Protecting Poppy by Annie Charme, romance with suspense

Chapter 1 – Protecting Poppy


I’ve been hiding in the shadows for too long. Lurking in this cavernous underground world in the city. She hasn’t noticed me, cloaked in the darkness of the club, but I’ve noticed her. 

She’s been marked since the day I found her working in this bar. It was her curves that stole my attention first as I watched her dance when she thought nobody was watching. She has the kind of curves I’d like to sink my teeth into. The kind that demand devotion, and I want to devote myself to her, devour and ravish every curve and crease of her body.

Her smile lights up the room, stealing my heart. The sort of smile that holds a secret. Plush dimpled cheeks and a button nose beg to be kissed, but I need to wait for the right moment to step into the light. 

The dark club hides a multitude of sins, and I’m the biggest sinner of them all. I crack my neck side to side, then bring the ice water to my lips. My eyes track her every move under the strip lights filtering out over the bustling tables of the murky club. 

She tucks her short black hair behind her ears, then, using her forearm, wipes her brow. The vent above me blows out cool air. I welcome it in this wretched inferno, undoing the top button of my black shirt.

She squints under the spotlights shining on the burlesque dancers as she serves the front tables, then makes her way towards me. Our eyes almost meet, but she’s distracted, spinning on her heel as some guy squeezes her round ass. 

I steel my spine. My head pounds in rhythm with the music. These last few weeks, the idea of anyone touching her makes my muscles tighten and burn with rage.

She swats his hand away with a smile, trying to act polite like it didn’t bother her, but it bothered me. Joe, the bouncer, can’t see what’s going on from this angle, but I can. When the groper does it a second time, I can’t stand by and watch any longer.

Stepping out of the darkness, I discard my glass on a table as I stride over to her. A hand wraps around her thick thighs, then embarks up her skirt. She jerks forward with a yelp audible to my trained ear over the music. Bright red spots cloud my vision as I pounce in a rage, grabbing his arm and twisting his wrist. 

Baring my teeth like a rabid dog, I stare into his eyes now wide as saucers. “You need to watch what you do with this hand before you lose it.” If anyone is going to touch her, it’s me.

Blood drains from his sweaty face as he tries to pull his hand out of my tight grasp. “I… I’m s…sorry.”

“You need to show some respect. Apologise to the lady.” I twist his hand further, bending it back until he cries out in agony.

He turns to Poppy. “I’m sorry, miss. It won’t happen again.”

“If I see you harassing any of the girls here, I’ll break your fingers.”

“Yes. Yes. It won’t happen again.” He rushes out the words with a tremble in his voice. The group he’s with stays silent as I stare into their eyes, one by one. Mostly graduates.

Poppy straightens her skirt, then walks back to the bar with me on her tail. Without the vent to keep me cool, I’m burning up. Or is it the close proximity to my prey that has my insides sizzling with hunger? 

“Thank you. Are you after a job here?” She smiles, biting her ruby lip, then looks away.

“I’d make a better bouncer than Joe over there.” The music subsides as we walk away from the stage and the pounding in my head melts at the melodic tone of her voice. It’s even sweeter than I imagined, and I’m hanging off every word.   

“Joe’s all right. He’s usually on the ball, but occasionally the guys get a bit handsy.” We reach the counter, and she sets her tray down. “Can I get you a drink, sir?”

I groan inwardly when she calls me sir. Thoughts of her on all fours, submitting to me, cause my cock to twitch. Our eyes meet under the fluorescent light of the bar. Green eyes stare back at me like fertile English fields I could roam for days and lose myself in. 

I clear my throat. “Ice water.” The need to quench my thirst grows by the second, but it’s not water I need, it’s her.

Her brow pinches, and she tilts her head at me with a smile, as if trying to figure me out. I doubt many guys come here for ice water, but I like to keep a clear head.

“I’m driving.”

“Oh.” She wipes her palms on the small black apron hanging from her curvy waist.

I reach my hand to her face, then lift a lock of red wavy hair that doesn’t belong with her black sleek bob. She freezes as I twirl the strand around my finger. “Red?”

She sucks in a breath, then quickly tucks it inside—what I now know is—a black wig. “One ice water coming right up.” She spins, banging her hip into the counter, then rounding the corner to stand on the server’s side.

Taking a seat at the bar, I watch her just like before, only now she’s aware of my gaze, and it’s making her clumsy. A smirk lifts the corner of my mouth as she bumps into her colleague. 

Her cheeks turn a beautiful shade of red, matching the hidden strand of hair. I had no idea she was wearing a wig. From the photographs I’ve seen of her, I assumed she’d just had a cut and colour, but I’m glad she hasn’t cut off her fiery tresses.

She averts her gaze, focusing on her task, then lifts the pump to fill my glass with sparkling water, but glances my way again, getting distracted.

Water sprays out from the pump like a high jet sprinkler, coating her white shirt. She gasps, glancing down at her now see-through top. I stifle a laugh as she uses the bar towel to cover up and dry herself off.

“I didn’t know there was a wet t-shirt contest on tonight.”

She presses her lips together and points the water pump at me, threatening to pull the trigger. “You want to enter?”

“I doubt I’d stand a chance at winning next to you, Red.” My eyes settle on her beautiful tits. The white lace of her bra shows through her soaked cotton shirt, and I need to adjust my growing dick. I groan inwardly. Down, boy. This is not the time. Or the place.

“Here’s your water.” Her red cheeks burn hotter than the overhead spotlights. Heat pours from her in waves as she hands over my drink with her other arm, hiding her assets. “Sasha, I’m just gonna sort myself out.” She scurries to the back through a staff only door, holding both arms over her chest. It takes every ounce of strength I have to not follow her back there and give her a hand.

That would make me no better than the guy groping her before. I need her to trust me. I also need her to want me, and she will, but I have to tread carefully. The last thing I want is to scare her off.

I bring the cool liquid to my lips, feeling thirstier than I have in a long time. There’s no going back now. Like an animal set free, I’ve stepped out of the shadows. But does my little red fox know she’s the one being hunted?