Tall, dark, and damn scary walks into The Fox Den. I wish it were a joke. He steps right up to my bar and leans forward, resting his thick arms on the hard black laminate surface. I haven’t wiped that down yet, so I hope it’s sticky because he leers at me until I make my way down to him. There are plenty of nearly naked women around the central Phoenix gentleman’s club, so just for the leer, I take my sweet time. This only makes him stare harder until I get there, his piercing eyes boring into me, which has my skin crawling. My natural stubbornness to demanding men takes a hit. Time to get him away from my bar as quickly as possible.
“What can I do for you?” I note the rugged lines of his face with a scar down the right side, the short dark crew cut riddled with grey, and the muscles that look like they’re about to rip apart the seams of his short-sleeved shirt. Normally, these attributes wouldn’t bother me—rougher-looking men have worked for my dear old dad. But there’s something in his eyes that makes me want to take a step back, which of course, I don’t.
“Is Clancy ’round?” His voice is damn near Barry White deep and scarier with the Irish brogue laced through it. Eyes check me out thoroughly, running up and down my arms as he takes in my tattoos, and of course, lingering on my chest for far too long.
“He left a bit ago,” I reply as the hair on the back of my neck goes on alert. “Don’t know when he’ll be back, but I could get you a drink if you’d like to wait.” With the way my body’s reacting, I’m hoping he leaves because he’s just plain creeping me out, and I don’t scare easily. I guess that’s one silver lining to having a mafia dad. Unfortunately, I have to play the customer service game and be nice, regardless of the alarms going off in my head. Damn it.
He shakes his head slowly and stands. “Nah, just tell ‘im I came by.” There’s a date tattooed on the left side of his neck going back fifteen years and it sits just under the circle of a silhouetted Celtic cross, all in black ink. Not a professional tattoo, if you catch my drift. In other words, this boy has been to prison.
“And who should I say stopped by?”
“Yeh don’ need mah name, Bettie. Jus’ tell ‘im I’m lookin’ for ‘im.”
I arch a brow. “That’s not my name.” Though I’m certain his calling me that has to do with my pageboy haircut and the fact that I look like something reminiscent of a Bettie Page poster.
He grins. “Like it matters, lass.” He taps the top of the bar twice, winks at me, and makes a gun gesture with his fingers. Then he turns around and leaves the club, running into a patron on the way without acknowledging what he’d done. Well, he’s a real peach, isn’t he?
A creepy feeling crawls across my flesh, and I shake it off and attend to my next customer at the other end of the bar while waiting for Clancy to return so I can inform him of his visitor. That takes about forever . . . or at least feels that way as I keep checking the clock.
About an hour ticks away before tall, dark, and downright lust-worthy walks into the club. That’d be my boss Clancy. He steps up to the bar, near the entrance to the club, and leans over, his long black hair falling forward in a rush of waves. As soon as I finish with a customer, I grab a bottle of water and place it directly in front of him.
“Thanks, Nemy-girl,” he says with a wink as his long fingers wrap around the plastic. “Everything okay tonight?”
He’s the only one who calls me Nemy-girl. I hate my real name—Anna. No one calls me that unless they feel like being punched. I nod, shift my weight from one foot to the other, and tap my fingernails on the bar.
“Something on your mind?” His vibrant emerald eyes flicker, and it’s hell stopping my body from reacting to the way he always seems to look at me.
“Someone came in looking for you earlier,” I say, narrowing my eyes on his. “Not a very nice-looking guy, and I’m not talking about how ugly he is.”
He chuckles. “Did he leave a name?”
“No. Said I didn’t need his name in a thick Irish accent and then called me Bettie.”
Clancy’s eyes widen for a split second before his brows knit together. “What else did he say?”
“Said to tell you he came by and he’s looking for you, that’s all.” I shift my weight again. “Had a tattoo on the side of his neck.” I fill him in on the finer details.
He nods slowly. “Okay, thanks.” He looks down the bar. “You have a customer.”
I look, and sure as shit, he’s right. I hop a step and greet the newbie. I know I’m not imagining Clancy’s unease at my telling him about scary, creepy guy, but it’s not really my business, now is it? Yeah, tell that to the sick feeling settling in the pit of my stomach. I’ll probably be on my guard for a few days because my gut is rarely wrong. Clancy doesn’t normally tell me I have customers either, which means he ended our conversation deliberately without me realizing it. Sneaky bastard.
While I’m preoccupied, Clancy heads back to his office, and he’s back there for a while, which isn’t normal. I shrug it off and drop some ice into a glass. Clear liquid splashes over the ice as I pour the rum, then depress the cola button on my gun, and the two mix in a swirl. Of course, in this joint I don’t mix much more than Jack or Bacardi with cola and flip the caps off bottles. Such a glamorous life.
Just an FYI, Clancy makes all men look bad on every level. Not quite perfect, but damn close. In my book, men like him shouldn’t even exist. In fact, I frequently remind myself men like him don’t exist outside of my imagination. I’ve had two serious relationships and a few short ones, and every man I’ve ever dated or befriended has turned into a jackass. I haven’t dated Clancy—God help me if I do—but he’s tipping my all-men-are-jackasses theory completely over the edge of the scale. To add insult to injury, he looks like the damn cover of a romance novel. I hate those covers.
* * * * *