Rob? Oh yeah, the guy who owns The Underground.
I reach out my hand and Blake gently shakes it.
I hear Natalie’s voice over the music before I even see her. She makes her way through a cluster of people standing around near the dance floor and pushes her way past to get to me. Immediately, she takes note of Blake and her eyes start glistening, lighting up with her huge, blatant smile. Damon, following behind her with her hand still clasped in his, notices, too, but he just locks emotionless eyes with me. I get the strangest feeling from it, but I brush it off as Natalie presses her shoulder into mine.
“What are you doing over here?” she asks with obvious accusation in her voice. She’s grinning from ear to ear and glances between Blake and me several times before giving me all of her attention.
“Having a drink,” I say. “Did you come over here to get one for yourself, or to check up on me?”
“Both!” she says, letting Damon’s hand fall away from hers and she reaches up and taps hers fingers on the bar, smiling at Blake. “Anything with Vodka.”
Blake nods and looks at Damon.
“I’ll have Rum & Coke,” Damon says.
Natalie presses her lips against the side of my head and I feel the heat of her breath on my ear when she whispers, “Holy shit, Cam! Do you know who that is?”
I notice Blake’s mouth spread subtly into a smile, having heard her.
Feeling my face get hot with embarrassment, I whisper back, “Yeah, his name is Blake.”
“That’s Rob’s brother!” she hisses; her gaze falls back on him.
I look up at Damon, hoping he’ll get the hint and drag her off somewhere, but this time he pretends not to ‘get it’. Where is the Damon I know, the one who used to have my back when it came to Natalie?
Uh oh, he must be pissed at her again. He only ever acts like this when Natalie has opened her big mouth, or done something that Damon just can’t get past. We’ve only been here for about thirty minutes. What could she have done in such a short time? And then I realize: this is Natalie and if anyone can piss a boyfriend off in under an under hour and without knowing it, it’s her.
I slip off the barstool and take her by the arm, pulling her away from the bar. Damon, probably knowing what my plan is, stays behind with Blake.
The music seems to have gotten louder as the live band ends one song and starts the next.
“What did you do?” I demand, turning her around to face me.
“What do you mean what did I do?” She’s hardly even paying attention to me; her body moves subtly with the music instead.
“Nat, I’m serious.”
Finally, she stops and looks right at me, searching my face for answers.
“To piss Damon off?” I say. “He was fine when we came in here.”
She looks across the space briefly at Damon standing by the bar, sipping his drink, and then back at me with a confused look on her face. “I didn’t do anything…I don’t think.” She looks up as if in thought, trying to recall what she might have said or done.
She puts her hands on her hips. “What makes you think he’s pissed?”
“He’s got that look,” I say, glancing back at him and Blake, “and I hate it when you two fight, especially when I’m stuck with you for the night and have to listen to you both go back and forth about stupid shit that happened a year ago.”
Natalie’s confused expression turns into a devious smile. “Well, I think you’re paranoid and maybe trying to distract me from saying anything about you and Blake.” She’s getting that playful look now and I hate it.
I roll my eyes. “There is no ‘me and Blake’, we’re just talking.”
“Talking is the first step. Smiling at him—(her grin deepens) which I totally saw you doing when I walked up—is the next step.” She crosses her arms and pops out her hip. “I bet you’ve already had a conversation with him without him having to pry the answers out of you—Hell, you already know his name.”
“For someone who wants me to have a good time and meet a guy, you don’t know how to shut up when things already appear to be going your way.”
Natalie lets the music dictate her movement again, raising her hands up a little above her and moving her h*ps around seductively. I just stand here.
“Nothing’s going to happen,” I say sternly. “You got what you wanted and I’m talking to someone and have no intention in telling him I have Chlamydia, so please, don’t make a scene.”
She gives in with a long, deep sigh and stops dancing long enough to say, “I guess you’re right. I’ll leave you to him, but if he takes you up to Rob’s floor, I want details.” She points her finger at me firmly, one eye slanted and her lips pursed.
“Fine,” I say, just to get her off my back, “but don’t hold your breath because it’s not gonna happen.”
AN HOUR AND TWO drinks later, I’m on ‘Rob’s floor’ of the building with Blake. I’m just a little buzzed, walking and seeing perfectly straight, so I know I’m not drunk. But I’m a little too happy and that bothers me a bit. When Blake suggested we ‘get away from the noise for a while’, my warning sirens were going off like crazy inside my head: Don’t you go off by yourself at a nightclub after a couple of drinks with this guy you don’t know. Don’t do it, Cam. You’re not a stupid girl, so don’t let the alcohol make you stupid.
All of these things screamed at me. And I listened until at some point, Blake’s infectious smile and the way he made me feel completely at ease calmed the voices and the sirens down so much that I couldn’t hear them anymore.
“This is what they call Rob’s Floor?” I ask, looking out over the cityscape from the roof of the warehouse. All of the buildings in the city are lit up brilliantly with glowing blue and white and green lights. The streets appear bathed in an orangish hue pouring down from the hundreds of street lamps.
“What did you expect?” he says, taking my hand and I inwardly flinch at the gesture but accept it. “A posh sex room with mirrors on the ceiling?”
Wait a second…that’s exactly what I thought—well, in a roundabout way—but then why in the hell did I come up here with him?
OK, now I’m panicking a little.
I think maybe I am slightly drunk after all, otherwise my judgment would not be this far off. And it freaks me out and almost completely sobers me up to think that I would ever be up for any kind of ‘sex room’ even in a drunken state. Is the alcohol really just making me stupid, or is it bringing out something inside of me that I don’t want to believe is there?
I glance over at the metal door set in the brick wall and notice a light shining through it and the doorjamb. He left it open; that’s a good sign.
He walks with me to a wooden picnic table and nervously I sit down next to him on the top of it. The wind brushes through my hair, pulling a few strands into my mouth. I reach up and tuck my finger behind them and pull the strands away.
“Good thing it was me,” he says, looking out at the city with his hands draped between his knees; his feet are propped on the bench seat below.
I pull my legs up and sit Indian-style, folding my hands in my lap. I look over at him questioningly.
He smiles. “Good thing it was me who brought you up here,” he clarifies. “A beautiful girl like you down there with all of those guys.” He turns his head to look right at me; his brown eyes appear faintly luminescent in the dark. “If I had been someone else, you might’ve been the rape victim of your very own Lifetime movie.”
I’m completely sober now. Just like that, in two seconds flat, it’s as though I never drank a thing. My back shoots straight up rigidly and I suck in a deep, nervous breath.
What the f**k was I thinking?!
“It’s alright,” he says, smiling softly and putting up both hands, palms facing outward in front of him, “I would never do anything to a girl that she didn’t want, or anything to one who’s had a few drinks and just thinks it’s what she wants.”
I think I just dodged a very deadly bullet.
My shoulders relax somewhat and I feel like I can breathe again. I mean sure, he could just be filling my head full of more bullshit to make me trust him, but my instincts are telling me that he’s perfectly harmless. Keep my guard up and be careful while I’m alone up here with him, but at least I can relax. I think if he intended to take advantage of me, he wouldn’t have announced the danger of the possibility like that.
I laugh a little under my breath, thinking about something he said.
“What’s so funny?” He looks across at me, smiling and waiting.
“Your Lifetime movie reference,” I say, feeling my lips shape in a faint, embarrassed smile. “You watch that stuff?”
He looks away, sharing my embarrassment for him. “Nah,” he says, “I think it’s just common knowledge comparison.”
“Really?” I taunt him. “I don’t know; you’re the first guy I’ve ever heard use ‘Lifetime movie’ in a sentence.”
He’s blushing now and I’m kicking myself for being so happy to see it.
“Well, just don’t tell anybody, alright?” He gives me his best pouty face.
I smile back at him and then look out at the city lights, hoping to deter any hopeful expectations he might have developed over the course of our brief, playful exchange. I don’t care how nice or charming or sexy he is, I’m not caving to him. I’m just not ready for anything other than what we’re doing right now: having an innocent, friendly conversation with no sexual or relationship strings attached. It’s so damn hard to have that with any guy because they always seem to think that a simple smile means something more than it is.
“So tell me,” he says, “why are you here alone?”
“Oh, no..,” I shake my smiling head and my finger at him, “…let’s not go there.”
“Come on, throw me a bone here. It’s just conversation.” He turns fully around at the waist to face me and rests one leg on the tabletop. “I genuinely want to know. It’s not a tactic.”
“Yeah, like digging around inside your problems to find something to pretend I care about just so I can get in your panties—if I wanted in your panties, I’d come out and tell you.”
“Oh, so you don’t want in my panties?” I look at him in a half-smiling sidelong glance.
A little defeated, but not deterred by it, he softens his face and says, “Eventually, yeah. I’d be f**king mental to not want to sleep with you, but if that’s all I wanted from you and that’s what I brought you up here for, I would’ve told you before you agreed to come up here.”
I appreciate the honesty and definitely have more respect for him, but my smile sort of locked up when he said something about ‘if that’s all’ he wanted from me. What else could he want from me? A date, which could lead to a relationship? Ummm, no.