Most days had gone by like clockwork. Show up. Work. Rinse and repeat. Andrei kept it cool and played it safe. Today was his final day shift.
What a relief! And tonight, was drinks with Lizzie. Are people ‘stoked’ about things? Or would that be the wrong vernacular? He mused as the last thirty minutes of the day was a team meeting about the past week’s events.
No, Andrei was not paying attention. It was hard when she sat next to him. She turned to him and grabbed his arm with a gentle hand.
“I gotta change before we leave. You don’t mind waiting a bit, right?” she whispered.
His thin lips cracked in a smile. “Of course not,” he whispered back.
She returned his smile, and they turned back to the meeting. Weekly stats, a trophy given to the technician of the week, and ‘Tiny Tina’ welcomed him to their team. The meeting ended with forced applause, and Lizzie disappeared. Andrei smirked alone as he pulled his tie down and undone.
“So! Whacha doin’ this weekend?” asked Ryan as he took the empty stool beside the Russian.
Lars put his big meaty hands on the slender man’s shoulders. “We good for tomorrow’s training, sesh?”
Andrei’s smirk bloomed. “Of course.”
Ryan looked between them, gesturing from the big ginger to the slender Russian. “When did this happen?”
Lars scoffed. “What? Weren’t paying attention?”
A soft cough had them look up. Lizzie had switched from her smart pantsuit into a black mini dress. Andrei knew that they had their jaws on the floor. She quirked a delicate brow at him.
You’re a 500-year-old vampire in March. Be coherent! He thought to himself.
He stood and grabbed his jacket and satchel. “I was born ready,” he replied.
Both guys behind him burst out in laughter.
Andrei frowned and waved his hand in dismissal. “Don’t mind them.”
Lizzie snickered into a small fist. Andrei offered his free arm to her, and she wrapped hers over it. Andrei took measured steps as he led Lizzie. Mindful to pace himself to the height of her heels. They snagged the elevator without company.
“So, where to this evening?” he asked.
Lizzie made a show of mulling it over before grinning at him. “Ever hear of the Cloakroom?”
He froze and made a concerted effort not to let his shock register on his face. He cleared his throat. “I have, not the place I thought you would mention,” he admitted.
She grinned. “My girlfriends and I love it there, music’s great, and they don’t water down the drinks.”
Andrei kept his eyes on the chrome doors of the lift. “As you wish.”
He kept the dread from his voice as he walked them to the entrance of the building. She followed and chatted without a care as he led her to the valet. She paused as the attendant walked up and took a ticket from Andrei.
“You drive in?” she asked.
Andrei shrugged as he put his coat around her shoulders. Her coat was short, and he could feel goosebumps rising on her arm.
“I live out of town,” he admitted.
She frowned. “How far out of town are we talking?”
He managed a crooked smile. “It’s not a problem. I like the drive.”
A sleek black car drove up, and the attendant from earlier exited the driver’s seat. He held the driver’s door for Andrei. The Russian led Lizzie around and opened the door for her. She sat down in the plush leather seat and marveled at the wood inlay with its tasteful interior. Andrei joined her, and they buckled their seat belts.
“I thought you moved here not too long ago?” she said.
Her dark, wide eyes darted around the car.
Andrei put the vehicle into drive and signaled to turn on the road. “I did.”
“So, did this come with you? Because I’d like one of these!”
Andrei chuckled. “It’s just a Volvo, Lizzie. I got it when I moved here.”
Lizzie stared at him. “What did you do before working for Ambrose?”
“Oh, we dropped the Mr.” Andrei joked.
She grinned. “We are out of work.”
He nodded. “That’s fair.”
“Done avoiding my question, Andrei?”
He glanced at her as they came to a stop and flashed his pearly whites at her. “I worked for many security firms before Ambrose convinced me to take a massive pay cut and work for him.”
“Why’d you do it?” she exclaimed.
Andrei sighed. “Honestly?” he glanced at her, and she pressed her lips together, ripe with anticipation for his reply. “It was a lot of stress and didn’t give me much time to myself.”
Her lips relaxed, and her face softened into a smile. “Work-life balance is important.”
“Mhm,” he said with a nodded as traffic moved again. “I learned.”
“What about you? Being Ambrose’s personal assistant can’t be the easiest job in the world? You’re also over-qualified.” he asked.
Lizzie scoffed as she crossed her arms. “What makes you say that?”
He flashed a wicked grin her way before returning his attention to the road. “Well, for one. You know better than to wear a pencil skirt on a Friday.”
Lizzie gave a snarky laugh. “Ha! Because you didn’t spend all week staring at my ass!”
Andrei gasped. “Why, I would never!”
He sighed. “I might have sneaked a peak, but never stared.”
They shared a laugh as Andrei parked the car. Lizzie blinked and looked around. “Wow, you got us here in less than 15 minutes, what the hell?”
Andrei unbuckled his seat belt. “I used Waze to avoid the traffic,” he revealed.
“Wow.” she breathed.
Andrei led her out of the car as he had helped her in. Though there was a line to get in, he walked straight to the head of the line. She gave nervous glances to him and then stared at the massive bouncer that growled at them as they walked up.
“Who’re you?” he said as he looked Andrei up and down.
The slender man pulled out something from his breast pocket and handed it to the bouncer. His demeanor relaxed as he read the paper Andrei had passed him.
“My apologies, sir,” he said as he handed the papers back.
The bouncer stepped back and unbuckled the rope that blocked the line from. “The Master of the House will visit to send his respects.”
Andrei gave the much larger man a solemn nod. “My compliments to the Master.”
He led Lizzie in. She covered her mouth with a hand until they were out of earshot from the bouncer.
“What. Was. That?!” she said in an excited whisper.
Andrei shrugged. “I know a guy, who knows a guy, who owns this place.”
“Shut. up!” Lizzie exhaled.
Andrei grinned as they stopped. A purple-haired punk manned the coat check. She blew her bubbled gum until it covered her nose. He nodded and looked back at Lizzie.
She gasped. “Oh! Of course!”
She took off both coats and handed it to him.
“That’ll be five dollars.” the youth sighed, her eyes surrounded by dark makeup and heavy lidded.
He pulled out his wallet, hand her twice the amount and their coats. She perked up at the cash and put their jackets on hangers before handing him back the tickets. She tried to hand back the change, but Andrei put it in her tip jar.
“Thanks, weirdo!” she yelled as the pair walked into the room.
The smell of alcohol, excitement, and too many pheromones made Andrei’s nostrils flare. The main room was dark, musky, and packed with bodies. Loud music ordered them to writhe to the rhythm, and since it was Friday, no one thought it unwise to obey. A tall woman on roller skates met the pair as they entered.
“Please follow me,” she said before they got far.
Lizzie looked at Andrei as they followed the girl with the roller skates. “What’s going on?”
Andrei glanced back. “They’re being very hospitable,” he whispered.
Lizzie smirked. “Hospitable? What are you? From the 19th century?”
He grinned and chuckled. “Sorry, English is my second language.”
They sat, and the hostess on roller skates handed Lizzie a menu before looking back to Andrei. “The Master will join you soon.”
Andrei sighed as she rolled away to attend to someone else. Lizzie put the menu down.
“I’ve been here tons of times. Never had THAT treatment.”
He sighed. “It’s tedious. It’ll be over soon.”
“Tedious!?” she exclaimed.
He opened his mouth to say more when his eyes lit on someone behind Lizzie, and he froze. Lizzie looked back, and a tall man with medium length black hair smiled at them.
“I’m not interrupting anything?” he asked, his voice like velvet.
Lizzie blinked. “Umm, no, not at all.”
Andrei’s arm came to rest behind her on her chair, present but not possessive. “Rickter, it’s been ages. Love what you’ve done with the place.”
The tall man grinned, his teeth blinding, and his canines sharp. “Your words honor me,” he said before switching into flawless Russian.
Lizzie kept a smile on but glanced back at Andrei at every exchange. She could see his tension as the muscles in his jaw danced back and forth. But they chatted and laughed. It was short and ended with the stranger smiling at Lizzie as he took her hand.
“Forgive the intrusion, miss. Please order whatever you like. Consider this evening on us for having imposed on you so long.”
He gave a soft kiss to her knuckles and left.
Lizzie’s head whipped back to Andrei. “The fuck was THAT?!”
Andrei’s grin revealed his nerves as his eyebrow twitched. “One of my previous contracts was a major favor to his father.”
Lizzie crossed her arms and pursed her lips. “Do you always get free drinks wherever you go?”
He chuckled. “No, but Vasili’s dad almost went out of business when their system was crypto-locked. I helped them recover their data and the backups.”
She gasped. “You’re so not paid enough.”
He laughed. “Yea, well. Ambrose is a great friend. And he needed a hand.”
Lizzie reached up to his hand, resting on the back of her chair. “So, you sticking around for a while, then?”
Her fingers laced with his, and the tension from his face and shoulders dropped. “Yea. I think I am.”