Read the Excerpt
~ 1 ~
The problem with martinis is, although they look and taste fabulous—plus low carb, if done right—the steep slope of the glass makes them easy to spill. Disaster in the making.
Particularly on the second round.
Being a cautious sort, if only in this arena, I sipped at mine before taking another step and used the opportunity to survey the club’s offering of masculine company. And to let them get a good look at me. Take the spotlight when you can because there’s always someone meaner ready to upstage you. The bright bounce of lights glanced off a good set of shoulders here—and ooh, a very nice ass in black jeans there. A table of guys gave me a long look as I passed and I pretended not to notice, though the dark-haired one could be a possible.
“Any likelies?” Amy asked, taking the fresh drink from me as I got to our table, blowing me a kiss of thanks. She wore a lacy black sheath she’d designed in her spare time and made from remnants at her job—and she made it look like couture, the talented bitch.
I set down my own glass. “Nobody stands out as fabulous. But the table over your right shoulder might have potential.”
“The night is young,” Ice observed, scanning the dance floor below with dark eyes. She’d refused another round, as had Julie. Both of them still nursed their first drink, though Ice—Anaisa, though only her professors called her that—was theoretically not supposed to drink alcohol. She made a regular practice of doing all the things her family disapproved of, which was fairly easy since most of them lived elsewhere, some of them in India. Marcia didn’t drink at all and she clutched her seltzer, clearly wishing to be at home. It was a rare Friday night that I didn’t have a show, Julie wasn’t slaving in her restaurant, and everyone else was free, too, so we’d talked Marcia into coming out with us instead of staying behind in our empty house. But no one could force her to have fun.
Believe me, I’d tried. My own personal sacred mission. Saint Charley, that’s me.
“I gave the bartender Marcia’s number though,” I added, because I couldn’t resist. The girl needed poking. “He said he wanted a virgin sacrifice for some shamanistic ritual.”
“Oh, ha ha.” Marcia at least transferred her black look from the seltzer to me. “There’s nothing wrong with saving myself.”
“Saving is economical.” Amy nodded, making a serious face.
“A virtue, even.” Julie licked off the end of the plastic gecko tail the Lizard Club used for drink stirrers. “Unless you count hoarding. Then it turns ugly.”
“Oh my god. That show is riveting.” Ice shuddered. “I’m horrified but I can’t look away. Even in reruns.”
“It’s a disease.” I deflected Marcia’s glower of warning with my best Julia Roberts angelic smile. It’s a good one. I’ve practiced it. “You can’t judge people like that—just give them your compassion and try to help. Or refer them to social services.”
“Charlotte Emory, I’m going to crawl across this table and strangle you if you don’t shut up,” Marcia growled.
I batted my lashes at her. “What? I’m just trying to help.”
“Well, you’re not. I’ll find the right guy sooner or later.”
“Sooner is more likely with you pried out of the house,” Ice noted.
“And later than anyone we know,” Amy toasted her with a martini already half gone.
“Than the rest of the known universe.” Julie poked Marcia with the gecko tail, which at least diverted Marcia’s attention onto her.
“I hate all of you.” Marcia folded her arms. “Why don’t you go dance already?”
“Hello, ladies.” Ooh, right on cue, Mr. Dark Hair had come through. His gaze fell on me and I returned his very charming smile. “Wanna dance?” he asked me.
Yes. Yes, I did.