The VIP areas are all roped off, and you can’t even go up the three steps to get to them without an invitation, so I decide to head right through the middle of the dance floor in the hopes that I might spot Melanie.
Five minutes of shoving my way through all of the people, I’m thankful that I pulled my long blonde hair up into a high ponytail. I’m already working up a sweat and I’m not even dancing. With one last surge of my body, I finally make it to the other side and squeeze myself in between a crowd of people standing around the bar.
The bartender hands a drink to the person next to me and then nods his head in my direction. “What can I get you?”
“Just an ice water, please,” I shout above the music and loud conversations on either side of me.
While he turns away to grab my drink, I take the time to scan the crowd. This was the dumbest idea I’ve ever had. There is no way I’m going to find her in this place. There’s got to be at least five hundred people here.
“Okay, this is starting to get weird. Are you stalking me?”
My head whips around when I hear the voice close to my ear and I come face-to-face with Matt. I swallow nervously until I see his face light up with a teasing smile. He’s not wearing his glasses tonight. Or a sweater vest. Sweet Jesus, does he look good. He’s wearing a fitted black button-down with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows tucked into a pair of charcoal-gray dress pants. Gone is nerdy-chic Matt. In his place is hot-as-balls Matt. The temperature in this place suddenly went up a thousand degrees.
“I was just kidding about the stalking thing—don’t look so shocked,” Matt says with a laugh, right by my ear.
I’m suddenly okay with the noise level in this place if it means he has to be this close to me to talk.
“But seriously, how do we keep showing up at the same places?” he asks again, placing his hand on my hip and pulling me closer to him to make room for a few people trying to get up to the bar.
I’m pressed up against him and staring at his throat while he reaches over to take my glass of ice water from the bartender. I’ve been around plenty of hot guys before. I’ve done photo shoots with half-naked male models. None of them has caused this kind of reaction from me. I’m never at a loss for words. Is it because, once again, he caught me doing something that I’m going to lie to him about or because I find myself attracted to him?
“I, um, was in the neighborhood and thought I’d check this place out,” I tell him lamely, taking the glass of water from him and sucking down the entire thing.
“You were in the neighborhood? Where exactly do you live? It took me three hours to get here.”
I regretfully take a step away from him and set my empty glass on the bar.
“Why are you here?” I ask, taking the focus off of myself.
He sighs and runs his hand through his hair. I suddenly have the urge to do the same with my own hand. I want to clutch his hair and pull his face down to mine so I can feel his lips again.
Holy hell, I need to get this under control. Men suck. They are all pigs, even if they seem nice at first. Andy was really nice at first too. Just because I want to help Matt out and he’s easy to look at, doesn’t mean anything.
“I found out that Melanie was going to be here tonight. This isn’t usually the type of place she goes to, so I was hoping I’d catch her with the guy she’s been seeing. I really wish I had a camera on me the other night when we were at Blake’s,” he says.
I am such a bitch. I could have taken a hundred pictures of Melanie the other night. But in my defense, I didn’t know he was the good guy at the time. I hope to God he never finds out about my role in all this.
“Do you think she’ll drop everything if you catch her with this guy?” I ask.
“I know she will. Her reputation is important to her. She’s all about looking good and making sure everyone thinks she’s a saint. If I can catch her and then threaten to out her to her family and mine, she’ll back down on the lawsuit. The only problem is, I would never do that to her. Even though our marriage sucked, I could never hurt someone like that. I just hope she doesn’t know that.”
Oh, God. Why did he have to say that? Why does he have to be such a good guy?
“So, how do you expect to find her in this mess of a place?” I ask, looking around again at all of the people.
“I’ve already seen her. She’s upstairs in one of the VIP lounges,” he tells me, pointing over his shoulder to the roped-off area. “I haven’t seen any guy with her, though, just a few of her girlfriends.”
I look over his shoulder and sure enough, in the very center of the VIP area, in one of the biggest lounges, I see Melanie sitting on a couch with two of her girlfriends on either side of her. They’re laughing, toasting, and having a great time.
“Jesus. It’s a good thing you’re not legally separated yet or all of your alimony would be going right down the drain. Just to sit in that lounge there’s a fifteen-hundred-dollar cover charge, plus you have to purchase a minimum of two bottles of top-shelf liquor. In a place like this, that’s around nine hundred dollars a bottle,” I tell him.
“Wait, how did you know I’m not legally separated yet?”
Oh, no! Oh, shit! I can’t really tell him I had Lorelei look that information up for me yesterday, can I?
“Uh, I’m just assuming. You know, since you didn’t mention it.”
Please let him believe me, please let him believe me.
Matt accepts my lame attempt at an explanation and glances back to Melanie and her friends. “Are you serious that it costs that much to sit in the VIP section? How do you even know that?”
Because I’ve partied in plenty of those lounges throughout my career. I’ve hosted parties in those lounges. I could probably tell you the cost and liquor requirements for every club in the United States and the UK.
Something stops me from telling him this, though. Maybe this is the real reason why I have a soft spot for him. He still doesn’t know who I am. I’m just a girl he met in a bar. Someone he looks at just like any other normal girl. I want to be normal more than I want to be honest right now and it’s killing me.
“I asked when I first got here. You know, just wondering why they had that section roped off,” I lie.
He looks back over his shoulder, shaking his head.
“That doesn’t make any sense. There is no way in hell she could afford something like that.”
I shrug when he turns back to face me. “Maybe one of her friends paid for it.”
He shakes his head. “Nope. No way. Melanie is a kindergarten teacher. All of those women she’s with? They all teach at the same school she does. They barely make minimum wage.”
Well, the multitude of kitten pictures on her Facebook page makes sense now. But I fear for the children of our future if she’s the one educating them.
“It has to be the guy she was with the other night then. You don’t know anything about him? You didn’t recognize him?” I question as someone jostles me from behind and I slam up against the front of Matt.
I put my hands up against his chest and look up at him so I can apologize. He’s staring down at me. Actually, he’s staring right at my lips and his arms wrap around my waist to steady me, but pull me closer instead.
We stand this way until the noise and all of the people around us fade away like in some cheesy rom-com. All I can focus on is the feel of his body pressed up against mine and the way he can’t stop staring at my mouth, like he wants to kiss me.
“This is weird. Is it weird for you? Tell me it’s not just me. I mean, I just met you,” he explains with frustration.
“It’s not just you,” I reassure him, feeling equally annoyed and turned on all at the same time.
Shame on me for thinking I was going to get out of this with my heart intact.
Are you sure? I don’t have a good feeling about this,” Matt tells me as he grips my hand tightly while I pull him with me through the dance floor and over to the roped-off VIP area.
I stop right at the edge of the dance floor and turn around to face him. “I’m sure. Don’t worry. Someone needs to go up there and get her to talk, and it’s obviously not going to be you. She has no idea who I am, so it’s the perfect plan.”
He glances back and forth between the VIP area and me. “You must think I’m a complete loser. What kind of guy asks the most beautiful woman in this place to spy on his ex-wife?”
I laugh and rub my hand up and down his arm reassuringly. “You didn’t ask. I volunteered. But thank you for the compliment.”
“I don’t know why I’m even worrying. You’re never going to be able to get in there,” he tells me, staring at the bald, buff, badass-looking bouncer who is currently standing guard in front of the ropes.
“Don’t worry about me, I’m pretty resourceful,” I tell him with a wink. “Just wait for me back by the bar so she doesn’t see you.”
He leans in and kisses me on the cheek before walking away. I watch him push his way back through the crowd, then I take a deep breath and walk right up to the bouncer, tapping him on the shoulder so he’ll look down at me.
He turns his head with a scowl on his face, not too happy about the fact that yet another person is going to bug him to get up into the VIP area. When he sees me standing there, the scowl turns into a huge smile that appears rather strange on a man who looks like he just got out of prison.
“Paige! Holy shit! What the fuck are you doing slumming here, beautiful?”
Yet another thing I failed to mention to Matt—I recognized the bouncer as soon as I walked into the club. He was one of the regular bouncers at a club I frequented during the height of my modeling career.
“Ronny, it’s so good to see you!” I tell him as he leans down and scoops me up into a bone-crushing hug, lifting me up off of my feet.
I guess when you’re six foot seven and weigh over three hundred pounds, you could lift a building without breaking a sweat.
Ronny finally sets me back on my feet and holds me out at arm’s length.
“When did you start working here? Last time I saw you, you were breaking up a fight at the Viper Room in LA,” I remind him.
“Eh, the wife got transferred to Indy for her job. So here I am,” he says with a shrug. “You want to go up into the VIP area?”
He nods behind him and unhooks one end of the velvet rope.
“Thanks, Ronny. Give Kim my love,” I tell him as I walk past him and into the private area.
“Will do. Don’t be a stranger now,” he calls after me, hooking the rope back into place after I walk through.
I make my way up the three steps to the walkway that leads to all of the VIP lounges, grabbing a glass of champagne off of a passing tray as a waiter walks by. I pause just outside of the wall of Melanie’s lounge and take a deep breath.
Putting on a huge smile, I giggle at nothing as I stumble into the opening of the room and flop down on the end of the huge sectional sofa where Melanie and her friends are sitting. They immediately stop talking and stare at me. They look like Charlie’s Angels. Melanie in the middle is blonde, the friend on her left is a brunette, and the one on her right has black hair.
“Oh, my gosh! I’m SO drunk. I’m totally in the wrong lounge!” I tell them with another giggle and a sip of my champagne.
They immediately smile at me and Melanie speaks first. “It’s cool. Drink up, sister!”
She raises her glass and her three friends copy her, all of them taking a sip of their drinks. I notice two bottles of Dos Lunas Grand Reserve tequila sitting on the table in front of them and even I’m shocked by the indulgence I see right now. Just one of those bottles is easily twenty-two hundred dollars. Whoever booked this room isn’t playing around.
Time to get to the bottom of things.
“I hope you don’t mind me hiding out in here for a minute. The guy who invited me to his lounge is a total creeper,” I complain with a roll of my eyes.
“We don’t mind at all!” the brunette next to Melanie speaks up. “There are a lot of creeps here tonight. Thank God we’re in here and not out there.”
She points out to the dance floor and the rest of the girls nod in agreement.
“Are you guys hiding out too? Wait, did you guys pay for this room yourself? You must be, like, totally rich or something,” I say with wide, innocent eyes.
“Oh, hell no! We could never afford something like this. Melanie has a rich boyfriend!” the brunette says with a laugh.
Melanie shushes her and the other friend smacks the brunette in the arm. All three of them look over at me nervously.
“Sorry, it’s just . . . I’m not really supposed to talk about him,” Melanie tells me.
What the hell?
“Is he a spy or something?” I ask with a laugh.
“No. He’s, um . . . a businessman. He’s just very private.”
Right. My ass he’s just a businessman.
No one says anything for a few seconds and then the brunette finally rolls her eyes and laughs. “Oh, what the hell, Melanie. What’s the point of dating him if you can’t brag about it?”
Melanie sighs and then looks around. When she’s satisfied that no one is walking by the room, possibly listening in, she shrugs and nods to her friend.
“She’s totally dating someone in the Mob!” the brunette gushes. “Like in The Godfather, but cooler!”
Oh, no. This is not good. Maybe they only THINK he’s in the Mob. They don’t seem very bright. Maybe they misunderstood.