Rowan leaned her head back against the seat, glad to be out of the bar. Her head was killing her and she felt sick. She quickly rambled off her address to the taxi driver and he took off. She heard something hit the car and jerked forward as the car came to a sudden stop.
“Asshole!” The taxi driver shouted, honking his horn. The car jerked forward again and they were off.
Rowan turned her head to look back at the bar and saw the man from earlier staring after them. She shivered at the look on his face. She’d lied and told him she was going to the bathroom and had slipped out the back and called a cab. He’d been nice at first, but turned really handsy. After the crazy day Rowan had, she didn’t need that. She honestly didn’t even remember the guy’s name.
Something was seriously wrong with her. She grabbed her head and moaned. “I don’t feel so good,” she mumbled.
“Don’t you dare get sick in my car!” The taxi driver turned to look at her.
“Watch the road,” Rowan snapped. “I won’t mess up your car.”
“Better not or I’ll charge you double.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Rowan rolled her eyes. She reached in her purse and pulled out her phone. Maybe she should call her brother. He might know what to do. But then again, she could be wrong and what she thought happened could not have happened.
Her vision started going blurry and she felt lightheaded. She almost felt drugged. Then she gasped. Rowan quickly dialed her brother’s number.
“Hello?” His tired voice answered on the third ring.
“Rowan?” he asked.
“I need your help,” she mumbled.
“What’s going on? Where are you? What time is it?” She heard him turn on a light and knew he was reaching for his clock. “What the hell, Rowan? It’s 1:00 in the morning.”
“You know I wouldn’t bother you if it wasn’t important. I really need to talk to you. You have to come to my house. Something is wrong with me. I think the guy at the bar put something in my drink. My vision is going blurry, I feel weak and lightheaded and my words are getting harder and harder to say! Please Derek!”
“Some asshole drugged you? Where are you?”
“I’m in a taxi. He’s taking me home. We’re like three blocks away,” Rowan told him.
“I’m on my way. Don’t get out of the car until I get there. That guy might be following you.”
“Oh and Derek?”
“I think the guy drugged me because I heard him kill my boss.”
12 hours earlier…
“I so don’t want to go to work. My head is killing me and I need to sleep,” Rowan whined.
“Get your ass up! It’s your fault for staying out most of the night. Allen will kill you if you don’t show up for work. It’s 1:00 in the afternoon.”
“Amanda! I don’t have to be at work till 3:00! Let me sleep another hour,” Rowan grumbled. She pulled the pillow over her head.
“No! You told me you’d help me today!” Amanda snapped. “Now get up before I decide to get a bucket of water.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Try me,” Amanda dared. Rowan peaked out from under the cover and saw Amanda with her hands on her hip and a mischievous look in her eye. She knew her friend would follow through with her threat.
“Can’t I call in sick? I’ll just stay home and help you get packed. I can’t believe you’re getting married and leaving me here alone,” Rowan pouted.
“Oh hush! I’m moving like two blocks down. We’ll see each other all the time!”
“It’s not the same! I have to find a new roommate now! No way can I afford this rent on my own.”
Rowan threw her covers off and tossed her legs off the side of the bed. She sat up and stretched. Yawning, she stood and bent over to grab her ankles, keeping her legs straight. She made it her goal to be as flexible as possible. It helped her with her job.
She worked at a bar/strip club. It was a bar and restaurant during the evening and a strip club at night. Rowan danced for customers and that’s how she made a living. She never got completely naked and never fucked a customer. She had standards. Plus most of the guys were probably married or not looking for a relationship. Rowan was 23 and needed to settle down soon. She was taking classes during the day twice a week to get a better job. She wanted to be a teacher and work with kids. It was her goal.
Her brother definitely didn’t approve of her job and went for weeks not talking to her when he found out she was working at “The Pink Star”. He told her she was better than that, but dancing was what she was good at. And men loved to watch her. Even her brother couldn’t deny that her tips were really good. She was making enough money to afford rent, pay off her new car, and go to college. It helped that she rented with a roommate and that her car was used. It was new to her and she loved her Camry.
“Quit standing there and get your ass moving. Take a shower. You reek!” Amanda wrinkled her nose and turned to leave. “Oh and don’t forget! Today is laundry day and it’s your turn.”
“Shit!” Rowan cursed. Amanda was really giving it to her today. She grabbed some clothes and quickly took a shower. She didn’t bother with makeup or anything, she’d do that at work. She had her own station. Allen had given her her own room since she’d worked there for almost three years.
“You know you love me,” Amanda blew her a kiss, then spanked her ass as she left Rowan to gather her stuff.
Rowan was tempted to throw something after Amanda, but knew she’d just have to pick it up. She walked over to her dresser and pulled the top drawer open. She grabbed a hot pink tee that hung off one shoulder and a blue tank top. Next she opened the third drawer down and grabbed some clean underwear. She walked over to her closet and grabbed a pair of skinny jeans that made her ass look great. As she turned around, she surveyed her room. It was decent sized, with a large closet, a dresser, a makeup desk that she used for homework. Her queen bed, a trash can that matched her pink walls and a bedside table that held a pink lamp.
Amanda constantly bought her pink stuff and Rowan didn’t bother trying to resell it, but used it as she could. She really hated the color pink, but damn if it didn’t look amazing on her darker skin with her darker hair.
Grabbing her phone, she walked out of her bedroom and down the hall to her bathroom. She shut the door with her foot and then pushed on it to make sure it closed. Amanda’s fiancé Blake showed up every now and then and had caught Rowan in a towel once. It had been more awkward for him, but she tried not to leave the door open anymore.
She quickly hooked her phone up to the Bluetooth speakers her brother got her for her last birthday and started playing an upbeat song. As she undressed and threw her clothes in the hamper, she started singing along. She turned on the shower, letting it warm up as she studied her complexion in the mirror. She had skin that people would die for, yet she hated it. It was just dark enough for people to ask if she tanned, but light enough not to be considered black. Her father had been black and her mom white. Derek was her half brother and sometimes he didn’t let her forget it. It hurt that he thought of her that way, but the two of them hadn’t been close ever since her mom had spilled the beans and told them that Derek’s dad wasn’t really her dad.
Tired of looking at herself, she made a funny face and then turned back to the shower. She pushed her chocolate brown hair over her shoulders and then pushed the shower curtain back.
After showering and getting dressed, Rowan headed into the kitchen to grab something quick to eat and then headed to throw in a load of laundry. After finding Amanda, they quickly got to work on finishing up her packing.
“What time is it?” Rowan called, having lost Amanda behind some of the boxes stacked up in their living room.
“It’s quarter till 3:00.”
“Holy shit! I have to go. Allen’s going to kill me if I’m late!”
“Thanks for the help. Me and Blake should have them out of here by the time you get home.”
“I’m going to miss you,” Rowan finally found her friend and pulled her into a hug.
“I’m going to miss you too. Take care of yourself. If I find anyone looking for a roommate, I’ll send them your way,” Amanda told her.
“Your hair is still wet,” Amanda wrinkled her nose, her trademark move.
Rowan rolled her eyes. “Whatever. It’s damp. And by the time I go on tonight, it will be dry.”
“Let’s get lunch tomorrow.”
“I’ll letcha know. I think Allen wanted me to come in again.”
“He just wants to fuck you.”
“You know it’s true. Now get your ass to work.”
Five red lights and two almost wrecks later, Rowan pulled into work ten minutes late. She grabbed her purse and started toward the front door, only to remember she forgot her phone in the car. She groaned and turned just as she heard loud voices. She spun to see three large black men yelling at each other. She quickly headed back toward the front door and scurried inside to safety. She would get her phone later. She saw Allen behind the bar and a couple customers already sitting down to eat a late lunch or early dinner.
“Where the hell have you been?” Allen growled.
“I’m sorry,” Rowan shrugged. “Traffic was a bitch and Amanda kept me occupied with boxes. You know she’s moving out.”
“I told you to move in with me,” Allen wiggled his eyebrows at her.
“You wish,” Rowan teased back.
“Get your ass to work. I don’t pay you to stand here and talk to me,” Allen told her.
“But I could do that all day,” Rowan winked at him. She grabbed a tray and headed toward one of the far tables.
Seven tables later, and two hours before it was time for the dancers to go on stage, Rowan was growing irritable and cranky. Two guys had already grabbed at her ass and one even spanked her. Allen was quick to get rid of them and she was grateful for that.
“What’s taking so long?” she hollered at Tanner, the new cook Allen had recently hired. He was young and took too long to fix things in her opinion. Some of the customers agreed and voiced their opinions loudly.
“Order up,” he set her order on the counter.
“’Bout damn time.”
“Rowan when you get done with that, come see me,” Allen came up beside her.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“I’ll tell you when I see you.” Rowan rolled her eyes, but then noticed that Allen looked a little pale. He was holding his phone in his fist and his knuckles were turning white. “Better ease up or you’ll crush your phone.”
Allen seemed to realize what he was doing and eased up on the phone. “Thanks.”
Before she could say another word, he spun on his heels and disappeared into his office. Rowan quickly set the food down and asked her customers if they needed anything else before going to another table that needed refills. She hollered at Jill to take over waitressing and then headed back to see Allen.
Rowan pushed into his office after she got no answer when she knocked. She didn’t see Allen, but she saw his phone laying on his desk and then heard a toilet flush. The bathroom off to the right of his office door opened and Allen stepped back in. He saw her and jumped almost a foot in the air.
“Fucking hell, Rowan! You almost gave me a heart attack.”
“A bit jumpy tonight aren’t we?” she teased, laughing. He didn’t laugh, but instead rubbed the back of his neck.
“I don’t need to see you anymore. I have some people coming by to see me. When they get here, show them where my office is. Don’t keep them waiting,” he commanded.
“Whatever,” Rowan told him, feeling a little pissed. Jill was possibly getting her tips while Allen was pissing in her boots. What was wrong with him tonight? Rowan quickly headed back out onto the floor. She had some time until they closed the restaurant and became a bar and dance area only.
“Finally!” Rowan sighed, two hours later. She was getting changed and almost ready to go on to dance her number of the night. After this she was done.
“Did you see them?” Jill asked her.
“See who?” Rowan asked, turning so Jill could zip up her top.
“The men that came to see Allen.”
“Of course I did, I led them to Allen’s office,” Rowan told her.
“That one bald dude was hot,” Jill fanned herself. Rowan spun around to face her.
“What ever you say, sister,” Rowan laughed. “I don’t fancy big bald dudes. He looked scary anyway.”
“He had muscle! Did you see his arms flex when he opened the door? Yummy!”
Just then a knock sounded on the door and Jimmy, their choreographer, opened the door. “Rowan five minutes.”
“Thanks. I’ll be there.”
Five minutes later she was on the stage and dancing her heart out. She listened to the cat calls and whistles, but they were pushed to the back of her mind. She lost herself in the music and moved her body to the beat.
When she came off the stage, she waited as Jimmy collected her tips and then came over and handed them to her. “I don’t know how you do that. You’re amazing,” he bragged on her. She smiled and took the money.
“Thanks. I have a great choreographer.”
“That means a lot. Keep me in mind when you become a backup dancer or a dancer in a music video or movie.”
“Whatever,” Rowan laughed. “I’m going to go change and then go hit up some bars. I’m feeling down tonight.”
“Oh I’m leaving my car at the house. Going to take a cab.”
“Smart girl,” Jimmy told her.
After changing and putting her money in her purse, Rowan headed toward Allen’s office. The music was loud in the Pink Star tonight and she turned to find Jill on stage. She whistled and waved and then knocked on Allen’s door. She wasn’t sure if he heard her, so she tried the knob. She raised one eyebrow when the door turned out to be locked.
Knocking on the door a little louder, she leaned her head against it to try and hear if anyone was on the other side. Rowan could hear loud voices and they didn’t seem to sound happy. She could have sworn that one of them talked in a foreign language. She turned, looking for Jimmy, but didn’t see him. Just as she was about to leave without saying goodbye, a loud bang went off. She jerked back, spinning around in circles to see if anyone else heard it. It seemed she was the only one. She stared at the door.
“Was that a gunshot?” she mumbled aloud. She shook her head. No way. She put her ear to the door again and gasped as the door jerked open and she stumbled into someone’s arms. She looked up to see the bald guy Jill had been talking about.
“Can I help you?” he asked, righting her on her feet.
“I was going to tell Allen goodbye.”
“He’s busy. Can I tell him who stopped by?”
Rowan tried to look around him, but the guy’s bulk took up a lot of the door space. She looked up to see his face and noticed him watching her. He took a step forward and she stumbled backwards. She didn’t fall, but wondered how she hadn’t.
“What are you doing?” the man asked.
“Oh nothing, just trying to wave at him.”
“I see,” his face darkened.
“Well I’m going to be leaving now. Tootles.”
Rowan turned to leave and felt a hand on her shoulder. She froze and looked over at the hand. “Yes?”
“I didn’t get your name,” he stated.
“I didn’t offer it,” she shrugged out from under his hand and pushed through toward the entrance. She turned once to find the door closed and the man gone and quickly pulled her keys out of her purse and stepped into the chilly late evening buzz of the city.
After climbing in behind the wheel, she pulled out her phone and dialed Allen’s number. It rang and rang and then finally someone picked up. “Allen! Hey. It’s Rowan. I didn’t get to say goodbye. It seems you were busy with your guests. I was wondering if you wanted me to come in tomorrow.”
That answer sent chills down Rowan’s spine. That wasn’t Allen. It was the bald guy again. Why had she been so stupid? Now he knew her name.
Not thinking, she quickly hung up and tossed her phone in the seat beside her. She backed out, not noticing the car that followed close behind her. Pulling into her drive, Rowan thought back to everything that had happened. It could have easily been a chair falling over. Allen wasn’t dead. That crazy bald dude hadn’t killed him. She was crazy.
Amanda wasn’t home. The house was quiet and no matter what, Rowan couldn’t relax. She definitely didn’t want to stay home alone right then, so she changed into a dress, heels and fixed her hair. Her makeup was pretty much done.
She called a cab and waited for it to show up. After they dropped her off at the bar, Rowan went straight to the ladies’ room. She made sure she looked okay, used the bathroom, and pasted on a fake smile. She turned her phone on silent, noticing that she had two missed calls from Allen. There was no way she was going to answer them right then.
The dance floor was packed and the music loud. It was almost midnight and the bar was a popular one. Knowing one of the guys that worked the bar, she had Armand hold her things and then melted into the crowd. She was having a good old time, dancing with multiple partners until one guy caught her eye. She’d seen him a couple times, but he always seemed to be staring at her. She crooked her finger at him and winked. He pushed through the crowd and came up on her just as a sexy upbeat song came on. He came up behind her and pressed his body against hers as she danced. She raised her arm, wrapping it backwards around his neck.
They were lost in the music. He grabbed her hips and moved them to the beat. Rowan let her head fall on his shoulder and enjoyed the moment as thoughts of earlier fled. When the song ended, they got a table.
“What’s your name?” he asked, flagging down a waitress.
“What can I get you?” the young looking girl asked.
“I’ll take a martini,” Rowan ordered.
“Just give me a Bud light,” the stranger smiled at the girl. She quickly disappeared and Rowan remembered he asked her what her name was.
“I’m Tommy. Nice to meet you.”
“You have some good dance moves,” she commented.
“Why thank you. They weren’t nearly as impressive as yours.”
“I’m sure,” Rowan teased.
“I wouldn’t mind showing you some of my other moves,” Tommy winked at her. Rowan laughed and shook her head.
“Wow, what a line.”
“You laughed! I mean it was a good one,” Tommy replied.
“I’ll give you that.”
The waitress arrived with their drinks. Rowan took a big drink of hers, almost chugging the whole thing. Tommy’s eyebrows about disappeared into his hairline.
“Trying to forget something?” he asked.
“Just a rough night,” Rowan told him. He smiled and took a sip out of his drink. Rowan quickly finished her drink and ordered a sex on the beach. The more and more they talked, the more Rowan drank. She was definitely feeling it and finally decided on another sex on the beach for her last drink.
“Look at that couple,” Tommy got her attention.
Rowan looked around. “Where?”
“The man with the skin tight jeans and the girl with the short skirt.”
“Oh my god! Is he fingering her?” Rowan spun back around just as Tommy’s hands disappeared under the table. She thought she saw something flash in his hand, but ignored it. Her drunk mind couldn’t process it.
“That’s what it looks like,” Tommy laughed. All of a sudden his hand rested on Rowan’s leg. “Why don’t we go somewhere more private?”
“I don’t do one night stands,” Rowan laughed.
“What if I don’t want to be a one-night stand?” Tommy’s hand slid higher.
“We’ll see,” Rowan replied. She hopped down off her chair, finished her drink in one swig and then turned to face him. “I’m going to the ladies’ room, save my seat?”
“Of course. Hurry back,” Tommy smiled at her.
Rowan went up to the bar to get her purse and then headed toward the back and the bathrooms. She saw Tommy was distracted and quickly slipped down the hallway and toward the back door. It said the alarm would sound, but she knew it didn’t. All the underage kids snuck out of here when the cops busted this place. She pushed the door open and pulled out her phone. She dialed the number for the taxi and waited for him to get here. When she saw him, she walked toward the front of the bar and quickly hopped into the car.
Rowan tried to stay in the car. She knew her brother would be pissed if she got out, but she was going to throw up. She threw the car door open, managed to remember her purse and phone and climbed out of the car. She heard the taxi man holler at her and realized she hadn’t paid him. Not paying attention to what she grabbed, she tossed some money at him. It must’ve been enough, because he sped off.
She walked toward her front door and dug around in her purse for her keys. Her walk was all messed up and it was a miracle she didn’t fall on her face. She finally found her keys and it took her at least two minutes to get the key in the hole and the door open. She stumbled down the hall, leaving the door wide open and made it to the bathroom just in time. She threw up, her body shaking. She slumped to the floor, letting the cold tile soothe her clammy skin.
She closed her eyes and they only opened when she heard the front door slam closed. She tried to get up, but didn’t do much good. She almost threw up again when the smell of her vomit hit her nose. She flushed the toilet and then turned toward the bathroom door. She saw a figure standing there and tried to make sense of who it was.
“No Rowan. It’s not Derek. Remember me?”
Rowan’s eyes widened and then she threw up again as she realized that it was the bald guy from the Pink Star.