You know how when you watch a TV series and the last episode left off with a cliffhanger, the new show starts with "Previously on..."? Well, for those that missed it, click here for "Previously on Her Book Self". Welcome back, J.C. Phelps!
To set the scene: Alex and Will’s relationship has grown stronger and Will has invited her to tour the Naval carrier he will be deployed to. After the tour, the two of them decide to make an evening of it and do some bar hopping.
To begin the night inside my comfort zone we went to the Skylight first. I’d done my fair share of partying in the past but I’d only been to a few select bars.****
“I see Anthony is working.” Will pointed out my one and only ex-boyfriend.
“How do you know Anthony?”
“Rick told me all about your history,” Will said.
“Do you two make it a habit of talking about my past?” The thought was both flattering and embarrassing.
“No. There’s not much past to talk about. I think we covered it all in one or two conversations.” Will winked. “Let’s go say hi. Rick also told me a few things about Anthony that I bet you don’t even know.” Will raised his eyebrows in a challenge that I left unanswered. I was too engrossed in my thoughts anyway.
As usual, Anthony came right to me. “Wow. I thought you’d moved. I haven’t seen you forever. How long has it been? A year?” He was doing his best to show off his severely lacking biceps by imitating ‘The Thinker’. Actually, they didn’t look half bad but I knew he didn’t know how to use them, so they didn’t count.
“Nope. Didn’t move. Can you get me a coke and…” I turned to get Will’s order but Anthony cut in.
“I’m glad you came to see me. I’m currently between girlfriends,” he waggled his eyebrows at me.
Oh, the ego. I hadn’t even considered Anthony might still be working here when Will and I decided to come to The Skylight. “I’m currently taken.” I didn’t expect what happened next. Will cleared his throat and Anthony noticed him for the first time.
Anthony's normally tanned skin had become pale. “Ssss... Sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it. Please tell Malone not to… not to…”
Will’s ominous look changed to a grin. “Don’t worry, Anthony. She’s on my arm tonight, not my brother’s. Can you please get the lady her coke and add a beer and two shots of whiskey.”
“On the house.” Anthony quickly filled our order and moved away.
“What was that all about?” I asked as we moved away from the bar.
“Rick told me about a visit he paid to Anthony a while ago. Good to know he hasn’t forgotten.”
“When did -- What did he do?” Will ignored me and led me to a table near the dance floor.
We each had a couple of drinks and made our way to the dance floor twice before we decided it was time to move onto the next bar. By the time we were leaving the third bar on the list I was ready to call it a night. However, Will was still warming up. I didn’t want to ruin his fun, but I told him I had to slow down on the drinking. He complied by ordering me only one shot at bar number four. But, that still was number seven and I was surprised I could even count that high by then. It had been months since I’d had any alcohol and I’d never been able to handle it well anyway.
Bar number five could have been The Rave as far as I was concerned. It was definitely a dance club. The deep tones radiating through my body sent me to places I hadn’t been for a long time.
I closed my eyes. The heady music, the close bodies and the various smells pushed all thoughts from my brain.
Eventually, a very distinctive aroma snuck in on my consciousness and brought me back to reality. I opened my eyes and searched for the source. As I turned around I was met with White, not more than a few inches from me.
“What are you doing here?” Having to yell didn’t help mask the slur in my voice.
White hiked his head toward Will.
I threw an accusatory look at Will.
He shrugged. “I’m out of money and can’t pay for a cab to get us home.”
“I have money. You didn’t have to call him.” I yelled at Will.
“I’m not asking a girl to pay on a date.” I could tell by the look on his face this was unthinkable.
I looked at White for support on this but he just mimicked Will’s previous shrug.
I leaned in to talk in Will’s ear. “I thought you wanted to give the guys something to talk about.” I’d been looking forward to making White wonder if Will and I got along extra well, and now I didn’t know how to go about it without actually doing something drastic.
“Oh, they’ve already started,” he answered.
His voice in my ear gave me chills and made me giggle like a girl. I’m sure the alcohol helped.
“Ready?” I heard White yell from directly behind me.
“Not yet,” Will hollered over the music and gave me a wink.
It didn’t take me long to get lost in the music again. Strangely enough it was even easier to lose myself with White directly behind me. I knew I’d be safe with these two men near me and I was able to relax.
The music finally released its hold long enough for me to realize I’d backed up enough to feel White’s body heat against my back. I don’t know how long I’d been that close to him but I knew how it was affecting me. It was time to go home. I turned my head just enough to get a glimpse of White’s face. He was in bodyguard mode, scanning the entire building. It didn’t take him long to glance down at me with his undecipherable look. I mouthed the words, “Are you ready to go?” He answered with a nod.
I poked Will in the ribs and asked him the same thing in a shout. He also nodded his agreement.
I sat in the back of White’s black Mustang, though the seat was extremely uncomfortable. I figured I’d be left out of the conversation on the way home if I did and they didn’t let me down. I’d definitely had too much to drink and didn’t need to emphasize that fact with my slurred speech.
Will generously helped me navigate my way out of the vehicle once we’d parked in the garage of White and Associates. I held my own quite well after I got to my feet and Will and White let me lead the way into the lobby where I was greeted by all of my partners. Green and Black wore disapproving looks, but Red, Blue and especially Brown all smiled broadly.
“Pay up,” Will said to Brown as he stumbled up to him with his hand out.
“I want proof first. So, Ms. Grey. Did you have a good time tonight?”
I gave him a tight-lipped smile and muttered, “Mmm hmm.”
Suddenly, he took a swing at me. I had him on the floor instantly and just as quickly I lost my balance and found myself on top of him. Brown lifted me easily as he rose from the floor and set me upright.
“Okay. Here you go.” He laughed as he pulled out a wad of cash.
Money was being exchanged between everyone and I had no idea what was going on.
White was the only one not handing out or receiving cash. I gave him a questioning look. “What’s going on?”
“Will bet the guys he could take you out and get you drunk.”
“What?” White gave me his evil grin, the one that tied me in knots.
I stammered, “I didn’t mean to get drunk.” It took me being drunk, but I realized I preferred to be one of the guys instead of the girl in the company. I wondered why it had taken a prank like this to make me recognize that.
“I’ll take you home,” White offered but was instantly swarmed by the rest of the men with Brown up front.
“Oh no you don’t! You, Black and Blue are the only guys that have been around her when her tongue has been loosened by spirits. The rest of us want to get to know our partner like we know each other.” Brown grabbed my arm.
“No, no, no. I think White’s right and I should go home.” I tried to free myself as Brown towed me toward the elevator. I looked back at White for help but he was lost in the sea of men following us.
Everyone piled into the elevator and I felt a little claustrophobic. The feeling came mostly from everyone poking fun at me rather than the closeness of the bodies. As soon as the doors opened I pushed my way out to a floor I’d never been on before.
“Where are we?” I asked as Red pushed past me.
“Welcome to my abode.” He opened up the door and showcased the interior with a flourish of his arm.
I walked in and was overwhelmed with the feel of it.
“Now this is exactly what I thought White’s apartment would look like.” The black and red accents made me think of Gigi’s, the strip joint that Colin had me working at before the Dimitri hit. The apartment screamed bachelor on the hunt.
Black let out a chuckle as he followed me inside.
All of the partners’ apartments were the same floor plan but we each had a room that we used for our personal touch. White’s housed C.I.C. Mine was still used for storage. Black’s housed plants and all kinds of non-bachelor items, and Red’s was set up as a game room. He had a bar in one corner, a pool table, a dart board, and those tall tables that only seated a couple of people. However, he did have a couple of larger tables that would allow us all to sit together.
Blue stepped behind the bar and started lining up shot glasses like a pro. There was one for everyone but I didn’t get a chance to object until he brought over my usual shot of whiskey with a coke back.
“I can’t drink this,” I said as I pushed the shot away.
“Gonna be sick?” Brown mocked me with an exaggerated pout.
“Not yet, but I might soon,” I countered, weakly.
“Oh, come on. You’re home now. Who cares if you get sick. Just as long as you make it to the bathroom,” Red added.
“I promise to hold your hair,” Brown teased.
The Alexis Stanton Chronicles. Color Me Grey (book one) is my current favorite KinDEAL (at present it's free from Amazon).