Back in Black
Book 5 in the Fighter Series
SBC president Drew Black is as controversial as they come. But the hot-headed entrepreneur is a perfect match for his popular sports club venture: uncompromising and extreme. Maybe too extreme. With a reputation for saying what he thinks, Drew’s been causing a lot of friction. That’s why someone’s been called in to clean up his image—before he does any permanent damage.
The lucky lady is Gillian Noode, a PR expert who’s smoothed out the rough edges on many a man. But Drew is rougher than anyone she’s ever met, and he refuses to change for any woman, for any reason. To make matters more complicated, Gillian’s starting to like him raw. Now, opposites aren’t only attracting, they’re igniting. But in the rising heat, which one of them will end up on top?
Reviews of Back in Black
Back in Black
is Book 5 in the Fighter Series
The full series reading order is as follows:
- Book 1: Causing Havoc
- Book 2: Simon Says
- Book 3: Hard to Handle
- Book 4: My Man, Michael
- Book 5: Back in Black
- Man’s Best Friend
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Back in Black
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Gillian Noode stood against the back wall of the popular bar, Roger’s Rodeo, where many fighters hung out. She was close enough to observe him, but not close enough to get noticed. Yet. At least, not by him. Plenty of other men had already given her the once-over, showing appreciation for her trim black skirt, her low-scooped white blouse and strappy sandals. A few had even tried to strike up a conversation. Though tempted, she’d politely declined.
She’d come here for a reason, and Drew Black was it.
Dressed in well-worn jeans and a comfortable black T-shirt bearing the logo of the SBC fight organization, the president of the extreme sport sat at the polished bar. Currently, he held close conversation with two long-haired lovelies whose bloated busts defied believability. No woman that slender had breasts that large.
But Drew showed no signs of disbelief. Like a king of his own making, he ogled with commitment to the boob ruse. Appreciating his commitment, the girls played with their long hair, flirted, and giggled .
Gillian fought a gag.
From the many interviews and television spots she’d watched, as well as her current scrutiny, Gillian surmised that Drew Black had a fighter-type physique, sculpted with honest muscle rather than the steroid-induced kind. He wasn’t quite as shredded as the actual fighters, who made workouts and diet a regular part of their routine, but he looked strong and capable.
Obviously his ego demanded that he stay in shape. After all, he was often surrounded by younger men in their prime, elite fighters with rock-hard bodies and astounding ability.
Drew Black intrigued her beyond the job at hand.
As an entrepreneur he showed great intelligence; no one could have accomplished what he had without a lot of smarts. He’d taken a mostly dead sport, banned in many states, and turned it into an astounding success.
And motivation? The man had it in spades. He couldn’t possibly sleep more than six hour a night given his enthusiastic work load and insane social calendar.
Good looks, great body, intelligence, enthusiasm and money… Drew Black would be quite the catch if he wasn’t such a sexist foul-mouthed jerk with the tact of a mountain goat.
With her external analysis now complete, Gillian moved closer, just a short way down the bar. She could hear Drew’s deep voice – not that she expected much enlightenment from his conversation.
But Drew surprised her.
“Will you call me?” bimbo one asked him with a pout.
Lacking malice, he gave a low and mellow laugh. “No, I won’t.”
Look-alike bimbo number two said, “How about me?” She toyed with his ear in a way that made Gillian twitch. “I can promise you a really good time.”
“I just bet you can.” Drew took her wrist and moved her teasing hand away. “But I have to pass.”
Gillian raised a brow. She’d expected him to suggest a threesome, and instead he’d rejected both of them.
The bimbos combined their whining complaints and attempts at persuasion until Drew appeared to get annoyed. “Girls, what the fuck? C’mon, I have shit to do and it doesn’t include having my ears ring. Go find something – or someone – else to do, okay?”
“But Drew, we waited a long time to get to talk to you.” Bimbo one whined.
Drew leaned around the woman to eye his male companion. “A little help here?”
Gillian recognized the other man as a fighter. Grinning, he held up big, capable hands. “Sorry, Drew. I have a girl waiting at home.”
“We aren’t at your home, damn it.”
He smirked. “Yeah, well, Spice doesn’t like to share me.”
Drew pulled back. “Spice? What the fuck kind of name is that for a female?”
“The kind that suits her.” Unruffled by the implied insult, Brett finished his drink. To Gillian, it looked like juice. She gave Brett points.
“Look,” Drew said to the closest bimbo, “you’re too fucking young and frankly, too damned pushy.”
“We have to be pushy to get near you. You’re just so popular -”
“How about I give you a couple of tickets to the next SBC fight instead? Good seats. How’s that?”
The girls bounced with enthusiasm. Gillian couldn’t take it. She asked the bartender for a martini. By the time she’d been served and taken a few fortifying sips, Drew was alone at the bar with Brett.
“You’re brutal, Drew.”
“Did you see those girls? Not only were they phony from head to toes, the damn giggles were wearing on my nerves.” He worked his shoulders, as if releasing tension. “Jesus, I do have some standards you know.”
“Yeah? Like what?”
“You want the whole list, huh? Well, it doesn’t apply here, but she has to be less than forty. Older broads are too independent.”
Brett laughed. “Those two together weren’t forty.”
“No, but young and not-stupid don’t have to be exclusive.”
Brett grinned. “So what else?”
“She has to be childless, because let’s face it, the whole kid thing is a major pain in the ass. No way am I fucking anybody’s mother. And before you say it, yeah, I know, those two are still children themselves.”
Brett saluted him with his juice.
“On top of being good looking and sexy, she has to have a modicum of intelligence – at least enough that I can carry on a conversation with her. And no squealing. God Almighty, I detest broads who squeal.”
Brett commiserated. “They were squealers.”
“Can you imagine how loud they’d be in the sack, riding out a big O?” Drew laughed. “I’d need fucking earplugs.”
Brett grinned. “Braggart.”
That nasty mouth of his, Gillian thought as she shook her head. Riding out a big O. Who talked like that? The things Drew said, the crude language he used, was not befitting the force behind the fastest growing sport in history. That mouth had gotten him into trouble, whether he realized it yet or not.
It was her job to clean up his act, and to make him a more presentable figurehead for the SBC franchise.
Daunting, but maybe not impossible. She always enjoyed a challenge.
The trick would be to beat him at his own game, to always keep the upper hand, and to grow a skin so thick that her feminist core wouldn’t be damaged in the process.
She’d also have to remember that he was a grade-A jackass toward women, albeit a sexy one, so it’d behoove her to keep her emotional distance. Trusting him, in any way, would be a mistake. She could not let herself be drawn to him.
Sadly, he was the first man she’d found exciting in a very long time.
He was the last man she could ever get involved with.
Picking up her glass, Gillian moved down the bar and slid onto the vacated seat beside Drew. Slowly she crossed her legs. While sizing him up, she removed the olive from her drink and bit into it.
Both men stared at her, not so much because of her looks, which she knew to be average, or her figure, which was a little more voluptuous than currently popular. But because she’d invaded their space – and was now staring back.
Drew swiveled around on his stool to fully face her. Without a word, he checked her out, lingering on her legs, her cleavage, and then her mouth.
When his gaze finally crept up to hers, he said low, “Hello there.”
Oh, men were so easy. Smiling in triumph, Gillian held out a hand. “Hello.”
A very warm, firm hand, twice the size of her own, enveloped her fingers – and held on. “I’m Drew Black.”
“Of course you are.” Still smiling, she retrieved her hand from his. “Gillian Noode.”
Of course he wouldn’t let that one slide. With a chastising look, she spelled, “N.O.O.D.E.”
His mouth quirked. “Hell of a name.”
“Yes, and I’ve heard every joke there is from every grade school boy out there.” She reached beyond Drew to the fighter. She’d heard Drew use his first name, but she liked proper introductions. “And you are?”
He took her hand gently. “Brett Bullman, ma’am.”
Unlike Drew, who shaved his head, Brett had shaggy brown hair a little too long, a little too unruly. Gorgeous green eyes showed good humor.
He also had a name familiar to her. “The Pitt Bull, right?”
His mouth twisted with chagrin. “I hear that’s what they’re calling me.”
“I’ve read about you, Brett. You’re touted as a self-taught phenomenon taking the fight scene by storm.” Gillian tilted her head at him. “You don’t like your nickname?”
He shrugged with indifference, and shared a friendly smile that had surely melted many female hearts. “Long as the contenders know who I am, I don’t care what they call me.”
She lifted her glass at him. “You’ve certainly earned some respect.”
“Maybe. The thing is, I haven’t really been challenged yet.” He gave a nod at Drew. “Hopefully we’ll correct that.”
So it was a business meeting. “And I’m interrupting. Shame on me.” She stood to leave. She could wait for their negotiations to conclude. “Congratulations on your recent success.”
“Thanks, Ms. Noode. But please don’t leave on my account. This was just a meet and greet, really, and we’re all talked out now anyway. I was just finishing up my drink.”
Drew agreed. “I’m all yours, honey, so why not park your pretty ass back up on the stool so we can get better acquainted?”
Gillian’s teeth locked, but her smile didn’t falter. To Brett she said, “Call me Gillian, please.”
He nodded. “All right, Gillian.”
“When is your next fight?”
“It’s still being set up. After that last win, I got noticed by the SBC, and recruited by a great team.” He shrugged. “I’d prefer to train with them for awhile first. But if Drew wants me to fight now, I wouldn’t turn him down.”
“No more going it alone, huh?” Gillian had read that Brett taught himself the finer points of MMA by watching taped fights and then practicing the moves in his own make-shift gym.
His grin personified charm. “No ma’am. I only started out that way because I didn’t know how to go about getting the right training.” He flashed her that white-toothed smile again. “But I’m always open to learning from more experienced guys.”
Drew lounged back, elbows on the bar, and copped an attitude over being ignored. “We have to finesse a contract yet, so we can’t get ahead of ourselves. But I don’t see any problems there. I’ll figure out some key promotion, then probably give him a fight on a pay-per-view. I just want to decide on the best way to build him up a little more first.”
“I find it fascinating how this all works. Thank you for explaining.” Gillian turned back to Drew but did not reseat herself. “So, Drew.” She let out a big breath. “I suppose we really should talk.”
“You heard Brett. I’m all talked out.” His brown eyes challenged her. “But hey, you got something more physical in mind, count me in.”
Gillian might not have an extensive romantic background, but neither was she obtuse. Drew was sexually attracted to her. After he’d sent off the young bimbos, she felt marginally flattered by that. But not enough to play the fool. “I’m sure nothing more than talk will interest you.”
A brow went up. “The hell it doesn’t.”
This time her smile was snide. “But I don’t meet your many requirements, Drew.”
His gaze went over her again, slower this time, lingering in a way meant to discomfort her. He paused on her chest. “Honey, I think you fit the requirements just fine.”
Rather than be offended by his near-tactile scrutiny, Gillian felt… warmed. And that annoyed her. So he was confident. And take-charge. He did possess a type of raw sex appeal.
But it was so raw as to be dangerous.
She put an arm on the bar and propped her chin on a fist. “But Drew, I’m forty-one,” she lied. “That puts me well beyond your age stipulation.”
His mouth twitched into a grin and he took up the game with practiced ease. “You sneaky broad. You were eavesdropping on us.”
“Guilty. But you see, on top of being elderly, I have five…” She paused for effect. “No, let’s make that sixchildren.”
“You’re a terrible fibber.” He turned his head to study her waist in the snug skirt. “I’d put you at no more than thirty-three tops. And any idiot can see those are not the hips of a child-bearing woman.”
Brett gave a choking cough, and made a point of looking at the ceiling.
“Hmmm.” Gillian leaned in closer to Drew. “Perhaps you’re right.” She gave him a quizzical frown. “But why ever do you think I’d lie about such things?”
She pursed her mouth as if in thought. “Or maybe I stretched the truth to deliberately disqualify myself based on your list of suitable criteria. You know…” She waved a hand. “…to avoid your personal interest.”
Drew got closer too, so close she felt his breath on her lips. He stared at her mouth. “Ah. So you assumed I’d be personally interested, did you?”
“Accurately, it seems. After all, you did suggest certain things you’d like to do.”
“To you. Yeah.” His gaze locked on hers. “If you need more details, they involve you baring yourself, and getting a little sweaty. So what do you say?”
Good Lord. The man showed no decorum at all. “Uhmmm… no. Afraid not.” For her own peace of mind, Gillian moved away from him again. “You were probably too hasty in sending away the enthusiastic groupies who, I’m sure, would have been much more accommodating.”
“But they didn’t interest me.” His appreciative attention held her captive. “They were too artificial for my tastes.”
“The laughs?” she guessed.
“The boobs.” He nodded toward her cleavage and smiled. “I like things a little more natural.”