Billionaire nightclub owner Jason Dare doesn’t stand a chance. From the moment he lays eyes on the luscious blonde stuck on the side of the road and realizes she’s in danger, he goes from playboy to bodyguard.
Faith Lancaster’s sweet body won’t come to any harm on his watch. And watch Faith he does. He can’t take his eyes off her. Jason will stop at nothing to keep Faith safe. Even if it means moving her into his apartment and letting her into his once private life.
Hiding from her past, Faith has spent the last year building her candy business into a profitable company while keeping to herself and staying under the radar … until she meets the delicious Mr. Dare. Alpha and irresistible, he awakens desires she has long denied. It doesn’t take her long to succumb to his charms and fall hard for the man.
They both have their reasons for keeping things casual but when Faith’s past catches up with her, can Jason finally claim the woman meant to be his?
A Sexy Series / Dare Standalone
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A Sexy Series Novel
© 2019 Carly Phillips
With happy hour being celebrated loudly around him, Jason Dare stood on a balcony above the bar area and surveyed his domain, Club TEN29, a nightclub in Tribeca, an ode to the past and a reminder that the future wasn’t guaranteed. Despite the fact that his two partners were here, as were members of his actual family, he still felt very much alone.
Although solitary was a state of being he chose for reasons only he and his partners – men he considered his brothers – understood, sometimes it wasn’t easy, especially since they were very much in demand. As owners, they were becoming well known here and had had extremely positive press, and that made him a target – for those who wanted an in with the occasional high-brow guest, and for women with dollar signs in their eyes and hopes to snag a wealthy man. Jason didn’t engage. He was ultra-selective with the females he brought to his bed.
His life was the club, his partners, and his large family. He kept his circle close and minimized his risk of loss as best he could. That mantra defined him, extending into his love life, as well. After his father had blown his family sky-high, after he’d almost lost his sister to cancer when she was a child, after losing his partner Landon’s twin and Jason’s best friend back in college, he didn’t, couldn’t get close to people and risk more loss.
He didn’t get emotionally involved. Ever. A woman couldn’t expect anything more than the occasional hookup when it was convenient, but he enjoyed those moments of connection with the females he did allow into his bed. He had enough darkness in his life that when he let go, he wanted to enjoy and have fun.
“Jason, this has been an amazing night!” his sister, Sienna, said, throwing her arms around his neck and planting a kiss on his cheek.
He chuckled and smiled at her glowing face.
Her husband, Ethan Knight, grinned as he pulled her off him and into his arms. “She’s been liberal with the alcohol.” Ethan explained her exuberant enthusiasm. “Her first time out since having the baby.” He held his wife tight against him.
“I had fun! And now we’re going home to f–” Ethan placed a hand over Sienna’s mouth, sparing Jason from hearing about his sister’s love life. Jesus.
He shot the man a grateful look.
“And on that note, we’re leaving. We just wanted to say goodbye,” Ethan said with a smug grin on his face.
“Thanks for coming.” Jason extended his arm and shook Ethan’s hand. “And give that little bundle a kiss from her uncle Jase.”
Accepting this man as his sister’s husband had been an adjustment, one Jason was still making, considering Ethan had knocked up Sienna before anyone even knew they were together. They now had a baby girl named Lizzy, who Jason adored, and Ethan was a member of the family. More people for Jason to worry about. He watched them leave, acknowledging his sister was in good hands with the other man.
His gaze turned to his closest friends since their time together in college, now equal partners in Club TEN29. They stood huddled together around the bar with some of their repeat customers. Tanner Grayson was the night manager, and Landon Bennett was the head of Entertainment and Appearances, Brand Deals, and Promotions. After Landon’s twin died, he’d pulled into himself, while Tanner had spiraled, and it was only by sheer determination that he’d dragged himself out of the angry place he’d gone to and the trouble he’d gotten himself into.
Jason held the position of CEO. Together they were a solid mix of personalities and work ethic in a club that was merely two years old but becoming prominent in the night scene. They made sure Club TEN29 provided a memorable experience for everyone who stepped inside. There was no task too menial they wouldn’t handle personally if the need arose.
But Jason wanted more for their singular club. They had a stage on which customers danced but it wasn’t fully utilized, and although they’d put a lot of money into ads and promotions, they weren’t growing as fast as he would like. He just hadn’t figured out in which direction they needed to go in order to break out the way he wanted. Since Tanner and Landon thought things were fine as they were, Jason needed a fully fleshed-out plan before presenting it to them for a vote. Which was why he was meeting his cousin Gabe later on tonight. To hash out some ideas.
Gabriel Dare owned Elite, also a nightclub but one that operated on a scale Jason couldn’t imagine, one where people paid over five figures for a table and A-list celebrities visited often. They had clubs all over the world, including on the island of Eden, an exclusive invitation-only resort near the Bermuda Triangle.
He wanted to think things through before he met up with Gabe, and he couldn’t make decisions here, where the music blared and people partied. As much as Club TEN29 was home, Jason needed a break.
After clearing his departure with Tanner and Landon, Jason headed out into the cold air. He pulled his wool jacket around him and headed to his car. Despite it being impractical in the city, he liked having his Jag at his disposal.
Once he was enclosed in the luxurious interior and the heated seats and warmth began to surround him, he relaxed. He turned on some music and decided to drive around a little before heading to his cousin’s. This area of the city wasn’t the grid of ease that was Uptown Manhattan, and he wound his way through the smaller streets, taking in the shops that lined them.
Because it was cold, not many people were out, so when he came upon a lone van parked in front of a run-down apartment building, with two women standing alongside it, he slowed down. When one of the women bent over, her cute ass peeking out from beneath the edge of her down jacket, he noticed. And when she kicked what he realized was a flat tire in frustration, he came to a complete stop, then parked his car in front of hers.
As he climbed out and got a look at the curvy woman with waves of blonde hair, full lips, and a startled expression on her pretty face, currently clutching the lug wrench in her hand like a weapon, he realized his night was about to get much more interesting.
* * *
Faith Lancaster loaded the last of her marshmallow pops into the back of her company van, adjusting the baskets, taking care to space the items far enough apart that nothing would get ruined or crushed. She’d spent all day in her small apartment kitchen, making and wrapping her treats with the intention of dropping off baskets to nearby stores along with her business cards. She planned to request they leave them on the counter for their customers to sample, hoping to drive business to Sweet Treats, her candy store located off the beaten path.
Kelsey Johnson, the culinary school intern Faith had hired to help, joined her after working in the shop all day. Before she and Faith could climb into the car, Faith noticed her flat back tire and groaned.
The deflated tire mocked her and all the time she’d spent creating and preparing. Although she could have handed them out during the day, she’d ended up spending all afternoon cooking and creating, deciding to work from home instead of the shop, and now it was early evening. But she knew the area she wanted to hit up had open stores with people browsing for the evening. A used bookstore, a coffee shop, and a few other boutique-type stores that would hopefully help out a fellow business.
She should have known better than to drop a big chunk of change on an old beat-up delivery van with no known history, but desperation made a woman do stupid things. And Faith, although she’d come a long way, had been desperate when she’d arrived in Manhattan with a new name, a limited amount of funds, and a dream of opening her own candy shop.
She glared at the flat on the back tire, wondering why luck just wasn’t on her side. She’d had a rough go of it for a long time now, and she’d thought she was coming out on the other side at last. Now this.
“Kelsey, can you grab the lug wrench in the back? Just be careful not to knock over the candy. I’ll deal with checking out the spare once I see if I can even get the lug nuts off.” Assuming this old van even had a spare.
Kelsey, a pretty girl with brown hair and bangs, met Faith’s gaze, eyes wide. “You can change a tire?” the twenty-one-year-old asked.
Faith managed a laugh or else she might cry in frustration. “I’m going to try.”
When Faith was young, her dad, before abandoning Faith and her mother and older brother, had been a car fanatic. Always have a lug wrench in your car, baby girl. It’ll save you any time you have a flat. Not that a ten-year-old knew anything about changing tires, but Faith had hung on her daddy’s every word until one day he hadn’t come home. After that, Faith had given up on learning about cars, but she knew what she had to do from a class she’d taken in high school.
Accepting the lug wrench from Kelsey, she knelt down by the tire once more. When all her strength wouldn’t turn the nut and she tried all four of them, she groaned, rose to her feet, and kicked at the tire in annoyance.
“Pretty sure that won’t help,” Kelsey said, just as Faith muttered an obscene curse thanks to the pain shooting through her foot.
She was in so much agony, she barely registered the car stopping, then pulling into the open spot in front of her van until a large man approached them, making her aware they were two women alone on an empty street in the dark.
Using the wrench as her defense, she held it up in front of her. “Don’t come near us.”
“Relax.” He stepped to the side until he was underneath a streetlamp, the glow illuminating his features. “Do I look like a killer to you?”
She studied him, a handsome man with dark brown hair, in a wool coat with his tie visible. “Ted Bundy was handsome, too.”
He grinned and her heart skipped a beat. My God, he was good-looking. A dimple beside that amazing smile winked at her, and body parts she’d thought long dead came to life.
“Thank you … I think?” he said with a shake of his head. “Or not. Look, you obviously need help.” He strode past her, ignoring her weaponry, and knelt down by the tire. “What about roadside assistance? Did you call?”
She glanced at his obviously expensive coat, had noted his suit beneath and brand name shoes. “Umm, does this old hunk of junk look like it comes with roadside assistance?” She shot him a look of disbelief. “Some of us can’t afford luxuries and AAA is definitely a luxury.”
From somewhere behind her, Kelsey, who had been silent, laughed out loud.
When he didn’t immediately reply, Faith braced her hands on her hips and studied him, wondering why he’d stopped in the first place. “Listen, I appreciate the fact that you tried to help, but I’ll figure something out.”
He slowly rose to his feet. “Do you have a spare? You must if you were trying to take this one off.”
“I assume I do, underneath all the baskets I just loaded into the back.” She heard the frustration in her voice and fought back an inkling of defeat. She wasn’t going to fall apart over a flat tire and ruined plans.
“You assume?” He shook his head and strode around to the back end of the van, glancing inside and muttering a curse.
“There’s no obvious spare in here, so we’ll have to unload all this to see what’s underneath. What is all that anyway?” he asked.
“Interesting.” He raised his eyebrows, his gaze going from the sweet treats in the back to her face before he spoke. “Jason Dare,” he said, extending his hand.
“Faith Lancaster.” She placed her hand in his, and the heat of his skin sizzled against her palm.
“Nice to meet you, Faith.” He curled his fingers around hers and lingered longer than was necessary for a handshake. Long enough for her body to tingle with awareness before he released her.
“And this is my intern, Kelsey,” Faith said.
The other woman smiled at him but didn’t shake his hand.
“What do you do for a living?” Faith asked in a husky voice she barely recognized, …