Thanks to everyone who is reading, I hope you're enjoying the story. Thanks as always to Hubby for the edit. 3
I had to give it to Rich, or more likely, Maria; Riley's looked amazing. While the club was one of the better ones in the city, and the toilets didn't reek of piss like some places, they'd gone the extra mile decorating an area of it for Rich's birthday. A section by the bar had been cornered off with a red, velvet 'VIP' rope, and a number of plush leather sofas were arranged around a table. A huge banner hung across the wall, proclaiming "Happy 25th Birthday, Rich!" On the table were party hats, balloons, glow sticks, custom shot glasses, and other party things laid out.
Rich and Maria were already standing beside the table, both drinking Champagne, when me, Kelly and Carl, and Chloe and Jon entered with Mike and his latest squeeze Nicole.
"Happy birthday," I said, embracing Rich and handing him a card, which I'd stuffed twenty quid inside.
"Thank you." He kissed my cheek, and then I stepped over to talk to Maria.
"You look great," I said, nodding approvingly at her outfit; a black lace dress with a plunging neckline and skyscraper heels that made her almost as tall as Chloe.
"Thanks, so do you. I love your hair." She picked up a lock and ran it through her fingers.
A few days previously, I'd asked Charlotte to dye my roots. My ombre was fading and growing out, and I wanted her to freshen it up. The end result, I now had a gradient of dark teal starting just where my ears were, and gradually changing to bright turquoise at the tips.
After saying hello to everyone, Rich went to the bar and bought the first round of drinks, as it was his birthday. We all stood around chatting, as the club filled up and more people arrived.
I tried my hardest not to watch the door, but I'd somehow ended up facing it directly, and each time it opened, my heartrate sped up a little, only for it to drop a moment later when the person arriving wasn't him.
Picking up on my feelings, Chloe grabbed my hand, and with Maria and Kelly in toe, we made our way to the dance floor. That's all I needed. With the bass thrumming through my body, and alcohol coursing through my veins, I lost myself in the music.
Others soon joined us, and before long my girls were grinding against their respective guys. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some random leering at me, and sidestepped out of his view, only to collide with Keith.
His eyes were wide, and he looked like a fish out of water, but he regarded me with a smile. "Jade … hey."
"Hey," I yelled over the music. "Good to see you."
"Yeah. Yeah. It's nice to bump into someone I recognize since I lost Seth."
My heart pounded. "He's here?"
Keith moved awkwardly from foot to foot doing what I assumed was his version of dancing. Feeling sorry for him, I took his hands, and moved to the music, leading him in the rhythm.
"Yeah, we got here together. He said he was getting us some drinks and we got separated. I was looking for him, and wound up here." He looked out onto the dance floor, staring around at the bodies heaving together, his eyes lingering on a girl just behind Chloe. "Would you believe it's my first time in a club?"
That explained so much.
"Freaking you out a bit?" Still holding his hands, I led him off the dance floor and towards the bar where it was a bit quieter.
"That's better." He let out a long breath. "There's so many people out there."
"I know. It can get a little crazy."
"How do guys do that?" He nodded towards Jon, who had his hands all over Chloe.
"Don't use him as your blueprint. You want to attract a lady's attention? Make her feel like the only person in the whole room."
Keith laughed uneasily. "How am I meant to do that with all this noise?"
"Hmm …. good point. Maybe this isn't the best time or place to pick up women."
He glanced at a girl walking past us, who's outfit had me wondering how it was staying in place, then nodded. "Yeah. And I don't really think most of the girls here are my type."
"Let's not worry about women now. Let's find Seth and get you a drink."
I edged along the bar, looking out for Seth and then I spotted him wedged at the end, clutching two bottles of beer, and scanning the room. Everything else melted away.
Oh sweet baby Jesus.
He was wearing a black shirt, with the top three buttons undone, so just a hint of chest hair was showing. It worked perfectly with the simple black jeans and suit jacket he'd paired with it. His hair was slicked back, and slightly quiffed up at the front, and the overhead strip light highlighted the flecks of grey in his beard.
He turned in our direction, and our eyes met. My heart rate spiked, and my palms suddenly felt unnaturally slick.
"There he is," Keith shouted above the music.
We began weaving our way towards him.
"Where did you get to?" he asked Keith as we neared, and he passed him a bottle of beer.
"I got lost on the dance floor, and Jade had to rescue me."
Seth's eyes settled on mine, and he stared at me hard, then smiled. The dimples in his cheeks made my stomach flip.
"Wow. You look great," he said, his eyes still lingering on me.
I looked away as the heat flushed up my neck. "Thanks."
"Can I get you a drink?"
My skin was tingling, and my throat felt dry. My head had gone all loopy. I had to get away before I said or did something stupid.
"I best get back out there and find the girls," I said, glancing at the dance floor. "I'll come find you later, yeah?"
His eyes dimmed, but he nodded. "Sure. I'll see you later."
I practically ran for the dancefloor, God only knows how I didn't trip in my heels, and barrelled into Kelly.
"I need to speak to you in the loo. NOW!"
Noticing my wide eyes, Kelly whispered something to Carl then took my hand and led me away. Once we were in the safety of the ladies' room, she asked, "What's up?"
"Well, yeah. Rich did invite him. I thought that's what you wanted?"
"It is … but he looks super-hot. What do I do?"
Kelly burst out laughing. "Jade, I cannot believe you're going this loopy over a guy. Just talk to him. Didn't you say you were just going to let the night play out? Stop stressing, and just act normally."
"Okay, we need to get you another drink. You need to relax."
Taking my hand, Kelly led me from the ladies' room, and we made our way to the bar, where she ordered us each a glass of wine.
I took a sip and let the alcohol wash over me, then let out a long breath. "I'm being ridiculous, aren't I?"
Kelly smirked. "Just a tad."
I took another swallow of wine, and felt my heartbeat steady out. "Okay. No more freaking out."
"That's my girl."
We finished our drinks, and made our way back to the dancefloor. Once again, I was the only one partnerless, but I didn't let it bother me, intending to just let the night play out.
As I moved to the music, I felt someone staring at me, and turned to see the random from earlier looking at me. The way his eyes swept over my body made me feel uncomfortable, and I shifted out of his view. But wherever I moved to, he followed, his eyes raking over my body in a predatory way.
My skin crawled, and I stalked off the dancefloor, heading to the bar.
I'd just gotten myself another glass of wine, when I felt the same hungry gaze on me again, and turned to see the random approaching me with one of his mates.
"Alright love?" he said, quite obviously looking at my boobs. "Can I get you a drink?"
"I've got one, thanks." I held up my glass to show him, and inched away.
"Come on, it's just a drink," his mate said, grabbing my arm, and spinning me around to face him.
"I'm not interested." I yanked my hand away and turned back to the first guy, piercing him with a hard glare. Keeping my voice civil, but firm, I said, "Enjoy your night."
The two randoms leered at me a finale time, then walked away, their heads inclined as they whispered something to each other.
I gulped down my wine and scanned the dance floor for my friends. They were still where I'd left them, and I made my way over.
Jon and Chloe were still joined at the lips, and Kelly and Carl seemed in their own little world as they danced with their bodies pressed together. As Maria and Rich weren't sucking each other's faces off, I joined them.
I tried to relax, but I couldn't help looking over my shoulder every few minutes to see if the randoms had returned. Guys like that never usually bothered me, and I'd just shrug them off normally, but something had set me on edge. My heart was beating faster than normal, and the longer I remained on the dance floor, the more claustrophobic it became.
"I'm going to get a bottle of water," I yelled to Maria.
She nodded, and I left the dance floor.
As I weaved through the crowds, my head span, and everything tilted on its axis. Dark spots danced in my vision, and I knew something wasn't right. I tried to reach the bar, but as I moved closer, a pair of strong arms grabbed me and pulled me away.
"Come on love, we'll take care of you."
I tried to struggle out of the guy's grip, but him and his friend had me sandwiched between them, as the led me away from the dancefloor, and towards the exit.
The cold night air of outside hit me like a punch, and a moment later a wave of nausea crashed over me. I bent over and wretched, but nothing came up.
I was still being held in the vice-like grip of the two guys, and now they were walking away from the club.
"Stop. I want to … back inside … find my friends."
"We're your friends." A hand snaked up my thigh, pushing under my skirt, and with what little energy I had left, clamped my legs together before he could move any further.
"I don't want to." I fell away, finally free, but stumbled backwards.
From behind, I felt hot hands on my shoulders, and someone gently caught me.
"Jade, are you okay?" Seth's breath was hot on my neck, and momentary relief washed over me.
I looked at the two guys, and through blurred vision, saw one inching forwards as though he was about to make a move towards Seth.
I felt Seth's body stiffen behind me, then he roared, "You take one more step towards her and I'll kill you both."
The guys looked at each other, one of them spat in Seth's direction, then they ran off.
I turned to face Seth, and saw him pulling off his jacket. He wrapped it around me, and I collapsed into his arms, as a sob broke free from my lips.
Then, everything went black.
I woke up with the worst headache I'd ever had in my life. My mouth felt like it was filled with cotton wool, and my eyelids were stuck together. I forced my eyes open, and looked around.
I was lying in a strange bed, in a room I didn't recognise.
Images of the night before flicked through my mind, and I saw the two guys dragging me out of the club against my will.
Hot claws gripped my body, and I threw off the bed covers. Leaping to my feet, I found I was still fully clothed apart from my shoes, which had been placed neatly on the floor at the foot of the bed.
My heart hammered, and I creeped from the room. As I stepped out into the hall, I heard snoring coming from the room where the door was half open.
Terrified of what I'd discover if I looked in, but desperate to know whose house I was in, I peered around the door and saw Seth sprawled out on the couch. His jacket was thrown over the nearby armchair, and his shoes were kicked off at random.
My body went limp and I sagged against the door frame.
Oh thank god.
The sound of someone clearing their throat bought my attention back to Seth, and I looked up to see him gazing at me.
I had no idea what time it was, and the living room was shrouded in black. The light from the hallway splayed across his face, which was lined and there were heavy bags under his eyes.
He pushed himself up into a sitting position, his gaze never leaving mine, then smiled softly. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I think so?" My voice came out shaking and breathless. I cautiously stepped into the room, and perched on the second armchair, opposite the one where Seth had thrown his jacket. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure exactly. Me and Keith had decided to call it a night and head home early. He'd just gotten into a taxi when I saw you with those guys. You were slurring your words, and stumbled backwards. That's when I grabbed you, and told the guys to fuck off. I thought you'd had too much to drink, because you passed out a few seconds later. Then I tried to get us back in the club, but the bouncer said you were too out of it, and there was no way I was leaving you outside on your own. I did think about using your phone to call one of your friends, but you didn't have your bag with you."
"What do you mean? I had it in the club."
"You didn't have anything with you when I pulled you away from those guys outside."
I let out a long breath, my chest tight. "Fuck. So, none of my friends know I'm here?"
"It's okay. When the bouncer wouldn't let us back in, and I discovered you didn't have your bag or anything, I called Mike. He didn't answer, but I left a message on his voicemail telling him you'd had too much to drink and I was taking you back to mine to sleep it off."
"I didn't have too much to drink. I had about three glasses of wine. I know when I'm drunk, and that wasn't it. I felt weird, like the room was spinning around, and my vision kept dimming. I think one of those guys put something in my drink, and they were going to…" I couldn't bring myself to finish the sentence.
Fire blazed in Seth's eyes. "Fucking animals. When you're feeling up to it, if you want to, I'll take you to the police station and you can report this."
The police station … to report that someone had drugged me and tried to sexually assault me. The memory of the guy's hand on my thigh, inching up under my skirt, flashed through my mind. A few moments later, and no one would have had a clue where I was.
"Okay." My voice trembled and I felt tears building in my eyes as the enormity of what had almost happened weighed down on me.
In an instant, Seth had climbed off the couch, crossed the room, and wrapped me in his arms. He stroked my hair gently and whispered, "It's okay. You're safe."
I let out a shaky breath then asked, "What time is it?"
Seth fished in his pocket for his phone and switched it on. "Just after six."
"Thank God I'm not in work today." I laughed uneasily.
"I'm scheduled in later, but I'll call in so I can stay with you."
"Thank you. But I can't ask you to do that."
"You're not, I'm offering."
"All right. Let's go now, then maybe you'll still have time to get to the studio."
"Work doesn't matter. All that matters is knowing you're okay. But you are half right, we should go now. You need to report this as soon as possible. Are you sure you're ready?"
I took a deep breath and stood up. "As ready as I'll ever be."
Seth stood too and lightly laid his hand on my arm. "It'll be okay."
I looked up at him, the faintest smile ghosting across my lips. "I know."
He inclined his head to kiss me on the forehead, before taking my hand and we walked out of the living room together.