Chloe leaned in against the bar and resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the bartender's outrageous flirting. Sean was a friend of Lanie's and had, on more than one occasion, attempted to convince Chloe to come home with him. She'd be lying if she said she'd never once been tempted. After all, her previous sexual experience was limited to Jimmy and if nothing else, Sean was probably a very good time in that department. But with all the upheaval in her personal life recently, she had held off, concerned that it wasn't the best time to get that involved with anyone.
Sean leaned close to Chloe once more, resting his hand on top of hers. "I think Mike is imagining ways to dismember me and hide the body," he murmured in her ear, causing her to giggle.
She slid her hand out from under his and arched one brow. "Mike is a good friend - he thinks you're a player and you're trying to take advantage of me."
Sean leaned in again. "Not exactly breaking news, Sullivan, since I've been trying to take advantage of you for about two months now. Ever going to bite?"
Chloe sipped her drink and then placed her finger on her chin as she pretended to consider his question. "Stranger things have happened - not recently, but you never know," she teased him. She enjoyed their harmless flirting as much as he did and while she felt sure that he'd be more than willing if she suddenly decided to take him up on his offer, he was also just as willing to leave it at flirting, which she appreciated. Flirting was something she'd had little opportunity to practice, surrounded by women like Lois and Lana. In Kansas she was most often the geeky tech girl, the smart girl, and the best friend. Moving to California had been a revelation of sorts. She was beginning to think that her lack of confidence in this area had been as much about how she saw herself as it had ever been about how others saw her. In meeting and befriending Lanie, she'd discovered a much more fun loving side of herself and surprisingly, it seemed that that side of Chloe attracted its fair share of attention.
"You're killing me here," Sean complained, grinning. Suddenly his smile faded as he looked over Chloe's shoulder. Before she could turn to see what he was looking at, she felt a large, warm hand slide across her back, causing her to jump.
She whirled, a look of surprise on her face as she realized who had gotten Mike's attention. "Oliver! Geez, you startled me. What are you doing here?"
"I came for dinner," he replied as he glanced over at Chloe's companions. "Lanie, Mike, good to see you again."
"You too, Oliver," Lanie replied. When Mike said nothing she poked him surreptitiously with her elbow until he muttered a greeting.
Oliver raised his brows slightly at Mike's less than welcoming attitude. He wondered if Ashlyn was correct in her assessment of Mike's interest in Chloe, a thought that unsettled him further. He turned his attention to the bartender, eyes narrowing slightly as he realized the man hadn't moved away. "So, having fun?" he asked, sliding his hand over the silk material of her shrug as he leaned in to talk to her. She tilted her head slightly and her hair brushed the back of his hand, making his fingers itch suddenly to play with the shining strands. He gave into the urge momentarily, sliding his fingertips through the ends of her curls in a move that he made certain was visible to the man standing across from Chloe. He saw the bartender's expression shift as he acknowledged the familiarity of the gesture. That's right, Romeo, game over. Find some other girl to fall for your crap. "Have you eaten?"
Chloe was feeling very warm and tingly in places she most definitely shouldn't be as Oliver's hand glided across her back. She barely suppressed a shiver as she felt his fingers play with the ends of her hair in what she felt certain must be an unconscious move. While she was more hesitant about physical contact with others, she'd observed that Oliver was a much more tactile person, something that she now realized was going to take a lot of getting used to. "What?"
He leaned in closer to her ear. "Have you eaten? I have a table and you guys are welcome to join me."
Chloe moistened her lips as his warm breath ghosted across her ear. She knew he wasn't doing it on purpose, but she wished he didn't have to be so handsy. More than that, she wished her brain would stop sending sexy signals to her body every time he touched her because if they were going to be friends, that was going to get inconvenient really fast. Dammit, what the hell was wrong with her? "Oh, we uhm, we had a table earlier actually. The food is really good though." She looked up and realized that Sean was still standing across from her, his expression curious as he observed them together. "Oliver, this is Sean, an old friend of Lanie's. Sean, this is Oliver Queen."
Sean smirked slightly. "We've never officially met, but I've worked in a lot of the clubs in Star City, so I've seen you around."
Oliver wondered if he was imagining the implied insult there, but somehow he doubted it. "You look like you're having fun," he said, smiling at Chloe. "I wasn't sure fun was possible for you if it didn't involve computer software or coffee."
"Hey, I can be fun," Chloe protested, taking the last sip of her mojito.
"The last time I saw you having this much fun, you were breaking through the firewall on my personal computers at the penthouse just to prove you could," Oliver replied in a teasing tone.
"Yeah well, you and Victor didn't think I could do it, so proving you wrong was sort of satisfying," Chloe pointed out as she set her empty drink on the bar. "Bart was the only one who believed in me."
"Does it help that I'll never doubt you again?" Oliver slid his hand down a little toward her waist as he nodded toward her empty glass. "Want another drink?"
Chloe nodded, looking at Sean. "Anything you'd like to recommend?"
"There is a new martini I mixed up earlier with you in mind, Sullivan." Sean winked at her before looking over at Lanie and Mike. "Want anything?"
"I'll have whatever you're making for Chloe," Lanie said. "Mike?"
Mike shook his head as he placed his empty glass on the counter. "I have to take off, I have that early morning sports conference tomorrow, remember? Sure you girls aren't ready to go?"
Lanie shook her head before Chloe could answer. "Nope, I promised Chloe some fun tonight and there is still more fun to be had." And as far as she could tell, the most fun was going to be watching Chloe and Oliver stumble around the friendship zone they appeared to have placed themselves in. None of her male friends had ever invaded her personal space the way Oliver seemed comfortable doing with Chloe. She suspected part of it was some kind of signal to Sean - the male posturing had not gone unnoticed by her, and she was frankly amazed that Chloe remained oblivious to it. She hugged Mike and watched as he in turn hugged Chloe.
"Call if you girls need anything," Mike said, smiling at Chloe. "And no cabbing it home alone later, your neighborhood is way too close to the less desirable areas of this city. Stay with Lanie."
Chloe rolled her eyes. "Yes, Dad."
Mike shook his head with a grin before nodding at Oliver and heading toward the exit. Chloe watched him leave before turning back to Oliver, who was frowning. "What's wrong?"
"Where are you living exactly, Chloe?" Oliver recalled the neighborhood cafe where he'd found Chloe on Sunday. It wasn't a bad part of town, but it was close to some areas he had previously patrolled as Green Arrow.
"Don't listen to Mike, he's worse than Clark. There's nothing wrong with my neighborhood and with the price of real estate in Star City, I'm lucky that I'm not living in a tent on the beach," she replied.
"Chloe, there has been a spike in crime in your area over the last month or so. Mike has a valid point," Lanie pointed out. "You should stay with me."
Chloe sighed. "If we leave in a couple of hours it won't be that late - and have you forgotten that I carry a tazer? I survived Metropolis on Black Thursday, so a slight spike in petty crime isn't going to have me hiding under the bed."
"I'll drive you home whenever you're ready to leave," Oliver said as he made a mental note to check on the crime statistics and add her neighborhood to his patrol. He had a feeling that a few sightings of Green Arrow would serve as a pretty good deterrent. "And you know, if you had bothered to tell me that you were moving, I could have helped you find a good place to live."
"Oliver, I'll be fine in a cab later. My neighborhood isn't on par with yours but it's really not that bad. Mike even added a new deadbolt just a couple of weeks ago."
Oliver watched Chloe as she smiled at him before turning back to Lanie. Reading people was something he'd become very good at over the years; it was a necessity in the boardroom and when patrolling, so he relied heavily on his instincts when it came to people. And yet Chloe was a lot harder to pin down than most people. She seemed to trust very few people in her world, and of those she trusted, she relied on an even smaller number. Chloe jumped to help others, but she shied away from any attempts to reciprocate. While she wanted people in her life, she was afraid to need them there - and it was something he could understand because he'd struggled with the same issues ever since his parents died.
His thoughts were interrupted when Sean returned with drinks for Lanie and Chloe. "Ladies, your martinis."
Chloe accepted the martini glass, her nose twitching. "Wait, do I smell..." her voice trailed off as she took a sip and moaned suddenly, her tongue coming out to touch her bottom lip. "Oh God, that's amazing. Did you make me a coffee martini?"
Oliver was transfixed, watching Chloe sip her drink. Her blissful expression, coupled with the sounds she was making, were ... well, erotic and he was suddenly aware that it was actually turning him on. Before he could give that uncomfortable little twist any thought, he saw Sean lean closer to Chloe as he answered her question. "It has a couple of coffee liqueurs, Irish Cream - and I may have added espresso just for you. It's my own little spin on a Screaming Orgasm martini - but after watching you drink it, I'm thinking I should name it after you, especially if it's the only one you'll let me give you."
Oliver glared at the grinning bartender as Chloe choked and then laughed. "You're terrible, you realize that, right?"
Sean shrugged before looking over at Oliver. "So, a billionaire CEO and a small town reporter - sounds like an unlikely friendship. Did Sullivan here interview you?"
Oliver's hand tightened a little at Chloe's waist. "I met Chloe through a mutual friend a couple of years ago, actually. I consider her a close friend now."
Chloe took another sip of her martini as she felt warmth coursing through her, heating her cheeks. She moved off her stool and looked up at Oliver. "I think I'm going to get some air but I'll be back in a few minutes."
Oliver glanced at his table and saw that the server had arrived with their food. "It looks like our meal is being served, so I should probably get back to my table."
Chloe followed his gaze to the table and saw the woman from the society pages looking back at them with interest. "Oh... I didn't realize you were here with a date. You shouldn't have left her sitting alone for so long." In the photos Ashlyn was beautiful and even from a distance Chloe could see that the photos didn't really do her justice. She was exactly the sort of woman a man like Oliver Queen would be with - tall and stunning in her designer dress and understated yet expensive jewelry. Chloe looked down at her own dress, frowning slightly. It was cute but she had realized since arriving in Star City that her wardrobe needed some serious updating. She had spent money on business appropriate attire for her job at the Planet, but the rest of her clothes were definitely more cute co-ed than sex and the city and she didn't like how self-conscious that suddenly made her feel. She raised her hand to the sterling silver butterfly clip she'd slid into her hair earlier that evening. It had been a birthday present from Clark, but it suddenly made her feel young and gauche. She looked back at Oliver as he cleared his throat.
"It's not really a date. Ashlyn is an old friend of mine." Oliver's eyes followed the movement of her hand as smoothed her dress and then adjusted the silver clip in her hair. He saw that the clip was shaped like a butterfly and he noted that the delicate, simple design suited her. "I'd like to introduce you later, so I'll come find you after dinner."
Chloe nodded. "Yeah sure." She watched him walk back across the room to join his dinner companion and realized that every woman in his path was also watching him, as well as shooting envious looks toward Ashlyn. She wondered idly what it would be like to be the woman that everyone else in the room envied. It was something she'd never experienced and she ruefully acknowledged that she likely never would. She looked over at Lanie and smiled, doing her best to wipe any trace of her thoughts from her expression.
Lanie had seen the wistful look on Chloe's face as she looked at Oliver and Ashlyn together. "Everything ok?"
"Everything's fine." Chloe seated herself on the stool again and downed the rest of her martini. She looked at Sean and raised a brow flirtatiously. "So what's a girl need to do to score multiples?"
Lanie's brows shot up in surprise at that comment. Sean got pretty outrageous at times but Chloe didn't usually encourage it that much. Sean looked a little surprised as well before he leaned in and whispered something that made Chloe laugh again before moving off to get her drink. "So Oliver seemed to have an issue with Sean - that wouldn't be why you're flirting now, would it?"
"If you'll recall, I was flirting with Sean before Oliver ever walked over here. Sean knows not to take it too seriously." Chloe thought about the way her body had reacted to Oliver's proximity and frowned. "Although maybe I should take it more seriously. You realize it's been months since I've been on anything that could reasonably be construed as a date? Even before Jimmy and I broke up, things were just so hectic all the time that we rarely saw each other." And although she didn't say it, she was beginning to wonder what it might be like to have fun of the "sextastic" variety, as Lois called it. Sex with Jimmy had been nice and adequate, but his game was more of the Little League kind, and multiples had definitely not been featured anywhere in his playbook.
"Yeah, how about we don't make that decision tonight," Lanie said. "I mean, you've only been in town a few months and as much as I love Sean and I've heard he delivers in the bedroom arena, I don't think you really want to be one of his bedpost notches."
"And therein lies the problem," Chloe grumbled. "I mean, a girl has needs."
"Not to be crass, but that's what vibrators are for," Lanie replied, taking a sip of her drink. "This wouldn't have anything to do with you being attracted to Oliver, would it?"
Chloe felt the heat climb in her cheeks again; she thought about denying it but figured Lanie would call her out on it faster than Lois. "Maybe a little - apparently I learned nothing from my high school years. Oliver sees me as a friend and I have no problem with that at all - it's not like I have feelings for him or want to date him. But he's very attractive and charming and as much as I'd like to be, I'm not entirely immune."
"He's hot," Lanie agreed. "I've noticed and blondes aren't even my type. If it makes you feel any better, I don't think he's entirely immune to you either."
Chloe snorted, shooting Lanie an incredulous look. "Ok, me being attracted to Oliver just puts me in the same boat as the rest of the female population, but there is no way that Oliver is attracted to me."
"Why is that so unbelievable?" Lanie was curious as to why Chloe not only couldn't see it, but didn't even consider it within the realm of possibility.
"Because he's Oliver Queen, Lanie. His dates read like a Who's Who list of the world's most beautiful women and I'd be willing to bet any future Pulitzers that not one of them was the vertically challenged, girl-next-door type."
Lanie ran her finger around the base of her martini glass as she watched Chloe. "He's pretty hands on with you - and he definitely sent Sean the universal guy signal for "Back the hell off." You don't find that even a little odd?"
Chloe shrugged. "Oliver is just more tactile than most people - as for the guy signal, if he did that he was probably just being protective. His circle of friends is small and he tries to take care of the people within that circle." That she knew for a fact because she'd seen it in his actions toward his team.
Lanie didn't agree with Chloe's assessment of the situation at all, but she doubted that anything she said would change her mind at this point. She saw Sean approaching with two more martinis and leaned closer to her friend. "I vote for a change of topic and a couple of shots to go with those martinis - then I say we find the two hottest guys here and dance like the very hot, single ladies we are." She picked up the martini and sent Sean off for the shots before raising her glass to Chloe. "Game on?"
Chloe clinked her glass with Lanie's. "Game on," she answered.
A/N: Well, this chapter totally went off in a different direction than I originally intended, so I hope it worked for everyone. There are more club scenes, but the next part wasn't completely finished so I cut it here because it's 5:00 am my time now and I have classes this evening. I'll try to finish the next part tonight or Tuesday. We'll pick up again an hour or two after this part ended with Oliver looking for Chloe in the club. Any votes for Oliver driving her home? :P