Mouth posed in a little O of surprise, Lina darted questioning blue-gray eyes over to her best friend crawling out of the cab behind her.
“I don’t know about this, Cassie. When you sent me that text yesterday morning saying you wanted to ‘hunt down some hotties and get wild,’ I thought you meant hitting Butch’s Sports Bar and some tequila shots. What the hell were you thinking?”
Salacious grin still in place, Cassie shrugged her shoulders, chin gesturing toward the flashing blue sign in front of them.
“Honey, they don’t come any hotter than this, and getting wild is an expected activity.”
Heat Seekers – All Male Revue blinked steadily at Lina’s upturned face, a blinding neon beacon on the darkened street. She heard the cab pulling away and winced at her departing chance for escape. Drawing her eyes away from the mesmerizing sign, she glanced over to Cassie. With a shiny, purple, strapless dress hugging her slender frame, silver bangles adorning both wrists, and four-inch stilettos, she had all the makings of a girl hitting a hotspot full of gorgeous men. Groaning, Lina dropped her head to scan the length of her own body.
A soft, black sweater pleasantly highlighted the curvy size Ds peeking from the neckline. Dark blue jeans encasing her plush rounded hips and thighs accentuated her surprisingly small waist and long legs on her five-foot-six-inch, size-fourteen frame. Black tennis shoes marked the end of her perusal.
Touching fingers to her mahogany, ponytailed hair, Lina tucked a long stray wisp back under the scrunchy. Yep, this will work. Comfortable, can blend into a dark corner, and easy flight on flat soles. Tilting her head toward Cassie, she gave a resigned sigh.
“Okay, I give. How did we get here? And don’t say ‘by cab’ or I will seriously hurt you.”
Amber eyes gleaming and triumphant smile in place, Cassie pulled a silver card the size of a large postcard from her purse, pushing it toward Lina.
“Found this attached to my door last night when I got home from work. Girl, this could not have come at a better time and you know it. The way Travis has been dragging you around by your heartstrings, and with Marcus treating me like his servant, I figured we single girls could use some distraction. Release our inner beasts, so to speak.”
Lina tossed her an understanding smirk and grasped the offering. The cardstock screamed of class with its brushed thickness and engraved-style script.
Seeking something different?
Bored with the known?
Are your fantasies unfulfilled?
SEEKERS agencies are here for you!
All male dancer revue nightclubs
Let your inner hedonist loose.
Need to spoil your inner goddess?
Looking for that perfect mate?
Flipping the card, she read the email, phone, and addresses for all the locations. In bold font at the bottom, it listed the CEO and Owner as Daniel Tarquinius. Interesting name…Greek isn’t it? Frowning, she glanced back to Cassie. “Don’t you find it odd that just when you want to go out and beat your chest like a cavewoman, this thing ends up on your door?” Frown immediately replaced with smiling indulgence, she watched Cassie tugging at her dress.
Stick-straight blonde hair swinging around her wiggling, tanned shoulders, Cassie cupped her small breasts and shoved them a little higher. Turning toward Lina, arms crossed under her newly adjusted mounds, a mock glare rode her pixie face. One slender hip cocked out, further emphasizing her long legs and four-inch silver stilettos, she let out a lady-like growl.
“I really hate you sometimes, Lina! You got some hot-momma butt and boobs to hold your clothes in place. I got nothing but double-sided tape and a prayer. Now are you going to yammer at me all night, Avelina Roth, or are we going to ride this gift-horse coincidence for all it’s worth?”
Simultaneously patting breasts and butt, Lina purred back, “Yep, I like my shelves, baby…like my shelves.”
At Cassie’s snort, she resumed chewing her lower lip, sneaker tapping on the pavement while she considered the neon sign with new eyes. Attached to a large, well-made building in a relatively decent part of town, she could feel the flashing words calling out to her. Was she seeking something different? Was she in need of a little warmth from doing something new and invigorating? Could this place make her forget, just for a little while? You know what, she’s right! Travis does have a firm grip on my heartstrings, and he’s working the slow seduction dance like a maestro. Hell, I don’t even warrant phone calls, just those one-liner texts. I’m also getting tired of the not so subtle hints at losing weight. If he brings me another Pilates workout CD, I might just make him eat it. I’ll be damned if a man is going to change me! We Germans like to eat, darn it, and I’m not that damn big! I’m full figured and Germans have big bones, so there! I gotta cut the boy loose!
Shifting her attention back to Cassie, one eyebrow cocked, she grunted in approval. “Okay, I give. You do the chest thumping and I’ll just watch.”
* * * *
Drusus slouched back on his favorite couch in his favorite dark corner of the club. This was the perfect angle to see both the front entrance and the dressing room door by only sliding his gaze. Waist-level railings surrounded the raised seating platform. The velvet-roped entrance provided the subtle warning of being off limits to the clientele steadily moving back and forth from the stage, bar, and ladies’ rooms. He was already getting the furtive side-glances from the newbies. He was sure many wondered why this giant of a man with long, black hair tied in the back, broad shoulders, narrow waist, and long muscular legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles was alone and fully dressed. Acknowledging the lascivious smiles with a quick head tip, he quickly shifted his eyes from their inquisitive looks. Direct eye contact was equivalent to dangling raw meat in front of a lion. Nope, he needed a bit more quiet time. If he was going to have a conversation, he wanted their focus on his eyes instead of his body. No, that didn’t appear to be their goal, and why should it be? He was just another piece of meat in a heated meat locker.
He still found himself amazed at how many times over the years he’d had to steer away an eager woman from veering off her designated path and barging in on his roped domain, or worse, directly to the dressing room door. Chuckling, he remembered when an overly amorous bride-to-be with lightning-fast hands had cornered Caelius. She had shoved him through the door, sucked his left nipple between her teeth, and had a hand full of junk before his back had ever hit the wall. Caelius was jacked up for two days after that.
Severus usually kept watch for overzealous women trying to breach the dressing room, but he was out on a last-minute escort call. He should have declined the short notice request, but Severus had looked wound up and irritated, so it was probably best to get him out of everyone’s hair for a while. Lucky bastard had probably just finished knocking back an expensive meal and was now basking in the delicious attention of his client. Full belly, discreet roving hands, and whispered erotic promises against his ear were just a few benefits Severus was going to enjoy this night.
When his eyes landed on Ferox working the bar, Drusus felt immediate guilt for ruminating about something as trivial as a night out with a lusty female and a thick steak. Ferox moved efficiently behind the bar, casting shy smiles at the females lining up to quench their thirst or try their luck at acquiring his attention. Drusus knew those smiles were difficult to pull and maintain. He knew the deep, soul-draining sorrow Ferox carried each day. The poor male had lost both a wife and a daughter within hours of each other. He may be walking, talking, breathing, and smiling, but that big body was on autopilot, just waiting for the day it would cease and he could finally join his loved ones. If not for the support of his brethren, Drusus feared he might have taken his own life.
Drusus felt his energy lag as his eyes continued to rove the room. He had spent the last several weeks stuck at Seekers. Ensuring fifty new arrivals completed orientation and had adequate ID and dating profiles in place had drained him. Twenty more were coming in a few weeks, and he suddenly felt very tired at the thought. He should have caught a meal before he got here, but with Severus’s quick departure he needed to get the lineup reviewed and security in place. Perhaps he should call Ludo in to watch the doors so he could head home. Even better, he should pull the first act to wake himself up first. Maxim was up in fifteen, so he had time to switch out routines. Well, if they wanted to see meat, he would give it to them as he got what he wanted. Win. Win. Yes, that’s what he would do. Get Ludo here, do a fast set, then go home and crash. Sliding his phone off the table, he punched in a quick text and headed to the locker room.
* * * *
Okay, we’re in the door…so far so good. Lina looked around the small entryway, eyes wide as she stared at all the posters. Man! If these guys really look like this I’m going to pass out! Greek gods, every one. Airbrushed, yep, they have to be airbrushed. No one is that beautiful. She imagined sculpting one of them. She wouldn’t be able to keep her hands off her own clay. Cool names, too…Caelius, Maxim, Petrus, Lexus, Nikos. Dark hair, naturally tanned skin, piercing eyes, long aquiline nose, and the body…where to start…ah, those long muscles curving over their hips, emphasizing their amazing abs. I love how they gradually drift down toward their groins…oh mama…they should be outlawed…locked up, and me with the only key…
“Miss, I need your wrist.”
“Huh?” Yanked from her reverie, Lina stared at the woman behind the chest-high desk. The woman’s blonde hair was pulled into a severe bun. Her bored, kohl-lined eyes let Lina know this wasn’t the first time tonight she had dangled something yellow from her outstretched hand. “Oh yes, sorry!” Flinging her left arm out, Lina grimaced as the yellow band encircled her wrist. Tagged and bagged popped into her brain and she giggle-snorted before she could stop herself.
Bored blondie pointed a long, lacquered nail toward the door and gave a surprisingly warm smile. “Bar and restroom to the left. Pick your seats. Have a nice night ladies.”
In her usual not-afraid-of-anything mode, Cassie tugged her by the wrist through the heavy doors and elbowed her way up to the bar. “Sauza Gold, two. I’m in the mood for some lip, sip, and suck. Two Michelob Ultras while you’re at it.”
That got a quick smile out of the dark-haired bartender, and of course, he was just as shivering gorgeous as the drool-worthy poster attractions. Luckily, they found a high-topped, small table across from the bar and up against a wall, not too far from the door but close enough to see the stage. If their view was blocked, they could always stare at the bartender.
Lina settled into the surprisingly comfortable chair and glanced around. Women of every size, shape, ethnicity, and dress were milling around the dimly-lit, spacious club. The maroon-curtained stage was dark, but John Mayer was playing softly in the background, adding to the ambiance. Ah yes, my favorite pastime…people watching.
Flat-ironed hair appeared to be the predominant theme. That, and low tops with high skirts. Herds of giggling, skinny, young to who-gives-a-shit grandmas comprised the seething mass of estrogen. Shirtless waiters carrying trays of Jell-O shots above their heads weaved through the crowd. These men were built above average and not as packed as the poster hunks, but eye candy nonetheless. Glancing to her right, she spotted a grouping of black, high-backed sectional couches lining the dark walls, a drape of sheer black fabric hanging from ceiling to floor obscuring the dimly lit area. Lina surmised this was the designated area for the expensive, one-on-one private dances. Granted, she had never been in one of these clubs before but she wasn’t ignorant of what they had to offer.
The gradual lift of the stage curtain accompanied by a disembodied, sultry, masculine voice brought her perusal and the floor action to a halt. “Ladies, Drusus is in need of a little love tonight. This cowboy believes he may have broken one of your hearts today. Who among you can bring him comfort?”
The opening electric guitar riffs of Sister Hazel’s “Your Winter” seeped out to the crowd like beckoning fingers. Women moved as one quiet body to plaster themselves against the stage. The agonizingly slow-lifting curtain began revealing black shit-kickers, leather chaps hugging long, muscular thighs, and a prominent bulge pushing out faded jeans below a glinting silver belt buckle. A tight, white wife-beater hugged his ridged abs, displaying sculpted pecs and broad shoulders. A thick tail of glistening, blue-black hair lay over his left shoulder, nearly reaching his small, tight nipple. A big leather-gloved hand gripped the horn of a saddle dangling by his right side, massive forearm and bicep flexing as he gradually lowered it to the floor. Slowly he went down to his knees, revealing a strong neck and jawline. A low-pulled straw Stetson hid his eyes, but only emphasized his full sensual lips and aquiline nose. Lina felt her heart flutter just taking in the massive size of this entirely too good-looking man. Mesmerized, she couldn’t pull her eyes away from his fluid movements or the chiseled muscles working under that flawless skin. As the music strained and cried for the audience to forgive him, he stretched both arms out to the side, palms out, and slumped his head back, offering this body as compensation for his faults. His chest rose and fell quickly as he inhaled deeply and thoroughly.
As one, the crowd leaned closer, arms pushing forward, beseeching this beautiful creature to come to them. Head slowly tilting back down, one side of his lips lifted into a cocky grin as he gradually removed his gloves. Tossing them aside, he dropped slowly to his hands. He moved as a graceful predator now toward the enchanted, screaming women, rising back to his spread knees as their hands moved familiarly across his body and began stuffing money into his waistband. He lovingly ran his long fingers through their hair, touching exposed shoulders, kissing foreheads and cheeks before continuing slowly down the enthralled pack.
“Daaaayummmm!” exclaimed Cassie, jerking Lina from her openmouthed stupor. Lina’s eyes shot over to a wild-eyed Cassie vigorously pointing to their shot glasses.
“I need a drink and then some. Bottoms up, girlfriend!”
Simultaneously licking their left hands between thumb and forefinger then a haphazard application of salt, Lina and Cassie lifted their shots, clinked, and downed the fiery liquid. A quick swipe of tongue over salty skin, limes shoved between clenching teeth, they froze to enjoy the increasing warmth from gullet to belly.
Heaving a breathy sigh, Cassie perched her chin on her palm. “Now isn’t this better than sitting in front of fifteen TVs tuned to ESPN while trolling guys with hot wing sauce dripping down their chins and a different type of six-pack under their shirt?”
Drawing in a cool gulp of what she considered the smoothest beer on Earth, Lina nodded enthusiastically at Cassie’s profile, still speechless even as she felt something shoved into her hand. Looking down at the wad of dollar bills, she stared stupidly at Cassie for a moment before shaking her head back and forth in denial. “Unh uh, no way.”
“Yes way. Get up there. I’m getting more shots. Go on now! I saw the way you were eye-balling him. Get a close-up, girl. Chest thumping, remember?” Unceremoniously pulling her from the chair and shoving her forward, Cassie pointed to the stage. “Quick, while the herd is thinning out.”
Walking on numb legs, clutching her stash of bills, Lina weaved her way through the tables, eventually sliding into an opening at the far end of the stage. The next song was beginning and the hunk picked up the saddle, tossing it to the side as if it weighed nothing.
Okay, calm the hell down, you idiot. He’s just a man…he’s just a man…hey is that Vertical Horizon playing now? I like that band…ah hell…he’s taking off his chaps…I knew it! His ass is magnificent! Not fair…not fair!”
Pulling her eyes away from his swaying body, she began smoothing out the crumpled bills in her shaking palm. One, two, three, four…is this enough? Why does Cassie wad her money this way? And why am I surprised? Her apartment screams of rumpled, too. Figures! Are those boots in front of me? No, those are knees now. Don’t look up…don’t look up…Ah hell!