After several minutes, I finally made it to the bar and waited for the bartender to notice me. He was dressed as a ghoul, his face covered in green and yellow makeup to give a sickly, haunted look. I gave him my drink order and looked up at the Overground sign that hung on the wall.
When the bartender handed over my drink, I slipped him a ten, wondering why the bar was called the Overground.
“Is there a reason this place is called the Overground?” I asked, shouting above the music. “Is there something under it? A downstairs?”
The bartender smirked at me. “Yeah, there’s another club downstairs called the Underground Dungeon. It’s invitation only.”
“Dungeon?” I asked, my interest piqued. “What does that mean?”
The bartender smiled again. “Sweetheart, I’m not at liberty to tell you that.”
“But I am,” a deep voice said from behind.
Whipping around, I saw a man in a sharp gray business suit that was tailored to perfection around his broad shoulders and big arms. He wore a navy button-down shirt beneath his jacket tight enough I could see definition in his stomach. His pants were also tight around his body in a way that gave a hint at strong, muscular thighs. I couldn’t stop myself from lingering at the slight bulge pushing against his pants.
He must have noticed because he was smirking when my eyes finally traveled up his body to meet his. This guy was tall, very tall, with dark hair cut and styled into a fade. A black mask covered the upper part of his face and seemed to be made of felt. Each time the strobe lights flashed our way, the small red stones that studded the eyes of the mask gleamed. I couldn’t quite tell what color his eyes were in the dark lighting, but were light.
He was still smirking at me when he leaned forward and asked in a drawl, “Are you sure you really want to know?”
A brief flash of fear shot through me at his question, of danger, but I pushed it away. I was curious, more than I probably should be, and was looking for a little excitement after the last half-week.
In a shaky voice, I replied, “Yes, I really do want to know.”
The man’s smile widened. “I’m Jackson,” he said. “I’m one of the owners of the club.”
“Hi Jackson,” I murmured. He was still standing close enough to hear me, close enough for me to smell whatever intoxicating cologne he wore. God, he smelled so good.
“If you really want to know what the Underground is, you’re going to have to come with me upstairs.”
I frowned a little. “Why would I need to go with you upstairs if the Underground is downstairs?”
“Everyone has to be vetted before they get to go downstairs,” Jackson replied. “It’s members only.”
Everything in me was saying no! Run! but my feet stayed planted where they were. Any other night, I would have walked away without another word, but I couldn’t fight the growing excitement in my stomach. And I was just so damned curious. I really wanted to know what was downstairs.
Besides, if worst came to worst, all my black belt in karate would protect me.
Steeling myself, I said, “Okay.”
Jackson raised his eyebrows. “You’re sure?”
I took a deep breath and nodded. My hand shook, making the ice cubes in my drink clank together. “I’m sure.”
“Alright, let’s go then.”
I quickly downed my drink, grimacing a little, and put it on the bar behind me. Jackson rested his hand on the small of my back and began to guide me through the crowd. I could feel the heat of his hand through the thin material of my dress and it helped put me at ease.
We made it to the edge of the crowd, through a door, and walked down a hallway. When we reached an elevator, Jackson punched in a code and the doors opened. He gestured for me to step inside.
I hesitated, knowing this was my last chance to back. But did I want to back out?
No, I thought, no, I want to see this through. I want to know.
My feet moved of their own accord, stepping inside the elevator. Jackson followed me and pressed the button for the second floor.
He smiled at me.
Last chance! There’s still time to run through the doors!
But I didn’t. Instead, I returned Jackson’s smile and watched the elevator doors closed.
For the past hour, I sat at my desk, doing nothing but staring off into space. Right before Jackson went downstairs to walk around the club, I told him I planned to look through the stack of papers that have been waiting on my desk for two days, but as of yet, I hadn’t even made it through the top page.
I really needed to get it together. I couldn’t let Jackson catch on to how bothered I’d been lately. He’d catch on if I let the paperwork sit any longer. After growing up the child of a businessman who imparted a lot of business wisdom to me, I was the one who loved doing the paperwork. I took pride in it.