I show my bracelet to the guy at the door of Club Angel and he gives me a nod, so I slide through the crowd and march to the couch where I’d been sitting earlier with my friends. I don’t know what I expect to find, my friend Maya sitting there forlornly, waiting for me to rescue her, but she hasn’t answered her phone in like forty-five minutes or so, so I’ve come back to look for her.
A group of us have come to the city to celebrate our friend Riva’s thirtieth birthday. We had all gone to college together, and so this was kind of a reunion for most of us, except me and Maya, who teach together in our small town of Cascade. We drove together to the reunion, and I should have been paying closer attention when we left this club, because we left without Maya.
Instead of finding her sitting on the couch, though, I find a group of five guys, and they’re rowdy and already pretty drunk, I guess, so I’m not really sure how to approach them. I teach elementary school, for God’s sake. I don’t know how to deal with men.
One of them sees me looking. His gaze grows shrewd, and he leans forward.
My first instinct is to snatch my gaze away and look toward the bar. Maybe she’s there, since she is only one person and wouldn’t want to take up the whole sofa.
So I look, and take a couple of steps toward the space, which is raised a bit over the area where I am, but I can still feel that gaze on me. Despite my instincts, I look back, and he’s still watching me. He’s hella good looking, too, chiseled jaw, a slight dimple in his chin, and even in the dim lights I can see he has light eyes. Blue, I think, but I can’t be sure.
I am not the kind of girls guys stare at. I am too tall and too heavy, and too plain. Okay, tonight I’m wearing a body-con dress I felt good in before, but now I’m having second thoughts. Diane had tried to get me to wear it without a bra, but no way, and yes, I have a bit of a panty line because I’m sorry, thongs are uncomfortable and I didn’t want to be miserable tonight.
But he’s watching me.
I expect him to make a rude comment, because I’m used to those.
“Can I help you?” he asks, his voice kind of sharp.
Weird, right, because he doesn’t work here, so how could he help me? But it’s worth a shot. “I’m looking for my friend. We left, and she didn’t come with us, and I just want to make sure she’s okay.”
His question to me draws the attention of his companions, too. Fan-freaking-tastic. Just what I want, to be the center of attention.
“You came back by yourself to look for her.”
All my alarms are up now. “My friends know where I am.” I square my shoulders and look down my nose at him. “We were sitting here before we left. Would you have seen her?”
Something flickers across his face. “Curly hair? Little dress?”
“Um, yes. You saw her?” Hope rises in my chest, and I look toward the dance floor. Maybe she’s out there having the time of her life, not caring that I’ve been freaking the fuck out looking for her.
“I did. She lost her purse and her phone. My guitar player took her to find you guys.”
She lost her purse. That explains so much, and yet…
“Where did they go?”
He sits back and shrugs. “They didn’t tell me.”
Well, that’s just great. How am I going to find her if she left here without a phone or anything? And with a strange guy on top of that?
“She didn’t have her purse?” I know I sound stupid, but my brain is running ahead, trying to figure out why she didn’t have her purse, and how this guy knew.
He shook his head. “She made us all get up to look for it. We didn’t find it, but my friend has his phone.”
I hate asking this guy for anything, because I do not like the way he is looking at me, but how else will I find Maya? “Could you call him and see where they are?”
He slides me a look, like I should know better. “I will text him and see where they are.”
I guess I should be thankful for that, right? I nod, and watch him pull out his phone to text. His fingers are long and fast on the small screen, and he has tattoos on his knuckles.
I’ve never known a guy with tattoos on his knuckles.
“Can you, ah, text me when you hear back?” I hold up my own phone, ready to enter his contact information.
He takes the phone and enters his number, then hands it back.
His name is Jase.
“Are you leaving?” he asks me.
I should. She’s clearly not here, and I could go back with my friends and wait for a text from him.
But I don’t know him, and I’m not sure I trust him to remember to text me, anyway. So I shake my head. “I’ll be over at the bar.”
He grunts, but I ignore him and march toward the bar. There’s a seat at the end, and I have a little trouble getting into it because of the tight hem of my skirt, but I manage, and happen to glance over to see he is still watching me.
I order a drink because I’d feel weird sitting here not drinking, and I hope it’s a big one, because that way I can nurse it, but of course it’s a tiny one, like two swallows and I’ll be done. Still, I take a sip, and it is way nastier than expected.
I glance over at the couch again, because how can I not? He is really pretty. I don’t even think he would mind that description, because it’s so apt. He looks like a Disney prince.
With tattoos on his knuckles.
And then it hits me who he is. He said Maya had gone off with his guitar player, and now as I look down the sofa, I recognize the singer.
Jase is the drummer for Obscure Magic.
“Hey, pretty lady, can I buy you a drink?”
I am not accustomed to being approached, so I jolt and turn toward the sound of the voice.
Then jolt again.
The man with the scraggly blond hair could not be farther from my type. For one, the hair is not the only thing scraggly about him, and yes, I feel terrible judging him on his appearance, but I’m twice his size, and he just…no. Besides, I have other things on my mind.
“No, thank you.”
His smile, which was already kind of over-the-top, like he was forcing his cheerfulness, dimmed and looked a little…mean.
“Shouldn’t be so picky.”
I do not have any desire to explain my dilemma to this man, so I just shake my head again and turn up my smile, to off-set his.
“I’m not in the market tonight. But thank you.”
The smile disappears altogether and he pivots. “Bitch,” he tosses over his shoulder.
Well, okay then.
My phone pings. I turn it over and look at the number. It’s Jase.
How many teeth did he have?
The comment startles a laugh out of me, which I cover with my fingers.
That’s just mean.
I want to look at him, but I don’t want to see the smirk I know will be on his face.
I see the dots appear, but don’t want him to see me watching the phone waiting for his text, so I set my phone, screen down, back on the bar.
Which doesn’t give me much to do as I’m sitting here, and I inadvertently make eye contact with a guy across the bar. I smile—it’s a reflex, okay? A teacher thing—and great. He picks up his drink and rounds the bar to me. I’m already shaking my head. No, no, no thank you, no. How can I convey that any more clearly?
“Hey,” he says.
“Waiting for someone,” I lie.
He sets his drink on the bar next to mine. A highball glass, probably whiskey, but there’s not much left. “I’ll keep you company until he gets here.”
“No, thank you. I prefer to be alone.” Look, I don’t go to bars very often, at all, and I’m generally a nice person, but I don’t want to deal with this guy, and my nerves are a little frayed.
So his reaction kind of catches me off guard. He draws himself to his full height, which, let’s be honest, if I was standing next to him, I’d probably tower over him, and his nose pinches.
“Bitch, then don’t send invitations.”
I blink, but fortunately he doesn’t say more, picks up his drink and marches back to his seat across the bar.
I pick up my phone, not wanting to make any more inadvertent eye contact, and the screen lights up.
He probably has a thing for his sister.
I smile. Why do I smile? Because Jase is paying attention to me? At least I feel like I have back-up if my mouth gets me in trouble.
Even as I study my phone—and watch the battery drain, which only adds to my fraying nerves, yet another guy approaches.
“My friend said he thought you looked lonely.”
I look from the man—a skinny, bespectacled pre-Jurassic Park Jeff Goldblum type that I ordinarily would not reject—to where he gestured.
The thin-skinned guy I’d rejected moments before. He salutes me with his glass, and I narrow my gaze, then turn back to Jeff.
“I’m sorry. I told your friend I was waiting for someone.”
He leans on the bar, and yeah, he would be plenty tall enough for me, and waggles his eyebrows. “For me, I guarantee it.”
So. He has gotten the Jeff Goldblum comparison before because that is a quote from Jurassic Park. Well, close enough, anyway, and not a Jeff Goldblum line but—
Okay, not important that I clearly know that movie too well.
“No, thank you. I’m waiting.”
At least he takes his rejection with better grace than his friend, though he gives me a sneer as he straightens and walks away.
I think that one has a tail.
You want me to come sit with you to keep the creeps away?
I do not. Just let me know when you hear from your friend.
Poor Maya. She has to be so scared. I’m pretty scared myself. I can’t just sit here, though, and my tiny drink is empty. I flag down the bartender and point to a drink a lady down the bar is enjoying, in a very large glass.
“I’ll take one of those.”
I fold my hands in front of me as I wait, as the bartender takes my glass and turns away. I’m careful not to make eye contact with anyone at the bar, but not careful enough not to swing my gaze toward Jase.
Who has two Barbie dolls draped all over him. Okay, not exactly draped. One is sitting to his right, leaning in, and the other is, like, looming over him because she can’t wedge onto the couch beside him. Both women appear to be identical, but maybe it’s just the type.
Jase makes eye contact with me and mouths the word, “Help!”
I lift an eyebrow at him, trying to assess if he is serious or not.
“Please!” he pleads silently.
I take a gulp of the drink the bartender has just set in front of me—mistake, because I can barely keep myself from coughing it back up since it tastes like it is probably one hundred percent alcohol—and slide off the stool to march over to Jase and the two girls.
I haul my arm back and toss the rest of the drink in his face.
He sputters and squints as I take a step closer.
“I told you we could add one girl, not two. What do you take me for? You have one mouth and one—“ I gesture toward his groin. “You think I’m going to sit and watch you with two girls?”
I have to admit, the picture I painted for myself surprised me. The idea of watching him with two girls was kind of hot, actually.
I clearly have had too much to drink.
He leans forward, swiping his right arm over his face to get the remainder of my drink off his face. When he looks up at me, I see his eyes are alight with amusement. Clearly, he didn’t expect me to take this tactic. Me, I’m still regretting the twenty dollars I’d spent on that drink that was now dripping from his nose.
“You said you like to watch.”
I swallow hard. What have I done? One thing for me to try to shake the girls by suggesting this—and may I note, they are not shaken, they’re still hanging around—but another to plant that thought in his head, that I would be down for that. With him. With anyone.
“How would you like it if I asked two guys to come with us?”
“Those two guys?” He looks toward the bar where Jeff and Thin-Skin are hanging out.
I make a gagging motion. “One. Girl. Pick one.” I motion to Barbie and Skipper, or whoever they are.
“Okay.” He rises and takes a step closer to me.
He’s tall, and warm, and so damned hot. Then he slides his hand around the back of my neck and angles my head just so.
“I pick you.”
And he covers my mouth with his.
One Rockin’ Night is available on Amazon.