Authors: Jordan Summers
The music was louder now. It pumped out of the speakers, occupying the crowd until the live band started. The beat called to her, trying to lure her to the dance floor.
Mindy glanced around the bar. The place was packed and
like Celina described it. There were at least ten men for every woman in the bar, and most were exceedingly good-looking, especially the dark-haired, tattooed Adonis behind the bar. He was so gorgeous that he bordered on being pretty.
He smiled at Mindy and her knees went weak. She’d never be able to handle a man like him. Not in her wildest dreams, but flirting with the bartender never hurt.
She took a step forward and several heads turned in her direction. Mindy looked behind her, but there was no one there. The men sniffed in unison. She resisted the urge to do the same. She’d showered after work and put on a little perfume, but not too much. Or at least she’d thought so until she came in here.
Two guys broke away from the pack. Mindy giggled nervously at the metaphor, though it was fitting given the large group. They quickly approached her.
“Hello,” the brown-haired one said. “My name’s Marco. Marco Faretti. This here is Emmett.”
“Hi. I’m Mindy.” Every eye in the place was focused on them.
“You look like you could use a drink,” Marco said.
Her hands trembled as she smoothed her dress. “Yes, I could.” Mindy let them drag her to the bar. She had no intention of staying there long. Not with the music calling to her.
They passed a man with sandy brown hair and haunting dark blue eyes that she hadn’t noticed when she’d first walked in. Though how she could’ve missed him was a mystery. He leaned against the bar casually watching everyone around him, including her.
Like the doorman and bartender, the man was big and unusually tall. His rugged good looks were understated, but striking.
The man smiled at her. The act transformed his face and stole the breath from her lungs. Marco and Emmett faded away, along with the rest of the bar. Mindy smiled back, hoping her nerves didn’t show.
Outwardly the man appeared to be having a good time, but Mindy recognized lonely when she saw it. After all, it stared back at her every time she looked in the mirror.
His gaze stole across her, leaving heat in its wake.
Mindy’s heart raced. It had been a long time since she’d experienced that kind of attraction to a man.
Emmett put his arm around her.
The move shocked Mindy, breaking the spell between them. She casually shifted until his arm dropped. Maybe he wouldn’t notice.
Undeterred, Emmett did it again.
This time Mindy looked at him before lifting his hand and removing his arm from around her shoulders. She didn’t want the man at the end of the bar to get the wrong impression, and she didn’t want to encourage Emmett.
Just because he and Marco had approached her first didn’t mean that they had dibs on her. No one had dibs on her. Mindy wanted to make that clear upfront. She was grateful that they’d been so nice, but her gratitude only went so far.
The man at the end of the bar continued to watch her. Without warning, he suddenly came to his feet and rounded the bar. His gaze never wavered as he made his way toward her.
Mindy took a deep breath to calm her nerves. In her mind, she ran through a dozen ways of how to say hello. Before she could put any of them into practice, his footsteps faltered and he stopped. His disarming smile slowly faded and he returned to his spot at the end of the bar.
What just happened? Had I inadvertently done something? Had Emmett’s clumsy attempt to hit on me dissuaded the man?
The disappointment swirling inside surprised Mindy. She glanced at her clothes and wished once more that she’d worn something casual. This wouldn’t have happened to Celina or Isabel. They both had the ability to wrap men around their fingers.
Game playing of any kind gave Mindy hives. She’d always been a “what you see is what you get” kind of girl, and she’d been okay with that until tonight. Now Mindy wished just once that she were someone different. The kind of woman that the man at the end of the bar wouldn’t be able to resist. The kind of woman who was brave enough to approach him without throwing up on his shoes.
If only I were that kind of woman...
The music changed to a more up-tempo beat. Mindy slipped away from Marco and Emmett, away from the man at the end of the bar, and away from her troubles.
She strolled out onto the dance floor, where a few other girls were already dancing. Mindy allowed the music to seep inside her, until she could feel every note pulsing in her bones. Her body swayed gently at first, then found the rhythm.
When was the last time she felt this free?
Mindy couldn’t remember. Didn’t care. She let the music wash over her and move her body. Her hips swayed and she ran her hands down her sides as she rocked to the beat.
* * * * *
Nic couldn’t tear his gaze away from the woman in red as she swayed provocatively on the dance floor. That vintage dress she wore accentuated her voluptuous curves and fair skin, making her appear luminous in the low lighting. Her fluid movements hinted at the passion she kept buttoned up behind that high collar.
She looked young—innocent, but he’d never been good at guessing anyone’s true age. The woman rolled her hips and ran her hands over her body.
Drool formed in his mouth. Nic had to swallow hard to keep from embarrassing himself. Every muscle in his body tightened and his skin burned. He reminded himself again that this woman was human and not one of the Kin.
Nic watched her dance until the song ended. He was awash with disappointment when she slowly strolled back to the bar, back to the pups who’d been nipping at her cute kitten heels.
* * * * *
Mindy made her way back to the bar and ordered a wine spritzer.
“Nice dance,” the striking bartender said, then grinned.
“Thanks,” she said, but Mindy hadn’t danced for him or anyone else. That dance had been for her.
The bartender quickly made her drink, then placed the cocktail in front of her. “If you need anything else, just ask for Lucien,” he said.
She smiled and gave him a quick nod.
A moment later, Lucien added five more drinks to go with the first.
“I didn’t order these,” she said.
He looked at her, his green eyes mesmerizing. “I know,
. They did.” Lucien indicated to the men behind her.
“Oh.” Mindy reached into her purse for her money.
Lucien stopped her with a light touch to her hand. “It’s already covered.”
A growl came from the end of the bar. Mindy turned to see who’d made the odd noise, and so did everyone else at the bar. The sandy-haired man she’d been attracted to earlier was staring at the bartender’s hand with a mutinous expression on his face.
“Well now, that is interesting,” the bartender said, slowly removing his hand from hers.
“Did he just growl?” Mindy asked. She couldn’t have heard him correctly. People didn’t growl.
The bartender blinked. It was the only indication she got that let her know that she’d surprised him with the question.
“I mean no offense when I say this,” Lucien said. “But I think perhaps you’re in the wrong establishment.”
Mindy thought the same thing, but stubbornness kept her rooted in place. Isabel wasn’t the only one in her family capable of having a good time. She was determined to prove to her sister, to Celina, and to herself that some part of the “real” Mindy still existed. All she needed was the chance.
“I wish people would stop saying that,” she murmured.
Why did everyone think they knew what was best for me?
She wasn’t a child. She was twenty-five years old.
With a grim expression on his lovely face, he gave her a slight bow. “As you wish.”
* * * * *
Nic watched the woman order a drink. Sparks flew as she and Lucien spoke. The attraction between them was undeniable. Almost as strong as what they’d experienced before he discovered what she was. Lucien touched her lightly. Nic’s wolf grumbled before he could stop it.
Everyone turned to look at him with shocked expressions on their faces. Everyone but Lucien. His best friend was having a hard time keeping a straight face.
Lucien said something to the woman, then walked to the end of the bar where Nic stood. “It’s nice to know that there’s still some life in you,
. I was beginning to wonder.” Speculation replaced some of his amusement.
“Funny,” Nic said. “What can you tell me about her?”
Why had he asked? He didn’t want to know her, didn’t want anything to do with her. He wasn’t looking to hook up with a human, even one as delectable as her.
Lucien cocked his hip against the bar. “Not much,” he said. “Just that she doesn’t belong here.”
* * * * *
The alcohol continued to flow, giving the men circling around Mindy liquid courage. She nursed her wine spritzer and danced alone a few more times.
The men grew more brazen. Marco and Emmett were determined to get her drunk and weren’t above showing their displeasure over the fact that she hadn’t touched the other drinks in front of her.
The man at the end of the bar continued to stare at her, but it was obvious he wasn’t going to act upon their attraction. He’d made that perfectly clear. Once again, Mindy thought about approaching him, but the idea abandoned her when she noted his grim expression.
She’d never been good at reading people, only animals. People were complicated. Animals’ needs were simple. It was why she’d gone into veterinary medicine.
Sticks continued to fill with people. The press of warm bodies around her made it hard to breathe. Emmett and Marco had been competing for the past hour to see who could get her to agree to a date. They were both beyond cute. Too bad they weren’t her type. Deflecting their constant advances wore on her, and eventually she’d had enough.
Mindy pushed the last of her drink away and stood. She couldn’t take it anymore. Celina was right. This wasn’t her type of place. She waved goodbye to Lucien, then stepped away from the bar.
“Excuse me,” she said to Marco and Emmett when she squeezed by.
“The bathrooms are down the hall on the right,” Marco said.
“Thanks,” Mindy said. “But I think I’m just going to head home. It was nice meeting you both.”
“Don’t go,” Marco said. “You just got here.”
Mindy glanced at her watch. She’d been there for over an hour. To a homebody, that felt like an eternity. “It’s late and I have to work tomorrow. Thank you again for the drink.” She didn’t wait for them to respond. Mindy simply pushed past them and walked away.
She took a deep breath when she got outside. The air filled her lungs and cooled her heated skin. Mindy toddled across the parking lot toward her car. Her PJs and slippers were calling to her. Maybe she’d manage to get in an hour of studying before she went to bed.
“You’re such a coward,” she muttered. “You should’ve at least walked up to him and said hello.”
It was too late now. She’d probably never see the man at the end of the bar again. Mindy was so lost in thought that she didn’t hear the footsteps coming up behind her until they were upon her.
Marco and Emmett suddenly appeared out of the dark. “W-what are you guys doing?” She looked around, hoping someone was nearby, but they were alone.
“We wanted to make sure you got to your car okay,” Marco said.
“Yeah, it’s dark. Anything could happen,” Emmett added.
“Thanks, but I’m already here.” She pointed behind her.
Undeterred, the men kept coming. Mindy backed up and didn’t stop until she hit her car. The second she touched the metal doorframe, the men caged her with their bodies.
“Guys, I told you that I have to go home.”
“We thought you might be up for a private party. You know, just the three us.” Marco ran his fingers along her arm.
Fear warred with anger. Was this kind of behavior why Izzy made Celina promise never to invite her to the bar? Ugh, she’d been so stupid. She should have listened to Celina and just stayed away.
“I think I’d better leave,” she said.
Emmett moved in front of her door handle, cutting off her escape. “It’s early,” he said. “We won’t keep you long. We can make it quick, so you can get home and have a good night’s sleep.”
“As appealing as that sounds, I’m not interested,” Mindy said with as much sarcasm as she could muster. She could barely hear the words over her pounding heart.
Marco snorted. “If you weren’t interested, you wouldn’t have come here.”
“I came here to dance,” Mindy said. “Not to meet people.”
“Come on, baby,” Marco said. “Stop playing coy. Nobody comes to Sticks for the music.”
“I do,” Emmett said.
“Shut up,” Marco said. “Nobody is talking to you.” He ground himself against her so she could feel the bulge protruding from the front of his pants. “You’ll have a good time. It’ll almost be like dancing. Promise.”
Emmett laughed. “At least it’ll be memorable.”
Marco met his gaze and smiled, then he licked the side of her neck.
Mindy opened her mouth to scream, but Marco clamped his hand over her lips.
“Shh,” he said. “Save the screaming for later.”
* * * * *
Nic was determined to finish his beer now that the woman in red had gone, but he couldn’t shake the unease coursing through his veins.
He’d watched the pups follow her out. They could be just planning to party, but this close to the full moon there was a chance their hormones were overriding their good sense.
They wouldn’t rape her. That crime brought an automatic death sentence from the pack. But they could become excessively aggressive while trying to convince her to do what they wanted.
He wasn’t a white knight. And he certainly wasn’t the type to rescue anyone. If a human came here looking for a good time with a Were, then who was he to interfere?