Authors: Willa Thorne
His appearance was rugged, tormented and he was clearly sleep deprived. His expression was as murderous as it was in the gossip blog I’d read only hours earlier. He held a whiskey glass in one hand so tightly that I thought it might shatter in his grasp. His other hand was wrapped around the hip of a woman who hung on his side. She was beautiful, tall and slim with bronze skin that glowed under her tight-fitting red dress. I don’t even know if I could call it a dress. It was so tight on her body, it fit more like underwear. The dress was cut so low that her breasts were about to pop out. The sheer lace that stitched up the sides left almost nothing to the imagination.
Way to go, Mason. You picked a winner.
Another woman approached the bar and obviously began complimenting him. This one kept her hands off Mason. Her auburn hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she was dressed more modestly in a silky white number. Oh, she’s one of the waitresses.
Still, Mason paid no attention to either of the women as he stared me down with a tumultuous gaze. I know I looked like a deer in the headlights as my heart palpitated within my flushed chest. The man standing next to me on the dance floor turned and looked toward the direction I was staring, and then turned back to me, uncaring. He stuck his thumb in Mason’s direction blatantly.
“Is that your man staring me down with daggers?” He gave a huge grin, as though the idea of it gave him a thrill.
My face contorted into a sour expression at his question. “No.” My tone was bitter. “I don’t want anything to do with him.”
The man looked down at me intently and then nodded with a laugh. “Right. Keep telling yourself that.”
My eyes widened as I prepared to argue, and then the stranger grabbed my face with two hands and kissed me, hard and rough.
I was caught by such surprise. When I gathered my senses, I pulled myself away. “What are you doing? You don’t even know my name!”
“I know enough.” The handsome stranger winked. “You should thank me. I just did you a favor.”
Arrogant prick. What the fuck?
I exhaled shakily as I looked over at Mason, but he’d left the bar.
Maybe he didn’t see the display. Maybe if he had seen it, he wouldn’t have cared. You shouldn’t care either. He’s obviously not missing you…
I reminded myself.
I turned back to the stranger who’d just accosted me with a kiss, but he was nowhere to be seen.
What the hell?
I looked around the dance floor, but I couldn’t see over the ocean of people on the main floor.
I found Piper sitting at the glass table, sipping her drink. She was talking with a random waitress and they seemed really friendly. Piper pulled out her cell phone and it looked like they were exchanging phone numbers. I wouldn’t interrupt their friendly chat. I approached the round bar and looked around, but I didn’t see Mason or that handsome stranger. This night was just too weird.
A beautiful blonde, up-and-coming singer approached the stage on the main floor and began singing. Her music presented a vibrant energy in the club and people began cheering and dancing, but I couldn’t pay attention to the music. The front floor was alive with dancing, since almost everyone present flocked to her performance. Mason had vanished along with that slutty-dressed vixen. I felt a stabbing pain in my chest, knowing fully well what they were up to at this very moment. Tears pricked my eyes, and a hammering pounded within my chest as disgusting thoughts of what he was doing with her intruded my mind. I pushed through the crowds as I tried to locate the restroom. I felt more conflicted than ever...
Wait, what am I doing?
I stopped in my tracks. I thought back my short stay in the hospital. Elyse mentioned that Mason had stayed the night with me, despite hospital policy. He has always been a man to get his own way. When I was finally coherent, the realization of what he’d been planning flooded back to my memory. I was so angry with him.
Two months earlier...
My head was pounding. The pain medication was wearing off. I needed a nurse… I touched the side of my face, and felt the tender, swollen bruises that covered the right side of my face in blotches. The beeping of my heart monitor was like nails on a chalkboard due to my pulsing headache. I suffered bruised ribs, a concussion, and the doctors kept me overnight to monitor my condition. I faintly overheard them telling my mom and Travis that they ran some tests because they were worried about bleeding and swelling.
Mason was there when the fog finally subsided. I had no clue if he’d had any interaction with mom or Travis at the hospital, because all I could experience at the time was either the pain or the fog from the pain medication. For a fleeting second, I was glad to see him when I woke, and then the memories crashed down on me. It hurt worse than the unbearable agony I was feeling throughout my entire body.
“No,” I shook my head weakly, and it only made my head throb worse. “Go away.”
I didn’t have the strength to deal with his bullshit.
“Jillian, let me talk,” he demanded calmly as I lie in the hospital bed. I tried to sit up, but a sharp jabbing in my ribs caused me to wince and I threw my head back onto the pillow.
He clasped my hand but I yanked it away, nearly pulling out the intravenous in my hand. I looked up at him furiously, and my blood pressure spiked on the monitor. I winced as the spike in my blood pressure suddenly made the monitor beep more profusely. The noise was piercing against this migraine.
Mason looked at the machine and then his gaze turned down at me. His light brown eyes were hollow with sadness.
“I’m so sorry,” he spoke hoarsely as an unreadable mask suddenly consumed his face. He lifted my hand, and kissed it tenderly.
“Goodbye, Jillian.” He turned, left the hospital room, and that was the last time I’d seen him… until tonight. I haven’t forgotten the look in his eyes as he said he was sorry. It’s haunted me every day for nearly two months. I was so angry. I felt so betrayed, so used, so cheap. I needed time.
Apparently, Mason needed no time at all.
The women’s restroom was located within a long corridor that was lined with mirrors. Just in case one mirror was not enough, patrons had the option of about twenty. Soft magenta light filtered through the ceiling lights and the corridor provided surround sound from the stage performance in the front. At this moment, the corridor was empty since most of the patrons were enjoying the show. Jax had mentioned he had a string of popular artists lined up for the grand opening of
I pressed my hand to the mahogany door of the women’s restroom to push it open. I needed to get myself together and freshen my makeup. At the far end of the corridor, a woman exited through one of the doors and locked it behind herself. She was the waitress who served our drinks on the main floor, the one who mistook Piper for being Jackson’s wife rather than his sister. She didn’t see me because the far end of the hall had less light filtering through. I didn’t even realize there were other doors in the corridors. Perhaps they were conference rooms or…? I wasn’t familiar with the layout of nightclubs, but this one seemed extraordinary at best.
Suddenly, Jackson rounded the corner on the opposite end, and she nearly bumped into him. The music from the front stage reverberated in the corridor and I could barely hear their voices talking.
“I am so sorry,” she said quickly and dropped to her knees. She placed her hands within her lap and would not look up at him.
This night was getting more bizarre by the minute. Jackson looked annoyed as he stared down at her with blazing eyes. He lifted her and straightened her to her feet. His characteristic charming smile was lost on his face as he stared down the woman.
here,” he spoke sternly. There was a quiet tenacity to his voice as she quickly stood to her feet. I slipped into the bathroom at this moment. I was
one to spy on other people, and I definitely couldn’t have Piper’s brother noticing that I had been watching them.
What the fuck?
I mouthed this to myself. That short scene lasted only two seconds at most, but it was really weird. The bathroom door was open a crack and I heard the door at the farthest end of the hall close behind them as they disappeared from the corridor.
This is none of my business
, I reminded myself… but I couldn’t help but wonder why the waitress was on her knees in front of him in that pose. Jackson looked irritated. I had never seen him like that.
I freshened up in the bathroom and fixed my hair, which had become slightly mussed from bumping into that handsome stranger on the dance floor.
My mind wasn’t on that man or his abrupt kiss, though. Mason’s turbulent expression invaded my thoughts relentlessly. I was angry with myself for feeling so jealous of his hand on another woman’s body. I was annoyed that I felt so resentful for reading those ridiculous gossip blogs about his relationship with some wealthy woman in London. I shouldn’t care. He used me and tried to hurt me in the worst way to get back at my brother. I sucked on my lower lip as my mind whirled with thoughts. The mahogany door closed behind me as I exited the bathroom. My mind was so consumed with thoughts of
that I walked straight into a tall, muscular body. The masculine scent was so familiar, too familiar, and I felt his strong hands grab me as I nearly bounced off him and stumbled back.
I gasped from the surprise as his grasp on my arms steadied my body. I looked up, my eyes trailing from the dark gray denim that hugged his muscular thighs, to the crisp white button-down that he kept untucked. I savored the outline of the taut muscles beneath his shirt. Finally, my gaze locked with his. His eyes bore down on me, intense and stormy. I felt chills wash over my body.
Oh. My. God…
He never relaxed his grasp on my arm. He said nothing as he stood there, staring down at me, assessing keenly.
He wants one thing
Get your shit together
, I told myself quietly.
I tried to pull away from his grip, but he held me there as though I hadn’t tried to move at all.
“What do you want? Have you come to collect?” I snapped, desperately trying to ignore the way my body was reacting to his scent and the way he gripped me by both arms.
“Collect what?” His perfect British voice was raspy as he stared down at me.
“You know, the contract terms. You want your last month-”
“Fuck the contract.” His tone was terse as he interjected me.