noah."
Do I ever. Kitty tightened her thighs around Shane's leg in approval.
"I think you're right." Noah slipped her collar farther away from her neck and pressed his lips against her sensitive skin. At the same time, he tugged her nipple, then rolled it between his fingers. Kitty gasped and arched her back, pushing her breast deeper into his hand. Shane bent over her body and claimed her lips with his own. Kitty wrapped her arms around the Irishman's neck and held on as the men tightened their grips around her. Back and forth they swayed as desire twisted its way through her system.
Then something in the air shifted. It became more heated, more electric. The kiss changed from playful to possessive. Noah's sweet touch became more commanding, his teasing nips rougher. A small spark of pain jolted through her body as Noah pinched her nipple hard. Pleasure quickly chased it, and she sank lower into his able hands.
Shane reached up and drove his fingers into her hair. Their kiss deepened, and need spiraled through Kitty's muscles, tying them into knots. Shane cradled her head as he ravaged her mouth. Kitty had never felt so vulnerable and exposed. The men played her body like a musical instrument, touching all the right keys to make her heart sing. She didn't have to tell them what she wanted; they just knew. It was refreshing. This was what she had been looking for when she'd walked into the club. It was as if they had been plucked from her erotic fantasies and given to her as a gift. Excitement rippled through her as she imagined their tangled bodies between silken sheets.
Noah continued to stroke and tease her nipple with one hand as he slipped the other one down her thigh. Fire burned wherever he touched. The effect was powerful. The world around her faded away as her senses focused on his hands and where they were on her body. His touch was gentle, almost reverent. When he finally slipped his fingers between her legs, Kitty shuddered with anticipation. She held her breath as he slid his hand up farther under her skirt, over the clasp of her thigh-highs and garters. Kitty spread her legs wider, giving him better access.
"Ah, thank you, kitten." Noah reached up and brushed his fingers over her skin, then froze. "Fuck, Shane, she isn't wearing panties."
Shane tore away from the kiss. "What?"
"She's a woman after our own hearts." Noah pulled his hand from underneath her skirt and held it up to his friend. Kitty's desire glistened from the tips of his fingers. "No fuckin' panties."
"Brilliant." Shane shifted his attention to Kitty, and his hungry gaze shot right to her core. He leaned in close until his lips hovered just above her ear. "Tell me, lass. Have you ever had an orgasm on a dance floor?"