“And the problem is?”
Carrie and all her twenty-six years of cynicism stared at me with a look full of judgment in her jaded brown eyes. “He’s a child. You’re a grad student, and he doesn’t even have a job. What exactly are you doing with him?”
“Other than fucking him every chance I can?” I said with a chuckle I couldn’t hold back.
“Shay, there are millions of men in the world who aren’t boys and have great bodies and penises who are actually gainfully employed. Some might even be good in bed too.”
This wasn’t the first time Carrie had given me this lecture. Elliot was an acquired taste, and as a woman who’d made a success of her own boutique all on her own, she found his boy-toy act appalling. For her, a man had to wear a suit, and an expensive one at that, and as she always said, “bring something to the table more than a big cock.” That Elliot only brought the right size cock wasn’t enough, in her mind.
She wasn’t necessarily wrong. I knew that. I knew El was a passing fancy. He had no idea what I meant when I talked about my work, and he had nothing to say to my friends, even the ones who didn’t think he was one step above gigolo like Carrie thought. I freely admitted that he was merely great sex.
Breaking off another piece of her coffee cake, I leaned forward and nodded. “Gainfully employed penises?” She shot me a look of disgust. “I know. I know. I don’t plan on this being a forever thing. Elliot is just something for now. I’ll be leaving in a few months anyway, so we’ll be over then, if it doesn’t happen before.”
“He must be incredible in bed, Shay. You know I wouldn’t give you a hard time if I didn’t love you like a sister, but he’s way too young for you. You need a man who can handle his business. That boy has no business at all.”
“I get it. I don’t want you thinking he’s a freeloader. I never pay for him.”
Jesus, I sounded like one of those abused women making excuses for their man.
“He has no job, honey. Where does he get money from?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“You’ve never asked?”
Avoiding her intense stare, I looked away and mumbled, “No.”
“Shay, look at me. I’ve known you long enough to know this isn’t healthy for you. Maybe Elliot’s a great guy. Maybe he isn’t. That isn’t the point. You bring a ton of great stuff to the table, and he shouldn’t even be let in the house to find the table. There are levels, honey, and he’s not at yours.”
I looked at her and knew she was right. The problem was I didn’t want to let Elliot go. Not yet anyway. “I know all of this, Carrie. And I know you love me, but give the poor guy a break. It must be terrible to be used just for sex.”
Her face twisted into a look of disgust. “Uh-huh. A hardship like no man has ever endured before.”
“Let’s change the subject. I need to go into this interview feeling good.”
Carrie pulled her cake away from me and shook her head. “Speaking of that, why are you bothering with this job at Club X anyway? You’re leaving, so why get a new job? What’s wrong with the one you have already?”
“I’m not making enough at The Brew House. I need to save up some money for when I go to Copenhagen. I just figured if I could get a job at Club X, I’d be able to have a stockpile when I leave.”
“You think you’re up for that? I hear that place is wild. Members only and freaky.”
I rolled my eyes at her use of freaky. Like I hadn’t seen my fair share of that in and out of the clubs I’d bartended in. “I’m not worried. I heard from one of the girls who used to work with me that there’s money to be made there, so why not? She worked there for a while and it was fine.”
Carrie leaned forward and whispered, “You have to tell me if the rumors of the fantasy rooms are true. I’ve heard things.”
“I don’t plan on doing anything that involves fantasy rooms, Carrie. I’m going there to bartend. That’s it. My friend from The Brew House got me an interview, so I’m going in with the attitude that they need a bartender and I’m their woman.”
“I’ve heard things about the one brother, Stefan, who runs the nightclub part. Major league player, Shay.”
“So?” What the hell did I care about some guy she thought was a player?
“So nothing. I’ve just heard things.”
Leaning back in my chair, I rolled my eyes. “I don’t care what this Stefan does when he isn’t running Club X. As long as he pays me the money I need, we’ll get along fine.”
“I hear he’s loaded. He and his two brothers run the place and make millions every year off the wild shit our fellow citizens like to act out in those fantasy rooms.”
I looked across the table and saw Carrie’s eyes light up. “Why do I have the feeling you think this guy would be more appropriate for me than Elliot?”
“Because he’s got millions and owns a club. Your guy has some secret stash of cash and goofs around your place all day while you work your tail off.”
“Money’s not everything, Carrie. I would think everything you went through with Rick would show you that.”
Now it was time for her to roll her eyes. Every time I mentioned her most recent ex-husband I got the eye roll of disgust. “He Whose Name We Are Never To Say Again has nothing to do with this. And he isn’t even loaded. All I’m saying about your situation is that you might like it if a man with some success behind him began to take care of your business.”
“So better to be with a guy who’s some kind of world-class player than an unemployed twenty-year-old who’s crazy about me?”
Taking a sip of her coffee, her red stained lips spread into a wide smile. “Better to be with a man who’s your equal, Shay. And by the way, you have some nerve pooh-poohing players. Isn’t that what you’re doing with your boy-toy there? Playing?”
I hated when she hit too close to home. Fidgeting in my chair, I looked away again. “It’s not the same thing, Carrie. We’re having a good time and nobody’s going to get hurt. Players like you’re talking about leave a lot of emotional carnage in their wake. I’m not up for that, thank you.”
Sliding over the rest of her cake, she rested her hand on top of mine. “I’m not saying you are, honey. I’m just saying you’re too good for what you’re doing now.”
Looking down at my watch, I saw I had just enough time to get to Club X for my interview. “I have to head out. I’ll let you know how it goes.”
“I want all the in depth details, so take lots of mental notes. And don’t worry. You got this.”
I stood from the table and grabbed the last bite of coffee cake. “Yeah, it’s nothing. They want a bartender, and I want a job. I’ll make sure to check out this world-class player you’ve heard about, though. You know, just for shits and giggles.”
Carrie nodded. “Exactly. Call me when you get out.”
As I headed out the door toward my car, I tried to ignore the little voice in my head telling me Carrie was right about Elliot. I didn’t know how she’d gotten my conscience on her side, but I didn’t plan to listen to either of them yet. For the next few months, all I planned to do was make as much money as possible at Club X and have the time of my life with the hot young guy sharing my bed.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
CASH’S OFFICE door opened and a knockout brunette walked out right past me on her way toward the front door and out of my life if I didn’t stop her. Quickly following behind, I caught up to her and tapped her on the shoulder. “Hey, where you going? If you’re here for a job, you’ll probably be dealing with me.”
She turned around and looked me up and down, her gaze settling on mine after she’d thoroughly checked me out. “Yeah? Well, if I get the job, we can talk then.”
“I’m part owner here, so you’ll definitely get the job. What’s your name?” I asked, dying to find out who this woman with as much nerve as I had was.