Cameron Parker shaded her eyes against the bright lights that splashed against the wall of the smoke-filled punk club. She was in the very back, tucked against the wall near the door. The floor of the club slanted down to the stage, so Cam had a good view.
Not that she was finding who she sought. She was looking for her friend Liz, who’d sworn to meet her. She’d come here a few times with friends, but never alone.
Cam checked her phone, ignoring a deluge of texts and emails. They were work, and she’d promised herself a night of fun before her new assignment started.
It was 10:10. Liz was late, as usual. Cam looked around at the crush of people in the room and wished she were somewhere else.
It was loud as hell in here, although the band wasn’t playing. Raucous music seeped out of crappy speakers, making it impossible for Cam to call Liz.
Cam turned her head and caught a glimpse of herself in the cracked mirror clinging to the club’s wall, segmented and broken-looking. She was tall, whip-thin, and redheaded, wearing lots of dark eyeshadow and a strapless leather dress. The only parts of her face that weren’t covered in glitter were her big blue eyes and soft pink lips. Instead, she wore a ton of smoky eye makeup and lots of lip gloss.
The image bobbed in the mirror’s smashed surface, making her look insane. It seemed to fit perfectly with her surroundings.
She looked away from the mirror and took a big sip of her drink. She was nervous, being here without a friend. Being a woman alone looked pathetic, but then again that was sort of the whole vibe of this place. Pathetic.
She finished her drink and headed for the bar. People swirled around her, and the spot she’d held was immediately absorbed into the crowd. This bar was always busy, despite the lack of servers and seats.
If she was going to stay long enough to say hi to Liz, she was going to get another drink. She squeezed in between two big guys, waiting patiently for the bartender to notice her.
One of the guys moved. Cam had to do a double take when she saw the man that took his place.
He was huge, at least six foot five, and built of pure muscle. Dressed in a black leather jacket and black jeans. Dark hair, dark blue eyes, tattoos up and down his arms. Hair cut in the popular Peaky Blinders undercut, long on the top and shaved on the sides.
But it was really the expression on his face that got her. Something like amusement flitted across his features, but she could tell that there was something raw there. Anger, or self-hatred maybe.
She realized she was staring a second before he looked at her, his eyes traveling from her face down to her long legs, then back up to her tits.
Then, he looked her right in the face and smiled.
A chill ran through her body at his expression. It was like having a big cat grinning at her, tightly wound and ready to pounce.
She blushed and looked down. That didn’t stop him from sliding over to take the spot next to her, though.
“Can I buy you a drink?” he asked.
He was British, which was something of a shock. His voice was a lovely, velvety purr that matched his looks perfectly. She looked up at him again, a little awestruck. Cam cleared her throat, suddenly nervous, but willed her voice to remain steady.
“Sure,” she said. “Whiskey, on the rocks.”
He turned to the bar, looking around for the bartender. He waved him down, though the words of his order were lost in the melee all around them. He paid for the drinks, then turned to Cam with the drink dangling from his fingers.
“Thanks,” she said.
Their fingers touched as she took it. He took a sip of his drink without breaking eye contact. She had to smile, because either the man was a born predator or he did this a lot.
Not that she was dissuaded by it. She took a long swallow of her drink, thinking that maybe there was a cosmic reason why Liz hadn’t shown. She wasn’t really the type to take men home, but he was so good looking…
“Are you gonna tell me your name?” he asked, arching a brow.
His voice was cultured, polished, as if he’d just stepped out of Parliament. And yet, he was here, at a punk rock show. She looked at him with curiosity.
“Cameron,” she said. “Cam.”
“Smith,” he said.
He offered her a hand, which she shook. A thousand tiny spikes of energy crawled over her skin, and it was hard not to look at him with doe eyes. She resisted, though, playing it casual.
“So…” she said, reclaiming her hand. “Are you here to see the band?”
He shifted, making her all the more aware of his muscles beneath the leather jacket and Death From Above 1979 t-shirt.
“The Blinds? I am. The drummer’s a friend of mine,” he said.
She didn’t know what to say, so instead she filled the silence with taking another big pull of her drink. At the rate she was going, she was going to be tipsy before she knew it.
Cam looked at the ridiculously hot punk rocker, biting her lip. Would it be so bad to let her freak flag fly, just for one night?
“You want another drink?” Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome asked.
She looked down at the drink in her hands, surprised to find it empty.
“Yeah, why not?” she said. “It’s early, right?”
He grinned again and waved down the bartender. She took the opportunity to check him out some more. He had a dimple on the right side of his face that flashed when he grinned. And his leather jacket was rolled up at the elbows, revealing strong forearms, veiny and muscular in a way that made her knees weak.
She looked away, running her hand down her hip, sheathed in the little leather dress. She had to get up early tomorrow for work. She was starting a new assignment, working undercover at Calloway Corp, posing as a secretary to try to find out if a few financial inconsistencies were just that… or more.
But since her last assignment as an investigative reporter had involved discovering -- via telephone call -- what went on at slaughterhouses, she’d promised herself a few days off before starting something new. She worked hard, and deserved every bit of it.
The band started assembling onstage as he handed her another drink. They weren’t especially memorable, but the lead singer had bright green hair, pulled into spikes all over his head.
Smith started to bob his head in appreciation. She smiled. It was hard not to admire appreciation, especially when it was expressed by someone so damned good looking
“Here,” he said, holding his cup up to give a toast. “To new experiences and living every moment to the fullest.”