Two hours later, I’m back at my apartment with Lori in my lap.
We started out making out at Cleopatra’s after her shift ended. But after twenty minutes of that, she quickly agreed to come home with me. Considering I’m her boss’s boss, there’s probably a sexual harassment suit in there somewhere, but I never got hit with one. I’m always nice to the girls, and I got an instinct for the crazy ones I need to avoid. Tony, on the other hand… let’s just say we had to make a couple of payoffs.
Lori goes nuts when she sees my apartment, even more than she did when she saw my BMW. “It’s so big!” she squeals, spinning around with her arms outstretched. “I share an apartment the size of your bedroom with two other girls. No joke.”
I believe her.
I let Lori pour herself a drink from the small bar I got in the living room. I’d pegged her as being in her early twenties, but now I’m wondering if she’s younger than that. Maybe nineteen or twenty. She’s gotta be at least eighteen to work at Tootsie’s, so I’m safe there. You don’t gotta be twenty-one to serve alcohol—only to drink it.
“This is my dream apartment,” Lori says. “Someday…”
I’m guessing Lori didn’t move to Manhattan to be a waitress, even at a good place like Tootsie. “So what do you want to be?” I grin at her. “Like, when you grow up?”
She giggles. “You ask me that like you’re somebody’s dad. You’re not that much older than me.”
I shift in my chair. “How old are you?”
“Twenty,” she admits.
I was right.
“How old are you?” she asks me.
“Guess,” I say.
She hesitates, clearly not sure what number would offend me. Better to overshoot or undershoot? I don’t really care is the truth.
“Thirty-five?” she ventures.
She overshot by three years. To be fair, I could never have achieved this level of success at my age without my father’s head start and connections. I’m just glad she didn’t say forty. “Close enough.”
“I want to be a model,” she says. She adjusts the tight pink dress she put on over the bikini she wore at the club. She’s pretty, although not as tall as she should be if she wants to be a model, and not as beautiful as Natalie was. I’m guessing she’s not having a lot of success. “So far, it’s hard to break into the industry.”
I watch her down the rum and coke she poured for herself. “I could make some calls for you…”
Her eyes light up. “Would you?”
“Sure. Why not?”
I know a couple of people. Lori might never be a big success, but I could get her some work. Maybe she could get a bigger apartment for herself.
I’ve made her real happy. She settles back into my lap, kissing me with renewed gusto. I always feel like I gotta do something for these girls, but maybe I don’t have to. She was willing to come here with me before I offered to get her a job. Now I’m sitting here and wondering if she wants me so bad or she’s just excited about modeling.
Fuck it. Who cares?
Lori is unzipping my pants and getting her hand down in my boxers. I’m guessing she’s got her hand around my dick, but who the hell knows? I don’t think about that. I get the dress off of her and then she’s back in that bikini costume. I wheel the two of us to my bedroom, and lift her onto my bed as she squeals. I’m sure she expects me to climb into the bed next to her, but I don’t do that. Instead I stay in my wheelchair and pull down her bikini bottom.
“Nick,” she whispers.
I spread her legs apart and I can tell that she’s surprised. I figure half the guys want her to suck them off and then they’re done. But that’s not what I like to do.
I lick the inside of Lori’s thighs. She groans and throws her head back. I tease her, doing what I do best. By the time my tongue touches her clit, she’s trembling and her abdomen is coated in a layer of sweat. “Oh, Nick!” she moans. “Oh my fucking God…”
I try to draw it out, but she comes fast. She might be young, but she’s loud. She screams and shakes and probably yanks some hairs out of my head, but that’s okay. I forgive her.
When the spasms stop, she wipes actual tears from her eyes. I know she wants to help me out, but she’s too spent to move.
“Jesus Christ,” she whispers. “I didn’t expect that from you.”
I take it as a compliment.
I transfer into the bed next to her, and she seems recovered enough to press her body against mine. Her hand instantly goes to my pants again and a few seconds later, she’s freed up my dick. I watch her squeezing it as it grows larger—that’s a reflex. Without pills, I can still get hard. Maybe half of what I used to, which isn’t enough to actual fuck her, but the pills get me the rest of the way. I can’t feel any of it though. Thrusting is impossible. I’ve thought about getting a special bench that the girl can lie on and is supposed to be helpful for guys in wheelchairs to be able to thrust with better control. That said, I don’t have any control over whether or not I’m hard. The whole thing is frustrating, so if the girl isn’t begging for intercourse, I’d rather avoid it entirely.
Lori’s got her mouth on my dick in record time. I can’t say I don’t like to watch a pretty girl with my dick in her mouth—it’s sexy. But at the same time, there are other things that would do more for me. I should explain it to her, but the thought of it exhausts me. I hate having the “I can’t feel my dick” conversation. Maybe I should let her suck me off, pretend to have an orgasm, and leave it at that.
“Do you want to fuck me, Nick?” Lori breathes.
She’s pushing the issue. Fine.
“Listen,” I say, “what you’re doing is great and all, Lori, but I like other stuff better.”
She straightens up, a worried expression on her pretty eyebrows. “Do you want me to pee on you?”
“I’ll do it if you really want,” she says. “But… well, I’d prefer if you didn’t pee on me. At least not today.” She bites her lip. “Well, you can, but just not in my mouth.”
“No, Lori.” Jesus Christ. “I meant—”
“I’m okay with you fucking me in the ass,” she quickly adds. “I do that all the time.”
I really wish she’d stop guessing.
“No, that’s not what I meant,” I say. “I just meant… listen, I don’t have a lot of sensation in my lower body. So I’d prefer you stayed, you know, above the belt.”
She looks at me like I just said something in Latin.
“You don’t even want me to give you a blow job?” she asks.
“Well, you can if you want.” I force a smile, which she doesn’t return. “But it doesn’t do a whole lot for me, if you know what I mean. I’m really sensitive on my nipples and neck and ears though…”
“Oh…” Lori chews on her lip again. “So… you’re saying that you just want me to just lick your nipples and stuff? And not pee on you?”
Jesus, are that many guys into watersports? “Right.”
A smile spreads across her face. “Okay, I can do that.”
The next time Lori’s lips are on me, they’re in a place I can feel. And I’m really sorry I hadn’t felt them on my dick, because man, that girl’s got a mouth like a Hoover.
I let Lori spend the night. I prefer not to let girls stay over, but she did such an amazing job that I didn’t have the heart to tell her to get lost. It’s the closest I’ve gotten to an orgasm since I had Natalie. And maybe I’m kidding myself, but she seemed to be enjoying herself. It never felt like a favor she was doing for me.
Lori’s great. But I’m not going to make the mistake of attempting any sort of relationship with a twenty-year-old waitress from my club. I may as well be back with Natalie if I do that. Lori was a diversion—a way to relieve a little sexual tension while I’m playing the long game of getting Jessie back.
Lori goes to sleep like a light. Looks like I wore her out, wink wink. I’m tired too, but out of habit, I grab my phone to check messages one last time before I go to sleep. An email from Alex Mitchell immediately grabs my attention:
Sorry to hear that your girl Jess isn’t going to be performing anymore. You were right about that one. She will be missed.
My girl Jess isn’t going to be performing anymore? What the hell is Alex talking about? I had no idea about this.
Then I remember that asshole who spotted her performing at the club the other night. Shit. I told her to let me know if there was any trouble. How could she just quit without saying anything to me? What the hell is wrong with her? Didn’t she believe me I could fix this?
Before I let myself get too worked up, I call Jessie on my cell phone. It isn’t until I hear the sleep in her voice that I realize it was probably too late to be calling her. Well, fuck it. If she didn’t want me to call her at two in the morning, she should have been honest with me.
“What’s wrong?” Jessie mumbles into the phone. She sounds so fucking sexy when she’s sleepy. It makes me wonder what it must be like waking up next to her. Seth is so damn lucky—he gets to wake up next to her every morning. He better appreciate it while he’s still got it. “Are you okay?”
“You’re quitting?” I hiss into the phone so I don’t wake up Lori.
There’s a pause and finally Jessie says, “Nick, it’s two in the morning.”
I hear an angry male voice in the background. Looks like I woke up the loser fiancé.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I say, louder this time. Lori isn’t waking up—the girl looks like she could sleep through a hurricane.
There’s another pause on the other line. “Look, this isn’t a good time to talk about this…”
“Meet me tomorrow for lunch then at Blue Moon. Noon.”
Jessie sighs. “Okay, okay. I’ll meet you.”
Good. It would have been a pain in the ass to show up at her work.
I hang up the phone, but I don’t feel settled. I need to figure out a way to keep Jessie singing at Cleopatra’s. And I need to figure it out fast.
During the entire subway ride to Blue Moon, I’m nervous about seeing Nick. I know he’s going to try to talk me into staying at Cleopatra’s, and it’s going to be difficult to say no. I want to stay at Cleopatra’s. I want it more than anything.
But at the same time, I don’t want Nick talking to people at my company to get them to keep me. I don’t want to be the woman at work with mob connections. It’s bad enough I’m the one who was a singer in a seedy nightclub. I’m sure Nick could put pressure on the higher ups to keep me by doing… well, whatever it is he does. But I have to convince him it wouldn’t be in my best interest.
When I get to Blue Moon, I approach the pretty brunette hostess, who smiles brightly in my direction. “May I help you?”
“Yes,” I say. “I’m meeting someone here… Nick Moretti?”
The smile slips from the hostess’s face. She looks me up and down, and the haughty expression on her face lets me know she thinks I’m nowhere near worthy of my lunch date. “Come with me,” she snips.
Nick is already seated at his usual table on the side. I take a few seconds to watch him before he notices that I’ve arrived, and I can’t help but marvel at the way he commands the room. Every single waitress passing by stops to smile at him, then they blush when he smiles back. Nick would say it’s because they know he owns the building, but I doubt that’s what it is. There’s just a quality about Nick that makes him seem… important. Powerful. Intense.
And oh my God, so sexy. Let’s not forget that.
He had that quality even back when we were kids—it was the reason everyone always did what he wanted them to do—but it’s a hundred times more powerful now. I know he worries that the fact that he obviously doesn’t have the ability to walk diminishes the respect he gets, but it’s clearly not the case at all. The wheelchair doesn’t take away from his impact.
I’m not sure if Nick himself even realizes how he comes off to people. Not to say he doesn’t know—he does have a certain confidence that’s part of his appeal. But I think his intensity is even more powerful than he knows.
Sometimes I worry if he were to realize what he’s got going on, he might become dangerous. Right now, he doesn’t take anything for granted. He thinks through every decision he makes, and he’s never, ever cocky. Every success he’s ever had is earned.
Nick spots me and his eyes light up the way they always do. I remember the way he put his hand on top of mine just before that asshole Sidney interrupted us. His palm felt so rough compared to the way it used to be when he held my hand when we were kids—but in a good way. It was sexy. His hands felt so strong. My whole body was tingling.
He leaned in toward me, and for a moment, I thought he was going to lean forward and kiss me. I wanted him to kiss me. I was ready for it at that moment. I wanted him so badly, it hurt.
But now, in the light of day, I realize it’s better he didn’t kiss me. Women in real life don’t leave their fiancé for a hot mobster. They just don’t.
“Sorry I’m late,” I say as I slide into the seat across from him. “The subway got stuck. The lights went out and I’m pretty sure the guy standing next to me started to hump my leg.” I shudder. “You know how it is.”
“Actually,” Nick says, “I don’t. I don’t take the subway. For obvious reasons.”
The obvious reason being that it’s hard to manage the New York subway in a wheelchair? Or because he’s got his own car and a chauffeur?
“Consider yourself lucky,” I tell him.
He just shakes his head. “Have a drink. What do you want?”
“Oh no.” I wag my finger at him. “I’m staying sober for whatever you want to say to me.”
He smiles crookedly. “What do you think I’m going to say?”
“I’m not sure, but…” I hesitate. “I don’t want you to talk to my boss. Or anyone at my company. I know you think you can convince them, but… I don’t want you to. Trust me—it’s better to let it go. It’s not that big a deal.”
“First of all,” Nick leans forward, his dark eyes meeting mine, “it is that big a deal. And second of all, I wasn’t going to offer to talk to your boss.”
He shakes his head soberly. “I was going to offer to kill him.”
Oh my God. No.
My mouth falls open and I look around to make sure nobody heard. “Nick…”
“Of course,” he says, “you’ll have to plant the gun for me somewhere. Maybe a bathroom. But just point me in the direction of his office and…” He points two fingers at me. “Bada bing, bada boom. Then you get to keep singing.”
I’m actually not entirely sure he’s joking until I see the smile spread across his face. I smack him in the arm. “Not funny, Nick.”
He leans back in his chair, chuckling. “What’s disturbing is you thought I meant it.”
“No, I didn’t,” I huff.
“Jessie, you got white like a sheet.” He still has that amused expression on his face. “What—you really think I’d kill someone?”
Do I? I look at Nick’s handsome face, the same face I’ve known since I was fourteen years old. He’s a good person—that, I know. He’s saved me plenty of times. I’ve never seen him do anything I thought was morally wrong. I can tell he treats all the people he works for really well, which is why they all like him so much. But I can’t deny that he obviously has some connections to the mob. Very intimate connections. But do I think he’s capable of killing someone?
Yes. I do.
In fact, I believe there’s a reasonable chance he already has.
“Jessie.” The smile fades from his face. “That was a joke. I’m not a mob boss. You believe me, right?”
“Of course I do,” I lie.
And that’s why Nick and I can never happen.
“So here’s the deal.” Nick shifts his weight in his chair. “A girl we got performing at my other club, Tootsie’s, just quit. She was doing three nights a week. If you take over her spots in addition to Cleopatra’s, I can pay you three times what you’re making now. With benefits.” He raises his eyebrows at me. “That’s got to be close to what you’re making at your job, right?”
“Pretty close,” I agree.
“Good.” He nods like it’s all settled. “You quit your job and come work for me instead.”
My mouth falls open. “Quit my job? Are you kidding?”
“Well, why not?” He shrugs. “You love to sing, and you’re really good at it. Why not do what you love?”
“Because…” I struggle to come up with a reason because he’s actually making a very good point. “Isn’t Tootsie’s a little more… risqué than Cleopatra’s?”
That makes him hesitate. “Okay, yeah. It is. But it’s not like you’d be singing naked, Jessie.”
“Well, that’s a plus.”
“You got the body for it.” His eyes dip down to my boobs, then quickly go back to meet my face. “I’ll make sure whatever you wear is tasteful. If they make you wear anything you don’t like, they’re going to answer to me.”
For the first time since Rob laid down that ultimatum for me, I feel a bubble of excitement in my chest. Singing every night would be a dream come true. And getting to quit my stupid boring day job to live out that dream… well, there are no words.
But at the same time, I’m still hesitant. Even though Nick wouldn’t be my direct boss, it’s troubling to know that he’ll be the one essentially paying my bills. It doesn’t take a genius to know it’s a mistake to give a guy who’s in love with you that kind of power. He’ll deny it if I ask, but there must be strings attached to that offer.
Also, there’s another concern. Eventually, Nick’s going to meet another girl. He’ll fall in love with someone who isn’t me and he won’t obsessively show up to every single one of my shows. It’s inevitable. And when that happens, he won’t be around to make sure the owner of Tootsie’s doesn’t make me perform in a string bikini or worse. I’ll be the least of his concerns.
But to hell with it. I’ve been trying to make logical decisions my whole life, and look where it’s gotten me. Why shouldn’t I go with my heart this time?
Nick raises his eyebrows at me. “We got a deal?”
I hesitate only one more second before I nod my head yes.
His face breaks into a grin. “Great. Shake on it.”
He holds out his right hand to me and I take it in mine. And just like every time my skin touches his, my body starts to tingle. I’m sure Nick shakes hands a hundred times a day, and he probably didn’t mean it to be more than a simple handshake. He didn’t realize that just feel of his large, warm palm against mine would make my heart speed up this way.
Our eyes meet across the table, and I realize that I’ve kept my hand in his far longer than is normal or appropriate. I yank my hand away, my face burning. Why does Nick always do this to me? I thought with my wedding fast approaching, my feelings for him would fade away. Instead, it seems like every look and every touch gets me more wound up. Why can’t I keep myself from wanting him? What’s wrong with me? Maybe it was a mistake to agree to work for him. Maybe I’m tempting fate.
But I can’t back out now. We’ve already shaken on it.
To be continued…