I say it’s a challenge.
Arabelle nudges me out of deep thought. “You better be careful. You’ll round up love-sick puppies who will be hounding you with phone calls wondering when you’re coming back to town.”
My practiced smile slides into place on cue. “What can I say, my love triangle is a place men just love to get lost in.” If I ever let it get that far. You see, I’ve tried letting a man touch me before and I just can’t. But I refuse to let this road trip end in defeat. Playing up the bad girl vibes, I throw a two-fingered V up and slide my tongue up the middle.
I turn back to the men in the corner. Shadows hid the vast majority of their faces and the dense smoke hanging in the air—despite the no smoking sign—keeps me from seeing them fully.
“You should go.”
Arabelle urges me toward the far corner with a small push.
“Nah.” But the nagging urge to walk over there and see what my body does has me arguing the pros and cons in my head.
“I’ll be fine. I’m going to hang out here and just enjoy the drink. If something happens with someone, I’ll signal you.”
I don’t know why I do it, but I pick up my drink and step away from the bar. It feels like I’ve cut the tether grounding me. Go big or go home, right?
Trembling fear takes root in the soles of my feet and with each step I take in their direction, I have to convince myself not to run. That not everyone in this world is out to get me.
“You got this, girl.”
Arabelle’s encouraging words urge me a few more steps until I get up enough momentum to clear the full length of the bar. I edge up to the table. The nerve I lost back at the bar for a few seconds comes rushing back and the exterior badass I show the world returns.
Unlike other times, my body doesn’t leave me frozen to the ground. I don’t feel the need to fight or run.
No. When three sets of eyes draw up my exposed legs, over my ample breasts, and hold my gaze firmly, the heat inside me that has been dormant for so long simmers to life.
I put a hand on my hip and know the second they see the dimple in my right cheek. The light in their eyes turns from curious to ravenous.
“Hey boys, you have room for one more between the three of you?”
All three stand and I’m knocked back by the sheer strength of their presence.
What the fuck am I doing?
Bastian and Dante peer out over the bar we own looking bored as fuck.
I don’t blame them. We’ve been here a few days wrapping up business with a few local club owners that will bring fresh blood to all our establishments. After days of meetings, all our nerves are edging toward being shot.
This week is just another one in a long string of weeks that look pretty much the same no matter which way you look at them.
Contracts, bickering, negotiating, and more contracts. I scrub a hand over my face feeling the weight of so many people in my space.
“You make our reservation at Club Sin?”
Dante nods. “They’ll be calling to confirm when the suite is ready in a little bit.”
His attention moves back to something on his phone. Probably scouting other locations for our next acquisition. Slowly but surely, we are establishing our mark beyond Seattle. But this place, only a few streets over from Bourbon Street, is a new venture in a new city. Dante and Bastian both think we are not strong enough to branch out so far from home, but the only way to grow stronger is to forge connections. And that is what we are doing. Club Sin is just the first alliance. They will filter clients to us and we’ll do the same for them. Everyone loves good music, a place to feel safe and let loose. And on the flip side, everyone here wants to take the party someplace where their kinks will be satisfied in a safe environment.
Money flows, needs are satisfied and no one gets hurt. Once we are done here we will move on to another city, and forge connections there. Rinse and repeat until we have the respect, power, and wealth to protect everyone under us.
The only thing we fear is weakness itself. Our fathers were weak men. It’s why they failed to build the legacy they wanted so badly. Each of them was unable to protect those under them. My sister was murdered for revenge and Bastian’s mother was kidnapped and beaten. She survived but was never the same.
Our fathers couldn’t protect those who counted on them so they let those stronger than them take everything they worked for. All the territory they earned for themselves.