“This is my last one.” I had to raise my voice to be heard over the music.
Cora smiled and held up her drink. “You mean this is your last one.”
She could hold a drink, but she couldn’t drink it, which meant I ended up downing her share. It was gone midnight, which wasn’t late for a night out, and wasn’t late when transferred into work hours, but was late to my off-duty brain. It was tucked-up-in-bed-with-a-book late or curled-up-on-the-sofa-watching-my-favorite-show late.
My brain rebelled at being out at this time, but no, I wasn’t going to give in and head home just yet. I was determined to have fun.
I sipped my drink and allowed Cora to lead me to the balcony overlooking the dance floor. The best spot to people-watch. There were plenty of specters in the house too, bopping on the dance floor.
I leaned into Cora. “Can you tell which solid ones are ghosts?”
“Sure.” She pointed. “That woman grinding up on that guy over there is very much dead.”
I found the couple she was referring to, a petite redhead and a blond dude.
“They look cute together.” Cora sighed wistfully.
“Except he’s alive, and she’s not.”
“Don’t judge,” Cora said. “Love has no bounds.”
“Trust me, it does.” I sipped my drink. “When the living partner decides he or she wants kids or something.”
“There’s always adoption.”
I turned to her. “Would you?”
“Date the living?”
Her smile was sad. “I just miss being in love, Fee.”
I hugged her around the waist. “I love you.”
“I know, but you don’t have a penis.”
“Yes, I do! It’s in the bottom drawer of my dresser.” I winked at her.
She shoved me away. “Urgh. Errol doesn’t count. He’s used. Heavily, if I might add.” She giggled. “Come on. Let’s go bust some moves on the dance floor and show those teenyboppers how it’s supposed to be done.”
“Hey, I’m only twenty-five.”
“And I’m only dead.”
I downed my drink and followed my bestie through the throng toward the dance floor.
“Ooh, Fee, don’t look now, but there’s a mega-hot guy eye fucking you from across the club.”
I followed her gaze and spotted the man. He stood at the edge of the crowd, blond, shoulder-length, tousled hair gleaming in the strobe lights. The lines of his masculine jaw were hugged by a neat beard. Recognition lanced through me even though I didn’t know him. Déjà vu, maybe? I should look away and quit staring, but my attention was locked on him. I didn’t usually go for beards, but this guy carried it off perfectly. The spot beneath my diaphragm heated, a strange tugging sensation bloomed there, and I was walking toward him.
I got my legs under control. Even though it was impossible to see his eyes clearly in the strobe lights, there was no doubt in my mind that his attention was on me. He was wearing a black shirt, open at the neck to reveal the smooth tanned skin beneath. Sun-kissed Adonis, that’s what he was.
“Back off, I said no.” The shrill, slightly panicked voice caught my attention.
“Douche alert,” Cora said.
Adonis forgotten, I focused on the woman who was obviously being harassed by a couple of guys. She was alone at one of the tall circular tables that dotted the club. Probably waiting on her friend to grab drinks from the bar while she held on to the chill spot.
The guys were crowding her, all smiles. But she wasn’t smiling. In fact, she looked like she was about to cry.
“Fee …” Cora warned. “Don’t do it.”
There was a damsel in distress, and hero mode was activated. My heel stuck on a tacky spot on the floor. I tugged it free and strode over to the table.
“Hi!” I smiled brightly at the woman. “Mind if we join you?”
She looked from me to Cora, and her mouth turned up in a grateful smile. “Please.”
“Well, hello …” one of the douches said.
I ignored him. “Friends of yours?” I jerked a thumb toward the guys.
“No. They won’t leave me alone.” Her gaze darted to them then back to me.
“Really? Did you ask nicely?”
“Yes. I told them I’m not interested.” This time she stabbed them with a glare. Good girl.
They were hulkish specimens with shirts that stretched too tight across the muscles underneath. Probably a size too small.
“But we’re interested,” douche two said. “We’re very interested.”
My level one anger notched up to level two, and wariness had my spidey-senses quivering. I’d been in this situation before, and usually the douche dudes backed off when the lone female had support. They realized they weren’t going to get anywhere and moved on to someone else. But these guys weren’t moving. Instead, they placed their drinks on the table, signaling they were here to stay.
These guys were bad news, and I wasn’t dumb enough to get into a verbal fight with two drunk hulks. Especially when I wasn’t sure they wouldn’t retaliate physically.
“It’s fine.” I smiled at the woman. “We were headed to the bar, anyway, weren’t we? You guys can have the table.”
The woman nodded and moved closer to me as I stepped away from the table. A hand shot out and grabbed my arm.
“What’s the rush?” douche one said.
The anger inside shot up to level three. “Let go of my arm.”
“Yeah, you should listen to her,” Cora said. “No touchy-touchy without permission.”
“Shut it, spook,” douche one growled.
Breathe, Fee. Breathe. But the red was taking over, and then my body was reacting, and the next thing I knew, the hulk guy’s cheek was squished to the table. I had his arm pinned high up on his back and one hand on the nape of his neck.
The woman let out a frightened yelp.
“Fee, watch out!” Cora rushed around the table just as hands gripped my shoulders.
Part of my brain was screaming shit, shit, shit, but the other was a red haze wanting to do some hurting.
Douche number one’s pal tugged hard on me, but my rage was stronger. I resisted and yanked on douche one’s arm, eliciting a satisfying, guttural curse. And then, the grip on my shoulders was gone.
“Let him go.” It was a command, and it rankled. I looked up at the guy with the audacity to tell me what the fuck to do, and the rage bled out of me. It was the Adonis dude, and although his tone was commanding, his expression, his stance, wasn’t confrontational.
“Please,” he added.
“Fee, people are staring.” Cora sounded mortified.
Oh, fuck. I’d promised to behave. To keep myself in check. I blew out a breath and released the douche.
He staggered away from me, teeth bared. “What the fuck, Grayson?”
Adonis? Grayson. It was a good name.
“Apologize,” Grayson said.
For a second, I thought he was speaking to me, and I was about to tell him where to shove it, but he had his attention focused on the douche.
“What the fuck, Grayson?” douche said again.
“Maybe he can’t say anything else?” Cora stage-whispered.
Blond Adonis, with the gorgeous hair, took a step forward, and douche took one back.
“I’m sorry,” douche said. “We were just being friendly.”
“Then go be friendly elsewhere,” Grayson said calmly.
The douches pushed through the curious crowd and out of sight, and just like that, everyone went back to doing what they’d been doing before I’d interrupted their regular viewing with violence.
“That was awesome,” the woman we’d rescued said. “But I … I need to find my friends.” She smiled, but it was a scared smile.
I’d scared her.
I hated this part of me. This anger.
“Are you all right?” Grayson asked.
Shit, I’d forgotten he was there. And when had he gotten so close. Close enough for me to smell his cologne, autumn days and sunshine. It suited him, and it called to me. Pulling me even closer to him like the polar side of a magnet.
“I’m sorry about that.” His voice was deep and rumbly.
“No worries.” My chest fluttered, and my voice sounded way too Marilyn Monroe.
I lifted my chin to look up at his face, a polite smile at the ready. My gaze snagged on his firm mouth and then roved up to meet his eyes—pale blue ringed in indigo. Husky eyes. He had husky eyes.
My smile slipped, and my hand came up to touch him. Oh, God. I was touching a stranger’s chest without permission. I flexed my fingers on his shirt, feeling his pectoral jump beneath my hand.
What the fuck?
He sucked in a breath, his eyes narrowing intensely, searchingly, as if he was trying to work a puzzle.
“Grayson?” a tentative female voice said. “Who is this, and why is she touching you?”
The world snapped back into focus. Oh, God, this had to be his girlfriend. What the hell was I doing?
I put distance between myself and the Adonis, shooting the annoyed woman a sheepish look.
“Whoa, sorry. Too many margaritas. No excuse. But … my excuse.”
I raised both hands and backed up. “I’m going to …” I spun on my heel, grabbed a gaping Cora, and dove into the crowd.
“Fee, what the hell was that?” Cora asked.
“I don’t know, I just … he smelled really good.”
She rolled her eyes. “Not that, that I totally understand, because yum. I’m talking about you losing your shit on the douches.”
I squeezed my eyes shut for a second. “Urgh. I know. I’m sorry.”
“You can’t lose your shit. Things get broken, usually bones.”
“I know, and I’m sorry.” I puffed out my cheeks. “I knew this was a bad idea. You know I can’t just turn a blind eye when bad things happen.”