My hot pink heels click rhythmically on the pavement along to the ever-present beat in my head. Sometimes it's drums, sometimes it's a bass, guitar, or piano riff, hell, sometimes it's the profoundly annoying ringtone I heard on the subway, but it's always there. Finally I arrive, my bare legs thankful to get out of the cool evening air, checking my leather coat and pulling up the stool at my regular table by the bar. I feel Levi in my personal space before I really see him, my eyes are too busy scanning the room for something or someone to calm the blood rushing in my ears, but he waits patiently for my gaze to settle on him before setting a tumbler of scotch down in front of me with a smile.
“How you doin', Buzz?” he asks, drinking from his own glass of soda.
“Good, Levi. You?”
“Busy busy, the way I like it. Can I get you anything else?” As the manager of this quaint establishment, known as Shadows, he knows me well. Perhaps a little too well, but I am without a doubt their most loyal customer.
I give him my sweetest grin. “Do you have any of those pretzels left, the chocolate dipped ones?”
“I'll see what I can do for you,” he says, watching me take a sip of scotch. It takes me a moment to steady the tremor in my hand and although I'd hoped to hide it, he stiffens and frowns.
“Been waiting all day for this.” It burns pleasantly down my throat as I set the glass down and turn my attention back to the crowd while he slips through the gate behind the bar.
Bodies mill around each other like worker bees around a hive, and even those waiting in line for the bar never stop undulating along with the steady beat of the music. My eyes barely linger on anyone for more than a millisecond, scanning the mass of people like a page of information, in search of a specific keyword. Most of them I can dismiss fairly quickly because they're women – which in itself isn't a problem, except that it's not a woman I'm interested in right now; a small handful I recognise; and the rest just don't have the indefinable 'something' I'm looking for. I fidget with my glass, running a finger around the rim and sucking off the trace of liquor, but not because I'm worried I'll be leaving empty handed. Not from this place, it's my regular for good reason – it's popular, but not so much as to be uncomfortably crowded, the music doesn't leave my head pounding for days afterward, and I've never failed to meet someone new.
Let's not pussyfoot around it – I'm here for one reason tonight and that's to pick up a man. I've never cared for labelling it or dodging other people's judgement, I accepted long ago that once in awhile I have a need for physical contact with another warm body, and there's no shame in taking care of that need.
The moment he steps through the door, my skin prickles with excitement and the jittering monologue in my mind hushes for a good two minutes. His hair is thick and dark, cropped on the sides and a little longer on top – enough to weave my fingers through at an appropriate moment later on – with matching stubble covering his jaw and chin. He rubs his hand over his face while he surveys the room, draping his coat over his arm and rolling the sleeves of his deep red button-down shirt as he swerves in and out of groups of patrons alongside his male companion. No rings and the way he subtly appraises the women he passes tell me he's likely unattached. The confidence of his broad shoulders and chest and the cockiness of his gait make me bite my lip. Target acquired. I can already see the rest falling into place as the night unfolds like the pages of a pop-up book.
Levi sets down a bowl of chocolate pretzels and pulls up another stool, the tightness in my chest easing as we fall into comfortable conversation.
“We haven't seen you in a while.”
“I've been busy with work,” I say, as though it's unusual for me to disappear for weeks or months at a time. “We've been flat out updating the software from the company I bought out a few months ago, improving it and making it ours.”
“Wasn't Microsoft, was it?” he jokes.
Reckon I could give Bill Gates a run for his money. “No, Microsoft is safe for now. I read an article yesterday that called us a 'boutique' solutions architecture firm. Boo-teek,” I say slowly to emphasise the point.
“Very Minnie Mouse.”
“That's what I thought!” I laugh. “Like some cutesy pop-up shop!”
“Next time you're around, our printer is being temperamental again.”
I roll my eyes. This is why you don't ever tell anyone you know anything about any sort of technology.
“I know, I know. It's beneath you and not your thing and I'm about to get another lecture on hardware versus software. I'll pay you.” He gets out of the lecture because he obviously did listen the first time, he just chose to ignore it.
“You can't afford me.” I chuckle and finish off my drink. “I'll look at it next time I'm in, remind me before I get a drink.”
Most likely he'll do the same as last time and have Brennan the bartender withhold all alcohol from me until I fix his problem.
Behind Levi, the man in the blood-red shirt comes into view making his way to the bar, waiting in line and talking animatedly with his large hands.
“Refill?” Levi asks, holding up my glass.
“Please.” I nod. “And would you have Brennan add that man's drinks to my tab?”
“Anything for my favourite nerd.”
As Levi moves behind the bar, red shirt turns and locks eyes with me for a few seconds. Even at this distance, I can see the mischief in his bright eyes and the way they crease with his easy smile before he looks away. Fingering the fresh glass Levi has set down in front of me, I continue watching him lean on the bar to order, confusion knitting his brows when Brennan gestures to me and waves away his cash. With an identical glass in his hand, he steps away from the service area and raises it to me in a silent toast before taking a sip.
“That's my cue to get back to work,” Levi says, squeezing my shoulder. “If you need anything, you know where I am.”
He stalks toward me like I'm the prey he just trapped with a morsel of promise and a pretty smile, not realising I've lay in wait since he first crossed the threshold. I lick my lips at his first sip, feeling the tingle and burn as though it were my own.
“Sebastian,” he says, extending a smooth hand. His deep voice has a hint of a rough edge that makes me wonder if his personality has the same serrated side.
“Buzz,” I reply, completely immune to his slightly confused look but not the way his long fingers linger on my skin.
“Aldrin or Lightyear?”
“Neither.” I laugh and his face relaxes into a warm smile.
“Thank you for the drink, you come here often?”
“You're welcome. This is a regular hangout for me, haven't seen you here before, though.”
“It's not usually my thing, we're just celebrating the end of a project.”
I watch him over the rim of my glass, his blue eyes admiring the peek of tattoo on my shoulder as we make small talk. Every time his tongue darts out to wet his plump lips, my mind is invaded by thoughts of both on my skin, kissing and licking all the right places.
“Do you dance, Buzz?”
“Often.” I down my scotch and link my arm with his without waiting for an offer.
The beat of the music and crush of the crowd on the small dance floor make the atmosphere thick to almost stifling, and leaves us no choice but to dance with our bodies pressed together. When I'm knocked forward from behind, Sebastian immediately steadies me with both hands on my hips and I hold them there, revelling in having his hands on me.
“Wow,” he says when I tuck my hair behind my ear. “Shiny.”
I'm so used to the number of piercings I have that I forget they're there, so when I see him admiring my ear I have to feel around a few moments before I realise he's not looking at something that doesn't belong there. He doesn't strike me as the type who's particularly turned on by tats or piercings, but they're part of me.
“You like those, there's plenty more.”
“Really?” He raises one eyebrow.
I flick my tongue out, making to lick my lips but letting it sit just long enough for him to see the rose-gold ball in the centre, and watching his eyes widen but remain focused on my mouth. His hands slide around my waist to my back and pull me hard against him.
“What's it like to kiss with one of those?”
In response I lean up and press my lips gently to his cheek, whispering low in his ear. “You tell me.”
He catches my mouth in a soft kiss, quickly deepening it when I lick at the seam of his lips. As our tongues dance and lap at each other, I feel his breath catch as my body presses against him, my breasts growing heavy and my nipples hardening against his chest. He finishes the kiss with a sigh and takes one of my hands above my head to spin me around until I laugh, and he holds my back against his front. As I move against him I can feel the bulge in his jeans, and while I'm sure it's making him uncomfortable, it only encourages me to grind against him.
Sebastian bends so that his hot breath dances on my neck.
“You want to get out of here?”
I nod and lead him back to the table to retrieve my purse and coat, nodding to Brennan behind the bar on our way out the door.
“Where to?” I ask when we're out in the frigid night air.
“My place is only a couple blocks... if that's what you want.”
I let the polite gentleman in him squirm for a few seconds before answering. “Lead the way.”