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Authors: A.M. Madden

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“Not really. We need more fuel,” I answer, pointing to my empty beer bottle and Ella’s empty wine glass.

Andrea turns to Rob and shouts, “Babe, get us another round, please!”

Ella and I exchange a conspiratorial smirk.

Over the course of the next two hours, I learn enough about Ella to know she’s hiding something, mainly because I didn’t learn a whole lot. In all fairness, she doesn’t learn a whole lot about me either. She doesn’t ask questions, another hint that she isn’t interested in opening up. To ask questions is to be willing to answer them. Andrea’s right, we are very similar. If I didn’t know she worked with Andrea in the promotions field, I’d think she was also a cop. She has that cop aura.

Rob tells her about some of our funnier moments on the force. She smiles as she listens, and even laughs out loud as he paints a vivid picture of a transvestite who tried to get out of an arrest by offering his/her services to me.

I watch in silence. My only contribution to the night is to keep watching Ella. A popular club song prompts the female population to squeal and make their way over to the cramped dance floor.

“I love this song. Let’s dance,” Andrea slurs and tugs on Ella’s arm. She drags a giggling Ella toward the chaos. From my position, I watch them find a corner on the packed floor, immediately moving to the music. Ella’s confidence shows in her dancing, or it could be the alcohol. She isn’t shy or timid in her moves, and fuck can she move.

“She’s hot, isn’t she?” Rob screams directly into my ear. The liquor on his breath hits me in the face. He pulls away, grinning like an ass. “Andrea’s right. You’d make really pretty babies.”

“For fuck’s sake, Rob. I’m not interested, and she’s not interested. All the more reason for you and your meddling girlfriend to back off.” Watching Ella, the amount of booze I’ve consumed, and the tightness in my pants all have me in a bad mood. I drain my beer and add, “I’m outta here.”

“What? Where are you going?”

“I’m exhausted and we have to be in early tomorrow.” I lie. Night off or not, I never allow myself to lose control out in public. If I don’t leave now, I’m dangerously close to that happening.

I walk toward the dance floor, leaving him calling, “Dude! BEN!”

Andrea sees me approaching first and grins like a fool. She moves aside, assuming I’m coming to cut in. The music makes it difficult to say what I need to without having to once again get right into Ella’s personal space.

“It was nice meeting you,” I say with my lips pressed against her ear. Her scent is intoxicating. On impulse, I brush her hair aside and place a soft kiss below her ear. In spite of the thunderous noise surrounding us, I can still hear her gasp. When I straighten, she looks up at me through hooded eyes. Her lips part and another impulse to kiss her slowly creeps through me. I need to walk away before my drunken logic blurs the lines I don’t want to cross. Under different circumstances, I’d enjoy running my tongue around the curve of her bottom lip. I may have even pulled her back into my chest to feel the moves she made on this dance floor first hand.

Not tonight…not ever.

Instead, I wave at Andrea and walk away, leaving all temptations behind.

We watch as he walks over to one of the waitresses, points to Rob, whispers in her ear, and turns to leave the club. My skin is flaming where his lips just touched. I subconsciously move my hand to that spot, pressing into my skin to soothe the burn he left behind. His scent lingers in my nostrils, even though he’s long gone. It’s clean and simple, familiar.

God, he’s hot
!

Tall, muscular, dark hair, dark eyes, the perfect amount of scruff, and the sexiest mouth I’ve ever seen on a man.

“Seriously?” I shout above the music.

Andrea sighs and shakes her head. She motions for us to join Rob in our corner. I follow, planning on saying my goodbyes and hightailing it back to my apartment. When Andrea approaches Rob, she lifts her hands palms up in a “
What the hell
” kind of motion.

“No clue. He’s an ass.” Rob looks over at me. His embarrassment causes mine to blossom tenfold. “Sorry, Ella.”

“It’s not your fault. Hell, it’s not like I wanted this night to be a success. I told you guys. I’m not interested in dating, yet.”

A waitress appears with a tray laden with shot glasses. She immediately begins to place them on our little table. “I didn’t order these.” Rob stops her, placing his hand in the way of hers.

“The gentleman who was with you did. He said to add it to the tab he’s been running all night. He also said to wish you a happy birthday, one for each year.”

“That was
my
tab.”

The waitress raises her brows. “Well, that sucks.” After she places the last shot on the table, she hands Rob a receipt. I don’t know what’s funnier. The look on Rob’s face as he stares at the little piece of paper in his hand or the twenty-eight shot glasses centered on the table before us.

I can’t help but giggle. This is hilarious. Andrea bites on her bottom lip, trying to hide her mirth. When a tiny giggle escapes, her irate boyfriend looks up at her. “It’s not funny.”

Andrea takes one of the shots and smells it. “At least it’s the good stuff. To Ben’s birthday.” She downs her shot in one swift motion and takes another. Shrugging, I might as well join in. They are paid for, after all. Why waste them? I also down a shot and then another.

Rob continues to scowl at the tiny glasses. “What a prick. I’m gonna kill him.”

Andrea laughs and hands him a shot. “This is just like Ben. Let’s make the most of it.”

Rob reluctantly takes it from her and downs the shot, mumbling, “Fucking Ben,” under his breath.

A few minutes later, I’m feeling a bit less humiliated and a lot more jelly-like. “I’m going while I can still walk.” We’ve made a very small dent in the shots, having consumed a fair amount of alcohol before they arrived. “Do not drink all of these. Hand them out or leave them.”

Andrea looks up at me, her eyes completely glazed over and unfocused. “Huh?”

“Rob, did you hear me?” He nods. “Please be careful getting home.” He nods again, looking just as unfocused as his girlfriend. “Are you two going to be okay?” He nods once again, this time giving me his thumbs up and a smile. I give Andrea a kiss on her cheek. She giggles and says, “I love you, Elllllaaaa.”

“Love you, too, Andrea.”

I point a finger at Rob. “I’m trusting you…” I lose my train of thought for a minute. The way in which Rob stares at me blankly reminds me of what I was going to say. “You need to get her home. I want a phone call as soon as she’s up tomorrow. If I don’t hear from her by eight, I’m calling the police.”

“I
am
the police.”

“I’m calling the
other
police.”

He processes my threat for a few seconds. “Got it,” he says with another thumbs up.

Oh boy
.

Exhaustion hits as I make my way out of the club. Surprisingly, I’m not feeling humiliated. It must be from all the wine. I am feeling pretty annoyed from his God’s gift attitude. What an ass. Screw him.

The bouncer out front hails me a cab. The line still stretches in front of the club. These idiots are nuts. Doesn’t anyone in this town go to bed at a decent hour? I appease my inner nerd with an eye roll. “Crazy kids,” I say out loud.

“What?” the cabbie asks, looking at me through his rearview mirror.

“Nothing. Lex and Twenty-Second.”

I want to settle back to relax during this ten-minute cab ride, but I’m afraid if I close my eyes I’ll fall asleep and this jerk will run the meter. Plus, I really have to pee.

“Where?”

“LBI.”

“How did you end up in Jersey?”

“Apparently I told the cabbie that we live on Long Beach Island. When the cabbie questioned me, Rob handed over his credit card and ordered him to drive.”

“Why didn’t you correct him?” Silence stretches over the phone. I can hear her breathing. Otherwise, I would think that she hung up. “Hello?”

She waits a few more seconds before answering. “I was distracted.”

“From what, a UFO?”

“Haha. You’re hilarious. Rob was kissing my neck and then he…” She groans and says, “It doesn’t matter why I was distracted.”

“LBI?”

“Yep.”

I sigh on my end. “How do you feel?”

“My head hurts like a motherfucker, and we have that presentation at ten.” Just as I’m about to open my mouth, she says, “Don’t tell me I told you so.”

“Okay, I won’t.”

“And don’t think it either,” she adds.

“Noted. I’ll see you soon?”

“Yes. I’ll be there a few minutes late, but I’m on my way.”

I hang up the desk phone, staring at it in disbelief. I can’t believe they ended up in New Jersey after I left them. Serves them both right.

My cubicle sits outside Andrea’s office. I stare at my watch, noting she won’t have enough time to print out the contracts. Sometimes I feel like I’m the boss. I know she appreciates my initiative. Again, it’s the least I can do for her.

By the time Andrea makes it in, I have everything prepped and ready for her presentation.

“You’re a godsend,” she says before taking a sip of her black coffee. “Do you want to take this one?”

“No,” I quickly shoot back.

She looks up at me to gauge my response. “Why? You know this client like the back of your hand. I’ll be right there.”

“I’ll handle the next one. I’m hung over and not on my game.”

She narrows her eyes suspiciously. “You don’t look hung over.”

I can’t ever lie to her. She’s like a human lie detector. She says it has to do with dating a cop.

“I was going to ask you to remove me from this client. I don’t mind doing the admin stuff. I’d just rather not interact.”

Andrea places her coffee cup down and leans forward on her elbows. “Ella, you need to tell me why you want off this client.”

“I don’t know why. He gives me the creeps.”

Andrea laughs out loud. “He’s like a big fat grandpa.”

It’s true. Mr. Razzo is a jolly older man who has a constant smile on his face. There’s just something about him that makes a chill run up my spine. Even though I’ve never met him before, there’s something very familiar about his eyes. It’s unnerving.

He and his partner are opening new gyms throughout the city. They are combining social media, dating, and workouts to make it the place to be. They had one location just a year ago. Now at three, their plan is to open seven more over the next year with expansions in New Jersey and Long Island.

Their gyms are bright and clean. With the latest in equipment, they sport free Internet, computer monitors on the treadmills, and even juice bars, spa treatments, and a café…all of which are free for their clients.

“Social Workouts is going to be huge for us, Ella. You want to be on this one.”

She’s right. “Okay. I’d still rather you handle today’s presentation, but I’ll be there with you.”

Andrea smiles, but it doesn’t reach her eyes. “Good.”

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