My friend Jan and I challenged each other to write a short story. The only sentence we had was “she spills a drink on him.” Here’s mine!
Flashing lights, too-close bodies, and pounding music only exacerbated Julie’s headache as she pushed through the nightclub crowd. Keeping the pleasant look on her face was growing increasingly difficult as the throbbing of her headache was matching the beat of Usher filling the club.
Ignoring her discomfort, she moved along the perimeter of the club. Eyes flicking over each face in the ever-moving crowd, she was on high alert. It didn’t help that most of the people tended to look alike in the dim lights and their black leather jackets.
Twice she thought she saw him, but was disappointed when she got closer. None of the dark-haired men was the one she looked for. If she didn’t find him tonight she was going to have to rethink her strategy.
After stopping at one of the bars, she continued her prowl through the club. When she realized it was impossible to drink her club soda while moving through the crowd, she fought the urge to shriek. Her frustration level was growing along with the intensity of her headache.
Giving up after her third trip around the bar, she moved out of the crowd and looked for a place to sit. Settling on a precariously high bar stool, she took a long pull of her drink. Among the reflections of the booze bottles on display, she caught site of herself and stifled a groan. The winter dryness had caused her hair to frizz and, apparently, she had raccoon eyes.
“Damn,” she muttered, swinging off the bar stool.
“Damn!” she repeated louder as she found herself pressed against someone’s chest, with the remains of her drink dripping between them.
Strong hands wrapped around her and she strained her neck to look up at the man wearing half of her drink. “Whoa!” he grinned.
Opening her mouth to speak, she forgot what she was going to say when she looked into his deep blue eyes. While she stared, she noticed that he smelled of leather and pleasant cologne. Then she noticed that her mouth was still open.
“I’m so sorry!” She picked an ice cube off his crisp shirt and dropped it back into her glass. “I’m such a klutz!”
His smile broadened, crinkling the corners of his eyes. “No problem. Why are you in such a hurry?”
Between his eyes and his slow, warm voice, Julie found herself mesmerized. Her headache started to fade as she absently wiggled a little closer to his warmth. Realizing he expected an answer, she forced a laugh and stepped back. She moved far away from him so she could easily see his face, but not so far that he was forced to move his hands.
“No hurry! I was just going to walk around a bit.”
“Mind if I join you? I’ll get you a refill.”
She missed his warm hands the moment they were gone from hips. “Thanks…”
Watching him order their drinks, she caught sight of a dark-haired man out of the corner of her eye. Immediately, her attention returned to tonight’s mission: find him.
“It seems easier to go with the flow,” he murmured and guided her back into the circling crowd.
She craned her neck, hoping to get another glance of the familiar dark-haired man. Realizing she had lost sight of him, she let herself be propelled back into the sea of moving bodies. As they slowly moved with the other people, she concentrated on the warm hand lightly gripping her elbow. Several people passed without her noticing before she shook her head, bringing her attention back to her quest.
“Are you here with anyone?”
The sound of his voice so close to her ear gave her goose bumps. She shook her head. Since the chances of her being heard amid the cacophony were slim, she left it at that.
“I just thought you might be looking for some one. You seem to be looking.”
Realizing her search was futile in the crowded nightclub, she shook her head again.
“Maybe we can find a place to sit. Keep your eyes open.”
She didn’t know how he did it, but he managed to move them easily through the crowd. He easily propelled her through the crow. By the time he pointed out the small sofa tucked into an alcove, she was more than a little annoyed.
“I had to push and shove my way through the crowd and it just parted for you. Who are you, Moses?” She sounded too loud in the sheltered alcove where the music and voices were a murmur.
He smiled and held out his hand, “Peter Jakes, at your service.”
“Nice to meet you, Peter. I’m Julie Maxwell.”
Peter settled on the sofa and studied the woman over the rim of his glass. She looked tired and more than a little nervous. Her eyes kept flitting to the people passing by. Everything about her body language said she was looking for someone.
“Do you come here a lot?”
She shook her head, “This is my first time. I thought I’d take a look around. I haven’t been in a club in a long time.” Her explanation sounded lame. She kept her expression neutral, fighting the urge to cringe. Or to blurt out what she was really doing in the club.
“So you came alone?”
She caught his bemused expression and was irritated by it. For some reason, she didn’t want him to think she was a night club regular. “I’m looking for my brother-in-law,” she blurted. “I think he’s cheating on my sister. She’s pregnant.”
His eyes narrowed slightly, “That’s tough.”
“Yes, tough.” Her eyes flicked over the passing crowd, missing his frown.
Peter’s eyes were covering the crowd also. But his years of experience hid his interest much better than Julie hid hers. Her every movement was designed to cover up the fact that she was searching the crowd, drawing even more attention to herself.
Unable to hide his amusement any longer, he drawled, “Don’t keep turning your head back and forth. Try moving just your eyes. It makes it less obvious.”
Her head snapped toward him. “What?” She wasn’t sure she had heard him correctly.
“He’s not here tonight. So you’re not scaring him off. But if you don’t learn to be more subtle, everyone in the club will know that you’re looking for someone.”
Again, she stared at him with her mouth hanging open.
He grinned, “Less obvious, Julie.” He leaned forward, removed the glass from her hand, and placed it on the table before them. Then he grabbed her hand once again was propelling her in front of him through the crowd.
Julie was sputtering by the time they were back on the street in front of the club. She spun around and tried blocking his movement, but her attempt to appear threatening was futile.
Instead of answering any of her questions, he reached into the front pocket of her jeans with two fingers and withdrew the parking stub. She fumed as the valet took it, running across the street with her keys jingling in his palm.
Before she managed to form a coherent sentence, he manoeuvred her into the passenger seat and was driving her car away from the club. They were two blocks away before she had the sense to be scared.
“Wait!” She reached for the steering wheel, but he blocked her with his right hand.
“Stop it!” He glared at her and pressed her against the seat with his arm. “We’ll be there in two minutes. Unless you manage to kill us by being reckless!”
Julie was surprised when he parked her car outside a brightly lit diner. Only three people were inside, but none of them paid any attention when they opened the door. The waitress behind the counter made a sweeping motion with her arm and told them to sit wherever.
Peter pushed her toward the back of the diner. Childishly, she thought about struggling, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. She wasn’t completely helpless, but he had managed to hold her tight against the car seat with one arm.
While he ordered, she studied him, gauging his danger-level. Realizing the odds were against him being a rapist or murderer, she started to relax a little. But her hackles rose once again when he ordered coffee for himself and an iced tea for her.
“You just look like an iced tea kinda gal,” he grinned when the waitress left and he saw her gaping.
“Bullshit,” she hissed. “What the hell is going on here?”
He watched her mentally running through her options. Her every thought and emotion was transparently displayed on her pretty face. When he saw a flicker of fear, he felt a flicker of guilt.
“Peter Jakes, FBI.” He slid the wallet holding his badge across the table toward her. When she didn’t move, he flipped it open to show her. “It doesn’t bite,” he chuckled.
“Why would an FBI agent kidnap me from a nightclub?” Her chin lifted and her sapphire blue eyes challenged him. Now her game face was in place and he could no longer easily read her.
“I didn’t kidnap you, Julie.” Tucking his badge back into his jacket, he held her gaze, “We’re both looking for the same man. I think it’s time we combine forces. Before you get yourself hurt.”