Teardrop Shot

Page 57

“Yeah.” I leaned forward. “Where’d that popcorn go? I might need a vacuum to clean this mess back here.”

Trent burst out laughing but then cursed, veering into the next lane and hitting the turn signal as he eased onto the exit. “Shit. Sorry, guys. I wasn’t paying attention.” He asked Dwayne, “You’re at the Hilton?”

“Yeppers. I always stay there.”

We got off the ramp and pulled into the hotel’s front parking area. Trent got out, talking with Dwayne for a bit longer, and I moved to the front seat. They must’ve mentioned me because I saw Trent motioning to me a couple times before Dwayne nodded. Then they clasped hands and did that chest bump that’s somehow a hug for men.

Trent climbed back into his seat and sighed. “So. How drunk you want to get tonight?”

No question. “Wasted.”

“On it.”

I was dumbfounded, and speechless.

That rarely happened.

We were standing outside a nightclub, the entire exterior all in black except one word in neon pink, Whisper. A line of people lingered outside, there were two bouncers at the door, and I gave Trent a look.


He laughed, moving ahead. “Come on. You said you wanted to get drunk, and I have an ‘in’ here.”

Well, okay then. We went to the head of the line and—why was I surprised?—the bouncers knew Trent, nodding and grunting hellos as they opened the door for us. As we entered, a server approached, tray of shots at the ready.

She offered, but Trent leaned over and yelled over the blaring hip-hop music, “Lauren around?”

Now this made sense.

Now I knew why we’d been allowed to skip the line.

The girl nodded and motioned down a hallway. She gave Trent more instructions, and then we were off.

As we went, I noticed the inside of the club was a mind fuck. It had been created to look exactly like the outside—the same curb and street, just different cars. And instead of one of the buildings across the road, there was a stage for dancing. The DJ booth was set high up, above a streetlight, which acted as a podium bridge.

People were dancing and milling around underneath the DJ, and couches lined one end of the room. Boxes with tables lined the wall on the second floor. As we walked past, I saw the doors open on a few of the boxes, and they looked a lot like the building doors that we’d walked past on the way from Trent’s car.

The “street” wasn’t the dance floor. It was the walkway for everyone to get from place to place.

Suddenly Trent grabbed my hand and pulled us onto one of the “sidewalks” that led to a seating area. “I see Lauren,” he told me. “Come on.”

We were weaving around couches when Lauren spotted us. She was dancing on one of the tables in between the couches.

I was speechless, again.

Lauren was a go-go dancer. But it made sense. She was gorgeous.

Wearing silver sequin underwear (for real, that was all) and a black corset, she had coordinating silver streaks in her hair. She squealed as she jumped down from her table, throwing her arms around Trent. There was some heavy petting for ten full seconds. I counted, right after making sure my gaze was anywhere but on them.


I felt a soft touch on my arm. I turned back.

Lauren flashed me an apologetic smile, leaning in close. “I found out about the party a few days ago, so when I mentioned it to Trent, he thought it’d be a good chance for you.” She moved back, inclining her head. “I reserved a table just for you guys. You’ll be close when they arrive.”

Dread lined my insides.

No time for jokes here. This was serious, and I locked eyes with Trent, raising one eyebrow, all villain-in-a-movie like.

Okay. Who was I kidding? Jokes made the world go round. There was always room for at least one.

He flushed, giving me a closed-mouth smile, and there he was: his hands in his pockets, his shoulders slumping like a self-conscious little schoolboy. Not today, Stan.

Lauren led the way.

Trent started to follow, but I grabbed his arm. My grip was cement. He didn’t even look at me. He took my hand, lifting it from his arm like it was cotton candy.

He spoke, even as his eyes continued to follow his girlfriend. “Just hear me out when we get to our table. Okay?”

He didn’t wait for an answer. The asshat took off, knowing I had two choices: follow so I could get all the information, or leave, having only a gut feeling about what was going on here.

I followed. There was a little Veronica Mars in me.

As I wound through the couches behind them, I knew there could be only one reason Trent would lie to me—or I should say one person. One person who I knew was already in Chicago with us, and who I’d originally come to see anyway. But that was different—my timetable.

And anyway, this person was someone who wouldn’t go out the night before a game, who was the epitome of professional because pro athletes had to be.

So there had to be another reason Trent had brought me here. Right?

Lauren was weaving around, taking us down a back hallway with the same decor as the main area of the club. It looked like an alley. Murals on the walls had been painted to give us a 3D image of the fire escape stairs that hung off the sides of apartment buildings. When we went past a door, a cityscape was painted on it as if we were passing a street.

Lauren opened the one with a San Diego cityscape.

We had our own box. A large booth in black leather lined the back wall, and a small table sat in the middle, with champagne already waiting for us. There was a large chandelier hanging above, and it was a little quieter here.

Lauren went straight for the champagne, picking it up and opening it. “You guys ready for a fun night?”

I harrumphed. Why, I had no idea. I just felt it.

Trent threw me a look, turning to face me. “I don’t get why you’re mad. You came to Chicago to talk to Reese. I figure instead of waiting an entire night where you’re going to feel nervous—and I know you, you’d be trying to talk yourself out of seeing him—what does it hurt to catch him when he’s not guarded?”

Because he didn’t know Reese.

But really, did I?

I did.

The realization flared strong in me, growing firm. I did know Reese. I might not know all his idiosyncrasies, but I knew his favorite color. I knew what his brother was like. I knew he slept on the left side of the bed.

I knew he was kind, and loving, and sensual, and could fuck amazingly.

I knew he had never yelled at me, not once. He’d growled once or twice, but that was in the beginning and at the end. The latter had been deserved.

I knew he took the time to answer my questions, no matter how many I sent him.

I knew he answered my call after he was already in bed, in a hotel with a roommate, and when he probably needed his sleep. He took the time to leave the room, go down an elevator with strangers, and seek out a place to talk to me because I was tipsy and wanted to chat.

I knew he cared enough to tell me to have fun, but then worried whether I was going to be alone or not.

I knew he cared enough to be nice to my camp friends, to speak on my behalf to the board, to help get my nemesis fired.

I knew he didn’t want me to take a job just because I was up against a wall. He wanted to help so I only took a job if I truly wanted it.

He’d asked me not only to come to Seattle for him, but also to New York.

I knew I wasn’t a one-use girl to him. Or I hadn’t been.

And I knew even though he hated what his brother did, he actually did care, and he’d help his brother if the circumstances were right.

But one thing I didn’t know was his stance on second chances. Would he give me one?

“But why would he come here tonight? He has a game tomorrow.”

Lauren handed me a glass of champagne. “It’s a birthday party. One of the trainers, Aaron or something?”


“Yeah. Aiden. It’s his birthday, and the reservation came through that they’re only using the private suite above for a little bit tonight. They should be arriving soon, and we have another party holding it at midnight. They’ll be gone by then. It’s like a quick dip, in and out.”

It was almost nine. That made sense.

But knowing didn’t help, because a whole new fresh batch of nerves pounced on me. Good Lord. I contemplated my champagne—down it like the princess trucker I could be or shove it aside and head for the toilet? Both reactions assaulted me at the same time.

Eyeing me, Lauren leaned close again. “You going to be okay?”

“That’s a loaded question.”

She moved back and shrugged. “Okay, but they’re here.” She nodded behind my shoulder, and I turned.

They were like gods.

There was no other way to describe it.

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