Filthy English (English #2)(13)

by Ilsa Madden-Mills

“Any messages?” Lulu asked.

I sighed, scrolling through my texts. “Just Mom. She wants me to come home and beg Hartford to take me back.”

“And miss this fantastic country? You deserve this vacation, Remi.”

I took a sip of water and set it down, carefully choosing my words. “I’ve been thinking. Do you think that if I loved Hartford enough, I’d give him the break he wanted and just wait for him to figure us out?”

She scrunched her nose as if she smelled something bad. “You aren’t exactly the type of girl who swallows her pride and waits for a guy to make up his mind. You’re strong and independent. Once they hurt you, you tend to distance yourself.”

I nodded, taking that in. “But did you ever think I was, I don’t know, settling because Hartford fit my plan: dependable, low-risk . . .”

“Girl, only you can answer that.”

I leaned my head back against the seat, my eyes searching the club for Dax. “Dax certainly isn’t low-risk.”

Lulu’s eyebrows rose. “He may be hotter than a cow brander, but he broke you, Remi.” She glanced over my shoulder and clapped. “Speaking of walking orgasms, here come the guys I was telling you about.”

The two Brits she’d danced with earlier came over to our booth with big smiles. Both were grunge types with dark jeans and heavy, silver jewelry. Not my type.

So. You just need to have fun, I reminded myself.

Lulu directed the taller one with a Mohawk to sit next to me while the darker-haired smaller one sat next to Lulu.

Within minutes, he and Lulu had cozied up to each other while Mohawk guy turned to me and started chatting. His name was Chad and his accent was different from Dax’s. I supposed it might be because Dax had lived in the States for several years, or perhaps this guy was from a different part of the UK.

I could have asked him—but no matter how hard I tried, I just wasn’t interested.

Not anymore. Not after seeing Dax.

We ordered a new round of drinks, but I declined and asked for more water, wanting to come down from my buzz. My high from before had deflated, and all I wanted to do was leave the club, lay my head on crisp hotel sheets, and sleep.

Chad tried hard to impress me, and I smiled and nodded in all the right places even though his breath smelled like stale peppermint.

We struck up a conversation about the nearby touristy things to do, but soon moved on to who designed my dress and jewelry. He toyed with my tennis bracelet, making my skin crawl.

It wasn’t personal. I just wasn’t in the mood.

I edged away from him and put my hands in my lap.

He slipped his arm around my shoulders in the booth and worked up to touching my hair. Soon his hand drifted across my bare shoulders and then dipped into the back of my dress to caress my skin.

Nausea saved me.

My belly had been rumbling in the background since I’d gotten upstairs, but now it seemed imminent. I needed air.

I stood up from the booth. “I need to go to the restroom.”

“Don’t you want your shoes?” Lulu called as I left the booth and moved toward the stairs. Concern crossed her face.

“No. I’m never wearing those heels again.”

“But your feet will get dirty.”

I shrugged. Normally that might bother me, but I’d had enough drinks to forget about the floor inside the club.

“Hey wait, I’ll go with you,” she called, catching up with me as I reached the bottom of the stairs. She hooked her arm through mine. “You didn’t eat any tacos did you?”

I pushed out a smile. “You don’t have to come with me, you know. Stay with the guys.”

She shook her head. “Nope. Dax made me feel guilty. I’m not taking my eyes off you again.” She grinned. “I told the guys to wait for us upstairs.”

My ankle worked well enough to get me down a darkened hallway at the back of the club, where a blinking neon arrow indicated the ladies’ restroom.

We walked inside a packed room with several drunken girls waiting in line for several stalls. Perfume and the close proximity of the women stifled me. I fanned my face with my hands. And this is why I hated clubs. I’d much rather be at home watching old movies with Malcolm.

“Once you break the seal . . .” Lulu did the pee dance. “Where you going?” she asked as I turned back to leave.

“You stay. I don’t have to go. Just—don’t feel well and it’s too hot in here. Tequila, I guess.”

“Don’t go far,” she called as I exited.

Once outside the room, I leaned back against the wall of the club, fighting with my roiling stomach. A bead of sweat rolled down my face and I shoved strands of hair behind my ears.

A rush of fresh air hit my face as someone walked out a back door that read EMERGENCY EXIT several feet away.

Yes! Air!

I turned to head that way, but a male voice stopped me. “Hiya, sweets.”

I turned around to see the bartender, but he looked different, having changed from his white employee shirt to a black tee.

“I poured some shots for you earlier tonight?” A gruff laugh came out. “You probably don’t even remember me.”

“No, no. I’m sorry. I do actually. It’s Mike, right?”

He shot me a grin. “Yeah. Last time I saw you, you were throwing shoes and turning flips.”

I grimaced. “Sorry you had to witness that ridiculousness. Par for the course, I’m afraid.”

He’d probably seen me sucking face with Dax too. Nice.

I edged toward the exit door a little at a time, hoping he’d take the hint, but he kept talking, mostly thanking me for leaving him the tip.

“So, I’m off work. You wanna grab a drink together or dance?” He’d stepped in closer to me, taller than I remembered, and smelling nice.

I opened my mouth to say no when I happened to glance up at one of the smaller balconies that went out over the dance floor, giving the occupants a bird’s eye view of the entire club. One of the roving spotlights landed squarely on Dax’s face as he leaned over the railing to gaze out.

As I watched him from afar, the slutty redhead from earlier came up to him and draped herself on his arm.

My gut clenched.

Seeing him with other girls never got any easier, although I’d learned to hide my jealousy well over the years.

As if he sensed me, he turned and our eyes connected over the heads of people thrashing on the dance floor. He had his mask back on, but his turbulent eyes were boring into mine, digging under my skin.