I cannot tell you how much it means to me that so many of you want more.

More of the stories, more about the characters, more information, more of…well, everything. Thank you for making these characters your friends, I have grown to love each and every one, even when they impose themselves on us unexpectedly, as Gunny has.

Here’s a lengthy excerpt from Jase, but it’s not about Jase and DeeDee. This is Gunny and Sharon, an odd-duck pairing if I’ve ever seen one. He’s the gruff ex-Marine, scarred and angry, and is fast falling for Shar. She’s been ill-used by life, but has an immediate and innate trust of Gunny. We’ll see where this goes for them, but I’m kinda likin’ Gunny and Shar. They fit quite well in oh-so odd ways.

Mostly unedited and raw, forgive typos, yeah?

Standing at his post just inside the front door, opposite the bar, Gunny surveyed the patrons of the strip club. His face impassive, he counted no person in the room a friend. Some were his brothers, men he would gladly die for, but they were not friends. He was fucking pissed off to be here and not in California where he was fucking needed. Where his damn friends were. Leaning his shoulders against the wall, he forced composure and crossed his legs at the ankle.

He knew why he’d been left behind, but knowing didn’t ease the rub much. The office door to his right clicked and opened, and he shifted his gaze that way, seeing DeeDee standing in the doorway. “Did you hear anything yet?” she asked, and he shook his head, watching as she scrunched her face in response. “Do we know anything more than we did two hours ago?” He shook his head at this too, and she nodded, closing the door behind her as she went back into the office.

Pulling out his phone, he sent a quick text to Slate and waited on a response, sighing when he received a two letter reply. Onstage, the acts were changing out, the two girls on the side stages sauntering backstage carrying their costumes in their hands. Slinky’s didn’t have a DJ or announcer during the day, but the next shift of dancers usually warranted the expense and sure enough, Gunny heard the buzz and hum as the PA system clicked on.

The speakers popped and then he heard a smooth voice slip through the room, “Good evening, gentlemen. We would like to welcome you to Slinky’s where your every desire is ours, too. We are very pleased to invite a beautiful lady back to our stages. Too long gone from view, she’s here tonight for your yearning pleasure. I give you the stunning Sharmane.” Loud pop music blared as Gunny jerked upright, eyes locking on the center state in disbelief. What the fuck…

He watched as Shar strutted into view, her wide smile sweeping the area around the raised platform. That’s my woman, what the hell is she playing at? The click of her stiletto fuck-me heels might be inaudible over the music but there was no missing the seduction implied in the sway and pop of her hips as she worked the edges of the stage, but…her carriage and the way she moved resonated with pure class. His gaze traced her form down, and then up, making that circuit twice in the time it took her to circle the stage once. Slipping her shoes off, she lined them up near the edge of the platform, placing them neatly side-by-side before turning her back on the audience.

Most of the bruising from the beating had faded, and in the areas where he knew she was still discolored it looked as if she’d used body makeup to even out the flaws. Lying in bed last night, he’d run his hands over her shoulders and back, gently tracing the outline of the bruises that remained. He’d had to work hard to make certain the tension of knowing that motherfucker was still breathing her air never made it through his fingers and onto her. He shuddered, thinking, She don’t need that. Not last night, not ever. He hated she still carried marks from Elkins on her skin. Tonight, her movements were fluid, the smoothness at odds with the jerking, flinching woman he’d held only a few weeks ago.

The sheer dress she wore floated around her as she twirled in the space between the end of the stage and the pole. Her face lifted to the ceiling as if it held the sun and its warmth were drawing her onto tiptoes with arms spread wide. Spinning slowly to a stop, she dipped sideways and rested one hand on the pole, eyes closed, touching it with the backs of her fingers and hand like she were reintroducing herself to the feel of a lover. God, I fucking love it when she touches me like that. Swaying in sync with the music, her face broke into a smile when she leaned close, nuzzling one cheek against the pole, saying hello to a favored friend. That is my smile.

Arms out as if she were playing airplanes with a child, she ran swooping and twirling around the pole, spiraling closer and closer with each circuit until she was standing tall, face-to-face with it. Whirling to place her back to the pole, her head tipped back, her cheek again stroking along the pole.

He sucked in a breath, watching as her eyes snapped open, looking at him. His breath caught in his chest as he took in her eyes, the look on her face. She’s dancing for me. A sultry smile crossed her face while her chin tilted down, eyes inviting all viewers in on a secret, making each person a participant in her performance. Dancing only for me. Elegantly stretching one hand over her head, she used the other to grasp the hem of her dress, pulling it over and off in one movement, abandoning it near her shoes and his shout of panic stopped in his throat. Undressed, but still covered in nearly-nude panties and a sports bra, she looked completely accessible but was fully shielded from the men’s eyes. That is my body, goddammit.

One hand on the pole, she danced in a curving arc around it, winding around and gaining momentum until she reached up, her hand clasping and lifting herself off the floor, her upper body strength allowing her to pull up the bar hand over hand. Still twirling around the pole, she flipped sideways, pushing her leg around the bar and locking it into place with her arm as she spun slowly down towards the floor, looking like she was drifting downward, nothing holding her up but the air beneath her.

Pausing the descent mid-pole, she continued her spin, moving slowly and gracefully from position to position, legs twisting around the pole, then spread wide as she whirled. Hands and feet vied for position, she angled her body to gain or lose speed on her spin, maintaining the impression of effortlessness. Fuck me, she’s become my obsession, I can’t wait to be buried deep inside her.

With a start, he shifted his gaze around the room, he’d been staring at Shar since she’d come on stage. Looking around at the other men in the room, he understood every man who was the same way, fucking mesmerized. He felt his cut shift and realized he’d tightened his shoulders, was clenching his fists. Every one of those motherfuckers was looking at his woman, wanting to fuck her and he was ready to take them all on. She was seducing the entire fucking audience and still had her goddamn panties on. That’s my goddamn pussy.

Gunny realized that damn smile had never left her face. My fucking smile.

She dismounted twice during the routine, the first time climbing back up the pole upright, hand over hand. Her body swayed alongside the bar as if it were a mast and she the sail in a strong wind, flipping and fluttering as she willed. He watched without breathing as she set her arms wide on the bar, effortlessly looking like she was flying free as she whirled in space. The second time she mounted the pole upside down, her bare soles looking somehow more intimate than any other part of her body as she flexed and pointed her feet, trapping the bar between them and then releasing it in easy, relaxed movements. He’d never felt possessive about a woman as he did with Shar, it had him feeling out of control, greedy and mean. If any one of these motherfuckers tried to put a hand on her he’d lose his mind. She’s mine.

From the way her head whipped around, turning back to him again and again he knew she kept her eyes where she knew he’d be, even if there was no way she could see him through the spotlights. His smile on her face. Dancing for him. My woman.

She spun faster, then shifted to an upright position and pulled herself back up the pole, where she froze in a pose that looked as natural as breathing, simple to hold. He watched her slide slowly down, dismounting a final time to collapse gracefully into a pale puddle on the floor of the stage.

When the men in the room stood and applauded, he realized that not one of them had thrown money on the stage during her performance, which was the highest compliment they could pay. So wrapped up were they in the illusion she wove on the pole, they forgot she was an erotic dancer for their pleasure, appreciating the beauty of her movement for what it was.

That didn’t stop them from plying her with money now, however, and he felt a heavy scowl fix on his face as he watched her waltz around the stage, cocking a hip out for those motherfuckers to tuck money into the edge of her panties. He heard a desperate groaning sound and realized it came from him as he watched their goddamn fingers plucking at the elastic sides of her underwear. So close to my pussy. He could only watch as their dirty fucking hands glanced across her skin, saw her execute a twisting dance move away from men who wanted more than a sidelong touch. Touching what is mine.

Why the fuck had she done this? Without saying a goddamn thing to him, why had she gotten back on the stage right in front of him? Was it a statement, a question? Does she think I can’t take care of her? Think I won’t want to take care of her? Is she getting off on letting men touch her for money when she is mine?

Distracted, he nearly missed the buzz of a text. Pulling out his phone, he breathed a sigh of relief, tension rolling off of him as he read the message from Mason: Got them. Bringing everyone home alive.

He reached out a hand to knock on the office door when it flew open, DeeDee coming around the doorframe to meet him halfway, her phone in her hand. “They’re alive,” she breathed and wrapped her arms around him tightly.

“Did you ever doubt Mason?” he joked, lifting his eyes to see Shar frowning at him from the stage.

And as a bonus, here’s a snippet that shows you why I wanted to know how to shave one’s head! I kinda like how this turned out!

He gave her a chin lift and making the final sweep of this first pass, he rinsed the blade again, setting the razor aside and filling his palm with gel. Coating his scalp with foam again, he repeated the process, working until he felt her fingers on his hip. Looking down at her with a questioning crook of his eyebrow, he waited for her to speak.

“Can I help?” she asked.

“Nearly done, baby,” he said, making another sweep of the razor.

She stepped around him, moving to stand on top of the toilet seat beside him. “I can get the places you can’t see.”

“Got fingers, babe. I can find where I miss,” he said, demonstrating by rubbing his fingertips along his scalp and finding a small strip he’d missed earlier. “Been shaving my head since I left active duty, ten years ago. Before that, I did my own high and tight in the field.”

She twisted sideways, looking at the back of his neck. Standing on the elevated surface as she was, she was still not quite eye-level with him and he grinned. “You even seen the back of my head yet, baby?”

She made a face at him. “Yes, you big oaf. I have. I do, every time we ride the bike. Which is all the time, since you turned my rental car in.” She stuck her tongue out at him and he laughed.

“Got your money back, didn’t I? You couldn’t drive it, baby. No reason to pay for what you can’t use.” She continued watching him as he finished shaving his head. He’d rinsed his head and was applying gel foam to his face when he looked at her in the mirror, his motions slowing.

“You ever shave someone?” He asked the question idly, fiddling with the handle of the razor.

She nodded, “Ace used to have me shave him before every home game. It was part of his ritual.” Tilting her head to one side, she said, “Not with a straight razor, though.”

“Spencer has a ritual? He don’t seem like much of a superstitious guy.” He stood still, thinking, this seemed to matter to her.

“Yeah, I’d shave him and Mom would make her lemon cookies. He wouldn’t eat any of them unless they won, but she had to make them so he could smell the plateful before we left for the rink. He’d slap the top of the doorframe on the way out to the car and when we got to the rink he’d tap that door with his stick. Most guys have some things they do like tapping the sides of the gate when they head out for a game, Ace had a bunch when he first started high school,” she laughed, reaching out to steady herself with a hand on his shoulder.

“You really want to shave me, baby?” he asked and one side of his lips curled up when she nodded enthusiastically.

Handing over the razor, he told her, “Putting my life in your hands. I don’t do this lightly.”

“I accept the responsibility, my liege,” she scoffed, bowing over his hand as she took the razor from him.

For the next ten minutes he was halfway between heaven and hell as she shaved him, her fingers touching and tugging his face, pulling and stretching his skin. Her face so close to his, the urge to devour her mouth nearly irresistible as he felt the heat from her breath ghosting across his skin and him unable to move unless at her silent request. Such an private act, her touch tender and strong at the same time as she guided his head into a desired position.

The mirror gradually misted over as steam from the running shower filled the room. Without the mirror to distract him, he focused on her face, fighting the urge to smile when he caught her with her tongue tucked into the corner of her mouth, held tight between her teeth as she concentrated. He closed his eyes, standing motionless as she wet her hands, running them over his face, feeling for any areas that might require additional attention. He felt her hands still, palms pressed to his cheeks and he opened his eyes, finding her poised in front of him, lips only inches from his.

“Baby,” he whispered and saw her inhale when his breath hit her lips.

“Yeah?”

“You done?” He spoke quietly, not wanting to break whatever this spell was.

“Yeah.” Her eyes were moving between his eyes and lips.

“You wanna give me back the razor?” Still speaking quietly, he watched a hectic color beginning to rise in her cheeks.

“Okay,” she said, and he took the razor from her hand, folding it closed and laying it on the edge of the sink.

“You wanna kiss me?” he asked, gaze locked with hers, broken only as her eyes slowly slipped closed.

“Yeah,” she whispered.

“I’m all yours,” he said, reaching up to wrap his hands around both her wrists, slowly sliding that contact up her arms, past her elbows and cupping her shoulders. Slipping his hands around her back, he splayed his fingers wide, feeling the bumps and impressions of her ribcage under his hands. He tugged gently, pulling her into him, closing the distance separating their mouths. “All yours, baby.”

“Yeah,” she said and leaned in, her lips pressing lightly against his. He let her lead, controlling the speed and passion of the kiss, slanting his head when she did and then backing off, lightly nibbling at her bottom lip as she tugged at his top one. She jerked when her questing tongue touched his lips, then he opened to her, letting her delve into his mouth, stroking his tongue with hers.

Hope you enjoyed this window into two of the characters who feature heavily in Jase, currently on track for a May 2015 release!

Love you, my Rebels. Muuuwah!

~ML