Oscillating red, green, and blue lights sliced through the smoke-filled club. Men and women cluttered the floor, their arms pumping in time with the throbbing speakers as an unseen fog machine muddied the air.
Shane August resisted the urge to press his fingertips into his eyelids and stave off the headache that’d begun forming there an hour ago.
Tonight marked the end of a grueling six-day workweek, one he would have preferred to end in his home gym, or in the company of a glass of red wine. He frowned at the bottle of light beer in his hand. Six dollars. That was fifty cents an ounce.
The sound of laughter pulled his attention from the overpriced brew, and he found a pair of girls sidling by his table. They offered twin grins and waved in tandem, hips swaying as they strode by.
“Damn,” Aiden muttered over his shoulder. “I should have worn a suit.”
Shane angled a glance at his cousin’s T-shirt and jeans. “Do you even own a suit?”
Shane suppressed a budding smile and tipped his beer bottle to his lips. It was Aiden who dragged him here tonight. Shane could give him a hard time, but Aiden was here to forget about his ex-wife, and she’d given him a hard enough time for both of them.
“This is where you’re making your foray into the dating world?” Shane asked, glancing around the room at the bevy of flesh peeking out from the bottom of skin-tight skirts and shorts.
“Seemed like a good place to pick up chicks,” Aiden answered with a roll of one shoulder.
Shane tamped down another smile. Aiden was recently divorced, though “finally” might be a better term. Two years of wedded bliss had been anything but, thanks to Harmony’s wandering eye. Shane couldn’t blame Aiden for exercising a bit of freedom. God knows, if Shane were in his shoes, he’d have bailed a long time ago. This time when Harmony left, she’d followed her sucker punch with a TKO: the man she left Aiden for was his, now former, best friend. At first Aiden had been withdrawn, then angry. Tonight he appeared to be masking his emotions beneath a cloak of overconfidence.
“Right,” Shane muttered. “Chicks.”
“Well, excuse me, Mr. Moneybags.” Aiden leaned one arm on the high-top table and faced him. “Women may throw themselves at you like live grenades, but the rest of us commoners have to come out to the trenches and hunt.”
Shane gave him a dubious look, in part for the sloppily mixed metaphor, but mostly because dodging incoming women didn’t exactly describe his lackluster love life. If he’d learned anything from his last girlfriend, it was how to spot a girl who wanted to take a dip in his cash pool.
He’d only had himself to blame, he supposed. He was accustomed to solving problems with money. Problem-free living just happened to be at the top of his priority list. Unfortunately, relationships didn’t file away neatly into manila folders, weren’t able to be delegated in afternoon conference meetings. Relationships were complicated, messy. Time consuming.
“I can pick up a girl in a club,” Shane found himself arguing. It’d been a while, but he never was one to shy away from a challenge. Self-made men didn’t shrink in the face of adversity.
Aiden laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t embarrass yourself.”
Shane straightened and pushed the beer bottle aside. “Wanna bet?”
“With you?” Aiden lifted a thick blond eyebrow. “Forget it! You wipe your ass with fifties.”
“Hundreds,” Shane corrected, earning a hearty chuckle.
“Then again,” Aiden said after finishing off his bottle, “I wouldn’t mind seeing you in action, learn what not to do now that I’m single again. Find a cute girl and I’ll be your wingman.” Before Shane could respond, Aiden elbowed him. “Except for her.”
Shane followed his cousin’s pointing finger to the bar, where a woman dabbed at her eyes with a napkin. She looked so delicate sitting there, folded over in her chair, an array of brown curls concealing part of her face.
“Crying chicks either have too much baggage, or they’re wasted.”
Says Aiden Downey, dating guru.
“Drunk can be good,” he continued, “but by the time you get close enough to find out, it’s too late.”
Shane frowned. He didn’t like being told what to do. Or what not to. He wasn’t sure if that’s what made him decide to approach her, or if he’d decided the second Aiden pointed her out. He felt his lips pull into a deeper frown.
He shouldn’t be considering it at all.