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I propped my ankle up on the stretch bar in front of the mirror and bent my head towards my knee, bouncing ever so lightly to stretch hamstrings. The classes were done for the day, but the three advanced classes in a row at the end of the day had taken their toll, and I knew I'd feel it in the morning. These dances the owner had me teaching were incredibly strenuous, but I needed the job, and the opportunity to build up a clientele for when I opened my own studio.
I looked at the giant bruise swelling up around my ankle.
Yup, that's gonna smart tomorrow for sure. Way to go, dummy.
I was demonstrating a jump for the class when I caught the reflection of the most beautiful girl in the world in the mirror in front of me. I tried to land and spin so quickly to see her, that I landed incorrectly, and had fallen flat on my ass. To top it all off, Santana wasn't even there. I had imagined her.
You've been doing that all day. Knock it off.
Since saying goodbye the afternoon before, I couldn't stop thinking about the gorgeous Latina: her brown eyes, her puffed lips, her perfectly smooth skin. I kept picturing her in front of me, behind me, always looking at me with the same sultry smile that I had seen the day before.
I can't wait to see her tomorrow night.
Suddenly, I felt very exposed, alone in the giant dance studio. I hated feeling so vulnerable, but I couldn't help but admit to myself that with just a few more meetings, I would soon be falling for this girl. But something still worried me. I still felt as though there was something she was hiding. Something that is holding her back.
You're being ridiculous. You've known her for, like, a day. Get it together.
I brought my foot back to the floor, grabbed my gym bag, and headed to the locker room for a quick shower before work at the bar.
It's going to be a long night.
I carefully pulled the black, stretchy material up past my knees, my hips, my stomach, over my breasts, and slipped my arms into the holes on the sides. I tugged down the hem of the dress and smoothed it over my sides, stepping up into my shiny silver pumps. I turned towards the mirror and gave myself the once-over. My hair was perfect, dark, wavy, full locks came down over my shoulders, stopping just above the top of my chest. My silver, smoky eye make-up was flawless, and the black sleeveless dress I was wearing desperately clung to my curves in all the right places. I pulled out a tube of shimmery lip gloss from my silver clutch and reapplied until my lips had the perfect shine.
Damn girl. I'd even sleep with me.
I turned on my heel, down the stairs, and out the front door into the warm night air. I slipped in my car and headed towards the bar. I was pulling out all the stops for this date. I really, really wanted to get laid, so I was determined to convince her, even though I knew she would resist.
After about fifteen minutes, I found a metered parking spot on the street, just two blocks from my destination, Route 86. It was a jazz bar known for almost "discovering" several really good jazz bands, but I didn't frequent it very much. I took one final glance into the mirror and glided out of the driver's side door towards the bar. I heaved open the heavy wooden door and it took me a moment to adjust to the lighting, bright in contrast with the night outside. I glanced around, waiting to spot the blonde I was looking for. Finally, I saw a flirty wave from a table on the far side. She stood as I made my way over to her, pulling me in a half embrace as she laid a kiss on my cheek.
"I'm so glad you called, Santana. It's been a while."
"Yeah, Kelly, it has, hasn't it? Sorry, that's probably my fault."
I looked at her for a moment before sitting, taking her in. She looked as good as I remembered, adorned in a low-cut deep red halter and very small black mini skirt with tall black boots and her hair in a playful pony tail. She was already sipping on a cocktail—scotch, I'd guess—and as she crossed her legs when she sat, she pointedly ran her foot up the front of my shin. I grinned and sat down next to her, facing the stage where a small jazz quartet was playing.
"They're good," I began, "I see why you like this place."
"Yeah, they call themselves The Troubletones. Clever, huh?"
"Hah! Yeah, that's pretty good."
"So, Ms. Lopez. It's been, what, six months? Seven?"
I ordered a beer from the waitress and turned towards Kelly. "That sounds about right."
"So how come you never called?"
"What do you mean, never? I called today, didn't I?" I winked, trying to cut the tension and stray away from the uncomfortable topic of why I had never called her.
I knew why I had never called, but I also knew I could never tell her. I couldn't tell her that I actually had feelings for her and it scared the shit out of me. That I chose to run instead of continue to see her past the first few weeks. So, I had just stopped calling, and stopped answering when she did.
"Well, whatever the reason, why the change of heart tonight?"
"Does it really matter?" I asked, more coolly than I intended.
"Hmmm, I guess not. I guess all that matters is that you're here now." As she finished her sentence, she reached her hand across the table and latched onto mine, gently caressing the back of my hand with her thumb. I caught her eye and saw so many emotions there: care, kindness, hope, lust. Lust. That was the one I was looking for. I knew why I had called Kelly. She was the last girl that turned me inside out in a way even remotely comparable to the way that other blonde does, even though the intensity levels don't even come close. I needed to prove to myself that Brittany was just the second coming of Kelly, and that I'd beaten these feelings once before, so I could do it again. I needed to prove to myself that I could avoid getting attached. And more than anything, I needed to get laid.
I smiled back to her, leaning into her touch, and our conversation settled into more comfortable territory. We updated each other on work and the rest of our lives, chatting away as the jazz ensemble moved flawlessly from one song to the next. Around drink three or four, Kelly's hand found my knee under the table, wrapping warm fingers around my knee, slowly moving them up my thigh as our conversation continued.
"You have such beautiful lips, you know that?" She interrupted.
"I what?" I was sure I had misheard her.
"Your lips. They're just so perfect and sexy. I realized I never told you that before, and I have no idea how long you'll stick around this time, so I want to be sure I tell you the things I never told you before."
Internally, my gut was churning, and I couldn't exactly pinpoint the feeling I was having. Regret? I didn't think so. Butterflies? I thought for a moment; definitely not. Externally, I simply smiled, and leaned in as she pulled me close to kiss me. We quickly found our old rhythm, even though the kiss was interrupted by the waitress. I silently thanked her timing.
"Another round, ladies?" She asked.
"Yes, please," I said.
"You sure?" Kelly turned towards me and leaned in, whispering, "I was thinking it was about time to get out of here."
I had gotten to Manny's Pub twenty minutes after my shift was supposed to start, so I slunk in the back door, hoping Manny either wasn't there, or wouldn't notice. I grabbed an apron and tied it around my waist as I rounded the kitchen and opened the door to the main bar.
"It's about time, Brittany."
Manny was working the bar. I guess he had let John leave when I was supposed to get there, so he'd definitely noticed I was late.
"Sorry, Manny, dance was extra brutal earlier, so I had to stretch it out more than usual."
He sighed as he waved me over to the computer to show me the open tabs.
"You're lucky you got here before the rush for the hockey game."
Manny's was in the middle of downtown Newark, and the bar got a lot of traffic before and after New Jersey Devils home games.
"I know, Manny, I rushed over for that reason."
In reality, I had completely forgotten there was a game tonight, but it sounded good, and it seemed like he believed me.
I grabbed a bar towel and started wiping down the bar, followed by a round of cleaning glasses. I poured a few draft beers for regulars at the bar, without even having to ask if they wanted another one. That was one thing I loved about Manny's; I almost always knew everyone in the bar, what they drank, and how to make sure they were satisfied so they'd leave a good tip. It was definitely a "locals" bar, which made the job fairly easy. Devils' fans started trickling in, and business was picking up. Eventually, Manny had to come out of the kitchen to help me bartend because it was so crowded.
The rush passed, and before I knew it, it was almost 10:00. I had to work until probably 12:30 or 1:00, but the shift had gone by pretty quickly, so I was grateful for that.
I worked my way through the tables, making sure everyone's drinks were full while wiping off and straightening up the empty ones. While cleaning one of the tables, the notepad I use to take orders fell out of my apron, so I bent over to pick it up when I heard a low whistle.
Great, which one of these middle-aged men am I going to have to cut off?
I stood up and turned towards the noise, freezing exactly where I was, the notebook suspended in my hand two inches above the pocket on my apron. Standing in the doorway was the most stunning raven-haired woman I had ever seen.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
You're imagining things again, Britt.
But when I opened my eyes, she was still standing there, head cocked to one side, giving me the sweetest smile I think I'd ever seen. My insides melted down to my toes as I tried to find the right words.
"Santana. Hi." It wasn't very original, but it was all I could make my brain come up with.
"Hey, Britt. I hope you don't mind me crashing your work. I just wanted to see you."
She took a few steps towards me, clearly trying to gauge what kind of greeting I was going to give her. I was still frozen in place, wracking my brain for the right words.
Of course it's okay you're here, Santana! You're all I've thought about all day!
But I knew I couldn't say anything like that.
"You look… you look…" and I couldn't finish my sentence. She really did look spectacular in her black dress. She had been gorgeous the previous time I'd seen her, but nothing like now. I literally couldn't speak.
"Thank you," she said sheepishly. She finally closed the gap between us and pulled me in for a hug, leaving a light kiss on my cheek.
[earlier, back at Route 86]
I turned back to the waitress, "No, I'd like another." I turned to Kelly, "You sure you don't want another?"
"Ummm, okay, yeah, I'll have one more." She stuttered, clearly defeated.
We threw back that one, and then ordered another, clearly to Kelly's disappointment.
We made small talk over the sound of The Troubletones and she continued to hopelessly flirt, trying to convince me to leave.
Why aren't I leaving with her? Isn't that why I called her?
I tried to fight it, but I knew why I was so hesitant. Every few minutes, I'd look over at Kelly, and my eyes would play tricks on me. For a split second, allowing me to see a different blonde. One I so badly wished I was here with, instead of Kelly.
This wasn't right, and I could feel the regret bubbling up in my chest. I wanted to be with Brittany. I wanted to see her, hold her hand, hear her voice. Sure, I had feelings for Kelly a while back, but nothing like the churning butterflies I get while just thinking about Brittany. I had to see her.
I threw back my last beer, pulled out some cash, and threw it on the table. Kelly's eyes lit up.
"It's about time, Santana. My place or yours?"
"Neither." I said, curtly. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have called you. This was a mistake."
"No, Kelly. It's just a 'no.' But, you do look amazing these days. Keep taking care of yourself."
And with that, I turned towards the door, hopped in my car, and drove nervously to the one person I couldn't get off my mind.
I hope this isn't a mistake, too.
I closed my eyes again, and took in another deep breath, pulling away from her and gazing into her deep brown eyes.
"Wha… what are you… doing here?"
"Can I get a drink, first?" She asked, with a wink.
"Oh, putting me to work, huh?" My heart had started beating again, apparently sending the ability to speak to my brain again.
"Sor… sorry, no I didn't mean to…"
"Santana, I'm joking. Come on… sit down here."
We walked to the far end of the bar, and I pulled out the last seat for her.
"What'll it be, beautiful?" Her eyes flashed at the pet name, smiling immediately after.
"You best dark draft beer is fine."
I nodded and walked to the middle of the bar, pulling a cup out of the rack and slowly pouring her a Mc Chouffe Brown Ale. I looked over my shoulder at her as it was pouring, still unable to process the fact that she surprised me at work. Santana didn't seem like that kind of girl. And with that dress on, I was pretty sure she had been somewhere else earlier in the evening.
I strutted back over with the beer, placing a coaster in front of her and the beer on top.
"So, lady, what brings you into this dive tonight?"
"Well, I heard there was some pretty good eye candy around here, was bored, and decided to check it out." She paused, "I have to say I heard correctly, too." She eyed me up and down.
"Oh, is that right huh?"
She nodded and reached across the bar, flipping my hand onto its back and tracing patterns over my palm.
"Uh huh," she barely muttered.
My spine was tingling at the feeling of my hand in hers and I knew she was going to lull me into a trance if I didn't think quickly.
"Well, glad to hear I didn't disappoint." I said with a flash of a smile as I slipped my hand from her grasp and walked back towards the main part of the bar, tending to the customers still left there. I heard her let out a long breath as I walked away, and I knew my teasing technique was going to work. Not only was it fun, but it allowed me to get some space from the brunette to get my head on straight so that I didn't forget I was at work and mount her right on the bar.
After refilling drinks and closing out a check or two, I glanced over at Santana only to see her staring daggers through me, and the realization hit that she probably hadn't taken her eyes off of me the entire time. I noticed her glass was two-thirds empty, so I grabbed another and walked ever so slowly to her side of the bar, setting it down next to the near empty glass.
"On the house," I said simply, with a slight smile.
"Oh yeah? And what did I do to deserve that?"
I thought for only half of a second, "Nothing. Yet. I'll expect back payment later." I winked and scooted around next to her to come from behind the bar to check on my tables. As I brushed by her, I started my fingernails at the top of her knee and slowly dragged them up her outer thigh until just under the hem of her dress. I heard her breath hitch and saw her grasp on her drink tighten. And then I walked behind her and was gone to the dining room, leaving her mumbling something under her breath.
This damn bet will be the end of me.
After our close encounter with her hand and my thigh, things went relatively smoothly for the rest of the night. Brittany tended to the ever-dwindling number of customers, coming over at every opportunity to flirt and refill my beer. I was definitely drunk by now, which I regretted since she was completely sober. When the last customer left, she came over and took the bar stool next to mine, turning my chair to face hers at the same time.
"Hey," she said, softly. "I'm really glad you came here tonight. I've…"
She stopped and shook her head.
"You've what?" I asked, tentatively.
"I've… I've been thinking about you all day. Picturing you places, even. It's weird, but when you first walked in the door, I thought I was imagining you again."
She instantly blushed, likely regretting her admission, so I gently cupped her face in my hand and pulled her in for a heated kiss. We had been dancing around it all night, and in this moment, the world stood still. I felt like I was floating off the chair, spinning lazily with her in mid-air, lips and tongues intertwined with one another's. We made out for several minutes, tasting each other, her hands roaming on the tops of my thighs, barely peaking under the material on my dress, my hands tangled in impossibly soft blonde hair. Eventually, we both had to come up for air, and as our lips separated I felt my body settle back down from the floating position above us.
I was the first to speak, "I've been thinking about you, too."
The next words were words I had no intention of saying a few hours ago, but at this point, in my intoxicated state, I had no filter.
"I was on a date earlier."
"Oh, okay." Brittany said bluntly. Hurt flashed in her eyes as she leaned back and away from me, and removed her hands from their place still on my lap. The sudden loss of her warm touch gave me a chill and I reached out to her again, only to be pushed away.
"Brittany, listen to me." I said, firmly. "I was on a date, but you were all I could think of. I kept picturing you, too. Picturing you with me, because all I wanted was to be with you, look at you, smell you, kiss you. I ditched her and came straight here. I needed to see you."
"Really?" she asked, incredulously.
She pulled me in for another long, heated kiss before letting me go.
"Let me finish closing up and then I'll drive you home. I can't let you drive like this; you're too drunk."
I just nodded as she stood up to wipe down the bar.
After about twenty minutes, she took off her apron and grabbed her keys.
"You ready, cutie?" She giggled.
"Yeah, I'm ready."
She took my hand and led me out the back, employee door to the parking lot. There was a strong wind and I instantly started shivering in my thin dress.
When did it get so cold?
We got in the car and she cranked on the heat.
"Thanks, I just got really cold."
"I can tell." She smirked, staring at my erect nipples sticking out from behind the black material.
"Brittany!" I yelled, laughing.
"What, can you blame me for looking? Those things are amazing." And she leaned in and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.
Without realizing it, my car drove itself to Santana's huge house, pulling into the circle drive. I put the car in park and turned towards her.
"Well, Cinderella, here you are."
"Are you not coming in with me?" She asked, slightly surprised.
"Umm… I don't know." I answered, honestly.
"You should," she planted a kiss on my cheek, "come up," on my neck, "with me," on my collarbone.
Ugh. Am I? The bet!