Valentine’s Day brings Faith into a nightclub—the last place she wants to be. When she catches the eye of the handsome bartender who offers her a drink, her caution slips away. She can’t take her eyes off him or say no when he asks her to a private dance. When his kisses turn dangerous, she asks to go home, but being bound by a creature of the night is not an easy snare to escape, and escape might be the last thing she wants to do.
He stared right at her, his brown eyes deep and perplexing. Just looking at the bartender filled Faith with urges she didn’t want to face. She imagined him crushed against her, his hot mouth testing her lips, savoring her cheek, her neck. But Faith’s last relationship had failed, doomed by her inability to let go, to be, to have fun. Her ex had told her as much, and rather than argue, she had agreed. It was true. Life was a series of dangerous chances that she much preferred to avoid by staying within her tight boundaries. Home, work, home again, nothing else, nothing more, no stepping past the lines into the unknown. She lived by the motto, nothing ventured, nothing lost. The bartender represented a dangerous chance, just how dangerous, she didn’t know—yet.
Her best friend, Matilda, jabbed Faith in the ribs. “He’s hot.”
“Don’t give me that ‘huh’. You’re looking, too. I see you gawking at him.” Matilda shook her head, a knowing grin on her oval-shaped face. “That guy’s to die for.”
A chill ran down her spine. To die for. Great expression. Not what I would say. Faith looked the other way and watched the throng of people dancing to the beat on the packed floor. Strobes flashed. Bodies gyrated. “I can’t believe you tricked me into coming here.”
“You need to get out more. You’re twenty-three, not ninety-three. I’m surprised you don’t have six cats and a crochet basket by your rocking chair.”
Faith was used to comments like that. She half-smiled and stole another glance at the bartender. He really was good-looking, but she didn’t want to get involved with another guy who would hate her for her inhibitions.
She swallowed, nervous.
“Robby’s here!” Matilda shouted. “I’m gonna go dance. You should too. It’s Valentine’s Day. Don’t be alone tonight.”
Faith shook her head. “I don’t dance.”
“Then go order a drink, at least. There’s a someone there watching you right now.”
“A drink?” she peeped, ignoring her friend’s hints. “At the bar?”
“Yeah. Get something with alcohol in it. Loosen up, Faith.” She flashed a conspiratorial grin. “That’s why I tricked you into coming here.”
Matilda shimmied away to the dance floor. She bumped and grinded her way to the object of her office obsession, Robert Colt from level three, a high up accountant who knew how to shake it with the best of them.
Faith sighed. She watched everyone moving to the beat, some in perfect time like a music video, and others, much worse off. Valentine’s Day and she didn’t have a date, and didn’t think she wanted one either. Resigned to either gaping at the dancers or hiding by the bar, she opted for the latter.
The heels she wore hurt, and had not been her choice. They belonged to Matilda, and she was lucky they weren’t a set of stilettos. Even the cocktail dress she had on wasn’t hers. The shiny black beads drew attention. The skirt rode high above her knees, and the bodice cut between her cleavage to show off her breasts. The dress was not the kind of thing she’d want to be seen in at a public place.
She reached the bar with its wolf of a man behind it and settled in at the last seat, far away from anyone who might want to talk to her or ask her to dance. The bartender moved down the row, stealing a glance at her every few minutes and in between mixing drinks. Beer bottles chinked on the wood. Men picked up women, and Faith looked at herself in the mirror behind the bar, wishing she were back in the safety of her home.
Matilda had done Faith’s hair, letting it down after pinning it all in hot curlers for a while. Garish red lipstick made her mouth stand out. Dark eyeliner and vibrant shadow gave her eyes a striking appearance. Well, I look sexy, she thought. But she didn’t really want to draw attention to herself.
“What can I get you?” He blocked her view, stepping before her.
The bartender smiled at her, his brown eyes mesmerizing. He waited there patiently while she tried to think of something to order, something with alcohol in it so she wouldn’t look like an idiot.
“Sex on the Beach?” He chuckled.
Her mouth dropped open. “Um, I uh…
“Fuzzy navel?” he suggested.
She nodded. “Okay.”
“You’ve never had one, have you?”
She shook her head. “I’ve never been to a bar in my life.”
He crinkled his brow, his smile growing. “Stay here by me, and I’ll keep you safe.” One of his hands came across, reaching out to her. “I’m Tristan.”
She took his fingers in hers and squeezed, politely shaking to return the common courtesy. He was warm, but she didn’t feel safe with him at all. “I’m Faith.”
“So, what made you come to a bar for the first time tonight?”
She nodded to the dance floor. “My friend tricked me.”
His hand slipped away. “Thank your friend for me later.”
Heat crept across her neck and face. Tristan dodged the other way to prepare her drink. Faith stared at his backside, thinking he filled out his jeans nicely. As he poured in the orange juice, she looked down at her hands to find them shaking from nervousness.
The glass touched down on the polished wood. “My shift is over for the night. Enjoy.”
She lifted her chin, disappointed, and even relieved.
“After you finish your drink, if you want to dance…” He winked at her.
“I-I don’t dance.”
She glanced at the dance floor and noticed Matilda and Robby entangled in an erotic pose beneath the flashing lights. The expression on her friend’s face was one of rapture. Faith sucked in a calming breath before she faced Tristan again. “I’ve never actually tried.” She forced an uncomfortable smile at him. “I know that must sound strange.”
He shrugged. Untying the apron he wore, Tristan said, “There’s a first time for everything, Faith.”
“I guess so.” She placed the straw to her lips and sipped. Orange juice and peach schnapps went down smooth, warming her inside. Is this how it began for my father? One drink and then another until he couldn’t remember how to get home?
Tristan slipped the apron over his head and balled it up. “I have to go clean up in the back, but if you’re still here when I’m done, and you feel up to it, I’ll dance with you.”
Here was the moment she should tell him no and politely extract herself from the situation. She could call a cab and be home in less than half an hour. Matilda might be mad the next day, but so what? There would be no awkward moments the morning after—there would be no morning after. There would be no arguments about why she didn’t want to try new things, and no painful breakup months later.
“Yes. I’ll dance.” Another sip. Another. The drink calmed her burgeoning nerves. His very presence made her feel at ease.
He nodded and started toward the employee service door.
She drank down her drink, afraid of what she had agreed to, her mind envisioning a dark room, his hands on her naked body, his mouth lavishing kisses across her breasts. Tristan paused at the door and stared at her over his shoulder, a lascivious grin on his face.
It’s just a dance, she thought. One dance. Nothing else is going to happen.