Clara didn’t think Cupid would shoot his arrow in a nightclub when she chose Club-67 as her destination, but she was in a daring mood and wanted a taste of well-made cocktails, so she flashed her sultry smile at the doorman and sashayed straight to the bar.
“Long Island, please,” she said, and shot the bartender a smile when he set the cocktail in front of her. “Thank you.” Savouring the first delicious sip, she spun the stool and allowed her gaze to roam.
When it came to nightclubs, Clara considered there was the glitzy and sleazy, the classy and upscale, the lavish and celebrity, and then there was Club-67. It had flash, style, opulence, and all were separated into the three compartments of the club. At the main bar room where she was, the music was softer, the patrons sat at tables or around the bar, and you paid a little more for courteous service and glamour.
He sat at a middle table on the row that ran along the painted glass windows, and unlike others, he was alone.
Alone. His rock glass raised, and his gaze on her.
A soft caress, like a sweeping wind, brushed her skin.
Only that, nothing more.
Her heart did not skip a beat. The earth did not shudder under her feet. She could still hear the muted beats of Tiwa Savage’s Dangerous Love, and her side vision caught a glimpse of the man in hood as he took the stool next to her.
Impulse, not spontaneity, or the hunt for Cupid’s arrow pushed her off the stool and moved her in his direction. With each step, his features became more discernible and her reactions to him more definitive.
Dang, don’t you just love it when a man had hair?
And his was a low afro, buzzed at the sides, and facial hair that softened his angular face. Added enigma to his look, too.
As for his eyes, they were unfathomable pools of dark water.
A dark shade of brown or simply black?
Under the coloured lights she couldn’t make out their colour. But she could the attraction in them. The unwillingness to shield what they revealed. And the strength of will that kept him from breaking their gaze.
Or taking a sip, Clara mused. Her entire body was a riot of sensations by the time she reached him. The brush over her skin had become tingles and found its way into her tummy, jittery as it sought to settle. Somewhere in the middle of these sensations, a burn kindled in her female parts spreading heat.
Well, now, she thought, aren’t you a pleasant surprise?
“Happy Valentine’s Day. May I sit, or are you waiting for someone?” Her smile was flirtatious.
He drank then, his eyes—and they were rich brown chocolate—unwavering from hers.
“Tonight, I’m not.” Lowering the glass, he nodded for her to sit. “Ronald Silas.”
His voice was faintly growly and immensely seductive. “Ronald. That’s a name you don’t hear every day.”
The slight manner he cocked his head made her smile. “Not around these parts. I’m Clara Ani. I’m not a call girl on the hunt for a client, or a desperate spinster in search of Mr Right, or a damsel in distress in need of a knight in shining armour.”
His gaze flickered. “What are you?”
“A woman hoping to be struck by Cupid’s arrow.” She finished her cocktail, raised a hand to catch the attention of a waiting staff and requested another. “Do you believe in love?”
“I’ve believed in it since I was a girl, but somewhere along the line I lost my faith and only found it again tonight.”
“Why, because it’s V-Day?”
“I think it’s because my boyfriend was at the point of proposing and it occurred to me, and totally out of the blue, that I didn’t want to be forever with a man I wasn’t in love with. I hurt him, and wish I wouldn’t have to do so again.”
“You have a boyfriend, who wanted to propose to you?”
“I know. Here I am, having flounced over to—”
“I don’t think you flounced.”
Clara paused to consider him curiously. “You don’t?”
“You sauntered, I would say. But when you walked in, you strutted.”
“You saw me when I walked in?” Well now, wasn’t that interesting?
“I did.” He picked the Jack Daniels and topped his glass. “You were telling me about the boyfriend who was aiming to propose.”
“So I was.” Clara grinned. She liked him. She didn’t know him. Her body was a tingling mess because of him, and she wasn’t yet sure that was a good thing. But she liked him. “I couldn’t allow him to do it when no would be my answer.”
“Stopped him, and hurt him nonetheless.”
“This happened—Please, say some other day other than this one?”
She had to laugh. “It would be less damnable if it wasn’t today, wouldn’t it?”
“You broke your boyfriend’s heart on Valentine’s Day and came to a nightclub in search of Cupid’s arrow.” He inclined his head. “I think I’ve heard of crazier things. I could offer you the free advice that you’re unlikely to find love here, though.”
“You don’t think you and I stand a chance?” Although her eyes danced with fun, Clara meant the question.
His mouth curved with his first smile. “Not a chance. I’m taken. Unlike you, I didn’t break up with her tonight.”
“Good for you, and her.” When his cheeks dimpled as they did now, he went from loosely good-looking to heartbreakingly gorgeous. “You don’t believe in love. So, you’re not in love with her. Does she know?”
“She knows I’m committed to her. For her, that’s what counts.”
“For you too, apparently.”
“It was the same for me until this evening, and while a part of me wants that to be the case again, I want the experience of the magical. That single moment of it, and the forever knowledge that you have it.”
“What difference do you think it will make, falling in love?”
“I’ll only know when I experience it.” To catch herself from adding ‘with you’, Clara picked her cocktail and took a long sip. “Why are you here alone and not with her?”
“She’s out of town and I wasn’t in the mood for an evening indoors.”
It was foolish to be jealous of a woman she didn’t know, to wish she didn’t exist. Clara let herself be foolish, for the evening.
“I’m curious, and hope it doesn’t kill me.” His mouth gave a little twitch, and it took more willpower than she knew she possessed not to lean in to capture it. “What did you think when you saw me strutting in?”
“She’s sexy in that lemon green dress and strappy heels.”
He said it offhandedly. But in his eyes was liquid desire and for a second it trapped her response in her throat.
“Do you often think other women are sexy?”
“I rarely think of any other but her. I don’t permit myself to do so, you see,” he added after a pause.
“But you did tonight.”
“No, I didn’t. I thought it without thinking to think it.”
A smile came on at the phrasing. “I believe they call it attraction. No one can control it.”
They stared at each other. And Clara realised it was possible to be hot and not break out in sweat. At least not on visible body parts.
And it wasn’t sweat between her thighs.
“I can’t remember ever feeling like this,” she whispered.
“Like my life is on the brink of change and I’m confused what move to make.”
“Allow me to help. We will finish our drinks, say our goodbyes and part ways, never to see each other again.”
How she wished he’d said something else. Or done something. “That would be wise. I’m not a poacher, after all.”
“As I’m not.”
She picked her cocktail, clinked their glasses. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Ronald.”
“To you, too, Clara.”
Holding each other’s gaze they drank, and Clara could have sworn she felt her heart shiver.
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