JACE STONE CLIMBED off his motorcycle early Wednesday evening, pulled off his helmet, and raked a hand through his thick dark hair. He glanced up at the sign above the door to Jillian Braden’s dress shop, and a slow grin crept across his face. After years of perfecting their newest motorcycle designs, Jace and his business partner, Maddox Silver, were preparing to roll out their new Legacy line of motorcycles. Silver-Stone motorcycles were already among the most sought after in the world. The Legacy line would be the first to offer separate motorcycle designs for men and women and would secure their elite status in the industry. Jace had partnered with high-end fashion designer Jillian Braden in designing a clothing line called Leather and Lace to coincide with the launch of their new motorcycles. Today he was picking up the Leather and Lace designs, which would be featured in the Legacy calendar they were shooting next week in New York City.
The bell above the door chimed as he walked into the shop.
“Welcome to Jillian’s,” a cute blonde said from behind the register.
“There’s the hottest biker in all of Pleasant Hill,” Jillian called from the middle of the store, where she was fixing a dress on a mannequin.
The petite, burgundy-haired firecracker cruised toward him in a pair of spike heels and one of her slightly outlandish, though elegant creations. The slate-gray sleeveless minidress was ultra-short, with black trim along the hem, a crisscross skirt, and angular cutouts on the sides. The outfit left very little to the imagination, skirting a line Jace would never let any of his three younger sisters cross.
“I was sure you’d show up late given how much you drank last night,” she said teasingly. They had gone out to celebrate their success with Nick and Jax, two of Jillian’s brothers who were also Jace’s close friends. Nick was a freestyle horse trainer, and Jax was Jillian’s twin and a famous wedding dress designer.
Jace scoffed. “I’ve been drinking whiskey since before you were born.” At six five, with a body built for a fight, it would take a hell of a lot more than a few drinks to slow him down.
“Maybe if you had the right woman in your life you wouldn’t have to drink so often.” She nodded toward the front of the store and said, “Annabelle is single.”
“She’s also about twenty-two. Sorry, babe, but I’m not into cradle robbing or commitments.” Jace was in his late thirties and had spent the better part of his life creating his empire. He was used to women eyeing him like the little lady behind the register was right now, as if he were a piece of meat. Everyone wanted the big, tatted-up badass, and once they found out what he was worth, they wanted that, too. But if they knew his true penchant for leather and lace, for closing himself off emotionally, they’d probably run the other way. Most women were too meek for him anyway. They might be perfect for a night of meaningless sex, but nothing compared to soft, sexy curves and long, lean legs driven by a strong, confident woman who wasn’t afraid to give him hell when he deserved it—and play a little rough in the bedroom. A woman like that was one in a million, which was just fine with Jace. He was used to living life on his terms, and he wasn’t about to get strapped down by some needy chick.
“Guess that knocks me out of the running.” Jillian fluttered her lashes with the tease.
When Jillian was younger, she’d hit on him relentlessly. She was gorgeous, smart, and definitely strong-willed, but Jace wasn’t sexually attracted to her. In addition to their age difference, he’d known her for so long she was practically family, and despite her snarky innuendos and sexy dancing, she was a bit too refined and pure for his taste.
“You’re a smart, hot chick, Jilly. You’ll find the right man. You just might have to leave this town to do it.” He chuckled, thinking of her five brawny brothers hulking over any man who came near her.
“You’ve got that right.” She pushed through a door in the back of the shop and he followed her upstairs. “You saw how Nick acted last night. He was ready to tear apart the guys I danced with.”
“If those guys had gotten out of hand, I’d have done more than that,” Jace said with a serious glare.
“No wonder y’all are still single. I’ll tell Jayla she’s fighting an uphill battle,” Jillian said.
His youngest sister, Jayla, had been on a matchmaking mission ever since giving birth to her son, Thane, four months ago. She and her husband, Rush, were gaga over their precious little boy. Jace couldn’t deny that his adorable nephew made his insides turn to mush and his mind go down a path of wanting a kid of his own. But the minute he climbed on his motorcycle, that desire usually fell away with the rumble and roar of the engine and the freedom of the open road.
“Yes, please tell her it’s not only uphill but unwanted,” he said as he followed Jillian into her studio. Evening light spilled in through the windows along the far wall.
Jillian flipped on the lights, bringing the room to life. A drawing table littered with half-finished designs sat beneath the windows, and several other tables covered in fabrics and other fashion accouterments were set up around the room. Bright white walls boasted pictures of models wearing Jillian’s designs, and there were dozens of mannequins wearing outfits in various stages of completion.
“You know, it wouldn’t hurt if you wore a nice suit now and again,” Jillian said. “Not that you don’t look smokin’ in jeans, but you’re a billionaire. You should flaunt it. Women like classy men.”
That was funny coming from a woman who made seven figures and acted no different than she had when she’d first started out. “Can we skip the dating advice and get to the clothes?”
She waved to several racks on the right side of the room. “Voilà!”
He set his helmet on a table and headed over to check out the clothes.
“I had a fitting with Sahara two weeks ago,” Jillian said. “She looks positively gorgeous in everything.”
Sahara Xar was the model Jace had handpicked for the calendar shoot as the face of Silver-Stone Cycles. He wanted an authentic biker, someone who knew and lived the lifestyle, not a poser. And he wanted a fresh face, someone who wasn’t already on billboards or products representing other businesses. He’d searched for nearly a year, and Sahara was about as close to the real deal as he could get. She was an attorney, not a model, and had been referred by one of the models they hadn’t chosen. She had grown up in a biker family, although she no longer lived a biker lifestyle.
Jillian lifted a hanger from the rack and hung it on a hook on the wall, displaying the corset skater-style minidress they’d designed. A zipper ran down the middle of the bodice to the waistline of the short pleated skirt. There were triangular cutouts on both sides. The tips of the triangles started just above the ribs, and the bottom of the triangle met the top of the skirt. Strips of black lace fed through eyelets on either side of the cutouts to adjust the fit. All it would take was one tug of that zipper, and it would slip off a woman’s body and puddle at her feet. He’d seen the prototype outfits during the design process, but seeing them finished brought a new level of excitement.
“That’s fucking hot,” Jace said.
“Exactly the reaction we hoped for. I’m so thrilled with this line. I never thought biker attire could be classy, but we nailed this, Jace. There’s not an ounce of skank in any one of the outfits we designed. I’d proudly wear this line, and I couldn’t have come up with the concepts on my own. With your knowledge of the biker world and my creativity, we’re perfect partners.”
“Damn right.” He’d felt lucky when she’d agreed to partner with him, and he’d never had any regrets.
Jillian ran her fingers along the edge of a cutout and said, “Adding flex in the material along the eyelets allowed a skosh more room for in-between-sized women, and I think the slightly wider front panel will work beautifully for plus-sized customers. I’m confident that women of all sizes can comfortably and confidently wear this outfit.”
“Great, because real women have curves, and I happen to enjoy those curves, so the more women we can entice into our sexy clothes, the better.”
Jillian lifted a brow. “Does Jayla know you prefer curvy women?”
“Cut the shit, Jilly,” he warned.
“What? I’m just saying you have a type. That’s not a bad thing, but it explains a lot.” She narrowed her eyes again like she was calculating a complex equation.
“What does that mean?”
“It means every time we go out for drinks, women drool over you and you never go for it. Now I understand why. You’re picky.”
“Jesus,” he ground out. “Why did I partner with you again?”
“Because I’m awesome.” She flashed a cheesy grin. “Anyway, curve lover, let me show you the rest of the outfits for the calendar shoot.”
They looked over leather-studded hip huggers, strappy bralettes with lace overshirts, lingerie, bustiers, off-the-shoulder tops, long dresses with slits up the sides, and more, each one classier than the last. The vented jackets and warm-weather gear were just as sexy as the lingerie.
As they were making arrangements to ship the clothing to his loft in New York City, Jace’s phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket and saw Shea Steele’s name on the screen. Shea was the PR rep for Silver-Stone.
“It’s Shea. Excuse me for a sec.”
“Tell her I said hello,” Jillian said as he lifted the phone to his ear.
“Hi, Shea. I’m with Jilly. Everything’s all set for the shoot.”
“That’s great, but we have a problem,” Shea said. “Sahara is out. She fell down the courthouse steps. She broke her leg and her face is all scraped up.”
“Holy shit. Is she okay?”
“She’ll be fine, but she can’t do your shoot. I’m looking into other models, but so far the few other women you thought weren’t ‘all wrong’ are booked. I’ll keep looking, but, Jace, it took you almost a year to find Sahara. I know you’re picky, but you might have to lower your standards.”
“If one more person tells me I’m picky, I’m going to lose my mind.” He paced, irritation escalating his voice as his mind raced through what this meant for their marketing campaign. “This person will be the face of Silver-Stone. There’s no such thing as too picky.”
“I get it. I understand, but we’ve got six days, Jace. How about if we use Agatha Price? I called her booking agent and she’s in Hawaii, but she can be back for the shoot.” Agatha Price was one of the most sought-after female tattooed models in the industry.
“Of course. How about if we delay the shoot? You can still roll out your—”
“Hell no,” Jace snapped. “I’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandising locked in. This shoot has to happen on schedule. You were the one who convinced me that introducing the face of the company at the same time as we kick off the Legacy line was the only way to go.” He looked up at the ceiling, trying to calm the frustration mounting inside him.
“I still think it is—if we can pull it off. The more exposure the better,” Shea said. “Let me see what I can do, but we need a backup plan.”
“I don’t do backup plans. Call every modeling agency out there and tell them we need a strikingly beautiful, confident biker who has never done a large-scale modeling gig.”
“No impersonators. I know the deal, but as we talked about when we were looking for Sahara, you don’t really want a model, Jace. You want a biker who happens to be gorgeous and refined enough to be a model.”
“I’m on it,” Shea reassured him.
As Jace ended the call, he heard Jillian’s heels crossing the floor in his direction. If they didn’t find a replacement for Sahara, it would devastate Jillian, too. She’d worked her ass off on this project. He gritted his teeth as he pocketed the phone. Fuck.
He turned, seeing concern written all over her pretty face. “Yeah?”
“Did something happen to Sahara?”
“She fell and broke her leg. She’s going to be okay, but she can’t do the photo shoot.”
“That’s what I gathered from the things you said to Shea. I have a model you might want to check out. She’s exactly what you want—a confident, beautiful biker. She’s five nine and a little on the thin side, but she’s got curves in all the right places. I just made her a gorgeous dress for an event taking place this weekend. It would be easy to nip and tuck the outfits for her if she’s willing to do it. She’s only modeled once, and it was for me. She was in my fashion show when I launched my Multifarious line.”
“Who is she?”
Jillian handed him a picture. His heart nearly stopped as he took in the tall, tatted-up redhead he knew as a smart-mouthed, quick-witted badass—the only woman he’d ever had trouble shoving into the untouchable zone. The one and only Dixie Whiskey, and she was stunning. He literally had to keep his distance from her, because she was that intriguing. She was not a one-night-stand type of woman. She was the woman you put on the back of your bike and never let go. He’d never seen her made up like she was in the picture, with smoky eyes and perfectly styled hair. And wearing Jillian’s fancy clothes? Holy hell. She was pure perfection—and she was the younger sister of the fiercest bikers in all of Peaceful Harbor, Maryland, and the daughter of the president of the Dark Knights motorcycle club.
“Holy shit,” he said in awe.
“Dixie Whiskey,” Jillian said. “She’s incredible, but I’m not sure if she’d do it. I just remembered that after she did my fashion show, I fielded calls from industry professionals offering her insane amounts of money to model, and she had zero interest in any of them. You know the Whiskeys. Dixie’s not a model; she’s real, Jace.”
“But she modeled for you,” he pointed out. Dixie was the image he’d carried in his mind when he’d been looking for the face of Silver-Stone. If he’d known she modeled, he could have saved himself months of trouble.
“Because she owed me,” Jillian said.
Jillian’s brows knitted.
“Jillian, come on,” he demanded. “We need her. You know that. Why did she owe you?”
“God, you’re a pain. If you tell her brothers, I’ll slaughter you in your sleep.”
He stared at her and crossed his arms.
“Fine!” She huffed out a breath. “I hooked her up with a guy I know here in Pleasant Hill, and I’m pretty sure you’re not going to do that, so why does it matter?”
Damn right he wouldn’t do that.
“I probably shouldn’t have suggested it,” she said. “I’m sorry. It was a dumb idea. Now that I’m thinking it through, there’s no way you’ll get her.”
He shoved the picture in his shirt pocket, grabbed his helmet, and said, “Watch me.”
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