It was Ladies Night and we were busy. I don’t know if it was the two for one cocktails, Saturday night from 6 – 8pm, or our regular clientele that had the place packed. One thing was for sure, those regulars were enjoying the attention. You would think these women had never seen a real man before, the way they fluttered around and giggled. The way they exposed too much skin.
This was the third week of the promotion and our busiest so far. Some of the women had even started coming in during the week, much to the delight of the Wolf-pup. Profits were up and I’d even learned how to mix a few drinks. I threw together a couple of cocktails, cracked the tops on a couple of beers and took money from an over made up red head. That’s right. the women were buying the men drinks!
I didn’t get it. I was all for equality, women’s rights, equal pay, all the good stuff. But watching these women pursue these men who loved the chase, loved the hunt? It was strange to say the least. Despite my best intentions my eyes sought out the Wolf and I wondered, not for the first time, if I had it wrong. He seemed to enjoy being chased and he sure as hell hadn’t done any hunting lately.
He’d been in every night since that night he’d asked me to dinner and I’d said no. Oh, did I mention we had a new bartender too? A pretty blonde named Dulcie. She was quite taken with the Wolf and flirted with him shamelessly, so I had overheard him telling her how busy he was at work and how he went straight from work to the bar for a relaxing drink. One that she was quite happy to supply as he sat on her side of the bar now.
Me? The first few nights he greeted me with a, “Hey Poppy.” Then for a week I got a small smile and a nod. For the last few days though, nothing. Or a question. “Where’s Dulcie?” Right now she was beside me, glaring in the same direction I was looking as the redhead I had served handed him a beer and sat down at his side. I saw him smile then tip back his head and laugh at whatever the woman had said to him.
I turned away, to serve another customer, to stop looking at him, to stop caring. I smiled and poured drinks, I ignored Dulcie’s comments about the trashy redhead, and I watched the clock. Happy hour ended with a rush for drinks, the bar was packed and noisy but at 8.15 I looked to the pup who gave me a nod and I walked away from the crowd. Usually I just took a table in the bar and ate something but there was no chance of that happening tonight. Instead I grabbed a bottle of water and bag of chips and headed outside for some fresh air.
I went out the staff entrance which led to a private courtyard with a small table and a few chairs. I sat down with a quiet groan and opened my snack wishing it was a burger and hot fries. At least the crunch was satisfying. I licked the salt from my fingers and reached for another.
“I see you still need someone to look after you Poppy.”
My hand froze inside the bag as I looked over to the door.
“You shouldn’t be out here. It’s for staff only,” I said shortly then turned away from him.
I heard the scuff of his boot on the ground and the aroma of fried food wafted to me. A plate slid onto the table opposite me then he filled my vision.
“Too crowded in there to eat,” he said with an easy smile and lifted a golden fry to his mouth.
I hated him then. For the food he was consuming, for the time he’d spent with the women inside the bar, for the words he’d exchanged with Dulcie, but most of all for not seeing me.
I snorted rudely and shoved a chip into my mouth, crunched it loudly. “I’m sure you could find a seat if you wanted.” I grabbed my bottle of water and took a mouthful, watched him watch me as I drank then crunched another chip.
“I found the seat I wanted. There’s more privacy out here anyway.” He lifted the burger from his plate and took a big bite.
We ate without speaking, me crunching and him making the occasional sound of pleasure. I tried not to stare at his mouth when he licked a smear of sauce from his lips but the glint in his eyes told me I’d failed. And his eyes, a light shade of brown that seemed to glow gold in the dim light, held mine relentlessly.
A smirk touched his lips and he looked down at his plate as I sucked in a breath.
“That was great,” he sighed with satisfaction as he bit into another chip. “You know you should eat something more than that right? It’s busy in there.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.” I rolled my eyes and grabbed the empty packet as I stood up.
“That because you’re too busy watchin’ me Poppy darlin’?” he asked lazily, looking up at me.
“Hardly,” I scoffed and though I should have walked away, I didn’t.
Instead I stood there like a fool, like a star struck girl, as he stood up and collected his plate then walked towards me. He stopped in front of me, so close I could feel the heat of his body, smell the perfume on his skin, see the individual whiskers in his stubble.
“Well looks like I got to have dinner with you after all. Thanks for the date darlin’.”
He grinned as I stared at him in shock, the audacity of the man. The outrage must have shown on my face as he laughed then quick as lightning reached up and pulled my hair.
I knocked his hand away with a snarl but his smile didn’t falter. “Don’t touch me!” I brushed by him to the door and opened it with a little too much force but before it could rebound and hit me he was there, holding it open. He was standing too close again and I breathed in and felt sick to my stomach. I shook my head and a strangled laugh escaped me, his eyebrows went up in question. “You reek,” I said with disdain. “Tell your girlfriend she wears too much perfume.”
His mouth opened but this time I was smart enough to walk away, not wait around for his reply. I made my way back to the bar to find Dulcie glaring at me. It was too busy for her to speak to me though and ten minutes later she went on her break so I got another reprieve. Then I got to watch Dulcie saunter up to his table then join him and the redhead and all their friends.
She came back from her break with a wide smile and an extra bounce in her step.
“Poppy could I ask for a huge favour?” She clasped her hands together as if she were begging and I shrugged non-committal. “I know I’m meant to stay until close this week but could you swap with me?”
I looked away from her hopeful face to find a golden eyed wolf watching me, his chin lifted in challenge, daring me to say yes or to say no to Dulcie? She was saying something about being invited to go to a club, something about dancing, something about her chance.
I interrupted her with a nod and a smile. “Sure Dulcie. Clear it with the bossman and I’m in. I could use the extra money anyway.”
She gave a squeal of happiness and rushed over to the pup. An hour later they walked out, a happy laughing group. Except for the tall dark man who held the door and smiled easily at everyone except me. When he looked at me he glared and bared his teeth and I wondered how no one else could see the truth of him Then I blinked and he was just a man again but his lips were moving and I could have sworn I heard his voice.
Do you know what I thought he said? “I’m coming for you Red.”
I touched the ring I wore, looked at my reflection in the mirror behind the bar, and knew I had to be wrong. He didn’t see me, he didn’t know me. I was sure of it.