The throbbing bass of the dance club pulsed all around me. I closed my eyes and tossed my freshly-dyed hair back and forth, trying to let the music flow through me. Bodies were pressed up against me, sweaty and shifting, the anticipation in the crowd building as the DJ prepared for the bass drop the crowd was waiting for. When it finally reached its crescendo and dropped, the bass pounding through the room like a bomb, the place went wild.
Despite the insanity and wild times happening all around me, however, the Las Vegas dance club where I was partying with my friends was the last place I wanted to be. I wanted to slip through the crowd, to get somewhere away from the chaos to someplace I could clear my head and get some fresh air.
Before I could, however, I felt the pressure of a hand clamp down on my hip. Whipping around on my heels, I was face-to-face with the gaunt face of some sweaty dude, his hair wet and hanging loose around his ugly features. Glancing down, I watched as his narrow hips began to sway back and forth in some kind of gross prelude to a mating dance. I wasn’t having any of it, and I’m sure whatever facial expression I wore at the moment made that more than clear.
“Um, no thank you!” I called out, my voice small and indistinct in the music.
“Huh?” he said, his features still arranged in a skeevy expression.
“I said, no, thank you!”
He either didn’t hear me or didn’t care. The gross guy’s other hand fell onto the other side of my hips. That hand, however, was holding some kind of drink in a plastic cup, and as the man moved and swayed, a bit of his drink sloshed over the rim and splashed cold on my exposed skin. The feeling was surprising and annoying as hell.
“Ugh!” I shouted out. “Get that away from me!”
I have no idea how the guy could’ve possibly interpreted what I’d said as anything other than irritation, but somehow he did. The corners of his mouth pulled up even more than they already were, and he began to move in even closer, so close that I could see the beads of sweat collecting on the curly black hairs sprouting out of his chest.
Instinct took over at that point, and I threw my hands up to get him away from me. As I did, however, one of my hands arced up and knocked the drink out of his hand, sending the brown drink flying everywhere. Some of it splashed on me, but the rest got all over the dude, mixing in with the sweat already sheening his body.
Dripping with his drink, his expression turned from a pervy, predatory one to a look of shock and anger.
“What the fuck!” he shouted out, his voice carrying over the music.
“Sorry!” I said, not sorry at all.
His hand shot out and clamped onto my wrist.
“You’re buying me another one!” he said, his eyes narrowed in anger.
Like hell I was.
Before I could even think about getting away, I felt the pressure of another hand latch onto my other wrist. Then a familiar voice called out, “Get the fuck away, you ugly creep!”
Patricia Delphi, my best friend since sophomore year in high school, stepped up to my side and took up a position between me and the creep.
“Who the fuck are you?” the man asked.
“I’m the girl who’s gonna put my heel through your damn eyeball if you don’t get the fuck away from my friend, you jackass!”
He got the hint.
“Fine, fine!” he said, raising his hands in defeat, one of them still holding the now-empty plastic cup. “Just leave me alone, you crazy bitch!”
With that, the creep sidled off into the crowd to find the next girl to annoy.
“Come on!” said Patricia, already moving her slim body, packed tight into a form-fitting silver dress. “Let’s get back out there!”
Part of me wanted to do just that, to get a fresh drink in my hand and try to lose myself in the music. But another wanted a break from my wild birthday weekend.
“I think I need some fresh air!” I called out over the tunes.
“You need a new drink!” yelled back Patricia, her pretty, sharp features contorting as she raised her voice over the music. “Go out onto the patio; I’ll meet you out there!”
I nodded and turned on my heels instantly, making a beeline for the neon-purple illuminated stairs that led up to the second floor, where the exit to the balcony was located. I weaved through the crowd, trying to ignore the leering eyes of just about every skeevy dude there.
Finally, I reached the balcony of the nightclub, a wide sweep of a space that looked out over the brilliant cityscape of the Las Vegas strip. It was Friday night, and from up there, the Vegas Strip looked like one big party, one big drunken debauch where anything went for the right price.
I stepped up to the railing and folded my arms across the cool metal. Little knots of club patrons were here and there, and the bass thumped through the walls – though now it was quiet enough that I could actually hear myself think.
“Twenty-one,” I thought, shaking my head as I looked out over the city. “Twenty-one and no idea what I’m doing with myself.”
“There you are!” called out Patricia, stepped towards me through the crowds with a pair of bright-blue drinks in her hands. “Standing out here by yourself like some kind of creeper.”
“I’m not creepy,” I said. “Just needed to clear my head.”
She handed me my drink, and my eyes locked onto the colorful fruit piece stabbed through with a long toothpick and floating among the blue booze.
“Clearing your head is what the drinks and dancing are for,” she said. “Oh, thanks for the drinks, by the way.”
I took a sip of the drink and my eyes went wide as soon as the liquid touched my tongue. It was about the most potent mix of fruity sugar and booze that I’d ever tasted.
“Don’t thank me,” I said. “Thank my fad.”
My dad, Dennis Naylor, was one of the biggest financial gurus in Los Angeles and had the money to show for it. For my birthday weekend, he had been more than happy to, as always, treat his little girl to whatever she wanted. And my friends, as always, had been more than happy to let him pick up the check. It was nice, but sometimes it made me wonder just which of my friends were actually friends, and which were just along for all the fun that a girl with Daddy’s credit card could bring.
“Please,” said Patricia. “Your dad’s, like, a machine made for work. I couldn’t even thank him if I wanted to.”
I let out a light laugh.
“Yeah, and he’d probably tell you to make an appointment.”
I took a sip of my drink and let the cool air wash over my body.
“Seriously, girl,” said Patricia. “You know all the guys are in there, right?”
She pointed with a bright-red tipped nail towards the club.
“And that’s where all the creeps are, too,” I said. “And who even says that I’m here for a guy, anyway? What if I just want to celebrate my birthday with my friends?”
Patricia scoffed. “I don’t believe that for a fucking second,” she said. “You’ve been single for, what, five months? And you’re not thinking about dudes? Not to mention that you’re totally dressed to fuck right now.”
I glanced down at my outfit of a short, black cocktail dress that showed off my slender, but shapely body, long legs, and cleavage that looked about ready to bust out of the top. I was almost a little shocked at how scandalously I was dressed. Was I really sending out signals that I wasn’t even aware of?
My arms shot over my breasts and a hot blush spread across my face.
“Seriously!” I said. “I’m just here to dance and have fun. Sifting through all the creeps in this place, trying to find the one acceptable guy, sounds like way more trouble than it’s worth.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Patricia, her big brown eyes going wide among her pretty features. “The perfect guy’s already in there.”
“And who’s that, exactly?”
“I’ll give you a hint: his dad owns the club. And the hotel attached to it. And all the other hotels with the name ‘Goldman’ written in giant letters on the front.”
My stomach sank as I realized just who she was referring to. Marcus Goldman, son of hotel magnate Angus Goldman, was about the least appealing man I could think of. The Goldmans were close family friends, and neither my dad nor Marcus’ parents were shy about the fact that they wanted us to be an item. And now my friends were joining in on it.
“No way,” I said, shaking my head at the idea. “I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that I’m not into him. Not even a little bit.”
“What?” asked Patricia. “Why the hell not? He’s rich, he’s nice, he’s … rich.”
“Well, when you put it like that.”
“And he’s pretty cute, too. In that harmless sort of way.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at Patricia’s attempts to make Marcus sound appealing.
“You want some career advice?” I said, leaning against the railing. “Stick with HR; I don’t think you’ve really got what it takes for sales.”
Patricia rolled her eyes. “Seriously! What does Marcus not have that you’re looking for?”
I opened my mouth to speak, but for some reason, the words just didn’t come out. I was actually drawing a blank. Sure, on paper, Marcus was the ideal match for someone like me. He was from a good family, he was well-educated, he was … nice. And his dad was already grooming him to take over one day as the heir to his hotel empire. But the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want “nice.” And I wanted more out of life than just being really rich. Not to mention, I couldn’t help but wonder about the motivations of my friends wanting for me to be totally financially taken care of. A limitless credit line for me meant a limitless credit line for them, after all.
What I did want, however, I was less clear about. But I didn’t want Marcus – that I knew.
“You guys would make, like, the ultimate power couple,” said Patricia. “Just think about it: with your money and his family’s money, you two could, like, own LA. And probably Vegas, too. Your kids would be like royalty.”
The thought of having kids made me think about the idea of Marcus on top of me, his skinny little body squirming around, his almost-feminine features contorted in sexual delight. I couldn’t help but laugh a little at the idea.
“What’s so fucking funny?” asked Patricia. “I’m just thinking about what’s best for you.”
“Ugh, you sound like my dad,” I said. “Thanks, but I’ve got enough people making decisions for me and telling me that they’re ‘what’s best for me’.”
“I mean, you’re almost done with college,” she said. “What are you even planning on doing when you’re done? Like, actually working?”
“That’s exactly what I want to do,” I said. “You know I’ve been wanting to be a wedding planner since forever. And as soon as I’ve got my degree, I’m going to take out a loan in my own name and start my business.”
“You could be the ultimate LA wife and never have to worry about a thing, and here you are wanting to be a freaking entrepreneur.”
“What, something wrong with actually earning your own money?”
“I do it,” said Patricia, raising a finger. “And let me tell you: It sucks. If I could have a rich husband pay for everything so I could spend my days shopping and going out for lunch, I’d do it in a second.”
“I guess you and I are just two different people,” I said.
A silence hung over us for a moment, the low bass, thumping from the club, filling the air.
Before either of us could say another word, a series of “sorry’s” and “excuse me’s!” sounded out through the people around us. Patricia and I both turned just in time to watch as Melanie, one of the other girls I was there with, broke through the crowd.
“He’s here!” she said, an excited expression on her pretty features. “Marcus is here! And he’s looking for you!”
Here we go, I thought, taking one more long sip of my drink and preparing for the night ahead.