High Heels In Borrowed Shoes- Part Nine
It was seven o’clock and Ashton still paced her apartment. The Quagmire was an exclusive club downtown-one she hadn’t been to in years—and she knew a cab would take twenty minutes while the bus would take nearly an hour. If she was going to do this, she needed to act soon.
She chewed her lip and fingered the stack of bills on her table. Then looked at the text message from Paul.
We really need a hand if you’re interested. Salary is fifteen hundred a week and we figure we’ll need you for at least a month.
It was a lot more money than she was making now and as she tossed the bills aside, she realized she had no choice. This job would not only give her some income, she’d be able to look for something else while stashing some cash aside.
But could she deal with seeing Mace every day?
“Do I have a choice?” she muttered, angry that she was in this position. The anger soon deflated because if anything she’d learned that anger might fuel the fire in your gut, but it wasn’t sustainable and it took a lot of energy.
She didn’t have an excess of energy. Jesus, she was barely getting by.
Ashton glanced in the mirror and grabbed some gloss from her pocket. She’d spent some time on her hair and makeup and knew she looked good. Dressed in a pair of jeans that fit like a glove, knee high leather boots with four inch heels, a simple black T-shirt, and a delicate gold chain and small diamond earrings, she looked…like her old self.
Her boots were Fendi and she’d nearly sold them for cash a few months back—at the moment she was glad she hadn’t.
Ashton slipped into her soft leather jacket and grabbed an umbrella—it was raining again—before slinging her purse over her shoulder and heading out into the night. She had to at least try and make this work—for her dad’s sake. And hey, maybe Mace wouldn’t figure into things all that much. Maybe she’d be working mostly with the manager, Paul.
She dashed out into the rain and swore when she saw the taillights of the bus she’d missed by less than a minute, which meant she had to wait another twenty for the next bus. Just when she thought she’d have to use a cab and dip into the few bills she’d thrown into her purse, the number ten showed up.
It dropped her two blocks from the Quagmire and she trudged through the rain, enjoying the crisp air even though it was wet. Fall was in the air, usually her favorite time of the year, even here in the city.
By the time Ashton reached the Quagmire her feet were sore and she stopped in dismay. There was a huge lineup to get inside. She glanced at her watch and noted she was already twenty minutes late. “Shit,” she murmured, walking slowly toward the entrance. She ignored the catcalls and kept her eyes on the doorman. He was a big guy with shoulders as wide as a Mack truck. His bald head shone under the lights and a thick tribal tattoo climbed up the side of his beefy neck.
“Excuse me,” Ashton said, aware several of those in line were shooting dirty looks her way. Not so much the guys, but the women had daggers for eyeballs.
The bouncer glanced her way, face impassive. “Yeah?” he barked. This man was all business and she knew a pretty face wasn’t going to sway him no matter what. But she had to try.
“I’m late. I’m supposed to be inside like,” she attempted a smile. “Half an hour ago.”
His eyebrow shot up at that and she knew he didn’t believe her. “Are you on the list?”
“I should be? Ashton Breckinridge?”
He flipped over the clipboard in his hand and perused it, then glanced at her and shook his head. “There’s no Ashton on the list. Get in line like everyone else.”
It was a long walk to the back of the line and by the time Ashton got inside the club it was nearly nine-thirty. She was cold and wet and miserable, and convinced Mace had left her off the list on purpose. The club was full, fans of some local band, and she wondered what Mace and his guys were up to.
“Asshole,” she muttered as she sidestepped a drunk who tried to grope her. She walked up the bar and looked around, hoping to find a familiar face.
“You look like you need a drink.”
She turned as a young man in leather pants, Doc Martins, and no shirt walked up to her. He was sweaty and his hair clung to his neck, as if he’d just been on stage. Tall and lean in that way most musicians were, his wicked smile lit up a handsome face that could have graced a model.
“You must be in the band,” she said.
He looked surprised at her comment. “You don’t know who I am?”
“Sorry.” Ashton shook her head. “I’m not really into the scene. I don’t have the time for it.” Or the money.
His smile wavered a bit and then he nodded. “You’re here for them.”
“Yes?” She replied, a little unsure of how this was supposed to work. Obviously the crowd had no idea that Ruckus was backstage.
“We just signed with their agent so this a big deal.” He grinned and held out his hand. “I’m Benjamin.”
“Well, Ashton. Why don’t you let me buy you a drink and I’ll take you backstage.”
Her nerves were already shot and her stomach was still in recovery, rolling at the thought of seeing Mace. Ashton decided a good stiff drink would help. Her new friend ordered them up a round of drinks, double vodka for Ashton and a bourbon for himself. They clinked glasses, downed the shots, and he took her hand without another word.
Benjamin threaded his way through the crowd, smiling and waving at his fans until they disappeared side stage. It was dark back here, the floor full of road boxes for equipment and snakes of electrical cords that made navigating a little tricky. It took a bit for her eyes to adjust, but Benjamin still had hold of her hand when he pushed open a door and they spilled into a large room, filled with voices and music.
All of which came to a grinding halt as Ashton slowly looked around. Paul was in the corner with a couple men she didn’t know, security types by the looks of it. Dax and Jason sat on a sofa to her right, three half dressed women sprawled on top of them, and Mace…Her heart ramped up at the sight of him. He stood off the left, half hidden in shadows, a blonde bombshell all up in his business. She wore the tiniest skirt imaginable and a white see-through top that let anyone looking her way know she was braless, and as she stared back at Ashton, the woman licked her lips and smiled, her hand running down Mace’s chest and abs until she dug her blood red fingers into the tops of his jeans.
Ashton tore her eyes from Mace and cleared her throat as Paul walked over to her. “I’m sorry I’m late. They wouldn’t let me in. I wasn’t on the list.” She stumbled through her words and Paul grimaced.
“Shit, sorry about that.” He cracked a grin. “That’s why we need you. I’m glad you’re here.” His eyes moved to her companion. “I see you’ve met Benjamin.”
She smiled nervously, aware that everyone was still staring. “Yes, he was good enough to bring me back here. I wasn’t sure…” Her voice trailed off and dried up when Mace appeared. His dark eyes glittered and his face was cut from stone.
“You can let her go, Ben.”
Benjamin glanced from Ashton to Mace and back again. “Is everything okay?” he asked, as she tugged her hand from his.
She didn’t get a chance to answer because Mace cut in front of him and gestured with a curt nod.
“Come with me.”
“Don’t be a dick, Mace.” Paul said. “We need her.”
“I’ll behave,” he replied with a smile that didn’t quiet reach his eyes. “Ash and I just need to go over a few rules is all.”
Mace grabbed her hand and led her past the blonde, who made no effort to hide her dislike. His touch was hot on her skin and a bolt of electricity shot up her body. She should have refused him. She should have never come here. She should have done a lot of things it seemed.
And it was too late for any of them.