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He's the Boss (Dance with Me) - Ep. 14


He's the Boss (Dance with Me) © 2018 Elle Fielding

Linc


I royally screwed up last night. I drank way too much; enough to mute my conscience and forget about my responsibilities. Away from my club, it became all too easy to ignore the fact that Brooke is my employee and friend, and completely off limits. I practically screwed her on the dance floor, for fuck’s sake. I didn’t hold back from letting her know how much I want her; like a selfish bastard I turned her on and revelled in her reactions.


I have a stack of paperwork sitting on my desk, but I can’t focus, thinking I’ve strained the friendship and working relationship I have with Brooke. I know she said she wasn’t feeling well when she left Seven so abruptly last night, but it was like she couldn’t get away fast enough when Stacey showed up. What’s worse, Brooke isn’t answering my calls.


Brooke doesn't strike me as the type to ignore someone even if she is upset or unhappy with them, so I've started to worry something's wrong.


By the time three in the afternoon rolls around without a word from Brooke, I’ve already imagined a multitude of scenarios – none of them good. Giving up pretending I’m getting any work done, I pace the short length of my office while scrolling through my phone for Jemma’s number.


“Linc?” Jemma answers, obviously surprised I’m calling. “What’s up?”


“Have you heard from Brooke today?”


“I’m with her now, why?”


“I’ve been trying to get a hold of her. It keeps going through to voicemail.”


“Ah, she probably forgot to turn her phone on after we left the hospital.”


“What?” The punch of her words nearly sends me stumbling backwards. “Is Brooke all right? Is Belle?”


I knew I should have left the club with Brooke last night. So what if there wasn’t enough room in the car with Saxon’s friend? I’m sure that was a load of crap, anyway. I should have followed them in a taxi. If something happened after they left-


“Brooke and Belle are fine. We came home last night right as their neighbour was being rushed to hospital.”


“Patricia?”


“Yes,” Jemma says, sounding surprised I know the neighbour’s name. “Patricia.”


The relief at hearing Brooke and her sister are okay is swept away by fresh concern for Brooke. Patricia is the closest thing to family that Brooke and Belle have here in Victoria.


“How is she?”


“Patricia?”


“Yes.”


“She’s okay now. She’s back home.”


“And Brooke? How is she dealing with it?”


Jemma pauses, halting me in my pacing. I hold my breath waiting for her to answer the question. Thinking of Brooke worried and upset tears at something inside me – something making me feel as helpless as having Mervyn crunching the numbers for my club. Brooke is always there for me, offering me her shoulder, her kindness, and generosity. I hate that I wasn’t there for her last night when she needed me.


“It shook her up.”


I glance at my desk, which is practically groaning under the weight of the work I haven’t gotten done.


“Tell Brooke I’m coming over,” I tell Jemma decisively.


“Hang on.”


The line goes silent as Jemma passes on my message to Brooke, likely muting the microphone on her end so I can’t hear what’s being said. There’s a good chance Jemma will think it’s strange I’m coming over to check on an employee, but keeping up appearances isn’t exactly my priority right now.


“Linc, Brooke said not to worry. She’s okay, and-”


“I’ll see you soon,” I say, cutting Jemma off before she starts listing reasons for me not to come over. My decision’s made.


I park on Brooke’s street and spot Jemma walking down a driveway, purse slung over her shoulder.


“How’s Brooke doing?” I ask as I step out of my car, even though I asked the same question thirty minutes ago.


“Still a bit queasy after last night, and wrung out after everything else that happened. I need to head off. I’d stay if I could, but I can’t get out of dinner with my family. Unfortunately.”


“I’m here now. She won’t be alone.”


Jemma is quiet as she studies me, the corners of her mouth turned down.


“What are you doing here, Linc?” she asks after a lengthy pause. “Something tells me you wouldn’t rush over to Saxon’s or Layla’s if their neighbour had been in hospital.”


“We both know Patricia is more to Brooke than just her neighbour, Jem.”


“I know that, Linc. The question is: how do you?”


I sigh and lean back against my car. Jemma is Brooke’s best friend and part of Brooke’s support network. It’s out of respect for Brooke, Jemma, and their friendship that I concede a little.


“Brooke’s been helping me out with something and she’s become a friend.”


Jemma’s look is sceptical. “A friend?”


“A good one.”


Jemma doesn’t look any happier with my answer. “She hasn’t mentioned anything to me about helping you.”


“That’s because I asked her not to. It’s strictly confidential, and I made Brooke sign a confidentiality agreement.”


Jemma seems to process my words before continuing. “And now you’re friends?”


“That’s right.”


“Is that all?”


“It’s all it can be.”


“The way you danced with her last night…”


I wince. “I was drinking and I crossed a line. That was a mistake.”


I knew from the moment I walked into Seven and saw Brooke that I shouldn’t dance with her. I’m attracted to her on so many levels, and our chemistry is so intense that every day is a struggle to respect the boundaries. I just wanted one night where I didn’t have to pretend.

One night where I didn’t have to be the boss and reign in my feelings for her. Now that I know how good it feels to give in to that desire I don’t know how I’m going to go back to pretending.


Jemma studies me for a moment. “Is that why you’re here? To apologise?”


“I do want to apologise for crossing the line, but today I’m just here to be a friend.”


Jemma must hear the sincerity in my voice because she nods. “Be her friend, then. She needs that.”


“You have my word I’ll look after her.”


“Good. I’ll catch you tomorrow.”


Jemma offers me a small smile, points out Brooke’s unit, and heads to her car. I wait until she pulls away from the curb, giving her a small wave before walking over to Brooke’s unit.

I expect it to be Brooke who opens the door. Instead, I’m greeted by Brooke’s sister. At least, I think it’s her. I’ve never met the girl, and it’s difficult to see much through the security screen.


“Hi,” she says, unlocking the wire door, swinging it open towards me as she yells over her shoulder, “Brooke, your boss is here!”


The girl turns back to me, giving me a shy smile. She’s a dead ringer for her sister. Her hair is a little longer and a lighter brown, but the features are very similar.


“You must be Belle,” I say, returning her smile.


“Yes. And you’re Lincoln.”


Brooke arrives at the door just as I’m wiping my feet on the doormat. She’s clearly just showered and dressed. Her hair is still damp, falling in loose tendrils around her face.

Unwittingly, my gaze drops down to take in her tight body in the skinny jeans and loose-fitting long-sleeved tee she’s wearing.


Damn it, I’m not here to cross another line. I’m not here to stare at and want her. I’m here to offer comfort and be someone she can lean on.


“Hi,” she says, her voice soft and husky, her eyes meeting mine briefly. “Come in.”


It’s all I can do not to reach out and take her in my arms as I step inside, to hug her and bury my face in her hair where I can inhale her soap and shampoo.


“Do you want something to drink?” she asks as I close the door behind me.


“Coffee, if you have it.”


“Sure. I could use some myself.” She starts walking, only to turn to make sure I’m following her.


We come to a stop in an open, spacious, light-grey tiled area. A smallish chocolate brown dining table takes up some of the space, along with a display unit full of books and ornaments. To the left is the kitchen. To the right is the entry into the loungeroom. I can see the pale peach carpet and hear the television going. The place feels cosy and comfortable.


Turning my attention back to Brooke, I ask, “How’s Patricia doing?”


“She’s okay. She gave me a fright by fainting, but it was just low blood pressure.”


She moves around her small kitchen, taking out two mugs and spooning instant coffee into them. She motions to the square dining table on the other side of the kitchen bench. “Take a seat. Coffee white with one, right?”


“Yeah,” I say, pulling out a chair and sitting down.


As Brooke brings our coffee over and sits down at the table with me, silence swells between us. Her face flushes a little as her eyes meet mine, then she averts her gaze, swallows hard and picks up her coffee. After last night, I guess this awkwardness between us isn’t surprising. I need to apologise. And while I meant it when I told Jemma I didn’t come here with the intention of discussing last night, it seems unavoidable right now.


“Brooke, I’m sorry for pushing the boundaries between us last night. I was drinking and-”


“Our professional relationship is still intact, Linc, if that’s why you’re here.”


She pulls her feet up under her on the seat, looking more vulnerable than I’ve ever seen her.


Tough, stable, confident, and generous. That’s how I’m used to seeing Brooke. Her vulnerability scares the crap out of me. But not as much as her thinking I’m only here to make sure I’m still on good terms with my accountant, rather than because I care about her as a friend.


“I came here because I know you must have been to hell and back last night with Patricia in hospital, and I needed to make sure you were okay. I didn’t intend to bring up last night at this particular time, but I don’t feel like I can sit here and not mention what happened.”


Her smile is strained. “You made it clear from the beginning that you didn’t want any kind of relationship other than a professional one. As you said, last night was a once-off. Now everything is back to how it’s supposed to be.”


I did say that, but I was out of my mind with need and lust when I said it. I can’t pretend it never happened. We basically had sex on the dance floor last night; I was more aroused than I’ve ever been in my entire life. There’s no way I can touch her without memories of last night flaring up.


“Do you think we should stop dancing together?”


The question shoots out of my mouth and immediately I want to snatch the words back. Because I don’t want to stop dancing with Brooke. Not when dancing with her is the best part of my day. I don’t know how to give it up.


But Brooke’s relief is so obvious that I’m scared I’ll have to do just that.


“I know you want to pay me, Linc. But I need to think of you as my boss and my friend, and dancing together...”


Her eyes lock with mine and I feel heat spread through me, spearing through my middle as we stare at each other.


“It blurs things between us,” I finish for her, my voice husky and affected.


“It always has,” she says softly.


It has for me, too, which I’m sure I made clear last night. But I haven’t stopped things before now because there’s nothing more exciting than dancing with her. I’ve always loved dancing, but when I’m with Brooke, I lose myself in her every reaction, feeling and response.


“I’ll find another way to pay you,” I force out, even though every cell in my body seems to protest in response. “Besides, Kane is right. You’re ready for the bar routine. Rehearsals will be at the club and I’ll keep watching you dance and instruct you when needed.”


Maybe I can still sneak a dance in with her from time to time. Sober, in front of all my employees, I won’t be as tempted to cross the line from boss to…more, will I?


“At least this way I’ll have a bit more time to spend looking over the accounts. Because last night reminded me I’ve been relying on Pat to look after Belle while I work at the club, and I can’t keep relying on her indefinitely. I told her I’d look for other accounting jobs while I was working at the club, but obviously I haven’t been.”


Because she’s been helping me, and I made her sign a confidentiality agreement.


“Can you tell Patricia I’m giving you a full-time accounting job in January? I’ll even have my lawyer draw up a contract if that will make you feel better.”


Brooke’s eyes widen. “You’d do that for me?”


There’s not much I wouldn’t do for her. Drawing up a contract is something I can easily do if it makes her feel better about what she’s telling Patricia.


“Of course I would. And if you need to stop working nights at any time, you could keep helping me during the day and I’ll pay you as if you’re tending bar,” I offer.


Really, it’s the least I can do given the circumstances. I’ll need to hire another bartender to take her place, and the extra wage won’t help my finances any, but I owe this woman a lot.


She gives me a small, uncertain smile. “That’s just the thing. The idea of leaving the club, or of not working nights is…devastating. After years of living solely for taking care of Belle, I feel like I have a life. I’m happy and content, excited. Midnight Frenzy has done that for me. I love watching Tease. I’m excited about the bar team dancing. I love that I’m learning to dance.” Her cheeks heat ever so slightly. “The thought of losing any of it…”


“You’re not going to lose it. We’re not going under.”


Her smile vanishes, her expression suddenly pained. “Nothing in this life is certain. Everything can be ripped away in the blink of an eye and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. My job at Meeks & Associates wasn’t certain. Saving the club isn’t certain.”


If I was determined to save the club before, I’m even more determined now. Last night with Patricia rocked her security. She’s lost so much already. I don’t want to see this gorgeous, amazing girl lose any more than she has already.


“Brooke.” I wait for her to look at me, then I take her mug, put it down on the table, and take her hands in mine, brushing my thumbs lightly over her knuckles. “We’re going to save the club.”


Even if I have to ask Mervyn for the profit and loss statement. Something I’ve avoided until now.


“I’ll make sure you have everything you need.”


Her eyes lock with mine and my stomach knots as I contemplate just how much I want to keep Brooke by my side.


Belle strolls into the kitchen, reminding me we’re not alone. Reluctantly, I drop Brooke’s hands. And Brooke sits back in her chair and gives her sister a tired smile.


“Can we have pizza tonight?” Belle asks.


Brooke frowns as she considers how to answer. “I don’t know. I’m not entirely sure I can handle driving.”


“Why don’t I go and get it, then?” I ask, feeling stupid a second later. I just invited myself for dinner.


“You’re staying?” Belle asks, looking both pleased and surprised.


Brooke, on the other hand, just looks stunned by the idea.


“Do you mind if I stay?” I ask.


Still looking slightly stunned, she shakes her head. “If you want to, that’s fine.”


“Great.”


My club wouldn’t survive past the year mark without this woman, which would be devastating. But Brooke is more than just the key to possibly saving my club. I treasure her friendship, her passion, her drive, and basically everything about her. She’s the best person I know, and her friendship means a lot to me. I need her to know that.


Buying her and her sister dinner seems like a good way to start proving it.


***


“Brooke says you don’t have a VIP section,” Belle says. “How come?”


Leaning back in my chair at the dining table, I glance at Brooke, who is smiling at her sister’s curiosity. Belle, who seemed a little shy when I first met her, has talked pretty much non-stop since she accompanied me to the pizza shop.


“You didn’t tell Belle why?” I ask Brooke.


“You’ve never told me why, though I’m pretty sure I know the answer.”


“Tell me what you think,” I insist, curious to hear her thoughts.


Almost looking a little nervous, Brooke sits up straighter, her eyes meeting mine. “Your club is about dancing, not class or money. Promoting different levels goes against everything you believe in. Money means nothing when you enter Midnight Frenzy. You didn’t create a place that catered to the elite, you created a place for those who love to – those who need to – dance.”


I stare at her, shocked that she knows me so well. The people in my life get me, but not to the extent Brooke does. Which is both remarkable and terrifying considering we’ve only known each other for a couple of months. I dated Claudia – practically grew up with her – and the woman doesn’t know me a fraction as well as Brooke.


“Am I right?” she asks uncertainly.


“One-hundred percent spot on,” I say.


“Do you want to stay and watch a movie with us?” Belle asks, looking between Brooke and me.


“You’re welcome to join us,” Brooke says. “Though, I’m sure you’re probably tired and want to head home.”


Actually, I don’t. There’s nothing waiting for me at home besides silence, and I had enough of that at the office today.


There was a time not so long ago when I would have been grateful for the silence and solitude of an empty club, but ever since Brooke started working with me, I don’t enjoy having the place to myself. There’s no one to bounce my ideas off, no one to laugh with, or eat lunch with.


“I would love to stay and watch a movie,” I tell Belle.


Belle looks so pleased that I half expect her to start clapping any second. “You can pick the movie,” she says.


“If he can find something he wants to watch,” Brooke snickers. “Why don’t you show him our collection? He might change his mind after seeing what’s on hand.”


I mock-groan. “They’re all chick flicks, aren’t they?”


The huge smirk on Brooke’s face makes me stupidly happy for some reason. I stand up, waiting for Belle to lead me into the lounge room while Brooke starts clearing the table.


Hundreds of DVDs fill the three bookcases Belle points out to me. As I suspected, they’re all chick flicks. Well, the ones that aren’t dance movies. It seems like every dance movie that’s ever been made is part of the Masters sisters’ collection.


My gaze falls on the Magic Mike DVDs. I take them out just as Brooke walks into the room.


A blush creeps up her neck and face as she realises what I’m holding. I raise an eyebrow and grin, holding them up. She shrugs, laughing softly. A sound that hits me low in the belly and makes my stomach flip. What the hell? Being turned on, I can deal with. But stomach flipping?


“Okay, let’s find something else,” I say, turning back to scan her collection and ignoring my reaction.


“Maybe not a dance movie,” she says hesitantly.


After working so hard not to think about last night’s dance, and our conversation from earlier, I’m not about to argue with her.


We settle on Mean Girls, which is Belle’s choice rather than mine. I don’t watch a lot of movies, but when I do sit down to watch one, they generally fall into the thriller, action, or cheesy horror category. Meaning, I have zero interest in watching a teen comedy. Belle, however, is happy and I don’t want to disappoint her.


Belle sits on the one recliner in the room, leaving the two-seater couch for Brooke and me.


Thirty minutes or so into the movie, Brooke starts struggling to keep her eyes open. She confided in me earlier that she only had about an hour of sleep last night, so I’m hardly surprised when she keeps falling asleep and waking up. After she closes her eyes and slides towards me a third time, I take one of the cushions sitting between us and place it on my lap.


“Lie down, Brooke.”


“I’m fine,” she murmurs, eyeing the cushion longingly.


“You’re exhausted. Stop fighting it and lie down.”


Her protest doesn’t last long. Her eyes are practically hanging out of her head and she quickly gives up the fight, laying her head on the cushion. Maybe I should leave, let her get some sleep, but I’m not ready to say goodnight.


Belle grabs the blanket on top of the recliner and brings it over to us. I lean back, doing my best to make Brooke as comfortable as possible while Belle covers her with the blanket before returning to her seat.


I try to concentrate on the movie, but my attention keeps being drawn downwards. We’re not dancing, but seeing her so peacefully resting on me is just as pleasurable. Warmth and satisfaction fizz through my whole body. Brooke turns me inside out, and I don’t know what to do with it. I long to touch her, to caress her, to stroke my hand through her hair, but I don’t want to disturb her.


I force my gaze back to the TV just as she lets out a small sigh, slipping her hand between the cushion and my leg. Heat and awareness pulse through me, making my blood pump faster and my breathing stutter as I turn hard as a fucking rock underneath the cushion.

When she squeezes the top of my thigh, my entire body jumps, desperate to feel her hand stroke me between my legs.


The rest of the movie is spent in a torturous state of arousal. Brooke is asleep, her fourteen-year-old sister is in the room, and yet I can’t seem to get my libido under control or stop the extremely graphic fantasies involving her hand and mouth on my cock from playing on repeat in my head. I need to go home and spend the rest of the night in a cold shower.


Once the credits start rolling, Belle gets up, saying she’s heading to bed. After she’s gone, I lift Brooke’s head as gently as I can so I can slide out from under her. I lower her head back to the cushion and make sure the blanket stays in place.


“Linc,” she murmurs, eyes still closed.


“I’m going home,” I whisper.


“I’ll see you out.”


“There’s no need, Brooke.”


Before I’ve finished the sentence, she’s swung her legs off the couch. She wobbles a little as she stands up and I put my arm around her waist to steady her.


“Thanks,” she says, looking rumpled, sexy, and incredibly beautiful.


I withdraw my arm, shoving my hands into the pockets of my jeans so I don’t do anything stupid, then head towards the front door. Brooke unlocks the door for me and I step out onto the doorstep before turning back to her.


“Thanks for tonight,” she says with a soft smile.


I’m reaching for her, pulling her to me and hugging her before I can stop myself. She freezes for a moment then softens against me, relaxing in my arms as she hugs me back.


I press a kiss to her cheek. It should be platonic. It’s meant to be a friendly goodbye, but I’m acutely aware of how close her mouth is to mine – how moving a fraction would mean my lips sliding over hers. She stares at me when I pull back; her lips parted, her eyes wide, her pupils dilated. I caress her cheek with my thumb while watching her eyes close and open again before finally settling on my lips.


I shouldn’t kiss her. I nearly screwed up everything last night by stepping over the line and blurring things between us. I’m not in a place to offer anything beyond sex. Not with my parents breathing down my neck.


Yet I feel myself being overpowered by the gravity of my feelings for her. I lean in slowly, giving her plenty of time to move away. And when she doesn’t, I close the distance between us. She gasps as my mouth fits over hers, and I relish the sound, swallowing it and tilting her head back with my hand, seeking everything I’ve hungered for from the moment I met her.

_________________

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