Taken by the Italian Mafia(3)

By: Sadie Black

"You make a good drink," he remarked. It was all he said before he turned and made his way back through the crowd. In his wake, people flooded the bar again. Whatever influence the man had over them was gone, but Whitney was still under his spell.

"Cassie," Whitney called out, "did you see that?"

Although they stood only two arm lengths from each other, Cassandra was busy with her own clients. She looked over at Whitney, shrugged, and turned back to her work. What passed between Whitney and the stranger in the suit had strictly been shared between them. Whitney wasn't sure if she'd been imagining it all or not. Maybe that shot she'd slung back had been a little too potent.

When she looked back into the crowd to try to see him again, he was already gone.

Skin prickling following the encounter, already in a better mood, Whitney worked with enthusiasm. Friday night brought out the thirstiest crowd, and if she wanted to prove that she was still worth keeping on the payroll, she needed to do a good job.

One song faded into the next, the bass throbbing in the floorboards and rattling in her chest. Cassandra swept her blonde hair up into a high ponytail and flashed a little more skin. The crowd thickened. The club grew busier. People milled by the bar now, a sea of hands trying to wave her down to place their orders. Whitney was relieved to see reinforcement arrive. Lily, a sweet brunette who'd been working at The Avenue for eight months, ducked beneath the division between bar and club.

"Thank God you're here," Whitney called out. "I'm gonna take the dishes back and bring out a clean set. Take care of the crowds for a sec, okay?"

"You got it," Lily replied. Whitney pulled the plastic crate of dirty dishes off the shelf and cut out from behind the bar to get to the kitchen entrance. So far, the club had been insane. Despite the tips she'd lose now that Lily was here, Whitney was glad for a chance to catch her breath.

Whitney scanned the crowd. People were always interesting to watch, but tonight was different. Tonight there was one man in particular she was interested in seeing again. Was he here with friends, or was he flying solo, looking for a good time? The answer would say a lot about his character, and she was dying to get to know more of the story he teased her with behind those blue eyes.

"'scuse me, chicky," a man grunted as he passed. His muscular frame towered well over six feet. At first Whitney mistook him for one of the bouncers. When she turned her head to watch him make his way towards the floor, she knew she'd been mistaken. The midnight color of his skin was one she hadn't seen before. Some of The Avenue's bouncers were dark, but none of them came close to how pigmented this man was.

From across the crowd, tall, white, and handsome emerged. Whitney perked up and paused by the kitchen door to watch them. So he was here with friends. Maybe the muscular man was his bodyguard?

She watched as her blue-eyed heart stopper approached Mr. Midnight skin. The two of them changed direction and walked off to the back together. It wasn't long before the crowd swallowed them, and she lost sight of where they went.

A bodyguard. Whitney grinned to herself, more mystified than ever. If he was worth personal security, her stranger had to be more than a model. It was a long way from Los Angeles, but there was still a chance he could be an actor. More likely, he was just an attractive man who had a beefy friend, and the two of them were out for a night on the town. What hot guy didn't have a good wingman, after all? It was all part of the game she saw night after night.

Putting the thought of him aside, Whitney saw herself into the kitchen. The more time she loitered, the less money she'd be bringing home — and with her job potentially on the line, she needed every dollar she could get.

* * *

Chapter Two


"A black Russian."

The Avenue was too loud. Rocco had never been to the popular nightclub before, but already he found the hype overrated. For the average man looking to overspend on drinks, and try his luck with a beauty swaying on the dance floor, this was the place. But Rocco wasn't average, and he wasn't looking to score.

Before his attention wandered, the bartender slid the finished drink across the counter. Dark liquor swirled over ice, catching the flashing lights from the dance floor hypnotically. Expensive clubs like this were notorious for cutting quality to turn a buck, but Rocco had heard good things about Liam. The man had his flaws, but running a business wasn’t one of them. From time to time, when he went over the ledgers with his father, he remarked the profits The Avenue turned for them. Liam was an asset, that much was clear. With any luck, his drinks would be as top notch as he was.

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