The drinks sloshed as the guy behind the bar slid them across the bar top to us. I jerked back instinctively, dreading an inevitable mess, but they only spilled over a little. Before I could figure out how to ask for a napkin in Spanish, the bartender was on to his next order.
I picked up one glass and held it out as I took a sip, trying not to drip on my new dress. It was royal blue satin with a floral print and spaghetti straps. The fit had been what sold me—it came down to about mid-thigh and was low cut on top.
I’d just bought it from a local shop. It was way more than I’d planned to spend, but it was love at first sight, and I couldn’t pass it up. I realized too late that it might’ve been the wrong choice to wear to a crowded club.
Still, I was glad the bar was packed—distractions came easily.
Holding a drink in each hand, I took a few steps away from the bar to where Jordan stood and held his drink out to him, but he was looking the other way.
I followed his gaze to a couple who were all over each other, making out in such a way that it looked like they were trying to swallow each other’s heads.
I tried to look away, but I found my attention getting drawn back. The guy squeezed his lady friend’s ass, holding her hips against his and grinding himself against her. I felt a warm tingle and squeezed my thighs together.
Jordan’s expression was inscrutable when he turned toward me and took his drink from my hand, but I knew what he was thinking. Before he could say anything, I asked, “Do you feel like dancing?”
“Yeah, maybe in a bit,” he answered dismissively.
As I lifted the glass to my lips to take another drink, I looked down at it. It was already down to mostly ice after just a couple of sips. “Shit.”
I laughed more than the situation warranted, happy to have him looking at me the way he was, his mood lightening a bit. “I’m spilling and drinking faster than the bartenders can pour, apparently.”
He shook his head. “I think he spilled ten euros’ worth on the bar when he passed it to you.”
I scoffed. “Yeah, just about.”
“Do you want another?” Jordan asked, looking hesitantly back at the crowd packed around the bar.
I felt bad. “Maybe the bar in the back is a little less busy. Do you want to go check it out?” I asked, already turning to head that way.
“No, Lis, just wait. Look, are we just going to pretend our conversation from last night never happened?”
Fuck. I stalled by taking a big gulp from my drink, trying to formulate an escape plan.
Jordan watched and waited for my response.
Finally, I shrugged. “No. But it’s a little loud in here to continue it, don’t you think?”
“Let’s go someplace else then,” he suggested immediately.
I scoffed. “We just got here! And this place is supposed to be really fun! It has four and a half stars on TripAdvisor!”
Jordan shook his head and opened his mouth to object again.
That’s when I saw a couple getting up from a table about ten feet from where we were standing. “Ooh! Come here, look!” I yelled, grabbing his arm and pointing, not waiting for a response before I started dragging him over.
I just barely edged out a couple of guys who were also eyeing the table, practically jumping onto one of the stools. The couple before us had left their empty glasses, so I slid them over against the wall, not knowing when a bartender or waitress would have a chance to clear them away.
“I thought it was too loud in here for a conversation?” Jordan said, coming to stand beside my stool.
I looked back at him warily and shrugged. “You said you weren’t ready to dance.”
He looked back at me pointedly. After a beat, he sighed. “Fine. I’m gonna go find the bathroom and then get us another round. Hopefully, I’ll be back before sunrise.”
“Okay,” I said, looking around and gauging the likelihood I’d be able to hold the table and both stools by myself. I stretched my legs out under the table to the other stool and tugged it closer with my feet before resting them on the bottom rung. “If anyone tries to take this stool, they’re gonna have to take me with it!”
Jordan grinned, shaking his head. “Don’t get taken!” he joked as he turned to make his way through the crowd and across the bar.
I decided to people-watch while I waited for him to come back and caught snippets of yelled conversations in Spanish over the thrumming bass of the music. It was loud enough to make the wall next to me feel like it was vibrating, but the atmosphere was a lot of fun.
The crowd at the bar was growing, so I grabbed my phone from my purse and texted Jordan.
I did a quick Google search.
My mind wandered as I checked social media until a voice on the other side of the table interrupted my scrolling.
I looked up from my phone to see a guy smiling and gesturing to the stool my feet were guarding. “Uhhh…” I stalled, scrambling to translate my response. “Si...es ocupado, pero—”
“Do you speak English?” the guy asked in an accent that sounded American.
I laughed and confirmed. “What gave me away?”
He shrugged, smiling kindly. “Mostly the panicked look on your face. I know that look well.”
I laughed again and nodded, feeling a heat rising in my cheeks from his smile.
“So, this seat’s taken, then?” he asked again.
“Oh!” I forced myself to shrug off the thought of how his smile made me feel, literally shaking my head a bit. “Yeah, sorry. My friend is just at the bar.”
“No worries.” He smiled back. Then, instead of moving on, he took a step closer. “I could help you hold it until she gets back. And, you know, hang out in case you need any more expert translation help.”
I felt my eyebrows arch involuntarily. “Expert, huh?”
“Oh, yeah,” he confirmed. “I’ve already been here for like a week, so I have the language figured out.”
“Sounds about right,” I joked back with an eye roll.
“Seriously. Ask me to translate anything.”
I gave him a doubtful look but played along. “Okay. What’s this song about, then?”
He pricked up his ears to listen more intently, focusing on deciphering the lyrics through the insane bass and club noise. As he did so, the song switched to a verse in English, and he unsuccessfully hid a grin as he made a show of pretending to translate. “Ah, okay. So this part is saying, ‘Every time you leave, there’s only one thing that I know. You want me to stay, and I won’t…’”
I couldn’t help laughing, shaking my head. “That’s…amazing.”
“Right? I don’t know. I feel like I must’ve been born with a rare ability to just pick up languages naturally. It’s a special gift.”
“There’s definitely something special about you,” I joked, finishing the last sip of my drink. When I looked up, he was staring at me, interest evident in his eyes. My face heated once more, and at a loss for words, I swished the ice cubes around with my straw.
“Looks like you could use a refill,” he offered.
That’s when I realized Jordan had been gone for quite a while. “My friend was supposed to be getting me one,” I replied, looking toward the bathrooms, then scanning around the bar from there. I did a double-take when my eyes caught on Jordan’s orange baseball cap at the bar. He was just standing there, drinking and…watching. His gaze felt intense, even from a distance.
“Did she get caught up at the bar?”
I looked back at the guy standing across the table from me, not quite sure how to process what was happening. What were the odds that what Jordan and I discussed last night would actually present itself? “It seems like he did.”
His smile dropped perceptively when he heard my friend was actually a man. But he recovered quickly. “I could hold the table for you if you want to go try to catch up with him.”
I smiled, appreciating the kind offer. “Hang on, let me just text him to see what’s going on.”
I watched as Jordan lifted his phone to read my text.
“I’m Ben, by the way,” the guy in front of me offered, pulling the stool out to sit down.
My attention drawn away from Jordan, I managed to retract my feet just in time. Then I looked up at Ben. Something kept drawing my eyes back to his, a physical pull whenever he looked at me. Sure, he was attractive, but this went deeper than just physical attraction. It was like he had this powerful magnetism I couldn’t escape.
“Alisa,” I replied, my face heating once more.
He smiled knowingly. “That’s a pretty name. Where are you from?”
My phone vibrated with Jordan’s return text, and I looked down to read it.
Fuck. I read Jordan’s message twice but couldn’t let myself accept what I knew I was reading between the lines. This was how he was going to handle my avoidance, then?
“Everything okay?” Ben asked, once I’d gone a few moments too long without answering his question.
“Yeah, sorry,” I lied. I glanced across the way at Jordan before turning back to Ben. “I’m from Ohio originally, but I’m living in New York now.”
“Oh wow, that’s awesome. In the city?”
“Which do you prefer?”
I shrugged, feeling a bit distracted. “I guess Ohio still feels more like home, but I’ve been having fun getting to know New York..”
“Yeah, I bet,” he answered. Then, after a pause, “I’m from Vancouver, if you were wondering.”
Biting my lip, I smiled. “Sorry. I’m a little distracted trying to figure out what the hell my friend is up to.”
Ben looked over at the bar. “Which one is he?”
I pointed out Jordan, who waved casually at us from where he leaned on the bar. “Apparently, he’s giving us a chance to keep talking.”
A waitress came up to us then, seeming to appear out of nowhere to deliver a couple of drinks. “Courtesy of the guy in the orange baseball cap at the bar,” she said in English as she cleared the empty glasses from the table.
Ben lifted one of the drinks and thanked the waitress. Then, laughing, he held up the drink to gesture his thanks to Jordan as well. “He’s a good wingman.”
I snorted reactively. “Something like that.”
Ben took a sip from the fresh drink. “This isn’t some kind of trap, is it?” he asked playfully, his eyes betraying a hint of suspicion. “Am I about to get my ass kicked or something?” He looked back to Jordan, sizing him up and thinking aloud that he could probably handle him if he had to.
I laughed and shook my head. “No. I’m sure he’s just fucking around.”
Ben glanced back over at Jordan. “Is he just going to keep watching, then?”
Just then, my phone buzzed with another text from Jordan.
Fuck. I tried to cover up my shock, clicking my phone right off, but Jordan knew how to make me blush and squirm like no one else could. I could feel his eyes on me from across the room and imagined him whispering the suggestion into my ear rather than texting it.
I was powerless to resist. So, I decided to be bold. Looking back at Ben, I blurted, “Well, he knows I kind of like that sort of thing.”
Ben looked back at me, eyebrows raised, a slight smile forming on his lips. “Oh, yeah?”
I could feel my blush deepening as I nodded, but I held Ben’s gaze.
Ben’s face was inscrutable. There was a long enough pause to make me start second-guessing everything. What the hell was I thinking? “I’m sorry,” I said. “Just forget it. God, this is so embarrassing, I didn’t mean—”
“No!” Ben interjected. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to blow you off. Trust me. I’m just trying to figure out what you’re saying, exactly.”
I shrugged, aiming for the appearance of nonchalance to make the whole thing slightly less humiliating. “I don’t know. I guess I was trying to be sexy, but clearly, I’m just making a fool out of myself.”
“No, not at all,” Ben replied, his tone soft and reassuring. “You know you don’t really need to try to be sexy, right?”
I grinned appreciatively, feeling the flush returning to my cheeks.
“Do you want to dance?” he asked. “Your friend can watch if he wants.”
I laughed, feeling the ridiculousness of the situation I was putting myself into. Glancing toward the bar, I found Jordan easily. He was still watching. Waiting. I lifted my chin in a show of determination. Why not just let go? “Sure.”
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