A song made famous by a local DJ pours out of the club as we pull into the parking lot of Midnight Frenzy, the top night spot in Melbourne. It’s a Sunday night, but the queue extends past the large wire gate and all the way around the block. According to my best friend Jemma, the club reaches capacity before ten every night. Thank God Jemma works as a dancer here, because I’m pretty certain we’d be waiting all night to get in otherwise. Midnight Frenzy used to be an abandoned car factory a twenty-minute drive south of the Central Business District before Lincoln Rivers got his hands on it a year back. Now it’s the place where everyone goes to see and be seen.
“Are you ready to meet Linc Rivers?” Jemma asks me as she pulls into a parking spot reserved for staff.
Am I ready? Not really. Lincoln Rivers, or Linc as Jemma calls him, is supposed to be one of the hottest young bachelors in the country, and the owner of this club, so maybe I should be. However, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be less. I thought my days of waiting tables and working behind the bar were over with when I got my degree in Business Accounting and landed a job at a small but prestigious firm. Unfortunately, I got laid off two weeks ago.
After two weeks of searching for another accounting job, I’m feeling desperate and more than a little scared. No one seems to be hiring right now. All the accounting firms I checked with are downsizing. With unemployment on the rise, I’m not confident I’ll find something in time to pay the rent next month. I could cope with the uncertainty better if it wasn’t for my little sister, Belle. There’s no way I’m risking getting evicted and losing custody of her.
Jemma waves a hand in front of my face. “Earth to Brooke.”
Jemma grins at me, then flicks her curly honey-blonde hair over her shoulder and opens her door. I follow suit, sliding out of the car and shutting the door behind me.
The bass of the music reverberates through the asphalt underneath my feet and echoes through my body as we start walking towards the club entrance. I huddle closer to Jemma, freezing in my tiny black skirt, black halter neck top, and ankle boots. My long reddish-brown hair is piled high on my head, exposing my neck to the icy wind. I’m questioning my sanity in letting Jemma dress me up like one of the dolls we used to play with when we were younger. I like the large gold hoops and gold belt she’s loaned me, but I just feel so…naked. Not that I have anything suitable for clubbing in my wardrobe. I haven’t gone anywhere except work and school since…well, since forever.
“Quit fidgeting, Brooke,” Jemma scolds me. “You look great.”
“You won’t be for long, trust me.”
“Are you sure what I’m wearing is suitable for a job interview?”
“For a job interview with Lincoln Rivers, yes. If you turned up in one of your business suits, he’d probably send you away without talking to you.”
“Isn’t there a back entrance employees can use?” I ask when I see we’re heading for the front of the club. “I don’t want to be spat on or slapped because we’re queue-jumping.”
“Firstly, we’re not queue-jumping.”
I point to the people at the front of the queue. “They don’t know that.”
“Secondly,” Jemma continues, “you have a warped impression of people who go clubbing.”
“For someone who has never stepped foot inside a nightclub before, yes.”
My sister has been my top priority since I turned eighteen, and I just haven’t had time – or babysitting – to kick up my heels, party, or go clubbing with Jemma. The past five years have been spent buckling down, working my butt off and studying. And even if there have been brief moments where I’ve wondered what it would be like to let loose for a night, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out. How can I when Jemma hangs out at my apartment so much, sharing all her crazy tales and exploits, and allowing me to live vicariously through her?
Nightclubs are her world. She’s a dancer by trade and she’s spent nearly every weekend dancing her nights away since she was old enough to. Landing a job as one of Midnight Frenzy’s dancers eight months ago was a dream come true for her.
Two giant bouncers guard the doorway of the club. One is skinny and has tattoos up and down his arms, while the other is large and bald. Both of them grin when they see Jemma and me walking towards them.
“Hey, Jem,” the bald one says as he unclips the red rope barrier and lifts it to let us through.
Jemma gives him a quick kiss on the cheek and then walks through. I’m not even aware of her pulling me with her until the rope comes down and I realise I’m standing between the two large men dressed in black. As scary as they look, their expressions are friendly.
“Mick, Shane, this is my bestie, Brooke.”
I smile politely. “Hi.”
“Nice to meet you, Brooke,” Mick, the tattooed one says.
The bald one Jemma called Shane nods. “Any friend of Jem’s is a friend of ours.”
“Aw,” Jemma says, patting Shane’s chest. “You’re the sweetest.”
Shane’s smile grows and the warmth in his eyes is unmistakable. Clearly, he’s smitten with my friend. I can’t blame him, Jemma is awesome. She never gave up on me or dropped me like so many of my other friends did when I started spending more time looking after Mum and Belle, and less time going to parties and hanging out. And when Mum couldn’t fight the cancer anymore, Jemma was there for me when I had no one else left.
“I thought you had the night off,” Mick says.
“This is why I took it off. Brooke is being interviewed for one of the bartender jobs and I wanted to bring her,” Jemma explains. “Can you believe she’s never been in a nightclub before? I can’t wait to see her face.”
I wish the floor would open up and swallow me. I’m not ashamed I’ve never been to a club, but it does sound strange to hear it out loud.
Mick’s eyebrows shoot up to his hairline as he turns his attention to me. “And you’re applying for a position behind the bar at Midnight Frenzy?”
Sure, I could go back to waitressing or being a barmaid somewhere else; I have the experience. But if Linc pays me as much as Jemma thinks he will, I’ll only have to work four nights a week to take home the same money I was making as an accountant. Of course, I’m a little nervous about working in a club that’s been touted as one of the most seductive places on earth, but I’m only staying on until I can find another job as an accountant.
“She sure is,” Jemma replies, taking my hand in hers again and pulling me into the club with her before I can answer.
My heart starts pounding as my anticipation heightens. I hear and feel the activity before I see it. As soon as Jemma releases my hand and moves out of my way, I gasp. “Wow.”
“I know, right?”
There’s so much to take in, but the first thing that snags my attention is the bar. Lit up with purple and maroon lighting, it takes up the entire left wall of the place. It’s huge! I have no idea how many people Linc employs to serve there, but I bet he needs more than the three people currently working at breakneck speed to serve the thirsty patrons.
My gaze moves from the bar to the maroon coloured booths lining every spare bit of wall space. There are small tables set out between the booths and the dance floor – a dance floor that is absolutely chockers with people dancing and grinding against each other to some popular dance tune I recognise from the radio. Finally, my gaze slides to the very front of the club where there’s a stage in the shape of a semicircle.
Jemma grabs my arm, making sure she has my attention when the popular dance song stops. “Watch this.”
A very handsome Latino-looking man appears in front of a microphone stand that must have been on the stage waiting for him. The open maroon vest he’s wearing reveals a washboard set of abs, and the crowd goes wild when he grins.
“That’s Midnight’s MC,” Jemma explains.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Midnight Frenzy,” the MC says. “Make some noise if you’re ready to see one of the hottest acts in the country.”
Loud applause breaks out from all directions. Jemma is clapping like a crazy person next to me and, caught up in the same wave of enthusiasm and excitement everyone else is feeling, I clap too. Wolf whistles, stomping, and applause ring through the large club as the overhead lights make circular patterns on the stage. Jemma has spent the past eight months telling me how special the club is, how much she loves dancing here, and how great Linc is, but the atmosphere in the place still takes my breath away.
“I hope you like it scorching hot because this dance will have you wanting to take a cold shower before it’s over. Will you please put your hands together and welcome Midnight Frenzy’s dance team – Tease!” the MC yells before taking the microphone and stand, moving off stage.
The maroon curtains open up as a remix of a popular dance track starts to play. Male and female dancers spill onto the stage as soon as the beat really kicks in. The MC didn’t exaggerate. The number is hot. I mean, panty-melting hot. Not just because of the way the men and women are partnering up and moving together, but because of what they’re wearing. Or rather what they’re not wearing. The women are dressed in maroon and black corsets, black lace shorts, stockings and high heels, while the men are all bare-chested, wearing nothing but black pants and shoes.
The routine is superbly choreographed, daring and adrenaline inducing. So much so, I have goosebumps and my pulse is racing. I want to take the time to appreciate every dancer up there, but my gaze keeps being pulled to the male dancer second from the left. His dark hair is short on the sides and longer on top. There’s something absolutely magnetic about him and the way he moves. It also doesn’t hurt that his abs are incredible, and his face is just as drool-worthy.
I stand there, spell-bound, as he lifts the female he’s partnered with, throws her into the air and then catches her easily. His technique is flawless, and for the first time in a long time I wish I hadn’t had to give up my dance classes. For the past eight and a half years, I’ve contented myself with watching dance shows and dance movies. I’ve told myself I didn’t want to dance that much anyway. Now, however, I wonder what my life might have been like if I hadn’t stopped dancing.
My feet start to move of their own accord. The energy in the building is so high it’s impossible not to be affected by it. The suggestive moves the dancers are making, the fragrant cocktail of perfume, cologne and alcohol, and the beat of the music are a combination that titillates the senses. No wonder this club is so popular. It’s some kind of fantasy land in here – a private dancing paradise away from the rest of the city.
And I can’t help but enjoy a private fantasy of my own as I stand watching. In it, I’m the one on that stage dancing with Mr. Second-From-The-Left instead of the brunette currently swinging her hips in front of him. The thought of him dancing with me the way he’s dancing with his partner causes my stomach to drop down to my toes. I definitely don’t feel cold anymore. If anything, I’m burning up.
The stomach thing happens to me again as I watch him wrap his arm around his partner’s hips and press his body against hers before spinning her out and dipping her.
“He’s pretty good, isn’t he?” Jemma yells in my ear.
I’d completely forgotten Jemma for a moment. She smirks at me when I turn to look at her, and my cheeks burn as I realise she’s caught me ogling Mr-Second-From-The-Left as if he’s a piece of meat. I can’t remember the last time that happened. There isn’t time in my life for romance or men, so what’s the point in indulging in fantasies?
Jemma leans in close. “I do feel the need to warn you that you’re eye-fucking your new boss right now. If you decide to take the job, that is.”
“What?” I yell, pointing to Mr. Second-From-The-Left. “That’s Linc?”
Jemma mentioned once or twice that Linc dances, but I never thought he danced on stage with everyone else. I’m also embarrassed I haven’t recognised the famous bachelor. Then again, it’s been a while since I’ve wanted to depress myself by turning on the news or buying a newspaper, meaning I haven’t seen his picture much. Shame on me. And I’m also ashamed to admit I never assumed he would be interested in dancing with his staff.
I judged him as a bored bachelor with too much money on his hands, but anyone who can dance as well as Linc has to have worked hard and trained hard. It’s obvious the guy loves to dance and is brilliant at it. Creating a place like this, where he can show off that kind of passion and invite other people to do the same is…admirable. Sure, it’s easier to follow a dream when you have the money to do so, but I still think it takes courage to want something and go for it. It takes a vision. It takes energy and a whole lot of commitment.
Jemma grins at me and nods. “And he absolutely doesn’t sleep with his employees.” Her expression changes to a grimace. “Trust me, a couple of ex-employees found that out the hard way. He fired them both after they refused to be deterred by the word no.”
Well, he won’t encounter that problem from me. He might be the hottest guy I’ve ever seen and dance well enough to make me drool, but I’m not interested in a one-night stand or a relationship. When Belle turns eighteen in few years’ time, things may be different. Until then, I don’t have time to get involved with a guy. And I’m just as confident that Linc Rivers will have no interest in me – a virgin who doesn’t dance anymore.
All too soon the show comes to an end and I clap and cheer as loudly as the rest of the crowd.
“Come on,” Jemma says, tugging on my arm as the dancers disappear back behind the curtain.
I hesitate. “I don’t want to mob him as soon he comes off the stage.”
“You’re not mobbing him, he’s expecting you. And it’s too loud out here to talk. We have to go backstage.”
Instead of conducting an interview during normal business hours, Linc told Jemma he’d meet me tonight, making this some kind of informal interview.
Jemma guides me towards a heavy metal door on the left-hand side of the stage. Once we’re there, she punches in a code and the door springs open.
Backstage is a flurry of activity. People are laughing and talking loudly as they move around. I feel a little self-conscious as the staff and dancers greet Jemma and hug her, looking at me curiously when she introduces me. I smile and nod, and try to say the right things, but I’m aware I don’t sound like someone my age might. I used to work with people much older than myself. The last time I regularly hung out with people my own age, I was working in a pub, putting myself through university and trying desperately to keep a roof over my sister’s head. In other words, I didn’t have time to make friends or have a good time.
We stop suddenly and I almost bump into Jemma. “Hey, I have to talk to someone.” She points towards one of the stage exits. “Linc is over there.”
I look over just in time to see Linc pull a black t-shirt over his head, covering up his flawless abs.
I swallow nervously and force my gaze back to Jemma. “I can wait until you’re done talking to…whoever.”
Jemma shakes her head. “Don’t be silly. Go and introduce yourself to Linc. I’ll be over in a minute. I promise.”
Before I can protest again, Jemma walks away.
I shift my weight from one foot to the other as I deliberate on whether I should go over and interrupt the conversation he’s currently engaged in with his dance partner and another male dancer. Yes, I’m procrastinating, but I can’t deny I’m a little bit intimidated by the guy. Okay, a lot intimidated. I still can’t believe I was actually fantasising about him before Jemma told me who he was.
Get it together, Masters. How scary can one super-hot millionaire be?
Linc looks like he’s getting ready to move away. If I wait for Jemma, Linc could disappear before I get the chance to say anything to him. Decision made, I move quickly. Within seconds my feet are planted in front of him, and my stomach is doing that strange dipping thing again. Linc is easily the sexiest man I’ve ever seen. This close to him, I’m even more impressed by the angular jaw, flushed cheeks, full lips and dark green eyes. His hair is slightly messy, probably after pulling his t-shirt on, and I can smell the cologne or deodorant he’s wearing.
I can’t seem to work out how to talk in the face of such beauty. My cheeks heat as he raises an eyebrow at me, waiting for me to say something.
“I love the way you dance,” I blurt out after a moment, dying inside at how breathless and impressed I sound.
He takes a sip of water from a bottle he’s holding and then grins at me. “Thanks.”
His voice is low and rich, and his grin is dazzling. Holy heck, I think I just forgot my name. Why can’t Linc look and sound like my previous boss, Mr. Meeks? He never made my stomach dip, and he never made me forget things I definitely shouldn’t forget.
It’s possible I’m going to blow this informal interview before I’ve even introduced myself. And that’s after Jemma warned me about the two women Linc fired for not being able to control themselves around him! Suddenly, I feel a lot more sympathetic towards them.
His eyes leisurely take me in from head to toe and I feel a stab of heat low in my belly as I see something that looks a lot like approval in his gaze.
“Do you dance?” he asks, his gaze locked with mine now.
“I used to. I mean, I used to take dance lessons, and I loved them, but then life got in the way, you know?”
Mum started getting sick when I was fourteen, and she couldn’t keep working. We needed to cut back on spending, so I told her I was happy to give the dance lessons up, but I would never have stopped if we’d been able to afford it. Linc, however, doesn’t strike me as someone who lets anything stand in his way. The intensity with which he dances…I’m still a bit in awe of what I saw on that stage.
But, I’m not here to talk about dancing, his or mine. I’m here for a job behind the bar.
“Everyone should dance if they want to…” he says, clearly fishing for my name.
“Brooke,” I supply, grateful my brain has kicked back in.
He’s grinning at me again. “Well, Brooke, I teach dance at a studio in Sandringham on Tuesday afternoons; beginner, intermediate and advanced classes. If you liked what you saw tonight, you should come along and see what I can teach you.”
The suggestive invitation combined with the heat in his eyes makes me feel weak in the knees. I’m struggling to draw breath. I swear he’s flirting with me, but Jemma said he doesn’t put the moves on his staff.
He doesn’t know who you are, dummy. He doesn’t know you’re probably his newest staff member.
“Ah,” I stutter, “I should probably introduce myself. I’m Brooke Masters, Jemma’s friend. I’m here about the job.”
Confusion fills Linc’s eyes, and his gaze is assessing and critical as his eyes slide over me this time. I get the distinct impression he’s less than impressed with what he’s seeing now. Have I dressed inappropriately for this interview? No, Jemma told me what I’m wearing is perfect.
“You’re my new bartender?” he asks.
“If you want me,” I say, blushing hard as I realise how suggestive the words sound.
Something hot flashes in his eyes and I feel my stomach clench in response. Just as quickly the heat disappears and is replaced by something cool. His smile is now full of professionalism and absolutely nothing like the grin he gave me a minute ago. Obviously the fact I could be his employee means he’s not going to flirt with me. I should feel relieved – the last thing I need is some sex on a stick millionaire making my blood run too hot. But instead, I feel just the smallest bit disappointed.
“Nice to meet you, Brooke. Jemma has told me a lot about you.”
I don’t hesitate to take his hand when he offers it to me, but I have to make a concerted effort not to jerk my hand away when awareness shoots up my arm and my skin tingles where he’s touching it. I’m grateful when he lets my hand go.
“I think my office is the best place for us to talk.” He motions for me to follow him. “It’s this way.”
Realising I’m about to be alone with Linc, my heart picks up its already-speedy pace. For a moment I contemplate telling him I’ll wait for Jemma to join us, but Linc is not a man whose time I want to waste. And so I nod, swallow my nerves and protests, and follow him as soon as he starts walking.