Free Me (Page 2)

Free Me (The Found Duet #1)(2)
Author: Laurelin Paige

The other waitress was still entering her order into the register. She didn’t have an excuse to run.

I leaned against the counter next to her, grateful that the registers were off the kitchen in a quieter part of the club where I didn’t have to shout to be heard. “Alyssa, what did she mean about cigar smoke in the Viper?” It wasn’t that unusual to have patrons mouth the damn things without lighting them—helped with that oral fixation thing that so many people had—but the actual smoking of cigars was not allowed in the club. The Eighty-Eighth Floor was a smoke-free establishment, and if that rule was being ignored, then I had to address it.

Alyssa didn’t look up from the computer right away. I saw her throat move as she swallowed. Then she met my eyes, a bright smile on her lips. Too bright of a smile. “Oh, you know. Just talk. I’m sure there’s not really any smoking going on.”

I narrowed my stare. “Uh-huh.” Alyssa was one of the more reliable employees. But like I’d said—I wasn’t her friend. “Who’s got the room booked tonight, anyway?”

The Viper wasn’t really the name of the secluded area that the club offered to elite guests. It was officially called The Deck on our marketing material—the club’s official VIP Room. But on all our paperwork, Matt always wrote VIP R., and with his sloppy boy handwriting the R usually ended up closer to the P and soon the whole staff called it the Viper.

Alyssa shook her head, her ponytail swishing with the movement. “No one special. A white collar group.” She was dismissive. Then, seeming to realize that tactic wasn’t working with me, she said, “I could go check in up there. If there’s anything sketchy going on, I’ll let you know.”

Yeah, like I was falling for that. “How about we go and check on it together?”

Her face fell visibly, but she nodded an agreement and headed toward the spiraling metal stairs that led up to The Deck.

I followed. Adrenaline was already sizzling in my veins as I climbed up toward the Viper. I wasn’t scared of what I’d find—we had a good security team, and I’d seen enough in my life to set my fear threshold high. But there was something exciting about the prospect of something different. The thrill that maybe the night wouldn’t be typical or predictable. The delicious raising of goose bumps on my pale skin as something inside me wished for the unexpected.

Not that I’d do anything other than correct the off-course situation. I might have longed for variance, but I didn’t know how to live with it when I found it.

At the Viper door, Alyssa paused and waited for me to join her. “Maybe we should knock?”

Fuck that. Managers had carte blanche to the entire premises. I wasn’t going to give our errant guests a chance to hide their coke and cover their cocks. Especially since I could already smell the Cubans.

I swung the door open and stood in the threshold to survey the scene. What I saw surprised me. Or, some of it surprised me. The smoky air and half-smoked cigars I’d been expecting. And where one club violation was found, there were usually more, so the half-dressed women didn’t completely catch me off-guard either. Nor did the three men playing poker in the corner with actual money laid out on the table.

It was the men. The way they carried themselves, the way they behaved like the respected businessmen that their expensive suits said they were rather than a house of drunken frat boys. There were a dozen or so of them—young, single. At least, I didn’t see any bands or tan marks from removed rings. The snippets of conversation that passed my ear were intelligent and intelligible, not like the hundreds of twenty-something guys I saw come through the club on a weekly basis, the ones who focused on the waitresses’ tits when they ordered and were too wasted to remember where they left their iPhones.

Then there were the women.

A room full of debauchery wouldn’t be complete without hookers and sleazy call girls. That was routine. But these women, five in total, were definitely not sleazy. Even as they draped themselves over the men—even though three of them were topless and another was dressed only in a French lace bra and panties—they gave a definite air of refinement. They exuded polish and class. Sexy, yes, but not trashy.

One of the topless women, a brunette sitting on a man’s lap, looked up at me. Her eyes lit with recognition. She smiled and mouthed a hello before returning her attention to her fingers as they combed through the man’s hair.

My brows pressed together as I tried to place her. Pure shock washed through me when I realized it wasn’t from my seedy past that I knew her, but from school. She’d been a graduate student teaching a commercial kitchen resource class that I’d taken. Now she managed a five-star restaurant uptown.

And she was here? Part of this…this…

I didn’t know what this was actually. It was a party that broke the rules, but it wasn’t unruly or sordid or out-of-hand. It was naughty and sensual and…enticing. I would lay down the law—of course, I would, how could I not?—but for a moment, I hesitated. For a moment, instead of wanting to admonish, I wanted to join.

“You’re welcome to sit.” The voice came from behind me. It spoke with insight. As though it understood my conflict. As though it knew what I really wanted.

Which was bullshit. It was just a fucking invitation. Nothing more.

I turned to deliver my what the hell is going on speech, until my eyes landed on the man who had spoken. At the sight of him, I lost the words. He sat with his legs stretched out in front of him, his back against the wall behind the door, which was why I hadn’t noticed him at first.

But now that I noticed him, I really noticed him.

It was impossible not to. Sex appeal and charisma oozed off him as if he’d dressed in both. Well-defined muscles pressed against his snug dress shirt. His dark blond hair was severe—the sides short and the top sculpted to look like a hot Italian mobster from the nineteen twenties. He wore stubble that I suspected helped keep him from looking younger than he was, an age that I put around thirty.

And his eyes…

I couldn’t see them clearly in the darkness, but I felt them. Felt the way he studied me with earnest. Felt the flicker of yearning in them. Felt the heaviness behind that, where hurt lay, or bitterness perhaps.

Like the slack of a rope that is suddenly tightened and taut, my own gaze was drawn to him. I couldn’t look away, and as he continued to peer at me—peer into me—a hum began to vibrate through my body, setting my every molecule on high alert. Even my girly parts, which had been hibernating, wakened in his presence—expanding and buzzing, tingling with awareness of him.