I look very different than the girl Saint met in his office. But I don’t feel any different. My nerves are frayed to the edges as I give my name to a bouncer at the entrance and I’m allowed into the club, every part of me snug and tight in my dress as my black heels hit the floor.
Whereas M4 was all museum-like, the Ice Box is pure dark decadence. Ice sculptures sit on pedestals around the room. Cages with body-painted dancers hang from the ceiling. A bar with white and blue lights stretches from one wall to another.
Strobe lights flash across the space as I get jostled by the crowd. The bass thumps as the song “Waves” by Mr. Probz plays for the dancing crowd. Drinks are flowing on shiny silver trays, and the drinks are so adorned—by fruits, olives, salt glitter or colorful liquid swirls—they’re like artworks. This isn’t a normal swanky club. It’s the rich boys’ club and everywhere you look are beautiful people wearing beautiful things.
“I met him! God! When he said hi I thought I’d faint…!”
My nerves eat at me as I hear that, because I know for sure they’re talking about him. Trying to breathe, I wind deeper into the club, wishing for Gina so bad I ache. The room is packed with women, some clearly on the hunt, others already paired with someone, a few hanging out with their friends. I breathe slowly, in and out, telling myself I can do this. It’s just a club. I can have some fun. It’s been a while since I’ve gone out to a club, and never a club like this, but it doesn’t matter. I can interview people, and if I’m lucky, I can do more than that.
After scanning the area and trying to find the best spy-spots, I go to the top level and that’s when I get the best look at what’s happening downstairs at the most crowded corner.
And speak of the devil. My heart stops a beat when I see that dark head of his, and that loathed, burning knot in my stomach squeezes with a vengeance. I swear no one in my life has ever made me this nervous.
He sits with his arms stretched out behind him, a wine glass and two women vying for his attention as he chats with his friends. His masculine face is illuminated in certain angles when the lights flash—his beauty unprecedented.
Okay. Breathing. Do I want him to know I’m here or not?
A watery sensation seems to spread down my limbs as I force myself to go downstairs. I wind a path to the ladies’ room and worm myself through the throng of bodies toward a wide mirror above a set of modernist floating sinks. A group of women preen at themselves while I look our reflections. To my right, a woman pouts her red lips, and to my left, her friend pouts her pink ones. Me? I’m still me, but I look extravagant, like I was born here. I look very different than the young girl in coveralls he met. Will he even recognize me like this?
“You going to the after-party?” Red Lips asks Pink Lips as they retouch their lipsticks.
“No key yet.”
“Lookie lookie.” Red Lips waves a keycard in the air.
There’s squealing in the room and she tucks the key into her bra. “Mine!”
“So there’s an after-party?” I ask them.
“At Saint’s penthouse,” one says, nodding.
“How do you get invited to this party?”
“A hundred keys are distributed during the evening.”
A sudden thought of stealing the very key she’s just tucked into her bra flickers through my mind. I mean, it’s just a key. It couldn’t possibly be a felony.
“Babe,” she tells me, “stop giving my key the eye! I’ve been waiting three years to get a key like this. Go and work your ass out there if you want one. Only the finest asses make it.”
“Thanks,” I say, turning to look at my ass in the mirror questioningly. Gina says I’ve got a great ass. It’s perky and the perfect handful, some would say. But would Saint say that?
I sigh and lean against the wall, then I spot all the little writings on an open stall door. I narrow my eyes, forcing my focus.
Malcolm for my baby-daddy
I sucked Saint’s cock
Tahoe rammed me right here
Callan licks cunt like a caveman
I head back into the noise and try to find a good spot for spying when I see him again. The two women won’t leave his side and now my stomach for some reason feels jumpy, annoying me. One of the blondes takes a shot from the waiter, licks the rim, and then adds salt.
Saint edges back and watches her with an expression of casual boredom, but his lips are curled, as if he’s having some fun.
I’m so engrossed watching—a little too fascinated and a little bit disgusted—I don’t realize a guard has walked up to me until he’s right in my face. He signals to the back of the room—to where Saint’s best friends are now watching me. Saint isn’t even looking my way. Oh no, he’s too busy being entertained, still wearing that almost-bored smile. Maybe they need to take their tops off to get him excited?
All three men fit in perfectly with the lavish surroundings, but I can’t look at the other two. Only at Malcolm. Malcolm’s dark good looks blend with the shadows like Hades in his own little corner of hell.
Suddenly he laughs over something one of the blondes does and he turns a little, his eyes landing straight on me—and stopping there.
I feel his stare like a hit of adrenaline. I want to look away, but I can’t, I feel trapped. I don’t know if I made this up but I could’ve sworn his chest jerked as if he sucked in a breath.
Does he recognize me?
Do I want him to?
Suddenly the atmosphere is so heavy I can’t breathe. My lungs feel like rocks and I really can’t breathe. As he rakes me in one fast, complete sweep of his eyes that makes my stomach grip nervously, he takes in my pumps up to my long blonde hair, and I become aware of my dress hugging the top of my thighs, my hips, my abdomen, my breasts and even my ass. Oh god. I force myself to follow the guard in his direction, every step accelerating my heartbeat. In that black suit and without a tie, the top button of his shirt open and his hair a bit rumpled, Saint is the embodiment of luxurious and decadent and sin. He is Sin Itself and I feel like an absolute…virgin.
He stretches his long legs out before him, his stare fixed on mine without any seeming inclination to move away.
“Mr. Saint,” the guard clears his throat. “The gentlemen had me summon her.”
Although his smile doesn’t waver, the look on his face is completely remote and unreadable.
“Here she is, gentlemen,” the guard then tells the other two—the blond and the copper-haired men looking at me like lunch.
“Tahoe,” the blonde says.
“Callan,” the copper-haired says.
Saint merely pats the blondes on the butt and sends them on her way, then he reaches out to take my elbow somehow in an instinctive gesture that brings me a strange sense of comfort. I don’t know anybody else here, so when he tugs me to his side, I go down and sit next to him on the edge of the long booth.
And that’s when he leans his dark head over to me and murmurs, “Malcolm.” His voice is so deep and rumbling, I shiver.
“Rachel,” I lamely offer.
He raises his eyebrow and stares at me. What are you doing here, Rachel? he seems to ask.
I’m wondering what to say, when Tahoe lifts his drink and drains it. “You’re up past your bedtime.” The Texan oil baby. Oozing charm, drawling out the words.
I don’t know why but I’m acutely aware of the position of Saint’s body in relation to mine. He just straightened fully in the booth and somehow shifted so his arm is very noticeably stretched out behind me.
“Like they say, no rest for the wicked,” I answer Tahoe with an extra-wide smile, my heart pounding over Saint’s nearness.
Suddenly I can smell him. Just him. Among all the mingled scents in the room, it’s Saint somehow in my lungs, in every breath. He radiates a vitality that draws me like a magnet. It unnerves me but something in his presence, so close to me, soothes me too.
“Apparently there’s a dress code—Saint had to drop his tail and horns at the door,” Callan jokes as a waiter sets a drink before me.
“Oh yes.” I tug the hem of my skirt self-consciously, “I had to drop half my dress.”
“Did you now?” Tahoe asks.
One word, one letter, from Malcolm.
“Yeah, Saint?” Tahoe returns, lifting his eyebrows.
I almost spit out the drink. I cough and slam my hand to my chest, and Saint calmly reaches out to take my drink from my hand and sets it aside. “Okay?” he asks, ducking his head and peering into my face.
I give one last cough and squeeze my eyes shut and nod, and when I open my eyes, Saint is the only thing I see. I find him staring at me in such a penetrating way I can feel the stare in my bones.
“Did you just get to the party, Rachel?” he asks.
As he waits for my reply, he reaches for my cocktail and extends the glass out to me. His wrist is thick and looks so strong, so golden, his skin smooth, his arm dusted with a little bit of hair as I cautiously take it from him, our fingers brushing.
Tahoe reaches for his coat pocket and waves whatever he extracted in the air. “Saint! May I?”
Excitement leaps in my chest when I realize it’s the key!
“Not happening, that’s not her scene,” Malcolm murmurs besides me.
“Aw! Come on, let me give her a key. She’s a dime, man,” Tahoe drawls.
I’m so disbelieving, I’m not even breathing as Malcolm slowly stands. I follow him up, staring up into his face in confusion.
“What do you mean it’s not my scene?” I demand. I feel like there’s no gravity when he stands so close to me. I’m dizzy. Confused. And unexpectedly hurt.
For the first time since we met, he looks at me like he’s actually losing his temper…with me. He leans closer and puts his lips close to my ear. “Trust me when I tell you, it’s not your scene. Go home,” he whispers. He sends me a look laden with warning and walks away, blending into the crowd.
Tahoe and Callan stare at me, speechless. “That’s a first,” Tahoe mumbles and heads away.
I feel myself burn in humiliation and confusion. Worse is that, when I go outside, the same man who drove us around the day before walks over to me.
“Miss Livingston, a pleasure to drive you,” he says, hanging up his phone as if Saint just called him. He is a huge man, with a bald head, an earpiece, and no expression. A second later, he’s opening the car door of the Rolls for me.
Did Saint call him just now and ask him to escort me home?
Aware of people staring and seeing me being led to Saint’s car, I climb into the back of the car and I murmur my thanks simply because it’s not this man’s fault.
The car smells new and expensive and, like him. A bottle of wine and water bottles ride with me. There’s music in the background and the temperature is just right. The perfect luxury of it all tempts me to run my hands down my dress and look down at myself in confusion. What is wrong with me?
I feel as if he pulled the rug from under me and reminded me what I’m up against. The top of the species. Somebody ruthless.
I can’t take the heat in the back of my ears and on my cheeks. I sag on the backseat and set my forehead on the window. Focus, Livingston! Exhaling, I grab my phone and try to write down all the details about what I saw, but I can’t right now. I just can’t do anything but ride here, in his car, wondering why I feel so vulnerable.