Free Me (Page 9)

Free Me (The Found Duet #1)(9)
Author: Laurelin Paige

He closed the distance between us, resting his hands on the bar on either side of me so that I was caged underneath him. “I don’t really know, Gwen. I’m attracted to you. I’d be interested in spending time with you. In a bed. I think it could be mutually beneficial and if that comes off as crude, I apologize. But I learned a long time ago that the only way to get what you want is to ask. And sometimes even the things that seem impossible turn out to not be so impossible after all.”

His words, his invitation…I should have been offended, and a small voice in my head said that I was, but another part of me, the bigger part of me, wanted to accept what he was offering. Wanted to tilt my chin up and let our mouths meet and explore. My tongue swept along my lower lip as if that kiss that I imagined were inevitable.

His gaze fell to my mouth and his eyes darkened.

This is it, I thought. He’s going to kiss me.

Instead, he inhaled and closed his eyes, savoring the scent in the air between us. The motion, the way it seemed like he was taking in my very essence, made me feel like the main course in a very long awaited meal. It was almost shameful how the baseness of his gesture turned me on.

“You smell good,” he said. He leaned closer, so close that now I could smell him distinctly. He had cologne on of some sort and his clothes had a clean scent, but all I could register was Man. All I could think was Sex.

“What do you say, Gwen? Should we try to make an arrangement?”

Somehow my hands found their way to his chest, as if they had a mind of their own. He felt firm and warm beneath my palms. My breasts ached at the thought of pressing against him. It wouldn’t be the first arrangement I’d made for casual sex. If they didn’t have the habit of getting messy and tied up in feelings, I’d probably pursue more strictly sexual relationships.

But the effort to keep things unattached was so not worth it. And, with JC, I could tell it would be especially difficult. He was the type of guy who liked to be fawned over. He wanted to be special. He wanted to be loved. I couldn’t give that.

Even if I could, JC wasn’t the guy who would ever give it back. Any relationship with him would be doomed from the beginning. It would be bad. People would get hurt. And I’d never been into causing pain.

There was no denying my attraction to him though. And fighting off his advances took more energy than I wanted to expend. Which, coupled with my frustrating call with Norma earlier, made me more than a little irritated.

With more strength than was probably necessary, I pushed him away. “No, definitely not.”

I slipped off the bar stool and spun to him, my back tall as I let gravity give me an anchor that I so desperately needed. “I don’t know what you have over Matt, Mr….” God, it was ridiculous that I didn’t even know his name and JC was simply too familiar. “Mr. C. But I don’t work like that. You’re lucky that he’s the general manager and not me because there would be no such special favors or blind eyes. I am not the type that makes deals or arrangements of any sort. I’m by the book. So it’s best you remember that and keep all your negotiations with Matt.”

JC bit back a smile.

“Hey. I’m serious.” I felt like stomping my foot, but held back, knowing it would probably not help my case.

He covered his mouth with his hand. When he removed it, all traces of his smile were gone. “I’m sorry. I know you’re serious. I didn’t mean to patronize you. You’re just even more adorable when you’re feisty.”

“You didn’t mean to patronize me, but you just did?” If he wanted feisty, I’d give him feisty. “You know what, Mr. C? I do have an arrangement I’d like to make. I work on Thursday nights and you have the room booked on Tuesdays. How about we agree that I won’t come into the club on those nights and you don’t come into the club on these nights?”

“Oh, Gwen. I can’t make an arrangement like that. That wouldn’t give you a chance to change your mind. And as worked up as you are right now—your shoulders tight, your jaw clenched, your eyes tired—I’m betting that you’re going to change your mind. Real soon.”

“Don’t wager too much. I’d hate to see you in the poorhouse.”

He took two steps toward me and reached his hand out to my cheek. It was the first time he’d touched me and it was almost too much. Like a hot coal against an ice cube, I melted under him. Melted into him.

I also wanted very much to drop the coal and jump away.

He sensed my warring reactions. I saw the disappointment in his eyes. But along with the disappointment, they flickered with hope.

“The next move is yours, Gwen.” He slid his thumb down my face, following my jawline. “You know where to find me.”

That was the problem. I wished I didn’t know where to find him. I wished I didn’t know him at all.

Mostly, I wished I didn’t know what it was like to feel the touch of his skin on mine. The trail he’d swept on my cheek burned for long minutes after he turned and left the club.

Then, it faded and was gone. And I was left alone in the cold of my ice prison once more.

Chapter Three

“Have you heard anything lately from Ben?” I asked Norma as I folded the stocking embroidered with his name and packed it in the tote marked CHRISTMAS. It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so even though Norma worked on her laptop most of the day, it was from home.

“Not since I called him last week with the news about Dad.” Her words were obscured as she spoke around the spatula handle between her teeth. She’d taken a break to make grilled cheese sandwiches, and I’d seized the opportunity to have an actual conversation. Norma took the flipper from her mouth before going on. “And I got a short email yesterday.”

I stifled a yawn and looked at my watch. It was after noon, way past my bedtime, especially when I had to be back at the club by ten that night. But it wasn’t often that Norma and I had daylight hours together, and I liked to be with her. In her company, I was less inclined to wandering thoughts of sensual lap dances and a sexy-grinned ringmaster who occupied my mind way too much. Especially since he’d made it clear what exactly he wanted from me. I couldn’t give it to him, but as I lay awake trying to sleep, I fantasized that I could while my hand crept underneath the band of my panties and danced around in regions I’d ignored for way too long.

Getting off felt good and all, but it was also a blaring reminder of how alone I was most of the time.