It was a good decision—the right decision since it essentially stopped my life from spiraling out of control. For the past three years I’d thrown my life into school and the nightclub. Problem was that graduation took most of my preoccupation away. And now bogged down with student loans, I had to figure out how to make ends meet without having to leave The Sky Launch.
But I had a plan. I wanted a promotion. I’d been helping with supervisory duties for the last year, but had been unable to get an official title since managers had to work full-time. Now that school was over, I was available for more hours. David had been grooming me for the position. The only wrinkle in my trajectory could be a new owner. But I wasn’t going to worry about that. Yet.
Explaining my intent to strangers was never easy, though. How wise was it to use an MBA from Stern for a career in nightclub management? Probably not wise at all. So I swallowed before answering the suit. “Actually, I’d like to move up here. I love the nightclub scene.”
To my surprise, he nodded, his eyes shimmering as he sat forward into the bright white light of the bar. “It makes you alive.”
“Exactly.” I couldn’t keep back my smile. How had he known?
Hot, rich, and in tune with me. He was precisely the kind of man that I could obsess over, and not in the healthy way.
“Laynie!” The shout of the Regular from earlier drew me away from the intense gray eyes of the stranger. “I’m out of here. Wanted to say congrats again and good luck. And, hey, here’s my number. Give me a call sometime. I can help you occupy your week off.”
“Thanks, uh,” I read the name he’d written on the napkin he’d handed me, “Matt.” I waited until he’d walked away before tossing it in the trash under the counter, catching the suit’s eye as I did so.
“Do you do that with every number you receive?”
I paused. It wasn’t like I hadn’t hooked up with customers before, but never with regulars. That was a rule. I didn’t want to see them again. Too much temptation to go crazy over them.
But I had no interest in having that conversation with the suit. And with his eyes constantly on me, I finally believed that my attraction to him wasn’t one-sided. Not when he’d tipped me so generously. “Are you trying to figure out if I’d throw away your number?”
He laughed. “Maybe.”
His reaction made me smile and made the moisture between my thighs thicken. He was fun to flirt with. Too bad I had to end it. I placed my hands on the counter and leaned toward him so he could hear me better over the music, trying not to delight in the searing look he gave my bosom as I did so. “I wouldn’t throw yours away. I wouldn’t take yours at all.”
His eyes narrowed, but the laughter from earlier still danced in them. “Not your type?”
“Not necessarily.” Pretending I wasn’t attracted to him was futile. He had to be aware of my reaction to him.
“Because you’re looking for something temporary. Something fun to play with.” I leaned even closer to deliver my punch line—the one that would deter even the horniest of men. “And I get attached.” I stood back up to my full height so I could take in his reaction. “Now doesn’t that just scare you shitless?”
I’d expected to see panic flash through his face. Instead, I saw a flicker of amusement. “You, Alayna Withers, do anything but scare me.” But despite his words, he stood, buttoning his suit coat as he did. “Congratulations again. Quite an accomplishment.”
I watched him for far too long as he walked away, more crestfallen about his abrupt departure than I wanted to admit.
It took me a good five minutes after he left to realize I’d never given him my name.
“Have you met the new owner yet?”
I glanced up from my clipboard at Liesl’s backside as she studied the contents of the small fridge behind the bar, her cascading purple hair dancing with her movements. My brow furrowed. I hadn’t forgotten about the new owner but had tried not to think about him, knowing I’d obsess.
Irritation at being reminded of him now filled my response. “When would I have met him?” I hadn’t been at the nightclub since my graduation more than a week before.
Liesl closed the door to the fridge and shrugged. “I don’t know. You could have stopped by or something.”
She knew me too well. I’d stopped myself several times that past week from wandering over. It had been a battle, but I’d stayed away. “Nope. Actually, I spent most of the week at a spa near Poughkeepsie.”
“Well, la de da!” Liesl raised a studded eyebrow. “Did you win the lotto when I wasn’t looking?”
“Hardly. It was a gift from Brian.” He hadn’t bothered with a card, just an envelope containing the train ticket and voucher for the resort delivered to me by my doorman the morning of my graduation. It was thoughtful. And so very unlike my brother. Maybe it had been his wife’s idea.
“How…nice.” Liesl detested Brian and never bothered to hide it. One of the few people in my life who knew my history, she was fiercely loyal and always on my side. My brother, not so much. That automatically put them at odds.
“Don’t sound so shitty. It was nice. I did a bunch of crap I’d never done before—horseback riding, rock climbing. Tons of spa treatments—feel my skin!” I held out my hand for her to feel. “My hands have never been this soft.”
“You’re not kidding. Baby smooth.”
“It was good for me. Really. Exactly what I needed. Relaxing but still kept me preoccupied.”
“Wow. Score one for Brian. Maybe he’s finally growing up.” Her voice lightened. “And how was your time not at the spa?”
Miserable. The five days at the spa had been perfect, but after the trip was over, I had to return to my real life, which meant an empty apartment and a mind that refused to stop working. “I’m glad to be back, if that’s what you’re asking. And I may have four or five files of new ideas for the club.”
She laughed. “Hey, at least that’s healthy obsessing.”
I smiled sheepishly. “Healthyish.” I searched for the Skyy Vodka that my report said should be on the shelf and marked its presence on my paper when I found it. There were benefits to an active mind. I always had perfect inventories and flawless presentations. It was in relating with people—men, to be precise—that obsessing had its disadvantage.