16. A secret is a bomb just waiting to blow.
The soft beat of an old R&B song plays above me as I snake the denim shorts up my legs. I’ve only just arrived at work, not having anything but Mason’s joggers and another t-shirt to wear. Fortunately, we have a whole load of spare, work clothes in the changing room. The shorts and a lacy, nude bra are going to have to do. I don’t have many hours tonight and I’m on bar duty too. With an aggravated sigh, I run my fingers through my dark tresses ridding them of their knots. I’d much rather be with my twins or working through the insurance papers, but I need as much extra cash as I can get.
Once I’m dressed, I exit the changing rooms and barely miss hitting Claudia with the door. My boss smiles as I meet her eye. Which in itself is a rare occurrence. Though she does care for the girls who work under her, she doesn’t believe employees and employers should be friends. I attempt to pass by her, but her fingers with their long, fake nails wrap around my arm.
“I heard what happened. I’m glad your babies are okay, Veronica. If you need to take some time off, I will allow it.” She speaks, eyes trailing down my outfit. “That bra is a tad small, isn’t it?”
“It’s one from the spare box. I don’t have any clothes with me where I’m staying right now.” I explain.
“I see, I see. Anyway, do tell me if you need some days off.” With another smile, this one a whole load more sympathetic than the last, she stalks away.
I shuffle forward in the heels I fortunately had in my locker. The longue itself is packed tonight with most of the punters being regulars. Darcy and the other girls are scattered around seeing to those sat in booths, or those watching in front of the stage. I make my way to the bar, edging my way around it. If I can complete four hours without worrying too much about the twins and how they’re getting on with Joel, that’ll at least be something.
“Hey.” Lydia appears from the other end of the bar. Her honey-blonde hair falls straight around her face. The other girls think she’s gained a whole load of confidence since she started. Though, I couldn’t care less if she has or not. I nod my head to greet her and get back to finishing a customer’s order.
“Look, I know you don’t want to talk to me, but isn’t it about time we put the past behind us? I didn’t mean to upset you by working here.”
With a sigh, I reply, “I’m not angry that you work here, I’m, angry that you expect friendship from me, after all the years we’ve spent apart.”
“Fair enough. I wanted to tell you something.” She says cautiously.
“Spit it out.” I accept the customer’s payment and turn to face her.
“My boyfriend, Marcus, he’s a lawyer... A family lawyer.”
I frown, “Why are you telling me this?”
“I just thought that he could help you with your problem.” A soft shrug of her shoulders follows.
“Darcy told you about the custody thing with Joel, didn’t she?”
Lydia nods, “I pushed her into telling me.”
I’m going to murder her.
"Right,” I say through gritted teeth.
“Marcus could help you, Veronica. He really could.”
“What makes you think I want your help?”
“It wouldn’t be my help-”
“You’re a great mother and those kids mean the world to you. You’d do anything for them.”
Her words leave me speechless. With a swift nod of my head, I gesture to the line of men at the bar, silently telling her that our conversation is over. Even so, our eyes are glued to each other's as I step away.
Lydia Rome has a fucking point, doesn’t she?
An hour into the shift and I’m crouched behind the bar searching for a bottle of fizzy water for myself that sits somewhere in the mini fridge. Just as I reach it, someone clears their throat above me. I fully expect to find another impatient customer with a hard on and a wad of cash in his fist stood there.
I do not expect to see him.
“Fuck me, you’re one hell of a woman.”
I’m suddenly thrown back two years, to the time he spoke those exact words to me. My cheeks heat up as I meet his grey eyes. He doesn’t look any different, apart from the mop of hair that has grown on his head. It used to be a Prison Break style buzz-cut.
I don’t know what to say to him. It isn’t as if I thought I’d ever see him again.
“Hi, Roni.” My name rolls off his tongue as he braces himself on the bar with both arms.
It always sounded delightful coming from his mouth.
“Fuck me, you’re one hell of a woman.”
I turn on my heel to come face to face with Claudia’s son. He arrived at the longue an hour back and has been in his mother’s office since then. Darcy told me that he was gorgeous when he arrived, but unfortunately, I missed him, only managing to see his back as he rounded the corner.
She was right though.
“Oh, I am, am I?” I tilt my head to the left and stare up at him.
“What’s your name, beautiful?”
He offers me his hand, “Liam Danes. I’m sure you’ve heard about me.”
We’re currently stood in the corridor outside the changing room. In a second, I could take that hand, pull him closer and see for myself just how soft his lips are. Instead, I stay sensible and shake his outstretched hand.
"Claudia told us she had a son, she didn't mention how good looking he was." I test the waters, making sure the attraction isn't one-sided.
A laugh escapes him, "Mum asked if I could meet her here. Though, she didn't tell me the scenery would be so good." His eyes travel down the length of my body, stopping on my bare legs.
“Wow, does that usually work for you?” I reply, though I'm enjoying his flirting, “Visiting Claudia from Miami?"
A beautiful smile spreads across his face, “No! Was worth a shot though... Right? I'm home for my dad's wedding. I had to visit mum to see how she was handling it."
"Right, I'll leave you to it." I flutter my false lashes, "It was nice to meet you."
He catches my hand, "That’s a shame, I wasn’t kidding when I said I’m enjoying the view. Is it too forward to say that your body is breathtaking?" He steps forward, lips dipping to whisper in my ear, "The things I'd do to you if I could get you out of those clothes."
I feel the heat creep up my cheeks and thank god that the corridor is dimly lit. His words have the desired effect and he knows it.
"Roni, you have a second to walk away before this stranger makes his move."
I don't move an inch.
When his lips come down against my own, I respond instantly. He winds his hands around my back and down towards my ass. I react by tugging on his bottom lip. Our bodies come together, as he turns me so that I'm against the wall. I taste alcohol on his breath as he invades my senses with his tongue. Experienced lips tease my own.
Memories of two years ago fill my mind and I'm forced to look down at the bar to hide my face. We didn't kiss for long before one of the girls found us. Though he did return a few times, paying for his own lap dance. With Liam it was pure attraction, lust and nothing else. Let's just say that we didn't talk much when we were together.
Claudia never found out about us because he left for America to pursue his career a month after our initial meeting.
"How have you been, Roni?" He asks, admiring my outfit as per usual.
"I've been good. Yourself?"
The initial greeting is easy. It's easy enough to talk to anybody when the conversation doesn't revolve around anything personal.
"Don't tell me your dad's getting married again?" I ask, referring to the past.
He shrugs, "No. I'm just visiting family. I'm really glad I found you though."
"Yup. I think about you sometimes, you know? When I'm alone and bored," a smirk spreads across his features.
Shaking my head, I fight the urge to smile, "You haven't stopped being cheeky, I see."
“Let's just say that I’m a different woman than the one you met.”
"I'd like to think so."
When I met Liam, I was in a terrible place. The children were toddlers and a whole load of trouble. It was hard to raise them alone, but I had no other option. With Liam, I could escape that. He was an easy getaway. I soon learned though that I couldn't run away from my kids. No matter how difficult it was to teach them rules and manners, it was my job.
"What else has changed then?" He asks.
Mason immediately pops into my head. With his kind heart and sweet smile, he has my pulse rising. I respond to him in the way I used to respond to Liam, though the feelings go much deeper than that.
"I'm seeing somebody." I say, eyes meeting his.
Though Mason and I haven't really discussed our relationship, I'm sure it's something that deserves to be brought up.
Liam sighs, "Do you like him?"
"Does he know you, Roni?" His question confuses me. With a brief blink, he says, "Does he know what you do here? What you really do here? Does he know that this place could be shut down with a single phone call to the police?"
Frowning, I raise an eyebrow, "Why should that matter?"
"You haven't told him, have you?"
"Actually, he knows I work here."
There's always a but, isn't there?
"I don't need to have this discussion with you, Liam. It was good to see you, but I should get back to work."
Despite the strength in my voice, I struggle to hold back a frown. Mason knows that I work here, yes, but he doesn't know the whole story. If he knew what I get up to behind closed curtains, he'd surely be disgusted, right?
"A secret is a time bomb just waiting to blow." Liam says slowly, walking backwards as he does so. He waves, "I'll be seeing you again, Roni."
"Enough out of you, Liam." I respond.
I watch as he heads towards his mother's office. It isn't until he's out of sight do his words hit home.
Mason and I are both keeping secrets from each other. He hasn't told me that he and Han had a baby together, and I haven't told him the nasty details of what I do here.
How does that make what we have special?