I had to admit, I looked fucking hot. I never got to dress up or make myself look good lately. My best friend, Liddy, insisted that we go out tonight as one last girl's night. It took some convincing, but I gave in and even let her dress me and do my makeup. I would miss her like crazy when I left. We would be sure to make our last night memorable.
"Promise to have fun tonight," Liddy said to me as we took the elevator down to the ground floor.
"Promise," I agreed.
"Good. You've been through enough in your life. You need some fun," Liddy said, bouncing up and down impatiently.
Liddy was right. The last eight months had been the worse of my life. Some fun and dancing was the least I should do. Everything I owned was in a U-Haul truck on the way to the opposite end of the country. Tomorrow, I would leave the only city I had ever known, and hopefully all the bad that tainted it for me. One last night with my best friend was the perfect way to say goodbye.
My excitement grew as we got out of the cab and approached the bouncer at the entrance of one of the hottest clubs in Chicago. I could already hear the pounding of the bass from inside and it filled me with energy. Giving one quick look at Liddy and me, the bouncer ushered us right in. It was a weeknight so the line wasn't too bad, but I still felt like I was someone important walking inside.
I linked arms with my best friend, and we walked in like we owned the place. Sweaty bodies were grinding against each other as the loud music drove them. I looked at Liddy with wide eyes as she tugged me toward the bar. I was so excited that I was bouncing in the high heels I had borrowed. At the bar, people yelled over the music to bartenders who scrambled to get everyone good and wasted. It didn't take long for one to appear before us.
I couldn't hear what Liddy had ordered, but in a few seconds four shot glasses were being slid across the bar to her. Her blue eyes sparkled at me in mischief as she handed me a shot.
"To your last night in Chicago, you bitch!" she shouted before throwing her head back and downing the clear liquid. I followed, choking on the burn.
"Shit!" I coughed. Tequila.
"No holding back tonight, Stella! For once, just let loose."
We downed our other shots, though it burned less the second time. Maybe my throat was numb from the first one. A grin stretched across my face as we weaved through the crowd. A determination to enjoy tonight filled me. I promised myself I wouldn't worry about tomorrow. I wouldn't think about the goodbye. I wouldn't fear the move I would be making in the morning to San Francisco.
We found a little space for our two bodies to wiggle into, and we started to dance. As the alcohol warmed my body, the heat and people brushing against me didn't bother me. Everything was perfect. I didn't think it was possible for me to enjoy anything anymore, but here I was.
Music washed over me.
Thoughts left my head.
The heavy bass thumped through my body as sweat trickled down my neck and my hair stuck to my face. I felt the burn in my cheeks and the exhaustion in my limbs. I didn't care though. I didn't care about anything in the center of that dance floor.
Liddy grabbed my arm, breaking my blissful trance, and pulled me toward the bar. We bumped other grinding bodies and weaved our way through the thick mass of people dancing. I was in desperate need of water and some more alcohol. After a few dozen accidental grabs and apologies, we made it the bar. It was even more crowded than before and I drummed my nails on the bar impatiently.
"Here you go ladies," a bartender said as he slid two water bottles and two shots of a bright blue liquid to us.
"We didn't order yet," I yelled at him over the music.
"From the guy over there," he shouted back to me and pointed to the opposite side of the bar.
Liddy and I both leaned over the counter to get a look at the other end. Already calmly watching us, sat a man in a dark suit.
"Holy shit. He's hot," Liddy said in my ear.
She wasn't kidding. In the dim lighting, I could only guess he was maybe late twenties. His dark hair was styled neatly and his wide body screamed control and power. A chill ran down my body when one corner of his lips tipped up.
"He likes the blonde," the bartender added with a wink at me.
"Go thank him," Liddy said with a playful shoulder bump.
I shook my head and downed the shot. "No. I'll never see him again," I hissed through the burn.
"Exactly," she deadpanned.
I took another glance at the stranger at the other end of the bar. He was still watching, and I wasn't sure if it made me feel excited or nervous. When he stood and started toward us, I held my breath. I had been alone for so long, I wasn't sure how to socialize with handsome men. Especially with one very much out of my comfort zone. He was sexier, more powerful and more intimidating than any college frat boy I had ever flirted with before. I could tell all of this from just one look across the bar.
"Last night. Live it," Liddy whispered in my ear before sneaking off.
I watched her exposed back disappear into the crowd. Her words echoed in my head as I forced my feet to take me to the stranger. She was right. I should live. He watched as I approached and I prayed that I didn't fall on my face. His intense focus made me nervous, as did attention from anyone. I thought of turning around and abandoning the whole idea, but soon I was standing right in front of him.
"Thanks for the drink."
"You're very welcome," his deep voice rumbled in my ear.
A grin stretched across his handsome face and his hand reached for mine. I put mine in his expecting a handshake, but he surprised me when he lifted my hand toward his lips. I swore I could feel my jaw unhinge and fall open as I watched plump lips come closer to my skin. I pulled in a deep breath and he shocked me further by twisting my wrist and placing a soft kiss on the inside of my wrist. It was intrusive, erotic, and exciting all at the same time.
"Let's find somewhere less crowded," he said and started to pull me away from the bar without waiting for me to agree.
Unlike when Liddy and I had tried to make our way anywhere in the club, the crowd parted for him. I didn't know if it was because he was known or if it was the power and the demand to be respected that radiated from him. One look at the man pulling me by the hand told me he was someone to admire and fear. It was the latter that had my heart beating and my throat dry. After months of solitude, any excitement had my body feeding off of it. I was unable to stop from devouring his attention and the way this stranger made me feel.
He led me up some steps, and a bouncer nodded as we passed. The music was a more bearable volume up here, but we still had the view of the dance floor. I stood at the railing and looked into the sea of people. I wondered if Liddy was down there dancing with a cute guy. She always lived without worries or regard for the consequences. Most of the time, I was jealous of her bravery and confidence.
I felt a tickle down my arm and the chill of a glass being wrapped in my fingers. I could sense him behind me. He wasn't quite touching me, but he may as well have been. His presence was felt on every inch of my skin. I lifted the cool glass to my lips to distract myself. The sweetness mixed with the burn and I let it wash away the nerves.
"Are you cold?" he asked behind me.
I shook my head and turned to face him. In the improved lighting, I could see his face better. His eyes were dark, and he had a straight nose and chiseled jaw. His suit was tailored to his body and had to cost more than several months of my rent. A scent of clean linen and fresh air complemented his groomed and perfect appearance. He was perfect and I swallowed, feeling entirely out my league.
He rubbed his hands up and down my arms, sending warmth through me. I was stuck staring at his deep, mesmerizing eyes when I noticed his smirk. With my fair skin, I was sure he could see the blush creeping into my face and spreading down my neck and chest. He confirmed that thought when his finger traced the low cut neckline of my dress, grazing the tops of my breasts.
"So soft," he said in a low voice. My head started to swim with the sensations.
How long had it been since I had been touched like this? Was it sophomore year in college with my last boyfriend before my life went to shit? Was it last year when I still had it in me to touch myself and enjoy it? Was it even before that when my mother would stroke my hair like she used to every time she saw me? Inside, the smart and fearful girl that I had become was telling me this man was a dangerous stranger, but the girl with life in her still soaked up his presence.
What harm could it be anyway? I planned to leave the next day for another state. I would start over and never see him again. It didn't matter if he thought I was easy or never called me after. In fact, that would be for the best. I promised Liddy, and myself, that I would give myself one last good memory in this city.
"Dance with me?" I bravely asked.
His eyes sparkled, and his hands firmly gripped my hips. Without the crowd of dancers, this was intimate and sexy. It felt empowering and reckless; something I hadn't felt in so long. I pressed my body to his and placed my hands on his hard chest. I could feel a steady heartbeat under my palm. It kept me grounded. It reminded me that we were both real and alive.
Even alone, the temperature rose between our bodies but it only made me cling closer to him, like I needed him to keep me from melting. One hand roamed up the open back of my dress, smoothed down my spine and played with the ends of my hair. With every thump of the bass, I grew more confident, and the little voice in my head who told me to be careful fell off her barstool. Having his hands on me and feeling how he liked it outweighed anything else.
He wiped some sweat off my forehead. Before I could cringe with embarrassment, he sucked the thumb he used into his mouth. His eyes closed and I could hear his low moan over the music and my pounding heartbeat. When they opened, they were burning with a fire and intensity I hadn't seen or noticed before. His other hand reached between us, pressing a fresh, cold glass to my lips.
Needing to cool down, I drank the cold liquor without hesitation. My eyes didn't leave his as I drank it down, letting it both numb and cool me. He watched the movement in my throat and I felt a strange sense of power over this man in front of me. I leaned into him to feel the hard intake of breath he took at the contact. The inner slut inside me grinned. I could do this to a man. I was stronger than I looked.
"Not that strong," I mumbled as I swayed, losing my balance and needing him to hold me still.
"What's that?" he asked with a sly smile.
"I feel like jelly," I giggled.
"You're alright," he assured me while he gripped my hips firmly. "I got you."
My head swam and my stomach rolled. The lights were too bright and the music became too loud. My limbs were too heavy to hold me up and I felt like I was suddenly melting, but not in the hot way.