TOTALLY DISAPPOINTED, I whiff out a breath. “We’re never getting in.” I didn’t realize how much I wanted this, needed this, until now.
“O, ye of little faith,” Marigold says, dragging me to the front of the line where a mountain of a man stands, a foot taller and a mile wider than us. Parking herself in front of the behemoth, she greets him with a, “Hey, you.”
A smile breaks out on the mountain’s lips. “Marigold.” He picks her up like she’s a toy doll, and, leaving her feet dangling, he bear hugs her.
She bops him on the shoulder. “Oomph. Put me down, Beast.”
Beast? It suits him, that name.
With the greatest of care, he returns her to the ground. “How are you, Mar? Long time no see.”
“Good. Graduated in June. I’m teaching second graders at Mayer Elementary now.”
A wrinkle forms across his brow. “That’s a dangerous area.”
“Don’t worry. I know how to take care of myself.”
“Don’t I know it.” He rubs the top of his head. “I still have the bruise from the nookie you gave me when I didn’t do my English homework.”
Marigold knocks elbows with him. “That was just tough love, Todd. Listen, any chance we could get into the club? My friend here’s just dying to see the inside of Platinum.”
“Is she?” He gives me the once over, the kind a security guy would do, not the leer I usually get from men.
“Marigold, meet Todd Gryzinski. Todd, meet MacKenna Perkins.”
“Nice to meet you, Todd.” I stick out my hand and shake his paw.
“A pleasure, MacKenna.” His grip is surprisingly gentle for such a huge man.
Unable to leave well enough alone, Marigold pipes up with, “She’s a newspaper reporter, looking to do a piece on Platinum.”
“Mar,” I warn her beneath my breath. I don’t do the street beat scene. That’s Randy’s job. I’m not eager to step on his toes.
“Welcome to Platinum, ladies.” Unclipping the black velvet rope holding back the masses waiting to get in, he turns to the guard standing two feet away at the club’s entrance. “Bruce?”
Only slightly smaller than Todd, the mini-mountain answers. “Yeah?”
“These ladies are my very special guests. Please see that they get a good table.”
Bruce two-finger salutes Mar’s friend. “Sure thing, boss.”
“Thanks, Todd. You’re the best.” Marigold pulls him down for a quick kiss on his cheek.
Once he straightens out, he puts his paw-size hand over his heart. “You’ve slain me, merry maiden.”
“See, that Shakespeare homework came in handy after all.”
He winks at her. “You don’t know the half of it. The ladies love all that poetry mush.” He nods toward the club’s entrance. “Bruce will see you right. Have a great time, Mar. Nice to meet you, MacKenna.”
As she waves goodbye to Todd, Mar hooks her other arm through mine. Together, we head toward the Platinum door, a black garish monstrosity with silver, blinking lights. There’s a momentary lull while the guard holds a conversation with yet another bouncer inside the door. Boy, this place has more security than Fort Knox. They truly don’t let just anybody in.
While we wait for the go ahead, I turn to Mar. “That was pretty impressive, kiddo. I thought we wouldn’t get in, not with that line. When did you tutor him?”
“My sophomore year. He was a junior and pretty well known around campus. Students fell all over themselves to talk to one of the college’s star football players. So I tutored him at our apartment. Otherwise, we’d never get any work done. You don’t remember him?”
I shake my head. “No. Not really.” Busy as I was with school, a part-time job, and volunteering at the women’s shelter, I was in our apartment only long enough to grab something to eat and fall into bed exhausted. Whenever I ran into one of the football players she tutored, I never paid much attention. They all looked pretty much the same—big, bulky, missing a couple of chromosomes. “No.”
She shrugs. “If it hadn’t been for me, he would have flunked his English class. He needed at least a C to stay on the football team.”
“And now he’s a bouncer?”
“Don’t judge, MacKenna. He’s part owner of the club.”
“Sorry.” One of my constant sins. I tend to make quick decisions about people before getting to know the real them. That doesn’t jive with me being a journalist, I know. But actually it’s the reason I became one. Because I wanted to get to the truth. I’ve gotten better through the years, but there are times when I slip back. “You’re right. But why isn’t he playing football?”
“His first year in the pros, he blew out his knee. They had to let him go.”
“He looks okay.”
“Okay is not good enough for professional football. You have to be in tip top shape.”
Bruce gives us the high sign and we follow him inside. The club is wall-to-wall people. A band’s supposed to play tonight, but at the moment, a DJ is spinning music which blares from speakers hanging from the ceiling, poles, even the floor. The music is so loud, my body vibrates with it, which I guess is entirely the point.
Smoke machines are hard at work throughout the club. Guess they add to the mystique of the place. Or maybe they use it to cover up the bumping and grinding on the dance floor. We follow Bruce to a section that offers a prime view of the club. Miraculously, a table opens up right in front of us and Bruce grabs it before somebody else does. The mini rounds are on raised platforms so that you can look down on the dance floor crowd and take in the whole scene.
“Thanks, Bruce.” Marigold blasts him with her most brilliant smile.
“You’re welcome.” Smiling back, he hands Marigold a card. Over the loud music, he yells. “Free drinks, all night long.”
“Thanks!” Mar doesn’t drink that much, and neither do I. But, hey, free drinks are free drinks. After I tell her what I want, Mar makes her way to the bar while I hold down the table. A couple of guys come by to hit on me, but I ignore them. Eventually, they get the message and drift away. By the time she returns with an Appletini for me, and a Mojito for her, the band has taken the stage.
“They’re quite good,” I yell.
“Yeah, that’s why I wanted to come tonight,” she screams back. “They just cut a record and they’re getting a lot of great buzz.”
Before I get a chance to comment, a commotion erupts by the front door. People cramming the entrance swerve back in a great big wave. At first I can’t figure out what’s causing all the brouhaha. But then the crowd parts, and I see HIM. My jaw drops as my mouth waters at the sight. God, if he was gorgeous all sweaty on the football field, he’s a hundred times more stunning now. Dressed in dark trousers, dark shirt and black leather jacket, he exudes heart-pounding sex appeal. No wonder women flip over him. He’s taller than just about everyone in the club, but not taller than the mountains around him. Some of his Chicago Outlaws’ teammates, I bet. “Gah.”
“What’s wrong?” Mar asks.
I nod my head toward the front entrance.
“Well, well, well, small world, huh?”
“What a coinkydink. Out of all the club joints in Chicago, Ty Mathews had to walk into this one.”
“Misquoting Casablanca now? Really, Mar.” And then I catch the man standing behind him. “Oh, God. Ron Moss is with him.” I try to crawl under the table, but there’s nowhere to hide.
“Where?” She’s so short, she doesn’t spot Ron.
“Behind Ty Mathews.”
She grabs the edge of the table and boosts herself up. “Oh, yeah. I see him now.” Dropping back to the floor, she says, “What’s he doing in this den of sin? I remember the days he wasn’t so uptight.”
My gaze swerves to her. “You know him?” I’d never heard about this.
“Yeah. We went to the same high school. I was a freshman, he was a senior.”
Given my disastrous interview with Ron Moss, I need to ask her about him. But I’m so focused on Ty Mathews, I can’t think about anything else right now. “Shouldn’t they be, I don’t know, resting up for the game tomorrow?”
“Oh, honey.” She pats my hand. “This is what they do to ‘rest up.’ If they party too much, they’ll have plenty of time to recuperate. It’s a Sunday night game.” She sips on her Appletini. “I can’t get over Ronnie being here. This is not his type of thing. Not these days.”
“Maybe he wants to feel like he’s a part of the team?” I volunteer.
Someone shows up to escort the Chicago Outlaws to the VIP section on the other side of the club. I breathe a sigh of relief. Ron Moss did not catch sight of me.
After the excitement by the front door dies down, a guy I’ve never met before comes up to our table. Turns out Mar knows him. After a quick check in with me, she goes off to do her boogy thing. Soon she’s on the dance floor, letting her freak flag fly.
A stranger I’ve never met walks up to the table and asks me to dance. Even though he’s polite about it, I give him the brush off. Mar’s the dancing queen of the two of us. Me? I like to observe. I’m hopeless, I know.
While I sip my drink, my gaze wanders toward the VIP section. Located up a flight of steps, it’s not so high I can’t tell what’s going on. And what’s going on is plenty. The Outlaws are spread out over several open booths. On the left, two of the players are putting on quite a show, groping, open mouth kissing a couple of blondes, and a brunette. On the right sits Ron Moss with a couple of other players, sans women. Well, except for the waitress who’s bending forward flashing a pair of impressive breasts at him. Honey, that’s not going to work. Sure enough, he says something, squeezes out of the booth and heads toward the back of the VIP section. Now that I know him better, I feel bad for him. This has to be hard for someone who doesn’t enjoy these types of recreational activities. Maybe I should go up there and talk to him, apologize for what happened today in the field.
While I’m debating the wisdom of doing that, my gaze wanders to the middle of the VIP section where Ty’s holding court, front and center. The blonde on his right is rubbing his chest, kissing his jaw. When she tries to kiss him on the mouth, he jerks away and says something. She pouts before taking on a new tack and nibbling his ear. The brunette on his left smirks, presumably at the blonde’s lack of success. She pushes her breasts right against his right bicep and whispers something in his ear. When he nods, she crawls under the table, between his knees.
It’s so smoky in the place at first I have a hard time seeing what’s going on. But suddenly the mist dissipates long enough for me to catch a gander of what she’s doing. Her head’s bobbing up and down right between his legs. Holy shit! Is she going down on him, right here in front of God and everyone?
He bares his teeth as his hips move in tune to her rhythm. Is anyone else seeing what I’m seeing? Yep. Many at the raised tables around me have their gazes glued to Ty and his floozy. He’ll get into trouble, won’t he? Anyone could complain to the cops about the lewd PDA. But the audience doesn’t look shocked. Going by the snickers and the laughter, they’re titillated, excited, but not shocked. They came to see a show and they’re getting one. Besides, who’d be stupid enough to report the god almighty quarterback of the Chicago Outlaws the night before game day?
Like a magnet unable to fight the attraction, my gaze’s drawn right back to Ty. His gorgeous face tight with passion, his sensual mouth huffing breath after hard breath. My face flushes with heat. My panties get wet. And all of a sudden I imagine it’s me doing that to him. My mouth on his erection, my lips wrapped tight around him. When the crisis hits, his head rolls back, and I can almost hear his moan of ecstasy from clear across the space. The woman takes a second—to wipe her mouth? to zip him up?— before she climbs back into the booth. She makes a big show of swiping her lips again before she drinks from her glass. But when she tries to kiss him on the mouth, he turns his head, just like he did with the blonde before.
“What’s going on?” Mar asks.
When did she get back? Did she catch the peep show? Or worse, my reaction to it?
In a panic, I come to my feet. “We have to leave.”
Hot and sweaty from dancing, she stops blotting the perspiration from her brow. “Wait. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t feel well.” It’s true. My stomach roils with nausea, excitement, something.
“You are a little flushed.”
“Yeah, I think I’m coming down with that bug that’s going around.” My gaze drifts to the VIP section. Ty Mathews is standing up, throwing an arm around each companion. Oh, God. He’s coming down the stairs.
I grab Mar’s hand. “We gotta go. Now.” I run toward the exit, but before I get there, like Lot’s wife I look back. And just like her I’m punished when his gaze finds me.
For an infinitesimal second, he smiles, not the least hint of embarrassment on his face.
Horrified, I drag Mar out the door and don’t stop running until I reach home.