The music in the club was so loud it made my head hurt. Unfortunately, that wasn't the only problem. The never-ending parade of losers wanting to buy me drinks threatened to split my skull. I should have known better than to fly solo. When a man sees a woman sitting at the bar alone, he tends to assume she's either lonely or easy. I'm neither. It had been a long week at work and I needed to unwind. Normally I'd have drug Olivia along, but I hadn't been able to muster the energy to talk her into it tonight.
My dearest friend had never been one to party or pick up men. She's more reserved than I, which in her own weird little way made her quite adorable, in my opinion. Her casual attitude made her the best wingman — or woman, as it were. She could chase off the goobers, as she called them, with barely a stern glance. Still, she had been through so much lately. It would have been selfish for me to ask her to run interference.
Ever since she'd returned from The Silence, things had been different. She was different — and hiding something from
me. I could feel it. I just didn't know what. Part of me wanted to shake it out of her, but as one of her best friends, I knew it wasn't the right time yet. I had to wait until she was ready to talk about it. Once the air cleared I'd start dragging her to the clubs again, because that girl needs to get out. She really, really does.
Besides, after her horrible breakup with Drake, her broken heart needed some serious rebound sex. I didn't see that happening anytime in the foreseeable future, but maybe at some point. She hadn't dated much since we'd been friends, so I couldn't say with certainty what was normal for her after a relationship's demise, but this had been hard to watch. Even though she'd never said it, I knew she'd loved him. Shit, any idiot with two eyes could have seen it.
Watching her go through all of it had left me a lot of time to reflect. The idea of finding someone to love so completely only to lose him seemed soul-wrenching and unfair. Not that I'd know from personal experience. I've never wanted to love someone to that extent before. Trusting one's heart entirely to another seemed too risky of a proposition. My best friend's suffering made it even harder to want to give into those sorts of feelings. The whole situation was beyond depressing, and I was merely a spectator.
My attention was awakened by fingers tracing up my bare arm. I glanced over at the guy who'd been talking to me before I'd become lost in thought. He was a decent looking fellow, but fairly non-descript. Blond hair, blue eyes, plain face. If he wandered back into the crowd, I'd never be able to pick him out again if my life depended on it. His bedroom eyes raked over me as his fingers continued trying to tempt a reaction from my skin. "So, how'd you like to get out of here?"
He had to be joking. Had he not noticed I hadn't been listening to a word he said? It was beyond me how he'd drawn the conclusion he was about to score. I politely took his hand off my arm and set it down on the bar, shaking my head to decline the invitation.
My courteous refusal didn't deter Mr. Average and his fingers returned to my arm. "Aww, c'mon baby. You don't have to play hard to get. We can go back to your place."
Give me a break. As if I hadn't played this game before. He didn't want to go back to his place because he didn't want to figure out a clever way to get rid of me come morning. This time I flicked his fingers away. "I don't think so."
"Fine." He pushed off the bar. "Your loss, baby." He gave up without further incident, leaving a nice space between me and the rest of the patrons.
My loss. I'm sure. Whatever, baby. I can't stand it when a man calls me baby or girl. I don't know why, but those two terms come off as slimy in my mind. Maybe because the men who usually use them are just that.
Enjoying the reprieve from guys pawing at me, I finished off my drink. The bartender promptly took up the glass and set another martini in front of me with a little wink. He wasn't interested in me, but rather the green paper in my purse. He was a good-looking guy, so the subtle flirting probably helped him laugh all the way to the bank. Unfortunately for him, those sorts of charms don't work on me. Still, he'd earned his tip just the same. Good service was still good service, pretty face or no.
As I took another small sip of my refreshed drink, the empty space beside me filled. I could tell by the smell of cologne a new man had taken up the vacancy at my side. It wasn't a nauseating scent inspired by Axe body spray, but rather it had a hint of ruggedness with a dash of sophistication. I liked it, but didn't look over. Even if I was looking for a little action, I didn't want to come off as needy. I played with the napkin under my glass and waited for him to speak. When he finally did, I sighed and rolled my eyes.
. . .
There were nothing but skanks as far as the eye could see. It was all fake tits, deceptively pouty lips, skin pulled unnaturally tight, and unhealthy orange glows. I swigged the last of my beer. The night was beginning to look like a total fucking bust. No pun intended. All the women around me were looking to hook up and behaving like total sluts.
Yeah, I know. Hellooo, pot calling the kettle black. Fucking whatever. One can be a slut and still behave with a little bit of decency. Not that I have at all times, but that night I was trying to behave. I just wasn't in the mood for fake shit. There wasn't enough alcohol in the world to put me in the mood for it.
I pushed my way back through the sea of silicone, looking for… I didn't even know what. The place was packed and I regretted my decision to come out. I didn't need to get laid that bad. If my apartment hadn't felt like a tomb, I might have stayed in for the night. I hated my new living situation, and not just because it was always too quiet in my place. So there I was
in a club full of strangers, hoping to make some sort of connection.
For years I'd fooled myself into believing that my sister and I lived together because she was so fragile and needed me. Only after she'd been taken into The Silence had I realized the truth. I was the one who needed her. Living alone again had taught me one thing — I despised having only myself as company. Maybe because I'm an asshole and not all that interesting. Too bad being alone with my thoughts reminded me that I was lonely as hell. However, being in the club crowd didn't make me feel less so. If anything, it made things worse.
I passed a group of girls who looked barely legal. They giggled as I pushed through their little pack. I brushed past a blonde whose tits were barely contained within her slinky, neon pink dress. The side of my shirt made contact with some of her bare skin. As I pulled out of the knot of gleeful teenagers, I found my sleeve covered in glitter. I glanced back and noticed Blondie Big-Tits had bathed in the shit. Goddamn it, I was covered in it too. It was going to get everywhere and that further soured my mood.
I neared the bar, deciding to get one more beer and then pack it in for the night, even if it meant going home alone. As luck would have it, some poor bastard leaning on the mahogany was getting the total brush-off. The brunette had her back to me, but I watched the guy try to gain her interest again. I chuckled as she shooed him off as if he was an insect crawling up her arm. I suppose I should've been offended in honor of some invisible brotherhood bond between dudes, but that shit was funny.
As he walked away, the woman turned to glance over her shoulder and my heart stopped briefly, causing my breath to catch. Then again, it always did whenever I saw her. The girl of my dreams, Portia Winters.
I pushed through the crowd, hoping to get to the free spot by her side before some other asshole beat me to it. Jesus, my feet felt clunky and unable to take steady, quick strides to reach my destination. By the time I arrived, her back was to me once again, her hair brushed over one shoulder. Even under the dim club lighting she had a glow about her, and it had nothing to do with skanky body glitter. Though I could only see the back of her head and had no idea what she was wearing, she was still the most beautiful woman in the room.
The guy she'd blown off moments before passed me. I had to fight the urge to laugh in his face as that horrible little pang of protective jealousy I felt toward any man within her vicinity reared its ugly head. It was completely unjustified, because let's be honest, she was way out of my league and always had been. She was like a deity, and I could only worship humbly at her feet. Beautiful goddesses don't entertain the crushes of dudes who bang random women in club bathrooms. She would never give a guy like me a chance, but that didn't stop my ill-contemplated feelings.
I slid up beside her, but she didn't notice. I can't say that wasn't a blow to my ego. She wasn't so much ignoring me, but appeared to be deep in thought. She looked down at her glass and fiddled the napkin beneath it with her manicured fingertips. The pale pink polish on her nails and gloss on her lips matched the fabric of her shirt. Normally I didn't notice little things like that because I don't give two shits, but with her I always took note.
I needed to say something. As it stood, I was already the creepy guy sitting there staring at her. I opened my mouth only to close it when nothing came out. I tried another time to fail yet again. A simple hello would have sufficed, but I was second-guessing every way it could be said. I always became tongue-tied around her. I don't know why; it wasn't as if I hadn't made an idiot of myself plenty of times where she was concerned.
I puffed out my chest, trying to regain some of my confidence. I can do this, I told myself. It was only matter of not acting like a dumbass around the woman I'd known since the day I died. All I had to do was say the first thing that came to mind. Moments later I would regret just going for as the lamest words in the world left my mouth.
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