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Dark & Dazzling (Sassy Boyz #2)
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Z doesn’t need a hero…
Azariah “Z” Hayes is a diamond. Equal parts strength and sparkle, he’s more than capable of standing on his own stilettos. So if waiting tables and stripping at The Vibe are what it takes to keep a roof over his head, well, there are worse ways to earn a living.
Connelly is a white knight with a badge…
For NYPD detective Connelly Reid, to serve and protect is just another day at the office—even if that means protecting himself from his own true desires. He’s been curious about Z, his waiter, for months, but it’s not until he sees him in his makeup and heels that the curiosity becomes a fierce attraction. Z, despite all his over-the-top dazzle, might just be the man Connelly has been waiting for his entire life.
But when Connelly investigates underground porn and drug activity with ties to The Vibe, one thing becomes very clear—acting on what he knows is going to hurt Z, financially and emotionally. And though Connelly would love nothing more than to fix all of Z’s problems, no amount of mind-blowing sex can make Z comfortable becoming dependent on his lover. Yet if there’s one thing Connelly knows from his years on the force, it’s this: when things go bad, you need a trusted partner to have your back.
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His phone rang. Connelly didn’t bother glancing at the screen to check who was calling. It could only be one person.
“Hi, Janie,” he said. “What’s the problem now?”
“I don’t know. I think there’s something wrong with the water heater. We can’t get any hot water in the shower.” Even though his sister’s tone was apologetic, it was also tinged with frustration. She’d break down soon if he didn’t help her out. Janie wasn’t good with stress. Or adult responsibility beyond the day-to-day care of her two boys.
He stopped midstride, pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. The last thing he needed was to spend the rest of his afternoon fixing her problems—plural—because he knew there’d be more once he got out there.
It had already been a tough day. He and Raoul had finally closed the robbery case they’d been working for weeks, but it had come at a cost. The thug they’d been chasing had stabbed a tourist in the stomach. The guy was in the ICU getting prepped for surgery now. Plus, they’d been assigned to an ongoing burglary case because Martin and Hopkins were getting nowhere, which put a shitload of tension between them. Of course they didn’t think they needed help and resented the captain’s orders.
He didn’t want to think about all the other cases piling up on his desk while he tried to tiptoe around their bruised egos. It’d been a shit day, plain and simple.
Connelly just wanted lunch. Was that too much to ask? The busy sounds of the city swirled around him like the chaotic symphony that it was. Car horns blaring, people shouting and sirens ringing in the distance. If he listened hard enough he could probably make out the low rumble of the subway. Maybe that was his stomach. He’d been headed to his favorite diner but it looked like that was out of the question now.
He turned on his heels ready to head back to his car. “I’ll—” He barely kept a grip on his phone as he collided with something solid.
Without thinking Connelly flung his arm out and wrapped it around the slim woman who was seconds away from falling. A breath later that body didn’t seem so slim—it was lithe and firm and solid against his own. He looked down into startled eyes framed by the thickest lashes he’d ever seen. Jesus, he’d never been into women but this lady was gorgeous.
His lips parted on a breath. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t see you.”
Something nagged at the back of Connelly’s mind even as the stranger’s lush mouth thinned into an irritated frown.
“You can let me go now,” she said.
That voice. There was something about that voice. It shivered down Connelly’s spine in a way that had his grip around her waist tightening instead of releasing.
“Don’t make me knee you in the balls, Hot Fudge.”
It wasn’t unusual to meet a woman who cursed like a sailor, not in New York City, but what was with the nickname?
Something didn’t sit right.
All his detective warning bells went off as he let the stranger go. Absently, he pushed End on his phone screen and shoved it in his pocket.
He studied the woman as he stepped away. She was about five foot six, wearing purple knee-high boots, tight-as-sin jeans and a loose black T-shirt with glittering ruby-red lips on the front. It was loose enough that it hung off one shoulder to reveal smooth pale skin. But, as provocative as the outfit was, it was the silky long black hair, thick lashes and deep red lipstick that confused the shit out of Connelly.
Because he could have sworn he knew that voice.
“Are you okay?” Connelly asked.
She searched the ground as the crowd parted around them, and didn’t bother looking up to reply. “No thanks to you.”
“Do I know you?”
She glanced up with a scowl. “Maybe.” Those painted lips transformed into a condescending smirk. A second later, the search continued and those dark eyes were refocused.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
The stranger picked up a cell phone from the gravelly sidewalk. “Thank fuck.” The sigh of relief tickled more than Connelly’s oversensitive nerves and for a moment he couldn’t blink.
“Azariah?” No. It couldn’t be…could it?
The waiter. His waiter.
He didn’t look familiar at all. Instead he looked…wicked. Tempting.
Something must have given his secret thoughts away because those luscious lips tipped up in a wry smile that lit Connelly up like a torch soaked in gasoline.
“What’s wrong, Hot Fudge, choke on your own tongue?” His sinful laugh was full of amusement and a little grit, but mostly scorn.
This was a rock star—full impact, aggressive and beautiful. There wasn’t anything average about him now. For a guy who claimed to be great at his job, Connelly was having a difficult time merging the two versions. They didn’t fit and it was disturbing his need for everything to make sense.