Home > Keep Me (Phoenix #2)

Keep Me (Phoenix #2)
Author: Stacey Kennedy

 

Prologue

 

 

“You failed to keep your promise,” Archer Westbrook said, sliding onto the metal chair in the West Village coffee shop.

Opposite him, Wayne Newton, a twenty-something, thin-as-a-rail hacker from Brooklyn, sank down in his seat. He pushed his round glasses up his nose, his dark eyes wary. “Listen, it’s not my fault.”

“Not your fault?” Archer’s jaw muscles twitched as he leaned across the bistro table, the aromatic scent of espresso infusing the air in the shop. “You swore your firewalls were unhackable.” Firewalls Wayne was paid six figures a year to create and monitor to ensure the personal information of the members of Phoenix, a sex club that catered to the elite of New York City society, were kept safe and private. “But someone broke into our system last night.” And that breach had gotten someone inside the club, someone who did not belong there, putting all Phoenix members at risk. Members who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to ensure their voyeuristic, erotic lifestyle remained out of the public eye. As head of security at Phoenix, the breach landed heavily on Archer’s shoulders. “Explain to me how that happened.”

“Elise Fanning,” Wayne said, keeping his voice soft regardless of the grinding of the coffee and the loud chatter surrounding them.

Ready to fire this kid, who’d come highly recommended by more than one person in the security industry, Archer lifted an eyebrow. “Should I know that name?”

“She’s a private investigator,” Wayne reported, shrinking down farther into his chair at whatever crossed Archer’s expression, looking ready to run. “She lives in Brooklyn but works here in Manhattan. This breach leads back to her.”

Archer leaned in farther, gritting his teeth. He had fought in wars, carried out top-secret missions with the United States Special Forces, and he never failed. Not like this. A breach of this magnitude was inexcusable. “Is she capable of hacking the system you implemented?”

Wayne looked aghast. “Hell no, man.”

“Then, what? She outsourced this?”

Shoulders curling, Wayne waited for a couple to walk past the table before he answered. “I’ll have to look into that before I have a concrete answer for you.” His hand shook as he took a quick sip of his frappuccino. “But all I know is she couldn’t have gotten through my system. This is expert-level shit.”

Archer had assumed as much, but he didn’t like fuck-ups either, and he wouldn’t let Wayne off the hook. “Are there fingerprints, markers in the code, anything that indicates who got past you?”

“No, man. Nothing. Whoever got through left nothing, but I’ll find them. There are only so many places they can hide.”

“Do it swiftly,” Archer demanded, rising and purposely towering over the kid. “Clean this up. Get the system back in order and amp up the security, or your contract is terminated. All clear?”

Wayne stopped blinking, maybe even breathing. “Yes. Yes. Got it. I’ll get this all fixed.”

“See to it,” Archer shot back. “And get me everything you can on Elise Fanning.”

“Everything?” Wayne asked.

Archer let his anger show on his face, pressed his knuckles into the table, and loomed over Wayne. “What she eats. When she eats. What she sleeps in. Who she fucks. I want to know every single thing about her. But most importantly, I want to know if she’s a danger to us.”

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Two months later

 

 

“I’ll take an Old Forester on the rocks,” Archer said to the bartender of the classy New York City cigar lounge.

Fitz, a long-time employee of the cigar lounge, smiled. “Coming right up.” He looked plucked from a different era with his handlebar mustache curling up at the ends and his wise, amber-colored eyes.

The cigar lounge was full of customers tonight, sitting at the round tables, enjoying fine alcohol, ice clinking against their glasses. Smoke billowed from the table next to Archer as the customer lit his cigar, infusing the air with an aroma of burnt coffee and a hint of cinnamon. Soft jazz played from the speakers set high on the walls around the room. Three bartenders dressed in tuxes served up drinks while waiters tended to the customers at the tables. Back when the cigar lounge had been constructed in the 1920s, this spot was a gentleman’s club. Now the lounge was a local hotspot. But what was truly special about this building was beneath the shiny hardwood floors. Phoenix, the ultra-exclusive, upscale sex club, only accessible through tunnels once used to bootleg whiskey into the club. Each member was able to request one sex show per month—sex acts, participants, every little detail was of the member’s preference, something both Archer and Fitz were long-time participants in. All the members were put through a government-level vetting process before they gained access to Phoenix.

As Fitz fetched Archer’s drink, the cigar lounge’s door opened and Archer was immediately drawn to the woman in the tight jeans, high heels, and black blouse that showed an enticing hint of cleavage. He had fought in elite missions during his time in the United States Army Special Forces. He knew how to plan a dangerous mission and execute it with flawless precision. But the woman before him, with her long dark-brown hair—that just reached her heart-shaped ass—and sharp dark chocolate-colored brown eyes made his head spin. Elise Fanning, the sexiest, most irritating woman he’d ever met in his twenty-nine years.

When he’d first learned her name from Wayne after she hacked into Phoenix’s security, he took the breach personally. Until he found out the reason why she’d broken through his firewall. Elise’s best friend, Zoey Parker, had needed to gain membership to confront two members who had wronged her. If it had been Archer’s choice, Zoey would have been banned from Phoenix immediately. As it was, Rhys Harrington, Phoenix’s owner, felt a connection to Zoey. A connection that had led to their engagement last week.

In the weeks that followed the hacking, security had been stepped up to ensure no one slid past Phoenix’s defenses again. But since the security breach, Zoey had seamlessly blended her friends with Rhys’, and that meant Archer had gotten to know Elise on a personal level. First, she had gotten under his skin with her sass and snark and her ability to outsmart him at every turn, including finding a way past his security. Then she got into his head by being the most curious creature he’d ever met. He wanted to peel back all her layers until he had her naked, exposed—emotionally and physically—and begging for his mouth all over her lush body.

“Anything else for tonight?”

He snapped his eyes back to Fitz and shook his head. “No, thank you.”

Fitz’s mouth curved at the corner, his gaze flicking to Elise. “A sweet little thing catch your eye?”

“Ha! Sweet?” Archer took a long sip of the bourbon in his glass, catching the spicy notes in the dark amber-colored liquor. “That woman is many things, but sweet is not among them.” Cutthroat, wicked smart, and in possession of bigger balls than some men Archer knew.

Fitz chuckled.

Archer’s eyes stayed locked on an approaching Elise. Two months ago, Archer would never have believed they were a good match. She couldn’t stand him, and he couldn’t stand that she’d somehow broken through security he thought unbreakable. But damn, she was fiery and smart and sexy, and his cock hardened in mere seconds of being around her. A reaction she apparently shared as a slight color rose to her cheeks under his watchful stare. “Good evening, Elise,” he said when she reached him.

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