Suspiciously Obedient

Page 29

And he wanted to keep it that way.

No one needed to know the real Mike before he could find him.

Chapter Nine

The euro techno beat of the nightclub took over her brain waves within about ten seconds. It wasn’t so much the pounding as it was the actual syncopation of the beats and the electronic sounds that drilled a kind of thrumming through her body, focused all the way to a pinpoint at the tip of her clit. It was music designed to move bodies, to encourage people to push bodies against each other, and in its mimic of lovemaking rhythms, it spurred desire. She wasn’t exactly looking to encourage desire inside her. A steady dose of vibrator-induced orgasms had been her only sexual diet, and like any diet consisting of only one food group, it wasn’t satisfying. While she would certainly enjoy meeting someone in the abstract, in reality she had that pesky problem of still being in love with Matt Jones, or Mike Bournham, or fuckhead—whatever you wanted to call him.

Jeremy had been the one to suggest the nightclub, and she’d reluctantly agreed. Still struggling to understand exactly what his role was here, she’d come to view him as a goofy, temporary friend, someone to spend time with and converse with, and to break up the monotony of her non-work time. Otherwise, she still viewed him with suspicion, if Mike had actually sent him here to watch over her. Attraction was evident, so what was this cover story really about? As her own interest in him simmered, threatening to boil over, she found his story too flimsy. What kind of man does that? A weirdo, right? Jeremy wasn’t that weird; he was just privileged, spoiled in some ways. Who had the opportunity to travel like he had for over a decade? To skip the worry of needing a paycheck and of having a steady home?

She was certainly jealous in some ways, but who wouldn’t be? Her own ambitions would never get her to the level of money that he and Mike had acquired so young. Stop thinking about Mike, she told herself. Pretty soon all she would think was boom, boom, boom, boom, the beat of the music taking over.

“There,” Jeremy said, weaving through the crowd, holding two sloppy glasses of some kind of drink above half the people’s heads. Mostly the women, because the men were about as tall as Jeremy.

She took the drink and sipped eagerly, enjoying the cool bite of what turned out to be a Cosmo. Not fearing Jeremy, or even worrying that he was coming on to her, she found herself drinking the cocktail quickly, less worried about getting drunk and more concerned about getting numb. Between the music and the alcohol, maybe she could make the keening for Mike fade a little bit more.

That damn dream last night. Tactile sensations that had been so vivid she could almost feel Jeremy’s breath against her shoulder right now. Face burning with the memory, her core clamped down, a wave of fire filling her pores. Or maybe that was the alcohol taking over.

The strange mixture of desire for him and knowing that he wouldn’t push made Lydia want to drink more, to loosen up and let go, to drop whatever jumble of thoughts had taken over these past few days and just be.

Ever proficient at self-delusion, as the alcohol kicked in, she had to admit, layer by layer loosening, that she was attracted to Jeremy, too. Too soon, she thought, it’s too soon. But when? Look what Mike had done—he’d invented this entire scenario for the sake of promoting his company, sacrificing her as the billion-view whore. All for the sake of winning some corporate version of a bet with the board of directors. Who does that to someone?

Michael Bournham. On the other hand, Jeremy had pleaded Mike’s case. Told the truth. Given her insight into the man’s behavior. Wasn’t that enough? Maybe if Mike answered a single text, voicemail, or call. Silence told her nothing. Less than nothing. What it shouted was one, simple answer: there was no hope.

She shook her head and Jeremy shouted over the crowd, “You okay?” His head was bent down, his face screwed up with concern. “The drink a problem?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No, I’m fine. Just thinking.”

“Don’t do it—it’s dangerous for your health.”

Lydia smiled, flashing more brilliance at him than she was probably capable of going forward this evening. “Get me another drink so that I can be healthier and think less.”

He saluted. “Yes, sir.”

“That’s ma’am,” she shouted over the crowd.


Asses brushed against her hip and she swore a hand grabbed the edge of her breast as a throng of people crushed her into a support post at the periphery of the dance floor. She looked around for Jeremy, but in the sea of tall guys with brown, wavy hair, he faded into the background. In some ways he belonged here far more that she did, her wavering regarding the job tipping her more and more each day toward resigning and just going home.

No, she told herself, it’s not time to leave. I’m still here for all the right reasons, even though I left for all the wrong reasons.

Jeremy returned with another drink, a second cosmo. This one she sipped. He chugged his back fairly quickly, loosening up. In no sense of the word did Jeremy need to loosen. He definitely was going to get plastered tonight from the looks of it. Where did he stay? she wondered. The thought caught her off guard. She’d never asked before.

“Where do you live?” she shouted.

“What?” He cupped his ear.

She stood closer on tiptoes as he leaned down. “Where do you live?”

He thumbed toward the door, as if that were going to give her some direction help. “At a guest house, I don’t know, a couple blocks from yours. It’s clean, it’s nice, and the whores don’t charge too much.”

She almost spat out her mouthful. “Good to know, half-price whores in Iceland.”

“How do you think I stretch my money out? When the Euro softens…”

“I hope you don’t skimp on the condoms.”

His turn to spit out his drink.

“Why are we here again?” she screamed.

“Because you wanted to have some fun.”

“And this is supposed to be fun?”

“It is if you dance.”

The dance floor was intimidating. All of the women looked like fashion models and most of the men looked like giant redwood trees with brown and blonde hair. “I don’t know how to dance like that,” she admitted.

“Neither do I. Let’s give it a try.”

“It pretty much looks like you just rub your body all over someone next to you,” she said, as they wended their way through the crowd.

“Then I’ll be sure to stand next to you.”

She giggled, caught off guard by the comment. Then again, he’d been dropping hints, but he’d then pull back, baiting her like a kitten struggling to snag a piece of yarn dangled in front of it, bouncing up and down. Was he attracted to her or wasn’t he? This was one of those moments where, as the alcohol kicked in, she started to think that maybe fucking Michael Bournham’s best friend wasn’t such a bad idea, after all. Would it hurt his feeling? He seemed to only have one, focused entirely on acquiring money. Her heart pierced at the thought of their last moments together, how heartfelt he’d seemed, and yet how his lies had been completely exposed by the television story. If he had said just once that it wasn’t true she would have tried to believe him.

Then again, maybe she wouldn’t.

Being torn like this was driving her crazy. Jeremy’s body was so close, so tantalizing, like that day at the Blue Lagoon. Nothing so achingly not-quite had happened between them since then, but as the music roared to life with a new song and her cosmos kicked in, she thought that not quite would quickly turn into about time.

Finishing her drink, she got on the dance floor and began to rub her body against Jeremy’s in a facsimile of the tight dancing. The way the dancers moved wasn’t erotic or sensual; it was more utilitarian than that. They were sardines on a tiny parquet floor, with smoke pouring out from vents unknown, and as her body heated up and sweat began to form around the edges of her hair, framing her face, at the back of her neck, under her arms, and down at her V, she let her mind loosen, the right hemisphere of her brain taking over, turning her into nothing but energy that poured out over all of the people on the floor, mingling her atoms with theirs, and making her part of the one, instead of being one. The expansiveness relaxed her. Jeremy’s arms, his hip, his thigh, brushed against her breast, her ribs, her ass, and it just felt like some communal touching.

Until it didn’t.

A hand took a firm fleshful, fingers digging into the underbelly of her buttocks, almost touching her labia through her clothing, and she yelped, turning to look at Jeremy, who was physically turned away. Catching the back of his head and his shoulder, she pulled forward, stumbling into him, and then turned around to find herself staring at the chest of an immutable man. She had to crane her neck up to get a look at him.

Siggi. A blanket of muscle, he tried to billow himself around her, wrapping his arms around her hips, hands clawing at her. Completely surprised and disoriented, she tried to make sense of her officemate groping her, the calculation impossible to compute.

“Siggi! Stop it!” she shouted, batting uselessly at his hands. A sloppy grin and more determined grip were the only response, his legs catapulting her up in rhythm to the music’s beat, his thick erection pushing up into her groin as she was bounced like a puppet on a performer’s knee.

Except that wasn’t his knee.

Jeremy grabbed Lydia’s hand and dragged her through the crowd. The guy was clearly three sheets to the wind, and Jeremy had absolutely no interest in trying to defend Lydia against someone so drunk, so belligerent, and so obviously capable of beating him to a tiny little pulp the size of the piece of pickled herring. Jeremy had had his fair share of scrapes around the world, getting into fistfights over cockfights in Indonesia, and once having to bitchslap a transsexual at a variety show in Berlin. That came about after being the recipient of three slaps himself. In his defense, he’d done it simply out of anger when his own sexual prowess was called into question by a guy so hot, so feminine, and so alluring that he’d provoked the argument simply for the sake of seeing where the passion might go.

Turning back to see whether the groper was following them, he was chagrined to find that yes, he was. Guys this drunk, hitting on women as gorgeous as Lydia, were not easy to shake off. His body tensed, senses on alert, as he felt everything in the nightclub more acutely. Being the prey had that effect, and while he was the indirect prey, he knew that whatever the guy had planned for Lydia, only Jeremy could thwart.

At least there was some consolation in the fact that they hadn’t had much to drink yet. Two drinks made him loose, four would have fucked him up, and six would have sent him back to bitchslap land. Edging out of the crowd, he found sweet relief in fresh air, until the guy showed up, practically screaming at their backs.

“What the fuck, man?” he said.

“Siggi, cut it out!” Lydia shouted.

Siggi? Of course his name was Siggi. “Sigurður” was like “Michael” around here. “Hey, man, Siggi, let’s just chill out,” he said, trying on the affable Jeremy, the one who could talk his way out of about half of these situations in whatever language he needed to use; it was more about being nonverbal. Not nonthreatening, though, and as he stood to his full height, his arm around Lydia, he felt her leaning against him—appreciative, he hoped, for the protection, because if his face was about to get bashed in, he would expect that anyone would be grateful.

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