7th Circle (Hades #1) by Tate James

1





Ice clinked in my glass as I swirled the amber liquid. It was my fourth straight whiskey, and it'd barely even dented my shitty mood.

It was my own fucking fault. I knew better. I knew he didn't feel the same way about me, but... ugh. I was such an idiot!

I'd all but thrown myself at him—at a man I still needed to deal with in a professional capacity on a far too frequent basis. Well, as professional as anyone was in our line of business.

Keeping the upper hand with him was going to be all too uncomfortable now that I'd gone and made a pass at him. And been rejected.

His harsh words still echoed in my mind. "I don't fuck children." Like I was a fucking teenager or something. I wasn’t. I was a twenty-three-year-old successful business woman—among other things—and I was far from the immature, blushing virgin he must think I was. Maybe he was getting me confused with my eighteen-year-old, naïve as fuck sister, Persephone. That’s how he’d just treated me, anyway. Like a little kid with a crush.

"Rough night?" A smooth voice asked, and I glanced over as a gorgeous man slid onto the barstool beside me. The bar was busy, no question, but not so busy that there weren't other seats available.

I cocked a brow at the ballsy stranger and sipped my drink. "Nope," I lied, baring my teeth in a mockery of a smile. "Best night of my life." My sarcasm was thick enough to wade through. Maybe those whiskeys had started hitting me after all. "You?"

"Me?" He flashed me a blinding smile, and my pulse raced in reaction. He was fucking stunning, model-level beautiful with a strong jaw dusted with scruff and dark lashes any woman would kill for. "Nah, I'm celebrating. Can I buy you a drink?"

A grin curved my lips despite my shitty mood. "Sure." I gave a small signal to the bartender, silently ordering another of the same, then nodded to the handsome man beside me to indicate he was paying. He asked for the same as I was drinking and didn't speak again until our drinks were delivered in front of us in beautiful cut-crystal glasses.

"Cheers," he murmured to me, clinking his glass gently against mine, then downing his whole drink in one mouthful. He ordered another, then slid his gaze back to meet mine.

His eyes were a pretty mix of green and blue, and I found myself smiling at him.

"So, what are we celebrating?" I asked, letting my words drawl in a clear indication I didn't actually believe him. Based on the way he’d thrown that drink back, his night was going about as well as mine was.

The model-handsome man let his own lips curve in an answering smile. "My new job," he announced. His gaze flicked away from mine for a second, sweeping over the busy club and pausing briefly on the podium dancers. Both of them were down to their underwear, and the girl was climbing the pole with admirable ease. Totally mesmerizing.

"Oh yeah?" I prompted, suddenly curious about my new drinking buddy. He was ballsy enough to approach me; maybe he could cure my shitty mood tonight. Best way to get over a guy was to get under a new one, right? "Congratulations. What's your new job?"

His perfect face flashed with tension for just a second, then cleared into an easy smile again as he nodded to the male dancer on the podium. "That."

I choked on my drink. Just a little bit. Just enough to shock me and flood my cheeks with heat as I dabbed my lips on a napkin.

"That?" I repeated in a strangled voice, indicating to the gorgeous black man gyrating his hips in nothing but an electric-blue G-string. "You're a stripper?"

My new friend grinned wider, turning back to me and sipping his new drink. "Male entertainer," he corrected with a small nod. "Yep, sure am." There was pride in his voice, but also an edge of something darker. Disappointment?

Curiosity shoved aside my shock, and I ran my gaze over him as subtly as I could. He was pretty enough, no doubt, and the way he filled out his shirt spoke to a well-built frame. Yeah, he could definitely make good money taking his clothes off. Great money, when combined with that mischievous look in his eyes and the pure-sex way he brushed a droplet of whiskey from his lip and then licked his thumb.

"That's cool," I commented. "So, which lucky club snapped you up? I bet you're going to be in high demand."

His smile turned suggestive. "Did you just call me sexy?"

I snickered a laugh. "Was that too subtle? You're scorching. I'm not surprised you got the job. So...?" I really, really wanted to know which club had picked up this diamond.