He locked his eyes on me, pinning me in place. Magnetic and unyielding, I spiraled into his charcoal depths completely transfixed.
Then, I came to my senses. What a fool.
I blinked and jerked away. No way was he looking at someone as plain as me. Best to just return to my corner and withdraw to my wallflower ways. I ran fingers through my hair, chipped nails catching on the strands. I wasn’t like the other girls who had time for pedicures, manicures, waxes, and facials. They glowed in their pimped up Friday night best, while I merely simmered in the mediocrity of a five-minute dash out of the hospital. I lived my work, and it wore me down. The only reason I occupied this tiny corner of the bar was because of my most dearest friend, Tiffany.
She wore a silver crown, a tiara bedazzled with condoms stuck on with pins. Tomorrow, she’d tie the knot. Tonight, we celebrated her last day of single status. I was here with ten of her closest friends, only two whom I knew. While Tiffany was my best friend, I was merely one of her many friends. I was close enough to the inner circle to be invited to her bachelorette party and lucky enough not to be on-call–a rare combination for me.
Around me, a circle of giggling women laughed and chatted. A festive feast of unattached female flesh for the thriving bar scene and eager males. The mating calls were fully in effect, yet I hung in the shadows, dodging piercing gazes of magnetic men.
My dress fit loosely. My makeup was too sparse. My hair tied into a messy bun stuck out in all directions. I’d barely had time to change before running outside to hop inside the charted limo. No wonder I sidestepped all the mirrors. I looked okay, just not decked to the nines like the rest of the party.
Another toast. Another glass down. All around me inhibitions lowered with the surge of alcohol thrumming in female veins. I sipped my champagne. Tomorrow, five am, I had to be back in the operating room saving lives. With a roll of my wrist, I checked the time. Almost ten pm. I was not going to make it through the night. Maybe I should call a cab, but how to bow out gracefully from a bachelorette party?
“To the dance floor!” Honestly, I don’t know who made the call, except the sea of female flesh, the squeals and giggles, drew me out of my corner protesting the entire way. We moved as a group straight to the dance floor. In the middle of our gaggle, Tiffany swayed with the tiara, hands raised over her head, a goddess dressed in a silver minidress. Her body moved with subtle gyrations I could only hope to match in my dreams.
My body twitched to the beat, struggling to find the underlying rhythm, and failing as it always did. All around me, her bridesmaids screamed and cheered and undulated to the sexy beat. I shook what little ass I had, as best I could, and tried not to stand out as the men picked us off one-by-one.
Ugh, I hated this. Because I knew I’d be chosen last, if at all. Tiffany already had three men surrounding her, guys enjoying a girl’s last night of freedom, giving Tiffany a good, honest sendoff into matrimonial heaven. Tiffany always drew the men in, as did Lola, and Kathryn, and Peggy. Oh, and two others whose names I didn’t remember.
I edged my way to the side of the dance floor, before it became obvious I did not rank amongst the chosen. This was not unusual for me. I sighed and thought back to the time before I worked twelve to fourteen hour days. To a time when I primped and preened like all the rest. Now, I was simply too tired to care, or maybe I was too lazy like my ex-boyfriend claimed. Somewhere along the way I’d lost my fire. He said I grew cold.
Backing away from the press of undulating bodies, I stumbled against a very large someone.
I spin, alarmed and embarrassed even as a heavy grip encases my arm to keep me from falling. Automatically, I lower my eyes. “Excuse me. I’m sorry.”
“Are you okay?”
I mumble something and the towering male presence leans inward, hovering near my ear.
Speaking louder, his rich timbre reaches my ears. “Are you okay?” HIs voice is a liquid jet of heat, superheating me from the inside out.
Erotic as hell, I gasp. I lift my eyes and find myself gazing into chocolate brown eyes. My mouth falls open when I see Mr. Magnetic from before standing next to me.
He cocks and eyebrow pausing, waiting I’m sure, for me to answer such a simple question, but I’ve been struck mute by the pounding in my chest and the fire flaring in my core.
A slight ripple of alarm runs through me when I realize he still has a grip of me. I shake off his hand. “I’m fine.”
He looks at me as if to challenge my reply. I really shouldn’t overanalyze, but this is what I do. But I’m not fine. I stumble like I’ve had way too much to drink, which I haven’t
This time, he grabs me around the waist and escorts me off the dance floor. “Whoa, you sure?”
I brush his hands off my waist and level him a fierce stare. It’s hot in here. The music is thumping. The beat has settled into a steady ache at the base of my skull. Overhead, the flashing lights highlight Tiffany and her girlfriends gyrating amongst a mass of male flesh. I barely escaped from that.
I need a drink. Not alcohol. Water. I want to go home.
He turns my face to his, concerned. “You don’t look…fine.” The warmth of his breath caresses my skin. “Come, let’s get you a seat.” The steady pressure of his hand on my lower back urges me forward. It’s been so long since I’ve let a man lead me. Hell, it’s been a long time since a man’s touched me.
He steers me to a back table, nestled as far from the noise and light as you can get. The pressure he applies sends electric tremors through me. It makes me feel like I belong to him. Like I’ve been claimed by him.
When we arrive, I snap out of my fog. I really hope I’m not blushing, or that he has any idea what thoughts had been coursing through my mind. He doesn’t appear to notice, because he’s politely pulling out a chair for me.
I take a long moment to study this man, dying to know what makes him tick, his secrets, and why he’d rescue a no-nothing like me from the edges of the dance floor. Because, the man standing before me is leagues out of my reach. I don’t even think flawless Tiffany had the stratospheric reach to touch his perfection. Thick, dark hair framed a handsome face with a strong-set jaw. The scruff of his beard had me wondering what it would feel like brushing up against my skin. Would it be wiry and rough, or smooth and ticklish? His eyes, shrouded by a prominent brow, remained dark and mysterious, but filled with so much emotion he’s drowning me in sensation.
“I’m sorry,” I said, moving away from him, terrified and incredibly aroused by the power of his physical presence. “But, I should be going.”
Certainly, this kind of man had no business being around a woman like me. I glanced around to see if any of Tiffany’s friends had moved off the dance floor. I needed a crowd of my own to hide within.
A seductive smile lifts his lips. “Now that’s no fun at all and not at all what I want.”
I stutter mid-step. “Excuse me?”
He presses me back to the seat. “Please sit, I’ve been watching you all night. I find you fascinating.”
No man has called me that. And boom! All my insecurities rise to the surface. Is it because I’m the one who doesn’t belong? The one unpolished stone among the gems of beautiful women? I feel my brows knitting together as the emotions wash over me.
His finger under my chin is lifting my face again. “Stop. Don’t do that.”
I have no outlet for my self-doubt with this stranger, so I turn it to the only emotion I can find with strength. Anger flares and I narrow my eyes at him. “Don’t do what?” I try to get out of my seat, but he presses down on my shoulder.
“Don’t second guess yourself.” He moved in closer, bracketing my body with his, raising his voice, not to yell, but to be heard over the din of the club. “Let’s just be two people in this moment and let the rest of the room disappear.” He looks searchingly into my eyes.
What he hopes to find I have no idea. I jerk my chin out of his grasp. “I don’t know what you want, but I’m sure it’s not me.” With that I stand, finding a way to side-step him.
He grabs my arm just above the elbow, stopping me in my tracks. I’m half scared by him restraining me, half turned on by his persistence and show of strength.
From the look in his eyes, I know he’s trying to figure out his next lines. “I’ve wanted you from the moment you walked into this club. You’re fascinating.”
“Trust me, there’s absolutely nothing fascinating about me.”
He pulled me to him, pressing me against the length of his body. His warmth radiates into my skin. “How can you presume to know what I do and do not like when you know nothing about me? We’re in a room full of people and all I can think about is consuming you. Tell me, would that be so bad?”
My heart skipped a beat. Hell, it skipped so many it’s a miracle I’m still alive. Consume me? What did that even mean?
His hand wraps around the back of my neck, pulling me close. Our lips hover, kissably close, and I am understanding with more clarity what it might mean to be consumed.
Heat has spiked within my veins and spiraled through my body. I don’t know this stranger and he’s about to kiss me. I press against his chest. Hell, hard muscles presses back. I’m toast. “You’re right. I know nothing about you.”
He leans forward. HIs lips skimming over mind. “Then don’t you think it’s time to find out more?”
Am I going to let him kiss me?