Authors: Serena Simpson
Love Me Harder #2
I want to say thank you to Lori who is both editor and beta reader to me. She put up with me asking ‘Do you really like it? What about this part?’ As always her friendship amazes me. I also want to say thank you to my daughter who put up with ‘Just one more chapter and then we can do that.’ Her patience with me and her faith and confidence in me kept me going.
Copyright © March 2015, Serena Simpson
All rights reserved
Cover Art by
Edited by Lori Merlotti
Niko is a work of art and the characters, events and dialogue found within the story are the author’s imagination and shouldn’t be taken as real. Any resemblance to event or people living or dead is totally a coincidence.
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He’d tortured her. Not on the outside, she could’ve handled that. It wouldn’t have been the first time she’d been hit or kicked or well other things.
No, he’d messed with her mind. She had nightmares seeing his fangs hanging, feeling his hot breath on her neck. The more she bottled them up, the worse they became.
She was becoming scared that someone might commit her. That someone of course was Rena, her best friend. She tried to avoid her nowadays. It was better for both of them this way.
She flipped the covers off, getting up. The pretense of sleep was long gone. She slipped on her work clothes and went out. It was only four a.m., but she would spend the rest of the night walking around the dark streets.
After what she’d been through, the streets no longer scared her. She knew that there were real monsters out there and they only looked like men.
She felt the hair on her neck vibrate. He was following her again. She knew if she looked over her shoulder, there would be no one there. There had been no one there for months, but he was there somewhere.
She refused to say his name, as if saying it would make him appear. SB it was, it was the local twenty-four hour coffee shop, and it was also her little slice of comfort complete with great coffee. If she was inside, he would protect her from the outside. If she chose to walk, he would be so close she could touch him, even though she couldn’t see him.
She shook her head. These were the things she couldn’t tell anyone. They sounded insane. She was scared to even tell Rena and she told Rena almost everything they had been best friends forever.
She walked into SB, smiling at the two familiar faces. They were there most nights when she came in. One was a writer she knew, because they had talked several times. She said she got some of her best writing done at night.
The other was a friendly, elderly gentleman. His wife had passed a couple of months ago and nights were the hardest for him. The bed was too empty he would say.
She went up and greeted Jim, the barista. He was a twenty something college student who was working his way through. He was smart and nice. She always enjoyed talking to him.
“What brings you back, Dee?”
He’d called her Mam more than once when they first met. She’d found it imperative to make him stop that. He was making her feel old. When had thirty-one become old? She’d finally convinced him to call her Dee.
“I couldn’t sleep again.” She looked into his bright sky blue eyes. He made her feel like she was outside. His dirty blonde hair fell into his face. If she was five years younger with more patience she would be all over him.
Now all she thought about was a cup of coffee and sleep that didn’t scare her.
“Yes. Wait. No. Give me a pastry too, that one, the chocolate one that looks like pure sin.”
She took her glorified coffee drink and her pastry and found a nice stuffed chair to sit in. She set the pastry down and looked at it.
She could almost see her mother’s disapproving face. ‘Dee.’ Her mother would say. ‘Remember, you have to keep your body slender. How else will you get a man?’
She would love to tell her mom about slender bodies and men, but her mom was no longer with her. She’d learned the hard way that having a man wasn’t always what it was cracked up to be.
Dee picked up the pastry and sunk her teeth into it. Damn it was good. Maybe she would just eat and eat until the opposite sex never looked at her again. She was okay with being the local cat woman.
She turned to the window and licked her lips, taunting without remorse the imaginary male watching her.
When the pastry was gone and the coffee had warmed her insides, she slumped back in the chair. She wrapped the handle of the purse around her arm and then stuck the rest under her ass.
Yes, she was paranoid. She deserved to be after all that had happened to her. Then she closed her eyes, hoping she might cat nap for the next two hours.
She got some sleep, waking at the occasional noise. Once she swore her invisible body guard was standing over her. She felt a warm sensation. It made her tired and she slipped off to sleep.
When she woke, four hours had passed. It was the most sleep she’d gotten since the kidnapping. She almost felt human. She got up and stretched. Jim was gone and the new day was in full swing.
She shivered as she thought of how she’d been taken as bait to capture Rena. They had both made it out alive, but she would never be the same again.
She needed to go. She was already late. She worked for Aran’s Dare. They were a large security company with contracts all over the world. She’d always wondered how a security company became that big.
She knew from her best friend, who happened to be living with the big guy himself, that they had government and military contracts. Wow, she had no idea when she got the job.
She waved to security when she walked in. She was an accountant. Yeah, mom, I can take care of myself. They actually paid good wages here. They could afford to. She knew, since she did the books. They actually hired several accountants. They were that vast.
“Dee. How are you?” Cheryl one of the secretaries called out to her.
She changed course to stop and talk for a minute. “Doing good, but as you can see, I’m late.”
“Hun, you look like you slept in that outfit.”
“That’s because I did. See you later.”
Anyone who knew her knew she wasn’t the same anymore. There was a time when she wouldn’t have been caught in anything but the finest, sharpest clothes. Now she really didn’t care.
She still cared about herself, barely, but she didn’t care about the outer trappings of clothes and even hair. Her extensions were gone, nothing but tracks anyway.
She now wore her long, but way too fine hair straight. It was funny how different it made her look. She was still attractive, but not really cover girl model material anymore.
The smell of donuts stopped her march towards her desk. Her stomach rumbled. She’d just eaten that pastry five hours ago. Her stomach protested and before that you ate three days ago.
Oops she’d forgotten that. So much for sticking it to her mom. She went over and picked up a nice big fluffy donut and grabbed another cup of coffee. Coffee was appropriate at all times as far as she was concerned.
Finally, she was at her desk. Maybe her boss wouldn’t notice she was late. He would notice. The man noticed everything. Taking another bite of her donut she logged into her computer and hit the net.
She wanted to start by looking at the bank account. Although the money in there wasn’t hers, now that Rena was tied to it by the owner, she wanted to make sure none of it was missing.
She’d noticed a month ago that money seemed to be rerouted. Not only was she not a thief, she didn’t want one on her shift. She had gone and told Vance, who was head of the department.
Many times the brothers headed each department personally, but they had brought in managers not too long ago, because of things that had happened. She wasn’t sure that she trusted Vance. Then again she was justifiably paranoid. She did try and remember that.
She’d informed Vance of the suspected missing funds. Fortunately it wasn’t from the job sites she was responsible for.
She started with checking the balance. They had such a healthy bank account in this economy that hundreds of thousands of dollars could go missing with no one except the accountant, being any wiser.
She checked the beginning balance with the ending balance last night. She looked at every withdrawal and deposit. Money was still being directed elsewhere. There were two withdrawals that she couldn’t account for, again neither in her particular job sites.
Did she bring them to Vance’s attention again or leave well enough alone? The question became a moot point when Niko walked in.
Niko was one of Aran’s brothers, or at least they called themselves brothers. None of them looked alike. Maybe they had different mothers. They all shared a last name.
Ironically, it was Dare. Niko Dare. The man who haunted her dreams when the nightmares gave her a few minutes of peace. She’d dreamed of him as she slept in SB’s earlier. He’d stood over her and sang her to sleep in a language she’d never heard before.
Niko knew she was there. He always knew where she was. A bonding of sorts had occurred. It wasn’t permanent, unless he wanted it to be. He would have time to decide that, but for now he was aware of her.
She may be going crazy, he’d considered that possibility many times. If so, he was going with her. He waited for her at night, knowing she couldn’t sleep, knowing the dreams and the terrors she envisioned would drive her to leave her house.
Horror drove her, and she drove him. He waited by her door invisible, unseen to the world, but not to her.
Her physical eyes never saw him, but she knew he was there. She knew his M.O. She knew it was him and not some random stranger. At first she’d freaked. He’d thought she would have to be sedated. No, not his female. She’d taken herself in hand.
She’d forced herself to breathe slowly, calm down. That had been the first day, when she’d constantly looked over her shoulder and questioned her sanity.
They were past the first day now. She looked for him, expected him to be there. She walked the night street with a bolder step than before. She knew nothing would dare touch her.
He allowed his lips to twitch. He wanted to protect her. The twitch became a cynical smile as he thought of all the other things he wanted to do to her. None of them had anything to do with protection.
The feel of her eyes on him had his heart racing. Well, it would be racing if he were human. Since he was other he was able to control the beat, even under extreme distress. He qualified this as extreme distress.
“Mr. Dare? I was talking about the supposed missing money.” Vance said.
Supposed missing money? He kept an eye on all the money. Vance was under the impression that he was the head of the department, the top accountant who they trusted to make sure they were financially secure.
It furthered Nikos plans to allow him to think that. He was well aware of the missing funds, but found it odd that Vance had yet to raise the alarm.
“How much is missing?”
“I’m not sure any is missing yet. I’m investigating. If there is a breach, you may be missing as much as one hundred thousand dollars.”
He allowed his eyes to widen and his mouth to drop in a little bit of an O. Try four hundred thousand dollars, precisely. That’s what they were missing.
“Who spotted the discrepancy?”
“One of our junior accountants.”
Niko raised a brow and said nothing. He’d hired no junior accountants. They were all at the top of their game. That’s why he hired them.
Vance pulled at his collar and lowered his eyes under Nikos stare. “Dee Jones informed me that there may be a problem.”
“Does she work with the particular accounts in question?”
Niko hadn’t taken this conversation into the director’s office, he kept him standing in front of his peers like a naughty child.
Niko knew what was happening in his offices and the director was beginning to enjoy his power of what he thought of as his people too much. Keeping him standing and sweating, allowed him to reevaluate the man while keeping an eye on Dee.
He raked his eyes over her lithe frame. She stood no more than five six, short compared to him. He liked the way she fit against his body, the few times he had a chance to hold her. She had dark chocolate skin and dark brown eyes with hints of green in them.
His gaze lingered on her breasts. They weren’t big, but fortunately for him, not small either. She had bow shaped lips that held a tinge of red lipstick on them. He liked what he saw and his body liked it also.
He changed his stance slightly, to keep the evidence of that out of sight. She looked at him and flushed. He smiled back at her, letting his eyes darken for a moment. Her face flushed with heat, before she looked away.