“Kane asked for my help in corrupting you.”
When Linc whispered those words in my ear a moment ago it took my breath away, turned my knees to jelly, and caused every nerve ending in my body to fire off sparks of awareness. Now, with the hot hard length of him pressing against me, I yearn to drag my dress up my thighs and have him take me right here on the dance floor. I’ve wondered before whether I affect my boss the way he affects me. Tonight, here on the dance floor, there’s no denying the fact. My panties are soaked, the ache between my legs stronger than my racing heart.
Has he forgotten his staff are here? Worse, that we’re dancing with his friend – the bar manager at his club?
Kane’s eyes are alight with mirth and he grins down at me as he runs his hands up my sides, raising my arms to gather my wrists above my head before turning me around to face Linc.
My boss’s green eyes blaze as he takes my wrists from Kane. My stomach drops as his eyes lock with mine.
“Are you going to let us corrupt you, Brooke?” Linc asks seductively, running his fingertips slowly down my forearms, then cupping my elbows, his thumbs stroking up the inside of my arms, making me shiver, before smoothing his palms over my biceps.
His sensual assault leaves me breathless, dizzy and covered in goose bumps.
“Kane wants to show you how we used to do it.”
Linc’s voice is gravelly, the way it gets sometimes when we’re dancing. Need claws through my belly so swiftly that I need help staying upright. I’ve fantasised about performing a Tease-like number with my boss, but he’s turning me on, making my knees go weak.
Damn it, tonight was supposed to be a reprieve from my attraction to Linc. It was supposed to be my chance to dance with guys that don’t leave me burning up with need. I agreed with Kane that Linc needed a night out as much as the rest of us, but when he walked into Seven looking so sexy it hurt to look at him in a pair of black jeans, a black t-shirt under a white button down, and a black cap pulled low over his head, making his green eyes even more striking than usual, I cursed Kane for inviting him and resolved to keep my distance.
I was doing a decent job of avoiding Linc, but now I’m in his arms, and I’ve already surpassed the level of arousal I’m usually at during our one-on-one dance lessons. I shouldn’t allow this dance to continue in front of everyone as I risk revealing just how much this man turns me on, but I’m so tired of watching women throwing themselves at him, grinding on him and touching him. I’ve always wanted to dance with him like the girls from Tease do. And I can’t seem to make myself step away.
Kane’s hands hover above my waist as Linc continues to slide his hands over me oh-so-slowly, ghosting over the sides of my breasts. As I imagine him in bed with me, rocking his hips against mine, pressing between my legs and filling me, my whole body tightens in anticipation until I feel as if I’m busting out of my skin with need.
Just when I think I can’t take any more of the sensual torture, Linc spins me around so I’m facing Kane again, looping one of my arms around the back of his neck and having me lean against him. In response, Kane takes a step back from us and begins making extravagantly sexual movements in front of me, pumping up the crowd starting to gather around us with every thrust of his hips.
I want to enjoy the show Kane is putting on, and to play my part in the performance – a woman caught in the middle of two scorching hot dancers. People are clapping and whistling at Kane, but all I can focus on is Linc running his hands over my hips, my stomach, my rib cage, mapping my body in a way he never has during our dance sessions, making my body strain for something it can’t have.
“Relax, Brooke,” Linc whispers in my ear, his husky voice as effective as a hand caressing me between my legs. “Just enjoy it.”
How can I relax when his every touch sends currents of electricity coursing through me? He wraps one of his arms around my hips while his other hand presses gently down on my back, encouraging me to bend over so I’m looking at the floor. He thrusts against me before circling his hips behind me.
It’s a Tease move I’m extremely familiar with. It always sets the crowd off, making them go wild at the utter depravity and carnality of it, and tonight is no exception. I’m torn between shock and excitement, arousal and embarrassment as the crowd yell out their approval at our antics.
Not to be outdone, Kane slowly moves towards me the moment I stand up straight, thrusting his hips in my direction When Kane gives me his back and reaches back for me, I take his hands. He places our joined hands on his hips before walking me forward, away from Linc. Turning around to face me, Kane grins before making a show of pointing out to Linc that he’s stolen me away. A moment later, I feel Linc behind me, his hands on my waist.
“Cartwheel time,” he whispers in my ear.
Before I fully realise that he means to pull a move I’ve only seen him perform with other partners before, Linc lifts me off the ground and spins me in a cartwheel as if I weigh nothing. It happens so quickly, I don’t even know if my dress stayed down or whether I flashed anyone.
“You’re doing great,” Linc whispers in my ear as Kane takes my hands. “Kane’s going to slide you between his legs,” he warns me.
It’s a move I’ve only tried once with Linc and I’m nervous about attempting it when I’m closer to drunk than I’ve ever been. Kane’s grip on my hands is strong as he propels me between his legs and back up again in one swift motion that must look okay because the crowd is cheering again. It takes my brain a moment to catch up with my body. When it does, I take in the faces of the people watching us and grin.
Dancing always makes me feel joyful and alive, but having an audience is indescribable. Tonight, I’m the entertainment, and that’s a high I’ve never experienced before.
“Linc’s turn to show off now,” Kane tells me.
Sure enough, Linc has dropped to the floor and he’s b-boying, riling up the crowd with his stunts, holding a handstand position with just one hand, pushing his entire body up so it looks like he’s jumping with his hand, then transitioning into a spin on his elbow.
Kane raises his hands above his head and begins clapping in time with the music, indicating he wants others to follow suit. I join in too, loving the show of strength, style and skill by Linc. When Kane takes a step back, I follow suit.
“Wait for him,” Kane says, putting his hand on my elbow and guiding me forward to the centre of the circle.
Clearly my part in this act – if I can call it that – isn’t over. My stomach drops as Linc glides towards me on his head. When he’s close enough to be able to reach out and touch me, he drops to his knees and faces me, shooting me a smile that sinks into my belly and heats me everywhere. I continue clapping, my face flushing and my adrenaline spiking because Linc’s undivided attention is on me. He takes his cap off, walking it down one arm and up again before raising an eyebrow as if to ask me if I’m impressed.
I’ve never seen Linc like this before; playful and flirty, carefree and happy. I don’t doubt that this was what he was like before he owned the club – back in his heyday as he likes to put it.
After moving into a squat, he slowly makes his way to standing, taking his time to worship my body with his hands in the process, making me feel as if I’m the only girl in the club and begging the question: would he be this intense, this single-minded and devoted in bed with me?
Yes, my brain and my body scream at me. I swallow hard as he reaches his full height and his hot gaze tangles with mine. He reaches for me suddenly, pulling me to him and hugging me close as we move to the music together.
He lowers his lips to my ear. “You smell so fucking good.”
Then he buries his face in the crook of my neck, making me shiver and turning my nipples into tight buds.
Usually, I know I can rely on Linc to pull back – to step away when things get too heated between us. However, it’s as if he’s forgotten we have an audience. One comprising of my co-workers – his employees. I’ve seen Linc make his way to the bar enough times to know that, like me, he’s had more than a few drinks tonight. Even if he’s not completely wasted, the man holding me in his arms is not the same one who gave me the speech about keeping things professional between us. Meaning, I should stop this. For his sake and mine. Because if I don’t stop it, I’ll lose myself in his touch and forget everything and everyone but him.
“I’ve wanted to dance with you all night,” he says before I can speak. “It’s why I came here. I’ve missed this. I’ve needed it all day.”
I swallow hard at seeing the intensity in his eyes. “I’ve missed dancing with you too, but-”
“Everything can go back to the way it needs to be tomorrow. Tonight, it’s just you and me. Tonight, we don’t have to pretend.”
I almost tell him I need to keep pretending, but there’s an urgency – a desperation – to his tone that doesn’t seem to come from mere intoxication. He wants us to have this moment, this night where we aren’t boss and employee. My hands are on his chest, stroking over his muscles, causing more heat to blaze in his eyes. I should walk away. I should stop this. But the way he’s looking at me – as if I’m what he wants and needs more than anything – makes it impossible.
He stares down at me, his gaze pleading. “Please, Brooke.”
This is undoubtedly something I’ll regret, but I just can’t turn down the free pass he’s giving us. Not when he seems to want it so badly.
I nod ever so slightly, and Linc spins me out and twirls me back in, catching me. I link my arms around his neck, pressing my body against his. I swear he trembles before he bends his knees, lowering his body until he can fit one leg between mine. The sound of clapping grows more and more distant to my ears, until the only things I can hear are the rush of my blood, the beat of my heart, and our breathing.
“Linc,” I start as he rocks my hips so that I’m riding his thigh.
The movement sends sensation after sensation rolling through me, and the pleasure only increases when his hand drops down to my knee, lifting my thigh to his hip. With my leg propped there, he wraps an arm around my waist and lowers me in a circular motion before bringing me back to centre.
His eyes lock with mine briefly before he does it again, this time simply arching me towards the floor. He holds me there as he moves against me, letting me feel just how much he needs me right now. His other hand strokes over my stomach, inching towards my breasts, making the steady throb of desire between my legs ten times worse.
After pulling me up, he takes my hands in his and lifts them skywards, aligning our bodies so that they’re touching everywhere, then resting his forehead against mine. Every moment we’ve shared up till now, every dance where I’ve wanted more, every lunch, and every conversation run through my head as we stare at each other. I breathe him in as he breathes me in, wanting nothing more than to press my lips against his. My heart goes berserk at the thought, jumping against my ribcage.
God, how easy would it be to pretend that what we’re doing here is going somewhere?
Linc closes his eyes and then opens them again, holding my gaze.
“If things were different, Brooke…If I was different…”
If he was different, what?
“Linc!” Kane calls out from somewhere close by. “Look who found us.”
Linc is still holding me, his eyes heavy and hot on mine, and I’m desperate for him to finish his sentence, but instead he tears his gaze from mine and looks at Kane.
My dance with Linc – our free pass – is over. The crowd begins breaking up as Kane walks towards us with Jemma and another woman I’ve never met. Despite the heat in the club, I feel cold when Linc steps away from me. And even colder when he gives the woman a warm smile and says her name. Stacey.
Stacey throws herself at Linc and hugs him the moment he’s clear of me.
As soon as she releases him, Linc looks at me and explains, “Stacey is an old friend of mine.”
His friend is beautiful. Warm brown eyes smile back at me as Linc addresses me, and dark red hair hangs like a rich, glossy wave down her back. Her leopard print dress should look tacky and gross, but it doesn’t.
“C’mon now,” Stacey says to Linc. “I’m much more than that.”
Linc’s smile is strained in a way I’ve never seen before. While I’ve always been attracted to Linc, I’ve never felt as awkward around him as I do now. He looks…apologetic for the interruption. Somehow that makes it worse.
“Stace, this is my bartender and a good friend of mine, Brooke,” Linc tells Stacey, his eyes on mine. “She’s new to the clubbing scene.”
“Then there are no better hands to be in than these,” Stacey says, running her hand over Linc’s chest in a way that makes my stomach want to revolt against all the alcohol I’ve poured into it tonight. “You used to use some of those moves on me, if I remember correctly. Will you indulge me with a dance for old times’ sake?”
Linc looks set to protest but I force a smile, hoping I don’t look as sick and shaky as I feel. “Go and dance with Stacey.”
My free pass is all used up, and now I’m expected to go back to reality and adhere to the rules of our friendship and professional relationship as if our dance never happened. I’m expected to go back to pretending I don’t want him the way I do. To pretend I don’t care when he’s dancing with other women, or sleeping with them. Even though just the thought of it leaves me feeling as if I’m being kicked in the heart and stomach.
Jemma crosses to my side, putting her arm around my shoulders. I sag against her, relieved beyond measure that’s she’s here with me, that she can see I need someone to lean on right now.
“Yes,” Kane agrees. “Go dance with Stace. That way I get my dance partner back. How did I forget what a show off you can be, Linc? Good to see you let loose and have fun, though. And Brooke.” Kane turns to me. “You were amazing out there. I think you’re definitely ready to start on the bar routine, don’t you agree, Linc?”
I look away from Linc the second his intense gaze searches mine. “She’s ready.”
“Perhaps we can go back to dancing later,” Jemma suggests. “I actually want to sit down for a bit.”
“Me, too,” I say quickly, knowing she’s throwing me a lifeline, and ready to hug her for it.
“I want another dance when you come back,” Kane says with a cheeky smile.
“Of course,” I say, though it’s unlikely I’ll return to the dance floor.
Jemma takes me by the hand and leads us towards the stairs that will take us to the bar. I don’t know where the rest of the bar team are, but I’m okay with having some time to collect myself before I see them.
When we get to the open area, Jemma quickly finds us a booth. I sit down first and Jemma slides in next to me, her shoulder pressing against mine until I sink into my seat a little further and rest my head on her. She’s my rock, and I’ve never been more grateful for her presence than I am right now. She’s always got my back.
“I love you,” I tell her.
She groans. “You’re drunk, aren’t you?”
“A little bit. But even if I wasn’t, I’d still love you. If I was a man-”
Her laughter bursts out of her, rich and happy, and I grin, feeling the tension that has been tight around my heart like a noose loosen just a little.
“If you were a man, you’d what? Fall in love with me and put a ring on my finger. Yeah, I got it. I love you too, you know.”
As I sit there, feeling decidedly more drunk with every moment that passes, flashbacks of my dance with Linc hit me. “Jemma, I screwed up.”
Jemma’s expression is serious as she shifts in her seat to face me. “I’m not going to lecture you about tonight. That dance was so intense, I barely made it through watching you without combusting. But…Don’t you remember what I said about getting your heart broken?”
“I tried to just put him in my spank bank,” I groan. “It’s not as easy as you think.”
“I know it’s not easy, Brooke. I know exactly how it feels to want someone so much it hurts, to have them set your skin and body and soul on fire every time they touch you. It’s like gravity is pulling you towards him, even though there’s no way for you to be together.”
I’ve never heard Jemma talk about anyone like that before. And I don’t think she’s talking about Kane.
“That’s how you feel about Nate, isn’t it?” I ask.
“I hate him with the fire of a thousand suns.”
Her sad smile and the quote from 10 Things I Hate About You confirm the worst. She doesn’t hate Nate at all. She only wishes she did.
My whole face falls and my heart hurts for my friend. “Oh, Jem.”
“No, we’re not talking about him tonight,” she says, resolute. “We’re talking about you and Linc.”
“Are you? What if he goes home with Stacey? How will you feel then?”
“I’ll be okay.”
Aside from the queasiness I feel every time I think of him dancing with her the way he danced with me, and then going home with her, taking her to bed, and doing all the things I wish he would do with me, anyway.
“Really? Because you look like you’re going to be sick.”
“It’s because the room is spinning.”
“Oh God, Brooke.” Her voice is full of concern as she shuffles out of the booth. “Let’s get you to the bathroom.”
I shake my head. “I just want to sit. Maybe it’ll pass.”
“Doubtful. I’ll go get you some water.”
The room is still spinning and I’m getting dizzy when Saxon slides into the booth to sit opposite me.
“I thought you said there was nothing going on between you and Linc.”
I expected Saxon to remind me of this, especially since I’ve said time and time again that Linc is just a friend, but I was hoping to have a little more time to prepare an answer.
“It was a mistake, Saxon. Dancing with him – with our boss – like that was stupid and I wish I hadn’t done it.”
Saxon studies me for a moment. I’m ready for him to call me a liar, and I’m surprised when he says, “You’ve had a lot to drink tonight. How are you feeling?”
“Dizzy and nauseous, and kind of over it, if I’m being honest.”
“Do you want me to get you out of here?”
“And take her where?” Jemma asks, returning to the table with two bottles of water.
“Thanks,” I say as she passes one to me.
“I can give Brooke a lift home if she wants one.”
“You’ve had just as many shots as we have, Sax. Brooke and I will catch a taxi.”
“No, I’ve got a friend who’s coming to pick me up. He’s sober and we were planning on heading out to a party. I’ll get him to drop you off on the way.”
“Saxon, that’s really nice of you to offer, but you don’t have to.”
His eyes are warm and his expression kind. I like him. He’s the kind of person I’d like to have as a friend. The kind of person I can like, flirt, dance and play around with without it making my heart hurt.
“I know, but I don’t mind.”
“I guess that’s settled, then,” Jemma says.
I stand up slowly and move out of the booth with the intention of saying goodbye to everyone. I’m in time to see everyone from our group climbing up the stairs. Thankfully, Stacey isn’t with them.
Linc’s green-eyed gaze tangles with mine as he approaches, then shifts from me to Jemma, to Saxon, and back to me again.
“Everything okay?” Linc asks once he reaches our booth.
“I’m taking her home,” Jemma explains.
“How are you getting there?” Linc asks.
Saxon stands up. “I’m taking them.”
“No way,” Linc says immediately. “You’ve had way too much to drink.”
“It’s fine, Linc. Saxon’s friend is picking us up,” Jemma says. “He’s completely sober. Right, Sax?”
“Yup.” Saxon checks his phone. “And he’s about five minutes away. We should head out front and wait.”
“I’ll come with you,” Linc says to me. “Make sure you get home okay.”
“There won’t be enough room for you,” Saxon tells him with obvious irritation.
Linc glares and takes a step towards Saxon, but I step between them as quickly as I can on my shaky legs. “Linc, stay. Have fun and let loose.” I’m trying hard not to think about what that means for him. “I’ll be fine,” I say weakly.
By the hard set of his jaw, I can see Linc’s having trouble believing that. And he’s torn, because we’re friends and he wants to act like one, to take care of me the way a friend would, but with everyone here, it’ll look odd if he insists.
“Jemma and Saxon will be with me.”
“You’re sure you’ll be okay?”
I nod, hating just how much it means to me that he cares so much. “We should go,” I say to Jemma and Saxon, motioning towards the front of the building.
Linc puts his hand on Jemma’s arm. “You’re going home with her?”
It’s a flurry of activity as everyone in the group wants to say goodbye to Jemma, Saxon and me. Everyone kisses me on the cheek; Layla and Danica, Cat, and Tim, and Kane. When it’s Linc’s turn to say goodbye and he hugs me, it’s all I can do not to wrap my arms around him and not let go.
If things were different…if he was different – Linc started saying. Did he mean that maybe we’d have something?
Sadly, I’ll never know. Because no matter how much chemistry Linc and I have when we dance together, and no matter how much we like each other, things aren’t different. His club and his freedom are his first priorities.
Not so long ago, this wouldn’t have bothered me. I lived in my Belle-work bubble, prioritising being responsible over having fun – duty over freedom, and my family over my love-life. I never saw myself having time for a man – even just a sexual relationship – until such time when my sister would turn eighteen. And I never resented my responsibilities or sacrifices. But if Linc wanted something more to happen between us…I’m not sure I could walk away. I’d want to be selfish for the first time in my life.
Because despite my best efforts not to, I crave him, need him, want him in a way that I’ve never wanted anyone else. And having such strong feelings for someone and knowing they can never be properly explored, celebrated or reciprocated? It’s kind of devastating.