We are getting a sexy new standalone from Julie Morgan—part of the Misadventures collection of spicy stories, each written or co-written by some of the best names in romance—and I have the cover for you, as well as a sneak peek.
My red-bottomed Louboutin pumps struck the tiles of my condo with every step, and the pearlescent glimmer of the shoes sent shards of light dancing across the floor. They were my absolute favorite pair. I wore them with a flimsy red dress that haltered around my neck.
It was the last week off before school started, and as a kindergarten teacher in New York City, I needed one last weekend of partying before grades, glue, and crayons became my life. I had sent a few texts out to friends, and the plan was to hit a new club that had recently opened.
I put on the teacherly persona of a good woman with great morals—an upstanding citizen. And I was. But don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t that person. I didn’t wear Miss Librarian clothes by day and transform into a BDSM goddess at night. Not that I wouldn’t… I mean, I’d try anything once. But it would be awkward if I ever ran into one of my student’s parents. That was something I’d never want to experience. Also, I didn’t carry around a paddle to spank someone who was out of line. Although some men I had met surely deserved it.
Like Jeremy Quill, my self-proclaimed first love who I’d thought I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Bastard. We had been living in Tennessee when we met, and soon after, he had accepted a job transfer to Manhattan. When he’d asked me to move here, I knew marriage would follow. Until I moved here and caught him with another woman.
But that was eight years ago. I’d since settled down in Manhattan in my own apartment with the only man in my life I cared about: my cat, Luci, short for Lucifer. He was black, with a pink nose and hazel eyes, and had two small white spots on his head that were shaped like horns. He was sweet and affectionate toward me but hated everyone else. I kind of liked it that way.
I couldn’t see myself settling down again. Not after what happened with Jeremy. My heart was locked, and I had thrown away the key.
Being single meant no one to report to, no one to worry about, no one to nag because they didn’t pick up their clothes, or food, or plates, or anything. No one to judge me if I baked a batch of brownies at three a.m. and ate the entire pan.
I was the center of my own world. Did it make me shallow? Probably. Was I happy? Absolutely.
My phone buzzed on the kitchen counter, and my heels echoed in the silence of my home as I made my way toward it. Erin Malone’s name appeared on the screen.
“Hey, yourself,” my friend and coworker replied. “Are you ready?”
“Yep. Ready when you are.”
“Okay, I’ll be there in five,” she said. “You know, I don’t feel like our summer was quite long enough.” I could almost hear a pout in her voice. “I’m not ready for a classroom full of new kids with snotty noses.”
Erin and I taught kindergarten at the same elementary school.
I rolled my eyes. “Erin, come on. They’re not so bad. They’re still babies. And our future. They’ll take care of us when they’re older. Get on their good side!”
She laughed. “Getting on their good side means giving them a cookie when it should be nap time.”
I grinned into the phone. “I live for nap time. Okay, enough of first-day blues. Get here and pick me up. I’m ready.”
We hung up, and I placed my phone in my club purse. The small handbag was pearl in color and shimmered like my shoes. Cell, lip gloss, driver’s license, some cash, and a condom. All my needed essentials.
The clock struck half past nine. The night was young, and soon I would be dancing in someone’s arms. If I were lucky, my drinks would be paid for tonight, and if he were lucky, I’d be getting laid later on.
I was horny and single—a lethal combination. A predator on the prowl for her prey.
Running my hand through my long, straightened auburn locks, I checked my face once more in the full-length mirror by my front door. My creamy porcelain skin was perfect in this light and framed my caramel eyes behind long, black lashes. Everything still in place, I was picking up my keys from the counter when my phone vibrated in my purse. Erin was here. I headed toward the door, ready to get this night started.
* * *
The bass of the music flowed through my body as if it was a fluid. It surrounded me, consumed me, became a part of my soul. Lifting my glass of wine, I tapped the edge to my friends’ glasses.
“Here’s to one of our final weekends before the school year begins.”
“I should have been a teacher,” Misty, one of our non-teacher friends, said. “I could get used to having summers off.”
“Yeah, but you’d hate the salary,” I reminded her.
“Well, for a teacher’s salary, you wear designer clothes like you’re rich,” Erin added. “And I should know. We make the same fucking salary.”
I laughed, then shrugged a single shoulder. “True, but my mom loves to buy me pretty things, and my family is rich.” And they were. My father was an investor and knew exactly when to buy and sell. My mother claimed to be a Stepford wife until Real Housewives of Whateverville hit the TV. She’d thought of contacting the network to start up a show in our neighborhood in Tennessee.
“I hate you and love you at the same time,” Erin said.
I smiled and took her chin between my index finger and thumb. “You love my money.”
“I won’t lie. It’s nice, but it’s not everything,” Erin retorted.
“I beg to differ.” I took a sip of wine. “My money makes me very happy. It’s always there for me when I need it, it never talks back, and if I ask for something, it never tells me no. We should be announcing our engagement soon.”
Erin laughed, then shook her head. “You should hear yourself sometimes.”
I winked at her. “You know I’m only teasing. I mean, I do love having money, but I understand it isn’t everything. After everything with Jeremy blew up, it was nice to know I was secure and didn’t have to scramble. I could afford to get my own place.”
“One day you’ll meet someone who will make you second-guess having money as a first love,” Erin said.
Maybe she was right, but in this moment, it was my cat and me, and I loved it. And my money didn’t cheat on me. Nothing and no one would stand between me and my happiness.
Well, except for the man who just walked in wearing ass-hugging jeans and a white short-sleeved polo that revealed strong arms with a few tattoos. He was well groomed, with sandy-blond hair. It wasn’t long on top, and the sides were clipped short. He had a bit of stubble on his cheeks and chin, and when he looked my way, the bluest eyes I’d ever had the pleasure to stare into took my breath away.
He smiled, and a pulse surged through my body, like a light switch was flipped. Turn me on and watch me purr for you all night.
“I see the fire department is here tonight,” Misty said. “Think they’re taking a night off?”
“The fire department can’t take a night off,” Erin answered. “They’re on three hundred sixty-five days a year. They rotate shifts so people can get sleep, but otherwise, they’re never closed.”
“I kind of want to set something on fire,” I said.
Erin laughed. “The one there in a black polo.” She pointed toward the men. “He’s the chief. Hot, isn’t he?”
I nodded. “Totally. What about the one in the white shirt?”
“Damn, he’s fine,” she said with a slight growl.
I had half a mind to slap her and stake claim on the man.
“I’m sure they’re all together,” she added.
“Good.” I shoved the stemmed glass into her hand. “Hold my wine.”
“Famous last words!” Erin shouted.
I stalked onto the dance floor, figuring if I moved toward the group of firefighters, they’d take notice of me, maybe talk, maybe dance…maybe more.