The brunette situated across the bar stares down at her phone, scrolling through her newsfeed. Her bar stool turns as she swivels back and forth, unable to sit still.
The girl practically glows. She’s radiant and sexy in a strapless dark red dress.
I want to rip it right off her.
Is she here for a date, or is she meeting friends? A girl like her doesn’t show up alone. Not if she’s smart and wants to play it safe.
I’m not here to pick up women, although the brunette has caught my gaze. I can’t turn away from her.
I’m here with Mikhail having drinks, chilling while the night is young. The bar grows rowdy as the crowd fills in.
I watch her from a distance. I can’t tear my gaze away, but she hasn’t so much as looked up or glanced in my direction.
She’s fixated on her damn phone.
What is it with kids these days? Okay, she’s not technically a kid. She was carded upon entering the establishment, making her at least twenty-one, but she’s young. She could be twenty-five, and I’m just bad with ages. But there’s no way she’s anywhere near my age—she isn’t close to thirty, and I’m a few years shy of forty.
When did I get so fucking old?
The thought of settling down is non-existent. I’m not the kind of man to have a family. It would only endanger their lives. I don’t make romantic connections.
I enjoy my youth, or at least what’s left of it, falling into strange women’s beds to show them what it’s like to be ravished.
“Drinks?” Mikhail asks.
“On it,” I say. I know what he likes, and I head to the bar. There’s barely any room to stand, and the bartender disappears around back. Is he taking a cigarette break?
I exhale a heavy sigh. At this rate, I’ll be here all night waiting to order a whiskey.
I don’t wait around to ask permission. I step behind the counter like I own the place and grab two glasses and the finest whiskey on the top shelf.
“I’d like a Fuzzy Navel,” the brunette says. She’s a bit terse in her tone, and she finally glances up from her phone. The girl has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.
I finish pouring Mikhail’s drink and glance her over. “You’ve been on your phone all night,” I say.
She presses her lips tight. “You’ve been watching me?” She shifts, albeit uncomfortable under my scrutiny, like I’m judging her.
I grab an empty glass and the ingredients to fill her drink request.
There’s no point in lying. I’ve already confessed to noticing that she’s been preoccupied and alone. “It’s difficult not to notice the most beautiful woman in the bar,” I say, sliding her drink across the table. “It’s on me,” I say.
I carry the drinks I poured for Mikhail and myself back to the table.
“Took you long enough,” Mikhail mutters.
“Sorry, I got distracted by that sexy brunette drinking alone.”
Mikhail doesn’t even try to be discreet as he peers past me at the girl in the scarlet gown. “She is quite the catch. Young. But you’ve always chased after tail half your age.”
“And you don’t?”
Mikhail’s no saint. “We’re not talking about me,” he says and takes a swig of his whiskey. “You want to go home with her.” It’s not a question. He already knows the answer. It’s not about what I want, though. I’m here keeping tabs on him, ensuring he has a decent time and gets home safely.
I’m not worried about him driving home sober. He’s bratva and the Pakhan, the leader of the pack. My boss and mentor. What I’m concerned with is the Italian Mafia and the Colombian Cartel. Our two biggest enemies could be closing in on us at any moment.
I have to be alert and keep Mikhail protected. I’m his bodyguard, and if I’m not with him, Nikita is keeping close tabs on him.
“Go talk to her. I’ll be fine. The place is crowded but docile.”
He means there aren’t any of our enemies drinking here tonight. I’m grateful. “If you insist,” I say and don’t wait for Mikhail to change his mind. I toss him the keys. He’ll need them to get home tonight.
I can call a cab or a rideshare service to get back to the compound. I have my cell phone in my suit coat pocket and my wallet in my pants. I’m overdressed for the bar, but I’ve removed my suit coat and slung it over my arm.
I’m not at the table with Mikhail for more than a few seconds, downing my whiskey before heading back to the bar.
The bartender is still nowhere in sight. Did he bail?
Blue eyes glances up from her phone as I head toward the bar. “I could use another one of these,” she says. Like I’m supposed to remember what she ordered.
If I were a bartender, I’m not sure that I’d have kept every customer's drink in my head. But it was just one extra to remember. And she’s unforgettable.
“A Fuzzy Navel,” I say and slip behind the bar. I make her a second glass and slide it to her before I come around to the other side. “Where’s your boyfriend?” I ask.
She brings the drink to her lips and glances me over. “You mean my friend who stood me up?” She gestures toward the couple a few feet away, making out against the wall.
“They should get a room,” I say.
She downs her drink and then moves to stand. “I should just go. Call it a night.”
“The night’s still early. It’s Friday, and what do you have planned when you get home?” I imagine she’ll climb into bed and go to sleep alone.
“A hot bubble bath if I leave now,” she says and glances at her watch. She avoids my heated stare, and her cheeks burn, the longer I make eye contact with her.
It’s difficult to hear one another over the commotion from the crowd. I lean in, my lips brushing against her ear. “And that’s what you’d rather be doing tonight?” I ask, making sure she can hear me.
I swear I feel her shudder.
Her breathing deepens, and her eyes darken as she stares into my gaze. “No,” her voice squeaks.
She gulps and licks her dry lips. A soft puff of air spills out. “Don’t you have to bartend?”
I glance toward the bar and give her an award-winning grin. “I think they’ve got it covered.”
She shifts against the stool, and I swear she’s rubbing her inner thighs together, rocking slightly, applying pressure to just the right spot.
I tangle my fingers in her hair, brushing the curls behind her neck. My touch is soft and soothing. “So, you’d rather be in a bubble bath right now than here, enjoying the music and the atmosphere?” I whisper.
“It’s not so bad,” she confesses.
A grin spreads across my face. “Good. Do you want to shoot pool? I can show you how if you've never played.”
"I'm Luka," I say, introducing myself.