Igniting Blaze

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Chapter 5

She woke and stretched. Her eyes opened as she realised that this action hadn’t resulted in her falling off the sofa. The bed beneath her was soft and warm, just like the man lying up against her. Although referring to him as soft wasn’t accurate. His firm body was wrapped around her, his front against her back, and his hard manhood was pressed against her so that it felt like she had a hot rod of steel burning a brand along her spine.

“If you nudge your bottom into me again,” he breathed into her ear, “We will both be in trouble.”

“Why am I here?” she tried not to move. She was still dressed in her pyjamas, but her shirt had ridden up and allowed his erection access to her bare skin.

“You fell off the sofa,” he sighed as he rolled away from her taking ‘it’ with him, “I’m surprised you didn’t wake, the whole house shook.”

“Are you calling me fat?” she growled as she reached for the alarm to turn it off before it started.

“No,” he scoffed, “That was a criticism on the house not you. I have made a thorough search of your body and haven’t found you to be fat. But if you want me to reassess?”

“That’s not necessary,” she said as she jumped out of the bed leaving him reaching for her.

“Not fair,” His eyes were lazy as he smiled at her predictable response, “I’m not sure how you’re going to get through the day without that knowledge. I can promise that my external and internal assessment will give you piece of mind.”

“I’ve got work,” she dragged her eyes from his naked body.

“I’ve come up with a new job for you,” he yawned as he stretched out all those gorgeous muscles and pivoted his hips so that his manhood stood taller, “Which I think will be good for you.”

“Let me guess,” she busied herself with finding her work clothes, “Does it involve me being dressed in a maid outfit and catering for your every need?”

“No, but good suggestion,” he smirked, “Actually, that’s a very good suggestion. We can do that too, if you want, but what I was going to suggest isn’t that exciting.”

“Forget I said anything,” she could feel her cheeks burning, “I’ll be late for work if I don’t hurry.”

“Don’t go,” he looked from the collection of clothing in her hands back to her face, “Don’t go to work today.”

“Don’t be silly,” she laughed, “You know I have to go.”

“Take some holiday, quit, don’t go in today,” he said the words without dropping his gaze, “I want you to spend the day with me.”

“What’s going on?” she asked, “Why today?”

“I have this thing,” he said cryptically, “I want you to come with me. It’s in the city. I have to go.”

“Some of us have to work for a living, Pretty Boy,” she rolled her eyes, “I can’t just drop everything and go with you.”

“Then quit your job,” his expression was serious with no trace of a smile, “I earn enough to support us. I don’t want you working there.”

“You don’t get to decide that,” she narrowed her eyes at him, “This is my life and my job we are talking about. I’m not quitting to become dependent on you.”

“Can I do anything to change your mind?” he dropped his eyes as he asked the question.

“No,” she frowned, “I’m not for sale, Pretty Boy. I’m a real person who has real person responsibilities. I can’t just forget those because you want me to run after you.”

“I have commitments too,” he said his eyes still on the bed, “If you’re here I won’t be able to see you until next week.”

“I understand,” she sighed, “I didn’t expect you to stay this long. I have to get dressed, I’m going to be late.”

He was dressed when she came out of the bathroom, washed, dressed, and ready for work. She tried to avoid his pained expression as she glanced at her watch. It was time to go. She frowned as she guessed that meant that it was time to say goodbye to him. That hurt more than it should.

“There’s something else I need to ask you,” his eyes were fixed on her and he looked worried, “I have this function that I have to attend. It’s a charity event. The guys will all be there, and Belinda, and I would like you to come with me as my plus one.”

“No,” her eye lifted to him as she delivered the blunt word. She paused as she watched his eyes cloud over, “I don’t do functions. I’m not that type of girl. I don’t do small talk, fake smiles, fancy people and I don’t drink. Functions and I don’t go together. You should take someone else.”

“There is no one else,” he said softly as he watched her, “It’s you or nobody.”

“I’m sure there will be plenty of single women happy to help distract you,” she grumbled as she looked away. “Look Drew, I’m not.”

Her phone started to ring which surprised her. The phone was used for ringing out on, no one rang her. She fumbled as she picked it up.

“Jen?” the voice on the other end she recognised as Ian’s, “Don’t come into to work today.”

“What?” she stiffened at his abruptness, “Why not? I’m not late. I was just leaving.”

“Don’t,” he said with finality, “Actually, frig, take a week off, let’s call it frigging holidays. Have a frigging break. Go somewhere frigging out of town.”

“But Ian,” she pleaded, “I can’t go on holidays. Where would I go? I can’t afford to go out-of-town. What about the cleaning? I can’t just leave.”

“Jen, let me,” Drew plucked the phone out of her hand and put it to his ear, “What’s up Ian?”

She watched his face.

“Of course, it’s me,” he scoffed, “It’s not yet seven am, who else would be in her bedroom at this time of the morning? Tell me what happened?”

His eyes darted around the room but didn’t look at her as he listened to the phone. His face didn’t give away any secrets.

“That little prat,” he finally muttered, “Alright. Be sure to tell them how pissed I am, and don’t play it down. I’ll text you my number, give me a heads-up if anything changes.”

He hang-up, sent a text, and handed her the phone.

“Excuse me?” she growled, “That call wasn’t for you.”

“Don’t call him back,” he put his hand over hers as she started pressing the numbers, “I’ll tell you everything. It’s stupid rather than threatening.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“You work with jerks and I took away their favourite play-toy,” he frowned, released a long breath then turned to her to explain, “Up until yesterday, you have been theirs to push around and bully. They have become accustom to having you defenceless and vulnerable.”

“You’re wrong,” she straightened her back, “I’m not like that. I don’t let them push me around.”

“Yes, you do,” he sighed, “It’s been going on for so long now that you don’t even see it happening. But yesterday I upset their apple-cart. I made it clear that I wasn’t going to let them do that anymore. They didn’t like that. When Ian rang, I thought they might have done something serious, but I didn’t expect them to be so stupid.”

“What did they do?”

“The idiots stuffed up and are blaming you,” he huffed then lifted his eyes to her, “The story they’ve told Ian is that the little ‘shitty’ guy, the one with a crush on you, felt hard-done-by. They all went to some bar to console him, and presumably plot their revenge, but instead they just got drunk. Then the other idiots let him drive home.”

“Oh, no,” she closed her eyes.

“Yeah, he ploughed his car into the Walmart sign, is in hospital with a broken leg, was arrested for DUI, and that’s your fault,” Drew growled, “Can you believe that?”

“You’re joking?” she sputtered.

“I wish I was,” he looked into the distance as he sneered, “Ian wants you to stay away for a week while it settles down. I agree with him.”

“But,” she turned to the door, “I can’t. I’ve got to go. I won’t run away.”

“This is not running away,” he put a hand on each shoulder, “This is being sensible. If you go in today that’s only going to stir the pot. Ian’s not going to appreciate it if you ignore him, and then he’s going to be forced into doing something that you don’t want him to do, right?”

“I suppose,” she mumbled.

“Look at it this way,” he dropped his head so that his eyes were level with hers, “Ian hasn’t fired you. Given what he said yesterday, that means he’s on your side. He’s asking you to do this so that he can manage the situation. Respect him for that.”

“Alright,” she closed her eyes, she had to admit Ian hadn’t sounded himself, he hardly swore once in that conversation which was unusual, “Point taken.”

“Spend the day with me today,” he said suddenly.

“Did you plan this?” she asked, this seemed to be convenient given his earlier request, “Is this your doing?”

“Be realistic Jen,” he scoffed, “I’m not going to break the guy’s leg just so as I can spend the week with you. And, I was here all night, my alibi is you.”

“Yes, but,” she looked at him suspiciously.

“Just come with me today,” he ignored her look, “I won’t bite.”

“No,” she moved backwards out of his grip, “No, it’s fine. I can just hang around here.”

“Jen,” he frowned as he said her name, “You’ll end up stewing. You need to get out of this house and take you mind off things. I have something to do but Belinda will be there too, so you’ll not be alone.”

“But,” she started to say.

“Come on,” he smiled, “We’ll have fun, I promise.”

“I’m regretting this already,” she grumped as he turned her and sent her back to change out of her work clothes.

He didn’t give her anytime to change her mind. Once she was changed out of her work clothes and had thrown some things in a bag, just in case, he shoved on the helmet, swung her behind him on the bike, and headed for Route-1. He drove fast through the traffic and back into the city and all she could do was hang on. Conversation was useless with the helmets, engine and wind noise, which left her time to think.

She’d never had any time off work. What did she want to do? What could she achieve in a week? It wasn’t like she could go anywhere, she had no savings, so she’d have a week hanging out in the flat. She started making a list in her head of all the things she could do. It wasn’t a long list and mostly involved catching up on sleep, binge watching television, and walking.

She must have been preoccupied by her thoughts because she was surprised when the motorbike pulled into an underground parking space and Drew turned off the engine. He helped her off and took the helmet from her as she straightened her clothing and tried to flatten her hair. She had no idea where she was.

Drew didn’t seem to notice. He secured the bike and, without saying anything, headed for the lift. She paused for a moment, then followed him. He looked relaxed and that gave her a degree of confidence. He wouldn’t take her somewhere unsafe.

She joined him in the lift as he pushed the floor number. He seemed deep in thought as she listened to the elevator music and wondered if it was a coincidence that this lift looked similar to the one in his apartment building. All elevators looked the same. It was just her imagination.

“This is your apartment?” she gasped as the doors opened to the floor she recognised.

“Yeah,” he sounded amused, “Where else would we be?”

“I don’t know,” she growled as he opened the door, “It’s not like you told me where we were going.”

“I promised that we would have fun,” he smirked, “Where else would we be going?”

She stopped in the doorway, teetering on her feet. Her eyes went to the bed which was still in the state they’d left it. The covers were on the floor, the bottom sheet was ruffled and showed the signs of an indent where he’d laid naked on it, and the three condoms still sat innocently on the side-table. She couldn’t help but turning her head to look at him, her eyes wide, but the rest of her body refused to move.

“Relax, Jen,” he laughed a deep warm sound, “I was joking.”

“You were?” her breath fell from her as she breathed for the first time.

“Yes, unless,” he let the word hang as he lifted an eyebrow suggestively.

“Pretty boy,” she growled the warning, “Behave.”

“For you,” his eyes sparkled, “I’ll be good, very good.”

“Why do you do that?” she narrowed her eyes at him as he shut the door behind her.

“What?” he asked as if he had no idea- what she was talking about.

“The flirting,” she frowned, “Why do you make everything about sex?”

“Because we were great together,” he shrugged one shoulder smiled and walked over to the kitchen, “And because I enjoy your reaction. You look adorable when you blush.”

“Adorable?” she scoffed, “Fabulous. Thanks for that.”

“Would you rather I said that you look as sexy as hell?” his eyes changed. The cheeky smile was still on his lips, but his eyes were serious as they bore into her, “I can do that if you want? But you might not like where it leads. I’m behaving, remember?”

“You’re impossible,” she rolled her eyes at him and looked away.

“You don’t believe me, do you?” he sighed, “Sorry about the state of the apartment. I ran out of here looking for you, which didn’t give me any time to clean up. As for today, I’ve got somewhere to be this morning, but I’d like you to come with me. I’m going to have a shower and change my clothes before we go.”

“Oh,” she blinked at his businesslike diatribe. Had she upset him somehow?

“Now,” he fixed his stare on her, “The last time I left you alone and went for a shower in here, you ditched me. Do I need to chain you to something?”

“Please,” she drew the word out, “Get that imagery out of your head, right now. There will be none of that, ever.”

“Never?” his eyebrow twitched, “That sounds like a challenge to me.”

“Pretty Boy,” she growled again as she pointed to the bathroom, “Go, get clean. And while you’re in there wash that filth from your mind.”

“You know that you love it,” he laughed. Then he pointed at the floor at her feet in the same way she was pointing at the bathroom door, “Stay, don’t leave. If you ditch me again, I’ll show you how filthy my mind really is, alright?”

“I’m not going to leave, I promise,” she dropped her arm and closed her eyes, “Just stop joking about that sort of thing.”

“I would,” he walked to the bathroom but before he closed the door he added, “If I was joking.”

He closed the door as she stood there, her mouth moving but no sound coming out. That man was infuriating. He drove her crazy with his teasing. And his hot body, let’s not forget his hot body. That was enough to drive any woman crazy.

She tidied the kitchen while she listened to the shower turning on. She needed something to distract herself from the fact that he was standing naked under a cascade of hot water. The water running down his skin in rivers and dripping off him, the soap forming bubbles and making him slippery. She could envisage his hands scrubbing his head, water and foam sloshing off him, and then moving in circular motions as they moved down his body cleaning all his corrugations.

She’d told him to clean his mind, there was some irony in that. She shook her head, trying to clear the fantasy. She was having enough trouble resisting him without having pictures like that in her head. She knew she was struggling but to do this was torturing herself.

She pushed herself to concentrate on cleaning. She’d just wiped the benches and was glancing at the bed, she didn’t want to go anywhere near that thing, when the knock on the door surprised her. She looked at the closed bathroom door. The knock came again. He wasn’t coming out. What was she supposed to do?

“Drew? It’s Sam,” the male voice outside called, “Open the door mate. I know you’re here. If you don’t open this door, I’ll use the spare key I have.”

She remembered Sam from the other night. He was Drew’s friend. Why was he so desperate to get in? He sounded worried, not threatening, as she glanced once more at the bathroom door. The shower was still on.

“Drew,” Sam’s voice continued, “I know that you’re in a bad place. Don’t block us out. We are here for you. I’m coming in now.”

Why did he say that? She didn’t think, she just reacted. She found herself opening the door. The question was still on her lips, when she saw him. His hand was raised with a key in his fingers, as he occupied the doorway. He was tall, as expected, but looked like a Viking warrior. His blonde hair wasn’t long but wasn’t short either, it’s just-been-out-surfing blonde shagginess suited him.

“Jen?” his face searched for a moment before finding her name, “It’s Jen, right? Belinda’s friend, Jen? What are you doing here?”

That was a good question. And it was a question she should have expected. She hadn’t thought about an answer for that when she’d opened the door. She’d been focused on finding out why Sam thought that Drew was in a ‘dark-place’ and didn’t think about her situation.

Sam pushed past her and took one look at the bed in the studio apartment and his eyebrows rose almost comically. He turned to her as she closed the door with a grimace. She wanted to run but the time for running was long gone.

“Are you the reason that Drew hasn’t answered his phone?” Sam’s lips were curling into a knowing smile.

“No,” she waved her hands but then caught his expression, “Well, yes, but not in the way you’re implying. Drew’s been helping me out.”

That was the best explanation she could come up with on short notice. She could feel the blush on her cheeks and knew that Sam was nodding, not because he believed her, but because he was placating her. She could feel the need pushing her to explain the situation further, to make him see the truth. But unfortunately, the truth was more his interpretation than hers. If she pushed it, emphasised her innocence, it would only backfire on her. She wasn’t great a lying.

“Do you want coffee,” she sighed as her shoulders dropped.

“Yeah, coffee would be good,” the viking-surfer-dude swept a lock of blonde hair out of his blue eyes, “I’m Sam, by the way, I dance with Drew and Jay.”

“I remember,” she started on the coffee.

“How’s he been?” Sam seemed like he was edging around something.

“Fine, why?” she leaned against the bench as she looked up at his worried face, “Why are you worried about him?”

“It’s not my place to say anything,” he glanced at the bathroom door, “He hasn’t been drinking too much, has he?”

“Other than Saturday night,” she shrugged, “He hasn’t touched a drop.”

“Really?” Sam’s eyes widened as he looked at her as if it was the first time he’d seen her, “Nothing?”

“Sam,” the voice came from the bathroom door.

Drew stood there, a white towel wrapped around his waist and water still beading on his skin. Clouds of steam billowed behind him. His deep brown skin against all the white and glistening with water, looked edible. She wanted to cross the distance, run her fingers downwards, following the droplets as they ran down his body towards the fluffy towel that hung low on his narrow hips. His abs and that sexy ‘v’ leading to his manhood were on full display and she felt her heart pounding in her chest as she dragged her eyes across all that hotness.

“Drew,” Sam turned away from her, “We were worried. I see now that that the concern was misplaced. You seem to be in good hands.”

Drew’s eyes were on her as her hungry eyes ate their way back up to his face. His eyes smouldered. She breathed out at their intensity. She was embarrassed at how obvious she was being and was annoyed at her lack of self-control. This wasn’t good and wouldn’t end well. She needed to stop feeling this way.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” a small smile curled his lips, “I’m in very good hands.”

“Pretty Boy,” the low snarl came automatically.

She knew she’d stuffed up as the words left her mouth. Sam turned to her, surprise all over his face. Drew just smirked as if he’d won the giant fluffy unicorn at the fun-fair. She’d called him Pretty Boy from the moment that she’d met him. But now, in the context of this room, with the bed all dishevelled, it sounded like a pet-name rather than an insult. And from the look on Sam’s face, it implied more than that.

“Jen and I were about to leave,” Drew didn’t take his eyes off her as he spoke to Sam who was still looking at her too, “She’s coming with me.”

“I don’t doubt that,” Sam’s face broke into a huge grin. His low chuckle had her blushing more than she should have. His grin grew wider and he turned to Drew, “I’ll give you a lift. It’s raining out there, I don’t think Jen will want to brave the motorbike in the rain.”

“I’ll take my car then,” Drew’s eyes lifted to the man who was between them, “We can get there ourselves.”

“True,” a lopsided smirk tugged at Sam’s lips, “But I’m here now, and we are going to be late as it is without any more ‘distractions’. Think of it this way, one less car to pollute the city air.”

“Fine,” Drew said the word in a way that made it sound less than ‘fine’. His face dropped a little as he turned and grabbed another towel from somewhere inside the bathroom and started to dry himself.

“I can wait outside,” Sam was still enjoying this, “If you need some alone time? But we don’t have all morning. They’ll be waiting for us.”

“I’m ready to go,” She piped up before Drew could answer. There were too many innuendos flying around the room. She needed to get out and breath some fresh air, “I can wait outside too.”

“You,” Drew fixed his eyes on her, “Aren’t going anywhere, remember?”

“I’ll just,” she started to say.

“You’ll just stay right where you are,” he finished for her.

“But,” she blushed embarrassed by having this witnessed.

“Don’t argue with me,” his voice was low and left no room for debate, “We will both be down as soon as I’m dressed.”

“I’ll wait in the car,” Sam laughed as he headed for the door, “Just don’t get too distracted.”

“Why did you do that?” she glared at him when the door closed leaving them alone.

“Why did I do what? You’re the one who promised not to ditch me,” he glared back at her.

“I was going to wait in the car with Sam, that’s hardly ditching you,” she bit back.

“You’re not with Sam, you’re with me,” his voice was cold.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she stopped and looked at him.

“Nothing,” he turned away and pulled the towel from his waist, hung it to dry, then walked naked towards the cupboards next to the bed.

“Clothes,” she exclaimed scrunching her eyes closed, “Why can’t you wear clothes?”

“Why does it bother you?” he seemed unaffected by her discomfort, “Why do you care?”

“Because,” she stuttered then stopped herself. How was she going to answer that? She couldn’t tell him the truth. “Because, it’s embarrassing.”

“I’m not embarrassed,” he said simply, “Why are you embarrassed?”

“I’m not,” she started to say but there was no truth in the words and he’d know it, “I am, I’m not used to seeing naked men.”

“I want you to see me naked,” he breathed the words out, “Currently I’m nude, but not naked. I want you to see all of me, not just my body. This body isn’t exclusive to you. I wish it was but, because of my occupation, I can’t give you that. I want you to see that there’s more to me than just this flesh. I want you to get past the nude me and see the naked me.”

“I don’t understand?” she looked at him, he had a clean pair of jeans on and was pulling on a sweatshirt.

“Everyone can see this body,” he sighed, “It’s on stage, in the media, and I don’t hide it. But that’s not who I am. Most women can’t see past it. I want you to see the naked man not the nude man.”

“But why?” she said, “Why do you want that from me?”

“You know the answer to that question,” he said as he walked towards her, “I know that you don’t trust me yet but I’m hoping to earn that.”

“We should go,” she edged away as he stepped up to her, “Sam’s waiting.”

“And?” he dropped his face down to hover his lips over hers, “Kiss me. I’m waiting too.”

“Pretty,” she started to growl but his lips cut off the words.

She closed her eyes as the soft kiss made her forget why there was any hurry. She relaxed as his lips caressed hers and his arms held her body. Her hands crept around his waist as his lips became more insistent. His tall body hunched over but still eager for her as his hands encouraged her against him. She groaned softly as his tongue entered her and slid over hers. With what seemed like no effort at all, he lifted her up off her feet by gripping her waist with both hands. Straightening his body without losing any contact with her, he hoisted her into the air and sat her on the bench top her legs either side of him. Positioned exactly where he needed to be, Jen felt his arousal and couldn’t stop her own hips from meeting his nudging movements. Her arms left him and found themselves on the bench top, straight and bracing her shoulders, as his kisses had her head pushed backwards and her body was plastered against his.

His phone rang. He pulled his lips away from her reluctantly and groaned his frustration. He didn’t answer the interruption but instead he breathed in time with her.

“Tell me that you want me, and I’ll take you to bed right now,” he whispered.

“You have somewhere to be,” she could hardly breath, her heart racing and her body wanting what he was offering.

“I don’t give a damn,” his voice serious as he tightened his hands around her waist as if he was about to lift her up and carry her to the bed.

“That’s enough,” she closed her eyes and turned her head from him, forcing her rebellious body to listen to her.

“Enough?” he laughed as whispered chuckle, “No, this is just the start.”

The phone stopped ringing and then a second later was buzzing again.

“Again, with the flirting,” she sighed as she pushed his shoulders back to allow herself room to sit straight on the benchtop, “Are you going to answer your phone?”

“I will convince you how much I want you,” he whispered ignoring the phone as his eyes travelled over her, “You are mine and I will win you over, piece by piece, if I have to. Your lips are convinced, which piece should I work on next?”

“You’re unbelievable,” she pushed him away and dropped herself back onto her feet.

“Yes, I am,” he laughed into her hair, “And I’ll show you exactly how unbelievable I can be later. But, if you’re vetoing my invitation to join me in bed, then we have to go before Sam annoys me any further.”

“Sam?” she questioned then noticed how he was sneering at the phone that had gone silent a second time before the third call came through. Sam’s name was highlighted on the screen.

“Are you ready?” Drew looked down as he took her hand, “Just remember, you promised not to run. I want to know that I can rely on that today. I need to know that you won’t leave me, even if I have to let go of your hand, you won’t run away from me?”

“You should answer that phone call,” she indicated towards the phone.

“It’s just Sam and he’s not going anywhere,” Drew said with his eyebrow raised, “What about you?”

“Why does this bother you so much?” she huffed, “Alright, I’m not going anywhere either. Can we go now?”

“Sure,” he smiled as he picked up the phone which was ringing for the third time, “We’re on our way down now.”

He hung up the phone before Sam had a chance to answer him and lead her out of the apartment, grabbing their coats as he did. He didn’t let go of her hand as he headed for the lift. He finally let her go in the lift when he needed it to put on his coat.

“Where are we going anyway?” she asked as she pushed her arms into the jacket.

“The Four Horsemen, our group, has been asked to do a charity function at the end of the week,” he shrugged, “We’re going to check out the venue with the other artists. Then we’ll do the first rehearsal.”

“Charity? What charity engages dancing naked men to promote it’s work?” she laughed.

“Men’s Health Awareness,” he said as he turned to her, “I know you don’t respect what we do but others do. We aren’t just strippers at some seedy club, we are professionals who just happen to dance naked.”

“I’m sorry,” she lifted her eyes to him, “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“My line of work isn’t well regarded, I get that,” Drew said, “But don’t judge me on that.”

She’d seen him dance. Belinda had taken her to the event which ended with them at that bar and her in his bed. His dancing was beautiful. He was right. A stripper couldn’t do what he did. His style was very acrobatic with gravity defying leaps, spins and flips. It was choreographed and required skill and training. It didn’t involve Velcro pants, sleezy music and rude gestures.

“Sam’s over there,” Drew pulled her in the direction before she could apologise again.

She got into the backseat of the car and looked out the window as the two men had their teasing exchange in the front. She tried not to listen as she knew she’d end up blushing which wouldn’t help their claims of innocence. The rain was heavy and was an easy distraction as they moved through the traffic. The car was a luxury model of a European manufacturer. She sunk into the leather seat and breathed in that smell. It was foreign, not just because it came from overseas, it didn’t belong in her world.

When the car stopped, she got out and found standing in front of a large, ornate, old theatre. It looked impressive and this was the outside. It wasn’t the sort of place she’d have thought the Four Horsemen would display their wares at, it was more opera than erotic.

“This doesn’t look like the last venue,” she was comparing it to the sports stadium she’d been too with Belinda on Saturday.

“Different show,” Drew laughed, “That was our bread-and-butter show, this is more upper-crust.”

“Yeah, we also have our clean-cut, jam-and-cream and pizza-coating performances,” Sam laughed, “We are complex and complicated men, who are able to remember more than one routine, but can’t think of decent code names for them.”

“Yeah, so I see,” she grimaced as she was stuck on imagining what the jam-and-cream performance involved.

“This performance is made more complex because we’re not on the stage alone,” Drew looked away at the large billboard advertisement above the theatre, “We’re dancing in support of the artists appearing.”

“Dashar Voo?” the name fell from her lips as she saw it written in prominent place on the billboard, “You’re dancing with Dashar Voo?”

“Well, this will be interesting,” Sam was trying to hide his grin, “You didn’t tell her?”

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” Drew glared at Sam who waved as he left laughing, then he turned to Jen, “I was going to tell you before we left the apartment, but I got distracted.”

“You’re the one who kissed me,” she grumped, “Are you all on the stage with her or just you?”

“You kissed me back, that was distracting,” he shuffled his feet as he rubbed the back of his head, “This event is important. They’ve enlisted the biggest names in entertainment and asked us to support them. It’s a great opportunity for us. Jay and I will be dancing with Dashar, Sam will be on stage with FreshLife, and Mark is dancing to Leric Dandy’s music.”

“Jay? Belinda’s Jay? Does Belinda know?” she felt her eyes widen.

Belinda called him Josh, but for some reasons the guys called him Jay. He was the same guy. His onstage name was Goliath but no one other than the fans called him that off stage. Just like Drew’s on stage name was Blaze.

“You’re worried about Belinda?” he frowned.

“It was only last week that she saw that magazine,” Jen closed her eyes and shook her head, men were so stupid. Belinda and Josh/Jay had almost broken up because of My Woman’s spread featuring naked photographs with him and Dashar Voo in compromising positions, “Can’t someone else do it? She’s going to be devastated.”

“But you’re not concerned? I’m going to be dancing naked with Dashar Voo too. You know she’s a self-confessed sex-addict, and I’ve known her for years, right? And that doesn’t bother you?”

“Nude, not naked,” she rolled her eyes at his disappointed face. Dashar was promiscuous and she knew from Belinda that Drew was friends with her, but she didn’t have a right to demand anything of him. “I’m assuming that she’s going to be fully clothed and she’s just a friend, so why would I be upset? It’s not like I’d be jealous.”

“Of course not,” he pushed a smile onto his face, but his eyes didn’t change, “There’s absolutely no need to be worried at all.”

“Plus,” she smiled as he still looked dejected, “If you did do anything, I don’t go anywhere without my favourite steel capped boots. Before I walked away from you, I might just use those boots in a way you wouldn’t like. I’ve seen what you’ve got down-there and there’s no chance I’d miss.”

“You said you wouldn’t run away?” he frowned causing vertical lines to form between his eyebrows.

“No running,” she smiled at him with her best cheesy smile, “I’d do my own stompy dance then I’d walk away without looking back, got that?”

“It’s just lucky that there’s no chance I’d do that then,” he nodded, “However, it is incredibly sexy to hear you lay claim to me.”

“That’s not what I just did,” she glared at him, “You’re impossible, Pretty Boy.”

“Unbelievable, yes,” he smirked, “Incredible, definitely, but impossible, no, what’s between us is entirely possible. I think you meant to say imposing, impressive, or just plain awesome.”

“Just plain obnoxious, maybe,” she scoffed, “Now stop being so arrogant and take me to Belinda. She’s here, right?”

“Come on, girlfriend,” he smirked, “I’ll introduce you to the guys.”

“Wait, what?” she screeched to a halt, “You can’t do that.”

“Why not?” he turned to face her, “I’m not going to lie to my friends. You kissed me back. I know that you’re fighting this, but I can’t understand why? I think you want this as much as I do.”

“This isn’t the time or place for this conversation,” she looked around nervously, “Why don’t we drop the labels for now? Why can’t I just be Jen?”

“Fine, but you can’t put off this forever,” he levelled his eyes with hers, “I will get to the bottom of your problem and then you’ll have no choice but to surrender to me.”

She grimaced as he took her hand and led her inside. His promise was more worrying that anything he might do on stage with Dashar Voo. If he unwound the mess that was inside her and got to the bottom of her issue with him, then she might very well fall in love with him. And that wouldn’t end well for her. She just needed to build some more walls, fences and obstacles.

“Belinda,” Jen breathed out as she saw her friend surrounded by tall men.

“Jen?” Belinda turned as her eyes widened in surprise.

“Surprise!” Sam smirked as he exclaimed, “I told you I had a surprise, here she is.”

“What are you doing here Jen?” Belinda’s eyes went to Drew’s hand that was wrapped around hers.

She would have like to answer Belinda, but the other two men interrupted. Belinda’s man started waving his hands and arms around like a mad-man using gestures she had no idea what they meant, and the other tall man rolled his eyes at Drew then started moving his hands around like a deaf man too. This surprised her. She knew that Belinda’s man was mute, or at least couldn’t say much and had to rely on sign-language after his voice box was crushed in a bar fight years ago, but she didn’t know that the other man was deaf?

“Quit with the sign-language,” Drew grumped, “It’s rude. Belinda and Jen don’t understand, and I know that’s your plan, but it’s still rude. If you’ve got something to say, then say it out aloud or, even better yet, don’t say it at all. I’m not interested in your advice.”

“Drew,” the guy who’s name she couldn’t remember and who she’d thought was deaf, said in a clear non-deaf voice, “We’re concerned. Don’t pretend like this is nothing.”

“What’s nothing?” she looked at Drew, which had all four men turn their heads to look at her, three with shock and only Drew looked abashed.

“Drew,” all three of his friends said his name in annoyance, even the mostly mute guy, as they turned back to him.

“Jen,” Belinda smiled a small but sad smile, “Let’s go and get a coffee.”

She turned to Drew who let go of her hand and gave her a small nod of his head to let her know that it was alright. She didn’t want to ask for his permission, but she wasn’t sure what was happening, and it had her on edge. Her arrival seemed to upset his friends and they seemed to be genuinely irritated that she was with him. She didn’t do anything to justify this response.

“Are you alright, Jen?” Belinda asked once they were out in the foyer of the theatre and away from the men.

“Me?” Jen turned to Belinda, stopping her half way across the entrance area, “I’m fine, what about you? Did you know that Dashar Voo is going to be here? Did you know that he’s going to be dancing with her? Are you alright?”

“She’s just a friend,” Belinda shrugged as she looked out the glass doors at the rain outside, “That magazine feature was taken in a studio and it was part of the publicity for this event. They didn’t do anything more than pose for the photos. I trust him.”

“But they were all over each other like smores on a campfire?” Jen searched Belinda’s face and found no trace of the heartbreak she was expecting, “When you saw those photos in the magazine, I thought you were going to dehydrate, you cried so much. But, you’re alright now?”

“Yes,” Belinda smiled, “I didn’t understand how he felt about me before, now I do.”

“Wow,” Jen looked at her friend again.

“Tell me about you and Drew?” Belinda’s eyes went from soft and lovey to hard and questioning.

“There’s not much to tell, really,” Jen turned away and avoided her eyes, “He’s helping me out.”

“Drew is helping you?” Belinda gave her an incredulous look, “Drew? Is helping you? How?”

“There was a misunderstanding at work and he came to my rescue, or made it worse, I can’t decide which,” Jen shrugged.

“What was Drew doing at your work?” Belinda was a forensic accountant so her attention to detail was something that Jen forgot to avoid.

“That’s a long story,” Jen grimaced as she looked around, “Weren’t we going for coffee? Is there a good place near? I’m hungry too. Do you think they’ll have cake?”

“Jen,” Belinda glared at her, “What happened?”

“Actually, how about brunch? I’m starving,” Jen looked towards the door, “I’m sure I saw a sushi bar just around the corner as we drove in.”

“No sushi for you,” Drew’s voice surprised her, she turned to find him near the main doors to the stage area and walking towards her, “Excuse me Belinda, I’m going to borrow Jen for a minute before you go.”

He didn’t give Belinda time to respond before he grabbed Jen’s hand and towed her off towards a quiet corner near the stairs to the balcony area. When they were alone, he dropped his hand and stood there looking angry. She waited. He rubbed the back of his head, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath before he looked at her.

“I didn’t expect this,” he said, “They’re overreacting and completely wrong about this. I didn’t think they’d do this.”

“What are you talking about?” Jen looked at Drew searching his stern face for a clue.

“I am not on a rebound. That’s not what this is,” he emphasised his words, “I was going to tell you about Veronica and Kay, but I need more time. I wanted you to trust me and trust in your feelings for me before I told you my history.”

She saw it in his eyes, he was looking at her, pushing his words at her. It surprised her that he seemed so desperate for her to listen to him. Then Sam’s words came back to her. Was Sam expecting him to be a blithering mess when he arrived this morning? Was that why they all looked at her surprised and suspicious when she arrived with Drew?

“They don’t understand,” he held her by both arms, “They are going to say things about me that I’m not ready for you to hear. I need you to trust me enough to ignore what they say. I’ll tell you everything but not yet.”

“Alright,” she nodded.

“I know I’m asking a lot but it’s important to me,” he stopped, “Alright? What? Why?”

“Why don’t you want me to have sushi?” she asked abruptly.

“Raw fish,” his eyebrows knitted together, “You shouldn’t eat raw seafood, uncooked meat or unpasteurised milk products, just in case.”

“You know I’m not pregnant, don’t you?” she searched his expression.

“There’s no guarantee of that,” he dropped his eyes away from her, “I shouldn’t have been so drunk. I should have been more careful with you.”

“And that’s why I’m going to trust you now,” she smiled, “You care enough about me to fuss over something that isn’t a problem.”

“You trust me?” his lips curled at the edges.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Pretty Boy,” she shook her head while laughing, “I’m just saying that I’ll wait for your explanation. I might not understand why you need me to believe you, but I don’t think it will be what hurts me.”

“Hurt you? That’s not in my plan,” his eyes were wide as a smile started to form on his lips, “You know, you’re an amazing woman, Jennifer Palmer.”

He kissed her forehead as she stood unable to answer that. She didn’t know that he knew her full name and the intensity in his eyes and smile stunned her. She walked back to Belinda watching him disappear back from where he’d come.

She didn’t lie when she’d said that whatever his past was, that wouldn’t be the truth that would hurt her. She was betting on being injured, bleeding and in pain well before she found out whatever his secret past held. She could feel her defences crumbling. Once the walls came down, she would be vulnerable and then it would only be a matter of time before he hurt her. It was inevitable that she’d come out of this with a broken heart.

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