Naughty by Nature, Book 1
Sasha’s sparkly purple combat boots kicked up a speckled film of grit as she strode toward the goatee-sporting hulk standing between her and her plans for the evening. The sheep in wolf’s clothing greeted her with a whistle and a smile.
“Hey, girl! Missed you this week.”
“Work.” The all-encompassing one-word explanation covered a range of social sins. She stretched up to plant a quick kiss on the bouncer’s cheek.
He blushed but didn’t uncross his arms. “Glad you’re back.”
“Ha! Like I’d miss Schlong.” Sasha’s presence on the local punk and grunge scene for years had generated roots to build her own kind of home. Though she’d never touched an instrument, she defined a segment of the Seattle music culture that ranged from rare to nonexistent beyond its borders. The bartender waved her over and slid her a Rolling Rock.
She leaned back against the bar and surveyed the room. The opening band riffed through the middle of their encore. She knew most of the people in front of the stage. The beat didn’t appeal enough to have her on the floor yet.
“Who’s the new guy?” Sasha gestured through the dim lighting at a tall man leaning against the back wall of the blacked out interior of the club. Even though he wore spiked dark blond hair, a motorcycle jacket, Levi’s, and army-style combat boots, he could have just stepped out of a store. The only part of his outfit that was broken in were the jeans. No creases marked the elbows of the black leather sleeves, and his shoes looked shiny enough to rub blisters.
She rolled her eyes at her bartender and long-time friend. Jim knew her better than she was willing to admit. “I didn’t say that.”
She didn’t have to. She considered most of the guys in the club friends. The few she’d shared any romantic interest with had resulted in brief relationships that had quickly run their course. Going outside of their community had led to some colorful one-night stands, but nothing there held her interest beyond surface attraction. She’d had enough of material trappings when she was growing up and didn’t feel the need to experience them again.
Left with a shrinking handful of fuckbuddies who hadn’t hooked up with actual girlfriends, Sasha drew a firm line against monogamy. She had lived surrounded with too many marital implosions to even consider it as an option for herself. To her, the L-word was laughable.
“Mr. Mohawk didn’t hold your attention?”
The last guy she’d gone home with had turned out to be more than a little mentally unstable, which fell far below her standards for a night of hot sex. Dealing with potential psychos was something she tried to avoid. Like she needed to encourage an unbalanced guy with stalking potential. No, thank you.
“Mr. Mohawk was Mr. Militia in disguise.” Sasha scrunched her face and stuck out her pierced tongue.
“Good call, ditching his ass. If you would pay more attention to begin with…hang on.” He popped the top off a bottle of beer for someone at the other end of the bar then returned.
“Could you not lecture me now? You’re starting to ruin my excellent mood.” Sasha did snarky better than anyone.
“You mean stop telling you how you’re fucking up by picking guys who are hot instead of guys who are good for you?”
Sasha slammed her beer down on the bar. “Dammit, Jim. My criteria has more depth than that.”
“Not to an outsider.” He held up a finger then opened a beer for another customer.
She verbally stabbed him when he returned. “You should know me better than that!”
“I do, but to the average club-hopper, you look like a pretty-boy cock-hopper.”
She smirked in appreciation. “I am a cock-hopper, but I’m a cock-hopper with standards.” Sasha collected one-night stands the way some people collected coins: in a discriminating manner. Whereas those connoisseurs clasped the physical evidence closely to their hearts, she savored the memories in her mind alone. Curiosity had served her well in the past, and she saw no reason to suppress her instincts.
“So, back to the new guy.”
Jim sighed. “He came last night. Didn’t say much. Mostly hung in the background, but he seemed into the music.”
“Thanks.” Always willing to talk to a fellow music-lover, Sasha would verbally engage with strangers—at least until she determined their taste was lacking or, in other words, not as discriminating as hers. However, she conceded that a band like Schlong who recorded a punk version of the West Side Story soundtrack required a certain level of sophistication, which only made her love them more.
She sent Jim a sideways glance. “I’ll be back.”
“I’m Sasha.” The perky voice came from his right.
Of course she was. A woman who looked like that couldn’t not have an exotic name. Shorter than him with hazel eyes rimmed in onyx, she stared up from under a shaggy mop of blue-black hair. Small silver hoop earrings spanned the edge of her left ear from lobe to tip. Her off-the-shoulder black knit top showcased tattoos covering the length of her right arm. Black skinny jeans disappeared into her scuffed Doc Marten boots—the fashion version of what he purchased at the Army Surplus store. Her vibrant red lips practically begged him to nip at them, and his pulse thrummed with a mix of testosterone and adrenaline.
“I’m Avery.” He wondered how he missed the woman as she approached him.
She studied his eyes. “You like punk?”
“Usually. I’ve never heard Schlong, but the club’s website said it was a bucket-list band.”
“Most of the shows here are memorable, but they’re one of my favorites.”
“Why?” A geek in a wanna-be modern James Dean facade, it was his favorite question.
“Hmmm. Their music is sort of like a punk-funk mix, plus the band really interacts with the crowd. The energy is infectious and great to dance to, but it’s not your typical mosh pit. It’s,” she paused, “happier.”
Avery hadn’t been able to hide his widening eyes at the term “mosh pit”—the white water rapids in a river of dancing bodies could suck you under and leave you fighting your way out of the turbulence. He had never been in one but with stories of lost footwear and bloodied noses, so the concept of a “happy” mosh pit lay beyond his comprehension.
The opening band had finished their set and was breaking down their gear. The countdown clock ticked on their conversation time.
Sasha continued, “Where are you from?”
“Not so far away.”
“Oh. Scratch that.”
“Technically, an hour outside of Portland.” Where he had been the biggest fish in their tiny pond of bad boys. And had absolutely nothing on the people in Seattle, including the woman beside him.
“What’s it like?”
“Cold. Very cold. I was thrilled to move here for the rain.”
“You have no idea. I would rather spend the rest of my life wet and in above freezing temperatures than to shovel snow one more winter.”
“I can’t imagine. This is the first place I’ve lived that didn’t have bikini weather. But I love it. The people are so real and accepting.”
Avery nodded politely since he hadn’t been in town long enough to tell.
Sasha tilted her head. “I think I might like you.” She reached up on her toes, gave him a peck on the lips, and traipsed off toward the stage where Schlong tuned their guitars and tested their bass and drums.
Avery stood lost in a fog of confusion with his mouth gaping. As he recovered, he busied himself peeling the label off his beer. He had hoped to get his nerve up to speak to someone tonight. Maybe even to make a friend or an acquaintance. If nothing else, he would enjoy the music. If he successfully channeled his inner bad boy, he might nurture the possibility of taking a turn through the “happy” mosh pit later. There wasn’t enough of a punk culture back home to justify most bands even stopping through. After all, Portland didn’t fall along the tour route unless you played Montreal, and even then the city was too small and too far out of the way to attract musicians.
When he relocated to Seattle, he’d planned to take advantage of the music scene he missed in high school and didn’t have time for in college. What he didn’t know, and didn’t know how to figure out, was what to do about a woman like Sasha. Or if he even wanted to. Sure, she captured his interest, and she exuded fun. But if he was so out of practice he was afraid to even speak to people, how could he manage a woman that vibrant and outgoing? He didn’t know how he felt about her handling him. In over his head on all fronts, he did what he came to do: enjoy the music.
* * * *
Sasha danced with abandon in a sort of mixed pogo-stick, booty-shaking mash-up that suited the music she loved. Surrounded by tons of bodies doing the same, she embraced a surge of freedom and joy as the live music infused her. The beat throbbed in her solar plexus and in her limbs. Eyes closed, she absorbed the sound and vibrated in sync with the friends and acquaintances around her.
Seattle didn’t allow smoking in clubs, and she never failed to appreciate it. At twenty-six, she wasn’t as young as she used to be. The cardio workout made her savor the available oxygen, even though the room reeked of sweat and leather. When she had smoked in college, she had needed to dance with one arm holding her cigarette straight up in the air. Awkward, to say the least. Hard to smoke that way too, but with a cluster of bodies bouncing around, it was better than burning someone or getting burned.
The music stopped for the lead singer to rant about how thrilled the band was to be back in Seattle. The words were sincere, but really, what punk band wouldn’t be happy to be there? Sasha cheered on cue with the audience.
Schlong started a fast song, and the crowd reacted in kind. A mosh pit spontaneously generated, with bodies pushing and shoving as they wound through each other like snakes in a basket. Once its rhythm steadied, Sasha took a turn through it from one side to the other and back. One of the few women brave enough to enter the almost exclusively male domain, the energetic experience intensified her knowledge that she was tough enough to do what many of the men at the club didn’t dare.
When the band went on break, Jim passed her a bottle of water over the crowd three people deep. Taking a deep gulp, she turned and spied Avery. He remained propped against the wall. His blue eyes tracked from the stage to the floor to the bar then finally to her. They reflected an innocence that struck a chord within her. He didn’t fit in, but her gut told her he easily could. Curiosity drove her to explore the dichotomy. It may have killed the cat, but she wore an air of invincibility as she approached him.
“What do you think?” she blurted.
He tilted his head down and scraped at the label on his beer.
Sasha waited, panting heavily, her cheeks hurting from her irrepressible smile. She wasn’t surprised by his semi-shell-shocked state and waited for his shy gaze to return to hers. “I told you they were unique.”
“I like them. They’re really good.” His attention shifted back to the bottle. “They’re so different from anything I’ve heard. Or seen.”
She cocked her head. “Do you not like to dance?”
He covered his mouth and coughed. “It’s different from what I’m used to.”
Sasha tried to make the pieces fit—the wardrobe, his background, his mere presence in this music venue. Her gut told her he wasn’t as much a fish out of water as an amphibian.
A torrent of questions rained through her head. What brought you here? How did you find this club? What are you used to? But she kept her question simple. “How?”
“It’s just…you see, um…well…”
Before Avery could generate a cohesive answer, the band retook the stage, draping themselves in their instruments. Sasha tapped his chest with her red-tipped index finger. “You can tell me later.”
She took off for the front row again.
* * * *
Whew. Avery hadn’t been in town long enough to get his feet under him, so he didn’t have any idea what to expect. Sometimes introversion sucked.
He sipped his second and last beer until the band finished their set. A feminine voice called his name when he dropped the bottle in a recycling bin.
Sasha bounced forward, her adrenaline rubbing off on him. “Where are you going?”
Avery didn’t have a great response, since truthfully he planned to head home alone because he didn’t know anyone. He would probably fit in with this crowd eventually, and he felt more at home among the misfits than he would with gamers at their keyboards or “players” in a dance club. But he wasn’t ready to put himself out there yet. He was still settling in professionally and planned to make Seattle home. He didn’t want to fuck up his long term future by destroying his social foundation with a stupid misstep because he didn’t survey the scene first.
Sasha steamrolled his pathetic plans. “Come to the after-party.”
“Is it okay?” The invitation was a first. At least the first since high school. At age twenty-five, the insecurity remained unwelcome.
“If you know where it is, you’re invited. And I know where it is.”
Avery creased his brow in a frown.
“All right, the band is staying with a friend of mine. If they paid for a hotel, they would lose money on the tour.” Her sly eyes pulled him as much as her words. “Say you’ll go. If you don’t have plans, that is.”
Yeah. Going home alone. Unless he tried to keep up with this bundle of hyper-fun entertainment, a total impossibility. “You’re sure it’s okay?”
Harsh fluorescent lights shocked the remaining patrons’ eyes, revealing matte black walls paired with a dirt-and-beer-smudged concrete floor. If he had held any doubts that this club’s priority was music, they were obliterated. They took the cue to vacate the premises and walked to the door amidst the stragglers. The night air chilled the back of her neck which remained damp with sweat.
Sasha demanded his focus. “In other words, no, you don’t have plans, and yes, you do want to go. Come on. We need to catch a cab.”
“No, we don’t.”
“You drove? Cool. Where’s your car?”
“This way.” He stopped in front of a motorcycle.
When Avery got the hell out of the northeast, he sold his SUV and the matching tire chains for the snow and ice. With the proceeds, he bought his dream bike in Italian red. The Ducati was the Ferrari of motorcycles, and while he had to wear rain gear with it some of the time, the days he didn’t were extraordinary. He planned to take a vacation all the way down the Pacific Coast Highway on the bike, but even riding around town gave him a shot of adrenaline.
“This is yours? Awesome.” She circled the motorcycle, visually devouring the plastic and steel.
“Thanks.” He stared at his feet as he shuffled them.
“Problem?” she asked.
“It’s just…I bought it because I’ve always loved to ride, and now I can do it year-round.”
“Avery, look at me.”
Damn if it wasn’t hot when the nymph issued an order. He reluctantly shifted his gaze to hers.
“You do not need to apologize to anyone for your choices. Especially not me. If you won the lottery or are richer than God or sold all of your belongings to buy this bike—or anything else, for that matter—good for you. If anybody wants to judge you for it, fuck them. Got it?”
“Okay,” he said, though his voice quavered. He sighed. “I’m not used to—”
“Avery? Shut up and unlock the helmets. I’m ready to ride, and we have a party to go to.”
“Don’t fucking call me ma’am.”
He passed her the smaller helmet he bought wondering if it would ever be used before strapping on his own. He swung his right leg over the bike then kicked the stand up with his left foot. He pointed to the tiny seat behind him. “Climb on.”
Her arms wrapped around him, her thighs gripping his sides. Definitely not her first time as a passenger. He turned the bike onto the street and took off.
* * * *
The night air rushing over Sasha’s body stirred the same endorphins throughout her system as dancing.
She’d never been on this type of Italian sport bike and relished every second, every movement. It cornered with fine control and speed, with the same finesse as a Porsche. With her ten-year-old Boxster, she should know.
Time froze as they rode through the mostly empty streets of downtown Seattle after midnight on a Thursday. Enjoying the drive, Sasha patted his abdomen at a stoplight and flipped up her visor. He turned to hear her.
“Let’s hit the party. Hang a left here.”
Avery nodded and followed her finger-pointing signals as they wound through a residential neighborhood, finally stopping beside a pale gray bungalow with shaker shingles and a crowd on the porch.
Sasha dismounted and removed her helmet, smiling and waving at the group.
“Yo, Sasha!” a long-haired guy shouted.
She turned and hooked her helmet under the seat like she did it every day as Avery stared at her.
“What?” she taunted, not expecting an answer. “Come on.” Grabbing his hand, she hauled him toward the porch.
“Are you sure—” he started.
“Yes,” she snarled. “Don’t ask me again.”
They reached the top steps, and she greeted various friends as she laced her fingers with his and pulled him through the front doorway.
She walked through the house as though she owned it.
An Amazon in green dreadlocks took up a collection by the trashcan full of ice holding the large metal barrel. “Hey, Sash.”
Sasha grabbed a red plastic cup. “Denise, meet Avery. Avery, Denise. This is her place.”
“Nice to meet you,” Avery responded. “Thanks for having me.”
“You’re welcome. Literally.”
Filling her cup with beer from the keg, Sasha grinned.
Could the guy look less comfortable? One would think based on his hair and wardrobe, this would be some version of his usual crowd. Guess not. She thought of one way to relax him, a naughty one. But she’d hold off and let the anticipation build.
The front door banged open to male laughter and post-show adrenaline.
“Come on,” Sasha said, leading Avery to the far side of the living room. “Here.” She passed him a large, embroidered, magenta cushion, but instead of sitting on it, he slid it between his back and the putty-colored wall. He started to cross his ankles, but Sasha stopped him with her boot. “That’s my spot.” She spread his legs with her feet and dropped into a cross-legged position between his thighs and settled her back against his rigid chest.
Somewhere in the process, Avery had frozen.
Sasha didn’t usually participate in public displays of affection, but she was having too much fun with Avery to let something like that interrupt it. If anyone dared call her a stuffed shirt, she’d fuck him in front of the whole damn room to prove them wrong.
Forget expectations. She’d said goodbye to them years ago.
Snuggling her ass against Avery’s crotch, she felt him try to slide backward only to find himself pinned.
Sasha leaned back and whispered in his ear, “You’re having a good time, right?”
“Uh, yeah. I guess.”
That was a new one. No one ever said “I guess” when she played sex games with them. And this may have been a game, but Sasha was no tease. She upped the ante.
Wriggling her hips against him, she reached a hand behind her under the guise of adjusting her shirt. In the process, she raked her short nails across his surprisingly strong abs. Avery jerked causing Sasha to burst into a smile he couldn’t see.
“Listen, Sasha. I don’t—”
The blue-haired bassist and lead singer of Schlong had joined them on the floor across the room, continuing a story that Avery couldn’t fully follow with Sasha’s hands whispering over his body. “…so here we are, pulled over for speeding by the Texas Highway Patrol. We were so sure we were screwed. We weren’t going that fast, but we were in the middle of gun-totin’ no-man’s-land.” His voice settled into a twang.
Everyone laughed on cue, but Avery couldn’t follow the story with Sasha’s fingertips lightly caressing him, the barest touch on the outside of his thighs.
The drummer jumped in. “Then he comes back with my license and says, ‘Don’t mess with Texas, eh?’ talking about our new bumper sticker and giving us a weird smile. Get this. He only gave us a warning. ‘Slow it down and have a good tour.’ That’s it, man.”
Avery’s laughter rumbled against Sasha’s back, vibrating from his chest through her ribs. The distraction cut her own short.
The group dispersed as the band went to fetch their bags from their van.
Sasha clawed Avery’s thighs as she pushed herself up from the floor, and his legs twitched.
He stood quickly and returned the pillow to its original home. “Does Denise have anything non-alcoholic?”
“Sure. There’s bottled water in a cooler in the dining room.” Sasha pointed him in that direction.
Denise joined her in the doorway as Avery took a seat with some guys at the table and fiddled with the label on his water. The guys’ heads were shaved, but they weren’t skinheads. Self-defined as straight edge, they consumed no alcohol, no drugs, no cigarettes. While they might hold a hard line with their own accountability, they didn’t pass judgment on others. And they were friendly. Sasha not only respected them, she liked them.
“What do you think?” she whispered to Denise.
“He’s gorgeous. He has a good guy vibe—not your usual type. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
“Corrupting him.” They laughed quietly so as not to draw attention. “No, seriously. There’s something that just doesn’t fit. It’s like he’s being himself, but he’s outside of his comfort zone all at the same time.”
Denise crossed her arms and put a hand to her chin. “I couldn’t put my finger on it, but you’re right.” She paused. “What are you going to do?”
“Get to know him better.” She winked.
Sasha sidled up to him at the dining room table. She reached her arm around his shoulders and leaned against him.
“Hey.” He rubbed the back of his neck and peeked up through long eyelashes. Why hadn’t she noticed them before?
“Hey.” She reached for his bottle of water and took a swig.
Friends rose around her, tossing an occasional double-take in her direction. Her body yearned to merge with his whenever, however, possible. She had to have him to herself. She looked to Denise. “I’m going to give him the tour, okay?”
Denise winked. “Go for it.”
Once out of earshot, he said, “You don’t have to. I mean, I don’t want to pry.”
“It’s cool. I asked so you’d know it was acceptable. Anyway, Denise is an artist and she loves to show off her work.”
They moved through the house room by room. “This is her studio.”
Avery recognized the faint smell from his hippie parents’ projects. “She uses acrylics,” he acknowledged definitively.
The large canvases displayed modern images that Sasha didn’t get, but her friend did well enough to sell in galleries and support herself. Sasha figured she didn’t need to understand the art to appreciate the quality of life it provided her friend.
Turning in a circle with her arms extended, Sasha confessed, “I never have understood the draw to abstract art, but Denise must be good at it.”
“How can you tell?”
“She’s able to afford a mortgage.”
“Good benchmark.” He nodded.
“Business speak. Sexy.” She grabbed his zippered lapels and gave his firm lips a predatory bite.
He pulled back. “Why, Sasha?”
She didn’t pretend not to understand his question. Stepping away, she shoved her hands in the back pockets of her black stretch denim jeans.
“You know how guys can do whatever they want—sex-wise, I mean—and they aren’t judged? They can have one-night stands or sleep with two girls at once, and when, not ‘if’, ‘when’ they do, not only aren’t they judged, they’re put on a fucking pedestal. By their friends. By society. Yet if a woman does the same thing, and I’m talking the exact same thing, but let’s make it two guys instead of girls, the woman is labeled a slut, in perpetuity, forever and ever amen. Her reputation will never, ever recover. That’s the way it works in most circles. You know it as well as I do.”
“Well, I think it’s bullshit. If I want to sleep with a guy, I’m not going to let the world tell me I can’t do it or else.” Her volume escalated by the word.
“So you run in a different circle.”
“Exactly. I’m not a major feminist or anything. I recognize myself as a sexual creature, and I don’t have a problem acting on it. My friends don’t judge me for it. They accept me.” Her jutting chin dared him to disagree.
“You—no woman—should be judged like that. You shouldn’t let men take advantage of you either.”
“You don’t get it. If anything, we’re taking advantage of men—or at least taking advantage of each other,” she huffed.
“Hey.” He grabbed her upper arms. “It’s a lot for me to wrap my psyche around when I’ve believed the opposite your entire life. It doesn’t mean you aren’t right.”
“Of course I’m right. Now come on. There’s much more to the tour.” Sasha led Avery up the stairs and opened a door. “This is Denise’s room.”
Sasha had the destination in mind when she suggested the tour. Traditional nudes covered the walls—men and women—in exotic, vibrant colors. Dark red nipples tipped royal blue breasts. Rich Irish green cocks rested against testicles in bold yellows. It would shock anyone’s system. It always called forth a visceral sexual hunger in her. She counted on it doing the same to Avery.
She closed the door behind them. “Do you like it?”
His head jerked as his eyes jumped from painting to painting. “It’s, uh, wow. Yeah. Wow.”
He couldn’t finish a thought. Perfect.
“That’s how I reacted the first time I saw them, too.” Her husky voice surprised her.
Sasha invaded his personal space, backing him into the door. Then she kept going until she came into full contact with his body. She grabbed the zippered lapels of his stiff black leather jacket and pulled him down so she could reach his mouth.
“This room does things to me. It makes me want. What I want I take.” She stretched up and bit his lower lip. “Are you okay with that, Avery?”
He blew out the breath he had been holding.
“You didn’t say ‘no’,” she continued and nipped at his lips. “Does that mean yes?”
He gave a slight shaky nod.