The Insiders

Page 35

The last friend remained, looking almost bored.


She lifted up a shoulder. “Nothing. Just … you know the real reason she’s over here.” Her eyes, like everyone else, darted to me and held there.

I got it then. Or I thought I did. Chester and Tony might not have cared about who I was, but these three did. The other girls hadn’t. They weren’t in the “club,” as Matt had first explained, but Victoria, Fleur, and this one were. I was here. I was in the booth, and it was obvious I wasn’t here to be a sex play toy to the guys. Since Matt was sitting on the outskirts of the booth, that meant I was someone to them. They just didn’t know who I was.

Matt had already pushed back at Victoria about me, and he’d pushed hard, but the other was crucified as well. I had a nagging feeling that her asking about Kash wasn’t really asking about where he was, that there were other levels mixed in, other dynamics playing out underneath those words. I wasn’t sure what, but I’d have to learn if I was staying—

What was I doing?

I was sitting here acting like I was a part of this world, but I wasn’t.

I was here because of a threat, but after, I was back to my mom.

Matt, Seraphina, Cyclone. Could I go back to not knowing them?

Pain split down my middle, tearing me apart.

Matt was watching me, his head lowered. “You okay?” I felt his concern, and my God but it was too much.

It almost unglued everything I had just shoved down and I felt tears coming to my eyes. Blinking rapidly, I jerked my head in a nod, but motioned to get out. “Can I—I have to go to the bathroom.”

Matt didn’t move, not at first. “Bailey.”

“Pee, Matt. I have to do it, here or there. I’d prefer there.” I wasn’t looking at him. I couldn’t. He’d see I was hurting, more than he might’ve suspected right now. I couldn’t hold it back. I didn’t know why, but the wall I had tried to erect was gone and I was raw, exposed in that moment. I couldn’t be like that, not here, not among these people. This was the worst place to be bleeding out.

When he still didn’t move, I dropped my voice to a raw, “Please.”

He made a soft sound. A break in the music was the only reason he heard me, I heard him, but it was enough. He stood up, carrying the girl with him and setting her on her feet as I rushed past them.

He reached out for me. I was expecting it, and I ducked my arm and shoulder down, evading his touch. Then I was off. I didn’t know where the bathrooms were, but it didn’t really matter at that point. I just needed to get away. It was hurting too much, knowing I’d have to leave those three, knowing I’d be forced to leave them.

I shoved through the crowd, only stopping to gape in some much-needed fog, when I knew I’d been swallowed up. No one from that world could see me, and, still feeling the bite of tears at my eyes, I started forward.

I wandered the club.

There was a guard on my tail. I saw him a few times. I knew there were another two who had accompanied us into the club, but once we got inside, I hadn’t seen them. They’d been blending in with everyone, but once I got to the higher floor, and as the crowd lessened dramatically, I saw the guard.

He clipped a nod to me, remaining a few yards away. Coming to an empty table, one in the corner by the exit door, I slid in. I just needed to get away. I needed to wrap my head around things, and only then would I be able to put that wall back up.

The guard didn’t come forward. He held back, folding his arms in front of him as he took point and watched out for anyone coming and going. Where I was sitting, though, no one was doing that. I had gone as far up as I could and as far inside as I could. I stayed there until I lost track of time. I assumed Matt asked where I was, because the guard took his phone out. It was lighting up from someone calling, and he was only on it for a few seconds before he put it back into his pocket.

Two staff members came in through the exit door, breezing past me without a second look. I didn’t think they even saw me, though they saw my guard. Both staff paused, checking him out, before walking past. One paused and said something under her breath, but the guard only smiled and shook his head briefly. She started forward, only then looking back over her shoulder and seeing me. Her eyes widened, and her mouth opened, but she kept going.

A few minutes later, she came back with a drink in hand.

I watched, expecting her to offer it to the guard, but she didn’t. She sent him a coy smile, going past and holding it out to me. “Compliments from the bar.”

“Really? What is it?”

“One of the girls said you were sitting in the VIP earlier. She said it’s the same drink you had down there.” She touched my shoulder lightly, a small smile on her face. “Have your Mr. Tall, Dark, and Delicious nod to me downstairs if you want another. I’ll be watching.”

I was momentarily stunned, then nodded. “Thank you.”

The small gesture of kindness was appreciated.

The guard came forward when she left. He took the drink, testing it first. I waited, and after a few minutes he nodded. “It’s fine.” He handed it back to me. “You can drink it.”

Thanking him, I sipped the drink, and by the end of it, I was ready to head back. This time, as I went, I got a different reaction. People watched me. They moved aside. Eyes tracked me as they had watched Matt cross the club, and his friends. I got that same reception. It was an unsettling feeling, until I glanced over my shoulder and saw that my guard was closer than I had realized.

I was pondering that when a hand came out of nowhere.

I was yanked down a hallway. It happened so fast, I couldn’t react.

A door was opened. I was dragged inside, then a decisive “Stop!” barked out and the door was slammed shut behind me.

The light was never turned on.

I had no idea where I was, but it didn’t matter. I felt him, whoever he was, in front of me. He placed two hands on either side of me, trapping me in place, and as I was frozen, he bent over me. I felt his breath, warming me, teasing me. His body pressed in. He was crowding me. He wasn’t plastered against me, but I was flattened as much as I could be against the wall, still feeling his heat before he spoke into my ear.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”



I was jarred.

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