Lola dresses in skinny black low-rider jeans, a white tank and strappy sandals. Her long brown hair is half up and her makeup is minimal. But she still looks amazing. Now that she and Trick are a sort-of item, she doesn’t dress for anyone but him anymore. I’ll admit it. It’s kinda sweet.

I wear a bright canary yellow dress. It comes a little above my knees, has long sleeves and is tight. It hugs my curves. You would think I’d look like a clown wearing a yellow dress with bright red hair but, somehow, it works. I can’t wear underwear under this dress, it shows the lines. So I decide, for one night, to go without.

I feel bare. And icky.

I finish my look with light yellow strappy pumps. My makeup is done using a little eyeliner, a lot of mascara and pale pink lipstick. My hair falls in waves down my back.

I love this dress.

When Tina went on her scouting trip earlier this year, she sent me a picture of this dress and I knew immediately I had to have it. I begged and pleaded with her to get it. Then I demanded, I mean asked, she ordered ten, and within two weeks on the racks, they were sold.

When we’re ready to go, we hop in the cab I called for and we’re off.

Toot toot!

I can’t wait! I’m on the prowl tonight!

I guess subconsciously I am peacocking with my outfit. I mentally pray that I don’t look like an abstract Picasso.

The cab pulls up to The White Rabbit and we whoop as we exit. B-Rock, the huge African American bald doorman, chuckles and shakes his head when he sees us. We approach and he says, “I thought I recognized that craziness. Damn, you girls are looking good tonight. Give B-Rock some love.”

I smile big. We do this every weekend. B-Rock likes to act up a little and we love him so much that we play along. He looks like a bear, but he’s a total kitten. And he’s adorable.

We all take turns kissing his cheek and head on into the club. We’re VIPs at The White Rabbit. We never pay for a thing and have the largest booth in the VIP section.

This is the only place aside from my apartment that I can let go and unwind after a rough week.

The White Rabbit is, by far, the most awesome club I’ve ever been to. The theme is Alice in Wonderland.

How cool is that?

The waitresses all wear short Alice costume dresses with thigh high white stocking and white pumps. They rock long white blonde wigs and dramatic pale makeup. The whole club has a whimsical feel to it. But apart from that, it’s a regular club with drinks and good music. There are two floors, upstairs is VIP and downstairs is the regular club area. Downstairs is set in the shape of the letter U. Booths and tables line the outer area, the bar is the entire back of the room and the dance floor is lowered slightly. VIP consists of different shaped booths which are soft leather and crazy comfortable.

The line for entry is always down the street and the dance floor is always packed.

I guess you could say Nik does well for himself.

We hold hands and make our way up the stairs to the VIP section. The regular Asian Alice greets us. “Hi ladies, come on through.” We decline her offer to show us to our booth. We’ve been coming here for over a year. We know where to go.

Most of the staff know us by name. Every time I’m here I feel like a celebrity.

It’s awesome!

We approach our booth, which seats ten, and I spot Nik and Tina. Tina sits on Nik’s lap and they talk with their faces close together. Smiling like idiots. I resist the urge to roll my eyes. The truth is I’m so happy for them.

I plonk down next to them with a huge smile and feign annoyance, “God, can’t you guys get a room?”

Tina smiles, leans forward and kisses my cheek. Nik kisses my other cheek.

We’re a Nat sandwich.

Nik replies with a smile, “If you knew how little quality time I get with my wife now that Tats is around, you wouldn’t even go there, sister.”

Tina responds, “Sad but true, honey.” She smiles. “She’s so worth it though.”

I smile and tell them, “Oh, yeah. If she’s anything like her favorite Teta Nat, she’s going to be awesome.” We all laugh.

I feel the seat depress, an arm goes around my shoulders, and I’m pulled into a hard body. I grin. Lips touch my ear. “Remind me why we never hooked up?”

I chuckle then straighten before turning to Max and play-think. I scrunch my face, tilt my head and look up. I reply, “Because we’re friends?”

Max smirks and says a resigned, “Oh, yeah.”

I can’t help but chuckle. Max and I flirt all the time. We both know we’ll never be more than friends but it’s fun and he’s gorgeous. Max and Nik look alike. Nik is built a little bigger than Max though, but they both have an olive skin tone, dark hair, muscular bodies, amber-colored eyes and big white smiles with a single dimple. Trick also looks like them, being cousins and all, but he’s a little shorter and has hazel eyes.

Ridiculously hot. All of them.

Trick arrives at the booth and Lola pounces on him. He chuckles and whispers something into her ear. She takes his hand and they walk away. I smirk. One guess what they’ll be doing in half a minute.

I hate my stupid ass for looking out for Ghost. And just when I give up, I spot him at the VIP bar with a dark-haired pretty woman.

My chest aches. I absently rub at it.

I stand and tell the others I’m going to the downstairs bar. Mimi and Tina smile knowingly.

Oh, yeah, babies. On the prowl.

As I walk away, my heel catches and I stumble. I’m falling.

Oh, crap!

Arms close around my waist and hold me firmly. The person helps me steady myself and asks, “Are you alright?”

I brush the hair from out of my face, look up and almost choke on my tongue. In front of me stands a man. A tall, built, very good-looking man. He has blue eyes and black hair.

I stammer, “Ahhh- I- Ye- Uh huh.” He smiles.

Oh, wow.

What a smile it is. It’s wide and showcases his perfect white teeth. I like a man with great teeth. His eyes crinkle in the corners. The smile transforms his face. He’s gorgeous.

I can’t believe it but I’m blushing.

He chuckles, lets go of me, then offers his hand. “I’m Cole.”

Hawwwwt.

I’m suddenly a little shy. I put my hand in his and respond quietly, “I’m Nat.” I avoid his eyes.

Still holding my hand, he lowers his smiling face to look into mine and asks, “Would you like to get a drink with me, Nat?”

I bite my lip to stop my smile. He looks at my bottom lip and stops smiling. I quickly release my lip and reply softly, “Yes. I’d love that.”

A smile forms on his face as he pulls me closer and holds my hand as we walk down the stairs together.

That sure didn’t take long!

***

“So, you work at the clothing store across the street, you’re twenty-eight, you’re of a Croatian background and you’re very single?”

Sipping on my cosmopolitan, I nod my head. “Yep. That’s me in a nutshell.”

Cole smiles. “Well, me in a nutshell would be pretty short too. I’m thirty-two, all American. I live downtown. I’m a personal trainer and I’m also very single.”

Uncomplicated.

Just what I need.

I smile and lift my drink. “To being very single.” He smiles and touches his drink to mine. We sip and I feel a hand on my arm.

Still smiling, I look up to see Ghost looking blankly at me. “I need to talk to you.”

I stare at him in disbelief for a moment before I hiss, “Now? Right now?”

I look back at Cole and I’m not sure what happened to the guy I was sitting with a minute ago. Gone is the friendly smile and in its place is a glower. His brows have dropped; he looks terrifying. His grip on his glass is so tight I’m afraid he’ll break it. Cole’s voice is dead calm as he asks, “Is there a problem here?”

Before Ghost has a chance to answer, I respond, “No. Ash is my neighbor. He probably just got some of my mail again?” I look at Ghost with pleading eyes. “Right, Ash?”

Ghost’s face has softened slightly and he looks me in the eye when he replies, “Yeah. Sure.” He doesn’t sound convincing so I act up a bit. I put my hand on his arm and smile. “I’ll come by tomorrow and get it. Say hi to Tasha for me.”

As soon as I mention Tasha, Ghost’s eyes turn hard and he replies quietly, “Yeah, whatever.”

I watch as he walks away.

What did he need to talk to me about?

Cole breaks my thoughts. “So, he’s your neighbor?”

Looking up, I see he’s clearly confused. He toys with his drink and looks absently through his glass.

I smile and exaggerate my reply. “Oh yeah! We’ve known each other a while now. In fact, just the other night I had to go over there to tell him and his lady friend to keep the noise down. If you get what I mean?” I wink and smile.

Understanding dawns on his face. He chuckles and rubs the back of his neck. “Oh, I thought he was coming on to you. I didn’t like that. I mean, I was sitting right here.” He looks sheepish.

I chuckle. “No. We aren’t like that.”

He takes my hand and plays with my fingers. “Good, because I was planning on asking you out.”

I smile then bite my lip. I clear my throat and admit, “Well, it’s a good thing I’d say yes.”

Cole smiles his brilliant smile and agrees, “Yeah. That is a good thing.”

***

When I get home from the club, I’m smiling like an idiot and feel so light, I practically float right through the door.

I ended up staying a little later than normal. I glance at my phone for the time. 3:17am.

Yikes!

Okay, a lot later than normal! But Cole is so dreamy! And I’m seeing him again Monday night.

Sigh.

Still smiling like a complete dork, I kick off my shoes and drop my purse on the counter. I walk over to my room, undress and walk to the bathroom buck-naked. I dress in my jammies, walk back to my room and flick on the lamp. And I squeal my freakin’ head off.

Ghost is lying on my bed with his hands crossed behind his head. And the ass is smirking.

He saw me naked!

I yell, “You saw me naked!”

He smiles wider, bites the tip of his tongue and nods.

God, I love when he does the tongue thing.

My blood boils.

I pick up a shoe and throw it at him. He moves to avoid it and rolls right off the bed. I burst out laughing. I laugh long and so hard I have tears streaming down my face. I open my eyes and spy Ghost on the floor rubbing his head. I walk over to him and still chuckling, ask, “Are you okay?”

He scowls but smiles. “Yeah.” Then he stands and says, “Now that you’re home, we can talk.”

Ghost breaking into my apartment doesn’t even worry me. He did the same to Tina, like, a gazillion times. He’s some big-shot security guy, so I guess he knows enough about locks and alarms to bypass them.

With a sigh, I flop onto my bed face-down and utter, “It’s so late, Ghost. Can’t we talk tomorrow?”

This comes out muffled.

My bed depresses. “No. We talk now. It’s important.”

I look up and Ghost is lying next to me with his arms behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. His arms look perfectly delicious in the black uniform tee he wears and I inwardly curse him. I exhale loudly and give in. “Okay. What’s up?”

He looks suddenly nervous and mutters, “About Tasha…”

I cut him off, “Not my business. Next topic of discussion.”

Ghost nods and goes on, “I think you should rethink this avoiding each other business.”

I turn my body so I’m on my side. “Why?”

Ghost turns to look at me and states firmly, “Because it’s selfish of you.”

What the feck?!

“What?” I whisper.

He nods and explains, “For seven months all our friends have been divided and I don’t like it. We live next door to each other, so grow the hell up and get over whatever it is that stops us from talking because I’ve had it.”

Rage coils in my gut.

I shout, “I’m not selfish!”

He nods his head. “Okay, fine. Show me you aren’t. Let’s stop avoiding each other.”

My brain wanders as he says this.

What could go wrong?

I could begin to feel things for him. Gooey, icky things.

Then don’t sleep with him again, stupid.

What are his intentions?

I clear my throat and ask, “What are your intentions, Ghost?”

He turns to face me and looks uneasy. He frowns and sniffs his reply, “I don’t know. Be friends or some shit.” He finishes with a small shrug.

Friends with Ghost.

Friendship.

I can do friendship.

After a minute silence, I respond quietly. “Yeah, okay. We can be friends.”

Ghost blinks and slides off my bed. He turns off my lamp, covers me with the quilt and whispers, “Night, Nat.”

I smile. “Night, Ghost.”

All is right in the world.

Chapter Three

No use crying over stolen milk

Thump.

My eyes open wide and I stiffen. I pull the covers up to my chin and listen.

Thump.

Someone’s in my kitchen!

No one has a key to this place yet, so I come to the conclusion I’m being robbed. I grab my phone and slowly edge off the bed, being careful not to make a sound. I dial 911 on my cell on hold my thumb over the green call button.

Mental note: buy mace.

I peek down the hall and see a man’s body hanging out of my refrigerator. Luckily, the refrigerator door is in the way so he can’t see me. I creep as quietly as I can down the hall, into the kitchen then slam the refrigerator door into the man as hard as I can. The man gets squished and makes an Oomph sound. I run to the door, unlock it, go out into the hall and bang on Ghost’s door as loudly as possible.

My body trembles. I’m scared to death.

I whisper shakily, “Please be home. Please be home.” I lose patience and shriek, “Ghost! Open the door! Please be home!”

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