Two and a half weeks later…
Looking and feeling sexy is something I’ve become accustomed to while working at Midnight Frenzy, but I’ve never felt as sexy as I do tonight. Belle and I spent our entire Saturday at the shops, having a girlie pampering session. We had our hair done, our make-up done, manicures and pedicures. And just when I thought I was ready to go home, Belle and I walked past Petticoat’s, a sexy lingerie shop, and I made one last stop.
One very expensive stop.
I owned nice underwear before, but the things I bought from Petticoat’s can’t be described as nice. With no time for men or relationships, lingerie has never been high on my priority list. And while it hadn’t been any higher on the list today, I wasn’t able to resist running my fingers over one of the scraps of silk and lace that I saw in the store. The vision that followed of Linc tracing those same patterns and swirls on me made the panties I was wearing grow damp. Ten minutes later, I’d blown money that should have been saved on underwear. Underwear I wasn’t able to resist wearing to work tonight.
It used to be that sex was rarely on my mind, but lately I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m aware of my body in ways I’ve never been before.
Even as I walk through the door of Midnight Frenzy, the cocktail of perfume and cologne in the air is like an aphrodisiac. My simple yoga pants and T-shirt weigh heavy against my too-hot skin. My nipples are tight buds against the lace of my new bra, and there’s a steady pulse low in my belly that has been there ever since I imagined Linc touching my underwear.
Kane grins at me from behind the bar as I approach. “Brookey.”
I pretend to frown. “Please tell me that Jemma did not instruct you to call me that.”
He feigns hurt. “Of course not. I don’t do things just because Jemma tells me to.”
Jemma has been hanging out at the bar a lot between dances, talking to Kane and me, and avoiding Nate. Fortunately, she’s not downing shots the whole time, so I don’t have to worry about it affecting her performance.
“How was your day?” he asks.
“It was good. I took Belle shopping. We had fun.”
Kane pulls a face. “The words shopping and fun do not go together.”
I laugh. “Typical guy. I’m going to go suit up.”
“Hey,” Kane calls out as I walk towards the door. “Don’t you need the code?”
“Oh, yeah,” I say, mentally kicking myself.
Linc sent it to me earlier because he knows how much I hate not knowing the code when I come in. I had a huge grin on my face when I saw his message, which contained a smiley face. Despite ordering it not to, my heart somersaulted in my chest.
“It’s forty-three-forty-three. And before you go, I have a surprise.”
“We’ve got five behind the bar tonight.”
“All right,” I say, high-fiving him.
Saturday night is our busiest night, meaning the club nearly bursts at the seams. Lately, we’ve had the right amount of staff to cover every shift, but Saturdays are still insane. Having five of us working the bar will be a relief, even if I’m already adding the extra expense to the bottom line in my head.
Ugh, I need to shake the figures from my head right now. The puzzle of balancing the books consumes my weekdays, and I allow it. But this is the weekend. Even if I’m technically working, I’m hanging out with people who have become my friends and watching the hottest dance troupe in the state, possibly the country, perform. So, good-bye accounting problems, at least for tonight.
I make my way to the dressing rooms and change quickly.
“Hey, Brooke,” Saxon says, walking out at the same time as I do.
“Saxon. Ready for another Saturday night?”
“Bring it on, baby. I’m wearing my chastity belt. No one is getting their hands down my pants tonight.”
His comment brings back the memory of a touchy-feely customer who tried to get too flirty with him yesterday, causing me to laugh.
“Chastity belt, hmm?”
“You want to see it?” he asks, waggling his eyebrows at me.
“I’m good,” I grin back. “I’ll take your word for it.”
Saxon hasn’t flirted with me for the past two and a half weeks, but right now it feels like he is again. This time, it doesn’t freak me out. Saxon has become my buddy. He’s always talking to me and cracking jokes. I look forward to working with him as much as I do the other bartenders. Plus, I’ve learned a thing or two about putting guys in their place, courtesy of watching Layla and Cat interact with their customers. I trust that if I tell Saxon to dial it back, he will.
The two of us joke around on our way to the bar, but I stop when we see Linc heading towards us in suit pants and a white silk shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
The semi-state of arousal I’ve been in on and off since I walked into Petticoat’s becomes a full-blown inferno of need and lust and want. And as Linc’s green eyes meet mine, and he smiles like he’s missed me, it feels as if I’m trying a dance lift, only there’s no one there to catch me and I’m free falling.
As much as I wish it wasn’t the case, he is the reason I’m so aware of my body these days. All thanks to our one-on-one dance lessons which heighten my senses and leave me dangling over the cliff of arousal every time. My boss is careful about how much he touches me, and where. But I still struggle to school my features into passivity every time his hands are on me. Most of the time, Linc manages to ignore my reactions to him. But every so often, it’s as if he’s as affected as I am. Those moments are the ones where his eyes smoulder, his voice takes on a husky quality, and his touch is like a caress which leaves me aching for him long after we’ve finished dancing.
Linc takes a step towards me but stops, his smile fading a little as he registers Saxon’s presence.
“Saxon, Brooke,” Linc says, looking from me to Saxon and then back to me again.
“Hi,” I say.
“Linc,” Saxon says, holding his fist out for Linc to bump.
Linc’s expression nearly causes me to burst out laughing. I don’t think Saxon has figured out Linc isn’t into blowing fists up.
“Can’t wait to see the moves Tease pull out tonight,” Saxon says. “Hey, do you guys do try-outs? Because if you ever need someone, I know how to dance.”
Saxon does some weird dance thingy, and I put a hand over my mouth to smother my laughter.
Linc looks at me and quirks an eyebrow, which would make me laugh harder, except that I’m now noticing how tired he looks. And his hair is a mess, like he’s been running a hand through it in frustration.
If it was a weekday, and it was just the two of us, I know Linc would share what’s wrong if I asked. When he let me in on the club finances, he let me into his world. He made me his confidante. We eat lunch together, work together and dance together four days a week. I like him and respect him more with each day, and I think he feels the same. We’re friends, just like he wanted. But while there are other people around, we aren’t friends – we’re boss and employee.
I bite the inside of my cheek instead of asking him what he’s stressing about. Or how he went teaching the kids at the community centre today. Even though I’m dying to know.
“I’ll let you know when Tease hold auditions,” Linc tells Saxon with a tired smile. “I have to keep moving, but I’ll catch up with you guys later.”
I nod, disappointed I won’t get a chance to find out what’s bothering him until Monday.
“Catch you later, Boss-man,” Saxon says.
“I really don’t think he likes it when you call him Boss-man,” I say as Linc walks off and Saxon and I head towards the bar.
“I know. He doesn’t like blowing up fists, either.”
“Then why do you do it?” I ask.
“I went to private school; grew up around a lot of rich people. People who thought they were better than me because of how much money they had. Eventually, I just felt better around them when I joked around.”
Saxon has always given off a class-clown sort of vibe. Now I get why.
“Linc isn’t like that, you know,” I say.
He shrugs. “So, are you into him?”
The question is so blunt and out of left field that it nearly knocks me off balance.
“No! I mean, why would you ask me something like that?”
He shrugs. “It was the feeling I got when Linc warned me I shouldn’t be touching you. I wondered if something was going on between the two of you.”
That explains why Saxon has been treating me like his kid sister since then.
“No. Trust me, nothing is going on. You were there when Kane gave Layla and I the speech about Linc not sleeping with his employees,” I remind him.
“Yeah,” Saxon nods, still looking serious. “I just thought that maybe he’d made an exception for you.”
With what’s at stake for Linc, and what we’re working on, that’s never going to happen.
I shake my head. “No exception has been made. I’m his employee, that’s all.”
It’s Saxon’s turn to shake his head. “No, you’re more than that to him. I can tell.”
“We’re friends, then,” I say.
“How did that happen?”
I shrug. “It just did.”
This conversation is now making me uncomfortable. I don’t know how to answer any more of Saxon’s questions without lying, and I don’t want to lie to him, especially since this is one of the few times I’ve seen Saxon look serious.
I’m relieved when we reach the bar and I don’t have to talk about Linc anymore.
“Hey, girls,” I say to Cat and Layla, who are already behind the bar.
Cat hugs me as if we didn’t just see each other last night. “Brooke!”
I’ve worked in places where the women are so bitchy it’s unbelievable. I feel so lucky to be working with Layla and Cat, and know that we like each other and have fun together.
“All right, girls outnumber guys, so you’re going to sandwich us tonight,” Kane says when he sees Saxon and I are there.
Saxon grins and shoots me a look which is all flirty. I just shake my head and smile, pleased his jokey self is back and the topic of the boss is behind us.
“Cat, you’re on the end. Saxon, you’re next to Cat. Brooke, you’re middle. I’ll work next to you, and Layla, you can be on my other side. It’s going to be a crazy night tonight,” Kane says. “I can just feel it.”
I can, too. There’s something in the air.
“Can we take breaks together?” Cat asks.
“If you want to get your groove on and dance with someone during the break, we can overlap by a few minutes.”
“Yes!” Cat squeals.
“I’m serious, Cat. A few minutes only or Linc’ll have my arse. I had to beg him to roster five on tonight.”
Cat nods, her grin is wider than I’ve seen it before. “Understood.”
I don’t get what the big deal is until Kane turns to me and says, “We did it one night just after the club opened and we had an extra working the bar. We took breaks together – had fifteen minutes to eat something and then another fifteen to dance with one of the bar team.”
Excitement spreads through me. “I get to go out on the dance floor tonight?”
As much as I enjoyed my day out with Belle, I’m aware of the fact I haven’t danced today. And watching Tease always leaves me edgy and restless, and with an overabundance of energy.
Kane grins back at me. “You will.”
“It’s going to be my first time actually dancing on the dance floor here.”
I don’t mention that I have already danced on the stage.
“It’ll be the first time you’ve danced on the floor of any nightclub, right?” Kane asks.
“No, Brooke,” Saxon says, covering his chest like I’ve shot him through the heart. “Tell me it isn’t so.”
“Tell you what isn’t so?”
“Tell me you’re not seriously an N.C.V?”
“Night Club Virgin.”
My cheeks burn with heat thanks to Saxon’s choice of words.
“Yeah, she is,” Kane says, mischief in his eyes. “She’d never been to a nightclub before she came here.”
Curse Jemma for spilling that to the bouncers and anyone else who would listen.
“You’re a night club virgin,” Cat says. “Oh, this is going to be good.”
“Good? This isn’t good,” Saxon says to me. “You’re what? Twenty-two?”
“Twenty-three?” He shakes his head. “Oh, Brooke, what am I going to do with you?”
“We should go out,” Cat says. “Do a club crawl.”
“Yes!” Layla agrees.
“Um, guys, we work in a nightclub,” I point out.
And I’m already out four nights a week. I don’t want to leave Belle with Patricia for a fifth night.
“Yes. But we need to go out somewhere different. Somewhere you’ve never been before. Somewhere that isn’t work.” Cat says.
“Jemma would agree,” Kane says, as if that should sway my decision.
“We can’t go out and leave the bar unattended,” I say, pointing out the obvious.
“No, but the club is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays,” Kane reminds me.
“Surely no decent club is open those nights.”
“Seven is open the Monday before Cup Day,” Saxon announces. “We should go there.”
“Seven Deadly Sins. You’ll love it,” Cat says. “I’ll see if we can get baby-sitting so that Tim can come with us. We both need a night out on the town.”
“We’ll all go.” Layla agrees. “Seven is awesome. I mean, nothing compares to Midnight Frenzy, but Seven was where everyone went before this place opened.”
I haven’t had a night out in…well, I’ve never had a night out outside of work. I guess I could find out if Belle wants to go to her friend’s house for the public holiday. There wouldn’t be any harm in that, would there? That way I wouldn’t have to ask Patricia to look after her.
“So, are you in, Brooke?” Cat asks.
I grin as my co-workers’ squeals of delight hit my ears, along with the first bars of the club’s opening music.
Layla goes on break first. Once she’s used up all but her last few minutes, Saxon leaves the bar and hits the dance floor with her. They stay relatively close to the bar, Saxon cracking me up but also distracting me with his deliberately over-enthusiastic dance moves. After he’s done, he heads off to eat something, choosing to join Cat on the dance floor for the last minutes of his break and the start of hers.
My hopes of dancing with Cat are dashed when I realise I’m not going on break until after Tease have performed their second routine for the evening. I really need to dance and move – an urge which only gets stronger after watching my boss perform in yet another hot dance number. Just as Tease finish performing and I’m deciding whether I should go out on the dance floor by myself while on break, Kane declares loudly that he’s joining me.
“I’ve got the N.C.V tonight!”
“Night Club Virgin! Night Club Virgin!” the bar team chant.
I just about die on the spot when the patrons around the bar join in the chant, drawing ridiculous amounts of attention to me.
Saxon mock-glares at Kane. “I wanted to be her first.”
Kane ignores him and holds out his hand for me to take, his eyes laughing as they lock with mine. “You and me, Brookey. We’ve got a date on that dance floor.”
I’m shaking my head and blushing, but I can’t fight my smile as I put my hand in his. The need to dance is consuming me.
The crowd at the bar, including my co-workers, are still chanting as Kane opens the door to backstage.
“I’m going to kill you for starting that chant,” I say to Kane. “After I kill Jemma for telling everyone this is the first club I’ve been to.”
Kane laughs as we navigate our way through the labyrinth, towards the metal door. “Sorry, but I can’t let you deprive me of this.”
My anger evaporates the moment we walk out onto the dance floor. The music and energy hits me full force. The beat moves through me, taking me over, and as soon as Kane and I find enough space for the two of us – close to the bar – I start dancing my arse off.
Kane stares at me with his mouth open, as if I’ve just blown his mind. “Brooke, you’ve been holding out on me.”
He joins me in moving immediately, impressing me right back and making me laugh with some of his crazier moves. Like the good ol’ fashioned robot. He’s disturbingly good at that one.
When the old-school hit “C’Mon ‘N’ Ride It” begins pumping, Kane puts his hands on my hips and starts dancing closer to me. I look into his blue eyes and smile at him, and he smiles back, motioning to the attention we’re starting to attract. Great. The people who were at the bar when Kane announced our date on the dance floor are gathering around us.
Worse still, Cat, Layla and Saxon have started that stupid chant up again. I want to die of embarrassment, or at least stop dancing so I can cover my face and hide as the crowd joins in with them once more. But then Kane pulls me closer, his body leading mine through a sequence of twists and turns so that I forget about the crowd and get sucked back into the music. Kane is a great dancer, and when he turns me around and moves his hips against my backside, I’m beyond excited to be copying some of Tease’s moves.
It’s a feeling that doesn’t last. Before the song has finished playing, Linc breaks through the crowd around us. The look of fury on his face when he sees Kane dancing with me stops me cold and blows away all my excitement.
I turn to Kane, expecting him to look worried over Linc’s reaction, but he’s still smiling.
“What the hell is going on?” Linc asks Kane.
Kane hooks his arm around my neck and jerks me to him. “Did you know that our Brooke has never officially danced in a nightclub? I thought you wouldn’t mind if I gave Brooke her first dance here. Unfortunately, the crowd heard us giving her a hard time and wanted to see the outcome.”
I see Linc’s body relax ever so slightly and he breathes out roughly.
“What are they calling her?” he asks Kane after a beat.
“Night Club Virgin.”
“Night Club Virgin,” Linc repeats, shaking his head at Kane and then looking at me.
When his green eyes lock with mine, I feel all kinds of hot. The kind of hot that I never felt while Kane and I were dancing. It was sexy with Kane, but it didn’t burn me from the inside out.
“Someone had to pop her cherry,” Kane says.
“So, you took the honour?”
“Well, Saxon wanted to, but I called dibs.”
“Now that you’ve had the pleasure of devirginizing my bartender, maybe you can get back to work?”
There’s a good chance my already hot face will explode into flames with one more reference to my ‘cherry’ being popped.
“I’ll just grab a bite and then I’ll head back,” Kane nods at the bar. To me he says, “Stay if you want. Enjoy another dance.”
I nod, but I have no intention of staying out here without him. The crowd around us is starting to dissipate and the bar will probably be busy again soon, if it isn’t already. We had our moment of fun. I’ll finish my break quickly and get back to work.
Before I walk away, however, Linc reaches out and touches my arm, stopping me.
The awareness I feel, the tingles that travel up my arm as I meet his intense gaze, it’s wrong. During the club’s open hours, I’m supposed to think of him as my boss only, but the man in front of me looks tired and stressed, and I want nothing more than to ease that for him. Hugged by the noise and the heat of the crowd, this moment shouldn’t feel as intimate as our time alone together, and yet somehow it feels more so. Like a moment in time we can’t resist stealing together.
“Hey,” he says. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to you tonight.”
I smile, pleased he sounds so regretful. “Well, you’re busy being the boss and running this awesome club.”
Someone jostles him from behind and he steps towards me at the same time as I’m bumped from the back. His hands wrap around my waist and my hands go to his chest. It’s a position we’ve been in while dancing together, but we’re not dancing right now.
And he doesn’t seem in any hurry to let me go.
His grip on my waist is firm, keeping me where I am. I could drop my hands to my side, but I don’t. The heat of his body and the hard muscles beneath his shirt keep my hands where they are. I wish I could stroke them over him, learn every inch of him. Heat unfurls through me, and my new underwear grow damp as I curl my fingers ever so slightly into the cotton of his T-shirt. His eyes close in response and his head droops in a move that resembles exhaustion.
When he opens his eyes and looks at me, I can’t keep my concern at bay any longer. “Is everything okay? You looked…stressed when I saw you earlier.”
“I…” he starts before looking over my shoulder and trailing off. “Shit. Destiny.”
I’m about to look over my shoulder to see what’s caught his attention, but before I can, Linc releases me.
“There you are, Linc, I thought you were supposed to find me.”
Destiny, I realise now, is a person – a beautiful brunette with olive skin, big boobs, and an awesome little green dress. She’s not touching Linc, but she doesn’t need to for me to know why she’s here. It’s in her confidence and the way she looks at him – as if she knows what it’s like to do more than just dance with him.
This must be one of his buddies, one of the people he selectively sleeps with. Jemma warned me of their existence, yet it’s one thing to hear about it and another to come face to face with it.
What does it take to become one of Linc’s bed companions? What criteria does he look for?
Likely, they must expect nothing from him. He has so many expectations piled on him by his family, he needs none from a sexual partner. None beyond sexual gratification, anyway.
I can’t imagine he shares the ins and outs of his club with her, or tells her about the deal he made with his family. I’m sure he doesn’t eat with her, spend time with her, or even dance with her. But that’s why he’ll take her to bed. It’s just sex. In his ideal world, no woman will ever possess all of him. The women he takes to bed are the ones he keeps out of his life. And the women he lets into his life…well, they will never share his bed.
Linc has been clear from the start how he felt about his freedom, and his thoughts on relationships. So, no matter how strong my attraction is to Linc – no matter how much I care about and admire him – I’ve respected the boundaries he’s put in place between us. I might have fantasised about us doing a lot more together than just working and dancing, and his touch and proximity might arouse me to the point of feverishness, but I’ve never forgotten that ‘more’ is not an option for either of us. That said, the thought of him having sex with Destiny tonight is like a razor blade slicing through my insides. My heart especially.
Linc looks at me, and I can see he’s torn. He was about to tell me something and I can feel his reluctance to end our conversation, but our moment is over. He has a date with Destiny, and I can’t stand here any longer and see him with her.
“I’ve got to get back to work,” I tell him.
He nods. “I’ll catch you later?”
When I get back to the bar, after having a snack and going to the bathroom, Saxon is waiting for me. Or at least it seems that way. He keeps looking at me between serving customers.
“Are you sure there’s nothing going on between you and Linc?” he asks finally.
“Absolutely,” I say with even more certainty than last time.
Saxon leans on the bar, studying me. “So, there’s absolutely nothing to stop you from dancing with me if we go out on Cup Weekend?” Saxon asks.
I shake my head. “Nothing. At. All.”
In fact, it would probably do me a world of good to go out with the bar team and spend more time dancing with men who aren’t my unavailable boss.