Gina and I are both married to our jobs, and we both mean for it to stay like that. Gina works at a department store and she lives for her employee discount. I live for my column.
“You look nervous,” Gina says as I add some blush to my cheeks. “Relax, Rachel. He’s just a man, no matter how godly.”
“Don’t say that, I’m nervous enough as it is. Clubs were not even my scene when we were begging to be let in.”
“Nobody will know it’s not your scene. Just make sure to look the part.”
We both look at the three options I’ve set out.
Considering he’s seen me in my coveralls and then dressed in a suit, I want to give a completely different message with whatever I wear tonight. His parties are known to be decadent—and I don’t want to wear clothes that say I’m a working girl. I want to look like someone who parties with his crowd. I want to look seductive, modern, edgy so the last thing he’ll remember if he sees me tonight is that I’m the same woman interviewing him for an Interface article.
“What do you think?” I ask her. “Option 1: a cute white skirt with a flimsy white top; option 2: red, knee-length, very tight dress; option 3: black bandage dress.”
“Men love women in white,” Gina says. “It’s that devil in them that can’t resist. Saint’s devil is the wildest of them all. They love red too.”
“But black is foolproof,” I say. “I don’t want to scream out, ‘I haven’t had sex in a while.’ I don’t want to say, ‘Come hither.’ I just want to be there and say, ‘Here I am.’ ”
She nods approvingly, so I go into the bathroom, slide on my black lace undergarments and the dress, and come out barefoot to slip on my heels.
Gina drops the magazine she was reading as we take in my appearance in the full-length mirror on the inside of my closet door.
I’m tall and trim, my breasts small but firm and perky. My skin is milky apricot and my hair platinum blonde, from my mom’s Scandinavian heritage. For some reason people compliment the curves of my shoulders and neck, so the low-cut dress shows them off. It emphasizes my slenderness, my slim hips and small waist, the black material heightening the translucence of my face and neck. My hair gleams like silvery gold. My eyes are gray with flecks of blue. The dress hugs me in all the right places.
“Like off a catwalk,” Gina assures from the bed, nodding.
“Definitely better than I looked when I met him in my sneakers,” I counter.
I run a brush over my hair, then blow-dry it for a few minutes. When I’m done, I expel a breath as I meet my stare in the mirror. “Ready or not, Rachel.”
“Of course you’re ready!” Gina woots.
I laugh and turn to look at her, wishing she could come. My absolute best friend. She’s my adopted sister in my heart. I held her hand when Paul broke her. I passed the Kleenex. I swore I’d never let anyone break her heart again. I swore I’d be with her to the end, and I wouldn’t let anyone break mine. I promised we’d be happy and single, because who needed a guy? And we both ate ice cream and repeated that mantra all the time. And already I feel that I’m going to the club tonight, an angel without my wing.
“Go get it,” she tells me with that singular excitement of hers.
I swallow and grab my bag and try to tell myself that I can do this. That I want to do this. That when—not if, when—I write this exposé, I will finally silence every doubt in my head of whether I can bring it to the table when it’s most needed.
I look very different from the girl Saint met in his office. But I don’t feel any different. My nerves are frayed to the edges as I give my name to a bouncer at the entrance and I’m allowed into the club, every part of me snug and tight in my dress as my black heels hit the floor.
Whereas M4 was all museum-like, the Ice Box is pure dark decadence. Ice sculptures sit on pedestals around the room. Cages with body-painted dancers hang from the ceiling. A bar with white and blue lights stretches from one wall to another.
Strobe lights flash across the space as I get jostled by the crowd. The bass thumps as the Mr. Probz song “Waves” plays for the dancing crowd. Drinks are flowing on shiny silver trays, and the drinks are so adorned—by fruits, olives, salt glitter, or colorful liquid swirls—they’re like artworks. This isn’t a normal swanky club. It’s the rich boys’ club, and everywhere you look are beautiful people wearing beautiful things.
“I met him! God! When he said hi I thought I’d faint . . . !”
My nerves eat at me as I hear that, because I know for sure they’re talking about him. Trying to breathe, I wind deeper into the club, wishing for Gina so bad I ache. The room is packed with women, some clearly on the hunt, others already paired with someone, a few hanging out with their friends. I breathe slowly, in and out, telling myself I can do this. It’s just a club. I can have some fun. It’s been a while since I’ve gone out to a club, and never to a club like this, but it doesn’t matter. I can interview people, and if I’m lucky, I can do more than that.
After scanning the area and trying to find the best spy spots, I go to the top level, and that’s when I get the best look at what’s happening downstairs in the most crowded corner.
And speak of the devil. My heart stops a beat when I see that dark head of his, and that loathed, burning knot in my stomach squeezes with a vengeance. I swear, no one in my life has ever made me this nervous.
He sits with his arms stretched out behind him, a wineglass and two women vying for his attention as he chats with his friends. His masculine face is illuminated in certain angles when the lights flash—his beauty unprecedented.
Okay. Breathing. Do I want him to know I’m here or not?
A watery sensation seems to spread down my limbs as I force myself to go downstairs. I wend my way to the ladies’ room and worm through the throng of bodies toward a wide mirror above a set of modernist floating sinks. A group of women primp and preen themselves while I look at all of our reflections. To my right, a woman pouts her red lips, and to my left, her friend pouts her pink ones. Me? I’m still me, but I look extravagant, like I was born here. I look very different than the young girl in coveralls he met. Will he even recognize me like this?
“You going to the after-party?” Red Lips asks Pink Lips as they retouch their lipsticks.
“No key yet.”
“Lookie lookie.” Red Lips waves a key card in the air.
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