“Thanks!” Heidi patted Clyde’s big, bulky shoulder as she went for the door.
I was still standing in front of him, like an idiot. “Th-thank you.”
Clyde raised a brow as he pinned me with a look that had me quickly wishing I’d just kept my mouth shut.
Heidi reached back, grabbed my hand, and yanked me forward as she opened the second door. I turned, and every one of my senses was immediately overwhelmed by, well, everything.
The thump of heavy drums poured from speakers, coming from every corner of a large room. The tempo was fast, the lyrics a blur as white light burst from the ceiling, shining over the dance floor for a few seconds before tossing it back into shadowy darkness.
People were everywhere, sitting at high, round tables and lounging on oversized couches and chairs under alcoves. The center of the floor was a mess of twisting, churning bodies, arms up and hair flying. Overlooking the throng of dancers was a raised stage shaped like a horseshoe. Rapidly flickering bulbs lit the edge of the stage, and dancers up there urged on the crowd below with their shouts and their hips.
“This place is pretty wild, isn’t it?” Heidi curled her arm around mine.
My wide gaze bounced from person to person as the scent of perfume and cologne mingled. “Yeah.”
“I so want to get on that stage.” Heidi grinned when my eyes widened. “That is my goal for the night.”
“Well, it’s always good to have goals,” I replied dryly. “But can’t you just walk up there?”
Her brows lifted and she laughed. “No. You have to be invited up there.”
“By who? God?”
She snorted. “Something like that—” She squeaked suddenly. “There she is.”
“Where?” Eager to see this girl, I scanned the crowd.
Heidi stepped into my side and slowly turned so our bodies were angled toward one of the large shadowy recesses behind the tables. “There.”
Soft candlelight lit the alcove, casting a glow over the area. I doubted candles were safe in a bar, but what did I know? More oversized chairs flanked a gold-trimmed, crushed red velvet couch that looked like an antique. Two of the chairs were occupied. I could see only profiles. One was a blond guy staring down at his phone. His jaw was clenched like he was trying to snap a walnut shell in two with his teeth.
Across from him was another guy with a shockingly blue Mohawk—like, Smurf blue. His head was thrown back, and even though I couldn’t hear him, I could tell he was letting out a laugh of the deep-belly variety. My gaze shifted to his left.
I saw her then.
Good Lord, girl was gorgeous.
Easily a head taller than Heidi and I, she had the most awesome haircut ever. Her dark hair was buzzed on one side and shoulder length on the other, showing off the sculpted angles of her face. I was so jealous of that haircut, because I didn’t have the courage or the face to pull something like that off. She looked a little bored as she eyed the dance floor. I started to turn back to Heidi, but then a tall figure cut in front of the girl and sat on the couch.
It was a man with sandy-blond hair cropped close to the skull. The haircut reminded me of what you saw from guys in the military. From what I could see of his profile, he appeared to be older than we were. Maybe in his midtwenties? A little older? He didn’t exactly look happy. His mouth was moving a mile a minute. My gaze shifted to who he’d sat down next to.
My lips parted on a soft inhale.
The reaction was startling and embarrassing. I sort of wanted to smack myself, but in my defense, the guy was stunning, the kind of beauty that almost didn’t seem real at first.
Messy brown hair toppled over his forehead in waves and curls. Even from where I was standing, I could tell that his face knew no bad angle, the kind of face that needed no filter. Impossibly high and broad cheekbones were paired with a carved, square jaw. His mouth really was a work of art, full and tipped up on one corner, forming a rather impressive smirk as he eyed the man who’d sat next to him. I was too far to away to see his eyes, but I imagined they were just as striking as the rest of him.
But the allure went beyond the physical.
Power and authority radiated from him, sending an odd shiver curling down my spine. Nothing about what he was wearing stood out—just dark jeans and a gray shirt with something written on it. Maybe it was the way he was sitting, thighs spread and one arm tossed over the back of the couch. Everything about the lazy sprawl looked arrogant and somehow misleading. He appeared as if he were seconds away from taking a nap even as the man beside him became more animated, but there was the distinct impression in the way his fingers tapped along the gold trim that said he could spring into action at any given second.