❃Title: Finding Alexei ❃
❃Author: Kendall Ryan❃
Spotting a hooker on a city street corner isn’t an abnormal thing.
Me bringing one home? Well, that’s a first.
But this girl . . . she’s in trouble. And the guy she’s talking to isn’t someone she wants to go home with.
So I do the exact thing I shouldn’t—I offer to bring her home with me instead.
She says this is the first time she’s ever done this, which is adorably ironic. Then she proceeds to tell me a sob story about needing money to care for the baby who was left on her doorstep. That’s when my stomach starts to clench. I think she may be telling the truth.
So I do what any respectable man would do. I take her home, stopping to pick up diapers and formula on the way, and discover that she was telling the truth all along.
Christ on a cracker.
I should have just kept walking.
I should have done a thousand other things except for barge into her sad life, offer to fix everything, fall for her . . .
Coming Out January 7, 2019
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She’s petite yet curvy with a nice ass and beautiful tits. But that’s not the first thing I notice about her.
The first thing that strikes me is that her coat isn’t warm enough for a Chicago winter.
It’s dark out, and barely above freezing. She’s standing on a street corner discussing something with a man in hushed tones, waving her hands dramatically as she speaks. It’s nearly midnight, and the street is almost deserted.
She has long dark hair, a trim build, and a full pouty mouth. And she seems to be pissed off. Curious about her, I stalk closer and then slow my pace.
“Fine. Tell me what it’ll take, sweetheart,” the guy says to her.
She stiffens and puts one hand on her hip. “I’m not for sale, asshole. I did my job, but that’s it. When you step outside those doors, the fantasy ends.”
They’re standing outside a dingy club, the kind of place that smells of rancid smoke, cheap beer, and meaningless sex. I should know. I’ve been here once or twice for bachelor parties and those kinds of things. My friends would call it a titty bar. But my friends are mostly pro football players, and their manners leave a lot to be desired.
The place isn’t really a strip club, more like a topless bar where beautiful women serve drinks in their underwear. It all seemed innocent enough, until now . . . until a sinking feeling washes over me as I watch this woman get propositioned in the street as she’s trying to leave work.
The guy laughs, the sound abrasive, like he doesn’t believe her. “Three hundred bucks. Come on, baby. It’ll be fast.”
She chews on one of those pouty lips as she weighs his words, contemplating what looks to be a life-changing decision . . . and not life-changing in a positive way.
Don’t do it, lady . . . just say no to what this asshole is offering you.
Part of me knows I need to mind my own damn business, that this guy just wants a quick fuck. Who am I to judge how this woman chooses to support herself? The other part of me—the fierce protector of the female gender—says this is a situation that I can’t ignore. I won’t allow this asshole to force a woman to do something she’s not comfortable with.
I walk over, my legs moving of their own volition.
“Excuse me,” I say, interrupting them.
Her gaze swings over to mine, and the guy she’s with does a double-take. I tower over him by at least half a foot. Now that I have a better look at him, I see the guy is middle-aged, round in the midsection, his hair graying at his temples. I also know I can take him if it comes to that.
He shoots me a look that’s half pissed off that I interrupted his bargaining session, and half panicked that I may kick his ass. The latter is definitely what he should be more concerned about if he tries any shit. I may just decide to do it anyway, despite the fact I just promised my agent I’ll behave myself and not end up on any more tabloid news sites.
“The lady said to leave her alone. I suggest you get the fuck out of here.” I glare down at the guy.
His eyes narrow, but he takes a step back and holds up his palms. “Fine. Going.”
He takes off down the street and disappears around the corner, leaving me standing across from the woman. She’s probably no more than five foot three, a hundred twenty pounds soaking wet. No way she could have defended herself against someone his size. More importantly, she shouldn’t have to defend herself from that prick.
“Were you really going to go home with that guy?”
She shakes her head. “No. He didn’t want to take me home. Just wanted me to show him my boobs and have me give him a hand job in the back seat of his car. He may or may not have mentioned something about finishing himself off on my breasts too.”
I wait to see if she’s joking, but sadly, I can tell what she’s saying is the truth.
Then she looks at me, with the prettiest shade of blue eyes I’ve ever seen, and my heart almost stops. “For the record—guys are gross.”
I chuckle at her surprising honesty. “Not denying that.”
Men can be real creeps. I’ve seen the evening news. Sadly, there’s just no arguing against her logic. Some of us are still good guys, but I don’t say this to her. I just let her believe what she wants.
“I’m Alexei,” I say, offering her my hand.
For a second, she just looks at my hand, and I don’t think she’s going to take it. But then finally, after deciding that she can trust me, at least for something as simple as a handshake, she places her small palm in mine and shakes my hand. She’s freezing.
“I’m Ryleigh. Thanks for, um . . . saving me.”
I haven’t done anything yet. I wanted to punch that guy in the fucking jaw when I heard him propositioning her. Instead, I let him walk away unscathed. Lucky prick.
“Do you work here?” I lift my gaze to the neon sign blazing above our heads in the darkness. I scrub a hand over my face as I picture the petite woman standing before me scantily clad and serving drinks to a group of horny men with grabby hands and fat wallets.
“You a stripper, then?” I ask.
Ryleigh makes an annoyed sound in her throat. “It’s a topless bar. I’m not a stripper.”
I knew as much, but part of me didn’t want to admit I’ve been a customer at the place. It’s not exactly a classy establishment. “But you serve drinks in your underwear.”
“As I said, men are gross. Sadly, they also pay my bills.”
I chuckle, again surprised by her. “I’m not denying it. And not that you asked for it, but in my point of view, men are visual creatures. And women are beautiful. We enjoy seeing them any chance we can get.”
She merely rolls her eyes, clearly not buying my bullshit. “Listen, as nice as it is to freeze my lady balls off and stand out here talking to you, I need to find a way to get home.”
“Where’s your ride? I can wait with you.” The words just stumbling out of my mouth before I can think about it.
“My car’s in the shop, and my friend bailed on giving me a ride.”
I nod, processing everything. Something also tells me she needs that three hundred bucks the guy was offering her. I take a deep breath, weighing my options. It’s either go home alone to my $6 million penthouse and lie awake wondering if she’s okay . . . or drive her home myself and convince her to just take the money I have in my wallet. It’s not like I need it.
As tired as I was walking out of my dinner meeting with Slate, now I’m way too keyed up for sleep. It’s then that I realize going home alone would be pointless.
“Is that what you needed the money for? Your car?”
Her inquisitive blue gaze meets mine, and for a second, I think she’s going to deny that she needs the money. She’ll probably try to save face by telling me I read the situation wrong, and she was never actually entertaining that scumbag’s offer.
Instead, she surprises me for the third time in five minutes.
“No. Well, yes. But not tonight. My immediate concern is getting home and taking care of my roommate’s baby.”
“Baby?” I ask, lifting one eyebrow.
She nods, tucking a long strand of silky brown hair behind her ear. “My ex-roommate, actually. She, um, dropped off her baby a few days ago and left. I have no idea when she’s coming back. I need to pick up diapers, more clothes, and baby formula. All of that stuff costs money.” Ryleigh straightens, her posture stiffening, like she’s revealed too much. “You know what, don’t worry about it. I’ll figure it out. I always do.”
“Where’s the baby now?” It’s after midnight, after all. But no matter how late it is, I’m not letting her walk away just yet.
“My neighbor is babysitting her so I could work.”
Something inside me believes Ryleigh’s telling the truth. Even though the last thing I want to do tonight is deal with a sad woman who has what sounds like more drama than an episode of Law & Order, with an even more unusual twist of playing nanny for someone’s baby, I find myself gesturing toward my car. My black Mercedes is parked right across the street.
“I’ll take you.”
She narrows her eyes. “I don’t even know who you are. Why would I trust you?”
I don’t point out that she was just considering getting into the car of a complete stranger. Or that she was considering doing unsavory activities with said stranger. I could tell her it’s because I grew up with three sisters, and I have a big heart. I could tell her that I have six nieces and nephews, that I’m good with babies. I could even hand her my business card and tell her she could ruin me with one call to the media about how I tried to pick her up outside a nightclub. But I don’t say any of those things. Instead, I find myself wanting her to trust me on instinct alone.
I finally settle on, “Because I’m offering to help you. No strings.”
“No strings, as in I don’t have to show you my boobs?”
I almost choke on the laugh that crawls up my chest. “Only if you want to, but remember . . . we men are visual creatures.” I offer her my best playboy smirk, the one that usually makes women swoon, only to find it has no effect on Ryleigh.
Maybe it’s because she doesn’t know who I am, but she treats me differently than the women I usually meet, as if I’m a regular guy and not a famous millionaire sports star who easily melts women with simply a smile.
Ryleigh has no idea that I’m Alex Ivan, pro football player for the Chicago Hawks. She doesn’t swoon and bat her eyelashes or try to impress me. In fact, she doesn’t follow any of the normal protocols. Clearly, she’s not a gold digger, because if she were, she could talk me out of way more than three hundred bucks. An even bigger part of me knows I could add several zeroes behind that figure, and she’d need every damn dime.
“Fine. I’ll take the ride. But it’s going to be a hard pass on the boobs.”
“Whatever you want.”
The truth is, she’s gorgeous, and if she wanted to share her body with me, I’d jump at the fucking chance. But something about her no-nonsense demeanor tells me that’s not going to happen, which is probably for the best. I don’t have time to get tangled up in something right now, anyway. I have to focus on myself and my career now more than ever.
After another moment’s hesitation, Ryleigh looks back at the club one last time, and then to my car. I can see the moment she makes up her mind, letting out a soft sigh.
“Don’t make me regret this,” she mutters under her breath before she follows me to my car.
I hit the button on the key fob to start the engine, then unlock the doors. When we slide inside, I turn up the heat and direct the vents toward her.
“Thank you,” she says, buckling her seat belt. “Nice car.” Her gaze lingers on the sleek wood paneling, supple leather, and chrome fixtures.
“Thanks,” I murmur, suddenly feeling a little sheepish about the opulence of my luxury sedan while she has to consider back-alley propositions just to feed her baby. No, not her baby, her ex-roommate’s baby, which makes this entire situation even crazier. I shift into drive and pull out onto the road. “So, where to?”
“Oh, right.” Ryleigh rattles off her address, and I wince.
❃About The Author❃
A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of more than two dozen titles, Kendall Ryan has sold over 2 million books and her books have been translated into several languages in countries around the world.
Her books have also appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists more than three dozen times. Ryan has been featured in such publications as USA Today, Newsweek, and InTouch Magazine.
She lives in Texas with her husband and two sons.