With both Mervyn and Brooke out of office the Monday before Cup Day, I should be getting through my work at lightning speed. No distractions and no dancing for a day should equal productivity, right?
I crave dancing with Brooke so badly, I can’t focus.
It used to be that dancing with Tease was the highlight of my day. Now it’s dancing with Brooke. Putting my hands on her while I teach her everything I know is better than the adrenaline rush I get before every show. It’s more exciting than somersaulting and spinning through the air. And the rush gets bigger, faster, stronger every time she’s in my arms.
I’m addicted to the progress she makes every session. I’m addicted to the smile she gives me every time she nails a move on her first try. And the way she looks at me when we’re dancing together – the way I so obviously turn her on with every touch? I’m addicted to that, too. Every hitch of her breath, every gasp, and every shiver.
I spend far too much time lately jerking off to fantasies of me balls-deep inside her while she’s bent over my desk, or my bar. Worse, I imagine myself making love to her on my stage.
I have sex with women, I don’t make love to them, but I badly want to make love to Brooke. I want to kiss her softly as I slide inside her, then stay with her all night, kissing her, touching her, loving her.
Destiny, my one attempt at distracting myself from Brooke a couple of weeks back was a complete fail. I gave her an orgasm and sent her on her way.
It’s a slippery slope that I’m on, but I can’t bring myself to dig my heels in by stopping our lessons. Even if the dancing arouses both of us, we’re consummate professionals afterwards. It would be unfair of me to go back on my promise to teach Brooke when she’s working her arse off for me without asking for anything else in return.
I mean, her dedication to my club and to my staff rivals mine. She’s taken my problems on and made them her own. She gets me better than anyone. She knows when I need to talk, when she needs to reassure me, and when to back off. I enjoy her company so much that I actively seek it out. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to work with.
So, as long as dancing together doesn’t interfere with work, there’s no reason to stop our one-on-one lessons, is there?
Only it is interfering with my work. I can’t concentrate for shit today; all I want to do is dance with her.
I sigh with frustration and jam a hand through my hair before leaning back in my chair and staring up at the ceiling of my office. I have to stop thinking about her.
My phone rings and I’m relieved to have something other than my lack of productivity to focus on. I’m surprised and a little worried when I see Kane’s name flashing on the screen. His mother isn’t well and hasn’t been for some time.
“Kane, what’s up? Is everything okay?”
“I just wanted to ask my favourite boss what he’s up to tonight?”
“Are you sucking up to me?”
“Just answer the question.”
“The only thing I have planned is work.” I cancelled rehearsals because of the public holiday tomorrow. “Why?”
“Because all the bartenders from Midnight Frenzy are going out to Seven.”
“All the bartenders?”
Brooke who never goes out because she never has time? Brooke who asked for the day off so she could spend it with her sister?
Brooke who I’m missing like crazy now.
“Actually, she’s the reason we’re going. You know she’s never been clubbing. Who better to show her a good time than you and me, huh? You remember the days when we used to be free and wild?”
I chuckle. “I remember.”
Occasionally, I forget that it’s not just me buckling down these days. It’s Kane, too. He works damn hard for me. Which is why I want to bring him on as my assistant manager as soon as I can.
“What do you think? Want to spend the night in someone else’s club?” he asks.
If I go, I can dance with Brooke tonight.
Which is probably the very reason I shouldn’t go. Here, within the walls of Midnight Frenzy, I remember what’s at stake while I’m dancing with her. But in another club, it won’t be so easy.
“It’s just the bar staff going?”
“Jemma’s joining us. So is Tim.”
Cat’s partner used to run in my circle before he and Cat had a kid, at which point he decided to knuckle down and spend all his time working. It would be good to see him.
If I go, I can indulge my craving for Brooke by dancing one or two songs with her, then I can just hang out with Kane and Tim and the rest of my bartenders. Maybe that way I’ll be able to focus tomorrow.
“It’d be like old times,” I remark.
“Yeah, so you in? Will you help us corrupt Brooke?”
Corrupting Brooke sounds far too easy and appealing. For me and for everyone else who’s going tonight. I should be there to make sure things don’t get too far out of hand.
At least, that’s what I’m going to tell myself.
“Yeah, Kane, I’m in.”
Brooke is the first person I see standing at the bar inside Seven, which is where Kane told me he’d be waiting for me. She’s dressed in a short little black dress which skims the top of her thighs. Her long brown-red hair falls over one shoulder, a slight kink in it. She’s laughing at something Saxon is saying, and her face is flushed as if she’s had a drink, or several, already.
Which is probably why, when her hazel eyes lock with mine, her gaze is so unguarded that the want, the desire, and the affection she feels for me is blatantly obvious.
I’m hard as a rock already, my dick desperate to greet her and tell her how fucking beautiful she is – how much I missed her today and how much I want her now.
This was a terrible idea. No matter how much I want to dance with her tonight, I can’t. In this club, I’ll cross every line of professionalism and friendship I’ve drawn between us.
As I walk towards the bar, I watch Brooke dig inside herself to find a mask that will cover up the brunt of what she’s feeling. She comes up with a small smile – the sort she gives me as we sit across from each other eating lunch and talking. It’s a smile that says we’re friends, nothing more.
I’ll stay for a couple of hours – long enough to appease Kane and catch up with Tim – and then I’m out of here. Brooke and I might be friends, but remembering that’s all we are will be much harder, for me at least, without our professional relationship to fall back on tonight.
Cat greets me first, kissing me on the cheek.
“Hey, Cat. Tim,” I say, spotting my old friend and shaking his hand.
He puts a hand on my shoulder. “Long time no see. I said ‘no fucking way’ when Kane told me you were coming out with us. I didn’t believe it.”
“Hey, you’re the one with the kid nowadays. Cat’s always telling me how busy you are with work.”
“Yep, he needs a night out as much as we do,” Kane says, clapping me on the back. “He’s also in on our plan to give Brooke the best night out we can.”
Brooke, hearing her name, looks straight at me.
How would tonight look if she didn’t work for me, or if I was just meeting her for the first time, perhaps as one of Jemma’s friends? If I could turn back the clock by a couple of years?
Pre-Midnight Frenzy, I would have taken one look at Brooke’s gorgeous face and made it my mission to go home with her. And if she’d resisted, I would have worked harder to impress her. That was me back then, a show-off. I would have pulled out every move I had for a chance to take her to bed.
But those years of dancing and fucking around are over. Now Brooke is a woman I value and trust. She’s the woman saving my arse and my club. She’s my friend, and perhaps even the person I’m closest to.
I push myself forward and wrap my arms around her. We’ve danced together, but I’ve never hugged her before. Stupidly, I never realised just how perfectly she fits against me. After missing her all day, it’s a relief to be this close to her, inhaling her perfume – a mixture of passionfruit and rose that enters my bloodstream and heats it. She shivers ever so slightly in my arms before quickly trying to pull away.
Reluctantly, I let her go so she can take a step back. Distance. That’s what we need.
“Hey,” she says. “Kane told me he invited you.”
“I hope that’s all right?”
She swallows and nods, dropping her gaze for only a second before she meets mine head-on again. “Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be? We’re friends.”
“Yeah. Friends,” I repeat.
I wonder if she believes that any more than I do right now.
Brooke smiles at me again then moves away, turning back to the bar and to Jemma. Jemma waves at me but frowns a little, like she’s not entirely sure she’s happy I’ve turned up. Saxon seems like he’s all right when he’s not around Brooke, but he rubs me the wrong way whenever the two of them are hanging out. Perhaps he feels the same way because he doesn’t look happy to see me tonight, though he still offers me one of his annoying fist bumps. To make nice, I bump his damn fist. His shock makes me smirk.
Layla, the last member of my bar team, offers me a wide grin.
“Linc. It’s cool you showed up to party with us plebs. This is my girl, Danica.”
I hold out my hand. “Nice to meet you, Danica.”
The blonde that Layla has her arm around is pretty, with big brown eyes and lavender hair styled in a pixie cut.
“So, what’s the plan?” I say to Kane after greeting everyone. “It doesn’t look like the night has properly kicked off yet.”
“That’s because I was waiting for you. We have to take Brooke onto that dance floor and show her how we used to do it.”
I laugh, but inside I’m freaking out. Seven is where I used to spend a lot of time. It has two dance floors, the bar and a large seating area separating them. The DJ playing tonight is one I have on my books because he’s the best. The music pulses through the club, energising the full crowd and begging me to dance. Tonight feels dangerous. It would be too easy to fall back into old habits. Which is why I absolutely shouldn’t dance with Brooke. Especially not the way Kane is suggesting.
Back when nights out at Seven were a ritual, some of our dances verged on Magic Mike territory. Kane and I had fun making some girls the centre of our improv dances, and the girls liked it. Correction, they loved it. People came to Seven to see us pull off our crazy stunts and dance with us, which helped in the conception of Midnight Frenzy. But…
“I’m not tag-teaming Brooke.”
“We don’t have to take it too far. I think she’ll get a kick out of it.”
“I need a drink,” I say, starting to sweat at the thought of dirty-dancing with her in front of my bar team.
I hope to God Kane forgets about this idea of his later.
“All right,” Kane declares. “Let’s get this party started.”
Kane has one of the bartenders line up nine shots of tequila.
“To Brooke,” Kane toasts. “My fabulous bartender who works so damn hard every night.”
“To Brooke,” we all toast.
Brooke is doing her usual red face thing, and I’m amused by the way she’s blushing. Her eyes meet mine for a moment before she averts her gaze and takes the shot, slamming the glass down on the bar.
“Fuck yeah!” Jemma yells, putting her glass down on the bar next to Brooke’s. “That’s the shit. Now,” she takes Brooke’s hand and raises it as if Brooke has just won a fight. “Let’s dance!”
The two girls barely make it more than a few feet before Saxon picks Brooke up, slinging her over his shoulder and lightly smacking her arse.
“I’ve got first dance this time, Brooke,” he shouts as she squeals and laughs.
A couple of weeks ago, I nearly lost my shit when I saw Kane putting his hands all over Brooke. I took one look at him dirty-dancing with her while the people in my club cheered him on, and I wanted to kill him. At the time, I told myself I’d overreacted because I wanted to protect Brooke. That, and I’d been fielding shitty calls from my parents all day so I wasn’t in the best mood to begin with. But I can acknowledge now that I’d been pissed off and jealous because I couldn’t dance with Brooke the way he was. Not without losing control and risking her friendship and her help.
And now something hot and ugly is rearing up inside me, strangling my chest, blurring my vision, and demanding my attention. Saxon’s smug expression as he walks past me makes me want to do more than hurt him. It’s like he’s fucking daring me to say something. In my club, I could tell him to leave her alone. But I’m not the boss tonight. I don’t stand a chance of keeping him away from her. It takes everything in me not to throw myself in Saxon’s way and demand he hand Brooke over.
“I think more drinks are in order,” I say to Kane, irritation, frustration and helplessness rattling around with jagged edges inside of me. “My shout.”
Kane and I walk to the bar, Cat and Tim hot on our heels while Layla and Danica choose to take to the floor.
“So,” Kane starts after I’ve ordered more shots. “I saw Stacey hanging around before you walked in. She asked about you.”
Stacey is the owner’s sister, and we hooked up more than a few times back in the day. As appealing as a night with her should sound, I’m not interested. Especially after my fail with Destiny. There’s only one girl I want to take home tonight – and she’s unequivocally off-limits to me.
“How is Stace?” I ask because Kane expects me to.
“She’s even hotter than I remember, and she was practically panting when she said your name.”
“Hot and easy,” Tim says. “That’s how you like them.”
That was how I used to like them.
“Another shot?” I ask my friends.
“One more,” Kane agrees. “Can you believe Brooke has never been drunk?”
I can believe it. Her adolescence was full of caring for both her mother and her sister. She’s about the closest thing I’ve seen to a saint.
Cat raises an eyebrow. “It makes me wonder just what else she might have missed out on.”
I don’t want to think about whether Brooke has missed out on that. I’ve made it my mission to avoid virgins because they’re notorious for wanting more than sex. But with Brooke…the thought of being her first is enough to inspire a raging hard-on.
“Let’s go corrupt the girl,” Kane says.
“Maybe I should go find Stacey,” I say, hesitating.
I can’t dance with Brooke. I just can’t. Even if I have no desire to bed Stacey tonight, talking to her will be less dangerous than dancing with Brooke.
Kane claps me on the back and shakes his head. “Afterward, my friend. I’m sure you can spare a dance for Brooke.”
“We all can,” says Cat, looking at Tim. “Even you, my sexy man-beast.”
On that disturbing note, I reluctantly follow Kane down the steps to the dance floor. Saxon is monopolising Brooke’s attention, but as soon as Jemma, Layla and Danica see us approaching, they move closer to Brooke, forcing Saxon to step back and give her some space.
We form a circle and everyone takes a turn at dancing with Brooke. I manage to dodge my first turn because some random girl pulls me into her arms and starts grinding on me. To avoid touching Brooke, I indulge the stranger, but after another round of shots and dances, Kane takes the babe I’ve been dancing with off my hands and deposits Brooke in my arms, forcing me to dance with the one staff member I can’t afford to touch tonight.
“Hey, Boss,” Brooke says.
Usually, I’m the one drawing the line between us, but tonight it’s her reminding me of our relationship. It’s as if she understands I need a little more help than usual remembering where the lines are between us. All I want to do is pull her against me and inhale more of her perfume. Instead, I keep my hands on her hips so I can maintain some distance between our bodies as we begin moving together.
“How do you like Seven?” I ask.
“It’s great. Not as great as your club, though.”
I nearly correct her. I nearly tell her it’s our club. Because if Midnight Frenzy lasts past its first year, she’ll be the reason. I don’t know what I’d do without her. Every lunch, every conversation, her steady presence, friendship, and help are things I’ve come to rely on. She’s amazing, and I’m so glad I met her.
I smile down at her. “I’m glad you think so.”
“I love Midnight Frenzy.”
Again, I suspect she’s drawing the line between us, but this time it has the opposite effect on me. This time I get lost in her warm hazel eyes. And when she runs her tongue across her bottom lip, all my blood rushes south. I stare at her mouth hungrily, desperate for the feel of it against mine. I want to taste her so badly that I even lean in a little.
If things were different…if I was different – if I wasn’t married to my club and committed to my freedom – I could fall for her. It would be far too easy.
“I missed the club today.”
She says it so softly that I almost don’t catch it, but the subtext is loud. She missed me. Me. I grip her hips a little harder, moving her ever so slightly away from me, because her words, her voice, everything about her affects me.
And if she comes any closer, she’ll know exactly how well she’s turning me inside out as well as turning me on.
I don’t want our dance to end; it’s all I’ve needed, wanted, thought about since Kane called me earlier – even knowing that it’s dangerous as hell. Like it has for the past month, dancing with Brooke remains the highlight of my day. But it nearly takes more control than I possess to ignore the heat in her gaze and the rhythm of her hips as we dance.
As the song finishes, I’m filled with both relief and disappointment.
“The club missed you, too, Brooke,” I tell her, forcing myself to let her go and passing her onto Cat and Tim.
I need another drink.
After that, the team continues passing Brooke around as if she’s a party favour, everyone laughing at how drunk she’s getting while acting pissed off when one person spends too much time with her. I dance on and off with random women in the club, but I don’t see any of them. I just see her. Brooke seems to understand my need to keep a distance, or maybe she’s equally determined to avoid dancing with me. Either way, even as we dodge each other, our eyes constantly meet across the floor.
Jägermeister, Tequila, Vodka, Sambuca. I slam the shots down to drown out the need for her. Unfortunately, it has the opposite effect. With each shot, my responsibilities and promises slide a little further from my mind, and I feel more reckless as my desire for her grows. I came here tonight to experience the high that only dancing with her gives me. I need it. I crave it. Our last dance was too short.
Maybe as her boss, it’s my job to do the right thing and walk away, but tonight we’re not at work. Why shouldn’t I have just one night to let loose? To not be the boss? To take the one thing I came here for?
Which is why when Kane starts dancing with Brooke provocatively, touching her the way I long to and motioning for me to join them, jealousy, alcohol, and the need to feel her in my arms again drives me to join them.
Brooke faces Kane as I approach. I wrap an arm around her waist as she dances with him, pulling her back against me so that I’m practically hugging her from behind. Brooke freezes for a second before looking over her shoulder at me, her eyes flickering with uncertainty.
It’s no surprise her eyes are full of questions; we’ve avoided each other all night, but I need this. I need her now.
I lower my lips to the shell of her ear, breathing in her perfume in the process. Fuck, how had I forgotten just how good she smells, how amazing she feels? I want to touch her and taste her and kiss her all over.
“Kane asked for my help in corrupting you,” I explain.
She jerks in my arms and then shivers, turning my dick to stone against her.
I should let her go now.
I should walk away.