Chapter 1 - Hana
Hana shifted from side to side on her heels as she leaned over the black chrome railing and scanned the crowd below. The nightclub was loud, dark, and packed. Definitely not somewhere she wanted to be. Hana was a homebody. She curled up and read, watched tv, and ordered insane amounts of takeout. What she did not do was go to nightclubs late at night in borrowed dresses and high heels. Especially not this nightclub. Vault was high class, which Hana was most definitely not, and owned by John Braxton. Rumours were the man was a bad boy who had his hand in the biggest nightclubs around the country. He was well known, but few people were lucky enough to meet him. He liked to keep a low profile.
Unfortunately, Hana’s old college roommate Kim had come to town, and Vault was where she wanted to go. The two hadn’t seen each other in years, and Hana didn’t want to disappoint her, so she’d reluctantly agreed. Now Kim had disappeared, most likely off in a back room with some guy she picked up. It was the reason Hana hadn’t seen her in so long. She was always forgotten because of some latest conquest.
Hana scanned the crowd once more, but it was futile. She’d been searching for over half an hour now. There was a good chance Kim wasn’t even in the club. Hana huffed, then moved back to one of the long black columns surrounding the upper floor and leaned against it. She was exhausted, frustrated, and done with the Vault. It was time to go home, throw out the stupid heels, take off the little black dress, and let down her hair. She had it in some fancy up-do, but it was already falling in her face.
Pushing off the column, she headed for the stairs, and eyed them warily. They were black marble and steep looking, definitely not something she wanted to attempt in heels. Looking around and seeing no one was watching, Hana lifted her right foot and pulled off the offending heel. Then she switched feet and did the same thing with the other heel. Sighing in relief, she once more headed for the steep stairs. The marble was cold and sticky in some spots, making her cringe, but it was way better than breaking her neck.
Thankfully reaching the bottom without incident, Hana decided to leave the heels off altogether. She eyed the dance floor hesitantly, but knew it was the fastest route to the door. Barely dressed girls swayed drunkenly to the loud beat, while well dressed men attempted to grind up against them. Hana could go around, but it would mean she’d be in Vault longer, and that thought made her grit her teeth.
Sucking it up, and bending slightly to make herself even smaller than she already was, Hana cautiously moved forward. The crowd knocked her this way and that, and she felt more than one hand on her ass, but she kept going. One man grabbed her around the waist and pulled her into his sweaty body, but she jabbed her heel into his leg and he let her go. She then moved faster, deathly afraid to look back and see his reaction. More hands were reaching for her, but she ducked and dodged, slipping past them. Then she saw the edge of the dance floor and the brightly lit exit. She picked up speed and pushed through the last few people, popping out safely on the other side.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Hana straightened and moved towards the exit. It was close, and only a few people stood in her way. Clasping her shoes tightly against her chest, she picked up speed again, then gasped and twisted when a waitress that had at least five inches on her nearly took her out. Her heart was beating madly as she turned once more for the door, but instead slammed into a rock hard body. Shrieking, she bounced off him and fell, landing painfully on her ass.
“Fucking Christ, are you alright?” the man growled in the deepest, roughest voice Hana had ever heard.
Warily she pushed her hair out of her face and looked up. Her hair was a mass of dark chestnut curls that hung to the middle of her back. No matter how hard she tried to tame it, it never cooperated. Nor did it now. The hair she had painstakingly pinned back in a fancy twist fell back in her eyes.
“Jesus,” the man cursed as he frowned down at her.
Then he was leaning over, grabbing her arm, and hauling her to her feet. The sudden forward momentum threw her off balance and she slammed into his chest once more. Luckily, he wrapped his arm around her waist to steady her.
“Thank you?” Hana sputtered, not sure if she actually wanted to thank him.
“You’re fucking short,” was his grunted reply.
Hana pushed out of his arms and found herself staring at his massive chest. A chest covered in a loose black dress shirt. It was exceptionally soft, and the top three buttons were undone. A tattoo peeked out, but too much was hidden for her to figure out what it was. The skin under it though was slightly tanned, and it highlighted the tattoo even more.
“Hey Short Stuff, I’m up here,” the man chuckled, drawing a irritated gasp from her.
Scowling, she looked up, and up, until she was staring into his face. He was handsome, but in a rugged way. He had dark hair, which was slightly darker than her own. It was unruly and looked like it desperately needed a cut, but it suited him. He had a scruffy jaw which also suited him, and dark eyes. With the weird lighting in Vault she couldn’t tell exactly what colour they were, and she found herself really wanting to know.
“I’m sorry I bumped into you,” Hana apologized quickly, before she turned away and effectively dismissed him.
There was no way in hell she was staying in his presence another minute. She had no doubt if she did, she’d either say or do something stupid. It was inevitable. She was always making a fool of herself, which was why she preferred staying in to going out.
Hana managed to take one step in the direction of the door before she came to a sudden stop. Growling, she twisted to eye the offending hand that had latched onto her upper arm. It was large, and it was warming her suddenly chilled skin.
“Where are your shoes?” the man questioned as he loosened his hold slightly.
“Shit,” Hana cursed when she realized she wasn’t holding them anymore. She must have dropped them when she fell.
Hana peeked around the man’s large frame, and saw them lying on the floor, right in the path of another waitress carrying a tray of shots. She tried to call out, but she was too late. The waitress stepped on one of her heels, her foot slid out from under her, and she screamed as the tray went flying. Both Hana and the man watched as the drinks all landed on top of her. The waitress wasn’t hurt, but she was covered in sticky alcohol. Hana immediately ducked back behind the mountain of a man, knowing the waitress wouldn’t be able to see her there.
“Your heels?” the man inquired with a snort, and she looked up at him in surprise. She expected him to be pissed, but he wasn’t. He actually looked like he was trying not to laugh.
“Maybe,” Hana answered vaguely, not exactly sure what to do. “Can you please let me go now? I was actually just leaving.”
“Without your shoes?” he questioned with a raised brow.
“Well, I can’t very well go back and get them,” she huffed in agitation. “I might get into a lot of trouble. It’s better to leave barefoot.”
“You’re not even going to apologize?” the man inquired with surprise.
They both turned to eye the waitress just as she pushed to her feet. She was clutching the offending heel and glaring at everyone around her.
“Who the fuck tripped me?” she bellowed with barely contained rage. “Show yourself so I can fuck you up.”
“Time to go,” the man chuckled as he dragged her towards the door. “You don’t need shoes, anyway.”
They moved easily through the few people around them, seeing as everyone moved out of the man’s way. She would have asked about that, but he was pushing the doors open and the warm night air whispered lovingly against her chilled skin. The club had been air conditioned, and even with all the people crowded inside, had still remained cool. It made her appreciate the hot summer night even more.
Pulling away from the man, she moved down the sidewalk as she searched for a cab. She got about five feet when her arm was grabbed again and she was halted.
“Would you stop doing that,” Hana grunted as she turned and glared up at the man.
“I would if you’d stop walking the fuck away from me, Short Stuff,” he grunted back.
“I told you I was heading home,” she sighed in frustration. “I need to grab a cab so I can do that.”
“Not in bare feet you don’t,” he hissed. Then he pointed to the sidewalk. “There’s broken glass and cigarette butts all over the damn place.”
Hana looked down and cringed. There was, and if she took another step, she would have seriously cut her foot.
“Thank you,” she replied sincerely. Then she pulled her arm away and very carefully tip toed through the glass.
“Are you fucking serious,” Hana heard growled from behind her, but she didn’t look back. She had to concentrate, so she didn’t cut her feet.
Suddenly she was hefted up and thrown over a black clad shoulder. Squealing, Hana could do nothing but hold on.
“What the hell did I do to deserve this?” the man complained as he turned and headed in the opposite direction.
“That’s what I was just thinking,” Hana grunted as she bounced painfully with each step. She would have wiggled and tried to get free, but the ground was a long way down.
“Hold fucking still will you,” the man ordered as he wrapped his massive arm around her legs, pinning her to his body.
“Walk slower and I’ll be able to,” she grunted back as she grabbed onto his belt and held on for dear life.
Then she twisted and pulled herself up slightly, trying to see where they were going. A dark parking lot around the side of the building was all she could see. But then the man growled and shifted, and she slid back into position.
“Are you going to kill me?” Hana whispered warily.
“No, I’m not going to fucking kill you,” he denied impatiently.
“Are you sure?” Hana pushed. “Because that’s what a killer would say.”
Suddenly he stopped and set her back on her feet. She swayed dizzily and started to fall, but he grabbed her arms and stopped her.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” the man patiently assured her as he bent and looked her in the eyes. “I’m going to take you to my car, then I’m going to drive you home.”
“But I don’t know you,” Hana hesitantly told him. “And I don’t trust people I don’t know.”
Finally the man smiled, and the smile told her she’d actually said something right. “Good girl,” he praised. “My name’s John, and you are?” he questioned.
“Hana,” she whispered in return.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Hana,” John grinned. Then he scooped her up bridal style and continued on once more.
“Let me guess,” she snipped. “Your last name is Smith?”
His laughter was the only answer she got.